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Hilary M

Desserts to Deconstruct

Strawberry short cake! Have layers of chopped strawberries tossed with sugar, whipped cream, and strips of puff pastry to act as the spoon (or itty bitty shortcakes to act as the 'lid'?)

Eating Well When You're Broke

I know exactly how you feel! When I'm feeling the wallet loosen and the belt tighten, I whip up dishes like spaghetti and chili either vegetarian style (beans) or with ground meat if I can find it on sale. These dishes are great because they can stretch pretty far over many days, and the ingredients can be dirt cheap if you look in the right places (canned tomatoes at $1 a can at some supermarkets). Egg-based dishes like quiche (recipe here: http://www.cocoabeanthevegetable.com/2013/06/prosciutto-and-basil-quiche.html) are also a very economical way to cook. Best of luck!

one ripe avocado??

I personally love mashed avocado paired with a slice of sharp cheddar cheese between two slices of toasted wheat bread. Add some black pepper and you've got the best lunch sandwich around!

Amazingly, I have never had it...

I've never had a cronut, and I think if I did I would be disappointed.
Or Spam.
I think trying at least some of the convenient foods really make you appreciate home cooking.

Pork Tenderloin question

Hmm, mine always remains in one piece... it is up to you, the presentation might be nicer with a thicker round, but it will cook faster in two smaller bits!

Too Salty Ma Po Tofu

I've heard that a potato removes salt from a dish... try cooking a potato in the dish and see if it extracts enough!

Crockpot Convert

What great suggestions! Thanks guys, and keep more coming if you have any :)

Cheap lunch ideas?

I agree with everyone else's comments! Grain salads (mixed with protein-of-choice and veggies-of-choice) as well as making lots of last-nights-dinner for leftovers are my favourites!

cucumbers in sauce! help

The best way to use up cucumbers, I think, is to grate them into a salad, especially if you are making Cesar salad! Once they are grated, absorb the access water with paper towel and then toss them with the Parmesan cheese and sauce and lettuce. The texture of the cucumbers makes it seem like there is more cheese than there actually is, thus lightening an otherwise diet-destroying salad. Yum!

Your menu ordering style?

My ordering style is simple: I always look at the desserts first. And given how excited I am about something on the dessert menu, I then strategically choose based on how much room I will need to save for dessert. I have been known to order the pasta if I don't like the looks of anything on the dessert, or a mere salad if they have a wonderous decadent thing calling my name! Otherwise, I will choose the chef's menu, when they bring out various small dishes for you to try.. it is often a more expensive option, but always much more fun I think! :)

Do you Dress it up? Or Leave it Alone?

I love Cheerios. I love them even more with a sliced banana and 2% milk! Yum!

Need a new twist on peach pie

I have a recipe for brandy peach blondies if you're looking for something a little different! Peaches are in full bloom right now, and I find that this recipe is a great way to make a couple peaches go far!

http://www.cocoabeanthevegetable.com/2013/08/brandy-peach-blondies.html

How do you store Sriracha?

I keep mine in the cupboard, but yes I have the same issue with the malfunctioning lid. It has a big crack in it, but I haven't found a suitable replacement lid. I suppose that is the sacrifice we need to take to have the deliciousness of Sriracha! :)

Smoothies

I love mangos in my smoothie! Whirl together some frozen diced mangoes (fresh would work too!), your favourite yogurt or milk, 2 tbsp oatmeal, 1 tbsp flaxseeds, and half a banana. Yum and healthy!

ChelsEats: Lemon Bar Loving

Arrugghh I hate when that happens! That has most definitely happened to me at one point. I think the ingredient I skip the most would be the baking powder or baking soda... oh well, I suppose we learn :)

I have an amazing lemon bar recipe that has flaked coconut on the top... it is so decadent and I actually have colleagues at work asking me regularly if I can bring it in!
Here's the recipe: http://www.cocoabeanthevegetable.com/2012/03/coconut-lemon-squares.html
The pictures aren't that impressive from back when I had a lesser camera, but they taste great!

Favorite ice cream flavor?

Black cherry! MMM! Or cinnamon bun from Ben & Jerry's. Or vanilla ice cream swirled with raspberry sorbet! I can't choose.

What to do with fresh mint?

You could make lamb kababs with fresh mint! Very delicious.
Also, adding fresh mint to a stone fruit pie can be quite delicious, particularly peach pie.
Lastly, making your own mint ice cream in always fun! But you will also need mint extract for that.

What Are You Having For Dinner?

Homemade pizza, actually! Whole-wheat homemade crust, topped with garlic tomato sauce, mozzarella, yellow cherry tomatoes, grilled purple onions and roasted chicken. Yum!

Any good cookbook suggestions to pick up this summer?

My favourite cookbooks are anything by Michael Smith (Canadian chef! He's got a great way of writing, and his recipes are great).
Otherwise, I'd go for the new Smitten Kitchen cookbook! The photography is wonderful (just like the blog), and the recipes are delicious looking.

What do you top your burgers with?

I have two favourites:
Cheddar cheese, tomato, lettuce, mayo with a touch of ketchup, and lots of onions!
My second favourite is goat cheese and caramelized onions. Yum!

Maple whiskey: yes or no?

Maple whiskey, like most flavoured alcohol, depend entirely on your preference! My father is a major whiskey fan, plus a huge maple syrup guy: so clearly, he went nuts for maple whiskey. But if you are a major whiskey/scotch connoisseur, keep in mind that maple syrup itself is quite a strong flavour so it can be quite dominant. I say, give it a try! Worse case, you end up making maple-flavoured desserts like a maple whiskey cheesecake.

lavendar salt

My first reaction is that Lavender salt isn't for your kitchen: it's for your bath! Like Epsom salts, Lavendar salts are meant to be added to hot water for a good soak.
But if your lavender salt is 'kitchen intended,' I would use it as a salty contrast to any sweet dessert. For example, if you make lemon bars (which are normally quite sweet), you could add a couple grains to add a salty contrast.
Depending on the intensity of the lavender, another idea is to add it to something with caramel (so you have a caramel fleur de sel concept: sweet/salty) but with a lavender twist! What about caramel fleur de sel cheesecake or bundt cake? I have a great caramel fleur de sel bundt cake recipe (http://www.cocoabeanthevegetable.com/2013/03/caramel-fleur-de-sel-cake.html), and you could always add a glaze with your lavender salts! I'd be curious to know what you end up doing with it!

Do you have an acquired taste?

I remember when I was in high school, I so desperately wanted to like raw tomatoes because they were in so many delicious dishes during the summertime. I would try them every year, and be revolted by their texture each time. My Mom suggested I eat them with a smear of mayonnaise, but that didn't help. I eventually learned to truly enjoy them, but I found it particularly odd that I was so determined to like them! Perhaps that was the first sign that I was a 'gourmet' and would eventually have my own food blog! :)
Aside from that, the other things I learned to appreciate with time included: 'stinky' cheeses, dill pickles, and beer.

Serving suggestions for "healthy" crackers

Haha! Meat guy, your comment made me laugh

I haven't tried either of those cracker varieties, but I have had rice crackers before and I like them. They were pretty tasteless though so you will have to rely a lot on whatever you like to top them with.
In terms of toppings, here are my top suggestions: paté, the good ol' french way! If not, then your favourite cheeses. An onion confit with cheese is super decadent if you're entertaining, and easy and quick to prepare.

Banana bread - canola oil or butter?

I ALWAYS use butter :) Perhaps that is because I have been dating a frenchman for a while (and the French are notorious butter eaters), but I honestly find that butter adds a deeper flavour and a richer element, unlike oils. Additionally, the texture of the bread is better I find because it doesn't feel oily to the touch (whereas some oil-based recipes turn out somewhat oily).
Butter is also a very safe fat to use when baking: it does not become carcinogenic unlike some oils when heated. Go with butter!

Gin braised Lamb Ribs

Succulent lamb ribs, dripping with juices and flavoured with braised onions and caramelized apricots. It was slowly braised in a gin broth, offering the pronounced flavours of juniper and botanicals.

Crockpot Convert

I have always been an anti-crockpot cooker because it always seemed like half-hearted cooking to me. I appreciated the heart warming slow-cooked meals only when they came from a 5-hour sit in the oven.
But alas, I have succumbed to the inevitable and am now owner of a crockpot.
Are there any crazy delicious, can't-believe-I-lived-before-eating-this recipe for the crockpot? I am open to all food categories here (soups, mains, desserts...)