Monday, 19 March 2018

Green Salad with Papaya, Salted Honey Macadamias and a Poppyseed Dressing

As the weather starts to change we notice that we are wanting lighter meals, and I start making salads more often. I had half a papaya, some macadamia nuts and spinach to use...and I am still working on using that huge container of honey I bought, which is starting to crystallize.

The greens in my salad were a mixture of baby spinach and romaine hearts, and I made a poppyseed dressing, using more of the honey and some rice wine vinegar.

I made these nuts a couple of weeks ago, and we loved them, so I made them again. Quick and easy, all in one pan, and they have the sweet and salty contrast. I have some spiced salt, that is seasoned with cayenne pepper and smoked paprika, so it added a kick of heat and beautiful red colour to the nuts.

This salad was full of colour, contrasting tastes and textures...creamy dressing, crunchy greens, soft and sweet papaya, and nuts that added crunch, sweetness, saltiness and spice!

Start off with the nuts. Prepare a piece of foil for the nuts to cool on by lightly greasing it with some olive oil. Set aside until needed.

In a heavy bottomed nonstick pan, heat:

1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon olive oil

When the honey and oil are hot add:

2/3 cup raw macadamia nuts

Continue to cook over  a medium heat, stirring often, until the nuts are well coated and starting to toast, and the honey and oil are thick and bubbling.

Stir in:

1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon salt (mine was seasoned with cayenne pepper and smoked paprika)

Immediately scrape the hot nuts and caramel onto the prepared foil and leave to cool completely.

To make the poppyseed dressing, combine the following with a hand blender in a large measuring jug:

1 egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
4 teaspoons honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced shallot

Add and blend in:

1/4 cup olive oil

Then slowly, while continuing to blend, add:

1/2 cup vegetable oil

Taste and adjust seasoning.

Stir in:

1 tablespoon poppyseeds

To finish off the salad, place the washed greens in a large bowl, and gently toss with the dressing. Add a little at a time, you only need enough to coat the greens; save the rest for another salad.

I used a combination of baby spinach and romaine hearts.


1/2 papaya, peeled, seeded and chopped

Gently mix it with the dressing and greens.

To plate the salad, mound the greens in the centre of each plate, adding the papaya and salted honey macadamia nuts around the outside. I cooked some smoked pork tenderloin to round out the meal.

  • As with all salads, use your favourite greens, or those that you have available. I had some spinach to use, and added some romaine hearts to make sure there was enough. Some options included arugula, beet greens, radish sprouts, curly endive or a mix of different lettuces.
  • Seasonal fruit is always good in a salad, it adds colour, freshness, sweetness. Try fresh berries, peaches, plums, figs, pears or grapes.
  • Not everyone likes poppyseeds, but I do. They can be omitted if you are not a fan. They do add a unique flavour, as well as crunch. I like to add them to egg salad as well.
  • Macadamia nuts are not something I have in the house very often, and I am sure that goes for most people. The great thing about nuts is that they are basically interchangeable, especially in a recipe like this, so go ahead and mix it up.
  • Plain sea salt can be used. You can add your own smoked paprika and cayenne pepper if you want the heat, or omit it if you don't. Add as much or as little salt as you are comfortable with.
  • Green or red onion can be used instead of shallot for the dressing. Fresh chives could also be used...add them at the end so that the colour and texture remain.
  • You can use maple syrup instead of honey in the dressing. If you have a strong flavoured honey such as Manuka honey or thyme honey that will be a good choice as well.
  • Add protein to complete the meal....I used pork tenderloin, but you can add chicken or fish.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Potato, Cauliflower and Leek Soup with Cambozola Cheese

A couple of nights ago I made scalloped potatoes, with leeks and cauliflower to serve with our chicken. There was a small amount left, and as we hadn't eaten it for lunch I used it to make soup.

Obviously this would not be enough to make soup for two people, but there was still some cauliflower and half an onion in the fridge, a couple of potatoes that were beginning to get a bit soft,  as well as some chicken stock in the freezer.

A small piece of Cambozola cheese caught my eye...this would be a perfect addition to the soup, and I also made some black pepper and rosemary biscuits, as I had used rosemary in the scalloped potatoes.

There was whipping cream in the scalloped potatoes, which added enough creaminess and richness for me, so I used only chicken stock, and added milk to adjust the consistency of my soup.

Adding the Cambozola to the bowl gave the option of eating the cheese as it was, taking it out and placing it on the biscuits, or stirring it in to melt into the hot soup. Whichever way you go, it's a win all around!

Cook in a bit of olive oil:

1/2 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

When the onions and garlic are softened and starting to colour slightly, add:

2 russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/4 of a cauliflower, chopped


3 cups chicken stock

Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer.


1 1/2 cups leftover scalloped potatoes (see the post Potatoes Two Ways)

Simmer until the potato and cauliflower chunks are soft.

Puree the soup, using a hand blender or food processor.

Taste and adjust seasoning, and adjust the consistency by adding either milk or chicken stock if needed.

To serve, ladle the hot soup into a bowl, and top with 3 slices of Cambozola cheese, and garnish with a sprig of rosemary, passing bread at the table... I made black pepper and rosemary biscuits instead of bread.

  • If you do not have leftover scalloped potatoes, use a large leek instead of onion. Increase the amount of cauliflower to one small cauliflower, and when the soup has been pureed, add 1 cup of whipping cream.
  • I used rosemary in the scalloped potatoes, so I also used it in my biscuits. Other herbs can be used in the soup if you like....thyme is a good choice.
  • If you have Parmesan rinds, add them to the soup while it cooks, removing them before you puree it. 
  • Blue cheese and cauliflower are a natural flavour combination, so add crumbled blue cheese if you have it instead of Cambozola. Goat cheese or grated Parmesan can also be used.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Salted Caramel Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

When I started out to make these cookies it was because I really wanted to make chocolate chip cookies. When I started to measure out the butter, I didn't have enough, so added peanut butter to make up the balance.

Then I found that I had no chocolate chips or pecans, so used the salted caramel chips that I had bought to try. I had first seen them around Christmas time and bought some as a stocking stuffer for both of my daughters. Of course, I bought some for myself to try as well. This was a good opportunity to finish off the bag.

In a stand mixer, with the paddle attachment, cream until well combined and smooth:

6 ounces soft butter
2 1/2 ounces peanut butter


1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar

Continue mixing until light and fluffy.

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

2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Add the dry ingredients in 3 additions:

2 cups flour
1 cup oats
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Mix on low speed until just combined.

Mix in:

1 cup salted caramel chips

Turn the oven on to heat to 350F, and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Divide the cookie dough into 24 balls, placing 12 on each baking sheet.

Gently press the cookie dough balls down as they do not spread a lot during cooking. This will help them to bake evenly.

Bake the cookies until they are set, but still slightly soft in the centre, and golden around the edges. This takes between 18 - 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool slightly before serving.

  • If you have them, or prefer them, use chocolate chips of any type or size in this recipe. They can be used to replace all of the salted caramel chips, or part of them. Chocolate chunks; chopped up chocolate bars such as Skor; chocolate covered candy such as Smarties, m&ms or chocolate covered peanuts or raisins can also be used.
  • Double the chocolate by substituting 1/4 cup of the cocoa for flour. Sift well before adding.
  • Instead of oats, use coconut or Rice Krispies.
  • Add nuts...chopped pecans, peanuts or macadamia nuts.
  • Chopped candied ginger, dried cranberries, or raisins are also nice additions.
  • I used crunchy peanut butter. Other nut butters can be used, or it can be omitted. Use 8 ounces of soft butter in this case.
  • To achieve the salted flavour without the salted caramel chips, sprinkle a pinch of sea salt on top of each cookie before baking.
  • Add half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, ginger or a pinch of cayenne pepper.
  • The dough can be made ahead and stored in the fridge for 2 - 3 days. Allow it to soften slightly before scooping and baking the cookies.
  • I like to divide the dough into the 24 cookie balls, and then freeze them. Defrost what you need and bake them. This is my way of not eating them all at once!

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Olive Oil Poached Chicken with Orange, Leeks and an Olive Hollandaise

Ever since I discovered duck confit, at one of my first restaurant jobs, I have loved it. Rich, falling apart and full of flavour....this is a take on that dish, using the chicken legs I had bought.

I had an orange that had been cut for a snack and not eaten, some parsley and a leek, as well as a lot of olive oil and decided that this was my cue to try poaching in oil. I marinaded the chicken overnight with the oranges, garlic and fresh thyme before poaching it on a bed of leeks, along with the oranges and a whole lot of olive oil.

Despite all of the oil, the chicken was not greasy. Not much oil was absorbed (I measured it before and after), but the chicken was tender and moist, and full of flavour. I strained the oil, and plan on using it to cook with.

I did use some of it to make a hollandaise sauce to serve with the chicken. While not as rich as when made with  butter, the sauce had so much flavour, and adding in some chopped olives at the end gave another flavour boost, as well as some texture.

In a resealable plastic bag, combine the marinade ingredients:

1 orange, cut into 8
2 bayleaves
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper


4 skinless chicken legs (thigh and drumstick)

Seal the bag, removing as much air as possible. Refrigerate overnight.

To cook the chicken, place the following in the bottom of an ovenproof dish, large enough to fit the chicken snugly:

1 leek, thinly sliced
The oranges, garlic and herbs from the marinade

Place the chicken legs on top of the leeks and oranges, fitting them as snugly as possible into the dish.

Turn the oven on to 250F.

Add enough olive oil to completely cover the chicken.

I used about:

3 cups olive oil

Cover the dish tightly with foil, and place onto a baking sheet.

Bake the chicken for 3 - 3 1/2 hours, until the internal temperature reads at least 175F, and the meat can be pulled away from the bone easily.

Remove the chicken from the oil (be careful) and place it onto a rack to drain away any excess oil.

Strain the oil through cheesecloth to remove the oranges, and other flavouring items. Reserve the oil.
Heat the oven to 350F.

To finish off the chicken, place it into a clean baking dish, along with:

A handful of grape tomatoes

Place into the oven to bake until the chicken is heated through, golden on the outside and the tomato skins are starting to wrinkle and burst.

The hollandaise can be made while the chicken is baking, and kept warm, or made just before the chicken is ready to come out of the oven. To make the hollandaise, have a pot of simmering water ready, and a heat proof bowl (stainless steel or glass) ready.

Place the following into the bowl:

2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Place the bowl over the simmering water, and whisk constantly until the egg is warm and starting to thicken slightly. If it gets too hot, remove the bowl from the heat to prevent scrambling the egg.

At this point, slowly add 1/3 - 1/2 cup of the reserved poaching oil, whisking constantly until the sauce is pale and thickened.

Set the bowl of sauce aside in a warm place, away from direct heat until needed.

Just before serving, stir the following into the hollandaise:

3 Kalamata olives, finely chopped
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Salt to taste

I served the chicken with Israeli couscous, steamed green beans, the roasted tomatoes and a generous portion of the hollandaise. The creamy sauce, little bits of olive and the hot, juicy tomatoes were a good combination, and the couscous soaked up all of the flavours. Definitely worth the amount of time this took to make!

  • Poaching in oil is a method that can be used for meat, fish or vegetables. While the item being cooked is submerged in oil, which heats up and cooks the food evenly, not a lot of oil is absorbed. The result is a moist, tender piece of meat, fish or vegetable.
  • The larger your baking dish, the more oil you will need. Make sure everything fits snugly and you will avoid using more oil than you need to.
  • If you are cooking vegetables, the oil can be saved and used for salad dressings or cooking. If you are cooking meat or fish, the oil can be used for cooking those same foods in the future.
  • Store the reserved oil in the fridge.
  • After straining the oil through cheesecloth, allow it to sit for a couple of hours. Any heavier fats or oils that have been released by the meat will sink to the bottom of the container. The olive oil can be poured off and stored for future use.
  • The chicken can be poached a day ahead, which I did, and then heated up in the oven with the tomatoes. If you do this, the roasting time will be longer than if you remove it from the hot oil and proceed with the recipe straight from there. That is why no roasting time is given.
  • The meat can be removed from the bones and used for other dishes, such as salads, pasta, sandwhiches. I have frozen the remaining chicken from this meal to use at a later date.
  • Use lemons instead of oranges; add grated zest to increase the flavour; use different herbs such as fresh rosemary or tarragon; add chili flakes; consider onions or shallots instead of leeks.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Almond and Cranberry Loaf

I love sweet, fruit breads for breakfast, and having a day with nothing much happening, decided to make one. I had the last of my jar of almond butter, and the idea of using it instead of the usual mixture of brown sugar and butter appealed to me. It had a lot less sugar, but was still creamy and full of flavour. I found some dried cranberries that had been forgotten about, and used them for the fruit component.

The bread was soft, full of chewy fruit and not too sweet...a perfect breakfast bread!

Heat until the butter has melted:

1 cup milk
2 ounces soft butter
3 tablespoons honey

Allow the liquid to cool until it is just above body temperature.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a dough hook, add the warm liquid to:

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

Leave for a few minutes, until the yeast begins to activate.


1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt

Mix on medium speed until combined. The mixture will be very runny and slightly lumpy.


1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup flour

Mix on medium speed to combine.

Continue adding flour while the dough is mixing. You will need another:

1 - 1/2 cups

When the dough has formed a ball around the dough hook, and is still slightly sticky to the touch, turn it out onto a lightly floured board.

Knead by hand until smooth and elastic, and no longer sticky, adding small amounts of flour as needed.

Place the ball of dough into a lightly oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap.

Leave in a warm, draft free area to rise...

....until doubled in size.

This should take at least an hour, depending on the temperature in your kitchen.

Make the filling while you are waiting for the dough to rise.

 Mix together until well combined, smooth and creamy:

1/3 cup almond butter
1 tablespoon soft butter

 In a separate bowl, combine:

1/2 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Set aside until needed.

 Now it's time to shape the bread. Lightly grease a 9" springform pan, and set it aside until needed.

On a lightly floured counter, rolled the dough out to a rectangle that measures approximately 12" X 18".

Spread the almond butter mixture over the dough, and then sprinkle the cranberries over the top.

With the long side of the dough facing you, roll it up as shown.

Spiral the rolled up dough into the prepared pan, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise....

....until doubled in size.

Heat the oven to 350F and brush the top of the dough with egg wash.

Bake for 45 minutes.

Remove from the oven and leave for 5 minutes before carefully removing the sides of the springform pan.

Allow the bread to cool to room temperature before slicing. Serve it as is, or toast it and spread with soft butter, and honey for breakfast.

  • For the fruit part of the filling you can use any dried fruit you have on hand...apricots, raisins, blueberries. 
  • Chopped fresh fruit such as apples, pears or peaches can be cooked with a bit of sugar and cinnamon until softened and used in the filling instead of dried fruit.
  • Add nuts for a bit more crunch...chopped pecans, almonds, macadamia nuts.
  • No almond butter...use any other nut butter, chocolate hazelnut spread, or combine equal parts brown sugar and soft butter. Cream cheese can also be used...plain or flavoured.
  • Grated orange or lemon zest can be added to the dough.
  • The dough can be shaped into a regular loaf and baked in a loaf pan. It can also be cut into 2" slices once rolled and baked as you would cinnamon buns.
  • The bread can be used to make French toast, or bread pudding.