Cooking with Alison

Posts Tagged ‘gluten-free’

Mini Herbed Polenta Rounds

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks on December 12, 2014 at am

Mini polenta rounds are a great base for a large range of meaty or meat-less hors d’oeuvres.  They’re also cost effective and easy to make for a large crowd.  For my dad’s surprise 60th birthday party, I topped these mini herbed polenta rounds with sauteed cremini mushrooms tossed in balsamic cream.  They were one of the party favourites.

 

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Favourite Red Lentil Soup Recipe

In Soups and Salads on November 21, 2014 at am

I love cooking lentils in the fall and winter months.  Here are just some of the many reasons why I almost always have some in my pantry:  they are very economical, they store well and are great to have on hand when I’m out of fresh vegetables, they’re easy and forgiving to cook, they work well in side dishes, one-pot main courses, or soup, they make freezer friendly meals, and they’re hearty, nutritious, and high in fiber.  This is my favourite red lentil soup recipe.

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Favourite Italian Bolognese Sauce Recipe

In Pasta, Rice, and Doughs, Red Meat and Eggs, Sides and Sauces on November 15, 2014 at am

I’ve made this delicious and authentic Italian bolognese sauce twice now, and I’ve learned a few things about how to make this sauce even better.  First of all, don’t use finely ground meat.  You will get the best results in texture if you grind the meat yourself using a food processor fitted with a metal blade.  The store ground meat ends up feeling and tasting gritty.  Secondly, the quality of the canned tomatoes that you use makes a huge difference.  For best results, use san marzano tomatoes if you can afford it.  Though not necessary to make a delicious sauce, it will make a huge difference in tomato flavour.  (I found very affordable cans of san marzano tomatoes at Costco.)  Lastly, this sauce is delicious when made with lamb, too.  So feel free to try making this using beef, lamb, or a combination of beef and pork.  This recipe makes a large batch of sauce and is an easy way to cook for a large group.  I made this for dinner for 9 people and there was enough for everyone to have seconds.  The sauce is freezer friendly and the recipe can be halved.

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Review of Toronto’s Top Steak Houses (UPDATED)

In Red Meat and Eggs, Reviews on November 11, 2014 at am

I used to avoid steakhouses altogether, because I had only ever received disappointing, over-cooked, and over-priced meals (often with a side of snobby customer service) from the steak houses that I had been to.  Luckily, John, who loves steak houses, introduced me to some very good ones in the city.  Now we both love going out for steak.  It is a rare treat for us, so it took over a year to eat my way through some of the best rated steakhouses in Toronto.  Here are my reviews.  Please note that I always order the rib eye steak and I order it rare.  Also, I do not like eating at chain restaurants, so you won’t see Ruth’s Chris, The Keg, or Outback Steakhouse on this list.

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Egg Yolk Vinaigrette Recipe

In Sides and Sauces, Soups and Salads on October 28, 2014 at am

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I have dozens of frozen egg yolks that I would love to use up.  (See here for how to freeze eggs and other ingredients.)  But I don’t want to make any more desserts, so I have been looking for new savoury recipes that require egg yolks.  This egg yolk vinaigrette only uses up 1 egg yolk, but it’s a delicious start.  🙂  You can use it as a dip for vegetable sticks, or as a dressing on leafy salads or cold, cooked vegetable salads.  (The caesar dressing recipe here also uses an egg yolk.)

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Curried White Bean and Sweet Potato Soup (and DIY Meal in a Jar)

In DIY and Crafts, Soups and Salads on October 13, 2014 at am
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Curried white bean and sweet potato soup made without coconut milk

I was inspired by The Bean Ladies at Toronto’s One of a Kind Show in December, 2013 to make a curried white bean and sweet potato soup.  The flavours of this soup are mild; the spice from curry and cumin is balanced by the subtle sweetness of the sweet potatoes and brown sugar.  To add richness and/or another layer of flavour to the soup, try making this soup with coconut milk. I have also given these soups away as gifts in the form of meals in a jar (DIY meal in a jar instructions provided below).  This soup can easily be made gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian and vegan.  See another recipe that was inspired by The Bean Ladies here (Split Pea Soup and DIY meal in a jar).

An example of a meal in a jar (split pea soup)

Example of a meal in a jar (split pea soup)

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Romanian Cabbage Rolls – The Only Cabbage Rolls I Eat

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks, How-To, Other Dishes, Red Meat and Eggs, Sides and Sauces on September 26, 2014 at am

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I never understood why people like cabbage rolls until my friend Joana made Romanian cabbage rolls.  This is the same friend that changed my mind about polenta, by the way (see my soft polenta recipes here).  I am so so grateful that Joana introduced me to Romanian cabbage rolls, because I am in love with them!  They are truly the best cabbage rolls that I have ever tasted.  The main difference between Romanian cabbage rolls and other cabbage rolls is that the Romanian ones are made with pickled cabbage.  You can find vacuum sealed whole heads of pickled cabbage in European grocery stores.  Joana’s recipe is also great because she uses a blend of different types of meat.  Although they are easy to make, I don’t make them often, because rolling all of those cabbage rolls can be time-consuming.  I hope you won’t be discouraged, because this recipe makes a very large batch that happens to be freezer-friendly.  With the colder weather moving in, I knew that I couldn’t put off making these any longer.  These are great to make for pot lucks or when feeding a crowd, because they can be served warm or cold.

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How to Make a Healthy Sour Cream Substitute

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks, How-To, Sides and Sauces on September 15, 2014 at am

Sour cream is one of my favourite condiments, but I feel guilty buying it for two reasons:  1.  it’s unhealthy and high in calories, and 2. I often end up wasting food, because I have trouble using up an entire container before the expiration date.  So you can imagine my excitement when I watched chef Rocco DiSpirito share his healthy sour cream substitute on tv a few years ago.  It only requires 2 ingredients:  cottage cheese and white vinegar/lemon juice.  I have to admit, I was very doubtful that anything could even come close to tasting like sour cream.  When I first tried it, I was expecting to be as disappointed as the first time I ever tried vegan cheese, but it was amazingly similar to sour cream.  You just need to have the equipment to get the texture completely smooth (I used a mini food processor). You can make as little or as much as you want and you don’t have to feel guilty eating it.

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How to Make Iced Tea and Delicious Variations

In Drinks, How-To on August 15, 2014 at am

Iced tea has always been one of my favourite drinks, so I’m not sure why it took me so long to start making it from scratch.  I should clarify that the drink, ‘iced tea’, means different things depending on where you go.  In some places, if you order an iced tea, they will bring you a straight up cup of tea that is served chilled with ice.  I learned that the hard way while traveling on a cruise, once.  I was very disappointed.  😉  The iced tea that I’m in love with is sometimes referred to as sweet tea.  Now that I know how easy it is to make iced tea, how much better it tastes when homemade, and how much fun it is to try different flavour variations, I will never buy canned or bottled iced tea again.  In fact, from now on, John and I are going to start serving homemade iced tea instead of soda/pop when we have friends over.  Also, if you’re like me, then you probably have boxes and boxes and boxes of different types of tea at home that you may never get through.  This is a great way to enjoy them while cleaning out your cupboards.

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How to Cook Broccoli Leaves

In How-To, Sides and Sauces on August 1, 2014 at am

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Did you know that you can eat broccoli leaves?  Until I started growing broccoli in my garden, I had no idea 1. what a broccoli plant looked like and 2. that the large leaves were edible and delicious.  You can cook them the same way you would cook collard greens.  Simply remove the stems and thick ribs, chop the leaves up as desired (I like to roll the leaves up and then slice them thinly crosswise), and then you can steam them, boil them, grill them, saute or stir fry them.  You can add them to soup and you can even use them, in lieu of cabbage leaves, to make rolls.  Young and tender broccoli leaves can also be eaten raw in salads.  On a side note, if you are planning on growing your own organic broccoli, be warned that they become infested with hundreds of tiny gray bugs and spiders.  We were too disgusted to eat any of the broccoli crowns, even though they had the most rich broccoli flavour I’ve ever tasted.  We will never plant broccoli again!

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My favourite way to cook collard greens and broccoli leaves is to saute them with bacon and garlic.  Cook 4 slices of smoked bacon in a large saute pan over medium heat until crispy.  Remove the pieces of bacon, break them up into small pieces and set aside.  Add minced garlic and sliced broccoli leaves to the hot pan with bacon grease.  Cook, stirring frequently until the broccoli leaves are tender and still a bit crisp.  Add salt and pepper to taste and, if desired, add a small splash of vinegar.  Continue to stir until all of the vinegar has evaporated (if using).  Stir in the crispy bacon pieces and serve immediately.

Easy and Delicious Curry Chicken Recipe (Only 5 Ingredients)

In Indian, Meat and Eggs, Poultry on July 27, 2014 at am

First off, you should know that this recipe is, by no means, an authentic curry recipe from any part of the world.  However, it is addictively delicious and ridiculously easy to make.  I don’t normally post recipes that aren’t traditional or authentic, so believe me when I say that this recipe is worth sharing.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it instantly becomes one of your family favourite recipes.  It’s mild in heat, buttery, and slightly sweet.  My sister’s friend, Chelsea, introduced me to this recipe.  She made it for us and a large group of people at a ski chalet, once.  Every single person loved it.  I made it for John’s mom one day and she loved it too.  This is a great dish to make for a crowd.

The key to making this sauce more than just a sum of its 4 ingredients, is to use high quality and complex curry powder.  I’ve had the best success using Malaysian meat curry powder.  Otherwise, it will taste like a curried, honey dijon chicken dish.  But even the curried, honey dijon chicken tastes great, so use whatever you have on hand.  Note that if you use a yellow curry powder, the colour of your sauce will be more yellow than mine.  Ideally, you want the dijon mustard to be indiscernible, leaving your guests wondering what’s behind that addictive flavour.

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Best Brand of Fermented Bean Curd

In Asian, Other Asian Foods on July 24, 2014 at am

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Fermented bean curd is a pungent Chinese condiment.  It comes in glass bottles in the form of cubes of preserved tofu soaking in brine.  It is salty and spicy with a hint of tanginess.  I love this stuff, especially with congee (see recipe here).  It can also be used in a marinade for deep fried chicken wings or in a sauce for stir fried Chinese veggies.

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The absolute best fermented bean curd that I have ever tasted was made in Hoi Ping, Guangdong, China, which is where my mother was born.  If you’re lucky enough to find this brand in your city, let me know what you think of it (and please ship some to me)!!!

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