Friday, August 31

Need a drink

After my first week back to work (which is why we are low on the blog posts yet again), I definitely needed a drink. So I made one (see ingredients below). Any guesses?

If you guessed "strawberry-mango-orange margarita", you win! Edit: Doug and Ula informed me that margaritas have lime and tequilla - oops! Maybe this is a daiquiri ?

Strawberry-Mango-Orange Margarita Daiquiri

  • two halves of frozen mango
  • two handfuls of frozen strawberries
  • two shots of orange juice
  • two shots of rum (um, I may have used more...)
  • two teaspoons of Demerara sugar (optional)
Mix everything together in a powerful blender until smooth. Wet the rims of the glasses with orange jucie and dip into the sugar. Pour carefully so as to not disturb the sugar. Cheers!

Wednesday, August 22

Vacation is over

Living 3000km away from family sucks. But, as a bonus, when I do get to visit - like for the last two weeks which is why there are no blog posts - I get food-spoiled. That's right, my family, Ian's family and even random families food-spoil me. In addition to obtaining wicked tans, we also increased our waist sizes considerably. Oh well. That's what family visits are for, right? (um, don't answer that)

We traveled with two absolutely adorable girls and helped deliver them to visit with their Grandparents. As a thank you, their Grandma spoiled us with a basket of treats, cute napkin holders, some sparkly wine and a cookbook. The baklava, peanut butter cookies and homemade "turtles" quickly disappeared - in fact, we had devoured half the treats before I remembered to take a photo! Yum, yum. Thank you for the thank you treats, Grandma!

Family dinners with my Mom and Dad consisted of childhood favourites: mainly meat-n-potatoes with fresh veg on the side. Here are the only two pics I remembered to take.

Roasted pork, mashed potatoes and green beans. My Mom is the Queen of falling-apart roast pork.

Meatloaf, roasted potatoes and tomato salad.

Ian's family spoiled us with treats - chocolate, ice cream, junk food, Dairy Queen dilly bars, late-night bruschetta made by my brother-in-law (who is also known for the best-ever-in-life-roast-beef-made-at-home that I'm still trying to copy but am too cheap to buy a good cut).

I'm thankful that I was food-spoiled, but also a little sad that my waist has expanded. I've been going on mad bike rides and doing power yoga almost every day to make up for it. It's slowly working :) Of course, I didn't even consider limiting my food intake, because, well, that would be stupid.

Friday, August 3

I'm not a gardener (and raspberry bread with lemon curd)

I grow watch the following grow in my backyard: weeds, some cooking herbs, four strawberry plants and a bunch of raspberries. Yup, I'm lazy. Luckily, we have just the right amount of raspberry bushes - not enough to have to do any work, but plenty so we get a bowl-ful of plump berries every few days.

Earlier this week I had a craving for easy raspberry bread. So I began to search out and/or formulate a recipe. Usually I begin with skimming through my personal recipe collection (organized by my beautiful friend Taryn, and added to by my "aunt" Donna) to see if I can find any similar recipes.

Next, I move onto checking the handful of cookbooks I own. I'm pretty selective in the cookbooks I buy, although, I usually borrow 3 (or 7) from the library each week (yeah, other people read Harry Potter, I read cookbooks. Um, I read Harry Potter too). Nothing found in the cookbooks.

Next comes the web search, starting with searching through my favourite blogs, then favourite chef sites, then, then (they have different licensing agreements, and thus, different recipes).

Finally, after I have found my favourite few recipes, I modify and/or consolidate them into the one I will try. After tasting the result for the first time, I write down my impressions and any changes I would make the next time. And so the process repeats.

Healthy Raspberry Bread

  • 2 cups spelt flour (or use whole wheat)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp prune puree + 1 tbsp oil (or 3 tbsp oil, but I try to lower the fat content)
  • 1/2 cup yogurt + 1/2 cup milk (or use 1 cup half and half, or use 3/4 cup yogurt + 1/4 cup milk)
  • 2 cups raspberries
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Oil a regular loaf tin (or muffin tins).

2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

3. In a large bowl, stir sugar, egg, vanilla and prune+oil until combined. Stir in half of the flour mixture and all the yogurt+milk. Stir in the rest of the flour until just combined (add 1-2 tbsp more yogurt if dough is on the dry side - this depends on the flour you use)

4. Gently stir in the berries and spread into pan, evening out the top.

5. Bake for approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle.

6. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack covered with a tea towel (to prevent ridges) and cool completely before slicing. Serve alone, or with a thin spread of butter or lemon curd.

Lemon Curd
(modified from Alton Brown's recipe)

  • 1 lemon and 1/2 lime, zested and juiced (or, only use lemon - you should have 1/3 cup of juice from the citrus)
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar (next time, I'll use 3/4 cup only)
  • 1 stick butter (1/4 of a 454 g block), cut into 1-2 cm thick slices
1. Prepare a bowl that will fit over a pot of boiling water. Simmer 1 inch of water in such a pot (you've just made yourself a double boiler).

2. In the bowl (not yet placed over the water), whisk together the citrus juice and zest, sugar and egg yolks until thoroughly combined.

3. Place the bowl over the simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and continue whisking for 7 or 8 minutes non-stop. If you stop, you run the risk of scrambling the eggs, although the double-boiling method helps to prevent this. You will know when you are done when the mixture turns a light yellow colour and coats the back of a spoon (nappe).

4. Take the bowl off the heat and whisk in one slice of butter at a time. Whisk until each slice is fully incorporated, then add the next slice. Continue this pattern until all or most (I left two knobs - see pic) of the butter is added, putting the bowl back over the hot water for a few minutes if the butter is taking too long to melt into the mixture.

5. Transfer to a clean bowl and place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd (to prevent a skin from forming). Refrigerate for up to 2 or even 3 weeks (this is surprisingly stable stuff!).

We spread it on the raspberry bread and had it for breakfast. Drool...

Thursday, August 2

Surprise Dinner

I wanted to do something nice for our friends Wendy and Mike. They are such loving and selfless people who always inspire us to be better (and all we do is mooch from their garden!)

Besides engaging in stimulating conversation, sharing their pizza-making secrets and competing in games of SET, they are also the type of people who readily give away fresh produce from their garden, allow the use of their car for furniture-moving, and always send us home with stunning home-baked goods (Wendy says: "Friends don't let friends get fat. Now take the cheesecake home already!)

I decided to cook them an anniversary dinner. Not just any kind of dinner, mind you, but an eight-course tasting menu with the theme of "Around the World". And, to give them some time for themselves (wink, wink), I picked up their two lovely daughters at 9am on the day in question and prepared the celebration with the girls. It was a blast.

The girls and I spent two weeks plotting in secret - the girls provided menu and decor ideas, as well as an entertainment schedule. Last Friday, they spent the day choosing the appropriate plates, making construction-paper flags and decorations, and mostly importantly, cooking - making dips, operating the appliances, stirring, mixing and tasting the progress of the meals (I got: "Eww, I don't like that" and "Mmm, that tastes like lemonade" and "What's an amuse bouche?"). It was so much fun!

Our dining table was carefully transported to the living room and the kitchen was cordoned off with an old drape, to which we taped two signs, made by each of the girls: "Eploiees Only" and "Inplogeis Only." The girls worked as waitresses and entertainers: in between serving the dishes, they played the piano and sang (in multiple languages!). Unbelievably cute.

Unfortunately, since I was busy cooking, plating and managing two kids under 10yrs old, I forgot to take photos of many of the dishes :( Here's the menu though with a few of the pics I did take:

Amuse Bouche - Baby Insalata Caprese

Spain. Gazpacho in a Cucumber Bowl (photos are from the making of...)

Mexico. Roasted Corn and Black Bean Salad with Tortilla and Chipotle Cream (the most stylized dish of the night)
China. Steamed Pork Dumplings (or Veg Dumplings for Mike) - I had made these before

Morocco. Minty Couscous with Lemon Salmon (or Grilled Portobello for Mike)

Malaysia. Spicy Clear Broth Soup with Glass Noodles and Tofu

France. Selection of Pastries Purchased from a local Bakery (with chocolate sauce and ice cream)

Arctic. Sugar Granita with a Snowflake Cookie

Wednesday, August 1

Blog Changes

I'm making changes around here so if you pick up my blog in an RSS reader, you may get a hundred entries coming your way. Sorry about that!

Malaysian Red Chili Chicken

One of my favourite food inspiration websites is Tastespotting. Users submit photos of food or food-related items along with a link to the original site - a blog, news article, kitchen store, winery, you get the idea. Editors monitor and post drool-worthy items. Every day I check out the pretty pictures and the interesting food combos. Sometimes, the stars align, and I happen upon a recipe or idea that I can make instantly with what I have on hand.

Last week, the food Gods sent me Meena's recipe for Malaysian Red Chili Chicken. I made a few alternations according to what I had in the fridge and made it for dinner that very night! I wasn't even going to do a photo shoot because we were so hungry and it smelled so good, but Ian convinced me to snap a couple of pictures. Unfortunately, I didn't set up the shot properly and the only one that turned out has weird shadows. Here it is anyway:

Eating this curry brought me straight back to our unbelievably wicked adventure in SE Asia. Ah, the power of food...

Here's the recipe for the chicken, as posted by Meena, with a few of my alterations:

Malaysian Red Chili Chicken

  • 2 large chicken breasts, diced into 1-inch cubes (I only used 1 small chicken breast since we're cutting down on meat - as a result, I had more sauce!)
  • 1 small onion (I used red onion)
  • 1 medium sized tomato (I used three canned tomatos with a little of the juice)
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, only using the white parts (I used 3 stalks)
  • 1 tsp ginger-garlic paste (I used 1 clove of garlic and a 1-inch piece of ginger, both finely minced)
  • 2 tbsp Sambal Oelek (the version I used contained shrimp paste)
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric powder
  • 2 tbsp light cooking oil (I used less)
  • (I added a finely chopped birds eye chili too, but it will be plenty spicy without)
1. Marinate chicken in salt and turmeric, and set aside for 20-25 minutes.

2. Blend onion, tomato and lemon grass to a smooth fine paste, adding a little water if necessary.

3. Saute the marinated chicken in hot oil till lightly browned, and set aside. In the same pan, fry ginger-garlic paste, Sambal Oelek and onion-tomato-lemon grass paste, stirring continuously till it starts to give out oil from the sides.

4. Add in chicken, salt and water if necessary, and stir fry till chicken in cooked through and the flavours absorbed.

Thank you Meena! I'll definately be making this again - it tasted like the curries we had in Malaysia and Singapore. Looky here: I scrounged up a pic of a dinner we had in Kuala Lumpur in Dec 2005. Yes, those are banana leaves that we are using in lieu of plates. And yes, I was planning those trips around food too, I just wasn't blogging about it back then :)