Multi-grain Bread with Sesame, Flax and Poppy Seeds

Lately, I've been progressively disappointed with the quality of bread in stores. Given that my family polishes off 2-3 loafs per week and getting to artisan bakeries every few days is not an option, I really would like the boys to have the best bread there is - bread that smells just like out of my childhood, bread that goes stale in 2 days, bread that isn't too airy or too dense, loaded with goodness of whole grains.

Enough said, I decided to give bread-making a shot. I'm a first-time bread maker so I wanted a solid recipe to go by. The multi-grain recipe I got off has great reviews so I gave it a go. I used my dough mixer attachment for all of the kneading work - let me tell you, it makes life so much easier!

As a novice bread-maker I didn't tweak anything in the recipe and followed it to a 't', mostly. What I got was 2 wonderful aromatic multi-grain bread loafs, a bit denser that I expected (probably, due to a lot of whole wheat flour) but absolutely delicious, holding shape well, perfect for school sandwiches. However, I found the process pretty time-consuming - it requires a few steps of adding - mixing - waiting. It took me about 3 hours from the beginning to finish, which is expected with a yeast-based recipe.

What I'd like to do soon enough is to establish a regular bread-making schedule when I can bake a weekly supply, about 4 loaves per week; freeze 2 and keep 2 for eats. Is this too utopian?

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened multi-grain cereal (such as 7-grain)
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 2 1/2 tsp or 1 envelope dry yeast
  • 4 1/3 cups bread flour
    I used a combination of 60% / 40% of whole wheat / rye flour
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons flax seeds*
  • 2 teaspoons poppy seeds
  • 2 cups water
  1. Place cereal in large bowl. Pour 2 cups boiling water over. Let stand until mixture cools, about 20 minutes.
  2. Sprinkle yeast over cereal. Add 1 cup bread flour, oil, sugar and salt and stir until smooth. Gradually mix in enough remaining bread flour to form dough. Cover dough; let rest 15 minutes.
  3. Turn out dough onto floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if sticky, about 10 minutes. Oil large bowl. Add dough to bowl; turn to coat. Cover bowl with clean kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm area until doubled, about 1 hour. 
  4. Mix all seeds in bowl. Punch down dough. Turn out onto lightly oiled surface. Knead briefly. Shape into 12x4-inch loaf. 
  5. Sprinkle baking sheet with 2 teaspoons seeds. Place loaf atop seeds. Cover with towel. Let rise in warm area until almost doubled, about 30 minutes.
  6. Position 1 oven rack in center and 1 just below center in oven. Place baking pan on lower rack and preheat oven to 425°F. Brush loaf with water. Sprinkle with remaining seed mixture. Using sharp knife, cut 3 diagonal slashes in surface of loaf. Place baking sheet with loaf in oven. Immediately pour 2 cups water into hot pan on lower rack in oven (water will steam).
  7. Bake loaf until golden and crusty and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool.

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Vindaloo Vegetables

After an indulging weekend (thanks to my friends who hosted a fantastic Mardi Gras party), I wanted something light and full of vegetables. I had this Vindaloo Vegetables recipe in mind for a couple of weeks, having seen it on and the time came to try it out. As with many Indian dishes, more time is spend chopping up the veggies, grinding the spices and the paste vs. the actual cooking, which can be quite time-consuming. Also, I had a sink full of cooking accessories by the time I was done (an auto spice grinder), so I've modified the process to cut down on the preparation time.

I've used my mighty pressure cooker from the beginning to finish to make a one-pot meal: from cooking dry beans to sauteing all the veggies to heating them up. This definitely saves you washing another pot and a skillet.  

The result is an outstanding sublime Vindaloo Vegetables dish so full of flavour, very light, and a virtually a guilt-free foodie main dish. I served it over rice for the kids but Vindaloo Vegetables is great on its own (that's how I had it) .

Servings: 8 
Makes in: 1 hour
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 small carrots, thinly sliced
  • 4 cups small cauliflower florets
  • 2 small zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 green / red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 inch ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1 pitted date, coarsely chopped
    i used 1/3 cup of sultana raisins
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 cardamom clove, ground
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked kidney beans (or one 15.5 ounce canned beans, rinsed and drained)
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
    i used 1 cup tomato sauce
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper (salt is optional)
  • 1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
  1. Prepare all of the vegetables.
  2. Heat a large non-stick pot or wok over medium-high heat. Add the onions and carrots and one tablespoon of water, cover, and cook until softened, stirring often and adding more water as necessary to prevent burning - about 5 minutes. 
  3. In the mean time, a blender or food processor (I used a coffee grinder and only 1/4 cup water), combine the garlic, ginger, date, coriander and other spices, vinegar, and 1/2 cup water; process until smooth and set aside. 
  4. Add the spice paste from the blender and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. 
  5. Add the cauliflower and kidney beans. Cover and turn heat to low. 
  6. Put the tomato paste and 1 1/4 cup water in the blender and blend thoroughly. You can skip this step by using tomato sauce + 1 cup water instead. It will not have the same concentrated tomato taste, but I'll take it as I won't have to clean up a messy grinder.
    Add the tomato paste mixture to the vegetables, cover, and cook for 5 minutes. 
  7. Add the zucchini and bell pepper, season with pepper and salt (if using), and continue cooking, covered, until the vegetables are tender, but not mushy, about 5 -10 minutes. 
  8. Add the peas and allow to heat through for a couple of minutes.
    Serve alone or over basmati rice or other grain.
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Perfect Roast Chicken by Ina Garten

There's something about a late afternoon on Sunday that calls for a roast. Early dinner with family and plenty of leftovers for the next day - that's definitely a few of its draws.

I've tried quite a few chicken roast recipes and always come to the conclusion that Ina Garten's recipe is the best. This recipe produces that perfect chicken - moist on the inside with crispy brown skin.
  • 1 (5 to 6 lb) roasting chicken
  • freshly ground black pepper
  •  coarse salt
  • 1 large bunch fresh thyme, plus 20 sprigs
  • I used 1 tbsp herbs de province instead
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
  • 2 tbsp (1/4 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced
  • 4 carrots cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1 turnip or other root vegetable, cut into wedges

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pin feathers and pat the outside dry. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. 
  3. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, both halves of lemon, and all the garlic. Brush the outside of the chicken with the butter and sprinkle again with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. 
  4. Place the onions, carrots, and fennel in a roasting pan. Toss with salt, pepper, 20 sprigs of thyme, and olive oil. Spread around the bottom of the roasting pan and place the chicken on top.
  5. Roast the chicken for at 425F for 15 minutes and leave for another 15 minutes for each lb of weight, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. 
  6. Remove the chicken and vegetables to a platter and cover with aluminum foil for about 20 minutes. Slice the chicken onto a platter and serve it with the vegetables.
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"Buffalo"-style Cauliflower Bites

Superbowl 2015 has recently passed. There are a few quint-essential recipes that are associated with watching the game, Buffalo chicken wings included. I love the pungent flavour of the Buffalo dressing, spiked with vinegar, but have always wanted to try a vegetarian option. After searching a bit, I found this recipe of the Cauliflower Buffalo Bites on by the SaucySoutherner.

I simplified the preparation: so this recipe of the "Buffalo"-style Cauliflower Bites is easy and fast. You can have this guilt-free and light recipe ready in under 30 minutes, including the prep time!
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp hot chili sauce / Sriracha / Frank's Hot sauce , etc
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups Panko crumbs
  1. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Prepare a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper.
  2. Separate the cauliflower head into bite-sized florets. Place the florets in a large bowl.
  3. In a small bowl, add the melted butter, hot sauce, white vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper.
  4. Pour the dressing over the cauliflower and mix well so the florets are covered with sauce evenly. 
  5. Pour the crumbs over the cauliflower and mix well. Most of the crumbs will adhere to the florets.
  6. Place the baking sheet into the preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the crumbs are golden brown.
  7. Remove the baking sheet from the oven.
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Red Cargo Rice and Brown Rice Salad with Bell Peppers, Raisins, and Walnuts

This Red Cargo Rice and Brown Rice Salad salad is a burst of textures, colours, and flavours. Asian-style dressing adds depth to the nutty texture; with a surprising combination of raisins and red bell peppers.

Red Cargo Rice is definitely a star in this Red Cargo Rice and Brown Rice Salad - it has more texture than brown rice and adds a great colour.  The presentation is beautiful enough to make it a holiday dish. It can be served warm as a colorful side dish or as a salad, when chilled.

Serves:  12 

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 cup red cargo rice 
  • salt to taste
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup roasted walnut pieces, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Soy Sauce Dressing
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp sugar 
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic crushed or finely chopped
  • 1cm root ginger finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste 
  1. To make the soy sauce dressing, put all sauce ingredients into a jar with a lid and shake well to blend. 
  2. Cook rice in boiling salted water for 40-45 minutes until soft. Rinse, drain well and cool. Place in a bowl and add remaining ingredients. 
  3. Toss thoroughly before serving. 10 minutes before going to serve, add the soy sauce dressing to the rice and veg and toss well, then serve.

    Adapted from
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Russian-stye Crepes. Блины Ажурные

There's nothing like a slow Sunday morning, when the kids are still asleep and I have a lovely morning in the kitchen all to myself. This is a perfect morning for making crepes! Once the aroma of of heated butter and sugar starts saturating the house, the family tumbles down the stairs, sleeply-eyed, still in pj's.

Russian-style crepes or bliny are very airy and light, not as dense as French recipes. Our favourite stuffing combo is sour cream + smoked salmon / caviar, cream cheese + jam, and the kids' favourite - plain Nutella.

The crepes have disappeared so fast, I had no chance to snap a photo. So this photo is for the recipe of French Crepes

Makes: 12 6-inch crepes
  • 0.5 cup kefir
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1,5 cups white flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp oil
  1.  In a microwave heat kefir for about 20 sec., until warm. Pour kefir in a mixing bowl, add eggs, soda, baking powder, sugar and salt. Beat until mixed.
  2. Add sifted flour, mix well.
  3. Pour 1 cup milk in a small pot over medium heat, bring to a boil. Slowly add the milk to the flour mix, mixing well.
  4. Fold in oil. 
  5. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each crepe. Tilt the pan with a circular motion so that the batter coats the surface evenly. Return pan to burner and cook until top is set and edges begin to turn golden, about 30 sec. Loosen with a spatula and flip. Continue cooking 30 sec more. Transfer crepe to a plate. Cover with kitchen towel to keep warm. Repeat with remaining batter.
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Vegetable Pulp Bread

If you have ever juiced, you know how much pulp you get left over. It is almost sinful to get rid of the green goodness (I mostly do greens). I have tried all there is to put pulp to use - broths, muffins, crackers, etc, but nothing goes super well with my family as this bread. It is moist and smooth in texture, similar to zucchini or banana bread.

  • 2 cups veggie or fruit pulp
    Usually, I use carrot / apple / pear combination. But you can pretty much use any vegetable and / or fruit you have juiced. Also, I juice the veggies twice or even three times, so my pulp is not super moist.
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
    I like using kids granola cereal, that has raisins, pieces of fruit, etc
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 1,5 cups sugar
  • 1 cup sunflower and / or pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt

    1. Grease and flour two 8 x 4 inch pans. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
    2. I use an electric beater to combine all ingredients.
      If you don't have one, sift flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon together in a bowl. Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture, and beat well. Stir in pulp and seeds until well combined. 
    3. Pour batter into prepared pans.
    4. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan, and completely cool.

      Adapted from
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Perfectly Seared French-style Duck Breast. Magret de Canard.

By mid-December seasonal refrigerators in French supermarkets are full of local delicacies for Christmas luxury dinners: foie gras, escargot, oysters, seafood of all sorts, roasts of all kind, goose, and of course, whole duck and duck breast.

After spending some months in France nothing is more natural than serving Magret de Canard for Christmas Eve dinner. The preparation from the beginning to serving takes about 45 minutes and it requires your 100% presence.

For many years I had been afraid to handle duck breast - it had seemed to me beyond grand mastery to create a perfecly seared duck breast, the way they make it in France - tender, juicy, with crispy golden skin that melts in your mouth. But all of the hesitation is a thing of the past. After a few recipes and try-outs, I've aggregated this experience into this lengthy to read, but quick to implement, technique. 

  • 2 duck breasts
  • salt, pepper
  1. Take the duck breasts out of the fridge and leave to come to room temperature, about an hour or so.
  2. Wash and pat dry with paper towels. Do NOT season yet!
  3. Preheat the oven to 200C.
  4. Using a very sharp knife, score the duck breast by making long diagonal incisions across the duck skin going from top left corner to bottom right, 1 inch / 2cm apart. The incisions should be deep enough to cut through the fat but should not reach the meat. Once done, make incisions going from from the top right corner to the bottom left.
    This will help that duck fat melt faster and create that beautiful golden crispy skin.
  5. Put the duck in a heavy frying pan skin-side down. Turn up the heat to medium-high. Once you hear the sizzle, set the timer to 5 minutes. Now duck fat will start melting and it will sizzle and splash all over the place - be careful as the sizzling fat can shoot pretty far. It helps you have a splash guard to put over the pan.
  6. After a minute or so, you will notice the outer edges of the breasts start contracting. If you press down the meat with thongs on both ends of the breast for 30 seconds, you will have a perfectly-shaped piece and an even colour!
  7. As the fat melts, you need to remove it from the pan as it will overcook and will taste bitter - you just can't do this to the pride of French gastronomy!
    Usually, I remove the pan from the heat, pour the fat into a prepared bowl, and return the pan back; about 3 times during the searing process. But you can do the same by removing fat with a spoon with a long handle.
    If you can multi-task, you can also baste the top side of the duck with fat and juice from the pan, while removing the fat.
    Reserve the fat for future use by freezing. But I generally have pre-cooked potatoes ready in an oven-proof dish. At this point I pour some fat over it, mix potatoes with some herbs de Provence, garlic, and paprika and put the dish in the oven.
  8. After 5 minutes carefully, lift the breast off the pan. The skin should be golden and feel quite crispy. If not, you can increase the temperature and leave for another minute or two.
  9. Flip the breasts over and immediately lightly salt the seared skin. 
  10. Sear the turned-over breast for another minute or two, basting with pan liquid: 2min for small breast, 3 minutes for medium-sized pieces.
  11. Place the pan in the oven (some move the breasts in a roasting pan). Now cook until ready - 6-7 minutes for rare and 10 minutes for well-done meat. A good rule is to compare the feel of the meat to your face:
    Cheek = rare
    Chin = Medium
    Forehead = well done.
    By the way, none of the magret (and steaks) served in French restaurants are well-done: they are medium-rare to rare by default. If you ask for a well-done steak (bien cuit), it'll be overcooked or burnt. French cooks just refuse to acknowledge another degree of readiness for meats that these two.
  12. The last essential step is to let duck rest. This helps the moisture spread evenly. Remove the breast and place them on a cutting board, skin side up. Let it rest for 5 minutes.
  13. Cut into thin slices. Serve.
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Zucchini and Bell Peppers Slaw

Last night I made an Italian dinner for a group of people. With many antipasti to start, I really wanted a very light salad to accompany Osso Buco, the hearty main dish. Zucchini and Bell Peppers Slaw was just perfect - very light and crunchy, it balanced the veal very well. The crunch of raw vegetables and the zesty flavour of the balsamic dressing add a punch to the main dish. It can be easily served as a side dish or a salad. All in all, Zucchini and Bell Peppers Slaw is a fantastic salad, that is so easy to prepare and easy to enjoy.

Serves 6
Ready in 2-3 hours
  • 1 medium zucchini, julienned
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow / green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 white onion, thinly sliced 
  1. Prepare Balsamic Vinegar Dressing.
  2. Julienne the vegetables uniformly to have the same length and width.
  3. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and mix gently. Put the salad in the fridge to let the flavours develop for at least 2 hours.
  4. When ready to serve, drain the accumulated juice by reclining the bowl over the sink.

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Balsamic Vinegar Dressing

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • salt, pepper to taste

    Combine the ingredients in a jar with a lid. Close the lid and shake until thoroughly combined.
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