Friday, September 19, 2014

Perfect popcorn

We have a bit of a popcorn habit in this house. At least a few evenings a week, the sound of pop-pop-popping can be heard coming from the kitchen. Usually it's because Mr. Feedbag is feeling a bit snackish, and popcorn is near the top of his snack list. Oddly, I didn't even particularly like popcorn before I met Mr. Feedbag. I would usually go for something sweet and chocolatey over popcorn at the movie theatre. But something about him changed something in me over the years, and now sitting in a dark theatre with a bag of hot, buttery popcorn and a cold drink is one of my favourite ways to relax.

Somewhere in the 1980s it seems home cooks forgot how simple it is to make popcorn on the stove. Between the microwave craze and plug-in countertop poppers, the old-fashioned method using a simple pot with a lid fell out of fashion. But like a lot of things in the kitchen, I think the old way is often the simplest and most delicious way. The best popcorn tastes like a fresh breeze running through a corn field on a sunny day, and that's what you get from popping it on the stove.

Get the recipe below...

Perfect Popcorn
Serves 3-4 snackers

1/4 cup (60 mL) cooking oil (such as canola, sunflower, safflower or even olive oil)
2/3 cup (150 mL) popcorn kernels
salt to taste (optional)

Pour the oil into a medium saucepan with a lid. Add 1 popcorn kernel to the oil. Cover with the lid and set it over medium high heat until the kernel pops (you will hear it). Remove the lid and pour in the rest of the kernels to cover the bottom of the pan in a single layer. Cover again and allow the remaining kernels to pop, giving the pan a gentle shake a few times while popping (it will only take a couple minutes). When the popping slows to one or two pops every few seconds, remove the pan from the heat and transfer the popcorn immediately to a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt if desired.

Does the sound of pop-pop-popping come from your kitchen a lot too? How do you season your popcorn, or do you like it plain jane like I do?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Caramel apple flapjacks

Fall. I love everything about it. The bright, burning light of the sun low on the horizon. The smell of cold wet leaves in the morning. A return to sweaters and socks and lattes. But perhaps the thing I love most about fall's arrival is my return to the kitchen in earnest. Yes, fall is coming and I'm not one bit sad. While nature retires into hibernation, my creative soul awakes from the long sunny summer.
Apples are just about my favourite ingredient to play around with in the kitchen. Our backyard tree, which is an early ripening variety, was particularly fruitful again this year, producing about a hundred pounds of medium red apples. Feeling lazy in the kitchen and finishing up my book, I wasn't as productive with them apples as I could have been. But here and there they have gone into muffins and squares and these delectable caramel apple flapjacks. The simple batter has grated apple and cinnamon, which is a fall classic for me. A stack of these babies go from good to goodness gracious with a generous drizzle of brown sugar caramel sauce.
Get the recipe below. I'm sorry and you're welcome at the same time...

Caramel Apple Flapjacks
Makes 4 servings
3/4 cup (175 mL) brown sugar
1/3 cup (75 mL) water
1/4 cup (60 mL) heavy cream
1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour
1 tsp (5 mL) baking powder
1/4 tsp (1 mL) baking soda
1 tsp (5 mL) ground cinnamon
1 egg
1 1/4 cups (300 mL) milk
1 cup (250 mL) peeled, grated apple
2 tbsp (30 mL) butter, melted
To make the caramel sauce, combine the brown sugar and water in a medium saucepan and set over medium heat. Allow to come to a bubble, then begin stirring gently until the sauce thickens and darkens (5 to 6 minutes). Remove from the heat and stir in the cream. Pour the hot caramel into a heat-proof container (a mason jar works great) and transfer to the refrigerator to cool a little while you prepare the flapjacks.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Add the egg, milk and grated apple to the bowl, and stir just to combine. Stir in the melted butter. Ladle the batter about half a cup (125 mL) at a time into a preheated skillet over medium to medium-low heat. Once bubbles begin to appear on the surface and stay in place after bursting, flip the flapjack and cook another minute or so on the second side until cooked through. Serve the flapjacks immediately, drizzled with the warm brown sugar caramel sauce (If cooled completely, microwave the caramel briefly to make it warm and liquid again).
Are you looking forward to spending a little more time in the kitchen this fall? What are you looking forward to making?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Grilled tandoori chicken skewers

Sitting shoulder to shoulder in a dark theatre, sharing a bag of salty popcorn, Mr. Feedbag and I watched The Hundred-Foot Journey with the delightful Helen Mirren on a recent date night. The film is about a Michelin starred restaurant in the French countryside that sees a family-run Indian restaurant open up across the road. While the precision and flare in the scenes of classical French cooking was impressive, I was stuck on images from earlier in the film of Indian grilling with yogurt-marinated meat and fragrant spices. I suspect the director wants you to get stuck on those images so you'll root for the lead character, a young chef called Hassan played by Manish Dayal, to not stray too far from his culinary roots as he rises ever higher in the world of haute cuisine.
After the show we debated where to go for dinner, and when Mr. Feedbag said he'd actually be up for Indian I didn't blink or ask if he was sure. We went straight to my favourite little spot and ordered a couple simple dishes with rice and naan, and by the end of the meal there was a slight but significant shift on the other side of the table. Mr. Feedbag decided he liked Indian flavours now. 
No longer is my love of tandoori, butter chicken, korma and tikka masala limited to girls' night out! The day after we watched the film, I made these chicken skewers at home. So good. And after dinner Mr. Feedbag reconfirmed that he indeed likes Indian food now. Let there be grilled tandoori chicken...

Grilled Tandoori Chicken Skewers
Makes 4-5 servings

1 cup (250 mL) plain yogurt
2 tbsp (30 mL) lime or lemon juice
2 tbsp (30 mL) cooking oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp  (10 mL) freshly grated ginger
2 tbsp (30 mL) chili powder
2 tbsp (30 mL) garam masala
1 tsp (5 mL) ground cumin
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
1/2 tsp (2 mL) ground turmeric
2 1/2 lb (1.125 kg) skinless, boneless chicken thighs

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice, oil, garlic, ginger, chili powder, garam masala, cumin, salt and turmeric. Chop each chicken thigh into about three pieces. Add the chicken pieces to the yogurt marinade and toss to coat well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the grill to medium high heat. Thread the pieces of chicken onto 4 to 6 skewers, depending on the length of your skewers (if using wooden skewers, soak them in cold water for at least 30 minutes beforehand to reduce scorching). Grill the chicken skewers about 10 minutes, then rotate and continue cooking another 10 minutes or so until the chicken is cooked through.

Do you love some foods that your family isn't crazy about? How do you get YOUR fix?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Lunch box granola bars

This isn't a recipe post. It's more of a... coming soon post. Now that I've submitted my cookbook manuscript to the publisher (yay!), things have really settled down around here. My weekdays are still filled with kids and parks and picnics and noise, but I'm no longer spending my weekends working on the book. So I'm getting back to some of my favourite hobbies that I had put on hold during the months when I was canning my bum off and writing like a madwoman. I've finished a knitting project and started another, read a couple novels, become completely obsessed with a Spanish TV series on Netflix, and now I'm starting to turn my mind to fall and school and everything else that comes with that time of year.

I'm particularly excited about fall this year because my youngest boy is starting preschool. He's a big snacker, so it's no surprise that one of the preschool activities he's looking forward to most is bringing along his own snack. Since he loves granola bars, my latest kitchen quest is to develop a quick and easy granola bar recipe that I can whip up at the beginning of the week that is healthy and nut-free for school. My first batch with apricots, sesame seeds and honey was really tasty, but I'm tempted to use butter instead of oil in the next batch to help the bars set a little firmer when they cool. I might throw in some dried cherries too. We'll see. Lots of options. And when I narrow down a lovely little recipe you can count on me sharing it here.

How are you feeling about fall coming? Do you have kids going back to school or starting something new? Are you planning any changes to your kitchen routine with the change of season? Leave a comment, and feel free to share any granola bar ideas...

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The SECRET to clean stainless steel

Fingerprints. Smudges. Food smears. Streaks. They get all over my dishwasher. That's life with stainless steel in the kitchen. Whatever mess you've got going on with your hands, it's bound to end up all around the handles and edges, marking up your beautiful appliances. I've tried it all in the past; various cleaning products from the hardware store, wipes, sprays, even homemade concoctions involving baking soda and lemon juice and whatever else Pinterest suggested. Nothing worked. I started to wonder if stainless steel was a bit of a misnomer. But then something came in the mail that changed all that.

I swear to you I'm not being paid to write about this. It's just SO GOOD.

After getting my lovely new dishwasher from KitchenAid Canada, I was sent a dishwasher care package in the mail. Inside the big basket were some stainless steel cleaning wipes as well as a spray and cleaning tabs to bring a sparkle to even the inside of my fancy machine. I was skeptical at first. But the package said KitchenAid recommends this stuff. Hmm, I thought, okay let's give it a go.

Oh my WORD!

It's sooo good. Like, we're talking miracle cleaner here. The smudges and streaks and smears were gone. Completely. All those homemade pastes I'd tried and perfectly good lemons wasted, and now I finally know how to keep my stainless steel clean.  

So, what is this big secret?


I love it. It is incredibly effective. And now I want you to have some too. So the company has agreed to give one of my readers:

A ONE-YEAR supply of affresh products!

To enter, leave a comment on this blog post telling me how dirty your stainless appliances are. And be sure to include your email address so I can reach you if you win.

The winner will be selected on Monday, August 18, 2014 at 6 p.m. Pacific/9 p.m. Eastern.

Good luck!

For anyone wanting to rush out right now and get some affresh wipes, they are available at Lowes, Leons, Home Hardware, Bed Bath & Beyond, Home Outfitters, Coast Wholesale Appliances, IGA, Sobeys Atlantic, Highland Farms and online at and