Monday, October 29, 2012

Appies with a Twist - Pesto Cheddar Straws

Have you ever had a last minute event to go to and have no idea what to bring? Have no time to put together a snack when friends show up for a visit? Need a little something to go with a bowl of soup of a salad for dinner?  Well we totally have the solution for you.

These beautiful and delicate puff pastry straws are super easy to put together, but look like you slaved over them for hours.  I keep puff pastry in the freezer all the time, its cheap and super easy to work with and so versatile.

These little sticks store well in an air tight container, and will last a couple days.

Makes approximately 18 twists.

1 piece of frozen puff pastry, thawed (1/2 box)
1/4 cup pesto
1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 egg, whisked for egg wash
Salt and Pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. On a floured surface, roll the thawed puff pastry to approximately 10" x 18"
3. Spread half the pesto onto the pastry, leaving .5" on each edge.
4. Fold the pastry in half, (10" x 9")
5. Roll the pastry again to 10" x 18", lightly salt and pepper the pastry, then place grated cheese on half the pastry. Fold the pastry over the cheese.
6. Repeat steps 2, 3, 4.
7. Roll the pastry out one final time, to 10" x 18".
8. Brush the pastry lightly with the egg.
8. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut strips about .5" wide.
9. Twist the strips 2 or three times and place on cookie sheet.
10. Bake for 10 - 15 minutes, till the pastry is golden brown, and puffed.

Try this technique with other fillings, like cinnamon and sugar, ham and cheese, or jam.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Beautiful Baked Apples

It's apple season! Every market has bins and bins of beautiful crisp apples at this time of year. Everyone should have a baked apple recipe in their dessert repertoire because they are quick to prepare, requires no special ingredients, and are just so delicious that you will want to have them every night!  You can also change the recipe depending on your tastes, add raisins or dried cranberries, nutmeg, whatever you like.  The best apples to use for this recipe are baking apples, they are more tart and become soft when cooked. Try McIntosh, Empires, or Granny Smiths. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Serves 4.

4 Apples
1/2 Cup brown sugar
1/2 Cup pecans or walnuts
1 Tablespoon spoon cinnamon
1/4 Cup softened butter

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Wash and remove the core from the apples. Place in an oven proof dish.
3. In a bowl mix the rest of the ingredients until well combined.
4. Spoon the sugar mixture into the centers of each apple.
5. Bake until the apples are soft. Time will range from 30-60 mins depending on the type of apple.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Cheddar and Chive Biscuits

Light, flaky and tender that is what a biscuit should be like. A good recipe for a biscuit is worth it's weight in gold, for it's versitility.  From a basic recipe you can add herbs and cheese,  fruit, sugar and spices and you have something totally different and perfect each time.

These biscuits have cheddar and chives to complement the Potato and Leek Soup.

Makes 12 Biscuits, 3" in diameter.

2 Cups flour, sifted
1/2 Teaspoon salt
2 1/2 Teaspoons baking powder
1/3 Cup shortening
2/3 Cup milk
3 Tablespoons chives, finely chopped
1/2 Cup aged cheddar cheese, grated
1 Egg for egg wash.

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder.
3. Using a pastry blender or fingers, cut in the shortening until it is the consistency of peas. Add chives and cheddar cheese.
4. Add the milk and mix gently with a fork until just moistened.
5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, kneed gently until the dough forms a ball. Do not over kneed.
6. With a rolling pin, roll the dough to about a 1/2" thickness.
7. Cut the dough with a round biscuit cutter, or glass about 3" in diameter.
8. Brush the biscuits lightly with egg wash.
9. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes. Biscuits should be fluffy and golden brown.

TIP: You can use this same recipe and replace the cheese with fruit like cranberries or raspberries. Remember to add 2 Tablespoons of sugar to the dry ingredients. You can also add a little lemon or orange rind for extra flavour.

Rustic Potato Leek Soup

The weather has definitely turned here in the West Coast. Gone are the sunny brisk days that we had all the way into mid-October. We have finally set into real fall weather. The leaves have turned colours and have fallen to the ground, and when we think of what to have for dinner we start thinking of heartier meals that are warm and comforting.

Potato leak soup is one of those dishes that is really easy to make, and contrary to popular opinion, our version is very low in calories, as we only use a little milk to finish. The richness comes entirely from the starch in the potatoes for thickening.  Now what makes this recipe rustic? Simple actually, I don't have a blender or an immersion blender so getting the soup perfectly smooth just isn't possible. Plus, who doesn't prefer their soup to have a little texture?

Serve this with fresh cheddar biscuits. See the recipe here.Cheddar and Chive Biscuits

Serves 6.

3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 Leeks
1 Medium Onion, diced finely
3 Stalks Celery, diced finely
1 liter Chicken Stock (home made or store bought)
6 Medium Yukon Gold Potatoes (1 - 1.5 Lbs), peeled and cubed
1/4 Cup Italian Parsley, chopped finely
1/8 Cup chives or green onion, chopped finely
1 cup 2% milk (you can add cream if you prefer it to be richer)
Salt and pepper to taste

1.  In a large stock pot, add oil and heat over medium heat. Add chopped onion and celery and sweat for 5 minutes. Do not brown the veggies.
2. Trim the root end off the leeks and slice in half lengthwise.  Wash the leeks very thoroughly as there will be dirt. Once clean, slice the leeks finely and pat dry. Add to pot and continue to sweat the veggies for an additional 5 minutes.
3. Once all the veggies are soft and translucent, add the potatoes and stock. Bring to a simmer, and cook until the potatoes are well cooked, about 30 minutes.
4. Depending on how smooth you want your soup, puree with an immersion blender, pass through a chinoise, or mash with a potato masher.
5. Add more stock, or some water if the soup is too thick.
6. Add milk, herbs, and season with salt and pepper.
7. Let simmer for 5 more minutes, till hot through, and serve.

This soup can be made a day or two ahead and reheated. It may need some water or additional milk to thin it out. It does not freeze very well, as it tends to separate and looks less appealing, but even after freezing it tastes delicious.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Turkey Pot Pie - The Leftover Edition

In our family we absolutely love turkey! It is not unusual for us to have a 20-24 lb turkey every Thanksgiving and Christmas. With that much turkey we were guaranteed to have lots of leftovers, but the question becomes what to do with it all? And what about all the extra veggies and gravy?  Well this is a really easy turkey pot pie recipe that uses up all those leftovers and tastes awesome.  

Unlike most pot pie recipes, we don't make a cream sauce, ours uses leftover gravy, stock and milk for lots of natural flavour and none of that gloppy texture.  Feel free to add your own favorite fresh herbs and whatever other veggies that you like. 
Serves 4.

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup stock (turkey or chicken)
1 cup milk
1 cup turkey gravy (leftover or purchased)
3 teaspoons tarragon
3 tablespoons fresh parsley
2 teaspoons oregano
3 cups of cooked, cubed, turkey
2 cups fresh / leftover veggies (carrots, peas, broccoli, beans)
1 piece puff pastry, thawed
1 egg whisked for egg wash.
Salt and Pepper

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large saute pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and celery and saute until translucent. Do not brown.
3. Sprinkle the flour over the sauteed veggies, stir combining the flour into the oil. Cook for 2-3 minutes, making a roux.
4. Add the stock and milk, stirring frequently until the sauce has thickened.  Add the gravy, stir to combine. If the sauce is too thick add either stock or milk to thin.
5. Add the herbs, and season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
6. Add the turkey and veggies to the the sauce, stir to combine. Let simmer on min, while you prep the pastry.
7. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to 1/4" thick.
8. Put the turkey sauce mixture into a casserole dish.
9. Lay the pastry over the casserole dish, tucking the pastry around the filling. Trim the edges of the pastry, leaving a margin of 1" or so over the edge.
10. Brush the pastry with an egg wash and pierce the pastry for the steam to escape.
11. Bake approximately 45-50 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is bubbling.
12. Let the pie set for 5 minutes before serving.

Tell us..What is your favorite part of Thanksgiving? Any special family recipes?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Brussel Sprouts With Clout!

No vegetable can cause grown people to wrinkle their noses and exclaim their disgust like the poor, misunderstood brussel sprout. People who haven't even tried them declare that they are horrifying, vile, nasty things. To those people, I say you have no idea what you are missing!

Now maybe your mother, or grandmother boiled the little buggers till they were grey and you had to eat them with a spoon. And to all of you, I am so sorry! But please don't blame the brussels, blame the cook!  Give them another chance.

So how do you go about making the best brussel sprouts ever?  Simple...add bacon and hazelnuts!  This recipe is so easy, and can be prepped all in advance of your holiday meal. So why not give these poor baby cabbages another try, I promise you will not be sorry.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon and Hazelnuts.
Serves 4.

1 lb Fresh Brussel Sprouts
6 slices bacon
1/4 cup Hazelnuts
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
2. Put the hazelnuts on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes.  If the nuts still have the skin on them, put the nuts on a clean dish cloth, fold the cloth over the nuts and rub the nuts in the towel until the skins peel off. Chop the nuts roughly and put aside.
3. Cut the bacon into small pieces and put into a fry pan. Cook the bacon slowly over medium-low heat to crisp the bacon and render out all the fat. When the bacon is cooked, scoop it out and put it on a paper towel, reserving all the fat.
4. Trim all the brussel sprouts, by cutting all the stems and removing any wilted leaves.  Slice the sprouts in half.
5. Toss the sprouts in the reserved bacon fat and season with salt and pepper. Put the brussel sprouts on cookie sheet or other baking dish.
6. Roast in oven for 20-25 minutes, stirring half way through. Sprouts are done when they have some roasted colour and al dente. You do not want to over cook them, they should still have some crunch.
7. When cooked, toss the bacon and nuts into the sprouts and serve.