Monday, February 25, 2013

Granola Bars for Grownups - Ginger, Almond and Cardamom

We have had several requests for healthy snack recipes. Well who doesn't love granola bars? Great for kids and adults who are on the go. The thing we find with them, is that the store bought varieties are always so sweet and there aren't any flavours that appeal to a more grown up palette. We have come up with several recipes and this was a huge hit amongst everyone we shared them with. These crunchy bars have the unique flavour combination of ginger, almond and cardamom. A little sweet and a little spice, makes everything nice.

Note: Want to try your own combinations? How about using dried cranberries, apricots, pecans, or peanuts. Cinnamon or allspice makes a great alternative to cardamom. Just use a total of 1 cup of your favorite dried fruits and nuts with the spice of your choice.
Makes 16 squares.
Calories per serving: 117 according to

2 Cups rolled oats
1/4 Cup candied ginger, finely diced
3/4 Cup toasted almonds, chopped
1/2 Teaspoon ground cardamom
4 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 Tablespoons honey

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Toast almonds by placing almonds on baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes
3. Line a 9" square pan with parchment and grease lightly with butter.
4. In a bowl mix oats, almonds, ginger, and cardamom. Set aside.
5. In a small saucepan, heat butter, brown sugar and honey until it starts to boil.
6. Toss the liquid into oat mixture and mix with a spatula until well coated. Put in lined pan and press the mixture down firmly.
7. Bake 25-30 minutes until golden brown.
8. While the bars are still hot, press the mixture again firmly, this will make the bars easier to cut.
9. Remove bars from pan and slice. Store in an airtight container. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Braised Beef Short Ribs

Short ribs always seemed like a very complicated dish to me, I love them, but they always seemed too complicated to make at home, but that was before I did some research and read a lot of recipes and techniques. I prefer the robust french flavourings of wine, thyme, and bay leaves, but there are so many options to choose from from any ethnicity of cuisine. This recipe is based of several including one by Anne Burrell. They all call for the same basic elements. Brown meat, veggies for a flavour base, and a broth to braise the meat in. Once you pick those then you are pretty much guaranteed to have a successful dish.  

Serves 4-5.

8 Bone-in short ribs (approx 3 lbs) - we prefer them in 4-6" lengths, not the 1-2" ones

4 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Large onion
3 Celery ribs
2 Carrots
2 Cloves garlic
6 oz Tomato paste
2 Cups red wine - we prefer a Cabernet Sauvignon
2 -3 Cups beef broth
3 Sprigs of fresh thyme
3-4 Bay leaves

Salt and pepper for seasoning

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. In a large oven proof stock pot, add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pot and bring to a high heat.
3. Season the ribs well with salt. Sear the ribs until they are well browned, 2-3 minutes per side. Do in batches batches if necessary, do not overcrowd the pan. When browned, put ribs on a plate. Drain any excess fat.
4. Take all the veggies, and make them into a fine mixture, using a box grater or food processor.
5. Add fresh oil to the pot, and saute the veggies, until brown 5-7 minutes. Don't worry about it sticking to the bottom.
6. Add tomato paste, and cook out for 3-4 minutes.
7. Add the wine, scrape all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan, and reduce the wine by half, stirring frequently.
8. Add the short ribs back into the pot, and add enough beef broth to cover the ribs. Add thyme and bay leaves.
9. Bring the broth to a boil, then cover and put in the oven.
10. Braise for 3 hours, stirring occasionally.
11. Remove the lid and cook for an additional 30 minutes, to reduce the sauce and brown further.
12. Meat will be fork tender but not falling apart. Serve over mashed potatoes or pasta.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Gluten Free - Pavlova with Lemon Curd and Berries

It's Valentine's day, and we all want to do something special for the ones that we love. But what if the one you love is gluten intolerant? Well here is our solution for one of our absolute favorite deserts, pavlova - no flour, and no added fat. The ideal finish to a romantic meal.  This recipe is made with a sweet, crispy meringue base, filled with a tart lemon curd. Top the desert with whipped cream and fresh fruit. This dish is very simple but it does take a bit of time to bake the meringue, it can be made the night before and just assembled right before serving.
This recipe serves 6. 

For the Pavlova:
4 Egg whites
3/4 Cup white sugar
1/4 Teaspoon salt
1/4 Teaspoon cream of tartar

For the Lemon Curd:
4 Egg yolks
Zest from 1 lemon
1/2 Cup lemon juice
2/3 Cup sugar
1 Tablespoon butter (Optional - gives the curd a beautiful glossy sheen and mellows the flavour)

Optional Toppings:
Whipped Cream
Fresh Berries - Our faves are strawberries, mango, blueberries, and kiwi.

For the Pavlova:
1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Using a marker, draw circles on the parchment to use as a guide. Put the marker side down, so not to transfer the ink to the meringue.

Note: This recipe will make approximately 6 x 6" circles, 2 x 9" circles, or 1 x 11" circle, but you can make them any size you wish.

3. Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a large bowl, and yolks into a medium bowl. Save the yolks for the curd.
4. Using a hand mixer, mix the egg whites until foamy, add the salt and cream of tartar.
5. Slowly add the sugar while beating the eggs until they reach soft peaks and are glossy.
6. Spread the meringue inside the circle drawn on the parchment paper, smoothing the edges, making sure the edges of the meringue are slightly higher than the center.
7. Bake for 75 to 90 minutes or until the outside is dry and is a very pale cream color. You don't want these to become brown. Turn the oven off, leave the door slightly ajar, and let the meringue cool completely in the oven.

Note: Warm egg whites will whip up better than cold whites. So let the eggs sit on the counter for 30 minutes before starting.

For the Lemon Curd:
1. To the bowl of egg yolks, add sugar, zest and lemon juice.
2. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water.
3. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture becomes thick (like hollendaise approx. 160 degrees F using a thermometer). This will take approx.10 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in butter if desired until fully incorporated.
4. Chill fully before using. The curd will thicken as it cools.

To Assemble:
1. Separate the meringue disk from the parchment, and place on serving plate.
2. Top with lemon curd and spread out keeping the curd slightly away from the edge.
3. Spoon whipped cream onto the curd and arrange fruit.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Apple Pecan Bread Pudding

Bread pudding is one of those deserts that anyone can make regardless of skill, and it is a fantastic way to use up stale bread and all the funny bits and pieces of food that you have in the pantry. This desert is easy, inexpensive and sooo good!  Can't wait for you to try!

Serves 6.

5 cups Italian or French bread, cubed in 1" cubes
1 apple, cut into 1/2" cubes
6 eggs
2 cups milk
1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup pecans, roughly chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Put cubed bread in a greased casserole dish (we used a 11" x 7" x 2" baking pan)
3. In a medium bowl, mix eggs, 1/2 sugar, milk, vanilla, apple, and pecans.
4. Pour mixture over the bread and mix lightly, let set 20 minutes for liquid to soak into bread.
5. Sprinkle remaining brown sugar over the bread mixture.
6. Bake for 45 - 60 minutes, until top is puffed and slightly browned and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

For a vanilla whisky sauce to go with the bread pudding mix 2 tablespoons whisky, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and 1/4 cup milk in a small saucepan, bring to the boil. Let boil for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Let cool and serve.