Thursday, 25 September 2014

And In The End, The Love You Make Is Equal To The Love You Bake

My family and I had company over and we had a great time having Beef and Black Bean Stew with a lovely red. After dinner, and dessert, we had a wonderful time playing poetry challenge, which inspired me to write  a poem for today's recipe post.

John Keats I am not, but I doubt he could bake a cookie as tasty as I do.

Ode to the Chocolate Chip Cookie

A kitchen of smells and mellow spiciness, 
Close bosom-friend of the delectable bun;
Conspiring with him how to make a mess
With fresh fruit the sugars grow in the warmth of the sun;
To bake with desire, and on our hands and knees, 
And fill all bellies with deliciousness to the core;
To swell the taste buds, and bellies all too well;
With a sweet tooth; to keep eating more,
And still more, later dipped into our teas,
Until the crusty baker decides to cease,
For I have a recipe I have decided to tell. 

Spiced Chocolate Chunk Cookies

2 and a Half Sticks Of Butter, softened
1 Cup of Firmly Packed Brown Sugar
3/4 Cup of White Sugar
2 Eggs
Splash of Vanilla Extract
1/4 Cup of Maple Syrup
3 Cups of Flour
1 Tsp Baking Powder
1/2 Tps of Salt
1/2 Tsp Nutmeg
1/2 Tsp Allspice
1/2 Tsp Cloves
1 Cup of Chopped Semi-Sweet Chocolate

Preheat oven to 325 f. Grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.

Using a stand mixer or electric mixer, beat the butter for 3 minutes. Add sugars and beat for 3 more minutes or until fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla and maple syrup and blend.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and spices and sift together. Add to the butter mixture in two batches. Add chocolate chunks. 

Spoon into your hand and make a ball. Place on baking sheet and flatten. Bake for 9 - 11 minutes.

Serve with Pomegranate Seeds or Orange wedges for garnish.

Makes about 30 cookies.


Wednesday, 24 September 2014

I Ain't Alfredo No Ghosts

Pasta. Who doesn't love it? Well, maybe someone who is gluten intolerant.

Garlic Cream Sauce. Who doesn't love it? Well, maybe someone who is lactose intolerant.

Sausages. Who doesn't love them? Well, maybe a vegetarian.

Mushrooms. I know someone who doesn't love them. And he's 11.

If you are not one of these people, you must try this super easy recipe. Ten minutes prep time, 15 minutes cooking time and an hour of divinity. A great recipe for beginners of cooking and you have guests coming over and you're not sure what to make them. It is a sure fire hit for most guests and kids. Trust me. I've fed this recipe to a ton of people.

This is also something you can make in advance if you're nervous about people watching you or if you're nervous about having everything ready on time. Cook your pasta ahead of time and after draining from the water, toss in a little olive oil to prevent the pasta from sticking together. Heat sauce and toss pasta in the sauce to warm it through. You will see how easy entertaining can be.

Classic Fettuccine Alfredo with Sausages

Half a stick of Butter
2 Medium Sized White Onions, finely diced
3 Garlic Cloves, crushed
Pinch of Nutmeg
50 ml Vodka
500 ml 35% Cream
15 Cremini Mushrooms, sliced
Juice of a Half a Lemon
5 Smoked Sausages, sliced in half and cut into half moons
2 (more!!)Garlic Cloves,
Parmigiana Cheese to taste (for garnish)
1 Package of Fettuccine (I like Barilla)
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a tall stock pot, bring water and 1 tbs. salt to a rapid boil.

In a frying pan, melt half the butter until frothy. Add onions and garlic, and cook for five minutes. Add vodka and allow to deglaze your pan. Add cream and bring to a boil, stirring often. Remove from heat. Liquefy in a blender and hold.

Melt remainder of butter in the same pan. Add mushrooms and garlic and cook for 10 minutes. Add lemon juice and smoked sausages and cook for 1 minute. Add cream puree and bring to a slight boil and hold. Since sausages are cooked, they only need to be heated through.

Add pasta and follow manufacturer's instructions. Drain and toss with cream sauce. Garnish with cheese and add salt and pepper to taste.


Serves 4 - 6

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

I Recommend You Fight Off Disease However You Cancer

Today's recipe was the product of a class I taught this evening at the Gloucester Loblaws Cooking School. It was very simple and was well received. Thanks to all those who attended,including my wife and son who were kind enough to attend and offer support and attention. I hope to see you all again. The original recipe had potatoes as a thickening agent for the soup but we changed it to parsnips and I preferred this final product much more. It added a touch of sweetness and depth to the flavours.

During the class, Donna, the coordinator of the cooking school, offered many of her own tidbits of knowledge. She is one of the most informative people I know when it comes to the nutritional benefits of all types of food. I continue to marvel at her knowledge every time we have a class together.

And so: broccoli is high in dietary fiber and vitamin C. Which I knew.  But it also has many anti-cancer properties - which can be lost if overcooked. Which is fine with me. I like lightly blanched broccoli in lightly salted water as a side veg. And so she told the class that broccoli fights off cancer cells and helps DNA repair. How does one know this stuff off the crown of one's head?

And red peppers? She said green peppers are anemic compared to the nutritional value of the red pepper. Which works for me since they taste so much better. They contain high amount of vitamin C which is very coolis, but it is the anti-oxidants that are really beneficial. I may need to bring a notepad to all the classes we teach together. I shall call it "Who Knew-tricioius?"

Broccoli and Leek Soup with Red Pepper Coulis

Drizzle of Vegetable for frying
3 Cooking Onions, roughly chopped
1 Leek, thoroughly washed and roughly chopped
3 Parsnips, peeled, cut into chunks
3 Cloves of Garlic
Pinch of Dried Marjoram and Oregano
2 Bunches of Broccoli, cut into crowns
2 L Vegetable or Chicken Stock
1 Stick of Butter, cold, cut into cubes
Dollop of Greek Yogurt
Salt and Pepper to taste

Red Pepper Coulis

3 Bell Peppers
Drizzle of Oil
Salt and Pepper to Taste

In a soup pot, heat oil on medium heat. Cook onion and parsnips for 5 minutes. Add leek and garlic and herb blend. Cook for 2 - 3 minutes. Add broccoli and cook for 1 minute. Add stock. Bring to a rapid boil for 1 minute. Reduce to half boil and cook for 15 - 20 minutes.

Reduce heat to simmer and puree. Add butter and whisk in.

For Red Pepper Coulis, coat peppers in oil. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and roast for 10 - 15 minutes or until charred. Place into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to steam for 10 minutes. Remove from bowl and remove char from peppers and remove seeds. Puree and season to taste.

Garnish with yogurt and drizzle of coulis.

Serves 8 - 10

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Feeling Grill At Ease

Feeling like a simple meal? A grilled cheese sandwich is as simple it can get; yet no other sandwich has as many possible variations. Have it for breakfast, lunch, dinner or midnight snack. There is no wrong time for a grilled cheese sandwich. Have it with a coffee or juice or beer or even wine. Imagine what wine you can have with a Grilled Gorgonzola and Bresaola Sandwich.

I had some leftover bacon grease, jalapeno bread, monterey jack cheese, cranberry and rhubarb sauce in the fridge and I thought, "That will result in 6 heavenly bites." Obviously you can make any alterations as you like, but this really came together well.

A little tip when making grilled cheese: I like to lightly fry the cheese in the pan to cut the edge off the cheese. Once you add it to the bread, be sure the cheese is fully melted.

The temperature of your stove top can range from medium-low to medium, depending on your pan and elements. I'm sure you already know the temp you need to make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. If you do not, start with medium low and allow your bread to brown.

I like using cast iron for grilled cheese. I swear to you it makes a huge difference in the flavour and it adds to the rustic quality of your food. If you don't own one, either buy one or ask your grandmother for hers.

Grilled Monterey Jack Sandwich with Cilantro and Cranberry

2 Tbs of Butter (but I used bacon fat leftover from breakfast)
4 Slices of Jalapeno Cheese Bread
4 Slices of Monterey Jack Cheese (it was about 80 g for people who weigh)
2 Tbs. Cranberry Sauce or Peach Preserve
10 Leaves of Cilantro, ripped into small pieces
Tabasco Sauce to Taste (I used 5 - 6 drops and it had enough heat for me)

Heat cast iron pan skillet on your stove top at medium to medium-low heat.

Spread fat on one side of the bread. Spread cranberry sauce and Tabasco sauce on one side of the opposite side of the bread. Lay greased side down on hot pan. Sprinkle ripped cilantro on bread and add cheese. Allow to brown for 2 minutes. Close the sandwich and allow cheese to melt.

Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Serves 2.

A Humble Chef's tip: some pork with this would be nice, but then again we did use bacon grease to brown the bread. It really adds a nice smoky flavour. 

How To Propose A French Toast.

For my daughter's 13th birthday, she asked for a homemade breakfast: Classic French Toast with Bacon and Grilled Pineapples. Oh, a girl after my own heart. Well...I am her father and she already owns my heart, but asking for such a simple yet irresistible meal certainly doesn't  hurt.

Firstly, I won't provide a recipe for bacon. But I will tell you that the best way to cook bacon is to cook it in the oven and not stove top. On a baking sheet lined with parchment, line the sheet with bacon slightly overlapping. Place into oven preheated to 325 F and cook for approximately 20 minutes, or to to desired doneness/crispiness. Remove from the oven and drain the rendered bacon fat into a heat-proof glass. You may keep the fat for other uses such as frying home fries. If you do discard it, do not run it down your sink. Place it into your organic waste.

We always use McCutcheon's MapleSyrup - a fantastic maple syrup and highly recommended to anyone who travels near Orillia or Mount St. Louis-Moonstone. The uses of maple syrup are limitless and enjoyable. The obvious ones are dessert toppings or even a glaze for a main course. Not so obvious is to use the sugar to make Gravlax combined with Canadian Whiskey. Di-effin-vine.

This is a meal for anytime of the day but I can't think of much that exceeds the warmth and comfort of waking up on a Sunday morning, preparing French Toast with bacon and fresh fruit while listening to Classical music with my family. Does it get better?

Classic French Toast with Bacon, Grilled Pineapples with Lemon-Pineapple Smoothie

For the French Toast:

1 Loaf of Italian Bread or Egg Bread, cut into near inch slices
5 eggs, whipped
50 ml Milk
Pinch of Preferred Spices, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, whatever you like
1 Tbs. of Brown Sugar
Butter or Bacon Grease to cook

Lay out bread slices on a baking sheet for 10 minutes to allow to dry out.

In a bowl, combine eggs, milk, spices and brown sugar. Whip to combine.

On your stove top, set heat to medium or just under. Heat choice of fat for 5 seconds. Dip bread into egg wash and fry for 90 seconds per side.

Serve immediately. If you have much to cook, place in baking dish and place into a hot oven to re-heat before serving.

Top with butter and maple syrup.

Serves 4 - 6

For the bacon:

12 Slices of Bacon

Preheat oven to 325 f.

Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay out bacon slightly overlapping. Cook bacon for 20 - 25 minutes.

Drain fat and hold bacon in warm oven.

Serves 4.

For the smoothie:

1 L Lemonade
1 Peach, cut into chunks
3 - 4 Strawberries, washed and hulled
1/4 Pineapple, peeled and cored
Splash of Maple Syrup
3-4 Ice Cubes

In a blender, combine all ingredients and puree for 30 seconds.

Serves 4.

For the grilled pineapples:

3/4 Pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into slices
Drizzle of Canola Oil
Pinch of Smoked Paprika

Heat grill. Grill Pineapples. Hold with bacon.


Serves 4.

A Humble Chef's Tip: 200 f is standard warming temperature. You can hold the breakfast for up to 30 in a warm oven before serving. 

Friday, 19 September 2014

Give It Up For Lentils

I saw lentils in my cupboard last night. I've had them in my cupboard for a while and I found them and thought, "Huh. Haven't cooked you for a while. What the heck?" What a pleasant surprise. On so many levels.

I bought them due to their nutritious properties. And my, lentils own a lot of properties. Protein is the major tenant along with dietary fiber. My dietitian told me of the high protein real estate value and highly recommended them to me due to my cholesterol issues. Along with the low cost (a few bucks for a bag) and simplicity of the legume, I have decided to add lentils to my monthly grocery shopping.

And, much to my surprise, my home and native land is the world's top producer of this venerable food. So, what the heck? I made a batch last night and the family (and guest) loved the end result. So simple. So easy. So healthy. I didn't presoak overnight, but I thoroughly rinsed them and soaked for an hour. Seemed to do the trick.

I have a theory about the hesitation of the consumption of the lentil, texture. It's different than beans and not everyone loves the texture. After mixing it with Basmati rice and some yogurt, even my skeptical daughter offered praise to lentils. What the heck?

Curried Green Lentils with Peaches and Apples

Dab of Butter
250 g Green Lentils, rinsed and soaked for an hour
750 ml Vegetable Stock
1 Spanish Onion, diced
1 Carrot, diced
1 Stalk of Celery, diced
2 Macintosh Apples, grated
2 Peaches, cored and cut into chunks
Pinch of Ginger
1 Tbs. Curry Powder
Splash of Soy Sauce
1 Tbs Honey
1 Tbs.Chili Sauce

In a sauce pan, heat butter. Add onion, celery, carrot, curry and ginger and saute for 4 minutes. Add grated apples and peaches and cook for another 4 minutes. Add lentils and stock. Bring to a boil and cover. Stir occasionally. let cook for 30 or until preferred doneness. Add soy sauce, chili sauce and honey and adjust to taste.

Serve with Rice Pilaf.

Serves 6.

A Humble Chef's Tip: if lentils are too wet, drain and keep liquid. Heat to reduce and add to the lentils and rice.