Saturday, March 31, 2012

Texas Ceasar salad

We were going over for a night of Texas Hold'm at a friends house really big stakes, $5.00 buy in and pot luck.  The theme for the pot luck was Texas food, I perused what others were bringing and I thought a salad was in order. I check on the Internet for suggestions and came up with Texas Caesar salad on of course I had to adapt due to what I had on hand, but the dressing sounded interesting and tasty so I decided to give it a try.

Dressing ingredients

1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon of salt (or to taste)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped shallots
2 garlic cloves
1 jalapeƱo chili, seeded, chopped (use less if you do not want too much heat)
Juice of 1 lime
3/4 cup olive oil

Place all the ingredients except the olive oil in a mini chopper or blender.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

No knead bread

This is a miracle bread that I found a couple of years ago when cruising around on YouTube  click her to watch .  It is a miracle, because it takes about 5 minutes of active work and in any home oven you can come up with a bread that looks like this.

The only downside is that you have to wait 12 hours from when you start, but if you start the process in the evening, the next morning while you are showering and getting ready for work the bread can be baking and you can amaze and delight all your colleagues at work with fresh baked bread.

3 cups of flour
1/4 teaspoon of dried yeast
1 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 cups of cold water.

So after cleaning the kitchen up after supper pull out a large bowl add all the ingredients and stir in to a sticky fairly wet dough.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Grandma Naylor's sherry trifle

Grandma Naylor is my maternal grandmother and she was a wonderful simple basic English cook.  Sadly she died when I was quite young, but there are three dishes that I make that are from her, meat and potato pieyorkshire puddings and her sherry trifle. Every family in Britain probably has their version of trifle, but this is the trifle of my childhood and therefore in my estimation the best.  My grandmother always made it with canned loganberries, which are a cross between a blackberry and a raspberry.  But these are not easy to find here so I use frozen raspberries of which there is an abundance, and they give the same effect.

This is a dessert that can be made ahead, in fact it should be made several hours ahead to let the fruit and sherry soak into the sponge. I am not sure what custard my Grandmother used, but I expect it was birds instant custard, and that is a good alternative to scratch made custard, but really it is hardly any more work to make it from scratch and I do prefer it.

I used an old bowl that I had inherited from my Mother, but actually I do not remember which side of the family it came from, but it is a beautiful bowl and just the right size for trifle.

For the base
1 bought light sponge cake (I often buy the kind that are supposed to filled with berries)
1/4 cup (or more) medium to sweet sherry or port
3 cups of frozen raspberries

Layer the sponge and the raspberries in the bottom of a bowl, this is often made in a glass bowl to show the layers. Douse liberally with sherry, I gave an approximate measurement of 1/4 cup, but really I have never actually measured it. The raspberries can be still frozen or partially thawed as mine were or canned , if I was using fresh I would mash them a little first or even heat them slightly to get the juices running.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Quick chicken with lemon and capers

I am always trying to find and create quick tasty  meals that can be cooked after coming home from dinner and this week I came up with a new one which I loved. Sometimes I am on my own for dinner, but I do like to cook a decent meal even if it is just me, this is something that could be easily cooked for one, but this night there was two.

To feed two

2 Skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons of capers

Wrap each of the chicken breasts loosely in plastic wrap and hit with a rolling pin until they are flat and about 1" thick.  This helps them to cook evenly, quickly and tenderizes them. Then sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Currents at Otter Bay and chicken with roasted tomatoes

Currents at Otter Bay is a favourite place to stay of my friend who was having a big birthday last week. They and their family and friends have been staying here for several years on regular basis.  It certainly is beautiful and is with in walking distance of the ferry terminal. There are several cottages all new and all have a beautiful view.  This was the view from our cottage.

Though those that had been here before said that they really preferred the cottages with the view of open water.

However we made do, and managed to survive the weekend with the view of the marina.  We ended up eating in both nights that we there, partly because at this time of year there are not too many options on Pender Island and partly because we had a big lunch one day, and any way I love to cook.

I am afraid the pictures for this very simple meal that we had the first night really are not very good. I am sure it had nothing to do with the amount of wine that was flowing or the distraction of 5 women constantly talking but was all to do with bad lighting.

I came up with this dish as I was going to do me perennial favourite lemon roast chicken and thought I would try to vary it up a little. So I decided to use the same method, but use tomatoes in place of the lemon and basil in place of the rosemary or sage.

To feed 4 (or 5 with one being vegetarian)

8 chicken thighs skin on bone in
1 small box of grape or cherry tomatoes cut in half
8 campari tomatoes cut in quarters
2 large cloves of garlic cut in to pieces
Small bunch of fresh basil roughly cut up
2 tablespoons of olive oil
salt and pepper

Place the chicken thighs skin side up on a roasting tin, you could use other parts of the chicken but I particularly like thighs.  Then nestle the next 4 ingredients around the chicken drizzle over the olive oil and salt and pepper.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Poets Cove Pender Island

I just spent 3 days on Pender Island celebrating a friends birthday, I won't out her but it lets just say it was a big one.  I have known her for 30 years and it was an honour to be included in this small group of women to mark this milestone.  Part of the celebration was a trip to Poets cove resort and spa for a massage and lunch.

We were ushered into the spa area by a very friendly young lady and while two of us indulged in an hour long aroma therapy massage the other three went to the steam cave and hot tub.  Totally relaxed and refreshed we went to join them in the hot tub which is set in the rocks overlooking the Marina.  Due modesty concerns and possibility of blackmail I have no photo's of this very pleasant interlude. So instead here is a picture of the view from the Aurora restaurant where we went for lunch.

Since this was mid March and not on the weekend only one restaurant was open and it was not very busy.  In fact I was a little concerned that the food might be a little tired and not too fresh because of this, but I was proven completely wrong.

The lunch time menu is casual and includes mostly sandwiches and burgers, which I understand are normally part of the menu of Syrens bistro which will reopen for the season on April 1st.

I ordered the home smoked salmon sandwich with salad (with a promise of some stolen fries from a friend)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Pasta al forno

My husband is one of 5 siblings, who all live within an easy drive of each other, and they like to get together fairly often.  The most recent gathering was at our house for a games night (they love to play games) so with spouses and some family friends it was 12 for dinner.  I wanted to be participating in the games as well, so I decided to make this baked pasta dish that could be made ahead and thrown in the oven at the last minute. The quantities I have given are for one lasagna sized dish which would feed 6 people or 4 hungry teenage boys!

My sister in law is vegetarian so I made two dishes one with meatballs and the other without.

Equal quantities of ground beef and ground pork I used about a lb of each
2 garlic cloves grated or smashed
1 tablespoon of rosemary
1 bunch of fresh basil chopped
1/2 cup of fine breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper

Combine all the ingredients with your hands, there really is no other way.

Using a small ice cream scoop or spoon if you are not lucky enough to have one, portion out into balls about the size of a large walnut.  Place them on a high sided cookie sheet lined with parchment paper to stop them from sticking and to help with clean up.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

balsamic glazed lamb shanks

We had a big storm here on the West Coast on Monday with thousands with out power and most of the ferries cancelled.  But we were snug inside thankfully with power and I was able to spend the day quilting, something that I have not done in a while, but really enjoy.  For dinner I invited my Father and son over and I had 5 lamb shanks sitting in my freezer that needed eating.  I have based this recipe on a Gordon Ramsay one that I found on BBC foods.

I made this for 5 but I think if you used 4 lamb shanks and the same recipe you would just have a little more sauce and that is not a bad thing.

1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 medium onion chopped
2 garlic cloves sliced
5 lamb shanks
1 cup of red wine
1 cup of crushed tomatoes (still using home canned Yeh!)
1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
1 cup of red wine
1 good size sprig of rosemary.

Monday, March 12, 2012

vegetable biryani

I have always loved Indian food, but I have come to biryani's late in life.  I am not sure if I never had them when I was younger, or if I never had a good one.  A friend used to own a small Indian restaurant here in Vancouver and biryani was the special one day, so I decided to try it.  It was a revelation, a soft fluffy rice studded with intensely flavoured morsels including nuts and dried fruit. Since then I often order it when going to an Indian restaurant and have been experimenting with making it myself.

This Sunday evening a neighbourhood friend invited us over, along with a few others, for a Texas hold em game and potluck dinner.  So I decided to make a vegetarian biryani to take along as I know they like  Indian food and I thought it would travel well.  I found the basis for this recipe at
But I simplified it a little and had to substitute a couple of items.

First partialy cook the rice.

1 and half cup basmati rice
2 green cardamoms
2 cloves
1 small sliver of cinnamon
1 bay leaf
3 cups water

All the recipes that I found for biryani say to rinse and soak the rice, I assume to remove a lot of the starch, so I rinsed the rice in a colander then soaked in a bowl of cold water for 1/2 an hour, drained it and put in to a pot with the remaining ingredients.

Cook the rice with the lid on until all the water is absorbed and it still a little el dente, about 15 minutes then fluff with a fork and set aside with the lid on.

1/2 medium sized cauliflower, florets removed
1 medium sized carrot, diced
1 medium sized potato, cubed
1 cup of chopped greeen beans
1  onion, finely sliced
1 green chili, chopped
2 tbsp julienned ginger
1 tbsp chopped garlic
2 green cardamom
2 black cardamoms
2 cloves
small piece of cinnamon 
1/2 cup of plain yogurt
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp red chili powder/cayenne pepper
2 tbsp cashewnuts or whole almonds
1 tbsp sultanas/raisins/dates
3 tbsp olive oil

Whole spices in the vegetable mixture

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Poulet saute chasseur

This is comfort food French style, and is the first full dish that I made at college.  We spent the first couple of months learning to cut up vegetables in different shapes and making stocks and basic sauces, so it was with great delight that we actually got to make a whole dish.  Therefore it holds a special place in my culinary heart, and I like to pull it out once in a while.  This Saturday was one of those times.

We had three couples coming over for dinner, not a dinner party just a get together with neighbours to celebrate surviving the week and looking forward to a week off work for most of us due to Spring Break. Poulet saute chasseur was the perfect dish, simple and tasty.

1 large chicken cut up, or equivalent in pieces
1 onion chopped
2 cups of sliced mushrooms
1 cup of white wine
1 tablespoon of dried tarragon
1 quart of canned crushed tomatoes

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Fridge pot roast

Currently sitting in Whistler BC enjoying the peace and quite that settles over the lodgings when all the skiers and boarders are up on the hill. My job as I do not choose to either ski or board is to provide a comforting meal on their return.  Pot roast was my friends vision, so that is what I would do, as this is always popular and the longer it cooks the better.  I like something that does not have to be dealt with at the last minute as, though I do not ski I definitely like to participate in the Apres Ski.

The fridge was fairly well stocked by my friend, so I picked up a nice large pot Roast of beef at the local store and decided to use what was on hand.  And that was.

olive oil
1 onion chopped
3 stalks of celery chopped
1 red and 1 yellow pepper chopped
1/4 cup of tomato paste
1/2 bottle of red wine (oh happy find)
A small bunch of fresh basil
1 cup of beef stock (actually a beef stock cube)
Then I bought a large pot roast

In a large oven proof pot (I would have liked to have a cast iron one, but beggars can't be choosers) saute the onion and celery in about a tablespoon of olive oil.

When the onion is translucent add the chopped pepper, cook until they are softening and then stir in the tomato puree.

Now pour in the wine and beef stock.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Crispy braised chicken with mushrooms

Last Saturday I was lucky enough to be riding out a very windy west coast winter storm up at Pender Harbour on the Sunshine Coast.  The wind was howling and it was cold outside, but there was a little sunshine and we were cozy inside.  We found some free range chicken thighs at the Oak Tree Market which looked good, and there was some mushrooms in the fridge so we decided to have a thighs with mushroom sauce.

One of the things I like about chicken thighs is the crispy skin, so I did not want to braise them in liquid which would have made the skin soggy so I did a combination braise and saute.

4 chicken thighs, bone-in and skin-on
1 onion chopped
1 garlic clove sliced
3 cups mushrooms, sliced
a dozen sage leaves
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock

 Pat chicken thighs dry and sprinkle with salt. Add thighs to pan skin side down, then turn on to high and the thighs will release their own fat, cook until both sides are golden brown

When chicken is nicely browned remove  and set aside.  Pour off all fat but one tablespoon. Reduce heat to medium low and add onions and garlic. Cook onions, stirring regularly until translucent.