Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pesto-Garlic Spice Blend Portobello Burgers

If there's one thing I love more than a tasty and multi-purpose ingredient, it's a free one. What can I say? I'm a poor student.

This summer, I was lucky enough to win a set of Made With Love Spice Blends from a giveaway hosted by one of my favourite bloggers, HoneyB over at Grumphy's Honeybunch, as well as one for a friend.

I received two bottles of Made With Love's Pesto-Garlic Spice Blend and two bottles of Crimson Love, a beet-rosemary-nori blend with the bright red colour to match. Although both spice blends are delicious, the pesto-garlic spice blend has been seeing the most use in my household. Maybe it's my love of Italian flavours. I've been using the spice blend in place of real pesto whenever possible - stirring it into tuna salad, sprinkling it on sandwiches. I love sandwiching a slice of fresh tomato between two slices of cheddar and two slices of bread, sprinkling Pesto-Garlic spice blend on top of the cheese, and grilling the sandwich until the tomato is warm and the cheese is melted. It's quick and easy and such a delicious snack or lunch. I love that the flavour of the blend is spot on, but it's missing the fat and calories of nutty, cheesy pesto.

One of my favourite uses of the pesto-garlic spice blend, though, is adding it to marinades. It's a simple step but adds a ton of flavour.

In this recipe, the pesto-garlic flavour infuses a balsamic vinegar marinade. Portobello mushrooms are soaked in the marinade for about half an hour before being tossed on the grill to be cooked through. After they're cooked and a slice of provolone cheese is melted on top, they're placed on a bun, topped with tomato and spinach, and slathered with pesto garlic-infused mayo. The combination of the hot, balsamic-pesto flavoured portobello, the melted provolone, the creamy pesto mayo, and the cool tomato and spinach is fantastic. A perfect vegetarian treat.

Pesto-Garlic Spice Blend Portobello Burgers
Makes 2 burgers
Note: I'm a balsamic vinegar lover, so I love how the balsamic soaks right into the portobellos in this recipe. If you'd like a more mellow balsamic flavour, you can balance out the vinegar with more olive oil.

2 portobello mushrooms, cleaned and stems cut off
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 tsp Made With Love Pesto-Garlic spice blend (or actual pesto)
2 burger buns
2 slices provolone cheese
2 slices tomato
A few leaves of baby spinach, romaine lettuce, or other salad greens

Pesto Mayo
1 tbsp mayonnaise
A dash of pesto-garlic spice blend

Combine balsamic vinegar, olive oil, pesto spice, and salt and pepper in a casserole dish. Place portobello mushrooms in mixture. Marinate for 15 minutes, then flip over and marinate for another 15 minutes.

To make pesto mayo, combine 1 tbsp mayonnaise with pesto-garlic spice blend (or, again, actual pesto). Set aside.

Meanwhile, preheat barbecue to medium heat. When mushrooms are done marinating, place them right on the hot grill. Flip after 4-5 minutes. Continue cooking for another 3-5 minutes, until tender but not shriveled. Then place one slice of cheese on each mushroom, closing the lid to help the cheese melt quickly. When the cheese has melted, remove the portobellos from the grill. You can also toast your burger buns on the barbecue.

Spread equal amounts of pesto-garlic mayo on both burger bun bottoms. Place one cheese-topped mushrooms on each bun, then top with tomato and spinach (or whatever greens you are using). Serve immediately.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tuesdays With Dorie: Sweet Potato Biscuits

This week's Tuesdays With Dorie selection is Sweet Potato Biscuits, chosen by Erin of Prudence Pennywise. And it is a doozy.

These are flaky, buttery, perfectly seasoned biscuits. And easy to make, too. Strangely enough, you can't even taste the sweet potato, making these kind of like Dorie's version of the Sneaky Chef (that cookbook author who sneaks veggie purees into her cooking).

I can't wait to make these again. Thanks for your choice, Erin! Click here for the recipe.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Spiced Pumpkin Cookie Cakes

This week's Sweet Melissa Sundays pick, Spiced Pumpkin Cookies (chosen by Debbie of Every Day Blessings of The Fivedees) could not have come at a better time. My mom enlisted me to make the dessert for Thanksgiving (in Canada, Thanksgiving was last weekend). And on a trip to the States in August, I had stocked up on canned pumpkin because it's so much cheaper there. Naturally, making a pumpkin dessert for Thanksgiving was a given, but I knew I wanted it to be something more than the usual pumpkin pie. So when I saw that these pumpkin cookie cakes were an upcoming SMS recipe, my choice was made.

Sweet little pumpkin cookie cakes, sandwiched with orange cream cheese icing in the middle - autumnal whoopie pies. I knew they would add a whimsical touch to the end of our Thanksgiving meal.

The batter itself tasted like pumpkin pie, and when cooked, tasted like pumpkin gingerbread. I loved the bright flavour of the orange zest in the cream cheese icing, although my fiance (that word still sounds strange to me) felt the orange zest ruined it. At least he had fun chowing down on the extra batter (once it had made enough cookies, I slathered the remaining batter on a cookie sheet and baked it as a slab).

Debbie, thank you for your selection. It was a very tasty and timely choice. Click here to visit Debbie's blog and get the recipe.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tuesdays With Dorie: Allspice Crumb Muffins

This week's pick for Tuesdays With Dorie, chosen by Kayte of Grandma's Kitchen Table, is Allspice Crumb Muffins. There's not a lot of mystery to this recipe - it's exactly how it sounds. It's a simple allspice-flavoured muffin with a crumb topping. Sounds pretty run-of-the-mill, right?

Well, it is and it isn't. It's not an exciting recipe. But it is made entirely of pantry staples, a breeze to throw together, and impossibly delicious. I'll take that over exciting but complicated any day.

This muffin is seriously moist and delicious, and makes a great snack or quick breakfast. I'm thinking of adding a bit of whole wheat flour next time to up the nutrition-factor. But the crumb topping? Oh, the crumb topping. Sweet, (all)spicy, perfectly crumbly and buttery. It was perfection. My fiance lamented that it made the muffin itself seem tame by comparison, but I beg to differ.

Allspice Crumb Muffins are just wonderful. Thank you, Dorie, for such a fantastic recipe. And thank you, Kayte, for this pick! I appreciated making something that didn't require me to rush out and buy ingredients. It made it so easy to bake it while in the midst of packing for the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend and writing essays. Click here for the recipe.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Big News, an Award, and Chorizo and White Ale Mussels

It seems life has been conspiring against me and this blog lately. First of all, I greatly underestimated how challenging it would be to return to school! I am also working part-time Monday to Thursday mornings before class, which means I have to go to bed early - that's not in my nature. The result is that I have way less time to get things done than I thought I would. While I'm still eating (of course), my backlog of awesome recipes to share with you is getting bigger and bigger.

But it's not all bad.

I have some amazing personal news. I'm engaged! My boyfriend proposed to me last Friday. We're looking to get married next fall (or late-summer) and are in the process of finalizing our dates and venue. I can't wait!

And one more thing, before I move on to today's recipe. Waaaay back in July, I was generously given a blog award by one of my favourite bloggers, Eliana of A Chica Bakes. Thank you, Eliana!

I'm supposed to pass this on to some lovely bloggers that I read. Consider it done. Sorry, Eliana, for taking so long to get around to this!

Here are some blogs that I'm loving lately:

1. Ginger Rose
2. Hot Oven, Warm Heart
3. Bubie's Little Baker
4. Katiecakes
5. Effort to Deliciousness

Ladies, please feel free to pass on this award.

Now, on with the show. Chorizo and White Ale Mussels. These mussels are a take on a Curtis Stone recipe, kicked up with more of a pub-grub feel. We used dried chorizo, which lent an intense smoky flavour and a gorgeous orange hue to the broth. The flavour of the white ale complemented the chorizo perfectly. And the butter added at the end created a wonderful richness that made us want to drink the broth from a mug. Thank you, Curtis Stone, for your inspiration!

Chorizo and White Ale Mussels
Serves 2 as a meal, 4 as an appetizer
½ lb chorizo sausage (I used a smaller amount of smoked as it had a more intense flavor; I recommend the amount mentioned here if you’re using fresh sausage)
1 small onion, minced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 lb. mussels, scrubbed & debearded
1 cup white ale (I used Rickard’s White)
3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1.5 tbsp butter
1 baguette, sliced
Hot sauce (optional)

1. Place a large pot (one which has a matching lid) over medium heat. Add the chorizo and sauté for about 8 minutes or until golden brown if using fresh chorizo; til slightly crispy if using dried. Add onions and cook for 3-4, until softened. Add garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, taking care not to burn it.
2. Add beer, add the mussels and toss to coat, and cover pot. Cook over medium high heat for 3-4 minutes, or until the mussels begin to open. Discard any mussels that don’t open.
3. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the mussels to a large serving bowl and cover to keep warm.
4. Boil the remaining juices in the pot for 1-2 minutes, then stir in the butter. Taste broth and season accordingly with salt and pepper, and hot sauce if using. Pour the finished sauce over the mussels and sprinkle parsley over top. Serve with a sliced baguette for dipping.

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