Food Fetish: Harissa-Roasted Winter Squash

If you’ve never tried Harissa, my advice is to run—don’t walk—to your nearest grocery store or spice bar and grab yourself a stash. Because once you get a taste of this fiery Moroccan mixture of crushed hot red chilies, caraway, cumin, coriander, garlic, salt and spearmint leaves, you’ll want to throw this flavour bomb on just about everything.

From a rub on grilled meat, to a spicy addition to your best pasta sauce, Shakshuka, or the way I used it here on roasted vegetables, this bold spice mixture is an addictive way to lend depth to your favourite savoury dishes, and is just the sort of pantry addition itching to be experimented with.

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Since I find that roasted squash can easily veer toward being too-sweet, a healthy whack of Harissa is a real game changer. Once I factored in the bit of crunchy coating is gives the vegetables, this spicy side landed a reoccurring role on my fall cooking repertoire.

Since I was feeling a little festive, I crumbled some goat cheese on top, along with a few bright orbs of pomegranate for some extra pizzazz.

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Ingredients:

1 acorn squash, cut in to wedges
3 Tablespoons Harissa spice blend
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons crumbled goat cheese*
Pomegranate seeds*
*Optional

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Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Whisk Harissa spice blend, oil and maple syrup in a small bowl.
  2. Cut the squash in half from top to bottom and scrape out the seeds with a spoon. Cut each half into 4 equal wedges.
  3. In a large bowl, toss squash wedges with Harissa mixture to coat. Roast for 10 minutes, toss once and continue to roast until squash is tender, 20-25 minutes.

BonnieMo Bonnie Mo is a Toronto-based editor and the face behind Food Network Canada’s Food Fetish column. She’s also a contributing editor over at slice.ca.

Sweet Eats: Healthy Carrot, Banana and Chocolate Chip Muffins

Carrot Banana Chocolate Chip Muffin recipe

When I was in high school, my friends and I would get these giant muffins from a corner store after class. They were actually enormous rounds of cake disguised as muffins. They were delicious. Unfortunately, my grown-up self can’t eat a giant loaf of ‘muffin’ cake everyday. Now I make muffins that still taste as good but have a healthier ingredients jam-packed inside.

These muffins have healthy components like yogurt, carrot, banana, flax and oat bran, but are cleverly hidden by a handful of chocolate chips and vanilla. Eat these on the go, for breakfast or as an afternoon snack.

Healthy Carrot, Banana and Chocolate Chip Muffins

Ingredients:

½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup plain yogurt
1/3 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1 cup grated carrot
2 bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons flax seeds
¼ cup oat bran
1 cup chocolate chips, divided

 

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with muffin liners.

2. In a large bowl, combine sugar, yogurt, oil, eggs, carrot, bananas and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, flax seeds and oat bran.

3. Pour the dry ingredients into the eggs mixture and mix just until combined. Add ½ cup chocolate chips. Spoon mixture into prepared muffin tin.

healthy carrot banana chocolate chip muffins recipe

4. Bake for 17 to 20 minutes until golden. Using a toothpick, insert into the center of a muffin to make sure it comes out clean. Let cool on a rack.

Healthy carrot banana chocolate chip muffins

5. While muffins are cooling melt remaining ½ cup chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave on 1-minute blasts. Drizzle chocolate over muffins.

SONY DSC Miranda Keyes is a freelance food stylist, recipe developer and writer who used to live in London, UK but moved back to Canada for nanaimo bars, maple syrup and poutine. To learn more about her, follow her on Instagram @littlemirandapiggy and Twitter @mirandaak.

Made Easy: Colourful Roasted Vegetables and Garlic Quinoa

The leaves have fallen off the trees and the skies are consistently grey. It’s time to head to the farmers’ markets for a dose of colour! Vibrant heirloom carrots, creamy parsnips, ruby red beets, and yellow and red mini potatoes are in season now, so a colourful roasted vegetable platter will impress at the dinner table (or Christmas table for those already planning menus). Serve it with a side of this garlicky quinoa and grilled chicken seasoned with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning for a meal that you can also pack for lunch the next day.

Colourful Roasted Vegetables and Garlic Quinoa

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Ingredients:
1 bunch baby heirloom carrots, peeled and cut into smaller sticks
1 bunch baby parsnips, peeled
2 whole garlic bulbs, tops sliced off
4 whole beets
24 red and yellow mini potatoes
1 cup dried quinoa, rinsed and strained
1 1/2 cups water
Vegetable or avocado oil*
Salt and pepper
Italian seasoning

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Directions:

1. Preheat the oven at 400°F.
2. In a pot of salted boiling water, blanch the potatoes for five minutes. Drain and let dry.**
3. Toss the parsnips, carrots, garlic bulbs, and potatoes with oil, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning in a large bowl.
4. Wrap whole, unpeeled beets individually in aluminum foil.***
5. Place all the vegetables in a single layer on two large baking trays lined with parchment paper. Bake for an hour until the vegetables are soft, begin to appear wrinkled, and become fragrant.
6. In the meantime, bring 1 1/2 cups of salted water to a boil in a small pot over medium heat. Add in the quinoa, cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the water has evaporated and the quinoa has a fluffy texture. Remove lid and fluff with a fork.
7. When the vegetables are done roasting, remove from oven. Take three or four garlic cloves from the bulb and dice (or mash) into smaller pieces. Add the garlic into the pot with the quinoa. Gently toss with a fork.****
8. Remove the beets from the aluminum foil and peel off the skin. Slice the beets into thin slices.
9. Arrange the vegetables on a platter and serve with the garlic quinoa. Serves four generously.

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Notes:

*Avoid using olive oil when cooking or roasting at high temperatures. Olive oil smokes and becomes bitter when exposed to high temperatures, so use oil that has a higher smoke point like vegetable or my current obsession, avocado.
**Have you ever roast potatoes and find that the insides are still hard and raw even after an hour of cooking? Blanch the potatoes first to give them a head start at cooking. This will give the potatoes their pillowy, almost mashed texture inside and a crispy skin on the outside. This extra step was a revelation for me.
***Unlike most vegetables where you first peel then roast, the skin of beets are much easier to remove when you roast them first. You’ll notice that you can literally peel the skin right off with your fingers once the beet is roasted. Of course, let the beet cool first so you don’t burn yourself. You’ll also want to do the peeling over the baking sheet and close to the sink since beet juice stains everything it touches.
****Garlic is downright heavenly when it caramelizes in the oven, creating a sweeter and less sharp garlic taste compared to its raw state. Leftover roasted garlic cloves can be added to soups, hummus, spreads, other roasted vegetables, grains, heck, it makes everything better.

734863_10151322355189438_2070375187_n Karon Liu is a freelance food writer based in Toronto who is slightly lactose intolerant but will otherwise eat and cook anything.

Topics: Made EasyVegetablesQuinoa

Homemade Chocolate Éclairs with Banana Cream Filling

At a recent trip to Paris, I fell in love with éclairs all over again. These delicate treats offered in Parisian patisseries were far from the chocolate-coated cream filled ones I’ve had in the past. These were next-level, and filled with all kinds of creative ingredients and topped with incredible glazes. They were a feast for the eyes as well as the mouth!

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It may come as a surprise, but making choux pastry couldn’t be easier. Yes, it requires a bit of muscle to constantly mix the batter but these éclairs, featuring banana pastry cream and chocolate topping, are worth the effort.

Ingredients:

Choux Pastry
1 cup water
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 tsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs

Banana Cream Filling
2 cups whole milk, separated
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup granulated sugar, separated
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 brown bananas, mashed (about ¾ cup)

Chocolate Topping
1/4 cup chocolate chips
2 Tbsp butter
11/4 cup icing sugar
3 Tbsp hot water
Banana chips to top (optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a medium sized pot combine the water, butter, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and add the flour. Continue to mix with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together. Cook the flour mixture, while continually stirring, for 1 minute.

3. Add the eggs, one at a time. The mixture may look like it won’t mix together once you’ve added an egg, but keep on mixing and it should become glossy. Once you’ve added all the eggs, put the mixture into a piping bag fitting with a 1-inch round tip.

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4. Pipe 3-inch lines, spaced 1-inch apart onto the prepared baking sheets. Place the baking sheets on the top and bottom thirds of the oven for 25 minutes, switching the sheets half way through cooking.

5. After 25 minutes, turn the oven off and leave the éclairs in the oven to cool completely. This ensures the éclairs are perfectly crisp on the outside. You can crack the door of the oven slightly to let out some of the heat.

6. While the éclairs are cooling make the banana pastry cream filling. In a medium sized bowl combine 1 cup milk, cornstarch and 1/4 cup sugar and set aside.

7. In a medium pot combine 1 cup milk, 1/4 cup sugar and the butter. Bring to a boil and turn off the heat. Whisk 1/4 cup of the warm milk mixture into the cold milk mixture. Continue to whisk in the remaining warm mixture, 1/4 cup at a time. Add the egg yolks and whisk until yolks are broken up and the mixture looks smooth. Once the mixture has been combined put it all back into the pot and add the vanilla. On medium heat, bring the mixture to a simmer, whisking constantly. If the mixture looks like it has curdled, continue whisking until it becomes smooth. Mix in the mashed bananas. Let cool.

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8. Put the pastry cream into a piping bag fitted with a ½-inch round tip. Poke a hole in the bottom of the éclairs with a small knife and fill each éclair.

9. For the chocolate topping, combine all ingredients in a small pot and melt together on low heat. Dip each éclair into the chocolate mixture and place on a rack to set.Banana-chocolate-eclair-recipe-4

Made Easy: Awesome Chicken Soup for the Lazy Soul

We’ve gone over pho and roasted red pepper soup, but when it comes to cold and flu season there’s nothing like a big bowl of homemade chicken soup. It’s surprisingly easy to make and once you taste the made-from-scratch stuff you’ll never buy a can of it ever again.

This basic chicken soup recipe is meant to be customized to your tastes, so once you get the hang of making it feel free to add other spices like curry and cumin, vegetables like potatoes and torn kale leaves, or even make it creamy with coconut milk. You can also turn it into a fuller meal by adding rice, pasta, or dumplings once the soup has simmered down. It reheats quick and as weird as it sounds, makes for a great breakfast since it’s loaded with protein that will get you through to lunch.

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Chicken Soup
Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
2 stalks celery, diced
2 medium-sized carrots, diced
1 small white onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons olive oil or butter
1 whole chicken, cut into smaller pieces
8 cups water
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. In a medium-sized soup pot, heat the oil or butter over medium heat and sauté the celery, carrots, garlic, and onion until they begin to soften, the onions begin to turn translucent, and the carrots start to caramelize.
  2. Add the chicken and stir for one or two minutes. Pour in the water, cover, and bring to a boil. Add the Italian seasoning. Don’t taste it yet—it’ll taste like water and you’ll end up adding way too much salt. Instead, reduce heat and let simmer for at least an hour to let some of the water evaporate and the chicken flavour from the bones, cartilage, and meat permeate the broth. The longer the soup simmers, the more intense the flavour will be.
  3. Give the soup a taste and season with salt and pepper as necessary. Take the chicken out of the pot and with a fork, remove the skin and shred the meat off the bones (the meat should be fall-off-the-bone by now). Discard the chicken skin, bones, and cartilage. Put the shredded meat back into the pot and continue to simmer for 30 minutes. If you’re adding pasta, rice, or dumplings, now is the time to add them.

Celery, Carrot, and Onion: The Holy Trio of Flavour

One of the basic flavour elements of French cooking is the mirepoix: the combination of chopped celery, carrot, and onion. It’s used commonly in soup and sauce recipes, and not to mention adds a delicious base to stir-frys (this one is less French).

Other nations have their own version of the mirepoix. In Italy you’ve got the soffritto (basically a mirepoix with garlic, which is the base for this soup); Spain and Latin American and Caribbean nations have the sofrito consisting of bell peppers, onion, garlic, paprika, and tomatoes (even then each country in these regions have their own variations on this); Poland has the wloszczyzna that contains carrots, parsnips, celery root, leeks, and cabbage; and Germany has Suppengrün, which is carrots, leeks, and celeriac.

Save Your Bones

The next time you pick up a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket, keep the bones to make a future batch of chicken broth (assuming you or your loved ones haven’t sucked on the bones because… gross). Store the bones in a bag in the freezer, and take them out whenever you’re in the mood for soup.

734863_10151322355189438_2070375187_n Karon Liu is a freelance food writer based in Toronto who is slightly lactose intolerant but will otherwise eat and cook anything.

Topics: Made Easy, Soup, Chicken