Wednesday, September 21, 2016

I'm coming back!

It has been a while since I've been here and honestly finishing my goal at this point by the end of the year may be a struggle but I'm going to cut myself a little break and may extend my deadline past the end of the year and heck maybe I won't even enforce a deadline and just keep with working on the goal of 365 new dishes/things and 52 different techniques.
 
It is funny because I'm not sure if the 52 different techniques have to be "new" of just different ones because on a regular basis I have used the following:
  • slow cooking (my gosh how I would survive without slow cooking sometimes is beyond me);
  • breading (I'm married to an English man and I now spoil him and his parents when they are here with home made fish and chips);
  • Marinating;
  • Pickling (eggs, and now I have added turnips, rutabaga and onions to the list);
  • stews; and,
  • Barbequing.
 Although my BBQ could use some work (not that I'm bad at BBQing - you HAVE to try my juicy lucy burgers anything stuffed with cheese is a winner and adding my BBQ Bacon that is candied in Bourbon and Maple Syrup is amazing).

But to affirm that I have been baking and cooking here is a list of things I've done in the last few weeks that I will need to blog and catch up on:
  • Blueberry pie (my first ever thank you very much!);
  • My B52 chocolate cake and Tequila Lime Coconut Cake;
  • Ricotta cheese (for filling Egg Yolk Ravioli again);
  • Scotch Eggs;
  • Bacon Jam;
  • Apple tartlets (using my leftovers);
  • Apple Pie (not the first time I've made it but I used a crumble topping instead of pie dough because I was using my leftovers);
  • Roasted Curry Carrot soup (my own invention no recipe - and it was very good);
  • Pickled turnips, rutabaga and onions;
  • Two different kinds of Ă©clairs - requiring for different recipes
    • Pumpkin Spice Pastry Cream Filled
    • White chocolate mouse filled
    • both topped with a chocolate ganache


Those are the kind of new things I've been doing in addition to making home made doughnuts and pumpkin pies to spoil the people I work with (you can always win people over with food!)


I'm going to have to rethink my game plan for some of the food unfortunately as husband was just diagnosed with Diabetes and it's been a long week already with adjusting the changes we have to make so we will see.  My co-workers have already volunteered to be victims... I mean testers of my baking and the wonderful staff at my daughter's school have also put themselves on the line to test anything I come up with.


I think this weekend I might try out Tiramisu including making the lady fingers at home!


I promise to be here more often.


The other big exciting news is a trip that we are planning to New Olreans!  I'm so excited about the food adventures I get to go on between here and New Orleans and then just in New Orleans itself - like over the moon - more on that later! Now time to find lunch.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Why I've been missing :(

So it has been a long while since I have posted anything. I am beyond frustrated and upset right now. Last year at this time I was trying to get together my audition tape for MCC but my house conspired against me. 

This year I was and am determined but when I started my new job in May I knew I would have to take a step back from my cooking and adjust to the new amazing job. Right after starting we had a terrible thing happen - the smell of gas filled our house. The gas company gave us good and bad news - it wasn't gas 👍 but it was CO2 being forced back into the house. We believe it's a result of damage done to our house by the demolition of the house next to us (it was at best 2 feet away from ours). The gas was shut off to the house. Then started the long process of figuring out what to do next. 

The end result is we are having to replace our NEW hot water tank, the air conditioner and furnace. The chimney is the problem - it is used by all of these but fixing it is really just for the hot water tank as any new furnace would be side vented. We ended up having to call our insurance company and are hoping they will help. If they won't it's about $10,000 to get everything fixed. 

The biggest problem is the lack of hot water - we have had no hot water for almost 6 weeks now. We are camping style in the house for washing dishes, cold washing clothes and running to my parents to shower which is very stressful but it also means I have to basically stop my culinary adventures (it takes 40 min approx to boil the one large canning pot of water - and we need at least 2 for cooking *sigh*). So I still have my goal it just means I am going to have to double down on my cooking when I can get back to adventures. 

Tonight is the first time in a while that I'm cooking from scratch again- it feels good and I really miss it.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Spiced Potato Tikki

Now these Potato Tikki are hands down amazing and absolutely delicious!  They are fairly easy to make - there were a few things in making the tikki that I wished I would have known before hand. Specifically after making the making the balls and flatting out the Tikki it says to dip them into flour lightly.  I did that right away and then kind of stacked them.  Unfortunately, because of the moisture of the mixture the flour absorbed right away into the mixture and then the patties started to stick together.  Next time I would have a flour and frying station type thing set up. I would have made the balls all at the same time then get the oil up to heat. Once the oil is up to temperature I would then flatten and flour right before placing them into the oil.

They are something else and a real treat!  I served with the Date and Tamarind Chutney.  This could very well be the best thing I made from the cook book and will be a definite staple in the house for the future!  

Spiced Potato Titkki
1 lbs potatoes (yukon gold, all-purpose)
2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 fresh green chili, roughly chopped
Salt
2 tbsp canola oil (plus extra for frying)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 large red onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garam masala
2 tbsp all-purpose flour (plus extra for coating the tikkis)
1/2 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3 tbsp chopped cilantro

  1. Peel the potatoes and cut them into equal chances. Place in a pan with a lid, cover with cold water, put the lid on, and bring them to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. When tender, drain them and mash with a potato masher. Put them to one side.
  2. Using a mortar an pestle, bash the ginger and the green chili along with a pinch of salt into a coarse paste and put to one side.
  3. Put oil into a large frying pan on a medium head and, when it's hot, add the cumin seeds and the chopped onion. Fry for 6 to 8 minutes, then add the ginger and chili paste, a teaspoon of salt the chili powder, and the garam masala, and stir-fry for a couple of minutes. 
  4. Next add the mashed potato and flour, stir to mix, then add the peas, lemon juice, and cilantro. Mix thoroughly and cook for a further 2 to 3 minutes or until the peas are tender. Take off the heat and put to one side until cool enough to handle. 
  5. Preprare a bowl of flour to coat the tikkis with. When the mixture has cooled, take a bit of it and roll it into a golf ball shape. Flatten it out to make a patty and dip it into the flour to lightly coat. To check for seasoning, heat a teaspoon of oil in a frying pan, and add, when it's hot, fry the tick for 3 minutes on each side or until brown and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon. Adjust the seasoning as necessary, then make up the rest of the patties. Fry them in batches (around 6 at a time), so as not to overcrowd the pan. To keep the fried ones warm you can put them in the oven on a low heat until they are ready to be served. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Inspiration and living life

Here are some of my favourite sayings:

"Friendship isn't about who you've known the longest. Its about who walked into your life, said 'I'm here for you' and proved it."

"Eat a live frog every morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day."

"A healthy relationship will never required to you sacrifice your friends, your dreams, or your dignity" (unless its in the name of being silly and having fun!)

"Take a chance because you'll never know how absolutely perfect something could turn out to be."

"What do I fear? I fear stagnation and lack of progress. I fear never reaching my potential and being average. I fear being forgotten...The past...Yesterday's news. I fear giving up and being passed by, going softly into that good night. I fear letting those I love down,letting myself down. I fear settling, giving in to the "that's just the way it is" mindset. I fear dying without leaving my mark. I fear not feeling these fears anymore and just floating along. These fears feed me, they nourish my drive. I love my fear."

"Life isn't meant to be easy, it's meant to be LIVED. Sometimes happy, other times rough.. But with every up and down you learn lessons that make you STRONG."

I have written about my life before and the things that have brought me to where I am today.  I have a tattoo on my back that says "Yesterday is a history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift" to try and remind myself to live every day, to challenge myself, to grow.

Today I took the opportunity to seize the day and enjoy life and I did it in the simplest way possible.  I went for a lunch hour walk with my best friend and when we came across a play ground we took advantage and swung on the swings for a while!  Enjoy life, take every opportunity that life presents to you!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Roasted Butternut Squash and Tomato Curry

Top Left - Roasted Butternut Squash and Tomato Curry
Top Right - Chicken Tikka
Bottom - Spiced Potato Tikki and Date and Tamarind Chutney
Now I will say at the outset - the husband HATES like really HATES squash in almost every single form known to man, to clarify further when I say almost every single form I limit myself only because I haven't asked him about every variety yet - but butternut squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, zucchini, baby squash - I have canvased with him.  He doesn't mind butternut squash soup but that is about where the tolerance limit is at.

So needless to say when I saw this recipe I thought I had a good chance of pulling out a winner because it was a curry dish and he loves almost all things curry (being that he is English and all) and I like butternut squash.

Now I would love to tell you that like every other recipe I have tried from "Made in India" it did not disappoint but sadly and very reluctantly I must say I hated the dish just about as much as a monkey and a husband.

We each suffered through a littler portion of a it and then quit suffering.  I'm not sure what made me dislike the dish so much but I have to say I wasn't a huge fan.  I was originally hoping that in roasting the squash it would become a littler tougher but it really didn't and I cooked it longer than the recipe called for trying to get a little bit of a different texture.

The dish was served with Garlic Ritta which helped a bit.  But overall I didn't like the sweetness of the squash for the dish especially with the texture of the squash.

Roasted Butternut Squash Curry with Garlic and Tomatoes
1 large butternut squash (around 2 1/4 lbs) unpeeled, halved, seeded and cut into 3/4" think lives
4 tbsp canola oil
Salt
Ground black pepper
1 1/4" piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 fresh green chile, roughly chopped
1 large onion, finely diced
14-ounce can of god quality plum tomatoes
1/2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  1. Preheat the oven to 400F and line two roasting trays with foil.
  2. Throw the squash pieces onto both roasting trays. Tricked over 2 to 3 tablespoons of oil and seasons generously with salt and black pepper. Toss together and bake for 30 minutes, or until they are soft and browning, turning halfway through.
  3. Meanwhile, put the ginger, garlic, green chili, and a pinch o fast into a mortar and pestle and bash to a smooth paste. Set aside.
  4. Put 1 tablespoon of oil into a frying pan on a medium heat. When it's hot fry the onion for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden, and add the ginger, garlic, and chili paste. Cook for around 2 to 3 minutes, then tip in the can of tomatoes, breaking them up with a wooden spoon.
  5. Cook for around 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is rich and thick. Add the sugar, coriander, cumin, 1/2 tsp of black pepper, and season with salt. Leave to cook for another 5 minutes, adding a little bit of water to get a good saucy consistency. Take the butternut squash out of the oven when ready and fold into the sauce. Serve with the golden garlic raita and some fresh naan.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Its been a while

I most certainly has been a while since I posted - hasn't been that long since I cooked or tried something new (today I made Chocolate and Vanilla cup cakes from scratch - like the batter and the icing - this is a funny thing.  My daughter asked me about the cake I made for her birthday - she asked if I had made it all from scratch or if I had just decorated it.  The truth is I rarely if ever bake a cake from scratch and it usually comes down to two things I have to consider (1) why I am I baking the cake and (2) what allergies am I dealing with?  Now the first question is usually I'm baking a cake for a party or event (like the reason that I was making cup cakes today) or I am baking a cake because frankly I need a surface to decorate - if I am just making a cake to practice with I'm not too concerned about the cake itself and need to ensure that I have a relatively good surface to work on so frankly the effort comes in to the decorating and for under $2 I can just add some water and eggs and be on my way to cake.  This brings me to the second question - dealing with allergies.  I have been dealing with cooking some things gluten free since 2003 so some time now.  However, with the monkey in school I not only have to contend with people who are gluten free but of course there is always the nuts that have to be avoided (and at one point a vegan - frankly I'm glad I don't have to accommodate the vegan any more it was rough). Now my general policy when making food for an event is to be all inclusive - make something so that everyone can eat it (this may come from some of my own food issues). So when dealing with the GF cakes frankly they tend to be much easier to make with a mix than from scratch - although I am going to start venturing more into the GF baking.  So today I actually only had to contend with a nut allergy and frankly I looked at the boxes of the mix and the cheaper ones were "may contain" and the more expensive ones would have been ok.  This circles back to the monkey who has been almost taunting me that I need to be cooking more - so I put down the mixes and made the decision to do them from scratch.

I don't have any pictures - but I made basic vanilla and chocolate cupcakes (they were fantastic!) The white ones turned out to be a little dryer only because I couldn't find something to test them with so I let them bake longer than necessary.  Next time I make the chocolate I am going to sub out espresso or coffee and then fill them with a Khalua mixture of some sort and then top them with my Bailey's icing (OMG new discovery - adult only icing that is AMAZING and uses Bailey's in place of milk or water - OMG so good!)

In any event this is a long post not actually about cupcakes it is about life. I think January is always a time of new beginnings and of learning things.  I often haven't seen that change until later on in the year or even in life.  But this January I made a hard decision that for a lot of reasons I had to look for a new job.  Now I LOVE my current job - frankly speaking it makes me so happy I didn't think I would ever want to leave it - but it's funny how the things in life you love can open other doors for you.  Well as a result of that decision I have found a new job and I start it in a couple of weeks and I would have never had the opportunity to be the successful candidate if it wasn't for my current job. It just makes you sit back and think and reflect on life and the truth is in all of the good that is going on around me right now and the positive steps in my life the thing that made me the happiest was frantically trying to make some cupcakes. 




Friday, April 1, 2016

Life and things

London Christmas Market 2013
I have a problem in life - a real funny problem believing that ultimately that I'm a good person and frankly that other people are good.

You often hear the stories of people who have done something nice and then it makes you think "I should be doing more in my life" and it is sometimes hard to find those opportunities and then having really a courage do to something about a problem you see.  

There are so many problems I have seen and see in the world around me and honestly for the life of me I would love to stand up and change them but it often seems impossible.  I have always been one to try and help others - frankly often because there are so many times it would have been a welcome relief to have help from someone or times where I have received help and have been very thankful for the help I've gotten.

There are two things that stand out for me that I really haven't shared before and I feel now that I want to share the stories.  The most was the most touching and moving experience of my entire life. It happened in 2013 on my trip to Europe.  By way of background - I have family in Europe (Hi guys!) that for a variety of reasons I hadn't seen since I was 12 (just a few...decades) so when my divorce was finalizing it was extremely important for me that no matter what else I had to make sure that I visited with my family.  I was lucky enough to meet and fall in love with Husb (at the time my fiancĂ©).  So we took a month long trip to Europe (sounds fantastic right? It was great - we spend 10 days with his family in England and then another 10 days with Family in Netherlands and Belgium before having sometime in Paris, Venice and London on our own).  The trip was amazing and changing in so many ways. I got to say hi to family, one of whom would pass last year (I miss you Trui) and I got to say good bye to family that had passed before I could make the trip. Despite all of the time with family, the most moving experience would come on what was our second to last day of a month long trip.  We had booked the London Eye experience where we would go in the day and then at night.  On our way off the London Eye we spotted a beautiful Christmas market along the river and decided to check it out.  The smells, food and sights were amazing.  I was hungry and decided to get some food to eat while Husband grabbed a table. While I was waiting for my food and then starting to eat I noticed a gentleman.  Nothing about him was overly unique or made him stand out except that he was checking garbage cans. I wasn't sure at first why he was looking in the cans and then when he pulled out some food it was very apparent what the issue was. I approached him and offered for him to come and join us at our table and share our food with us.  We spoke with him briefly about his life and that he was homeless and had been struggling to find work - he was also having problems with being in contact with his family because of his situation and after the month of being able to reconnect with my extended family I couldn't imagine what he was going through. At the end of the "meal" I said to him thank you. I was grateful to share this experience and I gave him a big hug and he started to cry saying it had months since anyone had given him a hug.  The above is the only picture I have - the Husband took it at the time without my knowledge and when I did find out I was upset. Now I'm happy. I look at this picture now and then to remind myself of how such a small simple act that really has no impact or bearing on my life can make such a huge difference to someone else. Really - what were we out? Nothing - we likely wouldn't have finished the food.

That's what it's really about - taking the time and the opportunity to do these small simple things every day. I know this year for Christmas I reached out to our neighbours (both of whom are elderly and don't have family that live close by) and extended them an invitation to join us for Christmas supper. I always invite people who don't have family or friends to be with to join us for Christmas or Thanksgiving - I mean who doesn't have a lot of left overs? 

I have started volunteering with Girl Guides lately and as a part of the closing the girls say "Have I done my best" and "Have I done my daily task" and it has started to make me look for the small opportunities in life to help others in any way.  Like letting someone cut you in the grocery line when they have just a few things, offering some extra change to someone who can't find the right amount of money to make a purchase. If we all just did a little wouldn't it go a long way?

Those are my thoughts today - I'm struggling to really understand I'm not a bad person (yes I have self-confidence issues) and my theory is the way to fix some of those is to help others. 


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Date and Tamarind Chutney

If your like me an really have no clue what a chutney is - let me help you out (if you smarter than me and can figure it out - skip this paragraph) A chutney is either a pickled presentation of fruits and seasonings or a minced presentation. Not very helpful? I didn't think so.  Basically Chutney's can be a variety of different things and are served as side or accompaniment to a dish (my best way of describing it would be to tell you to think of Relish). 

I've often seen Mango or Mint chutney's at the grocery store or Indian restaruants but never really understood what their point or purpose was.  Basically - like any condiment - it can add texture and flavour to a dish or in the case of yogurt based chutneys calm the heat of a dish (that's a huge plus for me!).

I've always wondered about Tamarind - I've seen it used and heard of it but never really could figure out what it was. Frankly one day I saw Tamarind paste in the produce section of the store next to a box of Tamarinds and figure - what the heck I would try it out. So Tamarind is a pod-like fruit - you eat the pulp of the fruit. Young Tamarind is very sour but is sometimes used in savoury dishes or as a pickling agent. As the fruit ripens it becomes sweeter and less sour (acidic). I never knew this until researching Tamarind and I do have to verify on my bottle at home - but apparently it is found in Worcestershire Sauce <- that's crazy something that we use all  the time - but who knew? Now you do!

The Chutney was amazingly easy to make and next time frankly I should make a double batch as it disappeared SO quickly.   This will keep in a clean container in the fridge for a week or can be frozen for a couple of months.  I used one of my sterilized jam jars.

Date and Tamarind Chutney
4 ounces dates, pitted and roughly chopped
2 1/2 tsp tamarind paste
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
a pinch of child powder.
2/3 cup cold water

  1. Throw the dates into a blender (or Vitamix) with 2/3 cup cold water, tamarind paste, salt, cumin and chili powder, and blend to the consistency of half &half. 
  2. All dates vary in sweetness.  The end result should be balanced between sweet and sour - if too sour add some sugar little by little. When right spoon into a clean jar. 


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Naan Bread

My first attempt at Naan
Ok - bread - another one of my guilty pleasures (I have a few if you can't tell).  I've never been sure of Naan bread - exactly what it is.  But if you haven't had it before it is a relatively soft bread that is flat.  Surprisingly I didn't think Naan would have yeast in it because of the flat nature of the bread.

The recipe was rather straight forward to make and easy - the trick was not guessing myself on the consistency that the dough would have when I started working with it out of the bowl. I would normally start my bread dough in my Kitchen Aid Mixer - however this one I used a fork and fingers to work with it to start.  I likely would oil my hands a little next before starting to make the dough as it was a lot more sticky than bread dough when I started to work with it.

I was again very thankful this night to have the help of my wonderful bestie - Serina.  Given the time of day that we were making food I need help just to fry the bread (I ended up cleaning the kitchen first before cooking - including cleaning out the fridge while we try to come up with a plan of attack for the evening meal.) In any event we kept the naan plain for this adventure. However, my next challenge will be to be stuff the naan bread with cheese and maybe so some with garlic and basil butter *yum*.
Naan Bread
Makes 12 Naan
4 cups all-purpose flour (plus extra for dusting)
Canola oil
4 tbsp whole-milk yogurt
1 package dried yeast
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup whole milk, hand hot.
  1. Pour the flour into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle and add 2 tablespoons of oil, the yogurt, yeast, sugar, salt and baking powder. Mix through with your fingers until the ingredients resemble breadcrumbs, then add the warm milk, little by little, and mix again until it comes together into a dough.
  2. Put the dough on a clean and well-floured surface. The dough will very sticky at first, soft but robust, knead for around 5 minutes. Rub 1 tsp of oil all over the ball of dough.
  3. Transfer the dough to a bowl in which it can double in size. Cover it using a tea towel or plastic wrap and leave it in a warm place for at least an hour.
  4. When the dough has doubled in size, divide into 12 pieces. Take one piece, roll it into a ball, and flatten between your palms. Coat it fresh flour and roll it out to around 5 x 8 inches. 
  5. Put a frying pan on a medium to high heat, and when it's hot, place the naan in it. When the naan starts to bubble - after 20 - 30 seconds - flip it over, using a spatula and cook the other side for the same amount of time, checking regularly to ensure it doesn't learn. Flip over again and quickly press it gently all over with a spatula for 010-15 seconds. Turn the naan over again for another 10 to 15 seconds, check that there are no uncooked doughy bits, then take off the stove.
  6. Keep any cooked naan warm by stacking them onto of each other on a plate or wrapping them in foil, then repeat with the rest of the dough. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Chili Paneer

So this is the recipe that inspired making the paneer at home.  Frankly speaking I have been debating making this again so soon because it was good.  I would have like a little more sauce. This recipe ends up being rather dry.
Browned Paneer thanks to Serina

I wasn't sure entirely what to expect from the recipe as it came at the request of the husband. However, when I looked at it and saw it was cheese basically browned in spices I figured it couldn't be bad because I mean who doesn't like cheese.

The recipe is incredibly easy to make and had very good results.  I will admit that because of timing issues and how late it was getting I did have an amazing assistant help with me execute the recipe (Thank you Serina).  She did an amazing job at browning the paneer.

I will be honest I'm not sure if what we used was 14 ounces of paneer - I made one batch of paneer cheese and just used that.  Next time I would probably make more or just have this as an appetizer part of the meal. Like I said there wasn't a sauce to speak of with the dish so it was rather dry.  Which was a learning piece in making the food this evening.  I had made naan in the expectation of having curry like dishes - but then as things were progressing in terms of the food I was going to actually make that didn't work out. This is also a lesson that sometimes I really need to plan the items I'm going to make together.  I will say that sometimes I do have a plan mapped out in my head and other times (like this evening) I really have one plan and then I end up kidnapping a friend and because I prefer not to kill her with shrimp I end up going down an entirely different path.

I didn't find the recipe too spicy - it was on hot side and I think next time to help with that I may cut back and use only 1/2 of the green chile (note:  I always seed chiles to cut down on the heat that they bring to a dish - but I'm a complete wimp on the heat scale).

Chili Paneer

Chill Paneer
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
14 ounces paneer
Canola oil
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 fresh green chile, very finely sliced
3/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp sugar
4 scallions, finely sliced into rings
lemon wedges, to serve

  1. Throw the cumin seeds into a mortar and pestle and roughly grind them to a coarse powder. Next cut the paneer into 3/4-inch cubes. pour a thin coating of oil into a large frying pan and grin it to a high heat. Fry the paneer in batches, turning the pieces until golden brown on each side, and transfer them to a dish lined with paper towels. Watch out, as the paneer may spit; if so, half cover the pan with a lid. 
  2. Put 2 tablespoons of oil into the pan, followed by the garlic, green chile, cumin, black pepper and salt. Sauce for about 3 minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally. Add the tomato paste and sugar and stir, then put the paneer back into the pan along with a splash of water. Cover the pan and simmer for a further 5 minutes. 
  3. Take the lid off the pan, add the scallions and simmer until there is no water left. Serve fresh and hot with squeeze of lemon. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Chaat Salad (the Licking Salad)

Ok - so I'm not entirely sure what drew me to this recipe because honestly in the things I like/don't like but will eat category this recipe has a lot working against it.  I am not a fan of cucumber (unless it is in greek salad), I am typically not a fan of radishes. However, for some reason I decided to give this one a try.  

Now I had no idea what Chaat was, and when the recipe called for Chaat Masala I could not find it on any of my culinary adventure tours with the husband (totally something that I should do again this weekend) but I figured I could make things work.  

I have to say the salad was AMAZING! I made this one night after kidnapping by best friend Serina from work and "made' her help me clean out my fridge and then forced her to eat my home cooked Indian food (yes I'm a terrible captor in that way.)  Serina is also not a fan of most things in this recipe and down right HATES cilantro (more than spiders I would say) ... anyways she also really liked the salad (she did pick out some of the larger pieces of cilantro and if you are like her and don't like cilantro I wouldn't skip it - I would cut back on the amount and make sure the leaves are very finely minced to almost a paste). 

I don't know how to describe what the salad tastes like other than it was amazing - full of interesting textures, full of warmth and flavour while not being overwhelming. I will say I normally love salad in the summer on really hot days - but this salad (despite being a dish served cold) still had that soul warming quality I would look for in the cold winters here.  The big problem I did run into was pomegranates as they were not in season. Serina didn't miss them from the dish, but I think we both agreed that it would have been a good addition to the salad.  I did substitute in mine some pomegranate molasses which added that flavour but obviously not the pop in the mouth that would come from the seeds.

So because I could not find Chaat Masala I made my own. Turns out that masala means spice mixture  from the Hindi word for spices (honestly yes it did take me a little while to figure that out...)  Serina came to rescue and found a Chaat Masala mix recipe, which we used with some..improvising on some ingredients.  First - asafoetida (still have to find some) - but on some reading it has a strong garlic-onion flavour so I substituted onion and garlic powder. I didn't have Amchoor (still have to find some) so I used pomegranate powder instead it seemed to work but I can't wait to try this again with the proper spice mix - just know it's ok to find things close or similar and try them out. 

Chaat Masala
1 tbps cumin seeds

1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds

1/4 tsp asafoetida  (1/4 tsp each ground garlic and onion powder)

1/2 tbsp garam masala

1/2 tbsp amchoor powder

1/2 tbsp black salt

1/2 tsp cayenne

1/8 tsp ground ginger
  1. Dry roast the cumin and fennel seeds in a small pan over low heat for about 5 minutes or until the cumin seeds darken a few shades. Add in the asafoetida(or garlic/onion powder) and stir in to mix well. Take off of the heat and use a spice grinder (aka repurposed coffee grinder) and grind until powdered. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse to mix.

Chaat Salad in the bowl. 
Chaat Salad
1/2 cucumber (around 10 ounces) seeds scooped out
7 ounces radishes
4 scallions
seeds of 1 pomegranate
1 ounce cilantro
4 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 14-ounce can chickpeas
1/2 tsp child powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp desiccated coconut
1/2 tsp chaat masala

  1. Take your sharpest knife and chop the cucumber into small cubes (each one should be about the size of a chickpea). Chop up the radishes the same way. Slice the scallions into thin rings and put everything into a salad bowl, along with the pomegranate seeds.  Finely chop the cilantro - leaves and stems - and add it to the bowl.
  2. Next, put the oil into a small frying pan on a medium heat. When it's hot, add the mustard seeds, leave them to pop, then add chickpeas. Fry the chickpeas for 3 to 5 minutes, until they start to crisp up nicely in the pan, then add the child powder, salt, sugar, and lemon juice. Turn the head down to low and add the coconut, then stir a couple of times and take off the heat.
  3. Add the spiced chickpeas to the salad bowl and sprinkle over the chaat masala.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Homemade Paneer

So one of the things I have had an interest in doing lately is making cheese - however it always seemed like it would be a long, intensive labour involved process (which seems ironic considering the types of food I make and how long I am usually in the kitchen cooking...) but when cheese is so readily available if often seemed at odds to make my own.

However, then I saw the recipe for paneer in the cookbook and it listed two simple ingredients - I was hooked.
Homemade Paneer

The recipe is amazingly easy and quick. I will admit that the only problem I had was figuring out when the milk was boiling. I waited and made sure that I was consistently stirring the milk to make sure that it didn't burn. I wasn't sure of what to expect when I added the lemon juice but it instantly starting to part ways and form these solid parts.

The big thing that I learned from this was cheesecloth - despite it's name and use in this type of application was probably not the best. Maybe it was because I was using cheep cheese cloth but I really had to make lots of layers to be able get a good covering on the cheese so I could squeeze out the liquid.  Next time I would probably use Muslim (fabric) instead.  I did set the cheese wrapped in the cloth in a strainer over a metal bowl and then place my mortar and pestle on top.

I eventually used the Paneer for a simple Chili Paneer dish which was fantastic - the next this to do with paneer is make paneer stuffed naan bread. 

Paneer
1/2 Gallon whole milk
4 tablespoons lemon juice
  1. Put the milk in a saucepan and bring it to a boil, stirring frequently so that it doesn't stick to the bottom. When it starts to boil, turn the heat down.  Add the lemon juice and stir until it curdles.  You'll see the curds separate from the whey and form lumps, at which point turn the heat off.
  2. Line a colander with a few layers of cheesecloth and put it in the sink. Pour the cheese curds through it slowly, draining off all the liquid into the sink. Fill the saucepan with wonder and pour it over the curds again to easy any lemon juice off. 
  3. Grab the corners of the cheese cloth and squeeze the water out by twisting the top of the cloth until it's tight around the pall of paneer. Keeping it twisted, put a weight on top of it press it and leave the colander in the sink or set over a bowl so that any remaining water can drain out.
  4. Leave for 3 hours or so, until firm to the touch, and refrigerate until you're ready to use it. If stored tightly wrapped in plastic wrap or in an airtight container, the paneer will keep for 3 to 4 days. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

It's been a little bit

It has been a few days since I've posted and honestly I need a bit of a break. The last two weeks have been probably the most stressful two weeks that I've had in a while and frankly I haven't wanted to be in the kitchen cooking or baking and it is the thing that tends to make me happy. 

It all started when my husband had to be scheduled for surgery (please don't get worried - it is not a major operation but it does have impacts on life and potential implications for other things). His surgery ultimately had to be rescheduled. As I already said - having the surgery on the date it was scheduled for in the first place was not great but I made it work. However, when that surgery date went up in the air and the next date we were given was in the end of March things couldn't have been worse.

We have been trying to have a baby for the last well almost two years and we have two things working against us. First - I have PCOS - Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome which is tons of funs (Not).  PCOS has been getting more attention lately because of people like Whitney Way Thore (Star of My Big Fat Fabulous Life) but it has been a factor in my life for the last 15+ years and affects many things including my ability to conceive.  Second - the husband has low testosterone.  He has to have an injection every three weeks to keep up his levels and the injection has certain side effects.  We had to both see our doctors to get a referral to a specialist here. Mine was easier in sorts because of a known issue that I've had to deal with before.   We finally seemed like we were on a path to actually being able to try in a meaningful way and then we had a set back with the husband's health and him having to have surgery. We now wait for him to recover before we can get the process moving again. 

When he originally came back from the specialist and confirmed what we already knew - that he would have to have surgery - it was hard because they can take a while to schedule and get in so I was originally set up for a long time - then when we go the call that his date was at the end of February I was relieved in so many ways. Then to have that pulled out from under you and be told it could be another month I could just see the delay getting longer and longer. 

The worst part for me is that a lot of family/friends are having babies right now. I am going to put this out there - it's not that I wish them bad or that I'm not happy for them it is just really really hard.  I have had this discussion with my bestie and as much as I lover her she doesn't get it. S is really the best friend a person could have and I love her to pieces - but she's never had a problem having children and that really seems to be the key. Those that have struggles with infertility understand how hard it is - its not that other people being pregnant or having babies makes you hate that person - it makes me hate myself and get very angry. It is not fair - its just not fair. I wish for the first part people would understand and I think that the easiest way to put is this - I am a woman - I am purpose built biologically to do one thing - reproduce and have a baby - so by the shear fact that my body is messed up and is working against that eats away being a woman.

I honestly don't know where this post is going but I need to vent that I'm frustrated and stressed and I'm glad that the husband is on the road to recovery and I was back in the kitchen yesterday night and back to being happy in there. 

Friday, February 26, 2016

Parent teacher conferences

This has been an extraordinarily long week and it's not over yet. My husband was suppose to have surgery yesterday (he'll probably kill me for posting about this). The surgery is nothing major - in fact it is a relatively simple procedure that occurs on a regular basis. However, the implications of the procedure itself are wide open in terms - and frankly I'm not going to get into that part because that doesn't have me concerned. 

But the annoyance of this week is beyond belief.  So at the end of January he had his date confirmed for surgery as yesterday.  We found out at the last minute that in fact his surgery had been re-scheduled but no one could seem to explain to us why it was re-scheduled (we have since figured that out - it was a simple human error and that pisses me off beyond belief and it is very frustrating.  On the other hand I completely understand human error and I'm not actually pissed off or upset with the person who made the mistake.)

I'm annoyed, fightie and angry over the huge implications it has had.  So many things had to be planned and scheduled. Let's start with the husband - he does NOT like surgery at ALL like would rather have his teeth kicked in over and over again than have to deal with being put under - it really scares him and I completely understand that.  So he has been stressed out for nearly a week not sleeping and now we know we have to go through that stress all over again.  He had to get sick notes and notes from the specialist to be off work and then his work had to make arrangements. We were worried that they wouldn't be able to accommodate him coming back to work on short notice (thankfully they were able to accommodate him).

Now there is our joint life - the monkey was suppose to be with us this week so we had to make special arrangements to have her looked after, attend her activities and then make it home and trying not to disrupt her too much - of course all of that was for not.  

Then there is my life - he has to be driven, taken home, and not left unattended for 24-hours afterwords. So the dates that we were originally given I had a conflict at work - thankfully we were able to work the conflict out but not without a lot of inconvenience.  Now the new date we were originally given causes more huge conflicts and I'm not sure if I can fix those issues. 

Needless to say this week has been very stressful - which leads to tonight's stress (did I mention I am ready for a vacation). Parent-teacher conferences.  Now I was always a great student - not always the best marks in high school but I was still a pretty good student.  For some reason I always thought that the parents had it easy when it came to the PT Conferences - you were just there to find out how your child was progressing and frankly if they were behaving or not in school.

I've come to dread the parent-teacher conference - not because the monkey is a bad kid or does bad in school. Frankly she is a wonderful kid (and that's not just a proud mom speaking) but she works well with others, stands up for people but isn't a bully, tries really hard in school but still struggles a lot with her reading.

One of the things I have always struggled with is the balance being a mom/wife and myself frankly.  I had my daughter when I was in school and there was a lot of demands placed on my time and when trying to balance everything for a long time the things that "I" needed or wanted went by the way side and I became a very unhappy person and I didn't find a lot of support.  I then shifted and took a lot of focus on me and what I needed and frankly mostly needed to be and keep healthy but it created a real imbalance.

So I find it hard as a mom it is the most challenging thing that I have done or frankly will ever do (law school that was easy compared to being a mom - seriously). So now trying to balance between making sure that Monkey is in enough activities to make sure she is well rounded and has a lot of experiences, but not to many activities so that it takes away from her education, working with her on school and the other passions while not trying to be an overbearing parent (trust me I'm really strict - I'm the most strict with her out of all her care givers). But this week is a prime example of the struggle between the demands of life, being a mom, being a wife, being an employee, being a person.

With the surgery looming over us it was really hard to make sure that everything around the house was taken care of so that the husband wouldn't have to worry while he was off work, it was/is emotionally stressful waiting for him to go for surgery, it is difficult changing and entire routine for the week and in the midst of showering this morning thinking about parent teacher conferences - it dawned on me - reading.  The monkey has mandatory 20-minutes reading every day for school (not a lot of time and she really needs to work on her reading) but in the midst of the chaos this week it hadn't dawned on me until that moment that she hadn't done her reading. It was clearly and entirely my fault she hadn't done her reading. She was with us on Monday, with her Dad on Tuesday and then back with us Wednesday night but because of the cancelled surgery not as originally planned and I didn't know if she had done her reading.

I wanted to sit on the floor of the shower and cry - how was I going to explain that with everything going on I had simply forgot. How do you forget your child - they should be your largest priority and she is - but I forgot. I called her into sit on the bathroom floor and read while I finished my shower, then had her read as she had breakfast and then as I drover her to school but how do you forget. Add to that she didn't eat supper until after her activity on Wednesday night and then it was chocolate crepes at 9:00 pm almost as a bribe to say I'm sorry I'm such a fluck nut as a parent sometime.

The monkey as wonderful as she is - is an eternal optimist - always thankful and happy and gave me a big hug for being the best mom because I made chocolate crepes and all I can think is I'm not and I can't believe even after 10 years I don't know how to balance it. So yes - parent teacher conferences feel like a judgment session for how I am doing as a parent for putting my child and their education first.

Now before any trolls comment about maybe I should focus more on my daughter than the blog and the food I'm making - frankly speaking a lot of the time the food is made after she is gone to bed, or on days when she is with her father but the posts don't get done right away... It is one of the things I struggle with - balance - because I still haven't figured out how to fit in going to the gym. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Kitchen tips part 1

So this post is going to be about somethings that people ask me about in my kitchen adventures and some recommendations I have. 

The first area I want to focus on in preparation of sorts. This comes down to a couple of things: reading the recipes, miss en place, having a game plan. I know that I'm doing the 366 recipe challenge - but I have always loved to cook and tend to go all out for large occasions.  I have been known to do multiple courses for a kids birthday party. So my first part of the plan comes down to figuring out what I am going to make and then making copies of the recipes. Yup - that is right even when I have cook books - if I am making multiple dishes I will make or get out my copies of the recipe. I do this for several reasons. 

Recipes on the wall!
The first reason I do this is because the last time I didn't I had to flip back and forth between three different recipes in the same book. I also find it difficult to balance multiple cook books on the counter.  The second reason I tend to like to have all of the recipes up on the wall so that if someone is helping me with larger events they can also take a peak at the recipe easily while I may be working on something else.  Last reason comes down to scaling up or down a recipe.  If I have something that makes a different quantity than I need and I am making multiple dishes I will write down the new measurements for whatever I need on the recipe so I don't have to think about it when I'm working (I have forgotten to double something on occasion). 

I next read all of the recipes as best as I can (and I continue to learn the importance of this every day - oh panna cotta).  After I read the recipes I make a master list of ALL items needed and the quantities for something across all of the recipes (so let's say I don't run out of garlic because I need three cloves in everything I'm making). After that I narrow down what I actually need to buy. 

Following this - I pay attention to how long the recipes say I need to prepare or cook something. This becomes important in multi tasking. For example if I have to boil potatoes for 20 minutes - I can do that while cutting/chopping for something else and then something can be working away in the oven. Usually my big master lists are saved for Christmas - where I have a three day plan typed out and taped to the kitchen cabinets with time lines of when things need to be started, where they are being cooked, what they are being cooked and serving dish is being used. This is less of an issue now that I have my wonderful double ovens. However, it is still a good idea make sure you have everything ready to go.  One of the biggest tips I read in Gordon Ramsay's Ultimate Home Cook Book was not to have everything ready at once - so don't time to have the potatoes, turkey and gravy done at the same time. Certain things can sit and keep hot until ready to serve - other things need to be served right away. So I'm working on that aspect of planning - what can be done early and kept until the other things that have to be served right away are done. 

Once I'm ready to go I do put the recipes in page protectors and using painters tape - I put them up on the walls, cupboards...basically anything that doesn't move and where it's fairly easy to see. It helps to have them right there.  

Salt and Pepper
I have two more recent purchases that I want to share as I find them really useful.   The first is the "salt" containers (I am using them for Sea Salt and fresh ground pepper). They are bamboo and have tops that swivel open really easily.  It is nice to have them on the counter to be able to add salt and pepper to things as I am cooking. I got this set at Bed Bath and Beyond but haven't been able to find them anywhere else locally. 








Oxo Measuring Cups
The last thing I absolutely love are these OXO measuring "cups"( actually beakers). They are actually meant to measure smaller  amounts of liquids - there are four different sizes in the set - and measure in Teaspoon, Tablespoon, Ounces or Millilitres. The really nice thing is that I can measure these small amounts and have them ready to go and leave them on the counter - where with traditional measuring spoons - you have to measure and pour somewhere. They truly are a wonderful thing. (Find them here on amazon.ca)

Monday, February 22, 2016

Empanadas

I have had Empanadas once before at a local restaurant but other than that I had no really information on what an Empanada was or what was in them. Truth be told I saw the name and what they looked like and I was hooked on trying to make them. What can I say - meet in puff pastry how could that not turn out good right!?

Then as I started to prepare for the recipe I actually looked at the ingredients and couldn't believe that there were green olives and hard boiled eggs in the actual filling.  I was surprised and the funny thing is I didn't think that the husband would eat these because of the filling.

I figured I would dive in and try them anyways and as the recipe laid out the filling. The funny thing is they were completely amazing and so good I actually only managed to get one picture.  The husband loved them and the daughter keep sneaking them out of the fridge and ate six in one night and then kept begging to be able to have them to bring with her to school.

The recipe was a hit - and honestly I have looked just a little more into them and it turns out that these little bomb shells can have tons of different fillings. I had made a double batch of the puff pastry - which wasn't necessary and means I have some left over - which also means that I will just have to make more. I am sure the family will suffer through the hardship of eating them again willingly.

Empanadas
Onion Pakora, Samosas and Empenadas
2 - 11 ounce packages of frozen all-butter puff pastry (I made my own)
Olive Oil
1 onion, peeled and finely diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
Pinch of ground cumin
Pinch of ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp paprika
10 ounces ground beef
Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup pitted green olives, chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried chile flakes
Pinch of sugar
2 hard-boiled eggs, finely chopped
1 large egg beaten

  1. Roll out the pastry to a thickness of 1/8 inch and cut out 18 discs, using 4-inch cutter or saucer. Cover the discs with plastic wrap and chill while preparing the filling.
  2. Heat a sauce pan over medium heat and add a little olive oil. Sweat the onion and garlic gently for about 5 minutes until soft but no coloured. Add the cumin, cinnamon, paprika and stir until aromatic. 
  3. Add the beef, season with salt and pepper, and cook for about 5 minutes until lightly browned. Mix in the olives, oregano, chile flakes, sugar, and hard-boiled eggs. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Leave to cool.
  4. Once the beef has cooled, spoon 1 tablespoon onto each pastry disc, leaving a 1/4-inch border around the edge. Brush beaten egg around half the border, then fold the pastry over and press the edges together to seal and create a half-moon shape. Crimp the edges, removing any air pockets as you go. 
  5. Chill the empanadas for 20 minutes to firm up. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350F. 
  6. Place the empanadas on a baking sheet. Make a steam hole in the top of each one with a skewer, then brush with beaten eggs. Bake in the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes until the pastry is golden brown. 
  7. Once the empanadas are cooked, cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature with chimichurri sauce. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Vegetable Samosas

So I love Indian food. I haven't always been familiar with it and honestly only since meeting my husband have I truly grown to love it. (Always liked it just had to deal with someone who thought it all tasted the same, would make the house smell and the flavour from one thing gets into everything else...*sigh* )

Anyways as husband explains it - England is like the home of Indian food (I don't get it but that's what I'm told) and despite this fact when we visited England we actually never went out for Indian food.  We do have some favourite Indian food spots here in the city and Samosas have always been one of the things I love so when I came across this recipe in Canadian Living The Ultimate Cookbook I was very excited and knew I had to try making it. 

These little pastry filled jewels are not hard by any imagination but they are a time consuming process. The entire thing took me well a long time (I was tag teaming two recipes) but I would say in total it would be a good hours worth of work so next time I would double the recipe and make more of them for probably not that much more time.   The most time consuming part of it was the filling of the Samosas so I figure if I can prepare everything next time and rope in some help for that I should be good to go.  The pastry is very similar to making a puff pastry so I treated it like that and had a good result. I learned the very important part of making sure the dough is sealed ALL the way around. But other than that this was a big success - so much so I didn't get many pictures and the monkey managed to try and sneak some every day for lunch and then would grab them out of the fridge for a snack - they didn't last long at all! I served these with the two chutneys I made (see recipes here) as opposed to the Cilantro Chutney in the book. 

The last point I'll make here is about kitchen equipment - buy thermometers and use them appropriately.  I have 4 of them:
  1. Instant read (for checking water temps when baking or meats like chicken or steak);
  2. Oven/ BBQ safe one (the probe goes into the meat and then the read out is on the side of the oven or BBQ - good for meats that have longer cook times (roasts, chicken, turkey) I always use them to make sure my meats are done and not over done;
  3. Candy thermometer - because I do with work sugars and such - I know I can use this in oil but because it's glass I don't like using it there and prefer the one that has the metal base for deep frying; and,
  4. Deep Fry thermometer - now I figure I can use my candy one in the fryer but the bottoms and entire thing is set up differently so I like using them for their specific purposes. 


Vegetable Samosas
Vegetable Samosas
Dough2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
1/2 cup milk
Filling2 cups diced peeled potatoes (about 3 medium sized)
1/2 cup diced carrots (about 1 medium)
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp Fennel seeds
1 tspCumin Seeds
1 tspBrown Mustard seeds
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp coriander sees
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 onion chopped (I diced)
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup frozen peas
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
Vegetable oil for deep frying

  1. In a bowl with a pastry blender (or food processor which I don't like) combine flour, cumin seeds and salt; pulse or cut in butter until in fine crumbs. Stir in milk until ball beings to form. Press into ditch, wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 
  2. In large pot of boiling salted water, cook potatoes and carrots until tender (about 10 min) drain.
  3. While potatoes and carrots are cooking, in large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Cook fennel, cumin and mustard seeds; turmeric coriander and fenugreek seeds; and cayenne pepper just until cumin seeds begin to pop (about 1 min0
  4. Add onion, garlic, ginger and salt; cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in potatoes mixture and peas.  Add lemon juice and cilantro - stir to combine well and let cool. 
  5. Cut dough into 12 pieces; form each into a flat round. On floured surface roll out each piece into 6-inch circle; cut in half. (I just rolled out the entire sheet and used a large cookie cutter to make circles which I then cut in half - this made smaller samosas and more of them).  
  6. Working with 1 piece at a time, moisten half of the cut edge with water. Form cone shape by overlapping edges by 1/4 inch (Think of making what looks like a sugar cone - making sure the bottom of the cone is sealed.)
  7. Fill with 1 tbsp potato mixture (I just filled with as much as i could fit and still close the dough). Moisten top inside edges of the pastry; press to seal - make sure ALL SEAMS ARE SEALED. 
  8. Trim jagged edges of pastry; crimp edge with fork. 
  9. Pour enough oil into deep saucepan or pot to come 2 inches up the side (I just use my wonderful deep fryer). Heat oil until 350F (again I would buy a deep-fryer thermometer - I have about 4 different kinds of thermometers in my kitchen totally worth it). 
  10. Work in batches, deep-frying the samosas, turning often until golden brown (about 4 minutes per bath; I would rescue them from the oil and then onto a paper towel-lined baking sheet. 
  11. If you prefer to bake these (why? I'm mean just why?) 425F for 15 minutes).



Thursday, February 18, 2016

Fettuccine Alfredo

So I have made pasta before - nothing new right?  Well yes and no - I am still counting this for the 366 challenge as something I've never made before because everything in this meal was done from scratch.  

So I have to admit that I am a HUGE lover of Fettuccine Alfredo (well more so the Alfredo sauce than the actual Fettuccine - I usually opt too have cheese filled ravioli with Alfredo sauce on top ... yes I love cheese!)

In any event this week was the husband's birthday so I figured I would give him the option of what he wanted to have for supper on his birthday.  I sent him a list of the things I had been planning or thinking of making and his response was simple - pasta, with Alfredo sauce and maybe some chicken. Now I will totally admit - that I contemplated making the stuff from the box and jar - but since I had a new pasta recipe on my list I figured why not make this into something that will fit into my challenge while I'm at it.   

Fettuccine Alfredo with herb roasted Chicken
I then thought about the Alfredo sauce and that it probably wasn't too hard. OMG I was so right - the sauce has minimal ingredients by chance I had at the house in any event so I set off.  Mind you that I still have a pasta machine that I have to crank by hand (OMG just FYI - a  lot of work - I would love to get the attachment for my Kitchen Aid Mixer but for now I'll just keep working out my arms lol). 

Keeping in mind that I had several things on the go I made the pasta first - I haven't really let my pasta to have the chance to rest before and I wanted to try this recipe entirely as directed. After I finished the pasta and my preparation for chicken tikka to be served another night I got together my mis en place for the Alfredo Sauce, seasoned the chicken, pre-heated the oven and off I went. 

I rolled most of my pasta before starting my chicken on the stove and then went back to finishing the pasta.  I then made the sauce before I boiled the pasta since the fresh pasta doesn't take that long to cook. The end result was very delicious and made the birthday boy very happy :D  

I will also say that this was by far my favourite pasta recipe so I will likely keep it as my stand by. 

Alfredo Sauce
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup heavy cream (in Canada I used 18% cream as I find that if I used whipping cream ti leaves a funny taste)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cloves roasted garlic
1 cup grated Parmigiano-reggiano cheese
1 cup grated Asiago cheese
  1. Melt the butter over low heat in a medium sauce pan. Once the butter is melted add the heavy cream and mix well. 
  2. I then mashed up and added in the 2 cloves of roasted garlic (I do a whole head of garlic and leave them in my fridge as they are usually a great addition to a recipe).
  3. I then added the cheeses and mixed/whisked well until all of the cheese was melted. Most recipes only call for the parmigiano-reggiano cheese which is completely fine. However because we both love cheese so much I used both cheeses and frankly didn't actually measure them.  I just eye-balled the amount of cheese.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste. I found because of the cheeses and the salted butter I used I didn't need too much salt but it definitely needed the hit of pepper. 
For the Chicken - honestly I rubbed it down well in salt and pepper, some basil and herbes de provence. I then put the chicken into a searing hot pan that had been coated in oil (I did use olive oil - bad choice as it has a low smoke point which means the oven did get a little smoky as I put the chicken in to cook through - next time I would use vegetable oil).  I turned the chicken once to get a nice sear and golden colour on both sides before putting it into the oven. 

Anne Burrel's All Purpose Pasta Dough 
1 pound all-purpose flour (honestly - I only measure flour now thanks to Alton Brown - buy a digital scale they aren't that expensive but if you don't have one about 3 3/4 cups)
4 large eggs plus 1 yolk
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
2 tbsp water
  1. Measure the water and add a good large pinch of salt and stir. Set aside. Measure the flour and then place onto counter in a mound. 
  2. Make a well (hole) in the centre.  Make sure the well is large enough to accommodate all of the other wet ingredients.  Now most recipes say to crack the eggs and add them and the liquid ingredients into the well, but I find I have issues making sure my eggs are mixed properly - so I start by whisking the eggs really well in a bowl, then whisk in the oil and salt water once the eggs are thoroughly mixed.  I then pour this mixture into the well. 
  3. Starting incorporating the flour from around the edge of the well until the mixture is less liquid and more solid. I then use my hands to start mixing it all together working all the flour into a dough. 
  4. Once the dough is a fully combined mixture I start to knead - 10 minutes of picturing someone I'm not very found of seems to do the trick for kneading. Chef Anne's indicates it is important to not tear the dough but to stretch the dough. 
  5. Once kneaded wrap in plastic wrap and let rest for 1 hour. 
  6. After the dough is done resting cut into quarters - start working with one quarter and keep the rest of the dough covered with plastic. I make a disk as flat as I can and then run it through the pasta maker.  Sprinkle flour over the inside and fold it into thirds - run it through again on the largest setting. Once I have the shape and size I'm going for I start to work the dough through the smaller dials. (For this one I went to the second smallest setting). 
  7. I store the long sheets on a sheet pan that has a tea towel that has been lightly sprinkled with flour. I then sprinkle flour between the lawyers of dough as I fold the dough while I work through rolling out the rest.  I also cover the entire thing with another tea towel. 
  8. Once all of the pasta is rolled I then cut into strips using the pasta maker. Next time it would have been wise to cut the long sheets into the proper length but live and learn. 
  9. Cook the pasta in well salted boiling water for about 3 minutes (starts to float).  Drain and toss with the pasta sauce. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

When you can consider a failure a success

I think I'm pretty normal (pause wait for the fits of laughter to subside) but no really I think that generally speaking I'm fairly normal in terms of my fears, thoughts and feelings.

I've said its before and I will say it again - I come across as a person with a lot of confidence but usually I'm shaking in my boots waiting for the moment I can crawl back into a hiding spot and cry - like honestly I am terrified of failure and particularly public failure. It is one of the reasons why being public about my challenge is very scary - I'm terrified to fail and to fail publicly. However, I need to find a way to get over that in life. 

In any event one of the things that has been driving me in life has been the desire to compete on MasterChef Canada - I think I could and I have also been told that I could probably do this by several people. However, there have been vocal people (my parents) who have actually said that they didn't think I could do this because I depend too much on recipes and I don't have enough creativity or knowledge on my own. (Don't even get me started on that... I do follow a recipe very closely the first time I am making something from a recipe or when I am baking). 

My husband - who is my biggest supporter - thinks I could kick ass but also doesn't think I am ready yet.  He says I'm not ready because I need to start working on some of the challenge type things they have you focus on during the show and develop some of my other skills. So one of the things he said I should start trying is having a time limit and no recipe and then thinking on my feet about what to make. So that is exactly what I did! 

I set myself a 30 minute time limit and had no plan to start. So I looked in the fridge - I had a whole chicken, head of cauliflower and potatoes.  So I knew I wanted to do a roasted cauliflower puree, potatoes and chicken breasts. 

I started with the roast cauliflower - I cut down the head into florets and spread them on a cookie sheet. I found some indian spices that were speaking to me and put that in some olive oil and then tossed the cauliflower in the oil and spices. I threw them in the oven at 350F to roast. 

I started in on the potatoes - peeling, cutting into small chunks and into well salted boiling water. 

I then broke down the chicken - cutting off the wings and legs followed by the breasts. I used a cast iron ban with hot oil before putting the well seasoned chicken breasts into the pan, to add flavour I used lemon and orange juice over the chicken with some garlic to flavour the chicken.

Now I definitely went over the 30 minutes I had set out for myself and that largely had to do with my plan.  I should have started with the chicken and then worked my way to potatoes and then cauliflower. Shortening the cooking time by cutting the potatoes smaller and turning up the heat on the oven (I could have also skipped cutting up the cauliflower and done slices of the head because they were being pureed anyways). I wanted some veggies so I marinated onions and carrot in some olive oil with some salt and pepper.  

The food in and of itself tasted amazing. However, when plating I realized that I had two mashed/pureed items on the plate and I should have left something whole to give different textures.  So while a failure in terms of textures on the plate and having it poorly composed - the food itself was amazing. 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Chutney's - figuring them out

Food to go with the Chutney's
Even as I right this I haven't yet figured out entirely what a chutney is - so let's figure this out right now. 

So according to dictionary.com a Chutney is a sauce or relish of East Indian origin, often compounded of both sweet and sour ingredients, as fruits and herbs, with spices and other seasoning. I consulted the all high and powerful wikipedia for a little bit more information on chutney and here is what the oh so wise wikipedia had to say:
Chutneys may be ground with a mortar and pestle or an ammikkal (Tamil). Spices are added and ground, usually in a particular order; the wet paste thus made is sautĂ©ed in vegetable oil, usually gingelly (sesame) or peanut oil. Electric blenders or food processors can be used as labor-saving alternatives to stone grinding.
American and European-style chutneys are usually fruit, vinegar, and sugar cooked down to a reduction, with added flavourings. These may include sugarsaltgarlictamarindonionor ginger.[14] Western-style chutneys originated from Anglo-Indians at the time of the British Raj recreated Indian chutneys using English orchard fruits — sour cooking apples and rhubarb, for example. They would often contain dried fruit: raisins, currants and sultanas.
So I ended up making two chutney's this week.  The first was a result of watching a video of Chef Jet Tila and Chef Simon Majumdar (often seen on Cut Throat Kitchen - click here to watch the video) I was very interested in trying out both recipes especially in light of my findings at Young's with the fresh herbs. 

My first chutney
Cilantro, Mint, Lime and Jalapeno Chutney
- 3 bunches of cilantro (I used one of the full trays)
- Mint (I used basically a soup bowl full)
- Juice of 4 limes
- Zest from the 4 limes
- A good pinch of sugar (this is my addition to try and cut the heat a little but I'm a complete wimp)- A good pinch of salt
- 4 seeded seruiano peppers (I used 2 seeded jalapeño instead because I had them and I don't like tons of spice)- 5 garlic cloves
- 4 inches of peeled and rough chopped ginger
- 250 mL of full fat plain yogurt

Place all of the ingredients in a blender - for the cilantro use the entire cilantro leaves and stocks. Run until the mixture is smooth and there is bits or pieces left. 

I did post a picture of this on Instagram saying I was going to use it the next day and I was told it gets better and let me tell you it does!

Mint and Yogurt Chutney
I then had a request from the husband to make something that he had been missing.  He went to visit the book store and of course was looking through cook books (watch for my next set of books).  In any event he found a recipe for Mint and yogurt chutney which I made in anticipation of some other dishes that I was going to attempt.

Mint and Yogurt Chutney
5 tbsp greek yogurt
1/2 ounce fresh mint
1 fresh green chili, seeded and finely sliced
1 tsp sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon
a pinch of salt
- Put all of the ingredients in a blender and whizz up to mix. Taste and adjust the seasoning and consistency, adding salt, sugar and water as needed.