Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Surprise Birthday Party BBQ for forty of your best friends.

The challenge: providing food for forty guests, at the cottage.  No oven, little fridge space, only a microwave (god forbid!) and a BBQ (bonus).  That was my mission.

All the dishes had to be prepared in advance and transported to the cottage.  The meat has to stay moist and "survive" reheating.  The salads has to stay crispy.  My menu:

Pulled pork
Asian pulled chicken
Raw kale salad
Cole slaw
Bean salad

A selection of baguettes and foccaccia breads


The best cut of meat for pulled pork is a pork butt- bone and all.  So I estimated about 1/4 lb per person of pork and the same of chicken.  For 40 guests, that translates into 10 lbs of pork and 10 of chicken. Eveything was cooked ahead in my oven, then "pulled" and placed in large pans.  BBQ sauce was added to keep everything moist.  Cover with foil and it's ready to be reheated gently on the BBQ.

Saucy tip:  the pork roast provided great drippings so when cooked, I drained the drippings into a measuring cup and placed in the refrigerator for about an hour, until the fat rose to the top and could be scooped out.  The "broth" was added to an artisanal store bought BBQ sauce to boost the great pork flavours.  Send along some extra to serve along with the meat.

We wanted to use slider buns but they only came as white "blah" buns so we decided to slice up some great baguettes and foccaccia cut into squares and halved.  It worked!

I estimated about 1/2 cup of each salad per person and then added an extra two cups of each.  The cole slaw was meant to serve on top of the pulled pork.  The other salads, on the side.

The feedback from the party was positive.  The hosts were pleasantly surprised at the success of the kale salad.  A hit, especially with the kale newbies!

A Summer Staple and great for BBQ - Bean Salad

My bean salad marries the best of summer fresh- green and yellow beans- with great dried beans- red and white kidney beans, chickpeas, A light dressing ties it all together.

This salad can be made ahead and left to marinate for a few hours.

To serve about eight guests.

You'll love this kale salad!

I often prepare this kale salad for kale newbies.  It's so healthy, colourful, flavourful and so easy to make.  This is a versatile salad recipe.  Along with the kale, I like to add a dried fruit (usually dried cranberries), a toasted nut (I like walnuts), possibly a seed (toasted sunflower or sesame) and some fresh vegetables (cucumber, onions, tomatoes, etc.) So, check out your pantry and your fridge.

This salad will serve about eight guests.

Torta di Zucca eh!

In Italy, that's pumpkin cake with pine nuts and apricots; in Canada, I make it with a twist: maple syrup, walnuts and dried cranberries.  In either country, it's moist, fragrant and easy to bake. Delicious!

My recipe is a twist on the one provided by Eliza Green in her great cookbook "Starting with Ingredient Baking".  I made this cake for an office bake sale and fundraiser.

Using a nine-inch ring pan, this cake will serve 10 to 12.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Strawberry Spread- a treat for my diabetic friends

Every year, I make homemade jams (spreads, really) for my diabetic friends to enjoy.  This strawberry spread is sweetened with pineapple juice and contains only two tablespoons of sugar for 850 ml of jam!  Perfect.

To make 875 ml.
I divide it among 2 250 ml jars and about 3-4 125 ml jars.

5 cups     strawberries, washed and hulled
1             Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and chopped
1 tsp       lemon rind, grated
1/2 cup   pineapple juice concentrate
2 tbsp     sugar
2 tsp       lemon juice
1/2 tsp   vanilla extract

Mash the strawberries in a medium stainless steel bowl and measure.  You should have about 3 cups.  Add the apple, lemon rind, pineapple concentrate, sugar and lemon juice.  Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat and boil gently for 20 minutes or until the mixture is thickened and spreadable, stirring frequently.

Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

Ladle into sterilized jars and process 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.  Once opened, these spreads will keep three weeks in the refrigerator.

Update 2015- Pineapple concentrate is sometimes hard to find.  This year, I used a frozen Tropical Fruit concentrate- sugar free of course!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Margaret's Healthy Hummus- Quick and so easy!

Margaret brought this hummus to the IDG Cottage lunch.  It was delicious served with mini pitas and crackers.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Yam and Sweet Onion Soup

Wilma found this recipe in Prevention Magazine.  If you can't find yams, you can easily substitute sweet potatoes, or even a winter squash like butternut.  This soup was part of the International Dinner Group menu with the Healthy Foods theme.  We all enjoyed the flavours and lightness of the soup.
Soup served with a salmon millet cake topped with gingered tomato marmalade    
 This recipe would serve four.

The Top Ten Healthy Foods Menu for the June 2014 IDG Cottage Lunch.

Our International Dinner Group is meeting at Wilma's cottage this weekend.  The theme is healthy ingredients- the Top Ten.  You know, there are so many Top Ten lists, with many different top ten components.  So, our list was a blending of three.
Louise is stirring the pot.

Our menu:

Salmon Cakes- appie size (Joanne)

Margaret's Healthy Hummus and Pita

Wilma's Yam and Sweet Onion Soup

Gisela's Steamed Broccoli Salad :
Gisela choice of ingredients was healthy and very tasty! 

Louise's Rice and Peas

Yucatan Chicken (Carmen) :  
Carmen made this recipe her own by substituting butternut squash for the chayote, with great success.  Her words of advise: make the chicken the day before you serve it to let the flavours blend together.  Everyone at the IDG loved it!

Flourless Chocolate Cake (Françoise)

Fresh watermelon (Marvel)

Louise's Rice and Peas- goes with Yucatan Chicken

A must for any Caribbean inspired menu..

This recipe will serve ten to twelve...

Friday, June 13, 2014

Louise's Tiramisu- It has stood the test of time- Always a Hit!

From Louise...

The first time I had this I was with Wilma at a restaurant at the corner of Dalhousie and Clarence (I think). They put the mixture on a plate and put the lady fingers around it. It was very good (the lady fingers stayed crisp) and that is the way I served this for years. But now I prefer doing it the way I've outlined below. 

Steamed Broccoli Salad- Gisela's Own...

Gisela developed this recipe for the IDG Cottage lunch (June 2014). 

"I have just made the broccoli salad for tomorrow to let the flavours blend, my own recipe."
Served on a bed of baby spinach, the recipe is for 8-10 people.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Hot Pickled Summer Squash- Debbie- this one's for you!

This is Debbie's most favourite pickle.  She's addicted!  The summer that I grew zucchini, yellow and pattypan squashes, was the boon year for this pickle.  Who could resist all three of these squashes in one glorious pickle!  When you make your batch, please send pictures for me to post.

This recipe is based on the one found in Liana Krissoff's Canning for a New Generation.

This recipe will make approximately seven 500 ml jars.

4 lbs     mixed zucchini, yellow and pattypan squashes (or use just one type of squash)
1 med.  onion
1/4 cup, plus 1 tbsp kosher salt
2 tbsp    cumin seed
1 tbsp    yellow mustard seed
1 tbsp     chili flakes
1 tsp       ground cumin
6 cups    cider vinegar
2 tbsp     mild honey
2 cloves  garlic
7 small    fresh serrano chiles (optional)

Scrub the squash and cut into chunks (or 1/4 inch rounds).  Thinly slice the onion in half rounds.  Put the squash and onion in a large bowl and sprinkle with the 1/4 cup of kosher salt, tossing to combine.  Cover with a layer of ice cubes and refrigerate for eight hours or overnight.  Drain and rinse under cold running water.  Toss with cumin seeds, mustard seeds, chili flakes and ground cumin and set aside.

Prepare for water bath canning.  Was the jars and keep them hot in the canning pot and put the flat lids in a heatproof bowl.  Prepare the vinegar (below) then add boiling water to the lids.

In a non reactive pot, combine the vinegar, 1 1/2 cups of water, honey and remaining one tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil.

Remove the hot jars from the canning pot and place them upright on a folded towel.  Drain the water from the jar lids.

Working quickly, pack the squash, onion, garlic and chiles into the jars.  Ladle the hot vinegar mixture into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace at the top.  Use a chopstick to remove air bubbles around the inside of each jar.  Use a damp paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars, then put a flat lid and ring on each jar, adjusting the ring so that it's finger tight.  Return the jars to the water in the canning pot, making sure they are covered by at least one inch of water.  Bring to a boil and boil for 15 minutes to process.  Remove the jars to a folded towel and leave undisturbed for 12 hours.  Check the seal on the lids after one hour.  If you can push the center down, the jar has not sealed.  Keep this jar int he refrigerator.  Label the sealed jars and store in a cool, dark place.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Pistachio Pesto- version 2- and just as Heavenly!

I love pistachios and I love pesto- a marriage made in heaven!  This version is simpler than the first- there's no garlic, no parmesan, no herbs- just pistachios...  See which one you prefer.

To make 2 1/2 cups.

Banana Yogourt Cupcakes

Sorry, no picture.  We ate them all!  I'll try again next time.

Quick to make- and, I used a sugar substitute, Xyla, so my diabetic friends could indulge.  You could use brown sugar.

This recipe makes 12 cupcakes.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Cauliflower Steaks with sauteed mushrooms and Poached Egg

Lately, I've been reading great things about cauliflower steaks, something new to my repertoire.  For a vegetarian, this is an intriguing use for cauliflower.  My recipe is based on one from Anne Burrell.  Well worth a try.

Forty minutes in the ovens transforms the cauliflower into a soft and silky vegetable.  There's new flavour in there!  Then, you add a couple of generous spoonfulls of mushroom ragoût and top with a beautiful poached egg! Heaven!

To serve four

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Curried Chickpea Rolls- Indian in a puff pastry!

Chickpea Curry- what a great filling for a puff pastry roll!  Another riff on rolls.  These are great portable snacks!  and they make great appies!  No puff pastry? - use fillo.

This recipe isn't an exact science.  I throw in a handful of this and a handful of that... whatever you have on hand to make the best curried chickpea filling ever.

This recipe makes 2 10-inch rolls or 5 filo pastries "ish".

More Chickpea Rolls- Moroccan and Delicious!

Take a basic recipe and make it your own with a new flavour profile.  I've made two different varieties- Moroccan and Curried Indian.  Here is the Moroccan version.

I love the warmth of cinnamon and cumin, the sweetness of dried apricots, the crunch of almonds... all rolled into flaky puff pastry or, for a change of pace, filo dough.  These freeze well- something to look forward to when you want something quick and tasty...

 When I create a new recipe like this one, I don't always measure.  For this filling, just add, taste, adjust and you'll be fine.  If your Moroccan includes something different, go for it!

Makes two 10-inch rolls or about five filo pastries...

Sicilian Caponata- the quicker version

There is definitely no definitive version of caponata in Sicily.  This is version number two, for when you want it to be relatively quicker (it will still need about 45 minutes to cook) and with fewer ingredients than the first version.  This recipe is based on one provided by David Rocco in his Made in Italy cookbook.  Version number three, coming this summer, is the one I've been canning for over a decade.  Still a favourite!

Serve this at room temperature on a piece of baguette, or warmed up, in a small bowl "on the side" or even as a topping for an omelet...

Be prepared- your kitchen will smell heavenly!

Consider the quantities flexible.  If you don't have red pepper, just add more celery.  Have a lot of zucchini, throw it in!

To make enough to serve six!

Monday, May 19, 2014

These are Heavenly! Marshmallows...

Homemade marshmallows... once you've made these easy treats, you'll never, ever be tempted to buy the grocery store variety.  Not even close!  This is a great project to do with kids...

I found the basic recipe in a Gourmet magazine.  After making up a batch of the marshmallow mixture, I "consulted" with my granddaughter for the flavours.  Here is what we decided: plain with toasted coconut coating, then a cocoa covered, nutella swizzled variety (you have to try this one) and a colourful purple variety (food coloring swirled through the marshmallow) with a plain sugar coating.  These marshmallows are amazingly light, fluffy, exactly what a real marshmallow should be.  All of our varieties were amazing, especially the nutella one!

Go ahead and try our varieties then experiment.  I bet you can come up with more favourites.

This recipe makes approximately 3 dozen marshmallows.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Menu- That's Italian!

The International Dinner Group (IDG) has been meeting bi-monthly to share great food and even greater company for about twenty years.  Everyone takes a turn hosting the evening- the hostess picks the theme for the evening and the rest of the gang volunteer to bring a dish.  Some of us love to cook and all of us love to eat, laugh and share our stories. 

Most everyone has worked at the Royal College in Ottawa over these many years, most are now retired but we still share that unconditional friendship and camaraderie that is so precious...

I am honoured to share our menus and our recipes!

April 2014- Italian Dinner at Joanne's

Our menu:
Bruschetta- traditional tomato and basil; blue cheese and toasted walnut; roasted peppers

Chicken Cacciatore  (Marvel)

Pasta Putanesca (Joanne)

Gisela's amazing Spring salad with honeyed nuts

Louise's Tiramisu

Bruschetta with Roasted Peppers

Looking for a great appie?  Easy and quick?  You can even make a big batch and freeze some for later...  This is a crowd pleaser!

Will make four people very happy....

Pasta Puttanesca- It's Quick and it's Fabulous!

Need to entertain in a hurry?  Pasta puttanesca is my "go to" for a healthy, quick and easy dish that will truly impress your guests.  When I think puttanesca, I can taste the brininess of the Kalamata olives, the saltiness of the capers, the background heat from the red pepper flakes- it's a great dish.

If you want to keep it strictly vegetarian, just omit the anchovies.  The sauce also freezes well so portion pack and you'll always be ready to go...

Makes enough sauce to serve eight. 

A Fabulous Summer Salad- Spring Asparagus Tabbouleh

I love tabbouleh and I also love to experiment.  Asparagus, that harbinger of spring, is one of my favourite vegetables.  Why not combine them both?  Now you have traditional lemon, parsley and mint flavours married with beautiful, tender asparagus.

This recipe serves four.

I Love These Burgers- Chickpea and Walnut-

Summer is fast approaching and thoughts are turning to burgers and BBQ.  That's the time my vegetarian soul starts yearning for the great flavours of a myriad of my veggie burgers.  I've even converted a few carnivores!

I got my inspiration for this chickpea burger recipe from an old Gourmet magazine recipe.  The toasted walnuts add great texture and the rest of the flavours work on a burger bun or over salad greens.

This recipe makes four substantial burgers or nine smaller ones.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

You'll Fall in Love with Chickpea Rolls!

My mission today: prepare a delicious, flavourful vegetarian "fast food" that's easy to freeze and easy to serve. Chickpea rolls are kind of like a fallafel, wrapped in puff pastry and baked in the oven.  These rolls highlight the goodness and texture of the chickpeas, supported by the herbs and spices and a little bit of kick from the hot pepper.  It's really goodness wrapped in puff pastry.

Is it fast food?  Well, I made the rolls and froze them.  Need supper in a hurry?  Crank up the oven and pop these goodies in for about 12 minutes and you're ready to go!  It doesn't get much better than this.  Perfect for the house or the cottage!

Watch for variations- coming soon...

This recipes makes two ten inch rolls, cut into four pieces each.

Friday, April 18, 2014

We all Scream for Ice Cream- that's maple banana ice cream with strawberries and chocolate chips

This is what you get when you consult a three year old!  Aaliyah has great taste!  I proposed maple ice cream and she added the rest... banana, strawberries, chocolate chips.

Homemade ice cream is so much healthier and you can make it to order.  It's well worth investing in a good ice cream maker... I like to make about 1 - 1 1/2 litres and finish it in small molds.  When I want a sweet treat, I need only take out a small portion and avoid temptation.

Here is the recipe for about 1.5 litres.