Monthly Archives: June 2012

Vegetarian For A Day.

There have always been picky eaters. Cavemen families had trouble getting their little shaggy-haired fur-clad Ugg to eat his mammoth steak. Cleopatra had to wrestle with her son, Cesarian just to get him to finish his figs. Marie Antionette and Louis XVI found their daughter Marie-Thérèse conveniently preferred cake over broccoli.

Nothing has changed. Children are still notoriously picky eaters. Thankfully I am blessed with a step daughter that loves vegetables especially broccoli. Myself, I have had a colourful past with vegetables. I tried all the old standby tricks: sneaking them into my napkin, covering them with my mashed potatoes, hiding them in my mouth and flushing them later, even tucking them in the leaf of the kitchen table and forgetting about them.

I was approached by Hidden Valley to participate in a challenge with fourteen other Canadian food bloggers. The fifteen of us are tasked with creating a recipe with ranch dressing that makes eating vegetables fun for the whole family.

When I think of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing I think of good old fashioned veggie dipping. Cherry tomatoes, cucumber, carrots, celery, broccoli, red and green peppers and more, something I missed out on as a kid. But when it comes to picky eaters sometimes you have to hide the vegetables and dipping them isn’t quite clever enough. I’ve become a huge fan of using ranch dressing on pizza instead of marinara sauce and I knew this would be the perfect opportunity to show you just how versatile this product can be!

So I took all my favourite dipping veggies and put them on a pizza instead. As a kid I always turned my nose up at vegetarian pizza, but I can attest that this Hidden Valley Cheese Ranch really brings out the best in vegetables. And, young or old, who can say no to pizza?

Vegetarian Ranch Pizza

Makes 1 medium pizza.

Source: Crust adapted from Annie’s Eats’ Basic Pizza Dough.

1/4 cup water, warm
1 1/8 tsp instant yeast
2 cup bread flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup water, room temperature
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp cornmeal
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup Hidden Valley Cheese Ranch Dressing
5 cherry tomatoes, sliced
1/2 red pepper, sliced
1/2 green pepper, sliced
1/2 red onion, sliced
1/2 cup cucumber, sliced
1 cup broccoli florets
3 cup mozzarella cheese

Note: Serve the pizza with a little of the Hidden Valley Cheese Ranch Dressing on the side for a little added flavour!

In a medium measuring bowl sprinkle the instant yeast over the warm water.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment stir together the bread flour and salt. Add the room temperature water and olive oil to the yeast bowl and gradually pour it into the flour mixture while it’s mixing on low.

Once it’s mixed into a cohesive dough switch to the hook attachment and knead the dough on low for about 5 minutes or until it’s smooth and elastic.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turning it once to ensure all the dough is oiled. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit undisturbed to rise until it’s doubled in size for about 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

Preheat the oven and pizza stone to 500 degrees and position a rack in the middle.

Press down the doubled dough to deflate it then transfer it to a floured work surface. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let it rest for 10 – 30 minutes.

Cut a sheet of parchment paper to fit your pizza stone then sprinkle it lightly with cornmeal. Cornmeal is the secret to crispy pizza crust. Spread the word! Lightly flour your hands and shape the dough gently using the backs of your hands to stretch and form it without tearing it with your fingertips. If the dough springs back too much when you’re trying to shape it then let it rest for another 15 minutes and try again. This should relax the gluten and make it easier to work with. Your goal here is to form the dough into a circle 10 – 12 inches wide with a slightly thicker 1/2 inch rim for the crust.

With a pastry brush lightly brush the crust with olive oil. Liberally spread an even layer of the Hidden Valley Cheese Ranch Dressing followed by half the mozzarella cheese. Distribute the vegetables evenly over the cheese layer then top it with the rest of the mozzarella cheese.

Slide the parchment paper onto a cutting board then onto the preheated pizza stone and bake it for 8 – 12 minutes. The cheese should be bubbly and the crust should be golden brown. Slice and enjoy!

The Cleanse.

One slice of tart never made anyone fat. One day of exercise never made anyone fit. The magic happens somewhere in between.

I am a firm believer in eating the foods that you love in moderation while balancing it with exercise. No cutting out carbs, no avoiding pizza like the plague, no cabbage soup, no meal replacements, no swearing off cookies, no pills. Just good old fashioned eat your dang food groups! And make sure to indulge every once in a while!

Eating is easy, exercise isn’t. We only ever have time to work, cook and clean anyway so why not work exercise in there somewhere?

Forget Jillian Michaels, forget Ab-Doer, forget Bow-flex! Just clean!

Jiggly arm fat? Try some bathtub scrub pushups and dish brush bicep curls.

Mummy tummy? Bust out the Pledge and do some floor wax planks and silver polishing sit ups.

Thunder thighs? Do some laundry lunges and Windex squats.

Throw in some vacuum cardio for good measure and finish it all off with duster stretches.

You’ll look fabulous and so will your house! Your thighs will thank you and so will your floors!

While you bask in the glittery glow of your immaculate house and soak your tired feet, why not indulge a little? Slice yourself off a piece of this Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Pretzel Tart. A crumbly salty pretzel cookie crust with a rich chocolate ganache filling swirled with smooth peanut butter.

Come on. You deserve it.

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Pretzel Tart

Makes 1 12 inch tart

Source: My imagination

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 cup crushed pretzels
1 1/2 cup flour
1 egg

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 cup smooth peanut butter

In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat together the butter, powdered sugar and half the crushed pretzels until it’s creamy. Mix in the flour, egg and remaining pretzels making sure to leave some pretzel pieces intact for added crunch. Form the dough into a flattened ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and chill it for 1 hour or overnight.

When you’re ready to roll out the tart shell take the dough out of the refrigerator and let it sit for about 10 minutes to take a bit of the chill off. Butter a 12 inch round fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and set it aside. Sandwich the dough between 2 large sheets of wax paper and roll it out into a 15 inch circle. Rolling it out with wax paper helps you avoid sticky dough, messy flour, reduces cracks and makes it easy to turn it over into the tart pan. Once the sheet of dough is centered in the prepared tart pan press it into the corners of the pan and fold the excess dough back over the sides to create a nice strong double edge crust, making sure to keep the dough level with the edge of the pan. Pierce the dough a few times with a fork and freeze it for half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and position a rack in the center. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit it buttered side down tightly against the inside of the tart shell. Place the tart on a baking sheet and bake it for 20 – 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake it for another 10 minutes until the edges turn golden brown. Transfer the tart to a rack and let it cool completely before filling.

To make the ganache put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set it aside. In a small sauce pan combine the cream and butter and heat it on medium heat. When it comes to just a boil pour it over the chocolate, cover it and let it sit for 3 – 5 minutes. Whisk in the chocolate until it all melts and you’re left with a smooth pudding like consistency. Pour it into the cooled tart shell and smooth it out with a spatula.

Melt the peanut butter slightly in the microwave until it’s runny. Pour it over the chocolate ganache and drag a knife through it to create swirls. Chill it for 10 – 15 minutes to set the filling. Enjoy!

Raise A Glass!

I’ve never been the sort of person who surrounds herself with hundreds of friends. But the few close friends that I do have, that stood the test of time and trials of distance, I will treasure always.

If you’re lucky in life, you have that one person who really gets you. That one person who can make a five hour marathon video chat seem like minutes. That one person who makes sure you’re up to date on all the prettiest songs. That one person you know you can call when you need to gush about Downton Abbey. That one person who curiously and unknowingly buys exactly the same sweater as you from over three thousand kilometres away. That one person who not only isn’t afraid to make the funniest faces with you, but also doesn’t object to posting the photos on facebook. That one person who would never criticize you for eating an entire bag of Nibs. That one person who knows when to laugh with you and when to cry. That one person who never judges you.

And if, like me, you’re truly blessed, you might have more than one person like that in your life, but it’s important to have at least one.

Today’s recipe is inspired by my person, my best friend, Cornelia. When she introduced me to this smoothie my head exploded. It has the cool sweetness of frozen banana, the bitterness of cocoa, the floral notes of honey, all grounded by the smooth bite of peanut butter.

And get this…

…It’s actually good for you!

I think this might be a Hot Polka Dot first. So let’s raise a glass! Preferably a glass filled with chocolate peanut butter banana goodness.


Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

Makes 1 large smoothie

Source: My imagination

1 banana, sliced and frozen
1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk

Combine all ingredients in a blender and mix it until it’s smooth. Easy! Enjoy!