How To

Easy Peanut Stir-Fry

Disclosure: There are affiliate links below, but I won’t put anything on this page that I haven’t verified and/or personally used.

xoxoBianca

The thing about stir-fry is that it’s low-key one of the most flavourful meals you’ll make. Stir-fry is easy. Stir-fry is delicious. And most importantly, stir-fry is whatever you want it to be. Seriously, with stir-fry you can use any meat you like- or omit it completely-, you can change up the vegetables, and you can you serve it over rice, noodles or naked, if you’re feeling super veg.


EASY PEANUT STIR-FRY

Equipment You’ll Need

  • To Wok or Not?

Some will say you ABSOLUTELY need a wok to make stir-fry, but I have an unpopular opinion, the wok isn’t necessary. Will it help? Sure BUT only if you have a gas range, otherwise, there isn’t enough surface area of the pan hitting the heat. So if you have gas, invest in a wok; if not, a skillet that conducts heat well will pull through for you. I’m a lover of Zwilling skillets because they’re not non-stick but stick resistant.

You’ll need tongs too, but if you don’t have tongs by now, well, I dunno (shrugs shoulders).


EASY PEANUT STIR-FRY
EASY PEANUT STIR-FRY
  • For Vegetarians/Vegans

If you’re a card carrying vegetarian (or vegan) you’re not going to use steak, use tofu instead! The only thing you’ll need to consider when using tofu is you MUST get the liquid out; place the FIRM tofu in a clean kitchen towel, place a heavy plate on top to squeeze out the liquid, and leave for 20 minutes. Then the tofu is ready to grill, saute or whatever.


EASY PEANUT STIR-FRY
EASY PEANUT STIR-FRY
  • Mini Miso Masterclass

Miso is an amazing ingredient that is meant to uplift any dish, because it’s that “mmmm” taste we all love in our savoury food; but many people fear miso because they don’t know how to use it. Here’s what you need to know, miso is tangy, and like I said, it’s meant to uplift a dish, so start with a teaspoon at a time, because too much miso can boss a dish around.

Use miso in salad dressing, marinades, soups and more...but in this instance, we are adding it to our peanut sauce for delicious results.


EASY PEANUT STIR-FRY
EASY PEANUT STIR-FRY

Miso Peanut Stir-Fry

  • 1 large grilling steak

  • 2 inch piece of ginger, minced

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 2 tbsp peanut butter

  • ¼ cup soy sauce

  • 1 tsp miso sauce

  • ½ tsp brown sugar

  • 6 heads of baby bok choy, removed from stem

  • 4 mixed peppers, cut into strips

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil

  • 1 tsp sesame oil

  • Peanuts, chopped, for garnish

  • Rice for serving

Season the steak with salt and pepper.

In a skillet on medium high heat add the coconut oil and sesame oil. Add the steak and cook for 3 minutes each side. Remove from skillet and wrap in tin foil to rest.

MEANWHILE add the garlic and ginger to pan and saute for 3 minutes. Add the bok choy and peppers. Mix the soy sauce, miso, peanut butter and brown sugar in a bowl, then add to the skillet. Bring to a simmer and turn down to low.

Slice the rested steak into strips and add them to the skillet. Toss to combine everything.

SERVE over rice and garnished with chopped peanuts.


DON’T FORGET to tag me in your food photos on Instagram…it brings me such joy!

@biancaosbourne

EASY PEANUT STIR-FRY.png

Best Ever Tomato Soup

I made an EPIC tomato soup the other day. And I don’t bandy the term “epic” around lightly.

Being a born and bred Alberta baby of the 80’s, I know winter- I know cold; because growing up it was de rigueur to experience WEEKS of -30C. So when I relocated to Toronto, the comparably mild winters were easy to manage, but like most transplants, I’ve gone soft. Like, complain-about-0C, soft.

And last week the mild winter city of Toronto got cold- really cold; so I did what any chef does, I made soup.

The most delicious tomato soup ever.

But first, let’s talk about soup cookery.


best ever tomato soup
best ever tomato soup

SOUP IS ARTISTRY, but so often people don’t give soup cookery the time and respect it deserves. Soup is an exercise in layering flavour, which means you can’t just throw all the ingredients in water, bring it to a boil and call it dinner. Oh no, no, no, no, NO!

Classic soups, like tomato, take time; so, although, I love a quick meal, this is not that. But I wholeheartedly promise you that the work is 100% worth it.

So let’s begin.


The Fundamentals

There are some very important things to consider when making soup, and it’s so very important to address these considerations; because once you understand these key soup making fundamentals, ALL your soups will be amazing from hence forth!

  • STOCK + BROTH

Often stock and broth are conflated but they are different things. Stock is the result of boiling bones, seasonings and meat with water; while bone broth is the strained broth of boiled collagen dense beef bones with herbs, spices and water.

If you take one thing from this post, let it be this, NEVER make soup with water, you’re letting your soup down if you do. Because soup is an exercise in layering flavours, if one of your main components is flavourless water, you’re fighting a losing battle; and you’ll likely end up using WAY more salt to season than need be, in an effort to bring up the flavour.

  • FLAVOUR ESSENTIALS

best ever tomato soup
best ever tomato soup

If you ever see a soup recipe without onion, run the other way. Seriously. Onions are the base of EVERY soup I prepare. Now, mirepoix, the trinity aka base of every soup or sauce, is onion, celery and carrot. That said, I rarely use all three when making soup, just onions mostly, but in this recipe you are going to see garlic, because without garlic this soup wouldn’t be what it is.

  • TEXTURE

Blended soups toe a very dangerous line, in that they can very easily give the “baby food” vibe if texture is not considered. Pureed soup alone is one-note, and even the most delicious of soups, when served blended and without consideration to texture, still fall flat. In this recipe you will roast halved tomatoes and whole tomatoes, the halves will be set aside and added to the soup once it’s been blended, the whole tomatoes get blended smooth. With the addition of THE garnish (see below) this soup is really something else.

A NOTE ABOUT TEXTURE kids, in most cases, HATE texture. As a picky eater I get it, so if this soup is for the mouths of littles, blend until completely smooth and reserve the tomato garnish for the adults at the table.

  • TOMATO SOUP FLAVOUR NOTE

Tomatoes are naturally acidic, even when roasted, so balancing the acidity is necessary to round out the flavour of any tomato soup- or dish for that matter. I use maple syrup most often, but I had a friend tell me that she read to add baking soda to balance acidity. So I’ll say this, whatever you’re making ask yourself “does this add anything to the recipe?” meaning, other than, say, balancing the acidity what else does adding baking soda give to the recipe. Maple syrup adds a depth of flavour with subtle sweetness AND balances the acidity, what else does the baking soda do? Stay curious intrepid home cooks!


best ever tomato soup
best ever tomato soup

The Game Changer- THE Garnish

The thing about tomato soup is that when cheese is in the mix tomato soup is next level, the quandary is then how to keep the cheese from settling at the bottom of your bowl or soup pot; the answer is this garnish.

This garnish is EVERYTHING. Like it does the absolute MOST for this soup.

The garnish is simple, crispy proscuitto, crispy basil and shredded parmesan; and not the sh*tty pre-grated dust, buy the block of parmesan and grate it from there. If you’re not willing to do the work, honestly, leave the cheese out.

CRISP the proscuitto in vegetable oil, heated in a non stick pan- medium heat or else it’s going to get smoky. Remove the proscuitto and place on a paper towel lined plate. To CRISP the basil leaves, add the basil to the same proscuitto oil, for 30 seconds, and place on a paper towel lined plate. While those cool, GRATE fresh parmesan. CHOP together fresh basil, crispy basil, crispy proscuitto and parmesan until it’s well combined. This is your garnish. This garnish will change your life.

By garnishing each bowl individually, at the time of serving, never again will cheese settle at the bottom of your soup!


The Recipe Cliff Notes

I get it, I scroll straight through to the recipe all the time, so here are the important parts of this one, should you be pressed for time ;)

  • Stock or bone broth as your base. WATER NEVER.

  • LAYER flavours. Caramelize onions. Roast vegetables. Do everything you can to create depth of flavour.

  • Not even the best soups can carry a texture-less presentation. TEXTURE is everything.

  • ALWAYS consider what each ingredient add to the soup. Function AND flavour should always be factored in.

  • Don’t sleep on the garnish because this garnish is life...I’m really selling this garnish because it’s that good.


best ever tomato soup

Best Ever Tomato Soup

  • 2 lbs cherry tomatoes

  • 2 small yellow onion, chopped

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • 2 tsp dry oregano

  • 2 tsp dry rosemary

  • 1 tsp cinnamon

  • 150 g proscuitto

  • 3 cups strained tomatoes

  • 1 litre beef stock (bone broth or vegetable stock)

  • 10 basil leaves ( 5 for frying, 5 fresh)

  • 1 cup coconut milk

  • ½ cup grated parmesan

  • ¼ cup olive, divided

  • Vegetable oil

  • 2 tbsp maple syrup

  • S+P to taste

PREHEAT the oven to 375F.

Cut 1 cup of cherry tomatoes in half and toss with 1 tsp olive oil, salt, pepper, cinnamon, 1 tsp rosemary and 1 tsp oregano, and lay on to a baking sheet. Toss the remaining whole cherry tomatoes wth 1 tbsp oil, salt, pepper, oregano and rosemary. And lay onto a baking sheet.

Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Meanwhile heat the remaining olive oil in a soup pot on medium heat. Add 1 piece of hand torn prosciutto with the onions and garlic, season with 1 tsp of salt and cook for 7-10 minutes, stirring consistently, until the onions are soft, fragrant and translucent. Add the strained tomatoes, maple syrup and stock and bring to a simmer.

Once the tomatoes are out of the oven, set the halves aside, and add the whole roasted tomatoes to the simmering stock. Simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from heat, add the coconut milk and blend, in batches, until completely smooth.

FOR THE GARNISH

In a non stick skillet, add enough vegetable to fill the skillet a half inch. Heat on medium heat and first cook the prosciutto, in batches, until crispy. Using the same out (remove any bacon bits leftover) crisp the basil leaves. 30 seconds MAX. Lay both the prosciutto and the basil on paper towel to cool. Chop together the crispy basil, prosciutto, fresh basil and parmesan.

TO SERVE

Add the garnish tomatoes to a soup bowl, pour the soup over and garnish, liberally, with the garnish.


Planning On Making This Recipe?! Tag me @Bianca.osbourne on Instagram!

Cast Iron Cooking For Dummies

Disclosure: There are some affiliate links below, but I won’t put anything on this page that I haven’t verified and/or personally used. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE AMAZON CYBER WEEK SALES VIA THE LINKS IN THE POST!

xoxoBianca

First, I know you’re not a dummy, but I’m a sucker for cute title; but I digress. Cast Iron cooking has long been considered a professional cooking technique, reserved for chefs or REALLY good home cooks, but I’m here to dispel this myth. Cast iron cooking is not only easy but a delicious way to cook, because you can literally cook ANYTHING in cast iron- I sh*t you not- anything.

cast iron cooking for dummies

One of the best things about cast iron cooking is that it can be done on the stovetop AND in the oven (more on this process later) which makes cast iron a double duty utensil. One caveat about cast iron skillets is that they are heavy, like really heavy. Like, you’ll probably need two hands, kind of heavy, but a cast iron skillet is worth its weight in gold.


Which Cast Iron Skillet to Buy

The cast iron skillet you choose to buy need not be expensive, which is another myth I’m here to dispel about cast iron cookery. Sure you can spend a fortune on a cast iron skillet, but it’s cast iron there’s not a lot of variation from brand to brand. REMEMBER this is pan that can- and will- take a beating and you need not be precious with it.

My favourite brand of cast iron is LODGE, they are pre-seasoned which means you don’t have to do an inaugural season (read below for more on seasoning a pan); LODGE is also the brand I use at work and at home!

NOTE if your frame is diminutive, you have two options, lift weights to accommodate your newly acquired HEAVY cast iron skillet or get a lighter size; but note that getting a smaller size means less versatility with what you can prepare.


Cast iron cooking for dummies

How To Season a Cast Iron Pan

Seasoning a cast iron skillet is like the boogeyman, everyone is scared of it, but it’s not scary at all. Layman’s terms, seasoning a cast iron skillet is rubbing it down with vegetable oil and baking it in the oven, which acts as a protector. It doesn’t need to be done every time you cook, unless you cook something aggressive and the pan NEEDS to be washed, most often you can just wipe out the cast iron pan with a paper towel or cloth. Easy to clean is always a bonus.

cast iron cooking for dummies

Cast Iron Cooking For Beginners

One of the things I tell people about cooking and meal planning is to walk before you run, but in the case of cast iron, jump in head first. Seriously babes, just go for it!

Just a quick reminder, season your cast iron pan BEFORE you start cooking with it.

  • High Heat Cooking

I’ve long been accused of loving high heat cooking, and so does a cast iron pan. If you cook in a cast iron skillet that isn’t hot, whatever you are cooking will stick unrelentingly, which will greatly mess with your esthetic- as a food blogger this matters to me lol.

As you are using high heat cooking methods, you’ll want to employ high heat cooking oils, like coconut, grapeseed, vegetable (controversial for some, but bears a high smoke point) or lard.

Cast iron lends itself PERFECTLY to shallow or deep frying because it conducts heats so well. Foods that are best reserved for another pan are eggs and SUPER delicate fish, everything else is fair game!

  • Cast Iron Goes Both Ways

Cast iron is a material that conducts heat well, so it lends itself to both stove-top and oven cooking. I reiterate, DOUBLE DUTY FOR THE WIN.

The method to cooking with cast iron on the stovetop is HEAT, do not add the cooking oil until the pan feels hot, because the oil will be the benchmark of the pan’s readiness. If the butter sizzles, pan’s ready. Oil slides across the pan with easy, pan’s ready. Oil is a tool you can use in cast iron cooking!

Stove-top to oven cooking means that stove-top portion is to create a crust of some kind, so to this point the stove-top portion is short, because the oven portion is meant to complete the cooking. This is the method I often employ when I’m cooking with cast iron, because stove top cast iron cooking is perfect for creating a beautiful crust, and because cast iron conducts heat so well, when I put it in the oven I can trust that whatever I’m cooking will come out great!


Easy Cast Iron Recipes

The following two recipes are E-A-S-Y, because it’s always best to start with easy until you get your sea legs with the whole cast iron thing.


  • Roast Chicken

Roasting chicken in cast iron employs the two-part stove-top/oven method.

cast iron cooking for dummies
  • Season a whole chicken. Place 1 full lemon (sliced) into the cavity.

  • Rub with melted butter OR place knobs of butter underneath the chicken skin.

  • Heat butter and olive oil in a cast iron pan

  • Add the chicken, wing side down.

  • Cook for 5-7 minutes.

  • Place the cast iron pan in an oven preheated to broil (500F)

  • Once the chicken has been in the oven for 2 minutes, turn the oven down to 375F.

  • Cook for 90-95 minutes or until juices run clear or temperature reads 155-160.

  • Cover with foil for 15 minutes.


Whole Roasted Cauliflower

Aka the EASIEST cauliflower recipe you’ll ever make.

cast iron cooking for dummies
  • Wash and dry a whole cauliflower.

  • Remove the leaves.

  • Cut stem so the cauliflower lays flat.

  • Combine olive oil, chopped herbs, salt, pepper and maple syrup.

  • Rub the mix all over the cauliflower.

  • Lay flat in a cast iron pan.

  • Roast in an oven preheated to 390F for 20 minutes OR until a knife pierces the cauliflower easily.



MY SUGGESTION

I suggest you acquire varying sizes of cast iron, which means you can prepare many different items, at one time, using cast iron; because cast iron roasted chicken and cast iron roasted cauliflower pair VERY nicely together!


Are you feeling ready to cook with cast iron? It’s easy, it’s delicious and now you’re ready to do it!

If you have any cast iron cooking tips or questions, please share below!

cast iron cooking for dummies







Meal Planning: The Art of Healthy Convenience

As a private chef I have planned THOUSANDS of meals- legit, thousands- and in this time I have come to understand all the ins and outs of meal planning, including the little nuances you don’t often understand until you’ve been in the trenches of meal planning consistently.

In this post we are going to talk about Healthy Convenience products, which, if used correctly, can go a REALLY long way to helping you meal plan consistently, week in, week out.


Before we talk healthy convenience…

Knowing what to make and when can DRAMATICALLY reduce the overwhelm associated with meal planning. As a private chef I have planned THOUSANDS of meals I use a very specific prep schedule to keep myself organized.

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meal planning healthy convenience food

Step One: Know Thyself

Mindful eating and mindfulness around food are two different things. Mindful eating is an act within the practice of mindfulness around food. They exist together but must be thought of as different.

Don’t be over ambitious in the planning of your meals, this is an instance where you want to meet yourself at the lowest bar.


Healthy Convenience 101

Convenience food and convenience products are two very different things, convenience food is the McD’s and Wendy’s of the world; and though I love them (full disclosure) those aren’t what we should rely on for our main meals. Convenience food, on the other hand, is our sister in arms with meal planning. These foods can dramatically reduce the amount of time spent on cooking meals day to day and week to week.



Prepared Meats

A chef tip, PRE-SEASONED MEATS are often the meats that are close to the end of their life; they mask this by seasoning these meats and selling them quickly. I am not opposed to pre seasoned meats, but buy and cook the same day or the next day at the latest. Giving yourself or someone else food poisoning is hard to live down…

COOKED ROTISSERIE CHICKENS are THE best because they are ready to go and creating quick meals is a breeze. Food handling suggestion, remove the meat from the chickens at once to keep the meat fresher longer, because when the meat is eaten off the bone, like lions in the wild, the meat spoils sooner.


Cut + Frozen Vegetables

When it comes to frozen vegetables the important thing to remember is this, sturdy vegetables thaw and cook with the same textural integrity best. Ie. beets, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower. And a bonus is they are generally cut and ready to go.

Loblaws (a favourite of mine) carries SO MANY different precut vegetables- spiralized zucchini, squash, beets and sweet potato; cubed sweet potato and squash; bagged salads a plenty; minced garlic and onion. USE THESE. With wild abandon.


Sauces

This area can get a little grey, because some prepared sauces are full of shit, pardon my language. I am not opposed to prepared sauces, in fact, I love them BUT watch for sodium content and sugar content- over 5-8g is too much for a savoury sauce.

  • PESTO- great for salad dressing or marinade

  • PREPARED SALSA- great for salad dressing or garnish

  • CURRY- great for creamy soup base

  • SALAD DRESSING- salad dressing (obviously), marinade etc.


SUPPORTING CONVENIENCE PRODUCTS

A conglomerate of prepared foods does not a meal make, you must boost these meals with some home cooked items.

TAKE ONE DAY:

Prepare brown rice, pasta, grains like quinoa, legumes like lentils and FREEZE them all in portions.

Pre roast potato, sweet potato and freeze in portions.

NOTE ON FREEZING- use frozen items within 3 months. Toss everything to be frozen in oil, so that when thawed it doesn’t stick together. With starchy items, generally I would never suggest to rinse, but the starch makes defrosting nicely a challenge, so rinse starchy grains with water, dry, toss with oil and then freeze.


Convenience Meals

PESTO CHICKEN BOWL

  • 1 cup shredded rotisserie chicken

  • ½ cup cooked quinoa

  • ½ cup fresh arugula

  • ¼ cup pesto

  • Juice of ½ lemon

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and eat it.

RECIPE NOTE: if making ahead, add arugula right before eating.

MEXICAN CHICKEN BOWL

  • 1 cup shredded chicken

  • ½ cup fresh deli salsa

  • ½ can black bean, drained and rinsed

  • 1 cup rice

  • 2 tbsp cilantro (sub chives for aversions)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • S+P to taste (careful as the salsa and chicken are already seasoned)

In a saute pan on medium high heat add the oil and black beans, cook for 3 minutes just to cook out the “raw” in the beans- not necessary.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and eat.

ROASTED VEGETABLE SOUP

  • 1 cup cubed squash

  • 1 cup cubes sweet potato

  • 2 tbsp chopped onion

  • 2 tbsp minced garlic

  • ¼ cup curry powder

  • 1 tbsp brown sugar

  • 3 cups chicken stock, warmed

  • 1 cup coconut milk

  • S+P to taste

  • Fresh herbs to garnish (cilantro, chives, mint etc.)

  • Yogurt, to garnish

Preheat oven to 400F.

Toss onion, sweet potato, squash, garlic with oil, curry, salt and pepper. Lay flat on parchment paper lined baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes.

Cool for 5 minutes. Add to a blender, in batches, with sugar, coconut milk and stock. Blend to desired consistency. Serve hot, garnished with yogurt and herbs.

RECIPE NOTE: over roast the squash and potato to make it easier on your blender.


Want To Master Meal Planning? Download my Meal Planning Made Easy Cheat Sheet Here!