Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Coconut (no bake) cheesecake

This summer has come with many self discoveries

1. Like in a fight of Me vs. Centipede, the centipede will always win. (Sometimes resulting in the centipede gaining new territorial control and me washing my vegetables in the washroom sink)

2. I will walk all the way to Chinatown for a dollar bread bun, but find it difficult to walk across my room to charge my phone battery

3. The Weather Network people probably do know better than me, because disregarding the “rain warning” in Montreal could mean being caught in a torrential rain storm in flip flops and shorts, holding a soggy slice of pizza

4. Making Jersey Shore references do not impress people 

5. Suggested serving sizes must be suggested by really small people. (Similarly telling myself not to eat an entire container of Mediterranean Coconut Yogurt in one sitting is a losing battle.)

6. Owning a gym membership does not equate to using a gym membership

Which brings me back to this past rainy Sunday, number 5 and 6, and this cheesecake.
This cheesecake that opts out of the rich ingredients and baking that traditional cheesecake requires and yet is still creamy and flavorful. The secret is the coconut milk which along with the use of gelatine replaces a lot of the fat in cream cheese to make for a light dessert. The fat content of coconut mostly comes from lauric acid which is much easier for the body to breakdown and metabolize. Lauric acid is also antimicrobial and anti fungal, protecting the body from infections. Also, coconut is classified as a "functional food" because it provides many health benefits beyond its nutritional content. (Referenced from the Coconut Research Center website. Really that's what its called!)

No-bake coconut cheesecake
4-5 serving cups

1 1/2 cup coconut milk (one can)
1 tablespoon of gelatin (one packet)
1/2 cup cream cheese
1/2 cup white sugar
4 soft cookies
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

1. Heat up half a cup of coconut milk on the stove and whisk in the gelatin making sure that the mixture does not boil.
2. In a mixing bowl, add sugar and vanilla to the cream cheese until incorporated and slowly add the rest of the coconut milk to the mixture.
3. Pour the gelatin mixture into the cream cheese mixture.
4. Crush a cookie at the bottom of each serving cup. (I like to use soft cookies so it easily takes the shape of the cup, but you can also mix crushed up cookies with a little butter to form a crust)
5. Pour the cream cheese mixture on top of the cookie crust and refrigerate for ~2 hours or overnight.

Another discovery: guess what DESSERTS spells backwards!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Sticky turkey meatballs

You know summer’s almost over when…

You walk into Urban Outfitters to be greeted with the biggest array of circle scarves

You check facebook and your friends’ statuses are a) excitedly announcing their arrival back to university b) unhappily announcing their arrival back to university

Dollarama is filled with parents arm full with cloth hangers and drawer dividers, as if the possession of these will ensure the success of their daughter/son throughout university. (When the key to success is really located in the candy bar aisle.)

So with the inevitable end of summer, end of breakfast at 11, end of back-to-back Seinfeld, start of a new semester, start of exams, start of dressing in layers, what do I think about? Food of course. Like what I could pack for lunch on those days I have back-to-back classes instead of the equally educational back-to-back Jersey Shore episodes. 

One option could be these turkey meatballs on top of some salad greens. Turkey generally has a lower fat content than most meats and has recently been shown to fall into a group of high-protein foods (including tuna and egg whites) that can help keep post-meal insulin levels in a good range. 

~20 mini meatballs
1/2 pound ground turkey meat
1 onion finely chopped
1 egg
1/2 cup (loosely packed) chopped Italian parsley leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon pepper flakes (optional)
2 cloves garlic chopped finely (optional)
1 slice of bread
1/4 cup milk
Oil for cooking

4 spoonfuls jam of choice

1. In a mixing bowl, soak the bread in milk until soft enough to break apart.
2. Add the turkey meat, onion, egg, parsley, salt, pepper, soy sauce, and pepper flakes to the bowl. Combine everything.
3. Heat a thin layer of oil in a large pan. Form meat mixture into balls and place in the pan.
4. After browning on all sides on medium heat, mix jam with enough water until syrupy and pour into pan. Simmer everything for around 15 minutes until meatballs are cooked and sticky.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Basil peach bagels

Writing a food blog is a scary thing for me. As big or as small as your audience is, it’s unnerving knowing that you’re putting something personal to be publicly displayed.
I start to spell check words that I’ve written thousands of times.
Tomato…that looks wrong. Tomatoe? Yah, tomatoe. Woahh no way, Tomato!
Recipe. Recipie. Recipe. Recipie.  Recipe.
Really “onion”? How did you become a word.

And what if I’m the only person that finds the combination of syrupy peaches with basil leaves enough to stop the press. And what if people find out I say things like “stop the press”.

Instead of going around taking pictures of my food, some might argue that my time might be better spent looking over that mounting-student-loan-debt issue. Or even just that mounting-pile-of-dishes-in-the-sink issue.

But as little tangible sense as it makes to start this blog, I really hope I stick to it. I enjoy doing it, and that’s enough for now. Plus instead of worrying about my future, I think right now my time is much better spent trying to convince people that peach and basil really is a combination worth talking about. In this bagel combo, the sweetness of the peaches really complements the peppery basil and the cream cheese pulls the different textures together perfectly. Also, basil and peaches contain powerful antioxidants and are a source of beta carotene which is converted to vitamin A in the body.

So to make this, just slice a bagel in half and toast until desired. Spread with cream cheese and add on a layer of basil leaves. Top with peach slices. And I like it with just a sprinkle of cracked black pepper.

Yup, I think your 15 minutes is juuust about up peanut butter and jelly.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Spring onion pancake

Some people keep photo journals to remember their travels.
Some people use word associations to remember people or places they know.
For me, many of my most vivid memories of the places I’ve been or the people in my life are tied with delicious food.

Like when I think of home, I think of biking to Steveston Village with my dad to buy fresh fish from the wharf to bring home for my mom to make clear fish soup.

Or when I think of my trip to Lima, I think about the restaurant across the street from the hostel we stayed and the meals we had there. Each meal had a potato base and I remember being amazed by their ingenuity to be able to use such a simple ingredient in so many different and delicious ways; potato pie, stewed potato, curried potato, stir fried potato...

I remember walking around Beijing holding three lotus bulbs (still proud for having bargained down the equivalent of 25 cents for them) and popping out the fresh seeds to eat as a refreshing snack in the blistering summer heat. 

And I will forever associate dipping French fries in ice cream with the time I went to Cuba and in a stubborn refusal to leave the beach after escaping from the minus 20 Montreal winter, sat in the sand with a cup of ice cream and French fries in my straw hat and called it a meal. 

Or like when I look at these pancakes, I think about this summer when my high school friends from Vancouver came to visit Montreal for the summer. This was the first meal we made together and devoured while catching up on the candlelit patio. Based off a Korean pancake, this pancake is simple enough, healthy and can pass for a lunch or light dinner.

Makes 2 small pancakes or 1 large pancake (easily doubled)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
2 bulbs of scallions/spring onions (about a cup loosely packed)
1 small carrot
Handful of spinach (optional)

3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes 
Sesame seeds (optional)

1. Mix together the flour, salt, egg and water.
2. Cut up scallions into about 2 inch segments and cut lengthwise into strips. Make carrots into strips with a vegetable peeler, and tear up spinach if using
3. Add the vegetables into the batter mixture until all the vegetables are covered. (Mixture should be thin, if not add a little bit more water).
4. Heat a pan with a thin layer of oil and add half the mixture (or add the entire mixture if using a bigger pan). Spread the mixture out evenly making sure the pancake has no holes but is also not too thick. Cook until the bottom is golden brown (about 3 minutes) and flip over with a wide spatula. Cook for another 2 minutes
5. Slide onto a plate. If making these for a couple people, you can stack the pancakes and serve each person a “slice”. Serve with the sauce. Sprinkle on sesame seeds if using. I also like to drizzle on some hot sauce.  

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Basic breakfast muffins

My parents have always been worriers.
There’s the “bring a jacket, its cold!” and the “how are you getting home?” to the “don’t forget to take the fish oil supplements we bought, they’re good for your brain!”

But now that I'm just a year from graduating, the topics of worry have expanded to “What now, Annie?”
There’s worry about what kind of job I’m going to find, where I’m going to live in the future, who I’m going to live with… who, what, where, when, why and just for fun, with what money? 

And to be fair I probably give them good reason to worry.
Especially after your only daughter casually mentions via telephone that the only graduation plans thus far are to go to Australia to go fruit picking.

And that time I flew to Lima and mistakenly booked a return flight for March 27th instead of February 27th.

So it did not help that a couple weeks ago during a visit home, they found me crouched in the kitchen at eight in the morning surrounded by Cheerios and an unidentifiable flour mixture intently pointing my camera at a food crime scene. (“But so-and-so’s daughter is studying to be a Pharmacist”)

But out of that morning came these delicious muffins, Cheerio crumbs that will forever be in the indents of the hardwood floor, and probably more reason for my parents to worry about me.

Adapted from Allrecipes
They make 9 muffins.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon (optional)
3 bananas, mashed
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar (or sub for ¼ cup additional white sugar)
1 egg  
1/3 cup butter, melted

2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup crushed Cheerios  
1/4 cup walnut pieces 
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C)
  2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. In another bowl, beat together bananas, sugar, egg and melted butter. Now mix the dry batter into the wet batter until incorporated and spoon into muffin liners.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, butter, crushed Cheerios, walnut pieces and cinnamon and sprinkle topping over muffins.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Iced tea cubes

There’s something to be said about summer in Montreal. There’s the farmers markets, bike rides along the canal, fireworks in the Old Port, free outdoor concerts, the Comedy festival, microbrews…
Yet somehow most of my nights out have ended almost the same way. In.
In a bakery, in a restaurant, in the kitchen

Start night: Chez Serge, working up the nerve to ride the mechanical bull. (In hand, a drink served out of a child’s sand bucket. Yes, the versatility!)
End night: In 24 hr Fairmont Bagels, mentally noting that the dozen 4 bagels I have are to be shared with the roommates

Start night: A nice scenic bike ride around the city
End night: Devouring a platter of naan and tandoori chicken in Little India while enthusiastically discussing between mouthfuls what other “scenic” places we could bike to next (like Chinatown for some dessert)

Start night: Going to Parc La Fontaine to get some sun
“Oh look, La Banquise! Aren’t they supposed to have the best poutine in Montreal?” “Shouldn’t we try it and see?”

“Yes, Yes I know we just ate.”


“I want a steak. … Yes I know its 11:30pm. … The grocery’s still open isn’t it.”

“OOO Ice cream!! … Yes, I know we just got ice cream at the other stand but this one’s GELATO!”

So I dub thee, Montreal Summer 2011, the summer of good food. I guess its fitting that it has led to the start of this food blog, since food really does occupy a disproportionate amount of my daydreams anyways.

Recently, my food daydreams have led to these iced tea ice cubes. I’m a tea fanatic. Don’t mess with my tea. But admittedly, there’s not a whole lot of motivation to brew up a hot cup of tea in 30C weather. And store bought iced teas are so sugary, I’d much rather get my sugar from ice cream thank you very much. These tea cubes are great because they can be made in big batches and popped into water or most beverages for an icy refresher with a little caffeine punch that won’t water down your drink. Plus teas are full of antioxidants that are good for you. So there’s that.

To make them, all you need is to brew up 2 cups of your favourite black tea, spice tea, herbal tea etc. using double/triple the tea that you would normally use for a cup of tea. Pour the semi-chilled tea into an ice cube tray, freeze and pop out whenever. There’s a spice tea I really like called Bangal spice from Celestial Seasonings. Herbal teas are good if you just want the flavour without the caffeine and generally loose green teas with bigger leaves have lower caffeine content than the tea bags.

Oh and if you want to add them to a cocktail, well more antioxidants for you.  
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