Grilled Cheese & Kismet

So way back in March I came up with the idea to host a Gourmet Grilled Cheese Night with some friends. Our Pizza Pi(e) night on March 14th (get it? 3.14) went pretty great and figured it would fun to replicate the magic. I’ve come across so many variations of cheese sandwiches since I started cooking, and I’ve made up my own combinations as well. So we planned it for March 29th. However, we ended up postponing for reasons beyond our control and moved the night to sometime in April. With two weddings to attend this month plus Easter plus my Dad’s Birthday plus Wrestlemania plus the release of Captain America, the best night for all of us was April 12. I found out at the beginning of April (after we pushed it to April) that this month was grilled cheese month which kinda blew my mind with its awesomeness. So imagine my utter shock when I saw a tweet on April 13th that the 12th was actually Grilled Cheese Day?! As my friend Adam said, the word kismet comes to mind.
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Also, am I a nerd for expressing excitement over my utter cheese wealth? At one time, my fridge contained Cheddar, Smoked Gouda, Mozarella, Shredded Italian cheese blend, Ricotta, Mascarpone, Parmesan & Honeyed Goat Cheese all at once! You foodies know what I’m talking about. I ended up being left with a big tub of mascarpone, so feel free to share any of your favourite recipes with me.
 
We paired all of the Gourmet Grilled Cheese sandwiches with some tomato soup. Definitely one of the most comforting comfort food combinations of all time. 
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A big Thank you to Ian for the pictures and Tracy for the food styling!
 
Note: I thank goodness for my Panini Press. For those of you that may not have one, I’ve read that the stovetop method of making grilled cheese works quite well. You basically assemble your sandwich, place it in a greased pan and cover. Cook for a few minutes, flip and repeat until nicely browned on outside and the insides have melted to the point of perfection. Whether you choose to cut in half or not, be careful. The insides are very hot and there’s no worse feeling than that burned roof of your mouth. Or being burned by cheese steam. Yep, that’s a thing. Ask my finger.
 
Here were our combinations:
 
1. Broccoli, Mozzarella & Black Pepper
 Notes:
- Steam the broccoli for a few minutes until lovely and bright. Make sure it retains its crispness since that crunchy texture is the star of the sandwich.
- Add lots of black pepper (don’t I always say that?)
- You absolutely must use your panini maker or pan fry the sandwich. Whatever you do, make sure it is compressed and that the Mozzarella is nice and gooey and stringy.
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2. Smoked Gouda & Red Onion Marmalade
Notes:
- The Marmalade can be made days beforehand. The Recipe is here
- The smokiness of the cheese and the sweetness of the marmalade make you feel like you’re eating a fancy BBQ flavoured sandwich
- Use your panini press or the stovetop method.
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3. Turkey Bacon, Cheddar & Avocado
Notes:
- Absolutely delicious. I think this was the favourite of the evening.
- Cook the bacon using your preferred method beforehand.
- Mash the avocado with a bit of salt, black pepper and a squeeze of lemon. This can be made a few hours (or even a night before, depending on the amount of lemon you use)
- I added additional black pepper (should I even say it anymore? Just assume I always add black pepper)
- Panini Press or stovetop method.
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4. Mushroom, Mozarella & Caramelized Onions
 Notes:
- To caramelize the onions, I added olive oil, a bay leaf, a splash of white wine, 1/4 tsp of dried rosemary & a splash of cider vinegar to the onions.
- Mushrooms were sauteed in a bit of butter, salt, pepper & soy sauce. Trust me. Soy sauce in mushrooms is the most delicious addition to a dish ever.
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5. Honeyed Goat Cheese, Walnut & Caramelized Onion Crostini
 Notes:
- Used plait bread but really you can use any sort of thick, crusty bread.
- I mixed dried rosemary & a bit of black pepper into the goat cheese.
- Onions were caramelized with a bit of olive oil and sugar
- Toast complete crostini in 350 degree oven for about 5 -8 minutes until walnuts are toasted & cheese is melty. Constantly check to make sure nothing burns.
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6. Asparagus, Ricotta & Roasted Garlic Tartines
- I plan to devote an entire post to this soon. Although I think it was the least favourite of the night, I like it for when you want a nice light lunch without heavy seasoning. Its the kinda lunch that makes you feel satisfied but not bloated when you’re finished, and keeps you full until its almost time for dinner. Its one of those meals that make u realize 4 hours after you’ve eaten that “huh…I forgot about my mid afternoon craving!”
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Also, I’m quite happy to update you on the newest jump in my web savvy-ness. I now have an I’ll Cook, You Wash account on Instagram! Follow me at illcookyouwash and check out other meals I’ve made that I’ve loved but simply didn’t have a whole blog post in me for it. Sometimes you just wanna see the food. Let me know if you see something you like and I can direct you to the site/ book / my brain that was used in the creation of the meal.  
 
I’m bringing this to Fiesta Friday because it is still Grilled Cheese Month, but let’s be honest. Anytime is the right time for grilled cheese. 
 

3 Things Thursday

A post on Thursday you ask? What’s the reason for this madness!? Being the social butterfly that I am, I’ve decided to join a new link party – 3 Things Thursday hosted by Salma at The Write Balance, Raj at Pink Chai Living and Nisha at Love Laugh Mirch. Thanks to Sarah at Flour & Spice for posting about it and solving one of my blogging dilemmas – how do I mention things I love without devoting a full post to it? So from now on, Thursday posts won’t only be food related. I am spreading those wings because I do like other things and I love the opportunity to share those things that I love right now with you all.

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Here are my three things this week:

  1. DIY Teacup Wineglasses

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Found here.

How charming is this? I’m not a very craftsy DIY person. I have the ideas, sure, but the actual execution never seems to work out the way I want it to. But I came across this the other day and can’t get over how cute it is! I genuinely feel that I can do this. I can’t say I’d use the blue china pattern, but that’s okay. I’m sure I’ll find my own teacups in need of some wine stem love soon enough. I don’t know if a wine teacup is practical and can (or should!) be used to serve hot tea, but frankly, I don’t care right now. Let me just gush over it for a little bit more. It is so weird and cute!!

 

  1. X-Men: Days of Future Past final Trailer

My husband bribed me to watch X-Men: First Class with him when it first came out. I had known of the other movies but was vehemently against watching them. All I knew was that Professor X was in a wheelchair, he was bald, people were mutants and Halle Berry looked surprisingly good with white hair. For years, I was only ever a Smallville fan and then slowly became a Batman fan after Dark Knight, but then I saw First Class. That’s all she wrote. Ok, well that’s not ALL she wrote, obviously. I instantly fell in love with everything about the series. I also instantly fell for Michael Fassbender and after watching the X-Men Trilogy plus the Wolverine Origins Movie in 1.5 days, I developed this deep, unshakable love for Wolverine. And Hugh Jackman. Don’t even get me started!

But anyways, hotness aside, I thought X-Men: First Class was an awesome, well written story and the musical score had me excited for most of the movie. Stories that create a whole other story around the framework of existing events never cease to impress me. Based on the first 2 trailers, it seems like they’ll be doing it again, which has me totally geeking out. The third trailer that came out yesterday focuses on the mutants and more on the story which looks so freaking fabulous. This trailer surpasses the other two by far. Hell YES. May 23 cannot come fast enough!!

  1. Calm

Those of you who know me would know that I’m not a particularly calm person. My personality has even been described as an action –I’ve literally been told “you’re very –“ accompanied by waving hands. Generally, I like that I can get excited over the mundane. I like to whisper “whaaaat!” to myself when I pour just enough coffee in the coffeemaker or fit everything neatly in the fridge. Of course I have my depressed and lethargic moments but more often than not I’m overly chatty and distract myself very easily. There are times though that I wish that I could turn off the internal monologue and just be. I’ve tried Yoga and meditation, and while both are fabulous, I’m always open to new ways to relax and broaden my mind.

So I’ve started reading this book written by Lonely Planet. Yup – the same travel website people. Basically the book lists the ways that different cultures find serenity with a short description of each. Each method is a quick read and ranges from popular stuff we know – baths, chanting etc. to the more unusual – caring for a bonsai tree and weaving. We can all use a little serenity in our lives and I plan to use this book a lot for reference.

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So this was fun! Hope you enjoyed a non-food related post. I have a whole other post ready for tomorrow in case you didn’t :)

Cookbooks and Scrapbooks and Pinterest, oh my!

It has been an odd week. I will never understand some aspects of human nature. I find that when I’m particularly troubled or feeling unsettled, I take comfort in the things that well, comfort me. So today I’m choosing to share two of my loves with you: Books & Cooking.

Yep, that's my iPad case there in the corner.

Yep, that’s my iPad case there in the corner.

I have an unnatural love for books, and I have a special place in my heart for cookbooks. I guess you can say I collect them (but also use them). My one pet peeve (that’s cookbook related – I have many pet peeves) is that I’m not going to buy a cookbook that has the author or a celebrity on the cover. I’m not buying the book for you or your big smile, Giada! Let the food speak for itself and then maybe we’ll talk. Enough with the ladies holding a barely visible plate of food behind a lovely kitchen island or a man in an apron with a butcher’s knife or something similarly hardcore. Show the food already!

I also love Post-it flags and one of my favourite things to do is flip through a new cookbook and flag all the recipes I want to try. Its offensive to me when you fold the corner of a page down. I used to also write notes in a few books lightly with a pencil but for some reason I stopped. I actually forgot I used to do that until I started writing this post…

Anyways with today’s digital takeover, more and more recipes are popping up online and the question remains – how do you store them?  I love Pinterest primarily for the fact that I can store my Recipes from all around the web into one or a few Boards. My sister was the one who went on about the joys of Pinterest before I truly discovered it. With us being total opposites, I assumed I’d hate it. But it has become one of the best weapons in my recipe storage arsenal. With a Pinterest board, I don’t have to be a member of every single site I visit and honestly, I usually forget my passwords so I have to go through the whole process of resetting the password just to access one recipe I thought I might try one day. I even have an I’ll Cook, You Wash board so you can follow that if you’d like.

I also love those old timey recipe cards and recipe boxes although I admit I don’t see the practicality of it if you store a lot of recipes. Too many recipes, too few meals! How cute are recipe cards, by the way? When I have lovely stationery to use, I get very crazy over the neatness of my handwriting and then end up proving that “you are your own worst enemy” by making a mistake or rubbing my inky hands all over.

Then there are your favourite recipes. The ones that you know are winners that you’ll eventually memorize by heart. Or the dishes that you cooked on a special occasion that have a special meaning to you. The first thing I cooked when we moved into our own place was mashed potatoes & spaghetti. Yes, it looks just as colourless as you imagine and was absolutely carb-tastic! But I have a picture of this un-photogenic meal because its connected to a great memory.

I also love seeing the handwritten recipes in my mom’s collection – the creased pages of paper yellowed with age containing handwritten recipes from my Aunt when my Mom first got married. Actually, I’m not even sure if it was my Aunt’s handwriting or my Mom’s – they have identical handwriting. This used to come in handy when Birthday cards arrived for me in the mail but my sister’s got lost (we’re 4 days apart) or vice versa. Many birthdays have been saved by my mom adding in the missing name on the card that actually arrived. These handwritten recipes remind me that everybody starts somewhere and that the recipes that you master early on in your kitchen will become intertwined with the rest of your life and with the childhoods of your future children.

Disclaimer: 1 toe and a couple muscles were injured in the setting up of this picture

Disclaimer: 1 toe and a couple muscles were injured in the setting up of this picture

A few Christmases ago, a close friend of mine got me a blank book. It wasn’t any kind of blank book though – it was personalized and printed specifically for me. It said “Indi’s Recipes 2009/2010/2011″ on the front and contained two lovely food related quotes on the back. It was probably one of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever gotten.

Every page inside was blank and over those years, I chose my favourite and most meaningful recipes to be included in the book. I printed out the recipes, took pictures of all the dishes I made, bought kitchen themed scrapbook paper and stickers and got to work. Most of my great craft ideas aren’t very pretty when I set out to physically create it, and I can’t say that the pages I designed are particularly gorgeous (ok, some are pretty ugly). But this book describes perfectly the kind of the chef I was between 2009- 2011 and contains some of the recipes that have become staples in my house.

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We all know food is extremely visual (we eat with our eyes first) and having a cookbook or a beautiful site open makes me want to cook and also makes me feel like I can cook anything! I’m also curious – what’s your preferred recipe storage method?

So no recipe today, guys. An odd thing to bring to Fiesta Friday, but hey, its been an odd week. I’ll be back to my less philosophical self on Monday. Planning a Gourmet Grilled Cheese night with some friends so stay tuned!

Roasted Garlic 2 ways

So maybe you’ve already heard about roasted garlic. Maybe I’m just the most clueless person ever and you’re shaking your head in annoyance at this post because Duh! Everyone knows about roasted garlic! Or maybe you’re about to thank me for introducing you to your new ‘secret ingredient’ that will form the base of every recipe from now on and will leave relatives and friends looking at you in awe and begrudging admiration. I’m sure there’s a middle ground somethere but I’m not doing middle ground today. Can you sense that I allowed myself to have a cup of coffee today?  

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I actually didn’t discover roasted garlic until about 3 years ago although I’ve always been a fan of garlic. I’ve never understood when someone has described a meal as too garlicky. How was I to know that baking garlic in the oven with a bit of olive oil would bring out the amazingly creamy, decadent and luxurious side of such tiny cloves? If you’ve never roasted garlic, PLEASE DO IMMEDIATELY. For years my assigned dish for Christmas Lunch was mashed potatoes (which I totally love au natural), but the addition of roasted garlic to the potatoes definitely bumped me up the “who made the best meal” scale. I definitely moved above salad (sorry bro!)! 

Because the cooking mellows the flavor so much, you can easily spread the garlic alone on a slice of bread for a quick snack. I usually mash my garlic into a paste, so the remaining olive oil in the pan helps give the garlic a nice, spreadable buttery texture. You can also add to soups, salads, salad dressing, potatoes, or puree it with your other favourite ingredients to make a sauce or pesto. I’ve even seen recipes for roasted garlic oil which you can drizzle in soups. If you’re still unsure about it, try it with mashed potatoes first. Make your potatoes as normal and mash the roasted garlic cloves with the boiled potatoes. I promise you won’t be disappointed.   

If you want to roast it the traditional way - in the oven, it really isn’t that much of a hassle. It keeps well in the fridge so you can roast a lot at once while you’re doing the dishes or having dinner. It’s a great way to ‘hide’ the work and finish a big element of your future dish in advance. The basic recipe goes as follows: 

Traditional Roasted Garlic

Ingredients

1 head Garlic

Olive oil 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the top of the head off, about ¼ – ½ inch deep to ensure that the top of each clove is exposed. Remove any loose papery skin around the head of garlic and place on a sheet of foil. Drizzle enough olive oil over the exposed cloves to ensure that oil gets into the crevices between each clove. 

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Cover the garlic with foil (you can make cute little foil packets by folding up the edges of the foil and pinching them together) and bake in preheated oven for 35-40 minutes.  

Ensure that the cloves are soft enough for a knife to pierce the top of the clove easily. Remove from oven and let cool. Once cool, squeeze the bottom of each clove to allow the garlic to pop out, or peel away the outer layer of garlic skin and pull the clove out. 

Warning: The smell from your oven will feel like a hug for your nostrils. You may be enveloped in memories and images that aren’t even yours.

 


 

The only catch with roasting garlic in the oven is that it can take ages, especially if you’re waiting for it to add to a meal you’re about to cook. It takes about 35-40 minutes and sometimes I don’t want to turn on my oven just to roast one tiny thing. So if you want to feature it in your dish, planning ahead really helps. There have actually been a few occasions where I’ve wanted to use a recipe with roasted garlic but just started cooking too late and the hanger (yes, hunger / anger) took over. So I devised a shortcut to roast this garlic on the stovetop which is just as easy as the oven. 

Stovetop Roasted Garlic 

Ingredients

1 head Garlic, unpeeled and separated into cloves

Olive oil 

Turn on stove to medium heat. Place Garlic in frying pan. Drizzle about 1 tablespoon olive oil over unpeeled cloves, ensuring that cloves are more or less evenly coated. Reduce heat to lowest setting and let garlic cook, stirring occasionally for about 10-15 minutes until garlic skin is browned. If you do have a side of a clove that is exposed, don’t worry. Let it cook but monitor it while cooking to ensure that it doesn’t burn.

Turn off heat and leave to cool. Once cooled, pinch hard tip of each clove off and skin should come off easily.

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Roasted garlic can be stored by itself in the fridge for about 2 weeks.  Don’t squeeze the cloves out – just cover with foil, or squeeze out and store in a jar with enough olive oil to cover the cloves. 

If you’re not a fan of garlic (i.e. you find it too assertive), don’t think that you’re excused from trying this. Like I said, the heat mellows out the flavour tremendously to the point that you can pop a whole buttery clove in your mouth. I’ve done that with raw garlic. Note to self: if it smells good, it doesn’t mean it tastes good. (How many times can I learn this lesson!? Raw garlic, Cocoa butter and vanilla essence have all taught me this lesson before!)  

The oven garlic flavor will be deeper and more developed than the stovetop garlic, but I admit that the flavor that the stovetop garlic provides its sort of a middle ground and is quite delicious too… Huh. I guess I do actually do middle ground. Or my caffeine rush has ebbed. I better end this post here by insisting that you try roasting garlic either way and apologizing in advance to any brooding, garlic hating Vampire who may imprint on you and want to glitter together for eternity (#twilightreference). I’m personally more of a Harry Potter girl. 

Cardamom & Cocoa Baked Apples

I was on a cardamom kick all week, which is so weird because I’ve never cooked with it. Maybe I used the pods once in a curry but I never used the ground cardamom nor have I ever made it the star of a dish. So why the obsession now? Let me introduce you to my weird quirk #995. Sometimes I come across a recipe that is so beautiful and looks so delicious sounding that I forget about the reality and get lost in the recipe. So when I stumbled across a recipe for some cardamom cake, I got it into my head that I MUST try it this week! I tried to make my own cake from scratch. And since this post isn’t about that cake, you can imagine how that turned out. My Kitchen disaster post is going to be quite long, I’m just warning you!

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So cardamom. What is it? You may have seen the pods at the supermarket or at specialty stores. It’s an exotic spice popular in Scandinavian and East Indian countries. While cardamom pods are usually more often used in syrups and curries, the seeds can be ground although it loses much of its flavor. Luckily, I didn’t need an overpowering flavor so I used the ground spices. Also I don’t have a spice grinder. If I were being interrogated, this is where the policeman would dubiously say “hmmm…that’s a convenient way to cover up your laziness.”

Anyway so cardamom is a bit more exotic and expensive than regular spices, but because even the ground seeds can be overpowering, you should use it sparingly. It goes well with citrus, pistachios and mild flavours but also pairs well with heavier flavours like curry and cinnamon. 

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Cardamom Pods

After much deliberation, I quite happily settled on baked apples with cocoa and cardamom. It’s a dessert that takes less than 5 minutes to prepare and is made in those cute little individually wrapped foil packets so you can easily serve it at a dinner party – stick it in the oven before you sit to eat dinner and by the time you’re ready for dessert, each guest has their individual packet to open up. It’s very cool. You can easily scale this up or down – use even one apple and serve it as part of a intimate meal for two. Its still healthy so I’m not going to lie…I had it for breakfast… 

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That’s all you need!

I’ve always seen baked apple recipes but it’s been full of cinnamon and nutmeg and all those heavy spices and I’ve personally found that combination on a regular basis a bit cloying. The beauty with Apples though is that because it has such a mild flavor, you can switch up the spices and they go together nicely. I found that the cardamom and chocolate give off a surprisingly savoury-sweet flavor rather than a one-note sweetness. It’s pretty aromatic as well and it filled my kitchen with a warm, homely scent. I half expected to pull a Thanksgiving turkey out the oven :) I’m bringing this to Fiesta Friday as well. 

Cardamom & Cocoa Baked Apples

Ingredients

Serves 2

1 Apple of your choice (I used Gala)

2 Pinches of Cardamom

2 Bigger Pinches of Cocoa Powder

Whipped Cream or Ice Cream (optional, for serving, but I highly recommend you use it)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Tear two sheets of foil large enough to fold into packets. Slice apples into 1/8-1/4 inch slices and toss with cardamom & cocoa. Divide in half and place a portion into each foil sheet. Fold the ends up and pinch together and pinch sides closed. Ensure that entire packet is properly sealed. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes.

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Wait for iiiiiittt….

That’s all! Please be careful when you open the packets because there will be lots of steam. I know a cardamom facial sounds like something that super rich people do, but let’s not try that, okay?

I say serve with whipped cream, Rabin says it doesn’t add anything to it. Can you please try it and help us break this stalemate? Image

Red Onion Marmalade

Quick. What do you think of when I say Marmalade? My first thought is Paddington Bear. Then I think of the colour orange. Then I think of my Dad and Grandma since they’re the only two people I know that actively eat and like marmalade. What’s the difference between marmalade and jam btw? Ok…these are a lot of thoughts rolled into one.
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So after a bit of research I found out that marmalade is made with citrus related fruits (usually bitter Seville oranges from Spain or Portugal) whereas jam is made from sweet fruits. Makes sense. I’ve never seen orange jam anywhere. Plus marmalade sounds way fancier than plain ol’ jam. But you know me. Always looking for recipes that twist the norm. I’m the girl your parents warned you about – that food rebel, cruising into town and shaking stuff up. So when I came across the recipe for Red Onion Marmalade in the Surf Cafe Cookbook: Cooking and Surfing on the West Coast of Ireland, I rolled up my imaginary sleeves and got to work.
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First off, this book is written by Jane & Myles Lamberth and is a very eclectic collection of stories and pictures and recipes from their life in Ireland and running the Shells Cafe. You can tell that the book is about the community as much as it is about the food, which I love. The book has a scrapbook feel which I find very cool and I appreciate that a lot of attention is paid to condiments – salad dressing, flavoured oil, flavoured mayonnaise, hummus, and red onion marmalade. Condiments are the often overlooked additions that bump a regular meal up to gourmet status. It’s so easy to spend time and effort on a meal but then smother it with store-bought dressing or the standard ketchup, pepper, mustard, mayo or all of the above (or all of the sideways cause this isn’t arranged like a list).
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I confess that in the past, I never put much effort into condiments either but I’m trying to change that. There are too many good recipes out there!
It didn’t take very much prep work to make except for cutting the onions – but I used a mandoline and got through it pretty quickly although onion tears were shed. You can easily have this simmering away on the back burner of your stove as you do dishes or cook dinner. It really isn’t a hassle.
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Thanks to Jane & Miles for granting me permission to post this recipe!

Red Onion Marmalade
A condiment that does with almost everything! Put it on your favourite sandwich or serve with a cut of roast meat. It’s also great with terrines, pates and salads, and goes amazingly well with cheese.
1 large slug olive oil
12 large red onions, thinly sliced
300g (1 1/2 cup) sugar
100 ml (1/2 cup) red wine
200ml (1 cup) red wine vinegar
100ml (1/2 cup) sweet fruity red drink, like port or cassis or even grape juice – you can even use cranberry sauce which is great around Christmas
2 teaspoons fennel seed (optional)
  • On high heat and using a heavy based saucepan, saute the onions and olive oil until they soften down and look to be about halfway cooked through. If your onions are really juicy you might want to drain a bit of the liquid – especially if you’re making a bigger batch or doubling the recipe.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and give everything a good stir. Reduce the heat and leave the pot uncovered and allow to blip blip away for about 30 to 40 minutes stirring occasionally.
  • You’re looking to reduce most of the liquid. The onions should be soft so that they break when pressed against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. Depending on the thickness of your pot, the onions may need a further 10 minutes or so.
  • SOFT STICKY SWEET DARK ONIONS MMMMMMMMMMM
  • Red Onion Marmalade keeps well in any container for a week or so but sterilized jars are best for maximum longevity.

My only major change to the recipe was that I used cranberry juice as the sweet fruity red drink. I also omitted the fennel. The marmalade is surprisingly sweet, especially since onions aren’t and you wouldn’t expect it to be. When I make it again, I will reduce the amount of sugar as my own personal preference. I’m going to use it during a gourmet grilled cheese night that I’m planning with some friends, and will likely use it the next time I make burgers.

My super secret personal tip for this recipe and all recipes: Make sure you have enough of each ingredient before you start. I had some friends over the other night and someone drank out the bottle of red wine I had but left it on the bar with the stopper in it so I thought that we had wine left. When my onions were caramelized and ready for their red wine soak, I lifted up the bottle and? Not a drop. Thank goodness for the bottle of wine I have stored for emergencies. You all have those too, right? Rabin ran upstairs for the bottle after he realized that my frantic yelling wasn’t because I burned or cut myself. He understands the drama that is cooking.
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Weekend Breakfast: Kala Chana (Chickpea) Stir-fry & Black-eyed Pea Stir-fry

How was your week? In an effort to healthy up my life and detox a bit, I decided to reduce my dependence on caffeine by stopping it cold turkey for a while. Not a good idea. For the last few days I’ve been tired and unfocused and headache-y and cranky. Some people who shall remain nameless have asked me “how is that different from normal?” but I will be ignoring them because my ability to respond with a witty and biting comeback was also apparently dependent on caffeine. Don’t worry, I’ll get back to you all with a clever comeback someday. I tried decaf and sorry but I think it is disgusting – the smell and the taste is nothing like coffee.
Although this no caffeine thing is stressing me out, I’ve managed to start two of my Resolutions - planting sprouts and trying goat cheese – and I wanted to post about it but then I thought of other things that I could add to the posts. As such, they’re on the back burner, simmering on low until I can add the rest of ingredients to complete my post. Don’t you just love a good food metaphor? I could just eat them up….
I also finished my 2 smoothies a month thing for March although I know I cut it close again. Next month I’ll probably post about a few of the ones I’ve made recently. What I’m posting about today and bringing to Fiesta Friday is one of my go-to Weekend Breakfasts. I’m one of those people that love a long, leisurely breakfast on the weekends, where regular rules of time don’t apply to me. Lunch at 3? Sure. Dinner at 5? No problem. A second dinner at 8? Bring it on!  My ideal scenario is making a heavy breakfast so that lunch is kind of negligible. This directly interferes with my desire to sleep in and watch all of the TV that I didn’t get a chance to watch that week. What’s a girl to do? Especially a non-caffeinated one? Cook in steps. I roast my bell peppers when I have a chance and store in the fridge with a bit of olive oil in a ziploc bag and I cook my dried beans during the week and store in the freezer. If you prefer to use canned peas or beans, rinse thoroughly before use (you can reduce up to 1/3 of the sodium that way!). I’ve seen my Mom mince onion and garlic and keep it in the veggie drawer of our fridge, which I have yet to try but suspect I will soon.
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Sunday Mornings at my parent’s house pretty much have a heavy brunch theme – pancakes or a black-eyed pea hash, stir-fried chana / chickpeas, soup, samosas, fruits, toast and whatever else my mom baked during the week. My siblings and I have a running joke that there are foods that our parents tried to make us eat so many times that we developed this disgust at the mere thought of it but the second we move out, we rediscover the food and can’t get enough of it. This has happened for carilla / bitter melon, eggplant, beans & peas on the whole, avocado, plantain, and so many other things. We have an abbreviation for it which I will not share because it was borne out of our mutual disgust for the food and frustration of having the same argument every week – as such its pretty rude :). Sorry parents!
Which brings me to today’s post. I’m bringing stir-fried chickpeas and stir-fried blackeye peas to the Fiesta Friday party for you to use as a Saturday / Sunday morning breakfast. Its a huge departure from pancakes, eggs and bacon but is a pretty great alternative or accompaniment. You can serve with toast, hard boiled eggs, I’ve even had it with crackers once and it was surprisingly good. Any leftovers can easily be used as a side dish for lunch or dinner or can be eaten alone for a quick lunch.
These two dishes are pretty flexible and I won’t be offended if you choose to throw in whatever veggies you have on hand (that half tin of corn lurking in your fridge? How about that one little carrot hiding in your veggie drawer?).
Black-eyed Pea Stir-fry
1/2 cup blackeye peas, dried (will make about 1 1/2 cooked cups cooked beans)
1 large onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 roasted red bell pepper, chopped (jarred is fine, but use about 3-4 slices )
1.5 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp black pepper
2.5 tsp olive oil
pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt, to taste
Cook dried peas according to package directions. Warm oil in a saucepan. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add blackeye, red pepper, thyme, black pepper, pepper flakes and salt. Stir to ensure that everything is throughly coated with oil. Adjust to taste with salt & thyme. Cook for about 2 minutes more, until onions start to brown slightly at edges.
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Kala Chana Stir-fry
3/4 cup dried Kala chana (dried / regular chana / chickpeas will work just fine. Just reduce dried amount to 1/2 cup since it will make 1 1/2 cups cooked)
1 large onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, diced
2-3 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
1.5 tsp dried basil
1 tsp black pepper
2.5 tsp olive oil
pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt, to taste
Cook dried chana according to package directions. Warm oil in a saucepan. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add chana, tomatoes, basil, black pepper, pepper flakes & salt. Stir to ensure that everything is thoroughly coated with oil. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated from the tomatoes and adjust to taste with salt & pepper.
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I like kala chana because its smaller and has a slightly more refined taste than regular chickpeas. It doesn’t get mushy either and this holds together much nicer than regular chickpeas. The health benefits are also quite significant – protein, fiber, iron, calcium, folate and all that good stuff.

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Both dishes take less than 10 minutes each to whip up (once you have your prepared peas) which leaves you more time to lounge around and fight with your husband over watching football and CBS Sunday Morning. So enjoy, Happy Weekend and see you on Monday!

Pumpkin, Sage & Cauliflower Cream Soup

Why can’t I be super productive for two days in a row? On Saturday I had a perfect day – had a really good cup of coffee (thanks to my sister for gifting me my best friend and lifesaver – a Keurig), made a great dinner and did an insane amount of unpacking. I’m talking about finding things I thought I lost, setting up systems (laundry, grocery lists, junk drawers, takeout menu drawers, stationery drawers) to keep my house in order, filing, washing…I even organized my gift wrap! I found manuals for appliances and electronics that I don’t even own! Insane. I still didn’t find my Mom’s muffin pans though so do me a favour and keep your fingers crossed.
 
I’m sure a lot of you do this already, but part of trying to organize my life as much as possible includes keeping spinach, pumpkin and a number of other veggies nicely chopped and stored in my freezer. When I want a quick lunch or dinner that’s still reasonably healthy, I can open my freezer and I have my pick of ingredients to add. Last week, I opted to throw together a simple comforting Pumpkin soup to ease us back into the week and to detox a bit from all the junk I’ve been eating lately.  There’s nothing quite like filling your stomach up with literally only vegetables. Plus I usually feel really proud of myself :) 
Made with Repix (http://repix.it)
 
Why Pumpkin? A while back, I decided to impress everyone with my foresight and we bought a whole pumpkin to cut up and freeze so that I could use it anytime I wanted. Why did nobody warn me that cutting up an entire pumpkin is difficult and incredibly time consuming?? It did pay off though. I had an endless supply of the orange stuff for a looong time and this was my second to last ziploc bag.
Made with Repix (http://repix.it)
 
Now I do like creamy soup, but for some reason, I really dislike milk in a main dish. The thought of throwing milk or cream in a meal grosses me out a little bit. Dont even get me started on poaching or cooking chicken in milk. Can you imagine the chicken milk that would be left back? Excuse me while I puke.
 
Ok. I’m back. So in an attempt to keep some creaminess in the soup without adding the milk, I added 1/2 a head of cauliflower. Its a double plus for me because I don’t like having just one singular veggie in a dish. I’m quite happy adding another one to the pot especially if it does double duty – creaminess and veggies!
Made with Repix (http://repix.it)
 
 
Pumpkin, Sage & Cauliflower Cream Soup
 
Yield: Approximately 4 servings
 
Ingredients
3 cups pumpkin, cubed
1/2 head medium cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 cup onions, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 – 3/4 tsp dried sage
3 1/2 cups water / stock
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper (& more to taste)

1/2 tsp salt (& more to taste)
1 tbsp olive oil
 
Toasted pine nuts / pepitas (optional, for garnish)
 
Instructions
Warm oil in a 3qt pot and add onions. Cook until translucent and add garlic. Stirring occasionally, sautee until browned. Add pumpkin, sage, salt, peppers & water/stock and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and let simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Ensure that pumpkin is soft and comes apart easily. Add cauliflower and cover pot. Cook for another 5-10 minutes.
 
Blend to complete smoothness with an immersion blender or let cool a little and transfer to blender and mix. Alternatively, you can leave some whole cauliflower florets in for a little texture.
 
Garnish with toasted pine nuts or pepitas.  Serve hot with thick / crusty bread.
 
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Made with Repix (http://repix.it)
 
In terms of adding the creaminess, I think it was pretty successful but Rabin loved the two bits of cauliflower that somehow escaped the immersion blender of death, so it isn’t a bad idea to leave a few bits of cauliflower lounging around. Because they’ve been quite well cooked, the bits will practically fall apart in your mouth.
 
I used sage because I think it pairs very well with pumpkin. Both are heavy autumn flavours and when put together give off that wonderful warm and herb-y vibe that you get from meals around Thanksgiving and Christmas time. You can use another herb though – dried rosemary, dried basil or dried thyme can all work as well.
 
Also, I shall repeat my mantra to you for this dish – you can’t go wrong with adding more black pepper!
Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

Chocolate Pear Tartlets

Yesterday was International Day of Happiness and I did have my share of happiness this week. I was nominated for a Liebster Award, I am now a member of the Foodie Blog Roll, I had a productive week at work and I managed to reconnect with a few people. Also, lets not forget making and more importantly eating this gorgeous tart!

Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

So my obsession with Pears continues. As I promised a few of you in my comments last week, I’ve brought another fabulously delicious chocolate and pear recipe to Fiesta Friday this week in the form of the Vintage Mixer’s Chocolate Pear Tartlets. Becky’s photos of the dessert are amazing and I had a great time dusting off my tartlet pans and making it. So much so that I forgot to make dinner…

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I pretty much straight up followed the recipe except for a few minor modifications:

  1. I had 5 dates left after a granola bar binge last week…one short of what the recipe calls for. Becky made sure to point out that I should use medjool dates, and I did. To replace the 6th date, I ended up throwing in a handful of raisins which wasn’t too bad.
  2. I ended up with enough crust for 5 tartlets instead of 6. I may have spread the crust too thick, but it was worth it. Its a great element of the dessert.
  3. I used 2 tablespoons of brown sugar since I didn’t have white granulated sugar. I personally didn’t miss the sugar and prefer semi/bittersweet chocolate. It also just makes the dessert feel fancier somehow.
  4. Pear slices marinated with lemon juice and a dash of cinnamon are DELICIOUS. If you’re lazy or just don’t want to bake, just have that. I’m very close to trying this whole poached pears thing if it will taste anything close to this!
  5. I poured the batter into the crust first, placed the pears on top and then pushed it down slightly to get it snug into the batter. You might be able to pick out my first failed attempt at pouring the batter around the pear slices.
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Before, middle, after!

The crust firmed up quite nicely and tastes vaguely fruitcake-ish.  I love fruitcake and just eating it made me feel festive. What you end up with is a classy, sophisticated dessert that feels incredibly decadent without being too sweet. It will definitely impress the people that need impressing :)

 

Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

Have a great weekend!

The Liebster Award

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Well. Blogging just keeps surprising me in the best ways possible! The lovely Chef Julianna at http://foodieonboard.com floored me yesterday with a Nomination for the Leibster Award! Leibster in German means ‘sweetest, kindest or nicest’ and I have to thank Julianna for even considering my virtually newborn blog and for making me feel tremendously encouraged and thrilled that my writing and words mean something to someone. So thanks again to Julianna and to all of you that read my ramblings :)
 
Here are the rules:

1.  Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog.

2.  Answer the questions given by the person who nominated you.

3.  Nominate 5 – 10 people for the award.

4.  Ask 10 – 11 questions for the bloggers you have nominated.

5.  Comment on the nominated blogs to let the nominees know they have received the award.

 
Here are the Questions Julianna sent me:
 

1.  What is your favourite go-to cookbook?

It would have to be ‘the Mediterrasian Way’ by Ric Watson and Trudy Thelander. The book is quite inspirational and describes Ric’s comeback from a permanent left-sided disability. It not only gives great advice on how to live a healthy life with lots of exercise but the recipes included are solid, staple meals. I’ve cooked many recipes from this book and have yet to find a bad or even a not-so great one.

2.  Who is your favourite food celebrity?

Well I’m not sure what qualifies as a food celebrity. I actually find that I follow food blogs a lot more than any Food Network type celebrity. If I did have to choose someone from Food Network / Cooking Channel, it would have to be Jeffrey Saad. I had seen him on an episode of Chopped All-Stars once and was enthralled with the way he spoke about spices and combinations and how he prepared the meal. He received second place in the Competition and in a fit of excitement I tweeted him my congrats…and he responded! Talk about being a fangirl LOL. Anyway so although I haven’t followed his show (we don’t get Cooking Channel on our cable service), I bought his cookbook and thoroughly enjoy it and I love that he involves his family in the cooking process as well.

3.  You have been given a free cooking class in any country you choose.  Where are you going?

I’d have to say USA or Canada – but I specifically want to have the class to be seafood specific. I would really love to learn to cook mussels and scallops and lobster and squid and crab. I have tried a few times on occasion but my phobia of undercooking seafood remains rampant. I am not a fish fan (except for Salmon) and would love to expand my knowledge base to the shellfish and seafood that I do love. I think butter, wine and black pepper are delicious with seafood so I don’t need to learn any fancy curry of stir fry – I want to learn that simple, clean and classic elegance.

4. Who has been the biggest influence on your interest in cooking?

My biggest influence has been Rabin. My love for cooking revealed itself when we got married and I realized that I cook a lot simply because I know he will eat it. I look forward to his reviews and he’s pretty open with trying new stuff. The few times that he has been away, I haven’t felt the urge to cook and have actually eaten like crap, so I think he is a huge motivator in my food progress. 
I think my second biggest motivators are my parents. Growing up in a supermarket family had me immersed in food from an early age although I didn’t even realize it then. My parents never pushed me to learn to cook nor was I interested when my mom was cooking. I never had an easy-bake oven and family gatherings never centered on food. But I do think that the oddest things about your childhood really shape who you are at your core. Two of my favourite places in the world are Supermarkets and Bookstores/Libraries and I’m pretty sure I have my parents to thank for the Supermarket and my Aunty Dee to thank for the bookstores / libraries. All feels right in the world when I step into any of these places.

5.  Why did you start blogging?

I think I may have touched on this topic in previous posts, but overall I wanted a creative outlet and I love writing. I wanted to document my food resolutions, but I also wanted to have something tangible that would be a reflection of me – and with all the delays in my life, it really was wonderful to find something that I could work on and publish immediately. It feels good to have control over this. 

6.  We are in the kitchen with you and the tunes are cranked.  What are we listening to?

Funny enough, I did a post on this recently. Those are still my favourites so I’m sticking to that list!

7. What is the most surprising thing you have learned from blogging?

How supportive complete strangers are. It really is a wonderful thing and makes me want to share the love. Also, the amount of work each blog post takes was a bit of a surprise – not necessarily a bad one. 

8.  What advice would you give to new bloggers?

Keep writing and constantly try to improve. Photography is a big part of each post, but don’t rely on filters and fancy effects. Your food should be able to speak for itself with minimal modification.

9.  What is your favourite midnight snack?

Cheese and Crackers and Tea! That has been my breakfast, mid afternoon snack and midnight snack for as long as I can remember. There’s something extremely comforting and filling about this combination and sometimes I go a little crazy and use bread instead of crackers.

10.  You have one wish.  What is it? 

Will it come true if I say it? :-) Without going into much detail, let’s just say I’d like to remember gratitude, serenity and finding joy in the little things, and for the people that I love to be happy. Does that count as one wish or two? 
 
My questions to the bloggers I’ve nominated:
1. Who inspires you?
2. What was the last thing that you cooked? 
3. What is your favourite comfort food? Why?
4. Your favourite food memory is:
5. Confess something. 
6. What cookbook would you cook your way through?
7. Chicken or Fish?
8. Could you ever become a Vegetarian or a Vegan? Why?
9. What’s the worst criticism you ever got on a dish you prepared and how did you deal with it?
10. Any weird allergies?
  
The lovely Bloggers that I’ve nominated are:
 
2. Steven @ Made by You and I
4. Ngan @ Ngan Made It
5. The Brook Cook @ The Brook Cook