Saturday, January 30, 2010

Aren't we all looking for an excuse to eat more cheese?!

I come from a family of cheese lovers so this addiction has been ingrained in my head since childhood.  Cheese can accent a dish, intensify a dish, or BE a dish.  Sometimes it really is all about the cheese.

While we are all being told that we need to limit the amount of cheese in our diet, this brilliant commercial does the exact opposite!  It's hilarious and I just have to share it with you! 

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Grilled Pineapple Skewers

These are the perfect ending to a nice dinner on the grill.  A no-fuss dessert with a surprising kick.  As you take each bite, you get subtle hints of the marinade - the lemon, the ginger, the chili.  Feel free to play around with the marinade to suit your personal tastes!


1 pineapple, skin removed and cut into 1/8's, lengthwise
3/4 cup water (about 175 mL)
1/2 cups sugar (about 100g)
1 in piece of ginger sliced (about 2 1/2 centimeters)
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 hot chili, sliced


1. Bring all ingredients to a boil then simmer until it is almost the consistency of a syrup, remove from heat and cool.
2. Strain and cover pineapple stick.  Marinate in refrigerator overnight.
3. Before grilling, soak wooden skewers for 20 minutes. 
4. Skewer pineapples lengthwise and cook on grill over medium-high heat until they caramelize on the outside.  Cool and serve.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pork Dumplings

Pork Sui Mai, or as I like to refer to them, Pork Dumplings, make a great appetizer for entertaining.  They aren't too difficult, you can mix your ingredients a few hours before your guests arrive, they look super cute, and most of all EVERYONE loves them, EVERYONE.  You can easily adapt this recipe to fit your guests tastes or eating restrictions and you can always freeze and save half for another occasion!

We were having a small dinner party and I decided to send out a quick note before planning the menu to check if anyone had any dietary or personal restrictions ... at the end of the day (my own pickiness included) we were at no beef, no peas, nothing from the sea, no uncooked mushrooms, no salads with egg, and no lamb.  Luckily pork dumplings fit the bill for an appetizer.  If you steam them in a bamboo steamer, I suggest just serving them right out of there!


1 lb ground pork (about 500 g)
1 cup cabbage shredded (about 1/8 head) plus a few large leaves line steamer
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro chopped
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp ginger, grated
1 1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 egg white
1/2 tsp black pepper
50 wonton wrappers

Dipping Sauce:
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/3 cup green onions, minced
1 tsp ginger finely chopped
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup rice vinegar


1. In large bowl, combine all ingredients down to pepper.  Refrigerate until you prepare the dumplings.

2. For dipping sauce, add oil to sauce pan over medium heat and sautee onions and ginger until soft.  Add soy sauce and rice vinegar and bring to boil, remove from  heat and let cool.

3. Line levels of bamboo steamer with cabbage leaves to prevent sticking.  Alternatively, line whatever you are using to steam with baking paper.

4. Working with one wrapper at a time, place a large tsp of mixture into center, wipe water around the edges with your finger,  and pull all of the sides up and squeeze into a beggar's pouch.  Place on backing sheet dusted with cornflour or place directly on steamer and cover with plastic wrap until ready to steam.  Keep wrappers covered with damp paper towel to keep them from drying out. 

5. Steam for 5-7 minutes until pork is cooked through.  Serve with dipping sauce.

To freeze, place uncooked dumplings on baking sheet in freezer.  Once frozen, transfer to aircontainer placing baking paper or plastic wrap between layers.  Steam directly from a frozen state for 10-12 minutes.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

NOT just a movie!

When I mentioned yesterday that I wanted to make fried green tomatoes, I actually heard "That isn't just a movie?"  I was overcome by both shock and pity for any poor individual that has not had the pleasure of experiencing this traditional southern dish.

Was it presumptuous of me to assume that everyone is and should be familar with fried green tomatoes?  Made from firm, green, unripe tomatoes, this dish can be found on menus from local cheap eateries to some of the nicest restaurants in Charleston, SC, arguably the culinary capital of the south.

I was motivated to make this dish when I noticed some overcrowding on my tomato plant and had to pick a few unripe tomatoes if I wanted to make a bit more room.

I did a pretty basic rendition, and topped them with a warm corn salsa.  If I had a food processor here, I probably would have made some kind of red pepper coulis to serve them over.  As a last minute decision, I threw in some panko breadcrumbs to my flour/cornmeal mixture to give them some extra crunch! 

Fried Green Tomatoes
with Sweet Corn Salsa


4 green tomatoes
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs
1 tbsp milk
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup cormeal
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
vegetable oil, for frying

Corn salsa
2 ears of corn, cooked, kernels removed
1/2 red pepper finely chopped
1/4 onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp basil, sliced
1 tbsp EVOO
1 tsp balsmic vinegar
1/2 tsp salt

1. Slice tomatoes about 1/4 inch thick and place between kitchen towels to absorb all moisture.

2. For corn salsa, combine all ingredients and let sit while you prepare tomatoes.
3. To prepare 'frying station', get 3 bowls.  Pour 1/2 cup of flour in the first bowl.  In the second, beat the eggs and milk.  In the third combine, 1/2 cup flour, cornmeal, panko, salt, and peppers.  Pat tomatoes dry, and going one slice at a time, coat in flour, dredge in eat mixure, and coat in breadcrumb mixure and place on rack.

4. Let the tomatoes sit for about 10 minutes.  In the meantime, in a large saucepan, pour in vegetable oil until you have about 1/8 inch.  Heat at medium heat so the tomatoes may soften without the crust browning too quickly.  Cook for 3 or 4 minutes on each side until golden brown and place back on rack.

5. Place 2 or 3 slices on a plate, top with corn salsa and serve.

Delicious southern treat!

My First Harvest!

Here they come... can't wait to sink my teeth into these beauties!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

CAUTION: Dessert Addiction Alert

I introduce to you... Pavlova

I can understand why both Australia and New Zealand have been staking claims to this dessert for decades, it's simple but incredible.  Since my first time whipping this together, it has been a staple in the household.  Actually, scratch that.  After 2 failed attempts due to texture issues (1st - my eggs were not whipped enough, and 2nd - the TINIEST bit of yolk got in and foiled the whole recipe), it has been a staple since my third go at it.

Basically, it is meringue topped with whipped cream and fruit.  Nowadays, there are hundreds of variations but my favorites are the more classic and when available I love to top it with strawberries and passionfruit pulp.  I often do a double-decker with alternating layers of meringue and cream. 

Although the issue regarding origin will probably never be resolved, there is agreement that the dessert was named after Anna Pavlova, a Russian ballet dancer from the '20's, who's dancing was described as 'light and airy'.  Thank you Anna for inspiring the creation of one of my favorite indulgences.  Here's my 'go-to' recipe:


4 eggwhites
pinch of salt
1 cup caster sugar *
2 tsp cornstarch (cornflour)
1 tsp white vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (vanilla essence)
Whipped cream, to serve (homemade is a must!)
Fruit, to serve

* Although more difficult to find in the States, this is non-negotiable, you MUST use caster sugar


1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F (120 C).  Line a baking tray with baking paper.  Draw a circle if you are looking for a precise size or shape.

2. In a clean, dry bowl with a pinch of salt, whip egg white until light and fluffy and soft peaks form.

3. Gradually add sugar, whipping between additions until firm and glossy.

 4. Fold in cornstarch, vinegar, and vanilla extract.

5. Mound onto baking sheet and shape into a circle with a spatula. 
(I have 2 mounds as I wanted 2 layers)

6. Bake for 1 - 1½ hours until just crisp on the outside. Allow to cool completely and top with whipped cream and fruit.

As a mentioned before, it's not a difficult recipe but quite particular.  Do not move to the next step until you are reached the desired consistency.  You can make the base a few days ahead and store in an airtight container until you are ready to serve.

It's a fun dessert to play around with, different toppings, sizes, minis, etc. Try it once and you'll be hooked!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Crab-Stuffed Avocado

Not only does this light and easy appetizer look great, it tastes amazing!  Something about crab and avocado just works!  I love the creaminess of the avocado, the crunch from the shallot and pepper, and that little zing from your splash of hot sauce.

You want to make sure to use good quality crabmeat as that is really the star of this dish.  This makes a great appetizer as it's very light or a perfect afternoon snack while lounging on your back deck with a refreshing glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

Crab-Stuffed Avocado


2 avocados
6 oz. good quality fresh crabmeat
1/4 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 shallot, finely chopped
1 tsp parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp light mayo
1 tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp lemon juice
few dashes of your favorite hot sauce


1. Cut avocados in half and remove pits.  Rub exposed avocado with lemon juice so it doesn't brown. 
2. In medium-sized bowl, combine crab, pepper, shallot and parsley.  In small bowl, combine mayo, heavy cream and lemon juice. 
3. Add dressing to crab mixture and combine.  Splash the salad with hot sauce and stir.  Mound the salad into the avocado and garnish with parsley if desired.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

American Food???

Living in Australia, quite often I get asked about American food.  How would I describe the cuisine...  What IS American food?

Honestly, I think I could better describe almost any cuisine - Italian, Chinese, Spanish, Greek, Mexican, Japanese, Indian, Caribbean... you get the idea.  I never really have a good response when asked about American.  I refuse to say hamburgers and hot dogs or any of the other cliche stereotypes that other countries have of our eating habits.  So this is a cry for help, does anyone have a good answer to this question?

What IS American food?!?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Organic... to buy or not to buy?

I am certainly not one to preach nor am I a die-hard organic consumer, but I am one that likes to have all of the facts.  I definitely purchase organic more today than I ever have, but if it's not available or not convenient, I'm the first one to go back to old habits!  In a perfect world, we'd all be eating organic meat and vegetables at every meal, plant and animal-related diseases aren't an issue, and I'd have Ina Garten's kitchen... but back to reality.  Buying organic is expensive and often times unavailable. 

So when is it most important? 
When are you really getting the bang for your buck?

I did a bit of research and the results were pretty conclusive so I've put a list together of the most and least important fruits/vegetables to buy organic.

Top to Buy Organic:
1. Peaches
2. Nectarines
3. Celery
4. Pears
5. Apples
6. Bell Peppers
7. Strawberries
8. Cherries
9. Imported Grapes
10. Raspberries

Least Contaminated:
1. Onion
2. Asparagus
3. Pineapple
4. Avocado
5. Corn
6. Broccoli
7. Watermelon
8. Kiwi
9. Sweet peas
10. Mango

I'd love to get some feedback/opinions on buying and eating organic! 

(photo credit:

Monday, January 18, 2010

One of those burger days...

Something about a Sunday spent getting things done around the house just calls for an early dinner of burgers on the grill!  Served with some crispy potatoes and charred corn, it's a perfectly satisfying meal.

Since I always like to a little bit of originality, I made a quick-cooking tomato relish to replace ketchup and added some chili and lime to the butter to give the corn a kick! 

All-American Burgers


3 slices white bread
1/4 cup 2% milk
1 1/2 1bs beef mince
1 1b pork mince
1/2 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tsp parsley, chopped
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 eggs


1.  Remove crusts, tear bread, and toss in a bowl with the milk.  Let break soak up the milk as you combine the rest of the ingredients for the burgers.
2.  In a large bowl, combine beef, pork, onion, garlic, parsley, Worcestershire sauce, and eggs.  Squeeze excess milk from bread and add to mixture.  Season with salt and pepper.  Thoroughly combine but do not overwork mixture.
3.  Form into patties of equal size and refrigerate until you are ready to grill. 
4.  Make sure your grill is prepared for cooking at high heat.  Brush patties with oil and grill on cooked as desired - approximately 4 minutes per side depending on size.  Add your favorite fixins and enjoy your juicy burger! 
While I generally like to make tomato relish using all fresh ingredients, vinegar, and sugar and slowly simmering down, I wanted a quick fix for an easy meal.  I used tomato sauce (ketchup) as a base to speed up the process and added some fresh ingredients to intensify the flavor.

Quick Tomato Relish


1 tbsp EVOO
1/2 onion chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 bay leaf
1 chili, minced
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
3/4 cup tomato sauce
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce


1.  Heat pan over medium heat.  Add oil and turn pan to coat.
2. Add onion, garlic, and bay leaf and cook for a few minutes until onion begins to become translucent.  Add chili, cook for 1 minute and add red bell pepper.  Once peppers have softened, add tomatoes.  Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer.
3. Cook until desired consistency and cool to room temperature. 

It's great on burgers, served with cold meats, or add a dollop to a casserole if you like!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sustainable Cooking with Chicken!

A few days ago, I came across some organic whole chickens on sale, what a find!  Despite the fact that we had our meals planned for the next couple of days and I had no real use for it, I couldn't pass that up!

I decided to roast the chicken and make some chicken salad for a snack, then use the leftover bones and skin to make chicken stock.  I love the idea of using all parts of the chicken - it's both economical and environmentally friendly.

To roast the chicken, I simply used olive oil, salt, pepper and threw a few garlic cloves in the cavity.  I removed and shredded the meat and reserved the carcass for my chicken stock.  Don't forget to save this guy...

I wish for... a light, summery chicken salad...

Southwest Chicken Salad


1 roasted chicken, meat shredded
1 ear of corn, grilled *
1 red pepper, chopped (not in mine but I would have used it if I had it!)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup mayo
1 tsp adobo sauce
1 tsp fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp cumin
* sweet canned corn may be substituted


1. Combine shredded chicken, corn, red pepper and onion.
2. For sauce, combine mayo adobo sauce, lime juice, cumin, and salt and pepper to taste.  Add to chicken mixture.  Chill and serve.
Note:  I don't like much dressing on my chicken salad so you may want to increase measurements for the dressing, possibly even double.

Light and delicious!

Not really your sandwich-friendly chicken salad,
better eaten by itself, over greens, or with some tortilla chips.

Homemade Chicken Stock


Leftover bones and skin of 1 roasted chicken
1 onion, quartered
2 carrots, sliced into 1 or 2 inches pieces
2 stalks of celery, sliced into 1 or 2 inches pieces
3 thyme sprigs
3 parsley stems with leaves
2 garlic cloves, bashed
1 bay leaf
10 peppercorns


1. Add all ingredients to large pot and cover with cold water.
2. Simmer for 4 hours, skimming fat as necessary.  Strain and discard solds.  Cool for 1 hour.
3. If necessary, skim any additional fat.  Refrigerate or freeze as desired.


This will be great as a base for soups, risotto, braised chicken, or whatever you want to use it for!  Enjoy!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

I was in a rare baking mood yesterday and had a special request for Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies.  Random I thought... but went for it!  I had some help from an old Betty Crocker recipe with a slight modification. 

I like my cookies very plump (not flat).  I noticed the recipe had quite a bit butter, so I decided to take it down a notch as sometime cookies with high butter content will tend to flatten.  Other than that, I followed this recipe.
I find baking so much more enjoyable when everything is prepped before you even start the recipe!

They turned out quite tasty and
were the exact texture I was looking for!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Why Thai?

Why NOT Thai?!  I absolutely love Thai food as the dishes are often lightly prepared but have very complex flavors - a balance of sweet, spicy, salty and sour. 

To bring a little taste of Thailand into my kitchen, I made a spicy pot of Tom Yum Goong, a hot and sour prawn soup.  As I wanted to make it very spicy, I needed a side to take some of the heat off my tongue so I could get threw the bowl.  I did my own take on khao dome, coconut rice sticky rice in banana leaves.  I've seen this made by steaming plantains in with the rice, but I had picked up some beautiful ripe mangos at the market and wanted to incorporate these into the dish.

Everything turned out great and I look forward to more experimentation on my next culinary trip to Thailand!  Check out the recipes below!

Tom Yum Goong

1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined, skins intact *
6 cups water or stock
1/3 fresh galangal, peeled and chopped
2 stalks lemongrass, peeled and sliced into 1-inch pieces
4 kaffir lime leaves, stem removed and quartered
1 can straw mushrooms, halved
1 1/2 tbsp roasted red chili paste
2 tsp fish sauce
3 thai chilis, sliced
1/3 cup cilantro chopped
1/3 cup green onion, sliced
2 tsp lime juice

* if you have time, buy shell-on shrimp, simmer shells in water for 1 hour and strain to make broth for step 1


1.  In medium saucepan, bring broth to a boil and add galangal, lemongrass, and lime leaves.  Simmer for 15 minutes.  Strain and discard solids and return broth to saucepan.
2. Add mushrooms, chili paste, fish sauce and chilis and bring to boil.
3. Stir in shrimp, green onion, and cilantro and cook for 3 minutes until shrimp are done.  Stir in lime juice and serve immediately.

Khao Dome with Mango


1 cup glutinous rice (sticky rice)
1 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup sugar
1 package banana leaves, washed, trimmed
1 ripe mango,  sliced


1. Rinse and drain 1 cup rice several times to remove any debris.  Add cold water to cover and let sit overnight (or at least 4 hours).
2. Add coconut milk and sugar to saucepan over medium heat.  Stir until dissolved.
3. Stir in rice and cook until it resembles a porridge, stirring throughout.  Remove from heat and cool.

4. Take sheet of banana leaf sliced to about the size of a sheet of paper and place a heaping spoonful of rice inthe center.  Fold as you would wrap a gift and place seam side down into bamboo steamer.  Repeat with all leaves.  Steam for 40 minutes

5. To serve, open leaves to expose rice and topped with mango slices


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