Sunday, May 22, 2011

A new garden

5.8.11 : 128/365

The original owners of our house had what some may consider a garden in the front, but some may also have considered it a mess. The mister and I, being in the latter camp. During the summer last year, with a lot of help from his mom, the mister dug up the disaster of 'garden' and set it all up to have something a little more civilized this year.

Behold the new, improved and more civilized garden that we planted in the front of the house.
Hopefully it'll mature and be everything we hope for it and more. If it doesn't, we still take comfort in the fact that we don't look like the crazy house on the street anymore.
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The best ever fish tacos... for real.

5.7.11 : 127/365

We received a really handy gift for Christmas from my new Sister in law and we knew exactly what we were going to use it for. We've become great fans of hitting up a concert at the New York State Fair whenever possible (last year was a bust... blasted honeymoon ;) ) and have already chosen one for this year. I'll let you know how it is afterwards... there is a little while to go!

Dinner was a little bit of deep fried this, and a little bit of deep fried that... but O. M. G. my heart flutters for these Calamari and fish tacos... FLUTTERS, I tell ya.

 These are the mister's signature Calamari. He is an expert and I challenge anyone to say that they aren't the best!

Another dish that we have been dying to try for awhile is a deep fried version of fish tacos. We made a non fried version last year and while it was good, we weren't blown away. Now that we have tried these, it is obvious that this was the way to go.

These are the taco we made after stumbling across her show one day. Seriously, they were fantastic... I don't have any other words!

Baja Style Fish Tacos

Recipe courtesy Marcela Valladolid, 2009
Show: Mexican Made Easy Episode: Family Favorites


Beer Batter:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup dark Mexican beer*
Cream Sauce:
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2/3 cup Mexican crema** or sour cream
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fish Tacos:
Oil, for frying
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
2 pounds skinned halibut cut into 5 by 1/2-inch strips
Freshly ground black pepper
Corn tortillas
2 cups shredded cabbage
2 cups tomatillo salsa (store-bought or homemade) for garnish, optional
Pickled jalapenos, for garnish, optional


For the Beer Batter:
Mix the flour, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Gradually add in the beer while whisking. Set aside and let the batter rest for 15 minutes before using.
For Cream Sauce:
Add the mayonnaise and crema to a medium bowl. Whisk in the lemon zest, lemon juice and water. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper (can be made 3 days ahead, covered and refrigerated).
For the Fish:
In a large skillet, over medium heat, add enough oil to reach a depth of 1-inch. Heat the oil until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350 degrees F or when the end of a wooden spoon sizzles when inserted into the oil.

On a large plate, combine the flour and salt. Season the fish pieces all over with salt and pepper and coat with the flour. Working in batches, dip the fillets in the beer batter and coat on both sides. Fry in the hot oil until golden brown and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
Make tacos with the tortillas and fish and top each with cream, shredded cabbage, tomatillo salsa and pickled jalapenos, if desired.
*Cook's Note: Crack open a cold Mexican cerveza like a Negra Modelo or a 2 Equis (XX) Amber to make this tasty beer batter, which will change the way you think about fried fish! You can use it for vegetables, too.

**Cook's Note: Mexican Crema is Mexico's version of creme fraiche and is found at many supermarkets and can easily be substituted with sour cream 

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Back issues for life!

5.6.11 : 126/365

A reader and friend emailed me some time ago and discussed having tried one of the Chatelaine recipes that I made and gave me some suggestions of her own. She also mentioned that she had some back issues collected and that I was welcome to them if I was interested. Naturally, I was interested as I am always excited to try new recipes out of the magazines and less is not more when you run out of things to make before the new issue arrives. I honestly had no idea at the time that she meant that there were four magazine filers full of back issues headed my way... I've got my work cut out for me!!!

If I run out now? There is something wrong with me!

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Baking some Flax Banana Muffins

5.5.11 : 125/365

I want to talk about baking...

...Zucchini Loaf...

...and Flax Banana Muffins.

I can't share the recipe for the loaf because it was my grandma's and if I share it, I render myself useless but I would like to share the wealth on these muffins. They were on an index card that I picked up at the Women's show or something like it at some point over the last uhhh, many years. Surprisingly, a Weight Management Clinic ( recipe but they were really good. Great for a breakfast grab or just a snack!

Flax Banana Muffins (Makes 24 muffins)

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup ground flaxseed
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/3 Canola oil
1 cup bananas (2 or 3 ripe), mashed

1.Mix together flour, ground flaxseed, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl
2.In a separate bowl, beat together eggs and oil
3.Add dry ingredients and mashed bananas alternately to egg and oil moisture, stirring until dry ingredients are moistened
4.Spoon into 24 nonstick medium muffin cups. Bake in 400F oven for about 15-18 minutes or until firm to the touch.

**I used whole wheat flour and should have upped the liquid a touch as they were a little drier than I would have liked, but I know for next time.

Nutritional note (from card):
Flaxseed is one of the richest sources of lignans. Lignanas are phytoestrogens - compounds which may help protect against certain kinds of cancers, particularly cancers of the breast and colon.

Nutritional Info Per serving (1 med muffin)
Calories 140
Carbs 19g
Fibre 1.3g
Fat 6.4g
Protein 2.7g

Choices: 1 Grains/Starch, 1 Fat

Editor's note: Card states that recipe is from; Simply Great Food, by dietitians of Canada, 2007. Published by Robert Rose Inc.

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Sad or no?

5.4.11 : 124/365

Proof of my sickening addiction to flyers... I'm a lazy 'window shopper' because I do it from my couch, with a sharpie. Judge away...

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Did someone say Civic duty?

5.3.11 : 123/365

After our votes were cast, we moved on to our next duty... the 2011 Census.

Again, I have complete and utter faith in anyone who reads my blog, that you all understand and appreciate the importance of a national Census. If for some reason, the actual way in which it applies to you is escaping you, I would be happy to toss some ideas around, to ease your mind, just let me know! As Canadians, we need to be clear about our needs (remember me saying that recently), so that they can be met. Enter the Census...

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Do you vote?

5.2.11 : 122/365

In honour of election day, here is a snap of our voter cards. After this picture was taken and a quick jaunt to the school up the street, votes were cast and the waiting began. Unfortunately, the vote didn't go as I had hoped but hopefully the next four years will fly by so we can exercise our civic duty once again, and hope for a better outcome.

Did you vote? If you didn't, are you pleased with the outcome? Would you do it differently if you had to do it over again?

Do you know how important it is that we demonstrate our wants and needs as a democratic country by voting for the individual who we believe represents our best interests? I hope you do...

...of course you do, I have total faith in my readers! :)

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Seared-salmon salad with ruby grapefruit and snow peas

5.1.11 : 121/365

This was a light, summery salad that was surprisingly filling and satisfying thanks to the grilled salmon and richness of the avocado. To my great pleasure, this salad was quite the hit and will probably grace our table again before the cold returns!

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For the birds

4.30.11 : 120/365

Saw these little cuties in my backyard as we often do. This is as close as I could get before scaring them off, but it just goes to show that they seem to like something about our fence.

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It's a Royal Wedding!

4.29.11 : 119/365

As I mentioned in my last post, we were doing a little meal planning in order to have a quintessential English meal in honour of the royal wedding, and that's just what we did.

Our menu for the evening was;

Sorrel, Lettuce, and Quail Egg Salad (recipe to follow)-

Bangers & Mash with Red Onion and Wine Gravy(ditto)-

Banofee Pie (again)-

The first two recipes were from the great cookbook that I talked about here.

Sorrel, Lettuce, and Quail Egg Salad (Makes 4 servings)
12 Quail Eggs
2 bunches sorrel leaves, about 4oz total weight.
2 heads butter (Boston) lettuce
3 fresh tarragon sprigs
6 green onions, white parts only, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon tarragon vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1.In a small saucepan, combine the quail eggs with cold water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil for 2 minutes. Immediately plunge the eggs into cold water. Set aside to cool.

2.Strip away the stems of the sorrel leaves by folding the sides of each leaf inward and pulling the stem toward the top of the leaf. This will split the leaf in half. Tear the halves into bit sized pieces and place in a bowl. Remove the outer leaves from each head of butter lettuce until you reach the heart. Reserve the outer leaves for another use. Separate the leaves from each heart, rince, and dry. Add to the bowl with the sorrel leaves and toss to combine. Strip the leaves from the tarragon stems and add to the salad with the sliced green onions.

3.Peel each quail egg under cold running water, being sure to remove every speck of eggshell. Pat the eggs dry with a kitchen towel. Cut the eggs in half and add to the salad.

4.In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle over the salad and toss gently to combine.

5.Arrange the salad on individual plates, dividing the quail eggs evenly. Serve at once.

Bangers & Mash with Red Onion and Wine Gravy (Makes 4 servings)
2 lbs good quality pork sausages
1 tablespoon sunflower oil

For the mash-
2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

For the gravy-
2 tablespoons unsalited butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 red onions, halved and finely sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 cup red wine
1 cup homemade chicken or beef stock
Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Place the sausages in a roasting pan, drizzle with the oil, toss to coat, and spread out in a single layer. bake, turning them after 15 minutes, until evenly coloured, about 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, to make the mash, place the potato chunks in a saucepan with water to cover, salt the water, and bring to a boil over medium heat. This will take about 15 minutes. Continue to cook until the potatoes are tender when pierced with the top of a knife, about 15 minutes longer. Drain in a colander, cover with a kitchen towel, and let stand until dry, about 5 minutes. In the same pan, combine the milk and butter, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat and set aside. For the fluffiest texture, pass the cooked potatoes through a food mill fitted with the medium disk or through a ricer. Alternatively, place in a bowl and mash with a potato masher. Pour in the hot milk mixture and beat until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. To make the gravy, in a wide, shallow nonreactive saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter with olive oil. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until collapsed, about 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, cover the onions with roughly crumpled parchment paper, pressing it down on the onions, and cook until the onions are meltingly soft, about 20 minutes. Remove the paper and raise the heat to medium-low. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour and cook until lightly coloured, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and cook until evaporated. Stir in the red wine and stock, raise the heat to medium, bring to a boil, and simmer until a luscious sauce forms, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Divide the sausages and mash among warmed individual plates. Spoon some gravy over the sausages and serve at once. Pass the gravy at the table for guests.

Lastly, for the Banofee pie the recipe is from here and well it seemed to turn out it wasn`t really my favorite. As I understand it, this is supposed to be a great dessert so I may have to keep trying...

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1 cup butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 teaspoons ground ginger
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 bananas, sliced
2 cups heavy whipping cream

Mix graham cracker crumbs, sugar, melted butter or margarine, and ginger until well blended. Press mixture into a 9-inch pie plate. Cool in refrigerator.

Use one of the following three methods to prepare the toffee:
Oven Method:
Pour sweetened condensed milk into 9-inch pie plate. Cover with aluminum foil; place in larger shallow pan. Fill larger pan with hot water. Bake at 425 degrees F for 1 hour or until thick and caramel-colored. Beat until smooth.

Stovetop Method:
Pour sweetened condensed milk into top of double boiler; place over boiling water. Simmer over low heat for 1 to 1/2 hours or until thick and caramel-colored, stirring occasionally. Beat until smooth.

Microwave Method:
Pour sweetened condensed milk into a 2-quart glass measuring cup. Cook on 50% power (medium) 4 minutes, stirring briskly every 2 minutes until smooth. Cook on 30% power (medium-low) 20 to 25 minutes or until very thick and caramel-colored, stirring briskly every 4 minutes during the first 16 minutes and every 2 minutes during the last 4 to 10 minutes.

Pour toffee into pie crust. Allow to cool.
Slice bananas over toffee.
Whip the cream stiff, then spoon it on top of bananas.
Refrigerate before serving.

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Preparing for London night!

4.28.11 : 118/365

Given the British fever, and huge festivities on the 29th. We contributed our own mini celebration by deeming it 'London Night'. Dishes were chosen out of another of my beloved Williams-Sonoma cookbooks, and I found a dessert recipe online. This required a little planning but luckily one of the dishes was something that we had been wanting to make for awhile. Didn't everyone do London night? Wasn't everyone as obsessed as me? :)
From the Publisher:
Williams-Sonoma Foods of the World London captures the excitement of this vibrant urban center. This volume explores where to find wonderful artisanal cheeses and locally brewed ales; the best markets, delicatessens, bakeries, and specialty merchants; and describes London's most celebrated chefs and restaurants.

You can find the book here, though you may want to check as they seem to have them in stock.

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Kung pao chicken

4.27.11 : 117/365

This Kung pao chicken made for a quick and easy meal. Everyone has time to pull this one together and it is advisable that you do!

We're really finding a plethora of recipes that we can use all our new ingredients for, one of which is our 'hot chili garlic sauce' that we picked up for one of the earlier recipes. We always pick up whatever we need and then end up with a fridge full of condiments that we are never sure what to do with but I've found that since cooking with Chatelaine, the recipes use a lot of the same items which is a total bonus for people like us. If you've been cooking along with me, you're probably using up your hot chili garlic sauce, fish sauce, and hoisin sauce too!

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Spaghetti-squash tetrazzini

4.26.11 : 116/365
This Spaghetti-squash tetrazzini made an awesome dinner. I'll admit, it was a little unconventional for us (especially me because I love my carbs) but I'm thrilled that we tried it. There was one moment where I was hoping with every inch of my being that it would taste like spaghetti, but it didn't. No harm though, as long as you remember that... it's great!


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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Fabric shopping

4.25.11 : 115/365

Disclaimer: I've been a very bad blogger, I'm sorry. I have what feels like a million item to-do list and yet can't seem to get any of it done. I'm just frazzled, but I really have to make an attempt at staying on top of things, like my blog!

I now have a fun stash of fabric to use for all of my Goodwill finds and then some! I'm very excited about it all but can't seem to find a spare moment to work on them, so I think I'll have to get down to it as soon as we get back from our vacation. It's going to be a really busy month.

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Saturday, May 7, 2011

Easter with Family and Friends

4.24.11 : 114/365

As someone who loves being a hostess, ensuring that I had some fun and unique favours for my Easter dinner guests was crucial.

I made these marshmallows from this recipe, added some food colouring, cut them with a round cookie cutter, stuck a stick in them, and drizzled them with melted chocolate chips. I was too full to indulge in mine right after dinner, but once I did, I was happy to say that they were fabulous! I'm pretty proud of myself (even if they were a cinch to make - shhh) !

Here are some other photos from dinner -

Heirloom carrots

View my table from a guest's perspective

FOOD! Lots and lots of it!

(Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of dessert, Raspberry-rhubarb pavlova cupcakes, put together but the recipe can be found here and I highly recommend giving them a shot as they are the perfect spring sweet, pretty easy and very, very tasty!!)

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