Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Dandelion Green Pesto and Roasted Dandelion Root Tea (or weeds)

I have never really understood why people hate dandelions. I see people spending hours in their yards trying to get rid of them, I just don't see the point (especially given that our yard is full of them). I can't stand spending hours pulling them (unless it's for a culinary purpose) and for so many reasons, I refuse to spray them with chemicals. I feel like people should forget about having the perfect green lawn and embrace the humble dandelion. What is so wrong with having a yard full of yellow flowers? Especially when you can eat them! I mean, isn't grass a weed when it comes down to it? And grass is a lot less pretty than yellow flowers, no? Plus, grass needs mowing and lots of care and attention, dandelions thrive when you ignore them. If I haven't given you enough reasons to go 'au naturel' in your lawn, the following recipes might sway you. Pleasantly bitter, garlicky dandelion pesto. It's delicious on salmon, pasta, stirred into a plain tomato sauce, spread on little toasted baguette rounds with a tomato slice, I could go on, but I'll let you use your imagination. And a nutty cup of roasted dandelion root tea sweetened with honey.
Dandelion roots have been used for medicinal purposes for a long time. So, when I was harvesting my greens for the pesto, I kept the roots too. I have to admit that pulling a dandelion out with the root intact is difficult, but even more rewarding than pulling a carrot out of the earth, and that's saying something! These ugly, white, slightly parsnipy looking roots are really good for you. They clean your liver and help with digestion. Plus, when roasted in the oven and infused into milk or water and sweetened with a little honey they make a lovely tea reminiscent of chicory and the Italian toasted orzo drink. That's to say, nutty, mildly bitter and round with a lovely dark colour, it is, dare I say a good, caffeine-free substitute for coffee (but then I'm not a coffee girl). To roast your dandelion roots, give them a good wash, then put them on a cookie sheet in a 325F oven, turning them over every 15 minutes or so for up to an hour. I found that I took some out earlier than others. The thin ones will get dark brown and toasty quite quickly, while the thicker ones will stay soft inside. You want them hard, crunchy and dark brown (see photo). When they're ready, cool them then grind them in a clean coffee grinder or with a mortar and pestle until they are coarsely ground. Infuse a teaspoon or so per cup in hot water or milk, strain, sweeten to taste and enjoy!

Dandelion Green Pesto

8 c Dandelion Greens (make sure they come from somewhere that hasn't been sprayed with pesticides, like your own backyard)
2 Cloves Garlic
1 t Sea Salt
1 c Toasted Walnuts
Black Pepper
1 Lemon, Juice And Zest
⅓ c Olive Oil

1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add 1/2 the washed dandelion greens to the pot, swirl with a pair of tongs and remove to a large bowl of ice water. Do the same thing with the remaining greens. Remove the greens from water and place in a colander. Squeeze the remaining water out of them and roll them in a clean kitchen towel. Place in the food processor with the remaining ingredients and pulse until well combined. Taste and adjust salt, pepper, garlic and lemon if you think it needs more. It will depend on how bitter your greens are. Check the consistency too, if you like it runnier, add more olive oil or even a little water.
Use the pesto for pasta, salmon, chicken, toasts, tomato sauce, etc. I usually freeze a few portions in an ice cube tray, when frozen, remove and place in a
ziplock in the freezer. Then you have pesto to use whenever you need it!

Now, get out in your yard and pick some dandelions! Then decorate your dining room table with some humble little yellow flowers while you wow your guests with pasta and dandelion green pesto and a warm cup of roasted dandelion root tea with dessert.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Quinoa Rice Breakfast Cereal

So, it's day four of my little cleanse, and it's actually going quite well. I miss cheese, yogurt and bread, but have been keeping those cravings at bay with salty rice crackers (didn't realize how much I love them!) and creamy tapioca pudding made with rice milk and honey. I think knowing that this is only for two weeks makes it easier. I'm already thinking about bread and cheese....

Breakfast was an area I was a little worried about starting this diet. I love having toast with peanut butter and bananas or oatmeal or granola with kefir, all of which are on my do not eat list! So I had to come up with a good alternative, to fill me up and satisfy my need for a substantial morning meal. I had tried creamy rice cereal in the past, and found it lacking in something. The texture can be a bit too grainy or something. So the other day, I mixed it with quinoa that I decided to try grinding in my coffee grinder (I don't drink coffee, so I only use it for flax and spices). It worked perfectly! I cooked the two together with a mixture of rice milk and water and drizzled honey overtop. Today I served it with an apple blueberry compote, almonds, blueberries and honey. It was a perfect, creamy, nutty, fruity and warm cereal that I think I will continue making even when I'm done with this crazy diet. And for me, that's saying something.

Quinoa Rice Breakfast Cereal

¼ c Quinoa
¼ c Rice Cereal / Rice Meal
1 c Water
1 c Plain Rice Milk
Pinch Salt

Put quinoa in a clean coffee grinder and pulse until finely ground, about like coarse cornmeal. Place in a medium saucepan with rice, water, rice milk and salt. Give it a stir and turn the heat on to medium. Bring it to the boil, stirring constantly. Cook until thick, about 6-7 minutes. Remove from heat, cover with lid and let stand for 5 minutes or so. Drizzle with honey, fruit, dried fruit, almonds or whatever you like.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Honey Puffed Grain and Seed Squares and a personal challenge

I am embarking on a culinary adventure/challenge that I never thought I would be embarking on. It all started the other day, when I went to see a naturopath for the first time. After her in-depth assessment of my overall health, she suggested it might be a good idea for me to do a two week "cleansing diet". The purpose of this diet is to see if some minor health problems clear up if I cut out refined sugar, gluten and dairy....my three favourite food groups! I have always been very sceptical (even bordering on critical) of people who jump on the fat-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free bandwagons, unless they have actual allergies. It always seems so extreme, and besides, many of these things (minus the refined sugar) are so healthy! The first question I asked was whether I can (permanently) re-introduce these foods afterwards, even if my symptoms clear up. Her answer was yes, which for me was huge. I wouldn't even be willing to try this is if meant I could never go back to gluten and dairy! Plus, it's not like I have severe reactions to these foods. I am interested, however, to see how my body reacts without them. So starting Monday (after a dual birthday party for which I made two cakes), I will give it a try. I'm looking at it as an interesting culinary project and a personal challenge that way I can have fun with it and try some new ingredients and recipes that I might not have thought of otherwise.

I came up with these really yummy puffed millet and quinoa squares last night, and think they will be a good sweet fix for me, because I certainly can't get very far through a day without something sweet (no pun intended for those of you who get that reference). I will be posting some recipes over the next two weeks, so stay tuned for some (hopefully) delicious, gluten, dairy and sugar-free recipes!


1 cup Liquid Honey
¼ cup Pure Almond Butter
1 tsp Vanilla
1/2 tsp Salt
2 cups Puffed Millet
1 cup Puffed Quinoa
1 Tbsp Sesame Seeds
1 Tbsp Poppy Seeds
1 Tbsp Flax Seeds
2 Tbsp Sunflower Seeds
2 Tbsp Pumpkin Seeds
¼ cup Chopped Almonds
Preheat oven to 325 F. Line an 8x8 inch pan with parchment paper.

Put honey, almond butter, salt and vanilla into a medium saucepan over medium heat until it comes to a boil, stirring with a spatula. Remove from heat, pour in remaining ingredients and stir until everything is coated in the honey mixture. Pour into prepared pan and press down with a spatula or with wet hands.

Place in preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove from heat, let cool fully and then cut into squares. Store in an airtight container.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese

It's been a while, and that's an understatement. It's actually been almost three months since I've posted! If you are reading this, thank you for not giving up on me entirely. I don't have any reason other than I've been busy with life. But alas, here I am now, and I'm coming to you with a super delicious recipe that I came up with last night when I was thinking about mac and cheese, but didn't want something really heavy and greasy. My mind wandered to sweet potatoes, because I love them, and then I thought about pureeing them and using that as the sauce. Well, it worked! It turned out better than I could have expected, creamy, cheesy, with a perfectly crunchy top and an earthy sweet, garlicky sauce coating and filling the little macaroni noodles. I also think it would be a super way to 'hide' sweet potatoes for kids (or husbands) who claim not to like them. If you don't see them go into the food processor, you would be hard pressed to pick them out in the finished dish. Please try it and let me know what you think, there are surely a million spins you could put on it, I added spinach to the pasta and sauce before pouring it into the baking dish, but you could add lightly steamed broccoli or cauliflower, goat's cheese, the possibilities are endless. Please take the amounts (especially the milk, cheese and spinach) as guidelines, if you like more or less, add more or less.


1 Medium Sweet Potato
1 c Skim Milk
75 gm Crumbled Feta Cheese
75 gm Grated Old Cheddar
¼ c Plain Bread Crumbs (I make my own by throwing stale bread into the food processor and letting it go until it turns into fine breadcrumbs)
4 Cloves Garlic
1 T Olive Oil
2 Handfuls Washed Spinach
1 lb (a regular sized package) Macaroni or other small, tubular pasta
Salt And Pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Cut sweet potato into thick rounds, place on baking sheet with garlic cloves, sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for about 40 minutes, turning the rounds over about halfway through cooking. They should be very tender.

2. Cook pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, put cooked sweet potato and garlic into food processor and pulse until smooth. Pour in milk and feta and pulse until combined. Taste for salt and pepper and add as needed. When pasta is cooked, drain and return to pot. Pour sweet potato mixture over top if pasta and stir to combine everything. Add the spinach and stir it in until it's wilted from the heat. Pour the pasta into a large rectangular baking dish. Sprinkle with the cheddar and bread crumbs and pop in the oven at 400F for about 20 minutes, or until golden and bubbly. Enjoy!

Bon appetit! And I promise to be back before long with more recipes!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Mandarin Champagne Jelly

Christmas has come and gone once again. So much preparation, planning, shopping, baking, cooking, wrapping, and in one glorious, food-filled day, it's over. This year I had bronchitis to tend with while I celebrated, luckily my antibiotics kicked in just in time to allow me to enjoy the day. My Christmas was filled with delicious food from morning until late at night, family and friends and some lovely gifts, given and received. But this post, of course, is all about the food.

Usually, I plan more elaborate and rich Christmas desserts like cheesecakes, tortes and ice creams, but this year I wanted something a little more refreshing, and seeing as my brother and A were coming to our place for not only their second dinner of the night but their fifth meal of the day (!), I didn't want to make their last bite of the night painful. I had been watching Jamie's Christmas shows over the past few weeks, and one of his desserts appealed to me more than the others, Clementine Jelly. The only thing is, I'm not a huge fan of gelatine. I'm not going to go vegan on you, don't worry, and I'm not sworn off gelatine entirely, it has it's place, I just have a hard time getting past that very wet-dog/barnyard-y smell it releases when it's soaking. I've been wanting to try cooking with agar agar for a while anyways, so I thought I'd take Jamie's idea and make it my own. I also liked the thought of incorporating some champagne, to make it feel a little more grown up and festive and hopefully a bit bubbly. The result? A light, refreshing, delicious, and mildly bubbly, post-feast treat.

Mandarin Champagne Jelly

3 cups mandarin orange juice, freshly squeezed (I didn't count, but it was about half a box of Chinese mandarins)
1 cup champagne (Ok, I used sparkling wine)
2 tsp agar agar powder
pomegranate seeds for serving

Put the juice (and pulp) into a saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle the agar agar over top and whisk in. Bring to a gentle simmer, whisking, for about 5 minutes, until the agar agar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes while you decide what glasses you want to serve the jelly in. Pour the champagne over the warm mandarin juice and give a gentle whisk. Pour into glasses, (you can strain it into the glasses if you like. I only did this for one person, not naming names) cover and pop into the fridge to set for about an hour, they don't take long to set. I made mine the day before and they were perfect and made my life much easier on Christmas day! Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds before serving. Serves 6-8 depending on the size of your glasses.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Marmalade (the dorky jam)

I once overheard a conversation in a shoe store between two people about my age that went something like this: "Marmalade is gross", "Yeah, it's like something my Grandma eats", "I don't even know why they still make it, nobody really likes it, except Grandmas". I restrained myself from jumping in and explaining to them the virtues of marmalade, it's citrusy sweetness and versatility. But that might have made me look crazy.

Marmalade is kind of like a dorky kid in high school that nobody likes, but that ends up being cool and successful later on. I put it in the same category as raisins, prunes and pickled onions. I feel the need to stick up for these underloved but delicious ingredients. Raisins, in particular, get a lot of flack. I get the slime factor, when they sit inside cinnamon buns and just get wet and ruin the whole experience. But when they are the star of the show, like in a really well basted and aged fruitcake, they become delicious and complex, with notes of caramel and molasses. But standing up for raisins is for another post. Today I'm working on converting marmalade haters, and I know this cake will do the trick! This one's for my shoe buying peers, and their Grandmas.

Citrus Yogurt Cake

I have adapted this cake from a recipe I found in Cooking Light a few years ago. I've made it many times and everyone always loves it, even marmalade haters (my husband included).

2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Sift dry ingredients together in a medium bowl.

1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 egg white
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1/3 cup olive oil (or you could use canola oil)

Whisk these ingredients together in a large bowl.

zest of one orange and one lemon
1 cup freshly squeezed orange and lemon juice (I usually squeeze one orange and one lemon and make up to the cup mark with water)
1 tbsp orange flower water

Add juice and zest to the wet ingredients. Then add the wet into the dry and give it a whisk to combine, stopping when the ingredients are just about combined. Finish mixing gently with a spatula. Pour into a greased and floured 8 inch round baking pan (I line the bottom of mine with a circle of parchment paper just to be on the safe side) and bake for about 50-60 minutes. Check at the 50 minute mark. A toothpick should come out clean and it will be lightly golden on top. Remove from oven and cool about 10 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack.
While the cake is cooling, get on with the glaze.


1/3 cup marmalade
2 tbsp Grand Marnier

Place the marmalade and liqueur in a small saucepan and warm on medium heat until it just starts bubbling, remove from heat. Put the warm, but not hot, cake onto the serving dish and poke it with a toothpick to create lots of little holes. Pour the glaze over the top. Allow the cake to cool to room temperature before serving.

To make the cake ahead of time, bake the cake, cool completely, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze. Remove from freezer and thaw for a few hours, make the glaze and pour over top before serving.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

November is a month that I come into with a certain amount of dread. I'm not a cold weather person and the first month that has the real potential to feel like winter just doesn't appeal to me. But every year, I'm reminded that there can be nice days in this transitional month. There are not many leaves left, but there are a few hangers-on, there is the odd day that the mercury creeps tentatively up to 13 or 14C, and have I mentioned my love of scarves? So November is not all bad. It is also a great cooking month. There are still pumpkins and squash around, and I just ate my last garden tomato this week (with a tear in my eye). I pulled all my swiss chard and multicolored carrots the other day, before the big frost, as well as what was left of my parsley, chives and mint. So there has been a last bowl of my favourite summer dish, taboulleh, in my fridge this week and parsley on everything. Now I must move forward into this inevitable season of cold whiteness and enjoy the flavours it brings.

My last post was all about pumpkins, and I do love them so! On Halloween as I was carving a funny face into a big pumpkin, I decided to make roasted pumpkin seeds, and since JS doesn't like them, I made them spicy. They are so easy to make, and are delicious and really healthy too! Here's what I did....

Spicy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

2 cups pumpkin seeds (washed and dried)
2 tbsp olive oil
good sprinkling of Maldon salt and black pepper
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp piment d'espelette
1/2 tsp ground ginger

Toss the pumpkin seeds in a bowl with the oil, salt and pepper and spices. Spread onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place in a 350C oven for about 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temp to 250C and continue baking, stirring occasionally for about 45 minutes or until they look toasty, dry and golden. These are best when they are warm from the oven, but you can keep them in an airtight jar for about a week.