Simplicity

I love almost every type of seafood. I especially love the fresh light flavour of mussels. They are super versatile, working in so many different types of sauces and cooking styles. I was always a little intimidated by them because I had this mentality that they were very complicated to cook. Alas, that is not the case! Mussels require very little knowledge to cook, and very few ingredients to make delicious. Some shallots, good white wine, oil and herbs and voila – perfect mussels. Additionally, they are very reasonably priced! My sister made them for me the other night with some hot crusty bread to dip in the leftover sauce and it was the perfect meal. So, if you were ever feeling a little intimidated by these crustaceans, I would like to reassure you that they are super simple to cook, and make for the perfect comfort food. IMG_5365

Quail eggs?

Yesterday I was making one of my favourite comfort food meals – baked breaded eggplant topped with a thick tomato sauce. Basically, its an eggplant Parmesan without the cheese (lactose life). I usually add meat to the tomato sauce to add a little extra substance to the meal, but unfortunately I forgot to grab some at the grocery store. It still tasted amazing vegetarian, I just find that its a little more filling with meat. I like to play around with protein, meat, beans, eggs, I eat just about everything. I thought something that would look very pretty and taste delicious would be to add a fried quail egg on top of the eggplant rounds. It is the perfect size for the eggplant, and I already love the combination of eggs and tomato sauces. I will need to get some quail eggs the next time I shop to test out this theory! Just imagine a nice stack of baked eggplant, a thick rich tomato sauce and then a perfectly fried mini egg on top. Wouldn’t that be perfect? I’m definitely testing out this theory.

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Shakshuka

When you are neck deep into your fridge complaining that you don’t have anything to eat  – despite your fridge being full, consider making some shakshuka! This easy egg dish can work with almost any veggie that you have in your fridge. My go-to choices are mushrooms, peppers, onions and olives. All you need to do is sautée your favourite veggies, and then add in a can of tomato sauce. I recommend adding fresh tomatoes, and then putting in only a bit of sauce to thicken it. However, if you are looking to cut time, skip the fresh tomatoes and a pasta sauce will work fine. Let the sautéed veggies stew with the sauce for a while, and once it’s bubbling and thick crack some eggs on top. Cover your pan up with a lid so that the eggs cook on top, and after about 10 minutes you will be left with poached eggs in a bed of saucy sautéed veggies. I like to season the sauce with garlic, cayenne, basil and fresh cilantro on top. But like I said, this dish is the epitome of flexibility, any spices will work! Shakshuka is delicious and quick, it’s perfect for a busy week night!

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Hot off the griddle

Hidden within the Amsterdamse Bos, is what I personally believe to be the best pancake restaurant in Amsterdam. The restaurant is called Boerderij MeerzichtThey have a pretty big variety of both sweet and savoury pancakes. The ingredients are very simplified, usually no more than three toppings per pancake. However, don’t mistake the limited toppings for a lack of flavour, these pancakes are perfection. I always go for the savoury style, and I order ham, cheese and pineapple. The cheese is very crispy, making a nice crust on the outside, and the inside is still fluffy and evenly cooked. Seriously, these guys have the art of pancake making down to a tee. Most of the restaurant seating is outside, since its a great place to visit during the warmer months. While dining outdoors you have the added benefit of a peacock farm that is adjacent to the restaurant, and they just stroll around the grounds while you are eating. Be careful though, they are sometimes hunting for scraps and can get quite friendly with your plate. Amsterdamse Bos is one of my favourite parks. If you are visiting, do yourself a favour and rent a bike and explore the park. It is a truly remarkable place. And really, there is no better way to end a nice bike ride than some fresh pancakes 😉

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Dinner party dash?

Have you ever been invited to a dinner party and just had no idea what to bring? Buying dessert can be an easy option, but if you don’t get something from a nice bakery, you look kind of silly. Unfortunately, nice bakeries can cost you quite a bit of money. If you want to cut down on your cost, and amp up your game by bringing something homemade, I have the perfect option for you! Homemade salted peanut butter cups look and taste delicious, and they are super simple to make. All you need is some chocolate, peanut butter, icing sugar, butter and sea salt (optional). As well as, a mini muffin tin – which is slathered in some sort of non stick substance. Since these little desserts are so cost conservative, I would also recommend a nice bottle of wine to accompany them. Plus, chocolate and wine are best friends, and it would be a sin to break them up. The great thing about the peanut butter cups is that you can really customize them. Use milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate. Top them with sea salt, almonds, chilli peppers or pistachios. Its really up to you! Your guests will love them, and you will look like you spent the day slaving in the kitchen.  Next time you are out of ideas, pull up a peanut butter cup recipe! It won’t let you down 🙂

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Too much fruit? Crumble time

I went on a mini baking spree the other day. I saw that I had wayyy too many ripe bananas, so I turned those bad boys into some banana muffins. It wasn’t only the bananas that were on the ripe end of things, all of the wild peaches were on their last days. A heaping pile of peaches could only mean one thing, peach crumble! Seriously, crumbles are the easiest dessert on the planet. Also, it is super hard to make one that is not delicious. Its just a pile of fruit covered with butter, sugar, oats and flour. Where can you possibly go wrong with this combination? Easy answer, it is literally impossible. The key to a good crumble is making sure you have the right ratio of fruit to topping. I personally prefer more topping than fruit. Call me a fatty patty, but the mixture on top is clearly the winner in this group. So I always make sure that I have a hearty pile of crumble for the top of my fruit. Peaches are a great option for a crumble because they hold their texture well. I have also used apples, plums, and berries. All are amazing, but I think peach is particularly tasty. One thing I did with this crumble that I don’t usually do was mix the fruit in a bit of maple syrup before lining them in the dish. It brought out some more sweetness in the peaches, and it added a really nice unexpected flavour. Taking pictures of crumbles is a waste of time. They never capture the deliciousness. Regardless, here is a snap of my crumble before it hit the oven. IMG_4441

Comfort food

Comfort food

Food can be really therapeutic. Ive been having one of those really off days. When you feel like you can’t do anything right, and everything in your life is a mess. Needless to say, I had to do something to shake the feeling, and I knew that some comfort food would really help move things along. Cooking puts me at ease. I can drift off into flavour and spice and forget all of the bad things that were occupying my brain before. I have made this dish once before, and I think its going to join the cast of regulars. It is so simple, and instantly leaves you feeling satisfied and happy.

-All you need to do is make up a quick spaghetti sauce. Cut the veggies more rustic to add some extra texture. (I think next time ill throw in some corn and olives to the sauce as well)
-Then, cut your eggplant into slices or rounds
-Dip them in some egg and seasoned breadcrumbs and put them in your oven to bake for about 20-25 mins at 425 F. Flip them half way to let them evenly brown, and youre all set!

You can drizzle a little oil on top to help add an extra crisp factor to them. I just put some on a spoon and swoosh across. Make sure you coat the other side after you flip. I don’t eat dairy, but obviously some parmesan would make it even more incredible 😉 Once you start eating this meal, I promise you that all of your troubles will temporarily vanish (but I can’t promise they won’t return once the dish is empty!)

Wanna date?

After I made my raw brownies, I was left with a pretty big box of dates. Im not sure what the shelf life of dates is, but I wanted to make sure that I eat them up instead of tossing them out. Basically, I have been experimenting with putting different things inside of them to make them even tastier. Right now, my go to is stuffing them with peanut butter. The mixture of sweet and salty is so perfect. If I am in the mood for some extra sweet, I break off a little piece of chocolate and wedge that in the date too. If you are more of a salty fan, load a date up with some goat cheese. The tangy salty flavour of goat cheese is a perfect match for the sweetness of a date. Another great option is roasting some walnuts and nesting those inside of the date. I think if you want to go for something a little more fancy, perhaps for a party appetizer, cut open the date, put some goat cheese in, chopped up walnuts and drizzle a little honey on top. It will look beautiful, and taste just as good. I really recommend experimenting with dates. They are pretty damn delicious. 

Raw brownies

Raw brownies

After I tried out an avocado based cookie recipe, I developed an interest in other alternative baking styles. So far, my go to site for recipe ideas is Bubble Girl Bakes. She has a great list of both savoury and sweet recipe ideas for the dairy free, gluten free, raw, or vegan chef. I was particularly drawn in by a raw vegan brownie recipe. Now, I’m not vegan. So I decided to add some chocolate sprinkles to my recipe, but obviously it can be done without. She recommends cocoa nibs, but after some research I found out that they are very bitter, and carry only a faint residue of chocolate flavour. Hence why I opted for the sprinkles. I used her recipe as a guideline, and made some revisions to it as I went. My version is as follows,

about 3 cups of pitted dates (I used the Medjool dates, very plump and flavourful)
2 big splashes of dairy free milk (I used Almond)
half a cup of chocolate sprinkles
half a cup of shredded coconut
two big spoonfuls of coconut oil
1 cup of cocoa powder
a pinch of salt
and a splash of vanilla (I didn’t have any vanilla, but her recipe recommends it and I would have used it if I did)

and then mix that all up in a food processor until it turns into a big ball. Unfortunately, I did not have access to a food processor. So I played a long annoying game of stop and go mixing with a stand mixer that continuously got clogged up by the dates 😦 After that, take some parchment paper and line a small dish to help get a nice shape for your brownies. Pat the mixture into the dish, and refrigerate for 15-20 minutes. After I took them out, I added a couple extra sprinkles on top, and sliced them up to serve. They are surprisingly good. I have to say, I was a little skeptical about the recipe, but it is definitely a must try!

Wrap me up

Wrap me up

Lately I’ve been trying to incorporate at least one healthier meal into my eating. I love wine, I love carbs, and I love chocolate. So between those three, I haven’t been as skinny as I used to be. My biggest problem with healthy food is that I love cooking and I love flavour, and I find low fat recipes can scrimp on those elements. Too many healthy recipes rely on bringing down the fat content without replacing the flavour that the fat has. If you want to take away butter from a recipe, you better be adding something super tasty to take its place! Well, lately I’ve been experimenting with lettuce wraps. I don’t really scrimp on the calorie count of the food that I put in the wraps, but hey, at least I’m not eating three tortillas! My latest fix has been tuna lettuce wraps. Tuna is great because you can add pretty much any herb or vegetable to tuna and it will still taste good. Now, you may notice the strawberries I put on top. I know it might look a little weird, but I promise you it tastes amazing. Adding fruit to dishes that are more on the savoury side is almost always a good combination. Just make sure your fruit is ripe, the last thing you want is a sour tasting strawberry on top of your food. If its sweet, it will add just the right amount of sugar to compliment the flavours in your dish. This meal works out to being pretty cheap, especially if you don’t add the berries. Grab some tuna and go wild with whatever veggies you have in your fridge. You really can do no wrong!