Friday, October 28, 2011

A Great Little Halloween Soup For Your Little Monsters

This coming weekend is my favorite one of the entire year. Halloween is always a great weekend and the parties are usually amazing. There’s something magical about people dressing up and there’s definitely a special energy in the air on monster night.

What better way to celebrate the black and orange holiday than to use one of its main elements: pumpkin! Ok, butternut squash ain’t no traditional looking pumpkin, but it is a pumpkin! Its nice and musky taste will surely please your guests… and your kids! The texture of this soup is unbelievably smooth and rich; it’s really a pure pleasure to eat. Plus, with a hint of ginger, you’ll be protected against the flu, because it’s also flu season (in this house it is anyways!).

If you’ve got a pumpkin leftover on Monday night  (a real Halloween pumpkin, I mean!) and you don’t know what to do with it, switch the butternut squash for the pumpkin, it’ll be almost as good and you won’t lose your lovely pumpkin.

Makes about 8 servings

1 tbsp olive oil
1 butternut squash cut in medium size cubes
1 onion, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tsp fresh ginger, chopped
6 cups chicken broth
Salt & pepper

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and let them sweat for about 3 minutes. Add the butternut squash, garlic and ginger. Cook for about 2 more minutes. Cover with the chicken broth and add some pepper.

Bring to a simmer and cook over medium-low heat for about 30 minutes. Let cool.

Once it’s cooled, mix in a blender until you obtain a nice luscious texture. Taste and add some salt if needed. Serve hot.

Note: I didn’t have to add any salt to mine… so think about it twice if you’re going to!

You can add cream if you feel like it. Why not, it’ll be great! 

Monday, October 24, 2011

When A Good Surprise Comes On A Plate: Veal Cutlets

Once in a while I try a new recipe I’m not convinced about. We’ve all got our personal taste and while some recipes might inspire you, it might not correspond to my idea of a good one. Still, once in a while, you have to go out of your comfort zone and try something you just don’t know if it’ll work out. I think this is what happened with this recipe.

I won’t hide it; I go to Costco every once in a while… if not every week or so! Hey, I’ve got a lot of diapers to buy so I’d rather do it there than at Walmart, if you know what I mean! Anyways, Costco holds a great selection of excellent meats, surprisingly. The other day, I decided to buy a pack of really really nice veal cutlets, bone on. I don’t know what took me but a simple glance at the pink meat got me straight to the heart; I had to buy it!

But when I got home, I was stuck. I really didn’t feel like simply grilling the damn thing; I felt like making it shine, I just didn’t know how. So I searched the web hoping to find inspiration. It was hard… It was a day my fridge was a little empty so I didn’t have most of the needed ingredients for the recipes. And then I found this recipe. I don’t know, there was something weird about mixing coconut milk with veal… but because I had coconut milk, it was what I was going to make. And OH BOY did I not regret it. This recipe was soooooooo tasty and yummy I literally licked my plate. The meat was amazingly nice and juicy and the sauce was simply delicious.

Which is why I love to go out of my comfort zone. Out of 3 trials, sure, I’ll miss twice but that time I won’t miss, it’ll be a real treat for the mouth and stomach!

Makes 4 servings
1 tbsp vegetable oil
4 veal cutlets (about 175g each), with bone
1 can of coconut milk (398ml)
½ cup chicken broth
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
4oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp Chinese 5-spice
The zest of 1 lemon
Salt & pepper

In a skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat and cook the cutlets for 1 minute on each side. Take the cutlets off the heat and keep them on a side dish.

Add the coconut milk and the chicken broth in the skillet. Bring to a boil. Add the garlic, shallots, mushrooms, 5-spice and lemon zest. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Put the cutlets back into the skillets and bring the heat down to medium-low heat. Cover and let simmer for about 20-25 minutes or until the sauce thickens and the meat is tender. Serve the cutlets covered in sauce.

Note: Veal is perfectly safe if it’s slightly pink on the inside.

You can serve you veal with lemon pasta or, as I did, a mushroom risotto. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Our Own Little Oyster Party

If I were stuck on an island and I had no choice but to eat one thing forever, it would be oysters. It is most certainly one of the things I prefer in life. Those juicy molluscs  are simply amazing to me! You can find them all year round at your favourite fish store but the best time to have them, the year’s high season, is in October, November and December.

For the past 2 oyster seasons I’ve been pregnant. And with being pregnant comes a big warning: do not eat any live bate. Which means, no raw oysters while you’re pregnant. So for the past 2 years I’ve been missing out on one of my favourite things in the world, which totally sucks. Ok, I’ve got 2 amazing kids but still… it’s really hard not to eat something you love for such a long time. Think about it… if you couldn’t eat chocolate for 2 years, how would you feel?

The other day my husband and I caught up with lost time and had our own little oyster party. It was a real mollusc fiesta, the best party ever!! We bought 5 different kinds of oysters and just ate them with fresh lemon juice, our favourite way to eat the small beast. Of course, you can eat oysters all sorts of way but to us, lemon stays the best.

Atlantic oysters tend to be briny and crisp on the tongue, you can taste the saltiness of the ocean. Pacific oysters are less salty in flavour and have a creamier, mineral type of taste; they can be fruity and a bit sweet! Kumamoto oysters resemble the Pacific oyster, but are more complex and quite mild, with a creamy texture and buttery finish. Try all types and see the difference!!

The oysters we ate are all Atlantic oysters. To be more specific, they all come from Prince Edward Island.

Cavendish: very close to the malpèque; mildly salty and sweet.
Giant Malpèque: classic oyster, easiest to eat; light in flavour with a mild finish. 
J’adore: chewy, filled with juice and delicate in taste. 
Lucky Limes: mildly salty and sweet. 
Raspberry point: very salty and sweet; very tender.

As for facts, did you know that 4 medium-size oysters provide the recommended daily allowance of selenium, iron, manganese, phosphorus, zinc and vitamin B12?

Plus, with only 10 calories per oyster, you can eat a whole lot of them without feeling guilty!
If you’ve never had any oysters before, please do me a favour and try at least one. Ask your fish guy to show you how to open one and then try it yourself. If you’re opened to new tastes, this is a taste you might get hooked to!!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Learning To Multitask With A Simple Macaroni And Cheese

I said it yesterday, I’m really busy these days… and aren’t we all? That’s why once in a while a good old frozen dinner comes in handy. But I ain’t no gal to accept supermarket frozen dinners. Nope. I have to say it, that’s just something I refuse to buy (no offense to those who do!). So once in a while I’ve got to make my own frozen stuff. I make it and then it’s there, cold as hell, waiting to be picked and warmed up to feed our family.

So what can you easily make and freeze? Sure, there’s the classic Sheppard’s pie, spaghetti sauce or even chili con carne. But another classic, which is always nice to have handy: macaroni and cheese. Try any version, it’s quite easy to make, and then freeze it… keep it for the good occasions; the days when you just don’t have the time to cook a good meal for your loved ones.

Make about 6 servings

1 shallot, finely diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
3 cups milk
2 cups of cheese mix (my choice: Emmenthal, Gruyère and parmesan)
1 cup of you favorite ham, in tiny dices
White pepper
2 cups baby spinach (optinal)
450g macaroni pasta
Chives (for decoration)

In a saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic and cook for a minute or two.

Over low heat, add the flour and make a paste. Cook for a minute. Slowly add in the milk and make a béchamel sauce. Never stop mixing.

When the sauce is nice and thick, incorporate the ham and cheeses (keep about ½ cup on the side for later). Blend well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cut the heat.

Cook your pasta very al dente in salt water. Add the pasta to the béchamel sauce and delicately blend. If you want to add vegetables to your dish, lay the baby spinach at the bottom of a baking pan. Pour the cheese noodles on top. Spread the leftover cheese on top.

When ready to serve, unfreeze (or cook right away) and cook in the oven for about 30 minutes at 450˚F or until the cheese is nice, golden and crispy.

Chop some chives and sprinkle on top of your serving plates.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

When There’s No Time To Cook, There’s Always Vichyssoise

My hands are full these days with a big renovation project. I know… I can be a little hyperactive sometimes. But it’s the way I like things… and with two babies on my hands, life is great but I sometimes miss the hectic lifestyle of having a fun job. So I’m creating my own jobs these days and renovating is one of them. Still, this means that my time is fully packed. I wake up, take care of the babies, run around for the renovation, and come back home to take care of the babies to finally go to sleep. There’s not much time left in there to cook… let alone eat! So I’m making really easy stuff these days, like grilled chicken or grilled fish. As long as I have the ingredient in my fridge, I’ll make it in the simplest way.

But I did take time to prepare a soup for the week. A cold one, much easier to eat when you’re in a rush! It’s a leek and potato soup called Vichyssoise. Amazingly tasty and easy to make, it’s great as an appetizer or as a portion of veggies, if your fridge is not packed with fresh veggies. I like to make my vichyssoise without dairy and then add milk or cream, depending on my mood. Make this one over the weekend and eat it all week long (or freeze it if you only want to eat a little bit at a time!).

Makes about 8 servings

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
3 leeks, white parts only, washed and chopped
1 potato, peeled and diced
6 cups chicken broth
 Salt & pepper
½ cup 15% cream (optional)

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and the onion over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook for about 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Add the potatoes and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Let simmer for 30 minutes. Let cool.

In a blender, blend the leek soup. Strain through a ‘chinois’. Put in the fridge and serve cold.

Note: Add the cream to the mixture if you like. It’ll give a nice, smooth and creamy taste to your soup.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Embracing The Best Of Fall With An Apple Crumble

I know, you probably know how to make this recipe already. It’s a classic in Quebec, especially during apple season. Apple picking is one of the great family activities you can do during the fall. And you really don’t have to go far to see the trees and enjoy picking the fruits. There are so many things you can cook with apples and this one is one of my personal favorites. In our family, my dad is the pro at this… probably because he doesn’t get to cook much in his house; he’s mastered his recipe over the years. It’s simple, always super tasty, and almost healthy because it’s filled with apples (oh yeah, and a little bit of sugar too!).

Still, I have a confession to make. I haven’t been apple picking this season. We really wanted to a few weeks ago, but our plans changed and we weren’t able to make it. And it’s been raining ever since. So I’ve been craving apple food lately. When I saw the beautiful McIntosh apples on sale at the supermarket, I couldn’t resist buying a few to make this great apple crumble. I know I’m totally cheating! But hey, sometimes you have to cheat to get the good stuff. Don’t tell me you never cheated at anything… If you haven’t, then you’re one of the few!

Makes about 8 servings

¾ cups flour
1 cup oatmeal
½ cup brown sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
½ cup butter, melted

8 apples, peeled and roughly cut in cubes
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice

Preheat your oven at 375˚F.

In a bowl, mix together the dry ingredients: flour, oatmeal, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add the butter and mix well.

In another bowl, mix the apples with the brown sugar and lemon juice. Spread in a rectangular oven-baking dish. Cook for 40 minutes.

Note: If you really want to go all out, this recipe is amazing when served warm with vanilla ice cream. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Our Family Classic Mushroom Chicken

This recipe you should love. On a rainy day like this one it will save your life and bring a little bit of sunshine in your house. It’s a classic in our family. Can you believe my mom used to make it on camping trips when she was on her honeymoon (yep, my parents spent their honeymoon camping!)? It’s THAT easy! You could make it on a small burner on a deserted island in the middle of the woods. If you can’t pull this one off, then no one can.

It’s a very simple chicken recipe. You could bring it to it’s simplest version by just using the canned soup but hey, if you’re at home you can jazz it up by adding only a few ingredients which will even make this recipe look fancy. You don’t have any time on your hands? The rain is totally depressing you? You just don’t know what to prepare for dinner? Try this and thank me later!

Makes 4 servings
4 chicken thighs or breasts
1 big can (or 2 small cans) of cream of mushroom
1 onion, finely chopped
1 ½ cups fresh mushrooms, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
Salt & pepper

Preheat your oven at 375˚F.

In a large ovenproof dish, lay your chicken. Cover with salt & pepper, onions, garlic, mushrooms and the soup. Put in the oven for 1 hour (for thighs, about40 minutes for breasts or until the meat is thoroughly cooked).

Note: If you want to make this dish full without having to fuss with side veggies, try adding diced potatoes to the whole things and voilà, you've got a meal in a dish!!