Category: Snacks & Appetizers
|April 18, 2013||Filled under Sides, Snacks & Appetizers, Soup & Sandwiches|
Sweet, salty, gooey, and crunchy. This flatbread has a combination of ingredients that are delicious on their own, but when combined, are pure heaven.
This recipe is an adaptation of a popular menu item from a little brunch place in Little Italy/Portugal in Toronto called Saving Grace. It’s been years since I dined there, way before I realized I was gluten-intolerant, but I still remember the brie, pear, walnut and honey on toasted baguette. The blend of flavours were so perfect and I wanted to recreate a gluten-free version to enjoy at home. I’ve made this a flatbread here but this would be great on your favourite gluten-free bread too. Bonus, it’s super fast to whip up and fancy enough to be an appetizer, especially when served with a chilled sparkling wine. A sweet way to start summer.
Pear Brie Walnut and Honey Flatbread (makes 1 flatbread)
- 1 brown rice tortilla from Food for Life
- 6 pear slices
- 6 slices Brie cheese
- 12 walnut halves
- 2 teaspoons honey, plus extra for drizzling
- Arugula leaves for garnish
Preheat oven to 375. Lay brie and pear on flatbread in a circular pattern, alternating the brie and pear pieces. In a small bowl, toss walnuts and 2 teaspoons of honey until walnuts are coated. Sprinkle walnuts on top of brie and pear. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are light golden brown and brie is melted. Garnish with arugula leaves and additional drizzle of honey.
|April 10, 2013||Filled under Fruits, Sauces & Dips, Snacks & Appetizers, Vegetables|
Are you thinking ‘What the what?! Pomegranates in guacamole? This Chinese girl from Canada is crazy.’ Seriously, I don’t blame you but I swear this is the real deal. I’ll always remember my first authentic Mexican meal after moving to Arizona at Barrio Cafe in Phoenix, where they made fresh guacamole right at our table. The waiter wheeled out a little cart with cut up limes, cilantro, jalapeno, and fresh avocados and smashed them together in a stone mortar and pestle. And just when I thought he was done, he mixed in some fresh pomegranate seeds. That, my friends, was when my mind was officially blown away.
Once I fully comprehended what had just happened, I tried the fresher than fresh guacamole on warm just-fried corn tortilla chips and died. Died and went to taste heaven. In fact, my taste buds did the Three Amigos Salute as the sweet pomegranates blended perfectly with the sour lime juice, sharp red onion, creamy avocado, and salty chips for the ultimate bite. I don’t remember what I had for my main as the rest of the night became a blur of tequila shots, but I do recall our friends losing their minds over the churros and goat’s milk caramel. At least I’ll have the memories of the guacamole for the rest of my days.
This guacamole is great for dipping tortilla chips into, or topping onto some yummy fish tacos, or even on top of a corn and black bean salad. Besides being delicious, avocados are full of healthy things like good fats, fiber, and have more potassium than bananas. Pomegranates are full of anti-oxidents and other good stuff. Plus they’re pretty. Whenever I make this guacamole, it feels like I’m in Arizona all over again. Hope you enjoy.
Guacamole with Pomegranates (serves 2)
- 1 medium ripe Hass avocado, cubed
- 1 Tbsp Spanish onion, finely diced
- 1 Tbsp finely minced coriander/cilantro
- 1 tsp fresh lime juice
- Pinch of cayenne or chili powder (optional)
- 1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced (optional)
- Salt to taste
- 2 Tablespoons fresh pomegranate seeds
Combine all the all the ingredients except for pomegranates into a bowl and mash with a fork. Serve chunky or smooth. Stir in pomegranate seeds and serve immediately with tortilla chips.
If serving later, place the pit of the avocado in with guacamole and cover to prevent avocado from turning brown.
|February 6, 2013||Filled under Asian, Main Dishes, Pasta, Rice, & Grains, Poultry, Snacks & Appetizers|
Chinese New Year is this weekend and I’m new year prep mode. Unlike its January 1st counterpart, which is basically about a countdown followed by new years resolutions, Chinese New Year feels so much more celebratory. Typically, the weeks leading up to the new year involves cleaning and de-cluttering, so you can start the new year fresh. By throwing out the trash or the bad luck, you make room for good luck to enter your life.
Every year, my grandma treats the whole family to dinner at a Chinese restaurant (at last count, that would be about 25 to 30 of us that live in town, including her kids, grandkids, and great grandkids). It’s the one time of year that all the amazing cooks in my family don’t actually have to cook (and mess up the kitchen) and can relax and enjoy the festivities instead.
After dinner, we all go to my parents house where the little ones get red envelopes with lucky money and then we start gambling. I have fond memories of all of us squishing around the table to play blackjack, which is the first card game we all learned to play. My dad is usually the dealer, with his ‘family house rules’ and we have a great time heckling him. And yes the eating continues here too. Usually fried shrimp chips, coffee, and clementines. Savoury, caffeinated, and sweet.
For this recipe, the five-spice powder gives the chicken a distinctly Asian flavour and isn’t actually hot spicy, more earthy and aromatic. The heat factor comes from the Thai bird chilis in the marinade and the toppings. Be careful, sometimes those little guys can be brutally spicy. I always de-seed before adding to the marinade to give it some kick, without being too overpowering.
Honestly, this batch of chilis was so spicy, we picked them off the wraps after the photos were taken because they were melting our faces off (the ones in the marinade were perfect). But if you like heat, go for it. You can always leave them on the side and let your guests garnish as they please.
This recipe for lettuce wraps is a hybrid of many different food loves: chili chicken, Peking duck (the second course), and Vietnamese cool rolls. Over the holidays, I watched Jamie Oliver create something similar on TV, though he start plopping on raw tofu and lost me, but I loved his Asian fusion approach. This would be a great meal to put out for a crowd and it’s fun and festive to eat no matter what time of year. An Asian taco of sorts. And like all tacos, make sure to have lots of napkins on hand.
Wishing everyone a New Year full of happiness, health, prosperity and lots of good luck.
PS – I used a julienne peeler to get those pretty shreds of carrot.
Five-Spice Chicken Lettuce Wraps (serves 4 as a main)
- 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat and cut into 1″ pieces
- 1 Tbsp minced garlic
- 1 Tbsp minced ginger
- 1 tsp five-spice powder
- 1 to 2 Thai bird chilis, de-seeded and finely minced
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro/coriander
- 3/4 tsp salt
- canola oil for frying
Lettuce Wraps and Garnishes
- 2 heads of iceberg lettuce
- 2 stalks green onion, finely sliced
- 1 medium carrot, julienned
- 1/4 cucumber, cut into matchsticks
- Handful fresh cilantro/coriander leaves
- 2 cups cooked rice noodles (cooked according to package instructions)
- Gluten-free hoisin sauce
- Sesame seeds (optional)
- 2 to 3 Thai bird chilis, finely sliced (optional)
- In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients for chicken except canola oil and stir to combine. Cover and marinate in fridge for 30 minutes up to 2 hours.
- Prepare lettuce wraps. Carefully peel away leaves of lettuce from the head, trying not to tear the leaves, and trim excess ends with kitchen shears. Wash and dry lettuce leaves, and place on platter.
- In large non-stick frying pan over medium high heat, add one tablespoon canola oil. Add half of the chicken to pan and let cook for 2 minutes or until browned. Flip chicken over and cook other side for another 2 minutes or until cooked through and no longer pink inside. Remove chicken and place on paper towel lined plate. Wipe any brown bits from pan with a clean paper towel and add pan back to heat. Add one tablespoon canola oil and cook remaining chicken.
- Assemble wraps. Place about 1 to 2 ounces of rice noodles inside each lettuce wrap, followed by carrots, cucumber, and chicken. Add remaining garnishes and serve.
|January 7, 2013||Filled under Italian, Salads, Sauces & Dips, Sides, Snacks & Appetizers, Vegetables|
Have you ever ordered something in a restaurant and swooned with every delicious mouthful? And then wondered how they made it so delicious, even long after the meal was over. I bet that you have experienced this feeling, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t over a salad. Now I like salad just fine, but I’m not one to get excited about them, normally that is. But then I ordered the ‘Cavolo Nero’ salad at Gusto 101 and lost it. I ate that salad so hard, with the gusto (sorry couldn’t resist) that I typically reserve for cupcakes or french fries.
The texture of the dark green bumpy leaves of raw lacinate kale (aka cavolo nero, Tuscan kale, or lacinato kale) becomes silky and velvety after marinating in the lemon vingarette, which softens the leaves. The currants add a lovely sweetness that goes perfectly with the saltiness of the parmesan shavings. Gusto 101 served the salad with pine nuts, but I’ve swapped them for sunflower seeds, perfect for those with nut allergies. I knew I nailed the recipe when D and I had this salad for dinner and it got gobbled up way before the perfectly juicy pan-roasted chicken and fingerling potatoes sharing the same plate. Buon appetito.
Tuscan Kale Salad with Currents and Parmesan (adapted from Epicurious)
Serves 4 as a starter or side
- 2 Tablespoons dried currants
- 2 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
- 3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
- 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 bunch lacinate kale, centre ribs and stems removed, washed and dried (about 1 pound)
- 2 Tablespoons sunflower seeds
- Parmesan cheese shavings
- Place currants in small bowl and cover with two tablespoons white wine vinegar. Set aside.
- Lay several leaves of kale on top of each other and cut thinly crosswise. Add to a large bowl.
- Make vinaigrette: In a small bowl, combine one teaspoon white wine vinegar, lemon rind, lemon juice, honey, olive oil and salt, and whisk. Add vinaigrette, sunflower seeds, and currents, including any additional vinegar left over from soaking, to the kale and toss to combine. Let marinate for 20 minutes at room temperature, tossing occasionally. Sprinkle with cheese shavings and serve.
|November 20, 2012||Filled under Snacks & Appetizers, Vegetables|
Have you ever been to Copenhagen? I was there on vacation this summer and loved the entire experience in the design-savvy chilled-out happiest city on earth. A few fun factoids that I learned while I was there:
1) People from Denmark are Danish, not Dutch, and generally speaking are a beautiful bunch with fabulous cheekbones
2) Danish folks tend to go organic, ride bikes instead of driving cars, and enjoy Carlsberg beer. Also home of Lego, Vikings, and the Danish royal family.
I’ve been making mushroom toasts appetizers for years, originally created as a mushroom brushetta - they’re my go-to starter. If you’ve ever come to my house for dinner, I’ve probably served these to you. I happened to see something similar, a Danish version, on a few menus while on my trip. These open-faced sandwiches are called ‘smorrebrod’, Danish for ‘butter’ and ’bread’, and can be found in all kinds of variations. With generous amounts of butter and served atop rye toast, these beautiful savoury sandwiches were a staple on many menus in Copenhagen, usually topped with fried fish, roast beef, eggs, shrimps, deli meat, and/or cheese. I took lots of pictures of smorrebrod in Copenhagen and other delicious eats. And yes, I take lots of pictures of food when I travel. I’m totally THAT person in a restaurant.
My take is a bit healthier, where the mushrooms are lightly coated in olive oil instead of butter and cheese toppings are optional too (I usually opt for goat or brie). A little truffle oil drizzled on top really takes the flavour to the next level and of course, gluten-free bread is great substitution for rye bread. Perfect for entertaining or bringing a little bit of Scandinavia to your home.
Recipe Mushroom Toasts (Serves 4 to 6 as appetizer)
- 8 ounces cremini or white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 1 Tbs fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- Fresh ground pepper
- 1/2 gluten-free baguette, cut into 3/4″ slices or 6 slices gluten-free bread, cut diagonally
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- 3 Tbs olive oil or melted vegan butter
- 12 slices brie cheese or 3 ounces goat cheese
- Truffle oil (optional)
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine mushrooms, parsley and 2 tablespoons olive oil until mushrooms are evenly coated with oil.
- Combine garlic and remaining olive oil in a small bowl. Add one teaspoon of garlic oil mixture to slice of bread to coat. Layer mushroom slices on toasts, so all pieces have equal amounts of mushrooms. Top mushrooms with cheese.
- Place toasts on baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until cheese is melted and slightly browned. To serve, drizzle toasts with a few drops of truffle oil if using.
|October 10, 2012||Filled under Snacks & Appetizers, Vegetables|
This is a recipe that’s got a lot of endearing qualities, such as a) easy to make, b) tasty, c) great for entertaining and d) pretty. The lovely Giada De Laurentiis taught me how to make these via Food Network – my free (with cable) culinary school. TV hosts like Jamie Oliver, Martha Stewart, and Barefoot Contessa’s Ina Garten have all inspired my cooking at one point or another and I have them to thank for many delicious meals that I’ve prepared in the past
This elegant appetizer has graced my dining table / kitchen island many times for random dinners, special celebrations, and holidays over the years. As the entertaining season approaches, it’s great to have tried and true recipes to turn to and I hope you enjoy these as much as my guests have.
Roasted Asparagus Wrapped in Prosciutto (adapted from Giada De Laurentiis) Serves 6
- 1 pound asparagus spears (stalks trimmed)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- salt and fresh ground pepper
- 6 to 8 slices of prosciutto, paper-thinly sliced, and halved length-wise
- Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
- Snap the ends off the asparagus and place on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and toss until evenly coated. Roast asparagus for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on thickness (less time for thin stalks). Allow to cool until cool enough to handle.
- Wrap each spear with a slice of prosciutto (or two spears if very thin). Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and serve.
|April 19, 2012||Filled under Italian, Main Dishes, Pasta, Rice, & Grains, Snacks & Appetizers, Soup & Sandwiches|
Everyone loves pizza. It’s the ultimate comfort food and I dream about the amazing pizzas of my gluten-eating past. Specifically, Neapolitan pizza with its thin, slightly charred crust, San Marzano tomatoes and cheesey topping, these pizzas are a fond yet distant memory.
Here’s a homemade flatbread pizza that’s gluten-free, fast, and delicious. The uber-thin crust is nice and crispy and pretty light in calories, yet once loaded up with your favourite toppings, it totally satisfies the pizza craving. So next time you’re at the grocery store, forget those expensive frozen gluten-free pizza crusts and look for these tortillas (sometimes in the frozen health food aisle), which are also perfect for making wraps and crackers. While it’s no Neapolitan pizza, this flatbread can be made at home in a toaster oven. I used to be a line cook at my university pub where we would make a gazillion pita bread/garlic butter/shredded cheese appetizers that inpired my gluten-free version - just one of the many useful things I learned during my quest for a higher education.
I’m not even sure you call this a ‘recipe’ but you take a brown rice tortilla from Food for Life, add your favourite toppings, and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 8 to 12 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the edges are golden brown. Slice and serve.
The pizza in this post was made with garlic butter, sliced mushrooms, and goat mozzarella and garnished with fresh arugula, basil, chili flakes and truffle oil. All of my fave ingredients and perfect with a bowl of tomato soup or a fresh salad.
|April 18, 2012||Filled under Asian, Fish & Seafood, Main Dishes, Snacks & Appetizers|
I’m always on the hunt for recipes that are a) simple/fast b) delish and c) healthy (and of course gluten-free) and these Thai shrimp skewers get top points in all categories. You can easily make these skewers after a long day of work and commuting (like I did today) or for a crowd at your next BBQ. This recipe is one the fastest and easiest recipes on my entire blog, second only to the Macedonian Mama cocktail, which would be the perfect accompaniment to these tasty shrimp sticks.
Sidenote: foods on sticks make everything taste better / fun-ner to eat. For great ideas, check On a Stick by the amazingly talented food stylist/photographer/blogger Matt Armendariz or check out his blog here (even Martha Stewart is a fan).
Shrimps are great for lots of reasons – they cook up lightning fast, taste great, are high in protein and low in fat. I buy mine frozen, either peeled and cleaned or with the zipperback which basically makes them super easy to peel. To thaw quickly, just immerse in water for a five minutes. I always keep some Mae Ploy curry paste on hand in the fridge; I’ve used red here but green or yellow are great too. It’s amazing how much flavour can be packed into such a tiny amount of curry paste and how versatile it is. You can even brush the paste on sliced vegetables or chicken before grilling, just remember, the more you use, the more intense the flavour and heat will be.
As for portions, you can make as many or as few as you need. The portion above was the perfect amount for one with a salad as a main course, or you could do two shrimps on smaller skewers to serve as hors d’oeuvres. At my family BBQs, my aunts use long skewers and add some peppers and onions to make shrimp kebabs. Anything goes really, and these are always the first to go at any gathering.
Thai Shrimp Skewers (recipe serves one as a main course)
- 9 raw shrimp, thawed, peeled and patted dry
- 1 tsp Thai curry paste
- Canola oil or cooking spray
- Lime and fresh chopped cilantro, to serve
Special Equipment/Tools: wooden or metal skewers, pastry brush
If using BBQ to cook, soak wooden skewers in water for 30 minutes before using. Thread shrimps onto skewers and brush the shrimps with curry paste. Heat skillet or frying pan to medium high heat and spray with canola oil. Place shrimps onto heated pan and cook on each side for 1 to 2 minutes until pink and cooked through. If using a BBQ, lightly brush the shrimps with canola oil before grilling to prevent sticking. Garnish with fresh cilantro and lime.
|April 2, 2012||Filled under Snacks & Appetizers, Soup & Sandwiches, Vegetables|
brat kid, my favourite soup wasn’t any of the amazing homemade Chinese soups my mom made from scratch every night. Not the cream of corn or egg drop, or the other dozen or so in the rotation. Nope, none of those could top my true love for canned cream of mushroom soup – I would beg my mom to buy those iconic red and white cans. I still remember the congealed blob slithering itself out of the can and the distinctive ‘plop’ sound it made as it hit the pot. In hindsight, I’m pretty grossed out by the entire process, especially the hardcore whisking involved to avoid the coagulated soup chunks in an otherwise creamy soup.
I also recall digging around my bowl for a chunk of mushroom floating around the creamy white broth - there were so few in that can of soup that it was like a treasure hunt. But those days are over. I discovered this un-creamy version at Oliver & Bonacini and it was so tasty that I couldn’t believe there wasn’t any cream in it. It changed my entire perception of what mushroom soup could be. Instead of scouring the bowl for remnants of mushroom, each mouthful of O&B’s soup was filled with mushroom-y goodness. This recipe is one of their most well-known and loved permanent menu items and I’ve adjusted the recipe a bit to amp up the flavour profile.
I hope you enjoy this more than its canned counterpart, maybe with a drizzle of truffle oil, some fresh basil leaves, and while you’re at it, throw in a grilled cheese sandwich for a completely satisfying meal that doesn’t require a can opener (or a whisk).
Mushroom Soup Adapted from Three Chefs: The Kitchen Men
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup diced onion
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 6 cups diced mushrooms (preferably a mix but all of one kind works too)
- 1/2 tsp dried basil leaves
- 4 cups water
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 soup bouillon cube (vegetable or chicken)
- Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- Fresh basil leaves and truffle oil to garnish
Heat a pot over medium-high heat and add olive oil. Add onion and garlic and saute for 4 to 5 minutes, allowing the onions to sweat and brown slightly. Add mushrooms and dried basil leaves and stir to combine, continue to stir for another 5 minutes. Add water and bay leaf, bring to boil, and add bullion cube. Reduce to simmer and continue to cook uncovered for approximately 20 minutes. Remove from heat and add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.
Using a blender or immersion blender, blend half the soup and pulse until ingredients are still a little chunky. Add remaining soup ingredients and blend again (Note: blending this way gives the mushrooms different textures – for a finder soup, pure until completely smooth). Serve immediately with fresh basil leaves and drizzle of truffle oil if using.
Sometimes you just want to feel like a kid again. Simple pleasures like these homemade cereal treats can be whipped up in minutes and packed in lunch boxes or purses alike. Using a variety of gluten-free cereals can keep this treat interesting and exciting – these ones are made with cocoa puffed rice ceral and I’ve used popped corn cereal too. Or get crazy and mix a couple of cereals together with some dried fruit or nuts. I’ve used coconut oil in the past and it gives the treats a lovely coconut-y flavour. The possibilities are endless. This recipe is just a reminder that going gluten-free doesn’t have to be complicated.
Cereal Treats (adapted from Joy of Baking)
Makes about 16 squares
- 6 cups Gluten Free puffed rice cereal (used Koala crisp – cocoa flavoured)
- 3 Tbsp dairy-free buttery spread (Earth Balance), coconut oil, or butter
- Pinch salt
- 1 250 gram package mini marshmallows
- ½ tsp vanilla
Butter or spray an 8” or 9” square baking pan with non-stick vegetable spray or canola oil. In a large sauce pan, melt butter and salt over medium-low heat. Add marshmallows and stir constantly until marshmallows melted. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Add cereal treats and stir with a wooden spoon until all cereal is coated. Pour mixture into sprayed pan and lightly pat until even. Cool at room temperature until cereal is set. Cut into squares. To store, wrap squares individually in plastic wrap and store inside an airtight container for up to 5 days.