Monday, November 23, 2015

A Red, White & Green Cocktail (watermelon shrub)

Cocktail season is coming! Ahem, I mean the holiday season is coming, but it's kind of the same thing in my book. This is the time of year when I start to move away from beer when I'm out and go for a festive cocktail instead. I like it fruity and I like festive colours, so this watermelon cocktail - or the Red, White & Green I'm calling it - totally hits the mark for me. The 'white' comes from white rum and white vinegar the 'green' comes from the fresh garnishes, and the 'red' is represented by an easy-to-make watermelon shrub.

Also called drinking vinegar, a shrub is a simple and old-fashioned way of preserving fruit. It's a simple syrup with added vinegar, essentially, and when mixed into a cocktail it brightens and heightens the flavours. It doesn't taste like you're drinking vinegar. It tastes like your fruity drink just got an extra layer of tartness.

Shrubs are really hot right now in bars and restaurants. I've seen everything from ginger, mint, basil, rhubarb, rosemary and plum going into shrubs and they're actually quite simple to make at home. Healthy and versatile watermelon makes a gorgeous melon-flavoured shrub.

You don't have to enjoy cocktails to enjoy a shrub. Even my kids, who are pretty picky eaters and drinkers by the way, like this shrub mixed with sparkling water.

To make things extra festive this holiday season, try a lime peel ribbon on your drinks instead of a wedge. To make one, peel a thin strip from around half a lime. A tool like this one will help you do the job (use the notch bit). Then wrap around a straw or chopstick and squeeze. The ribbon will hold its shape and dress up your cocktails like a gift!

Watermelon isn't traditionally a holiday fruit in Canada, but that's because it hasn't always been available this time of year. Now, thanks to imports from the U.S., watermelon can be on the cocktail menu any time of year. And the colour is undeniably festive.

Get my simple recipe below for watermelon shrub to make your very own Red, White & Green!

A Red, White & Green Cocktail
2 cups (500 mL) cubed watermelon
1 cup (250 mL) white vinegar
1 3/4 cups (425 mL) granulated sugar
2 to 3 cubes of ice
2 tbsp (30 mL) of granulated sugar for rim
Green garnishes such as lime, cucumber, mint or basil
1 to 2 shots watermelon shrub, depending on size of glass
1 shot white rum
Tonic water to top up
Watermelon wedge
Add the cubed watermelon to a large mason jar. Bring the vinegar almost to the boil in a small saucepan. Pour over the watermelon. Cover with a lid. Once at room temperature (about an hour), transfer to the refrigerator. Every now and then when you open the refrigerator, give the mixture a good shake.
The next day, strain the contents of the jar through a fine mesh sieve to remove and discard the solid pieces. Return the liquid to the jar. Pour in the sugar. Put the lid back on and shake occasionally until the sugar is dissolved (about 10 minutes). Use right away or refrigerate up to 2 weeks. Makes enough for at least a dozen cocktails.
Pour a little of the shrub onto a small side plate. Pour the sugar onto another side plate. Rim the cocktail glass by dipping it into the shrub and then the sugar. Add ice cubes to the glass. Add chosen green garnishes to the glass. Pour in the shrub measures and rum measure. Top up with tonic. Stir gently. Garnish with watermelon wedge. Serve immediately.
What cocktails will you be enjoying over the holidays? Do you have a favourite cocktail? Leave a comment and share your holiday cocktail ideas.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by I am being paid to develop and photograph this recipe.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

All-Bran Greek Yogurt Mocha Mousse & GIVEAWAY

I love a good giveaway post, and today I'm sharing the last of my three All-Bran recipes and giving away a fantastic All-Bran prize pack. Not only do you have a chance to win boxes of All-Bran cereal to start your day off right, but you could also get your hands on some gorgeous and useful kitchen tools (see picture below).

This blog campaign was all about giving some classic recipes a nutritional fibre boost. I started things off with a Bacon Cheddar Cheese Ball, then moved on to a main course with Turkey Corn Tacos, and now I'm ready to share what might be my favourite of the three recipes - this no-cook Greek Yogurt Mocha Mousse. It's delicious, sinfully smooth, and so easy to make it can put together in 10 minutes or less. Plus, it's actually pretty healthy!

For the first time, I'm also sharing a video of me in my very own kitchen making something. For a gal who used to anchor the morning news on television, I just have never really gotten into video with my blog. Anyhow, there you have it - me on camera making mocha mousse. I'll go hide under a rock somewhere while you watch it.

Scroll down to get this tasty and easy recipe, and enter to WIN this incredible All-Bran prize pack!

All-Bran Greek Yogurt Mocha Mousse
Makes four 1 cup (250 mL) servings

1/4 cup (60 mL) butter
3 tbsp (50 mL) cocoa powder, divided
1 1/4 cups (300 mL) All-Bran Buds cereal
1/4 cup (60 mL) strong brewed coffee
1 3/4 cups (425 mL) plain Greek yogurt
2 tbsp (30 mL) honey
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract
6 squares from a dark chocolate bar
4 mint leaves as garnish (optional)

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from the heat and stir in 2 tbsp (30 mL) of cocoa powder until dissolved. Stir in the All-Bran Buds. Spoon into four 1 cup (250 mL) mason jars or dessert bowls and set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together the coffee and the remaining 1 tbsp (15 mL) of cocoa powder until dissolved. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the Greek yogurt, coffee/cocoa mixture, honey and vanilla until well combined. Spoon over crunchy All-Bran base. Chill in the refrigerator until set (at least 1 hour).

Roughly chop the squares of chocolate. Sprinkle evenly over the mousse. Garnish with mint leaves if desired.

CONTEST CLOSED: The randomly-selected winner is Asiya Baig, who also happens to be a food blogger! Find her over at Chocolate & Chillies.

Thanks for entering!


Monday, November 9, 2015

Spicy Peanut Dressing (and sauce)

Other than peanut butter, peanuts themselves haven't really had a home in my kitchen. Not because I didn't like them, but I guess because, in my mind anyway, they were the more boring of all the nuts. With almonds and pecans and walnuts to choose from, the humble peanut looked a little dull.

But that all changed recently. My neighbour Alison celebrated a special birthday at The London Chef cooking school here in Victoria, and I joined her and many of her friends and family in a Thai cooking class. Chef Dan Hayes made the most incredible peanut dressing that, to me, was the best flavour of the night. It was tossed in a salad of thinly sliced cabbage and cucumber. I do love a cabbage salad, me, and this one had mega flavour and satisfying crunch.

While Dan's dressing had all the authentic ingredients, I set out to make my own version at home using everyday ingredients that most of us have in our kitchen. Enjoy it in a shaved vegetable salad, or try it hot tossed with crispy chicken, vegetables and rice noodles. Make some spicy peanut dressing at the start of the week and enjoy it for days.

Time to put peanuts on my regular shopping list!

Get the recipe below.

Spicy Peanut Dressing
Makes 2 1/3 cups (allow approx. 1/3 cup per serving)

2 garlic cloves
3 tbsp (50 mL) fresh ginger root (or 3 rounds sliced 1/4-inch thick)
2 green onions, roots removed
1 bird's eye chili, seeds removed
2 cups (500 mL) fresh cilantro or parsley, packed
1 cup (250 mL) blanched unsalted peanuts
juice of 2 limes
1/2 cup (125 mL) coconut milk
1/3 cup (75 mL) canola oil or other lightly-flavoured oil
3 tbsp (50 mL) soy sauce
1 tsp (5 mL) sesame oil
1 tbsp (15 mL) granulated or raw cane sugar (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Process on HIGH until well blended. Use immediately or pour into a sealed container and refrigerate up to 5 days.

NOTE: If making coleslaw, toss the dressing with the veggies and allow to sit at room temperature for half an hour before serving to soften the veggies.

Do you use peanuts in your cooking? What's your favourite way to enjoy them? Leave a comment and share your ideas!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Coconut Ginger Cauliflower Soup

As I write this, a dark shadow hangs over my residential street. The sky is heavy and grey with cloud, making it feel more like nightfall even though the clock over the fireplace assures me it is early afternoon. Brightly coloured leaves, some in the gutters and others still clinging to their branches, flap around merrily, standing out like little beacons of joy against the dullness of the light and the chill of the air.

This is fall. It is a time when the world on the outside changes our world on the inside; when our homes are cozier and more comforting than before. It is warm sweaters and worn-in quilts and hot cups of cocoa with the kids. It is special moments and treasured things. In my cozy kitchen, it is soups and stews made with big flavours and comforting aromas that fill the house with love.

Soups and stews are peasant foods. They are basic dishes, often made in a single pot, that stretch ingredients to fill bellies with whatever freshness is on hand. Soups and stews are found in every cuisine around the world, nourishing millions of us every day with simple ingredients, and the flavours are endless.

Today, I'm sharing my recipe for Coconut Ginger Cauliflower Soup (recipe below). This simple vegan soup is hearty and full of gorgeous, vivid flavours to brighten a dark fall day. The flavourful coconut-milk broth is infused with ginger, garlic and lime, and every spoonful warms from the inside out.

So, come on inside. Grab a bowl and a spoon. The soup is on.

Coconut Ginger Cauliflower Soup
Makes 6 servings

1 tbsp (15 mL) vegetable oil
1 cup (250 mL) diced yellow onion (about 1 medium onion)
1 1/4 cups (300 mL) diced red bell pepper (about 1 large red pepper)
1 head of cauliflower, chopped into florets
1 tbsp (15 mL) grated fresh ginger
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Thai chili pepper, minced (optional - leave it out if you want a mild soup)
1 can (400 mL) coconut milk
4 cups (1 L) water
2 tbsp (30 mL) tomato paste
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
1 lime
1 tbsp (15 mL) granulated or cane sugar
1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped fresh parsley or cilantro

Heat the oil in a soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and red pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes to soften.

Add the cauliflower, ginger, garlic and Thai chili (if using). Pour in the coconut milk and water. Stir in the tomato paste and salt. Cut the lime in half and nestle one half into the works, setting the other half aside. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the lime half from the pot and discard. Mash the softened cauliflower with a potato masher to the consistency of rice. Stir in the sugar. Increase the heat to medium and continue simmering, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meantime, slice the remaining lime half into 6 wedges.

Serve in bowls with a wedge of lime and sprinkled with parsley or cilantro.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

All-Bran Turkey Corn Tacos

Few meals are greeted with as much adoration around our dinner table as tacos. We all like them. They are tasty, fun to assemble and, depending on your ingredients, can be pretty darn healthy. On taco night, everyone comes to the table happy and leaves with a full belly. I wish I could say the same for every meal I make.

Just because we all like taco night doesn't mean we eat them the same way. We all like different toppings, one of my kids doesn't want meat of any kind on his, and that's okay. That's the magic of mix-and-match tacos. I serve them family style with lots of ingredient options so everyone can stuff their hard or soft shell tortilla any way they like.

My favourite taco toppings are sliced avocado, fresh diced tomato and chilled sour cream. So that's what I went with for the second recipe in my All-Bran blog series. These turkey corn tacos contain a full cup of added fibre so you can put big flavour and healthy fibre on the table in one easy meal.

Last week I shared an appetizer recipe using All-Bran (my Bacon Cheddar Cheese Ball) and next week I will be sharing a dessert recipe plus giving you an opportunity to win an All-Bran prize pack!

In the meantime, get my recipe below for All-Bran Turkey Corn Tacos, and for more recipe ideas, visit

All-Bran Turkey Corn Tacos
Serves 4 to 5 people

2 tbsp (30 mL) canola oil
1 1/2 lb (675 g) ground turkey breasts or thighs
1 cup (250 mL) frozen corn kernels
1 cup (250 mL) All-Bran Original cereal
2 tbsp (30 mL) chili powder
1 tsp (5 mL) ground cumin
1 tsp (5 mL) garlic powder
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) water
8 to 10 medium tortillas
8 to 10 butter lettuce leaves
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced
1 cup (250 mL) diced tomato
1/2 cup (125 mL) sour cream

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground turkey and cook until no longer pink, using a wooden spoon to break up the turkey as it browns. Stir in the corn, All-Bran, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder and salt. Pour in the water. Turn the heat to high and bring the works to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat.

To assemble tacos, place one lettuce leaf on each tortilla. Spoon some of the turkey corn filling onto each taco. Top with slices of avocado, diced tomato and a dollop of sour cream.

Are tacos a favourite at your dinner table? What toppings do you serve them with?
Disclosure: I was provided with Kellogg's All-Bran cereal at no cost to myself for recipe development. I am also being paid to develop these recipes and share them here on Family Feedbag. An additional prize pack is also being provided at no cost to myself for giveaway next week!