Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Chicken, Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tortilla Pinwheels

This meal was a bonus as far as using things up goes! It all started with 2 sweet potatoes that had been around for a while, and some cream cheese in the fridge (only 1 person in the family eats it, so it tends to hang around for a while, until I make something to use it up).

After I came up with the idea of making tortilla pinwheels with the sweet potato and cream cheese, I realised there was about 3/4 cup of Basic Tomato Sauce in the fridge, as well as half an onion, a lime and 4 chicken thighs. Oh yes, and some roasted red pepper.

The sweet potatoes were peeled, diced and cooked in lightly salted boiling water until they were tender. After mashing them, I had about 1 cup of sweet potato to use.

Since only half of us like sweet potatoes, I also made pinwheels without, using the roasted red pepper instead.

Start by making a quick rub for the chicken. Combine:

zest of half a lime
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon of olive oil

Rub this onto the chicken. I used 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs.

Leave the chicken to sit with the rub for 30 minutes. 

Thinly slice:

1/2 onion

Cook, with salt and pepper, in a bit of olive oil until it starts to soften and colour slightly.

Add the chicken thighs, browning one side before turning them to cook on the other side.

Add 1/2 cup of water, cover and simmer until the chicken is tender enough to shred easily. This took about 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the pan, saving the liquid.

Using 2 forks, shred the chicken. Set aside to cool.

In a bowl, combine:

1 cup mashed sweet potato
4 ounces soft cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin


1/2 cup black beans
1/2 cup corn kernels
1/2 cup grated white cheddar
salt and pepper to taste

Stir in half of the cooked and shredded chicken.

The filling is ready.

To make the sauce for the pinwheels, combine:

3/4 cup  Basic Tomato Sauce
The cooking liquid from the chicken

Divide between two ovenproof dishes; I used pie plates.

Divide the filling between four 10" tortillas...

 Spread it evenly over each tortilla.

Roll the tortilla up...

Trim the ends off, so all pieces have straight edges.
Cut the rolled up tortilla into 6 pieces.

Place the pieces into the prepared dish, on top of the sauce, cut side up.

Sprinkle with white cheddar.

Bake at 350F until heated through and crispy on top, with the cheddar melted and bubbly. Allow to rest for 5 minutes, before serving. Pass diced avocado, salsa and sour cream at the table.

With the other half of the chicken I made four more pinwheels, with cream cheese, roasted red pepper, corn, black beans and orange cheddar.

  • I had  just purchased a large pack of boneless, skinless chicken thighs which I then divided into meal sized portions (6 thighs) and froze. These 4 were 'leftover' from that, and worked out perfectly for a recipe like this where large amounts of meat are not needed.
  • If you have chicken stock, use it to cook the chicken...it will add a lot more flavour. Fresh herbs can also be added...parsley, cilantro, oregano.
  • The chicken can be replaced with any leftover cooked meat...chicken, beef, pork, sausage, even chili or pulled pork will work. Finely dice or shred the meat before adding it to the filling.
  • I used frozen corn, but grilled corn on the cob will add a lot of flavour to the pinwheels.
  • Baked beans or refried beans can be used instead of black beans.
  • Chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, finely chopped, will add a smoky spice to the pinwheels.
  • Instead of mashed sweet potato you can use roasted butternut squash or eggplant.
  • Add extra vegetables, diced finely or cooked and mashed. If the pieces are too large it makes rolling the tortilla tricky. Mushrooms, zucchini, chick peas, artichoke hearts, cooked spinach or kale, sundried tomatoes, olives are a few that could be used. 
  • If you are able to buy queso fresco or queso blanco, they can be used instead of cream cheese. Ricotta cheese or cottage cheese can also be used. Soft goat cheese will give your filling a tang, and would be great with butternut squash.
  • The filling can be used to stuff sweet (or hot) peppers. Bake or grill them.
  • The pinwheels can be made ahead and frozen; defrost and bake. Leftovers can be eaten hot or cold for lunch. The filling can be made a day ahead.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Death by Chocolate Cookies

This is the perfect "I need cookies" at the last minute recipe. Which is exactly what happened to me the other night...someone wanted to take cookies with on a last minute kayaking trip!

I remembered this recipe that is very similar to a brownie, and does not call for creaming soft butter, which is good because all of my butter was in the fridge and quite hard! I used up the last few squares of bittersweet chocolate that I had, and had to use chocolate chips for the balance. I also didn't have quite enough white chocolate chips, so I used half white and half dark.

Heat the oven to 350F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a double boiler, melt

8 ounces of finely chopped chocolate, or chocolate chips

Stir the chocolate occasionally, to make sure it melts evenly and doesn't scorch on the bottom.

When the chocolate is almost completely melted, add in:

2 ounces butter, cubed

Stir until the butter has melted. Remove from the heat.

Whisk in:

3/4 cup brown sugar

The chocolate and butter mixture will start to appear grainy, this is normal.

Now whisk in:

2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Add the eggs on at a time, whisking until completely combined in between additions. The graininess of the mixture will disappear once the eggs are added.

Add the dry ingredients:

1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

The batter will start to get stiff; switch to a rubber spatula towards the end.

Last, but not least, stir in:

1 cup chocolate chips

Place spoonfuls of cookie batter onto your prepared trays, spacing them evenly. They do spread slightly.

I used about 2 tablespoons of batter per cookie, with a yield of 22 cookies.

Place the trays in the oven and bake until the cookies are set, but still soft to the touch in the centre, and slightly shiny and cracked on the outside. This took about 12 - 14 minutes.

  Remove from the oven and cool before bringing out the milk, and having a well deserved snack!

  • The total time to make these treats is really as long as it takes for the chocolate to melt and the oven to heat up. Everything else can be measured and ready to go while this is happening...
  • I do prefer to use all bittersweet chocolate; you get the intense chocolate taste with less sugar. However, I will use whatever is available...that said, it's best to stick to dark chocolate as white is more temperamental when it comes to melting.
  • The temperature of the butter is not important, which is what makes this so quick and easy.
  • The cookies really are like little brownies, so as far as additions to the batter, don't stop at just chocolate. Think of your favourite brownie, and go from there. Some suggestions: dried fruit such as tart cherries or cranberries; chocolate chips or chunks or any kind and/or combination; toffee bits; nuts, lightly toasted and roughly chopped; lightly toasted coconut.
  • Vanilla really is my favourite flavour, but others can be used. Some to try, that all work really well with chocolate are: orange zest; ground cinnamon; espresso powder; instant coffee dissolved in a bit of water to make a paste; use 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and 3 tablespoons of butter; finely ground Earl Grey tea; mint extract; chili powder.
  • The cookie batter is best made and baked right away, however the cookies can be frozen once they're baked...if you have any left!
  • Use a scoop of your favourite ice cream and 2 of the cookies to make an ice cream sandwhich. The cookies can be made a bit bigger for this, assembled and kept in the freezer until it's time for dessert.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Lemon Rosemary Chicken with Cucumber - Feta Salad

This dinner was really about using up the last 4 mini cucumbers...I was originally going to make tzatziki, but chose to use them as a salad instead. I did use some of the plain Greek yoghurt to make a lemon-yoghurt sauce though, and when combined with the cucumber salad it was very much like eating tzatziki.

I also made a grape tomato and bocconcini salad (another 2 items used up), with fresh basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and grilled asparagus.

I forgot to marinade the chicken breasts earlier on in the day, so I cut 3 diagonal slits in each one, about half the depth of the breast.

This worked two ways:

It helped the marinade penetrate and it also enabled the chicken to cook a bit quicker.

To make the marinade, combine:

Zest of half a lemon
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

Rub the marinade onto the chicken breasts, making sure to include the inside of the slits.

Leave the chicken to marinade while you prepare everything else. I left mine for about half an hour before grilling it.

To make the cucumber salad, slice 4 mini cucumbers as thinly as possible.

Place them into a bowl and season lightly with salt and pepper.


1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
8 fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Mix well, taste and adjust seasoning.

Crumble feta cheese into the salad, and it is ready to serve.

To make the yoghurt sauce, combine:

Plain Greek yoghurt
lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste
drizzle of olive oil

Mix well, and serve with the cucumber salad and the grilled chicken.

Cook the chicken on a hot, lightly oiled grill, until it is fully cooked.

Allow it to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Serve the chicken with the cold cucumber salad, passing the yoghurt sauce at the table. The brightness of the lemon and rosemary on the chicken was offset nicely by the cool cucumber and the tangy yoghurt.

  • Cutting the slits into the chicken breasts is optional; it did allow the marinade to penetrate quickly as I had forgotten to marinade it earlier on in the day. If you are organized and can get it marinated, then cutting the slits could still serve two purposes if you choose to do it: it allows the meat to cook a bit faster, but it also looks more interesting on the plate, as the slits tend to spread open wider during cooking.
  • Cutting slits into meat is a great way to introduce hits of flavour throughout...cut small slits into a roast and push whole, peeled cloves of garlic into them; cut slits into a pork tenderloin and push fresh herbs into them; cut fish in the same way before grilling, and drizzle with a flavoured oil or insert herb butter before baking.
  • The chicken can be pan fried or baked.
  • Instead of rosemary and lemon, try cilantro and lime; orange and tarragon; lemon and thyme.
  • The cucumber salad is best the day it is made; the excess water in the cucumber starts to leach out and it becomes soggy. Salt speeds this up, so season with care if you are making it earlier on in the day. You can also omit the salt, and add it just before serving.
  • Leftover salad and yoghurt sauce can be combined to make tzatziki...simply drain and then squeeze the excess liquid from the cucumber and add in minced fresh garlic to taste.
  • Stuff warm pita bread with the cucumber salad and the grilled chicken (thinly sliced), add some chopped fresh tomato and top it off with the yoghurt sauce and you have an easy lunch made with leftovers from dinner.
  • Regular sized cucumbers can be used...I happened to have mini ones. The cucumber can also be diced.
  • A similar salad can be made by thinly slicing radishes; the yoghurt cools the heat of the radishes nicely. Other vegetables that can be thinly sliced and turned into salad include fennel, carrots, zucchini (use both yellow and green if you can) and beets. I usually use only lemon juice, fresh herbs and maybe a bit of olive oil to dress these salads. The juice and herbs help to highlight the natural flavour of the vegetable, but if you use too much it will be overpowered.
  • Adding the feta cheese to the cucumber is optional; I wanted to add some texture and tang. Other cheeses can be used...blue, goat, fontina or asiago are all good choices, strong and sharp in flavour.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Pasta with Chicken, Cauliflower and Cheese

This was my attempt to turn the comfort dish of cauliflower and cheese sauce into something lighter. I also didn't really want to have the oven on in this heat!

I used up my last 2 chicken breasts, red pepper, Parmesan rinds and of course, the cauliflower. It turned out as I had imagined, and we all enjoyed it, plus there was some left for lunch today.

First, put a large pot of lightly salted water on to boil for the pasta. The sauce can be made while you wait for the pasta to cook.

Cut the cauliflower into little florets and set aside. You will be cooking it with the pasta.

I used about 3 cups of cauliflower.

Thinly slice 1/2 medium onion, and cook in a bit of olive oil until it starts to soften.

Season lightly with salt and pepper.


2 chicken breasts

Add to the onion, and season with salt and pepper.

Cook for a few minutes, stirring to allow the chicken to start browning on all sides.

When the chicken is half cooked, add:

1 red pepper, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced

When the chicken is cooked, add:

1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup whipping cream
Parmesan rinds

Cook at a low boil, until the sauce starts to thicken slightly.

At this point, you can turn the sauce off if the pasta is not ready.

When the pasta is about 3/4 done, add the cauliflower to the pot and continue to cook until both are tender and ready to eat.

Drain, and place back into the pot.

Measure out:

3/4 cup baby bocconcini, cut in half
2 tablespoons fresh basil, shredded

Taste the sauce, and adjust the seasoning; reheat if you had it turned off.

Add the sauce to the pasta and cauliflower, along with the bocconcini and basil, and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan.

                            Serve, garnished with bits of blue cheese...I used cambozola.

  • Even with the addition of whipping cream and cheese, this dish was still a lot lighter than cauliflower smothered in a heavy cheese sauce.
  • The flavours of the red pepper and basil were bright and fresh, and the peppers retained some of the crunch.
  • Thinly sliced leeks would be a nice substitution for the onions, they add a unique flavour to any dish.
  • This could be made without the chicken; add extra vegetables...think colour and texture. Good choices would be broccoli, corn or green peas, diced zucchini or eggplant, asparagus.
  • The bocconcini can be marinated in chopped fresh basil, chili flakes and balsamic vinegar before adding it to the cooked pasta. If you choose to do this, omit the whipping cream.
  • Leftover cooked chicken can be used. Other meat such as pork tenderloin, bacon or seafood such as scallops or crab meat can be used.
  • Use less chicken, and add diced prosciutto, ham, bacon or pancetta while cooking the onions. This will add a smokiness to the dish. Be careful of the added saltiness of these meats.
  • This dish is a great way to use up leftover cauliflower from a previous meal, especially if it was roasted with herbs and/or spices.
  • The blue cheese can be mixed into the pasta; it will melt and add a sharp taste and creamy texture to the sauce. I chose to sprinkle it on top so we had the odd hit of blue cheese.
  • Other herbs that could be used instead of basil are thyme, chives, parsley or rosemary. Spice it up by adding a pinch of chili flakes.
  • The Parmesan rinds soften up during cooking, and add a cheesy flavour to the sauce. They also add some saltiness, so use less salt than you think you need in the beginning and adjust it at the end.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Halibut and Purple Fig Skewers on a Mixed Green Salad

The 4 fresh purple figs in the fridge were starting to wrinkle and get a bit soft for eating fresh, but were still good for cooking. I had determined in the morning that I was going to use them for dinner, somehow! The opportunity to buy fresh fish for dinner came along, and so I combined the two on skewers, grilled them, using a honey lime glaze, and served them on top of a lovely mixed green salad.

The honey lime glaze allowed me to use the half lime someone had put into the fridge, and I used the last of the mixed greens before they ended up in the compost...another couple of days and that's where they would have been.

Make the honey lime glaze by combining the ingredients in a small pan, and bringing it to a boil.

Juice of half a lime
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

When it boils, turn off the heat and allow it to cool. Set aside half of the glaze for the skewers. Use the rest, along with avocado oil, to make the dressing for the salad. Add the oil to the glaze, whisking well, adjusting the taste by adding more lime juice, honey or oil as you feel is necessary.

I also boiled some purple potatoes until they were tender, then drained and cooled them. After cutting them in half, I skewered them and these were grilled alongside the fish and fig skewers. Drizzle them with a bit of olive oil, some salt and pepper and place them on the hot grill. This crisps up the outside and heats the inside, which stays fluffy.

Cut the stem tip off the figs, and cut each fig in half.

Cut the fish into 1" chunks. I had about 1/2 pound of fresh halibut.

Place the figs and fish onto skewers, one per person.

Brush one side of each skewer with the glaze. Place the skewers onto a hot, well oiled grill.

Cook until the fish is half cooked, then brush the second side with the remaining glaze, and carefully turn them over.

Continue cooking until the fish is done. This took about 6 minutes.

Remove from the grill, and serve, along with a skewer of purple potatoes, with the mixed green salad. I tossed the greens with the honey lime dressing, added some sliced avocado and toasted macadamia nuts. A perfect summer meal.

  • I was cooking for two people, so the half pound of fish was about 4 ounces each; it doesn't sound like a lot but it was more than adequate.
  • Other firm fleshed fish such as salmon, tuna, marlin or swordfish work well on skewers, so do prawns and jumbo scallops.They don't all necessarily work with figs, but you can adjust the fruit or vegetables you use to suit the fish you are using.
  • Other fruits that would work instead of figs are pineapple, peaches or apples. Vegetables to choose from could be red peppers, zucchini, onions, mushrooms or cherry tomatoes.
  • Dried fruit...figs, apricots, cherries...can also be used, but should be plumped up by soaking in a liquid before grilling. Use water, juice, tea or liqueur.
  • The fish can be left as a fillet, and grilled and glazed that way.
  • Any combination of juice and sweetener (honey, brown sugar or maple syrup) can be used to make a glaze. Add a bit of oil or butter for extra shine, flavour and to help prevent sticking to the grill or pan. Add herbs, spices, zest for another dimension. Mustard can also be mixed in to add some heat. For an Asian twist, use soy sauce and sesame oil.
  • I used avocado oil in the dressing; any oil can be used. Any dressing you have can be used.
  • The skewers can be served with rice, or over risotto.