July 25, 2011

It's been so hot here that I've been making lighter, snack-like meals instead of cooking too much. Temperatures were in the 35's and 40's last week and it was uncomfortable, but I would rather have warmth over snow and cold any day.

Last night I made caprese salad bites with a baquette for dinner and the previous night I made chicken cashew lettuce wraps. Both meals were small, but refreshing. Who wants to make soup or use the oven too much in this heat?

We've been trying to clear out the fridge before we go on vacation, so I used up a lot of produce by making these "taco" salad bowls.


I saw the recipe here and she claims these bowls with all the ingredients in them are only about 300 calories each. Apparently a typical restaurant "taco bowl" can pack as much as 500 calories, as the shells are usually deep fried before serving.

These ones are made with a regular, whole wheat tortillas. I used tofu as the "taco meat." I love tofu, but it only lasts about 3 days opened in the fridge, so I tried freezing it. The frozen tofu is a lot more crumbly than normal, and actually makes a better ground meat substitute, plus it still tastes the same. You could also use chicken or beef as the meat and still have a low-calorie meal.

To make the tortilla bowls: 
Place the tortilla in a small oven-proof bowl. I used a small, corningware dish. Or flip a bowl over and place the tortilla over it (see here for photo instructions). Bake in the oven at 350 for about 10 minutes. The tortilla should be warm enough to keep it's shape and slightly browned and crispy, but not falling apart.


Cook your desired meat filling with taco seasoning or paprika, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. I made a few jars of homemade corn salsa a few weeks ago as my first canning experiment and will never go back to the store bought kind. Hopefully I can make some more and stock up now that sweet corn is in season.


Then fill the bowls with your desired ingredients. I started with lettuce, then added salsa, fresh corn, avocado slices, "taco meat," grated cheese and a dollop of plain yoghurt (you could also use sour cream).


The presentation is really neat and they're actually surprisingly filling. The tofu actually tasted more like chicken, but it was hardly noticeable with all of the other fillings (in case you're not a tofu fan).


I can't believe we're leaving for South America this week. It seems like we've been planning for months and I've been wanting to go forever. We're going to Peru for a week, then Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands for another week. I am beyond excited and desperately need a vacation. I'll be posting pictures and my foodie adventures there when I get back!
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July 04, 2011

One of the first recipes I ever made by myself when I was younger was a pear flan from The Usborne First Cookbook.

I wish I still had this cookbook around somewhere because it was so easy to read and follow for kids. I don't remember there being many steps in the flan, as I think it was just lying pears down in a pan and sprinkling some ingredients over top, but I remember being so proud of making a cake all by myself. I was obsessed with this cookbook and tried to cook some of the recipes with my limited skills. I can see now that I was just as passionate about food and cooking when I was younger as I am now. Now, I would say I have a couple of years of experience under my belt, as well as quite a few cookbooks.

When I saw this recipe for pear and earl grey tea cake online I knew I had to make it (a) because I love pear cakes and (b) I am intrigued by the use of tea in cooking. You may remember my tea-inspired dinner party during Project Food Blog. The pears are poached in some earl grey tea before they are baked with the cake, which adds a hint of flavour to them. The cake itself is "coffee cake" like and obviously great with a hot drink.


(Do you notice my new cake stand? I have been looking everywhere for a decent one and found this neat vintage looking one for $10 at HomeSense.)

Pear and Earl Grey Cake (measurements were converted from original recipe)
Earl Grey Poached Pears

6 cups of water
1/2 cup sugar
1 strip lemon peel
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tbsp earl grey tea leaves
6 pears, peeled, not cored

Directions:

Combine water, sugar, tea leaves, lemon, and vanilla in a pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 10 minutes to infuse the flavours. Strain the mixture and pour it back into the pot. Peel the pears, but do not core them. Place them whole in the liquid. Simmer again for about 15 minutes until the pears are soft. Take them off the heat and let cool. When cooled, slice and core the pears into quarters or small slices.

Cake:

3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1 1/4 cup plain yoghurt (can substitute sour cream for a heavier cake)
1 1/3 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tbsp cinnamon

Directions: 

Preheat oven to 320 degrees F. Beat butter and sugars using a hand mixer. Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each. Add yoghurt, then slowly add flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
Grease a bundt or square pan. If using a bundt pan, add the topping in first, then half of the batter. If using a square pan, add the first layer of batter. Arrange the pear slices in the batter. Pour the remaining batter on top to cover up the pears.

All six of the pears seemed like a lot, so I stored the rest in the poaching syrup to use for another batch of cake or dessert.

Crumble topping

1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 cup chopped nuts (can be pecans, walnuts or hazelnuts)

Directions: 

Combine topping ingredients and chop up butter until a coarse crumble forms. Sprinkle on top of batter. Bake cake for 50 minutes to one hour.

Sometimes I crave a light, fruit dessert instead of something heavy with a lot of chocolate. This cake reminded me how great pears work in dessert and brought me back to my childhood.
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