Date Night In (Sort of)

Paella4 Paella1 Paella5 Paella3 Paella2

I have a huge love affair with dining out, I love trying new restaurants, ordering fancy cocktails, and spending an evening oohing and ahhing over tasty dishes. Unfortunately, this affair costs money and it currently isn’t meshing with my attempt  at being a financially responsible adult. But that’s ok, it means that my man and I get to try our hand at cooking our own inspired meals and tasty cocktails.

Our first attempt at a date night in included a big pot of Paella, Whiskey Sours, and then we went out to see a friends band at the Albert. I would say the evening was a success, especially knowing we saved a moderate fortune!

Spanish Paella with Shrimp, Chicken and Sausage

Recipe from here

Ingredients

1 splash of olive oil
2 chicken breasts, skin removed
2 whole Italian sausages
10 whole peeled garlic cloves
1 28 oz can whole tomatoes
2 cups arborio rice
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup red or white wine
3 whole bay leaves
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 whole red pepper
1 lbs shrimp
2 onions, peeled and chopped

Directions

Heat a large flat sauté pan or traditional paella pan.  Add a splash of oil and begin to brown the chicken and sausages, that have been cut in large chunks. Once they have browned set them aside on a plate.  Add the onions to the hot pan and a small splash of oil, sauté until golden. Add the garlic and stir for a few moments. Add tomatoes, breaking them up with a wooden spoon.  Add rice, stock, wine, bay leaves, rosemary, red pepper, the reserved meat and the shrimp.  Bring to a simmer and cook over medium heat until the liquid has absorbed and the rice is tender, about thirty minutes.

Whiskey Sour2 Whiskey SourLil’ Dyls Whiskey Sour

This recipe comes from the brain of a good friend

2 oz Whiskey
1 oz Lemon Juice
1 oz simple syrup (how-to here)
1 egg white
Shaker

Egg whites may seem like a strange cocktail ingredient but don’t exclude them! Once shaken the egg whites create an amazing frothy head on the drink that is silky and delicious. All you need to do is combine all the ingredients in a shaker with ice and give it a hard shake. Pour into a rocks glass and enjoy!

Homemade Ice Cream

Measure

As unorthodox as it sounds in the middle of winter, I had a huge craving for ice cream the other day, giving me the perfect excuse to pull out my seldom-used ice cream maker!

How I became the owner of said ice cream maker is kind of a funny story. To sum it up I accidentally bought $60 worth of bids on that Quibids site while trying to figure out what it was, almost immediately after that I had won a gigantic 5 gallon crock-pot and an ice cream maker. Of course I got excited and became slightly obsessed with the site because I had won two useless things that where worth more than the 60 bones I had put down unintentionally. All of my other bidding attempts where useless so all I’m stuck with two giant appliances that don’t fit in my crappy little kitchen. See kind of funny, also stay away from Quibids.

Swirl

Icecreammaker spin done

Anyways, back to ice cream! This recipe is vegan because all I had for liquid was almond milk, but don’t let that turn you off it’s really quite tasty! I got the recipe here.

Chocolate Almond Milk Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups almond milk
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 2 heaping tablespoons chocolate cocoa
  • 2 Tbsp sugar

Instructions

  1. In a microwaveable bowl or cup whisk 1/2 cup almond milk with the chocolate cocoa and sugar until fully incorporated. Microwave for 40 seconds and then stir.
  2. Place bananas plus the remainder of the almond milk into a blender along with the cocoa mixture and puree for about 10 seconds.
  3. Place mixture in the ice cream maker and process for 20 minutes or until thick.
  4. Serve right away or store in the freezer for later use or to firm up a bit more if desired.

enjoy!

Watermelon Shots and a Cabin Party

Group

This is the story of a wonderful winter cabin party that I hosted and the little jello shots that inspired such a weekend to come together. I have been lucky enough to have a beautiful winterized cabin, an hour out of the city, for the better part of my life. Yet, up until last month I hadn’t had a big get together out there in the winter. Thanks to a decent amount of pestering from friends I finally made an event of it and was thrilled that so many people could make it out. The overnight party featured a full out beer pong tournament, potluck, watermelon jello shots, a very late night trek, and (I’m so sorry again) two busted air mattresses and a pretty cozy sleeping situation! The following are some pictures from the cabin and the recipe for some fantastic watermelon lime wedge jello shots that I am ever so proud of!

Beerpong

Iceshacks WinterLimes Limebooze Inards Vodkamelon Halves Slice Hostinh Cheers

The recipe for these, and many other inspired Jello shots, was found at the blog That’s So Michelle. I used Stolichnaya Vodka as I was told it chills very well and isn’t overpowering flavour wise.

Watermelon Lime Wedge Jello Shots

10 ish limes
1 cup vodka
1 cup boiling water
1 package Jello brand watermelon jello mix (apparently other brands don’t work as well)

1) Halve limes and hollow out the peel. I used a paring knife to score the white center veins of all the limes to make this part easier (be careful not to pierce the lime through the skin or else the jello will leak out of the peel). I also reserved the inside of the limes to make homemade lime juice by muddling the limes in a bowl and working the juice through a strainer.

2) Combine the 1 cup of boiled water with the vodka and jello mix, stir until the jello dissolve completely.

3) Place the hollowed lime halves on a baking sheet and ensure they are sitting as evenly as possible. I used a measuring cup to pour the vodka solution into each lime half.

4) Very carefully place the full limes into the fridge and allow to set for several hours, I sped this up slightly by putting them in the freezer partway through.

I’m hoping I can organize another cabin party before winter is over because I have plenty of other jello shots I want to try. Also, I’m thinking a pick-me-up party in mid February will be a nice escape from school and the wretched city for most people.

 

Potluck Samosas

potluck

xmas tree

Every December one of my very good girlfriends hosts a ladies only Christmas potluck, we drink wine, play board games and eat soooooo much food. Unintentionally the theme of last year’s party ended up being too much cheese and bacon, so this year the host decided to handle most of the cooking. Yet, since I can’t give up a chance to try a new recipe I conviced her to let me bring samosas!

I’ve never been handy at baking but I found a recipe with homemade dough and decided to give it a whirl, also I wasn’t really feeling sweet potato samosas so I found a different recipe for the filling. The recipe for the dough and the mint-yogurt dipping sauce is from a blog called Happy Yolks and the recipe for the filling is from a site called Food and the Blog. My favourite part about the end result is that the samosas are baked not deep fried! Also I doubled the recipe to make enough to feed 10 hungry ladies.

butter rolled Ginger closepot SamosaFold

SamosasRaw Baked

Baked Vegetable Samosas

Filling

  • 2 tbsp olive/sunflower oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 red/green chilli finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 /2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • a pinch of red chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 200 gr, peeled & diced potato
  • 100 gr frozen peas

Dough

  • 1½ cups flour
  • 8 tsps water or buttermilk
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • Warm water for sealing edges

Mint-Yogurt Sauce

  • 3½ cups tightly packed cilantro leaves, finely chopped (I only used mint)
  • 1 cup tightly packed mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ cup greek yogurt
  • salt to taste

Preheat oven to 450 F. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the onions. Cook for 4-5 minutes until softened then add the garlic, ginger and fresh chilli and cook for another 2 minutes.

Add in the diced potatoes, peas, all the spices, salt, pepper and sugar. Stir well to coat the potatoes in the spices, lower the heat slightly and cook until the potatoes are soft. Leave to cool.

While the filling is cooling (I actually let the filling cool overnight and assembled the samosas the next day), divide dough into 200 golf-ball sized rounds. On a lightly floured work surface using a rolling pin, roll each dough ball into a 6″ round. Fold the flattened dough in half and fill with 1 tbsp of cooled filling. Moisten one edge of the dough and roll both edges together, the end result should look kind of like a crescent. Place finished samosas on a greased pan and bake Samosas for 15 minutes on one side, turn and bake for another 5. Remove when both sides are lightly browned.

For the chutney: Place cilantro, mint, lemon juice, and yogurt in a blender. Purée until smooth.

Enjoy!

Soup Du Semaine

P1010328 Peeled Real Kale Oil

Bowl

I’m sorry to say that this will be the last soup of the week post for a while. For one, I’m having a hard time finding creative soup recipes every week, and honestly I’m getting really sick of eating soup all the time! But that doesn’t mean I’m quitting cooking all together. In fact I’m hoping to try some fun new recipes in the next few weeks and test them out on friends and family at several Christmas potlucks. I know your mouths are watering in anticipation, but alas today is just soup.

This hot pot came to be thanks to me having too much kale, too many sweet potatoes and an untouched bag of green lentils in my kitchen. The next step was finding a recipe that accommodated all of these ingredients, and even thought there are recipes out there for damn near every kind of soup ever made with every combination of ingredients I ended up altering two recipes to get the desired effect. I really liked the way this soup turned out, it’s really hearty and is great for dipping bread.

Rustic Green Lentil Soup with Kale and Sweet Potato

Adapted from here & here.

2 cups kale, finely chopped leafy bits (tear away center stalk before you start chopping)
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 med onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 small sweet potatoes, diced
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 cups green lentils
6 cups water (for the lentils)
6 cups vegetable broth
1/2 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
Pinch of cinnamon
Sea salt and pepper to taste
2 tbs olive oil

1) Bring 6 cups of water to a steady boil and add 2 cups of lentils. Lower temperature and boil for 25 minutes or until lentils are tender (mine where cooked by 15 minutes so keep an eye on your lentils).

2) While the lentils are boiling, get another saucepan for the soup (it will need to hold about 6 cups of liquid, and add olive oil, onions and garlic, saute for a few minutes on medium heat.

3) Add the diced sweet potato, celery and carrot and sauté until tender.

4) Drain the lentils from the water and then add them to the onions, along with the tomatoes, and Kale.

5) Season with salt, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, paprika, and anything else you would like.

6) Add 2 cups of water to the soup mixture, and bring it all to a medium simmer. Let it simmer for about 10 minutes. You may want more water depending on how much water the roasted tomatoes contributed to the mix.

7) Top with some plain greek yogurt and enjoy!

Soup du Semaine

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This week I made a big pot of mushroom soup, an absolute favourite of mine. I often feel guilty for eating creamy mushroom soup out of a can because of all the added salt and heavy cream. This recipe relinquishes all that guilt because it’s free of cream and thickened with flour instead, the addition of potatoes also makes this soup relatively hearty. Another bonus? It’s super simple and quick to whip up! I wrote down this recipe a few years ago and unfortunately haven’t been able to find the original source since.

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Cream Free Mushroom Soup 

1 Tbsp butter
1 white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp S & P
4 cups mushrooms (I used a mix of white and brown cremini mushrooms)
1 potato
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups vegetable stock
1/4 cup sour cream
1 green onion

1. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat and cook garlic, onion, thyme, s & p until veggies are softened and herbs are aromatic, about 5 minutes.

2. Add mushrooms and potato and cook until mushrooms begin to sweat and the potato is softened, about 10 minutes.

3. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Stir in stock and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the soup is thickened, about 10 minutes.

4. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and green onions.

Enjoy!

Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts

Cauliflower and brussels sprouts (or alien brains as they where called throughout my childhood) are pretty boring on their own but this mustard-caper butter is a really nice accompaniment to this dish. I steamed both the cauliflower and brussels sprouts separately in the microwave to save time and if you don’t have a mortar and pestle I’m sure a garlic press would do just fine.

Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts with Mustard-Caper Butter

From Smitten Kitchen

2 garlic cloves
Sea salt
6 tablespoons butter, softened
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup drained small capers, rinsed
Grated zest of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons chopped marjoram
Black pepper
1 pound Brussels sprouts
1 head white cauliflower

1. To make the mustard-caper butter, pound the garlic with a half-teaspoon salt in a mortar until smooth. Stir the garlic into the butter with the mustard, capers, lemon zest and marjoram. Season to taste with pepper. (The butter can be made a day ahead and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving.)

2. Trim the base off the Brussels sprouts, then slice them in half or, if large, into quarters. Cut the cauliflower into bite-sized pieces.

3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt. Add the Brussels sprouts and cook for 3 minutes. Then add the other vegetables and continue to cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain, shake off any excess water, then toss with the mustard-caper butter. Taste for salt, season with pepper and toss again.

Mediterranean Eggplant & Barley Salad

This thanksgiving my Mama put me in charge of making some vegetarian sides for our dinner. My mind automatically jumped to a hearty salad I had made once before that was greeted with rave reviews. The preparation of each individual part of this salad takes a bit of time, as well as cooling the barely after you’ve cooked it. Make sure you leave yourself enough time, or even make the salad a day ahead (I did this but left the tomatoes out overnight so nothing got soggy). Enjoy!

 

The pictures from this and my next post are a nice treat because I got to play around with my dad’s Panasonic Lumix camera. I’m in the market for a new camera because currently my Canon Powershot SD980 is not cutting it anymore. I’ve been perusing Ebay and some local stores but so far I haven’t found the right camera for the right price.

Mediterranean Eggplant and Barley Salad

From Smitten Kitchen (This blog is a source of unending cooking inspiration for me so I wouldn’t be surprised if many more of my recipes come from here)

1 1/2 lb eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 lb zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
10 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup chopped scallion (from 1 bunch)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 1/4 cups pearl barley (8 oz)
1 (14-oz) can reduced-sodium vegetable broth (1 3/4 cups)
3/4 cup water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 lb cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/3 cup Kalamata or other brine-cured black olives, pitted and halved
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion, rinsed and drained if desired
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint

Preheat oven to 425°F. Toss eggplant and zucchini with 5 tablespoons oil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper in a bowl, then spread in 2 oiled large shallow (1-inch-deep) baking pans. Roast vegetables in oven, stirring occasionally and switching position of pans halfway through baking, until vegetables are golden brown and tender, 20 to 25 minutes total. Combine vegetables in 1 pan and cool, reserving other pan for cooling barley.

To cook barley, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 3- to 4-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then cook scallion, cumin, coriander, and cayenne, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add barley and cook, stirring until well coated with oil, 2 minutes more. Add broth and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until all of liquid is absorbed and barley is tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Transfer to reserved shallow baking pan and spread to quickly cool, uncovered, to room temperature, about 20 minutes.

To make dressing, whisk together lemon juice, garlic, sugar, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 3 tablespoons oil in a large bowl. To assemble salad add barley, roasted vegetables, and remaining ingredients to bowl with dressing and toss until combined well.

Soup Du Semaine.

Soup of the week! I love making soup from scratch, it’s such an easy process that leaves room for improvisation and cuts out a lot of the salt that comes with most store bought soups. Not to mention soup is freezable, allowing for longer lasting, inexpensive meals for months.

This week’s soup is a recipe that I’ve wanted to try for a long time and since I’m in full-on soup making mode its the perfect time!

Also, I wanted to try making my own pesto so I’ve also included a really straight-forward recipe for that as well.

Minestrone with Pesto

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 6 1/4 cups hot vegetable stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 spring of fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3/4 cup peas, fresh or frozen
  • 2-3 zucchini, finely chopped
  • 3 medium tomatoes peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 cups cooked or canned beans, such as cannellini
  • 3 tablespoons pesto sauce
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese to serve

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan. Stir in the onion, leek, and cook 5-6 minutes. Add carrots, celery and garlic and cook over moderate heat for 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes more.
  2. Pour in the hot stock and stir well. Add the herbs and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook for 10-12 minutes.
  3. Stir in the peas if fresh and the zucchini, simmer for 5 minutes. Add the frozen peas, if using, and the tomatoes. Cover the pan and simmer for 5-8 minutes.
  4. About 10 minutes before serving, uncover the pan and stir in the beans. Simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the pesto sauce, simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for a few minutes. Serve with grated parmesan cheese.

Pesto Sauce

from Allrecipes.com

Ingredients

  • 3 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 4 gloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in bowl of a food process and blend until it becomes a smooth paste.

Enjoy!

Baked Sweet Potato-Chips

 

This is a super simple recipe that could stand as a thanksgiving appetizer with some homemade aoli. I don’t have a vegetable mandolin so my chips had varying thickness and cooked slightly unevenly. Because of this they didn’t crisp up as much as I would have liked, but overall I’m pretty impressed with the flavour of the chips especially with the lime drizzle.

Baked Sweet Potato-Chips 

from Martha Stewart

Ingredients

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed and sliced 1/8 inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, preferably sea salt
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges, for serving

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with racks in center and lower positions. Divide sweet potatoes between 2 rimmed baking sheets. Drizzle with oil, toss, and spread them in a single layer on sheets. Bake, flipping once, until centers are soft and edges are crisp, 22 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle with salt, and serve with lime wedges.