Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Toasting Hazelnuts 101

Here's me walking around aimlessly at our bulk food store in search of chopped hazelnuts

Photo courtesy of
They don't have any.

Guess I'll have to figure out how to get the skins off and chop em myself.
I'll tell you too.

Toss your nuts on a baking sheet in a single layer. 
Resist the temptation to add oil or grease the sheet - its not needed.

Place in your oven at 275F for about 20-25 minutes.
You are going to want to toss them around every 5-7 minutes so they don't burn.
Remove and let cool slightly.
Place them into a tea towel and rub back and forth - this will help to remove the skins.

To chop them, place into a large Ziploc bag and pound with the side of a meat tenderizer.
Easy peasy and super tasty!
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Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse Cake

Hey guess what?!
I made a cake and actually got paid for it!!!
That usually doesn't happen, no congrats needed.
If anything I simply request the cost of extra special ingredients that I may otherwise not have on hand.

I'm not going to take email requests so don't bother.
I suck really, there are WAY better cakesters out there and I just like to make them for myself,  family and the occasional friend (and only special ones at that, like Fred, who turned 65.  He's the father of  one of my peeps!). 

Pretty sure I have a case of the OCD's when it comes to caking decorating.  I get really frustrated when my piped stars are different sizes, when fondant cracks or when my cake breaks a little.  I could NEVER decorate cakes for a living, either that or there would be a lot of waste in my belly!
I give decorators mad props for their creativity and understand why they are so expensive.

So when I tell you this took a mere 4 hours it should amaze you!  Actually, it only takes that long because you need to cool your cake and chill your mousse completely and then assemble.  Stages people, stages.
3 layers of cake, 2 layers of hazelnut mousse topped with a ganache then surrounded by chocolate and hazelnut rolled wafers!  (thanks Jo for the inspiration)

I wish I could tell you how wonderful it was, I didn't eat it (although I tasted the mousse and the cake and the ganache separately and they were all wonderful!) but I did hear that there was NOTHING left over, not even crumbs - that's gotta tell ya something.
And if that doesn't maybe this will

How bout this one?

De Licious!

I'm Listening to: Paper Planes - M.I.A

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Banana Boston Cream Pie? No, Cake

Ever grab a cookbook you got as a present years before and realize you've never actually made ANYTHING from it?
Actually, I am pretty sure I only thumbed through this particular one a handful of times and then set it back on my rack. (I have A LOT of cookbooks)

I swear those books chirp at each other behind my back, hoping, wishing and praying for me to pick one of them up, use and abuse them.
"today's gonna be the day, she just HAS to pick me"
"not a chance, she's craving pasta, its for sure me"

Well, today  From Emeril's Kitchen, its your time to shine!
Your Banana Boston Cream Pie peaked my interest, I will dust your pages with flour and leave thumbprints of batter so you know I was there :)

Alright, back to seriousness.
I really thought this would be a great dessert.
It was, although the title lies, its a cake and even the description suggests it is more of a banana sponge - more lies, its a cakier version of a banana bread - not that I am complaining! 

If you like bananas, chocolate and pastry cream you will enjoy this - trust me.
I however screwed up my pastry cream, I didnt let it thicken to the optimum viscosity before cooling so it was a bit runny, still tasty, but not what it should have been  *note for next time, let thicken a little longer on the stove*

I'm Listening To: Friends - Whodini Thanks Tobias!!

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Squash - The Veggie I Love to Hate

I confess, I have never eaten pattypans before.
Confession numero deux, I am not a fan of the squash family.
One more - I'm still not hooked.

Last year we were on a mission at the weekly farmers market to pick out veggies or fruits that we have never had before (or haven't had in a long time).  We are still on that kick, although now we are getting into things that I likely would NEVER pick out.
But in order to maintain our introduction of new foods to our "healthy" lifestyle mantra I have to bite the bullet, grind my teeth and find ways of making these items as appealing as possible

They were ok, the flavors added I think made me enjoy it more than I would if it were just roasted with salt and pep.  Please don't turn your nose up because I do, I bet if you like them you'd like this recipe (I don't even like sweet potatoes).  Maybe I need more one on one time with the pattypan to become a lover?
If you're a fan you should try this method, you might enjoy it more than I.  The boys ate them all up.

Side note, I think they are really pretty looking fruits.  Wait, it does have seeds so its a fruit right?

I'm Listening to: Party in the USA - Miley Cyrus (does that make me lame?)

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Award Winning Blueberry Muffins

Its Sunday.
Its lazy.
Its raining.

What goes better with rainy Sundays than some freshly baked muffins? 
I suppose a piping hot cup of tea would work too, or your bed where you lie watching movies all day, only moving to relieve yourself.  (did I just say that?  Man, I wish I could be THAT lazy)

Sadly, if its not raining too hard we're playing baseball this afternoon.  Since its likely that this Sunday isn't about to take to shape as I hoped, maybe a special treat to get me into the mood of motivation might do the trick.
It worked. 

You cant bake in a dirty kitchen so the first chore was to tidy up (not that it was messy).  I did the few dishes in the sink which then turned to windexing the fridge which then moved me into the bathroom to do the mirror and vanity.  Why stop there?  Clean the toilet, oh, maybe I should sweep and mop?
Told you the thought of making muffins would get ya motivated :)

This recipe I've adapted from Canadian Living Magazine many years ago.  It was a simple batter that I always add other ingredients to make them different.

I used 2 leftover really ripe peaches and some frozen (fresh) blueberries I had from the market.
I love peaches and blueberry combo - bursts of flavor all over the place!

(Heather from the Cupcake Girls did - she even said, in front of an audience, it was outstanding - best she'd ever had!)
I'm Listening To: Sunday Morning - Maroon 5

This recipe has been selected as a finalist and won first place in the Canada's Baking and Sweets Show Home Baking Recipe Competition
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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Corn on the Cob - BBQ Style

You know what I don't like about corn?
The dental floss look once you're done eating it.

It never fails - I could husk and pull those tricky buggers till my hair turns grey and there will always be those stringy little leftovers in my teeth.
Great look.  Really.

I have to tell you though, when bbqing them I didn't have that problem.  They just seemed to pull away like a kid breaking away from his mothers grip to run to the candy aisle at the grocery store.

This is a great way to stay out of the kitchen on hot summer days, and even easier clean up.

All you need to do is to place your ears of corn (unhusked, unshucked un anything) in your sink, completely submerge them in cold water for at least 30 minutes.
Heat your BBQ to a medium high heat and place them on the grill.
That's it.
Oh, wait, you need to turn them every few minutes.
Grill for about 20 minutes.

Once you take them off, let stand about 2 or 3 minutes to let the steam inside subside or else you are going to burn your fingers!

Peel back and enjoy with some homemade herb butter MMMMMM - those pesky strings won't even be a problem!

I'm Listening To: Here for a Good Time (Not a Long Time) - Trooper
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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Mom, This Post's For You!

Remembering what desserts your mother made as a child can bring back wonderful memories.
I recall my mom making a dessert only a handful of times.
She called it the "1000 layer cake".  Better known as a napoleon or mille feuille.

I know I asked her to make it more times than she actually did.
Being told "it takes a long time to prepare" didn't seem fair as a child.  Who cares?  That's what weekends are for right?
As an adult who now bakes, hearing my mom tell me she used to make the pastry herself makes all the difference in the world.
You don't need to make the puffy layers yourself.  There are many grocery stores that carry frozen puff pastry which taste just as wonderful.
I usually have a box in the freezer myself.

So when I brought a bunch of peaches home from the market on Friday I knew I wanted to create something fancy shmancy, somewhat adult, and I remembered my moms 1000 layer cake.

Mission: find a suitable jam type filling that uses the peaches in a manor I am not accustomed to.

Mission accomplished!
I made a compote of sorts with brown sugar, a touch of honey and balsamic vinegar.
This paired with the pastry cream that had a hint of Grand Marnier worked in between the layers of flaky pastry.

Thanks mom for introducing me to this dessert many many years ago.
I only hope this will make you proud!

I'm listening to: Peaches - The Presidents of the United States of America
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Friday, August 12, 2011

Central Pizzeria - A Worthy Review

When walking up to Central Pizzeria in Ft. Erie it reminded me of my semi-rural hometown. 
Small brick building that screams dive.
A scant amount of tables scattered around, a cooler with a selection of your standard sodas and minimal decor. 
A minimalistic menu of pastas, pizzas and sub sandwiches.
Friendly banter between the cook and the police officer who pops in for a meal to go.
Homey.  Comfortable. 

But don't judge a book by its cover!
If you look even further into the location you will notice a steady stream of clientele, phones ringing off the hook, take out orders flying out the doors, not to mention the awards for Best Pizza in 2010, multiple "Reader Selection" winner plaques as well as framed "thank yous" for sponsoring local sports leagues hanging off the walls.

What can you determine from a neighbourhood joint that's been open since 1983?
The food must be decent right?  To say the least!

Antonitta (Ma as the boys call her) and her husband Carmine started the business after immigrating to Canada from Potenza, Italy and gave up their Italian bakery years prior. 
Their two grown sons, Mike and Vito also share in the daily life at the restaurant and have since '83 or so.
A true family business!

I sat around and joked after my meal with Mike who said any questions I had should be directed to the matriarch of the family - Ma.

I didn't want to have an "interview" with Antonitta, I just wanted to pick her brain, find out what keeps her going and maybe sneak a peak into their family recipes!

"I love to cook, that's why I do it" she says. "I'm here from about 1pm to about 11pm every day"
One of the sweetest, hard working woman I have encountered.
A doll really! 
We chatted for nearly half an hour, talking about Italy, cooking, cannolis  - while the boys did the rest of the work ;)

There are many homemades here which will bring me back my next visit but the reason for our stop - the Wednesday night special!
A whoppin bowl of spaghetti, homemade sauce and 3 giant meatballs along with a side salad and garlic bread for a mere $6.50!!?!!
A true Italian red gravy and juicy tender meatballs.
I was in heaven.

When I asked Mike for some chili flakes he proceeded to give me a warning about the contents of the shaker.
"They're homemade, they aren't like what you're likely used to so go easy"

He was right, I was wrong - please pass the water.

I desperately and forcefully finished every last bite - I had wanted to bring home a doggie bag but it was there, staring at me, my taste buds urging me to just keep going....I went home bloated, satisfied, happy.

 If you are ever in the area I have to urge you to stop in for a quick bite.  Say hi to the fam for me too!
And try the homemade manicotti for me - let me know how it is.

Central Pizzeria & Restaurant is located at 161 Central Ave. Fort Erie, ON, Canada.

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Red Curry Mango Chicken

Its been about a week since my last post. 
Have to say it was really odd being away from my kitchen for so long, without the interweb and all you crazy readers out there. 
But I'm back baby!

My boys went on their yearly "boys only" trip to Atlanta and me, well, I went to Ft. Erie, Ontario to visit a dear friend.
Jane has known me since I was 18.  She knows a lot of things about my life but most of all she knows that I love food.  Good food.

I had been promised a red curry mango chicken dinner for the past few years.  I was beginning to think I was never going to have it since we don't see each other all that often.
Obviously the week was not going to be complete without this meal.

It didn't disappoint.  Not. At. All.
Firm but ripe mangoes.  Spicy (but not burn your tastebuds) red curry.  Chicken. Veggies.
I adored this dinner.
Thinking it over, I adored having the time to eat this dinner with her.

Thank you my friend for nearly a weeks worth of companionship, fun, and food!

I'm listening to: Sittin on the Dock of the Bay - Otis Redding

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sweet n Sour Meatballs

I could make this in my sleep!
This is Little Ugh's FAVORITE meal.

Sometimes the type of ground meat changes.
I make it with chicken or turkey a lot.
Obviously pork or beef are acceptable as well but we don't eat red meat often.
On occasion I will ramp it up with a combo of pork and beef.

The meats do change the flavoring of the whole meal, even if slightly.

The sauce changes from time to time too but I will give you my "traditional" ingredients and then let your imaginations run from there!

Sweet n Sour Sauce
(makes enough sauce for approx. 1 lb of meat turned balls)

1 c. ketchup (Heinz - because there's no other kindz)
4 tbsp. white vinegar
4 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp. brown sugar
and I always always top the meatballs with chopped onion before I pour the sauce over top!

In a pot throw all of the ingredients (not onions) and bring to a bowl. 
Top meatballs with sauce, bake for 30 minutes at 350F
Sometimes I throw in some pineapple juice, I've used a combo of bbq sauce and ketchup, different vinegars, honey - you name it I've probably played with it but the above recipe is great, simple and delicious :)

1 lb ground meat
1 egg
bread crumbs
Caesar rim spice
Worcestershire sauce

I eyeball these, and depending on the meat I may change up the spices used but the Caesar rim spice works great.
Pan fry to brown and then toss in an oven proof dish, cover with diced onions and sauce and bake for about 30 minutes at 350F

I'm Listening To: Great Balls of Fire - Jerry Lee Lewis
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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Not Pretty Yet Pretty Tasty

Fresh peas and pasta?
I used to hate peas.
Still not a huge fan but when you throw in some bacon, chicken, pasta and pesto = PRESTO!

I doubt I would enjoy this if the peas weren't from the market.
Canned veggies sorta make me gag. (childhood memories)
So I recommend the fresher the better.

And don't go by the photo.
Go with the ingredients and just imagine a fancy dancy white odd shaped bowl, perfect silver cutlery and a man in a black suit and white gloves plating this for you ;)

I'm Listening To: I Don't Know - Sheepdogs  new band I just discovered from my Aunt!

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Mash Up Monday - Banana Split Ice Cream

I'm so excited.
And I just cant hide it.
I'm about to lose control and I think I like it!

Not lying.

Who doesn't love a banana split?
Most of the food groups are involved so its good for you right?
This is a mash up if I do say so myself - its all rolled into one bowl!  You can even make the bowl as big or as small as you'd like.

One of my favorite Blizzards from Dairy Queen (which is not publicly announced on their menu board) is the banana split blizzard.
Why not recreate it at home?

Enjoy drooling!

I'm Seriously Listening to - I'm So Excited - The Pointer Sisters
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Monday, August 1, 2011

Let's Get that Chicken Drunk!

I've cooked with wine.
I've beer canned  a chicken.
I make a mean Kahlua cake, yet I have never cooked with vodka.
Until tonight.

When I think of cooking with it, I think penne with a vodka cream sauce (although I can honestly say I have never had it)

Recently I was given a cookbook simply called "The Vodka Cookbook" and a bottle to boot.
I thumbed through the pages but what I was having tonight didn't make it into those chapters.
I guess you could say it was a creative decision to not use the book.
Actually it was lack of ingredients and it being a holiday (so the stores weren't even available to dash out to).

So I improvised.

Good mix actually.
Sweet with a kick.

My only regret was not marinating in the mixture first and having more to brush onto later.
We BBQ'd it and glazed it in the last few minutes of cooking.
Next time for sure!

I'm Listening to: Karma Police - Radiohead

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