Tuesday, April 30, 2013

brown food

After an afternoon of chores, and waiting in the rain to tour a US warship (the USS Lake Champlain),

I decided on a somewhat hearty supper. Sausages, cabbage and potatoes. And lately I’ve been serving our sausages with gravy. And I have to admit to a dirty little secret, I usually start with gravy from a can. Horrors. I know. But there I was on Saturday evening, looking in my cupboard and I couldn’t find a packet of gravy mix or a can of gravy and I was going to have to make it from scratch if I wanted some. And the more I thought about not having gravy, the more I wanted it. I really wished I had bought home a can of these from England, as suggested, but alas, I had not. So I was going to have to wing it.

First I sliced an onion, and browned it in a knob of butter. Once the onion was browned a bit, I threw a couple of big spoonfuls of flour into the pot and let it cook for a few minutes, until it was looking a bit toasty and there was a nice dark brown fond on the bottom of the pan. Then I added some beef stock, salt and pepper and crossed my fingers while whisking madly. I admit I added a splodge of soy sauce in for the salt and the colour and then I let the whole thing bubble away on the stove until it was thick and dark and there it was. Gravy. A lovely dark brown. Served over brown sausages, alongside beige-brown potatoes and brown-green sautéed cabbage, it was delicious but not at all photogenic. And best of all, I conquered another of my kitchen fears.

Monday, April 29, 2013


One of the boy's new passions is warships. He recently impressed several of his uncles with his knowledge of things associated with the sinking of the Bismarck (he watches the movie on youtube). So in addition to visiting or otherwise viewing warships whenever possible

warships viewed from a tour of Portsmouth Harbour, England
for his birthday he wanted a warship cake for his birthday party.

Being that I am not so enamoured of warships, this did present a bit of a challenge for me. Youtube did not have any videos of warship cakes to help me out but I did find a template for a pirate ship in my Kids Birthday Cake book which gave me a starting point. I baked a chocolate cake using a recipe from another Children's Baking Book in a 9x13 pan. From there I cut a 4" piece from the bottom of the cake and then cut the remaining piece in half lengthwise.

I stacked the two lengthwise pieces and cut triangles off the front to form the bow. Using a biscuit cutter I cut two circles for the big front and rear turrets and a long rectangle and a smaller one to form the bridge and tower section for the midship. I was all set to go with that configuration and had "glued" the pieces in place using some leftover frosting (from these). The boy came in to see the progress on "his" ship and wanted 4 smaller gun turrets added around the bridge so I added small squares around the bridge structure and secured those to the cake with toothpicks.

 I placed the cake in the fridge to firm up and made some frosting and then added some black gel food colouring to try and get the grey warship colour. I consulted the experts (husband and boy) several times before starting the crumb coat. I had trouble getting the frosting to stick to the cake (it was too thick) and realized after I'd done the first coat, it would have been easier to frost the turrets and tower separately from the cake and add them on afterwards. Oh well.

the boy used leftover cake to make his own ship!
 I thinned out the frosting and added two more coats to get it somewhat smooth

then added some windows using black icing gel, water around the base of the ship and sparklers in the tower and main turrets (7 for the boy's birthday) and the boy and his Dad added toothpicks in the small turrets so it looked as though the ship had all it's guns.

The cake was a big hit with the birthday boy and went well with the Star Wars cake of his best pal at the party (it was a joint birthday party).

 With the sparklers lit, it looked as though the guns were firing, which the boys thought was cool.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

spring brunch for supper

The weather goes from almost summer-like to cold and grey in the blink of an eye. It is only the lengthening of the light during the days and the spring flowers blooming that indicates the season. The lilac is almost blooming in our front garden. Inside, we have a surfeit of dinosaurs. The boy has been engrossed in dinosaurs, doing complicated dot-to-dot dinosaurs, colouring dinosaurs and this weekend, we have been reading this series of books which have our boy enthralled. He is trying so hard to sound out the words but he's learning to read in french at school so is much more familiar with french sounds just now, although reading in english is almost there.

We had a clean out of the boy's toys and room today - starting with his books and toys and ending with piles of too small clothes and too young books which will need to find new homes with new boys. But now his favorite dinos are displayed on his shelves along with his dino books.

For supper, I turned to a recipe I found in our latest Edible Vancouver - a brunch recipe that I've been meaning to make. It came together extremely quickly and was delicious.

Baked Eggs with Asparagus and Leeks (from Edible Vancouver)
1/2 lb bacon, sliced thinly
6 medium leeks, thinly sliced
1 bunch asparagus
salt and pepper
1 c vegetable stock
1 tsp dried thyme
6 eggs

Preheat the oven to 400 deg F. In a large saute pan, cook the bacon until it has rendered it's fat. Add the leeks and let them cook until tender. Season with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, cut the asparagus into 1" pieces, leaving off the woody ends of the stalks. When the leeks are cooked, add the stock and stir to mix. Add in the asparagus and then create 6 wells. Break the eggs into the wells and then put the pan into the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until the eggs are set. Serve immediately with hot buttered toast.

dinner in a hurry

The past couple of weeks have been a bit busy with something after school for the boy most days. Wednesday is the hardest, as gymnastics doesn't finish until 6:45 and then we have to get home, have dinner, and all the other things that come at the end of the day. This week I changed it up a bit and took the boy to the rec center a good bit before his class, and we hung out together, he worked a bit on his mathematique homework and had a snack before he ran up the hall to the gym for his class. And I had prepared for dinner before we got home.

Tuesday morning, instead of dashing off to work at my usual early hour, I had an appointment so I tried to get a jump on Wednesday. I put a pot of rice on. (That I forgot it a half hour later when I ran out to door to my appointment and had to have my husband go and rescue it is one of those oops moments - thank goodness everything was ok. From now on, doing my dinner prep in the evenings). Anyway, when I got home on Wednesday night, I had some cold rice, some leftover pulled pork from the freezer and made up pulled pork fried rice using a recipe from Jenny of Dinner, A Love Story, that was in the March Bon Appetit.

So make the rice ahead of time (but not in a way that threatens to burn your house down) and this is a good and quick dinner for those crazy no time to make dinner nights.

Pulled Pork Fried Rice (adapted from Bon Appetit)
1 tbsp olive oil
3 shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp grated ginger
3 c cold, cooked rice
1 egg, beaten
1 c pulled pork, thawed
1/2 c frozen peas, thawed
1/2 c frozen corn, thawed
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tsp toasted sesame oil

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, garlic and ginger and cook for about a minute. Add the rice and stir to coat with oil, breaking up the lumps with a spoon. Cook for about 2 minutes. Push the rice to one side of the pan, and add the beaten egg on the other side. Push the egg around the pan to cook and then mix into the rice. Add the pork and peas and cook for a couple of minutes to heat through. Then add the soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil and cook, moving and stirring for another minute. Serve.

Friday, April 26, 2013

butternut squash and cashew curry

I made this a while ago and recently found the pictures which reminded me to write a post about it. I found the original recipe over at Dana Treat but modified it a lot when I made it based on ingredients I had and that we like and we loved it.

Butternut Squash and Cashew Curry (adapted from Dana Treat)
vegetable oil
2 lbs butternut squash, roasted and cubed
kosher salt
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp grated ginger
2 small dried chilis
3/4 c roasted unsalted cashews
1 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 14oz can light coconut milk
1/2 c water
1 can white beans, drained
1 c frozen peas
juice of 1 lime

Roast the squash in a 350 deg F oven for about 30 minutes. Cool and cut in half and scoop out the seeds. Cut the flesh into cubes and set aside.

Add a bit of oil to a skillet and add the mustard seeds. They will pop in about a minute, then add the onion, garlic, ginger and chilies. Cook until the onions are golden, about 5 minutes. Add the cashews, tumeric and cumin, stirring for about 1 minutes. Add the coconut milk, beans, water and increase the heat to medium high. Boil until thickened, about 2 minutes. Add the squash and peas in and reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 5 minutes. Stir in the lime juice. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper if necessary.
Serve over rice.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

my favorite breakfast

Well, it might be one of my favorite breakfasts. I would never say no to a breakfast cooked by someone else, particularly my brother's pancakes. But this is the one I go to most weekends, usually eaten as I mix, stir or otherwise work on a recipe of two, while sipping a cooling cup of tea. There are a few variations. But the basics are a tortilla or a piece of toast, an egg (boiled, poached, fried), avocado if there are any, bacon (sometimes) and sometimes, cheese. A slick of mayonaise or mustard, some salt and pepper and there you are. Breakfast.

Served on pretty French plates with a big mug of your favorite tea!

Monday, April 22, 2013

leftover cornbread casserole

Last night I put this together,

mainly to use up some leftover cornbread. We usually have the cornbread with chili, but we'd eaten our way through a vat of chili already so I was looking for something a bit different. I had some ground turkey and brocoli in the fridge so I went from there. Using the idea of a tamale pie as my inspiration, I cut the cornbread and layered it into the bottom of a 8x11 dish to cover the bottom. I sprinkled some grated gruyere cheese over the top.

 I prepared a meat and veg mixture and poured that over the cornbread

 and covered it all with a cheese sauce and baked it.

Leftover Cornbread casserole
1/2 recipe of cornbread (from here)
1/4 c grated gruyere cheese

Meat Mixture
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 lb ground turkey
8 mushrooms, sliced
2 brocoli crowns, florets separated
1/3 c frozen corn kernels
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp mustard powder
salt and pepper

3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
420 mL milk
grated nutmeg
1/3 c grated gruyere cheese
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. Form the bottom layer of the casserole by fitting the cornbread pieces to cover the bottom of a 8x11 casserole dish. Cover with the grated cheese.

In a saute pan, add the oil and heat. Add the ground turkey and mushrooms and stir until the pink is gone from the meat. Add in the garlic and mustard along with the brocoli florets and corn. Cover and let cook about 5 minutes. Spread the mixture somewhat evenly over the cornbread layer.

In a saucepan, melt the butter. Then whisk in the flour and milk until well mixed. Heat for 5 minutes until the sauce is bubbly and thickened. Add the cheese and stir until mixed. Add the seasoning. Pour the sauce evenly over the meat mixture.

Bake the casserole for 20-30 minutes, until slightly browned and bubbly.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

stuffed eggplant

A couple of weeks ago, on a chilly, rainy Sunday afternoon, I was perusing some of my cookbooks, looking for some inspiration. I wanted to get the jump on some dinners and go outside our current dinner rut. I came across a recipe for stuffed tomatoes in La Tartine Gourmande which gave me the idea of stuffing eggplant. To prepare the eggplant, I cut them in half lengthwise and roasted them until they were soft and toasty brown. I scraped out the pulp inside to leave the shells to stuff and incorporated it into some leftover meat and spinach mixture from some Canneloni crepes I had made. I piled the meat and veg mixture into the eggplant shells, dolloped some jarred marinara sauce over the top and then topped that with some parmesan crumbles before popping the dish into the oven.

It made a lovely supper and was a nice change from our usual dinner rotation.

Pork and Spinach Mixture for stuffing vegetables or crepes
1 medium onion, sliced
1 lb ground pork
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp dried sage
6 mushrooms, sliced
1 bag of spinach
1/2 c frozen peas
1/2 c frozen corn kernels
grated nutmeg, salt and pepper

In a saute pan, brown the onion and pork together, stirring to keep from sticking. Once the meat has lost it's pink colour, add the garlic and sage and mushrooms. Keep the mixture moving, until the mushrooms have given off their liquid, then add the spinach. Once the spinach is wilted, add in the peas and corn and season with the nutmeg, salt and pepper.

This mixture will fill 12 crepes or 6 medium eggplants - I did 8 crepes for one supper and 2 eggplants for antoher supper.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

english easter treats

We spent Easter Sunday at my brother's house in England. Our boy was a bit worried that the Easter bunny would have trouble finding him but all turned out well. The bunny delivered chocolate to our boy's borrowed bedside and there was a lot of other chocolate during the day, including an easter egg (chick, bunny pop, etc) hunt outside in the garden and a couple of easter desserts or puddings as they are called in England to celebrate the day. Both were the brain child of my lovely sister-in-law.

These are chocolate nests filled with mini eggs and smarties - the nests were made from a mixture of light syrup and chocolate mixed with shredded cereal (Weetabix, cornflakes and oatmeal). I would use my chocolate haystack cookie recipe to make these again.

This is a pavlova decorated with halved Kinder eggs, mini eggs and smarties. Cute!

I hope you all had a lovely chocolatey Easter.