food amongst family and friends

West African Ground Nut Stew April 30, 2011

Filed under: Mains,Quick and easy,Vegetarian — blisteringlydrunk @ 11:35 am
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I found this recipe on ELS and I’ve made it twice now, and it is rapidly becoming my new go to meal on vegetarian night. It’s easy, quick (about 30 mins beginning to end) and very tasty; sophisticated enough for the grown ups, but familiar enough for the kids, the whole family will enjoy this. If you have nut allergies, I think a pea butter would work, or you could sub in cashew butter if its only the peanuts you’re concerned with. We had it with Bodacious Beer Bread, made with Gruyere and nutmeg instead of cheddar and dill, but last time we had it on basmati rice, which was also lovely, so do what you will.

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, diced

1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger

1 large yam, 1″ dice

1 small green cabbage, chopped (about 2-3 cups)

1 tsp dried chilies, crushed

1 Tbsp cumin

1 tsp each, ground coriander and salt

1/4 tsp each, cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric

1 cup diced tomatoes, canned or fresh

1 cup apple juice (fresh pressed ideally, but definitely unsweetened)

1/4 cup peanut butter (preferably natural)

Juice of one lime

1. Heat oil in a large heavy pot, and add veggies (except tomatoes) and spices. Saute for about 5 minutes, then add the tomatoes and apple juice.

2.  Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the yams are soft. Stir in peanut butter and lime juice; if you still feel it’s too thick, you can add a little more apple juice, but I usually find its perfect at that point.

Serves 4 hungry adults.




Chocolate and Peanut butter . . . Need I say more? April 26, 2011

Filed under: Baking,Desserts — blisteringlydrunk @ 10:15 am
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Yes, James, it's another side shot, but look at those layers!

Actually, there is a lot more to say; this is a peanut butter dacquoise with chocolate glaze, which means that it is a layering of peanut meringues, peanut butter mousse and thick, dark chocolate glaze. This was very peanut-y without being overly sweet and the dark chocolate was the perfect accent, making this a rich, yet light and not overly decadent dessert. That said, it was a lot of work spread over a significant period of time, so I would suggest this for a time when you are only in charge of the dessert or I would make all the ingredients the day before and then layer and glaze the day of the dinner party (or night in by yourself, depending on what you want this for; I’m not judging).  That said: totally worth it.


1 1/4 cups roasted, salted peanuts (good ones if you can swing it)

3/4 cup sugar, divided

6 large egg whites

1/8 tsp cream of tartar

pinch of coarse salt

1. Preheat oven to 275 and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Draw three 10″ x 4 1/2″ rectangles on the parchment and then flip over so you can see the lines through the paper.

2. Finely grind 1 cup of  peanuts with a 1/4 cup of sugar in a food processor. Coarsely chop the other 1/4 cup of nuts. Set aside.

3. Using an electric mixer, beat together egg whites, cream of tartar and salt until nice and foamy. Add the remaining sugar 1 Tbsp at a time, beating for 1-2 minutes in between each addition or until sugar is fully dissolved each time (you can check by rubbing a little of the meringue between your thumb and forefinger; if it feels grainy, it is not yet fully dissolved, keep going). Once all sugar has been added, continue beating until glossy and stiff peaks form. (We learned the hard way that even the tiniest bit of yolk can cause the meringue to not puff up the way it should, so separate your eggs individually in a small bowl and set aside any that have yolk in them for scrambled eggs)

4. Add all nuts and fold in until just mixed.

5. Spoon approximately 2 cups of meringue onto each rectangle on parchment and spread evenly to fill the space. Bake until golden brown and dry all over, but still slightly soft, about 1 hour 30 mins. Let cool completely on the pan on a rack. If assembling the following day, store in an airtight container at room temperature.


1/4 cup cocoa powder

1/4 cup sugar

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 1/3 cups dark chocolate chips (ours were 55% cocoa solids)

Pinch of coarse salt

1. Whisk cocoa and sugar together in a medium saucepan until well blended and then gradually add 1/4 cup water, whisking until smooth. Gradually stir in the cream and then bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking often.

2. Reduce heat to low and add in the chocolate, whisking until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth.  Let stand at room temperature, whisking occasionally, until cool and slightly thickened, about 2 hours.


1/2 cup natural  peanut butter (chunky, if possible)

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

pinch of coarse salt

1 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled

1 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1. Beat first 3 ingredients (through salt) together in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer until blended. With mixer running, gradually beat in 1/4 cup of cream. Add another 1/4 cup of cream and beat just until blended.

2. In another bowl beat together remaining cream, sugar and vanilla until peaks form. Fold into peanut butter mixture in 3 additions. Cover and chill until ready to use.


1. Glaze 2 layers of meringue with 1/4 cup of glaze. Chill for 30 minutes to set the glaze.

2. Place the biggest glazed meringue on serving plate. Place half the mousse on it and spread to cover evenly. Add the next glazed meringue and repeat.

3. Add the unglazed layer of meringue. At this point, our glaze had gotten quite thick and we essentially iced the dacquoise. However, if your glaze is still a bit runny, you may want to put it on in 2 additions, chilling for 30 minutes or so in between.

4. Chill the finished product for at least 3 hours before serving. We had this all on it’s own, but if you wanted a garnish, I would suggest fresh berries; this does not need whipping cream or anything like that.




Springtastic: Lemon Ricotta Orzo and Poached Eggs

Filed under: Mains,Pasta,Quick and easy,Sides,Vegetarian — blisteringlydrunk @ 9:40 am
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 I returned home after a weekend away to find that the snow in my yard was not yet melted. I couldn’t take it anymore. I shoveled the snow pile that was hiding out in the shade into the sunniest part of yard. I totally defeated Mother Nature.

The next step to forcing the arrival of Spring in our lives was to make a meal that tasted unmistakably Springtastic. I was inspired by a recipe over at ELS  – orzo cooked with spinach and tossed with lemon zest and other fresh ingredients. We rounded it out with poached eggs, which made for a very pretty plateful (cheap and easy to boot!).

Lemon Ricotta Orzo

This recipe, adapted from ELS, will feed 5 hungry people…maybe 6.

3 1/2 cups dry orzo
1 heaping dinner plateful of chopped fresh spinach (about 200-250 grams, 1 bag or 2 bunches)
olive oil
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 T red onion, minced
4-5 heaping T light ricotta cheese
up to 1 T black peppercorns, freshly bashed
1 1/2 handfuls almonds

1. Boil orzo in a pot of salted water. At the same time, pop the almonds on a baking sheet and into a 350F oven for about 10-12 minutes.

2. When orzo is near done, add the spinach to the water, give it a good stir and let cook for 1-2 minutes. Drain and return to pot, removed from heat.

3. Add a glug of olive oil (~2 T) to the orzo, then dump in the lemon zest and juice, garlic, onion, ricotta and black pepper. Give it a good stir and taste. Add salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon to taste.

4. Toss in the roasted almonds and serve!

Poached Eggs

I like Alton Brown’s method of poaching eggs. Here it is:

1. Fill a deep frying pan with water, add 2 t vinegar, cover and bring to a rolling boil.

2. Crack each egg into a small bowl or cup – a teacup with a handle works well.

3. Once the water is boiling, turn off the heat. Carefully submerge the teacup in the water so that a little water comes into the cup and sets the egg. Then tip the cup to slide the egg out into the water. Repeat with all eggs and try to work quickly.

4. Cover the pan and set your timer for 4.5 minutes. When done, remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and place on paper towel.



I’m the cheapest person alive April 21, 2011

Ok, maybe not the cheapest, but pretty close. I am almost certain that my love of cooking stems from my husband (who inspired me to be “thrifty”, as he calls it) awkwardly exclaiming “They want $30 for something you could make at home?” in the middle of a restaurant. That said, he doesn’t care about food the way I do; I would happily pay exorbitant sums for a perfect wild mushroom risotto or a rack of medium rare wild boar chops smothered in apple bourbon sauce or a deconstructed creme brulee or . . . I have to stop now, or I’ll just keep going, but you get the picture .  He wouldn’t ‘happily’ pay for food at a grocery store; it just not what he likes to spend money on. So I started cooking more and more of the foods I wanted at home, and somewhere along the line fell in love with the process as much as the end results. This recipe however, stems entirely from my now well developed sense of “thriftiness”. This is a recipe for homemade fig and fennel raincoast crisps; I love the store bought ones – and nothing pairs better with a good piece of cheese – but cannot bring myself to pay $8/box. I have looked at a few different versions of this recipe, but have turned it into my own over time. I think the original inspiration comes from Dinner with Julie, but this flavour combination comes from a brainstorming session with my sister and a good friend; it is by far my favourite. But feel free to play with different fruits, nuts and spices to find your favourite combination (or just to empty out your pantry); cranberry/rosemary is second on my list. Also, I have mainly been making these with seeds due to several friends and relatives with nut allergies, but feel free to use nuts in here as well; just sub them for some of the seeds.

2 cups spelt flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 heaping tsp salt

1 rounded Tbsp fennel seeds, lightly bashed in a mortar

2 cups buttermilk

1/4 cup honey

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients, then add the buttermilk and honey, stirring until just combined. Then fold in:

1 cup chopped, dried figs

1 cup large seeds (I use a combination of pepitas and sunflower seeds)

1/4 cup each, flax seed and sesame seed

Divide between two greased loaf pans and bake in a preheated 350 oven for 40-45 minutes or until browned and springy to the touch. Remove from oven and let cool in pan on rack for 5 minutes before flipping out to cool completely. Once cooled, place in an airtight bag or container and place in the freezer. Leave until frozen solid or until you want to use them (I often make a batch when I have some buttermilk to use up and then leave them in the freezer until I need them).

Once frozen, slice the loaves as thinly as possible using a very sharp carving knife if you have one or a really good serrated knife. Lay the slices out on a parchment or silicone lined cookie sheet and pop into the oven at 300 degrees for 13-15 minutes, then flip and put back in for another 10 minutes or so, until dry but not overly brown. Let cool and serve any way you want to. This will impress the pants off your friends – “Homemade crackers! Where do you find the time?”. Little do they know this took about 20 minutes of actual work. These will stay good in an airtight bag or container for 6 weeks or so.




Carolyn’s Now Famous Spelt Oat Pancakes April 20, 2011

Filed under: Breads,Breakfast,Mains,Quick and easy,Vegetarian — blisteringlydrunk @ 12:38 pm
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This is my favourite pancake recipe and also my favourite way of feeding the kids dinner on nights I don’t want to fight to get them to eat. Served up with fresh fruit and a dollop of thick yogurt, this is a treaty meal I don’t have to feel guilty about serving my kids. My friend Carolyn served this to us at a playdate at her house over a year ago and I have since made these about once a week (every two weeks at most) and have passed along the recipe to anyone who would listen (I’m what you’d call a pusher). Hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

1 1/2 cups rolled oats

2 cups milk

1 cup spelt flour

1 Tbsp brown sugar (or maple syrup, or agave syrup, or honey)

1 Tbsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 lightly beaten eggs

1/4 cup butter, melted

1. Soak oats in milk at least 30 min but up to overnight. I usually soak mine at least a couple of hours.

2. Combine flour through cinnamon. Set aside.

3. Add eggs and butter to oat mixture and stir to combine, then add in the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed.

4. Drop by large spoonfuls into a hot skillet and flip once they start to bubble around the edges.

5. Remove  from pan once browned on the flip side and serve with your favourite toppings.




Bodacious Beer Bread April 19, 2011

Filed under: Breads,Quick and easy,Sides,Vegetarian — blisteringlydrunk @ 12:15 pm
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 Easy, tasty, pretty and quick, this is my new favourite last-minute bread. This is modified from Alton Brown’s recipe.

  • Nonstick spray
  • 4 oz all-purpose flour
    4 oz spelt flour
  • 4 oz whole-wheat flour
    1 T baking powder
    1 1/2 t coarse kosher salt
    1 t sugar
    3-4 T chopped fresh dill
    1 cup sharp white Cheddar (and I mean SHARP!), grated
    1 bottle (12 oz) cold beer, ale or stout (no Coors Light please)
    2-3 T raw pumpkin seeds

1. Whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt, sugar, and dill. Add the cheese, then stir in the beer just to combine.

2. Spread the batter evenly in a 9″ round cake pan or a standard loaf pan that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds.

3. Bake at 375F for about 42 minutes if using a cake pan, closer to 52 if you’re using a loaf pan. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes and wait another 10 before cutting and serving.


Nice Rack.

Filed under: Mains,Pork — blisteringlydrunk @ 12:01 pm
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Rack of ribs! Perverts…

This is the recipe that made me fall in love with Good Eats and everything Alton Brown. James and I were living in a basement suite, craving barbeque in the middle of winter. We picked up 2 racks of ribs and watched the Good Eats Baby Back Ribs episode. The three step process – rub, braise, broil – was easier than I ever thought ribs could be. At the end of it all, the meat was quite literally falling off the bone and – although this isn’t technically barbeque – the taste has the barbeque kick you crave without having to adventure outside on cold winter nights.

This has become one of our favourite all-time recipes, the only way I will ever cook ribs and my go-to meal when I have guests to impress. Hope you love it too!


Serves 2-4, depending on just how much you love your ribs
*Remember to defrost frozen ribs early, as you need to put the rub on 8 or more hours in advance 

The Rub
6 T dark  brown sugar
1 T coarse Kosher salt (if you use a fine-grain salt, you may want to reduce this slightly)
1 T chili powder
1 T of your choice of combined spices, I use the following:
1/2 t ground black pepper
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1/2 t Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 t cumin
1/2 t rubbed thyme
1/2 t of whatever I feel like that day (sage, coriander and Mott’s Caesar seasoning have all worked well for me)

The Meat
2 racks baby back ribs or standard pork back ribs

The Braising Liquid
1 cup white wine
2 T white wine vinegar
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1 T honey
4 cloves crushed and chopped garlic
*if you are using large racks of back ribs, you may want to increase the amount of braising liquid to 1.5x this recipe.

1. Start the night before or the morning of the rib feast. Combine all the ingredients for the rub in a jar and shake it up until it’s well combined and the lumps are gone.

2. Cover a sheet pan with tinfoil. Take 2 additional pieces of tinfoil large enough to make a “packet” around each rack of ribs. Place each rack in the centre of a piece of foil. Proceed to sprinkle the rub liberally over both sides of the ribs and rub it in. The top, meaty side will need the most rub, but you still want to get a decent amount on the bottom and the sides. I like to use up all of the rub.

3. Roll up the ribs in their packets. I will attempt to explain: take the ends of the 2 long side and bring them together above the ribs. Make about 3 confident folds so you have a good seam on top. Then roll up the 2 small ends, making sure you can  easily roll and unroll one of the ends. Put your ribs onto the prepared pan and into the fridge until you are ready to cook – aim to have these sit for at least 6 hours (though I’ve given it only 2 hours in the past and they’re still tasty.)

4. Preheat the oven to 250F (no hotter than this!). Combine all the ingredients for your braising liquid in a measuring cup and pop it in the microwave for about 45 seconds until the sugars dissolve. Unroll one end of each rib packet and pour in half of the braising liquid into each packet. Roll it back up tight and tilt your pan back and forth to make sure the liquid is evenly distributed.

5. Pop the ribs in the oven for 2.5 – 3 hours. After 2.5 hours, carefully open one of the packets – grab a rib bone and try to turn it. If the bone turns with ease, the ribs are done. If it doesn’t, they need more time.
*Note: if you cut into the meat, it might look done and is safe to eat. Still, you should wait until the bones will turn for a nice, tender meat. They won’t dry out – promise.

6. Once the ribs are done and the bones are turning, remove them  from the oven. Place one packet at a time over a small sauce pan so that the middle of the packet is sagging into the pan. Make 2 cuts in the foil over the pan and let the liquid drain out of each packet. Bring to a simmer and reduce the liquid to half or until it thickens slightly.

7. Turn the broiler on high. Unroll the packets and brush liberally with the reduced juices. Pop them under the broiler for up to 2 minutes until they have darkened slightly. Keep the door of the oven open a crack and watch them the whole time to ensure they don’t start to burn. This is a sugary, fatty liquid that you’ve brushed on, so it can quickly turn from brown to black…or catch fire. (In case of fire, smother with tea towel, thought this should only happen if you have the pan too close to the broiler…am I scaring you?)

8. Serve with remaining sauce on the side, or cut into 2-rib pieces and toss with the remaining sauce.


PS – this sounds like a lot of complicated work. It’s not. At all. It’s easy peasy, in fact, and you really can’t mess it up. Give it a go and pretend that my photo is better than it is.