Tuesday, September 22, 2009

One of those days.

Today, on this second day of fall, is the two year mark of our wee Maggie passing. Oh how I miss our wee pup. She was such a good and loyal dog - better than that - a good and loyal friend. She had such a great character - she definitely played a huge part in my life and in so many others. I know that she is looking down on all of us - probably hanging with my dad - and singing up a song.

Second day of fall - and I got something funky going on. I stayed home with what I think may be a sinus or inner ear infection. I have had the 'dizzies' and a bit of a fever. Good times. I did manage to have a bit of a sleep in - but as per usual - I can't laze around for too long. So, I did get caught up on all the laundry. Hello clean underwear and socks!

Although I wasn't 100% today - I have been planning on making Barley Risotto - and had fresh asparagus from the Root Cellar - so today was a perfect day for some good comfort food. My new addiction - although I have only cooked with it a couple of times - I love it so. I did a little research online and found that Barley is really good for you.

- rich in vitamins, protein, minerals and amino acids
- one of the riches sources of soluble and insoluble fiber
- rich in tocotrienols - an antioxidant which helps lessen the risk of contracting heart disease and cholesterol problems

I'm sold.

Risotto is such a rich and delicious dish - it takes time to make and you really have to commit to 30 minutes of watching over it. Don't get me wrong - I make it from time to time (not often) - and I love it - but this Barley Risotto is so good, and so easy. You don't have to stand over it stirring continuously. 

I found the recipe online - and altered it a bit. I really loved it, and will definitely be making it again. 

Barley Risotto

1 onion - chopped
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup of pearl barley
1/2 cup of white wine
3 1/2 cups of chicken stock - try and use the low sodium - it tastes just as good - and is healthier
3/4 pound of asparagus - boil or steam for about 3-4 minutes. Chop into 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Juice of half a lemon

In a large heavy bottomed pot - melt the butter and add the onion and saute for about 7 minutes. Add barley and coat in the onions, add the wine and stir carefully to coat everything in the wine. Add the 2 1/2 cups of the chicken stock (save a cup) - cover and let simmer on medium heat for about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally. 

Once the barley has absorbed all of the stock, add the remaining stock - 1/4 cup at a time. Ensure that you stir in all of the stock so that it is fully absorbed before adding the next 1/4 cup. Once all of the stock is absorbed, remove from the heat - add the asparagus, the juice of the lemon and the parmesan cheese. 

Voila - it's done. Serve with a bit of parmesan cheese as a garnish.

I hope that you give this a try. It's delicious.

Ok - off for the night. 


Monday, September 21, 2009

Check, check, check it out.

Yesterday's all day pork shoulder simmerfest - kind of turned out. Everything but the cut of the meat. I used a pork shoulder (sorry, I know that sounds kind of gross), but I should have used the butt (and... even grosser). I found the shoulder was a little too fatty. So the recipe below, I wouldn't change the ingredients - just the cut of meat.


Pork - pork roast, pork butt - a good cut of pork that can simmer all day long. 
In a large pot - place the pork. Cover with 1 tbsp of kosher salt and some fresh cracked pepper. Add 2 tbsp of garlic powder, 2 tbsp of cumin, 2 tbsp of smoked paprika, 1 tbsp of cayenne pepper (or 2 if you like it spicy) and 4 cups of water. Cover and simmer for hours. Literally - hours. I would keep an eye on it and flip it over so that both sides are simmering in the juices. When the meat is cooked - remove it from the pot, let cool and then either use your hands or two forks to shred the meat.

The pastry for these little gems is super easy. Seriously, super easy. I am not much of a baker, but this recipe is fool proof. I have used this recipe before for an Onion and Goat Cheese Tart - see it HERE.  

Pastry Dough
2 cups of flour
2 generous pinches of salt
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp sour cream
10 tbsp of unsalted butter - which is equivalent to 2/3 cup
2 tbsp of water
In your food processor, add all of dry ingredients with the butter. Pulse about 10 times until all of the butter is in pea sized bits. Add the sour cream, egg yolk and water and pulse a couple of more times. Check the consistency, it should be able to stick together and form a ball. 
Remove from the food processor and lay on a flour surfaced. With your rolling pin, roll out the dough. Cut circles about the size of a CD - I'm bad with measurements. 

For the filling
Once the meat is shredded, you should use about 3 cups of meat. Add 1 cup of corn, 1 cup of black beans (that have been rinsed) and 2 tbsp of ketchup. Mix it all together.

Fill each empanada with 2 heaping tbsp of the meat mixture in the center of each round. Brush one edge with egg. Fold over the other half and gently press the edges together - with a fork, press the edges down. Brush the one side with egg. Place the half moons on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and place them in a 450 oven for 15 minutes. 

I loved these! Chris loved them too - and rated them a 5!!! Give them a try - they aren't difficult - just a little timely. 

With the leftover pork - I made a very quick and easy Chili. This isn't my typical chili recipe - but close.

Fast food Chili
1 onion diced
3 cups of fresh sliced mushrooms
3 peppers - diced 
1 large can of diced tomatoes
Pork - left overs from the empanadas
1 can of beans - as in pork and beans - but I use beans in tomato sauce
1 can of navy beans
1 bunch of fresh spinach
Garlic powder (use the powder if you don't feel like chopping fresh garlic)
Lots of chili powder

In a large pot, saute the onions in olive oil and a pinch of kosher salt over medium heat. Once they are translucent, add the mushrooms. Continue to cook, stirring often. Add peppers - add a generous sprinkle of chili powder. Add the pork. Stir everything all together. Add tomatoes, and all of the beans. Add more chili powder, garlic powder, spinach - stir, cover and let simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes and your dinner is ready. 
Such a hearty dinner - and so super easy. Chris rated this a 4.
Now - we are just about to watch another episode of True Blood. If you haven't seen this before - try and find it. We download it - and we are ADDICTED to it. Soooo good.
Ok - good evening to everyone.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sweet, sweet Sunday

Oh what a week it has been. I often look forward to my Sunday mornings - especially in the Fall. Although Chris isn't home, and we only get one morning together a week, it's a treat to get up, have a cup of tea, take my time to get going, plan the day and be lazy. Forever, Sunday's have been my easy day - for years I have always used Saturday as my 'go go' day - Chris has helped me relax a bit on those days - but I still have the tendency to run out and get things done. 

This fine Sunday is off to a slow start. I have a load of laundry in the washer, a cup of tea in hand, a pork shoulder simmering on the stove (hopefully I can figure out how to make empanadas for tonight's dinner), a dog walk planned and an afternoon baseball game to watch.

It was a busy week around here. It was Chris' birthday this past week. I had a little party for him on Friday with family and friends - I did a couple of lasagnas, caesar salad, tomato feta salad, garlic bread and for appetizers - goat cheese with pesto and a new white bean with rosemary dip - thanks to Ange's idea. 

For Chris' birthday dinner I made his favourite chicken pot pie, and a key lime pie. I am not a baker - but the pie turned out really well - bitter, but good. It's been a week of cooking.

I am very excited about what I got Chris for his birthday. I got him tickets to the Seattle Seahawks vs. Dallas Cowboys game - in DALLAS!!!!! Wahooo! So excited. Chris was so excited too. I got him a couple of little things - big chocolate bar, the Slap Chop and a framed picture of the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders - I think that he was happy with that - but was more happy when I gave him the card with his surprise. It's going to be so much fun. If anyone has been there - I'd love to hear from you.

Alrighty - I am off for a walk - I will post some recipes later on. I have some great ones that I am looking forward to sharing.

Off to enjoy the sun.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Love dogs.


I know that it's not reality that everyone loves dogs. In fact, I know that there are people that don't like dogs one bit. I respect that - I don't understand it (at all) but I understand that it takes all kinds to make the world go round.  Today I took the pups out for a big walk out at Elk/Beaver Lake - we did the side opposite the highway - walked down the one side then turned around and went back - I think that it was about 7-8K. It was a great walk, beautiful weather and the pups loved it. So, I am back to dog lovers. It was really busy out there today - lots of joggers, a few dog walkers and what seemed like a lot of people that didn't like having to share the path with dogs - more so, my dogs. 

Anyways - I just found it disheartening to have people be annoyed when my two little pups would stop and watch oncoming joggers, or have one of the dogs stop quickly when being tailed by a jogger or if either of them wanted to sniff a jogger's dog running by. Sigh. One woman was running right behind Jozie and I called Jozie to move so she did and the woman jumped over her (why was she running right behind her anyways?) and she yelled 'Jesus Christ!' Oh well.

I also realized that there are some just really unhappy looking people out there. 

Rant over.

Speaking of pups - we had Heidi over for dins last night. This girl has been through so much. Her dog, Cali, had pups about 8 weeks ago. 6 pups - 2 girls and 4 boys. Cali was really sick after having the pups and had to spend quite a bit of time in the vet hospital without her pups. In the meantime, her and her husband had to ween the pups from their mama and hand feed them every 2 hours. Then, Miss Yellow, one of girls, passed away. It was so sad. And now Mr. Red has been in the vet hospital, but has returned home and is doing pretty good. It's been such a long, sad, heart-breaking and costly 8 weeks for them. She still is looking for homes for the 2 boys - I keep telling Chris that we should take one of them. He's not THAT into it.

Dinner last night was stuffed peppers with barley and vegetables - PS Barley is one of new faves - mussels and clams in a tomato white wine sauce, prawn skewers and thin slices of grilled bread. 

Chris loves the clams - I prefer the mussels so I did a mix - and Heidi likes both!

Mussels and Clams Sims Style
30 mussels - I don't know how many pounds - I got them fresh from Thrifty's - and the guy at the counter told me that the bag contained about 30
30 clams - same as above
4-5 clovers of garlic - minced
2 cups of fresh tomatoes - seeded and chopped
1/2 cup of white wine
1/2 cup of chicken stock

Rinse the mussels and clams. In a large dutch oven (something big enough to hold the shellfish) saute the garlic in 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Stir often to ensure that it doesn't burn - about two minutes. Add tomatoes, cover, stir often - for about 4 minutes. Add white wine, cover, stir continuously for another 5 minutes. Add the clams and the chicken stock - cover and let cook for 5 minutes. Then add the mussels. Gently stir, cover and cook on medium to high heat for about 10-15 minutes. When you see the shells have opened - they're all ready. Serve them in a large bowl, or in the dish that you have cooked them in. I served them with the sliced bread that I brushed with olive oil and grilled both sides on the barbeque. The broth is delicious - so ensure that the bread soaks up all of the flavourful goodness.

That's it for me - another week is about to start. I need to try and hold on to this weekend for as long as I can.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Bringin' Tuscany home.

Not sure where the time has gone - but before I know it, 3 days have past and I haven't posted - and I have a lot to say, I tell ya.

Not too much happening on the Rock right now - we had a good weekend all around - pretty low key - but lovely.

We started our afternoon on Saturday with a trip to some of the farms in Saanich - so great out there. Here are a few of our pics from our adventure.

Saturday night we went to Chris' brother and gf's for dinner. And what a dinner it was! We were treated to an abundance of sushi, tempura veggies and fish. It was delicious!!! I have big plans to have Ayumi teach me how to make sushi - which is very exciting for me.

Sunday was the annual 'shoe shop' with my nephews. We had a great time as usual, and the boys got some sweet stuff. As the boys get older, the prices of shoes go up. I am not sure how parents do it. I remember my parents used to get us all new school clothes when we were young - we'd have our shop in Van or PG - and the clothes would last us the winter. I'm not sure how they always made it happen. Hopefully these shoes will last awhile - Conns still as his from last year - and I'm pretty sure that Cal's were done within a couple of months of getting them. We went to a bunch of different shops downtown - all the skate and snowboard shops, did a Starbucks run and ended the day at the Canoe Club. They are so fun - and I love that they still love this tradition. This was our 10th annual!

Now for the good stuff. I am super excited about this - yes, food makes me excited. I made homemade pasta sauce on Monday. Fresh tomatoes - some from the garden and some from Sun Wing Farms. The idea of the pasta sauce (which I have made before) came from the book that I am reading - The School of Essential Ingredients. It didn't have the recipe in it, but it generally described how to make a perfect pasta sauce.

Pasta sauce with Italian Sausage

5 sausages - I used italian sausage with sweet basil - remove the sausage from the casings
1/2 milk - don't worry it seems weird but it isn't
1/2 cup red wine
4-5 cloves of roasted garlic
Tomatoes - I'm not sure the measurement to be exact, but I used: 5 large vine tomatoes, 3 large roma tomatoes and about 12 strawberry tomatoes. Tomatoes should be skinned. 
To skin them - cut an X in the top of the tomatoes - boil for about 4-5 minutes - remove them from the hot water and let them cool off. When they are cool enough to handle, gently remove the skins from them.
Fresh basil

For the tomato sauce:
In a food processor add all of your tomatoes and puree.  Add the roasted garlic too, to avoid having to handle it when it is hot. Yes, it's as easy as that. It's so easy, and the taste is incredible. If you don't have fresh tomatoes - then use canned - it would be just as delicious. 

Now for how to make the pasta sauce:
In a large skillet, saute your ground sausage over medium heat. Once the meat is cooked - but not browned - don't go that far - add the milk. To ensure that the milk doesn't curdle, keep the heat at low/med - watch and stir it constantly. It's lovely to watch - the meat absorbs all the milk - which then makes the sausage even more juicier. Then add the good stuff - red wine. Stir it for another 5 minutes or so, to ensure that the meat is soaking it all in.

Once you have completed these VERY easy steps, add the tomato sauce to the meat - and voila you are almost finished a delicious, homemade pasta sauce. 

Let this simmer. Ideally it would be perfect if you could let this simmer all day. Letting all the flavours meld together - cooking it up the traditional Italian style. I added fresh basil that I coarsely chopped and some very fresh spinach - both from Sun Wing Farms and some fresh mushrooms. 

Don't forget to season as you go - add kosher salt and cracked pepper. 

I served our pasta sauce over angel hair pasta and topped it with fresh parmesan. 

Chris and David both rated this a 5!!!!

I am not sure why I am so excited about making this, but I think that it's because, I have only a few times in my life bought jarred spaghetti sauce. I used to sometimes by the canned Hunt's stuff and over the past couple of years always make it with diced tomatoes. So, making this sauce from scratch, knowing what went into it, and having it turn out so deliciously, was pure bliss for me. I sometimes dream of living in Tuscany or some small Italian village and just cooking all day - learning traditional dishes - and because that may never happen - I have to try and invent my own Tuscany. Now I just have to learn how to make fresh pasta.

Well friends that's it for now. Try this please - let me know how it goes.

Oh!!! I am on the hunt for a Pumpkin loaf recipe - do you have one? I want one that doesn't have a lot of sugar. I tried to find one online tonight and each of them called for 2-3 cups of sugar - which is far too much. I would love it if you have one.

Ok - have to run - I have a pot of Hamburger Soup - sans Hamburger - simmering away. Yumma.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

The last days of summer.

Happy Long Weekend everyone. I have always found this weekend to be bittersweet. The bitter part - end of summer, and back to school. The sweet part - summer is over and fall is following, and a long weekend to celebrate a great summer. 

This weekend has started off well. Homemade blueberry scones, a dog walk and a trip to Zells to pick up some goods to try some canning this weekend. 'Try' - will be the operable word.  I have faith that it will be easy, and I have 'Behind Yard Barb' to help me out if needed. I am so excited about the notion of running downstairs, mid-winter, flinging open one of my pantry doors and having an abundance of jars of tomatoes to pick from - to add to a homemade spaghetti sauce, a homemade soup or chicken parmesan. I think that is the 'wanna-be country gal' coming out in me. 

Chris and I are going to take a drive out to some of the farms this afternoon to see if we can get some goodies.  I have heard that Sun Wing Farms is full of great vegetables. Tonight we are going to Chris' brother's and gf's for dinner. We are going to be treated to a full on Japanese feast - I am SO excited. 

Ok - just a few things to add.

Yesterday was a very long day - an '8 hour meeting' kind of long day. I had to stop off at Safeway - and I found little packs of ravioli in single serving sizes (which by the way is far too much for one person) - I picked a couple of them up and I am so happy that I did. They were great. Spinach and cheese - helped make a fast food and super easy dinner.

Spinach Ravioli with oh so fresh veggies - fast food style!
2 packs of single serving raviolis - or one large - whatever you like. 
1 yellow and green pepper - chopped into small bits
1 yellow zucchini - cut into thin rounds
12 strawberry tomatoes - or grape tomatoes - cut in half
3 cloves of garlic - minced
Parmesan - as much or as little as you like

Boil the ravioli until it is el dente. As your pasta is boiling, saute your minced garlic in a medium sized skillet - in olive oil and 1 tsp of butter (this will prevent the garlic from burning). Saute for 1 minute.  Add the peppers and the zucchini and and coat them gently in the garlic and olive oil. It's a good idea to keep the veggies in small pieces as they will cook faster. Remember this is 'fast food'. Add the tomatoes and continue to stir. Add any seasonings that you like - I only added the Verde Vinaigrette seasoning - and it was just right.

Once the pasta has finished cooking - drain. In a nice large boil, add the pasta and top with the vegetables. Give a generous topping of parmesan and toss gently. And that's it. Probably a 20 minute dish from start to finish. 
The colours of the vegetables are so beautiful and they remind me of summer.

I served these with smallish turkey burgers that were topped with melted goat cheese. Yumma.

For this morning - since I was up before 8, I decided to make some blueberry scones. I am so excited that I froze something like 20 bags of them. They will remind of us summer goodness all winter long.

Blueberry scones Sims Style
2 cups of flour - I usually use whole wheat - but today I used a cup of whole wheat and regular flour
4 tsp of baking powder
1/4 cup of sugar (you can omit this)
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup of butter 
1-2 cups of blueberries - frozen or fresh
1 egg - beaten
2/3 cup of milk

Mix all of your dry ingredients together. With a pastry cutter or two knives, cut in the butter. Add the blueberries and gently stir this all together. In a separate bowl beat the egg and add the milk and stir together. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and gently stir together. It will be sticky. I usually use my hands and mix it all together. Separate the batter into 12 pieces and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Use a small amount of milk and brush a small amount of milk on each scone and top with a tiny sprinkle of sugar.

In a 425 oven, bake for 13-15 minutes. 

When they are ready - they will be golden, moist and the blueberries will pop in your mouth. 

Give them a try - they are easy and delicious.

Ok - need to run. I hope you all enjoy the weekend - hold on to your summer!



Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Orzo Love.

Orzo is a favourite around the C&C household. It's probably one of Chris' favourites - right up there with chicken pot pie, steak and homemade soups. 

I tried orzo for the first time many years ago. By 'tried' I mean that my mom had Orzo for dinner at Babs' for dinner, called me to tell me that she had it and how she thought it was cooked. So, I thought that I would give it a try - many years later it is still something that I love to cook. 

I use a couple of different ways: Greek orzo salad - one of my favourite summer salads; as a side dish with just green onion; and then as a main dish like tonight. 

If you've never tried orzo, but you like pasta, then you'll like this. You can find it in your pasta aisle, and if you go to specialty stores, you can find it in vegetable flavours - which are also really good. It cooks just like pasta. Give it a try - I think that you'll really like it.

Orzo Solo

2 cups of dry orzo - boiled just like you would pasta
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts - cooked and cut into either thin slices or cubes - whatever you like
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
2 cups fresh tomatoes - tonight's recipe had strawberry tomatoes that were picked up on the weekend at the Root Cellar - they were cut in half 
Fresh spinach
1 onion - chopped
3 cloves of garlic - minced
1/2 cup of fresh parmesan cheese
2 cups of chicken stock

It seems like a lot of ingredients - but don't worry - it's a super easy dish that layers as you go. 

Saute the onion in olive oil and a pinch of kosher in a large skillet - for about 7 minutes or when it becomes translucent. Then add your garlic - keep an eye on your skillet so that it doesn't burn. Add your chopped mushrooms and coat them in the onion and garlic - saute for about 1 minute. Then add your cooked orzo that has been drained. Coat all of the orzo in the onion and garlic and mushrooms.  Then add the chicken stock - over medium heat, stir generously so that the orzo is able to start to absorb the stock. Add the tomatoes and spinach. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to stir to ensure that the orzo is still absorbing the stock. Add any fresh or dried herbs that you like - fresh basil or dried oregano are both really nice.

Once the orzo has soaked in all of the stock's goodness - it is ready to serve. Add the cheese to the orzo and stir it all in - you may want a little more to top off the dish once it is served. 

And that's it. Yum.

Chris rated this a 5!

It's hard to believe that August is over. It came and went way too fast. I miss it already. September has started out with promise - with a bang - let's hope that high, positive energy remains - I'm sure that we could all use a little firecracker in our pants from time to time.
Long day - ready to rest my weary eyes. Hump day is almost here - embrace it.