Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Classic Sweet Watermelon Rind Pickles

Funnily enough, as I went to the cupboard and took out a jar of these pickles, it occurred to me that I hadn't posted a blog entry about them?!  I suppose it was because they are such a foreign food to me that I wasn't 100% sure of how they were supposed to look and taste (as they tend to be commonplace in the southern States).  Armed only with my preserving book and a mountain of watermelon rinds I set to canning this odd, but tasty treat!  Hopefully when watermelon season returns, you will remember this posting and try it for yourself, because I can assure you the taste is unique and fabulous roasted with pork!!!

Ingredients For Day 1:
16 cups cubed, peeled watermelon rind (about 1 large melon, rind cut into 1" cubes)
1/2 cup pickling or canning salt
Ingredients For Day 2:
2 sticks cinnamon, broken in half
4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 tsp whole cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 cups cider vinegar
2 cups water
  • DAY 1:  In a large non-reactive bowl, layer watermelon rind and salt, using about 1/3 of each per layer.  Place a plate on top to weigh down rind.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hrs or up to 24 hrs.
  • DAY 2:  In a sieve, working in batches, drain rind and rinse well.  Drain again.
  • In a large pot combine rind and enough cold water to cover by about 1".  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  reduce heat and boil gently for about 10 minutes or until fork tender.  Drain well and set aside.
  • In a large clean pot combine cinnamon sticks, sugar, cloves, nutmeg, vinegar and 2 cups water.  Bring to  a boil over medium heat, stirring often until sugar is dissolved.
  • Add rind and simmer, gently stirring occasionally for 1 to 1 1/2 hrs or until rind is translucent and looks glassy.  Remove from heat.
  • Meanwhile, prepare canner, jars and lids.  
  • Using a slotted spoon, pack rind and whole spices into hot jars, leaving 1" headspace and dividing spices as evenly as possible between jars.  Pour in hot pickling liquid, leaving 1/2" headspace and removing air bubbles. 
  • Wipe rim and place hot lid disc on jar.  Screw band down until fingertip tight.
  • Place jars in canner and return to a boil.  Process for 10 minutes.  Turn off heat, remove canner lid and let jars stand in water for 5 minutes.  Transfer jars to a towel-lined surface and let stand for 24 hours.  Check lids and reprocess any jars whose lids did not seal.
*For a deeper flavour, replace all or half of the granulated sugar with packed brown sugar.  The colour of the pickles will be a dark caramel!*
*If you prefer a milder spice flavour, just discard the whole spices instead of adding them to the jars!*

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Chicken Tikka Masala

India LOVES chickpeas and enjoys spicy foods so since pulses and legumes are recommended on her diet, I decided to use up some leftover chicken and create a version of the traditional Indian dish, Chicken Tikka Masala!  I have included the recipe for the basmati rice as well!!!  Hope you like it as much as my family (and India's friend!) did!!!
2 cups sliced, cooked chicken
I can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
1-1" piece of fresh gingerroot, freshly grated
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 cardamom pods, bruised*
2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp chili powder, or to taste
1 can of low fat coconut milk
2 tbsp tomato paste
4 tbsp hot water
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp stevia or agave syrup
Chopped fresh coriander, for garnish
Juice of half a lime
  • Make the sauce by heating the oil in a large skillet, add the onions, ginger and garlic and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for approximately 5 minutes or until softened but not coloured.
  • Add the spices and fry, stirring for 1 to 2 minutes, until fragrant, then add the coconut milk, tomato paste, water, salt and stevia.  Bring slowly to a boil over medium-high heat and then lower to a simmer.  
  • Add the chicken and saute for 10 minutes or less (until the chicken and chickpeas are warmed through)
  • Serve over top the basmati rice and garnish with chopped coriander and squeeze lime juice over top!
* to bruise the cardamom pods, simply lay them on a chopping board and with the flat side of your knife, press downwards (much as you would to remove garlic skins).  They are a relative of ginger and the seeds are what emit the aroma. If you are not fond of cardamom, just omit from this recipe!*

1/2 tsp saffron threads
3 cups boiling water
1/4 cup olive oil
2 large onions, sliced thinly
1 1/2 cups basmati rice, rinsed through a strainer
1 tsp whole cloves
4 whole cardamom pods
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • Put the saffron threads in a small bowl with 1 tbsp of the boiling water and leave to soak for 20 to 30 minutes.  Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot and add the onions.  Saute for 4 to 5 minutes until softened.
  • Add the rice to the onions in the pan and stir in the cloves, cardamom, salt and pepper.  Saute 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Pour the remaining boiling water into the pan, together with the saffron and its soaking liquid, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until rice is cooked.
  • Drain well and transfer the rice to a serving dish. ENJOY!

Easy Wheat & Yeast-Free Pizza Dough!

The one food that India has been craving (and crying over!) while on this restricted diet is pizza.  No mean feat since we all know that the pizza dough requires yeast and wheat to make it so darned delicious!!  I did some research on a few celiac and vegan sites and combined a couple of recipes to create this dough.  Although not as ooey-gooey good as regular dough, it was delicious!  India almost cried!!!  The picture I have taken is my pizza as she is not allowed to have mushrooms and meats, but she had onions, garlic, my homemade tomato sauce and the goat cheddar shredded over top!

1 cup spelt flour
1 cup brown rice flour
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup water
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 cup EVOO
  • Mix all the ingredients together, but leaving approximately 1 tbsp of the olive oil.
  • Form into four small balls and flatten on a non-stick cookie sheet (or one spritzed with olive oil, like I did!), into thin discs.  Prick the dough all over with a fork and brush the remaining olive oil over the tops of each pizza base.
  • Place in the oven for 6 to 7 minutes at 425F.  Remove from oven and top with your favourite vegetables and meats and place back in oven until lightly browned and cheese is melted (approx. 10 mins)
  • Slip off of the pan and ENJOY!

Nutty Chicken Stir-Fry

I found this recipe in "Taste Of Home" magazine this month and the entire family LOVED it (especially India, which is great because it totally accommodates her dietary restrictions at the moment!!!)  Best of all?  It's a fast, easy meal that uses some of the left over bits and pieces of vegetables that might be hanging out in your crisper!!

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped (I used leftover chicken that I simply shredded and reduced the cooking time as it was pre-cooked)
1 tbsp EVOO
1/2 cup chopped broccoli or cauliflower, or both!
1/2 yellow pepper, thinly sliced
1 finely chopped onion
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp brown sugar (or 1 tbsp agave syrup)
4 tsp cornstarch (or 4 tsp brown rice flour)
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup reduced sodium soy sauce (I used Bragg's as it contains no yeast or wheat)
1/4 cup chunky peanut butter (or 1/4 cup roasted almond butter)
5 to 6 drops of hot pepper sauce
3 cups shredded cabbage
3/4 cup unsalted peanuts, chopped (or 3/4 cup chopped, unsalted pistachios)
Hot cooked basmati rice
  • In a large skillet or wok, stir-fry the chicken in the oil for 2 to 3 minutes over medium-high heat.  Add broccoli, peppers, and onions.  Cook 4 minutes longer.
  • Add garlic and stir-fry until the chicken is no longer pink inside and vegetables are crisp-tender.
  • In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, cornstarch and ginger; stir in the broth, soy sauce, peanut butter and pepper sauce until blended.  Pour over chicken mixture in wok.
  • Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.  Add cabbage; cook 2 to 3 minutes longer or until crisp-tender.  Sprinkle with peanuts and serve over rice!