Because I’m Happy

Happy Friday Friends! Just came across this wonderful cover of Pharells “happy” song by John Butler Trio.

For those of you who know me – you know that I’m obsessed with this band and have been since I first heard them while laying on a beach on Great Kepple Island in Australia.

I hope you all are enjoying this awesome weather and feeling happy yourselves! Cheers!!

JBT covers “Happy”

Harissa Paste Recipe

Ready to spice up your kitchen? Move over boring salsa and ketchup! This red raven condiment is sure to make your taste buds pop. I usually make a batch and keep it in the fridge, although it never lasts longer than a few weeks.  I add it to my homemade hummus, roasted veggies, chicken, pork, rice dishes and everything in between.

This lovely Tunisan chili paste is so versatile. I came across a recipe about a year ago that called for it, and knowing that it wasn’t at my local grocery store, I knew I wanted to learn how to make it. Each paste will be different, some are made with roasted red peppers (like the one I made last year), some with tomatoes, some with chilies and some with a combo of all three. So you will get something a little different with each one you buy. Today I decided to make one with JUST chilies. We are having friends over for dinner tonight and I am making baked chicken with harissa chickpeas and leeks. I’ll use 1/4c of the harissa in the recipe, which will give it a little bit of a kick, but not blow off your lips hot :).

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Ingredients
4 ounces dried chiles of your choice (see Recipe Notes)
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 to 4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for storing
Optional additions: fresh lemon juice, preserved lemon, fresh or dried mint, fresh cilantro, sun-dried tomatoes, tomato paste, cayenne, paprika

Equipment
Heatproof bowl for soaking chiles
Skillet for toasting spices
Spice grinder, coffee grinder, or mortar and pestle for grinding spices
Food processor or mortar and pestle for mixing paste
Airtight jar for storage

Instructions

  1. Soften the chiles. Place the chiles in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. You can usually de-seed and de-stem the chilies prior to putting them in the bowl. or the stems fall easily off after soaking. If there are seeds left in them, let them fall to the bottom of the bowl and just fish out the soaked chilie. No need to de-seed and de-vein the chilies if you don’t have time.  Let stand for 30 minutes.
  2. Toast the spices. While the chiles are soaking, toast the caraway, coriander, and cumin in a dry skillet over low-medium heat, occasionally shaking or stirring to prevent burning. When the spices are fragrant, remove them from the pan.
  3. Grind the spices. Grind the spices in a mortar and pestle, spice grinder, or coffee grinder. I used my magic bullet and it worked like a charm. My food processor was too big for such a small amount of spices.
  4. Drain the chiles, reserving the liquid for step 6.
  5. Combine the chiles with spices, garlic, and salt. Combine the chiles, ground spices, garlic, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. (You can also use a mortar and pestle or your handy magic bullet.)
  6. Make a paste.

    With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil and process to form a smooth and thick paste. Scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally. If a thinner paste is desired, blend in a little of the chile soaking liquid until the paste has reached your desired texture. I added 1 tbsp of the chile liquid with 1 tbsp of olive oil at a time into my magic bullet. It was a little slow to come together but I just had to keep shaking it around until it mixed.

  7. Taste and adjust seasonings. The flavor of the harissa will deepen over the next day or two, but you can taste it now and add more salt or other optional ingredients to your liking. The raw garlic will really come through when you smell it, and will soften up a bit over the next few days.
  8. Top with olive oil and store. Transfer the harissa to a jar and cover the surface with a thin layer of olive oil. Cover the jar and refrigerate for up to a month, adding a fresh layer of olive oil on the top each time you use the harissa.

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Very Berry Spelt Multi-Grain Muffins

Well after that sugar rush of caramel corn last night (I had a handful then had enough), I am craving muffins today.  Multi-grain berry muffins.  I am not a muffin girl and when I do eat a muffin, it’s never the fruit kind but for some reason today, I want a wholesome soft, fluffy fruit muffin. I’m looking forward to having this in the morning, cracked open, drizzled with yogurt and sprinkled with nuts and chia seeds. Perfect breakfast? I think so!

I enjoy the flavour of spelt flour along with the hard wheat red bran in this recipe. In half the batch I threw in some cacao nibs just ‘cause.  This recipe will be sure to satisfy your whole grain and sweet tooth all at the same time!

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Ingredients:

2 c           spelt flour

½ c          yellow corn meal

½ c          hard wheat red bran

1/3 c      lightly ground flax seeds

¼ c          chopped walnuts

2 tbsp    sesame seeds

1 ½ tsp  baking powder

1 tsp      baking soda

1 tsp      ground cinnamon

½ tsp     pink Himalayan sea salt

Small handful of chocolate chips (optional)

2              large eggs

1 c           orange juice

½ c          organic coconut oil

½-¾ c     agave

1 tsp      vanilla extract

1 ½ c      mixed frozen berries, thawed

1 tbsp    rolled oats

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a medium-sized muffin tin with your favourite cupcake liners.

2. In a large bowl, combine the spelt flour, cornmeal, oat bran, flax seeds, chopped walnuts, sesame seeds, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

3. In a smaller bowl, whisk the eggs lightly. To the eggs, add the orange juice, coconut oil, agave and vanilla, whisking until they are well combined. Pour the wet into the dry and whisk just until blended. Mix in the berries (and the juice they produced when defrosting) and cacao nibs (if using).

4. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins, filling the muffin cups almost to the top. Top each muffin with a sprinkling of the oats. How pretty!

5. Bake for 18 to 25 minutes, or until the muffins are deep golden brown and spring back lightly when pressed gently in the center and a toothpick comes out clean.

Enjoy my friends!

Salted Vanilla Bean Caramel Corn

I make popcorn on a regular basis, it’s one of my favourite snacks, but lately I want sweet caramel corn. Instead of the plain-Jane caramel corn I wanted to mix it up a bit, so I’ve opted to add salt, peanuts and vanilla bean. Sounds like heaven, right? It is.

Oh yeah, this is happening on a Monday night.

I didn’t want to use corn syrup for my sweet treat, so I knew I had to work with brown sugar and butter. Hey – that’s not a bad thing. I did some research and came up with the simplest way to make it. No corn syrup, no baking… just sauce and let cool caramel corn.

Here’s what you do my friends… make yourself some focaccia, then for dessert, make this. Park your ass on the couch and cuddle up. This makes for one helluva meal 🙂 (sorry for the awful pics, the lighting was terrible in my kitchen tonight!)

  • 1 cup organic popcorn
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 c light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 c water
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 2-4 tsp coarse sea salt
  1. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Pop popcorn as per usual then spread it out on the lined baking sheet.

IMG_2986Melt butter in a pan.  Add brown sugar and stir until mixed, then add the water. 

IMG_2987Stir until boiling stage and cook for 5-10 minutes until mixture hits soft-ball stage (put a few drops in a glass of icy water until it can form a soft ball).

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Remove from heat and add vanilla and soda, continue to stir while it goes puffy.
Add peanuts and mix well.

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Drizzle over popcorn and lightly stir.
Salt with coarse sea salt.
Allow to cool (if you can).

Eat.

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Caramel Corn

Worth The Wait Focaccia!

In addition to my bread obsession, I have discovered a love of fresh homemade focaccia.  If you have never tried to make this wonder-bread before, you must try. It is SUPER simple, but takes patience as does any good bread. You can however, make a quick version of it and it will be great but if you’re looking for the moistest, fluffiest and most flavourful focaccia? Well you had better take a nap, find a hobby or play some video games while you wait. The good news is that most of the waiting can be done overnight, so just find something to do for 3 hours or so 🙂

This recipe is not mine, I found it while scouring online and OH MY am I ever glad I tried it and am thrilled to share it on my blog.  It is now filed in my ‘keep’ list because it’s just absolutely perfect. I’ve made it once and will be making it again for an upcoming family gathering. Caution: people WILL swoon.

in the tray

I had some crispy garlic infused oil from some Filipino garlic rice I made recently, and I decided to throw it into the dough mix right at the beginning. Excellent idea! (Pats self on back).  If you have any infused oil that you like, I suggest adding it to the mix. It adds another dimension of flavour you can’t get from just adding fresh/dried herbs to the top of the dough before baking. Don’t add too much, I’m talking a 1tbsp or two at max.

The tray

The rest of the directions in the recipe I followed to a T. I did let it rest from 9pm at night until 11am the next morning before starting to ‘turn’ the dough. It had plenty of time to ferment and create oddles and oodles of delicious pillowy bubbles. Right before baking, I halved some cherry tomatoes and carefully pushed them into the dough. I picked some fresh rosemary, sprinkled it on top along with some chopped kalamata olives and thinly shaved red onion.  I finished it off with a sprinkle of coarse sea salt and popped it in the oven.

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My batch was the perfect size.. I think I was able to get over 30 pieces from the rectangle tray. Only three pieces were left over at the end of the night. It was a HUGE hit, and I know it will be in your home too!  Thank you SO much to Jenny for posting this recipe on her awesome blog, which I recently discovered. You will want to bookmark her page folks, she’s a keeper! 🙂 To find the full recipe, click here.

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Three perfect pieces

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie


I’ve added one more kitchen appliance to the ‘obsession’ list. The infamous “Magic Bullet”! Although I haven’t been going crazy since I’ve had it (just give me another month okay, I’ve only had it for a couple of days lol), I have made two really successful Pumpkin Pie Smoothie variations.

Thanks to my mom for pureeing up the pumpkin and keeping it in the freezer for me for the last couple of months… otherwise I definitely wouldn’t have made this. I am NOT a fan of canned pumpkin. I didn’t have time to buy them this past October, cut them up, boil.. yada yada.. so this recipe wouldn’t be possible without my momma.

This is not an original recipe, as I’m sure you’ve seen many variations of it online and other blogs.  I read one or two then just threw mine together, knowing my tastes.

I have to say that the one made with coconut milk was just perfect and everything I imagined it to be. Thick and creamy and more resembled a pie. The almond milk version is much lighter and not as thick. Still both are fantastic and I would drink either one any day.

Ingredients

– 1/2 c organic pureed pumpkin

– 1 c light coconut milk or unsweetened original almond milk

– 1/2 frozen organic banana

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground clove

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1 squirt of stevia (Oddly, I don’t measure this ingredient)

1 tbsp ground graham cracker crumb

pinch of Himalayan pink sea salt

Throw all ingredients into your handy-dandy Magic Bullet or blender and blend until smooth.  Add two cubes of ice if you want it super cold. Drink and enjoy.

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

This months obsession: Dehydrating!

If you have been reading my blog for a while you probably know that every few months I adopt some sort of new food obsession.  Lately it’s been sprouting and raw food… this month it’s DEHYDRATING!

I’m the type of person who doesn’t spend a lot of money on fancy kitchen appliances. When I want to try something new, I usually look for it used on Craigslist or Kijiji.  I refuse to spend oodles of moolah on some new kitchen ‘essential’, use it for a couple of months then surrender it to the dust bunnies in my basement. Nope. Not gonna do it.

A couple of years ago I wanted to try juicing. I know a good juicer isn’t cheap, so I got it used from a very nice gentleman on Craigslist. I paid $40 bucks for it. Sweet, right? I juiced for a month straight, loved it… then I moved and didn’t have the kitchen counter space for it, so it sat in the pantry. When we moved into our new house it made another appearance and I have been using it off and on for months. Definitely not a waste of $40. I love it and bust it out when I’m alternating between smoothies and juicing. I even keep the pulp from the juice so I can bake with it. See? Not a fad. I like to call it a ‘periodic obsession’. I have many of those.

This is a loaf of zucchini banana bread with carrot, ginger, apple and beet pulp. It was super dense and very yummy. Perfect for breakfast and really awesome toasted.

Banana Zucchini Bread

Yumm, that looks good huh! Hm… haven’t had bread in a while. Could totally go for… Nope. Stop. Not eating wheat.

Anyway. Where was I?

Right.

Enter dehydrator!

Nesco Dehydrator

Okay, so I have desperately wanted a dehydrator for a reeeeaallllyyy long time now.

Like

months.

That’s a long time to obsess over something, right?  I picked this gem up at Home Hardware for $39 on sale.  Shazaa!

I started with apple slices on Sunday. Read in the booklet that you should pre-treat them with something acidic like orange/grapefruit juice and water so they don’t brown. I had a bunch of apples left from the orchard and got to work. I didn’t core the apples for two reasons; 1) I don’t have an apple corer, 2) I think it’s a waste of time. As long as the seeds are removed the little shell around them gets crispy when the apple dehydrates so you don’t notice it anyway. I tossed the pre-soaked apples in cinnamon and put them on the tray.

I didn’t take a picture of the apples. They turned out so good I ate the whole batch. So uh, here’s a picture of the sweet potato chips and kiwi that I did yesterday!

Sweet potato and kiwi

I only seasoned the sweet potato chips with salt and a little garlic powder.  The kiwi was just sliced and put straight up on the tray. Looks groovy, huh?

The kiwi is a huge favourite in my house. It’s a little chewy and tart, with the right amount of sweetness.  I grab a piece every time I walk by the counter. Totally addictive. Perfect snacks to keep in my purse so I don’t go hangry. Those raw power breakfast bars I made don’t last long and the chocolate can melt quickly in the summer, so these are prefect in any weather and won’t make your fingers messy!

The sweet potato chips turned out really bland. Garlic powder is NOT the right spice. I made another batch with another batch of apples yesterday and seasoned the sweet potatoes with chipotle pepper (ground). They were so spicy!  I’ll take it down a notch next time. Also way too salty. I need to find a happy medium with the salt.  I also did zucchini chips with the last of the sweet potato. I used a black peppercorn seasoning and I didn’t realize it had salt already in it, and added more. Oops, ew. They are awful to eat on their own, but I’ll throw them into a salad for a salty crunch so they don’t go to waste, or throw them into a soup and rehydrate them. Huh. Let me think about that one some more.

Definitely need to figure out the salt ratio though. I think I will try paprika or onion powder next time.

On the 2nd batch of apples, triple the amount of cinnamon, FELL onto the apples. Oh well. Who hates cinnamon? Not moi. So I decided instead of rinsing them off, to just let it be. Mental note for next time: use a cinnamon shaker and don’t free-shake.

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We have a ripe pineapple on the counter, so tonight I’m going to dehydrate half of that.  I really like having both fresh and dried fruit in the kitchen. I will most likely bake something in the near future with my dried fruit goodness.

I’m thinking of dehydrating some carrots, celery, potato, onion etc., and making my own vegetarian soup mixes in mason jars to give friends over the holidays.  Sounds like a fun project but I don’t know that I’ll have time to research and get it all together before we leave for holiday.

Ah well… it will be my next obsession I’m sure. I must create and move on to the next!  Here are some pictures of the goodies I’ve obsessed over this week. Enjoy friends!

Oh and here’s a picture of my cat, Art. Just cause he looks freaking cute in the box.

Art

sweet potato - chipotle

zucchini

Ready to go!

Kiwi

apples