Alex’s smash hit dressing!

Longer brighter days are coming and I can’t wait. We have a salad almost every night, and with the warmer weather approaching they often take the form of a “meal in a salad”. This dressing hits it out of the park for a delicious flavour bomb to dress pretty much anything with. Give it a try, I guarantee you’ll be hooked.

Salad tonight, but it could easily dress a rice bowl or serve over salmon.
  • 1/4 cup tamari (can sub soy sauce)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp chili garlic sauce
  • 1 tbsp miso paste
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • dash of fish sauce (optional but highly recommended)
  • 1 garlic clove, grated (unless they are home grown, then maybe 1/4-1/2 a clove) :o)
  • 1″ ginger, grated
  • thinly sliced scallions

Put everything in a jar and shake vigorously – really vigorously. If you use warm water it will help loosen up the miso if it’s straight out of the fridge.

Drizzle lightly and grill – another sure fire winner.

This recipe came from our friend Alex – she is an amazing cook, and agreed to let me post it! #abcooks

Chicken Karaage

How can chicken so crunchy be this tender? Try it and see.

One of our favourites to order in a Japanese restaurant, this is just as good as restaurant quality. Don’t get me wrong, whenever we can go out to restaurants again (post Covid) I will still be delighted to sit in a booth and order ….. but for now I can at least satisfy my cravings. It is also one of Sloan and Stella’s favourites to order and I just know when we can gather around the Sunday dinner table again this will be requested.

  • 1 lb chicken thighs cut 1 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup corn starch or potato starch
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 4 cups canola oil
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp mirin (sub Sake if you have it)
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp minced ginger

Reserve the starch and flour for just prior to frying up. Combine soy sauce, miring, garlic and ginger in either a sealable plastic bag or bowl with lid. Stir in the chicken pieces and set aside. You can either do this earlier in the day or at late as 20 minutes before dinner – I find it very flexible.

Heat your oil to 350, if you don’t have a thermometer, just stick a chopstick in – if it sizzles happily, then it is time to add your chicken.

Toss the starch and flour together, then toss with chicken. It doesn’t matter if the coating is uneven, it just means more texture.

Add about 1/3 of the chicken at a time to wok – do not overcrowd. Any time you overcrowd when you are frying it reduces the temperature of the oil and that leads to greasy fried food! Keep the chicken moving while in the wok, and remove when golden brown. Sprinkle immediately with salt. Keeping the cooked pieces in a 200 degree oven allows them to retain their crispness while you do the remaining 2 batches.

DIPPING SAUCES – I’ve given two options because that’s the way I like it!

CREAMY

  • 1/2 cup Kewpie Mayonnaise
  • 3 tbsp sriracha
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp sweet chili sauce

SOY

  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • chili oil to taste
This well used wok is perfect. Of course, you can use a deep fryer if you have it handy, but I like the wok just fine for this, and it encourages me to fry only small amounts at a time. Be sure to strain and reserve your oil for use another day!
Love having the option of two sauces – everybody gets their own little sauce dipping bowl and dip away!
Definitely not as many vegetables as we normally get onto our plates, but this Japanese dinner was so tasty! I even made my own gyoza wrappers and that’s a story for another day…..

The BEST Miso Soup

I gotta say ….. hard to make a bowl of miso soup look exciting … but here it is, the best ever! I didn’t have any seaweed at home so added a few spinach leaves. Delicious!
  • 2 teaspoons dashi granules 
  • 4 cups water 
  • 3 tablespoons miso paste 
  • 1 (8 ounce) package silken tofu, diced 
  • 2 green onions, sliced diagonally into 1/2 inch piece

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine dashi granules and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and whisk in the miso paste. Stir in tofu. Separate the layers of the green onions, and add them to the soup. Simmer gently for 2 to 3 minutes before serving.

I think the key to this is the dashi. You can easily make your own dashi at home – just look up a few YouTube videos, but for the amount I use, keep some granules in the freezer and it is ready whenever I need it.

We followed the miso sop with these tasty Japanese dishes ….. chicken karaage with 2 dipping sauces, pork and cabbage gyoza and garlic soy snap peas. Goes without saying that a Japanese inspired dinner needs a serving of rice!

I often serve Miso soup to accompany a few other dishes, and this makes it very easy to prep a bit earlier and just leave it simmering – don’t add the tofu or green onions until closer to serving time.

Coconut Shrimp

Couldn’t wait to dive into these. Every time I make them it surprises me how easy and how incredibly delicious they are.

Just like you get in the tropics….. minus the palm trees and ocean breeze. That dang Covid thing is still keeping us at home, during a time of the year when we’d so much rather be in the land of palm trees & sunshine, ocean bobbing and munching coconut shrimp. Never mind the beach, I’d happily settle for just being able to cuddle my granddaughters!!! Enough whining, here is the perfect recipe to make you feel like you’ve escaped to the beach.

  • 2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled & deveined
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs, beaten well (can just use egg white if you like)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large skillet or dutch oven over medium high heat (350-360 degrees)

Set up 3 dredging bowls:

  1. flour
  2. egg
  3. panko/coconut mixture

Season shrimp with salt and pepper, then working with one shrimp at a time, dredge through flour, then egg, then panko/coconut. Press into the panko mixture to make sure the shrimp are well coated. Set aside until you have them all coated.

Working in batches, add shrimp to hot oil and fry until golden brown, turning as necessary until they are crunchy and looking irresistible – around 3 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate.

Serve immediately with dipping sauce.

DIPPING SAUCE

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sweet chili sauce
  • 1-2 tbsp sriracha (or to taste)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • salt and pepper to taste

Mix well to combine. If you think of it, mix this ahead of time and set in fridge to allow flavours to meld beautifully.

I can’t promise you will smell the ocean when you make these, but it might make you feel a little better about staying home!

You can get these prepped ahead of time and just keep in the fridge until ready to fry.
Served tonight with rice and curried vegetables. This would disappear in a hurry if served as an appetizer also.

I originally got this recipe off Damn Delicious website, and she’s right – they are damn delicious! The dipping sauce is my own concoction and it’s yummy!!

Spicy Miso Chicken Ramen

By spicy, I mean as spicy as you like …. me? Not so spicy. I’ve also been “burnt” a few times by my chili flakes. They are made from our homegrown dried chili peppers and they pack some heat!

Add in whatever vegetables you like – this crispy chicken katsu was perfect with tonights crispy zucchini spears, along with sautéed bok choy and yellow peppers.


INGREDIENTS

  • 3 strips thick-cut bacon, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • 2 medium shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, thinly sliced
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 6-8 cups low sodium chicken broth (or vegetable if you like)
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce (I like low sodium)
  • 1/4 cup miso paste
  • 2-4 tablespoons chile paste(I use Gochujang)
  • 4 squares Ramen noodles
  • 4 cups baby spinach, chopped
  • 2-3 mini bok choy
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil (toasted is best)
  • soft or hard boiled eggs, for serving (optional, and not in my house)
  • Toasted nori sheets, sesame seeds, green onions, and chili oil, for serving 

CHICKEN KATSU 

  • 4 chicken cutlets, or 2 boneless chicken breasts, sliced in half horizontally
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • kosher salt & freshly ground pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. 1. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, shallots, ginger, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, about 3 minutes. Pour in the broth, milk, and soy sauce, then whisk in the miso and chili paste. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer 10 minutes.
  2. 2. Meanwhile, make the Katsu. Place the Panko and sesame seeds in a shallow bowl. Season with salt & pepper. Dredge both sides of the chicken through the Panko, pressing to adhere by using your fist to really pound the crumbs in. Place the chicken on a plate.3. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the chicken and cook until golden brown, 3-4 minutes. Flip the chicken and cook until golden brown on the other side, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and season with salt. Slice into thin strips.
  3. I use this same fry pan to saute the bok choy just until slightly softened. Wipe out most of the oil and it will be perfect, soaking up the sesame seeds left behind by the chicken.
  4. 4. To the soup, stir in the noodles, spinach, and sesame oil. Let sit 5 minutes or until the noodles are soft. (or precook your noodles)
  5. 5. To serve, divide the noodles between bowls and ladle over the soup back overtop. Add the chicken and bok choy. Top as desired with eggs, green onions, sesame seeds, and chili oil. Serve immediately.

I’m not going to pretend this is authentic Japanese Ramen ….. this is perfect for the home cook, it delivers on so many levels, flavour, simplicity and comfort! (to start) We aren’t fond of eggs in our house, so we always leave those off, but if you love eggs, make sure to add. Jade, this is perfect for your newly laying hens and those beautiful eggs they are producing.

Get everything chopped while you crisp up the bacon. You could omit the bacon, but I think it is a quick, week night hack for getting that traditional flavour of pork belly into a ramen dish.
Saute it all up until those onion bits begin to caramelize. See my gorgeous wooden utensil? Hayley made that and it makes cooking more fun.
Today’s version of vegetables and toppings. Use whatever you have on hand! We have enough for two nights, so I think my next dinner I will omit the chicken katsu, and serve with prawn & vegetable tempura.
Adding the sesame seeds to the panko gives the chicken lots of flavour and extra crunch.
I like to use the same pan – remove the excess oil, leaving the sesame seeds and bits of panko, then sauté the vegetables until tender but still have some crunch.
Tonight we served this with green onion pancakes, and my toasted sesame vinaigrette.

This recipe came from Half Baked Harvest ….Tieghan calls it a 30 minute dish, let me know if that works out for you …. it sure didn’t for me! If I had to, it might be faster but after a day of desk work I don’t mind taking my time. Hop on over to her website if you haven’t already, she not only has fabulous recipes, she has lots of tips and videos to make sure your home meals aren’t getting boring during this “stay at home” Covid rut!

Cacio e Pepe with bacon!

Every time I make spaghetti carbonara I think it would benefit from a bunch of crispy bacon, so here it is … a tangled mash up of cacio e pepe and carbonara. I think it is perfect! Also quick and easy.

A tangle of creamy pasta, sharp cheese and crunchy bacon can’t be beat. Apologies to Italian pasta grannies for any offence this mash up could cause, but it sure is delicious.

Kosher salt

  • 6 oz. pasta (such as egg tagliolini, bucatini, or spaghetti)
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed, divided
  • 1tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
  • 8 oz cooked bacon, chopped
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked
  • ¾ cup finely grated Grana Padano or Parmesan
  • ⅓ cup finely grated Pecorino

This serves 2 as a generous dinner helping – adjust for your table!

Slice bacon into thin strips and cook over medium heat, stirring often to separate, until crispy and cooked through. Set aside on paper towel lined plate to drain and cool.

Bring 3 quarts water to a boil in a 5-qt. pot. Season with salt; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until about 2 minutes before tender. Drain, reserving ¾ cup pasta cooking water.

Meanwhile, melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add pepper and cook, swirling pan, until toasted, about 1 minute.

Add ½ cup reserved pasta water to skillet and bring to a simmer. Add pasta and remaining butter. Reduce heat to low and add whisked egg, Grana Padano, stirring and tossing with tongs until melted. Do this relatively quickly so the egg doesn’t scramble. You only want it to cook through via the hot pasta. Remove pan from heat; add Pecorino, stirring and tossing until cheese melts, sauce coats the pasta, and pasta is al dente. (Add more pasta water if sauce seems dry.) Transfer pasta to warm bowls and serve, with a generous helping of more Parmesan and cracked pepper.

If you only have one of the cheeses, that is fine too – I’ve had to adapt this a few times during our Covid restrictions to work with whatever I had on hand.

Serve with this aromatic green onion and pepper focaccia and a big salad.

Brownie Cookies

A little hit of salt, crinkly tops and a moist chewy interior. These cookies are so good!

Brookies??? If that isn’t a word it should be. My nephew and wife have started up Silver Star Chocolate Company, and these cookies were the perfect way for me to try out their chocolate. OMG. So so good.

  • 8 oz chopped dark chocolate – 60% recommended but their chocolate is a higher percentage so I used half semi sweet chocolate
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup & 2 tbsp packed, light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • coarse sea salt for sprinkling

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 350

Melt butter with chopped chocolate and set aside to cool slightly.

In a lare bowl add white sugar, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer for at least 7 minutes. (honestly – 7 minutes). If you have a stand mixer use that – and set your timer. 7 minutes is a lot longer than you think it is if you are holding an electric hand mixer. This is what allows the eggs to create that luscious crinkly top when baking.

Mix in the melted chocolate and butter.

Sift together flour, cocoa powder salt and baking powder. Stir into egg/melted chocolate mixture just until combined.

Use a small scoop and scoop on to parchment lined cookie sheet.

Bake the cookies for 12 minutes. Let the cookies cool for a few minutes to set before transferring to a cooling rack to completely cool.

These cookies are absolutely fantastic! Made originally for Christmas giving, now I love to keep them in the freezer for that moment when you just need a brownie!

Obviously I have trouble keeping to a straight line ……
I’m sure it is the quality of the chocolate that made these cookies extra delicious, but whatever chocolate you do have will produce a cookie you want on repeat!

Malaysian Laksa

It’s cold around here! If you are looking for a big bowl of comfort, well here you go! Dress it up however you like, made it vegetarian if so inclined, whatever you do, give it a try. This is perfect for a chilly night.

Once you have tried this creamy coconut broth, laced with spicy chili and fresh crunchy vegetables you will be putting this on repeat!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 tbsp oil
  • 2 garlic cloves , minced
  • 2 cm (1 inch ish) ginger, grated
  • 1 lemongrass , white part grated
  •  2 birds eye chillis , finely chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 cup (175g) laksa paste 
  • 400g / 14 oz can coconut milk
  • 3 cups vegetable or chicken broth 
  • 2 tsp fish sauce (sub soy but fish sauce recommended)
  • 2 tsp chili sauce
  • cooked noodles, either rice vermicelli or Udon noodles
  • any cooked protein if you like ….. chicken, prawns, crispy tofu, the options are up to you
  • cilantro, roughly chopped
  • sliced green onions
  • bean sprouts

METHOD

  • Heat oil in a large saucepan or small pot over medium low heat. Add garlic and ginger, sauté for 20 seconds, then add lemongrass and chillis. Cook for 1 minute.
  • Add laksa paste. Turn heat up to medium and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, or until fragrant.
  • Add chicken stock, coconut milk, fish sauce and 2 tsp of Chilli Sauce. Place lid on and simmer on for 10 minutes.
  • Adjust to taste using lime juice (for sour) and fish sauce (for saltiness). Leave on turned off stove with lid on for 5 minutes.

To assemble, place noodles in bowl, add in vegetables and bean sprouts – top with broth and then any of the fixings you like

Personal touches added to each bowl make all the difference. I used the “Umami Crisp” from Big Smoke in Whistler, BC to add in place of the chili paste.
I love to make this a one dish meal, so I saute or steam a bunch of fresh veg for color flavour and brightness. Use whatever you like. Cook separately from the laksa broth so you retain their color and brightness.

I’ve tried a number of laksa recipes, and they tend to disappoint. Part of the problem is a difficulty sourcing different pastes and sauces where we live. Laksa paste itself is a very complex flavour compound. This recipe came from Recipe Tin Eats, and it was her recommendation to use a paste that convinced me to try again. Nagi was right on with that suggestion, by the time you have enough of the right ingredients to make laksa paste, you would have to be making it frequently to keep all your supplies fresh. Hop on over to her blog for even more components to this dish, even recipes to make your own stock and chili paste.

We love this served with my green onion pancakes, perfect for dipping!

Miso Herb Roasted Veg stock

The perfect base for any kind of soup – wonton tonight, laksa another night.

Cold dreary days lead to healing soups! Even the start of this, with the miso coated vegetables roasting in the oven promises great flavour. I promise you will feel like brighter days are coming by the time you finish this bowl of deliciousness. (Is that a word?)

  • 4 tbsp white miso paste
  • 3 tbsp grapeseed oil (or other neutral oil)
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 3 cups shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 sheet of dried seaweed (optional but recommended)
  • 1 large yellow onion, skin on, thinly sliced
  • 1 large carrot, scrubbed clean and thinly sliced
  • 2 large celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 2 heads of garlic, cut in half, skins on
  • 4 inch knob of ginger, unpeeled, thinly sliced
  • 5 sprigs parsley (or any other herb you have around!)

To finish: juice of one lemon, salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 325 and cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl combine miso, oil and water, whisk to combine.

Place piece of seaweed and all prepared veg on the parchment and toss well with the miso mixture.

Roast for at least an hour, until veg are lightly browned.

Turn into a large stock pot, and cover with 10 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 1-2 hours.

Strain the stock off, discard the vegetables (you’ve cooked all the goodness out of them!) and add in the juice of 1 lemon, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.

This is delicious!!! I got it from the kitchen of Jillian Harris, she calls it Gut Healing Veggie Broth, and it is a sure fired winner.

Don’t you just know how good it is going to be already??
Once that miso gets tossed in there with it all and starts roasting your whole house smells fabulous.
The broth alone is a great starting place for amazing soups.
LAKSA – totally delicious with this stock.

Grandma’s Pizza Dough (Farmhouse)

Soft, tender & chewy crust …. layered with a few toppings, and this is just the best pizza! Today we had salami with cartelized onions, mozzarella, then ham, red peppers and black olives finished with feta. You can only do this if you have a crust hearty enough to handle it all.

Okay, maybe not my Grandma’s dough …. I’m pretty sure my Grandma never made a pizza in her life. Today’s Grams …. yes! This is also commonly called Farmhouse dough. I really don’t know where that originated, but if you try this you will find the most amazing dough for a deep dish pizza anywhere. Seriously. That’s a big claim to make, but this dough is soft, chewy and such a flavourful base for whatever you decide to build it with. Normally we do a variety of thin crust pizzas, but for cold nights, and only one pizza … this is killer!

Start the day prior to pizza baking!!!

Ingredients

  • 1 envelope active dry yeast (about 2¼ tsp.)
  • 2 Tbsp. plus ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for bowl
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for surface

MAKES ENOUGH DOUGH FOR 1 PIE

 

Preparation

Step 1. Stir together yeast and 1¾ cups warm water (105–110°) in the bowl of a stand mixer; let stand until yeast starts to foam, about 10 minutes.

Step 2. Mix in 2 Tbsp. oil, then salt and 2 cups flour. Attach dough hook and mix until just combined. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add another 2 cups flour, a cup at a time, mixing until incorporated and a shaggy dough forms, about 3 minutes.

Step 3  Increase speed to medium and mix until dough is soft and elastic and starts to pull away from sides of bowl, 5–6 minutes. It will still be somewhat sticky. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Chill 24 hours.

Step 4  Coat an 18×13″ rimmed baking sheet with remaining ½ cup oil. Turn out dough onto a rimmed baking sheet and let sit 10 minutes to take off the chill. Gently and gradually stretch dough until it reaches edges and all 4 corners of baking sheet. (If dough springs back or is stiff to work with, let it rest a few minutes before continuing. You may need to let it rest more than once.)

Step 5  Cover dough on baking sheet tightly with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place (but not too warm!—about 70° is ideal for yeast to grow) until it is puffed and full of air bubbles, 30–40 minutes.

These instructions are for a stand mixer, but feel free to do it by hand, just takes a little effort to do the kneading.

This recipe came straight from Bon Appetit, one of my favourite sources for recipes that never fail.  I’ve made it enough times now that I wanted to make sure to get it on the blog so I never lose this!
My stand mixer makes this pretty easy, but if you don’t have one, just go ahead and knead by yourself …. make sure to do so for 6-8 minutes though.
You will end up with this pillowy, soft ball of deliciousness. Make sure to stop while it is still slightly sticky or the dough will be too dry.
When you put it into the fridge it is shiny and smooth. Make sure to use a a container large enough for the dough to rise.
I like using this covered container, the dough rises enough to hit the lid and then continues to aerate, but the lid prevents it from spilling all over the fridge.
This recipe is enough for one large sheet pan, or 3 smaller pizzas. Just 2 of us at home now, so if I make this recipe – one pizza and a salad is great for dinner so you have 2 to put in the freezer for another night.
Delicious pizza sauce – lightly saute cherry tomato with a generous glug of olive oil, salt and pepper. When soft, blend up with basil and oregano …. taste and adjust with a little more salt and pepper if needed.
I usually cook this at 425 convection, and then slip it out of the pan and put it directly on the oven rack for the last few minutes to get the bottom crispier.