Savoury Recipes

Apple Aroma Ambrosia

This weekend I was exceptionally lazy. Which is pretty much unheard of because I typically make busy little bees look like couch potatoes. I don’t know why but I’m always dashing hither and thither, and seem to thrive despite my insanely long to-do list. I don’t particularly enjoy it either, I just seem prone to being an overachiever and overly efficient I suppose.

While I am certainly never going to be satisfied with a sloth-like lifestyle, I did decide to schedule a little rest and relaxation this weekend. I was still productive  (I couldn’t resist scrubbing all my floors and the majority of my apartment to boot, just because it was looking a little lackluster) but I also spent an equally lovely amount of time in bed reading.

Reading books again is like discovering long lost treasure. I was a voracious reader as a child, and as I grew up and changed from an adolescent to an adult, my social calendar in all its busy glory surreptitiously sucked away my time to indulge in my favorite pleasure. The worst part was that it happened so gradually I never noticed until I went to Hawaii this Christmas! Since then I’ve been fairly diligent planning reading time before bed.

Saturday AND Sunday morning I rolled over, opened my curtains wide to let the sunshine pour in and grabbed my Kindle which was waiting on my bedside table. I simply adored the luxury of lounging in bed with nothing else to do than read my book (and eventually migrate to my kitchen for my necessary coffee and then back to my bed & book).

Whenever I’m truly happy nothing can keep me away from my kitchen. There is nothing like cooking with sunshine  pouring into my kitchen and singing along to country music…my poor poor neighbors, they must absolutely hate me when I’m happy.

This weekend’s creations were all apple themed because I had quite a few waiting to be used in my fruit bowl. I resolved to cook with apples more because it makes your house smell like heaven! apple chipsInspired by something I saw on pinterest, I decided to try making apple chips. My first try was a spectacular disaster. Please, pleeeeease do yourself and your house a favour and never ever attempt to make apple chips in a toaster oven. I burned mine to a crisp….(literally, charcoal black) and set off the smoke detector, much to my embarrassment. I had to open all the windows in my kitchen to air it out and flee to the sanctuary of my bedroom in shame for quite a while before attempting batch number 2, using my oven this time, which thankfully turned out ok. As my friend Lizzy said, sometimes even the best cooks have to mess up every once in a while.

The secret to making apple chips is to slice your apples very very thinly, cover in cinnamon sugar, bake in an OVEN for 1 hour at 100ºC. Turn them all over and cook another 1 hour (or more) until nice and crispy.

My second recipe was equally delicious, and luckily I nailed it on the first try. I’d really recommend it if you are looking for some yummy comfort food this cold winter!

BAKED APPLE & MUSTARD CHICKEN:

What you’ll need:

  • 2 large chicken breasts
  • 1 apple
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp grainy Dijon mustard
  • 3 tsp chopped fresh rosemary

What you’ll need to do:

  1. Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper to taste. Then coat in flour, shaking off any excess.
  2. Heat olive oil in frying pan. Once oil is hot, place chicken breasts in pan and cook until golden on both sides. Remove from pan and place in casserole dish.
  3. Peel apple and cut into thin slices.
  4. Add apples to frying pan. Cook on medium heat for 3 minutes.
  5. Add apple juice, cider vinegar, dijon mustard and rosemary to the pan. Cook together with apples and bring to a simmer.
  6. Pour this sauce over the chicken.
  7. Turn on oven to 190ºC (375ºF) and cook for about 30 minutes, basting your chicken occasionally.
  8. Place chicken on plate, spoon sauce over top and garnish with fresh rosemary. Tada!

chickenNow doesn’t that look yummy! I certainly think so! Very easy-peasy to cook too! I would also throw out the recommendation to serve this with a cider instead of white wine. I personally opted for Strongbow and thought the two went great together. Then for dessert I whipped up my favourite chai-spiced rice pudding. A savory way to end a beautifully-lazy weekend!

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Categories: Lifestyle, Savoury Recipes | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Little Romantic Dinner for One 2.0: Gazpacho Secrets

It’s been a crazy, hectic past few weeks. It’s been a little insane really, what with work, the numerous sayonara parties for friends leaving Fukui (somehow I was up till 5am TWO nights in a row this weekend, something absolutely unheard of…previously) and a vigorous bikini-bod workout regime in the evenings. PHEW! I’m exhausted just thinking about it! I decided to talk a chill pill today…sort of. I decided it was time to cook a fabulous little romantic dinner for me prior to my workout. So, quick as a bunny I stopped by the grocery store and picked up a bushel of fresh, juicy ingredients.

I scampered back to my kitchen, and I kid you not, in less than half an hour I whipped this sexy beast of a dinner up. No, really, I’m not lying! Cross my heart, in less than half an hour I made chilled gazpacho soup from scratch, grilled some baby steaks, prepared boiled corn on the cob and steamed some asparagus. Healthy, delicious and quick; I feel a little like the superwoman of the kitchen!IMG_0172

That looks like sexy summer love on a plate in my opinion, ow OW! Looking good!

If there is one vegetable that marks the beginning of summer feasts for me it’s corn on the cob. So juicy and plump and very VERY satisfying to eat straight off the cob. Those of you who have ever suffered the indignity of wearing braces and needing your corn carved OFF the cob (I still cringe at the memory) rather than being able to dig in merely using your chompers (made doubly excruciating when the rest of your whole family gets to) will perfectly understand the triumph and sweet taste of victory I feel ever single time I maul savour my corn on the cob using my nice and straight pearly whites.

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For those of you who’ve never tried gazpacho I encourage you to do so immediately. Traditionally this soup is served chilled so it’s the perfect summer soup that will taste refreshing and tangy on those crazy hot humid days like I’m currently dying from experiencing in Japan (28-35 degrees Celsius, every day, you’ve got to be kidding me….mumble mumble). Gazpacho is a famous Spanish tomato-based chunky vegetable soup.

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To make my homemade gazpacho you’ll need:

  • 4-5 medium sized tomatos (cut into quarters)
  • 1 fresh clove of garlic (cut finely)
  • half a red onion (cut into quarters) *or white onion should you not have red on hand*
  • a third of a baguette (cubed)
  • 1 small cucumber (skin removed and diced)
  • 1 stalk of celery (diced)
  • generous pinch of thyme, salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • lemon wedge (peel and seeds removed)

SECRET CHEF HINT: The secret to making the best and most delicious gazpacho is the freshness of the ingredients. You want tomatoes that are as fresh and as flavourful as you can buy.  In my case I opted for a variety of tomatoes, which included Fukui’s Koshino Ruby variety famous for its natural sweetness, tart baby tomatoes and a few plump large organic tomatoes. Organic tomatos pack a flavourful punch so be sure to try using a few when you make this recipe if you can afford it! Same goes for the onion, garlic, celery and baguette, you want the freshest you can get.

What you’ll need to do:

  1. Take the stems off the tomatoes, cut into quarters. Put in blender (I simply adore my magic bullet, it allows me to make just the perfect amount for a double portion of this yummy soup). Put away one finely diced quarter of a tomato for the garnish.
  2. Add to blender: small pieces of peeled and chopped up garlic, red onion, cucumber and celery. Keep a little of everything and finely mince for garnish.
  3. Add wedge of lemon (make sure to remove peel and seeds).
  4. Pour in olive oil and add generous pinches of thyme, salt and pepper.
  5. Blend until nice and chunky.
  6. Add ripped up pieces of the baguette and blend a little more.
  7. Place in refrigerator until chilled. This should only take about 5-10 minutes.
  8. Remove from fridge. Pour into a bowl, add garnish of finely chopped vegetables and drizzle with a little olive oil. Tada!

The final touch to my dinner was what I refer to in my mind as fancy-pants water. To make staying hydrated in the summer a little more exciting I like to keep a pitcher in my fridge of water to which I have added a few slices of lemon and a few sprigs of mint. Trust me, drinking water doesn’t seem like a chore when it looks this tempting! It’s a great way to stay healthy in the summer heat.IMG_0183

Well, that’s a wrap folks because the sun is setting and I’m off for a run! The best part about this dinner was how healthy and packed full of energy it was. I’ve got a 12km run waiting and I can guarantee that all those nutrients will give me the energy I need to finish, even despite the crazy Japan heat.

P.S. I promise to post my blog post about walking on fire soon, just making a few finishing tweaks!

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The Simplest Salmon Recipe Ever

This very well may be the simplest recipe for cooking salmon I have ever tried.  It’s pretty much fool-proof and was incredibly tasty for how little work it required to prepare. Therefore, it’s a recipe star in my opinion. I live a pretty busy life so simple+quick+healthy recipes are always appreciated.  I hope you guys enjoy it as much as I did when I made it for my little romantic dinner for one!

What You’ll Need:

  • Salmon fillet
  • Fresh lemon slices
  • Butter
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Aluminum foil

What You’ll Need To Do:

  • Place a piece of aluminum foil on a baking tray
  • Slice lemon into quarter-inch thick slices.  Place enough lemon wedges on top of the foil to support the bottom of your salmon fillet (I needed 3).
  • Place salmon fillet on top of lemon slices.
  • Cut a bit of butter and place on top of the salmon (how much is up to you! I was wanting a extra-healthy meal so I only put about half a tbsp)
  • Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Wrap the aluminum foil very tightly up around the salmon.
  • Bake in your oven at 175°C (350°F) for about 15-20 minutes. Open aluminum foil after 15 minutes to check how salmon is doing.  It’s really important not to over-cook the salmon, the salmon is finished when it flakes when you stick a fork into it, and it should not be squishy or look like “jelly” anymore. It should be a light pink color, and feel firm when you press the back of the fork into it.

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Categories: Savoury Recipes | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Miso-Sexy Salad

“Winter is coming…” Any avid Game of Thrones will recognize this famous line. Yet, for a winter-lover like me when the days start to get a little warmer and I am forced to swap my beloved snowboard for my-nemesis-in-a-bottle, sunscreen, there is only one thought that echoes ominously in my mind: Summer is coming… 

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No seriously, I’m not kidding. Summer in Japan is something that sends shivers down my spine. I dread summer the same way Ned Stark dreads winter, when the night is dark and full of terrors. Canada never made a summer lover out of this Calgarian. I much rather prefer a snowy white mountain to a white sand beach. This slightly crazy attitude has simply been amplified after experiencing two unbearably hot and humid Japanese summers. It’s so crazy-hot here that people carry around a sweat towel with them everywhere they go, not just to the gym!

So, while I’ll be the first to admit, my summer enemies are slightly less terrifying than nightwalkers they are enemies nevertheless: sunscreen which I loathe, sunburns which plague me despite faithfully lathering myself with the sunscreen I loathe, and the biggest arch-enemy of all women, bikini season. BLEH!

This weekend was spent in a state of denial in my kitchen so at least something good might be produced along with wallowing in self pity. With summer on the way, I knew hot foods would soon be the last thing I’d want to be eating so I wanted to get funky and creative with my salads. I spent a blissful time in my kitchen experimenting and I am pleased to present my newest perfected experiment recipe: Miso-sexy Salad!

What You’ll Need For The Salad:

  • 1 large skinless chicken breast
  • 3 tbsp miso paste
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 large lemon wedge
  • 1/8 cup water
  • 1 head of brocoli
  • 1 cucumber
  • Romaine lettuce

What You’ll Need For The Dressing:

  • 2 teaspoons miso paste
  • 3 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon – 1 teaspoon warm water (add enough for the dressing consistency you desire)

What You’ll Need To Do:

  1. Chop chicken breast into small bite-size cubes.
  2. In a large fry pan over a medium heat pour in sesame oil and add chicken pieces.  Brown the chicken.
  3. Turn heat down to low. Add miso paste, lemon juice and water to fry pan. Stir until chicken is covered.  Place a cover on the frypan. Let it simmer gently for about 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent chicken from sticking.
  4. Once sauce has simmered down to a thick paste that coats the chicken nicely, remove from heat. Set aside to let cool.IMG_9072
  5. In a sauce pan put a small amount of water on to boil.  Cut brocoli into small bite-size pieces.  Place brocoli in a steamer pot over the hot boiling water.  Allow brocoli to steam for about 5 minutes, until tender but still a little bit crunchy. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  6. Cut up cucumber into bite-size pieces. Rip romaine lettuce into bite-size pieces. Place in a large bowl.
  7. To make the dressing mix together miso paste, lemon juice, sesame oil and warm water with a fork.IMG_9082
  8. Add chicken and brocoli to salad. Drizzle with dressing!IMG_9119

Yes, you may whistle in appreciation at this sexy looking salad. If it had a voice I imagine it would reply something like this, “Thanks, miso-sexy I don’t blame you for whistling!”

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Melt-In-Your-Mouth Mushroom Risotto

I love eating risotto, but dislike making it because so often you have to watch it like a hawk while it’s cooking. This recipe however, is simple, healthy and very delicious.

What you’ll need:

  • 3/4 cup of Aborio rice
  • 1/2 pound portobello mushrooms
  • 1/2 pound white mushrooms
  • 1 shallot, sliced up
  • 1/4 cup white wine (can substitute extra broth here if you desire)
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1.5 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp parmesan cheese
  • splash of milk
  • salt & pepper

What you’ll need to do:

  1. In a saucepan, warm up the broth over a low heat.
  2. In a different large saucepan pour in olive oil.  Heat up the oil over a medium-high heat.  Once the oil is hot add in the mushrooms, cook mushrooms for about 3 minutes, or until soft.  Remove mushrooms, mushrooms juices and oil into a small bowl and set aside for later.
  3. Add 1/2 teaspoon olive oil to pan and stir in the cut shallots. Cook for 1 minute before adding the rice.  Stir the rice and coat evenly with the oil for about 2 minutes.
  4. Once rice is a pale, golden hue pour in the wine. Stir until wine is fully absorbed.
  5. Add 1/2 cup of the broth.  Stir until fully absorbed.  Continue adding 1/2 cup of broth at a time until fully absorbed. This should take about 15 minutes.
  6. Add parmesan cheese, splash of milk, mushrooms and a little salt&pepper to taste. Stir until creamy and thick.  Voila! IMG_6729
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Classy Little Romantic Dinner for One

I am convinced that there is something in the water these days inducing insanity. It’s either that or maybe, far more likely, my friends’ hormones and pheromones are completely out of whack with the promise of spring hanging heavy in the breeze…

I am certain I’m not being paranoid.  Elton John’s written songs about times like these, although, I’ll admit he’s far more elegant and eloquent describing it (Can you feel the love tonight…It makes the breeze feel cool…). I however, shall state it bluntly: my community of friends has gone crazy and a love haze is in effect.

Couples have been springing up recently faster than flowers. Levels of PDA are running dangerously high and straining the patience of yours truly. Keeping my razor-sharp thoughts to myself isn’t the easiest when people are spoon-feeding – or rather in most cases in Japan, chopstick-feeding – each other while sitting next to me in a cramped restaurant booth.  At times like these being single can be a little lonely.  Which means it’s the perfect opportunity for…drumroll please….a perfectly lovely romantic dinner for one!

I’m not too sure when I began this tradition but it is something I adore doing.  Every so often, when being single starts taking it’s toll, I like to tie on my favorite apron, plot out a masterpiece of a sensuously savory dinner and cook up a storm.  Once finished, I set the table with some candles, turn off my cellphone, turn on the tunes (typically Michael Buble), dim the lights and after a hearty “Itadakimasu!”, dig in.  I love eating my feast slowly and meticulously, taking my time to relish every mouthful.  Who needs a boyfriend when my cooking can make me swoon!?

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Well, tonight was one of those nights.  Operation romantic dinner for one was a go.  On the menu tonight:

Appetizers: 

5 plump olives, several blushing baby tomatoes, apples with blue cheese and crisp baguette slices begging to be dipped in luxuriously smooth olive oil and zesty balsamic vinegar.

Main:

A tender lemon infused salmon fillet accompanied by a creamy melt-in-your-mouth mushroom risotto and succulent steamed asparagus stalks.

Dessert:

Sea salt sprinkled chocolate covered strawberries.

As far as my romantic dinners in the past are concerned this one was very healthy and pretty simple to whip up. Easy was very important because I was feeling particularly lazy after a crazy night out on the town yesterday cumulating in a sleepover giggles-and-chit-chat session with Lizzy until the wee-hours of the morning.  After a late wake-up we then proceeded to spent the most wonderfully mellow and lazy Sunday afternoon basking under covers, watching Breakfast At Tiffany’s, while beautiful warm spring sunshine flickered in through the windows.

With my parents arriving for a visit this week, and a busy little trip with them around Japan on the horizon, a relaxing night at home alone was exactly what I needed.  I even left all the dishes in the sink to be taken care of tomorrow!

Yummy Appetizers
Olives, tomatoes, apples with blue cheese, sliced baguette with olive oil & balsamic vinegar.

Cracked open a new yuzu (Japanese lemon) liquor I found at Yasubun that I’ve been dying to try!

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Main Course
Steamed asparagus, lemon-infused salmon and creamy mushroom risotto.

Yuzu Liquor. Yuzu is a type of Japanese citrus (similar to a lemon) that I am incredibly fond of. Loved it! Can't wait to share with my parents when they come to Japan in a week!


Yuzu Liquor. Yuzu is a type of Japanese citrus (similar to a lemon) that I am incredibly fond of. Loved it! Can’t wait to share with my parents when they come to Japan in a week!

Categories: Life in Japan, Lifestyle, Savoury Recipes | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Marvelously-Easy Moroccan Spiced Carrot Soup

Say hello everyone to, what very well might be, your new favourite soup! Easy as ABC and what’s even better is that it’s super healthy! The perfect recipe for after the many and various winter holiday indulgences (yes I am indeed referring to that 3rd “a-little-bit-more-won’t-kill-me” helping of mom’s delicious pumpkin pie…)

What you’re going to need:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup chopped white onion
  • 2 1/2 cups of cut-up carrots 
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt, stirred to loosen
What you need to do:
  • Peel and cut up carrots into small chucks. Set aside.
  • Begin by melting butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
  • Add in chopped onion; sauté 2 minutes until they turn transparent (but not brown!)
  • Mix in carrots and pour in the broth. Bring to a boil.  Then cover with a lid and reduce heat. Let the soup simmer about 20 minutes, until the carrots are very tender.
  • In a small separate pan heat the cumin seeds over a medium heat until they are fragrant. It should be no more than about 4-5 minutes. After doing this finely grind in a spice mill, grind using a mortar & pestal, or even just chop em up a simple knife. Put aside a bit of the cumin for garnish.
  • Remove soup from heat. Puree in a blender with cumin until smooth. Return to same pan.
  • Whisk in honey, lemon juice, and allspice. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Ladle soup into bowls. Drizzle yogurt over; sprinkle generously with extra cumin.
  • Enjoy!

moroccan carrot soup

Categories: Savoury Recipes | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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