Bison-Turkey Meatballs in Roasted Tomato Soup … get the skinny on it

bison turkey meatballsCheers to a healthy and happy New Year.  I had a killer Power Yoga class tonight and walked home in the rain, so this made for great healthy comfort food.  It is easy to make, and delicious.  The use of spices and fresh herbs amps it up without having to pile on the calories. I’m taking a twist on a really good post from the beginning of 2009 with a Roasted Tomato Soup with Bison-Turkey Meatballs. The soup part of a bit of a lightened up twist on a recipe by David Hawksworth from Shape Magazine, and the meatballs are a Gayle original recipe.  For the soup all I did was remove the sugar, reduce the oil, increased the broth amount, and switched out vegetable broth for chicken (to see the original recipe click here Roasted-tomato-soup …check out the spicy tuna melts recipe while you’re there).  You can substitute extra lean ground beef in this recipe, but the mixture of the strong flavour of bison with the turkey makes a really great tasting meatball.  And the ground brown mushrooms also add to the meaty flavour while increasing the fibre and healthiness.  If you’re like me and easily bored by plain ground turkey this is a great trick!  If you’re using fresh thyme (please do if you can!)  don’t forget to take out the woody stems, I think I forgot to put that in the recipe…

Click here for the recipe for Roasted Tomato Soup with Bison-Turkey Meatballs.

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Is this really healthy mac and cheese? I dunno but it is Yummy!

I’ve had this recipe up all week, just waiting for the right time to make it.  It sounded brilliant to me.  Butternut squash mixed into macaroni…mmmm yummy.  And indeed it was very yummy!  I couldn’t find the box of frozen butternut squash in any of myP1010411 grocery stores, so I boiled some up.  If I had more time, I might have baked the squash.  Cooking the squash reduces it’s “fright night” convenience, but if you had left over squash than it’s speediness might be redeemed.   I used whole milk, but I found it really rich, so I’m going to try 1% or skim next time.  Also, I only used half a cup of Parmesan; I didn’t miss it, but who knows.  I used old cheddar, is that that same as extra sharp? I’m not sure.  Lastly, I didn’t use the olive oil for the onions, I used a spray of the olive oil pam.   This is definitely healthier than the standard mac and cheese, although I’m not sure I’d call it healthy.  But what’s more this is the first healthy mac and cheese I’ve had where I actually may prefer the flavour.  I’m giving Harvest Moon Macaroni a Dish it again’n again rating!  For the recipe click here.

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The way to a man’s heart and a smidgen of mine – my first crush and sugar cookies

Featured Recipe: Sugar Cookies

sugar cookiesI was three and a half, and he was three…he was the boy next door (literally), and I was a toddler with a spirit for adventure. Because of that spirit for adventure I had child locks on my bedroom door to stop me from escaping, but those things were no challenge for me and one summer day I managed to break loose and make a dash for the front door. His mom was in the kitchen and he was in the backyard so I broke him loose as well and took him along on my adventure. Since I was the older of the two I knew enough to hold his hand so he didn’t get hurt. We headed off to my great grandmother’s house (aka Nana’s house) about a half kilometre away, and by some miracle we made it there. Now the normal reaction of a grandmother having two toddlers show up on her door step would probably be to call their mothers (who at this point are panicking thinking their children have been kidnapped), but not my Nana. Nope she invited us in, served us some calico tea and sugar cookies. Our lovely tea service was interrupted by a phone call by my mother, who had alerted the police of our missing status. Not the first or last time the police were contacted or involved in one my childhood escapades. I loved my Nana’s sugar cookies, but I can’t seem to find the recipe right now, so I’ve baked up a batch of Alton Brown’s sugar cookies instead and they are quite good. My Nana put a raisin in the middle of her sugar cookies, I can pass on that now a days. And resort instead to a little bit of royal icing, which is more the style my mom made when we were kids. On Valentines Day we always used to bake up sugar cookies in heart shapes and decorate them with icing and cinnamon hearts. That summer my family moved to a new neighbourhood, but that wasn’t the last time I’d see him, as in grade school we’d meet again and for a short time I even had a crush…my first crush.

Cookie Tips – so I made Alton’s cookies in Calgary where it is extremely dry, so I had to add a splash more of milk to keep the dough together. You absolutely have to chill for 2 hours…so don’t bother trying to cheat on that. And use the icing sugar instead of flour for rolling out…this is key.  I also added the seeds of a whole vanilla bean to the mixture, and the result was delicious!

Click here for the recipe Alton Brown Sugar cookies

Perogie Perfection

perogiesI went out for a bowling extravaganza with my team from work last night – woo hoo!  And we had dinner at Swiss Chalet…I have a deadly cold so I didn’t feel like eating much so ordered the perogies they were maybe just okay…but they reminded me that my perogie post is long overdue.  Perogies are yum yum in my book.  I love potatoes any way you can cook ‘em, but this is definately one of my favourite was to cook ‘em. I have many a great family memory of my Aunt Cathy and I making perogies together, her trying to reminder the recipe her mother made when she was little, and I think we’ve got it as close as we can for now.  Now these little morsels of goodness do take some effort, but a lot less than you might expect.  In true consultant form I’ve right sized the recipe, but if you want to make enough for six or eight people I’ve included those volumes as well.  The key to this recipe is the sour cream in the dough.  It makes the dough harder to work with, but it will be worth the effort.  I’m giving them a dish it again n again rating!

 

Click here for the Recipe for Gayle’s Perogies

Happy Perogie making!

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Julie & Julia a la Alyssa – Host a party for the movie release!

Alyssa hosted a splendid event of lunch and a movie for the Julie & Julia movie release.  A movie based on two books first Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen, by Julie Powell and the second My Life in France by Julie Child and Alex Prud’Homme.  Guests were invited to bring a bottle of French wine  (I brought a Beaujolais Villages wine) or a French cheese and Alyssa prepared a splendid feast from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking for lunch.  We started with stuffed mushroom caps, followed by vichyssoise (cold potato leek soup).  Then the cheese and bread course, and then the Pièce de résistance, Crab Quiche served with a tossed salad and homemade vinaigrette.  She made the quiche while we were there, so it came out of the oven warm and perfectly set for eating!  Everything was sooo delicious!  We finished our meal with a wonderfully fragrant French tea, and these delightful little French Macaroons.  For an amazing food blog and great collection of Macaroon recipes visit this site:  http://www.mytartelette.com/search/label/macarons.  It is the kind of blog that makes me realize I’m such a hack as a foodie and blogger – and wished I had the creative energy to produce something so splendid.  After lunch we all went to the cinema to catch the flick!

I recently read Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen and I enjoyed it for what it was.  An easy read, with a bit of sarcastic humor (which I always appreciate), by someone who seems a little more disgruntled with the world than perhaps her apparent lot in life affords.  She makes herself look bad by being harsh with and about her seemingly saintly husband, but she wrote it herself, so I think it is intended to be self deprecating humor.  Julie’s description of Julia’s Oeufs en Cocotte (you can find the recipe here) in the book is so appealing I’ve decided I have to make them…so as soon as I find the appropriate ramekins I’ll get those whipped up.  There were parts of her struggle in life reaching thirty and being childless I have to say I identified with.  And because I love food, I just enjoy books right now that get me thinking about it.  But because of the humor and writing style, I definitely appreciate the opinion of some of my friends that the book just wasn’t that good.  What I haven’t read yet, but would like to pick up is My Life in France.  I enjoyed that the movie combined the two books playfully such that I didn’t feel I was just re-experiencing the book.  Both of the stars did an exceptional job at bringing life to their characters on the big screen, although I would say some of the sharp edges of Julie’s character were  shaved off by the script and Amy Adam’s performance.  I will be shocked if Meryl Streep doesn’t get an Oscar nod for her outstanding characterization of Julia Child…if you don’t realize how marvelous it is, watch a clip of Julia Child on youtube…and you will be amazed.

Check out Alyssa’s post on the event!  http://wherearethekeys.wordpress.com/2009/08/10/french-food/

So bring together some girlfriends with a flavor of French food experience and watch Julie & Julia.

Share your comments on the book, the recipes, or the event below.

The way to a man’s heart and a smidgen of mine – Love, tradition, and blueberry pancakes

IMG00430So recently I had a couple of experiences regarding love and romance that have inspired introspection and lead me to decide to do a feature called ‘the way to a man’s heart, and a smidgen of mine’. It is much more personal than my other blogging, but I think the road of exploration will reveal some comfort foods you’ll enjoy and unearth some of my food exploration how my comfort foods broadened from basic chicken and dumplings to include international food treats. All of my relationships with men haven’t been perfect, in truth the first relationship I had with a man (my father) was tough to say the least. And of course they say that is one of the most important relationships for a young girl. But despite the challenges in that relationship, I have some positive food memories with him and I’d like to share with you. As to the other relationships with men I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have some really loving and wonderful men in my life (some family, some partners, some friends). But whether it be a challenging relationships or just a splendid one they all make for interesting stories, and because I love food so much, I’d like to share those relationships with you through the lens of food memory. In some cases I think I’ve got a couple creative recipe ideas to highlight some interesting parts of my relationship experience as well.

So to kick off the feature I’d like to share with you a recent story. In the last couple of years I have shared a growing relationship with one of my uncles. He has been helping our family immensely by taking care of my dad, who is not well. I respect my uncle endlessly and despite his own challenges he has really been present in our lives and helping us out over the last several years. He plays a significant role in my life, and my best memories are from our breakfast tradition. We’ve been doing it for a couple years now – each time I come to town to visit he takes me out one morning for breakfast (without fail, every time). Those moments we have together talking, chatting, me pushing the boundary on how much girl talk he can handle, him sharing advice with me on everything from real estate, to golf, to romance. These are my most treasured moments. What we always struggle with in those breakfasts is the world’s biggest breakfast quandry – eggs or pancakes (or savory sweet)? And we’ve now mastered a plan whereby we get our eggs…but we also share one or two blueberry pancakes. So in honour of our blueberry pancake tradition I’d like to share with you a recipe from Martha Stewart Living that is perfect for blueberry season and includes some of my favorite ingredients cornmeal and buttermilk. Cornmeal – Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes (click link below for recipe). I’ve included a few Gayle modifications in the notes. I made these pancakes today and shared them with a friend…they were pretty yummy. A bit of room for improvement in my pancake cooking style, and I need a much better pan…but when the fresh local blueberries pop open in your mouth it is delightful!

Click here for the recipe for Martha’s Blueberry Cornmeal-Buttermilk Pancakes.

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2 ways Rachel Ray is bakin’ her eggs

That Rachel Ray sure does like to nestle her eggs into cups of various kinds and here are two recipes to prove it. The first is a savory brunch or breakfast for dinner meal called “Nestled Eggs” and the second is a great breakfast, brunch item called “Croissants Egg Boats”.

Nestled Eggs are a pretty good treat with rice, eggs, and red peppers. Rachel Ray says it is a 10$ meal, I say no way in Canada, but it is reasonably price meal and it was baked up by my favorite Malaysian cook. Now as an Anthony Bourdain fan I think I’m supposed to hate Rachel Ray on principal. And while she does tend to drive me a little crazy sometimes, she cooks up some good recipes that work in the kitchen in a reasonable amount of time, and usually for a reasonable price. No real modifications here, but do make sure to buy the biggest roundest peppers you can. The red is great for color, but I’m sure orange and yellow would work well too. I’d like to try these eggs with a bit of a spicier rice mix. The rice isn’t in proportion to the eggs and peppers, but it both parts warmed up well as leftovers, some might say the flavours were even a bit better the second time around, but you lose the benefit of the runny yoke.

Croissant Egg Boats were also made for me. A real treat from my cousin Kristine (she is such a great cook!) on stampede weekend. I tried to track down the recipe, and I think I have, the only thing is that these instructions say to lay the croissants on a baking dish, and Kristine lined muffin tins with the croissants, which is the only way I can reasonably see them turning into ‘boats’. Kristine sprayed the muffin tins with PAM before lining with the croissants, and noted that if she had jumbo muffin tins she might have used those. I skipped the meat in mine, but I imagine there are countless things you could do to modify. Various types of meat, add fried onions, top with fresh made salsa or other toppings. Anyway these little egg boats are yummy, will make you look like a hosting rock star, and pretty easy to make, so dish ‘em up!

 

Click here for the Croissant Egg Boats recipe
Click here for the Nestled Egg recipe

 

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When you feel like packing your lunch box and going home – pack this!

Ultimate comfort food for a rainy summer day, and my favorite sandwich, is the Caprese sandwich. Easy to make, so fresh, and great for summer when the tomatoes are at their best. The first time I had a caprese sandwich was in 1998 at the Au Bon Pain in Cambridge, MA, and it is so good it is still on their menu today 10 years later. The part that I don’t love about their sandwich and always skip on mine is the romain lettuce – unnecessary complication if you ask me. I loved it so much I went back the next day, and quickly set about figuring out how to make it to add it to my kitchen repertoire. And it is one of my top ordered sandwiches. Because there are only a few ingredients to make this sandwich perfect it is important you get the best of everything. The tomatoes need to be fresh with loads of flavour – interestingly one café in Boston where I’ve had this sandwich during the winter they roast roma tomatoes for this sandwich to improve the taste. The bread is key and a nice crusty French loaf is what I find the best, but what ever you choose make sure the flavor of the bread is not overpowering to the simplicity of the sandwich. I prefer to use smaller fresh mozzarella balls (bocconcini), but larger rounds of fresh mozzarella also work well. Of course if you need it in a rush you can buy premade basil pesto at the grocery store, but I prefer the homemade if you’ve got 5 minutes.  I’ve given a quick and easy recipe below for the pesto, but lots of other great recipes can be found online for basil pesto.

Ingredients:
Fresh mozzeralla sliced (Boconnini Cheese)
Ripe tomatoes sliced
French bread or other bread
Quick and easy small batch Basil Pesto
1 bunch of basil leaves (stems removed)
3 tablespoons pine nuts (preferably toasted)
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil (~4 tablespoons)
Dash of salt

To toast pine nuts warm a frying pan on low-medium heat. When the pan is warm toss in the pine nuts and stir them until they start to brown. Be careful not to have the pan too hot the nuts will burn quickly. Take them off the heat and remove from the pan immediately after they start to brown so they don’t burn. Cool the nuts before using. I toast them ahead of time and keep them on hand in a jar so I can toss them into salads or use them quickly for pesto. (Pine nuts are a key part of my modern pantry)

For the pesto, in a small kitchen blender throw in basil leaves, pine nuts, dash salt, parmesan cheese, and olive oil – blend to desired consistency, and add more olive oil if needed. You can also throw in a clove of roasted garlic or fresh if you’d like to garlic it up a bit.

Sandwich composition. Pesto on both sides of the bread a must. Salt and pepper the tomatoes to taste. Layer the sliced tomatoes and fresh mozzeralla till your hearts desire, press the bread down to make sure none of the cheese escapes.

 

Share your comments on the Caprese sandwich below!

A Great Sandwich for Strawberry Season

Strawberry Chicken Club Sandwiches

Rachel Ray does drive me a bit crazy, but more importantly she’s got some good stuff especially in a couple of my favorite categories – like sandwiches. Valerie picked this awesome sandwich recipe to make for us which has a surprising but delicious combination of flavors – avocado and strawberry! Rach’ calls these triple decker strawberry chicken club sandwiches, which is a bit redundant as club sandwiches are by definition triple decker. But Valerie made these just single layer which worked really well so you could actually fit the sandwich in your mouth. The other awesome thing she did was substitute bacon with bison bacon, which I can eat and is yummy. I love bison bacon! Strawberry Chicken Clubs get a Dish it! again n’ again!

 

click here for the recipe for strawberry-chicken-club-sandwiches
 
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Yummy Orzo Salad – thanks Giada

After 269 ratings on the foodtv.com website this recipe still scores 5 stars! Now that’s saying something – and now we know why. Inspired by a newly acquired bag of orzo (part of my ‘this ain’t your mama’s pantry’ acquisitions) I went in search of a good salad recipe. There is a pre-made orzo salad I get sometimes in Granville Island that is just ho hum, but I love orzo so wanted something with a bit more pizzazz. My foodtv search brought me to this recipe by Giada De Laurentiis, the celebrity chef with a surprisingly small figure considering the food she makes and while quite beautiful a head that on tv appears strangely large on her tiny body.   Her food is fantastic, and I suggest sticking to her instructions.  For example don’t skip out on boiling the orzo in chicken stock…it is a thoughful touch that makes this salad special.  This is a great accompaniment to lamb or fish (tried it with both).  Also I sprinkled some toasted pine nuts on it the other night – yummy!

click here orzo-salad to view my recipe card with notes for salad.

A couple key modifications I made to this salad

1. Cut the oil in half! (even a bit less) Make sure you have a good balance of acid – but I find 1/4 cup more oil than acid not necessary. Also note that she doesn’t use all the vinaigrette in the salad – so in my case I just made less of the vinaigrette.

2. Added Feta cheese – why not I love cheese

3. Squeezed the seeds out of my tomato halves (take a few minutes but I think it is a step worth the effort)

4. Blended almost all the herbs in with the vinaigrette in my magic bullet

5. Mixed everything except the cheese and chick peas together the night before and let it set over night! Then add the cheese, tomatoes, and a few fresh herbs before serving.

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