Thursday, April 30, 2009

Garden 2009 - first shots

I'm tired and completely uninspired by recipes and food lately. I've got a couple of things up my sleeve but none of them are fully formed and ready to share.

So it seems that Spring may finally be showing it's head around these parts.....about time! I noticed something in the garden a couple of weeks ago - thought it was a piece of garbage that had blown in with the wind, but to my delight it was my rhubarb plant coming out of hibernation! I was blown away, it looked so horrible last year we were sure it was not going to survive. Our parsley is also making a surprising comeback as well. And the mint, which looked awful last year too, it's popping up. Grape vine and raspberries aren't looking too good, but it is still early.

Scott bought me a couple of presents today - a sage plant, lemon thyme, and a broccoli. They won't be put in the ground yet, but soon my pretties........soon.

What are your garden plans for the year? Have you started working on it yet? What are you planting? What's your best producer every year?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Parting is such sweet sorrow......bye, Daring Bakers.

For two years now I have been a member of the Daring Bakers, the online baking community started in part by my lovely friend Lisa. I will never forget the string of obscenities that escaped my lips when I saw the first challenge that I was to be part of. This was no ordinary baking group!

In my time with the group my confidence with baking and trying new things grew and some pretty spectacular dishes busted out of my kitchen. I made the perfect bagels, made cream puffs from scratch, co-hosted Julia Childs amazing French Bread recipe with Mary, and last month made the best lasagna ever.

But for me it's time to say goodbye to the group.

So thank you. Thank you to Lisa and Ivonne. Thank you to Mary for being the reason I was ever a Daring Baker in the first place. Thank you to all the hosts for your's a tough job to find a recipe for the ever expanding group to make - to answer questions, offer advice, and deal with criticism. Thanks to all in the group who ever offered me advice, answered my questions, and stopped by to see my finished result.

I'll be watching from the outside. Thanks.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Notebook Twelve - The End!

Thanks for sticking with me as a meandered down memory lane with my notebooks. It's been fun for me. And here we are at the last completed book, Book 12. And this will be short and sweet cause it's Saturday morning and there's farmers markets to go to and coffee for Scott to drink.

It's funny that this book is labeled 12, because it's out of order. From the recipes in here, this one was actually made after book 5 I believe. No matter though.

This one's got a lot of sauces, jams and marinades. Lots of appetizers. And lots of desserts I will most likely never make.

These are the BEST bread and butter pickles ever. I used to make a ton of these every summer for everyone I knew. Fast, easy and delicious.

I will probably never make these, but damn these Lemon Thin Tarts look good. I have such a weakness for lemon desserts.

Altons Brown's cardboard smoker diagram.

I chose to try a recipe for Pineapple Chutney to go with our Easter ham. I think this is a Nigella recipe. I really wanted to make the baked pineapple with brown sugar and kahlua recipe I have, but that just seemed too decadent. So chutney it was.

Chutney, meet ham. Next, vanilla ice cream. Ooooooohhhhhhhh.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Presto Pasta - Peas and Ham Pasta

Peas are one of my favorite vegetables. Although you can't beat them fresh in the summer, we've found an organic frozen product that is pretty darned good. I have long been a fan of pasta and peas together, along with combos such as the one below, and my spinach fettucini with peas and proscuitto, one of my favorites was at Chianti's Restaurant in Calgary; we'd go for their Monday night cheap pasta special and I'd always get the pasta with chicken and peas in tomato sauce. So good.

The recipe is originally from Nigella Lawson and I have long had this on my list to try but never had a craving for pasta at the same time I had some ham on hand. But after Easter there is always some leftover ham in our fridge, so all I needed to do was pick up some cream to be ready to go.

This pasta is ridiculously fast to make - put the pasta on to cook, and in the 10-ish minutes it takes to cook, chop your ham, get out your peas and cheese, measure out your cream. Once the noodles are ready, you'll be eating in a flash. I have altered her recipe slightly, most noticeably by using light cream in place of heavy. If you are not worried about fat, go full cream if you like.

Peas and Ham Pasta

200 g short pasta (I love fusilli)
200 g frozen peas
100 g diced ham
1/2 cup light cream
3 or 4 TB grated parmesan cheese

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water. When the pasta is 1 or 2 minutes away from being done, add the peas into the pot. Drain and set aside. Place the empty pot back on the stove and add the ham, cream and cheese. Season with pepper and stir until warm, this should only take a minute. Add the pasta and peas in and stir well. Add more cheese if desired, and serve.

This will serve 2-4 people, depending how large or small your servings are. This is good the next day, you may want to add a little splash of cream.

A lovely dish for Presto Pasta Nights, this week hosted by Hillary at Chew On That!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Bread Baking Babes - Injera

I am always goofily excited whenever it is time to learn what our bread will be for the Bread Baking Babes. This month was no exception and when Mary announced the bread would be Injera, there may have been some whoo-hooing. I came across a recipe for Injera a couple of years ago, but was afraid I'd mess it up so I didn't ever try it. But I knew with Mary as my guide I'd be ok. And I was!

Making the injera is a 5 to 7 day process. It's not complicated or hard, just takes a little bit of time. To start you mix Teff flour, water and a little yeast. The goo sits on your counter and in a couple of days you feed it some more Teff and water. This is my goo separated in layers before I stirred it up and fed it.

After the feeding.

The smell that this gives off is wierd. I thought it smelled like apples starting to go bad. Scott thought it smelled a little grassy. Once the goo had fermented for 5 days, more water and some self raising flour were added, there was some more resting time and then it was time to make the injera. You cook them like a crepe, pouring the batter into the pan, then swirling it around to cover the bottom. The injera are only cooked on one side, and as they cool, they soften and get a little spongy. In a good way.

Mary went above and beyond her host duties, and also gave us some recipes to make Ethiopian dishes to go with the Injera. I made Mary's Wot (stew), Ayib Be Gomen (greens with cottage cheese), Niter-Kebbeh (spiced butter) and Berbere (spice mixture). The last 2 are the seasonings for the dishes.

We invited my parents over for the dinner. You are supposed to eat Ethiopian food with your hand, using the Injera bread to scoop up the food. I put out cutlery because I didn't think my dad would eat with his hands. In fact my mom was the only one to use a fork. Don't worry, we picked on her.

The bread was so great - soft and chewy, and the flavor was quite mild - the stinkyness had all gone away. It was a fun, delicious dinner.

Please go and visit Mary for all the recipes.

You want to make this, trust me.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Notebooks Ten and Eleven

We can see the light at the end of the tunnel now, my tour of notebooks is almost done.

Book 10 is back to the cut and paste. This one has a LOT of vegan recipes, probably more than half the book.

This one has a recipe for Tomato Soup Spice Bread. Have you ever had Tomato Soup Bread? Years ago my Mom asked me to find some recipes for Tomato Soup bread for my Grandmother. I thought it sounded horrible! A couple of years later there was a vendor at one of the farmers markets in Calgary selling it so I bought a loaf. Absolutely delicious.

There's also a couple of Tyler Florence recipes. Peach barbecue sauce sounds so lovely. There's also 10 meatball recipes. It's like I collect them or something. And a Pad Thai recipe from Donna Hay. Don't know if I'll ever try that, I've found the best Pad Thai recipe ever.

Back a million years ago the receptionist at my old office gave me a big bag of cooking magazines. I finally sat down and went through them, tired of lugging that bag from house to house (3 moves!).

The recipe I chose to make was Portobello Mushroom Sandwiches with Roasted Garlic and Basil mayonnaise. I made this for a fast after work supper, and threw in some unroasted chopped garlic in place of the roasted. Sauteed mushrooms and garlic basil mayo go together surprisingly well. This one was a hit.


Book 11 is another binder, to get rid of all the papers I'd collected after I tidied up all the other papers in books 8 and 9.

There are a ton of Thai and Vietnamese recipes in this one. They are 2 of my favorite cuisines and unfortunately they are not well represented restaurant wise where I live. So far I have just denied myself, but that can't keep happening for long. I'll have to jump in and try making some of these dishes.

Only in the last couple of years have I learned to like corned beef. I'm not sure I'm ready to make one at home, but it's nice to have a recipe on hand in case the mood strikes me.

I picked 2 recipes to make from the book Dim Sum by Ellen Leong Blonder. The first was Pork and Shrimp Siu Mai, a little dumpling left open at the top, and cooked by steaming.

Here's my Mom forming the Siu Mai. The finished picture was too hideous to share with you, even by my standards, but they were delicious.

We also made Stuffed Mushrooms, the mushrooms being stuffed with a water chestnut, pork and shrimp mixture.

They were wonderful, and also more photogenic.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Brunch - The Best Meal

I think we've established that I am a fan of breakfast foods. And of course that includes brunch, the best meal(s) of the whole week. So naturally I was on board when Cath from A Blithe Palate and Stephanie from Dispensing Happiness asked me to take part in a group review of a book solely devoted to brunch.

I am not familiar with Gale Gand, the author of Brunch!, but oh my goodness she's been a busy lady. She (to paraphrase from the books back cover) is a James Beard Award winning pasty chef, and the executive pastry chef of the restaurant she co-owns, Tru in Chicago. She also has a show on the Food Network in the States, and this is her seventh cookbook.

Brunch! was a complete joy to read through. I fell in love with the photos and recipes right away, and it was a hard decision to come up with a couple of dishes to try for this event. There are 9 food chapters from Drinks (the Thai Iced Coffee is calling to me) to Pancakes, Waffles, French Toast & Other Sweets (can't wait to try the Buttermilk Pancakes) to The Bakery (Quick Pear Streusel Coffee Cake? Yes please!), and additional chapters discussing menu ideas, equipment and ingredients.

I chose 3 dishes - Coddled Eggs from the More Eggs chapter, Caramelized Apple Crepes from the Pancakes, Waffles, French Toast & Other Sweets chapter, and Homemade Pork and Maple Sausage Patties from the More Savories and Some Sides chapter.

Coddled eggs - the easiest eggs I've ever made. I didn't try this (I am boring and only like scrambled eggs) but Scott loved these, and declared this the new egg cooking method in our house.

Caramelized Apple Crepes - These were finicky for me - I burned my fingers repeatedly and one was wrecked beyond repair - but they tasted lovely with a bit of maple syrup.

Homemade Pork and Maple Sausage Patties - My first time making sausage patties from scratch, but it won't be my last. I never imagined making delicious sausages could be so fast and easy.

This book is such a treat and I'm thrilled to add it to my bookcase. But it won't be there long, it will be back on the kitchen counter next weekend. And the weekend after, and, well you see where I'm going with this.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Breakfast Sandwiches - Make em and freeze em.

I love breakfast! I do. I mentioned a while back that I like to have variety in my breakfast on the weekend, because my weekday breakfasts are boring toast or cereal. As I was driving to work the other morning I passed McDonalds and briefly fantasized about stopping and buying a McMuffin sandwich and enjoying a hot breakfast. I didn't, but as I ate my cereal at work I thought, why not make some breakfast sandwiches at home and freeze them, so I could have a breakfast that's not only hot but healthier than grabbing a drive thru sandwich.

I had all the necessary ingredients on hand - english muffins, eggs, cheese and ham, and the next morning before work I decided to put them together then so I could take one with me.

I used
6 english muffins
3 eggs and 2 egg whites
6 slices of cheese
sliced deli ham

I split and toasted the muffins and let them cool completely. I tore my cheese slices in pieces and put cheese on all the muffin halfs. You could use actual real cheese here if you wanted, but I love these fat free cheese slices.

Then I put some ham on half of the muffin pieces. You could use bacon, sausage, back bacon, or even omit the meat if you want. Tomato would be good if you were eating these fresh but it'd get soggy if you froze them. In my opinion.

Then cook your eggs. I only like scrambled eggs so that's what I made. I used 3 eggs and 2 egg whites. It was actually a little too much, next time I will do 2 eggs and 2 whites. Let the eggs cool so your sandwiches don't get soggy, then pile em on the muffins.

Then I wrapped 5 of them in foil, put them in a freezer bag and tossed them in the freezer. In theory I will take one out the night before, put it in the fridge to defrost, then nuke, toast or grill in the morning for a nice tasty hot breakfast.

I have since thawed and eaten on of the muffins and it held up very well. The bread didn't get soggy. The eggs tasted fine. Ham was good and cheese was yummy and gooey and dripped all over the place. Add a side of ketchup for dipping and it's a perfect portable breakfast!

Other breakfast ideas:

Ham and Apple Breakfast Pie
Lemon Cornmeal Waffles
Yogurt and Berry Parfait
Breakfast Burritos

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Notebooks eight and nine.

Book 8 is where I gave up. I had so many full sized sheets of paper with recipes on them, and I was so tired of sitting on the floor surrounded by papers, trying to trim down the pages to be glued into various books. I gave in, bought a binder and in less than 30 minutes had a tidy book instead of a messy pile of papers.

Thai cashew chicken. Baguette. Hushpuppies. Jerk rub. Bbq sauce, chutney, dumplings. More cornbread.

This sorbet shooter recipe is from the American food network host everyone loves to hate - Sandra Lee. I think they sound yummy.

I don't remember who linked to this recipe for me to find, just that someone made it and loved it and recommended it. Portobella Mushrooms stuffed with Chipolte Mashed Potatos from What Do I Know?

This was a super tasty dinner and ridiculously easy. It's got lots of my favorites - roasted portobella mushrooms, mashed potatos, chipoltes. Yum!


Since I got rid of so many papers with Book 8 I did the same for Book 9. The floor by my cookbook bookcase hadn't been that clean in a long time.

I can't wait to try that teriyaki meatloaf. Teriyaki anything is a favorite of mine. Years ago if I was alone and needed a fast meal I used to microwave a potato until soft, then spread it with butter and teriyaki sauce. My metabolism doesn't allow meals like that anymore.

Sandra Lee haters, avert your eyes! I have a couple of her recipes in here, including her Crispy Orange Beef, which beat out Rachel Ray in one of my smackdowns.

Now that we no longer live near an Ikea (sob!) I must make my own Swedish Meatballs. But I haven't yet.

This one is from Lisa.

I don't know what book I copied this Provencal Gratin in. Brown rice, onion and zucchini, baked with cheese. Provencal, indeed.