Operation “Spend less dough” starts today, with Home-made Ghee

Homemade Ghee

 For a week or two now there’s been a 500ml carton of whipping cream staring back at me every time I open the fridge. I don’t remember why I bought it. I probably had a grandiose baking idea one day then ran out of time- or out of steam before getting around to it. Last night when I got home after spending a few days out of town, I noticed that it expires today.

I don’t like wasting food (my mom taught me well). But I am guilty of throwing out the odd scrap when I just don’t feel like dealing with it. Out of sight out of mind, I end up doing a whole new exciting grocery shopping trip the next day with all sorts of big plans for the upcoming week of food. Groceries are like a relationship that only lasts a week. The anticipation is major. Walking through the aisles, making decisions, checking prices… Then you bring it all home, you load up the cupboards, and if you’re me, you immediately make the snack of your dreams. A few days later, the honeymoon is over. The celery is starting to wilt (no longer beckoning for you to make ants on a log), there’s only 1 egg left (bummer, cause I was really in the mood for an omelette).

  • There’s tuna- but no bread.
  • There’re crackers- but no cheese.
  • There’s honey- but no yogurt to drizzle it over.

I could go on.

So you get creative. Your snacks start to become make-shift versions of your original cravings. Tuna with crackers is OK, but the overall feeling you get when you enter the kitchen is… meh. The relationship ends due to lack of enthusiasm and a pining for something new.

Today I pledge to commit myself to a long lasting relationship with my groceries. I’ll use every scrap, and only buy what I need to enhance what I already have. I’m going to put myself on a cash-only plan, i’m going to stretch every dollar, and i’m going to like it.

Now back to that whipping cream.

To extend the life of my whipping cream, I decided to make ghee. Ghee is the Indian version of clarified butter. It differs from French clarified butter in that it is cooked longer, so that the milk solids actually brown slightly, and all of the water from the butter is evaporated away. It is the moisture in food that causes spoilage (which is why dry bread crumbs don’t get moldy and why butter lasts longer than cream). So by removing the water from the butter, the ghee should last for a few months in the fridge, or a few weeks on the counter. Plus, browning the milk solids adds a delicious nutty flavour to the end product. It’s also very easy to do.

melting…

  1. Pour heavy whipping cream into food processor (or a jar, if you’re in the mood to shake it for a long time).
  2. Process for about 5 minutes. First it will become whipped cream, then it will start to look chunky, then it will separate out into butter and liquid.
  3. Squeeze out the liquid using cheesecloth or a tea towel.
  4.  *That’s it! You’ve got butter. Add salt if you want, which adds flavour and acts as a preservative so it lasts longer. Stay with me if you want Ghee.
  5.  Place the butter into a saucepan, and turn the heat to medium.
  6. Melt uncovered, and keep cooking it until there is NO MORE STEAM coming from the pot, and the sound changes from a boiling sound to a crackly sound. This will probably take 15-20minutes.
  7. Look for brown bits at the bottom of the pot. This indicates that it is done!
  8. Strain the ghee through a strainer lined with a coffee filter (or another cloth)
  9. Let cool on the counter and enjoy!

    Finished product- Liquid gold.

*Ghee has a very high smoke point, so it is perfect to cook with on high heat. It gives a very authentic flavour to Indian food, and is delicious melted on toast with honey.

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Re-creating a high-school memory- Home-made Jamaica Mistake.

Around the age of 15, my friends and I used to gather at our friend Kelsey’s house after school. Her house had two things that I always longed for; A trampoline (yes), and a VERY well-stocked fridge and walk-in pantry. This place was heaven for me. Like many teenagers, we spent a lot of time experimenting with crazy combinations of ingredients to make unique (sometimes too unique) edible and drinkable concoctions. I remember classics such as coffee milkshakes (with coarse coffee granules that sunk to the bottom) among others. In the midst of our trial-and-error snack making, we did come up with a true winner one day in the form of a salad. We liked it so much that we ended up eating every day for weeks. Besides Caesar and potato, I can’t really remember ever liking salad before this one came into my life.

My salad tastes have evolved since those days, but I still get a hankering for the sweet, salty, crunchy combo that we loved so much. It also brings me back to those care-free days of trampoline sleepovers and “Ouija” board sessions.

There are 3 components to this salad:

  1. Veggies
  2. Grated Cheddar cheese
  3. “Jamaica Mistake” Salad dressing

So I’ve been experimenting with making a home-made version of “Jamaica Mistake.” For now we’ll call it “Jamaica on purpose.” It hasn’t yet been perfected, but I’ve been working with different ratios of ingredients I copied off the back of the label, and it’s getting pretty close. I’m open to suggestions.

Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • 1/4 small onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2T dijon mustard
  • 1/3C red wine vinegar (hence the blush tone)
  • 2/3C neutral oil (I used sunflower)
  • 1T Habenero hot sauce
  • 1/8tsp each- ground clove, allspice, nutmeg
  • 2T raw sugar or honey
  • 1tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste

*I put everything into a jar and blended it with my immersion blender. (eliminating the need to finely chop garlic or onion- bonus).

It should stay emulsified for a few days, but you might want to give it a little shake before using.

SO GOOD!

-Paula

The best breakfast in the world.

When I first open my eyes in the morning on a day off, nothing excites me more than the prospect of breakfast. I love the European approach to breakfast; a Cappuccino and a pastry, and I admire the health-concious approach of an antioxidant-rich smoothie. But what I REALLY want, especially on a leisurely day off, is eggs and potatoes. Runny yolks, a starchy foil, and an ample drizzle of hot sauce. This one, in my mind is the absolute most perfect breakfast I can imagine. On a morning when this magical combination of ingredients in already on hand in my kitchen, nothing can break my good mood. ImageI started by heating 1-2Tbsp of olive oil over medium heat on the stovetop. Use an oven-safe pan. If you don’t have an oven-safe pan, simply wrap the plastic handle of your frying pan with tinfoil before placing in the oven. Add half a red onion, thinly sliced, followed by 1-2 cloves of thinly sliced garlic. Saute for 10 seconds or so, then add 3 small-medium potatoes cut in half then in 1/2cm slices. Season liberally with salt and pepper, toss in the oil to coat, then put the whole pan into a 375 oven for 20mins or so. 

While the potatoes are roasting, cut a tomato into wedges, slice a half avocado, and chop some fresh herbs. (I used dill because it’s what I had on hand. It was delish). Also, bring a small pot of water with a splash of vinegar to a simmer for poaching the eggs. 

When the potatoes are 3-4 minutes away from being done, throw the tomatoes into the roasting pan to heat and break down a bit, and crack your eggs into the poaching water.

*Never poached an egg before? Stay tuned for an instructional video coming soon!

Turn the oven off, heat your plate in the warm oven for a minute or two, then pile the roasted potatoes, fresh herbs, tomatoes, onions, avocado on the plate. Top with your perfectly poached eggs (cooked whites, soft yolk) and drizzle with your favourite hot sauce! (optional for the heat-impaired).

Enjoy!

Carrot pasta aglio e olio (garlic & oil)- A delectable snack

Carrots are rich in Vitamin A and carotenoids, making them famous for improving night vision. They are also known for lowering blood sugar, treating indigestion, tonifying the kidneys as a diuretic, preventing blood clots, and containing anti-carcinogenic properties. The high sugar content in carrots have made them unpopular among dieters. I think now that the no-carb diet fads have nearly blown over, carrots are definitely due for a comeback.

I just made this for the first time, and it was lovely. I’ve seen many raw versions of vegetable pasta, but since I’m a hot food lover I decided to saute mine to add flavour and texture. The carrots are cooked al dente, meaning they retain some of their toothsome integrity. This recipe serves one.

Ingredients:

2 medium carrots, peeled.

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1/4 tsp dried chili flakes (or more if you like it spicy)

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp white wine vinegar

Sea salt to taste

Method:

1.)Use a vegetable peeler to peel long strands of carrot until you’ve reached the middle. (Snack on the remainder or save for another recipe).

2.)Heat the olive oil, chili flakes and garlic in a saute pan on medium-low heat. It’s important not to let it get too hot, or the olive oil will lose its flavour and health value and the garlic will burn.

3.)Add the vinegar and the carrot strands to the pan, and saute for 3-5 minutes until they are slightly softened but still slightly firm.

4.)Finish with salt, and some fresh herbs of your choice (I used chives).

*I topped mine with some nut Parmesan made from grinding raw almonds, dulse flakes, and nutritional yeast in a mini food processor. You could use real Parmesan if you’d like, or enjoy as is.

My favourite summertime dinner for two

  This dinner represents my all-time favorite way to eat. I love having a variety of tasty morsels that I can pick at, and combine different flavours into each bite.  My mom and I used to call it “an array.” This one is  similar to the classic Salade Nicoise from the south of France, but with the use of seasonal BC produce, it is a good representation of the delicious bounty that this part of the world has to offer. It’s easy to put together (even for larger parties); It’s wholesome and fulfilling; and it’s delicious served at room temperature. Here’s how it goes down:
  • Local new potatoes, simply boiled or steamed. The skins on these babies are so thin, and the flesh is so sweet. I find potatoes to be so hearty and satisfying, which make them a key component to this otherwise light dinner.
  • Green beans, added to the potato pot for the last 5 minutes of cooking, then drained in a colander along with the potatoes (I don’t have a dishwasher, so I try to use as few dishes as possible).
  • Organic eggs, hard boiled. My method is to put the eggs in cold water, bring to a boil uncovered, then turn the heat off, cover, and let sit for 10 mins.
  • Vine-ripe tomatoes (sprinkled with Vancouver Island sea salt).
  • Perfectly ripe avocado (I know, not local—but I can’t resist).
  • Your favourite assortment of olives.
  • Sockeye salmon fillet, rubbed with a bit of the salad
    dressing, then grilled or baked.

The dressing is made with about 1 tbsp grainy mustard, 2 tbsp white wine vinegar, 2 tbsp good quality olive oil (extra virgin of course), and a clove of garlic. I like to put everything in a jar and use my hand blender to mix it all up. Drizzle the dressing over the whole salad, paying special attention to the green beans & potatoes. I try to dress the potatoes when they’re still a bit warm, so the dressing gets really well absorbed.

If you have any leftovers, you can look forward to packing a mean potato salad for your lunch the next day. Or, you can add the potatoes, beans & salmon to some free-range eggs & make a delicious breakfast frittatta.
If green beans aren’t in season, use something that is. Asparagus in the spring, roasted zucchini in the late summer, or even some steamed broccoli or kale in the colder months. The same goes for the fish. Use whatever looks great that day!
Enjoy this dinner with white wine or a couple of cold beers, and share it with somebody you like.

Easy Baba Ghanouj

Many people have recently asked me for healthy snack ideas. Having something in the fridge that you can just grab quickly when returning home from a busy day is really helpful when you’re trying to eat well. When I go too long without eating, there are few things that will satisfy me as much as a big bag of Kettle salt & vinegar chips. So to prevent myself from reaching that state of dire hankering, I try to snack regularly on cheap, easy, and wholesome homemade convenience foods.

Eggplant is rich in fiber, potassium, and many antioxidant phytonutrients. Eggplants are cooling, making them a perfect summertime food. Eggplant is a member of the nightshade family, which is a family of plants (including potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers) that certain people are sensitive to, particularly relating to joint pain & inflammation. I would advise that individuals with arthritis or other inflammatory concerns keep their nightshade intake to a minimum.

Snack recipe #1- Baba Ghanouj

 Ingredients:

1 large eggplant

1 clove garlic (roughly chopped)

1 lemon (juice and zest)

3 Tbsp Tahini

1 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp each, crushed cumin seeds & crushed coriander seeds.

Sea salt & pepper to taste

Method:

Poke a few holes in the eggplant, to prevent an explosion in the oven. Place the eggplant on a baking sheet, and roast in a 375 degree oven for 1/2hr-1hr, or until it looks wrinkly and deflated.

Scoop the innards of the eggplant into a food processor, and add all other ingredients. Puree until smooth.

Keeps in an airtight container in the fridge for 4-5 days.

 Fave ways to enjoy:

-Spread onto WASA crackers with some olives on the side

-Dunk raw veggies into it

-On toast with slices of ripe tomato & coarse sea salt & pepper