Posts tagged ‘summer’


My Commitment to Pie

by marilynk

I’ve always preferred cake to pie. These are shocking, and sometimes argument-inducing, words to many that I know and love. To me, cake has everything: yummy crumbly cake, delicious and varied fillings (if you want), and an infinite variety of icings (although I am picky about my icings). Pie has great fillings, sure, but I would often leave the crust uneaten – again, sacrilege to the pie-devout.

See, the crust is the crux of the issue. I’ve never made a pie crust that I really liked. The pastry was hard to work with, the rolled dough broke when I tried to move it to the pie plate, and the taste…was never all that good. For a while I used pre-baked pie shells or the unbaked rounds from the grocery store, but the taste still wasn’t great. Better, but nothing that was going to rival a homemade cake.

In July, my friend Nicole gave me this sage piece of advice:

Know when to take good's a life skill.

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Last Night’s Dinner: Onion Bhaji and Chili Pea Puffs

by marilynk

Ok, so these were more appetizers or sides, but they were still delicious, so I’m sharing the recipes.

I really like the nutty flavour of buckwheat flour, but haven’t found much variety in the recipes that use it. I wanted to see what else was out there and with a little Googling, I came across this recipe for a baked Onion Bhaji. My family loves Indian food (my parents met and married while working in Hyderabad in the 70’s), but I’ve only ever had deep-fried bhaji that, while always delicious, can be very greasy. I was intrigued by how these baked ones would work and how switching out the channa (chickpea) flour for buckwheat would affect the taste.

The other recipe came from my playing around on Pinterest*. I’m finding it’s becoming a major distraction when I’m on the computer, but I love that I can easily pin pretty or delicious-looking things wherever I happen to be online. Muttar Paneer (peas with cheese) is one of my favourite Indian dishes, so when I saw these bite-size pea and paneer bites, I knew I would like them. I also really liked the modern take on a classic dish.

With recipes in hand, my sister and I did some shopping on Monday, then got together yesterday afternoon to cook. I was surprised at how quickly both these recipes came together – we were finished in about 2 and a half hours, including prep and cooling time to pack everything up.

Onion Bhaji (adapted from Jeena’s Kitchen) – Yields 12 Bhaji

  • 5 small onions
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder (this is NOT mexican chili powder – use cayenne or another ground red chili)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 5 Tbs buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 Tbs tomato paste
  • 2 Tbs water
  • olive or canola oil

Preheat the oven to 350. Cut the onions in half then cut into slices about 1/4 inch wide. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and cook the onions on medium approximately 10 minutes, until they start turning soft and translucent – do not brown them. Take the onions off the heat, add the chili powder, tumeric, coriander, cumin, and ginger. Mix well.

The fixin's for onion bhaji

1/4" slices...give or take

The Spice!

The spices make it so good!

In a separate bowl, whisk together the buckwheat flour, salt, cumin, and coriander. Add the onion mixture to the flour and stir to coat the onions in the batter. In a small glass, mix the tomato puree with a bit of water to thin it out (I used about 2 Tbs). Stir the tomato paste and water into the onion mixture. The mixture should be wet and easy to stir, but not watery. You can adjust the flour and water to get the right consistency, but be careful not to add too much extra batter or the bhaji will become cake-like.

Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper (or drizzle some oil onto your  pan). Place 2 Tbs of the onion mixture onto the pan per bhaji and flatten a little with the back of your spoon. Bake for 10 minutes. Take the pan out of the oven and drizzle a little oil over the tops of the bhaji. Bake for another 10 minutes until golden brown. Serve hot with your favourite chutney.

Waiting to be baked

2 Tbs per bhaji

Finished Onion Bhaji

Finished Onion Bhaji

Chili Pea Puffs (adapted from 101 Cookbooks) – Yields 32 Puffs

  • olive oil
  • 1 cup cooked green peas, lightly mashed
  • 1/4 cup paneer, cut into pea-sized pieces (the original recipe says to crumble, but…paneer just doesn’t crumble!)
  • 2 small green chilis, minced (remove seeds to reduce heat) (I used jalapenos, the original recipe calls for serranos)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili powder or red chili flakes (less to reduce heat)
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 32 wonton wrappers
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper (or lightly grease with olive oil).

In a bowl combine the peas, paneer, green chiles, salt, chile powder, and garlic. Mix well.

Chili Pea Puffs

All the fixin's for Chili Pea Puffs

Place one teaspoon of the mixture onto the center of a wonton wrapper. Lightly brush the sides of the wrapper with egg white. Fold one corner of the wrapper over the filling, fold the ends in and roll to the opposite corner (think burrito wrapping – this led to a few minutes of hysterical laughter over the fact that we were making tiny Chinese-Indian burritos…I think you had to be there).

Making the Puffs

1 tsp on a wonton wrapper

Rolling the burritos

The beginning of the roll

Puffs ready to be baked

One layer on the baking sheet

Place the puffs in a single layer on the baking sheet. Brush lightly with olive oil. Bake for 6 minutes or until they begin to brown. Remove the pan, turn the puffs and bake for another 5 minutes until golden brown (Note: I’ve increased the baking time significantly from the original recipe. We followed the times from the original, but the puffs were barely baked. You may need to just watch them and turn them when they’ve browned). Serve immediately with chutney or raita.

Bite-sized Chinese-Indian Burritos!

Finished Chili Pea Puffs

Michelle and I actually made a double batch of the puffs. We baked half, put the other half in a single layer on a baking sheet, then froze them unbaked. Once frozen, I packed them into a plastic container and threw them back in the freezer. They’ll be quick to bake from frozen when I’m ready to have them, but I’ll likely increase the baking time again.

Indian dinner

Masala dosa, onion bhaji, and chili pea puffs.

We decided to share our treats with Mom and Dad, so we let everything cool, then packed them up and picked up Masala Dosa for four at one of our favourite local places, Savoy’s Health Cafe. The onion bhaji, even reheated, tasted exactly like fried bhaji (I think the nuttiness of the buckwheat helps get that fried flavour), but without the super greasy feel. I will definitely be making these again. The chili pea puffs were the standout though. Light, crispy, fresh tasting, and the heat of the chilis was balanced very well with the paneer – even people who don’t like spicy would like these little guys, I think. They’ll definitely make an appearance at my next party. It was a pretty spectacular dinner, if I do say so myself.

*If you’d like an invite to Pinterest, let me know in the comments.


Last Night’s Dinner: Cauliflower Parmesan Cake & Green Beans with Bacon

by marilynk

Last night I had my first dinner party! Well, had a couple of dear friends over for dinner anyway. I’ve been slowly setting up my apartment since moving back in in 2009 and until recently didn’t have chairs on which people could sit for dinner. Now that I have chairs I’m trying to have people over often to use them!

I had a beautiful orange cauliflower from the market that I wanted to use, so I did a little internet searching and found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen. I’ve included my slightly modified version below. With the nice yellow cake, I decided green beans would make a good side and was happy I’d pinned* a recipe with bacon since the main ended up being vegetarian (and Mack is decidedly not vegetarian!). The cake was very filling and went nicely with the green bean side dish. Sharon brought a delicious blueberry buckle for dessert which was a lovely summery finish for the meal.

Cauliflower Parmesan Cake (adapted from Smitten Kitchen):

  • 1 medium cauliflower (from Riverbend Gardens)
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 5 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp finely chopped rosemary
  • 8 large eggs
  • Handful basil, chopped (I used lemon basil from Gull Valley Greenhouses)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 cups finely grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Butter, for greasing pan
  • 4 Tbs black sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C) degrees. Break cauliflower into medium florets. Place floret in a pot with a teaspoon of salt, cover them with water and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until quite soft. Strain and let drip in the colander for a few minutes so they dry and cool.

Meanwhile, prepare the batter. Coarsely chop the onion. Heat all of your olive oil in a saucepan (I followed Smitten Kitchen’s suggestion and used the same pan as I did for the cauliflower) and saute the chopped red onion and rosemary together until soft, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Whisk eggs and olive oil and onion mixture together. Stir in basil. Whisk flour, baking powder, cheese, 1 tsp salt, and many, many grinds of black pepper together in a separate bowl and add to egg mixture, whisking to remove lumps. Stir in cauliflower gently, so most pieces remain intact.

Smitten Kitchen recommends lining the bottom of your springform pan with parchment paper, but I didn’t have any so I used butter and black sesame seeds for the bottom as well as the sides. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round springform pan generously. Put the sesame seeds in the pan and toss them around so that they stick to the sides and bottom. Pour in the cauliflower batter and bake cake in the center of the oven for 45 minutes, until golden brown and set.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Before you serve the cake, be sure to run a knife around the pan.

Green Beans with Bacon (modified from Savoury Sweet Life)

  • 3 Tbs maple syrup
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 Tbs red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard (I used Sundried Tomato Mustard from The Jam Lady)
  • 1/2 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed (I used frozen…it’s ok, they’re just as healthy!)
  • 3 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
  • salt and pepper

Put maple syrup, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and mustard into a jar and shake it to emulsify, then set aside. Blanch the beans by placing in a microwave-safe container (I prefer to use glass) with a little water and cooking on high for about 3 minutes. Drain the beans immediately and transfer them to your serving dish. Toss the beans in the dressing and top them off with the crumbled bacon. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

*If you’d like an invite to Pinterest, let me know.


Last Night’s Dinner: Pasta with Mushroom & Peppercorn Infused Alfredo

by marilynk

I promise that not all of my recipes will be pasta, but it is a go-to meal for me finishing things up. This week I had just a few mushrooms left from my market purchases from the weekend before last. They were kinda dry and not very appetizing to eat as themselves, but I thought that they’d provide nice flavour for a sauce. This recipe made enough for me to eat tonight and have two servings-worth of leftovers. And I remembered to take pictures of the finished product!


  • 1 medium onion
  • handful of dryish mushrooms (from Mo-Na Foods)
  • 1 Tbsp black peppercorns
  • 2 cups milk (this is a guess…I just used what I had left!)
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • whole wheat spaghetti

Boil water for the pasta and cook according to package directions. Meanwhile, peel the onion and cut it in half. Wash the mushrooms*. Put the onion, mushrooms, and peppercorns into a saucepan and cover with the milk. Bring to a simmer and cook on low heat until reduced by half. Strain the flavoured milk back into your measuring cup. After you’ve added the pasta to the water, melt the butter in the saucepan and once melted, add the flour to make a roux (stir with a whisk to avoid lumps). Add the milk back to the saucepan stirring constantly. Add the cheese & stir to combine. Drain the pasta & toss with the sauce. Plate & add fresh ground pepper. I had mine with a simple salad of sliced tomatoes and cucumbers seasoned with salt and pepper.

It turned out pretty tasty!

*Some people think you shouldn’t wash mushrooms and only clean them by brushing. I believe what Alton Brown tells me and will continue to wash mine! 🙂


Last Night’s Dinner: Pasta with Elk Sausage and Spinach

by marilynk

I like to shop local, so wherever possible I’ll be including locally purchased ingredients and I’ll try to list the seller. I’ll also likely be exploring food triggers, so don’t be surprised if the recipes vary wildly or start eliminating foods completely. So far the only triggers I’ve found have been processed foods, so I’m cooking for myself as much as possible (which also helps with the jobless budgeting).

Ok, now for the recipe (sorry, forgot to take a photo of this one). This is a super simple dinner-for-one that let me use  up some leftover items in the fridge.


  • 1 leftover elk bratwurst* (from Amberlane Elk), sliced
  • 1 handful spinach (from Riverbend Gardens), rinsed
  • leftover whole wheat spaghetti noodles
  • olive oil
  • red pepper flakes
  • salt
  • pepper

Heat the olive oil in a cast iron skillet on medium heat. Cook the spinach until bright green and slightly wilted. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Add the sliced sausages and cook until heated through. Add the leftover spaghetti noodles and heat through. Plate & add fresh ground pepper & grated parmesan. Enjoy!

*I had pan-fried the sausages earlier in the week, but grilled would be very delicious too. You could use any kind of sausage for this meal.