Lunch with an Old Friend

Every year at Christmas I get together with an old good friend Beth and her family for the day.  I always look forward to it as it is a really nice full day of catching up and discussions on anything and everything.

This year for lunch Beth made a delicious soup. I gather it was supposed to be a squash soup but she added a package of chopped sweet potatoes instead of a second package of squash. I think it made the soup that much better by adding a sweet note to it. It was served with a dollop of yogurt on top with chopped green onions (might have been chives). Really nice and thick.

On the side were these delicious tiny pita pizzas. Beth used the tiny pitas split in half and on each side she put some brie cheese (I think it was brie) and caramelized onions and sun dried tomatoes.  Baked till the cheese melted and the pita got a bit crispy and served them warm.  Perfect light lunch (or appetizer) to go with the soup which was really filling.

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After lunch we went for a long walk along the boardwalk of Lake Ontario and did some more catching up. Beth lives in Asia so I am always curious as to what life is like there.

As always it was a great day!

 

PS – I should also say we had a fabulous dinner of sweet and sour pork over rice – A Lucy Waverman recipe, but my pictures didn’t do it justice. I do suggest you look up the recipe under “Sweet and Sour Pork” by Lucy Waverman in the Globe and Mail newspaper.  Well worth it.

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More Party Food

In a continuation of the party I went to last weekend and catered as well – I am sharing the food that was prepared for 30 people.  First off the party was amazing – my friends Jay and Jonathan live in Cambridge Ontario and have a fabulous historic home on a huge lot so the evening was spent under a pergola on the deck and then on the grounds for a big bonfire as the evening got cooler.  Too much fun was had by all.

Last weekend I posted the stuffed dates and salad (truth be told the salad was for another event but I liked the way it turned out). This week are all of the foods I prepared.  Remember everything was to be finger food style so plates and cutlery were not a necessity.

Here was my thinking behind the choice of dishes I made. I wanted food that could be eaten with fingers (i.e. on skewers) and to cover the basics of salad, main course meat/fish, side dishes and then dessert.

The while I had the above order in mind – we put everything out together as it worked better for people to just come to the table and pick their choices.

The menu and recipes – this is a long list so stay with me on this…

First off salad skewers made with grape tomatoes, bocconcini cheese balls and chunks of baby cucumbers. Just before serving I drizzled some balsamic glaze over these skewers.

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Next on the list was smoked salmon with cream cheese on crackers with some crushed dried nori (seaweed strips) sprinkled over top.

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Then came Korean grilled beef skewers and the honey mustard chicken skewers.  Below is the recipe for the meat – the Korean Beef is now a new favourite – everyone went nuts over it.

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I did the prep work for the meat the day before and marinated for 24 hours in ziplock bags.

Honey Mustard Chicken Skewers

So the honey mustard chicken is simple – just mix about a ¼ cup of honey with about 1/4 cup of olive oil and about 4 tbsp of dijon mustard – adjust to suit your taste.  I also added a few crushed garlic cloves and some ground black pepper. I used 6 chicken breasts cut into thin strips lengthwise so there was enough to put on a skewer.

Korean Beef Skewers – I got this recipe from Food and Wine magazine but adjusted a bit:

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons dry white wine – I used the same amount of chicken broth as I didn’t have any white wine handy

2 large garlic cloves, very finely chopped

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

2 teaspoons crushed red pepper

1 2 1/2 pound beef flank steak, cut across the grain into thin long slices

1/4-inch-thick slices 16 scallions – I didn’t use these

Vegetable oil, for rubbing

Salt – didn’t add this either as the soy sauce had enough salt

1. Combine the soy sauce, sugar, white wine, chopped garlic, toasted sesame oil, and crushed red pepper, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the sliced flank steak and coat thoroughly in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate the steak for at least 4 hours or overnight. 2. Working in batches, grill the steak over high heat (I BBQ’d it) until the slices are richly browned and medium-rare, about 30 seconds per side. Put pieces on a plate and let them cool – then put them on skewers just before serving.

Next was mini turkey meatballs in a sweet chilli sauce – this is my usual baked turkey meatball recipe but just made them smaller and tossed them with a store bought sweet chilli sauce instead of tomato sauce and put some into a cup for dipping as well.

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Next on the menu was my tuna and sweet potato cakes but made mini size and a cup of 1% yogurt for dipping.

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I then thought I needed something else that wasn’t meat and what do people love more than shrimp? Again I had a craving for shrimp and chorizo sausage so that was the next group of skewers.

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These are super simple – I sautéd the sliced chorizo and put aside – next I sautéd the shrimp in some garlic and put them in a dish – then it was just a matter of putting them together on bamboo skewers (they looked better on the shorter skewers than the long ones)

The side dishes were baby stuffed potatoes where you just boil the baby potatoes, then scoop out the centre leaving a bit of potato to hold the shape and then mix crumbled cooked bacon, chives and sour cream with the bits of potato you have scooped out . Once it is all mixed just spoon it back into the potatoes.  This was quite finicky but tasted good in the end so worth while.

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Last of the main course food was grilled asparagus wrapped in prosciutto.  Simple and easy – just toss the asparagus in olive oil, then grill them (I did them on the BBQ) and then wrap a couple of stalks in a piece of prosciutto and you are done.

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Finally dessert – you saw the dates in my last post (I will put in again just so you see them). I put fresh fruit on skewers so they could be taken away from the table and you got several pieces at one without a mess. Each skewer had a slice of pineapple, a green grape, a strawberry, a purple grape and a raspberry.  You can make these with any fruit you like.

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And there you have it the whole party in food.  What I am not showing is the amazing evening we all had.  Great company, kudos to the hosts and all I can say is “when is the next party”?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Party Time!

I am invited to a big party this weekend and the hosts asked if I wanted to make the food for the party as well (given I do a side food business).  I have been wanting to try a couple of things out so I agreed.  I will do several posts over the next few weeks with some of the dishes prepared.  Here is the first post of two dishes – very yummy – The dates are a little messy looking but well worth diving into. The first platter are Medjool dates with maple goat cheese.  The second is a salad platter that can be served with a fork and is easily eaten.

 

Madjool dates with maple goat cheese

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Ingredients (for what is shown in the picture):

40 Medjool dates (these are the very large plump dates)

225 grams of goat cheese plain

¼ cup of maple syrup

Directions:

Mix the goat cheese and maple syrup. I used a fork to just mix it all up.

Slice each date down the long side and take out the pit.

Fill each date with about 1 teaspoon of goat cheese mixture (maybe less depending on the size of the date)

That is it! – told you it was easy and boy do they taste good.

 

The second dish was just cucumbers and sliced tomatoes with some pearl sized bocconcini cheese balls sprinkled over top.  Simple but pretty to look at.

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Dinner at Playa Cabana Cantina (Toronto)

Had dinner with my friend Anne at a new hot spot in the Junction area of Toronto.  Mexican style seems to be the new “in” food this year as Mexican restaurants are popping up everywhere. This restaurant is part of a chain called Playa Cabana and this particular restaurant was called “Cantina”.

I had read all kinds of reviews mostly saying the food is great but the service not so much. What I do know is that we could not get a reservation after 5:30 on Saturday evening even a week in advance!  They didn’t think we could get a seat even at the bar if we just showed up as Friday, Saturday and Sunday are their big nights.

So we took the 5:30 reservation. We walked around the area for an hour or so before going to the restaurant and found several great furniture and accessory stores all with unusual items at reasonable prices. When we had enough looking and wondering around (it was cold out) we went into the restaurant and had our dinner.

Anne ordered the chicken burrito “Cantina”  and I had two tacos – haddock and ancho braised short rib.  We decided to have a traditional drink and both ordered a “Paloma” made up of 1 ½ oz grapefruit infused Tromba Blanco (Tequila), citrus syrup and lime.  Yum!!!!!

The food tasted great and two tacos was certainly enough given we had guacamole and tortillas (made on site and delicious I might add). Anne barely made it through her burrito and we both left stuffed to the gills.

After everything I had read I expected the service to be mediocre but it was just fine and the meal was terrific!

I would however mention that it is quite loud with the music and the loud talking but it added to the ambience of the evening. Those of you who know me know I hate having to yell across the table but this was not anywhere near that bad. I would give this a definite thumbs up. The whole meal including drinks, tax and tip was $31 each.  Not bad.  Below are some pics of the meal.

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Turkey and Greens Kreplach

If it looks like a dumpling… if it tastes like a dumpling…Then it must be a dumpling and therefore a favourite of mine 😉

food flavor fascination

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Happy Purim! After we had dinner yesterday, I remembered that this Jewish holiday had started (ends this evening) so I decided to make something for lunch today. Jewish holidays usually celebrate with specific dishes, which are delicious and comforting. Lunch today was another comfort food dish, a traditional Purim dish called kreplach, which are dumplings, also known as “Jewish wontons.” 

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Leftovers – Lets Make Pizza!

It’s been just over two years now that I have been blogging and I still love it! Great readers from all over the world who themselves publish great blogs that I enjoy reading.

Many of you know from past blogs that I like to use things up that are in the fridge rather than throwing them away.  This time I had some tofu, some roasted grape tomatoes that I made with balsamic vinegar and olive oil (recipe to follow), some pork tenderloin and a piece of mozzarella cheese.  Something screamed pizza!

I had some whole wheat wraps in the fridge. I spread a bit of marinara sauce over one and added a small amount of the grated cheese. I quickly sautéed some mushrooms and garlic with the chopped up tofu (I know it sounds weird but for those of you that are vegetarian it really works!). I also chopped up the pork tenderloin (I am not a vegetarian) and threw that into the pan to sauté as well.  Once everything was warmed, I spread it over the wrap. I then added some roasted balsamic grape tomatoes and the additional cheese on top. Baked the whole pizza for about 20 minutes till the edges were crisp and there it was – a quick and easy dinner (and lunch the next day!).

Recipe for roasted grape tomatoes follows images…

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Roasted balsamic grape tomatoes.

I had a couple of containers of grape tomatoes that were starting to get a bit wrinkled so rather than tossing them in the garbage I sliced them in half and put them in a bowl,  sprinkled a bit of balsamic vinegar and olive oil over them and let them marinate for about 20 minutes. I then drained them and put them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and roasted them for about 3 hours at 350 degrees F. They make a great addition to salads, pizza, roasted vegetables etc.

Broccoli, Sweet Potato and Cheddar Soup

I thought I had blogged broccoli soup before but I don’t see a post on my timeline about this particular version so I am blogging it now.  This is super easy to make and tastes great.  Can be a meal, a side or even served as an appetizer in a small shooter style glass. I have been seeing this from time to time served at dinner parties where you don’t want to fill up on soup.  A small amount of soup is served in a shooter or other style of small glass, it is literally just a mouthful or two – that way the guest gets a taste. It is something different and they don’t get full on soup before the meal).

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Here is the recipe for this easy and versatile soup.

Ingredients:

2 small onions diced

1 large or two small sweet potatoes cut into small pieces

6-8 cups of chicken or vegetable broth (if made with vegetable broth it can be vegetarian and or gluten free)

1 head of broccoli cut into small pieces

1 cup shredded old cheddar cheese

Dash of oregano

Salt and pepper to taste ( I don’t add salt but you can if you like)

 

Directions:

Sauté onions in a pot with some olive oil. When softened add the small pieces of broccoli and sweet potato and the oregano. Stir and cover for a minute or two then add the broth.  Stir everything, cover and let cook with a slight boil but not a strong boil for about 15 minutes until the potato and broccoli are soft.

Using a blender put small batches in the blender and add some cheddar to each batch.  Mix until puréed but still slightly thickened.  Pour into a large bowl and keep the process going until all the soup has been blended.  Serve with a nice crusty bread and there you have lunch, dinner, appetizer or side dish!

Enjoy!

 

Fish Cakes

While I normally use tuna and sweet potato in these cakes, I felt like using a fresh fish this time so went and bought haddock (it was on for a good price). The process is almost the same as the tuna but a bit more involved in that I had to cook the haddock first.  I debated how I would do this but settled on a quick, easy and yummy method which was to poach it. See below for method and recipe for this dish.  It turned out well and I was able to freeze a number of the cakes and they were just as good when defrosted. Great to keep in the freezer for those days when you don’t know what to have or just want a light dinner.

Fish cakes

Ingredients and Directions to serve 4 (2 cakes per person):

I first make a broth for  poaching, this usually includes the following items but you can add anything you like.

2-3 cups vegetable, chicken or fish broth (I use what I have on hand)

1- Lemongrass stalk – smash the white portion of the lemongrass so it is almost chewed looking and put the whole thing in the broth

Handful of cilantro fresh or 1 tsp of dried

A good shake of lemon pepper or just a pinch of regular pepper

2-3 tbsp of lemon juice and if you are using fresh add some zest

Doesn’t matter what the broth looks like just what it tastes like.

Fish cake ingredients:

6-8 small-medium fillets of fish

3 large sweet potatoes

Place as many pieces of fish fillets into the broth as will fit making sure the fish is covered in broth.  It will only take about a minute or two depending on the thickness of the fish. The haddock I used was not a thick cut but about 1/2″ fillets. When the fillet is slightly flakey and looks cooked, take it out and drain it on paper towels so it is not too moist. Add more fish to the broth till it is all poached

Crumble the fish into a large bowl and add softened sweet potato (boil or microwave the potato in small uniform pieces until it is soft enough to mash).

Add the following ingredients:

2 tbsp dijon mustard

2 tbsp plain yogurt (use more if you need to make it more moist or add a  spoonful of the broth)

1/2 – 3/4 of a cup of panko crumbs (use breadcrumbs if you don’t have panko). Add 1/2 cup to start and add more as you need till the consistency of the mixture will shape and hold in a ball in your hands

I don’t use salt but feel free to add a pinch to the mixture

Optional – chopped cilantro or parsley fresh

Form the cakes in your hands and sauté them till golden on one side then flip over until the other side is golden.  Take out of the pan and place on a paper towel to absorb any excess oil (I use canola oil as it has a higher burn rate – meaning you can heat it higher than olive oil without it smoking). I cook on a medium heat – if it is too high the cakes can burn.

Serve with a dollop of plain yogurt, sour cream or a seasoned yogurt or dip – we used a jalapeno greek yogurt dip mixed with some plain yogurt to reduce the heat level a bit. Served with a salad this makes a nice dinner.

Note: You can also make small bite size cakes to use as appetizers

Chicks in Charge Retreat

I just love that name!  We just had our annual Chicks in Charge (women running their own businesses) retreat at Sheryls country home.  I always come back exhausted, stuffed with good food, invigorated and enlightened! This year was no exception.  Food always seems to be the key to getting everyone connecting – we eat like royalty when we are there starting with Sheryls initial lunch which was once again outstanding.

We had poached salmon, roasted green beans, mushrooms, walnuts and baby potatoes, pesto marinated tiny heirloom tomatoes and a kale and mango salad. That was just lunch!

poahed salmon

Kale salad

roast veg

tomatoes

Snack time (as though we needed more food….) Amy made an incredible flourless, sugarless chocolate cake (sugar was in the chocolate only – it was divine).

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Dinner was my turkey chilli (click for link to recipe) with toppings that included guacamole, shredded old cheddar cheese and low fat sour cream along side a great mixed green salad and home baked oatmeal cookies made by Victoria.

Breakfast the next day was a fabulous frittata with peppers, onion, mushrooms and zucchini (I forgot to take pictures again – forgive me,  we just dove into the meal) made by Nancy. We also had Eloise’s home made granola (click for recipe) and yogurt along with regular and gluten free muffins.

Lunch was leftovers of the day before but the main course was Mariannes fabulous coconut curry chicken – so so good. Below is the recipe. Well worth trying it was devoured by the chicks.

Coconut Curry Chicken

I usually DOUBLE this recipe, and freeze the extra portions.  Can be served hot or cold.

Ingredients                                                                           Substitute

¼ cup coconut oil                                                                Canola oil

¼ cup (or less) Dijon mustard

2 tbsps.  regular mustard (e.g., French’s)

½ cup coconut nectar                                                        Honey

½ tbsp. or more Curry Powder

1 tsp.  lime juice AND grated rind

1 tsp. salt

Garlic

1-1.5 lbs. boneless chicken thighs (~12)                        Boneless chicken breasts,                                                                                                             sliced

Bring all ingredients to a boil in a stainless steel saucepan.  Pour over chicken.  Cook for 45 mins. at 350 degrees.   Enjoy!

Believe it or not, we also managed to have a great guest speaker (Wendy) and business and life discussions from morning till night and then again the next day.  Now you understand why we leave feeling exhausted, stuffed with good food, invigorated and enlightened!

Till next year!

Thanksgiving at Richards

Spent a wonderful Thanksgiving (Canadian) at my friend Richards with a number of friends eating great food and having great conversation.  After a wonderful turkey dinner, out came dessert which his friend Rita made that was not only beautiful to look at but out of this world delicious!.

Baked brie with toasted almond slivers and sliced fruit.

baked brie

So aside from a lot of slicing this was fairly easy to make according to Rita.  Here is how she made it.

1 round of brie cheese with the top skin sliced off

Toast a handful or two of slivered almonds in butter

Bake the brie in a 350 oven till it becomes creamy (she pre-baked it and then we heated it up)

Thinly sliced apples and pears

You dip the slice of fruit into the brie and viola….you are in heaven.  The fact that Rita used double cream brie just made it even better.  Definitely not a dish for lactose intolerant individuals!

I have also seen this dish with dried cranberries on top or apricot jam or anything you like as a topping.

Try it for your next gathering as an appetizer, dessert, with wine – anything will do.