Quisotto Primavera

After all the food, get-togethers, parties, and too much indulging overall during the holiday season, it is not surprising that come January, the biggest trend for New Years’ Resolutions has to do with realigning our lifestyle habits such as eating and exercising.  In this part of the world, January is also synonymous with snow and below freezing temperatures, which makes it difficult to stick to those salad regimes we fantasize settling into with little effort. It is easy to succumb to some of our favorite comfort foods that may not be kind to our bodies or our resolutions. Cravings for hot stews, roasts, braised meats, butter, breads, pasta and all those hearty dishes are inevitable. Just because you want to eat better and feel better to start off the New Year, it doesn’t mean you have to ignore your cravings. It’s all about finding the right balance between satisfying your need for comfort in these cold months and choosing the right foods to make you feel better.

This recipe is inspired by this risotto recipe that appeared in Bon Appétit. I have since made my own version over and over again, and even turned it into a quisotto (quinoa, cooked risotto style).The quinoa provides more nutrition than the white starchy Arborio rice, the egg is the touch of comfort and vegetables are simply good for you. Try using different vegetables, keeping in mind that depending on cook time you may need to stagger adding your various veggies. For an even lighter version, poach the egg or skip it altogether and top the quisotto with roasted tomato slices. Ingredients make two hearty portions (or two smaller ones, with some leftovers for lunch).

Quisotto Primavera

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 mushrooms, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 zucchini, diced (about ½ cup)
  • ½ bell pepper, diced (about ½ cup)
  • 2 celery stalks, diced (about ½ cup)
  • 2 carrots, diced (about ½ cup)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried herbs (I like using the Provence blend)
  • ½ cup quinoa
  • ½ cup white wine (optional, replace white wine with broth)
  • 1 ½ cup broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 eggs

In a small pot, heat up the broth and keep warm while cooking the quisotto. The reason you want to keep the broth warm is because you want to avoid slowing down the cooking process when adding ladles of cold or room temperature broth to the quinoa/vegetable mixture. This applies to any risotto as well.

In a pot on medium-high, heat the olive oil, add the herbs and sauté the garlic, onion, celery and bell pepper until soft but not browned. Add the carrots, mushrooms and quinoa, stir for about a minute to coat well and toast the grains. Add the white wine, stir the mixture while simmering until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Turn down the heat to medium or medium-low and add a ladle of broth. Add the zucchini and stir until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Repeat until the quinoa is cooked through and has absorbed all the broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you find you do not have enough broth, you can easily add a touch of water at a time until everything is cooked through. The consistent stirring adds “creaminess” but unlike Arborio rice, it is not fussy and does not risk becoming sticky.

In a pan, fry the eggs as desired and serve atop of the quisotto dish.

For those of you detoxing or doing a cleanse, why not try making a raw version of this quisotto with some sprouted quinoa, combining it with the raw diced vegetables and just barely covering with warm miso broth. Of course, skip the wine and the egg.  ;-)

For information on sprouting quinoa, click here.

And last but not least, a very happy belated New Years to everyone, thanks for reading and I wish you all health and happiness for 2012!

The Kidney Community Kitchen

I don’t usually talk about my 9 to 5 here. This blog is a place where  I write and cook for the love of it, and when I have something I find important to share. As I was saying in my last post (that was way overdue), I’ve been busy. With that, what I actually mean is that my work team has been busy. I work at the Kidney Foundation of Canada and for the last few weeks (months?) we have been putting a great deal of energy into producing a website that caters to the nutritional needs of people living with kidney disease: the Kidney Community Kitchen!

I am still learning about all the challenges that kidney patients have to face and eating is just the tip of the iceberg, and is in of itself a whole can of worms! Can you imagine having to track not only your sodium intake, but also phosphorus, potassium, protein and even liquids? Getting the right nutritional intake really is a science for people affected by this disease. Think about it this way: your whole wheat pasta with tomato sauce that you conveniently whip up because you don’t have time for dinner – a kidney patient can’t eat it. That gourmet sugar-free bar of raw chocolate that you splurged on? a kidney patient can’t eat it. Garlic roasted potatoes? forget it. How about your morning glass of OJ? yup, you guessed it…

As much as this project was an eye opener for me in realizing the complexity of this disease, when I saw the final product (a new online tool) finally coming together I was really excited. We managed to put together a site that makes tracking a kidney patient’s nutrient intake and creating meal plans easy (because it is hard work! I would know, I created some of them myself!). On the resource site, you can upload your own recipes and have them revised by our team of dietitians, and hare your experiences with other people in the forums. At the end of the day, all I hope for is this tool makes the daily life of kidney patient just a little bit easier.

Recently this  news article was published and gives a good general insight into a kidney patient’s daily challenges.

Now I know this is not the type of topic I usually cover but since food connects us all – especially at this time of year, and kidney disease affects so many people I just had to share this exciting piece of news that I am so proud to be a part of. And, the best part is it not only looks great, it’s also free.

If you know someone who is living with kidney disease, please pass along this valuable resource. The Kidney Community Kitchen!

A warm kicked’up drink good for the soul (and a cold!)

Well it is that time of year again… I think I see a trend forming. Somehow come November this regular blogging thing goes on hiatus. In between closing the year-end with the 9-5, attending some fabulous events like the launch of the Mixeur Montreal Guides and the Alsace au menu dinner at Le hangar, planning Dishcrawl events, shopping, holiday parties,  endless eating, some drinking…let’s face it and we all know this – it’s a busy time of year!

Amidst the rush, daylight savings time and the erratic weather, the common cold is just around the corner. If it is not a cold then I find myself wanting to curl up with some classic comforts that make me feel cosy inside even when it is crummy outside (snow anytime please, I’d like to ski over the holidays!), with some thick wool socks and warm drinks.

When I was little, my mom would make a grog for me when I had a cold and a sore throat. Her version of the drink was made with hot water with lemon and honey, the right ingredients to make me feel better (very PG). Since those days, I have moved out, taken on adult responsibilities and this drink has become all grown-up – but I still turn to this basic combination of ingredients when I need to curl up with something hot and comforting.

So here is my kicked’up version of a grog. Makes a great warm cocktail for the holidays, a snowy day or après-ski – and still comforts you when you have the sniffles!

Kicked’up Grog

  • 1 oz whisky or rhum
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tbso fresh grated ginger
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 tbsp honey, or to taste
  • Pinch of your choice of spices such as nutmeg, clove, anis, cardamom…

Combine all ingredients in a mug, stir and enjoy! Makes one drink.

Solo Brunch at Home, Oeuf en Cassolette

With the days getting colder and colder, it makes it that much more difficult to pull yourself out from the warmth of your comforter. As you stumble your way to the kitchen to turn on the kettle for some hot tea or coffee, the last thing you want to do is have to put on a coat and head out to the store to pick-up that one item you are missing for your weekend brunch.

There is something completely induldgent about staying in on a cold weekend morning, curling up with a hot cup of tea or coffee and spending a little quality time with yourself. In my case this usually involves flipping through a recipe book, a food magazine, jotting down some creative ideas… and yes, sometimes watching a movie first thing in the morning.

So instead of venturing out into the cold brisk air, I chose to work with what I had in my fridge. Stuck with an array of vegetables and some eggs, who says that brunch needs to be boring. Cassolettes (or any ovenproof individual dish) are an easy way to make the simple ingredients look like a treat, and when you’re having brunch solo at home – even more reason to make it special!

Oeuf en Cassolette

  • 1/2 small onion, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup zucchini, diced
  • 1/3 cup sweet potato, diced (or regular potato)
  • 1/4 cup carrots, sliced
  • 3 mushrooms, cut in quarters
  • 1 tsp fresh herbs of your choice (use dried herbs if you do not have fresh ones on hand)
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400F. Bring a pan to medium-high heat, sauté the onions, garlic, zucchini, sweet potato, carrots and mushrooms in olive oil. Season with herbs, salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about 5-10 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Add the diced tomato and heat through.

At this point you have a couple options (share your ideas in the comments below):

Option 1 – make one big plate all to yourself: pour the entire filling into an oven-proof dish, crack two eggs on top and bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until the eggs are set to desired doneness.

Option 2 – attempt to be reasonable and make one smaller plate for yourself: pour half the filling in an oven-proof dish, crack one egg on top and bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until the eggs are set to desired doneness. Use the other half of the filling to make a second egg cassolette, or turn into a different dish all together.

I made this egg dish a little luxurious by topping it with a square of porcini composed butter that I had on hand. But be creative… top with sour cream, cheese, avocado… anything.

Any leftover filling can be saved for another meal to serve as a gratin in a cassolette (top with cheese or your choice and broil), use as a hearty topping for a salad, or spread in a tortilla and make a quesadilla.

Cooking Blog-Up for Chef Apollo’s New Book

A few weeks ago, a group of bloggers got together to cook some recipes out of Chef Apollo’s new book Apollo2. We preped and cooked our respecctive dishes inside the kitchen of his restaurant that he graciously opened up to us. I think he was as excited as we were to be there! Talking with him and his staff about the recipes they themselves created, made for such an amazing and surreal experience.

Prior to the event, we each decided upon a recipe to cook, test and eat! The world of a professional kitchen can be a bit nerve-wracking when you have never set foot in one, but rubbing elbows with the expertise of Chef Apollo and that of his remarkably helpful team certainly smoothed thing over quickly. We were warmly greeted and The best part of it all was sharing this meal with wonderful people sharing the same passion for food, or as Apollo said himself in his book: “la gastronomie est un moyen exceptionnel de partager avec ceux que l’on aime, de les surprendre, de colorer leur assiettes et du coup leur journée.

Chef Apollo’s new book is sorted alphabetically by ingredient, with beautiful photographs set on a bold black background. The recipes are simple and straightforward, with some flavourful surprises. For the Blog-Up I chose to prepare a Cauliflower Tajine. The book is currently only available in French, but I have transcribed the recipe as it is printed here [with my comments or modifications appearing in brackets].

Cauliflower Tajine by Apollo2

  • 2 lb cauliflower florets
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 pinch saffron
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tbsp preserved lemon, diced
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp flour

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the cauliflower for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In another large pot, add the olive oil, tomatoes, ginger, saffron. Cover with water and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally until the water has evaporated. Add the lemon juice, the preserved lemon, cayenne pepper and cumin. Combine the four with a small amount of water and combine it to the mixture.

Add the cauliflower, reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring from time to time. [Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to  taste, and finish cooking with a generous drizzle of fragrant olive oil.] Remove from heat when the sauce has thickened and serve immediately.

Prep time: 15 minutes; Cook time: 20-25 minutes. Makes four main dishes or eight sides.

From left to right: À la saveur d’Andrea, Will Travel for Food, Giovanni Apollo, Kitchen Heals Soul, BRUTalimentations, Kristel’s Kitchen (and Sylvain hiding in the back)

Many thanks to BRUTalimentation and Will Travel for Food for taking and sharing the photographs.

Cute Cooking Tools and a Contest with Mortimer Snodgrass

I love cooking gadgets, can never have too many of them. Some are professional, some not so much and others just because they make me smile.

When I stumbled into Mortimer Snodgrass‘ shop in Old Montreal I was drawn into the big bright space and all the quirky objects that suck you in with curiosity, and perhaps a little child-like wonder. A lot of the fun cooking gadgets they have in store would be great for hosting ideas (or bringing to a dinner party as a gift), and some perfect to get your kids involved in the kitchen… afterall, conscious eating habits are important right from the start!

I had received Russian doll measuring cups as a gift years ago, which i always keep handy (and pretty on my kitchen counter). So I just couldn’t resis picking up the matching containers and measuring spoons. Anything red is irrestible and so was this small handy zester. However, it is this finger spatula that I just cannot wait to use. LIfe has kept me busy and away from my kitchen but I look forward to spending more time getting reacquainted with my kitchen and try all these fun new tools!

Well, this cute little shop on Notre Dame in Montreal’s Old Port is celebrating their 10 year anniversary with a contest, where you can win one of three loot bags! Contest details are written out below. Do you have a favorite quirky gadget you like to use in your kitchen?

Snodversary Contest!!!!

Kind of hard to believe, but it was 10 years ago this month that we rented that tiny little store on Monkland and opened our doors…. Truth be told, we had no idea what we were doing, and we are thrilled to be here, loved by so many, still having fun, 10 years later. Also, the store is so much bigger and prettier now, we are quite thankful for that!

To thank you, our customers, we are launching our Snodversary month with a giveaway. There are 3 prizes for in-store customers and 2 prizes for on-line fans. Here is how we will do this:

In Store: until October 31st, come to the store and with any purchase, we will give you a ballot to fill out.

On-line: you can either follow us on Twitter or on our Facebook page and give us a shout out. It can be anything, how much you love us, retweeting one of our tweets, using our famous #snodversary hash tag or posting something on your wall or ours. If we see our name, we will automatically enter you in our draw, every time.

On November 1st, we will draw the winners at random. Now, wanna know what you are playing for? The two green bags are for the on-line fans, the 3 colorful ones are for the in-store shoppers.

Sweet and Salty Rosemary Pecans

These past few days I have been travelling and I hate being stuck on a plane, train or automobile with limited choices of what to eat. As addicted I am to those highly processed snacks, I avoid them as much as I can. If I can travel with my own homemade food and snacks, then I know I will feel better at the end of it. Travelling also means time away from my kitchen, so I don’t have a new creation of my own to share with you this week.

I always pack some fruit to snack on when travelling, but I  recently came accross a new recipe from 101 Cookbooks that I just couldn’t wait to try. For this particular recipe, Heidi talked about her own recent travels and travel snacks. If you have not yet read her fantastic vegeterian blog, then I highly recommend you do so right away! She has wonderful recipes, pictures, and more to offer.

Her Brown Sugar Rosemary Walnuts recipe is so simple to make, that I mixed it up in a flash and baked them while I finished packing. Luckily I had everything I needed on hand – the advantage of keeping a well stocked pantry.

Well, almost everything… I did not have walnuts but it was an easy switch-in the pecans I had on hand.

I packed up one box for the trip and had enough leftover to make a few small care-packages, perfect treats for Thanksgiving that is right around the corner or even as host/hostess gifts! Wherever you go, whomever you meet, homemade treats are the best way to share the love (with other or even just yourself).

Do you have any favorite travel snacks? share your eating travel tips in the comments here.