Friday, 30 December 2016

Stuffed Baked Potato with Bacon, Leek and Blue Cheese

Stuffed baked potatoes, or twice baked potatoes as we call them, are an easy, make ahead side for almost any meal, and can be adapted to whatever you have to stuff them with. I always use cheese of some kind, then make the rest up according to what is in the fridge.

This time I had three slices of bacon, a leek and some blue cheese...perfect to serve with the turkey meatloaf. When the potato is stuffed and baked the outside becomes golden and crisp, but the inside is moist and fluffy, and the little pockets of melting blue cheese are a pleasant surprise. A bit like mashed potato, but better!

Start off by scrubbing one small to medium russet potato per person. Prick the potatoes with a sharp knife and put into the oven to bake, at 400F, until the flesh is soft when squeezed. Remove from the oven and leave for 5 - 10 minutes; until the potatoes have cooled down enough that you can hold them.

Using a sharp knife, cut each potato in half, lengthwise.

Scoop the flesh out of the potato skins, being careful to save at least one skin for each person.

Place the scooped out potato flesh into a large bowl, and mash with a fork.

While the potatoes are baking, cook:

3 rashers of bacon, diced

When the bacon is cooked, but not yet crispy, add:

1/3 leek, diced

Season with salt and pepper and cook until the bacon is crispy and the leek is cooked and starting to crisp.

Remove the bacon and leek from the pan and drain on a piece of paper towel to remove any excess bacon fat. Set aside until needed.

Using a potato masher, mash the hot potato with:

salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter

Stir in:

the cooked bacon and leek
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

Taste and adjust seasoning

Scoop the mashed potato back into the reserved potato skins, one per person.

Bake at 350F until the potato is golden and crisp on the outside, and hot in the middle.

This should take about 30 - 45 minutes, depending on how high the filling in your potatoes is.

Serve one potato skin per person, giving the potatoes about 5 minutes to cool slightly before serving. Remind people that the middle of the potato is hot...they retain the heat for a long time! Some people will use a fork or spoon to scoop out the inside, and then eat the skin (or not); others will pick the whole thing up and take bites out of it. Either way, these will be a hit.

  • This recipe was for two people. The potatoes were a medium size, so one each was good. 
  • If your potatoes are really large, allow half a potato per person. If they are small figure out how much you think will be enough per person. If I am making these I try and buy potaotes that are a good size for the dish.
  • The potatoes can be cooked in the microwave before scooping and stuffing; I find that baking them in the oven gives you a fluffier potato.
  • It is important to scoop and mash the potato while it is hot. Cold potato does not mash well...lumps will not mash out, and it can become gluey. The best way to do this is to hold the potato half in a towel to avoid burning your hand while you scoop the flesh out.
  • The potatoes can be baked, scooped, mashed and stuffed a day ahead.
  • Sweet potatoes or yams can be used if you prefer.
  • Other things to consider adding to your stuffed potatoes include: chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, chives, rosemary; minced green onion or caramelized onion; chili flakes; chopped ham, crumbled sausage or cooked chicken; blanched broccoli or cauliflower; sour cream or whipping cream; corn; roasted garlic; aged cheddar, Parmesan, asiago, goat cheese or brie.
  • Depending on what you stuff these with, and how big you make them, stuffed potatoes can be a side dish or a meal...add a salad and you are good to go.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Banana Coffee Cake with Cocoa Nib Streusel

Snowshoeing season is upon us, and we like to spend most of the day out there in the fresh air, bringing lunch, hot coffee and something sweet to keep our energy levels up. Three ripe bananas, some sour cream and the last of the cocoa nibs were used used up to make this cake, which is moist, cunchy and hit the spot after a couple of hours of walking in the fresh, knee deep snow yesterday.

As it freezes well, I portioned it, wrapped the individual pieces and then froze them so that we have some for the next few weeks.

Start by turning the oven on to 350F to heat, and then lightly grease a 9" X 13" pan and set aside until needed.

In a spice grinder, combine:

1/4 cup cocoa nibs
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Grind until the cocoa nibs are finer, but still have texture.

In a mixer, using the paddle, combine:

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 ounces butter

Mix until you have a crumbly mixture.


the cocoa nibs and cinnamon
1/2 cup toffee bits

Mix to combine, then set aside while you make the cake batter.

To make the cake batter, cream until light and fluffy:

1/2 cup soft butter
3/4 cup brown sugar

Add, one at a time, scraping the bowl down in between:

2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla


1 1/2 cups mashed bananas

Add half the dry ingredients, and mix until just combined:

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda


1/2 cup sour cream

Mix until just combined. Add in the second half of the dry ingredients, and mix until combined, scraping the bowl down once or twice.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and spread it evenly.

Sprinkle the reserved cocoa nib streusel over the top of the cake batter.

Bake until the cake has risen, is golden on top and a test skewer comes out clean and dry.

This took about 50 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature before portioning.

The cake can be served warm or cold, with ice cream or whipped cream. It can also be served as breakfast, with tea or coffee or when out hiking or snowshoeing. However you choose to eat this, it is delicious!

  • The cake can be baked in a couple of loaf pans, or in a 10" round springform pan. It can also be baked as muffins...the recipe will make between 18 - 24 muffins, depending on the size you make them.
  • Nuts can be added to the streusel, with or without the toffee bits. Try pecans, almonds or walnuts.
  • I am able to buy the toffee bits in the grocery store, either packaged or in bulk, but if you aren't able to do this you can chop up an English toffee bar, or just omit the toffee.
  • Other fruit such as apple or pear sauce; pureed peaches, apricots or nectarines; pumpkin, sweet potato or butternut squash, cooked and mashed can be used instead of banana.
  • Plain Greek yoghurt can be used instead of sour cream; I had sour cream left from another meal and it needed to be used. Buttermilk can also be used; keep in mind it is runnier than sour cream so your batter might be a bit thinner.
  • If you do not have cocoa nibs, use chocolate chips or grated chocolate, and do not put them into the spice grinder...the heat will melt the chocolate. Just add them into the streusel along with the toffee bits.
  • I used cinnamon, but you can use any spice you like....ginger, star anise, nutmeg, cloves.
  • The toffee bits and/or chocolate chips can be folded directly into the batter, and the streusel eliminated. This batter can also be baked in a bundt pan.
  • As I mentioned, the cake freezes well. I like to pre-portion it and wrap each piece in plastic wrap, and then place them all into a resealable bag. This way you can defrost as many pieces as you need, and still keep the rest fresh. This also stops unwanted snacking!

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Shredded Chicken with Charred Tomato and Avocado Salsa

This meal was based around the need to use half an avocado and one tomato...both were perfectly ripe and ready to use, and ignoring them would mean wasting them. So after deciding to make a salsa, and to char the tomato for some extra flavour I had to figure out what to serve it with.

Something warm, spicy and hearty was called for, as it was snowing and cold outside...braised chicken thighs, spicy and slow cooked until falling apart, served with a warm tortilla and topped with the salsa and some plain Greek yoghurt fit the bill.

There was about half a cup of chicken stock in the fridge, and some chick peas in the freezer, so I added those in as well.

The only words left are all gone!

First up, get the chicken going as it takes a while to cook. I have a package of Mexican seasoning that I was given, and I used that to season the chicken. It has quite a kick to it. It is a blend of dried sweet peppers, onions, garlic, chili pepper, jalapeno pepper, cayenne pepper, parsley and basil.

Combine the spices:

3 tablespoons Mexican seasoning
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin

Rub the spices onto 6 chicken thighs, making sure all sides are coated.

In a hot pan, using a bit of olive oil, brown both sides of the chicken.

Remove the chicken and set aside.

In the same pan, add a bit more olive oil, and add:

1 medium onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, sliced

Continue to cook over a medium low heat, stirring often, and adding a bit more oil if the onions start to stick.

When the onions start to soften, add:

1/2 cup chicken stock

Continue to cook until the chicken stock has almost reduced away, stirring to loosen the tasty bits from the bottom of the pan.

Add the browned chicken thighs back to the pan.

Stir in:

1 x 28 ounce can of crushed or pureed tomatoes

Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to simmer and leave to cook until the chicken is tender enough to shred easily.

Shred the chicken, using two forks, and then add:

3/4 cup chick peas

Allow the chick peas to heat through, then taste and adjust seasoning.

While the chicken is braising, you can make the salsa.

Slice, and season lightly with salt and pepper:

1 tomato

Cook in a very hot pan, with just enough olive oil to prevent sticking, until both sides of the tomato slices are charred.

This will be smoky, so be prepared for a smoke alarm or two to go off!

Remove the tomato slices from the pan and place them onto a cutting board.

Remove the skin, it will just peel off.

Roughly chop the tomato.


the chopped charred tomato
1/2 avocado, diced
lime juice, avocado oil, salt and pepper to taste

Serve the shredded chicken in a bowl, topped with a generous portion of the salsa, and a dollop of sour cream or plain Greek yoghurt. I also served warm tortillas on the side, but you can serve rice or cornbread. A sprinkling of cheese on top is optional.

  • You can buy a Mexican seasoning blend, or make your own. 
  • My chicken thighs were boneless, skinless. You could use pork shoulder or butt to make this recipe; it will take longer to cook, and should be covered while it is braising so that the liquid does not all evaporate. Consider cutting the meat into smaller chunks, to increase the surface that is rubbed with the spices, and so to increase the flavour, as well as shorten the cooking time.
  • I used olive oil to cook the chicken and onions, but if you have avocado oil, use that.
  • I had a can of whole tomatoes, but I used a hand blender to puree it as that was the consistency  I wanted. Pissatta can also be used.
  • If you want to turn this into a soup then increase the amount of chicken stock.
  • Any beans can be or white kidney, black or whatever you have on hand.
  • Corn can be added. If you have grilled corn on the cob, consider adding that to the chicken or the salsa.
  • The pan that the tomatoes are charred in needs to be smoking hot in order to achieve the charring. It will be smoky, and the liquid from the tomatoes will spit at you, but the flavour is worth it. The sweetness of the tomato is intensified, and the charred flavour adds another element to the salsa.
  • Another option for the tomatoes is to place them on a baking sheet in a 400F  oven, and bake until they char. You can also place them cut side down under a broiler until the skin chars.
  • Consider adding some chopped cilantro to your salsa.
  • The chicken can be frozen once it is cooked.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Red Snapper with Sundried Tomato Aioli and Prosciutto Crisps

After a few days away, I was determined to use the remaining vegetables in the fridge before buying anymore. I did, however, buy some fresh red snapper to serve with the vegetables.

I had half a red pepper, a small piece of zucchini, half an onion, some fresh basil and spinach, which I added to some cooked orzo to make a base for the fish. The asparagus was steamed, and I used some of the sundried tomatoes and a clove of garlic to make an aioli, which was a change from the usual tartar sauce that everyone always wants!

There was also one slice of prosciutto left from something else, and I was at a bit of a loss with this one (other than just eating it, which did cross my mind a few times). I decided at the last minute to cut it into think strips and crisp it in a hot pan...yummy! Definitely doing this again.

The fish was tender and moist, and the prosciutto and asparagus added a lovely crunch. The spinach, basil, Parmesan and cooked vegetables added all the flavour needed for the orzo, and I have enough for dinner tomorrow night!

Start things off by cooking some orzo in a pot of lightly salted, boiling water. Heat the oven to 400F for the fish.

Cook the vegetables for the orzo. I used some of the sundried tomato oil, and seasoned with salt and pepper:

1/2 red pepper, cut into small dice
1/2 onion, diced
2" piece of zucchini, cut into small dice

Cook until the vegetables have softened. Turn off the heat until the orzo is ready.

Shred 2 good handful of fresh spinach, and finely chop 2 tablespoons of fresh basil. Grate 1/2 cup of Parmesan. Set these all aside.

To make the aioli, combine:

1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes in oil, drained and finely chopped
salt and pepper

Stir in:

2/3 cup mayonnaise

Taste and adjust seasoning by adding salt, pepper, lemon juice and/or hot sauce.

Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Season the fish by rubbing it on both sides with some sundried tomato oil, and sprinkling with salt and pepper.

At this point my orzo was cooked, so I drained it and returned it to the pot.

Stir in:

the cooked vegetables
the minced basil
the Parmesan

Taste and season with salt and pepper, adding a drizzle of olive oil just to stop the orzo from sticking together.

Stir in the shredded spinach. The heat from the pasta and vegetables will wilt it. Set aside.

Sear the seasoned fish in a hot pan, adding a bit of olive oil just to make sure it doesn't stick.

Turn it over and place into the hot oven to finish cooking.

While the fish is in the oven steam the asparagus, and cut the prosciutto into thin strips.

Add the prosciutto to a very hot pan, and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring to prevent sticking and burning.

There is enough fat in the meat that no oil is needed.

Cook until the strips have turned crispy. Turn off the heat.

To serve, place some orzo on the plate, top it with the asparagus, then the cooked fish. Sprinkle the prosciutto over the plate, and add a dollop of aioli, passing extra at the table for those who want more.

  • I used red snapper, as it is one of our all time favourite fish. Any fish can be used, as long as the fillet is not too stay away from sole, or anything that is cut a similar thickness. Consider cod, halibut, tilapia, salmon.
  • The aioli is really just a flavoured mayonnaise, but it's a lot less hassle than making an aioli from scratch. Aioli is really just a garlic mayonnaise, so take the easy way out....the sundried tomatoes added a ton of flavour and a bit of texture. It had the right balance of spiciness and heat, as well as the acidity from the bit of lemon juice that was added, to add richness to the meal without seeming too much.
  • Rubbing the sundried tomato oil onto the fish is an optional step. I did it to add a bit of the flavour from the tomatoes and herbs in the oil. You can just salt and pepper the fish before cooking it; try rubbing the fish with finely chopped herbs and lemon zest and/or garlic instead of the oil.
  • The prosciutto is optional; it was more of a garnish than anything, but it was delicious, and well worth doing. However, I don't think I would go as far as heading to the store to buy some just for this! 
  • I served the orzo at room temperature, it can also be served cold as a salad. Add a bit of Balsamic vinegar and some more oil. Top it with sliced grilled chicken and you have a nice lunch.
  • I had some aioli left and used it on BLTs for lunch today. It can be used in wraps as well.
  • The aioli can also be used as a dip for grilled prawns or scallops.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Chicken Tenders with Crispy Cabbage and Coconut Rice

I have been very busy helping both children move to their new apartments, and haven't really had much time to experiment in the kitchen, but the collection of things I found in the fridge last night inspired this meal.

The leftover dressing from the Asian slaw (see the post Mango and Tamarind Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Asian Slaw), half a Napa cabbage and a carrot, some chicken tenders, coconut milk, a piece of lemongrass and a few roasted cashews were what I had to work with.

I used the dressing as a marinade, and finely shredded the cabbage and carrots for a stir fry. The coconut milk and lemongrass were used to make rice, and cashews finished it all off. The rice was rich, creamy and citrusy and the cashews added a lovely crunch to the dish. All of the flavours from the dressing infused the chicken, and the cabbage and carrots were cooked until crispy...yum!

If you do not have any leftover dressing, make up a batch. It keeps for about a week in the fridge; I had about half of the recipe left from a previous meal, and that became my marinade.


9 chicken tenders
Half a recipe of Asian slaw dressing

Leave the chicken to marinade for about half an hour, or while you prepare everything else.

To cook the rice, combine:

1 1/2 cups rinsed basmati rice
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
1 1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2" piece of lemongrass, split
2 kaffir lime leaves

Bring to a full boil, turn the heat down to simmer. Cover and cook until the rice is tender and all of the liquid has been absorbed. Turn off the heat and keep the rice covered.


1 cup frozen peas, defrosted

Cover and leave to keep warm.

In a hot wok, with a drizzle of oil, cook:

1/2 Napa cabbage, shredded
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated

Cook until starting to soften, stirring often.


the chicken tenders, without the marinade

Continue to cook over a high heat until the chicken is fully cooked, and the cabbage and carrot become crispy on the outside.

To serve, place some rice and peas in a bowl, and top with chicken, crispy cabbage and carrots and garnish with toasted cashews. I served sweet chili sauce on the side for those who wanted.

  • Purchased Asian dressing can be used; you will need about 1/4 cup. The Asian slaw dressing has rice wine vinegar, peanut butter, soy sauce, garlic, ginger and honey in it. 
  • Do not leave the chicken in the marinade for too long, as it will break down too much. The tenders do not need to marinate for tenderness, but just to add flavour. Thirty minutes to an hour is good.
  • You can use whole chicken breasts of you like, and grill or bake them, and then add them, thinly sliced to the dish.
  • The chicken can also be used in a stir fry, or in a wrap (lettuce, rice paper or tortilla).
  • Add any appropriate vegetables if you have them, to make this more of a stir peppers, bok choy, bean sprouts, green onion. I used what I had. You can also add more garlic and ginger if you wish to.
  • By allowing the cabbage and  carrots to crisp up the sweetness was slightly increased by the caramelization, but it also added texture and nuttiness.
  • The rice can be made with only water, or a combination of water and chicken stock, or chicken stock and coconut milk.
  • This would be nice served with peanut sauce.