Monday, March 30, 2009

Smoked Salmon, Dill, Goat Cheese, and Artichoke Quiche - Magazine Mondays

While browsing around Cream Puffs in Venice’s blog I came across this great Challenge. Basically you rummage through all those old foodie magazines that you have lying around or squirreled away from who knows when, and you finally make one of the recipes. This way you are trying something new AND getting some use out of that bookshelf full of dusty "meant to make it" recipes. (Seriously, it’s a bookshelf.)

If you know me then you know I am a crazy food magazine addict. I check the newsstand daily for my favourites, even if I know they won't be coming out for another month. I even buy them in French because it forces me to practice the language. Needless to say, the semester that we were studying grammar and names of food products I got an A+.

Even though I love reading these magazines, there are just too many and I completely forget to make any of the recipes. That is why this challenge was right up my alley. And even though I didn't use one of the French recipes I still re-read three of the magazines today searching for the perfect premier recipe. Yes, my French teacher would be proud.

This recipe came from Fine Cooking Magazine, a pretty expensive magazine (10 bucks in Canada) that is really worth the money. I only came across it a couple months ago when Ian was sick and I needed something to read and pass the time. Wow though, it's like a new little cook book every month. When I heard caramelized onions, goat cheese, dill, artichokes, and smoked salmon I knew there was no way I could go wrong.

We really didn't feel like making the crust for the we bought it Gaaaaaspp! Whatever, it was so worth it. Two gourmet quiches with minimal effort, umm yes please.

Smoked Salmon, Dill, Goat Cheese, and Artichoke Quiche
adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine, April/May 2009 #98
makes 2 quiches

2 deep dish frozen pie crusts
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 386ml can of artichokes, drained and cut in quarters
4 large eggs
1 cup 10% cream
1/2 cup milk
3 Tbsp. roughly chopped fresh dill
salt and freshly ground pepper
Pinch nutmeg
6 oz. smoked salmon, roughly chopped
4 oz. fresh goat cheese

Preheat the oven to 400F. Prebake the two pie shells for 8 minutes on a baking sheet.
Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and turning translucent. Add the artichoke hearts and cook until softened and slightly browned, another 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Beat the eggs in a bowl with the cream, milk, dill, salt, pepper, and the nutmeg. Pour 1/44th of the egg mixture into each crust. Bake in the oven until the filling is partially set, about 15 minutes. Scatter half of the onion and artichoke mixture, the salmon and the goat cheese over the partially set egg mixture. Pour on the remaining egg mixture and then scatter the remaining onions, artichokes, salmon, and goat cheese over the egg. Bake until the center is set, another 20 minutes. If the crust is browning too fast, cover it with strips of foil. Cool for 5 minutes before cutting. Garnish with extra dill.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Peanut Butter Jelly Time...umm.. I mean Bars

Peanut Butter Jelly Bars
Before I met Ian I was a real wild child. Eccentric to the bone. No one could stop me. OK, really, how much trouble could one little molecular biologist in training get herself into. So I wasn't as much of a renegade as I like to think I was. BUT, I did enjoy running around (at 23 years of age) singing 'peanut butter jelly time... peanut butter jelly time' (sing it Jen!!!) to anyone and anything that would listen. I have no clue why, I guess I am just 6 years old at heart and my roommate was totally into the childish song too. Now three years later, I am a tame and mature woman who still finds herself singing 'peanut butter jelly time!'

So even though I was in a baking stupor yesterday and did not want to go near the kitchen I was pulled in once again by "The Cookie of the Day" on the Martha Stewart website. It didn’t help that there was an 8x8 glossy photo staring back at me when I went searching for the recipe in my Martha Stewart Cookie’s Book. And the kicker that really did me in was that I know one of Ian's favorite things in the whole wild world is Peanut butter and Jelly Sammie's.

So girls, if there is one easy way to a man's heart, it is to make their favourite dish into a dessert (not that I don’t already have the key to Ian’s).

As one of Ian's best friends put it "they are like eating the PERFECT toasted and buttered peanut butter sandwich." Actually, I didn't totally make these just for Ian; I made them so that I could sing Peanut Butter Jelly Time.....

Peanut Butter Jelly Time Bars
adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookie's Book

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 1/2 cups smooth peanut butter
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups raspberry jam
2/3 cup salted peanuts, roughly chopped
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-13-inch pan with parchment paper. Whisk butter and sugar in a bowl until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs and peanut butter; beat until combined. Mix in salt, baking powder, and flour till combined, then add vanilla. Transfer two-thirds of mixture to prepared pan; spread evenly with offset spatula or fingers. Spread jam on top of peanut-butter mixture. Drop pieces of remaining third of peanut-butter mixture on top of jam. Sprinkle with peanuts. Bake until golden, about 45-55 minutes, turning half way through. Cut into about thirty-six 1 1/2-by-2-inch pieces and refrigerate for 30 min.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna with an Abruzzi Flair - Daring Bakers March 2009 Challenge

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna with an Abruzzi Flair - Daring Bakers

I knew this month's Daring Bakers Challenge was going to be a long and tedious one, but I was up to the task. I also figured that if I was going to put so much effort into one meal Ian and I should share it with friends. And just like that, Supper Club was born.

The idea of supper club came from my brother who holds one every 3 weeks in Oshawa. Basically one person or couple cooks, then old and new friends get together for a delicious home cooked meal. Different people host every time so that it doesn’t get too hectic and new people are always popping in.

Of course I had to make this lasagna for the first club, but I changed it up to reflect my background. The Italian side of my family comes from the region of Abruzzi. There the area makes their lasagna with hundreds of teeny tiny meatballs in the tomato sauce instead of a simple meat ragu. My brother and I have all these great memories of our aunts and cousins making this dish for big family dinners. The Abruzzi version is a very simple layering of mini meatball tomato sauce and paper thin strips of fresh pasta. There really isn’t a lot of cheese involved, nor does there need to be.

My version has the hand made fresh spinach egg pasta and the béchamel sauce of the region of Emilia-Romagna, but with a little Abruzzi flair!

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Cherry Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart

Cherry Tomato Goat Cheese Tarts

Hey BB's. What to say about this tart? Well how about crazy amazing. Or maybe insanely good. I guess just simply tasty will do. Anne Strawberry picked this Ina inspired tart (of course made with butter filled puff pastry) that BB's all over the world lovingly made and enjoyed.

I made three sizes of the tarts thinking that I could eat a couple small ones with my hands like appetizers,, they were so good I ate all three sizes with my hands. Nuts to utensils.

The tomatoes were like fresh berries, they burst at every bite releasing delicious juice in your mouth. It was nice to have a 'summery' dish to remind us that winter (horrid horrid winter) is over and of what's to come.

Cherry Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart
adapted from Ina Garten's book 'Back to Basic's'

1 package (17.3 ounces/2 sheets) puff pastry, defrosted (PC makes it pre-rolled)
Good olive oil
4 cups thinly sliced yellow onions
3 large garlic cloves, cut into thin slivers
salt and black pepper
3 tbsp. dry white wine
2 tsp. minced fresh thyme leaves
4 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan
4 ounces fresh goat cheese
20 mini tomatoes, cut in half
3 tablespoons julienned basil leaves

Unfold a sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and roll it lightly to an 10 by 10-inch square. Using a 6-inch wide saucer, cut 1 circle from each sheet of puff pastry, discarding the scraps. Repeat with smaller round plate, and possibly a cup, until most of the pastry sheets have been cut out. Place the pastry circles on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and refrigerate until ready to use. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the onions and garlic. Saute for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are limp and there is almost no moisture remaining in the skillet. Add salt and pepper, the wine, and thyme and continue to cook until the wine has evaporated and the onions are lightly browned. Remove from the heat. Score a 1/4-inch-wide border around each pastry circle. Prick the pastry inside the score lines with the tines of a fork and sprinkle a tablespoon of grated Parmesan on each round, staying inside the scored border. Place some of the onion mixture on each circle, again staying within the scored edge. Place the cherry tomatoes on top of the onions. Crumble goat cheese on top and brush the tomato lightly with olive oil and sprinkle over some salt and pepper. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. Once baked add the basil on top of each tart. Serve warm or cold.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Rum-soaked Current Coconut Cookies

I just got this wonderful call from my grandma all the way from Victoria BC. Yesterday I sent her a bunch of these cookies through the mail, all perfectly wrapped in super cute paper with little pink polka-dot bows and placed gently in a tiny square box.

I wasn't sure if it was worth the trouble to send 20 cookies all the way across Canada ( they wanted 30 dollars at first for the tiny box but I haggled them down in price and crammed them into a flimsy ugly brown envelope) but when I got that phone call I knew it was worth it.

I blindly assumed that I wouldn’t like this cookie mainly because the only food on this planet that I hate is coconut. Also I am not a big fan of the taste of booze in my sweets, but these scrumptious cookies didn't taste like either.

They did however have so many different depths of flavour that I couldn't stop eating them and I really did not think that there would be enough left for the picture.

The cookies in the picture that you see here were the last ones, and at the time of this post...well... they are gone.

Rum-soaked Current Coconut Cookies
adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cookie’s Book

1/2 cup dark rum
1 cup dried currants
16 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
finely grated orange zest from one orange
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup finely shredded (powder)unsweetened coconut
1 teaspoon coarse salt

Combine rum and currants; cover, and let stand at room temperature overnight. Drain, reserving 2 tablespoons rum. Whisk butter, sugar, and orange zest until white, creamy and smooth. Add vanilla and reserved rum, and beat until combined. Add flour, coconut, and salt, and stir to combine. Stir in currants. Form dough into 2-3 logs, each about 1 1/2 inches in diameter; wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour Preheat oven to 300. Remove plastic. Slice logs into 1/4-inch-thick rounds, and space about 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment. Bake until pale golden, about 12-14 minutes

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Picture Tuesday!

I can come to terms with the concept of my own mortality, but I am scared of thinking about yours

Hi everyone! No, Christie and I have not vanished, we have both come down with nasty colds, and the only thing going on outside of our respective daily responsibilities has been rest and sleep. I’m not going to let that stop me from my photo Tuesday though, I was adamant about that. I woke up early this morning to make sure and take a dose of daytime cold meds, and pack up some camera gear to take along with me to work. When the time came for me to take a lunchtime stroll around work to snap some pictures, I wasn’t so sure it was a wonderful idea as it was cold and breezy, as well as muddy. I sucked it up and went out anyways, I mean, it would have really defeated the purpose of having brought along gear to work right?


So off into a large, muddy field out behind my work I went in search of any signs of spring. Not a green blade of grass anywhere. Seriously, everywhere I looked there was only brown crunched up vegetation and mud. No real colour of any sort to find. I trudged around with my camera out for what seemed like 10-15 minutes before I noticed that there were all kinds of things to take photos of around me, I just had to look. There were these shrunken berry looking things on the ends of some branches, and plenty of tall, dried out grasses for me to get creative with. It helped that the light just happened to be rather pleasant, and the sky a nice baby blue.


I walked around and had some fun playing with depth of field, bokeh (that funky, pleasing blurry effect), and the textures of my surroundings that were emphasized by the natural sunlight. What began as a sniffling, cold walk around without much hope had quickly turned into something I was really very happy about, I just had to be a little flexible on what I was trying to capture. When I first set out I had the idea concreted in my head that I was going out there to find some magical shoot of green grass poking out of a muddy puddle, or a single bud on a branch beginning to open up, and instead of being totally discouraged when that idea didn’t pan out, I took in my surroundings and found something I had not thought of finding. It really is a good lesson, even with careful planning and well thought out shots, a photo session, whether an interior shot that is all setup, or an outside search for that perfect capture, it is always a good idea to keep yourself open and let a little bit of randomness enter that creative process.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

St. Paddy's Day Lemon Vanilla Cookies

In Montreal we all celebrate St.Paddy's Day the Sunday after the actual day because that is when the whole city shuts down for the giant parade. These are a homage to that wonderful time when we drink on the streets right along side the cops.

P.s. One of these cookies is for Jen, her first St.Paddy's away from the big M.

St. Paddy's Day Lemon Vanilla Cookies
adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookies Book

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
6 tbsp.unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped and reserved
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 large egg
2 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
7 1/2 teaspoons meringue powder
2-3 drops of green food colouring

Preheat oven to 375. Put butter, granulated and confectioners' sugars, vanilla seeds, and zest into a bowl, whisk until pale and fluffy. Mix in egg. Add flour, baking powder, and salt in 3 batches; mix until combined. Roll out dough between 2 pieces of parchment paper to 1/8 inch thick. Cut cookies with clover cookie cutter then refrigerate until firm, about 20 minutes. Remove shapes from dough. Re roll scraps, and cut out. Space cookies 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until pale golden, 5 to 6 minutes. For the royal icing: Put confectioners' sugar, meringue powder,a couple drops of green colouring, and 1/4 cup water into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment; whisk for 10 minutes. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a small plain round tip. Decorate each cookie with icing.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Beer Battered Onion Rings

I guess my health kick is out the window. But who can blame me. Onion rings, come on, these are not an everyday food item and I had to bend the rules. Ian and I made these for the Food Network Canada's monthly challenge. They were large, perfectly browned, and the onion inside the crispy shell was sweet and tender. Plus, they were beer battered which made them great for St. Paddy's Day. I drew the line when green beer was mentioned.

Ricardo's Beer-Battered Onion Rings
adapted from Ricardo and Friends,
makes 4 servings

1 large Spanish onion, sliced into 1-cm rounds and separated into rings
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup flour
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup pale ale
Oil for frying

Preheat the deep fryer to 190°C (375°F). Place a cooling rack on a baking sheet or line a baking sheet with paper towels.In a paper bag or large bowl, toss the onion rings in the cornstarch to coat well. Set aside.
In a bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Whisk in the beer.Using your fingertips or a wooden chopstick, dip the rings in the batter, 4 or 5 at a time. Shake off excess batter and deep-fry for about 3 minutes, turning half way through cooking. Drain on the baking sheet. Season lightly with salt. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Picture Tuesday

Not only is it St-Patricks day today, but it is also picture Tuesday! I have been extremely thankful for all the positive feedback Christie and I have been receiving in regards to our blog, so much so that I have rediscovered my passion for photography through the constant encouragement I receive from my Flickr contacts, close friends, and especially Christie (love ya). I love my cameras, really, I do. Since I went digital 4-5 years or so ago, I began to slowly but surely slow down as far as quantity is concerned, and in hindsight it really is rather odd since digital photography as a medium should, technically, open the way to making more rather than less. Unfortunately digital photography, at least the digital cameras with the same configuration options as film cameras, cost a mint, and I just could not invest a small fortune into that kind of equipment as I am not exactly making a living off of it. Enter my “end of production line” Nikon D80. I love this camera, it reminds me about what I was so excited about when I first began reading about “the future of photography = digital”. I can control pretty much everything I want with this camera, and it meets my needs. That’s an important one right there, it meets my needs.

The change has been so quick, so drastic, that suddenly not only have I become an avid Strobist reader , but I have also dusted off both my Holga 120 as well as my Mamiya M645 medium format film cameras. A short while ago, I decided to make the leap into wireless flash photography thanks in large part to the Strobist blog. I put together my first kit using odds and ends reviewed on the blog, and have been very happy with the results. Living in a city where finding an apartment offering the kind of natural lighting required for daily food photos costs a premium, I needed a different solution, off camera flash. I ordered my kit from China, and received it promptly one week later. I have been happy with it until now. Using only one lighting source has resulted in similar lighting results almost every time, and it was time for a second flash. But seriously, they are just pretty damn expensive (about 350-400$ Canadian for 1 flash unit).

I found myself at a local photo supply store last week, just about to suck it up and buy one, when I decided to “think about it”. I am very happy that I did. By complete random chance, I decided to browse over to Strobist this afternoon to take a peek, and lo and behold, and answer for my budget! Mpex, a photo retailer in the US, has teamed up with Strobist to create a manual flash (the LumoPro 120) for people that require the flexibility of off camera flash, and removed the bells and whistles in order to reduce price significantly! I really could not be more excited, really, if you are interested in the least bit in lighting, I highly suggest taking a look at the Strobist blog, and take note of the post linking you to this wonderful new inexpensive flash. I am going to be ordering a new kit this week with an extra flash so that I can really work on lighting.

To celebrate today’s wonderful discovery (the Strobist created LumoPro 120 Flash), I decided to go through a binder of hand processed b&w negatives that I took using my modified Holga 120 camera. I have a full box of 120 format B&W film that needs to be used, and 2 lonely medium format cameras that are calling out to me to be used, so don’t be surprised to see me start to delve deeper and deeper back into photography, and I am loving every minute of it.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Raspberry Lemon Almost No-Fat Mini Muffins

I'm still on my health kick today so in keeping with the whole grain aspect I baked these wonderful little Raspberry Lemon muffins. And guess what... they have almost NO fat in them! How amazing eh!

They do sport a lot of baking powder and apple sauce to bind everything together which makes the batter light and fluffy. Not to mention all the berries I jam packed into them creates a melt in your mouth muffin. I love the berry right on top just like a beautiful jammy jewel.

Since raspberries are almost five dollars for a half pint right now I would advise buying the frozen ones. I was afraid that they would suck, but they actually really did the trick! Just don’t buy the ones frozen in their own juice or else you’ll end up with red muffins (which is not appropriate since Valentine's Day was a month ago).

Raspberry Lemon Almost No-Fat Mini Muffins
adapted from
makes 24 mini muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. lemon zest
1 egg
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups frozen raspberries

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Put 24 mini muffin papers in a mini muffin tin.
In a large bowl, mix together the all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, sugar, baking powder and lemon zest. In a small bowl, beat the egg until foamy. Stir in the buttermilk, applesauce and vanilla. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until moistened. Gently fold in the raspberries right at the end and don't stir too much or the batter will turn red. Spoon the batter into the prepared cups and place one raspberry right on top of each muffin. Bake for 15 minutes.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal

After all the butter, sugar, and just plain fatty foods that I have consumed since starting this blog, I am finally starting to feel it. I am NOT craving cookies, cupcakes or chocolate and it's really scary! All I want is some veggies and a couple days of low fat meals.

I've been dying for some good ol’ healthy and delicious oatmeal and remembered that "everybody likes sandwiches" had this to die for vegan baked apple oatmeal. I really don’t think that I would make a good vegan, but if I could eat this every day, all day, it wouldn't be hard. Needless to say I made it more omnivorous, but the idea is the same. The best part is that the apple cider and milk bake into the oatmeal. Next time we are defiantly adding toasted pecans and raisins.

Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal
Adapted from everybody likes sandwiches blog
1 1/4 cup of instant oats
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 1/2 large apples, diced
1 cup 1% or skim milk
2/3 cup apple cider or juice

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine everything. Place mixture into a baking dish. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Serve with additional milk and yogurt.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Itty Bitty Chocolate Persian Sable's with Cherry Filling

And now for the best cookies ever! Well, maybe not the best, there is still something missing if you compare them to those perfect little cookies from Nocochi. But these are extremely close. (Please do not judge me on the horror that was yesterday’s events.)

I tried to remember what I loved about the cookies and realized my favourite part is the extremely short dough that they use. It’s so light; it literally melts in your mouth. So I pulled out the big guns, well actually the tiny ones. I found this book by Flo Braker called 'Sweet Miniatures' at Winners for seven bucks (steal!). It seems that she has her finger in every pie because I also noticed that she made a large contribution to the ultimate "Baking with Julia" cookbook.

She says that rice flour is the key to a distinguished shortbread. I had come across this ingredient in many of the Persian cookie recipes and gave it a try with the addition of cardamom and rose water to keep that Persian taste.

They came out so, so, so good. Although cutting out each tiny cookie, cooling the dough, punching a hole in the cookie, cooling them...again, baking them, cooling them...a third time, powdering a million little tops, then finally filling them with cherry jam and squishing them together(pheeeeewwphhh) took four hours.

So I think next time I will just spend the money on the real ones and save the time. I am still going to use this recipe, just not on such a teeny tiny cookie.

Itty Bitty Chocolate Persian Sable's with Cherry Filling
adapted from Flo Braker

1 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup rice flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup dark cocoa powder
1 stick plus 6 tbsp. unsalted room temp. butter
1/2 cup of powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1 tbsp. rose water
1 cup cherry jam

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Whisk butter for one minute, and then add sugar and whisk until light coloured and fluffy. Add vanilla, cardamom, and rose water. Mix until blended. Add both flours, cocoa, and salt in three increments, mixing between each addition. When dough is combined, lay out on a plastic sheet and roll until 1/8 inch thick. Cut out tiny shapes with cookie cutter, punching a hole in half of them. Cool the rolled out dough with the cut shapes for 10 minutes so that the pieces lift easily from the plastic sheet. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper and place pieces on it. Cool for another 10 minutes. Bake for 9 minutes. In the mean time strain 1 cup of cherry jam into a small pot, boil for 7 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes. When the shapes with the hole are cool dust with powdered sugar. Place 1/8 tsp. of jam on bottom piece of cookies and squish together.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Worst Cookies Ever

Well, as you might have guessed from the title, I just made the WORST cookies on the face of this earth. They looked so pretty and I spent three hours making them, but one bite and I threw the whole batch out.

You see, I had the best little sable cookies at this place downtown called Nocochi. On my way home I ate all the cookies that I bought and vowed to find out how they got them to melt the second they touched your tongue.

It turns out that they are Persian cookies made with clarified butter, chickpea flour, powdered sugar, rose water, and cardamon. I should have known better with the clarified butter( I hate the smell of it) but I pressed on.

Arg, I'm so disappointed. Oh well, I'll try again tomorrow. By the way here is a nice photo that Ian was playing around with. It's much better than stinkin cookies.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Chicken Piccata

Hey there Barefoot Bloggers. So this is the second challenge that I have participated in with the BB's and let me tell you... it has been so much fun! This Thursday Noodle Nights and Muffin Mornings chose Chicken Piccata.

For those of you out there that don’t know the fancy name, it’s basically classic breaded chicken (no shake n' bake allowed) with a lemon sauce. Oh yeah, and butter. Lots, lots, lots of butter. I even cut the amount of butter in half, and still the sauce was buttery. What did you expect from Ina, really!

I truly enjoyed this dish, but I wasn't so fond of the three steps, three bowl breading catastrophe that left the walls and floor of my kitchen covered in egg, flour, breadcrumbs and salmonella.

I think it was worth it though. You should have seen Ian's face when he took the first bite, he was in pure heaven. For him, breading + chicken + lemon = win. Mind you, he was the kid in kindergarten that ate the left over lemon and lime candies that all the other kids wouldn’t touch.

Chicken Piccata
adapted from Ina Garten's book 'Barefoot Contessa at Home'

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 extra-large eggs
1 tbsp water
2 cups seasoned dry bread crumbs
4 tbsp. olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
Freshly squeezed juice from 3 lemons, lemon halves reserved
1 cup dry white wine
Sliced lemon, for serving
Italian Seasoning, salt, and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Place each chicken breast between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and pound out to 1/4-inch thick.
Mix the flour with salt and pepper in a shallow plate. In a second plate, beat the egg and water together. Place the bread crumbs on a third plate with Italian seasoning. Dip each chicken breast first in the flour, shake off the excess, and then dip in the egg and bread crumb mixtures.
Heat 2 tbsp. of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium to medium-low heat. Add 1-2 of the chicken breasts and cook for 2 minutes on each side, until browned. Re-oil the pan with another 1 tbsp. of olive oil and repeat. Place the chicken on the sheet pan and allow them to bake for 5 to 7 minutes while you make the sauce.
For the sauce, wipe out the saute pan with a dry paper towel. Over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and then add the lemon juice, wine, the reserved lemon halves, salt and pepper. Boil over high heat until reduced in half. Off the heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and swirl to combine. Discard the lemon halves and serve 1 chicken breast on each plate. Spoon on the sauce and serve with a slice of lemon.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

About Coco Bean Chanel

Let me tell you about Coco Bean Chanel.
Some have been asking about Coco so here is the story of the most loved cat in the world.

Exactly four years ago, almost to the day, I was living downtown Montreal in a really crummy apartment, but I didn’t care. I was a student in the center of the biggest party town, I had no debt (because I was still living off my parents) and I didn't know how to cook, anything, but that didn’t matter because I was young and Kraft dinner tasted just fine to me.

Now, I have this thing where I always have to stop into pet stores to see the kittens, so I ducked into this one down the street from my apartment, and there she was. She was so tiny, in this large cage, all by herself. As I got closer to her she started to play with me through the cage. Her little tongue was sticking out (now a Coco trademark) and she kept getting her tiny claws stuck in my sweater.

Ok, so because I was living off my parents, I went straight home to call my mom. "No" she said right away. But that didn't deter me. You see, my dad and brother were coming up to visit from Toronto that weekend for the St. Patties day parade. I knew I had just one chance if I was going to own that little bundle of fur.

So, when my dad was leaving the house that Saturday morning to drive up to Montreal, the last words my mom said to him were " Don't you dare buy her that cat"

He bought the cat.

Come on, she was so cute, who could resist her?? We all made a pact, let’s not tell mom anything until a week later, then dad would break it to her. Unfortunately that night Coco didn't want to be alone so she slept on my brother’s back and kept him up all night. When my dad and brother left that Sunday, my brother was dropped in Oshawa, about an hour before Toronto. There is one thing you must know about my brother. He can not keep a secret. Ever. It has always been that way, since we were young. So when my mom called him to ask how the weekend was he said "great, but the cat kept me up all night". Busted.

But it's all ok now. No one can resist Coco Bean. She is a Tortie and is still very tiny for a cat. Her tongue sticks out when she is happy and she is always purring like a motor. Every single night while I am reading she joins me before bed and tries to block my book. Same with whenever I study. Or use my laptop.

Every night she also sleeps under my arm and will nudge my shoulder until I let her in. She purrs for a long time then falls asleep with her head on the pillow. She carries around a small stuffed lion like it is her baby, and every day moves it to the living room in the morning, and back into bed at night.

One time she ran away. It was the worst three days of my life, but I found her down the street, hungry and needing to use the litter box. I trained her well.

She loves Ian, and men in general. She will sit on anyone’s lap and show off by rolling around if you are new.

(Coco in her Montreal Canadiens Hockey Jersey)
So that is the story of my favourite animal, my Coco Bean Chanel.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Picture Tuesday!

Early Morning Street Scene

Yayyy! It’s picture day again. Christie and I were talking about our blog, and she pointed out that it is our blog, and that I didn’t necessarily need to post food/recipe(s) every time I posted. She even suggested that we make Tuesdays “Photo day”, where I can post any sort of picture I’d like accompanied by a little blurb or random Ian babbling as I have a tendency to do. As a result, I lay in bed last night staring at my ceiling, thinking hard about what I’d take a picture of, was I to take a walk at my lunch time this afternoon and hope to “find something”, or pick up some nice flowers on my way home from work and prepare an elaborate-ish (yes I made that word up) setup? I had too many ideas, and needed to focus down to one. So this morning I woke up extra early and packed a camera bag with just the essential equipment that I figured I would need, and set off for work at 6:15 am as usual… sigh.

My first reaction at that time in the morning, especially with the recent daylight savings change which makes it feel like5:15am, is usually a “This bus better be here soon”, and a “I want to be back in bed” feeling, except this morning something in my head shouted out…. Ian…. This is picture day… don’t forget… and somehow I mustered up the wakefulness and clarity, although still very much fuzzy, to notice that the lighting was great, and actually pulled out my camera and snapped a shot before my bus came. Trust me, the random high school student waiting next to me did not expect it either, and I caught him trying to catch a glimpse at my cameras viewing screen.

Turns out I was lucky I did. I had a really rather busy day at work and had to skip on my lunch break, and besides, it was dark and muddy out, not exactly the conditions to be trudging around for an hour outside in ankle high slipper type shoes if you ask me. After work, I ate some left over Spaghetti sauce with some elbow macaroni and fresh parmesan topping that my roommate and I made last night, and fiddled with my early morning picture a wee bit, and the picture above was the result. I hope you like it, as I am looking forward now to Picture Tuesdays every week.

*EDIT* Wednesday morning here now, and I kept thinking last night about how I should maybe include some pictures of the setup(s) I am using to take the photos for our blog. What do you guys think? Any interest? Any and all feedback is always warmly welcomed!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Mocha Orange Wafers

Mocha waffers
Yes... I am still on my chocolate binge
Yes... I have added coffee to this binge
Yes... I made these the second the last of the other chocolate cookies were eatten (by me)
Yes... they are a deep dark chocolate shortbread.
Yes... I practically doubled the cocoa that the recipe called for.
Yes... I ate these as a meal today.
Yes... they will satisfy your chocolate craving, for the moment.

Mocha Orange Wafers
adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookies book

1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp. finely ground espresso
1 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Coarse sanding sugar, for sprinkling

Beat together butter, confectioners' sugar, orange zest, and vanilla in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually add flour, cocoa, salt, and espresso until just combined. Transfer dough to a 12-by-16-inch piece of plastic wrap; shape into a log. Roll the wrap around the log, and twist the ends. Chill at least ½ an hour to overnight. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cut log into 1/4-inch-thick slices; transfer to baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Brush tops with water; sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake until set, 9-11 minutes.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

White Chocolate and Pomegranate 'Pot de Creme' with Passion Fruit - In The Bag

Pots de Creme
So, this is the second installment for the challenge In the Bag, where you are given three ingredients and have to come up with some sort of meal. This month it was white chocolate, passion fruit and pomegranate. I would like to start off by saying that this is one of the best tasting desserts I have ever had. Remember that while you are reading through this recount of my Saturday afternoon, night, and Sunday morning.

My problem was the passion fruit. Do you know where to find a fresh and ripe one (or even what a ripe one looks like) in Montreal? I certainly didn’t, but I wasn’t going to let that detour me. First I went on a three hour search through the streets of downtown Montreal to find a passion fruit. Then I realized that the only time I had ever seen a passion fruit was in the Galapagos where I fell into some bushes trying to pick the fruit off a vine and had to head back, sans passion fruit, sporting some cool new scrapes. Needless to say I didn’t even know how to open the little fruit. Of course, once I showed the boys what the inside looked like, I had a very hard time convincing everyone that it was not going to taste like snotty brains.
Pots de Creme
On that note, I would like to point out that passion fruits taste so amazing, basically like all those tropical fruit juices that Tropicana is making now, but much more intense. It's sad that no one caries them because I think they would be a hit!

Now, for the pot de crème. I saw Ricardo make a version of this on TV about 5 months ago and thought to myself, "nuts to that, who would be that crazy to spend all their time making a single dessert" Well, now I am the crazy one, and I had to make it twice because the gelatine didn't set the first time. (soupy mess + me upset = bad)

Things I have learned about gelatine:
1. It needs to sit longer in a liquid that the 5 minutes everyone says.
2. Sometimes you need to use twice as much gelatine than what everyone says.
3. Just stick with jello for all your jiggly fruit juice needs. They have been doing this much longer that you have.

That is not to say that this wasn't an extremely easy dessert to make, and well worth the work, look at how stunning it looks! And the taste, I feel like I am having dessert at a four star restaurant! The problem is the waiting time, and the praying to the food gods that your gelatine sets.
Pots de Creme
White Chocolate and Pomegranate Pot de Crème with Passion Fruit
adapted from Ricardo and Friends on the Food Network Canada
makes 4 pots

3/4 tsp gelatine
3 tbsp. water
4 oz premium white chocolate, like Lindt
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1-1/2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup 35% cream, warm
2 tbsp. milk, warm
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the Jelly
3/4 tsp. gelatine
3/4 cup pomegranate juice
1/2 tbsp sugar
4 passion fruits

For the Pots de Crème
In a bowl and sprinkle the gelatine onto the water. Let soften for 15 minutes. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and butter. Off the heat, whisk in the eggs. Add the cream and milk. Return to the double boiler and, whisking constantly, continue cooking until slightly thickened, about 5-10 minutes. Add the gelatine and stir until completely dissolved. Pour the mixture into 4 martini glasses. Refrigerate for about 3 hours.
For the Jelly
In a small saucepan, sprinkle the gelatine onto (1/4 cup) of the juice. Let soften for about 15 minutes. Add sugar and heat gently while stirring until the gelatine and sugar have dissolved and a light boil starts. Add the remaining juice and stir well to combine. Pour gently onto the pots de crème. Refrigerate for about 3 hours. Add passion fruit to top just before serving.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Cocoa Charms

Chocolate Charms

So pretend you are on a chocolate binge. Just pretend. And, for names sake we will call you... umm… Christie. Now pretend you go on a mad search for the deepest darkest and most intense chocolate shortbread cookie. Say you found it. Imagine sprinkling 100% cocoa powder on top of those deep dark charms. Now imagine how many cookies you, as hypothetical Christie would eat.

Now do me one favour. Do not imagine the scale the next day.

Cocoa Charms
adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookie's Book

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup dark cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Whisk butter until very light and fluffy, about 5-7 minutes. Add sugar and beat into butter until the mixture is a very light colour. Add vanilla and mix in. Sift in flour, salt, 1/4 cup cocoa powder and mix together until uniform. Form into 1 inch balls and place on a lined baking sheet. Place baking sheet in the fridge for 10 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to oven and bake for 12-17 minutes (depending on your oven). Once cooled dust with reserved 1/4 cup dark cocoa powder.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Egg, Ham, and Cheese Cups

Ham & Egg Ramikins
I am so hooked on the 'á la di Stasio' cookbook by Josée di Stasio (see yesterdays post). That is why today we had breakfast for dinner. But this wasn't any normal dinfast, or breakner, we turned it into a little craft, and a tasty one at that.

Get out your cupcake pan, because that is how you make these little cups of goodness. Just start layering bread, black forest ham, and spinach, then spoon in some goat cheese and crack an egg in the middle. You can add anything you want to the cup, I just love goat cheese and spinach with my eggs. These are so much fun to make, and even more exciting to eat.

Egg, Ham, and Cheese Cups

Egg, Ham, and Cheese Cups
adapted from Josée di Stasio's book 'á la di Stasio'
serves 4

8 slices whole wheat bread, crusts removed
1 tbsp. butter
8 slices black forest ham
8 large eggs
1 cup baby spinach
4 tbsp. young goat cheese
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With a rolling pin or wine bottle flatten the bread slices, and then butter one side. Place bread slices one by one in each cupcake cup, butter side down. Layer a ham slice over each bread slice, pushing into the cup. Add spinach to bread and ham cup. Place 1/2 tbsp. of goat cheese in the cup, on top of the spinach. Top the cup off by cracking one egg into the centre. Season with salt and pepper. Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes or until eggs are done.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Sausage and Spinach Shells


Guess where the cheapest and latest cookbooks are found? The library. I say cheap, not free because I always take the books back late and have to pay a couple cents each time.

That is where I found the book 'à la di Stasio' by Josee di Stasio. I have probably passed the book a hundred times in the Quebec book stores, but until recently it was only in French. Not that I can’t read French, it's just that at the time I didn't know who Josée di Stasio was. I still don’t really know who she is, although I bet all the Quebecois chefs out there would smack me for saying so.

Anyways, the photography in the book is beautiful and I am always a fan of cooking tips from chefs of this Province so I took a chance. Delicious. Just simply delicious. This pasta was so simple, and if you use good quality sausage from a butcher, you can’t lose.

If you are in Montreal, check out the Maitre Boucher on Monkland, we bought one medium Italian and one Toulouse échalote sausage for this dish. Any butcher will do, just don’t buy random sausages from the supermarket (barf).
Sausage and Spinach Shells

Sausage and Spinach Shells
adapted from Josee di Stasio's book "a la di Stasio"

1 large sweet onion cut in thin slices
1lb sausage, different types
1-1/2 cups low sodium chicken stock
450 g small shell pasta
5 cups baby spinach
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup grated parmesan

In a very large frypan add olive oil and slightly brown onions. Take sausage out of casing and break it up, then add to pan and cook until no longer pink. Pour in 1 cup of the stock and reduce for a couple minutes. Start a pot of boiling salted water and add pasta, cooking until al dente. Strain the pasta, reserving ¼ cup of the pasta water. Add pasta and baby spinach to frypan along with the ½ cup of stock and reserved pasta water. Season with salt and pepper then stir in cheese.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

New Camera Day

First D80 shot

My hands are up, I’m guilty, I did it, I purchased another camera. The new addition brings my current total up to 9, though realistically only 3 are digital, the remaining 6 being various 35mm as well as pro medium format film cameras (120 format). Now don’t get me wrong, I love my Nikon D40, really, it’s a great camera that takes really wonderful pictures, I’ve just been missing some of the features that are found on more “professional” calibre camera bodies that really don’t make a huge difference to the everyday user, but I am finding more and more that I am wanting these features in a digital slr. Add to this that Christie really wants to learn to use the D40 in order to start taking and exploring photography, and its hard to separate me from my equipment, and it easily adds up to this equation (Ian + new camera = win). It’s a really rare occurrence that a couple can find a common ground through passion for things that go so well together, such as Food and Photography, and Christies passion for cooking has inspired me to really think about food differently. Well its my turn, I’ve got to step it up and help Christie with photography by sharing my passion for it with her, and hopefully become a wee bit better with my communication about the choosing and finishing of the photos as a team with Christie.

So what better camera for her to use as a learning tool than a Nikon D40? Seriously, the Nikon D40 has been my most used camera since I purchased it about 2 years ago, its nice and small, so its easily portable, and its really jam packed with features for a little guy. If you are looking for a wonderful camera that will allow you to jump into the digital slr world, at a price of about 500$ Canadian dollars brand new you cant go wrong (its not much more than most point and shoot digitals), and the difference that a large image sensor makes is just stunning. Point and shoot cameras are great to have, don’t get me wrong, I have one to put in my pocket and carry around for snapshots (a Samsung NV10), but even a 10 megapixel point and shoot cannot give you the quality of a 6 megapixel D40. Why you wonder? Point and shoot cameras use a tiny image sensor, about the size of a stamp, so even at 10 megapixel, it does not record as much detail as a much larger sensor on a digital slr, and the ability to change your lenses doesn’t hurt.

Armed with an empty bank account and a credit card, I set off Monday morning to pick out and buy a new digital slr and surprise Christie when I picked her up at the train station that afternoon with a brand spanking new camera. It wasn’t meant to be, first, the subway went down, so when I got to the store I did not actually have time to comfortably make up my mind. Another day right? I couldn’t do it. Once we dropped Christies luggage back off at her appt, we headed right back out to the store to look as she was excited too. The store was all out of what I wanted (a Nikon D80) and had replaced it with the newer D90, which they were also out of. I almost went for the D300 (1600$ body only geez) but the stores internet was down, leaving them with cash only sales, so I sat on it. Tuesday morning, I decided to check out Montreal’s largest Photo Equipment distributor, L L Lozeau. Wow, I love the place. I spoke with a sales rep for almost an hour, going over what I wanted to do, and what I needed vs. what I did not need. He let me know Id be crazy to buy a D300, and a D90 was just not necessary. The nice salesman actually advised me to save 600$ on a D90 by going for a D80, ½ the price, and it is what I wanted in the first place! Plus the extra money saved allowed me to buy a really nice Micro Nikkor lens, which will do food so stunningly I will want to eat the pictures. I will certainly go back there for any of my photo needs.

Christie has exams all day today, and is busy studying and generally stressing out about school, so she asked me to just write something up about my new, beautiful camera for the blog today, rather than make and photograph a recipe. So, rather than food, I decided to see what I could do with the camera on its first picture. Looking all over for something to shoot, I figured to mull it over in a hot shower… wait…. Found it. So hope you like the first shot with my new spanky, shiny Nikon D80

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Oh pancakes, how I love you. When I was back visiting my parents in Toronto, Mardi Gras was happening. So, on Fat Tuesday my mom made pancakes. They were so good, and no one can beat my mom’s pancakes. I guess it just reminded me of being a kid again, fighting with my brother over who could eat the most pancakes in one sitting.

The next day I begged for pancakes again, but the power went out for a couple hours and we had to go out for dinner. But I was hooked, and on Thursday we made a double batch, but still, it wasn't enough. I whined on Friday for pancakes again, but everyone was sick of them by then.

So, what was the first thing that I made for Ian and me when I got back to Montreal? You guessed it. This picture is actually the plate that I ate. I still think that I could eat them again today.

Mom's Pancakes
adapted from a super old dairy goodness milk calendar
makes 12 pancakes

3/4 cup all purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1 cup milk
2 tbsp butter, melted

Stir together flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Beat together egg, milk and butter; add to dry ingredients all at once; stir just until moistened. Spread 1 level tbsp batter in hot, lightly buttered frypan. Cook until bubbles appear on the surface; turn and brown underside. Serve with (real) maple syrup.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Retro Saucy Chicken

When my mom first made this meal that could feed an army, the recipe only called for four ingredients. Four. And three of those come out of a can or package! Seriously, how can something that tastes so good and homemade come from a can of tomatoes, a can of cranberries, a packet of onion soup, and a ton of chicken? It’s an enigma, but I guess it has been passed around for a very long time because I just heard that the old school original recipe used salad dressing instead of tomatoes. Eww. Who ever thought to switch that ingredient up is a genius.

In keeping with the tradition of altering the recipe as it is passed on, I often brown some mushrooms and green pepper before tossing everything together. But feel free to switch this up any way that you would like, it’s such a fast and easy dinner. Just promise me no salad dressing.

Retro Saucy Chicken

2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 lbs skinless boneless chicken thighs or drumsticks
1 lb button cremini mushrooms
1 green pepper sliced
1 can whole berry cranberries
1 can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 envelope Lipton’s onion soup
1 handful of raisins

1. Preheat oven to 350. Heat oil in large sauté pan and brown chicken pieces. Remove chicken to oven proof casserole dish.
2. Sauté mushrooms and onions. Add tomatoes, cranberries, onion soup mix and raisins and stir until combined and hot.
3. Pour mixture over chicken. Cover and bake for 1 hour.

Easy Custard Flan

Ok, so I'm guessing that all the Barefoot Bloggers are making custard this weekend. If you missed that post, on Thursday we all made Pavlova Chantilly which called for four egg whites. Now everyone has these egg yolks sitting in their fridge, just begging to be made into creamy custard with a sweet caramelized sauce. Well that's what our egg yolks were asking for. So, my mom and I listened to those little yellow guys and whipped up a batch of delicious custard.

Since I have never made custard flan, (I don’t even think that I have tasted it before) my mom led us into this little adventure, and she says that we 'cheat' by using condensed and evaporated milk. Whoot, I wish I could ‘cheat’ that easily into a good grade in physics. (Damned you gravity).
Disclaimer: stay in school kids, don’t cheat, I don’t.

Easy Custard Flan

½ cup sugar
3 tbsp water
11 egg yolks
1 egg
1 can evaporated milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk
Zest of 1 lime

1. Preheat oven to 350. Mix sugar and water in a saucepan over low heat until bubbling and light golden. Pour into 6 custard cups coating the bottoms. Let cool.
2. Beat eggs, evaporated milk and condensed milk together. Strain mixture to eliminate bubbles. Stir in lime zest.
3. Pour egg mixture into custard cups and cover loosely with foil. Place in a water bath with boiling water at least 1 inch deep.
4. Bake on top rack for 30 minutes. Test for doneness with a knife inserted in the centre.
5. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature and then refrigerate.
To unmold, run a knife around the edge then invert onto a plate