Saturday, July 30, 2005

Is this Cooking Light?

Texas Sheet Cake Posted by Picasa

Another recipe for tomorrow. I remember making this cake a couple years ago and I also remember my friend Candi's grandma making a similar cake when I was a teenager.

Its a mildly chocolate cake with cinnamon and pecans in the cooked icing. Its a very simple cake and good for a crowd as you make it in a sheet pan.

This recipe came from cooking light but I found it over on the texas sheet cake discussion board at
Texas Sheet Cake
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1tsp soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs

6 tbls butter
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans

in a pan, heat the butter, cocoa and water( or sub coffee). In a bowl, mix the dry ingrediets, add the mixture in the pan, beat with mixer. Add the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla. Spread in a greased and floured jelly roll pan. Bake around 15 min at 375.

While cake is baking, make icing.

Cook butter, cocoa and milk. Take off heat, beat in powdered sugar and vanilla, add a half cup
( or more chopped pecans). Spread on warm cake and then cool.

This recipe is supposed to serve 20people. Its kinda sweet so I cut the sugar in the cake by about 1/4 cup.

Chelsea's snail...........

cheese snail Posted by Picasa

I've been trying hard to get my neice Chelsea interested in something other than Neopets, and various stuffed animals. I'm hoping she'll take an interest in cooking like her aunt.

Today we spent the day at the beach and tomorrow is Robin's family's annual civic weekend bbq. We're bringing Macaroni salad and Texas sheet cake( see next post). Robin asked me to make a curried couscous salad too. I wanted to get Chelsea involved so I asked her if she wanted to make a cheeseball. I had bought these packets of dip mix made by bearcreek and a few weeks ago, I used the alternate directions for a cheeseball. We took it to Robin's aunt and uncles pool( the same pool where the bbq is being held tomorrow). It was scarfed down in no time.

Chelsea and I got the bright idea about rolling the cheeseball into a snail. The cheeseball is one bar of cream cheese, a cup of shredded cheedar and the dip mix. Robin mixed it all up and I plopped the load of it onto wax paper with Chelsea giving me directions about rolling it up to make a snail and making the head. She decorated it and voila, a snail cheese ball.

Wonder what she can make next?

Looking Ahead.........

Smoked Gouda Mac n Cheese Posted by Picasa

Im so tired by the time I come home from work, that It's hard for me to think about dinner. I usually have to decide the night before or plan out the meals on the weekend. I promised myself we wouldnt start eating crappy food once I went back to work.

Today was a day of cooking. You'll see in the next 2 posts( I thought I figured out how to put all the pictures in one post, but I guess I forgot).

This morning I made smoked gouda mac n cheese from cooking light. I had some light smoked gouda I picked up at Trader Joe's when we were in MI two weekends ago.

It was your basic roux, but with reduced amounts of butter and skim milk. I added the shredded smoked gouda and 1 slice of provolone. The recipe called for parmesan, but I skipped it. After you make the sauce, you add 5 cups( sounds like a lot, but it isnt) chopped fresh spinach. Robin stired this all up for me, added the 4 cups of cooked macaroni and portioned it out in foil loaf pans. Before it goes in the oven, I'll make a breadcrumb topping. I think I'll serve this with some grilled fish.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Fresh pasta with pesto cream sauce, shrimp, scallops and broccoli Posted by Picasa

On Sunday night, Robin and I went to Fellini's in Stratford for dinner. We had been there before about a year ago and we thought the food was decent and the prices were fair. Hmmm, things have changed since last time.

I knew it wasnt a good sign, when they said it would be an extra dollar for whole wheat pasta. Also, I had ordered a diet coke, they brought it and it was flat. They took it back and gave me another one and told me they checked the tanks and it was fine. I had to send it back. I drink enough diet coke, that I know when it's flat. Finally, they agreed with me and gave me a can of soda that they charged me 2 bucks for.

I ordered whole wheat pasta with chicken and a pesto cream sauce. Robin got chicken parm. We shared a putrid salad for 8.95 and we got an order of flatbread. Flatbread my ass!! It was 3 small wedges of stale foccacia with a scrounging of melted cheese. All this for the exhorbitant sum of 6.95.

67 dollars later( no booze either) we came home and Robin said " i dont like going out to dinner with you, you kinda ruin it". I guess she's right. I know what it costs to cook good food, and I dont want to pay high prices for mediocre food.

I came home from work knowing we have fresh basil in the garden and shrimp and scallops in the freezer. I had told Robin to take some out( she worked at home today) and I set about making us dinner.

I whipped up a fast pesto. Olive oil, basil, pine nuts and parmesean reggiano, salt and pepper. I seared the shrimp and scallops and steamed a whole head of broccoli florets. I boiled some fresh fettucini, and the deglazed the scallop pan with some white wine. I added the pesto and some heavy cream( bought in the states for 1 dollar a pint). Ta da......

My own pasta with pesto cream sauce( shrimp and scallops and broccoli).

Sooooo good and it cost about $8.00 for the both of us.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Chocholate Kahlua Cake

Chocholate Kahlua Cake Posted by Picasa

I can't tell a lie, I used "premeasured ingredients" for this cake. I wanted to bake something for work, but I didnt have any buttermilk for my favorite from scratch cake, Black Magic( the cake that won be first place at the Exeter Fair).

I did have a few cake mixes, some instant chocolate pudding, some kahlua and some choc. chips( my own addition).

I really think cake mixes get a bad wrap, of course I would never use a yellow mix, too artifical tasting, but I've succesfully used the french vanilla, devil's food and Butter pecan mixes (with added ingredients) all to rave reviews.

Did you know that a large percentage of wedding cake bakers use mixes because they hold their shape so well? Most people just care about the way the wedding cake looks anyway.

I'll let the women at work tell me what they think!!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Carmelized Onions

Carmelized Onions Posted by Picasa

Mmmmm, can you smell them? They smell so good and nothing like a strong raw onion. I wanted to prepare a healthy dip for the aquafit ladies. I cut up two vidalia onions and sauted them in some evoo and butter. I added a healthy sprinkle of my favorite spice blend, Garlic plus. They cooked for about 15 min and I moved them to this cute small bowl for a rest.

I combined them with half a bar of light cream cheese, some light mayo and sourcream and 7 subdried tomatoes. I whizzed this all up and refridgerated overnight so the flavors could blend. I cut up a whack of raw veggies and loaded up the cooler. But alas, it wasnt to be as it was pouring down rain in Exeter.

Off to check the weather to see if I can bring it on Thursday night.

Second Client

Well, as if I wasnt busy enough last week, I actually took on another "job" for the weekend. Robin took my menu to one of her work associates and when it was all said and done, an appt was booked for us on Friday night.

The Client ordered dinner for two on Saturday, Dinner for 4 on Sunday and Dinner for 8 on Monday. This was a deviation from the menu plans that I offer. No worries, I worked out the figures in my head and came up with a reasonable fee.

I basically spent the weekend cooking with a break for a nap on Sunday and a dinner out on Sunday night.

Sorry No Pictures, I was too rammy, trying to get the food finished, packed up and delivered.

Saturday nights dinner was:
Seared salmon with a lemon butter rosemary sauce( Fine Cooking)
Curried CousCous salad( Barefoot Contessa)
Sear/braised carrots and green beans( Fine Cooking)

We ate the same thing, although I had whitefish because I dont care for Salmon.

Sunday's dinner.
Meatloaf 101( Martha Stewart Living)
American Potato salad( Cook's Illustrated)

Monday's dinner
Chicken with sherry vinegar sauce( a new way to cook, sally schneider)
Saffron Orzo Pilaf( my recipe)

I also baked a zucchini bread as a bonus. I tripled the chicken with sherry vinegar recipe and we had that for dinner tonight. Robin whipped up some mashed spuds while I was at work. She's becoming a good little sous chef.

Friday, July 22, 2005

zuchinni bread Posted by Picasa

Well, its that time of the year again. With all the heat and rain we've had recently, the zucchini's have taken off. Yesterday I harvested two big mothers and decided to make some zuke bread for the gals in the office. They've been so patient with me, showing me the ropes. I used a recipe I got from a zucchini bread thread on

The bread was straightforward. Since I had so much zucchini, I decided to double the recipe. I threw choc. chips into one loaf and surprisingly that was the loaf that went first. The bread was very moist, tasty and not too sweet. Next time, I might use a bit of WW flour and a bit less sugar.

1 and a 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp powder
1/2 tsp soda
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 pound zucchini coarsely shredded.
1/2 cup canola oil

Makes 1 loaf

Preheat oven to 375, butter a loaf pan, sprinkle with sugar. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, cinn, salt, soda and powder. In a medium bowl, whisk the oil, eggs and sugar. Add zucchini. Stir zucchini batter into dry ingredients . Bake for 50 min, until toothpick comes out clean. Can be frozen for 2 months.


Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Big Blues

Big Blue Posted by Picasa

This recipe came to me in 1993. It came from Glamour magazine and at the time, I rarely baked. I cooked dinner every night, but I didnt have the passion for baking and cooking like I do today.

I've always loved blueberries. In fact, ask anyone that knows me and they'll tell you that berries, rasberries, blueberries, blackberries are my all time fav.

So, last friday Robin and I decided on an impromptu beach trip. We dropped into this fabulous gelato shop and we got to talking with the owner. He mentioned the need for muffins so I baked up a batch of these and dropped them off. I'm still waiting to hear.

A week later........

I havent heard, so I guess he didnt like them. Too bad, cause they are so yummy. Nevertheless, Murphy's law struck me. Just as I was cooking for my first client, I got a call about a law firm job in London so I took that. The money and opportunity are too good to pass up.

I miss cooking a lot.

Im aiming to make something tomorrow for sugar high friday.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Pop, Pop, Pop!!!

Local strawberries Posted by Picasa

Ahhhh, the sweet sound of jars of fresh canned strawberry jam popping. That is a sound that is music to my ears. I had every good intention of making some strawberry jam a few weeks ago, when I spotted the sign at the local berry farm that the strawberries were ready for picking. Who can beat $1.25 a quart. Well, we ending up going to Toronto for a weekend and then all the horrible heat and humidity came and I just never made it over there. I was saddened to see the sign say " No more strawberries for the season". Hmmm, I decided that Id just wait for peaches. I love peach jam and last year my jam won 2nd place at the Exeter fair.

This morning I had to run out for some sandwich fixins for wife's lunch as she's stuck in London today at Pride running her work booth. I was pleasantly surprised to see local strawberries for $1.99 qrt. Yes!! I thought, and I dont have to be in the hot sun hunched over buggy strawberry bushes. I have to say that Ontario strawberries rock. They are smaller than the California strawberries I grew up with, but oh so much sweeter. I did have 1 qrt of California's frozen so I decided to mix those with the local ones. Robin had bought me some canning stuff for our anniversary. Some sugar free pectin, a book on preserving and some lids that can be used for freezer type jams. Im not a big freezer jam fan, but I loved the lids.

So, I set about making my strawberry jam. I used 3 quarts, crushed them and added 1 cup of apple juice. I used the no sugar pectin and added 3 cups of sugar. LOL. What a contradiction eh? Its actually no sugar or low sugar. Thru trial and error, Ive found that 3 cups is perfect. I sterilized 5 jars, so I was surprised to see the recipe make 6 and a half jars. Perfect time to use the plastic screw lids. I put those on and popped those babies in the fridge. I didnt bother proccessing those, since those are for ME. Unfortunatly, Robbie wont be able to taste the sweet summer goodness as she has a terrible strawberry allergy. That's ok though, more for me.

Saturday, July 09, 2005


Chicken noodle bake

These are the dishes we made last night. Both from cooking light. I was pleased with the manicotti. I had made the marinara sauce earlier in the day using lots of fresh garlic, 2 cans of italian tomatoes and some dried herbs, salt and pepper. The filling consisted of some light cream cheese, herb and garlic cream cheese, ricotta, parmesean and spinach. Christine manned the pastry bag and I held the noodles. Between the vision of what the filling looked like going into the noodles and the sounds the bag was making, I was ready to fall out of my chair. LOL.

The chicken noodle bake didnt have such great reviews on the Cookinglight site, but I thought maybe I could dress it up a bit. The recipe called for 6 noodles, but I had bought 9 whole wheat noodles. We soaked them in hot water for about 20 min while we assembled the filling. The filling was cottage cheese, light sour cream, light mayo( I subbed light products for the non-fat ones because I found non-fat products vile) and light cream cheese. I added some shredded italian cheese blend and a bag of broccoli(frozen). We then made a veloute sauce and layered all this, along with chicken breast that I baked on Friday afternoon. We topped it with bread crumbs that Christine made and some fresh parsley. Both of us decided to freeze these for future meals. I'll let you know the verdict when we eat them.

We also made the texas chili with poblano's and beer. Picture to come.

Friday, July 08, 2005

My first client!!

Chicken tangine w/couscous

Coconut curry chicken w/glazed carrots

Chicken w/carmelized onions and sun dried tomatoes over polenta w/green beans& almonds Posted by Picasa

So yesterday I cooked for my first client. She ordered the 5 entree 2 serving plan with 2 side dishes. She chose Chicken tangine with apricots and dates, coconut curry chicken, carmelized onion and sun dried tomato braised chicken w/ polenta, texas beef chili with poblano's and beer and pork tenderloin with a port wine and dried cherry, onion and marmalade sauce( try saying that 3 times fast).

This client works for the same company Robin does, however she works in London. Normally, Id cook at the clients house, but since I know her, I cooked here. She was going to be in our town all day working with Robin so she could take the items home.

I cooked 3 items as Christine was coming over on Friday night to make the beef chili with me. I dont eat meat, so therefore, I cant test meat so Christine was generous enough to take on that task. She was my official taste tester and we split the cost of the chili.

I'll make my client a cornbread to go with her chili as well. I also need to make the pork dish. I'll do that tomorrow too. I'll be seeing her on Sunday so I can deliver the rest of her items.

I was happy with how everything worked out and I even cleaned as I went along. Robin was pleasantly surprised when she came home to a semi-tidy kitchen.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Red Swiss Chard and Goat cheese tart

Red swiss chard and goat cheese tart Posted by Picasa

I love swiss chard and I dont use it often enough. Last weekend when we were in Goderich, I asked Wife to stop at Food Basics. I love how inexpensive their produce is. I knew I wanted the swiss chard because I saw this recipe in an old issue of Martha Stewart Living. However, the recipe actually calls for regular swiss chard and I guess I missed that little tidbit. Oh well. Im flexible. I was also attracted to the recipe because I love goat cheese and I love using whole wheat flour in pastry. I made the pastry this morning and froze it. The filling was straightfoward too. ( at least in my version). I find that often Martha recipes throw in a lot of extra steps I just find superfluous. So, I tried to simplify this recipe so I wouldnt leave the wife with a lot of dishes.

Wife also has a huge sensitivity to onions, which makes cooking with them challenging. This recipe called for 1 onion. I used 1 shallot instead and cooked it well with the stems. Next I added balsamic and a pinch of salt and pepper. I threw in the chopped up leaves, some anchovy paste and let that cookdown. When it was fully cooled, I put a layer on the bottom of a freeform tart shell that I rolled out on parchment. Next layer was goat cheese, then more chard. Top with raisins and pine nuts. Fold edges over, brush with egg wash.

Findings: I liked it a lot, Robin thought it was "different". In Robin speak, different means "its a flavour and texture that's unfamilar" Oh sometimes different is followed by " You dont have to make this ever again". Tonight different meant " The chard is strong, but the goat cheese balances it out" ( I'll make a foodie out of her if its the last thing I do)

Neverthless, She ate it and then asked me what was for dinner. She's funny that one. I served the chard with a simple garden salad. We also had a bit of the leftover soba noodle salad.

I'm not going to post the recipe, unless someone really wants it. I will post the tart dough, because I loved it.

Oatmeal dough
1/2 cup each, white flour, whole wheat flour and oatmeal
1 tsp salt
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup butter, cut into small pieces

process flours, oatmeal and salt in food processor. Add egg yolk and butter and proccess until the mix comes together. You might have to add 1-2tbls cold water( I did). Pat into a disk, wrap in cling film and freeze for 10 min.

Just plain chicken salad

Just plain Chicken salad Posted by Picasa

I seem to get myself in lunch ruts. I love sandwiches so I tend to stick with the same ole' every day. Either turkey( roast, not smoked) or Tuna salad( albacore). Every once in a while, I'll eat some leftovers or I'll get a hankering for a big salad, but usually its a sandwich.

While at the grocerystore the other day( which seems to be an everyday thing) I noticed some skinless chicken breasts on sale for 2.49lb. That's a really great price, especially for Canada so I picked up a package and decided to make some chicken salad. I really dont care for poached chicken at all. Too bland, too rubbery. I prefer to sprinkle the pieces with a touch of EVOO and a little spice blend and roast at around 375 for 45min. Perfection everytime. I diced up the cooled chicken, added a couple diced ribs of celery, some chopped herbs and hellman's mayo. I ate this open faced on some toasted oatmeal bread that I baked a couple days ago. Yummy.

Monday, July 04, 2005


I can't believe there was once a time in my life that I wouldn't touch tofu with a 10ft pole. I think it was the texture that turned me off. Too slimy and mushy and bland.

I dont remember when I started to actually enjoy tofu. I think it was (gasp!!) when I moved to Canada and bought Pete's 2 go Thai tofu. I loved that stuff. I added it to stir-fry's and salads and even ate it plain.

Sadly, my neighborhood store stopped carrying Pete's. I think I was probably the only person in this town that actually bought it.

On our last trip to Toronto, we went to Chinatown and I brought back all kinds of sauces and asian ingredients that are hard to find here. So, last night while I was watching Restaurant Makeover, Chef Lynn Crawford made a wonderful looking Soba noodle and marinated tofu salad. I went to the grocery store this morning, found all the veggies and some medium firm tofu and went to town. I added some peanuts for crunch. The recipe calls for Tamari, I didnt have it, so I subbed light soy. The soy even though it was light, made the dressing a tad too salty. I think on my next trip into London or Toronto, I'll look for some Tamari.

I cut the peppers too thick too, next time I'll use the food processor.

Chili-marinated tofu and soba noodle salad Posted by Picasa

Chili And Tamari Marinated Tofu And Soba Noodle Salad Yield: 0 Ingredients: Chili And Tamari Marinated Tofu And Soba Noodle Salad
1 pkg Soba noodles (8 oz.)
3 tbsp Vegetable oil
1/2 lb. Firm Tofu, rinsed and dried, cut into ½ inch pieces
2 piece Carrots, cut into 1 ½ x ¼ inch sticks
1/2 cup Snow peas, julienned
1 cup Bean sprouts
1 piece Red pepper, julienned
1 piece Yellow pepper, julienned
1 cup Pea greens
4 pieces Scallions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp Fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 tsp Sesame oil
4 tbsp Tamari
4 tbsp Rice vinegar
1 tbsp Sambal (garlic chili sauce)
1/2 cup Cilantro leaves, picked and roughly chopped
2 tbsp Sesame seeds, toasted
2 tbsp Pickled gingerDirections:
Chili And Tamari Marinated Tofu And Soba Noodle Salad
To make dressing, whisk the ginger, sesame oil, 3 tablespoons vegetable, tamari, rice vinegar and sambal together in a small stainless steel bowl. Marinate the tofu with 2 tablespoons of the tamari dressing and 2 tablespoons of cilantro for 30 minutes.
In a large non-stick skillet heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable over moderately high heat and brown tofu on each side. Transfer the tofu with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Reserve.
Cook the noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain well. Rinse under cold water and drain again. Transfer the noodles to a large bowl. Add the carrots, snow peas, bean sprout, peppers and toss with tamari dressing, just enough to coat the salad. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.
To serve place the soba noodle salad on a plate, top with tofu and garnish with pea greens and pickled ginger.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Ina Garten's Turkey Lasagna Posted by Picasa

Saturday was clean out the fridge day. I really hate this task as I usually go too long between cleanings, but oh how I love the fridge when the task is complete. Wife and I sat on the kitchen floor with the boys, a big ass garbage bag and a bucket of water by our side. Wife: " ok, whats this". Me: I have no freaking clue. Out it goes. We did find a container of ricotta, a small bag of frozen basil from last year, half a bag of frozen spinach, a package of turkey sausage and a lot of various cheeses. I rummaged thru the pantry and found 4 no boil noodles, 2 whole wheat noodles and 3 regular noodles. I'd just read the Barefoot Contessa's cookbook the previous night so the turkey lasagna was fresh in my mind.

I went to the store for a few portabella's and some goat cheese. I used the new splendido italian tomatoes and a small can of paste. Ina's recipe calls for ending the lasanga with the ricotta mixture and the sauce. I've always ended with noodles and then sauce. Nevertheless, after cooling for a good 20 minutes( the key to a good lasagna that doesnt run all over) we ate that along with a salad. Yummy, the lasagna had a nice meld of flavors and wasnt too heavy.

All in all a success!!

PS: I forgot to take the pic until wife had a few bites. Sorry about that.

Mmmmm, ribs Posted by Picasa

Saturday, July 02, 2005

When in Rome

I consider myself a true blue American citizen. However, I dont live in America anymore and you know what they say " When in Rome". Soooooooooo, yesterday was Canada day and we were invited to a BBQ. Wife and I decided to bring the ribs( on sale for 3.99lb) and the friends were providing the side dishes.

I bought 4 racks of meaty baby back ribs from a local market. The market is well-known for their quality meats, as they have their own abbatoir.

I used a dry-rub loosely based on the Cook's Illustrated recipe. Brown sugar, paprika, smoked paprika( my addition), garlic( my addition), cumin, red pepper, kosher salt, chili powder. I rubbed this all over the ribs on Thursday and then wrapped them in heavy duty foil.

I made a South Carolina Mustard BBQ sauce that I got from the BBQ rib thread at Cider vinegar, mustard, garlic, brown sugar, soy sauce, butter.

The ribs went into a 350F oven for 1hr and were then thrown on the grill for about 5 min per side. Wife sliced them all up and we served them with baked beans( my other contribution). Wonderful recipe that we made for our reception. Bush's beans, brown sugar, mustard, ketchup, bbq sauce, wostershire sauce, onion. Corn on the cob, baked spuds and pasta salad rounded out our sides.

Friend served a frosted angel food cake and I made an O Canada day cake.

When in Rome.........