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Archive for May, 2013

Recently we opened our cottage for the summer. It was a busy weekend made even busier by someone’s hair-brained idea to redecorate (paint the wood paneling, new flooring, update kitchen upper cupboards, etc)! And that doesn’t stop me from complicating things by making an entire menu for the weekend home-made.
I’ve mentioned that our cottage is remote, so everything has to be brought in because even a 45 minute trip to the closest largest city doesn’t guarantee that one can find what one is looking for. So preparing a Menu Plan is essential as is the List of what needs to be brought up to execute said Menu Plan.
The list is key, here’s how I organize the list:
Menu Plan, Shopping List; things to be brought from home: the Pantry, the Freezer and the Refrigerator. As we pack for the weekend, things get checked off The List. The Menu Plan is followed to a T. If I bring four eggs, it means I’ll use four eggs. The trick is to end up with less than what we came up with, which usually works well. The Menu Plan also allows for left overs to be utilized in some sort of wrap for our return drive home, guaranteeing a healthier lunch than the truck stops on the road. Over the last twenty years I’ve only forgotten one thing and that was before The List was implemented, we were young and lived dangerously. If you’d like to download my template, feel free to use this one May 24 2013 Cottage Menu. The other essential thing is the running list once we get to the cottage — things that need to be brought the next time (toilet paper, paper towel, hand soap etc, you get the picture!)
JTs sister uses my FIL’s cottage about 15 metres (50 feet) from our place, so we generally get together at least once for cocktails during the weekend. I usually make something for cocktails because I like to cook! I came up with the idea of spinach and feta tartlets using my friend Zsuzsa’s cottage cheese pastry after seeing Sawsan’s post of Fatayer. They can be baked and then reheated to serve. I like them because they are full of flavour and small (portion control or eat them ALL!). This recipe makes 36 mini tarts using mini muffin tins with lots of pastry left over which can be frozen for future use. My lovely niece Laura (soon to be a full-fledged Lawyer) made Spanakopita, a delicious Weight Watchers recipe…great minds! This recipe isn’t for the dieter even though the serving is small, there is a lot of butter in the pastry. An alternative to the buttery pastry would be using wonton shells like my lovely friend Sissi has done here!

Spanakopita Tartlets

A single bite portion packing great flavours

A single bite portion packing great flavours

Makes 36 mini 2.5 cm or 1″ tarts

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 Zsuzsa’s cottage cheese pastry dough
  • 200 g (7 oz) baby spinach
  • 50 g (2 oz) finely chopped sweet onion
  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp dill weed100 g (3.5 oz) crumbled Greek Feta

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F
  2. Sweat the onions until translucent.
  3. Add garlic and sauté until you can smell its aroma, add the spinach and cook down until spinach has wilted.
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.
  5. Add to a food processor and pulse a few times, you don’t want paste, just smaller bits.
  6. Add the oregano, dill and the crumbled Greek Feta and stir well.
  7. Roll the dough to about 2mm (a hair more than 1/8th inch) thick and cut with a 5 cm (2 inch) scalloped cookie cutter.
  8. Press each round into the bottom of an ungreased mini muffin tin.
  9. Fill with about 1 tbsp of the spinach filling.
  10. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until pastry is golden. Serve warm. Can be frozen and reheated for 10-12 minutes at 350F.
The pastry is crisp on the outside and soft and tender on the inside.

The pastry is crisp on the outside and soft and tender on the inside.

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Happy Memorial Day, I wonder how my American friends are celebrating this lovely holiday. Sadly, it’s not a holiday for us.

I’m participating in a series called Views from the Backdoor with my friend Cecilia from Illinois. C runs a blog about her ‘farmy’ called The Kitchen’s Garden and she takes wonderful photos of her animals whom she has aptly named. She also shares a view from her back door every day — the differences are palpable, from frost to thaw; a few days ago C suggested that the fellowship of the Farmy post pictures of their own back doors and a series began — see page one, page two and page three. C has followers from all over the world, from her native New Zealand to the U.S. even South America and Africa! The back door views are wonderful. Do pop over and give her a visit, she has a wonderfully friendly writing style and her posts aren’t too long ;-)! But the most fun is following along with the farmy characters day to day!

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This is my view from the back door, well, this one is from the cottage
I couldn’t decide which one to post.

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Daytime view at the cottage (we don’t actually have a back door, but this is the view from the one and only door!)

This is an oil painting I painted in 2004 of the same view. It looks like our little birch finally bit the bullet.

This is an oil painting I painted in 2004 of the same view. It looks like our little birch finally bit the bullet.

This is a panoramic view of our back yard in Toronto, Canada. Such a shame that the crab apple tree is past its prime.

This is a panoramic view of our back yard in Toronto, Canada.
Such a shame that the crab apple tree is past its prime, but the Lilac is doing great!

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Remember back in March, we held our second progressive dinner on our street and it happened to fall right smack in Earth Hour? Our course was the appetizer and I chose to make Sopa Azteca or Tortilla Soup. The soup was a resounding success, full of flavour, colour and texture, but I did the unthinkable — I completely forgot to record my recipe which worked out to be a hybrid of Rick Bayless’s Sopa Azetca and a recipe that my good friend Barb of Profiteroles and Ponytails posted about some time ago!

Cinco de Mayo was just a few weeks ago and I thought it’s a perfect time to recreate this wonderful soup, before the weather starts getting too hot to enjoy soup. There is a bit of prep work, but once it’s all done, you pop it into a slow cooker and forget about it. I would even suggest you make it the day before you want to serve it because it’s just that much tastier the next day.

This soup is well worth the effort.

This soup is well worth the effort.

Sopa Azteca (Tortilla Soup)

Serves 4, dinner portions

Ingredients:

  • 100 g onions, coarsely chopped
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 2 small smoked dried haberno chili peppers, seeds removed (haberno is hot)
  • 1 large pasilla chili pepper, seeds removed (pasilla is much more mild)
  • 4 coriander stems with roots (rinsed well)
  • 2-3 epazote stems (I could only find dried, you could probably use a bay leaf instead, but remember to remove it or omit it entirely)
  • 800 mL strained tomato purée (I prefer low sodium)
  • 2 L low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 tsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp coriandre
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups frozen corn (or fresh on the cob BBQ’d and kernals cut off)
  • 1 small whole wheat soft tortilla shell

BBQ’d Chicken or Turkey Breast (omit if you are using a previously roasted whole chicken)

  • 400 g skinless, boneless chicken or turkey breast or 1 previously roasted chicken
  • 1 dried haberno pepper, seeds removed
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1 tsp salt

Avocado Garnish (or use guacamole):

  • 1 small avocado
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • juice of one lime
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves
  • 2 green onions, roughly chopped

Other Garnishes:

  • 4 tbsp low fat yogurt
  • 4 tbsp shredded Mexican melting cheese (like Chihuahua or mozzarella)
  • 1 lime cut into wedges

Directions for the Soup:

  1. Prepare your slow cooker by preheating it. Add the tomato sauce and chicken stock to the slow cooker; add the dried epazote and cilantro stems and roots.
  2. If you are using a previously roasted chicken, remove all the tiny bones and add it to the slow cooker, covering with the liquid.
  3. Add the seeded, dried chilli peppers (if you prefer less heat, put these peppers into a cheese cloth bag and tie off).
  4. Add the onions and garlic and cocoa, cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika and coriander into the tomato sauce and stir well. Add  1 cup of corn.
  5. Cook on a medium low setting for 3-5 hours.
  6. Remove the woody stems and roots of the cilantro and epazot and discard, blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve to remove all the corn husks return to the slow cooker and add the other cup of corn. Keep warm until you wish to serve.

Directions for the Chicken or Turkey (omit if you are using a previously roasted chicken):

  1. Combine everything for the rub but the chicken or turkey in a dedicated coffee grinder for spices and grind until it’s a fine powder.
  2. Remove any bits of fat or skin from the chicken or turkey and completely coat with the dry rub. Refrigerate while soup is cooking.
  3. BBQ (with or without smoke) until the internal temperature is 74°C or 165°F. Set aside for 10 minutes and then using a fork, tear bite size pieces off. If you’re not going to use it right away, refrigerate and reheat when ready to use.

Directions for the Avocado Garnish:

  1. Peel and chop the avocado into half centimetre cubes (1/4″).
  2. Combine with the garlic, lime juice, cilantro and green onions and stir well.
  3. Refrigerate until serving.

Tortilla Cones:

  1. Preheat the oven to 175° C or 350°F.
  2. Lightly brush the tortilla shell with olive oil to prevent it from drying out.
  3. Using a pizza cutter and a kitchen ruler, cut the tortilla shell into 5-7mm strips (1/4″).
  4. Join 3 strips together end to end using a bit of water and pressing the strips firmly together.
  5. Carefully wrap each strip, oiled side in, on the cannoli cones. I found that pressing some tin foil on the tips prevented them from unraveling.
  6. Bake for about 10 minutes turning once. You are aiming to dry out the tortilla into a crisp, cracker cone.
  7. When finished, allow to cool for a minute and gently pry the cone from the cannoli mold. Reserve for presentation.
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The strips are being attached to each other.

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I won’t lie and say it’s easy, but with a little practice, it worked out very well.

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The cones are ready for the oven

They released perfectly without casualties.

They released perfectly without casualties.

Soup Assembly:

  1. Reheat the soup and chicken/turkey separately until piping hot. Ladle a generous amount of soup into each bowl, if using BBQd chicken or turkey breasts, shred into bite sized pieces and pile the chicken/turkey in the centre. If using the whole pre-roasted whole chicken, remove from bones and shred and pile into the centre of the bowl. Add a tablespoon of the avocado mixture and a tablespoon of yogurt. Sprinkle a tablespoon of the grated cheese over the hot soup and add the tortilla cone last to stand in the centre.Serve immediately with a wedge of lime.

Serving suggestions:

  • Serve with Jalopeño corn bread.
  • Instead of fussing with the tortilla cones, just toast the sliced tortilla strips until crisp and serve piled in the centre like a Tee-Pee.

 

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It’s a holiday weekend today, Queen Victoria’s birthday to be exact! What is interesting is that Canada celebrates this day, but the UK does not!
And it’s our wedding anniversary weekend (actually was yesterday)!
I met JT when I was 15 and knew instantly that we would be together! The day we met I went home and wrote my new name; I still have the book (it was the Book of Nothing) I wrote my new name “Eva Taylor” in script. We met through Facebook -10.2 — the Citizens Band Radio (breaker, breaker; remember Smokie and the Bandit?) it was my brother’s radio but he quickly discovered he could talk to cooler people if he had a girl on board. My Dad forbade us to use our real names so I was Leslie and my “handle” was “The Roxy Roller” and he was John “The Baracuda” both from some cool songs of the day. JT was “Blue Magic”. Blue Magic was a wee bit older than I and I knew my parents wouldn’t approve; we were together a year before they found out. I went to the library a lot; my parents thought I was very studious. At night, JT used to come over to our apartment after my parents went to bed and we’d toss love letters to each other from my second floor bedroom window (not sexts but actual love letters, the Romeo and Juliette kind). When my parents met him, they also fell in love. My biggest regret is lying to them for a year but they forgave me. After my Dad’s first heart attack, he gave JT permission for my hand, if he should ever want it. He passed away three months later.
We dated 8 years before we married (not exactly smooth sailing, but in my heart I always knew it would work out and we’d be together).
My Mom and I hand sewed a million pearls onto my veil; the night before the wedding I tried on the dress and decided to cut (yes, CUT with manicure scissors) the neckline because it was too high! I still have the dress, anyone want it?
It rained the entire day of our wedding, except for the very few times I stepped outside (thanks Dad); and by rain, I’m talking teaming, pouring, drenching rain, not the spitting kind! Even the limo driver asked if I wanted to be carried to the car! My brother walked me down the aisle. I wish I had asked my Mom too, but it wasn’t done back then, and I hadn’t thought of it. In the limo, on the drive to the church my brother offered me his savings if I wanted to escape, exact words “I’ve got enough money for you to go to the airport and buy a plane ticket outa here”. I thought it was sweet. And then I found out he offered the same thing to JT in the church! We had both declined. 🙂
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Speaking of all dressed up, back in April, my friend Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella posted a gorgeous Salmon en Papillote recipe which inspired me to come up with one for Tilapia, a staple in our house, it really isn’t a recipe, just a guideline — completely customizable to your taste and what you have on hand.

Tilapia with white wine en Papillote (French for ‘in parchment’)

We used basil pesto, but you can use any flavouring you want.

We used basil pesto, but you can use any flavouring you want.

Serves 3

Ingredients:

  • 120 g fennel cubed*
  • 200 g zucchini cubed*
  • 170 g red pepper cubed*
  • 100 g yellow pepper cubed*
  • 50 g celery cubed*
  • 50 g carrots cubed*
  • 3 tbsp pesto (home made or otherwise)
  • 3 tbsp white wine
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 x 100 g Tilapia filets

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C).
  2. Begin by cutting three ‘heart’ shapes from parchment paper. I found it easier to cut a square of parchment, fold in half and cut a half heart shape.
  3. Mix the cubed* vegetables all together and divide into three portions on the parchment, placing the vegetables in towards the centre of the heart.
  4. Top with the tilapia filet, add 1 tbsp pesto and spread on top of the filet, drizzle with one tablespoon white wine and season.
  5. Fold over the other half of the heart and begin folding the edges in at the top of the heart so that the parchment seals completely (I googled how to do this and used this method). Continue with each heart. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet (just in case they leak, but mine did not) and bake for 20 minutes.
  6. Remove and plate carefully, open the parchment very carefully because inside is very hot steam. Serve immediately.
Papilotte_4623

It’s easier to cut a heart shape if you fold the parchment in half.

Filling the parchment toward the centre on one side of the heart.

Filling the parchment toward the centre on one side of the heart.

Add the fish, white wine and season.

Add the fish, white wine and season.

Folded up all nice and cozy.

Folded up all nice and cozy.

*it’s imperative that your vegetables be cut the same size so that they all cook at the same rate. This 7-10mm (1/4″) cube was perfect for 20 minutes in the oven, they weren’t over cooked and had a bit of a crunch left in them.

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This is luggage for three days and two nights.
I take my favourite pillow when ever we drive.

Easter weekend JT and I treated ourselves to a little R&R getaway up in cottage country. We received raving reviews for the JW Mariott in Rosseau from my friend/neighbour/boss, my best friend and my SIL so when we decided we wanted to go away, we thought “why not?”! So we booked a Thursday to a Saturday on the Easter weekend. This is the only time I will say this, but if you want a romantic get away, then don’t go on a long weekend, the place is packed with families and lots and lots of kids. Thursday and Friday were more couples but as soon as Saturday hit, mayhem!

OntheRoad_4366

The drive up through the Canadian Shield.

The Rosseau Marriott is an easy 2 hour drive from our home, but we stopped for lunch in Barrie and a little shopping at an outlet mall so it took a bit longer than expected. We decided to take an extra day and go up on Thursday to beat the rush hour traffic. Winter has been dragging its ugly feet in these parts and as we drove north we could still see remnants of snow in places.

Rosseau Marriott Sign_4387

It was about a 2 1/2 hour drive, but we stopped for lunch in Barrie.

Hotel Photos_4358

It’s a four star, all season resort.

Kitchenette_4357

Our room had a little kitchenette, which was great for breakfast and cocktails.

Our Room2_4353

We were told not to bother upgrading the room because the basic room was just as lovely.

Our Room_4353

The gas fireplace was a lovely touch, particularly since it was still winter at Easter!

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The bathroom was spacious with a separate shower.

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The bathtub could have been nicer.

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The view from our room. We didn’t pay extra for the lake view, which was still covered in snow.

A real annoying thing is when a hotel (particularly one out in the middle of no where) charges $18 per day for in room WIFI — it drives me crazy. Fortunately, they offered free WIFI in the common areas, so we were able to keep in touch when we were in the gorgeous lobby. But then upon returning to our room we noticed that we hadn’t dropped the free WIFI, so if you don’t want to pay for WIFI in your room, ask for a room directly above the lobby, we were on the third floor and we had full WIFI power, FOR FREE!

RusticDecor2_4360

The hotel was tastefully decorated in the “Muskoka” style.

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Evan the chandelier looked like a giant pine cone.

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There were a lot of common areas where you could just chill without having to order anything.

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The hotel offers some winter sports for free, such as snow shoeing.

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I almost regretting bringing my winter jacket, it was so warm in the sun.

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JT enjoying the view.

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Me.

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Even though they had a lot of snow, it was very pretty.

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The sun was so warm as it penetrated the trees.

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Some of the snow melted.

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Directly in front of the main doors, there is a fire pit that has a fire going all the time, all seasons. There is also a wishing pond that they collect the money once a week and donate it to a local childrens charity.

Eva Firepit_4395

We kept the fire going for a while.

JT Firepit_4398

Sitting and not moving made it a little chilly, so it was lovely to have a warm fire at our feet.

NiceWalk_4393

A very nice walk after our snow shoeing.

The Mariott has a few restaurants and we ate at two of them; Teca was the high end dining, open for dinner only and Cottages the more casual eatery open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We had a breakfast and a lunch at Cottages and the food was not overly impressive, although we met the loveliest server, Chris. The Mariott has a trading program that the allows employees to migrate to a location of choice for a short time, so Chris traveled from Barbados to Muskoka for the winter months (why, you might ask) and then in the summer he’ll head back to his regular job in Barbados! Chris truly made our experience so lovely.

Charcuterie Plate_4377

For one dinner we shared the small portion charcuterie ($24). It was enough for dinner, breakfast the following day and an hors d’œuvres. Really good value and very tasty.

As for amenities, this Mariott has several pools but only one was open for the winter; they also have a great gym which we made good use of.

Other than a slight hick-up (someone forgot their swimsuit — me) we had an amazing time. I would surely recommend this Mariott no matter what time of year, but particularly in winter for it’s gorgeous scenery and cosy fireplace rooms. I will caution you that the small store has a few swimsuits but they are not great nor are they cheap. We ended up heading into Bracebridge the closest large town and I picked up a bathing suit bottom (for $5) and used my workout top as my swimsuit top. Not perfect, but not bad either. I just didn’t want to spend money on something I already had several off.

Overall rating of The JW Marriott, Lake Rosseau (in my opinion): Decor 4.5/5, service 4/5, food 4/5, Value 3/5, Noise: 2/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet) the noise was rated on Saturday night.

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

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Happy Mother’s Day to all! Hope it was lovely.

JT and I babysat my 13 year old nephew, Jack and my 10 year old niece, Annie on a recent weekend while their parents went to the Caiman Islands for a benchmark birthday party! We had a great action packed weekend filled with a visit to the High Park Zoo, bowling at Lucky Strike, cake decorating and cookie baking. Jack had his head burried in his laptop or smart phone at any given time; surprisingly he was not playing games, but monitoring a help desk he set up.

At the zoo, we were very lucky to see the 1 month old baby Wallaby, hoping along side of Mama (he/she even crept back into Mama’s pouch)! And we reacquainted with the Lama that was born last year. Lots of great things to do at this quaint little zoo — chickens to hold, bunnies to pet and Capybaras to feed, and best of all, it’s FREE! If you’re in Toronto, take the kids to High Park, in addition to the zoo, there is an amazing Jamie Bell Adventure Playground that was recently rebuilt due to vandals burning it to the ground (hundreds of volunteers and a celebrity contractor rebuilt the castle, click here to read the article).

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The baby Wallaby and Mama drinking water. Shortly after this photo, the baby crawled back into Mama’s pouch.

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Annie feeding the baby lama. He had such an adorable face.

He really was having fun, even though he hid it well.

He really was having fun, even though he hid it well.

But even after bowling, the weekend wasn’t complete without some quality kitchen time. We wanted to take a cake over to Grandma and Papa’s as a get well gift for Grandma who recently had an operation, so I baked two vanilla slab cakes (well, that’s not the fun part) and Annie cleverly decorated both, one as a gift and one for dessert over the weekend — which was thoroughly enjoyed!

Getting ready to decorate the cakes.

Getting ready to decorate the cakes.

Cake Decorating2_4548

With everything going on, I didn’t have time to make the icing, but the cake was home made.

This cake was for Grandma and Papa.

This cake was for Grandma and Papa.

This one was for us!

This one was for us!

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We ate al fresco all weekend, which was a HUGE contrast to this past weekend when it SNOWED! Yes, you read that correctly!

We also baked the easiest Peanut Butter Cookies we’ve ever made and I thought I would share them with you because they are gluten free!

The Easiest Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies EVER (recipe from Kraft)

Makes about 24 medium-sized cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Kraft Smooth Peanut Butter (UPDATE) I made these cookies again using all natural peanut butter and they turned out perfectly. I won’t be buying Kraft again for this easy and tasty cookie. Take into consideration how oily the natural pb is, the last batch I made (2015) was excessively oily so I upped the sugar to 3/4 cup).
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • Optional 24 milk chocolate wafers

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  2. Mix all of the ingredients together until well blended (no need to drag out the hand mixer, just mix well with a spoon).
  3. Roll into 24 balls and place on parchment paper about 4 inches apart. Flatten with fork (or with a flatten with a milk chocolate wafer pressing it into the cookie).
  4. Bake 20 minutes or until lightly brown. Do not over bake. Cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet and transfer to wire racks. Cool completely if you can resist eating.
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Cookie making is serious business.

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Batch one, traditional peanut butter cookie.

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Annie claimed that we had mice because the cookies kept disappearing.

Cookie batch one.

They were so successful, we made another batch the next day.

PB Chocolate_4606

Delicious PB and Chocolate, what’s not to love? I didn’t have quite enough Kraft PB so I used a couple of tablespoons of natural crunchy PB I had on hand. Next time, I’ll try it all with the natural stuff.

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My friend Barb made an incredible feast for Chinese New Year, she had so many delicious things it was really difficult to choose just one. But when I saw the Lemon Chicken plated out, I knew I had to try it because, believe it or not, I happen to adore the not so good for you version at Chinese fast food stalls! It turns out that lemon in savoury dishes is not one of JT’s favourite things, although he did say he didn’t hate it. Well, what he actually said was he prefers the taste of lemons in desserts! Go figure. I really enjoyed this recipe because I adore sour and sweet combos. And I have to admit, I reduced the sugar for our dinner and if I were to make it again, I would reduce it even more as I found it a little too sweet for my taste (I have adjusted the recipe below to reduce the sugar). I also baked the skinless, boneless Chicken breasts instead of pan frying to be a little healthier.

Lemony Chicken

Original Recipe from House and Home

Serves 2, 100 g portions

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Cutting the chicken into strips allows them to cook faster so that the crumbs become crispy but don’t burn.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp sugar (I have reduced this from my pictured recipe already)
  • 1 heaping tbsp grated ginger root
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 200 g boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 tbsp cold water
  • 1/2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 cup panko-style bread crumbs
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • Mix of greens such as shredded romaine lettuce.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Combine water, sugar and ginger in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes to infuse the water with the ginger.
  3. Stir in the freshly squeezed lemon juice and zest and quickly return to a boil.
  4. Dissolve the cornstarch in about 1 tbsp cold water and stir well into the lemon mixture. Cook on medium neat until thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and set aside.
  5. Remove all residual fat from the chicken. Place in a zip lock bag and pound so that the breasts are even thickness. Cut each breast into similar thickness stips.
  6. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl, stir well. Set aside.
  7. Whisk egg white, water, soy sauce and garlic in another bowl, set aside.
  8. Pour Panko into a third bowl and mix in the sesame seeds.
  9. Set up your breading stations so that the flour mixture is first, the egg whites second and the panko last.
  10. Dredge the chicken strips in the flour mixture and shake off excess, then dip into the egg whites and lastly coat with panko/sesame mix. Repeat with all the chicken strips until all have been breaded.
  11. Bake on a parchment lined baking sheet for about 12-15 minutes (turning about mid way) or until chicken has an internal temperature of 165°F or 74° C.
  12. Reheat the sauce. Fill a bowl with mixed greens, place chicken strips over the greens and dress with the hot lemony sauce.
  13. Enjoy!

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Hello Spring

Spring has finally sprung in The Big Smoke so I thought I would run some lovely signs of spring first. I’m always surprised at how elated I am when I see the first buds on the trees and then somehow, it seems that from one minute to the next BOOM, we have blooms. It’s like spring explodes into nature; trees go from no leaves to full leaves, bulbs spring up, lilacs bloom and everything is glad to be alive. Finally.

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The Azaleas are one of the first to bloom

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A visiting Cardinal. He is just too big for our feeder, so he eats the dregs.

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Our new Japanese Cherry Tree just loves its new home.

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Completely covered in blooms

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Even sitting on the back deck is quite pleasant with a little fire and heat.

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Our lovely trillium returned in the back 20.

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And last but not least, this 7 year old lilac FINALLY bloomed this year. Ironically, this was the year I had planned to replace it with a Rose of Sharon.

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A drive through High Park to showcase the beautiful Japanese Cherry trees just prior to their peak.

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It’s a lovely fresh aroma

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There were tour buses on the weekend

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The trees are dispersed throughout the park, but there are also gorgeous clumps of them.

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I took these pictures on Saturday; the trees were definitely at their peak.

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Such gorgeous delicate blossoms.

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I wish they bloomed all year round; that would make me very happy.

We had my family Easter dinner in mid-April because my brother and family always have other plans on Easter Weekend. I don’t mind having these holiday dinners at a different time, things are generally cheaper, it’s fun to have the festivities again (we had an Easter Egg Hunt) and it gives a good excuse to get together regardless of missing the holiday. Win-win.

We made a couple of BBQ’d Herbes of Provence chickens which always turn out exceptionally well, even though we remove every bit of skin it’s super moist and flavourful (I can’t believe I haven’t done a post about this flavourfull chicken, but here is a photo of the bird on the BBQ). And of course, this wonderful dish pairs so well with Susur Lee’s Singapore Slaw (aka 19 Ingredient Slaw) that I made it again. We also had some lovely roasted sweet potatoes.

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My first Angel Food Cake from scratch. Who knew it would be so easy?

And of course, the dessert: Strawberry Shortcake made with a lovely Angel Food Cake. My very first scratch Angel Food Cake. I always hesitated to make this cake because my MIL warned me about how difficult and finicky it was. So as she did, I used a mix. Strange but true. I hadn’t thought about an Angel Food Cake in a lot of years (she’s been gone for more than 15 years) but I wanted a light cake with little to no fat and this fit the bill. Now to find a recipe which doesn’t use 14 or 16 egg whites! I found this recipe created by Anna Olson for a light chiffon cake using 8 egg whites. Perfect.

Now you know me by now that I generally don’t have a lot of dessert eaters, so when I chose a dessert (whether it be slightly better for you than ordinary) I always make it smaller. Who needs left overs? So I figured out the volume of the 10″ tube pan Anna used and cut it in half to fit my 8″ spring form pan! Clever? I must warn you, that the tube pan is used to help bake this light, airy meringue-like cake through the centre; my small spring form was just the right size and it baked relatively evenly. I would not recommend going larger as your edges will dry out and your insides will be runny. Anyway, food for thought!

I got a nice crumb on the cake, the bottom of the spring form had a harder time releasing due to the little dimples in it, so next time, I will line it with a piece of ungreased parchment, that should do the trick. Oh, and it’s really important not to jump around the oven like a mad dance, or even open the oven door during the first 20 minutes of baking. Also note that although this pan is smaller, it did take a bit longer to bake through, probably because there wasn’t the chimney effect heating the centre through. And having said that, I’d do it again in an instant, it’s a lovely light-feeling dessert.

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A cake slathered in stabilized whipped cream and way too many strawberries.

You’re probably wondering “what the heck is stabilized whipped cream?” Well, maybe only some of you. I was looking for a way to make this cake up a few hours in advance and not have the whipped cream fall flat and runny on me. It’s really rather easy, 1 tsp of gelatin in about 3 tbsp cold water, nuked until gelatin melts complete, cooled down but not set and drizzled into the whipped cream with (1 tbsp icing sugar and 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract) as you’re whipping. So easy and it sets the whipped cream ever so slightly so it won’t go all sloppy and meltie. You can’t taste the difference.

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It just looked so yummy, I had to take another photo.

Ingredients:

Serves 4-6 from an 20 cm or 8″ spring form pan

  • 1/2 cup cake and pastry flour (less protein than bread flour)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup icing sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 236 mL (1/2 pint) whipping cream, stabilized as above
  • Strawberries, to serve

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 163° C or 325° F.
  2. Sift the flour and granulated sugar twice and set aside.
  3. Whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar and salt until foamy, then gradually add the icing sugar, whipping until the whites hold a medium peak when the beaters are lifted. Stir in the vanilla.
  4. Sift in the flour and sugar mixture to the whipped whites in 2 additions and using a whisk to fold in the flour evenly and easily. Scrape the batter into a 8-inch ungreased spring form pan, spread it to level and bake the cake for 40-45 minutes, until it springs back when gently pressed (try not to open the oven before 25 minutes).
  5. Cool upside down (this is apparently important so the cake doesn’t deflate and fall). Wait until it is thoroughly cook (I’m not kidding) to remove from pan (you must cut it out with a clean knife). To slice the cake in half, use an unserated blade and cut with short delft strokes until full severed.
  6. Serve the cake with whipped cream and berries, if you wish. The cake will keep, well wrapped (not refrigerated – it will dry it out) for up to 3 days.
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It’s only about 20 cm or 8″ wide. My 13 year old nephew had half of it.

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You know the saying, when you’ve got lemons, make lemonade? Well I had purchased a few lemons for a recipe and didn’t end up making that recipe, so I had lemons. And in these parts, during the winter, lemons are expensive so I didn’t want them to go to waste. Not knowing exactly what I wanted to make. I just zested both lemons and then squeezed all the juice out. The zest went into a ziplock bag in the freezer (perfect for baked goods, fresh lemon zest anytime) and the juice went into a jar into the fridge. It was the juice I was most concerned about, after all the expense and now the trouble and mess of juicing them, I knew I needed to use up the lemon juice soon.

This is the part I love about blogs: I sat down at the island in the kitchen and simply Googled “lemon recipes” and soon there were literally hundreds if not thousand lemony options. The one that caught my eye was “lemon cookies”! So now to find The One! By Googling “lemon cookies” recipe I found the recipe I wanted: Chewy Lemon Cookies by Patent and the Pantry. What drew me to these cookies was that they had four tablespoons of lemon juice and the zest of one lemon; coincidentally, I had EXACTLY four tablespoons of lemon juice from my lemons (and the zest from the freezer) so I knew this recipe was The One! And another coincidence is that the author of this blog also loves shoes, high heeled shoes, in patent leather! Sigh. And I loved the look of the cookies too. I made a few alterations in the recipe because of ingredients on hand (i.e. two small eggs instead of one large one). These cookies have a lovely lemony flavour and they are not too sour; it’s balanced by the sweetness of the sugar but they are not sickly sweet as some lemony recipes can be. This batch was taken in to JTs work with a few set aside for our enjoyment (and the photoshoot).

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Fresh out of the oven, get ’em while they’re hot! (night shot)

Chewy Lemon Cookies

Makes about 66 smallish cookies (using a 2.5 cm or 1 inch ice cream scoop)

For the original recipe kindly click here

Ingredients:

  • 3 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 c butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 c white sugar
  • 2 small eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • zest of one large lemon
  • 4 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 c sugar for rolling cookies

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  3. Beat the softened butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, vanilla, lemon zest and juice until thoroughly combined.
  4. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
  5. Using a 2.5cm or 1 inch ice cream scoop, make balls of dough and roll in the sugar. Place about 2″ apart on a parchment lined cookie sheet (they will flatten out and expand).
  6. Bake for 14 minutes for a golden bottom but still chewy.
  7. Remove from oven and let cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes before removing to cool thoroughly on wire racks.
  8. Store in an air tight container, or eat right away!
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Delicately crackled.

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They really are quite chewy.

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This one insisted this was her best side.

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This one was being a Prima Donna and made me shoot it from several angles.

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