Saturday, April 30, 2011

Royal wedding cup cakes

I decided to stay up and watch the Royal wedding on Thursday night (3:00 am Friday Morning on the West Coast) it could hardly have been a worse time. The question was whether to stay up all night or go to bed and get up early.  Well the answer was go to bed at 10:00 and wake up at 1:00 am, my internal clock decided I wanted to see everything including a whole lot of filler and inane chatter from commentator's with nothing much to say.

Having said that I am glad I watched it live, and it really was a beautiful ceremony, the music was wonderful and bride was beautiful she reminded my of Grace Kelly, a wonderful role model for Royal brides.  I felt we had to celebrate at work so decided to make some cupcakes and decorate appropriately for the royal wedding.

A cupcake sitting on my Mothers English Minton China
I have based this on a recipe by Ina Garten I changed it slightly based on what I had on hand and the recipe for the icing seemed to be far too much. I was correct even with the smaller amount I made there was quite a bit left. This made 24 cupcakes

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Consoling dinner - baked spaghetti and meatballs

Sunday Evening was the 6th game of the first round of the playoffs for the Canucks. they had been 3 games up at one point and were now 3 and 2 the Pirates killing them in the last two games.  I really am not much of a hockey fan, but sons and husband are, along with the rest of the city of Vancouver.  So what to cook for dinner that would be celebratory if they won and consoling if they lost?

Baked spaghetti with meat balls that's what. We knew this would be popular with the guys and as it turned out it was a heartbreaking loss in sudden death overtime.

Meat Balls

  • Equal quantities of ground pork and beef for the this recipe 4 cups of each
  • 1 cup of fine breadcrumbs
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves smashed
  • 1 tablespoon of dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon of dried basil
  • 1 handful of fresh chopped basil
  • salt and pepper

Place all the ingredients in to a large bowl.

Then smoosh with your hands until all the ingredients are well integrated.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Stewed rhubarb

Rhubarb is a much underrated fruit, and it is one of the few that is still for the most part seasonal.  You only see it in the stores in the spring and early summer and it grows very well here in south west Canada as well as in my home County of Yorkshire.  As a little girl I would visit my Grandparents in Tingley Yorkshire (the rhubarb capital of the world) where there house backed on to a rhubarb field.  we would climb over the stone wall, steal rhubarb and eat it raw dipping the ends into sugar cradled in our hands.

On Sunday morning before the rains came my husband and I went for a walk and bumped into some neighbours who said they had a surfeit of rhubarb and was I interested.  Oh yes I was interested and told them I would take as much as they could spare. I was dreaming of stewed rhubarb on plain yogurt for breakfast.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Feeding hungry men - steak, dinner

Friday of the Easter weekend dawned bright and sunny and almost warm for the first time this year so good friends of ours chose this day to stucco a large wall along their property line.  They phoned my husband to see if he would help and of course he jumped at the chance to help a friend.  They had solicited other friends and relatives and it was hands on hard work all day.

Of course I could not help with the physical labour, (my back and all) so the best I could do to help with the proceedings is to work with Nancy to pull off a dinner to feed the workers.  We decided steak would be an appropriate choice for manual labourers

The workers
This is not so much recipes as a menu and some ideas should you find your self having to feed some hard working men.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Indian spiced cauliflower soup

Friday morning was spent in the garden digging over our new vegetable garden and planting out some vegetables.  After all this labour I felt like a good home made soup.  I looked into my fridge and there was a cauliflower that had seen better days, so cauliflower soup it would be.

Cauliflower has a very mild flavour which lends itself well to Indian spices.  If you did not want to bother with grinding the whole spices, then two tablespoons of curry powder and omit the turmeric or one tablespoon of garam masala would suffice. Also If I had had some fresh chilli's  or some frozen ginger/garlic/chili paste then I would have used that, but I didn't so chili flakes would have to do.

This made 4 bowls of soup.

  • 1 whole cauliflower cut in to chunks
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon of turmeric
  • 3 cups of chicken stock
  • 1 potato (optional)
  • Handful of chopped cilantro

Spice mixture

  • 1 teaspoon of whole coriander
  • 1 teaspoon of whole cumin
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 1'' piece of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of hot pepper flakes
Sweat the onion and garlic in the olive oil until just starting to brown. Wizz the spices up in a spice grinder (or coffee grinder which is what I use)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Roasted Asparagus

It is asparagus time of year, and I do think that we should eat more seasonally, in the past spring was the only time you could get asparagus and late spring/early summer was the only time you could get strawberries. Having said that I am as bad as the next person for buying food when I want it rather than when it is in season.  But I am going to try to do better, and as it is asparagus season Nancy and I had roasted asparagus with our steaks.

Hardly a recipe really just a method of cooking.  Roasting asparagus like roasting most vegetables intensifies their flavour and really is my preferred way to cook them.  With asparagus you want to make sure not to over cook them unlike other vegetables that are roasted these are really better if sill bright green and still with a little bite to them.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Salmon Salad sandwich

I am not a big sandwich eater, I never pack one for lunch and on the weekend I would be more likely to make a quick soup than a sandwich.  But there is one sandwich I like salmon salad sandwich.  For me this has to be made with canned sockeye salmon and made on a good wholewheat bread.

The left over filling worked well on crackers with a couple more capers as a little pre dinner appetizer.

1 can of sockeye salmon
3 green onions chopped
Juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
1 teaspoon of dried dill (or fresh if you have it)
1 tablespoon of capers (sometimes)

Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Tenderloin with red wine sauce

On Sunday Nancy and I were both feeling like rack of lamb with fresh mint and maybe some mohitos.  Unfortunately IGA did not share our dream, there was no fresh mint anywhere in Madeira Park, so visions had to be changed.  We found two very nice tenderloin steaks and tried to put our disappointment behind us.

A little research was required and I found versions of this recipe in several different places, all assuring me that they were wonderful.  It requires a full bottle of wine! This makes way more sauce than we needed, but we had a disappointing bottle of red wine from Friday night that we did not know what to do with it.  "Life is too short to drink bad wine" is one of my favourite sayings, this bottle was sacrificed to make a very good sauce.


1 bottle of red wine
2 cups of chicken stock
1 cup of beef stock
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 onion finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped.
Beurre Manier
2 tablespoons of butter and  tablespoons of flour mixed together to make a soft paste

Pour the wine and two stocks in to a pot, and put them to simmer for about an hour.  Though you do not have to watch it all the time you want to stay close by to ensure it does not boil away.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Blood orange and mango salad

To go along with our ribs and potatoes on Saturday we wanted something light and fresh.  When we were out shopping, or as we like to call it hunting and gathering, we found some blood oranges and small yellow mangoes, so this became the basis for the salad.

Blood orange
I made a simple vinegerette using white wine vinegar, olive oil, honey, salt and pepper. I made this in a
small bowl then added in the chopped mango, segmented orange.  I also added chopped green onion and flat leaf parsley.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Potatoes with caramelized onions

To go along with the ribs on Saturday night we decided to cook an old favourite potato dish, this is one of Nancy's signature dishes and goes very well with pork.

This a simple dish to make tastes delicious and easy to cook for a crowd, in fact in some ways it was hard to cut down for just the two of us.

2 russet potatoes thinly sliced
1 onion thinly sliced
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 cup of grated Swiss cheese.
Salt and pepper

Add the olive oil and onion to a frying pan and cook slowly until the onion is caramelized but not too dark as it is going to cook in the oven.

caramelized onions

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Dry rubbed ribs

This weekend I was lucky enough to go up to Pender Harbour and relax with my close friend Nancy. We spent a very relaxing (lazy) day on Saturday, we had planned to do some painting but unfortunately or is that fortunately it was too cold.  So we spent a good deal of the day researching an upcoming trip to Europe and playing quiddler, a favourite word game.

We decided to make one of our guilty pleasures for dinner, dry rubbed baby back ribs.  I know these are not good for you but they do taste so darned good.

First make the rub.

Mix together the following

  • 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of regular paprika
  • 1 tablespoon of cumin
  • 1 tablespoon of coriander
  • 1 teaspoon of ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of chili
  • 2 teaspoon of salt

Rub this over both sides of the ribs.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A night of tropical food

Still feeling tropical after our trip to Puerto Rico, on Saturday night I decided to host a tropical dinner.  Within the next few weeks a couple of friends are going down to the British Virgin Islands and then another couple to Hawaii so we were all feeling tropical.

The menu came together at the last minute (as they usually do) I was inspired by the pig roast in Rincon, but the best I could come up with, was some belly pork from the Superstore that still had the skin on it.  So before going out shopping for couches and food I rubbed the skin with some course salt scored it heavily and placed it in a 300 oven.  It was in there for about 3 hours until a lot of the fat had melted away and the skin was crisp.

Cooked pork
I realize this is really no substitute for a whole roasted pig but it was the best I could come up with on short notice and that skin was wonderful. Obviously this was not enough to feed 9 and one person doesn't eat pork so I decided to cook jerk chicken.  We did not have this in Puerto Rico and I did not even see it on a menu, but it is big in Jamaica.  I cobbled together a recipe from what I could find on the Internet and what I had in the house.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Daring cooks challenge - food containers

Renata of Testado, Provado & Aprovado! was our Daring Cooks’ April 2011 hostess. Renata challenged us to think “outside the plate” and create our own edible containers! Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 17th to May 16th at!

So we are to make food served in editable containers, it is wide open and we can make any food and any container and as many as we want.  She did suggest the food container should go well with the contents.

Fish taco served in corn tortilla cups
This is cheating a bit as I blogged this dish last month, See fish taco's but I also made some in corn tortilla cups with this challenge in mind.

First I softened the corn tortillas in a little oil in a frying pan.

This doesn't take much oil or much time just long enough to warm them up maybe 30 seconds.  Then I pushed them gently inside a custard cup and placed them on a cookie sheet


I baked them in a 350 oven for about 10 minutes until they were crisp and just turning brown on the edges.
Cooked tortilla cups
In the bottom of the tortilla cups I put in the fish which I cooked with a spicy rub on it and topped them off with home made salsa. I served them on a bed of spring greens with some lime wedges.

Finished fish tacos
I really liked the presentation and they tasted great. You could use the same cups for any mexican style filling such as shredded pork or taco fillings etc.

This challenge was a lot less work than others that I have done, but as usual made me do something new and I am always glad for that.

Had I not gone away for 2 weeks and worked killer hours at work the last month I would have tried another one, but oh well.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Baru Puerto RIco

I cooked two nights that we stayed at the apartment in San Juan and we ate out two nights.  We enjoyed our meal so much the first night that we went to the same restaurant the second time.  The restaurant was Baru They served tapas with a Puerto Rican twist.

The outside of Baru
At first Dave was unsure, but when they lead us out to the courtyard he was sold, he does like to eat outdoors, and it was a lovely cool inner courtyard.

Enjoying our first dinner
The bread basket arrived and there were three types of bread all warm and delicious (this is always a good sign) I ordered a beef dish with roasted potatoes and Dave scallops in a cream sauce.  Unfortunately the photo of the scallops was hopeless, but they were wonderful probably my favourite of the two meals that we ate there.  The scallops were large and meaty and cooked perfectly not rubbery at all and the creamy coconut curry sauce was amazing.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Old San Juan

We spent most of our 4 days in San Juan in the old city.  This is really quite a small area of about 8 blocks  by 10 blocks, so you can walk everywhere.  It is on a peninsula surrounded by the Sea and at each end there are old forts built by the Spanish to fight off invaders. These were still being used by the Americans during the cold war, but are now just museums.

One of the forts El Morro
El Morro was to the West of the City and therefore was a great place to watch the sunset.  On Saturday evening before going for dinner we walked over to view the sun setting. The large grassy area in front of the fort was full of locals picnicking, enjoying the cool breeze and flying their kites.

There was a festive atmosphere and everyone was enjoying the cooler temperature and the sky was full of kites.

View from the eastern fort

Sunday, April 10, 2011

An apartment and lunch in Old San Juan

At the end of our trip I did a little cooking as we had a kitchen and I invented a salad based on the local ingredients that we found.

San Juan lunch Salad

We had rented an apartment here is the link in the heart of Old San Juan.  San Juan is a wonderful old city with roots to the very beginning of Colonial times in North America. The streets are very narrow and parking impossible, do not, I repeat do not, drive in to San Juan. Our apartment was beautiful with an enormous deck which is where we spent most of our time.

The beautiful large deck
As you can see the neighbours across the street are very close and we made friends with them, during the 4 days that we stayed here. No one has glass in their windows and the 3 young men living across the street shared their music with us every evening, as well as stories of their lives in San Juan.  They were American Coast Guards posted their for a couple of years. We were easily able to talk across the street.

View from deck

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The lunch of the iguana

While still down in Rincon we went a couple of the blocks from the hotel for lunch one day.  There was a local restaurant that we had seen from the road, that had tables overlooking a river/canal which had really appealed to Dave. He is all about a nice outdoor eating area.

View of "eating platform" 
Any way we ended up driving even though it was a 10 minute walk, as away from the beach it was baking hot.  The deck unfortunately was closed (I think because it was unsafe and we might have ended up eating our dinner in the river not overlooking it.) But there was some outdoor tables in the shade so we took one of those.

While we were waiting for our dinner to arrive, listening to a tape of a Ricky Martin concert, I noticed a large lizard in the grass.  When the waiter noticed my interest, he beckoned me round the back of the restaurant where there were about 5 of them.

Several Iguana apparently friends with the birds
A close up

Monday, April 4, 2011

Pomarrosa Coffee plantation

While we were up in the mountains we wanted to visit a working coffee plantation, and at the Casa Grande they had some pamphlets for Pomarrosa Coffee plantation so we drove the winding mountain roads for about an hour until we reached the plantation.

Gourmet Coffee Pomarrosa
we drove up the drive way where Kurt was waiting to greet us, as we had phoned ahead.  Kurt is an expat from Germany, but he has been living in Puerto Rico for 40 years and is passionate about coffee, food and Puerto Rico.  He led us to an octagonal structure where there were a couple of  tables, and coffee making apparatus.

I always say the most important ingredient in great food is love and passion, Kurt certainly poured both these in to his coffee.  We had both drip and espresso, and I divined correctly that adding cream (which I normally always do) would be blasphemy here.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Casa Grande Puerto RIco

For the second stage of our vacation in Puerto Rico we headed up to the mountains for a respite from the heat and we thought the sun.  In fact apart from the torrential downpour when we arrived the rest of our time in the rain forest was remarkably dry.

Rain forest living up to it's name
We were staying at Casa Grande which is an old coffee plantation up in the mountains close to Utuado. They call themselves a retreat and it certainly is.  There are no radios, televisions or phones, but there is internet in the main building.  As soon as we arrived I signed up for a reflexology foot message. Jennifer took me to hut away from the main buildings.  Often when you go to a spa they pipe in the soothing noises like waves crashing on a beach or a rain forest, well here the noise of the rain forest noises came free, it was uterley peaceful and relaxing.

Hammock on deck of cabin
The cabins were scattered around the property and each one had a deck with a couple of chairs and a hammock.  I spent a very peaceful couple of hours reading in this one.  There was also a swimming pool set in the grounds.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Food carts of Puerto Rico

Having so recently been to Portland where food carts are a big thing, it was interesting to find that in Puerto Rico they are a way of life.  Maybe this is where the idea came from in Portland; any way they are everywhere here selling pinchos (kebabs) roasted pork, and all manner of deep fried things.

Food cart

Some food carts reminded me of the ones in Portland, like the one above.  And others are smaller with a barbecue and cooler along the side of the road like the one below.

Some were just outside someone's house on the side of the road, maybe they just made a little too much dinner that night. But one thing they all had in common was a shady spot to sit and enjoy the food. Most of them moved unlike the carts in Portland, you would see them one day and then they would not appear again for a couple of days. I am not sure if they were taking a couple of days off or if they went somewhere else.

We stopped at this one for a cold drink, but they had some wonderful chicken pinchos it was very tempting.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Shipwreck Bar and Grill - Pig roast

On the night that we blew into Rincon we met 4 couples from New York that had rented a house down the beach, They shared their Rincon secrets, including Sunday night pig Roast at Shipwreck Bar and Grill.

As far as I could tell there are no indoor seats just shade or sun, but since it never seems to get cool here that is fine.  As we arrived the pig was just ready and look what greeted us.

Eat your Heart out Pete
A friend at work introduced me to her husband about a year a go and almost the first words out of his mouth were that he wanted to have a pig roast.  I though of him when I saw this, and yes we should find a way to have a pig roast this summer.  Our timing was perfect as they were just cutting the first chunks off. I could not wait.

OMG look at that skin