Saturday, May 7, 2016

Apple Pie Granola


This recipe appeared as my cooking column in the May 5th edition of my local newspaper,  The Hinton Voice.  


[I’ve been making homemade granola for as long as I can remember.  In my early days of cooking, I would use my library card liberally to take out as many recipe books as I could.  I remember one book in particular that was bound in hardcover and heavier than any school text book I currently had in my backpack. After pouring over this book for weeks (and lets be honest, probably incurring a great deal of late fees if current me is any indication) I discovered a how-to manual for making the perfect granola.  It called for a little of this, and a little of that, with heavy suggestions of substitutions.  The beauty of granola is that it’s incredibly easy to mix up depending on what you have in the house, right down to the type of oats you use – rolled, large flake, old fashioned, instant, quick oats… I have used a variety over the years and I haven’t had a granola that didn’t turn out yet.]

Granola Making Tips:

Mix the sweetener (maple or honey) and vanilla in first so the oats have a chance to absorb the flavor before adding butter or coconut oil.

Add nuts ½ way through baking to give them a nice toasted flavour (the full time would be too much).

Only add dried fruit to granola after it’s out of the oven.

Recipe makes approx. 4 cups

Ingredients
- 2 cups oats (I like old fashioned for this recipe)
- 1/3 cup maple syrup (or honey)
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 5 tbsp butter or coconut oil
- 2 tbsp seeds (flax, chia, hemp or a combination of all three)
- 1 tsp apple pie spice (1 tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp nutmeg, 1/8 tsp allspice or cloves, 1/8 tsp cardamom,)
- 1 cup pecans or walnuts
- ½ cup dried apples, chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the oats and maple syrup and vanilla in a medium sized bowl.  Next, add butter or oil and mix.  Add seeds and spices and combine thoroughly.

Spread mixture evenly onto a cookie sheet.

Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven, stir, and add pecans or walnuts.  Return to oven for an additional 10 minutes, being careful to watch in the last few minutes to ensure the granola doesn’t burn.  You’ll know it’s ready when the edges are golden brown, and your house smells like you just baked an apple pie.

Once the granola is ready, give it one last stir, then add chopped dried apples and allow to cool.  Store in an airtight container (a 1 L mason jar works great) for up to a week.


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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers


This recipe was written for my Foodie Column for the April 7th edition of my local newspaper, The Hinton Voice. 

[When I was growing up, my Dad used to make jalapeño poppers
whenever a reason to make appetizers came around.  Christmas, Easter, the Super Bowl… you name it, we were having jalapeño poppers.  

They take very little effort to throw together, yet taste like a dream, and are fancy enough to make for nearly any occasion.

Dad’s favourite combination was always a mixture of crab and horseradish (see chart below), though I’ve since made them with everything from freshly chopped fruit to plain cream cheese topped with buttery breadcrumbs.  As long as you start with a base of cream cheese, it’s really easy to get creative from there.

The fillings for these poppers also work really well with mushrooms (or so I hear, since you generally won’t see mushrooms anywhere in my vicinity).  Often times Dad would take the filling for the poppers and place them inside of mushroom caps (to which, I would only eat the filling and discard the mushroom, much to his dismay).  Needless to say, my feelings for mushrooms still haven’t changed, but these poppers are definitely around to stay.]

Recipe makes 1 dozen

Ingredients
- 6 large jalapeños
- 1 (6oz) container of cream cheese  
- filling of choice (see side chart for inspiration)
- 1 lb bacon (not thick cut)

Filling Options
- 2-3 cloves crushed garlic +
  fresh herbs (chives, basil, oregano)
- ½ cup cheddar (or other cheese)
- ½ cup crab + 1 tbsp horseradish
- ½ ripe mango, or peach chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with Silpat (or parchment paper). 

Using gloves (trust me, don’t skip the gloves) cut jalapeños in half, and use a spoon to scrape out all of the seeds.

Combine cream cheese and fillings of your choice.  It helps if you use room temperature cream cheese for this step.

Scoop cream cheese filling into jalapeños, being careful not to overfill (I generally have about a tbsp or so of filling leftover).

Wrap each jalapeño half with a piece of raw bacon (don’t wrap too tightly as the bacon will shrink once it cooks).

Bake for 30 minuets or so, or until the bacon is cooked.

Serve either hot or cold.

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Sunday, March 6, 2016

Homemade Naan Bread

 


This recipe was my column in the March 3 edition of my local newspaper, The Hinton Voice. 


[Curry is one of my favourite foods in the universe.  In fact, my very first Hinton Voice column back in 2012 was my family’s original recipe for “Creamy Curried Chicken”.  This recipe is the perfect accompaniment to that very dish.   Naan bread can have many purposes aside from a vehicle for my Gramma’s delicious curried chicken, however.

Here are some of my favourites:

- Brushed lightly with butter and chopped garlic, then baked for 2-3 minutes at 375.  Serve with tzatziki, hummus, or your favourite hot dip.

-  “Naanwiches” (also great with leftover curried chicken) works well for meatball subs, your favourite salad (Caesar or Greek + a chicken skewer makes for a great dinner!) or your favourite sandwich toppings.

- Naan makes a great base for individual pizzas, which would work well for a family pizza night.  Set out a bunch of different topping choices out and let everyone make their own unique pie (try using a muffin tin to sort all of the individual toppings!).

Whatever the purpose is of your naan bread, this is one recipe you’re really going to enjoy.  If nothing else, you can do what my husband does, and line 8 of them up before singing the theme song from Batman.]


Ingredients
- 2 ¼ tsp yeast
- 1 cup warm water
- ¼ cup + 1 tsp white sugar
- 3 tbsp milk
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 cups flour
- ¼ cup butter, melted

Directions

In a large bowl, activate yeast in warm water and 1 tsp sugar.  Let stand for 8-10 minutes. Stir in remaining ¼ cup sugar, milk, egg, salt, and flour. Knead on a lightly floured surface for 5 minutes or so, until dough looks smooth.  Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and set aside to rise.  Let it rise for 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.

Punch dough down, and knead back into a ball.  Cut dough into 8 equal parts and roll each piece into a ball.  Place balls of dough onto a tray, cover again with a damp towel, and allow dough to rise for another 30 minutes, until once again doubled in size.

Pre-heat a large frying pan over medium heat.   Roll each ball of dough into a thin circle, oil the pan, then cook each piece for 2-3 minutes per side, or until browned.  Brush lightly with melted butter.  Continue process until all of your naan is cooked.

Cover with a (dry) cloth until it’s time to serve.

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Sunday, February 7, 2016

Crème Brûlée


This recipe appeared in the February 4th Edition of The Hinton Voice as the Cooking With Jax monthly cooking column. 

[This summer when my husband and I were in Whiterock, BC, we stayed in an adorable, vintage 1920’s style beach house that we found on Airbnb.  With an ocean view, and just down the street from an array of unique eateries, it was like a little slice of paradise.  At one of the restaurants along the beach we decided to split dessert – which happened to be the most perfectly cooked crème brûlée
either of us had ever eaten.  Every bite had a smooth, creamy texture, sprinkled with real vanilla beans and a crispy glaze of caramelized sugar on top.

Once we had finished, we both shared a look of regret for not ordering our own (and 2 more on top of that).   We were only in town for that night though, so when we left Whiterock, we also left a piece of our souls with a renewed love for all that is crème brûlée.

I came across some really nice vanilla beans recently, and the second I opened them the memory of this recipe came to mind.   I set out to attempt to perfect the recipe, making it a total of 4 times in the same number of weeks.  After becoming some of my friend’s favorite person ever (and maybe not so much to those who are just reading this now), I think it’s safe to say this recipe is just like the one we had overlooking the ocean on that beautiful summer’s day.]

Recipe makes 6 servings

Ingredients
- 1 L whipping cream
- 7 large egg yolks
- 1 cup sugar, divided
- 1 vanilla bean

Equipment
- 2 round cake pans
- 6 oven proof 7 oz ramekins
- kitchen torch

Directions

Pour cream into a medium saucepan.  Cut vanilla bean in half and scrape the seeds – place seeds and pod into the cream.   Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often.   As soon as the cream starts to boil, cover and remove from heat.  Allow cream to sit for 15 minutes.  Remove the vanilla bean pod and discard.

In a medium bowl, whisk ½ cup sugar and egg yolks until the mixture just starts to lighten in colour.  Add cream, very slowly, being sure to stir quickly.  Pour evenly into ramekins.  Divide the ramekins and place in cake pans.  Pour boiling water into the pan to come about half way up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake in a pre-heated, 325 degree oven for 1 hour.  You’ll know the crème brûlée is ready if you nudge it slightly and it jiggles like Jello (vs moving like a wave).  You want to be very careful not to overcook it.  The crème brûlée shouldn’t puff up, nor brown.

 Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and allow to cool for 15-20 minutes before transferring to the fridge.  Allow to set in fridge for 2+ hours (overnight for optimal results).

Remove crème brûlée from fridge and allow to rest on counter for 15-20 minutes.

Divide remaining ½ cup sugar among the ramekins (about 1-1.5 tbsp each) being careful to spread evenly on top.

Using a torch, melt the sugar to form a crispy caramelized crust, starting on the outer edge and working your way to the center.  Be sure to move quickly to ensure you don’t burn the crust.

Allow crème brûlée to sit for a few more minutes before serving (the crust will harden as it sits).


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Sunday, January 10, 2016

"Far West" Chicken Wings


This recipe was published as my monthly column for the January 7th edition of The Hinton Voice, my local newspaper. 


[Back in October I went on the road trip of a lifetime, spending just under two weeks driving across Canada.  I had a conference in Montréal for work and since most of my husband’s family lives in a small French community nearby, we decided to extend the trip and visit everyone while we were there.  For a portion of the trip we stayed with his Mémère (grandmother) in the 1800’s farmhouse that she and Pépère had saved up all of their hard earned money to purchase in their early days of marriage.  Walking into the house is like stepping back in time.  Not only is the antique wood stove in the kitchen used for cooking all of the meals, it also heats the entire house, acts as an incinerator (nothing gets thrown out – everything is either recycled or burned), and even has a spot to hang laundry to dry.   To say that this visit was one of the most enriching experiences of my entire life would truly not do it justice. 


We spent a lot of time exploring the old barn, which was filled to the brim with antique treasures.  One of the rooms even boasts an original spinning jenny and some of the items date back as far as the 1600’s.  Some of these treasures included cookbooks with pages so brittle they crackled beneath my fingertips, and instructions that required cooking over the cooled down coals from the morning fire.  Needless to say, I spent a good portion of my trip pouring over cookbooks with Mémère, bringing many, many recipes home with me.


One morning after exploring the barn and chatting over recipes, Mémère disappeared into the kitchen and returned with a cast iron pan filled with these chicken wings.  They were literally the best thing ever, and I knew it was a recipe that I would have to re-create once I arrived home.  When I asked how she had made the sauce, she responded with “oh, a little of this and a little of that” and I thought that was the end of it.  Mémère had other ideas though, because just before we left she came over and placed a handwritten copy of this recipe in my hands.  I couldn’t help but smile at the title of her recipe, written specifically for her visitors from “The Far West”.]


Ingredients
- ½ cup ketchup
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup vinegar
- 2 tbsp honey
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp Tabasco sauce
- 1 clove garlic
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- 1 kg chicken wings (or any cut of chicken, skin on)


Directions

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine sauce ingredients.

Heat an oven safe frying pan over medium heat.  If you don’t have an oven safe frying pan (cast iron works great for this recipe!), you can use your usual frying pan, transferring the chicken to an oven safe dish for the next step.

Dip the wings in the sauce, and then fry for 5-7 minutes, until wings are slightly crisp.  Turn chicken wings over with tongs, then coat with the remaining sauce.

Transfer chicken wings to a well pre-heated oven for 30 minutes, turning them midway through and covering them with the sauce. 

The wings should be crispy but well glazed with the sauce.
  
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