Sunday, September 30, 2007

The agony of defeat: Cinnamon Buns

OK, let's have a fast recap of my time as a Daring Baker, shall we?

My first challenge with the DB's was the Darkest Chocolate Crepe Cake. Scared the pants off of me, but tasted lovely.

Second was Gateau St Honore. Burned myself, the pastry didn't rise too high, but looked pretty and tasted great.

My third challenge was by far my favorite - bagels. So delicious. I was pretty nervous about the recipe, but they were easier than easy and I can't wait to make them again.

July brought the Strawberry Mirror Cake. Mine was blueberry, but still yummy.

And last month was the completely frustrating but good Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart.

The above recipes all have two things in common. One - I was terrified of all of the recipes before I made them. Two - they all turned out just fine, increasing my confidence in the kitchen every month.

So when Cinnamon Buns were announced as the challenge for this month, not only was I not nervous, I couldn't wait to give them a try.

The recipe is very simple - sugar, salt, butter, an egg and lemon zest are creamed together, then flour, yeast and milk are added to finish the dough. After the rising, the dough is shaped into a rectangle, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, and rolled up, cut into buns, have some more rising time, baked, then finally smothered in icing.

Sounds pretty simple. It was. Sounds pretty tasty. Sadly, they weren't.

buns having their second rising.

I don't know what happened. The dough came together fine. It didn't rise a ton, but was easy to work with. And how can you go wrong with sugar and cinnamon (or in our case allspice - still haven't bought any cinnamon) for the filling?

The buns were just strange. Texture-wise they were very stiff, and the buns had a strange "raw dough" smell, even though they were fully cooked. They just weren't good. I decided I wouldn't take them to work for one last "treat day". I didn't care for them, and neither did Scott. In fact, we only ate one apiece. The rest sat on the counter for 4 days until I finally threw them out.

glazed buns.

You can see the recipe right here. Wanna see how the other Daring Bakers fared with their buns? Then go here for the Daring Bakers Blogroll.

Well, the moving van is loaded and on the road, and we will be too shortly! B.C., here we come! Thanks for stopping by, see you in a few days.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Presto Pasta Nights - Rachel Ray vs Sandra Lee

I thought I'd do something a little different for Presto Pasta Night this week. I've picked two pasta recipes by two Food Network cooks and have pitted them against each other!

First up we have Rachel Ray. I am not really a "Rachel" person, but have no strong feelings one way or another about her. I prefer to not watch her on TV, but Scott has occasionally bought me her magazines and I've found a few mighty tasty recipes in them. Last year I received a Rachel Ray cookbook for my birthday. We've had a couple of not so great dishes from the book, but some nice ones too.

Her competitor today is Sandra Lee. I had never heard of Sandra Lee before last year when I read various negative comments about her on some blogs. (Her shows are not shown on the Food Network here in Canada.) Earlier this year Anthony Bourdain bashed her and other Food Network cooks quite harshly. I used to love him, but lately it doesn't seem like he does anything but be a snarky jerk. I have enough snarky jerks in my life, thanks. Anyway, when we were in Maui earlier this year I saw two episodes of her show. It wasn't fantastic, but I don't remember it as being God-awful either.

And then I came across one of Sandra Lee's books at the library. Smackdown time!



Let's start with Rachel Ray. From 30 Minute Get Real Meals we prepared Cauliflower-Pumpkin Pasta.

I was hesitant to make this pasta because I don't like pumpkin. But Scott does, so we went with it. This took longer than 30 minutes (I forgot to set my timer), but was very nice. Who knew pasta and pumpkin were such a good match? This was quite rich for me. If I made this again I would do smaller portions along a big green salad.


From Sandra Lee Semi Homemade Cooking 2 we chose Angel Hair with Roasted Red Peppers, Feta and Herb Dressing.

This was A-MAZ-ING. Faster than fast; the dressing is made and the other ingredients are de-canned or prepped while the pasta is cooking. It was easy, light tasting and delicious. This would be good in the summer when you don't want to be at the stove for too long, or any day that you just need a quick meal.



And the winner was..........Sandra Lee. While both pastas were tasty, Sandra pulled ahead with the faster cooking time and lighter tasting dish.



Angel Hair with Roasted Red Peppers, Feta and Herb Dressing
adapted from Sandra Lee Semi Homemade Cooking 2

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh basil
2 tb lemon juice
2 tb water
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
16 oz angel hair pasta
12 oz jar roasted red peppers
1/2 of a red onion, thinly sliced and soaked in cold water
6 oz crumbled feta cheese
2 1/2 oz can sliced black olives

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until tender.
Place the oil, herbs, lemon juice, water, salt and pepper in a jar. Shake until blended. Set aside.
Drain the red peppers and roughly chop. Drain the olives and set aside.
When the pasta is done, drain and place in a large bowl. Add the peppers, drained onion, feta and olives. Toss well. Pour over the dressing and toss again.


Cauliflower-Pumpkin Pasta
adapted from 30 Minute Get Real Meals

1 tb olive oil
4 garlic cloves
1 medium head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 lb linguine or fettuccine
1 cup pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling - that has spices and sugar in it)
1/4 cup non fat or 1% milk
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
nutmeg
salt and pepper

Saute the garlic in the oil for a couple of minutes until fragrant. Add the cauliflower and broth. Cover and simmer until the cauliflower is very tender.
Cook the pasta in salted water until done. Drain and reserve.
When the cauliflower is tender, turn up the heat and add the pumpkin puree and milk. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper, then add the drained pasta. Toss to coat, and serve.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Focaccia Bread

Ever since I made these wonderful bagels that seemed to lift my bread-making curse, I've been dying to try another bread product. So when I found a simple recipe for foccacia bread, I practically ran into the kitchen.

This recipe only has a handful of ingredients and is very easy to make. All the dough ingredients are kitchen staples, and you could easily adjust your toppings for whatever you have on hand.

The foccacia came out wonderfully and tasted delicious. I'll be making this again and again, I know it. Never again will I buy foccacia from the store, only homemade for me from now on.

I hope some of you out there will give this a try. You will be amazed at how easy and great it is!

rosemary garlic foccacia
altered very slightly from rebar modern food cookbook by audrey alsterberg and wanda urbanowicz.

1 3/4 cups warm water
1 tb traditional baking yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cups unbleached flour

topping

6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tb olive oil
2 tsp coarse salt
1 tb chopped rosemary

Pour the warm water into the bowl of your stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast and sugar over top. Let stand 10 minutes until the yeast is foamy. Place the bowl on the mixer and attach the dough hook. Pour in the salt and olive oil and mix briefly. Set the mixer on "stir" or "low" and add one cup of flour. When the flour is mixed in, add the second cup, and continue until all the flour has been added. Knead in the mixer for 5 minutes, until dough is smooth.

Oil a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl, turning the dough to coat in the oil. Place a damp towel over the bowl and let sit on the counter for 1 hour. Press the dough down, turn, re-cover, and let stand another hour.

Preheat the oven to 350'. Lightly oil a 12x16 (or similar size) pan and gently press the dough out with your hands to fill the pan.

Pour the 2 tb of oil on the dough and rub over the surface. Sprinkle the dough evenly with the salt, garlic and rosemary. Dimple the dough with your fingers.


Cook for 30 minutes, rotate the pan, and cook another 20-30 minutes. Watch carefully so that the garlic doesn't burn.

Not really food related.

9:05 am

Guess what guys? It's my last day of work! Yep, by this afternoon, I will be officially unemployed.

I'm pretty excited today, but a little sad too. I will miss my clients. I will miss some of the people I work with. I will miss the fact that no one here cares how you dress, which is a very good thing for me. I will miss all the free lunches. Heck, I'll even miss the event planning. I've learned how to throw a mean soirée.

more later.....

10:44

They are taking me out for lunch! I wasn't sure they would. Better be somewhere nice.
Receptionist gave me flowers.......I might have cried. A bit.

2:07

Back from lunch at Caesars. There was steak. Potatos. Alcohol. Back at work - more flowers and more good byes. *Sniff*

2:48

Time to shut down the computer, take some stuff and beyootiful flowers to my car and say goodbye.

I am done!

Bye job.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Blog Party 26 - it's what's inside.

Stephanie from Dispensing Happiness is hosting her 26th Blog Party and this is one is all about what's on the inside. Well clear some room on that table Stephanie, I went crazy and brought lots with me today!!!

My first contribution to the party is Melon and Prosciutto. When I was a waitress at a restaurant in the downtown area I used to walk over to an Italian restaurant a few blocks from my house after work and get an order of this to go. The restaurant served big wedges wrapped in full slices of the salty ham. I prefer to go bite-sized. So, cut your melon (I used cantaloupe) into bite size pieces and wrap them in a bit of prosciutto.


Next up, ham and cheese wraps. Spread Boursin or herb and garlic cream cheese on a tortilla and top with a layer of thinly sliced ham. Roll up tightly, then cut into bite sized pieces.


I also made two batches of mini potato skins. These are small nugget potatoes that were steamed, halved and had their middles scooped out. One batch was filled with chopped tomato, one batch was filled with chopped ham. They were smothered in cheese, broiled and then topped with sour cream and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper.


For my tasty beverage this month I've put mint and fruit inside ice cubes made from lemonade.


Not only are they pretty, but they won't dilute your lemonade, and when the cubes melts you've got pretty floaties too.


Looking forward to the party Stephanie, cheers!

Weekend Cookbook Challenge 20 Round Up

Hey-ooooo!

The round up for this month's Weekend Cookbook Challenge is up.
Clicky here
to check it out.

Anisette Toast from Laura Rebecca's Kitchen.

Next month the loverly Michelle from Je Mange La Ville is hosting.

The theme is Halloween and the deadline is October 21. Send your posts to Michelle at mlb at jemangelaville dot com.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Spice Depot Spice Grinders

I am filing this under "Fun Finds". The nice people at The Spice Depot recently sent me a package with a couple of samples of their spice blends.

The blends are different combinations of salt, pepper, spices and dehydrated vegetables. We received Salad Seasoning and BBQ Burger Spice. And! The lovely Jill also sent me a reusable shopping bag!

What makes the Spice Depot seasonings different from others is the bottles have built in grinders, so the seasoning is always freshly ground. They are not much bigger than an average size spice bottle. The grinder is sturdy, and the top is secure so there are no messes if it gets knocked over.

First we tried the salad seasoning. I made the Mango Salad Dressing from the website. It was very very nice.


We also used the salad spice on some potatos we sliced and wrapped in foil for the bbq.


And I added some to my scrambled eggs and tomatos too.



Unfortunately I don't have pictures of any of the dishes we made using the BBQ Burger Spice. We gobbled them up too quickly!

In addition to seasoning some burgers , we also used the bbq spice on some steaks, and in a homemade pasta sauce.

I really liked both spice blends and could see these easily fitting into my kitchen. I like mixed seasoning blends, and I think that the grinder bottle would be much easier to control amount-wise than a shaker or tin.

Thanks again to Jill and The Spice Depot for the samples.

Please click here to see where you can buy the grinders.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Bites 3.0

Yes, I just did Bites 2.0 a few days ago, but I have stuff to share. Probably not interesting to anyone but me. Maybe even not me. But oh well.


Can you tell I still don't feel well?

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I cleaned out the freezer in the basement and was shocked by how much crap was in there. All the mystery food covered in ice got thrown out. All the leftover bread products too. I was left with frozen bananas and sausage, basically. And some spring roll wrappers and veggie dumplings. I used some of the sausage (turkey) to make these biscuits for breakfast:


Here's the recipe. I also used up the last of my Bisquick that I bought when we made the vegan gravy.

I want to make sausage gravy to use up some more, but quite frankly, this body does not need any sausage or gravy right now.

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Friday night my company threw a party. No, it was not a going away party for me - I've been working on this party for 2 months. It was a nice night. I ate my weight in coconut shrimp and vegetable pakoras. When I make this Coconut Shrimp recipe again, I am definitely going to use packaged coconut. The ones at the party looked much neater (ie tidier) and tasted more coco-nutty.

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Saturday was a bad day for me. Friday was too long of a day and I felt terrible. I can't shake this cold. I did some minor stuff around the house in the morning, then just laid on the couch in the basement. Scott joined me when he got home from work - he was tired and had a bad headache. We laid in the dark for a while until we were hungry. So - and I can't believe I am going to tell you this, especially since my parents read this - I grabbed the laptop and ordered pizza over the Internet. OH THE SHAME! But hey, that way neither of us had to go upstairs to, you know, cook anything. Or walk 5 feet to the telephone. We were able to lay around for another 40 minutes until the doorbell rang. Scott lost the argument over who had to answer the door. I was still in my pajamas.

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Sunday I was forced to do unspeakable things like have a shower and get dressed. A friend was taking me for brunch! We met for Sunday Brunch at the Palliser Hotel downtown. I didn't take my camera with me as my dining companion does not know about this blog. But wow, I wish I had. The spread was incredible. We ate....well, lots. We started with croissants, fresh fruit, meat and cheese, and salads. I tried a bit of green salad with vinaigrette and a couple of bites of vegetable penne pasta salad, which I dropped on my shirt. Classy! Mah friend went with the scallop salad and also tried some cold salmon. Next we had eggs Benedict (excellent hollandaise sauce), sausage, and roasted potatos. They also had a Benedict made with salmon, but I don't like salmon. I skipped the hot salmon dish, but my friend tried it and liked it. We both skipped the roast pork, roast chicken, coq au vin, veggies, rice, and something else that I can't remember. I had planned on hitting the carving station for a piece of roast beef, but I just couldn't do it. We skipped the omelet station too. Next plate was mini Belgian waffles. We each had one. They split them in half so you can fill them with strawberries and whipped cream, which we did. We also had a bit more fruit. The fourth (but who's counting?) and final trek up was for some dessert. It was a truly beautiful dessert table. Everything was gorgeous and colorful. The cutest thing was the two trays filled with puddings, chocolate mousse, and creme brule - all in shot glasses! They were so adorable, and the perfect size. I had a small piece of chocolate truffle cake and a shot glass of mousse, and she had a raspberry tart and a shot glass of layered chocolate and vanilla pudding.

And then we both exploded.

So the whole time we're there, I'm thinking - Scott would love this! We totally have to come here before we leave town!. The bill came and I was informed that I was being treated. I thanked her very much. When she went to the washroom I peeked at the bill to see the price for when I came back with Scott.






$40.00 a person.





For brunch! Can you believe that? I was and still am in shock. If I had known how much it was I never would have gone there. Naturally, Scott and I are NOT going there before we leave. Too bad though.

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Last weekend I went for lunch at Milestones. I had the Eggs Milestones Benedict off the brunch menu. It was amazing. But I don't think there was cheese on mine.

______________________________________

We went out for drinks last night. By the time we leave town I am going to weigh 900 lbs and have a pickled liver. I got a wonderful birthday/going away present - a juicer!!!!! I'm totally thrilled, I've been wanting one for ages. I've picked out two juices from the manual to try tonight. Look for a juicy post soon.

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We are busy and it's only going to get worse. I've got lots to share with you - hope I can get it all in. Sorry I haven't been visiting many blogs lately. Hopefully that will change in October.

I'm trying hard to have the WCC 20 round up ready to be posted tomorrow.

Have a great day!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Nooooooooooooooooooooooo or, The Last Garden Update

Wednesday night we got frost. I've been sick all week so I didn't see the weather report that night. Thursday morning as I scraped a bit (and really, only a bit) of ice off my car windshield, it didn't occur to me that it had been cold enough to hurt my precious garden. But it was. After dinner Scott happened to look out the window and saw this:


I know, right? Breaks your heart. Sorry it's a bit blurry - I was quite emotional.

All the above ground stuff is dead. Very upsetting. What is most upsetting to me is I lost all my basil.


If only I had known, I would have picked it all and dried it. Now I am basil-less. And it sucks.

The rest of the potato plants died too.


I didn't share this with you because I didn't want to jinx it, but we had TWO ZUCCHINIS growing.


Dead tomatos and zucchini plants. But notice how green and vibrant the weeds are?


So we pulled everything and saved what we could. We pulled up 1 1/2 lbs of onions, 4 1/2 lbs of potatos, 1 sad wee zucchini, 4 lbs of green and somewhat red tomatos,


and 5 lbs of carrots.


Already almost all the carrots are gone. I took some to work to impress everyone with my mad growing skillz and we are slowly munching through the rest. They are so sweet and delicious.

So Garden 2007 is over. Here's to hoping that next years garden in BC is bigger and better. Or at least the same.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Presto Pasta Nights - Myzithra and Pasta

I've written about this dish before but it certainly deserves to be mentioned more than once.

As Scott and I are getting ready to move out of Calgary we've spent some time talking about the people, places and things that we'll miss. And of course restaurants. Since our budget will not allow us to visit all the places we'd like to before we move that leaves us with reminiscing or recreating at home.

I had Myzithra Cheese and Pasta for the first time at The Old Spaghetti Factory on a work lunch. It is such a simple dish to make at home; all you need is pasta, butter and some finely grated aged Myzithra - a hard salty cheese.


Cook the pasta and drain it well. Pour the noodles into a bowl and toss with melted butter. You want just enough butter to coat and flavor the pasta, but not so much that the pasta is swimming in butter. Toss with finely shredded Myzithra cheese, scoop onto plates and sprinkle with a bit more cheese. Grind some black pepper or Grains of Paradise on top and serve straight away.

As well as making this dish for Ruth and her Presto Pasta Nights this also got rid of a few more ingredients in the cupboard. Whatever we eat we don't have to pack!

Vlasic Giveaway

Thanks to all of you who entered my picnic basket giveaway. I got tons of wonderful entries.

The winner of the basket is........

Sinikka!!!!


Sinikka wrote a very sweet email to me. She said:

This will sound corny, but I would invite my deceased Mom on a picnic, and have the whole family there so she could meet our children and first grandchild! As this is a picnic, I would make some strawberry slushies to bring along and a big jug of homemade iced tea. Of course there would be some cold salads, a pasta salad with salmon and dill; potatoe salad with dill, mustard, sour cream, bit of mayo and pickles. There is a favourite bakery in Coquitlam where I would purchase buns, rye bread, and their cranberry/walnut bread. As our family has so many different tastes, we would make our own sandwiches with the bread & buns. I would have BBQ'ed (sorry, my husband would have BBQ'd) a couple of whole chickens the day before and we would cut them & slice them for sandwich meat. From the farmer's market would come tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce and peppers which would have been oven roasted the day before. From our fridge would come mayo, pickles & mustard to complete the sandwiches. As cookies are loved by everyone in our family, there would be homemade double chocolate cookies and ginger snaps, along with fresh fruit galore for dessert. The day would be sunny and everyone would have a wonderful time getting to know my Mom, their grandmother and great grandmom.

I thank you for opportunity to just sit down and write this at a moment's notice. Tomorrow I shall tell my grandson about his great grandmom.


Congrats, and thank you! I hope you enjoy your goodies.

Thanks also to Brenna and Vlasic for the goodies to give away!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Weekend Cookbook Challenge 20 - Show and Tell

I'm hosting Weekend Cookbook Challenge this month and I've chosen the theme Show and Tell.


I've asked anyone who would like to participate (that means YOU) to pick a cookbook from your collection and tell us about it. Is it your very favorite? By a local author? Really old and rare? Whatever, just fill us in.

I'll admit that I chose this theme for purely selfish reasons. I've got a cookbook that I've read cover to cover a few times but have never actually cooked out of (like so much of my collection). But it's not an ordinary book, it's pretty specialized, not something you'd grab to find a recipe for a fast dinner. This one is all about mixing food, art and imagination together and coming up with some amazing stuff.

The book is Surreal Gourmet Bites: Showstoppers and Conversation Starters by Bob Blumer.


If you've ever seen an episode of The Surreal Gourmet you'll know how inventive he is. He takes recipes and food ideas and goes over the top. Take a look at his Caesar Salad:

picture from foodtv.ca

Very cool. So I've wanted to cook out of my book for ages but quite frankly was finding the recipes intimidating. But if I was challenged then I'd have no choice, right?

This book is so much fun and once I decided this was the book I would cook from it did take a while to pick a recipe. S'more Shooters? Bee Stings? French Fried Polenta? Or maybe Inside Out BLT's? They all looked so good. And then Scott sealed the deal the day he came back from the store with a coconut.

Coconut Shrimp Lollipops!


How excellent do those look????? And while a little time consuming, they were pretty easy to make, too.

________________________________________

Scott got busy with his coconut. We were to reserve the coconut water to use in the batter.

I feared for my life just a bit when Scott was beating on the coconut with a KNIFE. I probably should have been fearing for him.

Unfortunately, only about 1 Tb of water came out.


Half the coconut was set aside for presentation and the other half had the meat pulled from the shell and shredded. Our grater was not up to the task of finely shredding the coconut, so I had to use the food processor which shreds in long pieces. Smaller probably would have been better.

We made the beer batter; peeled, de-tailed and skewered the shrimp; and then coated the shrimp in batter and rolled them in the coconut. After a quick fry the shrimp skewers were stuck into a piece of watermelon (so smart) for holding and served with dipping sauce. We did not make Bob's dipping sauce, but used a sweet-spicy dipping sauce we had in the pantry.


Not only is the presentation stunning, the shrimp were also darn tasty. I will make these again but next time will probably forgo the skewers and use packaged coconut from the store instead of fighting with fresh.

I woke up this morning with a bit of a fever and a ferociously sore throat. I've got a good-bye lunch with a friend today and a family dinner tonight, so I think instead of typing out the recipe for you I'll go lie down for a while.

Here's a link to the recipe at Food TV.

If you'd like to take part in WCC - and why wouldn't you???? Please email me your like by September 16.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, September 07, 2007

"Tomato Juice"

I don't remember where or when was the first time I heard of tomato water - pureed tomatos drained through cheesecloth so that you are left with a clear "water" - but it has always intrigued me. It intrigued me, but not enough to actually try it out. Not until my bounty of tomatos from a recent farmers market starting taking up most of the counter space in my kitchen.

As was this pasta dish, I got my idea for my "Tomato Juice" from the new Jamie Oliver show Jamie at Home. Jamie made a Tomato and Vodka Consomme that looked incredible. So I thought I'd try my hand at something similar.

So here's the next installment of Operation: Too Many Tomatos - "Tomato Juice"

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Get out your food processor or blender. Wash and core 2 lbs of tomatos and throw them in. Add 3 cloves of garlic, 1 tb dried basil (or a handful of fresh), 1 tb red wine vinegar, and 2 or 3 shots of vodka. Or leave the vodka out. It's not really enough to alter the flavor so much that it's ruined without it, it just adds a bit of a kick. Puree until smooth.

For the straining, you can either drain the puree in a colander, or suspend it over a bowl. Either way, dampen 2 layers of cheesecloth and wring out. If you want to drain in a colander, line the colander with the cheesecloth, place the colander in a bowl, and pour in the puree. Let drain at least 3 hours, or overnight.
If you want to suspend the cheesecloth, gently pull in the sides of the cloth and tie with some string or an elastic. Suspend with a spoon or what have you over the bowl. Let sit the same as above. As you can see in the picture below the liquid is mostly clear.
And now you can see below, it's not so clear anymore. That's because after 3 1/2 hours I wanted my counter space back, so I gently squeezed the bag to get out as much of the liquid as I could. It's now pink instead of clear, but I think it's much lovelier in pink.
I have no pretty glasses, so here's my "Tomato Juice" in a shot glass. It's completely wonderful, and very, very refreshing. Scott, who I initially had to chase around the house with a glass of it to get him to try it, totally loves it!
Isn't it pretty? If only tomatos were in season at Valentines Day, this would be perfect to serve your loved one that day.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Bites v 2.0

OK, this installment of Bites feels sort of long, so have a seat.

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Let's start with a super short Garden Update. I was in the yard Monday afternoon and I noticed that 4 of our potato plants had turned yellow and flopped to the ground. I figured I should pull them up and dig out the potatos.


Over 3 pounds from the 4 plants! And that's not including all the other potatos we dug up without disturbing the plants. Truly amazing to me. I grew this stuff!

The damn birds are eating our tomatos, so i picked all the red and reddish ones and pulled some carrots too. It's a freaking harvest people!

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If you are a Canuck, don't forget to email me to get your name in for the picnic basket giveaway.

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The minute I saw this salad at Mixed Salad Annie's I knew what I was going to have for lunch that day. Her Fresh Corn Salad is a brilliant recipe and so good for you with all those veggies and beans. The only things I did differently were to not cook the corn - I love raw fresh corn in salad - and I used more tomato. It was perfect and I made the recipe 3 times in one week.


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I came across this yummy recipe for Oatmeal Blueberry Muffins over at Daily Unadventures in Cooking at the end of July, when I happened to have some blueberries in the house. The recipe calls for you to use your food processor to grind up the oats a bit and then to mix the wet ingredients in with the oats. I was too lazy to get out my food processor and then have to clean it Scott was asleep when I made these, so I left the oats whole and unprocessed. The muffins still tasted terrific. My first batch did not look pretty though:



Damn these silicone muffin pans! Isn't the point of using them that they are non-stick and quick release?

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In July when our weather was hot, hot, hot, I made this recipe from Foodtv.ca - Spicy Black Bean Gazpacho. It turned out I didn't have black beans at home, so I used cannelloni beans instead. Fast, refreshing and delicious.

This is now tied with another gazpacho recipe I made this summer (you'll be hearing about it soon) for my favorite.

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This was my second recipe to use up all the preserved lemons I made months ago. Recipe One is here. Yeah, the preserved lemons sort of got lost in the shuffle, didn't they. I made this because I had a container of sour cream and lots of potatos. The purple color from the olives and the hot sauce is sort of odd, but it was pretty good.


Preserved Lemon and Olive Dip

1/3 cup mayonnaise
2/3 cup sour cream
3/8 of a preserved lemon
6 kalamata olives, pitted
1 tsp Sriracha or other hot sauce

Mix together the mayonnaise and sour cream. Remove the flesh from the lemon pieces and discard. Rinse the lemons well and mince them very finely. Mince the olives and mix the lemon, olives and hot sauce into the sour cream. Let sit for at least one hour before serving.

My days of preserved lemons are over, they were accidentally thrown out by my friend Jay who came across them in the fridge. She told Scott that she found something that had gone bad, and without looking at what she was holding, he told her to throw them away. Oh well, I'll make some more another time, a time when I've got some more recipes to use them up in.

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This is a fast and delicious pizza. Instead of using pizza dough for the base, pita bread was used. This way a pizza can be whipped up at a moments notice. We topped the pita bread with smoky bbq sauce instead of tomato sauce and scattered slices of red onion and chopped (cooked) chicken breast over top. Finish with a sprinkle of whatever cheese you have handy (I think we used Parmesan) and set it under the broiler for a few minutes.


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Not much to say about these, other than they were wonderful. When I was in Kamloops this summer my parents and I went out for lunch at a restaurant downtown and my Mom had some great lettuce wraps that she kindly shared with me. I made these when I got back to Calgary.




Vegetable Lettuce Wraps

2 tb oil
1 red pepper thinly sliced
1 stalk celery finely chopped
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 green onions finely sliced
1 1/2 cups sliced napa cabbage
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1 tb grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced

Lettuce leaves for serving

Sauce:
2 tb tamari
2 tb hoisin
1/2 cup water
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp 5 spice powder
1 tb cornstarch

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add the pepper and celery and cook, stirring often for a few minutes. Add the rest of the vegetables and cook until the mushrooms are soft and the cabbage is wilted. In a bowl mix together all the sauce ingredients and pour over the vegetables in the frying pan. Stir and cook until the sauce is thick and bubbly. Move the stir fry to a plate. To serve, spoon some vegetables into a lettuce leaf, top with additional hoisin sauce if desired, roll up and eat.

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Many many moons ago I moved to Calgary from B.C. with my then (now ex) boyfriend. About a week after we got here, his Dad came to town on business and took us out to dinner at Caesars Restaurant downtown. Caesars is a hardcore old school steak house - lots of wood, very dark, waiters all dolled up in black. I couldn't tell you what I ate but it was good and we had fun watching the chef in the little glassed in grill area cook the steaks.

So it seemed somehow fitting that Scott and I were sitting in the Caesars restaurant in the Sound end of town sharing dessert two weeks ago when our Realtor called to tell us that the buyer had met all conditions and our house was sold.

The restaurant I had one of my first meals out in Calgary was home to one of my last.

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Speaking of Caesars, I'm a little confused. It's a nice place; it's a pricey place in my opinion. You're going to spend $50-70 bucks easy per person. To me that's a lot of money - we were only there because I'd been given a gift certificate. So why is the cheese bread - which is AMAZING by the way - brought to the table wrapped in aluminum foil? And why is the Parmesan cheese for my onion soup not real, but that powdery stuff? And why did my green salad look like the cheapo-bagged stuff I buy for $1.99 at the grocery store? A little cheap and cheesy for the price folks. But the steaks? Sooooooooooooo good.

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What? Oh I can't just tell you we sold our house and be done with it? Ok then. We've sold our house and are moving to BC at the end of September. I've given notice at work, we've started telling people, and all we have left to do is realize that this is actually happening and start getting ready to go. T minus 26 days!

Holy Crap.

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I saw this sign at the beginning of summer. I went back the next day with my camera for a picture. Good thing I did, they've replaced it now.

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Have a good day, I'm off to hyperventilate for a while.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Giveaway

Yay! It's giveaway time! Who doesn't love free stuff? I know I do!




To keep Summer around as long as we can, the lovely people at Vlasic Pickles have given me a big prize basket full of goodies for someone in Canada to win!!!!!



Take a look at what is in this basket - 4 piece Barbecue set, an apron, a picnic tablecloth, napkins, plastic glasses, a pickle fork, plus some Vlasic Kosher Dills and Vlasic Stackers all in a wicker basket!

All you have to do is send me an email at iliketocook AT shaw DOT ca and tell me - What person (living or dead) would you invite on a picnic and what would you serve?

You have until Midnight on September 8 to email. Sorry, but the giveaway is only open to residents of Canada.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

La Festa al Fresco

This time last year Lis and Ivonne hosted their first La Festa Al Fresco and thankfully they are doing it again this year. The idea is to prepare any sort of dish - be it appetizer, dessert, drink - with seasonal ingredients and bring it to the party. Last year I chose to use tomatos from my favorite vendor at the farmers market. This year we've put in a garden so I couldn't wait for round 2 of La Festa al Fresco so I could cook a dish with something from our garden.

It looked like we were going to have a bumper crop of zucchini, so I came up with 2 ideas for the party. But our zuke plants haven't done well at all, or rather the plants themselves are huge, but the zucchinis have all died. Most people have zucchini growing out of control but I can't even grow one! My thumb may not be as green as I had hoped.

I really wanted to try out my ideas so I picked up some zucchini from the market. Here's my first dish for the party - Zucchini and Goat Cheese.


I sliced the zucchini in very thin rounds. I covered a baking sheet with parchment paper and made circles of overlapping zucchini slices. I mixed some finely chopped garlic, salt and olive oil together and brushed the zucchini with the oil. The broiler was preheated and the zucchini cooked until they were just starting to brown. I crumbled some goat cheese into the left over garlic oil and when the zucchini came out of the oven the cheese was dotted over top and the pan returned to the oven until the cheese was hot and the zucchini is turning golden. Remove from the oven and very carefully move the rounds to a plate and sprinkle with basil.

Next up is Zucchini and Prosciutto.


Wedges of zucchini tossed with lemon juice and olive oil, then wrapped with prosciutto and cooked on the grill until the zucchini is tender and the prosciutto is crisp. Squirt with lemon before eating.


I was very happy with both dishes - they were delicious - but a bit sad that I hadn't made anything with ingredients from the garden. Then the other day while writing this post I realized that it had been a while since I had made corn soup. And what 2 ingredients for corn soup are growing in my garden?



Potatos and onions!



My recipe is based on this recipe but I've altered it for what I had on hand this morning.

Corn Soup the Second

85 g bacon, chopped
1 onion, diced (from the garden!)
1 yellow or red pepper, seeded and diced
1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, chopped (from the garden!)
1 tsp cumin
1 lb potatos diced (from the garden!)
3 ears of corn, kernels removed
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup light cream
salt and pepper

In a large pot over medium heat cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan and drain on paper towel. Leave the bacon fat in the pot. Add the diced onions and peppers and cook 10-15 minutes until the vegetables are soft and starting to color. Add the rosemary, cumin, potatos, corn kernels and chicken broth. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the cream and bacon. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.