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Archive for December, 2007

The new couch for the guest suite has arrived. The delivery guys were very concerned about getting it downstairs…I have to admit, I didn’t even think about it. It’s a regular sized door, with regular sized stairs and no major turns – UGH. They had to remove the outside door, and take the legs off the couch, and we squeezed it in, just barely! Phew! That was close. We would have been up the creek without a paddle!

We had it covered in a canvas like fabric (hate that micro fibre stuff) in a dark chocolate brown. It’s quite soft. The chaise lounge side is completely reversible, and they even gave us an extra sofa cushion in case we wanted to just use it as a sofa instead of a chaise lounge sectional! Wow! I’m quite happy with it.

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Jt on a test run: it works!

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Our next purchase for the ‘guest suite’ is going to be the Malm bed from Ikea. I am waiting for their bedroom sale in January (hopefully), plus we won’t have anywhere to store the old futon until the spring anyway!

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This recipe came from the PC Crispy Rice box, with alterations by your’s truly!

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  • 4 cups mini marsh mellows
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 6 cups crispy rice cereal
  • 1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1/2 chocolate chips

Directions (I make this in my microwave)

  1. Butter a 9″ x 12″ pan and set aside.
  2. Melt butter, chocolate and mini marsh mellows until liquid.
  3. Add Peanut Butter stirring well.
  4. Add crispy rice cereal.
  5. Pour into the prepared pan and fill to edges, pushing down firmly.
  6. Allow to cool. Cut into desired portions.
  7. Eat.

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Save the failed Torrone!

Torrone is an Italian nugget made from stiffly beaten egg whites and honey, cooked to a hardish candy temperature. Most of the recipes on-line are good, but they don’t tell you the correct temperature to reach on a candy thermometer (or we are all idiots and can’t cook, which is a possibility). Lots of failures, including my last batch. What happens is the nugget never sets and it remains a gooey mess. But because I am cheap, and the ingredients were costly (almonds, candied fruit, sugar and honey) I put my failed torrone into the freezer to ponder what I might make of it. It slowly dawned on me…Ice Cream! Imagine, Torrone ice cream! Wow, the decadence of it all!
Photo from Foodtv.ca

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Torrone Recipe (Christine Cushing, Foodtv.ca) Yield: 36
It took me a few tries before I was satisfied with this recipe but the end result made it all worthwhile. Try it with a mixture of nuts (try hazelnuts along with the almonds) and/or candied peel (orange, lemon or lime). Yield is 36 pieces.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 3 large egg white
  • 1 cup honey
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 2 cups whole almond (I also use candied citrus peel for added flavour, but you may use any of your favorite candied fruit!)

Directions:

  1. Line a 13-by 9-inch pan with parchment paper.
  2. Sprinkle a cutting board with cornstarch.
  3. In a medium saucepan, combine honey and granulated sugar and put over medium heat.
  4. When a candy thermometer registers 315 degrees F (this seems to be too low, go to a hard stage), remove pan from heat.
  5. Put egg whites in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
  6. Start mixer on medium.
  7. When egg whites are stiff add icing sugar, scraping down the sides.
  8. When the honey mixture temperature has gone down to 300 degrees F., pour honey into egg whites while mixer is running.
  9. Increase speed to high until mixture thickens, about 2 minutes.
  10. Fold in nuts with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.
  11. Scrape mixture onto cutting board with cornstarch.
  12. Knead for about 4 minutes.
  13. Press mixture evenly into pan.
  14. Cover with another piece of parchment and let cool.
  15. Cut into 36 squares with a hot knife.
  16. Serve.

Make your own vanilla ice cream (which I did) or buy some ready made. Cut the torrone into small bit sized pieces and fold into ice cream. Freeze for a couple of hours. Serve cold.

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Since the passing of my Mom, we’ve been doing Christmas Eve Dinner at my brother’s place since it’s easier with the kids. I am looking after the hors d’oeuvres (like we really need this much food), the Hungarian Cherry Soup and the dessert, traditional Yule Log (entirely home made of course!) with meringue mushrooms!.

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The two boys on the right and the guy are neighbours of my brother’s. Jack is the kid standing up and Annie is kneeling!

I won’t bore you with all the Christmas photos, so if you want, check them out at Shutterfly! Yes, I am still resisting Facebook!

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This is a lovely soup for a cold rainy day (which it was).
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  • About 265g variety of mushrooms (not the white button type, but dark forest mushrooms) cleaned well and chopped coarsely
  • 1 large sweet onion (chopped)
  • 1 clove garlic (minced finely)
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2-3 cups of chicken stock (or stock of your choice)
  • Optional cream if desired (1/2 cup)
  • 1 tsp per cup of good quality cognac or brandy

Directions

  1. In a large skillet, sauté onions in olive oil until soft. Add garlic and sauté 1 more minute.
  2. Add mushrooms and sauté until soft. Add butter until melted (this is important, butter and mushrooms are an AMAZING combo).
  3. Put mushroom mix into a blender, add warm chicken stock and blend until creamy (to desired consistency, I like it creamier) add cream now if desired (I don’t!).
  4. Return to stove to heat thoroughly.
  5. Pour into bowls and serve with a tablespoon of cognac or brandy for guests to add themselves. I served this soup with croûtons and some cheddar biscuits (previously posted recipe).
  6. Serves 4 to 6 depending on size of bowls.

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My mom saw this being made on the show, and immediately tried it. With great success, she recommended it to me and I’ve been making them ever since. It’s a nice chewy treat.

Anzac Biscuits (recipe from Martha Stewart)

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Makes about 3 dozen

  • 2.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons Lyles Golden Syrup
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup boiling water

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper, and set aside. In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, sugar, and coconut. Set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter with syrup. Dissolve baking soda in boiling water, and add to butter mixture. Stir to combine. (Be careful; if the butter is hot, it will bubble up considerably.)
  3. Add butter mixture to dry ingredients, and stir to combine. Using a 1 1/2-inch ice-cream scoop, drop onto prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart (be sure to pack the scoop tightly so the mixture doesn’t crumble). Flatten cookies slightly with the heel of your hand.
  4. Bake until golden brown and firm but not hard, about 15 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

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It’s Wednesday, and all I am thinking is what the heck was I thinking booking a dinner party for 8 on a week night?!?! What the HECK? I have 3 couples arriving between 6:30 and 7 tonight and I work until 5pm!!! What the HECK? Fortunately, I have the greatest husband in the world and he helped me prep last night. Table is set, food is ready to be cooked, and the fireplace is ready to be lit. Oh, did I mention I have an 8am meeting in Mississauga with a new client on Thursday? What the HECK?

Because the dinner party sort-of ballooned to 8, I am keeping it simple: 3 courses only (I’m thinking I’d love to throw in a soup course, but it ain’t gonna happen so late in the game – plus JT would kill me).

Munchies: Cheddar shortbread and Cheese sticks

Beginning: Bloody Mary Shrimp in Chinese Spoons (Epicurious Recipe), I generally modify to suit – this photo is mine! – I use whole shrimp with tails on, presentation is much nicer! You can also do this in shot glasses, resting the shrimp on the rim! Yum!

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Middle: Beef tenderloin with Port Wine Sauce, horse radish whipped potatoes, green beans with onion confit

End: Molten chocolate cake (really really easy – Michael Smith recipe from FoodTV.ca) , cherry sauce and irish cream whipped cream and coffee/tea.

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This recipe was handed down to me by my mother Éva Harsfai-Robinson. It is a traditional war time cookies (no eggs!) that are delicious and relatively economical as this recipe makes a lot. It is jam filled. Be sure to buy only European jam which is a lot less runny than the North American style!

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Donkey Ear Cookies (Szamar Fulé)

Click here to print recipe

Makes about 130 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp quick rising yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water + 1 tsp sugar
  • 600 g flour (3-4 cups)
  • 240 g margarine (1/2 lb)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt
  • Thick European jam
  • 1-2 cups icing sugar (for dusting)

Directions

  1. Dissolve yeast in warm water with sugar, allow to bubble up.
  2. In an electric mixer with a dough hook, mix margarine and flour until crumbly.
  3. Add yeast and enough sour cream and kneed until a shiny dough forms.
  4. Cover and allow to rise in a warm place for 1/2 to 1 hr (you may also do this step in the fridge if you won’t be making the cookies the same day. Make sure you allow the dough to get up to room temperature if rising in the fridge).
  5. Preheat oven to 350F.
  6. Roll out the dough into 2mm thickness and cut with a 5-6 cm round cookie cutter.
  7. Fill each round in the centre with about 1/4tsp of jam.
  8. Fold each circle in half and pinch edges really really really well (this dough has a tendency to pop open like a clam!).
  9. Bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes (dough will be slightly golden)
  10. Immediately put cookies into a large bowl with icing sugar and dust generously.
  11. Remove to a wire rack and cool.
  12. Enjoy!

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Sunday, December 16 – what a storm! 36 cm of snow. WOW! We shoveled 2 times to try to keep up with it! (fortunately, our neighbour Frank, just bought a snow blower and he cleared up the majority by the time we returned in the afternoon!).

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It was beautiful! The driving was a little sketchy but thank goodness we have the all wheel drive which made it much easier! We had a Champagne Jazz Brunch at the Palais Royale on the lakeshore. It was lovely. A little expensive but the food was amazing! I would definitely do it again! Geo was supposed to come with us, but because of the storm couldn’t make it, so we called in Brian (nephew).

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This past weekend my niece Laura (John’s sister’s daughter) came down from London to do some shopping with me. I tested a dinner menu that we will be serving on the 19th. This is quite possibly the BEST beef I have EVER had. The small 750g beef was $33.00!!!! But really worth it.

Photo and recipe from Epicurious.

Beef tenderloin in a port wine sauce

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Beef:
1 4- to 5-pound trimmed whole beef tenderloin, tail end tucked under, tied every 3 inches
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt

Sauce:
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted butter, divided
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
3 tablespoons Cognac or brandy
1 fresh rosemary sprig
1 teaspoon coarsely cracked black pepper
1 cup ruby or tawny Port (or a really good heavy red wine)
Beef Stock

Roasting:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons black peppercorns, coarsely cracked in mortar with pestle or in resealable plastic bag with mallet

For beef:
Sprinkle entire surface of beef tenderloin with coarse kosher salt. Place beef on rack set over large rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate uncovered at least 24 hours and up to 36 hours.

For sauce:
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add shallots; sauté until soft, 3 minutes. Add Cognac, rosemary, and 1 teaspoon cracked pepper and cook until liquid evaporates, 1 minute. Add Port; bring to simmer. Add all of beef stock. Boil until reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 20 minutes. Strain into medium saucepan, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids in strainer. DO AHEAD: Can be made 24 to 36 hours ahead. Cool slightly, then cover and chill.

For roasting:
Let beef stand at room temperature 1 hour before roasting. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 425°F. Rub beef all over with oil; sprinkle with 2 tablespoons cracked peppercorns, pressing to adhere. Return beef to rack on baking sheet and roast until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of meat registers 125°F for medium-rare (135°F to 140°F in thinnest part), about 30 minutes. Remove roast from oven and let rest 15 minutes.

Bring sauce to boil; whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Cut off string from roast. Cut roast crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices; arrange on platter. Serve with sauce.

TEST-KITCHEN TIP: Salting in advance, also called dry brining, is often done to improve the texture of sinewy cuts of meat. But it also works magic on tender cuts, amping up flavor and juiciness. It sounds counterintuitive; for years the accepted wisdom was that pre-salting dries out meat. But the moderate salting you’ll be doing here does the opposite. Water is first drawn out of the meat and then gets reabsorbed; this saltier, more flavorful moisture helps intensify taste. What’s more, the exterior of the tenderloin dries out slightly, making it quicker to brown in the oven.

Green Beans with Caramalized Shallots (From Epicurious)
2 pounds haricots verts or slender green beans, trimmed
1 pound medium shallots
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

Preparation

  1. Cook haricots verts in boiling salted water until tender, about 4 minutes (or 6 minutes if using green beans). Drain. Transfer to bowl of ice water to cool. Drain well. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap in several layers of paper towels. Seal in plastic bag and chill.
  2. Cut off and discard ends from shallots. Cut shallots lengthwise in half, then remove peel with paring knife. Melt butter with oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots and sauté 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low; sauté until shallots are browned and tender, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with thyme. Season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 hours ahead. Cover loosely with foil and let stand at room temperature.
  3. Add haricots verts to shallots in skillet and stir over medium-high heat until heated through, about 6 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl and serve.

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatos (this is my recipe)
2-3lbs Yukon Gold Potatoes
1 large head garlic
Olive oil, sea salt

  1. Make a pouch out of parchment paper, put garlic in centre (no need to trim or cut) drizzle generously with olive oil and sea salt, and cover completely with parchment and then with foil. Roast in a hot oven 375F for 45 minutes or until garlic is really soft. Let cool slightly.
  2. Remove cloves into a blender – they should just fall out (emersion blender also works). Add olive oil that was used to roast. Add cream or milk or make a nice thick cream. Set aside.
  3. Boil potatoes until soft.
  4. Put potatoes through a potato ricer (this is important to get rid of the chunks).
  5. Whip with an electric mixer beater and add the garlic purée. Add milk or cream to achieve desired consistency.
  6. Keep whipped potatoes warm over a bain marie (a double boiler with simmering water or make one up yourself using a pyrex bowl over simmering water). This is the only way the potatoes will not dry out.

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Again with the mint…LOVE IT! This seems weird, and it is, but I have to tell you, it’s fantastic. Both JT and I were skeptical – really a lovely crunch and minty taste. Go for it, not expensive and easy!!!!

PeppermintBark (click to print)

Original recipe from Martha Stewart

Makes 36 pieces.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (7.5-ounce) package hard peppermint candies, unwrapped
  • 1 pound white chocolate, chopped (do not use chips)
  • 2 cups puffed rice cereal
  • Nonstick cooking spray

Directions:

  1. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray; line with waxed paper. Place candies in a doubled resealable plastic bag; seal, and wrap in a kitchen towel. Using a rolling pin or skillet, crush candies into tiny pieces. Sift to separate crushed candy from fine powder, reserving fine powder for another use; set crushed candy aside.
  2. Place white chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in rice cereal.
  3. Pour mixture onto prepared baking sheet; using a spatula, spread evenly to a 1/4-inch thickness.
  4. Sprinkle with crushed candy; with a piece of waxed paper covering entire surface, press in gently. Chill until firm, 20 to 30 minutes (no longer, as candy will begin to soften).
  5. Peel waxed paper off. Break bark into 2-inch pieces. Store at room temperature in an airtight container up to 1 week.

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If you love chocolate and mint together, you will LOVE these cookies. But get the candy cane kisses now, because I think they are seasonal!

Chocolate Crinkle Kisses (Recipe from Anna) (Click to print PDF)

Makes about 3 dozen or more cookies depending on the size of each ball.

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Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup sugar

     

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

     

  • 1 tsp baking powder

     

  • 1 tsp baking soda

     

  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

     

  • 1/2 tsp salt

     

  • 2 large eggs

     

  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

     

  • 1 bag of Hershey candy cane kisses (you’ll need just about 2 bags) – this cookie is also great with the Hershey caramel kisses.

     

  • Icing sugar

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, mix the melted butter with the cocoa powder and sugar.
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and vanilla into the chocolate mixture.
  3. Slowly mix in all the dry ingredients until combined.
  4. Stir in the chocolate Chips.
  5. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours (this is important so they don’t end up flat).
    Preheat oven to 350.
  6. Roll dough into a small ball 1 inch in diameter (I used a tiny ice cream scoop!).
  7. Pour icing sugar in small bowl & roll each ball to coat.
  8. Place on parchment covered baking sheet leaving about 2 inches between the cookies (great for clean-up!).
  9. Bake for 6-7 minutes. Remove from oven and put 1 unwrapped Kiss on each cookie (squish in the centre of the cookie, tip pointing up). Return to Oven for 2 minutes more of baking.
  10. Let the cookies cool on the sheet, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

 

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I have officially begun the baking, and baking!!!! I plan to bake my head off in my new kitchen. It’s a lovely workspace!

Chocolate & skor chip cookies (done)
Peanut Butter & skor chip cookies (done)
Anzak Cookies (done)
Donkey ears (Hungarian specialty) (done)
Gingerbread
Shortbread
Chocolate Mint Hershey Kiss Cookies (done)
Peppermint bark (can’t find white chocolate)
Chocolate Truffles (may not make these…too fragile)

Savory
Cheddar shortbreads (done)
Parmesan Sticks (done)
Blue cheese truffles (done)

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