Thursday, March 31, 2011

Baked Pasta with Chicken and Sun-dried Tomatoes

How pleasant a thing it is to find a recipe, sorta special, perfect for dinner, good for a crowd and one that I have all the ingredients for. The kind of dinner that people feel free to keep taking a little more of. Everything right in the middle of the table, comfortable and inviting.

The creamy white pasta looks so pretty all studded with the bright colours of the tomatoes and broccoli. Sun-dried tomatoes and the roasted chicken breast give this dish so much flavour. And I'm in love with bread crumb topping on almost anything. See, comfortable and sorta special.

When I saw the amount of food this was going to make (serves 8 people) and remembered a few of my favourite ladies were alone tonight I quickly called them and begged them to come eat with us. It was a great evening. Complete with a salad from Gramma, a lemon Pie from Clara, and the entertainment of watching Jim and Jill learn the drums.

This recipe comes from Mel's Kitchen Cafe. Mel has so many recipes that look good, I want to make them all. She takes lovely photos of them too.

Head over and check out Mel's blog for this recipe and all her other goodies.

Clara's lemon pie

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

...With Jam and Bread

Clara's spring swimming classes have begun and will be right at dinner time. So, for the next few months we will be having sandwiches for dinner on Wednesdays.

This morning we made a nice sandwich loaf and some strawberry jam.

I usually make a slow rise bread from this book, but I forgot to put it together last night. In a pinch, I tried Ina Garten's Honey White Bread. The 2 egg yolks give the bread a pretty light yellow colour and a great texture and taste.

My mum came to visit us today bringing a few pints of strawberries.

The two of us got a batch of strawberry jam made really quickly. Thanks mum!

A jar of the jam is going to be donated to a certain jam hiding sparrow I know of.

Jib says, "I could eat the whole loaf."

Monday, March 28, 2011

Lime-y Beans

Not to be confused with lima-beans, these are essentially refried beans.

You could make these with almost any bean, romano, black or red kidney, but I used white kidney beans because I have never seen white refried beans. I think it looks prettier.

I made a batch this morning (and it took me less than 10 minutes) so dinner will come together in a flash tonight.

I love the simple bright flavour of the garlic, cumin and lime. They will be perfect on flat bread and corn tortillas with some cooked rice, salsa, chives, sour cream and grated cheese.

I know I've said it before, but beans are such a cheap way to eat. I recently bought, The Everything Beans Book. There are something like 96 bean recipes rated by expense, time and kid-friendliness, tips on cooking big batches of beans and info on their health benefits. I have really enjoyed reading through it so far.

Limey Beans
(Everything Beans Ebook)

3 1/2 cups cooked beans (I used 2 tins White kidney beans)
olive oil
1 C finely chopped onion
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
1-3 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
3/4 c vegetable broth (or bean broth if you soaked them yourself)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c grated pepper jack or other cheese (optional)
juice and zest of 1 lime

Cook onions and cumin over med heat 5 mins in a large sauce pan. Add oregano, garlic and salt.
Stir together cooking another 3 mins. Stir in beans and stock. Mash together until liquid is absorbed.
Remove pan from the heat and add cheese and lime zest and juice.

*add 1/2 tsp of chili powder or some cayenne with the other spices for heat if you like.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Miller's Wife" Fish

"Miller's Wife", or what the french call 'Meuniere', is fish dredged in flour and pan fried.

I cannot think of many better ways of eating trout than this. I was calling out ideas on how to cook this fish, "Trout with mushrooms, tomatoes and ginger", or " Trout with raisins, red onions and bacon."

Jim told me that none of those options sounded like they would really match the trout.

Sometimes the simplest ways of preparing fish are the best.

Very simple and arguably the best way to eat trout.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper, dredge in flour, fry in butter.

Garnish with lemons and parsley.
Serve with baked sweet potatoes.

Fish Meuniere
(Alton Brown)

2 large fillet of rainbow trout, skin-on
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
1/2 C all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp Canola oil
1 Tbsp butter
lemon slices

Heat a large 12 inch skillet (preferably not non-stick) over med-high heat.
Sprinkle the flesh side of the fish with salt and pepper. Dredge in the flour, shaking off excess.

Add oil and butter to hot pan. Let the butter melt, foam and brown.

Add fish to pan, flesh side down. Jiggle pan to ensure it is not sticking. Cook 2 minutes, a pretty brownish, flecked crust will form.

If the fat around the fish is smoking, turn down the heat a bit.

Flip fish, and cook another 2 minutes or until fish flakes with a fork.

Remove fish to a plate, garnish with lemon slices and parsley.

Sweet Potato Half-moons

Peel a huge sweet potato or several and cut them into 1cm half moons.
Toss with olive oil and Montreal Steak Spice on a parchment lined baking sheet.
Cook at 400* for about 20 mins or until soft on the inside and crispy brown on the outside.

We dip ours in a combo of 1/4Cup Mayo, 1/4 tsp Chipotle Chili Powder and 1tsp honey mixed together.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Peanut Butter Bread

Well it seems that day has come.
Jibs no longer needs to start his day with a banana.

It is always a striking to me when little routines change. Routines that seem so definitive of a certain time.

Baby Jib loved bananas, toddler Jib does not. (Though I'm sure he will always love Caroline's Banana Gelato!)

We have moved on to bigger, better, and more mature things such as peanut butter.

Peanut butter on apple slices, crackers, toast. Peanut butter in cookies and now in bread.

This bread has tons of rich peanut butter and banana flavour .

The house will smell amazing while it's cooking!

Peanut Butter Banana Bread
(adapted from Cooking Light)

1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (3-4)
1/3 cup buttermilk
heaping 1/3 cup crunchy peanut butter
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup ground flaxseeds(optional)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

Preheat oven to 350* and grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.

Whisk together flours, wheat bran, soda, salt, cinnamon and allspice in a large bowl. (I used my kitchenaid.)

Mash banana in a medium bowl. Stir in buttermilk, peanut butter and butter. Add eggs and sugar.

Beat banana mixture into flour mixture, just until combined.

Bake for 1 hour or until cake tester comes out clean.

**I don't think this bread needs anything else, but Cooking Light suggests making a peanut glaze.

If you want to try it, here is the full recipe.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Baker Came to Call

A sweet friend and terrific baker came to visit us today. Much like the last baking day, it was cold and rainy outside, but delicious and warm inside.
Lots of laughs, jazz, mishaps and art later...we ate some delicious cinnamon pull-apart bread.

We love you.

Thanks for fixing all my mistakes! time I watch, you bake!

PS.- Happy New year.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Calzones: II

A cheesy 'N'

I thought I'd change it up a bit for pizza night tonight and make calzones with the Stowe Pizza Dough.

Clara loves calzones. Jib was skeptical when I called it pizza but was won over very quickly.

Our good friend was over for pizza night tonight and she calls it 'Pizza Pie'.

These are fast, easy to make and way too easy to eat.

I have written about calzones before but I prefer the Stowe Pizza Dough over my previously posted dough recipe. This dough is so stretchy and simple to work with. I doesn't need time to rise and can be made on a whim.

Tonight I chopped up some thick cut bacon, red and green peppers, mushrooms, olives, hot banana peppers, tomato sauce and cheese. Everyone had a variation of these toppings...I had all of them.

Another pizza we've been eating a lot of lately features potatoes.
Slice a scrubbed and peeled potato into 1/3 inch slices, toss with olive oil and Montreal steak spice or salt and pepper. Cook at 400 for about 15 mins or until getting golden and very soft inside. Top pizza with olive oil or tomato sauce, cheese, chopped turkey kielbasa, cooked potato slices, hot peppers and green olives.

A tip: Since no 2 calzones are alike in our house, I like to make an initial or special marking on the top of each calzone with left over bits of shredded cheese. Then everyone knows who's is who's. Of course, everyone thinks their calzone is the perfect combination of flavours and wants to eat their perfectly concocted pie.

I hope you love these.

Serves 2 adults and 3 kids or 4 adults

1/2 recipe of Stowe Dough
olive oil

Divide dough into 4 equal parts and then divide those each in half. Jim got a whole quarter, the kids and I got an 1/8.
Roll dough into an oval and top one half of the oval with about 1/2 C of topping choices leaving an inch boarder on the one half you topped.
Brush the boarder with olive oil, fold the top over and roll the edges up sealing with a fork press.

Brush entire calzone with more olive oil. Fill remaining calzones. Place all the little packages on a large cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 15 mins or until the tops are nice and golden brown. Check the bottoms to ensure they're brown too.

Cut them in half. The filling will be lethally hot!

Cooking with Guinness

Steak and Guinness Pie
Guinness Cake

3 delicious recipes with a common theme.

It is very hard for me to let a St. Patricks Day pass without making something with Guinness.

First, a dark rich beef stew baked inside a puffy, buttery crust. Served with peas and a green salad on the side.

Followed by a very dark and damp chocolate cake topped with a fluffy white frosting. (Looking quite like a pint of the dark beverage it contains.)

Regardless of their preferences towards Guinness as a drink, I have yet to find a person who did not love it in these forms.

Steak and Guinness Pie
(adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe)

3 medium red onions peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled chopped
2 Tbsp Butter
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery chopped
6-8 mushrooms, sliced or chopped
2.5 lbs stewing beef cut into 3/4 inch pieces and trimmed of fat
1 Tbsp herbs de provence (or 2 sprigs rosemary stemmed and chopped.)
salt and pepper
1 pint of Guinness
2-3 Heaping Tbsp Flour
water or beef stock
1 1/2 C grated cheddar cheese
1 package store bought puff pastry
1 egg, lightly beaten for egg wash

Preheat oven to 375*.
Heat a very large saucepan over med heat and saute onions gently for 10 mins.
Turn heat up to med-high and add the other vegetables. Stir together and then add beef, herbs, a pinch of salt and 1 tsp pepper. Fry for 4minutes.

Pour in Guinness and scatter the flour over top. Stir in enough water or stock to just cover the beef and veg.

Bring to a boil and then put the lid on the pot and place in hot oven for 1 1/2 hours or until meat is very tender.

Remove the pan and stir the stew. Return stew to the oven and cook another hour.
If the stew is a bit watery at this point remove the lid and cook on the stove top over med heat until some of the liquid is gone and the stew is really thick.

Stir in half the cheese.

Season with more salt and pepper if needed.

Roll out one of the sheets of puff pastry big enough to cover the bottom of the appropriately sized dish. Let the excess pastry dangle over the edges.

Pour the stew into the bowl. Top with remaining cheese and brush the edges of the pastry with egg wash.

Score the other sheet of pastry diagonally in 1 cm crisscrosses. Place the lid on the pie and fold the edges inwards together to seal the pie and make a nice crusty ring around the outside.
Brush the top of the pie with more egg wash and place in the oven for 45 mins at 375* or until pastry is puffed up and golden.

Guinness Cake
(Nigella Lawson)

1 C Guinness
1/2 C + 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
3/4 C cocoa powder (unsweetened)
2 C sugar
3/4 C sour cream
2 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla
2 C flour
2 1/2 tsp baking soda

8 oz Cream cheese
1 1/4 C icing sugar
heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 and butter a 9 inch springform pan.

Pour Guinness in a large saucepan, add butter and heat until butter is melted over med heat.
Whisk in cocoa and sugar.
Remove from heat.
Beat together sour cream, eggs and vanilla. Pour into buttery beer.
Whisk in flour and soda.
Pour into prepared pan.
Bake 45 mins.
Whip cream cheese until light and fluffy, add sifted icing sugar. Add enough cream to make the icing spreadable. Beat again.

Top cold cake with icing.

Finally, another delicious Guinness meal we have had recently can be found over here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Fish Tacos

The mangoes were perfect today.
I bought 3 and made mango salsa.
Fish tacos are great with mango salsa.
Coleslaw and warm corn tortillas are good with mango salsa.

Hello dinner.

I'm looking forward to eating this meal again this summer outside on the patio, this is a great summer meal. But for now, it was a nice, light change from the usual winter fare of stews, root veg and chili.

A few tips for this recipe:
1. Use perfect mangoes, they will take this taco from good to great.
2. Don't overcook the fish.
3. Warm up your corn tortillas...they're inedible otherwise... (First time I tried to use corn tortillas I did not know you were supposed to warm them first and was grossed out by the inevitable crumbly, rubberiness of a cold corn tortilla...Do warm them.)

Fish Tacos
serves 3-4 people

5 (or more) pieces of firm white fish (I used frozen, thawed cod)
salt and pepper
1 Tbsp veg oil

1/2 bag coleslaw mix or 2C shredded cabbage
1-2 Tbsp Cider Vinegar
1/2 tsp salt

2-3 mangoes peeled and diced
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded, minced
1/2 cucumber, diced
pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
salt and pepper
1 lime juiced

sour cream and warm corn tortillas for serving

Pat dry the fish and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Warm oil in a fry pan over Med heat.
Cook fish a few minutes per side. Mine took about 8 mins total.
Chop fish into chunks and place in a bowl to stay warm.

Mix coleslaw (cabbage), vinegar and salt in a bowl and toss.

Mix mango, cucumber, red pepper, salt, pepper, cayenne, and lime juice in a bowl.

Wipe out your fish pan and warm your corn tortillas and place them in a tea towel to stay warm and soft.

Pile up your taco with all the toppings including a good smear of sour cream.

These toppings would also be good piled on top of rice instead of the tortillas. Feel free.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Cookie Jar

Here's what is in our cookie jar right now.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Orange Yogurt Cake

It's good to have something that you make with some regularity for when people come over unexpectedly or at the last minute.

I'm usually all about scones of any shape or flavour. Scones are pretty easy to whip up but are also a little fancy.

I remember my mum making scones so many Sunday nights when we'd have people back from church. I was always proud because I knew my mum would make a fresh batch of these perfect little scones and serve them with butter and marmalade or strawberry jam. I loved the predictability of it.

I'm about to make this cake for the second time in 24 hours and it may become the equivalent of my mum's scones. This cake takes about 4 minutes to prepare and 24mins in the oven. All the ingredients get tossed in a big bowl and whisked together somewhat haphazardly. No fuss.

You would never know by what ease it is made after it's done though. Damp and subtly sweet with little flecks of fresh orange zest running through it, dusted with a bit of icing sugar.

Orange Yogurt Cake
(from a vintage Martha Stewart Magazine)

1 C flour
1/2 C plus 2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 C yogurt (I used banana yogurt)
1/4 C vegetable oil
1 orange zested
1 Tbsp orange juice (1 Tbsp of grand marnier here would be decadent!)
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla

(icing sugar for dusting)

~Preheat oven to 350*.
Grease a 8inch round cake pan.
Stir all ingredients together in a large bowl.
Pour into pan.
Bake until cake tester comes out clean, about 24mins.
Dust with icing sugar.

Jib suggests having this cake with a cup of tea.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Oatmeal Pancakes and Chicken Bites

A couple of things...

I have a really hard time making things more than once...(good thing I don't knit or I'd have a lot of single socks hanging around waiting for a mate).

I love pancakes and sausage and yesterday being pancake Tuesday reminded me that we had not had pancakes in a long time.

Put those things together and I tried yet another new pancake recipe...a Joy the Baker pancake recipe. (That girl can bake!...that reminds me I have to try her cinnamon bread.)

Since I've been in an oatmeal state of mind lately, I made Joy's Oatmeal Cookie Pancakes. Loaded with sweet spices and oats these came out of the pan with a beautiful texture and smell.
The recipe suggests putting golden raisins in the pancakes but Clara advised me, "Raisins are fine in oatmeal cookies but do NOT belong in pancakes!" ...Jim concurs.
The kids loved them and they were even great reheated the next morning for breakfast.

To go with the pancakes I made up some little tiny sausage bites. I mixed together some shredded apple, green onion, Epice a montreal, breadcrumbs and ground chicken, rolled them in tiny meal ball sizes, dredged them in some flour and fried them in a little oil.

Oatmeal Pancakes
(adapted slightly from Joy the

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups flour

heaping 1/2 cup old fashioned oats

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

2 cups buttermilk (I used whole milk mixed with 2tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar)

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

½ teaspoons vanilla extract

~Beat eggs together in a large bowl. Add in buttermilk, butter, maple syrup and vanilla. Stir well.

~Add in the rest of the ingredients and stir until combined.

~I used my 1/4C measuring cup to drop the batter in to the pan, cooking over med heat.

~Keep ready pancakes in a 200* oven until they're all cooked.

Chicken Apple Bites

1 apple peeled, cored and grated

3/4-1 lb ground chicken or 2 boneless skinless chicken breast cubed

1 green onion finely sliced (1/2 red onion finely chopped)

1Tbsp chopped parsley

1 1/2 tsp Montreal Steak Spice

scant 1 C bread crumbs

1 Tbsp Chicken stock (or 1 egg)

whole wheat flour for coating

cooking oil for frying

~Put chicken, apple, onion, parsley, spice, breadcrumbs and stock in a food processor and pulse to combine. (This could be done in a bowl with a fork, mixing very well.)

~Spread flour on a plate. Divide the mixture into small bowls. Roll in flour.

~Heat a small amount of oil in a large frying pan and cook balls 5-8 mins until brown all over and cooked through.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sufferin' Succotash

There will be no suffering with this succotash.

For Christmas I received a beautiful green depression glass casserole dish and a box set of Moosewood farmer market recipes both of which I have used very faithfully since. I love to make the succotash from those recipes and serve it in my green dish.

A reasonably quick vegetable dish, this is a sweet combo of roasted butternut squash mixed with some buttery sauteed lima beans and corn. I have taken this to our monthly fellowship lunch at church but make it a lot at home to accompany BBQ sausage and a coleslaw.

My hilarious nephew, Jack, gorged himself on this last week. Jibs has good things to say about it too.

Jack and Jibs say, "Trust us, this succotash is mighty fine."

Fancy Succotash
(moosewood farmer's market collection)

5-6C peeled and cubed (bite size) butternut squash
2 C coarsely chopped red onion
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp salt
3 Tbsp olive or veg oil
2 Tbsp fresh sage (1.5 tsp dried)
2 tsp dried thyme (2 Tbsp fresh)
1 1/2 C fresh or frozen corn
1 1/2 C frozen or canned (drained/rinsed) lima beans
1/4 C minced fresh parsley

Heat oven to 450*.
Mix together squash, onion, garlic, salt and 2 Tbsp oil on a large cookie sheet lined with parchment.
Bake 40mins stirring frequently until softened but crisp around the edges.

Meanwhile, heat the last 1 Tbsp of oil (or 2tsp oil, 2 tsp butter) in a large skillet.
Add sage and thyme and simmer a few seconds. Stir in corn and lima beans. Cook on low about 5 mins. Cover and set aside.
In a large dish toss together cooked squash mixture with the lima bean/corn mixture. Stir in parsley.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Baked Oatmeal with Pear

I find it feels so right to eat oatmeal on these cold, windy, late-winter mornings. The kids and I eat it a lot just boiled up with some maple syrup and milk on top.

Between granola making and oatmeal porridge we go through a lot of rolled oats. I have a feeling we're going to have an even harder time keeping oats in the house.

I tried a new recipe for baked oats today and since I had some pears left over from a cake I had made I threw those in too.

Jibs and I sat and ate it right out of the baking dish with a fork. It would be great as a breakfast but I can even see eating it as a dessert with some whipped cream on top.

Baked Oatmeal with Pear

2 1/2 C Rolled Oats
1/2 C steel-cut oats
1/4C Brown sugar
2 tsp baking poweder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 C milk
1/4 C sunflower or veg oil
2/3 C apple sauce
1 1/2 C chopped pear (I used a tin of pear halves chopped)

Mix dry ingredients together.
Mix wet ingredients, except pear, in a 4 C measuring glass.
Stir wet into dry.
Pour into a glass baking dish.
Bake at 400 for 20 mins.
Stir in pears and bake another 20 mins.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Pretty-Perfect Cookie

The most memorable cookie I ever ate was in the kitchen of a B&B in Pennsylvania where my family stayed for a night probably 18 or so years ago. They will probably always be our family's favourite cookie. The owner of the B&B had just pulled a batch of peanut butter chocolate chip cookies out of the oven and we were lucky enough to have been right there to taste them hot. Made with chunky peanut butter and large morsels of chocolate, I'm pretty sure no cookie will ever measure up to those eaten that afternoon. We were kindly given the recipe and have since endearingly called them Dutch Colonial Treats.

I am quite sure my mum has made 500 batches of them, at least. I frequently had them in my lunch at school, we always had a cookie jar brimming with them and friends begged for them.

That said, sometimes we must break with tradition for a new cookie to enter the jar.

Keeping up with the constant need for a healthy supply and variety of cookies for my family, church, friends and other abundant events that call for cookies, can be quite an undertaking.
So when I find a new cookie that turns heads and tummies, I take note. (Thanks Martha Stewart for yet another delightful cookie.) These cookies have had rave reviews and I've made them a bunch of times in the last couple of weeks. My dad says they're one of his favourite cookies and has frequented my cookie jar quite a bit lately. I love you Dad:)

Say, what's in your cookie jar?

My apprentice rolling cookies.

Jibs says, "I give these cookies a big thumbs up!"

Perfect Oatmeal Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies
(An Everyday Food recipe from Martha Stewart March 2011)

Yields: 3-4 dozen

1C AP Flour
1 1/4 Rolled Oats, Not quick oats!
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 C unsalted butter, room temp
1 C light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 large egg
1C chopped pecans
1 C chopped chocolate or chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350*.
In a med bowl mix flour, oats, salt, BP and BS.
In a large bowl using an electric mixer (I use my Kitchenaid) cream together butter and sugar until fluffy, about 4 mins. Add egg and vanilla. Scraping bowl as you go.
With mixer on low add flour mixture, beat just until combined. Stir in nuts and chocolate.
Drop dough by Tbspfull 2 inches apart on a parchment or greased sheet.
Bake 12 minutes.
Should last about a week in your airtight cookie jar, unless little bitty hands get to them first!
Enjoy....we sure are.