Sunday, May 29, 2011

Wineries in the Okanagan

I spent the last few days in the Okanagan Valley. It is only 4 or 5 hours drive from Vancouver but it could not be more different, the climate is much drier and hotter in the summer and colder in the winter.  Over the last 20 years the wineries have come to rival some of the best wine growing areas in the world. Not only the wines are good, but it is a great area to wander from winery to winery tasting and enjoying the views.

view from "See Ya Later" ranch
I drove south of Penticton to go to See ya later Ranch I love their chardonnay and I think that they have one of the best views so I decided to go and have a taste.  I bought not only their chardonnay but also a very nice Pinot Noir.

See Ya Later ranch

Earlier in the week I went along the Naramata Bench to take in some of the wineries and have some lunch.  First stop was Township 7 this is not one of the most beautiful wineries but they consistently have good wines.  This year their chardonnay was excellent (OK chardonnay is really my favourite) but I also bought a bottle of 7 blanc which is a blend of white wines and is a little off dry.  I thought this would go very well with a spicy meal.

The next stop along the Naramata bench was La Frenz winery

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Greek roast chicken and potatoes

When I was at Hopcott's last weekend I bought a free range chicken so I wanted to roast it for Monday dinner, but wanted to do something a little different.  I really love those lemony potatoes that come with a lot of Greek meals, so I decided to roast the chicken along with some potatoes Greek style.

One large frying chicken
1 head of garlic
8 yukon gold potatoes cut up
2 cups of chicken stock mixed with the juice of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons of olive oil.
Handful of fresh sage or oregano or rosemary

First I stuffed the chicken with one head of garlic cut in half and one lemon that had the juice squeezed out of it.  Then I trussed it up with some kitchen twine to keep those legs together.

I put the chicken in a large roasting tin then added the cut up potatoes and the stock combined with lemon juice.  Drizzled olive oil over the chicken and potatoes then sprinkled with cut up sage and salt.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Rhubarb and blueberry crumble

Crumble was what my Mother used to make most sundays for dinner, the fruit would vary with the season, but the topping was always the same.  She really did not like making pastry very much so this was an easy way out.

Monday night I was feeling a little lazy myself and thought crumble would be an easy way out for me too. I was stewing some rhubarb to freeze and I added some blueberries that I found in the freezer left over from last year. So while the fruit was stewing, I made the crumble topping.

1 1/2 cups of flour
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of butter.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Week night dinner - Steak with mushroom sauce

This is a quick dish to make, that although it meets the criteria of a weeknight dinner, quick and easy, it is good enough to serve to company.

Serves 2

1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 steaks (I found strip loin on sale)
1/2 onion finely chopped
1 clove of garlic thinly sliced.
1 cup of sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup of red wine
handful of chopped parsley

Salt and pepper the steak then cook in the olive oil in frying pan to your preferred doneness rare for me well done for my husband.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Hopcott - Local meat and produce market

After reading  Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver this Spring I have been thinking a lot about eating seasonally and eating locally.  It has spurred me on to grow my own vegetables this year for the first time in over 20 years.  Also I have been wanting to find a source of local ethically treated meat.  On Friday night at a party I was talking to someone who told me about Hopcott Meats Which is located in Pitt Meadows just about 15 or 20 minute drive away.  So Saturday, we made a field trip to Hopcott's

It was easy to find located right on the farm.  As it is only mid May (and a cool one at that) there was not much in the way of local produce, but they had a chart on the wall showing availability.

I can't wait to come in August.  Though they were not listed on this board, they did have some local rhubarb and Hungarian pepper, which can only assume were greenhouse grown.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Crock pot stew

I made this last weekend in my frenzied Sunday of cooking make ahead food for the week. But it could easily be put on before work in the morning simmering away, ready for dinner when you walk in the door.

I am going along with Jamie Oliver's theory which more and more I am believing is correct, that you do not have to brown the meat before making a stew.  This cuts the prep time and mess to the point of being able to prepare in the morning while you are eating breakfast.

2 onions chopped
2 cloves of garlic minced
2 red peppers chopped
2 sticks of celery
4 carrots (except I did not have any this time)
2 lbs of stewing beef cut into fairly large chunks
One cup of red wine
1/2 cup of beef stock
1/4 cup fresh herbs chopped (basil, parsley, thyme, oregano) or equivalent dried
2 bay leaves

Sweat off the the vegetables for a minute until the onions are translucent, then add along with the remaining ingredients into a crock pot.

Sitting in the crockpot waiting to cook
Cook on high for about 4 hours or on low for up to 10 hours. Of course this could be cooked in a regular pot in the oven, but somehow the crockpot is easier to leave.

Rather blurry picture of finished stew
 This made enough for 4 containers of stew in my fridge and freezer each one feeding at least two.  It could be stretched to feed more by adding some vegetables at the time of reheating like carrots, potatoes or even as my mother used to do red kidney beans.

I had this for dinner on Wednesday with peas and boiled potatoes, dinner was on the table in about 15 minutes.  How good is that.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Mango Pomegranate Guacamole

Everybody has their signature dish, I believe Nancy has found hers in this dip.  She found it on a couple of months ago when she taking a dish for Caribbean themed party. It was a big hit everybody loved it and she has been making it ever since.  On Friday night we were going to a get together to celebrate a friends birthday.  Friday was a beautiful day and obviously she had to make the Mango Pomegranate Guacamole to nibble on while we sat on the deck enjoying, finally, a taste of the summer to come.

2 ripe avocados
1 cup finely chopped white onion
1 fresh serrano chiles, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh lime juice, or to taste
3/4 cup pomegranate seeds (from 1 pomegranate)
2 diced peeled mango
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

I just love pomegranate seeds, but they are such a pain to remove, but our local Thrifties sells little tubs of pomegranate seeds, what a joy they are to use and though it is cheating a little and rather expensive, in my opinion well worth it.

Nancy wanted me to show the cutting up of the mango so here goes.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Urban dinner downtown - Halibut cheeks with baby vegetables

My good friends daughter who is my adoptive daughter, just moved into an apartment on the 29th floor down town Vancouver. Her Mother and I decided to visit and cook dinner for her and her boyfriend.  First we went to Granville Island to hunt and gather, one of the best places in the world in which to do this.  Sadly I did not take any photographs, but here is the view from her brand new apartment.

Her apartment is brand new and very beautiful, but very small so we picked up some very small vegetables, actually we picked them up because the looked so cute and tasty. This picture really does not show the size as there is nothing for scale, but the zucchini were about the size of my finger.

Very tiny vegetables on very beautiful granite top
We were feeling like fish so we picked up some halibut cheeks at the market, the cheeks really are the best part of the halibut. She had some little potatoes as well so I decided to make a light warm potato salad with those, and to roast the vegetables.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Make ahead meals - chilli

My job has increased in responsibility in the last few months and correspondingly in hours, so I am hard pressed to get home and cook a meal each night.  Rather than resorting to pre-made dishes or take out I decided to start cooking up make ahead meals on the weekend.  So this Sunday my Kitchen was bustling I stewed up a large batch of stewed rhubarb there was a batch of stew in the crock pot and I made up a large pot of chilli

Quantities certainly are not exact, but chilli really is very forgiving and you can adjust to taste any way.

2lbs of lean ground beef
2 onions chopped
2 red bell peppers chopped
1 tablespoon of chipotle chili powder
1 tablespoon of regular chili powder
1 tablespoon of ground cumin
1 tablespoon of ground coriander.
2 large can of crushed tomatoes
2 cups of beef stock
1 cup of dried pinto beans
1 cup of dried red kidney beans.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Roasted potatoes and cauliflower

After an extravegant meal on Saturday night and substantial lunch provided by my son for Mothers day I was feeling something simple and uncomplicated for dinner on Sunday night.  There were some good potatoes in the cupboard, some salsa left over from the night before and a cauliflower that really needed to be used.  I added to this some fish I picked up at the fish store as I had a hankering for fish.

4 small potatoes cut in to quarters
1/2 a cauliflower cut in to florets
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1 teaspoon of ground coriander
1 tablespoon of turmeric.
a pinch of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of chili powder.
a handful of chopped cilantro

Monday, May 16, 2011

Southwest bean and corn salad.

This is one of the salads that I made to go with the Oven baked chicken with garlic It is another old favourite from  one of John Hadamuscin's books.  It is a great salad to make ahead that can keep for quite a while and still taste good even the next day.

You could use any beans for this, canned or cooked dried beans, if you used canned beans then this can be made in just a few minutes at any time of year.  But in corn season it is really good with shucked fresh corn either boiled or barbecued. But this not corn season so I had to use canned, though frozen would also suffice.

Again I made a large quantity, but I will give ingredients for 4.

1 can of corn (or one ear of corn shucked)
1 can of kidney beans or equivalent dry beans cooked
1 can of chickpeas
1 red pepper copped
 4 green onions chopped

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Oven baked chicken with garlic and parmesan

A good friend asked if I would be able to cook an after wedding dinner for her family.  Her sister was getting married and many of her large family were going to be in town and she wanted to provide a meal but was feeling that along with everything else she was doing it would be much less stressful for her if I did  it.  So she was looking for something that she could take and serve with little or no work on her part.  So we came up with oven fried chicken and salads.

This recipe is adapted from a Delia Smith recipe and is one that I have done many times when cooking for a crowd. I made enough for 15, but I will give the ingredients for 4.

I chicken cut up or 8 pieces of chicken (I used drumsticks and thighs) Skin on
4 cloves of garlic grated or smooshed to a paste
3 eggs beaten
11/2 cup of fine breadcrumbs
1 cup of grated parmesan (you can even use that already grated fine parmesan)
Handful of fresh chopped herbs, I used rosemary, basil, sage and parsley
salt and pepper

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Daring cooks -gumbo

Our May hostess, Denise, of There’s a Newf in My Soup!, challenged The Daring Cooks to make Gumbo! She provided us with all the recipes we’d need, from creole spices, homemade stock, and Louisiana white rice, to Drew’s Chicken & Smoked Sausage Gumbo and Seafood Gumbo from My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh. I even have a copy of this book myself as my husband bought it for me after our visit to New Orleans last year. So I used the recipe out of the book.

Of course I did not follow the recipe completely not only because I am incapable of doing that, but because I could not find all the ingredients.  Okra was no where to be found, but I am not sure I really tried as do not like the slimy texture of okra that much and it was fine with out.  Also file powder does not appear to be readily available, I am sure if I had tried harder I would have found it, but I did not start to look until the afternoon I was cooking it.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Beignets - New Orleans Doughnuts

When Dave and I went to New Orleans last year I fell in love with the city and thoroughly enjoyed myself, but one of the highlights was  Beignets at Cafe Du Monde . When I decided to do a New Orleans dinner I had to try to recreate them

Eating Beignets in New Orleans
I used the recipe from John Besh's "My New Orleans" cookbook and for once I did not deviate at all.

1 cup of lukewarm milk
1/2 cup of sugar
1 package of dried yeast
4 cups of all purpose flour
1/2 cup of melted butter
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
4 - 6 cups of canola oil
1 cup of icing sugar (I used way more)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Black eyed peas

I was cooking a New Orleans dinner on the weekend and black eyed peas seemed like a a real southern dish so I found a recipe in John Besh's "My New Orleans" Cookbook.  I followed the recipe mostly, though I am incapable of following a recipe to the letter and it made a very tasty dish.

1/4 cup of rendered bacon fat (I used 5 rashers of bacon cut into pieces)
2 small onions diced
1 stalk of celery diced
1 pound of dried black-eyed peas
1 pound of smoked ham hocks or pork jowls
2 bay leaves

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Home made cheese - Queso Fresco

I read about this method of making cheese a little while ago and I have been dying to have a go.  It is the same method (and in fact the same cheese as ricotta) Saturday we were having some friends over for dinner and I decided to use this home made cheese in an Italian inspired salad which was a combination of several recipes.

Salad with Queso Fresco
Don't be put off by the idea of making cheese, it was incredibly easy, made with ingredients that are probably in your kitchen at all times and the results were well worth it.

4 litres of milk (I used whole milk)
Juice of two lemons
1 teaspoon of salt.

Pour the milk into a large stainless steel or enameled pot such as le cruiset. Heat slowly stirring often until the milk is just about to come to a boil.  This is 195 degrees, but as I could not find a candy thermometer (possible because I don't own one) I just watched until the bubbles around the edge of the pot started to increase and get larger.  Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice, stir in and let stand for a 5 minutes.  The milk should start to separate in to curds and whey, mine did not, so I put the heat on again and after a couple of minutes it separated beautifully.  I guess I need to get a candy thermometer.

Separated milk

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Food carts of Vancouver - Slingers

Finally good street food has arrived in Vancouver, last week I saw this food truck parked just around the corner from work on South Granville just by 10th Ave.  I had already eaten so I asked if they were going to be around for a while and I was assured that they would be in the neighbourhood lunch time Monday to Thursday.  So this Tuesday I decided to give them a try.

Slingers food cart
The food cart was called Slingers and they even have a website check it out. The menu was small and both Florence and I decided to try the Slinger's Signature Parmesan on a bun.  It arrived in a couple of minutes in a neat little biodegradable  box, we carried these back to the cafeteria at work and it was still warm enough.

I opened up the box and this is what I saw.

Chicken parmasan

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Root Vegetable Soup

My husband and I took advantage of the spring like weather on the weekend and did a lot of work in the garden.  I planted out tomatoes and some herbs, while he did some heavy work of shoring up some retaining walls.  I thought we deserved a healthy lunch and checked out the fridge to see what there was to make a soup out of.

I found some carrots, parsnip, cabbage and few small tomatoes.  So this was what my soup would be made of.

1 small onion chopped
1 garlic clove finely chopped
1 tablespoon of olive oil
4 carrots peeled and chopped
2 parsnips peeled and chopped
4 campari tomatoes
Small handful of fresh thyme
2 cups of chicken stock
6 nugget potatoes quartered
1/4 cabbage shredded

Monday, May 2, 2011

Comfort food - beef stew

I needed to use up some beef stew meat that had in the freezer, so on saturday I had been reading Jamie Oliver's website  where he had been talking about not browning meat for stews. So I decided to try out one of his recipes, well kind, of I changed it a fair bit but I used his method and he was right, it tasted great with out that extra step.

• 1 tablespoon of olive oil
• 1 onion chopped and 2 cloves garlic chopped
• a handful of fresh sage leaves
• 1 lb of beef stewing meat cut in to chunks
• flour, to dust
• 2 parsnips, peeled and chopped
• 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
• 2 tablespoons tomato purée
• 1/4 a bottle of red wine
• 1 cup beef  stock

 Put a little oil into an appropriately sized pot. Add the onion, garlic and the sage leaves and fry for 3 or 4 minutes. Toss the meat in a little seasoned flour, then add it to the pot with all the vegetables.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Light quick greek meal

Saturday last week was even better than Friday, clear blue skies with a fresh breeze.  So when a friend asked if we wanted to go sailing I jumped at the invitation.  It was the first day out with the boat for the season so there was a little deck swabbing and the sails had to be brought out of storage. But we were under sail about lunch time.

It was beautiful, it was one of those quintessential Vancouver days, we could have driven up to Whistler and gone skiing, or stay in the city, enjoy the spring day and go sailing.  We embraced the Spring whilst my friends daughter squeezed one more day of winter out on the ski slopes. Nancy said "you should post a picture of the sailing people will think you live a great life." to which I replied "I do live a great life."

Getting the sails up for the first time this season

We sailed around the bay for a couple of hours had some snacks, a glass of white wine (or beer) and soaked up the sun. We looked forward to the coming spring and upcoming travels, all in all a great day.