Potato and Black Bean Tacos

I have to say, I was against the idea of a potato taco in the beginning – kind of like I was against the idea of a potato pizza – but in both instances I was proven wrong. The creamy potato and black bean filling in these tacos, paired with this fire-roasted salsa, makes them a pretty awesome treat!

It’s pretty simple really, just cook some potatoes (I used a purple one because I had fresh ones from the garden), open a can of black beans (or make your own from dried beans). Smash them together with some spices, add a little cheese, throw it into a frying pan in a tortilla, and you’re done.

Here’s a breakdown of what you need to feed two people, and the process:

  • 1 medium sized potato
  • cumin
  • chili powder (I used Ancho)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • about 2 tablespoons milk or non-dairy alternative
  • 1/2 can black beans (or less)
  • canola oil or butter for cooking
  • soft tortillas
  • cheddar or cheese of choice
  • yogurt or sour cream (optional side sauce)
  • your favourite salsa (this one!!!)

What you do:

  1. Boil the potato until soft, then drain and sprinkle in a little cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Add the milk or substitute and give it a few squishes with a potato masher.
  2. Add the beans to the potatoes and give it all a few more squishes, until it is pretty much combined. Taste and add more seasonings if it needs it.
  3. Grate the cheese.
  4. Now you can heat a large frying pan and add a drizzle of oil or a bit of butter, just enough to coat the pan so the tortilla doesn’t stick.
  5. Place a tortilla in the pan, lifting half of it up so you can fit another tortilla in the other half, both of them open.
  6. Spoon some potato/bean mixture into each tortilla half and spread it out so it reaches the sides.
  7. Add some cheese, then fold the top down.
  8. Cook on the first side until it has lightly browned, then turn it over and do the same thing on the other side.
  9. Serve with your favourite salsa, and a side of yogurt or sour cream.
  10. Enjoy!

Lemon Blueberry Muffins

Plate with three blueberry muffins

Imagine you walk into a kitchen and you catch a waft of lemon, butter and blueberries emanating from the oven – heaven, right? That’s what these are.

It’s pretty rare that I post almost the same recipe within a few months, but these are so good that I had to make them again, with a very slight change – even more lemon!

They are really light and fluffy, packed with blueberries, a nice hit of lemon, and a crunchy cap.

The last time I made these, I made a few minor changes to this recipe. I used the zest of a whole lemon instead of half, and I added the baking powder and baking soda a bit later in the process to avoid over-mixing it. For the Turbinado sugar topping I used a bit less than the suggested 3 tablespoons, and it still had a nice crunchy top. This time around I used some lemon juice in the batter to amp up that flavour, and to balance the sweetness of the muffin. I also rubbed the lemon zest into the sugar to release more of the oils, bringing out the flavour.

I also made a mistake with these! I used half a cup of butter instead of 5 tablespoons – oops. But the flavour was awesome!

If you are using frozen blueberries you should leave them in the freezer until you are ready to add them.

The trick to successful muffins is not over-mixing the batter, which will cause you to have a dense muffin. Another trick – bake them as soon as the batter is in the muffin tins so they don’t lose any of their leavening.

Makes 9-11 muffins. They are the very best the day they come out of the oven, but warmed up with a bit of butter in the next few days they were quite good too.

What you need:

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • zest from a whole lemon (finely grated, only the yellow outer peel)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt minus 2 tablespoons
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 & 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 & 1/4 to 1 & 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen 
  • 2 tablespoons Turbinado (sugar in the raw) sugar

What you do:

  1. Prepare your muffin tins by lining 9 of them with paper liners, and then spray the liners with baking spray. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Place the sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl, and work the zest into the sugar with your fingers to release the oils.
  3. Melt the butter, then whisk it into the sugar and zest. Whisk in the yogurt and egg until smooth.
  4. Add one cup of the flour to the sugar mixture and stir it in until there are still some clumps. Now combine the remaining half cup of flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Very lightly fold this mixture into the batter, until it it is mostly mixed, with a few lumps.
  5. Fold in the berries until they are just combined. You should now have a very thick batter, especially if you just added frozen berries.
  6. Divide the batter between the 9 muffin cups. Sprinkle each muffin with a bit of Turbinado sugar. 
  7. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Test them by inserting a toothpick in the middle; if there is any batter sticking to the toothpick let them bake a few minutes longer. If you hit a blueberry, you might want to poke the toothpick into another spot to see if they are done.
  8. Let the muffins cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then move them to a cooling rack.
  9. Enjoy!

Mushroom and Barley Soup

Perfect for a Fall day, this soup is warming and hearty, but not heavy. Served with a beautiful baguette from Beyond Bread, this made a delicious dinner for two with plenty of leftovers.

You can make this as a vegan soup, or use chicken or beef broth. The soup consists of some veggies, both dried and fresh mushrooms, a splash of sherry, tomato paste, and broth. A good quality broth is important here, so homemade or a better quality like Pacific would make a tasty soup.

The recipe comes from the Yvette van Boven’s ‘Home Made Winter’ cookbook. Her recipe calls for spelt, but gives the option of barley, which I used because that was what I had in my cupboard. I added a few extra carrots, less oil, and a dab of butter at the end. I used chicken broth because I had it on hand, but look forward to trying it with mushroom broth. I changed the order of when to add the salt and pepper, adding it at the end so it doesn’t get over-salted, and so the salt doesn’t make the veggies mushy. As well, adding pepper too soon can make it the soup taste bitter. My scale is broken right now, so I guessed that 25 grams of dried mushrooms is about 1/2 cup, and that tasted great. For the fresh mushrooms I used a combination of Button and Cremini, the white and brown ones you find easily in the grocery store. If you substitute for more interesting mushrooms, please let me know in the comments below what you used and how you enjoyed it!

What you need:

  • 25 grams dried mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 500 grams (about 1 lb) fresh mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
  • 100 grams (about 1/2 cup) barley or spelt
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • a splash or two of dry sherry
  • 1 litre (4 cups) mushroom, vegetable or chicken stock
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon butter (optional)

What you do:

  1. Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour hot or boiling water over them, just enough to cover. Let that sit for about 20 minutes while you get started with chopping.
  2. Once the onions, carrots and celery have been chopped, heat the olive oil on medium heat, in a large pot. Sauté the vegetables until the onions begin to soften.
  3. Stir in the garlic, then add the mushrooms. Sauté the mushrooms until they begin to release their juices, about 10 minutes.
  4. Raise the heat and stir in the barley or spelt, allowing it to absorb the mushroom juices.
  5. Add the mushroom soaking water and the tomato paste, cooking until you smell a sweet aroma, and then add the splash of sherry.
  6. Add the broth and the soaked mushrooms (I chopped mine first), then bring it to a simmer. Leave it simmering on low heat until the barley/spelt is cooked to an al dente texture. I checked mine after 30 minutes and it was almost done.
  7. Season with salt and pepper, and add a dab of butter if you wish.
  8. Serve with some gorgeous bread and enjoy!

Orange Olive Oil Cake

For my 500th blog post I give you this simple Orange Olive Oil Cake. So easy to make, but a big flavour bomb! I have barely turned my oven on all summer, but this one called out to me, and I had to try it. And . . . rave reviews! If cake at breakfast is your thing, then this is the one for you, but it’s good anytime. It’s so easy – combine the liquids, add to the dry, bake. Eat. Yum. (You will need some kind of device to zest the orange – a microplaner, part of your grater, or an official zester; I prefer the microplaner.)

This cake is super moist, and super flavourful thanks to all the lemon zest. And the olive oil seems to pair really well with the citrus.

My oven is a gong show, and I never know when it’s going to heat up or cool down, so I do my best to guess (one of the reasons I haven’t been baking much lately). For me this was done almost 15 minutes before the suggested bake time because my oven was so hot – and it still turned out great! So if you are a newer baker, or have a really unpredictable oven like mine, this recipe seems to be a no-fail one.

I ate and gave away a lot of this cake, and then I froze a portion. It’s so nice to have something in the freezer that you can pull out when you need it!

I found the recipe on this website (thank you), based on a recipe that originates with Jim Lahey. I use his amazing pizza dough recipe, and my bread recipe also comes from him.

What you need:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • zest of 2 navel oranges (I used very large oranges)
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2/3 cup whole or homogenized milk
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 & 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (about 155 grams)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt or 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

What you do:

  1. Prepare an 8-inch cake pan by cutting a round piece of parchment paper to place in the bottom. Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C). Place the rack in the bottom third of the oven.
  2. Place the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl, then mix it together.
  3. In another bowl combine the sugar, zest (I use a microplaner to do this), eggs, orange juice, milk and olive oil.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined, scraping the bottom and sides to make sure all the flour is incorporated; it might seem a bit weird, but it’s okay to have some lumps.
  5. Pour the batter into the cake pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes, at which time the top should be browned and a cake tester should come out mostly clean. (Note – I put the cake pan on a baking sheet because I thought it might spill over – it didn’t though! Whew.)
  6. Let the cake cool for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan and then turn the cake onto a cooling rack.
  7. Enjoy!

Blackberry Jam

Last night I finished making a batch of blackberry jam, with berries picked from a secret spot. It’s actually one of those places where you wonder if you’re going to trip over a body . . . but . . . free blackberries!

This recipe is made without added pectin, just the berries, sugar and lemon juice.

I don’t really eat a lot of jam, but I had a request to make this and ended up really enjoying it on an English Muffin this morning. I put a bit of Greek yogurt on as well, but cream cheese or crème fraîche would be wonderful with it too.

It takes a bit of work to get the seeds out of the jam, but I think it is a worthwhile job so you don’t bite down on the hard seeds. I found it easier to get the seeds out when the berries had cooked down a bit.

After removing the seeds, the rest of the process is quite simple. You will need some jars, and if you plan to store the jam in a cupboard you will need the proper lids etc. For freezer jam you can use any kind of jar. I used a thermometer to check the temperature, but you can use this guide to help figure out when it is done if you don’t have thermometer.

What you need:

  • 6 cups blackberries, fresh or frozen
  • 3 cups sugar (some recipes call for more, but I like it this way)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

What you do:

  1. In a large pot, heat the clean blackberries on medium heat until they start falling apart.
  2. Push the berries through a strainer, food mill or chinois. If you use a strainer, as I did, it takes a bit of time and energy to push all the pulp through with the back of a spoon.
  3. Boil water in a large pot, then put your jars in there to sterilize. Turn off the heat and remove the jars with tongs. Place the lids in the pot of hot water. I always use new lids when canning to make sure that they seal properly.
  4. Place the strained berry pulp, sugar and lemon juice in a large pot and bring to a rolling boil, stirring continually. Bring the mixture to 105C/220F, then remove them from the heat.
  5. Fill the jars to 1cm below the top. I used a canning funnel to fill the jars so I had no spills – yay! Use a clean cloth to clean any drips from the rims of the jars.
  6. Use tongs to remove the lids from the hot water and place them on top of the jars. Screw the lids on, and then leave the jars sitting where they are until they have sealed. Over the next hour or so you should hear the tell-tale pinging sound that indicates that the jars have sealed. If the jars have sealed properly the lid should be slightly concave, and will not bend when you push down on it; any jars that haven’t sealed properly can be stored in the fridge or freezer. The other jars can be kept in a cool cupboard for a few years.

Foraged Sumac Tea

Sumac is one of my very favourite spices because it adds a nice bit of lemony flavour. I use it mainly in Middle Eastern dishes, for example this salad, or just sprinkled on top of some yogurt cheese or roasted cauliflower.

Only recently did I discover that we have sumac growing right here in Vancouver! And only a block away from my place I was able to find a tree to forage from. Sumac also grows in other parts of Canada and the United States, not to be confused with poison sumac (you really can’t mix these two up when you look at the pictures.)

Here are some links that can give you a bit more information. This one is from Ontario, and here is one from Vancouver about the “latest restaurant trend in spices,” (that’s 2015).

Now is the time to harvest, and maybe for the next few weeks as well.

This is one of the easiest recipes I will ever post. Harvest, boil water, pour the water over the sumac buds and let it sit for about 10 minutes. You can certainly sweeten it with honey or another sweetener, but I found it was tart but not too sour to drink without sweetener. It is really refreshing when served ice cold, and would probably make a nice base for a cocktail.

I’d love to hear about things you’ve done with foraged sumac – I’ve heard of making syrup, and drying the sumac, but I’ve not tried these. Please let me know if you have!

Rhubarb Liqueur

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My community garden plot is bursting with rhubarb, so I’ve harvested it and am looking for new ways to use it. I came across this recipe for a rhubarb liqueur, so I thought I’d give it a try. Last year’s blackberry liqueur was a big hit at my 50th birthday party (what? in my soul I’m 34), so I thought maybe this could be the next big hit.

I halved the recipe to make just one jar of liqueur. The only other thing I changed was to make a slit down each rhubarb stalk, because I thought that would help the rhubarby-ness meld with the vodka-ness.

This is the first time I’ve posted a recipe before tasting the end result and getting a thumbs up from at least one other person. But . . .  it takes six weeks to taste the results of this one, so I thought I’d just go ahead and post it now during rhubarb season in case anyone wants to try it out alongside me. And in six weeks or so I’ll post the results, hopefully with a new cocktail recipe. Please let me know if you try it – I’d love to hear how it works out for you!

You might notice that the rhubarb in my picture isn’t particularly red – if you have rhubarb that is redder, is is preferable for this recipe. The liqueur will take on a pretty red colour that way. So mine might not look as pretty, but I’m sure it will be super tasty!

What you need:

  • 1 lb rhubarb
  • 5cm long chunk of fresh ginger
  • the peels of two oranges
  • 750mL vodka (I used Stolichnaya)
  • (to be added in in 6 weeks) – simple syrup: 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water

What you do:

  1. Cut the rhubarb stalks into lengths that will fit in a 1 litre canning jar. Place the rhubarb in the jar.
  2. Cut the ginger into smaller pieces and add them to the jar.
  3. Use a vegetable peeler to cut the peels off the oranges, using only the outer orange part. Add these to the jar.
  4. Add as much vodka as you can fit in the jar, completely covering the rhubarb. My recipe used pretty much the whole bottle.
  5. Screw the lid onto the jar, then store it in a cool dark place for about six weeks. Every few days give the jar a shake, turning it upside down.
  6. After the six weeks are up, make a simple syrup. Just heat the water and sugar to boiling, and let it cool before using.
  7. Strain the contents of the jar through cheesecloth, returning the liquid to the jar. 
  8. Add simple syrup to taste. Remember, you can always add more simple syrup later on if you find it is not sweet enough.
  9. Bottle the liqueur into smaller decorative bottles, or just use some canning jars for this.
  10. Use in cocktails, or just add it to some sparkling water.

Rosemary Dijon Grilled Lamb Chops

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Yum yum! These tender lamb chops are so delicious, plus super quick! They can be grilled or pan-fried, depending on what you have available. I love the combination of garlic, rosemary, dijon, and a bit of vinegar to bring a ton of flavour to these. For this dinner I made some grilled zucchini, and grilled new carrots with a maple glaze. This recipe is one of my own and changes a bit each time I make it; feel free to adapt.

This dish requires little prep, with big results. You just need to prep the mustard sauce before grilling. Plus figure out what else to serve with it. Another nice side dish idea is barbecued skewered baby potatoes, which cook really quickly.

For the lamb I bought a whole rack of lamb and cut it up. This was more cost efficient where I was shopping. You can often by lamb chops pre-cut, so I would plan on two per person, or more if you are feeding big meat eaters.

This recipe is based on 4-6 chops, and the amount of each ingredient can vary depending on your preference. One thing that I think is really important is to use fresh rosemary; the flavour is much brighter than the dried version. If you don’t have fresh rosemary, you probably have a neighbour who does, so you may not have to go buy it.

I like a bit more browning on my meat, therefore I add the mustard sauce after I’ve grilled one side. And alternative is to add a little more vinegar and maybe some olive oil to the mustard sauce, and marinate the lamb in that before grilling. If you try that, please let me know how you liked it!

What you need:

  • lamb chops, salted
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1-2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1-2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • freshly ground pepper
  • salt to taste
  • if you are not grilling you can use 1-2 teaspoons olive oil in a frying pan

What you do:

  1. Prepare the dijon sauce by combining all the ingredients listed, minus the lamb and cooking oil. I like to do this with a mortar and pestle.
  2. Prepare your side dishes. The cooking of the lamb will only take a few moments. Heat your bbq or frying pan to medium-high.
  3. When the bbq or your frying pan is hot, place the chops on the grill/oiled pan. I like mine on the rarer side, so I do about 2 minutes on the first side, making sure I get a good sizzle on them before turning. 
  4. Flip the chops, then top them each with some of the mustard sauce. Cook 2-3 minutes on this side, depending on how well you like them done, and how hot your bbq is.
  5. Flip them over one more time so that the sauced side gets some heat, then remove to a plate and let them rest a few minutes before serving.
  6. If I’m frying I like to deglaze the pan with a bit of wine or water, and pour this thick sauce over the chops.
  7. Enjoy!

 

Fire-Roasted Tomato Salsa

This flame-roasted tomato salsa is excellent any time of year, even in the cooler seasons when it is challenging to access super tasty tomatoes. It’s really easy to whip up, but you do need to plan ahead so that you will have some roasted garlic on hand. I’ve started roasting a bunch of garlic bulbs and freezing them so I can make this awesome salsa anytime I want. I have served it with tortilla chips, but my favourite way to eat it is on beans and rice.

Recently I’ve been buying a lot of the Las Margaritas fresh salsa – it is just so good! But I can only find it in one store, and it is often sold out. So the difficulty finding it, combined with the nearly $8.00 price tag, made me start looking for a way to make it at home.

And . . . I found it! In the Thug Kitchen Cookbook! Yay!

I only made one change to the recipe, and it was a tiny one. I used sweet onions, and typically use them in all my recipes that call for onion because they don’t make me cry as much, plus I think they taste better. The most recent time I made this salsa I didn’t have any green onions, and it was still really good without them.

If you are looking for a fresh tomato salsa you can find one here, and this is a link to a creamy avocado salsa called gaucamolata. This roasted tomatillo salsa is also really flavourful.

What you need:

  • 1 can (398mL / 14.5 oz.) fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 white onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1-3 Serrano peppers, minced (depending on how much heat you like)
  • a whole head of roasted garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • salt to taste

What you do:

  1. Chop the onion, green onions, cilantro and Serrano pepper.
  2. Put all the ingredients (except for the salt) in a blender, or use an immersion blender to whiz everything up. Leave it a little bit chunky.
  3. Add salt to taste.
  4. Enjoy!

 

Avocado and Salsa Toast

Friends have been encouraging me to share some of my simple, go-to recipes. I often don’t think of them as a recipe, because it’s something I throw together based on what I happen to find in the fridge.

Today I had some leftover avocado, leftovers of a gorgeous fire-roasted tomato salsa (recipe to come soon!), and some sourdough bread. Although the rest of the continent seems to have eaten a lot of avocado toast, I had not until today!

The hardest part of this recipe is buying the perfectly ripe avocado.

I also made a sunny-side-up egg so I could dip the toast in the egg yolks – mmm good!

What you need:

  • a slice of bread – I used sourdough
  • half an avocado
  • your favourite salsa
  • hot sauce (optional)

What you do:

  1. Mash the avocado up with a fork. Add a bit of salsa and mix it in.
  2. Toast the bread. Top it with the avocado and hot sauce.
  3. Enjoy!