Saturday, December 12, 2009

Ginger Snaps

The ginger in these is noticeable. I think they are wonderful, with a snap and a crunch, but not too crispy. I used to make them before going on a long trip - I think they helped keep the motion sickness to a minimum.

These cookies are from an old recipe book - The Mennonite Treasury of Recipes. My mom has a copy, and I got one when I married 30 plus years ago. I don't use the recipes very often, but there are some old standbys, such as this one, submitted by Mrs. Mary Enns from Ste. Elizabeth, Manitoba. Mrs. Mary Enns, you make good cookies.

2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses


Cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg and molasses. Sift in dry ingredients, blend well. Form small balls and roll in sugar. Bake 2 inches apart in 350 degree oven for 12 - 15 minutes. Cool on rack. They will flatten during baking. Makes 4 dozen or so, depending on the size.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 23, 2009

Oven Yam Fries

I've made these yam fries several times this fall. They are wonderful with almost everything - chicken, fish, even hot dogs! And they are very easy to make. Mix a little minced chipotle pepper with some mayonnaise and/or sour cream and you've got a dip with a bit of fire that complements the sweetness of the yams perfectly.

Oven Yam Fries

Yams - however many you think you'll eat - for the two of us I do two medium-sized yams, or one humongous one
olive oil

Peel the yams. If you rinse them after peeling, dry them off well. Cut them into sticks about 1/2 inch square. Place them on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle them liberally with olive oil. I would say I use about 2 Tablespoons for a panfull. With your hands, toss the yam sticks and the oil together until well coated. Don't be stingy with the oil. Salt them to taste.

Bake at 450 degrees for about 15 minutes, then remove from oven and turn with a metal lifter. This is when you will know if you used enough oil or not. They shouldn't stick to the pan. Return to the oven for 15 minutes more, or until tender and beginning to caramelize around the edges.

Serve hot.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thyme Creamed Tomatoes

Oh, these were good. Definitely a keeper recipe. We are still using tomatoes from our summer garden. I've had a huge platter on my kitchen countertop since August. Today I put the remainders in a small bowl. Sigh. I do love homegrown tomatoes.

Back to this dish. It's creamy, sweet, savory and rich but not cloying. I served it with a roasted chicken, lemon spinach couscous and steamed broccoli. Ashley said it was like eating candy. There wasn't a scrap left at the end of the meal.

I found the recipe in French Taste, a cookbook by Laura Calder, one of Canada's Food Television stars. The book is from the library, but it might have to go onto my Christmas list because there are so many recipes I want to try.

Thyme Creamed Tomatoes

2 Tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped (optional)
4 medium tomatoes, halved horizontally (I had smaller ones and just cut up enough of them to fill my pan)
a generous handful of chopped fresh thyme
salt and pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream (I used less, probably 1/4 cup)

Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium high heat. Saute the onion, if using. Add the tomatoes, cut side down. Poke them a few times with a knife to prevent the skins from bursting. Cook 10 minutes. Flip, scatter with the thyme and cook 5-10 minutes more on the other side, until soft. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over the cream, and reduce to a thick sauce around the tomatoes, about 5 minutes. It will brown a bit and swirl together with the tomato juice. Serve.

I cooked mine longer and at a medium to low temperature. The onions caramelized, the cream turned a lovely shade of brown, and the tomatoes slumped in the creamy bath. Definitely delicious!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Bavarian Apple Tart

This is one of my favorite desserts. It's easy to make and tastes like it came from a bake shop. I tinkered with the original recipe yesterday and here's what I came up with. It's creamy, sweet, tart, crunchy and buttery all at once. I like it plain, but some I know, prefer it with a little whipped cream or a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Bavarian Apple Tart

1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour

Place all ingredients into food processor and pulse until crumbs start to cling together. Press into a 9 inch tart shell with a removable bottom. (Or use a 9 inch springform pan.)

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Combine all filling ingredients in food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Pour into lined tart pan.

Apple Layer:
Apples, peeled, cored and cut into thick slices - you will need enough to lay in a single layer on the filling. I would guess 3-4 medium sized apples
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons butter

Melt the butter in a 10 inch skillet over medium heat. Add the apples and toss gently to coat with the butter. Let cook 3-4 minutes or until just beginning to soften. Add sugar and stir gently, being careful not to break the apples. Cook for another 5 minutes or so. Apples should be just starting to soften - you don't want them to break apart.
With a thin spatula or a fork, gently arrange the apples in a single layer over the cream cheese mixture around the outside of the tart. Fill in the center with another circle of apples.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. Then add the following topping and continue baking for another 10-15 minutes or until the apples are tender and the filling set. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store leftovers (if any) in the fridge.

1/2 - 1 cup chopped almonds
2 Tablespoons melted butter
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pumpkin Squares

These pumpkin squares have become a tradition around our house. Their moist spiciness is perfect with a cup of tea on a cool afternoon or evening. The recipe makes a large pan full and they freeze well. Sometimes I add grated orange rind and orange juice to the icing which adds another level of flavor.

Pumpkin Squares

4 large eggs
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 cup oil
1 16-oz can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup white all-purpose flour
2 tsps baking powder
2 tsps Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 15 x 10 inch jelly roll pan. In large mixing bowl beat together eggs, sugar and oil. Gradually add the pumpkin, beating until smooth. Add the flours, baking powder, spice, and baking soda. Stir until smooth (there may be a few small lumps). Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes.

When cool, cover with a layer of vanilla butter icing (soft butter, icing sugar, vanilla and some milk) then chop a few sweetened dried cranberries and sprinkle them on top. Enjoy with a cup of hot Earl Grey tea.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ginger Chicken Soup

I wanted to make some chicken soup, but also wanted something a bit different than the usual, and very good, traditional flavour. So I thought about what I had in the fridge, and what I felt like, and ginger came to mind. A bit of red curry paste paired with the ginger made for a soup that was comforting and spicy and oh, so warming. I've made it again and like it even more.

1 T vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon red curry paste
2 T minced fresh ginger
2 leeks, sliced (white part and a bit of the green)
1 can coconut milk
4 cups chicken broth (homemade, or low-sodium)
1 sweet red pepper, diced
5 baby bok choy, sliced (white and green parts)
2 carrots, diced
1-2 cups cooked chicken, shredded or cubed
2 T fish sauce
1 T brown sugar
1-2 T lime juice
2 T fresh basil

Heat the oil in a large soup pot and add the red curry paste. Stir until fragrant and the oil is colored. Add the ginger and stir for about 1 minute. Add the leeks and continue stirring just until barely softening. Add the coconut milk, chicken broth, sweet red pepper, and carrots and bring to a boil. Simmer gently until the carrots are almost tender, 15 - 20 minutes. Add the chicken and the bok choy. Simmer another 5 - 10 minutes.

Stir in the fish sauce, the brown sugar, the lime juice and the fresh basil. Taste the soup. There should be a nice balance of sweet, salty, and sour. Adjust the fish sauce, lime juice and sugar if needed.

Enjoy the fragrance and the taste - both are wonderful!

This is a very forgiving recipe - if you don't have leeks, use onions. No bok choy? Try kale or spinach. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Pork Tenderloin with Apples and Prunes

This represents a perfect fall dish to me - earthy apple and rosemary flavours, tender meat and a hint of sweetness in the prunes. Served with roasted potatoes, baked tomato halves and steamed broccoli.

Pork Tenderloin with Apples and Prunes

1 T olive oil
1 pork tenderloin
salt and pepper to taste
2 apples, quartered, cored and cut into wedges
1/4 - 1/2 cup dried prunes, quartered
2 Tablespoons grainy mustard
1 cup white wine (or apple juice)
1 sprig fresh rosemary

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the tenderloin with salt and pepper. Brown in the oil on all sides. Whisk the wine with the mustard to blend, then add to skillet along with the apples and prunes. Lay the fresh rosemary sprig on top. Simmer, covered, 20-30 minutes or until tenderloin is tender. The apples will have cooked down somewhat and all will be wonderfully fragrant.

Slice the tenderloin and serve with the apples and prunes. Garnish with another sprig of rosemary, if desired.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Salmon with Beurre Blanc

This was tonight's dinner. I made a citrus ginger beurre blanc, and a huge mess. I had the white wine in the little saucepan on the stove and I was using a reamer to squeeze the orange juice over top. My hand slipped and the saucepan flipped and sent the mixture ALL over the kitchen. I was wiping orange pulp and white wine off of cupboards, the floor, the fridge and the microwave. And then I had to start all over again. But it was delicious - citrusy, not sweet, with a hint of ginger and a wonderful smoothness that made me want to eat it all with a spoon.

I plated the salmon on a bed of just barely sauteed fresh spinach, and served garlic smashed potatoes, carrots and pan-seared cherry tomatoes alongside. The potatoes, carrots and tomatoes all came from our garden. No matter how hard I try I cannot make spinach grow. It sprouts and then just sort of sits there, green and stunted. I think next year I'll just skip trying.

Beurre Blanc

1 Tablespoon minced red onion
1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1/4 cup white wine
juice of 1/2 orange
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup butter, in 1 inch cubes

In a small saucepan, combine the onion, ginger, white wine, orange juice and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over high heat and let boil until the mixture is reduced to about 2 Tablespoons. Lower the heat to minimum and add the cubes of butter, one at a time, whisking briskly. Make sure that each cube melts before adding the next one. Don't let the mixture get too hot or it will break and the butter will separate.
Keep warm until ready to serve.

I just salted and peppered salmon fillets, heated olive oil and a bit of butter until hot, then quickly pan-fried the salmon, adding the cherry tomatoes after turning the salmon. Serve the beurre blanc over the salmon.
Posted by Picasa

Cream of Broccoli Soup

Now that fall is here soup is on the menu more often. I could eat soup every day - there are so many ways to make it and serve it. Soup and sandwiches, soup and salad, soup and bread - the perfect pairing. On Sunday our youngest daughter and her boyfriend came for lunch before she had to fly to Alaska on her first business trip. I made this Cream of Broccoli Soup, a Roasted Tomato Tart and a Green Salad, with berries and white chocolate sauce for dessert.

Making soup from scratch doesn't take much time at all and tastes so much better than even the best packaged soup, be in from a can or a tetra pack. What made this soup special is that I sprinkled a little crumbled blue cheese on top just before serving and it melted into creaminess that blended perfectly with the fresh broccoli.

Cream of Broccoli Soup
Serves 4

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4-5 cups broccoli, very coarsely chopped (not really chopped, in florets, with the stem in one-inch chunks)
3-4 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade, or low-sodium
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons heavy cream (whipping cream)
1/4 - 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese

Heat oil in medium saucepan. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft, but not brown. Add broccoli and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then lower heat, cover and simmer about 15 minutes or until broccoli is very tender. Let cool slightly, then puree, either with a stick blender, or regular blender. Adjust seasonings. Just before serving, stir in the cream. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle 1-2 Tablespoons of blue cheese over bowl.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Roasted Tomatoes

This is a basic recipe that can be used so many ways. I like to freeze these in containers and pull them out in the dead of winter for a taste of summer.

Wash fresh tomatoes, core them and cut them in half. Arrange the halves cut side up on a rimmed baking sheet. Chop one onion and sprinkle over the tomatoes. Sprinkle with fresh thyme and drizzle liberally with olive oil. Sprinkle with coarse salt and a twist of freshly ground black pepper over each tomato half. Place in a 350 degree oven for 2-3 hours. The tomatoes will release all their juices, then as the juice is reduced, a lovely caramelizing effect takes place. You will think the tomatoes are beginning to burn from the scent. Keep checking them. When done the edges should be browned and caramelized.

Try not to eat them all straight off the pan. They are as sweet as candy!

Uses for roasted tomatoes:

1.  Roasted tomato soup - Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil until soft. Add roasted tomatoes (about 3 halves per serving) and some chicken or vegetable broth. Simmer 15 minutes or so. Purée and finish with some heavy cream. Season to taste.

2.  Roasted tomato tart - Roll out puff pastry, partially bake and then cover with roasted tomatoes. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese or crumbled feta cheese. Toss a few fresh herbs on top - oregano, thyme, marjoram - and bake at 400 degrees until the pastry is done, about 20 minutes.

3.  Roasted tomato, green bean and shrimp salad - seen here.

4.  Use them as a side dish with roasted or grilled chicken or steak.

Roasted Tomato & Shrimp Salad, Sunshine Dessert

Tomatoes and green beans are what's most plentiful in my garden these days. I've been roasting tomatoes and freezing them, but last night used some in this delicious salad. It's based on a recipe I picked up at our local market, but I seriously changed it. I created the dressing on my own, and added shrimp to the top for a wonderful late summer dinner.

We don't have the level of cable that gives us Food TV - so sad. However, I get's newsletters and this week, they gave links to some online shows. Yeah! I watched Laura Calder with French Food at Home and was inspired to adapt what I had on hand to her recipe for summer fruit. The program was called Mediterranean Sun and there are a number of recipes from it that I scribbled down to try. This one, fresh summer peaches and prune plums drizzled with an orange flavoured honey syrup and sprinkled with pistachios was the perfect end to our late summer dinner.

Roasted Tomato, Green Bean and Shrimp Salad

8 roasted tomato halves (see recipe here)
green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-1/2 inch lengths (or leave them long)
shrimp (I used one package of frozen raw shrimp - about 30 medium shrimp)
2-3 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 T olive oil
salad greens
Dressing (recipe follows)

The roasted tomatoes should be warm or at least at room temperature. Simmer the green beans for about 3 minutes in a small saucepan. Drain and plunge into an icewater bath to stop the cooking. Mix the beans with about half of the dressing (depending on how many people you are feeding, and how many beans you have, you may need the entire amount.) Keep at room temperature. Peel the shrimp (unless already done for you.) Heat the oil in a skillet over medium high heat and quickly add the garlic and shrimp, stirring for about 2-3 minutes until the shrimp are nicely pink. Don't overcook them.

Pile salad greens onto plates, arrange four roasted tomato halves on one side, a mound of dressed green beans on the other and the hot shrimp on top.

Dressing Recipe:

1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp old style mustard, or Dijon mustard
juice of 1 orange (1/4 - 1/3 cup)
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
freshly ground pepper and salt to taste
1/4 - 1/3 cup olive oil

Whisk all ingredients together.

Sunshine Fruit Dessert

Peaches, one per person
Prune Plums, two to three per person (or use apricots as Laura Calder did in her program)
1 Tablespoon toasted pistachio nuts per person
Honey syrup to drizzle on top (recipe follows)

Peel the peaches (immerse them in boiling water for 30-60 seconds, slip them into an icewater bath and the skin will slip off easily.) Cut them in half, take out the pit and slice them into wedges. Arrange on a plate. Wash the prune plums, cut in half, pit and arrange on top of the peaches. Drizzle each plate with 1-2 Tablespoons honey syrup and sprinkle with pistachio nuts. Laura recommended a bit of crème fraîche on the side, but I didn't have any and it was delicious without.

Honey Syrup

2 T white sugar
2 T honey
1/2 cup water

Simmer until sugar is dissolved, 1 -2 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon grated orange rind. Let cool. (Note: Laura's recipe suggested orange flower water, just a few drops, instead of the orange zest. Again, I used what I had on hand.)
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Blueberry Nectarine Salad

We returned home last night after a 2 week trip away visiting family and friends. We had a wonderful time, but I missed cooking! Tonight for dinner I concocted this salad with market fresh fruit - some of the bounty of late summer. It's sweet, but with a tang due to the lime juice and a bit of bite from the freshly grated ginger. Very refreshing. And the amounts depend on what you've got on hand - nothing too exact.

Blueberry Nectarine Salad

1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
2 nectarines, pitted and cut into chunks
1/2 cup feta cheese, cubed
lettuce to line the plate


3 Tablespoons fresh lime juice (a bit of the rind grated in would be good, too)
1 1/2 Tablespoons liquid honey
1 - 2 teaspoons finely grated ginger
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 - 2 Tablespoons fresh basil, finely sliced
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk all the dressing ingredients together and combine them gently with the blueberries, nectarines and feta cheese. You might not need all of the dressing. Line four salad plates with lettuce and pile the dressed fruit mixture on top.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Blueberry Streusal Bars

Blueberry season is here and will soon be gone. I put 20 pounds of berries into the freezer this week with the help of my mom and dad, and my husband. They are undoubtedly best fresh, preferably eaten off the bushes in the back yard, but these bars definitely qualify for runners-up. The recipe is from Fine Cooking magazine, and I haven't done a thing to it other than make it several times. (edited to add: as I typed the recipe, I realized that I have made a few minor changes.)

1 cup butter, softened
3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/3 cups light brown sugar (I used a bit less)
1 tsp table salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 large egg, separated
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk (I used the light version)
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tsp grated lemon zest
2 1/2 cups blueberries, washed and drained (I've made this with equal success using frozen blueberries, slightly thawed)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 glass baking pan.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, sugar, salt and baking powder. Using your fingers, blend the butter completely into the flour mixture. Transfer 2 1/2 cups to another bowl and reserve that for the topping.

Blend the egg white with the remaining crumb mixture and press into the bottom of the pan to form a level crust. Bake the crust until it starts to form a dry top, 10 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the condensed milk, lemon juice, lemon zest and egg yok. Let this mixture stand for 5 minutes; it will be begin to thicken.

Sprinkle the blueberries evenly over the hot crust and then drop spoonfuls of the lemon mixture over the berries. Spread gently to make it more or less even, without becoming too concerned since it all levels out in the cooking. Bake until the lemon mixture just begins to form a shiny skin, 7 to 8 minutes (a wee bit longer if you use frozen berries).

Sprinkle the reserved topping mixture over the lemon-blueberry layer. Bake until the filling is bubbly at the edges and the topping is golden brown, 25-30 minutes.

Let cool, then cut into bars. I like this warm. The bars freeze well, and heated up just slightly in the microwave makes for a bit of summertime all year round. Keep in the refrigerator if you don't freeze them.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Chocolate Almond Cookies

I'm not overly fond of cookies unless they are hot out of the oven, or eaten raw - yes, I still eat cookie dough. But my husband likes a bit of baking around. Here's a recipe I adapted from Fine Cooking magazine. They are rich and chocolatey, but maybe a wee bit dry. I'll see what can be done about that in the future.

Chocolate Almond Cookies

1 cup flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup sliced almonds (or chopped or slivered)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder. Stir and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar (both white and brown) and beat well. Add the egg and the vanilla. Beat well.

Add the dry ingredients, mix, and then add the nuts and mix just until combined.

Drop heaping teaspoonfuls of dough about 1 1/2 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake 10 to 12 minutes - I would err on the side of less time rather than more.
Let cool for a few minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Blueberry Cream Tart

I love summer fruits. Blueberries might be up at the top of the list, followed closely by raspberries and perfectly ripe peaches. I'd say they tie for first place.

We're having dinner at our friends' place and I volunteered to bring dessert. Blueberries are wonderful any time of year, frozen, but when they are fresh I really hate to cook them. I picked these from our bushes yesterday and made the tart today. There are a few steps, but none of them are lengthy or complicated. And this can be made ahead - which for me is the hallmark of easy desserts.

Press-in Tart Crust

1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup icing sugar

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until moist crumbs form. NOTE: I had trouble today with the "moist crumbs." They didn't form. So I mixed an egg yolk with about 1 Tablespoon of water and drizzled it over until the crumbs formed.

Press into a 9 inch round tart pan with a removable bottom. Freeze about 10-15 minutes to firm everything up. Bake at 350 degrees 25-30 minutes; cool completely.

Blueberry Filling

1/2 cup sugar (or less)
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup water
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
2 Tablespoons butter
3 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Mix the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Stir in the water and bring to a boil. Stir constantly until thickened. Remove from heat and add butter and lemon juice. Stir until butter melts. Stir in blueberries and set aside to cool.

Cream Filling

1 cup whipping cream (more for top, if desired)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Whip cream with vanilla until soft peaks form. Set aside. Mix cream cheese, sugar and lemon juice until smooth and creamy. Fold in whipped cream.

Assemble the tart:

Spoon the cream filling into the bottom of the tart pan, spreading to cover the entire bottom. Layer the blueberry mixture on top. Spread additional whipped cream on top, if desired.

Best enjoyed outside with good friends.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Quinoa Vegetable Salad

I first tasted quinoa (pronounced "keen-wa") when I lived in Ecuador. It's one of the ancient grains cultivated by the Inca people of the Andes Highlands for over 5000 years. The UN has classified quinoa as a "super-crop." It contains more protein than any other grain. Its relatives are not other cereals, but spinach, beets, and Swiss chard. I've heard that it's related to pigweed as well. We call it a grain because of the way it's cooked and used.

I made this salad this past weekend. My husband wasn't thrilled with it, but my daughters were, and our Spanish houseguest enjoyed it. It's fresh and crunchy, similar to tabbouleh salad.

Quinoa Vegetable Salad

1 1/2 cups quinoa
3 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 Tablespoon olive oil

Combine the quinoa, water, salt and oil in a medium-large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. Most of the water will have been absorbed. I like to spread out the quinoa on a baking tray to cool quickly, but that's optional. Cool it one way or another.

1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
2 medium Roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 medium English cucumber, chopped
3 Tablespoons green onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all of the above with the quinoa. This can be served at room temperature or chilled. Other additions might include chopped black olives, or sweet red peppers.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Grilled Eggplant and Feta

I'm kicking myself for not taking a picture of this because it turned out surprisingly well. It was very much a "oh, this might work," and "hmmm, maybe some of this" recipe. And I'll be making it again, but I'd better write it down now while I can still remember what I did.

Grilled Eggplant and Feta Bake

2 medium eggplants
1-2 chopped tomatoes
1 T balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup (or more) feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives
olive oil
salt and pepper

Trim the ends off the eggplants and slice about 3/4 inch thick. Brush both sides with olive oil and grill over a medium hot fire until tender - about 10 minutes on each side. Check to make sure they don't burn.

Remove from the grill, let cool slightly and then chop very coarsely. I just cut the slices into quarters. Layer half of the eggplant in a shallow baking dish, sprinkle with salt and pepper and half of the feta cheese. Layer on the rest of the eggplant, then the chopped tomatoes. Drizzle the balsamic vinegar over top. Sprinkle on the olives and the remaining feta cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. (or if you use a grill safe pan, cover with foil and heat on the grill - basically you just want the tomatoes to buddy up to the eggplant)

Strawberry Lemonade

One of my favourite things to make in the summertime is strawberry lemonade. This is a concentrate and I freeze it for later. It's easy to do and tastes very refreshing.

Strawberry Lemonade Concentrate

6 cups strawberries, hulled
4 cups fresh lemon juice
6 cups granulated sugar

Puree the strawberries in a food processor or blender. I add a little of the lemon juice, if necessary to create some liquid at the beginning.

Place the puree and the sugar in a stainless steel saucepan and gently heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. You don't want to cook the strawberries, just dissolve the sugar.

Once dissolved, remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice.That's it! Mix about 1 part concentrate to 1 part water. Or use gingerale, tonic water, or sparkling water. Or even chilled white or rosé wine.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cucumber Radish Appetizer

Whenever I eat a radish I think of the scene in Gone With the Wind when Scarlett is in the garden at Tara, hungry after the deprivations of the war, and she finds an old radish plant, pulls it up and eats it.

These radishes grew in my garden and they were crisp with a fresh peppery flavour that wasn't overwhelming. I had so many that I had to devise something to do with them. This appetizer was the result and I have to say, I think it's awfully pretty. And easy, too.

Radish Cream Cheese Spread

10 radishes, tops and tails trimmed
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces cream cheese, softened

Place the radishes and garlic in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the cream cheese and pulse until combined. This can be used right away, but I found the fresh garlic overpowered the radishes. If you plan ahead, refrigerate overnight, or at least a few hours and the flavours will settle down into a lovely fresh mix.

To make the appetizers, cut an English cucumber into fairly thick slices, dollop some dip atop and garnish with the prettiest radishes you can find.
Posted by Picasa

Watermelon, Feta, Shrimp Salad

I made this a couple of weeks ago - had a craving for sweet watermelon. The combination of flavours might seem odd, but they work really well together - salty feta with the sweet watermelon. The grilled shrimp is optional but since this was our main course, I added some. I suppose you could add grilled chicken as another option.

Step One:
1 pound large shrimp, deveined (peeled or unpeeled - I like peeling them as I eat them)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

Preheat grill or grill pan to medium-high. Toss shrimp with olive oil. Stir in salt and pepper. Cook shrimp about 2 minutes per side or until just cooked through. Transfer to a plate to cool.

Step Two: the Dressing
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sliced fresh mint, divided
1 T olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Whisk together the lime juice and honey, salt and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil. Pour over the red onion and 2 T of the mint. Toss gently to combine.

Step Three: Putting it all together

4 cups arugula (or mixed greens)
8 (4-inch) seedless watermelon wedges
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese

To serve, place 1 cup arugula on each of 4 plates and top with 2 melon wedges and 1/4 of the onion-mint mixture; sprinkle with equal amounts of feta, top with about 6 shrimp, and garnish with some of the remaining fresh mint. Serve immediately.

Add some french bread, toasted with herbs to round out this simple and delicious meal - perfect for a hot summer night.

Grilled Hearts of Romain with Blue Cheese Dressing

I saw this recipe in Fine Cooking a few years ago and thought it looked intriguing. Today I was out in my garden and noticed I had a LOT of romaine lettuce that needed thinning. And I remembered this recipe. And remarkably, I had all the ingredients.

It was delicious! Just a hint of smoky grill flavour combined with still crunchy lettuce and chunky blue cheese made for a wonderful combination. And almost anything tastes better with a little bacon! I made only half of the dressing recipe and there is a lot left for another day! More lettuce thinning to come!


1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk, more as needed
6 ounces crumbled blue cheese, such as Roquefort or Danish blue
1 1/2 Tablespoons finely grated shallot
1 clove finely grated garlic
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, more to taste

For the salad:

2 hearts of romaine lettuce, bases trimmed but left intact, halved lengthwise (this will serve 4 people)
olive oil for brushing
salt and pepper
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

Make the dressing: In a medium bowl combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, milk, blue cheese, shallot, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours to let the flavours develop. Taste before using. You may need additional milk to thin the dressing as it will thicken upon standing.

Prepare the salad: Heat a gas grill to medium low. Lightly brush olive oil all over the romaine hearts, taking care not to break the leaves. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put the lettuce cut side down on the grate, directly over the heat. Grill until the outer leaves are charred and wilted and the lettuce is barely warm through to the core, 2-5 minutes. Transfer to a clean platter and let rest for 5 minutes.

To serve: Place half a heart of romaine, cut side up on each plate, top with about 2 Tablespoons of the blue cheese dressing, sprinkle with the crumbled bacon and serve immediately.
Posted by Picasa

Chicken Marinade

I love barbecued chicken breasts. But they can become too dry if not watched carefully. A friend gave me this recipe for a chicken marinade that results in juicy and flavourful chicken.

I like to purchase a big package of chicken breasts, then freeze them in smaller portions. Last summer I tried making the marinade and putting it on the chicken in the ziploc bag before freezing. Take a bag out of the freezer and the meat marinades beautifully while it thaws. Father's Day was the day after I returned from a trip to Europe with my mom and my sister. I knew I wouldn't be in any frame of mind to cook or even think about a menu, so I suggested to my daughters that I would prepare the marinade and chicken before I left on my trip, and they could take care of the rest of the menu. I felt so organized!

We had a wonderful barbecue on our son and daughter-in-law's new deck. The girls made yummy salads and dessert, and I contributed my bag of chicken. I was feeling a little punch-drunk with just 6 hours sleep in 36 hours.

Chicken Marinade

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon ground pepper

Mix it all up, pour over chicken pieces and marinade for several hours, or freeze. Grill chicken until done.

Posted by Picasa

Potato, Zucchini, Tomato Tian

I found the original version of this recipe in Ina Garten's "Barefoot in Paris" cookbook. A tian is really nothing more than layered ingredients cooked together. Usually consisting of vegetables, the ingredients are carefully composed to look attractive as well as taste good.

Tian is also the word used for the baking dish itself. I don't know if my Corning Ware shallow dish is actually a tian, but it seemed to work just fine.

This dish was easy to prepare and the combination of flavours has a lovely thyme-infused earthiness. Next time I might try it with rosemary. So...on with the recipe.

Vegetable Tian (serves 3-4)

olive oil
2 yellow onions, cut in half and sliced about 1/4 inch thick
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound white potatoes (or whatever you have) (I used one average sized baking potato)
1 medium zucchini
2 tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 ounces Gruyere or Emmenthal cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Brush a pan with olive oil. I used a 10 round pan, but any size or shape can be used. This dish is easy to expand to feed more people.

In a medium skillet, heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil and cook the onions until translucent, taking care not to brown them too much. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or so. Spread the onion mixture on the bottom of the baking dish.

Slice the potatoes, zucchini and tomatoes in 1/4 inch thick slices. Layer them alternately in the dish on top of the onions, fitting them in tightly, making just one layer. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper, then the thyme leaves. Drizzle with a little more olive oil, about 1 Tablespoon. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 30 - 35 minutes, or until the potatoes are barely tender. Uncover the dish, sprinkle the cheese on top and bake for another 25-30 minutes or until browned.

NOTE: I forgot the garlic until it was too late, but the dish tasted wonderful nonetheless. And lacking any of the suggested cheeses, I sprinkled about 3 Tablespoons of freshly grated Parmesan cheese instead.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, May 11, 2009

Raspberry Meringue Roulade

Pavlova is one of my favourite desserts. It's so easy to make and can be done ahead. But I recently discovered this wonderful recipe over at Thibeault's Table . It's Pavlova at high speed. And there is less of the crisp crust that Pavlova has, but I'm wondering if I might like this version better over the long run.

It needs to be done fairly last minute - but takes less than 20 minutes to bake, then 20 to cool. And oh my, the soft, pillowy sweet meringue with lightly sweetened whipped cream and tart raspberries. Delectable! I used frozen raspberries that thawed only partially so they weren't runny with juice yet. They were just perfect.

If you compare my photo (a bit blurry) with Thibeault's, you'll notice hers is actually a roulade - mine is more like a quesadilla - folded over. But I think they probably tasted equally gorgeous.
Posted by Picasa

Broccoli and Boursin Quiche

I do love quiche. This recipe came from the quarterly magazine available at our local grocery store, Thrifty's. Their site has many great recipes, and although I think shopping there is a bit more expensive than other stores, the quality is insurpassable. Anyway...

Broccoli and Boursin Quiche

4 eggs
1 1/4 cups milk (I used 1%)
pinch grated nutmeg
salt and white pepper to taste (I used freshly ground black pepper)
2 cups broccoli florets, lightly steamed until crisp tender
1 (150 gram) package Boursin cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1 deep-dish pie shell (I used Patricia Well's Pâte Brisée, made with butter)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Break eggs into a bowl and whisk until yolks and whites are combined. Whisk in the milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Set aside.

Roll out pie crust to fit a deep pie plate. Distribute half of the cheese, in small chunks, over the bottom, then arrange the broccoli over that, and then the rest of the cheese. Sprinkle with the red bell pepper. Pour the egg mixture over top and bake for 45 - 50 minutes or until the eggs are set. Rest the quiche for about 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

Serve with a green salad, and some crunchy bread for a delicious and easy dinner.

I like leftover quiche. It packs well in lunches and also reheats well in the microwave.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Cucumber Feta Salad

Long English cucumbers were on sale two for one last week. I had read a recipe somewhere about making a cucumber feta salad, but couldn't remember where (note to self - that's what bookmarks and printers are for). (Edited to add: the inspiration came from Kelley, who re-posted her recipe the very same day I posted this one - is it cucumber season?)

So I attempted it on my own, and it was yummy, if I do say so myself. Even my husband, not known for choosing to eat salad as a snack in the evening, took this out of the fridge and ate it (out of the container!) while reading his sailing magazine.

So, here's what I did (more or less)

Cucumber Feta Salad

1 long English cucumber, quartered lengthwise and sliced, about 1/3 inch thick (yes, 1/3 inch - or 1 cm)
1/2 - 2/3 cup of feta cheese, cubed or crumbled, depending on if you buy it dry or brined.
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup black olives (I use the pitted Kalamata ones from the deli)

2 T olive oil
2 T red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, finely chopped (mine is just showing up outside after a long winter)
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1-2 T plain yogurt
salt and freshly ground pepper

Whisk the dressing ingredients together, pour over the salad ingredients and enjoy the crunch!
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Strawberry Spinach Salad

Spinach and strawberry season is coming. While they overlap, I love making this salad. The flavours meld so beautifully.

Strawberry-Spinach Salad

Spinach leaves, washed, trimmed and sliced or torn
Fresh strawberries, washed and tops removed. Halve the berries.
Goat cheese (Chevre)
Freshly snipped chives

Amounts depend on how many people you want to serve. I make individual plates these days, placing first the spinach, then the berries, then crumble a little goat cheese on top. Sprinkle with chives after drizzling a little of the following dressing on top.

Raspberry-Poppy Seed Dressing

2 T raspberry vinegar (or use cider or champagne vinegar)
1 T sugar (if desired, I leave out)
1 tsp poppy seed
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil or olive oil

Whisk all together then drizzle over salad.

You can also add toasted almonds or pecans to this salad. The combination of the creamy goat cheese, sweet strawberries and crunchy spinach is one of life's little pleasures. Enjoy!

Cherry Season - Cherry Clafoutis

This was posted on my other blog last summer - I just copied it here.

I do love cherries. The season is so short, which makes me eat all I can, while I can. My mom used to can cherries in sugar syrup when I was a child, but I never liked them that way - only fresh. So I was a little hesitant to try this recipe, since it involves cooking the cherries. But, oh my goodness - it's delicious. We had it for dessert last night and then I ate the rest for breakfast.

The recipe is adapted from the Chez Panisse Cookbook, by Alice Waters. The sauce that goes with it makes the dessert, in my opinion. Sweet cherry flavour with a bit of sharp lemon in contrast. So very good.

Cherry Clafoutis
1 pound sweet cherries (preferably Bing), washed and pitted ( I used about 1 1/2 cups)
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
pinch ground cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs, separated
3 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon kirsch (optional)
1/3 cup cream
a pinch salt
powdered (confectioners') sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a baking pan large enough to hold the cherries loosely in a single layer. Prepare the cherries and arrange them in the pan. Sprinkle with with lemon juice, zest, cinnamon, and (1/4 cup) sugar. Bake until the fruit is tender, about 15 minutes, stirring once or twice. Butter another gratin dish large enough to hold the cherries in a single layer, or use four individual gratin dishes. Drain the cooked cherries, reserving their juice in a small saucepan. Arrange the cherries in the bottom of the baking dish. Beat together the egg yolks and sugar until well blended. Beat in the flour, vanilla, almond extract, and cream. Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they form soft peaks. Stir a little of the whites into the batter, and then carefully fold in the rest. Pour the batter over the fruit in the baking dish.

Bake for 20 minutes, until browned on top. Dust it with powdered sugar and serve warm. (Or cold for breakfast!)

For the sauce, use the drained juices from roasting the cherries. If it seems too thin, reduce the sauce in a pan. The consistency was just right for me without any reduction.

Just a note - I found the recipe quite sweet and would use less sugar in the batter - maybe 1 Tablespoon, or none at all because the cherries are sweet.
Posted by Picasa

Cherry Tomato Appetizers

I like rich and buttery appetizers, but my waistline does not. So I'm continually trying out new ways of delicious healthy bites. This is one I'm working on. It's okay as is, but I've thought of a few ways to kick it up a little.

Cherry Tomato Appetizers

Cherry tomatoes
Fresh mozzarella balls (bocconcino)
Basil Pesto (I make mine in the summer and freeze it in small containers. It keeps beautifully and tastes like a bit of summer in the dead of winter)
Fresh basil
Freshly ground pepper

Slice tops off cherry tomatoes, then hollow out, being careful not to tear through the skin. A melon baller works wonderfully for this. Turn the tomatoes upside down on a clean tea towel or a couple of thicknesses of paper towel. (A tea towel is greener, paper towel means you can throw it away) Drain for a couple of hours. Also drain the bocconcino.
Spoon a small amount of pesto into the bottom of the cherry tomatoes. Fill with bocconcino, then sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and minced fresh basil.

You can tell from the photo that no pepper was used in the preparation of the tomatoes, and I thought they were a little flat. I might add some salt next time, too, since the cheese is fresh and unsalted. But would that take away from the fresh flavour? If I find out, I'll amend the recipe.
Posted by Picasa

Spinach Gratin

I know that gratins usually involve making a type of white sauce, but I've been reading some French cookbooks lately and that's not always the case. I looked up the word "gratin" in my big French dictionary and discovered that gratin simply means to finish a dish by putting grated cheese on top and running it under the broiler or a hot oven.

Since making a white sauce takes time, and contains more carbs than I need, I made this dish the other night. It's fast and tasted delicious.

Spinach Gratin

1 onion, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch fresh spinach, washed, stemmed and coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
2 Tablespoons cream (half and half or heavy)
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup (or more) grated Parmesan cheese

Heat olive oil in frying pan, saute onion until tender. Add spinach and garlic and saute, tossing lightly, until the spinach is wilted and most of the water has evaporated from it. Season to taste. Place in a shallow ovenproof casserole. Drizzle the cream over top, sprinkle on the cheese and bake at 425 degrees for about 5 minutes. Or run under the broiler until the cheese is toasty.

This can be done ahead and then baked at the last minute before serving. Just add a few minutes more baking time.

The photo was taken before baking, hence the "untoasted" cheese.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Rustic Fruit Tart

This was originally posted on my other blog last summer...

I'm loving all the fresh fruit available now. I tried making a fruit tart the other day and mmm, it was so good, and without the fuss of fitting the crust into a pie plate, covering it, crimping it and so on. This went together in a snap.

I got this recipe from Fine Cooking magazine - the August/September 2005 issue. Use your regular pie crust dough. I make mine with whole wheat flour - I like the nutty flavour, and it makes me feel like I'm maybe eating something healthy!

Roll the dough into a 14 inch circle. It's all right if the edges are a little ragged. Fold into quarters and lift carefully onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Unfold.Prepare the filling:4 cups fruit - I used plums and a few apricots. Slice them thinly, no need to peel.

1/4 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon flour
pinch salt
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamonToss everything together.

Heap the fruit in the center of the dough round. Then fold the edges of the dough over some of the fruit, creating a rim about 2 inches wide. Work your way around the circle, pleating the dough as you go. Brush the dough with light cream and sprinkle with sugar - I used gold sanding sugar since I had some in the cupboard. But any sugar will work. Bake the tart at 350 degrees for about 55 minutes. Some of the juice is likely to escape, but that's okay. Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream or dollop of whipped cream. Or maybe some custard sauce. Leftovers are great for breakfast!
Posted by Picasa