Monday, November 22, 2010

Kick off to Entertaining 2010

Macarons from Left to right - Sweet Chili Heat, Salted Caramel & PB&J

To kick off the holiday season I thought I'd share a few pictures of some food and appetizers from my Macaron/ Housewarming party.

Of course featured were the Macarons and thanks to Kim Le who took these beautiful pics, you can see how far I've come with mastering the art of Macaron making.

Here's a closer look at those PB&J ones...mmmm

Jason, delighted us with his very own appetizing creations. Fig, prosciutto, goat cheese, pecan and honey drizzled costini and some layered tomato and Mozzarella di Bufala bruschetta.

Fig, prosciutto, goat cheese, pecan and honey drizzled costini

Layered tomato and Mozzarella di Bufala brushetta

There was also a plate of Burrata with prosciutto but that went so fast, we weren't able to even snap a picture in time. If you haven't ever tried Burrata... it's the most delicious soft cheese on the planet!

Enjoy the holidays everyone, and happy entertaining!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Menu Planinng: Don't laugh it works

It seems lately I have been answering this question a lot.  Are you a creative cook?  Where do you find the time to make home cooked meals?  Well I don' t know about how creative I am, or how much time I have either, as you cam see from how frequently I have been posting here, but I can tell you one thing for sure.  When it comes  to my kitchen.  I am very organized.  My kitchen is stocked up with the basics, and every day has a theme.  My neighbours laugh because even they know what we are having for dinner, they have heard it so often.

Photo from Martha Stewart
Roast chicken , usually served with potatoes and steamed veggies

So here is how it works:  Every meal consists of a starch, meat or fish, and veggies.   Green beans and broccoli are faves and are usually steamed and tossed in a vinaigrette.  Fresh meat and fish at the beginning of the week and freezer specials at the end of it.  Sometimes potatoes and rice are fancy and other times.they are boring...  I am not a chef in a 5 star restaurant.  I cook to provide my family with nutritious meals, not an extravagant culinary experience.  And that is exactly what I tell them when I serve them Pasta e Fagioli and they frown.
Risotto Mondays
Roast on Tuesdays
Leftover Wednesdays
Pasta Night Thursdays
Freezer Fridays

Thursday is Pasta Night
The gang loves meatballs or sausages, so I usually cook them in the sauce. 
I love my mixed greens salad, so it's sure to be a side.

On weekends it's a group effort deciding what we eat.  Saturday nights are usually fun stuff, like fajitas, pizza, souvlaki etc.  And Sundays, now that it is fall, hearty soups, stews, and chili.  Salmon or fresh fish we eat on Sunday or Monday (with risotto).  When I make home made turkey meat balls, I double the batch, and freeze 1/2 (uncooked) for next time.  I often cheat and use store bought sausages for meat balls.  I like to slice my meats thin so they can fry up or oven bake in 20 minutes, especially on freezer Fridays.  Left over tomato sauce is my secret ingredient in minestrone.  I'll share more tips on stocking the freezer and pantry in the coming weeks, as well as some speedy cook methods.. Some I learned from Rachel Ray.

So what about you?  What's your secret for preparing dinner?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Paris Part 2 - The French Baguette

Growing up in an Italian home, fresh bakery bread was always tucked away in the bread drawer. When I'd come home starving after school, Nutella spread on some fresh bread did just the trick. My mother's Sunday sauce was never quite the same unless I cut a piece of bread and dipped it in for a taste.

One of my fondest memories of growing up was going to the beach on Sundays and packing up the cooler. After a morning full of swimming and making sand castles my mother pulled out a french stick and freshly sliced prociutto, mortadella, salami & cheese and right there on the beach would create the most amazing sandwiches with freshly sliced tomatoes, various pickled vegetables & olives.

It was so good, you didn't mind eating the tiny grains of sand that still lingered on your hands.

In Paris, I was reminded of these wonderful simple lunches. There was nothing complicated about ordering a sandwich. It wasn't choosing the type of bread you'd like to pair up with a spread and what veggie or meat or other topping you'd like to add. It was a freshly made baguette sandwich, yes with various ingredients, but you'd grab it, and off you went.

This was the perfect lunch for 2 walkers like us! After spending an entire morning walking from one end of Paris to another, it came time to sit and relax under the Arc de Triomphe and EAT!

Thanks to JB who captured this action shot of me devouring my baguette!

My choice was a poppy seed baguette with fresh Jambon de Bayonne (French Prosciutto) tomato and arugula and maybe a little butter, but that was it... simple.

It was delicious, so good in fact we had one for lunch almost every day.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Ahh Oui Pariee!

On my first of a 3 part series how could I not write about my Macaron Indulgences.

This was my first visit to Paris and definitely not my last. Everything from the architecture to the design to the food was "rich". I felt as though I only got a taste of what is one of the most amazing places I've ever visited.

But one of the reasons why I visited Paris was the Macaron... ooooh the Macaron. I wanted to see and taste first hand what they were like in Paris. Time was limited so I wasn't able to seek out some of the specific Macaron shops but quite honestly, I didn't need to. Every patisserie, cafe, grocery store... even the ballet displayed these lovely deserts.

ahhh the Macaron tree

This photo was taken at Paul - our favorite place for our daily pastry fix

And the taste.... mmmm.

Not only did they taste amazing, have a perfect crunchy delicate shell and the most delicious soft center... the way they were displayed and packaged was incredible.

I was soooo inspired by these little colorful jewels I went out and bought myself a Macaron book written entirely in French! I can't wait to make some of them and post them here.

Hello Google translator!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Green Goodness

In case you didn't pick up the recent issue of Veranda Magazine, I am sharing with you the amazing spread Caroline Roehm put together called, Green Cuisine.. The story is filled with my favorite colour, and delicious recipes I can't wait to try.   From soup to salads, pastas and veggies all that is green and delicious.  Naturally, the table scape doesn't disappoint;  rich with layers  of green fruits and flowers, linens and's the perfect summer setting.


Serves 4 to 6

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¾ cup shallots, peeled and diced
8 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons fresh oregano
1 pound Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup asparagus, only tips and tender part of spears
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
3 tablespoons butter
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
salt and pepper

In large saucepan, heat oil and sauté shallots until soft. Remove from heat.

In separate pan, heat chicken stock until warm. Combine 2 cups stock and herbs in blender. Process until smooth, then return to remaining stock over heat.

Return saucepan with shallots to heat, then add rice and toast 2 minutes. Add wine and stir until liquid is evaporated.

Add stock 1 cup at a time, stirring continually, about 13 minutes. Add asparagus and peas to remaining stock. Then continue to add stock and vegetables to risotto 1 cup at a time, stirring continually until rice is al dente, about 5 minutes. Strain any remaining vegetable from leftover stock and fold them into risotto.
Remove from heat, add butter and cheese and a little more stock if necessary. Stir well and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.


Serves 4 to 6

4 tablespoons olive oil
8 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
1 large sweet onion, diced
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 cups chicken broth, plus more if needed
1 pound spinach, cleaned and chopped (baby spinach used here)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in soup pot over medium heat. When hot, add garlic, onion and potatoes. Sauté 3-4 minutes, stirring to prevent burning. Add chicken broth and bring to boil. Lower heat and cook until potatoes are soft. Turn off heat, stir in spinach and cover a few minutes until spinach is wilted. Add lemon juice and red pepper flakes, if using. Partially purée mixture with immersion blender or food processor, leaving it a little chunky. Add a little more broth if necessary.
Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.


Serves 4 to 6

2 cups fresh basil leaves
2/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 cloves garlic, peeled
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
salt and pepper
1 pound Cipriani spinach tagliarelle (spinach linguine or spinach fettuccine may be substituted)
1 cup heavy cream

In food processor, pulse basil, 1/3 cup pine nuts and garlic 8-10 times until coarsely chopped. With processor running, slowly, add olive oil in a stream until smooth. Add cheese and pulse a few more times. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cook tagliarelle in large pot of boiling water according to package directions.

In small saucepan, mix pesto and cream, and simmer. Pour over drained, cooked pasta and garnish with remaining pine nuts and cheese. Serve immediately.


Serves 4 to 6

6 medium artichokes, rinsed thoroughly
1 lemon, halved
1 small red bell pepper
2 tablespoons capers, drained
3 cloves garlic, peeled
¼ cup parsley leaves
½ cup fresh bread crumbs
½ cup olive oil
salt and pepper
1 cup water
few sprigs of fresh mint

Remove tough, outer artichoke leaves and discard. Cut off tips of inner leaves. With sharp spoon, remove inedible center and discard. Place prepared artichokes in cold water with lemon halves.

Finely chop red pepper, capers, 2 cloves garlic and parsley and add to bread crumbs. Add ¼ cup olive oil and mix well.

Heat oven to 375°. Drain artichokes and stuff with prepared filling. Place stem side up in lightly greased baking dish. Drizzle with remaining ¼ cup olive oil; add salt and pepper to taste. Add water, remaining garlic clove and mint to baking dish.

Cover tightly with foil and bake about 1 hour or until very tender. Remove from oven and serve.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Simple and Savoury

Ohh - I know it's been forever.  It's been a little crazy around here.  No crazier than anybody else, of course, I am just less organized.  The meals at home have suffered tremendously - I haven't made anything exciting in a while.  Then I stumbled across an old recipe on ABCD Designs Blog.   Amy posted a recipe for a traditional Italian carbonara, and I suddenly remembered when my mother used to make it for us.  It was exaxtly what I needed  so I picked up some pancetta, and tossed in the fridge for a rainy day.   Last night, I whipped it up in no time and it was perfect.  Delicious savoury, and a perfect Sunday evening meal.

Pasta Carbonara is traditionally prepared with eggs, pancetta and parmigianno.  Some recipes add cream, but I think it is just too heavy.  The pancetta, adds enough heartiness to this dish   Here is the recipe that Amy has on her blog, and the one I made last night.  I found the measurements to be perfectly balanced.  

Spaghetti Carbonara Recipe: 
Ruth Reichl’s via ABCD Designs
Note:  Using fresh ingredients for this recipe will enhance the flavours..  I don't always have organic eggs on hand, but good quality pancetta is a must, and real parmigianno as well.  As Amy also mentions, when you have so few ingredients, the quality will make the difference.  


1 pound spaghetti
1/4 to 1/2 pound thickly sliced good quality bacon or pancetta
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 large eggs
Black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano cheese, plus extra for the table


Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. When the water boils, throw the spaghetti in. Dried spaghetti takes 9 to 10 minutes to cook. The sauce is easy enough to prepare in that amount of time.
Cut the bacon crosswise into pieces about 1/2 inch wide. Place in a skillet and cook for about 2 minutes. The fat will begin to render. At that point, add the two whole cloves of garlic and cook another 5 minutes or so, until the edges of the bacon just begin to get crisp. Do not overcook the bacon. If it becomes too crisp it won’t meld with the pasta. Break the eggs into the bowl you will serve the pasta in. Beat them with a fork. Grind pepper into the bowl with the raw eggs.
When it is cooked, drain the pasta and immediately throw it into the beaten eggs. Mix thoroughly. The heat of the spaghetti will cook the eggs and turn them into a sauce. Remove the garlic from the bacon pan. Toss the bacon with most of its fat into the pasta, toss again, add cheese and serve.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Flowers you can eat. Although, why would you?

The whole class at Bonnie Gordon School

It's been a little while since I've been blogging about my baking adventures, but I've been a busy bee behind the scenes.

Most recently I attended another course with Bonnie Gordon and this time created some wonderful gum paste flowers. What a delightful experience!

All the Peony blossoms ready to dry over night

On February 27th and 28th I spent the weekend with a bunch of lovely ladies creating 2 flowers... yup, that's right 2 days to create 2 flowers. Although it was a very long careful process, the outcome was absolutely amazing. Our teacher Jenny Maw taught us step by step how to create these wonderful blossoms that could be applied to any cake or pastry creation.


Gerbera Daisy

My amused self looking a little tired

Here are my 2 flowers! Very proud of my first attempt at gum paste flowers.