Sun baked and macaroni salad

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Do you find that there are certain foods that will forever be linked to a childhood memory.   I find myself taken back to the past sometimes simply by the way something smells or looks.  I find this utterly interesting…  I have also recently learnt to tap into these childhood memories it is helpful to use whatever sense best suits your purpose to bring you back to those happy days – for me that’s an easy one and usually has some elements of food snuck in there.

This weekend – I had a need to reconnect with a favorite dish.  A dish I remember making with my step mom on scorching summer days.  At the time, we lived way up north in Québec.  We owned the village restaurant, which to my pleasure, gave me access to a filled pantry at any time of the day or night 🙂   I maybe didn’t know it yet at that age – but this would eventually become the background to many of my most memorable dreams – a filled pantry and more time on my hands than anyone could really wish for.   That’s my kind of lottery winnings.

So let me paint this picture for you – it amazes me how easily these details come back to life…

We’re stepping back to late 70’s, 1979 to be exact.    As I said, we’re in a small village in northern Québec which approximately 400 people call home.   We owned a restaurant which translated to the best amusement park for me 🙂    My step mom at the time was a true sun worshipper – we spent our entire summer in the sun, back in the day when I was still able to wear a tiny yellow dot bikini.    We set up our chairs in the backyard far away from any impeding shade…  Then, using a spray bottle filled with baby oil, she would spray me down from head to toe —-  ah motherly love LOL!!!

I don’t think I need to tell you that Swiss Chalet rotisserie had nothing on us – we were just like two little birds roasting until perfectly browned and crisp – what the heck were we thinking…    We spent hours and hours out there in the sun, reapplying the oil every few hours, as any good cook would to a savory bird in the oven.

Finally came lunch time.   We toweled ourselves dry, leaving a messy oily towel behind and into the restaurant we went.

My step mom, as much as I love her, was not a cook – not even close.    She did not enjoy cooking and did it only because she obviously had to feed us.

So, what does a person with no cooking skills do in a kitchen filled with fresh produce from many of our adjoining farms neighbors – well of course, she takes everything that she knows she likes and throws it all in a large bowl.   I am ready to share with you what we’ve concocted over the years and what has sustained years of memories for me.

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Macaroni Salad

4 cups of cooked pasta – which ever shape you fancy

5 green onions, cut into small pieces

1 bag of shaved carrots – or cut up carrots if you choose to work a little harder

1 complete celery, cut into small pieces

2 cups of cooked meat, I like to use ham, chicken or turkey

Enough dressing to make it moist… I like to use Heinz Salad Cream English Dressing – its taste is very different – yummy…  you can also use Mayonnaise.

Celery Salt to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:  Mix everything in one large bowl, get a fork and Voilà!!!

I tend to make enough of this salad to last a number of nights – that even includes lunches – obviously can’t get enough of it 🙂

This salad is even better the second and third day – enjoy and feel free to change it up to suit your family’s needs and likes!

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Sunday in my kitchen – last but not least ;)

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It smells wonderful in the kitchen – the chily is filling the house with great aromas.   Even the kids noticed 🙂  Bonus!

So, as I said – last but not least… something sweet to finish our meals.

I conveniently pulled these ingredients together as I had all of them at the house – you might as well.

Pumpkin cupcake

Pumpkin cupcake

Pumpkin cupcakes

White cake mix (you can make your own from scratch or use a box mix from the store)

1 – 8oz can of puree pumpkin

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 ground nutmeg

1/4 ground cloves

Whipped cream

Warm the oven to 350 degrees

Mix the cake together.

Add pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and continue mixing until all it is all blended.

Fill cupcake molds 3/4 of the way.

Cook as shown on cake recipe – typically 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cupcake comes out clean.

Let them cool completely.

Serve them by adding whipped cream and dusting cinnamon and nutmeg on the top.   I have included two different presentation ideas below – both of which were admired and enjoyed by my food testers today.

Enjoy!

April 14 2013 014

April 14 2013 015

Sunday in my kitchen.

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I love Sunday, I love the great feeling of still having a list of things to do but seemingly a long time to complete it before it’s time for bedtime again.

I will often be found in my kitchen at some point on Sundays.  To me there could be nothing more relaxing than to bake and cook goodies for the upcoming week. I am going to share with you a few of the things I made today.

I took pics to show you what mine ended up looking like once I was done. These recipes are not greatly ingenious but are a complete hit with my family and will be enjoyed each and every day this week. 🙂

The first thing I put together was these great little breakfast gems.   It will only take a few ingredients to pull together but the different outcomes are endless simply by switching up your selection of produce and cheese.   The base is always going to be eggs (you can use whites only if you wish or the old fashion complete egg).   These are made in ramekins which offer a superbly quick and easy way to warm them up when your tummy calls out to you.

Eggs in a pod

Eggs in a pod

This week I decided to do following variation;

Warm the oven to 350 degrees.

6 eggs

1 tsp oil

3/4 cup chopped onion

3/4 cup frozen corn (you can use any vegetable that will keep its shape when cooked)

1/2 cup sundried tomatoes

3/4 cup cheddar cheese (you can use your favorite hard cheese)

Salt & Pepper

Break an egg into the ramekin.

In a frying pan, warm up the oil.

Add onions and sweat until slightly browned.

Add the corn and the sundried tomatoes and continue stirring until the corn is cooked.

Using a spoon – separate the onion/corn/tomato mixture into each of the ramekins.

Ensure the cheese is cut into cubes no bigger than 1/3 inch in size.

Add equally into ramekins.

Add salt & pepper to taste.

Put the ramekins on a cookie sheet and cook for 20 – 30 minutes (until the egg is cooked)

Cool before putting covering them and putting the in the fridge until you’re ready to warm it up.

To warm up – use microwave (1-2 minutes) or in the oven for 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees.

Here are some other pics…  These steps will need to be repeated for however many ramekins you are making.

Enjoy…

April 14 2013 010 April 14 2013 011

Bye Bye Ms. American Pie…

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To follow this week’s theme, I would like to share with you another yummy in your tummy recipe. This one came by way of special request from a friend at work. She asked if I would make her favorite;  caramel apple pie… of course I was up for the challenge 🙂

There are tons of good variations for this popular treat… so I decided to go all out for my friend and ensure she’d have a lovely sugar high. She was thrilled when she found out I was finally making her pie this week. She was so happy that she decided she no longer wanted to share it with our other co-workers. LOL!!

That dream of hers didn’t last very long. The rumour mill spun around the office faster than saying 1, 2, 3… It was quite funny to see her explain why the pie actually belonged to her since it had been her idea.

Well ~ she lost that battle. 😉

I cut the pie into 6 slices, which two slices got allocated to above mentioned friend lol… I had to keep the peace somehow, I do have to work with these people everyday 🙂

The verdict on the pie was a solid thumbs up!  I can’t help but to share another story related to this yummy pie… and also to take the pressure off above mentioned friend 😀

I will call this person my A/R friend…  She opted on behaving that lunch hour and take her slice of pie home.  She had already planned to have it later that evening with a nice cup of tea.  My A/R friend took great pride in telling us what went down at home with her husband that very same night.

Dinner done, she decided it was time to enjoy her pie. Her husband saw the slice on the counter and asked “what is that?”.   With a straight face she proceeds to tell him that it’s apple pie but it has raisins in it… Hubby is now grossed out as he can’t stand raisins in anything and can’t believe anyone (meaning me…) could ruin a pie in such a way…

My dear sweet A/R friend then settles in her seat and begins to enjoy her slice of caramel apple pie with no raisins anywhere in sight… I loved it!  Sounds like the kind of scheme I would pull on my family. LOL!!!

So I thought I would share this recipe would you so that you too can have the chance to build your own stories.

This recipe was adapted from the William-Sonoma website and I can vouch that it was a success with all who tried it.

CARAMEL APPLE PIE

2 Deep dish pie crusts

FOR THE APPLES:

4lb Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 8 pieces

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

3 tbsp cornstarch

FOR THE CARAMEL:

1 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/3 cup light corn syrup

6 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 cup heavy cream

Prepare and transfer pie dough into dish. Trim the edges flush with the rim.

To prepare the apples, in a large Dutch oven pan over medium heat, stir together the apples, brown sugar, cinnamon,  nutmeg and lemon juice. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally,  until the apples are just tender, about 20 minutes. Uncover and let them cool to room temperature. Stir in cornstarch.

To prepare the caramel, in a heavy 4-quart saucepan over medium heat, combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter and salt. Cook until the mixture is bubbling vigorously,  about 9 minutes,  stirring only during the first 2 to 3 minutes of cooking. Off heat, carefully stir in 1/4 cup of the cream, then stir in the remaining 1/4 cup cream. Let cool until just warm. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the apple mixture and 3/4 cup of the caramel, reserve the remaining caramel for serving.  Pour the apples into the pie shell and place the top of the crust over the pie. Trim the edges and press the top and bottom crust together,.

Place the pie on a baking sheet. Bake until the crust is golden brown, about one hour. Check the pie after 30 minutes and cover the edge with tin foil if it become too dark.  Let the pie cool down on a wire rack for at least 2 1/2 hours before serving. Warm the caramel and serve alongside the pie for drizzling.

Serves 8

If you make it; they will eat it…

I brought the Maple candy to work as I had planned and as it turns out it doesn’t always matter what it looks like, if it tastes good they will eat it. 

I have less than half left …

My tip to you today; find yourself a group of willing guinea pigs who will try just about anything and you’ve secured yourself a panel of critics which you can continue to grow from…

Happy cooking and baking 😉

 

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My kitchen was quickly filled with laughter as I pondered what has just happened.  I ask myself, although I am fully aware of the answer, how could such a simple recipe go so wrong so quickly. My immediate thoughts after that was whether I should write about it since I am more than likely going to bring this treat to work tomorrow.  The catch; at least one of those fortunate coworkers is one of my close friends who will be reading about it shortly after posting this…LOL.

Well, if you can’t laugh and learn from your mistakes then you’re not really living it up!

So here goes my story.

It all started late last month when I received my April issue of the “Food Network Magazine.  This event scores high points in my books as this little culinary collection of this-and-that keeps me occupied for a good week or so. To be honest, it’s one of few magazines I bother to re-read and then proceed to rip apart to save my favorite stories, recipes, and gadgets ideas.

And there it was, on page 168, a recipe for maple candy ~ and it only asked for one ingredient… beautiful pure maple syrup. As you’re sure to guess I had no problem getting my hands on scrumptious Canadian pure maple syrup this time of year.  The picture showed beautiful tiny squares of what resembled whipped syrup (my French mates might want to compare it to sucre à crème).  I bet your taste buds just budged a little; did they?  How easy could this be – one ingredient recipe!  Easy enough for anyone to make?  Well, perhaps, especially if you’re not too hung up on what the end results look like. 😉

Here’s a picture of what mine looked like when I was done. The picture is a tad blurry because I had a major case of the giggles by then…

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Your eyes are not tricking you ~ those are NOT squares… LOL!!!!

I continued my own private comedy show by testing the product as any cook would. I closed my eyes so not to see these brittle little pieces of what had once been dark strong beautiful syrup. But WOW the taste was exactly where it should be. I will proceed with my plan to bring these to work tomorrow so my critics can really tell me what they think. I will keep on trying this recipe until I conquer it!! Trust me for that. 🙂

If you would like to try it, please do so ~ if nothing else you’ll have fun doing it.

MAPLE CANDY (supposed to make about 24 small pieces)

2 cups pure maple syrup

1. Line the bottom and sides of a 9 x 5 in loaf pan with parchment paper brushed with vegetable oil.  Bring the syrup to a boil in a large saucepan over medium heat, then reduce the heat to medium low. Dip the back of the spoon in vegetable oil and run it over the top of the foam to help it subside. Increase the heat to medium and continue cooking until a candy thermometer registers 246 degrees, 25 to 30 minutes. Pour the syrup into a heat-proof bowl and let cool 5 minutes.

2.  Beat the syrup with a mixer on medium-lowspeed until it starts to lighten in color and turns opaque, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Pour into the prepared pan and spread with an offset spatula; let cool completely, about one hour. Lift out of the pan and cut into pieces.

ENJOY!

Are you wondering what was graduation present #1…

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I hope you enjoyed my last story and better yet the great recipe for Chef Emily Richards’ quiche.

I wanted to let you in on my first present which I also received from my sweetheart…

I found this artist in one of my culinary magazines and found her website aspiring – here’s what I “had to have” as it truly related to who I am as I am sure many of you might feel as well.

logo_smallerSize[1] FeedYourSoulH

You too can get this great gem by contacting them directly.  I have worn mine each and every day since I got it – I changed the chain and added the pendant to a leather necklace which already had my peace sign on it – the perfect combination!

Jen@EarthAngelsStudios.com

www.earthangelsstudios.com

Graduation present #2 – Thyme to Cook

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For all who know me well – you will know that much like my birthday celebrations, I try to make the most of any occasions and celebrate for as long as I can possibly make it last.  I was so happy to see that my graduation celebration would scatter itself over a number of weeks…

My sweetheart purchased two tickets for us to attend a cooking demo class at Thyme to Cook in Guelph. We’ve been looking at their schedule for a very long time and never seem to be able to get in – it’s that popular!!! And now I know why 🙂

The night we went we were honored to be watching Chef Emily Richards who has been blessed by a long culinary career. The dinner was as lovely as I had dreamt it would be… there were 8 of us sitting around a counter in a well suited kitchen that would make any cook smile. This serene setting was, however, at the back of the most wonderful culinary store – what a great evening.

One of the dishes Chef Emily made for us was a “5 Ingredient Asparagus Brunch Quiche”. I am not usually one to favor quiche for any meal – but surprised I was! This one was delectable and so easy to make and adapt to whatever may please your family and friends.

I couldn’t wait to try it at home.  So this past weekend in my typical Sunday cook-all-day mood – I decided to take a shot at it. This quiche is easily reheated so it was going to work perfectly for this week’s breakfast choices.

My success was appreciated by all that have tasted it – so I thought it would be great if I shared it with you as well. I hope you enjoy it as much as we have.   And if you’re anything like me, your mind will already be travelling into the summer months when an abundance of fresh farm products will bring this quiche to yet another level…

5 Ingredient Asparagus Brunch Quiche

1 unbaked 9 inch pie shell
12 oz (375 g) asparagus
1 cup (250 ml) shredded old white cheddar or Asiago cheese (or any combination)
4 eggs
1/2 cup (125 ml) milk (you can use cream if you want it creamier and heavier)
1/4 tsp (1 ml) salt
Pinch fresh ground black pepper

Prick pie shell all over. Bake in 425F (220C) oven, for about 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 350F (180C).

Trim and chop asparagus; sprinkle cheese and asparagus on bottom of pie shell ensuring even layout. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Gently pour over asparagus and cheese. Bake for about 45 minutes or until tip of knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Has anyone else heard the the robins?

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There is nothing like an early spring cleaning of the mind…  It feels like I’ve been hibernating all winter.  I guess I have been.   I do enjoy winter but often find life slows down a little for me – typically it’s time to recharge my body’s batteries.

A lot has happened since I have last written – I have finished my farm road trip and I have completed my culinary course.

I have more to say on both of those subjects, so I hope you’ll stick around and give me a few minutes to dust off the fingers and get crackin’ at my blog; your window into my world.

I have a couple of ideas that will consume this blog for the next months and even years to come… I hope you’ll agree that your time will be well spent in keeping up with me and whatever shananigans I get myself into.

My new stories are still in draft mode – wont’ be too much longer before I press the “publish” button —- I am glad to be once again sharing my stories and learnings with you – I am happy to let these bring new and heightened levels of wisdom to both you and I.

Enjoy!

#28 – Marshall’s Real Farmer’s Market

What a gem.   This farmer’s stand is located on First Line Nassageweay.    The farm is owned by Ryan and Marissa.   On this fine day, her mother was working the stand.   You could feel how proud she was of both of them – they really have created a great family business.   Their farmland surrounds the stand – it was very relaxing and gave you the feeling that you really couldn’t get your food much fresher than this.

What I loved the best is that they tested and put some recipes together which included products grown on their land – then they went a little extra and offered great Customer Service by bagging all the ingredients together for an easy shopping experience.

Here is the recipe I took from them – it was delicious – the vegetables were all super fresh and flavourful.

Ratatouille

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 tbsp olive oil

3 cloves of garlic – minced (I didnt’ put this one, over the years I have found many different ways to substitute the strong flavour of garlic and I haven’t looked back since.)

1 eggplant cut into 1/2 inch cubes

Salt to taste

1 cup of grated Parmesan – I also skipped this step as this is not a favourite of my family

2 zucchini, sliced

1 large onion, sliced into rings

1 green bell pepper, sliced

6 Roma tomatoes, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Coat the bottom and sides of a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish with 1 tbsp of olive oil.   Heat remaining tbsp of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Saute garlic until browned.  Mix onions and eggplant.  Saute until eggplant is soft, about 10 minutes.  Season with salt to taste.

Spread eggplant mixture evenly across the bottom of the prepared casserole dish.  Sprinkle with a few tbsp of cheese.  Spread zucchini in a an even layer over the top.  Lightly salt, and sprinkle with a little more cheese.  Continue layering in this fashion with the rest of the vegetables and cheese.

Bake for 45 minutes – in the last 15 minutes, take the lid off the casserole dish to allow the cheese to brown slightly.

Enjoy!!!

 

 I ended doing everything she had in her recipe (except for the garlic and cheese) and then transformed this superb vegetable mis and I made a great ratatouille cream of vegetable soup by adding a little milk to the mix.    It was heaven!!!