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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Party Time!

I am invited to a big party this weekend and the hosts asked if I wanted to make the food for the party as well (given I do a side food business).  I have been wanting to try a couple of things out so I agreed.  I will do several posts over the next few weeks with some of the dishes prepared.  Here is the first post of two dishes – very yummy – The dates are a little messy looking but well worth diving into. The first platter are Medjool dates with maple goat cheese.  The second is a salad platter that can be served with a fork and is easily eaten.

 

Madjool dates with maple goat cheese

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Ingredients (for what is shown in the picture):

40 Medjool dates (these are the very large plump dates)

225 grams of goat cheese plain

¼ cup of maple syrup

Directions:

Mix the goat cheese and maple syrup. I used a fork to just mix it all up.

Slice each date down the long side and take out the pit.

Fill each date with about 1 teaspoon of goat cheese mixture (maybe less depending on the size of the date)

That is it! – told you it was easy and boy do they taste good.

 

The second dish was just cucumbers and sliced tomatoes with some pearl sized bocconcini cheese balls sprinkled over top.  Simple but pretty to look at.

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Dinner at Pizza Libretto (Toronto – Danforth Ave.)

Last night I had dinner with my friend Peter before we went to see the movie “Philomena”.  We decided on Pizza Libretto as it was in the neighbourhood and was fast service. Pizza Libretto serves traditional style Neapolitan Pizza. What does that mean you ask? Well it means it is cooked using all natural ingredients such as Marzano tomatoes in ovens imported from Italy and built by 3rd generation pizza oven makers in Naples. It also means the dough is naturally leavened with Italian Caputo dopio zero flour. Further, these specialty ovens cook the pizza at 900 degrees for only 90 seconds (hence the fast service).  All that being said you are probably wondereing “How good was the pizza?”

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Well Peter had the fresh arugula with Ontario prosciutto, garlic, tomato, oregano, basil and shaved grana padano cheese. His pizza was quite delicious and very fresh tasting.

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I chose the cremini mushroom with bufala mozzarella, goronzola, roasted garlic, rosemary, thyme and pecorino (I did ask them to leave out the thyme as it is not my favourite herb).

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While mine tasted fine – Peters was definitely better in my books – more flavour. I love mushrooms but I guess when they are only baked for 90 seconds albeit at 900 degrees – they don’t release much of their flavour so I found mine a bit bland.  Also the center of the pizza is very very thin and quite moist so you cannot pick a piece up with your fingers and eat it – you need to use a knife and fork. I am not saying this is a bad thing it is just different from that usual.

I will say that adding the hot chilli oil helped add flavour to my pizza.  Peters was certainly more flavourful though but same issues with the centre.

Portion size is big – I couldn’t finish mine. The cost for mine was $17 and for Peters – $16.  Not crazy high prices and it certainly was large enough to share along with a salad I think.

All in all – Yes I would go back but no, I would not order the mushroom pizza again.  I would try something different.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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

Dinner Club at Jocelyn and Bills’

Argentina was the country of choice for our dinner club evening at Jocelyn and Bills’.  What a spread!  While there are usually 8 of us plus up to 2 additional guests, there was enough food to feed an army. And what amazing flavours of food!.

We had tomatoes dry grilled till blackened on one side – then sliced cross hatched with black pepper sprinkled over them.  The tomatoes were so juicy drizzled with a bit of olive oil and some fresh oregano leaves sprinkled on top.

tomatoes grilling

There were endives seared in red white vinegar and melted sugar – sounds very sweet but it actually just gave a hint of sweetness as the melted sugar didn’t stick but slightly moistened the endives.  Oh sooo goood!

tomato and leek

Other appetizers included a piece of provolone with cracked pepper and chilli peppers heated in a pan until softened and then cut and spread on small pieces of baguette.  This was outstanding.  Another starter was a platter of soft pears peeled and sliced served with prosciutto and topped with chopped parsley and olive oil (I think that was the herb topping?) There were sliced potatoes (mandolin thinly sliced), empanadas, and chimichurri sauce and other delicacies served as well.

pear and procuitto

Then the main course  – meat – which is what is served in Argentina in abundance.  We had amazing grilled steaks and sausages.  A meal to remember!

stak and sausange

And on top of all this amazing food – we all did a presentation on a slice of Argentina. In the end we walked away stuffed and learned on all things Argentinian.  Fabulous evening.

Tahini Dipping Sauce

Had this at my friend Victorias recently with cut up vegetables and roasted sweet potato slices.  I thought it was wonderful and immediately we were coming up with a ton of uses for this dipping sauce which is easy to make and delicious.

Here is the recipe (Serves 4) – sorry no picture

Whisk together the following ingredients:

1/2 cup of Greek yogurt (we used regular yogurt and it was perfect)

1/4 cup of tahini

2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp rice wine vinegar

1 tbsp soy sauce

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp coriander

Salt to taste

1/4 tsp sriracha sauce (hot chilli sauce)

Serve with vegetable, fries, as a creamy dressing for salad, with coleslaw…..Come up with your ideas and send them over!

Chicken Marbella with stuffed tomatoes

Had my first of several holiday dinner parties the other night and made a long time favourite recipe called Chicken Marbella.  The recipe comes from the cookbook “the Silver Pallet” and I think it is the recipe that made this book famous (it is why I bought the book). The beauty of this recipe is that you make it the day before and marinate it overnight, then just add a couple of ingredients and pop it into the oven.  I knew the dish had delicious juices that I didn’t want to waste and needed something to soak up the liquid with.  I decided on quinoa but thought from a colour standpoint that would be beige on beige which I have a big problem with.  Food has to be appetizing visually first, colour is a big factor in setting your anticipation of what you are about to taste.

I decided to stuff tomatoes with the quinoa so that I had a bright colour to serve with the chicken. Served with a green salad, I covered the colour wheel pretty well. Both recipes are below.  It was so tasty and filling I am thinking of making it again for my next dinner party!

Stuffed Tomatoes with Quinoa

stuffed tomatoes-quinoa

I have blogged before on stuffed tomatoes and they are so easy.  Just spoon out the pulp and leave a shell.  Turn upside down on paper towel to drain and then stuff with whatever you like.  I made quinoa with a touch of lemon juice added and then mixed in about half a cup of grated parmesan cheese when it was ready.  Then I just stuffed the tomato shells and added a bit of parmesan to the top so they would brown and baked them for about 40 – 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Chicken Marbella

chicken marbella

Notice the red theme? (pre Xmas dinner party).

This recipe is taken from the Silver Pallet Cookbook. I am providing my version however which has a couple of slight variations.  Serves 6-8 with leftovers

Ingredients
8 chicken breasts cut in half (or half breasts and half thighs)
3 tsps chopped or minced garlic
2 tbsp dried oregano
freshly ground black pepper to taste  (you can add some salt but I don’t)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup pitted prunes
1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives
1/4 cup capers with a bit of juice
3 bay leaves
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white wine
Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl combine chicken, garlic, oregano, pepper, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice, and bay leaves. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, overnight.Before cooking, arrange chicken in a large, shallow baking dish and spoon marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle chicken pieces with brown sugar and pour white wine around them.Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting frequently with pan juices. Chicken is done when thigh pieces, pricked with a fork at their thickest, yield clear yellow (rather than pink) juice.

Shrimp Saganaki (revised)

A number of you read the post from my cousin in Greece on the Shrimp Saganaki

https://foodthoughtstoshare.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=481&action=edit

Well I made it for myself and a friend this evening and we did a few revisions to the recipe.  Here is what we changed and I have to say – in the words of my friend Cynthia “it was wonderful”.

 

Basically I did the same recipe but added red and orange peppers, I also sautéed some garlic in with the onions to start and then because both Cynthia and I love legumes – I added a small can of chick peas and a tsp of dried oregano as well.  I also sprinkled some feta over top when I served it (I didn’t have any parsley on hand…) and we both practically licked the bowls clean.  This dish was so easy but so delicious I would serve it to guests in an instant (they would think you slaved over a hot stove for ages it is so good).

While my photos may not do it justice – believe me when I say this was a delicious meal – ready in about 20 minutes to half an hour start to finish.

Stuffed tomatoes

Saw a picture of some stuffed tomatoes and thought I would try out my hand at making some.  Pretty darn easy to make.  I bought 4 hot house style tomatoes (large).  Using a spoon I scooped out the insides being careful not to break through the outer layer – I left about .25 inch all around the inside.  Turned the tomatoes upside down on some paper towels to drain while I made the stuffing.

Since I wanted a protein in it and I love lentils I used them as the base.

Ingredients

1 can lentils

chopped garlic (as much as you like)

1 cup frozen chopped vegetables

6 large chopped mushrooms

2-3 tbsp brown sugar

salt and pepper to taste (easy on the salt as the parmesan cheese has salt

1 tbsp olive oil in the fry pan

Directions

In a frying pan – saute the onions until browned, add in all the ingredients at once and saute  together.  Once mixture is warmed take the hollowed out tomato shells – toss a bit of parmesan on the inside bottom of the shell and then stuff them with the mixture.

Fill to the top and then sprinkle parmesan over the top to cover.

Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit  for 25-30 minutes depending on your oven.  This recipe could make 8 stuffed tomato shells – I made 4 and kept the rest of the mixture in the fridge for other things.