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Archive for August, 2011

Morocco, here we come!

A friend recently directed us to an amazing airfare with Air Canada and Air France to Morocco — we couldn’t resist! We’ve never been anywhere THAT exotic before; we are both very excited. We’re going in November, so I’ve got enough time to sew up a few ‘conservative’ summer outfits (the stores in Toronto are only selling winter wear now)!
I’m really looking forward to the cuisine – I’ll be cooking up a bunch of Moroccan recipes prior to our visit yo get a real taste for it! Mmmmmm!
Long story short, if anyone has any good tips about Morocco, particularly Marrakech and Casablanca, we’d love to hear it!

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The sun is setting earlier and the temperatures are not reaching the highs that July gifted us. A tree in my neighbourhood has already begun to change colour which means the evening temperatures are dipping lower and lower. The Canadian National Exhibition has been in full swing for a 9 days already. And with that Autumn is fast approaching on Summer’s heals. Sadness at the loss of yet another year pokes at my heart, but as soon as my feet grow accustomed to wearing full shoes and socks, I become excited to dive into my fall wardrobe and of course, my wonderful collection of boots. BBQs, chilled soups and refreshing salads are soon to be replaced by warmer, heartier foods and with that, the house becomes alive again with the wonderful aromas of autumn foods. But I digress. I still have time for one more salad!

A couple of bloggers I follow were recently on the East Coast enjoying the plentiful sea foods offered out there, so I began hankering for a simple shrimp salad. Of course, I’ll make enough to have for lunch at work tomorrow.  And as usual, I’ll take my inspiration from Epicurious, but adding my own twist.

Spicy Shrimp Salad

Spicy Shrimp Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound cooked medium shrimp, peeled, de-veined, tail off (I hate messing with my fingers when there is a dressing or sauce all over them)
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2-4tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 small red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup cucumber, diced
  • 1 avocado diced (lightly sprinkled with the lemon juice so it doesn’t turn brown)
  • 1/2 cup mini tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • pinch of cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1 garlic clove finely chopped
  • 2 garlic scapes, finely chopped
  • Handful of baby arugula, per person

Directions:

  1. Combine mayonnaise and seasonings in large bowl, add shrimp and avocado and gently mix well to coat.
  2. Create a bed of arugula and add the vegetables in the centre. Spoon on top the shrimp avocado mix. Garnish with green onions and chopped scapes.

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We’re invited to a surprise benchmark birthday party this weekend for a long time friend of our’s. I wanted to make an easily transported, no fuss dip. JT absolutely loves Bar Mercurio‘s white bean paste that they serve instead of butter with their focaccia, so I knew I had to make it! I wanted to make it a few days ahead to allow the flavours to really blend.
The picture doesn’t do it justice. This dip is SOOOOOO creamy, you would think there is gobs and gobs of butter in it, but there ISN’T! So incredibly good, and creamy.

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White Bean Dip

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried navy beans (if you use canned, make sure you rinse really well)
  • 5 cups LS chicken stock or a mix with water
  • 2 tbsp panchetta
  • 2 tbsp shallots
  • 2-4 tbsp lemon juice
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 1 head garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp LS chicken stock

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Remove most, but not all excess outer skin from garlic bulb. Put into a tightly fit ramekin. Drizzle with the olive oil and 3 tbsp chicken stock. Seal tightly with foil and bake for 30-45 minutes or until garlic is soft.
  3. In a large Dutch oven, fry the panchetta until crispy. Remove from pan but reserve the fat in the pan.
  4. Cook the shallots in the reserved bacon fat until translucent.
  5. Rinse the beans (it is recommended not to soak over night as that apparently increases the propensity to cause gas, and no one wants that!). Add them with the stock into the pan with the shallots. Cook the beans until very soft and mushy (1 1/2 to 2 hours. Or you can reduce this time significantly by cooking in a pressure cooker). Allow to cool to room temperature.
  6. When the garlic has cooled to room temperature, squeeze each clove out of its skin into a large food processor bowl. Add the beans, the liquid from poaching the garlic and panchetta. Add lemon juice and sea salt to taste. Process until smooth and creamy. . Serve with pita chips or bread sticks.

As a note, I thought I would want to press this mix through a fine seive, but JT reminded me that those bacon bits would be lost, so I processed a bit longer so the bacon bits are a lot smaller. It has a very smooth and creamy texture.

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We were down in wine country region in South Western Ontario on the weekend, and I couldn’t resist picking up some fresh corn on the cob. This is really a treat for me as it’s been about four years since I’ve incorporated more-or-less a low-ish carb diet; I’ve limited vegetables that are carbs (such as corn, peas, carrots). I’m not perfect, and I do eat carbs, but when I do, I really want them to be worth it.

Inspired by Tastefood, with her grilled flank steak and Chimichurri sauce that she blogged about on Sunday (another rendition of this popular sauce) I decided to make Chimichurri again. Originally I made the Chimichurri Sauce in early September in 2008 and posted it (it’s funny how I’m making it again, right about the same time!). What goes better with corn on the cob than a good old fashioned steak – we got tenderloin (not quite budgetary, but sure is tasty). And the Chimichuri was great on the steak and a great substitute for butter on the corn.

In searching around the net, I discovered that not all Chimichurri‘s are created equal. Some folks are quite adamant that there is no oil in it (too fancy), they also say that shallots are too fancy! And I’ve found that instead of lemon juice, people feel quite strongly about using red wine vinegar, and there always seems to be oregano added. I’ve always felt a recipe is a guideline, that one is expected to modify to one’s own taste. I ended up switching out the lemon juice for the red wine vinegar…but I used shallots, regular onions would have been too harsh! I also used a freshly picked Jalapeño from my garden instead of the pepper flakes. The parsley and garlic was also harvested from our garden. Very tasty, indeed.

I’ll leave the grilling instruction to my new friend Ann (cookinghealthyforme, she’s lost oodles of weight by simply modifying the way she cooks!) Ann is the true southern grilling expert! Check out her blog, she’s got great photos!

Grilled Ontario Corn, Beef Tenderloin with Chimichurri Sauce

Chimichurri Sauce (adapted from Epicurious.com)


Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice (I used red wine vinegar)
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots (about 2 medium)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes (or 1/2 small Jalapeño Pepper)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Add all the ingredients into a small food processor bowl and process until the desired consistency is achieved. Allow the flavours to blend in the refrigerator for about 1 hour (allowing it to set in the fridge for a while also mellows the shallots). Drizzle on corn on the cob, steak, pork or whatever you choose. It’s a fresh, green sauce that goes great with everything!

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Jt cooks dinner most week-nights because he works from home and has a bit more time than I do. I know I am very fortunate to have this, but I miss it particularly since The Big Reno 4+ years ago! He’s a great cook, and I keep telling him to start a “guy’s cooking class” — I mean his food is really good! JT whipped up this recipe last night. It was amazing. The flavours so fresh and creamy…I’m having left-overs as I type this — oh sorry, I dazed out for a second!

The original recipe is from Food Network US’s Tyler Florence, and is very good in its own right, but we made it a bit healthier, of course! I love this dish with either left over BBQ’d Chicken or Salmon. Both are extremely delicious! The photo is a little blurry, I took it with my lowly iPhone 3Gs, but you can see all the flavours (I tried to sharpen it up in Photoshop, it’s a wee bit better). This dish is very good either hot or cold.

JTs Mediterranean Chicken Pasta

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, julienne
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup Carnation Fat Free Evaporated Milk
  • 1 cup artichoke hearts in water, drained and quartered
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced into halves
  • 6 ounces goats milk feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Pasta (we like fussili with this dish) enough for 4 (we like to use Catelli Smart, which is high fibre but NOT whole wheat pasta)
  • 400 g left over BBQ’d chicken or Salmon, cut into small chunks

Directions:

  1. Boil water for pasta in a pasta pot, fitted with a strainer. Spray your skillet with non-stick spray. Add sun-dried tomatoes and garlic to skillet and sauté for 2 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, add the fresh pasta to boiling water, cook until al dente, about 5 minutes.
  3. Now add the artichoke hearts, and olives to the skillet. Saute 1 minute then stir in the Carnation Fat Free Evaporated Milk. When this has heated through, add the chicken or the salmon.
  4. Strain the pasta and transfer to a large pasta bowl. Add the chicken mixture to the pasta and toss. Season with oregano, fresh basil, salt and pepper, and then add the crumbled feta just before serving. We like the feta just a little melty, not too melted.

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I’ve been following a lot of blogs lately. I seem to have a had a bit of a obsession with Charles’s chutney (of Five Euro Food, check out his blog, great appetite appeal), and then there was Rufus’s peach and cherry bruschetta! Darn you…two, I had to ‘create’!
It’s peach season in Ontario, and on Sunday we drove down to the Niagara region (about 2 hours from our house in Toronto); fertile farms, gorgeous vineyards and lots of farmers markets!
We bought peaches. Unfortunately, our cherries were long gone,  so I had to revise my plan. I decided to make a simple peach chutney – delicate peach flavour, tart and sweet balsamic pairs perfectly with creamy cheeses ! I had some Canadian Brie on hand – got it on sale, not great taste, but with a little chutney, it would be wonderful and indeed it was!
Ok, now we need a baguette. Yes, normal people would say, let’s stop at one of our bakeries and get one, but, wait for it… I decided to make it myself! Now having said that, I just saw Manu’s kitchen referencing Not Quite Nigella‘s blog and a 60 minute baguette. Perfect. I used to make pretty good bread, until my hubby usurped my title of chief bread maker, I won’t get into it here, but let me say, I haven’t made bread in about 3 years! But 60 Minute baguette? I could do it, for sure. Or not. The flavour was definitively there, but the baguette, such a failure! I don’t think I kneaded it long enough, even though I it running in my kitchenaid with the bread hook for the allotted time.  Well, and it also could have been that I substituted 1/2 the flour for whole wheat which doesn’t have as much gluten in it. At any rate, the baguette was more of a bread roll…each roll remaining independent of the previous (I probably couldn’t achieve this on purpose if I had tried!). But the chutney was the star. Sorry about the baguette photos, they really are an insult. I will try again…soon.

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My Peach Chutney

Makes about 1 cup of chutney

Ingredients:

  • 3 Ontario fresh peaches (really, peaches from anywhere will do!), skinned, stone removed and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 Vidallia onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp molasses
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • splash of olive oil
  • Sea salt to taste

Directions:

  1. In a splash of olive oil, sauté the onions until translucent, add the peaches.
  2. Sprinkle the cinnamon on top and sauté until you smell it.
  3. Add the balsamic and the molasses. Cook this down until the balsamic reduces to a syrup. I like a stiffer chutney, so I reduced it right down.
  4. Season to taste. Serve over room temperature Brie on lightly BBQ’d baguette (I took Rufus’s suggestion and BBQ the baguette WITH the brie to slightly melting). Top with your home made chutney and enjoy.

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After a grueling Saturday (we pulled out a 15+ year old Euonymous that took up about 10′ x 20′ in our front yard — we were quoted around $800 to remove!), we needed something restful to do – road trip. Sunday proved to be a dull and dreary day, with showers promised throughout, so we decided to head down to wine country and do some wondering and eating. It’s peach season in Ontario so, of course, we had to pick some up…and boy, are they GOOD! I love fresh, local fruit.

First, we headed down to Niagara Falls to check out Canada One Factory Outlets that was having a huge sale — a real dud! There was however a Coach store; I am not a fan, but I am consistently amazed at how many people are. They stand in line to pay $200 for a purse. Really? 90% aren’t even leather. And they have the Coach brand pasted all over them, so you not only pay an exorbitant price, you are a walking billboard. Insert Head scratching here.

Back to the day. Niagara was overcast, but great for driving. We took the scenic road to Port Dalhousie where we dined at one of our favourite restaurants, Treadwells. We’ve been a few times, and the owner always recognizes us.  We sat outside on their lovely patio, getting a few intermittent rays.

We started with the Charcuterie platter, which had local Prosciutto (very tasty), duck liver paté (which was more like a rilette), a couple of different salamis (local) then without thinking, we both ordered a meaty dish! I had the Steak Tartar and JT had the Croque-Monsieur.  Although we both found the charcuterie a bit on the pricey side ($20) it was plentiful and a nice variety of flavours. And supplied with enough bread. There were two sauces and a pickle, a roasted red pepper puré and a very nice apricot chutney. The pickle was a mustard-like sauce on very tiny blanched cauliflower. All three added a nice punch to the meat and paté. About the only thing neither of us was keen on was a pig cheek bacon — we both felt it should have been crispy, instead it was just greasy and sloppy. I’d order the charcuterie again, but perhaps following it with a salad next time, instead.

The Croque-Monsieur looked amazing and the thick cut fries were a true indulgence, unfortunately, my tartar was a bit gristly which kind of turned me off  (they immediately removed it from our bill). We enjoyed both with local wines. We were both too full for dessert.

Treadwells:

Overall rating (in my opinion): Decor 4/5 (they have a lovely patio along side a damned river. We were one of two couples and it was very private), service 4/5, food 4/5, Value 3/5, Noise: 4/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

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Another tip of the hat to Laura Calder’s Soufféed Omelet. We had BBQ’d a couple of gorgeous BC wild salmon fillets late last week but then didn’t have the opportunity to use them as left-overs (we always make two extra servings so we can each take a delicious lunch to work – saves money and allows you to know exactly what you are eating!) Did you know that the pink-ness of Salmon is determined by how much shrimp they eat? The pinker the colour, the more shrimp they ate (one of our clients is a seafood canner)!  So, back to the story. On Saturday as we sat reading the paper at our beautiful Soapstone island, I pondered what to make for breakfast…and then it came to me: Salmon Spinach Souffléed Omlette! I threw in the greens to use them up…they were slowly wilting away. I love this recipe because it makes more than you think it should, using only two eggs! It’s light and airy, and the BBQ’d salmon added such a lovely smoked flavour. (I wasn’t going to post this, but it was so damn tasty, so I took this photo with my lowly iPhone 3GS)

Salmon Spinach Souffléed Omlette

Serves 2

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Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 2-3 oz BBQ’d Salmon, flaked
  • 3 shallots finely chopped
  • a handful of greens
  • 1/4 cup non-fat yogurt (for the omlette)
  • 1/4 cup non-fat yogurt (for the sauce; I haven’t had a chance to try PC’s non-fat Greek Yogurt, but I’m certain it would be amazing in this)
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped chives
  • Non-stock cooking spray
  • 2-3 tbsp LS stock (I used chicken)
  • Sea Salt

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375°F.
  2. Sauté shallots in a small cast iron pan until translucent. I find the cooking spray doesn’t really give you enough moisture to do this, so I usually splash a bit of LS Chicken Stock to help it along).
  3. Add the greens and allow to wilt.
  4. While this is going on, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form (not dry).
  5. Then, beat the egg yolks until significantly lighter in colour and thick. Add the yogurt and beat in well.
  6. Mix a little bit of the egg white into the yolk cream. The fold in the rest, carefully so that you don’t deflate it.
  7. Lightly fold in the sautéed greens and shallots, and lastly the flaked salmon. Season to taste.
  8. Carefully pour this mixture into the hot cast iron pan, spreading evenly in the pan so it reaches all sides.
  9. Place into the hot oven for 15-20 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
  10. In the meantime, mix the yogurt and the chives.
  11. Serve with the yogurt chive sauce and a bit of whole grain toast.

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I recently came across a one ingredient ice cream recipe from Canadian Living (thanks Nancy!) for banana ice cream. Yup, you guessed it, just bananas! I knew I had to try it. I love ice-cream – it’s just too dangerous to have in the house, so I never make or buy it. This, on the other hand is not bad for you! Bananas are rich in potassium, fibre, manganese, B6 and vitamin C; they are low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. The down side Is that a large portion of the calories come from sugars. OK, what dessert doesn’t have a large portion of calories from sugar???
Facts from http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1846/2

And it’s so EASY. Just takes a little planning ahead.

Banana Blueberry Ice Cream

Serves 3-4 small portions

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium bananas
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries (ok, this one has 2 ingredients!)

Directions:

  1. 6-12 hours before serving, slice banana about 1/2 cm thick. Place evenly on parchment lined cookie sheet. Freeze 6-12 hours. After frozen, you can bag the rounds in a ziplock baggy until you are ready to use – I think I may keep a bag of frozen bananas in the freezer for those emergency desserts!
  2. When you are ready to serve, take the two frozen sliced bananas and 1 cup frozen blueberries and blend until smooth with an immersion blender (or food processor, but I find the immersion blender makes it smoother). Fold in a couple of whole berries and serve immediately. Sorry, no photo this time, maybe next time!

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This velouté was part of the 5 course dinner we served to an old friend and his fiancée. He had suffered a heart attack about a month earlier, so I wanted to make sure the dinner was super healthy. No saturated fats, few carbs, not too filling, but really satisfying. The mushroom velouté is a creamed mushroom sauce that I poured over the roast loin of pork. It was earthy, flavourful and simply delicious. But warning, you really must love the earthy taste of mushrooms, this really has it.

Makes about 2 cups of thick gravy or 3 cups of thinner gravy. The photo is a velouté I made about a year ago, and used it as a creamed soup instead. Very tasty, either way.

An alternate use for the mushroom velouté

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of finely chopped shallots
  • 2 cups roughly chopped cremini mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded celeriac
  • 1 tbsp finely minced garlic
  • 2 cups mushroom ‘stock’
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • about 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup of dehydrated wild mushrooms
  • non stick spray
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp lemon thyme

Directions:

    1. The night before you make the sauce, reconstitute the dehydrated wild mushrooms in 2 cups of water. When they have fully softened, strain the liquid through a coffee filter, reserve liquid. Wash the re-hydrated mushrooms well, getting all the sand out. Set aside
    2. In a hot skillet, spray a good squirt of non stick spray.
    3. Sauté the shallots until translucent. Add all of the creminis, the celeriac and the garlic. Sauté until soft. Add a bit of the mushroom stock and the Dijon mustard, stir well to incorporate.
    4. Separate the ugly, tiny, really mushy bits of the rehydrated mushrooms and set aside. Of the lovely re-hydrated mushrooms, slice those that are a little too big to eat, remember, this is a chunky sauce.
    5. Cool slightly, pour contents into your immersion blender jar and add all of the mushroom stock, ugly little bits of the re-hydrated mushrooms and purée until smooth. Add the vegetable stock to achieve the consistency you desire.
    6. Now add all of the lovely, sliced re-hydrated wild mushrooms and stir well. Salt to taste. Stir in the lemon thyme just before serving.

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This soup was part of a five-course dinner we made for a good friend who recently suffered a heart attack. The theme was heathy, healthy, healthy!

Chilled Cucumber Soup

Serves 4 (1/2 cup servings each)

Ingredients for the Soup:

  • 1 large English cucumber, washed but unpeeled, roughly chopped or grated
  • 4 shallots, peeled and diced finely
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 cup low sodium stock, either chicken or vegetable
  • 1 cup fat free unflavoured yogurt (or buttermilk)
  • Splash of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Non-stick spray

Ingredients for the Cilantro Oil:

  • 4 tbsp EVOO
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
  • Pinch of sea salt

Directions for the Soup:

  1. Make this a day or two in advance to allow flavours to combine.
  2. Heat a cast iron pan and spray with non-stick spray lightly.
  3. Sauté shallots until translucent, add the garlic and stir just until you smell it. Remove from heat immediately. Allow to cool completely.
  4. Add cucumbers to a deep bowl, add cooled onion, garlic and yogurt and start blending with an immersion blender. Add stock little by little until the desired consistency is achieved.
  5. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Store in refrigerator for up to 3 days. Stir well before serving.

Directions for the Cilantro oil:

  1. Mix both oil, cilantro and pinch of salt.
  2. Mash cilantro gently with the back of a spoon (I used my gorgeous olive wood mortal and pestle from Provence). Set aside at room temperature until ready to serve.
  3. Pour cucumber soup into serving bowls, drizzle with the cilantro oil, serve chilled.

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Cauliflower Celeriac “Mashed Potatoes”
Serves 4-6 vegetable side portions

Celeriac Cauliflower Mash

"Mashed Potatoes" Celeriac Cauliflower

Ingredients:

  • 1 head cauliflower (about 4 cups)
  • 1 head celeriac (about 1 ½-2 cups)
  • 1 head garlic
  • 4-5 shallots
  • Low Sodium Chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375°F.
  2. Cut cauliflower into individual florets, each about the same size, wash and dry off.
  3. Peel celeriac and cut into equal 1” x 1” inch cubes.
  4. Remove outer layer of skin off the garlic head, so that only the individual outer skin remains.
  5. Clean shallots and leave whole.
  6. Steam cauliflower so that it is ‘mushy’ – more than just andante. Remove from heat (do not place them into an ice bath – it will make the cauliflower too watery).
  7. In a reasonable-sized roasting pan, place the celeriac cubes and the shallots. Spray with non-stick spray and toss with a small amount of sea salt.
  8. Place the garlic into a small ramekin (big enough to just hold the garlic). Add about 2-3 tablespoons of Low Sodium Chicken Stock (or vegetable stock), cover with foil wrap. Put the ramekin in the corner of the roasting pan.
  9. Place roasting pan in the hot oven, and roast the vegetables until they are soft, being careful not to brown the edges too much (this would ruin the ‘mashed potato’ look).
  10. When the celeriac is soft enough for a fork to easily pierce, pour about ¼ cup of Low Sodium Chicken stock into the roasting pan. Allow it to evaporate (this step will soften the celeriac for blending).
  11. The celeriac and shallots will be done a bit sooner than the garlic, remove from pan and continue to poach the garlic.
  12. Place the celeriac and the shallots into a large bowl, add the cauliflower 2-4 florets at a time and purée with an immersion blender. The cauliflower will add enough moisture to the mash, but if you find it dry, add a little LS chicken stock (very little). The trick to this dish is to not make soup, but a creamy mash.
  13. When you have puréed the celeriac, shallots and cauliflower, add the poached garlic cloves (all of them) and drizzle the LS chicken stock remaining in the ramekin into the mix. Purée until you have a creamy paste. Using a soup ladle, push this mash through a fine sieve (this is important so that the mash is creamy and not chunky or woody).

Tips:
I find using my immersion blender the perfect tool, as it really purées to a fine ‘mash”.
Use the liquid sparingly. I have made this several times and this is by far the best ‘mashed potato’ texture and consistency.

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Dinner with Pete and Karen

Pete is an old friend from way, way back; JT has worked with him over the years (that’s how we got to know him). We’ve gotten together sporadically over the years. Pete recently got engaged! And then he had a heart attack. It just got us thinking how precious and short life is. We had them over for a gourmet, but health conscious dinner. Now I usually cook on the healthy side anyway (butter only where it really adds bang for the buck, I trade cream in for Carnation or flavour such as spices etc.) but I am being super careful with this one. I will link recipes where I can, and post them separately if I haven’t already (it’s easier to search that way).

The Deconstructed Caesar Salad

  1. Hors d’oevres: Spanakopita
  2. Appetizers: Chilled cucumber soup (small portion) and the famous Deconstructed Caesar Salad
  3. Pork Medallions with a ‘creamy’ mushroom velouté on cauliflower and celeriac ‘mash’
  4. Chocolate three ways: Mexican Chocolate Brownie, Chocolate Banana Avocado Ice Cream and a Chocolate Dipped Fresh Fig
Of course, it’s also about portion control, and the portions I plan to serve are not going to be huge; the dessert will be three small tasters, just enough to make you want more. I want this dinner to be satisfying and delicious but not heavy and filling.

I had hoped to post recipes at this time, but my Canon EOS USB cable died, so it will have to wait until I replace it.

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I was very generously invited to an event supporting ‘farmers feed cities’ at the Evergreen Brick Works by my new friend Brenda Morrison. Brenda writes for several publications, and is coined as “the queen of content”; she is often invited to events, and this time she asked ME! What’s even more flattering is that when I thanked her, she said: My pleasure. I wanted to take a fabulous foodie – you’re it! Thanks Brenda Bear!

http://www.farmersfeedcities.com/

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The Toronto Brick Works is an historic property that Evergreen has painstakingly renovated, rejuvenated and reinvented totally environmentally! Evergreen is a non-profit organization that makes cities more livable. http://ebw.evergreen.ca/ this event was a wonderful combination of contemporary cuisine with farm freshness. Some tasty samplings were the Tillsonburg Beef Sliders, Brisket on a Biscuit, Tomato Confit Bruschetta, Ontario Peaches and Cream Corn (slathered with fresh butter or hot sauce), a fresh minted lentil salad, corn dogs, oatmeal ice cream cookie sandwich and local cheeses! Wine was from Southbrook Vineyards and Beer from Muskoka Brewery. Very nicely done!

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I have some ‘connections’ because of where I work and was invited to be on a show on Food Network Canada yesterday as part of the ‘audience’. I had to sign a bunch of non-disclosures so I cannot say anything about it. But OMG, it was so cool! Stay tuned to 2012 when it is aired and I can talk about it. I am sure to be somewhere for a split second or two.

We’re having a dear old friend and his new fiancé for dinner this Saturday; they live about an hour away, so we’ve invited them to stay over. I’m making a healthy meal (stay tuned) and low fat blueberry oatmeal bran muffins for breakfast.

Blueberry Oatmeal Bran Muffins
Makes 12 medium muffins

Ingredients
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup bran cereal
2 tbsp ground flax and wheat germ
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup blueberries

1 egg
2 tbsp molasses
1/3 cup fat free yogurt
1 1/2 cups fat free milk
1 tsp vanilla

Directions
Pre heat oven to 400F.
Mix all dry ingredients together.
Add the blueberries, coat well.
Combine all wet ingredients and whisk well. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, pour all wet into it and combine. Do not over mix, batter should be lumpy.
Bake for about 20 minutes it until cake tester comes out clean.
Enjoy with home made low sugar preserves.

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On Saturday, we had my dearest friend Kim (from University) and her hubby Mike over for brunch. They have been away so much in the last month (oh, you know, Hungary, France, Germany and Alberta) that we had to “sneak” in a quick visit. Kim’s birthday is 11 days before mine (yes, SHE is older!), and we ALWAYS get together for our birthdays.

I’m very proud of Kim, she lost 65lbs a few year’s ago doing the same Dr. monitored diet I did and she has kept it off. She looks hot and sexy and gorgeous; a truly amazing and giving woman. So whenever they come over, I try to cook a reasonably healthy meal. She has some intolerance, such as soy and gluten; and Mike has some significant dislikes, onions and nuts and some things out of the blue. I always like to cook things our guests really enjoy eating, so it’s a bit of a challenge, but I’m always up for it! PS Mike seemed to like everything I made!!!

The other day, we saw Laura Calder on French Food at Home cook up a lovely Soufléed Omelet and I thought it would be a wonderful brunchy meal. Of course, I had to ‘lighten’ it up a touch. We started the meal with our home-grown tomato and Bocconcini skewers with home grown basil. And then it was Roland’s Deconstructed Grilled Caesar Salad, and then the Spinach and Feta Soufléed Omlette, and to finish, a fruit cup with ‘sabayon.

Deconstucted Caesar Salad – to keep it a bit healthier, we cut the Peameal in half. The dressing is a low fat Caesar I make.

The Deconstructed Caesar Salad

Soufléed Omlette with Spinach and Feta

Soufléed Spinach and Feta Omlette

I bought these adorable little square cast iron pans a while ago and decided a square omelet would be cool! I had a half a celery root and a clove of garlic that I roasted and then puréed with a splash of LS chicken stock, then I strained it through a fine sieve to get rid of the lumps; I folded this mixture into the egg yolks for added flavour.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs separated, plus 1 egg white
  • 1/2 cup of puréed, strained roasted celery root and garlic (you may also add 1/2 onion, but I left this out, due to Mike’s extreme dislike of onions)
  • 4 cups spinach, rinsed and dried
  • 2 cloves garlic finely minced
  • 1/2 cup of crumbled feta
  • 4 basil leaves as garnish

Directions

  1. Pre heat oven to 350°F.
  2. Beat egg yolks until light and thick, fold in the roasted celery root mix.
  3. Beat egg whites until fluffy but not dry.
  4. Mix in a little of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture.
  5. Slowly fold in the egg yolk mix into the whites, incorporating the whites well, but not deflating.
  6. Heat a small squirt of non-stick spray in the cast iron pans. Remove from heat.
  7. Divide egg mixture evenly between all four pans. Insert into oven and bake for about 10-15 minutes.
  8. While baking, sauté the spinach and garlic until it has shriveled. Pour into cheese cloth and squeeze out the excess liquid. Chop and set aside.
  9. When the souflée has browned a tiny bit, add the spinach and crumbled feta. Broil for about 1 minute or until cheese begins to bubble a tiny bit.
  10. Serve immediately.

The ‘sabayon’ is about 2 tbsp low fat mayo, 1/2 cup low fat yogurt, 1 tsp vanilla and 2 tbsp honey. Mix well and serve drizzled over fruit.

PS. On TV Laura did not cook the egg yolks, but in the recipe, she does. It works well without the cooking as above.

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When I need inspiration for cooking, my all-time favourite GO TO site is Epicurious, but I also check out Food Network Canada and Food Network US regularly. By now, you probably have assessed that I rarely follow a recipe verbatim; I usually change it up based on my tastes, JTs tastes and what I have at home, so these sites usually provide excellent inspiration, plus I love that on Epicurious people comment and rate the recipe!

I also have a couple of really old cookbooks: My Fanny Farmer (it’s a 37th or so edition, really beat up) and my White Roses Flour Cookbook from the late 70’s early 80’s. Both cookbooks are good general recipe references. When I’m feeling lazy, I simply google a recipe and I have 1000’s at my fingertips! Having the iPad or iPhone always at hand makes finding inspiration and new recipes easy.

Recently I started following a lot more cooking blogs. It’s interesting to see what people in other parts of the world are cooking, and what’s really coincidental is that sometimes we’re cooking the same things! I am also published on Foodista and ptitchef.

What is your GO TO recipe book or site?

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Several months ago we broke down and succumbed to the infamous iPad generation. You might call me and say, but don’t you already have an iPhone, an iMac, iPod, iPod Touch and Shuffle? Yes, but this is different. I’ve always said that one can justify anything. Well, here goes!

My friend Pam emailed me a lovely pdf book of dessert recipes and I opened it on my iPhone. What? Do I want to open it in iBooks? OK, let’s try it. iBooks opened this bookmarked pdf, I’m able to click on an index and it takes me directly to the recipe. Click, click, click (that’s my brain thinking)…I have most of my own recipes as pdfs, all I need to do now is link them together in sections. So, I took one week, standardized my recipes (of course you did) and created sections. Voilà, my new recipe collection. Now looking at the recipes on my itty bitty little iPhone is a bit difficult — hence the iPad (justification). Our lovely iPad resides in the kitchen on the desk and when we need a recipe, we take it to the island and voilà! No more stained or torn pages. The only thing missing is the ability to edit the recipes on the fly — but that too will come. Someone will create an app for it!

The iPad recipe collection sits in the background

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Of course, if the type is still too small, you can always enlarge it!

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Each day our tomato plants are simply overflowing with fruit! We were at the cottage this weekend so yesterday there were three days of tomatoes to be harvested. Our home grown garlic has finally cured and the basil was looking pretty sweet as well. What to do? Bruschetta, of course! Using the different coloured tomatoes makes me think of jewels!

1 cup cherry tomatoes in various colours cut into eighths.
4-6 basil leaves, chiffonad
1-2 tsp finely minced garlic (I use my micro-plainer for this)
3-4 tbsp EVOO
Salt
6, thinly sliced whole wheat French stick
3-4 tbsp EVOO

Lightly brush EVOO on each side of the French stick. Toast each side gently in your broiler.
Mix the cut tomatoes, garlic, basil and EVOO, salt to taste.
Gently spoon the tomato mix over each toast, drizzling with the extra juices.
Serve immediately.

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