March 10, 2014
This is my 52nd Over a cup of tea! Thanks for reading a long for a whole year!
If we were chatting over a cup of tea this morning, I would seriously be hating on the time change. I was so excited all week for it, mostly because I will get an extra hour of food photography time each night (natural light is the only way to go!), but now that it’s Monday, I’m cranky. Getting up an hour earlier is not fun. But I am thankful I can now shoot (a bit) at night. It’s hard squeezing all my cooking in on the weekends!
If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d talk about our 6th anniversary dinner this weekend! Every year, instead of gifts or cards, we treat ourselves to dinner somewhere neither of us have ever been before. Our first date was at Kinki, and then in the years following we tried Beckta, Domus, Verona (in Toronto), Atelier and Union Local 613. This year we decided to try Juniper (thanks to a thoughtful engagement gift!) and I was really excited because I’d heard so much about it. We were not disappointed. First of all, I thought the restaurant itself and the décor was very nice – much more formal than most new restaurants these days. All night, we were served by a team of staff – cocktail server, sommelier (wine pairings were excellent), a few regular servers, and the manager. The food was outstanding. I had the fish & chips (not your average fish & chips, I might add) and My Other Half had the duck. The appetizers and amuse-bouches were equally impressive. My only complaint would be that the servers didn’t explain what was on our plates, so we were left wondering what we were eating in some cases. Regardless, it was delicious and we’ll definitely be back.
If we were chatting over a cup of tea this morning, I’d be rambling on about my half-marathon training. Last week was my first week, and I ran over 23 km, plus a soccer game. That is the most physical activity I’ve done in a very very long time. To think… in just under 90 days I will be running almost that much in one race! Well, on-wards and upwards. I have to run almost 26 km this week, and it only gets harder from here!
If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d apologize for neglecting to blog about our trip to San Francisco and all the amazing restaurants we tried! I was puttering around on Urbanspoon recently and just realized. Let me break it down chronologically:
Our first day was spent doing touristy things, and we spent a lot of time on Fishermans Warf and tried the famous chain Joe’s Crabshack. It was fun! Our seats were overlooking the boat dock and the server was awesome. We had a few margaritas, lots of fried things and some shrimp. That evening we had a really hard time getting dinner reservations anywhere, so we decided to walk around and see what we could find. We stumbled upon a great little French restaurant, Bouche. Although they were full, they went out of their way to accommodate us. They told us they’d have a nice table ready in an hour, and told us to go next door to a bar called Tunnel Top for a drink and that they’d come get us when our table was ready. Isn’t that great service? The food was fantastic – really good beef tartare and I consider myself a beef tartare expert. All the staff were actually from France! Tunnel Top was also really cool. It had a second floor loft area with tiny tables to have a cocktail at, and a big DJ booth. After dinner, we waited in line to get into this totally awesome speakeasy called Bourbon & Branch. It was basically an undercover, prohibition-era library (it has no signage or anything) that serves the best cocktails I’ve ever had in my life. The BOURBON! It was in abundance and I was in heaven.
The next morning we had brunch at Sutter Pub (excellent eggs benny) and then rented a car and went to Los Altos Hills to visit my aunt and uncle. We had a fabulous timing touring California with them, and we got takeout from their favourite Chinese spot, Chef Chu. It was way better quality Chinese food than we were used to! And I think those are all the restaurants we tried… I’m sure My Other Half will let me know if I missed anything!
March 7, 2014
Good luck getting me to make and eat a salad at home.
I need one of three things to do it:
- Wicked awesome dressing. Some of my favourites include this Greek one, this amazing Japanese one from Costco, or the dressing in this recipe.
- Cheese, period. Goat cheese is my favourite on salads, but feta turns my crank too.
- Crunch. Like nuts or seeds – pine, pumpkin or crispy onions or something. Love them all.
Now let’s talk about this recipe – Spinach Salad with Strawberries, Feta and Candied Almonds.
- Wicked dressing? Check.
- Cheese? Check.
- Crunch? Check.
It had me at hello.
Seriously though, you will L-O-V-E this salad. Everything works in perfect balance. It’s one of the only salads in recent memory that My Other Half and I were binge-eating. If only strawberries were in season.
Try it – you’ll thank me!
Spinach Salad with Strawberries, Feta and Candied Almonds
10 cups spinach
5 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds
¼ cup sugar
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup sugar
Heat a small frying pan and add sugar and almonds. Stirring constantly, watch the almonds closely until the sugar has started to melt and turn golden. When all sugar has melted and coated the almonds, remove them from the frying pan and let cool. If they stick together, break them up into pieces appropriate for a salad topping. Mix the dressing ingredients until the sugar as dissolved. Toss the spinach with the strawberries and feta. Drizzle dressing over top and sprinkle with almonds and serve.
March 5, 2014
I am never buying applesauce again.
That might sound like a big, bold statement, but after you try this recipe, you won’t either.
Wanna know something strange? I don’t really like cooked apples. I will never order an apple dessert like apple crisp or apple pie. I don’t like the texture. Apple desserts are my Daddy’s all-time favourite. He asks for apple pie after almost every meal, knowing full well my mother hasn’t made any.
But I love uncooked apples, and I’ve always loved apple sauce. Sweetened, of course. I could eat a whole jar of it.
I’ve never considered making my own applesauce, but I bought a huge bag of apples and had to do something with them. I almost made my favourite carrot apple ginger soup, but then I had a better idea – try my hand at homemade applesauce!
I am so incredibly glad I did. This was, hands down, the best applesauce I’ve ever tasted in my LIFE. I want to take it for lunch every single day. It was smooth and velvety with the perfect level of sweetness. Amazing!
Use whatever apples you want and feel free to halve, double or quadruple this recipe!
Perfect, Easy Homemade Applesauce
Adapted from many sources, including The Pioneer Woman
6 lbs apples, peeled, cored & sliced
1 cup water
4 tbsps lemon juice
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
Put all ingredients in a big pot and cook for 25 minutes. Blend or process until smooth. Refrigerate unless you eat it all right away!
March 3, 2014
If we were chatting over a cup of tea this morning, I’d tell you how happy I am to be back at work! You might think I’m insane, but after two weeks of upheaval, it’s so nice to get back to my regular routine. As I mentioned last week, my grandmother, Patricia Kent, took sick on February 15th unfortunately passed away on February 23rd. I was fortunate enough to fly home to Halifax to spend time with her before she passed, and then returned for the funeral. It was truly a celebration of life. You can read her obituary here, and check out this cool video from the funeral reception. Her husband and three of four sons were dancing dances she choreographed in her honour!
If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d tell you that yesterday was officially the first day of my half-marathon training. I have three months until race day and I am dreading every second of it. I HATE RUNNING. Please don’t ask me why I’m attempting a half-marathon. I’ve run out of intelligent answers. Anyway, I don’t want to injure myself so I actually need to train. The only problem is that I’m a chronic bandwagon-faller-offer. Oh and I hate running with a passion. There’s that. Wish me luck.
If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d tell you I finally (read: officially) have asked all my girls to be bridesmaids in my wedding! I took a while to narrow it down (I easily could have had 12) and then had a little something hand-made for each of them, so it’s taken me a while to ask everyone. I’ve also bought almost everything I need for my centerpieces, planned the rehearsal dinner and possibly found the perfect bridesmaid dresses, which is great. More things to cross off my wedding checklist! Two of my bridesmaids are getting married before me so it’s super fun to talk planning with them!
If we were chatting over a cup of tea this morning, I’d tell you how incredibly excited I am for SPRING! Why? Because I miss gardening so much!!! I can’t wait to plan my pots for the front yard and back yard! Be gone, snow!
And last but not least, if we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d say a big thank-you to everyone who supported my family over the last two weeks. You don’t know how much it means to us!
February 28, 2014
This is the kind of food I make when My Other Half is out of town.
I’m serious! I’ve already mentioned that he’s on a serious health kick. Pasta, unfortunately for this noodle-lover, is therefore out of the question. But when Roomie (yes, Roomie!) came for supper recently, I seized the opportunity and made something NOT healthy.
To be fair, our appetizer was super healthy. But I already mentioned that in an earlier post.
This recipe is another using roasted red peppers. I told you I was on a rampage! I’m using them at every opportunity. Mostly because they’re delicious, but also because the jar from Costco is so massive and it takes up way too much room in our fridge.
Anyway, this is freakin’ delicious and absolutely EASY. Like, boil the pasta and then throw everything for the sauce in a food processor. I love recipes like that.
And MAN I love pasta! And goat cheese.
Roasted Red Pepper & Goat Cheese Alfredo
Adapted from Damn Delicious
12 ounces pasta
2 tbsps olive oil
2 tsps minced garlic
1 onion, diced
1 cup milk
4 oz goat cheese
1 cup roasted red peppers from a jar, chopped
Salt & pepper, to taste
Parmesan, for garnish
Cook pasta and drain. Heat olive oil in a frying pan. Add garlic and onion, and cook about 2-3 minutes. Stir in milk and goat cheese. Add red peppers and stir. Puree in a food processor until smooth. Poor over pasta and gently toss to combine; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Garnish with parmesan.
February 26, 2014
Brace yourselves for the longest blog post of life.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve got a half dozen or so close friends who are pregnant – all due between the end of March and the beginning of June!
That means one thing – it’s baby shower season! My office closet has been jammed with pretty pink, blue and yellow gifts for the last few weeks and I’m loving it.
I had the pleasure of hosting two showers this month, one for Erin and the other for Kristy. For the latter, I decided to switch things up and create a totally version of my most popular recipe to late – lasagna!
This recipe reminds me of my White Pizza Dip, which I make ALL THE TIME, especially for Kristy because she loves it so much. The sauce is pretty similar.
I make this the same way as you would any other lasagna, but the sauce is white and the meat is substituted for spinach and chicken. You could absolutely leave the chicken out and make this vegetarian, though, and it would be just as good.
So let’s get down to it. First of all, you make the sauce. I wanted to drink it because it smelled AMAZING. And it didn’t even have any ricotta in it!
Then you spread a little in the bottom of your greased baking dish, and top it with noodles. I should mention that unlike my easy regular lasagna, you do need to cook the noodles first.
Now comes the delicious cheese.Dollop it around the noodles. Don’t worry about spreading it out – when everything gets packed down and cooked, it will melt.
On top of that, you’re going to layer the spinach, chicken and cheese. It might seem like an insane amount of spinach, but don’t worry – it all cooks down. Just press on it to make it fit. You’ll also add more sauce over every noodle layer. The order doesn’t matter too much.
Repeat this process until you have three layers of noodles, ending with them on top, as per the photo below. I used an extra noodle on top so there were four across, but you don’t have to.
Then you’ll smother the top with all remaining sauce and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Now she’s ready for the oven! Looks good, eh?
It was as all eaten at Kristy’s shower, and a few people have asked for the recipe since then, so I considered it a success! It’s not the healthiest thing in the world, but I’m hoping those who loved my easy lasagna will love this one just as much, if not more!
Adapted from Allrecipes.com and Mel’s Kitchen Cafe
9 lasagna noodles, cooked
2 cups ricotta
2 cups chopped cooked chicken breast
4 cups shredded cheese (I used cheddar and marble, but mozzarella would be good)
1 cup parmesan cheese (I used the shaky kind)
12 oz spinach, roughly chopped
1/4 cup margarine
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 tsp minced garlic
6 tbsps flour
1 cup chicken broth
2 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
Salt & pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9X13-inch baking dish. To make the sauce, in a large frying pan, melt butter and add onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until the onion is translucent. Stir in the flour and stir for 2 minutes.Whisk while adding the chicken broth and milk. Cook and stir until it thickens. Add basil, oregano, salt and pepper. To assemble the lasagna, spread a cup of sauce on the bottom of the prepared pan. Place 3 noodles on top and dollop with 1/2 the ricotta. Add half the spinach and half of the chicken, then sprinkle half of both cheeses on top. Place three noodles over the top and press down. Spread half of the remaining sauce over the top and repeat the layers again – ricotta, spinach, chicken, cheeses. Place the last three noodles and press down again. Finish with remaining sauce and cheese. Cover the dish aluminum foil sprayed with Pam and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 15 minutes until golden and bubbly. Let sit for 10 minutes before cutting or serving.
February 24, 2014
If we were chatting over a cup of tea this morning, I’d apologize for missing last Monday’s post. In 50 weeks (yup, this is my 50th Over a cup of tea post!) I’ve never missed a Monday, but unfortunately something happened that interrupted my schedule – my paternal grandmother, NanNan, passed away yesterday after being in hospital for a week. I flew to Halifax to be with her and support my Dad. The funeral is this Friday. She was a fiery, fun grandmother who had an amazing life, and she’ll be missed by many. Thank you everyone for your prayers!
If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d talk about how I’m finally reading again!!! I went through a really bad slump since we got engaged. I had absolutely no interest in reading, even though I still managed to read a handful of books. So far I’ve only read two books in 2014, which isn’t good considering my annual goal is 30. Anyway, our latest book club pick, Annabel, was good and has helped me get back into my reading groove – thank goodness! I’m not reading The Lovely Bones, which I hear is also awesome. It’s one of my 2014 reading challenge books.
If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d talking about what a great Valentine’s weekend we had. My Other Half’s dad was in town and we had a lovely meal. We also visited Winterlude, and I co-hosted Erin’s baby shower. We are still binge-watching Breaking Bad and just finished the third season. We love it! And for the fourth year in a row, My Other Half sent flowers to my office on Valentine’s Day. It’s becoming a tradition!
If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d have to talk about my meal in Halifax at the Agricola Street Brasserie with two of my best girlfriends. It’s the hottest new restaurant in Halifax and everyone has been telling me to go. I loved the decor and the menu was fresh, local and seasonal, but at the same time classic. I just can’t get over how Halifax has transformed into this hip foodie town! It’s fabulous and makes coming home even more fun.
February 21, 2014
I LOVE THIS SALAD.
I’m not kidding – it was incredible! And SUPER healthy, so it’s My Other Half-approved. Thank goodness.
Do you see what I’m trying to do here? I’ve giving you a healthy recipe and a not-so healthy recipe each week. Aren’t I thoughtful? I would say I’m trying to convert the blog to ALL healthy recipes, but that would be a lie. Healthy = boring. Sorry.
The best part about this recipe is that it’s brainless. I love brainless recipes (meaning you don’t need a brain to make it).
Cilantro haters, be gone. (Before somebody drops a house on you.)
Avocado, Chickpea & Feta Salad
Adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod
2 ripe avocados, chopped
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Sea salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
4 tbsps lime juice (or the juice of 1 lime)
1/2 cup chopped feta
2 green onions, sliced
Put everything in a bowl and mix! Serve cold. Lasts in the fridge for two days.
February 19, 2014
Sometimes I make Mexican snacks as supper.
Especially when My Other Half isn’t around, because, well… most Mexican food it’s up to his healthy standards.
But there are vegetables in this. So it’s okay.
Mexican is probably my second favourite type of food on the planet (after Thai, of course), and as I’ve said a thousand times, it’s probably because of my four years working at Feleena’s. We’re huge taco fans in this house and almost always have avocados around to make homemade guacamole.
For those of you who’ve never heard of them (they’re not the most common Mexican food here in Canada), taquitos are traditionally a rolled-up tortilla filled with either meat or cheese. Then they’re normally fried, but in an attempt to make them healthier, I baked these ones.
Actually, taquitos are normally made with corn tortillas… and flautas are made with flour tortillas. But let’s not get too technical here.
There’s no exact way to make taquitos or flautas, so feel free to use whatever vegetables you want. I would definitely throw in whatever I had on hand. As promised though, this is yet another recipe using roasted red peppers. I found they added a nice flavour and texture.
Baked Chicken Taquitos
Adapted from Savour The Senses
2 chicken breasts, cooked & shredded
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 small onion, diced
1 small zucchini, diced
1/2 bell pepper, diced (I used orange)
1 roasted red pepper from a jar, chopped
1 1/2 cups cheese, shredded (I used marble)
12 flour taco tortillas
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Heat a large frying pan and fry the onion until translucent. Add zucchini and bell peppers. Fry until soft. Add chicken, cumin, cayenne pepper, black pepper and salt. Add the chicken broth and cook until the chicken broth is fully cooked off, then mix in the roasted red peppers. Fill each tortilla with 2 tbsp cheese and about 1/4 cup of chicken mixture, roll up and place fold-side down on a greased baking sheet. Bake the taquitos until golden (about 15 minutes), flipping after 10 minutes. Serve with sour cream, salsa and guacamole or sliced avocado.
February 14, 2014
Happy Valentine’s Day lovers!!! <3
Remember way back when I started the Football Sunday Recipe Challenge?
I know, it was forever ago. And it’s obviously over now.
I don’t actually watch football. Well, sometimes I do, but most of the time I’m reading a book for my book club while My Other Half watches it. I don’t fully understand the game and don’t really care. I do, however, LOVE the delicious and unhealthy food that comes with it!
So really, my Football Sunday Recipe Challenge was just an excuse to cook all day every Sunday. And then serve it to My Other Half while he watched football. That’s another great thing about sports – they keep him out of the kitchen while I have at ‘er!
Anyway, this is actually a recipe HE made! It’s been a long time since I featured one of those (his cheesy fried potato balls and rack of lamb are the only two that come to mind, actually). Every year for the Super Bowl, he makes pulled pork. Last year he just cooked a tenderloin (yes, we use tenderloin – no fat! And I get it on major sale) in a can of root beer and then used this President’s Choice sauce.
But this year, he stepped it up a notch and made the entire thing from scratch. And it was the best damn pulled pork I’ve ever had. Fact.
Using BBQ sauce at the end is optional, but we opted to use it. We chose this awesome new stuff from Costco:
In case you’re wondering, we put our pulled pork on toasted slider buns with jalapeno rings and cheese. Nothing else required. YUM.
Killer Pulled Pork
Adapted from CHOW
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 tsps minced garlic
1 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp packed dark brown sugar
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 or 2 pork tenderloins (up to 5 lbs total – we used just 2 lbs)
Barbecue sauce, to taste (optional)
Place the onions and garlic in the slow cooker and pour in the broth. Combine the sugar, chili powder, salt, cumin, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Pat the pork dry and rub the spices all over the pork and place the meat on top of the onions and garlic. Cover and cook for 6 to 8 hours on high or 8 to 10 hours on low. Turn off the slow cooker and remove the pork to a cutting board. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a medium heatproof bowl. Pour the onion mixture from the slow cooker through the strainer and return the solids to the slow cooker. Set the strained liquid aside. Using 2 forks, shred the meat. Return the shredded meat to the slow cooker, add the barbecue sauce, if using, and mix. If you’re not using barbecue sauce, use a spoon to skim the fat from the surface of the strained cooking liquid, and then add 1/4 cup of the liquid at a time to the slow cooker until the pork is moistened.