Monday, 24 December 2012

Chocolate Ganache Pots

Phew! It's Christmas Eve and mixed with all the joy, there can be lots and lots of work that goes along with it.  Shopping and wrapping is only the half of it. There are still groceries to buy and meals to plan and people dropping by and you name it! It all adds up to a bit of stress if you let it. I certainly don't! Here is an easy dessert recipe that is so delicious and easy and it just uses ingredients that you have on hand. This one is perfect for those unexpected guests that pop by.

So here we go. You only need:
2/3 cup of semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup half and half
2 eggs
3 tablespoons sugar
Dash of salt
2 tablespoons of Grand Marnier or rum (or you can omit this if you like)
Preheat the oven to 350.
Heat the chocolate chips and cream over medium heat stirring all the while until the chocolate has melted.
Let it cool as you whisk the remaining ingredients together. Mix just a small amount of the egg mixture into the cream mixture, whisking all the time. Then slowly whisk the cream mixture into the eggs.
The recipes makes dessert for 4 people. So use 4 individual ramekins, and divide the mixture evenly among them. Set them in a baking dish (I use my lasagna pan) and fill the pan up to about halfway up the cups with boiling water. Bake for 20 minutes and let them cool for 3 or 4 hours in the fridge. They will come out of the oven still liquid. Don't worry, they set up solid in the chill! Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and a half slice of orange for decoration.

That couldn't be any easier if you tried. This is a great fall back on recipe when you don't want to have to get in the car and make an unscheduled grocery shopping trip! Wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas and Blessings galore! xoxo

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Healthy Winter Pasta

So my poor kitty cat has a bit of an obesity problem. He is now on the prescription satiety diet, which means his food is supposed to trick him into thinking he's indulged. Well I don't want little Jonathan working hard all alone, so here is a healthy recipe that you can have when you still want to feel like you're having a treat. This one is a favourite of mine, and I'm happy to say that I actually made it up all on my own one day. And then proceeded to eat it every day for months at a time because it's just so good!

This is Healthy Winter Pasta. It's sauceless, has lots of veggies, and tastes awesome. You will be satisfied, I promise. You need:

About 20 white mushrooms, sliced (Use portabello or cremini or whatever you like, but I like the regulars).
Four hothouse tomatoes
One pack of baby spinach
One onion, slice into rings (I've tried both red and white, and both are good)
Whatever pasta you like (I like this recipe with penne)
Olive oil
Small pack of goat cheese

First get a pan going over medium heat and put some olive oil in. Once the oil is hot, put in the mushrooms and onions. They take the longest to soften, so that's why they go in first. Give them a stir every now and then, but mostly just let them sweat down. Add a little salt to draw the moisture out. Once they're quite soft, add the tomatoes, which you should have sliced into wedges. I like to keep them a bit bigger with wedges rather than dicing because I like them to keep their tomato shape.

Let the tomatoes stew, and stir it around once in awhile. By now, get your water boiling and good God don't forget to salt your pasta water. Cook your pasta as your tomatoes, onions, and mush are getting stewed. I use whole wheat pasta to keep this recipe healthy, but you could also use rice pasta to keep this recipe cleanse-friendly. Also, you should probably halve the amount of pasta that you feel you need. Use way less, because all of vegetables will satiate you, I promise.

Just as your pasta is almost cooked, add the entire package of spinach to the tomato mixture. GENTLY fold it in so that the heat softens it. But don't be aggressive, because the spinach is delicate and it should stay that way. Drain your pasta and toss with the sauteed veggies. Add a little salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

When serving, crumble a little goat cheese over top. As it melts, it will add a little creaminess. Don't add too much though or you may as well just have an alfredo!

It goes without saying that you can add chicken, salmon, or whatever you like to your pasta. I like to keep it vegetarian though. The vegetable ragout (I suppose!?) is also great over green lentils, and I'm sure it would be nice with quinoa too if you want to be even healthier. This is a versatile one, friends!


Sunday, 16 December 2012

Crepes Suzette

Did I ever mention the time I made my Ladygirls a 7 course meal for New Year's Eve? Well maybe now is a good time to mention that dinner. They were both in high school and Bailey was in her senior year, so I knew she'd be away at university for the next New Year's Eve, and most likely many more to come. They both had parties to go to that night, so I selfishly decided to steal a few hours of their time. In short, I wanted to build a memory so spectacular that they would always remember that meal and think of me on New Year's Eve! Haha Jewish Mothers have nothing on me!
I invited my family and sent out invitations with the menu printed on them. We dressed to the nines! The meal took 3 days to prepare and cost me hundreds of dollars. It was the best money I ever spent in my life and I will cherish the memory forever. Building memories with your family is the best investment you'll ever make! The menu read like this:
Coquilles St Jacques
Salade d'en Hiver
Remise en Bouche
Crepes Suzette
Fromage et les Fruites

I set the table with all my very best linen and china and paired each course with a different wine and we topped it off with champagne for a toast to our future. And who could have ever know what wonderful futures lay ahead of us on that night? Of course the girls put their forks down the first chance they could and threw on their coats to dash off and meet their friends! Fair enough. I planned on that! And I might as well tell you that the menu is mostly smoke and mirrors. The Salade d'en Hiver is just French for a winter salad. And for that I just made a watercress salad with oil and balsamic vinegar and sea salt. The Remise en Bouche is just a palette cleanser, so I made a lime ice with champagne. The fromage was a platter of the best cheese I could find along with some fruit and walnuts and port. It was actually the best course in my opinion, but you don't need a recipe for that. I've already shared my Chateaubriand recipe in this blog. So tonight, we're going to make the Crepes. (Another Mad Men retro recipe to be sure!) You can make the crepes a day ahead of time. Here is the crepe recipe:
1 1/2 cups of flour
1 tablespoon of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 cups of milk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons of melted butter
1 teaspoon of vanilla
Mix all of your dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk all of your wet ingredients together in a separate bowl. Add the wet to the dry and whisk it all together until its smooth and sans lumps. (French for no lumps!)
Heat a NON STICK skillet over medium heat with some butter on it. Just enough to cover the surface. When it bubbles up, add just 1/4 cup of batter and immediately swirl the pan so it covers the bottom of the pan. This will be very thin. We're making crepes here, not pancakes! After a minute or two, you'll see it all bubble up in the middle. Loosen all around the edges and flip it over and cook the other side. Cook only one at a time and put a little more butter in the pan with each new one. For sure, the first couple you do might be looking like a horror show, so just throw them in the garbage until you get the hang of it! Reduce your heat a bit if they are scorching. The main thing is not to get stressed because in no time you'll have the hang of it and you'll be wanting to quit your day job and start running a crepe food truck all around the city! As they come off the pan, separate each one with parchment paper or waxed paper and just pile them up in a stack. Now you have crepes! At this point, you can ditch the idea of making them into Suzettes and just fill them with fruit and whipped cream or Devonshire cream and have a perfectly wonderful dessert. BUT if you made the homemade Grand Marnier, then you'll want to forge ahead here. And the Suzettes are flambeed, so only a coward would turn back at this point in the game! Who doesn't love to flambe?
So here's the sauce recipe:
2/3 cup of butter
grated zest and juice of an orange
1/4 cup of sugar
1/3 cup brandy
1/3 cup of Grand Marnier
Heat the butter, zest, orange juice and sugar in a 10" skillet. Stir once in a while and let it boil for a minute or two until the sugar melts. Reduce the heat to low. Fold the crepes into fourths (so in half and then half again) and using 2 or 3 crepes per person, lay them into the sauce around the sides of the pan. Leave a space in the middle. In a small saucepan, heat up the brandy and Grand Marnier, just until it's hot but not to a boil. If you're ready to serve dessert now, pour the brandy mixture into the middle of the crepe pan and ignite it! For God sake, use a long barbecue style lighter! Be Careful! Keep your body well away from the pan! While it is still aflame, spoon the flaming sauce over the crepes. The flame will die out fairly quickly. Serve 2 or 3 crepes per dessert plate with some warm sauce spooned over each one.
This is another one of those recipes that will put you into the hall of fame of culinary skills among your family and friends. These are fun and oh so delicious! Or as I like to think of this one - a memory builder! 
I'll be posting photos of this recipe next week when my LadyGirls arrive home for Christmas. I didn't want to make this one just for the blog with nobody to share it with! It's way too special for that. Hug your babies and share in the special joy of the season friends!

Monday, 10 December 2012

It's That Time of Year...

My trusty Masala tin
I was driving home today and was inspired for this blog post. Who knows where inspiration can strike! I was listening to CBC on the radio and the discussion was about food banks. Of course, this time of year there is a huge emphasis on donating food and giving, which is wonderful! Unfortunately, sometimes people don’t always think when they donate things. I can attest to this, as I used to work in a shelter for women. Donating shampoo is generous and useful, but donating your half-used bottle of shampoo is slightly less useful. In the context of the food bank, this means you probably shouldn’t donate those cans of Spam, because no one wants them.

I once donated all the canned food in the house to Kosovo refugees, at the encouragement of my high school. I’ll give you a little timeline on this. I’d say this was late September, early October, and it was my first foray into charitable giving. I quietly packed up all the canned food in the house one day and took that off to school. I didn’t mention this to anyone, because there wasn’t really any reason to.

We will now fast forward to Christmas dinner. My mother, placing the ingredients on the counter, as she is wont to do before she begins a recipe, starts digging through the cupboard deeply. “Where are the smoked oysters?” This was the main question, although there were various other grumblings to go with this. In my 14-year-old mind, the smoked oysters do not register as something that would have anything to do with Kosovo refugees, so I have no answer for this and continue on with my teenage girl thoughts.

My mother is an industrious woman, and is not about to let a lack of smoked oysters destroy her Christmas dinner. She moves on, now begins to look for the cranberry sauce. I don’t know about you, but in my family, we always forget the cranberry until we’re halfway through the meal. The grumblings begin to get louder, and I begin to develop a sinking feeing in the pit of my stomach. The smoked oysters didn’t ring a bell, but the Ocean Spray Cranberry (I know, I know, we’re foodies but we love us some cran in a can) definitely triggered something. My photographic memory kicked in, and I was able to recollect not only the cranberry sauce in the IGA bag that went to school, but also the smoked oysters. “Um, Mummy…” was the way the conversation started. It ended with us in the car on the way to IGA and so much Christmas Joy in the car you could cut it with a knife.

Let me be clear. I wasn’t in trouble for giving food to the food bank, but for giving away half the Christmas dinner and then neglecting to tell anyone about it. In the end, Mummy waited in the car while I ran in and got the cranberry sauce. And the smoked oysters. Christmas was salvaged and there was peace on earth.

Anyway, that was a long story about giving at this time of year, and I really hope all of you are able to find some time to donate to the food bank, not just in December, but also all year round.

My challenge for myself today was to create a delicious meal, ingredients solely from what you would get a food bank. I hope this increases the accessibility of our blog, because I am blessed to be able to afford a lot of different ingredients, but cooking should be fun and exciting no matter what your income level is. The menu is Indian inspired, with daal, rice and a chickpea curry. (Let me emphasize “inspired”- I don’t want to claim these recipes are wildly authentic, they’re just tasty.)

For the daal, we need lentils, turmeric, cumin, coriander and mustard seed. You should use a fresh onion, but since we are doing food bank only food, you could use minced onion in a jar. You can also use minced garlic with ginger in a jar.  

Start with 1 cup of lentils and rinse them 6-8 times. Then add about 4 times the amount of water, depending on how runny you like it. Add a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon and a half of turmeric. Bring to a boil and then skim off the foam that comes to the surface (especially if you’ll be eating with company- this will avoid any embarrassing moments during digestion). Turn it down to a simmer and then in a fry pan, sauté your onion, and then add mustard seeds. Wait until you hear them start to pop, then mix with the onion. Now add garlic, half a teaspoon of chilli powder, a teaspoon of cumin and a teaspoon and a half of coriander. These are my serving suggestions, but you can adjust it as you like. Simmer this for 45 minutes.

The chickpea curry is delicious, you’ll need a can of chickpeas, can of coconut milk, canned tomatoes (mine were from Mummy but any can will work) and then turmeric, chilli, cumin, mustard seed and coriander again. Use the jarred garlic and ginger again. Again, if you had a fresh onion, you would chop that up and use it. But I didn’t for this recipe. Start with hot oil in a pan, then add a teaspoon of mustard seed. When they pop, add your ginger, garlic and onion. Sauté for a minute, and then add the tomatoes (with the liquid), chickpeas and spices. Pour in your coconut milk and simmer.

Cook your rice as the package directs you to. This is a delicious meal made with basics, and I hope it inspires you to give a little extra this holiday season!

Friday, 7 December 2012

Fettuccine Alfredo

Well I guess that's it for me till the spring comes. My last day to eat the beloved food of my homeland. Or rather, any food of the world except Portuguese. Mario and I have a rule that the first person home from work starts dinner. (I insisted on this rule because I am a feminist and I will not be taken for granted!) And this is why I blaze out of the work parking lot at the stroke of 5:00 on the dot leaving a smoke trail behind me as I go. I tear around the final corner on two wheels everyday to try to beat him to the stove. He is a seasonal worker, so if it rains, I'm pretty much out of luck because he'll beat me home for sure. In fact on rainy days, I generally stay a bit later at work and meander my way home on the back roads to try to miss dinner altogether. And now his work season is over and he'll be in charge of dinner until mid April of next year. I can feel my trousers getting baggy on me already and I usually lose a size every winter, only to gain it back again when I get my turn back at the stove!

I'm very certain that Mario's "Portuguese" food is not what you would ever have to eat if you were to actually go there. For certain, they would have no tourists at all. His idea of dinner, seven days of the week is to fill up the biggest pot we own with everything under the sun he can fit into it and never spend more than a dollar on the ingredients. And then boil it for six or seven hours. In fact when we go grocery shopping together, he takes his cart and I take mine and we go our separate ways. We usually meet back at the car. But it has happened on occasion that he was just ahead of me in line and I truly did not recognize most of the icky, slimy looking things he bought. My bill was always triple what he spent and I have the one bag to his six bags. And I'm certain I've seen the eyeballs of a creature of God in my dish a time or two. But God bless his enthusiasm and his dream is to one day open a restaurant of his own! I of course will warn you if this ever were to happen! Hahah So let's make the easiest and yummiest pasta dish there ever was. College students - listen up! You can do this!

For the sauce you need only:
1/2 cup of melted butter
1/2 cup of heavy cream
salt and freshly ground pepper
a dash of nutmeg
1/2 cup of Parmesan. Even the powdered stuff works here, but freshly grated is always better.
I use the fresh pasta from the deli section of the grocery store, but make your own if have the time.

This dinner is literally ready in 5 minutes. Bring your salted pasta water up to the boil. While this is heating up, melt the butter and whisk in the cream, salt and pepper and nutmeg. When it comes up just to the simmer, remove it from the heat and whisk in your Parmesan. There. Your sauce is done. Put the pasta into the water when it starts to boil and let it boil for about 3 or 4 minutes and drain it off. (If you use packaged fettuccine, follow the directions on the package. I think its about 20 minutes) After you drain it, add the pasta back to the pot and pour your Alfredo sauce into the pot. Toss it up using your tongs and top with another couple of tablespoons of cheese and some freshly ground pepper.  Can you even believe that's all there is too it? It is literally easier than Kraft Dinner! You can serve it with Caesar salad, or any salad you like or grilled or sauteed shrimp. Garlic bread or Bruschetta.  It's your call! Make it a side dish or a main. You're the chef!

Okay friends, you all go ahead and enjoy your wonderful and tasty food this winter. I'll just push the offal around my plate and pretend I'm not all that hungry. And once in a while, I promise you I'll boss my way up to the stove and cook up something Wonderful to share with you! (Oh and I just realized I gobbled up my dinner like a hungry savage and forgot to take a photo of it! Soon...)

So here it is. I added shrimp sautéed in garlic butter and lemon juice!

Monday, 3 December 2012

I'm Feeling Saucy!

So I have had to take a brief food blogging break because I went and got myself some fantastic and jazzy Rihanna nails, which are delightfully fun, but a huge impediment on my typing and cooking. Or anything involving effort on my part really. These are lady of leisure nails.

But I am more used to them now, and yesterday I chopped up an onion with them, so I’m moving forward. Sadly, they did not find me a rich husband in the week I’ve had them, so I’m not a lady of leisure at all and I still find myself having to scrub the bathtub and make myself food.
In other news, last night I had a wonderful evening with my uncle and cousin watching football. My cousin is quite the chef as it turns out; we’ll see if we can get him to do a guest blog for us! He made roast chicken with olive oil, white wine and potatoes. It was delicious and so light, not an overly heavy roast chicken meal. That meal was wonderful, and afterwards we discussed food for quite some time.  He also asked me if I had ever made chimichurri sauce, which inspired today’s blog.
Now, I have not made chimichurri, but I have heard of it, and I have wanted to make it for some time. I found a recipe on, so I may try that recipe. It looks delish, similar to a pesto, but using parsley as a main ingredient instead of basil. I am WILD for pesto sauce, so next time I have myself a steak, I think I will try chimichurri. And then I will let you know how it goes!
Fish being cooked "en papillote" for the leek sauce

Two sauces I am very confident in are a white wine and leek sauce, which I love for fish, and a gorgonzola cheese sauce for beef. We are talking opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of calories probably, but my God they are both just a wonderful addition to any meal.

We’ll start with the lighter sauce, which is possibly a “beurre-blanc” sauce. If anyone would like to pay my tuition to go to Le Cordon Bleu, I will study these things and be much more of an expert on this.

Little packages of fish!

For now, we’ll go with Wikipedia. As it turns out, this sauce is not exactly a beurre-blanc, as it is not emulsified. But I feel confident in saying it is an adaptation on one. All you need are leeks, butter, white wine and some salt and pepper. So simple, and so yummy. And maybe not THAT low on calories, considering there is some hefty butter in the sauce. But anyway, it’s the holidays, so let’s not worry ourselves with that. Start by slicing your leeks. Let me just take a moment to give you a little advice about leeks. They grow in the ground. They are FULL of dirt and sand, always. Secretly, and don’t you tell anyone this, sometimes I don’t wash my produce. Unless there is visible dirt, I just skip it. Even apples.  What doesn’t kill you, right?

I can already hear the lectures I’m going to get about pesticides and germs, so we’ll move on. Just note that leeks really do require you to wash them thoroughly first, unless you want to serve your guests a mouth full of dirt and centipedes. (I’m just kidding, I have never seen an actual centipede in a leek- but I guess I’m feeling a little morbid today.) So wash your leeks, and wash fresh coriander too. That’s always full of the dirt.

This sauce is ready for a friend!
Now, that’s enough of a lecture on filth. Slice your leeks. In a pan, put a large chunk of butter, I’m going to say a two good tablespoons or so. (Don’t worry- it’s not THAT much! It is a sauce after all.) Let that melt and sauté your leeks. Just as they are turning golden, add about a cup of white wine. A nice white wine, because you are going to drink the rest of that bottle with your fish dinner. I learned pretty early on that cooking with cheap wine is a bad idea, because you never use the whole bottle in cooking, and then you drink the rest. Headaches are annoying, so use a wine that is not $7.45, as my first wine bottle for cooking was.
Stir that around and taste it. Add salt and pepper until it tastes great. Spoon on your fish and enjoy!

Now we’ll do the heavier sauce, which is amazing on steak and roast beef. I’m really into this blue cheese/red meat trend, it feels decadent, and with red wine, it’s just the best thing for a chilly December evening. This could be a really nice addition to a New Year’s Eve roast.

Completed fish dinner, and yes that is a fish plate!
Start with dicing 3-4 shallots very finely. Sauté them in some butter (only a little this time) until they are translucent. Add about a cup of cream to your pot. Here’s another tip- don’t boil your cream. Then it gets to be a strange texture. Last time I made this, I thought it was curdled and I had to screech out to my mother that the sauce was ruined. She told me not to be so dramatic and stirred it, and then it turned out just fine. But to avoid that kind of theatre at the dinner hour, just don’t boil your sauce. Once your cream is hot (not boiled and curdled) add half a cup of crumbled gorgonzola. In the same way that you want to use nice wine to cook with, go for a nice cheese. Blue cheese is great, but it does come in the fancy cheese section of Loblaws, so you will have to spend a bit more. It’s okay though, because you aren’t going to eat beef with gorgonzola sauce every single day, unless you are Elvis or King Henry or something.

Stir that sauce well and the cheese because melted in. Add the juice of one lemon to add a little freshness to it. Voila! So easy, so decadent, and so delicious.