Monday, May 31, 2010

BBQ Season - Woo Hoo!!!!!

One of the drawbacks of living a condo lifestyle is that you're not allowed to barbecue on your patio. One of the pluses of condo living is that when people want to get together for a BBQ, it's never at your house. Now that the gorgeous weather has come to eastern Canada, that identifiable smell infiltrates the nostrils and I'm out looking for the nearest backyard smoke. A fantastic jump start to summer appeared at my door.

BloggerAid-Changing the Face of Famine , has a wonderful program called View & Review. As a member, we partner with book publishers,food purveyors, grocers and publicists. President's Choice , Canada's largest grocer is one of our partners. Their new BBQ program has just kicked off and several lucky members of BACFF received a promotional package to try and review. The offering came packaged in a really practical and attractive cooler. The array of PC products: Slider Thins Mini Burger Buns, New World EVOO Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 100% Sparking Fruit Juice, Glaze with Balsamic Vinegar of Moderna, Maple Bacon Marinade, Grilling & Roasting Seasoning Grinder, Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies, Thick Cut Ballpark Hot Dog Rippled Potato Chips, a red (to stimulate the appetite) apron and a $10 Gift Card to purchase other offerings (my eye is on the PC Ice Cream).

The second kick start is the President's Choice Canada's Biggest BBQ Contest offering more than $65,000 worth of prizes to be won. This BBQ is touring across Canada and you can find all the details and stops HERE

We've all seen the sliders in restaurants and served at parties. Finding the actual buns, short of making them myself was always work. I was really excited to find them in this package and to know that they're available at my local grocery store. They do exactly what they're supposed to do - take a back seat to the filling and give you a fun option to serve in just about any setting. Of course it was the first item on my list to try. I used my regular hamburger recipe, just shaped the burgers smaller and paired them with the thick cut ballpark hot dog rippled potato chips and the sparkling fruit juice. At first I thought the potato chips sounded wierd; I mean why would I want a potato chip that tastes like a hot dog. This is one of those "don't judge a book by its cover" things - I love them!!! I rarely treat myself to potato chips which made these even more special. The sparkling juice; also really tasty. I'm going to redo this whole configuration for my nephew's 15th birthday party and I can't even imagine his friends not loving them.

On movie night, I took out the Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies and introduced them to my company. I heard comments like "I doubt anything will be better than the PC Decadent Chocolate Chip Cookie" and the debate lasted about 10 minutes representing the length of time it took for the debaters to finish the whole box of cookies.

I really wanted to try to combine several of the products together and came up with so many different ways. Do I marinate chicken tenders for skewers?...cook the chicken and create a salad ... so many options. I decided to marinate chicken with the Maple Bacon marinade, fast fry in the EVOO, add a goodly amount of fresh garlic (can you ever have too much garlic?, a variety of vegetables, and then put them over noodles and finish with the Glaze with balsamic vinegar of Moderna.

The EVOO, imported from Chile has this incredible fruity flavour with no bitterness at all. It's my new olive oil of choice. The marinade gave the chicken a slightly sweet bacon flavour that definitely came through after cooking. I've tried so many marinades that didn't hold up to the cooking - this one - very good. The best part of this one is that the sodium count is very low so makes it a "can do" for me. I put a little of the glaze over the top of it all and found the whole combination a hit. I'd make it again.

I didn't have an opportunity to try out the Grilling and Roasting seasoning but when I checked the sodium count I was very pleasantly surprised to see that it's very low.

I love that our grocers are making attempts to be more and more innovative with their offerings. I haven't always been entirely kind to the PC people but this BBQ has kicked off with a big thumbs up from me. PC's new tag line is "worth switching supermarkets for"... if you're in Canada and haven't been to a President's Choice store - what are you waiting for? StumbleUpon

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Banana Pancakes & Blueberry Syrup

Mother's Day and brunch just go together. So, let me share some pictures and recipes from a recent brunch. Not too long ago we had our friends Steve and Amelie over for brunch. The menu was inspired by a recipe for blueberry syrup I saw on Hungry and Frozen.

Blueberry Syrup
from Nigella Express

125ml (1/2 a cup) maple syrup or honey
200g blueberries

Put both ingredients into a pan and bring to the boil. Let it bubble gently for 2-3 minutes then pour into a jug.

Clearly not so good at following instructions -- a few extra blueberries won't hurt anyone.

Steve and Amelie are among the select few friends who know about this blog. Steve really wanted to be featured on the blog. Here's your big moment Steve:

Steve's elbow is displaying the banana pancakes.

Banana Pancakes

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1.Combine flour, white sugar, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together egg, milk, vegetable oil and bananas.
2.Stir flour mixture into banana mixture; batter will be slightly lumpy. In half of the mixture, I added chocolate chips (they were the first to go).

See the smiley face???

3.Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Cook until pancakes are golden brown on both sides; serve hot

We served the pancakes with turkey bacon, fresh fruit and whipped cream.

This dish was a wedding gift from R's sister. Need to find more ways to use it!

Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Panko Crusted Shrimp Salad

You know that feeling of intermittent excitement when a trip is coming up? For me, it's the excitement that keeps on giving because I'll forget that I'm going somewhere and then, all of a sudden, remember that I have a trip coming up.

I've been feeling like that lately. But, I don't actually have any travel plans. I can't decide if it's a good thing to feel excited about day-to-day life or a bit like thinking that tomorrow is Friday when it's only Thursday.

(As a side note -- is it seriously only Wednesday?)

In lieu of an actual trip, I'm looking forward to a summer in Ottawa. Everyone seems to be talking about how Ottawa is on the brink of a major shift. I'm not sure what exactly this shift is toward - but I think it might up our coolness factor.


Here's a recipe I made long ago...well before my freezer was inundated by Giz's most recent visit.

Panko Crusted Shrimp Salad

approx 20 shrimp
1 egg
3/4 cup of panko bread crumbs
salt and pepper
salad fixings
your preferred vinagrette

PG's Preferred Vinagrette (quantities to taste)

olive oil, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, honey, salt, pepper, basil and oregano (both dried)

Set oven to 350F.

Mix panko crumb with salt a papper. You can add other spices. I added a few (onion and garlic powder), but I will probably stick to green herbs next time.

Dip raw, deshelled/deveined shrimp (I leave tail on) in egg, followed by panko crumbs. Place shrimp on cookie sheet. I used my my silpat to keep things from sticking.

Bake the shrimp for 20 minutes (approx). Make your preferred salad base while shrimp is cooking along with a dressing of your choosing. I usually use an oil based sauce -- but I bet a cream-based sauce would be delicious too.

Verdict: Super simple meal. Flavourful. May lead to desire to encrust all food in panko crumbs. StumbleUpon

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Strawberry Banana Cream Pie

I saw this neat video about Cupcakes in Ottawa on Apartment 613 this morning.

Cupcake Culture in Ottawa from Dawghaus Studios on Vimeo.

Cupcake culture is alive and well in the capital! I'm really looking forward to the 2nd Capital Cupcake Camp.

Capital Cupcake Camp 2.0 will be held at City Hall on Sunday, September 26, 2010!

You can read about the first camp here.

I like using invites to a friend's house as an excuse to try new, more involved recipes. It gives me the freedom to not worry about other portions of the meal and to leave my kitchen/house a disaster in order to focus on the dish, if necessary (read: typically necessary).

This recipe was inspired by Joy The Baker's post.

Strawberry Banana Cream Pie
adapted from Dorie Greenspan

for the filling:
2 cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 ripe bananas, sliced
10 fresh strawberries, sliced (I used more)

for the topping:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

for the tart crust, if not using mini Dufour shells:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoons (9 tablespoons) unsalted cutter, cold or frozen, cut into cubes
1 large egg yolk

to make the tart crust:
Put the flour, powdered sugar and salt in a food processor fit the the blade attachment. Pulse a few times to combine. Scatter the pieces of cold butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in. There will be pieces of butter that are the size of oatmeal flakes and butter the size of peas. Beat the egg yolk with a fork and add a little of the egg yolk at a time to the flour mixture. Pulse for 10 seconds at a time. When the egg is in, process in longer pulses until the dough forms clumps and curds. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that may have escaped mixing.

Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and the sides of the pan. Press the crust so that the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes before baking.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter the shiny side of a piece of foil and fit the foil, butter side down, tightly against the frozen crust. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust is puffed, gently press it down with your fingers.
Bake the uncovered crust for 8 to 10 more minutes on the baking sheet. Keep an eye on the crust. It will brown quickly.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before filling.

to make the filling:
Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan.

In a large, heavy-bottom saucepan, whisk the yolks together with the brown sugar, cornstarch and salt until well blended and thick. Whisking without stopping, drizzle about 1/4 cup of the hot milk into the egg mixture, warming the eggs so they don’t cook and curdle. Still whisking, slowly add the rest of the hot milk in a steady steam.

Place the pan over medium heat and, whisking constantly (make sure to get the edges of the pan), bring the mixture to a boil. Boil, still whisking for one minute before removing from the pan from the heat. Mixture will be thick and silky. Be warned, once the mixture starts to boil, it will thicken very quickly. Don’t be afraid to remove the pan from the flame to whisk it smooth.

Whisk in the vanilla extract. Let stand for 5 minutes then whisk in the butter, stirring until fully incorporated and the custard is smooth and silky. Transfer custard to a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap so that the plastic touches the surface of the custard and refrigerate until cold throughout. Custard can be refrigerated up to three days.

When ready to assemble the pie, slice bananas and strawberries into thin, round slices.

Whisk the cold custard to loosen.

I started with a layer of custard:

Then bananas:

More custard:

for the topping:
With a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat heavy cream until it just starts to thicken. Add powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Continue to beat until the cream holds stiff peaks. With a rubber spatula, spoon whipped cream onto banana cream pie filling. Top with sliced strawberries.

Serve pie immediately or refrigerate for several hours before serving. This pie is best served the day it is made.

Verdict: After initially tasting the custard, I thought it lacked sweetness. But, all together -- it tasted great. All dinner guests enjoyed the dessert.

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