Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Kale and Lentil Soup with Ham

Lately, I have been wanting hearty soups that warm the mind and body.  I normally make a classic split pea and ham soup from the popular Canadian cookbook, Eat, Shrink & Be Merry.  To change things up, I used a combination of red and green lentils instead of split peas.  This soup needed something fresh, green and vibrant, so I added a bunch of bite sized pieces of kale.    

Last summer, I grew kale for the first time.  The nursery only had ornamental flowering kale seedlings instead of the edible garden variety.  I bought the ornamental kale for fun and put it with my flowers.  I guess I had gotten what I wanted after all, as it turned out to be the kind that we normally eat!  My children love snapping off the kale leaves for a yummy meal.

Whenever I have a baked bone-in ham, I always freeze the bone for making soup later.  The smoky flavour of the ham bone is what makes this soup amazing.  Boneless ham does not taste the same, although it is much easier.  For a quick short-cut, I have also used a bone-in ham steak with great results.  

I had enough kale to make some hearty soup and a side dish of sauteed kale with garlic and chicken broth.  What a shock to hear from all the kiddies, "Mom, can I please have more kale?"  Whoa...

Kale and Lentil Soup with Ham 

2 tsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 cup each chopped celery and chopped carrots
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tbsp minced fresh thyme, or 1 tsp dried
1/2 tsp dried oregano
4 cups chicken broth

3 cups water
1 whole meaty smoked ham shank, ham hock (About 2 lbs) or bone-in ham steak
1 cup dry red lentils, rinsed
1 cup dry green lentils, rinsed
2 bay leaves
1/4 to 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 bunch (about 1/2 pound) kale, stems removed, torn into bite-sized pieces
salt to taste

Heat olive oil in a large non-stick soup pot over medium heat. Add onions, celery, carrots and garlic. Cook and stir until the vegetables begin to soften, about 6 mins. Add thyme and oregano and cook 1 more minute.

Add remaining ingredients except parsley, vinegar and salt. Bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for an hour.

Remove ham from soup. Add kale to soup and bring to rapid simmer, cover and cook until kale wilts, about 5 minutes.  

Cut meat from ham shank and return meat to pot. Discard bone. Stir in parsley and vinegar. Taste soup and add more pepper and salt if desired.

- Adapted from Eat, Shrink and Be Merry (Dinner Dates: Ham and Split Pea Soup with Lentils) and Food.com: Sausage Lentil and Kale Soup

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Monday, February 25, 2013

Gluten-Free & Vegan Blueberry Coffee Cake, or not - Refined Sugar Free

Most of the time, my baking is dictated by what I need to use up before it goes bad.   I had some leftover blueberry pie filling after making some braided crossover blueberry strudels (as shown in the red bean puff pastries entry).  I was going to make a Cherry Sour Cream Coffee Cake with the leftover blueberry pie filling, but I had a sudden urge to try make a coffee cake that was gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free and refined sugar free.  What a challenge!

Success!  Things worked my way!  Very easy to whip up and versatile for an after school snack or afternoon coffee or tea break.  My 5-year old Nessa helped me make this.  I had to add this recipe to my repertoire.  I will make again! 

Instead of cow's milk, I used unsweetened Coconut Dream.  The flaxseed replaces the egg and maple syrup is used instead of refined white sugar.  Being lazy, I did not want to blend my own gluten-free flour.  I used Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free All Purpose Baking Flour in my pantry.  I had a package of this and didn't like the flavour of this chickpea flour blend.  I am so glad I gave this another try! 

This is originally a vegan whole wheat blueberry muffin recipe. Luckily, I was able to modify this to be gluten-free and in a pan for a lovely coffee cake.  I sprinkled some coconut sugar and cinnamon on the top of the batter before baking.  Next time, I will combine the sugar and cinnamon together before sprinkling for a prettier presentation.  I will also try make blueberry muffins too.  

If you do not have to go egg, dairy and/or gluten-free, you can use two eggs, cow's milk and whole wheat flour. 

I was impressed how soft and fluffy it turned out!  Not crumbly at all.  I would not have known that this was gluten-free and vegan.    

Gluten-Free Vegan Blueberry Swirl Coffee Cake, or not
makes 1 8"x8" pan and 1- 7"x3" loaf pan

1/4 cup ground flaxseed or 2 eggs
1 3/4 cup Bob's Gluten-Free All-purpose Baking Flour or whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp xanthan gum, if using Bob's Gluten-Free All-purpose Baking Flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup dairy or non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened Coconut Dream)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice (I prefer lemon juice)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup maple syrup (I used 1/3 cup maple syrup, since my blueberry pie filling is already sweetened)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp orange zest (I used 1/2 tsp lemon extract + 1/4 tsp orange extract)
1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen (I used roughly 1/2 cup leftover blueberry pie filling)
optional:  brown sugar or coconut sugar, cinnamon sprinkled on top

Preheat oven to 375F.  Line 1- 8"x8" square pan and 1- 7"x3" loaf with parchment paper.  Or line muffin tin with paper liners.  

Mix together milk and vinegar or lemon juice in a measuring cup.  Set aside

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients:  flaxseed, flour, baking soda, xanthan gum (if gluten-free), cinnamon and salt.  

Add the maple syrup, oil, vanilla and orange zest to the milk/vinegar mixture.  

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients with a spatula until just moistened.  Fold in fresh or frozen blueberries.    

Scoop batter in prepared pans or muffin cups.  If using blueberry pie filling, dollop by tablespoonfuls all over the pans and swirl around with a butter knife.  

Optional:  sprinkle the top of the batter with sugar and cinnamon.

Bake about 15-20 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean.   

- Adapted from Madhuram's Eggless Cooking:  Vegan Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins

I can't wait to share this recipe with my gluten-free and vegan friends! 

[Edited to add] As the cake sat a few hours later, the texture was still soft and fluffy, but the taste of the chickpea flour and ground flaxseed gave the cake a strong aftertaste.  This recipe is worth another try with a different gluten-free flour blend.  


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Monday, February 18, 2013

Lemon Raspberry Buttermilk Bundt Cake

I used my heart shaped bundt pan for the first time and I am so happy everything turned out nice.  

For Valentine's Day, I thought it would be a romantic treat for the whole family to have a heart shaped cake studded with red berries.  Frozen raspberries were perfect for this cake.  

Bundt cakes have a dense, tight crumb.  It is great with tea, coffee or a tall glass of milk.  The batter was very thick.  Fresh raspberries would not be able to stand up to the batter while mixing, so the frozen berries were perfect.  Even if the berries were all bashed up, it would still be lovely.  

I had my reservations about removing the cake from the pan.  Would it stick?  

Whew!  I gently ran butter knife around the cake and slowly coaxed it out.  Luckily, it all came out in one piece.  I used melted butter to grease the pan.  This recipe is from Smitten Kitchen.  I love her recipes, but often it is very high in butter and sugar.  I usually decrease the sugar and butter to our milder, lighter palate. 

Wow!  The icing on the cake really makes it look so pretty.  I only made half of the glaze.  I thought that it was sweet enough.  You can taste the slight tangy bite from the lemon glaze and tart raspberries.  

Lemon Raspberry Buttermilk Bundt Cake

2 1/2 cups (355 grams) plus 2 tablespoons (20 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt
1 cup (8 ounces or 225 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature (I used 3/4 cup) 
1 3/4 cups (340 grams) granulated sugar (I cut down to 1 cup)
Zest of 1 lemon (used 1/2 tsp lemon extract instead)
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup (175 ml) buttermilk (or 1 Tbsp lemon juice and fill with milk to 3/4 cup)
3 cups (350 to 450 grams) mixed berries (I used 3 cups frozen raspberries)

Glaze (I halved the amount of glaze:  1 cup powdered sugar, juice of half lemon & 1.5 tsp butter)  
2 cups (240 grams) powdered or confections’ sugar 

Juice of 1 lemon (half gram)
1 tablespoon (15 grams) unsalted butter, very, very soft

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Generously grease a 10-cup Bundt non-stick pan with butter or a nonstick spray.  If using nonstick spray, dust the pan with flour to ensure no sticking.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk or sift 2 1/2 cups flour (save the additional 2 Tbsp flour for the berries at a later step), baking powder and salt together.   

In the bowl of a stand mixer or large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and lemon zest (or extract) until light and impossibly fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Then, with the mixer on a low speed, add your eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between each addition. Beat in vanilla, briefly. 

Add 1/3 flour mixture to batter, beating until just combined, followed by half the buttermilk, another 1/3 of the flour mixture, the remaining buttermilk and remaining flour mixture. Scrape down from time to time and don’t mix any more than you need to.

Toss the berries with the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour. With a silicon spatula, gently fold the berries into the cake batter. The batter will be very thick and this will seem impossible without squishing the berries a little, but just do your best and remember that squished berries do indeed make for a pretty batter.  Spread cake batter — you might find it easier to plop it in the pan in large spoonfuls, because it’s so thick — in the prepared baking pan and spread the top smooth. 

Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, rotating the cake 180 degrees after 30 (to make sure it browns evenly). The cake is done as soon as a tester comes out clean of batter. 

Set cake pan on a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes, before inverting the cake onto a serving platter to cool the rest of the way. Cool completely. Once cool, whisk together the powdered sugar, lemon juice and butter until smooth and very, very thick. (If you’d like it thinner, add more juice, but I like the thick drippiness of it, seen above.) Spread carefully over top of cake, letting it trickle down the sides when and where it wishes. Serve at once or keep it covered at room temperature for 3 to 4 days.

- Adapted from Smitten Kitchen:  Triple Berry Summer Buttermilk Bundt

This cake did not last long! It was a little on the tart side due to the raspberries and lemon glaze.  The kiddies prefer things that are not too sweet and slightly tart.  If you prefer sweeter, use the full amount of sugar or use a blend of sweeter berries.  

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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Red Bean Puff Pastries

Happy Chinese New Year and Happy (Belated) Valentine's Day!  Last weekend, I drove down to Vancouver to spend Chinese New Year with family.  It was such a wonderful trip!  Yes, I drove all by myself with the three kiddies.  It was about 5-6 hour trip.  We had great music, the weather was gorgeous and the road conditions were clear.

Red Bean Palmiers (middle) and Dumplings (right)

Yesterday, it was "Everyone's Birthday".  Day 7 of the Chinese New Year Celebrations.   Chinese New Year is a 15 day celebration, where traditions dictate certain days for different activities.  We had another feast.  

Red bean pastries:  braided strudels, palmiers, dumplings and twists.

For dessert, I was inspired by traditional Chinese style deep fried dumplings with a sweet filling.  At a large chain Asian grocery store, they were filled with coconut, sugar and peanuts.  My grandmother always made them filled with red bean paste. 

Instead of deep-frying dumpling dough, I decided to use store bought puff pastry dough filled with red bean paste.  It was so much fun to play around with puff pastry!  

At my local grocery store, you can find frozen puff pastry in the frozen pie crust section.  I bought the red bean paste at an Asian grocery store.  I have also made red bean paste by cooking some dried aduki beans, mashing it up and then sweeten to taste, much like this recipe.   

Don't have red bean paste on hand?  You can use cinnamon sugar (3 Tbsp sugar + 1 tsp cinnamon), your favourite jam, chocolate hazelnut spread (Nutella), or anything your heart desires!  This is the beauty of puff pastry:  you can be as creative as you like with the filling of your choice!

Red Bean (Heart) Palmiers

Spread red bean paste in a thin layer on a square piece of puff pastry.  Don't worry about being exact.  I made 6"x 6" for tiny and cute little cookies. 

Roll both sides to the centre of the square.   Make sure both rolls are equal in size.  It's not perfect, but it's still fun! Slice each cookie in 1/4" thick slices with a sharp knife.  

In the spirit of Valentine's Day, I tried to make them heart shaped.  I pinched the bottom part together and made each "half" look more like a heart.  

They didn't really look like hearts, but that was OK.  They were so yummy! 

Red Bean Crossover Braided Strudels

Cut a rectangle of desired size. In the middle of the rectangle, spread or pipe a strip of red bean paste (or desired filling) down the length.  On both sides of the filling, make 1/4" slanted cuts cuts down.  Take each strip and cross over the filling, alternating sides like a braid.   I forgot to make measurements of the rectangles I cut, but the method is quite straightforward.  Brush with egg wash (optional) for golden colour and bake for about 10 minutes or until golden.   

Red Bean Puff Pastry Twists

Spread a thin layer of red bean paste on a rectangle sheet (I made 6" x 12").   Cut strips 1/4" to 1/2" apart. 

Twist each strip around to get the spiral effect and place on a cookie sheet.  Bake around 7-10 minutes or until golden brown.  

Red Bean Puff Pastry "Gok Jai" Dumplings

My grandmother used to make deep fried sweet chewy dumplings for Chinese New Year.  I remember how she used her wok to deep fry these pieces of nostalgia.  She is approaching 90 years young with macular degeneration (no central vision).  She doesn't cook anymore and I miss her feasts.  

Using puff pastry, I tried to make similar shaped dumplings.  They were the same size as a perogy.  No, it didn't taste the same, but still delicious.  I'll bet children will look back at Chinese New Year with the same nostalgia when I make this again.    

These were a hit!  My son ate at least 4 of these last night in one sitting!  He proclaimed that they were "SO GOOD!"

Red Bean Puff Pastries

1 400g package frozen puff pastry, thawed*
1 cup (approximate) red bean paste, chocolate hazelnut spread, cinnamon brown sugar mix (3 Tbsp sugar + 1 tsp cinnamon)
Egg wash, 1 egg yolk + 1 tsp water, optional

*The amounts of these ingredients are approximate.  Be as creative as you like with your choice of filling and just go with it!  

Preheat oven 400F.  Dust work surface with flour.  Roll thawed puff pastry thin, about 1/8" to 1/4" thickness, in a square or rectangle shape.  I was able to roll it 1/8" (2mm) thin.  The thinner you roll, the more pastries you can make.  

Spread red bean paste (or desired filling) thinly with a knife or spatula.  Cut and shape pastries as desired.  Brush with egg wash for golden colour.  

Bake in oven for 7-10 minutes until golden brown.  Cool on rack.  Store in airtight container. 

Leftover red bean paste can be easily frozen and re-used again.  

- Adapted from What About Second Breakfast?: Cinnamon Sugar Puff Pastry Twists  

Happy Chinese New Year!  
Wishing you all Good Health, Happiness and Prosperity in the Year of the Snake!  
I think these pastries almost look like a snake!  

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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Meyer Lemon, Roasted Garlic and Sundried Tomato Hummus

Hummus is a tasty Middle-Eastern chickpea dip that has become very popular here in North America.  I have been playing around with this healthy high protein dish lately and surprisingly, my 8 year old son has fallen in love with it.  

Most basic hummus recipes are comprised of chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, tahini (sesame seed paste), lemon juice and salt.  

I was inspired by the different flavours of hummus at the supermarket:  sundried tomato, roasted red peppers, roasted garlic and traditional.  Out of curiosity, I added 2 heads of roasted garlic, the juice and zest of 1 Meyer lemon and 2 cut up sun-dried tomatoes to the chickpea mixture.  Wow.  It was very tasty and my three-year old wanted to dip her carrot sticks in it.  Even my two older children ended up eating this by the spoonfuls!  I think this will be the way I make hummus from now on.  As long as I have Meyer lemons, roasted garlic and sun-dried tomatoes, I am very happy!   Meyer lemons are known to be sweeter and less acidic (less "pucker") than regular lemons.  

I bought a huge bag of garlic bulbs on sale and made a big batch of roasted garlic.  Once roasted, I froze the individual cloves of roasted garlic and stored them in a zipped sandwich baggie.  To use, thaw the frozen cloves of roasted garlic for 20-30 seconds in the microwave before adding to the food processor.   

Sesame oil is always in my Asian pantry, so I didn't have to go buy tahini.  I love the intense flavour of sesame oil, so you only need a little. 

This recipe is very flexible. You can use tahini instead of sesame oil, add more or less of any ingredient to your taste.  You may try a few cloves of roasted garlic first and taste as you go.  That's how I ended up adding up to 2 heads of roasted garlic!  Once made, the cumin and sesame flavours are pretty strong, but after a few hours, everything mellows nicely. 

Meyer Lemon, Roasted Garlic and Sun-dried Tomato Hummus

1- 19oz can chickpeas or 2 1/4 cups cooked chickpeas
2 heads of roasted garlic*, or 14 roasted garlic cloves
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 to 1 1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/4 tsp sesame oil 
juice and zest of 1 Meyer lemon (about 2-3 Tbsp juice)
2 diced sundried tomatoes, packed in olive oil
2-4 Tbsp water, only add until thickness is desired
1/4 tsp kosher salt, or to taste

Place all ingredients except water into a food processor or blender.  Blend until desired texture.  Add water in small increments until desired thickness.  

Serve with your favourite veggies, pita bread, chips, crackers, as a spread, in a wrap or in a sandwich.  

*To roast garlic, cut 1/4"-1/2" off the tops of the garlic bulbs and place them together on a large piece of aluminum foil.  Drizzle a couple of teaspoons over all the heads and wrap them up tightly in a nice neat package.  Roast them for 35-40 min at 400F.  

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