Friday, July 22, 2016

Herbaceous Yogourt-Marinated Chicken Tenders

Oh hey, remember that time I went around making recipes featuring yogourt like a mad woman, in an attempt to win $10,000 and be featured in Chatelaine? No, this isn't a big reveal that I've won. I haven't won...or at least I don't know yet (still keeping those fingers and toes crossed!), but I'm still working my way through some of the recipes I submitted to feature them for you here. 

The great thing about doing a contest like that was getting to put my creative hat on and find new ways of reinventing some of my favourite recipes to feature the key ingredient, yogourt. While it's pretty obvious that yogourt goes fantastic with sweet dishes such as the Strawberry Cheese Blintzes and Mango Strawberry Layered Lassi that I made, I wanted to challenge myself and think outside the box (or should I say yogourt!) to find ways of featuring yogourt in unexpected ways in some savoury dishes. 
With chicken breasts on sale at the grocery store and an extra container of panko breadcrumbs that I wanted to clear out of my cupboard, it was natural for me to gravitate towards a reinvented chicken tender recipe. Traditionally chicken tenders go through an assembly line of flour, beaten egg, and breadcrumbs before being baked or fried. In this recipe a mixture of yogourt, herbs, and spices allowed me to coat my chicken in simply the yogourt mixture, and then the panko breadcrumbs, eliminating an extra step and granting the yogourt to act as a marinade and glue for the breadcrumbs. 

I love that the yogourt acts as the glue in this recipe, but more than that, the yogourt coating allowed me to tenderize the meat by marinating the chicken and infusing more flavour into it thanks to the addition of fresh herbs like dill, parsley, and chives, as well as garlic powder and lemon juice. As if that's not enough, I chose to make a little bit extra of the yogourt mixture so that I could set some aside to save as a dipping sauce once my tenders were cooked! Brilliant, right? This recipe turned out so insanely easy to prepare, and was a delicious weeknight meal that also left me with some chicken tender leftovers for lunch the following day. Even if I don't win the Astro and Chatelaine contest, I'm still a winner in my books for having a new simple and delicious weeknight dinner option to add to my repertoire! 
Tip: Toasting your panko before breading helps to give your tenders that fantastic golden colour and give them an additional crunch!

1 1/2 cups Astro Original Balkan Style Plain Yogourt 6%
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh dill, finely chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp. parsley, finely chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp. chives, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch strips
1 1/2 - 2 cups panko breadcrumbs, lightly toasted
cooking spray
salt and pepper to season

  1. In a small bowl stir together yogourt with garlic powder, dill, parsley, chives, and lemon juice. Taste and season as needed with salt and pepper. 
  2. Add chicken to a large, zipper, freezer bag and add 1-cup of the yogourt mixture. Coat chicken evenly in the yogourt mixture and place in fridge for 1-hour. Set the remaining 1/2-cup yogourt mixture aside in the fridge.
  3. Preheat oven to 375ºF. 
  4. Place toasted panko in a wide, shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper. Set a large baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray next to it.
  5. Keeping one hand clean, working one at a time, dip each chicken strip into the panko, pressing to coat evenly, and place on the prepared baking sheet. 
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until panko is golden and chicken is cooked through. 
  7. Serve immediately with the remaining yogourt mixture as a dipping sauce. 
Listening To:

Friday, July 15, 2016

Mango & Strawberry Layered Lassi

UberEats is taking all of my money. Ok sure, it's not like they're holding a gun to my head, telling me "you must order takeout," but each time I open my phone and see their little UberEats icon, the temptation is real, and it is strong! As you'll know from all of my recent blog and social media posts, Toronto has been experiencing one hell of a heatwave these past few weeks, making it all the easier to forgo cooking for the convenience of takeout. Though I sure love me some delicious takeout, it can get real expensive, real fast, leading me to try and get clever with reducing my takeout bill as much as possible. 

One of the regions of cuisine that my boyfriend Chris and I like to order delivery from is Indian, simply because it's a type of cuisine we didn't really grow up with, and aren't as familiar with cooking. Ordering a couple orders of roti is fairly inexpensive, but it's easy for our bill to climb once we start adding appetizers and drinks. For any other type of delivery/takeout I never bother to order a drink (I have cheap drinks at home, after-all!), but a burn-your-face-off spicy roti simply demands one! 
Forget cans of pop, ice tea, and juice; The only drink that can cool the intense heat from a fiery roti is a cool and creamy mango lassi. If you're unfamiliar with lassi's (we're not talking collie's here!), they are an Indian yogourt-based drink that is designed to cool the body down, whether from the heat of the weather or from the spices from your meal. The relief from a lassi strikes immediately, as it coats the tongue with its creamy and rich texture. While sure, it's easier to order a lassi from the restaurant that I'm getting my takeout from, it also comes with a cost. Bills add up fast, and with a drink as simple as this to prepare, I really have no excuse not to think a little bit ahead, and make my own homemade lassi in advance to have once my delivery arrives. 

Another advantage to making your own lassis at home is having the freedom of playing around with different flavour combinations. Though a mango flavoured lassi is more traditional (yet a true, authentic lassi is actually savoury), there are so many different fruits that would lend themselves perfectly blended into a lassi. With Ontario strawberries still in season for a little longer, they were on the top of my list to try making into a lassi. I love the combination of the sweet mango lassi layered with the slightly tangy strawberry lassi, delivering that refreshing hit of relief that my tastebuds were begging for. This layered lassi was not only delicious and cooling, it was also awfully pretty, with the vibrant yellow from the mangoes contrasted by the blushing pink from the strawberries. I highly recommend giving this recipe a try this weekend, whether paired with Indian food or not, to leave you feeling cool as a lassi! 

*Note: When making the lassi in advance, simply omit the ice and set aside each flavour on its own in the fridge. When ready to serve, blend in the ice and layer away! 

1 cup Astro Original Balkan Style Plain Yogourt 6%
2 ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted, and puréed
1 1/2 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced
3 tsp liquid honey

  1. In a powerful blender or food processor add mango purée, 1/2-cup yogourt, and 1-tsp honey. Add a large handful of ice and blend until smooth. Pour into a container and set aside in fridge. Rise blender/processor.
  2. Add strawberries to the cleaned blender. Add 1/2-cup yogourt and 2-tsp honey. Add a large handful of ice and blend until smooth.
  3. Fill four small serving glasses halfway with the mango lassi. Carefully spoon in strawberry lassi so it sits atop the mango lassi. Serve immediately. 
Listening To:

Thursday, July 14, 2016

No-Cook Tropical Kiwifruit Chia Pudding

Toronto is hot right now. Too hot. Disgustingly hot, in fact. Toronto is emitting the kind of heat that has me seriously considering buying a kiddie splash pool to set on my balcony, one I know I would have to fill using buckets from the kitchen sink (hello, condo life and zero access to a hose) just to fill it...but oh, it would be so worth it! With a permanently sweating scalp (so attractive, I know) and an overall sluggish demeanour, cooking (ie. heating my apartment) is one of the last things on my mind these days. Despite my lack of enthusiasm towards cooking with heat as of late, the timing couldn't be better with so much fresh and delicious produce lining the grocery store shelves throughout the summer months.

It's pretty easy to come up with plenty of no-cook, healthy snacks to nibble on throughout the day when working from home, but the trick is to get creative with it! As much as a bowl of sliced fruit is delicious when it's in peak season, let's face it, it can get a little boring after a while. One of my favourite new ways of kicking up a bowl of fruit into something that I can look forward to as a midday treat is making different variations of chia seed puddings. For months now I've been making all different types of chia seed puddings using every berry that I can could get my hands on, and just like my bowls of sliced fruit that got a little tired after a while, I started to itch for a different flavour combination. With a vision of a tropical-themed chia pudding in my mind, a partnership with Zespri SunGold Kiwifruits could come at no better time!
Though green kiwifruits have always been one of my favourite fruits, thanks to their big, bright flavour, awesome health benefits, and ease of eating, I had never heard of a SunGold kiwifruit before now! Curious to try the fruit that was described as a "cross between a mango and a strawberry," and dying to bring my idea of a tropical chia pudding to life, I was happy to get a beautiful basket full of Zespri SunGold Kiwifruits sent right to my door!

As I just mentioned, golden kiwifruits are described as a cross between a mango and a strawberry, making them slightly sweeter and more tropical-tasting than its green sibling. SunGold kiwifruits can be found in grocery stores from May through October, and look almost identical to green kiwifruits from the outside. The difference between the two upon first sight is in the skin, with green kiwifruits having a more fuzzy texture to their outer layer. The difference is clear once cut, as the SunGold kiwifruits possess a striking and unexpected golden-yellow colour.
Before I started playing around with my Tropical Chia Pudding recipe, I had to try the SunGold kiwifruits as is. As I mentioned earlier, one of the awesome things about kiwifruits is how easy and mess-free they are to eat! A simple cut off the top, and a scoop along the skin is all it takes to remove the sweet flesh. The flavour of the SunGold kiwifruits was familiar, yet surprising, and definitely reflected the tropical taste that was first described to me. I knew a base of coconut milk would compliment that tropical flavour perfectly, and would be enhanced all the more with the addition of juicy fresh pineapple. Though chia seeds pack a big punch of health benefits on their own (hello fibre, Omegas, and protein!), the kiwifruit added even more! Thriving with Vitamin C, potassium, and fibre, SunGold kiwifruits may taste like candy, but are so incredibly good for you.

With SunGold kiwifruits reflected in both the pudding and the garnish, nutty coconut, and sweet pineapple, my No-Cook Tropical Kiwifruit Chia Pudding was exactly the refreshing treat I was craving in the midst of this humidity. Not only was the pudding delicious, it left me feeling invigorated and ready to attack the heat and take on the rest of my day! 
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
1/3 cup whole chia seeds
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut, lightly toasted, plus more for garnish
1/2 tsp liquid honey
2 Zespri SunGold kiwifruit, peeled and puréed
1 Zespri SunGold kiwifruit, peeled and sliced
3/4 cup fresh pineapple, chopped small

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together coconut milk, chia seeds, sea salt, vanilla, shredded coconut, and honey. Pour into a container and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Remove from fridge, stir, and refrigerate for at least 3 more hours, or overnight. 
  2. Remove 2-Tbsp. of the chia pudding mixture and blend together with the puréed Zespri SunGold kiwifruit and refrigerate for at least 1-hour. 
  3. Distribute 1/4 cup of the fresh pineapple between four serving dishes. Top each evenly with chia pudding. Evenly top each with the blended kiwifruit mixture. Garnish with Zespri SunGold kiwifruit slices, remaining pineapple, and a sprinkle of coconut. Refrigerate until ready to serve or serve immediately.

* This post is brought to you in collaboration with Zespri SunGold Kiwifruit. All words, opinions, and photographs, as always, are entirely my own and reflect my own personal views. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Taste Of Toronto - Getting Hands-On In The Metro Master Class Kitchen

Fomo: Fear of missing out. For the past two summers those fears came true for me, as I desperately scrolled through my various social media feeds in an attempt to live vicariously through the lens of all of the lucky attendees at Taste of Toronto. There's no doubt about it, since Taste's inception in Toronto two years ago, it has been the food event of the year with the likes of David Chang, Mark McEwan, Massimo Capra, Carl Heinrich, Christina Tosi, Anthony Rose, Chuck Hughes and more having participated in what is often considered to be one of the best restaurant festivals in the world. Summer in Toronto can get very busy, so it's easy to miss out on at least a few of the food-focused events that take place throughout those few warm months, but this year there wasn't a chance I was going to miss out on Taste of Toronto again. 
With an invitation from Metro Ontario this year to attend the festival as their guest, I was able to gain access to the exclusive Metro Master Class kitchen to watch and participate in an interactive cooking demo hosted by Chef Anthony Rose (no relation to me) of the Anthony Rose empire (ie. Rose & Son's, Fat Pasha, Shmaltz Appetizing, Big Crow, Big Crow But Little, Rose & Son's Swan, and Bar that's a mouth-full!). Representing his Middle Eastern influenced restaurant Fat Pasha at Taste, Chef Rose taught myself, along with a group of other food bloggers and Taste attendees how to make Msabbaha, a vegetarian dish featuring creamy hummus, whole chickpeas, roasted cauliflower, pomegranate seeds, halloumi, and Schug, a spicy and herbaceous green sauce with cilantro, parsley, hot peppers, and spices. All of the fresh and local ingredients were provided by Metro Ontario, making the recipe very accessible for participants like myself to be able to recreate at home.
As I was guided to my cooking station, I was happy to find a familiar face as my cooking partner for the demo, the lovely Isabelle Boucher of Crumb Blog. We were given a quick overview of our station, learning how to use the Elextrolux induction cooktop, and the Braun immersion blender that were provided for us, and we were on our way to get cookin'! As Chef Rose began the demo, he told us a little bit about Fat Pasha and Israeli cuisine, teaching us how to pronounce some Yiddish and Middle Eastern dishes with that classic "chhh" sound that comes from throat. Ironically enough, Isabelle and I happened to be the only participants who had ever traveled to Israel and tried authentic Israeli cuisine. If you've ever traveled to Israel yourself, you will know just how extraordinary Israeli hummus is. The flavour and insane creaminess is unlike anything you can find in Toronto, though you can get awfully close at Fat Pasha, which was why I was so eager to learn Chef Rose's secret. 
Though Isabelle's research had taught her that that creamy consistency in Israeli hummus is thanks to taking the extra step of removing the chickpea skins, Chef Rose gave us another great tip, which was to add ice water to the mix when blending with the immersion blender. It was so amazing to be able to be so hands-on with the cooking demo, as well as have someone so well respected like Chef Rose on hand to come around and look at all of our dishes, and guide us to the result he would be proud to serve in his own restaurant. How often do you have a renowned chef looking over your shoulder to guide you, as you learn to cook one of their signature dishes? To a food nerd like myself, that was so cool! With his classic laid-back charm, Chef Rose made the experience of participating in the demo not only incredibly informative, but also a lot of fun. 
When the demo was over, it was time to head back into the hot sun and check out some of the restaurants that were stationed around the Fort York grounds, serving some of their signature dishes. We began our tour at Little Sister Indonesian & Noorden Food Bar's stand, one of our favourite restaurants that's known for serving up big-flavoured dishes, that are meant to be shared. We opted to share a plate of their Satay Ayam, which are chicken satays with peanut sauce, pickles, and shrimp chips. As always, they were an overwhelmingly-wonderful flavour explosion and were a great way to start our circuit around the grounds. 
With a pint of Mill Street in my boyfriend Chris' hand, and a Walter's Caesar in mine, we were ready to grab our next bite. Mamakas Taverna's stand was directly next to Little Sister's, tempting us with the smoke and smells of their roasted Ontario lamb, churning on a hot spit. There wasn't a chance we were passing that up! Their vibrant stand full of multi-coloured vegetables, beautifully displayed on wooden crates, was just as eye-catching as the lamb spit, and was most definitely the most aesthetically-pleasing restaurant stand of the day. 
Though the lamb served with bulgar salad and Tzatziki was an absolute must, we also couldn't resist getting an order of their Baklava Soft Serve, garnished with a Baklava crumble and Ontario strawberries. Though we felt slightly guilty over the fact that we were ordering two dishes from the same restaurant, when we should probably be expanding our choices over the breadth of restaurants that were featured at the festival, we had zero regrets! The succulent lamb was incredible, though quite difficult to eat with plastic cutlery, but that didn't stop us from demolishing our plate. The Baklava soft serve was one of our favourite tastes of the day, partly due to the insane humidity we were faced with at the festival, but largely because it was just so damn delicious.  
After scoping out the rest of the grounds, we headed over to Anthony Rose's Fat Pasha stand to get more of our hummus fix satisfied. We ordered a plate of Falafel Hummus with tahini, lemon, pickled cucumbers and peppers, olives, pita, and a drizzle of that incredible Schug. We found a shady spot under a tree and dove right into our falafel plate. If I didn't know any better, I would have thought that it all came straight from Israel, it was so delicious! The vegetarian plate was a great way to finish off our savoury tastes of the festival, as the humidity began to affect our appetite. 
With $5 left on our American Express Crown Card (the official currency of the festival) and sweat on our brows, we could think of no better way of sending off the festival than with a cool and refreshing popsicle from Chill Pops, a local company churning out all-natural pressed juice ice pops, hand-crafted in small batches in Toronto. Though all of the flavours sounded enticing, we chose the Pineapple Kiwi flavour. We annihilated the tasty ice pop in what felt like seconds and said our farewell to Taste of Toronto 2016. 
After years of envy, watching others enjoy the flavours and sights of Taste of Toronto, it was such a pleasure to be able to attend and participate in this years festival. Though we got to try so many wonderful tastes, my favourite part was definitely being able to take part in the Metro Master Class cooking demo. While dishes come to an end, the knowledge that I gained from the cooking demo is something that I can carry with me each time I approach a Middle Eastern dish in my own kitchen. I'm looking forward to making Chef Rose's Msabbaha at home and sharing the recipe with you. There's a new Rose in the kitchen now! 

Listening To:

Friday, July 1, 2016

Happy Canada Day 2016!

Happy Canada Day to this beautiful country that I am so grateful to call my home! Happy 149th, you don't look a day over 100!

Listening To:
The Tragically Hip - Fireworks