Over a cup of tea…

June 30, 2014

If we were chatting over a cup of tea this morning, I would tell you I had such a lovely weekend! Despite it being insanely hot, I spent lots of time outside (in the shade). We finally tried Angelucci’s food and it was fantastic (we’d previously only been there for drinks and an app – it’s a short walk from our house). We loved their pizza and will definitely be back. They have a fantastic patio and wicked cocktails.

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If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d tell you how excited I am about my brand new iPhone 5S. It takes such amazing photos and is so fast! What a difference.

If we were chatting over a cup of tea this morning, I would say I’m pretty happy with my gardens this year, with the exception of the chipmunk family that seems to have taken over. I went outside earlier this week and every single one of my 40 tulips had been dug up and eaten. I was pretty angry, so My Other Half got a trap and has been catching them one by one and releasing them a few miles away. So far he’s caught seven in just two days! At the beginning of the summer I vowed not to stress out about my lawn being perfect this year, and so far so good. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough and I just don’t have time to make it any better!

If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d tell you I’m in the middle of reading Orange is the New Black and just kinda… underwhelmed. I hear the show is awesome, but so far the book is completely uneventful in my opinion. Maybe that’s because I have seen the entire Oz series, which is some SERIOUS jail action. If you haven’t seen it, watch it… it’s amazing. Anyway, I am hoping the novel improves… or at least something crazy happens.

If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d tell you I am sadly still injured. I messed up my big toe really badly in a soccer game 2.5 weeks go and it is not improving very quickly. I can walk, but only in flip-flops. I got x-rays today and hoping it’s not fractured. I’m in for a long road to recovery! It sucks because I am on two soccer teams this summer and will have missed eight games by the time I’m hoping to try to be back. Bummer!

Angelucci's on Urbanspoon

This would have been the perfect Cinqo de Mayo recipe!Margarita Mousse

Alas, I am the LEAST timely food blogger and totally dropped the ball. Whoops.

We’re not dessert people (we normally skip it), but when we have a dinner party, odds are one of our guests lives for dessert. I normally do something simple, focusing on the main dishes and apps. My favourite dessert to make – until now, that is – is Bananas Foster or Strawberry Shortcake (the former in the winter and the latter in the summer).

But there’s a new kid in town – mousse!

This is the first time I’ve successfully made mousse. That sounds nuts, right? The food blogger can’t make one of the easiest desserts in the history of sweet things. Why? Because I never whip the cream just right. Recipes always call for “peaks”… and for whatever reason, when I whip cream, it never actually looks like “peaks” (which I assume means mountain peaks) so I just keep whipping until it’s totally over-whipped and generally just a disaster.

This time, I got it right. Mostly because I made My Other Half look over my shoulder and tell me when to stop.

It’s odd, but you can’t taste the white chocolate in this recipe. Not sure why it’s in there, except it makes the title sound more delicious. Must be for texture or something.

Anyway, you gotta make this. Creamy and citrusy and generally just indulgent.

Margarita Mousse with White Chocolate
Adapted from Canadian Living
Serves 4-6

2 eggs
2 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp lime zest
1/2 cup lime juice
2 tbsp tequila
3 oz white chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup whipping cream

Stir together eggs, egg yolks, sugar, lime rind and juice, and tequila in a bowl over a hot pot of water. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat. Add white chocolate and stir until melted. Pour into clean bowl and place plastic wrap directly on the mixture. Refrigerate for an hour. In another bowl, whip the cream. When ready, fold half of the whipped cream into lime/chocolate mixture. Fold in remaining whipped cream just until combined. Spoon into glasses or dessert dishes and refrigerate or serve immediately.

Margarita Mousse

Over a cup of tea…

May 20, 2014

If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d tell you I had such a great week! The sun was shining, our gardens are looking gorgeous and I can finally feel summer creeping in. We had an awesome long weekend, jam-packed with outdoor activities and fun things. It’s definitely a wake-up call to be going to work today!

If we were chatting over a cup of tea this morning, I’d tell you my new shirt (below) gave me the power to run 18km this weekend! It almost killed me, but I did it, and way faster than I expected too. I did 18km in 1:53, which is a significantly faster pace that my 16km run which I did in 1:47 or something like that. Anyway, I now have the courage to take on the half-marathon on the 25th, which is great news as I was very nervous until recently. I’m just praying I feel good that day (and that the weather cooperates).

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If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d tell you My Other Half and I finally tried out our new neighbourhood restaurant! Angelucci’s is a short walk from our house and has a huge outdoor patio. We went for drinks and apps and were really impressed.  It has the same owners as Empire Grill, Metropolitain, The Grand etc. I found it comparable to Piatto Pizzeria in Halifax. We will definitely be back to try out their wood-burning pizza oven!

If we were chatting over a cup of tea this morning, I’d tell you I have read TWO books this month so far! I finished our book club book, Attachments, which was so cute, and yesterday finished The Fault in Our Stars, which was beautiful but very sad. I can’t wait to see the movie which comes out this year! Next I am reading Orange is the New Black, which I am very excited about.

Angelucci's on Urbanspoon

Over a cup of tea…

July 2, 2013

If we were chatting over a cup of tea this morning, I’d tell you how amazing my Canada Day was. My friend has an apartment on Clarence Street in the Byward Market and through an awesome party complete with Canada trivia, sangria and delicious snacks. It was definitely one for the books. Canada Day is one of my favourite holidays (although I am not impressed to have had to go to work this morning).

Canada Day in Ottawa

If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d announce that summer has officially begun only because Big Brother is on! Honestly, it doesn’t feel like summer until it starts. It’s one of my favourite shows ever and I just love how it’s on three times a week. My Other Half and I watch it together and normally cheer for different sides of the house. I can’t believe it’s season 15! Right now, I obviously like Elissa (Rachel’s sister).

If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d tell you my intake of Thai food has sky rocketed lately. It might be because I love this little place close to my work (Baan Thai) so much. I also went to Khao Thai (our favourite Thai spot in Ottawa) for girls’ night last week and made yellow curry as my Canada Day potluck item (multicultural, right?). I’m probably going to order Thai takeout for lunch today too. Yum.

Thai food

If we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d tell you how freakin’ busy I was last week. I ran around the city doing a billion things – renewing my passport, fixing watches and iPads, getting a new health card, going to the doctor and optometrist, and buying new batteries for our alarm system. I barely had a free moment! Thankfully I squeezed in a couple relaxing baths and a good book.

Now that I mention it, if we were chatting over a cup of tea, I’d tell you how I finally finished To Kill a Mockingbird and I loved it! It was slow in the beginning but it got really good around the middle. What a sweet story. Now I’m reading Fall On Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald. It’s my friend Laura’s favourite book and it’s set in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. So far, so good!

Baan Thai on Urbanspoon

Khao Thai on Urbanspoon

I hate the nights when I get home from work haven’t been organized enough to plan anything for supper. I open the fridge and freezer 50 times, look in the pantry 50 times and then pace around the kitchen frustrated that I have no idea what to make.

Most of the time I have all the ingredients on hand to make a fabulous meal, but my creative juices just aren’t flowing. Luckily, this exact situation happened a couple weeks ago and I did have my creative hat on. I think I even impressed My Other Half with my resourcefulness!

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The inspirational ingredients? Well, the goat cheese, mixed greens and cranberries should have been a dead giveaway. But I had to tie in a couple chicken thighs leftover from another meal. The result? Chicken, Candied Pecans, Goat Cheese & Cranberry Salad with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette. It was delicious and nutritious.

Julia’s Chicken, Candied Pecans, Goat Cheese & Cranberry Salad
2 chicken thighs or 1 breast
1/2 Italian salad dressing
1/3 cup Pecan pieces
1 tbsp melted margarine
1 tbsp sugar
1 package mixed greens
1/4 cup goat cheese
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 sliced bell pepper (your choice of colour)

Honey Mustard Vinaigrette
Adapted from SimpleRecipes.com
2 tbsp honey mustard
1 tsp minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper as needed

Marinate the chicken with the Italian dressing in a zip lock bag for as long as you can (overnight is best, but 20 minutes is fine too). Bake in the oven at 375 degrees for 15 minutes per side. Let cool and thinly slice. In a small baking dish, add pecans, margarine and sugar. Toss to coat the pecans and bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes. Set aside. Make the dressing by adding all ingredients to a mason jar and then shake like crazy, until combined. Portion the mixed greens and top with goat cheese, dried cranberries, bell pepper, chicken and cooled pecans. Serve the dressing on the side (you don’t need very much).

Alternatively, I’m sure this salad would be great with plain chicken (not marinated) or without chicken at all. What’s your favourite salad recipe?

Hors d’oeuvres are difficult in the summer. I typically think of them as being hot finger foods served by waiters dressed as penguins. But when you’re hosting a dinner party in 40 degree heat, that’s not really going to fly, is it?

Let’s be honest – there will never be waiters dressed as penguins serving anything at my house. Not unless My Other Half owns a tuxedo I am unaware of.

But hors d’oeuvres, yes – I like to serve a pre-meal appetizer for when our guests arrive. More often than not this is a cheese platter, but recently I decided to try something new.

I am instantly drawn to anything containing avocado, so when I found these Shrimp, Avocado & Cucumber Bites, it was love at first sight. Refreshing and simple, I have yet to find better appetizer for a hot summer day.

Shrimp, Avocado & Cucumber Bites
Adapted from Canadian Living

170g cooked cold-water salad shrimp, chopped
1 ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and diced
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp light mayonnaise
1 tbsp lemon juice
Pinch of salt & pepper
1 English cucumber, cut diagonally in 24 slices

Places cucumber slices on a platter. Mix remaining ingredients and serve 1 tbsp of the mixture on each cucumber slice. That’s it!

Strawberry Shortcake

October 2, 2012

At the Rose & Kettle Tearoom, I made scones at least twice a week. They were the best – the kind you could eat without any butter or jam. I ate way too many of those things while I worked there!

Unfortunately I never wrote down the recipe for those scones. I had made them so many times, the process was committed to memory. Ten years later, however, it’s slipped my mind all together. Now I really wish I’d written it down!

I am sure a quick call to the tearoom would solve my problem, but in the meantime, I went on a hunt for the next best recipe. This one is pretty good – not the mouth-watering goodness I am accustomed to, but they were perfect for Strawberry Shortcake, one of my favourite summer desserts.

Strawberry Shortcake
Adapted from Joy of Baking

2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup milk

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut the butter into small pieces and blend into the flour mixture until it resembles crumbs. Mix together the egg, cream and vanilla extract and add to flour mixture, just until the dough comes together. Do not over mix! Move to a floured surface and knead dough four or five times and then roll the dough into an 8-inch circle With a round cookie cutter, cut out smaller circles and place on the baking sheet. Brush the tops of the scones with egg or cream and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake at 375 degrees on the middle rack for about 20 minutes, or until scones are golden and a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool on a rack.

It’s now the totally wrong time of year to make this, since strawberries aren’t in season, but if you can get your hands on some (even the frozen kind), this dessert is sure to put a smile on your face. Why can’t we enjoy comfort foods like this all year round?!

Chipotle Steak Salad

September 18, 2012

If you haven’t already noticed… I love chipotle.

One of my very favourite things are chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. I encountered them when I first made my Mexican Meatloaf. Since then, I’ve been hooked. I stock up on them regularly.

I love the flavour – spicy and smokey, and deliciously Mexican.

I also love steak. So this salad was a match made in heaven. And it really couldn’t be easier.

Chipotle Steak Salad
Adaptedfrom The Pioneer Woman

Lettuce of your choice (I used red leaf)
Steak (enough for the number of servings – we like top sirloin)
1 tomato, slivered
1/2 red onion, slivered
1/2 green pepper, cut into strips
1 cup light mayo
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce

Arrange your lettuce, tomatoes, onions and green peppers on plates. Grill your steak to your liking (we prefer our steak on the rare side) and slice as thinly as possible. You can add seasonings before grilling too (My Other Half and I typically just use salt and pepper, which creates a crispy texture). Lay the steak on the salad. As the steak is cooking, put 1 cup of light mayo in food processor and add the chipotle pepper in adobo sauce. Process until no chunks remain. Taste the dressing – if it’s not spicy enough, feel free to add more adobo sauce. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and serve.

Could that be any easier? And you should have some dressing leftovers for other salads, which is great too… maybe try is on a taco salad – yum!

I know, I know. Lots of people don’t like mushrooms.

That’s one of the reasons I still haven’t made these goat cheese-stuffed mushroom caps yet. I pinned them back in November but every time I go to make them, someone says “eww, mushrooms”. So I don’t.

Would someone who likes mushrooms PLEASE come to my house for dinner?

I grew up disliking mushrooms too, but my Mama loves them so eventually I gave them a try. I now love them cooked… but still can’t pick up a raw mushroom on a veggie tray like My Other Half does.

But I mean, really, what’s a steak without sauteed mushrooms and onions?

Anyway, obviously it’s been BBQ season for quite some time, so I decided to try my hand at portobello mushroom burgers. Costco sells perfect-looking, huge portobello mushroom caps (just in case you’re looking) in the produce section. I’ve talked about these delicious meat substitutes before when I wrote about my leek, bacon and mushrooms carbonara.

My Other Half actually whipped up the marinade for these bad boys, and I had to decide what to top our burgers with. And they were fantastic! Honestly, the perfect combination.

Julia’s Portobello Burgers
An original recipe!

Marinade
Two large portobello mushroom caps (or four small)
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Place all ingredients in ziplock bag with the mushrooms and coat. Seal and leave for 10 minutes to an 1 hour. To cook them, just grill for 5 minutes per side. Easy!

Toppings
My homemade guacamole
Goat cheese (crumbled)
Sliced tomato
Slivered red onion
Fresh whole basil leaves
Burger buns

Brie and Pear Pastries

August 12, 2011

Where has the summer gone? I feel like it just started and in fact, it’s almost over. It’s probably because we’ve been keeping so busy. There just aren’t enough hours in a day sometimes! This past week has been especially crazy. We were away for a beautiful wedding last weekend and this week My Other Half has been in extreme northern Ontario, leaving me to prepare for his dad’s first visit to our new house. This entailed literally scrubbing the house from top to bottom, stocking the fridge and of course, some yummy cooking!

Sunday night was my favourite day of the month – book club! My fellow blogger Kate Lalumiere hosted in her beautiful apartment. Her place is spacious, classy and full of character and we sampled some fantastic cheeses and I tried some wines I’d never heard of before. My contribution was an idea I stole from the wedding we attended the day before: Brie and Pear Pastries!

Brie and Pear Pastries

After the ceremony at the Nestleton Waters Inn, the guests had cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. One of the things the waiters were passing around were these tiny pastries with pear and brie in them. When I got home from the wedding on Sunday (panicking because I had to pull a potluck item together for book club), I realized I had all those things on hand – phyllo pastry, brie and pears. And an egg for brushing.

It was that easy – I cut the pastry into 2” squares and filled them with a little cheese and pear. I then pinched the corners together to create a little pocket. I brushed them with beaten egg and baked them at 350ºC for 15 minutes (until golden). They were so yummy and went perfectly with our accidental wine/cheese night! Easy peezy.

Now for an update on my most recent attempt – Strawberry Swirl Cheesecake! I have only ever made one cheesecake before, and as you may recall they were Peanut Butter Cheesecake Squares, so this was really my first real try. The recipe looked so summery and fresh and delicious I just had to try it – you may have seen it on the front of this month’s Canadian Living magazine. When I read the recipe, it didn’t sound very hard, but making it was a whole other thing.

You pretty much have to make two batters – the strawberry and the regular, and then swirl them. Also, there’s a lot of waiting in this recipe. You have to cook the crust, the ingredients must be at room temperature, you must let it cool in the water for 15 minutes, then cool completely out of the water, and then chill for a minimum of four hours. Too much waiting for an impatient girl like me.

Ahh, yes… the water. So it says it bake the cheesecake in an inch of water. Problem is, most pans aren’t bigger than my 9” cheesecake pan. So halfway through the cake, I had to run to trusty ol’ Winners to pick up a big enough pan. Luckily they had a 12” cake pan for $6.99 – perfect!

What I don’t understand is how to tell when a cheesecake is cooked. The recipe said it was finished when the top wasn’t shiny, the sides were set and the inside still jiggled, which is exactly what I did, However, it didn’t crack like most homemade cheesecakes do and after 10 hours of refrigeration, when I poked at the centre, it seemed still really soft and jiggly… like it hadn’t set. I guess we’ll find our when our guests try it this weekend!

We’re also planning an hors d’oeuvres dinner of Chicken and Avocado Eggrolls, Ginger Pork Wontons and Bacon Jalapeno Duck Skewers… should be a lot of work, but totally delicious! More to come on that cooking adventure soon!

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