Thursday, 29 November 2012

Eat & Repeat | Tomato & Bocconcini Salad w/ Pesto & Balsamic Reduction

During our travels earlier this fall to Nova Scotia, J and I dined at some of the best restaurants Halifax had to offer.  It's safe to say hunger pangs were absent, completely absent, on this vacation.  We made it our personal mission to leave each and every restaurant full over-stuffed.

One of our favourite dishes was the Tomato Bocconcini salad from Cut Steakhouse.  Let's be honest, anytime you have a salad that is 50% cheese, I'm excited/game/ready-to-dive-in.  All salads should have this vegetable to cheese ratio.
Tomato, fresh Mozzarella, pesto and a balsamic reduction made this dish light, flavourful, and wishing we had ordered a second one.  Oh well, at least with a list of ingredients this short, it's easy enough to recreate at home.  And so to the kitchen I go...

I was recently contacted by Tre Stelle to give some of there cheese products a try,  given my current desire to remake this salad, the timing couldn't have been better.  I went ahead and picked up the Tre Stelle Bocconcini Medallions,  pre-sliced and ready to eat, this is just another way for my stomach to get to this salad even quicker.  Double win!





Tomato & Bocconcini Salad w/ Pesto and Balsamic Reduction

Ingredients:
4 large on-the-vine tomatoes, sliced
1 (200g) tub Tre Stelle Bocconcini medallion slices
3-4 Tbsp basil pesto (homemade - recipe follows, or store bought)
drizzle balsamic reduction (recipe follows)
salt & pepper to taste

Method:
Arrange tomato and mozzarella slices alternatively on a platter.   Pour pesto over evenly and drizzle with balsamic reduction.  Season to taste with salt and pepper

Serves 4


 

Homemade Basil Pesto

Ingredients:
2 cups packed fresh basil
1/2 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup pine nuts
salt and pepper to taste

Method:
Place all ingredients except olive oil in food processor.  Pulse a few times.  Slowly stream in olive oil while appliance is running.  Add salt and pepper to taste.



How To Make Balsamic Reduction:

In a small saucepan over medium heat pour 1 cup of balsamic vinegar.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally until the mixture is reduced by half.
Allow to cool and transfer to an airtight container.  Store in fridge.


Disclaimer:  Tre Stelle provided me with grocery vouchers to purchase their products.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Pesto & Eggs on Toast

Eggs and toast are a breakfast staple without question.  There is something about runny/drippy/eggy yolks and toasty bread that just puts an instant smile on my face.  It's by all accounts the perfect start to my morning.

I think I just found a way to take this ordinary breakfast up a notch...

P-E-S-T-O

Seriously, why didn't I think of this before?  Oh well, looks like I'm going to have to make up for lost time...

I've died and gone to breakfast heaven.  Mmmm



Pesto & Eggs on Toast

Ingredients:
1 large egg
1 Tbsp basil pesto (homemade or store-bought)
1 thick slice french bread, toasted
black pepper to taste

Method:
Preheat large non stick skillet over medium heat.  Spray with non-stick spray.
Crack egg into small ramekin first, then slowly add egg to heated pan.  Cook until whites have set and the edges begin to curl.
To assemble, spread pesto onto toasted bread and top with egg.  Season to taste with pepper.  Enjoy!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Annual PB&J Sandwich Party


Today marked our 3rd annual sandwich making party.  Each year our family forgoes Christmas gifts and in exchange, we pool our funds and help out a local charity.  
We've grown fond of supporting the Drop-In Centre, and do so, by making PB & J sandwiches which we deliver and are flash frozen.  This year we made 750+ sandwiches which will be used as part of the DI's bagged lunch program.  Sandwich Success!


This family tradition is our little way of giving back to the city we love so much.  Best of all, we complete this project as a family, are instilling the 'true spirit of Christmas' in our children, and helping out our fellow neighbours in the process.
I hope this small act of Christmas cheer, may inspire some of you to go ahead and do the same. Time and money go a long way, not only during the holiday season, but throughout the year. So go ahead, find charity in your community that could benefit from your volunteer efforts, remember, Christmas is more about giving than receiving.

Happy Christmas & Merry Everything.

Peace & Love
JS.


image courtesy: martha stewart

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Gingerbread Muffins

'Tis the season for gingerbread.  From houses to cookies to lattes, gingerbread seems to be everywhere.  I decided to give the standard cookies a break, and opt instead for muffins.  Truthfully I'd rather make the cookies but I seem to be missing all the candy that is essential when decorating the men.  Jelly Tots, Smarties, icing....

Muffins it is, still festive, and gingerbready.




Gingerbread Muffins


Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup milk


Method:
Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease 12 cup muffin tin, or line with paper cups.  Set aside.
In large bowl whisk together first five ingredients.  Set aside.
In medium bowl combine sugar, molasses, butter, applesauce and milk.  Fold into flour mixture.
Divide batter among 12 cups and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Yields: 12 muffins
slightly adapted from Food Network Magazine - December 2012

Roasted Garlic

You could probably argue that one of the greatest flavours in the world is roasted garlic.  Buttery and slightly sweet, it goes perfectly when added to sauces, but I especially adore it spread on a warm toasted baguette.  Delicious.

Image Courtesy Wikipedia

 

Roasted Garlic

Ingredients:

1 head of garlic
1 Tbsp olive oil

Method:

Preheat oven to 325F
Cut the tip off of the garlic head so that the individual cloves are exposed. Place garlic clove side up on large piece of aluminium foil.  Drizzle with olive oil and wrap up tightly.
Place foil wrapped garlic on a baking sheet and roast until soft and golden.  Approx 50-60 minutes.

Serve spread on toasted baguettes or add to your favourite sauces.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

'Tis The Season For Cheese Boards

Holiday entertaining is in full force.  In fact, J and I now have a function every weekend till after New Years.  Yay for holiday parties!
A staple at any holiday party is always a cheese board.  Simple and delicious, it offers lots of options and varieties.   Add in some cured meat, bread, a glass of wine, and you have a recipe for happy guests (and hosts alike).  Who doesn't like cheese?

The good people at Castello recently asked me to sample their new Bavarian Alps Selection Cheeses; knowing first hand of my own appreciation for all things cheese, how could I turn them down.  



Bavarian Alps Selection Cheeses


WEISSBEIR
  • buttery with a faint bitterness and hint of nutty sweetness
  • great for sandwiches
  • perfect with grilled vegetables
  • delicious with your favourite white wine or dark lager


CHIANTINO
  • mild and slightly sweet with hints of dark chocolate, fustiness and dryness of Chianti
  • perfect as a snack with olives or baked figs
  • great for melting recipes
  • pairs well with dry reds, or white wine






















HIRTEN

  • rich, complex taste, slightly sweet caramel overtone with hints of pine
  • great with sweet food such as figs and chocolate
  • perfect for sandwiches with spiced ingredients
  • pair with full-bodied reds, or your favourite stout beer




CLASSIC CHEESE 
  • slightly smoky aroma, spicy hint of mountain herbs
  • serve with freshly baked bread
  • pairs well with full-bodied red wines, or brown ale

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

J and I decided to try the Classic and Chiantino as our mid-afternoon wine/cheese/bread date.  Both cheeses were extremely delicious by themselves, but we both agreed that our favourite Chiantino.  We enjoyed how smooth and creamy it was, with a subtle sweetness to it. It will no doubt be making an appearance at our annual Christmas Eve party and is likely to become a welcome addition to all future cheese boards.  After finishing round one of the cheese 'straight up', we decided to try round 2 of the Chiantino with the addition of blueberry syrup and thyme.  Yum is all I can say.




Chiantino w/ Blueberry Syrup


Ingredients:
6 slices French Bread
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, very finely chopped
6 tsp blueberry syrup
75 g Castello® Alps Selection Chiantino™, 6 slices

Method:
Toast the bread slices and scatter with thyme. Sprinkle with blueberry syrup and distribute the cheese slices evenly. Decorate with sprigs of thyme and serve the warm snack at once.

Serves 2.



Disclaimer: Castello provided me with grocery vouchers to sample their products. 
You can find the new Alps selection @ Co-Op stores in Western Canada

Recipe and photo credit Rosenborg Canada

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The I Love Trader Joe's Vegetarian Cookbook | Herbed Garlic Polenta Fries & Lemon Aioli


With multiple grocery store chains in YYC, and access to 5 different ones within a 5 KM radius of my house, you'd think that I'd be satisfied.  However, secretly, or not-so-secretly I would love to add two more.

Trader Joe's & Whole Foods

If you've been to the US and gone through either of these two markets, you know first hand that they have some awesomely unique products in addition to the standard grocery staples.  So when I was sent "The I Love Trader Joe's Vegetarian Cookbook" by Kris Holechek Peters, I was immediately excited.  What's not to love about TJ's?


It may seem a little bizarre that I'd be reviewing a cookbook about products that are found in a store that I don't have access to.  Surprisingly though, most of the products used in this book can also be found in our local stores, you just need to look for them.
This book is packed with over a 150 Vegetarian (and even vegan) meal options which are healthy and simple enough to prepare on any busy weeknight.  Tuscan Tomato Soup, Curried Squash-etti, Spring Veggie Bake, and Tofu Scramble just to name a few.  However, when I came across the recipe for Herbed Garlic Polenta Fries & Lemon Aioli, I immediately knew that was the one I was going to try first.  I'm a huge polenta fan, I enjoy using it in place of pasta and rice, and best of all, you can buy it pre-cooked, so all you need to do is slice, warm and serve.

These fries were perfectly crisp and more than flavourful, but it was the lemon aioli that took this dish to another level.  Second batch here I come.  Yum.
Enjoy!   




Herbed Garlic Polenta Fries


Ingredients:
1 (18-ounce) log Organic Polenta
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup lemon aioli (recipe follows), to serve

 

Method:
Preheat oven to 400F and line baking sheet with parchment paper. 
Prepare the polenta slices by cutting into 1/2-inch discs, then strips (about 3 to 4 strips per disc)
In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil, garlic powder, and oregano to combine.  Gently toss the polenta with the olive oil mixture and spread in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet.  Sprinkle with sea salt.
Bake until slightly browned and crispy on the edges, 35 to 40 minutes, flipping halfway through
Serve fries warm, with lemon aioli.

Yields: 4 servings

 

Lemon Aioli


Ingredients:
1tsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
1/3 cup reduced fat mayo
salt and pepper

Method:
Heat olive oil in a small saute pan or skillet over medium-low heat.  Saute the garlic just to remove the bitterness, about 1 minute.  Remove from heat to cool.
In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, lemon juice, and lemon zest.  Add the mayo and mix until incorporated.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Store in a covered container and refrigerate until ready to use.

Yields: 1/3 cup

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Pies & Friends



I love baking pies.  Nothing new there.

I especially love waking up early Sunday morning (while the house is still quiet) and making pies from scratch.  Just me, James Taylor, and my pantry of supplies.

Today's pie isn't for me (surprisingly) instead it's for my friend Tom, who earlier in the week sent me this cartoon text all about fall pie.



Being the sharp tack that I am I assumed that this was his way of asking me to bake him one.  Of course I accepted, especially after he told me that there was a bottle of wine in it for me.  Done.

His flavour request?  Pumpkin Cheesecake.
My flavour request?  Anything Red.

So for you buddy.....here it is.  ENJOY!

LOVE JS








Cream Cheese Pumpkin Pie


Ingredients:

1 disk of pie dough (homemade or store bought)
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 cups canned pumpkin, mashed
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg plus 2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 cup half-and-half
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger

whipped cream for serving


Method:

Roll out dough into a 12-inch round on a lightly floured surface.  Ease into a 9-inch pie plate.  Fold the overhanging dough under itself and crimp the edges.  Pierce the bottom and sides all over with a fork.  Chill at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line the chilled dough with foil and fill with pied weights or dried beans.  Transfer to the oven and bake until the edges are golden, 20 minutes.  Remove the foil and weights and continue baking until the crust is golden all over, 10 minutes more.

For the filling, in a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese with a hand mixer.  Add the pumpkin and beat until combined.  Add the sugar and salt, and beat until combined.  Add the eggs mixed with the yolks, half-and-half, and beat until combined.  Finally, add the vanilla, cinnamon and ginger, beat until incorporated.

Pour the filling into the warm prepared pie crust and bake for 50 minutes, or until centre is set.  (Cover edges of pie crust if beginning to brown).
Place the pie on a wire rack and cool to room temperature.  Cut into slices and top each piece with a generous amount of whipped cream.

Yields 1 (9-inch) pie
slightly adapted from Paula Deen





Monday, 5 November 2012

Guacamole

In our house it's a running joke that I'm one avocado away from turning green.  I eat them frequently all the time, I guess you could say I'm borderline addicted...maybe, if you wanted to label it that is....


Today @ 3pm I decided that I'd test that theory and make myself some guacamole. 

Verdict?
I still possess the pasty white complexion, a staple for a girl from YYC in November.  This is also why I stock pile bronzer in my makeup bag.

Verdict #2?
I LOVE Guacamole!

Happy Monday!



Guacamole

Ingredients:
2 large (or 3 medium) avocados, ripe, roughly mashed
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1/2 clove garlic, minced
1 large plum tomato, seeded & chopped
1 Tbsp lime juice
1/2 tsp Sriracha sauce
sea salt & pepper

tortilla chips for serving

Method:
In small bowl combine avocados, lime juice, Sriracha sauce, garlic and onion.  Mix well.  Fold in tomatoes and season to taste with salt and pepper. 
Serve with tortilla chips

adapted from Ina Garten

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Birthday Wishes & Oreo Frosting




Three years ago today we welcomed the final piece to our family puzzle,  Little Miss R was born. Happy as can be, she hasn't taken a break from smiling since.  Baby girl lottery won!
It's especially hard for me to believe she's 3, my baby girl, she's everything in life I've wished for her so far, with a few extra qualities thrown in for good measure:

Killer Dance Moves
The Best Laugh Ever
Master Pirate Skills (watch out Captain Hook)

She makes me so proud, and more so with each passing day.  Her smile alone is reason to wake up every morning, I love her to the moon and back.



It's worth noting that the week leading up to her birthday, R provided me with a countdown to Sunday (on the off chance I would forget.)  She would break out singing "Happy Birthday to Me" anywhere, like grocery stores, bathroom stalls, or at school (despite other kids birthdays,)  I guess you could say she was excited?

R's only birthday request was chocolate cake, icing and 3 candles.
So in an effort to ensure her sweet tooth was satisfied, I made chocolate cupcakes with Oreo Buttercream Icing.

Happy Birthday to the prettiest little girl I know.   I love and adore you.

xoxo,
Mom.


 




Oreo Buttercream Icing


Ingredients:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
6-7 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 Oreo cookies, chopped fine

Method:

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl.  Add 4 cups of sugar, followed by the milk and vanilla.  On medium speed, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3-5 minutes.  Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the incing is thick enough to be of spreading consistency.  Fold in chopped Oreos. 
Fill piping bag or spread evenly over cupcakes or cake.

Note: use and store icing at room temperature, icing will set if chilled.  Icing can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Yields: 1(9-inch) 3 layer cake.
Adapted from Vanilla Buttercream Icing

Thursday, 1 November 2012

For The Kids - Bears Driving Chocolate Cars

Halloween 2012 = Cold Temperatures, No Kids, Lots of Leftover Chocolate

I took a break from baking with my Halloween leftovers and instead (thanks to Pinterest) made these super cute treats for the kids.   Playdate snacks tomorrow!





Cars = Coffee Crisp
Tires & Steering Wheel = Smarties
Bear = Teddy Grahams

I'm not sure who is more excited with these, the kids or the adults?  Let's call it a tie.

LOVE,
JS
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