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Saturday, 7 November 2015

Warm Crab Dip

I've always said that I'm not very good with appetizers, and so I'm always on the hunt for easy, delicious pre-dinner munchies or finger foods for parties.

My daughter was planning a house warming party, and while helping her look for good easy hors d'oeuvres, I came across a few easy sounding warm crab dips.

The one here, is just what the two of us came up with the Saturday before the party, but it was so good, it will, for sure, be one of my go-to's from now on.  It can be served with crusty bread, crackers, or even chips.There is not a really strong crab flavour, so you don't have to worry about it being too "fishy". 

Since this has very few ingredients, and I already had everything in my pantry, this was a no brainer, and it will be for you too.  Enjoy!

Warm Crab Dip

Recipe by Fluudbloggler

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes
  • 1 cup cream cheese
  • 1 can (120 gms) canned crab meat - you can also use fresh, but canned works just as well.
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red pepper
  • 1 finely chopped spring onion (can also use 1 tbsp finely chopped white onion)
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 drop hot pepper sauce
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
Cooking Directions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400. 
  2. In mixer, whip cream cheese until creamy
  3. Drain liquid from crab.
  4. Add crab, red pepper, onion, garlic, hot sauce, lemon and cayenne, and mix until smooth.
  5. Add cheddar and stir until well combined.
  6. Place in baking dish, bake at 400 for 20 minutes until heated through, and top looks slightly crispy.
  7. Serve warm with crusty bread, or crackers.
  8. Can also be kept warm in mini crock pot. 
Makes about 2 cups of dip.  But the recipe can easily be doubled.  Can be assembled the day before and just heated before ready to serve.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Fried Onion Strings

As you may have noticed, I'm a lot about desserts.  However, I do like other types of cooking as well.  I'm a huge fan of onion strings.  I find that the pre-packaged ones in the stores are a little over-priced for what they are.  Let's face it, onions are a pretty cheap product in and of themselves.  Plus I'm not a fan of buying pre-packaged foods.  If there's something I can make from scratch that you can buy packaged or bottled, I will learn to make it myself.  Such is the case for fried onion strings.

I love them!  I love them on salads, I love them on burgers, and I even love them as just as snack.  However, since Saturday nights are traditionally burger night in our house I thought I would try making them for burger night.  I like fried onions on my burger, my husband likes raw, but we both love fried onion strings. I couldn't believe how easy this was.

Now, they ARE deep fried in oil, so don't go thinking they are healthy, they are just healthi-ER than buying them out of a bag. And a lot cheaper since I always have onion and oil on hand.

This recipe was so easy, I'm also going to try doing the same thing to zucchini and eggplant.

Fried Onion Strings

Recipe by Fluudbloggler
  • 2 cups canola oil
  • 1/4 sweet white onion
  • 1/2 cup white flour
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 3/4 cup whole milk or buttermilk*
  • 1 tsp white vinegar (If you don't have buttermilk)
Cooking Directions
  1. Slice 1/4 onion very thinly into strips.  As thin as you can slice them. 
  2. If using buttermilk, go to next step, if not, put 1 tsp vinegar in whole milk (or table cream), wait 5 minutes.Voila! Instant buttermilk/sour milk.
  3. Pour buttermilk/sour milk over onions, and let sit for at least 30 minutes, an hour is best.
  4. Mix flour and spices until well blended.
  5. Heat oil in a pan or deep fryer until hot.
  6. With your hands put milky onions into flour mixture and mix until well coated.Do not just pour as you will get excess milk poured into the flour and you don't want that. 
  7. To test if the oil is hot enough, put one piece of onion string in the hot oil, and if it starts to bubble and crisp, it is the right temperature.
  8. In two batches, place coated onions into hot oil, and fry until browned.Note: When you first put in the oil, it will all bubble up and you can`t see the onions.  Do not worry about that.  Once the onions start cooking, they will float to the surface and you can see them clearly.
  9. Place on paper towel, and continue with second batch.
  10. Serve hot or cooled.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Lime No-Bake Cheesecake

It's Labour Day weekend.  I'm not generally a fan of this weekend because it heralds the end of summer, and I feel the impending doom of winter approaching.  (Yes, it's official the Fluudbloggler is a bit of a drama queen.  To top it off, the weather where I live, usually sucks on Labour Day weekend. This year however is different - it's ridiculously hot, and that makes me feel a lot better.  

I still felt that I needed a nice sweet treat to get me through the weekend.  However, since it's SO very hot, I don't want to turn on the oven.  A no-bake cheesecake seems to be the answer.

This is so easy.  I normally make a plain no bake cheesecake, and then just add cherry pie filling on top.  I love the taste of lime though, so decided to experiment and make a lime no-bake cheesecake.  You can use the basic cheesecake recipe below for either option.

And because it's so easy, it's such an easy do-ahead or do last minute if you are suddenly invited to a last minute Labour Day weekend BBQ. 

Recipe by Fluudbloggler
Cook time: 0 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
Yield: 6-8
  • 1 cup Graham Cracker Crumbs
  • 1/4 cup white sugar (for crust)
  • 1/4 cup soft or melted butter
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 cup white sugar white sugar (for filling)
  • 1 package (8 oz, 250 grams) cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp lime zest
  • 1/4 cup lime juice (from one lime)
  • 1 tbsp additional lime juice (optional)
  • 1/2 cup additional whipping cream whipped with 1/4 cup sugar (optional)
  • **If you are making a basic cheesecake not lime flavoured, simply omit the lime juice and zest and replace with 1 tsp vanilla 
Cooking Directions
  1. Mix graham crackers, 1/4 cup sugar, and butter together until well incorporated.
  2. Press down into 9" pie shell.
  3. Place in fridge until ready to use.
  4. Whip whipping cream until stiff, set aside.
  5. Zest lime, set aside.
  6. Juice the lime.
  7. Cream together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth.
  8. Add the lime zest and lime juice, and mix until very smooth. 

  9. You will notice that this doesn't look very GREEN for a lime cheesecake, so you can add a few drops of green food colouring if you like.  I prefer the natural colour. 
  10. Pour into graham crust and refrigerate until ready to serve - at least 2 hours. 
  11. If you want, you can pipe the additional sweet whipped cream on top. 
  12. And you are really feeling industrious you can candy some limes and add for garnish (recipe follows)
Even though I said I was making this cheesecake so I did not have to turn on the oven, I did have to use my stove to candy the limes.  This is totally optional, and I did it just because it was something I had never tried before.  
How to candy a lime (or lemon or orange)

  • 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tbsp additional white sugar
Cooking Directions
  1. Thoroughly wash the outside of the lime.
  2. Thinly slice lime.
  3. Place in a pot of boiling water and boil for 2 minutes.
  4. Remove limes from water, and discard water.
  5. In same pot, pour 1/2 cup fresh water, 1/2 cup sugar and stir.
  6. Place lime slices in this water, and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  7. Place limes on wire rack (with parchment paper under to avoid mess) and cool for one hour.
  8. Sprinkle 1 tbsp sugar on large plate or baking dish.
  9. Press limes on sugar, and coat entire lime.
  10. Keep in fridge until ready to use. 
AND...I actually kept the water-sugar that I cooked the limes in to add to my afternoon mojito. Cheers.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Canada Day Pavlova - AKA Canlova

I've been very, very bad about blogging lately.  Life and work has been too hectic.  However, since I'm making a special Canadian version of pavlova to celebrate Canada Day 2015, I thought I would take the time to post.

What is a pavlova?  It is basically a slowly baked meringue with whipped cream and fruit on top.  The Australians claim it is their invention - topped with strawberries and passion fruit traditionally.  But the New Zealanders also claim it as theirs - topping it with strawberries & kiwi. I made a grave error once while celebrating Australia day with friends when I combined all three, strawberry, passion fruit, AND kiwi.  It tasted good, but the kiwi didn't go over very well with the Aussies in attendance and were removed. (The kiwi, not the Aussies.)

So I'm calling this version Canlova since its only being topped with strawberries formed into a Canadian flag.  While this recipe is a little time-consuming, it is one of the easiest recipes you can ever make. It is ALWAYS a huge favourite - no matter how you top it. May I suggest strawberries & blueberries on the 4th for our American friends?

Canadian Pavlova (aka Canlova)

Recipe by Fluudbloggler
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 2 hours, plus 1 hour cooling time
Total time: 3 hours 10 minutes.
Yield: 8
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp Cream of Tartar
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream, whipped
  • 1 quart strawberries, washed and hulled
Cooking Directions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form.
  3. Add sugar, cornstarch and cream of tartar and beat until stiff and shiny.
  4. Add vinegar and vanilla and beat until well combined.
  5. Line bottom of 14" baking pan with tin foil, then grease lightly with butter.
  6. Spread meringue into the pan, smoothing out as much as possible.
  7. Turn oven heat down to 250.
  8. Bake for 1 hour.
  9. Turn oven off, keep pavlova inside the warm oven for another hour.
  10. Cool completely, place on serving plate, gently peeling away the sides of the tin foil.
  11. There will be cracks, so don't worry about that.  It's part of the appeal. 
  12. Whip cream, adding 1/2 cup sugar.
  13. Spread evenly over baked meringue.
  14. Slice strawberries, splitting them in quarters, separating the ones with rounded edges from the completely flat ones.  I found it easier to used the rounded edge ones for the sides of the flag, and the flat ones for the maple leaf.
  15.  Form flag on top of the whipped cream. 

Notes:  A regular sized pavlova is made in a pie plate, so for a 6 serving recipe, use 4 eggs, and a ratio of only 1 of all other ingredients (meaning instead of 1 1/2 tsp of something, use 1 tsp.)

Also, do not leave out the vinegar.  I did this once, and all I got was a meringue like you put on top of a lemon meringue pie.  The vinegar gives the pavlova it's nice chewy consistency.

Do not try to rush this either.  Cook at the 250 for a full hour, leave in the cooling oven for another full hour.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Gluten Free Lemon Coconut Tart

If it were up to me - desserts would always be chocolate, and probably contain whipping cream in some form or another.  However, not everybody shares my love of chocolate, especially my husband, so I'm always looking for new recipes that don't contain chocolate.  I found this one the other day in a magazine and thought I'd try it for a dinner party I was asked to bring dessert for - as always slightly adapted to the way I cook.

It's lemony and coconuty, and a little tart.  Looking at the ingredients beforehand I thought it would be a little too rich, but the tart lemony taste cuts the richness to make it rather light.  And for those concerned with gluten, it is 100% gluten free.

I didn't take any pictures while making the recipe, but the instructions are pretty clear on their own.

Gluten Free Lemon Coconut Tart

Recipe by Fluudbloggler
  • 2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut, toasted (instructions for tasting, below)
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 2 egg yokes (from whites above)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 package cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup coconut cream (can also use coconut milk)
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 1/4 tsp coconut extract
Cooking Directions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350.
  2. Spread coconut evenly over cookie sheet, and bake about 10-15 minutes until toasted.
  3. Once coconut has cooled, put 1 3/4 cups in a food processor and pulse until it makes coarse crumbs.
  4. Whisk egg whites and corn starch together until fluffy and shiny (not as stiff as you would for a meringue).
  5. Gently fold coconut crumbs into egg white mixture.
  6. Slightly butter an 8" spring form pan, and cover bottom with tin foil to avoid leaking through cracks of spring form.
  7. Pour egg white/coconut mixture into pan and spread evening.
  8. Bake for 12-14 minutes.
  9. Place in fridge to cool.
  10. Whisk together condensed milk, lemon juice, eggs and egg yokes, and vanilla.
  11. Mix until smooth.
  12. Pour over egg white crust.
  13. Bake for 25 minutes until firm.
  14. Place in fridge to cool - cool for about 20 minutes.
  15. Beat cream cheese until very smooth.
  16. Gradually add the coconut cream, continue beating until well combined.
  17. Add icing sugar and coconut extract and again combine until well mixed.
  18. Pour over top of the lemon mixture.
  19. Cool in fridge until well set - at least 4 hours.
  20. When ready to serve, run a knife around the edges, and open springform pan.
  21. Place on plate, and press remaining coconut on the edges.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Asiago and Mushroom Tart

A friend and I went to a "cooking class" at my local Longo's grocery store this week.  It wasn't a hands on class, but we were given instructions and recipes from local chef, Christopher Pires and watched as he prepared an Asiago & Mushroom Tart, grilled flank steak with mushroom sauce, butternut squash puree, and a fruit cheesecake.

Pictured is the appetizer that he prepared for us. Served with an arugula salad with balsamic glaze.  I am usually not very good at planning or executing appetizers, so I was quite happy to learn this one as it was tasty and very easy to do.  Next time I have company, this will be my go-to. It can also be made as an onion tart instead of mushrooms by using caramelized onions.  Or a combination of mushrooms and onions.

Below is the recipe he gave to us, and you can find more of his recipes at www.foodinspires.com

Asiago & Mushroom Tart
Recipe by Christopher Pires

  • 1 pkg puff pastry (long rolls)
  • 1 cup Asiago cheese grated
  • 2 cups assorted mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp crushed chili flakes (optional)
  • 4 gloves garlic mashed
  • salt & pepper to taste
Cooking Directions
  1. Thaw puff pastry in the fridge overnight or on the counter for about 30 minutes. Leave in the wrapping, but out of the package.
  2. Line two baking trays with parchment paper.
  3. Pre-heat oven to 400.
  4. Heat a heavy frying pan over medium high heat. Add olive oil& butter. Stir in garlic and chili flakes stirring for 15-30 seconds.
  5. Add mushrooms. Reduce heat and continue cooking until all the water has been released from the mushrooms.
  6. Unroll the puff pastry and pinch an edge all around. Poke holes all over the sheet.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and sprinkle with cheese, then cover with the mushrooms.
  9. Put back in the oven until cheese is melted, about another 5 minutes.
  10. Cut tart into squares, and then half again to make triangles.
  11. Can be served with arugula or spinach salad drizzled with balsamic glaze.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Ribs with a Slow Cooker

I've tried different ways of cooking ribs.  I've tried baking, BBQing, and boiling.  None of these methods gave me the result I wanted.  They were often tough, or stringy, or just not flavourfull.  I also tried the cooking them in the slow cooker.  This method made the ribs nice and tender, but eating them directly out of the slow cooker, made them lack the nice BBQ flavour and outside crispiness that I wanted in my ribs.

I finally discovered that if I cooked them in the slow cooker first, to get the tender pork I wanted, and then cooked a few minutes longer,using another method like the BBQ or quickly baked in the oven, I got the best of both worlds.  Below is the recipe that works for  me.

Note: Using different "tenderizing" ingredients (liquids with carbonation)  can give you different tastes.  I usually go with what I have in my kitchen.

My preference is to use beer - Guinness works really well with ribs.  I've also used Coke and club soda.  This time, I was given Q Ginger - a spicy ginger ale found in some grocery stores (Whole Foods carries it in Canada).  There was defenately a different flavour using this product, but you can use whatever bubbles you want to experiment with.

(Sorry a couple of the pictures turned out blurry, but you can still get the gist.)

Pork Ribs Slow Cooker & Oven

  • 1 large pork rib
  • 1/2 cup bottled BBQ sauce (or use recipe below)
  • 2 bottles Q Ginger Ale
  • OR 1 can Guinness Beer
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Water enough to cover ribs
  • Additional 1/2 cup BBQ sauce
Cooking Directions
  1. Cut ribs in half so that you have two pieces that fit in the slow cooker.
  2. Pour Ginger Ale (or beer) over ribs.
  3. Pour BBQ sauce over ribs and enough water so ribs are almost completely covered with liquid.
  4. Cook on low for at least 4 hours
  5. Oven Method:
  6. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
  7. Remove ribs from slow cooker and place on baking pan.
  8. Sprinkle salt & pepper on ribs.
  9. Brush half of remaining BBQ sauce on one side of ribs.
  10. Bake for 10 minutes.
  11. Turn ribs over.
  12. Brush remaining BBQ sauce on the other side of the ribs.
  13. Bake for another 10 minutes.
  14. BBQ Method:
  15. Pre-heat BBQ to medium/high
  16. Follow previous instructions, however reduce cooking time to 5 minutes per side, or until ribs have a crispy skin on the outside.
Instead of using bottled BBQ sauce, create your own simple recipe.

3/4 cup ketchup
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp salt
pinch pepper
pinch cayenne pepper
Stir until well combined and sugar disolved.  This gets better the longer you let it sit, so preparing it ahead of time, gives it more flavour.  Recipe can be doubled or tripled and kept in a jar in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. 

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Mussels Florentine

Ok, I will admit to you all now, that this is my very first time cooking mussels.  Or for that matter anything that started out alive before I cooked it.  I'm not sure how this will turn out, but I am sharing my experience with you, and hopefully this is a really good recipe, and I will continue making it past today.

Check that mussels are still alive.
I've read, watched Youtube videos, and watched TV chefs explain how to check if the mussels are alive.  If they are closed, they are alive.  If they are slightly open or open all the way prior to cooking, try to get them to close the shell by pressing down, or tapping them on the counter.  Done.

This pile appear to be alive and kicking.

And this pile may have kicked the bucket prior to me boiling them in liquid.

Problem was, some of the alive ones, by the time I finished sorting them opened up again, and so I had to re-check if they were still alive.

I think this part scared me more than checking if they were alive and cooking them.
Basically they have little "beards" that are used for sticking to rocks in the ocean.  They don't all have beards apparently, so any that I could find I pulled off.  You grab hold of it, and yank until it comes off. (Sounds painful, but supposedly isn't.) 

Scrub them clean and keep in fridge until ready to cook.  Scrubbing them is easy.  I was also told by the butcher where I bought them to put in water in the fridge before cooking.  However, when I watched a video of how to de-beard them, the chef said NOT to put them in water because fresh water doesn't have enough oxygen for them, and just to cover them with a damp cloth. 

Follow the recipe below to make Mussels Florentine.

Mussels Florentine

  • 1 pound fresh mussels
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup frozen spinach
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup chopped white onion
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
Cooking Directions
  1. In large pot or skillet (big enough to hold all the mussels) heat oil and cook onion and garlic until soft.
  2. Add chicken stock and white wine to pan and heat to boiling.
  3. Add spinach until heated through about 1 minute. 
  4. Add mussels, cover pot, and cook.  After 3 minutes, stir mussels and continue cooking until all are open, about another 2 minutes.
5.  Add butter until melted.
6.  Serve immediately

By the way.  This experiment - this novice's cooking of mussels - turned out really well.  I served with a side of Fettuccine Alfredo and the mussels were really good.

I'm making them again this week for a dinner with my girlfriends.  This time adding a bit of cream to the sauce. 

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Turkey Shepherd's Pie (or Cottage Pie)

Traditional Shepherd's Pie is supposed to be made with lamb, hence the name Shepherd's pie.  However, when I was growing up, lamb isn't something we could afford, and so my mother used to make a pie with ground beef, which I later would learn is called Cottage Pie.

No matter what you call it, it's a great winter dinner that can be prepared ahead of time and just heated up when you are ready for dinner.  The basic pie is made with any kind of ground meat or a combination of different ground meet, with your choice of vegetables*, topped with mashed potatoes.

Today I decided to use ground turkey as my base, for a lower fat version.  When you use ground turkey, you will have to add a little more liquid than you would using ground beef, lamb or pork or it will be too dry.  The recipe below is for using turkey.

*I always add corn to my Shepherd's Pie, but peas or shredded carrots (my mother's version) can be added or exchanged, depending on personal taste.

Turkey Shepherd's or Cottage Pie

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 2 tbsp canola or lower fat oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped white onion
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp powdered beef bouillon
  • 1 tsp powdered chicken or veg bouillon
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn or peas or grated carrot
  • 3 cups mashed potatoes
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
Cooking Directions
  1. Prepare mashed potatoes first. Cut & peel potatoes and boil in salted water until cooked (about 20 minutes), mash and set aside.

  2. Heat oil in large skillet and cook onion and garlic until tender.
  3. Add ground meat and spices to skillet and cook until thoroughly cooked, about 5-10 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle flour over meat mixture until covered.
  5. Add bouillon to boiling water, and pour over meat mixture.
  6. Continue cooking and stirring often, until a gravy has formed.
  7. Add vegetables to skillet and stir until well combined.
  8. Pour meat-vegetable mixture into baking dish and press down until smooth.
  9. Spoon mashed potatoes onto top of meat until completely covered.
  10. If you want you can spoon 2 tbsp butter over top of potatoes (can be omitted if you wanted.)
  11. Bake in 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes until heated through.