Spicy Chicken and Rice with Coconut-Cashew Crisp

Any time I can put a crisp topping on something and call it dinner is a great night in my house. ready to eat 1This dish is inspired by a a recipe I had seen in the Spring Issue of the LCBO Food and Drink Magazine. I switched up the protein from shrimp to chicken, and made my own piri piri sauce, because I couldn’t find any ready-made at the supermarket. peppersThe sauce uses a mix of sweet bell peppers combined with a hot peppers. Above is the selection of peppers available at my local supermarket. I used the fresno pepper, around the same heat level as a jalapeño. Serrano peppers are hotter and habaneros are super hot. Here is the Scoville scale, which rates the heat of various peppers. The heat in peppers resides in the seeds and white ribs of the pepper, so remove them if you want to temper the heat. If  pain-searing heat is more your jam, like my sister Bonnie and niece Kailey, then go ahead and use the entire pepper.

I marinated some diced boneless skinless chicken thighs in the sauce. While it was marinating, I cooked up a pot of jasmine rice and prepared the crisp topping. Unsweetened coconut, salted cashews and Rice Krispies make up this topping. Coconut oil is the glue that holds everything together. I love having breakfast for dinner.crisp topping ingredientsYou could make this in a large casserole dish, but individual mini serving dishes are more fun. Any oven-proof vessel that holds around 2 cups will work. I used my little cast iron pans. Once the rice is cooked, add some frozen peas and corn. No need to thaw. A bed of fragrant fluffy Jasmine rice creates the first layer.bottom layer of riceMarinated spice chicken goes down next. Pour in any extra sauce from the marinating bowl.middle layer of chickenFinish with a blanket of coconut, cashew crisp topping. ready for ovenHalf an hour in the oven is perfect to cook the chicken and crisp up the topping. Top with cilantro and a squirt of fresh lime.ready to eat 2

Click here to print recipe for Spicy Chicken and Rice with Coconut-Cashew Crisp.

dig in

 

Painted Brown Sugar Cookie Hearts

be mine 5I first learned about cookie painting when I saw the cover of the Bon Appetit December 2013 issue. When I looked inside and saw what was possible, my brain exploded with the possibilities. Who knew you could paint right onto the cookie, with an actual paintbrush? Kind of rocked my world.
BonAppetit_December2013_cover-530x398Bon Appetit Painted Cookies 3
I have never been exactly skilled with a paintbrush, but I figured even I could manage stripes. I began with the most delicious sugar cookie recipe I know, which uses brown sugar instead of granulated white sugar. Bake cookies and let cool completely.cutting heartsMix up a bach of royal icing. Pipe an outline onto the baked hearts. Mine was a bit too thick. I’m sure you can do better than me.piping outlineThin some of the royal icing with a few drops of water to make a thinner consistency and fill in the hearts. Let them dry completely, preferably overnight. Consider this your blank canvas.Hearts filled inTo paint the cookies, you will need some clean paintbrushes in assorted sizes, gel food colouring (I like the Americolour brand) and some vodka. (Not for drinking, just to wet your brush with and mix with the gel food colouring to thin it out). Any clear extract (lemon or a clear vanilla) would also work. The reason for using alcohol is that it evaporates very quickly, meaning that the paint will dry quicker.

The Bon Appetit cookies were painted with luster dust, mixed with a bit of alcohol or extract. It comes in tons of colours. If you want to use luster dust to achieve that shimmery effect, here is a great tutorial on how to do it. I decided to do mine with just regular gel food colouring instead of the luster dust.  ready to paintSqueeze a blob of each colour you want to use onto an artist’s paint palette or a dinner plate. (I used a ceramic egg holder) Have a small glass of vodka ready for dipping your brush into. Dip the brush into the vodka or extract and then into the food colour gel. Have some paper towels ready to test the colour and adjust the amount of paint you have on your brush. Make sure you wash and dry the brush really well, before you change colours.painted stripes1I decided to up the adorable factor and write a message on my cookies. I used a thin tip paintbrush. Be Mine CircleSuch a sweet way to declare your love this year. be mine 2

Click here to print recipe for Sugar Cookies with Brown Sugar

Click here to print recipe for Royal Icing Recipe.

be mine 1

Sweet Talk Shortbread Hearts

assorted hearts 1I have been wanting to make the cookie equivalent of those candy conversation heats for some time now. You know the ones I mean, they have the taste and texture of chalk, but are kind of cute.necco conversation heartsWhen I went to buy some for the photo shoot, I discovered that SweeTarts also make a version of conversation hearts, and if you’re a fan of that mouthwatering fusion of sweet and tart, you’ll love them. SweeTart HeartsI was thinking of doing an iced cookie, and piping the messages on them, but my fine motor skills aren’t precise enough for detailed piping and besides, my #1 valentine doesn’t like iced cookies. So, onto plan B. I remembered seeing these cookie letter stamps online.

Even though these are a novelty cookie, I still wanted them to be as delicious as possible. I thought I would try making them with a shortbread cookie dough. I used Mindy Segal’s recipe from her exciting and edgy new book, Cookie Love. After making the dough, I rolled it out using my new precision sticks. These have changed my life. I have always had difficulty rolling dough evenly, and then I was reading an article by cookie maven Dorris Greenspan. She was talking about these dough rolling sticks. They come in 1/4 inch, 1/8 inch and 1/16 inch thicknesses. They are genius in their simplicity.Measuring dough strips rolling pin guidesAfter rolling out dough between 2 sheets of parchment, I froze the sheet of dough before cutting out the hearts. cutting out heartsI stamped the cookies with their messages before baking, but as soon as they were done I realized that would not work. The cookies puffed up a bit during baking and the letters were not crisp and clear anymore. I decided to try stamping the cookies immediately after baking, before cooling, while they were still soft. To make it manageable, from a timing perspective, I only baked 6 cookies at a time, so that the cookies would not harden before stamping. cookie stampsThese cookies are both adorable and delicious. I was thrilled with the results.hugs xoxo

Click here to print recipe for Sweet Talk Shortbread Hearts.

assorted hearts 2

 

Harissa and Maple Roasted Carrots

on oval plateThere are certain things I am powerless to resist. Cute black jumpsuits (only my daughter knows how many I own, and I’ve sworn her to secrecy), anything coconut on a dessert menu, smelling the head of a newborn baby and rainbow carrots with the tops still on.

Whenever I see them, I buy several bunches. I love them roasted. This is a simple recipe I found in Bon Appetit a few years ago. Harissa, is a spicy North African chile paste. I buy it in a tube, that keeps for quite a while in the fridge. Maple syrup tempers some of Harissa’s heat.What you'll need

Lined up for roastingpouring marinadeready for roastingI think this marinade will also be fantastic with roasted squash or parsnips, and I am excited to try it on grilled zucchini this summer.

Here’s a few other ideas for using up that tube of Harissa. It is spicy, so a little bit goes a long way.

  • Blend a spoonful into meatloaf or burgers
  • Swirl a bit into some mayo for a spicy sweet potato fries dip
  • Mix a dollop into humus for a spicy kick
  • Stir some into your favourite BBQ sauce for grilled or roasted chicken
  • Enhance your tomato sauce for pasta

Click here to print recipe for Harissa and Maple Roasted Carrots.

on round plate

Muhamarra (Red Pepper, Walnut and Pomegranate Dip)

dip with beerI don’t often remember my dreams, but last night’s was so vivid that I feel compelled to tell you about it. In my dream, I led a protest march at the McGregor sock factory. We all carried signs, designed by me, that read, “We demand equal rights for all toes.” I was so confused when I woke up. I avoid confrontation at all cost, so I can’t for the life of me, figure out how I came to be leading a protest. If anyone is skilled in dream analysis, please enlighten me.

Clearly I don’t have answers to all the world’s injustices, but I can suggest a great new dip for Super Bowl Sunday. Small steps folks!

I first had this dip a few weeks ago at Fairouz, a Lebanese restaurant in Ottawa. When I moved to Ottawa over 25 years ago, it was one of the only great ethnic restaurants in town. We went often, but never on a Saturday night, as that was when they featured live music and belly dancers. Watching them always made me uncomfortable. Sadly, they closed their doors in 2005, and I really missed it.

When I heard that they had reopened, I was thrilled. Fairouz 2.0, as I call it, is just as delicious, but with a fresh modern twist on Middle Eastern food. Luckily we went with a bunch of friends, because we wanted to try almost everything on the grazing section of the menu. Our favourite was the muhamarra dip. Much easier to make than it is to pronounce. I googled the pronunciation and heard it pronounced like this, this and this.

Of course I quizzed our waiter about how to make this dip. All I could get out of him was red peppers, walnuts and pomegranate molasses. I came home, did a little research and got to work creating. Almost all the recipes I found used some sort of binder, usually breadcrumbs. The go-to spices were commonly cumin and some sort of hot red peppers. Since Aleppo pepper is sadly unavailable, I went with a dried Turkish red pepper called Maras (or sometimes Marash).  I buy mine at Damas, a Middle Eastern supermarket in Ottawa. You can easily find it on Amazon as well. Pomegranate molasses (the syrup of boiled pomegranate juice), is also readily available at Middle Eastern supermarkets. Dip ingredientsMost recipes called for roasting and peeling fresh red peppers, but I was feeling a bit lazy, so I just used jarred roasted red peppers. Some brands are heavy on the vinegar, so taste the peppers first and rinse them if they taste too vinegary. Measure out all your ingredients and then start processing.

I garnished the finished dip with extra drizzles of olive oil and pomegranate molasses. A scatter of fresh pomegranate seeds and chopped toasted walnuts add a welcome crunch. Fresh mint sprigs look pretty. You can serve it with pita chips or warmed fresh pita. I used whole wheat mini pitas. on black plate

Click here to print recipe for Muhhammara.

ready to dip