Tag Archives: appetizer

By request…

3 Aug

Well, the readers have spoken! It seems that the recipe generating the most interest from Sunday’s BBQ fiesta is Cowboy Caviar. You asked, I deliver. So here’s the recipe. Warning: it makes a pretty big bowl. And it’s kinda addictive. You could make it if you don’t have a big crowd coming, but then you might be forced to eat large amounts of it. Your choice. But you’ve been warned.

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Cowboy Caviar from Cooking with Grace – A Cookbook from Point of Grace (one of my all-time favourite singing groups, btw)

  • 2 avocados, diced (mine were small so I used 3)
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 11 oz can shoe peg corn or petite white corn, drained (or use 2 large cobs worth of fresh corn kernels)
  • 15 oz can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • 2/3 cup fresh cilantro – leaves only, chopped (or, if you or your friends are cilantro-averse, use flat leaf parsley. I did so and it worked great!)
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • splash of lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • hot sauce to taste

Combine avocados, tomato, corn, black-eyed peas, cilantro and onions in a bowl. 

Combine remaining ingredients in a separate container (makes it easier if it’s something you can shake) then add to avocado mixture. Stir and chill for at least 2 hours.

Serve with your favourite tortilla chips (naturally, I used Guiltless Gourmet).

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Confessions of a food blogger: I don’t always use fresh lemon juice. There was only a splash in my Realemon jar, so I just added the rest of the dressing ingredients in there and shook it up!

 

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Caviar close-up. I much prefer this to the real thing – which is fish eggs!

 

 

 

 

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Grab the Guiltless Gourmet and we are good to go!

 

 

 

 

So, while we are on a “by request” theme, I thought I’d answer the questions I received on last week’s Q and A post.

Question One: When/where do you find you are most culinarily creative/get your best ideas, and why? Answer: It took me a while to think about this one, but here’s what I came up with: I think I am most creative when I am forced to be, like when I have an abundance of a certain ingredient, or something that needs to be used up before it goes bad. This forces me to be creative/think outside the box, and often, it’s surprising what I can come up with!

Question Two: Do you set a goal each week regarding how many new recipes you are going to try out? Answer: No. I just see what I’m in the mood for/have time for/what inspires me from the blog world/magazines/food tv/what ingredients are available. And speaking of magazines…

Question Three: Do you subscribe to any food magazines? Answer: Yes. I get (and LOVE) Food Network Magazine. It is so fun to read, has great ideas and information, and interviews with my favourite Food Network stars. The one thing I really like about this magazine is it has all different recipes depending on your skill level and the time you have. There’s a “Weeknight Cooking” section of fast and easy meals, and a “Weekend Cooking” section with more elaborate, themed menus. I also enjoy the monthly “Try this at Home” feature, where a celebrity chef takes you through how to make something that seems a little scary, like sausage, tamales, or homemade canned green tomatoes (which I hope to try this summer). I used to get Rachael Ray magazine, and also LOVE that one, but their subscriber services to Canada STINK Sad smile, so I decided not to renew. I also get Shape, which is not a good magazine, but has a couple recipes each month.

Question Four: Could you do a post of some of your salad dressing greatest hits? I would love to have all your dressings (or at least a few of them) in one place!! Answer: You ask, I deliver! My basic salad dressing formula (for one serving) is as follows:

1. In a small container (I use the 1/2 cup Glad containers), put one teaspoon oil. My typical choice is olive oil. Sometimes I use avocado oil (although I don’t find it has any real flavour at all). I’ve also tried flax oil (because it’s supposed to be good for you). And if I am in an Asian mood, I use sesame oil – major flavour there.

2. Add the following ingredients (I NEVER measure these – play with proportions, use a little more or less, see what you like):

  • mustard (usually Dijon)
  • fat-free Italian salad dressing
  • vinegar

I have a little bit to say on each of the above ingredients.

The Mustard. Dijon is my go-to because it adds a nice tang, and blends easily. However, if I have some flavoured/fancy mustards around, it’s fun to use those to play with the flavour. I also really enjoy the texture of grainy mustard, so I go with that from time to time.

Fat-free Italian salad dressing. Okay, okay, I know it’s “fake food” – hear me out! This started back when I did Weight Watchers. FF Italian is a “0 point food,” so I started adding it to my dressings to make them go further. Here’s how I look at it: I figure that making my own dressing, even if it contains some processed/fake ingredients, is better than just buying a bottle off the shelf, right? And if I use part oil/part dressing, I can have more dressing for less calories. Even though it’s called “Italian” dressing, I find the flavour fairly neutral and that it goes well with multiple ingredients. If using this stuff really bothers you, just leave it out and add more oil or have less dressing.

The Vinegar. This is where you can really give your dressing some personality. The type of vinegar is what drives the flavour of the dressing. My most commonly used vinegars are balsamic, red wine and white wine. I also like to use my fancy flavoured wine vinegars from time-to time.

Variations: The above formula is my go-to basic. But, I like to play from time to time!

  • Asian: skip the mustard, use balsamic or rice vinegar, sesame oil, and add some soya sauce
  • Southwest: red wine vinegar, and add some salsa and cumin to the mix. I also like this when you add a touch of BBQ sauce
  • Citrus: swap out some (or all) of the vinegar for lemon or lime juice

A secret weapon that I have recently discovered kicks butt in salad dressings?! Pickle juice! Swap out the vinegar for that potent potion and your tastebuds will sing!

Answering your questions was really fun, so thank you for your submissions. Feel free to ask more anytime and I will be happy to answer (as long as you don’t stump me).

And before I leave, let me tell you that my blog buddy Donna nominated me for “7 links” (which I had never heard of), but apparently the goal is to: “unite bloggers (from all sectors) in a joint endeavour to share lessons learned and create a bank of old, but not forgotten, blog posts that deserve to see the light of day again.” I was going to find my 7 posts in this post, but I think it’s long enough already, so I will have to get to that later this week.

We’ve already made it to Wednesday friends! Question: Salad dressings – homemade, store-bought, or a combination of the two?

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Happy Hump Day

27 Jul

Happy Hump Day all! And, going with the post title, this post is all about things that made me happy/smile this week (I’m writing this on Monday night, doing double posts since it’s such a busy week ahead). It’s a bit of a random collection, but I promise, at least one of these things will make you smile too (contact me if not and I’ll see what I can do IMG_2288about that).

Smile# 1: This cream cheese. What is it, you may ask? It is garlic, feta and dill cream cheese, and it’s about the easiest thing ever to make, but seriously delicious (although if you are one of those strange, I mean, unique and special, individuals who doesn’t like garlic, you might want to skip this one.IMG_2287

My mom made this for our pool party Friday, and my Aunt requested it for the party I catered for her Monday. The ingredients are (are you ready for this?): garlic, feta, dill and cream cheese – that’s it! I found this on allrecipes.com back in the day for my mom’s birthday and it has since become a family favourite. It only gets more garlic-y as it sits (NOT a bad thing). And the beauty of this recipe is that you can use more or less of any one ingredient depending on your preference, and it will still turn out beautifully. Here’s the basic recipe:

Garlic, Dill and Feta Cream Cheese from Allrecipes.com

  • 2 packages (light) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 container (mine was 400 g) (light) feta, crumbled
  • 3 (or 4 if you’re me) cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons (I used a bit more) chopped fresh dill (or substitute about 1 tablespoon dried)

Beat all ingredients together until combined. Allow to sit at least a few hours for flavours to blend.

Mmm….when I had this last Friday, it was one of those “Why haven’t I made this in so long?” moments. So easy. So good.

Smile #2: Dance Party Class at The Athletic Club Brantford. My cheapie $19 one month membership ends Wednesday, and I’ve been about 9 or 10 times – I think that’s getting my money’s worth, right? I’ve been to this class 3 times, and it’s SO MUCH fun. First of all, the instructor, Trudy, is fantastic. She really does make it feel like a party, she’s all smiles and a ton of fun. And we do all different dance moves – everything from Lady Gaga to Britney to Michael Jackson to Line Dance, Swing, Bollywood and Irish Dance, and it’s pretty easy to follow.

It’s also a good cardio workout. I was sceptical before my first time, and although there are some more “mature” participants, it really is easy to pump up the moves and get your heart rate going. If you are a member at TAC Brantford, and are available at 9:30 Monday mornings, go party with Trudy, and just try not to smile!IMG_2282

Smile # 3: Crackerjack Sundae. Put a scoop of light vanilla ice cream in a bowl. Crack open a box of Cracker Jack. Pour over the ice cream. Enjoy, with a smile on your face, at the sweet and crunchy treat you’ve created (these boxes are under 150 calories, and 3 for a dollar at Walmart….go get some…NOW)!

Smile#4: This article on Serious Eats. The author goes to the Cold Stone creamery and discovers what happens when you order every mixin. It’s good for a laugh. If you haven’t visited seriouseats.com, you really should. It’s a fun food site, with lots of whimsical and light-hearted articles – great for procrastinating/time wasting when there’s something else you should be doing. Although the site is called Serious Eats, they don’t take food too seriously. But it is a seriously awesome website, and a seriously hilarious article.

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Smile #5: Getting all this from my garden in a single visit: 2 zucchini, fresh sage (which I used in a tasty pasta dish), kale and my first yellow pepper (which took FOREVER to ripen). I just love summer and all the garden goodness. It makes healthy eating so easy (and delicious).

#6: Being featured in the Simcoe Reformer. Sorry, I’m not trying to brag, and I know it’s not all that big of a deal being featured in a small town paper, but it’s exciting to me. And I was really happy with the way the article was written. Today the Reformer, tomorrow?

What has put a Smile on your face lately?

All choked up

23 Jul

I’ve mentioned before my love for canned artichoke hearts. If you haven’t tried them yet, you really should. If you’ve bought them, and find yourself with not knowing what to do with them, and have a can or artichoke hearts collecting dust on your counter – you’re in luck! Today I’m sharing one of my favourite Hungry Girl recipes with you: Artichoke Hummus!

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Yesterday, the women of my Mom’s family got together for a pool party at my Aunt’s. We were all to bring an appetizer, and, as it had been a while since I had made this hummus, it was my first choice. I don’t know why I waited so long – this stuff is so good! Nice and light, with traditional hummus flavour that you’d expect, but the artichokes give it a little “je ne sais quoi” (FYI, that’s French for “I don’t know what”).

Keep this one on file for summer entertaining…but it’s also good to have around for everyday snacking or packing in lunches any time of the year! I make a few modifications to the original recipe, so I will note those below.

Hungry, Hungry Artichoke Hummus (from Hungry Girl)
PER SERVING (1/8th of recipe, about 1/4 cup): 56 calories, 0.5g fat, 400mg sodium, 9g carbs, 3g fiber, 1g sugars, 3g protein

  • 1 cup canned artichoke hearts, drained
    1/4 cup fat-free vegetable broth (I usually just put in 1/4 cup water then add extra garlic salt)
    1/4 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt (often, I don’t have on hand, so I use regular plain yogurt – it works just fine!)
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
    1 1/2 tsp. crushed garlic
    1/2 tsp. dried parsley flakes (if at all possible, use a handful fresh parsley instead…I find parsley flakes kinda tasteless, and the fresh flavour is just so good)
    1/2 tsp. salt
    1/4 tsp. black pepper
    1/4 tsp. ground cumin
    1/4 tsp. paprika
    One 15-oz. can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
    Optional garnish: additional parsley flakes and paprika

Place parsley and garlic cloves (whole) into food processor and pulse a few times until finely chopped (see photo below). This step is my own addition that saves time in chopping herbs/crushing garlic.

Place all ingredients except chickpeas and optional garnishes in a blender or food processor (mini food processors rock for this recipe!). Set aside.

Place chickpeas in a bowl and thoroughly mash with a potato masher or fork. (The recipe says you can skip this step if you have a strong blender/food processor. I ALWAYS skip this step and it works out fine.)

Transfer to the blender. Puree until smooth, stopping and stirring if blending slows.

For best flavour, refrigerate hummus for several hours. Before serving, garnish with a sprinkle each of additional parsley flakes and paprika, if you like. Dip away!

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This is what your garlic/parsley should look like when you are done chopping. Don’t worry about scraping it off the sides of the food processor. The hummus-ification (VERY scientific term) of the other ingredients will incorporate the parsley and garlic into your mixture.

 

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Everything is all measured, in the food processor, and ready to go. All we need to do is put on the lid and press the button!

 

 

 

 

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After lots of blending, pulsing, and some scraping/stirring with a spatula, the hummus is finito! Now, if only I had a container….

 

 

 

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….ah, that’s it! Now get the lid on and cool it. Since I was having a 10:30 PM hummus making party (What…you don’t have those?) this guy got refrigerated overnight, so the flavours blended up nicely.

 

 

Don’t forget lots of fresh veggies, crackers and chips (BAKED, of course!) to serve. Your family and friends will thank you, but don’t get all “choke”-d up at all the compliments (sorry, I had to).

Pool party number 2 for today got postponed due to a scheduling miscommunication, so I’m not quite sure what’s on the agenda, other than a new ice cream maker project (details to follow, if it’s good). What about you? What are you doing on this summer Saturday?

Verdant.

12 Jun

June 11 2011

Verdant. I just love that word. In case you don’t know, it means:

1.green with vegetation; covered with growing plants or grass: a verdant oasis.

2.of the color green: a verdant lawn.

3.inexperienced; unsophisticated: verdant college freshmen. (source)

In the context of this post I am referring to definitions 1 and 2 (I’ve actually never used it in the context of definition number 3 before). My sister and I like to use verdant in reference to outfits – ie, if one of us is wearing a lot of green, we tell the other that she is looking very verdant today, but I don’t think that is a typical usage.  Winking smile I love all things verdant in the spring – nothing like lots of green after a long winter.

The first verdancy (turns out that’s not a word, but I’m making it one) to which I am referring is my garden – it seems like it has grown SO much this week. We’ve got lettuce that could be harvested, increasingly bigger bean and pea plants, tomatoes that got caged yesterday, and tiny little peppers starting to form! I would say that my garden is a veritable verdant oasis, wouldn’t you?

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I also made a verdant appetizer for the spring dinner party my sister and brother-in-law had last night to celebrate the arrival of their new dining room table: spring green hummus. I had this idea (and I’ll admit, with all the food tv and blogs I take in, it’s probably not entirely mine) to make a dip out of edamame and asparagus, and that’s exactly what I did. It was delicious, easy, and a big hit at the party. I want to make more. Here’s how to make this verdalicious (okay, definitely not a word, but I can’t help myself) delight.

Spring Green Hummus

  • IMG_17211 cup frozen edamame and/or lima beans, thawed (I would have used all edamame, but they didn’t have any at the grocery store on Friday, so I improvised with the lima beans, it turned out fine, so I think one or the other, or any combination would work)
  • 1 heaping cup chopped cooked asparagus (I cooked it a bit more than I would if I was eating it, I wanted it soft for pureeing)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (feel free to try another herb/herbs of your choice)
  • 1/4 cup PC Blue Menu Tzatziki (I think Greek yogurt or sour cream would work just fine though)
  • 1 head garlic, roasted (to roast, spray a sheet of aluminum foil with PAM, cut off the top of a head of garlic, wrap in foil, then bake at 425 for about 30-40 minutes or until tender. Let cool then peel off skin before using)
  • salt and pepper to tasteIMG_1722

Making this stuff is a cinch! Just put all the ingredients into a food processor and blend away. Season to taste with salt and pepper, chill for a bit, and you’re good to go! It’s a slightly chunky dip, I think due to the fact that the beans are not super-soft, but no one seemed to mind.

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I served the dip with fresh veggies and Popchips (several of the partygoers had never had them before, the were big fans. I’m happy to share the love). Check out my snazzy little parsley and chive flower garnish. Fancy, no?

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The dinner party, of course, was lovely (if you know my sister, you would expect no less). The flowers in Mason jars made a simple but elegant centrepiece, and the food was simple and elegant as well. We started with my dip and another appetizer, my sister and brother-in-law looked after the meat and Catherine made her signature spring pasta dish – an asparagus/ricotta/parmesan/olive oil creation. Two other guests brought yummy salads. My plate’s above – a small piece of chicken, salads, and pasta. I had seconds of all but the meat.

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I did my best to use self control, and finished the meal feeling like I had not stuffed myself, and sampled a lot of delicious spring dishes. My real triumph, however, came in the dessert department. My sister made her absolutely delicious (I know because I’ve had it before) shortcake to enjoy with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. I had a few crumbs while helping serve, but when it came time for my dessert, I just had the unsweetened berries and a bit of (real) whipped cream. Hello, self control! Not that I couldn’t have the cake, I just chose not to…part of the Shape up for Summer challenge, I guess you could say. Sweet success, especially for a dessert lover like me.

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I left the dinner party by 9, since I had an hour’s drive ahead of me, didn’t want to be home late, and because I wanted to stop at Chapters and use my 25% off coupon! With it, I bought the Biggest Loser Dessert Cookbook (so expect to see recipes coming up). And since I skipped out on cake, I didn’t feel at all guilty about treating myself to a light caramel frappucino for the road. Smile…I also had room for a late-night soft serve treat before bed. I know night time eating is not the greatest habit, but I just love my bed time snack, what can I say? And you can’t really argue with a treat as healthy as fruity soft serve.

I hope your Saturday was simply delightful (maybe even verdant)….do you ever use that word, or is it just me?

My signature

9 May

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See this stuff? The photo does not do it justice. It is one of my “signature” dishes, that I came up with all by myself – caramelized onion and fig goat cheese spread. And it is SO SO good. It was part of the catering craziness of Saturday night. It’s a great recipe for any gathering, always a crowd favourite. And it’s right in the middle of being decadent and a little more smart – fancy enough to be a bit of a treat, but not too rich that you can only enjoy it once a year. And because I like you guys, I’m gonna share the recipe with you, so you can make it and be adored by all who consume it (try it and just see if you’re not)! This recipe can easily be doubled for a crowd, which I did on Saturday night.

Goat Cheese Spread (this part of the recipe comes from The New Canadian Basics Cookbook, which my grandma got me a several years ago for Christmas. I’ve made a few recipes out of it, but don’t use it a lot. However, it’s worth it just for this recipe!)

4 oz/250 g goat cheeseIMG_1017

½ cup/250 g ricotta cheese

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ tsp dried oregano or mint

2 to 4 tbsp plain yogurt

IMG_1004In food processor, combine all ingredients except yogurt (if your cheese is nice and soft, this can easily just be mixed in a bowl). Blend until smooth. Blend in enough yogurt to give spreading or dipping consistency as desired (mixture will thicken slightly when chilled). Transfer to bowl, cover and chill for at least 2 hours to blend flavours. Makes about 1 cup.

I have no exact recipe for the topping, so instructions and ingredients are approximate.

Cooking onion, finely sliced

Dried figs, chopped

Olive oil and/or butter

Balsamic Vinegar

Salt

Optional: honey, maple syrup or brown sugar

Preheat a stainless steel frying pan over medium-high heat (stainless works better than non-stick for the caramelization) with the oil/butter. Add the sliced onions, sauté for a few minutes until they just start to brown.

Reduce heat to medium low, and cook the onions, stirring often until caramelized (don’t worry if this is seeming to take a long time…I know it’s hard to wait, and you’re probably thinking “but I want this NOW! It looks so good…Hilary, WHY is this taking so long?!? But good things come to those who wait). Season with salt.

Add the figs and drizzle in some balsamic vinegar, simmer for about 15 minutes until figs are softened and flavours have blended (you may have to splash in a bit more balsamic as things simmer away). If you want to sweeten things up and mellow it out a bit, add just a touch of honey/syrup/sugar. Honestly, I have gone with sweetener and without. It depends on my mood. Both ways are good. Taste it, see what you think it needs, and go from there.

Spread the goat cheese mixture on a plate, top with the figs/onions. Serve with crackers, and be prepared to be adored!

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Just look at those chopped figs and onions…destined for greatness! Note: when chopping the figs, make sure you slice off the hard stem bit. You may want to chop off a bit more than necessary, just so you can taste a bit of the fig (for quality control, you understand Winking smile). You can skip this step, but I’ve never made this recipe without doing it, so I don’t guarantee results. And that may look like a lot of onions, but they shrink down a lot, I promise!

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Here’s a little secret. When I watch Rachael Ray cook, she tells me to chop garlic before you put it in the food processor so you don’t bite down on a large chunk of garlic. But I’m lazy. I don’t want to dirty another kitchen utensil. So I’ve perfected an easy lazy-girl’s method to getting around this. Before putting all the ingredients in the food processor, I put in the whole, peeled (which I peel by the “smash a large heavy object on the whole clove” method) garlic cloves and pulse it a bit. Look to the right: voila! Peeled, minced, garlic that’s good to go, no second utensil required! Put that in your pipe and smoke it, RR!

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On the left, here’s the stuff before I blended it all up. On the right ; after! Since I hadn’t softened the cheeses enough, I had to help it along by a lot of spatula scraping. And one note: the ratio of goat cheese to ricotta is by no means an exact science. If you have a bit more or less of one or the other, go with it!

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This is what you want the onions to look like before you add the figs and vinegar to the party. Your house smells pretty amazing right now (unless you hate the smell of onions cooking, in which case I’d probably avoid this recipe).

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Figs are in, balsamic vinegar drizzling action shot – let’s get this party started!

Party smile

 

 

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We’re simmered and good to go! These guys are ready to go on some goat cheese spread (Note: if you’re feeling lazy, you could just make the topping and put it on a log of goat cheese, but the spread is so delicious, and it’s very creamy and spreadable, so if you have the time/inclination, you should really go for it)!

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Close-up of the finished product!

 

 

 

 

So, maybe you’re saying to yourself “well, that’s all well and good Hilary. Looks like a tasty recipe, but I wanna know what else you made on Saturday night for the party!” (or maybe you couldn’t care less). It was a pretty amazing spread, if I do say so myself. Of course, I ate too much (the 20% of the 80/20 rule just isn’t big enough these days it seems). I think it was a hit! I won’t give you a full written run-down of what I made, but just let the pictures speak for themselves. If you want to know what anything in particular is, just ask! I will make one note though: the cupcakes are filled with a salted caramel filling (Martha Stewart recipe)…YUM!

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Maybe now you understand why I was up so late on Friday night?!? This was SO MUCH FUN. But also, A LOT OF WORK!

Do you have any signature recipes? What are they?

A little busy

7 May

You’ll have to forgive me if this post is a little short/lacking in healthy eating inspiration. You see, I’m kind of busy today. Why?

Well, because of this.IMG_0999

Also this….

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And this….

IMG_1006Oh yeah, and this too.

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Today I’m catering a birthday dinner for 20 people. In between 2 weeks of full-time teaching (yes, I may just be insane). I’m having a blast, but it’s a lot of work. The pictures you see are just some of the things I made last night (maybe that’s why I was up past midnight? Disappointed smile).

Anyway, I hope you understand if I miss a post tomorrow and don’t come up for air until Monday…I might come up with something, but no promises (after all, there’s still a Mother’s Day breakfast I have to make too)!

The menu is a delicious combo of appetizers and sweet foods…I know it will be a real crowd-pleaser. I promise to post at least one recipe out of the deal, sound good?

Hope everyone’s enjoying the weekend, and just in case I don’t make it on here tomorrow, Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there who are reading this (especially my Mom….hi mom!)….you all inspire me daily with your generosity, encouragement and sacrifice!

What are you making/doing for Mom this year?

Election Night Eats

3 May

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I know that eating in front of the tv is not a great habit to get into. After living on my won for three years though, it’s something I do fairly often (less now that I am living at home). Growing up, we were almost never allowed to have the tv on during meals – the only exceptions I can think of are the Olympics and elections. My family are all political junkies. I even remember watching the 1996 Quebec referendum on tv at age 8…nerdy, I know, but what do you expect from a political science major? Since tonight is election night, my mom and I wanted a finger food supper we could eat in front of the tv. Now when you think of finger food, you may think of junk food, but it doesn’t have to be that way….observe the following three things I came up with for a creative (and delicious) plate of munchies.

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The first dish I came up with was an original – we’ll call it “crunchy Asian cups.” Remember those Hungry Girl egg rolls I made over a month ago? Well the egg roll wrappers were still languishing in the fridge! I used them as the cup part of this dish. I cut 2 wrappers into three irregular triangle-ish pieces (they may be sort of weird-shaped and funny looking, but so what? It’s my blog, and I’ll make my cups how I want to!), sprayed on both sides with cooking spray, and seasoned one side with garlic salt. I put them in muffin cups, flattened them down, and baked at 425 for 4 minutes (was doing to do 7, but they were done early…good thing I checked)!

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On to the filling. I chopped up some snow peas, celery, onion and garlic. I preheated a teaspoon of olive oil in a skillet, and added all of my chopped veggies and a handful of broccoli slaw mix. I sautéed for a few minutes over medium-high heat.

 

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Next, I added 1/2 cup of soy crumbles and 1/3 cup frozen, shelled edamame. I seasoned with chili garlic sauce, soy sauce and salt and pepper and cooked for a few minutes. I let the filling cool and then filled my 6 shells.IMG_0958

Next up on the appetizer roster: squash and beet fries! The procedure was basically the same as that for the usual HG squash fries, except I used a IMG_0963buttercup, not butternut squash and I added beets. I had some beets in the fridge that had been in there for a while, so I figured this would be a fun way to use them up, since I am a bit of a beet chip failure.

 

 

IMG_0959Last but not least, I made a tasty hot mushroom dip. I sautéed some finely chopped garlic and onion in one teaspoon of oil over medium-high heat for a few minutes, then added some finely chopped white mushrooms (while we’re on the mushroom front, I had to toss the last of the mushroom cream cheese yesterday…R.I.P.).

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I sautéed everything until it was starting to brown. Then I turned off the heat, seasoned with salt and pepper, and added a couple tablespoons each of the holy trinity of dips – fat free sour cream, fat free Miracle Whip and fat free cream cheese. I could have added other herbs/seasonings, but I really wanted to let the mushroom flavour shine. I served the dip warm with veggies and crackers.

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It all came together to make a satisfying and delicious plate of different tastes and textures…LOVED it! And tired as I was last night, it was perfect just to sit on the couch, watch tv and eat (and blog too Winking smile). I just love snack-y suppers.

Do you eat in front of the TV? Are you into watching election results, or could you care less? If you live in Canada, I hope you voted yesterday!

I came, I ate, I conquered

17 Apr

So I’ll make you a deal. I promised a full recap of the delicious eats at Eat Drink Norfolk on Friday. I will deliver the recap, and you don’t judge me for how much I ate! Embarrassed smile….it was a 20% night, to be sure, but I enjoyed every bite. And everything was small, so I can eat more, right? (Please say yes to enable me in my rationalizations).

Eat Drink Norfolk is an event that is a fundraiser for our local fair that celebrates the delicious and diverse food and drinks grown and prepared in Norfolk County and surrounding area.  You pay an $8 admission, then buy food and drink tickets for $1 each. All the vendors are serving something that costs 1, 2 or 3 tickets, so you take your tickets to various booths to get small plates of food or a drink. So are you ready for the LONG list of what I ate? Brace yourselves! Since many of my readers are not from Norfolk county, I won’t list the vendor names…but if you locals (or anyone else) want specifics…let me know and I’m happy to oblige.

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I started with local fingerling potatoes with pesto. My mom really liked these, but I wished that the pesto flavour came through a bit more. And before I continue, if you are thinking that my photos aren’t the greatest, you’re right. Try juggling a plate, glass, food, tickets, camera and a wristlet and see what kind of pictures you can take! Smile with tongue out

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Next was some AWESOME mushroom soup! It was cream of mushroom, but made with several different kinds of mushrooms, and mushroom pieces throughout. I could also taste a hint of wine or some sort of alcohol, which added great flavour. I especially enjoyed this since I almost never eat cream soups when dining out…so this small cup was really delicious!

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Pulled pork came next….oh so good! I made the observation that pulled pork was really popular this year – it was part of a dish served at 4 booths! I got mine from an authentic BBQ place, with extra sauce, YUM! I ate part of the bun, but left some of it, because it was nothing special, and really, the meat was the main event.

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This little beauty is a slice of perfectly-cooked steak on a seasoned potato slice, topped with sour cream, chives and bacon, from a local butcher. It was simple, but delicious. When you do it right, you don’t need all the bells and whistles to make great-tasting food.

Now, I have to say, I’m a bit disappointed in you guys. No one made any guesses as to why I was up on stage. IMG_0780You guys are no fun! So I guess I’ll just have to tell you – I volunteered to compete in a grilled cheese challenge using all local ingredients with the Two Fairly Fat Guys. For those of you who don’t know, the Two Fairly Fat Guys are “Norfolk County’s official volunteer ambassadors of local food and agriculture.” The challenge was to work with one of them to create several original grilled cheese sandwiches in three minutes, then plate them however you wanted and describe them to the crowd. IMG_0784I made 3 – smoked cheddar, pear and prosciutto topped with apple/hot pepper jelly; honey goat cheese and mixed berries topped with strawberry pie in a jar and bacon, cream cheese and extra old cheddar cheese topped with hot pepper jelly. The contest was declared a tie – both of us won a Norfolk County oven mitt filled with white chocolate popcorn and  an official map and local food guide. It was so much fun – I felt right at home up there! IMG_0785

Check out the plating – I think the Fat Guys were impressed! I got to eat my creations. I ate the bacon one and gave the other two to my companions for the evening.

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You’re probably wondering where are my drinks? After all, the event was called Eat Drink Norfolk. Fresh-squeezed lemonade was my drink of choice for the evening (as well as an undocumented cup of Earl Grey tea later in the evening). Wine and beer don’t really do it for me. The lemonade was really good. I used to get this kind at the fair when I was younger, so it was a nice flashback – not too sweet and very lemon-y.

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Now dessert starts. Of course I couldn’t limit myself to just one dessert when there were SO MANY delicious options! Dessert # 1 was apple strudel with maple caramel sauce. YUMMY! The strudel was good, but the sauce just put it over the top. I could have drank the stuff! No matter how much had been on there, it wouldn’t have been enough, it was just THAT GOOD.

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I shared this next photo with you yesterday….but not the back story that went with it. All night, we saw people walking around with these cute and delicious-looking cheesecakes. I finally made my way over to the booth and saw that most of the flavours were crossed out, and asked what they had left. I found out that there was ONE CHEESECAKE LEFT – a single cinnamon dolce! I didn’t hesitate, I nabbed it (what can I say, I’ve got killer cheesecake instincts). My mom had also wanted one, so to make up for it, I got her a caramel pecan brownie and we shared both. Both were absolutely out-of-this world! Knowing how good that cheesecake was, I am so glad I didn’t arrive a moment later.

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Dessert continued with a tiny little dark chocolate cupcake with Irish cream frosting. Meh…it was nothing special, actually not even really worth the calories. Not to sound snobby, but I could have made better at home. Oh well, at least it was small, so I didn’t waste too many calories.

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We’re nearing the end! This is a mini-cone (it’s small, really!) of peach melba ice cream. For those of you who don’t know what peach melba is, it’s a dessert with raspberries and peaches. Normally fruit-based ice creams don’t really excite me if there’s no chocolate to go with the fruit, but this one was outstanding. I didn’t even miss the chocolate!

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Last but not least, some chocolate-covered bacon. I just couldn’t say no. It’s been a food fad for a while now, so I decided to try it for myself. The ladies at my table refused when I offered them though. The verdict? I liked it. I’m a big sweet and salty girl, so it definitely hit those notes for me. I don’t think it’s something I’d crave/eat on a regular basis, but I didn’t find it disgusting.

I had a few extra tickets at the end of the night, so I used them to purchase some cookies/tarts for a lunch I was making for yesterday (post to come). Full disclosure: there are a few things I ate that don’t have pictures here – a bite or two of my mom’s pulled pork and jalapeno poutine (SO good – I went back for my own, but they were out…maybe for the best!), some free samples at a couple of booths, a couple slices of cheese, and a chocolate cake ball from the same place as the cupcakes (again, sadly, I could have made better).

At the end of the night, I was stuffed! But it was all local (mostly) delicious food. I love this event, but I’m glad it only comes once a year! I was suffering a bit fro m the “well, the day’s a write-off anyway” mentality when I got home, so I was nibbling a bit more….but, one day at a time, right?

I started the next day with a trip to the gym for my weekly “long run” (didn’t feel like drowning in the rain). I just did 6 miles instead of the planned 8 since I had a busy day ahead, but I held a 5.5 mph pace for the whole time, which I was happy about. IMG_0792 I returned home for a healthy breakfast (yogurt, mangoes, strawberries, cereal and a cafe mocha)…so back into the healthy routine right away.

What local foods are your favourite? Does your region have any specialties that are a must-eat?

A quick bite…

16 Apr

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Today’s post is gonna be short and sweet, as it’s a busy weekend for me – the first of my fun-food-filled events: Eat Drink Norfolk last night, followed by a late night grocery run and chicken-cooking session. The groceries/chicken were for today’s lunch – part of an all-day moving session with my sister and brother-in-law. Since I’m running every which way, I’m just going to give you a few food-related highlights and cool links, then come back tomorrow for a fuller update…okay? (Not like you have a choice in the matter Smile with tongue out).

I made these delicious delights (see photo above) again on Thursday…not for me….for my friend Megan’s husband’s birthday (he was kinda obsessed with them when I made them the first time).  But, well, you see, there were so many that didn’t look quite perfect, so I may have had to trim them, and, um, well, I couldn’t let those edges go to waste….and then at the end, there was just one lonely little square that wouldn’t fit in the container….so I fit it in me! Embarrassed smile Good thing these guys are going out of my house….DANGER ZONE!

Here are two cool links from Serious Eats that made me smile…thought you would get a kick out of them too.

The first is especially for my fellow Canucks. I’ve blogged about the foods I like to buy in the US, but I never would have thought that Americans had foods they’d come here for! The good folks at Serious Eats put together this slideshow of their top  Canadian finds. It’s good for a laugh….actually, I hardly eat any of the stuff on a regular basis, and none of it anything I find particularly exciting. Apparently, we have a great selection of chocolate bars?!?! But, c’mon, Timbits? We’ve got so much more to offer! How did they make it on the list and not Canadian maple syrup?

SE also put together this slideshow about 10 things to do with Peeps! As I’ve mentioned before, I have a mild Peeps obsession, which began in my dorm days in university. This slideshow makes me smile…even if you don’t like Peeps, check it out!

Last night’s eats were delicious! I definitely ate too muchEmbarrassed smile….sigh, what else is new. But it was all seriously yum. Detailed recap to come, but for now, I will tantalize you with this pictureIMG_0788 (all the food was SO good, it was hard to pick just one for this post)….and that’s not the only dessert I ate! That’s the one thing about blogging your food: when reviewing all the snapshots, you realize just how much you ate! It’s not the best shot (and that is sort of the theme with my pictures), but with good reason – I was juggling food tickets, plate, glass, food, camera, wristlet….just be happy I got any photos!

IMG_0779And look at me…I made it up on stage(I’m the one on the right in the purple)! I am just going to keep you guessing for now as to what I’m doing…and I’ll explain it in a forthcoming post.

What do you think I’m doing in this photo? Leave your comment in the comments section! Stay tuned….MUCH more food and fun to come!

Mushroom mania!

7 Mar

If you don’t like mushrooms, you should probably move right along. As the title would suggest, I had a mushroom-filled (don’t worry, the legal kind :P) weekend. So let’s dive right in and see just how many times those tasty fungi made an appearance in my weekend meals.

I only worked half a day Friday (reason forthcoming in the post), so that meant I was home for lunch. I had a portobello mushroom that needed to be used up, so I decided to make it into a sandwich. I’ve discovered that during the winter months, when grilling is not a viable option, broiling portobello mushroom caps works quite nicely and still brings out their meaty, juicy flavour. So I broiled the mushroom with garlic seasoning, then sandwiched it in a thin bun with some of my amazing balsamic mustard (seriously, I am in love with this stuff) and an ounce of the PC light brie…then I spritzed it with butter spray and grilled in a grill pan/panini press to make a nice, melty panini (side note: don’t have a panini press? Use a George Foreman – works awesome! I did this all the time in university). On the side, I enjoyed some kale chips and cut up veggies. You could call this my own veggie “burger and chips.” Another side note: I hate it when people say that a meal like this is a great healthy substitute for the “unhealthy” real thing. As much as I LOVED this lunch, I loved it because I love the flavours of kale chips, portobello and brie. But if I was craving a hamburger and french fries – this would not do it for me. If I crave a hamburger, I want meat, not a mushroom! I eat the mushrooms because I enjoy them and they are a healthier day-to-day option than a big hunk of meat…just had to get that out there…now back to the mushrooms. 🙂

Now onto the reason I only worked half a day. Observe the photo to the right…no, I have not taken stock in Pillsbury (there are 14 tubes of country biscuits on the counter). My church supports an orphanage in Haiti and was having a benefit concert on the weekend. There were to be appetizers served afterward, all of the recipes coming from the cookbook we had assembled. I volunteered to make over 250 of my mushroom appetizers, so I opted for taking half a day off instead of staying up until midnight! Thankfully another wonderful church lady came over and helped me with assembly, so we finished in only a couple of hours (recipe at the end of this post). Just a tip if you are making a huge quantity of appetizers that require chopped vegetables? The food processor is a HUGE time saver! It made quick work of chopping 10 and a half cups of mushrooms and 8 onions (and I didn’t even shed a tear)! I also opted to purchase pre-washed, sliced mushrooms. When you’re cooking such a large quantity, it’s worth the slight increase in price not to have to scrub that many ‘shrooms!

So the appetizers were done, but my mushroom mania was just beginning. For one thing, I had a few leftover mushrooms. I took care of that problem by sauteing them, along with some onions and frozen spinach, and serving over some Hungry Girl-fredo with goat cheese for lunch on Saturday. Mmm…was it tasty! But sadly, I used up my last package of tofu shirataki noodles :(….hopefully I can get some of March Break when I go shopping in Buffalo!

In addition to the leftover mushrooms, we also had TONS of the cream cheese filling leftover! Just look at the size of the vat! I should have figured…I usually have a little bit leftover…and considering I was multiplying the recipe by 7, I should have expected that amount would go up by a lot! I took it to the church function to spread on crackers and a little got eaten up, but I was still left with a sizable amount. I think it would be good stuffed inside of chicken or in or on pasta….stay tuned to see what I come up with!

On Sunday, I did come up with what I think is a pretty creative use for the stuff: ham, mushroom and artichoke stuffed squash! It may sound (and look) a little weird, but don’t knock it ’till you try it…it was actually really good! Here’s what I did. I baked a buttercup squash that had been scooped of its seeds in the oven, then cut a wedge that was about a third of the squash. For the filling, I sauteed a few large mushrooms in a nonstick pan with salt, pepper and thyme. I combined the mushrooms with 2 oz leftover diced, cooked ham; one diced canned artichoke heart, and a couple of tbsp of the leftover cream cheese filling. I sprinkled the top with 2 tbsp light Parmesan cheese. I put it back in the oven at 425 until the cheese was melted and browned and the filling was heated through, about 15 minutes (I didn’t time it exactly, but I had enough time to go and put my sheets back on my bed after they’d been in the dryer :P). I served the squash with a side of roasted Brussels sprouts. It was an unconventional but nonetheless delicious lunch!

That sums up my mushroom shenanigans and you know what? I’m not sick of mushrooms yet! I still love this funky fungus. How about you…are you a mushroom lover or hater? Before I go, here is the appetizer recipe, as promised. They’re usually quite popular whenever I make them, and they come together pretty easily (if you’re not making 280)! Added bonus? Only 65 calories and 2.6 grams of fat per appetizer, according to the recipe!

Mushroom Pastries

from Company’s Coming: Cooking for the Seasons (this recipe is from the spring section…hope it’s okay that I made it a few weeks early 😛 )

1 ½ cups chopped fresh mushrooms

1 medium onion, chopped

1 ½ tbsp. cooking oil

1 250 g/8 oz package light cream cheese, softened

1tbsp. milk

1 tsp. dried dill

2 green onions, finely chopped

1/8 tsp. dried thyme

2 tubes of refrigerated country style biscuits (10 per tube)

 

Sauté mushrooms and onion in cooking oil in frying pan until soft and liquid from mushrooms has evaporated. Remove to small bowl. Cool to room temperature.

Beat cream cheese, milk, dill green onions and thyme in medium bowl until smooth. Stir in mushroom mixture.

Separate biscuits. Split each biscuit in half. Flatten biscuit halves with rolling pin. Put about 2 tsp. filling on each. Fold over. Seal. Arrange in single layer on greased baking sheet. Bake in 400̊ F oven for about 15 minutes until golden. Makes 40 appetizers (and, if you’re like me…extra filling)!