Archive for December, 2011


Great vegetarian dish, very tasty.

Hot or cold, it can be used both as a main or side dish.

A balanced set of amino acids makes quinoa a good source of protein for vegetarians and vegans.

It’s also gluten free, easy to cook and a perfect substitute for rice, barley or almost any grain.

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ingredients

1 cup chopped onion

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 cup sliced carrots

1 cup quartered mushrooms

1/2 cup zucchini chunks

1 large clove of garlic, minced

1/2 Tablespoon olive oil

handful of chopped basil and parsley

handful of roasted pecan nuts

salt to taste

ground pepper

one cup of  fresh chopped herbs(parsley, basil, celery leaves) add at the end

2 cups quinoa (I usually mix the red and white)
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Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Toss all the vegetables and pecans except herbs in a shallow casserole dish with the oil, basil, garlic, salt and pepper.

Roast the vegetables, giving them a toss every 15 minutes, until tender, approximately 20 – 30 minutes. When you remove them from oven, stir in the herbs.

In the meantime, cook the quinoa.

How to prepare and cook quinoa

While the processing methods used in the commercial cultivation remove much of the soapy saponins that coats quinoa seeds, it is still a good idea to thoroughly wash the seeds to remove any remaining saponin residue.

An effective method is to run cold water over quinoa that has been placed in a fine-meshed strainer, gently rubbing the seeds together with your hands. To ensure that the saponins have been completely removed, taste a few seeds. If they still have a bitter taste, continue the rinsing process.

To cook the quinoa, add one part of the grain to two parts liquid in a saucepan. After the mixture is brought to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer and cover. One cup of quinoa cooked in this method usually takes 15 minutes to prepare. When cooking is complete, you will notice that the grains have become translucent, and the white germ has partially detached itself, appearing like a white-spiraled tail. If you desire the quinoa to have a nuttier flavor, you can dry roast it before cooking; to dry roast, place it in a skillet over medium-low heat and stir constantly for five minutes.

Toss quinoa and vegetables and serve.

Makes approximately 4 main dish servings.

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chicken broth

I usually make a big pot of chicken broth once a month. There are many ways to do this with many variations of ingredients. Everytime I make a pot of broth it turns out different, because I use whatever I have that week and not worry about following a recipe. I made this broth the last week of July. You can imagine the produce from my garden that is available during this time. I added a bunch of celery leaves, basil and parsley at the end to give it a fresh taste.

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ingredients

one big pot

chicken bones, and half of whole chicken

3 shallots chopped in half

2 onion chopped in four

1 red pepper, 1 green pepper  cut in half

3 large carrots roughly chopped

5 sticks of celery with tops roughly chopped

20 cherry tomatoes (you can use 3 or 4 medium-sized tomatoes) roughly chopped

fresh herbs: parsley, basil, thyme, bay leaves, chives (roughly chopped)

salt to taste

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Place all chicken pieces, vegetables and half the herbs at bottom of pan and fill with cold water.

When it comes to a boil skim off  the foam and turn the heat down to a simmer.

Continue to simmer gently for 3-4 hours, skimming if necessary.

When there is half an hour left add the rest of the herbs.

Allow to cool.

I usually divide it into small plastic containers and freeze it.

It will keep in the fridge for about 4 days and in the freezer for 2-3 months.

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roasted root vegetables

I make a batch of these roasted root vegetables quite often, so that I have enough for all week. Some I use as a side dish with grilled meats or roasted chicken. Some I add in an omelet. Some mixed with rice or pasta.

At this time of year I often make soups so when I have these roasted veggies on hand I add a few scoops to my chicken broth add a handful of fresh spinach and a cup of cooked beans and voila, you have yourself a hardy vegetable soup to warm their hearts and tummies.

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ingredients

zucchino rampicante (big, long zucchini)

celery root

potatoes

peppers

onions

cherry tomatoes

parsley, basil, garlic, olive oil, salt (any spice you like)

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Cut everything in bite size pieces or bigger if you prefer

Preheat oven to 350*

Mix all ingredients well

Spread on a pizza pan and roast uncovered to desired doneness

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all about beets

Health Benefits of Beets

From Organic Facts

The health benefits of beet include anemia, digestion, constipation, piles, blood circulation, kidney disorders, skin care, dandruff, gall bladder disorders, cancer, and heart diseases.

Beets or beetroots, as they are called, belong to the Chenopodiaceous family. Health benefits of beet roots can be attributed to their richness in nutrients, vitamins and minerals. They are a source of carotenoids and lutein/zeaxanthin. Beets are also rich in dietary fiber, vitamin C, magnesium, iron, copper and phosphorus. Beet is a source of beneficial flavonoids called anthycyanins. They are very low in calories but have the highest sugar content of all vegetables. It is also used to make refined sugar.

Beetroot is also added as an ingredient to salads, soups and pickles and also used as a natural coloring agent. Even though beets are available throughout the year they are still seasonal vegetables.

The roots and leaves of beets have plenty of medicinal uses like:

Good for heart: Beet fiber helps to reduce cholesterol and triglycerides by increasing the level of HDL. High level of triglycerides increases the risk for heart related problems. The presence of the nutrient betaine lowers the levels of homocysteine in the body which can be harmful to the blood vessels. Thus, consumption of beetroot helps to prevent cardiovascular diseases.

Avoids birth defects: Beet is good for pregnant women since it is a source of B vitamin folate which helps in the development of infant’s spinal column. Deficiency of folate could lead to the condition called neural tube defect.

Prevent certain cancers: Studies revealed that beet are good in preventing colon cancer, as it contains the pigment betacyaninis, which counteracts cancer. Nitrates used in meats as preservatives, cause the production of nitrosamines compounds in the body resulting in cancer. Studies reveal that beet juice inhibits the cell mutations caused by these compounds. Researchers in Hungary have also discovered that beet juice and its powdered form slows down tumor development.

Good for liver: Betaines contained in the beet juice stimulates the functions of liver.

Prevent respiratory problems: Beetroot is a source of vitamin C which helps to prevent asthma symptoms. The natural beta-carotene in beetroot also helps to prevent lungs cancer.

Boosts energy: Beetroot contains a significant amount of carbohydrates that provides fuel for energy and prolonged sports activities.

Prevent cataract: The presence of beta-carotene (vitamin A) helps to prevent age related blindness called cataract.

Capillary fragility: The flavonoids and vitamin C in beets help to support the structure of capillaries.

Macular degeneration: The beta-carotene present in beetroot avoids macular degeneration.

Stroke: Low level of potassium in body increases the risk of stroke. So potassium-rich beetroot is recommended in that aspect.

The presence of the mineral Boron in beetroot juice helps in the production of human sex hormones.

In ancient times Beetroot was used to cure fever and constipation. In the Middle Ages, beetroot was also used as a remedy for digestive disorders.

Beet leaves are also good for curing wounds.

Precaution: Beets contain oxalates, which when in excess, can cause body fluid to crystallize. So people with kidney or gallbladder problems should avoid beetroots.

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Pasta 101: Cooking Perfect Pasta Every Time

From DELALLO

Cooking pasta is as easy as boiling water, but cooking pasta correctly is about paying attention to detail. You can help your pasta dish to be its best by knowing a few of the hows and whys of cooking pasta.

  1. For every one pound of pasta, bring 5 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Once water is boiling, then add about 2 tbsp. of coarse salt, or 1/4 cup table salt.
  2. Stir to keep the pasta from sticking. Stir within the first 2 minutes of cooking pasta. The pasta is more likely to stick together, in the beginning, before the starches are released into the water.
  3. Place the lid back on the pot to help bring the water back to a boil. This is an essential moment, because if you don’t, the pasta will be sitting in hot water, resulting in mushy pasta.
  4. Once the pot is boiling again, remove the lid for the remaining cook time to prevent the pasta from boiling over. This is where you need to actually stand there and watch the pot.
  5. Follow the package directions for cook times. As a general guideline: perfectly cooked pasta that is “al dente,” or firm to the bite, yet cooked through, requires you to test it yourself when the time is close. You may need to test the pasta 2 or 3 times before it’s just right.
  6. Once your pasta is ready, turn off the heat and scoop out 1 cup of pasta cooking water. Reserved pasta water contains essential starch that can be used later to adjust the consistency of your sauce, from thickening it to thinning it.  This soupy looking water you used to throw down the drain is actually a miracle ingredient!
  7. Quickly drain the pasta into a colander in the sink. Do no rinse the pasta. Not only is the starch in the water is what helps the sauce adhere to your pasta, but rinsing will cool the pasta and prevent absorption of your sauce. The only time you should ever rinse your pasta is when you are going to use it in a cold dish like a pasta salad. In cases such as those, rinsing the pasta helps to stop the cooking process.
  8. Toss pasta in a warmed saucepan with your prepared sauce. You don’t want to drain the pasta all that well, you want your pasta to be loosely drained, still retaining some pasta water. Cook together for about 2 minutes.

a.    Do you really need this much water? Well, if you’re only boiling a small amount of pasta (less than half a pound), you don’t need so much, but a generous pot of rapidly boiling water is necessary for several reasons: it comes back to a boil faster when you add the pasta which is critical; it makes it easier to submerge long cuts of pasta like spaghetti; and it helps to reduce sticking by giving the pasta enough room to move around. If you experience sticking pasta, it’s probably because you are not using enough water.

 b.    My water is just barely boiling, not rapidly. Can I save some time and place the pasta in now?  Adding the pasta to not rapidly boiling water will actually increase your overall cook time and cause your pasta to sit in the water longer. You will end up with pasta that has absorbed too much water with a mushy texture. Be patient and wait for a rapid boil; it’ll pay off.

c.    Salt? Can’t I just salt my pasta after I cook it? It’s necessary that you salt the water before adding the pasta so that the pasta can absorb the salted water while cooking and retain flavor. A little salt in the pasta water can go a long way, adding flavor to your final dish. Once the pasta is cooked, you have lost your chance to season the pasta.

d.    Can’t I just add oil so the past doesn’t stick? While this can prevent sticking, it is not a good idea. Pasta that is cooked in oily water will become oily itself and, as a result, the sauce slides off, doesn’t get absorbed and you end up with flavorless pasta.

Reserve Pasta Water. After pasta has cooked, reserve a cup of pasta water before you drain the pasta. Reserved pasta water contains essential starch that can be used later to adjust the consistency of your sauce, from thickening it to thinning it. Reserved pasta water is also a good way to stretch your sauce, if you are running short.

When It’s Done. As you get close to the end of your estimated cooking time, taste the pasta. If it is done, it should have a nice al dente bite and taste like pasta. If it is undercooked, it will have a stiff and chalky core; overcooked, and your noodles will be limp and soggy. Note that once you decide the pasta is done, it will take you several seconds to turn off the burner, lift the pot and pour the contents into the colander. During this time, the pasta continues to cook, so begin testing for doneness 2-3 minutes before the end of the suggested cooking time.

NO Rinsing. Pasta should never, ever be rinsed. The starch in the water is what helps the sauce of your choice adhere to your pasta. The only time you should ever rinse your pasta is when you are going to use it in a cold dish like a pasta salad or when you are not going to use it immediately. In cases such as those, rinsing the pasta helps to stop the cooking process. Drain well before storing.

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himalayan salt

There is too much information on the internet today. You can find articles for and against on almost any product you are researching. The breadth and depth of information is astounding, almost overwhelming, sometimes highly accurate and useful, and other times totally worthless.

From everything I’ve read on Himalayan Salt, I really can’t be 100% sure that it is the best salt we can use, however, if it’s just for the better taste and the fact that a small quantity goes a long way, I feel it’s worth the extra cost. Also, the fact that our oceans are getting quite polluted now, is reason enough not to use sea salt.

So here are a few articles that you will find interesting.

Wikipedia: Himilayan salt

Wikipedia: Halite or rock salt

Himalayan salt vs table salt

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superfoods

40 Best Age-Erasing Superfoods


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chickpeas

Chickpeas Nutrition

Published: 5/24/2010
Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans are renowned for their delicious nut like taste and high protein content. Chickpeas are legumes of the family, Fabaceae, and they are one of the oldest legumes to be cultivated by humans. There are basically two varieties of chickpeas, the ‘Desi’ or ‘Bengal gram’ which has darker seeds with rough coat and the ‘Kabuli’, which has larger seeds with smooth coat. The Kabuli chickpeas are lighter in color than the ‘Desi’ chickpeas. The ‘Desi’ variety is mainly cultivated in the Indian subcontinent, Iran and Mexico, while the Kabuli variety is grown in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Southern Europe, Northern Africa and Chile. Chickpeas are highly nutritious food that feature in Indian and Middle Eastern dishes. Below here is a brief analysis of chickpeas nutrition facts and their health benefits.

Chickpeas Nutritional Value

Chickpeas are a rich source of proteins, carbohydrates, dietary fiber and many essential minerals and vitamins. About 164 gm of chickpeas can give 269 calories, and contain 45 g of carbohydrate, 15 gm of proteins, 12 g of dietary fiber and 4 g fat. The same amount of chickpeas also contains about 44.3 IU of vitamin A, 2.1 mg vitamin C, 0.6 mg vitamin E, 0.9 mg thiamine, 6.6 mcg vitamin K, 282 mcg folate, 70.2 mg choline, 80.4 mg calcium, 78.7 mg magnesium, 276 mg phosphorus, 4.7 mg iron, 477 mg potassium, 2.5 mg zinc, 1.7 mg manganese and a small amount of molybdenum. The nutritional profile of the smaller variety of chickpeas can differ a bit, especially regarding the fiber content. The fiber content of the smaller variety of chickpeas is much higher than the larger or kabuli variety. Similarly, the roasted chickpeas nutritional value can also differ slightly.

Chickpeas Nutritional Benefits

 Presence of so many vital nutrients has made chickpeas an ideal food that can provide numerous health benefits. Much of the chickpeas nutritional benefits can be attributed to the presence of high amount of protein, fiber and the trace mineral, molybdenum. A few of the most well-known chickpeas health benefits are enumerated below
  • Chickpeas are one of the significant sources of proteins. So, vegetarians can combine it with rice or whole grains to get sufficient amount of proteins.
  • Chickpeas contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. The fiber found in these legumes can lower the level of both total and LDL cholesterol. A high level of LDL cholesterol is considered as a risk factor for heart and cardiovascular diseases.
  • The insoluble fiber found in chickpeas can help to increase stool bulk, which in turn, can help to prevent constipation, and many other disorders of the digestive tract including, irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Another important health benefit of chickpeas is the stabilization of the blood sugar level, which can be attributed to the soluble fiber found in chickpeas. People with diabetes and insulin resistance can be benefited by consuming this high fiber food.
  • Chickpeas also supply a significant amount of magnesium, which is beneficial for cardiovascular health. Deficiency of magnesium can increase the risk for heart attacks and many other cardiovascular diseases.
  • Chickpeas are an important source of folate, which helps to lower the level of the amino acid, ‘homocysteine’, high level of which is considered as a risk factor for heart attacks and stroke.
  • Chickpeas can also help to control hunger, due to their high protein and fiber content. This in turn, can prove helpful in managing body weight.
  • Apart from these health benefits, chickpeas can help to detoxify sulfites, which are used as a preservative in prepared foods. Molybdenum found in chickpeas is a component of the enzyme that helps to detoxify sulfites. People sensitive to sulfites, experience a number of serious symptoms like, disorientation and rapid heartbeat.
Considering chickpeas nutritional profile, it can be concluded that it is one of the most nutritious foods to have around. Including chickpeas in the diet can not only provide a high amount of proteins, but many other essential minerals and vitamins, which can facilitate the smooth functioning of the different body systems.
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simple appetizers

50 holiday appetizers: Simple to make – Easy to eat

BY SUSAN SEMENAK, THE GAZETTE DECEMBER 12, 2011

Spiced nuts, roasted baby potatoes with sour cream and bacon, caramelized onion and cranberry crostini, spicy Thai jumbo shrimp & wasabi crab-stuffed cherry tomatoes appetizers (clockwise) are five of the many quick and easy holiday appetizers for you to consider this holiday season.

MONTREAL — Some of the best appetizers for holiday parties need no labour-intensive preparation or elaborate embellishment. They can be made in advance or assembled quickly just before guests arrive.

They come in the form of bite-sized morsels that guests can eat in a mouthful or two while juggling a wine glass, without a plate or utensils. Serve them warm or at room temperature.

Unlike those boxed, pastry-encrusted bites from the frozen-food section, or those ubiquitous crudités and dips that won’t go away, these 50 homemade appetizers are bursting with flavour. And they look good, served on toothpicks and miniature bamboo skewers, in little ceramic spoons or on toasted pita crisps, multi-grain crackers or grilled crostini, in hollowed-out cherry tomatoes or endive leaves. For the most part, they rely on a simple array of ingredients, or on good quality, store-bought elements.

How many to serve? The general rule of thumb is to offer 10 to 12 bites per person when no dinner is being served (half that if there’s dinner later). For variety, serve at least 4 to 6 kinds of appetizers, a mix of hot and cold, meat or seafood and vegetarian-friendly.

Most of the suggestions listed here – like the corn fritters, spiced nuts, salmon carpaccio and eggplant dip – are quick hits I’ve been making at home for years. Others are inspired by the delicious bites I’ve eaten standing up at Spanish tapas counters or Italian wine bars with a glass of red wine in the other hand. Some came to me while strolling the aisles of Fromagerie Hamel at Jean Talon Market; at Milano, the Italian emporium in Little Italy; at Les Douceurs du Marché at Atwater Market; Cavallaro on St. Charles Blvd. in Kirkland; or Librairie Espagnole, the Spanish grocery store on St. Laurent Blvd., just above Roy St. All are excellent local sources for great quality, ready-made ingredients for assembling last-minute hors d’oeuvres.

Some of the following suggestions are shortcuts of more involved recipes from my favourite cookbooks. While looking for inspiration, I leafed through The Silver Spoon (Phaidon 2005), Movida Cuisine Familiale Espagnole by Frank Camorra and Richard Cornish (Marabout 2007),Enoteca by Joyce Goldstein (Chronicle Books 2005), Finger Food by Elsa Petersen-Schepelern (Ryland Peters and Small 2002) and The Food of Spain and Portugal by Elisabeth Luard (Whitecap 2004).

Moroccan stuffed apricots. Slit plump, soft, dried apricots and fill with goat cheese, then top with a mixture of ground pistachio, honey and lemon juice and finely grated zest.

1. Stuffed apricots à la marocain. Slit plump, soft, dried apricots and fill with goat cheese, then top with a mixture of ground pistachio, honey and lemon juice and finely grated zest.

2. Piccoli spiedini. Crush a clove or two of garlic into olive oil seasoned with salt, pepper and dried Italian herbs. Baste onto large cubes of day-old sourdough or ciabatta bread. Wrap bread cubes with thin slices of prosciutto or mortadella and fasten these miniature Italian brochettes with a toothpick. Broil until lightly browned.

Smoked salmon with horse radish cream. Combine sour cream or crème fraîche with a spoonful of horseradish and some finely chopped fresh dill. Spread mixture on triangles of pumpernickel bread. Top with a slice each of cucumber and smoked salmon.

3. Scandinavian smorrebrod. Combine sour cream or crème fraîche with a spoonful of horseradish and some finely chopped fresh dill. Spread mixture on triangles of pumpernickel bread. Top with a slice each of cucumber and smoked salmon.

4. Shrimp-salad lettuce rolls. Toss cooked Nordic shrimp with mayonnaise, lemon juice and finely chopped chives and celery. Roll up in Boston lettuce leaves.

5. Tuna tapenade. Combine best-quality oil-packed tuna with a spoonful each of ready-made black-olive tapenade and mayonnaise. Spoon onto endive spears.

Prosciutto-ricotta roulades. Combine ricotta cheese with grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese, freshly ground black pepper and finely grated lemon zest. Lay out slices of prosciutto, spread with a spoonful of ricotta mixture and scatter with arugula leaves, then roll up.

6. Prosciutto-ricotta roulades. Combine ricotta cheese with grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese, freshly ground black pepper and finely grated lemon zest. Lay out slices of prosciutto, spread with a spoonful of ricotta mixture and scatter with arugula leaves, then roll up.

Bacon-wrapped dates. Stuff pitted dried dates with a tamari almond, then wrap with thin slices of bacon. Broil or bake until crispy.

7. Bacon-wrapped dates. Stuff pitted dried dates with a tamari almond, then wrap with thin slices of bacon. Broil or bake until crispy.

8. Smoked duck with fig. Top multi-grain crackers with a folded-up slice of smoked duck breast, a few arugula or mache leaves and a small spoonful of fig jam (or orange marmalade.)

9. Salmon tartare. Finely chop equal parts very fresh salmon or rainbow trout fillet and smoked salmon. Toss with capers, a few drops of rice vinegar, a splash of olive oil and finely chopped red onion and finely grated lemon zest. Serve in individual ceramic spoons.

10. Sesame-seasoned edamame. Blanch frozen edamame beans (available in the freezer section of many grocery stores or at Asian grocers). Serve whole in their shells, tossed with coarse sea salt and a drizzle of sesame oil (and a bowl on the side for discarded shells).

11. Mushroom quesadillas. Spread a single flour or corn tortilla with shredded cheddar cheese and sautéed sliced mushrooms. Top with another tortilla and heat in an ungreased pan, pressing to seal, until golden on both sides. With scissors or a knife, cut into small wedges. Serve with salsa or guacamole.

12. Barcelona tapas. Spread membrillo (which is sweet quince jelly, available in cans at Spanish grocers or the specialty aisle at the grocery store) on thin slices of baguette. Top with thin wedges of Manchego cheese and slices of roasted red pepper.

13. Brie and sun-dried tomato. Purée oil-packed sun-dried tomato with fresh basil leaves. Cut thick slashes in the top of a wheel of brie cheese, stuff with the sun-dried tomato purée and bake for 20 minutes, or until meltingly soft. Serve with baguette slices.

Sweet and spicy pecans. Preheat oven to 325F. Toss pecans, walnuts and/or almonds with a drizzle of olive oil, coarse salt, chili pepper flakes, cumin and brown sugar. Spread nuts in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and roast for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly toasted and glazed.

14. Spiced nuts. Preheat oven to 325F. Toss pecans, walnuts and/or almonds with a drizzle of olive oil, coarse salt, chili pepper flakes, cumin and brown sugar. Spread nuts in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and roast for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly toasted and glazed. (photo see #22)

15. Pizza bianca. Thinly roll out a ball of fresh pizza dough from the bakery or the local pizzeria, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with coarse sea salt, finely chopped fresh rosemary and a little grated Parmesan cheese. Bake 10 minutes in preheated 425F oven, or until golden. Cut into small squares.

Roasted baby potatoes with sour cream and bacon. Cut small fingerling or baby red potatoes in half crosswise (no need to peel them.) Sprinkle with olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast until soft, about 30 to 40 minutes at 350F. Top with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle with chopped chives and/or bacon bits.

16. Cut small fingerling or baby red potatoes in half crosswise (no need to peel them.) Sprinkle with olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast until soft, about 30 to 40 minutes at 350F. Top with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle with chopped chives and/or bacon bits.

17. Lamb kebabs with tzatziki. Marinate ¾-inch cubes of leg of lamb in olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper for at least an hour. Skewer onto short bamboo skewers and broil or grill until medium-rare. For tzatziki, shred cucumber, sprinkle with salt and let drain, then press to remove excess liquid. Combine with thick Greek style yogourt and one clove crushed garlic and salt to taste.

Spicy Thai jumbo shrimp. Sauté finely chopped onion in vegetable oil with Thai red curry paste. Add large, shelled shrimp and sauté until pink. Drizzle with freshly squeezed lime juice and skewer.

18. Thai jumbo shrimp. Sauté finely chopped onion in vegetable oil with Thai red curry paste. Add large, shelled shrimp and sauté until pink. Drizzle with freshly squeezed lime juice and skewer.

19. Savoury pita crisps. With scissors, cut pita bread in half and separate the two layers. Cut into triangles. On a baking sheet, scatter pita in a single layer and brush generously with olive oil. Sprinkle with zaatar (a Middle Eastern spice blend of sesame seeds, thyme and sumac) or dried thyme and coarse salt. Toast in 375F oven a few minutes, until crisp. Serve alone or with hummus on the side.

20. Pear and prosciutto. Roll thin slices of ripe, unpeeled pear and Camembert or Cambozola cheese in prosciutto. Fasten with a toothpick.

21. Mushroom puffs. Sauté finely chopped mushrooms and shallot in olive oil or butter, with finely chopped parsley. Season with salt and pepper, then add a small amount of 35 per cent cream and continue cooking a few minutes until thickened. Serve in prepared miniature puff pastry shells. (Defrost ready-made frozen shells and bake according to package instructions.)

Caramelized onion and cranberry crostini. Sauté thinly sliced onion in butter or olive oil over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, until soft and golden. Season with sea salt, freshly ground pepper and finely chopped fresh rosemary. Add a handful of dried cranberry and a splash of porto and continue cooking until cranberries soften slightly and porto evaporates. Serve warm with baguette slices or bread sticks.

22. Caramelized onion and cranberry crostini. Sauté thinly sliced onion in butter or olive oil over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, until soft and golden. Season with sea salt, freshly ground pepper and finely chopped fresh rosemary. Add a handful of dried cranberry and a splash of porto and continue cooking until cranberries soften slightly and porto evaporates. Serve warm with baguette slices or bread sticks.

Corn fritters with chipotle crema. Combine 1 egg, 1 cup flour, ? cup milk and 1 cup corn kernels with finely chopped green onion and salt. Pour batter by the teaspoon into hot oil and fry, flipping once, until both sides are golden. Serve with sour cream and a little crushed chipotle in adobo sauce (be careful – it is really spicy), with a splash of lime juice.

23. Corn cakes. Combine 1 egg, 1 cup flour, ¾ cup milk and 1 cup corn kernels with finely chopped green onion and salt. Pour batter by the teaspoon into hot oil and fry, flipping once, until both sides are golden. Serve with sour cream and a little crushed chipotle in adobe sauce (be careful – it is really spicy), with a splash of lime juice.

24. Marinated olives. Toss whole black and green olives with one clove finely chopped garlic, toasted and lightly crushed fennel seeds, dried oregano, finely grated lemon or orange zest and a splash of olive oil. Serve with toothpicks and an empty bowl for collecting pits.

25. Fried olives. Rinse and drain jarred pimento-stuffed olives, then pat dry. Roll in flour, shaking off excess, then in beaten egg, then roll in seasoned bread crumbs. In hot oil in a deep-fryer or wide frying pan, fry the olives until golden. Drain on paper towel and serve with toothpicks.

26. Sun-dried tomato and olive bruschetta. Cut baguette into thin diagonal slices, brush with olive oil and bake in 400F oven a few minutes, until lightly toasted. Combine finely chopped sun-dried tomato and finely chopped pitted black olives with chopped fresh basil leaves and one clove garlic. Spread onto toasted bread slices.

27. Eggplant feta rolls. Cut eggplant crosswise into very fine slices. In a very hot, ungreased ridged grill pan, cook eggplant over high heat, turning, until softened and slightly charred. Remove from heat and baste eggplant slices with a little olive oil seasoned with crushed garlic, dried mint, salt and red chili pepper flakes. Top each eggplant slice with a thin slice of feta cheese and roll up, securing with a toothpick.

Chorizo-pepper skewers. Sauté thick slices of chorizo sausage until lightly browned. On short bamboo skewers, alternate chorizo and folded slices of roasted red pepper (and cheese, if desired).

28. Chorizo and red pepper skewers. Sauté thick slices of chorizo sausage until lightly browned. On short bamboo skewers, alternate chorizo and folded slices of roasted red pepper (and cheese, if desired).

29. Dukka Egyptian spice mix. Toast ¼ cup whole hazelnuts or almonds, let cool, then crush coarsely. In a dry, heavy frying pan, toast a tablespoon each of whole coriander seeds, fennel seeds, sesame seeds and dried thyme with 1 teaspoon coarse salt and ½ teaspoon peppercorns until fragrant and lightly coloured. Remove from heat and let cool. Grind using a mortar and pestle or spice or coffee grinder. Combine nuts and ground spices in a flat serving dish. Pour a thin layer of good-quality olive oil in another shallow dish. Dip chunks of warmed flatbread or naan first into olive oil, then into dukka.

Shiitake mushroom brochettes. Combine olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar and finely chopped fresh parsley with salt and pepper. Skewer assorted wild and cultivated mushroom slices (porcini, portobella, shiitake, for example) on short skewers and baste with seasoned oil. Broil or grill until slightly crisp, turning once.

30. Mushroom brochettes. Combine olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar and finely chopped fresh parsley with salt and pepper. Skewer assorted wild and cultivated mushroom slices (porcini, portobella, shiitake, for example) on short skewers and baste with seasoned oil. Broil or grill until slightly crisp, turning once.

31. Grilled cheese triangles. Make a sandwich of good-quality multi-grain bread, old cheddar, onion relish (optional) and very thin slices of Granny Smith apple. In a frying pan or panini press, heat until cheese is melting and bread is toasted. Cut into triangles.

32. Individual shrimp cocktails. Boil large, peeled tail-on shrimp. Drain and cool. Hang two shrimps each from the rims of shooter glasses that have been half-filled with cocktail sauce (equal parts ketchup and prepared horseradish).

33. Chickpea crostini. In food processor, or with a fork, mash rinsed, drained canned chickpeas to a coarse texture. Add ample olive oil, crushed garlic, lemon juice and chopped fresh parsley and mint. Serve on toasted baguette slices or with pita crisps.

34. Fried chickpeas. Rinse and drain canned chickpeas. Dry with paper towel. Fry in a small amount of olive oil until golden brown, about five minutes. Drain on paper towel. Season with salt, pepper and smoked Spanish paprika.

35. Tortilla espagnola. In a medium-sized heavy-bottomed pan, fry one slivered onion and one Yukon gold potato, also very thinly sliced, in a tablespoon of olive oil until tender and golden. Add four eggs, beaten, to the pan and cook over medium-low heat, running a spatula around edges, until eggs are nearly set. Place a plate over the pan and flip, then return to the pan and briefly cook the other side of the omelette. Remove from pan and cut into wedges. Serve warm or at room temperature, with tooth picks.

36. Parmesan twists. On a floured surface, roll out ready-made puff pastry until about ¼-inch thick. Sprinkle with finely grated Parmesan cheese. Fold over and roll out again into a rectangle. Sprinkle with more Parmesan, and sea salt. Cut into ¾-inch sticks. Twist loosely and transfer to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and brush with lightly beaten egg. Bake in preheated 400F oven until puffed and golden, about 10 minutes.

37. Mini-Schwartzes. Cut slices of very fresh rye bread into quarters. Smear with hot mustard. Add a slice of dill pickle and a mound of chopped smoked meat.

Citrus scallops. Cut larger scallops in half crosswise. In a hot pan with a little oil, sauté scallops briefly until golden on both sides. In a small bowl, combine a pinch of hot red chili pepper flakes, salt and freshly ground pepper with a splash each of orange juice and rice vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice. Add scallops and toss to coat. Skewer scallops with clementine segments and serve in endive spears.

38. Citrus scallops. Cut larger scallops in half crosswise. In a hot pan with a little oil, sauté scallops briefly until golden on both sides. In a small bowl, combine a pinch of hot red chili pepper flakes, salt and freshly ground pepper with a splash each of orange juice and rice vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice. Add scallops and toss to coat. Skewer scallops with clementine segments and serve in endive spears.

39. Fava beans and mint. Simmer frozen green fava beans until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and mash coarsely with olive oil, lemon juice and finely grated zest, crushed garlic and salt. Add chopped fresh mint. Serve with sourdough bread.

40. Spicy tuna tartare cubes. Cut very fresh tuna into ¾-inch cubes. Combine equal parts sesame oil, soy sauce and rice vinegar with a handful of finely chopped chives. Drizzle over tuna and turn to coat. Let stand 10 minutes. Garnish with toasted black and white sesame seeds. Serve with toothpicks.

41. Parsley-almond pesto. In a food processor, purée until smooth: one bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley (stems removed) with ¼ cup toasted almonds and ¼ cup olive oil, juice and zest of half a lemon and salt and pepper. Serve with bread sticks or baguette slices.

42. Pan Catalan. Slice a fresh loaf of crusty bread in half lengthwise and toast lightly in oven. Cut three or four Italian tomatoes in half lengthwise and grate coarsely into a small bowl, discarding skins and pouring off excess liquid. Add olive oil and one clove garlic, crushed, and salt and pepper. Let stand a few minutes then smear onto bread halves. Cut into thick slices. Top with anchovy fillets if desired.

43. Patatas with mojo verde. Boil washed, unpeeled baby potatoes until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and transfer to a heavy-bottomed frying pan coated with a thin film of olive oil. Cook over medium-high heat, about 15 minutes, tossing occasionally, until potato skins are dried and wrinkled and lightly browned. Serve with Spanish mojo verde: One bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley puréed in a food processor with 2 cloves garlic, a tablespoon of wine vinegar and 2 tablespoons olive oil, a little salt and a sprinkling ground cumin.

44. Smoked trout with pickled red onion. In a shallow bowl, finely slice one red onion and marinate in one tablespoon of red wine vinegar and a little sugar and kosher salt. Drain. Meanwhile, tear fillets of smoked trout into bite-sized pieces. To serve: place smoked trout and pickled onions on multi-grain crackers.

45. Sweet potato wedges. Preheat oven to 400F. Peel sweet potatoes and cut in half lengthwise, then into long, thin wedges. Lay the wedges in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking pan brushed with olive oil. Brush with more oil and sprinkle with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, along with sesame seeds and a little chili powder, if desired. Roast until tender and golden, about 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature as is, or with a little bowl of harissa-spiked mayonnaise on the side.

46. Hoisin-glazed tofu squares. Heat vegetable oil in a pan. Dust one-inch cubes of firm tofu in cornstarch, shake off excess and fry until golden, turning until all sides are coloured. Transfer to paper towel. Add chopped green onion, freshly grated ginger and one clove garlic, crushed, to the pan and sauté briefly. Add hoisin sauce and a splash of soy sauce and stir until combined. Return tofu squares to pan and toss to coat. Serve warm with toothpicks.

47. Stuffed portobellos. Clean portobello mushrooms and remove stems. Marinate briefly in olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar and finely chopped shallots, salt and pepper. Bake in 350F oven for about 15 to 20 minutes or until soft. In a bowl, combine shredded mozzarella, finely grated Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. Fill mushroom caps and return to oven. Bake briefly, just until cheese melts.

Turkish eggplant-pomegranate purée with herbed pita crisps.  Pierce whole eggplant with a fork and roast in 375F oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until tender. Let cool, peel, remove seeds and mash eggplant with olive oil, lemon juice, a spoonful of tahini paste, crushed garlic and chopped fresh mint. Season with salt and pepper. Toss in a handful of pomegranate seeds. Serve with pita crisps.

48. Roasted eggplant dip. Pierce whole eggplant with a fork and roast in 375F oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until tender. Let cool, peel, remove seeds and mash eggplant with olive oil, lemon juice, a spoonful of tahini paste, crushed garlic and chopped fresh mint. Season with salt and pepper. Toss in a handful of pomegranate seeds. Serve with pita crisps.

Wasabi crab-stuffed cherry tomatoes. Drain canned crabmeat and combine with mayonnaise, chopped chives, finely chopped celery and a tiny amount of wasabi paste. Serve in hollowed-out cherry tomatoes.

49. Crab-stuffed cherry tomatoes. Drain canned crabmeat and combine with mayonnaise, chopped chives, finely chopped celery and a tiny amount of wasabi paste. Serve in hollowed-out cherry tomatoes.

50. Black-bean hummus. In a food processor, purée one can of rinsed and drained black beans, along with vegetable oil, ground cumin, salt and freshly squeezed lime juice. Transfer to bowl and stir in chopped tomatoes and/or roasted red peppers. Serve with corn chips.

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

Taken from “saving a little craziness for menopause”

This heart-shaped egg has been circulating all over the internet lately, so one more place won’t hurt it.

Try it!  It’s easy, quick and looks great!

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instructions

Egg
Milk carton or any juice carton (cut open, washed well and dried)
Chopstick (round one is ideal)
Rubber bands

1.   Cut milk or juice carton and fold it in half lengthwise.

2.   Make a hard boiled egg. (Make sure the egg is freshly boiled and warm. Otherwise the egg might break from the pressure.)

3.   While the egg is still warm, peel the egg and put the egg on the milk carton, place a chopstick on the center of the egg, and put rubber bands on the both ends.

4.   Leave it for about 30 minutes in fridge.

5.   Take the chopstick off and cut the egg in half.

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