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Archive for January, 2012

Although it has been unseasonably warm this past week in the big smoke, it’s been crazy rainy and windy. It’s a perfect time to stay in and make some healthy comforting food that is great for lunch the next day. I posted this recipe in 2009 because it is an incredibly tasty and easy dish for a week night, but I find myself craving to repost as I really hated the old photo! This is still JTs signature dish so I won’t alter his recipe other than how it has morphed over the years, and it has morphed a touch over the years. But I will say, please make this, it is really, really, really good!

And don’t forget to enter the giveaway! I’m really excited about the give away and what creative things you will make with it and blog about. I did forget to detail the time the draw closes: 12pm Eastern Standard Time, that will give me some time to get the correct entries together and have JT do the draw! As well, the Just a Pinch salts were purchased entirely by ME! It is not linked to any other promo! Time is a tickin’ people, better enter soon!

And did I mention that a couple of the answers are found in more than one post? Oops! Good luck!

A hearty but healthy dinner on a cold winters night

JTs Chicken Cacciatore

Adapted from Fannie Farmer, December 1984 (originally published in 1896!).
Serves 4 (2 dinners and 2 lunches in our case)

Ingredients:

  • 400g chicken breasts, skinless, boneless
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 28g dried mushrooms rehydrated in about 1 cup warm water, set liquid aside (make sure you strain through coffee filter to ensure no sand gets into it)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (or low sodium chicken stock)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 red pepper, sliced (we used green this time because that is what we had)
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste (put remaining tomato paste into an extra ice cube tray and freeze, remove from tray into a resealable container and voila, tomato paste as required!)
  • 2 cups canned Roma tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • Chili peppers to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • Grated Parmesan, if you wish

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (or you could just cook the entire dish stove top with the lid on)
  2. Heat the oil in a large dutch oven and cook the chicken until lightly browned on all sides.
  3. Add the onion and sauté a minute or two and then add the wine and allow to boil up.
  4. Lower the temperature and add the garlic, tomato paste, tomatoes, pepper and the mushrooms.
  5. Add the seasonings, bay leaves and the mushroom liquid.
  6. Cover and bake in the hot oven for about 1 hour, or until chicken is cooked through. If you like a dryer cacciatore, leave the cover off so that some of the liquid evaporates; I prefer mine a bit wet so that it makes a tasty ‘dressing’ for the greens.
  7. Remove bay leaves, taste and season if required.
  8. Serve on a bed of mixed baby spinach and baby arugula leaves. You can also serve with grated Parmesan and a dollop of yogurt or sour cream, but we’re reducing our intake this week, so we omitted it.

Tips: You can also add black olives (chop in half) and crumble some sheeps milk feta on top instead of the Parmesan for a slightly Greek version of the dish.

I had to update this post with a photo I recently took with my iPhone at work. I just loved how rich the sauce looks and how luminous this photos is.

Our studio has amazing light. And yes, that surely is cayenne pepper on the chicken.

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Giveaway

Hi there, me again! Didn’t want this great giveaway to get lost under the murk, so here is another little reminder! It’s really easy to enter! Hope you do! Good luck!

The first give-away on Kitcheninspirations, click here to link back:

Would you like a pinch?

Would you like a pinch?

I’ll give you another entry if you can tell me the name of my most favourite pet. :-)

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I’m a bit grumpy today :-(. It’s not because it’s Wednesday, or that it rained ALL day, or that it’s STILL winter, or that we’re NOT drinking wine during the week (or other libations, in effort to be healthier) — no, it’s because I have been called, YET AGAIN, my FOURTH TIME to jury duty. Few Canadians are bestowed with this honour (read extreme sarcasm here). In fact, my 87 year old father-in-law has NEVER been called, nor had his 75 year old wife (who sadly passed away many years ago), nor had either of my parents (both deceased), brother, brother -in-law, sister-in-laws, or for that matter, any of my friends. JT was called, twice! FOURTH FOR ME. Why ME? The second time I was called was about 2 months after the first time so I was excused (why can’t I be this lucky in the lotto? Hmmmm? WHY?). The third time I was simply warned that I may be called, thank goodness it never happened. And now it is the real deal, again. February 15. I am to show up at 8:30 at the main courthouse downtown. There is nothing even remotely interesting down there. Oh god, I hope they have WIFI so I can blog about it (you are allowed to do that, aren’t you?) Rest assured I’ll be texting all my friends and emailing; you really don’t want me bored, do you? I guess I can read. I hope there is no weird-o, freak-job case on the docket this time — last time I was spared a week away from serving on the Bernardo jury (I don’t think I could have stomached that). I wonder if they will let me off, after all, I am one of two people in a two person company? Bleh. Sorry about all the caps, I’m really grumpy.

A quick update that I received a questionnaire on September 23, 2014 to see if I am eligible AGAIN, DAMN, DAMN, DAMN! I’m hoping that my current employment status will eliminate my requirement.

We were invited to a brunch this past weekend and were asked to bring nothing! Nothing? I am not one to show up empty handed so I made chewy chocolate brownies. There will be a whole mess of kids there so the sugary, chocolatey squares will certainly be appreciated, even hours after we’ve bid our fair wells!!! ;-) Good thing I made dessert, because another guest brought 4 of them! Yup, we had a lot of delicious food. JT and I didn’t even have dinner (well, unless you call the saganaki we experimented with, I wish I had taken a photo).

I left out nuts as I am unsure if there are any allergies, but go ahead and add them, if you choose. What’s interesting about this recipe is the absence of large quantity of fat, in fact, most of the calories are derived from the variety of sugars used in the concoction; but fear not, they are moist and chewy and not as tooth numbingly sweet as you might think. The original recipe came from the Toronto Star about 20 years ago, and approved by the Heart and Stroke Foundation at that time.

Oh, and don’t forget to enter the giveaway! The entries are pouring in, some more correct than others ;-). I noticed that some of you questioned a particular year, and yes, that was a trick question. I hope you can get all 5 entries to make it a real challenge. I can hardly wait to make the grand prize draw for a very lucky winner!

Chewy and chocolatey brownies. A treat for all ages.

Would you care for coffee or tea with that? or maybe an Irish Cream over ice?

Chewy Chocolate Brownies

Makes about 20 brownies (or make them in mini muffin pans for a smaller, bite-sized treat)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 4 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 oz (45g) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 tbsp butter or margarine
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 egg whites

Directions:

  1. Sift flour, icing sugar, cocoa powder and baking powder.
  2. Melt butter or margarine with brown sugar and chocolate chips, add vanilla, corn syrup and water.
  3. Beat in the egg whites (if the liquid is still hot, temper them so you don’t get scrambled eggs!)
  4. Add dry ingredients and stir well.
  5. Pour into a prepared 9″ x 9″ pan, or mini muffin tins (I generally just use Pam in the muffin tins or line the pan with parchment paper). Bake for 20-25 minutes until firm (10-12 minutes for the mini muffin tins). You can also bake these in mini muffin cups, like I did in 2008!
  6. Option to frost with a butter icing, but not necessary as this brownie is very moist and flavourful.

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Click here to link back to the very easy giveaway. It’s a shame not to enter!

Would you like a pinch?

Do you need a pinch?

Also wanted to mention that my photographer friend Edward Pond is down in Nicaragua teaching underprivileged kids camera skills; he took over 20 donated cameras with him. Check out his story, it’s pretty cool, and there’s drama too!

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We were finally able to get into Ici Restaurant in Toronto; I say finally because, believe it or not, we made reservations between Christmas and New Years! It was on our list of places to try, but alas we had not been able to get in until now! Ici opened in November 2010 on Manning Avenue in Toronto after two years of fighting ridiculous issues with a City Councillor; not sure what the hoopla was over since it’s a very small French restaurant and not a after hours club! They serve “modern French food” with classics such as Lobster Bisque, Steak Tartar and Chicken Suprême.
I have to say, having to wait three weeks to dine with a reservation, I had expectations. It was a blistery cold day in Toronto and this place is in a residential area (the Annex), with street parking only. We had our first snowfall the day before and not everyone shovels their sidewalk as they should; we had to park about a hundred metres from the restaurant and I wore satin sling backs (OK, I’m well-known for inappropriate footwear so this should be of no surprise!) We arrive and the place is T I N Y – seating for maybe 25, half if which is along the bar and kitchen counters. We were sat at the bar. I said, “but we had reservations” this is all we have, was the response. Hmmmm. It’s REALLY S M A L L. No where to hang your coat — they could have used hooks under the bar. The door is covered with heavy velvet drapery, but it’s still not enough to stop the blustery cold from interrupting our comfort. People are turned away at the door, you really do need a reservation. The décor is quaint but nothing special. The napkins are linen tea towels, I like them. There are place-mats at each place on the bar, and we are not overly crowded (I can’t even reach over to touch the next two diners, not that I would want to). The kitchen has a window so you can see the action, and it’s pretty obvious that they are not overly taxed.

The staff is attentive; we are immediately welcomed with a small but very tasty goats cheese tart amuse bouche; it had caramelized onion baked with the tart, creamy goats cheese — it was delicious, which makes us both excited about our meals. The menu is short, only about ten things and they come in two sizes, appetizer portion of meal portion, which works out well for me. We order six oysters as our starter, they are small PEI oysters for $3. each; they are served with grated fresh horse radish, lemon wedges and a classic Mignonette garnish. They are quite lovely with a hint of brininess (I actually like my oysters a bit brinier!) and they are a lite great starter without taking up tummy-space. Because the restaurant space is small and there are not many people, it’s a little quieter than most hot spot eateries, which is nice because I have a difficult time competing with noise, my voice tends to be the same level and I can’t even hear myself talk! I ordered the steak tartar; the server said it was delicately seasoned with shallots, cognac, mustard and cornichons (not capers). I ordered the appetizer portion and it is served as two good sized quenelle shapes with similarly shaped deep-fried mashed potatoes. Although I am not a huge potato eater, my preference would have been the beautiful match-stick fries traditionally served with this dish. I ate half of one of the potatoes and gave the other half to JT. The tartar was tasty, not the best I’ve ever had, but certainly up there. JT had the Seared Braised Beef, Artichoke & Black Trumpet Ravioli, even the appetizer portion was a healthy serving. The meat was so tender and tasty, it was right up there for taste and quality. He said it was good but not the best he’s ever had. We finished with a couple of very delicious espressos. The dinner was nicely spaced out, with reservations at 7:30 we left around 9:30.

Overall rating of Ici (in my opinion): Decor 2.5/5, service 3.5/5, food 3.5/5, Value 3.5/5, Noise: 5/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meal for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

The first give-away on Kitcheninspirations:

Would you like a pinch?

Would you like a pinch?

I picked up these wonderful little Just a Pinch sample packets of flavoured gourmet salts during the Christmas Holidays at Longo‘s new store at the Air Canada Centre. I was so intrigued by them, the possibilities are endless. To enter is easy:

  • Answer the following four questions correctly (all of the answers are found in my blog) in a comment on this post will get you one entry.
  • For additional entries, leave one comment on the correct post in which you found the answers; each comment (limit one per post, per person) on the correct post will gain you one additional entry.
  • Bring a new person to comment on my blog (and they actually leave a meaningful comment), please tell me the person’s name in a comment and you will get an additional entry AND the new person will get one entry.

Contest open until January 22, 2012 at which time I will tabulate the entries and all correct entries will go into a draw. JT will officiate the draw. All five little packets will be won by one lucky individual, anywhere in the world. I will release the winner’s name during the week of January 23. Good luck to you all.

  1. What inspired me to create this blog?
  2. What month is my birthday?
  3. How did we travel to Montreal in the fall of 2011?
  4. How many pictures did I upload in 2010?

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My friend, Barb (Profiteroles and Ponytails) went to Australia several years ago and shortly after we visited her in Vancouver; for our premier dinner she made us the Thai Coconut Soup that is so famous in restaurants and it was delicious! I had no experience cooking Thai food at home and as a gift she bought me a Thai cookbook called Australian Woman’s Weekly, Easy Thai-Style Cookery. It is really my ‘go to’ cookbook for Thai food, my favourite being Lemongrass Soup. It has great step-by-step instructions on how to with very clear photos. You really can’t go wrong. I have made this soup so often I don’t even look at the recipe anymore and basically just eyeball and taste it, so you’ll have to excuse my loosey-goosey measurements! I have served this soup at several dinner parties and I am told by some of my Thai food-lover friends that it is very delicious!

Thai cooking is about balancing salty, sweet, spicy and sour so you really have to taste, taste, taste and adjust as you go along. My Lemongrass soup is my favourite to the restaurant variety as I find some too salty and too sweet. Most restaurant versions also don’t include fettuccine-sized rice noodles (half centimetre wide) in the soup, but there was one place across from the Eaton Centre on Yonge Street that always had the noodles in the soup and I really enjoyed it, so I usually include them!

This soup comes together very quickly, the hard part is waiting for the rice noodles to soften up. You can also substitute shrimp for the chicken.

Comforting lemongrass chicken soup

I always make an extra huge batch so I can take some to work for my lunch the next day.

A mouthwatering delicious balance of salty, sweet, sour and spicy; can I get you a bowl?

Thai Inspired Lemongrass Chicken Soup

Serves 3 in large bowls

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp flavourless vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 3oog boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced thinly
  • 2 cups thinly sliced plain white mushrooms (I like a lot of mushrooms in my soup)
  • 1/2 cup finely sliced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic finely minced
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp ginger (ground is fine, fresh is better)
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped lemon grass
  • 4 kafir lime leaves
  • 2 small bits of dry galangal (Thai ginger)
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 2-4 tbsp sugar (or I used agave nectar)
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes (or to taste)
  • 4-6 cup water or low sodium chicken stock (I did a mix of the two to mitigate calories)
  • a good handful of fettuccine-sized rice noodles

Garnish:

  • 1/4 cup finely sliced green onion (forgot to add for the photo)
  • 2-4 Thai basil leaves, chiffonade (did not have this, nor did I miss it)
  • handful of chopped cilantro (did not have this, but I surely missed it)

Directions:

  1. Heat the water in your kettle until boiling. Pour over the rice noodles and allow to sit until they are totally reconstituted, 10-15 minutes. Do not over soak, you want a bit of a bite to it.
  2. In a large soup pan, heat the two oils until hot but not smoky (the sesame oil has a very low smoke point). Add the onions and stir until slightly translucent. Add the chicken and brown a bit. Turn the heat down to a simmer.
  3. Mix the cumin, coriandre, ginger and lemon grass together, sprinkle on the chicken and stir until you can really smell it. Add the garlic and stir once. Add all of the chicken stock, kafir leaves, galangal, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and chili flakes. Stir well. Heat so that the chicken cooks through. Once the chicken is cooked, taste for salty, sweet, spicy and sour balance and adjust accordingly. Remove the galangal and kafir lime leaves, discard.
  4. Put one third of the cold noodles into a large decorative white bowl. Add ladle-fulls of the chicken soup with bits of chicken, onion and mushrooms. Garnish with the green onion, chopped basil leaves and cilantro leaves. Enjoy.

Cooks tips:

  • Store your fresh ginger knobs in the freezer in a resealable container; grate on a fine micro-plane grater when required, you need not peel it! Keeps indefinitely.
  • I usually buy a large quantity of lemongrass and chop them finely in my food processor, and then I freeze them in a reusable container. I can usually break off what I need.
  • If you are taking the left overs to work, I recommend storing the cooked noodles in a separate container to the soup so that they don’t absorb any more liquid. When you reheat the soup, do so to just before boiling (so the chicken doesn’t cook further) and that way when you put the chilled noodles in, they will cool it down to a palatable level.
  • Fish sauce is used in thai cooking instead of salt.
  • To save time, I have sometimes used Rosa’s Lime Cordial instead of lime juice, but you have to remember NOT to add the sugar.

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My blogger friend Sharyn of Kale Chronicles recently bestowed the Food Bloggers Unplugged award to me; I am quite flattered and very touched that she has now given me two awards! Thank you, Sharyn. The Food Bloggers Unplugged is designed to allow the blogger to divulge a few personal details about their blogging motivation.

Awarded by Sharyn at Kale Chronicles

What or who inspired you to start your blog?

I started blogging in early 2007 as a chronicle of our renovation. It ended up being a bit of a venting place for me; we had issues with our renovator. But I enjoyed blogging so much that when the reno was complete and the party was had I decided to continue with Kitcheninspirations and document cooking in my new kitchen. I enjoyed blogging but I never really understood the value of commenting until I started to gain a bit of a following and in turn, get to know a lot of great people.

Who is your foodie inspiration?

I would have to say that my foodie inspiration were my parents. My Father had a very refined palate and my mother was a home cook, undaunted and unafraid of any recipe or ingredient. My father used to say, “why should I go out and pay for a restaurant meal when your mother can make it so much better.”

Your greasiest most batter splattered cook book is?

Five Roses Flour Cookbook. For $1 I sent away for this basic cookbook in the late 1970’s and it’s been my Go To cookbook for basics. That and the Fanny Farmer Cookbook which I was given as a wedding present 25 years ago!

The best thing you have ever eaten in another country, where was it and what was it?

Bouillabaisse in Marseille, France. I had never had the real bouillabaisse before but had read that it was invented in Marseille so I had to give it a try. I have never really been fond of fish soup, but I can tell you, that soup with the rouille and the crostini, sitting on a patio on a gorgeous fall day overlooking the harbour was breathtaking and unbelievably delicious. JT ordered the steak frites but had wished almost instantaneously that he had ordered the bouillabaisse instead. Fading into to dreamy land….

Another Food Blogger’s table you would like to eat at?

So many and so little time; but to name a few: Sawsan at Chef in Disguise, Ann at Cooking Healthy for Me, Kristy and Mike at Eat, Play, Love, John at from the Bartolini kitchens, Charles at Five Euro Food and Lorraine’s at Not quite Nigella (I would add Barb’s at Profiterols and Ponytails, but I have actually eaten at her table and enjoyed it immensely!) and many more.

What one kitchen gadget would you like Santa to bring you? (money no object)

A warming drawer; I wish I had worked it into my kitchen reno but alas it was not so.

Who taught you how to cook?

My dear mother taught me the basics of cooking. She also taught me not to be afraid of trying something new, if it doesn’t work out, start again. Years of watching Food Network and early TV cooks, I have honed my skills.

I’m coming to you for dinner, what is your signature dish?

Barley Risotto. I always have dried woodland mushrooms on hand, barley, stock and parmesan cheese. Flourless Molten chocolate cake for dessert.

What is your guilty food pleasure?

Escargot in garlic butter with lots of crusty bread. Or steak tartar.

Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn?

My favourite pet in the whole world was my gorgeous little brown bunny rabbit named Dustie. She passed away almost six years ago and I have been able to bring myself to get another.

Tag five other Food Bloggers to answer these questions:

  1. Hotly Spiced, Charlie Louie is a beautiful Mom with some very sophisticated recipes and a lovely way she weaves a story about her family into her posts.
  2. GenYFoodie, Dara puts together healthy, local ingredients into comforting meals. And she wrote a cookbook.
  3. Ichigo Shortcake, interesting food and travel adventures.
  4. Tracey’s Culinary Adventures, good down to earth recipes.
  5. The Big Fat Noodle, recipes and anecdotes.

Thanks again, Sharyn, I really appreciate the award. Now, I must contemplate some requirements for an upcoming giveaway! Very exciting…indeed.

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