In My Active Kitchen

Having fun in the kitchen and out


Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Aioli Dip


The thermometer has enjoyed being at the -300 mark for a few days.  Since I’m not yet required to spend my week days in an office, I have felt the need to pass the time huddled in my jammies and slippers sipping copious amounts of coffee, tea and soup.


It’s made even worse when I spot Ashe napping outside in the freezing cold.  Then I crank up the fire place.

I know she’s a Siberian husky but, really?


It makes me cold, just looking at her.

Yesterday, after getting extremely bored and probably overly caffeinated, I was really craving solid foods but like, snack food.  So I decided to roast some Brussels sprouts and serve them with homemade aioli for dipping.


Because that’s a completely normal reaction, right?

However, these are so freaking delicious, they automatically replace any craving for fries or chips or other bad foods.  Plus, the aioli quickly tempers these morsels of goodness from obnoxiously healthy to half guilt-free snacking.


Let’s talk about this aioli.  I was torn between three options: make by hand, use the food processor or simply add some garlic and lemon juice to store bought mayo.

So time consuming, but oh so deliciously worth it!

So time consuming, but oh so deliciously worth it!

If you’re not bored in your pajamas and have people coming over in t-15 minutes, by all means grab the mayo, add some crushed garlic, add some lemon juice and maybe get all fancy with some herbs  and stuff.  Since I definitely wasn’t in that group, I figured that I should at least make some sort of effort that day.


Again, I was torn between the food processor or simply doing it by hand.  Maybe it was the caffeine talking, maybe it was the thought of having to clean the food processor after, but ultimately I decided to make the aioli by hand.  Again, I blame the caffeine and lack of fresh air.


I’m 99% sure it took longer for me to make the aioli than it did for the sprouts to roast; I’m also nearly positive it gave me carpal tunnel.  So, proceed with that part of the recipe at your own risk.

But by all means, make these sprouts- what a fun little appetizer for your next dinner party.  Or you know, when you’re bored in your pajamas at home trying to convince your husky to keep you warm.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Aioli Dip



Roasted Brussels Sprouts

1 lb of Brussels sprouts

2-3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

Sea salt + Pepper


1 clove of garlic, mashed into a paste if made by hand, whole clove with food processor

1 large egg yolk

2 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp Dijon mustard

Pinch of salt

½ olive oil


Preheat oven to 400F

Cut off stems and remove 1-2 layers of the outer leaves from the sprouts, then slice in half.  In a large bowl, toss sprouts with olive oil and salt and pepper.  Spread onto a large baking sheet and place in the middle rack of the oven.  Bake for 30-40 minutes shaking once or twice throughout to ensure the sprouts roast evenly.    They should be browned and slightly crispy on the outside.

To make the aioli using the food processor or blender, combine egg yolk, mustard, lemon juice, salt and garlic clove and blend until well combined.  Reduce to low speed and very slowly add in olive oil, initially one tablespoon at a time to allow the oil to emulsify.  Once it starts to thicken, gradually add in your remainder of the olive oil.

To make the aioli by hand, place mixing bowl onto a saucepan on your counter or table top.  This will allow you to add in your oil while whisking without the bowl moving.  Whisk together egg yolk, mustard, lemon juice, salt and mashed garlic.   Once well combine, add in oil one tablespoon at time while whisking constantly. Only add in more oil until the mixture in the bowl has thickened.  Warning: this requires a lot of time and patience.

Serve the roasted sprouts with aioli and enjoy!


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Roasted Beets and Greens Salad


Beets are one my all-time favorite vegetables.  Strange? Possibly. But as the only vegetarian in my family, I’m used to being considered strange.

This roasted beet salad could be perfect for your next dinner party.  Elegant, delicious and simple- what more could you ask for? Plus anything topped with goats cheese is always a winner in my books.

Oh, and what I really love about this recipe? The fact that it puts good use to those beet greens on top of the beets themselves.


Don’t forget the greens!

You’ve never used the beet greens before? They taste like kale meets arugula- firmer texture with a peppery aftertaste.  I prefer to blanche them and sauté them with shallots and garlic, because really what doesn’t taste good when sautéed with shallots and garlic? My thoughts exactly.


When you top it with goats cheese and walnuts, I’m pretty much in heaven.


Want the recipe? Here you go:

Roasted Beets with Sautéed Greens
Serves 4



1 bunch of golden or red beets with fresh green stems

2 Tbsp. of olive oil, divided

1 shallot, minced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

6 oz of goats cheese

½ c. walnuts

Salt and pepper


1 Tbsp. honey

1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar

3 Tbsp. olive oil


Preheat oven to 400F

Prepare vinaigrette by combining honey, vinegar and olive oil into a mixing bowl, whisk thoroughly and taste to adjust to your preference.

Remove greens from beets and set aside; chop both ends off of the beets and discard.  Rinse beets well, dry and place on a sheet of tin foil.  Drizzle beets with 1 Tbsp.  of olive oil, wrap in the foil and place in the oven.  Bake for 45 minutes or until tender. Let beets cool.

While your beets are baking, remove the tough stems from the beet greens so only the leaves remain; rinse thoroughly.  Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and blanche greens for one minute.  Immediately submerge greens in ice water to stop the cooking.  Drain and pat dry.

Once beets have cooled, peel the outer skins and dice into 1 inch pieces.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat.  Add in shallots and garlic and sauté for a minute until softened and fragrant.  Season with salt and pepper then add in beet greens and sauté for an additional 3 minutes.  Add in beets and walnuts and cook for another minute until heated through.  Remove from heat and add in vinaigrette, mix well.

Serve salad onto individual plates and top with crumbled goats cheese.

I dare you to serve this at your next dinner party and wow your guests.

-Jess xo

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Paneer Tikka Masala


Back when we first moved to BC, we were living in the Vancouver suburb of Richmond.  While Richmond wasn’t our ideal city to live in, it did have Tandoori Kona– the best Indian restaurant we’ve ever visited.  On their menu, is one of my all-time favorite Indian dishes, Paneer Tikka Masala, or as Tandoori Kona calls it- Chili Paneer, which is essentially paneer served in spicy tomato-based gravy.  I know, it sounds terrible, right?


Indian cuisine can be a tad intimidating at first, mainly because of the encyclopedia of spices you feel like you need to learn.  While I wish I could say I was an expert in this field, I am far from it.  So, I usually need to outsource this knowledge to produce decent Indian food that doesn’t involve take-out.

One of my favorite online resources is Manjula’s Kitchen.  Her website specializes in vegetarian and vegan Indian cuisine and boasts so many tips, tricks and videos to help you along if you get lost.  While I did make some changes and substitutions to her original recipe, I never would have been able to produce this mouth-watering dish without her guidance.  



Before we get started, I will warn you that this is a bit more time intensive than other recipes I typically like to prepare.  Basically, this is a weekend recipe, not a 30-minute week night meal.  So consider yourself warned.


So let’s get down to it, shall we?


Paneer is a firm Indian cheese that is made using milk and lemon juice.  Manjula actually has a recipe that shows you how to make your own.  Personally, I prefer to visit the dairy section in my grocery store. For you B.C. locals, I purchased mine from Save On Foods.  But you could also try specialty shops and most likely Whole Foods.


If you can’t find Paneer or you’re too lazy (or pressed for time) to make your own, feel free to sub in extra-firm tofu- just make sure you press the moisture out, first.  If you’re a non-veggie, I actually used chicken thighs for Dustin’s.  So I’ll give you the run down on both.


Aren’t I nice?

As previously mentioned, spices are integral to Indian cooking as they create that pungent and aromatic scent that is synonymous with their dishes.  With that in mind, you may want to make sure your vent is running or at least have a window open to keep the air circulating.  If you don’t have some of the whole spices, feel free to use a smaller amount of the ground variety.  However, I do recommend that you at least get the cumin seeds. I find they add a better flavor than ground cumin.


Same goes for the ripe tomatoes, if you can’t find any that look nice enough, sub in 1 large can of whole tomatoes- preferably one without salt added.

I’m also going to strongly recommend that you also make the rice dish to go along with it.  Plain basmati rice is good, but the sweet-savory spice blend in this recipe really complements the Paneer.

Have I convinced you enough to make this recipe yet? Ok, here it is:


Paneer Tikka Masala
Serves 4


1 lb. Paneer, OR 1 lb. chicken thighs

2 Tbsp. plain yogurt

½ tsp. salt

¾ tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. ground coriander

2 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger

2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (1/2 lemon)

Tikka Masala Sauce

1 jalapeno pepper

5 medium, ripe tomatoes

2 Tbsp. tomato paste

1 ½ Tbsp. ground coriander

1 tsp. turmeric

1 tsp. paprika

¾ tsp. chili powder

1 tsp sugar

½ tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 small onion, thinly sliced

Aromatic Basmati Rice

½ tsp ground cinnamon OR 2 whole cinnamon sticks

½ tsp. ground cardamom

1 Tbsp. cumin seeds

2 whole cloves

½ small onion, thinly sliced

1 ½ c. of brown basmati rice

2 ½ c. of water


Paneer/ Chicken:

If using paneer, slice the block in half, then slice each half in half, then slice those slices in half so you have eight equal squares.  Slice each square diagonally so you have triangles.  If using chicken, leave the thighs whole.

Combine yogurt, lemon and spices into a small bowl and then add in your paneer or chicken.  Cover and place it in the fridge for at least one hour to marinate.

If using chicken, preheat oven to 375 and bake for 20-30 minutes until cooked so the juices run clear.  While chicken is baking or paneer is marinating, start on your gravy:


Combine tomatoes, jalapeno, and tomato paste into your blender and blend until you have a smooth puree.  Pour into a bowl and add in your spices.  Taste and adjust seasonings to your taste.

In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium high heat.  Add in your paneer (if using) and stir-fry it for 5 minutes until slightly browned.  Remove from pan then add a touch more oil if needed.  Toss in the peppers and onions and stir-fry for 2 minutes until onion is softened.  Pour in your gravy and use a whisk to scrape any of the browned bits from the paneer on the bottom- this will add more depth of flavor to your gravy.

Allow the gravy to simmer for 15 minutes until slightly thickened then toss in either your paneer or chicken.  Cook for another 5 minutes then remove from the heat and cover to set for another 5 minutes.  Serve with rice.


It is important that you soak your rice prior to cooking.  This allows the starches to rinse out creating fluffier, lighter rice.  To do this, simply pour your rice into a bowl and cover with water.  Soak for 20 minutes then drain.

Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan or pot over medium-low heat.  Add in your onion and spices and cook for 2 minutes- watch that your spices don’t burn! Add in the rice and let it cook for 2 minutes then add in your water.  Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat.  Cook until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes, then remove whole spices and serve with your paneer.


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Taco Tuesday on Wednesday

Spicy Veggie Tacos

Spicy Veggie Tacos

Dustin and I are big believers in Taco Tuesday.   Actually, I’m just a big believer in anything that includes guacamole.  So what could be better than for me to share a delightfully spicy veggie taco recipe as my first ever blog post?

Rather than use the sodium-ridden spice mixes you find in those store-bought kits, I like to make my own.  So not only can I make it as (excessively) spicy as I want, but I can also control how much salt actually goes in there.

I basically did a mixture of chili powder, cumin, coriander, smoked chipotle spice, smoked paprika, a smidgen of cayenne, and tiny bit of salt to bring it all together.

Oh and then, because I’m an idiot, I figured it would be a good idea to add in a chopped jalapeno, cuz you know, the chili powder, cayenne and smoked chipotle spices weren’t enough.  Word to the wise, you may want to forget I mentioned a jalapeno… with seeds.

What was I thinking?!

What was I thinking?!

Now, before you get your knickers in a twist, yes I will “cheat’ every now and then and use the Yves “Veggie Ground Round” or in this case, “chicken”.  It’s quick, easy and works.  When I’m really motivated, I will sometimes use plain tofu as my starting point, maybe get crazy and add in some black beans and corn.  Today, you get the veggie stuff.

Are you really going to object to these guys?

Are you really going to object to these guys?

Since the “chicken” flavor is a bit lighter than traditional beef or mock-beef filling, I decided to make a mango salsa for a bit of sweet and fresh flavor.  Oh and guacamole, because you don’t serve tacos in this house without guac.

Tacos 6

Look good? Here are the recipes:

Taco Seasoning (you will have leftover, store in an airtight container)

1 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp coriander

1/4 tsp smoked paprika

1/8 tsp smoked chipotle spice

smidgen of cayenne

dash of salt

Combine ingredients together, adjust according to your preferences.

Taco Filling:

1 lb Yves Ground Round

1 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tsp Taco Spice Mixture

1 jalapeno, diced (optional!!!)

1/4 c. tomato paste

1/4 c. water

Juice from 1 lime

8-10 taco shells and all the fixins (lettuce, tomato, cheese, etc…)

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add in your onion and garlic and saute until fragrant, about 3 minutes.  Add in your spice mixture, jalapeno, and tomato paste.  Allow to cook down for another 3-5 minutes, until fragrant.  Add in the ground veggie meat, water and lime juice.  Bring to a simmer then reduce heat to medium low and allow to cook through.  Assemble tacos with lettuce, tomatoes, mango salsa, guac and maybe some cheddar if you’re feelin’ in the mood.

Mango Salsa

1 ripe mango, diced

1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped

2-3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Juice from 1/2 lime

1/2 tsp white vinegar

Combine all the ingredients into a bowl and mix well.  Let it sit for a few minutes to allow the flavors to marinate.


1 ripe avocado

1-2 cloves of garlic, minced

Juice from 1/2 a lime

Dash of salt

Mash the avocado with garlic, lime juice and salt.  Taste and adjust seasonings to your preference.