Monday, October 3, 2011

Colder weather = time to use the oven!

Oh goodness it got cold all the sudden. It probably does not help that I not only have to walk around in the rain and cold for 4 hours a day and then come home to a freezing house because the heat has not been turned on in our building... Way to go McGill, now you've not only taken away my pension and benefits, you've also reduced me to living in an ice box. Let's just hope that they come to their senses quickly. In the meantime, in order to stay warm, we've had to use the good old methods: warm beverages, lighting candles and of course, one of my favourite, using the oven!

At this time of the year, I'm also always trying to use up everything I grew in my garden and the only thing that's left right now is herbs, carrots and parsnips. So I decided to share with you one of my go to recipe roasted root veggies. It is a fantastic way to cook veggies and even those who do not like veggies will like those. They are crispy, sweet and salty at the same time. 
This recipe also uses one of my favourite kitchen tool: the mandoline! I'm always fascinated with how quickly and accurately it can slice fruits and veggies. If you do not have one, you should seriously think about getting one and the best place to get one is usually chinatown! My dad and I have the exact same one and he paid twice as much as I did!


Roasted Root Veggies
(Based on a recipe from the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten)

2-3 large carrots
1 medium size parsnip
2 tablespoon of olive oil
a pinch of salt and pepper
Garlic pepper
Dried parsley
Pre-heat the oven to 425F
Using the mandoline finely slice the carrots and parsnip.
Place them on a cookie sheet covered with a silpat.

Spread the oil over the carrots and parsnip.
Sprinkle the salt, pepper, garlic pepper and dried parsley evenly over the veggies
Place the cookie tray in the oven for 12-20 minutes (depending on the thickness of the veggies), turning once halfway.
Serves 4

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Italian Plum Goodness

Judging by the weather outside today, I guess that Fall as finally arrived. Although I'm not crazy about the rainy cold weather (especially when I have a ton of errands to run), I do enjoy cooking on a chilly Fall day. Soups, roasts and stews are a welcome changed from the salads that we've been eating all summer because it was simply to hot out to cook or eat anything else. It's also nice to finally be able to watch new shows on tv (as opposed to the summer re-runs), wrapped up in a blanket and drinking a hot chocolate...
During the fall and winter months, I also tend to bake more and today was no exception. I went to the local organic market and bought myself some Italian plums and made a plum crumble. It was delicious!!!! I've always enjoyed Italian plums (actually if you've been following my blog you'll realize that I love pretty much all fruits), but I had never cooked with them until last year. I can't believe I missed out on such delicious goodness for so long! They are so simple to bake with and I have yet to find someone who did not enjoy any of the desserts I made with them.
So if like me you are new to baking with Italian plums, don't hesitate to try! The plum crumble that I made today is a good way to start as it makes a small quantity so if you don't care for the cooked plums, at least you won't have to eat it for a week!


Fall Italian Plum Crumble

Fruit filling:

9-10 Italian Plums (pit removed and cut into four)
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons flour

3/4 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pre-heat the oven to 350F (if you're using a toaster oven, there is no real need to pre-heat)
Using a little butter, grease a small oven safe dish (big enough for 2-3 people or use 2-3 ramekins)
Place the cut plums and the bottom of the dish. Add the sugar, the cinnamon and the flour.
In a separate bowl, mix all the ingredients for the crumble.
Pour on top of the plums.
Bake for 15 minutes or until the top is golden brown!
Serves 2

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Enjoying the last peaches of the season!!!

Well peach season is wrapping up. This is always a sad time of the year for me. Peaches have always been one of my favourite fruits. As a kid I remember eating peaches with my mom trying not to get stains all over my shirt as the juices would run down my arms. Peaches are such a versatile fruit too. You can freeze them, canned them, eat them with meet or as part of a dessert. They make excellent jam, pies and chutneys and for all my fellow Canadians, they are grown right in our backyard (well not mine, but you know what I mean!) which is always a nice thing.
One of my favourite peach recipe (which can also be done with nectarine) is a barbecue chicken recipe. Generally speaking, anything that is done on the barbecue taste great (unless you're not a great barbecuer and you burn everything, but that's another story), but put glazed peaches on there and it's like heaven on earth! One thing to keep in mind is that your peaches need to be ripe, but not too soft otherwise they'll fall apart on the grill (and if they are not ripe enough they will taste bitter.

I tend to prepare this recipe in the morning before I go to work so that it has marinaded and that it's all ready to go when I come home, but in a pinch you can marinade for half and hour and everything will be just fine. When I do this recipe I also tend to butterfly my chicken breasts. Yes you have to be more careful when you are grilling them so that you do not over cook them, but it has the advantage to shave off some of the cooking time.

Grilled Chicken and Peaches with Brown Sugar Glazed

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons of soy sauce (I typically will use a low sodium one)
3 tablespoons of butter, melted
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
3 garlic cloves, minced
8-10 fresh peaches (or nectarines), halved
Place the chicken breasts in a shallow dish just large enough to hold them in a single layer. In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, soy sauce, butter and lemon juice. Add the water and garlic to the 
remaining mixture and pour over the chicken breasts. 
Turn to coat well, cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 day.

Preheat the BBQ on medium. Remove the chicken from the marinade, brush the chicken and peaches with some of the marinade. 

Grill the chicken until tender, about 7 – 8 minutes per side. Grill the peaches along with the chicken breasts until tender, about 6 minutes per side.
Serve with rice.
Makes 4 servings

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Oh how things have changed!

It has been almost 3 weeks since me and 1700 of my colleagues went on strike. I can't lie, this has not been easy so far. I come home everyday completely exhausted, my feet are killing me and my arms are often num from carrying heavy signs, playing the drums or from shaking various noise maker. I originally thought that I would have more time to cook, more time to myself, but it seems like I have never been busier. But it has not all been bad. Although I only met most of these people when the strike started a few weeks ago, there is a huge sense of community, almost as if we are one big family, on the picket line. I have met truly amazing people who have devoted their life to the University and have now seen their benefits and pension slashed away without any warning. It's people like them that give me the energy to go out there and fight for what's right everyday. Walking around for hours everyday also has its perks, I've already shed a pound since the beginning of the strike so I guess that's good.

All jokes aside, everyday as I walked the picket line on the very spot my husband and I said "I do" (or rather were going to say I do until rain started poring and we had to run inside to finish the ceremony, but that's a story for another time) I feel a little angry. Angry that after dedicating so much of my time, energy and some would say my life for the University I have to fight to save what little is left of my benefits and to get a shot at what I can't even call a decent salary. I have sang McGill's praise for over 10 years, I have 2 degrees from McGill, I live on campus and I have been working there for  over 7 years now, working overtime every week, not asking for a dime in return and that's how McGill thanks me? I guess times have change, because there used to be a time when faithful and hard working employees were actually rewarded for their work. Oh well!

In the spirit of the strike, the recipe I have chosen is one that can be easily eaten while walking the line or that can be a delicious breakfast on the go. This is one of my all time favourite muffin recipe. My mom has been making it for me for ages and I make it whenever I can. Of course over time I've changed the recipe to reflect my tastes, but the basis is the same that my mom cut out of the cereal box many many years ago.
Although you can enjoy the muffins on their own at room temperature, I much prefer them warmed up and with a little better (you can't be healthy all the time!). This recipe can easily be doubled and leftover muffins can be frozen. Hope you enjoy these as much as I do! Bon appetit!

All-Bran Muffins
(Based on a Kellogg's recipe)

1 1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
A pinch of salt
1 1/2 cup All-Bran cereals
1 1/2 cup milk
1/4 vegetable oil
1/3 cup molasses
1 egg
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dates chopped
Pre-heat the oven at 400F.
Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl (I tend to use my Kitchenaid mixer to do all my muffins) pour the milk and the cereals. Let the mixture rest for 5 minutes or until the cereals have started to softened.
Add the oil, the molasses and the egg. Mix well.
Incorporate the dry flour mixture. Do not over mix.
Add the raisins and the dates.

Poor the mix into muffin tins (lightly floured or with muffin cups). You should get 12 muffins for this recipe.
Bake for 18-20 minutes.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Dealing with change and pesto pasta salad

This week has not been an ordinary week. It started off with an unexpected, but truly deserved victory from our softball team in the quarter finals, kicking out the team that had been the champion for the past 6 years. So far so good, but things went down the hill quickly... yesterday morning 1,700 of my co-workers (including myself) walked out the job. 1,700 of us, fighting for our rights, fighting for parity, fighting for what we deserve. While I'm all about the cause, it is still scary. Not knowing how long this will last and dealing with strike pay is not that easy, but I hope that it will worth all the hard work in the end. On the bright side, I only have to picket 4 hours a day, bright and early 7:30-11:30, which means a lot more time to get things done around the house, to write my blog and of course to cook!

Today is also a very special day for me. Today I turn 30. If you had asked me a few years ago, even a few months ago how I was going to spend this day, I would have told you that I wanted a big party with my friends. But with the threat of a strike (and now the reality of a strike), the party's been cancel to favour a more quiet night with my husband who also turned 30 last week. It is not what I had planned, but spending time with the person I love, my best friend is more than enough for me.

Even if I can't have a big party, I'm still gonna spoil myself food wise. This morning, before I go on the picket line, I'm making crepes and for lunch, one of my all-time favourite, pesto pasta salad with cherry tomatoes and feta cheese!
The mix of feta and sweet cherry tomatoes with the pesto is wonderful and this recipe can be put together very quickly. If you are not gifted in the kitchen, this is also a great recipe for you. Just buy your pesto instead of making it, boil the pasta, add the rest and voila!


Pesto Pasta Salad

1 box of whole wheat pasta (you can use regular pasta, but whole wheat gives it an extra kick)
1 pint of cherry tomato, cut in half
1 cup of feta cheese, diced (save about 1/4 cup of the juice)
3/4 to 1 cup of pesto (depends on how much you like pesto)

Cook the pasta until they are al-dente, drain and set aside
Dice the feta cheese and dice the cherry tomatoes and set aside
Add the pesto and the reserve feta "juice" to the pasta. Mix well.
Add the cheese and the tomatoes and mix until they are lightly covered with pesto.
Serve at room temperature
Serves 4

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Pesto time!

Is it me or it has been getting a lot cooler at nights lately? As much as I hate to admit it, it seems that summer is coming to an end! Summer flew by this year. it seems like yesterday it was June and I had the whole summer ahead of me, and now it's almost september and I have to wear a jacket to go to work in the morning...  

One of my favourite thing about summer is the fresh herbs, so before summer ends I decided to make one last batch of pesto. Pesto is a staple in our home. I always have jars on hand in the freezer to use all winter long and I'm always sad when I crack open the last one usually too early in the spring to make new one.
Today I'll share our favourite pesto recipe and later this week I'll also post a great pasta salad recipe which uses pesto (it's always a big hit at parties!). Traditionally, pesto is made with pine nuts, but pine nuts can be quite pricey and not always available in smaller grocery stores so in a pinch you can also use walnuts without altering the taste too much. If you are not much of a garlic fan, you can also reduce the quantity, but I would not omit all together as garlic does give an extra kick to pesto. Depending on how creamy you like your pesto, you can also adjust the amount of olive oil you put in.


(based on Joy of Cooking)

4 cups of packed basil leaves
2/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts (this time I used walnuts)
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 cup olive oil
5 garlic cloves
Place the garlic and the nuts in the food processor. Chopped grossly.
Add the parmesan cheese and the basil leave. Pulse a few times.
Slowly pour the olive oil in while the food processor is going. Keep blending until you reach a smooth consistency.
Keep in the fridge for up to a week or up to 3 months in the freezer. Gives 3 cups of pesto.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Summer berry clafoutis

This past weekend I was in New York city visiting my best friend. Every time I go down, it's a occassion to not only catch up with by bestie, but also to tour the city and eat tons of food! 

This time we had steak at Peter Luger's steakhouse (faboulous by the way, not only was the steak great but the desserts were to die for!! You've got to try the cheesecake and the Holy cow hot fudge sundae!!), pretzels in Central Park and pizza (of course!) at John's.Typically, on Sundays we do brunch and this time was no exception.

Ze Cafe was our destination of choice this time. We had oatmeal brulée, croque-monsieur as well as stuffed French toast, all very delicious! So in the spirit of brunches and in honour of one of the greatest person I know, the recipe I propose today is a blueberry and blackberry clafouti.

Clafoutis can be done as a dessert, but as my mother-in-law as shown me many times, it is also perfect for a weekend brunch. It is fairly easy to do and can easily be done in the toaster oven so it is perfect for a summer brunch! If you have a sweet tooth or if you are using different types of berries, you might want to add a little sugar to the recipe. This is very nice served with creme fraiche or whipped cream...

Bon appetit!

Blueberry and blackberry Clafouti
(inspired by Better Homes and Gardens)
1 teaspoon butter
1 cup of whipping cream
3 eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups of mixed berries (I used blackberries and blueberries)
3 tablespoons powder sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie plate 1 teaspoon butter; set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl combine whipping cream, milk, eggs, flour, granulated sugar, melted butter, and vanilla. Using an electric mixer on low speed, beat until smooth. 
Arrange mixed berries in prepared pie plate. 
Pour batter over berries. 
Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until puffed and light brown. 
Cool for 15 to 20 minutes on a wire rack. Sift powdered sugar over top. Serve warm.