Monday, December 28, 2009

Creamy Mushroom Soup

After the overindulgences at Christmas, I don't really feel like cooking a lot. (And even the thought of sweets makes me slightly ill!) This is an easy, homey dinner that makes great leftovers as well. You could easily omit the dried mushrooms, but they seem to give the soup an even richer depth of flavour... along with the cognac, which is my new "secret" ingredient in almost everything. I like to keep the texture of this quite rustic, rather than making it a puree.

Mushroom Soup (serves 4):
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock
1 litre water
1/2 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
24 oz button mushrooms, chopped
1/4 cup butter
1 leek, finely chopped
salt & pepper
1 tbsp fresh thyme
1/4 cup cream
3 tbsp cognac

Bring the stock, water, and dried mushrooms up to a boil in a large soup pot. While that is heating, fry the butter, leeks, and mushrooms until softened and browned. Dump that to the hot water and cook for about 1 hour, adding salt, pepper, and thyme to season. Pulse with an immersion blender until it's to your desired consistency, then add the the cream and cognac and bring it back up nearly to a boil.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Reese's PB Cookie Tarts

Well, here it is almost Christmas time. As I mentioned in my last cookie post, my mom came by to help me with Christmas baking (and more importantly child minding). This cookie is a real hit with all peanut butter and chocolate lovers. It looks really cute too!

Reese's PB Cookie Tarts:
1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 package mini peanut butter cups

Cream the margarine, peanut butter, sugars, eggs and vanilla together. In another bowl, sift together the dry ingredients and blend into the creamed mixture. Shape into 1 inch balls and press into ungreased mini muffin tins (tins should be about 3/4 full).

Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes - don't over bake! While cookies are baking, unwrap the peanut butter cups, and keep them in the fridge. As soon as you remove the cookies from the oven, press a peanut butter cup into the centre of each cookie. Work quickly while the cookies are still soft and hot. Let the muffin tins cool completely before removing the cookies.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Pear Clafoutis

Court and I invited the family over for a spur of the moment french dinner, featuring rabbit stew and this clafoutis for dessert. When we were deciding on what to make, we wanted something relatively simple since we were putting most of our effort into cooking rabbit for the first time. We remembered Chris' experiments in clafoutis back in June and decided to try our own.

Pear Clafoutis (adapted from Ina Garten):
1 tbsp butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar, plus enough to line dish
3 eggs
6 tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
seeds from 1 vanilla pod
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp cognac
2-3 ripe Bartlett pears

Preheat the oven to 375F/190C. Butter a 1 quart/1 litre dish and sprinkle the bottom and sides with sugar. In a bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy, then mix in the flour, cream, vanilla seeds, zest, salt, and cognac. Set that aside and peel and slice the pears to line the dish. Pour the batter over the pears and bake around 30-40 minutes until the custard is firm and golden.

We used vanilla seeds instead of extract and added the cognac, and then tried to convince ourselves that fruit desserts are always healthy.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

The other day my lovely mother came over to help me watch the baby, and we did some Christmas baking. We actually made four different things all in one day! It's wonderful because now when people pop over I have sweets to pull out of the freezer. It also doesn't hurt that I refer to my mother as the baby wisperer. Seriously, the woman can calm the most angry baby as if it is nothing! There are days I wish she would move in with me...

These cookies are from my Canadian Living cookbook that I got when I got married. My husband thinks they are better than when I make my mom's chocolate chip cookies with pudding mix. I can't say I agree, but they are pretty good.

Oatmeal Cookies:
2/3 cup softened butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups quick oats
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

In a large bowl beat the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg, vanilla, and cinnamon. In a sparate bowl mix the oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir the dry mixture into the wet mixture along with the chocolate chips and walnuts.

Drop by heaping spoonful onto greased baking sheets and bake at 375 F for 10 minutes or until golden. Delish and great for freezing!


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Marc's Creamy Salmon Miso Soup

I have been dreaming of this since I saw it 9 months ago on No Recipes. Mine doesn't have the lovely glistening fat that Marc's does, since it is so difficult to find salmon belly in land-locked Edmonton (and I didn't bother making the trek to any specialty shops to check for it). Still, it was ridiculously good and incredibly simple to make. I luckily had most of the ingredients on hand so only had to pick up soy milk and parsnips. And what was even better is that I got all the leftovers to myself!


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Budget Salmon Wellington

Or, how to make 150g of salmon feed 3 people. This was a spur of the moment kind of meal, when Court & her husband invited me to stay for dinner but had no real plans. We searched the fridge and found just enough ingredients to make a delicious, filling supper. Without enough pastry to wrap these, it wasn't a true "Wellington" but we figured it was close enough. I love when random creations like this turn out to be something terrific; I'm sure we all know it doesn't always turn out that way.

Salmon Wellington:
150g salmon, cut into 3 pieces
25 shrimp
1 leek, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1/2 cup full cream
1/4 cup cream cheese
salt & pepper
1 block puff pastry
1 egg, beaten

Put the leeks and carrots in a pan with a little bit of margarine and cook for a few minutes until they soften, then add the cream and cream cheese and stir together until melted and at your desired consistency to coat the seafood. Add dill, salt, and pepper to taste.

Next, oil 3 ramekins and line the bottom with shrimp. Layer some sauce on top, then add the salmon, more sauce, another layer of shrimp, and finally the last of the sauce. When I started to run out of the sauce I just added more cream to stretch it out a bit further. Roll out the puff pastry and cut out circles to top the ramekins, then coat with the egg wash. Bake in a 350F/180C oven until the pastry has browned.


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Mish Mash Mushroom Risotto

I am home solo tonight with the new babe, and I have to say this new life of mine is a serious adjustment. The little one seems to have colic - which is just another name for pretty much any baby discomfort that makes them miserable and so they cry about it for hours on end and there is nothing that seems to make it better. In an effort to feel just a tiny bit more in control of some part of my life, I decided to cook myself a decent meal, even though it was just me, even though I had to do most of it with the lovely background music of a baby crying. Sometimes when you feel like you are bad at being a mom, it is a tiny measure of comfort to remember that at least you are a good cook. That being said, if anyone has magic cures for colic - I welcome suggestions!

This risotto is based on my usual risotto recipe. In addition, I decided to mix in a little mixture Brooke gave me for "healthy rice" because I am breastfeeding, and therefore feel like I am doing a good thing any time I make any choice with the word "healthy" in it (it has flax seeds and other stuff like that in it). I also did not have white wine, so I put in a tiny splash of red, and I used onion soup base instead of chicken broth because I am trying not to eat actual onions (see above re: colic), and also my husband used the last of the chicken stock and we have about a foot of fresh snow on our roads telling me to stay home and make due with what I have.

Here is a picture of my finished dinner. That's right, I made a lobster tail to eat all by myself. I like to think I am classy like that.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Cheese Scones

The other day I made leek soup with the last of my share of the leeks from the garden (and of course, didn't take pictures!). I decided I wanted to have cheese scones with it, and luckily made enough that I could photograph them the next day when I had a second. I found this recipe on The Foreign Kitchen blog after trying a couple of other recipes unsuccessfully. As long as you have a food processor this is a very quick and easy recipe to whip up. It's great to make when you want home baked bread but don't have the time to make it. Really, could anything with cheese melted on top be bad?

Cheese Scones:

2 cups of flour
4 tsp of baking powder
1/4 tsp of salt
a pinch of ground nutmeg
1 Tbsp of Maple Syrup (I used sugar)
4 Tbsp of cold unsalted butter
1 egg beaten, combined with milk to make 3/4 cup
1 1/2 cup of grated cheddar (I used white cheddar to keep the scones lighter in colour)
3 Tbs grated Parmesan cheese

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. In a separate bowl mix the egg, milk, and syrup together. Cut and rub the butter into the flour (Use a food processor).

Now, I added 1 1/4 cups of grated cheddar to the flour and butter and combined these before I added the egg and milk mixture, but if you want an ooey-gooier texture stir the milk and egg mixture into the flour first and then fold in the cheese.

Looseley shape this into a disc, without handeling it too much. Turn it out onto a well floured suface, sprinkle it with the remaining 1/4 of cheddar and the Parmesan, and cut the disc into 8 slices. Place these onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or just greased) and bake at 475 Fahrenheit (250 Celsius) for 10 minutes until the tops are browned.The scones taste best fresh out of the oven, and even though they are savory a fresh gob of peach marmalade or a drizzling of honey makes these an extra special treat.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Delia Smith's Chocolate Bread and Butter Pudding

Okay, it's not that I am not cooking or eating, I just haven't had time with the little one to then take pictures and write about it. Basically I end up making food as fast as possible and then either relish the few second I have to eat with both hands free or I end up eating while holding her or feeding her. This was actually made the weekend before I had the baby, back when I still had time to photograph things not baby related. It is delicious though. It's not just kind of delicious, it is amazingly delicious if you like dark chocolate. It's like a mix between the perfect gooey brownie and a chocolate lava cake.

I've never made bread pudding before, it just isn't the first thing that comes to mind for me when I think about dessert. My husband picked it out though when I told him that he had to pick a cake for me to make for him for his birthday. It was a big hit all around, I can't wait until I have an occasion to make it again so I can show off. I also like that you make it a day ahead, and then just pop it in the oven when the time comes.

Chocolate Bread and Butter Pudding:

9 slices, each ¼ inch (5 mm) thick, good-quality white bread, 1 day old, taken from a large loaf
5 oz (150 g) dark chocolate (75 per cent cocoa solids)
3 oz (75 g) butter
15 fl oz (425 ml) whipping cream
4 tablespoons dark rum (I used Kahlua instead)
4 oz (110 g) caster sugar
good pinch cinnamon
3 large eggs

Begin by removing the crusts from the slices of bread, which should leave you with 9 pieces about 4 inches (10 cm) square. So now cut each slice into 4 triangles. Next, place the chocolate, whipping cream, rum, sugar, butter and cinnamon in a bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, being careful not to let the bowl touch the water, then wait until the butter and chocolate have melted and the sugar has completely dissolved. Next, remove the bowl from the heat and give it a really good stir to amalgamate all the ingredients.

Now in a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and then pour the chocolate mixture over them and whisk again very thoroughly to blend them together.

Then spoon about a ½ inch (1 cm) layer of the chocolate mixture into the base of the dish and arrange half the bread triangles over the chocolate in overlapping rows. Now, pour half the remaining chocolate mixture all over the bread as evenly as possible, then arrange the rest of the triangles over that, finishing off with a layer of chocolate. Use a fork to press the bread gently down so that it gets covered very evenly with the liquid as it cools.

Cover the dish with clingfilm and allow to stand at room temperature for 2 hours before transferring it to the fridge for a minimum of 24 (but preferably 48) hours before cooking. When you're ready to cook the pudding, pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4, 350°F (180°C). Remove the clingfilm and bake in the oven on a high shelf for 30-35 minutes, by which time the top will be crunchy and the inside soft and squidgy. Leave it to stand for 10 minutes before serving with well-chilled double cream poured over.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Kitchen Tip

I'm sneaking in just before midnight with a tip. Traditional Oven is one of the most useful baking sites I've ever used, as it provides conversions for specific ingredients like butter, sugar, and flour. The butter converter gets the most use from me - for example, it's a lot easier to weigh 85g of butter than to try to get 6 tablespoons while it's still chilled for scones.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Bonfire Night!

Wanting a trip to England in November may sound strange, but I love Bonfire Night so much that I would go every year if I could. It combines some of my favourite things: fireworks, food, and history. I'm linking back to an old post for this - while they may not seem like it, these little roast potatoes are the ultimate finger food. Just pop them in a little paper bag or newspaper cone and they are a great snack on a cold night.



Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Baby not Food

I just wanted to share with everyone my reason for not posting forever! We welcomed a new addition to our family. Once I am able to sleep a bit more through the night I hope to be back to posting like usual - but will probably be doing recipes that are a lot faster :-)


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Vegetables Galore

Just before the first snowfall, we pulled up the last of the garden (except for a few hibernating potatoes). This was my share of the harvest, and I spent a weekend preparing everything for storage and freezing. Most of the leeks and zucchini were put in the food processor and frozen for soups and baking, and the carrots were chopped, blanched, and frozen. Now I can look forward to garden veg all through the winter!


Monday, November 2, 2009

English Apple Cake

With my bags of apples from Superstore I needed some simple recipes. Attempting to bake in the midst of messy home renos was trying, to say the least. Luckily, Nigel Slater did not fail me; I often find his simple, thrown-together meals are the tastiest.

I've now made this three times as it is so quick & easy. The apples don't need to be peeled, just cored & roughly chopped, and while it needs an hour of baking time it only takes 10 minutes of prep. It also adapts well to changes, which is not always true of baking. I changed the pan from an 8" square to an 8" round as that was what I had unpacked, and switched lemon juice for lime juice (which I now prefer).

Nigel Slater's English Apple Cake:
130g butter
130g sugar
3-4 medium apples
juice of half a lemon or lime
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 eggs
130g flour
1 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Line an 8" round springform pan by just pushing parchment paper inside so it comes up the sides of the pans. It doesn't matter if this isn't pretty, as this cake is pretty rustic anyway. There is no need to grease the pan, making for easier clean-up as well.

Core and chop the apples and put in a bowl with the lemon or lime juice. Toss with cinnamon & brown sugar and set aside while you cream the butter & sugar well, then beat in the eggs. Sift the flour and baking powder together and fold into the mixture. Scrape the batter into the pan and dump the apples on top with a little extra sugar. Bake 1 hour. You may be unsure about done-ness as it's difficult to tell with all the apples on top, but each time I've made this 1 hour has been perfect.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Spiced Applesauce

We're back! After a month-long hiatus (and some pretty sporadic posting in September), I am hoping to get back into the swing of things by participating in National Blog Posting Month. We were pretty busy in October - me with home renovations and Court with her new baby girl - and with the holiday season coming up things will probably stay that way. Hopefully we'll be up for the challenge.

Discovering orchard bins of apples at Superstore has meant a glut of baking for me recently. Who can resist apples at $0.54/lb? They're a little banged up, but perfect for cakes, pies, and (obviously) apple sauce. I tweaked this a bit by using Lyle's Golden Syrup (which I could eat by the spoon) instead of sugar and cardamom instead of cinnamon. This was warm, fragrant, and delicious... and perfect for autumn.

4 apples, peeled/cored/chopped
3/4 cup water
2-3 tbsp Lyle's golden syrup
cardamom, to taste

Add apples and water to a saucepan over medium heat and cook until soft. Bash up with a spoon over the heat and add the syrup and cardamom, both to taste.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fall Salad

I know frequently fall arrives and all thoughts turn away from fresh salads and towards pasta and roasts, but it is actually a great time to incorporate some of the last findings from your garden into a nice salad, and it can even be a warm one if you feel the need. I went for lunch at Earl's the other day with a friend, and they had an arugula, beet and pear salad on the menu, and I used that as an inspiration for this salad. For mine though I tried to crank up the iron (last three weeks of pregnancy!) and use up some of my second batch of spinach.

Fall Salad:
A good batch of spinach
Half a ripe pear
A sprinkling of pecans
One large beet, cut into chunks and boiled until soft
Half a steak, pan fried and sliced to top

Dress with a bit of lemon juice and oil, and goat cheese coulis (which I just made by microwaving a bit of goat cheese with a bit of milk so that it could be drizzled like a dressing).

With the beets and steak being served warm, as well as the goat cheese coulis, this made a really satisfying lunch on a chilly day. I will definitely be bringing it back as a lunch choice through the winter.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"English" Onion Soup

Sometimes I have a good husband. He spends lots of time on the internet and watching TV instead of doing things I want him to like taking out the garbage on garbage day, but then every once in a while when I am super miserable, he does something like make me homemade onion soup with onions from our garden and then I like him again. Although he didn't follow the Jamie Oliver recipe to the letter, it was the base he used, and it turned out very well.

Jamie:"There's something so incredibly humble about onion soup. It's absolutely one of my favourites but unfortunately I only ever get to make it in the restaurant or for myself as the missus thinks she's allergic to onions. (She's not, because I whiz them up into loads of dishes without her knowing!)

"If you have the opportunity, get hold of as many different types of onion for this soup as you can - you need about 1kg in total. Sweat them gently and you'll be amazed at all the flavours going on"

(Serves 8)Ingredients:
A good knob of butter
Olive oil
A good handful of fresh sage leaves, 8 leaves reserved for serving (we used thyme)
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

5 red onions, peeled and sliced
3 large white onions, peeled and sliced
3 banana shallots, peeled and sliced
300g of leeks, trimmed, washed and sliced

Instead of all the above we used close to 1 kg of whatever onions we had (regular and dividers) from the garden.

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 litres of good-quality hot beef, chicken or vegetable stock (we used beef)
8 slices of good-quality stale bread, 2cm thick (as you can see there was no skimping on this)
200g freshly grated cheddar cheese
Worcestershire sauce

1. Put the butter, 2 glugs of olive oil, the sage and garlic into a thick-bottomed, non-stick pan. Stir everything round and add the onions, shallots and leeks. Season with salt and pepper. Place a lid on the pan, leaving it slightly ajar, and cook slowly for 50 minutes, without colouring the vegetables too much. Remove the lid for the last 20 minutes - your onions will become soft and golden. Stir occasionally so that nothing catches on the bottom. Having the patience to cook the onions slowly, slowly, gives you an incredible sweetness and an awesome flavour, so don't be tempted to speed this bit up.

2. When your onions and leeks are lovely and silky, add the stock. Bring to the boil, turn the heat down and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. You can skim any fat off the surface if you like, but I prefer to leave it because it adds good flavour.

3. Preheat the oven or grill to maximum. Toast your bread on both sides. Correct the seasoning of the soup. When it's perfect, ladle it into individual heatproof serving bowls and place them on a baking tray. Tear toasted bread over each bowl to fit it like a lid. Feel free to push and dunk the bread into the soup a bit. Sprinkle with some grated Cheddar and drizzle over a little Worcestershire sauce.

4. Dress your reserved sage leaves with some olive oil and place one on top of each slice of bread. Put the baking tray into the preheated oven or under the grill to melt the cheese until bubbling and golden. Keep an eye on it and make sure it doesn't burn! When the cheese is bubbling, very carefully lift out the tray and carry it to the table. Enjoy.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ratatouille Tarte

As mentioned last week, I took the Ratatouille I made, and used some of it in a tarte. Really, a tarte is pretty much the same as a quiche for all intents and purposes. In this case I threw some goat cheese in with it because who doesn't love goat cheese with roasted veggies? I served it up with a nice little spinach, bacon, pine nut and goat cheese salad for lunch when my mom came over. Isn't this such a girls lunch?

Ratatouille Tarte:

Buy or make a pie crust (I buy, I am crap at pastry)

Add your fillings (ratatouille and goat cheese) so that they cover a good deal of the bottom of the tarte, but don't pile up above the rim of the crust.

Mix up eggs and cream at a ratio of two eggs per quarter cup of cream so that you get a consistency that isn't quite the same as an omelet. Give it a good whip so that it comes out light and fluffy. The amount you need will depend on the size of crust you use - I made two at once (and froze one after baking), and used seven eggs in total.

Bake in a 400 F oven until it is set (about 40 minutes). I cover it in foil for the first half and then uncover it to brown for the second half.

Throwing an extra in the freezer after they are done baking is a great way to have a little snack on hand for when you get surprise lunch guests, and all you need to do when you are ready for it is throw it in the oven covered in foil at 350 until it is reheated.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Ratatouille Nicoise

I swear that Monday morning after the long weekend I woke up and it was dark in the morning. I know it makes no sense that this would suddenly be the case, but it was like fall arrived that very day. This weekend is supposed to be warm enough to make it feel like summer still, but the cool nights will not allow us to be tricked like that. It is fall, winter is on the way, let the mourning begin. On the bright side, I have some fall "crops" that are performing well. As is always the case, all of a sudden I have a zillion zucchini. What to do? Of course I have shredded and frozen many baggies full (pre-measured) so that I can make zucchini bread through the winter, but when I say I have zillions, I mean I have zillions. Last year I spent a couple weeks of the summer in France (along the Basque coast), and while there I picked up a lovely little cookbook that appears to be the equivalent of the Betty Crocker one here. By that I mean it was the one everyone was given back in the 70s when they got married. It has a great recipe for Ratatouille Nicoise that I whipped up, and then used to make a ratatouille and chevre tarte (to be posted next week) based on one I ate there. It wasn't quite like being there, but it was the best I could do without the expensive plane ticket.

Ratatouille Nicoise (translated from French, probably badly):

3 onions
4 eggplants
4 zucchini
500g tomatoes
2 peppers (I used red)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
Bouquet garni (parsley, thyme, bay leaf)
salt and pepper

Peel onions and then cut all the veggies into strips. Heat the olive oil in a casserole dish - I can just see all the French ladies using their le cruesets - and then saute the onions for a minute. Add the other veggies, the salt and pepper and the bouquet garni and cover to simmer in the oven for 1 hour and 30 minutes. The recipe doesn't give a temperature, so I went with the ever popular 350 F. Don't forget to take out the bouquet before serving (or at least don't scoop it out into someone's bowl, they will be confused).

Nothing feels more french to me than using a bouquet garni. When I was staying there, the woman who was hosting us seemed to use a bouquet of fresh herbs in every dish she cooked and I swear it made everything seem twice as delicious. If I don't have string with which to tie the herbs up together I often use non flavoured dental floss.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Easiest Chocolate Mousse - Take 2

It's hot out, I have six and a half weeks left until the baby finish line, and although I am madly craving sweets, I don't want to heat up my house any more or stand for any long periods of time. The other day I had run out of my freezer stash of baking, and I sunk to looking for chocolate chips to eat. Sadly, that wasn't far enough for me to go as I realized I was out of chocolate chips and I then resorted to eating squares of baking chocolate. This is what my life has come to. In honor of that, I am reposting my easy chocolate mousse recipe, which I made in white chocolate version this time (because I had white chocolate baking squares that I hadn't gobbled up in a fit of desperation). Topping it with fruit makes it healthy, I promise. The raspberries are part of the bounty I harvested off the bushes behind my garage all summer long.

If you have been reading us for a long time, you may recognize this as the first post we ever did :-)

Chocolate Mousse:
6 squares of bakers chocolate (any kind you like)
1 ½ cups whipping cream

Combine the chocolate squares with ¼ cup of the whipping cream and microwave for 1 minute on high. Give it a stir and then microwave it for 30 seconds to 1 minute more. If you chop up the chocolate it takes a bit less time. If it is not melted fully after the second minute, just stir it until it has melted. Let the melted chocolate sit for about 20 minutes or until close to room temperature.

Whip the remaining 1 ¼ cup of whipping cream and fold it into the cooled chocolate mixture. If the chocolate mixture is still quite warm, give it some extra time or the whole thing will curdle, and you will be very disappointed after smelling delicious melting chocolate to not get a nice mousse to eat in the end. Refrigerate for two hours.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tesoro - very nice patio

Oh summer time! Short, short season of patio eating in Edmonton. Just before all the kiddies were back off to school, I took a lunch hour to get together with one of my teacher buddies to enjoy lunching on a local patio and hearing all about how great it is to have the whole summer off - oh wait, I did not enjoy that second part, it filled me with jealous rage. The lunch part I did enjoy though for real! We went to Tesoro Mangiaria Caffe over in the Oliver Square area. It is tucked away back behind the Hudson's bar location, which makes it a bit tricky to find, but once you get there it is lovely that it is tucked away because if you are sitting out on the patio you aren't facing a huge parking lot.

We easily nabbed a table as Tesoro's was surprisingly not that busy for a lunch hour. I supposed being slightly out of the main downtown core hinders them in this respect. We checked out the daily specials (pasta and pizza) and made some choices. We shared a mortadella e funghi grilled panini (mortadella, smoked gruyere cheese and truffled mushrooms), and the pizza special of the day, which was topped with alfredo sauce, chicken, mushrooms and arugula.

I liked the panini best, it was nice and cheesy and not too heavy, especially since it was served with a basic salad of mixed greens on the side. The pizza I found a bit on the heavy side by the end, despite the nice thin crust, but I think that was mostly due to the alfredo sauce. I should know by now that I am generally not a fan of replacing tomato sauce with alfredo sauce on a pizza, but the combo sounded so good! To finish we shared some gelato, and I would say it was excellent, but really doesn't all gelato taste excellent to two pregnant ladies in the middle of summer?

Overall I would say that Tesoro offers pretty tasty italian food, and I would definitely go back at a later date to try them out in the evening as a wine bar. Their pricing was a bit on the high end for a casual cafe style lunch. Paninis come in at $11.50, pizzas are not bad at $13, but I would skip the lunch pastas with are generally around $15.50, at least during the summer time. Really though I think the big draw is the location (close to downtown but with lots of parking), and the venue, which is nice and offers patio dining.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Garden Leeks

The leeks are finally ready! I am pretty excited about these, as it was our first attempt at them and we started them indoors from seed. For a while it seemed they wouldn't make it, but it turns out they just take a long, long time to get established. We got lazy though, and didn't mound up enough dirt around them so only the very bottoms are white.

I made these this morning to put in my lunch - and while this looks like dinner it really only took about 10 minutes to make. I am in the process of moving house, so nearly all of my pantry is packed up and the only things left are salt, pepper, and whatever is left in the fridge/freezer. I boiled the leeks for 4 minutes in water with some japanese pickling liquid I happened to have in the fridge. Yes, that sounds strange to me too. Once done, I drained the liquid and in the same pot added some butter and salt & pepper to quickly brown them up. While I was working on the leeks I quickly fried a pork chop. This lunch was based on the fact that I had defrosted meat in the fridge that needed to be cooked, and not much else in the house at all.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Quiche with Beets & Chèvre

For a recent pot luck lunch at work, I decided to make mini quiches as they're extremely easy to make and I already had all the ingredients at home. (Except pastry, and to save time I just bought pre-made shells.) I started off making Asparagus & Boursin Quiche, but when I ran out of boursin cheese I was forced to think on my feet. Our beet harvest came up last weekend, so with a fridge full of them it seemed like the easiest thing to use. Luckily, quiches are extremely forgiving and it's easy to simply toss things together.

Beetroot & Chèvre Quiche (makes 8-9 appetizer size):
2-3 medium beets, peeled & chopped
100g goat cheese
splash red wine
1 egg
salt & pepper
fresh sage, chopped

Put the peeled & chopped beets in a saucepan with water and a bit of red wine. Bring to the boil and let simmer around 20 minutes until cooked, then remove and blitz in the food processor. In a bowl, blend together the beet puree, cheese, egg, a splash of red wine, and add the seasonings to taste. Preheat the oven to 375F/190C. Prebake the pastry shells for 10 minutes to crisp them up, then add the filling and bake for another 15-20 minutes until the centres spring back. Before baking, I added garnishes of cooked carrot flowers - cute!


Monday, August 24, 2009

Not Your Grandma's Grilled Cheese

I know, I can hear you all now "Court, why are you so obsessed with pairing brie, mango, onion and peppers?" I don't know, and I know it is a problem, but a delicious problem that I munch up and then it is gone. Does that even make sense?

Anyhow, this sandwich is the latest in a string of variations on these ingredients that have previously shown up as a flatbread and an appetizer in my previous posts. Where will they pop up next? I am pregnant, so "on peanut butter toast" or "as an ice cream topping" are distinct possibilities.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bavarian Apple Torte

Oh the baking we are doing! Last weekend my block had a block party, and someone with an apple tree brought apples to share with everyone. I love free produce! Of course, apple pies will be made, but this dessert is another I love to make with apples. It combines the goodness of apple pie with my weakness - cheesecake - and still manages to taste like a light summertime dessert. I am pretty sure this recipe exists with about a million minor variations, but here is the one I got from my mom years ago and have been using ever since.

Bavarian Apple Torte:

1/2 cup margerine or butter
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

8-ounce package of cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

4 cups thinly sliced, peeled, tart apples
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Additional Topping:
1/4 cup sliced almonds

My version is probably a bit heavier on the apple topping, and a bit easier on the cream cheese filling than some. Yes, it does make me feel like I am making a "healthier" dessert despite all the sugar.

Combine the crust ingredients and press into a spring form pan to bake for 5 minutes at 350 F. Cool and then top with the cream cheese filling (combined) and then the apple topping (combined). Finally sprinkle the sliced almonds on the top and bake at 450 F for 10 minutes followed by 400 F for 25-30 minutes.

This dessert needs to sit in the fridge overnight if you want it to serve nicely. If you don't care if it slides around, you can serve it the day you make it. I will admit, I do that sometimes and just serve it in bowls. Not as pretty, but just as tasty.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Berry Picking Brings Pie

Ever since winter, Court has been talking about visiting some U-Picks as neither of us had been before. Because we work on the west end, she chose South Windermere Gardens as our destination. We both expected that picking would take a couple hours, but in under 30 minutes we had an ice cream pail full of strawberries each, and another half hour got us each about 1/2 a pail of saskatoon berries. When I got home that night, I quickly cleaned and froze everything (except a couple days' worth of strawberries) as I had no immediate plans for anything.

This was several weeks ago, and I've been so busy lately I hadn't done anything with my pickings. With a move coming up next month, I figured I should try to consume most of my perishables just to avoid having to pack up frozen goods for transport. My freezer is packed full of fruit and vegetables from this year (and last years!) harvests, so it seemed like a good time to try making a berry pie for the first time.

Saskatoon Rhubarb Pie Filling (1 x 9" pie):
500g saskatoon berries
300g rhubarb, cut in 2cm lengths
1/4 c water
3/4 c sugar
3 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 425F/210C. Put the fruit and water in a large pot and simmer 10 minutes, then stir in the sugar, cornflour, and lemon juice. Pour the filling into a pastry lined pan, wet the edges with water, and seal the top pastry layer on. Bake 15 minutes at 425F, then reduce the heat to 350C/180C and bake for a further 35 minutes.

I got very lazy and bought a pie crust, which was a mistake. I am not that fond of flaky pastry crusts and much prefer a shortbread pie crust. However, I have yet to find a good recipe for one and am no longer in the UK where they can be found at the supermarket. I've learnt my lesson though - this filling was good but the crust had that not-so-delicious store-bought taste.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Zucchini Salad - From Ground to Plate

There is something so satisfying about this time of year. I can have zero plans for dinner, and then go out and pick my own dinner straight from the garden and be eating 15 minutes later. This zucchini, basil and goat cheese salad is a great example of that!

I find that once zucchini plants start producing, you really go from famine to feast in the course of a few days. All of a sudden, you just can't make enough zucchini bread to keep up! Knowing that I was going to book club after dinner, and would be fed well again there, I wanted to just have a quick dinner that got a few extra greens into my tummy.

Zucchini Salad:
1 medium zucchini
3 basil leaves
Goat cheese - the more the better
1 cherry tomato as a garnish/to add color
oil and vinegar to dress
salt and pepper to taste

All I did was slice the zucchini lengthwise in widths as close to even as I could manage, brush them with oil oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss them on the BBQ for a couple of minutes a side. They cook quickly, and I find that nothing makes food look more appetizing than some pretty grill marks.

Once cooked, arrange on a plate and top with crumbled goat cheese, basil leaves and tomato garnish (I only had one little ripe one), and dress with oil and vinegar. So quick, easy and delicious and a great way to make sure you are using the zucchini that are popping up like crazy!


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Raspberry Peach Crisp

I know, I have been lax in my posting lately. It's been hard to avoid, we have been doing a lot of gardening (picking and preserving), and still trying to enjoy the little bit of summer we have been getting here on and off. To add to that, I'm now in trimester three of the pregnancy and am suddenly really starting to feel gigantic and immobile! Okay, enough with the excuses. In light of the fact that I bought a whole pile of peaches from the farmer's market in a fit of craving, and a few of them were getting dangerously close to the end of their lifespan, I ran out back and picked some raspberries and threw together a lovely raspberry peach crisp last night (no it wasn't my supper.... fine, it totally was my supper! I was dining solo and it fit the bill).

I know Brooke posted a rhubarb ginger crumble not too long ago, but crisps and crumbles really are such a great easy way to enjoy summer fruit in all its glory. I love that it is the type of baking that allows me to proceed the same way I do when I cook (throw things in rather than measuring). I did start with a recipe that I found on Tastespotting (and split in half):

Raspberry Peach Crisp

for the fruit:
6 ripe peaches- not overly ripe -sliced
1 pint raspberries
1 -2 T flour -depending how juicy the peaches are
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 t cinnamon

for the crisp:

3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup white sugar
1 cup flour
1t cinnamon
1 cup oatmeal (not instant - Court: I totally used Quick Oats)

Preheat oven to 350

Toss the fruit in a bowl with the flour and sugar- try not to break up the berries.. Put it in an ovenproof about 9 x 13 baking dish- or individual oven proof bowls

Mix butter, sugars, 1 t cinnamon until well combined. Add the flour and oatmeal. Crisp topping should be fairly dry, but when pinched together it should stick together. Spread topping over the fruit with a light hand- don’t pat down- it should look crumbly.

Bake for about 25-35 minutes until juices are bubbly and topping is crisp. Serve warm with ice cream.

I made mine in a small round baking dish (that I threw in the freezer after making for post baby entertaining), and then had two servings that I made in little single serve dishes to enjoy last night and tonight.

I love pairing peaches and raspberries because the tartness of the raspberries go so well with the sweetness of the peaches in my opinion. Oh yeah, the creaminess of the melty ice cream doesn't hurt either :-)


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ice Cream 2 Ways

Often when I'm entertaining the last thing I want to worry about is dessert. I kind of turn into a nightmare in the kitchen while I'm finishing off the final touches, so it's nice to have simple stand-bys to fall back on. Usually there is so much food that dessert is almost an afterthought anyway.

I usually have vanilla ice milk in my freezer (my favourite is Island Farms), and it's easy to make this a casual treat or a slightly fancier dessert. To class things up a bit, just put a scoop of ice cream in a pretty glass and pour over hot unsweetened espresso. The ice cream sweetens it as it melts, and it's a delicious substitute for after-dinner coffee. For lunch-time treats, serving the ice cream with fresh berries or fruit is always delicious. I've made this look a little cuter by lining a small tupperware container with cling film and using that to form the ice cream into little cakes. I like this best with fresh peaches, but this time I used what I had - ripe mangoes and blackberries.


Friday, August 7, 2009

Harvests, Finally

Last weekend we had an amazing harvest, and I look forward to another this weekend. My mum's Sunday dinner was a traditional roast beef with veg and yorkshire pudding, with the potatoes, peas, broccoli and green onions all coming from the garden. Fresh picked flavour and free - my favourite combo.

The only downside is the constant harvesting. Allotment gardening is great for people like me with only a balcony, but it does mean a lot of extra driving. The peas really need to be picked every few days, so for the past couple of weeks I've been back and forth between St. Albert and home several times a week. It's all worth it though, as I now have a freezer full of goodness to help me through the winter.