Sunday, September 15, 2013

Something Special for your next dinner party- Beef Wellington

Sooo, my favourite Wellington is of the beet variety.  Carnivores should try the Beet Wellington as well as the Beef Wellington that follows.  Thanks to Gordon Ramsey for providing the basic directions.  It really is quite easy to prepare and packs a huge "WOW" factor with dinner guests.

Andrea and I made this for a dinner party.  We began prepping around 2 pm and everything was ready to serve by 6 pm.  To accompany the Beef Wellington, we prepared buttermilk mashed potatoes, maple glazed carrots and steamed broccoli.  Rounding everything out was an arugula salad with balsamic vinaigrette.

This recipe serves four to six.


1 kg beef tenderloin, centercut
3 tbsp olive oil
250 gr mushrooms (assorted- white, wild, shitake)
50 gr butter
1 large sprig fresh thyme
100 ml dry white wine
12 slices prosciutto
500g package puff pastry, thawed if frozen
flour, for dusting
2 egg yolks beaten with 1 tsp water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the beef tenderloin on a roasting pan, brush with 1 tbsp of olive oil, season with pepper and roast for approx. 15 minutes for medium-rare (a little longer for medium). When the beef is done, remove from the oven, cool, then refrigerate for approximately 20 minutes.

While the beef is cooling, place the mushrooms in the food processor using the chopping blade. Pulse the mushrooms until they are finely chopped (do not turn them into a paste!). They should have the consistency of large breadcrumbs.

Heat 2 tbsp of the olive oil and the butter a large pan and fry the mushrooms on a medium heat, with the thyme, for about 10 mins stirring often, until you have a softened mixture. Season the mushroom mixture with salt and pepper to taste, add the white wine to the mushrooms and cook for an additional 10 minutes, until all the wine has been absorbed. The mixture should hold its shape when stirred. Remove the mushroom duxelle from the pan to cool and discard the thyme.

Overlap two pieces of plastic wrap over a large chopping board. Lay 12 slices prosciutto on theplastic, slightly overlapping, in a double row. Spread half the duxelles over the prosciutto, then place the fillet on it and spread the remaining duxelles over. Use the edge of the plastic wrap (à la sushi roll style) to draw the prosciutto around the fillet, roll it into a sausage shape, twisting the ends of the wrap to tighten it as you go. Chill the fillet while you roll out the pastry.

Dust your work surface with a little flour. Roll out a third of the pack of puff pastry to a 18 x 30cm strip and place on a non-stick baking sheet. Roll out the remainder of the 500g pack of puff pastry to about 28 x 36 cm. Unravel the beef from the plastic wrap and place it in the centre of the smaller strip of pastry. Beat the 2 egg yolks with 1 tsp water and brush the pastry’s edges, and the top and sides of the wrapped fillet. Using a rolling pin, carefully lift and drape the larger piece of pastry over the fillet, pressing well into the sides to eliminate any air pockets. Trim the joints to about a 4cm rim. Seal the rim with the edge of a fork or spoon handle. Glaze all over with more egg yolk and, using the back of a knife, mark the beef Wellington with long diagonal lines taking care not to cut into the pastry. Chill for at least 30 mins and up to 24 hrs.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Pickled Beets- a Fall Tradition

By the end of September, I will have canned my pickled beets.  So much better than store bought!  In exchange for a day of labour, beet red hands and a little sweat, I will enjoy a winter of delicious beets.  This is my recipe, but every canner has his or her own version- a little less spice, a little more sugar, white vinegar, cider vinegar... you get the picture.  These are best made with a friend to share the job, and the bounty.

To make 4 500-ml jars.  Feel free to double or triple.

1     lb beets (red, orange, white...)
2     cups, liquid from cooked beets
1     cup cider vinegar
1     white onion, sliced
1/4  cup white sugar, or to taste
1     tbsp star anise
1     tbsp whole cloves
pinch of salt

Prepare your jars and lids- keep the jars hot.

Put the beets in a large saucepan and add water to cover.  If using different coloured beets, cook them separately.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the beets are tender, about 25 minutes.  Drain the beets, reserving two cups of the liquid.

When cool enough to handle, peel and slice 1/4-inch thick.  Divide the beet and onion slices among the jars.

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the reserved cooking liquid, vinegar, sugar, star anise, cloves and salt.  Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.

Ladle the hot vinegar into the jars, evenly distributing the spices and leaving 1/2-inch headspace.  Remove any air bubbles.  Wipe the rims clean and seal tightly with the lids.

Process the jars for seven minutes in a boiling water bath.  Remove from the water and let stand until cooled.  Set aside for one week to let the flavours develop.  The sealed jars can be stored for up to six months in a cool, dark place.  If a seal fails, store in the refrigerator.

That's Italian! Passata

What to do with the bounty of local tomatoes available by mid-August?  If you're Italian, you get the family together and can your tomatoes for the coming year.  My sister and I aren't Italian, but, with a little help from our Italian friends, we got the low down on the Italian "way".  Three hundred pounds of tomatoes will provide us with enough incredibly fresh, tasty, healthy passata- a light tomato sauce- for the next six months. The thing is, this sauce has a minimal amount of salt and a maximum amount of tomato flavour.
64 500-ml jars of tomato goodness- passata

300 lbs of roma tomatoes
 (each box holds 25 lbs)
Elyse (my sister) underestimated the yield per 25 lbs box, so we ended up canning twice the amount of jars we had planned for.  She will enjoy 64 litres of tomatoes (from 200 lbs of roma tomatoes) and I will have half that amount. 

Here is what you can expect: 25 lbs of roma tomatoes will provide you with 8 litres of passata.  That's 8 x 1 litre jars or 16 x 500 ml jars... And, timewise, expect to spend about one hour for every 25 lbs of tomatoes.  All well worth it! 

We tried out two new tools this weekend: a large tomato hand press and the food puree attachment for the KitchenAid.  Both worked admirably and I would highly recommend them.  The KitchenAid attachment was great to press the juices from the tomatoes.  The hand press' bigger hopper allows more tomatoes to be processed at once.  We each used one of the "tools" then passed all of the seeds and skins through the KitchenAid a second time to catch all of the pulp for our sauce.

To make a twenty-five lbs batch of tomatoes- 8 one-litre jars.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Best Banana Bread!

I just ate the most wonderful banana bread!  Light and nutty with lots of banana flavour.  I baked mini breads so I can limit my portions to just one, at a time.  Perfect!

I've included some healthy ingredients to my recipe: flax seeds, yogourt and toasted nuts.  The usual butter is replaced by healthier grapeseed oil.

This recipe will make one regular size bread or about 10 mini breads.

Delicioso- Pistachio Pesto and Pasta

One of my favourite Kelowna Italian restaurants, Casa Sasso, introduced me to this pasta dish.  I was hooked- it is delicious.  Gaby, the owner/chef at Casa Sasso, is keeping her recipe top secret.  And, I don't blame her- it is wonderful.

My version is based on a recipe from a great little pasta cookbook entitled "100 Ways to be Pasta" and  "tweaked".  The pistachio pesto provides an unexpected great flavour for the pasta, not the usual tomato or cream sauce we are accustomed to.  This pasta dish is quick and easy to make with a little help from the food processor.

To serve 4

5     garlic cloves
1     cup whole basil leaves
1     cup Italian parsley
2     cups shelled, toasted (in a dry pan) pistachios, divided - 1 cup for the pesto and 1 cup for garnish
1/4  cup pinenuts
1     cup extra virgin olive oil
1     tsp salt, plus more for the pasta water
3     tbsp unsalted butter
3/4  lb dry pasta- tagliatelle, linguine, penne or farfelle
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Put the garlic, basil, pistachios, pine nuts, 1/4 cup of olive oil, salt into the bowl of the food processor, fitted with a metal blade, and blend.  Gradually pour the rest of the oil through the feed tube until all the ingredients are integrated into a paste with a slightly coarse texture.  The pesto should be fluid, not hard or dry.  Keep adding olive oil until you have a runny paste.

Place the pesto in a large serving bowl, reserving a large spoonful.  Place the butter on top of the pesto.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Stir in a fistful of salt, a splash of olive oil and the pasta.  Cook, stirring often to prevent the pasta from sticking, until the pasta is al dente.  Lift the pasta from the pot and into the bowl with the pesto and butter.  Add a splash of pasta water and toss the pasta until the butter is melted and the pasta is coated.  Add the rest of the pistachios (1 cup) and toss again.  Dust with Parmesan cheese and serve very hot, with more Parmesan at the table.

Add cooked shrimp to your dish.  Or lightly brown cubed chicken until cooked through and add to the pasta, then toss.

You can also play with the proportion of basil and parsley- if you want more or less basil flavour.

Double or triple the pesto recipe, freeze in ice cube trays and you have an almost instant dinner!  Just try to thaw the pesto in the refrigerator at least a few hours before using.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Apricot Jam- sooo summer, so delicious and so versatile

One of the first jams of the summer season. Apricots aren't in season very long.  This jam is easy to make, the ingredients are basic and simple and the jam can be used on toast or on a roast (yes, as a baste!).  Try it and you'll love it.  So will your friends.

This recipe makes 5 250 ml jars.

3     lbs apricots
1     lb sugar
1/2  cup lemon juice

Halve and pit the apricots.  Slice them.  In a large nonreactive bowl, gently toss together the apricots and the sugar.  Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least four hours or up to overnight in the refrigerator.

Have ready hot, sterilized jars and their lids.

Transfer the apricot mixture to a large nonreactive saucepan and add the lemon juice.  Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat and cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the jam is thick- about 15-20 minutes.

Ladle the hot jam into the jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace.  Remove any air bubbles and adjust the headspace if needed.  Wipe the rims clean and seal tightly with the lids.

Process the jars for ten minutes in a boiling water bath.  Remove from the water and allow to cool.  Before placing in a cool, dark storage place, test the lids to make sure they are sealed (the lid will not "bounce" back when pushed in).  Store for up to one year.  If a seal has failed, store the jar in the refrigerator for up to one month.

I like to use apricot jam as a baste for poultry or grilled fish.  A 250 ml jars should provide just enough jam for a few pounds of meat or fish.  I also like to add spices directly into the jars before sealing them: ginger (candied or fresh); star anise; curry powder; cayenne pepper, etc... add a little spice, then sample before adding more... Enjoy!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Blueberry and Lemon Jam- always popular!

I've been making this jam annually for at least ten years and I've used in a preserving classes.  It's easy to make and so different from the same old, same old jams.  You can use blueberries or try it with raspberries.  It will be a great hit with your friends, perfect as a Christmas or hostess gift.

This recipe makes about 5 - 250 ml jars.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

This is One Special Focaccia!

Two summers ago, one of my very best friends, Sue, and I toured the wineries of the Naramata Bench, near Penticton.  This is an amazing place- great wineries, great vistas and great food.

We lunched at Lake Breeze Winery.  The food was amazing.  One of the things we really enjoyed was the focaccia.  It was light but chewy, and oh so flavourful.  After lunch, we walked around the property and found that the kitchen actually overlooked the lake and had great windows where we could watch food being prepared and speak with the chefs.  Congratulations on a great lunch were extended along with a special request for the focaccia recipe.  Hey, you never know unless you ask!  Chef Mark graciously agreed to provide us with his recipe.  Yahoo!  Home we went to reproduce his special treat.  Success!

This recipe makes a lot of focaccia!  Feel free to halve the recipe.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Great "Go To" Summer Salad- Moroccan Couscous

This is another quick and easy salad, perfect for the summer.  It's light and full of great flavours and, guess what?  There isn't really a recipe.

Your biggest decision is the flavour profile- what do you want it to taste like... This recipe is based on Moroccan flavours: cinnamon, lemon, honey, almonds...  Remember, the quantities below are approximate and feel free to substitute...If you're thinking Mediterranean, then your flavours would likely be: kalamata olives, roasted peppers, dried (or fresh) tomatoes, cukes,...

This recipe will serve 4-6 guests.

Pop Tarts- Time to get back to basics and real goodness!

I remember when Pop Tarts first hit the grocery store shelves.  They became a kid "staple" for breakfast and snacks... I guess those were the days when ingredients and real nutrition didn't matter so much.  Actually, mom was a great home cook, so perhaps a little junk food wasn't so bad.

These fancy modern processed "treats" had simpler, more flavourful and, dare I say, healthier ancestors.  This recipe was developed by Hedy Goldsmith, an amazing baker whose recipes I am looking forward to trying out.  She gives her Pop T's an adult spin.

For 16 pop tarts.

Emeril's Creole Shrimp

My recipe is based on Emeril's. He is the undisputed king of New Orleans cooking.  It's easy to make, once you've chopped the vegetables and set the pot to simmer.  This packs a huge flavour punch.  I served it to the guys' Poker Club along with dirty rice, cornbread and a great chocolate pyramid cake.  Great dinner!
Chocolate Pyramid Cake
Creole Shrimp

I often make more sauce than called for in the recipe, just because it's so delicious and great with rice.  To do that, increase the sauce ingredients proportionately.  You can use green pepper if you prefer (it's more traditional).  If you can't find concasse tomatoes, just briefly pulse whole canned tomatoes in the food processor.  I keep the creole fairly mild and serve it with hot sauce for those who prefer more heat.

To make shrimp stock, save the shells.  Put some oil on the bottom of a pot, heat then add the shells.  Stir them around for a few minutes, then add water to cover and simmer approximately 30 minutes.  You can add bay leaves, a celery stalk, onion for additional flavour. Strain the stock. I don't add salt because I can add that when I use the stock.  It freezes well.

This recipe will serve eight hungry guests.

Beryl's Jamaican Beef Patties

Who better to taste test my Jamaican beef patties than my very good friends, Beryl and Eric.  Beryl is born and bred in Jamaica and, along with Eric, a long time resident of the Okanagan.  "Well", she says, "they're almost there.  Good but not quite Jamaican."  Ever helpful, she provided her own recipe for my next attempt.     It was a hit!

To make 12-14 patties.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

They are Delicious and Vegan and Gluten Free! Pecan Cinnamon Rolls

These wonderful, cinnamon rolls are perfect for pecan lovers.  The dough is made with an assortment of healthy flours AND leaves out the gluten and the dairy.  If you can't find a particular ingredient for this recipe, check out the Internet for substitutions (including the right quantities for substitutes).  They don't look like the puffy, gooey sticky buns/rolls made with all the regular ingredients.  Jenny was very creative and her rolls taste great while being oh so healthy.  Definitely worth trying.

A few things to remember: this dough is very soft but if the dough doesn't come together for you, add a little more flour.  It's important to use the parchment paper to roll the dough, sushi style and it's really important to coat the parchment paper with extra rice flour.  I use my trusty rolling pin (coated with rice flour) to gently roll out the dough.  Because there is no gluten, don't expect the rolls to puff out like their cousins, but they will kind of rise/puff.  The texture is denser, rich and redolent of pecans and maple.

This recipe is adapted from a book entitled Gluten-Free and Vegan Bread by Jennifer Katzinger.  Thanks Jenn!

To make 10 rolls.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Chicken Cacciatore- Classic Italian

Fill your kitchen with the heady aromas of slowly cooking chicken in a tomato wine sauce.  Throw in flavourful vegetables and herbs for a great old style cacciatore  your family will love.

Chicken "hunters' style" is a classic Italian dish and every cook has her own version.  This recipe is based on  the winning dish from Bobby Flay's TV show "Throwdown".  That throwdown was won by firefighter Keith Young.

To serve six to eight.

More Mama mia... Thin, Crispy Breadsticks called Grissini.

Ahhhh, grissini.  I love these crispy little breadsticks- kind of like a cracker stick!  Use the breadstick recipe and, bonus, use your pasta making machine!  I ended up making short versions of the grissini- about three- four inches long instead of the foot long versions.  Either length works, but the longer ones seem to be more delicate.

Long, Knobby, Crisp and Homemade. Mama Mia! Italian Breadsticks.

These old-fashioned breadsticks are perfect served with soup, pasta or just for snacking.  They are easy to make, as are their cousins, the grissinis.  Use this recipe to make your grissini.  Your stand mixer makes quick work of this recipe.

Check below for different topping options: sesame seeds, garlic, cheese, rosemary... lots to choose from.

This recipe makes about 40 breadsticks.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Sumptuous, Healthy, Vegetarian Hot and Sour Soup

You'd think I've never met a soup I didn't love... Well, I do love soups; I love to make them and I especially love to eat them.  I also judge a restaurant by its soups- if soups seem to be an afterthought, so might the rest of their food.

Hot and sour soup tops my list of foods to order in a Chinese restaurant.  The hotter the better!  This version  begins with a Nina Simonds light version of the classical soup by substituting the usual pork with chicken.  I go further by foregoing the meat and making it vegetarian.  It's just as flavourful and perfect for a light lunch or dinner.

Don't let the list of ingredients scare you.  All of the ingredients are available at your local Oriental grocer or at well stocked grocery stores.

To serve six.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Leftover Egg Whites- What To Do? Meringues!

Meringues!  I haven't made meringues since grade six Home Economics class way back when.  They were just plain old dollops of gooey good stuff on a baking sheet.  So easy!

This past week, I have been baking lemon meringue pies.  That left me with nine egg whites to get creative with.  What to do?  Back to my cooking roots... These meringues are flavoured with crushed walnuts and with crushed chocolate espresso beans.

This recipes make approximately eighteen three inch meringues.

Skip the Wontons- Easy Faux Wonton Soup with Pasta

I love wonton soup!  But sometimes, I just don't feel like, or have the time, to make wontons and I don't really like the frozen variety.  This soup gives me the flavour of the wonton filling and the bite of the wonton wrapper with a minimum of preparation.  Add lots of ginger and vegetables and voilà! a healthy, satisfying Asian soup.

This soup serves 6 to 8.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

This recipe is based on one provided by Hedy Goldsmith, a master baker with interesting approaches to the kitchen.

I love coffee cakes.  They can be frozen, ready to be "pulled out" at the stroke of the doorbell.  This recipe is  straightforward and easy to make.

To serve 12.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Yucatan Spiced Chicken- Olé!

Bring the Yucatan to your kitchen with this spicy, citrusy chicken dish.  It's light and easy to make.  Serve this chicken with rice and beans, maybe a side of Mexican inspired cole slaw and you have yourself a special dinner.
Yucatan chicken served with roasted chayote squash and rice and black beans

This recipe serves four.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Ya Mon! Jamaican Beef Patties

Jamaican beef patties are the iconic dish of the Jamaicans, and half the Caribben Islands too! Flacky crust and spicy meat, all hand held- what a treat! You could buy them, in bulk at the grocery store, but, homemade is oh sooo much better! and easy to make. Enjoy!

To make 10 – 12 large patties

There may not be a prize, but who can resist caramel coated popcorn and peanuts?

Take me out to the ball game... give some peanuts and Cracker Jack... well Hedy's version comes pretty close.   Take my word for it, they are difficult to put down!

Makes five cups.

Pie in the Sky? Heavenly Lemon Meringue Pie

My mom made amazing lemon meringue pie, and banana cream pie, chocolate cream pie... I've been craving lemon meringue pie for the past few weeks and it's time to get down to baking!

I'm making the lemon pie filling from scratch, lemons and all.  You could use a little box of instant pie filling (my mom did), but try it from scratch and see what a difference fresh makes!  I guarantee you won't want to go back to the box.

I'm adding chocolate cookie crumbs to my crust, for fun and to help keep that crust crisp.  You can also use graham cracker crumbs or just leave the crumbs out alltogether.

This pie serves eight.

The Queen of Flourless Chocolate Cakes- Queen Mother's Cake from Maida Heatter

Maida Heatter is one of America's great bakers.  She's now is her eighties and her recipes are as popular as ever.  I love reading her cookbooks- she tells a great tale about all of her recipes and her directions are clear, complete and guarantee great results every time.

My sister often asks for gluten free desserts. Sis, this one's for you!  It's made with ground almonds, the texture is light, but rich and moist as well.  Not like the usual heavier cakes we are used to being served.

When I make this cake, I skip the dry bread crumbs and the icing.  I serve the cake with whipped cream and fresh fruit.  When I made it the first time, I worried about not having enough to serve my five guests.  Well, it served everyone and I still had half a cake left!  So, really, 12 great portions of deliciousness.

This recipe serves 12.

More Bark- so good and so easy... Popcorn and Peanut Bark

I love popcorn, and peanuts and chocolate... This treat doesn't get much better- it's a heavenly combination.

To make one pound.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sorry New England, Manhattan is One Up on You!

I love creamy, rich New England clam chowder.  But, ohhh those calories.  Less known, but just as delicious is Manhattan clam chowder.  Clam broth based, loaded with vegetables and clams, this soup is lighter, brighter and healthier.  I make my version of this chowder using homemade fish broth (ask your fishmonger for white fish bones- not from oily fish).  I also like to make a large batch of the soup base (minus the fish) to freeze in double portions and save for later.  When I want a bowl of this great soup, I gently warm the soup, then add cubes of fish until they are just cooked through.  My local fishmonger, Codfather's in Kelowna, sells assorted bits of fish, cubed, which work well in this soup.

It can easily become Manhattan clam chowder, by steaming two dozen fresh clams and adding the clam meat at the end of the soup making process, or by adding canned whole clams.

To make 4-6 portions.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Pasta on the Fly... Who Knows Where it Will Lead?

Soooo, today I thought I would make a gorgeous crab and ricotta ravioli with a fresh parsley leaf imbedded in the pasta.  I actually ended up with parsley fettucine and pasta rolls and learned a few lessons along the way.  Kitchen adventures!
Herb fettucine

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pasta Perfection- Make it at Home

You only need three ingredients to make your own pasta and I bet you have them in your fridge and pantry: flour, eggs and salt.  That's it!  It's easy to make and well worth the effort.  You could use your food processor or your mixer but consider going the traditional route: use your hands, feel the dough, knead it, throw it around...

Gaby, my good friend from Italy, remembers when her mom made pasta back in the day.  She had pasta drying flat on all the beds! Must have been industrial quantities of the good stuff...

Make about 1 1/2 lbs of pasta.

Monday, March 18, 2013

It doesn't have to be beef to be a burger. Try these vegetarian Mediterranean Burgers!

I love having these burgers on hand for BBQ season.  They are complex, flavourful and good for you.  Spread the word: burgers don't have to be about meat...

Makes approx. seven burgers

Persian Rice with a Golden Crust

This dish is called tah-dig, meaning crunchy bottom (or close to it).  It's a memorable dish, so different from run of the mill rice, and oh so good!  This is an easy version.   Serve it with Persian chicken  for an authentic Persian meal.

2     litres water
1     tbsp salt
1 1/2 cups long-grain rice (not converted; preferably basmati or jasmine)
1    tbsp plain yogourt
3    tbsp unsalted butter
1    tbsp grapeseed oil (or other light cooking oil)
1    cup almond, sliced, toasted lightly


In a large saucepan bring water with salt to a boil. Add rice and boil 10 minutes. In a colander drain rice and rinse under warm water.

In a 2- to 3-quart nonstick saucepan melt butter. Spoon rice over butter, layering in the almonds and cover pan with a kitchen towel and a heavy lid. Fold edges of towel up over lid and cook rice over moderately low heat until tender and a crust forms on bottom, 30 to 35 minutes.

Let the pan sit for approximately one hour to loosen the bottom crust from the pan.  Invert onto a serving plate- if all goes well the crust will be crispy and come out in one piece.   

You could layer in lightly browned, thinly sliced onions.  Or, add raisins, dried apricots...

Sunday, March 17, 2013

It's Persian New Year- Norouz! Celebrate with Persian Chicken

This dish is worth making just so you can enjoy the wonderful odors wafting through the kitchen: pomegranate, raisins, chicken all simmering happily in the oven...

In Vancouver, I met a wonderful Persian lady named Blossom.  She loves to sew and she especially loves to cook Persian food.  So, if you are lucky enough to have her as your sewing teacher every second Saturday, you will also be lucky enough to enjoy a Persian lunch.  Wonderful food...  I especially like the spices, fruit and nuts they add to their dishes: cinnamon, walnuts, pomegranate, raisins, dried apricots...

As the Persians are celebrating their New Year next week (March 21), I thought a Persian dish would be timely.  Blossom, this one's for you!
Persian Chicken with couscous
 To serve 4...

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Malaysian Curried Coconut Chicken Rendang

I love curries, all kinds.  This one is from Malaysia.  Curry pastes from all over the world are now readily available in the grocery stores.  But, I often like to make my own, from scratch...

 To serve six.

Thai Vegetable Curry- It's quick and easy...

Get yourself some Thai curry paste, an assortment of veggies, a can of coconut milk and you have the makings of a great Thai dinner.  This is one of my "a little of this" and "a little of that" recipes.  Taste as you go, feel free to experiment- vary the vegetables- and taste again... it'll be just fine!

Years ago, in Ottawa, I hosted a Thai university student.  She missed her home cooking so she and I learned to cook Thai together... with a few phone calls to the family cook in Bangkok.  By the time she left, I was a pro!  This recipe is gluten free, dairy free, full of hot, spicy flavours and healthy vegetables.  Perfect!

To serve four.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Impress your palate - Creole Crab Cakes

When I moved away from home (Ottawa) to Vancouver, one of my favourite "foodie" discoveries was crab cakes.  They just aren't part of the French Canadian food repertoire.  But, new home, new traditions and great new food adventures!  The West Coast is the place to sample the best of the sea: crab fresh, amazing oysters, spotted prawns and shrimp, and, let's not forget wild salmon and halibut!  Perfect ingredients to build a repertoire of fish cake recipes...

These are the very first crab cakes I ever made.  Don't let the list of ingredients discourage you.  They are easy to make and they taste great!  Thanks Emeril for providing the inspiration...

Makes 10 crab cakes.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Irish Eyes Are Smiling- Irish Lamb Stew

I'm preparing for St. Patrick's Day this coming weekend.  What better dish to prepare than the iconic Irish Lamb Stew?  It's simple, easy and very tasty.  I started with the recipe from the Ballymaloe Cookery School.  Owner, Darina Allen, is probably Ireland's most famous chef.  The school is located in Cork, Ireland- in the middle of a 100 acre organic farm.  This is the go to place to find traditional, authentic Irish recipes.

This is one of those recipes where every Irish cook has his or her own version.  At its simplest, it contains lamb, potatoes, onions and a few herbs.  You could add Guinness beer for extra flavour and additional vegetables.  I've chosen to add carrots.  The secret here is to brown the meat and then let the stew cook on low heat for as long as it takes to render it fork tender.  That's a few hours on the back of the stove or in the oven.

To serve 4-6

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Pho Soc Trang- Vietnamese Cuisine at it's Best!

I discovered Vietnamese food on my fortieth birthday.  A friend and I went wandering through Ottawa's Chinatown looking for good eats and "stumbled" upon a small, cubby hole of a restaurant called Mekong.  The patrons were all Asian.  Hah! this one should be good!  We were perplexed by the menu.  No problem, we're adventurous!  The waiter was asked to bring us typical dishes and away we went.  Slurping pho, enjoying rice paper rolls- I was hooked!

When I first moved to Kelowna, three years ago, finding a great Vietnamese restaurant was a bit of a challenge.  Ottawa and Vancouver offered up great Vietnamese cuisine to satisfy my frequent cravings for pho- a traditional beef soup, but not in Kelowna.  And then came Pho Soc Trang, the restaurant!  It opened a few months later on Water Street.  Hallellujah!
Pho- you've got to try it!

Casa Sasso - Now That's Italian

I love Italian food- the more authentic, the better. Casa Sasso, Kelowna's newest Italian restaurant, serves up great Italian cuisine from the Rome and Naples regions.  Quoting my friend Neil (see below, second visit): "Casa Sasso offers great food, at reasonable prices- perfect!"

Casa Sasso

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Quiche- The Seductive Pie. Meet Lorraine...

So says Thomas Keller, world renowned chef and chef-owner of Bouchon.  One of his many cookbooks (they are amazing and not for the faint of heart) is called Bouchon.  That's where I went for my quiche information.  That is my starting point for quiche, my way.

Thomas recommends using a 2-inch ring mold for the quiche shell.  As I don't have such a tool, I will be using small, individual pie plates.  Yes, Thomas, I know I risk overcooking the custard.  I think I can manage the risks...  This quiche is a traditional one- Quiche Lorraine- made with bacon and onion.  I also made a vegetarian version by omitting the bacon and adding spinach.

Spinach quiche on the left.
Lorraine's on the right.
This recipe makes six single serving quiches.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Pepperoni Pizza Roll- A Family Recipe

When the kids were teenagers, I was always looking for ways to feed them healthy food.  I developed a secret weapon to keep them away from the school cafeteria- the pepperoni pizza roll.  My son actually wanted me to make huge quantities so he could sell it to his friends at school.  The perfect money maker- mom does all the work and he gets all the glory, and the cash!

Tomorrow, I'm travelling from Kelowna to Toronto for a visit with Alex, now, 29 years old.  I'll happily spend the day in his kitchen filling his freezer.  "Mom, remember that pizza roll you used to make us?", asks my son.  "Can you make lots for me when you're here?"  I guess this really is a family recipe... and I'll be packing my bread machine.  A culinary Mary Poppins!  He gets to keep the machine...

Basically, it's a pizza dough rolled around pizza ingredients and baked in the oven.  Great for lunch bags and snacks! I make this dough in my bread machine. Vary ingredients according to your tastes.  As a matter of fact, now that he's older, maybe I'll propose a more adult version.  Hummm- grilled peppers, grilled artichokes, olives... time to play!

This recipe will make approximately 12 slices.

Sticky Buns- One Up on the Pillsbury Dough Boy

My friends Carol and Gaby loved these buns.  Still warm from the oven, puffy and golden, dripping with sweet (but not too sweet) caramel and pecans- they are the best! Make a double batch and freeze half- what a treat in the morning with your coffee.

Different sized buns in a small ramekin.  Looks great!
Just flip over and watch the sticky goodness cover the buns.
The banana blueberry version.
These will beat the store bought buns, no contest!

Use the basic sweet dough recipe to make 12 buns.

Feeding the Boys- Pulled Pork North Carolina Style

I prefer making my Christmas gifts.  Over the years, friends and family have been gifted all manner of preserves, jams, jellies, cakes and cookies.  I love to spend the day in the kitchen baking up my Christmas gifts and being able to personalize them.  This year, Kyle's gift was a kitchen IOU.  "Whatever you like, just give me a few days notice", I told him over Christmas dinner.  Well, Super Bowl weekend is coming up and the boys will be gathering.  His request: pulled pork with caramelized onions.  These boys don't eat cole slaw so we're going with the not so conventional caramelized onions which I know they will love.  So, I will use some of the sauce ingredients to flavour my caramelized onions, tying everything together.

In the winter, I don't BBQ so much so it's a good thing that pulled pork can easily be prepared in the oven.  Not so authentic, but it works well.

Pulled pork sandwich with caramelized onions
A five pound pork roast will serve six generously.

Moroccan Beef Tagine with Dried Apricots and Warm Spices

Tender beef is slowly simmered with vegetables, chickpeas, dried apricots, raisins.  Add ras-al-hanout, a traditional spice mix and voilà- great Moroccan!  A tagine is really just a flavourful, exotic stew.  Serve it with crusty bread, cooling yogourt and the traditional glass of fresh mint tea.

To serve four.

Remembering the PIE- Chicken Pot Pie

Did your mama make chicken pot pie when you were growing up?  I can still smell my mama's pie, hear the light crunch of her flaky crust as she cut into the pie and taste the rich creamy sauce, tender morsels of chicken and vegetables.  Can you feel it?  Everyone loves chicken pot pie.  It's well worth the effort of making it from scratch... You'll never ever look at those frozen supermarket wannabes again.

I tend to make my pot pies individually instead of using a casserole dish.  When the kids were growing up, I preferred to have the single pies in the freezer ready for my teenagers to cook "on demand".  It worked for us!

I usually only top my pot pies with pie dough, but sometimes use pastry top and bottom. Either makes a delicious dish.  You can always use puff pastry as a topping - it works well and looks great.

This recipe makes six individual pot pies or, if you prefer to use a casserole dish, serve six to eight (13 x 9-inch baking dish).

Basic Sweet Dough- The Key to Goodness!

Love those cravings!  Cinnamon buns and sticky buns- homemade just can't be beat.  Sticky, gooey, rich, puffy buns bring out that inner kid in all of us.  Remember how great you felt pulling apart those rounds of cinnamon goodness?  And the smell in the kitchen while they baked?  Well, these are relatively easy to make with your dependable Kitchenaid.  I made one batch of cinnamon buns and another of sticky buns because I love both and they are made with the same sweet dough.

One batch of sweet dough makes 12 buns.

Homemade Cinnamon Buns- The Pillsbury Dough Boy just can't Compete

Sweet smells of cinnamon wafting from the oven, rich, puffy rolls just waiting to be pulled apart... Makes you feel like a kid all over again!  These just can't be bought at the supermarket...

I'm not a sweets person, except when I spy cinnamon buns in the bakery showcase... They are my downfall!  Making them at home is easy and oh so much better than store bought.  These buns are just sweet enough (not cloying) and just cinnamon"ey" enough to send me to bun Heaven!  I make one dozen and freeze half the batch for later.  Imagine, waking up in the morning to freshly baked buns!

You'll need one batch of basic sweet dough to make these.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Crisp Vietnamese Shrimp Fingers with Fresh Herbs

Wonton wrappers never had it so good!  Wrapped around lightly seasoned shrimp paste, these wonton fingers are deep fried then served in lettuce leaves and herbs.  Soooo good!

Make a double batch and freeze half.  Just reheat them in the oven and you're ready to serve!

Makes 25 rolls.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Canadian Culinary Championships- for the Uber Foodie

Two years ago, I got to "wave" an autographed Olympic Torch, the grand prize in a fundraising draw at the Canadian Culinary Championships, while enticing attendees to "take a chance" and buy a ticket!  The first event of the weekend was crowded and you could feel the buzz!  "Did you try the dish from Vancouver?" "Check out the dish from St. John's."  Tonight, attendees rate the teams- more buzz- as people champion their favourites.  

My favourite event?  The Saturday morning Black Box Competition or, as I would call it: Chopped Live! The chefs prepare two amazing dishes using local ingredients in front of a small audience.  At the Saturday night Grand Finale Event, the chefs serve their signature dishes for hundred of guests; the Silent Auction offers up amazing items and the entertainment is lively.  

I'm happy to report that last year's Gold Medal Winner was Marc Lépine from Ottawa, my hometown.

Black Box Competition

Chef Anthony McCarthy • <a style="font-size:0.8em;" href="" target="_blank">View on Flickr</a>CCC Winning Chefs • <a style="font-size:0.8em;" href="" target="_blank">View on Flickr</a>I love volunteering for this weekend's events.  It's an opportunity to get up close and personal with Canada's culinary stars.

To get to Kelowna, they've competed regionally.  These gold medal winners from across Canada meet head to head in Kelowna- this year (2013), February 8 and 9, for the ultimate National competition.

Chef Jan Trittenbach • <a style="font-size:0.8em;" href="" target="_blank">View on Flickr</a>
Chef Michael Daquisto • <a style="font-size:0.8em;" href="" target="_blank">View on Flickr</a>It's also a fundraising weekend.  Elite Olympic athletes benefit from the millions of dollars raised since 2006.

Visit their website for up to the minute information: goldmedalplates. com

Monday, January 28, 2013

Fèves au Lard- The Tradition Continues... with Pulled Pork!

Fèves au lard- Baked Beans with pulled pork.
These are baked beans to you... Where there is winter, there will be baked beans! Everyone has a favourite recipe.  Are yours made with molasses, brown sugar or maple syrup?  Do you use salt pork or bacon? So many options...

In my French Canadian family, fèves au lard were served at Christmas parties (with the tourtières), skating parties, after snow rides or skiing, anytime a crowd needed good food.  During my week as a scout camp cook, beans were a favourite with the boys.  However, the ingredients were a major subject of discussion among us volunteer parent cooks.  I won over the crew with my "recipe" which included a pork roast in the beans.  Ahem, who would turn down beans and pulled pork, all in one pot?

The measurements in this recipe are approximate.  Keep tasting and adjusting your ingredients.  I've made these without the pork for a great vegetarian dish.

This recipe will serve four to six generously.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Even Two Year Olds Can Cook- Aaliyah's Egg Salad

Aaliyah with her Egg Salad!  It was so fun!
 I travelled from Kelowna to Ottawa recently to visit Aaliyah, my wonderful, beautiful two and a half year old granddaughter.  I am blessed!

Healthy eating is so important, I'm so proud to see how varied Aaliyah's diet is.  She and her mama and papa must be spending time in the kitchen together, because this kid knows "stuff"!  Thank you mama and papa!

I'm now on the lookout for kid friendly recipes to share with my budding chef!  Our mission one morning was to cook an egg salad for breakfast.  Aaliyah was a great sous chef- she cracked and peeled the boiled eggs and was a master egg decorator!  This recipe looks good, tasted great and is kid friendly.

To serve four.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup- So Easy! So Good!

This awesome soup is so easy to make- it practically makes itself :-).  I love butternut squash and, combined with apples and maple syrup, it becomes a rich, creamy soup to be perfectly garnished with more roasted apples or homemade croutons.

Two toppings: caramelized apples (left) and croutons (right)

The measurements for the ingredients are approximate.  Please, taste and adjust as you go.

To serve four to six generously.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The "Other" Shrimp and Sweet Potato Shrimp Cakes

These are the original sweet potato shrimp cakes- the ones my daughter loves.  She made them with me the first time we tried out the recipe and adopted it as her favourite. These shrimp cakes are easy to make, freeze well and are always popular with guests.

To serve four to six...

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Quinoa Tabouleh- Call It Fusion!

The Lebanese introduced us to tabouleh, their parsley and bulgur salad filled with tomato, cucumber, onion and mint in a lemony dressing.  It's a healthy, tasty salad.

Replace the bulgur with quinoa and you have yourself the same tasty salad, but with a high protein grain and, I think, a lighter texture.  Quinoa is super easy to cook and easily absorbs the flavour of the dressing.  This recipe is by no means authentic, but it hits the flavour highs- let's call it fusion.

The quantities listed below are approximate.  Just add slowly, taste and adjust as you go.  And, don't be afraid to substitute or to add more or less of the vegetable quantities given.  For example: mint is often unavailable in the winter, so I tend to just omit it.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Leek and Potato Soup- the Rustic One

One of my first "newlywed" dinners featured Vichyssoise, a creamy, cold leek and potato soup.  I hovered over it, pureed and strained it to absolutely remove any lumps and generally babied it.  I was entertaining my in-laws after all and wanted soup perfection!  Well, the soup was great (and so was the rest of the dinner).  Thing was, my guests didn't like cold soups but they valiantly slurped on and only mentioned their preference over dessert.  Had I known, I could have made this rustic version...

Rustic leek and potato soup is the hearty version.  I like chunky soups so I save some of the sliced leek to add at the same time as the potatoes.  They keep their shape in the soup when served.

When winter winds start to blow, this is one of the warming "go to" soups.  Serve it with a wonderful baguette and you have a meal!

To serve 6-8.

Leek and Potato Cream Soup- Hot or Cold?

The Brits and the French have their versions of Cream of Leek and Potato soup; the French took it one step further- they also serve it cold and call it Vichyssoise... the summer version.  Thailand even has a version- truthfully, that would likely be called fusion cuisine and it probably has never been seen in Thailand :-)

I prefer this soup hot, with a light salad and a warm baguette.  Sit by the window and watch the snow fall and the cars slide by...  It's easy and quick to put together and it leaves lots of room to "play".  Try to use homemade chicken stock- it's so much more flavourful than the store bought stuff.  Use vegetable stock for a totally meatless version.  You could garnish your soup with homemade croutons.
Leek and Potato soup topped with homemade croutons
The directions for this soup are much the same as those for the rustic leek and potato soup.  At least, until you puree and add the cream. So, you could make a big batch and divide it into the two versions.

To serve 4-6

Friday, January 11, 2013

Chicken Jalfrezi- the Stir-Fry

I have posted two versions (actually every Indian cook probably has their own version) of Jalfrezi- the one below is stir fried and thickened slightly with a slurry or tomato paste.  The other finishes the dish in a thick tomato curry sauce (use the Curry Sauce base).

This version of Chicken Jalfrezi is more traditional and can also be found on restaurant menus.  It is more like a stir-fry, without the thick tomato based curry sauce.

This will serve four to six...

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Homemade Croutons- Stocking the Pantry

When I go to the grocery store, I regularly check the reduced, day old bread bin for baguettes at 50% off.  Why would the champion of "fresh" buy old bread, you ask?  Well, they make great, economical, homemade croutons.

If you like great salad (and who doesn't?) with fresh, crispy lettuce, beautiful juicy ripe tomatoes, sweet onions and crunchy cucumber, why not top it with your own homemade croutons?  

Coq au Vin- Classic French!

I call it Coq au Vin but you could also call it an upscale chicken stew.  For this rustic chicken dish, I slowly braise my meat in red wine, rich homemade chicken broth and herbs.  Throw in mushrooms and onions and I have an amazing dish to serve with pasta or mashed potatoes.   Light the candles, start the music and pour the wine- dinner is on!  Oh! and send the children to grandma's.

This will serve 4 generously.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Eggplant Parmesan- on the lighter side...

I haven't met an eggplant parmesan I didn't love!  Crispy, breaded eggplant nestled in rich tomato sauce and topped with mozzarella and parmesan cheeses.  What's not to love?  hummmm, the calories?

My goal with this recipe is to cut out some of those calories without losing the deliciousness of the eggplant parmesan.  It won't be a "skinny" recipe, but it will cut out some of them.

Eggplant Parmesan ready for the freezer
This recipe will serve 6 to 8.

California Dreaming... of California Chickpea and Vegetable Stew

This stew lights up my day on those cold, dark winter days.  It's chock full of fresh vegetables and brothy, not the usual thick, heavy winter stew.  Just gives me that California Dreaming feeling.  Now, if only we could grow our veggies year round like they do!

 This recipe evolved from one I found in a cookbook called "The Great American Stewpot".  It's a quick and easy one to make your own...I've added many optional vegetable suggestions- if you have more ideas, let me know.  Don't let the list of ingredients scare you- they're just veggies full of goodness!

To serve 4 to 6...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Ever Meet a Savoury Biscotti? Prosciutto Parm Biscotti- your new best friend...

Did you think biscotti were only sweet treats?  Not so!  A few years ago, I went through my "biscotti" phase and baked all kinds, of sweet biscotti.  Then I found a recipe for savoury ones.  Who would have thought?  Hummmm  They were light, but rich and delicious and they froze well.  I would often float them on top of a cream soup (à la French onion) and they provided just the right texture and "bite".  Or, chop them up and use them as croutons.  Your guests will love them with white or rosé wine and so will you. 

And, I guarantee your kitchen will smell wonderful while they bake :-)

To make about 16 large biscotti... 

More Savoury Biscotti- Chipotle Chile and Corn

The snow just keeps coming today in Kelowna!  A perfect day for playing in the kitchen: one batch of Prosciutto/Parm biscotti; one batch of Bacon/Parm biscotti; and one to serve with chili- Chipotle Chile and Corn biscotti.  All great things to have on hand in the freezer.

Biscotti means twice baked, usually sweet, crispy cookie like bars of Italian origin.  Their savoury cousins are less well known but just as easy to bake and oh so popular with wine and on the appie tray.  Biscotti are easy to make, keep well and are also great hostess gifts...

The Chipotle Chili and Corn biscotti is a heavier biscuit than the others. The flavours are more subtle- light corn, a hint of oregano and, just when you wonder about that chile, it hits your taste buds.  Wow!

This recipes makes approx. 625 gr. of baked biscotti- about two dozen.