Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Totally random Christmas Eve Eve 12am Stir Fry

 So, as I was making the "Chocolate Covered Cherry Cookies"  on Christmas Eve Eve for my family and friends, I decided that I should do something with this, "Sliced Side Bacon" that I had bought on a whim, in hopes of conjuring up something new and exciting.

 I looked up what side bacon was, how to cook it, what it was similar to.

 I now have a guide to pork meat cuts as a tab on my bookmarks as an example of how far I did in fact delve into this venture.

 I ended up finding that side pork is basically bacon that hasn't been cured. But, it is treated the same as a pork belly in the style of cooking.

 SO... i scoured blogs and recipes and I found this:

 and more specifically, this:

 "The easiest way I know of is slow braised. It's kind of a Hakka/Taiwanese homestyle dish. I don't have a recipe, but you use a combination of water, soy sauce, brown or rock sugar, star anise (no more than two or three whole stars), a clove or two of garlic, 3-5 thick slices of ginger, rice wine, and plenty of green onions cut into 3-4 inch segments. You can just taste the marinade and if you like the sweet/salty balance just go for it.

Sear the pork belly on all sides.
Put the pork belly in a pot small enough that the liquid will just cover it. Of course, you could make a huge amount of liquid, but I find that wasteful. Bring it to a boil, then simmer for at least an hour, probably more like 90 minutes. I like to put half the green onions in at the beginning, then another batch halfway in so we have some green onions to eat as well as some completely melted into the liquid.
When you can break the meat apart with a fork, it's ready. Let sit until you can handle it, then slice into 1/3 inch thick slices. Plate with green onions and pour a little of the cooking liquid over it. This and a bowl of short grain Japanese rice is what I call comfort food."

 I, however didn't have star anise, or rice wine. I used in equal parts:
Soya Sauce
Brown Sugar
3 cloves garlic
Tbs ginger paste
Rice wine vinegar

Until it was enough to cover the meat in the pot. I think I had doubled it when all was said and done. 
I did exactly as said for everything else to do with cooking times and temperatures.

I got out the wok and threw in:
An assortment of mushrooms (oyster, baby portabello, button, etc)
Baby carrots sliced in half
Halved and chopped zucchini
Chunks of one whole sweet onion
The pork turned out AMAZING! The broccoli was semi over cooked but otherwise it was a 5 star stir fry.

 This is what can happen, on Christmas Eve Eve.
 When you're wrapping, planning, shopping, planning, planning and planning!
 I was up until 2 am but it was worth it!
I made some rice noodles and whole grain rice and we had meals for lunch and dinner through the busiest days of the year when you have time for nothing!
I hope your Christmas was wonderful!
My daughter got a Barbie Dream House, and I was out $200 as a cause of it. It was worth it. Ten times over. 
I realized this Christmas, or was more so was reminded, that  my daughter is one of the greatest human beings I have ever come across.
She came down with a crazy throat infection and through it she stayed strong. She wanted to play. She wanted to do summersaults and hand stands! She is, well.... fearless and a go getter to say the least.
 I did a good job and I'm not afraid to say it in this instance, on this day where I have enough confidence to say so. Because we all know I'll feel the opposite tomorrow. 
But today, I am proud. 
She called me funny today. As we were holding hands walking into the grocery store she said: "Mom, we have a funny family and I'm  happy to be part of it".
Yeah, she's 5..... and I'm lucky. 
I hope you are too. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Chai Latte Cupcakes... and Catastrophes..

 The catastrophe has nothing to do with the cupcakes. The cupcakes are in fact, pure heaven. The catastrophe comes by way of family. More specifically family at Christmas.

 I'm not going to bore you with the details. More so, just throw it out there into the "blogoshere" and ask, why? Why does every Christmas turn into Stress City? Why can't it just be easy? Just one day. Not every day. I don't need everything to go smoothly for the other 364 days of the year, (I should say 360 because we all know Christmas is a 4 day venture minimum).

 I do not find myself to be one of "those people" incessantly complaining. I'm just asking for one day, or 4. Just give me 4 days to be in 'Happy Christmas Land'. I LOVE CHRISTMAS. I listen to Christmas music on the radio the second it is aired. I bring the tree out on American Thanksgiving weekend. There, I said it. So make fun of me or whatever you want to do, I've heard it all before and I can take it.

 So because  of my love for it, I just want it to be... Well... Christmas. My ideal of Christmas.

 To me, Christmas means Family. Family meaning: Whoever it is you surround yourself with, who you cherish. Friends, laughs, late nights. People you don't get to regularly see, that are in town for a few days. Time. Time you don't usually have to really sit down and catch up with the people you love. The "spirit" that somehow flows so freely out of people at Christmas. All the sudden you're thanking the guy at the gas station for always offering you coffee and wishing him and his family all the best. You find yourself helping with insanely crazy school functions of your children's, and dealing with 50 kids all having no clue what a bird feeder is, let alone what the heck this 'Crisco' stuff is we're using on the feeder,  (don't even comment on it. It was not my idea). Coming home with a huge smile on your face, happy and so grateful for having the ability to be that involved with your child's life. Spending an impromptu entire day baking at the last minute because you can't bare not being able to give everyone you love something that's going to make them smile or have a inkling of just how important to you they really are.

... Ok maybe that's just my life, but you get it, right?

 I just love Christmas. Always have, and I guess after writing this I have just reminded myself of what to hold on to. What not to get caught up in.

 I hope all of you have a wonderful holiday, whatever it may be. Whatever your traditions are, stick to them. They're important. They're what make us special. What keep us human.

 This is a recipe that I have made for loved ones only, actually. It's only been my Mother-In-Law, one of my best friends and my Mother.

 It's not a difficult recipe, but it takes some time and the icing it is needing of a hand or stand mixer.

 I actually made them with a different recipe the first time and I didn't love the buttercream frosting. Maybe I did something wrong but it was just to much to me. It tasted like I was eating straight up butter. So this swiss meringue icing was a huge improvement. It's like a whipped, lighter version of buttercream.

 They really are delicious.

 Just a tip: you can get the Tazo Chai concentrate at Starbucks for about $7.

 1/2 cup milk
 1/2 cup Tazo Chai Concentrate
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract

For frosting:
1/2 cup sugar
2 large egg whites
 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Measure the chai in a measuring cup; add milk. whisk in cider vinegar. Set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg. Pour in milk mixture, along with oil, sugar, and vanilla, and stir just until no large lumps remain.

4. Fill cupcake liners until they are 2/3 full, and bake for 20-22 minutes or until puffed up and nicely browned. Transfer and allow to cool completely before frosting.

5. For the swiss buttercream: put the sugar and egg whites in a large heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping mixture over the heat until it feels hot to the touch, about 5 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like marshmallow cream.

6. Pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and beat on medium-high speed until it cools and forms a thick and shiny meringue, about 5 minutes. Switch to the paddle attachment and add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, beating until smooth. Once all the butter is in, beat the buttercream on medium-high speed until is is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes. Add the vanilla and cinnamon and whip for another 30 seconds until incorporated. Spread or pipe on cooled cupcakes.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

My favourite Christmas song. What's yours?

..... the remainder

Some crazy Mac & Cheese with pulled pork and guacamole and tomatoes. It was below average at the restaurant and above average at home. Fresh from my microwave. Why does that happen? Is it just me?

Tecumseh Original Road House

 Way better when reheated....... Just sayin'

Chocolate Covered Cherry Cookies... and Conversation

 To bake or not to bake for your family & friends..... This is the question.

 Last year I made these cranberry haystack cookie/disasters, as well as tinny tasting shortbread cookies. I think the tin taste came from the cornstarch. They looked halfway decent. Really, they tasted fine. Just not up to par with what I consider "give-able".

 In the future, I will no longer make things I've never made for anyone other than myself. Especially for a gift! I would recommend the same for any of you venturing on a home baked Christmas gift.

 Lastly, I suggest something easy. Last year I made two different things. This year I will make one. Last year I made cranberry, chow mein, marshmallow, white chocolate haystacks that had to be cooked on the stove, moulded together with the right ratio of cranberry to marshmallow. Then, all had to be refrigerated for an hour or more, (I had over 150.. and one fridge) before I could even put them in the 20 individual containers I had strewn across the kitchen. Not to mention the tinny, ridiculously delicate shortbreads.

 THIS year, I am either not making anything, OR I am making something I have made before. Something I know everyone will love. Something you can't get enough of:

Chocolate Covered Cherry Cookies

1/2 cup butter

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1  jar maraschino cherries
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C)

 Beat the butter and sugar together in a bowl. Add egg and vanilla and beat well. Add the flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, and baking powder and stir until smooth. Roll the mixture into 1-inch balls. Place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Make a thumbprint in the centre of each ball.

 Drain cherries and save juice. Place a cherry in the thumbprint of each ball.

 In a saucepan, heat condensed milk and chocolate chips until chips are melted. Stir in 4 teaspoons of cherry juice. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of mixture over each cherry and spread to cover cherry. 

 Tip: You can add cherry juice to the mixture as you go to keep it spreading consistency.


Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.

 Just one last tip. Just looking out for you.  If you're anything like me, once you get started on anything like this you keeping adding to the list of people receiving them. Keep it as simple as you can. Last year I made for over 15 people. This year it will be for 10 tops and that's if I do it at all. 

 Keep it so it's always fun. After all, that's what it all started with, right?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sausage, Sundried tomato, Asparagus, Artichoke Rigatoni... Whoa, that's a mouthful

 I originally saw this recipe on Oprah. Lost track of it, forgot ingredients, forgot it completely and then one day almost a year later remembered. I remembered almost every ingredient. So just in case you didn't know, which I'm sure you do: if you have a recipe in your head and you know some key ingredients, just type it in to a search engine and chances are you will find it! And low and behold, I did.

 I did change a couple minor things, the recipe itself is so so soooo amazing.

 My boyfriend, who while most notably is an amazing guitarist/musician, is also a pastaholic; absolutely adores this recipe.

 I have to say even I, who really can't stand more than one day of leftovers on any normal occasion, can stand a few days of this.

 So here it is:

  •  3/4 cup drained oil packed sun dried tomatoes with tbs oil reserved
  •  1 lb Italian sausage 
  •  1 can artichoke hearts coarsely chopped
  •  bunch asparagus, cut in half
  •  2 large cloves garlic, chopped
  •  3/4 cup chicken broth
  •  1 cup dry white wine
  •  2 oz rigatoni 
  •  cup shredded Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  •  cup chopped fresh basil
  •  cup fresh flat leaf parsley
  •  6 oz fresh mozzarella shredded
  •  salt and pepper to taste
  • Heat reserved oil in large heavy pan over medium heat. Add sausage and cook until browned, breaking meat into bite size pieces with a fork. Transfer sausage to a bowl, straining to leave oil. Add artichokes, asparagus, and garlic to skillet and saute over medium heat until garlic is tender. about 4 minutes. Add broth, wine, and Sun-dried tomatoes. Boil over medium heat until sauce reduces slightly, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, cook pasta until al dente, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Drain pasta, do not rinse. 
  • Add pasta and sausage to artichoke mixture. Toss until sauce is almost absorbed by pasta,m 2-3 min. Remove from heat. Stir in Parmesan cheese basil, parsley, and mozzarella. Season to taste with salt and pepper. ENJOY!

     It really is a great dish. So much flavour. I think the wine, sundried tomato and fresh basil make this dish. 

     I hope you love it. We do. 

My first official blog post!

 Hi guys!

 This is my first blog. Very exciting! Alright, here goes......

 I guess I should tell you I am a 30 year old Mom of  5 year old daughter, Izzy. Living in South Western Ontario, Canada. 

 There's snow on the ground, the heat is set at a ridiculous 73 degrees (not one to use Celsius, please don't slay me fellow Canadians) in our home and the Christmas tree is up and in view as I type. 

 I love making anything new and different (to me). Anything I see on websites, magazines, twitter, etc. If I haven't seen it, I want to make it. 

 I came across a recipe recently for those gorgeously coloured macrons, I think they are called. My god, what a feat! I feel if I can make those, I can make anything! Have you seen the recipe and instructions? But even more, have you tasted one? They are like nothing I have ever encountered. So beautiful, like air. You could eat in in one bite but you'd rather try your hardest to make it at least 4 so it will last as long as humanly possible. 

 Anyway, after the holidays I would really like to tackle at least one flavour. Now I have written it and it is out, in this.... blogosphere? So, I should stick to it.... Right?

 Thanks for reading... really. Even if it's one person. It means a lot. Thank you.