Friday, July 31, 2009
One of the dishes we prepared was a Thai Lettuce Wrap. My apologies for lousy photography. I'm lucky to even have snapped one since it seems vultures had invaded the house and no sooner were they (the wraps) done the hands were flying, lettuce leaves being filled, wine being poured - just your regular every day insanity.
I must tell you - although not so pretty to look at, these wraps are a show stopper - absolutely delicious. We used head lettuce rather than the suggested bibb or butter lettuce and they worked just fine. Head lettuce doesn't wrap as well but after being soaked in ice water they were crunchy and cold - combine that with a warm filling - nirvana.
15 Boston Bibb or butter lettuce leaves
1 lb (450 g) lean ground beef
1 Tbsp (15 ml) cooking oil (I used corn oil)
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp (15 ml) light soy sauce
1/4 cup (60 ml) hoisin sauce
2 tsp (10 ml) minced ginger
1 Tbsp (15 ml) rice vinegar
Thai Chili sauce (to taste) - I used about 4 Tbsp
227 ml can of water chestnuts, drained and finely choped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
2 tsp (10 ml) dark sesame oil
Rinse whole lettuce leaves and pat dry, being careful not to tear them. Set aside
In a medium skillet over high heat, brown the ground beef in 15 ml (1 Tbsp) oil, stirring often and reducing the heat to medium, if necessary. Drain and set aside to cool. Cook the onion in the same pan, stirring frequently. Add the garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, ginger, vinegar and chili pepper sauce to the onions and stir. Stir in chopped water chestnuts, green onions and sesame oil and continue cooking until the onions just begin to wilt, about 2 minutes. Mix with beef.
Arrange lettuce leaves around the outer edge of a large serving platter and pile meat mixture in the centre. To serve, allow each person to spoon a portion of the meat into a lettuce leaf. Wrap the lettuce around the meat like a burrito and enjoy.
A single recipe is enough for about 4-5 people. We made a double recipe - good thing we did - the whole thing went in no time.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Today I decided to make something for her that would remind her of her European heritage. A three cheese kugel (noodle pie) still gets her the protein she needs and at least it won't be something she's going to give me a "stink face" about.
12 oz. broad noodles
1/4 lb. cheddar cheese (1 cup grated)
4 oz cream cheese
1 1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup margarine
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cottage cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup corn flake crumbs
cinnamon and brown sugar
Prepare noodles. Drain
Grate cheddar cheese either in food processor or with box grater.
Steel Knife: Process cream cheese with eggs until smooth (20 seconds) scraping down sides once or twice.
Add all ingredients up to corn flake crumbs and mix well. Place in a well greased 9x13" pan.
Sprinkle with corn flakes, cinnamon and brown sugar.
Bake at 350 F for 1 hour until golden brown.
A kugel can be either a side or a main and this one is so easy and really delicious. I topped it with some low fat sour cream and fresh raspberries.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Well, maybe Actor Boy gets his drama queen qualities from his mother (did I really say that?) But then...I guess that's why he's also an actor. Right. Getting back to point. I saw this zebra pasta and I went through one of those moments where I really needed to have this pasta. Am I the only one that thinks it's so very cool? I suspect that when Psychgrad heard my exuberance her response would have been "ok mom...whatever...it's nice".
I had no idea what to do with it so I made it up as I went along and the result was pretty interesting (in a good way).
1 pkg zebra pasta (probably only found in gourmet stores)
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 red pepper, sliced
2 portabello mushroom, sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
splash (or two) of balsamic vinegar
Boil the pasta until done. This pasta seems to cook much faster than normal bowtie pasta (about 8-9 minutes. Drain (I rinsed it so it wouldn't stick together)
In a medium size saucepan, let the anchovies melt down; add pepper, mushroom and cherry tomatoes
About half way through frying the vegetables, add balsamic vinegar and continue to cook for about 5 minutes. Add to pasta; top with feta cheese.
Note: I think you could add anything to this pasta and it would be delicious.
I'm sending this entry over to Amy of Very Culinary , our host for this weeks Presto Pasta Nights .
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Ruth of Once Upon a Feast , Val of More Than Burnt Toast and I put our heads together and decided to create a place where we all can see and sample some of the newest and best on the market. No small job considering that food bloggers are international. It'll be a work in progress but we've now gained enough support that it makes sense to go full steam ahead.
Coupled with the work we do for BloggerAid...Changing the Face of Famine (www.bloggeraidmarketing.ning.com), you're invited to join and participate in View and Review.
Partnered with cookbook publishers and a variety of food purveyers, this is an opportunity for you to participate in book and product reviews. What does this mean?
Members who choose to participate will sign up in the forum under “View and Review” Please let us know if you’d like to participate and we’ll add you to our list of reviewers (see Rules of Engagement), which will be visible to all members of the group so you’ll know when your turn is coming up. You will be set up to receive a copy of a cookbook or a product to review, create a recipe from and submit your review. The list will be visible to all members of the group so you’ll know when your turn is coming up.
Rules of Engagement
1. You must be a member of BloggerAid…Changing the Face of Famine to participate. You can join here . If you have friends who would like to participate, by all means, invite them to join. When you join the forum, please let us know if you have preferences or restrictions. For example, if you’re a vegan, we will arrange for you to receive only vegan books or products for review.
2. You’ll receive a copy of a new cookbook from the publisher. Within a timeframe (to be determined), turn in your review to the forum together with a copy of the picture of the dish you’ve prepared. Post both the review and the picture on your own blog with a link to BACFF.
3. You may choose to either keep the cookbook or donate it to BACFF for auction. You’re under no pressure – foodies love their cookbooks so we’re fine if you decide to keep it.
4. If you're a cookbook author and would like to have your book reviewed, please contact us at blogs4famine(at)gmail(dot)com.
Publishers have notified us that the frequency of the cookbooks can be irregular and we can expect to see some action happening before the fall. We may get 1 book a month – we may get 15 – we’re uncertain at this point. Our partners are excited to participate with us – it’s a win/win for everyone.
We have approached many publishers internationally and although not every country is covered, we’re working behind the scene to make sure that if you’re in Brazil that there will be books available in your country of origin. Some countries may be covered by another country. For example, if you’re in Indonesia, books could be available from Australia.
Today, we secured the support of Loblaws in Canada. If you've been following our blog you'll remember that Loblaws is probably the largest grocery chain in the country so Canadians... get on board.
We could call Read and Review an event, but really, it's an ongoing relationship that we will continue to nurture and make available...no time line.
Monday, July 20, 2009
2 cups all-purpose flour (I used spelt flour)
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
12 tablespoons cold unsaltd butter (1 1/2 sticks), diced
1 egg yolk
2 pounds firm, ripe Italian prune plums, pitted and quartered lengthwise (I used the larger black plums)
**I added about 3/4 cup of fresh blueberries to this too. I loved this addition and would do it again.
**Make sure you're using ripe plums or your tart won't give you the juice you need in this recipe and it'll be too tart (no pun intended :)
Preheat the oven to 400 F
Combine the flour, walnuts and sugar in a large bowl. Add the butter and the egg yolk. Mix, either by hand or with an electric mixer until crumbly (I tried the electric mixer and found using my hands much easier and faster)
Press 1 1/2 cups of the crumb mixture in an even layer into the bottom of a 9 1/2-inch springform or tart pan. Arrange the plums in the pan, skin-side down, to form a flower pattern; begin at the outside and work your way in.
Sprinkle the rest of the crumb mixture evenly over the plums. Bake the tart for 40-50 minutes or until it's lightly browned and the plum juices are bubbling. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and transfer the tart to a flat plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.
We served this with ice cream - a perfect compliment!!!
Saturday, July 18, 2009
They all were catching up on the gossip since they were last together. Who's still alive, who died, who has Alzheimers and where everybody is. This banter went on literally for days. The best is that they're all really hard of hearing and although it's not too funny to poke fun at people with reduced hearing, here's a look at the conversation:
Baba: How was the flight?
R (friend #1): No...my pants aren't too tight.
H (friend #3): What are you talking about, the seats on the plane were terrific, there was lots of room.
Baba: nods and smiles as though she got her answer but in reality didn't hear a thing.
R : Giz, congratulations on your daughter's wedding. You must be so happy.
Giz: Thank you R, yes I'm very proud.
Baba: Why are you complaining, R isn't talking too loud.
You get the drift. A total alien conversation that they all enjoyed and laughed together like old times.
My brother and I planned a BBQ for the golden girls. Usually, I'm the one who brings dessert so I thought that bringing a coffee cake a) wouldn't upset any of their stomachs and b) didn't have sweet icing all over it.
I decided on one of Ina Garten's recipes - Sour Cream Coffee Cake.
12 Tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks) at room-temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (I reduced this to just over a cup)
3 extra large eggs at room-temperature (I used 4 large eggs)
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sour cream
2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)**
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
** If you don't have cake flour, you can substitute 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour plus 1/4 cup cornstarch.
For the Streusel
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
3 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan
Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 4-5 minutes until light. Add the eggs, one at t time, then add the vanila and sour cream. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Finish stirring with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed.
Sor the streusel, place the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt and butter in a bowl and pinch together with your fingers until it forms a crumble. Mix the walnuts, if desired.
Spoon half the batter into the pan and spread it out with a knife. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup streusel. Spoon the rest of the batter in the pan, spread it out and scatter the remaining streusel on top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.
Let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes. Carefully transfer the cake, streusel-side up, onto a serving plate.
The recipe also calls for a glaze made by mixing 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar and 2 Tablespoons of real maple syrup adding drops of water to make the glazy runny and then drizzling over the cake with a fork or spoon. I didn't do this.
The end conversation when this was served was:
Baba: What a beautiful cake - but I don't eat sweets
R: Ok, I'll have your piece
H: I don't eat dessert but maybe just a little piece
...they raved about the cake and while they continued their chatting I cut it into individual servings, wrapped them all up and Baba took it home for "just a little something with tea".
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
I found some beautiful heirloom tomatoes and the fragrance was fantastic. I decided to make a small salad of them combined with cucumbers completely without dressing. As you cut into them, they're so juicy that they actually dress the salad themselves. Absolutely mouth watering. Here are some of the other scenes from the market.
So shopping done, decision made about the tomatoes - now what for the main course. In the category of easy and good for you, I decided to combine the tomato salad with some mild tasting Tilapia. The prep on this fish dish was literally minutes and the result was terrific.
4 Tilapia fillets
1 tsp minced garlic
Juice of 1/2 large lemon
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Pepper (to taste)
1. Spray non stick spray in an oven proof dish that holds 4 fillets. Set oven temperature to 400 F.
2. Wash filets and dry well with a paper towel.
3. In a small dish mix together the remaining ingredients.
4. Place filets in prepared dish and pour prepared dressing over top.
5. Bake filets in oven for approximately 20 minutes uncovered.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
R has now progressed to planning a mass intervention for Giz and everyone who commented in Giz's favour on the last post.
This post is the post you've been waiting for. The wedding day post and pictures. I'm skipping over the Sunday events, another graduation ceremony and a brunch with all of the out of town guests. Sunday night was consumed with last minute preparations: cake and cupcake baking, flower arrangment and last minute knitting.
Despite Kat's warning, I was up half the night finishing my shawl. I had worked too hard and too long to not finish it. Sorry for the cut-off head, but I think this pictures shows the shawl well.
What a relief to finish it! But, the 6:00am hair appointment came way too quickly. With only 2.5 hours of sleep the night before, I was half asleep while getting my hair done.
I gave the hairdresser this picture as inspiration:
I was honest with the stylist and told him that I wasn't sure I liked it. Maybe I had an idea that it would look more like the picture. But, our hair colour and length is different and my face is not as long as hers.
Giz's hair is usually very curly. I'm not sure the stylist liked my "you look like Roy Orbison" comment part-way through the styling. In the end, it was quite nice.
We got married at City Hall. I can't say that I enjoyed the experience. R and I wanted a completely private ceremony, maybe on a beach somewhere. But I guess it's a compromise, somewhere in between a ceremony with all guests and an entirely private one, somewhere romantic.
After the ceremony, we rested for a bit and then finished up preparations for the ceremony. We had arranged for a professional photographer and had to go meet her a couple of hours before the wedding. Since the weather here had been so unpredictable and rainy (still is a month later), we started to panic about getting rained on. By some miracle, the sky cleared up -- maybe even too much (I really shouldn't complain though).
From the beginning of wedding planning, we knew that having professional photography was a must. If having quality photos of your wedding is important to you, get a professional photographer that takes the type of pictures you like. Meet with him/her/them ahead of time to talk about packages and the style of pictures you would like (we wanted more candid/natural shots). We went with Fleischer Photography and are quite happy with the final product. Kathy took our pictures. We went with the package to keep the digital images.
Here are some of the professional shots (we have over 500 of them to choose from):
The reception was held in the Courtyard Restaurant, a stone-brick heritage building that is a common wedding location in Ottawa. They set up the room to your specifications and are clearly very comfortable with overseeing the evening.
One of their features is a personalized menu that is given to each guest at the beginning of the night. Guests can order for a selection of dishes (here's the post about our tasting).
The soup was a carrot squash soup (no pictures because mine are blurry). I warned the restaurant about 5 times that it HAD to be hot. They probably thought we were crazy. In the end, it worked though because it was hot. I would have to say that the soup was good. It seems a bit strange to me to have a butternut squash soup at a June wedding.
The next course was the salad.
I was warned that the salad wasn't great. It tasted like they had dressed it about 15 minutes prior to serving. The dressing was practically non-existent with the exception of the softening effect it had on the lettuce. We requested more dressing.
Apparently the highlight of the evening was the steak:
I had the chicken, which wasn't bad. Not mind-blowing either.
Toward the end of the evening, we had cake and cupcakes (Giz did a super job on these -- everyone was very complimentary and I did not miss have a professionally done cake).
We were also very happy with the maple syrup giveaways.
So - that's the wedding day. It was small (35 guests), pretty low-key. I felt that it was a good number in terms of the room size and in being able to actually talk to all of my guests but sit down and eat dinner too. I certainly would not have been able to get it all done without Giz's help. Next week we have another reception in my hometown for friends and family.
I must say, I'm relieved that it's done. I enjoyed most of the process, but am quite content to not be planning my wedding anymore.
On to the next...HOUSE SHOPPING! R and I almost put an offer in on a REALLY NICE place today. We decided to bail though. I'm sad about it, but know it was the right decision. The upstairs only had two bedrooms (another bedroom on the main floor and one in the basement). We hope to have a couple of kids -- so we felt that it was important to hold out for a place that had more than 2 bedrooms on one level. I'll get over it. But I really loved the kitchen. :(
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Psychgrad and Giz seem to thrive when the kitchen is overflowing with open cookbooks, dirty dishes, and ridiculous amounts of food. I, on the hand, find it draining. In fact, I am still recovering from the wedding preparations. This posting will expose the dark side of the Equal Opportunity Kitchen and shine a light on the signs of an addiction to cooking.
Most of my family members and friends were scheduled to arrive in town a few days before the wedding. Luckily, I had booked off a couple days in advance of their arrivals in order to run a few errands and do a bit of cleaning so that I could spend time with them once they arrived. Much to my dismay, the place was a disaster. There were cookies everywhere. There was flour on the floor. There were stacks of dirty dishes filling the sink. At times, I couldn’t even see the kitchen counter surface because there was so much stuff on top of it. The mess overflowed into the kitchen and even into the office as we needed more storage space. I tried to clean the place, but it was a losing battle. It just kept getting worse and worse. How on earth could I explain to my family and friends that they couldn’t come over, because the place was too dirty? Below are a couple of photos that show what the place looked like.
One day I came home and Psychgrad and Giz seemed really overwhelmed. A bunch of people were coming over for supper the next day and we had a lot of food left to prepare. I jumped into the role of Project Manager and tried to motivate Giz by telling her to work faster, but to no avail. An important part of Project Management is understanding the “Scope Triangle” and that time, cost and quality are the trade-offs inherent in every project.
I couldn’t get Giz to work faster and we couldn’t postpone the event, so I couldn’t change the time aspect. Giz wasn’t open to ordering a pizza or anything else and I couldn’t pay anyone enough to squeeze into the disaster of a kitchen to help out, so I couldn’t change the cost aspect. The quality aspect was going to suffer. It was clear that we needed to change the scope. We needed to eliminate a few options from the menu. However, when I suggested to Giz that we don’t make everything as planned, she replied, “what are you getting at?” She couldn’t fathom the idea of hosting an event and not having an insane amount of food. This was a moment of clarity for me. I realized that Giz has an addiction to cooking and she needs help. Here’s the proof:
• Instead of reading regular books, she reads cookbooks.
• Instead of watching real television shows, she watches cooking shows.
• Instead of checking normal web sites, she checks out food blogs.
• She asked me to go to the grocery store at least twice each day.
• She is so out of touch with the real world, she hasn’t even heard of Usain Bolt. He was only named Sportsman of the Year!!!
We need to have an intervention to save her. Who is willing to help? Please post messages of encouragement. Together, we can help her beat this addiction to cooking!
Monday, July 6, 2009
2 cups dried (or canned) chickpeas
1/2 large red onion, diced
1/2 large red pepper, diced
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup carrots, diced or shredded
6 Tbsp olive oil
6 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. cumin (or more if you like)
1 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1. Soak dry chickpeas in water overnight
2. Drain and rinse well. Cook on medium for approximately 30 minutes. Set aside.
3. Dice vegetables, add to cooled chick peas
4. Mix in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, curry and cumin (to taste)
Saturday, July 4, 2009
But first, I bring you the 3rd installment of The Wedding Story...
With the first full day of events impending, Giz and I headed to the Byward Market to stock up on supplies. We had about an hour to get a lot done. So, I was literally dragging Giz from place to place telling her to put the camera down and get a move on.
She did manage to sneak in a few shots.
Unlike the Farmer's Market, the stands at the Byward Market contain a lot of produce that is not local. This has led to quite a debate, locally. Including a petition. Last year, the addition of a colour-coding system was added to inform customers of the distance the produce has travelled to get to the market.
Red means Canadian.
Blue means imported.
Green means from within 100 kilometres of Ottawa.
Yellow means organic produce from anywhere.
There are still some problems with this system as the stickers are not always prominently displayed, produce from different regions are often sold in the same basket and there is the occasional mislabelling.
One of the main benefits of the market is that there are a bunch of small stores in the area that are there year round (even when the stands close for the winter).
There are two cheese stores very close to each other (I get the names confused). They're both good. I think the one we went to was The House of Cheese. Or, maybe it was International Cheese & Deli.
One of the best reasons to go to the market is to visit La Bottega, a store specializing in Italian food.
At this point, we were beyond late and I was stressing. So, Giz was very restricted in her picture taking. We picked up the remainder of what we needed and returned to the apartment to get the "day before" preparations under way.
Thankfully, I had a barrage of help Saturday morning to get everything done. Life is so much easier when other people do your work for you. I miss my entourage (sniff sniff).
Here are some shots from Saturday dinner (some are blurry -- there was just too much going on at once to take good shots).
Included a mix of cheddar, brie, smoked gouda, havarti and cranberry goat's cheese.
Orzo Caprese Salad (Melissa - you know I'm obsessed with this stuff)
I made the pesto without pine nuts because one of the guests is deathly allergic to nuts (slight challenge).
Not the most beautiful dish in the world -- but it was a big hit and super easy to make. We marinaded the salmon for 30 minutes with olive oil, lemon juice, dill, salt and pepper. HUGE HIT.
Here you can also see a bit of the green salad we served along with the baguette (some fresh, some made into crostini). Guests had an option of bruschetta or portabello tapinade.
Also a favourite, here's the spanikopita (easy to make ahead of time, freeze and warm up). You can also see Giz's towel cake in the background.
Make sure shortening and butter are at room temp. Mix them together to smooth out, add vanilla, then icing sugar (a little bit at a time to avoid a counter disaster). Add water as needed (depending on desired consistency).
This 3-tier stand was a wedding gift (from Giz, of course). The top layer is some leftover banana loaf and the other layers are the famous Blueberry Crumble Bars that everyone was making last year. I used a mix of blueberries and a saskatoon berries to make them.