Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Some things are better left for the profesionals


baked ziti

garlic knots Posted by Picasa

I really consider myself an above average cook. I can make pretty much anything. I can even cook beef stew and meatloaf and I cant even taste the finished product because I dont eat meat. Well, one of Robin's most favorite foods is fried calamari. She's asked me to make it a few times. The first time I made it, I used some frozen squid and it came out awful. Chewy and greasy and nothing like our most favorite calamari( pictured above). I decided to try again because we went to Toronto last weekend and we came upon some fresh squid in Kensington Market. I bought some ( 4.99lb) and since we came home late Saturday afternoon, I set out to make it for her. Repeat after me. NEVER AGAIN. I will never attempt that at home again. Now, I dont have a self container fryer, so I use a deep saucepan with a thermometer attatched. Maybe it would work better if I had a self contained fryer. Anyway, Robin said it was good, but I strive for great and it wasnt great.

Now, if you want some fabulous calamari along with some fabulous baked ziti and garlic knots head over to Mario The Baker in Sunrise, FL. Mario's has been around since 1973 and my family and I went there often while I was growing up in Plantation( Ft. Lauderdale suburb) These pictures are from our last trip to Florida( october 05) and thinking about the food makes my stomach growl. The calamari is dirt cheap at 5.95 and the ziti was 6.95( comes with a salad and rolls). I'm going to FL in two weeks without my honey and I wont even tell her when I eat there. See how thoughful I am?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Happy Birthday Robin

chocolate cake Posted by Picasa

My baby turned 41 on Sunday and she asked me to make her a big rich chocolate cake. I perused the threads on egullet and found this one. While it wasnt very sweet, it was very rich. I spread cherry butter in between the layers to try to cut the richness of the sour cream ganach I used as frosting.

My birthday is on Friday, I wonder what I'll make.......... Its a tie between coconut cupcakes or Boston Cream Pie.

Here's the updated version:

Double Chocolate Cake

1½ oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1½ oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1½ cups cocoa powder (regular or Dutch process)
1½ cups hot brewed coffee
1 TB espresso powder
4 oz. (8 TB) unsalted butter, melted
1½ cups white sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2¾ cups cake flour
2 teasp baking soda
¾ teasp baking powder
1¼ teasp salt
3 lrg eggs
¾ cup vegetable oil
1½ cups sour cream (or buttermilk)
2 teasp vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Grease two 9”x2" pans. Line bottoms with rounds of wax paper/parchment and grease paper.
2. Into a medium bowl, pour the hot coffee, mixed with the espresso powder, over chocolate, cocoa, and melted butter; blend till smooth. Let mixture cool slightly, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is smooth.
3. Into a large bowl sift together sugars, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
4. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a stand mixer). Slowly add oil, sour cream, vanilla. Add melted chocolate mixture, beating until combined well.
5. Add dry ingredients and beat on medium speed until just combined well.
6. Divide batter between pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 60 to 70 minutes (watch carefully--timing may vary).
7. Cool layers completely in pans on racks.
8. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove wax paper.

Ahead of time note: Cake layers may be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Gorgeous pie

pumpkin streusel Posted by Picasa

Is this not gorgeous or what? I'm not really know for my pies as I used to be really afraid of crust. I still dont like working with crust, so when i saw that this pie called for half a package of pillsbury ready to bake, i decided to go for it. However, I think everyone and their mother is afraid of making pie crust too because Kroger had NO pillsbury. They also had NO Kroger brand so I thought I'll just make my own. I used Martha Stewart's one crust pate brise recipe which is very simple to come together. It's an all butter recipe too so the flavor is superior. I'm sure it has a lot more calories than Pillsbury, but at least the filling is fat free.

The filling is 1 can of pumpkin, assorted spices( i used pumpkin pie spice) eggs and fat free sweetened condensed milk. I made the streusel a couple days ago and kept it in the fridge. If I remember correctly, the struesel only has 2 or 3tbls of butter. The day I made the streusel, I chopped up a pear and sprinkled some struesel on it and baked it off. I wanted to try it before using it all on the pie and it was good, not too greasy and not too sweet.

I'll let you know how this tastes, that will be the true test. It smells fantastic too.

Flaky dinner rolls

flaky rolls Posted by Picasa

I said I was going to make these and I did, dont know how good they came out though. I had some trouble with the rolling out. I have a French rolling pin so maybe thats why. As you can see, I didnt get all the turns of the dough so I had to turn some of them on their side when I baked them. I just had one and I'm not that impressed. The flavor is just blah.

Halfway thru all the turning and rolling I decided to make another roll. Honey wheat cloverleafs from CL too just in case these didnt come out. Those were a lot easier and hopefully they will be more flavorful.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

1 dessert down........

maple date bars Posted by Picasa

I was only going to bake the pumpkin streusel pie from CL, but decided to make these maple date bars because I like to serve lots of food and I had some dates lanquishing in the fridge. These bars were so good. I took a little sample and in the words of Rachael Ray yum-o. Alice made these too and cut the dates up by hand. I started to, but finished it the cuisinart. I also cut these in more than 20 servings because we're still doing Weight Watchers and I wanted to lower the points. These werent too sweet and 1 was more than enough.

Maple-Date Bars

Wrap these moist bars individually, or place them in a cookie tin between layers of wax or parchment paper.

1 3/4 cups finely chopped pitted dates (about 12 ounces)
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup all-purpose flour (about 4 1/2 ounces)
1 cup regular oats
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray

Combine dates, water, and maple syrup in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil; cook 12 minutes or until most liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently. (Mixture will look like jam.) Stir in rind; cool completely.
Preheat oven to 400°.

Beat sugar and butter with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, oats, baking soda, and salt. Stir flour mixture into sugar mixture (mixture will be crumbly). Press 2 cups flour mixture into bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. Spread date mixture over flour mixture. Sprinkle with remaining flour mixture. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

Yield: 20 servings (serving size: 1 bar)

CALORIES 162(28% from fat); FAT 5g (sat 2.3g,mono 2g,poly 0.3g); PROTEIN 1.6g; CHOLESTEROL 12mg; CALCIUM 14mg; SODIUM 78mg; FIBER 1.8g; IRON 0.7mg; CARBOHYDRATE 29.5g

Monday, November 21, 2005

Countdown to Thanksgiving.......

cranberry, cherry and walnut conserve Posted by Picasa

Seems I am not the only one getting ready for Thanksgiving. I decided to make the entire meal( except last night I thought I needed another side dish so Im going to make a non-cooking light one) from the November issue of Cooking Light. I'm excited for two reasons. 1. because I get to try some new recipes and 2. because we have invited some friends over and this might be their first taste of an American Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was always an important holiday in my family( as it is in most American families) and I dont want to give it up just because I live in Canada now.

The first recipe I tackled was the cranberry sauce. I cant believe I've never made this from scratch. It was so easy. This recipe has some dried cherries, port wine, walnuts and orange peel. The recipe made a lot too. You're just seeing the remainder that wouldnt fit in the jar. I snuck a taste and it was yummy.

Cranberry, Cherry, and Walnut Chutney

Aside from making a stellar accompaniment to roast turkey, this chutney is great for gift giving; pack in a ribbon-tied jelly jar. It also goes well with roast chicken, pork tenderloin, or ham.

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup port or other sweet red wine
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup dried tart cherries
1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries
2/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Orange rind strips (optional)

Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Add cherries, and cook 1 minute. Stir in cranberries; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until cranberries pop. Remove from heat. Stir in walnuts, grated rind, and extract. Garnish with orange rind strips, if desired. Cover and chill.

Yield: 16 servings (serving size: 1/4 cup)

CALORIES 108(25% from fat); FAT 3g (sat 0.2g,mono 0.7g,poly 2g); PROTEIN 1.5g; CHOLESTEROL 0.0mg; CALCIUM 11mg; SODIUM 2mg; FIBER 1.8g; IRON 0.3mg; CARBOHYDRATE 19.7g

David Bonom
Cooking Light, NOVEMBER 2005

Check this out...........

what a bargain Posted by Picasa

One of the benefits in living here is that no one eats avocado's. Thus, they are always on clearance and they are almost always perfect. I bought two of these packets. 10 avocado's for $1.98. I scooped out 5 of them and put them into a tupperware and froze them. These will be for quacamole for our cookie exchange party on Dec 10th. The other's were put into a small ziplock bag, given a squirt of lime juice and frozen. I just pull out out of the freezer and defrost in the microwave when we want some avocado. So easy and so cheap.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

a quick dinner........

Randi's stirfry Posted by Picasa

Robin had a meeting at 6:30pm tonight so she was going to scootch home for dinner at 5:45. I decided to make a peanut stirfry. I had a big bag of shrimp and I ran to the store for some veggies. I couldnt believe I spent 1.10 on 7 shitake mushrooms. I wish I had bought more, I really enjoyed the few slivers I had. LOL.

I took a shortcut and used PC( President's Choice brand availble only in Canada) light shanghai peanut sauce. I enhanced that with a bit of low carb peanut butter and a tsp of hoisen sauce. This was served over short grain brown rice with a smattering of peanuts for crunch. Robin said it was awesome. It was great, although next time I'll use more veggies.

A light fish dish.........

white fish giada style, winter squash pasta  Posted by Picasa

I prepared this for my client and I knew she would like it. This is an Everyday Italian recipe. I was pleasantly surprised because what you cant see in the picture is the bed of sauteed radicchio and white beans. I normally hate raw radicchio, its just way too bitter, but I actually liked this. This is a very simple light dish, Giada uses tilapia but that was 11.49lb( ridiculous) and the sole was 9.49. I like sole better, although it is more delicate. Giada calls for a lemon parsely vinagarette on top, and that was really nice too.

I also made the winter squash pasta with pine nuts( CL) that I've seen in a few blogs. Robin normally hates squash, but she liked it. I used some whole wheat rotini too. We are back on Weight watchers and the one cup was somewhat filling( although I was dreaming about food last night).

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

2 side dishes............

Fennel orange and parsley salad

brussel sprouts with bacon and thyme Posted by Picasa

I try to come up with interesting side dishes for my client. Since she has an allergy to garlic and can't tolerate wheat, milk and soy, I have to be creative with seasonings and different flavorings. These are two dishes I made recently for her. The fennel salad went with a turkey lasagna and the brussel sprouts went with a pork dish. I really loved the pork chops with a mustard sage sauce, but client reheated it too long and her pork was tough. They loved the brussel sprouts and I'm glad because it was a long process making them. First, cook 4 strips of chopped bacon, add 1lb of trimmed and quarted brussel sprouts to 2tbls of bacon fat, along with a chopped shallot. Cook until browned, add some chicken stock and braise until cooked thru. Add some maple syrup and fresh thyme and garnish with bacon.

The fennel salad was just chopped fennel, celery, orange segments and parsley. Dressed with some evoo, salt and fresh cracked pepper. Thankfully, they loved both of the dishes.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Not picture worthy..........

mini cheesecake Posted by Picasa

I made a whole mess of food today and this was the only thing worthy of a photo, everything else look unappealing.

First, I made some cream of brocoli soup. It looked like baby poo.
I also made some kasha and bowls. Basically a bowl of brown grains. Tasty, but not pretty.

Lastly, I used my new mini cheesecake pan to make these gems. They were as tasty as they look.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A whole whack of meat........

belgium beef and beer stew Posted by Picasa

Sometimes I really wish I ate red meat because this smelled fabulous while it was cooking. It looked pretty darn good too. This was for my client and normally I make them 4 servings, but stew meat was on sale and I had to buy a family pack. We're working on cleaning out the big freezer so I just thought what the hay, just use it all up. This recipe was loosly based on a belgium beef and beer stew recipe in Cook's Illustrated. I ended up cooking the whole thing on top of the stove because as you can see from the picture, I have a large Le Crueset pot. I also cooked some carrots, turnips and sweet potato seperatly and added that to the finished stew along with some frozen peas. My client said it was very good and I was relieved because I couldnt taste it. I did taste a tiny bit of the liquid and that was flavorful. Oh and Oliver and Harley really enjoyed it too.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Turkey meatballs and apple pie cookie pizza

Turkey Meatballs Posted by Picasa

apple pie cookie pizza Posted by Picasa

I made this on Friday because our neice was coming over. I get all my turkey products at Hayters Turkey in Dashwood, Ontario. When I lived in California, I used to love The Turkey Store products( now Jenny O) but Hayters beats them hands down. The turkey is so lean and flavorful. Last week the owner said she would give me caterer's pricing on bulk ground dark and light turkey. I have to repackage it myself but thats no big deal. I didnt have any clients this week, so I decided to make this labor intensive dish. First I made the sauce. I saute onions, garlic, carrot and celery in a large pot. Next, I add some dried italian seasoning, some salt and pepper. I threw in 3 large cans of san marzano tomatoes( bought at whole foods in ann arbor, MI) and some red wine. I added a few tbls of paste and simmered away. I also threw in a rind of reggiano I had in the freezer and a cube of porcini mushroom flavor( my secret ingredient). After a few hours, I puree this in the cuisinart and add the meatballs.

The meatballs are based on an old cooking light recipe. I've been making them for years. The meatballs have scallions, fresh parsely, carrot, zucchini, fresh bread crumbs, egg, garlic and the turkey. I use a combination of dark and light. I form into balls and bake them in the oven. I add them to the sauce after. I used buccatini this time and that was a mistake. The pasta was way too thick.

I threw together an apple pie cookie pizza using ( gasp) pillsbury sugar cookie dough, cream cheese, cooked appple slices and dulce de leche. Chelsea loved the pizza. It was good, but turned really soggy the next day.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Butterfinger bars.........

Butterfinger bars Posted by Picasa

Last week while I was perusing the nestle website I came across these bars. I didnt have the butterfingers so I had to wait. I picked up a bag of mini's in MI and made them the other day. They are actually called something else and the recipe says use butterfinger jingles. I decided to chop up mini's. Robin loved these bars. She cant stop raving about them. I knew she'd like them because she is a peanut butter freak. I didnt like the bars the first day, but I enjoyed them on day 2. The flavor developed nicely. They are very rich. The recipe calls for 9 inch square, but in my opinion, they are too thick. Next time I will use a 9 x 13 inch pan.

30 NESTLÉ BUTTERFINGER Jingles, unwrapped
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup creamy or chunky peanut butter
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda

PREHEAT oven to 350° F.

BEAT brown sugar, peanut butter, butter and granulated sugar in large mixer bowl until creamy. Beat in egg and vanilla extract. Gradually beat in flour and baking soda. Stir in Nestlé Jingles.

PRESS dough into 9-inch-square baking pan, distributing Nestlé Jingles evenly.

BAKE for 25 minutes or until golden and wooden pick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars.

watch them carefully, mine were done at 20 min.