" I truly think it is best to be a robin lightly dressed concocting soup inside my nest" ~Maurice Sendak

Catch Me!

It is a crazy hectic time of year.

Between life's normal routines we now must squeeze in time to shop for and wrap gifts, write cards, entertain, cook turkeys and go to Christmas parties.
Whew!.

I'm sure any any shortcuts now are appreciated. Especially when it comes to rush hour dinner time meal preparation.
This is a quick version of the classic Italian favorite Chicken Cacciatore. Using boneless chicken breasts greatly reduces the cooking time. While the chicken simmers you can boil the pasta.

This also tastes great re-heated the next day for a hot lunch.



Quick Chicken Cacciatore


  • ~olive oil
  • 1 pound of boneless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 onion diced
  • 1 can of tomatoes
  • 2 tsp capers
  • 2 tsp each of basil and oregano
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup of red wine
  • 2 cans of tomato paste
In a large deep skillet brown the chicken in the olive oil.
Remove to a plate.
Add the onions and garlic and cook until softened.
Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a low boil.
Return the chicken to the pan reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes to half an hour.
Serve over hot pasta of your choice.

Wine Suggestion: Merlot

Cheers!

P.S. The recipe for Shepherds pie has been updated.


Split Up

Some times in our house someone needs to eat a couple of hours before the rest of the family or a few hours later. On those occasions I like to prepare something that will stay hot over the evening,
Soup in the slow cooker fits the bill perfectly.


This healthy comforting soup is perfect now that the cold blustery weather here, and literally takes 5 minutes to throw together. Leave it alone for 6 to 8 hours and it will be perfect by dinnertime.
You can make it vegetarian by omitting the ham and sausage.
Using the slow cooker omits the overnight soaking that dried beans require.
If you have a leftover ham bone toss it in too.

Serve topped with cracked pepper and a slice of warm bread on the side.

This soup was a huge hit in our house, and I think it will be in yours too!



Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup
  • 1- 1 pound bag of dried split yellow peas
  • 1 each carrot, celery rib and onion peeled and diced
  • 1 cup  of diced ham  
  • 1/2 cup smoked sausage diced (optional)
  • 8 cups of water
  • 1 tsp each of thyme, savory and parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 ham hock bone
Combine all in a slow cooker, cover and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours and then low for 2.

Cheers!

Fast Fish

You know it.
Those crazy evenings.
That all too familiar rush hour dinner crunch where the kids are pestering you about what time dinner is going to ready as they raid the fridge for snacks.

It's tempting to throw in a frozen whatever or call for fast food, but did you know there are healthy dinner ideas that don't require a lot of cooking time and can be on the table in under 20 minutes?

Fish fillets is one of those meals.
Tilapia
is one of our favorites. It is a flaky white fish with a sweet flavor.
This dish can be cooked in a nonstick frying pan or baked in the oven.
Add rice or couscous and a green salad and you will have a meal together faster than any pizza driver could make it to your door, and a lot
healthier too!


Chili Lime Tilapia

  • 4 Tilapia fillets
  • zest and juice of one lime
  • 2 tbsp chili powder or to taste
  • salt and pepper
  • butter
  • olive oil
In a skillet heat a splash of olive oil and a pat or two of butter.
Sprinkle the fish all over with the lime zest, chili powder, salt and pepper.
Fry in the oil butter combination until golden brown on the outside and just cooked through. (Or bake in preheated 350F oven)
Drizzle with the lime juice and serve.

Wine Suggestion: Viognier

Cheers!


Pulled Away

First off let me apologize for not being here for the last month.

Life has become quite busy and hectic around here lately. You know how it is. Especially with the holidays approaching...
So listening to my own advice from my earlier post I have hauled out my slow cooker.

I can toss everything in there and not touch it till dinner time.

This recipe is so easy. If you don't want to make your own sauce as I have done here, you can just use a store bought bottled variety.
Buy a cheaper cut of pork such as a blade or shoulder. They are easier to pull apart and very economical.



Pulled Barbecue Pork
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup of bold mustard
  • 1/2 a can of tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp of onion powder or 1/4 cup of minced onion
  • 1/4 cup of molasses
  • 1 cup of apple juice
  • 1- 3 to 4 pound pork shoulder roast
In a bowl combine the first 9 ingredients.
Mix well.

Place the pork roast in slow cooker and pour sauce over top.

Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.

Remove and place on a platter.
With two forks pull the meat apart into shreds.

Serve on crusty buns with sauce on the side. (Skim fat from the sauce first)


Wine Suggestion: White Zinfandel




Cheers!









Easy as Pie

I have said it before, Fall is my favorite time of year.

One of my favorite things to do is to go apple picking. We were disappointed this year when our favorite orchard was not offering pick your own this year due to a bad season of rain and wind..
Has anyone else encountered this at your local apple orchards?
Thank goodness I was still able to purchase some apples as they had a few varieties on sale.

In my previous recipes I have used store bought pie crust because I have said I am not good at making my own. That is until my friend shared her pie crust recipe with me. I had no idea it could be so easy and if you own a food processor it is even easier.
This crust is the flakiest lightest I have ever had. It is so much better than commercial store bought types.
Look out, I will be making pie from scratch much more often now!
This is a wonderful alternative pie to top off your Thanksgiving dinner as it is much lighter than pumpkin pie.

Thank you Adriana for sharing your recipe with me.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!


Easiest Ever Apple Pie

Pie Crust Pastry
  • 21/2 cups of flour
  • 1 cup of cold hard butter
  • 1 tbs sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup or so of ice water
In a food processor add the flour, sugar,salt and butter.
Pulse until crumbly and course.
Slowly add water and pulse until dough forms a ball.

Remove and divide in half (top and bottom crust).
Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 1 hour or overnight.


Pie Filling

  • 6 to 8 apples ( Granny Smith, Macintosh or Royal Gala are good)
  • 1/2 a cup of sugar ( brown if you prefer a less sweet pie)
  • 1 tsp each cinnamon and nutmeg. (You can use more if you like.)

Peel, core and slice apples.
Combine in a bowl with spices.

Roll out pie crusts on a floured surface with a rolling pin.
Place one crust in the bottom of a greased pie pan.

Place apples on top and cover with second crust.
Crimp or twist edges together with fingers.

Cut vents in the top to let steam escape.
If desired you can brush a beaten egg over top and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake in preheated oven at 400F for 20 minutes.
Reduce to 350F heat and bake for a further 35 minutes.

Cool on wire rack.


Cheers!










Smart Soup





As the saying goes some people eat to live others live to eat.

I have to admit I am the latter. I do not snack at all through the daytime however at night when I am hunkered down in front of the Food Network then the munchies really get to me watching all those great meals being prepared. It is starting to show as well as most of my fall pants are tight at the waist.
So whats a girl to eat in the evening except carrot and celery sticks when trying to drop a few pounds?

Well I have started doing what Weight Watcher members and celebrities have been doing for years, eating Vegetable Soup whenever I get hungry in the evening.
The best part? It is virtually carbohydrate free and very low calorie as well as being high in fiber and nutrients.
This soup is quick to throw together and doesn't require the long cooking time that soups with meat and beans require.
You can vary the ingredients with different types of vegetables such as zucchini. This recipe can be doubled, tripled or made to suit any size.
I freeze portions in small containers to last for a few days in the fridge.
This soup
also makes a great lunch or light supper.


I am hoping with a stepped up workout program and this soup that those pounds will melt away.
I'll keep you posted!


Low Cal Vegetable Soup

  • 3 large carrots sliced
  • 1 celery stalk sliced
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 4 cups of vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup green beans
  • 1 cup of baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup of peas
  • 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 can of diced or whole tomatoes .
  • 1/2 tsp each of basil, parsley and oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
In a large soup pot either spray with cooking spray or add a bit of olive oil.
Saute the carrot, onion and garlic over medium heat until softened.
Add all remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil and reduce heat and simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes.

Cheers!




Smokin'!

Whenever I go to the butcher or market one of the things I immediately seek out are smoked pork chops.
Once you've tried them you will be a fan forever.
The thing is however they are not an easy thing to find in our city and if you are lucky enough to find some you end up paying around 5 dollars per small pork chop.

I stumbled across gold the other day when I found a smoker box for the barbecue and hickory chips for less than half price at a local hardware store.

Smoking meats is not as intimidating as it looks. You don't even need a fancy smoker box.
Strong tin foil will do.
The best foods for smoking are pork, chicken and fish.
They are lighter and less dense than beef.
You can lay sprigs of herbs in the smoker box to vary the flavor. You can even get different types of wood chips such as hickory and apple wood that change the flavor of the meat as well. Once you get the hang of it you can try larger cuts of meat such as pork loin roasts and whole chickens.

So with a little preliminary planning your on your way to a smokin' good meal!



Basic Smoked Pork Chops

  • 1 pkg of loin pork chops
  • 2 cups of hickory wood chips
  • few springs of rosemary
Soak 2 cups of chips in water for an hour or two. Place the wet chips in the smoker box or tin foil poked with holes. Place on the barbecue and heat till the chips begin to smoke (around 2 or 3 minutes). Place the pork chops on the opposite side of the side of the grill that the smoker box is.Turn off the burner under the meat. Cook medium low until chops are rosy pink and done in the center. Keep the lid closed while cooking so the smoke stays inside.

Wine Suggestion: Blush



Peachy Keen

If you have been to any type of market lately you will know that peaches are in full season right now.
This extremely versatile fruit can be used for canning, baking and incorporated into main dishes.
I have been  coming across a lot of recipes for Peach Chicken in magazines and newspapers.
I have tried a few and  haven't been too impressed with the end result. 
So I played around and came up with my own version and I think it is the best one I have tried so far.
Plan ahead for about an hour of marinating time for the flavors to really blend together.
This company worthy dish would go well with couscous or wild rice.

Perfect Peach Chicken 
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 3 or 4 sliced peaches  
  •  1 cup of orange or mango blend juice
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp butter  
Divide the juice, syrup and cinnamon between two zip lock bags.
Place the chicken in one and the peaches in the other.
Marinate in the fridge for about one hour.
Remove chicken breasts and discard marinade. 
Grill on th barbecue until springy to touch and golden brown.
Pour the all the contents of the bag with the peaches into a sauce pan and heat to medium.
Add the butter and simmer stirring until liquid begins to thicken.
Serve over grilled chicken breasts.

Wine Suggestion: Riesling

Cheers!





Homegrown Goodness

There is nothing like fresh produce right from your garden.
No waiting in line at the market. No worries on what chemicals your produce has come in contact with through it's trek from an unknown field to your kitchen.
You know that you planted it, cared for it and and watched it grow.
What a feeling of satisfaction and your own produce is basically free and always ripe to perfection.
You just cant beat that can you?
I am excited that my first crop of
Cherry, Roma and First Lady tomatoes are all ripe and ready to go.

This combined with my huge basil plant inspired me to create this
light and simple vegetarian pasta dish.
It takes very little time to prepare.,
which is a good thing when it is too hot outside to barbecue.
To chiffonade the basil leaves, simply stack them, roll them up and slice to produce long thin ribbons.

This dish is great for entertaining and could be served cold as a pasta salad.


Fresh Basil and Tomato Penne

  • 1/2 a package of penne pasta
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 cup of sliced fresh roma and/or cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 a cup of basil leaves chiffonade
  • 1/2 cup of good olive oil
  • salt and cracked pepper to taste
Boil the pasta according to package directions.
Meanwhile in a large wide deep frying pan sautee the garlic and tomatoes in a little olive oil until tender.
Drain the pasta and toss with the tomatoes, olive oil and garlic.
Add the basil, salt and pepper and
combine well.
Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.


Wine Suggestion: Sangiovese


Cheers!


Lazy Daze

I apologize.
I haven't been posting as often as I should.
You see I am still in holiday mode and we are busy renovating our backyard.

I know, sad excuses.


I made this recipe back in July when the weather was warmer and our barbecue was accessible and not at the far back corner of the yard.
This dish is so easy to prepare and full of Caribbean island flavors. I used large wild brown shrimp here but any raw shrimp will work .
While the shrimp is marinating you can prepare the rice.


So put on a bit of Reggae and enjoy the last few weeks of the lazy days of summer.




Island Grilled Shrimp with Rice and Peas

Shrimp Marinade
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 4 tbsp each of lime juice and orange juice
  • 1/2 tsp of crushed chili pepper or cayenne powder
  • 1 tsp each of minced garlic, honey and brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 pound of large prepared shrimp.
Combine all in a bowl and marinate for 20 minutes to 1 hour.
Cook on a barbecue grill topper until opaque pink color.


Rice and Peas

  • 1 cup of white rice
  • 3 cups of vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 can of drained rinsed black beans
  • 1/2 tsp of chili powder or jerk spice
In a pot bring the broth and seasoning to a boil add the rice cover reduce heat and cook until rice is tender and broth is absorbed.
Add the beans and mix well.
Serve with grilled shrimp on top.

Wine Suggestion: Gewürztraminer

Cheers!



Cream of the Crop


I miss making homemade soup in the summer but we recently had a cool rainy day, so I grabbed the opportunity to make a pot of cauliflower potato soup.

The local produce is reaching its peak a this time of year.
I bought a head of cauliflower this week that was the biggest I have ever seen in my life!
You just cant beat the quality and price of buying locally.
You can vary the texture of the soup by pureeing all of it or just half or so.
Adjusting the amount of cheese will determine whether it is thick and hearty or thin and light.

This soup makes a nice light meal with a garden salad and a slice of whole grain bread.
It tastes even better the next day and freezes well.

Cream of Cauliflower, Potato and Cheese Soup

  • 1 large head of cauliflower coarsely chopped
  • 4 small potatoes peeled and diced
  • 2 cup of chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp each of olive oil and butter
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme minced
  • 1/2 cup of flour
  • 3 cups of milk
  • splash of white wine
  • 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
  • fresh minced parsley to garnish
  • salt and pepper
In a large soup pot cook the cauliflower and potato in the chicken broth until tender.
Meanwhile in a smaller pot heat a the oil and butter and cook the onion, thyme and garlic until soft. Stir in flour and cook until smooth.
Gradually whisk in milk and wine and cook until thickened.
Pour into the large pot of broth and vegetables.
Mix well and reduce heat to low.
Use an immersion blender to puree to your desired consistency. Our you can process in a food processor)
Add the cheese and stir until melted through.
Season to taste and serve with fresh parsley sprinkled on top.

Cheers!


Sittin' On The Can

We just returned from vacation to Ottawa and Montreal and I am finding it a bit hard to get back into the swing of things.

I guess I got a little lazy eating out at great restaurants and at friends throughout the week. Between the heat and still being in vacation mode I haven't been too enthusiastic about cooking until I came across a cool gadget called a vertical chicken roaster. I'm sure you all have heard of beer can chicken, where you take half a can of beer and place a whole chicken on top and put it on the barbecue. This is the same thing but with more stability. It is optional to use a can or not in the center. I think the chicken perched on the can looks quite comical.

My twin daughters created the barbecue sauce I used to baste the chicken. It has a bit of heat to it that blended well with the flavor of the beer I used in the can.

Vertical Roasted Beer Can Chicken with Spicy Sauce

  • 1- 3 to 4 pound chicken
  • half a can of beer
  • ~olive oil
Spicy Sauce
  • 8 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 4 Tbsp ketchup
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp southwest spice mix or chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle sauce
  • 1 tsp salt

Rinse and pat the chicken dry. Place over a half a can of beer or a vertical chicken roaster with the can of beer in the center. Rub with olive oil. Place on a barbecue preheated to medium. Roast for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 half hour until until internal temperature reaches 180F. After the first half hour begin basting the chicken with the sauce. Using oven mitts remove roaster with chicken from barbecue and let stand for 10 minutes then carefully remove from the roaster.

Cut into serving pieces and serve immediately.

Wine Suggestion: Riesling

Cheers!









Big Ambitions

I guess I had big ambitions last weekend.

While driving home from the beach we saw a sign advertising local strawberries and tomatoes for sale at a farm.
The strawberries were kind of small but sweet, but it was the hothouse tomatoes from Leamington that caught my eye.

They were large and ripe, and at four dollars for a bag of ten it was a real bargain.
Trouble is we cant seem to eat them fast enough as they are ripening quickly.
I created this dish today using the inspiration of scalloped potatoes.
I was really pleased with it and used up over half of the tomatoes.
This dish can be served as a side or as a main vegetarian entrée.


Italian Scalloped Tomatoes
  • 4-6 tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese grated
  • 1 minced tsp each of basil, oregano and garlic
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 375F
Lightly spray a baking dish with oil.
Remove tops from tomatoes and slice thickly.

Layer in baking dish.
Drizzle with some extra olive oil,
In a bowl combine the rest of the ingredients except for the mozzarella.

Sprinkle evenly over top of tomatoes.

Finish the top with the mozzarella and bake in the oven for about 30 to 40 minutes.

Cheers!

Skewer Me!

I am enjoying barbecue season...so far.
Although it can be very easy to tire quickly of grilled steaks and hamburgers.
I like to use different ways to grill food. Sish kebabs are one of those ways.

Shish Kebabs originate from Turkey. The Turkish phrase means skewer and roast meat. Other countries use different names for them such as the Asian satay, Japanese yakatori and in France they are called brochettes.
I used pork here and marinated it in a Greek marinade. Chicken, lamb or beef can be used as well. The sky is the limit when it comes to the accompanying vegetables. Just about any vegetable that can be grilled will go on a skewer.

You can use washable metal skewers as I have or soak wooden ones in water for 30 minutes that can be thrown away or tossed in the campfire.

Serve on a bed of rice or in a warm pita.

Happy Skewering!

Greek Shish- Kabobs
  • 1 pound of boneless pork cubed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp each oregano, minced garlic, sugar
  • salt and pepper
Mix last 8 ingredients together in a bowl and add pork cubes. Toss to coat and marinate in fridge for at least 1hour.
Thread onto skewers alternating with vegetables such as cubed red and green pepper, onions, grape tomatoes and mushrooms.
Grill turning often until pork is no longer pink and vegetables are roasted.

Wine Suggestion: Riesling

Cheers!

Spud Simplicity

A staple on most buffet tables this time of year is potato salad.

More often than not it is the creamy variety which can be very filling and can get boring after a while.

It also is a food safety hazard in warm weather if it is the mayonnaise laden type.
A friend gave me this recipe that she got out of one of Jamie Oliver's cookbooks.

I tweaked it a little to suit my tastes.
The olive oil makes it heart healthy and safe to take along on picnics. The dill and capers give it a tangy unique flavour. You can peel the potatoes if you like. I left the skins on for extra nutritional punch.


I love the fact that this salad tastes delicious hot, cold or at room temperature. I also adore the simplicity of it and how easy it is to put together.

I think you will find
this salad a refreshing change and will find yourself making it over and over.

Rustic Tangy Potato Salad
  • 8 new potatoes scrubbed or 1/2 a bag of baby potatoes
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp chopped capers
  • 1/2 a bunch of chopped fresh dill
  • 1/2 a Vidilia onion diced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
Boil the potatoes until just tender. Chop into pieces .
Mix all other ingredients in a large bowl.
Add the potatoes and toss well.
Chill for 1 hour or serve warm or room temperature.

Cheers!

Best of Both Worlds

My herb garden is blooming with an abundance of Italian herbs that I love to put in pasta sauce.

I am missing a good pasta dinner but the heavy comfort foods of winter just don't have the same appeal when the temperature outside is soaring, so I created this dish that combines outdoor grilling, my new herbs and pasta.
Eliminating the heavy tomato or cream sauce and just using olive oil keeps it light.
Boneless chicken thighs are very a economical cut and work well in pasta dishes.
Later in the summer you can use cherry or grape tomatoes but for now I just used Ontario hot house tomatoes diced up.
This could also be served as a cold pasta salad for a lunch or picnic buffet.
This is a dish that goes together quickly and will get you out of the kitchen and onto the patio pronto.

Pasta in summer, I love it!



Grilled Chicken Pasta Toss

  • 8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • lemon pepper
  • 1/2 a package of farfalle (bow tie) pasta or pasta of choice
  • 2 tbsp of minced fresh oregano, basil, thyme and rosemary
  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of tomatoes diced
  • 1/4 cup of sliced roasted red pepper
  • fresh grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat grill.
Sprinkle chicken thighs with lemon pepper and place on grill spread out flat.
Grill until no longer pink in the center.
Meanwhile boil pasta according to package directions.
Slice chicken into strips. Drain pasta and add remaining ingredients including chicken.
Toss together and serve.

Wine Suggestion: Pinot Grigio

Cheers!


Our Secret

Now that barbecue season is here the grocery store flyers are filled with ads for all the things related to grilling.
Barbecue sauce is one of those heavily advertised items.

Sure it is easy to stock up on various flavors, but have you ever considered making your own?
It really is easy and your own sauce won't be filled with preservatives, artificial flavors and colors.
You can have fun experimenting with different ingredients to create unique flavor combinations.
I created this sauce with the inspiration of the flavors of Jamaica and brushed it on beef as pictured here.
If you don't have an immersion blender you can transfer the cooled sauce to a blender and then reheat.

The best part is the flavor you create will be a one of a kind, so have fun making that special sauce that may just become a family secret recipe.


Island Sauce
  • ~olive oil
  • half a chopped onion
  • 2 tsp garlic
  • 1 cup of tomato sauce or ketchup (the latter will make it a bit tangier)
  • 4 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp chili sauce
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup of rum
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt and pepper
In a sauce pan heat the oil and add the garlic and onion. Cook until softened. Add the remaining ingredients. Cook stirring for about 10 minutes. If you wish insert and immersion blender and blend until smooth. Brush on beef, chicken or pork and grill. Cheers!

Delicious Deal

I am a bargain hunter. Everyone who knows me, knows this.

I love to scope out the best deals on everything. I will wait until something is marked way down before I buy it. If it is gone then I guess it was not meant to be.

Markdowns of food is a wonderful way to save money and also try out things you wouldn't normally pay full price for. Quite often meat and bread are marked down long before their best before date.
Yesterday I stumbled upon lamb shanks for half price at the grocery store. I quickly scooped up the last two packages and headed home excited about the prospect of making something new that I haven't made before.


After consulting a few cookbooks and the internet I discovered that pretty much the sky is the limit when preparing these. You can go with an spicy ethnic flair or keep it simple. I chose the latter for my first attempt. This dish pairs well with cous cous, rice or potatoes.
A simple mix herbs and butter rubbed on the shanks followed by 2 hours of simmering in a white wine broth resulted in a meal so succulent my family was darn near licking the plates!

Who says you cant eat well on a shoestring?

Basque Style Braised Lamb Shanks

  • 4 lamb shanks
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 tsp each rosemary and thyme
  • ~olive oil
  • 1/2 diced red onion
  • 1 head of garlic peeled and separated
  • 8 carrots peeled cut into diagonal pieces
  • handful of cut chives
  • 1 can of tomato paste
  • 1 cup of chicken broth
  • 1/2 bottle of white wine
  • salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 350F

Soften the butter and mix with the rosemary and thyme.
Rub all over the lamb shanks and set aside. You can also insert some between the bone and the meat if you wish.

In an oven proof dutch oven heat the olive oil and cook the onions until soft.
Add the lamb shanks and brown on all sides.
Add the carrots and chives and toss to mix.
Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a low boil.
Cover and place in oven and cook for 2 to 21/2 hours until meat is tender.
Remove the cover for the last half hour of cooking to reduce liquid and allow to caramelize.


Wine Suggestion: Beaujolais or White Burgundy

Cheers!


Mango Tango

Canada's food guide says that we are to have 7 to 8 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
That seems like a lot doesn't it?
I am embarrassed to admit this but I am not huge fan of raw fruit.
I mean I know fruit is good for you and all that but honestly, with the exception of bananas I just don't like the texture and taste. However I just love fruit when incorporated into main dishes. Favorites that come to mind are Apple Pork Chops and Peach Chicken.

Mangoes are an extremely versatile fruit. They go with just about any meat, seafood and quite a few vegetables. This salsa is a great accompaniment to grilled meats or fish or is great just on its own with pita or tortilla chips.
I placed some on top of Rainbow Trout as pictured here and baked it it the oven.
The flavors really blended together beautifully.


What a great way to fit in those 7-8 servings of fruit and vegetables.


Mango Salsa
  • 2 ripe mangoes peeled and diced
  • 1 ripe tomato diced
  • 1/2 red or Spanish onion diced
  • 1 tsp each of minced garlic, basil, parsley, sugar and chili powder.
  • 1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and let stand for 15 minutes to let the flavors blend. Serve as a condiment or spoon over meat or fish and bake in the oven.

Cheers!

Get Grillin'

Across the country this weekend barbecues will be fired up grilling classics like steaks, beef burgers and hot dogs.
Why?
Because the first long weekend of the summer finally is here!
In Canada it is Victoria Day weekend, in honor of Queen Victoria's Birthday.
Many also refer to it as "May 2-4" as it quite often falls on the 24th of May but the nick name is given more for the fact that many cases of 24 beers will be consumed by Canadians this weekend.

Hamburgers are classic long weekend fare.
I prefer homemade beef burgers to the frozen commercial variety, which I find taste bland and dry. You can add just about anything to vary the flavor such as barbecue sauces, ketchup, onions, garlic, different herbs and spices.
This is my version this year.
I kept it simple as I prefer to garnish my burger after it is cooked. I just used herbs and
Worcestershire sauce.
Choose lean beef as extra lean beef tend to be too dry for grilling. Whole wheat buns keep it low fat and healthy.
Add my Classic Caesar Salad, a glass of red wine and settle back... unwind.

Enjoy your long weekend everyone!

Ultimate Beef Burgers
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp each of basil, black pepper, thyme and oregano
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1lb lean ground beef
In a mixing bowl combine the first 7 ingredients. Mix well. Add the ground beef and mix well.
Form into 4 patties.
Place on grill and cook until no longer pink in the center. Place on a bun and garnish with condiments.


Wine Suggestion: Shiraz

Cheers!





Wrapped Up in Love

This weekend it is Mothers Day.

A time to remember Mom and thank her for all she does with a great brunch or dinner.

Last year I posted a recipe for a seafood crepe recipe that was baked casserole style in the oven. This year I am updating it to a stove top fresh made-to-order version. You can use fresh crab meat or canned.

A flat low sided style pan is best for thin even crepes.
Add a tossed garden salad and a glass of sparkling wine and you have an elegant meal fit for a queen.

Happy Mothers Day!


Crab and Scallop Crepes

Crepe Batter (for 6 crepes)
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 6 tbs flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Combine above ingredients in a bowl and whisk until mixed .
Spray a small nonstick pan with cooking spray and heat medium high. when hot pour in about 3 tbsp of batter ..swirl pan until coated. Cook until sides start to lift slightly then flip over with fingers or spatula. When lightly brown invert on to a plate.Place cooked crepes between sheets of wax paper to keep them from sticking together. Repeat process until batter is gone. Keep crepes warm

Seafood Filling
  • ~oil
  • 1 cup of cooked crab meat
  • 1/2 pound bay scallops
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Herbs de Provence
  • salt and pepper
In a frying pan heat the oil and add the onion and pepper. Cook until softened. Add the scallops and cook until opaque. Mix in the crab and seasonings.
Place filling in the center of a warm crepe and roll up.


Cream Sauce
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1/2 tsp dill(optional)
  • salt and pepper
Place the butter in small sauce pan and heat on medium. Add flour, whisk to make a roux. Slowly pour in cream while whisking. Simmer on med low heat while stirring till thickened. Add seasonings Ladle sauce over crepes on plate. Serve immediately.

Cheers!


Craziness

What is going on?

I mean, last week we were all in shorts and sandals and this week
I am back to wearing cashmere sweaters.

Crazy, just plain crazy. I guess that is spring in Canada for you.

Since it has turned cold again I am craving a bowl of something hot and spicy. This is an adaptation of a recipe that was in our newspaper recently. It has all the exotic flavors of North African cuisine.
This dish is very low in fat and high in fiber and because you are using boneless chicken breasts, this stew cooks in less than half of the time that beef or pork stews do.



Lets just hope the weather soon turns like Morocco too!


Moroccan Chicken Stew
  • ~olive oil
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 3 boneless chicken breasts diced
  • 2 peeled and sliced carrots
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 can of tomatoes with juice
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 can each of green lentils and chickpeas drained and rinsed
  • salt and pepper
  • juice of 2 limes
In a large wide pot heat the oil and cook the onion and garlic until translucent.
Add the chicken and cook until starting to brown.
Add the carrots and spices.
Mix to coat everything well with the spices.
Add the tomatoes, beans and water.
Bring to a low boil and reduce heat to simmer.

Cook for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Season with salt and pepper and serve with line juice squeezed over the top.


Cheers!




Going Green

There is no doubt about it, "Green" is the buzzword these days.

Everyone talking about ways to change their daily living habits to benefit both us and our earth.
In relation to food, one way to be green is to try to buy local produce if you can. This way you support your local farmers instead of produce being trucked from hundreds of miles away in huge gas guzzling transport trucks.

Another way is to buy organic vegetables and meats if your budget and availability allows.
Organic produce is grown without herbicides and pesticides, therefore we are not supporting the practice of polluting both our air and the food being treated with harmful chemicals.
If you cant buy organic you can make up a produce wash featured on Oprah's talk show aired on Earth Day
. This spray will remove any harmful chemicals from your produce.

In celebration of Earth Day this week and the return of the warm weather, I am featuring two green salads.
The first is a Greek Salad and the second a classic Caesar salad. Both classic summer staples on most summer menus.
Iceberg lettuce is used in traditional Greek salads however I prefer to mix it with the darker more nutritious romaine variety. In the Caesar salad the raw egg and anchovy paste can be optional as some are not fond of these additions.
I have left out amounts on certain ingredients as you can adjust to your taste.

These two salads are perfect on their own as a light summer meal or as a side dish served with a entree such as grilled beef or chicken. I have also added my recipe for homemade croutons. This is an excellent way to use up day old bread.

Kermit was wrong, it is easy being green!

My Greek Salad
  • washed and dried lettuce greens of choice ( I used Romaine here)
  • pitted black olives
  • feta cheese crumbled
  • red onion sliced
  • grape tomatoes
  • cucumber sliced thin(optional)

Dressing
  • 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of lemon juice
  • 2 tsp fresh minced oregano
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
Combine dressing ingredients in a jar, shake well and chill while you prepare the salad. In a large salad bowl combine remaining ingredients, toss with dressing and serve.






Traditional Caesar Salad
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • anchovy paste (optional)
  • 1 raw egg yolk (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • washed and dried romaine lettuce
  • crumbled cooked bacon
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • croutons
  • lemon wedges (optional
. Sprinkle a little salt into the bottom of a large wooden salad bowl. With a fork mash the garlic clove in the salad bowl. Add the oil, vinegar, lemon juice salt and pepper. Mix well. (Add the anchovy paste and egg if using at this time too) Add the lettuce, cheese, croutons and bacon. Toss well. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve.

Homemade Croutons
  • ~day old bread such as Italian, focaccia, black olive or similar diced into 1 inch cubes
  • ~olive oil
  • ~sea salt
In a large frying pan heat the oil and add the bread cubes. Cook over medium heat, tossing the cubes until they are brown and crisp. Sprinkle liberally with sea salt. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to cool.

Cheers!





A Perfect Marriage

One of the most common ingredients used in steak marinades and reductions is that of red wine and peppercorns. The flavours marry well and is a classic combination I have loved for years.

For this recipe I used salmon instead of beef for a lighter more seasonal dish.
Be sure to simmer the sauce slowly so that it gets really thick and syrupy.
This would make a perfect dish for entertaining with baby boiled potatoes and carrots tossed with rosemary and olive oil.

Slow Baked Fillet of Salmon with a Red Wine and Peppercorn Glaze.
  • 1 tbsp ginger minced
  • 1 1/2 cups red wine
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • juice of one orange
  • 1 tbsp cracked peppercorn
  • ~olive oil
  • 1 large boneless salmon fillet
Preheat oven to 275F.
In a small pot combine the first 6 ingredients. Bring to a boil then reduce to medium and cook until thickened and syrupy( about 15 to 20 minutes).
Brush a shallow roasting pan with olive oil. Add the fish and cook in the oven until the skin lifts.
Remove skin and discard. Baste salmon with the glaze and return to oven. Baste one more time while baking for 30 to 40 minutes until the fish is opaque.
Drizzle leftover glaze over salmon and serve.

Wine Suggestion: Barolo

Cheers!

At Last!

Dare I say it?
Could it possibly be true?
Is Spring really here?

I must say, it sure feels like it! The days are longer, the sun warmer and the snow is just about gone.
This is the time of year I like to change my cooking style from the heavy rich comfort style foods of winter to lighter fare that includes seasonal vegetables.

Asparagus is abundant this time of year. We enjoy it braised and tossed with olive oil and Parmesan, steamed with lemon pepper butter or tossed in a pasta dish.

This pasta dish is perfect for a casual get together. If possible buy Speck style prosciutto. It has a deep smoky flavour and is made from specially raised hogs in Italy.
Rondele or Boursin cheese are soft cheeses with added herbs and garlic. I have noted that it is optional to add them however they will round out the flavours nicely.

Add a salad of baby greens and a glass of crisp white wine.

Happy Spring!



Penne with Asparagus

  • ~olive oil
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 a red onion diced
  • 1tbs Italian seasoning
  • 1 bunch of asparagus trimmed and washed and cut into 2 inch pieces.
  • Penne pasta
  • 6 slices of speck prosciutto torn into large pieces
  • 1/4 cup of cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup of light cream
  • 2 tbs Boursin or Rondele cheese (optional)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions.
Meanwhile in a pot bring salted water to a boil, add asparagus and cook until just tender then drain.
In a large shallow pan heat the oil and cook the garlic and onion until softened.
Add the asparagus, prosciutto and herbs. Cook until prosciutto starts to crisp slightly.
Add the cheeses and cream. Bring to a low boil reduce heat and simmer until thickened.
Serve immediately with additional Parmesan on top.

Wine Suggestion: Sauvignon Blanc

Cheers!

Tres Bon

I am a huge fan of classic traditional dishes that have been around for years.
Coq au Vin is one of them. This French dish has been around for centuries.
Everybody has a different version and this is my spin on it. I prefer to use white wine instead of red as I find the red overpowers the delicate taste of the chicken.

This dish pairs beautifully with mashed potatoes and a warm baguette.


Coq au Vin Blanc
(Braised Chicken in White Wine)

  • ~olive oil
  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 celery rib diced
  • 2 carrots sliced
  • 1 head of of garlic peeled and diced
  • 3 slices of bacon diced
  • 1 chicken cut into 8 pieces with skin removed if you wish
  • 3/4 bottle of white wine
  • 1 cup of chicken broth
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp each of rosemary, thyme and parsley
  • 3 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper
In a dutch oven heat the oil and add the first 5 ingredients. Cook until bacon is starting to brown and vegetables are soft.
Add the chicken and brown on all sides.
Add the remainder of the ingredients and bring to a low boil , reduce heat to medium. Cover partly with a lid and cook for about an hour and half. The liquid should be reduced by at least half.
Remove bay leaves and serve

Wine Suggestion: Chardonnay

Cheers!


The Mexican Way

Another weekend, another snow storm.
It is a crazy winter this year, one day it feels like spring the next day we get a foot of snow.

I am envious of all who are going south for March Break.
I would love to go somewhere like Mexico or the Caribbean but it was not in the stars for us this year due to our schedule and budget.
So, like they say "when life hands you lemons, make lemonade!"
I took advantage of being snowed in yesterday to create a slow cooking dish that filled my house with the aroma of Mexican cuisine.
This is a variation of Beef Chili but with cubed pork instead of the ground beef. You can use boneless chops or a boneless blade or loin roast diced , the cheaper cuts work well here because of the long cooking time.
The addition of salsa, cumin and coriander give this stew a Mexican flair.

Serve over steamed brown rice.
So for those of you who can't get away, throw a Gipsy Kings CD on the stereo and get cooking and bring a bit of the sunny south to you!

Mexican Spicy Pork Stew

  • ~olive oil
  • 1 pound of cubed pork
  • 1 each onion and green pepper diced
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 dried hot chili peppers minced
  • 2 tbsp of cumin
  • 1 tbsp of oregano
  • 1 tsp of coriander
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1/2 a jar of salsa
  • 1 can of tomato paste
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
In a dutch oven heat the olive oil and add the onion and green pepper. Cook until softened.
Add the cubed pork and brown on all sides. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 2 to 2 1/2 hours until pork is fork tender.
Serve over steamed hot brown rice.

Wine Suggestion: Gewürztraminer

Cheers!

Lighten Up!

At this time of year a lot of you may be giving up on your New Years weight loss resolutions. That is not hard to do in the middle of a cold dreary winter when all you want to do is eat carb rich hearty comfort foods and are perhaps fighting those nasty viruses going around.

I have previously mentioned how much I adore making pasta sauce.
There is a bit of a twist to this one. Here I given the traditional ground beef style a healthy makeover.
I have replaced beef with extra lean ground turkey which is much lower in fat and higher in protein and regular canned tomatoes with the salt free.
I also have added red chilies which boost the metabolism, lots of fresh garlic and oregano which all strengthen the immune system, anchovy fillets which contain Omega fatty acid rich fish oil and fresh tomatoes to add extra Lypocene.
Replace the white pasta with whole wheat for extra fibre and complex carbohydrates.

Finally pour a glass of heart healthy red wine and add a slice of whole grain high fibre baguette.

There you have it, great tasting comfort food that is good for you.

Healthy Pasta Sauce

  • ~olive oil
  • 1 pound of extra lean ground turkey
  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 red pepper diced
  • 4 large cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 can of unsalted tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp each of basil and oregano
  • 1 dried hot chili minced
  • 5 anchovy fillets sliced
  • handful of cherry tomatoes
  • pepper and sea salt to taste
  • whole wheat pasta of choice

In a large deep pan heat the olive oil and add the onion, garlic and red pepper. Cook until softened. Add the ground turkey and cook until brown.
Add remaining ingredients and bring to a low boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour.
Meanwhile cook pasta according to package.
Ladle sauce over hot pasta and serve.

Wine Suggestion: Syrah

Cheers!

A Taste of Summer

Oh joy of winter...
Our barbecue is somewhere buried under a huge pile of snow on our patio.
What's one to do when a craving of grilled summer style steak hits?
Why I just pull out my cast iron stove top grill of course!

Cast iron is an excellent way to cook food. The iron transfers from the pan into the food which is better than getting it in supplement form. If you don't have an indoor grill you can use the barbecue or use an ordinary pan. The steaks could also be cooked under the broiler.

Portobello mushrooms are so meaty they can be used in place of the steak for a vegetarian meal. Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs as it so flavourful and is also very high in calcium and iron.
Either dried or fresh work well here.

This dish will have you feeling like you are sitting on a patio on a warm summer night somewhere in the Mediterranean.

Grilled Rosemary Steak with Marinated Portobello Mushrooms

  • 4 eye of round steaks
  • 4 very large Portobello mushrooms cleaned and sliced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp ground pepper
  • 2 tbsp rosemary
Between two shallow glass dishes divide the olive oil, vinegar, wine, pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Add the rosemary to the one that will hold the steaks. Mix both well.
Place Mushrooms in one and Steaks in the other.
Coat well and marinate for 1 hour turning frequently.

Brush a large cast iron stove top grill and cast iron pan with olive oil and heat to medium.
Remove steaks from marinade and place on grill. Cook until desired. (For rare it should feel soft when pressed, firm for medium and very firm for well.)
Pour mushrooms with marinade into the frying pan and cooks until soft and marinade is reduced.


Wine Suggestion: Yellow Tail Shiraz

Cheers!