Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Holy Tomatoes!!

The tomatoes in my garden are out of control! For the last few weeks we have been picking about a liter of cherry tomatoes every 2 days. Yesterday I swear we picked a bucket and there are more ready to be picked today!! So with this many tomatoes new recipes were in order and a recipe that used a lot of the tomatoes cause I don't want them to go bad. I made a cherry tomato sauce and tossed it with rigatoni, parmesan cheese, & arugula very yummy and fresh tasting! 

Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce
2-3 pints Cherry Tomatoes (slice half of the tomatoes in half)
3 tbsp sliced garlic (approx 4-6 cloves)
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (more if you like it really spicy)
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tsp chopped oregano

Preheat oven to 350
In a large glass pyrex (13x9) toss all the ingredients except the herbs. Roast in the oven until the tomatoes are tender, stirring occasionally for about 40-45 minutes.  
Remove from the oven and toss with the herbs

I used this sauce for pasta but you could also use it over chicken. As mentioned above when you toss the pasta with the sauce you can vary the recipe by adding arugula, spinach, parmesan, sliced chicken, or shrimp etc. See what's in your fridge that's what I do!

Friday, July 9, 2010

A healthier Carbonara Sauce?

So Thursday is my official yummy dinner night! After picking up another basket of veggies i made my meal plan...easy.  The basket this week had carrots with the green tops, purple romaine lettuce, green beans, yellow zucchini, another type of zucchini (to be discovered later) basil, italian parsley, and cucumbers.
This weeks produce was a little more basic so I just went with what I was in the mood for which was pasta. Recently my favorite and easiest pasta has been a carbonara. Not a lot of ingredients and by the time the water boils and the pasta cooks everything is ready to assemble. Here is the recipe for what I made this week, but feel free to sub in whatever fresh ingredients you have as long as you keep the basics intact you should be fine. Oh and the healthy part, I just figure since I am throwing in a bunch of vegetables to a pasta sauce that normally doesn't have any it makes it good for me right?! I also cut down the amount of egg yolks. My way of thinking is if all the ingredients are pure & fresh, i.e. no preservatives or things I can't pronounce, then I am one step to being a healthier human, I never said low fat just healthier!

Carbonara with Yellow Zucchini, Lima Beans & Fresh Peas

2 1/4" slices of Pancetta diced (bite size pieces)
1 Yellow Zucchini diced (bite size pieces)
Handful each of fresh Peas & fresh Lima beans ( I bought mine at the Atwater market and shelled them myself! You can taste the difference)
1 Garlic Flower if you have finely chopped
1.5 tbsp chopped fresh thyme (this brings all the flavour so use fresh)
2 egg yolks
200ml cream
4 handfuls of freshly grated parmesan
Salt & Pepper
365 G fussili Pasta or rigatoni

Bring salted water to a boil, add pasta and cook for time on package. Meantime over med/high heat saute pancetta until slightly brown, then remove from pan onto a paper towel. Add zucchini to pancetta oil and leave it in the pan for a few minutes without touching it so it can brown nicely, then toss it to brown all sides, takes about 5 mins total. Add  lima beans, peas, garlic flowers & thyme saute for 3 mins then remove pan from heat, add the pancetta back to pan. In a bowl mix the egg yolk, cream and parmesan together. Before the pasta is finished cooking reserve about a cup of the cooking liquid to add to the sauce later. Drain Pasta, toss directly in the pan with the veggies, stir it up a bit, and then add the egg mixture and toss all together right away, be sure to toss the pasta with the egg mixture quickly or you will make scrambled eggs! Adjust seasoning by adding salt & pepper if needed. If you find it isn't saucy enough add a bit of pasta water and sometimes a bit more parmesan is needed. Serve and enjoy!

The Veggie and Pancetta cane be a side dish for any meal

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Organic Vegetable Basket Inspires Dinner!

In my previous post I mentioned that I signed up for an organic basket program for the summer. It started this week and the picture above is from the first basket. All the vegetables are organic, more important to me is that they are fresh and local. They come from a farm in Franklin, Quebec which is just an hour out of the city. The program is 20 weeks long, so from now until mid November, there will be a basket available once a week. I foresee Thursdays being my new big dinner days! This week I didn't prepare a thing until I picked up the basket, then I went to the grocery store to get any missing ingredients. I think this is the best way to be inspired by your ingredients, instead of starting from a recipe. I gathered the ingredients and then said "what I can I cook from this?"

So for the contents of this weeks basket: Radishes which are bigger than golf balls!, Beets with greens intact, green onions, 1 zucchini, oak leaf lettuce, bok choy, thai basil, savory, garlic flowers & I exchanged cilantro for a huge napa cabbage. I was really pleased with the contents. There are a few items that I have never cooked with before but that is part of the adventure, plus it forces you to create new recipes!

So for dinner I made a garden fresh salad with honey/champagne vinaigrette & cabbage rolls.
 For the salad I used the oak leaves (new ingredient for me) they have a soft texture like a bibb lettuce but with a bit of a kick like arugula. I peeled and shaved a beet (if you slice a beet very thin it is enjoyable raw), green onions, radishes, & zucchini flowers (from my garden) I just tore them into the salad at the last minute. Ingredients not from my garden or the basket were goat cheese & tomatoes (next week hopefully). The recipe for the vinaigrette is at the bottom. The combination between the soft lettuce, crispy beets, smooth goat cheese and overall freshness of everything went really well with the sweet vinaigrette. When I tasted the vinaigrette on it's own it was very sweet from the honey, but it worked really with the earthiness from the beets and the tangy goat cheese.

For the cabbage rolls, I picked up a meatloaf mix (ground pork,veal,beef) at the grocery store and used some leftover tomato sauce that I had made earlier in the week. I sauteed onions, the zucchini and garlic (from my garden) together until softened, added the meat. I chopped up some of the Savory herb which I would say is like rosemary, sage & thyme got together. It is a very woodsy herb. I cooled the mixture added 1 egg whisked and 2 good handfuls of freshly grated parmesan. I blanched the large cabbage leaves in boiling water for 2-3 minutes until they were softened then drained and dried them. Then the assembly began. Put a little tomato sauce in the bottom of a baking dish so the rolls don't stick. Place a cabbage leaf on a board and add about 2 1/2 good spoonfuls of filling at about the middle of the leaf. Fold the bottom of the leaf up, tuck the sides in and roll to create a little package. Some of my leaves were broken it's not a big deal after-all cabbage rolls aren't exactly a gourmet meal! Place the rolls in the baking dish, top with tomato sauce and bake covered for 30 minutes  @ 350.  I topped them with a little more parmesan, they were pretty yummy and not as much of a pain to make as I thought they would be! They also reheat really well. 
Honey Vinaigrette

  • 2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 5 tablespoons extra-light olive oil
  • Ground white pepper

Whisk together the first 3 ingredients and then slowly whisk in the oil so the dressing emulsifies. Add pepper to taste. 

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Growing Dinner

Planting a vegetable garden is one of my favorite summer activities. The freshness and rewarding feeling you get from going out to literally pick and see what you will be cooking for dinner is unbelievable, and the veggies really do taste better!

This year we planted eggplant, zucchini, purple romaine, boston lettuce, cherry tomatoes, monte carlo tomatoes, jalapenos, green beans, butternut squash, pumpkin, heirloom tomatoes (courtesy of my aunt Jackie) and red & yellow beets. We always have raspberries, blueberries and Jerusalem artichokes which come back every year (perennials). But this year we had a few surprise veggies, green onions that I planted last year and never grew and Garlic!! I guess maybe they take a year to grow or maybe because they are bulbs they will come back every year. (fingers crossed) I also have a huge pot of herbs (Basil, oregano, thyme, mint, chives, arugula, and sage)

Everything is growing really well this year, I haven't bought lettuce in 2 weeks and now that the eggplant and zucchini has started I can cross that off my shopping list too! It amazes me every year that I spend 20-25 dollars to plant the garden and then don't go veggie shopping for months. That is the best investment return I have seen in a while.

The only thing that isn't growing is the beets, but this is the first year we have tried them and we planted them from seeds, which doesn't always work. The best advise that I have to people wanting to try a vegetable garden is go for it! I would suggest buying the plants already started instead of trying from seeds which is very difficult because our summer isn't long enough to allow everything to mature. For what it costs to try to grow veggies it is worth it even if you don't have complete success on every front. At the end of the season, you have saved money, eaten healthier (no chemicals) and you have the rewarding feeling of growing your own food despite the fact that you don't live on a farm. If anyone has there own garden stories please feel free to share them I would love to hear about other people's successes and failures!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Big News!!!

So I have a huge announcement to make, for those of you that don't know already...I am pregnant!!! I am due in October and we are very excited! I am at the exciting part of the pregnancy now, I am starting to waddle around and there is no way to hide the belly now. Also I think I am carrying a gymnast or the next karate kid, because I am being kicked or punched left right and center! It is a wonderful feeling. Sometimes at night I just lie down and watch my stomach move, which at first a little creepy (looks like an alien is moving inside, as you see your stomach move from the inside). Now it has turned into one of my favorite activities.

It took a while for us to get to this point so the anticipation is killing us, we are so excited to have this baby and be parents. The last month has been all about make room for baby. Easier said than done, boy did we collect a lot of crap over the years! The furniture has been ordered, I just got the bedding this week, which was way more difficult a task than I anticipated. Apparently now that everyone has the technology to find out what the sex of the baby is most people do, so looking for gender neutral bedding isn't easy.  It doesn't help that I am picky and had an idea in my mind which didn't involve, bunnies, elephants, giraffes or frogs!

So I'm almost in the home stretch, 3 1/2 more months to go! If your trying to do the math and can't figure it out, it's because women are pregnant for 10 months not 9!!!!!! Technically the first month doesn't count cause your not actually pregnant, but a full term pregnancy is 40 weeks which is 10 months. Why don't they just say 10 months, what made 9 the magic number?

In the future I definitely see this blog moving from the kitchen to the couch! As of now I am still cooking, I just have to manage my time a little better, so I'm not standing for more than a few hours. But I am feeling great now and am looking forward to the bounty of my vegetable garden and trips to the markets to see what else is coming in locally. Summer is the best time to explore and cook fresh delicious food. I signed up for a direct from the farm vegetable basket this year, which means that every thursday I get a basket of whatever is fresh from the farm that week, from now until mid november. This week is my first basket I will keep you updated on how that works out.

And of course many more updates on how my little eggplant is doing (every week the book I am reading compares the baby to a fruit or vegetable so we can gauge the size)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

New Plan....Personal Chef

I have decided to add another facet to my business: Personal Chef. The plan is to book customers for each day of the week to use my culinary services. This will hopefully provide some stability and consistency into my life. Here is how it will work. I will go grocery shopping for the customer for whatever I need to make them the meals plus whatever they might need for groceries that day. I will charge them the cost of the groceries plus the time I spent shopping and cooking at their house. The idea is that they will get 1 meal fresh and served to them for dinner, and then I will also depending on what they prefer make meals for lunch, snack and dinners for the next few days. I think it is a win win, I will have set hours for work on specific days of the week set in advance. The customer will have a larger menu selection since now I will be cooking ready to serve instead of reheating. So now I can do more fish and red meat which can be cooked properly without the concern of being overdone.

I'm pretty excited about this next step, I have two customers that I think are interested. Spread the word if you know someone that might be interested in having a home cooked meal, prepared in there home. Oh and of course I will be leaving the kitchen the way it was presented to me....hopefully clean!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Tribute to Julia Child

I remember watching Julia Child on TV when I was very young, I found her peculiar and hilarious. Her larger than life characte made quite an impression on my ten year old self. She always looked like she was having so much fun, and her voice was unlike anything I had ever heard. I am very surprised and dissapointed in myself that it was the release of the movie Julia & Julia that pushed me to buy her famous cookbook "Mastering The Art of French Cooking". The book is filled with good old fashioned hearty recipes. The layout of the book is very different from a traditionanl cookbook. For example, in her book she lists the ingredients as they appear in the recipe with the instructions beside them, sometimes you have to flip 2 or 3 pages to make your list of ingredients before going to the grocery store. Once you get used to her methods it is very clear and easy to understand, which was the whole point of her book. She wanted women that don't know there way around the kitchen to be able to read a recipe and execute it deliciously.

Yesterday, I set out to make a beef stew from the book. No not Boeuf Bourgignonne, I didn't have a whole day to spare! I made what I would call it's cousin Boeuf a la Catalane. She described this as a mediterranean stew, although the only thing that is mediterranean about it would be the tomatoes and parmagian. The stew was easy to make, the only change I made was that instead of using a skillet to start the cooking and then transfering everything to a casserole I cooked everything in a dutch oven. The stew was hearty and delicious. It resembled a Jamabalaya because of the rice. I am defiinitly going to use this cooking method for other proteins (chicken, shrimp etc). It was yummy and my hubby had thirds, so I think it is a keeper!!!

Try the recipe below and let me know if you like it as much as we did. I change a few things but just for convenience. Sorry there are no pictures because Jeremy didn't want to wait for me to take them. Oh and there was no leftovers!

Boeuf A La Catalane-Julia Child

1/4 lb chunk of bacon cubed
2 Tbsp Olive oil
3 lbs stewing beef but into squares about 1"
1 1/2 cups sliced onions
1 cup unwashed white rice (raw)
1 cup dry white wine
2-3 cups beef stock
2 garlic cloves minced
1/2 tsp thyme
pinch of saffron ( didn't have)
1 crumbled bay leaf ( I used  dried and left it whole)
1lb ripe red tomatoes, peeled, seeded, juiced and chopped. ( I drained a can of diced tomatoes) about 1 1/2 cups
1 cup grated parmesan

Equipment needed: medium sized dutch oven (I used a 5.3L round), slotted spoon, a large bowl, a small bowl. wooden spatula (so not to scratch your pot)

Preheat oven to 325

In a dutch oven heat a tsp of the oil and lightly brown the bacon, remove with a slotted spoon to the bowl.

Dry the meat on paper towels, heat the dutch oven until the oil/bacon fat is almost smoking, add the meat a few pieces at a time to brown. When it is brown place in the bowl.

Lower heat to moderate and brown the onions lightly, remove them and add to the bowl.

Stir the rice into the oil/fat for 2-3 minutes until it turns a milk color. Scrape into the small bowl with a  spatula for later. '

Pour off any remaining fat, add the wine and stir for a minute over the heat scraping up all the yummy brown bits. Add the bacon/beef/onions back to the dutch oven.

Add the garlic, thyme, salt & pepper, bay leaf & saffron (if using)
Add the stock almost to the height of the beef, bring to a simmer, cover and set in the lower position of the oven to simmer slowly for an hour.

Remove dutch oven from oven, stir in the tomatoes, bring to a simmer, cover and return to the oven for about another hour until the meat is fork tender.

Remove from oven and raise temp to 375.
Skim off any fat if there is any, add more stock or water so that it almost at the height of the beef. Stir in the rice bring to a simmer and cover. Place back in the oven and keep it at a full simmer, do not stir it anymore at this point. Cook for about 20-25 minutes, the rice will have absorbed almost all of the liquid and should be cooked.

Remove from oven, just before serving fold in the Parmesan (if you want)

Bon Appetit!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Travel as much while your young

My husband and I love to travel, we try to plan a big trip every year or at least that is the plan until we have kids and are a little more restricted. From the beginning of our relationship we traveled. On our 1 year anniversary (dating) we spent 6 weeks backpacking through Europe. We started in Germany, France then Switzerland, Italy & Greece. It was our first time traveling together and we survived it. I find that traveling together really tests your relationship. Your not at home, you don't know where everything is, you get lost, you don't speak the language. That was probably when I realized our relationship would stand the test of time....and travel!

Everyone has their own travel style, some people like to bake in the sun and swim up to a bar in the pool, others like to cities on guided tours through museums cathedrals and landmarks. Luckily, Jeremy and I have similar travel styles. We are not crazy about guided tours unless they are short. Museums we prefer to walk at our own pace and neither of us is that interested in Churches or Cathedrals unless something particularly interesting happened there. We always hit all the key sightseeing spots but don't go the extra mile. We prefer to walk around a city and do our own tour, always on our list is markets whether they be for food, crafts or antiques. We find you learn more off the beaten path than you would following the Frommers guide to (insert city name here) We always try to learn a few basic words in the language of the city we are in. Obviously it doesn't hide the fact that we are tourists but at least we can be polite.

We have been to other Greek Islands (Crete & Corfu) as part of family vacations. Trips closer to home have included NYC & Florida and we were engaged in Bermuda.

When we planned our honeymoon in Tahiti and Bora Bora our thought process was "let's go as far as we can, where we wouldn't bring kids, and probably won't get a chance to go back to" The plan worked! Our honeymoon was very special definitly a once in a lifetime trip.

Last summer we sent to London and Prague. We put those cities together randomly.

Neither of us had been to London and I had been to Prague and wanted my husband to see it too. Another hugely successful trip. Great food paired with sightseeing at our own pace.  

Now we are planning our trip for 2010. We have yet to go to Asia and since we don't have kids yet it is on my high priority of things to do before I get pregnant! My thought process is that we can travel to Europe with kids the flight isn't too long but a 16-18 hour flight with children running up and down an airplane is not fun for anyone.

So we are looking at a cruise of Asian Capitals and Vietnam it will hit all the key cities: Singapore, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh, Da Nag, Hanoi and end in Hong Kong. The cruise is 14 days which will translate into an 18 day trip factoring in travel time etc. On the one hand I feel like I am rushing to make these travel plans but on the other it makes sense because I am going to get pregnant eventually and then travel to asia is out of the question for a while. Planning such a substantial trip makes me a little nervous, it's kind of like the honeymoon, you want to get it right because chances are you won't be going back, and if you do it will be much later in life. 

So if anyone has traveled to the far east and has any suggestions please share them!

We still have a lot of the world we want to see, our list goes across the atlantic to Ireland, Spain & the south of France, or just across the continent to San Francisco. I look forward to exploring the world with my husband well into the golden years of our marriage. 

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Turkey Turkey Turkey

I think the best part of a Christmas dinner isn't the meal itself it is what you get after the meal.....Turkey Soup! After the turkey has been carved I put in it in the largest pot that I have and fill the pot with water, put in on the stove and begin the soup. You boil the soup for about an hour skimming the icky white stuff off as it rises to the top. Then you add carrots, celery and an onion (with the skin on, it helps give the soup a nice yellow color.) Simmer it slightly uncovered for another hour, drain the soup chop up the veggies and bits of turkey that are left, season with salt and pepper and voila the most flavourful soup you will have ever tasted! If you would like to freeze the soup don't add the vegetables and turkey to it, just freeze the broth.

The reason why I find turkey soup so much more flavourful than chicken soup is because of the carcass to water ration. A small tueky is about 8-9lbs, whereas a small chicken can be 2lbs. The flavour is all in the the bones so the larger the bird the more flavour ther will be for a soup. It's also super convenient and your not wasting anything! You already ate the turkey and instead of throwing the carcass out, just throw it in a pot! ( you can also do the same with a roast chicken)

The smell of turkey soup will float through your house...mmmmmm.

It's funny that before meeting my inlaws I had never tasted or even heard of turkey soup, when I mention it to friends and family they give me a strange look as if I am talking about a ufo. Come on people turkey soup is the exact same thing as chicken soup except with TURKEY!

Try it out, let me know what you think. I was lucky enough to roast a 15lb turkey this christmas so I will have turkey soup until easter!