Good things to eat

The Nine Course Affair

Speaking of birthdays…….

From time to time, the Chef and I like to put on “special dinners”.  Usually consisting of  a several coarse tasting menu.  He does most of the cooking, while I do the arranging, the shopping, the decor and the clean up.  And if I’m lucky, sometimes I actually am allowed to make a dish or two myself!

 

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First Course:

Seared Tuna, Avocado and Red Pepper Sushi

I have to admit, the Chef does a nice sushi, which is good because I only ever eat sushi at home, what with the shell-fish allergy, eating it in restaurants is just too high risk.

 

Sushi

 

Second Course:

Belgian Endive and Mini Kale Pancakes topped with Smoked Gorgonzola and Candied Walnuts

This was a tasty one.

They don’t show up that well in this picture, but I made mini versions of my famous Kale Pancakes.  Then to add some freshness to it all, they were alternated with leaves of Belgium endive.  Then both were topped with a small slice of smoked Gorgonzola cheese and a chunk of candied walnut.

We often enjoy this as an anytime snack.

 

endive & kale pancake

 

 

Third Course:

Beet Carpaccio Salad with Arugula, Blood Orange and Shaved Boursin Cheese

I really like beets, so I always encourage the Chef to somehow incorporate them into our special dinners.

So on this occasion, he thinly sliced both red and golden cooked beets.  Then topped them with super thing slices of Boursin Cheese, ( I’ll tell you another time about how he does that, because if you have ever dealt with Boursin, you know that slicing it in any way isn’t easy!) slices of blood orange, arugula and then drizzled with a raspberry vinaigrette.

Very refreshing.

Beet Salad

 

 

Course Number Four:

Halibut  “Fish and Chips”

This was a whimsical item.  The “fish and chips” refers to the halibut being roasted with grated yam on top and then drizzled in a balsamic dressing.   The yams form and nice crust (chips) and keep the halibut moist (fish) and then vinegar on top.

Halibut

 

 

Course Number Five:

Spinach and Pine Nut Stuffed Chicken Breast with roasted Celeriac Puree and marinated Red Cabbage

I hate to be judgemental, but I think this one was my favorite dish of the night.  The chicken was moist and flavourful, the celeriac both sweet and earthy at the same time and the crunch sourness of the cabbage just all really worked well together.  Oh and I didn’t even mention the delicious grainy mustard sauce in the title ( made it too long to look good on the page)!

 

Stuffed chicken

 

Course number six:

Shaved Brussel Sprout Salad

I actually got to make this course myself.  It is a favorite of mine to make and to eat and it often shows up on our special dinner menus.  But I can’t take the credit for it.

It is blatantly stolen from the menu at celebrity Chef Michael Chiarello’s Napa Valley restaurant, Bottega.

We tasted it there awhile back and I was determined to recreate it.  But luckily for me, they were generous enough to just post the recipe on-line!

So please do try it out for yourself.  It is surprisingly wonderful.

Brussel sprout salad

 

Course number seven:

Mediterranean Lamb & Bell Pepper Kebobs with Cous Cous and Kaffir Lime Leaf Scented Demi-Glace

It is a little joke we have with the birthday guest.  Inevitably whenever we go to her place for dinner, she serves lamb!  So it only seemed fitting that there should be a little lamb on her birthday party menu. The startlingly delicious item in this dish was the Kaffir lime leaves.

They don’t really show in the picture but they were in the sauce.  At this point in the evening ( course seven) sticking one’s fingers in the food and pulling out the lime leaves and sucking on them was clearly NOT frowned upon.  What a delightful taste, the tart lime flavour mixed with the luscious demi glaze.

 

Lamb

 

Course number eight:

Cheese & Apple

It seems we were just too delirious by this point to actually remember to take a picture.

We had retired to the lounge for a little reprieve before moving on to desert but just wanted to add this extra little treat to the mix.

Norwegian Ski Queen cheese, is just a delightful thing to try.  Although it is a cheese, it would remind you more of a really rich version of those caramel square candies that we used to get a Halloween. Perhaps those crossed with butter or some other unbearably delicious creamy substance.  You really do need to try it.  We find it in the speciality cheese section of most major grocery stores.

So our eighth course was slices of Ski Queen matched with slices of Ambrosia Apples lightly dusted with fresh cracked black pepper.

Really nice.

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Course number nine:

Raw Chocolate Tart topped with Pomegranate accompanied with fresh chunks Pineapple and Chocolate dipped Candied Ginger.

I also got to make this one!

If you have been following this blog for a while, you know that I like to startle people from time to time with my “raw” dishes.  So after a somewhat decadent night so far, I thought why not toss in something a little healthy to end the evening and leave us feeling good about ourselves!?

 

Cake

 

It was a very successful evening.  Good times all round.

Stay tuned for when the next one happens.  Who knows, YOU might even get invited!

 

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Five Years Later

 

It’s true, this blog turns five years old today!

5 year

 

As ledgend has it, it all started when I took a food writing class and one of our assignments was to start a food blog……you know….just to learn how to do it, set it up and the like.

I wonder how many people from the class still have theirs?

I’ll admit I’ve been a little lax with it over the last year, maybe two years, but not because I don’t like it.  It’s more a case of just running out of food to write about……or is it?

The real truth?  My computer is really really old and slow and drives me crazy, because believe it or not, writing a blog is kind of involved.  Adding pictures and formating and all that stuff.  So when your computer it crap, it is very discouraging and a great deterrent.

I know, just get a new damn computer!  I really suck at that.  I have tried so many times and just always chicken out, so worried I will get the wrong thing.  This one may be really slow, but at least I know how to use it!

Anyway……….

 

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The very first blog was called ” Can you really make pasta with a Juicer” and was featured right here on February 19th, 2011.

So I thought how better to commemorate the occasion than by seeing if I can “Make nut butter in a juicer”?

Natural nut butters are very expensive in the store.   Admittedly, so are nuts, but not as expensive as the pre-squished ones!  So why not make your own?

Well, sometimes because it is easier said than done.

I’ve tried making it a few times in Vitamix, the Cadillac of blenders.  I think on the right setting Vitamix might even be able to do your taxes!  But for nut butter, it grinds it well enough but because of the shape you really lose a lot of product that gets gummed up down in the blade area.

So then I tried the plain old food processor.  This seems to work well on most occasions, but on this one, something went wrong.  Perhaps it was because I was using frozen nuts?  Not sure what the problem was, but it just simply didn’t want to stick together and become creamy.

 

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So after grinding away at it for way too long, I looked up and spied the juicer sitting there.  I know that the juicer comes with a “blank” attachement, the same one I used to make the pasta.

I scooped the nuts out of the food processor and stuffed it down the feeder chute of the juicer……..

What came out……was even more dry and unpleasant than what had been at the bottom of the processor.

 

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But that’s the thing about food blogs, they don’t always have to be about the successes.  Sometimes it is good to share one’s failures as well.  You know, to spare the reader the same misfortune.

I tried to eat it anyway……but it really wasn’t very good.

 

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The point of all this?

Blogging is fun.  Who ever would have thought that any ol body, any ol where, can write about whatever nonsense is going on with them, and someone, some where WILL read it!!

Marvelous!

Happy Blogaversary to me!

 

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A Warm Lunch at the Office

Anyone who has been following this blog for a while knows that I am NO fan of microwaves and have not (knowingly, although I realize it must happen to me some places!) eaten microwaved food in at least 10 plus years!

But when the weather starts to turn this can pose a problem for a girl who is looking for a little warmth at lunch time at the office and there is no way to heat anything up except the you know what!

So imagine my delight when I saw THIS idea!!

Please forgive me, I do like to give credit where credit is due but I do subscribe to a lot of food blogs and can’t always remember where I see what I see and regrettably I couldn’t find this again when I went back to look for the instructions.  So thank you idea giver.

So let’s call them Homemade Noodle Pots.

We’ve all had them.  Some are better than others.  But even the “organic” “healthy” versions are still pretty much weird dried stuff in a cup.

You know what I’m talking about.  Those instant lunch things that come in a cardboard, or worse, cup.  You peel back the lid, pour boiling water over it, cover it up again, let sit for a bit and voila.  A cup full of some kind of warm, usually desperately salty, noodle type stuff.

And they aren’t even that cheap, especially the higher end ones!

So why not just make your own DIY noodle pots?

You can put just about anything you’d like but best of all, you know exactly what’s in them!

And what’s great, on a Sunday afternoon, you can make up all of your ingredients, pack up your jars and have one for every day of the following week!  Imagine?  A whole week of not having to worry about what to bring for lunch??  Fantastic!

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Here is what you will need:

Heat safe jars, like Mason Jars 500 ml size x days of your week

Flavour base: I tried different combos for each day to change it up a little.

1 to 3 teaspoons of organic or quality soup stock base, miso paste or curry paste

More Flavour:

1 to 3 teaspoons of:  coconut milk, sesame oil, hot sauce or Sriracha, tamari or Bragg sauce etc

 

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Fillers:

Chicken, tofu, frozen vegetables, shredded cabbage, cooked lentils or beans, thinly sliced mushroom, kimchi, hardy greens, boiled egg, or whatever else you might find in the fridge!

Noodles:

Cooked Soba noodles, spaghetti, rice noodles, ramen.   I haven’t tried this yet, but maybe dried couscous?

Toppings:

Green onion, Cilantro, shredded carrot, a slice of lemon?

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Start with the flavour bases on the bottom of the jar, spread them around so they will dissolve evenly.

Then add in your filler items.

Then the noodles and pack it down nicely.

Then finally what ever fresh toppers you might be using. ( if you want these really fresh, perhaps store separately and top the noodles just before eating)

Put the lids on tight and refrigerate!

Each morning, grab one to go!

 

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When it’s time to eat, simply add some boiling water and replace the lid.

Let sit for a few minutes to let everything warm up.  Then maybe give the jar a little shake or a twirl before you open it or give them a good stir with your chopsticks to let the flavours mingle.

 

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You can enjoy it right out of the jar or dump it into an awaiting bowl and eat right away while it is warm.

 

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And there you have a nice warm, weird stuff free, bowl of niceness to get you through your afternoon!

 

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Peach Skillet Cake

This is a recipe I like to pull out this time of year.

Although I’m calling it “Peach Cake”, it should really be called “Insert fruit or berry of your choice cake”!  Because most any fruit or berry could be substituted.

In fact, when I did my original post on this I called it “Pluot Skillet Cake” because I had just newly discovered the pluot, cousin to the plum and was all about making stuff with it.

And then the original recipe that I first saw the with the idea for this cake, made it with blackberries.

So seriously, use whatever you like!

Click HERE to see the original posting on this and to get the recipe.

Peach cake

I’ll admit, the thought of it was very intimidating.

I was picturing something very exotic, or spending all day in the kitchen over large vats of something or other.  Requiring group of friends working feverishly to complete it in one day.

Or the need for hard to find equipment or ingredients.

Trouble was, I guess I didn’t really even know what Kimchi was.

What it comes down to is pretty much Korean style sauerkraut.

Something people have been making for years with little more than a bucket or crock, some salt and a big rock!

So why was I getting myself in a tizzy over it?  Why not just give it a try? Cabbage is pretty cheap, if it doesn’t work out…..oh well.

I’m almost embarrassed at just how easy it really is!

Then again, fermenting of food has been around a LONG time.  That’s how many cultures have survived by being able to preserve the bounty of the Summer for the long Winter ahead.

And then don’t even get me started with just how very good for you it is!  Talk about probiotic!!  This stuff is where it’s at!!

So not even knowing where to start, I did what any smart person would do, I looked up some recipes on the internet!   Admittedly, there were several and true, some did sound a little exotic and involved but I managed to find one that made sense.

Many of the recipes also called for “fish sauce” or “shrimp paste”, two things I actively avoid due to my shell-fish allergy but found no trouble working around that.

There were many many recipes, but I finally decided on this one:  Homemade Vegan Kimchi

I did not have, nor had the time to look for, the Kochukaru ( Korean chili powder) so I improvised on that.

I also didn’t make as huge of a batch as this recipe appears to make, in case it was disgusting and then I would have went to all the trouble and then would have to toss it!!

Here is what I used:

  • 1/2 large napa cabbage
  • 1/2 (maybe less) daikon radish
  • 1/2 red onion
  • Salt  ( Kosher or sea)

For paste:

  • 4 green onions
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 inch fresh ginger
  • 2 birdseye Thai chilis ( small red ones)
  • 1 tbsp smokie paprika
  • 1 tbsp miso paste
  • 1 tbsp sugar

I peeled the leaves off the cabbage one at a time until I had taken off about half of them.  Use your judgement depending on how big your cabbage is.   After washing them, chop them into about 2 inch chunks,

I used only 1/2 of the daikon because it was quite large.   Peel it and then cut it into strips.  Smaller than French fries but bigger than match sticks.

Slice the red onion into full circle rounds about 1/4 inch thick.

Place all of these ingredients in a large bowl and then sprinkle generously with salt and toss to make sure everything is getting some salt on it.

 

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Then let it sit for a few hours until it gets quite whilty and releases some liquid.

 

When the cabbage mixture is ready to go, it is time to make the paste.

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Add all of the other ingredients ( except the green part of the green onions, just chop and mix those in   with the cabbage, but do it now, not during the wilting part) to the food processor and combine till it makes a nice paste.  ( Add a bit of the cabbage water if it is too thick)

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Then add the paste to the wilted cabbage and toss well until everything is nicely coated.

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Then carefully shove it all into a super clean Mason jar ( or more).  The other recipe suggests poking it down with a chop stick.  Really pack it in there, making sure there aren’t any air pockets.  And then pour in any remaining liquid from the bowl that will fit.

Seal it up tight and let it sit on the counter for 24 hours, then into the fridge for at least a week before testing it!

 

ONE WEEK LATER:

Time to check out the magic!!

A huge word of caution here that no one seems to mention in any of the recipes I saw…….

Kimchi is ALIVE!!  Fermenting is done by live ( but very friendly) bacteria and so after they have done their work on your cabbage, they are eager to show you!!

So when you open your new Kimchi for the first time, DO IT OVER THE SINK!  It is almost like a bottle of soda that has been shook! And it WILL spew everywhere!!

I had NO idea!!

Once that nonsense was over and I safely got the lid off…….I gave it a sniff.  It had a strong odor and it wasn’t particularly appealing, but the time of truth had come.  Time to taste it.

 

I was fully ready to dislike it, but instead I was surprised, amazed and delighted by the taste of something that I quite honestly can’t say as I have tasted before!   I was expecting something tangy, vinegary or pickley.   But it was none of these.

Instead, it was the most delightful mixture of salty, sour and a little bit spicy.

I was absolutely delighted with my experiment!

Since then, I have become obsessed with my Kimchi!!  As the lady in the commercial says “I put that @#%$@* on EVERYTHING!”

It is particularly wonderful for livening up any old boring sandwich!!  Fabulous as a burger topping, adds zing to any rice bowl type dish.  Add it to salads or as a condiment with eggs or omelets.  I could go on and on and keep trying it with everything!

Just DON’T heat it!  It is a live food, heating it will destroy all of its goodness!!

So don’t be afraid, give it a try yourself.

I would be very interested to hear just you make out!

 

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This Blog Turns Four!

Wow how time flies.

I always tell this story on the anniversary of the blog.  It was only supposed to be an exercise for a food writing class I was taking.  The assignment was to “set up a blog” and of course until anyone can actually FIND the blog, it sort of doesn’t exist.

But when I asked a couple of friends to check it out and comment to impress the teacher I got hooked.

I could write stuff and people could read it.  And some even said they liked it.

The first ever blog post was this one:  Can you really make pasta with a juicer? 

It was quite an involved project because again, I wanted to impress the teacher and wanted the inaugural attempt to be about something interesting.

I’ll admit I have been slacking on my posts in the last while.  Mostly because my computer is SO slow that I spend most of the blogging time yelling at it and threatening to toss it out the window.  But I promise, I’m going to do something about that very soon.

That and of course life getting in the way.  It’s also hard to keep coming up with interesting things to say.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I still love to know about, read about, grow, cook and eat food and then talk about all those same aspects of food.  So hopefully I will get back to the writing about it part, real soon.

The other fun thing about blogs is that they are like having money in a good investment.  Even if I don’t post very often anymore, the old posts somehow still find their way to people to read.   In the four years since the blog started I have nearly 50000 hits!!

What’s really cool and completely by accident, is that is post will be the 400th post I have made, on the 4th anniversary.

 

Happy 4th Anniversary!

Happy 4th Anniversary!

It’s always a challenge, what to do with the left overs?

And let’s face it by now we are all SO sick of eating that even the prime freshly cooked food seems grim, let alone eating the same stuff for three days!!

Well, here is this year’s offering to help use up a few items!

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Ever find yourself with some dregs of cheese left over from a lovely cheese plate?  Bits and bobs of perfectly still nice cheese that you paid good money for so you don’t want to just toss it out, but it’s gotten a bit dry or tired looking from sitting out or not being properly wrapped and being shoved in the fridge after a night of merry-making?

 

Left over bits of cheese

Left over bits of cheese

 

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Finely chop up all the left over bits of cheese, removing any heavy rind.

 

And of course who doesn’t  have some left over turkey??

Well……how about………

Turkey Macaroni and Cheese?

I didn’t even have any “actual” macaroni but it have some spiral pasta in the pantry, which worked just fine.

Here’s how it went down.

Boil up a few cups of pasta of your choice.

Meanwhile, in a skillet, fry up some onions and some cubed turkey.  You could even toss in some veg at this point if you had it, but I didn’t.

 

 

Sauteed turkey cubes and onion

sautéed turkey cubes and onion


 

Then, in a sauce pan, make up a cheese sauce according to your favorite recipe.

I used a bit of butter and flour.  Made a roux and added milk.   Then gradually added the bits of left over cheese from the cheese platter, finely chopped.  Be careful with any that have a heavy rind that won’t melt down.

 

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Cheese sauce from left over party cheese plate

 

When the pasta is cooked, the turkey and onions sautéed and the cheese sauce made, mix them all together in a large bowl till thoroughly combined and then transfer to the casserole dish of your choice.

 

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Mix all ingredients together and transfer to a baking dish

 

Now here’s where things got CRAZY…..

I didn’t have any bread crumbs so I chopped up some left over bread stuffing and spread it over the top!

 

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Turkey Macaroni and Cheese topped with stuffing

 

Bake at 350 degrees for about one half hour, then uncover for about ten minutes till the top crusts up a bit.

There you have it!!

This is a very versatile dish that you can use up all manner of weird left over bits in the fridge!  Only your imagination is your limit!!

 

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Yum

 

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