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Digging the Daregal

23 Apr

A few weeks ago, I got an e-mail from Matt.
Matt, as it turns out, works for Daregal, a company that specializes in fresh frozen herbs.
Matt wanted to know if I’d like to try out these oxymoronic herbs, and tell y’all about them.
And be completely honest about the whole thing.
I bet you could tell how quickly I said yes, huh?

Herbs, for me, are like water and air. I can’t function without them, and am beyond annoyed when I run out. I also try to keep as much salt out of our food as possible, so herbs are the be all and end all around here. I use a lot of dried herbs, which are great in the long run – shelf-stable, convenient, and easy to use. Sometimes, though, a girl just needs some freshness in her life. Fresh herbs around here are really expensive and can be hard to find. They also seem to go bad in our fridge rather quickly, putting a damper on our wallets.

Enter Daregal and their ingeniousness (and generosity!).
Not only did I receive 6 varieties to sample, but they were the full-sized containers! Shipped with dry ice, I received Dill, Oregano, Italian Parsley, Cilantro, Basil and Original Blend (a combination of basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme).

As you can see, in my enthusiasm, I swiftly opened every single container upon arrival as quickly as my hands would move. I’ve been using these babies in everything lately, and I’ve got to tell you, I’m beyond satisfied. Not only do the herbs keep beautifully in the freezer for up to 36 months, but they’re super-convenient! Pre-chopped, it’s so simple to just throw them in any dish, and they defrost instantaneously. Also, because they’re lightly misted in vegetable oil before packaging, there’s no clumping inside the container – just shake and use. I’ve also tasted them on their own, and not only do they look like fresh herbs, they taste like them, too – amazing!

I’ve sprinkled dill on brown rice, cilantro on nachos, and on roasted vegetables for a quiche. My absolute favourite combination so far was today’s post-workout snack – nonfat Greek yogurt, honey, sliced strawberries and basil. This just screamed summer, and was incredible; the basil brought everything together without being overpowering. I could seriously eat this every single day. So cheery and yummy! Plus, how beautiful and fresh does that look?

Now for the downside.

For now, the only stores where Daregal herbs are sold are A&P, D’Agostino, Giant Food, Kings, King Kullen, Stop and Shop, Waldbaum’s and Shaw’s, none of which are in our area. You can also buy them online at Daregal, but with shipping it becomes a little pricey. Well worth it, but pricey.
Also, I’d love to see mint and chive added to their product line, because I’d be on it like peanut butter on toast!

When it comes down to it, I would totally buy these herbs. They’re delicious, convenient and ‘shelf’-stable, and the quality is exceptional. Seeing as my biggest issue is that it’s a PITA for me to get another batch, I don’t know that I’ve ever been this satisfied with anything before. They would make a great gift, and they’re worth trying – I’d be shocked if you weren’t completely satisfied.

Right now, Daregal is hosting Gourmet Sweepstakes 2009, where they’re giving away an 8-pack of fresh frozen herbs every week (I’ve totally entered). Plus, Daregal does offer some great deals:

  • buy any 4, get any 1 free
  • buy any 6, get any 2 free
  • buy an 8, get any 3 free
  • buy any 12, get 4 free

Since I’ve gotten a few e-mails on my lack of food posts lately, I’ll leave you with one of our favorite dinners of this week, Spaghetti Sauce Sandwiches. Served on Ezekial with a little 2% shredded cheddar on top, these were totally satisfying, quick to make and great as leftovers. It would also be really good on top of pasta or over some rice or a baked potato.

I used Morningstar Farms Griller Crumbles instead of ground turkey or beef, and it was a great substitution – they looked and tasted like the real thing, and was better for you, too. What more can you ask for?

Spaghetti Sauce
makes 4 servings

  • 2 cups Morningstar Farms Griller Crumbles
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 16 oz. no salt added tomato sauce
  • 1 cup tap water
  • 1 tsp. dried Italian Seasoning blend
  • 1 Tbsp. each of Daregal basil, oregano and Italian parsley
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  1. Heat skillet over medium-high heat, and spray with nonstick cooking spray or olive oil.
  2. Add onion and saute until translucent, about 5-6 minutes.
  3. Stir in garlic powder and Italian seasoning blend, and saute for another minute.
  4. Add in the crumbles, and stir until defrosted and they begin to brown.
  5. Pour in the tomato sauce and the water. Add in the balsamic vinegar and the bay leaf, stir and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  6. Add in the basil, oregano and Italian parsley, and cook for another 10 minutes.
  7. Serve!
nutritional information per serving:
106.9 calories, 1.9g fat, 1.5g polyunsaturated fat, 0.4g monounsaturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 260.8mg sodium, 111.1mg potassium, 13.4g carbohydrates, 3.7g fiber, 4g sugar, 9.6g protein
12% Vitamin A, 59.7% Vitamin B-12, 23.2% Vitamin B6, 9.5% Vitamin C, 15.6% Iron

Taste and Create: Lemon Fettucine

29 Dec

During the month of November, I participated in “Taste & Create”, a monthly event that pairs up food bloggers, where each has to recreate a dish that the other has posted on their blog. Due to computer problems and family issues, I’m late in posting this here, but thankfully, managed to get it submitted to the main site on time.

I was paired up with Min of The Bad Girl’s Kitchen, and was thrilled to be matched with a blogger who’s been around for a fair while, therefore giving me a wider selection to choose from. I quickly narrowed the options down (since a fair amount included meat or fish), and finally settled on Lemon Spaghetti. A Giada De Laurentiis dish, it promises to be fast with fresh flavours. As I’ve been looking at picking up “Everyday Italian” for a while now, this gave me the opportunity to test drive it, so to speak.

Fast indeed, this meal took me less than 15 minutes to prepare, including the time it took to cool the fettuccine I used. I liked that the recipe was straightforward, and used simple ingredients I usually have around the house. I was not thrilled by the end result, however – my family will understand when I call it The Good-Bad Salad Dressing Effect. E somewhat liked it, and should I make it again, would eat it. I think the main issue lies with the olive oil; since it does not specify, I used regular olive oil, and this really should be made with an extra-virgin – you really can taste the olive oil quite a bit. I’ll probably be making this again at some point with good oil to see if it makes a difference, because it does deserve a second chance for its simplicity alone.

Lemon Fettuccine
from The Bad Girl’s Kitchen
serves 4

  • 2/3 cup olive oil (seriously, use a good one!)
  • 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (I used Realemon)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1 pound dried fettuccine
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (I omitted)
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, 3/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper to blend.
  2. Set the lemon sauce aside. (The sauce can be made up to 8 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before using.
  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the fettuccine and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender but still firm to the bite.
  4. Drain, carefully reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
  5. Add the fettuccine to the lemon sauce, and toss with the basil and lemon zest. Toss the pasta with enough reserved cooking liquid, 1/4 cup at a time, to moisten (I didn’t need to, mine was moist enough).
  6. Season the pasta with more salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to bowls and serve.

Iron Cupcake:Earth – Quite the Challenge

22 Sep

When I first learned about Iron Cupcake:Earth, I was really excited; I love to experiment in the kitchen, learn new techniques, and watching Iron Chef, so it seemed like the perfect competition for me. Ever since this month’s secret ingredient, basil, was announced, my mind’s been swarmed with ideas – citrus, melon, tomato and many others, working themselves out in combinations from the safe to the surreal. I knew I wanted to take part, and E was willing to be my guinea pig, so I signed up.

In the end, I chose a cupcake that wasn’t complicated or pretentious, but simple, flavourful, and delicate. Since most of my kitchenware is still in storage, the only tools I had at my disposal were a balloon whisk and a mixing bowl. Yup, I created this using pure muscle! The biggest challenge, strangely enough, came not from the cupcakes themselves, but from pure luck. From the canister holding 5 litres of flour breaking in half while full, to the smoke alarm going off as the result of hot dishwater, it’s been quite the trip. There were at least three incidents that caused me to almost pull out my hair and quit, but I’m glad I didn’t – these babies were worth it.

For the Basil round of Iron Cupcake:Earth, I’ve made a cupcake that I like to call the Interlude, as to me, it pairs together the best that both Summer and Fall have to offer, so it’s perfect at a time like this. The cake pairs apple and mango that have been marinated in Balsamic vinegar and roasted in the oven with some fresh Italian basil, and the icing is a thick glaze featuring lemon and more basil. I had my doubts, but these were amazing! They had an almost bread pudding texture, due to my lack of completely creaming the butter and upping the fruit content, and they were delicious both with and without the icing, hot or cold.The basil shone through without overpowering the other flavours, and everything meshed really well.

My test-tasters were E and his friend Travis; Travis, who hates both fruit and anything green, was up first. I didn’t want to turn him off, so I didn’t tell him any of the ingredients, and he didn’t get icing on his. His first reaction? “This is really good – what’s in this?” When I told him, he was surprised that not only did they taste great, but that he liked them – he said he’d definitely eat more of them. E loved them, and had them iced, both warm and straight from the fridge. He gave them a 9 1/2 out of 10, and judging by how quickly they’re disappearing, they’re a winner in his eyes, too. I’m definitely going to be making these again, and I wouldn’t change a thing – this was definitely a memorable experience, and I can’t wait for the next challenge!

As much fun as this was, it’s still a competition, which means some incredibly awesome prizes are up for grabs, such as:

A current publication from the publication library of Taste of Home magazine

Head Chefs by Fiesta Products

A metal signet ring from Metal Sugar

“Hello Cupcake,” by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson

The Cupcake Courier

A Jessie Steele Apron

Voting begins on Sunday, September 28th and ends on Thursday, October 1st at Noon at No One Puts Cupcake in the Corner – You can also click on the badge in the right sidebar to vote. Don’t worry, I’ll write up another entry reminding you to vote, and hopefully, it’ll be for me!

Now onto the cupcakes!

This recipe has three parts: the roasted fruit, the cake itself and the glazed icing, and is the amalgamating adaptation of one of Chockylit’s cupcakes and A Good Appetite’s icing. This makes 12 cupcakes, and is a definite must-try!

For the Balsamic Roasted Fruit:

  • 1 apple, sliced in half and cored
  • 1 mango, sliced in half, pit and peel removed
  • 1/2 cup Balsamic vinegar
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place the fruit in a container, and drizzle vinegar on top.
  3. Cover with lid, shake for 10 seconds, and let marinate for 20 minutes.
  4. Once marinated, drain fruit, and place on a lightly greased baking sheet, and roast for 30 minutes, turning fruit over once during cooking.
  5. Cool for an hour, remove the skin from the apple, and cut the fruit in chunks.
  6. Set aside.

For the Cupcakes:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup roasted fruit
  • 4 large basil leaves
  1. In an electric mixer (I used a whisk), beat butter on high until soft, about 30 seconds.
  2. Add sugar. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add egg beat until combined.
  4. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Add to the mixer along with the milk and beat to combine.
  5. Chop the basil leaves.
  6. Fold the roasted fruit and the basil into the batter.
  7. Scoop into cupcake papers about two-thirds full.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes, and then rotate the pan.
  9. Bake for another 10-15 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

For the Glazed Icing:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 4 large basil leaves, finely chopped
  • milk
  1. Mix powdered sugar, lemon juice, basil and 1 teaspoon of milk.
  2. Add more milk as needed by 1/2 teaspoon amounts until you achieve your desired icing consistency.
  3. After icing, allow cupcakes to sit until set, about an hour.

A New Twist on an Old Classic

18 Sep

Lately, I haven’t been feeling well, and we’ve been busy, so I’ve been somewhat neglecting my cooking. I felt a little better today and decided to make soup and sandwiches, two of E’s favrites, to make up for neglecting him. I wanted to make something a little different, so I decided to use some no-beef bouillon for some richness and make a cross between a vegetable and a minestrone. This way, the soup is filling, high in fiber and protein (from the beans and the kale) and low in fat and sodium.

I used no-beef bouillon because E’s a strict vegetarian – feel free to use stock instead of the water and bouillon, or change up the cubes for whatever you like. Whenever possible, I use organic – here, the beans, bouillon and carrots are organic. I also try to use low or no sodium products, so that I can control the flavor. To make a really delicious soup all year round, try freezing your vegetables. When produce is really good, I buy some extra and freeze it, like the zucchini here. Because the only ‘fresh’ items are the carrots, kale and celery, this is a really easy meal to throw together, and very filling.

Chock Full O’Veggies Soup
makes 12 cups, or 6 servings

  • 11 cups of cold water
  • 4 Not-Beef bouillon cubes
  • 1 14.5 oz can of peeled and petite diced tomatoes, salt free
  • 1 15 oz. can of kidney beans, drained
  • 1 7 oz. can of mushrooms (pieces and stems), salt free, drained
  • 3 cups zucchini, chopped
  • 2 cups baby carrots, halved
  • 1 1/2 cups 3 pepper and onion blend (frozen onions and green, red and yellow peppers)
  • 5 cups kale
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
the ingredients for the soup
missing is the salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. You’ll notice a bag of Quinoa on the right side behind the tomatoes – I decided at the last minute to substitute it for the kidney beans.

To make my life a little simpler, I prep my ingredients ahead of time, grouping together the items that will be added at the same time.

the carrots and frozen onion, peppers and zucchini

the kidney beans, mushrooms and celery

1- Pour all of the water into a pot, and bring up to a rolling boil

2- Once water is boiling, throw in the bouillon cubes and let them dissolve

the broth

3- Add in the carrots, onions, peppers and zucchini and simmer 5-6 minutes.

4- Add in the tomatoes and spices, and simmer for about 20 minutes.

5- Add in the beans, half of which slightly smashed, along with the celery and mushrooms.
6- Simmer for another 30 minutes, and taste. Adjust seasonings as needed.

7- Add in the kale, reduce heat to a medium-low, and lightly simmer for 10 minutes.

8- Serve!

This grilled cheese is amazing. It can definitely be customized to your tastes, but the elements here make a sandwich that is really flavourful. The tomatoes and basil add a nice savoriness, the mustard has a kick to it, and the cheese is very melty and luscious. The combination should be tried at least once!

Grown-Up Grilled Cheese
makes 2 servings

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup Mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 fresh basil leaves
  • 4 dashes hot sauce (we like Cholula)
  • 2 slices Muenster cheese
  • 4 slices bread (I used Ezekiel, which is an organic flourless sprouted grain bread)

Normally, we eat fat free mayonnaise. I had some real mayonnaise left over from the potato salad I made for my nephew’s birthday party, so I decided to use that instead. I don’t know that a lower fat version would work as well, but it might be worth a try. Also, the sun dried tomatoes were a real find – they’re dry-packed, so no oil to deal with, and they’re julienned, so it’s a breeze to use them in any recipe.

1- In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, mustard and hot sauce.

2- Add in the chopped sun dried tomatoes, combine and taste.

3- Snip off three leaves from the basil plant your loving hubby bought you, and do a chiffonade (roll the leaves together, and slice across, giving you thin strips of basil)

4- Stir in the basil, along with the mozzarella.

5- Spread the mixture on two slices of bread. Add on one slice of Muenster to each, then top each with another slice of bread.

6- Grill on a panini press for 5 minutes, and serve.

Sit down with your loved ones and enjoy a simply delicious and comforting meal

I really loved this meal! It was hearty and homey, and it was nice to be able to make a dinner that E and I can completely share. The soup is really filling, and the sandwich, both light and luscious, complemented it well. Also, this is a meal that’s loaded with vegetables and healthy proteins, so you can feel good about serving it to your family. Easy to make, and anything but boring, I could easily eat this every day, as could E – this is definitely a new twist on an old family favourite!

Now that it’s getting cooler inside, this type of dinner is one we’ll be eating often. You should try it as well! It was really nice to be able to get rid of some of the freezer veggies in the soup, although you can definitely use fresh if you have it (just increase the cooking time). I’m sending this over to Joelen, and entering it in her Family Favourites Adventure. I’m also sending this to Mele Cotte for her Deep Freeze Summer Challenge 2.

What are some of your family favourites?