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.

brunch

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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…

pizza 2

pizza

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.

Chicken and Pasta Prima Vera

This recipe started out as pasta prima vera but I thought “why not add some protein to it”? Turned out to be quite yummy and when a group of friends wound up back at my house all hungry I happened to have a big bowl left over from a food order I had just filled so was able to get everyone fed and happy in a very short period of time.

IMG_1200

Ingredients – serves 6-8:

Olive oil – enough to sauté vegetables

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into small bite size pieces

4 cloves minced garlic

1 red and 1 yellow  pepper cut into thin strips

2 large handfuls of chopped raw kale

2 cups sliced mushrooms

1 cup grape tomatoes cut in half

1.5 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1 cup fat free evaporated milk

2 tablespoon all-purpose flour, dissolved in 6 tablespoons water

Pepper to taste

1 large carrot peeled and sliced into strips with a peeler

Fettucini or linguini – enough for 6-8 people

3/4 – 1 cup grated Parmesan

A large handful of fresh parsley leaves chopped

1/4 – 1/2 cup shredded fresh basil leaves

Salt to taste if you want to (I don’t usually cook with salt)

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add peppers and cook until they begin to soften, about 2-3 minutes. Add garlic, mushrooms, tomatoes and kale and cook until softened about another 4-5 minutes. Add carrots and stir into other vegetables. Stir in flour/water combination and mix throughly with vegetables. Add stock, evaporated milk and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cook until liquid has thickened slightly, about 5 minutes. If liquid does not thicken enough add another tsp of flour and water mixture and stir through.

While the vegetables are cooking, bring water to a boil for the pasta. Cook pasta until it is al dente. Drain pasta and combine and toss  with vegetables and sauce. Serve garnished with Parmesan, parsley and basil.

Note: sauce thickens even more by the next day.

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!

Shrimp and Kale

It was another night where I wanted to use up ingredients in the fridge but still make something interesting.  I always keep shrimp in the freezer because they can turn any meal into something a little more special.  Tonight I decided to use up a batch of kale I had in the fridge and a yellow pepper and some feta cheese.  Here goes:

shrimp and kale

This dish took about 20-30 minutes in total.

Ingredients: Serves 2-3

1 leek (white part only) sliced

1 bunch of kale chopped finely

1 pepper (any colour will do)

2 garlic cloves minced

10-15 shrimp (medium sized)

1 – 14 oz can finely diced tomatoes (you can chop about 4 roma tomatoes instead of using canned if you like)

Feta cheese for sprinkling over top

Directions

Sauté leeks and chopped pepper till soft (I add a small amount of brown sugar to help brown them a bit and to make the tomato flavour a bit less acidic.) Add chopped garlic when leeks are soft and sauté together for a minute or two.  Then add tomatoes and chopped kale and mix till the kale begins to soften.  Once the kale is soft add the shrimp and mix thoroughly. Cover and let it finish cooking for about 3-4 minutes.

Put in a plate and sprinkle with some feta cheese and serve.

100 Mile Cassoulet Meal in the Country

I spent the other weekend at my friend Victoria’s place in the country.  It was a wonderful weekend full of art shows and country town drives.  We hit the farmers market on Saturday morning to get ingredients for dinner that night, still not totally sure what we were going to make but wanting to be inspired by the local produce.  We decided on a version of a cassoulet.  I had brought up smoked turkey and smoked chicken sausages from my local butcher shop that were already cooked but just needed a bit of grilling to brown them.  It was so delicious!!!!!

We got two meals for us and then another three meals to freeze out of the recipe which when we worked it out came to about $2.50 – $3.00 per serving at the most.  Full of great vegetables and flavours.  (As an aside – I added leftover cooked quinoa with vegetables to a serving I brought home and it was great).

Victoria also made a Caprese style salad on skewers for us – it was so good and so unusual. The secret is to soak the cubes of mozzarella cheese in balsamic vinegar for several minutes or longer before putting on the skewer. The cheese along with fresh basil from the garden and small grape tomatoes from the garden made for a wonder “salad”

Caprese salad sticks

Cassoulet 1

Casoulette 2

Ingredients:

1 onion

1 leek

2 medium carrots sliced

2 celery stalks sliced

2 garlic cloves – minced or chopped

1 can white kidney beans

2 bay leaves

1 large red pepper

1 small can diced tomatoes (we used Victorias homemade roasted tomatoes which gave an even smokier flavour)

Pepper to taste

2 large cooked smoked sausages (turkey or chicken) sliced (1/4″ thick max.)

3 cups chicken or vegetable broth

8-10 large mushroom (large pieces)

Pinch of cumin

1-2 tsp of chilli garlic hot sauce – quantity depends on how spicy you like your food)

Parmesan cheese to top it with

Directions:

Sauté onions and leeks. Add all ingredients and simmer for 1 hour. When you plate it – add some grated or shredded parmesan cheese to the top and serve with a baguette to absorb any liquid

Serves 6

Zucchini Boats

I have heard it is often tough to get kids (and some adults) to eat vegetables – personally I love veggies but that is me.  I came across a recipe that I thought was really smart and delicious.  Zucchini Boats!  I am attaching the link to the blog that featured them along with the photo from that blog.  Use your imagination (and your kids imagination) for toppings. Enjoy!

http://www.prouditaliancook.com/tag/zucchini-boats

 

zuc-1-1

Dinner at Jane’s

Had a wonderful dinner at my friend Jane’s the other night along with another friend Jocelyn.  We sat out in the garden on a perfect evening eating until we started clearing dishes and I freaked out about the bees (yes many of you know I am somewhat bug phobic….).  Inside we went for a pretty spectacularly presented dessert of fresh fruit and a trifle (and some more wine….)

Dinner was salmon steamed in parchment with vegetables (recipe from the cookbook French Women don’t Get Fat), baby potatoes and perfectly ripe deliciously meaty tomatoes with goat cheese and balsamic vinegar. So so good!

raw salmon

salmon in parchment 2

salmon in parchment1

triffle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dinner with Friends

Had dinner with friends of mine the other night on a perfect evening.  The weather was just great for sitting outside in their lovely backyard before going in to eat. The company was great and the food was outstanding!

To start we had this amazing goat cheese appetizer. I must try this recipe which I will show here – not sure which cookbook it comes from but it was a great.  Dinner was yummy BBQ’d steak with roasted tomatoes and asparagus with peppers.  Oh soooooo good.

 

goat cheese app2

goat cheese app

 

So the above appetizer was made in muffin tins – much like a small terrine.

The tin is lined with plastic wrap and a layer of goat cheese mixed with some fresh chopped chives is pressed into the bottom. Then a layer of smoked salmon is added.  Next a layer of thinly sliced green apples and then another layer of goat cheese with some chives sprinkled on top. The cheese is put in the fridge and when ready to serve you pop it out and surround the plate with some capers. My friend put it on a bed of lettuce with was perfect as it was a nice texture with the goat cheese.

Below is the BBQ meal with the roasted vegetables – just a great summer meal!

 

K&G veg

 

steak and mushrooms

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grilling in the country

Spent a wonderful Canada Day long weekend in around the Lindsay/Peterborough area at my good friend Victorias place.  It was like a spa for the mind and body.  We had planned on experimenting with cooking up new food ideas so I was very excited.  Some worked really well while others not as much.  I decided to blog even the mediocre in hopes perhaps someone could recommend how to make it better.  Here goes several meals so keep reading after the first:

Brown Rice Paella (not your typical version)

paella1

While this looks really good….it was lacking in intensity of flavour. We didn’t do the typical spicing which is probably why it was lacking in flavour.  Instead we opted to try lime and cilantro to flavour it for a lighter tasting paella.

Ingredients

1 cup brown rice (we should have used instant rice but used regular brown rice as it was what we had)

10 large raw peeled shrimp

1 lb of mussels

1 cup of frozen green peas

Juice of 1 lime

1 lemon cut in quarters (to sprinkle over dish)

Fresh coriander

Directions

We marinated the shrimp in some lime juice and coriander first.

Cook the rice in chicken or vegetable broth until just about ready then add the frozen peas, shrimp and then the mussels on top.  Cover and steam for about 5 minutes.  Very quick and easy but the thing that made it taste okay was we added hot sauce to it on our plates.

Please feel free to comment any ideas you think would have improved on the flavour (other than the traditional style).

Grilled Turkey Burgers with Tomato and Feta Salad and Grilled Vegetables

Grilled Turkey burger

tomato and feta salad

This was amazing – We made these burgers in a way I had never made burgers before and low and behold they were awesome!!!!

We did not have any bread crumbs so we used large flake oatmeal instead.  Who would have thought!  Okay every gluten intolerant person probably knows this but we didn’t so it was amazing to learn.

No real need for instructions here as you just combine all ingredients which included the following:

1 lb. ground turkey

1 sweet onion – I caramelized the onion but you can just sauté it.

About 1 cup of large flake oatmeal

Dijon mustard – 3 tbsp

2 cloves of garlic minced

A splash of hoisin sauce

A splash of BBQ sauce

(use any condiments you have in your fridge that you think you might like)

A pinch of black pepper

1 egg

The mixture seemed very wet so we made the patties and put them in the fridge and like magic by the time we went to cook them (about an hour or two later) they had firmed right up! – apparently the oatmeal absorbs moisture (I know all you people that knew this are thinking “Well of course it does” but we really didn’t know – I am not an oatmeal eater so I never use it).

The fun part for us both was grilling on a tiny charcoal grill – after several attempts we got it going and that little sucker really got hot (we kind of charred a couple of the burgers in the process but they still tasted amazing).

Burgers on BBQ

Add to this a roasting pan full of baby carrots from the farmers market fresh that morning, japanese eggplant and asparagus topped with a bit of shredded parmesan cheese and you have a fabulous meal.

Grilled veg

What could be better to add to this meal than a salad of fresh tomatoes with feta cheese and basil from the garden fresh picked and you have the perfect summer meal. (oh yeah I also sautéed some mushrooms to put on top of the burgers…)

Lastly – for lunch Victoria made this yummy Niçoise salad with some fresh tomatoes, baby white potatoes, 2 hard boiled eggs, fresh quick cooked asparagus with a dijon dressing that was absolutely delightful!  So fresh and tasty.

nicios salad

You now know pretty much everything we ate that  weekend 😉

Pretty darn awesome I have to say!