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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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I just noticed that WordPress is adding advertising into my content in links which are not mine. How to tell the difference is that my links have a dotted underline and the ad links are solid and dotted together. Not cool at all.

Last week I was blown-away flattered by my Hungarian friend Zsuzsa (Zsuzsa is in the kitchen) when she invited me to participate in a blogging event to post your Easter Menu! You can read about Zsuzsa’s Easter here; she grew up very close to where my Mom grew up in Budapest. It’s really just a round up of past post recipes and a little bit about your Easter memories. How could I say no?  Thank you Zsuzsa, I would be honoured. Zsuzsa is taking part with the following Hungarian ladies: The author of this event, Éva from Takarekos Konyha (this blog is in Hungarian) and Elizabeth from Food and Thrift.

Growing up, Easter was always about bunnies for me. Yes, we went to church and all that but let’s be honest, it was about the bunnies! At eight years old, my very first pet bunny was an albino Dutch whom we called Boom Boom (he was called Boom Boom because he stomped his hind feet loudly). Sadly good old Boom Boom only lasted 3 years, but he made such an impression on me that I’ve only ever had bunnies as pets! I cried so much when he died that my Dad swore he would never let me have another pet because losing them made me too sad and he just couldn’t bear it. I was sixteen before I was permitted to have Boon, another albino Dutch but smaller than Boom Boom (no, we weren’t very imaginative with the names!). But I digress, back to Easter.

Mom and Dad in Edmonton with the Chrysler Tour in 1960

Mom and Dad in Edmonton with the Chrysler Tour in 1960

You already know that my Dad was a Puppeteer (and if you don’t, you can read about it here) and we had a family business with the puppet shows. Easter was a big time for us, these holidays meant that the malls, schools (note that this link is NOT mine) and some companies needed entertainment for their events and what’s not to like about a puppet show? So many of our Easters were on the road with the show. In fact, Boom Boom was first adopted because my Dad needed a live bunny for the show (he was the star, don’t worry, it was all very humane).

Believe it or not, the Show was about Bunnies.

Believe it or not, the Show was about Bunnies.

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And there were singing Eggs too

But Easter also had a serious side: FOOD! Chocolates, coloured eggs and of course, ham. I don’t have many of the recipes that we had at Easter but I’ve gathered a bunch I am going to have this weekend when we have JTs family for Easter Sunday lunch. I hope you enjoy them.

My Mom only used Canada Grade A Large size eggs

My Mom only used Canada Grade A Large size eggs

Hors D’œuvres were usually Deviled Eggs (here and here) and French Salad (Francia Saláta). I don’t have a post about Francia Saláta, but you can see Zsuzsa’s recipe here (my Mom never put potatoes in her version). I may do a new hors d’œuvres recipe I saw on my friend Lorraine’s blog of her recent trip to Amman, Jordan. It involves cheese and phyllo pastry, that’s all I can give you!

A wonderful addition to any Easter table

A wonderful addition to any Easter table

We usually had an Easter kalács (Zsuzsa made a gorgeous one here) but I’m making John’s Easter Cheese Bread instead.

The most succulent tenderloin ever

The most succulent tenderloin ever

We’ve decided to go nontraditional and have a beef tenderloin for lunch. This recipe is my favourite way to serve this special cut of meat.

The only place you'll miss the potatoes is on your waist-line!

The only place you’ll miss the potatoes is on your waist-line!

I’m going to serve it with my traditional Celeriac Cauliflower Mash. And a wonderful lemony Asparagus from my friend Greg’s Rufus’ Guide.

It's a symphony of colours

It’s a symphony of colours

And a little tangy German Purple Cabbage Slaw.

Now if you had any room for dessert, I’m going to make Charle’s Sweedish Apple Cake (from Five Euro Food), which totally looks like the perfect ending to a rich and heavy meal. It’s really just all apples and then there’s more apples. The only flour in this is the use of the breadcrumbs as the base, thickener and likely adds a little texture. I love that I can make it sugar free too, since I have a diabetic and a hypo-glycemic in the house — I like to make only one dessert that everyone can enjoy and not make the person feel odd that they have something else.

I may not be able to comment on your blogs for the next few days but I’ll definitely read up when I get back into civilization with internet. Thank you for reading my blog and leaving comments, you really, really make my day. Thank you to every one of the blogs I read, you provide me with the inspiration for my blog and it really wouldn’t be the same without you!

Happy Easter to All!

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Dinner Party Menu: India

The other day my new friend Trang nominated me for the Liebster award. Thank you Trang.

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You must be getting a sense that we love themed dinner parties. I love everything about it, researching the food, experimenting, cooking and decorating. We had the “King and Queen” 😉 of themed dinner parties over for dinner recently (remember Titanic Anniversary Dinner and Truman Capotes Black and White?) and as one of only two couples from our group who love Indian food as much as we do, we decided to have Indian night. All the food is home-made, of course, but don’t worry, I didn’t spend all day in the kitchen; what’s great about Indian food is that it’s down-to-earth home-cooking at its best and stews are often better tasting the second day, so I was able to prepare much of the feast in advance. This post will show the menu and the photos but the recipes will come one by one, so that I can find them in the future.

This was staged, we actually had A LOT more food than that!

Hors D’œuvres:

  • Baked Onion Bhajis — I’m excited about this recipe because I did a little experiment and figured out a way to bake them instead of deep frying them and they worked out GREAT!
  • Appetizer: Mulligatawny Soup — I prepared this soup similarly to the link to my original recipe, except that I omitted the proteins as the rest of the meal is rather heavy and I didn’t want to be full after the first course! I also puréed about 1/4 of the soup so that the broth is thicker and creamier, but left the majority as chunks.

Mains:

  • Paneer Makhani — this is a rich and delicious tomato gravy with home made unripened, pressed cheese. I used this Makhani recipe but I had to add about 2 tbsp Agave Nectar as the tomatoes were extremely acidic. I suspect that this acidity would be reduced if I had used full cream and butter of the original recipe, but then that wouldn’t be me, would it now?
  • Beef Bhuna — a tasty beef stew with a deliciously flavourful gravy
  • Basmiti Rice
  • Aloo Papri Chaat — a very flavourful and texture filled cold side dish with a yogurt sauce and chick peas

Condiments:

  • Carrot Pickle — a lightly spicy, crunchy pickle to cleans the palate
  • Mango Chutney — I wanted a mango chutney that wasn’t full of sugar

Bread

  • Naan — a delicious chewy Indian bread, baked on the outside of their tandoori ovens, stay tune for my experiment!

Dessert:

  • Light Lemon Mousse — this is where I skipped Indian and went straight to light and satisfying. I checked with our guests and similar to our tastes they find Indian desserts a little too sweet so I improvised. Plus I wanted to use the gorgeous little cups we bought our yogurt in while in Paris.

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I released the polenta squares too early! So annoyed with myself so I thought I’d follow it up with some more tapas. I wrote this post before our trip thinking that I’ll be swamped and jet-lagged when we get back, so glad I did because I so am all of the above. Work is nice and busy, I got a great little freelance job in and I’m ready for bed at 8pm most nights! I’m not complaining, just giving you the lay of the land.
I had mentioned that I love tapas dinner parties, so the Sunday before our holiday we had friends Rae and Monica over for a simplified tapas dinner party; their two youngest girls went to a concert close by and they needed to kill a few hours, so we said, come on over! We didn’t have a lot of time, so I had to abbreviate the standard 3×4 courses, so we only had 4×1 courses in total. It was plenty of food. In fact, I had to forgo one of the planned courses; fortunately tapas are make as you go so nothing went to waste, we just had it for dinner later in the week.

I’m also trying Instagram on my iPhone 4Gs, not quite as nice as the Canon, but pretty close. It really does better during the daylight as opposed to night. I never use the flash, mainly because my 3Gs never had one, so I really don’t miss it. What do you think?

Abbreviated Tapas Dinner Party

Sawsans Flat Bread with Tapenade and John’s home made Ricotta

Because you fold the tapenade and ricotta into the dough, it makes it flavourful throughout

Chilled cucumber shooters with greek yogurt. I made the soup with vegetable stock as we had a vegetarian in our midst.

Very tasty little shots

Sizzling garlic Shrimp with cilantro and lemon with home made spelt fajita shells

I thought I made too much food…not

Gluten-free Honey Ginger Cake with fresh figs, candied ginger slices and edible rose petals

No one was gluten-free, but I had some left over cake from the previous night


Lyon and Paris also had to be broken down into two parts, too much stuff to talk about, you’ll see why. I’ll need a vacation from my vacation!

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Cottage Closing 2012

This post was written and photographed entirely on my brand new iPhone 4s. I decided not to wait for the new iPhone 5 because they removed Google Maps from the Apps and the connector changed.

Cottage closing is always a sad time; it means no more cocktails at the lake or dinners by the water but then again it also means that I don’t have to plan, scramble and improvise meals when I’ve forgotten a key ingredient. At least for another year!

Many of you have asked for photos of the cabin and I’ve been reluctant because I’m sure you have grand images in your imaginations of our humble little cabin and I didn’t want to expose the real deal spoil the fantasy. It’s tiny size is what I love about the cabin; a full throttle cleaning takes two of us an hour which is perfect because when I’m at the lake, cleaning is the LAST thing I want to do.

I thought I’d share photos now because next year I’ve roped in Ceement Boy to help me redecorate! We’re ripping out the carpeting replacing it with laminate wood flooring, white washing the walls and updating the kitchen a bit! I’m very excited about it. I’m figuring on 2-4 days with all that brawn to help me. And a 2-4 of beer of course! (for him, not me). I’ll stick to my Martinis!

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It’s all one room, open concept living

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We just got the slider replaced with a half French Door.

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The kitchen is a cheap white kitchen with melamine counters. This will get updated next year.

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The windows will also be replaced next year. The guest room had all our crap in it, so I didn’t take any photos. But it’s there if you’d like to come up one weekend. You bring the booze!

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We had the decking replaced this spring.

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Because it’s the apartment above the boat garage, we are right on top of the water.

Here’s the menu from the weekend and a few pics (with my iPhone 4s!!!!) to bring it back to the purpose of the blog. Enjoy.

Saturday
Dinner: Waldorf Chicken Wraps (we had these in the car whilst driving up)

Sunday
Breakfast: date bran muffins, poached egg and half a grapefruit, coffee
Lunch: adult grilled cheese and a salad of arugula, spinach, avocado, cucumber and mini tomatoes

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The cheese gets all melty and gooey!

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That’s old orange cheddar and Gruyère oozing out. A nice hot salsa would have been great with this sandwich, but someone forgot to bring it up.

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We took a walk along the road to build our appetites for cocktails (do you really need to do that, come on!)

Cocktails: grilled scallops on sesame bread with a smear of avocado paste with Martinis. Sawsan‘s sesame bread recipe click here.

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The scallops were perfectly grilled, and pair beautifully with the avocado paste

Dinner: deconstructed Caesar salad
With financiers for dessert (post coming soon)

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I’m still getting a lot of miles out of Roland’s deconstructed Caesar salad. Wish I hadn’t forgotten the anchovies.

The last sunset for the year. I’m sure the sun will set without us, but it just won’t be the same.

Monday
Breakfast: Cheese Omelet Crêpe with Cantaloup and Date Bran Muffin.

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We had a wonderful paddle-boat ride on the lake before breakfast, coffee in hand.

Lunch: Tuna salad wrap, cantaloup squares and celery sticks to eat in the car on the way back to the city.

We’ll likely go out for dinner as I didn’t take anything out of the freezer. Lunch for tomorrow will be a challenge.

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Saturday was our 26th wedding anniversary; what’s even scarier is the other number, the number of years together! I won’t even bother to say it, you wouldn’t believe me anyway! I’m really not that old, really. No really!!!!
This past weekend was also very special because it was Canada’s first ‘summer’ long weekend: the May ‘2-4’, also known as Queen Victoria’s birthday; it is a national holiday in Canada (I don’t think it even ranks in the UK!) it is the first weekend of cottage season for most and JT and I are fortunate to be in this crowd. The drive up north could be treacherous, the normal 3.5 hours could take in excess of 4 or 5 hours with the traffic, but we planned to leave early on Saturday so we beat it.
Our cottage is remote; it was remote in the late 1800’s when JT’s grandfather purchased the land (it took him three days to get there using three forms of transport: train, horse and buggy and finally a row boat), and it’s still remote; no fancy grocery stores, one has to plan everything — everything. There are three family cottages on the land (100+ acres); JT’s sister, known as Sid (because her iPhone always auto corrects ‘Sis’), used to occupy the old log cabin, they renovated about 20 years ago but they prefer something less rustic than the electric toilet (don’t ask) as they are now using the main cottage that used to be JT’s parents place (Dad is just too frail to come up). We use the boathouse, a small 400 square foot place, two bedrooms. It’s small enough to clean top to toe in an hour and it’s large enough to have our closest friends over. But the absolute best (the best Jerry, the Best) part is the porch—it’s right on the water, we overlook the Bay and it’s perfect.
Part of the menu planning is having little munches for cocktails, and I couldn’t help but want to make my friend Charles’ (Five Euro Food) and Jessica’s (kitchenbelleicious) Roasted Chick Peas and of course, my friend Barb’s (Profiteroles and Ponytails’ version), and there was also Betsy (Bits and Breadcrumbs who also did a take on them! Absolutely wonderful, although because we did not use the allotted oil, we had to roast a wee bit longer, but well worth it. I really liked the texture, JT was so so! I may have lied, I didn’t make them! JT made them whilst I was at the salon getting my roots hair done! We had them for cocktails on Sunday night. Very tasty indeed. Plus they are a protein and we reduced the oil a bit to limit the fat. Still calories but at least they are good calories! Because they are a protein, they will fill you up a lot faster than potato chips, which is fine by me! I changed up the flavouring since Sid doesn’t eat too hot foods (also added a touch of sugar to help calm the heat)

Crunchy and just slightly hot, perfect with that martini. May I get you one?

Roasted Garlic Cumin Chick Peas

Ingredients:

  • 1 large can of Chick Peas (~500g)
  • A quick spray of non stick spray
  • 2-3 tsps Cumin
  • 1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper (adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp light brown sugar
  • A handful of garlic cloves, minced finely

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F
  2. Add all the spices to the drained and dried chick peas. Mix well.
  3. Give the pan a good spray and lay the chick peas out to an even layer.
  4. As Charles so eloquently put it: roast for about an hour until the peas are shrunken and crispy, and a rich golden brown in colour. We found that because we did not add the oil, we had to roast for about 1.5 hours to get them crispy. And we even let them sit in the oven as the oven cooled down (tasting throughout, of course, the insides had to crisp up)
  5. Allow to cool and enjoy with your flavourite cocktail (our’s was the traditional Vodka Martini, stirred, not shaken!)
  6. Cheers!

I know you want to just dig in, but it’s so much more civilized with that wonderful wooden scoop!

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As I’ve previously mentioned, our friends Rae and Monica are coming over for a Valentine’s themed dinner. Rae recently became a vegetarian so in order to save myself some time, I am planning to serve only vegetarian food for everyone (he eats seafood); plus it will not alienate him from the rest of the dinner party. I find this type of cooking a challenge and really enjoy doing it! Much of the menu is inspired by the blogs I read, so I thank you for the inspiration. I have linked where appropriate.

Menu:

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