Thursday, October 27, 2011

Saturday, October 22 - Spicy Double Chocolate Mexican Diablo Cookies

Spicy Double Chocolate Mexican Diablo Cookies
I first had a similar cookie from a food truck in Vancouver, #Tacofino, that started out in Tofino. Their Fish Tacos are delicious!  Their cookies are huge sellers as well and often sell out.  They're lovely but expensive in my books, for a cookie. Of course, I wanted to have a more economical way to enjoy the chocolatey spiciness. Their recipe is on a few websites but it's cut down from their restaurant version and the proportions do not work very well. Whilst halving a recipe or cutting back a quarter may work.  It doesn't work as well to reduce by 90% by pure percentages for a home baker. When I followed the online recipe version, the batter (not dough) was as loose as cake batter. When I saw them on TV Eat St. on Foodnetwork, their dough was stiff enough to roll and press. Now my dough is stiffer but more like servable ice cream. I've also made changes to the Spices. The outcome is OUTSTANDING. Gooey, spicy, fudgy goodness.

Spicy Double Chocolate Mexican Diablo Cookies

1 3/4 c Flour (~upto 2 c depending on your Eggs and humidity)
1 c Cocoa
1 t Baking Soda
1 t Cinnamon
2 t Cayenne
1/4 t Nutmeg
1/2 t Instant Espresso (or powder fine Espresso grounds)

2 Eggs
1/3 c Canola Oil
1/4 c fresh grated Ginger
1 c Brown Sugar
3/4 c White Sugar
1/2 T Vanilla Extract (make your own with Vodka and Vanilla Beans)

1 c Dark Chocolate Chips/Chunks
1 T coarse Salt for topping

Preheat the oven to 375F

In a large mixing bowl, add the Flour, Cocoa, Baking Soda and Spices. You could sift through a sieve but I thought it would be too messy and I was charging through these Cookies during lil T's morning nap. So instead, I used a small whisk to mix and break up any hard chunks.

In a smaller bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients except the Chocolate Chunks and Salt. The grate the Ginger just use a small hand grater used for Parmesan/Nutmeg (not a microplane/rasp) or the small side on a box grater. No need to use a Ginger grater. I have one and do not find it works well.

Add the wets to the dry and fold together with a large Rubber Spatula. Do not over mix but make sure to sweep across the bottom to incorporate all the dry pockets. About 20 strokes give or take 5. I mixed these by hand. The mixer freaks Lil T out.

Place in the refrigerator for half an hour.

Dish out on a parchment or silicon lined baking sheet with a 2 oz scooper. Leave 2-3 inches between cookies. Sprinkle with a small pinch of Salt. Will yield 12 large 4-5 inch sized cookies. Do NOT flatten.

Bake 15 minutes. They'll be soft and cracked on top.  Allow to cool for a couple minutes on the pan, enough to allow them to move with a thin spatula. Cool completely on a rack.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Saturnday, October 8th - Wholewheat Oatmeal Everything Muffin

Wholewheat Oatmeal Everything Muffin

It's taken 6 months but I think I have managed to find a way to bake with a baby.  I pre mix the night before.  I don't combine the full batter because I don't like to activate the leavening too early but I assemble all the ingredients on the counter and mix the dries in a bowl and leave it covered.  It was particularly important to do this ahead because well, lil T's room is underneath the kitchen. 
Wholewheat Oatmeal Everything Muffin
1 c Wholewheat Flour
1 c Wheat Bran
1 c Rolled Oats, not quick Oats, milled fine
1 t Baking Powder
1 t Baking Soda
1 t Salt

1 ripe Banana
1 c Milk
1 t Vanilla Extract
1-2 T Vegetable Oil
1/2 c packed Brown Sugar
2 Eggs

1/2 c each of Pecans, Dark Chocolate Chips, Macadamia Nuts, and dried Cranberries

So if you are starting the evening before to save time and minimise early morning noise then mill the Oats when baby is awake but perhaps in another room.  Lil T does not like the sound of the coffee grinder, blender or Baby Bullet.  In a mini food processor or your baby bullet with the flat milling blade on, grind your Oats until a floury consistency. 

In a large bowl, whisk together all the dries.  Cover and set aside until the next morning. 

In the morning. Preheat the oven to 400F. In a large 1 l mixing cup, mash the Banana with the Milk.  Add the rest of the Wet Ingredients (including sugar) but not the 'Everything' goodies.  You should have ~2c of Wet. 

Add to the Dry ingredients but do not over mix.  Gently fold by swooping around the bottom of the bowl and folding over to the middle of the top while turning the bowl.  Mix only just to combine.  Then fold in the add the 'Everything' goodies with only a handful of turns.  If you over mix, your Muffins will be tough and chewy. 

Spoon into lightly greased muffin tins.  Top with Pecan half (optional). Will make 12 medium muffins.  Place the filled muffin tin in the middle.  Close the door and reduce to 375F.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Check doness with a toothpick or skewer.  These were VERY FLUFFY and not dense like alot of 'healthier' muffins, even my own when I entirely eliminate most of the fat and eggs. 


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tuesday, October 11th - Watami Sushi - Affordable Fairview Go-To Lunch Sushi!

Watami Sushi - Sushi Combo Special
Being home in Fairview all day has forced me to find a new cheap go-to lunch-sushi. I'll admit that one does make some concessions on lunch-sushi. This particularly easy when the range and availability is what it is in Vancouver. So lunch-sushi isn't going to break the bank at Tojo's or Miku everyday but it needn't dip as low as mushy, fake sushi like the ones on Dunsmuir near Richards targeting the ESL kids. No, good lunch-sushi should sate the sushi addict affordably a few times a week yet have 1. decent rice flavour, 2. good filling to rice ratio, 3. fresh ingredients, 4. lunch combo specials, 5. size matters and a California roll should NOT be the same size as a Cucumber roll and 6. miso or tea included is only a bonus.

I've come to terms with the fact that there is no sushi a five minute pop-out between conference calls like when I was working downtown. Most of the Fairview joints are near Cambie. I tried a newer one today. It's so new it isn't on the google streetview. I'm pretty sure it's still showing an Indian place.

The cool offer here is that you can make your own lunch combo, actually all day. You can choose any three of 30 different Rolls or Cones and Miso is included for $5.95 plus taxes. There is no catch on that combo as I would have thought: no filler rolls like cucumber, no tiny rolls, no pre-made rolls. The rolls were only made to order and were all a decent size. I wasn't overwhelmed by too much rice. The rice was a good consistency though could have used more seasoning. Contrary to an earlier post, ingredients were fresh, possibly because turnover has increased or they responded to feedback or I ordered well.

I ordered the Spicy California Roll, Spicy Salmon Roll and Dynamite Roll. The Spiciness was a tad disappointing. It was basically a 'mild' flavoured Mayo added on top of a regular California and Salmon rather than spicing the filling itself. Other than that, the rolls were a nice size with very fresh Salmon. The Salmon, it should be noted, wasn't one of those tiny rolls often in these combos, the diameter of a lifesaver candy. The Dynamite roll was crispy and the Shrimp was not lost to the tempura.

The bonus Miso was the on the upper end of the range of lunch-sushi bonus miso. It had nice large pieces of the seaweed that led me to think it wasn't the insta-miso. As well, there were chunks of Krab (Pollock) in it.

I think I might have found my go-to lunch-sushi in Fairview. Service was fine but I was just taking out.

p.s. I went back a few days later and the Spicy Sauce was not drizzled on top but inside the sushi roll that time. :^D

Watami Sushi
(604) 708-8638
514 W Broadway
Vancouver, BC V5Z
Watami Sushi on Urbanspoon


Monday, October 3rd - Salty and Savoury Black Bean Clams

Clams in Black Bean Sauce
We usually do this with Dungeness Crab.  It is awesome with Dungeness as well, especially when you don't have to chop it.  The fish counter at TnT will chop it for you.  But if you do, add the Crab at the beginning with the Wine instead.  But I Clams are great and I find, more consistent than Mussels.  Touch wood.  I have found lately, that Mussels are a crap shoot.  There has been a fairly notable yield of bad ones before cooking and then funky ones after.  That's coming from a reliable fish counter.  Clams on the other hand, though smaller, usually more reliable.  I had a similar dish at the Shore on Granville but they used a scant amount of Black Bean Sauce to a point that it didn't taste at all Chinese but it was awesome.  Their appetiser portion of these Clams is the size of a Mussels entree.  So tada, we did our own version here.  I think I'll cut back on back on the Black Bean sauce next time to try to emulate the Shore Version more.  But the more Asian, in your face, Black Bean taste here is yummo too.

Steamed Clams in Black Bean Sauce

1-1.5 lb fresh, LIVE Manila Clams, in shell (for 2 people)
4-5 T Black Bean, sauce (recommend Lee Kum Kee, used another one with yellow all Chinese label once and it was SSSSSSOOOOOO SALTY)
1 inch fresh Ginger
1 t Sambal Oleck or Chili Garlic Sauce (Sambal is a Singaporean Chili Paste)
1 bunch Green Onions
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 T Olive Oil or Vegetable Oil
1 c dry White Wine

Fresh Cilantro, garnish, optional.

Rinse all the Clams.  Throw any open ones away.  You can buy them fresh from any fish monger or the fresh seafood bar at the TnT Asian Superstore.  You can keep live Clams in the fridge in damp cloth for a day, no more.  Ideally, you should use them the same day.

In a Med-Large pot or Wok, heat the Oil on Med High. Add the Ginger and Whites of the Green Onions.  Sautee for a few minutes.

Add the Black Bean Sauce and Chili Paste.  Stir briefly to incorporate.  Add the Clams and Wine.  Pour the Wine evenly over the pan.  Cover immediately. Shimmy the pan on the stove but don't uncover.  Let simmer for 6 minutes until all the Clams are open.  Serve hot like steamed Mussels.

Garnish with fresh Cilantro if you want.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Sunday, October 2 - Shitake and Crimini with Goat Cheese Crostini

Shitake and Crimini Mushroom Crostini with Goat Cheese
We're having people over for the first time in a while. Well, since our 'farewell to freedom' / baby home from NICU party. We don't have family around us so getting a babysitter this early that isn't someone I'm related to and therefore, in my eyes, has 'skin' in the game, doesn't float well with me. So Lil T factors in to plans. That meant, or so I thought, that we'd do some thing super easy for dinner party. Alas, the inner Heloise in D could not help bust through and our normal Roasted Nuts, Amuse Boucher, Appetisers, Starter, Main and Dessert ending up happening anyway.

These Crostini were our Appetisers. They are easy to make but they do require active participation for the duration of preparation. What does that mean? Well, I did a soup. So participation was front-end loaded, chop and walk. That's my idea of a baby friendly dish. Professionally, I'm in senior management and therefore an uber planner. When planning on baking or cooking, I pick days before, I plan out the chunks of activity between baby's needs; dry measure night before or loud processing when he's awake etc. Not D. He's like, power through, 'Lil dude should get use to the noise, plus you're here.' :-/ Six months into this concept and Lil Dude still screams bloody murder whenever D steams milk for his Macchiato. :-)

Shitake and Crimini Mushroom Goat Cheese Crostini

2 T Olive Oil
1 clove Garlic
1/2 Shallot, finely minced
1 T fresh Thyme
1 pint Shitake Mushrooms (one of those blue containers covered in plastic wrap in the market)
or half half 1-1.5 c Shitake and Crimini
2 T Sherry Vinegar
1/4 c Masala Wine
1/2 t Cornstarch
1 T Cream or Sour Cream
Salt to taste

Fresh Parsley or Fresh Thyme, garnish, optional

1/4 c fresh soft Goat Cheese

Brush and trim the Mushrooms.  Cook the Mushrooms in a pan on Medium/High heat with the Garlic, Thyme and Shallot.  Season slightly to taste but under salt.  The Cheese will add Saltiness.  Cook the Mushrooms until they are well browned.  Do not rush this.  5-10 minutes.  Then reduce heat to Medium.

Sautee Mushrooms in Pan
Whisk the Vinegar and Masala Wine with the Cornstarch.  Add to the Mushrooms.  Simmer until very thick.  Turn off the heat.  If your stove stays hot, remove the pan from the element.  Add the Cream. 

Toast some Baguette slices.  Spread with some Goat Cheese.  Place 1-2 T of the Mushrooms on each  and top with fresh Parsley or Thyme.  mmmm serve warm or room temperature.  Don't cook too far ahead or they congeal. D added the Cornstarch slurry just before serving.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sis-in-Law's Soupe Indienne - Indian Coconut Lentil Soup

Indian Coconut Lentil Soup
D went on a chopping rampage.  He decided that since he was making sauce and Ratatouille he'd do this soup as well since all the recipes were chopping heavy.  That seems like an efficient and good idea except for the person on the other end of the "I cook, you clean" bargain.   This recipe comes from my sister in law, which is weird  because she NEVER cooks.  Though she may protest that statement, I would say it's a fair one.  Her hubbo, J-L does 99% of the cooking and is awesome at it.  Good deal.  I wonder if this is actually J-L's recipe :^P  It is very tasty but if were upto me, I would make the optional Chili Flakes a part of the soup recipe and not optional.  It feels light and healthy even with the Coconut Milk.  I highly recommend you try it.

Soupe Indienne (Indian Coconut Lentil Soup)

2 c Lentils, dry (Orange or Yellow)
1 large Onion, chopped fine
1 1/2 T grated Ginger
6 cloves Garlic, minced
1 14 oz tin of Tomatoes, w the Juice
2 l Vegetable Broth (or Chicken if you prefer)
1 t Cumin
1 t Ground Coriander
1 1/2 t Curry Powder
1/2 t Cinnamon
1 tin Coconut Milk
1/2-1 T Sunflower Oil
1 Chipotle Chile, chopped (no Adobo sauce, D's addition to recipe)
Salt and Pepper
1 Lime
Fresh Cilantro, garnish
1 t toasted Coconut flakes  per bowl, garnish
Red Chili Flakes, garnish

In a large pot, heat half the oil on medium high heat.  Cook the Garlic, Onions until just transparent. Add the other half the Oil and add the Spices, Ginger and the Lentils.  Stir for a minute. 

Add the Tomatoes.  You can either run a knife around the can before adding them or as we do, squash each Tomato as you put it into the pot then pour in the liquid after.  Add the Vegetable Broth.

Bring just to a boil then reduce.  Simmer uncovered for 30-45 minutes. 
Add the Coconut Milk.  Season to taste with Salt and Pepper.  Add the juice of the Lime.
Serve with fresh Cilantro and Toasted Coconut Flakes.   (And if you like, Red Chili Flakes.  That was just me tho, not D)



Sunday, October 09, 2011

Saturday, October 1 - Sweet and Nutty Parsnip and Chestnut Risotto

Sweet and Nutty Parsnip and Chestnut Risotto
I'm not sure how D ended up making Parsnip Risotto.  We had planned on using the Butternut Squash I bought last week because I thought it was a cute shape and it's still sitting on the counter.  Then when I went looking for Parsnips for my soup, he changed his mind.  That's cool.  I love Parsnips.  They're sweet and nutty.  They make awesome chips as well.  The addition of the Chestnuts give the Risotto a nice roundness and autumnal quality.  Yummo!

Parsnip and Chestnut Risotto
 Serves 4 (or Serves 2 with seconds + 1 lunch)

1 c Arborio Rice
2 l (8 c) Veggie Broth
1 med Onion (tennis ball) diced
1 medium Parsmip (1 inch through middle, like large Carrot, 3/4 lb in store, 2 c diced)
1/2 c cooked Chestnuts (4-5) chopped
1 1/2 T Rosemary, fresh, picked from stem, minced
1/4 c Butter
1-2 T Olive Oil
1/2 c Parmesan, real, grated
Aged, REAL, Balsamic Vinegar
Fresh Parsley

In a small saucepan, bring the Veggie broth to a boil then reduce to a low low simmer.  That means, wisps of steam but no bubbles.

Wash, peel and dice the Parsnip.  Use the whole Parsnip, even the core.  In a large skillet, melt the Butter, less 1 T, on Medium High heat.  Sautee the Parsnip with the Rosemary until al dente soft, 8-10 minutes.  Set aside on one of the dinner plates, usually mine :^D

In the same skillet, heat the Olive Oil on Medium heat.  Sautee the Onions until soft, not browned. 3-5 minutes.  Add the Rice.  Stir until well coated 2 minutes.  Add a dash of Olive Oil if it looks a bit dry. Add the Wine around the pan.  Stir with a wooden spoon until most of the liquid is absorbed. 

Add a ladel of the broth and stir until absorbed (~3/4 c), until you can draw a line down the pan with the spoon and it doesn't close up immediately.  When you're about 3 ladels away from done, about 20 minutes into adding the broth, add the Parsnip back.  Add the chopped Chestnuts when you're 1 ladel away from done.  Stir gently.  You  don't want to mash the Chestnuts.

Add the Parmesan Cheese.  Stir gently.  Turn off the heat.  Add the last T of Butter broken up around the top of the Risotto.  Add the last ladel over top.  Cover and let sit for 10 minutes. 

Serve with a drizzle of Aged Balsamic and more Parmesan.  If you want to add some more richness, add a few drops of GOOD Extra Virgin Olive Oil.



Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Saturday, October 1 - Pear, Parsnip, Celeriac and Ginger Soup - Big Ol Pot of Seasonal Comfort

When the air gets that little edge where I turmoil everytime I'm at the door about taking a heavier coat and Vancouverites start carrying an umbrella by default (or at least those without Vancouver amnesia*), it's time to look to the root.  I love the heartiness and hominess of root and squash based soups.  I only tried Celeriac for the first time a few years ago.  It was in a mash I made. The idea of a vegetable with the nutty, spiciness of Celery with the creamy texture of a potato was facinating.  Apart, from the unappealing appearance and the even less comely trimming necessary, it is made for my tastes.  What do I mean by uncomely?  The root end lookes like a nest of worms.  There is dirt and fibrous bits that bug me from two aspects: the chore / grossness of cleaning in every nook and cranny and the % yield from the Celeriac you buy versus the amount Celeriac "meat" you have after trimming and peeling.  Waah.  But when you want a nice hearty soup, there's nothing like it.  The Parsnip is similar but is sweeter than the Celeriac and not as smooth a texture.  D used the other Parsnip we bought in a Parsnip and Chestnut Risotto I'll post tomorrow.  The combination in this soup is nutty, slightly sweet, a touch spicy from the Ginger and wonderfully satisfying. 

Pear, Parsnip, Celeriac and Ginger Soup
Serves 10-12 ie. leftovers eat or to freeze

2 T Butter
2-3 T Olive Oil
1 large Celeriac, (5 pin bowling ball sized, before peeling), 3-4 c diced
1 large Parsnip, (1.5 inches throug the middle), 2-3 c diced
4 med-large Bartlett Pears, cored and diced
2 cloves Garlic
2 inches fresh Ginger, sliced across the grain to slice the stringiness
1 med Onion, chopped, (tennis ball)
4 sprigs fresh Rosemary (woman's finger length)
4 sprigs fresh Thyme
3 Bay Leaves
1/2 c dry White Wine
3 c Veggie Broth
1 c Water
1/2 Lemon(for prep not for soup)
1.5 t Salt
Fleur de Sel, garnish
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, garnish

Fill a large bowl full of cold water.  Squeeze the half Lemon into it and leave it floating in the bowl.

Trim and peel the Celeriac.  The most efficient and not my way of doing it is to cut off the end that looks like a 'army buzz cut' and then cut off the root end ruthlessly.  That will be about 1/4 way down the top and bottom.  Now if you want to be more frugal.  Cut the root end more meticulously around the root bits to save the meat.  This will take some time and you may not want to bother.  Peel the sides with a peeler or sharp knife.  Place the peeled Celeriac into the acidulated water.

Peel the Parsnip with a peeler and place into the water.  The same with the Potato and Pears.  Although not entirely necessary, it will help with the aesthetics of browning.

Peel the Ginger and cut across the grain so you're cutting the 'threads' so you don't have any stringy bits after you puree.  Rough chop the Onion and the Garlic.  Leave the herbs whole.

Dice the Celeriac, Potato and the Parnip into cm (half inch) cubes.  Use all of the Parsnip.  Don't worry about the woody centre.  It doesn't matter in this use.  I do the Pears later.

In a large dutch oven or soup pot, at least 5 qts, melt the Butter and add the Oil on medium heat.  Sautee the Onions and Ginger for 5 minutes to soften, not brown.  Add the Celeriac, Parsnip and Herbs.  Sautee for 8-10 minutes.  Add the Potato and the Garlic.  Sautee for another 5 minutes.  Keep it moving. 

Cut the Pears away from the core and rough cut into large chunks.  Add to the pot as you're done.  Stir for a few minutes.  Add the Wine, Water and Broth.  Add the Salt and adjust to taste.  If you are not using a low sodium broth then you will not need to add as much Salt as I've indicated.

Bring to a Boil.  Then reduce to a steady low simmer.  Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let cool for 10-15 minutes (purely precautionary).  Fish out the Herbs.  I like to keep track of the stems and leaves I've put in so I'm sure I've fished them all out.  Blend until smooth with a hand blender.  You can leave it on the chunkier side for hominess.  There is obviously no photo because well, it looks like babyfood really.

Reheat and serve hot with a drizzle of GOOD Olive Oil and a touch of Fleur de Sel.  Fresh Parsley is a good option too.

*Vancouver Amnesia:  The odd and omnipresent condition for Vancouver residents (long term to lifers) to FORGET the bad weather that descends on the region from October to April.  This is contrary and distinct from becoming accustomed.  Vancouverites actually do not remember the bad weather that plagues us for most of the year.  Ask any of them and they only remember the few weeks of sun in the Summer or the 1 week heatwave of 25C and not the 30-60 consecutive days of constant rain and lack of sun (serious).  I have Vancouver born and bred friends who admit to being afflicted.