Archive for April 8th, 2008

Day 99: (Vanilla-infused) Bison Chili and Chocolate Chunk Quinoa Cookies

It wasn’t intentional, the vanilla part.

My family is in a state of stress and upheaval this week; one sister sick and mothering 2 toddlers while her husband writes his medical exams today, my other sister always busy as a single mum of 3 and full time teacher with extra heaped on her plate right now, and my parents have decided to move, which requires a mass exodus of the contents of their house as well as assorted repairs in preparation to list it.

I decided that everyones’ lives could be made easier by the arrival of dinner on their doorstep, and I needed to spend some time with W. I pulled some ground bison out of the freezer and we made a big pot of chili.

As you have likely witnessed, Willem loves to cook. He pulls up his stool and helps me chop, and leans in to stir the pot. This time, while I was at the sink ridding my hands of their garlic smell (rub your fingers over the bowl of a stainless steel spoon while running it under cool water), W pulled a 1L jug of vanilla (yes, I sometimes use the artificial stuff; I do a lot of experimenting and need to ration my Madagascar vanilla bean paste and the fancy bottles my friends bring back from Mexico. Also, sometimes it just doesn’t matter that much) out of the cupboard and upended the whole thing into the pot. A full jug of vanilla.

Fortunately, we were still at the browning the onions and bison stage, so I dumped the lot into a colander, rinsed it, and put it back on the stove to finish cooking. My damage control seems to have worked, save for a lingering hint of vanilla on the finish.

Chili is easy; I never measure the stuff that goes in. First, brown a pound or so of ground bison (far leaner than beef, with more protein and half the fat) and a chopped onion in a drizzle of canola oil until the bison is no longer pink and the onion is soft. Throw in a few crushed cloves of garlic for a minute.

Dump in a large can of diced, stewed or plum tomatoes, a drained can of kidney beans, a can of brown beans in tomato sauce, a tin of tomato paste, a few glugs of salsa, a couple heaping spoonfuls of chili powder and one of cumin. Salt and pepper, maybe a small spoonful of cocoa or pinch of instant coffee, to add color and depth. I think that was it. Simmer for a couple hours; it’s always better the next day.

The quinoa cookies were a test for an article on camping food I’ve been working on for Alberta Food for Thought magazine, and they turned out quite wonderfully, actually. I have a few gluten-free friends who might be thrilled with them. Quinoa flour (available in bulk at Community Natural Foods) is grittier than wheat, rice or oat flours, but bakes up into a nicely crunchy cookie that is higher in protein than other grainy cookies. Expect them, obviously, to taste like quinoa.

Chocolate Chunk Quinoa Cookies

1/3 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups quinoa flour
1 cup oats
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2-1 cup chocolate chunks or chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1/4 cup dried cranberries or chopped dried apricots

Preheat oven to 325°F.

In a large bowl, beat the butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla and until smooth. In a medium bowl, stir together the quinoa flour, oats, baking soda and salt. Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture and stir by hand until almost combined; add the chocolate, nuts and dried fruit and stir just until blended.

Roll the mixture into balls a bit larger than a walnut, and place on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with nonstick spray. Flatten each a little with your hand. Bake for 14-16 minutes, until barely golden around the edges, and set. Let cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheet before carefully transferring to a wire rack to cool – they tend to be crumbly while still warm, but firm up as they cool.

Makes about 1 1/2 dozen cookies.

Per cookie: 190 calories, 6.5 g fat (3.4 g saturated fat, 1.7 g monounsaturated fat, 0.5 g polyunsaturated fat), 29.8 g carbohydrates, 21.6 mg cholesterol, 3.3 g protein, 2.4 g fiber. 31% calories from fat

April 08 2008 | cookies & squares and grains | 8 Comments »

Day 98: Hoisin Pork Lettuce Wraps, Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls with Peanut Sauce, Thai Coconut Soup with Lemongrass and Chicken/Shrimp, Pork Potstickers, Teriyaki Beef Satay, Curried Peanut Orange Shrimp and Green Tea Crème Brulée


Well. I must say, I just had an extraordinarily long day that culminated with a 5 hour class and drive home from Red Deer, and I was feeling a little like I had to get my homework done before getting to crawl into bed, but seeing all these fantastic posts has revived me. Somewhat.

Tonight my excellent friend Nik and I drove to Red Deer to teach a private Asian cooking / tea class / dinner at The Cooking Room. I made hoisin pork lettuce wraps, Vietnamese rice paper rolls with peanut sauce, Thai coconut soup with lemongrass and chicken/shrimp (two varieties), pork potstickers, chicken fried rice, teriyaki beef satay, curried peanut orange shrimp, and green tea crème brulée.

Yikes, that really was as much as it felt like.

Thai Coconut Noodle Soup with Chicken or Seafood

This ingredient list may seem exotic, but everything can be easily located in most grocery stores. If there’s something you can’t find, a trip to an Asian market is always worthwhile. This recipe easily halves or doubles, or you can make the whole batch of stock, freeze half, and add chicken or seafood to the rest for dinner.

1 stalk fresh lemongrass
4 cups (1 L) chicken or vegetable broth
1 14 oz. (398 mL) can light or regular coconut milk
1/4 cup fish sauce (nam pla)
1 cup thinly sliced mushrooms
2 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. – 1 Tbsp. curry paste or curry powder
2-3 tsp. red chili paste, chili-garlic sauce or 1 small Serrano or jalapeño chili, minced
thin or wide rice noodles – enough as you’d like for each person
1-2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into small strips, and/or 1/2-1 lb. (250-500 g) raw shrimp, peeled and deveined, or raw scallops
1/4 cup lime juice
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh basil or cilantro, thinly sliced

Remove the tough outer leaves from the lemongrass and cut the stalk into two or three pieces. In a large saucepan set over medium heat, combine the lemongrass, chicken broth, coconut milk, 1/2 cup water, fish sauce, mushrooms, ginger, sugar, curry powder and chili paste. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, soak the rice noodles according to package directions.

Add the chicken or seafood and simmer for 3-5 minutes, until cooked through. Fish out the chunks of lemongrass, which aren’t meant to be eaten. Stir in the lime juice, green onions and basil or cilantro. Put a small pile of noodles into each bowl. Ladle the soup over top. Serve immediately.

Serves 6.

Curried Peanut Shrimp

Throw the shrimp and marinade into a baggie in the morning and you’ll have dinner almost ready when you come home from work. Sometimes I simmer the whole lot, sauce and all, in a large sauté pan and serve it over rice to catch the sauce.

1/4 cup orange marmalade
1/2 cup orange juice
2 Tbsp. peanut butter
1 tsp. curry paste (or to taste)
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp. chili sauce or sambal olek
pinch salt
pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined, with the tails left on

Combine everything but the shrimp in a bowl or jar and whisk or shake until smooth. Pour over the shrimp in a container or zip lock bag and marinate in the fridge for an hour or overnight.

Now you can proceed one of two ways: pull out the shrimp and cook them quickly in a skillet, just until cooked through, and simmer the reserved marinade in a small saucepan for a few minutes to serve alongside the shrimp for dipping. Or pour the whole lot into a larger skillet set over medium-high heat and cook until bubbly around the edges and the shrimp turn pink; serve over rice.

Serves 4.

Per serving: 159 calories, 5 g total fat (0.8 g saturated fat, 1.8 g monounsaturated fat, 1.8 g polyunsaturated fat), 13.2 g protein, 16.5 g carbohydrate, 86.2 mg cholesterol, 0.4 g fiber. 27% calories from fat.


1 cup finely shredded bok choy or napa cabbage (optional)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 lb. lean ground pork
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. sesame oil

1 pkg. wonton wrappers
canola oil
chicken or veggie stock, or water

If you’re using it, toss the cabbage with salt in a medium bowl and let stand for 5 minutes. Pick it up in your hand and squeeze out the excess liquid, draining it as well as you can. Add the pork, green onions, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sugar and sesame oil and mix it all up with your hands.

To fill wontons, place a small spoonful of filling in the middle of each wrapper; moisten the edges with water (just use your finger) and fold over, pressing the edge tightly to seal. Place seam side up on a cookie sheet, pressing lightly to flatten the bottom. Cover with a tea towel to prevent them from drying out. (Dumplings can be prepared up to this point, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 24 hours or frozen.)

When you’re ready to cook the potstickers, heat a drizzle of canola oil in a largeish skillet set over medium-high heat. Place half the dumplings at a time in the skillet and cook for a minute or two, until deep golden brown on the bottom, shaking the pan a few times to keep them from sticking. Don’t crowd the pan too much.

Pour about 1/4 cup stock or water into the pan. Cover, reduce heat to medium and cook for about 5 minutes – this will allow them to steam, cooking them through.

Makes 2 – 3 dozen potstickers.

Each: 45 calories, 1 g total fat (0.2 g saturated fat, 0.4 g monounsaturated fat, 0.3 g polyunsaturated fat), 3 g protein, 5.9 g carbohydrate, 5.2 mg cholesterol, 0.4 g fiber. 20% calories from fat.

Green Tea Crème Brulée

6 large egg yolks
6 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. matcha powdered green tea
2 cups heavy (whipping) cream or 18% coffee cream
½ tsp. good-quality vanilla
sugar, for sprinkling on top

In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Dissolve the tea in a little bit of water or cream to get rid of any lumps; whisk the cream, tea and vanilla into the egg yolks and sugar.

Divide among 6 small ramekins, and put them into a roasting pan or 9?x13? pan; pour water in so that the water comes about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. This will sort of insulate them so that they cook gently and evenly. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the custards are set but still just slightly jiggly in the middle (you’ll get a feel for this!). Take them out, let them cool and then refrigerate for a few hours or overnight, until nice and cold.

Sprinkle an even layer of sugar over each dish and caramelize with a torch or transfer to a cookie sheet and place under the broiler in the oven for about 2 minutes, just until the sugar is caramelized and golden. Turn the sheet around if you need to to help them caremelize evenly. Refrigerate again, or just let them sit on the countertop while you eat dinner, just until the sugar is set like glass.

Serves 6.


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April 08 2008 | appetizers and soup | 5 Comments »