Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Salsa Lessons.

Hey food fans,

I just had a pot-luck at work today. The real challenge of cooking for one of those is the timing. Making sure that whatever you make is served the way its supposed to be. The problem with that is with a microwave you get nothing crunchy, and in a toaster oven not the quickest. And at work that is all we are equiped with. The next challenge is bringing it in and finding space in the fridge for it.

So partly because my girlfriend has been talking about taking Salsa lessons, and the great success of a gathering I had with it, I chose Salsa and Chips. Supper easy to make and store and its eaten with chips so preparing at work is as easy as plating. Here is the recipe for a simple salsa:

You will need:
8-10 Roma (Italian, plum or any other name for the avocado shaped) tomatoes
handful of Coriander (cilantro) chopped fine
zest and juice of one lime
one french shallot minced
2 cloves of garlic grated
1 Jalepeño (the smaller/older the hotter) seeds removed, diced
salt and pepper to taste

Dice your tomatoes and put into medium mixing bowl. Add other ingredients. Salt and pepper, and chill for at least 1 hour. Serve with chips or on top of your favourite Tex-Mex dish.

Enjoy and bon appetite!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Beef Wellington a success!

This Saturday I returned to the kitchen armed with my Jamie Oliver cookbook. (In my last post I mentioned the title as Ministry of food...which is fine if you are in the UK-In North America you will find it as Jamie's food revolution.) Now as I promised I tried the Ground beef wellington, and now am pleased to announce that it was a big success.

The one thing about this recipe is it takes time. I have a little experience in the kitchen and for me it took approximately 1 hour of prep, and 1 hour to cook. So if time is an issue than wait till a day that you can dedicate 2 hours. Good news is that while the wellington is in the oven you can make the mashed potatoes and veggies if you wish. It doesn't take much maintenance once in the oven.

I made a couple amendments that I found easier than described in the book. The recipe asks for you to sauté the veggies (including frozen peas) then completely cool. I thought to add the frozen peas after to the bowl of veggies, and found that the heat from the veggies was enough to cook the peas and it cooled within minutes. Another time saver was that President's Choice had pre-rolled puff pastry, so I didn't need to mess about with rolling.

So this is Jamie's recipe for Ground beef wellington(with my instructions which are close but not verbatim):

1 onion

1 carrot

1 stalk of celery

4 sprigs fresh rosemary removed from the stem and chopped fine

2 cloves of garlic

large handful of frozen peas

1 lb of ground beef

1 lg egg (preferably organic/free range) beaten

2 sheets of puff pastry

2 portabella mushrooms (I used 4 cremini and it was fine)

Salt and pepper

Dice the celery, onions, carrots and mushrooms into small (1/4 inch) cubes and sauté together for approximately for 8 minutes until softened, adding garlic and rosemary a couple minutes in. Place in a bowl and mix in frozen peas. While that cools, mix a good pinch of salt and pepper, half the beaten egg, and ground beef in another bowl. With Clean hands, mix together with cooled veggies. Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit.

On a well floured surface, place the two sheets of puff pastry out. If using pre-rolled make sure its about 12"x16" roughly, and if using unrolled make sure to use plenty of flour to roll to those dimensions as it can be sticky or tear. Centre the beef mixture and brush edges with some of remaining egg. Roll around beef and seal the edges, then brush with remainder of egg. Place on a floured cookie sheet (use one with a lip because it will drip a bit), and cook for 1 hour or until golden brown.

Serve with mash potatoes and gravy and you have a great comfort meal. Enjoy!

Hope you like this as much as we did, and don't plan for leftovers it disappears too fast.

Bon apetit!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

So here is the deal...

About a few months back I picked up Jamie Oliver's newest cookbook Jamie's Ministry of Food. The thing is most of the recipes that I wanted to try involve roasting or baking. That mixed with the big move, I put the cookbook away for safe keeping until the move was complete. Now that the weather is more fall like and better for stews, soups and roasts, I have pulled the book out with great anxiety to use it.

I have given it a read through and I really like Jamie Oliver's commitment to food. For those who aren't overly familiar with Jamie and his passion in life, it is to bring good, nutritious food to everyone. The newest mission of his continues bringing good alternatives to the over-processed crap - that a disturbing amount of us eat. He makes it affordable, and easy to do. Also another principle of the "Ministry of Food" is a Pay it forward pledge. Jamie asks each person to prepare at least 2 recipes, master them and then show at least 2 people who then in turn "pay it forward" to 2 more, and so on.

I have decided to chronicle my ventures in my food blog and hopefully I reach more than 2 people just in that way. I will still be showing anyone who is interested, because 2 is good but more never hurts. It troubles me, that we are a junk food nation, and that other countries, known for their rich culinary backgrounds are slowly following in this bad lifestyle choice. That being said I wish to do what I can to turn the tables on our reliance on processed food.

Bon apetit!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I am back and come bearing BBQ...

Well Hi to all my 2 followers and anyone else that happened to fall apon my blog.

With the summer wrapping up I have been allowed to get back in the kitchen, as now I don't have to worry about heating the place up. Even though the summer was a bit of a disappointment weather wise I did manage to cook a couple awesome meals that even made me proud. I got a lot of BBQ in when it wasn't raining, but lost a lot of valuable cooking time while I was working nights and Moving to the new Home.

My girlfriend loves me a lot and our new home has a very nice Kitchen. This kitchen has rekindled a passion of mine that was dormant durring the busy summer we both had. Now that I am unpacked and have a fully stocked (and functional) kitchen, I will be getting back at cooking and blogging about it.

As I said this summer was time to work on BBQ as there were times it was just to hot to turn on the oven. One of the things that I worked on and got down pretty good was pork ribs. My Grandparents came for the weekend at the new place and Melissa and I were still settling. That and not knowing if was going to be scorching hot or not, I decided to BBQ. Well not going to make hotdogs for my grandparents so I went out rib shopping. I was a little over-zealous and bought a little too much (but better than not enough). The left-overs made their way to work, were they met curious coworkers. Well the secret was out, I know how to make ribs!

Well since there was such an overwhelming demand for the recipe, I decided the best way to share would be here...

So for starters you need good ribs! Not much of a secret, but surprisingly a lot of people don't know which type they like. So basic Rib education...

Back Ribs:
If you like meat and want a nice amount of meat on the bone, then you will want to go for Back ribs. These ribs are stacked, however they don't have as much fat as side ribs so need a little love to make sure they are still juicy.

Side ribs:
More bone and less meat but because they have more fat content they tend to be more juicy and hold up better for smoking.

For more info check out ribs on Wikipedia. Now for the juicy details...

City smoked BBQ Ribs:
2 racks of pork ribs (back or side- silver skin removed)

few drops for each rack of liquid smoke (hickory is easiest to find)

pinch of salt per rack
fresh ground pepper
2 Tblsp brown sugar

1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp paprika
1/2 garlic powder (not garlic salt)
1/2 ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cayenne

Take the ingredients (in the order listed is easiest) and rub on each rack. Let rest in the fridge for at least 4 hours (overnight if you can). When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 275 fahrenheit and let the ribs rest on the counter in that time. put on appropriate size flat tray and loosely cover with tin foil and bake for at least 1 hour. (This slow cooking method I find the best for retaining flavour and tenderizing). When you are about 10 mins away you can prepare my easy no cook BBQ sauce (and yes Mama goes well with Chicken). Fire up the BBQ on med high and give it 5 mins meat side down, turn over, slather with BBQ sauce and then cook another 5 mins or until sauce is bubbling. Let sit a couple mins. Enjoy!

Easy No-Cook BBQ sauce:
1 cup Ketchup
1 1/2 tblsp brown sugar
1 large clove garlic minced (grated on a hand grater is best)
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tblsp low sodium soya sauce
freshly ground pepper
ground cayenne to taste
1 tblsp meat drippings
few drops of liquid smoke adds a nice touch too

mix together until smooth.

Stay tunned for more good recipes...

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

100 Mile Diet

This has become quite popular lately and I have even given some thought to doing it. The basic premise is that you must eat things that are grown and produced within 100 miles of where you live. All the ingredients!

It requires a lot of research and effort so may not be for everyone. What I have found through my research though is that you don't have to go religious with it and go 100% (which for most of us means giving up salt and coffee) for the whole year.

The best part is that you can do it say 80% so that you don't become an evil decaffeinated person like I surely would become. And you can do it for any amount that you can commit to (i.e. 30 days or once a week). So its not too radical, more an ideal way to live.

There are not only the health benefits to consider. When you source local ingredients, you are getting them at their peak. Ingredients that are flown have way across the planet must be picked immature and then ripen on the journey (loosing valuable time on the plant to gain extra nutrients). Then there is the environmental effects of all the extra energy required to transport these ingredients to your table.

The good thing about the research I did into it, is that I found out what is local to me and what is avail. in my region that I would have never knew about. I was really interested to find that there is so much avail. in Quebec but then it depends on the season. In the spring, which is when I first thought about doing this diet, there is almost nothing avail. So I think that I will wait to late summer/early fall to start so that I don't have to eat just meat and cheese. However there is a huge amount of things grown in green houses throughout the non ideal times of year so that you wont get scurvy in the winter.

Another thing that you can do is just choose local when you can. For instance, when I am in the grocery store and there are tomatoes from Quebec or tomatoes from Peru its a no brainer.

For more information or to see what ingredients are produced in your area check out...
100 Mile Diet

Monday, April 6, 2009

Meeting the Parents!

So I did it! I finally met Melissa's parents.

The smart girlfriend I have, thought it would be best to limit the stress of meeting her parents by putting me in my comfort zone. Well that worked perfect for I got to dazle them with my mouth watering dishes. I hooked them in with an appy and finished them off with a delicious dessert. I really ran the gambit of emotions trying ever so hard to impress them, but in the end the food did all the hard work.

Well since this is primarily a food blog why don't I stop the yammer and get to the juicy (ever so tasty) details, you are no doubt waiting for...

I started the evening with a hit I came up with to impress my girlfriend the first time I cooked dinner for her, bagel lox crustinis. They are a little bite of awesome!

You will need:

3 - day old bagels

1/8 cup olive oil

150gm Pacific smoked sockeye salmon

1/3 cup creamcheese (room temp.)

1/2 tbsp. fresh dill (finely chopped)

1 (sm) clove of garlic puréd (or 1/4 tsp)

1/2 lemon

15 pieces of Juliened cucumber (or tiny sprig of dill)

15 pieces of slivered red onion

15 sm capers

Preheat the oven to 400 f and cut the bagels on a diagonal from top centre (where the whole is) to the edge, the first one won't be big enough but then you should get 3 or 4 useable slices. Turn the bagel and repeat. Put olive oil in a small bowl, and using a pastry brush, brush the tops of the bagel slices with oil. Lay out the slices on a foil lined cookie sheet, and toast in the oven for approx 10 min or until light golden brown, then let cool to room temperature.

In the meantime blend the cream cheese, garlic, and dill together. Prepare the lemon wedges, onions and cucumbers for garnish.

Once bagels are cooled, spread on the cream cheese. Roll the salmon to the size of the bagel slices and put on top of cream cheese. Then top with lemon, red onion, cucumber (or dill) and caper. Plate and enjoy!

The Main deal was a great pasta with sausage and tomato sauce. That was all finished with a rocking raisin biscuit topped with vanilla ice cream and honey roasted berries.

Overall the dinner was over the top, but I was trying to impress (and I think I might have just done that) ;)

Until the next time, Bon Appetit!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Saying good-bye to takeout!

I just started working in an office again and as much as it is tempting to get a great tasting (not so good for me) takeout meal for lunch, I am excited that for the first time this year I can bring a healthy lunch.

Working at the airport(past US customs), it was too inconvenient to bring a lunch from home, and with 70% off at Burger King, it was supper easy to regular there instead. It wasn't helping with my plan to start eating healthier and local.

Now that I am able to bring a lunch and have access to a microwave, toaster oven and a fridge I have an overwhelming choice of things to make for lunch. It was my coworker, who waiting for my newest blog entry, who got me inspired to write about healthy homemade lunches.

Here are 3 quick and easy ideas for work lunches that are also healthy.

1. Toasted bagel with the works!

I got this idea from Anthony a coworker back in Vancouver. He got me out of thinking that you had to prepare your lunch at home. What he would do is bring the toppings separately so that they stayed fresh until lunch. Here is a Healthy rendition of that...

1 or 2 sliced bagels (depending on your appetite)
1 leaf (for each bagel) of romaine lettuce cut in half
1 slice of a good fresh tomatoes**
2 slices (for each bagel) of either Turkey breast or meat of choice
1 slice of (Pre-sliced deli style) Swiss or Gouda cheese
mayo to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Toast bagels in toaster oven when done spread on mayo. Add salt and pepper directly to the tomatoes for the best result, add the toppings and enjoy.

** I refuse to use FL tomatoes after reading this article on the slavery that goes on so personal preference

2. Wrap it up!
My girlfriend making her lunch this morning reminded me how easy and versatile wraps are. There are just so many things you can do with a tortilla and fresh ingredients. Try this...
Turkey pesto southwestern wrap
-1 tortilla (there are a wide variety of different flavours but for this recipe tomato or spinach works best)
-pesto spread (homemade is best but Loblaws has a great PC version)
-Sliced Turkey breast
-Baby spinach or arugula (approx 1/2 cup)
-1/4 cup shredded Havarti cheese
-1/4 red bell pepper diced

Spread pesto on tortilla leaving an inch from the edge, add cheese and peppers, then add turkey and salad of choice. Wrap and enjoy!

3. Extra! Extra!
The best and most efficient way to bring lunch to work is just by making more than you need for dinner. Two really good things why this is good are...
A)You are conserving time because you are already making dinner.
B)Because of reason A you are conserving energy to cook your food so the environment gets the reward of your efforts as well.

All of these ideas work out better for the environment because you stay away from that Styrofoam they pack takeout in. And you really will feel better when you know what is going into your food!

Until the next time....

Bonne Appetite!


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Firing up the stove!

Welcome to "Nights around the table"! This is my blog on my favourite 

A little about me...

I am a foodie deep down, its my passion and drive in life to have good food. I love to cook, share with friends and most importantly, eat. It's only natural that I have come to blog about the one thing that means so much to me... Food!

My Grandmother is my inspiration, and I owe her whatever I become. It was her drive to cook with fresh ingredients, to cater and host great meals, every meal, that really inspired me to do the same. Weather it was a lazy summer day or a cold winter day, there was something made with love and care on the table. And like any good Quebecois dinner, the table was full of chatter...

Growing up in Toronto there was a void of good family dinners. The busy parents bustling about their days and everyone in a rush to finish their meals to see the new episode of Murphy Brown or Seinfeld, we missed out on the simple pleasures of dinner... sharing a meal cooked with love, and great talks. 

My Grandmother who I at a young age named Mama, and my Grandfather who I named Pops really left me wanting more. It has always seemed they had a secret to living a happy life, and it always came down to food, friends and family. 

Of late I met someone who lets me be me and has encouraged me to explore the depths of my culinary joys. She introduced me to blogging and sharing my creations and thoughts with others, giving me a venue to share my passion with others and to learn from others with a similar passion. I cook a lot for her, she cooks for me, and we cook together, but most important we have Nights around the table.  BTW she is the food photographer!

So Enjoy, and share that's what this is all about!


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