Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Well, I finally got around to making Christmas Cookies this week! No, I didn't make all of the cookies displayed here, you see I have a source in Vancouver that sells my favourite German baked goods imported directly from my old stomping grounds.

I couldn't resist the Rumkugeln (rum balls), chocolate covered Lebkuchen Herzen (gingerbread hearts filled with apricot preserve) and large round Lebkuchen - both chocolate and sugar coated - YUM!!

I always get so nostalgic when I visit this store, because it brings me back to a very special time I spent with my family living in Munich, Germany. At least I can get a taste of those times each time I sink my teeth into one of those delicious cookies!

I love to bake for the Holidays - I crank Christmas music into my kitchen don my favourite apron and get to it! Soon I am lost in another world, as the sweet scents of cinnamon and nutmeg, cloves and brown sugar waft through the house. My baking repertoire includes Pecan Linzer Cookies (an Austrian Tradition), Vanille Kipferl (vanilla crescents) and Zimtsterne (cinnamon stars). The Linzer Cookies are layered with a raspberry jam filling and literally melt in your mouth, while the crescents (half dusted with powdered sugar and half rolled in vanilla sugar) just seem to go 'poof' as you bite into them - so light and fluffy. The cinnamon stars are the answer to a hazelnut macaroon, made with nuts that have been toasted golden brown, egg whites meringue and laced with both cinnamon and nutmeg. As an added treat I top them with a dark rum glaze! My son Mr. S is in his last year of high school and also in his 5th year of taking Foods at school. His Ginger Snap Cookies are also featured in the photo above - so delicious!!
This year I hosted a party for some of my foodie girlfriends and my friend Miriam gave me a jar of her special mincemeat. I was so thrilled to be able to turn that delightful treat into mince tarts and I must say these are some of the best I have tried - Thanks so much Miriam!!

The house is ready to receive our family tonight for our traditional Christmas Eve celebration - the tree is trimmed, the baking is done, and presents are wrapped. Aaah - might I actually start relaxing early today? The food prep is still ahead of me, but nothing too complicated for this evening: beet salad and cucumber salad, Gravelax ( salmon which has been salt-brining for 3 days), a cheese plate, and a variety of warm appetizers including pork and sauerkraut!

I can't think of a more wonderful time to receive guests into the house with the crackling of a wood burning fire, some Christmas Cheer, good conversation and great food to enjoy - we are doing a German Style Buffet tonight - check out this link here to view my Brotzeit Menu, which exemplifies a traditional German Feast!

 An army of nut crackers stands guard on the mantle and even Buddha is dressed for the occasion!

I wish you and yours a fabulous and magical Christmas!

May there be Peace in your part of the Earth!

~ Marlies

***Cookies on upper plate: from top - Lebkuchen Rounds, Mince Tarts, Ginger Snaps, Linzer Cookies; cookies on lower plate: from top - Rumballs, Cinnamon Stars, Lebkuchen Hearts, Vanilla Crescents.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sunday Morning 'Sunshine Toad In the Hole'

As I continue on my mission to avoid wheat and gluten, primarily in bread products, I continually have to reinvent breakfast to include some sort of low-carb option other than bread. 'Toad in the hole' is one of my all time favourite go to breakfasts and one I have been making the boys since they were able to eat solid food. But for me, the days of scarfing down two Texas Toast size slices of white bread slathered in butter encompassing a couple of oozing farm fresh eggs unfortunately are over. Living with Fibromyalgia, I have to avoid foods that cause inflammation, and wheat is one of the culprits...

I have yet to find a Gluten Free bread that toasts up like regular bread and doesn't become soggy under a soft cooked egg. (If you have such recipe, please feel free to post it here on my blog under comments!) I have found an awesome bakery in my town that bakes organic GF breads daily and two of my favourites are the Kamut and Quinoa bread, but neither have the same appeal to me in this instance as their texture once toasted is more of a dense, chewy experience than a light and fluffy one.

*Note: Original recipe for Toad In The Hole to follow below*

So in order to simultaneously avoid wheat and still be able to have one of my favourite breakfasts, I have decided to ix-nay the ead-bray altogether and make a Toad in the Hole sans pain...

This is what I came up with after raiding the fridge:
1 yellow bell pepper
2 cups leftover cooked yams (diced and finished with some butter and chopped green onions)
1/2 a clamshell of baby spinach leaves
4 eggs (I use organic or free range)
8 bacon slices (I use nitrate free, low sodium bacon)
2 tsp coconut oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook bacon until crisp; Line a sheet of foil with paper towel; Place cooked bacon on paper towel and wrap foil into an envelope; Place in low temp oven to keep warm.
2. Cut the top off the bell pepper and discard seeds. Slice horizontally into 4 rings; place pepper rings in large preheated skillet over medium heat; add 1/4 cup water and steam pepper rings, covered just until cooked through; add baby spinach leaves to pan - water will have almost evaporated (if it has, add a little more to steam spinach - this will only take a few minutes; remove spinach and keep warm). Into each ring, place 1/2 tsp coconut oil, which will quickly melt; crack eggs into rings; Cook covered until set to desired doneness, about 5 minutes for medium-soft.
3. In separate pan, re-heat yams; Set aside.

To assemble:
Place cooked spinach in a ring onto plate. Place egg and pepper ring inside of spinach ring; serve with pan fried yams and bacon rashers.

**NOTE: If you are able to eat bread, by all means go for the original!

Toad in the Hole

1. Butter bread slices on one side, place in heated skillet and toast until lightly brown; flip toast to brown other side.
2. Using a 2"-3"round cookie cutter or knife, cut out a circle in bread slice; reserve cut-outs; crack eggs into hole and cook, covered until eggs are set to desired doneness. Place toast cut-outs on top of egg. Serve.

Happy Sunday!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My Traditional Halloween Night Menu

Since the boys were young lads, we have hosted Halloween Night at our house complete with hearty bowls of Chili Con Carne, Savoury Corn Bread, Ginger Snap Cookies and mugs of steaming Hot Spiced Apple Tea. When the boys were younger, the focus was always on what costumes the kids would wear for their trick-or-treat adventures out into our spooky, well-decorated neighbourhood and the long anticipated fireworks display upon their return.
Prior to sending the kids off on their quest for all things sweet, I would fill them up on a hearty bowl of chili and cornbread, to make sure they had some sustenance to soak up all of that sugar. In the meantime the pot of fragrant Hot Spiced Apple Tea was simmering on the stove waiting for the adults to return from their chilly walk around the neighbourhood. And who wouldn't want to indulge in some chewy Pumpkin Ginger Snap Cookies along with that steaming hot beverage?

Although the kids are grown up now, I have continued to follow in the tradition of Halloween Night at our house and tonight is no exception. Trick-or-treaters of all ages will be arriving at our door without fail as soon as darkness begins to creep in. I have invited my Mom and my elderly Aunt, who has just recently lost her husband (my uncle) and downsized into assisted living. I have assigned both women the task of greeting the costumed youngsters at the front door and handing out the treats as neither of them has the opportunity to do this in their own homes.

A few mugs of Hot Spiced Apple Tea should keep them in good spirits and the cookies will bode well with a cup of this yummy beverage as the evening progresses. I wish you and yours a Happy and Safe Halloween!!

Chile Con Carne
This recipe for chili is my tried and true. The original recipe came from my Mom, but I have modified it over the years to what it is today. I am even willing to share my two secret ingredients: cinnamon and cocoa...

Spice Mixture
4 tbsp Mexican chili powder
1 Tbsp cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 smoked chipotle pepper (canned)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp ground pepper
salt to taste
Combine in mixing bowl and set aside.

4 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb lean ground beef
1 green pepper diced
1 28 oz can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 28 oz cans diced tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
1/2 cup beef stock
2 tbsp brown sugar

Heat olive oil in large cauldron; add onion and garlic and cook until translucent. Add ground beef and cook until lightly browned; add spice mixture and stir to combine. Add green pepper, kidney beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, beef stock and brown sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook, covered for about 25 minutes. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered for about 1 1/2 hours. Serve bowls of Chili Con Carne topped with grated Cheddar or Monteray Jack cheese, sour cream and fresh cilantro.

Wheat Free Corn Muffins
I switched up my traditional corn bread recipe to make it GF friendly for those who are not eating wheat. The texture is a little heavier than in the original recipe, but the muffins are equally as delicious!

1/4 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1/4 potato starch
1/4 cup sweet rice flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 cup grapeseed or vegetable oil
1 large egg, beaten
3/4 cup milk
1 cup frozen corn kernels (thawed and coarsely pulsed with milk in the food processor - should still be somewhat chunky)
1 cup cornmeal
1/4 tsp chili flakes
1/4 red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 green onions, finely sliced
4 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

1.Preheat oven to 400F. Grease corn stick mold or muffin tin. Place molds in preheating oven while preparing batter.
2.In large bowl, mix cornmeal, flours, starches, xanthan gum, salt, baking powder and sugar.
3. In small skillet over medium heat, in hot oil, cook red pepper and green onions until tender, stirring occasionally. Add chili flakes. Remove skillet from heat; stir in corn mixture, then egg until mixed; stir into dry ingredients until batter is just blended (it will be lumpy).
4. Spoon batter into preheated molds. Bake 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean. Serve warm or cool on wire racks and reserve for later. Makes 12 muffins or 14 corn sticks.

Pumpkin Ginger Snaps
The original recipe for these amazing Ginger Snaps came from my girlfriend Debbie in Colorado. I changed things a bit by reducing the butter and subbing in pumpkin puree, then topping the cookies with toasted pumpkin seeds - yum!

1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
2 2/3 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp each: ground cinnamon, cloves and ginger
1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds

1.In bowl of electric mixer cream butter until fluffy; add sugar and molasses, continue to mix until well blended; beat in egg.
2. In bowl combine dry ingredients. Add to butter mixture and beat until blended. Add pumpkin and stir until incorporated.
3. Roll into balls and dip into cinnamon and sugar mixture. Place on parchment lined baking sheet, about 3' apart. Gently press to flatten slightly. Press pumpkin seeds into cookies. Bake at 375F for 8-10 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Hot Spiced Apple Tea
This recipe hails from my friend Mary Gray, who followed her English roots when she decided to create a spiced hot beverage including what else...? Yes, tea! Because I don't do caffeine, I have substituted African Rooibos for the black tea.

4 cups apple juice or apple cider
4 cups brewed strong tea (I use Rooibos Tea)
4 cinnamon sticks
4 cloves
A sprinkling of nutmeg
Honey to taste
Slices of lemon
Rum or Brandy

Combine apple juice, tea, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg in a medium pot. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and continue to simmer until ready to drink. Serve with honey and lemon slices and a shot of rum or brandy, if desired. Serves 6-8.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday Night Cocktail: Watermelon 'Jolly Quencher'

Its Friday...and its a HOT one!!! 34 Celsius here in Vancouver today -
I bought a huge watermelon at Costco yesterday with the intent to slice it up and serve it as dessert at a picnic dinner we have planned at the beach tomorrow evening. But I came home from work today and was so thirsty, I just had to cut into the great green and red oh so juicy orb and as I did so, I instantly thought of the watermelon Jolly Rancher candies my boys like to buy at the corner store. could I recreate that same flavour of a Jolly Rancher in a cocktail, I pondered.
Out of the fridge emerged the tart lemons which I promptly squeezed into fresh juice to add to the chunks of freshly cut watermelon I dropped into the blender. A few pulses on high speed and the pink frothy liquid was ready to pour over a few ounces of rum, Limoncello liquer and chopped fresh mint...
I know.
Who can stop at just one of these...? Its hot out and watermelon does serve as the perfect thirst quencher on a toasty day.
A little Otis Redding crooning in the background, I feel like I am sitting on a dock of a bay...just enjoying life.

Watermelon 'Jolly Quencher'
4 cups watermelon puree
Juice of 4 freshly squeezed lemons
2-3 sprigs of fresh mint
8 ounces white rum
4 ounces Limoncello liquer
Lots of ice

Cheers, my friends. Happy Friday!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sunday Morning Farmer's Breakfast (Fried Egg on Purple Potato and Bratwurst Hash)

One of my favourite things to do when I travel to the Okanagan in the Interior of British Columbia, is to visit the Penticton Farmer's Market. There is a plethora of goodies to sample and take home to create fabulous menu items. I was fortunate to spend this past long weekend there and among favourite seasonal fruits such as freshly picked cherries, peaches and nectarines, I filled my shopping basket with fresh organic beets, purple and white eggplants and purple nugget potatoes - yes, I had a bit of a purple thing going on!!

Today I decided to incorporate the beautiful purple nugget potatoes into a healthy brunch hash recipe reminiscent of one my Dad used to make for us on Sunday mornings when we were kids. He called it Bauernfruehstueck, which translated from German into English simply means Farmer's Breakfast. I remember waking to the wonderful smell of fried onions and knowing that a plate of his specialty would be waiting, piping hot on a plate in our cosy breakfast nook.

In keeping with Dad's recipe, I used Bratwurst sausages, onions and farm fresh eggs, but substituted these purple beauties from the Penticton Farmer's Market for russet potatoes.

I just love the vibrant purple colour of these potatoes - and they can sit out for a while because they don't turn brown!

Farmer's Breakfast
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 small onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 pound purple nugget potatoes, washed and diced
4 Bratwurst sausages, diced
1 tsp seasoning salt (MSG free)
1/2 tsp marjoram
1 Tablespoon fresh Rosemary, chopped
4 farm fresh eggs, preferably organic free-range

1. In skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat; add onions and garlic and saute until onions are transluscent. Reduce heat to medium flame, add potatoes and herbs and cook until potatoes are fork tender, about 25 minutes.
2. Add sausage and continue to cook until sausage is lightly browned.
3. Divide the potato hash into four segments in the skillet. Crack an egg over each segment; cook covered until eggs are set.
Serves 4.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sunday Morning Poached Egg on Salmon Cakes with Creamy Caper Mayo and Arugula

I love salmon and as it is readily available fresh to us here on the West Coast, we try and eat this protein at least once a week to obtain that high content of Omega 3 and 6 oils which are incredibly good for our health.

And while I also have a lot of fresh Arugula currently growing in my vegetable garden, I thought I would put together an easy dish that includes some left-over mashed potatoes from last night's dinner, farm fresh organic eggs, which I picked up from the farmer's market then top it off with a creamy caper sauce for a healthy, satisfying Sunday brunch.

This also makes for a wonderful luncheon dish, served with a fresh side salad of your choice. I raided our raspberry bushes for a sweet side served with low-fat yoghurt to round out this brunch menu.

Poached Egg on Salmon Cake with Creamy Caper Mayo and Arugula

2 large potatoes, peeled, diced, boiled and cooled, then pressed through a potato ricer/or 1 1/2 cups left-over mashed potatoes
2 small fillets sockeye salmon, grilled, cooled and flaked/or 1 can sockeye salmon, drained
1 Tbsp dried tarragon, crumbled
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
1 egg
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 Tbsp bread crumbs
Extra virgin olive oil for frying
4 poached eggs
2 cups fresh Arugula leaves, washed and drained well
Oil and vinegar

1/4 cup mayonnnaise
1/4 cup plain yoghurt
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp capers
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp fresh chives, sliced

1. In mixing bowl combine potatoes, peppers, onion, tarragon, salt, pepper and egg. Gently fold in flaked salmon. Add bread crumbs, 1 tablespoon at a time, until mixture holds its shape when formed into a ball.
2. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Shape salmon mixture into 5 patties and fry in oil until lightly golden brown, about 5 minutes per side.

For the sauce: combine mayonnaise, yoghurt, Dijon, capers and parsley in a mixing bowl. Set aside.

Toss Arugula lightly with your favourite oil and vinegar; divide amongst 4 plates. Place one salmon cake on each mound of Arugula. Top with poached egg and sauce. Garnish with chopped chives. Serves 4.


Friday, July 27, 2012

The Big Apple

In keeping with my recent trip to New York, I thought I would pay homage to one of the greatest cities in the world and name this week's Friday Night Cocktail: The Big Apple.

New York is a Mecca of restaurants and bars and its just plain tough walking past a place brimming with patrons chatting in that Nuu Yoork twang without at least popping inside to check out what the locals are eating or drinking. We did our share of that, true and I would be amiss not to mention I didn't discover a plethora of new ideas for my blog there...stay tuned!

At first I was thinking Manhatten-ish on the cocktail front, but I didn't have any red vermouth to blend with my whiskey and I am definitely not a maraschino cherry fan - no red dye #40 entering this body thanks! I do like a crisp tart apple all shiny and red, so incorporating this flavour into a drink seemed a no-brainer... could I duplicate the taste of that crisp tart apple in liquid form without the addition of apple jack, or baked apple bitters?

First I poured some rye whiskey into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Then I added some apple juice and lemon juice and gave it all a good shake. I then strained it into a chilled Martini glass that was rimmed with maple syrup and cinnamon and topped it all off with an apple cider float. Garnished with a crisp apple slice - a sophisticated looking, yet tongue-in-cheek libation: "A Big Apple a day, may just keep the doctor away!"

The Big Apple:
2 ounces rye whiskey
1 ounce apple juice
1 ounce lemon juice
1 ounce apple cider
Drizzle of maple syrup
Sprinkle of cinnamon
Apple slice for garnish

On one side plate drizzle a circle of maple syrup. On another side plate sprinkle cinnamon; dip the Martini glass rim into the maple syrup, then roll around in the cinnamon until the rim is well coated. Set aside.
In cocktail shaker filled with ice, shake rye whiskey, apple and lemon juices until well chilled. Strain into prepared Martini glass; top with a apple cider float. Garnish with fresh apple slice. Cheers!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Week In The Empire State - our culinary indulgences via Manhatten to the Catskills

I've been feeling a 'titch' guilty about neglecting my blog this past month and I would like apologize to those of you who visit my site regularly and have perhaps been getting bored by the lack of  new is always my hope that this could be an opportunity to dig deeper into my previous posts and recipes, that may have been missed when I was able to actively post on a regular basis. BUT there are some very good reasons...not only have I started a new full-time job outside of the house (which has proven to be quite demanding...I think I am nearing the point of hiring a housekeeper, just so that I can free myself up to get back to some of the things I love to do - including my blog!)

That aside, our trip to New York was a huge hit. We spent 2 1/2 days in the Big Apple discovering and re-discovering places that have been so prominent in movies/tv, songs and books: Central Park,  Times Square, Park Avenue, SOHO, just to name a few. I have been to New York 4 times and I must say I never tire of the place. There is just never enough time to see and do everything on my list of adventures in this amazing city and this time was no exception!

I have this obsession with a certain TV show on the Food Network called 'Eat St.', which features food trucks from all over North America. New York City is known for its food trucks and having been witness to the hectic pace at which people move around in Manhatten, it didn't surprise me to see that grab-and-go meals are the absolute norm here. We arrived in the city with my carefully assembled list of food trucks I wanted to find: Waffles and Denges, Fill Your Hole and The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck. Unfortunately I found neither, nada, nope, not one. I know. Disappointed with a semi-capital D! But I did find Mr.Softee, which immediately became my favourite  truck to stalk (32 trucks in total around the city) for a chance at the best soft ice cream cone on this planet. Bar none.

Of course New York Cheese Cake and bagels are tops on the list as are hot dogs, but Middle-Eastern fare has become a huge trend in New York City and there seemed to be a Sam's Falafel, Shwarma and Donair stand on every street corner. Delish!

One of the best cities by far to take in by foot, my two lower appendages are still recovering a week after we spent 11 hours one day walking from our hotel near Grand Central Terminal down 5th Avenue through Little Korea, The Meat Packing District, The Garment District, Greenwich Village, Tribeca, into SOHO then due South through the Financial District and Wall Street to Ground Zero. As you can imagine, moving through so many areas of a monumental city can offer as many options for sustenance as the imagination can conjure up! We stopped into places like The Cook Shop for trendy regional cuisine, Civediamo Beyoglu for the best Turkish, actually the only Turkish fare I have ever sampled, as well as the Magnolia Bakery, my personal favourite cupcake store and one of the oldest established bake shops in Manhatten. Freshly squeezed lemonade was our beverage of choice (aside from cold beer) as the temperatures soared in the upper 30's (90's) with the addition of high humidity.

One of my favourite stops was at the Central Park location of Le Pain Quotidien, a trendy bakery chain that serves delicious sandwiches, soups and pastries. We enjoyed a lovely lunch under the Linden Trees amongst locals (equipped with painting easels) and tourists (sporting maps), sampling menu items such as venison pate, roasted red pepper hummus and Baba Ganoush accompanied by a beautiful selection of home baked breads. And what meal would be complete without the addition of a fresh raspberry and French cream tart for dessert? I know, right?

In the afternoon of our last day in Manhatten, we made our way to the Car Rental Kiosk near Times Square to pick up our mode of transport to Up-state New York, where we would be attending a family function hosted by my best childhood friend and her husband in a tiny town in the Catskills...

To Be Continued...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

This Week's Cauldron: Creole Turkey Soup

Since I am still trying to catch up on my everyday household duties (working full-time out of the house now) I decided for this week's cauldron to go for an old stand-by of mine: Creole Turkey Soup.

I have posted this recipe once before - but you can also find it HERE. Please enjoy!!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sunday Morning Spicy Breakfast Wrap

As you have seen in my blog, I love to cook and my repertoire often includes complicated-looking menu items (which I perceive as easy - but for the non-cook may seem somewhat daunting...). I really try to keep the difficulty factor to a bare minimum, because I realize not everyone has the time and energy to spend copious amounts of time in the kitchen, even on a lazy Sunday.

I have been working like a fiend these past two weeks at my new job and this weekend has been all about restoring my balance.

This morning I wanted to eat something good and hearty, but that was also quick and easy to prepare. Breakfast wraps are just that, and for me a frequent go-to item when my sons are flying out the door to school in the morning.

A short-cut is to cook bacon rashers ahead of time and keep them wrapped in paper towel, then tin foil in the fridge. Then all you need to do is scramble some eggs and toss the bacon in at the last minute to re-heat it.

This morning my breakfast wraps included eggs, bacon, some spicy chillies, tomatoes, scallions, and fresh dill as well as a three-cheese blend, sour cream and spicy salsa. As far as fillings for the wraps - the world is your oyster here - pretty much anything goes with scrambled eggs. The best part is that you can eat these leisurely at the table or you can wrap them in tin foil and eat them on the run.

Spicy Breakfast Wrap
4 flour tortillas (wrapped in tin foil and warmed in the oven at 300F)
1 tablespoon coconut oil
8 farm fresh eggs (I use organic free range)
8 slices nitrate-free naturally smoked bacon, cooked and drained on paper towels
1 large tomato chopped
4 scallions chopped
1 fresh red chilli pepper (Serrano or Fresno) minced (omit seeds for less heat)
Sea salt and pepper to taste
1 small bunch fresh dill, chopped
1 cup grated three cheese blend
Tomato salsa (medium to hot)
1 tub sour cream

1.Heat coconut oil in skillet over medium heat. In bowl whisk eggs with salt, pepper, chillies and dill.
2. To heated coconut oil, add scallions and tomatoes and cook until softened about 5-7 minutes; add egg mixture and scramble, continuing to cook until desired consistency (in our house everyone prefers their scrambled eggs a little on the dryer side).
3. Remove tortillas from oven and place on plates; spread each with about 2 tablespoons sour cream; divide the scrambled egg mixture among the tortillas keeping the filling in a straight line through the center of the tortilla; top with crumbled bacon and grated cheese. Fold the outer edges of the tortilla in about an inch on either side and roll into a large 'cigar'. Cut in half and serve with salsa. Serves 4.
* To make a to-go version, add salsa prior to rolling up the wrap, then wrap in a layer of parchment paper, then tin foil.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Friday Night Cocktail: Pineapple Kiwi Sangria

So I started a new job this month and I have worked about 120 hours since my inaugural day two weeks ago. There is a very good reason behind this. Our new showroom was opening and there was a major time crunch, in addition, for the grand opening we were hosting a couple of dozen people from the industry so there was a lot of time spent entertaining out of town guests as well has holding in-house training sessions this past week.
I am exhausted to say the least but now things will get back to normal and I can breath a sigh of relief that I survived my first two weeks with this fabulous new company!

I believe that I will have a whole new appreciation for Friday Nights now that I am working full-time and so today I would like to share with you one of many more Friday Night Cocktails to come:

Pineapple and Kiwi Sangria.

I was feeling like something really refreshing when I came home from work today and although it is raining outside and doesn't look even the slightest bit like summer has actually commenced, I think Sangria is one of those drinks one can enjoy regardless of the season.
This recipe yields one large pitcher, so you can plunk yourself down and relax while people can help themselves to at least a few refills.

Pineapple Kiwi Sangria
1/4 cup chopped pineapple
1/4 cup chopped kiwi
1/4 cup small green grapes, sliced in half
2 bottles dry white wine
1 cup white rum
1/2 cup Grand Marnier (or Triple Sec)
4 cups pineapple juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Combine all ingredients in large pitcher. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve chilled over ice. Serves 8-10.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sunday Morning Sour Cherry and Almond Quinoa

One of the biggest buzz words in the food world these days is Quinoa. This  nutritious, ancient grain has been grown in Central America for thousands of years. Quinoa is not actually a grain, but a pseudo-grain, as it is not part of the grass species. Surprisingly, as a chenopod, Quinoa is closely related to the beet, spinach and tumbleweed family. The grain- like buds are actually seeds that are harvested from the crop - imagine a spinach plant going to seed.
Quinoa is considered a complete protein (18%) as it contains essential amino acids and phosphorus, magnesium and iron. It is a good source of calcium, which makes it useful for vegans and those who are lactose-intolerant. Quinoa is also gluten-free and is considered easy to digest.

I have made Quinoa a regular part of our diets and use it in many recipes as a substitute for Rice Pilaf or Couscous; ground into flour for pancakes or muffins and as a delicious breakfast cereal.

The great thing about Quinoa 'porridge', is that you do get the protein in the morning - if you are like me, I tend to get that bad 'sugar rush' from straight carbs, which I do not get with Quinoa.
Quinoa takes about 15 minutes to cook, not as fast as  a quick oats porridge, but it can be prepared the night before and re-heated during the week, for a quick nutritious breakfast.
But its Sunday today and I have time, so I made my favourite version containing dried sour cherries and sliced un-blanched almonds. Topped with plain yogurt and maple syrup, this is a hearty breakfast that will keep you going until lunch...

Sour Cherry And Almond Quinoa
2 cups water
1 cup Quinoa (I use the truRoots Organic Quinoa)
1/4 cup dried sour cherries (or any dried fruit such as blueberries, raisins or cranberries)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons un-blanched, sliced almonds ( they cook faster than whole almonds)
Plain yogurt and maple syrup for topping
Combine Quinoa and water in a pot. Bring to a boil. Add cherries, almonds and cinnamon. Turn heat to low and cook covered for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest for about 5 minutes. Fluff with fork and spoon into bowls. Top with yogurt and maple syrup; sprinkle with additional cinnamon and almonds if desired. Serves 4.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Friday Night Cocktail: Carrot Cake Martini

I LOVE carrot cake! I could eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner...Carrots are hugely healthy, containing beta-carotene, which is a good anti-oxidant as well as vitamin K which is good for the eyes. I know I am grasping at straws here - but drinking can be healthy - yes carrots are really good for you!
A few weeks ago I posted a cocktail recipe for a Chocolate Cake Martini which is my liquid version of that decadent comfort food we all know and love. I get it (well I don't actually get it) that not everyone likes chocolate cake (my son Mr. J does not, and I take full blame for that...I actually hated chocolate when I was pregnant with him!) Now in keeping with the cake theme ( I love to watch 'Cake Boss' on the Food Network) one of the most popular cakes used in slab form is also another classic we all love: Carrot Cake - that ultra moist concoction of carrots, pineapple and cinnamon topped with sweet creamy cream cheese icing! And no need to feel even an iota guilty for drinking this one - cuz' now you can have this cake and drink it, too!

Carrot Cake Martini
2 ounces vanilla vodka
1 ounce creme de cacao
2 ounces pineapple juice
1 ounce carrot juice
1 ounce plain cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon icing sugar
2 tablespoons ground walnuts
Combine softened cream cheese with icing sugar; spread onto small plate. Dip Martini glass rim in cream cheese icing; dip into ground walnuts. Set aside.
To cocktail shaker filled with ice add vodka, creme de cacao, pineapple and carrot juices; shake vigorously. Strain into chilled Martini glass. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Weekly Cauldron: Beefy Beet and Rainbow Chard Borscht

One of my all time favourite soups is Borscht...Hands. Down. I have made this fabulously healthful, chunky soup a variety of ways including a chicken based version and a vegetarian version and both are equally delicious, but the one that gains me the most kudos here at home is a traditional Russian Borscht made with beef. Yes, I know - Hubs and the boys like their red meat.

The recipe has been modified so many times, based on what ingredients I have or don't have at any given time and today was no exception. I didn't have white cabbage, which is one of the main elements in a traditional Russian Borscht. I did, however have oodles of ripe rainbow chard begging to be picked, so I simply replaced the cabbage with chard and the results were astounding...not to mention the added vitamins and minerals contained in chard: vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron and large amounts of fiber and because chard is also part of the beet family, I knew it would naturally complement the flavour of the beets in the recipe!
I started off by sauteeing some onions and garlic in olive oil, then adding finely diced cubes of organic stewing beef, then some chopped celery and carrots. I added bay leaves, fresh dill and some organic sugar, then beef broth, tomato paste, chopped chard, cubed potatoes, sea salt and pepper. The soup is set to a simmer, covered for about an hour, until the beef is tender. At the end, I always stir in about 1/3 of a cup of good balsamic vinegar, because a true Borscht always has that acid which gives this delicious soup its familiar zing. Served with a generous dollop of sour cream, this soup is definitely a meal in  bowl!
Beefy Beet and Rainbow Chard Borscht
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound stewing beef, cut into small dice
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2" dice
4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
3 medium beets (boiled in skins, then cooled to room temperature and skins slipped off)
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon pure cane sugar
8 cups beef stock (I used low-sodium organic)
12 cups rainbow chard, chopped OR 1 small head white cabbage cut into 2" chunks
1/4 cup tomato paste
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
1 bunch fresh dill or 2 tablespoons dried (reserve some fresh dill for garnish)
1/4 -1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
Sour cream for accompaniment
1. In Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat and saute onion, garlic until translucent; add beef and brown with onions and garlic; add celery and carrots and continue to cook another 10 minutes.
2. Add bay leaves, dill and sugar; cook for 30 seconds; add broth, tomato paste, chard and potatoes, sea salt and pepper.
3. Simmer, covered until meat is tender, about 1 hour.
4. Using a box grater, coarsely shred beets into soup; stir to combine. Simmer an additional 30 minutes.
5. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar.
To serve: ladle soup into bowls and garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a sprig of fresh dill. Serves 12.
* TIP: Reserve about 1 cup of the beet water and strain through a coffee filter to filter out any grit; add to the soup for extra flavour and colour.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Sunday Morning Classic Buttermilk Pancakes and Bacon and Sage Wrapped Turkey Weiners

 Sometimes a good old pancake breakfast is all one needs to start the day off right. Pancakes are one of my favourite comfort foods. There are so many ways to serve up pancakes, but for me the best is simply topped with butter and Canadian Maple Syrup.

I have been making this particular buttermilk pancake recipe for what seems like eons and to tell the truth, I don't even recall where it came from originally. I have tweaked it over the years and jotted down modifications in my notebook each time but finally came to a batter that I believe is about as perfect as can be...

The addition of buttermilk makes the batter not only rich tasting, but gives it incredible volume. Usually when using buttermilk, one would omit baking powder and only use baking soda, but I have found that by using both leavening agents in this recipe the pancakes turn out incredibly light and fluffy.

The key to a great pancake batter is to NOT over-mix it - the consistency should be thick and lumpy, but should also pour off the spoon easily enough to spread on the hot pan or griddle. You should see a lot of bubbles on the surface and don't worry if there are lumps, or small pockets of unmixed flour, these will continue to moisten as you let the batter rest for some time.
Patience is a virtue!

And...what would a pancake breakfast be without sausages, or bacon? I love both and tend to indulge a little in this recipe. Here I have used medication-free turkey weiners, which I have wrapped in bacon. I pre-cook the bacon a little bit first, just to render the fat, but I don't let it get crispy - the bacon should be flexible enough to easily wrap and stay around the weiner without having to use a toothpick (but you can if you wish). Tuck in some fresh sage leaves for some extra flavour and sprinkle with hot chilli flakes for some 'zing'. Then roast the weiner rolls in a convection oven for about 15 minutes, until the bacon is crispy. In the meantime, cook the pancakes on a heated griddle or in a frying pan. This brunch comes together so simply, even kids can make it!

Classic Buttermilk Pancakes
2 cups unbleached flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 fresh egg, beaten
2 1/2 cups 1.5% buttermilk
1/4 cup melted coconut oil, or unsalted butter, or vegetable oil

1. Stir dry ingredients together in mixing bowl.
2. In large measuring cup, whisk together buttermilk, egg and oil or butter. stir liquid ingredients into dry ingredients just until moistened. Let batter rest, about ten minutes.
3. Preheat griddle or large skillet over medium heat; grease lightly. Pour about 1/2 cup batter onto hot griddle for each pancake. cook until tops of pancakes are bubbly and appear dry; turn and cook until lightly browned, about 2-3 minutes. makes about 12 (5 inch) pancakes.

Bacon and Sage Wrapped Turkey Weiners
2 large turkey weiners, cut in half (to make 4 pieces)
2 slices thick nitrate free bacon, cut in half (to make 4 slices)
8 fresh sage leaves
1/4 teaspoon hot chilli flakes

1. Cook bacon slices over medium-high heat until fat is rendered, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.
2. Place two sage leaves on top of each weiner and carefully wrap with bacon, tucking ends under.Sprinkle with chilli flakes. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet and roast at 325 F for about 15 minutes. Serves 4.


Saturday, June 02, 2012

Friday Night Cocktail: Blackberry Mojito

Sorry for the delay on this post - its usually ready to go by at least midday on Fridays...but I have been having issues with my blog and wasn't able to post this until 1:00 AM this morning!!

The blackberry bushes in our back lane are brimming with blossoms, which the bees have been busy pollinating. In just over a month I can look forward to dressing in my coveralls and braving the prickles to harvest oodles of ripe berries.

In the meantime, the mint has sprouted and is begging to be picked and incorporated into something good. Fresh blackberries will be a little while yet, so I figured - why not at least crush that crisp fresh mint into a refreshing Mojito and add some blackberry liqueur with the rum and a handful of frozen berries for a delicious twist on this classic Cuban drink?

...And that is exactly what I did!

Here's the scoop:

Blackberry Mojito
2 ounces white rum
1 ounce blackberry liqueur
5 fresh mint leaves, roughly torn
1/4 lime sliced thinly
5-6 blackberries
Sparkling mineral water

Place rum and blackberry liqueur in tumbler over ice. Add mint, lime slices and blackberries. Top with sparkling water. Stir to blend. Enjoy!


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sunday Morning Poached Egg On Ground Chicken Hash in Sourdough Toast Bowl

I went to the Roger Waters Concert (formerly of the band Pink Floyd) last night and I got home very late - so today breakfast is truly a brunch as I am posting this at almost noon!

I really had to think about what to make this morning because I didn't buy any specific ingredients  - so I rummaged through the freezer and fridge and this is what I found:
A frozen package of ground chicken, red, yellow and green peppers, 1/2 a bag of red and yellow nugget potatoes, some chilli peppers, 1/2 a jar of pasta sauce, a package of Havarti cheese and a round loaf of sourdough bread...

I used to be a great fan of corned beef hash, but as I am trying to cut down on salt for Hubs, I just don't buy corned beef anymore, but I still enjoy a good mixed hash for breakfast, so this is what I figured...

Why not make the hash with ground chicken, place it in a toast bowl with some Havarti cheese and tomato sauce and top it all off with a poached egg?

First I trimmed the crusts from the sourdough bread. I needed two slices for each of my mini quiche dishes, but you could also use muffin tins for smaller portions and use one slice for each muffin cup. The bread didn't want to stay in the dish, so I had to weigh it down...
While I was toasting the bread bowls, I made the hash by frying the chicken in some olive oil, then adding onion, peppers and potatoes and cooked the hash together until the vegetables were done. I lined each toast bowl with a slice of Havarti cheese, then a couple of spoonfuls of pasta sauce and then the hash. I kept the bowls warm in the oven until the eggs were poached then placed them on top of the hash.

This is an all-in-one brunch, so you don't have to focus so much on the timing of the eggs, the toast and the hash to bring it all together at the last minute.

For the hash:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 pound ground chicken
1 small onion, thinly sliced
4 cups diced nugget potatoes
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 each red, yellow and green pepper, diced
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
1 chilli pepper, minced

8 slices sourdough bread, crusts trimmed
1 Tbsp butter
4 slices Havarti cheese
1/2 cup warmed pasta sauce
4 eggs, poached
Fresh parsley for garnish

1.Fry the chicken in tablespoon olive oil. Remove from pan and set aside. Add remaining olive oil to pan and cook onion, potatoes and peppers until soft. Add thyme, chilli pepper, salt and pepper and chicken and keep warm on medium-low heat.
2. Butter 4 mini quiche dishes or muffin cups; press bread slices into cups ( if using mini quiche dishes, weigh down with a ramekin; bake at 350F for 5 minutes, remove ramekin and continue to bake another 5-8 minutes (for muffin cups, bake for 5-8 minutes total ) or until bread is toasted. Line toast bowls/cups with Havarti cheese then spoon pasta sauce on top, then chicken hash; Top with poached egg; garnish with parsley. There is enough hash to fill 4-6 mini quiche bowls or 8-10 muffin cups.

Happy Sunday!!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday Night Cocktail: Buddha's Elixir

I revere Friday Nights. After a long week, hubs and I have a chance to kick back and chat about the happenings of the week and bounce around ideas of what we would each like to do for the weekend.

Great conversation needs a good drink in my mind, so each Friday, I open up the liquor cabinet and have a glance at what ingredients I can use to concoct a yummy cocktail.

As we are both so fond of Asia, I decided to mix up a refreshing Zen style cocktail that includes Gin (my favourite summer drink), Japanese Sake, some freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and lychee juice!

Ok, I have already had one and the cocktail shaker is shaking as I write - after one sip my troubles are far away and I am feeling at peace, or Zen. Buddha's Elixir - YOU. MUST. TRY. YUM!!!

Buddha's Elixir
2 ounces Gin
1 ounce Sake
3 ounces Lychee juice
1 ounce freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
Lychees and lemon twist for garnish

In cocktail shaker filled with ice, blend Gin, Sake, lychee and grapefruit juice. Shake well, then strain into chilled Martini glass. Garnish with lychee and fresh lemon twist. NAMASTE!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

This Week's Cauldron: Green Pea Soup with Pancetta and Mint

I cannot count the number of pots of Split Pea and Ham Soup I have made over the years. My family loves it and its a regular menu item at our house over the colder months. The aroma of the dried legumes simmering in rich chicken broth and chunky ham is a little piece of heaven on a cold winter's day. But what happens when the weather starts to warm up and we feel like eating lighter fare? A good pea soup doesn't have to always be of the 'stick-to-your-ribs' variety, thick in texture and brimming with the taste of smoky ham and herbaceous thyme...

My favourite recipe for a light pea soup melds the bright green colour and flavour of freshly frozen green peas with zesty Pancetta bacon and effervescent mint topped with a tangy dollop of yoghurt. I like to have this fresh tasting pea soup either as a main course alongside fresh baked rolls or even a home-made pizza. A fun way to serve it is as an appetizer shot, hot or cold with the addition of a baked Parmesan chip - YUM!!

Green Pea Soup with Pancetta And Mint
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
6 cups frozen green peas
1 liter (4 cups) chicken broth
1 small bunch fresh mint
Juice of 1/2 a lime
1 Tbsp lime zest
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
50g Pancetta bacon, slivered and cooked until crispy
1/2 cup coarsely grated Parmesan cheese**
Plain yoghurt

1.Heat butter and olive oil in saucepan on medium heat; add onions and cook until  soft, but not brown, about 15 minutes.
2. Add chicken broth and frozen peas; bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and cook, covered until peas are soft, but still bright in colour, about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper.
3. Transfer soup to a blender; chop mint and add to soup; add lime and lime zest; puree until smooth. Garnish with Pancetta slivers, a dollop of yoghurt and Parmesan chips**

** Parmesan chips:
Grate cheese in small mounds onto parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake in 350F oven until lightly browned and crispy. Cool on cookie sheet, then use a garnish on top of soup bowls, or shots. Serves 6 (bowls) or 18 shots.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Sunday Morning Coconut Pancakes

I am on a bit of a roll this week with food reminiscent of Thailand...I started the week off with a Thai inspired Chilled Avocado Soup for the weekly cauldron and for this Sunday Morning Brunch recipe I have taken some of the most common ingredients in Thai cooking and put them into an easy (gluten/wheat-free) breakfast/brunch dish that is not only light in flavour, but also in texture - this way you can eat more than one pancake completely guilt-free! These pancakes are prepared using brown rice flour, which is of course gluten free, coconut sugar, which is far less sweet than regular sugar, coconut milk instead of oil or butter (lower in saturated fat), and coconut oil for frying (coconut oil is a medium chain fatty acid, which is not converted to fat by the body, and also works as an anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial). Topped with fresh tropical fruit, these pancakes are a sure-fire way to jump-start your day and bring the feeling of the tropics to your table.

Coconut Pancakes
1 cup brown rice flour
3 Tbsp superfine coconut sugar**
Pinch sea salt
2 medium eggs
2 1/2 cups coconut milk
4 Tbsp shredded coconut, toasted
Coconut oil for frying
Fresh mango and bananas
2 Tbsp coconut sugar for garnish
Fresh lime wedges for garnish

1.Place rice flour,sugar and salt in a bowl; add eggs and coconut milk, whisking until smooth batter forms. Beat in half the coconut.
2. Heat a small amount of coconut oil in skillet; pour in a little batter and swirl pan to cover base thinly and evenly; cook until pale golden, then flip and cook other side (about 1-1/2 minutes per side).
3. Keep pancakes warm in oven, covered until all are cooked.
4. Serve pancakes folded or loosely rolled with slices of mango and banana and sprinkled with sugar, toasted coconut and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
Alternatively, you can drizzle the pancakes with maple syrup. Serves 4.

**I buy coconut sugar in the bulk food section at Save-On foods - then just grind it in a coffee grinder.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday Night Cocktail: Here's A Kick-Start For The Long Weekend! Licorice All-sorts Martini

I have loved licorice since I was a kid, especially black licorice. If fact, my favourite were those chewy black pipes adorned with those tiny red candy sprinkles that were supposed to look like it was actually burning - kind of a twisted idea for kid's candy, maybe...?

Black licorice and tiger tail ice cream were up there to top my list as well as licorice allsorts, which added to the dimension of that deep licorice flavour, with coconut and orange, strawberry and vanilla. I once could eat a whole bag of those candies in one sitting, if left to my devices, but over time I  found some great substitutes for licorice candy in clear and black Sambuca - an Italian Anise liqueur, Pernod or Pastis - its French cousin, even Greek Ouzo, which is much less sweet.
But even today, that smoky licorice flavour combined with its chewy texture has stuck with me as an occasional go-to treat. I haven't eaten licorice allsorts in an eon, maybe its the onset of the Long Weekend that has brought back nostalgic memories of walks to the corner store to buy penny candy, that today I craved here is a really cool Retro Drink to kick-Start your Long Weekend!

Licorice All-sorts Martini:
1 ounce vanilla vodka
1 ounce Malibu rum
1 ounce Pernod
3 ounces orange juice

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice. Shake well and strain into chilled Martini Glass.

Have a Happy, Safe May Long-Weekend!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

From the Cauldron: Chilled Avocado, Lime and Cilantro Soup

I love to make soups. Throughout the colder months, I prepare thick hearty soups that fill you up and warm the body - the perfect comfort food for times when we just feel like cocooning inside with a warm fuzzy blanket and a hot cup of tea.

Now that the weather is warmer  (its been a balmy 23C these past few days here in Vancouver), I look for ways to incorporate ingredients into healthy, lighter soups that don't fill you up as much as their winter counterparts...

When we visited Thailand several years ago, we noticed a great variety of soups on the menu and one that stood out for me was a cold avocado soup. Laced with lime and cilantro, this soup is light and refreshing, yet sturdy enough to fill you up just enough on a hot day, when the appetite is affected by the heat.

I had bought a bunch of avocados on my last visit to Costco and with the warmer temperatures they are ripening quite quickly - so I decided to make this delicious Chilled Avocado, Lime and Cilantro Soup as a light lunch today (and of course for Hubs to take to work). 

Avocados are often referred to as a 'vegetable', but are actually a fruit frequently called an 'avocado pear'. They grow in abundance in California and Mexico on tall trees and can weigh anywhere from 1 ounce to 4 pounds each! The inside flesh which surrounds a large pit has a rich buttery texture and greenish yellow colour when perfectly ripe.

Avocados are a good source of Vitamin E, which is not only essential for the normal functioning of the body but is also a potent anti-oxidant which protects polyunsaturated fatty acids in cell membranes from free-radical attack. Free-radicals are linked to the beginnings of cancer and heart disease.

There are also good amounts of Vitamin C (necessary for the production of collagen needed for the growth of new cells and tissues, prevents viruses from penetrating cell membranes, and also a powerful anti-oxidant), thiamine (converts carbohydrates to glucose to fuel the brain and nervous system), and riboflavin (helps the body to release energy from proteins, carbohydrates and fat). It is true that avocados do have a high fat content. However, it is mono-unsaturated fat, which some studies show to actually help reduce cholesterol. The avocado is also low in calories. 

Avocado is also an excellent remedy for dry skin. Rub the inside of the skins against clean skin. For a face mask, mix 1/4 cup each of avocado puree and sour cream. Gently rub on face and neck, avoiding the sensitive areas around the eyes, and let it soak in about 15 minutes. Rinse with tepid water. Then gently massage the invisible oil into the skin with an upward and outward motion.

Chilled Avocado, Lime And Cilantro Soup
2 ripe avocados, halved and pitted
1 small onion, chopped
1 small garlic clove, crushed
3 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons freshly chopped mint
3 tablespoons lime juice
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth (I used organic)
1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon Bragg's natural soy sauce
sea salt and pepper, to taste

For the Garnish:
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
Shredded lime zest

1.Place first 6 ingredients plus 1/2 the chicken broth in blender and process until completely smooth.
2. Add remaining broth, vinegar and soy sauce and blend again; adjust seasoning by adding sea salt, pepper and lime juice, if needed. *You can serve the soup straight away, or cover it tightly with cling wrap to prevent discolouration and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
3. For the garnish, mix together sour cream with cilantro and lime juice; spoon onto soup and sprinkle with shredded lime zest. Serves 4.


Monday, May 14, 2012

A Beautiful Mother's Day Leads To Photographic Inspiration

Yesterday I went on an adventure for Mother's Day - that is, the day started out with a beautiful buffet-style brunch with Hubs, Mr. S. and Mr. J. at the Furry Creek golf course, near Squamish, BC. The offerings were more than delectable - fresh seafood (mussels, clams, prawns, smoked salmon) a wonderful variety of cheeses and breads and crackers, salads, including one of my favourites: Tomato and Bocconcini, Eggs  Benedict (with ham as well as with smoked salmon), designer omelets, baked ham, pasta etc. etc. etc...did I mention the dessert table with about 12 different cakes to choose from...? Aaaah - died and gone to heaven! Mother's Day is one of those rare occasions when I gladly jump off the wagon and dive into my once favourite foods...I am paying for it today - but yesterday I was in absolute bliss!!

Furry Creek is a 25 minute scenic drive from Vancouver along the Sea to Sky highway en route to Whistler. I never tire of the striking views from the car as we head north along this beautiful road taking in vistas of deep blue ocean and pristine white glaciers topping great mountains rising out of the sea. We live in God's Country and it is absolute heaven!

After brunch we decided to take a tour of the old Britannia Mines at Britannia Beach. The copper mine was built in the early 1920's and drove the population in the area up to about 60,000 in its hay-day. I was feeling grateful for the quick journey via the highway, as the trek used to take an entire day by steamboat, then vehicle...Britannia has been all but abandoned since the mine closed in 1972, with some die-hard residents taking up living quarters in a trailer park and the odd home high up on the hill. Apparently the land has been sold to a developer and in time Britannia Beach will enjoy another hay-day...wondering how much those lots are...
I would be amiss to say that I had dressed for the occasion of mine exploring, as I was clad in a dress and sandals, more appropriate for brunch at a swishy golf course -than traipsing through a damp, dark cave...but donning a hard hat and wrapping myself in my thin shrug was just going to have to do the trick.

I looked ridiculous.

The small train took us through a short stretch of track and our tour guide did a fabulous job at taking us back to a time when workers literally died for their money - operating machines coined 'the widow-maker' and earning a mere $3/day - rent at the time was only $1 a month though, so I guess the pain was worth it. I promised myself never to complain over any job again...

The highlight for me was a visit to the building where the actual refining of the ore took place. To say that the interior is a photographer's dream would be an understatement! I went completely snap-happy and almost filled my camera's memory card in minutes. Not only was this building interior a feast for the photographic eyes, but the vibe I felt standing amongst a primitive architectural marvel was both strange and beautiful at the same time. Our tour guide let me in on a well-kept secret: the society occasionally hosts live concerts in the facility and apparently the acoustics are amazing...I will be keeping my eye on their web-site for that announcement. I'll be there!

I would like to share some of the photos I took inside the facility...I like to describe them as "Industrial Beauty"...

Mother's Day continued at home with a visit from my Mom for a glass or two of pink champagne with raspberries, and a wonderful dinner of Garlic-Lemon Linguine with Fresh Shrimp prepared and cooked by Hubs and our older son Mr. J...what a fantastic day it was!

Lemony Shrimp Scampi Pasta - this recipe is from Melissa d'Arabian from the Food Network show Ten Dollar Dinners. I have made this dish many times and it is really delicious - its SUPER easy and uses very few ingredients...this is what my boys cooked for me last night -and here is the link for the recipe:Lemony Shrimp Scampi Pasta