Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Banana Nutella Muffins - Low fat (before the Nutella addition)

World Nutella day!

Yay World Nutella Day!

I have this vivid memory of my brother at 5 years old eating Nutella on a sliced piece of fresh Italian bread.

My mom had made him take his shirt off because he couldn't eat ANYTHING without getting it on everything that he owned. Anyways, he must have lost his grip and next thing he knew there was a piece of bread hanging on strong by the powers of Nutella to his little chest.

Oh Nutella, you're hilarious.

Banana Nutella Muffins
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup smashed ripe bananas (about 3 medium)
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1  cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 325°F. Put muffin liners in a pan that can hold 12 muffins. Using an electric mixer; beat eggs and sugar in a large bowl until thick and light, about 5 minutes. Mix in smashed bananas, yogurt, oil and vanilla. Sift in flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt; then beat until just blended. Transfer batter to the muffin liners.

On top of the filled muffin batter place a small spoonful of Nutella onto each muffin and swirl together with a toothpick or chopstick.
Bake the muffins until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 25-30 min.

World Nutella day!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Mint Pesto with Zucchini and Feta

Mint pesto with zucchini and feta

I had written this great post over a year ago, but never actually published it. I don’t really know why... maybe because I was too lazy to spell check it. Anyways... here is some of it...

Now that the summer has arrived I, and consequently Ian, are on this local food diet where we are trying to buy our produce from the farmers markets.

This whole craze we're on now stemmed from my reading two books, In Defence of Food, and Animal Vegetable Miracle. I love to read, and lately I have been getting myself into some stellar books that have seriously made me consider the way I live my life. Yes I know, this is probably a phase but please humour me here. Of course the very first book I read about the foodie culture was Julie and Julia, the book that pushed me to take up Ian’s idea of a food blog. Yup, that’s how Coco Bean came about!

The next was one called "The Brain that Changes Itself”, you may have seen this on the shelves a year or two ago. It’s a book about brain plasticity and how science is finally starting to learn how to help people with strokes and learning disabilities overcome their problems by using the healthy areas of their brains. It all seems like it’s out of a sci-fi book, because they teach blind people to see and work with a seemingly normal girl who is missing the whole left side of her brain! The author writes in a very simple and engaging tone, not pompous as many tend to be, well worth the time to look for at your local library.

I then moved on to “In Defence of Food” where I wasn’t expecting much, but by the end I was hanging off of every word Polain wrote, even if it was a little condescending and self riotous.

Ok, back to July 2010… so that’s as far as I got. Yes I am still shopping at farmers markets, buying free run organic eggs, trying to buy my meat from local butchers and farms, and really make an effort to buy locally.

I realized that it hasn’t been as hard as I thought it would be, and I just had to change the way I thought about my food. Maybe our brain is plastic and we can fully change our ways.

By the way... this is the best pasta for a local foodie dying from the summer heat and was just as good the other day as it was last summer.
Mint pesto with zucchini and feta

Mint Pesto with Zucchini and Feta
Jose DiStasio's pasta book- amazing!

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2cloves garlic, minced
5-8 small zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and sliced ½-inch (1-cm) thick
1/2 tsp salt
1 lb pasta
175g feta coarsely crumbled
mint pesto
handful of toasted pinenuts (about 1⁄3 cup)
freshly ground black pepper

Mint pesto:
3/4 cup packed fresh mint leaves
2 tbsp feta
grated rind and juice of one lemon
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1⁄3 cup (75 mL) extra virgin olive oil

In a food processor, chop mint, feta and hot pepper flakes. Add lemon juice and rind, salt and pepper. Add oil and blend, but leave it coarse. Heat oil in a large skillet and add garlic and zucchini. Sauté over medium-high until lightly golden, 4 to 5 minutes, adding a bit more oil if necessary. Add salt.
Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender. Drain well, reserving ½ cup cooking liquid.Toss pasta, feta and pesto in a large bowl, adding a little reserved liquid if sauce seems dry. Season to taste. Sprinkle with pine nuts

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Fennel and Citrus Sea Bass al Cartoccio

Delicious Fish 2

Once again over the Holidays I used every chance that I could to take pictures with the new camera that Ian bought me. Unfortunately this season I couldn't make it home until Christmas Eve and had a horrible time waiting in endless line-ups at the airport. So when I entered through the door of my childhood home I was ecstatic to see that my brother (with the never wavering aide of my mother, the sous chef) had decided to create the traditional Italian Christmas Eve dinner called the Feast of the Seven Fishes (festa dei sette pesci).

There were Salted Cod cakes, shrimp, pasta with anchovies, salmon, mussels in broth, a whole salt crusted fish, and finally this Sea Bass al Cartoccio. The dinner was fabulous, even my grandma loved it, where as other years she has promptly asked for a hamburger instead. (I still think those years were great mom!)

Delicious Fish

I learned quite a few things about Cartoccio from my brother, who in turn learned this recipe from the four star Italian restaurant that he works at in Toronto. Al Cartoccio basically means the same as En Papiotte, the fish is folded neatly in parchment paper and steams within the package for a short while. The result is a very soft, flavourful fish that melts in your mouth. This Cartoccio was such a hit my brother had me and my father, who was out in Victoria visiting family, calling him to beg for the recipe within a week!

Delicious fish 3

Fennel and Citrus Sea Bass al Cartoccio

1lb Branzino, 2lb Orata, or other European Sea Bass. Ask for it scaled and gutted.
1/2 fennel bulb
1 garlic clove, sliced thin
1 orange, half juiced, the other half sliced thinly across into rounds
1 lemon, half juiced, the other half sliced thinly across into rounds
1 handful of fresh mint
1/2 cup white wine
1-2 tbsp. olive oil
2 pinches of salt
3 foot long piece of parchment paper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Slice the fennel thin and create a mixture of fennel, garlic, and mint. Place mixture in the center of the parchment paper. Lay down half of the lemons and orange slices. Stuff the fish with the rest of the oranges and lemons. Lay fish over the mixture, in the center of the parchment paper. Sprinkle salt onto fish. In a measuring cup combine the juice of one half orange, half a lemon, white wine, and olive oil.
To fold the parchment paper, pull together the center of each short end of the parchment paper. This should create a triangular tent over the fish lengthwise. Fold over the paper ½ an inch, then again, till the paper is flush with the fish and there is no room left. Place your hand down on one end of the fish and twist the parchment till tight. Tilt up the open end then pour the liquid into the opening. Twist tight to seal off the packet. Bake for 15-20 minutes for a 1lb fish, or 20-25 for a 2lb Orata.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Martin Picard's Au Pied De Cochon Cabane A Sucre

Au Pied de Cochon Cabane a Sucre

Last weekend Ian and I had the quintessential Quebecer outing... we went to the Caban au Sucre, or Sugar Shack. Growing up in Toronto, I had never heard of these magical places filled with maple syrup and childhood memories, but Ian was all too familiar with the mounds of food and sticky tire d'erable (frozen maple syrup on a stick).

Last year we went to an extremely large Cabane with my family because we didn’t really know what to expect from the experience. But of course this year we had to go all out, and with the help of the Montreal Food Bloggers, we enjoyed the true Quebecois brunch in style!

We all decided on Martin Picard’s Au Pied De Cochon Cabane a Sucre in the early summer of 2009, but even that early the sugar shack was sold out. Luckily the clouds parted and we were able to secure 25 highly coveted seats at the sugar shack, and boy it didn’t disappoint!

Pea soup usually starts off a sugar shack meal, but of course it wouldn’t be Martin Picard’s without large cubes of foie gras in the traditional winter soup! Then came the creton, a traditional slow cooked ground pork butt terrine. Then foie gras pancakes, gravlax, Oreilles de Christ salad, and maple syrup chickens feet.

Au Pied de Cochon Cabane a Sucre

For the second course a traditional puffy omelette was served but of course, it had the wild chef’s flair! Baked into the omelette was smoked sturgeon and slow roasted pork. It was an incredible addition. For the third course we had a pork and lobster stuffed cabbage dish with lentils that Ian just called a "freak of delicious", because really, there isn’t any other way to describe it. Also accompanying the "freak" was cow tongue and a wonderful maple syrup roasted chicken with baked beans. And finally, of course we had to order the famous Québec Tortiere that bore the most delicious crust I have ever had.

Au Pied de Cochon Cabane a Sucre

And then... then there was dessert. It started off with pancakes fried in duck fat, Ian couldn’t get enough of them, then tire d'erable, the crispiest and creamiest maple milles foulle, and finally maple ice-cream topped with homemade maple marshmallows, cashew brittle, chocolate, bananas, and maple sugar cotton candy!

Au Pied de Cochon Cabane a Sucre

This was truly an experience that I will never forget, especially sharing it with people as passionate about food and photography as Ian and I are. Remind me to call tomorrow for 2011 reservations!

Au Pied de Cochon Cabane a Sucre

Au Pied de Cochon Cabane a Sucre

Au Pied de Cochon Cabane a Sucre

Au Pied de Cochon Cabane a Sucre

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Anniversary to my Ian

Ian with his new book

Today Ian came by and brought me the most beautiful tulips, why you ask... cause he's the best! In Montreal everything is a dull shade of grey and covered in either snow or salt. We haven't seen a living plant for three months so I was so excited to see these bright vibrant flowers, it reminded me that spring is just around the corner!

I was so thrilled that I gave him his Valentine's Day / 2 year Anniversary present early... The River Cottage Meat book. This is the second time that I have bought this book in the past month; the first copy went to my brother for Christmas.

Later in the afternoon I noticed that Ian was missing in the apartment and when I went into my room I found him cuddling with his new book. Too cute eh!

I'm glad you like it babe, thanks for being the best boyfriend any girl could possibly ask for, Love you.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Chocolate Ginger Banana Bread

Chocolate Ginger Banana Bread

Have you ever seen that Simpsons episode where Homer goes looking for his soul mate? He realizes that it was Marge all along when he walks off for a couple days and she finds him at a lighthouse down by the water. He asks her how she found him and she says, “Well, I was sure you'd be on foot, because you always say public transportation is for losers. And I was sure you'd head west, because Springfield slopes down that way. And then, I saw the lighthouse, and I remembered how you love blinking lights. Like the one on the waffle iron.”

Well this Christmas Ian bought me a camera, and we had one of those little moments. I asked him how he picked out such a great gift and he said, “Well, I brought a Christmas ornament to a camera store and took pictures of it with every camera I could test so that you would get a camera without flashback, and I know how frustrated you get with lots of buttons, so I picked out the simplest one, and I knew that you would scratch the screen so I ruled out the touch screen camera, finally, I know how much you like fuzzy backgrounds, so I looked for a camera with a good range of F stops, and this is what I came up with!” Yes, he is my soul mate. Mine mine mine, get your own!

So, as my roommate threatened daily to throw out my frozen brown bananas from the freezer, I decided to finally make this wonderful banana bread that I read about in Molly Wizenberg’s book, “A homemade life”. I love this book and the romantic approach that she has to cooking and baking; each recipe has a wonderful story about the impact it had on her life. Since Ian wasn’t around I thought it would be a great chance for me to use my new camera and put to use all the little techniques he has told me about over the past year of food photography. Now by no means are my photos anywhere near the quality of his, but I’m really enjoying taking some of my own photos, and not having to fuss with a million buttons! Oh, and this banana bread is so good, I will never try another recipe...ever!

Banana Bread with Chocolate and Crystallized Ginger
Adapted from “A Homemade Life” by Molly Wizenberg

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (or a chopped up bar)
1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
2 large eggs
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup well-stirred whole-milk plain yogurt (not low or nonfat)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Set a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat to 350F. Grease a 9 by 5 loaf pan with cooking spray or butter.

In a small bowl, microwave the butter until just melted. (Be careful and do this over medium power in short burst because it can explode or splatter and that is a big mess.) Or melt it in the preheating oven. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Add the chocolate chips and crystallized ginger and whisk well to combine. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a fork. Add the mashed banana, yogurt, melted butter, and vanilla and stir to mix well. Pour the banana mixture into the dry ingredients, and stir gently with a rubber spatula, scraping down the sides as needed, until just combined. Do not overmix. The batter with be thick and somewhat lumpy, just make sure all the flour has been incorporated. Scrape the batter into the loaf pan and smooth the top.

Bake into the loaf is a deep shade of golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 mins to an hour. If the loaf seems to be browning too quickly, tent with foil.

Cool the loaf in the pan on a wire rack for 5 mins. Then tip out onto the rack, and let it cool completely before slicing (if you can wait that long).

The loaf freezes well wrapped in plastic wrap and again in foil to protect from freezer burn. Try it cold, sliced fresh out of the freezer with a glass of milk or a cup of tea. Divine.

Sunday, January 31, 2010


Happy Blogiversary! Coco Bean the Blog is One full year old!

Baked Asian Spiced Chicken Drumsticks

To celebrate Ian and I made the same dinner we had one year ago, enjoyed the company of some blogging friends, and watched the much anticipated Canadian Michael Smith vs. Bobby Flay Iron Chef event.

Baked Asian Spiced Chicken Drumsticks

Looking forward, Ian and I spent some time jotting down a list of 100 things we would like to cook over the next year. I was hoping to get more into bread baking and learning the basics of some dishes, like how to make a really good roast chicken, or simply try my hand at making butter.

Thank you to all the wonderful people we have met over the year, You have all made it an extremely memorable one and we are looking forward to the next!

100 Dishes for Coco Bean

Focaccia bread
English muffins
No-Knead bread
Sour dough bread
Cornbread in a skillet
Irish Soda bread
Pita bread
Bread pudding
Orangette’s Banana Bread - Completed

Shrimp bisque
Cream of mushroom soup
French onion soup
Tom Yum Soup
Chestnut Soup


Scalloped potatoes
Fennel Salad
Singaporean Slaw Salad with Salted Apricot Dressing‏
Stuffed cabbage
Spaghetti squash
Baked beans
Fettuccine Alfredo

Preserves and dips
Caramel sauce
Dolce de léché
Apple sauce

Fresh mozzarella
Goat Cheese

Croque Monsieur/Madame
Buttermilk Scones

Moules Mariniere
Seared tuna

Chicken pot pie
Beef Bourgeon
Chicken parmesan
Roasted Duck
Red curry chicken
Braised Short Ribs
Veal Liver
Coq au Vin
Roast chicken
Beef Wellington
Quiche from Tartine

Decorate Cookies
Gingerbread house
Lemon Squares from Tartine
Profiteroles & Éclairs & Gougers
Home made marshmallows
Pots de Crème

Cakes, Pies, & Tarts
Angel food cake
Carrot cake
Chocolate Friands
Chocolate Lava Cake
Black Forest Cake
Lemon meringue pie
Key lime pie
Pumpkin pie
Tiramisu + Homemade Lady Fingers
New York cheesecake
Flourless Chocolate cake
Boston Cream Pie
Cake pops
Mixed Berry Shortcake
Fruit Galettes
Portuguese custard tarts
Shaker lemon pie
Chiffon Cake
Banana cream pie
Tarte Tatin
Fruit tart with pastry cream
Sugar pie

Black and Whites
Snicker doodles
French Macrons

Recently Finished
Gingerbread cookies
Steamed Pudding
Linzer Cookies
Scottish Shortbread
Frangipane Tart
Crème Brulee
Nanaimo bars
Homemade onion rings
Whoopee Pies
Salt crusted fish

Recently Finished Redo’s
Yorkshire pudding
Carbonara Sauce
Crab legs
Homemade pasta
Pecan pie
Pecan pie

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo bars are part of the great Canadian experience; both Ian and I grew up with this classic snack. Here in Canada they can be found in every cafeteria, buffet, snack bar, hockey rink, school event, children’s party… well pretty much everywhere, and over the years we have both eaten our fair share of the good, the bad, and the ugly (bars that is).

Even though these bars are so prevalent in our chilly Canadian diet, it never dawned on me to try to make them. I guess there has always been a constant supply of them that there was no reason to try.

Boy was I happy I did. I halved the amount of coconut and added a cup of bing cherries to the bottom layer. These had to be the best Nanaimo bars that I have ever had, Ian and my roommate Adam agree. Adam agreed with them so much that he set up most of the props for the photos of the Nanaimo bars just so that he could get at them faster! They were a hit!

Nanaimo Bars

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca.

Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo Bar Recipe

Bottom Layer
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
5 tbsp. cocoa
1 egg beaten
3/4 cups graham wafer crumbs
1/2 cup Oreo crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
1/2 cup coconut
1 cup chopped cherries

Second Layer
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. and 2 Tsp. cream
2 Tbsp. vanilla custard powder
2 cups icing sugar

Third Layer
4 squares semi-sweet chocolate (1 oz. each)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tbsp. cocoa powder

First layer
Melt first 3 ingredients in top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, coconut, and nuts. Press firmly into an ungreased 8" x 8" pan. Cool for half an hour.

Second layer
Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light. Spread over bottom layer. Cool for an hour.

Third layer
Melt chocolate and butter overlow heat. Cool. Once cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer and chill in refrigerator. Cool overnight before slicing or else chocolate will crack.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Turkey noodle soup

Turkey Noodle Soup

Dont you love soup? It doesnt have to be an entree, it can very easily be turned into a delicious meal. I decided to take some of the leftovers I have from the holiday season and give them a second life rather than let them go to waste. What to do when you have leftover turkey? Why not soup!

Turkey noodle soup

6 cups of Chiken broth
Bouquet of fresh Thyme, Rosemary and Sage
2 Celery Stalks, chopped
2 Carrots, cut into 1/4 in slices
1 1/2 cups of small torn up leftover turkey
1 cup of your favorite pasta (egg noodle works great)
Bread rolls
Salt & Pepper to taste

-In a large pot, add broth and herb bouquet,bring the broth to a near boil, and lower the heat so that the broth is at a gentle simmer, and allow to infuse for approx 1o minutes. Remove bouquet, and strain to remove bits of herbs if desired, though simply removing the big bits works for me.
-Add in veggies, and cook until the carrots are cooked through (a fork should easily pass through one), though still firm.
-In a seperate pot, bring some water with a pinch of salt to a boil, and add pasta. Once cooked, strain and add to the broth.
Serve with finely chopped flat leaf parsley sprinkled on top or and a nice bread roll

Winter is for Soup

Winter Walk

I love winter, its my favorite season. Winter means cold walks, warm sweaters, hot chocolate, skating, hockey, I can go on and on. One of my favourite things about winter is a good old blowing snowstorm, there is something about them that reminds me of being a little kid and staring out of windows during thunderstorms in the late summer.

Winter Walk

With this in mind, when I woke up this morning I was very excited to see several inches of fresh snow. I decided to grab a camera and take the 30 or so minute walk over to my local grocery store, snap a few pictures and get a few odds and ends to make some soup. What could be better than a nice, hot bowl of soup after a cold walk.

Winter Walk

Enter problem #1 - Ive never made a homemade soup (at least a real one).
Solution? - Using some simple ingredients, including some leftovers, cobble together
a basic soup and go from there. Oh, and read Christie's book about soup.
Yeah, that would help.

So, back on track to the soup. This time last year, I watched Christies brother Eric cook a beautiful pot of broth. This pot of broth simmered away for quite some time, and when it was ready to eat, everyone excitedly got together and ate a soup I had never seen before. The result was one of the simplest, and yet delicious soups that I have ever had. Here is my take on it

Tortellini Soup

Tortellini Soup

6 cups of Chiken broth
Bouquet of fresh Thyme, Rosemary and Sage
2 Celery Stalks, chopped
2 Carrots, cut into 1/4 in slices
400gm (small package) of your favorite Tortellini
Salt & Pepper to taste

-In a large pot, add broth and herb bouquet,bring the broth to a near boil, and lower the heat so that the broth is at a gentle simmer, and allow to infuse for approx 1o minutes. Remove bouquet, and strain to remove bits of herbs if desired, though simply removing the big bits works for me.
-Add in veggies, and cook until the carrots are cooked through (a fark should easily pass through one), though still firm.
-In a seperate pot, bring some water with a pinch of salt to a boil, and add Tortellini. Once cooked, strain and add to the broth.
-Grate some fresh Parmesan and sprinkle over the soup.
-Serve with finely chopped flat leaf parsley or chives and a nice bread roll