Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A Quick Breakfast on the Run for Your Busy Life


            Store bought, premade breakfast bars are not always the healthiest solution to breakfasts on the run, so I want to share this recipe made with whole wheat flour, oatmeal, and ground flax.

            Make them ahead of time and freeze each of the sixteen bars individually. For those hurried mornings, microwave one frozen bar on high for 30 seconds, and you are out the door with warm oatmeal in your hand. Yes, the recipe does have butter in it for moisture and tenderness, but remember this makes sixteen bars: that’s only just over two teaspoons of butter per bar.

            I hope this recipe will take a bite out of your busy mornings. Until next time... Happy Cooking!

Oatmeal Breakfast Bars
Recipe created by Chef Dez    www.chefdez.com
“The benefit of oatmeal in a convenient bar. Great for Breakfast on the run too – Microwave each bar from frozen for 30 seconds on high power.”
Makes 16 bars

2 ¼ (two and a quarter) cups whole wheat flour
2 ¼ (two and a quarter) cups quick oats
¾ (three quarters) cup raisins
3 tbsp ground flax seed
1½ (one and one half) tsp baking soda
1½ (one and one half) tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
¾ (three quarters) cup butter, room temperature
½ (one half) cup Splenda Brown Sugar Blend
1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1½ (one and one half) tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs

1.     Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a 9 x 13 inch cake pan with baking spray. Tip: Line the pan with parchment paper leaving the ends sticking out to make the uncut product easier to remove from the pan once cooled.
2.     Combine the whole wheat flour, quick oats, raisins, ground flax seed, baking soda, ground cinnamon, and salt in a mixing bowl.
3.     Beat the butter and Splenda Brown Sugar Blend together in a separate bowl.
4.     Add the apple sauce, vanilla extract and eggs to the butter and Splenda/butter mixture. Continue beating until thoroughly combined.
5.     Combine the mixtures in the two bowls together. It will be a very thick batter.
6.     Press the mixture evenly into the prepared pan.
7.     Bake for 18-20 minutes until firm.
8.     Cool in the pan until room temperature.
9.     Cut into 16 equal bars by removing the product from the pan first.

Makes 16 bars




Friday, January 12, 2018

Pan Seared Sage Scallops

            What is the first food you think of when I mention the herb "sage"? Probably turkey stuffing, or poultry in general. But I'm here to tell you that sage, fresh sage, is an incredible aromatic herb that can be utilized in many other applications.
            One of our all-time favorite things to do with fresh sage is to pan sear scallops with it in
browned butter. I have personally made this recipe for so many people and it always pleases. I have even convinced scallop haters to love this recipe! The aromas that come from the fresh sage being fried in the butter is incredible, and the crispy bits of sage on the scallops is to die for!
           To help you along with this recipe, I will also include a video link of the preparation of this dish. I know, it's an older video of me... I apologize for that, but it's a good rendition of how easy this dish is. I am hoping to make more videos of different dishes in 2018. Click HERE
            Here is the recipe. Let me know how you like it. It is also on page 18 of my cookbook "The Best In Your Kitchen". Happy Cooking!
Pan Seared Sage Scallops
 “The essential oils released from the fresh sage in this sauce make these scallops to die for”

12 large scallops
Salt & Pepper
1 – 2 tsp grape-seed oil or canola oil
1/3 cup cold butter, cubed into tbsp pieces
2 tbsp chopped fresh sage

1.     Preheat a heavy bottomed medium/large pan over medium-high heat until it is very hot.

2.     Pat dry the scallops and season them on both sides with salt & pepper.

3.     Add the oil to the pan and then immediately add the scallops one or two at a time. Cook in the hot pan for about 30 seconds to a minute on the one side until they are seared/browned.

4.     Flip them over, cook for another 30 seconds, then add the butter pieces one or two at a time until it has all been added. The butter will brown very quickly and immediately add the sage, stir and coat the scallops with the infused brown butter sauce and serve immediately.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Eat Your Way Through America’s Music Cities


           One of the biggest influences of my career, and what I enjoy the most, is the inspiration and interaction of people. To put it simply, we all have taste buds and eat food everyday, so we have a common denominator; we can connect and relate. However, for me, it goes beyond that. Food is life in so many ways, and I find it brings out the best in people and thus gives me a window of opportunity to experience their personalities and what makes them tick.

            It is because of this passion I have for people and food that I have become a Culinary Travel Host along with all the other hats I wear. Normally my connection with a certain individual is quite short during a cooking class, book signing, or public appearance, so I truly look forward to spending extended timeframes with people. This gives us a chance to broaden our shared passion and our connection with each other.

            I have partnered with Collette Travel to bring you my next culinary tour scheduled for
October 2018 and you have an opportunity to travel with me as we eat our way through Nashville, Memphis, and New Orleans. It is aptly named the Chef Dez “Spoons & Tunes” Culinary Tour because of the vast musical reputation and history of these cities in America.

            So many folks first assume that a culinary tour is just about food and cooking classes, but for me and my tours it is much more than that. My travel consultant, and I, create adventures that take people to an area of the world to not only celebrate and experience cuisine, but also history, art, architecture, lifestyle and more. Basically, to sum it up, we go to an area of the world to experience how they live.

            With me as their host, we have already taken people to beautiful and historic Savannah GA in 2014, toured the deep-rooted state of Texas in 2015, and submersed ourselves in the cuisine and agriculture of Prince Edward Island in 2016. The experiences we have had, and the ones to come, fall well into the realms of bucket list journeys. With the connections that we have in the travel and culinary worlds, we create experiences that you could not do for the same price. We do our best to give you the best experience possible, and I know you will be impressed with the itinerary and accommodations we have lined up for this 2018 tour. Return airfare from Vancouver is included in the itinerary price, but if you live in a different area, my travel agent will arrange this change for you. Her contact info is on the itinerary found on my website at www.chefdez.com.

            Going on a travel vacation with an organized tour has so many benefits. The research has been done for you, all of the most important details have been taken care of, and you get ample time on your own to explore. This along with all of the friendships you will form during the process, makes for an unforgettable holiday and life experience.

            Also, with Big Green Egg Canada as one of my sponsors, one of our travel guests will win a large size Big Green Egg (complete with stand and shelves) valued at over CAD$1600 though the official Chef Dez Scavenger Hunt.

            Whatever way you choose to broaden your gastronomic horizons is a step in the right direction. Even if it is not in your cards to go on a culinary tour, food can be used as a catalyst to enhance people’s lives and enrich relationships in many different ways – and that is never a bad thing. Even if you don’t want your adventures to leave the comfort of your home, you can live and experience in what seems like endless cuisines just from your cookbook collection and resources like the internet.

If you’re in a cooking rut, break out of it. Everyone is different and so are our perceptions. Find what inspires you and go after it because chances are you will be cooking and eating food for the rest of your life. Until next time... Happy Cooking!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Cooking With or Without Water?


      
Photo by Brooklyn D Photography
            How many recipes have you seen that list water as an ingredient? A pasta sauce recipe, for example, may say to add a cup of water. How much flavour does water have? Nothing. I am always preaching to be innovative while cooking and add ingredients other than water such as wine, broth, beer, juice, etc because they have more flavour. Although most can, some recipes cannot adapt to this type of modification. It will usually depend on the amount of seasonings/flavour already in the dish.

            The first thing to examine is the amount of water the recipe suggests. If the amount is of minuscule proportion, then typically replacing the water shouldn’t be a concern. The choice of distinctive liquid would accent the existing flavours without risk of overpowering of the dish.

            If the recipe states a large quantity of water, then one must examine what the other ingredients are and how much flavour they will impart on their own. This is not as complicated as it may sound. The most effective way to determine if a recipe can accept any variation is to make it the way it is written first and then listen to your taste buds. Could it use more flavour? If so, what would compliment it and how pungent/mellow can the liquid be? Maybe just replacing a portion of the water would be the solution or leaving the recipe in its original state is just fine. Make notes in your cookbooks for future reference.

            Rice cooked in chicken stock, for example, has more flavour than if it was cooked in only water. I know that may seem quite obvious, so let me give you some ideas with the following liquids:

            Red Wine or Dark Beer are great additions to red meat and tomato dishes, such as pasta sauce, gravies, chili, stir-fry’s, soups, stews, etc. A general ‘rule of thumb’ is the stronger the flavours in a certain dish, then the more robust wine/beer it can handle as an ingredient.

            White Wine is better suited to cream sauces, poultry gravies, lighter soups, and seafood.

            Broth, Stock, or Vegetable Juices can be paired up with certain dishes, based on the flavours you want to impart, albeit chicken, beef or vegetable. Broth/stock is an option for almost any savoury dish.

            Fruit Juices can also be used in savoury dishes (savoury is the opposite of sweet). A delicious example would be an orange ginger stir-fry made from orange juice.            These are only suggestions as there are countless options and combinations to try. Keep tasting and taking notes. Your cookbooks may turn our looking like high-school textbooks, but for the sake of better eating – it is worth it.
            Until next time... Happy Cooking!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

EASY Italian Sausage & Gnocchi Soup


            One of the best things about Italian cuisine can be its simplicity, and one of the best things about colder outdoor temperatures is eating soup. One of the commonly asked questions directed to me is for easy, fast, and delicious soup recipes. This is the one I recommend all the time.

            This soup is hearty and because it is loaded with Italian sausage, gnocchi pasta, tomatoes,
garlic, and incredible cheese it is everything you would expect from an Italian soup... but also very quick and easy to prepare. If you have never heard of “gnocchi” pasta before, don’t despair – vacuum sealed packages of the small dumpling-like pasta shapes can be found at almost all major grocery stores down the pasta aisle.

            Don’t underestimate the choice of the Pecorino Romano cheese as the finishing garnish for this soup as it adds incredible flavour and compliments and balances all the other flavours in this soup beautifully. Large shavings of this cheese are easily prepared with a simple vegetable peeler – shave it directly onto the individually bowled soup portions just prior to serving – this looks much more rustic and gourmet than simply grating it, but either way is fine. If you can’t find Pecorino Romano, a chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano will have to suffice. Until next time... Happy Cooking!

Italian Sausage & Gnocchi Soup
Makes approximately 13 cups

500g raw mild Italian sausage, casings removed and discarded
1 tbsp olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1.5 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 – 796ml can of diced tomatoes
1800ml chicken broth
1 tsp sugar
1 – 500g package of potato gnocchi pasta
1 packed cup fresh baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
Generous amounts of shaved Pecorino Romano cheese

1.     Add the sausage meat, olive oil, garlic, onion, salt and pepper to a large pot. Turn the heat to medium and cook for approximately 5 to 7 minutes until the sausage in cooked through, while breaking up the sausage meat with a spoon as it cooks.

2.     Add the can of tomatoes, chicken broth, and sugar. Increase the heat to medium high to bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the gnocchi and continue to cook for 3 minutes.

3.     Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the spinach and basil and portion out immediately; garnished with generous amounts of shaved Pecorino Romano cheese.




Monday, November 20, 2017

Chestnuts: Low in Fat, High in Fiber


            It was only about 13 years ago that I first tried roasted chestnuts. It was on a cold winter afternoon while strolling past all of the decorative lights and stores on Robson Street in Vancouver, BC. We came across a street vendor selling these heated little goodies and decided to give them a try. They were incredible. A comforting buttery nut with a flavour uniquely their own, still encased in their shell but scored to ease the task of peeling. I couldn’t have found anything better at the time. Grasping a warm paper sack of roasted chestnuts while the crisp winter air surrounded us was reminiscent of a classic Christmas story.

            As a child, I always came across chestnuts scattered on the ground amidst the fallen autumn leaves, and never thought twice about them. Now I have a completely different outlook. I purchase
chestnuts fresh from the local supermarket when they’re in season, on a regular basis. When selecting them, choose ones that feel heavy and dense for their size and have a shiny outer brown shell that does not collapse when pushed upon. They will keep at room temperature in a cool dark area for about a week, and for approximately one month in the refrigerator in a plastic bag. Alternatively, they can also be frozen for up to six months. Purchasing them from a reputable supplier is recommended if you are unfamiliar with chestnuts, as there is a wild variety named “horse chestnuts” that are inedible.

            Preparing them for roasting is a bit tedious but well worth the effort. While your oven is preheating to 425 degrees, score the brown shell with a sharp knife. Place the flat side of the chestnut down on a cutting board and cut an “x” shape carefully on the rounded side facing upwards. I find that a fine-toothed serrated knife works best. Keeping the shell on while cooking is important for holding in their warmth upon serving. Seal them with a few tablespoons of water in aluminum foil and roast for approximately 50 minutes. Be careful of the escaping hot steam when unwrapping them and serve immediately. Alternatively, place approximately eight of the scored chestnuts in a bowl and microwave for approximately one to one and a half minutes. The shelling process afterwards is not only made easier by cooking them, but also adds to the nostalgic amusement of eating this wonderful treat.

            Chestnuts are not similar to others in the nut family, as they are more perishable and their fat content is significantly less. With only 2 or 3 grams of fat per 100g, chestnuts weigh in far less than other nuts that may contain upwards of 30 to 70 grams of fat per 100g. Chestnuts also have approximately one third of the calories of other nuts and are a much greater source of dietary fiber. One of the downsides to chestnuts however, is that their starchier content contributes to a much higher carbohydrate count compared to other nuts.

            The chestnut tree is actually related to the oak tree and can live to be up to 500 years. They usually measure approximately 50 feet in height but can grow to be over 100 feet tall. Chestnut wood, like oak, is much sought after for furniture building for its fine grains and hard composition.

            Make this wonderfully historic treat part of your holiday season this year, and you may catch yourself humming “chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”.
            Until next time... Happy Cooking!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Which Salt to Choose?


            In today’s wonderful world of cuisine, salt has evolved from being just another staple in our pantries to a myriad of choices with considerations based on texture, flavour, and health aspects. From sea salt to exotic salt such as “fleur de sel” or Himalayan pink salt, salt is playing a much larger role in our culinary choices.

            With health considerations always affecting more of our daily lives than ever before, regular
table salt has taken quite a beating over the years. More and more recipes are now quoting salts such as “sea” or “kosher” instead of the simple ingredient listing “salt”. This is happening because of the larger crystallized shapes and slight flavour attributes that they offer over table salt. Another reason however, is because sea or kosher salts do not have the additives that regular table salt has and thus offer an arguably cleaner taste.

            This being said, let’s first understand that all salt is the mineral sodium chloride. That’s what makes salt, salt. Looking at the ingredient list on a box of table salt from my pantry, it lists the following: salt, calcium silicate, potassium iodide, and sodium thiosulphate. In other words, there are three additives being combined with pure sodium chloride to make the final product: table salt.

            Should we avoid table salt because of these additives? In a document I received from the Sifto Salt Corporation, it states that in a statistical study based on production averages, the following ingredient percentages are applicable: Salt (sodium chloride) 99.694%, Calcium Silicate 0.250%, Sodium Thiosulphate 0.048%, and Potassium Iodide at 0.008%. If this is true, that the additives are equal to less than one third of one percent, why are they even there and should we be concerned?

            Calcium silicate is added as an anti-caking ingredient to keep the salt free-flowing instead of clumping into a mass. Potassium iodide is what makes table salt iodized and is a source of stable iodine; an important nutrient needed by the body to make thyroid hormones and is added to salt to help protect against Iodine Deficiency Disorders. Sodium thiosulphate, from what I can find out, is added in very small quantities to help prevent the oxidization of the iodine.

            Everyone has opinions, just like they do taste buds, and my preference is to use and recommend good old table salt when it comes to cooking where the salt is going to be dissolved in moisture with a number of other flavourings and ingredients. However, raw applications or finishing procedures, would definitely benefit from pure gourmet salts such as varieties of sea salts, kosher salt, and Himalayan pink salt for example. These applications would include sandwiches, salads and any recipe which requires a finishing salt to be sprinkled on the finished dish. This allows for the consumer of the meal to taste and feel the differences that these gourmet salts have to offer. In comparison to these gourmet salts, table salt would have a slight chemical taste when eaten raw.

            My advice is to help you save money and make sure you have enough iodine in your diet. Use table salt for everyday cooking except when a finishing salt is needed. When gourmet salts are being dissolved in cooking procedures their characteristics that you are paying for tend to be nonexistent and table salt is a fraction of the price. Use and embrace the abundancy of the variety of gourmet salts available to us as consumers, but reserve them for specific applications.
            Furthermore, I received an email asking me the following question: "I see many chefs quoting kosher salt as an ingredient. What is kosher salt and how is it different?"

            My Answer: Kosher salt is crystallized salt that has no additives and is traditionally used in the koshering process of purifying meats. The salt itself is not kosher per say, but the meat that is cured from this process is labeled “kosher”. The crystals of this salt need to be a certain size to efficiently and effectively draw moisture (impurities) from meat in order to classify it as “kosher” in the Jewish religion. If the salt crystals are too fine, then they will mostly just dissolve on the surface of the meat; If the crystals are too large, then they will mostly just sit on the surface of the meat: in either case, the koshering procedure would not be very effective. Chefs will admit that when taking a pinch of kosher salt it is easier to feel how much salt they are adding to a recipe, due to the size of the crystals. I believe that one should let their taste buds be the guide instead… but, like taste buds, everyone has an opinion.
            Until next time... Happy Cooking!