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Archive for November, 2008

I am just about to begin my Christmas baking. The following is a list of items to be made. I will be posting only new receipes, anything already posted should be in the correct category for easy reference.

Over the year, I have been saving pretty (clean) boxes, bags and such to recycle and hand out to good friends. I have to be aware that one of my good friend’s daughter has a walnut allergy, so no walnuts or pecans (she can eat peanuts and almonds!), so none of the recipes will contain those nuts!

JT is doing the shopping today for the ingredients so I will likely start this weekend! To help determine how much of everything I will need, I created this little chart in excel:

baking-chart1

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JT surprised me with a short weekend to Ontario’s wine country. We stayed at Sterling Inn (which I would recommend). The only draw-back would be that it is a bit out of the way with no view of the falls (we’ve stayed at most of the major towers and have had spectacular views of the falls). But it is a boutique hotel, with a fantastic restaurant and nicely decorated rooms (our’s had a steam shower – about 5 feet by 10 feet – it was HUGE!). It also has a spa within the hotel, which makes travel to and fro quite comfy even in winter. It snowed lightly on Saturday night, while we drove around to see the Festival of Lights!

On Saturday we toured wine country and picked up a couple of dozen bottles of wine and this very cute gadget which I will be previewing upon Paul and T’s visit (hopefully on the 5th!). On Sunday we each had a massage…very romantic weekend!

room2 fireplace1 sitting-area1

bathroom11 bathroom21

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Toronto’s First Snow Fall

2008firstsnow

Why do people lose their minds during the very first snowfall? My god, we only got 4cm and there were over 400 accidents on city roads!

The plus side is that it is very pretty and starts to put us in the right mood for the season! Put on a fire and pull out that Barolo you’ve been saving.

Cheers!

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We’re had my best friend Kim (from university) and her husband Michael for dinner last night, and planning a meal for them is always a challenge. Kim is allergic to gluten, potatoes, and soy; Michael doesn’t eat anything with nuts or onions or anything that is very different! The dinner was a huge success and I was relieved!

I always try to make interesting, but safe meals (safe meaning Michael will eat it!) and that’s when I thought of a contemporary twist on Chicken Cordon Bleu! The first time I had Chicken Cordon Bleu was at my future (at the time) mother-in-law’s home; they were store bought, with chunks of ham and swiss cheese stuffed into a breaded, seasoned chicken breast. I can still taste the salt! My version will not be as bad for you, and it will be home-made.

The Menu:

Hors d’oeuvres: Sesame Crackers and warm Caramelized Onion Cheddar Dip (I used roasted garlic for this version)

Appetizer: old fashioned shrimp cocktail with Wasabi cocktail sauce (ketchup, wasabi (to taste) and about 1/2 tsp fresh micro-ground ginger)

Main:
Chicken Cordon Bleu with a creamy mushroom sauce
Cauliflower and white bean mash
Asparagus with butter and garlic

Dessert: Molten chocolate cake with a berry sauce.

Sesame Crackers (from Elana’s Pantry)

These are delicious!

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, stir together almond flour, salt, sesame seeds, eggs and oil until well blended
  2. Separate dough into two halves
  3. Line two large (12 x 16) stainless steel baking sheets with parchment paper
  4. Place one half of the dough in the center of each lined sheet
  5. Cut another piece of parchment paper and place it over one of the balls of dough
  6. Roll dough out between the two pieces of parchment paper, until it is ⅛ inch thick and covers the entire baking sheet; remove top paper and repeat process with the other piece of dough (Note from Eva: use a flavoured olive oil)
  7. Cut the dough with a knife or pizza cutter into 2 inch squares
  8. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown
  9. Cool and serve

Makes 96 crackers

Contemporary Chicken Cordon Bleu

Ingredients:

  • 4 5-6 oz skinless, boneless chicken or turkey breasts.
  • 8 slices of Proscuito
  • 8 slices of smoked cheese (I used Manitoba Smoked Cheddar)
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock (home made or low sodium)

Directions:

  1. Butterfly the chicken breast. Put one into a zip lock baggy and lay as flat as possible. Flatten the chicken using a meat pounder (flat, not ridged) to an even thickness. Repeat for all chicken breasts.
  2. On each chicken breast place two slices of Proscuito and 2 slices of cheese to cover the breast.
  3. Roll tightly with remaining Proscuito, securing with butcher string. Store in refrigerator until required.
  4. Preheat oven to 350F.
  5. Using a well seasoned cast iron skillet with a squirt of Pam, brown chicken rolls on all sides.
  6. Add wine and chicken stock, cover with foil and finish baking in oven (until chicken juices run clear). Reserve liquid, if any.
  7. Serve sliced into 1/2 inch slices on a bed of Cauliflower and White Bean mash.

Cauliflower and White Bean Mash

I got the idea of mixing white beans with cauliflower to beef up the creaminess of the cauliflower (and white beans won’t change the colour of the cauliflower!).

Ingredients:

  • 1 head cauliflower (about 1kg)
  • 25g dried white or navy beans (prepare according to package directions – use water to rehydrate)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup sweet Mayan onion

Directions:

  1. Steam cauliflower and garlic clove until very soft (steaming as opposed to roasting to preserve the whiteness).
  2. Prepare white beans according to directions, add onions and cook until everything is soft.
  3. In a food processor, process cauliflower and white beans mix and garlic to a fine paste.
  4. This is a very important step: Strain the processed mix through a fine sieve (this step will remove the bean skins which will be coarse and ensure the mash is really creamy and smooth!)
  5. Keep warm over a bain-marie. The steamed cauliflower should have enough liquid to make a thick creamy mash, but if it is too thick, add a bit of chicken stock.

‘Creamy’ Mushroom Sauce (adapted from Epicurious)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cups home-made or canned low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 ounce dried forest mushroom mix rehydrated in 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 pound brown mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp brandy or cognac
  • 1/2 cup low fat cream (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Directions:

  1. The night before, rehydrate forest mushrooms with water in refrigerator.
  2. Strain the mushroom liquid through a coffee filter, reserve.
  3. Rinse hydrated mushroom carefully (these are often very sandy, so rinse well). Set aside.
  4. Melt 1 tbsp butter in a cast iron sauce pan, add onions and cook until soft.
  5. Add 1/2 the sliced brown mushrooms. Cook until soft. The mushrooms will release quite a bit of water, this will help make the sauce!
  6. Add the garlic and then add the reserved mushroom liquid and reserved chicken liquid.
  7. Transfer this mushroom mix into a blender and blend until smooth, add cream. You may add chicken stock until desired consistency is achieved.
  8. Strain through a fine sieve, set aside. Discard bits.
  9. Melt the remaining 1 tbsp butter in the sauce pan. Add the forest mushrooms and remaining sliced brown mushrooms. Cook until soft.
  10. Add brandy or cognac and cook until alcohol has burned off.
  11. Pour the reserved strained mushroom sauce into the pan and mix thoroughly with the chopped mushrooms.
  12. Add fresh chopped parsley.
  13. Serve in a warm gravy boat and allow people to help themselves.

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Sweet Onion Confit

This is an adaptation from a recipe from Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello on Food Network US. It’s caramelized onions that are so delicious and sweet, I make huge batches and freeze portions! It is a great staple for dips, pizza bases etc.

Sweet Onion Confit

Ingredients:

  • 6 large mayan onions (vidalia also work)
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup Champagne vinegar (white wine vinegar or cider vinegar also work)
  • 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1/4 cup white wine

Directions:

  1. Thinly slice onions (I use a mandolin).
  2. In a heavy bottom pot (that can be put into an oven), slowly simmer the onions in the olive oil over medium-high heat until soft.
  3. Preheat oven to 250°F
  4. Add all the remaining ingredients. Bring to steamy simmer, stirring well.
  5. Cover with a parchment paper lid that has a 2-inch hole in the center to allow the steam to escape but protect it so that it can cook low and slow. Press the parchment paper down to touch and cover the onion mixture. NOTE: the parchment is the cover, DO NOT cover with the lid, you’ll retain too much moisture!
    parchment2
  6. Place the covered pan into a 250°F oven and bake for 2 to 3 hours or until the onions have softened and the liquids have reduced to a sticky gravy that clings to the onions. I like to stir occasionally.
  7. Allow to cool completely and portion out about 1/2 cup portions into zip lock bags and freeze.

This confit has a variety of uses but my all time favorite is the base coat on a goat’s cheese and crumbled sausage pizza.

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This recipe is out of Inn on the Twenty cookbook. I’d had this bread many times when we’ve eaten at the Inn on the Twenty in Jordan…it is absolutely delicious and worth the effort.

bread211

Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients:

  • 9 oz chopped walnuts
  • 1 3/4 oz blackstrap molasses
  • 2 cups warm water (105°F)
  • 1/3 oz dry active yeast
  • 3 1/2 oz whole wheat flour
  • 1lb 10oz organic bread flour
  • 3/4 oz salt
  • 6 oz unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into pieces

Directions:

  1. Combine walnuts, molasses, water and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook. Allow to soak for 10 minutes.
  2. Add flours and salt and mix on low speed for 2 minutes. Increase speed and knead for 5 minutes.
  3. Add butter, a piece at a time and continue to mix until incorporated – about 10 minutes.
  4. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours.
  5. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knock down. Divide dough into two equal balls and shape into rounds, smoothing the top.
  6. Cover and allow to rise for 30 more minutes.
  7. Preheat oven to 400°F. Shape dough into loaves or leave as rounds. Place onto a parchment lined baking sheet and brush lightly with water. Let rest for 20 more minutes.
  8. Brush with water once more. Place bread in oven and reduce heat to 350°F. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Allow to cool for 1/2 hour before cutting.
  9. Serve with sweet (unsalted) butter.

Tip: Make the dough the day before and allow to rise in the refrigerator (make sure you oil well, because the fridge is very drying). Cover bowl tightly with cello wrap.

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I had a brick of feta left over from the spanakopita exercise so I whipped up a delicious appetizer on Sunday for cocktail hour. Unfortunately, I didn’t photograph it – next time! I made up the recipe per cap, so it’s easy to extrapolate!

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 mushroom caps per person (about 2″ in diameter works well for appetizers or 1″ for bite-size portions
  • 1 tbsp greek feta per cap (1 tsp per cap for bite-size portions)
  • 1 tsp plain fat free yogurt (1/2 tsp per cap for bite-size portions)
  • finely minced garlic to taste (I used 2 cloves roasted garlic that I mushed to a paste for five 2″ caps)
  • 1/8 tsp finely crumbled Pancetta that has been crisped per cap
  • finely shredded lemon zest (very small amount)
  • finely minced parsley, to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment (choose one with sides as the mushrooms exhale an enormous amount of water).
  2. Crumble feta, add all ingredients and mix to a creamy consistency (something that will hold its shape)
  3. Clean mushrooms and remove stems (save for soup or discard).
  4. Stuff each cap densely with the mix so that it’s just to the top of the mushroom.
  5. Bake for 10-15 minutes until mushrooms are soft and the feta is lightly golden in colour.
  6. As an appetizer, serve on a bed of arugula drizzled with a lemon olive oil dressing, or just as bite-sized caps as hors d’oeuvres.

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