Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Quinoa Bowls Mediterranean style with roasted red pepper sauce

April 2016 

SmartCooks here.

'Tis the season of mega stress in my life -- work is frankly out of control, home life is a whirlwind of spring cleaning and trying to get the pool up and running.  This is not going well this year.  Major grrr.  Breathe. Breathe..... 

So I balance out the stress with comforting spring menus.  I'm cooking with quinoa -- Mediterranean style -- with roasted red pepper sauce.  Infinite combinations possible.  

Sigh. All good. Breathe.  This working life too shall pass... I can't wait for the weekend and seeing good friends and having a life.  

Mediterranean Quinoa Bowls with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce 

1 16 ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained
1 clove garlic
½ tsp salt (more to taste)
Juice of one lemon
½ cup olive oil
½ cup almonds

For the Mediterranean Bowls
Cooked quinoa
Spinach, kale, or cucumber
Feta cheese
Kalamata olives
Pepperoncini (see pix, left)
Thinly sliced red onion

Fresh basil or parsley

Olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper

Pulse all the ingredients for the sauce in a food processor or blender until mostly smooth. The texture should be thick and textured.

Cook the quinoa according to package directions. When the quinoa is done, build yourself a Mediterranean Quinoa Bowl! Add in the quinoa and then all the other ingredients and mix. 

Store leftovers in separate containers and assemble each bowl just before serving, especially the greens and the sauces, as those will get soggy when stored with all the other ingredients.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Creamy Avocado and Orange Quinoa Salad -- Shape, with a Twist!!!

Creamy Avocado and Orange Quinoa Salad

April 2016 

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, orange juice, and sea salt. 
Add quinoa and orange segments, and toss to coat. 
Gently fold in arugula and avocado. Serve topped with crushed hazelnuts, if desired. 
I added in some spring onions, low-fat feta, cucumber, lots of herbs like basil, cilantro and mint, chicken cooked in soy and ginger, and some pickled turnips and heirloom grape tomatoes.  I also added a bit of red and yellow peppers.  Olives were also added!   

It was delicious for dinner and I will have the same for lunch tomorrow (portion controlled).

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Chicken, Cashews and Walnuts: Bon Appetit Delivers!

Chicken, Cashews and Walnuts:
Bon Appetit! 

SmartCooks here.  

I couldn't resist posting this one immediately as soon as I read it on Bon Apetit!  It's a keeper.  Plus, I learned a new word -- a tarator - which doesn't exist in any of my dictionaries.  But it's self-evident i.e., cashews and bread etc all food processed together.


Spicy Walnuts

2 T unsalted butter
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 large egg white
½ cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 cups walnut halves

Cashew Tarator
2 cups cashews
1 ¼-inch-thick slice white bread, torn
1 garlic clove, finely grated
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
½ tsp ground coriander
½ cup olive oil
Kosher salt

Chicken and Assembly
2 T unsalted butter
1 T olive oil, plus more
½ 3½-4 pound chicken (backbone removed)
Kosher salt
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced, plus ¼ cup celery leaves
1 T mixed unsalted, roasted seeds (such as pumpkin, sunflower, and/or hemp)
2 tsp fresh lemon juice


Spicy Walnuts
Preheat oven to 300°. Melt butter in a small skillet over medium, remove from heat, and mix in salt and cayenne. Whisk egg white in a medium bowl until soft peaks form; stir in brown sugar. Add seasoned butter and walnuts and fold to coat nuts.  
Spread nuts out on a parchment–lined rimmed baking sheet; bake, tossing every 10 minutes or so, until mixture is dry and nuts are toasted, 25-30 minutes. Let cool. 

Do Ahead: Walnuts can be made 5 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Cashew Tarator
Increase oven temperature to 350°. Toast cashews on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until golden brown, 8-10 minutes. Let cool.  Pulse cashews, bread, garlic, lemon juice, coriander, and ¾ cup water in a food processor to combine. With motor running, stream in oil; process just to incorporate. Pulse, adding a splash or so of water if too thick, until a coarse purée forms; season with salt.

Do Ahead: Cashew tarator can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before using.

Chicken and Assembly
Increase oven temperature to 475°. Heat butter and 1 T oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Once butter is foaming, place chicken in pan, skin side up. Tilt pan and spoon butter mixture over chicken until the entire surface is coated. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and transfer to oven. Roast chicken, rotating pan halfway through, until skin is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh registers 165°, 25-30 minutes. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes. Meanwhile, toss celery, celery leaves, mixed seeds, lemon juice, and ½ cup spicy walnuts in a medium bowl. Drizzle with oil, season with salt, and toss again. 
Spoon tarator onto a platter and top with celery salad and chicken.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Smitten with Mushrooms on Toast

SmartCooks here.

I have this mushroom thing... seems that I adore all types, any mix, anytime.  They are my go-to comfort food. It could be the anti-carcinogenic properties they have but bottom line, I'm smitten.  So no wonder that my favourite recipe, from Smitten Kitchen, is used most often, but I've tried others as well as my own combinations.  

Here, for your comfort, is Smitten Kitchen for my recipe index.  I use a mix of shiitake, oyster, cremini, white, chef's mix from Loblaws, or enoki mushrooms... all are delicious.  

For the greens, my go-to is lucinato kale (only), spinach or chard.  

For the cheese, I use mozzarella or chèvre but others like fontina, that are more difficult to find here in Ottawa, are welcome as well.  

For the bread, Farm Boy sourdough... brown or white.... choice is yours.   

Mushrooms and Greens with Toast
Serves 4


3 T unsalted butter, divided
1 T olive oil
1 1/2 pounds mixed mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and torn into bite size pieces
2 thick slices bread from a large, crusty loaf
2 cloves garlic or 1 shallot, minced
1 T white wine vinegar, or more to taste (up to 2 T)
1 fresh red chile, stemmed, seeded and minced or red pepper flakes, to taste
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces chopped fresh greens
8 ounces of a good melting cheese, thickly sliced


Melt 2 T  butter and olive oil together in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. One fully hot, add mushrooms to pan and cook, stirring regularly, until they’ve released their water and started to turn golden brown, about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, grill or toast your bread.

Once the mushrooms have a nice color on them, add the garlic or shallots and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. 
Drizzle with vinegar, most of the chile or chile flakes, salt and pepper and stir to combine. 

Add the greens and cook for about 5-8 minutes, just until collapsed. (Can add 1 more T of vinegar for brightness).  Stir in remaining tablespoon butter and adjust seasonings to taste.

Rip bread into irregular croutons and push them into the sauteed vegetables. Lay pieces of cheese atop everything. Turn the heat down to medium low, place a lid on the pan and let the cheese melt, which will take 5-10 minutes.

Sprinkle with remaining chile.  


Sunday, 10 April 2016

All-Natural Peanut Butter Cookies: Bon Appetit's Best of the Best Recipes

April 2016

SmartCooks here.

Once upon a time a long time ago... I didn't allow peanut butter in the house. (insert gasp! here) I hated the smell. I hated the taste.  

As the years went by, Himself started to store a jar on the top shelf of a cupboard and secretly enjoy his peanut butter sandwiches while I was at work...

So, years later and a much more mellow AMS (age... age... age) means that peanut butter is once again in the house although I only use it in Thai cooking or when baking cookies... not by itself.  Call me eccentric!  

Which brings me to peanut butter cookies.....  I found this Bon Appetit recipe posted in the March 2016 edition and decided to make them one snowy day. Quite literally ... WOW!  

I urge you to follow the instructions to the letter and use natural, organic peanut butter so that the amount of sugar and salt is precise. Salted peanuts roasted in the oven add a lovely taste. Plus I mix it up using a jar of natural smooth peanut butter and a jar of crunchy peanut butter from Herb and Spice (a Canadian brand PB called Nuts to You!) 

Finally, the addition of a pan of water in the oven and its burst of steam seem to finish off the cookies just right -- crunchy, chewy, very peanut butter-y. I know why they are part of BA 'essential' best recipes.


(Makes about 20 LARGE cookies)
½ cup roasted, salted peanuts
¼ cup (½ stick) plus 2 T unsalted butter
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk, beaten to blend
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 16-ounce jar all-natural creamy peanut butter 
(BA likes Smuckers but see above)
Demerara or raw sugar (for sprinkling)
Flaky sea salt (for sprinkling)


Preheat oven to 350°. Toast peanuts on a rimmed baking sheet until browned and fragrant 6–8 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop.

Meanwhile, cook butter in a medium skillet over medium heat, swirling pan often, until butter foams, then browns, 4-6 minutes. Transfer brown butter with solids to a medium bowl; chill in trig or freezer (I've done both), stirring every 5 minutes, until cooled and beginning to solidify, about 15 minutes.

Whisk flour, kosher salt, baking powder, and baking soda in another medium bowl. Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat egg, egg yolk, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and ¼ cup water in a large bowl until mixture is light and falls back on itself in a slowly dissolving ribbon, about 2 minutes.

Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add dry ingredients, then increase speed to high and beat 1 minute to develop gluten and hydrate flour. Add peanut butter, toasted peanuts, and brown butter and mix on low speed, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Let dough rest at room temperature until slightly firmed up, about 10 minutes.

Portion dough into 20 balls (about 2 heaping T each) and transfer to 2 parchment-lined rimmed baking sheets. Using the tines of a fork dipped in cold water, flatten cookies to ½" thick, making a crosshatch pattern on the top of each. Chill, covered, 1 hour.

Arrange racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; place a dry, medium skillet on the bottom rack, then increase oven temperature to 375°.

Sprinkle cookies with demerara sugar and sea salt. Working quickly, transfer one sheet of cookies to upper rack, then carefully pour 1 cup water into hot skillet; water will bubble and sizzle violently. Bake cookies until browned and edges are crisp, 12–15 minutes. Let cool slightly on baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack and cool completely. Repeat with second sheet.

(Do Ahead: Cookie dough can be shaped and frozen 1 month ahead. Freeze in an airtight container. Let rest at room temperature 1 hour before cooking.) 

Thai Peanut Chicken Saute

April 2016

SmartCooks here.

I've been trying out the blog again after abandoning it for awhile. I find Facebook much easier to upload pictures and stories.  I rediscovered SmartCooks this week and, lo and behold, they have made it easier to upload pictures and text.  

So I'm back to using it as a recipe file, mostly for me to remember what was good etc.  I troll other foodie websites and often use their recipes and pix but will always give credit when doing so.  Things I do myself, I will also indicate!  

Anyway, Saturday night was cold -- again! -- so Himself and I heated up the kitchen and TV room making peanut butter cookies (yummy) and a recipe from Kevin's Closet Cooking called Thai Peanut Chicken Saute with Red Curry.  I left out the peas (not a fan!) and didn't have any cilantro.  But it was delicious, not hot, just hit the spot.  Served it over brown rice and voila.  

Then it was time to crank up Episode 4 of Wentworth -- Australia's version of Orange is the New Black.  We're catching onto the Aussie accent but at times it's a stretch.  The series, though, is gripping.  


Thai Peanut Chicken Saute

(adapted slightly from Kevin's Closet Cooking, a Canadian food blogger) 
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 20 minutes Total Time: 20 minutes Servings4
A quick and easy, one-pan Thai peanut chicken dish that is just packed with flavour!

  • 1 T coconut oil
  • 4 (6 ounce) skinless and boneless chicken breasts, pounded thin
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 1 T red curry paste
  • 1 (14 ounce) can lite coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 3 T fish sauce
  • 2 T lime juice
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 1 T chili sauce such as sriracha (or to taste, heaping was fine!)
  • 1 cup peas (optional, I left out)
  • 2 T cilantro, chopped 
  • 1/4 cup crushed salted peanuts to sprinkle 

  1. Heat the oil in a pan over medium-high heat, season the chicken with salt and pepper, add the chicken to the pan and cook until lightly golden brown on both sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side, before setting aside.
  2. Add the pepper to the pan and saute for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the red curry paste to the pan and saute until fragrant, about a minute.
  4. Add the coconut milk. peanut butter, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and chili sauce and cook, stirring, until the peanut butter has melted.
  5. Add the chicken, peas and cilantro, remove from heat and serve over brown rice or noodles 
  6. Sprinkle liberally with crushed peanuts 

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Mushroom Bourguignon

April 2016 

SmartCooks here.  

I don't know why I sometimes get these irresistible cravings for mushrooms -- any and many types.  Mushroom soup either thick or as a broth (with a splash of sherry!), mushrooms on toast, mushrooms on pasta... And then there's mushroom bourguignon.  Maybe it is their reputed anti-carcinogen qualities or immune system boost to fight colds and fatigue.  Whatever... 

I rediscovered Mushroom Bourguignon, compliments of Smitten Kitchen, originally posted in 2009.  Many other blog folks have posted since -- Food 52, Vegetarian Times among them -- in part because it is so easy ... no meat ... no beef ... no muss ... no fuss ... comforting f... delicious!  


Mushroom Bourguignon
Serves 4


2 T olive oil
2 T butter, softened
2 lbs (4 cups) portobello or cremini mushrooms, in slices
1/2 carrot, finely diced
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup full-bodied red wine
2 cups beef or vegetable broth
2 T tomato paste
1 tsp fresh thyme (1/2 dried)
1 1/2 T flour
1 cup pearl onions, peeled
Egg noodles, sour cream, chives or parsley for serving 


Heat 1T of olive oil and 1T butter in a medium Dutch oven or heavy sauce pan over high heat. Sear mushrooms until they begin to darken, but not yet released any liquid — about 3-4 minutes. Remove them from pan.

Lower the flame to medium and add 2nd T of olive oil. Toss the carrots, onions, thyme, some salt and black pepper into the pan and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute.

Add wine to the pot, scraping any bits off the bottom, then turn the heat all the way up and reduce it by half. Stir in the tomato paste and the broth. Add the mushrooms back with any juices that have collected and once the liquid has boiled, reduce the temperature so it simmers for 20 minutes, or until mushrooms are very tender. Add the pearl onions and simmer for five minutes more.

Combine remaining butter and the flour with a fork until combined; stir it into the stew. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 more minutes. If the sauce is too thin, boil it down to reduce to the right consistency. Season to taste.

To serve, spoon the stew over a bowl of egg noodles, with sour cream (optional) and sprinkle with chives or parsley.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Shakshuka Eggs and Tomato

April 2016

Smartcooks here.  

This has become my go-to weekend brunch.  I make them in muffin tins and they keep for Mondays and Tuesday mornings as well.  

It is THE best Otolonghi recipe I've ever tried. I've since experimented with endless variations -- basically eggs poached in a tasty tomato and pepper sauce. 

I like a bit of heat so the jalapeño, cumin, paprika and cayenne are must-adds... Govern yourself accordingly.  

It can be breakfast, lunch or dinner, with a bit of crusty bread.

1 T olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced 
  • 1 jalapeno, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 T paprika
  • 1 (28 ounce) can whole tomatoes
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • salt, pepper and cayenne to taste
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 T parsley, chopped
  • crumbled feta 
  1. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat, add onions and peppers.  Cook until tender, 5-7 minutes.
  2. Add garlic, cumin and paprika and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about a minute.
  3. Add tomatoes and tomato paste, season with salt, pepper and cayenne to taste, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until sauce starts to thicken, about 10-15 minutes.
  4. Make 'wells' in the tomato mixture, place the eggs in them and let them cook until the desired level of done-ness i.e., 3-6 minutes.  
  5. Serve garnished with parsley along with some crusty bread and enjoy!
  6. Top with crumbled feta. 

Chicken Indonesian Satays

April 2016 

SmartCooks here.  

It is too difficult to access the BBQ but I didn't let that stop me -- neither snow, snow, snow, nor rain, rain, rain .... I have a broiler! and I just had to try this classic.  Indonesian chicken satay.  I made it a couple of times in 2015, found this draft for posting so decided what the hey!  These satays can be made with chicken, beef or tofu.  


  • 1/4 cup recap manis (sweet Indonesian soy sauce) 
  • 2 T reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 T peanut or canola oil
  • 1 T rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, 
  • trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup smooth natural peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 T ketchup
  • 1-2 tsp hot sauce


Combine kecap manis, soy sauce, garlic, oil, vinegar, cumin and coriander in a small bowl. Reserve 2 T of the marinade in a medium bowl. Place chicken in a large sealable plastic bag. Pour the remaining marinade into the bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Add peanut butter, water, ketchup and hot sauce to taste to the reserved marinade and whisk to combine. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Position rack in upper third of oven; preheat broiler. Line a broiler pan or baking sheet with foil and coat with cooking spray.  

Remove chicken from marinade and thread equal amounts onto six 12-inch skewers. (If using wooden skewers, cover exposed end of each skewer with foil to prevent burning.) 

Broil the skewers until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink in the middle, 6 to 8 minutes per side. 

Serve the satés with the reserved peanut sauce for dipping.