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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Birthday Lunch with my Friend Peter

Awesome lunch with my friend Peter for my birthday at Hanks on Church at Front Street in Toronto.  It was delicious! Normally wouldn’t eat that type of meal but after all it was my special day so I threw caution to the wind and enjoyed it thoroughly. Definite recommend.

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Montreal Smoked Brisket Sandwich – my sandwich

Shaved brisket (also known as smoked meat), dijon mustard, creamy red cabbage coleslaw, swiss cheese on a toasted ciabatta

 

Hank’s Burger – Peters lunch

8 oz of Ontario beef dressed with green onion mayo, lettuce, tomato, dill pickle, a crispy onion ring, sautéed mushrooms and swiss cheese on a sesame seed bun.

We ordered half fries and half salad just to be good. Yes I did go to the gym that afternoon!  Nuff said!

Salmon, peppers and arugula

I had one of those evenings where I knew I was going to make some salmon but didn’t know what to have with it. I looked through the fridge and didn’t see much so I went for a walk to the green grocer up the street and picked up some peppers and arugula. Couldn’t resist them – they looked so fresh and colourful.

I came home and thinly sliced up an orange pepper along with a leek. I sautéed them till wilted and then threw in a handful of baby arugula to wilt it.  I turned the burner off so the heat that was left in the pan wilted the arugula nicely.

I did a quick maple and dijon glaze for the salmon and put it in the toaster oven for about 12 minutes then placed the fish over the peppers, arugula and leeks, sprinkled some toasted sesame seeds on top and dinner was ready in about 20 minutes.  How easy is that!

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I only managed to eat half and shared a small taste with my cat who was quite happy to indulge as well ;-). Now I don’t have to think about lunch tomorrow.

Boston for a Day…

So a couple of friends and I decided to do a trip to Boston for the day.  We got a great deal (cheap cheap) through Porter Airlines and off we went to spend the day taking in the sites of Boston.  How great is that?

Started with a very early flight out of Toronto (6:50 am) where we encountered Madeline, our flight attendant who smothered us in food treats and wine (yes we realized it was 7:00 am but when you are going to Boston for the day you take advantage of every opportunity 😉 ). “I call it the Breakfast of Champions” (The juice was wine and cranberry/orange). By the end of the flight we were hugging Madeline goodbye with the pilot asking “what went on back there?”

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Kims cousin Jason picked us up at the airport and took us to where he works (Reebok).  They call it a campus – it is something out of a TV documentary….I would love to work there!  Huge gym with a full size basketball court right in the middle. He took us around and the highlight (for me anyway) was a trip into the Reebok store where we got everything for 50% off! I scored running shoes and little black booties (Rockport).

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Then it was off to lunch at a pub downtown after which we needed to walk off the heavy food we ate.

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We walked all afternoon and ended up sitting by the water/marina to give our feet a rest.  Then it was back into the main part of downtown and onto the shuttle to the airport at about 4:30. Caught our flight home at 6:30 and got into my house by 9:30.  What a whirlwind day!  I can’t stop smiling about it every time I think about it 🙂

Cheese, Arugula, Prosciutto and Chicken Pizza

I had a craving for arugula and prosciutto pizza. Mostly because I had the ingredients and I love the taste of arugula. Originally this was to just be cheese, arugula and prosciutto but I had a couple of chicken breasts that needed to be cooked so I just baked them and sliced part of one for the pizza (The rest will be left overs).

I have also made this as an appetizer without the chicken and cut into small pieces.  Pretty yummy – I used a creamier cheese for that evening (Port Salut).

This was so easy to make and 20 minutes in the toaster oven and I got two meals out of it. (Dinner and lunch the next day).

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Here is the process I followed:

1 stone baked crust (store bought – so many types – just pick one you like or by all means make your own!)

I only had old cheddar cheese on hand so I used that and just cut thin slices to basically cover the base of the crust

A large handful of baby arugula (looks so pretty) spread over the cheese

3 pieces of prosciutto torn apart and scattered over the top.  This alone makes a delicious pizza but I had the chicken so…

Thin slices of chicken breast cooked to cover the top of the pizza

Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes until the crust gets a bit crispy (I cooked it in a toaster oven)

Enjoy!

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Vancouver Island Holiday


I just spent a week out on Vancouver Island with my cousin Rebecca – what a fabulous week! Aside from the most perfect weather, she has just purchased the most perfect house. It’s a heritage home that was “floated” over from Victoria a few years back.

Rebecca is planning on having a B&B at the house and I can’t think of a better place to be. The house has so much character and Vancouver Island is so beautiful. This was a sort of working holiday as I was helping to get things done around the house.  My cousin has some beautiful art that needed hanging so we put up at least a dozen pictures, a beautiful carving of loons and a gorgeous hand made wall hanging.  I also built a headboard from an old door that was left outside (solid oak – they don’t make doors like that anymore).

Now for the food….

Salmon, seafood and more salmon.  It doesn’t get any better than heading down to the fishing boat and buying some salmon for dinner. We had salmon in scrambled eggs for breakfast, in omelettes, seared salmon and BBQ’d salmon. Oysters that were half the size of my palm were $9 for 14!!! And oh so fresh.

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Farm fresh eggs and salmon and grilled potatoes for breakfast

One night we had maple salmon with boiled potatoes and sea asparagus. Some of you may remember I talked about sea asparagus in an older post – I had never heard of them and here they were growing wild at the waters edge right in front of her home!  We picked them and soaked them and I sautéed them with some garlic to put over the salmon.  Yummy meal. We had some fresh tomatoes that a neighbour brought over that day from their garden.  We decided this was a 10 mile meal (as opposed to a 100 mile version)

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Sea asparagus growing wild

 

 

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Soaking in water as they are very salty

 

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Wild Pacific Salmon

 

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Yum!

My cousin Rebecca is a champion pie maker and since blackberries grow wild everywhere around the island where she lives she made a blueberry and blackberry pie that was outstanding.  We had it my last night at a dinner party given by Kim and Tom with Mary Jo and Veer. What a great night – drinking blackberry wine and eating fresh BBQ’d salmon with oysters. What a great week with great people!

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Before going into the oven

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Baked – what an incredible smell!

 

See below for pics of the house and the neat headboard (yes I am proud of it) 😉

Rebecca's house

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“Chicks-in-Charge” Lunch

We had a gathering of our “Chicks-in-Charge” group a bit earlier than usual as one of our long standing members was going away for 8 months and we wanted to have a catch up before she left. (This is our group of about 8-10 women who run their own business) As usual our host Sheryl outdid herself with lunch. She wouldn’t let any of us bring anything other than side items.

Sheryl prepared a lunch fit for a group of special people (which I think everyone in the group is). We had roasted red and yellow pepper shells filled with red quinoa, a lovely salad, roasted potatoes and artichoke hearts (couldn’t stop nibbling at these – oh so good). Dessert was some sweet items one of the “chicks” brought.

It was a perfect lunch on a lovely summer day – who could ask for anything more?

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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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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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