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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Indian Black Rice Pudding

Now for those of you that know me – you know the thought of rice pudding makes me cringe. I, however asked my foodie friend Victoria if she would be interested in doing a guest blog for me. Victoria is one of the wisest people I know and when we get together I am sure we could wind up ruling the world if given a chance. We plan and discuss each others futures including where to live and how to invest to ensure our futures are secure etc (Victoria has been in the financial world for years and currently acts as a corporate trainer along with wearing several other interesting hats – check out her blog at rycepapers)

Sooo…..Victoria sent me her guest blog and low and behold it is on rice pudding!  So while I am sure it is as delicious as she says it is I will not be making it.  I do however encourage you to try it as she is a very good cook.  Here goes…

Indian Black Rice Pudding

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I find people either love rice pudding or roll their eyes at the mere mention of this dessert.  I am firmly on the love side and will eat any variety.  It can be hot or cold, with raisins or without, topped with whipped cream or naked.  Recently I tried an Indian version of this creamy dessert called ‘Black Rice Pudding’. Wow, it knocked my taste buds into heaven. So for all you rice pudding lovers, here is the recipe from Gurpareet Bains’s wonderful book “Indian Superfood”.

1/2 tablespoon black glutinous rice
1/2 tablespoon basmati rice
350 ml milk, partly skimmed
400 ml can light coconut milk
2 tablespoons sugar
6 green cardamon pods, very lightly crushed
Put everything in a heavy bottomed pot and cook on medium heat until it boils.  Reduce to a low heat and cook for an hour, stirring often, lid off.
Remove from heat, spoon out cardamon pods and stir in 20 chopped unsalted pistachios or maybe cashews, if you like them. Let your pudding cool. Then refrigerate it and it will continue to thicken.  Serve with fruit like berries or mango.
Serves two or three.  Or in my case, one.
I know the amount of rice seems paltry, but it actually works.  And the cardamon pods need only the slightest pressure to open. When I first did it, I practically ground them into paste.  Oops, start over.  What you want is the cardamon flavour and whole pods to remove.  The pods swell during cooking and are easy to find.
And the colour!  Prepare yourself for a wonderful lavender dessert. The black rice is actually deep purple and it slowly infuses your pudding with colour as it cooks.  It looks beautiful, smells divine, and tastes outstanding.
As a big fan of Indian food, I added this recipe to my favourites’ list.  Only 7 ingredients and, for a dinner party, you make it the day before saving you time and stress.
Think Chai Tea and rice pudding combined to get an idea of the flavour. Mine didn’t set into a firm pudding, but was thick.  Let me know if you try it.
Victoria Ryce

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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Breakfast Pizza

Okay so it’s really an omelette but in my mind I was putting it together like a pizza so work with me on this…

I chopped up half a zucchini and a large handful of mushrooms and sautéd them in a small frying pan. Then I poured 2 beaten eggs with a drop of vanilla thrown in (adds a neat very subtle flavour). I then aded a few halved grape tomatoes. I cooked this up like an omelette and covered it. (You can also put the pan in the oven and cook it that way but for a small omelette it seemed like overkill in a big oven. Covering it worked fine).

When the top was pretty much cooked I used two spatulas to flip it and put some grated old cheddar cheese on top and slid it onto a plate. Then I added some slice avocado on top.  The heat from the eggs finished melting the cheese which held the avocado in place and within about 7 minutes I had a delicious breakfast. You could make this for dinner too and add different ingredients like sliced meat, onion, mushroom in larger slices etc – anything that you might put on a pizza could work here. For my meal, I served it with a bit of hot sauce just to kick it up a notch.

This would be fun to make with kids and let them put different toppings on it just like a pizza.  Great way to get kids to eat a good breakfast!

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Sun Dried Tomato and Basil Scones

I had these scones at my friend Victorias place some time back and I keep forgetting to blog it.  They were so so good (moist and flakey) and the sun dried tomato got me thinking that I hadn’t used that ingredient for ages and it has such a great flavour. Below the images is the recipe which comes from Food and Drink Magazine (put out by the LCBO here in Ontario). The magazine is one of the most beautifully art directed magazines I have ever come across.

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scone bread

 

Ingredients:

2 ¼ cups (550 ml) all-purpose flour

½  cup (125 ml) grated Asiago cheese (Victoria used parmesan)

2 tsp (10 ml) baking powder

1 tsp (5 ml) dried basil (Victoria added the same amount of cayenne to hers)

¾ tsp (4 ml) salt

⅓ cup (75 ml) cold butter, cut into small pieces

⅓ cup (75 ml) milk

2 eggs, lightly beaten

½ cup (125 ml) sun dried tomatoes, drained, patted dry (important they are well drained of oil) and coarsely chopped

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 C)

Lightly grease baking sheet. In a large bowl, stir 2 cups (500 ml) flour with cheese, baking powder, basil and salt until combined. Using your fingers, rub in butter until it resembles coarse crumbs. In a measuring cup, whisk milk with eggs. Add to flour mixture together with sun dried tomatoes; stir to combine. If sun dried tomatoes are still moist, you may need to gently add remaining ¼ cup (50 ml) flour to form a soft dough.

With floured hands, knead dough about 10 times on lightly floured counter. On a baking sheet, form into a 9 inch (23 cm) circle. Using a serrated knife cut into 8 wedges. Don’t separate the wedges. Bake in centre of preheated oven until golden brown on top and baked through, about 17-20 minutes (Victoria says she baked for 20 minutes). Serve warm or cool on a rack.

Makes 8 scones

 

Final analysis…..Yummy!

 

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.
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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)

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

Frittata Breakfast in Collingwood Ontario

I spent a wonderful weekend in Collingwood Ontario at my friends Susan and Todd’s place. It just happened to be the worlds largest Elvis festival that weekend so we had lots of fun wondering around seeing the Elvis impersonators in between bike riding and hot tubbing – oh yes, and eating…..

This was Sunday morning breakfast made up from whatever we found in the fridge.  Frittata and grapefruit.  Turned out well.

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Frittata

Ingredients (anything we could find in fridge)

Salami chopped (can use any meat or none at all)

4 eggs and 4 egg whites

Broccoli chopped

Sautéed onion (1/4 of an onion)

1/2 Chopped red pepper

 

Directions

Chop all ingredients into small pieces, sauté in a large frying pan (coat pan in oil or PAM). Whisk eggs together and pour over sautéed ingredients. When bottom is slightly hardened put in a 375 degree oven till top is cooked.  About 10 minutes.

That’s it – serve with fruit and toast and you have a yummy Sunday breakfast!