Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Whipped Avocado Cucumber Bites

I'm sharing a recipe today over on Produce Made Simple. This time I'm taking guacamole in a satisfying one-bite direction with some whipped avocado cucumber bites. They're pretty enough for the buffet table yet fun enough for a casual game-day get together. With fresh avocado, chili and lime, these are a pop of big flavour that packs a healthful punch. Super yum!

Get the recipe here on Produce Made Simple.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Peach Mint Salsa

No one would be surprised, I don't think, that my family loves canned peaches. I can a whole bunch of them myself in jars each summer when they're ripe and juicy. Heck, I wrote a book about it! Trouble is, those jars of home-canned peaches run out somewhere around mid-winter and yet we still want the taste of pure summer in our cakes, pancakes and pies. That's when I reach for canned peaches from the shops. They're handy, affordable and, best of all, they pack a peachy punch just like homemade.

In Canada, canned peaches are almost exclusively California cling peaches, which are sliced and canned within 24 hours of coming off the tree to preserve their flavour, texture and nutritional content. They hold their shape nicely too, which makes them ideal for slicing and dicing to suit whatever you're making.

My first instinct when developing a recipe using canned peaches was to do something sweet. But, loving a good challenge, I decided instead to aim for something a little less obvious. To honour their summer flavour, I settled on a salsa recipe using tomatoes, fresh mint, and the canned peaches for their gentle, sunny sweetness. With a little hot chili flakes and the juice of a lime stirred in, the result is a fresh and fruity salsa. Try it at party time with crunch tortilla chips or use a few spoonfuls to dress up baked chicken and fish.

So stock up on canned peaches and grab the simple recipe below...

Peach Mint Salsa
Makes 3 cups (750 mL) salsa

1 can (398 mL) peach slices, drained and diced
2 cups (500 mL) diced plum tomatoes (about 3 or 4)
1/2 cup (125 mL) finely diced red onion
1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped fresh mint
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp (2 mL) hot chili flakes
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt

In a medium bowl, mix together the peaches, tomatoes, onion, mint, lime juice, chili flakes and salt. Serve right away or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

How do you like to use canned peaches? Leave a comment and share your peachy ideas!
Disclosure: I am being paid my standard recipe writing fee for developing this recipe using California Cling Peaches. Views are my own.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Saucy Pulled Chicken and Rice Tacos

Types of rice are like friends. They come in many varieties and forms, some are suited to certain situations more than others, but they are all special in their own way. Just like sometimes I need to call on a funny friend or a knitting friend or someone who gives great advice, I like to keep several types of rice around so I can call on the one that suits the moment best.

I used a medium-grain California-grown brown rice to write this recipe for saucy pulled chicken and rice tacos. Brown rice has a mild nutty flavour and chewy texture, which suits these substantial tacos, also adding whole grain nutrition. The best part about rice in tacos is it helps to soak up all that gorgeous sauce to keep things tidy. Well, as tidy as tacos can be. You're still going to want a napkin for these lovelies!

This recipe is super easy to make, and the chicken can be prepared ahead of time and reheated when you're ready to assemble the tacos. The rice takes about half an hour to cook, which is just enough time to assemble the other toppings and set the dinner table.

I had never really contemplated much where my rice comes from until I started working on this recipe. I was surprised to learn about 70 per cent of the rice we consume in Canada is grown in the U.S. I guess I thought it came from much further away. I learned a lot of other interesting facts over here on the USA Rice website. Check it out, then grab a package of some nutty brown rice and try these saucy pulled chicken and rice tacos!

Get the recipe below...

Saucy Pulled Chicken and Rice Tacos
Makes approximately one dozen tacos

2 lb (900 g) boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 4 or 5)
1 can (156 mL/5.5 oz) tomato paste
1/2 cup (125 mL) packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (125 mL) malt vinegar
1 tbsp (15 mL) chili powder
1 tsp (5 mL) ground cumin
1 tsp (5 mL) onion powder
1 tsp (5 mL) garlic powder
1 tsp (5 mL) ground mustard
1 tsp (5 mL) paprika
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1 cup (250 mL) uncooked medium-grain brown rice
12 small flour or corn tortillas
1 head of butter lettuce
1/2 cup (125 mL) sour cream
2 green onions, chopped
1 lime, cut into wedges (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325° F.

Place the chicken breasts in a medium baking dish, such as a 9-inch (2.5 L) square baking dish. In a medium bowl, stir together the tomato paste, brown sugar, malt vinegar, chili powder, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, ground mustard, paprika and salt. Pour over the chicken. Cover with foil and bake 1 hour. Use two forks to pull apart the chicken in the sauce.

Meantime, bring the rice and 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) water to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes (or cook according to package instructions).

To assemble each taco, place a leaf or two of lettuce on a tortilla. Add a spoonful of rice and a forkful of pulled chicken. Top with sour cream, a sprinkling of green onions, and a squeeze of lime if desired.

Disclosure: I am being paid my usual recipe development fee for this post using USA Rice.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Chocolate Toffee Truffles (with Hershey's CHIPITS)

Chocolate. Few nibbles are as exciting as a piece of chocolate. Better yet, chocolate truffles. 

To me, the best thing about dark chocolate is it doesn't take much to satisfy. Just a truffle or two can feel like a decadent treat. I like to take small bites, to savour the richness of the chocolate and dwell in the moment just a little bit longer. A truffle coats the tongue with the flavour and texture of pure luxury. Let the wind whip and the rain fall. Let the chores wait. There is no need to rush a truffle.

I like to keep my baking cupboard well stocked so I can prepare something whenever the mood strikes without having to make a trip to the store first. My go-to chip is Hershey's CHIPITS. They taste incredible, perform well and fit my shopping budget nicely. So, I was delighted when I was asked to create an easy holiday recipe using CHIPITS to share with you. These 5-ingredient Chocolate Toffee Truffles are so simple to make, yet so elegant, even your kids could make them and impress just about anyone.

It starts with dark chocolate chips for rich, chocolatey flavour. A hot cream and butter mixture is poured over the chips and stirred into a luxurious, silky ganache. To take things up a notch, SKOR toffee bits are stirred into the mixture to add crunch and interest. Once chilled, the ganache is formed into balls then rolled in cocoa powder for a pretty finish. These can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, or even frozen for a few months.

It doesn't get much easier or more decadent than my Chocolate Toffee Truffles. Scroll down for the easy recipe and treat yourself and your loved ones to something truly special this holiday season.


Chocolate Toffee Truffles (with Hershey's CHIPITS)
Makes approximately 4 dozen truffles

1 package (250 g) CHIPITS dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup (125 mL) heavy cream (may be labelled "whipping cream")
2 tbsp (30 mL) butter
1/2 cup (125 mL) CHIPITS SKOR toffee bits
1/2 cup (125 mL) cocoa powder

Add the CHIPITS dark chocolate chips to a large mixing bowl.

In a small saucepan, heat the cream and butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally, just until it reaches a simmer. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate chips. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Stir in the CHIPITS SKOR toffee bits. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (this can be made a day or two ahead).

Add the cocoa powder to a small side plate. Using a melon baller or small spoon, scoop some of the chocolate toffee mixture and roll between your hands to form a 1-inch ball. Roll the ball in the cocoa powder to coat. Continue in this manner to form all the truffles. If desired, sprinkle with more CHIPITS SKOR toffee bits when serving.

Store in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 2 weeks. You can also make them ahead and freeze for up to 3 months.

NOTE: To make rolling truffles a little less messy, dust the palms of your hands with cocoa powder as you work.

What will you make with chocolate this holiday season?

Disclosure: I was provided with Hershey's CHIPITS at no cost to myself to develop this recipe. I am also being paid my usual recipe development and photography fee for this blog post.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Best Gifts: Cooking Class at The London Chef

There is one final item to give away on this year's Best Gifts for the Home Cook wish list, and I am really excited about this one because it is very near and dear to my heart. I'm giving away a cooking class! And not just any cooking class. I'm giving away a gift certificate for a cooking class at The London Chef cooking school here in Victoria, BC. I am a guest instructor there and I know for certain you are going to LOVE the experience.

Heads up in advance - the winner of this prize must be able to attend the class in Victoria. So please enter if you live in the Greater Victoria area or can get yourself here, or if you have someone in Victoria you want to gift it to.

If there's one thing I know for certain about people who love to cook, it is that they love to be around other people who love to cook. A cooking class at The London Chef gets you out of the solitude of your own kitchen and into a beautiful and comfortable space to explore new flavours and techniques. It is about spending a few hours enhancing your cooking skills and indulging in the joys and flavours of great food and friendly company.

I started teaching at The London Chef in early 2012, which wasn't too long after the business was opened by Dan and Micayla Hayes who have since become my friends. I call it the most beautiful kitchen in Victoria. It's spacious and bright and sparkles brightly inside floor-to-ceiling street-level windows. If you have my book The Canning Kitchen you may even recognize that I photographed some of the book at The London Chef.

Wherever you live, a cooking class is an excellent gift for a passionate home cook. Scroll down to find out how to enter this fantastic giveaway!

To enter the giveaway of a cooking class gift certificate for The London Chef, leave a comment on this blog post telling me which of the upcoming classes at The London Chef interests you the most (don't worry, you can change your mind if you win)! PLEASE LEAVE AN EMAIL ADDRESS SO I CAN CONTACT YOU IF YOU WIN!
Transportation not provided. Winner must be able to attend class at The London Chef, 953 Fort Street, Victoria, BC.

One entry per person. A winner will be randomly selected on Monday, December 14, 2015 at 9 p.m. Eastern/6 p.m. Pacific. The winner will be contacted directly and announced on FamilyFeedbag.com and its associated social media channels.