Gingery Cucumber Salad

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My fiance Gordon recently introduced me to a cucumber salad recipe that has got me hooked! It is deceptively simple since it packs such a punch but has literally 6 ingredients (including salt and pepper). I’m won’t dilly dally for much longer, so let get into it.

Cucumbers. These are of course the main ingredients in this fresh salad so what’s the first rule? That’s right, use fresh ingredients; this is so so important. Make sure your cucumbers are fresh and firm and deep green in colour. I like a crisp, yet flavourful cucumber, that just slightly bursts with juices once you bite in. This is the sorta cucumber you need for this recipe.

I got mine from my grandmother who got it from a family friend who plants cucumbers; I love getting veggies as gifts haha, they’re the best kind. I’ve also got a small patch of cucumbers growing nearby my house that’s sorta run it’s growth course so I haven’t been able to harvest from my community… thank God for family friends!

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“You have to cut the cucumbers thin, that’s the trick to this recipe”, that’s what my naturally gifted fiance let me know the first time we made this salad together; and so, I pass this on to you all, it really is quite important. You sorta end up marinating the cucumbers in the ginger, mustard and honey so having the cucumbers thin helps the flavours to get together super easy.

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So yea, you’re pretty much done at this point. Add some dried (not powdered) ginger, that’s the ginger you get when you totally forgot you had ginger and it got all shriveled, yeah, don’t throw that out, it’s actually got a nice flavour. Throw in some grainy mustard too, some honey and season with salt and pepper and you’ve got the perfect side salad for any meal.

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best

The best thing about this salad is the flavour; Gordon and I both agree that it tastes just like the ‘fake’ wasabi you get in Japanese restaurants but more fresh and less harsh, which we just love!

Check this recipe out if you’re looking for a super simple salad with surprising flavours, oh and also if you like wasabi. Drop me a comment if you made it, let me know how you liked it!

Gingery Cucumber Salad

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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If you’re trapped for time or you just don’t wanna be in the kitchen for hours, here’s the perfect side salad with a punch!

INGREDIENTS

2 large cucumbers

1 1/2 tablespoons grainy mustard

1/2 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon dried ginger, minced

Salt and pepper, to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Slice the cucumbers thinly. Add them to a bowl.

2. Add the other ingredients and toss everything together. Serve as a fresh, side salad.

I hope you shine today!heart

Beetroot Bread

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Have you ever seen bread baking in an oven? If you haven’t, just imagine two solar systems colliding together in an explosion of light and imagine the feeling you’d get from seeing that… mind blowing right? Well that’s bread making! I always try to whip up some sort of bread at least once every month, partly because I love good, healthy bread but also because I’m dedicated to becoming a better bread maker. The process is simple in hindsight but everything has to be executed correctly for your bread to turn out epic!

Yeasty breads are my favourite so this Beetroot Bread is a combo of yeast and earthy wheat to give that incredible, natural flavour! The beets send this bread over the top. If someone asked me to describe beets in one word, I’d say ‘earthy’; beets just taste of the earth to me and even though they are grown under ground like any other tuber, beets seem to absorb the very essence of the ground. This makes them one of my favourite vegetables, in fact, I’m obsessed with beetroots! And, I’m looking forward to planting my beetroot along with some other veggies I’ve got waiting to be plunged into red, rich dirt.

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I made this bread by boiling and blending my beets to a smooth, liquid consistency (using the same liquid I boiled them in).

I combined my yeast with my lukewarm water, added olive oil and honey and mixed it together before adding salt and my flours in batches; I had a mixture of all-purpose and wheat. Then I added the beet puree and brought it all together with a wooden spoon. I had to knead mine by hand since I am electric mixer-less but you go ahead and use a mixer with the dough attachment and knead the dough for about 10 minutes. You want super smooth dough with a long stretch to it; so when you pull on the dough it shouldn’t break off right away, it should stretch!

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After I kneaded the dough, I balled it up and dropped it into a clean, oiled bowl. Then the waiting begun. I covered the dough and waited 1 hour for it to proof

And when it did, I punched it down, shaped it into loaves and covered it again and waited 45 minutes more for a second proofing. I scored the bread to help steam escape and added pumpkin seeds to the top. The real intricacy is in the baking of the bread. You’ll want a hot oven, preferably a hearth oven that’ll get your bread super crusty. Creating steam also helps so what many bread makers do is spray water into to oven as the bread bakes. All that steam creates beautiful charred bread with a slight hint of bitterness.

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Unfortunately I don’t have a hearth oven to create that super crusty hearth bread and if you’re in the same boat as I am you might wanna get yourself a good baking stone to help the process along. That’s my next move in bread making!

This is a great every day, versatile bread that’ll be good for sandwiches, accompaniments to soups, as croutons in salads and when this bread becomes a few days old, it’s great in bread pudding!

Begin your bread journey! Check out the recipe below!

Beetroot Bread

  • Servings: 2 loaves
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Print

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INGREDIENTS

-1/4 cup lukewarm water (110°F)

-2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast

-1 tablespoon honey

-2 tablespoons olive oil

-1 1/2  teaspoons salt

-2 cups all-purpose flour

-1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

-1 1/2 cups beetroot puree

-2 teaspoons pumpkin seeds

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Add water and yeast to a bowl and let sit for 3 minutes. Add the honey and oil and some of the flour and all the salt. Mix it together using a wooden spoon.
  2. Add the beetroot puree and the remaining flours then mix until it comes together.
  3. Using an electric mixer with the dough hook attached, knead the dough for 10 minutes until it is smooth and stretchy. If you are kneading with your hands, knead for 12-15 minutes.
  4. Remove the dough from the bowl and transfer it to a clean, oiled bowl. Roll the ball of dough around in the oil to coat all over. Cover and let proof for 1 hour.
  5. Preheat the oven to 370°F.
  6. Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and transfer it unto a lightly floured surface.
  7. Divide the dough in half and shape it into two loaves.
  8. Place them on a baking stone or a sheet and cover again, allowing the loaves to proof for 45 minutes.
  9. Score the loaves and top them with 1 teaspoon of pumpkin seeds each.
  10. Put them into the oven immediately and bake for 30 minutes or until tapping on the bottom of the loaves makes a hollow sound.
  11. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack. Cool completely.
  12. Slice and serve.

I hope you shine today!heart

 

 

 

 

Rosemary Flatbread

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I just love any food I get to pile ingredients on top of and eat with my hands. Particularly, I love pizza! But pizza isn’t exactly healthy; it’s a ton of oil (sometimes from meat), a ton of bread and another ton of oil. It’s sinfully delicious but an enemy to the waist line and the arteries. So what do you eat when you are on the straight and narrow healthy path and still crave that bread-y deliciousness? Why, you make a flat bread and top it with whatever healthy foods you want to!

So here’s the how to on the best flatbread I’ve ever had, it’s so good you won’t just want to eat it, like me, you’ll want to get rolled up tightly in its soft, flaky layers. A bit dramatic but pure truth.smile face

This Rosemary Flatbread is a mixture of white (all-purpose) and whole wheat flours. I love the robust, sour flavour of wheat but I find that I like the mixture of the two flours since the white flour makes the bread super soft.

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I added yeast to this recipe since I can’t resist the flavour and smell yeast adds to a mixture of flour and water! Then it’s the usual bread making suspects; you got your sea salt, sugar (honey or maple syrup can be used), water, extra virgin olive oil and tons of rosemary. And that’s it! literally 8 simple ingredients, all of which you’ll no doubt have in your pantry and garden.

Once you’ve got your ingredients gathered, its time to mix the wheat flour, sugar (or substitute), salt, yeast and water together. When you first add the ingredients to a bowl, keep that salt far away from your yeast! Salt will kill it and you won’t get your dough to rise, no matter how hard you try.

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Then add the white flour and stir with a wooden spoon or your hand if you don’t mind the feel of dough all over your fingers.

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I myself am a ‘dough all over my fingers’ gal so I bypassed a stand mixer and kneaded the dough for about 10 minutes. Go ahead and use a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment if you prefer and mix for about 8 minutes. I tested my dough for readiness, that is, readiness for the first proof (rise), by holding it up and allowing it to fall from my hands slowly; it’ll still be very sticky but should create a super long stretch when it’s good to go. Kinda like melted mozzarella cheese!

Once I’m there, I ball my dough up and lay it on a lightly floured surface and add some olive oil to the same bowl, wiped it all over the bottom and sides, then put the dough back into the bowl and left it covered in a warm place to rise. I put mine right beside my stove where something’s almost always in the oven. Super warm and a good tip for those living in colder climates. One hour to rise should do it, you don’t want to under proof or over proof the dough.

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So now it’s time for the rosemary! I used two sprigs in this recipe which was pretty much 1/4 cup, so a lot of rosemary. My rosemary was partially dried but if you are using totally fresh rosemary, you wanna cut the amount down just a bit; use a little under 1/4 cup. I picked mine from my rosemary bush on Saturday and let it sit at room temperature (in the kitchen) before I used it today. If you want to dry yours a bit too, just follow this procedure and you’re golden.

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I added almost all the rosemary to the dough, folded it in and made 3 balls from it. Then I let the balls rest for 10 minutes, just to regather themselves. If you don’t allow this 10 minute rest, you’ll end up with tears in your dough when you begin rolling.  I rolled out the balls of dough and added more rosemary on top.

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These got baked on the stove top in a hot pan and I brushed each side with a bit of olive oil after baking.

I have these soft flatbreads with just about anything or with anything on top! You can get creative and add whatever you like. My new obsession is having it with yogurt and honey, so simple and maybe a bit strange but so good!

Make these today! Click here to get the recipe.

I hope you shine today!heart

Callaloo and Quinoa Stuffed Mushrooms

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Stuffed Mushrooms are the quintessential appetizer for just about any occasion and for health-conscious people, it’s a quick, ‘pop in your mouth’ snack or even a great side dish! I made a few of these Callaloo and Quinoa Stuffed Mushrooms for a post lunch snack and had some left over to go with dinner. They were so delicious that we ate them all in one day!

If you’re from the Caribbean, you know Callaloo. It’s a green leafy vegetable that is often seen as similar to spinach or collard greens. It has a beautiful earthy flavour and is very soft and delicate when you harvest it before it gets too old. Most Jamaicans chop callaloo finely, stalks and all and cook ’em with onions, tomatoes and garlic etc. It’s very popular and scores a solid 7 on the taste score board but I much rather using the callaloo leaves and stalks separately to make all sorts of things like flat breads, smoothies, pasta or cooked in dishes like these here stuffed mushrooms. I don’t limit this tasty vegetable and it sucks that it’s so under-utilized in Jamaica but here’s one way to use it that’s different from the traditional ‘steamed’ callaloo.

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I harvested my callaloo leaves from the garden literally minutes before I cooked them up! Nothing beats gathering your food from your garden and cooking it… that level of self-sufficiency is so rewarding and yes, nourishing my body with organic, healthy greens is a major plus!

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If you aren’t able to get callaloo where you live, feel free to use spinach or collard greens or just about any leafy green vege. As for the quinoa, if you got it, use it but you can definitely substitute with brown rice or wild rice or some other grain. You really should never feel obligated to get just the same ingredients I use, it’s most important to use the fresh ingredients that you can get your hands on.

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So along with the callaloo and quinoa, these little mushroom ‘poppers’ came together quickly in a hot pan with some raisins, almonds, the mushroom stems that I snapped off the caps, Parmesan cheese (non-dairy peeps can use vegan Parm cheese) and fresh mint leaves.

I used some coconut milk to moisten the whole thing and sorta thicken it up so the mixture holds its shape when you stack it inside and on top of the mushroom caps. Organic and homemade coconut milk is the way I like to go; it takes time but it’s all worth it. We always keep a few coconuts in the kitchen for milk making.

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My favourite ingredient in these little guys is the fresh mint; it’s such a pronounced flavour that creates an unreal harmony with the sweet raisins. I love mint so much that I’m growing a bunch of different mint plants all over the garden and these things spread like weeds which I’m all for.

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#1 rule when cooking with mushrooms is never wash them. Always clean them with a damp, clean towel to remove the soil or dirt. If you make the mistake of washing them, you’ll end up with wet sponges full of water! Not very appealing. So after you clean them up, season them with salt, pepper and some olive oil and get them stuffed.

Lay them out on a parchment lined sheet pan and bake ’em at 350°F for just 10 minutes; they’re ready in no time.

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The filling is injected with different flavours, its just punch after punch after punch and then that bright, herby mint steps in and just mellows out the taste, making everything sit nicely on your palate. The mushrooms are a burst of juices on their own and when you first bite into them you’re getting a great intro to all the flavours you have to look forward to.

These Callaloo and Quinoa Stuffed Mushrooms are so good I could sit back and pop them in my mouth, eating them by the dozen. You gotta try this one!

Click here to get the recipe.

I hope you shine today!heart

 

 

 

 

Thai Inspired Papaya Salad (Som Tam)

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I’ve had an obsession with Thai food ever since I discovered the cuisine years ago. The flavour profile is notoriously sour and sweet and boy is it spicy! Thai food, the way it is prepared, how the country’s natural fruits, foods and animals are used, shows just how much history the cuisine has. Thai food almost seems like an experience in itself; one of those meals you eat and are immediately transported to a matriarch’s kitchen in the Thailand countryside.

I have been playing around with Thai flavours for a while now and I have so much respect for the cuisine. Its intricacy is one I want to get to know more and more and one day I’ll do so in the motherland herself!

One of my absolute favourite dishes is the green papaya salad. Traditional green papaya salad is salty, spicy and a bit sweet. They add fish sauce and sometimes dried shrimp for the salty, chilis for the spicy and sugar for the sweet. Of course no Thai dish seems to be complete without a few leaves of Thai basil so that’s thrown in there as well. My recipe isn’t traditional though; I have no choice but to use what Jamaica has to offer and well, what I’ve got in my garden! I also do a bit of a ‘switcharoo’ because the papayas I use are never completely green although I have some perfectly green papayas on the tree.

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I usually make this salad with the traditional green beans (string beans) but this time I went with an assortment of other vegetables.

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I started out by making a paste with the chili, garlic, salt and toasted almonds (peanuts are traditional but I’m allergic to the stuff) and the smell coming from the paste was unbelievable. It gets me excited about what I’ll be eating every time I make it! Making the paste is best done with a pestle and mortar, if you don’t have one, you seriously need to get one (it works magic in the kitchen) but in the mean time, mash the ingredients with a smooth rock wrapped in foil, until you get a paste.

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To the paste I added fish sauce (you can use vegan fish sauce if you desire), lime juice and honey (the sugar replacer). I let that hang out for a bit so the flavours can chat and get friendly.

I cut all the veges julienne in thin, long strips and tossed them with the salad then garnished with mint since I’ve got no Thai basil (in fact I’ve never seen it here before) and sat down to a light yet super flavour-packed meal. I must say, fish sauce has such a strong, deep taste and smell that when you are first working with it you might want to throw it out thinking it’s totally off. It’s not. It just smells really… pungent! Don’t worry though, it doesn’t taste that way, just trust in the beauty of Thai food and pour that fish sauce in!

I have this salad on its own but I’m thinking seafood would be a perfect accompaniment, some seared fish or grilled shrimp perhaps! If you wanna go super traditional, you can have it with sticky rice! No matter how you pair it though and even if you don’t, its a winner salad that’s sure to satisfy.

Try out the recipe below. Leave me a comment, let me know if you like it!

Thai Inspired Papaya Salad (Som Tam)

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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This salad is light but packs a punch in the flavour department. It’s great as an appetizer but I enjoy it for lunch and dinner too!

INGREDIENTS

The dressing

2 cloves garlic

1 chili pepper or one bird pepper (I used the bird pepper)

2 tablespoons toasted almonds or peanuts (I used sliced almonds because that’s what I had in my pantry)

1 teaspoon salt

2 limes (one for garnish)

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon fish sauce

The salad

1 green papaya (or slightly ripe, if you want that added sweetness)

1 medium carrot

1/2 of a medium red bell pepper

1/2 of a medium green bell pepper

2 medium tomatoes

mint, chopped (Thai basil, if you can find it)

extra toasted almonds or peanuts, for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a pestle and mortar, smash the garlic, chili, almond and salt into a paste. Add the juice of 1 lime, the honey and the fish sauce. Mix it together and set aside.
  2. Slice all the vegetables (except tomatoes) thinly, lengthwise then cut into thin strips. Quarter the tomatoes lengthwise.
  3. In a bowl add the vegetables and pour over the dressing. Toss it to ensure all vegetables are coated with dressing.
  4. Plate by mounting the salad high and garnishing with chopped mint and toasted almonds.
  5. Serve with extra chilis and lime. Enjoy!

I hope you shine today!heart

Yummy Rosemary Bread

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If you’ve seen the Netflix food documentary, Cooked, and watched the ‘Air’ episode, you would have seen and fallen in love with bread, that is, if you hadn’t already committed your life to this beautiful creation.

Now, I must admit that for almost a year now, I’ve practiced to only eat naturally made breads, those are the ones without those gross additives. That being said, if I was starving and the only thing around was fake bread, I’d eat it. At the same time, I don’t eat the good stuff often, cause, hello! bread is notoriously carby and not in a ‘gets me lean way’. BUT, from time to time I choose to indulge in crusty, crispy bread that I purchase from a really good bakery, like Eleni’s Bakery in Kingston or breads that I make at home.

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Today I’ll teach you how to make a Rosemary Bread. In our garden, we’ve got about 1/2 dozen rosemary shrubs growing all in the same area; I call it the rosemary bushes. My cat is aptly named Rosemary because she’s pretty much always hanging out in the rosemary bushes.

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Naturally, with so much rosemary in the backyard, we don’t limit its use to meats or tea so this recipe is only one in a line of rosemarycentric recipes.

The recipe calls for only two sprigs of rosemary so no stress if you don’t have a garden full like me. You could even use dried rosemary as a substitute but fresh is better. If you do have a rosemary bush, try to find sprigs with blossoms; the little lavender flowers have the most delicate rosemary flavour and look undoubtedly pretty used as garnish.

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I added garlic (and rosemary) on top of my bread because I love garlic bread but if you’re not a fan of garlic, just eliminate it when you’re making this recipe.

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Also, don’t let the amount of extra virgin olive oil scare you, it’ll get your bread crispy and crusty, just the way it should be.

The pan I used also helped to achieve this crust. I used a dutch pot style frying pan, known by non-Jamaicans as a cast iron skillet.

So without more chatter, lets get into the recipe.

Rosemary Bread

  • Servings: 8 slices
  • Difficulty: moderate
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This is just perfect with soups and as a side to pasta or as apart of your breakfast.

INGREDIENTS

The Dough:

1 cup warm water at 110°F

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 tablespoon active dry instant yeast

3/4 teaspoon sea salt or table salt

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Baking:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced (optional)

2 sprigs rosemary, divided or 2 teaspoons dried rosemary, divided

1/2 teaspoon sea salt or table salt

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Add water, sugar and yeast to a stainless steel or glass bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon and let it hang out for 5 minutes. It should be bubbley afterwards.
  2. Add the salt, oil and flour and mix with the wooden spoon to form a super sticky, soft dough.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and keep extra flour on hand for dusting.
  4. Knead for about 8-10 minutes to get the dough stretchy but still soft and moist (don’t add too much flour or the dough will be tight and dry). Add one of the rosemary sprigs or 1 teaspoon of the dried rosemary. You can use a mixer with the dough hook attachment and knead the dough for 8 minutes.
  5. Oil the bowl you mixed the dough in with extra virgin olive oil. Scrape the dough up and shape it into a ball then put it in the oiled bowl. Turn it in the bowl to get oil all over.
  6. Cover with a towel and let it rise for 45 minutes.
  7. Pour 1 tablespoon of oil into the cast iron skillet.
  8. Once risen, punch the dough down and remove it from the bowl. Press it down into the skillet lightly to get an even surface.
  9. Make a pattern on the surface of the dough using a sharp knife or razor ( I did random slits).
  10. Pour on the other 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the other sprig of rosemary (or dried rosemary) and the sliced garlic. Cover and let proof again for 20 minutes.
  11. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  12. Once risen, bake the dough for 20-25 minutes until the top is golden brown.
  13. Check doneness by tapping on the bread surface; if it sounds hollow, its done. After baking, remove the bread from the pan, otherwise it won’t be crispy.
  14. Cool it a bit on a cooling rack and add the rosemary blossoms. Slice it up and serve it warm.

I hope you shine today!heart

 

Summer=Veges=Okra

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Summer brings tons of yummy vegetables and one of these is my absolute favourite, OKRA! Yes, I know okra gets a lot of heat for being slimy and some people find that pretty… not awesome, but there are ways to hide its slimy nature and really appreciate the flavour of this unique vegetable.

 

Here in Jamaica we usually embrace this slippery vege but I’m sure there are some of you out there who won’t touch the stuff because of the dreaded slime. Here’s how to get your okra fix, minus the slime.

I played around a lot with this recipe; the first time I made these Okra Fritters, I added corn and tomatoes and I replaced the flour with cornmeal to make it gluten free. It was good, no, it was great but the second recipe was just amazing.

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The Gluten Free Version

The recipe I’m sharing can be tweaked to make it gluten free and vegan; just replace the flour with cornmeal or say, rice flour, and the eggs with 1 banana, yes I know, its wacky but it works and gives a hint of sweetness.

Get the recipe below.

Okra Fritters

  • Servings: 10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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This is great for breakfast, as an appetizer or a quick snack.

INGREDIENTS

6 oz. okra

3 oz corn kernels

1 1/2 oz red bell pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried parsley flakes

1 1/2 cups flour or 1 cup cornmeal

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk or 1/3 cup good ole water

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)

Olive oil for frying

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Slice the okra thinly.
  2. Dice the bell pepper into small pieces.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the dried herbs.
  4. Lightly beat the eggs and add them to the flour. Mix and add the bell pepper and most of the okra slices, reserving some for the top.
  5. Add the milk and mix to create a batter that is not too thin but not thick.
  6. Add the grated Parmesan cheese.
  7. Put enough oil in a frying pan over medium heat and scoop about two tablespoons of batter in the pan. Quickly place a few pieces of the okra on top.
  8. Cook on one side for 3 minutes or until golden brown. Flip the fritter over and cook on the other side for about 2 minutes or until golden brown.
  9. Serve with sour cream or sriracha yogurt.

I hope you shine today!heart