Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Homemade crêpes with chocolate spread and fresh strawberries!

While I haven't had a lot of unusual cravings during my pregnancy, there have been a few food items which I've just felt I needed to have. I can tell these are pregnancy cravings because of either the frequency with which I crave the food in question (such as potatoes), or by how much I dislike the food when I'm not pregnant (like fresh tomatoes, or, in this case, pancakes).

I grew up with a disdain for pancakes. I don't know how it developed. When Lola used to babysit my sister and I, she made hotcakes for us fairly frequently. These were usually topped with butter or margarine and a sprinkling of granulated sugar. Mostly, I appreciated them as a butter-sugar delivery system than as a standalone food item.

As years passed, mom got into the habit of making pancakes for breakfast on weekends. I never really did develop a taste for them during this phase. While the rest of my family happily gobbled them up with butter and syrup, I'd often end up making myself an egg sandwich or — on rare occasions — would spread jam and butter on a pancake or two if I wasn't feeling up to cooking something I knew I'd prefer.

So it was a surprise to me that I started really wanting pancakes a few months ago. I tried to quell the craving by making a batch of popovers and a Dutch baby, but despite the fact that the ingredients are almost identical to those in pancakes, I found I wasn't satisfied.

Still, the prospect of pouring syrup, spreading jam, or sprinkling sugar on a batch of pancakes simply wasn't appealing to me. I was craving pancakes, and wanted nothing to do with their standard toppings.

During my latest foray to Ambrosia, I found just the thing to inspire me. One of my many allergies and food sensitivities is to hazelnuts. This doesn't usually cause me any difficulty — there are a lot of nuts I can eat — but then there are hazelnut-based foods which it's near-impossible to find a substitute for, like Nutella. Again, this isn't usually an issue for me, but it means that foods — like crêpes — which didn't really have a presence in Toronto until after my allergy developed are foods which I've never had the pleasure of even trying. So I was downright ecstatic to discover a vegan chocolate spread (Rapunzel's Choco chocolate spread, which doesn't contain hazelnuts)!

Of course, this meant that I could make myself a batch of crêpes with a chocolate spread and fresh strawberries. I love that this means I've "killed two birds with one stone": my craving for pancakes has finally been sated, and I also got to try one of the classic crêpe-variations. My verdict: there's a reason this is a classic crêpe-variation. I'm glad I got the chance to try it.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Homemade veggie pizza

Well, after a much-unwelcome hiatus from eating substantial food for the past week (read: I started having massively bad digestive problems last Tuesday), I finally got the chance to re-introduce produce into my diet today.

I decided to go all-out and make a veggie pizza with as many pizza-suitable toppings as I could cram onto it. To that end, the picture above features:
  • a homemade pizza crust, sealed with olive oil
  • pre-made bruschetta topping
  • organic baby spinach
  • fresh mushrooms
    (which I had to slice and freeze last week when I realized I wasn't going to be able to get to them before they went bad)
  • hand-pitted organic black olives
    (which, by the way, are the best black olives I've ever had)
  • sliced, organic grape tomatoes
  • roasted, organic yellow pepper
  • cracked black pepper
  • sea salt
The result was a bit more acidic than I was expecting, but was a satisfying change of pace from the barely-protein/high-carb diet I've endured for the past several days.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Chorizo and sweet pea risotto

Breaking with my decision to avoid nitrates and nitrites (barring the occasional purchase of a pre-made deli sandwich or hot dog cart sausage), I decided to treat myself to a chorizo dish — in this case, a chorizo and sweet pea risotto.

The stock was an organic vegetable broth into which I added the last of a bottle of Smoke'in Apple wine and some saffron strands. A trip downtown last Thursday to the Fresh & Wild yielded their last box of carnaroli rice (looks like I'm going to have to go to St. Lawrence Market for my next bag of carnaroli). I chopped and sautéed an organic yellow onion and set it aside, then chopped and cooked pieces of chorizo (about a third of the total amount of sausage in a package) and set that aside. I cooked the risotto in the usual manner. Once the risotto was almost al denté, I added frozen peas, then the onion and chorizo and continued cooking until the texture was right.

I didn't add any salt since the broth and sausage seemed to have provided just the right amount. The risotto is lightly spicy and mildly acidic (probably due to the chorizo itself), but primarily showcases the sweetness of the peas. I was trying for the peas to really be the star of the dish, and not be overpowered by the sausage, so I'm pleased with the way it turned out!


Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Arroz (y habas) con pollo

In my second Throwdown with Bobby Flay-inspired culinary adventure, the Arroz con Pollo episode I recently watched made me realize how much I've been craving Latin food lately.

After researching a reference recipe, I decided to break from the traditional Puerto Rican method of preparation, and add some elements that I've been craving. This was a very time-consuming recipe, but I'm very pleased with the results. I only hope I remember everything that I did to prepare it all:

For the chicken:I used the chicken back and some sea salt to make a simple chicken stock. I also boiled some organic red kidney beans, then soaked them overnight to soften them. The chicken was lightly rinsed and patted dry the following day, then pan-seared in the chicken fat I skimmed off the chicken stock. The chicken was set aside until the rice and beans were cooked.

For the rice and beans:
  • 1 chopped yellow onion, sautéed in the remaining chicken fat
  • drained kidney beans
  • frozen, organic tri-colour peppers
  • organic, brown basmati rice
  • chicken stock
Once the rice mixture had simmered until most of the liquid had evaporated, the chicken was added on top and the whole pan went into a 350° oven for about 45 minutes.

To serve, the rice gets treated as a side dish to the chicken and I add salsa verde to taste.