Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rhubarb Strawberry Crumble Pie

Spring cleaning promises to inspire these days. I found some rhubarb in the freezer that really wanted to be made into something. I didn't have a great deal of time to fuss so I looked around for a recipe that could be quick and get the job done. The recipe I chose is from All Recipes and not only was it super easy, the outcome was fantastic.

The recipe does call for fresh rhubarb but I found that using the frozen was fine. I just thawed and drained it before mixing with the strawberries. Apparently this recipe won first prize at a church fair - how bad could it be?

1 egg
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 lb fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 pint fresh strawberries, halved
1 (9 inch) unbaked pie shell

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
1/2 cup cold butter

In a large mixing bowl, beat egg. Add the sugar, flour and vanilla; mix ell. Gently fold in rhubarb and strawberries. Pour into pastry shell.

For topping, combine flour, brown sugar and oats in a small bowl; cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over fruit. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F and bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Cool on a wire rack.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Enchillada Verde

I'm the first to admit that my knowledge of Mexican cooking is less than Mexican 101. Encilada to me was a cool name that I liked to say but didn't really have an emotional connection to. I also had no real smell recognition for enchiladas. It's not that I didn't want to, it's more that the opportunity just didn't somehow present itself.

I have a friend named Eury (unusual and beautiful name don't you think), pronouned YooRee. She's also quite shy and really very lovely.

Eury's from Mexico and always tells me about the foods she grew up on and we share food stories often. I've introduced her to the marvels of the kosher style deli; most certainly not something that would roll off her lips when thinking of what to make for dinner.

Pictured above, you have the essentials; good rye bread, incredible smoked turkey, cole slaw and potato knishes.

Today it was Eury's turn to teach me something in our cross cultural exchange. She wanted me to try her Encillada Verde; she picked up all the ingredients and brought them over.

We had a good laugh trying to figure out how hot the chilis would be. When I looked up arbol chilli I realized I was in for heat; a relative to the cayenne pepper was sure to create some perspiration.

4 tomatillos
3 Arbol Chilis (jalapeno is fine also)
1 clove garlic
1 thick slice of onion
pinch of salt
1/4 cup of cooking water
handful of chopped cilantro (optional but adds great flavour)
6 corn tortillas

In a medium sized pot, bring tomatillos and chilis to a boil and turn down to medium cooking just long enough to allow both to soften (approximately 8 minutes). Remove the stems of the chilis.

Place tomatillos, water and chilis in a blender with sliced onion and garlic and blend until smooth.

In small pot, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil and a thin slice of onion - just long enough to release flavour. Add blended salsa to seasoned oil and bring to a boil.
Microwave corn tortillas just long enough to soften (20 seconds)
Layer queso fresco (or whatever filling you chose)** and fold over tortillo

Place filled tortillas in lightly oiled saucepan and heat long enough to slightly crisp the tortilla and allow for the cheese to warm. Queso fresco is great cheese since it's made from raw milk and doesn't melt quickly.

Add cilantro to salsa verde and pour over tortilla to coat well.

We started with a little kosher deli, went to Mexican and then ended up with old country blueberry buns. Does life get any better than this?

For me, this was such a fun experience and a wonderful learning. There was salsa verde left over that Eury suggested I freeze for the next time. Sorry, it didn't last long enough. I'm hooked and can't wait for my next Mexican cooking class.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

New Zealand: Part I

I really need to find a way to keep up this travelling lifestyle (donations accepted). We're part way through our trip and I wanted to quickly share a few pictures with you.

I've kind of fallen in love with New Zealand...particularly since I'm safe in my room in the moment rather than a passenger in the car while R drives up and around a mountain. Those cliffs are steep! If you happened to be driving behind a really slow car in New Zealand lately, that may have been us. What can I say? I'm a Prairie girl. Sorry.

If you're looking for a country with ridiculously beautiful scenery, nice people, lots of sheep (and cows), and adventure sport, New Zealand is the place for you! We spent 2.5 weeks travelling across New Zealand (from Auckland to Queenstown). Of course, we weren't able to see A LOT of the country in this time frame. I think a perfect amount of time in NZ, for me, would be closer to 6 weeks.

Surprisingly, I felt pretty energetic upon landing, despite having been en route for over 25 hours. The view from the plane certainly helped my energy level.

We landed early in the morning and needed to make sure we weren't tempted by "napping" (read: going to sleep for the night, only to wake up at midnight NZ time, 8am Ottawa time). We decided to go to the Kelly Tarlton's, the aquarium.

I'm a sucker for penguins. Can't you just imagine them singing, "The penguins go marching three by three, hurrah hurrah?"

Other than that, the aquarium was just okay. We got our first taste of the spending to come ($33.90 ND for admission). I'm not going to complain (too much) about the cost of everything, but I will say that I was surprised at the high cost of entry into a lot of tourist destinations (in both Australia and New Zealand). I'll save my rant for the cost of climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge for another post.

After a stop for lunch (sushi - which is actually cheaper than in Canada), we went to Skytower.

We went the more moderate route and stayed in the interior of the tower. Nice views to be had.

You can walk the outside of the tower and do the Skywalk or, if you're feeling particularly adventurous, you can bungee from the tower.

Apparently the CN Tower has an EdgeWalk now, for those who want a similar experience.

It was only around 5 or 6pm, but we were both hitting a wall at this point. We checked into our accommodations, the Jucy Hotel. Coupled with our car rental (with the same company), the price was pretty decent. For the car rental, we decided to splurge and not go for the "el Cheapo" (their name, not mine). The rental was pretty cheap (about $31 ND/day). The car got us where we needed to go, with some coaxing when going uphill.

Since we weren't really going to NZ to experience its cities, we left Auckland the next day. We drove to the south of the Coromandel Peninsula.

After stopping for some Lemon and Paeroa (which tasted like a lemony gingerale to me) in Paeroa, we continued on to do a bit of hiking in the Karangahake Gorge and take some pictures of the Owharoa Falls.

We continued on to our next destination to Rotorua. By "continued on", I mean, almost getting run over by a semi (note: some passing lanes in NZ are very short in distance) and getting lost. None the less, we made it to our hostel in Rotorua. Shortly after arriving, we got picked up for our evening at the Tamaki Maori Village. There are a few companies that do similar tourist shows. This one started with a face off between the leader of our tribe (read: bus) and the Maori warriors.

They squeeze about 4 bus loads into the village and have us walk from station to station, learning about traditional Maori living. They then direct everyone to the location where our food has been cooking. We got to see them remove the food (Hangi) from underground.

While dinner is being prepared, there is a relatively short show with Maori songs.

I'm glad we had the experience, but wasn't crazy about the portions of it. I found that beginning portion, where we got to learn about traditional living in the village, was rushed. Since the time allotted to learning about the culture was so brief, I felt like I was contributing to making a spectacle of the culture, rather than truly learning about it. The food was plentiful, but not great in flavour. The chicken was dried out. Gravy was a necessity rather than a nice addition. The pavlova was awesome! I want more of it.

The next day, we did some hiking in The Redwoods, in the Whakarewarewa Forest. It's was a beautiful walk among some massive California Redwoods. They were among the original 170 species planted in the early 1900s as a test to determine which species to use in commercial production.

Afterwards, we went to the Burried Village, the site of the Mount Tarawera eruption, that buried the village of Te Wairoa, where European settlers and Maori lived.

This area was a tourist destination in the latter half of the 1800s. People from all over would come to see the Pink and White Terraces, regarded as the eighth wonder of the world. They were engulfed along with the village after the eruption of Mt. Tarawera that led to the explosion of mud that covered the village. Today, some of the European sites have been excavated (Maori sites can only be excavated by Maori people) and sample traditional Maori homes have been constructed.

The grounds also contain some beautiful scenery and a waterfall.

We also couldn't resist some of the home-baked goods in their cafe. R got a scone with clotted cream:

I went with a dessert that had a shortbread bottom, layer of jam and then a layer of meringue with coconut in it. Tasted good, but VERY sugary. I bet they could cut the sugar in half and it would still taste nice and sweet.

Rotorua is known for its geothermal activity.

This includes geysers, mud pools and thermal springs and much of the city smells like sulphur. I'm not sure if the locals are used to the smell...but, if you go, be prepared to smell that rotten egg smell. Since the hostel is right next to a free park with steaming geysers and mud pools, we took a walk through there. There are, however, other locations with similar (and larger) displays of geothermal activity that are available, though not free.

Here's a map showing approximately the areas I've written about in this post (A: Auckland, B: Paeroa and C: Rotorua):

View Larger Map
Oops...that was longer than expected. I'll stop there. That's only the first 3 days. Next up in the Napier wine region.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

#Year of the Pie

There's been a buzz on Twitter and Facebook this week that has so many wondering what the heck the hashtag #Year of the Pie is. So many questions - what's going on? you're making me hungry? I want to live in the Year of the Pie, who do I have to kill? and on.. but you get the idea. It made me realize how effective the written word can be when used properly.

Let me tell you all about it. I was fortunate enough to have been one of the invitees to the Tenderflake Year of the Pie celebration. The promise was a delicious afternoon and a fun "tweet up" to create a buzz about using Tenderflake pastry/pie crusts for more than just filling a traditional pie. Don't get me wrong, a good pie is a beautiful thing but options are priceless. I really had no expectation and looked forward to meeting new friends and learning new things. I accomplished both goals and had the best time doing it.

We were all greeted by James and many of the staff of Maple Leaf Foods. James set the tone of the afternoon with a strong message to have fun. From the reception, I felt as though I had been invited into someone's home and the environment was entirely inviting and cordial. I'm mentioning it because I don't always feel that way. Often, one can walk into an event and really get a sense of "it's all about business" and even if it is, I didn't feel that way.

James talked about the Tenderflake line of products;

and introduced key kitchen magicians; that's chef John Placko, Director of Culinary Excellence on the left

... and then the Twitter Feed for #YearofthePie, where we watched as many kept the tweets fresh and active with a play by play of everything that was going on.

Remember I mentioned "fun" - well, here we go. We all put on our aprons and got ready to get right into pocket pie making. We were getting ready to each visit three stations; a savoury, a sweet and a decorating. We started with a show and tell that began with how to successfully remove the pie crust from the foil pie pan and then on to assembly, baking and the best part; eating.

Blogger friend Melanie from MBAMamaMusings takes on the role of efficient box holder. Make a point of visiting her blog; well written and fun.

Once the pie shells were dislodged, we used cookie cutters to cut out the shapes, placed a heaping teaspoon of filling in the centre, a little water around the edges to create the seal and top with a second cut out, gently pressing the top and bottom edges together and crimping with a fork dipped in flour. The finishing touch is either a wash of milk or egg yolk with 1 tbsp water and into the oven for approximately 12-15 minutes. The first group I participated in made Ham and Broccoli pocket pies. Deeee-licious!!!! You can find the recipe HERE

Beautiful, no???

The decorating station churned out some pretty imaginative pocket pies.

These were absolutely my favourites; an apple cookie cutter with apple pie filling, topped with a little sugar. Beautiful!!! and perfect one person size. You really do need to try these. Here's the RECIPE

I had a blast and could see so many interesting possibilities. There were several moms with young children so having a baking day with near instant gratification and very little mess can only be a good thing. Appetizers become a breeze and no worries about whether or not your crust is working. As a pie crust failure, I'd have no hesitation using a small cheat. One of the ladies was wedding planning and thinking pocket pies, decorated nicely could be interesting guest gifts. How would you use them?

My afternoon was stress free and filled with laughter and idea stimulation. I was so pleasantly surprised to receive some nice swag (thank you) to get my own pocket pie making going.

Feedback: I like the pocket pie idea and would use it for my own entertaining; easy to use and freeze so the availability is there whenever I want it. The pie crust takes only minutes to thaw so no long term planning is necessary. The only enhancement for me would have been to see packages of flat, square pie crust in sheets (6/pkg); easy to store, no need to separate crust from pie plate and maximizes surface space for cutters. StumbleUpon
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