Grecian Eggplant Dip

Nope, not babaganoush, sorry! This stuff is even better though. I was at a dinner party last night and the poor hostess had to pull out some extras for me to snack on because I’m so picky, and this Grecian eggplant dip is what she settled on. It came in a can and she said she got it from Trader Joe’s, and once I took my first bite I was crushed. Why? Because it was so bloody good! Do we have a Trader Joe’s in Grenada? Not quite. So, I did what I usually do when something is store-bought and want to make it myself, looked at the ingredients and then decided I’d recreate it.

I actually ended up liking my version a lot more! It’s not as sweet as the store-bought one, and I added extra onion flavour (I can NEVER have enough onion. Ever), and, on advice of my dad, made it super spicy! The spice takes it from yummy to insanely good! I’m super excited because it’s healthy, easy and cheap to make! To my dear cousin, Meghan, if you’re reading this, you have to try this recipe! So easy and you will LOVE it. And it makes a pretty big batch of dip!

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I know I said it makes a big batch, and I wasn’t lying! This tiny ramekin is for photography purposes only 😛

Ingredients
3 small eggplants (or one large one)
1 large onion
1 tbsp oil (any kind, but I recommend extra virgin olive oil for the flavour)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes, 28oz
1 cup of your favourite broth (optional, if not using replace with 1 cup of water)
1-2 tsp onion powder (optional)
1-3 tsp Sriracha, or whatever hot sauce you like (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Begin by slicing your eggplants–lengthwise or crosswise, up to you–into 1/2 inch slices. Lay them out on a cutting board, large plate, or paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Set aside for 20-30 minutes.*

Next, chop your onion. I like long stringy slices, but feel free to dice it up if you don’t! Place in a large pot with the olive oil on medium heat and saute until soft, or until caramelized if you have the patience! I like the flavour that the caramelization lends to the dish.

Now, go ahead and add your tomatoes, and your broth, onion powder, and Sriracha if you’re using them, then stir to combine. I like the flavour punch they add, but don’t put them in if you don’t want to.

Rinse your eggplant and toss it into the pot, stirring to coat. Cover and bring to a boil, then remove the lid once the eggplant is softened and turn the heat down to low and let it simmer for a good while until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add salt and pepper to taste. This might have taken about a half hour, but I forgot to time it. Whoops!

Serve the dip however you want, but I like it super cold from the fridge. The flavours have a chance to really work their magic together, and it’s super refreshing in this crazy, Caribbean summer heat!

*Salting your eggplant is an optional step that I don’t always do, but eggplant can sometimes turn out a bit bitter and this makes sure this doesn’t happen.

–Happy Cooking!

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5 Minute, Virtually Mess Free, 4 Ingredient Caramel Corn.

Sorry. But not really. Because I just accidentally-on-purpose ruined my life and I’m totally taking you down with me. If you’re confused, look at the title. I know that sounds magical, but it really isn’t, because it means that I will now be making, and eating, WAY TOO MUCH caramel corn. And you should too 🙂

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LOOK HOW GOOD THAT LOOKS. SO GOOD.

This isn’t really a recipe, I just threw a few ingredients together and it somehow turned out well, but it is just so freaking good that I had to share!

Ingredients
1 bag of your favourite microwave popcorn
about 2 tbsp butter or margarine
about 2 tbsp molasses
about 1/4 cup sugar

That’s it.

Pop your popcorn according to the directions on the bag. Meanwhile, combine caramel ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl. Remove popcorn from the microwave and set aside while you make the caramel. Microwave the caramel ingredients for 30 second intervals, stirring after each one, until it thickens and has the texture of honey or thick syrup. Or, y’know, caramel sauce. This took me maybe 5 or 6 goes, but see what your microwave does. Now, you can either transfer your popcorn to a big bowl and pour the caramel on top, then toss or stir until fully coated, OR, you can do it right in the bag. Guess which one I chose…

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Bag, obviously. Virtually mess free, remember? One spoon, one bowl!

Now go make this and discover the true wonder of 5 minute caramel corn. It’s bloody amazing!

–Happy Cooking!

The 10 Most Important Kitchen Tools

I had to write for an English course, so I thought, why not throw this up here? And I’ll say again, so sorry for being the laziest with posts, but I’ve been really busy getting my catering business off the ground and with school, bear with me 🙂

10. Masterclass Biscuit and Icing Set

If you do a lot of icing, this is something  you should definitely pick up. I absolutely love my Masterclass Biscuit and Icing Set because it allows for a lot of control with detail work and the fact that it’s also a cookie press is a huge bonus because cookies are really popular with my customers. To be able to press out hundreds of cookies with the use of one machine is a massive time and sanity saver! I no longer have to bother rolling the rough out and cutting each one each individually. If you can’t afford one or just don’t want one, you can use a normal piping bag or  grab a plastic baggie, cut a corner off and voila! You’re ready to pipe.

http://www.kitchencraft.co.uk/brands/master_class/kitchen_accessories/biscuit_and_icing_set_mcicingpro.htm

9. Silpat Non-stick Baking Mat

This kitchen tool will save you all the headaches that come with soaking and scrubbing your baking sheets. Although Silpat’s  are a bit pricey, in the long run, you actually end up saving money on parchment paper (the best substitute for lining pans without a Silpat). These baking mats are a really great investment! They’re made out of sturdy fiberglass and silicone, which helps to make sure your food bakes evenly. I’ve used this baking mat for anything from bread and cookies, to chicken parmesan. It is absolutely wonderful!

http://silpat.com/index.html

8. Silicone Spatulas

Most people own rubber spatulas, which are used to scrape bowls and smooth icing, but silicone ones are definitely more useful. For one, they won’t melt when you use them to scrape pots with hot liquids. You never have to worry about melting your spatula again when making soup, pâte à choux (puff pastry dough), or boiling sugar syrup for candies. You don’t want to be eating rubber, or in my case, for your customers to be doing so, so I really recommend them. My favourite spatulas are these rainbow coloured ones by Nordic Ware. And by the way, you should have multiple spatulas in your kitchen.

http://www.amazon.com/Nordic-Ware-4-Piece-Silicone-Assorted/dp/B005WUYNX8/ref=sr_1_sc_1?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1414594291&sr=1-1-spell&keywords=multi+coloured+spatula+set+with+wooden+handles

7. Stand Mixer

Any stand mixer is great, but I really love my Kitchenaid. You could use an old school hand mixer if you really wanted to, but if you value your time, a stand mixer is the way to go. They can be used to knead dough (something I prefer to by hand, but the feature is there and works well), cream mixtures, make extremely fluffy cakes, whip cream and meringues and, my favourite reason for owning one, whipping marshmallows. If you’ve ever made these fluffy, sweet treats at home, and I suggest you do, you’ll know that if you had a hand mixer you’d have to stand there whipping a seriously stiff and tough mixture for at least 20 minutes. With a stand mixer, you can put your ingredients in and set a timer for 10 minutes and go about your business while it does all the work for you! Also, most stand mixers come with a balloon whisk attachment which aerates recipes better than the double whisks on hand mixers.

http://www.kitchenaid.com/shop/countertop-appliances-1/countertop-appliances-2/stand-mixers-3/-[KSM150PSES]-400120/KSM150PSES/

6. Immersion Blender

This might actually be my number one kitchen tool, but in the interest of keeping this viewer friendly, I chose to put it in a more reasonable place. I make soups a ridiculous amount of times a week, so my little immersion blender saves my life. There was this one time–in the prehistoric days before I got my immersion blender–when I was blending soup and the steam from the soup in the blender made the top fly off and I literally had burns (minor ones, don’t worry) over most of my body. If you want to avoid that situation, I recommend you buy an immersion blender, and you don’t have to get a crazily pricey one either! This is the one I use, and it barely put a dent in my wallet:

http://www.canadiantire.ca/en/pdp/betty-crocker-hand-blender-2-speed-0431956p.html#.VFL-7PnF-So

5. A Good Knife Set

I love cooking alone so these are great for keeping people out of your kitchen! (I’m joking guys, please keep your knives pointed towards your food, and your food alone! Hehe.) In all seriousness though, good knives are essential in any kitchen, no matter what kind of food you make. They aren’t just good for chopping vegetables and slicing meat after all. I use them while baking all the time! Portioning off bits of dough, cutting shapes in cookies or pie crusts, crushing nuts for quick breads–you name it, you can probably find a way to use a knife for it. Also, dull knives (now this sounds weird, I know) cause cuts way more than sharp ones do because they may slip off of food instead of cutting through it. So, even though they can be rather pricey, you should spend the money and save your appendages.

http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/kyocera-revolution-4-piece-knife-block-set/?pkey=cknife-sets%7C4294966760&group=1&sku=3454758&cm_src=knife-sets||FN-Blade%20Material-_-FN-Ceramic-_–_-

4. A Good, Heavy Sheet Pan

My favourite pan is my half sheet pan, which is the size of Silpat I have too, by the way. A whole sheet pan is typically only found in professional kitchens and is HUGE, and anything below a half-sheet is a bit too small. You should definitely get one with sides, even just shallow ones, because it allows you to cook with sauces and to make brownies or sheet cakes in them. Also, ridges on the actual surface of the pan, while not strictly necessary, are a good thing to look for too because food crisps up better when introduced to air on all sides. Why should it be a heavy sheet pan, you ask? Thin, flimsy ones distort their shapes very easily and don’t distribute heat well, causing uneven baking and burnt or undercooked food. Here’s an inexpensive one in several different sizes:

http://www.chefscatalog.com/product/25464-usa-pans-jelly-roll-pan.aspx

3. Two Sets of Measuring Cups

You could get by with just one set, but having two of these babies is another sanity saver! One of the most irritating things (to me, anyway) is making a recipe and having to stop what you’re doing several times to wash your only half cup measure. Having at least two of everything saves time and makes your life easier, even if you just keep one for dry ingredients and one for wet ingredients. I love the collapsible ones because they save space in your drawers:

http://www.amazon.ca/Progressive-International-CMC-5-Collapsible-Measuring/dp/B00BAZQRBU/ref=sr_1_4/178-8781314-3658157?ie=UTF8&qid=1415024744&sr=8-4&keywords=collapsible+measuring+cups

2. A Large Pot

A necessary staple piece, especially in my kitchen where soups are a favourite because of their quickness and cheapness. I recommend a dutch oven (although a standard soup pot is fine), because they’re wider and shallower, therefore distribute heat more evenly. They’re also thicker so there is less of a chance of your food burning. Don’t let their prices deter you if you go hunting for them though! Some can cost up to $400, but there are many that are more affordable and just as effective, like this one:

http://www.amazon.ca/Lodge-EC3D33-Color-3-Quart-Caribbean/dp/B000N4YCVQ/ref=sr_1_22?s=kitchen-substore&ie=UTF8&qid=1415025536&sr=1-22

1. A Well Stocked Spice Rack

I know this isn’t a tool, but if you don’t have ingredients, you can’t cook anyway. Spices are my most necessary ingredient because I love very flavourful food. I’m a huge fan of Indian cuisine, so I have a large array or masalas, curry powders and pastes, lots of cumin, and plenty of cinnamon on hand at all times. Don’t forget your liquid spices like soy sauce and various types of vinegars too, for my second favourite, Thai food! There are lots of styles of racks to choose from as well, so make sure you find one which suits your kitchen. For example, mine are standing shelves that pull out from my cupboards, which is the best way to organize them in my opinion. However, if you want one standing on your counter, or attached to your wall, go right ahead!

http://www.amazon.com/McCormick-Gourmet-Spice-Three-24-Count/dp/B004165MWA/ref=sr_1_1?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1414725776&sr=1-1&keywords=spices

–Happy Cooking!

Speedy Pizza for Two

My dad has been craving pizza for a while and I thought I’d give him a treat tonight and make him some. One problem: it was already supper time when I decided this. Pizza dough I’ve made in the past has a rising time, and I didn’t feel like making the poor man wait while that happened, so I did a quick search–All Recipes, I love you–and found a no-rise recipe, ready for adaptation! I didn’t change much, just swapped in some whole wheat and added a bit of spice so it wasn’t so plain, and it officially has my dad’s seal of approval!

Now, keep in mind that it won’t be this magical perfect crust. It was made for speed and ease, and you sacrifice a little, but not too much! If you’re making it, I recommend rolling it pretty thinly because a thick crust with no rise may not be as pleasant. This crust is crisp and quite flavourful all by itself (I stole a piece of the crust from my dad, trust me, I know :P), and holds up well under toppings. I made half of the recipe called for on All Recipes, which is what makes it for two. I spread it with a thin layer of spaghetti sauce, some mozzarella, salami, and green olives, and all pizza needs in this house were met!

pizza

Ingredients
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup (plus extra for rolling) wholewheat flour
1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (half a 0.25 oz packet)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp sugar (1 1/2 tsp)
1 tbsp oregano (more or less to taste, or none at all)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup warm water (110 F)

Preheat your oven to 375 F.

Mix all dry ingredients (flour through oregano) in a medium to large mixing bowl, then stir in oil and water.

Roll out to desired thickness on a well floured surface (remember, I recommend thin! About 1/4 inch should do), and then place it on a pan or baking tile with flour lightly sprinkled on the surface. Put whatever toppings you’d like on it, then bake until crisp at the edges, 20-25 minutes.

–Happy cooking!

Grilled Romaine Salad

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, guys! I’ve been a bit busy starting to do a little catering business, so the blog kind of got put on the back burner (do I get points for this awesome pun?). Anyway, let’s get to this recipe inspired by this

  • http://www.inspiralized.com/2014/08/13/grilled-romaine-with-caramelized-onion-noodles-blue-cheese-and-greek-yogurt-balsamic-dressing/
  • post on Inspiralized!

    It’s a very simple salad which can be a great side or even a main meal, but it’s such a different idea from the typical big bowl of veggies which pops into mind when I first hear the word salad. It’s different, and has the most fantastic flavours and textures, and if you’re looking to impress people with it, you’ve picked the right recipe.

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    Ingredients:
    1 Romaine lettuce head, rinsed, ends chopped off and cut in half lengthwise
    2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    salt and pepper, to taste
    1 onion, cut into thin strips
    1/4 tsp garlic powder
    1/2 cup feta or shredded parmesean (optional)

    For the dressing (might make extra, depending on how much you like)
    1/4 cup lowfat plain yoghurt
    3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
    2 tsp Dijon mustard
    1 tbsp honey
    salt and pepper, to taste

    To start, heat a sauté pan with 1 tbsp olive oil over medium high heat and sauté onion, with garlic powder and a dash of pepper, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

    Next, preheat your grill to medium heat and brush the insides of the lettuce halves with remaining tbsp of olive oil. Generously sprinkle on black pepper and add a dash of salt. Once your grill is preheated, place the lettuce on it, cut side down, and let cook for about 4-5 minutes, keeping a close eye on it to make sure it doesn’t burn. It’ll get a few blackened pieces, but they’re crispy and delicious and nothing to worry about.

    Remove from grill and place the lettuce halves on two plates, cut side up, possibly with some kind of meat or pasta if this salad is a side, and spread desired amount of caramelized onions over the surface. Sprinkle on cheese (if you eat cheese) and drizzle on dressing. Enjoy a super interesting and fancy feeling salad that makes you definitely want to eat your greens.

    –Happy Cooking!

    Super Healthy Mixed Veggie Quiche

    Quiche isn’t particularly unhealthy as it’s usually made, but it’s one of my favourite foods and I eat it often, so I figured it might be a good idea to find a healthy quiche option. This recipe is crustless, cheese-free, and super easy to make. It’s exceptionally awesome because, as with most quiches, you can make it ahead of time and reheat it in the oven for 10-15 minutes the next day. I personally like it cold, but whatever floats your boat.

    I made it for a brunch spread which included overnight french toast and cinnamon buns made the night before and reheated along with the quiche because the guests I had over, and myself, were participating in a part of Grenadian Carnival, called J’ouvert (which is the start of the carnival weekend, hence “open” in French). You’re up at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning (or 11:00 the night before if you’re hardcore) and dancing until about 10:30-11:00 am, so having a ton of food ready made when you get home is a truly magical experience!

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    Ingredients
    1. 1 tablespoon olive oil
    2. 1/2 onion, chopped
    3. 1 red bell pepper, diced
    4. 1 green bell pepper, diced
    5. 6 eggs
    6. 1/2 cup vegetable stock
    7. 3 tablespoons flour
    8. 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    9. 1/2 teaspoon salt
    10. 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
    11. 1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder (more or less to taste)
    12. 1 teaspoon black pepper (more or less to taste)
    13. 3 handfuls fresh baby spinach

    Begin by chopping your veggies, preheating your oven to 350 F and generously coating the bottom and sides of a pie pan.

    Heat your oil in a large pan, and saute for about five minutes until the onion is translucent, and then remove from the heat and set aside.

    Next, grab a bowl and whisk together the ingredients from eggs, through black pepper, then add in your spinach and sauteed veggies. Stir to combine.

    Pour your mixture into your ready-to-go pie pan and then bake it for 40-50 minutes. 45 is probably ideal, but my oven runs bizarrely hot so I did 40. When a toothpick comes out clean, you know it’s done. Remove it from the oven and allow it to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before serving.

    If you wanted, in the last five minutes or so you could sprinkle some grated cheese over the top to let it melt (if you like that kind of thing), but as we already know, cheese is not my cup of tea, and I think this is delicious as is!

    –Happy Cooking!

    Vegan Cream Cheese?

    Much needed question mark. The blog that I found this on RAVED about it so I was super excited and really wanted to test this for my vegan cousin and aunt who, like me, are always searching for a plant based protein option… available in Grenada. I really thought this would be great, and I have to say that I’m not overly impressed. It’s made mostly of firm tofu (which I love the flavour of, even by itself) and a vegan mayonnaise called Vegenaise. I didn’t even bother trying to find that here since I knew there was a 0% chance, so I made vegan mayo instead. The recipe I used was 3/4 cup soy milk, 3/4 cup olive oil, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 2 tsp Dijon mustard, salt and pepper to taste, all blended until it thickens and has a mayonnaise like texture. It gets 10/10 on texture, but it tastes completely of olive oil and that really isn’t a flavour I appreciate. If you like olive oil, you’ll be golden.

    That being said, if I’d used Vegenaise maybe this recipe would have turned out spectacular as described, instead of merely passable.

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    Ingredients:

    1. 1/2 lb firm tofu
    2. 2 heaping tbsp vegan mayo… Hopefully you can get store bought stuff
    3. 1 TSP cumin or paprika (or more to your liking)
    4. Salt & pepper to taste
    5. Chopped onion to taste (I used about 3 tbsp)

    Blend everything but the onions until smooth and then fold them in. If you used my recipe for vegan mayo, and you dislike the taste of olive oil as much as I do, you’ll be needing to masque the taste… sorry to say.  I tried it on a sandwich with some Dijon, onion and tomato slices, and more pepper, and while I could still taste the tofu and feel the creamy texture (which is actually very pleasant), I couldn’t taste so much olive oil. It was actually a spectacular sandwich, which is the surprise of this post! I was really pleased. IMG_20140721_141624

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    *I left this post for a few hours and tried the cream cheese again and it tastes a little better after being in the fridge for a while!

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    I wasn’t exactly full of kind words in this post, so I don’t blame you if you don’t try it, but if you want to be adventurous and are willing to work a little bit for some good protein, go for it!

    Happy Cooking!