Broccoli Stuffed Baked Potatoes

By Corinne

Who would have thought a twice baked potato without cheese or bacon would be so good? I mean, technically these aren’t twice baked potatoes since I cheat and microwave them whole and then bake them once they’re stuffed. Time is money as they say, and sure, if you have time to bake your potatoes for an hour and THEN do the rest, go right ahead.

Time: 35 min (or possibly faster depending on your microwave)

Makes: 4 servings

Oven: 450F

You will need:

  • 2 large baking potatoes
  • 3/4 cup broccoli- in tiny florets
  • 1 shallot- finely minced
  • 1 clove garlic- finely minced
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted, divided
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper- several generous grinds

Give potatoes a good scrub. Microwave them whole on high heat until tender (if you gently squeeze them they will squish). I drape them in a damp paper towel, as I find it keeps the skin from getting tough. In my microwave, this takes 15 minutes. I have the smallest, cheapest microwave because I mostly use it to reheat tea (which takes 1 1/2 minutes). In your microwave it may take considerably less time.

While potatoes are cooking, preheat oven to 450F. Mince onion and garlic and set aside. Cut broccoli into tiny florets and return to measuring cup, add water until broccoli is just covered. Melt butter and set aside.

When potatoes are cooked, remove from microwave. You can let them cool a bit until they are easier to handle if desired. Cut potatoes in half and carefully remove the majority of the flesh, placing in a medium bowl. Brush the outside of the potato skin with butter.

Microwave broccoli until hot, bright green and just tender crisp (2 minutes in my microwave). Drain.

Combine potato with broccoli, 1 tbsp melted butter, 1/2 cup sour cream, shallot, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix together until combined.

Gently spoon mixture back into potato skins. Brush the top with remaining butter.

Bake for 20 minutes at 450F until potatoes have little golden peaks. Eat as a side with whatever else you happen to be making.

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Vegan (or not) Garden Pesto

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By Corinne

Basil is amazing. I am so in love with basil in the summer I can hardly help myself from adding it to everything. Basil in every salad, basil on sandwiches, basil gently rubbed between my fingers just to smell every time I go outside on my deck… Ah! Well, enough with this summer reverie. It’s February and the days (while getting longer) are still short and dark and cold and we’ve just had two weeks of -20C without a break. I’m craving summer in a bad way!

This pesto is infinitely versatile- in the summer I use much more basil than other greens, but in the winter good basil is hard to find and pricy! Tonight when I made it, I used about 15g of basil and 15g of parsley(a small handful of each)- the rest was spicy arugula, so I omitted the pepper.

While I’ve historically always used cheese, I decided to give nutritional yeast a try for this recipe. I probably could have thinned it out a BIT more, but it actually emulsified easier than the cheese version, was smoother, and as a bit of a shock to both myself and my taste tester, was the preferred version!

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Time: under 10 minutes

Makes: about 1/2- 3/4 of a cup 

You will need:

  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup olive oil or other oil of your choice (I used sunflower oil)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, outer skin removed
  • 1 ½ cup(lightly packed down) fresh herbs such as basil, parsley or greens such as spinach, kale or arugula
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast or parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 tsp salt – to taste
  • pepper – to taste

In a food processor or using an immersion blender(I usually use my immersion blender as this is a relatively small batch and I have a large food processor), combine the herbs/greens and garlic and process for 15 seconds.

With the food processor still running, add the oil SLOWLY until the mixture is smooth – you want it to emulsify. The mixture should look almost matte, and not oily. If your pesto looks oily you rushed the emulsification process and added too much oil at once.  You are looking for the mixture to be loose, not chunky but not watery or runny at all.

Add the nutritional yeast or cheese and process for ten seconds. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

You can see in the picture that I did a better job of emulsifying the one version on the left than the one on the right today. I’m going to blame using a different container than I usually use!

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Toss with warm pasta, put on pizza, spread on a pork tenderloin or chicken… pesto is delightfully easy to use! This will stay good in the fridge for about a week. 

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Easy Beer and Panko Fried Pickles

By Corinne

I like to use the pickles that are already sliced for sandwiches to make these to save a step- you can of course slice whole dills, or even slice them into little rounds if you prefer.

If you’ve never used panko crumbs, they are NOT the same as regular Italian style bread crumbs. They are lighter and cook up much crispier than regular crumbs. Panko style crumbs are made by cooking bread using an electric current rather than heat- so the loaf has no brown outside crust. This video from Upper Crust Enterprises doesn’t have the most engaging narration, but does take you on a factory tour and through the panko making process if you’re interested.

You will need:

  • 10 large slices of pickle
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup beer
  • 1 tbsp snipped fresh dill
  • 1 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • several grinds fresh pepper
  • Vegetable, canola, safflower or sunflower oil for frying
  • salt if desired

Dip

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 1/2 tbsp snipped fresh dill

Heat oil over medium heat. In a shallow bowl or pie plate, mix flour and beer. Stir in snipped fresh dill. In another shallow bowl or pie plate, add panko crumbs.

Dip pickle slices into beer batter, then transfer to panko crumbs, pressing crumbs in slightly. Set aside on a plate. Repeat until all pickle slices have been breaded.

Use a few sacrificial crumbs and place them in the oil- they should vigorously bubble. If the oil is too hot and starts to smoke, remove immediately from heat. If the oil is too cold, your breading will absorb more oil then necessary.

Stir together sour cream, 1-2 cloves minced garlic and snipped fresh dill. Set aside.

Fry battered pickles in batches, one to two minutes on each side, placing on a piece of paper towel to cool until all are finished. Serve with sour cream dip.

** if you are making a larger quantity, you can keep them warm in the oven while you’re cooking the next batch, but place them on a wire rack on a cookie sheet to keep them from getting soggy bottoms.

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Quinoa Taco Salad

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By Corinne

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with quinoa as I shared in my post on Lemony Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpeas. I find it tends to suck the flavour out of things, and isn’t really that exciting on it’s own. Ha, ha, am I selling you on this yet? This really is a wonderful supper full of savoury flavours and delightful textures. I have found that red quinoa seems to have a bit more flavour, and I prefer it for this dish and most others. It is vegan as long as you either use dairy free cheese shreds and either omit or use a dairy free version of sour cream.

This recipe was inspired by one from Thug Kitchen 101- but edited for both additional flavour and simplicity. It could also easily be used as a filling for tacos, or as a topping for nachos 🙂

 

Time: about 35 minutes

Serves: 4 generously

You will need:

  • 1 cup red quinoa, rinsed (to rinse or not to rinse? I buy mine in bulk so rinse)
  • 1 3/4 cups water or veggie broth (I used veggie broth)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 cup canned (cooked) black beans
  • 1 large onion, small dice
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, small dice
  • 1-2 fresh jalapeño, minced (don’t be afraid to use at least one here! The quinoa really does make things less spicy somehow)
  • 2 heads romaine, washed and chopped
  • juice of one lime, + additional lime wedges for each salad
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • tortilla chips
  • garnishes- avocado or guacamole, additional jalapeño, green onions, diced cherry or regular tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, shredded cheddar or queso fresca

Combine 1 cup quinoa with water or veggie broth. Add 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp coriander, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp oregano. Bring to boil, and then cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Stir every few minutes until water is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy- about 20 min. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding a bit more of everything to your taste, or leaving it as is. While quinoa is cooking, prepare vegetables.

Add 2 tbsp oil to pan on medium high heat, and add onion, black beans, bell pepper,  and jalapeño to pan. Fry until veggies are starting to get tender and getting some colour- about 5-7 min. Add cooked quinoa, lime juice, garlic, and cilantro. Stir for an additional minute or two.

Serve hot over lettuce with toppings of your choice. Also delicious cold for lunch the next day!

 

 

Skillet Chili Pasta

By Corinne

For a long time I had mixed feelings about chili. I don’t care for kidney beans. Sometimes people put mushrooms in their chili, and mushrooms happen to be one of the few things that I REALLY don’t like. I’m a bit picky about my ground beef. But one of the glorious things about making things yourself is you can do it how you like it. I usually make chili with stew beef rather than ground beef, but though I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, I have been inspired to make more plant protein based meals. This chili is a riff on something between my regular chili, and the chili mac from Thug Kitchen 101. It is vegan as long as you stick to vegan ‘toppers’ to finish.

You will need:

  • 2 tbsp safflower or olive oil
  • 1 onion chopped (I often use red onion, but yellow onions work fine)
  • 1 red bell pepper chopped
  • 1 carrot finely chopped
  • 1 large stalk of celery (or two small)
  • 1 jalapeño finely minced (use half if you are cautious about the heat, it is always easier to add more than to try and adjust it if you’ve made it too hot for your taste)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic pressed or minced
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups (500ml)  of a plain tomato sauce, or diced tomatoes (I usually use my ones I canned from my garden until I run out!)
  • *2 tbsp (30 ml)- 1/2 cup tomato paste the amount of tomato paste needed will depend on the tomato sauce you use and whether you used just canned tomatoes or an actual sauce
  • 1 can of beer
  • 2-3 cups (750ml) of vegetable broth (start with 2, add more water if needed for the pasta to cook)
  • 3 cups of small pasta (about 240g) (today I used a tri-colour rotini, but I also love small shells for this)
  • 1 can (540ml 19 fl oz) of black beans, rinsed
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp lime juice + zest from one lime
  • any or none of the following to finish – cilantro, cheese, sour cream, avocado, lime wedges, additional jalapeño. This dish is vegan as long as you stick to vegan add ins.

In a large skillet, add  2 tbsp oil and chopped onion, celery, carrot, bell pepper,  and jalapeño pepper. Cook for 5-7 minutes until veggies are fragrant and getting tender. Add garlic, coriander, cumin and paprika and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

Add tomato sauce, veggie broth, and beer. Cover and bring to a simmer. Add pasta, cover and cook until pasta is a bit before al dente.  The amount of time here will depend on the size of your pasta, but about 7 minutes should probably do it. Add lime juice and zest, maple syrup and tomato paste and cook for another 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

Serve topped with any or none of the the suggested toppings. Do you have any toppings you love for chili that aren’t mentioned here?

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Broccoli Potato Beer Soup

By Corinne

Life has been crazy. I hope you can forgive my slacking in the blogosphere. I’ve made a lot of great things, but those extra steps of taking pictures and writing things out has just been beyond what I’ve been able to do the last month or so!

It has also been freezing. The last two weeks it’s been colder in Thunder Bay than it has in the Arctic- like the actual north pole! We just got back from a few days of skiing where we had a high of about -30C everyday. Brrrrr… I have to say, that perhaps the one good thing about this wintery weather is soup.

Originally, I was feeling more of a cheddar beer soup… but we just spent 3 days eating out and I was really craving more veg. Plus, a cheddar soup is so much (delicious) cheese, but it’s January so everyone is trying to be good! Thus, I thought I would do a soup that was somewhere closer to being a little more virtuous and yet had the spirit of something more decadent.

This is quick to put together, is loaded with savory flavours, and vegan if you either omit the cheese or use a vegan shredded cheese to finish.

Time: about 10 min prep about 40 min total

Serves: 4

You will need:

  • 1 large onion diced
  • 1 large carrot diced
  • 2 stalks celery diced
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 2.5 cups russet potatoes diced with skin on
  • 4 cups broccoli florets
  • 4 cups veggie broth (chicken broth would also work)
  • 1 can of beer (355ml, 12 fl oz) (I would recommend a ‘boring’ beer like a lager rather than an IPA. If you use something bitter and hoppy, the bitterness will really come through)
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard (I actually really like the President’s choice one)
  • 1 tsp your favourite hotsauce- I used Heartbeat hot sauce, our local hot sauce (dial this up if you’re feeling it)
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • 2 tbsp safflower or olive oil
  • Several generous grinds of fresh pepper and salt to taste
  • Shredded cheddar cheese for garnish if desired
  • * I didn’t have any, but it would be delightful with a hit of chives to finish!

Add 2 tbsp oil to a heavy bottomed pot on medium heat. Add onion, celery and carrot to pot. Cook for about 10 minutes, until you start getting some nice browned bits on the bottom. Add garlic and cook for about 1-2 minutes more until garlic is fragrant.

Deglaze pot with beer, scraping up those delicious browned bits. Add diced potatoes, and veggie broth. Bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes until potatoes are tender. Add the dijon, hot sauce, lemon zest, lemon juice, and several grinds of fresh pepper. Add the broccoli and boil for about another 6 minutes.

Use an immersion blender to blend soup to desired consistency, I like mine where there are still a few chunky bits left. Taste and adjust seasoning- adding more salt (depending on the saltiness of your broth, this may or may not be needed) more pepper or more hot sauce if you want to dial up the heat a bit.

This would be delightful topped with some fresh chives, but I forgot to buy them so had to go without. Top with cheese (vegan if desired) and enjoy with garlic toasts!

 

 

Small Batch Blueberry Lavender Jam

By Corinne

Several years ago I traveled to South Africa. While there, one of the wineries I visited had chocolates paired with their wine tastings. One was a rose milk chocolate, another lavender, and the third was a salted dark chocolate. It was the flavours of rose and lavender, flavours that I was much more accustomed to as scents rather than tastes, that I found memorably intriguing. I love to experiment with these floral notes in my cooking, and while it might not be a traditional flavour of jam, I find lavender pairs beautifully with blueberries.

I always make jam in small batches, for three main reasons. Firstly, I would rather have a few jars of several different things rather than 20 jars of the same thing. Additionally, canning in a small batch means you can use less sugar and often skip the packaged pectin. Finally, when you do a small batch its a relatively small investment in time and resources. If you try something new and don’t love it, at least you only have 4 jars rather than 20 and produce, even in season, can be expensive.

I 100% recommend Marisa McClellan and her books on making small batches of jam – Preserving by the Pint and Food in Jars. If you are new to jam making, I can’t possibly do better than to point you towards her instructions for those new to canning.

Culinary lavender can be a bit hard to track down depending on where you live, if you live in Thunder Bay you can find it at the Mystic Garden on Algoma- they have a surprising selection of herbs and spices upstairs.

Time: about 45 minutes

Makes: 5-6 125mL (4fl oz, 1/4 pint) jars – yield will depend a little on the water content of your berries

You will need:

  • 2 lbs of blueberries, rinsed and picked over (remove little stems and unripe berries)
  • 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp culinary lavender (it will be the little flower parts – ensure the lavender you source is ok for use in cooking, many times the stuff used for potpourri has been treated with non food safe pesticides or added fragrance)
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice

Prepare jars and hot water bath for canning. I always prepare one more jar than I think I will need. When you are making small batches of jam you are relying on the natural pectin present in the fruit as well as the large surface area of your cooking pan and the small amount of fruit in order to cook off enough liquid for it to set. This means the yield can sometimes be a bit more or less than you expect. See here if you are new to canning for more detailed instructions for this part.

Put the lavender in either cheese cloth (doubled so the little flower bits don’t escape!) or if you have one of those ‘tea balls’ that will work as well. Mix the blueberries, sugar and lemon juice in the pan you are going to cook your jam in. You want a shallow sauce pan rather than a deep pot in order to help with quick evaporation. Allow the blueberries, sugar and lemon juice to sit for about 20 minutes until the sugar has become syrupy. If you prefer a smoother jam, you can use a potato masher to mash up some of the fruit at this point(but don’t mash it all).

When your jars and hot water bath are ready, place the lavender in with your blueberries and start cooking your jam. Over medium high heat, bring the berry/sugar/lavender mixture to a boil. Stir constantly once your jam is boiling. It will foam up a bit at first, but then will settle down.

As it thickens, it might splat and get a little bit messy. Cook for 18-22 minutes. You will know your jam is ready when you draw the spoon through the jam it doesn’t immediately fill in the space and it ‘hisses’. Excuse the oven timer in the following video 🙂

Here  is a description of the plate test, another way to check for set. I usually remove my lavender at about the 15 minute mark to ease stirring and pouring, and my jam is usually done between 18 and 22 minutes.

Remove your jars from the boiling water and quickly fill jars to about half an inch to the top (you can go a little fuller, to 1/4 inch from the top, but don’t do less than half an inch). Place tops and fasten rings fingertip tight. Process for 10 minutes in boiling water. Remove from water and let cool, testing seal after about 12 hours. Store in a cool dry place. Any jars that do not seal (I’ve only rarely had that happen) should be refrigerated and used first.

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