Friday, December 30, 2011

My favourites.

Well hello!
Merry Christmas - Happy New Year (early)!!!

So, how was it? How was your Christmas? I hope that it was relaxing, full of indulgence, full of great food and drink, celebrated with family and friends - I hope that it was all that you hoped for and all that you deserve.

Christmas was delightful around Sims. We celebrated with family and friends, we ate, we opened prezzies, we were spoiled, we played, we laughed, we relaxed and we enjoyed it all.

For New Year's we are going for dinner with friends, and will hopefully be home by 10. Ha! I can't stay up much past 10. I hope to spend some time on New Year's Day and reflect on the year - and how I can make 2012 a good year - have a plan.

I read a blog pretty regularly - I love the pictures and I love her recipes. Ok, I don't really 'read' the blog as much as I like to goo over her pictures and recipes. I do read it though - I just sometimes scan. I am a bit of a 'scanner'. Please don't think that I wrote 'scammer'. I am not a 'scammer'. Anyways - you can check out Kate's blog HERE. She was also a wonderful help for me to help me figure out how to get bigger pictures on my blog. Anyways, the reason why I am talking about her - is because I love her most recent blog post - she listed her favourite recipes of 2011 and I am going to copy her. I think that it is such a great idea - and I love looking back at what I made through the year. I forget sometimes.

I have consulted Chris and have included his favourites too.

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Favourite Breakfast - Skillet Pancake with Fresh Fruit (we had this for Christmas morning breakfast this year with blueberries and peaches)


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Favourite Beverage - Smoothy Sims Style (blueberry) Chris' fave AND...


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Favourite Appetizer - Pita Chips and Hummus (I realized that I need to come up a lot more appy recipes)

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Favourite Meat Dish - Rustic Pork and Beans


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Favourite Veggie Dish - Butternut Squash Gratin


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Favourite Salad - Tomato, Basil, Mozzarella Stacked Salad (I love this not only because it's so delicious, but I think that they are a thing of beauty)


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Favourite Dessert - Fruit Cobbler (with blueberries and peaches)


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Favourite Bread - Zucchini Bread (thanks to the Devlin's I still have so much frozen zucchini still that can be used)


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Favourite Salsa - Peach Salsa - it's really the only salsa I made this year, but oh how I love that stuff!!!


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Well now that I am completely hungry - I need to go and raid the fridge.

I wish you all a very happy HAPPY new year's eve - and I can't wait for us all to start out 2012 with so much health and happiness. Thank you for reading my little blog.

Loves.

Enjoy!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

These are a few of my favourite things...

So, are you ready for the big day? Are you done all of your shopping? Wrapping? Prepping? Planning? I'm getting there. Just a few more things to wrap, and a few more things to shop for for Christmas breakfast and dinner.

I thought that I would share a few of my favourite things that I love in the kitchen. Just a few things that may help you if you're stuck with what to get a few people on your list.

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Cookbooks - I love this one for baking. Some of my other favourites are: 'The Best of Cooking Light', 'The Pioneer Woman' , 'The Best of Chef at Home'.


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Mixing bowls - I love these. They are so practical - and it's great to have so many of them.

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Zester - for citrus, garlic, nutmeg. I used my zester A LOT. I love the flavour that zest from lemons, limes and oranges add to recipes.

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Homemade Fudge - I would like to receive fudge - but I love giving it.

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David's Tea - I LOVE David's Tea. My mom and I went to check it out a couple of weeks ago, and we are hooked. My favourites are Chamomile and Creme Brulee. My mom loves the Peppermint. They have tea, and all the accessories to brew a delicious cup.

Alright - my 'phew is still asleep from our sleepover. I am about to go and wake him up so that we can make some soft boiled eggs and smoothies.

Happy Shopping.

Loves.

Enjoy!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas comes early in so many different ways...

Even though it's a 6 days before Christmas, it's like Christmas came early today. Santa didn't deliver something under the tree. But... Romeo (our delightful Handyman) is installing a new toilet in Suite B. Hoorah!!! It's been far too long, and we have tried countless times to fix the old one - so we are treating ourselves. Oh for some of you, this may not be very exciting. But... for others who frequent our house and spend time in Suite B - they will be pleased. No more running upstairs. Ok, I know that this is a food blog - but I am just excited. I will love not having to tell people 'oh - that one isn't working'. I will not, however, look forward to a call from Steph the next time she is over.

I am just working on the menu for Christmas Dinner. I know that I will do the usual items, the old stand-bys, and I'm ok with that b/c I know that they are tried and tested. I am, however, going to do a two things (so far that I know of) differently. I am going to do my stuffing in the slow cooker and then stuff my turkey with just fresh rosemary, oranges and lemons. And I am going to make my gravy in advance. Hm, that may be 3. I just watched Jamie Oliver do his in advance, and I am going to give it a try. Why not? If I can do everything in advance, and get to spend some time with family instead of hanging over the hot oven all day, I am game.

My mom usually makes the potatoes - they are deelish. She does them in advance and freezes them. You would never know that they weren't made freshly that day.

If you are looking for an alternative to potatoes, you may want to give these a try. Even if you don't want to try them for Christmas dinner, they are perfect for a week night meal.

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Mashed Parsnips with Leeks

1 large leek
3 parsnips - medium sized
Olive oil
Kosher salt
2 cloves of garlic - roasted (optional)
Butter and milk

To prepare the leek, simply cut off the green part and then slice the white part in half lengthwise. Run under water to thoroughly clean. Slice the leek into thin strips.

Add a drizzle of olive oil in a skillet and add the leeks with a pinch of kosher salt and saute over medium heat until they are soft.

Meanwhile, peel the parsnips and chop into cubes. Add to water and bring to a boil and let boil for approximately 8-10 minutes. Drain, but you don't need to rinse.

For the roasted garlic, you can simply place the cloves in aluminum foil, skins on, add a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of kosher salt, and heat in a 350 oven for about 15-20 minutes.

Place the leeks, parsnips and garlic (remove from skin) into a food processor and pulse until smooth. Add butter (how every much you like - 1-2 tbsp?) and a splash of milk. If you don't have a food processor, just use your potato masher, or a hand beater for a really whipped texture.

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They are light, flavourful and a nice change from potatoes.

Loves.

Enjoy!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Beverages - The DD will thank you.

We hosted our annual Christmas party last night. For me, once that party happens - it really feels like Christmas. This was our 9th party. 9 years - that's a lot of parties. We were surrounded by family and great friends. I was in my element - cooking up a storm. Our wee house was packed to the max, the kitchen was hopping, it was a great night.

On the menu:
Mrs. Sherstan's Clam Chowder
Chili (I used ground beef this time)
Meats, cheeses and olives
Baked brie
Chocolate mousse tarts
Veggies and dip (thanks to my bestie - Tracy)
Mulled cider
Cranberry citrus punch

And thanks to my mom!!! She brought her famous spicy meatballs, homemade butter tarts, cherry pound cake and shortbreads.

I haven't done a punch or mulled cider before at our party - this was a first. I usually just offer wine, pop, beer... but we have quite a few friends that come and are the designated drivers - so I wanted to be able to offer them something different than just pop or water. I love that we have such smart friends and family - and they always make plans to arrive home safely.

I got this mulled cider recipe from a cooking demonstration that I went to last month. It is the easiest recipe in the world. Seriously. I would not kid about this. You could probably do this recipe with your eyes closed - but I wouldn't recommend it because I don't want you to burn yourself on the oven.

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Mulled Cider

Equal parts of apple juice and cranberry juice - depending on how much you want to make - maybe 3 cups each
2-3 cinnamon sticks (if you don't have cinnamon sticks you can always use just regular cinnamon - 1/2 tsp)
1/2 cup Fresh cranberries

Put all of the ingredients into a pot, or kettle, anything that you can let simmer on the stove, and simmer on low to medium heat. Once it heats up, you can serve it, and you can keep it on low on the stove and serve when desired.

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See? I told you! So easy.

For the punch - my mom used to make this all the time, for any shower, or party that we had. It too is super easy. I doctored it up a bit - but it was very similar to what my mom used to make.

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Citrus Cranberry Punch

1 can of frozen orange juice (thawed) - with 3 cans of water - or 1 litre of fresh orange juice
1 litre of cranberry juice
1/2 litre of pineapple, or mango juice
1 large orange - cut into thin slices with the peel still on
2 lemons - cut into thin slices
1/2 cup of fresh cranberries
Ginger Ale, Club Soda or Champagne
Ice

In a large punch bowl add in the oranges, lemons and cranberries. Pour in the juices and stir. Add in the ice to keep it cool.

When serving = fill the glass 2/3 with the punch and 1/3 of either ginger ale, club soda or champagne.

This is a great punch because you can really change it up with different fruits and juices.

Alright - I need to curl up on the couch with a bowl of leftover chili, a blanket, and a good Christmas movie.

Loves.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas baking - my small contribution

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That orang flash on the right - is Ogre, our cat. Always loves getting in pictures.

I put this together today. it cost me about $3, and took me about 2 minutes. Ha! The branches are from our center garden that we are planning on taking out this summer, so I felt that taking a few branches out wouldn't hurt. The pot was existing - and is in it's prime during the summer. Then I found a box of 6 ornaments at a fabric store that were on sale for 65% off - so cost about $3. I already had flower wire that I used to put through the hook on the ornament and shove into the greenery and dirt. It helped cover a bit of an eye sore when you come to our front door.

Yesterday I made a couple of batches of whipped shortbread cookies. I have said this before, I am really not much of a baker. During the holidays, that doesn't change. If I do make treats for Christmas, it's either Tiger Fudge (yumma!!) or whipped shortbreads. I got this recipe from a friend in University. And the first time I tried them, I thought they were the most delicious treats. And when I learned how to make them, I liked them even more. They are easy. NO! Seriously! So easy. They are great to eat with hot chocolate, tea and a delightful little hostess gift.

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Whipped Shortbread

1 cup of softened butter
1 1/2 cup of flour
1/2 cup of icing sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 350.

In a large bowl, mix together all of the ingredients. If you have a stand mixer, I would recommend using it. If not, a hand mixer works just as well. Beat the ingredients for 10 minutes - until batter is light and fluffy.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper*, and place a small drop** of the batter on the sheet. Bake for 12 minutes. Let cool on a cooling rack and then eat them all up.

*I used one sheet with parchment paper and one sheet without, and I found that the cookies that baked with the parchment lined sheet, turned out just perfectly.

**For the last batch, I rolled the dough into small balls and then gently pressed my thumb into the center of each cookie. I really liked how they turned out - they were perfectly round on top.

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For the two batches I made yesterday, I 'altered' them just slightly. For the first batch I added the zest of one lemon. So delicious.

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For the second batch, I added 1 tsp of crumbled candy canes. Also very delicious.

Happy baking.

Loves.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas is coming

The countdown is on... only 13 days left until Christmas. It's always an exciting time of the year. Decking the halls, baking the treats, wrapping the gifts... I have decked the halls, I haven't baked any treats and I have only wrapped 2 gifts. I need to get my Christmas butt in gear.

I plan to bake whipped shortbreads today, make some Christmas tags, finish a birthday gift, and make a grocery list. I know, action packed. Crazy Christmas rebel, I am.

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I wanted to share a few photos that my friend Tracy took of us on our first anniversary a few weeks ago. I don't really like getting my photo taken - but Tracy always ends up taking great photos. Our plan is to have a picture taken each year.

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If you're like me and this time of year sort of consumes you a bit, and the last thing that you want to worry about is a weeknight meal, and want something easy, check out this super easy, super delicious pork chop recipe. I have made it twice in two weeks and it was a hit both times.

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Pork Chops with Balsamic Drizzle

6 pork loin chops (boneless)
Kosher salt and pepper
Red pepper flakes
1/2 cup of balamic vinegar
1/2 cup of honey
2 cloves of garlic - minced

In a large skillet, lightly coat it with olive oil. Heat pan to medium heat.

Season one side of the chops with kosher salt and pepper and pinch of red pepper flakes. Put the season side down in the hot pan, and then season the other side. Cook each side for 6-7 minutes.

While the chops are cooking, place the balsamic vinegar, honey and garlic in a saucepan and over medium heat, whisk together. Reduce heat and let the sauce reduce and thicken. Stir often.

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When the pork chops are ready, drizzle with the balsamic sauce and serve.

Super easy, super fast, and super delicious.

Loves.

Enjoy!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Crisps

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The countdown is on - 19 days left until Christmas. Does that stress you out? Do you get excited to know how little days are left? For me, I'm excited. I am excited for everything leading up to it - like the Christmas parties, sending and receiving Christmas cards, the food, friends, family, the fresh smell of our Christmas tree, the house being decorated, and so much more.

I haven't done any baking or prep for Christmas dinner, yet, but am 'thinking' about it. I am going to try baking sugar cookies for the first time - if you have an easy recipe - please share.

What I have baked recently is blueberry crisp. I found a recipe on a blog that I like to frequent - 'How Sweet It Is' - I altered it slightly and it was scrumptious. We found it a tad too sweet, so I altered it again and made Blueberry Pomegranate Crisp. Oh my. I have both recipes posted. If you like sweet - use the first one - and you can add pomegranates to it if you like. If you don't like so sweet, try the second one. Both are topped with not whipped cream, not ice cream, but sweetened plain yogurt - my new favourite thing in the whole wide world right now.

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Blueberry Crisp

4 cups of blueberries - I used my frozen organic - but you could use fresh if you have them on hand
2 tbsp of raw sugar
1/2 tbsp flour
2/3 cup oats
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
4 tbsp of softened butter

Pre-heat the oven to 375.

In a bowl sprinkle the the 1/2 tbsp of flour and 2 tbsp of sugar over top of the blueberries. Place the blueberries in either 4 individual ramekins (about 4-5 inch wide) or one 8x8 baking dish.

In another bowl add the oats, brown sugar and the remaining flour. Add in the softened butter, and either with your fingers or a fork, crumble the butter. The pieces of butter should be about pea size. Add the topping to the blueberries.

Bake for 22 minutes.

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We really liked this dish, but we found that the sugar on the blueberries made it a little too sweet, and the sugar on the topping was also a little sweet.

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I am hooked on pomegranates right now. I think that the seeds are incredibly beautiful little gems of goodness. The little gems (what I like to call them), are actually called 'arils'. I cracked one open the other day, and thought that I would be ladylike and instead of eating the entire thing right away, that I would spare some for another crisp. I had never baked with them before - and I am so happy that I gave it a try. You will have to give it a try to understand the delicious addition that they add.

Blueberry Pomegranate Crisp (version 2 - not as sweet)

3 cups of blueberries - fresh or frozen
1 cup of pomegranates arils - the gems inside
1 tbsp of raw sugar
1 tbsp of flour
1/2 cup of brown sugar
2/3 cup of oats
1/2 cups of flour
1/4 cup of softened butter

Pre-heat oven to 375.

Add the blueberries and pomegranates together. Sprinkle with the raw sugar and tbsp of flour. Place them in either individual ramekins or a 8x8 baking dish.

In another bowl add the oats, brown sugar and the remaining flour. Add in the softened butter, and either with your fingers or a fork, crumble the butter. The pieces of butter should be about pea size. Add the topping to the blueberries.

Bake for 22 minutes.

And that's it - a delicious dessert that takes minutes to prepare. The pomegranates sort of pop in your mouth - they are divine.

Now for the topping to top off this already delicious dessert. It takes a bit of time to set - but it is the easiest dessert, it's healthy, and your husband may also think that it is whipped cream.

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Lemon Vanilla Yogurt

2 cups of plain yogurt - my favourite is Astro Balkan Style - low sugar low fat
Zest of half a lemon
1/2 tsp of vanilla
1 tsp of raw sugar

Place a strainer lined with a coffee filter or cheesecloth in a bowl so that the liquid from the yogurt has room to strain. Place the yogurt into the filter and let sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours - even up to 4 hours is perfect.

In a bowl mix together the strained yogurt, lemon zest, vanilla and sugar together. And that's it. Ideally, if you have time to mix the ingredients together and then let it sit before serving, I find it tastes even better. Chris thought that it was whipped cream, and to me it tastes a little like lemon meringue pie.

Well that's my recipe for today. On the menu for tonight's dinner - leftover shepherd's pie and spinach salad.

I hope that you're all getting into the festive season.

Loves.

Enjoy!