Friday, October 29, 2010

Severed Foot Cheeseball

I love Halloween, it's probably my favourite holiday of all.It gives me a chance to be creative in a gruesome way that is only acceptable this time of year! One of my best creations, in my opinion, is the Severed Foot Cheeseball. It's a Sherylyn original, conceived of in a moment of macabre brilliance, lol. The cheeseball recipe comes from my mom, and we have made versions of it for as long as I can remember. For Christmas we'd decorate them with red-pepper poinsettias, in summer they'd have carrot and radish blossoms on chive stems. But in my opinion, this Halloween version takes it to a whole. New. Level.

Severed Foot Cheeseball

The cheeseball mixture:
2 blocks reduced-fat cream cheese (NOT fat free)
1 cup grated sharp cheddar (I use reduced-fat for that as well)
1/2 cup finely grated Swiss cheese (or asiago or parmesan, anything really sharp)
1.5 cups chopped ham (I used black forest for that touch of black in the mix)
1/2 cup chopped olives with pimentos
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp Worchestershire sauce
generous amount of freshly ground black pepper
2 or 3 drops of green food colouring

Reserve 1 Tbsp of the cream cheese for decorating. Throw all the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well (easiest in a stand mixer if you are a wimp...otherwise a little elbow grease should do it!)and add green food colouring until desired pale green mouldy shade is reached. Shape into a foot-like blob and chill until firm (overnight is best).

1 mushroom stem
1/2 red pepper, chopped into a macerated mess
5 black olive halves
reserved 1 Tbsp cream cheese tinted pale blue for veins

Using a butter knife, shape the blob into a nice foot-like shape (should be easier now that the cheese is stiffer). Use your own foot as inspiration, or ask someone to be a foot model for you. You will want a foot and ankle so that you have a bit of a leg stump to decorate.

Once you are happy with your foot shape, pile the red pepper mush onto the stump. Jam in the mushroom stem, and then form the red pepper mush around the bottom of it.

Use the black olive halves for toenails (I trimmed down the four smaller toenails for a more realistic look).

Using a toothpick, drag the blue cream cheese across the top of the foot in a veiny pattern (examine your foot model!)

That should do it. Gruesome AND delicious, the perfect combo! I served this at work for a Halloween Potluck and did another for my Halloween-edition book club meeting, along with mummy fingers (spiced ground lamb wrapped in phyllo shreds served with sweet chili sauce), fruit decorated with insects, banana cupcakes with peanut butter frosting, and lots of red wine.

Here is a picture of my fabulous book club ladies in their literary-inspired costumes! We had a Nancy Drew, a Zorro, a Mad Hatter, and a John Steinbeck...can you pick them out? I was Sylvia Plath, it was a great deal of fun and I was really impressed with everyone's's a shame you can't see more of the room, it looked very spooky with the candles, cobwebs, window ghosts, pumpkin lights, and other Halloween decorations, along with the Rob Zombie movie "Devil's Rejects" muted in the background and Halloween-themed CDs I put together with songs like Bahaus's Bela Lugosi's Dead, Alice Cooper's I Love the Dead, Rob Zombie's American Witch, White Stripes' Little Ghost, etc. I was so proud.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Artichoke and Potato Gratin

I admit, the picture is not great and does this dish absolutely no justice. Because I gotta tell you, this was one of the most amazingly delicious potato dishes I have ever eaten, maybe THE best ever. I printed off the recipe from another blog several months ago and it got shoved off into the Big Pile of Recipes. Last weekend I decided to spend some time organizing them, finally, and came across this recipe. Since I had all the ingredients on hand, I decided it was time to make it, and boy am I glad I did! It was so good, we could could not stop exclaiming all through dinner "This is so delicious!". The sharp tang of the cheese and the wine sauce, the saltiness of the ham and tender artichokes, the textures and flavours all layered together to form one rockin gratin. This is how food should taste.

And the best part is that this dish achieves this amazing level of deliciousness without a smidge of cream and only a small smidge of butter. Who knew a scalloped potato-type dish could be improved by removing the very thing that I figured made it so delicious? I made a couple of minor modifications from the original recipe that came from Bon Appétit, the recipe does not need improving on but I just wanted to cut back on the ham content to make it a side dish rather than a main dish. Even with less ham the sodium content is pretty high, so better to pull some of that out. The calorie count is entirely reasonable, especially if you serve it with a lower-calorie protein like chicken or fish and a steamed veg...we had it with steamed broccoli and sauteed chicken with a pomegranate glaze for a total calorie count of 589, perfect for a weekend dinner. Try this. You will thank me.

Artichoke and Potato Grain
modified from Bon Appetit (just barely!)

•1 tsp butter
•2 cups thinly sliced leeks or onions
•kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
•400g russet potatoes, peeled, thinly sliced (I used mixed baby potatoes and it worked great)
•150g ham, chopped
•1 jar artichoke hearts, rinsed and sliced lengthwise
•90g (about 1 cup) finely grated Comté or Gruyère cheese
•1/4 cup low-salt chicken broth
•1/2 cup dry white wine
•2 tsp flour or cornstarch

Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray a small casserole dish with cooking spray. Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add leeks or onions; sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Set aside.In the same pan, saute the chooped ham until very lightly browned.
Cover bottom of baking dish with 1/3 of potato slices, overlapping as needed, and season with pepper. Scatter 1/2 of ham and leeks/onions over, then 1/2 of artichoke hearts, and sprinkle with half of cheese. Repeat layering with potato slices, ham, leeks, and artichokes, reserving a few leeks/onions for top. Cover with remaining potato slices and sprinkle with remaining leeks/ onions and cheese.
Whisk broth, wine, four and some ground pepper in a small pot over medium heat until flour dissolves. Bring mixture to boil; cook until smooth and thickened and slightly reduced, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Pour over gratin. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes, then cover gratin with foil, tenting in center to prevent cheese from sticking. Bake 30 more minutes or until potatoes are soft, topping is browned, and juices are bubbling. Let rest 10 minutes before serving. Makes 3 servings.

Nutritional Info: 389 calories, 13.5g fat, 23.7g protein, 52.2g carbs, 5.2g fibre, 1000mg sodium.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sausage and Bean Casserole

Ah Fall, with your cooler weather and promise of winter you put us in the mood for comforting soups and stews and casseroles. Since I've been on a casserole kick for a while now, this Light Bites choice of recipe was welcome. When I read over the ingredient list, I thought heyyyy this is just a fancied up wieners n beaners! Cool, I'm in!

The verdict? Hmm. Not a fan. It was only ok, despite attempts to jazz it up. I found it lacked depth...the brown sugar gave it sweetness but there wasn't enough flavour going on for that sweetness to enhance. I have the leftovers for lunch and am not particularly excited about it...and I even added bacon. Bacon, man! That should make anything awesome! Mind you it was low-fat peameal bacon so maybe the lack of fat in this dish just made it fall flat for me, I dunno. I am generally on the low-fat bandwagon, but not today folks. I'd only recommend making this as a last-minute meal; the trouble I went to soak beans overnight and whatnot was not really worth it, so the original recipe's recommendation of using rinsed canned beans is more in keeping with this recipe. Kids would probably love it.

Sausage and Bean Casserole
adapted from Cooking Light

1 cup chopped onion (about 1 medium)
2 slices peameal bacon (uncooked Canadian bacon), chopped
200g light smoked turkey sausage, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup water
1/2 chicken stock cube
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white beans, cooked al dente
1/2 teaspoon harissa
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 slice whole grain bread

Preheat oven to 375°.

Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion, garlic, and bacon to pan; sauté for 10 minutes or until browned. Add turkey sausage, and sauté for 2 minutes. Stir in water, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add chicken stock cube, brown sugar, tomato paste, dried thyme, mustard, freshly ground black pepper, beans, and harissa. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat.

Place bread in a food processor, and pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs.Sprinkle breadcrumbs evenly over bean mixture, and lightly coat with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 15 minutes or until browned.

Buttered Sweet Potato Knot Rolls

This recipe represents my second entry for Light Bites, a Friday blogging group I joined. If you are confused because today is Tuesday, well what can I say, I have a busy life.

These rolls turned out so perfectly, and don't you love my cute little knots? I didn't think I could make them so pretty, but turns out it's a lot easier than it looks! I used yam instead of sweet potato (I think Americans call yams sweet potatoes anyway so it's probably the right thing), and replaced some of the flour with whole wheat flour but other than that stayed true to the Cooking Light recipe. Therefore I'll post the link rather than the recipe:

Buttered Sweet Potato Knot Rolls

They are soft and pillowy and a whole lot of delicious!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Lemon Bars, Dark Cocoa Cookies, and Cranberry Almond Macaroons

A trio of cookies for a departing coworker! I baked last night like it was my job.It was actually really fun, starting off with this big mess of bowls and spoons and ingredients covering every surface, then one by one completing a task and cleaning that part up, and in the end I had clean counters and neat rows of baked cookies. Of course I forgot to take picures, so instead my pics are of the remnants. The lemon bars were the biggest hit!

Each of the are made with a healthy component, like whole wheat flour or trail mix or yoghurt, but lets face it, cookies are meant to be savoured and enjoyed and to me that means real sugar and butter.I only made substitutions where I figured I could get away with it and not sacrifice taste, and they all worked out very well. And the last ones are gluten-free, to boot.

The first is a recipe I got from another blogger, Apples to Zuchinni, that came from a Cooking Light recipe.

Dark Cocoa Fudge Cookies
adapted from Cooking Light

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
5 Tbsp butter
7 Tbsp dark cocoa powder
1 cup raw (Demerara) sugar
1/3 cup fat free plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla

1.combine dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside
2.cream butter and sugars with the yogurt and vanilla
3.add dry ingredients until moistened
4.drop by level tablespoons full onto parchment paper
5.bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes or until nearly set in the centers on the sheet for 2-3 minutes
7.transfer to wire cooling racks

Makes 18 cookies
Each cookie: 97 calories, 4g fat, 1.5g protein, 17g carbs, 1g fibre, 70g sodium.

These lemon bars were a huge hit. The recipe came from an online friend whose delectable description of them made me demand the recipe. They are super-tangy and sweet and delicious, and my addition of whole wheat flour gives them a bit of texture and nutty flavour. Watch out, these are pucker-licious!

Lemon Bars

1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup butter
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

2 Tbsp ww flour
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ cup lemon juice – about 3 lemons

Preheat oven to 350F.
Prepare crust: beat flour, butter, powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Press dough into 9in x 9in pan. Refrigerate 30 minutes. Prick crust with a fork and bake for 25 minutes.
Just before crust is done baking, prepare the filling: Beat ingredients for 3 minutes with an electric mixer. (Don’t make this ahead of time).
Pour filling onto hot crust, and bake 25 minutes more. Dust with powdered sugar.

Makes 20 bars.
For each bar: 119 calories, 5g fat, 2g protein, 17g carbs, 1g fibre, 70mg sodium.

And last but certainly not least, my personal favourite, coconutty yumminess in the form of macaroons. The recipe is from my mom, who has been making them as a Christmas treat for years. I left off the red and green glace cherry decorations and used craisins and cranberry-almond trail mix as the fruit and nut component, but you can use any dried fruit and nuts/seeds in this. Dates and walnuts, sour cherries and almonds, apricots and pecans, figs and cashews, the possibilities are endless. And a few mini-chocolate chips thrown in wouldn't hurt anyone's feelings either.

Cranberry Almond Macaroons

1 cup fancy shredded coconut
1 cup finely shredded coconut
1/2 can sweetened condensed skim milk*
1 egg white, beaten until frothy
3/4 cups cranberry-almond trail mix, finely chopped
1/2 cup craisins, chopped
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp almond extract

Add all ingredients to a large bowl a stir thoroughly.
Dollop teaspoonfuls on greased cookie sheet. Bunch together with finger so the drop is solid.
Preheat oven to 300F.
Bake at 300F till lightly golden- about 25 min. They burn easily, so watch them during the last 10 minutes. Turn oven off and leave in oven for another 30 minutes. This prevents them from going soggy.

*If you realize at the last moment you don’t have any condensed milk, a perfect substitution is 1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp dry skim milk, 6 Tbsp sugar, and 2 Tbsp hot water. Combine all and whisk or blend in blender until well combined (I had to give it a shot in the microwave to dissolve all the milk and sugar). Chill for 30 minutes to set.

Makes 25 cookies.

Per cookie: 106 calories, 4g fat, 2g protein, 16g carbs, 1g fibre, 40mg sodium

Friday, October 1, 2010

Chicken with Cider and Bacon Sauce

This recipe represents my first entry for Light Bites, a cooking/ blogging group I joined. Every Friday we blog a recipe from Cooking Light, which just happens to be one of my favourite magazines. This week's recipe is Chicken with Cider and Bacon Sauce, woo a dish right up my alley! And I only did a few minor modifications ;). I added a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to add a bit of tang with the sweetness, upped the bacon (because I agree with Pam ,you can never have too much bacon, though I did use the slightly leaner cut of side bacon) and I used locally raised chicken thighs instead of breasts. I have nothing against breasts, but recently had a bad chicken breast experience and so preferred to use the moister, more flavourful thighs. Also added a few herbs, cayenne, and thickened the sauce with a bit of cornstarch, as others who'd reviewed it mentioned it was too thin and I can't stand a thin sauce, the cornstarch was perfect and made it a lovely, glossy sauce.

Verdict? Two yums up! Appley, bacony deliciousness. The chicken pretty much just came along for the ride, but I'm glad it did. Since I got behind and have a massive box of tomatoes to salsify this evening, I just had the chicken straight up for dinner, but I think the suggested sides of wild rice and broccoli would be perfect.

Chicken with Cider and Bacon Sauce
adapted from Cooking Light
Serves 2

4 side bacon slices, chopped
4 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1/4 tsp each freshly ground black pepper, Herbs de Provence, and cayenne
1 onion, sliced
3/4 cup unsweetened apple cider
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp cornstarch

Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan. Sesaon chicken with pepper, herbs,and cayenne and add chicken to drippings in pan. Cook 8 minutes on each side or until brown. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.

Add onion to pan; cook 10 minutes or until tender and lightly carmelized, stirring occasionally. Add cider, broth, and bacon; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Cook until broth mixture is reduced to 2/3 cup (about 5 minutes). Add cornstarch and stir well to combine, when sauce had thickened add chicken back to pan. Cook for another 5 minutes or so to allow sauce to penetrate chicken.Serve with rice and broccoli, or if you have a vat of salsa to make, just chow it down.