Friday, January 27, 2012

My Seven Links and First Year Blogiversary!

One year ago today I put forth into the world my very first post on my brand shiny new food blog.  It was all about gingerbread waffles and caramelized pears and I was pleased as punch.  One year.  Time has flown, friends.  Almost 100 (!!) posts later, and I'm still over the moon that I've created a little world here for you to stop by, stay awhile and hear what I have to say about food and cooking.  Given the healthy measures of gardening, cat talk, single-girl bitching whining, lots of lovely photos and perhaps an over-active imagination when it comes to my boyfriend Don Draper, I hope you've enjoyed letting me share little pieces of my world with you.

Monday, January 23, 2012

In The Raw: Walnut & Date Brownies with Chipotle Ganache

Ladies and gentlemen, today I present to you brownies, made without butter.  Someone circle this date on your calendar.  Check to see that hell hasn't frozen over too.  I mean, who knew something so good could contain no butter?  And it's full of things like figs and dates too.  Don't be frightened, friends.  I would never present anything to you that I wasn't head over heels for, and these little beauties have sent me a-tumbling.  And no I haven't been on skates or skis, or any other sharp objects that propel me forward.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

For Your Hibernation: Sausage & White Bean Cassoulet

It was too good to be true.  For weeks and weeks, Saskatoon was experiencing above average temperatures.  Like we barely had snow for Christmas, and just 10 days ago I was out for dinner, wearing my cute boots and a leather jacket that wasn't a parka.  It was surreal, friends.  But the hammer has come down hard over the past few days, locking us in a deep freeze that really isn't super fun.  You know, stuff like skin will freeze in a few minutes, and it's pretty much requisite to plug in your car, so you know, you can drive it the next day.  Heck this morning, it was just a few degrees away from -50 degrees Celsius, with the wind chill. For my American friends, that's about -52.6 F.  Hella cold, y'all.  To answer your question, on days like today I wonder why I live here too.  Really need to think about renting that villa in the south of France. Or that condo in New Mexico.  Or that tree house in Belize.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Lighten Up! Grapefruit & Avocado Salad with Shrimp

It's citrus and avocado season, kids.  Cheap as borscht (errr, wrong veg, Ren) and super-good for you, it's time to load up the shopping cart with some Ruby Reds and some Haas.   Sometimes all a dreary January day needs is a bit of avocado, mashed with garlic and lemon and sprinkled with salt, eaten at the counter standing up, with blue corn tortilla chips in one hand and a nice cold beer in the other.  Close your eyes and you could be in Mexico, in the pool bar on the beach.  Sounds lovely, no?  I need to re-visit the notion of a tropical holiday. 

When I was a kid, I hated grapefruit.  No surprise there, as most kids aren't super fond of it.  My Mom isn't a fan, so it was never brought into the house by her, but whenever we visited my Grandma, I remember the grapefruit.  Palest pink.  Sour.  Heaping tablespoons of sugar poured on to aid consumption.  Brutal.  Even as a grown up, the palest of pale grapefruits do nothing for me. They don't even get a second glance.  Not when there are the Ruby Red beauties out in the world.  So pretty and sweet, definitely the popular cousin of the bunch.  Sectioned in salad, I'm in love.

Let's talk about salad for a bit.  14 days into 2012 and I've eaten plenty of greens (and cake!  There's no detox happening here...) and this is one of my fave salads.  Swimming with buttery avocado, lemony shrimp and just the perfect amount of grapefruit sweet, this salad brings a welcome lightness in a month of full on holiday recovery.  You'll feel like you are on a cleanse at some posh spa, and Ryan Gosling is your waiter and he brings you water with lime and brushes your hair and laughs at all your jokes.....errrr sorry for that.  Daydream, interrupted. 

The recipe is simply a guide - make it as you like it.  Sub in some spinach for the greens, or blood oranges for the grapefruit.  Omit avocado (but why?!) and add artichoke hearts instead.  Give the shrimp a bit of a marinade before cooking - and remember they only need a little heat - just until pink.  The vinaigrette is a simple red wine vinegar and olive oil, but feel free to mess around with that too.  My feelings won't be hurt. 
Kick back, tuck in and dream on. 

Grapefruit and Avocado Salad with Shrimp

Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice 
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp salt
red pepper flakes 
454g (1 pound) large peeled and deveined shrimp, thawed and rinsed well

2 large Ruby Red  or Texas Rio grapefruit
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp sherry vinegar or  red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
8 cups mixed salad greens such as baby spinach, kale, arugula, lettuce, etc.
1 large avocado, sliced
1/2 English cucumber, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp fresh dill sprigs

For shrimp - in a medium, non reactive bowl, combine marinade ingredients, using just a pinch of the red pepper flakes. Add shrimp. Toss thoroughly so all of the shrimp are evenly coated. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes. 

Remove shrimp from marinade, discard the marinade. Heat a large non-stick pan over medium high heat, and cook shrimp until they're pink and opaque on each side, about 4 minutes total. Let the shrimp cool in the skillet at room temperature, then place in a clean bowl as well as any juices left behind in the skillet. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes - 2 hours.
Slice the peel from the top and bottom of the grapefruit. Peel sides so all the flesh is showing. Cut out segments over a bowl to catch the juice. Reserve about 1 Tbsp juice for dressing. Use up the rest in sparkling water or a cocktail. 

In a small bowl, whisk together the grapefruit juice, oil, vinegar, mustard, maple syrup, salt and pepper Adjust seasonings to taste

Divide greens among four plates or a large platter. Top with grapefruit, avocado, cucumber, shrimp and fresh dill. Drizzle with vinaigrette just before serving. Serves 4. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Warm & Fuzzy: Sticky Toffee Pudding with Molasses Sauce

Is it too soon?  Is it too soon to think about making something so decidedly decadent like this sticky toffee pudding?  Most of us probably spent the week removing the clothes from our treadmills and banishing butter from the diet.  Heck I only ate bacon once this week, which is really saying something.  Ah yes, January.  The time to put diet and fitness goals into focus.  Does it count if I ate big, yummy salads everyday, if only to combat the fact that I was also consuming sticky toffee pudding for dessert and sometimes breakfast?  I should feel guilty, but I don't.  Instead, this dessert makes me all warm and fuzzy, like my favourite sweater I reach for on cold Winter mornings.

This was my family's dessert on New Year's Day.  My sister was visiting with her girls, so we had a quiet dinner of Thai take-out after rousing sessions of finger painting and play-dough-plaooza.  I'm not sure who was having more fun - the two and three year-olds, or someone somewhat (okay, considerably) older...I think I need more play dough in my life.  That is all.  My sweet niece Olivia was very excited about assembling the puddings - she was the one that sauced them up for us that night.  I didn't think the kids would go crazy for the pudding and molasses sauce, but hells yeah, they tucked right into it.  Proud Aunty, I was.  But really, I think it was all about the whipped cream on top. 

Sticky toffee pudding is really a moist date cake, (built with a little butter, sugar, flour, an egg and loads of dates) and an incredible toffee sauce.   While considered a modern British classic dessert, you'll find it on  menus everywhere these days.  And I'm not complaining, because I loooove it so.  The cake is a great one - moist and flavourful, and easy to assemble - but the real shining star in this dessert is the toffee sauce, of course. Using molasses rather than golden syrup creates an exquisite, earthy, creamy sauce I now want to pour over everything.

If you don't like dates, don't give up on this recipe - you won't even really notice them.  Promise.  You'll be too busy cooing over the sauce.  Yeah, that's me, still in my flannel jams.  I was on holidays, y'all.

 Butter 8 250 ml (8oz)  ramekins, or butter an 8-inch square baking dish.

Spoon in the batter.

Bake them for about 50 minutes.  Done.

When they are cool enough to remove, plate them up with heaps of sauce and whipped cream. Yum and yum.

In a month when reality looms large, with a mailbox full of bills, and an inbox that requires replies, this may be exactly what you need.  There's always salad tomorrow.

Sticky Toffee Pudding with Molasses Sauce

1/2 cup (125ml) butter (I like salted)
1 cup (250ml) brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp (5ml) pure vanilla extract
1 cup (250ml) all purpose flour
1 tsp (5ml) baking soda
1 tsp (5ml) baking powder
2 cups (500ml) pitted dates, finely minced
1 1/4 cups (300ml) boiling water
1/4 cup (50ml) blackstrap molasses

1 cup (250ml) brown sugar
1/4 cup (50ml) molasses, or treacle
1/2 cup (125ml) cold butter, cubed
2 cups (500ml) whipping cream

Whipped cream for garnish.

To make puddings, in a medium bowl, pour boiling water over chopped dates and 1/4 cup molasses.  Let stand until cool.  Meanwhile, butter 8 oven-proof 250ml (8oz) ramekins or an 8 inch square baking dish.

Cream butter until fluffy.  Add brown sugar and beat until well combined.  In another bowl, whisk together egg, vanilla.  In another bowl, combine flour with baking soda and baking powder.  To the butter mixture, alternately add flour mixture and egg mixture, beating well after each addition.  Stir the cool dates into batter.  Scrape bowl well.  Divide batter evenly into your ramekins, about 2/3 full, or into your baking dish.  Bake in a preheated 350*F oven for 20 minutes.  Reduce heat to 300*F and bake another 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, to make sauce, combine brown sugar and molasses or treacle in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.  Boil 1 minute, then whisk in butter, a few cubes a time.  Add cream and boil until sauce is reduced and thickened, about 7-8 minutes.  You should have 2 cups (500 ml) of sauce.

Remove puddings from oven and cool slightly on a rack.  Run a knife around the edge of each ramekin to loosen pudding and invert onto plates.  Serve warm, with the toffee sauce and sweetened whipped cream.  Serves 8.  Adapted from Cinda Chavich's book High Plains.

NOTE:  The sauce make a lot, like almost twice as much as I needed.  So feel free to cut the sauce recipe in half and you should have enough for your puddings.  Or just keep it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.  I'm sure you'll think of something to pour it over - like waffles or pancakes or gingerbread cake.  Yum!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Fresh Start: Baked Eggs with Prosciutto and Parmesan

We're just a few days into 2012, and I hope it's treating you well, so far.  There's nothing like the smell of a fresh New Year, ripe to all sorts of possibilities and opportunities.  I don't know about you but I welcome the whole notion of a clean slate; a chance to make this year better than the last.  The air is electric with a fresh start; you never know what can happen this year.  It's just up to us to create it.

When I've not been loungin' in my flannels too long, or watching the True Blood marathon on HBO, I've set a few, quiet goals, for myself this year.  I like looking back on previous years' scribbled notes, and happy when some were reached, and a little miffed when not.  Not resolutions - I hate that word - but goals, challenges, attempts to make my life a little better.  Because it can always be better, right?  From the large and dreamy (true love, anyone?  anyone?) to the small and silly (banishment of all dust bunny colonies currently occupying the nooks and crannies of my house) it's something to shoot for. 

So for my first recipe of 2012, I thought I'd throw a little breakfast idea your way.  I saw these eggs over on Two Tarts, and I kind of fell in love with them.  So simple and kind of sexy. My only quip is that I wish I'd roasted some cherry tomatoes to go alongside, to cut the prosciutto's salt factor.  Oh well.  Next time.  These eggs are easily assembled and pretty damn tasty.  It's a home run, first time out in the New Year.

I lined a couple of ramekins with prosciutto, like this.  Cracked an egg in each.

Drizzled some cream.

Shaved some Parmesan.

They baked up fluffy, into a knife and fork affair.  Perfect with a good cup of coffee.

And a cat.

Relish the chance to think about the upcoming year - mindful of life's brevity.  Be open to breaking the rules a little, forgiving quickly, loving truly, and savouring every bite, like it could be the last one (but let's hope not).  Each day is waiting for a story to be written.  I'm going to be super nosy and ask how you want your story to be written this year.  What goals have you scribbled down for yourself?  Are you going to climb a mountain or organize your cupboard of plastic containers, finally?  I can't wait to see how this year unfolds for you, for me.  I hope it's bold and brave and utterly delicious. 

Baked Eggs with Prosciutto and Parmesan

4-5 slices prosciutto
2 eggs
2 tbsp whipping cream
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, or Gruyere, or cheese of your choice
coarse black pepper
chives, finely chopped, for garnish

Line 2 ramekins with prosciutto.  I had 2.5 slices in each.  Crack an egg in each ramekin.  Drizzle 1 tbsp cream in each. Top with cheese.  Crack some pepper.  Bake in the centre of a preheated 375*F oven, for about 10-15 minutes, depending on how well done you like your eggs.  Sprinkle the chives.  That's all there is too it.  I'd roast some cherry tomatoes in olive oil, alongside, just for fun.  Serves 1-2 people, depending on how hungry you are!  Adapted from Two Tarts. 

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