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.

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Xmas Dinner 2013

Xmas dinner 2013 was had on December 24rd with my “adopted” family the McBurney clan which includes Jay and Jonathan, with Meg and Rob and the Matriarch of the family Marg and Bob – plus all the kids…

This year we had it at Jay and Jonathan’s. Jonathan is a fabulous cook so you know the meal will be wonderful when you walk in the door and start smelling the aromas of Xmas cooking.

Jonathan kindly lets me help out cooking a few things as we do love to talk food and cooking ideas. His turkey this year (as every year) was delicious and moist and devoured!

The potato galette which is a specialty of his is out of this world.  He slices the potatoes with a mandolin and layers them in the pinwheel shape you see here. He adds emmental cheese to each layer and finishes with stilton on top.  Lactose intolerance be damned – I dug into those potatoes!

The squash was slow roasted for three hours giving it the sweetest caramelized flavour ever.

I got to make the brussels sprouts which we just par boiled then sautéed with butter and topped with sautéed  crispy chopped  sage leaves and shredded parmesan cheese.

The stuffing, wine but especially the company was outstanding and I have to say when I awoke the next morning I think I was still full of good feelings, food and memories of another great Xmas spent with wonderful people.

potato galette

potato galette 2

Turkey

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Brussels sprouts

Friday Night Dinner With Old Friends

I may have mentioned in previous posts about my friend Fern who is my oldest friend (not in age but in years we’ve known each other 😉 )

Last Friday I went over to Ferns in the afternoon so we could cook a nice dinner together for Friday evening.  Her dad, husband Ian one of her sons Chase along with another old friend (again not in age but years known) Liz all came for dinner.

I went over about 2:00 in the afternoon so we could take our time and hang out.  We made the honey sesame chicken recipe I have posted before on brown rice along with brussel sprouts seared with chestnuts and bacon pieces and a great salad.

There is a small story behind the brown rice I have to admit.  I am not good at making rice.  I do not have a rice cooker and my rice always comes out a bit mushy or wet even though I follow the guidelines exactly.  This time Fern gave me a box of Uncle Bens converted brown rice.  How could I go wrong? Well I started following the instructions for something else on the box and in my defence there were about 3 different methods of cooking the darn rice.  I added way too much water and thankfully Fern came to the rescue and dumped half the water mid way and saved the rice from being porridge. I don’t think I will ever live that down as the whole time we were cooking (and drinking wine) I kept saying “I don’t think this rice is right”

We lucked out since Ian (Ferns husband) just bought a restaurant downtown that serves fabulous cheesecake so he brought home a great assortment for us to choose from along with a great chocolate “babka” cake Liz brought.

When all was said and done, it was a really great day and a lovely evening with old friends and great food.

salad

 infamous rice
chicken and sprouts
chicken on rice
Couldn’t resist this picture too – When I got up to bring something to the table and came back to sit down – this little girl was in my seat – think she wanted to join the fun! She was quickly shoo’d off the chair but what a face!!!!
dog

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!

 

Cinnamon Nutmeg Pumpkin Soup – Nice Fall Soup

I posted this last year around this time and thought it was timely to post again so here it is.
This is a recipe from a website I follow called “dLife” – it is designed for diabetics but it has some great low carb recipes which is why I follow it. I have just copied and pasted it in here so you get the whole picture from a nutritional point of view.
Their recipes are quite easy to follow which is also why I like it. They also have an area where you adjust the number of servings you want to make and it automatically adjusts the amount of your ingredients to work for hat quantity.  Much easier than figuring it out on your own.
Here is the link to their website if you are interested.
Cinnamon Nutmeg Pumpkin Soup
Source: dLife A warm, creamy pumpkin soup spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar.

Rating:     
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Difficulty: EASY
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Nutrition Facts

Makes 4 servings
Amount Per Serving
Calories 183.6
Total Carbs 12.6 g
Dietary Fiber 0.5 g
Sugars 4.4 g
Total Fat 13.7 g
Saturated Fat 8.5 g
Unsaturated Fat 5.2 g
Potassium 355.1 mg
Protein 4.1 g
Sodium 50.1 mg
Dietary Exchanges
3 Fat
See the Detailed Nutritional Analysis
Powered by ESHA
 Servings 

 Ingredients

4 cup fresh cubed pumpkin , peeled and seeded
2 cup half & half
1 tbsp packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (up to 1/2 tsp)
1 tbsp fresh chives , snipped as garnish
 Directions

1 Fill medium saucepan with 1″ of water.
2 Add pumpkin and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Drain well.
3 In food processor, process pumpkin and half and half until smooth.
4 Return to saucepan and add brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
5 Heat mixture to boiling, and then immediately reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, uncovered.
6 Serve in bowls garnished with chives.

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).

cake

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!

Leftover Brisket with Friends

As many of you who read this blog will have figured out by now, I love sharing food with friends.  It is one of my favourite things to do.

This time the sharing took place with my friends and neighbours just a couple of doors over. Zannat (who writes a great blog I follow “food 4 happiness“), made steamed collard greens with garlic – of course anything made with garlic in my books has to be good. I brought over leftover BBQ brisket and sweet potato and cauliflower mash.  The great thing about brisket is, it is always better the next day or even two days after. Below is how I made the potato mash.  See the beef brisket link above for the brisket recipe.

brisket

Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Mash – perfect comfort food

1 potato per person

1 handful of cauliflower pieces per person

Boil or steam both the above ingredients till soft enough to mash (you may need to drain them well so mash is not too watery)

Combine both in a bowl and add a spoonful or two of yogurt and a handful of grated old cheddar cheese (yes that is the secret ingredient!)

I use a hand mixer to really blend the ingredients well. Mix till fluffy and there are no lumps.

Serve and enjoy!

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.

 

 

 

Asparagus Risotto at Suzanne’s

The other night I was looking through the fridge and realized there was nothing to make for dinner. Coming to the realization that I may be eating a peanut butter sandwich that night, I was contemplating what to do when the phone rang. It was my friend Suzanne asking me if I want to come to an impromptu dinner at her place.  She too said she didn’t have anything to make which leads to her fall back meal of risotto.

I haven’t made risotto in ages but Suzannes is out of this world.  She went out and got some scallops and seared them to serve with the asparagus risotto.  It was a meal fit for a queen, so good with freshly grated parmesan cheese sprinkled on top and a fabulous baby spinach salad made by another friend Ginny.

There are many variations on risotto but the main thing is to use a starchy rice like arborio and slowly add liquid until absorbed – including a cup of white wine 😉

You can add all kinds of ingredients – salmon, vegetables, mushrooms etc.  Good way to use up ingredients in the fridge…..

risotto

I always forget about making risotto but after this meal trust me when I say it is now at the forefront of my mind.  Thank you my friend for a fabulous evening!

Smashed Potatoes with Leeks and Cheddar

Okay so I was a bit bored the other day (especially with what was in my fridge…). I had a few baby red boiled potatoes left over from a food order, a small piece of old cheddar and my lovely neighbour dropped off a huge beautiful leek at my door the other day (don’t ask…).

I remembered my friend Ted’s potato dish from Dinner with Ted and Judy and thought I would try to make something similar.  Well it is not at all the same  but this is very yummy.  First I sautéed the chopped leeks (1 leek white part only), then added two giant cloves of garlic minced (just because I love garlic!).  I then put the cold potatoes (7 small red potatoes) into the pan and “smashed” them with my potato masher. I realized I may not have enough potato so I started to mix the ingredients in the pan a bit and then decided I needed something to bind somewhat so out came my trusty egg whites to the rescue!  I just poured about 1/4 cup over the mixture and then kind of stirred it up a bit so the egg worked it’s way through the mixture.  I grated the tiny bit of cheese I had left over the top and mixed it as best I could. Then I pressed it down into the small frying pan and seared it till one side was browned.

Using a small plate I covered the fry pan and flipped the potato mixture onto the plate and then slid it back into the fry pan to brown the other side (it did break apart a bit but it’s called “smashed” potato mix so who cares if it is a bit messy. Once back in the pan I smoothed out the edged pressing it down again into the pan.  The finished product was delicious!

smashed potato and leek

smashed potato and leek2