Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A small bit of Christmas baking

I have such great timing... just as Christmas is passed and 2010 is ending I finally get some Christmas baking posted. Well, there is always next year for me to be more organized!  We can always think on the bright side; some of this baking could be enjoyed througout the year - really, who wouldn't want butter tarts in June?!
So here is what I baked this year:

 Salted Caramel Earl Grey Macarons - this was so much easier than all the other foodie blogs said it would be.  And our first macarons had feet! (if you know anything about making perfect macarons you will know exactly what this means).  The whole process was very involved.  It all started on Wednesday night by leaving the eggs out (on the counter to age at room temperature) to be baked with on Friday night.  I know, I know some of you out there are cringing at the thought of using old room temperature eggs.  But there is a method to this madness, you can incorporate more air into old room temperature egg whites and therefore taller, fluffier meringue and macarons with beautiful feet. 
There are beautiful photos and a great recipe to follow.

Lemon Cranberry Sandies - I made these last year with a ginger variation as well.  I think that these will become a standard Christmas cookie from my kitchen. (recipe below)

Orange Ginger Sandies - a new variation for this year.  These turned out good, mild in the orange & ginger flavour but a nice change from the lemon cranberry.

Whipped Shortbread - Inspired by many other shortbreads that I enjoyed through the holidays.  For this one I used Mom's recipe and it turned out great. 

Butter Tarts - a Christmas favourite as well a Christmas classic.

Cranberry Eton Mess - this is an amazing English dessert.  Similar to Pavlova except the meringue is not soft on the inside and it is served in a small glass bowl or cup.  It is still topped with fruit - cranberries as they are the fruit of the season (but any fruit compote could be used) and whipped cream.

Cranberry Sauce
1 part liquid - could be water, orange juice, port, brandy, red wine... the options are almost endless
Sugar - the amount required will depend on your liquid so adjust to your taste
3 parts fresh or frozen cranberries

In a medium saucepan, simmer liquid, sugar and cranberries until berries are soft and sauce is thickened. Cover and chill.  A nice variation on this could be to add in cinnamon and cloves to the sauce - this would give a warm wintery spice to it. 

2 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat the oven to 250F. In a clean stainless steel bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer on high speed until foamy and small peaks barely form; slowly add in sugar, a spoonful at a time, until all the sugar is incorporated and the mixture holds stiff peaks. It should have the consistency of whipped cream and there should not be any sugar granules left in the meringue.  There are a few options to the baking shape now.  Quenelles as you can see I made, a large flat cake shape (about 1 inch or so thick - crumbled before serving), or piped into pretty shapes (beware that the shapes may not hold through baking).

On a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, until dry. Cool.  This will make enough for about 4 servings.

Lemon Cranberry Christmas Sandies

1  cup  butter, at room temperature
1/2  cup  icing sugar
1  teaspoon  vanilla
2  cups  all-purpose flour
1  cup  finely chopped dried cranberries*
2  teaspoon lemon zest

Coloured sanding sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Cream butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add icing sugar. Beat until combined, scraping bowl. Add in vanilla and flour. Gently stir in cranberries, lemon zest.
2. Shape mixture into 1/2-inch balls and roll dough in sanding sugar. Arrange balls 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheets. (if your cookie batter is soft the cookies may spread out as they are baking - not a bad thing but it surprised me)
3. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes or until bottoms of cookies are light brown. Transfer to wire racks and let cool. Makes about one hundred forty-four 1/2-inch cookies.
*Tip: Place dried cranberries in a food processor. Cover and process until finely chopped. Or finely chop cranberries by hand.

Change lemon zest to orange zest and add in finely chopped apricots instead of the dried cranberries.
Add in 1/2 teaspoon each of ginger & cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon each of ground cloves & freshly grated nutmeg. The measurements of the spices is completely experimental - feel free to add more for more of a gingerbread flavour.  I was thinking to give these a real gingerbread flavour they need molasses.  I have an idea for that - back in the kitchen and we'll have to see how my idea turns out.

So that is Christmas Baking of 2010, see you all in 2011 for another great year of cooking adventures.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

As the snow flies...

Out relaxing after a few meals of harvest

It has been a wonderful summer, a beautiful fall and now we are all ready for winter, the garden is all put away and the yard is tidy and ready for its winter blanket.  I was going through photos (looking for possible Christmas card pics) and I came across a few 2010 harvest pics and I just thought that you would enjoy seeing these!  This is just a small portion of the harvest.  This day we just harvested enough for a few meals.  

The potatoes this year were absolutely huge, not as many in quantity as last year but just as much if not more in weight.  We have eaten through them quite quickly this year but that is much more satisfying than having them stick around and begin to sprout.  We left many of the carrots in the garden until just a few weeks ago, they had a few good frosts and cool nights which as I have been told gives them a sweetness that store bought carrots never have.  And the carrots this year are as sweet as we have ever tasted.  This was the last of the beans, not a bad bean season, not quite as prolific as last year but still had a few good meals plus some to share with family.  Next year we want to grow a few more onions.  They were fairly small but very flavourful.  You'd better be prepared to shed a few tears while chopping onions or else invest in some onion goggles!  This was not the year for zucchini, (so different from last year where we had pounds of them) we only had a few small ones that got chopped into salad as they were so small and tender we thought... why cook them?  We planted spaghetti squash this year just for something fun to try. They didn't turn yellow though, we need a longer and hotter growing season for them to really turn yellow and develop all their flavour, but they were still edible.  Baked and served just like spaghetti with a home made tomato sauce and cheese.  A great fall treat.

Tomatoes gave us another interesting growing season.  The plants in the garden grew to new heights as you can see in the photo below and these plants have even been trimmed a bit too!  It was found that the garage reflected so much heat from the day that the tomatoes fluorished, plus a drip irrigation system gave them their much needed drink consitently. We snaked the drip irrigation hose through and around the beans, peas (when they were still there), carrots and into the zucchini as well. 

Over all this harvest was a success, an experiment I must say, but when dealing with Mother Nature what else can we expect?  We have already began talking about next year; what to try again, what to avoid and some new things to try and grow.  Gardening is meant to be exciting and rewarding, because why on earth would we do all that hard back breaking work day after day and always be worrying about the rain, the sun and the frost to not be able to enjoy a sweet crunchy carrot?  Especially while laying out in the sun on the cool grass!

That is what it is all about... and cooking with it too! 

See you next time, in the kitchen.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Good Food Sticks to Your Ribs!

We had a complete day at home and so a slow cooked dinner was on the menu.  Simple and hearty, perfect after a chilly day spent outside in the yard.  A whole rack of ribs, sliced onion, lots of garlic and bbq sauce (store bought this time - I wanted to spend the day outside!).  Slow cooked for about 6 hours and then transfered to the oven just to caramelize the sugars in the bbq sauce.  This last bit takes about the same amount of time that you will need to make mashed cheddar potatoes, steamed garden carrots and a crisp green salad.  Be sure to serve this one with lots of napkins as it is saucy finger food! The ribs are so tender that the meat actually falls off the bone, there is no need for barbaric bone gnawing at the dinner table.   D-lish

Not much else to tell you about this dinner, it was that simple.  But I am sure that a few photos would tell you a bit more.

Caramelizing in the oven.  All sticky and sweet.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Delightful, yet Frightful Hallowe'en Dinner

Great things take time and this dinner was no exception.  It all started back in the week before Halloween with the planning of our menu.  As those decisions were made the dinner began to take the shape of a fantastic Autumn feast.  And this is how it rounded out in the end.

Then came the research and prep work, shopping for just the right ingredients and preparing the garden vegetables (carrots and potatoes).  Parts of the meal were a complete experiment and for once it was truly successful even as an experiment.  

Starting from the top; 
The Sangria - well that is always a winner.  Fortified wine with fruit, simple and yet oh so d-lish.  It was a mixture of thinly sliced oranges, cranberries & pomegranates (we need our antioxidants!) and cloves for an Autumn twist all immersed in a deep dark red wine.  Fortified with a cranberry vodka and an apple cranberry sparkling juice added sparkle and sweetness.  
The Carrot Soup I started on Saturday night by cooking the carrots with onions, garlic (for vampires), bay leaf and garden tarragon (carrots best friend).  Then Sunday afternoon I reheated the carrots less the onions and garlic and blended till smooth and thick with home made chicken stock.  With a garnish of creme fraiche and the usual fresh parsley the soup had a wonderful warm Autumn flavour.  No chill on our bones now!  
Moving along to the Mushroom Trio Bruchetta, this was part of a Julia Child recipe and part of a Laura Caulder recipe.  Our trio was King Oyster mushrooms, Shiitaki and Crimini.  The only thing that I would change about this course was the King Oyster mushrooms were quite fibrous and challenging to bite through therefore next time I will cut them into more bite sized pieces.  Other than that, flavour was deep and intensely earthy.  
The Main Event was a wonderful combination of deep Autumn flavours and a palette cleansing brightness found in the salad.  The Tenderloin of Pork had a great herb and spice crust that held on tight all the way through the BBQ-ing.  There was a combination of garden herbs (sage, rosemary & thyme) and cayenne pepper for an earthy spice and cumin to add interest and complexity.  The Slow Roasted Tomatoes were bursting with flavour and sweetness that only home grown tomatoes seem to deliver.  Duchess Potatoes are a wonderful way to have potatoes; providing you have the time to fuss and have a trusty Kitchen Aid mixer to do your smashing and creaming.  The surprising ingredient in here were egg yolks, not really a healthy mashed potato but we like to believe all in moderation is a healthy choice!  I must admit that the presentation of the potatoes was particularly festive for Halloween as they looked much like ghosts popping out of jack o'lanterns.  For our palette cleansing course, the salad was made up of only green vegetables and the dressing was a lime and garlic vinaigrette, just to keep with the green theme.  Definitely a Garden of Evil Green Salad. 
The Dessert course I was so excited about.  There are a few people in this world who have a severe addiction to Rum Butter cake... (and yes, you know who you are - counselling will commence next week.)  So the best way to enjoy this Rum Butter cake is to tuck into our last layer of wedding cake, it was partially to satisfy an addiction as mentioned but it was also in celebration of an upcoming wedding and all the hard work and planning that is happening.  Plus we were mildly curious of just how good our cake would be after 2 years, and we were not disappointed at all.  To keep up with the Halloween and pumpkin theme we decided to top the cake with nothing less than... are you ready for it?... DQ Pumpkin blizzard!  It was fantastic!  A little different to pair something so formal with something so casual.  The flavours were so contrasting but perfectly complementing.  

If I were to do it all over again, there is not much I would change, everything was so perfect.  The kitchen was tidy & organized (for once!), all the food was ready on time (partially to do with the tidy kitchen), and most of all the company was warm and comforting.  These dinners will not last forever but our memories that we have created through all these dinners will stay with us forever.  

This is one to remember and just like the dessert course was named;
Till Death Do Us Part - Our friendship and our memories are here to stay.

So that was 2010 Halloween, I hope that my writing has given you a clear image of our dinner and just how much fun we have in the kitchen.  For that is what it is all about!

See you in the kitchen.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A small harvest and our version of a 100 mile dinner

Thought we would have a 100 mile dinner one night, which means that dinner started in the garden. Start with the potatoes- about 8 potatoes from one hill, they were HUGE! Check out the pictures and be prepared to be amazed! One potato (the one pictured on the scale was enough for 4 servings of smashed potatoes.  Fresh garden beans and carrots - those were so tender and sweet. I found a new way to have oven roasted tomatoes, the trick is to use small or medium tomatoes and keep them on the vine.  In a baking dish drizzle olive oil and a bit of sea salt, bake at 350 for a while... not sure how long but watch them, should be at least 25-30 minutes.  When they are all wrinkled up and soft they are done!  Let them cool for a bit and enjoy.  The tomatoes become all soft and saucy and so sweet.  D-lish!  One little tip could be to cove them loosely with tin foil, this will help keep your oven clean, the oil has a tendency to splatter a bit.

Ok right, back to the dinner... to top off the menu we had roasted lamb, local lamb that is.  All to contribute to our 100 mile dinner! We did oven roast with fresh herbs and it was so tender and succulent.

All together the dinner was so good, a wonderful way to celebrate the start of a great harvest season.

That is all for now!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Summer dinner - Alfresco....

A fine summer night... start with Sangria - a delectable blueberry nectarine with a hint of lemon Sangria and move on to fondue, nothing too special except for the guests and the conversation!  The sun was shining and the birds are singing it is a perfect start to the summer dining season.  I was a little worried about the weather as the day was blustery and cool but the evening changed for the better.  All I can say is thank goodness!

This night shows so much promise for the summer.  The garden is starting to produce beautifully and our harvest will be wonderful.  We are so looking forward to our outdoor dining experiences to come!  Hope you all will join us too.

See you all out on the patio!


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Spring has sprung so come & find me out in the garden

So I suppose you are all wondering where I have been for the past few weeks... well it is spring and that means that it is garden season.  Yes, we are still eating well but dinner is usually simple and late at our house now as I like to garden until it is late and dark then come in to have dinner.  Just to give you an idea of what garden season dinners are like read on;  simple broccoli soup with cheese bread, chicken salad sandwiches on pumpernickel bread complete with avocados, tomatoes and cucumbers - delish! Simple and quick to make as the kitchen does not need to be open for long at 10 pm!

And you may be wondering what on earth am I doing out in the garden until 10 pm each night? Well, seeing that our yard and garden are relatively unestablished we have lots to work on but every year it gets better and better.  Last year our big project was to build a vegetable garden, it is about 22 feet by 11 feet.  Just big enough to get a few rows of everything.  So this year we decided to plant 6 cedar shrubs (I think you would consider them to be a shrub...), they are about 5 1/2 feet tall and very thick and shrub-y.  We are hoping that they will create a nice wind screen as well a privacy screen to the lane.  These were all planted on Saturday evening after a very long day of planting the vegetable garden.  I am now very tired, sore, a little sun burnt but very happy to have all that finished.  The other very exciting installment to the backyard was a gazebo sort of structure.  I have planted Hops (beer hops) to grow up the corners and roof of the gazebo to create a beautiful al fresco outdoor dining room.  Hopefully the Hops will grow faster than my patience will wear thin.  We shall see.

It is now late and as mentioned I am beat from all the exciting yard work this weekend.  I will be around to share more gardening tales - seeing that I did not win the gardening blog through Canadian Gardener I must share my gardening adventures with you through this blog! And don't worry much of my gardening ends up on the table as some sort of gourmet meal so there will be food adventures too.

Take care & we'll share more soon!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Do you know what a Lobster Thermidore is?

Well I do and it is delicious!  Tonight I went to a cooking class at Sun Terra Market (thank you Janet - it was such a wonderful experience, I enjoyed every mouthful!), it was all about seafood and delicious seafood at that.  So in the near future you will be reading about my new seafood recipes, anything from warm and cozy comfort food like Lobster Macaroni and Cheese to Fresh Clams and Chorizo Sausage with Red Peppers and Potatoes (but I think I may substitute chick peas for the potatoes).  These were two of the dishes that we learnt how to prepare and then they were enjoy with a wonderful glass of wine. Which I have to tell you about too.  It was Wirra Wirra - an Australian Red blend; Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot.  A wonderful red wine with all the classic red wine characteristics - smooth and buttery, full bodied and deep rich flavour all the way through.  This is something to look for in the future. 

It is late now so I wish you happy days in the kitchen!


ps, soon you will read about our delicious Salmon bake that we had on the weekend, but there was only time to do one post tonight, more for you to read tomorrow!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

It's a Birthday Party!

And the foodie theme was Pecan Praline.  We had Pecan Praline ice cream and Butter Pecan cupcakes complete with home made candied pecans.  Here are the pics.
I have recently found this delicious chocolate bar, and you can guess the flavour! You guessed it - Pecan Praline. Creamy and 'pecan-y' and that was part of the garnish.  So now we have both a soft and creamy garnish and a nutty and crunchy garnish.  Nice balance.

There is this brilliant way of serving ice cream. (Check out www.realsimple.com for other exciting hosting ideas)  A few hours before or even the night before scoop the ice cream into paper muffin liners and re-freeze.  Then at cake serving time all you have to do is serve up each paper liner, no messy ice cream scoops to deal with at all.  It maybe a little extra work before the party starts but well worth it later on.  And best of all if you are doing this by yourself it is a breeze so you can look like the brilliant hostess that you are.  Easy as pre-served ice cream.  Whoever thought of this one... brilliant!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Salsiccia Cacciatore Cappo

Don't worry if you can't pronounce that or even if you have no idea what it is... because believe me I had no idea any of that until tonight.  It is this very interesting sausage that I found at the Italian Centre.  When I unwrapped it from its brown paper it was hard and slightly oily with a very 'corn-y' scent (according to Tanner).  So what can I do with this new sausage?  Corn... Tomatoes... Spanish I thought.  Salsa, tomatoes, corn (obviously), grated cheddar cheese and lime zest.  And let me tell you... it was delicious!  Big robust flavours of the sausage paired well with the sweetness of the tomatoes and the lime zest gave it a wonderful  brightness.  Served with baked corn chips which kept it paired with the corn flavour.  This one has to go down in the books as an innovative winner.

I just made it up with what I had in the fridge, I had a little bit of salsa, a few tomatoes, a lime and that is how it all came together.  Take this as inspiration for you to look in your fridge and just make it up.  Or as the saying can go... fly by your apron strings.

Until next time... go and experiment in the kitchen!   Trust me, it'll be good.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Life doesn't only happen in the Kitchen

The days are getting longer, the days are getting warmer and the snow is packing it's bags.  In other words... Spring is just around the corner or maybe it is here!

So in celebration of spring I have to promote a contest that I have entered and for me to try and win this one I need your help!!!!  Here are the details; go to http://bloggercontest.canadiangardening.com/ and find my blog entry.  What I need you to do is view and comment on my submission!  The deal is the more views and comments that I get it will give me a better chance at winning.  You will see all the details on the website but here is the low down - the winner gets a chance to write a blog on the Canadian Gardening website for 6 months plus a $500 cash prize!  You must write at minimum 1 post per week at minimum 100 words (as you read my long posts here you will realize that I have no trouble with word count!) Sounds fun and easy to me!  And who doesn't want to read about my gardening adventures?!?

You will notice that I have a different approach to this contest; as many of you know that I am a new-ish gardener with not a lot of experience and I feel that there are so many websites and magazines out there that give great gardening advice but it is directed towards gardeners who have both year of experience and established plants and yards.  Some of this information can be either overwhelming or not even applicable to our growing zone!  As well there are many of these websites and magazines are written either out on the West Coast or somewhere in Eastern Canada, two climates that are so very different than Alberta.  So my approach to my blog on Canadian Gardening is to provide information directed towards new gardeners who live on the Prairies where we struggle with low levels of humidity, short summers and long cold winters.  In short we have grow things a little differently here.

I really hope that you head over to the Canadian Gardening website and leave me lots of comments to help me win the contest.  It is something different and super exciting for me to do this summer.

Until next time

this was mid summer of 2008 - we were just starting the flower gardens

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What's the Secret Ingredients in Lasagna?

So I went for groceries this week and bought Mascarpone cheese... that means that lasagna is on the menu this week.  My lasagna is sweet with a rich tomato-y flavour and soft and creamy.  It all starts with ground meat (I used Moose meat tonight - it's low in fat) browned with caramelized onions.  Add in minced peppers, garlic, and chopped tomatoes simmer together for 3 or 4 minutes.  Gently stir in one can of tomato paste, some red wine (as much as you feel it needs or about 1 cup) and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar.  Once the sauce is at the right consistency reduce heat to low and add in mascarpone cheese.  Allow the sauce to heat through at a very gentle simmer.

For the lasagna noodles I will always use regular pasta that you need to boil.  The ready to bake noodles are terrible - too crunchy and cardboard-ish!  It only takes a very big pot of boiling water and a few minutes to have perfect noodles.  In the same amount of time that it takes to prepare the filling the noodles are boiled and cooled and ready for assembly.

After a quick assembly and 15 minutes in the oven to bake and make the the cheese all gooey and soft we had gourmet lasagna on the table in under 45 minutes!  It's as easy as that!  Anyone can do it.  Trust me.

Until next time... see you in the kitchen.

ps, sorry there's no pictures today... you'll have to use your imagination or better yet make it yourself!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Heavenly Bite

This small but amazing morsel was actually from last weekend, it has been so busy that I am just getting around to writing about it now.

Some of you (and you will know who you are...) will remember me talking about this sandwich.  It all started out with a trip to the Italian Centre and finding a new ham.  Marbled Rye bread with Westfalian Ham, sliced tomatoes topped with German Edam made all gooey and delicious under the broiler.  The Edam had a perfect melting point, the broiler made the cheese melt and then go slightly crispy at the end. Delicious! Juicy ripe tomatoes, salty ham and gooey cheese... who could ask for a better bite?

The next adventure I had was Whole Wheat Carrot Muffins complete with Cream Cheese icing, only because they would not be complete without it! These are a great healthy option for Carrot Cake flavour.  You can hardly tell that there are 2 cups of whole wheat flour and only a 1/4 cup of oil the 1/3 cup of yogurt gives more moisture, they are a heavier muffin but still nice and moist.  The weird thing was that the carrot shreds turned green inside the muffins.  Not sure what happened there but they still tasted the same so I am not too worried.  Here they are for your viewing pleasure.

That is all for now... Happy Times in the Kitchen


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Merlot Lamb Stew

I believe that Valentine's day is about spending time with those that you love; husbands, wives, friends or family it really does not matter.  Fill your heart to the brim with good food, good times and wonderful people.  And that is exactly what we did tonight.

Tonight's dinner was a wonderful dark Merlot Lamb Stew.  It was quite experimental, we cooked it in the pressure cooker adding in random vegetables (carrots, celery, fennel, red onion and tomatoes) and hoping for the best outcome.  We started by caramelizing the red onions then browning the lamb.  Coarsely chopped vegetables and the browned lamb all go into the pressure cooker, add in a bit of Merlot and clamp the lid on.  Now we have about 25 minutes to bake some whole wheat scones.  You know that you will need something to clean up the dark, rich Merlot sauce.  As for a garnish we had lemon and mint infused sour cream (I had no plain yogurt!) and fresh tomatoes with a sprinkling of fresh lemon zest.  The lemon zest gave it wonderful bright citrus notes, the mint was fresh and lively and the fresh tomatoes were cool and refreshing.  It all came together so well at the end.

Here are the pictures for you to enjoy!

Have a Happy Heart Day and enjoy your Family Day long weekend!


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Valentine's Day is a day of sweets and sweeties.

Here are my sweets! Red Hot Cinnamon Chocolate Crinkles (I have also dubbed these as my Iron Man cookies because of the gold dust that I coated them in).
This recipe is just the Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies from the Martha Stewart's Cookies that I have altered slightly.  I omitted the fresh and ground ginger and doubled the cinnamon, next time I think I would add more cinnamon or else find a way to make it a more prominent flavour.  I also coated some of the cookies in coarse red and white sanding sugar this gives a wonderful crystal like sparkle!

I tried to make a simple fudge... but it turned out all gooey - yes, gooey so no pics of that but I do have more ingredients so I will try it again through the weekend and hopefully it will turn out fudge-y this time. 

Have a wonderful Valentine weekend and enjoy your sweets and your sweetie!


Monday, February 8, 2010

The Pressure is On...

This dinner that I am going to tell you about actually happened last week, but with busy events and so on it has not posted itself and therefore I must do it.  So as the story goes; I have a shiny (very shiny) new pressure cooker never been used and I have been feeling the pressure to make a mighty fine dinner in this shiny new pot.  It was just begging for its debut on my stovetop stage.  And let me tell you... its debut was delightful, delicious and wonderfully tender. If you are hesitant at trying out a pressure cooker, do worry about a thing.  It was super easy and you will be pleasantly surprised.

One little side note: You will soon learn that in my kitchen we eat many different kinds of meat; there is venison (deer, moose, elk), beef, lamb, pork, poultry and hopefully some duck and goose soon as well.  I love to try different meats, they all give such unique flavours.  I believe that everyone should try all different meats before they create an opinion of them, especially venison.

In my shiny new pressure cooker I made Moose Mushroom Stew and here is what I did.
For the mushroom part of this recipe I wanted to use cream of mushroom soup, but I did not have the canned variety so easiest solution was to make my own mushroom soup!

Melt 1/4 cup butter in a large deep frying pan or medium sauce pan, fry 1 large onion (thinly sliced) until golden.  Add 250 g of sliced mushrooms and saute for another 5-6 minutes.  (Try not to over crowd the mushrooms, they will turn nice and golden if they are not too crowded.) Add in 1/4 cup all purpose flour and stir.  Pour in 2 cups of milk and 1 1/2 cups of vegetable stock (I used mushroom stock but any kind of soup stock will work).  At this point you could add on a little bit of dried herbs sage, oregano and thyme would be nice additions. Simmer this until the soup has thickened.
While the soup is simmering, make a dry mixture of 1/2 cup flour, 1 tablespoon dry mustard powder, salt & pepper.  Put all of this in a shallow plate and dredge your stew meat and pan fry until there is a nice golden crust around each stew piece.  Once the stew pieces are all golden add them to the pressure cooker pour in the soup and add in a few handfuls for chopped carrots.  Make sure that you have enough liquid in the cooker and tighten the lid on.  Each pressure cooker maybe a little different so double check the instructions for how often the pressure regulator should rock.  Be aware that your stew will cook very fast, I had to call the cooking 101 hotline (Mom) to find out just how quickly this actually does cook.  It was about 25-30 minutes and I had a perfect melt in your mouth stew.  It was like I had slaved over a hot stove all day, but in reality... no where near that amount of time or effort.  I did however find out that I could have taken my stew off the burner in as little time as 20 minutes.  Something to remember next time.  One thing that I found out that was very interesting was in order to lower the pressure quickly and safely you can run cool water over the lid and the pressure regulator will stopped rocking very quickly.  Cooking 101 hotline told me that it is very important to NOT take off the pressure regulator too early, this could cause a catastrophic explosion in the kitchen and therefore no dinner for you.

The pressure cooker is a weird kitchen gadget and not every kitchen is equipped with one.  But now I am a firm believer that once you have tried it you too will find a spot in your kitchen for this weird and yet amazing gadget.  

That is all for now, I am off to dream about my Valentine Cookies.  I am beginning to think of a new cookie recipe so stay tuned for that!


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Healthy Baking - Double Bran Blueberry Muffins

I know what you are thinking... I have not been around very much in the last week as I have been battling a cold (the cold was winning) and I have been busy with a few other projects.  But now I have a wonderful cup of tea and best of all I have time!

So what has gone on recently that you would have missed...?  I made these yummy (healthy) double bran muffins.  I as per usual can't follow a recipe as it reads so I added candied ginger and blueberries.  Because who can resist blueberry bran muffins!

Here is the recipe; (I initially found it on my favourite Better Homes and Gardens website - bhg.com)

Double Bran Blueberry Muffins (bhg.com calls them two bran refrigerator muffins)

2/3 c whole bran cereal
1/3 c.   oat bran
2/3 c.   boiling water
1/2 c.   non-fat milk
2 egg whites (lightly beaten)
1 T.   candied ginger - minced
2 T.   cooking oil
1 1/2 c.   all purpose flour (I am not sure that I would ever use whole wheat flour here -  that would be bran, bran and more bran!)
1/4 c.   packed brown sugar
1 1/2 t.   baking powder
1 t.   cinnamon (I put 2 t. in - cinnamon and blueberries... yum)
1 pinch of salt
1 c.   frozen or fresh blueberries

In a medium bowl - add 2 brans together and stir in boiling water.  Add in milk, egg whites (I let the mixture cool a little as to not cook the egg whites), oil and minced candied ginger.

Mix together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt in a second bowl, add in blueberries and gently fold into bran mixture.

Lightly grease muffin tins - or use paper liners.  Fill each muffin cup about 3/4 full, garnish with a sliver of candied ginger and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. You can also do the toothpick test to see if they are done.  This recipe makes about 12 to 15 muffins.  The original recipe makes 12 muffins but I got 15 when I added the blueberries.

These are wonderful served warm but the next day for breakfast or a mid morning snack they are delicious too!

Next time I make these I think I will leave out the ginger and just make blueberry bran and top them with a lemon sugar glaze.  Now I just need to find a perfect lemon sugar glaze...

That's all for now!  I am off to search for more healthy recipes, see you soon.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sunday Dinner - Lamb Burgers

Sunday is a special day and Sunday dinner is a wonderful time to reflect on the week that has past and the weekend that always seems to fly by.  It can be a time to gather with family and friends to celebrate, to enjoy delicious food and drink and to gently prepare for the week ahead.

This past Sunday as I have mentioned earlier we planned a wonderful dinner.  On the menu was Lamb Burgers with homemade ketchup, Japanese coleslaw and sweet potato fries.  It was simple fare but so delicious.

The ketchup was sweet with a hint of spice, the tomato taste was dark and sweet.  Lamb, I find is a sweeter meat so the sweet ketchup was wonderful addition.  We garnished our burgers with the usual array of burger toppings - creamy fontina cheese, crunchy sour pickles, sweet juicy tomatoes and a vast array of mustards.  All of this a top a soft whole wheat bun.  It was heaven! (And with the leftovers... Mondays lunch was delicious too!)

And if you liked the sound of dinner, you'd better read on about dessert! It was a rustic Apple Ginger Galette.  So simple to make and you know how the first piece of pie is the hardest to get out in one piece, no worries here! No pie plate either!  Sweet apples, lively ginger and a wonderfully buttery pastry.

That was dinner on Sunday and dinner on Monday was a little different, week night dinners are usually a little lighter but never any less gourmet! I am so sorry to tell you that I did not get any photos of Mondays dinner so you will have to be satisfied with me telling you about it.  So as I was starting to say... Mondays dinner was very so quick to make, here is how it went.
spaghetti (for 2)
shrimp (about 5-7 each) - cleaned with the tails on (I like to keep the tails on as they are a perfect little handle)
1 can of chickpeas - drained and rinsed
1 can of diced tomatoes with juice
1/4 red onion thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic - grated
a few sprigs of rosemary - minced
4 slices of prosciutto - chopped into 1" pieces
lemon zest & juice
salt & pepper

Step 1 - put a pot of salted water on to boil for your pasta, we had spaghetti but you could use any long shape pasta.
Step 2 - once the pasta goes into the pot, heat a pan with olive oil to start the shrimp.  Once the shrimp are starting to show colour add all the rest of the ingredients and heat through.  Drain the pasta and plate! It is that fast.  10 minutes from taking the ingredients out of the fridge to sitting at the table.

That's all for now, come back later for more food adventures!


Saturday, January 16, 2010

3 lbs of tomatoes

As I mentioned in my last post I have decided to make my own ketchup.  Well, 3 pounds of tomatoes and 3 hours later I have 2 small bottles of ketchup.  Even though it was so time consuming the end result is delicious! I found the recipe in a Jamie Oliver cookbook (Jamie At Home).  The ingredient list was quite lengthy and some ingredients were a little surprising.  Fennel, celery, ginger, red chili pepper and coriander seeds are just a few of them.  Now that my ketchup is made and I have tasted it I realize that all those surprising ingredients have their place in my ketchup!  Through this process I was worried that the ketchup would be quite light in colour, but as I simmered the ketchup down to a typical ketchup consistency it changed colour quite a bit - it is now a nice dark red-orange.

It was an exciting process to make this, not something that I would do very often but in the Fall when we have loads of ripe tomatoes from the garden it would be a great way to enjoy our tomato harvest.

That's all for tonight, see you all after our gourmet food adventure tomorrow!


Thursday, January 14, 2010

A late dinner

So I have not been blogging much this week... many apologies to my readers!

Today was a really long day, I went right from work to a hair appointment then out for a bit of shopping, now that I am at home I need dinner... So what would be quick, easy and gourmet?
Grilled chicken on a bed of sweet butter lettuce with cottage cheese, fresh tomatoes, carrots & celery topped with my comfort food - an over easy fried egg.  Some many think that is sounds like a strange combination to have both chicken and egg, but it was fresh, clean and perfect for dinner at 10pm.

This weekend I am planning a celebration dinner.  Celebrating a job change and the completion of a very big exam.  This dinner is for my nearest & dearest friends Chelsea & Brian, two wonderful chefs in their own individual ways and partners with me in my gourmet food adventures! This dinner will be so much fun.  So far on the menu we have homemade lamb burgers with homemade ketchup - yes, I will be attempting to make my own ketchup.  I will borrow a food mill from the Baking/Cooking 101 lending division or also known as Mom's kitchen.  And I suppose that I should do a bit of research on homemade ketchup - or I could just wing it... You will read all about it after the weekend is passed.

Right now I have been enjoying these little tiny Clementine Oranges, they are so sweet and juicy.  I am dreaming of a Clementine White Sangria.  You will soon learn about my many Sangria recipes, actually I don't really follow a specific recipe, I just create with what ingredients I have around and mixing things up as I go.  A favourite of mine for the winter is this Winter Spice Red Sangria, I have written it out in a recipe format for you.

1 bottle of Red Wine - I like a Merlot
1 bottle sparkling apple juice (or Club Soda)
1 Orange cut in half then sliced thinly (half moon shapes)
1 Apple sliced the same way as the Orange
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen whole Cranberries
1 cup fresh or frozen blackberries
2 tablespoons cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 1/2 oz. Spiced Rum or Brandy

Add cut fruit, cloves, cinnamon and Spiced Rum to large pitcher; gently muddle together. Then add wine and sparkling apple juice.  Enjoy immediately and responsibly!

A few things to remember when creating your own Sangria; you will need wine, something sparkling, fortification in the form of Brandy or Rum.  (I have not tried fortifying with Vodka but I suppose it could be good so it is worth a try!)  As well you need fruit, citrus is a popular choice, apples are always good and mixing flavours together is quite nice too.  A good combination is peaches and raspberries.  I like to slice the fruit quite thin - it makes it delicate and easy to eat. The most important thing to remember about Sangria is don't be afraid to experiment, it is just fruit and wine mixed together with love.  have fun with it!

Later I will write about my spring and summer Sangrias, the possibilities are so endless.

Now it is late and I need to sleep, so be sure to come back to read about my very exciting celebration dinner this weekend - I just know it will be a fantastic food adventure!

Until next time - happy cooking


Friday, January 8, 2010

Iced Oatmeal Applesauce Cookies

Here is a picture of the Iced Oatmeal Applesauce cookies (from Martha Stewart's Cookies book as mentioned in yesterdays post).  They were super easy to make and so delicious! A real home-baked taste, sweet and chewy.

These cookies were baked for an occasion, a fun and exciting occasion.  At work we had this big meeting, and I was asked to bring some baking for the coffee break.  I certainly could not decline this request as it would have disappointed many!  And now after the fact, I really don't think I did!  It was the many wonderful comments that I received that made me happy and proud to share my baking.  I love to bake, I would even consider it a passion of mine and with this comes the joy that I get back when I share my passion.

Everyday we must spread joy, I do it through food.

After a very busy day for dinner tonight I got a real treat.  Tanner - my ever so sweet husband - made me dinner.  Spaghetti and meat sauce, simple but delicious!  Since he made dinner, I think now I have to do the dishes.  In our house the kitchen is not just mine, it is a shared space. A space where we come together after a long day at work.  A space where we gather with friends and family.  A space where so many memories are created.

So after a long week of busy days and very late nights I am looking forward to a quiet evening and a nice and relaxing weekend with Tanner.  This weekend is when we are celebrating 10 years together, a weekend where we can look back at many happy memories and think about the future of us together.  Most likely there will be some sort of food adventures too!

Have a wonderful weekend with hopefully a gourmet food adventure of your own!


Thursday, January 7, 2010

the baking bee has bit me

Well, I needed to bake... it is almost like an addiction.  A good addiction and thank goodness I have many friends and family that are willing to eat my baking.  Otherwise... ugh that thought scares me.

So I baked tonight, cookies and not just one kind but two - because we all know that two cookies are better than one! On the cookie menu tonight there are Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies from this fantastic Martha Stewart Cookie book and also from the same cookie book just a few pages down I made Iced Oatmeal Applesauce Cookies.

Tonight was a wonderful night to bake as I had some of the very best kitchen help any cook or baker could want.  Mom is her name. She runs the Baking/Cooking 101 hotline that is oh-so-valuable especially when I am up to my elbows in bread dough and something is just not quite right.  Tonight she washed and wiped and washed some more.  You have to understand that I have a small kitchen with very limited counter space so dirty dishes do not have any space to pile up.  And of course my dishwasher is... well... very human.  Usually it is either my wonderful husband (who stays up to wash my baking dishes after I go to sleep) or in tonight's case it was Mom.  I do wash some dishes, but I find that it is so much more fun to make the dirty dishes than it is to clean them.

It is now time to pack away my little goodies and get ready for tomorrow.  I hope there is not too much disappointment in the lack of pictures tonight, but it is late and I will have more time tomorrow to post them!

Good night - I am off to dream of all things sweet.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Well as mentioned earlier I made the Ginger Orange Sandies or maybe they are the Orange Ginger Sandies... hmmm, I have to think about that for a while.  They turned good, a great candied ginger flavour the essence of orange with perfect texture, crispy on the outside and lightly crumbly on the inside.  And very pretty too, I rolled each cookie in white sanding sugar with a slice of candied ginger for garnish.  I think next time I will tint the sanding sugar pale orange or yellow to give them a bit more colour.

I forgot to mention in my earlier post that I initially found the recipe for the Christmas Sandies on the Better Homes and Gardens website (a favourite recipe site of mine) and I made a few small changes, increase the amount of lemon zest and use sanding sugar instead of nonpareils.  So this was a slight variation of that recipe, and I think it turned out just wonderful!  I have posted the pictures of these new cookies to the side here, hope you enjoy.

Thats all for now!


Monday, January 4, 2010

I dream of Dinner Tonight

Dinner tonight was a quick soup - Tomato Tortellini was on the menu.

Start with 28 oz. chicken stock, bring to a simmer and reserve about 1 cup, add 9oz. tortellini pasta.  In the reserved cup of chicken stock add 100g cream cheese, mix together and set aside until pasta is ready.  Once pasta is ready add cream cheese and stock mixture and 1 can of crushed tomatoes (or 1 can of tomato soup).  Bring to a gentle boil and add in any assortment of herbs, I added thyme and rosemary.  Serve immediately with fresh chopped parsley, grated parmesan cheese and fresh chopped tomatoes.  This is a super quick and easy week night dinner to make, it only took us about 15 minutes to make. If you want to have a quick bread with the soup scones are just as quick to make as this soup.

This recipe is my Mom's Saturday Morning Scones - but we make them anytime and all the time!
1 cup Flour (white or a mixture of whole wheat and white)
1 1/2 teaspn Baking Powder
1/4 teaspn salt
1/4 cup Cold Margarine (or Butter)
1/3 cup Milk
Mix all dry ingredients together, cut in butter and mix in to make a coarse crumb mixture.
Add milk and gently mix until a rough dough is formed. *don't over mix at this point.
Shape into a rectangle and cut into smaller squares or triangles.
Arrange on a baking sheet and bake at 350F for 12 to 14 minutes. (or until nice golden brown on the bottoms)

So that was dinner tonight - easy as ... soup!


We all must start somewhere!

It is a new year - 2010 - and I believe that it is important to try new things and continually expand our knowledge.  I have always thought of myself as a lifelong learner and adventurer so here I am - on a epicure adventure.

This is just the beginning, where we will go and what will we delve into is still yet to be known.

So far I have decided that this blog will be about my gardening and cooking adventures. There may be more added to that as time goes on, but for now I think just gardening and cooking will entertain many.  And while there is a snowy blanket on my garden I will entertain you with my wintertime cooking and baking adventures.  As I sit here with a wonderful cup of tea I am dreaming of what to create for dinner tonight. Then my mind jumps over to something new to bake.  The possibilities are endless and thankfully so are the ingredients!

With Christmas just passed by I have lots of past adventures that I can report on.  Here is one of my favourites that I made recently.

Lemon Cranberry [Christmas] Sandies - They are a wonderful cookie to make at Christmastime but really, you could make them anytime and use different coloured sugars to decorate them with.  (I used red and green sugar - as the season would expect)  the recipe is as follows.  The texture of these cookies is crispy on the outside and crumbly on the inside but not dry at all.  I think it is the cranberries and lemon zest that keeps them moist and delicate.

lemon cranberry [christmas] sandies

Makes: about 144 1/2-inch cookies; 72 3/4-inch cookies; or 36 1-inch cookies
Prep: 30 minutes
Bake: 10 to 15 minutes per batch *or until bottoms are light golden

1  cup butter, softened
1/2  cup powdered sugar
1  teaspoon vanilla
2  cups all-purpose flour
1  cup finely chopped dried cranberries*
3  teaspoons finely shredded lemon zest
  Coloured sugar or nonpareils

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add powdered sugar. Beat until combined, scraping bowl. Beat in vanilla. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in cranberries, lemon zest, and any remaining flour (use your hands to work in flour, if mixture seems crumbly).
2. Shape mixture into 1/2-, 3/4-,or 1-inch balls. Roll dough balls in sugar or nonpareils. Arrange balls 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheets.
3. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes for about 1/2-inch balls, 13 minutes for 3/4-inch balls, or 15 minutes for 1-inch balls, or until bottoms of cookies are light brown. Transfer to wire racks and let cool. Makes about one hundred forty-four 1/2-inch cookies; seventy-two 3/4-inch cookies; or thirty-six 1-inch cookies.
*Tip: Place dried cranberries in a food processor. Cover and process until finely chopped. Or finely chop cranberries by hand.

An interesting thought about these cookies is - how would these taste if we took out the cranberries and replaced them with candied ginger and replaced the lemon zest with orange zest? Maybe a little cinnamon and cloves could round out the flavours.  Ginger Orange Sandies or maybe Orange Ginger Sandies,  hmmm, I think I will have to try this.  They would be absolutely divine with a hot cup of chai tea. 

So there is my first post, it was not difficult at all.  Now that my tea is finished and I must make my way to the kitchen to refuel I will publish this post and move on with my day. (which will most likely consist of recipe searching)

Until next time - E