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Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

Easter Fiesta

Tried some wine, the Moscato was quite sweet and peachy (as expected), the Unoaked chardonnay was crisp and not too dry, and the red was shy on tannin (which I like actually). Who doesn’t love a rooster on your bottle of wine, ha! I bought all of these at Sprouts on sale.

Each paired nicely with dishes I prepared. The Chardonnay with the herb roasted turkey breast. The red with the spiral honey ham. The Moscato with the apple cinnamon crisp (a la mode  ). 

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My friends were welcome to bring something as a side, they brought mac’n’cheese (David’s recipe, which rocks because he puts Cheezits on top… I still have to try to replicate it!), green bean casserole, and apple pie tarts.  We could have fed an army!

It’s not the same as my family gatherings back home in Alberta, with a dish of every sort and cousins to match.  But Mom was here at least and my best friends, Stephanie and David, were enough to have a great time.  I love sharing my kitchen.

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One of my worst fears has come to pass for local families, and at the worst time of the year.  Early today an apartment complex caught fire, several families with children lost everything.  Can you join me in making a donation or spreading the word to those who can make a donation to help save Christmas for these families?  One of the schools affected, Forest North Elementary PTA is taking donations of any kind but for those not in the area who want to help can do so on their website.  Alternatively, contact the Austin Disaster  Relief Network – 512-331-2600 or donate online.  News story is here.

I realize you probably have every charity in the world contacting you for help.  My dear readers, if you can spare anything for these kids I would be very grateful for any assistance you can give to our neighbors.  Thank you and have a blessed holiday season!

Now a recipe for you and your family on this chilly Austin day…

 

The fall back plan in my kitchen is pasta.  I can make fresh or dried pasta and any little stragglers of food in the fridge can be used to dress it up.  Even if there’s no tomato sauce, like today, I use some canned diced tomato and tomato paste instead.  Look for tomato paste infused with roasted garlic, whatever you make from the pantry with it will be pleased.

  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot
  • 15oz can petite diced tomato
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste (with roasted garlic)
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 1 Tbsp Greek Seasoning (Victorian Epicure)
  • 1 lb 90% lean ground beef
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dry rubbed sage

Start with the pasta.  Brown the meat in a large skillet and break apart as it cooks.  Season the meat well with salt and pepper.  Add the onion and carrot, garlic and herbs.  Stir to distribute and pick up brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

Add the tomato, paste and about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water to dissolve the paste.  Cover and simmer gently until ready to serve and the pasta is al denté.

Add the pasta to the sauce and toss to coat.   Remove from heat.

Serve with Pizza Toasts and a side salad for a comforting meal with your family.

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I hear Italy has the best tomatoes in the world.

As far as fresh tomatoes, nothing can beat one you pick off your own vine that has been nurtured for weeks.  The taste of sweet success, in nightshade form.

Those Italians have San Marzano tomatoes, they grow and can them.  I bought a large can of those imported tomatoes out of curiosity.  Are these really any better?  Well for a true scientific endeavour, I would have to prepare the exact same recipe using two types of tomatoes, forgein and domestic.  Did I have time for this experiment?  No.  I did prepare the San Marzano tomatoes in a lamb stew inspired by my late great aunt Viola.  My aunt sent me three of Granny’s old cookbooks aftering locating the shoe box housing them.  She sent me the books because you’re the family’s most passionate cook, she wrote in her card accompanying the books.  I cried.  I was elated and touched all at once.  In one of the books, a church group cook book, my Granny’s sister authored a few recipes.  One recipe was a tomato and meat stew, I had just picked up some lamb on a whim so that would be the meat, the tomatoes would be the handsome San Marzano.

Since this type of tomato is so prized and therefore more expensive, be careful to read the label on the can and check for a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) logo, there are immitations out there.  True San Marzano tomatoes are grown in the San Marzano (Campania) region of Italy.  You can buy the seeds and try growing your own, but I doubt they will be the same unless you live near a volcano.  If I find the seeds, I’ll give it a go.  Italy is on the must-see/visit/taste list.

San Marzano Lamb Stew

  • about 1lb of lamb
  • 28oz can San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1/2 head garlic, roasted in foil until soft and fragrant
  • herb de Provence
  • 2 white or gold potatoes, peeled and diced
  • handful green beans, trimmed
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • parsley (garnish)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cook the tomatoes in their sauce over medium-low heat.  In corporate the roasted garlic, salt and pepper.  Break the whole pieces of tomatoes apart as they cook.

Season the lamb with salt, pepper, and herb de Provence.  Brown in a Dutch oven on the stove.  Remove and sauté the onion in the fat.  Return the meat to the pan and fill in the gaps with the potatoes and green beans.  Add the tomatoes and cover.  Transfer to a 350ºF oven for 30 – 45 minutes.

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  • natural beef patties (hand made)
  • sharp cheddar cheese
  • cooked red bell pepper slices
  • cooked sweet onion slices
  • fresh tomato slices
  • homemade roll (used multigrain instead of rye)

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Shrimp Tacos

We drove out to see the Grandparents over the long weekend for Big Brother’s birthday.  I decided to run to the store to pick up a cake to save us from the heat of the oven during the hottest Labour Day weekend I’ve ever seen.  I enjoy browsing different grocery stores, you never know what you might find or what might inspire an awesome snack.  Enter Shrimp Tacos.

The idea was simple.  Spice up some shrimp and add fresh avocado slices, wrap up in a toasty tortilla… Voilà lunch is ready!

shrimp, red bell peppers, cilantro, lime juice

Toss cleaned shrimp in your favorite Cajun spice blend.  Slice up a red bell pepper and chop cilantro.  Cut a lime in half.

Heat a skillet over a medium-high flame.  This was a cast iron skillet, I gave it a bit of oil.  Cook the shrimp and red bell pepper together, turn the shrimp half-way.  The shrimp should curl but not to the point of making “O”s.  Turn off the heat, juice the lime over the pan and sprinkle with cilantro.

shrimp tacos

If you can wait long enough, assemble as tacos with avocado.  Enjoy 🙂

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eBay find!

Thrifting is not just for clothing and accessories, you can find everything you need for your kitchen second-hand as far as machines and appliances go (and serving ware and dishes too).  I bought my bread maker off Craigslist, $40. Hubby found me a scale and food processor at a garage sale, $10.  The Antique Mall is a great place to find little plates and platters and decor for the table.  And today my pasta maker ($12 including S&H) arrived in the mail!

Let’s give it a try, shall we?

First is the dough.  1 egg to 100 grams semolina flour per serving.  Mix and knead the dough into a cohesive ball.  Divide the dough into manageable portions and flatten to an oval.  Start feeding the dough through the flat rollers, starting with the widest setting.

After a thin sheet of pasta is formed, very lightly dust with flour if it’s tacky.  Keep thinning out the sheet of pasta by decreasing the size of the gap of the rollers.  Switch the sheet of pasta to the wide noodle roller.

I found a #6 to be the right thickness and the noodles won’t fall apart. A thicker #4 noodle was alright but it requires a longer cooking time.  So if you’re in a hurry make thin noodles!

 

Immediately toss the fresh pasta into salted boiling water.  Cover for the first 30 seconds to allow the water to return to a boil quickly, thus locking in the starches.  And make sure you salt the water, as you may recall, we didn’t put any salt in the dough!

Have the sauce simmering as you are working on the noodles.  Thin noodles will take only about 4-5 minutes to cook.  Thicker noodles may take 8-10 minutes.

The sauce is just a jar I had in the fridge, I threw in sausage and diced fresh tomato.  Keep the sauce hot.  Pull the noodles out of the water and put them in the pan of sauce.  Toss to coat every noodle.

 

Then serve to your guests (in this case: hungry munchkins).

Fresh herbs (oregano, basil, parsley, chives) can be added on top.  And don’t forget some grated cheese.

Enjoy 🙂

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This post was featured on Freshly Pressed in Jan 2011!

If you have ever travelled near the Texas-Mexico border and stopped at a repurposed snow-cone shack for a cup of shrimp cocktail and wondered what the heck was in it, keep reading.  Even if your travels have never brought you this way, read on.

Apparently, there is a difference between what Canadians consider to be a shrimp cocktail, and what my southern family thinks this should be.  An argument that could start a year-long debate was averted by accepting that a rose by any name would still smell as sweet,  and a shrimp would taste as scrumptious. 

The Canadian version, as I will refer to it, consists of big cooked shrimp and a tomato-based horseradish sauce.

To my family here in the south, shrimp cocktail looks more like ceviche.

Either way you want to prepare a spicy and fresh shrimp appetizer suits me just fine, what matters is enjoying the time spent with those sharing the food.

Here’s how to prepare the two variations of shrimp cocktail seen above.

The Canadian Version

You will need big shell-on shrimp (10-15 per pound size, ask your fish guy), depending on how much your crowd loves them, buy 3-5 per person or what you can afford.

Simply clean the shrimp by removing the shell, keeping the tails on so you have a handle for dipping.  I find the easiest way is to gently fold at the seam of the tail section, the connective shell structure will pop so that the body portion can be removed without ripping the tail apart.  I always remove the digestion tract (I won’t eat shrimp with it left in – ew).  Toss them in a little olive oil, salt and pepper and transfer to a baking sheet in a 400ºF oven for 10 minutes.  You can flip them over after about 7 minutes but they will cook just fine on their own.

The dipping sauce for this cocktail consists of the following:

  • horseradish (from a jar, creamed is fine)
  • chili sauce (also jarred, I found it next to the Dijon mustards at my local grocery)
  • Ketchup
  • fresh lemon juice
  • Worcestershire sauce

Mix equal parts of the chili sauce and ketchup in a small bowl.  Add about a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, or a light squeeze of half a lemon.  Add a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce and stir to incorporate.  If you like a fiery shrimp dip add a good amount of the horseradish, if you are not partial to the heat you can leave it out entirely and still enjoy yourself.  I added 3 teaspoons of horseradish and everyone loved it, however we tend to like heaps of wasabi on our sushi as well.   

The Mexican Version

Under the direction of mom, I was tasked with the appetizer to our family gathering.  She called it shrimp cocktail and then went on listing the ingredients I would need to prepare the dish.  My hubby and I looked at her quizzically – do you mean ceviche?  No, it’s shrimp cocktail.  It was like trying to explain that a crepe and a pancake are in fact two different things, however they do share some of the same ingredients and look pretty similar.  Just let it go, I thought.  All I wanted to do was eat, and helping in prep means we eat all that much sooner.

This version has a few more ingredients than the road-side original.  In no particular order, you will need:

  • 4 cups of cooked baby shrimp, the frozen ones work great
  • 6 – 8 Roma tomatoes, finely diced
  • 2 large avocado, cubed
  • 1 white onion, finely diced
  • 1 – 2 roasted Poblano peppers, diced
  • 6 Serrano or jalapeño peppers, diced
  • 1 bunch cilantro (about 1/2 cup when chopped)
  • 1/2 Orange pop bottle
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • big pinch of salt

Toss everything in a large bowl.  You can make this ahead of the party but leave out the cilantro and avocado until serving time. 

Spoon into glasses and provide tortilla chips and crackers for munching.

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The holidays are fast approaching and I will have a whole week off of work.  This only means one thing: time to play in the kitchen!

I’m looking for a challenge, or a few since I’ll have more time to cook.  What do you want me to cook?  I need a “secret ingredient” or your favorite food.

I’ll be waiting for your input until Christmas, then choose and cook them over the break.  Sounds fun, eh? 

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Claire Robinson, Food Network Chef, is introduced by Central Market at the Texas Book Festival

The Texas Book Festival included a cooking tent hosted by Central Market, this was the setting of Claire Robinson‘s presentation.

Claire showed the audience how to prepare a roast chicken with fennel and onions, as well as a flourless chocolate cake (I will try this for Sierra’s birthday party!).  Her style is informative and laid back at the same time.  A warm energy surrounds Claire.

Her family once lived in Dallas and Houston, this festival was her first visit to Texas since those childhood days.  Claire lovingly commented that Texas is hot and everything really is bigger here!

She lives in New York with her dog, Newman, who shares her tiny kitchen akin to the size Julia Child used to write Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  She started out on Food Network as production staff for Michael Chiarello.  There was also a time that she was working with Martha Stewart and had a whisk thrown at her.  Claire survived to go on to host her own show, 5 Ingredient Fix.  The first few seasons of 5 Ingredient Fix were shot in a friend’s kitchen. Her friend received some upgraded appliances and she continued shooting there until the current season (5) where a set has been built for her show.

Claire Robinson in Austin Texas

Chef Claire Robinson explains how to roast a chicken

One of her favorite restaurants in NYC is Ippudo (Japanese noodles).
Claire is planning to run a marathon in the spring, she has already completed a half-marathon. It’s no wonder she can stay that petite!

Yours truely and Claire Robinson

Having the opportunity to meet Claire was the highlight of the whole weekend.  She is very friendly and encouraging.  Thank you Claire for visiting Austin!

MORE: Paula Deen at the 2011 Texas Book Festival

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