Sunday, October 31, 2010

Low-Calorie Brownies With Butterscotch Drizzle

I read the various Glamour blogs daily and stumbled into this recipe on Vitamin G, Glamour's health blog. I'm not a big "sweets" person so I actually really enjoyed these. I could see some thinking it's not rich enough. I inadvertently made this recipe even more healthy by forgetting the granulated sugar. I still liked it but would add the sugar next time. On top of the brownies is drizzled butterscotch. After my caramel disaster, I made sure I was successful on my first try.

Low-Calorie Brownies With Butterscotch Drizzle

Brownies With Butterscotch Drizzle
Adapted from Glamour's Vitamin G.

* 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, more for buttering the pan
* 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
* ¼ cup low-fat sour cream
* ½ cup light brown sugar
* 2 large eggs
* 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
* ½ cup whole-wheat flour
* ¼ teaspoon salt
* ½ cup bittersweet chocolate chunks or chips
* ½ cup butterscotch chips
* 2 teaspoons 1% low-fat milk

Preheat oven to 325°.
Line an 8-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
Melt butter with chocolate in a medium saucepan over low heat.
Remove pan from heat, and stir in sour cream, sugars, eggs, and vanilla until well-combined. Stir in flour, salt, and chocolate chips (I added a few spoonfuls of Nutella for extra flavour).
Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake in middle of oven until a toothpick comes out clean (about 25 minutes).
Baked for 25 minutes only with parchment paper.
Cool brownies in a pan; cut into 16 squares.
Top each brownie with a drizzle of butterscotch - recipe below.

Chocolate & Butter Adding flour
Adding chocolate

Adapted from this how-to make butterscotch. I quartered the recipe since you don't need that much to drizzle the brownies. However, make the whole recipe to top ice cream or just enjoy on its own...!

* 1 tablespoons salted butter
* ¼ cup of tightly packed dark brown sugar
* 3-4 tbsp heavy whipping cream (not ultra-pasteurized)
* ¼ tsp vanilla extract
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt

In a small saucepan, melt butter over low to medium heat.
Just before butter is melted, add all dark brown sugar at once and stir with wooden spoon until sugar is uniformly wet (picture 1).
Stir until mixture goes from looking grainy to molten lava (about 3-5 minutes) (picture 2).
When the caramelizing brown sugar will begin to look and feel more like liquid and less like thick wet sand, add all the cream at once and replace your spoon with a whisk (picture 3).
Lower heat a little and whisk cream into mixture.
When liquid is uniform, turn heat back to medium and whisk every few minutes for a total of 10 minutes (picture 4).
After liquid has been boiling on the stove for its 10 minutes, turn heat off and let rest for a minute or two before transferring into a heatproof storage vessel.
Cool to room temperature.
When butterscotch liquid is room temperature, whisk in vanilla extract.
Taste again, adding more vanilla extract and/or salt until the marvelous taste of real butterscotch is achieved.
Chill butterscotch sauce in a non-reactive container with a tightly fitting lid only after sauce has chilled completely. (It will keep for one month refrigerated.)

Butter & Brown Sugar Until it bubbles
Add cream Whisk into butterscotch
Steps to making butterscotch sauce.

The rich butterscotch sauce was a really nice addition to the brownie. It was easy to make as long as you are patient and I can't wait to make it again. I found it also makes a nice visual addition to the brownie. I would definitely make this again!

Low-Calorie Brownies With Butterscotch Drizzle
Low-Calorie Brownies With Butterscotch Drizzle.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Vegetable Tajine

I remember being really happy with the chicken tajine I had previously made. I was inspired to make a vegetarian version by my visits to Moroccan restaurants (Au Tarot and Rumi) and to Morocco. It seems the vegetables always come in large chunks, cooked so they're soft. I like the combination of tartness and saltiness from the lemons and olives.

Vegetable Tajine

Vegetable Tajine - Serves 3-4
You can obviously use the vegetables of your choice but I tried to use those I had encountered in tajines. The addition of chickpeas add protein to the meal.

* olive oil
* 1 small onion, sliced thinly
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* ½ tsp cumin
* ½ tsp nutmeg
* ¼ tsp cardamom
* ½ tsp dried chili flakes
* ½ L of vegetable broth
* ½ L of water
* ½ lemon, sliced thinly
* ½ can of green olives, chopped
* vegetables of your choice, cut into chunks (carrots, potatoes, butternut squash, zucchini)
* a few cauliflower florets
* a small handle of green beans
* a small handle of chickpeas
* salt and pepper, to taste

In a large pot, on medium/high heat, cook onion slices in olive oil.
Add the garlic and spices and cook for 3-4 minutes.
Pour the vegetable broth and water.
Add the lemon slices, olives and vegetables that take longer to cook (carrots, potatoes, squash).
Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer.
Later, add the zucchini, cauliflower florets, green beans and chickpeas.
Cook for 1 hour, with the lid on.
Taste and adjust seasoning (salt and pepper).
Serve with couscous (I had it with minty couscous and raisins).

Onion and Spices Adding lemons
Cooking tajine Adding Vegetables
Cooking a tajine.

While I really enjoyed the tajine on the day I made it, I liked it even better on subsequent days. Not only is it nice to come home and not have to cook, but it's healthy and the flavours are so vibrant. Delicious and no guilt at all!

Vegetable Tajine

Tajine on Couscous
Served with couscous with mint and raisins.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Couscous with Mint and Raisins

This recipe could not be simpler. Couscous. Boiling Water. Raisins. Mint. Maybe some salt. I'll still write a "recipe" below. I pre-soaked the raising in boiling for a few minutes and I found that it really helps plump the raisins up. I served this couscous with a vegetable tajine that will be the next post!

Couscous with Mint and Raisins

Couscous with Mint and Raisins

* 1 cup couscous
* handful of raisins
* 1 cup boiling water, plus more to plump raisins
* couscous
* mint, leaves picked and chopped
* salt, to taste

Soak the raisins in a small bowl of boiling water for 10 minutes.
Drain and set aside.
In a large bowl, add the couscous.
Slowly add the water and fluff with a fork.
Add more water as required, a bit at a time. Covering the couscous also helps allow the heat to remain and the couscous to absorb the broth.
Add the raisins and mint.
Mix in.
with salt.

Couscous with Mint and Raisins
Minty couscous with Raisins.

The mint from my garden was a refreshing addition. I liked the sweetness of the raising contrasting with the savoury flavours. It was a perfect accompaniment for the tajine.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Red & White Quinoa Mushroom Risotto‏

Quinoa is considered a complete protein, meaning it provides all 9 of the amino acids crucial to human function. It is the only plant based protein to do so. There are two varieties of quinoa: red and white. I found quinoa in the organic section of my grocery store. Also, if you're in Canada, you can buy both white and red quinoa in bulk at Bulk Barn. It's a tiny grain and once you cook them, you can see a spiral shape form.

Red & White Quinoa

For November's Quinoa Salad contest, from 20 minute supper club challenge, I decided to attempt a quinoa "risotto" (By the way, if you haven't had a chance, please vote from my October submission: pesto goat cheesy pasta - it's the first recipe at the bottom and I need your help!). I used mushrooms since it seems like a perfect ingredient for fall, but you could replace them with another vegetable of your liking. Roasted squash would also be a perfect fall addition! The vegetables have to be cooked beforehand and added at the end.

Red & White Quinoa Mushroom Risotto‏

Red & White Quinoa Mushroom Risotto - Serves 4

Cooking Mushrooms
I use the same method whether I'm preparing mushrooms for soup, pizza or ravioli. Thyme combines so well with mushroom.

* oil
* 1 shallot, diced small (or ½ onion)
* 2 handfuls of your favourite mushrooms, sliced
* 2 thyme sprigs
* Marsala wine (optional)
* salt and pepper

In a large saucepan, heat up the oil on medium heat.
Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 1-2 minutes.
Add the mushrooms and thyme leaves.
Season with salt and pepper.
Add marsala wine if using.
Once the mushrooms are cooked, set aside.

Mushrooms Mushrooms
Cooking mushrooms: button, shiitake and oyster mushrooms.

Cooking the quinoa
* 2 cups vegetable both
* 1 tbsp butter
* 1 shallot, diced small (or ½ onion)
* 1 cup quinoa, red or white (or both!)
* ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
* mushrooms, cooked (see below - or any other vegetable of your choice!)
* truffle oil (optional)

In a small pot, heat up the vegetable broth. (For extra mushroom flavour, you can add dried mushrooms to the broth).
In a large saucepan, add butter.
Add shallot and cook until softened.
Add the quinoa, and mix, making sure the quinoa gets coated with the butter.
Add a ladle of broth, adding more as the broth evaporates.
Add Parmesan and mix.
Add the cooked mushrooms.
Finish with a drizzle of truffle oil if using.

Cooking Quinoa Cooking Quinoa Cooking Quinoa Adding cheese
Making quinoa "risotto".

Although I followed the risotto cooking method, the result is not quite risotto like. Instead, quinoa retains its crunchiness, and doesn't have starch like rice to make the "risotto" thick. However, the resulting dish was still very tasty. I love the mix of red and white colours from the two types of quinoa. Considering quinoa's properties, it's also a very healthy dish!

Red & White Quinoa Mushroom Risotto‏
Quinoa and mushroom goodness.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Lemon Hazelnut Tiramisu

I borrowed Giada de Laurentiis' latest cookbook Giada at Home. It's a beautiful book with lots of pictures, that focuses on Italian and Californian recipes. Luckily, many of the recipes are also featured on her TV show of the same name and so can be found online on

One recipe that I really wanted to try was the lemon hazelnut tiramisu. I'm not really sure what attracted me to it. Maybe the combination of lemon and hazelnut that I thought my mom would love? Or that the recipe requires no cooking? I also love the use of lady fingers in tiramisu that transform dry, hard cookies into a cake-like texture.

Lemon Hazelnut Tiramisu

I also get excited trying new ingredients and got my first taste of Frangelico, a hazelnut liqueur. It's imported from Italy so it's a bit pricey but totally worth it! The hazelnut flavour totally comes through.

Lemon Hazelnut Tiramisu - Serves 10-12

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis.
From the picture on, Giada makes this in a trifle bowl. However, I liked making it in a long baking dish and slicing it to make it look like a slice of cake!

Lemon and Hazelnut Syrup
I highly recommend making a larger recipe of the lemon syrup using the same proportions. Maybe one and a half recipe. We had just enough syrup but you really want enough to dip in the lady fingers. If there isn't enough, the lady fingers will be dry and you want them moist so they turn into that cake-like texture!

* ¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
* ¼ cup water
* ⅓ cup sugar
* ½ cup hazelnut liqueur (such as Frangelico)

Zest the lemon and set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine lemon juice, water and sugar over medium heat.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved.
Take the pan off the heat and allow the syrup to cool.
Mix in the hazelnut liqueur with the syrup.

I only ended up making 2 layers instead of the 3 layers in the recipe. I did not use all of

* 1-½ cups whipping cream
* 5 tablespoons sugar
* 1 (15-ounce) container mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
* 42 soft or hard ladyfinger cookies (or enough for 2 layers)
* 1-¼ cups lightly chopped toasted and skinned hazelnuts
* 1 lemon, zested

Whip the cream in a large bowl until thick.
Add the 2 tablespoons of the sugar and continue to whip until the cream holds soft peaks.
In another bowl, cream together remaining sugar and mascarpone cheese for 30 seconds.
Mix ¼ of the cream into the mascarpone.
Using a rubber spatula, fold in the remaining whipped cream.
Set aside.
In a food blender, quickly pulse the hazelnuts and lemon zest.
Set aside.
Place the lemon and hazelnut syrup in a small shallow bowl.
Quickly dip a ladyfinger in the lemon and hazelnut syrup, quickly turning it into the syrup. (The goal is to make sure the lady finger has absorbed enough liquid without disintegrating.)
the lady finger at the bottom of a 13" x 9" serving dish.
Repeat until the bottom of the dish fully covered.
Spread ½ of the mascarpone mixture over the cookies.
Top with ½ of the hazelnut mixture.
Repeat layering the moistened ladyfinger cookies, mascarpone mixture and hazelnut mixture.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or preferably overnight. (I didn't plan ahead and refrigered it for maybe 2 hours. It was still very good!)

Dipping ladyfingers Covering bottom of dish
Mascarpone & Whipped Cream Mixture Topping with second layer of ladyfingers
The simple steps assembling the tiramisu: 1) dip the lady fingers, 2) cover the bottom with the fingers, 3) top with mascarpone mixture and hazelnut and 4) repeat.

Even though the mascarpone and whipped cream are quite rich, the tiramisu tasted quite light and airy because of the lemony flavour and the moistened lady fingers. I would definitely make this recipe again. It makes quite a large portion so I would have it next time or make it when I have a lot of guests. It's definitely a great recipe for a summer dessert since it involves no baking. A very good alternative to the traditional tiramisu!

Lemon Hazelnut Tiramisu Lemon Hazelnut Tiramisu
Lemon Hazelnut Tiramisu.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Le Caïmorango (Strawberry Cocktail)

Before our dinner at my mom's, my sister made a cocktail the she learned at Atelier et Saveurs, where she learnt to mix cocktails at a friend's birthday party. The cocktail was well balanced with the sweetness of the cranberry juice and the tartness of the lime, while the strawberries added colour and fruity strawberry flavour. Mmm!

Le Caïmorango (Strawberry Cocktail)

Le Caïmorango (Strawberry Cocktail) - 1 drink
Created by Fanny Gauthier from Ateliers et Saveurs.
Add more strawberries or lime juice (or anything else - like vodka!) to taste!

* 4 pieces of strawberries
* 4 lime wedges
* 2 tsp brown sugar
* 1 oz white cranberry juice
* 1 oz vodka

In a glass, crush strawberries, lime wedges and sugar together (use a muddler if you have one!).
Add some ice cubes.
Mix in vodka and cranberry juice.
Adjust to taste.

Le Caïmorango (Strawberry Cocktail)
Perfect for one last meal outside.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Tofu Spring Rolls (Chả Giò Chay)

Before leaving Montréal, we had dinner at my mom's. We took advantage of the beautiful September evening to dine outside. I thought that my boyfriend A should be introduced to Vietnamese food, and more specifically rolling food in rice paper. My mom made my fave nem nướng (Vietnamese pork meatballs).

For a vegetarian option for my boyfriend A, she also made chả giò chay. Chả giò chay simply translates to vegetarian spring roll. Therefore, the filling could be made out of anything, as long as there is no meat. My mom's version uses tofu to replace meat. The remaining ingredients are the exact same she would use for the meat version (which I still don't have a recipe here on my blog...).

Vegetarian food and vegetarian versions of Vietnamese dishes are actually quite easy to find in Vietnam because of the Buddhists who do not eat meat. The most strict ones do not eat meat at any time, and the more lax ones will not eat meat during specific periods, following the lunar calendar (sort of, but not really, equivalent to fasting for Lent, or for Catholics abstaining from meat on Fridays during the old days). Anyway, just to say that vegetarian food is easy to come by in Vietnam, and there are even vegetarian buffets during these periods.

Tofu Spring Rolls

Tofu Spring Rolls (Chả Giò Chay)
The ingredients in the filling can be adjusted to your liking. Another common ingredient found in vegetarian spring rolls is taro.

* 500 g of pressed (or firm) tofu
* 1 little bunch (37.5 g) bean thread noodles, soaked and drained
* 1 handful of nấm mèo (wood ear mushrooms), soaked and drained
* 2 small carrots, grated
* ½ onion, minced or diced very small
* 1-½ tsp salt
* ¼ tsp pepper
* 1-½ package (or more) spring roll wrappers of your choice
* oil for deep frying

Soak and drain bean thread noodles and wood ear mushroom.
Place the noodles and mushrooms in a bowl, and roughly cut the noodle and mushrooms with scissors.
Mash the tofu with a fork of if it is too firm, blend the tofu until it forms a crumbly texture.
Add the tofu to the bowl, with the grated carrot, salt and pepper.
Add 1-2 tsp of the filling on to the wrapper.
Roll the filling into a spring roll (refer to ram bắp - corn spring rolls post for pictorial.)
Heat up oil. You can test it by adding a spring roll - the oil is hot enough if there are little bubbles.
Deep fry each spring rolls.

Pressed Tofu Crumbled Tofu
Pressed tofu and crumbled up.

Tofu Mixture Tofu Filling on a Wrapper
Vegetarian spring roll mixture and placed onto spring roll wrapper.

Rolling Spring Rolls Ready to be fried
Ready to be deep fried!

Try out this recipe and I'm sure most won't even realize there is not meat! It's deep fried with a tasty filling. What else do you need?

Tofu Spring Rolls

For another spring roll recipe:
* Corn Spring Rolls (Ram Bắp)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

La Croissanterie Figaro (Outremont,QC)

5200 Rue Hutchison
Outremont, Québec

Before we left Montréal, my boyfriend A and I met up my university friend C and her boyfriend R for lunch. We went to La Croissanterie Figaro, based on a recommendation of A's friend (the same friend who had recommended Rumi, just across the street). We were a bit worried that we'd have to wait in line on a glorious Saturday morning but we got a table right away, though the restaurant was quite busy.

La Croissanterie Figaro

We got to sit outside under a red umbrella, which tinged my pictures with a red hue. I don't quite remember what we ordered and unfortunately, the menu is not online. I will try to go from memory. R ordered a puff pastry stuffed with rapini and feta (I think). A ordered a roasted vegetable sandwich.

Rapini Puff Pastry Roasted Vegetable Sandwich
Rapini puff pastry and roasted vegetable sandwich.

Both C and I ordered the Spécial Bonjour ($7.95) which consisted of an orange juice and a café au lait, and a croisant topped with ham, eggs and melted cheese. My croissant was quite good and the brunch special was very filling.

Café au Lait & OJ Egg Croissant
Le Spécial Bonjour.

La Croissanterie Figaro is the perfect spot to catch up with friends over brunch. It was especially nice to be able to sit outside. It's in a very quaint area, near an Orthodox Jewish neighbourhood and we could watch families walking to the synagogue.

La Croissanterie on Urbanspoon