Taco Seasoning Mix

Taco Seasoning 1

How pretty is this colourful group of seasoning?

Ever noticed how many ingredients you can’t spell or pronounce on those premade taco seasoning packs??  Stop the madness with this mixture.  A little bit of flour makes the ground meat have a wee bit of a saucy texture.  Don’t stop at ground meat for goodness sake (pun? word play?)..  Sprinkle this over vegetables and roast them up – drizzle with a little lime crema and you’ve got an amazingly tasty dish.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne powder (use less if you aren’t keen on the heat)
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano

Mix all this up in a small bowl, and then have it on hand to season meat or vegetables.  You’ll be so glad you took a few minutes to get this ready.

Taco Seasoning 2

To use this for ground meat tacos, brown your meat in a fry pan, then add 2 tbsp mixture for each pound of ground meat and add about 2 tbsp water, stir and cook just until meat is cooked through.

If you want to leave the flour out altogether that is just great, that makes it even more versatile:

Salad Vinaigrette:  1 tbsp mix to 2 tbsp lime juice and 7 tbsp olive oil.

Vegetable (or chip!) Dip: 1 tbsp (or to taste) with 1/4 cup each plain yogurt and good mayonnaise.

Grilled Shrimp:   Sprinkle a generous amount over shrimp before grilling.

Taco Seasoning 3

I like to mix up 3 x this recipe and just keep it on hand.  Try it, you’ll do the same thing!

Massaman Curry

I’ve had a bit of a love for Penang curry lately, but tonight Massaman won the battle.  In no way is this totally authentic, since I wasn’t planning to put either carrots or potatoes in and those are both always found in Massaman curry.  Served with Sticky Thai chicken wings and jasmine rice this made a fantastic dinner, quick and easy but oh so tasty.

Massaman Curry

Tonight this was a vegetarian dish with cauliflower, broccoli and bok choy but you could easily add a protein if you like.  In Thai lessons we learned to add thinly sliced meat and then NOT stir it until it is cooked through.

Thai chicken curries are so simple to make, and come together very quickly.

Get everything ready first and when its time to cook it will happen before you know it!

  • 1/2 cup onion, roughly chopped (in Thailand, every cooking class I took had us cutting 1/2 an onion into 6 pieces)
  • 1 large garlic clove, sliced
  • 1 tbsp each minced ginger and lemongrass
  • 2 tbsp Massaman curry paste
  • 1 can coconut milk (don’t use the lite version)
  • 3-4 cups assorted vegetables, in bite size pieces

Mix together and set aside: 2 tbsp each fresh lime juice, fish sauce and brown sugar

Heat peanut oil in saucepan until shimmering and add onion pieces, stir until slightly softened and add garlic, ginger, lemongrass and curry paste.  Saute to bring out the flavours in the curry and aromatics.  Add coconut milk and stir well.  Add vegetables and cook just until crisp tender.  Stir in the lime juice, fish sauce and brown sugar.

Thai food should have a great balance of sweet, spicy, salty & tangy.  If this doesn’t yet, keep making adjustments until it does!

 

The BEST Crab Artichoke Dip

I’m not kidding you guys.  This dip is delicious, so make sure you get in there before your guests have consumed it all!

Crab Artichoke Dip 3

If you want a little “kick” stir in finely diced jalapeño chilies or chili flakes.

  • 1 8 oz block cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp horseradish
  • 1 tin good quality crab meat
  • 1 diced roasted sweet red pepper
  • 1 14 oz container artichoke hearts (diced)
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar (I like white)
  • 1/4 cup finely sliced green onion or chives
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream together the cream cheese, mayonnaise and sour cream … then add the Old Bay seasoning, Worcestershire, & horseradish.  Give this mixture a good blend, I like to use my hand held blender for this to make sure it is all smooth and creamy.  If you do this before you add the rest of the ingredients all your flavouring will be evenly distributed before you stir in the rest.

Crab Artichoke Dip 1

Gently fold in the diced roasted red pepper, diced artichoke hearts, shredded cheese, sliced onion and lemon juice.  Stir carefully at this point so you keep all the distinct colours and textures.  Lastly stir in the crab meat and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Crab Artichoke dip 2

 

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes until it is bubbling.  Serve with crackers or sliced baguette, and stand back …. watch the crowd go wild.

 

Miso Glazed Scallops and Greens

Scallops

Tender scallops, browned delicately and served over bok choy.  Yum.  In fact, you could use any greens, however the bok choy looked too good to pass by.

Ready for a 15 minute dinner?  This was so quick I couldn’t believe it.  If you want to make a full meal, just serve over rice.  In fact, by the time your rice is ready, the rest of this tasty dinner will be too. Dripping with the goodness of ginger and garlic the miso glaze adds the perfect amount of sauce to golden scallops.

  • 1 tbsp yellow miso
  • 1 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine)
  • 1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1/2 tsp fresh grated garlic
  • 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 2 baby bok chow, quartered lengthwise
  • 10 large sea scallops, patted dry (make sure to remove the side muscle)

GARNISH

  • thinly sliced green onions
  • toasted sesame seeds

Whisk first 4 ingredients and 1 tbsp water in a small bowl to blend.  Set sauce aside.

Heat 1 tsp vegetable oil, and sesame oil in nonstick skillet over med-high heat.  Add bok choy and cook until just wilted and browned lightly in spots, turning often.  Remove bok choy to serving platter.

To the same skillet, add a bit more of both oils.  Season scallops with salt and pepper and add to skillet.  Sear scallops until brown and just opaque in center, about 1 1/2 minutes per side.  Pay attention, there is nothing sadder than an overcooked scallop. :o(

Remove pan from heat and nestle the scallops in with the bok choy.

Add miso sauce to skillet, stir just until warm, about 3-5 seconds.  If it seems too thick add a bit more water.

Drizzle sauce over scallops and bok choy.  Sprinkle with green onions and sesame seeds.

I think it took about as long to type this as to cook it ……

CREAMY THAI PEANUT PRAWN & NOODLES

Noodles 3

Creamy, tangy and full of crunch this Peanut Noodle Dish is really a one pot wonder.  One of the few peanut sauces I’ve liked, that didn’t require cooking!

My BFF Jean made a version like this when we met up in Osoyoos for wine tasting, and it was just perfect.  She made it into a one pot meal by using quick cooking Ramen noodles, which cooked in a large pot of boiling water, adding veg and shrimp at the appropriate times to get it all cooked.  Drain it in a colander and pour the sauce over – presto, deliciousness!!!
Ingredients:
These are really just suggestions.  Tonight I used broccoli and sweet coloured peppers.
  • 2 servings of rice noodles
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • vegetables, such as :
  • 1 carrot, peeled and shredded
  • ½ pound snow peas, ends trimmed and shredded
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • sweet coloured peppers
  • onions
  • garlic

Peanut Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons grated ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped fine
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chili flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 cup of chicken stock
  • Toppings:
  • chopped cilantro
  • chopped peanuts
  • toasted sesame seeds
  • lime wedges
  • sriracha sauce (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  • Mix ginger, garlic, peanut butter, soy sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, chicken stock and chili flakes in a bowl, puree and set aside.
  • Soak rice noodles in very hot water until just al dente, drain and set aside.
  • Remove the ingredients from heat and drain with a colander.
  • In saute pan, stir fry vegetables until just crisp tender.  Remove and stir fry prawns just until plump and tender.  Be careful not to overcook them – that can happen in the blink of an eye.

Noodles 1Return all ingredients to saute pan and stir to mix.  Add in enough noodles just to get the balance right.

Noodles 2

  • Pour the peanut sauce over the noodles and mix well.
  • Top with cilantro, peanut, sesame seeds and lime wedges to serve.
You can use any noodle if you don’t want the rice noodles, just cook according to package directions.

Crispy Crunchy Fish Tacos

Fish tacos 1

Crispy, crunchy, spicy & creamy – fish tacos don’t get any better!

Flaky white fish (cod today), coated in the crispiest, craggiest of batters, and topped with creamy avocado, spicy chipotle cream, fresh & crispy peanut cabbage coleslaw and cilantro.    Our favourite fish tacos in Mexico are found in Puerto Escondido at this amazing spot we just had to return to.  La Olito, you do it best!  No, I’m sure these are not exactly the same, but once you’ve had them you will also want to either hop a plane for Puerto Escondido or try my version.

 

BATTER

  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup rice flour
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp smoked paprika
  • sea salt
  • 3/4 cup beer (maybe more if necessary)
  • 1 egg

This works for about 1 pound white fish, (halibut, cod, snapper).  Cut into 2″ pieces  and dust with salt and pepper, then a light coating of flour.

Combine flour, paprika, pepper & salt and whisk to combine.   Transfer half the mixture to a bowl and set aside.  Add the beer & egg to remaining mixture and whisk until a smooth batter (it should be about the consistency of paint).  Add a bit more beer at a time until it does.  Set aside.

Heat oil in deep fryer or fry pan to 350.

Take fish that has been coated in the light flour and dip in the batter, then into the dry spiced flour mixture.  Cook pieces a few at a time so that you don’t bring the temperature of the oil down by crowding the fish.  Turn fish a few times so that the entire fish piece is crispy, crunchy and golden brown.

As fish is cooked, keep warm in a 200 degree oven until all the fish is cooked.

Fish tacos 2

Serve with:

Chipotle Aoili

To make chipotle aoili combine:

  • 1/3 cup sour cream (feel free to use plain yogurt)
  • 1 minced chipotle chili in adobo sauce
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

This is a generalization really …… everybody has different spice tastes, and all products have different levels of flavour.  Make this your own!

Peanut Coleslaw

roast 1/ cup peanuts lightly, chop and set aside

1-2 cups shredded cabbage (add carrot and red cabbage if you like)

  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 4 tbsp peanut oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • salt & pepper to taste

Mix dressing ingredients together and toss with cabbage and peanuts

Heat tortillas, and fill up with fish, top with coleslaw, crema, avocado and cilantro.

 

If you haven’t packed your bags for Mexico yet …. get out the napkins and try these fish tacos.

 

 

Peanut Noodle Salad

Peanut Sesame Noodles

PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD, you won’t be sorry!

YES, I mean it, get in there … play with this noodle dish.  Experiment with textures and colours, and then when its time to mix with the dressing your hands are the best tools in your kitchen, a great time to get the kids to help ….. (after they’ve washed up).

  • 1/4 cup peanut oil
  • 1/2 cup raw peanuts
  • 1 small jalapeño, minced
  • 1 small garlic clove, halved
  • One 1/4-inch slice of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2  cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce
  • 1 tablespoon black bean sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil

 

Heat peanut oil in sauce pan, and add peanuts.  Heat until golden brown and allow to cool slightly.

Grind garlic, jalapeno and ginger with a 1/2 tsp of sea salt with mortar and pestle.  (Yes, you can use a food processor if you have one and would rather!)  Add sliced scallions.  Pour warm peanuts (with oil) over top.  The warmth allows the flavours to bloom.  Add the rest of the ingredients and blend well.  I can’t say this strongly enough but taste it!  Taste, taste, taste.  Everybody has a different brand of each ingredient, and that will make the overall taste slightly unique in every household.  Get a balance that you like, in other words, when you realize you are still tasting just to eat it ……

Soften rice noodles according to package instructions.

Thinly slice coloured sweet peppers, celery and any other vegetables you are inclined to add – this is so forgiving and just allows you to express yourself.

Asian noodles

Toss everything together until well blended.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

This noodle dish is easy to turn into a main dish, or one dish meal by adding chicken or seafood.  Keep it the way it is for a vegetarian meal or add some cubed, fried tofu.

Beer Batter Fish & Chips

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It took me long enough to perfect my batter recipe.   Finally discovered the secret (well, for me anyway) and it was to add some rice flour to the batter.  This created a lighter batter that was bursting with flavour, and had a very satisfying crunch when you bite into it.  This may be a treat that we only indulge in once in a long while, but when we do we want it to be totally satisfying.

Another hint …… make sure you fry your potatoes twice to get a nice crunch on them.  Once you have slivered them, fry initially at 325 degrees, just until soft – barely cooked through.  Remove from the fry oil and allow to cool, on a drain rack.

Fries

Something so satisfying about home fries, fresh out of the deep fry and crispy.  Make sure to season with salt & pepper as soon as they are tumbled onto the draining paper.

My trick is to do the first fry, and while the fish is frying they cool down – then the oil will already be at your higher temperature and they can pop into the fryer for the final few minutes, which makes them golden brown and crunchy.  Keep your fish warm in a 225 F oven while the second fry takes place.

Ketchup is the usual French fry dip I think, but not for me – I like an aioli, super easy and tastes way better!

lemon basil aioli

Only takes a few ingredients, and a few minutes to make, and this Lemon Basil Aioli is an amazing dip for fries, raw vegetables, or pretty much anything you have a mind to dip into it.

LEMON BASIL AIOLI

  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup good mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp basil (minced)
  • 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
  • squeeze of lemon juice

Give it all a good mix up and you’re done.  Keeps in the fridge really well too.

 

BEER BATTER

INGREDIENTS

Serves 4

Beer battered cod fillets:

  • 4  thick cod fillets
  • 1 cup all purpose white flour
  • 3/4 cup rice flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup soda water
  • 3/4 cup lager (or your favourite beer)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  1. In a large bowl, mix both flours, baking powder, salt and sugar.
  2. Add soda water & beer. (if not a fan of beer (?) just use all soda water)
  3. Mix together only until the batter binds together and is smooth. Be careful not to over-mix. (you may need to add a bit more liquid)
  4. Cover your fish with salt & pepper, as well as a dusting of plain flour, then drop into the batter and coat completely.
  5. Pre-heat vegetable oil in deep fryer to 350 F.
  6. Once fish is coated with batter, gently place into the deep fryer and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden and crispy.
  7. Remove from fat and drain.

TARTAR SAUCE

  • 1/2 cup good mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons small-diced pickles or cornichons
  • 1 tablespoon Champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 teaspoon coarse-grained mustard
  • Pinch kosher salt & freshly ground pepper

Tartar Sauce

Combine all ingredients in small food processor and whir it all up.  Done.  Of course, if you don’t have a food processor, just chop up the pickles and stir it all together.  Either way, it’s delicious.  I got this from Ina Garten’s recipe collection, so of course it is good!

Tartar Sauce 1

Just looking at it makes you want to dip some freshly fried fish in, right?

Tart and Tangy Thai Pork Noodles

This makes for a quick and easy dinner, using one skillet (or wok), and just involves a bit of chopping.  As always, please please, taste your marinade before adding cornstarch.  If you don’t smack your lips and say yum yum, try adjusting.  Maybe you like it spicier?  – add chile flakes.  Maybe you like it more tart?  – add lime.  Any dish that has Thai in the title should be well balanced, with salty, sweet, spicy & sour in perfect harmony. Once you get that perfect balance add the corn starch.

Pork noodles

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb boneless pork loin,  cut into strips
  • tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • tablespoons soya sauce (reduced sodium)
  •  4 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 1teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 1teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 8 ounces rice noodles
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided use
  •  broccoli florets
  • carrot, sliced 1/8 inch thick
  • 1 sweet red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • bamboo shoots (optional)
  • water chestnuts (optional)

Realistically – – – all the vegetables are optional, use whatever you like, just make sure you have a good assortment of color and crunch.

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine hoisin sauce, soy sauce, lime juice, honey, cornstarch, sesame oil and red pepper flakes.  Remove enough just to cover pork and place in bowl.
  2. Add pork, marinate while preparing pasta and vegetables or up to overnight.
  3. Cook (or soak) rice noodles according to package directions, drain.
  4. Heat 1 tsp oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Saute garlic & ginger for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Add vegetables and saute until crisp-tender (about 5 minutes).
  6. Remove vegetables from skillet and keep warm.
  7. Add remaining oil and pork mixture to skillet. Cook until pork is nicely browned.
  8. Remove pork, keep warm and stir in remaining marinade to skillet.  Cook until bubbly so the cornstarch is cooked through and thickens.
  9. Return pork & vegetables to skillet, add rice noodles, heat through and serve.

Garnishes:  sliced green onions, toasted and chopped peanuts and roughly chopped cilantro.

This dish works equally well if you want to make it a vegetarian dish, or decide to change up the protein, try:

  • sliced chicken thighs
  • prawns
  • seafood

We like rice noodles, but you could easily use any type of pasta you have on hand like chinese egg noodles or spaghetti noodles.

Grilled Shrimp and Cauliflower with Romesco Dipping Sauce

Cauliflower & Shrimp with Romescu
The first thing you need to know is that this sauce is A M A Z I N G.  Put it on your sandwich, toss hot pasta with it, fresh veggie dip or meat skewer dip …. it wins every time.  Today’s appetizer included these grilled cauliflower florets, lightly marinated shrimp and green onions.

Ingredients for Romesco

1 1/2 CUPS SERVINGS

  • 1 large roasted red bell pepper from a jar
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup tomato purée
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

Pulse first 8 ingredients in a food processor until very finely chopped. With motor running, slowly add oil; process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Romesco can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and chill.

romescu

To use as a dipping sauce, heat through until easy to stir and warm.

 

Shrimp and Vegetables

  • 1 head of cauliflower – cut into florets
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 lb jumbo shrimp – tails and shells on
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • 1 bunch green onions

Lightly steam cauliflower until just tender crisp – be careful not too overcook it.

Season with salt.

In a large bowl, toss shrimp with vegetable oil and lime juice.  Allow to sit for 20-30 minutes.

Grill cauliflower, shrimp and green onions just until heated through (and shrimp is fully cooked) – try to get some pretty grill marks on there!

Arrange on a serving platter with the Romesco and dip merrily away.