Apricot White Chocolate and Macadamia Nut Blondies

Apricot White Chocolate and Macadamia Nut Blondies

Despite making the apricot and ginger muffins and snacking on the apricots I still had some left by the end of the week and I knew exactly what I wanted to use them in. Not too long ago I came across a post titled 'White Chocolate Apricot and Macadamia Nut Blondies' on Chef Wannabe and I thought to myself, Blondies would be good with white chocolate and dried apricots. Then I scrolled down a bit and saw that they in fact used fresh apricots and I was immediately sold. The sliced fresh apricots had worked so well in the muffins and I knew that they would be amazing in blondies!

Vietnamese Caramel Shrimp Banh Mi

Vietnamese Caramel Shrimp Banh Mi

With my pickled carrots and daikon radish made I was ready to move onto making the banh mi sandwiches. A Bánh mì sandwich is a Vietnamese sandwich typically consisting of the pickles, cucumbers, cilantro, chilies, pâté, mayonnaise and a meat all wrapped up in a baguette made from both wheat and rice flour. Other than skipping the pate and using an all wheat baguette, I wanted to keep my sandwiches as traditional as possible which meant that the only real decision left was what meat to use. Well, that wasn't much of a decision either given that it was a shrimp sandwich what inspired me to make the banh mi sandwiches in the first place and I was still craving that shrimp sandwich! Of course, I could not simply saute or grill some shrimp and throw them into the sandwich because I would be missing out on the opportunity to add some flavour and I knew just how I wanted to do it. I am a huge fan of savoury Vietnamese caramel dishes and one of my favorites is the Vietnamese caramel shrimp, or tom rim , and I figured that the sweet and salty caramel shrimp would be perfect in the banh mi sandwich.

Vietnamese Pickled Carrots and Daikon Radish

Vietnamese Pickled Carrots and Daikon Radish

The other day when I made the spicy peanut shrimp sandwiches with Thai style slaw , they reminded me of banh mi sandwiches and I since then that idea has been running through my head. I often find that the easiest thing to do when you have something stuck in your mind is to just give in to the craving and so I set about to making some of these Vietnamese sandwiches. Of course the first, and possibly the most important, step in making a truly good banh mi sandwich is the pickled carrots and daikon radish. Although pickles can sometimes be intimidating these pickles are super quick and easy to make and well worth the effort. Pretty much all you need to do is peel and cut the carrots and daikon radish and then let them sit in the pickling solution of water, vinegar, salt and sugar for a while. You should let the vegetables pickle for at least a half an hour but they will keep in your fridge for a couple of days so you can even make them ahead of time greatly reducing the amount of effort required to make those tasty banh mi sandwiches.

Apricot and Ginger Muffins

Apricot and Ginger Muffins

The farmers market has been overflowing with fresh local fruits and vegetables lately. There are so many good options that I have to pick and choose what to get and this week I went for the apricots which looked phenomenal. I had recently came across the idea of apricot and ginger muffins that sounded really good and I could not wait to try them out. For the recipe, I started out with my favourite muffin recipe and added ginger in the form of both fresh ginger and candied ginger, and topped them off with some sliced apricots. I like this muffin recipe so much because it contains lots to good stuff including rolled oats, whole wheat flour, vanilla yogurt, maple syrup and even an overripe banana. In addition to being fairly healthy this muffin recipe always bakes up nice and light and fluffy and moist and full of flavour. I really like the way the ginger worked in the muffins and the little bits of candied ginger added a great texture. Of course the baked on, slightly caramelized apricot topping stole the show and took these muffins above and beyond. I am certainly looking forward to enjoying these apricot and ginger muffins for breakfast this week!

Tostones with Roasted Garlic Mayo

Tostones with Roasted Garlic Mayo

As I walk by the bananas in the grocery store, the often overlooked plantains cry out "use us, use us" and I put my head down and quickly move along regretting that I never do anything with them. With the Cuban burgers on the menu I was thinking about Caribbean sides and I remembered something about unripe plantains being similar in texture to potatoes and I seemed to recall something about frying them. A quick search on the internet and I came up with tostones which sounded like a great side for my Cuban burgers. Tostones are essentially slices of unripe plantain that are fried in oil, flattened into discs and then fried a second time until golden brown and crispy. As I often do with fries, I was thinking of serving the tostones with some mayo for dipping, but I read that they are commonly served with a garlic sauce and then the idea of a roasted garlic mayo dipping sauce popped into my head.

The tostones were pretty easy to make and I found them much less temperamental that french fries are to cook. They came out a beautifully golden brown and they were nice and crispy and good! The texture of the tostones was very similar to that of potatoes and they made a perfect substitute for fries with the Cuban burgers. As good as the tostones were the roasted garlic mayo made them even better and it certainly was 'lick the bowl clean' good! I am definitely going to be making tostones again!

Cuban Burgers

Cuban Burgers

My next concept burger experiment of the summer is inspired by the cuban sandwich consisting of roast pork, ham, swiss cheese, pickles, mustard and/or mayonnaise. Given that the primary meat in the sandwich was pork, using ground pork to form the patties only seemed natural. Very often the roast post for the cubano sandwich is seasoned with mojo so and I included some of the flavour elements from mojo seasoning in the burgers including garlic, cilantro, lime, oregano and cumin. With that the cuban burgers were pretty much done.

One of the things that I like so much about burgers is that it is pretty much as easy as mixing a few ingredients into the ground meat, forming patties and then throwing them on the grill for a few minutes. Another thing that is nice about burgers is that even though you can make the patty itself super tasty like this one, you don't need to stop there as you can continue on and fill the bun with even more flavours. In this case I added the sliced deli ham along with some melted swiss cheese, the pickles and some mustard. I added one final, not so secret ingredient, a roasted garlic mayo that I had made for the side that I served with the burgers and it really took them over the edge adding to an already amazing flavour combination!

Blueberry Zucchini Bread

Blueberry Zucchini Bread

Zucchini has to be one of my favorite summer vegetables and this weekend I was in luck as the farmers market was overflowing with them! Of all of the many things that there are to do with zucchini, the one that I keep coming back to time and time again is the classic zucchini bread which I end up making at least once every summer. The farmers market was also full of fresh local blueberries that I could not resist picking up and I knew what I was going to have to use them in, a blueberry zucchini bread! For the recipe, I started out with my basic zucchini bread recipe and added blueberries. Nice and simple eh? I really enjoy this zucchini bread recipe as it always comes out nice and light a moist and good! Some of the things that I like about this recipe include the use of the whole wheat flour and the vanilla yogurt to cut down on the amount of oil that is needed. I tend to use a mix of green and yellow zucchini to give the cake a nice mixture of colours and this year, with the addition of the blueberries the bread was even more colourful that usual. This blueberry zucchini bread is a perfect celebration of summers bounty and I am looking forward to enjoying it for breakfasts for the rest of the week!

Thai Spicy Peanut Chicken Enchiladas

Thai Spicy Peanut Chicken Enchiladas

The Thai spicy peanut sauce worked really well in the Thai chicken 'mole' earlier in the week and why I was enjoying it I was thinking of other ways that could use the peanut sauce in a Thai/Mexican fusion. With the chicken being covered in the peanut sauce and melted cheese, the first thing that came to mind was enchiladas, the Mexican dish where tortillas are stuffed, covered in sauce and cheese and baked to perfection. I was thinking that a filling consisting of shredded chicken along with some vegetables including red pepper, bean sprouts, carrots and cilantro would be really nice especially when some of the spicy peanut sauce was mixed into it. With the filling made, all that was left to do was roll the tortillas up, cover them in peanut sauce and cheese and bake them until the cheese melted. The spicy peanut sauce and melted cheese flavor combination is such an amazing one and the juicy vegetable and chicken filling finished off the enchiladas perfectly! I garnished the enchiladas with some chopped roasted peanuts, cilantro and birds eye chilies.

Baba Ghanoush Topped with Lamb and Yogurt

Baba Ghanoush Topped with Lamb

Not too long ago I made some seasoned pulled lamb and when I hit the end of the week I had not had a chance to finish it all so I tossed what was left into the freezer to use later. As luck would have it I then came across a new dish called ali nazik on The Culinary Chase . The ali nazik is described as an 'eggplant purée with lamb and yogurt' and it is essentially a baba ghanoush, an eggplant salad, that is topped with seasoned ground lamb, yogurt and parsley. I figured that the seasoned pulled lamb would work perfectly on top of baba ghanoush and it sounded like the perfect way to finish that last bit of pulled lamb.

Jamaican Jerk Burgers with Pineapple and Banana Relish

Jamaican Jerk Burgers with Pineapple and Banana Relish and Sweet Potato Fries

Being well into summer I figured it was high time that I continued my experiments with burgers . At its base a burger is ground beef that is formed into a patty and grilled to perfection. But, why stop there? Why not take the opportunity to add flavour? Over the last few summers I have been enjoying experimenting with various burger flavours and concepts and I had been itching to try a few more. The next burger that I wanted to try was one that was seasoned with a Jamaican jerk spice blend.

I went with beef for the meat, though chicken would also work well. For the jerk spice blend I modified the jerk marinade recipe that I used a while ago and reduced the amount of liquids in it so that it was more of a paste than a marinade. The scotch bonnet or habanero pepper in the jerk paste was bound to make things a little bit spicy so I decided to fill out the bun with a cool, juicy and creamy pineapple and banana salsa to help mellow things out and to build on the feel of the tropics in the burger. I served the jerk burgers with pineapple and banana salsa with some home made sweet potato fries.

Thai Chicken 'Mole'

Thai Chicken 'Mole' with Coconut Cilantro Lime Rice

While I was enjoying experimenting with the Thai spicy peanut sauce last week I realized that it reminded me a lot of a Mexican mole sauce and that thought gave me an idea. Why not a Thai spicy peanut sauce chicken 'mole'? And with that, this super easy and tasty Thai chicken 'mole' recipe was born. This recipe is as simple as simmering the chicken in the peanut sauce and some chicken stock until cooked and then garnishing it in some melted jack and cheddar cheese, chopped peanuts and cilantro. Despite being so simple, this chicken mole is really good! You really can't go wrong when you start off with an amazing spicy peanut sauce and cooking the chicken in it like this resulted in some of the moistest and juiciest chicken that I have ever had. I served the Thai chicken mole with some cilantro and lime rice where I replaced the water with coconut milk to make a coconut cilantro and lime rice.

Bean Sprout Kimchi Ahi Tuna Tostadas

Bean Sprout Kimchi Ahi Tuna Tostadas

My batch of bean sprout kimchi was quickly dwindling and I wanted to do something with it other than snacking on it before it disappeared. While thinking about it, I kept coming back to the idea of a bean sprout kimchi version of the ahi tuna tostadas that I enjoyed so much not too long ago. I figured that the tasty, juicy and crunchy bean sprout kimchi would go well on a crispy fried wonton and topped with a perfectly seared piece of ahi tuna and a dab of creamy and spicy gochujang mayo. The second time making these tostadas, things went quicker and I have to say that I really like the way that the wontons fry up and get all nice and light and airy and crispy. The bean sprout version kimchi of these ahi tuna tostadas turned out great and I think I may even like this version better, though that may simply be because I am just a little partial to kimchi. :)

Bean Sprout Kimchi

Bean Sprout Kimchi

I have been happily making my own kimchi for a while now and although I have always known that there are many types of kimchi, of which cabbage kimchi is just one, I have yet to try any others. When I came across this recipe for a bean sprout kimchi on Beyond Kimchi I jumped at the chance to make it. As its name suggests, the main component of this kimchi is bean sprouts and I really liked the sound of crunchy and juicy bean sprout version of kimchi. After the bean sprouts we see a lot of common elements from the cabbage kimchi including the radish, carrot, garlic, green onions, fish sauce and of course the gochugaru or Korean chili pepper flakes. Once again I replaced the sugar in the recipe with a grated pear to add the sweetness. One thing that I liked about this recipe was the use of the toasted sesame oil which added an amazing aroma. I am thoroughly enchanted by this new form of kimchi and I can't wait to use it in something! That is if it does not disappear to snacking before I get a chance to. :)

Mastic Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta with a Sour Cherry Sauce

Mastic Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta with a Sour Cherry Sauce

Even though a sour cherry pie was sounding very tempting, I had my heart set on something else... A while ago, when I made the vanilla yogurt panna cotta I used a nice thick and creamy Greek yogurt and the fact that it was a Greek yogurt naturally got me to thinking about Greek flavours and in particular mastic resin. (Mastic resin is the crystallized resin of the mastic tree and it is commonly used in sweets, gum and even liqueur.) I quite enjoy the mastic flavour and I figured that it would both do well in panna cotta form and be great with a fresh sour cherry sauce.

This panna cotta recipe is quite easy to make and always turns out great. It does require a bit of chilling time so you need to plan ahead. This isn't normally a problem though as it lasts as few days in the fridge so you can easily make it a day or so ahead of time which is always nice. The last time I made this panna cotta I made it in containers where I wanted to serve it in those containers but this time I wanted to be able to slip the panna cotta out of the containers and onto plates to serve. To do this I greased the containers well with a clear, flavourless oil before filling them and chilling them. Greasing the containers worked like a charm and the panna cotta was amazingly good! It was so creamy and nice and cool and refreshing and perfect on a hot summer day. The mastic flavour worked really well in the panna cotta and the flavours of the sour cherry compote complimented it perfectly. I am glad that I have a few more of these to enjoy over the next few days!

Sour Cherry Compote

Sour Cherry Compote

During the winter I made a sour cherry sauce and of course at the time the only sour cherries that were available with the ones in jars preserved in syrup. I remembered thinking that I had seen some sour cherries at the farmers market during the summer but with so many other things to choose from, they had disappeared before I had gotten the chance to pick some up to try. Last weekend the farmers market was flooded with sweet cherries and to my delight there was even a small offering of sour cherries which I picked up right away!

After devouring half of them I quickly got to making a sour cherry sauce using the fresh sour cherries before they all disappeared. I kept the sour cherry sauce recipe pretty simple with just sugar, water and a splash of lemon juice in addition to the cherries. The one thing that I wanted to do was make sure that I got the balance between the sourness of the cherries and the sweetness from the sugar just right as I did not want to completely obliterate the sourness. While initially simmering everything I added the sugar a bit at a time and taste tested as I went until I got it to the point that I wanted.

It is probably no surprise, but I have to say that the fresh sour cherry sauce put the preserved version to shame. This sauce is so amazingly good! The sour cherries flavour comes through beautifully hit a hint of the sourness that is mellowed by sweetness. And just look at that amazing shade of red! This sauce would be perfect on some vanilla ice cream, or on plain or vanilla yogurt or even as a syrup on pancakes. I can't wait to try it out on something and I know exactly what the first thing will be.

Spicy Peanut Shrimp Sandwich with Thai Style Slaw

Spicy Peanut Shrimp Sandwich with Asian Slaw

For some reason while I was making the shrimp satay I kept thinking about the shrimp po’ boy and how good shrimp can be in a sandwich. I soon realized that since the idea was already in my head there was no way that I could not try it out and I made sure to save some of my shrimp for the sandwich. Of course it was pretty much assumed that there would be some spicy Thai peanut sauce since I had just made a big batch to go with the shrimp but, what else? I soon found myself thinking about banh mi sandwiches and all of their fresh herbs and crispy vegetables and I liked the sound of the vegetables cutting through the creamy peanut sauce with every bite. After a bit of though I decided to make a simple Thai style slaw with a base of juicy bean sprouts and a tasty dressing. Each of the components in this sandwich are good in their own rights but combined like this they form something even better! The spicy and really tasty peanut sauce, the succulent shrimp, the juicy and crunchy slaw all wrapped in a soft bun is an amazing flavour explosion in your mouth! Feel free to add a dab of mayo if you like.

Thai Style Slaw

Thai Style Slaw

Recently I have been working on a few Thai inspired projects that have just been begging for a Thai inspired coleslaw and after a bit of thought I came up with this one. I wanted to try doing this slaw without cabbage and so I needed a main ingredient for it that was nice and crunchy and I figured that fresh bean sprouts would be perfect. The next thing that came to mind was some vibrant red sweet pepper, thinly sliced, and of course carrots were also in. Next I padded the slaw with some fresh herbs including cilantro, mint and some green onions. For the dressing I went with a mix of fish sauce for saltiness, lime juice for tartness, sugar for sweetness, birds eye chilies for heat and some coconut milk to smooth things out.

Shrimp Satay with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce

Shrimp Satay with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce

I had been craving some Thai style spicy peanut sauce lately and I had a few ideas on what I could do with it. The peanut sauce is a super tasty sauce that is made with a Thai red curry paste and peanut butter at its base. The curry paste adds a ton of flavour in addition to some spicy heat which is perfectly balanced by aspects of saltiness, sourness, and sweetness in the sauce creating something that is truly amazing and oh so addictive! I figured that I would make a big batch of it to enjoy and do a bit of experimenting during the week.

The first thing on my list of things to use the peanut sauce with was shrimp satay that is accompanied by some of the sauce for dipping. The shrimp is marinated in a marinade that has a ton of flavour and then skewered and grilled to perfection. If you make the sauce ahead of time and the shrimp is already marinated and skewered then it only takes a few minutes from pulling everything out of the fridge until you are enjoying dipping that grilled shrimp into the spicy peanut sauce and licking your fingers clean! Given that everything can be prepared ahead of time, this is a great appetizer for when entertaining company.

Raspberry and Nutella Crepes

Raspberry and Nutella Crepes

Last week the farmers market was overflowing with amazing looking strawberries and so this week I planned to take advantage of them. Alas, this week there was not a single strawberry to be found. They had all been replace with a sea of raspberries and cherries. Although I was glad to see the raspberries and cherries, the lack of strawberries kind of tore a hole in my meal plan for the week and in particular for my Sunday breakfast. Not to worry; I was sure that I could come up with a way to use the raspberries that would be worthy of being a Sunday morning breakfast! The first thing that came to mind was one of my favorite stand byes, fruit or berries and chocolate hazelnut spread crepes. In addition to using the luscious raspberries in their natural form I decided to make a simple raspberry sauce, or jam, to go with them. I used the raspberry sauce both spread inside the crepes and drizzled on top to maximum the raspberry experience. The raspberry and chocolate flavour combination is just magical and these crepes certainly made the cut for a Sunday morning breakfast!

Spinach and Feta Fritters

Spinach and Feta Fritters

One of my favorite 'go to' ways to turn a vegetable into a quick and easy light meal is fritters or vegetable pancakes. I have experimented with fritters using many different vegetables with many different flavours including both sweet and savoury and it was finally time to try using one of my favourite flavour combinations, spinach and feta, to make some fritters. At their base, these vegetable pancakes are made with the vegetable in question along with an egg and enough flour to hold them together. From there you want to add some flavouring to keep things interesting and then the fritters are fried in oil until crispy and golden brown on the outside. These spinach and feta fritters, inspired by spanakopita, are pretty simple with just a bunch of fresh herbs added to season them up a bit. With just a few minutes of prep time followed by some mixing and a few minutes of frying you have some really tasty spinach and feta pancakes to tantalize your taste buds!

Grilled Banana Pepper and Feta Salad

Grilled Banana Pepper and Feta Salad

The final component of my Greek feta inspire meal was this grilled banana pepper and feta salad that I also found on Greek Food R & R . I am a huge fan of roasted or grilled peppers of all kinds from sweet red bell peppers to spicy jalapeno and poblano peppers and I liked the sound of a simple salad where the main component was roasted mildly spicy banana peppers. I have to say that this salad reminds me a lot of htipiti , a Greek roasted red pepper and feta dip where I often like to add roasted jalapeno peppers to add a spicy kick. In addition to the peppers and the feta, this salad includes with a glug of extra virgin olive oil, a dash of oregano and a splash lemon juice to brighten things up. Depending on how much heat you like, feel free to remove the seeds from the pepper when you remove the charred shin before serving.

Feta Fries

Feta Fries

While I was thinking about the biftekia gemista or Greek feta stuffed burgers they reminded me of another feta dish that I wanted to try, feta fries. I came across the idea of feta fries on Greek Food R & R and I had been wanting to try them ever since. The recipe is pretty simple ingredient wise but don't let that fool you as these fries are amazingly good! One thing that I found interesting about these fries is that they are cooked in olive oil which was a first for me. You are going to want to use a good Greek feta for maximum enjoyment. The trick to these fries is throwing them under the broiler after they are cooked with a sprinkling of the feta until the feta just starts to melt and then you are going to want to eat them while they are still piping hot. The salty, softened, just melting feta is magically good when paired with the fries that are nice and crispy on the outside and warm and creamy on the inside. A dash of oregano helps bring home the Greek flavours and a splash of lemon juice brightens everything up. These fries are definitely worth the effort of deep frying!

Biftekia Gemista (Feta Stuffed Burgers)

Biftekia Gemista (Feta Stuffed Burgers)

When I was thinking about food for the long weekend the first thing that came to mind was burgers. I had been wanting to try these biftekia gemista or Greek feta stuffed burgers for a while and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Biftekia yemista are essentially just beef patties seasoned with Greek flavours and stuffed with a big slab of feta. You really can't go wrong with a huge piece of feta wrapped in tasty meat! These burgers are a breeze to make and they are nice and moist and juicy and really tasty even without the feta but the feta stuffing makes them great! You could easily serve these burgers in a bun but this time I served them just as patties along with a plate of feta fries and a side of a roasted cubanelle pepper and feta salad making for one tasty meal.