Friday, September 30, 2011

Roasted Balsamic Beets

In the spirit of fall, I am using the fresh produce that is available. The stores and markets here are full of it! The big sale that is happening at our closest grocery store is for huge 10 pound bags of onions, potatoes, and beets! My mom loves pickled beets, and that's about the only way we ate them when I was growing up. I was never a fan. (Sorry mom!) It wasn't until a year ago when my Naturopath told me how good they are for detoxing your liver that I tried to eat beets again. I usually roast them and just eat them plain with some salt and pepper. Not anymore! My recipe for Roasted Balsamic Beets has become a house favourite. Even my husband, who isn't fond of beets, enjoys them. Oh, and don't worry, my mom is a big fan of these too! Enjoy!

Roasted Balsamic Beets

These have a vinegar flavour to them, but because they are roasted, and the vinegar is balsamic, the flavour is more mellow and sweeter than pickled beets.

5 medium/medium-large beets, and their greens (optional, see note below) 
5 cloves of garlic
2 medium onions, in eight pieces
1 tbsp of herbes de provence
3 tbsps of olive oil, or oil of choice
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425 F/218 C. Scrub your beets to remove any sand or dirt. Slice beets in rounds, preferably no more than 2-3cm/0.8-1.2" thick. Dice garlic and slice onion into about eight wedges. Place sliced beets, garlic and onion in a wide roasting pan or casserole dish that has a lid. Add herbs, oil, vinegar, pinch of salt, and pepper. Roast with lid for about 30-45 minutes, or until beets are tender and vinegar has caramelized a bit.  Make sure you stir the beets every once-in-a-while during cooking so that all sides of the beets become covered by vinegar. Yields enough for 4-6 people.


- If you have beets available to you that still have their greens attached, you can add them, along with the stems, to the roasting pan. Just wash and dry them, and slice into smallish pieces.


- If you are allergic to onions or garlic, simply omit them from the recipe.

- If you are allergic to any of the herbs mentioned, try making your own combination of rosemary, marjoram, savory, basil, lavender, and sage, or make your own blend.

- If you are allergic to grapes or balsamic vinegar try substituting another vinegar. Balsamic vinegar is quite sweet and caramelizes - if you are using another vinegar, you may want to consider adding a small amount of sweetener like molasses or honey to achieve a similar result.


- If your beets are tender but the vinegar has not caramelized as much as you would like, just cook them for a little longer. The beets should not dissintegrate until they are very overcooked.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sweet Potato Fritters

Sweet Potato Fritters with Golden Hubbard Squash Soup (Recipe coming soon!)
Because I cook everything myself I try to find ways to cut down on  kitchen time. I like to keep the preparation quick, and keep the ingredient list short. (This also helps to fit our food budget.) These Sweet Potato Fritters have seven ingredients in total - I know that sounds like a lot but that includes water, salt and pepper, and oil for frying. They take just minutes to put together and just a few more to cook. And they are delicious! They get my mind off the survival of food, and remind me of times past spent with great friends and delicious pub food.

These Sweet Potato Fritters were inspired by Ann Vanderhoof's recipe for Plantain Spiders in her book An Embarrassment of Mangoes. (Here is a website for her new book The Spice Necklace). I made Plantain Spiders once, and they are amazingly delicious. Since developing a banana allergy I cannot eat plantain anymore. I find that these Sweet Potato Fritters are a good substitute. We have eaten them as an appetizer, a snack, and also as a veggie side for dinner. They pair perfectly with a bowl of soup. I have to say that my father-in-law is a sweet potato hater and even he likes them. I hope you enjoy them too!

Sweet Potato Fritters

One small sweet potato (preferably organic*)
About 1-2 thumbs of ginger (1-3 tbsps) or to taste
3/4 cup of brown rice flour
3/4 cup water
High-heat oil for frying (I use safflower oil)
Fine or medium-grind sea salt

With a large-holed grater, grate the sweet potato into a medium-sized bowl. Grate the ginger with a fine grater, or finely mince or puree, then add to sweet potato. Add rice flour and water to the bowl and mix - I find that my fingers work best in order to get the batter evenly distributed amongst the potato. Add pepper and mix in, do not add salt at this point. Add a few tablespoons of oil in a non-stick pan and heat to medium/medium-high but do not allow your oil to smoke. Carefully place batter by tablespoon into pan, quickly spread out the batter (I do this with the back of the spoon) so that it lays flat - this will help it crisp up nicely. Shallow-fry fritters in batches, but be careful to not crowd your pan or they will not fry as evenly or be as crispy. Fry until crispy and golden brown - you will know when to flip them when the outside edges start to brown. Drain on paper towel and sprinkle with sea salt before they cool. Makes about 25 fritters.

* I suggest that you try to find organic sweet potatoes. I try to buy organic when I can, but I am on a tight budget so I have to pick and choose which foods I purchase organic. I have found that some foods are incredibly improved upon if they have been grown organically and sweet potato is one of them. We even eat the skin of organic sweet potatoes, it will give you some extra fibre too!

I linked this post on Allergy Free Vintage Cooking here for Allergy Friendly Lunchbox Love. Check out the other recipes listed!


- I would suggest trying one of your fritters at the beginning of cooking and adjusting your ginger amount, if necessary.

- If your fritters stick to your pan, you may not be using enough oil.


- If you are allergic to sweet potato try using regular potatoes or parsnips.

- If you are allergic to ginger, simply omit it from the recipe. They will still be delicious!

- If you are allergic to rice, try experimenting with a different flour. You may have to adjust the water amount accordingly.  I have also made the batter with chickpea flour.

*Updated Note: Do not use wheat flour for the batter - my sister tried these with regular white wheat flour and they did not work.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Barbecued Chicken with a Ginger Garlic Maple Sauce & My Perfect End-of-Summer Meal

I have the perfect meal for you for this time of year. It takes advantage of the warmish weather we still have by using a barbecue. It also takes advantage of the cauliflower that is now in season.

The drizzle of maple syrup was my husband's idea, I think he's been watching too much Master Chef!

We have been eating this meal frequently, probably once a week for a few weeks, and we're not sick of it yet! This meal perfectly pairs sweet, sticky, barbecued chicken, roasted cauliflower and cumin-spiced lentils. We took this meal for a picnic a little while ago, and finished it all off with cupcakes made from my Vanilla Layer Cake recipe.  I told my friends that I was going to post these recipes as a "Perfect End-Of-Summer Meal". They didn't think it was that catchy and tried to figure out a different title that would serve this meal justice. I think the best they came up with was "Fabulous Feast with Friends". Whatever you call this meal, I hope you enjoy it as much as our friends and family do!

Perfect End-of-Summer Meal:

Barbecued Chicken with a Ginger Garlic Maple Sauce
Roasted Cauliflower
Cumin-Spiced Lentils

I have posted these as separate entries, so scroll down for the rest of the meal or click on the links above.

Barbecued Chicken with a Ginger Garlic Maple Sauce 

For the Barbecue Sauce:

Three thumbs of ginger (3-4 tbsps)
6 cloves of garlic
1 cup maple syrup
1 tsp salt or to taste

Grate or finely mince the ginger and put in a small bowl. Put the garlic through a press or finely mince and add to ginger. Add maple syrup and salt. Mix well, to ensure the salt is dissolved.

Alterations for the Sauce:

- If you are allergic to ginger or garlic simply omit them from the recipe

- If you are allergic to maple syrup you may want to use another liquid sweetener like honey (thinned out with some water) or brown rice syrup. You could also try fruit like applesauce, or blended pineapple or peaches.

For the Chicken:

One small chicken, butterflied.
Salt and pepper
Safflower oil, or high-temperature oil of your choice

Preheat barbecue to 350°F/176.6°C . If you don't have a thermometer on your barbecue, heat the barbecue on medium for about 10 minutes then turn it down to low.

You can often purchase a chicken butterflied at your grocery store or ask your butcher to do it for you. I prefer to do it myself, it's easy and less expensive. Simply place the chicken breast-side up on a plate or cutting board. Feel for the breastbone, take a pair of strong scissors or kitchen shears and cut the chicken in half, along the breastbone, going as close to the bone as you can. Rinse the chicken under cold water to remove any bone shards.

* From what I see online most people butterfly their chicken by removing the backbone and breaking or removing the breastbone. I'm not sure why this is the preferred method, I wonder if it makes the cut easier/better to cook?  We have never had any problems with the chicken after cutting beside the breastbone, and it is always tender and juicy. I think that this way is much easier.

Pat your chicken dry with some paper towel. Season well with salt and pepper and rub with oil. Oil your grill to prevent sticking. Open chicken and place the inside of the chicken down, onto the grill of the barbecue.

Cook over low flames with lid closed for 15 minutes. Flip the chicken over (inside of chicken should now be facing up) and cook for another 15 minutes. Keep an eye on the barbecue to watch for flames.

After the second flip (inside is now down) generously brush on the sauce, making sure to get lots of the ginger. Flip every 10 minutes, brushing on the sauce at each turn, including the underside.

The entire cooking time will be about 1 hour or 1 hour 10 minutes. Check with a meat thermometer to make sure the internal temperature reaches 180°F/82°C. Serves 4.

Alterations for Chicken:
- If you are allergic to chicken try using this as a sauce on fish or other meats like beef or pork. If you eat soy I think it would be delicious as a marinade for firm tofu.

Troubleshooting For Barbecuing: (Written by my husband, in barbecue-language)

- If you are worried about the chicken drying out, you can occasionally squirt it with lemon juice, apple-cider vinegar. If you are allergic to both, use a vinegar of your choice, a juice with some acidity, or water.

- Watch for flames, especially in the first 30 minutes and when the breast side is down. Before you start this meal, you may want to take this opportunity to do a big clean of the barbecue, scraping out the bottom and cleaning the grill of residual stuck-on food and grease that the brush doesn't always get. A clean barbecue will keep the fat from pooling which causes big flames for a prolonged period. You may also try carefully moving the chicken to a different spot on the grill so that it does not sit over the same flames for too long.

- If you do not have a barbecue thermometer, be aware the flames will cause the temperature of the barbecue to spike. When you get a lot of flames, especially when flipping the chicken, you can leave the lid open for a few minutes to bring down the temperature. After about 45 minutes, when the fat has mostly dripped out, you can turn up the burners just a little bit as the temperature may have dropped slightly.

Alterations If You Do Not Have A Barbecue:

- This sauce is delicious on oven-roasted chicken as well!


Roasted Cauliflower

This Recipe is part of my Perfect End-of-Summer Meal if you like, check out the other dishes that go with this meal: Barbecued Chicken with a Ginger Garlic Maple Sauce and Cumin-Spiced Lentils.

I first got the idea of roasting cauliflower from Molly Weizenberg's book A Homemade Life. And thanks be to Molly! It has now become a staple veggie dish in our house. This is my version. A word to the wise, I am generally not a cauliflower lover but when it's roasted it is dangerously good. I have single-handedly eaten almost an entire head of roasted cauliflower, so you may want to cook extra if you are cooking for cauliflower-lovers.

One head of cauliflower
Olive oil or oil of your choice
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425.

Remove stem and leaves. Place cauliflower with the florets facing upward. Cut in half, through the florets and stem. Place one half with cut side facing up. Cut in wedges, through the root. Try to not have any pieces more than 3 or 4 cms thick or they will not brown as nicely in the oven. Wash cauliflower and dry as well as possible. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Toss cauliflower with plenty of oil and salt and pepper, place wedges (and any loose florets or teensy pieces) in a single layer on your parchment. Do not overload your pan because your cauliflower will steam and not roast. Roast on bottom rack of oven for 20 minutes, flip the pieces and roast for about another 5-10 minutes. Serves 4.


- If you are making this for the Perfect End of Summer Meal and you are allergic to cauliflower, try roasting another veggie like squash, parsnips or carrots. Or pair the chicken and lentils with a green salad.


- If you find that your cauliflower is steaming instead of browning it was either too wet when it went into the oven or your pan is overcrowded. I often make two pans-full of cauliflower, either at the same time, or in batches. 

- At the 20 minute mark you may want to remove any little pieces of cauliflower from the pan. If you leave them in for too long they may burn.

Cumin-Spiced Lentils

This recipe is part of my Perfect End-of-Summer Meal, if you like, check out the other dishes that go with this meal: Barbecued Chicken with a Ginger Garlic Maple Sauce and Roasted Cauliflower.

I have adapted this recipe from the book Simply Vegan by Debra Wasserman.

One medium onion, diced
3-4 tbsps oil
2 tsps cumin
1 cup red lentils
1.5 cups water
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion on medium/ medium-low heat until translucent - about 10-15 mins.  Reduce heat a bit, add cumin and lentils and saute for a minute or two. Stir frequently to prevent the spice from burning on the bottom of the pot - you may need to add more oil at this point to prevent the lentils and cumin from sticking. Add water, bring mixture to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to minimum. Cook until all water is absorbed, approximately 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serves 4.


- If you are allergic to onion simply omit from the recipe. You may want to experiment with other flavours like fresh ginger root.

- If you are allergic to cumin, try other spices like cardamom, fennel, or caraway, or create your own spice mix.

- If you are allergic to lentils but can tolerate other legumes try making spiced chickpeas or beans.

- If you are allergic to lentils and other legumes and but want something else to pair with my Perfect End-of-Summer Meal, try mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes.