Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Zucchini pizza crust (Gluten Free and Paleo)

I'm sure you've heard of the cauliflower crust, it's been a bit of a craze lately.  I've had it bookmarked for ages but then when I came upon this zucchini crust I just had to make it, of course I had a bunch of zucchini on hand so here we go... 

Now there are a couple of recipes out there I'm sure and I followed a general guide but really this is my own method. 

For 2 plate size pizzas you need: 

7 medium zucchinis, grated. Remove ends and grate on the large side of the box grater. 

Add 1 tbsp salt and mix using a big spoon or hands. Now add it to a colander over top a big bowl or over the sink to drain the liquid. You could weigh the top down by placing a bowl inside the colander over the zucchini and placing another heavy item inside the bowl. 

In the meantime make the sauce: 

1 can whole tomatoes, san marzano are the best. Drain the tomatoes out of the liquid and chop. 

In a saucepan heat 1 tbsp olive oil, Add chopped garlic (as much as you like) and add tomatoes. Season and saute then put on medium low with the lid off until all the water evaporates and it's a nice chunky dry sauce. 

(refer to the pic below to get an idea) 

Now squeeze out all the water from the zucchini using your hands by squishing a half a cup at a time between your palms and letting the liquid drip away.  Place the squished zucchini into a small saucepan or microwave safe dish. 

Now you either microwave on high for 3 mins or you can steam in a saucepan on high for 3-4 minutes. 

I don't really like using a microwave so I went the stove top method. Now again place the zucchini back in the colander and let it cool.  Once cool squeeze out more juice. Taste and it should be nice and flavourful not too salty. 

Add 1 egg

5 tbsp almond meal (ground almond or almond flour) 
3 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese (The real deal!) 
1/2 cup grated mozarella cheese. 
Black pepper and a dash of granulated garlic

Mush it all up and roll it into 2 balls. Place on a baking sheet and bake. Some recipes say to grease/spray the pan but honestly with all the cheese I didn't want any extra fat and surprisingly it does brown up from the cheese so you don't need to. 

Bake on 450 F until it's bubbly and browned. 

Remove from the oven and spread the sauce over top and add more cheese and toppings. I used halloumi cheese which I've sliced and soaked in some warm water for about 30 minutes to remove the excess salt then drained it well and pressed it on a paper towel. Add fresh herbs like basil after baking or a nice handful of fresh arugula with a squeeze of lemon! MMMmmm. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Moroccan inspired Haddock bowl!

Today I'm sharing a recipe that is super easy and elegant, it's perfect for summertime or Autumn!

.. it's basically just my lunch when I'm inspired to whip something quick and healthy...

As always I'll be using my favourite Highliner Flame Savours which are already pre-seasoned and just go directly from freezer to oven for 20 minutes on 400 F.  I use these so often that you may be wondering if Highliner is paying me to do these posts but the truth is they're not and I simply adore these!

Who would't love how easy, convenient and healthy without the hassle of thawing fish in the sink, seasoning and cooking.

I've highlighted key instructions that need to be prepared first with a (*) beside it so everything can run smoothly.

The elements of this dish are a saffron couscous with a lentil and vegetable medley and then the fish. Really super easy!

*Lentils: Use canned but I prefer to use dry.
1/4 cup lentils, washed and boiled in a saucepan in lots of water. Season water with salt and simmer until tender.  Drain and set aside.

For the vegetable medley: 

*1 zucchini, diced and salted in a colander for about 15 minutes, squeeze the excess liquid out with hands and rinse under cool water then squeeze again. Set aside

Olive Oil
1/2 large red onion, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1 tomato diced
1 heaping tsp tomato pasta

Salt & black pepper

2 tbsp water
1 tsp apple cider vinegar (or sherry vinegar)

Heat the olive oil and add the vegetables all at once, stir and add the spices then tomato pasta and fry it around a bit. Add water, vinegar and cover then simmer on low.  Half way through remove all the veggies to one side of the pan and add the lentils to keep them warm. Cover and wait for the fish to be ready for serving.

At this point you can bake your Highliner Flame Savours Haddock fish according to instructions

Meanwhile.... prepare the couscous! 

Ahead of time I prepare the couscous, 1/2 cup serves 2 people.

In a bowl add:

(The rule of thumb is to add equal parts couscous and water, never mind the instructions on the box that says add double the amount of water - it's simply too much!!)

*Presoak (even the night before if you wish but about 15 minutes is ideal if you're in a hurry, want to extract as much flavour as Saffron is an expensive ingredient)

1 tbsp warm water and a couple of threads of saffron

For the couscous

1/2 cup dry couscous
1 tsp olive oil
Lemon zest

Mix all this up with a fork and then add 1/2 cup of hot boiling water, cover with a cling wrap and set aside for 5 minutes.

Drizzle the saffron water over the couscous once it's done and after fluffing with a fork, set aside.

To serve layer the couscous on a plate and add lentils and the veggies over top then a piece of fish with a squeeze of lemon juice.
You could garnish with cilantro or add cilantro into the chopped medley if desired.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

"Mac & Cheese" Arabic Style!

I always see this arabic cheese at the middle eastern grocer but never sure what to do with it but today I'm sharing a fantastic (and kid friendly) recipe courtesy of my Syrian friend!

- 1 package Macaroni or favourite pasta
- 1 package of Arabic Baladi cheese (which is a white salty fresh cheese similar to the Mexican queso fresco)
- 2-3 tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp parsley, chopped finely
- Salt & black pepper (remember the cheese is salty too)

Start by chopping the cheese into small cubes and soaking in some warm water to remove excess salt.

Bring a large pot of water to the boil, adding salt to season and boil your pasta.

Chop parsley and set aside.

Drain the cheese well and then drain the pasta when al dante.
Add butter to the pot and fry the pasta in the butter for a couple of minutes. Taste and season.  Add the cheese and just as it begins melting add your parsley and stir for another 3 minutes or so. 
Serve immediately!


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Spring Time Spread

Happy Spring everyone! After emerging from this long long winter we're all happy to see a little sunshine (except today when it actually snowed!!) 

With Easter around the corner here is a fun tasting menu that I've prepared, just a little fun spread that could inspire you for your next dinner. 

With spring lamb being a favourite choice around Easter I went with a rack of lamb which I would turn into lamb chops.

The recipe kind of evolved into another recipe as it did not turn out as I wished.  There were a few unexpected bumps along the way when I discovered a couple of minutes before opting to cook my original lamb that it had gone completely rotten.  Thank God for a quick replacement and being able to put out the spread and finish up the photo shoot.

So what's on the menu you ask?
Herb crusted lamb chops

Zucchini fritters - courtesy of Joanna from Stylushlife blog 

(fresh Salad)

Raspberry lemon Tiramisu

Challah with homemade butter

Raspberry Lemon Tiramisu (coffee free) 

Tiramisu is the perfect cake free dessert, it tastes like there is cake in there but you didn't have to slave over it.  I use soft wider lady finger cookies that have gone hard and stale on me but use anything that you have.

Just like the hazelnut chocolate one I made around the holidays we're doing a coffee free version and begin by making the custard with the basic recipe here 

1 basic custard recipe (varied by adding lemon zest to the pot towards the end before straining it into a bowl and adding the butter- prepare the custard the night in advance and kept chilling in the fridge)

Raspberry syrup (homemade version below)
1 carton raspberries
1/2 cup sugar
juice of half a lemon

1 tub mascarpone cheese
2 cartons raspberry 
1 lemon (for zesting) 

To make the syrup simply dump the raspberries into a pot with the sugar and add the lemon juice, then add a splash of water and cook on medium high until the raspberries break apart. You can use a spoon to smoosh them further. You want a night flavourful syrup/juice and once they've released enough flavour remove from the heat and allow them to infuse until almost cool.
Strain off any seed and extra fruits and set aside the juice.

Before making the tiramisu you will need to heat up the juice just so it's warm to the touch. 

For the Crema part, add the mascarpone cheese to a bowl or kitchen aid mixer bowl and whisk until it's smooth, add the cooled custard in and incorporate it. If it's mildly lumpy it's ok as you can strain it through a fine metal sieve using a spatula to push it all through.

Warm up your raspberry syrup and begin dipping the cookies in. Add a layer of cream into your bowl and then stack the soaked and drained cookies over top, then another layer of cream and so forth ending with the cream. Set in the fridge and decorate with more fresh raspberries on top before serving and a zesting of lemon peel.

Butter: We're covered homemade butter in my Thanksgiving inspired menu a couple of years ago, and it's all very simple to make way in advance.
All you do is add your heavy 35% cream into a mason jar (filled half way up) and cover with a tight and secure lid then shake it away nice and gently, nice to do while watching tv.
It goes through all stages of getting frothy, then whipped cream and finally when you begin to hear a lot of splashing water and a lump formed inside you know your fat solids have come together.
Rinse off the creamy liquid (reserve it for baking or drinking!)  and add your lump of butter into a bath of icy water washing several times to only collect the buttery fatty parts and remove as much creamy liquid as possible.  You may need to set it on a board and squish it using the back of a wooden spoon. Finally add a sprinkling of salt and fold it in then store it away in the fridge (or freezer for a later date)

For the Challah (about 5 hours in advance) 

Mix together 2 tsp instant yeast
1 cup warm water
5 eggy olks
2 tbsp oil (I used olive)
4 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt

3 2/3 cups AP or Bread flour

Knead well until it all comes together and for about 10 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit until it doubles in size.

Now divide the dough in two and knead each piece about 3-5 minutes.  Divide each ball into six.  Starting with one of the lumps of dough first and rolling into a log and dividing into 3 and then each piece in 2.

Now you can learn to master your 6 strand challah braid (which I hope you practiced in advance! Youtube video Here ) and recipe courtesy of Bea's cookbook

Let rise one more time on the tray after shaping and brush with beaten egg before baking on 350 for about 30 minutes (checking it from time to time)

You should yield two loves but I stacked them on top and made a big round turban like design.

On the day of your party prepare the zucchini fritters and lamb close to your presentation time

Herb Crusted Lamb Chops

This lamb is meant to be a seared and baked lamb then sliced into as you see here 
There was an issue with my first rack having been completely rotten (from the store) and the second one was not cooked through so I sliced and seared them off in the pan. 

Follow Gordon Ramsay's Herb crusted lamb recipe here 


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Crab, Avocado and Grapefruit Salad


5 leaves of boston lettuce or butter lettuce

1 container of real crab meat (you'll find it in your local seafood section) 

1 Avocado, removed pit and skin and slice into wedges

1 grapefruit, segmented to remove the flesh.

1 tbsp chives


Grape fruit juice
1 tbsp olive oil
Vinegar or lemon juice
Salt & black pepper

Lay out the lettuce leaves on a serving plate. Arrange the avocado slices and grapefruit pieces.

Add the crab meat, distributing throughout and then sprinkle with chives.
Drizzle dressing and enjoy! 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Fools!

Kitty litter cake!

So much fun to make and more fun to eat... pranking people with it is also rather amusing

The recipe I'm using today is inspired by the "Better than Sex Cake" recipe which is wildly famous (so it seems!) and it's quite tasty. Here's my spin on it.
Cake:  2 X the following recipe

Hershey's Black Magic Cake
(I baked this recipe twice and it yielded 2 long rectangular pans)

1/2 cup oil  (I used butter flavoured EVOO From Olive That!) or grape seed oil 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk (Or mix yogurt with water to a nice thick liquid creamy consistency) 

1 cup strong black coffee OR 2 teaspoons powdered instant coffee plus 1 cup boiling water (or just plain boiling water) 

Dry ingredients:
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Cocoa Powder 
2 cups sugar

1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk, warm slightly in the microwave for a couple of seconds so it's easy to pour. 


1. Heat oven to 350°F.  Lay a piece of parchment to fit the bottom of a 13x9x2-inch rectangular baking pan.

2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes (Batter will be thin). Pour batter evenly into prepared pan.

3. Bake 35 to 40 minutes for rectangular pan or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Loosen cake from side of pan and remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.

For the second cake I removed from the oven and poked it all over with a skewer (not all the way through to the bottom) and then I poured some condensed milk (1/3 cup) by gently spooning some over the top and spreading it for the warm cake to absorb.

Set both cakes aside.

Salted Caramel Sauce: Recipe adapted slightly from Strawberry Chocolate Concoction 


1 cup granulated sugar

3 tbsp unsalted butter, cut in three squares from the stick 
(should but firm - from the fridge is fine, but not melty)

2/3 cup heavy cream

1/4 tsp sea salt (fleur de sel is best)

You can use raw cane sugar, which is a light brown color, which is why my caramel is a bit darker than if you were to start with white sugar

Heat sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula.
Sugar will form clumps and eventually melt into a deep, golden-brown, amber-colored viscous liquid. At all times, be careful not to burn!
Once the sugar is all melted, immediately add the butter. The mixture will bubble, so do watch out. Stir until the butter has completely melted and is mixed well into the sugar.
Slowly pour in the heavy cream. Due to the reaction between the cold cream and hot sugar mixture, the final mixture will bubble vigorously. Allow the mixture to boil/bubble for 30 seconds. It will rise in the pan as it does so. Once again, watch that it's not burning!
Remove from heat and stir in salt.. Allow to cool.

Store in a tightly-capped jar in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Warm slightly before using again.

(You may have some leftover, which is ok) 

Whipping cream:

2 (500 ml) small cartons of heavy (35%) cream
3 heaping tbsp powder sugar
1 tbsp vanilla

(Whip all together in the blender or kitchen aid until it is fluffy but not too whipped, just softer peaks.)


Prepare your food safe tub or container that resembles a kitty litter. Place a piece of parchment at the bottom and then set your first cake inside (the one without the sweetened condensed milk!)

Layer with half the whipped cream and drizzle caramel next.

The next layer of cake may have to be sliced horizontally into 2 layers if your container isn't a perfect square, otherwise there will be gaps as in my case where the tub got wider at the top and more narrow at the bottom.

I sliced the cake horizontally in a diagonal angle downwards from the middle and out to the side and was able to gently slide that piece over to cover the gap.  In the end it will look and taste delicious so no worries.

Another layer of whipped cream and more caramel.

At the very end and before serving sprinkle the entire top with toffee bits (skor?) and make sure no gaps are visible.  It will look exactly like kitty litter (more precisely the type I use which is corn litter by World's best cat litter)

Treat as a trifle and scoop pieces out.  It's absolutely delicious!