Oven Baked Veggie Fries

Veggie Fries  1

Who doesn’t love fries? They’re salty, deep-fried, crunchy and satisfy savoury cravings for comfort food. There is nothing quite like a generous serving of piping hot fries from your favourite spot. Fries baked in the over just aren’t the same, they don’t make the cut. [Have you tried those baked potato chips? Awful, right? I rather just go for the real thing when cravings hit.]

Or, perhaps you have a deep fryer at home and can indulge any time you want. My kitchen is small, though even if I did have a larger kitchen I still wouldn’t want a deep fryer in my house. It screams danger. Not for the fire hazard but rather for my waistline and my arteries. Having such easy access to fried food cannot be good for you.

The cold winter is officially upon us and so is our increased need for warm roasted dishes. I love roasting my vegetable. I find it brings out their natural flavour and caramelizes nicely, usually leaving them whole or in big chunks. This time I thought I’d try something different. I wanted fries to accompany my main (hello, steak-frites!) but didn’t want the pre-made frozen kind, which tend to be not so great. So why not replace the potato starch by some tastier (healthier?) alternatives: in come carrots and parsnip!

I pretty much eyeball the entire recipe, but it is fool-proof so I don’t feel exact quantities are necessary. However, should you find you need extra assistance, don’t be afraid to ask and leave a comment here!

Carrot and Parsnip Fries

Veggie Fries 2

  • Several carrots
  • Several parsnips
  • Olive oil, enough to coat
  • Breadcrumbs, enough to lightly coat
  • Herbes de provence, a generous pinch (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 400 F.

Peel the desired quantity of carrots and parsnip and cut off the ends. Slice them lengthwise to cut them into the shape of thin fries.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (I do this to facilitate clean-up). Evenly spread the carrots and parsnip, season with herbes de provence, salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with olive oil and use your hands to combine and coat evenly. Ensure that the vegetables are spread in a single layer on the baking.

Cook in the oven for about 30 minutes, tossing once or twice. The vegetable should be cooked and starting to crisp on the ends. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs to ever-so-lightly coat the carrots and parsnip. Return to oven and cook for another 10-15 minutes to crisp-up the fries.

Remove from oven, dish-up and serve quickly! You don’t want to let them get soggy… nobody likes soggy fries.

Fifty Shades of Pomegranate

I was surfing the interwebs looking for some inspiration of what to do with pomegranates I had sitting in my fridge and came across a video on how to remove the seeds from a pomegranate. Usually I would go about breaking the pomegranate into smaller pieces and removing the seeds bit by bit. The process was long but I wouldn’t mind it that much. I found the process to be therapeutic of sorts. After de-seeding one half of the pomegranate, I would have had about enough of therapy and would leave the other half for later.

The technique in this video not only freed up some time spent in the kitchen but demonstrates an even better form of therapy!

The introduction to this video is irritatingly long, so skip to the 1:26 minute mark and begin your viewing from there. I was skeptical that this would actually work, but it does remove the pomegranate seeds amazingly well. If you do watch the video from the beginning, then this technique will also help relieve some frustration. Grab a pomegranate, your wood spoon and get smacking!

I do have to credit my friend Robin who came up with the Fifty Shades of Pomegranate idea. I thought it was perfectly brilliant  and I had to share!

Pomegranate Salsa and Seared Salmon

This recipe serves two:

  • 2 salmon fillets
  • 1/2 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds, using spanking technique shown above
  • 1 small red onion finely diced, about 3 tbsp
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Small bunch cilantro, about 1/4 cup loosely packed, then chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp fish sauce, easily found in the Asian food section of grocery stores
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • Pepper to taste

Pom salsa

In a bowl, combine the pomegranate seeds, onion, lemon juice, cilantro, fish sauce, olive oil. Season with fresh ground pepper to taste. Set the mixture aside. You can make this salsa ahead of time and keep in the fridge until ready to serve.

Pom and salmon

Pat dry the salmon fillets and season with cumin and pepper. Drizzle a pan with olive oil and bring to medium-high heat. When pan is hot, place the salmon fillets spice-side down and cook until you get a nice sear, about 3 minutes. Flip over the fillets and cook the other side until the salmon is just opaque, about another 3 minutes.

Remove from the pan and plate the salmon with a side of vegetables, topping with a generous serving of the pomegranate salsa.

The next morning…

Pom and Yogurt

Here is a great breakfast idea if you happen to have some pomegranate seeds left over: spoon some Greek yogurt into a bowl, drizzle with honey and top with pomegranate. Voilà!

Cute Cooking Tools and a Contest with Mortimer Snodgrass

I love cooking gadgets, can never have too many of them. Some are professional, some not so much and others just because they make me smile.

When I stumbled into Mortimer Snodgrass‘ shop in Old Montreal I was drawn into the big bright space and all the quirky objects that suck you in with curiosity, and perhaps a little child-like wonder. A lot of the fun cooking gadgets they have in store would be great for hosting ideas (or bringing to a dinner party as a gift), and some perfect to get your kids involved in the kitchen… afterall, conscious eating habits are important right from the start!

I had received Russian doll measuring cups as a gift years ago, which i always keep handy (and pretty on my kitchen counter). So I just couldn’t resis picking up the matching containers and measuring spoons. Anything red is irrestible and so was this small handy zester. However, it is this finger spatula that I just cannot wait to use. LIfe has kept me busy and away from my kitchen but I look forward to spending more time getting reacquainted with my kitchen and try all these fun new tools!

Well, this cute little shop on Notre Dame in Montreal’s Old Port is celebrating their 10 year anniversary with a contest, where you can win one of three loot bags! Contest details are written out below. Do you have a favorite quirky gadget you like to use in your kitchen?

Snodversary Contest!!!!

Kind of hard to believe, but it was 10 years ago this month that we rented that tiny little store on Monkland and opened our doors…. Truth be told, we had no idea what we were doing, and we are thrilled to be here, loved by so many, still having fun, 10 years later. Also, the store is so much bigger and prettier now, we are quite thankful for that!

To thank you, our customers, we are launching our Snodversary month with a giveaway. There are 3 prizes for in-store customers and 2 prizes for on-line fans. Here is how we will do this:

In Store: until October 31st, come to the store and with any purchase, we will give you a ballot to fill out.

On-line: you can either follow us on Twitter or on our Facebook page and give us a shout out. It can be anything, how much you love us, retweeting one of our tweets, using our famous #snodversary hash tag or posting something on your wall or ours. If we see our name, we will automatically enter you in our draw, every time.

On November 1st, we will draw the winners at random. Now, wanna know what you are playing for? The two green bags are for the on-line fans, the 3 colorful ones are for the in-store shoppers.

Cashew Cream Parfait

What better way to use seasonal berries and fruit than in a parfait. Once again we are keeping these fantastic ingredients in their simplest form possible. In today’s post, behold the tiny Quebec blueberry, ready to burst out their purple sweetness.

This parfait is raw and hits anyone’s sweet tooth. The first step and most complex step (if you can call it that), is to make the cashew cream. For this recipe you do need a blender that will be able to whip up the cashews and water into thick creamy mixture.

Cashew Cream

  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp of raw coconut nectar (or agave or honey or maple syrup work well, adjust quantities to taste)
  • 1 pinch of sea salt

Making cashew cream is much like making nut milk, without the straining and with less water. You can choose to soak the cashews from 2 to 8 hours in filtered water, but if you need a dessert quickly then this recipe works just as well without the soaking process and rinsing.

Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until you have a smooth, thick and creamy mixture. The pinch of salt is what helps balance out the flavours. Give the mixture a taste, and adjust sweetness as desired. I usually start with only one tablespoon of sweetener and add more if needed. The cashew cream keeps for up to 4 days in the fridge.

You can use this cashew cream in so many different ways. When I have some on hand, I add a spoonful to smoothies to add sweetness and a creamy texture. It is also my base for my raw pie filling, to which I add ½ of coconut oil for extra richness and a cup of fresh fruit. Most of the time I keep some in a jar in the fridge for easy to assemble desserts, and that is exactly what I’m going to show you now with this parfait made with local blueberries from Quebec.

I recently got the chance to play around with the Flip camera and I put together this little video here. Okay, there is some background noise, no fade in or fade out, and the flow isn’t perfect…. But, for my first ever self-recorded video I am pretty excited!!!

Let me know what you think and if you like it let me know! In which case there will be more to come. =)

Last but not least, here is how you assemble a Raw Cashew Cream Blueberry Parfait!

Got Nut Milk?

For many of us, milk is reminiscent of our childhood. A glass of milk is what was served with meals and warmed up when the sandman is nowhere to be found. Then we grow up, move on to coffee and lattés instead, but it still remains a household staple. Over recent years, I have tried other kinds of non-dairy milk but overall found that their taste lacked some kind of richness comparable to that of the cow’s milk I grew up on.

I recently starting making my own nut milks and I will never go back to the processed kind. Homemade nut milks taste just the way you want them because you can tweak as you please. The best part is that you have a non-dairy milk beverage, that is also free of preservatives and other unpronounceable ingredients.

Here are the nut milk making basics:

  • 1 cup raw nuts
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 pinch salt
  • ½ tbsp. spices of choice
  • 1-2 dates soaked and/or 1 tbsp of sweetener of choice

The first step is to soak your nuts for about 8 hours. Put them in a contained filled with enough filtered water to allow the nuts to expand (some may double in size!!). You can do this before going to bed or before heading out for your workday, and by the time you wake up or come home, you are ready to start milking! This is an easy way to fit it into a routine if you want to have fresh nut milk readily available.

Why soak nuts you ask? I wondered the same thing for a long time, but the difference in taste between an unsoaked nut and one that is plumped up is quite surprising. With brown nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts…) you do not get that bitterness you usually taste. Aside from taste, soaking nuts helps remove the enzyme inhibitors and bring the nuts back to life. What this essentially means is that the nuts become more easily digestible and the nutrients more readily available to your body. (Reference: Uncooking101, a great raw food ressource!)

So now that your nuts have been soaking for about 8 hours, rinse them thoroughly and place in a blender with 3 cups of water, pinch of salt, spices of choice, soaked dates and/or sweetener if desired. Blend until smooth and strain with a sieve, cheese cloth, or a nut milk bag (can be found in health food stores, are reusable and are fairly inexpensive). Some nuts milks don’t need to be strained, such as cashews and macadamia.

Now here is how you can play around with this basic recipe: For a creamier texture, use less water. Try different spices such as vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg or even cacao powder to make some chocolate milk. For a little sweetness, try different types and amounts of sweeteners to find the right balance that works with your palate –  honey, maple syrup, agave, etc.

Making your own nut milks at home is so simple and taste better than anything that comes in a carton that it is definitely worth incorporating into your routine.  The leftover nut meal can be reused for a variety of recipes: You can mix it with chopped dried nuts and make some raw energy rolls. You can also use it to make a raw pie crust… but more on that later.

Signature BBQ Sauce 101

A couple weeks ago I blogged about a watermelon gazpacho and I mentioned that my family recently got together for a summer party.

This year – true to my family’s slightly competitive nature – a rib challenge was thrown into the mix. Four “nuclear” families, four kinds of ribs and time for me to perfect my signature BBQ sauce.  Each style of ribs was very different from one to another, which made for a nice variety to taste and none that outdid the next. We had: boar ribs cooked sous-vide, maple lacquered ribs, classis southern BBQ ribs and my Mexican mole inspired ribs.

Today’s topic though is not on how to cook ribs, it is much greater than that. In this post I will unlock the mystery on how you can put together a signature BBQ sauce with your name on it, one you can be proud to call your own!

The main reason I wanted to develop my own BBQ sauce (aside from the obvious…) is because I wanted to avoid the added sodium, preservatives or any other unpronounceable ingredient you can imagine. I’ve read many recipes that call for lots of refined sugars, ketchup and soy sauce. I wanted to make my sauce from scratch from fresh/dried/unprocessed ingredients. That is exactly what I will share with you today, the unprocessed basics of BBQ sauce making!

Let me break this down: you need (1) a tomato base, (2) a vinegar, (3) a sugar, (4) some aromatics including onion and garlic, or perhaps other veggies – it is your sauce afterall, and finally (5) a spice blend. The flavour of your BBQ sauce depends on what you choose for each of those items, especially the spice blend. Play around with each of these until you find something that truly represents your palate.

 

 

BBQ Sauce 101

  • 2 cups tomato base, you can use fresh tomatoes pureed whole in a blender
  • ½ cup vinegar, play around with cider, red wine, or even balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ to ½ cup sugar, quantity varies on how sweet you like your sauce, but think of combining different types of sugars like brown sugar, molasses, honey, etc.
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • Crushed garlic cloves, I opted for 6 cloves but choose as few or as many as you like
  • ¼ to ½ cup of aromatics, this is your signature spice blend
  • ¼ cup oil of your choice, or a combination of fats perhaps
  • 1 to 2 cups water

Begin by putting together your secret spice blend: think of combining some hot chillies, fine herbs, nuts or seeds, and don’t forget some salt, even if it just a couple pinches just to balance out the flavours. It doesn’t matter if your spices are whole or ground. After mixing and combining, put all your spices in a food processor to ground it all together. Take the time to play around and taste as you go. Even after you’ve blended your spices you can always add more but remember you cannot remove it once it’s been added – tread carefully.

Bring a large pot to medium heat, pour in the oil, add the onions and garlic, and sauté until soft. Add your spice blend and cook for a couple of minutes. Don’t worry if it sticks a little at the bottom of the pot, because the next step is deglazing. To deglaze, simply pour in the vinegar and stir. You will find that your ingredients and the brown bits begin to unstick from the bottom of the pot; at this point add your tomato base, sugar and one cup of water. Stir well, turn the heat down to low and simmer for about an hour until the sauce is reduced down to two thirds of the quantity you originally had.

Allow your sauce to cool, pour into a blender and process until smooth. If the sauce is too thick to blend smoothly then gradually add some water until it reaches the desired consistence. Return to the pot, taste and adjust any seasonings as needed. If you are adding seasonings to your sauce then bring it to a simmer for another 15 minutes to an hour to ensure the flavours are well combine. Just remember that the longer you cook your sauce, the thicker it gets. It will also thicken when it cools. On the other hand, if your sauce is too bland or too liquid, then cooking and reducing it for another hour will thicken and help concentrate the flavours.

Now you are ready to store it in the fridge, freezer or in jars (for preserving, make sure you follow proper instructions and this is a great place to get started). Makes a great gift and is also fantastic when cooking for a crowd. Not only can you use it on all sorts of grilled meats and vegetables, as a topping for burgers, but it is something personal you can bring to any party. Save a little extra in a mason jar to give as a gift to the host or hostess.

Now, get some people together for a BBQ and get ready to brag about your own signature BBQ sauce!

 

Lobster Season and Sparkling Wine

It’s a nice feeling when you have something to celebrate and there is nothing better than celebrating with the pop of a bottle of sparkling wine and taking advantage of lobster season being upon us.

My little cousin (ok, she’s not that little but as I am an only child, I see her as my little sister) has just graduated university and I am immensely proud of her. She has been living under a rock for the last couple of months just getting everything in gear to graduate with flying colours – there is no surprise there!

It’s a good feeling when you have something to celebrate. For this occasion, I was really looking for a sparkling wine that would pair nicely with the lobster without overpowering its delicate flavour and compliment the side of greens I had come up with.

Sparkling Wine

The knowledgeable staff at the SAQ (aka the local Quebec liquor board) recommended an Antech Brut, Crémant de Limoux, a 2008 vintage from France. This sparkling wine combines vintages from Mauzac, Chardonnay and Chenin. It is a dry sparkling wine that is both robust and delicate to the palate – a good balance that paired nicely throughout our celebratory dinner, both with the lobster and the greens.


Lobster

To cook lobster it is pretty simple. Bring a large pot ofsalted water to boil. Once the water in boiling, take the lobsters and slowly immerse them head first into the water. Cover the pot and cook for 12 minutes per pound and an additional 2 minutes per 1⁄2 pound. Once the lobster is cooked, remove from water. To serve, you can cut the lobster in half lengthwise or any other way you wish to savour it.

Parsley-Pistachio Pesto 

  • 1⁄4 cup pistachios, soaked in water for at least one hour, rinsed and strained
  • 1 small bunch parsley, about 1 cup packed
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1 scallion
  • 1⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. If you wish to have a looser type of pesto, simply add more olive oil. Use this pesto as you would any other kind of pesto. Makes about one cup. Do not freeze if you want to keep its raw properties.

For this meal, I tossed some baby arugula leaves with lemon juice, a spoonful of pesto and garnished with roasted red peppers. Learn how to make roasted red peppers here.

Overall I was surprised at how well the various flavours paired with each other. The pesto complimented the lobster and the sparkling wine brought a refreshing crispness to the entire meal. I would even suggest serving a lobster cocktail with this this pesto as an appetizer.

Later that week, I used up the leftover pesto with some zucchini spaghetti to make another fantastic dish. Find out how to make zucchini spaghetti here.