Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Summer fruit...I will miss you.



This summer has been a culinary dream. I think that really every summer is, but for some reason the fruit and vegetables that were available this summer, made me feel like I was in paradise. Although summer really didn't hit until some time in August and we really only ate outside a handful of times, the fresh and local ingredients made me feel that summer still showed up.

This summer I fell in love with so many different fruits. Some I have every summer and some were new.


Blueberries I always love. When they start showing up at the Root Cellar I feel like a kid in a candy store. I just can't get enough of them.

Watermelon - oh my. When it is cold and cut up into small cubes - I could potentially sit down and eat a 10 pounder. Ok, that's exaggerating - but oh I love it. I loved the watermelon juice that I made - such a refreshing treat.

Yellow watermelon - I don't think that it will ever know what an incredible surprise it was for me to cut into that little sweet melon - and find yellow - not bright red - yellow. Eating it was even way more incredible. Ice cold - small cubes - I could just eat that I think for the rest of my life.



Plums - oh these incredible gems. They come in so many different varieties, but these fuscia morsels are the most beautiful things from nature. The sweetness is even more incredible if that is even possible.
Nectarines and peaches - oh love. I am sad that the Root Cellar has signs up saying that it is the last of summer from the Okanagan. I stocked up - but it will never be enough.


All of these - maybe not the watermelons - but adding every berry you can imagine and all of these other gems make the most incredible baked fruit ever.

I am really going to miss summer this year for the reason that all of this incredible, beautiful fruit is leaving us. Another year will have to go by before we can soak all of these fruits in again.

My sister has a plum tree in her back yard. She brought me over a bag - they were deelish. I ate half of them, pretty much the night that she brought them, and then whipped up an easy pie with the rest. I mean easy.


Plum Pie

Pie crust - click HERE for the recipe
20 plums - halved and remove the seeds
1 1/2 tbps of cane sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 350. Roll out the pie crust and place into either a tart pan or a pie plate. I had an extra ball of dough in the freezer - and it tastes just as fresh.


Place the plums individually on the pie crust. Add them on a slight angle so each one slightly overlaps the next.
Sprinkle with cane sugar.
Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes.

Remove - let cool slightly. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream or plain yogurt sweetened with vanilla.

So, as I write this message, I have said farewell to my plums, my yellow watermelon, and I will cherish my peaches and nectarines for the next couple of days. Thankfully my blueberry stock will keep me throughout the winter.

What fruit will you miss the most?

Loves.

Enjoy!

I will miss you all like I have never missed anything before.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Corn tortillas, peach salsa - my try at a Mexican feast





Happy Sunday morning. There's something about a dull grey Sunday morning that I love. I think that because it's not super sunny and hot, that I don't feel pressured to get up and out right away. I like the idea of sitting in my pajamas, catching up on the Food Network, Coronation Street, checking out a few blogs that I like and just overall loafing. I know, however, that this is just the first of many dull, grey Sundays to come - so I really should get off my Royal Canadian and make the most of this day while it's not raining.

I don't have any pictures to share yet, but I will - thanks to my besty - Tracy Risinger - who got a ton of incredible shots of the best evening. We were the 'crew' for a dinner cruise. I created and prepared the menu for 6 - and we sailed out and around Victoria. I am super excited to share the evening - the menu with you guys.

I sometimes struggle a bit with my cooking style. I am a home cook making simple, hearty, comfort food. I think that I should break out and try different ethnic foods but they intimidate me a bit as I am not sure what flavours go with what and how to incorporate them all together. And then I think that I have to remember that it's ok - that I don't need to cook those foods - I can try them from time to time - but that focusing on hearty, comfort foods, is my thing - and that I enjoy making them. See - issues! Oh well.

For my birthday this year, friends Stagia (it's really Stasia) and Steph gave me a tortilla press - and I have been wanting to use it for quite some time. My mom won a gift basket from Epicure that a bunch of Mexican themed stuff and there was a bag of Masa flour (corn flour) - so I finally had the right ingredients for making corn tortillas.

What really inspired the corn tortillas though - was a bunch of peaches that I wanted to use up. I am usually pretty happy when I make something that I think tastes good, but folks, this peach salsa was DELICIOUS. I am not just saying that because I made it - really truly - I just loved how all the flavours came together.


For dinner Sims Style, for UFC, we had corn tortillas with shredded chicken, lettuce, guacamole, peach salsa and Oaxacan cheese (Mexican) along side Spanish Style Quinoa.


Corn Tortillas

2 cups of fine corn flour - Masa Harina
1 1/2 cups of water
1 tsp of salt

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and form a ball. Place the dough in a plastic bag and let it sit for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, form golf sized balls with the dough and place them on a baking sheet or cutting board so that they are easy to access.

If you have a tortilla press - hoorah - the process is quite easy. Place a piece of parchment or waxed paper on each side of the press. Place the dough ball on the bottom side of the press - and press.

Using a hot skillet - I used my cast iron pan - place the tortilla in the hot pan and heat on each side for about 30 seconds.
If you don't have a tortilla press - you can put the tortilla in between the waxed/parchment paper and squish it down with a heavy pan.

Peach Salsa

I am not really sure if I should be calling it a salsa, but I am going to. Call me crazy, I know, but my goal was to make a salsa, and I loved how it turned out - so we'll call it that.

3 peaches - peeled
Juice of 1 lime
Pinch of kosher salt
1 jalepeno - seeded (I don't like it too hot - I kept a few of the seeds for a bit of heat - and it was just right)
Cilantro - I am not sure how much I added - probably 1 cup in total - add it whole

Place all of the ingredients into a food processor and chop. The peaches will puree and the entire salsa will be more of a liquid that chunky. The colour goes a beautiful green because of the cilantro - no one would probably know that there were peaches unless they tasted it or you told them.

For the chicken, I roasted two chickens that I covered in the juice of 2 limes and kosher salt, for about 1.5 hours at 400 degrees. After they cooled, I shredded the chicken, added the juice of another lime, added fajita seasoning, 2 tbsp of tomato paste, and reheated in the oven.
I shredded head lettuce very finely and whipped up a batch of guacamole. And shredded cheese for the top.


To assemble:

Corn tortilla
Shredded chicken
Guacamole
Shredded lettuce
Peach salsa
Cheese

I thought that the corn tortillas were really earthy - not sure what other word to use. They had flavour and were hearty - rather than the ones that you buy in the deli. Everything went well together - and although I don't claim to be able to cook authentic Mexican food - I really liked how these turned out.

These will be so good without the meat as well, if you just wanted to try it vegetarian. You could chop a bunch of tomatoes, roast some corn, slice some peppers - endless possibilities.

Alright - in the oven - chicken meatballs. On the stove - homemade chicken stock. Just pulled out of the oven - roasted zucchini, eggplant and garlic. My version of Italian Wedding Soup - recipe soon to follow.

Loves.

Enjoy!!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Puddin'




Straight and to the point - that's my style. Most of the time anyways. Well, probably not all the time, but sometimes. You will rarely hear me talk and talk, just to tell a story. Rarely.

Ok - back to it. I am a bit best tonight - busy week - so my recipe is short and sweet - super sweet - easy as pudding - and that's that. My cousin told me about this dessert - so I thought that I had to give it a try. I didn't really have a recipe - I just winged it - and I kind of like how it turned out.
It may freak you out when you read the ingredients, and I can understand that, but if you are interested, try it. Chris tried it and liked it.He didn't love it, but he did like it, and I know if I make it again, he will eat it up.

Tofu Chocolate Pudding

Say what - tofu!!!!

1 package of medium firm tofu
1 1/2 cup of dark chocolate

In a food processor, blend the tofu until smooth.

Using a double boiler, melt the chocolate until silky smooth. Add half of the tofu to the melted chocolate and gently stir to incorporate and then add the rest of the tofu until it is all blended together. Refrigerate until ready to serve.


I think that when I try this again, I may use the soft tofu to see if it will make it just a little more smoother.

Yumma.

Loves.

Enjoy!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Easiest appetizer ever



Monday, Monday. As much as I really never want the weekend to end, I really don't mind Mondays. I especially like Mondays when Fall is just around the corner. Or should I say 'Autumn'? I actually never say 'Autumn'. I probably won't start now. I think that I will keep with "Fall'. I love Fall. I love the cold crisp mornings; the colours of oranges, reds and yellows; the abundance of squash and root vegetables; turtleneck sweaters; boots - I will stop now - or I would keep going and going.

This morning was lovely. Cool, but with promise of a blue sky. I was up nice and early, walked the pups, cut watermelon for breakfast and headed to work. A good start to the week must mean that it is going to be a good one.

Last week I had my mom and sister and nephews over for dinner. I decided to try something a little different for an appetizer. Only one didn't find them a hit - the wee'in. The little punk. I saw this recipe when I was in Ontario on the Food Network - Everyday Italian - I modified it b/c I couldn't really remember the recipe, but I knew the jest of it. I am really excited to make these again - except if the little punk is coming.


Smoked salmon mini pizzas

1 package of pizza dough or homemade
3/4 cup of plain yogurt
1/4 cup of fresh dill - finely chopped
100 grams of smoked salmon - thinly sliced - I used lox that I found at the Root Cellar - I am not really sure if 100g is enough - it probably is if it is thinly sliced

Pre-bake the oven to the temperature states on the pizza dough package. Roll out the dough and using round cookie cutter or the top of a glass - cut 12 rounds - about 3 inches across.
Bake until light and golden. Let cool.

In the meantime, mix the plain yogurt and dill together. Set aside. Cut the Lox in to 12 equal sized pieces.

Then make the pizzas. Pizza shell, yogurt dill, and lox.


I should have warned you that these were the easiest things in the world to make. EASY!! I think that a different name would be better - but I can't think of one. Any suggestions?

Alright friends - time to warm last night's leftovers up for the husband. Gumbo recipe - coming soon.

Loves.

Enjoy!!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Upside-down ShihTzu Cake



It's been a bit of an action-packed weekend and at the same time - no action at all. Just the way that we tend to like it around here.


It was Chris' bday on Friday. We didn't celebrate in any huge way - just a few of our friends in for dinner, drinks and cake. Very low key. Rosalyn (who made our wedding cake) made his birthday cake for me.


For years, Chris has called our Jozie an 'Upside-down Shihtzu Cake'. Mostly b/c she lies like this - and it's too cute for him to just say 'Jozie is lying on her back'. He has said that we have to figure out how to make a cake upside-down so that we can call it an 'Upside-down Shihtzu Cake'. So for this birthday, I asked Ros to work her magic and see if she could pull it off. And.... she did!! And.. she did an amazing job. Not only was the butter pecan so tasty - but the cake really did look like Jozie being an Upside-down shihtzu cake.


So I have been loving watermelon. I usually do - but I, without knowledge, bought a mini yellow watermelon. Who knew? I didn't know. I guess I could have paid more attention to the sign, but I just saw the word 'mini' and 'watermelon' and $.49/lb and was happy to pick one up. The only thing that I don't love about these mini gems is that they have the seeds in them. I didn't realize just how spoiled we are that we live in a place where we can eat watermelon and not have to worry about the seeds. Remember what it was like when we were kids? Your parents would cut it up and then make you go and eat it outside so that you could spit the seeds on to the grass, and preferably not at your sister or brother. Is it laziness that we live in a place that we don't want to have to worry about seeds? I kind of think that it is. But... at the same time, I am not going to complain when I cut open another watermelon and there aren't any seeds.


I took these pictures of watermelon awhile ago - and I really liked how they turned out. The colour of the fruit is so perfect. Oh, I love nature.
This is watermelon juice. It's basically a bunch of chopped up watermelon thrown into the blender, and it made a delicious and refreshing juice. I think that it would be lovely with a splash of soda as well.

Alrighty - I am about to head into the kitchen to make gumbo. I haven't made it for years - but I have had a craving for it. I will be sure to share.

I hope that you have all had a great weekend - soaking in the rest of summer b/c it's almost done - T minus 3 days.

Loves.

Enjoy!!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Popeye's breakfast



It had been over a month since I had bought a cooking magazine. Over one WHOLE month. That's a bit of a world record for me. When we were in the Vancouver airport - I told Chris that I was going to treat myself to a magazine for the flight. I was a little disappointed at their selection - I could have went with a gossip mag or something food related. I went with Canadian Living. I actually quite like their magazine. I like that it's Canadian, of course, but I like a lot of their recipes - and I feel like it's a it 'local'.

The recipe section wasn't too bad. There was an egg recipe that I copied - tweaked it a bit - and made it for us for a late breakfast this past Sunday. I think that I will definitely make this again - super easy, super healthy and super deelish.


Spinach and Eggs

4 eggs
1 large bunch of fresh spinach - washed and dried - or you can use frozen that has been defrosted
1 clove of garlic - minced
4 pieces of bread - I used pumpernickel - but sourdough, or a baguette would be just as nice

Prepare the spinach first - as it takes the longest out of all of the steps. In a large skillet drizzle a tsp of olive oil. Add the garlic and the spinach with a pinch of kosher salt and pepper and saute until the spinach is fully cooked and wilted - just as it should. Probably about 5 minutes.

Poached eggs: bring a pot of water to a boil and add a tsp of vinegar. Crack the eggs into a bowl - ensuring that the yolks stay together. Stir the water and gently add the eggs to the boiling water - stop stirring once the eggs are being added. Boil for 2 minutes exactly.

Toast the bread.

Assemble: Toast, spinach and egg.


So easy. So tasty and it actually looks quite pretty I think.

Loves.

Enjoy!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Memories.



Well we are home safe and sound. We went to Ontario to visit Chris' family, attend his niece's (Lindsay and her husband Craig) wedding and to have a little R&R. It was a great visit. His dad is doing so well. It has been a year since Chris' mom passed - and although it has been a year - it seems like it happened just yesterday. It was really emotional for me at the start of our trip - I missed her greeting us and being able to spend time with her - and I really missed her not being at her granddaughter's wedding. The wedding was beautiful and she would have been in her element - surrounded by all of her kids, grandkids and her husband. I know that she was 'there'.

Just after the wedding with Chris' dad and sister.

Chris' dad is lovely. He is a quiet man, extremely kind, funny and a great dad. We miss him being here with us - hopefully we see him again real soon.

One of the things that I know most of Chris' childhood is how he and his dad would go out to the old farm sites and look for antique bottles. They called it 'bottling'. His dad likes to say that it was his 'sport'. They would go out to the old farmsteads that had been taken over by the Canadian military (his dad was in the Army) and spend hours looking for these antique bottles. Chris would fish, shoot his beebee gun and be there from sun up to sun down.


His dad has carefully placed his bottle collection on bookcases and around the kitchen cabinets. He has carefully selected which bottles that he wants to display and he can probably tell you a story about each one of them.

Although I love hearing stories of my husband childhood - I think that what I love more is that even to this day, many years later, they still have this great bond and are able to reminisce about a huge part of my husband's youth. It just reminds me of how important it is to create memories and remember them. Every day something will happen, good or bad, and just embrace it all.

Oh my - I'm preaching. I just know that I have incredible memories of my childhood, teenage years, college days and so many more - and I feel really blessed to have them.

Alright - let's talk zuke. That's cool talk for Zucchini. No really it is. All the cool kids say it. I think that I heard my 17 year old nephew say it last night. It might have been 'puke' but I think that it was 'zuke'.

Remember how our friends Claire and Christopher brought us zucchini and I baked with it. What the what? I know! I did. Check it out HERE. Well I also cooked some up to go with dinner one night when my mom was here for dinner. I heart zuke - and this dish I thought was very deelish - but it was even better the next day.


Zucchini Tomato Parmesan Bake

3 cups of cube zucchini
2 tomatoes - chopped into cubes
Olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper
1/2 cup of parmesan cheese


In a large skillet, add the olive oil and then the zucchini and saute over medium heat. Add kosher salt - a pinch or two. Saute the zucchini for about 15 minutes - until they are soft - but not mushy. Then add the tomatoes. Continue to saute for about 5 minutes.

Place the zucchini and tomatoes into a baking dish, top with parmesan cheese, and broil for about 3-4 minutes until cheese is golden brown.


I am not going to say what Chris rated this - b/c he is not a fan of zucchini, however, he LOVED the Zucchini Bread. But, my mom loved it - so rated it a 5.

Alright friends - share your memories.

Loves.

Enjoy!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Lalalemons


When Rosalyn gives you lemons - you make lemon ice cubes. What the what???



That's right, lemon cubes.

My friend, Rosalyn, aka Cake Decorator Extrodanaire, gave me a lot of lemons. I mean A LOT. Like probably 30 or something. Her brother was married and they used lemons for their center pieces - I love that. So, they had a lot of lemons to use up - and she generously shared some with me.

I love lemons. I love the sweet bitterness of them. I love their bright yellow that always brightens my kitchen. I love how they make water taste so satisfying. And I love their zest - I love how it gives so much flavour.

I didn't want these gems to go to waste, even though I had used so many of them, so instead of making lemonade, I made lemon cubes of ice and now I will have 'almost' fresh lemon juice whenever I need it.

I simply used my little lemon juicer, added all the juice to a measuring cup, them carefully filled up ice cube trays. Once frozen, I added them to a ziploc bag where they will stay nice and cold, and ready whenever I need to used them. Yumma.


Well, we are just home from our trip to see family and attend Chris' niece's wedding. We had a great visit. The time change has done me in a little tonight, so I am heading to they hay very quickly.

I hope you have all had a great week.

Loves.

Enjoy!

Mo mojitos please.

A couple of weekends ago, I had a great visit with my cousin, Margo, aka Marjean, aka Wee Jeannie. We did our annual HBC fur trade, minus the fur but with beautiful Organic Blueberries. Not only did we have a great visit at Coombs - we had a nice lunch, a great walk through all the shops and market, ice cream and just a nice time catching up. What also happened, was that she gave me my birthday present. She always gives the best gifts, but this one may be one of my faves. A 'Marjies Mojito' kit.


Oh my. I love mojitos, but I have never made them before. They are super easy - but better than that - they are flippin' deelish!!!n Before you pull out the mint from the garden - take the time to make a few of these, you will not be disappointed.

Marjie's Mojitos

Fresh mint sprigs
Juice of one lime
Simple Syrup*
Rum
Club soda

*Simple syrup - 1 part sugar to one part water. This will keep in the fridge so you can make it with 1 cup of each or 1/2 a cup of each. Add both water and sugar to a saucepan and bring it to a gentle boil until the sugar dissolves. Let it cool in a jar. I tried to make it with cane sugar first but the syrup was too dark and wouldn't be as appealing with the mojito. I have kept it and have used a tbsp when I make iced tea.

In a large glass, put in the fresh mint sprigs. Lots if you like mint - maybe 10-12 leaves. Muddle (fancy word for squish) the leaves with the end of a wooden spoon.

Add the juice of 1/2 a lime. Save the lime as you can add that to the glass at the end for more lime flavour.

Add 1-2 tbsp of the simple syrup.

Add a shot (or two) of white rum.

Fill the glass with club soda.

Stir gently.

And that's it. It's time for you to enjoy this incredibly refreshing drink. I made these 'virgin' style as well - without the rum. They were also incredibly refreshing too.
I picked up a sun hat when we were at the market and husband wore it around the house for a bit. Good thing I got it on film.

Loves.

Enjoy!!