Monday, October 8, 2018


It is amazing how quickly time flies. It was just last week that I was having a discussion with my husband and I utter the phrase "But it's September" to which he responded "It's October"....I wanted to argue the point but it dawned on me that he was right - it is in fact October and Thanksgiving was comping up next week. Yet, here I am feeling like that was yesterday and it's thanksgiving today. 

It has been a hectic, weird time for us and this morning I got a little message via Facebook 
Happy Thanksgiving to you all!!
Just a little message from someone who has been a teacher, mentor, friend and confidant for years - has put up with me as a teenager and supported me through all things in life. Someone who instantly said "do you need to talk" when I said I'm going through a tough time and I know no matter what will be there if I say I need to talk. I am thankful for her being in my life.

I am thankful for all of the people family and basically family that I get to count to be a part of my life. Who lends support, hugs, heart and whatever is needed.

I am thankful for my parents who support me and my family in whatever we need to do. Who are always more than willing to eat my cooking. The sacrifices they have made for me and the help they continue to provide is overwhelming at times. 

I am thankful for in-laws who have provided love, guidance and support to my husband and welcomed me into their life. I am thankful for a mother-in-law who still loves me no matter what and a father-in-law who is always there with his gentled guidance and words of wisdom. 

I am thankful for an amazing daughter who is truly beyond words. I am so immensely proud of her and who she is becoming. She has spent this long weekend doing school work, helping clean the house and baking without needing to demand it of her - she just does it. She even has done her own laundry (all 3 loads) (did I mention she is 12?!) I can't imagine what the future will bring to her as such a young, bride and amazing kid. 

I am thankful for a husband who loves me - all of me - I don't know what more I can say than that's amazing to know. I am thankful to have him in my life. 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Heading into the Fall

I cannot believe we are already into September and as I type that I realize that we are more than halfway through the month.  We took some time at the end of August and had a week long vacation exploring part of Western Manitoba staying in Yurts at Asessippi Provincial Park. I have to say the experience was amazing and we have already made plans to go back to a Yurt at Childs Lake next summer.  The ability to go back to basics and cook over a camp fire every night was inspiring. I will be writing more later on my campfire cooking but there is a magic derived from cooking over an open wood burning fire that can't be described! 

Time is just flying by. My daughter asked my what my favourite time of year was and I said I don't really have one. Each time or season has different things that I look forward to each year. I

In Spring I love the rebirth, the warmth, colours and smells of spring.  I love seeing the earth and people wake up from under a blanket of snow. Summer is about amazing sunsets, campfires, spending time with family and friends at the lake. There is an enjoyment because the days are long and last well into the night. Everyone seems more relaxed and there is a sense of care free and return to childhood. Fall is about an amazing transformation of colours everywhere, warmth even on cold days. I love the last bit of summer we get in the end of September where temperatures are warm during the day and cool in the evening so you look for comforting things. There is a return to soups, stews and filling, warm and comforting food. There is also the abundance of crops that come in at this time of year - tomatoes, pumpkins, apples all that give you a nice hug.  Winter has the amazingness of snow the ability for the entire world to sparkle after a fresh blanket of snow. There is the time around Christmas and New Years where there is a sense of joy, wonder and endless possibility. I have always found that there is a special type of magic around Christmas. 

Each season and time of year has its own unique aspect that I love and look forward to (except the extreme cold... I could do without the extreme cold but I could not imagine never having snow!) 

So now I'm starting back to cooking stews, soups, roasts and chickens.  As I type I have a whole chicken being cooked sous vide and I'm going to be roasting potatoes and carrots for supper to go with it. I'm also going to be working on sweet potato pie and pumpkin pie. 

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Strawberry Ginger and Basil Shortcake

So with summer here there are so many amazing fruits that come out. Now I have love for many food items - fruit and dessert is chief among those food loves (I mean are you surprised?) I also am in love with homemade pasta - so simple, so easy and so much better.  Anyways I have been hearing about Strawberry Shortcake for a long time and honestly for a very long time all I could think of was the character in a cartoon when I was a kid.  So when I started to figure out and see what these actually were I was sold on the concept - a simple yet sweet biscuit that is served with whip cream and strawberries - I mean yum!

This week has been about basil and using it in different ways. I have also wanted to do a white pepper Strawberry Shortcake (maybe later). In any event I was trying to think about the combination and how I could mix basil with strawberries, plus I was also trying to find ways that I could convince my willing victim to eat a sweet that he doesn't normally love so I set out to Google and I found some interesting drinks that featured a combination of Strawberries, Ginger and Basil!  I was sold especially since I had so much basil! I tried out the recipe below and while they were amazing (seriously amazing) I not sure I'm sold on this form of biscuit - I think I need to revisit the combinations used and maybe add more basil and ginger plus find a biscuit recipe that has butter in it (I mean everything is better with butter!) On a note: I did use a bit more flour just because of the moisture from the basil and ginger but maybe only 1 or 2 tbsp. more not sure - you'll know when you have the right consistency!

Strawberry Ginger Basil Shortcake

Makes 6 servings - takes about 1 hour with cooking and cooling

Strawberry Filling

1 1/2 pounds strawberries, stemmed and quartered
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp fresh basil chiffonade
1” piece of fresh ginger finely (grate right into the strawberries)


2 tbsp sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tbsp fresh basil chiffonade
1” piece of fresh ginger finely (grate right into the strawberries)

Whipped Cream:

1 ½ cups heavy cream, chilled
3 tbsp sugar
1 ½ tsp Vanilla Extract
1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
Note: I used Splenda in place of sugar in all parts of this recipe
  1. Mix the Strawberries with 3 tbsp of sugar with the strawberries, basil and ginger. Cover in a bowl and put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes for the juices to develop. I grate the ginger right into the strawberries so that I can get the juices (do NOT use the ginger from a jar it won’t be the same).
  2. Preheat the oven to 400F
  3. Sift together the flower, baking powder, baking soda, and 2 tbsp. of sugar and salt in a medium bowl.
  4. In mixing glass measure out the heavy cream and add the fresh basil and grate the ginger directly into the mixing glass. 
  5. Add the heavy cream mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. 
  6. Either place the mixture into an ungreased 8” square pan and bake until golden, 18 to 20 minutes OR divide the mixture into 6 equal size balls and flatten the top so they look like the size and shape of a hockey puck and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and cook 20 to 25 minutes. 
  7. Remove the shortcake from the pan and place on a rack to cool. When ready to serve Cut into 6 pieces and split each piece if half horizontally. If you made individual biscuits allow to cool on pan and then store in an airtight container until ready to serve then slice in half. 
  8. Spoon some of the strawberries and their juice onto each shortcake bottom. Top with a generous dollop of whipped cream and then the shortcake top. 
  9. For the Whipped Cream: Mix all items in a bowl using a mixer until soft peaks form about 1 ½ to 2 minutes. If you are preparing the Whipped Cream ahead and want to keep its form then add 1 tbsp of skim milk powder to stabilize the Whipped Cream which means it will keep its form and not become runny again. This will not change the taste. I also just whipped the cream without adding anything and it was good like that!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Inspired by Basil

Just a little Basil!
So I came home from the Lake where my Dad happens to have a little herb garden going in pots. Well - I took some basil home (just a little...) mostly because I have wanted to make Pesto but find buying all of the basil needed just too expensive (especially compared to how much a jar of pre-made pesto costs!

Now again I know that you can make Pesto with more than Basil and Pine nuts - really any combination of herbs with a buttery nut (walnuts, pecan) can be used to make a pesto. However, I can't remember having ever made pesto from scratch so I wanted to actually try a classic pesto. So I got inspired and made classic pesto from scratch. I also made dessert inspired by basil so stay tuned!

Inspired by the sheer amount of basil I had - I also made basil pasta, served with pesto and cheese chicken roulade (yes lots of pesto in this dish - but I had lots and wanted to us it. In order to make the basil pasta I started preparations like normal for the pasta but then when mixing the egg , water and oil I added in 2 ounces (by weight) of fresh basil that had been chopped and purred the mixture with an immersion blender. The dough was a little wetter than normal so I added a little more flour (not sure how much but I would guess up to 2 ounces of extra flour to accommodate for the extra moisture from the basil). 

Classic Pesto 

1/2 cup grated fresh parmesan cheese
1/3 cup pine nuts (toasted if you want an extra touch)
2 garlic cloves
2 1/2 cups packed fresh basil
1/4 tsp each salt & pepper
1/3 cup Extra virgin olive oil (a good quality)

  1. In a food processor blitz the cheese and pine nuts until they are coarse 
  2. Add the basil and garlic to the food processor (I mince the garlic or use a press prior to adding it to the mix) 
  3. Pulse 6 times just to get everything started
  4. turn on the food processor and add oil in a steady stream and there is an even consistency in the mixture.
  5. Store in an airtight container in the fridge (I use glass jam jars).

Basic Pasta Dough

1 lbs Flour (by weight - I use AP or sometimes a mix of AP and OO Flour) 
4 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1/4 cup Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
2 tbsp water 

  1. Put the flour on a clean dry work surface. Make a hole in the center of the flour pile that is about the size of a dinner plate. Add all other ingredients into a bowl or heck just a large glass measuring cup and mix with a fork - then add to the hole or well in the flour. (If making flavoured pasta - this is where i would mix in the basil to the liquid mixture then work into the dough) 
  2. Using the fork, begin to incorporate the flour into the egg mixture; be careful of the flour "walls" around the liquid or the egg mixture will run all over your board. Once the flour and egg mixture seems like it is less fluid and more gel like consistency (basically not running consistency) begin to use your hands to really get everything well combined. Once all of the flour has combined into one mixture then start kneading. 
  3. Knead until the pasta is soft and supple - when you push a finger in lightly the dough should bounce back. Be careful when kneading to not push too far or it will break or tear the dough. 
  4. Wrap it in plastic and let rest for at least 1 hour. If using immediately do not refrigerate.
  5. Roll and cut the pasta into desired shape - I usually roll everything down to an 8. 
  6. When rolling I always roll at the thickest setting a couple of times.  Cut the dough disk into 4 pieces and then cover three of them back in plastic wrap. Press the dough out until less than 1/2" thick.  Run it through the machine and then fold each side into the centre overlapping (so the rectangle folded in thirds). then run it through with the open end (not folded side) down and repeat several times just working the dough - you may have to dust a little with flour. I add flour to the work surface, place the sheet down then slap over the other side and brush lightly with my hands. When the dough seems to be a consistent size and thickness then I start going down 1 step at a time. When moving to the next pieces of dough - put the rolled out ones between two towels on a cookie sheet being sure to flour well between the folds. 
  7. Once cut to the shape or size you want boil a pot of WELL salted water and then add the pasta (being careful to not overfill the pot with pasta) and cook for about 3 minutes on a full boil). 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Lots of Chocolate Cupcakes

So I love to bake. As much as I love to cook and have the freedom to try different things and not follow the rules or measure carefully. That being said I find baking to be almost magical. That you take certain items, add them together and put them in the oven and something completely different comes out at the end. Now I know and understand thanks to Good Eats and Alton Brown that this is science - it is the reason  why you have to be so specific when baking.
That being said I still find it fascinating. Not to mention I am spending more time now trying to figure out how to make things on my own without a recipe (I just got a book called Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking) It's an inexpensive book and seems interesting.  I am waiting to try something out until I don't really need it to turn out just in case. 

That being said one of my favourite things to experiment with these days are cupcakes! I took cake decorating classes and when we went to class I would go the easy route and buy the often $1 cake mix and just make that (I mean come on - how easy and simple is that!!) It wasn't until the Monkey's birthday a couple of years ago that I started really making my own cake instead of using a mix (now I never use a mix).  All because she said "Mom, your really not making me a home made cake if it is from a box" - I signed because she was right so I pulled out my trusty cookbook Canadian Living: The Ultimate Cookbook and found a classic chocolate cake recipe - it seemed pretty easy - like ok really easy. This is by far the best - hands down - cake recipe ever! I say this because I have had people convert to actually eating cake and convert to liking chocolate cake once they try this recipe. It is good because it's chococlatey without being an overwhelming chocolate. 
As directed in the recipe I always use coffee instead of water to help bring out the flavour. However at times I have changed that up and have also used mulled red wine (especially around Christmas) I have also done a coffee and Khalua mix with a Bailey's Icing (a B52 cupcake!) the possibilities are endless once you get the basic cake down! Including the variety of different butter cream icing you can use to decorate it with.

The best part about this recipe is that I can usually get it made and in the oven within about 5 to 8 minutes! (you may be asking about the coffee - I usually make that using the Keurig or lately a french press and all I do is put Ice in a bag and let it sit in the hot coffee to cool it down before adding it to the mix. 

Classic Chocolate cake

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups brewed coffee or water (I would never water - coffee makes them SO much better! it must be cool not HOT when adding to the cake batter)
1 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla 
3 tbsp cider vinegar (I have used apple cider because I couldn't find plain cider and it worked fine) 

Preheat the oven to 350 Degrees 
Cake: Grease two 9-inch round cake pans, line the bottom with parchment paper. Set aside,
Cupcakes: Line 24 cupcake tins with liners and set aside. 
  • In bowl, whisk flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.
  • Whisk in coffee, oil and vanilla. Stir in the vinegar. (I usually just combine this all in one large glass measuring cup) 
  • Divide evenly between the cupcake tins or cake pan (I found for the cupcakes they were almost all of the way full). 
  • Bake for 25 to 30 minutes for the cake or 18-20 minutes for cupcakes. Make sure you test with a tester.
  • Let cool for 10 minutes and then invert cake pan onto a cooling rack or remove the cupcakes from the tins. 

Bailey's Butter Cream Icing
1 lbs Icing sugar (measure by weight)
1 cup butter
8 tsp of Bailey's

Monday, July 9, 2018

So I Sous Vide

Anova Precision Cooker
Ok - so let me start with the excitement about getting a precision cooker!  I have seen them used on a couple of different cooking shows and was interested in them.  Then a friend started posting some interesting stuff that she was making using sous vide so this had me start researching and looking some more. 

Basically sous vide means literally to cook something under vacuum. Basically you cook what ever the item is in a sealed container that has not air (so a bag that is vacuumed sealed or a ziplock back that has all of the tire pressed out of it or in canning jars) and the container is then placed in water and the water is kept circulating and at a constant temperature. The food cooks slowly in some cases more slowly than a slow cooker - but what you can cook is way more versatile than a slow cooker.
Steak, Fries and Chimichurri
So you may be asking why would you want to use this if you can just use a slow cooker?  The precision nature of the cooking method - I have overcooked lots of things in my day (I'm guessing I am not the only one). In the oven, slow cooker, stove, or BBQ it is easy to over cook something especially if you are distracted by other things or when you are trying to prepare multiple things.  The nice thing is that basically you cannot overcook the food because the the food item can never get hotter than the water bath it is placed in. The process also retains the juices and flavours that would otherwise be lost in the cooking process. 

So steak sous vide vs. BBQ - on the BBQ you heat the grill up often reaching temperatures of 400 to 500 F on the grill - then you put the steak on - this means that if you are not perfect in your timing and pull the steak off at the right time the steak can go over the desired temperature for doneness (for me medium rare - which means pulling it off around 135F and then letting it rest to continue cooking up to 145 F (residual heat right?!) Well - the steak I did in the sous vide was suppose to cook for 1 hour at 129F but I got distracted and it was in the water bath for 90 minutes and still came out perfectly medium rare!

I ended up getting the Anova Precision Cooker (Bluetooth and Wifi version) (click here to visit the store) for my birthday and ended up taking it to the lake to try out a few different things. After the steak one of the first things I made was the Creme Brûlée and I have to say it was by far the easiest and best version I have made and it was so much easier than making a regular version. It was a little tricky getting to learn about how to stack and place jars properly in the water but the results were amazing! 

The only downside - I could not get the bluetooth to work while at the lake and this version is only   compatible with a 2.4 GHz internet connection so I had to manually set and adjust the machine at the lake (I mean good because you don't have to rely on the app but on the other hand just very annoying). I have to figure out the Bluetooth connection. 

The other downside - I only have one lol!  I was also a good learning experience. Despite what I knew about the method of cooking it was suggested I try potatoes (requires a high temperature) at the same time as chicken (low temperature) and it didn't work - which is fine because the potatoes were amazing on the BBQ.  Now you do not need any special equipment when you get started aside from the precision cooker you can just use a pot. However, I either have a really huge stock pot (22L+ or a smaller size soup pot) barely enough room to have put my steaks in never mind trying to cover them with water. So I did end up picking up containers from a kitchen supply store. I also did this because I learned one other thing from the vast amount of resources available online - it is a great idea to cover the water in some fashion (ping pong balls, foils, lid) to prevent heat loss and evaporation. The other reason for getting the camber (plastic) container was for insulation. The plastic will help retain heat in the water where metal is meant to distribute water. 

Other nice part - we learned that you can cook from frozen!  Which means I can prep chicken breast, throw them in the freezer and then when ready just throw them in for the sous vide and have them turn out perfectly!

At the end of the day - if you are going to invest in something else for the kitchen and want something you can use to impress guests and make easy meals I highly recommend the Anova!  It was also great because we did eggs for a big group at the lake and they cooked and held at perfection while I made Ham and Cheese Egg Crepes with Mustard Sauce (I'll post that recipe later but it was a great savoury rendition of a classically sweet dish!). I just now have to figure out how to get a second one or their new Nano version.  (Note: we managed to get ours on a sweet deal for Father's Day!!) 

Some great resources:

I am still looking for a good "cookbook" that deals more with this method of cooking so if you have a recommendation!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Chicken Enchiladas with Red Sauce

So when my husband asked me to make Enchiladas for the first time I must admit that I was ....
reluctant to say the least - I like them at the restaurant but I couldn't imagine how much work they would take. I remember my mom making them for us a kids and they were good but they definitely didn't become a staple at home. With this recipe that I tried they have now become a staple in the house and they are a great, easy go-to week night meal. They can be made the easy way or more complicated. For us the more complicated version means making the tortillas at home using our tortilla press. I usually make a double batch of the red sauce and the second container usually finds a home with someone or I freeze it for next time!

If you manage your time properly and start the sauce and then cook the filling while the sauce is reducing this recipe takes about 1 hour total (including cooking, preparing, baking, and waiting).

Enchilada Red Sauce

2 tbsp avocado oil (I usually use vegetable oil or a avocado/veggie hybrid oil)
2 tbsp all-purpose flour (I have used GF flour before as well)
2 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp dried oregano
2 cups chicken stock

  1. Heat oil in small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour and whisk together over the heat for one minute.
  2. Stir in the remaining seasoning and stir for another minute or so.
  3. Gradually add the stock, whisking constantly to remove the lumps and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until thickened slightly.
I consider this sauce to be mild enough for me (I usually like spice at level 3 on a scale from 1 to 10 with 10 being the hottest - yes I am a wimp!)

Chicken Enchiladas

2 tbsp avocado oil (or vegetable oil)
1 small white onion, peeled and diced
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced into small 1/2-inch pieces
Salt and pepper
1  x 4 ounce can died green chiles
1 x 15.5 ounce can of black beans, rinsed and drained
8 Large tortillas (I use a corn tortilla usually as there is a Smart Fiest one we love)
3 cups shredded cheese (Mexican blend or cheddar cheese)
1 batch of the red enchilada sauce
Topping: cilantro and/or cilantro lime crema

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a large sauté pan,  head oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add diced chicken and green chiles (I usually only use 1/2 a can). Season with salt and pepper - I sometimes also sprinkle a little oregano and cumin on the chicken as well. Saute for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally until the chicken is cooked through.
  3. Remove from heat - at this point I chop up the chicken mixture even more finely but this is a preference only.
  4. Prepare a 9 x 13 inch baking dish - spray with cooking spray (please trust me this is a MUST) I often place a good spoonful or two of sauce on the bottom.
  5. To assemble use an assembly line:
    1. Tortilla
    2. Enchilada sauce
    3. beans
    4. chicken
    5. cheese
  6. Lay out the tortilla, spread two tablespoons of sauce over the surface of the tortilla, add the beans in a line down the middle, add a spoonful of the chicken mixture (I've learned to divide it roughly in the pan) sprinkle with cheese, roll up and place in the baking dish with the seem down and then repeat with the remaining ingredients.
  7. Spread the remaining sauce and cheese on the top (at this point I usually end up shredding extra cheese)
  8. Bake for 20 minutes and then serve immediately.

Cilantro Lime Cream

Mix the following together:
1 cup sour cream
1 lime - zested and then juiced
1 handful cilantro (about 1/4 cup chopped well)
Salt to taste

this is best made a head and I warn it is highly addictive!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Chickpea, Cumin and Spinach Koftas with Tahini Dressing

So I am going to start with saying that my version or adaptation of these made for a very odd looking end product but putting that aside they were amazing and definitely will be on our list of things to make again. It is also nice as a non-meat meal that left all of us fully stuff.

This recipe comes again from Gordon Ramsay's cookbook "Home Cooking Everything you need to know to make fabulous food" (I would include this book on my must buy list - there are a number of amazing recipes that are easy to make and a definite crowd pleaser even with the fussy eaters!)

Mine ended up with a totally green blob like appearance because I pureed everything for the husband and his texture issues in food. The only picture I have also is from the next day at work when we were sharing the left overs they were that good!

Note: this was not a difficult weeknight recipe to make; however, it does have a 1 hour chill time during the recipe so I would probably make one night and then cook another night - once they are cooked they don't hang around long!

Chickpea, Cumin and Spinach Koftas with Tahini Dressing


8 ounces spinach (I used 1 package frozen spinach)
Olive Oil
1 tbsp. cumin seeds
2 x 14 ounce cans chickpeas, drained
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. chickpea (gram) flour, plus extra for dusting)


1/2 cup plain yogurt
1-2 tbsp. tahini paste, to taste
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive Oil (optional)

  1. Wash the spinach, then place in a medium-hot oiled pan and stir until wilted. Drain thoroughly, squeezing out any excess water, then finely chopped. (Here I just used 1 package of chopped frozen spinach and squeezed out all of the excess water using cheese cloth).
  2. Toast the cumin seeds in a dry hot pan for about 1 minute until aromatic and golden, then grind in a mortar with a pestle.
  3. Place the chickpeas, cumin and spices along with a good pinch of salt and pepper in a blender and blend to a fine paste. (If the mixture looks too dry to hold together, add 2 - 3 tablespoons of water and blend again).(I used a vitamix for this part because we don't own a blender and it didn't work very well - the next time I would try a food processor instead).
  4. Add the spinach, sprinkle in the flour and mix well to combine (I processed the spinach because the husband has texture issues).
  5. Dust your hands with flour, then take a tablespoon of the mixture and mold it into an egg shape. (I did this with a cook scoop but it didn't work well next time I would use just a regular spoon). Repeat until all of the mixture has been used, then place on a plate or baking sheet dusted with flour. Chill for at least 1 hour until you are ready to cook.
  6. For the dressing - combine all of the ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste. Ad a little olive oil if you want a looser consistency. I found that this was better to sit overnight so I would actually make this first before making the koftas.
  7. Preheat the oven to 250F.
  8. Heat some oil in a pan and pan-fry the koftas in batches over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes until golden brown on all sides and hot all the way through. Drain after frying, and keep them warm in the oven.
  9. Serve the koftas warm with the dressing on the side.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Chicken Parmesan Balls an amazing Alton Brown creation

So I don't know how many times I have heard/read/seen the advice that you really must read through an entire recipe before you start cooking.

The foreword of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" 50th Anniversary edition has some words of advice that I would like to copy here again just in case you need another reminder:

Our years of teaching cookery have impressed upon us the fact that all too often a debutant cook will start in enthusiastically on a new dish without every reading the recipe first. Suddenly an ingredient, or a process, or a time sequence will turn up, and there is astonishment, frustration, and even disaster We therefore urge you, however much you have cooked, always to read the recipe first, even if the dish is familiar to you. Visualize each step so you will know exactly what techniques, ingredients, time, and equipment are required and you will encounter no surprises. Recipe language is always a sort of shorthand in which a lot of information is packed, and you will have to read carefully if you are not to miss small but important points. Then, to build up your over-all knowledge of cooking, compare the recipe mentally to others you are familiar with, and note where one recipe or technique fits into the large picture of the theme and variations. (pg xxvi)
Well those who have had the opportunity to see my cookbooks know that I often read them like a novel when I get them. I sit and study which recipes I may want to try and mark them with post it notes along the top of the book and make note of them in my notebook (I try not always good on this point). I have mentioned that I have a rule that I need to have at least 1 recipe per dollar I spend on a book - so if a cookbook costs $10 I must have 10 recipes I want to try. I even make notes directly in a cookbook about the steps, ingredients that go together for each steps. What's the point?

This cooking expedition is a real reminder that this holds true no matter how simple the recipe is and no matter how familiar you think you are. I missed a step  but at the end of the day the recipe was still amazing despite the imperfections in my technique!  The recipe was straight forward and honestly we enjoyed it more than a traditional chicken parmesan.

Oh and I happened to stumble across AB's page in which he has clarifications about some of the recipes in his Everyday Cook book (click the link for the book on amazon). Find them here: Everyday Cook Corrections and Clarifications. Just now that this recipe is (a) Game changer (b) easy weeknight meal that the Monkey helped out with!

Chicken Parmesan Balls

3 ounces panko bread crumbs (divided 1/2 ounce and 2 1/2 ounces)
4 ounces parmesan cheese, grated (divided 1 ounce and 3 ounces)
1 1/2 lbs ground chicken
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp. herb oil (another AB recipe could also just Olive Oil)
1 tbsp dried basil
2 tsp garlic power
2 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp kosher salt
Spaghetti sauce (the original recipe uses an AB sauce - I used 1 can or about 2 1/2 cups)
4 ounces low-moisture mozzarella cheese, grated

  1. Heat the oven to 400F
  2. Mix together 1/2 ounce of the panko with 1 ounce of the parmesan in a small bowl and set aside. (note: this is where I messed up this is for rolling the balls in before frying).
  3. Combine the chicken, egg, 1 tbsp. of the herb oil, the remaining 2 1/2 ounces panko, the remaining 3 ounces parmesan, the basil, garlic powder, parsley, oregano and salt in a large bowl. Using your hands, gently combine until just incorporated, trying not to overwork the meat.
  4. Divide the meatball mixture into 28 golf ball-size rounds (1 ounce each) (now - you can weigh out the mixture or use a cookie scoop - I used the scoop then rolled them). Roll the balls in the panko mixture (I missed this part of the step entirely).
  5. Heath the remaining 1 tablespoon herb oil over medium heat in a 12-inch oven-safe skillet. Brown the meatballs in the herb oil, about 30 seconds on each side, working in batches if needed to avoid crowding the pan. Remove the browned meatballs from the pan (if using AB's weeknight spaghetti sauce make it - or do like me an open the can)
  6. Cover the meatballs with the sauce, cover with the grated mozzarella and bake until the meatballs are cooked through about 10 minutes, and the cheese is melted. Serve over cooked pasta or on top of crispy bread. (Frankly - the 4 ounces of mozzarella was not enough cheese for us so we used more and because I still had that panko and parmesan set aside from earlier I just put them on top of the cheese for a crusty top.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Cardamom-Spiced Custard with Chai Syrup

So anyone who knows me by this point knows that I love cooking shows of all varieties - Top Chef; Masterchef (Canadian and US versions of both); Good Eats; Cut Throat Kitchen; Hells Kitchen. I also would love to be on one or anyone of these shows - particularly Masterchef Canada. So I watch the show and see how I could do in similar situations and also to push myself to try and learn new things.

So another MasterChef Canada like adventure. They had a recent episode where the contestants had to make a crème brulee with a caramel cage during a pressure test. Crème Brulee has been on my list of things to make for a long time. However, just haven't had a chance. Ultimately, then with the husband was diagnosed with diabetes it makes it more difficult to make certain desserts because of the sugar content. Then in what I would guess is a sponsored post one of the judges Claudio share a recipe for making a crème brulee style dessert that used Splenda. Now, I know that some people have issue with using artificial sweeteners; however, with diabetes a real concern and trying to find a way to enjoy the same or similar kind of desserts I use them. 

Now, I also wanted to try the other part of this challenge of making the caramel cages - so I used Google to find some videos on making the caramel and voila - I managed to achieve a pretty amazing result. That being said while I enjoyed the dessert I was not a fan of the Chair Syrup.  I think I will try a different variation of this the next time and I have a goal of trying a crème brulee in the sous vide.

Cardamom-Spiced Custard with Chai Syrup

3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup cream
2 eggs
1 yolk
2 Tbsp SPLENDA® Stevia No Calorie Sweetener, for bottom of ramekins
1 Tbsp SPLENDA® Stevia No Calorie Sweetener, for custard mix
2 Tbsp + 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 salt
Chai Syrup
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp SPLENDA® Stevia No Calorie Sweetener
1/4 tsp each ground cinnamon, cardamom, clove, anise
  1. Heat oven to 350°F. In a small saucepan over medium high heat, melt 2 Tbsp SPLENDA® Stevia No Calorie Sweetener with 2 Tbsp vanilla. When bubbles begin to form on surface, set a timer and let boil for 1 min. Divide evenly among ramekins and let cool. Caramel should harden as it cools. Scald milk and cream in a sauce pot. Add 1 Tbsp SPLENDA® Stevia No Calorie Sweetener, remaining 1/2 tsp vanilla, cardamom, and salt. In a mixing bowl whisk eggs and yolk, then strain through a fine sieve. While whisking constantly, very slowly add the egg mixture to the scalded milk
  2. Divide mixture evenly into ramekins. Put ramekins in a Bain Marie with boiling water halfway up the side. (a 9x13 baking pan works great for this). Bake for about 18 minutes, or until middle is jiggly but set.
  3. Remove from Bain Marie and let rest out of the water on counter for 30 minutes. Do not refrigerate as it will cause the caramel to harden. Run sharp knife around the edge of custards. Place plate on top of ramekin, invert and turn out onto plate and serve immediately.
  4. To make the Chai Syrup: In small saucepan, stir together water and SPLENDA® Stevia No Calorie Sweetener over medium heat until fully dissolved. Stir in spices and let cool. Then pour as much as desired on top of custard before eating.


Sunday, July 1, 2018

Golden Chicken with Potatoes and Chickpeas - more tagine adventures!

More experimenting with the Tagine. I like the idea because most of the recipes that I have used or I have tried require very little effort or preparation work and they cook for longer periods of time without much attention required which means they are perfect for after a long day at work. I can come home and put the few but amazing ingredients together then sit and relax for a while supper cooks and we still end up with an amazing supper that was home cooked without a lot of effort.

This recipe was a particular hit because it had a potatoes in it which made it a full meal.  The only down side was that we did not have any pitas or like bread to eat with the meal so we used toasted bread. But this meal is one that does require something to soak up the amazing sauce with! The left over chicken breast also made a very good and amazing chicken salad sandwich the next day.

Note that many of the tagine recipes I am cooking called for either avocado or Olive Oil and I have used an avocado blended mix because pure avocado oil was not in my budget.

Golden chicken with Potatoes and Chickpeas

Designed for Medium or large
Makes 4 to 6 servings

3 tbsp melted butter
20 strands saffron
1 tbsp ground turmeric
3 tbsp avocado or olive oil
2 onions, cut into quarters (I only used 1 because of my tagine size)
4 to 6 skinless boneless chicken breasts (I only used 3 because of tagine size)
1 cup chicken broth
1 piece approx. 2" cinnamon stick
1 can - 14 oz chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 chopped flat-left parsley

  1. In a bowl combine the melted butter, saffron and turmeric. Set aside.
  2. In the bottom of the tagine heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and potatoes cook while stirring for 5 minutes.
  3. Add spice mixture, chicken sliding around and moving the onions away to brown the chicken - I made sure that the chicken made contact with the bottom and side of the tagine to improve browning. Cook for about 5 minutes or until chicken is browned.
  4. Using tongs, turn chicken over, add broth and cinnamon stick and bring to a boil. Cover with tagine lid, reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring once, for 25 minutes.
  5. Stir in the chickpeas and parsley. Replace lid and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until chickpeas are heated through and chicken is no longer pink inside. Discard cinnamon stick prior to serving.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Cinnamon Chicken Tagine with Peaches

My Tagine :) Christmas present!!
I'm still getting the hang of using the tagine and understanding how it is best to use it. The one thing I am definitely falling in love with is the different flavour and food combinations of food used in this style of cooking.  The combination of fruits, spice, meats it amazing and opens a new window in life.

This recipe is definitely one that I would not have expected as it combines canned peaches, cinnamon and chicken in one recipe.  The end result was amazing. The original recipe gave the option of using a Moroccan Spice Blend or just ground Cinnamon so I went through the extra effort to use the spice blend and there is a lot of the blend left over so I'm excited about what to use it with next. Frankly I am thinking of some form of bread pudding. Although the next time I make the blend I may try going another route and using the whole spices, roasting and then grinding them at home.

Cinnamon Chicken Tagine with Peaches

Makes 4 servings
Medium size Tagine

2 tbsp avocado or olive oil
1 onion - cut into quarters
2 tsp Ground Moroccan Spice blend (see below) or ground Cinnamon
1 tsp Ground ginger
1 tsp hot pepper flakes (optional) (I use 1/4 tsp and don't like anything spicy - I would use more next time)
4 Skinless boneless chicken breasts
Juice of 1 lemon (I also added the zest from the lemon)
1 - 14 oz can of sliced peaches or apricots in water or juice (I used peaches)
2 cups carrot coins
1/4 toasted slivered almonds

  1. In the bottom of a the tagine, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, spice blend, ginger and hot pepper flakes stirring, for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the chicken and toss with onion and spices to coat.
  3. Add lemon juice, peaches with the liquid and carrots. I cut the coins about 1/4" think and they were tender but not soft. The husband prefers them to be soft so I would cut them thinner next time.
  4. Bring to a boil, cover with lid, reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring once for 30 to 40 minutes or until the chick is no longer pink inside.
  5. Garnish with almonds when serving.
I served this over a quinoa, grains and wild rice blend. The onions honestly were the best part of this dish - everything else was really good but the onions were amazing! You may also notice that I used slivered vs. sliced almonds and that is simply because it is what I had on hand.

Ground Moroccan Spice Blend

3 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp ground cardamom
2 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground ginger

Combine all of the above in a bowl and store in an airtight glass jar with a lid in a cool place for up to 3 months.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Happy Birthday to me!

Today marks another successful trip around the sun without crashing into it!

I have been avoiding the blog for a while because well I've been busy and there are times where I can go an entire week without cooking because of just feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. However, today is a good day for reflection!

So I figured I would update my list of things made/cooked that I have never done before. I of course usually take pictures of all the things that I make (new or otherwise) regardless of how ugly they are. So I started typing the list and I was noticing there were are few other things missing from my the list so I kept going back and adding things - I have gone from 69 to 81 items cooked in one day hehe (more like over the last several months) but it made me realize something I already knew - that we often don't have a good recognition of where we have managed to come even if we have not achieved our entire goal. Also ties to the fact that any defeat or setback - no matter how small - really seems to over power any manner of success no matter how big (it's like David v. Goliath - sometimes it is like if we manage to run a marathon but you have to walk the last couple of miles it doesn't matter that you ran a marathon).

I'm going to keep trying - there will likely be more reflections today to come and more posting of those things that I cooked. Although I will let you in on one secret - I bought a cake today instead of cooking one!)

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Butter Chicken Skillet Mac & Cheese

Just some of my cookbooks!
So my husband picked up a Canadian Living Magazine about one pot dishes and I can tell you I was skeptical at first - but we have a rule - the $1 rule.  If the price of the cook book, divided by the number of recipes that actually interest us works out to $1/recipe or less than we can buy the item. However, if the book or magazine is more expensive we cannot get it.

Now this may sound a little weird at first but - when you understand the number of cookbooks I have....(Now there are at least 10 books missing from this picture and are in different places around the house.

So yeah - we have a lot of cook books that I have collected overtime.  and they aren't all just cook books - I have a spice bible (which is amazing by the way).

Anyways so as you can tell - this means the art of selecting new books to add to our collection is a very serious business. So as I said I was skeptical because I've had one pot books before and honestly it's usually not as promised.

In this case - it wasn't as promised either. The recipe actually required two pots/cooking dishes but given how well this receipt turned out I am not going to hold it against the book.

I would make some modifications to the recipe the next time I make it. It was really good but it could have been better.

Butter chicken Mac & Cheese
Butter Chicken Skilled Mac & Cheese
(About 30 minutes)

350g Boneless skin less chicken breast (I used 3)
Pinch of Salt and Pepper
1/4 cup butter
1/2 Onion chopped
4 tsp AP Flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 prepared butter chicken sauce
1 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tsp Tandoori Masala
2 cups elbow macaroni
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

  1. Cube the chicken breast - (smaller than you would normally cut for butter chicken - under 1/2" x 1/2" for each piece) 
  2. Sprinkle the chicken breast with salt, pepper (next time I would also sprinkle with the tandoori Masala).  
  3. In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the pasta according to the package instructions  for al dente; drain well. 
    • Do not add oil to your pasta water and do not rinse the pasta.
  4. In a large ovenproof skillet, melt 1 tbsp of butter over medium heat; cook chick, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink about 5 minutes. 
    • I use butter chicken pasted instead of sauce. Next time I would add the paste to the chicken after it's done cooking mixed with just a little water to get the flavour all the way into the chicken instead.
  5. Once chicken is cooked, transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  6. In the same pan, melt the remaining butter over medium heat. Once melted add the chicken and cook until softened about 2 minutes. Be sure to stir occasionally.
  7. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute.
  8. Gradually add the milk and butter chick sauce
    • If using paste and not prepared sauce - up the milk to 2 cups OR 1 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup heavy cream
  9. Whisk and cook until thick enough to coat the back of spoon - about 4 minutes.
  10. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of each type of cheese 
    • Honestly we just added all the cheese and grated more for the top!
  11. Stir in the chicken until well coated. Sprinkle with the remaining (or extra) cheese and broil until the top is bubbling and lightly browned about 3 minutes.
  12. Let stand for about 4 minutes and sprinkle with cilantro.. 

This is a very popular dish in our house hold now.  I didn't want to chop more cilantro and I already had a cilantro lime creama in the house so I used that - it was amazingly good!

Cilantro Lime Creama
1 cup Sour Cream
Juice of 1/2 lime
Zest from 1/2 lime
Salt (to taste)
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro.

Mix well and let mingle for at least 30 minutes.