Sunday, November 16, 2008

Let's talk about squash

Like me squash?!

This is a butternut squash. Done giggling? His name is Richard. Now let's commit a little squashicide.

First we must cut him up.

Scoop out the seeds and place it cut side down on a baking sheet. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 30 -40 minutes. You'll know, the squash will be soft when you poke it with a fork. This huge squash is my squash for the winter.
Once it's cooked scoop it out of the skin. I ended up with about 8 cups of squash.


Can't be bothered roasting a whole squash? I hear ya, some days are just like that. You can get the frozen diced butternut squash by arctic gardens at the Sobeys here in Atlantic Canada. You can make both of the following recipes with it.

Okay, picture time is over. Now lets talk recipes. First I made a butternut risotto. You know how I love my risotto...http://thegourmetgoddess.blogspot.com/2007/11/risotto-again-and-rumblings-of-future.html and http://thegourmetgoddess.blogspot.com/2006/09/lets-talk-risotto.html

Bottom line for the butternut squash risotto, add the cooked butternut squash at the end and just heat through. It's awesome. I also add some dried sage because it compliments the squash so nicely. You can use summer savory if you have it instead (newfies will have that one on their shelves).

The other fav I have for butternut squash is soup. I made mine a coconut curry squash soup but you can keep it simple and just use some sage or cinnamon and nutmeg in place of the curry. Instead of coconut milk add a bit of whipping cream, just a cup to smooth it out. This recipe makes 8 servings so a cup of cream won't summons the heart patrol into your kitchen but the flavour is really nice with it so don't leave it out.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp vegetable, canola or grape seed oil
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 4 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4- 6 cups of broth, chicken or veggie
  • 3 tbsp green curry paste (for the milder soup, use curry powder)
  • 3 apples, peeled and diced
  • 6 cups of squash
  • 1 can of coconut milk, light

Instructions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat
  2. Saute the onions, celery, ginger and garlic until soft
  3. Add the broth and bring to a simmer
  4. Add in the curry, apple and squash. Cook until soft
  5. Puree the soup with an immersion blender (stick blender), blender or potato masher
  6. Pour in the coconut milk and heat through

This freezes beautifully. I make one batch for the winter and that's it!

This is for Rosalie who made my quite proud when she said she reads my blog and tries my recipes. It's humbling to realize people actually read what I write. I hope you enjoy my recipes. More people read this blog than my knitting blog yet less leave comments. So it's a shock to hear that someone tries my recipes. Thanks Rosalie.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wharf Wraps

I have been meaning to share with you the best spot for fish and chips on the planet. Yes, I said "on the planet" because, seriously, it is. Wharf Wraps is another restaurant in Fisherman's Cove in Eastern Passage Nova Scotia. And it is totally worth the trip. Luckily for me it's just a 2 minute drive! While waiting to be seated we heard someone say that it was the best place for fish and chips so we had to try it out. I don't even particularly like fish and chips but this is to die for. I have guest coming for both the Canadian and the American Thanksgiving and you can rest assured there will be fish and chips consumed on both occasions.

The fish is huge. It's a 10 oz haddock fillet! And the breading is so tasty. I took some of mine home because there was no way I could finish the whole thing and it was even delicious the next day warmed in the oven. It wasn't greasy but it was nice and moist. You have the option of homemade tartar sauce or the Kraft packet. I like a place that attempts to make their own tartar sauce, shows a bit of passion for making good food. The decor is ketchy but not as overkill as Boondocks. I can see myself in snuggled in there during the cold winter months with a cup of chowder. That will be the true test, how is their chowder. I'll let you know when I find out.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

New England Clam Bake

New England Clam Bake

Now that's a meal worthy of a 40th birthday! During our cottage getaway, Granny Tan and I attempted a paired down version of a New England Clam Bake. I'd seen a few recipes floating around and thought it was worth a try.

First we introduced Clancy to the lobster. My dogs have already met a lobster or two along the way but this was Clancy's first. He found it a little skittish.

IMG_2970.JPG

We only had mussels, clams and lobster for our clam bake. We were suppose to head to the market but we never wanted to leave the cottage the whole time we were there. Typically a NE Clam Bake also has corn, potatoes, chicken and sausage but we're purists. Just seafood please.

Most recipes call for seaweed to put on the bbq to steam the mussels and clams open but I couldn't find any. Okay, I didn't take the time to walk one block from my house to get some from the shore. But I did get some dulse from the seafood market. I soaked that in water for a couple of hours then took the dulse out and used the water as the base in my pot to steam the mussels and clams. I added a wack of salt to give us that salt water taste. And I threw in some lemons, cause we had 'em. The lobsters were cooked ahead and just warmed on top of the mussels and clams.

I also did a flavoured butter mixed with chives and sweet paprika. What a flavour! It was great with the mussels but the lobster just screamed 'traditional' butter which we had too.

Finish off with libations and a great meal was had by all.

Ah wine...

Okay there may have been a lot of libations...

Mojito me ugly!

So far '40' is great!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Local Hangout.

So this past weekend we ventured over to my new local spot, Fisherman's Cove. It's a quaint little cove full of shops, fish places, a couple of restaurants, a pub and an awesome coffee shop! But first let's talk about the restaurant. Boondocks is a touristy spot run amok. The decor is a little embarrassing in it's overkill with the ocean theme. So you can imagine my trepidation at trying the food. However I had to venture in. Mom and I stopped in for a bowl of chowder a couple of weeks ago when I was first getting settled in the new pad (see other blog about the move) and the chowder was delicious. However the service was really slow and the place was almost empty and the bun they served with the chowder was not exactly fresh. But the chowder was good. And I know chowder! So I was prepared to give this restaurant another chance.

So during our very rainy Saturday this past weekend, we grabbed The Kid and headed over for a meal. Tim and I had just been to about every store in the greater Dartmouth area so we were seriously hungry and feeling the need for good seafood. Well first off, there were no basic options on the menu for The Kid. They must have a kids menu but of course they didn't offer it to a kid who is as tall as us.... Most of the menu is seafood. Which was great for Tim and I but what about the kid... He settled for the ribs. It was an expensive meal at $21.99 but we knew if he didn't like the ribs then we would love the leftovers the next day. So all was good. Tim got the fish and chips and I got the fried clams. Healthy eating had officially gone to hell in a hand basket for the day!

We started bravely with the calamari. Oh my goddess! It was seriously good. Fresh and tasty. Not a chewy bit to be found. This had to be fresh not frozen. Even The Kid had a taste and liked it. It was served with a spicy Tzatziki sauce. Seriously. This was good stuff. Okay bring on the main course. I'm ready!

The Kid's meal was huge. Definitely built for sharing. He really liked them too! He had fries and even a half corn on the cob. I didn't try the corn but I can't image that it was local so it should have been fairly starchy after it's journey from where ever. The Kid said it was good (after we cut it off the cob due to braces interference) and he has had the really good, straight off the stalk stuff. So he should know good corn. The veggies on the side were a bit overcooked but seemed fresh. And the pile of ribs?! There was a mound. And they were tasty and tender. Well worth the money. Next time I get a rib craving I know where I'll be heading! Wonder if they do take out?

As for our seafood. Tim's fish was so light and flaky that even The Kid enjoyed a taste. And my clams were great. The batter had a sweetness to it that balanced nicely with the clams.

I had a lovely Jost Pinot Grigio with my meal. It was lovely.

There are many more dishes to be tried at Boondock's and I look forward to doing my fair share of sampling.

As I mentioned in the beginning, there is also a fantastic coffee shop, Sea Gulps. They have great coffee, a quaint shop and a nice looking patio on the water in the inside of the cove. I had a Creme Brulee latte. It was awesome. I look forward to buying my beans from them in the future!

And where will I be buying my seafood from now on? Well there are at least 4 retail seafood shops. This really is God's country...

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Two Chowder Tips, A Breakfast Idea and Some Skin Arsed Dogs

Okay I know I've talked chowder (just enter "chowder" in the search area top left) before but last night I made a yummy one of corn, shrimp, clams and scallops. I mashed about 3/4 of the potatoes to thicken it. One of my favorite tricks to keep it light but thick. I like mine thick personally, some people say that's just wrong but it's your chowder, you do it however you like. I won't tell. I also used some liquid hickory smoke since I had no bacon in the house. The flavour is great, rich and salty without the added fat or sodium! I had some last night and I'm taking some tomorrow for lunch. I love chowder when it's had a chance to fester. (yes the picture is sideways and no, I don't know why)

Since I've been back to work I have been taking breakfast on the go. Usually a english muffin toasted with cheese and ham but on Sunday I made a croissant to go. I took the multigrain Pillsbury refrigerated crescent roll, put a slice of deli meat (I had toscan turkey and some ham) and a slice of cheese, (I used swiss and provolone) and rolled them up as usual. I cooked them as per the instructions on the tube and they were great. Best part, I wrapped them, completely cooled in plastic wrap and they kept well. I had them for breakfast on Monday and Tuesday. Just 15 seconds in the microwave and they were good to go!

This is the view from my deck at the moment. Gotta love summer!
So this is my new bad boy. Stay tuned for some bbqing fun with this baby! Isn't he pretty?! I just need to pick up some propane...


So Granny Tan and I are heading away for a Most Excellent Cottage Getaway in just 9 more sleeps. So I got the dogs prepped. Mr Twist..(does Dakota, on the left, look green to you too? I won't tell you what I came home to today since this is a blog about food... it would turn you green, trust me. poor fella)

And this is miss em. She is one sassy girl with her summer shave. Nice tushie too!

This is where granny tan and I are going. Do you think it will be relaxing?

And this is the kitchen. Expect good blogs after that our trip!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tuna, Tomato, Basil and Cheese Pasta Salad

I am having the most lovely lunch. I made it last night. Simple and tasty. It kept well and fresh, no wilting of the basil overnight. Definite plus!

It's a tuna pasta salad! The pic is not great since I took it with my cell phone but you get the idea. (can you get a tripod for your cellphone camera?!)

Here is the ingredient list: (serves 2 - 3 big lunches)

  • 1/2 of a 375g box of whole wheat penne
  • 1 can of tuna packed in water
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded or grated parmesan or mozza cheese (I used a bit of both)
  • dash of salt or Ms. Dash (I used a bit of both)
  • splash of extra virgin olive oil. I used about 1 1/2 tbsp for the whole salad
  • a couple of leaves of basil, torn by hand

Instructions:

  1. Cook the pasta according to the package. Drain
  2. Toss tuna, tomatoes, pasta and cheese in a bowl.
  3. Add in the salt/Ms. Dash and olive oil and mix well
  4. Add in the basil and toss lightly.

Enjoy! I certainly am. I see this one going on my chick weekend cottage getaway next month! Now there will be some good cooking. We are starting to plan the menu now and the holiday is 3 weeks away! Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Tomato Tart

I'm tired too after a long week... Move over Emily, I'm gettin' in for a snuggle. These days I'm keeping my cooking quick and simple!

Tim had bought a bunch of tomatoes when he hit the grocery store because they looked so fresh. They were on the vine and they were nice. But there was no way he would eat them all this week in salads and on sandwiches so I decided I would make something with them. I wanted something we could take for lunch this week so I settled on a tomato tart.


First I started with some Pillsbury pizza dough but puffed pastry would have been excellent too. I spread the dough out in a deep dish pie dish and precooked it like the instructions on the package say (400 for 8 minutes). I had some dough leftover so I made another tart base in a small casserole dish. You don't need anything special, just a baking dish with sides. You can spread the dough as far up the side as you like or as little as you like.

I brushed the cooked dough with a olive oil/balsamic mixture, going light on the balsamic. I didn't have any fresh basil but I did have some freeze dried basil (yup, it comes that way) so I sprinkled that on the crusts. I would have used fresh or if I didn't have anything else on hand I would have used some dried Italian seasoning. Then I thinly sliced the tomatoes and placed a layer on the crust. I topped that with goat cheese, finely shredded asiago, parmesan and mozza. I did another layer of tomatoes and then another of cheese. I even threw on some feta. We had a lot of little bits of cheese so I used them up. It wasn't all cheese. I cooked for another 12 minutes at 400.

Yum! I had 2 slices right then and there, some for lunch the next day and guess what I'm having for lunch today?! And this dish would freeze well so guess what I'll be making when tomato season hits us full force....

Friday, June 13, 2008

Marinating your meat.

Are you ready for some BBQ?! Yes it is finally that time of the year. I know some of you have been bbqing for a while now but it is slow to warm up here in Atlantic Canada. We are at the point now where it's still perfect, warm but not yet hot. Some call it spring...we call it lucky. Typically we go from cold and rainy to full on hot. Spring is not an Atlantic Canadian season. Now Fall, that we get, in spades. The Fall is amazing here. Come, visit, see, do, it's fantastic! But I digress.

I wanted to talk about bbqing. Last night I did some steaks on the barbie at my mom's. It can be hard when using a strange grill to get them just like you like them. Ours were a little overdone. However, they weren't dry or tough because we had marinated them in some Worcestershire sauce, apple cider vinegar and Ms. Dash grilling seasoning overnight. Mom mentioned that she never plans ahead to get that much marinating time on her meat before it hits the bbq. Most of us don't.

So here's a simple solution. Put your meat in the marinade before you freeze it! Then as it freezes and defrosts all those great flavours are getting into the meat. And if you use an acid, like fruit juice, vinegar, etc (wine may impede the freezing process so use only a little) the meat fibers will be nice and tender when they hit the grill. I do this a lot in the summer time with beef, pork, lamb and chicken. You have to be more careful with fish since it take marinades quickly. I just leave fish and seafood out of this freeze ahead marinate process. 20 minutes in a marinade is enough for fish or seafood to get infused with flavor and you don't risk cooking the fish or seafood before hitting the bbq with the acid in the marinate. Easy!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken and Orzo Salad

I am sitting here eating the most wonderful lunch. I've actually debated trying to get a pic of it from my camera phone to share with you but I know that the camera on my phone isn't that good....Friday night Tim made a real tasty supper. He flattened out some chicken breasts, stuffed them with a little bit of goat cheese, then dipped the breasts in beaten egg and then some Italian seasoned bread crumbs. He then heated some olive oil in a saute pan and cooked them on the stove. We had some sauteed asparagus with roasted garlic with it. Tim had taken out an extra breast to make some for lunches. See this is the whole "cook once, eat more than once" mentality. It's easier just to make extra when you cook and then have it for another meal or lunch. We ended up with 3 portions of stuff chicken out of that one breast that was just perfect for lunches.

Sunday I made a side dish to go with the leftover chicken. I took some asparagus and red onion and diced them up nice and small then sauteed them in a non stick pan with some cooking spray. I put some orzo on to boil. Once it was cooked I drained it and tossed it with the asparagus, red onion, some goat cheese and a pinch of salt (it needed it). I finished it all off with a splash (about 1 tbsp for 4 -5 lunch side servings) of this wonderful pumpkin oil Tim brought back from Austria. You could use a good olive oil if you don't have the pumpkin oil. And I now have another serving to enjoy with something else later in the week. My goddess, I love planning ahead!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

New Employee

Wondering why I haven't been blogging about anything tasty lately? I'm newly employed, homeless and dead tired. Yup, The Gourmet Goddess has gone back to the real world. I'm also working in another city so I'm staying with my folks while I find a place of my own. All this means that at the end of the day I get a home cooked meal 'mom' style. Last night we had stew. It was over +20 C but stew seemed like a good idea to my mother. In her defence, there are so many black flies on her deck, there is no way to bbq without being eaten alive before you actually eat!

I am going to talk about lunches though, since I'm back to packing them. I have a couple of different sandwich ideas. One is with sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella (the kind in water, not the hard stuff) and basil. I put a little bit of balsamic vinaigrette on the bread for an extra kick of flavour. A crusty bun of some sort is best. Tasty! The other sandwich idea I think I have spoken of before but it is so tasty that it's worth mentioning again. Hummus, veggies and feta on a tortilla wrap. Oh - my- goddess, it is tasty. Be mindful of the soggy tomato syndrome though. I put the hummus on the tortilla when I'm packing my lunch and dice up tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, just a bit of red onion (working with people all day, must be nice!) and feta and put them in a separate container. At lunch time I just open up the tortilla and add in my veggie/feta mix. Super healthy as well as super tasty.

What about snacking? Well if you sit at a desk all day it's impossible not to snack. I like some Wasa and cheese. Wasa is a brand name of what I call Swedish crisp bread although you see it all over Europe. Wasa is apparently made in Germany but I swear it used to say "made in Sweden". There is a crown on the logo and there hasn't been a monarchy in German in quite a while. Sweden, on the other hand, has a royal family, lovely people, not blond, oddly enough ... That's a myth, that all swedes are blond. There are some of the best colourists in Sweden...

Some other light snacks:
  • Veggies and dip, ranch or hummus
  • Baked tortillas and salsa (I like to take the Weight Watchers tortillas, cut them into triangles, sprinkle with some tex mex seasoning, toast them and then have them with salsa. You can do this ahead of time or on the job if you have a toaster oven around)
  • Cup of soup is a good one especially if the AC in your office is set to frigid
  • Popcorn, either popped ahead (I use a pan and oil and do it the old fashioned way at home) or popped in the micro on site. the snack size bags are great but be honest, everyone comes for by for a visit when they smell fresh popcorn coming from your desk.
  • Cheese and crackers. This is not a common snack but lots of us need a carb and some protein to get through the day. My favs - Low fat triscuits and light cheddar.
  • Laughing cow cheese (light is like 1 point for 2 wedges!), light cream cheese or even peanut butter on crackers, wasa, cucumber slices (okay, maybe not with peanut butter)
  • Melon wedge wrapped in prosciutto. Now that's decadent!

Thing is you are likely going to snack. Plan for it instead of against it. I plan a morning and afternoon snack. I usually have either fruit or yogurt for my morning snack, not exciting but it does the trick. If I don't eat everything in my lunch then I already have them for tomorrow's lunch bag. A lot of us are grazers, eating smaller bits more frequently. This is considered more healthy and can put a couple of nice dents in your workday. Make sure to count your lattes or special coffees as treats or snacks. They are full of calories and need to be recognized as more than just a drink! Speaking of which, I'm going for a skinny vanilla latte right now. My afternoon is looking brighter already!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tomato and the Sandwich

Wow, it's been a while since I blogged. I've started a new job so I've been busy and living off the food in my freezer (all homemade and healthy!). So I haven't had any new recipes to share. But I do have a tip.

Since I started a new job I'm back to packing lunches. I enjoy a good lunch, it can really punctuate your day with a pleasure point. Some of you may remember my hummus, veggie and feta wrap. It's one of my favs. I brought it the first day of work. Wheee! Well, make that almost whee.... I had made it up the night before like a good little well prepared worker bee should. However, the next day by lunchtime the tomato had managed to make the whole thing soggy. What was I thinking? I'm not some newbie here, I've packed a lunch or two in my day. So here's my tip. Are you ready?? It's a big one! Pack your tomatoes for sandwiches separately and insert them into the sandwich right before consuming. Yeah, I know, it's not rocket science.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Orzo, a underated pasta

Last night I whipped up a quick dish for a late dinner. I had taken out some chicken tenders (the long bits that are inside a chicken breast. Don't have any? Just use a chicken breast) and some frozen chopped spinach the day before. I had some feta that I wanted to use since I had just bought another package of it, no need to have 2 packages of feta in the fridge. And I had picked up some of the new Kraft Pure Olive Oil based dressing on sale at the grocery store. I usually make my own dressings but with summer approaching and salad season about to hit me hard, I like to have some quick options on hand. I picked up the sun dried tomato and the balsamic vinaigrette. I now have a total of 4 ready to go dressings in my fridge and tonight I'm making a grilled shrimp caesar salad with my own homemade low fat caesar dressing... Yep. that's logical. Hey, the store bought dressings last a couple of months so I'm good for the summer. Back to last night's dinner.


So I had some chicken and spinach. I thought I'd do them in a sort of saute pan supper. Pasta? sure. I pulled out some orzo, the rice shaped pasta. This is a great pasta for salads and mixed dishes. I boiled 3 handfuls (fancy measuring, eh?).

Warm Orzo Salad

Ingredients:

  • Orzo (3 handfuls for 3 small meals)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped red and orange pepper
  • 6 oz. chicken tenders or breast meat, diced
  • 2 cups frozen spinach
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta
  • 2 tbsp sun dried tomato salad dressing

Instructions:

  1. Cook Orzo according to instructions on package. Set aside when done.
  2. Heat oil in a pan over medium high heat
  3. Saute red onion and peppers until tender
  4. Add chicken and saute until cooked through
  5. Add in spinach and cook until heated through
  6. Toss in Orzo and salad dressing and heat through
  7. Put on plates and top with feta.

You can do this dish without the chicken for a great vegetarian dish or a nice side dish. You can also serve it cold! Orzo is great for cold pasta salads. The shape and texture is really nice.



Thursday, May 08, 2008

Unstuffed Shells

I decided to make a big batch of stuffed shells. They freeze beautifully. And I was in the mood for some cheesy goodness. So I put them on the menu, got groceries for the week and then realized I forgot to pick up the pasta shells. D'uh! Okay, not to worry, I can improvise. So I made unstuffed shells. Or you could call it an italian mac and cheese, depending on your perspective.

It tasted as good as it looks.

I simply cooked some pasta I had on hand, in this case macaroni and put the tomato sauce on the bottom and top with the cheese mixture or 'stuffing' in the middle. I mixed the macaroni with the cheese and spinach mixture but you could layer sauce, pasta, cheese mixture, pasta and sauce. Top with cheese and this is a less messy dish than stuffing shells!

Necessity is the mother of invention.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Thai Burgers made with a KISS

I can't believe how long it's been since I shared from my kitchen! Wow, I've been busy. I've been sitting on this one for a week now so I'm going to post it to give you something to think about for now but stay tuned. I still have the ragu recipe to share and am working on an unstuffed shells cheese dinner!

I realized as I was eating this one that it was definitely worth sharing. Wanna bite?


This is a Thai Burger done the KISS way (keep it simple, silly!). Usually when I approach burgers I go overboard with the flavours. That can be good but it doesn't have to be that complicated. Just a few authentic flavours can make your burger go from ordinary to extraordinary! Here's what I did for these.

Thai Burgers for 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb of extra lean beef, pork or chicken
  • Lime Zest of 1/2 a lime or 2 tsp of lime juice
  • 3 tbsp bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp each of fish sauce, garlic chili sauce and peanut butter (I use the all natural, no additive type)

That's it. Mix gently and make into patties.

I made a spread to go on the buns

Thai Burger Spread:

Ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp mayo, light works well here
  • 4 tsp red curry paste
  • 4 tsp or less, depending on taste, soya sauce
  • Blend and keep refrigerated until ready to use.

I have a few more recipes written down for easy ethnic burgers that I'll post after I try them. What sounds good in my head usually works but it would be best if I'm sure first, don't you think?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hot cheese, hot cheese!

This morning I woke up to find the right side of the roof of my mouth quite sore and swollen. I couldn't think of what I could have possibly have eaten that had gotten jammed that far into my gums. I had flossed since the last time I had popcorn. Oh wait I had a cheese and salsa quesadilla for a snack last night. Maybe I had jammed a bit of crispy tortilla in my gums. Oh wait, it's a burn. That's right I burned the roof of my mouth. Wow, this was bad, it is really swollen. Thank goodness gum heals fast (I know this from my gum surgery a year and a half ago). Sad part, I was sober so my stupidity for eating the quesadilla while it was too hot was just my stupidity. And the fact that I couldn't remember doing it this morning is just me trying to think before I open my eyes in the morning...

On a more positive note, I whipped up a great side dish last night. It was so beautiful yesterday that I just had to bbq. I had some green beans that I wanted to cook while they were still nice and fresh so I grilled them. I also grilled a slice of red onion and a chunk of red pepper. Then I cut everything into bite size pieces and tossed them with one tablespoon (for one serving) of goat cheese. It made the most lovely sauce. A truly tasty dish that went perfectly with my bbq'ed chicken breast. Lovely.














Monday, April 21, 2008

Pizza Pops? Not around here! And a salmon pasta recipe.

I have been cooking. Oddly enough, when I procrastinate over everything else, I still like to get in the kitchen and bang my pots and pans around. Friday night I made a delicious, quick pasta dish that was definitely company worthy. And everything came out of the freezer! It was the perfect Friday night dish. Pour a glass of wine and feel like you are totally indulging yourself.



This recipe was for one person but you can do the math to make it for more (see word problems really do have a real life application...). I started with a salmon fillet and about 10 asparagus spears. Yup, the asparagus was frozen. Arctic Garden has a wonderful resealable package of frozen asparagus. Perfect for pasta! I just put on some rotini and while that was cooking I made the rest in a saute pan. I cut the asparagus into 1/2 inch pieces and diced the salmon also in 1/2 inch pieces. I sprayed the pan with nonstick spray. I seared the asparagus until it started to brown a little. I then added in a tablespoon of cream cheese and between 1/4 and 1/2 cup of white wine. I tossed in the salmon and cooked it for a minute or two and then added the pasta right from the water with a slotted spoon. I like to save my pasta water in case I need it to add to the sauce. I used a tablespoon of the pasta water just to make the sauce more saucy. I let it all cook together for just a minute. On a plate, sprinkle with parmesan and I had dinner! It was yummy. If guests show up unexpected I know what I'll be serving. And the cream cheese? Well you can use the light or flavoured or flavoured light - it's up to you. I would not attempt this with the fat free stuff. It's too altered to work well but I find that with most 'fat free' substitutions. Stick with reduced or light products and you'll be fine.



Okay on to Saturday night. I was feeling frisky for some stromboli. I had a pillsbury pizza dough in the fridge. About this dish - it is perfect for making ahead for after school snacks or lunches. It is great cold! Make up a batch or two on Sunday with the kids, with ingredients they like and they'll have healthy quick after school snacks all week. It's way better than those pizza pop thingies.



You can use any dough you like. I drop the heat as recommend on the package because I'm stuffing the dough so longer lower is the rule. Shape your dough in a circle or rectangle. Put in your cheese first, then your sauce then any other toppings. Fold and seal. That's it. I cooked mine at 375 for 20 minutes. I made 2 different types. One was mozzarella, spinach, red onion and goat cheese. The other was fontina and asiago cheese, pancetta, porchetta and basil. Both had my standard pizza sauce. Un-freakin-believable! So easy and so tasty!





I managed to grab this pic before there was none left. Yes, I'm home alone, what's your point? It makes a fantastic breakfast too...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Procrastination is an art

I'm procrastinating. I should be cleaning or getting showered so I can run a few errands but instead I'm drinking coffee and watching soccer on TV. I am the queen of procrastination. It's Saturday, my day shouldn't be that structured. I should be able to do whatever I like. But I have a list of things that must get done. *sigh*

I have decided to make a beef ragu tomorrow. And I'm contemplating making a roasted corn and smoked salmon chowder sometime soon. The dogs are clean, okay I did that yesterday but still, it's done. The spare bed is in the middle of being changed and washed. I unpacked from my trip to Halifax. See I've done stuff today. I just don't feel like doing anything else.

I've talked about ragu before - http://thegourmetgoddess.blogspot.com/2007/04/sunday-suppers.html but I'll post my actual recipe once I make it. As for the roasted corn and smoked salmon chowder, I've made it before but I don't think I wrote the recipe down, never mind blogged about it. I'll share that one too. It's awesome.

Right now Manchester United is down 0 -1 to the Blackburn Rovers. I must go rally the troops! And here's hoping I find some motivation (don't worry about tonight's supper, I have that French Onion Soup from my freezer I'll have tonight!)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Ethnicity

I just got back from Halifax where I went to see my mum for a couple of days since she just turned 65. Which means I'll be 40 this summer. I'm looking forward to it. Maybe I'll finally get a clue (newfie expression) although I'm not that optimistic. So far in this life I've been pretty clueless....

I'm home alone for a while as Tim is in Europe on business. I am still cooking and tonight am thinking of a salmon, asparagus and pasta dish. Or I may just eat out of my freezer. I've taken out a french soup (just defrost, heat, add some dried bread also from freezer, top with cheese and broil) in case I'm not up to cooking. I have 2 large hairy dogs to bathe today so my energy may be used up by the time I think of dinner. Once again, I must stop and salute my freezer. If I don't feel like cooking for the next 2 weeks I'll still eat well. But it's getting warmer and as I mentioned a couple of days ago, my thoughts are turning to bbq. Last night it was so warm and wonderful when I got back here that I took out a steak. It was cool and dark by the time I was ready to cook it so I used my grill pan on the stove but still - my heart was in the right place.

While I was in Halifax we had Chinese food from a place on Robie St. The Silver Dragon. It was really good. Standard Canadian interpretation of Chinese food. Tasty! One of my diner companions commented that she felt there chow mien was really more of a chop suey. I suspect that you can't find either type of dish in China.


Most ethnic foods are 'Canadianized' or 'North Americanized' when immigrants set up shop here. They have to find an interpretation of their native cuisines that meets with the local tastes. I found a big difference between Chinese food in the US versus what I get here when I first moved back home. It's funny, in Europe you are far more likely to get the ethnic food that is more like the original. Some of the best Italian food I've ever had was in Sweden! The Tex Mex I had during my first trip to Stockholm was a bit of a shock though. So imagine what a Chinese person thinks when they eat at a Chinese restaurant upon arriving in Canada!

The popular donair that originated in Nova Scotia came about because the local palette did not respond to the original gyro sandwich. So an immigrant to Halifax changed the sauce to a sweet sauce and the donair was born. Blessed is the need for change! And for the record, I like both donairs and gyros.

I do have two hints for eating ethnic foods. One, keep an open mind. Leave your expectations at the door. Just because it isn't as you think it should be doesn't mean it won't be good. Second, if you see someone of that ethnic group patronizing the restaurant run for the nearest table. It's a sure sign that the food is good and authentic.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Double Chocolate Cupcakes

Last night I made Double Chocolate Cupcakes from Cooking Light for Mom's birthday. This is the picture on the cover of December's Issue. Pretty isn't it?

I love the idea of cupcakes. They look so pretty and ready to pop right in your mouth. The batter was delicious. There was cocoa powder and chopped dark chocolate in it. Yum. The recipe called for buttermilk but I used yogurt instead. This is a perfectly acceptable substitute. Or at least this is my understanding. They look nice, don't they?

I had one last night. They seemed dry to me. Nothing is worse than dry chocolate cake. I'd like to try the recipe again and stick to the buttermilk to see if that helps. But I don't have time to redo them now. Luckily my mom has lived through many of my kitchen experiences so she doesn't disappoint easily. The fact that she is getting dry cupcakes and knitted gifts that aren't done is a bit much though. Man I'm bad. I have to accept the fact that I can't bake. I have one success and get all cocky about it. sigh.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Chicken Fingers, Sweet Potato Fries and Kitchen Injuries

The chicken fingers were a hit.
This is all that is left and I ate him at around midnight. Great snack!

I did The Kid's in shake and bake and I did ours in plain bread crumbs, panko bread crumbs, herbs and some grated parmesan cheese. Tim loved them. And no salt! Didn't even miss it. The Kid thought his were as good as any he's had and he used to be a chicken finger/nugget addict. I was quite pleased. I baked them at 400 (200C) for 20 minutes, flipping half way through. We'll be seeing these around here again. Next time we'll try making a big batch and freezing some for the convenience of frozen fingers on the fly.

Okay, panko, where do you get it? (and for those of you who don't know what it is - it's japanese bread crumbs, they are just crispier and more coarse than regular bread crumbs) I used up what I had of mine and now can't find any at the Sobey's. I haven't looked at the Superstore. I don't know where I got the original bag. If anyone knows of a place to get panko here in Moncton, let me know. I will try the Asian market we have here. I just don't like to give out recipes with ingredients everyone can't easily find. If you can't find panko then grind up some premium saltine crackers. They will give the same type of crispiness.

And the sweet potato fries? They were a hit too.

You can do this with regular potatoes too. Just cut them into the size you want, toss them in egg whites then toss them with salt, pepper or herbs. I use Ms. Dash Herb and Garlic. Bake for 30 - 35 minutes at 425F. I do cook them on parchment paper because the parchment paper has oil in it that really helps them get crispy. You can find parchment paper in larger grocery stores in the cling wrap and aluminum foil section.

The Kid is a teenage boy. This means carbo loading. Yup, how else are you going to fill up a growing boy? I swear he had 2 cups of mashed potatoes with his dinner last night. Ate every bit too. Try to keep healthy carbs in the house if you have growing boys. I'll often give The Kid extra potatoes, rice or pasta with his meal but skip it for us. Yes, later we'll have to undo the bad eating habit of carbo loading but he's only a stick right now! I'd rather he have homemade, natural carbs than processed carbs. He gets whole grain rice, rainbow pasta (we haven't made the leap to whole wheat with him yet) or potatoes. I'll keep trying to expand it to things like couscous, quinoa, etc. But don't panic, teenage boys eat. A lot. Give them good options. Last night The Kid also had a huge portion of steamed broccoli, his fav. I can't complain.

Okay I have to come clean. I'm a bit of a klutz in the kitchen. I know, a seasoned professional like me?! I am an expert with ceramic glue. Most of my better dining pieces are glued. Yup, I break things. A lot. I also cut and burn things, mostly myself. When I got my first professional grade knife I lobbed off the top of my thumb. I have learned not to try to cut anything while listening to Stuart MacLean's Vinyl Cafe. It's hard to see what you are doing through the tears (of laughter or sentimentality, it doesn't matter). I'm a bit of a sap.

So Friday night I was using my standard pot holders.

Did you just say "CJ, that is not a pot holder!". Okay, okay, I hear you. It is a silicone grabby thing but when you are as accident prone as I am, it really doesn't qualify as an acceptable tool. So of course it slipped and I burned 3 fingers. Oh for the love of parmesan! And I had knitting to do that evening, I'm on a deadline.

I immediately ran the fingers under cold water (if I had been thinking about the environment I would have gotten a bowl, put water and ice in it and not stood there for 5 minutes with the icy water running out of the tap but well, I wasn't thinking about the environment right at that very moment). When the fingers were good and cold and the heat was gone, I put a good goop of Aloe on them. I keep a big bottle of pure aloe vera gel in the house. Only one finger seemed to end up with any damage.
Can't see it? Nope, it looks great. Minimal light blister. Didn't even raise the skin, just a little white mark really. So there you go, first aid for burns by the gourmet goddess.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bad Habits and Good TV

Last night was pizza night so no new recipes to share. Tonight we are attempting homemade chicken fingers and fries. I'll keep you posted.

After I filled up on pizza last night, I curled up on the couch to indulge in my other passion (see http://www.thegourmetgoddessknits.blogspot.com/) and some Food TV watching. Friday nights are fun on Food TV Canada. It's travel night! Very relaxing after a long week.

I just got side tracked (surprise!) while looking to copy a link to the Food TV Canada website. The comments about the spring schedule are interesting. If you're a foodie you may want to hear what everyone is saying. I love a lot of the programming on the Food Network but the reruns lately have been making me crazy. Anything new is interesting at this point. And while I like Canadian programming, I also really enjoy a lot of the American shows. It's a balancing act and I'm glad I don't have to make the decisions!

We are starting to get a new show from the US, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Oh my golly miss molly, the food. It's the epitome of what is wrong with the North American diet. Fat laden, vegetable missing dishes, high in calories, low on nutrition. And by gum it makes me hungry! Last week there was Stromboli. Stromboli is a divine dish. Growing up outside of Philly, I've seen my fair share. Beautiful rolled up pizza. Excuse me, had to wipe the drool off my chin. And then there were Cheesesteaks. Now Cheesesteaks are a cultural icon, near as I can tell. Heaven, shear heaven. I have some Cheesesteak meat (known as Steakums in the freezer section in the grocery stores around the northeast coast of the US) in my freezer. I actually have a recipe for making the meat into a Japanese inspired soup... a nice healthy alternative for the meat but really, why would I do that when I can make greasy cheesy sandwiches?

Last night on the show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, the host, Guy (pronounced like the noun, not like the french "gee") made a corn dog wrapped in bacon and cheese and then deep fried it. I felt a clog forming in my artery just watching! But I'll be honest - man did I want a taste. I have some pizza dough from last night so you may see a Stromboli attempt in the next couple of weeks. Maybe I'll attempt a healthy type of Stromboli, maybe something with broccoli...

Holy Mackerel! I just a saw a robin in the yard. That means it is officially spring. I'm having a hard time buying it as the snow falls and is actually sticking to the grass. sigh....

Friday, April 11, 2008

Spring has sprung!

Oh my god, the snow is finally starting to melt. There is grass under them there white bits! The tennis balls in the back yard are being released from their icy graves.

It's like the post Ice Age period right in my yard! Oh wait.... now it's mud season. There are things I don't like about spring. The need to buff and polish skin that was hasn't seen sunlight for months. Self tanning, exposing wobbly bits that were nicely concealed under winter's cloths. And mud. When you have two large hairy beast mud is the enemy. Oh well, everything comes at a price, now does it?


Now my thoughts turn to BBQ. I stocked up on steaks the other day. I do this all the time. I buy a cheap, lean, boneless roast and cut it into steaks. It's cheap and I get great steaks this way. I cut them super thick and because they are so lean we can feel okay about having steak once a week. I make sure I only cook them to medium rare though. Lean steaks cooked to medium or more will be tough. There is no fat running through it to keep it tender. You can marinate a lean steak with something that has an acid in it to break down the fibers and keep it more tender. Try lemon juice, balsamic vinegar or red wine with some herbs. Did I mention this is a cheap way to put steaks on your plates?! Bring on the BBQ!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Tidbits

I'm going to talk about risotto yet again. I know, I know, I do go on about risotto. What can I say, I really like it, it's cheap, quick and tasty. What's not to love?! Today I just wanted to share with you a wonderful ingredient I added to last night's risotto - Pancetta! Fan-freakin'-tastic. I diced up 2 ounces and sauteed it at the start with the onions. What a beautiful flavour it added to the dish. I'm just sayin'....



Okay, enough about risotto, on to the next tidbit. We had a delicious Jigg's Dinner on the weekend. This is also knows as a Boiled Dinner, a New England Boiled Dinner or Corned Beef and Cabbage. It involves boiling corned beef, carrots, turnip, potatoes and cabbage in a pot. What makes it Jigg's Dinner is that you add a pudding bag with split peas to the pot and make a peas pudding (it's the best!). After dinner I save the liquid from the pot for pea soup and the rest becomes hash. This is why I make a Jigg's Dinner - for the hash!




But you don't have to make a Jigg's Dinner to get hash. Any leftover 'cooked' dinner (that's what my Newfoundlander parts call it) will do. Making a roast and veggies? The leftovers will do nicely in a hash. Basically any leftover roasted, boiled or mashed root veggies will do. You can just cook them together and use them as a side dish later in the week. Or add you leftover meat, beef, pork, ham, even chicken or turkey will work. Don't have leftover meat? Buy a small ham or get some thickly sliced lunch meat, like roast beef, pork or ham from the deli counter. Make extra veggies when you are making a big dinner so you can toss them in a hash! We're 'Hash Happy" around here these days. I'm getting hungry.


Speaking of the pot liquor, again, a term from my Newfoundlander parts, as I mentioned I save the liquid out of the pot when making a Jigg's Dinner. It is awesome as a broth for the base of pea soup. And coincidentally, I happen to have a pea soup in the works as we speak. My crock pot is peculating and the soup will be ready for dinner tonight. Easy, cheap and healthy. Because I let the pot liquor sit for a day or so in the fridge, all the fat congealed on the top and I just scoped it off. There wasn't much. I diced some celery, onion and carrots, tossed in a bag of peas and that's it. Peas pudding also converts nicely into a base for pea soup but we never seem to have any leftover for soup... It makes a lovely late night snack.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Food is Culture

I was just talking with a friend of mine who is planning a trip to Prague. They have booked an apartment and I am very jealous. This means they get to shop the local markets and grocery stores and cook with local ingredients. You see my ideal trip involves partaking of the local food traditions. Food is culture. It is the bases for what makes up any society. Anyone can see the sites. Actually, you can see the sites of any destination by looking at pictures in a book or online but you can only taste the local tastes by being there (or maybe by preparing them yourself at home but we'll get to that).

When you travel and you book a place to stay that has a kitchen you are really immersing yourself in the culture even if it is just across the state or provincial line. Shop like the locals, cook like the locals. Now that is an experience. You can still go see the sites, I know, I know, you are there, might as well see the sites. But really experiencing the place you are visiting - that means understanding the local ingredients, talking to the local vendors to learn what they sell and how it is prepared. Now that is traveling! And you'll find most people are only too happy to boast about their local fare, food customs and traditions.

The last time I was in Sweden I was looking at a menu in Swedish. After years of regular travel to Sweden I could get by with a Swedish menu (they do have them in English at almost all the restaurants so don't worry). There was a word that stumped me so I asked the waitress what it was in English. She didn't know what it was called in English but she could tell me what it was like. She looked around to see if anyone was listening or watching. She then leaned in close and said "I don't know how you say in English but they look like sperm". I immediately knew she meant the word was bean sprouts. I don't know which was funnier, that the waitress had made a sperm to sprout analogy or that I immediately knew what she meant. Either way, immersing yourself in the food culture is big fun!

You can even take a culinary getaway. There are a lot of cooking schools in some of the most popular travel destinations these days. Italy, France, Spain, California, Mexico and the list goes on. All of these places now have culinary vacations you can book. Typically you cook and/or shop in the morning, for the midday meal and then tour around in the afternoon. Do your research. This is a wonderful way to really see the world!

On the other hand, not the one doing the traveling? The best souvenir I get is a cookbook full of local favorites from anywhere my family or friends travel. I just got one from our Austrian guests who came to dinner a few weeks back. I consider this an excellent gift for any foodie. I love going through the pages of authentic recipes and look forward to trying them out. You can even order books online from various cultures and travel the world without leaving home or relying on gifts from thoughtful friends and relatives! It's an inexpensive getaway you can create at home. This Austrian book I got was put out by the Committee for the Preservation of the Culinary Heritage of Austria so it is an excellent authentic take on Austrian food culture. Try to get books that are put out by government or heritage groups, they are really trying to give a clear picture of the real food culture.

Happy Travels!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Breakfast on the goo - Muffins

So you hate to cook. Don't know how to cook. Only thing your momma ever taught you in the kitchen was how to bake. Ah ha! Then you can make breakfast. Better yet, you can make a breakfast for on the go! Yup, we're talking muffins. This recipe is easy, quick and delicious.

There are a few odd ingredients but you can get them all at your local grocery store. Keep whole wheat flour, wheat germ and wheat bran in a cool dry place. They will go rancid if you don't store them properly. I keep the wheat germ in my fridge while I store the whole wheat flour and bran in air tight containers in my cool basement.


Blueberry Grain Muffins with Streusel Topping
Makes 24
Ingredients:
  • 1 ½ cup flour
  • 1 ¼ cup whole wheat flour
  • ¾ cup wheat bran
  • ¾ cup wheat germ
  • ¾ cup brown sugar, packed
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup molasses
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups fat free buttermilk or lowfat plain yogurt
  • 1 ½ cups blueberries


Streusel Topping

  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp oats
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar


Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Lightly grease muffin pans for 24 muffins
  3. Mix the dry ingredients (flour through to salt) in a large bowl
  4. Beat together the egg, molasses, oil and buttermilk in a medium bowl
  5. Combine the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until just blended.
  6. Gently fold in the blueberries
  7. Mix together the streusel topping
  8. Fill muffin cups 2/3 – ¾ full
  9. Sprinkle with streusel topping
  10. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean

Nutrition Information based on 1 muffin per servings: Calories 139, Calories from Fat 28; Total Fat 3g, Saturated Fat 0g, Trans Fat 0g; Cholesterol 10 mg; Sodium 236 mg; Carbohydrates 26g; Fiber 2g; Sugars 14g; Protein 3g; 3 Points.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

The Good, The Bad and the Uncooked

We had some great success last night with our pub night in. Once again the wings were fantastic. So fantastic that Tim was looking for more for tonight. The only added step I would do with these is drain off the sauce (save for dipping) and put the wings under the broiler for 2 -5 minutes to crisp them up. But the flavour from cooking them in the sauce.... fan-freakin-tastic! These are seriously a snack night regular around here.





Okay, Artistic shot.



Who knew a blooming onion could look so creative?!


Now for reality... This was the onion before it went in the oven. Not pretty or perfect but a reasonable facsimile of a blooming onion.



It was, however, bad. I dipped it in buttermilk which was just way toooooo thick for the overall structure of the cut onion. Add on the flour mixture and it was just too much for the poor thing to ever get properly cooked inside. The recipes I saw did call for egg whites, next time I'll try that a as a binder. But even just spraying with oil and then sprinkling with flour and/or bread crumbs would have worked better. The flour mixture did taste good. The seasoning was right. The dipping sauce was yummy. But we kept adding cooking time every time we checked the poor thing. This is a recipe still in the works... Anyone have any tips or recommendations?


All that being said, today we are taking the leftovers and making onion petals. There may be a beer batter involved and some light frying. I'm against it but after the blooming onion failure, I may get out voted..


We never even got to the zucchini sticks (we had a some steamed mussels too, too much food) so we'll have those today.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Friday Night Pub Fare

I'm feeling inspired to make some pub food tonight. I've made boneless, healthy chicken wings for Super Bowl Sunday and they were fantastic. So they are definitely on the menu again. I like to try and sneak in as many veggies into what seems like a naughty snack night. I want to make baked zucchini sticks and I still haven't tried to make the baked onion rings. Tim made a request to attempt a blooming onion. Keep in mind that it has to be baked. I don't deep fry anything. Not that I am adamantly against deep frying, I just don't own the proper equipment and I'm a little afraid of a pot of hot oil. It's a good fear to have, I figure.



So I googled 'blooming onion'. Everything is deep fried. I do see that most recipes require that you soak the cut onion to help it bloom before battering. I was planning on dipping it in seasoned flour, then buttermilk then crumbs. This is not at all like any of the batter mixes I see but they are all for frying. A few of the recipes also say you should let the battered onion sit in the fridge for an hour before frying. I did get a good grasp on the dip recipe. Here it is:



Blooming Onion Dip:

Ingredients:

  • 1 part Mayo
  • 1 part Sour Cream or Yogurt
  • 1/4 part Chili sauce (I don't have any so I'm going to take ketchup and mix is with horseradish, paprika and ground pepper)
  • Cayenne Pepper to suit your taste.



Instructions:

Mix it all up and let it sit for a couple of hours so the flavours can blend and bloom.



Okay lets google "healthy baked blooming onion" and see what we get...



Okay, the pickin's were slim. This is an indulgence that either people don't want to mess with and just give in to their cravings every once in a while (nothing wrong with that) or not many people think they can make a good healthy alternative. Well I love a challenge so here's what I plan to do.

Possible Healthy Baked Blooming Onion Recipe:
Since I have a good knife and fairly decent knife skills I will attempt to cut the onion into wedges. Hopefully I can do this without ending up with a pile of onion slices. Step 2 - I'll soak the onion for a bit in cold water to let it 'bloom'. Then I think I'll dip it in some buttermilk. I have buttermilk that I bought to make onion rings and I really don't want it to go to waste. Then I'll dip the whole thing in some seasoned flour. I'm going to put paprika, garlic powder, pepper and cayenne pepper in the flour. Then it's off to the fridge for an hour. This works out great because I can do this ahead of time and just pull it out when I am ready to bake it. To try and replicate the fried crispiness I'll spray the whole thing liberally with some olive oil from my spray pump bottle. Then it's off to the oven to bake at 375 for 30 minutes. If it's not crispy enough then I'll turn up the oven to 425 for 5 - 10 minutes. I'm going to go make the dipping sauce now so it has lots of time to sit and blend. Wish me luck! It it works out I'll finalize the recipe and post it.

Now on to the zucchini sticks. What makes these easier is that you let the parchment paper do the good browning and crisping work for you. Invest in some if you want to bake fried imitation recipes. Wow, the google results for "healthy baked zucchini sticks" were plentiful. Awesome! These are good to get the kids into veggies, just slice them thinly so they aren't too gooey inside. We may like the texture but soft vegginess will often turn a kid off. Serve with ranch dressing and you kids will be munching on veggies in no time!

The real key to getting these right is to cook them quick and at a high heat.

Baked Zucchini Sticks
Ingredients:
  • 3 small zucchini, cut into sticks or wedges
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 3 tbsp cornmeal and grated parmesan
  • 1 tsp dried basil and oregano
  • 3/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder and dried thyme (preferably ground)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 450
  2. Beat the egg whites in a bowl
  3. Combing the rest of the ingredients, from bread crumbs to cayenne pepper in another bowl or plate.
  4. Dip the zucchini in the egg white, then the crumb mixture and place on parchment paper on a cookie sheet.
  5. Spray the zucchini sticks with cooking spray
  6. Bake at 450 for 10 minutes, turn the sticks over and cook another 5 - 10 minutes depending on how thick you cut them and your preference for crispiness.

I serve these with ranch dressing to keep it simple. I'll already have 2 other dips for the wings (leftover sauce that they were cooked in, reduced and thickened) and for the onion (see above) so I'd prefer not to make a third sauce but you can do whatever tickles your fancy!


I'll let you know how are pub night in turns out. But in the meantime, it's Friday! CHEERS!!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

White Fish Fantastic

Last night I made haddock. I've done this before and I've blogged about it but it is such a good way to enjoy fish that I just had to blog about it again. Most of us have a hard time getting enough fish and seafood into our diets. Which is odd when you think how quick it is to cook most fish and seafood, making it great for quick weeknight dinners.

Here is my super simple dish.

Take haddock or any mild white fish fillets, one for each person, top with some sort of creamy cheese spread (yes you can use cheez whiz for the kids, anything to get them to start eating fish!), I use cream cheese, boursin, laughing cow, etc. Then top that with proscuitto, pancetta, smoked turkey, ham or even bacon. I'd only use bacon if I was really trying to get kids on board with eating fish but one or two slices isn't going to hurt for sure so don't sweat it.

Bake 375 (I used to recommend baking at 350 but I've found it stays moister if you bake it under a slightly higher heat more quickly) for 10 - 15 minutes depending on how thick the fish is. The rule is 10 minutes per 1 inch of thickness.

That's it! Dinner is ready in under 20 minutes.

You can steam some veggies while the fish is cooking. Or if you are really on the ball, you have veggie side dishes already made and in the freezer. The only planning ahead required is to take out a veggie dish the night before. Here are some of my ideas. Or you could serve this with some nice pasta or red pepper sauce (check out mine) with a bit of pasta. I'm also working on a veggie au gratin so stay tuned. Veggie side dishes in the freezer will get more and more useful as we head into grilling season and you just want to come home at the end of a long day, pop some meat on the bbq, warm a veggie dish and enjoy the warm evenings. (I've heard rumours that there may be warmth some time in the future, I don't believe it yet with all the snow we still have down but I'm trying to be a believer)

Monday, March 31, 2008

Elegant Meals for Entertaining (and deadly simple)

My first comment today is that making Prime Rib at home is incredibly easy. I made a small one on the weekend. The only thing you must have is a meat thermometer. This is crucial.

I started by preheating the oven to 450 F. I know it's high but this sears and browns the meat. I put the meat in a roasting pan with onion and celery chopped large on the bottom as a rack and sprinkled the meat all around with my favorite Ryan Duffy's Steak Spice and a little Emeril's Essence. Any of your favorite beef spice mixes will do or just salt and pepper the roast. The roast cooked at 450 for 20 minutes. Then I turned it down to 350 for another 20 minutes and ours was done. It was only small. But I would never have dreamt it was done so quickly had it not been for my handy dandy thermometer. You only want it to be about 110 F internally. I know that sounds low but let it sit, tented under foil for 25 minutes. It will be perfect.

This is a great meal for company. Elegant yet easy. Roast some veggies in the same oven and you'll be sitting down to a great meal with little sweat!

Another meal fit for company was the Smoked Salmon Pasta I made on Sunday. This was inspired by a dish I saw on Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares. It looked delicious but I couldn't find the recipe anywhere so I came up with my own version.

Smoked Salmon Pasta with Sugar Snap Peas
Serves 2

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup or so of dried bowtie pasta
  • 1 tsp capers
  • 1/2 lb or 200g sugar snap peas, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1/2 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp fresh chopped dill
  • 2 -3 oz smoked salmon
  • 1/2 -3/4 cup of light cream (I used coffee cream at 18%)
  • 3 tbsp shredded parmesan, plus more for serving

Instructions:
  1. Bring a pot of water to boil and cook pasta according to box directions. Save 1 cup of the pasta liquid when draining.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Spray pan with olive oil cooking spray if you wish.
  3. Add capers and cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Add sliced sugar snap peas and cook another 2 minutes.
  5. Add garlic and dill and cook for 30 seconds.
  6. Add smoked salmon at the same time you add the pasta.
  7. Toss in the cream and heat through.
  8. Add in the parmesan and mix thoroughly.
  9. If the sauce is too thick, add some of the pasta water.
  10. Serve sprinkled with a little more parmesan on top.

A glass of white wine is a great accompaniment.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

One more thought on Taco Salad and a Light Hollandaise Sauce

I was thinking of having some more tasty Taco Salad tonight but I don't have any boneless chicken or lean beef to add to it. Darn! Oh wait, I do have individual servings of ground beef already made up with taco seasoning in the freezer. Yup, once again I turn to my handy, dandy freezer. When we have taco night I make a batch of the traditional ground meat with the packaged seasoning for The Kid while we have leaner chicken or beef that I season myself to cut down on the sodium. I freeze the leftovers so I have them for future taco nights. I'm thinking I could take out one freezer pack of the ground beef, add some black beans while reheating and split it between 2 main course salads. All the flavour but less sodium and fat! Perfect. Moral of the story - cook once, freeze the leftovers and you'll eat again and again!

Since Easter weekend just passed I have been in the mood for some of the more traditional Easter tastes. Hollandaise is one of them. On the weekend I made a sort of Eggs Benedict wrap. I used one slice of bacon per wrap, a weight watchers tortilla wrap, 4 eggs whites (I used the yolks for the Hollandaise) and 1 egg between 2 wraps, 1 tbsp shredded mozza cheese and Hollandaise sauce. They were really good for a Sunday Brunch meal. Let me share the Hollandaise sauce. I lightened up a bit without losing the taste.

Lighter Hollandaise Sauce

Ingredients:
  • 1 c fat free yogurt
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste (I use about 1/4 tsp)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1-2 dashes of hot pepper sauce
  • 1 tbsp butter

Instructions:
  1. Blend everything but the butter together in a pan.
  2. Whisk continually over medium heat until the mixture starts to bubble.
  3. Add in the butter and continue whisking until melted.
  4. Remove from heat immediately and serve.

You can adjust how much yogurt and butter you use. You may want just a half a cup of yogurt and 2 -3 tbsp of butter. It's a personal choice but the point is that you can lighten up the sauce!

I was able to save the leftovers and reheat in a low heat microwave (power of 3 out of 10) slowly, while stopping and whisking every 30 seconds. We had them last night over Salmon and Asparagus. I was surprised because I didn't expect the Hollandaise to reheat that well. Power buttons on the microwave are a wonderful thing.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Yo quiero Taco Salad!

We were suppose to have taco night on Saturday night but went out instead. Today I was going to make a Prime Rib for easter but eating out and too much chocolate meant we weren't really in the mood for a big dinner. I was in the need for a feed of veggies. I get like that sometimes if I feel like I haven't been eating right. So I decided to make a taco salad. I had some chicken breast which I sprinkled chili powder and cumin on and let sit in the fridge for 1/2 - 1 hour. I was going to use Ranch dressing and rely on the chicken for the mexican flavour but decided that just wouldn't be enough so I tinkered around. The result was fantastic! (Sorry had to go get a mini -reeses cup... damn easter bunny...)


So here is just the dressing. I'll share what I used to construct the salad in a minute.

Tex Mex Salad Dressing
Ingredients:
3 Tbsp Light Ranch Dressing
2 Tbsp Salsa, your favorite
(this makes enough for 2 big size main course salads)
That's it. Yup! Mix or blend. That's it.

Like I said, I sprinkled the chicken breast with chili powder and cumin. Then I sauteed them in a pan.

My salad consisted of Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, orange pepper, red and green onion. Just whatever I had in the house.

I also grated some cheddar cheese.

I tossed the salad ingredients with the dressing and some of the cheese.

I did take some flour tortillas and slice them into strips. I put them in the oven at 400 for about 10 minutes to brown and crisp them up.

I piled the mixed salad on some plates, sliced the chicken breast and put it on top, placed some of the crispy tortillas on top of it and sprinkled with some more cheese.

It was a huge hit around here. I'll be pulling out this dressing recipe again and again for taco salads all summer! (it's snowing and really cold here, still but I was in the mood for a salad gosh darnnit so I was having one!)

And you can use whatever meat or salad ingredients equal mexican taste for you. Want to make it more hearty, add a some drained and rinsed black beans. Want to vegetarian? Use the meatless mex ground soya mix or just add more beans!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Pork Tenderloin - Stuff it!

Last night we had a little, inexpensive pork tenderloin. To make it more interesting I decided to stuff it. It doesn't take much to stuff a pork tenderloin. I cut it down the centre and pounded it out to about 1/4 inch thickness. You don't have to pound it if you can't be bothered, it's fine. I put in one slice of pancetta, yup, one slice is all it needed to give it a fantastic flavour. Then I put in some spinach that had been defrosted and I had squeezed the moisture out of it. I then sprinkled on about 2 tablespoons of feta (that was all we had) and about 3 tablespoons of shredded parmesan. I tied it up with kitchen twine but if you don't have that you can use toothpicks to keep it closed. I seared all around and then put it in the oven for 15 minutes. I let it rest for 15 and it was moist and tasty. We had it with a pile of broccoli. Super healthy meal that was properly elegant for a Friday night.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Inherited Glassware

So Manon asked if my relatives liked blue... She has no idea.


This is the pile of 93 blue glasses, several vases and candles holders (yup, all blue) that came from my Nana's house. They actually belong to her daughter, Gail who started me on the road to blue with a set of old dishes that belonged to her late husband's mother. They are from around World War 2. There were only a set of 4 but mom gave me a modern set that almost matches so I have a set of 8. They are really beautiful and on a table with everything else blue and white, they really stand out.

Back to the blue glassware. I have 4 different types of drinking glasses, 4 different type of wine glasses, 3 different types of hot beverage glasses. Each one of these is a set of 8. Plus there were 5 other large latte type mugs. I didn't even count the vases or candles holders as we were wrapping them up. There is also set of cobalt blue canisters that my Nana had had made for Gail. I really do love them! Aren't they beautiful!!?? I'm totally in love with them all. I think there was a point where Gail started buying them just for my collection since she never used them. I will cherish them for years to come.
Last week when I was cleaning I complained to my friend Alana about the greasy build up in some of the areas of the kitchen. She asked if I had a splatter screen. I thought, oh crap, another gadget. Last thing I need is another gadget in this house..... While in Halifax I stopped by Linens N Things and picked up a set of splatter screens. I'm weak, what can I say....




Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Princess and the Pea

Last night I did my "Princess and the Pea" impersonation. My folks have just moved and this is my first visit to see them in their new house. I arrived to find their dog wondering aimlessly outside by himself. We came inside to find my folks arguing while assembling their bed. Nothing puts stress on a relationship like moving but that's another blog topic altogether. In the room I was to sleep in there were 2 sets of mattresses and box springs piled on top of each other. I was to sleep on 4 X 15" layers. I had to use steps to get into bed! At almost 40, I'm a little old for bunk beds....

So here's an important tip for when you move or cook at in a strange oven. The oven at this new place is a basic model with a single dial to operate the oven part. It took me an hour to cook 2 pork tenderloins (lets be clear, that is usually a 20 minute job). Luckily my mom had borrowed my oven thermometer so we were able to put that in the oven and get an accurate read. It took the oven forever to heat up, but it may be the dial because later it was totally accurate and this morning we had no problem with it. Moral of the story, when you are faced with a new oven, give yourself time to figure out it's nuances. and if you can bring along a oven thermometer, all the better. And don't cook an expensive piece of meat when using the oven for the first time. Buy something cheap to experiment with!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Austrians, Creme Brulee and A Quick Side Dish

Last week we entertained some Austrian business associates of Tim's. I forgot how much we love to entertain. And I think we are pretty darn good at. I don't think there was a topic we didn't hit on at least once during the evening. You know, I spend all day talking to this computer but it never talks back. Neither do the dogs. It's nice having someone talk back, to discuss ideas and such. I forgot how charming I was.


Tim thinks I worked so hard to pull together such a wonderful meal. Really it's pretty easy. I keep it simple and do as much ahead of time as I can. Really it's all about project management. Break the tasks down, order them so they make sense, time estimate, schedule and get to it. But I'll let Tim think I'm wonderful, talented and worked my butt off. We'll see what that gets me. On the other hand, cleaning this dog infested pig pen was a shite load of work and for that I do deserve some kudos. Luckily we have wine leftover from last week so I see a nice big glass of it in my future later this evening...


Last week's menu was as follows:

Lobster Bisque

Maple Glazed Salmon

Sauteed Spinach and Orzo

Creme Brulee



Creme Brulee is actually quite easy and a great make-ahead for entertaining. You can make them up to 2 days ahead of time and then all you have to do is brown the tops right before serving. I use a basic recipe from Fine Cooking. They have a great resource on line that also includes an article that discusses these wonderful silky custards. http://www.taunton.com/finecooking/recipes/creme_brulee.aspx



But I want to share my side dish recipe for Sauteed Spinach and Orzo. You can boil the Orzo before your guests arrive so it is all ready to toss into this dish.



Ingredients: (for 4-5 servings)


  • 3/4 cup dry orzo

  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil

  • 3 shallots, chopped

  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced

  • 1 box of fresh baby spinach

  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan



Instructions:


  1. I have everything all ready to go before my guests arrive so I can just pull this together quickly.

  2. Boil the orzo as instructed on the package

  3. Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a saute pan

  4. Brown the shallots and garlic

  5. Add in the spinach

  6. Once the spinach starts to wilt (about 1 -2 minutes) toss in the pasta

  7. Toss in the cheese and serve.

It's really great with fish!



Just a note about Austrian wine. I had experiences some of the good stuff when I was in New York City last November. We stumbled across a great little Austrian Restaurant when we were looking for a place to get a drink. We ended up having an appetizer plate as well to share. It was full of Austrian meats, cheese spreads, spreads and breads. It was really lovely. My friends had beer, which they both enjoyed but I had a glass of white wine from Austria. It was really good. I didn't write down the name because in my wine lovers delusion, I assumed I would remember the name. Do I?! Of course not. It started with an 'S' and I think that was the grape name, not the brand name. Since I got back I've checked each liquor store I've been in for Austrian wines but hadn't seen anything until last week. I was able to pick up a bottle for dinner. And once again I forget the name! Okay, name's aren't my thing but you would think I could write it down if I was going to discuss it here... My point is that Austrian Wines are quite lovely so try one!

Our guests told us that almost all Austrian wine is made from little wineries where they often sell the wine on site. These places have a special license which allows them to sell anything they produce on the farm in an on-site cafe. It seems the appetizer plate we had at the restaurant in NYC was very much like something we would get at a winery cafe in Austria. How cool is that?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Chicken Pot Pie

Last night I made Chicken Pot Pie. I used some leftover turkey. Some of it was from Christmas 2006! I didn't realize this until I went to unwrap it. It tasted fine. Now that's some shelf life! Anyway, I diced and partially cooked some carrots, added in some frozen cauliflower, onion powder, garlic powder and dried sage. I added some of the Ms. Dash original and a pinch of salt. Then I added in my leftover, from the freezer, gravy. Tossed in the diced leftover turkey. Warmed it all through. Added some water when it got too thick. That's it. I dished it into casserole dishes, sprinkled on some frozen peas and put the unrolled crescent rolls on top. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes and dinner was ready. It was super tasty. Even The Kid liked it and he'd never had chicken pot pie.

I made one big casserole that we ate last night.

And 2 individual casseroles to put in the freezer. It will be interesting to see how it freezes. The biggest issue really is reheating it so the crust stays firm. It will have to be in the oven.

If you don't have leftover cooked turkey in the freezer, no need to buy the pre-packaged stuff. Just bake extra the next time you bake some chicken or buy parts and bake them up for the leftovers. That way you control the salt and seasonings. Plus you can make gravy out of the pan drippings! Your half way to a chicken pot pie already!