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

Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday Night Cocktail and...Sunday Morning Mother's Day Brunch!

Since its Mother's Day this Sunday, I would say its a special why don't we start the weekend off with a special cocktail to honour all the Moms out there that spread their love throughout the year...
What could be better than a refreshing glass of lemonade? And what could be better than a glass of PINK lemonade with a little boost...? This cocktail has the sweet essence of raspberry, the tartness of lemons and the briskness of fresh mint. One word: YUM!

Raspberry Limoncello Spritzer
1 ounce Vodka
1 ounce Limoncello
1 ounce raspberry liqueur
2 ounces pink lemonade concentrate
Sparkling water
Fresh raspberries
Fresh mint sprigs

Place first 4 ingredients in cocktail shaker filled with ice; shake until blended. Strain into chilled Martini glass. Top with sparkling water. Garnish with raspberries and mint.

Now for the main event...Mother's Day Sunday Brunch! I was looking for a way to put eggs into a dish that shows the delicate nature of a mother...I know what you are thinking - this girl has way too much time on her hands! But as Mother's Day is a day to step into our girlie shoes and celebrate being a MOM, and I wanted something that would look good next to my cute little pink cocktail - I came up with these oh so delicate Egg Blossoms:

Egg Blossoms
4 sheets filo pastry
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
4 eggs
4 teaspoons minced fresh chives
Sea salt and white pepper
Optional: 1/2 jar of your favourite pasta sauce, preferably a chunky variety

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 4 (2 1/2-inch) muffin cups
2. Brush 1 sheet of filo with butter; top with another sheet;brush with butter. Cut stack into 6 (4-inch) squares. Repeat with remaining 2 sheets. Stack 3 squares together, rotating so corners do not overlap. Press into greases muffin cup. repeat with remaining squares.
3. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon Parmesan cheese in each filo-lined cup. Break 1 egg into each cup. Sprinkle chives over eggs. Season with salt and pepper. Bake 15-20 minutes or until pastry is golden and eggs are set. Serve plain or with warmed tomato sauce. Makes 4 servings.

A good egg breakfast, as delicate as it is requires protein, so I thought I would pair the pretty egg blossoms with a hearty pork sausage, which is laced with thyme, sage and apple. I shaped them into patties and pan-fried them until they are golden brown.

Country Breakfast Sausage
1 pound ground pork
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried sage leaves
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 a large apple, peeled and coarsely grated

1. Combine all ingredients in medium bowl; mix well. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight for flavours to blend.
2. Shape into 6 patties. Cook in lightly greased skillet over medium heat about 15 minutes or until browned on both sides and centres are no longer pink, turning occasionally  (be careful not to overcook, or the patties will become dry).

One of my favourite breakfast items is fruit and granola, topped with yoghurt. I decided to make these individual fruit and granola crisps using my favourite fruit and nut granola, mixed berries and apple. The house smells so delicious when the oven is baking something with apples and cinnamon! Topped with plain yoghurt, these sweet and tart babies are just the right balance to an egg and sausage breakfast!

Individual Fruit And Granola Crisps
2 cups frozen mixed berries plus 1 small apple peeled and chopped
4 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup fruit and nut granola
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter

Place berries and apple in mixing bowl. Add lemon juice, tossing lightly to coat. Spoon into 4 buttered oven- safe ramekins. Blend remaining ingredients together until crumbly, sprinkle over fruit. Bake in 375F oven for 15- 20 minutes or until topping is golden brown and fruit is bubbling. Serve warm or cold with plain yoghurt. These can be made the day before and re-heated in a 325F oven for about 10-15 minutes. Serves 4.

I really wanted to put together a Brunch Menu that is easy enough for kids to prepare (maybe with a bit of help from Dad...) The sausage mixture, the fruit and granola crisps and the filo blossoms can be prepped/made the day before (as long as the filo is well basted with butter and covered with cling wrap then it won't dry out overnight). Then all you need to do in the morning is cook the sausage patties, reheat the crisps and pop the eggs into the filo blossoms and bake them. Mom can be sitting in her favourite chair, sipping her Raspberry Limoncello Spritzer while she is waiting for her delicious Sunday Brunch!

Have you decided how you will set the table...? Here is a little inspiration for some table decor - remember: there is beauty in imperfection - just go for it!!


Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Coming Up This Week...

Are you ready for Mother's Day? Whether you are the guest of honour this Sunday, or you are planning on spoiling a special mom, I have come up with a great Mother's Day Brunch Menu that is so easy, even your kids can make it!

On Friday, I will be posting both my Friday Night Cocktail Recipe for a lovely Mother's Day Libation as well as my delicious, easy Mother's Day Brunch Menu! So come back and take a look for some great cooking inspiration.

Monday, May 07, 2012

This Week's Cauldron: Swiss Chard, Sausage and Potato Soup

My vegetable patch has given me an an abundance of Swiss Chard and I am having fun finding ways to incorporate this mega-healthy member of the beet family into recipes such as omelets, savoury pies and soups. As all parts of chard are edible, it is one of those vegetables that is really worthwhile growing.

I planted my rainbow chard last spring and used the young leaves primarily in fresh salads. Now that the plants are mature (I was able to use most of the chard over the winter months due to our milder climate), I am incorporating these colourful leaves and stalks into mainly cooked recipes.

So this week Hubs will have a healthy, colourful lunch to take to work, that is chocker-block full of vitamins and minerals! I added some nitrate-free, naturally smoked turkey farmers sausage for some protein, baby nugget potatoes and a sprinkling of freshly grated Asiago cheese.

Swiss Chard, Sausage and Potato Soup
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 small carrots, peeled and sliced
2 Serrano (mini chili peppers, seeded and minced or substitute 1/4 tsp dried chili flakes
1 tsp steak spice
sea salt and pepper, to taste
6-8 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1-2 farmers sausages, diced
1 Tbsp dried marjoram
12 yellow nugget potatoes, diced
1 large bunch Swiss chard
1/2 of a large can diced tomatoes
Grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in soup cauldron; add onions, garlic and chilis and cook until onions are transparent, about 3-4 minutes; add carrots and farmer's sausage and continue to cook until sausage and carrots are lightly browned. In the meantime, wash chard and remove stalks. Chop stalks and add to cauldron; slice chard leaves into small ribbons; set aside. Add marjoram, salt and pepper, steak spice, potatoes, tomatoes and chicken stock; bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook, covered until vegetables are cooked through, about 20 minutes. Add chard leaves and stir to combine. Serve in bowls topped with freshly grated cheese.
Serves 6.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Sunday Morning: Ham And Brie Scramble In Puff Pastry

Its Sunday again, have you decided what you are going to have for breakfast or brunch today? I had a look through my fridge and freezer to find something really delectable to make for an easy Sunday Morning Brunch. I had some items that needed to be used up, as they were just at their prime: 1/2 a package of frozen puff pastry, a small wheel of brie, some nitrate-free black forest ham, as well as some fresh spinach and basil. 
I love puff pastry, and although I have been really good at staying gluten free these past few months, I am still creating healthy recipes for my family that sometimes do include wheat. My three guys have healthy appetites and the teens are going to the gym several times per week, so protein is pretty important to them. I have put together this high protein brunch recipe with a good portion of ham, cheese and scrambled eggs, as well as spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and fresh herbs. It really is a snap to make - the prep time is less than 10 minutes and with a 20 minute bake time in the oven, you'll be eating a fabulous brunch in just half an hour!

First I scramble the eggs with some sea salt and pepper and cook them until they firm, but not dry. Then I roll out the puff pastry into a rectangle and place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Next I top it with ham slices, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, scrambled eggs, brie and herbs.                                                                                                                                                                                                             
Then I fold in the ends and pinch the pastry to form a seal. I bring the sides toward the centre, fluting the edges, to create kind of a 'canoe'...
Now the pastry is baked in a 425F oven for 20 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown. After removing it from the oven, let it rest on the baking sheet for a few minutes before cutting. I served this Ham And Brie Scramble In Puff Pastry with Potatoes 'Paprikasch' - using up some boiled nugget potatoes left over from Saturday night's dinner. (recipe to follow).

Ham And Brie Scramble In Puff Pastry
1 package frozen puff pastry (thawed as per directions on package)
6 eggs
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
8 slices nitrate-free ham (I used Black Forest Ham)
1 Tbsp sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
1 cup fresh spinach, sliced into ribbons
120g wheel brie cheese (I used sheep's brie)
2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped 
2 Tbsp fresh Italian parsley, chopped

Method: as described above - easy as pie! Serves 4.

Potatoes 'Paprikasch'
Left-over boiled nugget potatoes, with skins, diced (I used about 10)
1 Tbsp butter
Splash of olive oil
3 scallions, sliced
1 cup mixed bell peppers, chopped (I used red and yellow)
1/2 tsp good quality paprika
sea salt and pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp thyme, chopped

Heat butter and oil in skillet on medium-high heat; add scallions and peppers and saute until peppers start to soften; add cooked diced potatoes, salt and pepper, thyme and paprika. Continue to cook on medium heat until potatoes begin to crisp. Serves 4.


Friday, May 04, 2012

Friday Night Cocktail!

I am thinking about Bumbleberry Pie - don't ask me why, but maybe its because the blackberry and raspberry bushes at the back of our yard are growing fast and furious and I can already imagine the taste of the gorgeous jam I am going to make this summer! Oh yes, and bumbleberry pie just happens to be one of my favourite desserts...
To banish the waiting until the berries are ripe, I have concocted a refreshing Martini using vodka, blackberry and raspberry liqueurs as well as tart lemonade. This one is a KEEPER!! YUMM-E!

The Bumbleberry Lemonade Martini
2 ounces Vodka
2 ounces Blackberry Liqueur
1 ounce Raspberry Liqueur
3 ounces Lemonade

Combine all ingredients in cocktail shaker over ice. Shake then strain into chilled Martini Glass.

Happy Friday Everyone!

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Some Great Cook Books as reviewed by Matt Armenderiz of Matt Bites

I recently found this great food blog by Matt Armenderiz called Matt Bites. Matt's most recent blog post is a review of  5 different cookbooks. The first one is about cooking in the Southern USA, think fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits and catfish; the second features recipes for basic British cooking - baked beans, English muffins...number three is featured here on my page and talks more about food as it relates to a community; number four is about keeping things simple in the kitchen - everyday easy recipes and finally a gluten free Asian cookbook!
I have always had an obsession with cookbooks and my library has been growing steadily since I moved away from home in my late teens. Over the years I have taken many an inspiration from my collection, whether for learning something new about a specific ethnic food, as a guideline for cooking temperatures as well which spices are harmonious with certain foods and as inspiration for my food photography.

I am always keen to learn about what's new and trendy in the food world, so I spend a fair bit of time on the internet researching and educating myself, however, one of my favourite past times is simply poring over the glossy pictures in one of my many cookbooks while sipping a nice cup of tea.

Here are some of the books Matt has recently reviewed and it looks like I may be taking a trip to the book store really soon! Check out the link to Matt Bites/Book Reviews here:

Cook Book Reviews

And the winner is...

Rose R.!! Rose was randomly selected by`Rafflecopter` as the winner of my very first Give-Away! Rose will receive this wonderful give-away package including the cookbook Chicken and Egg by Janice Cole, a Sil-Eco baking mat and a collection of measurement charts.
Thank you to everyone for participating in this give-away, I very much appreciate your comments and to those who joined as new members - Thank You!!

Keep checking back for my next give-away in the near future...!

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Last Day for a chance to win this great give-away!!!!

My blog has been up and running for exactly 2 months today! Happy Birthday living life...naturally!

I am totally amazed by how this site has been evolving - with viewers from all over the world taking time to come by and visit. Its so humbling that creating a site like this can attract the attention of so many people. I am self-taught. I had never done anything like this prior to launching this blog. I used to give my two teen-aged boys a hard time about social networking - constantly 'hanging around' Facebook and wondered - what is all this buzz about?
It wasn't until I joined the Real Women of Philadelphia contest last spring that I delved into the realm of social networking. It was here that I found myself communicating with random people from across Canada - fellow foodies all fighting for a chance at becoming the next on-line food star. But as much as it was a competition, a small group of us found ourselves continually gravitating towards a deeper friendship.

Even after the contest had ended, our cyber friendships continued to blossom and we even set up some 'in person' meetings, which only strengthened these friendships. Keeping in touch electronically was such an easy way to stay connected to these women as we continued to share ideas. I remember a post that came through from one of the RWOP suggesting starting up a foodie alliance with some of the women involved in the RWOP contest. This could be a way for us to feature each others blogs and web-sites sending traffic back and forth, and thus gaining more exposure. And so the 'Canadian Cookies' was born. There was just one problem...I didn't have a blog yet...

A little tentative to try and teach myself something so new and complicated, I had been putting it off for months. This was my googled how to start a blog and within 4 days I had something I thought could be worthy of sharing with the world. As much as I felt I had created this incredible site: the layout, photos, colours and all, I must admit I was nervous about it actually going live. Would others think it was as fabulous as I thought it was? Would they even stop by to take a look? How would they even know I existed?
I remember expressing my reservations with my friends, the Canadian Cookies and one response that stands out for me from fellow foodie blogger Jeanine was: "Marlies, build it and they will come...". And you did! I have to thank the Canadian Cookies for continuing to promote my brand new blog these past two months, and those of you who have been forwarding my site info to your friends and family via Facebook! This is so much fun!! Who says "you can't teach an old dog new tricks...?" (it may take little longer, but hey - anyone can do this if they put their mind to it!)

So, if you haven't had a chance to enter my GIVE-AWAY yet, today is your last chance. The give-away will end tonight at 12:01 AM Eastern time (that's how 'rafflecopter' has it set up). So if you are from the West that means you'll have until 9:01PM. I will be announcing the lucky winner tomorrow morning on my blog.

Good luck everyone!

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

DAY 7 of my Give-Away and a little inspiration from nature...

When Hubs and I visited the Hell's Gate Tram on the weekend, we were mesmerised by a flock of tiny hummingbirds feeding off the nectar placed in several hummingbird feeders. The activity around these feeders was no less than Grand Central Station at rush hour. With wings fluttering at what seemed like light speed, these little birds navigated around the public garden area like minute stealth fighter jets landing and taking off faster than the blink of an eye.

In total I spied about 6-7 males and one lone female and it became clear that these colourful males were indeed competing for the attention of that aloof little gal. With the playful chatter of young school children at recess, the feathered aviators cruised in and out of our peripheral hovering deftly in mid air to lick the sweet liquid contained in the hanging feeders. It made we wonder about the metabolism of these tiny creatures and how this would affect their life span. It reminded me of how the increased pace in today's society has caused shorter life spans in humans through additional stress and disease. It was my hope to see at least one of these frenetic little guys sit for a moment in quiet contemplation. I wondered, could travelling at such constant high speeds and with such determination be a really good thing, or was it a detriment for any species...? These tiny birds moved with such conviction, the only aim to replenish their rapidly burning calories with sustenance so they could continue on their quest to win the prize...

And then it happened...for one brief moment, this ruby-throated flyer stopped to rest. I imagined the feeling of elation after running a marathon or swimming in a race - that moment when we catch our breath and discharge that pent up energy after physical exertion. I noticed the rapid pulsating of his little chest slow down as he quietly folded his wings and just sat...

Now I was finally able to admire the beauty in his colouring, that gorgeous ruby coloured throat and iridescent green forehead enhanced by the rays of the sun suddenly peaking through the cloudy skies as if on cue. It seemed such a paradox, this creature, which normally travels at immense speed for his size, wings aflutter should be so still, if only for a moment. I can't imagine what would be going through this young feathered lad's brain as he took that well-needed rest perched atop the wrought iron gate, but I think it likely related to how he would best stand out amongst the many others vying for the attention of little miss hummingbird-ette! And as briefly as he sat in quiet contemplation, he clearly had places to go and almost instantly launched himself back into the sky.

I felt honoured for the chance to witness these busy aviators in their realm - doing exactly what they were created to do, unruffled by giant human forms invading their space - simply being, and I promised myself to be conscious of taking more time to just be, and less time having to be.

Here are some interesting hummingbird facts:
  • Hummingbirds are the tiniest birds in the world.
  • A hummingbird's brain is 4.2% of its body weight, the largest proportion in the bird kingdom.
  • Hummingbirds are very smart and they can remember every flower they have been to, and how long it will take a flower to refill.
  • Hummingbirds do not drink though their beaks like a straw. They lap up nectar with their tongues.
  • A hummingbird's heart beats up to 1,260 times per minute and about 250 times per minute at rest.
  • A hummingbird's heart is 2.5% of the total body weight.
  • A hummingbird will take about 250 breaths per minute while at rest.
  • A hummingbird's metabolism is roughly 100 times that of an elephant.
  • The hummingbird's body temperature is around 107 degrees Fahrenheit
  • A hummingbird can weigh anywhere between 2 and 20 grams - a penny weighs 2.5 grams
  • 30% of a hummingbird's weight consists of flight muscles -  Humans pectoral muscles are about 5% of body weight
  • Hummingbirds have an average life span of about 5 years - most die in the first year of life, but can live for more than 10 years.
  • A hummingbird wings will beat about 70 times per second and will beat up to 200 times per second when diving.
  • Hummingbirds need to eat on average 7 times per hour for about 30-60 seconds and can eat anywhere from half (1/2) to eight (8) times its body weight a day.
  • A hummingbird will visit an average of 1,000 flowers per day for nectar.
  • Hummingbirds are all part of the Trochilidae family of birds - Trochilidae is from the Greek trochilos, meaning small bird.
  • A hummingbirds favorite color is red.
  • Hummingbirds pollinate flowers by rubbing their forehead and face in each flower as they get the nectar.
  • Hummingbirds get their name from the humming sound produced by their wings when flying.

***Tomorrow is the last day of my give-away! If you have not had a chance to enter for a chance to win my great give-away package, click HERE.***