Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Citrus Honey Vinaigrette

We've all done it...

Called recipes our own, when in reality, they've probably either been passed down to us by a loving grandmother, or a google search proved successful, perhaps a favourite TV chef taught us something or other new.

So where do we draw the line in the sand, I mean in our own recipe collection, which will hopefully one day, be passed down to the next generation, only for them to claim it as their very own. I say, change a recipe enough, even if it's still similar to the first, you can call it your own. The fine print is up to you.

And yet, I still want to give credit for my absolute favourite vinaigrette to the very inspiring Martha Stewart, who, in the TV world anyway, is what we as domestic goddesses strive to be - perfection in the kitchen and garden, while gift giving, decorating and knitting. (If only we all had a crew of professionals having our backs to make us so very perfect. Except for the jail thing, of coarse.)

Moni's Citrus Honey Vinaigrette
Serves 6 - 8
Inspired by Martha, changed significantly to call it my own

Juice of one large lemon
2 tbsp creamed honey
4 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp finely minced shallot
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Vigorously whisk together everything but the olive oil. Once the honey has dissolved, slowly whisk in the olive oil.

Store left overs in the fridge. Olive oil will harden when cooled, simply bring back to room temperature and whisk again.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Perfect Fall Bread

This month Canadian TV celebrates 10 years of Food TV. I think that's quite spectacular, considering less and less people are spending time in their kitchens these days. A short news article had a great explanation for this oddity, stating: ingrained in human nature is a need or instinct to gather around food and be with our circle of friends and, of course, family. Since this is happening less and less, we watch more and more Food TV, which tricks the psyche into having such a need fulfilled. Make sense? I think so. Huh.

My husband won't agree with me, but I don't consider myself to be a great cook. I just love to do it, and so I keep on trying. What makes me smile the most though, even more so than cooking a meal for others, is inspiring people to get their own aprons on and kitchens dirty. And to me there is nothing more down to earth than baking amazing bread, filling the house with that unmistakable aroma, and enjoying simplicity at it's finest.

Now don't get me wrong, I watch a ton of Food TV. Learning while watching TV seems more justifiable, right? Anyway, I've been super inspired to take common foods and adding my own twist. So here's a bread I came up with - I think it's perfect for Thanksgiving. The rustic texture plays well with tart Cranberries. And I adore the leaf design, too.

Rustic Rye, Caraway and Cranberry Bread
Makes 2 loaves
2 1/2 cups white bread flour
1 1/2 cups dark rye flour
2 tsp fine grain salt
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
12 fluid ounces warm water
1 cup dried cranberries
1 tsp caraway seeds
Dissolve yeast in the warm water, this takes about 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine flours with salt. Once the yeast is ready, add the water mixture to the bowl.
Using your hands, combine until it comes together in a ball, then turn out onto counter top and knead for about 10 minutes.
Fold in the cranberries and caraway seeds.
Shape into a ball and place back in the bowl, cover with a lint free dish towel and set in a warm place (24 C) for one hour.
After the first rise, divide the dough into two, and shape each into a ball. Cover with the dishtowel, and rest for 10 minutes.
Now gently shape each into a 20cm (8 inch) log, dust with flour, place on a cookie sheet (with parchment paper) or baking stone, cover with the dishtowel and rise again, for one hour.
Preheat oven to 375 F (180 C).
To make the leaf design, use a sharp knife to gently cut one long slit down the center and about 5 on each side. Do this gently, without deflating the bread.
Bake in the preheat oven for about 35 minutes, or until it sounds hollow when knocking on the bottom of the bread.
If you want a crunchier crust, spray the inside of the oven 2 or 3 times with a water bottle just before placing the bread in it for baking.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The new. The old. The pretty. Pretty creative!

I had this funny idea the other day which involved me dusting off my hand-me-down sowing machine, and giving it a well deserved second chance. It's been about 6 years since I've touched that thing, and sadly, there are more memories of frustration than fabulous. But some craft bug bit me and I gave in.

From experience I know now more than ever, that one's things certain - Where there is nothing ventured, nothing is gained. Perfection need not be attained, success may not come over night, but I suddenly feel more domesticated than I did two weeks ago and I want more of that! I do find myself rather surprised at being able to do more than I ever would allow myself if I still feared failure like I did once not so long ago. So get out there, do something... start with one step, then add the next... you just never know where it may lead.

With that I want to say, Happy Thanksgiving... or rather Happy giving thanks... Since it's not just about the turkey and an amazing nap which inevitably follows, but about truly taking time to appreciate, to stand in awe of life, to smile with gratitude just because you can.
Here are a few things I am thankful for this year:

Alone time. And writing. I love that I found writing.

Together time. I have an amazing family, and so many super duper friends.

Walks with my dog. If you've never tried it, you really should.

Clearance racks. Any store, any time. And ikea. Even though I wish I could get away from that place, it's easier to just go back.

My new job, which allows me to work while the girls are at school, and only then, with plenty of time left over for my real life: domestic bliss.

My camera. And photoshop. And a husband that can teach me how to use photoshop to rescue my picture taking abilities.

The unconditional love for and from my kids. As you may know, we all have bad days once in a while. Yet they still keep coming back for more lovin. I suppose that also goes for the love of my life, Paul!

Canada. What a beautiful home we have. And to think we celebrate Thanksgiving at the right time, shortly after harvest and while Fall colours are at their prime! (a-hem)

Road trips. Especially spontaneous ones.

Dinosaurs. Because they make my sweet Sydney so happy.

Music. Especially when Hannah sings to it. Wow, that takes me over the moon.

Hair straighteners. These make me happy.

My parents, who embark on a long cross continental trip to visit with us every year.

Toothpaste. I'll forever be thankful for toothpaste. If you ever feel like you have nothing to be thankful for, start there.

My security in God. There's just something very freeing about that.

Felt. For making me feel like I can sew. Even if my oh-so-hip Hannah Banana hands me Sewing for Dummies.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Apples, apples everywhere!

I hardly ever cook breakfast. I don't really know why, but I just prefer to pour a bowl of cereal for my clan instead. The odd Saturday, however, when we sleep in a little, and awake during Brunch hour, I brew a nice pot of coffee and break out the pots and pans.

Apple Crisp Porridge
Serves 4

2 tbsp unsalted butter
3 large Royal Gala Apples, peeled, quartered, cored and sliced
1/4 dark brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 cups rolled oats
2 cups 2% milk
2 cups filtered water
1 tbsp dark brown sugar
good pinch of salt

Melt butter in a saucepan at medium heat. When frothy, add the apples, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and cinnamon. Cook, stirring often, uncovered, for about 15 - 20 minutes, or until apples are soft and sugar has become sticky.

Meanwhile, combine oats, milk, water, 1 tbsp brown sugar and salt in a separate saucepan. Cook over low - medium heat until oats are soft, about 5 - 10 minutes. Stir often to prevent burning.

To serve, spoon porridge into 4 bowls and scoop apples over. Garnish with cream, and a variety of nuts and seeds for crunch.

Friday, October 1, 2010

~ Making Pasta ~ with Nonna

There are a few things quite evident when cooking with a real Italian Nonna.

I am much taller than I remembered.

Kitchens don't need to be fancy to make the best of the best.

You pick up the Italian language on the fly. I may never call farina flour again, and possibly add an 'a' to the end of many English words. "Farina, it's'a' tha name of the game'a'!"

Oh, it's good to giggle like a school girl again. And french braid my hair!

After a quick coffee and a variety of homemade cookies, Nonna handed me a bandanna and an apron, which felt to me like the best "Welcome to my kitchen, let's cook!" I have ever experienced.

There is no recipe, four hands stepping in as our most valued tools. I feel at home, so very much at home! Out comes the farina, a dozen eggs, a little olive oil and a hand measured tablespoon of salt. Surprisingly, pasta dough needs a lot less attention than bread dough. And just a short while of kneading later, we are ready for the pasta machine. Here again, it's mostly a thing of touch and feel. Give me one of those new cell phones or a TV with far too many options, I am utterly lost. Farina.. it's catchy, isn't it?... I get it. We are friends. I love my hands more than ever, too, even if they aren't super girly and slender. These are working hands and I plan on putting them to good use.

We get a system going, Nonna and I. Before you know it two hours are up, and we've made gorgeous Fettuccine and a big batch of Spaghettini, too. Nonna tells me I am a fast learner. I tell myself she must be telling the truth, an Italian grandma would never tell a lie. I have visions of turning my kitchen into pasta heaven, I think primarily of Ravioli, filled with beautiful things like ricotta, squash and mushrooms. I dream of inviting friends over for a glass of wine and a rustic bowl of egg pasta, swirled with the most amazing cream sauce. Life is beautiful, my friends. A certain beauty no one needs to miss out on.

Of course there's no better way to finish up an Italian morning than with a slice of pizza for lunch, a glass of red wine with one gorgeous ice cube cooling it down to the perfect temperature (hey, when Nonna offers, I don't refuse - she was proud of the ice cube, and I was happy to try something new).

Thank you, Nonna. You've allowed one of my dreams to come true. I hope to cook for you one day and potentially impress you, too. I promise to pass this knowledge on to my girls, and they are going to promise me to pass it on to their kids, I'll make sure of it. You can't put a price tag on something like this!

Photo credits belong to my good friend, Erin, who is also Nonna's real grandchild and super talented, wouldn't you say?