Cooking with friends

Recently I was visiting my friend Victoria in the Peterborough area and we always get into cooking when I go to spend a couple of days there (We also talk about financial ideas, the economy, the psychology of people – great brain work out). Anyway, we decided to do a combo dinner where I would bring the soup and she would make the salad. I made my homemade vegetable soup with beans sprinkled with grated parmesan cheese- recipe below.

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…and Victoria made a wonderful spinach, pear and caramelized walnut salad.  Perfect dinner. The salad was from the cookbook called “The Pollan Family Table” by none other that Tracey Pollan (remember her – married to Michael J. Fox and starred in Family Ties? – click on link above for recipe).

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Vegetable soup recipe:

Talk about hearty! I used the vegetables that were in the fridge and usually I add some pasta to this soup but thought I would add white beans to give it more protein and fibre.

Ingredients

1 tbsp of olive oil

2 sliced medium sized carrots

2 sliced stalks of celery

2 small onions chopped

1 tetra pak of vegetable broth

1 large can of low sodium diced tomatoes

1 can of navy white beans

1.5 tbsp brown sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

1 handful of chopped kale (I buy a fabulous product called “Chopped Greens” which is a bag of frozen chopped and cooked kale.  I add it to everything and it is wonderful! – use as much as you want)

 

Directions

In a saucepan add the olive oil and the diced onions. Stir till translucent. Add the chopped carrots and celery and sauté for about 3 minutes. Then add the diced tomatoes. Stir well and then add the vegetable stock. Add some salt and pepper to taste.

Stir this and let it simmer for about 15 – 20 minutes. Then add the kale (since it is already cooked it doesn’t need as long). Cook for another 15-20 minutes and then add the canned beans. Sprinkle in the brown sugar (takes some of the acidity out of the tomatoes and adds a slightly sweet note to the soup). Let this simmer all together for another 10-15 minutes and you have a wonderful hearty soup.

I served it with some shaved parmesan on top and it was perfectly filling and warming. Just what you need on these cold cold days.

 

Breakfast the next day was one of my favourites.

I have developed a craving for poached eggs. I always loved them but used to make egg whites for breakfast every morning. Now I make a poached egg on a slice of toast with a bit of cheese as my go to brekkie every day.  The whole egg has all kinds of things that are good for you and if cholesterol is not an issue then I say go for it.  Keeps me feeling satiated until lunch. This time we shared an english muffin (whole wheat) and I used some baldersons 4yr old white cheddar cheese with a couple of slices of avocado. YUM!!!

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Breakfast With Friends at ViVetha on Queen Street East (Toronto)

A couple of weeks back I had brunch with a few friends at a great spot called Vivetha. The restaurant is located at 2485 Queen Street East near Victoria Park. I believe they have a second location at Yonge and Lawrence.

So Vivetha is one of my favourite places for brunch as it is fresh, delicious, huge and not expensive.  All the elements needed for a great meal. (Their dinner is great too by the way).

The do a large a assortment of eggs benedict including their special of the day that Geoff had which if I remember correctly included a crab cake and grilled shrimp and some smoked salmon.  (See photos below). I had the traditional eggs benedict and coffee and my bill at the end of the meal was just over $11. Not bad for a meal that lasted the rest of the day (I wasn’t even really hungry by dinner time!)

I highly recommend this spot for any meal – I have been for dinner too and the food was great and again the prices very reasonable. I will say the earlier you go though the better as I am not the only person who loves this restaurant! It does get a bit busy at brunch and at dinner.

 

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Brunch with Elizabeth and David

My friends Elizabeth and Dave are busy people. Trying to organize a get together is not easy, so when someone has a day free we jump on it.  The other Saturday afternoon we gathered for brunch at their place.

Brunch is one of my favourite meals because it is usually laid back, spent with friends and served with delicious food. Does it get any better?

This day was no exception. While Dave may have been worried that the brunch wasn’t over the top enough I am here to say it was outstanding!  Perfect meal to enjoy with friends and just kick back and have a good yak.

Brunch was an avocado dish that I thought was quite brilliant and have to try making.  We had avocado mixed with baby shrimp put back into the avocado shell which it was served in (so smart!). Beautiful tri-coloured tomatoes (one of my favourite things) and a touch of smoked salmon on the side.  It screamed springtime even though it was only 1 degree outside and pretty darn cold (if you can’t get your fill of spring with the weather you may as well get it with your food 😉 ).

Take a look at how beautiful this brunch was.  2 hours later we were talked out and we all had other stuff to get done. I left with a big smile on my face and the feeling of warmth and contentment.

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Drop Scones (or… Pancakes from Heaven)

On a visit to my friend Victoria a few months ago I tasted these heavenly delights for breakfast. They are like a cross between a pancake and a scone I think.  Light and airy with the taste of a scone/pancake crossover. After requesting (read as begging 😉 ) for the recipe she emailed it over and I am sharing it with you all.
These “Pancakes from Heaven” as I call them are from Serena Bass’s book, Serena, Food and Stories.  She calls them drop scones.
IMG_0686Mix
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup sugar.

Add
1 extra large egg
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup milk.

Put butter on hot griddle, drop tablespoons of batter into fry pan.  Cook for 3 minutes, turn and cook for 2 more minutes.

You can put the dry ingredients together the night before and the next morning you are eating as quickly as you can heat the fry pan.

These are a real treat.  Thanks Victoria! (and Serena Bass)

Vietnamese Buns

My cousin Tamara was in town recently and that means we get to indulge in Asian flavours as we both love that style of food. This night we went to our neighbourhood Vietnamese hangout called Pho Huo’ng. The restaurant is on the corner of Pacific Ave and Dundas St. West and is a real local spot in the Junction. The restaurant is always busy but we always manage to get a table as the turn over is quite fast.

When you sit down they hand you menus and an order sheet where you write  down what you want.  The waiter swoops back and picks up your order, brings you a lovely tea and within 5 minutes your order arrives – fresh and delicious.

This night I had the lemongrass chicken bun and Tamara had the grilled chicken and pork with a spring roll bun.  Oh so good!!! Including tip and tax the meal is between $9-$10.  How can you go wrong?

For those not familiar with what a “Bun” is – it is “everything in a bowl” – fresh steamed rice noodle vermicelli on the bottom with sliced cucumber, sliced lettuce, bean sprouts, pickled carrots along with whatever grilled protein you order. You pour a vinaigrette over top that is a bit sweet and a bit tangy. Then you dig your chopsticks into it and enjoy.

Highly recommend this restaurant!

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Birthday Dinner and Dim Sum Lunch

A few weeks ago I celebrated my birthday and had a couple of outstanding meals which I thought I would share with you. The first was on my birthday at dinner with my friends Ted and Judy (you remember them, the fabulous chefs….)

Ted bought 4 live lobsters and between them made the most fabulous lobster pasta I have ever had. I promise I am not just saying that because they will read this blog. It truly was a meal fit for  a queen (that would be me that night I think as that’s what I was made to feel like).

Here are some pix of the meal and the process involved.  Keep reading though as the second birthday meal was equally wonderful and quite a surprise!

Lobster Pasta

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Here is a list of ingredients and a basic idea of how it was made:

Spelt pasta

4 lobster boiled then sautéed in a bit of butter and garlic – I know I know butter…but it was my birthday 😉

Snap peas, blanched baby spinach and roasted grape tomatoes with garlic and olive oil

Put all together and finish with a bit of chopped parsley and fresh ground pepper

AWESOME!!!!

Next on the list of birthday celebrations…

I had planned a lunch with my oldest friend Fern (friends since we were 8 years old). We were going to try a new Dim Sum place around the neighbourhood where we grew up. We arrived and I thought I heard her say table for 6 but didn’t think anything of it until I saw Deena who was also one of my BFF’s growing up (again since we were 8 years old). I look around and realize there are other settings at the table and lo and behold in comes Marla, Nadine and Penny – 3 more of my childhood BFF girlfriends!

Well that was a lunch to remember – we recounted our childhoods in detail reminding each other of how bad we all were and the fun we had.  We sat and stuffed ourselves with amazing Dim Sum for over 3 hours!!!! Kudos to Fern for organizing and I have to say it was so much fun seeing everyone and finding out what each one is doing.  What a wonderful afternoon. Now, while the excuse was to surprise me for my birthday – we all pretty much had birthdays within 6 months of the event so it was decided it was an all around birthday celebration! Fern even supplied the “minutes of the meeting”  Too funny!!!!  See below:

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Now that’s a Birthday Celebration!!!  Thank you everyone!

Spending Time with Wonderful People

I have a friend Beth who I see for one day each year between Christmas and New Years.  She works in Asia and comes back to see her parents once a year and that’s when we hang out.  I always go out to see her and her parents because I love spending time with them all – She has very wise and interesting parents and spending time with them is always a treat.

Every year we  have fabulous meals for both lunch and dinner.  This time was no exception. Lunch was this rustic charcuterie platter with a variety of cold cuts and cheese but the star of the show was the Moroccan pickled salad. This was a recipe Beth found of Chef Michael Smith that is actually called “Moroccan pickled veggies with marmalade and mint” but it was served as a wonderful mouth watering salad. The flavours alighted one by one in your mouth going from sweet to spicy to tangy to pickled. Below are the pictures and the salad recipe. I encourage you to try it.

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Recipe for the salad above:

Moroccan pickled veggies with marmalade & mint (takes 15 minutes)

For the warm dressing:

  • ½ cup (125 ml) of cider vinegar
  • ½ cup (125 ml) of orange marmalade
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of ras el hanout or curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of cumin seeds or ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of your favourite hot sauce
  • ½ teaspoon (2 ml) of salt

For the salad:

  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup (250 ml) of dried apricots, sliced
  • 2 English cucumbers, cubed
  • 1 cup (250 ml) of chopped fresh mint

In a medium pot over medium-high heat, stir together the vinegar, marmalade, ras el hanout, cinnamon, cumin seeds, hot sauce, and salt. Bring the pickling brine to a simmer, allowing the flavours to blend.

Stir in the carrots, onions, and apricots. Bring the mixture back to a simmer for a few moments. Turn off the heat, then stir in the cucumbers.  Just before serving, toss in the mint, preserving its intensity. Serve and share.

This salad is excellent served freshly made, but like anything pickled it may rest for an hour or more or even overnight. Its flavours and textures will evolve and intensify as it rests.

 

I have to say you would think we would then just have  a simple dinner but “simple” is not the way when I come to visit. They always outdo themselves with the most flavourful meals and dinner was no exception. Chicken thighs marinated in marmalade and grainy mustard with cabbage cooked to perfection with some sugar and balsamic vinegar olive oil and garlic (I may be wrong on the garlic but it certainly can’t ruin the dish). The chicken was marinated in the marmalade and mustard for an hour or so and then baked at 350-400 until ready. We joked about it being a very marmalade day since it was in the lunch salad as well. (Funny thing is neither Beth nor I are big fans of marmalade but cooking with it gives a whole different texture and taste – mellow and citrus in perfect balance).

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For the cabbage – I believe the recipe was to sauté 4 cups of thinly sliced cabbage with 2 tsp of sugar and a shake of balsamic vinegar.  Sauté until tender and serve.  The chicken with the cabbage and green beans was comfort food with an upscale twist – very yummy!

Once again my favourite thing – sharing great food with wonderful people! It was a great day and I left that evening with a smile on my face thinking it never feels like a whole year between our visits and I look forward to next years time spent all together.

Easy Italian Baked Eggs (Gluten Free)

I came across this blog (which I now follow), and it looked like the perfect cold weather comfort bowl for either breakfast, lunch or dinner!  I saw it on a blog called nutritionist in the kitch. It seems she came across it on a site called Damn Delicious (that’s how blogs work – stuff gets linked around – although you always link it back to the original place the recipe came from).

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Check out the blog at the link below (photo is by nutritionist in the kitch):

http://www.nutritionistinthekitch.com/2013/11/25/easy-italian-baked-eggs-gluten-free/

I am including the recipe below but check out the site as it really is great.

Prep time 10 mins

Cook time 10 mins

 Total time 20 mins

Serves: 1

Ingredients

  • ½ teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons diced onion
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • ¼ cup prepared marinara sauce
  • 2 large organic eggs
  • ¼ cup part-skim mozzarella, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons light parmesan cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • dash of salt
  • dash of pepper
 Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Add oil to a saucepan and heat at medium, add in onions and sautee until soft, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add in spinach and sautee until just wilted, about 2 minutes.
  4. Stir in marinara sauce and sautee until heated through.
  5. Transfer mixture to a ceramic soup bowl or individual sized ramekin.
  6. Crack in both eggs.
  7. Top with cheese and sprinkle with Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper.
  8. Bake for 10 minutes, and broil for an additional 2 minutes until cheese is bubbling.
  9. Enjoy!

Nutritional Information

Serving size: 1 Calories: 290 kcal Fat: 18g Carbohydrates: 11g Sugar: 4g Fiber: 3gProtein: 22g

Zucchini Cheese Strata

My apologies – I started to re-blog this last week and realized I already had a blog going that day so I cancelled this one.  It looked so good and since stratas are one of my all time favourite brunch meals I am re-blogging it now.  This recipe is gluten free but if that is not an issue for you then I would use a large loaf or two of french bread. I also make this recipe with sautéed mixed vegetables as well.  You can put anything into it.  Pancetta is great diced in small pieces.  Also I generally use egg whites so when I make a strata I go half and half with whole eggs and egg whites. This recipe comes from a blog I follow called Gluten-Free Gus.

Enjoy!

http://glutenfreegus.com/2013/11/05/zucchini-cheese-strata/

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Enjoy