Saturday, 26 July 2014

Lasagna Roll Ups

So I'm pretty much starving to death. I had a toothache two weeks ago that required an emergency trip to the dentist. They put me on antibiotics for a week and told me to come back for a root canal. Now that might seem like a pretty routine thing to most of you, but for me, it's never routine. And anything that could go wrong did go wrong. But I'm used to that. And that's not the story. A recipe came up on my Facebook page for skinny lasagna roll ups. I had forgotten about lasagna roll ups and I sure as hell don't want to make a skinny version of them. There is nothing about eating carbohydrates that will ever make you skinny. That is an oxymoron. If you're trying to lose weight, don't eat pasta. Ever. Eat fish. Or chicken. But I haven't been able to eat for two weeks now, and I no longer need to lose weight, so I went Googling as I often do when I'm starving to death and decided to go with the Giada De Laurentis version of the roll up. Why is she so tiny and beautiful and lovely and she can also cook like God? A question for another day I guess because we're going to make her roll ups. And this isn't her exact recipe. It's mine because I think unsalted butter is shit and so on. Where she calls for milk, I use half and half. Oh, that explains why she's quite a bit tinier than me.

You'll need:
for the Béchamel sauce:
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of flour (can you see a roux coming on?)
1 1/2 cups or so of half and half. Start with 1 cup and thin down if necessary. You're looking for thicker than pancake batter here, but not wallpaper glue
salt & pepper to season
A pinch of nutmeg. Go easy. You don't want your dinner to taste like pumpkin pie

And for the lasagna:
12 lasagna noodles
a splash of olive oil to add into the boiling water
salt for the boiling water

And the filling:
1 pack of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed of the excess moisture
1 container of ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan plus extra to put on before you put this in the oven
About 7 or 8 slices of chopped prosciutto
1 large egg beaten
salt and pepper.

1 1/2 cups of Marinara sauce (just use jarred here unless you're really into this)
1 cup of grated mozzarella (sure, use your own homemade if you made your marinara sauce)

Boil the lasagna noodles according to package directions. About 10 - 12 minutes. Drain and lay out flat so they don't stick. Make the Béchamel sauce thusly - Melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg and cream and bring just to the boil. Remove from heat. In a separate pot or in the microwave, melt 1/4 cup of butter.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Put the melted butter into a casserole dish. Then add the Béchamel sauce.

Make the filling. Just stir it all together and spread it onto each lasagna noodle about 1/4 inch thick. Roll up the noodle and place it seam side down into the Béchamel sauce. Spoon the marinara sauce onto the top of everything and add the grated mozzarella and parmesan and some freshly ground pepper. Cover tightly and bake for 20 minutes. Then uncover and bake for 15 minutes more until the cheese browns. Let it sit for 10 minutes before you serve it.

This recipe is so hearty and delicious. Thank you lovely Giada! Share your beauty tips!


Thursday, 24 July 2014

Crispy Quail Eggs with Asparagus and Herbed Mayonnaise

The Internet is full of interesting things, as we know. Cats and bacon mostly, but also Pinterest. Pinterest is full of things we would like to do but mostly never will. Such as making a pallet coffee table and teaching our children basically everything glows, including bubbles, silly putty, their bedroom ceiling and rocks in the garden. If we think our current generation is one of entitlement, wait until this next generation walks into the office of the CEO demanding not raises, but glow-in-the-dark ergonomic standing desks. The Apocalypse cometh. 

Now, not everything on Pinterest is unachievable, as Kelly showed us a few posts ago. Her Tarte aux Pommes is pretty bang on. Emboldened by her courage, the other day I bought quail eggs in the grocery store. “Quail eggs!” I thought to myself, “Now THESE will make a jazzy blog post.”

And so to the World Wide Web I go. Typing in “Quail Egg recipes” to Google gets you lots of options. Perhaps foolishly, I chose a BBC Food recipe without a picture. I mused about the fact there was no picture only for a moment, and then chalked it up to those cheeky Brits and their stiff upper lip.

In retrospect, I feel there should at least be a note about what you’re getting into with their crispy quail egg portion. If you find peeling regular eggs to be a burdensome task, you’ll really hate peeling quail eggs. Because you know what’s annoying about it? Everything. The shell doesn’t come off in large flakes, as it does with a run of the mill chicken egg, rather, it comes off a small grains of eggshell, leaving your kitchen sink resembling the beach on Sanibel Island. A photo to reassure people that if you put your thumbnail through at least three partially raw quail eggs, you are not to blame. The nature of the egg is to blame.

Now, the recipe does give us some very serious measurements and directions about the quail eggs, including cooking them for “EXACTLY ONE MINUTE” in boiling water and soaking them in vinegar for half an hour after this. Perhaps the ice bath or the vinegar soak is to help mitigate the disaster that is peeling them. I don’t know. I only followed the directions casually, rather than scientifically, so you can feel free to scold me in the comments for my lackadaisical attitude.
Mayonnaise in the making

Here’s what I did.

1.     Start by boiling up your quail eggs. If you are serving this to more than just you and your dog, you probably want to cook quite a few extras, because they are just tiny, and you’ll likely smash at least one in sheer frustration. Boil them for as close to a minute as possible, because you want them still quite raw in the middle for the deep fry portion.

2.     Put those in a vinegar ice bath. Now, BBC recommends malt vinegar, which I also ignored by assuming it was a translation thing between Canada and the UK, and I used white vinegar. This did nothing as far as I can tell, so if you have malt vinegar, use it.

3.     Now we’ll make the herb mayo. This requires an egg yolk*, some white wine vinegar, Dijon, herbs (your choice, I used sage and parsley because that’s what I had on hand), and olive oil. The easiest way to make mayonnaise is in a blender because that ensures it emulsifies, but you can whisk your little wrist off too. Start with your herbs and olive oil. Then blend your egg yolk**, Dijon and vinegar in. Whisk aggressively, or blend until smooth.

*Save the egg white for your quail egg batter
** This recipe is rife with salmonella- there’s a raw egg around every corner. Watch yourself.
 
4.     Put that mayonnaise in the fridge until the very last second, because food safety y’all!

5.     After half an hour, you can peel your eggs. I have no tips or suggestions for you, except to say don’t give up! You can do it. It may be even easier than I think anyway, because I have stiletto nails right now and nothing is that easy with them.

6.     Now timing is going to get a little serious. At this point, you want to bread your eggs. Using a splash of milk in that egg white you saved, give that a bit of a mix, and then dunk your eggs in it. Next, put them in seasoned breadcrumbs. I used panko with salt, pepper, cayenne and paprika. Once they’re coated, you can put them in the fridge until you’re ready to deep fry them.

7.     Now, start heating your oil for the eggs and water to steam your asparagus. Plop the asparagus in the steamer one minute before your eggs. Then fry your eggs in the oil. Even the BBC warns you about hot oil being left unattended. So don’t do that. The eggs need about one minute to get golden. Pull them out with a slotted spoon as soon as they’re golden. I think if you do this, the yolks may still be a little runny. Mine were not because I delayed getting the eggs out of the oil for fussing about the plating with the mayonnaise.


I think this looks quite lovely, even if it was a bit annoying to do. And it was delicious, so in the end it’s worth it if you need to feed and simultaneously impress people. Enjoy! And let me know your tips in the comments.
 

Monday, 21 July 2014

My Milkshake Brings All the Boys to the Yard

My Instagram feed has recently been flooded with images of smoothies. The captions usually read something like, “My morning kombucha-matcha-chia-banana kick! #Instasmootie #Yum #CleanEating #HealthyLiving #ImSoFuckingSuperior #InstaImBetterThanYou” and the picture is of some mottled slop in a mason jar (always in a mason jar), somewhere in the colour range of Lake Ontario and the Crypt Keeper’s skin tone.



Now, I hold nothing against those who drink smoothies. You are only annoying at the second tier of Instagramming. Usually, these same people also have one of two versions of the same photo: The Fitness Pose- Yogis vs. Crossfitters style. They’re either doing Crow Pose at the top of some Costa Rican mountain with a sunset (or actually, probably sunrise) in the background, or they’ve posted videos of themselves swinging 40 pound kettleballs over their face, which has an inherent spoiler alert in that if they dropped said kettleball on their face, they probably wouldn’t post the video. (Well actually, maybe they would.) Either way, they probably both have a Pin somewhere that reads, “Strong is the new skinny.”


You know what? Good for those people. They obviously beat me in all sorts of character measures, such as drive, self-control, self-motivation, and ability to commit to even one thing in life. And really, who am I to judge? I went through a bit of a fitness phase. I smoothied. Sometimes I still do. The sad difference with me is that I choke my smoothie back thinking “I wish this was a bagel with cream cheese SO BADLY.” And I expect to lose at least one dress size after two days of smoothies for breakfast in a row, because yet another one of my character flaws is the expectation of instant gratification. Ultimately, I’m back to my Diet Coke and bagel for breakfast, the aspartame flooding my brain with happy feelings.
So you know what I think is the new skinny? Living your goddamn life. And in the summer, you know what you really want to do is drink a milkshake! And as much as I love the McDonald’s Dollar Drink days for my Diet Coke fix, the syrupy and possibly chemically-altered milkshake of your youth will just not cut it, now that we are GROWNUPS. So here is a nice little grownup milkshake recipe.


Lavender Rosewater Milkshake

  • Two Four scoops of great ice cream (I’m a classic vanilla girl myself- don’t read too much into that- but you can get creative if you wish)
  • Somewhere around a cup of really great milk (Not skim, don’t be an asshole)
  • Little shake of lavender, plus a little more for garnish
  • Splash of rosewater


Blend all your ingredients in a blender or with an immersion blender (for those of you that haven’t used that Magic Bullet since you ordered it, plus The Insanity Fitness System-“I WILL be strong and skinny!!”- in that moment of self-loathing on your couch at 2 am, now would be the good time to haul it out). Top with a little dash of lavender. Serve very chilly. Dance to a little Kelis. And don’t forget to Instagram the shit out of it- #YouKnowYouWantIt #InstaYum #YOLO #HYFR



Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Epic Meal Time: Tarte aux Pommes gone Haute Couture


Here’s a good one, y’all, if you have about three hours of spare time. And limitless patience for fussiness. And a willingness to go blind from fiddling with paper-thin slices of apple!

But so worth it, because the visual impact is like whoa. You’re going to get sooo many likes when you Instagram it up! [Also, true story: when I first downloaded instagram, I had no idea that it made photos public. I thought it was only about using filters to get cool effects. Now two years later, I have nearly 300 pictures of my cat on instagram and all of my (27) followers must think I’m SUCH a loser. I’m now trying desperately to flood my feed with food pictures to balance it out. Hence this tart].

Okay, here’s what you need.
FOR THE CRUST
         2½ cups walnut pieces 
         4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
         2 tablespoons granulated sugar
         1 egg white
-       ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

FOR THE CUSTARD
         ¼ cup cornstarch
         ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
         1 cup heavy cream
         ½ cup milk
         ½ cup pure maple syrup
         2 teaspoons vanilla extract
         4 eggs

FOR THE APPLES
A good 8-10 apples with a pretty skin that will simulate rose petals (so red delicious, obvs, even though they are not the most flavourful of the bunch. They will look the best).
Slice them paper thin with a mandolin, then let them sit in lemony water so they don’t turn brown.

Make the crust by grinding up the nuts in a food processor until they are like bread crumbs. Combine with the butter, sugar, egg white, and salt and try to get a doughy consistency. Apparently this is a gluten free recipe, but my crust was too loose so I added flour. Also I think that gluten allergies are fake, so I paid no mind. Press the walnut dough into your spring-form tart pan and bake at 400 for 15 minutes.

Make your custard by heating the cornstarch, salt, cream, and milk over medium heat and whisking. Add the maple and vanilla and keep whisking, making sure to scrape the pot. In a separate bowl, crack the four eggs and ladle a spoonful of the hot cream over the eggs and whisk vigorously. Add more cream to the eggs until they’re hot, and then add the egg mixture back into the cream pot (confusing, but necessary). Bring it up to a medium boil and whisk constantly until it starts to thicken considerably, then remove from heat. Strain the custard through a sieve, into a bowl, and then chill.

When the custard is chilled, spread it into the tart shell. You’re ready to make some roses now. The key is to microwave (or blanche) your slices to make them more pliable. I found 55 seconds to be about right. Roll the slices tightly to simulate a rosebud, and stand it up in the custard. Add other slices in circles around the buds to look like petals. You will likely find yourself slicing, trimming, and wasting apple like there’s no tomorrow. It must be done.


You can also brush the whole affair with a glaze of apricot jelly and lemon juice to keep it from browning, and I suggest that you do. Because once you’re done with this tart, god help the person that cuts into it. It’s just too pretty to eat.


This one's from Pinterest…..
And this one's mine! Not too shabby!

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Tabbouleh

So I’ve decided to do a little (sub)urban gardening this summer, and, assuming my plants would grow like everything else I attempt to nurture,  I thought that I might get possibly one pepper and maybe a frawn of parsley or something. But no. My little garden plot, which is about a foot in diameter, is out of control. In that little circle, I planted some rainbow chard, onions, an eggplant, a cauliflower, two lettuce varietals, (since discarded for bolting and therefore becoming narcotic) two tomato plants, and a pumpkin. All of these plants are doing extremely well, and luckily I had to pull out the lettuce to make some space.

I also have an herb pot growing basil, rosemary, a pepper, and parsley. Again, every basil plant I’ve ever grown in my life has died a sad and horrible death, usually plagued with black spots, dead leaves, yellowed stems, and various other deformities which lead me to question Joni Mitchell’s commitment to spots on her apples (just leave her the birds and the bees, please.)

I’m sure you can imagine my surprise when I’ve now sautéed several batches or chard, my tomato plants are falling over with lush green bulbs, and the pumpkin vine is about to entangle my neighbour’s dog with Nightmare Before Christmas ferocity. And the parsley. SO. MUCH. PARSLEY.

Parsley is great to have on hand. It steps up your garnish game immensely. The trouble is, of course, is what to do with giant bushels of it. I like sprinkling on my pasta as much as the next person, but what with all this basil I have, I don’t really need another herb competing for flavour in my pesto. In comes a brilliant friend who suggested I make tabbouleh. WELL OF COURSE.

Brilliant! I love tabbouleh. I usually get it from the Lebanese man at the local shawarma shop, who calls me “Sweet Baby,” and with whom I have a serious flirtation. There is much love between us and I always get extra garlic sauce for free from him (I’m sure as a tricky tactic to keep other suitors away from me.) So anyway, as much as I love my shawarma provider, it might not be the worst idea to lay off the garlic sauce for a while. (I recently joined Tinder, obvs.)

So it turns out to be super easy to make- especially if you have parsley plants threatening to take over your balcony. You’ll need:
-       2 bunches parsley, finely chopped
-       Half a red onion, finely chopped
-       1 large tomato, finely chopped
-       1 cup bulgur, pre soaked (Ugh, how annoying is pre-soaking, right? Actually not that annoying with bulgur. It’s only 1 part billing water to one part grain, soaked for an hour. Or just cook it. Whatever.)
-       1 small bunch mint, finely chopped
-       ½ cup olive oil
-       Juice of 1 lemon
-       Cumin, salt, pepper to taste

Now the easy part! Chop everything small. Put it all in a bowl. Stir. Serve.

Even tastier over night! 

Friday, 4 July 2014

Scones with Strawberry Jam and Cream

Did I ever mention that The LadyGirls and I have a Fairy Godmother? Well we do. Her name is Sarah and even just her name is lovely. She is beautiful and kind and classy and brilliant. And she is hipper than anybody I've ever met. Sarah is one of those rare people you meet in your life that actually wishes you well and wants you to succeed. And we have enjoyed many successes thanks to  her help and support. And just because she's so sweet and generous, I came home to a lovely jar of her homemade strawberry jam last weekend. We've been trying to get her to come on here and guest blog for us, and I only hope she'll share that jam recipe with us because I've never tasted better.

Now it's no secret that I don't bake. But just this once I decided to give it a go because I wanted to pay my respect to that beautiful jam. And to Sarah. So right now, the kitchen looks like it got hit by a bomb and the cold, nervous sweat is just now subsiding from the trauma of it all. And since I don't know anything about baking, I pulled a recipe off the internet called "Simple Scones." And for the cream, I pulled off a recipe that was called "Easy Mock Devonshire Cream." Usually I pass those over when it comes to cooking, but for baking, not so much! Oh for God sake, I just went to see who the author of the scones recipe is, and it's Pam Anderson. I can't believe that she bakes scones and yet I found them to be immensely challenging. Maybe it's a different Pam Anderson than who I'm thinking of.

You'll need:
2 cups of all purpose flour
1/3 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
8 tablespoons of frozen unsalted butter
1/2 cup of sour cream
1 large egg.
This recipe also called for 1/2 cup of raisins, but blech. That would ruin it I think.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and put your rack to the middle position
Mix all the dry ingredients. Beat the egg and sour cream in a separate bowl until smooth.
Using the large holes on your box grater, grate the butter and add to the dry ingredients.
Work it in with your fingers until it resembles course meal. (whatever that means. I just worked it till it got on my nerves) and then add your wet bowl and stir with a fork. Work it all together until you can form a ball with it. (I added a few drops of water because it seemed to dry)
Lightly flour a surface and roll it out in a circle until it's about 3/4 inch thick. Cut it into 8 triangles. I just used a pizza cutter and place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 17 - 18 minutes.

While they're baking, make your cream.
1 package of softened cream cheese
1 cup of sour cream
3 tablespoons of confectioner's sugar
1 cup of heavy whipping cream

Beat the cream cheese until soft and add the sugar and sour cream and beat that for a minute or two and add the whipping cream. Once it's mixed in, turn your beater to high speed and continue beating until it's stiff. Put it in the fridge.

Once the scones have cooled, slice in half and put tons of this yummy cream on and a dollop of jam or preserves. So decadently delicious! I should bake more often. Thanks for the jam Sarah, and thanks for your friendship! xoxo

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Mulligatawny Soup

Don't you think this is a weird recipe to be posting in July? Seems more like a cozy, winter soup to warm your bones. And normally it is. But with our weird climate change, I was sweltering in Delta like heat and humidity yesterday, and today I had to turn off the A/C and put the furnace on to try to warm up. Our temperature went from "can't step outside for the heat" to "can't step outside for the cold" in less than 5 hours. And I must say, I've never made Mulligatawny soup ever in July. It's depressing is what it is. I used to blame Mother Nature for the foibles in our weather patterns. But I no longer do. She has no control over the stupid and irreversible damage we've done to our own planet. So now I treasure Mother Nature as I would an ageing grandmother and try as best I can to deal with Climate Change. It's a disgrace and I take my personal share of the blame.

Now this is a very easy recipe. Quick and tons of flavour. Not to mention so easy. Especially if you have one of those little electric choppers and you're in a hurry. So I did the hurry up version of it today since it's a weekday. But on a lazy Sunday afternoon with a snowstorm blowing outside, I like to chop everything bigger and let it slow simmer all afternoon. And when I do the slow simmer, I usually use lamb instead of chicken. The flavour of the lamb is so much richer. But I'm not even sure if that's still Mulligatawny. But it's worth giving it a try next winter.

So you'll need:
1 small chopped onion
2 stalks of diced celery
1 large diced carrot
butter enough to sauté the vegetables (about 1/3 cup)
2 tablespoons of flour
2 1/2 teaspoons of curry powder (I use mild, but use medium if you love a curry heat)
1 box of organic chicken broth (homemade is better if you have it)
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and diced
1/3 cup of long grain white rice
a splash of olive oil to brown the chicken
1/2 tsp of dried thyme or 2 sprigs of fresh
1 or 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
salt and pepper
1/2 cup of cream to add just before you serve

Brown your chicken (or lamb if you're taking that route) in the olive oil and set aside
Saute the onion, carrot and celery in the butter until soft then add the flour and the curry powder and stir it all around for 3 or 4 minutes.
Add the chicken and stir it for another couple of minutes to let it absorb the flavour of the curry
And the broth, apple and rice and thyme and cover and let it simmer for about 35 - 40 minutes.
Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.
Whisk in the cream and serve with warm Naan bread.

So easy and so awesome! I'm actually glad that the weather went south on me today so I could enjoy this again without having to wait till I come in from shovelling snow. Enjoy friends!
(Just of note, this could easily be made vegetarian by omitting the meat and using vegetable broth and you'd still enjoy just as much flavour)