Wednesday, January 30, 2013

playing with spices: garam masala

I'm excited to begin a new monthly series on my blog, Playing with Spices. There are so many spices out there that I have yet to discover, so once a month, I hope to feature a new one.

This month, the focus is garam masala. Garam masala is actually a blend of spices used in indian cooking. The spices used in making garam masala vary from region to region and is really dependent on personal taste.  It is readily available in most supermarkets but is super easy to make at home. I like having control of what is in it, using more of the spices that I like, like coriander seeds and cinnamon, and less of the ones I don't, like cloves.

The spices used in my mix include cardamom seeds, whole pepper, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, dried curry leaves, cloves and cinnamon sticks.  The spices are toasted before grinding them, intensifying the flavour of each spice.

The garam masala can be used in many curries or even as a seasoning for popcorn or spiced nuts (see recipe below).

Garam Masala

1/4 cup cumin seeds
1/2 cup coriander seeds
1 TB mustard seeds
1 TB whole black pepper
2 cinnamon sticks
3 cloves
2 tsp cardamom seeds
1/4 cup dried curry leaves

Place the spices in a frying pan over medium heat. Toast, stirring, until fragrant.  Grind using a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder.

Garam Masala Spiced Pecans

1 cup pecans
1 TB melted butter
3 tsp garam masala
2 tsp agave syrup

Toss the pecans with the rest of the ingredients and place on a baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.  Cool and enjoy.

Monday, January 28, 2013

salmon burgers

Hubby had a great time in Fernie over the weekend, snowboarding and hanging out with the boys. This has been an annual trip of theirs, which usually involves a lot of red meat (i.e. ribs, ribs and more ribs!).  Needless to say, this week needs to be filled with lots of fish and veggies.

I had wanted to make salmon burgers for a while and this was the perfect opportunity.  I didn't really measure, just threw in some flavours that I thought would work well.  I took one pound of salmon which I cut into chunks and then pulsed it in the food processor.  I added some chopped onion, an egg, some soya sauce, sesame oil, ginger, salt, pepper and then binded it all together with some bread crumbs.  When I play with flavours like this, I always like to cook off a little bit and make sure that it tastes good before making patties and cooking off the rest.

I let the formed burgers rest in the fridge for a bit and then pan fried them with just a touch of olive oil.  Served on a toasted whole wheat bun with some mayo and topped with slices of creamy avocado, it was full of flavour and totally hit the spot.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

blueberry muffins

You know those nights you just can't sleep. That was me a couple of weeks ago. I decided to put my time to good use and instead of lying in bed, I got up at 5 am, determined to bake. Q needed a preschool snack anyways and with a pint of blueberries in the fridge, I knew it had to be fruity.

I was happy to have found this recipe from Paula Deen which allowed me to make up a batch of mini muffins without turning on my mixer and waking everyone up. I took a bit of batter out for Q's muffins for school and added some almonds in the rest.  I also skipped the extra sugar on top.

These were perfect for breakfast and my little guy was happy to have them for school. The little size were perfect for his little hands.

Blueberry Muffins
Adapted from Paula Deen, Food Network
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoons baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 stick butter, melted
1 small egg, slightly beaten
1/3 cup milk
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup slivered almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a mini muffin tin.

In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and sugar. In another bowl, combine butter, egg, and milk and mix well. Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and with a spatula, stir until just combined. Do not beat or over mix; it's okay if there are lumps in the batter. Gently fold the blueberries into the batter.

Spoon the batter into the muffin tray, filling each cup about 2/3 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool for about 10 minutes in the pan before turning the muffins out. Makes 24.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

edgewater grill (san diego)

We were happy to find a few places open on Christmas Day in San Diego.  To find breakfast, we walked along the marina and came upon Edgewater Grill.  The menu outside tempted us in with smoked salmon bennies and crab omelets.  When eating by the water, seafood just makes sense.

For maximum satisfaction, hubby and I ordered both and shared. The smoked salmon benedict had a good sized piece of salmon on an english muffin, topped with a perfectly poached egg, hollandaise sauce and capers.  The salmon was perfect and I enjoyed the large chunks with my runny egg. The only disppointment was the hollandaise sauce which was too vinegary. 

The crab and asparagus omelet was the real winner. The omelet enveloped fresh blue crab with stalks of asparagus and melted jack cheese. It was comfort and decadence all in one bite.

It was a good place to fill our bellies while enjoying the beautiful view.

Edgewater Grill on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

rama thai (san diego)

We spent three days running around San Diego trying to see all the sights and keep our little guy entertained. We went to Legoland, Sea World, the Safari Park, saw a museum and did a harbour tour.  It was fun but exhausting. I'm glad we had the foresight to book a chill day before heading back home.  We moved to a hotel by the marina and enjoyed the water, leisurely walking on the boardwalk and eating good food.

For Christmas eve, we checked out a local thai restaurant, Rama Thai. It was a busy place and we were lucky to get in. We sat on the covered sidewalk which gave us a chance to enjoy the nice weather, knowing that people back home were facing temperatures in the minus twenties.

Not wanting to eat too much, we ordered one appetizer and one main, which actually was more than enough for the three of us. At Q's request, we started with the calamari. The fresh calamari was breaded in panko and served with a sweet dipping sauce.  The coating was crispy and the calamari was cooked to perfection.

For our main, we had one of our favourites, Panang Curry.  We had ours with chicken and shrimp and ladled it over steamed rice. The aromatic curry had chunks of chicken, good sized shrimp and loads of vegetables, including crinkle cut carrots.  The spicy broth had a hint of sweetness and it was delicious.

We ended our meal with a scoop of pineappe and coconut ice cream. It was a great combination and cooled our tongues.

As we were leaving the restaurant, I noticed a couple at another table enjoying some prawns wrapped in noodles and deep fried. I will definitely have to try that the next time.

Rama Thai on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 11, 2013

creamy coconut popsicles

Hubby has been wanting to go on a road trip for a long time. Having been on many family road trips when I was younger, I felt I had done more than my share.  These were fun trips, with family, squeezing into cars that didn't fit all of us and driving across the country and down to the States. We created a lot of memories on those trips.

On our recent trip, I decided that he could have his road trip and we drove from Vegas to San Diego. It was a long five hours and I'm really hoping he got the road trip bug out of his system! On our way, we stopped in a little town for gas and had some coconut popsicles. These were so good and so refreshing.  The real coconut embedded throughout the popsicle was delicious.

I wanted to recreate these at home and found a recipe for these Mexican Coconut Popsicles. These actually didn't turn out like the ones we had on our trip, they were a more creamier version. With all that cream and coconut flavour, these have been a hit!

Creamy Coconut Popsicles
From Daily Candy and My Popalicious

1 can coconut milk
1 can organic sweetened condensed milk
2/3 c. half-and-half
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3/4 c. unsweetened shredded coconut

Put the coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk, half-and-half, salt, and vanilla in a blender; blend until smooth.

Stir in the shredded coconut.


Friday, January 4, 2013

otto (las vegas)

Mention Mario to most kids, the Mario brothers immediately come to mind. Mention Mario to my 4 year old, and he talks about the chef that he sees on tv. I love this kid!

While spending some time at the Venetian on our recent trip to Vegas, we saw one of Mario Batali's restaurants, Otto, and thought it was the perfect place to grab a bite after our indoor gondola ride.  We took a seat "outdoors" and enjoyed the painted sky ceiling while enjoying the entertainment in St. Mark's Square.

While we were checking out the menu, Q asked one of the waiters, "Where's Mario?". We discovered we had missed him by a week!  Bread and breadsticks were brought to the table and they happily obliged when we asked for some oil and vinegar.

As a starter, we tried the Ricotta Fritters.  These were morsels of fried goodness!  Ricotta cheese and red pepper balls rolled in bread crumbs and fried.  The cheese oozed out as we took a bite. Definitely a huge hit with all of us.

We also ordered a couple of entrees - the Grilled Tuna and the Maccherona. Both dishes were great and super tasty. The tuna was cooked to perfection and served with a sicilian pesto.  I really loved this version of pesto and couldn't get enough of it.  Red in colour, it was made with tomatoes, almonds and garlic. So good! The pasta dish was great as well. With roasted peppers and chilis, it was cooked perfectly.

The dessert menu looked great but sadly we were so stuffed, there was just no room.  Definitely a great meal!

  Otto Enoteca on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

blackberry scones

We didn't have a really late night but we got to sleep in a little bit, until 8am! We started off the year with a tasty breakfast - fresh sourdough bread, toasted, slathered with Boursin and topped with a runny egg. Divine!

Being the new year, we were sure there would be visitors so I whipped up a batch of scones to go along with tea or coffee.  I had blackberries in the fridge and some half and half that I needed to use up. A search on the internet came up with this recipe from Wendy from Around My Family Table. It was simple to make in the food processor.  I actually did a couple of pulses with the blackberries so that the beautiful purple was distributed in the dough.

These were great on their own but even more so with a pat of butter.

Blackberry Scones
Adapted from Around My Family Table

2 cups flour (plus more for kneading)
1/3 cup sugar
1 TB baking powder
5 TB cold butter
1/2 to 3/4 cup half and half
1 cup blackberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a food processor, combine flour, sugar and baking powder. Add the cold butter and pulse until crumbly. Add the half and half and pulse some more. Fold in the blackberries.

On a floured surface, knead the dough and form into a circle.  Cut into 8 triangles and place on a cookie sheet.  Brush the tops with half and half.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

happy new year!

Wishing you and your families a fantastic 2013 filled with lots of love, loads of cuddles, tons of happiness and a belly full of good food!

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