Tuesday, June 26, 2012

This Week's Cauldron: Creole Turkey Soup

Since I am still trying to catch up on my everyday household duties (working full-time out of the house now) I decided for this week's cauldron to go for an old stand-by of mine: Creole Turkey Soup.

I have posted this recipe once before - but you can also find it HERE. Please enjoy!!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sunday Morning Spicy Breakfast Wrap

As you have seen in my blog, I love to cook and my repertoire often includes complicated-looking menu items (which I perceive as easy - but for the non-cook may seem somewhat daunting...). I really try to keep the difficulty factor to a bare minimum, because I realize not everyone has the time and energy to spend copious amounts of time in the kitchen, even on a lazy Sunday.

I have been working like a fiend these past two weeks at my new job and this weekend has been all about restoring my balance.

This morning I wanted to eat something good and hearty, but that was also quick and easy to prepare. Breakfast wraps are just that, and for me a frequent go-to item when my sons are flying out the door to school in the morning.

A short-cut is to cook bacon rashers ahead of time and keep them wrapped in paper towel, then tin foil in the fridge. Then all you need to do is scramble some eggs and toss the bacon in at the last minute to re-heat it.

This morning my breakfast wraps included eggs, bacon, some spicy chillies, tomatoes, scallions, and fresh dill as well as a three-cheese blend, sour cream and spicy salsa. As far as fillings for the wraps - the world is your oyster here - pretty much anything goes with scrambled eggs. The best part is that you can eat these leisurely at the table or you can wrap them in tin foil and eat them on the run.

Spicy Breakfast Wrap
4 flour tortillas (wrapped in tin foil and warmed in the oven at 300F)
1 tablespoon coconut oil
8 farm fresh eggs (I use organic free range)
8 slices nitrate-free naturally smoked bacon, cooked and drained on paper towels
1 large tomato chopped
4 scallions chopped
1 fresh red chilli pepper (Serrano or Fresno) minced (omit seeds for less heat)
Sea salt and pepper to taste
1 small bunch fresh dill, chopped
1 cup grated three cheese blend
Tomato salsa (medium to hot)
1 tub sour cream

1.Heat coconut oil in skillet over medium heat. In bowl whisk eggs with salt, pepper, chillies and dill.
2. To heated coconut oil, add scallions and tomatoes and cook until softened about 5-7 minutes; add egg mixture and scramble, continuing to cook until desired consistency (in our house everyone prefers their scrambled eggs a little on the dryer side).
3. Remove tortillas from oven and place on plates; spread each with about 2 tablespoons sour cream; divide the scrambled egg mixture among the tortillas keeping the filling in a straight line through the center of the tortilla; top with crumbled bacon and grated cheese. Fold the outer edges of the tortilla in about an inch on either side and roll into a large 'cigar'. Cut in half and serve with salsa. Serves 4.
* To make a to-go version, add salsa prior to rolling up the wrap, then wrap in a layer of parchment paper, then tin foil.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Friday Night Cocktail: Pineapple Kiwi Sangria

So I started a new job this month and I have worked about 120 hours since my inaugural day two weeks ago. There is a very good reason behind this. Our new showroom was opening and there was a major time crunch, in addition, for the grand opening we were hosting a couple of dozen people from the industry so there was a lot of time spent entertaining out of town guests as well has holding in-house training sessions this past week.
I am exhausted to say the least but now things will get back to normal and I can breath a sigh of relief that I survived my first two weeks with this fabulous new company!

I believe that I will have a whole new appreciation for Friday Nights now that I am working full-time and so today I would like to share with you one of many more Friday Night Cocktails to come:

Pineapple and Kiwi Sangria.

I was feeling like something really refreshing when I came home from work today and although it is raining outside and doesn't look even the slightest bit like summer has actually commenced, I think Sangria is one of those drinks one can enjoy regardless of the season.
This recipe yields one large pitcher, so you can plunk yourself down and relax while people can help themselves to at least a few refills.

Pineapple Kiwi Sangria
1/4 cup chopped pineapple
1/4 cup chopped kiwi
1/4 cup small green grapes, sliced in half
2 bottles dry white wine
1 cup white rum
1/2 cup Grand Marnier (or Triple Sec)
4 cups pineapple juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Combine all ingredients in large pitcher. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve chilled over ice. Serves 8-10.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sunday Morning Sour Cherry and Almond Quinoa

One of the biggest buzz words in the food world these days is Quinoa. This  nutritious, ancient grain has been grown in Central America for thousands of years. Quinoa is not actually a grain, but a pseudo-grain, as it is not part of the grass species. Surprisingly, as a chenopod, Quinoa is closely related to the beet, spinach and tumbleweed family. The grain- like buds are actually seeds that are harvested from the crop - imagine a spinach plant going to seed.
Quinoa is considered a complete protein (18%) as it contains essential amino acids and phosphorus, magnesium and iron. It is a good source of calcium, which makes it useful for vegans and those who are lactose-intolerant. Quinoa is also gluten-free and is considered easy to digest.

I have made Quinoa a regular part of our diets and use it in many recipes as a substitute for Rice Pilaf or Couscous; ground into flour for pancakes or muffins and as a delicious breakfast cereal.

The great thing about Quinoa 'porridge', is that you do get the protein in the morning - if you are like me, I tend to get that bad 'sugar rush' from straight carbs, which I do not get with Quinoa.
Quinoa takes about 15 minutes to cook, not as fast as  a quick oats porridge, but it can be prepared the night before and re-heated during the week, for a quick nutritious breakfast.
But its Sunday today and I have time, so I made my favourite version containing dried sour cherries and sliced un-blanched almonds. Topped with plain yogurt and maple syrup, this is a hearty breakfast that will keep you going until lunch...

Sour Cherry And Almond Quinoa
2 cups water
1 cup Quinoa (I use the truRoots Organic Quinoa)
1/4 cup dried sour cherries (or any dried fruit such as blueberries, raisins or cranberries)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons un-blanched, sliced almonds ( they cook faster than whole almonds)
Plain yogurt and maple syrup for topping
Combine Quinoa and water in a pot. Bring to a boil. Add cherries, almonds and cinnamon. Turn heat to low and cook covered for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest for about 5 minutes. Fluff with fork and spoon into bowls. Top with yogurt and maple syrup; sprinkle with additional cinnamon and almonds if desired. Serves 4.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Friday Night Cocktail: Carrot Cake Martini

I LOVE carrot cake! I could eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner...Carrots are hugely healthy, containing beta-carotene, which is a good anti-oxidant as well as vitamin K which is good for the eyes. I know I am grasping at straws here - but drinking can be healthy - yes carrots are really good for you!
A few weeks ago I posted a cocktail recipe for a Chocolate Cake Martini which is my liquid version of that decadent comfort food we all know and love. I get it (well I don't actually get it) that not everyone likes chocolate cake (my son Mr. J does not, and I take full blame for that...I actually hated chocolate when I was pregnant with him!) Now in keeping with the cake theme ( I love to watch 'Cake Boss' on the Food Network) one of the most popular cakes used in slab form is also another classic we all love: Carrot Cake - that ultra moist concoction of carrots, pineapple and cinnamon topped with sweet creamy cream cheese icing! And no need to feel even an iota guilty for drinking this one - cuz' now you can have this cake and drink it, too!

Carrot Cake Martini
2 ounces vanilla vodka
1 ounce creme de cacao
2 ounces pineapple juice
1 ounce carrot juice
1 ounce plain cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon icing sugar
2 tablespoons ground walnuts
Combine softened cream cheese with icing sugar; spread onto small plate. Dip Martini glass rim in cream cheese icing; dip into ground walnuts. Set aside.
To cocktail shaker filled with ice add vodka, creme de cacao, pineapple and carrot juices; shake vigorously. Strain into chilled Martini glass. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Weekly Cauldron: Beefy Beet and Rainbow Chard Borscht

One of my all time favourite soups is Borscht...Hands. Down. I have made this fabulously healthful, chunky soup a variety of ways including a chicken based version and a vegetarian version and both are equally delicious, but the one that gains me the most kudos here at home is a traditional Russian Borscht made with beef. Yes, I know - Hubs and the boys like their red meat.

The recipe has been modified so many times, based on what ingredients I have or don't have at any given time and today was no exception. I didn't have white cabbage, which is one of the main elements in a traditional Russian Borscht. I did, however have oodles of ripe rainbow chard begging to be picked, so I simply replaced the cabbage with chard and the results were astounding...not to mention the added vitamins and minerals contained in chard: vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron and large amounts of fiber and because chard is also part of the beet family, I knew it would naturally complement the flavour of the beets in the recipe!
I started off by sauteeing some onions and garlic in olive oil, then adding finely diced cubes of organic stewing beef, then some chopped celery and carrots. I added bay leaves, fresh dill and some organic sugar, then beef broth, tomato paste, chopped chard, cubed potatoes, sea salt and pepper. The soup is set to a simmer, covered for about an hour, until the beef is tender. At the end, I always stir in about 1/3 of a cup of good balsamic vinegar, because a true Borscht always has that acid which gives this delicious soup its familiar zing. Served with a generous dollop of sour cream, this soup is definitely a meal in  bowl!
Beefy Beet and Rainbow Chard Borscht
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound stewing beef, cut into small dice
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2" dice
4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
3 medium beets (boiled in skins, then cooled to room temperature and skins slipped off)
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon pure cane sugar
8 cups beef stock (I used low-sodium organic)
12 cups rainbow chard, chopped OR 1 small head white cabbage cut into 2" chunks
1/4 cup tomato paste
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
1 bunch fresh dill or 2 tablespoons dried (reserve some fresh dill for garnish)
1/4 -1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
Sour cream for accompaniment
1. In Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat and saute onion, garlic until translucent; add beef and brown with onions and garlic; add celery and carrots and continue to cook another 10 minutes.
2. Add bay leaves, dill and sugar; cook for 30 seconds; add broth, tomato paste, chard and potatoes, sea salt and pepper.
3. Simmer, covered until meat is tender, about 1 hour.
4. Using a box grater, coarsely shred beets into soup; stir to combine. Simmer an additional 30 minutes.
5. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar.
To serve: ladle soup into bowls and garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a sprig of fresh dill. Serves 12.
* TIP: Reserve about 1 cup of the beet water and strain through a coffee filter to filter out any grit; add to the soup for extra flavour and colour.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Sunday Morning Classic Buttermilk Pancakes and Bacon and Sage Wrapped Turkey Weiners

 Sometimes a good old pancake breakfast is all one needs to start the day off right. Pancakes are one of my favourite comfort foods. There are so many ways to serve up pancakes, but for me the best is simply topped with butter and Canadian Maple Syrup.

I have been making this particular buttermilk pancake recipe for what seems like eons and to tell the truth, I don't even recall where it came from originally. I have tweaked it over the years and jotted down modifications in my notebook each time but finally came to a batter that I believe is about as perfect as can be...

The addition of buttermilk makes the batter not only rich tasting, but gives it incredible volume. Usually when using buttermilk, one would omit baking powder and only use baking soda, but I have found that by using both leavening agents in this recipe the pancakes turn out incredibly light and fluffy.

The key to a great pancake batter is to NOT over-mix it - the consistency should be thick and lumpy, but should also pour off the spoon easily enough to spread on the hot pan or griddle. You should see a lot of bubbles on the surface and don't worry if there are lumps, or small pockets of unmixed flour, these will continue to moisten as you let the batter rest for some time.
Patience is a virtue!

And...what would a pancake breakfast be without sausages, or bacon? I love both and tend to indulge a little in this recipe. Here I have used medication-free turkey weiners, which I have wrapped in bacon. I pre-cook the bacon a little bit first, just to render the fat, but I don't let it get crispy - the bacon should be flexible enough to easily wrap and stay around the weiner without having to use a toothpick (but you can if you wish). Tuck in some fresh sage leaves for some extra flavour and sprinkle with hot chilli flakes for some 'zing'. Then roast the weiner rolls in a convection oven for about 15 minutes, until the bacon is crispy. In the meantime, cook the pancakes on a heated griddle or in a frying pan. This brunch comes together so simply, even kids can make it!

Classic Buttermilk Pancakes
2 cups unbleached flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 fresh egg, beaten
2 1/2 cups 1.5% buttermilk
1/4 cup melted coconut oil, or unsalted butter, or vegetable oil

1. Stir dry ingredients together in mixing bowl.
2. In large measuring cup, whisk together buttermilk, egg and oil or butter. stir liquid ingredients into dry ingredients just until moistened. Let batter rest, about ten minutes.
3. Preheat griddle or large skillet over medium heat; grease lightly. Pour about 1/2 cup batter onto hot griddle for each pancake. cook until tops of pancakes are bubbly and appear dry; turn and cook until lightly browned, about 2-3 minutes. makes about 12 (5 inch) pancakes.

Bacon and Sage Wrapped Turkey Weiners
2 large turkey weiners, cut in half (to make 4 pieces)
2 slices thick nitrate free bacon, cut in half (to make 4 slices)
8 fresh sage leaves
1/4 teaspoon hot chilli flakes

1. Cook bacon slices over medium-high heat until fat is rendered, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.
2. Place two sage leaves on top of each weiner and carefully wrap with bacon, tucking ends under.Sprinkle with chilli flakes. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet and roast at 325 F for about 15 minutes. Serves 4.


Saturday, June 02, 2012

Friday Night Cocktail: Blackberry Mojito

Sorry for the delay on this post - its usually ready to go by at least midday on Fridays...but I have been having issues with my blog and wasn't able to post this until 1:00 AM this morning!!

The blackberry bushes in our back lane are brimming with blossoms, which the bees have been busy pollinating. In just over a month I can look forward to dressing in my coveralls and braving the prickles to harvest oodles of ripe berries.

In the meantime, the mint has sprouted and is begging to be picked and incorporated into something good. Fresh blackberries will be a little while yet, so I figured - why not at least crush that crisp fresh mint into a refreshing Mojito and add some blackberry liqueur with the rum and a handful of frozen berries for a delicious twist on this classic Cuban drink?

...And that is exactly what I did!

Here's the scoop:

Blackberry Mojito
2 ounces white rum
1 ounce blackberry liqueur
5 fresh mint leaves, roughly torn
1/4 lime sliced thinly
5-6 blackberries
Sparkling mineral water

Place rum and blackberry liqueur in tumbler over ice. Add mint, lime slices and blackberries. Top with sparkling water. Stir to blend. Enjoy!