Dinner at the Neighbours

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to dinner at one of the neighbours whom I had known for years but never really socialized with. Well I was definitely missing out on great people!  Pina and Dan (and another of the neighbours Mireille) put on a great spread of grilled yakitori chicken skewers with steamed vegetables and roasted tri-coloured potatoes.  What a perfect summer meal!!!  We ate outside and enjoyed great company, great food and great wine (Mireille brought a very nice wine that was just perfect with the meal. It was a white with a slight sparkle to it – “Gazela”).

Dan BBQ’d the chicken skewers brilliantly using foil to avoid burning the wooden skewers.  The meal was finished off with delicious cookies homemade by Emily (Pina and Dans daughter).  What a great evening!

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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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Grilled Chicken with Goat Cheese and Roasted Peppers

I’m having some friends over on Sunday night for dinner and since our weather has been so wonderful I am planning on eating outside and grilling our dinner. I wanted to try making the dish I was planning on serving first to see how it tasted. It turned out well and I think I will have this on Sunday night.

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To make this chicken dish, I just butterflied the chicken breast and put some goat cheese in the middle along with some roasted sliced red peppers. Fold it over and use toothpicks to hold it tougher so the cheese doesn’t all ooze out while you are cooking.  When it’s on the plate just drizzle some balsamic glaze (buy it in a bottle) over top. Simple.

The sweet potatoes I slice in rounds and put them in a ziplock bag with some olive oil and black pepper. Then put them on the grill and BBQ till each side has grill marks and the potatoes are somewhat soft.

 

I made a similar dish Friday for dinner with my friend Richard – just easy grilling chicken breasts and sweet potatoes.  Nothing fancy but tasted great. I just marinate the chicken breasts in a bit of olive oil, black pepper and garlic. To add a spark of flavour I add a tiny sprinkling of maple sugar on one side just to help it caramelize a bit. I love the flavour BBQ gives to food (and I love the low mess and clean up too!)

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Shrimp, Quinoa and Asparagus (Risotto?)

So I thought I would try making quinoa like a risotto. In a deep frying pan adding the liquid a bit at a time like you do with a risotto rather than just pouring in the liquid and letting it cook.  My rational was that I wanted to add asparagus and shrimp to the the mix so that all ingredients would be flavoured and I could control the level of cooking more evenly.

The result worked out well and I had a lovely dinner with lots of leftovers for lunch the next day.

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Here’s how I made it:

 

Ingredients:

⅛-¼ cup of lemon juice (depending on how lemony you like it)

1.5 tbsp olive oil

1 onion – diced

1 cup of quinoa (I use an organic white)

2 cups of chicken stock (approximately as I added as needed – you can also use vegetable broth)

1 tsp of lemon pepper

5 shrimp per person (more or less depending on size of shrimp)

1 bunch of fresh asparagus – about 15-20 stalks

 

Directions:

Dice the onion and put in pan with the olive oil. Sauté until cooked (almost translucent but not browned). Add quinoa and mix well to coat. Add the lemon juice and let it mix in. Trim asparagus and then cut into 1-2 inch pieces and keep to the side. Once the lemon juice has mixed in, add chicken stock to cover the quinoa and let it cook on medium heat. Keep adding liquid as it gets absorbed and after about 5-7 minutes test the quinoa to see how close it is to being ready. Add asparagus and mix well. Cook for another few minutes and then add the shrimp. I laid the shrimp on top of the mixture and added a last bit of stock which steamed the shrimp. Flip the shrimp over when they are cooked (you can also just put the shrimp in the mixture and stir it and the shrimp will cook in the quinoa). Once the shrimp is cooked the quinoa should be ready too.  If it still needs some time – take out the shrimp to avoid over cooking and making them tough and add a bit more liquid to the quinoa till done.

Plate and serve!  All together this took about ½ hour to make. (NOTE: I put some grated parmesan over top when serving to add a bit of saltiness since I don’t add salt when cooking)

 

Oh I almost forgot – leftovers for lunch the next day with my neighbour Zannat – on a bed of arugula with a light apple cider vinaigrette.

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Maple Soy Glazed Salmon Salad

I had made a salmon dish for one of my food clients and had some leftovers. Since I wasn’t that hungry I decided to make a salad and use up the extra cooked salmon. The fish I had made for the dinner had a maple soy glaze that turned out really well.

Simple recipe – mix in a ziploc bag – 1/4 cup of maple syrup, 2 tbsp of soy sauce (I use low sodium), 2 garlic cloves crushed or minced and some black pepper. At the last minute I tossed in a ginger cube that was frozen (equivalent to 1 tsp). The cube didn’t melt so I don’t think it contributed to the flavour. Put your salmon in the bag and marinate for about 15-20 minutes.  Then sear it till it begins to caramelize on one side. As you see the flesh turn that light orange colour when it is cooked, flip it over and cook till the other side is also that light orange and darkened on the outer side. Just takes about 15 minutes in total depending on the thickness of your piece of fish.

I happen to really like cold salmon especially in salads to add as a protein. This time I made the salad with romaine lettuce, baby cucumbers, sweet grape tomatoes and some goat cheese.

It worked out very well. I was full but not stuffed.  Try it – I think you will enjoy it.  Use whatever dressing you like on the salad.

The beauty is you can have the salmon for dinner one night and then lunch or dinner the next day with the leftovers but as a completely different flavour.

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Summer BBQ Dinner

I know you must be getting tired of my raving about Ted and Judy’s cooking but trust me if you were eating their food you would never tired of it!  Last week I was there for dinner on a lovely cool spring/summer evening and Ted BBQ’d simple chicken breasts and asparagus along with fingerling potatoes. Inside a fabulous lush salad was made by Judy with a dressing made by their son Jonathan (apple doesn’t fall far from the tree in that family).

Simple meal but so tasty and cooked to perfection.  Moist chicken (albeit large – which of course just means left overs for me ;-)), Judy found something called seaweed asparagus (think that was what it was called). Tiny little shoots that look like mini asparagus but grown in the sea so quite salty.  She par boiled them and let them soak for awhile and the salt level came right down.  Very much a sea salt flavour as opposed to the stuff you shake on food though – so delicate).

For the potatoes – Ted roasted them on the BBQ then we added the softened garlic that was cooked with them and I mashed it and put it back over the potatoes which Ted then did a light “smash” too to create what you see below.

The sea asparagus was sprinkled over the chicken and the salad provided for a very green and healthy looking delicious dinner.  No surprise there – I figured I have never had a meal there that wasn’t wonderful – okay maybe the company has something to do with it too but truly the food is always amazing – such creative cooks – very inspiring.

 

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Meatloaf – who would have thought it….

I have never made a meatloaf. I know it’s hard to believe but there it is. I am not even sure why I haven’t made meatloaf before.  It is really pure comfort food and after spending a weekend visiting my friend Victoria in the country and making it there I am doubly amazed that I have never made it.

Meatloaf has to be the fastest, easiest, low cost meal going. Here is how Victoria made it and I have to say it was delicious both for dinner and for sandwiches the next day served cold.  What a staple meal to have in the fridge! Have I mentioned heathly too?

Turkey Meatloaf

1lb. ground turkey

1 chopped onion

A few chopped sundried tomatoes (only because she had them on hand – experiment with whatever is in your fridge)

1 egg beaten

½ cup relish of your choosing including salsa, bbq sauce, apricot jam (we used a sweet and spicy relish from Harry and Davids)

Directions

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and put mixture into a loaf pan.

Cook at 350 for 1 hour

That’s it!  How simple and it tasted great but the real treat was having it cold the next day in a sandwich (olive chibata buns).

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Pasta Dinner (with Presidents Choice Pasta)

I don’t normally eat much pasta but Presidents Choice (brand name in Loblaws grocery stores in Ontario) black label pasta has put out a commercial using their mushroom stuffed pasta that is mouthwatering.  I happened to be in Loblaws and saw some of this black label pasta and as I was reaching for a package of it to read the label a woman stepped up and loaded every one of the mushroom stuffed pasta into her cart!.  She left the pumpkin stuffed pasta and a cheese version on the shelf along with the style I bought which was stuffed with asparagus.

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I felt rather creative that night so here is what I did with the pasta…

Using a roasted garlic flavoured olive oil (which I mixed with a bit of lemon flavoured olive oil), I sautéed some finely slivered peppers with some pine nuts till golden brown. I then added a tablespoon of butter to make some brown butter. While the peppers and nuts were sautéing I boiled the water and cooked the pasta (only needs about 4 minutes). Once the nuts and peppers were done and the butter melted I tossed the pasta into the pan and mixed it all together.

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I then divided the pasta into two dishes (one for me and one for my friend Richard – because you can’t just eat this good a meal by yourself ;-). I had crisped some prosciutto in the microwave which I then crumbled over top of the pasta and peppers and then grated some fresh parmesan cheese over top.

Felt like we also needed some greens with dinner so using a Kale Salad mix I buy at Costco which is made up of kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts and radicchio I added some crumbled feta cheese, chopped mango and tomatoes.

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All I can say is… Whoa! that was a yummy meal. All ready in less than half an hour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Bean Flautas

Came across this on Pinterest as a meatless dish.  Looks so nice and I thought what kid (or adult for that matter) would not love this for lunch or dinner one day. It looks so summery and I am getting into summer mode with some lighter dishes these days.  Check out this link to ohmyveggies.com for the recipe.

 

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Chef Michael Smith – the Lentil Hunter

The other night my friend and fellow blogger Zannat invited me to a food blogging event featuring chef Michael Smith and his travels around the world looking for interesting lentil dishes.  You won’t believe the info I walked away with – aside from the fabulous food and presentation…

Did you know that Canada is the worlds largest producer of lentils?

Did you know that Canada is the worlds largest exporter of lentils?

We export to places like India, Morocco, France, Dubai and Italy!  It turns out we have a perfect microclimate for growing lentils and not just one or two kinds of lentils but apparently lots of varieties, most grown in Saskatchewan. Our Canadian lentils are the gold standard in the world.  Who knew?

The evening was made up of tasting stations from each country Chef Michael visited. The tour and recipes can be found on his Tumblr page – http://chefmichaelsmith.tumblr.com or go to his own webpage – http://chefmichaelsmith.com/lentil-hunter/  Make sure to watch the videos of his travels – they are really interesting and the recipes in most cases are not difficult. Check out his new cook book too – “Back to Basics”.

I am now on a lentil craze and will be trying many of these recipes.  Below is a sampling of pictures taken at the event.  Thanks Zannat for inviting me, thanks Crave PR for putting on such a great event!

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