Saturday, May 23, 2009

: shrimp quesadillas :

Growing up, I was always under the impression that certain foods were a no-no when it came to eating a cholesterol-free diets. My mum in particular suffers from high blood cholesterol, so has always tried to shy away (or at least limit) her intake of what she perceived as "high cholesterol foods". One of these foods is shrimp, which I happen to love!

In one of my Nutrition classes this past year, my professor (who is a registered dietitian) actually told us that despite the fact that eating shrimp does raise your LDL cholesterol level slightly, it will also raise your HDL cholesterol (this is the GOOD cholesterol which removes LDL/bad cholesterol from your body). Coupled with the fact that shrimp is low in fat officially makes this seafood quite a healthy treat after all!

To show my appreciation for my low-fat shrimp friends, I decided to try incorporating them in a mexican dish, and this awesome shrimp quesadilla did not disappoint!!! Perfect for a summer meal out on the patio with a couple beers, this can also be grilled up on your barbecue!

You can also add cilantro to the quesadilla filling, but I served this with my mango salsa (which already contains cilantro) so I didn't feel it required any more.


Shrimp Quesadillas (makes 4 servings)

325g shrimps (about 40 medium), shelled, de-veined
1 cup red onion, diced
1 cup bell pepper, diced (I used green, but you can use any colour)
1/2 tsp garlic, minced
1 small red bird's eye chili, minced (you can also substitute with 1/2 a jalapeno pepper)
2 tsp canola oil
4 x 10" Whole Wheat tortillas
1 cup low-fat cheddar cheese, shredded
Black pepper

1. In a hot pan, add 1 tsp of oil and saute shrimp for 2-3 minutes, or until mostly cooked through. Set aside.
2. In the same pan, add the remaining oil and saute onion, bell pepper, garlic and chili for 2 minutes until onion is translucent.
3. Spread veggie mixture on half a tortilla and layer with shrimp and cheese.

4. Fold the other half of tortilla skin over the filling, and bake in 400F oven for 7 minutes (or until tortilla is lightly browned and crisp).
5. Remove from oven and serve with mango salsa!

Monday, May 11, 2009

: you make friends with salad :

When the weather starts to get warmer, roasts and stews take the backburner in my mind and I start craving lighter meals. One of our favourite salads in this house is a mango chicken salad. So easy to make, super healthy, and I even add a little extra protein and fibre to this with some sesame seeds, flax seeds, and almonds.

I threw together the dressing by experimenting with a few different condiments in my pantry. Granted, I do think my condiment collection is quite extensive (I own 11 different kinds of vinegars), but you can easily find all these ingredients in your local grocery store :)

Interesting fact - when you see mustard in a dressing, it isn't necessarily used for flavouring purposes, but works as an emulsifier to help suspend two immiscible (un-blendable) liquids. In this case, oil vs everything else! While the dressing isn't really mixed together, it gives the illusion that it is.

Isn't food science fun?

Mango Chicken Salad (makes 4 servings):

2 x sweet ripe mangoes, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 x chicken breasts
8 cups baby spinach
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp flax seeds
1/4 cup sliced almonds
Sesame-soy dressing (below)

1. Toast sesame seeds, flax seeds and sliced almonds in a pan until slightly browned and aromatic. Set aside.
2. Cook chicken breast on a grill or pan until cooked through. Let cool and dice into 1 inch cubes.
3. Dice mangoes into 1 inch cubes.
4. Assemble spinach on plate, and layer with chicken and mango.
5. Sprinkle sesame seeds and almonds on top.
6. Top with dressing.

Sesame-Soy Dressing (makes approx. 1/2 cup):

2 tsp light soy sauce
4 tsp balsamic vinegar
1.5 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
8 Tbsp canola

1. Mix all ingredients together.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

: simple mango salsa :

Spring not only brings balmier weather to us in eastern Canada, but also an abundance of fruits that have been hibernating since last Fall!

Seeing as I am from the tropics, it's not suprising that one of my favourite fruits is mango. While technically mango is available year round, I am especially fond of the Ataulfo mango, which only makes an appearance in the Spring/Summer season. The Ataulfo mango is yellow-skinned with a non-fibrous, sweet, silky and meaty texture. In other words - delicious! I remember eating these as a wee child back in Asia, and the red/green varieties has just never cut it for me.

I make plenty of dishes with mangoes, but to start off, I'd like to share a very simple dish that really highlights the essence of mango. A very simple mango salsa using just three ingredients! This healthy snack is packed with vitamin C, A and other antioxidants and you can use it as a relish with fish and chicken, or simply as a dip for chips and crackers!

My Simple Mango Salsa

4 cups mangoes, diced (I dice mine really small, but you can dice them whatever size you see fit!)
2 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
1 lime, juiced

1. Dice mangoes and chop cilantro.
2. Combine all in a bowl and let sit and macerate for 30 minutes prior to serving.

**You can also add a little bit of chopped red chilli for a kick, or 1/2 cup of diced red onions!

Friday, May 1, 2009

: homemade yogurt :

One of the best things about culinary school is that you discover how easy it is to make foods you once thought was very difficult to make. For my food science class this year, I worked on a project with some classmates on yogurt. Although our project was mostly scientific-based, we decided to make a batch of homemade yogurt just to see what happened.

The results were outstanding, and once you realise how simple and delicious it is to make your own at home, you'll never buy store-bought yogurt again! (Added bonus - it won't have those extra additives that you always find in big brand yogurts!). The best part about making your own yogurt is that you can use any type of milk - lowfat, whole, soy, almond, etc.

The following pictures were taken during our yogurt-making trial, and provides step-by-step directions.

Give it a try! Your bones and teeth will thank you :)

Homemade Yogurt (makes 4 cups)

4 Tbsp plain yogurt (okay, you do need to buy store-bought yogurt, but just for this first run)
4 cups milk (whole, lowfat, soy, almond, etc.)

1. Sterilize your milk by heating and bringing it just to boiling point, and then turn off heat. Let your milk cool until it reaches a lukewarm temperature (about 100°F).

2. Transfer your milk to a holding container (or several small glass containers for individual servings) where your yogurt will eventually set.

3. Whisk your yogurt to remove any lumps and whisk into your milk thoroughly.

4. Place your container in a warm dry environment to encourage bacteria growth, fermentation and coagulation. As you can see, we placed our container over a heat vent and insulated it with a tea cozy. You can also pre-heat your oven to 125°F and turn it off prior to placing your container in the oven.

The optimal incubation temperature is between 95°F and 115°F. Make sure you check the temperature of your mixture every hour or so to make sure the temperature is within that range. If it's close to 95°F, just preheat your oven again to about 115°F and turn it off when it reaches that temperature.

5. After 4-6 hours, your mixture will magically turn into yogurt!!

Depending if you like your yogurt runny or thicker, milder or tarter, you can incubate your yogurt for longer than 4-6 hours (longer incubation will yield a thicker and tarter yogurt). Once you're happy with your yogurt consistency, refrigerate it straight away to prevent further fermentation.

Your yogurt should last about 2-3 weeks in the fridge. And just before you run out, you can use this yogurt to make your next batch!