Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins

This blog has been sadly neglected of late, but I have been busy cooking and baking again after some busy months earlier in the spring and summer. My garden is a bit lacklustre this year, perhaps because it has yet to really establish itself.

However, I have received a surplus of zucchinis from friends and family. Yet again, I was faced with a dilemma of what to do with this much zucchini. One of my colleagues share this recipe for Zucchini Muffins, which I really enjoyed. However, I wanted to make the recipe a touch healthier, so I switched some of the all-purpose flour to whole wheat for a bit of fibre.

The muffins are simple, lovely, and moist. The chocolate chips add a punch of sweetness that I quite like, and it pairs well with the cinnamon. They also freeze well.


Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup shredded zucchini

1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 12 muffin cups, or line with paper muffin liners.
2. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Mix egg, oil, milk, lemon juice, and vanilla in a medium bowl; stir into dry ingredients until just moistened.
3. Fold in zucchini, chocolate chips, and walnuts. Fill prepared muffin cups 3/4 full.
4. Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the centre of a muffin comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes.

An Indulgent Steak

Sometimes, I crave a good steak. Because my BBQ is put away for the winter (as we often do in Canada), that can be problematic at times. However, I also happen to have a cast iron pan, which does the trick of searing a steak nicely when the weather is too cold for BBQing.

Steak (beef) is not something one typically finds in old recipebooks. Bartolomeo Scappi, in his 1570 Opera, includes recipes for beef tenderloin, beef ribs, beef shanks, and beef liver that often includes spices like fennel, pepper, cinnamon, and bacon lardons. The beef cuts he mentions tended to be boiled, stewed, or spit-roasted. Steak as we know it tends to pop up a century or two later, with institutions such as chophouses and beefsteak clubs in London (for men only).

Canada happens to have a robust beef industry, especially in Alberta, where there have been large ranches of cattle, including Angus, Charolais, Hereford, and Simmental breeds, for over a century. Although I live on the other side of the country, Alberta beef is shipped across Canada and the world, giving us delicious steaks and many other cuts of beef.

I found a rather tasty recipe for steak with roasted garlic and herb butter on the Food and Wine website that I was keen to try, but, as per usual, I modified a few things to suite my taste. This recipe can easily be adapted to serve as many or as few people as you have steaks. Any leftover steak can be sliced and served the next day. It is excellent as a cold steak sandwich, or even accompanied by a salad.

Indulgent Steak with Garlic-Herb Butter

Serves 4

1 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

4 steaks, about 1 1/2 inches thick (I like sirloin steaks)

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
8 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano
4 tablespoons butter, softened

1. Preheat the oven to 275°.
2. In a bowl, mix the marinade ingredients. Divide paste into four, and rub a portion all over each steak. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
3. Meanwhile, on a double-layer square of aluminium foil, toss the garlic with the herbs; drizzle the on top. Fold the foil to enclose the garlic and transfer to a baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes, until the garlic is very soft.
4. When the garlic is cool, squeeze the cloves from their skins into a bowl; add the herbs. Using a fork, mash the garlic with the herbs and butter. Spoon the garlic butter onto a sheet of plastic wrap, roll into a log and refrigerate until firm, 30 minutes.
5. For the stove-top method, preheat cast-iron pan on medium-high heat until smoking.
6. Unwrap each steak and sear for about 6 minutes, turning once, for rare meat. For medium, about 9 minutes, turning them once halfway through.
7. Top the steaks with the garlic-herb butter and let stand for 5 minutes, then serve.

Note: With the stove-top method, the marinade will burn a bit but it will help to form a nice crust on the exterior of the steak.

Maple Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin

Even when work gets very busy for me, I find I still want to make homemade food rather than rely on take-out or pre-made meals. Recently, I found a delicious recipe for a Maple Bacon Pork Tenderloin that is an excellent option to make on a day that you have time and then freeze for later.

Pork is an ideal meat to eat during the winter when you want richer, warm foods to counteract the cold weather. In fact, pork has traditionally been a winter meat. In the Middle Ages, the Labours of the Months illustrated rural activities that commonly took place during the months of the year. The specific activities might vary depending on where the images were created, but the imagery for November often included herding swine or slaughtering a pig. The meat from the animal would then be turned into sausages, bacon, and other preserved meats to last through the long winters in Northern Europe.

slaugtering a boar bl manuscript image
Slaughtering a Boar in November, c. 1318-1325. British Library, Add MS 36684, f. 11v (source)

This particular recipe I found on The Recipe Critic, but I switched up a few things. Because I generally cook for smaller numbers of people, a pork tenderloin is much better for portion sizing. I also cooked my pork in the oven, and then added some stock and onions. However, the flavour was delicious—the mustard and maple, along with the bacon created an unbeatable combination. We had no leftovers from our meal, and, in fact, a few days later, I prepped two more pork tenderloins for the freezer to eat when my workplace enters its busy season later this spring.


Maple Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin
Serves 3ish

1 pork tenderloin
7 slices bacon
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 Tablespoons grainy mustard
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 cup chicken stock
1 onion, quartered

1. In a large bowl or Ziploc bag, combine maple syrup, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, and salt and pepper. Wrap the bacon around the pork layering it evenly, and then place pork in marinade. Marinade overnight in the refrigerator, or freeze pork tenderloin for up to 3 months.
2. Preheat oven to 350F.
3. In a medium roasting pan, place quartered onion on the bottom. Pour stock on top of onions. Remove tenderloin from marinade, and place tenderloin on top of the onions (which will act like a cooking rack). Pour marinade over pork.
4. Cover, and cook in oven for about 70 minutes. Remove lid, and cook pork for another 20-30 minutes, until top is slightly crispy and marinade-sauce has reduced.
5. Remove tenderloin from pan, and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Slice into 1.5 inch slices, and serve with marinade-sauce as a drizzle.

Alternatively, this can be cooked in the Crockpot (see the original recipe website for instructions).

Holiday Leftovers

Every holiday, I am faced with the dilemma of what to do with leftovers. As much as leftovers can be tasty—and quick to reheat—I personally get rather tired of eating the same thing again and again. At Thanksgiving and Christmas, I am usually more than satisfied to have a turkey salad sandwich the day after the big meal, and then I’m done.

For the past couple years, we have cooked a ham at Christmas, in addition to the turkey. A small ham makes for tasty snacking and sandwiches when we are busy wrapping presents or prepping for the holiday. And we had leftover ham.

This year, I used leftover ham in two different ones.

Ham Casserole

I don’t know what exactly to call this gratin-style dish, which is essentially ham, potatoes and green beans in a white sauce. It’s not beautiful, but it is tasty and warming during the doldrums of the post-Christmas slump. This dish could easily also incorporate leftover roast potatoes and beans (if you have them). I first encountered something similar in the UK, and I really enjoyed it.

Serves 2-3

1 cup, chopped leftover ham
2-3 medium potatoes, boiled and sliced
1 onion, chopped
1/2 leek, chopped (optional)
1 cup leftover or frozen green beans
1 cup milk
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp butter
1 cup grated old cheddar (even leftover cheese from a cheeseboard would work)
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. With the butter, sauté onion (and leeks, if using them) in pan on medium heat until softened.
2. Add flour to pan, stir with onions for 1-2 minutes, then whisk in the milk. Turn off heat. Add half the grated cheese, and season with salt and pepper.
3. In medium ovenproof casserole dish, add potatoes, ham, and beans. Stir in white sauce. Top with remaining grated cheese.
4. Bake in 350F oven until top is golden and bubbling, about 45 minutes.


Along with the leftovers of our charcuterie platter, I used up some leftover ham in a pizza. Traditionally my family always made homemade pizza on Christmas Eve as a way to keep the kids busy and to change it up from all of the heavy roasts. However, now that my siblings and I are all adults, pizza doesn’t work quite so well with a half a dozen hungry adults.

So this year, we made our pizza few days after Christmas, which was a pleasant change. I incorporated prosciutto, salami, and ham into my pizza. However, if you have any baby tomatoes or pepper slices from a veggie tray, those could also work well.

Cider Braised Pork and Root Vegetables


When the weather gets cold, the oven gets busy!

During the last few weeks, the cold has really set in here. The leaves finished falling off the branches last month and we have had a sprinkling of snow on the ground some mornings. Late fall is my favourite time of year, in part because of its cozy, comforting nature.

This is the time of year when I start to break out my stew and casserole recipes. Root vegetables start to crop up into most dishes, replacing salads and raw vegetables of the summer. I had a hankering for a braised pork dish recently, and recalled the cider-filled stews of the UK, like Cider-Braised Pork and Parsnips. Cider, which is made from fermented apples, is a beverage that has been around for thousands of years. Britain has a strong cider tradition, and this was brought over to North America, where apple trees were able to easily grow. Recently, in southern Ontario (where I live), there has been a craft cider revival. There are dozens of ciders available in most stores, and craft cideries have popped up all over. Because I prefer cider to beer, I have been quite excited about this resurgence of cider!

Not only is cider tasty to drink, but it is also excellent to cook with. Cider is an ideal compliment to pork, and stars in this dish. You can brown the pork chops before braising, but it is not necessary. The cabbage is optional, but I find that braised cabbage is the best way to cook it, so I set it to the side of the dish to cook there alongside the rest of the meat and vegetables.


Cider-Braised Pork Chops and Root Vegetables

Serves 4

4 bone-in pork chops

1 large onion, sliced
2 parsnips, cut into chunks
2 carrots, cut into chunks
2 apples, peeled and cut into chunks
1/4 of a head of cabbage, finely sliced (optional)
2 bay leaves
1 bunch of fresh thyme
1 tsp garlic salt

1 bottle hard cider
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 cup chicken stock

Parsley, minced (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat oven to 340F.
2. In a large, oven-proof casserole dish, add the sliced onions, carrots, parsnip, apples, and herbs. Pour in the chicken stock, cider, and cider vinegar.
3. Arrange the pork chops on top of the vegetables. Sprinkle garlic salt over top.
4. If desired, push the pork chops to one side of the dish, and set the cabbage in the freed-up corner.
5. Season with salt and pepper. Cover, and put in the oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
6. If so desired, serve sprinkled with parsley, with mashed potatoes.

Pumpkin Cookies

20180930_131254Towards the end of September, I start to get excited because autumn is on its way! Pumpkins start to appear outside of markets and shops and I get an overwhelming urge to start baking. I’ve been pretty preoccupied with a new house lately, but as soon as the calendar turned to October, the baking sheets came out!

Pumpkin cookies are an old favourite recipe at this time of year. Not only are they a food endemic to North America, but they are one of the harbingers of the season. And delicious to eat in many forms, be it cakes, cookies, loaves, or even in savoury dishes. This pumpkin cookie combines pumpkin with the traditional spices of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, with raisins to create a soft cookie that is not overly sweet. It could be iced with cream cheese icing, or a simple citrus glaze, but I like mine plain. The recipe freezes well, and it can be doubled easily.

Pumpkin Cookies (recipe originally from Company’s Coming Cookies cookbook)

Makes about 60 cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup canned pumpkin (or fresh cooked and mashed)

2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp ginger
1 cup raisins (sultanas)

1. Preheat oven to 375F (190C).
2. In a medium bowl, cream butter and sugar together. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add vanilla and pumpkin. Stir mixture together.
3. In a large bowl, stir remaining ingredients together. Add in pumpkin mixture, and mix well.
4. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto a greased pan.
5. Cook in oven for about 15, or until lightly browned.

Zucchini Carrot Muffins

Every week this summer, my zucchini plant has been dutifully producing one, or even two zucchinis. And I continue to struggle to come up with ways to use them up. There’s only so many chocolate zucchini loaves or lasagnas with zucchini layers one can eat!

A couple months ago, I came across a recipe for Courgette (Zucchini) Carrot Muffins. The concept sounded good, but I wasn’t sold on the actual recipe. Zucchini is so plain tasting that it needs a bit of punch—some chocolate, or even spice. So I experimented with a tried and true family recipe for Carrot Apple Muffins, but substituted the apple with shredded zucchini. The result? Delicious and somewhat nutritious. These muffins are ideal for a breakfast on the go, or a school snack. They also freeze well.

Carrot Zucchini Muffins

Makes 18 muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup finely shredded carrot
1 1/2 cup finely shredded zucchini
1 cup raisins
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten

1. Preheat oven to 375F.
2. In a large bowl, combine flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Stir in sugar. Add carrot, zucchini, and raisins, and mix together.
3. Make a well in the centre of the mixture, and add oil, milk, eggs, and vanilla. Stir until just moistened.
4. Use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to scoop muffin batter into greased tins. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.



Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved “ethnic food.” Thai food. Moroccan food. Chinese stir fries. Ethiopian vegetables. I love to eat it, and I love to cook it. My family didn’t travel to any exotic climes in my childhood (unless you count Disney World), though my father travelled extensively for business, which did introduce us to bulgogi, Indian curries, and pad thai.

One book that my father brought back from a business trip to Singapore was The Best of Singapore Cooking by Mrs Leong Yee Soo (1991 edition). Included among the delicious and exotic recipes is one for satay, barbecued beef or chicken with peanut sauce. Now satay can be found at every corner Asian restaurant, but back in the early 90s, this was about as exotic as it got. I adore this recipe, and I have made this recipe so many times, I actually have the ingredients memorized.

Galangal British Library MS
Galingale and Sweet Flag, 1280-1310, Tractatus de herbis, Italy, S. (Salerno). British Library, MS Egerton 747, f. 25.

The secret ingredient is galangal, a rhizome related to ginger. It is more aromatic than ginger, and can’t be substituted in this recipe. Galangal was prized during the Middle Ages as a luxury spice from the East, and it crops up in all sorts of medieval recipes. It was even used to make hippocras, a sort of spiced and sweetened wine.

Although the galangal is crucial to this satay recipe, you can use any sort of meat—pork, beef, and chicken are all delicious. Shrimp would be tasty, too. The recipe can be doubled, and leftover satay is excellent in a banh mi sandwich.


Serves 3-4

1 onion, cut in quarters
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 thumb-sized piece turmeric root, or 1 tsp ground turmeric
4 stalks lemon grass sliced, or 1 tsp ground lemongrass
2 slices galangal root, or 1 tsp ground galangal
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp salt
4-5 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 tbsp vegetable oil

1 lb beef or chicken, chilled and cut into thin strips

1. Blend marinade ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth.
2. In a large bowl, mix marinade with strips of meat until all of the meat is evenly covered. Marinate meat for at least one hour in the refrigerator.
3. Preheat barbecue to “hot” setting.
4. Thread marinated meat onto soaked bamboo skewers or fine metal skewers.
5. Grill satay skewers on barbecue, turning over once each side has char lines (3-8 minutes per side, depending on your barbecue).
6. Serve satay with peanut sauce—my favourite brand is President’s Choice Memories of Szechuan Spicy Peanut Satay Sauce, available at Loblaws, No Frills, and Real Canadian Superstore.

Brined Pork Chops

It’s been a hot summer in Canada! And many evenings I don’t feel like cooking supper in the oven. Even with air conditioning, the oven heats up the whole house. So I turn to the barbecue. Hamburgers and sausages are great, and so are chicken steak, but I like more variety than that.

A couple years ago, I encountered a recipe for brined pork chops. Brining is supposed to make meat tender, so I tried it out to very impressive results! Sometimes barbecued pork chops can get a bit dry and tough, but brining the chops made them juicy and tender, not salty (like I had feared). In a way, the success of brining the pork chops shouldn’t surprise me. We have been salting and curing meat for thousands of years—think of bacon, corned beef, salt cod. Brining pork chops is not much different, and it imparts both flavour and moisture to the meat.

Since then, I have played around with the recipe. It is a standard summer supper for us now. You can easily make up the brine and get the chops soaking before work, and then by the time you return home, they are ready for the grill. No need to turn on the oven at all!

The pork chops work well on the barbecue, but they can also be fried in a pan and then finished in the oven.

Brined Pork Chops

4 1 1/2-inch-thick pork rib chops

1 cup apple juice
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup maple syrup or brown sugar
1-2 star anise
3 sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
3 cups water
Pepper to taste

1. To make the brine, place the juice, vinegar, salt, maple syrup, star anise, thyme, bay leaf and water in a large Ziploc bag. Seal the bag, and shake vigorously until the salt has completely dissolved.
2. Place pork chops in Ziploc. Seal and refrigerate for at least 8 hours (12 hours is ideal).
3. To cook the chops, preheat barbecue to medium-high. Cook on each side, about 10-12 minutes, until pork chops are cooked and juices run translucent. If barbecue is taking too long, finish cooking chops in a 375F oven, wrapped in tin foil, until cooked through.
4. Place on a plate to rest for 5 minutes before serving. The pork chops are delicious with barbecue sauce, apple compote, or an au jus.

A Really Good Chocolate Chip Cookie

Chocolate chip cookies have been around for nearly century, having been invented by a pair of American chefs in 1938. Like most North Americans, I have eaten my fair share of chocolate chip cookies, from soft cookies fresh out of the oven that ooze chocolate, to packaged varieties that are generally hard and not terribly satisfying. I have had overcooked ones, and undercooked ones. Double chocolate chip cookies, and cookies with barely a singular chocolate piece.

Recently, I was intrigued by an article in the BBC Good Food Guide magazine which claimed to have found “the best cookies” the author had ever eaten. I was intrigued, but also somewhat skeptical. So, naturally, I had to try out the recipe for myself.

The recipe produced a batter that was a bit too dry and mealy to mix together, so I modified it slightly to include a tablespoon of milk

The cookies certainly had a solid amount of chocolate chunks, and they smelled heavenly coming out of the oven. I tried my first cookie before it had cooled, and it was so-so. However, after the cookies sat in the tin for a day or two, they reached their full potential. Best cookie I have ever eaten? Maybe not. But they were pretty darn close!

The original recipe comes from Alison Roman’s cookbook Dining In. If more of the recipes in her cookbook are like this one, then it might be worth picking up a copy!

(Note: The ingredients are measured by weight, so use a kitchen scale)

Chocolate Chip Sea Salt Cookies

225g butter, softened
112g granulated sugar
42g brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
350g all-purpose flour
1 tbsp milk (optional)
170g dark chocolate chunks
1 egg
Demerara sugar, as needed
Flaky sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add in vanilla.
3. Mix in flour to make a dough. If dough is too dry to come together, add in the milk and stir to form a ball.
4. Fold in chocolate chunks.
5. Divide dough portion in two, and then form each section into a log shape. Wrap each log in cling film or wax paper. Chill for 2 hours, then unwrap.
6. Beat egg, and then brush over each log. Roll each log in demerara sugar, using wax paper to help adhere the sugar as necessary.
7. Slice each log into 1/2 inch-thick rounds, and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
8. Sprinkle cookies with flaky sea salt.
9. Bake at 350F for 12-15 minutes. Demerara sugar will melt and caramelize on some of the cookies.

The cookies are really best enjoyed a day or two after they are baked! They are an adult’s cookie—not too sweet, and the combination of the crunchy demerara sugar with the surprise of salt and dark chocolate is very, very delicious.