Recipe: Baked mac ‘n’ cheese in ham cups

Pictured here with baby back ribs and garlic sauteed spinach.


– 1.5 cups elbow macaroni (uncooked)
– 2 tablespoons butter
– 2 tablespoons flour
– 1 and 1/4 cup milk
– 2.5 cups cheddar cheese, grated (You can throw some gruyere in there if you’re feeling fancy)
– 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
– 1 swirl (maybe a little less than a tablespoon) dijon mustard
– 1 teaspoon paprika
– 3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
– 200g ham, sliced thin


1. Preheat oven to 350 C
2. Prepare macaroni according to box directions, drain and set aside
3. Melt butter over low heat, stir in flour.
4. Add milk, stirring often until thick.
5. Stir in most of the cheese — maybe just under 2 cups — leaving behind just enough to cover the tops later.
6. Stir in paprika and dijon mustard — the secrets to excellent mac ‘n’ cheese, IMO.
7. Add macaroni to the cheese sauce.
8. Lightly grease a muffin tin (or ramekins) with cooking spray and line with two slices of ham, being careful not to tear them:

Just making four here. Recipe should yield six.

9. Carefully spoon the mac ‘n’ cheese into the cups:

10. Top with cheese, Panko breadcrumbs and paprika:

11. Bake for about 20 minutes, checking frequently for darkened edges around the 15-20 minute mark.

12. When they’re ready, let them cool for five or 10 minutes. Garnish with fresh chopped chives if you want ’em looking pretty.

I made these and served them with baby back ribs and garlic sauteed spinach.

Recipe: Herb and panko crusted cod


– 1 cup panko crumbs
– 1/2 cup of chopped fresh parsley, basil or dill (or all, mixed)
– 1 egg
– 1 lemon (zest grated off, and the rest cut into wedges)
– two big pieces of cod
– salt and pepper

* If you don’t already know: panko bread crumbs are just big airy bread crumbs that look kind of like smashed Rice Krispies. It gives a deep-fried texture to foods, which is something I’m always a fan of. It’s usually available in the bread section of grocery stores.


1.) Preheat oven to 450 F. Line a baking sheet with tin foil — then you can just throw that away after, instead of cleaning baked-on crap off the sheet — and spray with cooking spray.

2.) In one bowl, combine chopped herb(s) with lemon zest. In another, blend one egg.

3.) Remove the bones from the cod using tweezers. (Pretty easy.)

4.) Dunk the fish (both sides of each piece) in egg, and loosely smear a little of the herb mixture on  one side of each piece of the cod and place it herb-side down on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

5.) Add the panko  to the rest of the herb mixture and press it to the tops of the cod. If you have leftover egg, pour that on top too.

6.) Squeeze the juice of half the lemon on to the cod.

At this point, it should look something like this:

* Those big white chunks are coconut oil; something that is excellent, but not at all necessary, for this recipe. I will blog about my love for it in a separate post at some point. In a nutshell: I have found it to be the magical elixir of life.

7.) Bake for 13-15 minutes. It’s done when it flakes easily.

8.) Serve with the rest of the lemon (which it tastes excellent with) and parsley (which it looks nice with).

Serves two.

Recipe: Jerk chicken with mango salsa

[Recipe adapted from Cuisine Tonight print magazine]

This recipe makes about two servings. (Original recipe said it yielded four servings, but who’s full after two drumsticks? Come on, now. I’d also rather eat more chicken than add a side of rice or whatever.) I like making a lot of extra sauce (at least double this recipe) to keep in the freezer for later use. Takes the same amount of time; why not?

1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar (or regular if that’s what you have)
3 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp. Pickapeppa sauce*
1 tbsp. Jamaican jerk seasoning (There are usually a few to pick from in the “ethnic” aisle of any grocery store. I went with Grace brand [hot] jerk seasoning.)
1 tsp. sea or kosher salt… or normal salt. Whatever
8 chicken drumsticks
salt and pepper
a few shots of tequila

1 mango, peeled and diced
3/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1 serrano chile, seeded and minced
2  tbsp. minced red onion
2 tbsp. lime juice
2 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp minced ginger

1. Have a shot of tequila. Wee!

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with tin foil and spray with nonstick spray.

3. In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine ketchup, 1/4 cup brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, Pickapeppa sauce, jerk seasoning and salt. Heat up for about 10 minutes, stirring often to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the saucepan.

* Pickapeppa sauce, sometimes called “Jamaican ketchup,” is dee-lish. Mild, sweet, yummy. If you don’t have any, can’t find any, or don’t want to buy any, throw in a couple tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce instead — or any other kind of salsa-y goodness. Recipes are merely guidelines, anyway.

After it’s started boiling (10-15 minutes), take it off the heat and add 2 ounces of tequila. Not only does this make the sauce 2 ounces more awesome, but it keeps the sauce from freezing if you throw it in the freezer — making it a very good little concoction to keep in the freezer on standby, ready to use whenever.

4. Arrange drumsticks on the baking sheet and season with salt and pepper.

5. Pour some (about two cups) of the sauce into a bowl, so you don’t contaminate the rest of it. Using sauce from the bowl, brush sauce all over the tops of the drumsticks and pop into the oven for about 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, take them out, flip ’em, and brush the other sides with sauce. Lower the temp to 375 degrees and return to oven. Brush with sauce again 20 minutes later, for a total roasting time of 1 hour.

6. While that’s baking, make the salsa. Combine the mango, bell pepper, serrano, onion, lime juice, 2 tsp of brown sugar and ginger and mix well. Note that the seeds are what make the serrano hot, so be sure you scrape some out if you prefer a milder salsa. Chill until ready to serve.

And that’s it. When the chicken’s done — you might want to cut into one of the uglier pieces to make sure nothing’s pink — stack a couple on a plate and serve with the salsa. Brush the finished chicken pieces with some sauce (using a clean brush). Optional: Throw some chopped cilantro in that salsa. Cilantro makes everything better.

You can also serve this with some herbed rice with mint if you’re trying to be fancy, or if you don’t think four drumsticks and salsa is enough to fill you up. But as is, this is a pretty damn healthy, low-carb dish — which is a lovely surprise, for how good it is.

Recipe: Vij’s Family’s Chicken Curry

I’ve somehow never been to Vij’s, the uber-popular Vancouver restaurant on West 11th Avenue that some swear has the best Indian cuisine in North America. I’ve tried, but there have been long line-ups every time, and I’m not the most patient person when I’m hungry. I get hungry-angry. Hangry.

A while back I came across a recipe for Vij’s Family Chicken Curry, from Vickram Vij and his wife Meeru Dhalwala’s cookbook, Vij’s: Elegant and Inspired Indian Cuisine. I made it over the weekend and it is my new favourite recipe in recent memory. Dee-lish. Not having been to the restaurant, I don’t know how this fares in comparison, but until I do go, I’m pretty damn happy with this.

Below is their recipe, with my photos and notes.

Minutes to Prepare: 15
Minutes to Cook: 60
Number of Servings: 6


1/2 cup canola oil (I used coconut oil)
2 cups finely chopped onions
3-inch stick of cinnamon
3 tbsp finely chopped garlic
2 tbsp chopped ginger
2 cups chopped tomatoes (2 large, or one 28-ounce can, drained)
1 tbsp salt

1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper (Very mild. I upped it to about 1.5 tsp)
1.4 kilos chicken thighs, bone in (I used 8 thighs)
1 cup sour cream, stirred

2 cups water
1/2 cup chopped cilantro (including stems)
Rice (if you’re serving it with rice) 

Some people are turned off to recipes that require a million dashes of something because they feel it’s not worth it to have to buy all these individuals herbs and spices. Thing is, once you have them, you’ll be a lot more inclined to try future recipes that require them as well. Trussst me. If you’re still reluctant, you can buy small quantities from the bulk sections of grocery stores.

One more thing: I used coconut oil instead of canola oil because of my colleague’s neat losing-fat-by-eating-fat diet, which she wrote about here. She gave me a container of coconut oil to try, and I figured this would be the perfect dish to use it in, since coconut tastes excellent in curries.

On to the recipe: Get all your stuff chopped, measured and ready first:

Cinnamon, onion

Ginger, garlic

Salt, pepper, turmeric, cumin, coriander, garam masala, cayenne pepper

In a large pan, heat oil on medium heat for one minute. Add onions and cinnamon and sauté for five to eight minutes, until onions are golden. Add garlic and sauté for four more minutes.

Add ginger, tomatoes, salt, pepper, turmeric, cumin, coriander, garam masala and cayenne. (Sifting spices/powders into a recipe, like so, will prevent clumps.) Cook the masala for five minutes, until the oil separates. While that magic is happening, remove the skin from the chicken thighs. (Removing something as delicious as chicken skin hurts my heart, but it’s just not usable in this recipe.)

Add chicken thighs and cook for 10 minutes, until the chicken looks cooked on the outside. Add sour cream and water and stir well. Increase the heat to medium-high. When curry starts to boil, reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring two or three times, until chicken is completely cooked. (Mine was closer to 20 minutes.) While you’re waiting, this is a good time to make your rice (if you’re serving it with rice) and chop up the cilantro.

Check to see that the chicken’s cooked through, either with a thermometer (165 F is the magic temp for chicken), or by cutting into one and making sure there’s no pink. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick. Cool curry for at least half an hour.

Vij’s recipe now calls for you to transfer the chicken to a mixing bowl and, wearing latex gloves, peel the chicken meat off the bones. I don’t have a bunch of latex gloves at home, and I’d be suspicious of anyone who does. I just washed my hands, picked up the chicken, picked off the meat, returned it to the pan and discarded the bones. I guess the key things here are to make sure your curry’s no longer hot, and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards, lest you rub curry into your eye.

Just before serving, heat curry on medium heat until it starts to boil lightly. Stir in cilantro and serve with rice. Garnish with a cinnamon stick or two if you’re feeling fancy.

2011 Photo Throwdown: Day 339

Ginger beef stir fry (iPhone - Dec. 5, 2011)

Used this recipe, but doubled the ginger and garlic, made more sauce and threw in a few other leftover veggies.

(Side note: The end of the Throwdown nears! Told Erin I’m never taking another photo again.)

Friend and colleague Erin Loxam and I have pledged to take and upload one photo every day for all of 2011. See how she’s doing here.

2011 Photo Throwdown: Day 327

Chicken and waffles at Hidden Vancouver (iPhone - Nov. 23, 2011)

My first time finding and eating chicken and waffles in Vancouver. I expected it to be messier, as it usually is, but they were done all fancy-like — I guess not a huge surprise considering the restaurant is located in the Westin hotel, and referred to as a “tasting bar and social lounge.”

Very tasty. And I didn’t feel like dying immediately after, as I normally do with fried chicken.

Friend and colleague Erin Loxam and I have pledged to take and upload one photo every day for all of 2011. See how she’s doing here.