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Roast Pork with Orange, Cumin and Cilantro

I can't take any more snow. I am sick to death of my parka and my boots and if I never eat another stew or casserole it will still be too soon. If I stay indoors on a day like today, I can just pretend it's a beautiful spring afternoon. The sun is shining and the house is full of light and feels warm and lovely so I decided to cook something that felt like summer. I have been eyeing this Emeril recipe for a grilled pork loin with orange juice, cumin and cilantro for some time and today just felt like the day. Because I wanted to make it just a bit more substantial, I stuffed it with a mixture of couscous, onion, garlic, pancetta, pumpkin seeds and a bit of arugula.

Hell Has Frozen Over a Tuna Noodle Casserole

Today, I made something that I never, ever thought I would make. It is something that i have never eaten and have never wanted to eat. The Food Network Canada cooking club challenge for March is a tuna noodle casserole and to be honest, everything about tuna noodle casserole makes me queasy. Hot canned tuna in a creamy sauce just doesn't do it for me. At all. We don't even really do mac and cheese and I think it's just that I don't really like casseroles in general.

On the other hand, I really like the monthly cooking club challenges and although I have clearly put it off as long as possible, it was now or never since March will be over before we know it. I mentioned making it last night and found out that even Shack had never eaten tuna noodle casserole but he was willing to try it.

I had toyed with the idea of getting a piece of real tuna and searing it and doing something with that but what if we all hated it? How bitter would I be if I wasted a 20 dollar piece of delicious fish? Pretty bitter.

In the end, I decided to kick it old school and I used a can of tuna packed in oil because somehow the oil seemed to make the idea of eating it hot more palatable. I am sure that this is not rational in any way but it was how I felt and I am not known for being rational.

I made some changes to the recipe. It called for margarine - HA! like that is every going to happen. I subbed the onion for shallots, the green pepper for red, the mushrooms for Japanese eggplant, the thyme for fresh basil, the water packed tuna for oil packed and the NO YOLK noodles for nice, yolky farfalle. Instead of french fried onion rings, I used the leftover panko that I had browned with bacon fat and sun dried tomatoes for some pasta I made earlier in the week and finished it off with a bit of fresh parmesan.

Okay, so I guess I changed it quite a bit but I think they are all good changes. I actually would have liked to use mushrooms but Little Shack doesn't like them and I am already pushing it by putting canned tuna in a hot cream sauce and expecting him to eat it - I didn't want to put him over the edge with mushrooms.

Tuna Casserole Mamashack
adapted from No Yolks Classic Tuna Casserole

1 1/2 tbls butter
3 shallots, sliced thin
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 small red pepper, diced
1 Japanese egglplant, diced
2 tbls flour
good pinch kosher salt
grind of black pepper
1 12 oz can evaporated milk
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 7 oz can of tuna packed in oil, drained and flaked
3 cups cooked farfalle
1 cup panko with 2-3 tbls chopped sun dried tomatoes that I had browned in 1 tbls bacon fat
2-3 tbls freshly grated parmesan

Melt the butter in a large sauté pan and cook the onion, garlic, red pepper and eggplant over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 5 to 8 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Sprinkle flour over the vegetables and stir to mix it all in. Add salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Gradually pour in the evaporated milk and then add the frozen peas. Stir frequently while you let it simmer for about 3 minutes or until the milk starts to thicken. Stir in the tuna and the farfalle and mix really well. Spoon the noodle mixture into a large, shallow baking dish that you have sprayed with non stick spray or have buttered.

Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top and cover with a light layer of freshly grated parmesan.

Bake in a preheated 350F oven for about 20 minutes or until the top is nice and brown. Remove from the oven and let sit a minute before serving.

perfect with a salad of orange, pea shoots, daikon and bean sprouts

Okay, after all of the moaning and groaning and angst over hot tuna in a creamy sauce baked in a casserole.....

We all loved it!
Who knew? I wouldn't tell Little Shack what is was at first and after eating a few big bites, he said "Mom, this is delicious!"
Then, ten minutes later I heard the words that I would never have dreamed would be uttered in my house

"Mom, can I have some more tuna casserole?"

Green Papaya and Daikon Salad

I think I am over soup for now because all I can think about are salads. I want crunch, I want some sour, I want spring freshness and light dressings with herbs. I had made a really light red curry chicken for dinner and was thinking I would make a green mango salad but I couldn't find any green mango. What I did find was a green papaya and a big chunk of daikon which is actually even better. Fresh thai basil, cilantro and mint and I was ready to roll.

Green Papaya and Daikon Salad
-1/2 green papaya, seeded, peeled and sliced into thin julienne slices
-6" piece of daikon, peeled, cut into thin strips on the mandoline and julienned
-3 or 4 radishes, cut on the mandoline and julienned
-a couple of tables of fresh cilantro, thai basil and mint. The proportions and amounts are really up to you. I love cilantro so I always go a bit heavier on that
-a handful of bean sprouts
1.5 tbls fish sauce
1.5 tbls of palm sugar or regular sugar
1.5 tbls of fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp of hot chili sauce like sambal olec or siracha, or to taste

Mix the papaya, daikon, radish and fresh herbs together in a big bowl. Mix the dressing and add that to the bowl, stir well to combine and then add the bean sprouts. I like to sprinkle some more fresh herbs on top when I serve it.

Roasted Beet Salad

I don't get how people can hate beets. They say they taste like dirt. I haven't tasted dirt in a very long time but I don't recall it tasting sweet and delicious. Plus, how can you not love a vegetable with such beautiful colour? I love everything about beets. I love them roasted, I love them hot, I love them cold, I love them grated raw in salads, I love them cooked and then fried in butter the way my mom used to make them and I love them pickled.

I roasted some beets Saturday so I could make a salad with them Sunday to go with our pork panini dinner, my entry on no reEATS today. The smooth, sweetness of the beets goes beautifully with the peppery flavours of arugula, the crunch of a radish, the smooth silkiness of avocado and the salty bite of a few roasted pumpkin seeds. That sounds like bad copy for a tv commercial for the salad board but it's true.

Anyway, it's a very simple little salad but simple is often all we really need.

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup pomegranate balsamic vinegar
1 tbls minced shallot
2 tsp grainy mustard
pinch kosher salt

roasted, peeled, cooled beets, quartered and then sliced
radish sliced paper thin
avocado, sliced the same thickness as the beets
roasted, salted pumpkin seeds

lay a few pieces of arugula down on a plate or in a really shallow bowl. Alternate slices of beet with slices of avocado and fan them out if you care about making it pretty. Scatter some sliced radish over the top and then finish with a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds. Drizzle some dressing over the whole thing and serve.

It's Friday and It's too warm out for soup so we have peanut butter cookies instead

I didn't want to make soup today. It was 12 degrees F outside, the windows are open and Little Shack and I spent the afternoon doing some spring cleaning. Soup is for -10 and snow so I think that it's time to put Friday Soup day on hiatus.

There was something else that I did want to make instead of soup. I wanted to make oatmeal cookies today but couldn't find an oatmeal cookie that didn't require something I didn't have in the house. Suddenly, the image of a peanut butter cookie popped into my head. I NEVER make peanut butter anything anymore because all schools, community centres and camps etc are peanut free zones so if you have kids and you live in Toronto, you just don't bake with peanuts. It almost feels like I am making my son a stiff martini when I am baking up a peanutty confection to be honest and I do like to live on the wild side.

I really liked the sound of this recipe from Dolcetto Confections and I had everything on hand, including some coarse sanding sugar to roll them in.
I mixed up the dough and I could already tell they were going to be perfect. I rolled the little 1 1/2 balls of dough in coarse sugar, I lovingly flattened them out with a fork, old school. I put them in preheated oven and set the timer for 7 minutes. After 7 minutes, I rotated the cookie sheets and thought to myself "self, does this oven seem like it's not that hot?"

After the second 7 minutes I open the oven door to find uncooked cookie in a mildly warm oven!
I am not a baker so stuff like this makes me panic and my first instinct was to just take them out and throw them away and forget that this had ever happened but I also really, really wanted to eat a peanut butter cookie. Gluttony won out over pride and I hit the 350 preheat button and set the timer for another 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, I switched the trays around and set it for another 7. At some point in there the alarm beeped to let me know the oven was now at 350. After the second 7 minutes they seemed like they weren't quite there so I set it for another 4 minutes and by god, by some miracle, they looked pretty done. I let them sit for a few minutes before removing them to a cooling rack and they were fine!

I do NOT recommend you follow my directions and just follow the original recipe and learn from my mistakes. Make sure the you haven't inadvertently hit the wrong button when you set the timer and cause the oven to turn off instead.

The upside is, you KNOW it's a great recipe when I can butcher it like that and it still produces a lovely peanut butter cookie that you are not embarrassed to give to people.

Black and Tan Cupcakes For St Patrick's Day

The Neighbours are having a little St Patrick's shindig tomorrow night, which I was very exited about. Unfortunately, I now have to work for a zillion hours tomorrow so I won't be able to attend, but luckily Shack and Little Shack will be there and I know that my wonderful Neighbour will save me some of her delicious stew and a nice slice of home made bread to eat when I finally get home.

Wanting to contribute to the meal, I offered to do a dessert but I knew that I didn't want to make anything green. I understand the kitsch factor of green beer and green cake/icing/random dessert but unless we are talking green tea ice cream, I just don't find foods that are not supposed to green very appetizing after they have been dosed with green food colouring. I don't really want to drink green beer or eat a green cake. I searched high and low and finally found these Black and Tan Cupcakes at Dinner With Julie and knew that I had found the perfect treat. Kind of a funny play on a classic Irish beer treat, rich with chocolate flavour and the colours are natural. If I could have found them, I would have LOVED to bake them in cupcake liners that look like a big beer glass. Last month I made cupcakes that had a butterscotch filling made with real scotch and these black and tan cupcakes are 100 times better to me.

Oh, if anyone can tell me  how to bake cupcakes in liners and still have the liners look fresh and pretty, please share. They are really nice St Patrick's day liners but after baking, they look like nothing. Do I use two or three on each cupcake? Foolishly, I thought i would just pop the cupcakes into a fresh liner to serve them but they don't fit the cupcakes after they are cooked. The only one that I doubled up by mistake is the cupcake I photographed so I am not sure if that is the way to go or not or if it turned out by fluke.

They are not beery tasting at all but rich and chocolately with a caramel tasting icing and I like them a lot. Little Shack loved feeling like he was getting away with something by eating beer cakes even though there is probably the equivalent of a tsp of beer in the icing for each one.

There was JUST enough icing to do all 18 cupcakes. I just cut the end off of a disposable piping bag to ice and that worked really well but I almost ran out of icing and had to get a little scotch with the last few. Get it? Scotch with the Irish icing.

Black and Tan Cupcakes 

1/2 cup of butter
1 cup of Guinness or some other Stout ( I used a Porter from Black Creek keeping it local)
1 1/2 cups of sugar
3/4 cup cocoa
1 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups of all purpose unbleached flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
Guinness Frosting:
1/2 cup softened butter
3 cups icing sugar
1/4 cup Guinness ( I used Sleeman Cream Ale since I was busy keeping it local)

Preheat oven to 350F

Melt the butter with the Guinness in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove it from the heat and pour it into a bowl (I used my kitchen aid) and whisk in the sugar and the cocoa. Next, whisk in the sour cream, the eggs and the vanilla. I switched from the whisk to the paddle attachment before adding in the flour, the baking soda and salt and mixed that until well blended. Divide the batter between paper lined cupcake tins - this recipe made 18 for me. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes until the tops are springy and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. It took mine 20 minutes to be perfectly cooked.
 Remove them from the tins after about 5 minutes and let cool completely on a cooling rack before you frost them.

For the frosting, beat the butter, the beer and the icing sugar with your whisk attachment until its all fluffy and a good frosting consistency. Fill a disposable piping bag and then snip the tip off so you have a big enough opening to pipe out a nice, fat coil.

Salmon Two Ways in Two Days

The minute I saw this recipe for a chermoula for oily fish on 64 sq ft kitchen, I knew I wanted to make it and do salmon. I almost never cook salmon steaks, preferring salmon fillets cooked so that the skin gets super crispy for the kid. He is the hoarder of salmon skin around here so it is always all about that crunchy skin but I wanted to try the steaks for a change. I followed the recipe without any real changes other than subbing shallots for the onion and it was really flavourful. Part of master plan was to have enough salmon leftover to make something the next night with it but I wasn't sure that would happen.


My son really, really loves tzatziki and can easily go through a huge tub of it in a day or two. I often buy it at my favourite Greek market, where they make the yogurt and the tzatziki themselves but when I can't get there, I make it myself. Greek yogurt isn't always easy to find in the supermarket and it's often really expensive when you do find it so I was pretty thrilled to find out that Loblaws has finally come out with it's own PC brand greek yogurt. I tried to buy it for three days in a row and my local Loblaws was totally sold out but I finally found two containers at another store and bought them both. I ate the first container as my morning breakfast for a week, adding a big dollop to a bowl of fresh fruit with a drizzle of honey and a big spoonful of mixed seeds (chia, flax and pumpkin mostly). It's very good, very thick and tart and although, it's not as fabulous as the stuff I get at the greek market, it is certainly good enough for the times that I can't get to the Danforth. The best part about this yogurt is that it is really thick and creamy and substantial but it is non fat yogurt so it tastes like a rich, fatty decadent treat but it's not.

So, on to the tzatziki. It really couldn't be easier when you already have nice, thick greek yogurt. No cheese cloth, no straining overnight. For every cup of yogurt, grate a half a cucumber that you have seeded, salt it lightly and let it strain for a bit in a mesh strainer while you get everything else ready. Mince your garlic, chop up some fresh mint if you like (some people use dill but I don't like dill and I never ate it with dill in it when I was in Greece so I feel good about that choice) and drizzle about 1 1/2 tbl of strong olive oil over the top. After the cucumber has strained for at least ten minutes, throw it in the bowl and mix it all together and that's it!

For every cup of tzatziki:
1 cup greek yogurt
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 english cucumber grated on a big box grater (if it's seedy, scoop the seeds out first and I don't peel)
1 1/2 tbls strong tasting olive oil
Kosher salt
1 tbls finely chopped fresh mint if you like mint

It's Friday So It Must Be Soup Somewhere, Just Not At My House! March 11

raw beef pho at Mi Mi

There was no way I was going to make a soup this week. I could have done so on Monday but that is my only day off all week and I have to get ready for work, get the family ready (it's week one of March Break for Little Shack) and make sure the homestead doesn't burn down while I am busy. If I could be fed anything this week, I would choose to be fed the rare beef pho from Mi Mi's but since that isn't going to happen, I thought I would cheer myself up with a photo of it.

Instead, I am going to share some of the amazing soups I looked at and wanted to make this week.

 this delicious white bean soup from A Couple Cooks

this creamy, smoky ancho lentil soup from Lost Past Remembered

this soup for roasted cauliflower, chimichurri and poblano creme fraiche that I found poking around in the archives at Food 52

and this soup, also from the archives of Food 52, roasted red pepper soup with corn and cilantro

lastly, this slow cooker chicken pho from my friend Jen at Piccante Dolce will most likely be the next soup I make and the soup that I would have made today if I wasn't sitting here writing this at 6:28am as I run out the door to go to work until 10pm tonight.

I am also finding that as spring is approaching, my mind is turning less from warm, hearty, comforting soups and more towards thoughts of grilling and salads and fresh things that crunch and are eaten chilled.
I don't really love cold soups and I can see that this Friday soup thing will most likely go into hiatus for the season and come back again when fall comes. When I actually admit to getting tired of the heat and I  start getting wistful about airing out my sweaters and finding my gloves and hats again, my mind will, once again, start pining for soup.

Happy Friday!


I had to make a dip for a party and was going to make hummas but realized that I always make hummas. I haven't made babaganoush in years so I set out to find a recipe that sounded like the one I used that last time I made it. Martha Stewart's sounded pretty bang on so I used it as my base. Instead of one large eggplant, I used two medium sized eggplants and I think the proportions were fine. The only real change I made was to add a handful of chopped parsley because I like a bit of green in there and it's just a little more fresh with parsely. I used to buy this amazing, garlicky eggplant dip from a woman at St Lawrence Market. It was really kind of wet, it was really smokey, it had tomato and no tahini and it was soooooo good. I can't find out what it's called or find a recipe for it so if anyone reading this knows what I am talking about, please take pity on a girl and let me know.


2 medium or 1 large eggplant
2 cloves of garlic
4 tbls olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tbls tahini
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
handful of italian parsley, chopped

preheat the oven to 424F
Rub the eggplants with 2 tbls of olive oil  and roast until garlic is soft, about 20 minutes. Remove the garlic and set aside and continue to roast the eggplant for another 25 minutes until it starts to split and deflates when you poke it. Take them out of the oven and let them cool for about half an  hour.

Split the eggplants and remove all the inside pulp with a big spoon and put it in a food processor. Peel the garlic and add that as well as the tahini, the lemon juice, 2 tbls olive oil, salt and parsely. Puree until it's smooth.

This stuff tastes best if you make it the day before. In the summer time, I grill the eggplants over hot coals first and then I roast them in the oven and the dip ends up tasting much smokier but since it's winter and I have an electric stove, I just roast them and the dip is still delicious. In fact, some people prefer a milder tasting babaganoush and don't like the intense smokiness that you get from charring the outside first. When you serve it , drizzle it with a bit more oil and you can sprinkle a tiny bit of paprika if you think it needs some colour, but not too much.

Its Friday So It Must Be Soup! March 4 Tomato Tomahto

As soon as I saw this soup on Suzie The Foodie's blog, I knew it would be my soup this week. The original recipe is found here on food network canada. I changed it a tiny bit but it was pretty good as is. She instructs you to add fresh basil to the soup when you serve it, which would be great too but I had some chimichurri left from my roast chicken and so I used that instead and it was really great. The vinegar in the chimichurri added a really nice tang to the soup.

8 plum tomatoes, seeded and cut in half
2 red peppers, seeded and cut into big chunks
1 onion, peeled and quartered
3 cloves of garlic
4 tbls olive oil in total
2 tbls balsamic
kosher salt and fresh pepper
3 tbls tomato paste
5 cups of chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 400F and line a baking tray with parchment paper. Toss the tomatoes, peppers, onion, garlic in 2 tbls olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Place all of that , skin side up, on the baking tray and roast for 45 minutes.

In your soup pot, heat up the second 2 tbls of olive oil and add the tomato paste. Fry it in the olive oil for a few minutes before adding the the tomatoes, peppers, onions and garlic as well as all juices that are in the baking pan. Stir to combine and then pour in the chicken stock, bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to med low and let simmer for 20 minutes. Either transfer the soup to a blender OR use an immersion blender to puree the soup.

Ladle the soup into serving bowls and then either dot or swirl in about a tbls of chimichurri for each bowl.

I loved this soup. The red peppers gave it a nice taste and it was just a bit smoky. I used less liquid and less tomato paste than the original recipe called for and I think it was a good idea. It was already a pretty thin soup and I didn't want it any thinner. We had it with grilled brie/havarti/ham sandwiches on german bread (roggenbrot)

As spring starts to approach, at least in my head, I will eventually stop my Friday soups until fall because  I don't eat nearly as much soup once it starts to warm up. Soon it will be all about grilling and yummy room temperature dishes and apart from corn chowder at the end of the summer, our soup days will be numbered.

Stawberry Muffins

Tomorrow is Little Shack's turn for snack day again so that almost always means muffins. I had a ton of strawberries in the fridge and they were so ripe that they weren't going to last much longer so it was obvious that I would be making strawberry muffins. I found tons of great sounding recipes but they all called for stuff I didn't have on hand like buttermilk or yogurt and I wanted to make them using what was in the house.

I came across this recipe on Thyme For Food for a really basic strawberry muffin. With a little tweaking, I whipped up a batch and they are pretty good. Not very sweet at all and with the addition of some whole wheat flour, I could send them to school with a clear conscience. If I were making these for home, I would probably serve them with a bit of butter or some apple butter or something because they really are not sweet at all. Maybe next time I would also add a mashed banana. I thought that the vanilla soy milk would give enough sweetness to counteract the low sugar content so I am very happy that I chose to try that in place of the milk.

Adapted from Strawberry Muffins from Food For Thyme:

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tbls baking powder
2 eggs
1 cup vanilla soy milk
1/2 cup melted unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups diced fresh strawberries

Preheat the oven to 400F.
Place paper liners into a 12 cup muffin tin.

In a medium bowl, mix the dry ingredients and stir with a spoon. In a large bowl, crack the eggs and whisk lightly with the soy milk, butter and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients into the wet and stir until well mixed. Add the berries and stir just until incorporated. Spoon the batter into the baking cups until almost full so you will have a bigger muffin.

Bake for about 23 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and cool for at least 5 minutes before removing the muffins from the pan and let cool on a rack.

Keep fresh in an airtight container for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

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