Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Easy Peasy Chicken Dinner for the Truly Exhausted

Miles to go before you sleep?
We all want the same thing. A fairly gourmet dinner with little to no work would be nice right about now, wouldn't it?
Turn on the oven, get out some rice, this meal is going to take care of itself.
Now if only we could apply this principle to the housecleaning....
Easy Peasy Chicken Dinner for the Truly Exhausted
4 chicken breasts, on the bone
Winter Vegetables - peeled, cored, and cut into large bite sized pieces
feel free to make even more, for the true veggie lovers
2 large beets
1 large fennel bulb (cut off the fingers - they are a little wooly inside)
1 large purple onion
1 small butternut squash
2 lemons, 1 sliced thin, 1 for juice
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Cracked black pepper
Drizzle of chicken broth (optional)
Feta cheese
Preheat the oven to 400f.
Line a jellyroll pan with foil.
Spread veggies out into a single layer in the centre of the pan.
Drizzle with olive oil and chicken broth, sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Toss lightly.
Top with chicken breasts. Drizzle lemon juice over chicken and veggies. Apply olive oil, salt and pepper to chicken breasts and cover with thinly sliced lemons.
Roast until cooked through - about 40 minutes.
I pulled the pan out after 30 minutes to lift the chicken up and give the veggies a stir, in case the ones on the edges were cooking faster than the ones in the middle.
Serve with rice and feta. Chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, dill or chives would be nice too.
*Don't try to convince yourself that you don't like one or more of these veggies. When they are roasted they get caramelized and are sweet like candy. The foil is important as all the sugar in the veggies makes for difficult pan cleaning - and we don't want that, do we?
Plus - colour equals nutrients in veggies. Eat the rainbow!
*Beets are used for their detoxifying properties and are a great source of folate, which is so necessary for healthy fetal development and for a healthy cardiovascular system. -
*Butternut squash is a well-balanced food source that is rich in complex carbohydrates and low in saturated fat and sodium. It is a very good source of vitamins A and C and a good source of beta-carotene, magnesium, manganese, calcium and potassium. - Eat the Seasons
*Fennel is an excellent source of vitamin C. It is also a very good of dietary fiber, potassium, manganese, folate, and molybdenum. In addition, fennel is a good source of niacin as well as the minerals phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron, and copper. -WHFoods
*To get the pretty shape of your rice, just oil a ramekin with olive oil, pack it with cooked rice, and invert it onto the plate. Garnish with an herb, if you desire.
The rice I used was jasmine, cooked in chicken broth for a rich and buttery accompaniment.
*Covering the chicken with the lemon slices helps keep it from getting too dry while roasting, as well as adding flavour. Keeping the skin on will also help keep it moist.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Tall and Creamy Cheesecake

Tuesday is the sweetest day.

This week in Tuesdays with Dorie, Anne of AnneStrawberry chose Tall and Creamy Cheesecake on pages 235-237 of Dorie Greenspan's ultimate baking book - Baking: from my home to yours. Please visit Anne's site, today's date, for the recipe.
I do loves me some cheesecake. The moist richness, light and pillowy - that's for me.
I made this for Christmas dessert, along with little brownies shaped like wreaths for the picky boys.
Lemon zest and juice flavoured the cheesecake, and jarred sour cherries graced the top for extra tartness to contrast the richness of the cheesecake. It was light and mousse-like and a hit after the big dinner.
I found I didn't care for the texture of the leftover cheesecake the next day, it seemed to be a little granular to me. Hubby didn't find this at all and was happy to dispatch it forthwith. Yes, he finished the whole thing, but I did happen to make a half cake.
Stay tuned next week, when half the world makes a pear tart. Just one step closer to world peace...
Addicted to
Tyler Florence Fridays yet? Come play with us in this brand new cooking group where you decide which Tyler Florence recipe to make each week. Choose, create and share - round-up every Friday on the TFF blogsite.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Hot Cross Buns

I have to admit, until I baked these, I had never even tried hot cross buns. They were something that I always wanted to bake though, so when Bread Baking Day #15 announced festive or traditional breads - I knew it would be the perfect time to make them.
I have since learned that they are associated more with Easter and Lent than the New Year, but I think they make for a wonderful winter breakfast with clementines and hot coffee or cocoa.

I opted to replace the candied orange peel with chopped dried apricot, not being a huge lover of candied peel. I think this recipe is pretty forgiving with substitutions.
The aroma of the sweet, spicy rolls in the oven is pure heaven, I simply cannot stop eating them. I will definitely have to make more soon.
My only trouble? I temporarily lost all ability to count or perform rudimentary math skills. To get the 12 pieces - first I cut in a grid and got 9, (and didn't notice until they were all nicely rolled). Then I smushed them back together and did it again and got 16. Finally I rolled the pieces together and got 8. The rolls would have been happier (and rounder) with less fooling around. The 8 made for a nice size, I'm not complaining.

Hot Cross Buns - A Baker's Tour, Nick Malgieri
For Bread Baking Day #15, Festive Breads, hosted by Annarasa: Essence of Food

1/2 cup milk
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour

1 2/3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp each ground cinnamon, ground cloves, ground nutmeg, and ground ginger
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened, cut into 10 pieces
1 large egg
2/3 cup currants
1/4 cup finely diced candied citron or orange peel (I used dried apricot)

2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp water

2/3 cups confectioners sugar
2 tsp water

1 cookie sheet or jelly roll pan, lined with parchment

1. For the sponge, heat the milk to lukewarm, no more than 110f. Pour warm milk into a medium bowl and whisk in the yeast. Use a rubber spatula to stir in the flour, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the sponge ferment until it is bubbly, about 15-20 minutes.

2. Once the sponge is ready, prepare the dough. Combine the flour, sugar, salt, and spices int he bowl of an electric mixer and stir well to mix. Place on the mixer with the paddle attachment and add the butter. Mix until the butter is finely worked in, about 2 minutes.

3. Remove the bowl from the mixer and scrape in the sponge. Add the egg and return to the mixer with the paddle. Mix on lowest speed for 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes.

4. Mix the dough again on medium speed until it is smooth and elastic, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to lowest and add the currants and candied fruit. Mix until they are evenly distributed throughout the dough.

5. Scrape the dough into a buttered bowl and turn the dough over so that the top is buttered. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise until it is doubled in size about 1 hour.

6. Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and press it into a rough square. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces with a knife of bench scraper.

7. Round each piece by pressing it under the palm of your hand as you rotate your hand around the dough. Arrange the buns on the prepared pan and press a cross into the top of each bun with the back of the blade of a table knife. Cover the pan with a towel or buttered plastic wrap and allow the buns to rise until they are almost doubled, about 45 minutes.

8. About 15 minutes before the buns are completely risen, set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375f.

9. Bake the buns until they are deep golden and feel light, about 15-20 minutes. just before the buns are finished baking, bring the sugar and water for the glaze to a boil. Brush the glaze on the buns as soon as they come out of the oven.

10. Slide the paper from the pan to a rack to cool the buns.

11. For the icing, combine the confectioners' sugar and water in a small saucepan and stir well to mix. Place over low heat, and stir until the icing is just warm to the touch. Scrape the icing into a paper cone or a small plastic bag and snip the corner. Pipe a cress on the top of each cooled bun, following the indentation made before baking. Let the icing dry for 30 minutes before serving.

This bread is Yeastspotted!

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Turkey Pot Pie with Onion Sage Dressing

Got turkey?
Yesterday I used up the last of the Christmas turkey with this pot pie that tastes much like a Christmas dinner. If you still have cranberry sauce left, I would serve it with it.
This recipe could easily be altered to chicken pot pie, just use cooked chicken and chicken broth instead of turkey.
The weather is playing tricks on us, this is comfort food to help you stay cozy and warm and forget about the occasional cruelty of Mother Nature.

Turkey Pot Pie with Onion Sage Dressing - Pot Pies, Diane Phillips
This book was given to me by a previous co-worker who would surprise me with books from her own cookbook shelf with loving inscriptions. They make me smile whenever I read them.

Turkey Filling
3 tbsp butter
1 cup sliced mushrooms
3 tbsp all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups turkey broth
2 cups cut-up cooked turkey
1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup finely diced carrot
1 tsp chopped fresh sage, or 1/2 tsp dried
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 recipe Onion Sage Dressing - below
2 tbsp melted butter
In a 2-quart saucepan, melt the butter. Add the mushrooms and saute until they give off some of their liquid, about 4-6 minutes. Sprinkle the mushroom with the flour and stir until the flour is cooked and small bubbles form on the bottom of the pan, about 2-3 minutes. Gradually whisk in the broth, stirring until smooth. When the broth begins to boil, reduce the heat and stir in the turkey, peas, carrot, and sage. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 375f. Make the dressing
Place the turkey mixture in a 3 quart or 13x9 inch casserole dish, cover it with the dressing and sprinkle the top with melted butter. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until the dressing is golden brown and the turkey filling is bubbly.
Onion Sage Dressing
4 tbsp butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 tsp fresh sage leaves, minced, or 1/2 tsp dried
1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, or 1/4 tsp dried
4 cups dry French bread, coarse crumbs
1/2 cup turkey broth
In a saute pan, melt the butter and add the onion, celery, sage, and thyme. Saute for about 3 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Place the bread crumbs in a mixing bowl. Add the onion-celery mixture and toss well. Add some of the broth, a few tablespoons at a time, to moisten the bread crumbs. If you like your dressing moist, add all of the broth; if you like it drier, add just enough to suit your taste.

Mmmmm, turkey pot pie for Souper Sunday.
Can you say comfort food? Join Deb from Kahakai Kitchen with your souper creations.

Addicted to Tyler Florence Fridays yet? Come play with us in this brand new cooking group where you decide which Tyler Florence recipe to make each week. Choose, create and share - round-up every Friday on the TFF blogsite.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Savoury Salmon Yule Wreath - Baking with the Babes

Ah, baking bread again with the most fabulous babes I know... The Bread Baking Babes.
This month Cookie Baker Lynn chose a Yule Wreath for a seasonal offering to the bread goddesses. She kindly gave the option of savoury or sweet for the bread, so I picked savoury and served it with brie and bubbly on Christmas Eve.

It was good, very good. The recipe was blissfully quick for the season and the leftovers made for an excellent breakfast.
I am proud to be a Buddy to the Babes.

Yule Wreath- adapted from Betty Crocker's International Cookbook
This is the original recipe as posted on Lynn's site, I made a savoury filling which is below. I also reduced the sugar in the dough to 1 tbsp. to adapt for the savoury filling.

1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 deg. F)
3/4 cup lukewarm milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp salt
3-1/4 to 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Almond Filling (below)
*Glaze (also below)

1-Dissolve yeast in warm water in large bowl. Stir in milk, sugar, margarine, egg, cardamom, salt and 2 cups of the flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle.

2-Turn dough onto lightly floured surface: knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Place in greased bowl; turn greased side up. Cover and let rise in warm place until double, 1 to 1-1/2 hours.

3-Prepare Almond Filling-Mix together until smooth:1/2 cup almond paste1/4 cup packed brown sugar1/4 cup softened butter

4- Punch down the dough. Roll into rectangle, 15 x 9-inches, on a lightly floured surface. Spread with the filling to within 1/4-inch of the edges. (I don't think my butter was soft enough as my filling didn't spread. I took bits of it, flattened it between my fingers and pressed that onto the dough.) Roll up tightly, beginning at the wide side. Pinch edge of dough into roll to seal well. Stretch roll to make even. With sealed edge down, shape into ring on lightly greased cookie sheet. Pinch ends together.

5- With scissors or kitchen shears, make cuts 2/3 of the way through the ring at 1-inch intervals. Turn each section on it's side (90 degree turn), to show off the pretty swirled filling. Cover loosely with plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray. Let rise until double, about 40 to 50 minutes.

6- Heat oven to 350 deg. F. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. (If it browns too quickly, cover loosely with aluminum foil.)

7 - Make Glaze
Mix until smooth:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp water
1/2 tsp vanilla(add additional water 1/2 tsp at a time, if necessary)

8- Spread Glaze over the wreath. You can decorate your wreath with nuts, dried fruit, marzipan fruit, or whatever strikes your fancy.
* If almond paste is not available, or if you fall down in the aisle at the grocery store when you see the price, you can make your own. In a food processor finely grind 8 oz blanched almonds. Process in 8 oz powdered sugar. Then knead in 1 egg white. Store in the refrigerator.

My Savoury Salmon Filling

Olive oil

1/2 lb. boneless, skinless salmon fillet, chopped into half inch pieces

1 medium onion, sliced thin2 cloves garlic, minced

1 head kale or chard, chopped

4 oz. cream cheese, cut into small pieces

2 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces

2 jarred roasted red peppers, chopped

In a saute pan, heat up some olive oil and saute the salmon until just cooked through. Put salmon aside on a plate. In same pan, add a little more olive oil and onions. Cook on medium until soft and beginning to colour. Add garlic, cook one more minute and add kale. Stir and let wilt down. Add cream cheese and butter and stir until combined. Add red peppers and salmon, let heat through together, remove from heat and let cool to almost room temperature. Use as filling for Yule Wreath - omit glaze.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired.
This bread has been Yeastspotted!

Friday, 26 December 2008

Tyler's Ultimate Spaghetti and Meatballs

Wow! Is it Boxing Day already? Poor hubby is back to work and I am home playing board games and eating leftovers with the kids. One of my favourite Christmas toys (keeping in mind that my kids are teens) was Bananagrams, a spin-off of Scrabble, that my youngest received in his stocking. We played into the wee hours of the morning and I am reigning champion - thank you, thank you very much.
Much food was eaten, many naps taken - a very relaxing Christmas indeed.
I hope that you and yours had a wonderful Christmas day - whether you celebrate or just enjoy the holiday.
Tyler Florence Friday has snuck up on us this week, but I planned ahead and made this dish a few days ago: Tyler's Ultimate Spaghetti and Meatballs. We actually had mixed reviews on this dish. I loved the pasta, as did hubby, but wasn't such a big fan of the meatballs. My son and hubby loved the meatballs, however, so I was in the minority on this one. I think that I just don't like big, soft meatballs. I am so used to the way I do them, small and firm, that I have developed a definite preference for them that way.
The recipe calls for 3 pounds of meat - and makes 10 meatballs. They would be the size of softballs! I used my muffin sized scoop and got closer to thirty large meatballs. I still have lots left and they are destined to be pizza topping for tonight.
I would say that for meat lovers, the recipe is a success. Pasta people like me might like a less meat-focused dish. Which category do you fall into?

Tyler's Ultimate Spaghetti and Meatballs
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 cup milk
4 thick slices firm white bread, crust removed
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 1/2 pounds ground pork
1 large egg
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cups heated Pomodoro Sauce, recipe follows, or good quality jarred tomato sauce
1/2 pound mozzarella cheese, cut into chunks
Leaves from 3 sprigs fresh basil
1 pound spaghetti

Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil for the spaghetti. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in an ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and parsley and cook until the vegetables are soft but still translucent, about 10 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and let cool. Pour enough milk over the bread in a bowl to moisten and let it soak while the onions are cooling. Combine the meats in a large bowl. Add the egg and Parmigiano and season generously with salt and pepper. Use your hands to squeeze the excess milk out of the bread and add that to the bowl along with the cooled onion mixture. (Hang onto the pan - you'll need it to cook the meatballs.) Gently combine all the ingredients with your hands or with a spoon until just mixed together. Don't overwork or the meatballs will be tough. Divide into 10 equal pieces and shape them into 10 nice looking meatballs. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Heat a 3-count of oil in the frying pan over medium heat and brown the meatballs on all sides, about 10 minutes. Put them into a baking dish and spoon about half of the tomato sauce over. Shower with the mozzarella and drizzle with olive oil. Put the meatballs in the oven and bake until the meatballs are cooked through, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in the boiling water until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and put it onto a large serving platter. Pour on the rest of the sauce and mix well. Spoon the meatballs on top of the spaghetti and garnish with basil leaves. Serve immediately along with extra cheese.

Pomodoro Sauce:
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes, drained and crushed by hand, liquid reserved
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the vegetables are soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Carefully add the tomatoes (nothing splashes like tomatoes) and about 1/2 cup of the reserved liquid and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the sauce is thick, about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring for a few minutes with a wooden spoon to further break up the tomatoes. Reduce the heat and let simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Stir in the fresh basil and season again.
Yield: 4 cups

Addicted to
Tyler Florence Fridays yet? Come play with us in this brand new cooking group where you decide which Tyler Florence recipe to make each week. Choose, create and share - round-up every Friday on the TFF blogsite.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Snowed in for Christmas

This may be one of the whiter Christmases North America has seen in a while. I thought I might celebrate with snowflakes! This cookie recipe is spicy and delicious and fun to decorate - get the family involved in the decorating or give them as gifts. Unlike Santa and Christmas trees, snowflakes don't go out of style after boxing day.

Gingerbread Snowflake Cookies - Martha Stewart
Makes 16 cookies .
I got closer to 40 cookies, as I used smaller cookie cutters.
6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon finely ground pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 large eggs
1 cup unsulfured molasses
Royal Icing
Fine sanding sugar, for sprinkling

Sift together flour, baking soda, and baking powder into a large bowl. Set aside.
Put butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until fluffy. Mix in spices and salt, then eggs and molasses. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Divide dough into thirds; wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough on a lightly floured work surface to a 1/4-inch thick. Cut into snowflakes with a 7- inch snowflake-shape cookie cutter. Space 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.
Bake cookies until crisp but not dark, 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.
Put icing in a pastry bag fitted with a small plain round tip (such as Ateco #7). Pipe designs on snowflakes; immediately sprinkle with sanding sugar. Let stand 5 minutes; tap off excess sugar. Let icing set completely at room temperature, about 1 hour. Store cookies between layers of parchment in an airtight container at room temperature up to 5 days.
More snow!
Snowflake Pretzels
Being the bread fiend that I am, I also made these snowflake shaped pretzels from Bread Blog. They are fun to make and taste great - I used sweet chili sauce rather than the pepper jelly, which was sticky but really tasty. They aren't technically pretzels as they are not boiled with lye or baking soda before baking but are very tasty nonetheless. Click here for the recipe.

Snow or no snow, I wish you peace, warmth and happiness for the holidays and the coming new year.
And have yourself a merry little Christmas.......

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Butterscotch Pudding and a Cognac 'n' Cream Cappuccino - Treats for Grown-Ups!

Tuesday is the sweetest day.

Today in Tuesdays with Dorie, Donna of Spatulas, Corkscrews & Suitcases chose Real Butterscotch Pudding on page 386 of Dorie Greenspan's Baking: from my home to yours. (Makes a great Christmas gift!) Please see Donna's site for the butterscotch pudding recipe - today's date.
I really enjoyed this butterscotch pudding, you could really taste the scotch, and I don't usually say that about pudding.
There was a fast flurry of activity to make it, I would suggest having all the components measured and ready before you begin.
This is another one of Dorie's recipes that takes good advantage of the food processor, but you had best have a big one! My 14 cup bigmouth was just big enough for when the hot liquids were whirring around.
A very adult tasting pudding, hubby gave it two thumbs up.
Hubby also made some festive coffees to complete our evening, he is the proud owner of a Breville Cast Metal Espresso Maker that he loves. (Given to him by yours truly, good wife that I am!) He loves the process of grinding his own beans and making espressos every morning before he goes to work. Between the coffee and the wine, he is pretty much typecast for Christmas gifts.

Cognac 'n Cream Cappuccino - from Cappuccino Cocktails, Susan M. Zimmer
Elegant, yet so easy to make
4 oz. milk
2 oz. hot fresh espresso
1/2 oz. cognac
1/2 oz. Bailey's Irish Cream

Froth milk until doubled in volume, foamed and frothy.
Pour espresso into a cappuccino mug.
Dollop foamed milk over espresso in mug.
Add cognac and Bailey's and stir gently.
Serve immediately.

Enjoy! And keep warm. Happy Holidays!

Monday, 22 December 2008

Cranberry Banana Mini-Loaves

I love fresh, tart cranberries in a dense, sweet banana bread. It perks up a comforting old friend and acts as a great foil for the heaviness of banana.
The temperatures have plummeted again, it is too cold to snow for the time being. A perfect day to stay home with a cup of tea and some banana bread.... don't you think?

Banana Cranberry Mini-Loaves - adapted from Company's Coming Muffins and More
I like to make banana bread in mini forms as I find it bakes more evenly than in regular loaf form.

1/2 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
3 mashed, ripe bananas
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup fresh or frozen whole cranberries
Pre-heat oven to 350f.

Cream butter and sugar together. Beat in eggs one at a time, beating until smooth. Add mashed banana and blend in.

In a second bowl, stir flour with baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add to banana mixture stirring only to moisten. Gently fold in cranberries. Transfer to greased mini loaf pans or muffin tins. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool on racks.

I got 9 mini loaves from this recipe, the amount you get will depend on how large your tins are, adjust baking times accordingly.

For all my cold weather companions - 'tis the season to go through your cupboards and donate all your old coats, hats, mitts, scarves, blankets and sleeping bags to the nearest city shelter. Baby, it's cold outside. Help keep someone warm.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Souper Sunday and a Product Review

Here we are burried knee deep in snow, higher in the drifts and snowbanks, on the first day of winter. It was a balmy minus 5 today, after our severe cold alert yesterday, and the blowing snow has kicked up again.

Time for a little soup, don't you think? Carrot soup with harissa, to be exact.

I enjoyed this recipe, although I found the amount of liquid to be more than what was needed. I also more than doubled the spices. Otherwise it would be a fairly mild soup. I had some harissa left from my tajine last week and loved it in the soup. Served on the side, people can spice it up how they like. I did add a little chiffonade of baby spinach, for colour.

Carrot Soup with Harissa - Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, Deborah Madison
2 tbsp butter or olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 pound carrots, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
3 tbsp white rice
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper
7 cups vegetable stock (or chicken)

In a soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, bay leaf, parsley, and rice; cook to soften the onion, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Add the spices, 1/2 tsp salt, and some pepper and cook 5 minutes longer. Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 25 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and puree with an immersion blender.
Garnish with harissa.

I made this soup with some cheddar and scallion cornbread, but wasn't thrilled with the recipe. For a better recipe, click here.
Feeling souper? Join Deb from Kahakai Kitchen for Souper Sundays, see her site for details.

Product Review

Oral B Electric Toothbrushes

Ok, I am a nerd.

Writing online, I get offered the odd product to try. Some I do and some I don’t – depending if they have anything to do with my life and/or interests.
But when I was given the opportunity to try new electric toothbrushes, I was excited. What does this have to do with food? Well, maybe not much – although with the red wine, coffee and desserts we love so much – having a good toothcare system isn’t a bad thing!
The main reason I was excited was personal though. I have way too many teeth packed in my little mouth – yes I said little mouth, don’t snicker! I didn’t have the good sense to have my wisdom teeth taken out when I was young and the occasional pressure from my closely packed teeth, coupled with my fun habits of clenching and grinding, leave me with aches in my jaw and gums.
The thought of a toothbrush that would massage said abused gums? Oh yes, that’s for me.
I got to try two different products from Oral B. The fancy bells-and-whistles Triumph with Smart Guide and the less fancy, but more affordable, Vitality Pro-White.

Oral B Triumph with Smart Guide – teaches you how to take care of your teeth.
It is shareable as it has a built-on container for extra heads on the charging base. I think you would not want to share with too many family members, maybe good for a couple. The coloured rings on the extra heads are at the bottom, and not visible until you remove them from the storage case.

Whe wireless timer times your toothbrushing session to two minutes – the recommended time. I didn’t realize that I tend to brush my teeth for far too long. The timer is divided into quadrants, 30 seconds each. After the 30 seconds the toothbrush gives a little stutter to let you know to go on to the next quadrant. At the end of two minutes a smiley face appears on the screen. If you go on too long after that, it winks at you. If you stop the toothbrush, it will suspend the timer for up to 30 seconds and continue when you press on again. The timer reverts to being a 12 or 24 hour clock when not in use, which I liked.

There are different modes, regular, gentle, massage and polish – as well as many different kinds of heads you can buy. There are 12 different kinds of replacement heads available, I am sure not all toothcare aisles will carry all 12, but not all 12 are for each product - you will have to read the back of the packaging. We bought a set of 3 gentle ones for $18.99 Canadian, so just over $6 each and they are good for 3 months each. I have seen the others for as high as $29.99 for 3 at Bed, Bath and Beyond.

There is an indicating timer to let you know when to replace the heads but it won’t be much use if you are switching between heads like we are.
The Triumph can hold a charge for two weeks of regular, one person use and comes with a travel case.

It has a sensor to let you know if you are brushing too hard – good for hubby. Apparently many people brush too hard and that is a large contributor to gum loss.

The toothbrush took a little getting used to, I was changing modes when I wanted to stop the first couple of times, but I got used to it fairly quickly.

Hubby and I had different opinions about how deep it went between teeth. As I was the primary tester, I got the flossing head and I loved it. He has been using the regular gentle head and, although he loves it, thinks it doesn’t get deep enough between his teeth. He also has less teeth than I do, spaced further apart, so our experiences are different. *Interesting to note, too, that he is the one who has been brushing too hard. You really do learn a lot about your brushing style with this product.

Oral B Vitality Pro-White
This one is a little more streamlined. Has a rubberized grip, is easy to hang on to, and not as bulky as the Triumph.
It came with a polishing cup for whitening, as well as the oscillating action for regular cleaning. Obviously, if you replace the head with a different one, the cleaning mode will change.
It is far less expensive than the Triumph, but seems as powerful. This one doesn’t teach you how to brush, but it is a good toothbrush. A good value for the money, I think.

For both of them I learned pretty quickly to put the toothpaste on and put it in my mouth before turning on or the toothpaste will fly off!
Both felt powerful and felt like they cleaned much better and deeper than manual toothbrushing.
One drawback for some - they each resemble a weapon without the head on them, there is a metal spike that the head fits on. I wouldn’t suggest this product for children or dangerous criminals, but think it is a great product for adults, many of us who complacently think we are doing a good job on our teeth.

I found that I have been more excited about brushing my teeth, I don’t know if it is more the novelty or the nice, clean, massaged feeling I am left with – but I like it.

For more info go to
*One interesting fact - when I worked in a department store in a previous life, the electric toothbrushes were one of the hot items for theft in the holidays. Go figure.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Linguine with Lemon, Garlic and Thyme Mushrooms and Salmon and Chard en Papillote

I love reading Nigella Lawson's cookbooks. She writes like she talks, lyrically and with great humour. This pasta dish is from Nigella Express, a book dedicated to recipes that require very little hands-on prep time - good for weeknights and parties alike.
I let the marinated mushrooms sit for a little longer than Nigella did, and was very happy with the strong, bright flavours. If you like big flavour, I suggest you also let the marinated shrooms sit for an hour or more.

Linguine with Lemon, Garlic and Thyme Mushrooms - Nigella Lawson, Nigella Express

8 ounces/4 cups finely sliced cremini mushrooms
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Maldon/kosher salt
Small clove garlic, minced (I used two)
1 lemon, zested and juiced
4 sprigs fresh thyme stripped to give 1 teaspoon leaves
1 pound linguine
1 bunch fresh parsley, leaves chopped, to give 1/2 cup
2 to 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

Slice the mushrooms finely, and put them into a large bowl with the oil, salt, minced garlic, lemon juice and zest, and gorgeously scented thyme leaves.
Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions and drain loosely retaining some water. Quickly put the pasta into the bowl with the mushroom mixture.
Toss everything together well, and then add the parsley, cheese and pepper before tossing again. Eat with joy in your heart. (Don't you just love that?)

Salmon and Chard en Papillote
You can adjust the amounts to number of servings and taste.

Chard, washed and chopped. (No need to thoroughly dry, a little water is beneficial to the cooking process. Just shake out after washing.)
Olive oil
Lemon pepper
Garlic, minced
Salmon fillets, boneless and skinless
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
Lemon slices

This is a dish I just threw together to go with the pasta. I was very happy with how it turned out. For each boneless, skinless fillet; I put down a large piece of foil topped with a large piece of parchment paper. The size will depend on the size of your fillet but you want to be able to wrap it and the other ingredients up and have enough left for a few folds on top. The foil is to hold the parchment parcel together.
Preheat your oven to 400.
On the parchment, put down a big pile of chopped chard - it will wilt down quite a bit. Season with lemon pepper, thyme, dill and garlic. Drizzle with olive oil.
Top with a salmon fillet, season with kosher salt and fresh black pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and top with lemon slices. Wrap well with parchment and then the foil to hold together. Bake for 20 minutes, or until cooked through but not over-cooked.

I am loving this easy method for baking/steaming the fish, I will be doing it a lot from now on.

I loved this meal! Simple, bright flavours. Fairly healthy and incredibly delicious.