Sunday, August 7, 2011

Donna’s Caribbean Salad


This past week, I flew back home to visit my family and friends for the first time since my boyfriend and I moved out East in January. Being back in my hometown after half a year away was a unique experience. While I still felt the familiar connection of being back in the city that I grew up in, not having a routine made everything seem fresh and new and exciting.

One thing that hadn’t changed was the time spent with loved ones and good food. Whether it was Brazilian barbeque and margaritas for a night out with my girlfriends, ice cream cones at the lake, a picnic lunch on a river raft, or the pleasure of a home-cooked meal, I had a lot of memories (and some recipes) to take back on the plane with me.


I first had this salad while visiting my boyfriend’s Aunt and Uncle. Donna calls it a Caribbean salad because it is chock full of fresh fruit and topped with a delicious tangy honey-mustard-lime dressing.


My boyfriend and I enjoyed this for dinner tonight, paired with a simple (store-bought) roasted chicken. I am still in vacation mode, after all!


Donna’s Caribbean Salad
Serves 4

1 package mixed greens and baby spinach
1 small pineapple, cored, peeled, and diced
1 container mandarin segments, drained (you can substitute fresh mandarins, if available)
1 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
1 bunch green onions, chopped

Dressing:
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of 1 lime, about 1 tablespoon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix salad ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.

Combine dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk well until blended.

Dress salad to taste. Leftover dressing can be refrigerated to enjoy later.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Simply Sweet Sunday Ingredient Challenge: Ice Cream Sandwiches in a Pan

For this week’s Simply Sweet Sunday Ingredient Challenge, Amber asked us to use oatmeal (rolled oats) as an ingredient.

This morning, when I was thinking of what I was going to make, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies sprang to mind.

I love oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. They have a chewier texture than regular chocolate chip cookies and enough chocolate to satisfy even the most demanding sweet tooth. And the fact that there are oats in them makes them healthy healthier, right?

Because it is summer and I have been fighting a constant craving for ice cream (Dairy Queen chocolate dipped cones are my new best friend. Shhhhhhhh.), I decided to put a twist on things and make ice cream sandwiches. Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies AND vanilla ice cream? Oh yeah.

But these aren’t just any ice cream sandwiches. They’re ice cream sandwiches in a pan, and chances are, you’ll be eating them with a spoon, not your hands. Well, maybe you’ll still be eating them with your hands, but don’t let your significant other find out about it. They WILL judge you.

I started out by making a batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.


Using an electric mixer, I beat some room temperature butter and brown sugar together until it got nice and creamy.


Then I added in one egg and a couple teaspoons of vanilla extract and mixed until it was all combined.


In a separate bowl, I added my flour, rolled oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and whisked to combine.


I added the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mixed everything together.


Then, in went the chocolate chips (the best part!).


I measured out tablespoons of dough onto my cookie sheet and baked for about 15 minutes.


While I was working on the cookies, I took a tub of vanilla ice cream out to soften.

For the ice cream sandwiches, I started with a 9x9 inch baking dish.

In the bottom of the dish, I put a layer of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, dome side down (about 10 cookies, depending on their size).

On top of each cookie, I added a scoop of vanilla ice cream, then topped each scoop with another cookie, dome side up.

I filled in the gaps between the cookies and around the edges with more vanilla ice cream until all the spaces were filled, then used my spoon to smooth out the top, leaving some of the cookies visible.


I pressed a sheet of waxed paper firmly on top and smoothed it out with my hands, making sure the surface was completely covered.


Then the dish went into the freezer for about 2 hours until the ice cream was set.

Once it was ready, I cut it into slices and served.

Be sure to check out the other Ingredient Challenge recipes at Amber's blog after you make these things of fabulousness.

Ice Cream Sandwiches in a Pan
Serves 8

You will need:
20 oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (recipe below)
1 container (1.65 L) vanilla ice cream, softened

In a 9x9 inch baking pan, add half the cookies in a single layer, dome side down.

Using an ice cream scoop or large spoon, put one scoop of ice cream on each cookie.

Top each scoop with another cookie, this time placing it dome side up.

Fill the spaces in between the cookies and around the edges of the pan with more ice cream until they are all filled.

Smooth the ice cream out with a spatula or spoon.

Press a sheet of waxed paper over top and smooth to ensure the ice cream is covered.

Chill in the freezer for about 2 hours until the ice cream is set.

Cut and serve.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies (Canadian Living)
Makes 3 dozen cookies

2/3 cup (150 mL) butter, softened
1 cup (250 mL) packed brown sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons (10 mL) vanilla
1-1/2 cups (375 mL) large-flake rolled oats
1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) baking soda
1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) salt
1-1/2 cups (375 mL/300 g) chocolate chips

Line rimless baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

In large bowl, beat butter with sugar until fluffy; beat in egg and vanilla. In separate bowl, whisk together rolled oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt - stir into butter mixture until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop by heaping 1 tbsp (15 mL), about 2 inches (5 cm) apart, onto prepared pans. Bake in top and bottom thirds of 375°F (190°C) oven, rotating and switching pans halfway through, until golden, about 12 minutes. Transfer to rack; let cool. (Make-ahead: Store in airtight container for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 2 weeks.)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Oven Baked French Fries


With the warmer weather and BBQ season upon us once more, I am trying to get back to basics when it comes to our meals.

While our grill is kicking into overdrive, I’ve been looking for simple sides that will go well with pretty much anything my boyfriend can cook up on the BBQ.

One of my favourite ways to prepare vegetables is roasting them. I have a fantastic stoneware baking dish from Pampered Chef that I use all the time. It’s great for preparing pretty much every vegetable under the rainbow: squash, asparagus, yams, garlic, tomatoes, onions, peppers, and of course, potatoes!

This past week, my boyfriend requested french fries. Rather than pick up a bag of frozen ones from the grocery store, I decided I would make my own.


I started with about a pound and a half of potatoes and washed them thoroughly to remove any dirt.


Then I peeled them, halved them, and cut them into slices about half an inch thick.


I threw the potatoes into my stoneware dish and added a liberal amount of olive oil to keep them from sticking.


In a small bowl, I combined my spices, then sprinkled them over the potatoes and gave everything a good stir until the potatoes were evenly coated with the oil and seasoning mix.


I spread the potatoes out in a single layer and baked them until the potatoes got nice and golden and crisp on the outside.


Perfection!


Once the fries were done, I transferred them to a plate lined with paper towel to absorb any excess oil before serving.


Feel free to mix up this recipe with your own spices, or you can substitute sweet potatoes and enjoy your own homemade sweet potato fries. Delish!


Oven Baked French Fries
Serves 2

1 1/2 pounds white potatoes, washed, dried and peeled
1/4 cup olive oil

Seasoning:
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Halve potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch slices.

Put potatoes in a large baking dish or baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.

Combine seasoning ingredients and sprinkle over potatoes.

Toss with hands or a spoon to evenly coat and spread out in a single layer.

Bake for about 45 minutes until potatoes are tender on the inside and golden on the outside.

Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate before serving.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Simply Sweet Sunday Ingredient Challenge: Strawberry Shortcake

This week, I have been trying to get back into my blog. It has been a bit okay, a lot neglected the past few weeks, and I figured it was time to try and breathe some life into it again.

I look at all the blogs I follow and find it remarkable and admirable that so many of my fellow foodies make the effort to post every day.

I wish I could do the same but sometimes I just don’t have the time or the energy.

My blog is an escape for me, an outlet for two of my passions – cooking and writing – and when I’m not feeling motivated or inspired, it’s hard to fake it.

Luckily, I have found my mojo again these past few days, which is a good thing since it's once again time for the Simply Sweet Sunday Ingredient Challenge!

I missed the last challenge, which I was really bummed about, so this is my chance for redemption.

Strawberries are one of my favourite fruits. They can be used in so many different ways in both savoury and sweet dishes. Remember this and this?

For this challenge, I decided to make strawberry shortcake. There is nothing that makes strawberries more decadent than homemade scones and fresh whipped cream. Well, maybe chocolate, but that’s another story.


I started off with two pounds of fresh strawberries.


After giving them a good wash, I hulled and sliced them.


Then I added about two tablespoons of sugar, gave everything a good stir, and set the bowl aside to let the strawberries macerate.

To make the scones, I started by whisking together flour, sugar, baking powder and a bit of salt.


I cut some butter up into small cubes and used two knives (note to self: buy pastry blender) to mix it into the flour mixture until it had a crumb-like texture.


In a separate bowl, I added a lightly beaten egg, half and half, and vanilla extract and whisked it all together.


Then I formed a well in the flour mixture and added the wet ingredients.


I used my trusty wooden spoon to mix everything together.


On a floured surface, I kneaded the dough, then rolled it out and cut out eight circles (I ended up re-rolling the dough to get the last two).


I laid the rounds out on my baking stone and lightly brushed the tops with egg, then put them in a 375° F oven to bake for 15 minutes.


They came out looking nice and golden on top.


While the scones cooled, I prepared the fresh whipped cream.


To serve, I cut each scone in half, topped the bottom half with a spoonful of strawberries and a dollop of whipped cream, then set the other half of the scone on top.


Pure strawberries and whipped cream nirvana.


This is the perfect dessert to serve at a dinner party. The scones and strawberries can be made ahead of time and the dessert takes less than five minutes to assemble.


It is a dessert your guests will be sure to appreciate!

Be sure to go to Amber’s blog, My Simply Sweet Life as My Best Friend’s Wife, to see the other posts for this week’s challenge.

I’m going to go have myself another one of these.


Strawberry Shortcake (adapted from Joyofbaking.com)
Serves 8

Scones:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cold unsalted butter
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup cream, half and half or milk

Filling:
2 pounds fresh strawberries
2 tablespoons granulated white sugar

Topping:
1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon granulated white sugar


Wash, hull and slice the strawberries. Add the sugar and toss to coat, then set aside to macerate at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 375° F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut the butter into small cubes and blend into the flour mixture using a pastry blender or two knives until it becomes crumb-like in texture.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, cream and vanilla extract.

Form a well in the flour mixture and add the liquid ingredients. Mix with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead 4 or 5 times. Roll out into a 7-inch circle and use a floured round cookie cutter or drinking glass to cut out rounds.

Lightly brush the tops of the rounds with a beaten egg or some cream.

Place rounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until golden brown on top and a toothpick placed in the centre comes out clean.

Set scones aside to cool.

For the whipped cream, beat the whipping cream until it starts to thicken. Add the sugar and continue beating until the whipping cream forms stiff peaks.

To assemble, cut the scones in half. Add a spoonful of strawberries to each of the bottom halves and top with the whipped cream, then put the other halves on top and serve.