Tuesday, 20 May 2014

For the Love of Spice

I love spicy food. Not always, mind, but when I get a craving for it – look out! I don’t care for just hot because there is no flavour. There is a difference between spicy and hot. I like spicy food to be flavourful – or as my niece calls it “Tasty.” The flavours have to melt on my tongue mingled with heat and little bit of sting. Now that is spicy food! Ooh la la!

When I get a craving for spicy food, I usually get it in the late afternoon on my way home from work as I am thinking of what to make for dinner if I haven’t made menus for the week. My go to spicy dish is Cajun chicken Caesar salad. It is easy and quick to make and the perfect combo with the Caesar dressing balancing out the heat of the spice on the chicken. I used to use a store bought Cajun spice mix, but I found that it was too salty and I would be downing several glasses of water throughout the evening after dinner. I looked endlessly for a low sodium alternative locally and also during my travels. On a trip to New Orleans twelve years ago I did find a very tasty Cajun spice mix, but alas, it was still a little too salty for my taste.

I was mentioning it to my mother one day and she said, “Why don’t you just make your own Cajun spice mix?” Hmmm. Why not? A light bulb went off and I was in the kitchen experimenting with different spices in the following weeks and searched the Internet for a low sodium/salt spicy/tasty version. In the end, I found an awesome combo of spices on the Canadian Living website that had very little salt:

1/4 cup paprika
1/4 cup dried parsley
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

You can add other spices or adjust the amounts above depending on what you like. I like to add more cayenne pepper and a little less parsley. Adjust according to your own flavour favourites or taste.

Here are a few pics of making my Cajun chicken Caesar salad for dinner tonight.

**Post Script:** Add the spice mix after you finish cooking your chicken/protein as this will prevent the spices from burning or going bitter when cooked too long.

All the spices before mixing.


Just put the chicken in a hot pan with a little oil.

Chicken cooking just before adding spice.

Romaine prepped and ready.

The final product.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

National Banana Bread Day

Today is National Banana Bread Day and in honour of today I made - what else - banana bread.

As mentioned in my previous post, Monsieur Cuisine and I have been on the move and in that move I have gotten rid of a few things to make life simpler and also we had to downsize to move to a place downtown. What I did not realize until today is that I must have gotten rid of my loaf pans. Of course this problem did not surface until I needed said loaf pan to put the dough of the banana bread into. So, I improvised and made the banana bread in a cake tin and it turned out really well. A banana bread cake, if you will. Although I do have to say that I like it in the loaf shape. It is easier to freeze and is not that large so would fit in my now small freezer. Again, I improvised and cut it into quarters and froze it that way. All in all, it made for a tasty, moist and delicious bread to have with my evening tea.

Here are a few images of its progress as it was being made.

About to mix the dry and wet ingredients.

Ready to go into the oven.

Fresh from the oven!

Getting ready to cut into quarters.

Ate this with my tea. Had help from Monsieur Cuisine of course!

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Food Memories

I came across a quote today on a great blog called Foodimentary. The quote said: "I strongly believe that culinary love is not about having a French Passport, but about what you feel." Albert Roux. I truly believe this. You do not need a fancy chef education to enjoy or make wonderful food. Be it French, Italian, Spanish, etc.; all you need is love of food and love of the taste of food.

My mother is Latina and all my favourite memories growing up were around a dinner table. Food was the main part of us all coming together to talk. We connected strongly and daily. We didn’t have much, but my mum made sure we had food – good food. She made a lot of it herself and when my Abuelita (that’s grandma to you English speakers) came to stay with us, she spent most of her day in the kitchen cooking up these delicious breakfasts, lunches and dinners. She made porridge taste so good, I never turned it down. And to this day, people are surprised to say I like porridge. It is all in how it is made. And like the quote, I have fond memories and feelings surrounding that time with my Abuelita.

I know I haven’t written in almost a year. I know, I know, it is inexcusable. I promise to try and write more this year. Monsieur Cuisine and I have been on the move (we moved three times in the last half of 2013 *irritated face*) so I have not been able to cook too much with my pots and pans in boxes. Now that we are settled again, I have been in the kitchen a little more and have been tweeting. Check out my twitter handle @Madame_Cuisine. I have also had to make a few dietary changes this last year: no dairy and cut down on gluten. It has been a bit of a challenge to say the least on the first change. I love yoghurt and cheese, so that has been tough. I am not a big bread fan anyway, so that adjustment has not been too hard.

So, here is to 2014. Here is to more writing, more cooking and sharing more with family and friends. And sharing with you of course!

Monday, 25 February 2013

Meatloaf you say?

I am not a fan of meatloaf. Never have been. I find that it just sits like a large lump of wet paper in my stomach after I eat it and then so begins a night of sipping ginger ale and popping antacids. So when I found a lighter recipe on Martha Stewart's website made with turkey, I was intrigued. Especially since one of the ingredients was fontina cheese. Well, anything cheese in general catches my attention. I printed it out and then made it.

For this recipe I used ground chicken breast instead of turkey as the supermarket was out of ground turkey. Next best thing I say if you cannot find the other.

Right! I set about putting the dish together and voila! I was so proud of myself I forgot to take a picture of the finished product! Good grief! Once tasted, it was devoured by Monsieur Cuisine and myself. Here are the pictures I did take though whilst putting it together. 

Browning the mushrooms.
Softening the leeks and garlic.

Mixing the sauteed mushrooms, leeks and garlic and then letting it cool.
Adding cheese, bread, egg and sage.

Mixing in Fontina, bread, egg and sage. Next add the meat.

Molded on the pan ready for the oven.
I served it with some steamed carrots and asparagus. It was delicious and it makes great sandwiches the next day for lunch.

So, am I a meatloaf convert? I have to say - with all honesty - no. Why? Well, it is still meatloaf isn't it? Will I make this particular recipe again - yes. And that is an honest answer. Just maybe not in the too near future.


Signed the peitition.
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Sunday, 4 November 2012

Baby, it’s finally cold outside!

There is an anonymous quote that says: "Bad weather always looks worse through a window." And yes, I totally agree.

The cold weather is finally upon us after a late start to a wonderfully warm and elongated summer. My poor grass is finally getting the water it craves and my garden is once again turning green and not a nice shade of brown. I welcome this cooler weather and I have to say that this is my favourite time of year and I love pulling out my sweaters and boots for walks in falling leaves and broody skies.

I do not get much snow where I live – if at all – and so when it rains or gets chilly, I turn to making stews, soups and hearty comfort food. My first stew of the season was a chicken stew that I made the other night and it is from a recipe my mum gave me. It’s a quick one and easy to make if you come home from work and do not know what to do with some leftover chicken, or you purchased an already roasted one from the market. This recipe is so simple; you will end up making it a lot through the winter.
And leftovers are even better the next day.

I usually serve this with rustic bread or sometimes garlic bread. If I make dumplings, I don’t do the bread as you do not want to have a carb overload. It’s great for lunches the next day and freezes well. Enjoy!

Here is what you will need:

1 whole roasted chicken, shredded (bones disposed of)
4 – 5 already cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts, shredded
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped (or to taste; I sometimes add a half a bulb)
1 10 ounce package of mixed veggies
1 tsp. dried basil
½ tsp. ground black pepper
1 14 oz. can of chicken stock or bouillon made according to package directions (equalling water amount below)
3 – 4 cups water
¼ cup of flour
1 cup of milk
Dumplings (optional):
2 cups of flour
2 tsp. baking soda
¼ cup of milk
  1. Put in broth, veggies, onion, water, pepper and basil into a large pot. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until veggies are firm, but not frozen.

  2. Combine flour and milk.

  3. Put in chicken and flour mixture. Bring to a boil again for about 5 minutes or until thickened. Serve with rustic bread.

  4. Reduce heat to low if adding dumplings. Mix your flour, baking soda and milk until combined. Drop in tablespoon fulls of mixtures around pot. Cover with lid and simmer for 10 minutes. DO NOT lift the lid during this time. Serve hot.
Onions and basil in.

Mixed veggies, water and stock.

Milk and flour mixutre and chicken in.

Dumplings dropped in and ready to cook.

The finished maserpiece!

Ready to eat!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Less Sodium? Yes Please!

Monsieur Cuisine and I have decided to consume less sodium in our diet. I think this is a good start on the road to eating more healthy.

So, to start, we have decided to make our own tomato sauce. I usually do this anyway, but I do keep a back up bottle of pasta sauce handy just in case I do not have time to make sauce. But I've decided that I will not purchase bottled pasta sauce and make my own from now on.

I roasted some tomatoes today and have turned them into marinara sauce which will then go into the freezer for the next time I need it. I figure that if I do this every week for the next few weeks, I will build up enough of a supply of marinara and pasta sauce that I won't even notice that I don't have a back up bottle of pasta sauce in the cupboard. I have my back up in the freezer instead!

To roast tomatoes, cut into halves or quarters and lay on greased sheet (non-stick spray is best - lessens the calories). Take extra virgin olive oil and drizzle over top of tomatoes. Drizzle, not soak. Sprinkle 1 to 2 tablespoons of coarse sea salt over the pieces and then grind fresh pepper over them. Place on preheated oven of 425F. Roast for 45-50 minutes.

When making your marinara, you can add garlic, onions and mushrooms if you like; I do sometimes. Make sure you soften them in a bit of olive oil and butter. Or, you can just leave the sauce plain. Make sure when transferring the roasted tomatoes to a saucepan, you remove the skins. Don't worry, they'll come off easily. Add fresh or dried oregano and basil with a by leaf or two and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let the sauce simmer gently for the next two to three hours. Once finished, remove the bay leaves and discard. Either serve with cooked pasta or put in containers and freeze up to four months.

I can use this sauce for not only spaghetti or other pasta, but also for lasagna or stuffed manicotti. Oh the possibilities are endless! I am looking forward to making this every week.

Ready for the oven with coarse extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and pepper.

Fresh out of the oven, steaming and juicy!

Looks delicious!
Softening the onions. Takes about 8 minutes. Don't brown them!

Add mushrooms about halfway through.

Add the garlic after the tomatoes so it doesn't burn and adds its great flavour.