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Monday, December 15, 2014

Fresh and Healthy


We had been planning a little retreat to work on some recipes, knitting and Christmas projects, and on Thursday we packed up the car to head to Ellicottville. Toward the end of a blizzardy six-hour drive , we stopped at the grocery store with absolutely nothing planned. We just grabbed a few things that looked fresh and healthy.  When it came time to make dinner we started grouping ingredients into piles and this is menu that came together:


Grouper with Citrus Tarragon Glaze
Kale Salad with Dried Cherries and Cashews
Kasha with Hen of the Woods mushrooms


Grouper with Citrus Tarragon Glaze

Grouper filets, about 1” thick
For the Marinade/Glaze
Juice of ½ pink grapefruit
Juice and zest of 2 clementines
Juice and zest of ½ lime
Zest of one orange
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
1 ½ teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon tarragon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon infused olive oil

Combine all the marinade ingredients in a shallow glass dish and marinate the fish for 15 minutes at room temperature.  Meanwhile, preheat the barbecue on MEDIUM-HIGH for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to MEDIUM-LOW and brush the grids thoroughly with vegetable oil to prevent sticking.  Place the fish on the grill, and pour the marinade into a shallow saucepan.   Cook the fish for a total of 10 minutes, turning every 2 ½ minutes for perfect grill marks.  Meanwhile, bring the reserved marinade to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until very syrupy, about 10 minutes.  Whisk in a tablespoon of butter.  Spoon the sauce over the fish and serve immediately.

Kasha with Hen of the Woods Mushrooms

We just had to try this unusual mushroom variety that was described as “dense with intense mushroom flavour”.

1 cup toasted kasha
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup finely chopped red bell pepper
¼ cup finely chopped onion
1 cup chopped Hen of the Woods mushrooms
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
I clove garlic, minced
2 cups chicken stock

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan set over MEDIUM-LOW heat.   Sauté the peppers, onions, and mushrooms until very soft.  Stir in the thyme and garlic, and then the kasha.  Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, then reduce heat to LOW, cover tightly and simmer for 10 minutes.  Turn off heat and let stand 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork.  



Kale Salad with Cashews and Dried Cherries
5 cups kale, finely chopped
4 green onions, finely chopped
1 orange, zest for the salad and juice for the dressing
½ cup cashews, chopped
½ cup dried cherries, chopped
For the dressing:
¼ cup orange juice, freshly squeezed
¼ cup lemon flavoured olive oil
1 tsp srirachi or sweet chile sauce
½ tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Prepare the kale by washing and drying it in a salad spinner. Cut off the tough spines, and chop the kale very finely. Toss into a large salad bowl. Chop the green onions and zest the orange. Add to the kale in the salad bowl. Toss with dressing half an hour before serving. Garnish with cashews and dried cherries.
To prepare the dressing, combine orange juice, lemon-flavoured olive oil, srirachi sauce, salt and ground pepper in a mason jar and shake.







Thanks to Mother Nature, we were able to use up a lot of energy snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the deep snow. Once we recovered from the activity, we decided that we deserved to satisfy our sweet-tooths.  We got a little got carried away with experimenting with some white and bittersweet chocolate, but the results were fantastic. We came up with 3 awesome snacks: Gingerbread Popcorn with Cashews and White Chocolate, Peppermint Bark and Bittersweet Chocolate Bark with Dried Cherries and Toasted Almonds.  No surprise that we are smiling!!!







Festive Peppermint Bark
500 grams good quality white chocolate(we use Callebault)
200 grams bittersweet chocolate(60-70% cocoa solids)
6 tbsp heavy cream(35%)
¾ tsp peppermint extract
1 large red and white candy cane, crushed

Set 2 double boilers or saucepans with metal bowls sitting upon them on the stove top, each containing 1 ½ cups of water in the lower unit. There are a few tips that you need to know when melting chocolate. First, just bring the water in the lower saucepan to a gentle simmer, so that the chocolate melts slowly. You do not want it to get too hot. Secondly, be sure that the top unit sits closely on the lower unit, so that steam does not escape. You do not want any water to get mixed into the chocolate, as this could cause it to seize, or turn grainy.
Using a large knife, cut the bittersweet and white chocolate chunks into smaller pieces for easy melting. Place the chocolate pieces into the top of the separate double boilers until the chocolates are melted and smooth. Turn off the heat under the water boilers, and let the chocolate sit until you are ready for them.
The peppermint bark is made of 3 layers of chocolate, and each layer must chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes before proceeding to the next layer.  Prepare 2 flat baking sheets by turning them upside down and covering them with foil. Pour 2/3 of the slightly cooled, but still runny white chocolate onto the foil lined baking sheet, and spread it by tilting the baking sheet back and forth until the white chocolate covers a rectangular  area of approximately 12” x 8”. Chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, remove the bittersweet chocolate from the double boiler and stir in the heavy cream and peppermint extract until smooth and silky. Allow it to cool for 5 -8 minutes. Working very quickly, spread this chocolate mixture over the chilled layers of white chocolate, using an icing spatula. Sprinkle with crushed peppermint candy and return to the refrigerator for another 20 minutes.
For the final layer, slowly drizzle the remaining melted white chocolate over the chilled chocolate, using a tablespoon or rubber spatula. Return to the refrigerator and chill for another 20-25 minutes. Cut or break the peppermint bark into bite size pieces and enjoy. We store it in the refrigerator in paper lined tins. A tin of these makes a great hostess gift.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Ninth Annual Bake and Booze




All the walkers minus Lynn gathered at Kris’ house for our traditional Bake and Booze event where we share some festive cocktails while baking our favourite cookies to divie up.  Aside from the great fun and laughs we have together it is nice to have a tin of Christmas treats at the ready for when family members start drifting home for the holidays.  Bev fueled the fun with her Whoopie Machine White Sangria which is much more potent than it seems, and Barb and Terry provided some nibbles.  Once all the cookies were prepared and cooling we sat down to a light meal of soup, two spinach salads and some yummy cheese biscuits.  I remembered the next day that I was supposed to make skewers of something or other for the grill but that detail fell off my radar in the busyness of the season. 

Our beautiful and gracious hostess!


 Barb’s Ham and Gruyere Pinwheels
1 package (397grams) frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg
FILLING:
1/2 cup  mango chutney, strained
115 grams thinly sliced Black Forest ham
1/2 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

On floured surface, roll out half of the pastry into 12 inch square.
FILLING: Leaving 1/2 inch  border, spread half of the mango  chutney over pastry square. Arrange half of the ham in a single layer over top; top with half of the cheese.
Whisk egg with 1 tbsp water; brush lightly over border. Roll up firmly into cylinder; pinch seam to seal. Repeat with remaining pastry, filling , and egg mixture. Wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
Using serrated knife, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices. Arrange on  baking sheets. Bake at 425 degrees  until golden, about 15 minutes.
Makes about 30 pieces.


Curried Butternut Squash Soup

1 butternut squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 apple, peeled, cored and sliced
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 can coconut milk
Juice of ½ lime
Salt, to taste
For the Spice Mixture:
3 tablespoons coriander
2 tablespoons ground turmeric
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seed
1 1/2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon fenugreek seed
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground clove
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
For the Garnish:
Chopped fresh cilantro
Toasted unsweetened coconut flakes

Preheat oven or barbecue to 400°F.  Halve the squash, scoop out the seeds, and place them cut side down on a baking sheet.  Bake for 45 minutes, until very soft, remove from heat and let cool.

While the squash is baking, combine all the spice ingredients in a spice mill or grind with a mortar and pestle. (you will not use the entire mixture in the soup but it can be stored in an air tight container for several months).

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large pot and add the onions and peppers.  Cook until very tender, stirring occasionally.  Add the apples, ginger and garlic, stir for a minute until very fragrant, and sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the spice mixture over top.  Mix thoroughly, then pour in the stock.  Peel the skin from the squash and place all the flesh in the pot.  Simmer until the apples are very tender, then let cool slightly before pureeing in batches in a blender.  Return the soup to the pot and stir in the coconut milk and lime juice.  Season with salt to taste, and add more of the spice mixture if desired.  Heat gently before spooning into warm bowls or mugs.  Garnish with cilantro and coconut flakes. 

Grandma Harris’s sugar cookies

Bev and her daughter Nora co-produced these beauties!

3 ½ c flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 c shortening
1 ½ c sugar
2 well-beaten eggs
1 ½ tsp vanilla

royal icing to decorate, if desired

Beat sugar and shortening. Add eggs and vanilla.

Sift dry ingredients together. Stir into wet ingredients.

Do not chill dough. Roll out immediately and cut with your favourite shapes. 

Bake 400° 6 – 8 minutes.   Let cool well before decorating.

Nancy took a lot of grief for her bottled dressing, but it was delicious!




Savoury Ched­dar Cheese-Rosemary Biscuits
....adapted from Ruby Watcho Cheddar Cheese Biscuits
(makes 12 biscuits)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp gran­u­lated sugar
1 tbsp bak­ing pow­der
12 tsp bak­ing soda
12 tsp pep­per
½ tsp cayenne pepper
12 tsp salt
6 tbsp cold but­ter, cut in pieces
1 14 cups grated old ched­dar cheese
1 cup but­ter­milk(or 7/8 cup milk + 2 tbsp white vinegar)
1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp milk
1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped
Coarse salt for sprinkling
Pre­heat oven to 400°F.
Com­bine first7 ingre­di­ents in a food proces­sor and blend. Add chunks of butter and pulse until mix­ture resem­bles coarse crumbs. Add grated cheese and pulse until com­bined. Add but­ter­milk, and puls­e until the mix­ture clumps to form a ball.
Trans­fer the dough to a lightly floured sur­face. Sprinkle chopped rosemary on top and knead lightly, then shape dough into a large ball. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and chill at least 30 min­utes.
On a lightly floured sur­face, roll dough into 3/4-inch thick­ness, then cut into 3-inch bis­cuits, using a round cookie cutter, or glass jar. Gather scraps to form additional biscuits.
 Place on ungreased or parchment lined cookie sheet.
 Brush with egg mix­ture and sprin­kle with coarse salt.
Bake in the oven for 20 min­utes or until golden brown and flaky. Serve warm.







Monday, December 1, 2014

A Little Holiday Dinner





A weekend trip to Ellicottville during American Thanksgiving put us in the mood for a holiday style dinner even though there were only 5 of us around the table.  Our family gatherings during the holidays usually involve 25-50 people, so this was a bit of a reset, but we incorporated a lot of the traditional favourites and it was a piece of cake to put together.  The menu was as follows:

Spring Mix with Honey Pecan, Apples and Cheddar*

Turkey Breast Stuffed with Brie Cheese, Apple Butter, Sage and Proscuitto*
Cranberry Sauce
Roasted Beets and Sweet Potatoes
Pan fried Brussels Sprouts

Gingerbread Pudding Cake*

*see recipes below


Spring Mix with Honey Pecans, Apples and Cheddar

                                                                                                                      5 cups spring mix
1 apple, sliced
4 ounces extra old cheddar, cut into small cubes
For the honey pecans:
2 cups pecan halves
¼ cup honey
¼ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup water
For the vinaigrette:
3 tablespoons ginger honey flavoured white balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons lemon infused olive oil
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
                                                                                                                      Salt and pepper, to taste

For the Honey Pecans:  Preheat oven to 350°, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Combine honey, sugar, salt and water in a medium saucepan. Add pecans and cook until the mixture is almost dry and totally covering the nuts.  Spread the pecans on the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, turning every 5 minutes.  Let cool and break apart.  This will make more than you need for this salad, but they can be stored in a tightly sealed glass jar for several weeks.

For the vinaigrette:  Combine all the dressing ingredients in a small mason jar and shake well until combined.

Toss the greens, apples and vinaigrette together and place them on individual plates.   Garnish with the cheese and a few nuts on each plate.


Turkey Breast Stuffed with Brie Cheese, Apple Butter, Sage and Proscuitto

1 whole turkey breast, boned and butterflied, skin-on
4 ounces brie cheese, rind removed and sliced (this is easier to do when the cheese is well-chilled)
2 tablespoons apple butter
¼ cup chopped fresh sage
6-8 slices prosciutto

Lay the turkey breast on a cutting board, skin side down.  Place the cheese inside the “pockets” where the bones have been removed.  Drizzle with some apple butter and sprinkle with sage.  Lay 2 slices of prosciutto overtop to seal in the gooey goodness, and fold the two sides of the breast together.  Where the turkey skin does not meet, lay the remaining slices of prosciutto.  Slide butcher twine underneath and tie the breast together in several places width-wise and length-wise. 

Preheat the barbecue on MEDIUM-HIGH for 10 minutes, then reduce the outside burners to LOW and turn off the centre burner.  Place the turkey in the middle of the upper rack.  Close the lid, and cook for 1 hour, turning over halfway through.  Move the turkey to the lower grids,  continue to grill and turn every 10-15 minutes until crisp all over and cooked through.  Be sure to use a meat thermometer, and cook to an internal temperature of  165°F.  Remove from the grill, and wrap with foil to rest for 10-15 minutes.  Slice thickly and serve with Cranberry Sauce.





Gingerbread Pudding Cake

We first had this delicious Bon Appetit recipe at our friend Mary Ann’s house during a Christmas lunch.  It is best served warm with a dollop of whipped cream.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon clove
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons beaten eggs
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups hot water
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter 6 large ramekins and place them on a cookie sheet. Whisk flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves and salt in medium bowl.
Using an electric mixer, beat 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup sugar in large bowl until blended. Beat in egg. Stir molasses and 1/2 cup water in a 1 cup glass measuring cup.
Add 1/3 of the flour mixture, butter mixture and molasses mixture together beating to blend. Repeat until all seperate mixtures are now one and transfer to prepared dishes. Sprinkle brown sugar over the top.
Stir 1 1/2 cups hot water and melted butter in 2 cup glass measuring cup. Carefully pour over top of batter (don't worry, there will be lots of liquid on the top)., dividing it between all the ramekins.  Bake until gingerbread is cracked on top, about 40 minutes. Serve warm with whipped cream.