Saturday, June 30, 2012

JC100 Roast Chicken



This week's recipe coming from Julia Child is for her very well known roast chicken.  This roast chicken is the epitome of simplicity and teaches us that something really doesn't have to be complicated to be wonderful.

The second thing I knew was that I waned to use my T-Fal Actifry to make sweet potato fries. I've already tried regular french fries  here  in my Acti-Fry and wanted to give the sweet potato its turn.  If you want your sweet potato fries crispier, add a tablespoon of flour or cornstarch to the mix and then add your tablespoon of oil.  I don't mind a softer fry so I peeled and cut up 2 sweet potatoes making sure they were evenly cut so they would cook evenly.  Add your Tablespoon of oil (I used canola) and set time for 28 minutes.  The result was  soft fries (fine by me) and super delicious and entirely guilt free.  I added a smattering of kosher salt to the top.



Ingredients
  • 1 (3 1/2 to 4 pound) chicken
  • 1 small yellow onion, quartered
  • lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup celery leaves
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 cups chicken broth

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Wash the chicken in hot water and dry thoroughly. Season the cavity with salt and black pepper and stuff with the onion, lemon, and celery leaves. Rub the chicken lightly with softened butter and season all over with salt and pepper. Tie the drumsticks ends together and set the chicken, breast side up, in an oiled v-shaped rack or on an oiled roasting pan in the oven.
Roast for 15 minutes at 425 degrees F, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees, baste the chicken, and roast for 15 minutes. Add the chopped onion and carrot to the pan, basting them and the chicken. Continue roasting the chicken until the juices run clear, for a total of 45 minutes plus an additional 7 minutes for each pound. (In other words, a 3 1/2 pound chicken would take a basic 45 minutes plus an additional 25 minutes, for a total 70 minutes or 1 hour and 10 minutes of cooking time.)
Remove the chicken and spoon the fat out of the roasting pan. Into the pan, stir in the herbs and blend in the broth and, stirring constantly, boil for several minutes on the stovetop to concentrate the flavor. Correct the seasoning and strain the sauce into a warm sauceboat. Carve the chicken and serve with the warm sauce.  You're a rock star with minimal effort.

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

French Toast Bake


It probably shouldn't be me blogging about this, since Giz is the one that made this delicious French Toast Bake recipe.  But, I guess being the one who took the pictures...and the one who ate most of it puts me in a good position to talk about it.

At first, I was skeptical.  I like my french toast made with challah, soaked in a healthy amount of milk and egg just before pan frying (results in a french toast that is on the softer side) and with syrup on top.


French Toast Bake
source



1/2 cup melted butter (1 stick)
1 cup brown sugar
1 loaf Texas toast (we used challah)
4 eggs
1 1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Powdered sugar for sprinkling
Directions
1. Melt butter in microwave & add brown sugar….stir till mixed.
2. Pour butter/sugar mix into bottom of 9 x 13 pan….spread around
3. Beat eggs, milk, & vanilla
4. Lay single layer of Texas Toast in pan
5. Spoon 1/2 of egg mixture on bread layer
6. Add 2nd layer of Texas Toast
7. Spoon on remaining egg mixture
8. Cover & chill in fridge overnight
9. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes
10. Sprinkle with powdered sugar





11. Serve with warm maple syrup


Delicious! We found that the top layer wasn't as coated with the flavouring as the bottom.  So, eating it upside down may be the way to go in the future.  I also quite liked the leftovers cold (but maybe I'm strange that way).  Of course, one of the biggest pros of this recipe is that you make it in advance, which is great for when you have company.
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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Pickled Sugar Snap Peas


Speaking to my friend, I was asking about recipes that could work for an every night or entertainment table.  I love foods with colour and texture and love love integrating something new.  My friend shared with me that she saw something really interesting and that she would send me the recipe.

I couldn't imagine pickling sugar snap peas but I did and I love them and as long as I can find sweet peas I'll be making sure I have these in the house.






Adapted from The Joy of Pickling via Epicurious

1 1/4 cups white distilled vinegar
1 1/4 cups cold water
1 tablespoon kosher or pickling salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 pound sugar snap peas, stems trimmed and strings removed
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 or 2 small dried chile peppers, slit lengthwise or a couple pinches dried red pepper flakes



In a nonreactive saucepan, heat the vinegar with the salt and sugar until they are dissolved. Remove from the heat, and add the cold water. (This gives you a leg up on getting the liquid to cooling the liquid.)
When the vinegar mixture is cool, pack the sugar snaps, garlic and chile peppers or flakes into a 1-quart jar or bowl, and pour the brine over it. Cover with a non-reactive cap, or plastic wrap.
The original recipe suggests you store the jar in the refrigerator for two weeks before eating the pickled peas.  They have a pickled taste after 24 hours and I'd be curious to know if they lasted the 2 weeks in the fridge at your place.  


This recipe took no time at all to prep and no processing. 


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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Banana Jam





My Wednesday/Sunday outdoor market has a few new vendors, one of which is a lady who makes preserves.  She loves to chat and is really proud of her product sampling her wares each week.  One could have a full meal just on samples at the market.

I tried her banana jam and knew I'd be making it very soon.  She used crystallized sugar in her jam and that wasn't really appealing to me and it was uber sweet so off I went to make my own banana jam.
I found a recipe at  All Recipes.  With a little bit of adaptation I made it my own.  Think peanut butter and banana jam.  Unless you have an allergy to nuts I can't even imagine you not loving this recipe.

3 cups sugar (I used 2 cups and would still reduce to 1.5 cups)
1 cup water
6 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp ground cloves
3 1/2 cup mashed bananas
6 - 125  ml jars

Combine the sugar and water, bring to a boil, reduce heat to a low boil for 10 minutes
Stir in lemon juice and cloves.
Add mashed bananas and reduce heat to a simmer, stirring frequently for approximately 45 minutes (should be thick)
Divide among the jars and refrigerate.

Notes:
1.  I wanted a smooth jam so used my immersion blender to get out the banana lumps.  Worked perfectly.
2.  I used 250 ml jars and got 2 1/2 jars of jam
3.  The jam isn't processed so don't have the expectation that it'll last a year.  Everything I've read says 2--3 weeks so small batches are in order.


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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Blueberry Crumble Cake


Every year, current and previous residents of my street are invited to a picnic.  About 50% of the street slowly trickles onto a neighbour's lawn and catches up on neighbourhood gossip.  In general, I  try to keep a healthy distance from my neighbours.  I've heard too many horror stories and every once in a while, you'll see or hear something that makes you take a mental note to avoid someone.

Take, for example, my neighbour who has yet to mow his lawn.  The day I saw him jump his fence and start swearing and yelling his head off at someone, I thanked my lucky stars that he doesn't live in my house and made a mental note to avoid him.

At the picnic there was another uncomfortable experience with a different neighbour.  I was chatting with the neighbour when the former owner of his house came up to us.  Former owner asked how the house was doing.  Neighbour said, "It's one big project -- I've been working non-stop."  I thought that it was a bit insensitive to say to former owner, who is in his 80s and lived in that home for over 40 years. But, I let it go.  Then neighbour continued: "You didn't do any work on that house.  I call it 'the dump'." Awkward!

After a couple more insults from neighbour, former owner just walked away from the conversation.  R and I stood there a bit dumbfounded.  Finally, I said meekly, "I don't think he liked when you called the place, "the dump."  Neighbour said he didn't care and he was really angry about the condition of the house.

Personally, I think it's natural to have animosity with the former owner of the house. It's almost inevitable that you're going to feel like something wasn't revealed to you.  Not to mention that it's probably the biggest investment of your life.  So the stakes are high.  But, there's really nothing to be gained by talking to the previous owner that way and it comes off as cruel when the previous owner is so old he can hardly stand.  The former owner moved into a retirement residence because he couldn't maintain the home.  It was a difficult move for him to leave the home he raised his kids in.  I still see him and his wife, every once in a while, circle the block to check the place out.

On a more positive note, the dish I made for the picnic was really good!  But that should come as no surprise since all Ina Garten recipes are delicious.

Blueberry Crumble Cake


Ingredients

For the streusel:

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

For the cake:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (3/4 stick)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • Confectioners' sugar for sprinkling

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9-inch round baking pan.

For the streusel:

Combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl. Stir in the melted butter and then the flour. Mix well and set aside.

For the cake:

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla, lemon zest, and sour cream. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Fold in the blueberries and stir with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out with a knife. With your fingers,

crumble the topping evenly over the batter. 


Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely and serve sprinkled with confectioners' sugar.


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Monday, June 11, 2012

Parsley and Mint Meatballs




A while ago I had the pleasure of watching the Three Greek Sisters  create these Greek meatballs.  They just made it look so easy and the aroma while they were cooking was sheer heaven.  The friend I was with and I both agreed that this was a must try recipe and we've now added this recipe to our regular repetoire of "good things".

Follow the recipe to a "T" and you'll never be sorry with these entirely delicious and soft meatballs.  I've never used mint in a meatball recipe before but now I feel like "how can you make them without it".

1 lb. (500 g) ground beef, extra lean
1/2 yellow onion, minced
1/2 cup each fresh parsley and mint, chopped
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 egg
1 Tbsp yellow mustard
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp oregano, dried
1/2 tsp salt Pepper, as desired

Combine ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly with hands. Let mixture sit in refrigerator for at least an hour. Shape meat into bite-sized balls and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Place in a preheated 450 degree oven for 15-20 minutes until brown and cooked through.

I didn't serve Tzatziki sauce but here's a great recipe from Jerry's Thoughts, Musings and Rants and lower fat too.



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Friday, June 8, 2012

Fletcher's Smokies and a New Toy


Friday, the start of what looks like a beautiful weekend, lots of foodie related events going on this weekend - what could be better.  Planning a BBQ with friends or family during the weekend?  I've got some tips to share with you.

I recently received a pack of 4 varieties of  smokies from  Fletcher's Fine Foods.  Did you ever hear of them?  I hadn't.  I was getting ready to go to Ottawa to visit with Psychgrad and "R" - perfect - my contribution to a BBQ and easy peasey to deal with.  Packed 6/pack there are 4 varieities; smokie, cheddar, picante and sweet; something for everybody.  Of course, before I left, do you really believe that I could just leave the smokies in the freezer without trying at least one.



Wait... I'm not going to have just a smokie although that probably wouldn't be so bad.  I have a new toy and what a perfect way to try it out.  Yes, I caved and bought a T-Fal Actifry.  I've wanted one for such a long time and the thought of being able to have fries without all the fat was seriously appealing.  


So ... I cut up some russet potatoes (first wash and dry them really well and make sure you cut them similar sizes so they all get ready at the same time) and added my one Tablespoon of oil (I still can't believe that part), set the timer and went to prepare my smokie.


This type of meal is a huge big treat for me and takes me right back to my childhood.  Can you think of anything more nostalgic than a smokie and fries.  

Fire up the BBQ, get yourself some smokies, put up your feet and have a terrific weekend.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

June Cooking Light - Lemon Almond Tarts



The days are getting longer and the weeks are flying faster and faster. Before we turn around Val will be on her bucket list trip to the Amalfi coast. I'm mentioning Val's trip since June's theme for the Cooking Light Virtual Supper Club is hers and interesting that we'd be focusing on Mediterranean style dishes. Since it's likely the only trip I'm taking to Italy this year, virtual is good.

I combed the recipes of Cooking Light and found this recipe for Lemon Almond Tarts that was begging be to give it a try.  It was just so easy to make.



Ingredients 

1/2 cup blanched almonds
3 tablespoons brown sugar
36 vanilla wafers
1/4 cup butter, melted
Cooking spray
1 (10-ounce) jar lemon curd
3 large egg whites
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water

Preparation


1. Preheat oven to 400°.
2. Combine first 3 ingredients in a food processor; process until finely ground. With motor on, drizzle butter through food chute; process until blended. Press about 1/4 cup crumbs into the bottom and up sides of each of 8 (4-inch) tart pans coated with cooking spray.
Bake at 400° for 10 minutes or until toasted. Cool.
3. Preheat broiler.
4. Spoon curd evenly into crusts.
Place egg whites and salt in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until soft peaks form. Combine granulated sugar and 1/4 cup water in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook, without stirring, until a thermometer registers 250°. Pour hot syrup in a thin stream over egg whites, beating until stiff peaks form. Spread egg white mixture over tarts. Broil 30 seconds or until lightly browned



Want to see what the others are doing?  Check them out.  If you close your eyes, you might be able to hear the waves of the ocean on the coast.  

Making this tart was fun - just be careful to get it out of the oven before the top starts to get a little too brown - but we won't discuss that here and I can't possibly repeat what came out of my mouth when the golden brown was starting to be more than golden.

Val of More Than Burnt Toast provided our main dish of   Chicken with Olives and Lemons and Fresh Mediterranean Salad 

Sandi of Whistlestop Cafe Cooking made a treat of Warm Olives. I admit I've never tried warm olives but now have a mission for something new to me.

Jerry of Jerry's Thoughts, Musings and Rants made a gorgeous Classic Tzatziki and served it with warm pita.
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Monday, June 4, 2012

Mia's Indian Cuisine


It's common to hear stories about people having a lot of challenges after immigrating to Canada.  Finding a job in your discipline (or one that pays sufficiently and is satisfying), adjusting to a new culture, learning English or French and developing a network are some of the keys to successful integration.  Often times, this takes more than one generation.  So, it's really nice to hear exceptions to this, like the recent restaurant opening of Mia's Indian Cuisine.  Take a moment to read a little bit about the family's story here.

While Giz was in town, we went for dinner to check out the new restaurant.  The decor was simple, with nice white linen on the table.  Some of the reviews insinuate that the service hasn't hit its stride.  But, I found everyone to be friendly (maybe a bit timid).  Even though it was a Saturday evening, the food came out at a reasonable pace.  

To start, we order vegetable samosas.  They were fresh-tasting and better than what we've had at several other local Indian restaurants.


They also brought out some cracker-like appetizer with a chutney dip.  


For the main, we order butter chicken, a tandoori dish and a chana masala.  The chana masala was the favourite at our table.  I found the butter chicken to be too sweet and the tandoori was mixed.  The lamb was quite tough, but the chicken was good.  Since we like spicy food, I was hoping for a bit more heat in our food.     





The naan was delicious.


The salad came with the meal.  I'm still trying to figure out if a side salad is typical to Indian cuisine or if the owners are doing it to appeal to local clientele.  If it's the latter, it's a bit lame.  I think a basic iceberg lettuce salad with a couple of cut vegetables doesn't add much to the table.   


Overall, we were happy with the meal and would return.  In the future, I'll probably opt for some spicier dishes and hope that they modify their butter chicken recipe.  

Mia's Indian Cuisine on Urbanspoon
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Friday, June 1, 2012

JC100 Salad Nicoise




Have you been seeing the JC100 (Julia Child 100) banner featured on a number of blogs displaying recipes that have been taken from the Julia Child collections?  Several bloggers are paying homage to this culinary giant and what would have been her 100th birthday this August 15th.  Maybe I'm aging myself here but I remember watching her hosting her t.v. show and making really lousy attempts at mimicking her very distinctive voice.   Let's also not forget that Julia was 6'1" tall and I'm only 5'2".

Each week a new recipe comes into my mailbox encouraging me to stretch myself and laugh at myself as I revisit "the voice".  I still can't get it right but it sure makes me laugh whenever I try.

This week's recipe is Julia's very famous Salad Nicoise.  Great as an appetizer; kind of a French antipasto and exceptional as a whole meal loaded with flavour, texture and good healthy ingredients.  Julia would probably be horrified if she realized I left out the Boston lettuce and the olives but this has always been the way I eat this salad and it's in my top 5 salad category.

Ingredients


3 cups cold, blanched green beans
3 or 4 quartered tomatoes
1 cup vinaigrette (French dressing) with herbs
1 head Boston lettuce, separated, washed, drained and dried
3 cups cold French potato salad
1 cup canned tuna chunks, drained
1/2 cup pitted black olives, preferably the dry Mediterranean type
2-3 hard-boiled eggs, cold, peeled and quartered
6-12 canned anchovy filets, drained
2-3 Tbsp minced, fresh green herbs (I used parsley)

French Dressing (Sauce Vinaigrette)  **

2 Tbsp good wine vinegar or a mixture of wine vinegar and lemon juice (I used white wine vinegar)
1/4 tsp salt
Optional:  1/4 tsp dry mustard
6 Tbsp salad or olive oil
1-2 Tbsp minced green herb such as parsley, chives, tarragon, basil or a pinch of dried herbs

** This recipe doesn't make a full 1/2 cup of vinaigrette - I would double it

Place all ingredients in a closed top jar and shake vigorously for about 30 seconds
Slice cold potatoes and toss with some of the vinaigrette
Toss the lettuce leaves in the salad bowl with 1/4 cup of vinaigrette and place the leaves around the edge of the bowl.
Arrange the potato salad in the bottom of the bowl and build your salad with the other ingredients.
Just before serving, season the beans and tomatoes with several spoonfuls of vinaigrette.  Toss the lettice leaves in the salad bowl with 1/4 cup of vinaigrette 
Pour the remaining dressing over the top.
Voila




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