Monday, 19 May 2014

Fresh Pasta Sauce

        With more beautiful weather on the way we are stepping away from heavy hot meals and embracing lighter fresh dinners. This fresh pasta is perfect for summer, especially as seasonal tomatoes are popping up in markets.

        Because all ingredients in this recipe are raw, it is important to choose quality ingredients. When choosing an olive oil, the best quality indicator is the farm or area the olives are grown. If the bottle doesn't state where the olives are grown, it is most likely a mixed olive oil. Mixed olive oils tend to be lack lustre. The flavours are muddled and unimpressive. Try to choose an extra virgin or virgin olive oil, these oils are less acidic and higher quality than other olive oils. A decent olive oil might set you back $25 for a litre, but this product will give raw dishes like this fresh pasta sauce a great flavour. 

All the ingredients I need to make a delicious fresh pasta sauce

Serves: 2-3


4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, and to taste
1 large clove or garlic, minced
1/8 tsp red chili flakes

About 8 kalamata olives, or to taste
450g rip tomatoes, about 4 medium or 8 medium-small (cocktail size) tomatoes
1/2 small bunch of basil (about 20g), leaves torn 
Salt and pepper to taste 
Sauce is all done, all we have to do now is make the pasta


1. In a medium mixing bowl combine olive oil, chili flakes and minced garlic. Let marinate for 20 minutes to one hour. 
2. Cut the tomatoes over the bowl of olive oil to preserve all the liquid. With a paring knife, cut the tomatoes into 4 wedges and then cut each wedge in half. 
3. De-pit the olives, rip or cut in half and add to the tomatoes and olive oil.
4. Tear the basil leaves and add to the fresh sauce and season with salt and pepper.
5. Let sit for at least 20 minutes while you prepare the pasta as to the package instructions. 
6. When cooked, drain the pasta and add directly to the fresh sauce. Add more olive oil, salt or pepper if necessary.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Coconut Apricot Bars

       On their own, these tasty Coconut Apricot Bars are a great breakfast or snack option. They are not too sweet but with the addition of a scoop of vanilla or coconut ice cream on top or a sprinkle of icing sugar, these bars also make an excellent dessert. 

       The base of the bar has heart healthy omega-3 and omega-6's from the flax as well as fiber from the whole wheat flour. The topping is filled with chopped apricots, almonds and pecans, as well as a coconut caramel-like sauce. These coconut apricot bars are a healthy alternative to traditional "Magic Bars". Just as tasty, but use a lot less sugar and use better fats. Saturated fat from coconut products contains short chain fatty acids, which unlike their animal product competitors are not processed the same way and are less likely to clog up you arteries.       

Serves: 12 large dessert size bars (3"x3") or  24-36 medium-small bars


1/2 cup margarine
1 tbsp molasses
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tbsp ground flax seed 
3 tbsp water
1/8 tsp ground ginger, heaping
3/4 cup white flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour

Coconut condensed milk:
1 can coconut milk
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed

1 cup sweetened shredded coconut 
1 cup dried chopped apricot*
1 cup chopped nuts, a combination of pecans and almonds or your favourite
2/3 cup Ritz crackers, about 12-15, chopped or lightly crushed*

optional: icing sugar or vanilla or coconut ice cream   


1. Turn on the oven to 375°F and toast nuts for 8 minutes while the oven is preheating and lightly grease 13x9 inch pyrex pan. 
2.To make the base, beat margarine with brown sugar, ground flax seed, water, molasses and ginger and then mix in the flour. Pour into the greased pyrex pan and press with your fingers, bake for 10 minutes at 375°F. 
3. In a small sauce pan combine the entire can of coconut milk and the packed brown sugar. Simmer on medium-low heat for 12-14 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the condensing coconut milk doesn't boil over. If a thin film forms, whisk it back into the condensed coconut milk. Final product should be a medium thick milk of a light caramel colour.
4. Combine coconut, apricot, nuts and Ritz crackers in a bowl.
5. Pour 2/3  of the prepared coconut condensed milk on top of the baked base, this should cover the majority of the base.
6. Evenly distribute the coconut, fruit and nut mixture on top and drizzle remaining coconut milk mixture on top of this layer.
7. Bake at 375°F for 20-25 minutes, the coconut milk should be golden brown around the edges.
8. Chill completely (~2h) before cutting.
9. Eat as is for a snack or for breakfast. If serving for dessert, add a scoop of vanilla or coconut ice cream on top of a large square cut bar or dust a fine layer of icing sugar on top before serving.  

*if particularly dry, can be soaked in a bit of water for a couple of minutes
*if you like sweet and salty desserts, you can use Ritz original, otherwise use low sodium Ritz crackers

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Chocolate Lover's Brownie Cookies

     Lovers of anything chocolate beware. These fudgy brownie cookies are addictive. Soft, gooey and oh so chocolaty.

     After what seemed to have been the longest exam period in history, I am finally free. Well relatively speaking. I'm still working at the pool, teaching kiddies how to swim, volunteering at the hospital and taking summer school. But overall, I have much more time to do things that I want (like build another book shelf and create some new recipes). So to celebrate my freedom, I made some cookies.

     These cookies are supper moist. When you take them out of the oven they look undercooked. But by leaving them on the hot baking sheet for a few more minutes, you are firming up the bottom so they don't fall apart while allowing them to stay moist and gooey in the center, just like a brownie cookie should be.

Serves: about 36 cookies


1 cup margarine
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup semi-sweet dark chocolate chips (use 1 1/2 cups to make them extra chocolaty)


1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
2. In a medium bowl, beat margarine and sugar until fluffy, then beat in the water and vanilla.
3. In another bowl, mix flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and baking powder.
4. Stir dry mixture into the wet, until well combined, then stir  in chocolate chips.
5. Use a cookie scooper or roll dough into golf ball size balls (1 1/2" in diameter). Place balls onto an ungreased cookie sheet and either slightly compress the dough balls or leave round (the more round the gooeyer).
6. Bake in the center of the oven for 8-10 minutes, remove and let cool on the cookie sheet for 1-5 minutes before transferring the cookie onto a wire rack to cool completely.