Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus Spears with Balsamic Reduction

These little appetizers are so delicious and very simple to make. Some how I lucked out at the store and they had small, thin, tender asparagus instead of the normal stalks that can be quite woody. Try and get these if you can...

With only 3 ingredients this is such a great last minute cocktail party treat. You will need a bunch of asparagus, 12 slices of prosciutto and balsamic vinegar. I used this recipe from the Chef's Pencil and followed their Method as well. I did try to make the balsamic reduction but it didn't work (cheap vinegar perhaps?) so I used this balsamic glaze that I happened to have in the fridge. It's actually perfect if you don't want to worry about making the balsamic reduction.

It is a President's Choice product and available in Canada at the Loblaw stores (Zehrs etc)


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Smoked Salmon Blini with Caviar & Dill

These were very good, not too complicated to make if you buy store made puff pastry and look quite pretty and sophisticated.  Some people might not like the idea of caviar but you could always make some with and some without. A great little appetizer for New Year's Eve with some champers!

I basically followed this recipe although instead of creme fraiche I had to use plain Greek yogurt as the store was sold out just before Christmas. I thought the yogurt was just as tasty and slightly better for you too.

For the record, I am calling these blinis but they in fact are not traditional blinis at all! From OChef: "Blini are small, yeast-leavened, buckwheat pancakes that originally come from Russia. Classically they are served with sour cream and caviar or smoked salmon". Also, one is a "blin" while 2 or more are "blini".

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!!!

Hope you all have a lovely holiday with friends and family.
Eat, drink and be merry!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Spanakopita Triangles

Click pic for more detail
I made these last weekend for a Greek inspired menu for a dinner party (along with Chicken Kabobs, Oregano & Lemon Potatoes, and Cucumber Salad). These are amazing...I could eat them all night!  I am posting about this recipe today as I am making these for an appetizer for Christmas Eve dinner at the in-laws house.  It's a pretty simple dish to make, can be reheated easily and is quite impressive. A little dollop of Tzatziki goes a long way with these!

I followed this Fantastic Recipe from David Lebovitz because he has the best pictures, great step by step instructions and some cute anecdotes.

Here is what you will need:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and minced
  • 12 ounces (325g) fresh spinach, well-washed and towel dried
  • salt and freshly-ground pepper
  • 8-10 ounces (230-250g) feta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons finely-chopped flat leaf parsley
  • pinch of freshly-grated nutmeg
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • lemon juice
  • 16 sheets filo dough (about 12 ounces, 350g), thawed, if frozen
  • Melted butter (2-3 ounces, 60-90g)
Follow David's recipe here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Travels to the East Coast

Heading out to fish

Lone player, Halifax

My Aunt's famous white chocolate cheesecake - recipe forever a secret;)
I've taken a writing and cooking hiatus. In its place is a new love of chowder. Just returned from a week in Nova Scotia. Beautiful place, lovely people, colourful landscapes and fantastic seafood. I had my fill of chowder, lobster rolls, moussaka & dolmades & white chocolate cheesecake (family recipes), mussels, grilled calamari, a greasy spoon breakfast sandwich, the best peanut butter cookies in Mahone Bay, crab bisque, scallops and some Nova Scotian wine. The only thing I snapped photos of before eating was the cheesecake. Sorry 'bout that!

Peggy's Cove Lighthouse

Peggy's Cove

A sign after my heart
Lobster Traps
Ocean Safe?

Colourful Doorway, Lunenburg


House in Peggy's Cove

Fishing Village

Small, Medium & Large

Lunenburg, NS - A Unesco World Heritage Site
Red Doorway

Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
Peaceful Scenes
Rocks at the cove

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving to all the Canadians out there!

Lots of food posts to should see the menu we have set for Monday! Just getting the table ready for the big day:)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Greek Style Potatoes with Oregano and Lemon

These potatoes will knock your socks off! I have always loved the moist lemony/garlicky potatoes you get in the Greek restaurants along the Danforth in Toronto. This recipe will give you a replica of those delectable treats and they are so easy to make and go with many entrees.  If you are bored of baked, mashed, and boiled add these to your potato repertoire!

Ingredients and Preparation: Serves 4
Recipe from The Curious Cook at Home by dee Hobsbawn-Smith
  • 1 lb round potatoes (Yukon gold, Russet etc.)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4-6 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano (I use more - about 1.5 tbsp)
  • 1 lemon, juice only (I use 2 lemons - love the lemony taste!)
  • 1 cup water (more as needed)
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375F.  Peel potatoes and cut into quarters. Put remaining ingredients in a bowl and whisk.  Toss the potatoes in the liquid mixture. Spread on baking sheet uncovered at 375F until tender about 90 minutes (less time if using convection). Stir often, so that all the potato surfaces are coated. Add more water as needed - there should always be moisture in the pan.

Serve with skewered meat, grilled calamari, braised lamb or what ever is for dinner!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Eggplant Parmigiana

We went to Yosemite National Park this summer and while there we ate at the Curry Village dining room at our campsite which has a buffet style restaurant.  I had never really tasted eggplant parmigiana before as it always looked sort of soggy to me. Since it was one of the only vegetarian entree options that night I decided to give it a try and it was very good! Last night was my second time trying it and I have to say, mine was much better;)
Italian Eggplant

I compiled a few recipes from Bobby Flay to Mario Batali to Martha Stewart but didn't really follow any of them.  If you want very specific instructions (not my strong suit!), google one of their recipes.  I did get some tips on a message board and someone posted this blog fxcuisine as it gives a tutorial on how to prepare the eggplant. A good read.
Sweating the eggplant slices
It is a very important step to sweat the eggplant slices with salt for 30 minutes to one hour before you fry them up to get all the excess water out. Don't skip this step.

Ingredients & Preparation: Serves 4
  • 1 large Italian eggplant
  • kosher salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • oregano and parsley, to taste
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 - 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • grapeseed oil, for frying (use enough to cover the bottom of your pan and then a little more)
  • 1 jar good quality pasta sauce
  • mozzarella cheese
  • spaghetti

Wash the eggplant and chop off the ends - no need to peel it. Slice the eggplant lengthwise (should yield about 8 slices).  Cover the front and back in kosher salt and leave in a colander to drain for 30 mins to one hour. Wash the salt off the eggplant and press dry with paper towels. Preheat the oven to 375F. Whisk the eggs up with your herbs. I used the prepare herbs that come in the squeeze tubes so it would blend well when whisked. I'm sure fresh herbs would work as well, just chop them up into fine pieces so they stick.  Add some paremsan to your breadcrumbs.  Next, dredge each slice in the flour, then the egg mixture and then the breadcrumbs.  Place carefully into your hot pan with the grapeseed oil. Keep it hot to fry but not enough to burn and smoke. Once they are brown on each side transfer to a baking dish lined with papertowels to soak up the excess oil. You will have to do this in batches. Remove the papertowel and eggplant slices and pour some of the sauce into the bottom. Next layer the eggplant (fan the slices out so it covers the dish) and in between each slice add some more parmesan cheese and tomato sauce. Top the entire thing with mozzarella cheese. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes and then broil the top for a couple minutes after that.   In the meantime, boil water and make some spaghetti noodles to serve with it.

Once the eggplant is baked, serve one or two slices with the steaming spaghetti, add some more tomato sauce and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Jamie Oliver's Cucumber Salad - Take Two

Last time I blogged about this salad (March 2010) we ate it so quickly that I didn't get a chance for any pictures. I made it again last night and so here is an updated post! Also, I made a couple of changes to the recipe. The original calls for natural yogurt but I used Créme Fraiche (2 tbsp) and found it was so much better.  40% milk fat will do that I guess! I also omitted the mint per my husband's request. Instead of a fresh chili (which I could not find at my local store today) I used red chili flakes.  The original post is here and will give you all the instructions on how to prepare the salad. Try it - you'll like it!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Pasta Salad with Cherry Tomatoes, Feta and Zucchini Ribbons

A super summery cold pasta salad like this is perfect for a picnic lunch at the beach.  Easy to throw together in the morning before you head out it's a great little lunch that will satisfy big and small kids.  You can of course make your own variation based on what you have in the fridge. 

I used penne pasta (cooked according to the package and then rinsed under cold water) and tossed with crumbled feta, cherry tomatoes and zucchini ribbons. For the dressing, I used olive oil, some apple cider vinegar, salt & pepper.  Remember, depending on the size of your salad the amount of dressing you need to make will vary. For most vinaigrette dressings, try to keep your oil to vinegar ratio at 3:1. Be adventurous if you like and add in herbs, spices, onions, shallots, lemons or honey or try different types of vinegars (raspberry, balsamic etc.). Whisk to emulsify in a glass or ceramic bowl or shake in a mason jar to incorporate.

Making zucchini ribbons is very easy. Just wash the zucchini and cut off the ends. Next grab your vegetable peeler and start 'shaving' off thin lengthwise strips of zucchini stopping and turning when you see the seeds.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Turkey Sliders with Pesto, Fresh Mozzarella & Caramelized Onions

Good things come in small packages as they say...these mini turkey burgers are no exception!  These are very easy to whip up for dinner and serve with either homemade potato wedges or salad.  I topped mine with fresh mozzarella, pesto and caramelized onions.  If I had the time, I would have made some home made pesto but settled for store bought this week. If you want to make the onions but aren't sure how - check out this post for French Onion Soup and follow the instructions there but reduce the quantities unless you plan on making the soup too!

Ingredients & Preparation: Makes approx. 8 mini burgers
  • 1lb ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 2 slices of bread, made into crumbs
  • 1 tbsp Dijon
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 2 tbsp green onion, diced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil
  • dinner rolls or mini burger buns
  • fresh mozzarella
  • pesto
  • 1 onion, sliced and caramelized
Whisk the egg and mix through the ground turkey.  Add all the other ingredients and form into small balls so you have approximately 8.  Heat a large frying pan and add some olive oil. Add the turkey burgers and cook on medium heat turning half way to brown both sides. Cook them low & slow until cook all the way through.  Lightly toast the buns.  Put your burgers on the buns, add your toppings and enjoy!

You could do the burgers on the grill just take care they don't fall though the cracks!

Friday, July 15, 2011

"Loaf Pan Lasagna" with Cottage Cheese & Spinach

The one thing that I don't like about making lasagna for our small family of 3 is that half of it goes to waste. I do love leftovers but somehow they always get pushed to the back of the fridge, forgotten about until cleaning day. And that doesn't end well.
I tried a new thing yesterday - making mini lasagnas in the meat loaf pan. I am not the first person to do this but for some reason it had never occurred to me before - it's magical! Half the cooking time and one pan equals one dinner for a small family. This recipe makes two loaf pan sized lasagnas so eat one tonight and freeze the other for a rainy day.

Now I know some people have a thing against cottage cheese so you can easily substitute ricotta in this recipe if you must...

Ingredients & Prep - Makes 2 loaf pans. Each serves approx. 2 adults & 2 kids with small appetites.  Recipe adapted from the meatier version on the blog Hogwash.

  • 2 cups 2% cottage cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • dried basil
  • dried oregano
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • fresh minced garlic to taste
  • 3-4 cups marinara sauce
  • 2 cups frozen shredded spinach, thawed (I like to use frozen spinach because once you microwave it to thaw, you can easily squeeze the excess water out and it removes that pesky task of washing, chopping, stemming, cooking the fresh stuff).
  • 2 1/2 cups of mozzarella, shredded
  • 1 box no bake lasagna noodles.  Try to get the flat edge lasagna noodles that are smaller than traditional noodles. I like to use the Garofalo brand. They look like the noodles in the picture below. Perfect for a loaf sized pan.

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Whisk the eggs to blend in a mixing bowl, and season with basil, oregano, garlic, salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir in cottage cheese, and set aside.
3. Thaw the spinach and squeeze out excess water.
4. Spread 1/4 cup of the marinara sauce on the bottom of each of two loaf pans. Add a sheet of pasta to each, followed by another 1/4 cup sauce, 2/3 cup of the spinach, and 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella. Next, add another sheet of pasta, followed by 1/2 cup of the cottage cheese mixture. (It will be slightly runny, that’s okay.) Top each with another noodle, then 1/4 cup sauce, and divide the remaining spinach between the two pans. Top each spinach layer with another 1/4 cup mozzarella, then a sheet of pasta, and divide the remaining cottage cheese mixture between the two pans. Finally, top the cottage cheese with the last of the pasta. Divide the remaining sauce over the noodles, spreading it to cover them all the way to the edges. Sprinkle each with about 1/2 cup mozzarella.
5. Cover each pan tightly with foil, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil, and bake another 15 minutes uncovered, until cheese is melted and beginning to brown. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.
6. To freeze cooked lasagna, let cool to room temperature, then cover the top with foil, wrap in plastic, and freeze up to 2 months. Transfer to refrigerator 24 hours before baking, with foil on top, for 20 to 30 minutes at 350F, or until hot all the way through.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Stacked Caprese Salad

Hands down these are my favourite individual salads to make especially for a group of people if you are trying to be a little fancy but don't have much time! They look so nice on a dining table if plated on a white plate with a drizzle of good quality, rich olive oil.

I picked up some gorgeous vine tomatoes the other day and knew I had to make these for dinner. One thing I find harder to find is fresh mozzarella. Where I live there aren't too many specialty cheese boutiques so I make do with the fresh mozzarella at the grocery store. Still yummy but not quite the same. Keep in mind, this cheese is the soft, round cheese packed in water not the ball of firm mozzarella.

Ingredients & Prep: Serves 4
  • 1 ball fresh mozzarella
  • 4 vine ripened tomatoes
  • bunch of fresh basil
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
Wash and slice the tomatoes into equal sized pieces.  Arrange on salad plates alternating mozzarella and basil. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil. Allow guests to add salt if they prefer and offer fresh ground pepper at the table.

13 Bean Soup

I love Bob's Red Mill products and like to try as many different things in their line as I can.  I bought this soup mix thinking it was an all-in-one mix with stock/flavouring etc. but turns out it was just the beans - 13 types of beans, but still just beans (and a few lentils).

As instructed on the package, I soaked the beans overnight and for most of the next day to get them a little softer. I drained and rinsed the beans and then boiled them for 3 hours on low with 2 1/2 quarts of water and 2 chicken bouillon cubes.  Once they were quite soft I added more water to thin out the soup, tomato paste, garlic, onion, salt & pepper and the juice of 1/2 a large lemon.

Overall, the bean mix made a great starting point for this soup.  If you are looking for a way to get more fibre into your diet and/or a vegetarian source of protein, this is the way to go (but use vegetable bouillon instead!).

Ingredients: Serves 6-8
  • 2 cups mixed beans
  • 2 1/2 quarts water
  • 2 bouillon cubes
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 15 oz can tomato paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • juice of 1/2 large lemon

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Jamie Oliver's Real Mushroom Soup

I have a fascination with making soup and even though it is about 28 degrees I had to try this the other night. Fresh mushrooms from Ontario are all over the markets right now and I was able to get a couple of lbs for a great price.  What better time to make a "real" mushroom soup? My parents have just returned from the UK and made a point to stop in at one of JO's restaurants in London. I am now the proud owner of a Jamie Oliver's Italian jute (hemp?) tote bag, 4 white & blue cloth serviettes, 2 JO tea towels and a stolen appetizer menu (thanks to my Mum). In honour of Jamie and to make up for the stolen menu, I decided to try out his soup recipe!

Ingredients and Preparation: Serves 6
Recipe taken directly from Jamie Oliver's book "Jamie's Dinners".

• a small handful of dried porcini
• olive oil
• 600g (1.5 lbs) mixed fresh wild mushrooms (chanterelles, girolles, trompettes de mort, shitake, oyster), cleaned and sliced
• 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
• 1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
• a knob of butter
• a handful of fresh thyme, leaves picked

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 litre chicken or vegetable stock, preferably organic
• a handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and roughly chopped
• 2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
• 1 lemon
optional: truffle oil

Place the porcini in a small dish, add boiling water just to cover, and leave to soak. Get a large casserole-type pan nice and hot, then add a good couple of lugs of olive oil and your fresh mushrooms. Stir around very quickly for a minute, then add your garlic, onion, butter and thyme and a small amount of seasoning. After about a minute you'll probably notice moisture cooking out of the mushrooms and at this point add half of your porcini, chopped up, and the rest left whole. Strain the soaking liquid to remove any grit, and add it to the pan. Carry on cooking for about 20 minutes until most of the moisture disappears.

Season to taste, and add your stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for around 20 minutes. I usually remove half the soup from the pan and whiz it up to a purée at this point, then pour it back in, adding the parsley and mascarpone, and seasoning carefully to taste.

You can serve this soup as you like, but there are a few things to remember when finishing it off. Mix together a pinch of salt and pepper with the zest of one lemon and the juice of half of it, then spoon a little of this into the middle of the soup. When you go to eat it, stir it in and it gives a wonderful flavour. Other things you can consider are little slices of grilled crostini put into the bottom of the bowls before the soup is poured over. Or you could even quickly fry some nice-looking mushrooms – like girolles, chanterelles or oysters – and sprinkle these on top of the soup. If I was going to use truffle oil, then I would use it on its own – a few drips on the top just before serving.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

What to do? I am no longer living in Suburbia.

Do I need to change the name of the blog to match my new location? I am technically no longer in the suburbs but more of a small town with one set of traffic lights.  Deep thoughts this Saturday evening.

Now that we are finally settled into the new house and almost organized in the kitchen I hope to get back to blogging some fantastic recipes this summer...made a delicious pasta tonight with asparagus, tomatoes, vidalia onion and artichokes but ate it before I had a chance to photograph it. Long day at the beach equals a hungry family.

Menu planning starts back up again tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Fruit Smoothie with Soy Milk

It's been a couple weeks since my last post - but there have been a string of illnesses in the family and food has been the last thing on my mind! We have been living on tea and saltines trying to get over various stomach bugs.  Fingers crossed sick season is over now.

I try to drink one of these every day...I am not the best at eating a piece of fruit but if I blend it up with some vanilla soy milk it goes down so much easier.  My daughter loves these too and it is a good way to get her to eat fruit other than bananas. Frozen berries are a dream come true for me.  If I do buy fresh fruit it can generally be found weeks later looking very poorly at the back of the produce drawer.

This 3 ingredient smoothie is awesome for breakfast, as a healthy snack or dessert and takes only a couple of minutes to make with a hand mixer.

Method and Preparation: Serves 2 adults + a toddler

  • 1 cup frozen mixed berries (raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries)
  • 1 1/4 cups Vanilla Soy Milk (I use Natura brand)
  • 1 banana
Put the fruit, soy milk and banana into a tall plastic container, take out your hand blender and whizz up until smooth!  It's that easy.

*Another smoothie option I like is Litchi juice (Ceres brand), frozen blueberries and banana.

I use a Cuisinart hand blender and it is the most used tool in the kitchen. I highly suggest buying something like this if you don't have one already.

    Tuesday, April 5, 2011

    Corn & Black Bean Chili with Cornbread

    I thought it was supposed to be Spring?  The snow just keeps coming here in cold Ontario and I am so over it - dreaming of days relaxing on the patio sipping a cold bevvie.  Instead of making yet another soup for dinner (to stay warm) I decided to go with a corn and black bean chili. It is so easy to make and takes very little energy to whip this up after a day at work.  The cornbread is super easy to and takes only 20 minutes in the oven.

    Ingredients & Preparation: Serves 6
    • 1 large can of black beans, rinsed
    • 1 large can of whole tomatoes
    • 1 large onion, diced
    • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
    • 10-12 large white mushrooms, quartered
    • 2 cups fresh or frozen corn
    • Old cheddar cheese for garnish, shredded
    • Cilantro for garnish, chopped
    • 4-5 tbsp of chili powder or to taste
    • 1 cup of tomato juice
    In a large pot, add olive oil and onion. Cook until translucent and then add the mushrooms. Cook another 5 minutes and add the corn.  Cook for about 7 minutes and then add in the black beans, tomatoes, chili powder and tomato juice.  Cook on medium low heat for about 15 minutes until all the flavours are incorporated. While the chili is simmering, preheat the oven to 400F for the cornbread.

    Cornbread Ingredients & Preparation: Serves 6
    • 1 cup all purpose flour
    • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
    • 1 tbsp baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 2 eggs, beaten
    • 1 cup whole milk 
    • 1/4 cup melted butter
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    Preheat oven to 400F.  Combine the first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl.  Then combine the remaining ingredients in another bowl. Grease a 9"x9" baking dish (I prefer glass). Mix ingredients from both bowls together for about 15 seconds until dry ingredients are moistened but don't over mix.  Pour batter into the pan and bake immediately.  Should take about 20-22 minutes in the oven until the top is golden brown. Insert a toothpick in the centre to make sure it is done (if it is, the toothpick will come out clean). Serve with the chili, cheddar cheese and cilantro.