Monday, December 31, 2012

Rainbow Vegetable Korma- with Curry Sauce Base

This is an Indian restaurant favourite for lovers of mild curries.  At home, you get to choose the vegetables (and the meat, if you must) - about five cups of vegetables are needed for this dish.  My neighbourhood grocer had amazing purple baby eggplants and Thai eggplants.  They will form the base of my Korma along with red pepper, cauliflower, mushrooms, carrots and peas.  I will admit to about eight cups of vegetables.  I can adjust the sauce if I need to.  A veritable rainbow!  Also, I know that chickpeas are not usually found in this korma.  But, I happen to like chickpeas and they add protein to my vegetarian dish  :-)

The Curry Sauce Base makes quick work of this dish...

This recipe serves 4-6.

Almond Crusted Shrimp Cakes- and there's bacon too!

Who doesn't love shrimp? and bacon, and almonds?  These are my favourite shrimp cakes- at least until I find another favourite.  Stevie (my daughter) prefers our shrimp and sweet potato cakes.  Not even the bacon and the almonds will change her mind.  

I started making shrimp cakes, and crab cakes and fish cakes, in earnest when I moved to the West Coast.  It's a fresh seafood mecca- the best place to make/sample all manner of fish cakes... 

Almond Crusted Shrimp Cakes
They are incredibly easy to make.  There's nothing like spending an afternoon experimenting with ingredients and flavour profiles. I use a "mini hamburger stacker" to make these.  It helps to make them uniform and freeze them easily in the container, if you choose to fry them later. I try to keep a supply of fish cakes in my freezer.  They are quick to heat up and an excellent dish to offer guests or bring to a pot luck.

The almond crusted shrimp cakes are popular whenever I serve them.  They are well worth trying out.  

This recipe will make eight shrimp cakes.

Tête fromagée- back to my French Canadian Roots!

Tête fromagée is a traditional French Canadian specialty usually made around the Holidays.  Now, when I say head cheese, I inevitably see noses wrinkle.  So, it's time to set the record straight because this dish is amazing!
Yes, it used to be made with a pig's head.  But, please, not anymore unless you happen to live down on the farm.  I use pork hocks and veal (osso bucco actually)  to make my tête fromagée.

No, it's not fatty.  People are probably thinking of paté or cretons which would be much fattier.  I use the veal in my recipe to actually cut down on the richness of the pork and to keep it lean.

Yes, it is gelled.  Simmering the bones "low and slow" results in natural gelling.

Please, don't buy tête fromagée from your local grocery store deli- I guarantee it won't be the same, not even close!  That stuff is probably chock full of additives and preservatives; it's definitely not the same thing.

Yes, it is delicious served on crackers or bread.  I like to have my tête fromagée on toast, sprinkled with a little salt and pepper.  Delicious.

My mom would  it make every December- the fridge shelves were lined with small bowls of "gelling" goodness.  Although it was made to serve up at Réveillon (that's the big party after Midnight mass) and Christmas dinner, it was also gifted to family and friends.

Learning to make tête fromagée was an adventure- it's one of those dishes that mama has no recipe for (I don't think she ever had a recipe for the dishes that really mattered!) and that you should just know instinctively how to make.  Every French Canadian cook has her/his own recipe.  My first few attempts generated a lot of questions- What's the ratio of pork to veal? "Three to one, but you can also use only pork".  How do I know it's cooked enough to gel?  "You'll just know."  Really!  What about seasonings and spices- how much do I use?  "Start with a little and taste it.  You'll know."  Ahemmm.

Well, I did learn and I look forward to making it every Christmas.  The following recipe will make about seven cups of tête fromagée which I divide into one-cup ceramic pots. The quantities listed are approximate :-)

Curry Sauce Base - A Must Have for Your Pantry!

Let's face it.  We all like great food but sometimes need a little help getting it to the table- we just don't always have the time to cook.  Your grocery store could supply you with curry simmering sauces, but who needs the additives and other mystery ingredients? I came across this curry sauce base on a website-My Fancy Pantry. That's the starting point... Just the amazing smell wafting through my kitchen makes this recipe worthwhile.  You'll make enough for at least four curry dishes- so freeze the sauce in portions, about three cups each.  By adding spices and vegetables and/or meat you can have a great curry on the table in less than 30 minutes.  No one will ever know you didn't spend the afternoon stirring the pot.  Wonderful!

Remember, because this is a curry base, it should not be spicy- it should have a pretty neutral Indian curry taste. You'll "season" it up when you make a specific curry...

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Chocolate Cheesecake

Cheesecakes are pretty impressive desserts.  My daughter Stevie and I used to make them often, usually at Christmas. We explored New York style, ricotta style, chocolate, vanilla, lime- all kinds.   I now tend to make them in "bite-size" versions, freeze them, ready to satisfy my sweet tooth.  A full size cheesecake would only lead to over-indulgence, a caloric overdose.

Bittersweet chocolate fans will love this cheesecake- creamy and light but not as high as the typical New York style cheesecakes.  This recipe will make a 10" cheesecake (you'll need a springform pan) or about 20 "two-bite" or "three-bite" pieces.  You can buy some really nice silicon molds or use mini cupcake molds.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Minestrone- THE Italian Vegetable Soup

The Queen of vegetable soups, minestrone is a perfect hearty winter soup (or summer soup, just change up the vegetables).  Cutting up the vegetables may take a little time, but after that, it's quick and easy.  And, I have a little secret- add another great layer of flavour to your soup by throwing in a parmesan cheese rind.  After grating the parmesan, just freeze the rinds for your future minestrone.

This recipe serves six to eight as a main course.

Boeuf Bourguignon- the "refined" stew...

Boeuf Bourguignon (aka Beef Burgundy) is the cadillac of stews.  Layers of flavours, low and slow simmering, big chunks of beef complemented by earthy mushrooms and delicate pearl onions- and don't forget the full bodied wine.  It's the perfect dish to serve after a day on the slopes or for an elegant dinner party...

The cut of beef you choose is important for this dish.  Actually, blade roast is a cheaper cut but so much more flavourful.  It's perfect for this dish which is simmered slowly until the meat is melt-in-your-mouth tender.  Traditionally, you would use red burgundy or Pinot Noir but I used an Okanagan Cabernet Sauvignon.  It's nice to live down the road from the winery!

This recipe serves six to eight generously.

Fun in the Kitchen- Twice Baked Crisps

Okanagan Crisps- apples, pears and walnuts
You know those delicious, famous crisps sold in the grocery stores?  Well, I've been experimenting with my own crisps in unique, awesome flavours and they are wonderful!  I found the basic recipe on the Internet- that's the starting point - and then, the fun begins...

I've based my crisps on my favourite flavour combinations... you can do the same.

The yield for each recipe will depend on how thinly you slice the crisps.  I bought a food slicer to ensure even slices, a little less than 1/4 inch thick.

Ooh La La! French Onion Soup- Well Worth the Effort!

I love French Onion Soup! Dinner for two by the fireplace, a little candlelight, a great bottle of wine, a crispy salad and bubbly, crusty onion soup. Perfect!

Most restaurant and grocery store French onion soups are either too salty or too watery and flavourless. If you love good food, it's so frustrating.  Sooo, it's well worth the effort to make it from scratch, the long way... but make a big batch and freeze it so you'll have lots on hand.  However, if you must, shortcuts are included at the end of this recipe.

Last week, I prepared two different batches: one with red wine and another with porter beer.  Both delicious!  The beer version was just a tad sweeter.  They were made for Neil, Carol and Barry who rated this recipe a double thumbs up and reordered more...

It will take two days to make the soup.  On day one, you make the beef broth.  That's easy and doesn't need your attention very often.  You'll be busier on day two... This recipe will make six servings and can be doubled or tripled.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

'Tis the Season For Shortbread- Beautiful, Buttery Shortbread

Call me the shortbread Queen!  There is an art to baking that perfect shortbread!  And, I've mastered it...
Thick, lightly golden, melt in your mouth shortbread... and only a few simple steps to keep in mind.

 The kitchen is filled with the wonderful scent of baking and batches and batches of the golden wedges cooling on every countertop.  Shortbreads are the perennial Christmas cookie and so easy to bake.  There are only five ingredients: butter, sugar, two types of flour and salt.  This recipe will make a 9" round, cut into 16 wedges.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Jo's "Fully Loaded" Chocolate Bark- an Easy Christmas Treat

The Holidays are a busy time for everyone.  I'm always on the lookout for easy desserts and treats to offer to my guests or bring along as hostess gifts.  This is one of them.  This chewy, decadent chocolate treat looks and tastes spectacular and is so quick and easy to make.  It will please any chocoholic in your circle of friends and is a great treat to serve with coffee.

Jo's "Fully Loaded" Chocolate Bark- What a Treat!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My "Go To" Healthy Salad- Sooo Good and Sooo Easy!

Put on your creative hat- there's no "strict" recipe for this salad.  Just begin with beans- aduki, black, mung, lentils and let your taste buds run wild...  I served this salad to the Ladies Bridge group and it was a hit!

To serve four generously...

Spread or Filling? Your choice... Shrimp Mango Coconut

This shrimp, mango, coconut mixture began as a sandwich filling.  But it's also great as a topping for crackers  or toast... I served this dish at a recent Bridge Club luncheon and it was a hit with the ladies...

Shrimp, mango, coconut on croissant and in a wrap.  So messy but oh so good!
Makes approx. 15 sandwiches.

Great Appy- Crunchy Asian Meatballs

I like to have a selection of appetizers in my freezer.  Just in case guests drop in or to supply my friends who have friends drop in.  I made these meatballs with chicken but you can use turkey or veal or pork and they are baked in the oven- no deep frying.  You can cook them then freeze then reheat in the oven-so convenient.

The fragrant sesame oil and crunchy water chestnuts provide great Asian taste.  They will be a hit with your guests.

Spray or brush the meatballs with oil before placing them
in the oven.  They'll crunch up nicely! 
Makes about 32 meatballs, depending on the size.  These are about 1 tablespoon in size.

Amazing Pasta Sauce - Smoked Pork Ragu-

One of my favourite meat shops in Vancouver is located on Commercial Drive- J N and Z Deli.  They are a long time East European deli serving customers the old fashioned way- right down to the brown paper wrap.  One of their most delicious products is store smoked pork hocks which they hang in their front window.  This meat adds amazing flavour to any dish.  At Doris' instigation, I prepared a smoked pork ragu to serve with your favourite pasta.
J N and Z Deli on Commercial Drive in Vancouver

 In Kelowna, smoked pork hocks are available at Illichmann's Meats on Gordon Drive.

This recipe will serve four generously.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Coconut Crusted Crab Cakes- I Love Crab Cakes!

The basic recipe for this crab cake originates in a great little book entitled: "I Love Crab Cakes".  It features dozens of  crab cake and related recipes.

This particular crab cake incorporates the great flavours of fresh ginger and coconut with the crab meat.  I'm going "Thai" by adding lemongrass, fish sauce and Thai peppers.

This recipe makes eight large crab cakes.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

They're Messy but Oh Soooo Good! Eggplant Cannelloni

My sister Elyse in Ottawa, requested gluten free recipes. She and partner Mike are accomplished creative  foodies. These eggplant cannelloni are worth the effort.  Bonus - they are gluten free and vegetarian.    Hey Sista! this one's for you!

Make a large batch of these eggplant cannelloni and freeze for later.  
To serve 6...

Viva Mexico! Chicken Tortilla Soup

You're cooking with lime juice, chile peppers and garlic- all great foods to keep you healthy. Olé!  Even better, feel free to sprinkle on cubed avocado and/or baked tortilla strips for added flavour.

This soup begins with great homemade Mexican chicken stock- that's your foundation.  Add chicken meat, a little heat from chile peppers and other good for you ingredients and you have the makings of a great soup, perfect for a cool, rainy day.

Chicken Tortilla Soup garnished with avocado, tortilla chips and salsa.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

It's about the Challenge... thanks Oranj Dance!

I saw the light when I turned fifty!  OK, so I'm a late "fitness bloomer"... Good healthy food is important, but so is a great, healthy and fit body... And, I've discovered it's never too late...  Since "hitting the gym", I've learned that: I have stores of will power just waiting to be called on for that extra push up or squat (and stores of fat, just waiting to melt away :-) ); I can keep my commitment to get fitter and feel good about it; I will celebrate my "baby fat" because I've earned it, but I will work hard to shrink it;and, I will celebrate my fitness accomplishments!

Oranj Dance and Fitness Studio

I'm Rolling.... Shrimp Cannelloni...

This weekend is all about cannelloni... with a twist, actually many twists... the first one is a shrimp cannelloni. Begin with a homemade marinara sauce,  add a white wine and tomato sauce for the shrimp, and a tasty ricotta cheese/spinach mix to complete the shrimp filling.  Put it all together for an amazing cannelloni dinner.

Shrimp Cannelloni ready for the oven.
This recipe will serve 6 to 8.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Indian Chicken Tomato Curry- You'll Love It!

Indian Chicken Tomato Curry with vegetarian and chickpea curries.
This curry is an old standby.  Rich, creamy, as spicy as you like and so easy to make.  Perfect as the centerpiece for an Indian dinner or to bring to a potluck.  Your friends will be asking for this recipe!

The thing is, you could use boneless, skinless chicken breasts for this recipe, dredge them in flour and brown.  But I think that, in exchange for convenience, you miss out on flavour from the bones and the skin.  But, the chicken skin is also fatty.  So, I have added an extra step which is outlined below.

Sweet Potato Shrimp Cakes

Two varieties of Sweet Potato Shrimp Cakes- one is Asian and the other is Mexican (served with salsa verde)

I love making salmon cakes, crab cakes, shrimp cakes... all kinds of fishy cakes.  Everybody loves them, they are easy to make and they freeze well.

I made my first crab cakes in 2005 when I moved to Vancouver from Ottawa and I was hooked (pun intended)!  This sweet potato and shrimp cake offers up bold Asian flavours.  Make them small to use as finger food or bigger to serve as an appetizer or main course. I try to have them on hand to serve unexpected guests.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Not Your Usual Lasagna- this one's impressive!

This lasagna is my absolute favourite- you can go noodle free and, bonus, it's vegetarian!  Grilling the vegetables is well worth the effort and the puttanesca sauce injects another layer of flavour.  I often double the quantity of sauce and freeze it to use later with spaghetti.

The basic recipe for Grilled Vegetable Lasagna with Puttanesca Sauce was provided by Emeril Lagasse.  I've made it my own, with great results.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Support Okanagan Farmers! Buy Local!

The Kelowna Farmers and Crafters Market has been going strong since 1995.  It's one of the biggest in British Columbia, attracting producers from throughout the Okanagan.  Open Wednesday and Saturday mornings, it's perfect for eating local and in season!

There's something for everyone at the Market. Shoppers rub elbows with local chefs and tourists from all over. More than half the stalls offer up fresh, local produce and an opportunity to get to know our farmers.  Or you can also bring home prepared foods.  Choose from homemade samosas, Aussie pies, Asian dumplings and dishes, breads and cakes, cookies, preserves... or locally made soaps, jewelry, metal sculptures for the lawn, hand crafted wood furniture, clothing.  - it's all there!

This year has been a good one for our local producers and it shows.

Friday, October 12, 2012

For an easy WOW dessert- try Tarte Tatin, with a Canadian Touch

I'm always on the lookout for great apple or pear desserts.  Years ago, in a professional baking class, we made apple tarte Tatin.  Looked great, tasted amazing and it was so easy to prepare- provided you used store bought puff pastry.  In class, we made our pastry from scratch, but that's another story.  This dessert "stuck" with me- who wouldn't like "tarte Tatin"? I confess that I also like the sound of the name!

I was invited to Suzanne's for Thanksgiving dinner.  A tarte Tatin was the perfect dessert to bring along.  Traditionally, it is made with apples but pears work equally well.  Both fruit are in season now and available at the local farmers' market.  The Canadian touch?  Maple syrup, of course.  Here's the recipe:

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Apples and Pears- From the Orchard to your Kitchen...

When there's a chill in the air and the days get shorter, I start thinking pears and apples: pies, crisps and  cakes. Hazeldell Orchards is my first (and usually my only) stop in the search for the best and the freshest fall fruit.  Located just minutes from downtown Kelowna, Hazeldell offers fabulous fruit, in many varieties: Flemish, Anjou, Bosc pears; ambrosia, gala, silken apples.  There's fresh, made on-site apple juice for sale and plenty of great advice and suggestions for free.  The staff know their fruit! 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hooray for the Pantry- It's Plum Chutney

This plum chutney is a pantry workhorse- and not just an accompaniment to Indian dishes.  Serve this sweet and sour condiment with your favourite roast, with chunks of cheese, on a sandwich... And bonus, in the Okanagan, you can buy plums at the farm gate, fresh off the tree, red plums, yellow plums, purple plums.  Amazing!  Here's the recipe:

Oh Mama, there's no ham in the pea soup!

My mom always made her traditional French Canadian pea soup with a great meaty ham bone.  The meatier the better for that great smoky flavour.  The ingredients (and the quantities) in this recipe are totally flexible and a few are unconventional, for a French Canadian.  Here's how I played with the ingredients to satisfy my vegetarian taste buds:

Monday, October 8, 2012

Thank You Madhur! Aloo-ki-tikiya- well almost!

Cooked potato patty on the bottom
Uncooked and ready for the freezer on the top

I love making savoury cakes: fish cakes, crab cakes, veggie burgers- they're great to have in the freezer, portion packed and ready for the oven whenever you are.  The base recipe for these potato patties is provided by Madhur Jaffrey.  I've made it my own and got to use one of my newest toys- a slider maker.  Its really an 8' x 8' pan with a kind of a cutter to make twelve perfectly square patties in one "shot".  Perfect size, everything "clean" and ready in no time.  Here's my recipe:

Cantonese Shrimp Dumplings

I like to stock my freezer with great finger food. These dumplings are easy to make and taste amazing, always better than store bought.  The filling is "flexible" so you can make it your own.  Here's the recipe.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Hot and Spicy and oh so easy- Vegetarian Chili

Need to feed a hungry crowd in a hurry?  This vegetarian chili is chock full of vegetables, flavourful and delicious and quick and easy to prepare.  I don't use canned "anything" very often, this is the exception.  Canned beans and tomatoes get this chili started in no time.  You just have to focus on the vegetables.

I'm using the basics: onions, red pepper, celery, garlic and adding squash (zucchini and butternut) and corn.  Many different flavourings are added to give the chili layers and layers of flavour.  You don't have to include them all.

This recipe will serve 6-8 and doubles easily.

Chana Masala- my favourite Indian chickpea curry

Chana Masala served with brown rice, cucumber and garlic chutney

Hey! I'm French Canadian so this is the French Canadian version of an Indian chickpea curry - Chana Masala.  It's my comfort food- full of rich tomato coconut sauce, warm spices (yes, there will be heat), coriander and, of course, chickpeas.  And the aroma in the kitchen- hummmm.

Now, you can go ahead and make this on the stove top.  You know, the old fashioned way and it's delicious.  Today, I'll make it in an electric pressure cooker.  It's a wonderful appliance, time saver and I don't worry about watching the pressure gauge, it's all done for me.  Just set it and walk away.

The quantities are approximate because I encourage you to taste, adjust and to make it your own.  Here goes...

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Something Different for my Pantry- Garlic Chutney

This fall's preserving frenzy included quite a few new condiments, including this chutney.  Its main ingredients are two of my favourites: garlic and eggplant.  Kind of pungent and kind of mellow, it is a great accompaniment to curries.  Or, mix into cooked rice or quinoa.  This recipe is from a cookbook "Sensational Preserves" by Hilaire Walden.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ruby Red Vegetarian Borscht- who needs beef?

One of my fall standbys...  Beets, beautiful red, earthy beets...  This hearty soup gets all of its colour from beets.  You'll fall in love with its sweet and sour flavour.  The sour flavour comes from the red wine vinegar.

It will benefit from being made a day ahead.  Serve it with freshly boiled potatoes and/or hard boiled eggs and sour cream and fresh dill, with a side of hearty, sour, dark Russian bread.  Here's my recipe...

My New Favourite Condiment- Homemade Savoury Red Onion Relish

Trouble Maker is a local Okanagan red wine- hey, I liked the name and the label and the fact that it provides a fruity, deep, rich wine flavour to the caramelized red onions- you can use your favourite red...

Name yours after the wine you choose!

Beet Wellington- yep it's beet not beef!

Georgeous, flavourful, earthy red beets replace the beef in this recipe.  I want to pack it with flavour, lots of it while keeping some of the other traditional components.  So, to the beet slices, I'm adding a mushroom duxelle made with four types of mushrooms (portobello, cremini, oyster and shitake) and toasted walnuts. This year, I made a great red onion relish which I will use in this recipe.  It will add a deep, red wine caramelized onion "layer" to the Wellington.  Here's the recipe to serve four: