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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"What's For Dinner?" Wednesday: Filet Mignon with Creamy, Dijon, Peppercorn Sauce

A great way to decide what to make for dinner is by checking out your local grocery store's daily specials and sales. Walking through my local Loblaw's I was very pleasantly suprised to find delicious beef tenderloin steaks, also known as Filet Mignon on sale, I had no choice but to purchase some for dinner. Paired with some mashed potatoes and green beans this is a perfect, restaurant quality steak dinner for two for under $25!!!

Filet Mignon with Creamy, Dijon, Peppercorn Sauce
Serves 2
  • 2 Filet Mignon steaks (about 6 oz./1/4 lb. each)
  • 1 tsp. each sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. grainy dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. green peppercorns, drained (can be found in a jar, or can, packed in a vinegar and water mixture)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
1. Season the steaks with the salt and pepper.
2. Heat a skillet over high heat on the stove. Make sure you have your ventilation system working.
3. Add the oil to the pan, then sear the steaks until browned on each side, about 30 seconds a side. Lower the heat to medium and continue to cook until desired doneness, about 3 minutes for medium-rare.
4. Remove the steaks to a plate and allow to rest.
5. Into the pan, stir in the Worcestershire sauce, dijon mustard, green peppercorns and cream. Cook for 2 minutes, until cream has reduced and peppercorns have heated through.
6. Pour the sauce over the steaks and serve.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

"What's For Dinner?" Wednesday: Maple Glazed Salmon with Citrus Dressed Mixed Green and Apple Salad

With the holidays approaching, and lots of delicious, yet heavy dinners in sight, I thought that a nice, light recipe would be perfect for tonight. This is a recipe that I learned in my second year of culinary school. It is simple,delicious, and perfectly light.

Maple Glazed Salmon
Serves 4
  • 4 salmon fillets, skin on
  • 3/4 cup good quality maple syrup
  • 2 tsp. canola oil
  • good quality sea salt 
1.Pour the maple syrup into a casserole dish. Place the salmon flesh side down into the maple syrup. Place in the fridge and let marinate for at least an hour.
2. Heat a non stick pan over medium high heat, add the oil and then the salmon, skin side down. Cook until the skin in crispy and the bottom of the flesh is starting to turn pink, about 3-5 minutes. Don't flip the fish, it will cook through without flipping, and flipping will ruin maple glaze. This will make a medium cooked salmon, if you prefer a well done cooked fish, cover the pan and cook for about 2 minutes longer.
3. Remove from the pan, sprinkle with a little sea salt and serve on top of the salad.

Citrus Dressed Mixed Green and Apple Salad
Serves 4
  •  2 tsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 green apple, cut into julienne
  • 1/4 cup sliced red onion
  • 4 cups mixed greens
1. To make the dressing, in a mixing bowl whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, garlic and salt and pepper until combined. Slowly pour in the oil while continuing to whisk until well combined.
2. In a large bowl toss the mixed greens with the apple, onion and dressing.
3. Serve with the salmon.


*Tip: To save time, you can use a store bought salad dressing. If you can't find a citrus based dressing, a simple oil and vinegar will go as well.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Girls Night In

Last night I had some girlfriends over for dinner, for a night of gossip, laughter and fun. Even though we are all Jewish, I decided to get into the holiday spirit and invite them over for a Christmas style cocktail party. No matter what religion you are, there is something in the air this time of year that just makes you want to celebrate and eat great food.

 Here are some pictures of what I served. Feel free to email me for a copy of any of the recipes:

Baked Brie with Cranberry, Red Onion and Orange Compote

Traditional Shrimp Cocktail with Cocktail Sauce

Mini Crab Cakes with Dijon Aioli

Christmas Dinner Bites: Mashed Potatoes, Roast Beef, Gravy and Crispy Onions Served in Wonton Spoons

Mini Stuffing Cakes Topped with Roast Turkey and Cranberry Sauce

Goat Cheese, Roast Figs and Honey Tartlettes

Sweet Potato Mash with Maple Onions and Walnuts

White and Green Asparagus Crudite with Lemon and Garlic Dip

Homemade Dark Chocolate, Candy Cane Ice Cream

Saturday, December 19, 2009

How-to: Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

Looks like a delicious ice cream cone, right? WRONG! What would you say if I told you that that cone is filled with chocolate cake, and that "ice cream" is really vanilla icing? I know what I would say; YUM!

Here is how to make these deliciously cute ice cream cone cupcakes:

1. Place flat bottom ice cream cones in a lasagna pan or casserole dish. The raised edges help the cones from falling over.

2. Prepare your favorite cake batter and pour into the cones, only filling the neck of the cones.

3. Place in a 350 degree F oven and bake until a skewer place in the centre of a cone comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

4. Once cooled, spread your favourite icing on each cone to represent the ice cream and then top with your favorite ice cream toppings. Be creative!!!


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"What's For Dinner?" Wednesday: Chicken Gyros with Cucumber Dill Tzatziki

This past summer I spent two weeks traveling the Greek Islands with a bunch of girlfriends. The trip was full of sunny, hot days at the beach, eating great food. On a cold, grey, Canadian winter day, like today I wish I can just close my eyes and be back in Santorini, overlooking the beautiful ocean with a nice glass of wine, and a Grecian feast in front of me.....a girl can dream, right? Well instead of day dreaming, tonight I am going to bring Greece to my dinner table. I'm not on vacation anymore, so I'm making a healthier version of the typical meat and French fry stuffed Gyros I ate in Greece. I'm skipping the fries and using lean chicken breasts for the filling. Serve these on their own, or with a simple Greek Salad on the side.

Me and my Greek Gyro

Chicken Gyros with Cucumber Dill Tzatziki
Makes 4 pitas
  • 2 cups plain yogurt (I'm using fat free)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup grated cucumber
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped dill 
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 Greek style pitas
  • sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and onions for stuffing the pitas
1. In a mixing bowl combine 1 cup of the yogurt, 2 cloves of the garlic, 1 Tbsp. of the lemon juice, the oregano and olive oil. Place the chicken breasts in the bowl and stir to cover the chicken. Cover and place in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 30 minutes, for as long as 8 hours.
2. Squeeze the excess water out of the cucumber and place in a small mixing bowl. Stir in the remaining yogurt, garlic and lemon juice as well as the chopped dill. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
3. Remove the chicken from the marinade and grill on an indoor grill, grill pan or bbq until cooked through. Transfer to a cutting board, cover with aluminum foil and let rest for five minutes.
4. While the chicken is resting, wrap the pitas in aluminum foil and place in the pre-heated oven to heat through, about 5-7 minutes.
5. Once the chicken is rested, using a sharp knife, slice into super thin slices.
6. Take a warmed pita, top with some of the tzatziki,  sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and some chicken. roll up and serve.

Friday, December 11, 2009

So Much Funukkah to Celebrate Hanukkah

For the next eight days, Jews around the world will be lighting their menorahs and eating greasy food to celebrate The Festival of Lights aka Hanukkah. Hanukkah is the celebration of a miracle that occurred many, many years ago, where a tiny bit of oil that was only supposed to last for one day, lasted for EIGHT!  So what's a better way to celebrate and symbolize this miracle, then to eat foods fried in oil? Introducing, the potato latke. Every family has their own version, whether the potatoes are shredded, or chopped, or mashed before being fried, but not matter what way you do it, lets face it, can there ever be anything wrong with fried potato? Here is my recipe for potato latkes, my family eats them with apple sauce or sour cream on top, or how my Zaidy used to eat them, sprinkled with some sugar. ENJOY!

Elyse's Potato Latkes
Makes about 18 latkes
  • 2 large, baking potatoes, washed (I keep the peel on, but you can peel them if you want)
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 eggs
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • vegetable oil for frying
1. Using a hand grater or a food processor, grate the potato and place into a strainer. The size of the grate is completely up to you, I like to grate them fine to medium. Once done, squeeze out any excess water from the potatoes and place in a large mixing bowl.
2. Peel the onion and remove the root, then grate the onion using the same size grate as the potatoes and place into the mixing bowl.
3. Add in the egg, flour and salt and pepper and mix until combined, I find using my hands is the best way.
4. Heat enough oil to come up about an inch high in a large saute pan until hot (place the handle of a wooden spoon into the oil, if bubbles appear along the handle, the oil is ready).
5. Using your hands, form the potato mixture into small, flat rounds and fry on both sides until crisp, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Repeat until all the potato mixture is finished, adding oil to the pan if necessary.
6. Drain the latkes of any excess oil on paper towels and serve.

* Tip: Frying can cause your house to STINK! Placing a couple bowls of white vinegar around your kitchen while cooking will help to absorb the odours. (Thanks Avishai)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"What's For Dinner?" Wednesday: Butternut Squash Ravioli with Maple Brown Butter, Caramelized Onions, Sage and Walnuts

Sounds fancy, huh? This recipe is actually super simple, seasonal and most importantly, DELICIOUS! This dish is a great weeknight, winter meal, that will warm you right up with many seasonal flavours, but it is also great for entertaining. Tonight I'm serving it as an entree with some salad and garlic bread, but it also makes a great appetizer on its own for an upcoming holiday dinner party.

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Maple Brown Butter, Caramelized Onions, Sage and Walnuts
Serves 4 as an entree with a salad

  •  1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped sage
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
  • 1 1lb. package of store bought butternut squash ravioli
  • salt and pepper
  • Parmesan cheese
1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil on the stove.
2. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat, once hot add the oil, onions and sage. Cook, stirring occasionally until the onions are golden and starting to caramelize.
3. Add in the butter and cook until the butter is melted and starts to become a golden brown colour, this will take a few minutes. Once the butter is browned, stir in the maple syrup and walnuts, let cook for another minute then take off the heat and season with salt and pepper.
4. Prepare the pasta according to package directions.
5. Re-heat the sauce over low heat, drain the pasta and toss with the sauce, garnish with some more chopped sage and Parmesan cheese and serve.

Bon Appetit!

* For a change, substitute the ravioli for gnocchi, or even better sweet potato gnocchi

Monday, December 7, 2009

How-to: Quick No Noodle Lasagna

That's right, you read that correctly, lasagna without the noodles!!! This dish is quick, simple and delicious and uses only five ingredients (other than seasoning). I used grilled zucchini and eggplant in place of lasagna noodles and layered them with marinara sauce and cheese for an easy side dish, or light entree.

1. Using a sharp knife or mandolin, thinly slice two zucchinis and one large eggplant lengthwise.

2. Toss the zucchini and eggplant with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and grill on an indoor grill or grill pan, just until light grill lines appear.

3. In a small bowl stir together a container of ricotta cheese with salt and pepper. (I added parsley and some lemon zest too)

4. Once the zucchini and eggplant are cool enough to handle, line the bottom of a greased baking dish with slices of zucchini.


5. Top the zucchini with some marinara sauce and a sprinkling of mozzarella cheese.

6. Top with slices of eggplant. Top the eggplant with some of the ricotta cheese mixture.

7. Repeat the process until the pan is full. Top the top layer with marinara sauce and a sprinkling of mozzarella.

8. Bake in a 400 degree F oven until warmed through and is cheese melted, about 20 minutes.

 9. Cut into slices and serve.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Favorite Products: A Taste of Thai Spicy Peanut Bake

Keeping with the Thai theme from yesterday, I'm going to talk about another favorite product of mine; A Taste of Thai's Spicy Peanut Bake.

Even though I attended culinary school, I am still like everyone else and love a great short cut in the kitchen. The only problem is, I have a picky palate, and some of those sodium and sugar packed products available in the grocery stores just wont cut it. I was very pleasantly surprised when I picked up A Taste of Thai's Spicy Peanut Bake. I checked out the nutritional information and saw that the sodium level was fairly low compared to all the other short cut products on the shelf, I decided to take it home and give it a try. The product works very similar to Shake and Bake. You shake the product onto some chicken breasts and bake it in the oven, it's as simple as that. It provides a nice Thai flavour with a great crunch from the peanuts. Serve it with some rice and some steamed veggies for a quick and delicious meal.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"What's For Dinner?" Wednesday: Thai Red Curry with Shrimp and Pineapple

I am a total take out junkie, and one of my favorite things to order in is Thai food. Unfortunately I can't afford to order in every night, so I am forced to try to recreate some of my favorite take out dishes at home. Whenever I order Thai, there is one item that must be delivered in that large brown paper bag, and that item is red curry. I love the sweet and spicy flavour of red curry, I add pineapples into mine to add a little extra sweetness and a unique texture. This recipe makes a medium spiced curry but you can adjust the amount of curry paste to reach your desired amount of heat. Serve with some steamed white rice.

Thai Red Curry with Shrimp and Pineapple
Serves 2

  • 1 can (398 mL) coconut milk
  • 1 Tbsp. Thai red curry paste
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. Thai fish sauce
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves* (optional)
  • 1 can (227 mL) pineapple tidbits, with juice
  • 1 red pepper, sliced into julienne
  • 1 cup sugar snap peas, ends trimmed, and halved
  • 1/2 lb. peeled and deveined shrimp
* Kaffir lime leaves are the leaves of a Thai lime, they are available fresh or frozen at most Asian supermarkets. They add a sweet citrus flavour to dishes, but if they are unavailable they can easily be left out of the recipe.
    1. In a medium sauce pan, heat coconut milk over medium-high heat until heated through, about 5 minutes.
    2. Stir in curry paste, sugar, fish sauce and lime leaves, bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium and let simmer until curry paste and sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes.
    3. Add in the pineapple, red pepper, snap peas and shrimp, cook until shrimp turn pink and are cooked through, about 5 minutes, depending on the size of the shrimp.
    4. Remove the kaffir lime leaves and serve.


    Tip: You can substitute thinly sliced chicken or beef for the shrimp, cooking times will vary though.

    Saturday, November 28, 2009

    Macaroon Challenge

    A few months ago, my parents went on vacation to Paris. Knowing me well, all the gifts they brought back for me were ones I could eat. One of my favorites was the beautifully decorated box from Laduree filled with eight, delicate, delicious, Parisian macaroons (or macarons, if I were French); smooth, flavourful filling sandwiched between two delicate, melt in your mouth almond meringue cookies. I had tried French style macaroons before, but none had tasted like these.

     Doing some research on the internet I combined a few recipes, to try to duplicate these cookies, so here lies THE MACAROON CHALLENGE!!!! I decided to start small and just try the most basic flavour, a vanilla cookie with vanilla buttercream filling. I decided to throw in some food colouring, just to make them look a little bit more interesting.

    Here is the recipe I used:

    • 1 3/4 Cup icing sugar
    • 1 1/2 Cups almond flour or finely ground blanched and peeled almonds
    • 3 large egg whites
    • pinch of salt
    • 1/4 Cup granulated sugar 
    • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
    • food colouring (optional)
    Buttercream Filling
    • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter, at room temperature
    • 1 Cups icing sugar, sifted
    • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract 
    • 1 Tbsp. Heavy Cream
    • food colouring (optional)
    1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
    2. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper, using a permanent marker trace circles onto the paper, using something the size you want your macaroons to be, then flip the paper making sure you can still see the circles.
    3. Sift icing sugar and almond flour into a small mixing bowl, and whisk to combine.
    4. In a large mixing bowl beat egg whites with an electric mixer on medium speed until foamy, add the salt and continue to mix while gradually adding the granulated sugar. Continue to beat until the egg whites form medium peaks.
    5. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the almond mixture, vanilla extract and food colouring (if using) into the egg whites until just combined. Tap the bottom of the bowl on the counter to get rid of any air bubbles.
    6. Transfer the mixture into a large piping bag, with a medium sized plain tip. Pipe the mixture into the traced circles on the baking sheet.
    7. Place in the oven and bake until the macaroons become slightly firm on the top and can be lifted off the parchment paper, about 20 to 25 minutes. The bottoms of the macaroons should be completely dry.
    8. While the macaroons are baking, prepare the buttercream.
    9. In a medium mixing bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy, add the vanilla then gradually mix in the icing sugar until combined, occasionally scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the cream then increase speed to high and continue to beat until icing is fluffy, about 3 minutes. Tint with food colouring if using.
    10. remove the macaroons from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet for about five minutes, before lifting the entire parchment onto a wire rack to cool completely.
    11. Once completely cool, spread about 1 tsp. of the buttercream mixture onto the flat side of one macaroon, and then sandwich with another macaroon.
    12. Macaroons can be stored for about 3 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

    Here is how my macaroons turned out:

    Generally, the cookies turned out pretty close to the ones I had from Laduree. Obviously, nothing is as good as the orginal, but these are lot easier then flying to Paris. I just have to practice my piping to get them into perfect circles. I'm looking forward to trying out some different flavours. Stay tuned.....

    Thursday, November 26, 2009

    Favorite Products: Brie Baker

    One of my go-to party foods is baked brie. It is one of the easiest things to make, guarantees a ton of compliments, and is devoured within minutes every time I make it. The only problem was finding the perfect vessel to both bake it and serve it in, until I found my Petite Maison Brie Baker by Wildly Delicious, available at Bowring or Wildly Delcious. The earthenware container comes in both white and red, and comes with a useful and stylish bamboo spreader.

    photo courtesy of

    Simply place a wheel of brie into the baker, top with any of your favorite toppings and bake in a hot oven until the centre is warm and gooey. Serve with crackers and crusty french bread, and get ready to enter cheese heaven.

    Some of my favourite ways to top baked brie are:
    • as is, there is nothing wrong with plain, ooey, gooey, delicious brie
    • apricot preserves and slivered almonds
    • caramalized onions, sliced figs and honey
    • chopped tomatoes, garlic and basil or for an easy route, store bought bruschetta mix
    • for the holiday season, cranberry preserves and walnuts
    • sauteed wild mushrooms with garlic
    • roasted red pepper or sun dried tomato tapenade

    Wednesday, November 25, 2009

    "What's For Dinner?" Wednesday: Mexican Rice Bowl

    Rice bowls are becoming a very popular menu item at restaurants. I love the comforting feeling you get from eating your whole meal, in one steamy, hot bowl. My version of a Mexican Rice bowl, is a healthy and hearty weeknight meal, and the leftovers are great wrapped in a tortilla for lunch the next day. The fact that it is cooked in one pot also helps make it a speedy clean up.

    Mexican Rice Bowl
    Serves 4
    • 1 medium onion, chopped
    • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
    • 1 chorizo sausage, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
    • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/2 inch slices
    • 1 cup long grain, white rice
    • 1/2 Tbsp. chili powder or Tex Mex seasoning
    • 1 can (341ml.) corn niblets
    • 1 can (540 ml.) black, pinto or kidney beans, drained and rinsed
    • 1 can (127ml.) green chilies, drained (found in the Mexican food aisle)
    • 1 can (796 ml.) chopped tomatoes with liquid
    • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
    • grated cheese, sour cream and sliced green onions for garnish (optional)
    1. Heat a large saute pan over medium high heat, add the oil and cook the onions and garlic until softened, add in the chorizo and chicken and cook until the chicken no longer looks pink. Stir in the rice and chili powder and cook for 1 minute.
    2. Add in the rest of the ingredients, and stir to combine. Bring up to boil, then lower heat to medium-low, cover and let simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is evaporated and the rice is cooked, about 15 minutes.
    3. Place into individual bowls, top with some grated cheese, sour cream and green onions.


      Tuesday, November 24, 2009

      Quick Tip

      Have you ever read a recipe that called for a certain measurement but you only had a measuring cup that measured in cups? If so, check out this awesome measuring equivalent chart. This is just one of the many templates available on Martha Stewart's website. Thanks Martha!

      Thursday, November 19, 2009

      Favorite Products: Truffle Oil

      No, I'm not talking about oil made from chocolate. I am talking about oil infused with actual truffles, the fungi. If you know what I am talking about you are probably thinking, "truffle oil? Isn't that insanely expensive?". Which brings me to why Truffle Oil is one of my favorite products. Although real, fresh truffles can cost you as much as thousands of dollars a pound, truffle oil is a great way to enjoy the deep, earthy, rich flavour of truffles without filing for bankruptcy. There are many versions of truffle oil available, and some even available at your local Loblaw's. They can vary in price depending on whether they contain real truffles or not. The majority of truffle oils here in Canada are essentially just olive oil  that are infused with truffle essence, while others actually contain real truffles (obviously more expensive). Although not as good as the real thing, these truffle oils do a great job of making me feel like I am enjoying a 5 star meal right in my own home. A small bottle will cost you about 15 to 20 dollars, but since you only need a drop to impart that delicious truffle flavour, the bottle will last quite awhile.

      Some of my favorite uses of truffle oil are:
      • mixed with some mayonnaise to dip french fries in, or to enhance a sandwich
      • drizzled over soup
      • drizzled over some mixed greens
      • to finish off a pasta dish (especially homemade white cheddar mac and cheese)
      • mixed in with my scrambled eggs or omelets
      • drizzled over steak
      If you love the taste and aroma of truffles when you eat out in a restaurant, I highly recommend purchasing some truffle oil to keep on hand, for those necessary at home indulgences.

      Wednesday, November 18, 2009

      "What's For Dinner?" Wednesday: Flank Steak with Balsamic Onions

      Flank steak is a great way to enjoy a steak dinner during the week, it is very reasonably priced and is a relatively lean cut of beef. Although, flank steak has a bit of a bad reputation, as it can sometimes turn out tough, if done well it is a delicious alternative to an expensive and very high calorie restaurant style steak dinner. This recipe goes great served with some steamed asparagus and some potato crisps (like the one's used in my Potato Crisps with Dill Cream and Smoked Salmon recipe).

      Flank Steak with Balsamic Onions
      Serves 4
      • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
      • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
      • 2 tsp. steak spice 
      • 1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar  
      • 1/2 cup ketchup
      • 1.5 lbs of flank steak
      •  1 Tbsp. olive oil
      • 1 sweet onion, sliced
      1. In a small mixing bowl combine the vegetable oil, Worcestershire sauce, steak spice, 1 Tbsp. of balsamic vinegar and ketchup.
      2. Place the steak in a casserole dish and prick the top many times with a fork before pouring over the ketchup mixture, let marinate for at least an hour for as long as overnight.
      3. Preheat the broiler on your oven.
      4.Remove the steak from the marinade and  place on an aluminum lined baking sheet, place on the top rack of the oven, about 6 inches away from the broiler, for 20 minutes for a medium cooked steak.
      4. Meanwhile, heat a large saute pan over medium high heat, add the olive oil and onions and saute until softened, turn the heat to low and let cook until onions start to become golden and caramelized. Pour in the remaining balsamic vinegar and continue to cook, until the vinegar has reduced and turned to a syrupy consistency. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
      5. Remove the steak from the oven and place on a cutting board, cover with aluminum foil and let rest for 10 minutes.
      6. Slice the steak into thin slices, making sure to cut across the grain of the meat. Place on a serving platter and top with balsamic onions.


      Monday, November 16, 2009

      Sunday Brunch

      Brunch is one of my favorite meals to entertain with, so this weekend I invited all of my bridesmaids for my upcoming wedding over so everyone could get to know each other. Besides the obligatory bagels and cream cheese I decided to add in some brunch style hors d'oeuvres.

      On the menu:
      •  two types of mini egg white frittatas (caramelized onion with aged cheddar and spinach, cherry tomato and goat cheese)
      • mini Belgian waffles with maple pears and whipped cream
      • yogurt, honey and berry parfaits
      • brie and fig tarts
      • potato crisps with dill cream and smoked salmon

      one of the buffet tables

      fritattas and fruit salad

        Here is the recipe for the most popular item of the day:

        Potato Crisps with Dill Cream and Smoked Salmon 
        Makes about 40 hors d'oeuvres
        • 2 baking potatoes, skin on, scrubbed and cleaned
        • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
        • 1 tsp. each salt and pepper
        • 1 Cup of sour cream
        • the zest of 1 lemon
        • 2 Tbsp. dill, chopped
        • 150g. package of smoked salmon, cut into strips
        1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees

        2. Using a mandolin or a sharp knife slice the potatoes into slices about 1/4 inch thick

        3. In a large mixing bowl toss the potato slices with the oil, salt and pepper

        4. Place the potato slices on a baking sheet, lined with aluminum foil that has also been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray

        5. Place the potatoes in the oven and bake for 20 minutes until starting to brown.

        6. Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl, mix the sour cream with the lemon zest and dill, set aside.

        7. Remove the potatoes from the oven and let cool. 
        8. Once cooled, place the potato slices on a serving platter, top each potato with a small amount of the sour cream mixture and then with a strip of smoked salmon
        9. Garnish with some more chopped dill and serve.

        * The potato crisps and the dill cream can be made the day before, and stored in the refrigerator, just make sure to bring the potatoes to room temperature before serving

        Wednesday, November 11, 2009

        "What's For Dinner?" Wednesday: Easy Butter Chicken

        I love Indian food, but going out for Indian can get pricey, and making traditional Indian food at home can get complicated. Butter Chicken is one of the most popular Indian dishes here in Canada. Traditionally, the chicken is marinated overnight, then cooked in a tandoor before being placed in a slow simmered sauce of ground almonds, spices, tomatoes and cream. My version uses all of the traditional flavours, but speeds up the process, so you can enjoy Butter Chicken after a long day at work, without calling for take out. Serve with some steamed Basmati rice and some store bought Naan bread for a great take out meal at home.

        Easy Butter Chicken
        Serves 4
        • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
        • 1 cup of plain yogurt
        • 1 clove of garlic, minced
        • 1 tsp. minced ginger
        • 1 tsp. lemon juice
        • 1 Tbsp. butter
        • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
        • 1 medium sized onion, chopped
        • 1 Tbsp. mild tandoori curry paste (in the ethnic food aisle at the grocery store, Patak's is a good brand)
        • 1 can (796 mL) crushed tomatoes
        • 1 cup heavy cream
        • 1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro (optional)
        1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees
        2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the chicken with the yogurt, garlic, ginger and lemon juice. Let marinate, covered in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or as long as overnight.
        3. Heat a large sauce pan or high sided saute pan over medium-high heat then add the butter and oil.
        4. Once the butter has melted, add the onions and cook until softened, and translucent. Stir in the curry paste and cook until fragrant and starting to stick to the pan, about 2 minutes.
        5. Pour in the tomatoes, stir to combine, lower the heat to low and let simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.
        6. While the sauce is simmering, remove the chicken from the marinade and place in a greased casserole dish, place in the oven and bake until cooked through and the juices run clear, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven.
        7. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, cut into bite sized pieces, about 1 inch cubes.
        8. Stir the cream into the sauce and then add the chicken. Stir to combine and let heat though.
        9. Pour into a serving dish and sprinkle with cilantro.
        photo courtesy of

        Tuesday, November 10, 2009

        The Great Pot and Pan Debate

        A question I get asked quite often is, "what are the best pots and pans?", I often don't know how to answer, as every type of pot and pan has its own purpose. Here is the lowdown of the most popular types of pots and pans that will hopefully answer everyone's question, and help with the decision of what type of pots and pans to purchase.

        Stainless Steel

        Stainless steel is a non-reactive metal which makes it great for cooking any ingredient. Although, stainless steel is a great general use material,  you have to be careful when choosing what type of stainless steel pots and pans to purchase.Stainless steel on its own will provide an uneven distribution of heat. Look for stainless steel pots and pans with an aluminum or copper core, this will allow the heat to be distributed more evenly, as well as allow for a higher heat temperature while cooking. Stainless steel on its own, is very sensitive to over heating, once you burn a stainless steel pan, it is very difficult to remove and will cause you problems afterward. In general, stainless steel is great for low-temperature cooking, like for eggs or fish and for boiling water or soup. Stainless steel with an aluminum or copper core is more versatile and can be used for higher heat cooking like searing, sauteing and stir-frying, but sticking is often a problem, clean up can be difficult, and they can often get pricey.

        Tip: Always  pre-heat your pan before cooking in it, placing a cold item in a cold pan will cause sticking.

        All-Clad Copper Core Stainless Steel Set
        Retails for approximately $1,200 


        This is what they use most often in restaurants. Aluminum is the cheapest material pots and pans you can purchase and distributes and retains heat beautifully. Aluminum is not as sensitive as stainless steel and can handle very high heat cooking without burning. There are a few downfalls though. One, after frequent use aluminum tends to pit, but because they are cheaper than other materials, they are easily replaceable. Also, aluminum is a reactive metal so many ingredients, especially acidic ones, like tomatoes will pick up a metallic taste when cooked with it. There is also the risk of Alzheimer's. Nothing has been proven that using aluminum pots and pans increases your risk of Alzheimer's, but some people like to be cautious and stay away.


        Cast Iron

        Cast iron is great for high heat cooking. Although it is reactive like aluminum, and shouldn't be used to make a tomato sauce, frying and searing comes out beautifully when using a cast iron pan. Cast iron will retain an intense amount of heat, and you basically never have to worry about it burning.  A cast iron pan should not be heavily washed, it is best when just rubbed down with a soft cloth, and hot water. A cast iron pan works best after years of being used, and it has a nice layer of grease on it. A few cons are that, cast iron tends to be very heavy, it takes longer than other materials to heat up, and it must be very carefully cared for.

        Teflon and Other Non-Stick

        These are my least favorite types of pots and pans, but they do serve their own purpose. Non-stick pans with a coating, like Teflon should never be used for high heat cooking. The coating with eventually burn off and go into your food. You also have to be very careful with what utensils you use and how you clean it, for the same reason. I do find that these pans are great for making eggs. Eggs should be cooked at a low temperature anyway, and in other pans can get sticky and very messy.  Used with plastic or silicone utensils to cook eggs is about the only thing I recommend these pots and pans for.

        Infused Anodized

        This is a relatively new technology used for pots and pans. Aluminum is put through an anodization process, that infuses the interior and exterior of the pan with an advanced release polymer. This makes the pan,  non-stick without a coating, and retains and distributes heat wonderfully. This material can be used for any type of cooking, can be used with any type of utensils, and clean up is super easy. I personally own an infused anodized set of pots and pans and have nothing negative to say about them. For general home use pots and pans, I highly recommend infused anodized. The one downside, is that they can get pricey, but they have a lifetime guarantee, and I feel are worth the extra money.

        Calphalon Infused Anodized Set
        Retails for approximately $500 

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