Sunday, December 30, 2012

Rosemary crusted pork tenderloin

I was watching Jamie Oliver videos on my Ipad a couple of days ago and came across the idea for this recipe.  It was originally for a pork loin and I think that there were other spices in the crust.  But time was tight and so without checking any further I came up with this.

Using pork loin keeps it low fat and quick to cook.  What I found quite a revelation, was the way the pork was crusted, this worked very well and a technique I will use again.

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 pork tenderloin
1 tablespoon of course salt
2 tablespoons of chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon of ground black pepper

Put the olive oil in to a small roasting tin or oven proof pan and place in a 400 oven to heat up.  While that is heating up spread the salt, rosemary and pepper on a clean chopping board or even the counter top.

Place the pork tenderloin on top and roll it around.

Lemon olives and rosemary almonds

One more party before the holiday season grinds to a halt, so here are a couple of ideas for New Years eve. Both these are quick and easy to make and put out when company is coming. They both take very little time, but look and taste so much better than opening up a package of pre made snack.

You could use any type of olives with the exception of those tasteless canned black olive slices that are put on pizza. This time I used large pitted green, but I have used mixed olives, black olives and even sun dried Moroccan olives.

Lemon marinated olives

2 cups of drained olives.
1 lemon
Handful of parsley finely chopped
1/4 cup of good extra virgin olive oil.

Place the drained olives in a bowl Grate the lemon zest on top and then cut the lemon in half.  Slice half the lemon in to thin slices and add to the olives.  Squeeze the juice of the remaining lemon half on top.  Add the parsley and olive oil and stir in. Sometimes I add crushed coriander seeds and finely chopped chili.

Marinate in the fridge for a couple of hours and serve at room temperature.

Quick easy and taste like you spent hours preparing.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

California spring rolls

I had seen this idea on pinterest, though I did no more than think, what a good idea, I love the flavours of california rolls, but could do with out the rice.  So making spring rolls with the california roll ingredients would give you the best of both worlds.

I figure you could use prawns or crab meat, I used fake crab meat I am afraid, but actually they tasted delicious and several people said that they preferred them to the regular spring rolls.

6 spring rolls
6 rice wrappers
small romain lettuce sliced
1 avocado peeled and sliced
1 cup of shredded crab or prawn sliced
3 tablespoons of japenese mayonnaise

Gather all the ingredients and a large bowl of cold water.

Dip one rice wrapper in the cold water and wait about 15 seconds until the wrapper has started to feel a little less like plastic and is pliable.  It will continue to soak up water as you use it.  Put a little lettuce in the centre of the wrapper top with avocado a drizzle of mayonnaise and top with the crab.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Baked potato soup

At our Christmas Caroling party I always make soup to be served in Christmas mugs for when the cold wet (it always seems to be raining) return.  This soup was the ultimate in warming comfort food soups. I am afraid it was almost impossible to get a good picture of it, and I failed to get one in the cup as I was too busy serving and forgot. I found this recipe on a southern food site though I have changed it a little.

For 6 to 8 servings

2/3 cup butter
2/3 cup flour
4 cups milk
4 large baking potatoes, baked, cooled, scooped out of their skins and mushed up a little 4 cups
4 green onions, thinly sliced
10 to 12 strips bacon, cooked, drained, and crumbled
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot over low heat, melt butter. Stir in flour; stir until the butter is all absorbed and the flour has cooked a little.

Gradually add milk, stirring constantly, until sauce has thickened. Add potatoes

and onions. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until soup begins to bubble. Reduce heat; simmer gently for 10 minutes. Cook the bacon until it is crisp and drain off any fat that has rendered out.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Wonton wrapper appetizer

It was our annual Christmas caroling party on Saturday, so I spent Saturday morning looking for inspiration and ideas for new appetizer recipes.  There are some tried and true,items that I make over and over but it always good to try something new.  I found this recipe  for Wonton Wrapper Appetizers

I thought it looked good, easy and most of it can be made ahead just thrown in the oven for a few minutes before serving, these are all important criteria for appetizer recipes. I do not want to be a slave to the kitchen when everyone else is having fun, anyway the kitchen is always so full of people.

16 pieces

1/2 pound of sausage meat (I used Italian)
1/2 onion chopped or equivalent of green onion
16 won ton wrappers
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheese

In a frying pan, cook sausage over medium heat until no longer pink; drain if necessary. Stir in onions, cook for a couple more minutes and set aside.

Lightly brush the won ton wrappers with olive oil and press them into miniature muffin cups.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Healthy ground turkey soup with a Thai influence

December is full of rich food high in calories and not so high in nutrition.  I think we should find a way for everyone to spread out the baking and the chocolate giving year round.  Think how nice it would be if you received a plate full of delicious home made baking in the middle of a dreary cold February.  Sadly now they just get piled up with all the other goodies and boxes of chocolates, which unfortunately I pick at when every I walk by.  So in between the picking and grazing I like to eat something that is healthy, but of course it has to be tasty too.

This recipe grew out of what I had on hand, and as I had a bag of young bok choy and steam fried noodles that both needed using up, asian food came to mind and I love Thai flavours so I went with that.

1 onion chopped
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 clove of garlic sliced
1 lb of ground turkey
3 carrots sliced
4 cups of chicken stock
Grated zest of one lime
1 tablespoon of chili pepper flakes
3 tablespoons of soy sauce (or more to taste)
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
1 bag of young bok choy (about 6) or any other asian green such as napa cabbage
2 cups of steam fried noodles or any asian style noodle you have on hand
Handful of cilantro chopped

Cook the onion in the olive oil until it is translucent add the garlic and stir, then add the ground turkey and cook stirring often to stop it from clumping.  When it is cooked through add the carrots and stir in and add the lime zest and chili.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Crisp lime avocado and chick pea salad

This time of year is full of parties, drinks, rich food and little to no exercise, so for the annual Christmas potluck at work I like to make a light crisp salad to counteract all the damage I am doing to my body.

This year I am into avacodo's in a big way and often have a salad with avacado in it for my lunch or dinner, so I decided to make an avacado salad with a south west twist.  This made a potluck salad for 12.

One large avacado chopped into large chunks
Grated zest from one lime
One can of chick peas
Small bunch of cilantro chopped.
3 Hearts of romaine lettuce

Dressing ingredients
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar or a good white wine vinegar with a pinch of sugar
  • 1 bunch of green onions chopped
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic grated or crushed
  • 1 teaspoon of salt

Put the avacado in to the bottom of a large bowl and add the zest of the lime.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Avocado Chicken salad

Avocado seems to have taken over from the quinoa as the new super food. It is high in antioxidants, helps lower cholesterol and of course it tastes great.  Though anything that creamy tasting has to have fat in it,  half an avocado has the same grams of fat as one and half tablespoons of mayonnaise, most of it being unsaturated. I saw this idea somewhere, I would like to give the due credit, but I am afraid I do not know where it was that I saw it, but it was an idea I had to try.

I had a cooked chicken breast left over last week and it produced chicken salad for one sandwich and topping for a salad for a quick dinner as well.

1 large cooked chicken breast (or perhaps left over turkey)
1 avocado mushed
Juice of one lime
4 green onions chopped
2 tablespoons of cilantro chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Mush up the avocado until there are few lumps and then add the lime juice, green onions and cilantro.

Mix together and taste for salt and pepper, and then add the chopped chicken.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Day of the dead

We arrived back in Quito on November 2nd, which is the Day of the Dead which is public holiday and a big family celebration. Everyone goes to visit their departed family in the graveyard and decorate the graves, perhaps have a picnic and leave some food for them.  We went to a grave yard in a small town on the outskirts of Quito, the atmosphere was very festive and we appeared to be the only tourists.

Some of our group were a little uncomfortable about appearing like looky loos, but actually it was not a sombre occasion quite the reverse it was positively festive.  There was even a rock band playing in the cemetery. The square in front of the church was full of vendors selling flowers and other things with which to decorate your family gravesite.

Our guide told us we had to try the traditional drink and bread that are only served on this day in Ecuador. The drink was colada morada made from blueberry, blackberry and other fruit in blue corn flour base.

My husband and I shared this, I was worried that it would be too sweet, but in fact it was not bad and served warm and full of fruit. What was served with this was guaguas de pan which is a bread in the shape of a baby. At least this is how the guide described it, I had trouble eating "babies" so I prefer to think of it as in the shape of a doll.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Winter bruschetta

One of my favourite appetizers is bruschetta, but the tomatoes in the winter, though better than they used to be, are just not as flavourful as the tomatoes in August.  So I thought if I slow roasted them first it would help.  I was correct this mixture had a very intense flavour and made a wonderful bruschetta.

2 cups of cherry tomatoes sliced in half
1 small sweet onion or red onion finely chopped
small bunch of basil chopped
2 tablespoons of olive oil

Lay the tomatoes on a parchment lined cookie sheet.

Cook in a 250 oven for around 2 hours, or the length of time it takes you to go grocery shopping for the party that night. The tomatoes will look shrivelled slightly caramelized  but still have some juice in them.

Mini mushroom tatin

Saturday night was our first entertaining of the holiday seas and I was looking for new ideas for appetizers. I saw the idea for these on Martha Stewart's website, I find that there are often some good ideas there, but I do not follow the recipes, lets be honest I hardly ever follow a recipe. I have called them mushroom tatin as they are made using the same method as the classic french tarte tatin.

Enough for 24 appetizers

2 cloves of garlic sliced
1 onion chopped

2 tablespoons of olive oil
6 cups of sliced mushrooms
sprig of fresh thyme
1/4 cup of sherry or wine
11/2 packages of puff pastry

Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil a large frying pan until the onion is transparent, then add the mushrooms

Saute stirring frequently until the mushrooms have given off their liquid, then add the sherry or wine and thyme.  Continue to cook stirring occasionally until the liquid has all been absorbed. taste for seasoning and add salt and a good amount of pepper.

Generously butter 24 muffin tins then spoon the mushroom mixture in dividing it evenly amongst them.

Now cut rounds of puff pastry that exactly fit the top of the muffin tin.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Baked cassava chips

I am taking a little break from my Ecuadorian trip to post a couple of recipes that might be useful over the holiday season.  This first one is related to Ecuador, as cassava is a staple of the Ecuadorian diet and we had it in many forms on our trip.  But one of my favourites was cassava chips.

Obviously these would normally be deep fried, but as I usually try to avoid deep frying in my kitchen, for so many reasons, I decided to bake them. This did work, but it requires vigilance as they can burn in an instant. So you do need to be hovering around the oven while they are cooking, and not get distracted by the Internet or a phone call, as so often happens in my kitchen.

The cassava is a little intimidating when you buy it, but I had seen them cook cassava in the Amazon and so it had been a little demystified for me.

This cassava was not nearly as fresh as the one in the Amazon which we saw dug up and cooked with in an hour, but it is what is available in Canada in December.  There was a wax coating on it which I have read is for preserving it.  So obviously the first thing to do was peel it, which I did with a sharp knife as the peel seemed to be too thick for my potato peeler.

Then I cut it in to 2 large chunks and placed it in a bowl of cold water. This is what I saw the woman do in Ecuador, so I imagine it would discolour quickly if not covered in water.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Spa in the high Andes

After a week in the Amazon, with the heat, the mud and the lack of hair dryer it was such a pleasure to drive for 10 hours up to a hot springs called Papallacta. The weather was cool everything was clean and there were thermal springs all around and you could get an hour long message for $35.00! Connie and I thought we had arrived in heaven.

We got our room allocations and headed to the Cabana which had underfloor heating provided by the hot springs and joy of joy's a bath. Everywhere we had been staying so far had showers and I really am a bath person.

Right outside was a hot pool, so we donned our bathing suites and jumped in.  Unfortunately shortly thereafter I started to feel a little nauseous and decided to lie down for a little while.  Well a little while turned out to be 12 hours! I was suffering a little from the altitude, we were at over 3,300 metres high and I guess the quick ascent along with sitting in a hot tub was too much for me.  So I can not describe to you how good the food was at dinner that night at a local restaurant, but everyone told me it was wonderful.

The next morning I was a new women and so I went along with everybody else down to the same restaurant for an Ecuadorian breakfast. This turned out to be warm fresh buns (that tasted better than they look) with melting queso fresco inside.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cassava bread In the Amazon

One day while we were in the Amazon we went to visit a village a further 2 hours up the river to where our lodge was.  The people living here were still living as their ancestors had for centuries, with the addition of some electricity and Internet.  Given these additions I wonder how hard it will be to keep the children of the village continuing this life style.

One of the staples of their diet is cassava.  The cassava plant grows easily here and matures in about  10 months. At the time of digging up the root tubers, a shoot is replanted, so that there will be another plant ready for harvesting in less than a year.  I do not have any pictures of the digging up of the cassava root as I was distracted by chickens and lost my way through the village.

I took this picture as they headed off, the next time I looked up there was no sight of them.  After what seemed like 30 minutes (probably closer to 5) I along with the monkey that had adopted me found them but missed the whole digging up demonstration, the tubers were peeled and sitting in a bowl of water. But I was relieved that this was not the last picture ever of my husband.

The young women demonstrating for us now took the tubers and grated them, using home made graters in a beautiful hollowed out length of mahogany.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sucking mud and hunting Anacondas in the Amazon

The first day that we were in the Amazon, our guide excitedly told us we were heading off in the canoe to go see an anaconda snake. We were all given wellington boots as it might be a little muddy, (boy was that an understatement).  Now this whole trip did not seem like such a good idea to me, as I was not sure I wanted to get up and close with an enormous snake that could strangle me to death.  But any way off we headed in the canoe across the lake.

At first it was beautiful, with that lovely late afternoon sun giving a warm glow to the jungle, and we were canoeing on the Amazon after all, and then we ran aground. The only thing to do was get out of the canoe and walk it to the island that held the snake, at first just a couple of people.

Then everyone was out walking with the warm Amazon river flooding over the top of the boots!

The worst was yet to come.  When we arrived at the island the water had recently receaded to expose what we lovingly christened sucking mud.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Cuyabeno Lodge

After over 2 hours in a canoe with an outboard motor we arrived at Cuyabeno lodge situated on a shallow (very shallow as it turned out) lake.

When we arrived there was no sight of the lodge just a muddy foreshore, apparently we were going in the back entrance as the lake was low and the closer access at the front was inaccessible.  As the week drew on, each day we had to access the boats further and further away.  First things first, we were taken to the eating area where we were served lunch immediately as it was already past my
normal lunch time.

Our meal started as most meals do in Ecuador with soup (sopa) the eubiquitos soup, locra de papa is basically a potato soup with fresh cheese and avacado in it. Since leek and potato soup is one of my favourite comfort foods I was happy to have this soup often.

The main course consisted of pork, beans plantain and potato fritters.  The food was good, fairly plain, and not too rich, which as the temperature was about 30 and humid was good thing.