Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sending off friends, with laughter and good food :)

Our best friends left Sunday for a seven day vacation to Jamaica.  We had them over Saturday for supper and the menu was:

Appetizer: Warm Artichoke Dip
Main:  Lemon Mustard (Dijon) Chicken and Dill Butter Shrimp, Bacon Maple Scalloped Potatoes, veg tossed in olive oil and spice roasted on the bbq
Dessert: Lemon Truffle Cake.

Oh, it was so yummy!!!!!  I was a wee bit worried when I made the marinade for the chicken up, it was SOOOOO lemony, Leigh stepped in and told me to remember that it is just a marinade and the taste won't be overwhelming, he was right, it turned out perfectly!  The lemon was NOT too lemony, but just the right balance with all the fresh herbs.  Recipes are below, enjoy! 

Warm Artichoke Dip

1 can water packed artichokes, chopped
1 cup mayonnaise (do not use Miracle Whip!)
1/2 cup grated parmesan (or more if you like)
granulated or fresh garlic to taste
lemon to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all ingredients in a oven safe dish, and pop in the oven to get all hot and bubbly for about 15 minutes.  You can reheat left-overs in the oven or the microwave, but there probably won't be any left!!!

Serve immediately with crackers or tortilla chips.


www.RecipeGirl.com (love her recipes!)

½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp minced lemon zest
¼ cup dijon mustard
¼ cup finely chopped fresh herbs (any combo of rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano and parsley)
¾ tsp salt
¼ tsp coarsely cracked pepper

4 whole large skinless, boneless chicken breasts- halved (or use chicken tenders to top a salad)
lemon slices, parsley and fresh herbs for garnish

1. Combine marinade ingredients in a large freezer ziploc baggie. Mix well.
2. Add chicken breasts to baggie and marinate in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 hours.
3. Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Remove chicken from marinade and grill 3 inches from heat for 6 to 8 minutes on each side.
4. Place on individual plates or on a platter surrounded by parsley sprigs, lemon slices and fresh herb leaves.
Servings: 6

Bacon Maple Scalloped Potatoes ... Kraft Canada
You need:
1 red onion, thinly sliced
125 g (1/2 of 250-g pkg.) Brick Cream Cheese, cubed
1 can (10 fl oz/284 mL) 25%-less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup Bacon, chopped
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 lb. (900 g) Yukon gold potatoes (about 6), cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 cup Cheddar Shredded Cheese

HEAT oven to 400°F.  (I used 350 and left it in for 2 1/2 hours, nothing worse than undercooked scalloped potatoes!!)

COOK onions in a large skillet sprayed with cooking spray on medium-high heat 3 to 5 min. or until crisp-tender, stirring frequently. Remove onions from skillet.

ADD cream cheese, broth and milk to skillet; cook and stir on medium-low heat 5 min. or until cream cheese is melted and mixture is well blended. Remove from heat; stir in bacon and syrup.

PLACE half the potatoes in 13x9-inch baking dish sprayed with cooking spray; cover with layers of onions and shredded cheese. Top with remaining potatoes and cream cheese sauce; cover.

BAKE I baked at 350, covered, for 2 hours... I uncovered for an additional 1/2 hour - 245 minutes until golden brown.

And the dessert :)



2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups milk
3/4 cup unsalted butter or white vegetable shortening, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 large egg whites

3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup water
2 large egg yolks
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 cup (6 ounces) chopped white chocolate or vanilla baking chips
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese

1 cup whipping cream
3 Tbsp. powdered sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.

2. Prepare the cake: In a large bowl with an electric mixer, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, milk, and butter or shortening. Blend until the butter is evenly mixed. Add the vanilla. Beat at low speed for 1 minute, then increase the speed to high and beat for 2 minutes, scraping the bowl constantly, beating until the mixture is light and fluffy.

3. In another bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Gently but thoroughly fold the whites into the cake batter. Pour evenly into the prepared pans.

4. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cakes are no longer jiggly in the center. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Split the cooled layers horizontally to make 4 layers in all. (I use a serrated knife… and gently saw around the center to cut even layers).

5. Prepare the filling: In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Whisk in water until smooth. Cook over medium-high heat until mixture comes to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low and cook 2 minutes longer, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat. In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks with a fork. Slowly stir about 1/4 cup of the hot mixture into the egg yolks, whisking quickly while adding the hot liquid. (You don’t want to create scrambled eggs, so be sure to add the hot mixture slowly, whisking it into the eggs as quickly as possible). Continue adding ¼ cups of the hot mixture to the eggs until you have warmed up the egg mixture. Whisk the egg yolk mixture back to the mixture in the saucepan. Cook over low heat until the mixture boils, whisking constantly, then continue to cook for 2 minutes, stirring.

6. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and lemon juice and zest. Transfer half of the hot filling to a small bowl and set aside to cool. Add the white chocolate to the hot filling in the saucepan and stir until the chocolate is melted; set aside. In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in the white chocolate mixture until light and smooth. At this point, you should have a small bowl of lemon curd and a bowl of white chocolate truffle filling.

7. Spread one third of the white chocolate filling over one layer of the cake. Top with a second cake layer, then spread with one third more of the filling; top with a third cake layer and spread the remaining filling over. Top with the last cake layer and spread reserved lemon curd. Refrigerate, uncovered, until the filling is set (2 to 3 hours).

8. Make the whipped cream: In another bowl, whip the cream and sweeten it with the confectioners’ sugar. Frost the sides of the cake with half of the whipped cream frosting. Put the remaining frosting into a pastry bag and pipe decoratively around the top and bottom edge of the cake. Refrigerate up to 8 hours before serving.

Serves: 16
(Don't let this recipe daunt you, it flows soooo smoothly and the finished product is incredible!)


Feeling frustrated, being an adult is hard

Our house was to go on the market April 1st... we have a private sale in the works now so that didn't happen.  Waiting on paperwork and deposits and human procrastination is wearing me down.  I just want this done.  I want to move into the new home that will house my party of five and this is seven years in coming.  The urgency to move to the City has passed.  Mom is doing very well, I see her at least three out of seven days and talk to her twice as often.  We are staying in Martensville.  We have a found a house we both love and can see us living in forever.  Okay Universe, I've thrown it out, now let's make it happen!


Thursday, March 17, 2011

5 Meals, 5 Days

I work at a company that encourages learning, not just in the traditional sense, not just related to what our company does on a daily basis.

The person in charge of coordinating these "camps" wandered into my office on a Wednesday afternoon and asked me, "if you had to talk about something for 10 minutes, what would it be".  After I confirmed it did not have to be work related, I immediately said, "cooking".  Specifically, 5 meals for 5 days and how to survive the supper work week without takeout.  He made a "hmmmm interesting" kinda noise and left.  Ten minutes later he was back and said, "okay, you are up, you will talk about that for ten minutes... on Friday".  Ack!  Well, needless to say I told him the next day that that wasn't enough prep time :), and did it two weeks later at the next scheduled session.  And did I have fun!  I did a ten minute talk on pantry basics, food prep on the weekend, my LOVE of cooking, and staying sane and avoiding take-out during the week with my family of five and hearing "what's for supper Mom?" every day when I walk in the door.   Then I showed the staff how to have supper on the table in ten minutes, with a little prep and a glass of red wine, I demo'd chicken quesadilla and a mixed green salad with cucumber and tomato and vinagrette dressing,  (Well, I bought the dressing, but normally I would make my own :) and really felt like I made a true difference to a lot of the people in attendance.

I learned a long time ago that preparation and organization is what saves you.   In the beginning, when it was just me and my son, we ate a lot of KD and grilled cheese sandwiches!  Still a favorite, don't get me wrong, but that's all I knew how to do.   I thought cooking was for other people, who had actual time and cooking talent!  I married a chef four years later and he opened up a whole new world for me, he brought out the natural cook in me.  He has now retired from that career path and moved to carpentry, and when he phased out, I jumped in, with both feet!

My dream is to have my own place, not a restaurant, I don't want to do that.  I want to have a little shop, a little mercato, a market in the true sense of the word.  I want to create the things I love and know others will love, and have them come in and be able to pick those dishes up for supper with their family, dishes cooked slowly and with love, to be served in their homes and on to their table.    Bistro style, my place.  A few tables... to sit and enjoy a great cup of coffee and a cinnamon bun or a piece of quiche and a glass of red wine.  Fresh pastas and sauces, spanakopita, empanadas, Beef bourguignon (it's so much better the second time you heat it!), cheeses, dressings, pies, desserts, wines, specialty products... oh I could go on and on and on!!!!!!     I would like to hold classes for people who want to learn how to let go of "I can't cook" and have some fun.  I want to show people how to pair their wines with their food, and how to enjoy cooking as much as eating.  Educate people on the value of slow cooking, the value to sitting down with your family at meal time, to reconnect.  And if life is to busy to do that on your own, that's where my place would come in :).   

Our town has a wonderful little place called the Smokehaus.  Such an amazing experience every time I walk through the door, and I never tire of going there.  Our local "corner store" has a small but very decent wine selection.  Last week, I noticed that a new coffee house has opened up at the end of the main strip, but with little advertising, it doesn't really stand out.  I will have to stop in there sooner than later, but they need to let the town know there are there!  We have a wonderful bakery, makes the best bread!   But other than that, our town boasts little in the way of quaint and does not make us a hot spot for people to drive out to from the City.  I know we can change that.  We need to bring in local businesses, artisans, a place like mine :).    Apparently, we have a farmer's market, but I've never seen it!  I have called the town office, (okay, it's now officially a City, but I can't call it that :), and always get really vague information on it.  What!!!!!!  We should be promoting that!  We should be bringing in the local vendors to display and sell, and support our TOWN!!!!!!  It's not just about increasing the population, we need to give the people that live there more,  more culture, more choice, without having to run to the City to get it. 

Having my own place comes strong commitment and a lot of hard work.  Which I am not afraid of!  But, right now, my priority is my family and with a young family, these plans need to be put on hold.  Not completely on hold!  I am always scheming and planning.   I have a friend who is an amazing business woman and photographer, she is going to help me get a local presence known.  She is one of my biggest fans :).

My dream.  My zen place.  It will happen.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

And February brings...

Yesterday was dedication day.  My Mom, Daughter Kennedy, and Sisters Deb and Danielle, picked up Dad's ashes from Mourning Glory and got him settled at the Columbarium.  It was an emotional day.  Kennedy wanted to come, needed to come, so she was let off school for the day and was I ever glad she was there.  She carried Grandpa around in his urn for a bit before we put him in his nook...   Now I'm on the hunt for a mini cribbage board and rake and hoe :).  Kennedy and I got tiny urn pendants that lay on our hearts, Dad will always be with us.  Mom started talking about when she passes away, I just put my arm around her and said, please stop talking about that, and she smiled... and stopped :).  Hard day.   We sat in front of Dad's nook (I don't know what else to call it),  tears were shed, hugging was abundant, and I was once again reminded of how important it is to live every day to the fullest... just like my Dad did.  I miss you Dad, so much... not a day goes by that I don't think of you... and smile.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Week at a glance...

Didn't do much cooking this weekend :(.

Saturday we attended Leigh's Grandpa's 85th birthday.   Made caesar salad to contribute to the meal.  When we arrived, the room the party was in was about 30 degrees and unbearable.  The hallway was cool and we pried open the deck doors and then the snowball fights started, geez Grandma Bev!  :)  It was a nice time, Emmanual (Grandpa) looks great, still very spry and loved being the centre of attention.

Sunday, I went to McNally Robinson with my Mom for our annual birthday celebration (Mom turned 75 on Jauary 6th).  It was nice, they had a quartet performing right outside the restaurant so we settled in and listened for a while.  I had a roasted veggie wrap and Mom had the mushroom and asparagus omlette, and then we shared a piece of key lime pie in place of birthday cake.   Mom bought a book and I got Kennedy a portable light for when she reads at night and doesn't want to disturb her little sister, and some new magnetic bookmarks.  When I got home Leigh had the laundry done,  a chicken roasting and potatoes boiling for mashing so I threw in a spaghetti squash and tossed it with a little butter when it was done.    It was a fantastic meal!!!  Leigh made the left-over chicken into his famous chicken salad and that's what we are all having for lunch today, on ciabatta. 

Leigh's Aunt, Mary Rose, stayed over Saturday nigh and Kennedy went skiing with her, Auntie Gloria and Jonah on Sunday at Table Mountain.  It was plus one on Sunday with a strong wind but a nice day!  We've had so many cold ones!!!!  Kennedy didn't hate skiing, but she didn't love it either.  She is going skiing with her class in mid-February so it was good to get her used to getting up and down the mountain.   She was exhausted when she got back, they walked in the back door at 6pm and right in time for supper.    She tried to be grumpy for awhile but we all settled in to watch a movie and she was alright.  She had trouble getting to sleep last night and was quite tired this morning, but was a trooper :). 

On the agenda this week, heating guy is coming on Tuesday to assess what we need for a furnace and to try to help with humidity control (might as well do it all at once) in the house, Kennedy has her first basketball game on Wednesday which we will all go to and the weekend is shaping up to be busy.  I will be making bread and muffins and cookies to stock the freezer, Kennedy and I will attend a baby shower, we are having friends over for supper and are dismantling the bunk bed in the girls room and bringing their separate beds back in.  This week meal-wise, we will be having leftovers tonight (I cook waaaaaay too much), quesadialla Tuesday (yum), grilled cheese on Wednesday due to the game, tilapia with bueurre blanc on Thursday (much to the kids dismay), and Friday evenings being a bit more relaxed I'll plan something a little more elaborate that revolves around a glass or two of red wine :). 

Life is lovely! 


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Honey Garlic Sauce

On Tuesday we had honey garlic meatballs over rice, and veg.  This honey garlic sauce is so easy, so yummy, and can be used on anything!    I made the meatballs on Sunday night and put them in the fridge.  I hate hate hate rushing home without a plan for supper... the first question I get when I walk in the door is, "what's for supper Mom?"... :)  (and yes, I'm talking about Leigh too)

Honey Garlic Sauce (these measurements subject to change)

Olive Oil
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup honey or brown sugar
1/4 cup soya sauce

Heat the olive oil in a pot (size dependant on if you single/double/triple the recipe).  Throw in crushed garlic, how much you use is up to you :).  Saute that for a minute, stirring constantly so the garlic doesn't burn.  Add ketchup, honey or brown sugar and soya sauce.  Stir and let that bubble around gently for a bit.  Now, this sauce is all about your taste.  You can add a little more honey or brown sugar if you like it sweeter, a little more soya sauce if you like it less sweet.  I don't recommend using Kikkoman soya sauce, it makes this very runny and then you have to go and thicken it... and well, that's just silly.  The longer you let this (gently) simmer, the thicker it will be.    I add the (cooked) meatballs and stir to get them good and coated, let that simmer away while you make the rice!  Oh, my mouth is watering...

You can use this sauce on anything you want!  I slow cook ribs and add the sauce at the end on a sheet pan to carmelize, throw in cooked chicken to coat, it is wonderful over rice with vegetables!    I've glazed a pork roast with it, continually brushing it on during the cooking process... yum!



Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Columbarium at St. John's Cathedral

Today my Mom and my sisters and I went to St. John's Cathedral to the Columbarium (http://www.stjohnscolumbarium.com/index.html).  It is here that Dad's ashes will rest.  

We spent a fair bit of time getting a feel for the place, picking out a niche, reminiscing about Dad, laughing and crying.  It's not easy to say goodbye to a parent.   I do talk to him in some way every day, aloud, in thought, with a memory and a laugh, I really just wish I could hear him talk to me, one more time.    I am very grateful for the time I spent with him on the morning of his death, we talked and talked, I was late for work.  The last thing I did that morning before leaving was kiss my Dad on the cheek and told him to stay warm, and that I loved him.  He told me not to work too hard, I smiled and left.   Man, just writing that makes my chest constrict and tears prickle.

It was hard.  Mom broke down.  Deb and Danielle too.  I didn't outwardly but it was all I could do not to.  One of us had to not do that for Mom, and I was okay with that being me.  I've had my moments, they could have theirs today. 

Dad will be safe there.  It is serene and soothing as soon as you walk into the building, down the stairs and into the niche area.  Family members can come whenever they want to sit and reflect.  I was pleasantly surprised with the place, I wasn't expecting it to be like that.  I pictured a wall of plaques, impersonal and utilitarian.  It is nothing like that.    I feel okay about Dad being there ... I feel good about him being there.