Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cook Book Review: Small Plates

I love mezes, finger goods, snacking and picking.  I love appetizers at restaurants because they come in the right portions and it's nice to have a glass of wine and explore tapas.

I had the utmost pleasure sifting through this little cookbook of 64 pages of culinary delight.
It was thanks giving weekend so the thyme in the below recipe hit the spot and this will make it's seasonal appearance at Christmas time too.
My absolute favorite, favorite, favorite recipe was "Creamy Pancetta & Onion Tart".  It was so good!
Our friends and husband of course gobbled this up before I could take a picture.


1 tbsp of Olive Oil
170 g diced pancetta
3 onions, sliced
1 fat garlic, crushed
1 tsp of sugar
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
375 g all butter puff pastry dough
1 cup of creme fraiche
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 400F, Gas 6 and place one of the baking sheets on the middle shelf to heat up

Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and the pancetta and cook until crisp.
Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.  Add the sliced onions and cook for about 10min.
Stirring occasionally until they start to colour. Add garlic, sugar and leaves from thyme, cook for another minutes as onions carmalize. Remove from heat and stir in the pancetta.

Roll out the puff pastry dough on a lightly floured work surface.  Keep rolling until it's big enough to trim into a rectangle, about 12 x 8 inches. Using the tip of a knife score a border from the edge without cutting all the way through the dough.
Carefully lift the dough onto the second baking sheet and slide into the preheated oven on top of the baking sheet. Cook for 7 minutes then remove from oven.

Season creme fraiche with salt and pepper and spread half of it over the tart base. Season the onion and pancetta mixture with salt and pepper also and spread over the creme fraiche. Dot the remaining creme fraiche over the filling and return to the oven for a further 20min.

Serve warm, cut into individual portions.

If you’ve ever been out to a restaurant with friends and ordered a few starters or a large platter to share, you’ll know how sociable and tempting it is to indulge in several dishes at once. This is a popular way of eating in many
parts of the world – the Spanish have tapas, the Chinese have dim sum and many regions of the Mediterranean and Middle East enjoy meze. In Small Plates, Annie Rigg serves up an irresistible selection of plates to share from all around the world. For global Meat dishes, look no further. From chorizo with red wine to honey and soy glazed baby ribs, you’ll find something utterly delicious in this chapter. There are so many tasty morsels to make with Seafood. Try crisp calamari – perfect for sharing – or elegant, individual prawn cocktails, which can easily be prepared in advance. Veggie fingerfood and bites are for everyone, not just vegetarians. Tuck into garlic and white bean dip, grilled halloumi skewers and herby falafel with red pepper houmous and pickled chillies. With these easy, mouth-watering recipes, you’ll soon
discover that grazing plates and small bowls of shareable food make entertaining fuss-free and fun." ~ Thomas Allen & Son website

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Book Review: Cheap, Fast, Good by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross

For one week I will be testing out recipes from this book,  Cheap, Fast, Good  and sharing my cooking journey along the way with you all and see what recipes are delicious and maybe discover which ones might not be...There's a lot of short cuts like packaged gravy and other stuff that I'm a little stuffy about.

I was drawn to this book because as a stay at home mom, budget is always the topic between husband and I. Romantic isn't it.
Thomas Allen & Sons has just sent me this to review so I look forward to seeing how cooking can be done on a budget, come out fast (I have a soon to be 3yr old so I love fast) and good!  Who doesn't love good food?

Here are some of our favorites from the book.

Onion Chopped Steak with Easy Gravy, pg.77

Ham and Cheese Turnovers with Dipping Sauce, pg 245

Oven Baked Chicken Thighs, pg 103

and with the cold weather coming and since Fall is all about comfort food I'd like to share with you, my camera is missing so I apologize for not posting pictures:

 Budget Beef Stew

1 1/2 pds of small beef cubes for stew
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp dried basil
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 large onions
4 medium size carrots
5 medium sized potatoes
1 can(14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes
3 tbsp corn starch
1/4 cup cold water

1.Place rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 300F
2. Place beef in a 4 1/2 quart Dutch oven or flameproof casserole that has a tight fitting lid. Sprinkle the salt, pepper, basil and Worcestershire sauce evenly over beef.  Sprinkle the garlic over the beef.
3. Peel and quarter the onions and scatter pieces evenly over the mixture.  Peel the carrots & cut them into 1-inch pieces.  Add them to the pot.  Peel and quarter the potatoes and scatter evenly over the mixture.  Add tomatoes with their juice , scattering the tomatoes evenly over the mixture.  Add 1/2 cup of water.
4. Bake the stew covered for 2 hours . Remove from pot from the oven and stir gently so as not to break up the vegetables.  Continue to bake, covered until the vegetables  and meat are very tender about 1 hour.
5. Remove the pot from the oven and place it on the stove top over low heat. Mix the cornstarch with cold water in a jar that has a lid.  Cover the jar and shake well to remove any lumps.  Pour the mixture little at a time evenly over the stew.  Stir gently, adding the cornstarch mixture as necessary until the liquid reaches the desired thickness, about 3-5 minutes. Ladle the stew into large shallow bowls to serve.

What are some of your favorite comfort foods?
This is a fabulous book with so many ideas for cooking on a budget.  Who doesn't want to eat cheaper? And who doesn't want to eat better? And who wouldn't like to sit down to a dinner of Salmon Pasta with Tomatoes and Dill, or Pan-Fried Pork Chops with Pepper Medley, or Enchanting Enchiladas, or Moroccan Meatballs over Couscous and know that any one of these meals (for four) costs less than $2 a serving?

You can get your copy {here}

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Mousse Au Chocolate, pg 275: French Cooking Made Easy

Chocolate Mousse. One of my favorites yet I never made it because I thought it was something hard to do.
I recently visited with a friend of mine at her house. The kids played, dinner was preparing and Charlie made himself at home and opened her fridge.  He saw pudding. Charlie will be 3 years old next month and he's never had pudding.
No I'm not anal about junk food but I am about freshness, baking and cooking from scratch.
That's the reason why I've never got it for him. I never really buy prepared food.
However, I did let him have it. He and I had a few spoonfuls and that was it.  I thought to myself, I have to learn how to make pudding.

So as I was flipping through this fabulous cook book and I came across a recipe for Chocolate Mousse. It's sort of similar I thought. I read the directions and was amazed at how easy this was.

What you need:

4ounces of semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate
4 tbsp of unsalted butter
4 eggs separated
1/8 tsp cream of tartar

Haha,! Melt chocolate and butter over a low heat until smooth
Remove from heat, whisk in egg yolks until blended. Pour into a large bowl.

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form.

Fold chocolate mixture into the egg whites
Voila, once all mixed put into a crystal bowl and chill for 2hrs. Since I don't have one I used wine glasses
So easy and so delicious!! 

Buy this book, here
Find a local book store here

Coming up next,  Poularde Pochee a L'Estragon......

French Cooking Made Easy by Richard Grausman

I am in love with this book.  IN LOVE!

This book has brought a passion to French cooking I knew was inside of me and it was just dying to come out.  I was always intimidated because French cooking is grand and difficult.  Well it's not difficult thanks to this book.  If you love cooking you have to get this book.

As I was creating savory puff pastry I was picturing myself in France and how Julia Child must have had a ball there.  It's easy to fall in love with French cuisine and you can too.
Feed your family delicious easy to prepare fresh, delicious, food from scratch.

I just started this book.  I might even try every recipe in this book.  However today I made Pomme de Terre Dauphine, pg,203 Potato Puffs. There is a beautiful section in this book with a few pages   about one of my most loved vegetables.  The potato.

What makes Potato Puffs special? They are light, fluffy and a delicious way to make potatoes. It's mashed potato with Savory Cream Puff pastry.  Oh my as my heart flutters with delight.

I added spinach so my toddler could get some extra greens. Because you know...I made these just for him. Hahaha.

Don't use a food processor when you want to mash the potatoes.  It will make it pasty.
Get your masher out and with lovingly thoughts mash that potato.  I never cook angry, the food always turns out awful and everyone is miserable after it too! It's all about "energy" when cooking.

What you need:

1 1/2 pds of yukon gold potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed(no cream, just add salt, pepper and mash)
Savory Cream Puff Pastry (pg 221, get the book, LOL!)
1/2 tsp of salt, 1/4 tsp pf pepper
2 quarts of vegetable or peanut oil for deep frying

This is really easy to make and takes no time. This would be a delicious as a h'or dourve as well. A little Aioli on top with fresh Lox? The Potato Puffs are best served warm.

So while my potatoes and spinach were cooking I made my savory cream puff pastry. Yes, you have to get the book for the recipe.

Savory Cream Puff Pastry consists of water, butter, salt, pepper, flour and eggs.

Mix all that in with the mashed potatoes.  Get your oil nice and hot to 375F and drop teaspoon 's of this heavenly mixture.

I made them into little pancake shapes because my tot will devour these and it's easier for him to hold, dip and enjoy.

Now I do apologize.  I have no idea how people take those fantastic food photo's.  I will research it so I can offer beautiful photo's that go with the recipes. 

These are crispy on the outside and inside they are soft and delicious. Easy to make and awesome.
Ideally these are best served with roasted meats like beef, lamb, chicken and turkey.

Find a local seller for this must have book, here
Buy it here

Next up, Chocolate Mousse....

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Great Creamy Scones {Recipe}

I love baking scones.  I don't know why but I feel rather like an accomplished housewife when I pull freshly baked scones from the oven or maybe it's the endless variations you can make with scones from sweet to savory.

Here is my recipe for a proper British Scone from Elizabeth Germain from Cooks Illustrated.

Cream Scone with Currants

2 cups all purpose flour (make them healthier with whole wheat, spelt or even buckwheat flour)

3 tbsp of sugar

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

5 tbsp of cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces

1/2 cup currants ( I like to use organic, unsulphured currants, especially if little ones like to nibble on them too!)

1 cup heavy cream

 1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 425F

2. Place flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a large bowl, whisk together
3. Add butter to the flour mixture.  Mix until it resembles coarse meal with a few slightly larger butter lumps.

4. Add currants
5. Stir in heavy cream and until dough begins to form

6. Transfer dough to a dry, floured surface  and knead by hand so it comes to be a slightly stick ball.  Gently pat dough mixture 3/4 inch thick.
7. With a knife, cut into dough making 8 wedges

* If you'd like to have them glazed(I love them like this!), brush the scones with heavy cream and sprinkle some brown sugar on top before placing them in the oven.

8. Back until scone tops are slightly brown, 12-15min.  Cool on wire rack for at least 10 minutes.

I substituted and used white chocolate and organic, unsulphured dry blue berries.  This is beyond delish!
  •  like Ginger?  Substitute currants for 1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger.
  • Lemon-Blueberry Scones?  add 1 tsp of grated lemon zest and 1/2 cup of frozen or fresh blueberries

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Halls Kitchen

 Fresh, healthy, hand crafted soup, stews and sauces
Yum. with love.
You know those days when you just don't feel like making your own soup?
Do you go to the grocers only to be a disappointed with the selection on boxed and canned(loaded with BPA's mind you in the cans lining) soups.  Not to mention other chemicals like MSG and then some.

As a mom sometimes I just want to grab something free of chemicals, quick and easy to make where I can just simmer and feed.
Yes, I normally do cook but sometimes when I am sick or so, who's going to make soup for me? Halls Kitchen is. I love that they support local and organic farming, they use fresh vegetables that are free of chemicals and preservatives.  The whole line is GMO free.

Another key point: Their products are made in small batches and DO NOT use aluminum, teflon or any plastic, non stick cook ware due to the potential health risks.

I was sent some delicious, healthy and vegan ( I do though miss the full fat stock, so you won't find this in their soups as they are vegan ) Halls Kitchen products to review.
 Chick Pea, Tomato, Spinach, Lemon Soup:  Loaded with fibre and super healthy.  You can also add your own seasoning to get acquired taste you like. This was good.

Cravin Comfort Stew: Sweet and savoury with Ontario root vegetables.  I picked this with my son in mind.  I also made some barley with this and this was beyond comfort, we loved it and gobbled it up.
Throw in some pulled pork for more flavour and it is divine with these veggies.

Lemon White Wine Cream Sauce:  Loved that they use one of my favorite dairy farmers, Hewitts this was divine.  I used this on salmon and a little got on the roasted asparagus.  The light tang of lemon in this cream sauce was a perfect blend.  I'm even thinking substituting hollandaise for this!

Such a great local company to come across Ontario, I love all the considerations they put into making their product and Halls Kitchen is a favorite in our household. 
Please visit their website for a store near you.  Halls Kitchen is on Facebook and Twitter too if you have any questions, comments and/or concerns,

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Kashi- The Seven Whole Grain Company

I was recently contacted by Kashi to try some of their new products and thank you Kashi for finding me!
We love Kashi and my tot loves to snack on the Kashi Honey Sunshine cereal which I have to admit, I like it alot too.
It has whole grains, fibre, iron and all natural ingredients.

In fact I've traded in chips for cereal, once again thanks to this fine line of food.  I can snack better, snack tastier and snack healthier.

I just wolfed down there Kashi Chewy Bars, I got the Dark Mocha Almond follwed my a cold glass of whole milk and for me I am always on the go or forget to feed myself as I try to stuff food into Charlie's picky mouth ( I think it's the teething) so this is nice a product to have handy in the cupboard.
"Naturally, you won’t find any partially hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, or artificial anything but what you will find in their chewy granola bars is just what you’d expect from Kashi—minimally processed, pure ingredients, and natural goodness you can see as well as taste."

Because of the samples they sent me, I am convinced I will try more Kashi products, in fact I just picked up their box of crackers.  Kashi all the way in our household, something I can feel good about and trust when I'm shopping at the grocers.