Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Years Eve

What are you doing for NYE?  We decided to stay in this year... we will be having a delicious dinner though.

Holiday Eating

Hi friends, how was your Christmas? Mine was great!  This year we decided to host our first annual Boxing Day party with my family and Phil’s so we could continue on celebrating after Xmas Eve and Xmas spent at both our parent's homes. We wanted it as low maintenance as possible since I wouldn’t have much time to prep being out of the house for two days leading up, so everybody brought a dish. We had tons of food! We’re still eating all the leftovers, actually. I didn’t take photos since everybody arrived at the same time and we all quickly dove in. Here, however, is the hot mulled cider I made. I wish I could tell you I made it from scratch, but as I said we wanted it as low maintenance as possible. So instead I picked up a bottle of apple cider from the refrigerator section and added my own mulling spices… clove, cinnamon sticks, star of anise and added chopped apple and orange slices. We only added alcohol as we served it since we wanted something for the kids to enjoy too. I think you usually add rum but we added Cointreau. Oh, and we kept it hot in the crock pot Phil’s sister leant us (thanks Vic!).

The apron I found in my stocking from my mom and my new curlers from Phil’s mom. Who is that person??

With the leftover ham my mom brought I decided to make ham and split pea soup.

Meaty ham bone
16 Cups of water
4 Large carrots
1 Large onion, chopped
2 Celery, chopped
2 1/4 Cups of dried split peas, rinsed
1 Tsp table salt
1/4 Tsp black pepper

Cover ham bone in 16 cups water in a deep pot, uncovered and simmer.

Chop 2 carrots, onion and celery and add to pot with rinsed split peas, table salt, pepper and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until peas are falling apart and soup is slightly thickened, about 2 hours.  That's it!

Monday, December 21, 2009

I'm not so good at gardening

Beth look its the Rosemary you got me!  I'm trying to grow herbs indoors  this winter.  I moved him in from the garden and he looks like he's doing okay, but I don't know about the Thyme... oh the Thyme!

Does Thyme grow well inside?  I think he might be struggling.  You can't tell by this photo, but the leaves are starting to brown.  Maybe I should get a bigger pot?

Pork Chops with Apple Stuffing

Phil loves pork chops and I don't cook them nearly enough.  The other day I saw some nice ones at Starsky that looked perfect for stuffing. Have you stuffed chops before? It's really easy and this dish takes no time at all.  Try and find some nice thick chops.

1 tbs of olive oil
2 Small Golden Delicious apples, chopped
2 Pork Cops, centre cut
1 Small onion, chopped
1 Small celery stock, chopped
2 Slices of whole grain bread
1 Tbs of Basil, chopped
1 Tbs Tarragon, chopped
1 Tbs of Rosemary, chopped
1 ounce of red wine
1/4 cup of Chicken broth
2 Tbs of unsalted butter
4 Slices of bacon, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Take the large side of the chop and make a 2-inch slit on the side using a sharp pairing knife, make a pocket spreading the knife from side to side without puncturing.  You don't want to make the slit too big or the stuffing will fall out.  Once you've made the pockets in both chops, season the outside with salt and pepper and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Sweat the bacon, after a few minutes add the onion, cook and add celery and apple and sweat another 5 minutes, add herbs at the last minute.  Deglaze with the wine and let cool slightly, combine with bread, add the butter and add the stock.

Fill the chops with the stuffing and fasten the opening with a toothpick.  Brush with a little oil and lightly brown in a hot skillet.  Bake in the oven until done, about 20 minutes.  Baste frequently with butter.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Gifts to buy the food lover in your life

I think every cook needs a Dutch Oven.  Le Creset is a well known brand, but they cost a pretty penny. You can often find them at a discounted price at Home Sense or you can purchase a Mario Batali’s Dutch Oven. I know we’ve been feeling overwhelmed with celebrity chef gear and sometimes it's not that great, but I’ve read good things about his line.

Speaking of celebrities... this book is amazing. I think Martha has the perfect cupcake for every occasion - if only I liked baking!! At least I can appreciate it.

Every time I’m zesting a piece of citus, or grating paremsean, I wonder how I survived without this.

Cooking classes at Calphalon Cooking School. Phil and I took one together on my birthday. You can drink wine while you cook too!

Ahhhh... the weekend!

Hello my friends, what are your plans for the weekend? Phil and I are going to the Nutcracker tonight at the new Four Seasons Centre. Have any of you been there? I love walking by it at night when you can see the beautiful staircase and the theatre people enjoying cocktails. I've also heard that it doesn't really matter if you have the cheap seats, as the view is good pretty much anywhere.

We're also going to Nota Bene for dinner, another place I haven't been yet. Nota Bene is the newest venture by the same owners of Splendido. I've heard so much about Splendido that I feel like I've been there, but I haven't, because it's one of the most expensive restaurants in Toronto. Anyway, Nota Bene serves the same high quality ingredients but with a more relaxed atmosphere and prices (thank you!). I remember when it first moved into the Queen and John neighbourhood across the street from the Much Music building I didn't take much notice since the restaurants around there often disappoint. You usually have to go West of Bathurst to find the good restaurants on Queen West.

We also have a Christmas party Saturday and plan to finish up the rest of our gifts. Oh, and I also need to start preparing for our Boxing Day party we're having with our families.

I love this time of year!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Roast Beef

A classic Sunday night meal.  Served with roasted potatoes, carrots, onions and brussel sprouts.  As usual there is way too much food here, but the leftovers will make nice sandwiches with Brie, red onion sauteed in balsamic vinegar and Arugula on a nice crusty bun.

For the beef:

Boneless roast beef
1 large clove of garlic clove, peeled and cut into slivers
1 tbs of fresh Rosemary, chopped
1 tbs of fresh Thyme, chopped
1 tbs of olive oil
1 tbs of old style mustard
2 ounces of red wine
Salt and pepper
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces
2 small onions, peeled and quartered

Make small slits all over the meat with a sharp knife, inserting a sliver of garlic into each as you go.  Rub the meat all over with olive oil, salt and pepper, rosemary, thyme, mustard and 1 ounce of the wine.  Marinate in a freezer bag in the fridge for at least 5 hours or up to 1 day.  (That's always the recommended marinating time, but I didn't know what we were having for dinner until I picked the beef up about an hour before I started preparing this, so just marinate as long as you can.)

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Meanwhile, heat a heavy skillet on medium high heat with a little olive oil.  Once it's good and hot cook the beef searing all sides.  Place the beef in an oiled heavy roasting pan just large enough to hold comfortably.  Add carrots and onion to roasting pan and pour the remaining ounce of wine over the beef.  Roast the beef in the oven for about 45 minutes (depending how you like it cooked and how large the meat is.)  until the thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat reads 150F.  Remove meat from the roasting pan and tent it using aluminum foil for about 10 minutes while you prepare the gravy and and veggies you're serving.  By the time you go to carve it should be around 160F for medium.  Don't forget the horseradish! 

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Curry

I think East Indian food is one of my favourites.  So much so that I used to go to Indian buffet at least once, sometimes twice a week.  Actually, who am I kidding I think I still go once a week. I stick to Indian buffets because otherwise going out for Indian can be expensive.  You want at least 1-2 meat dishes and a veggie and you have to order rice and the naan bread.  So buffet for me is the way to go!

This here is a veggie curry and besides being very tasty it's inexpensive too.  I think you can find cauliflower sometimes for a dollar and you only need one sweet potato, and that's even less. I suggest making a whole lot of this and freezing it because curry and stews are always better the next day or longer.

Now for the recipe!  This is more of a guideline, I usually pull out all my Indian spices and sample as I go to figure out what I need more of, and I think you should do the same.  Add the spices to the onion and later once it's been simmering a while sample and try and figure out what's missing.  Each time I cook this it turns out a little different, but always good.

Oh, and add the Bay leaves to your rice and water and cook for a little flavour... pull them out just before serving.

1 small cauliflower or half a large cut into 1 inch pieces
1 large sweet potato peeled and cut into half inch pieces
1 onion diced
4-5 cloves of garlic minced
1 tsp of Turmeric
1/2 tbs of Curry powder
1 tsp of Cardamom
1/2 tbs Cumin
1 tbs of Tikka Masala *
1 large can of whole tomatoes
1 cup of frozen peas
1-2 Bay leaves
1 cup of Basmati rice
1 tbs of vegetable oil

Chop onion, garlic, potato and cauliflower.

Heat oil in large skillet on medium high heat and add onion and the garlic and sweat until translucent (for about 3 minutes) before adding all spices.  Let onion and spices continue cooking for another 3 minutes stirring often, add the potato and cauliflower stirring to combine with spices and onion.

Add can of tomatoes with their juices and bring to a boil, cover with lid slightly ajar and let simmer until all vegetables are tender, after about 20 minutes adjust spices and add a little water if it's needed.

This here is a spice blend I discovered at the Food & Wine show a couple of years ago and later came across it again at a farmers market in the summer.  I'm now pleased to know that Whole Foods sells it.  It's a Oakville company called Arvindas.   They offer serving suggestions on the container of each spice blend they offer and have recipes available on the website.  They suggest using the Tikka Masala with yogurt based dishes.  I obviously didn't do that here, but will try it with a yogurt marinated chicken I do often in the summer (recipe to follow).

Chicken Drumsticks with Yogurt Marinade

This recipe is from The Big Grill by Paul Kirk. I make it often in the summer when we have people over for a BBQ since it's another inexpensive one because it uses drumsticks. The cookbook was such a great find for under $10 and I use it often for grilling tips.  It also has a great recipe for grilled butterflied leg of lamb... YUM!

Here's the recipe with a few of my changes:

Generous 1/2 cup of plain yogurt
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1- inch piece gingerroot, peeled and shredded *
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp of Turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp of garam masala
1/2 tsp of chili powder
Sea Salt to taste
8 chicken drumsticks

Place the chicken drumsticks in a freezer bag for marinating. Combine all the marinade ingredients in a bowl and reserve a small amount.  Add the rest to a bag and mix using your hands.  Place bag in the fridge and let marinate overnight.

Grill the chicken over medium-hot heat, turning and basting often with the reserved marinade, 20 minutes or until the juices are clear when the thickest part of the leg is pierced.

* Keep your gingerroot in the freezer for easy grating. 

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cheese Tortellini Carbonara

Last Saturday Phil and I needed to make something quick before we were off to a friend’s engagement party. I was out earlier that day doing some Christmas shopping and decided to stop at one of our local bakeries. I think I was hungry becauseI left with a Calabrese bread, fresh tortellini, Italian sausages, prosciutto and capicola. Phil really doesn’t like heavy cream based sauces for pasta so I decided to make a carbonara of sorts. You’ll have to trust me on this one, as I forgot to take a photo since we were in a rush to eat.

100 grams of prosciutto

1 tbs of unsalted butter

½ cup of grated Parmesan cheese

3 large eggs.

Enough tortellini for two and a little extra to eat later when we’re back.
Large handful of peas and or arugula  (optional)

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water until el dente.

Heat butter in large skillet over medium heat and add prosciutto. Sauté until prosciutto is brown and slightly crisp. Transfer pasta to skillet and coat with butter and prosciutto. Remove pasta from heat and whisk eggs in separate bowl. Working quickly add whisked eggs to pasta and sprinkle 1/2 cup grated cheese.

For a little green feel free to add peas (frozen are fine) or arugula to pasta just before adding the egg.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pork Braised in Milk

A.K.A. Milk Meat, but I think the above sounds better.  I really need to work on my food styling/photography.  Maybe I need to ask Madeleine for some tips.

I really enjoyed this recipe.  Perfect for a chilly Sunday evening when you're in no rush to go anywhere and it has the time to slowly braise.  I've seen many variations of this recipe and finally decided to try it when I saw Laura Calder do it on the Food Network.  The pork is so tender and flavourful!  The sauce also has lots of flavour and it's so easy to make.  I haven't mastered gravy, so I really appreciated how simple this was.   This is her recipe with a few minor changes.  By the way, has redesigned their website and it's way easier to find recipes.  The search function is almost exactly the same as epicurious and I'm a big big fan of epicurious.  You must check it out if you haven't already.

1  pork roast,  fat trimmed
4 garlic cloves, peeled and cut into slivers
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, cut in half
1 parsnip or carrot, cut in half
2 large rosemary sprigs
3 bay leaves
4 cups whole milk

Make small slits all over the meat with a sharp knife, inserting a sliver of garlic into each as you go. (If you can do this several hours or the night before cooking, all the better.) Rub the meat all over with salt and pepper. Heat the oven to 350F.

Melt the butter in a deep, lidded casserole dish, and brown the meat well on all sides. Add the onion, parsnip, and herbs to the pot. Pour over the milk, and bring to a simmer. Cover the dish and transfer to the oven until tender, about 3 hours, turning the meat at least once.

Remove the meat from the pot and wrap in foil to keep warm. Remove the herbs, carrot, and onion and discard. Boil them down to about a cup and blend with a blender.

I've realized that I don't have many veggies dishes on here, so I'm going to try an make an effort to include more.  Soon I'll post a recipe for a great sweet potato and cauliflower curry.  It's very simple to make and it's cheap!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

French Cut Lamb Chops and Couscous

 You might have noticed I haven’t posted in a long time.  We’ve had a very busy couple of weeks that involved no cooking.  We’ve been eating a lot of sandwiches and I think one night I had brie and crackers.  I have a feeling with all the Christmas parties coming up there will be even less cooking, but lots of eating!  I need to get organized enough to throw a party next year. 

Anyway, I still haven’t cooked a good meal so here’s a dish I made about a month ago that I forgot to post.

Yields 2 (sorry I often forget to include that)

1 cup of couscous
4 lamb cutlets French cut
½ a chilli with seeds removed
1 tbs of ground cumin
1 tbs of extra virgin olive oil
1 tbs of fresh thyme chopped
1 small red onion finely sliced
2-3 ripe tomatoes chopped with seeds left in
½ cup of parsley chopped
Juice from half a lemon
Salt and Pepper (FYI - I pretty much always use sea salt and ground pepper)

Place the couscous in a bowl and pour enough boiling water that the couscous is just covered.  Set couscous aside.

Sprinkle lamb with salt and pepper, cumin and olive oil.

Heat frying pan and olive oil and start cooking the lamb chops.  When the lamb chops have browned on one side add the thyme, onion and chilli.

Cook for about 5 minutes letting the chops brown evenly and the onion cook.

Add tomatoes, parsley and lemon juice to couscous and fluff up with a fork.

Place 2 chops on a pile of the couscous.