Monday, December 28, 2009

Chopped Challenge

Perry and I have been talking for a while now about doing a (just for fun) cooking challenge.  We finally decided to do it today because Perry's off work for the holidays and we're both relaxed and in a good mood :-)  We got our inspiration from one of our favourite cooking challenge shows Chopped  So, the way it worked was that Perry bought 4 secret ingredients for me to work with and I did the same thing for him.  We had one hour to plan, gather extra ingredients (anything in the pantry, fridge and freezer was fair game), cook and plate our dishes.
I figured that since Perry doesn't cook all that often (not his fault since he's out at work every day), that I would try to make it fairly easy on him.  Here are the ingredients I bought for him...

Nappa cabbage, beech mushrooms, Granny Smith apples and Sea scallops

Here are the ingredients that my darling hubby thought it would be fun to torture me with :-)


Fennel bulbs

Acorn squash


It actually worked out well and we both came up with fairly decent dishes.  Per made a cream sauce.  He'd never done this before and since there were no cookbooks/checking online allowed, he had to wing it.  Other than being a tiny bit too salty, I think he did admirably.  He told me he made a roux first (very impressive) and then added cream and when it turned out a bit too thick, he thinned it with milk.  He julienned the Granny Smith apples and was smart enough to put them into acidulated water so they didn't go brown.  He served the scallops on a Nappa cabbage leaf, with the apple and covered them with the sauce.  He made a whole wheat couscous with the beech mushrooms.  All in all, it was a lovely dish.

Per's scallop and couscous dish

I made a shaved fennel, red onion and rambutan salad with an orange and lime vinaigrette.  I stuffed the quail with israeli couscous, which I mixed with sautéed shallots, orange zest and fennel fronds.  I sautéed them first and then baked them.  I served these atop an acorn squash purée which I flavoured with massaman curry paste, coconut milk and fish sauce.  I made a sauce for the quail with sautéed onions, deglazed with fresh orange juice and reduced with some cream.

My quail dish

Per's cream sauce

Julienned apples in acidulated water

Per's couscous with beech mushrooms

Israeli couscous

Quail sautéing

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Dinner 2009

The best turkey we've ever had!  I used this Recipe but raised the oven back up to 350F for 40 mins. of the last hour

Roast potatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper

Mum's fabulous chestnut stuffing

An online friend's recipe for Scottish stuffing with oatmeal

Vegetarian haggis (not good at all...tasted like curry)


Cranberry sauce I used this Recipe but used 2 canned chipotles instead of dried

Brussels sprouts still in the pot

Broccoli and cauliflower still in the pot

Cranberry Upside Down Cake (delicious) I found the Recipe here

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Blogging by Mail

Stephanie at Dispensing Happiness recently hosted BBM and soon as I heard about it I knew I had to participate.  The idea is that bloggers the world over exchange packages with each other.  Everyone sent Stephanie our names and addresses and she chose partners for each of us.  No one knew who was sending to them until the package arrived, so it was very exciting!  We had to choose 5 things that are our 'Calgon take me away' items.  In other words, 5 things that de-stress or make you happy or relax you.  I was lucky enough to be the recipient of a package from Astrid at Paulchens FoodBlog and arrived home on Monday night (from a wonderful week in Mexico) to a lovely, thoughtful package of goodies.  
Here is what Astrid put together for me...

The package with the lovely little handwritten greeting card

Homemade herbal tea in a lovely pouch

Tea and pouch

Some very interesting-looking herbs that I will have to ask her more about

Homemade honey!!!

Pancake/egg molds

A lovely tin filled with homemade Christmas cookies!!!

So as you can see, I was very lucky  to have received Astrid as my BBM partner!  What a beautiful package, full of very thoughtful gifts.  I have already eaten some of the cookies (I did share a few ) and both Perry and I have enjoyed some of the lovely herbal tea, which tastes minty and very soothing.  I think we're going to use the molds on Christmas morning to make eggs and/or pancakes.
Thank you very much Astrid!!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Green Smoothies - a play by play :-)

Kale, grape, blueberry and egg white smoothie

This was today's green smoothie.  I think this particular combination is my favourite.  So here's how I make it...

Wash and rip up about 4 leaves of fresh kale.  Put them into the blender with some pasteurized egg whites and filtered water.

Blend this for a couple of minutes, just to get things going.  I think it's better to start by blending the kale before adding the fruit as this gives it a little bit of a head start and things won't get all clogged up in the blades. 

Add some frozen blueberries

and some frozen grapes (I take grapes off the stems, wash them and freeze them for just this purpose)

Blend all of this on medium speed for a minute and then on extra-high speed until fairly smooth

Pour into a glass and enjoy :-)

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Lao Salad

Lao Salad (my version)

I made this salad for dinner last night.  I played around with a recipe from "Asian Salads" by Vatcharin Bhumichitr. 
Here's what I did...

Place some chopped romaine lettuce (original called for whole lettuce leaves) on plates.  Top with thinly sliced English cucumber and sliced orange bell peppers (original called for 1 red and 1 green).

Meanwhile, soft-boil some eggs (original called for hard-boiled).  While the eggs are boiling, make the dressing.  Put some extra-lean ground turkey (original called for pork) in a pan with 3 tablespoons hot water, 3 tablespoons fish sauce, 3 teaspoons coconut nectar (original called for sugar), 2 thinly sliced Thai bird chilies, 3 tablespoons lime juice and one minced garlic clove (original called for garlic oil).  Sauté until the turkey is cooked all the way through.  Stir in one tablespoon olive oil (not in the original).  Pour this on top of the salad and top with some chopped, roasted peanuts.  Peel the eggs and cut in half and place one on top of each plate. 


It was supposed to be garnished with fresh coriander which I totally forgot (grrrrr, as it's my favourite).  This dish was really delicious and I'll definitely be making it again!!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Korean Pork Bone Soup

One of our favourite dishes to eat at Korean restaurants is pork neck bone soup.  I've often thought of making it at home, but never got around to it until today.  I found some neck bones on sale at a local Asian market yesterday.  I got two fair-sized bags for around a dollar each!  I figured this was a sign that I should be making it at home :-)  I used this recipe although I didn't soak the bones for 2 hours, I just put them into a pot of water, brought them to a boil and then drained the water off.  I then put them into the crockpot and more or less followed the recipe.  I decided against using the fish sauce as I thought we might not love the fish/pork combination.  I also used lots of baby bok choy instead of the cabbage.
Perry declared this as one of his favourite dishes ever!  So I'll be making this one again for sure :-)

Pork bone soup garnished with green onions and lots of kimchi

Lobster dinner last night

Lobster with sugar snap peas and brown jasmine rice

There's no real recipe to this one.  I bought a couple of lobsters at a local Asian market yesterday and decided to try baking them instead of my usual way of steaming/boiling them.  I cut them up, cracking the tails and claws and put them in a glass baking dish.  I sautéeed some onions, garlic and Thai bird chilies and added this to the pan with about 2 cups of white wine. 


I baked this for about 20 mins. at 375F.  We had them with some brown jasmine rice and sugar snap peas.  The sugar snap peas were steamed.  To make the rice, I sautéed onions, garlic and Thai bird chilies and added some Tom Yum paste and water then cooked for about 25 mins. 

Mussels with Cornbread

I made these last weekend.  We usually have mussels about once every other month (more often in the summer) and I generally prepare them this way.  I don't have a recipe, but here's more or less what I do...

Sauté sliced or chopped onion (I usually use about 1/2 a large Spanish onion), about 10 cloves minced garlic and a few sliced Thai bird (or jalapeno) chilies.  If I don't have fresh chilies I'll just use some red pepper flakes.  Add about 3/4 cup white wine and bring to a simmer.  Add salt and pepper to taste and then add the cleaned mussels.  Turn the burner up to high and stir the mussels around so that they're all coated by the liquid.  Put a lid on the pan and cook for about 4 minutes, stirring about every minute.  Once they're all open, they're done.

I usually serve this with slices of crusty baguette but I decided to make cornbread for a change.  The cornbread recipe was one I found online, to which I added 1 tsp. cayenne pepper to give it a bit of a kick.  It was pretty good and the leftovers went with a vegetarian chili a couple of evenings later.
Mint Chocolate Chip Biscotti

There's a lady in Perry's office who just loves biscotti.  Two or three times a year I bake up a batch for her.  I like to try a different kind each time, so when I decided it was about time to make some more I thought I'd try a new flavour combination.  I used a chocolate chip biscotti recipe, but I used mint flavoured chocolate chips and I also threw in some fresh mint from our garden.  They turned out pretty well, but I think they could have used a touch more salt to contrast with the sweetness.  Otherwise, I'd make them exactly the same way next time.
Here's how I did it...

Mint Chocolate Chip Biscotti

1 cup white or brown sugar
1/2 stick (1/4 cup, 4 tablespoons) of butter, softened
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1 cup mint chocolate chips

Preheat  oven to 350 degrees.
Cream the sugar and butter together in a stand-up mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time and continue to beat for a few more minutes.
Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, mint leaves and salt and add to the mixer. Combine well then stir in the chocolate chips.
Shape the dough into a log, approximately 15 inches long and 4 inches wide. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet flatten slightly and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool for about 5 minutes. 

Biscotti Cooked but not yet sliced

On a cutting board, slice diagonally into 1/2-inch slices and return to the baking sheet. Bake for about fifteen more minutes. 
Turn over and bake for about 5 more minutes.


The Lean Green Bean