Sunday, July 15, 2012

Our Wedding!!

Hello out there ... Yes it is true, I am writing my first post in nearly a year. What have I been up to you ask? Well ... this had something to do with it:
We are over-the-moon excited because the AMAZING wedding blog "Style me Pretty" featured our wedding on their website! Here is the LINK.  

We are still floating along on cloud 9, having returned almost a month ago, from our wedding and honeymoon trip to Tuscany and Morocco, respectively. Everything was perfect. The weather, the beyond breathtaking scenery, the wine and food, and most importantly, the people. We have taken away from this experience a truly awesome feeling of being so loved and supported by our closest friends and family, who I must say are some truly amazing people!! Many people have asked me what my favourite part of the whole trip was, and I have so many great memories that it is really hard to pinpoint just one. However, if I had to choose, I would say that my absolute favourite part of the entire three week trip was getting to spend all day, every day, with my new husband. We are both so busy in our normal lives with work and all of life's little distractions, that it was such a treat to spend some real, quality time as newly weds, reacquainting ourselves with parts of the world that we love and exploring new adventures in Morocco, a country that neither of us had visited previously.

We are busy busy with the preparations for our Canadian reception BBQ which will be held at our home in late August. We are planning more food, drinks and entertainment and we are looking forward to spending time reminiscing with those who were able to be part of our special day and catching up with those close to us that could not make it across the pond!

Here are a couple of my favorite pictures from our wedding, taken by the always brilliant Erin Samuell of A Simple Photo. I'll do a separate post on the food, restaurants etc. and another on my review of the markets and brilliant cuisine of Morocco! 


Monday, September 19, 2011

Meatless Mondays - Roasted Tomato and Swiss Chard Pappardelle


Roasting tomatoes and garlic brings out the sweetness inherent to both. When combined with the sharp cheese, creamy pine nuts and fresh herbs this dish is simple yet the flavours are full and comforting. I recently made this dish for a friend of mine who is expecting and does not want to eat anything but tomatoes!! For her, I removed the vermouth and used Parmesan instead of Chevre, which was equally good!

Roasted Tomato and Swiss Chard Pappardelle

2 pints mixed cherry and grape tomatoes
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed and roughly chopped
1 bunch fresh herbs (I've used rosemary, oregano, basil and thyme)
1 bunch Swiss chard
 2/3 cup dry vermouth
fresh or dry pappardelle pasta nests (about 375 g)   
10-15 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts
small bunch Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped  
handful of fresh basil, chopped
olive oil
salt and pepper 
Chevre / Parmesan / Pecorino

1.    Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

2.    In an oven proof dish, combine 2 T olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, bunch of fresh herbs (reserve parsley and handful of basil for later use), and a large pinch of salt and pepper (about 1.5 t of each). Roast for 10-15 minutes. (keep an eye on them, they are done when they are well blistered). Remove from oven and set aside (This can be done ahead of time and then you can reheat them when you make the sauce). When you are ready to use, remove the bunch of fresh herbs and discard. 

3.    Boil water for pasta and add 1 T salt to the water. Add the pasta, and cook according to package directions.  

4.    Meanwhile, in a separate saute pan, brown the pine nuts in the dry pan, remove, and set aside. 

5.    Chop Swiss chard. In the same saute pan as above, heat 1 T of olive oil, add Swiss chard, salt and pepper, and saute until Swiss chard is wilted.  

6.    When the Swiss chard is wilted, add the tomato mixture and simmer for 2-3 minutes until the flavours come together. Add half of the fresh chopped herbs (parsley and basil), and 3/4 of the pine nuts. Stir to combine. 

7.    When the pasta is done, drain, but retain at least 1 cup of the cooking water. Add pasta to the pan with the sauce and toss to combine. If it seems like it needs more liquid, add some of the cooking water, about 2 T at a time, until the sauce coats the pasta. 

8.     To serve, top with remaining herbs, pine nuts and the cheese of your choice. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Summer Garden Salad

As summer winds down this week, I am coming to terms with the end of another warm season. The leaves are just starting to change and soon we will be seeking the warming comfort of stews, homemade bread and soups. Summer always passes too quickly, with so many exciting obligations, cottages, vacations, pools to be enjoyed! I never get as much time to blog as I plan!

I wanted to spend this last week celebrating our garden. This year we had a huge garden. It was a lot of work but we have been harvesting the benefits for months now. By far the star of our garden this year was the beautiful tomato. We planted, in total, 67 plants. Yes, a tad excessive. But we have had fun trying all of the new heirloom varieties. I can say that I have eaten tomatoes, in some form, at almost all meals for about two months now and I am still craving them. I think I could live on tomatoes like these, daily, for the rest of my life! So, many of the recipes this week have that theme (perhaps I will call it an homage to the tomato).

My first recipe, however, is created from a mixture of many of the vegetables in our garden. All of the veggies, herbs and lettuce used in this salad come from the garden (save and except for the pine nuts). This is an easy summer classic garden salad. I make it regularly throughout the season. It is an excellent way to celebrate the harvest, add whatever you have fresh on hand!

Summer Garden Salad
3 or 4 large handfuls of lettuce (I used arugula and Boston bib)
1 bunch of french breakfast radishes, sliced thinly
large handful of mixed herbs (I used chives, basil, mint, oregano and parsley)
large handful of fresh mixed grape tomatoes, halved 
garden cucumber, sliced thin
small handful of toasted pine nuts

Olive Oil
Lemon Juice
Dijon Mustard
White Balsamic Vinegar

Friday, July 1, 2011

Grilled Jumbo Shrimp and Oysters with Herb Butter

In honour of Canada Day, here is one of my favourite recipes for grilled seafood, given that grilling is one of Canada's favourite pastimes, and definitely the way that I will be celebrating the day! There is something so fantastic about sitting outside, enjoying the weather, grilling with a beer in hand!

This recipe can be used for almost any type of seafood. Halved lobsters work well as do scallops, mussels etc. You can also change up the herbs to include whatever you have fresh on hand!

Grilled Jumbo Shrimp and Oysters with Herb Butter

2 lbs jumbo shrimp
12 oysters
large handful of fresh herbs (tarragon, chives, parsley, mint), chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 t smoked paprika
2 T olive oil
3 T butter
salt and pepper

Remove vein and legs from shrimp and butterfly from the top, keeping shell attached.
Wash oysters well to remove all excess grit and sand.
Combine olive oil, 1 clove garlic, paprika, salt, pepper and shrimp in a bowl. Let marinate for twenty minutes.
Melt butter in a small sauce pan, combine melted butter with fresh herbs, and remaining clove of garlic.
Grill oysters and shrimp over medium high heat until shrimp is pink and oysters are opened. As oysters open, brush with butter and herb mixture.
Remove from grill and toss with butter and herb mixture.
Season with salt and pepper.

Enjoy with crusty bread and a crisp refreshing white wine.

Happy Canada Day!!!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Strawberry Shortcake with Vanilla and Basil Spiked Whipped Cream

I love love love strawberry Shortcake. I am speaking of the desert here, and not the cartoon, although I do have a special place in my heart for her as well. When I was little one of my favourite movies was "Strawberry Shortcake in Big Apple City". Strawberry is the big winner of a nation wide cooking contest and she wins a trip to "Big Apple City" in order to compete in a big bake-off at "the little theater off Times Pear!!" (she makes Strawberry Shortcake!) Sometimes I wonder why I am a lawyer ... I digress!!

The shortcake recipe was inherited from my Grandmother Gerrie! My mother has been baking it up for me for all of my life and it is my favourite. I always look forward to this time of year, when the local strawberry farms are full of beautiful sweet berries. The season is so short so take advantage while you can!

Grandma G's Shortcake:

2 cups all purpose flour
3 T sugar
3 t baking powder
1 t salt
1/3 cup shortening or lard
1 cup milk (2% or whole milk)
2 T butter - cut into small pieces

Heat oven to 450 degrees.

Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl.

Cut in shortening, then stir in milk until just blended.

Mixture will be thick.

Spoon Mixture into an 8" x 8" square greased pan and dot with butter.

Bake for 15 - 20 minutes.

Strawberries w/ Vanilla and Basil Spiked Whipped Cream

2 pints fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
2 T basil
1/4 cup icing sugar
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1 vanilla bean

Place Strawberries in a bowl, top with 1 T icing sugar and 1 t basil. Stir until the sugar dissolves.
In the bowl of a mortar and pestle, combine remaining basil and icing sugar. Smash until the basil is well bruised and the sugar and basil are well acquainted!
In a clean metal bowl, whisk together whipping cream sugar + basil mixture, and the insides of the vanilla bean, until soft peaks are formed.

Serve by slicing a piece of the shortcake in half, load the bottom half with as many strawberries and cream as possible, then top with the remaining half!


Monday, May 30, 2011

Meatless Mondays ... Quinoa Burgers!

This recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart's "Whole Living Website". The website is full of fantastic recipes which are healthy and really delicious! She also has ideas for life balance, green living tips, fitness ideas and lots more information designed to help the reader live a full, balanced and healthy lifestyle!

This recipe is my favourite veggie burger recipe. As summer has arrived (semi-officially, marked by the Victoria Day weekend last weekend and the Memorial Day weekend for Americans this past weekend) it is the beginning of burger season in my house!! The recipe calls for pitas, which are great, but I also love them on whole wheat English muffins!! If you skip the Tzatziki sauce and replace the egg with egg substitute, you can make this recipe vegan!

Quinoa Burgers
1/2 cup rinsed quinoa, cooked
1 medium carrot, chopped coarsely
6 T, chives, chopped finely
15 ounces white navy beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 T ground cumin
1 t coarse salt
1 t ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

Tzatziki Sauce
1/2 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1 T lemon zest
1 T fresh lemon juice
1 small clove garlic, chopped fine
1/2 English cucumber, shredded and drained

Place the carrots in the bowl of a food processor, fitted with the chopping blade attachment. Pulse until the carrot is very finely chopped.

Add cooked quinoa, chives, beans, breadcrumbs, egg and spices to the carrot. Pulse until mixture is combined but still slightly chunky.

Form into four equal sized burger patties. Refrigerate for half an hour, or until firm.

Heat oil in a non-stick skillet (I prefer a cast iron skillet) over medium heat. Cook burgers until browned and cooked through, approximately 8-10 minutes per side.

To make sauce, combine ingredients in a bowl and serve!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes!!

I had been on the search for the best chocolate cupcake recipe for a while. I have tried a number of recipes, however I found one that comes from an old Cooks Illustrated, which has got to be the best I've found (so far!!). I really like cream cheese frosting with my chocolate cupcakes (or my red velvet cupcakes or my vanilla cupcakes or my carrot cupcakes ...), you could also do a devils chocolate icing if you want an extra boost of chocolatey goodness!! I've included the recipe for cream cheese icing as I think it is more colourful for Spring!

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

~ makes 12 cupcakes, do not double, if you need 24 make two separate recipes ~

1/2 cup butter (1 stick), cut into 4 pieces
2 oz bitter-sweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 t baking soda
3/4 t baking powder
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 t salt
1/2 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a standard size muffin pan with cupcake liners.

1. Combine butter, bittersweet chocolate and cocoa in a heat proof bowl. Place bowl over a pot of lightly simmering water, you may also use a bain maire / double boiler for this purpose, if you have one of these.

2. Heat the chocolate mixture until it has melted. Whisk to achieve a smooth consistency. Remove from heat and set aside to cool (to the touch).

3. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and baking powder.

4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk eggs to combine. Whisk in sugar, vanilla, and salt until fluffy and fully incorporated.

5. Add chocolate mixture to sugar and egg mixture and whisk until fully combined.

6. Switch to paddle attachment. Add 1/3 sifted flour mixture. Mix to just combine.

7. Add sour cream and mix to just combine.

8. Add remaining flour mixture and mix to just combine.

9. Divide batter, evenly, among muffin pan cups.

10. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a cake tester, inserted into the center of the cupcake, comes out clean.

11. Remove and cool for 10 minutes then remove cupcakes to wire rack and let cool to room temperature, prior to icing (about 30 minutes).

Cream Cheese Icing:
1 package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 t vanilla
2 cups icing sugar

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until very well combined (whipped).
Add vanilla and mix well to combine.
Slowly add the icing sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, until fully incorporated.
Taste, for sweetness and consistency.
Add more icing sugar if you find that it is too loose or not sweet enough!
Once desired consistency is reached, add food colourings to colour the icing to the colour of your choice.