Friday, April 29, 2011

Lemon Pepper Fish, Olive Oil and Parsley Pasta, and Tomato and Romaine Salad

(My pictures are STILL not uploading! It says "server error/server rejected" every time I try. PICASA says it's trying to work on the issue, so until then you'll have to excuse my lack of photos. Sorry. If you have an idea as to what may be the problem, please let me know!)

Hi everyone! Seeing as I'm stuck inside today with a cold (leave it to me to get a cold on vacation!), I thought it would be the perfect time for me to sit down and share the only thing I've cooked since we've been here (there are just so many delicious restaurants to try!).

This recipe was a big hit with my boyfriend, and it is also quite healthy-not to mention super easy- so you can really feel great about serving this any day of the week, no matter where you are in the world. This recipe makes a perfect light dinner for a nice summer night.

Lemon Pepper Fish:
-3 frozen bass (or other white fish) fillets (we couldn't find any fresh white fish at the grocery store, of course if you have fresh, use it and adjust the cook times accordingly)
-1 lemon
-salt, pepper, parsley
-1 small yellow onion

Preheat oven to 375*F
Chop onion and evenly lay on the bottom of a baking dish big enough to fit your fish. Place frozen fish on bed of onion. Sprinkle with the juice of one lemon, then with salt, pepper and parsley, to taste.

Bake at 375*F for 20 mins, then take out of oven. Raise the oven temp to 475*F. and bake fish for another 9 mins or until it flakes easily.

Tomato and Romaine Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette: 
-1 large head of romaine lettuce
-1 extra large tomato, or two-three regular (the produce here is amazing, super fresh, ripe and HUGE- and all of it is locally grown!)
-1 1/2 lemons
-1 english cucumber, or 3-4 mini cucumbers (the latter of which is what I used)
-equal part olive oil to lemon
-salt and pepper

Wash and chop/tear veggies as you like. Whisk together olive oil and lemon juice, taste and add salt and pepper. Toss salad and dressing to coat.

It's that easy to make your own vinaigrette! What I love most about this meal is how few ingredients and steps there are, and I love how the lemons do double duty in both the salad and the fish. I find preparing them this way really brings the meal together.

Olive Oil and Parsley Pasta:
-1/2 package of fettuccine or other long, flat pasta (500grams)
-few tablespoons good extra-virgin olive oil
-salt, pepper, parsley

Cook pasta to package directions, drain. Sprinkle with olive oil until nicely coated, but not dripping with oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and parsley to taste.

So good and so easy, I guarantee this will be a hit with picky eaters and refined palates alike!

I hope to start baking again soon, and of course I hope to start posting more often again. I miss you guys! I'm really loving it here in Panama though. Everything here is just so much better...

Comment Question:
1. What can one do with a bunch of passion-fruits?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Eggless Smarties Cookies

Yesterday my boyfriend handed me a big bag of Smarties and told me to do something with them to use them up before our trip. My favourite way to use up M&M's and Smarties? Cookies of course! One problem stood between me and my cookies though, I had only 4 eggs, all of which are set aside for my last two baking projects before we leave, exactly one week from now. So I wondered... could I make cookies without eggs? Yes! Yes I can!

It's as easy as 1,2,3! All you need is 1 part fat, 2 parts sugar and 3 parts flour! In any cookie recipe the extras are just that, extra. This of course is a very basic recipe and if you want a more complexly flavoured cookie, you of course need a more complex recipe.

These cookies are great for days you don't have eggs or for those with egg allergies! Plus they're so yummy! 

Eggless Smarties Cookies:
-1/2 cup butter
-1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup white (because I knew I was adding very sweet Smarties, I didn't use a full 2 parts sugar, if you're using semi-sweet chocolate, or dark, I would use a full cup of sugar)
-1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
-1 tsp baking soda (I prefer thicker cookies, though if you prefer thinner, crunchier cookies like my boyfriend does, omit this)
-2 tsp vanilla extract (vanilla makes everything better)
-3 tbsp cooking oil (just to add a little moisture and helps the Smarties stick into the cookies)
-scant 1 cup M&M's or Smarties

Preheat oven to 350*F.
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. For this recipe I just used my small hand mixer and later a spoon and my hands. No need to pull out the stand mixer!

Set hand mixer speed to medium and add flour, baking soda, vanilla and oil and mix until completely combined. At this point, feel your dough. If you can squish it into a ball with your hand it is good, other wise add a tiny bit of water, about half a tsp at a time. 

Add Smarties and mix with a spoon. I found it easier to squish it in with my hands. The dough will look crumbly, but no worries, that's how it's supposed to look! Taste it! I promise it'll be yummy- and since there aren't any eggs, you don't have to worry about eating the whole bowl of cookie dough!

Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls (I pressed dough into my tablespoon measuring spoon to create little balls) on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 8-10 mins. They will not look "done" when they come out, but I assure you they will be. You will see that they will be lightly golden on the bottoms and will have spread out just a little. Do not over-bake. Let cook on cookie sheet 5 mins and carefully move to a wire rack to cool completely. These are great with a tall glass of milk!

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Comment Questions:
1. What are your favourite eggless desserts you like to make?
2. Which do you prefer, Smarties or M&M's?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Fruity S'more Bars!

I've been itching for a while to try my hand at making my own granola bars. And, in an effort to use up the last of my perishable/opened baking supplies before we head off to Panama in two weeks (are you sick of hearing about this trip yet?), I figured a recipe like this was the perfect solution. Oh my goodness... These. Are. Amazing! I will never go back to store bought granola bars again!

What's great about this recipe is that it's so customizable. You can make it with whatever you have in your cupboards, so it's perfect for trying to use up the last of things before they perish. I will post the basic formula along with my version of the recipe so you can make it however you'd like. My version is obviously not the healthiest, but made with the right ingredients these can be a quick and very healthy on the go snack! I call mine fruity s'more bars because the chocolate-marshmallow-rolled oats combo is reminiscent of s'mores and the dried fruits give it a sweet, natural taste to them. So good and so easy to make.

Fruity S'more Bars:
Makes about 12 bars, depending on how big you cut them. 
-2 1/2 cups rolled grains- I used rolled oats, not "quick oats" 
(other options: rye flakes, barley flakes, etc.)
-1 cup nuts or seeds and spices- I used 1/2 cup mini marshmallows and 1/2 cup chocolate chips instead of nuts, and I used a 1/2 tsp of salt instead of a spice. 
(other options: pecans, peanuts, almonds, etc. vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.)
-1/3 cup + 1/4 cup sticky sweetener- I used 1/3 cup creamed honey + 1/4 cup liquid honey and maple syrup
(other options: molasses, agave syrup, etc.)
-1 cup dried fruits- I used half dried blueberries and half dried cranberries
(other options: raisins, dried apricots, prunes etc.)
-1 cup binder -I used Nutella
(Other options: peanut butter, unsweetened applesauce, etc.)

Preheat oven to 325*F. 
Whisk together sticky sweetener, binder, and spices, if using. Stir in grains, making sure to evenly coat. This may be a little difficult as it is very sticky. Mix in nuts/seed and dried fruit. 

Turn mixture out onto a parchment paper covered baking dish. Try and use a smaller baking pan than you would use for cookies, and definitely use one with a lip. Pressing on the back of a spatula, tightly pack the mixture onto the pan. Keep the mixture about 2 centimeters thick. 

Bake for 25 minutes, then remove from oven and put the whole thing in the freezer for at least an hour, until firm. Flip pan onto a parchment paper covered cutting board and peel off parchment paper. It may feel a little hard to cut so use a good knife. Don't worry though, they're very chewy and soft to bite into. Cut into bars and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week. 

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Comment Questions:
1. What's your favourite granola bar type?
2. What's your go-to on the go snack?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Banana Muffins-3 ways!

I used up the last of my overripe bananas this morning making these delicious and healthy muffins! While I hate working with gross black bananas, these were certainly worth it! And I made three different flavours- perfect for a quick, easy, nutritious breakfast! 

It was very dreary out today...grey, cold and wet, it really was a perfect day to do some spring baking. However, it was a terrible day for photography, which is why unfortunately you won't find step-by-step photos in this post like usual. It is only thanks to the small amount of dull grey light that filtered in through my kitchen window and the magic that is photoshop that there are any pictures of these muffins at all. Oh well, April showers bring May flowers, right?

Now a note about these muffins: I divided my batch into three different flavours, you don't have to do this of course. If you choose to pick just one flavour put your choice of flavour (chocolate chips for example) in with the DRY ingredients, and stir to coat- this is important. If you add them to the wet ingredients or you don't coat them with the dry ingredients the chocolate chips (or whatever else you add) will sink to the bottom of the muffin. For some reason, the coating of dry ingredients suspends them in the muffin mixture. However, if you're like me and you like having a variety, ignore this note and just continue on with the recipe as I have written it. 

Cranberry, Blueberry, Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins:
Makes 12 muffins in three different flavours 
-4 large overripe bananas, mashed
-3/4 cup brown sugar
-1 slightly beaten egg
-1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted (usually I am a butter advocate for baking, but it's going to be melted anyway, plus margarine is healthier, so go ahead and use whatever you have available)
-1 tsp baking soda
-1 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 1/2 cups flour
-a small handful each of dried blueberries, dried cranberries, and chocolate chips (I mean a very small handful, each flavour will make 4 muffins, and at the high end you only want maximum 8 pieces per muffin so you can keep a good muffin texture) 
-1/3 cup powdered sugar
-1 tsp each cinnamon, nutmeg

Preheat your oven to 350*F. 
Mix mashed bananas, sugar, egg and butter/margarine. Set aside. 
In a separate bowl, mix baking soda, baking powder, salt, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg. (*If you're making just 1 flavour, this is the time to put it in. See note.*)
Mix wet and dry ingredients together, but be sure to not over-mix. Over-mixing leads to tough muffins. The batter will be lumpy, and that is perfectly fine. 
Spoon batter into a muffin tin with paper cups- about two heaping tablespoonfuls for each cup. 

Add ONE of your flavours to a bowl (either chocolate chips or cranberries or blueberries, but not all at once) to a bowl and add powdered sugar. Mix to coat and remove one by one. Divide evenly among 4 of the muffins, gently pressing down so there will be some throughout. 
Repeat above steps with the other two flavours. 

Bake for 20 minutes, and test for doneness. A toothpick should come out clean, but the muffins should still feel soft. Let rest for 5 minutes in muffin tin, then cool on a wire rack. 

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Comment Questions:
1. What's your favourite muffin flavour, or where do you get your favourite muffins from? A small bakeshop? Starbucks?
2. What do you like to do on rainy days?

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Best Meatloaf You'll Ever Taste

Yesterday, despite feeling very sick, I wanted to make meatloaf. I had a bunch of pork and veal in my freezer that I needed to use up before leaving for Panama, and I thought putting it all into one big meatloaf would be a delicious way to do so. However, I couldn't seem to find the veal. Our freezer is pretty packed and I guess it's hiding beneath everything else. I did find the pork though, and so the finished product ended up only being pork, but it was just as good.

We loved this meatloaf so much last night we've decided to have it again tonight, and my boyfriend actually said it was BETTER than his mother's meatloaf! How's that for a compliment, huh? He scarfed down his meal quite happily last night.

Yum... look at that juicy goodness... *drools*

The best things about this meatloaf are that it comes out nice and juicy, and the meat is well seasoned, and the sauce is tangy, sweet and a little spicy. A perfect combination all around. Trust me, if you make this for your boyfriend, or husband, he will be very, very pleased with you... and you may even get him to help clean up the house in return!

The Best Meatloaf You'll Ever Taste!:
Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 1hr
Ready in: 1hr30mins.
-1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp packed brown sugar
-1/2 cup ketchup
-2 lbs ground pork
-1/2 cup milk
-3 medium eggs
-scant 1 cup Italian/seasoned breadcrumbs
-1 1/2 tbsp yellow mustard
-1 tsp each/to taste: parsley, basil, Italian seasoning, onion powder, garlic salt, oregano, thyme, and salt and pepper-
-1 tsp Louisiana hot seasoning (mix of coriander, salt, ground red pepper, granulated garlic, basil, oregano and cumin) plus dash salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 350*F. Lightly grease a 9x5 loaf pan.
Mix ketchup, brown sugar, and Louisiana hot seasoning in a small bowl. Add a dash of salt and pepper to taste.
Mix well all other ingredients in a large mixing bowl, with hands. Put into loaf pan and push down to shape into loaf. Spread sauce evenly over top of meat. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, or until juices run clear.

The sauce is so good... you can see how seasoned it is... 
and when it bakes, something magical happens to the brown sugar in it...

See all the little dots of seasoning? So good!

Spreading on the delicious sauce!

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Comment Questions:
1. What is your favourite kind of meatloaf? Beef, pork, chicken?
2. What is one meal that you love so much you can eat it days in a row?