Category: Food

Another Giada Recipe – Chicken Saltimbocca

Once you have cracked the cover of one of Giada de Laurentis’s cookbooks, you won’t be able to make JUST ONE recipe. Nope. Right now my cookbook has 3 scraps of paper sticking out of it … and it doesn’t go back on the shelf till I’ve made each one. (Soft rule… gets broken… whatever.) 

So when I was making the Simple Bolognese sauce last week, I considered making something NEW from the cookbook. EGADS! A NEW RECIPE?? … AND ON A WEEKNIGHT! (Yes, I confess, I generally make tried and true recipes during the weekdays since I have less time. I’m no Dana K.) But this one seemed pretty quick. So I bought the ingredients on the weekend and while the Thai Squash soup was simmering, I whipped it up. Just like that. BOOM!

CHICKEN SALTIMBOCCA.

Doesn’t that sound impressive? Well, yes, dammit, it IS. Very very impressive.

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first attempt

AND it’s actually dead easy to make … flatten the chicken (I think I applied a bit too much force), lay a piece of prosciutto on it, top that with spinach, and roll up. Well ok, it’s not THAT easy. You have to defrost the spinach, season it and add some olive oil. You also have to grate some parmesean and lay THAT on top of the spinach. WHICH. I. FORGOT. So I had to unroll all of my beautiful rolls. Very funny. Ha Ha.

Last part is dead easy too. Sear in a pan till brown on all sides. 

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2 min. each side. Ok, this was sticking a lot and it got a LOT messy in there … next time, more oil…

Finally, you add chicken broth and a squirt or so of lemon juice and simmer till it’s cooked. Take the chicken out, thicken up the sauce and serve! 

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MY VERSION. I don’t think the green bits are not supposed to show. Nor the prosciutto. Whatever. 

Despite it looking like it was made by a 5 year old, it was AMAZINGLY good. And impressive anyway. Shut up Dana K. 

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That’s me holding open the cookbook.  Nice chicken, Giada.

(You’ll notice that Giada’s version is not BURSTING. Isn’t it tidy and perfect? Ah yes. And so it goes.)

You can find the recipe for Chicken Saltimbocca here.

spaghetti!

Best Ever and Dead Easy Bolognese Sauce

You know when you’re driving home from work and you suddenly think – Oh shit! What are we having for dinner? Ya, well that never happens to me. lmao

I’m going to present you with a tried and true, dead easy pasta sauce. I learned it from one of my all time favourite TV cooks, Giada de Laurentis. I met her back in the day when I used to watch the Cooking Channel as I burned calories on the treadmill. It was the only way I could get through it. (I think that’s irony… yes?) Anyhow, Giada introduced me to easy Italian recipes, and taught me a TON of cooking tips in the process. I use her her first cookbook, Everyday Italian, regularly. It was given to me in 2005! Now that’s almost vintage. 

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An oldie but a goodie.

What I like about this sauce is that you can put it together with very basic ingredients and it’s FAST. … although making it without fresh basil kinda sucks, so you will want to have a little forethought and pick up a bunch of the fresh stuff. Oh and you must have some pecorino romano or at least parmigiano reggiano. 

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Nice photobomb, Annie!

Oh and one more MUST … a can of crushed tomatoes. I always keep cans of crushed tomatoes in my pantry, SPECIFICALLY for this recipe. It simply is not the same with any other kind of tomato product – whole, crushed, sauce, etc… You NEED to have a can of crushed tomatoes. It creates the perfect consistency without any need to fart around with simmering down a watery sauce or thickening with tomato paste. Who the hell has time for that? NO ONE. Ok, lots of people do. But not me.

When you grab all of the ingredients that you will have on hand now that I’ve told you, it will look kinda like this (plus a can of crushed tomatoes that I forgot to put in the picture): 

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Those are heritage carrots. The orange one was purple before I peeled it. Yes, they’re very fancy carrots…

And here’s my beef about beef. I’ve decided that I am no longer buying grocery store ground beef, because it’s just plain STINKY. When it cooks it lets off a fuggy dead cow smell … and my neighbour, a cattle raiser (or whatever the hell she’s called), told me that the smell is from the crap ass chemicals in the beef. Buy the good stuff and as it cooks all you’ve got is beautiful smelling chuck. AND SHE WAS RIGHT!! 

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Let this sauce simmer for as long as it takes to cook your noodles and then it’s ready to eat. Nothing to it.

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Ta Da!

I could type out the recipe into my fancy widget, but Giada has the recipe on her website, and you’re gonna want to visit Giadzy! It’s a great site. 

Get the recipe here.

 

When You Require Chocolate Pudding

I decided that tonight I required my favourite chocolate pudding – for both sustenance and solace. Why? I had a molar pulled today. It was so much fun to have a dude gripping my jaw and trying his damnedest to wrench a massive tooth out of my face. It said on the invoice “complicated removals”. No kidding.

The recipe is dubbed “Any Day Chocolate Pudding”. It’s from a fav cookbook of mine, Pantry Raid. The premise of the cookbook is that if you have a decent pantry, every recipe in the book can be made without a special trip to the store. Great book. And pretty much essential when you have small kids. Who wants to tote kids to the grocery store for one or two special ingredients? Nobody.

I’ve had the book for a long time – since the kids will very little. In those days the pudding was too dark and chocolatey for Annie. Notes in the margin indicate that at some point she started liking it, but a wayward drop or two of water destroyed that archived detail. Sad, that.

I write on all recipe books – changes to make and / or an assessment of the results.

As I said, you likely have all of the ingredients in your pantry and fridge to make this pudding (as long as you have a big-ass container of half & half cream like I always do…). It only takes about 15 minutes to make, from start to finish, but unless you like your pudding hot, you need to consider how long it will take to cool. Especially if you want to make a parfait or something fancy.

Here’s a handy picture sequence to convince you of how easy it is. [This reminds me of those language activities where you had to put the story pictures in an order that made sense. I would have done better if they were about making chocolate pudding. Just sayin’.]

whisk small amount of cream into cornstarch
whisk together 3 T cornstarch and 1/4 c Half and Half cream and set aside
in pot whisk together sugar, cocoa & salt, add hot water
put 2/3 c sugar, 1/2 c cocoa, pinch of salt in a saucepan, stir in 1/3 c hot water
whisk together till smooth
whisk until smooth
add rest of cream to chocolate mixture
once mixture comes to a boil, add 1 3/4 c Half and Half cream
whisk in cornstarch mixture
stir in the cornstarch mixture, whisking steadily as you pour, cook approx 5 min or until thick
add vanilla
add 1 t vanilla, stir in and take off of heat (Note that it is impossible to pour, whisk and take a photo at the same time.)

Of course, it wouldn’t be pudding if you didn’t have to try to prevent a big fat skin forming on the surface. This is the one reason that I feel I need to keep the environmentally unfriendly “plastic wrap” in my kitchen … it’s so damned handy for this purpose.

pour into a bowl, press plastic wrap on the surface of the pudding and let cool

Dollop in a bowl and enjoy.

I dare you to eat just one bowl!

I would have gone the extra mile for  a dollop of whipped cream on top, but then I’d have to eat whatever I whipped up, and I’m just not feeling it at 9pm. Maybe tomorrow night for dessert… and maybe a parfait!! oh ya

“You know what ELSE everybody likes? Parfaits! Have you ever met a person, you say, “Let’s get some parfait,” they say, “Hell no, I don’t like no parfait.”? Parfaits are delicious!”

Biscuits and Jam

When you have a cold day, a warm fire and a book to read, all you really need to top it off is a few biscuits with jam.

I found a new recipe for Buttermilk Biscuits this past summer when I was experimenting with Bourbon (you have to read the post – lol). They turned out marvellously, so the recipe has usurped the baking powder biscuit recipe from Grandma Mack. (Sweet Jesus, don’t tell anyone in the family…) You do have to have a little foresight though, so that you can pop 1/2 cup (one stick) of butter into the freezer. I’m also not sure that the oven REALLY has to be at 475 degrees … 425 works just fine, thank you very much. If I go to 475 my oven will think it’s self cleaning and bad things might happen like they did the last time.

The ingredients are really basic. Today I planned to use lemon juice to sour the milk so I decided to grate the rind into the batter and then chop up some dried cranberries to go in the biscuits. Sadly this will mean that the kids won’t like them. AW DAMN.

Oh and for the love of Jesus, add some salt! Why it’s not in the recipe I’ll never know.

I use these super nifty cutters from Lee Valley. I bought them for myself during the Christmas online ordering season, as a reward for getting through all of the crazy shit at school. I think I deserved them. And only $20! What a deal.

Couldn’t help but slather them with a little more melted butter and sprinkle on some demerara sugar.

With a banana-peach smoothie and some home made peach jam on the side, they’re the perfect snack!

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Rainy Day = Soup

We’re supposed to be skiing today, but no dice. Best to make some soup and enjoy the day de-Christmasing the house and puttering about.

This is a simple soup with very basic ingredients. You start with the typical onion and garlic combo – chop up small and saute with whatever oil makes you happy. I chose olive oil today. Toss in a pound or so of ground beef and let it cook a bit.

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I don’t know about you, but there’s something awesome about the smell of garlic and onion working away in a pan. Sooooo great!!

 

 

 

Once the meat is browned, toss in the rest of the ingredients and simmer for an hour or so, till the barley is soft.

Enjoy it with a slab of fresh bread and your fav cheese. YUM!!

Hamburger Soup

1 medium onion, chopped fine

1 or more garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 pounds ground beef

1 28 oz can tomatoes, whole (but smoosh them up when you put them in the pot)

1 box beef stock (4 cups) or equivalent (home made stock, OXO beef cubes in water, consommé)

1 can tomato soup

4 carrots, chopped fine

3 sticks celery, chopped fine

1/2 cup barley

1 bay leaf

1/2 tsp thyme

salt, pepper – maybe some parsley if you like that

A Day at the Lake

It’s a lovely thing to come to the lake in the winter. We drive as far in as we can then strap on our snowshoes and hike in a couple of kilometers to the Bell camp. This year we didn’t trust the lake so we went by road, dragging a couple of sleds behind us. The girls went ahead, helter skelter, dropping various things off of their sleds with nary a look behind them. Funny how they didn’t notice. By the time Paul and Liam and I got there, we were laden with bags that had fallen by the wayside. Next year, bungie cords.


The lake is dead quiet. Surreal in the lack of wind and waves and birds and children hooting as they get dragged behind a boat.

We hike in the woods when the ice seems too thin for comfort. We wander around our friends’ cottages. There are snow fights and icicle finds. We are overdressed but grateful for it all.

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Inside, it’s so cozy. We all have our books (paper or otherwise) and some have a project – a puzzle, sudoku or a pair of socks to work on. Charades.

Of course lots of great food – and baking is a sure bet with me in the cabin! I get to create all sorts of yummy things – cinnamon buns and cookies and tea biscuits. For dessert tonight is a banana cake. I forgot the ingredients for the topping so I have had to improvise with ice cream bowls, marshmallows, chocolate and pecans. Result? YUM!

All in all, a glorious time at the lake.

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Photo cred @carolbell268

Another New Cookbook

You know how bloggers often go on and on about being absent and so on? I’m not going to do that even though I can see the appeal … so much to say about all of the things that have kept me away from the blog. But I’m not going to tell you about my impossible lists and my unbelievable busyness and my incredible ability to cook and clean and rake and do homework with my kids. Because that’s everyone’s life, more or less, and I for one am sick of hearing about all of that. So this is my humble pledge to avoid those two blogging traps: apologizing and being overly harried.

I WILL tell you about the insanely awesome new magazine that I picked up yesterday … omg I love it!! It’s called Milk Street and was placed strategically at the checkout line so I had the opportunity to stare at it for about 10 minutes … just close enough to read the cover but just far away that getting it would have cost me my place in line (or a conversation with the stern lady behind me). So once it was my turn I grabbed it and perused in the the minute and a half that I had while the teller rang in my other purchases.  img_0898

It’s written by Christopher Kimball – the dude who headed up the famous Cook’s Illustrated magazine. I have loved to read them mainly because the recipes are perfected in “America’s Test Kitchen” (which is an American TV show that I’ve never watched because I never watch TV … not to be confused with Netflix, people!)

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For whatever reason, I enjoy learning about the science behind cooking, and the trials and errors that chefs go through in order to get the result that they are aiming for. I’ve endeavored to do the same thing at home when I’ve wanted a chewier cookie, a less sweet jam, a nuttier crisp, a lemon curd that’s more tart. So I felt I’d hit the jackpot years ago when I started picking up the magazines. (FYI they are not written by theme – but this doesn’t matter to me).

There are others than have come out that ARE by theme – these are from “America’s Test Kitchen” – and I love them! They are generally “best of” compilations and I can’t resist that shit!

More recently I picked up a big fat Test Kitchen cookbook – no idea why – it’s not all that beautiful … but I know that the content is great. I haven’t really gotten into it yet but it’s got 15 years of TV show recipes in it, so I figure I have 15 years to get through it.

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The best thing about these cookbooks – apart from all of the stories about the proces of testing recipes – are all of the scientific reasons why various foods need to be prepped or cooked in a certain way. (The hamburger patty lesson changed the way I cook burgers and my recount of why the patties need to be shaped like a donut is usually enthralling…) I also love learning about the different products and ingredients that they try out (e.g., pans, blenders, foil, chocolate) … in quite a bit of detail. I LOVE LOVE LOVE that they don’t have advertising in their magazines and no brand pays them to include their ingredients or cook with their pots / utensils / dish ware.
Tonight we picked off the first recipe in the Milk Street mag – tenderloin done in a Moroccan style dry rub (coriander, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper). So tasty! Served with my aunt’s recipe for roasted (whole) cauliflower and a rice pilaf … it was a fabulous meal.

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Can’t wait to try out more of the recipes (although not the charred brussel sprouts – eek, I’d rather poke my eyes out with sticks!)

 

Expanded Family, Same Old Traditions

The week gone by was, well, life changing. Not just for me, but for my whole family, and for Bree, the wonderful girl who has joined it. All sorts of meetings and stress are behind us, and while there are likely many challenges ahead, we’re feeling pretty peaceful for now. We’re at the cabin, happy to show her around and share with her some of our traditions. She has already noted that we are a very “singy” family … so when we did our Disney princess challenge on the way in (in which one person sings a Disney song and the others try to name the movie faster than the others), she wasn’t overly surprised.

The other day she asked what exactly we DO up here. I think she’s figuring it out, and is starting to find her own groove. She’s been swimming, enjoying big breakfasts and plenty of baking, relaxing, exploring the woods. She likes to fish but is terrified of boats. We’ll have to work on that.

Today has been a day to make a few of the comfort foods that we love to eat when at the cabin. Buttermilk biscuits for breakfast…

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Annie ate 7. Omg.
Cinnamon buns for an afternoon snack …

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I only ate 3. 
Pasta salad, chicken parmesan and Gingerbread cake to take with us to Andrea & Mike’s for dinner…

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Once around the fridge pasta salad.

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Paul flattens and breads chicken, then fries it. Mmmm.

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Gingerbread cake is cooling. Almost ready to make the icing.
A good day so far!!

Peace out.

 

A Day for Quilting

I’m at the cabin, it’s raining, the fire is on and there are good eats going on like this:

Some onion, garlic, tomatoes, salt, pepper, white wine … Simmered down to perfection then ladled onto a ciabatta bun with some melted smoked Gouda. OMG pure bliss.

It’s the perfect day to listen to the CBC on Sirius Satellite and do some quilting. And maybe make a s’more here or there in the fireplace (sadly the graham wafers are a bit soggy… but not as soggy as it is outside!).

I’m really happy with the quilt I’m working on (I talked about it a while back in another post). I love top stitching my quilts. It’s contemplative work – I can think about all sorts of things. I can listen to the radio or a blog or watch Netflix (although not up at the cabin). Essentially, I’m forced to sit still and be peaceful. It’s slow work and good for the soul.

My stitching is by no means perfect, in fact I went to a tutorial on top stitching earlier this summer and realized that I am doing it totally wrong. I tried to change, really I did, but I can’t get the hang of the method used by the professionals. And like my stitching methods, my stitching design is also unconventional. (I prefer to “wing it” – I don’t think the Mennonites do that, but I admire their quilts just the same.) Essentially this quilt is looking like a giant doodle. Each rectangle in the quilt has a different stitching design, which makes it kind of fun, like making a self striping scarf … the quilt evolves slowly as I finish each rectangle.

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Right now I’m working on a really large rectangle. Not my favorite … the smaller ones are so much more satisfying since they’re done relatively fast. This doodle is wavy and organic. This what I’ve got so far:

imageI’m liking it.

Back to the Cabin (again)

The fam made it through the first week of school pretty well. Rough start for the eldest who was suffering from a brutal cold, but she rallied and managed 3 rugby practices to boot. The youngest has a new morning routine that seems to help him to be prepared for the bus. We shall see. Still in the honeymoon phase of school, as they say.

Lastnight we arrived to the lake at dusk – Paul unpacked quickly and loaded the boat while I searched for a wayward sleeping bag in mom’s bunkie. Called for the boy as we were set to leave – he was on the swing with his EarPods in … just enjoying the view.

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We booked it across the bay without having a flashlight – not the MOST dangerous thing I’ve done at the lake in my lifetime, but not exactly a good demonstration of safe boating for the kids, either. Mental note, always pack out the flashlight.

Today I found time to drink tea, read some favorite blogs, check the fridge and freezer to see what food we had available, and decide what I wanted to bake. Then I baked. And even quilted. And drank more tea. It was like heaven. Especially with the lovely assortment of chocolate bars that Paul brought from the marina. Love the man.

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First things first, though. I started off by searching through the pantry and I found some crystallized ginger that seemed to be calling my name. I also came to the startling realization that there was only 1/2 lb of butter left for the entire weekend! OMG. My heart! In addition to the butter problem was my knowledge that while the lake was calm & the sun was peering through, there was enduring rain in the forecast. Whatever, the kids can tube later. MUST. HAVE. BAKING.

Interrupting these thoughts, breakfast. It’s always great here – because of both Paul’s high-fat high-carb spread and the animated conversation … today Paul’s tutorial about how to make the cheesy eggs, Annie’s about how to scare away fishermen in the bay with messy morning hair and me with what I should bake (Liam was dying to tutorialize us with his rubic’s cube coding, but we’d had enough lastnight during Yahtzee.) Of most interest to me of course was the baking plan. We narrowed it down to peanut butter cookies, ginger cookies and gingerbread with cream cheese icing. Paul was indifferent since he doesn’t injest sugar I know, right? but the kids and I were equally vocal about our choices.

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Sent Paul to the marina to get butter, dragging the kids behind the boat. Win-win. Only cost him an arm. I was in business.

First up was gingerbread with cream cheese icing (because that’s my pic, obv). Looking at the recipe, I disn’t have cloves or applesauce – but I could make the latter. No problem. Thanks be to God for The Bullet.

Made a quick boat trip to mom’s cottage to raid the pantry for ground cloves. No luck. Found allspice though. What the hell IS allspice, anyway?? Found out from Google that “allspice comes from a single tree, but tastes like a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves” and that it can be substituted for cloves. Hurrah. Made the cake. Odd. It’s dark brown in the photo on Pinterest. It was light brown in my bowl. Shouldn’t it have molasses in it? Shouldn’t it have eggs? These days I’m working on suspending my disbelief. I tossed it in the oven… and got down to mixing up the peanut butter cookie dough.

The kids loved the cookies. Paul even ate TWO. Pigs will fly tonight. Finally, iced the gingerbread cake … and enjoyed a bite slice.

 

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This gingerbread cake is THE BOMB. Check it out at http://www.lecremedelacrumb.com/2015/11/gingerbread-loaf.html.