Thursday, February 28, 2008

Seven Things You Never Knew About Me

Smoked Salmon and Cucumber's all part of the post-partum plan

Having recently been tagged for separate memes by Recipe Girl and Warda, I decided to combine them and share with you 7 things you don’t know about me.

It wasn't easy to pick as there is a LOT of history in my 29 years, but nevertheless here they are: a few personal items, a few superficial and a few confessions...

1. I have an awesome post-partum plan.
It involves a chilled bottle of wine, two Robaxicet muscle relaxants, a small mountain of sushi, and a hot tub under the winter stars. It’s going to be great.

2. I grew up as a country girl
Yup. In rural Yukon Territories (Canada) with no telephone, running water, or electricity. For some reason, this seems to surprise people about me.
Best. Childhood. Ever.

3. I demand top quality ingredients for cooking, yet have no problem shopping for everything else second hand.
Weird, eh? Oh, and I have a thing for garage sales. Go figure.

4. Bono held my hand and sang to me during U2’s Elevation tour.
My rock and roll claim to fame. He was a bit scary up that close. I’m more of a The Edge kind of girl.

5. I have a crush on Anthony Bourdain.
But seriously, is there a girl out there who doesn’t? Sigh.

6. I would rather spend a day carving up the slopes on my snowboard
than relaxing at the spa, shopping the boutiques or sitting at the bar. Sadly those opportunities to board are few and far between.

7. I used to be afraid of meeting a bear in the woods on my own
-until I did. Twice. Obviously, I survived.

So this being my first meme, I hope I am correct in tagging five other bloggers…

They are:

Tammy of Love it/Hate it

Emeline of Cochonet Rouge

Lyb of And then I do the dishes

Amber of Ambercita

Marie of Marie Cooks Britain

“7 Things” Meme How To:

1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.
2. Share 7 random facts about yourself
3. Tag 5 people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them).
4. Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment at their Blogs
5. Have fun!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Two Favorites: A spice blend and a photography duo

WFD? Cornish Game Hen Roasted with Ethiopian Berbéré Spices, Sour Cream Gnocci, Acorn Squash and Braised Baby Bak Choy.

Finding a great new restaurant is no easy feat. One must take friend’s suggestions and critic’s raves with a grain of salt. Not until you have tried a place yourself can you really be sure that it’s a place you will be often retuning to and making your own.

Finding a great photographer is kind of like choosing a restaurant—just a lot more risky. You are entrusting someone to encapsulate an event or milestone in your life that can’t be repeated. There is no rewind button for a wedding day, infants only get bigger, not smaller, and unless those moments are captured expertly on camera, they are gone for good.

Yes, I really am pregnant! Cooking lunch around my 7 month baby bump.

Recently we had the good fortune of welcoming not one, but two, photographers into our home for a personal family photo shoot and lunch. The goal: to capture my growing baby bump and this momentous time in our lives. While we weren’t really sure what to expect from Tim and Angela, we were thrilled with the stunning results from these talented photographers and their moving photographs.

We sat down to a hot lunch after the photo shoot and Angela continued snapping away as I put the finishing touches on our roasted guinea hen. I loved her work so much and was so excited when she graciously allowed me to use a few of her shots for this post. She makes my food look really good!

It is with utmost sincerity that I recommend Tim and Angela from

They specialize in weddings, so if you (or someone you know) are planning to tie the knot in the Montreal area, give them a call. You will be hard pressed to find a more dedicated team to capture your big day in a truly personal way.

And now for my current favorite dinner dish!

I almost never use the word sensational, but with this exotic spice blend, I am tempted to. ..

The guinea hen for our lunch was rubbed with an authentic Ethiopian splice blend called Berbéré that is available from Montreal spice guru, Philippe de Vienne. Called the curry of Africa, it is an absolutely transporting melange of 14 different spices that come together to create an unforgettable flavor. Black cardamom, fenugreek, cassia, paprika, and coriander are just a few of the spices that tickle your palate.

I love this aromatic traditional blend so much, I practically buy it in bulk when I drop by his store, Olives et Épices ( Marche Jean Talon, 7070 Henri-Julien étal C-11, Montreal)

If you are not in the area, you can order your berbéré blend online; however, if you want to make your own, Philippe gives the recipe in his new cookbook, La cuisine et le gout des épices, and I will pass it on to you at the bottom of the post.

Berbéré Roasted Chicken

4 garlic cloves, chopped

3 Tablespoons Berbéré, ground

1 teaspoon salt

3 Tablespoons butter, melted

3 Tablespoons lemon juice

1 whole chicken, 3-4 lbs, or two plump Cornish hens

4 onions

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Mix together the berbéré, garlic, butter, lemon juice, and salt.

Cut the chicken into 8 and brush with spice mixture.

Peel onions and slice into thick slices.

Place the onions on the bottom of a roasted pan and arrange chicken pieces on top.

Roast for about 1 hour. Baste occasionally with cooking juices.

Philippe de Vienne's Berbéré Spice Blend

2 Tablespoons dried ginger

2 teaspoons green cardamom

1 teaspoon cloves

1 stick cinnamon

1 stick cassia

2 teaspoons fenugreek

½ whole nutmeg

1 teaspoon all-spice

2 teaspoons black pepper

1 teaspoon black cardamom

2 tablespoons coriander

1 teaspoon adjwain (lovage)

3 whole, dried Cayenne peppers

¾ cup paprika

Ed. Note: Huge thanks and props to Tim and Angela for the photos. You guys rock!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

WFD? Steak and Boursin Sandwiches and an Award!

With the impending birth of my second child hovering like a curtain about to drop on a whole new act, I am not logging as many hours in the kitchen as I normally would. The day are filled with all the little precious tasks that precede the arrival of a newborn, and any spare time I happen to have is spent with my feet up and my nose either in a cooking magazine or a children’s book as I invest in some precious one-on-one time with Noah.

I haven’t deserted the kitchen entirely (that would hardly be possible) nor have I resorted to frozen or take out meals, I have just simplified our meals considerably, while still keeping the fresh flavors and variety that we like.

For example, this steak sandwich that came together in less than ten minutes: with fresh, crusty ciabatta buns, creamy Boursin cheese and Angus AAA flank steak, this is a meal to really sink your teeth into.

Recipe at bottom of the page.

In other news.....I was recently surprised and thrilled to be awarded an “E for Excellence” award from the delightful Valli over at More Than Burnt Toast! Thank you so much, Val, for recognizing Under the High Chair and for your high praise. I am honored to be included in such company as Sugar Plum and Canary Girl!

Despite spending less time in the kitchen, I have been cooking vicariously through some of my favorite food blogs and want to highlight a few for you to check out. I believe I have to pass this award on to five other bloggers, and let me tell you, narrowing it down to just five is no easy feat.

However, in no particular order, here are the five that decidedly deserve these accolades and a big old E for Excellence!

Lynn of Cookie Baker Lynn is a sweetheart who has the picture perfect blog, not to mention she's a supermom!

David of Book the Cook writes from the UK and I love how he brings back old British favorites with a new twist, inspiring me to dig a little deeper into my heritage.

Helen of Tartelette sets the food blogging bar high. Her creations are beautiful in every way and she is always an inspiration for me.

Peter of Kalofagas proved his dedication to true Greek food when he made his own phyllo dough recently for spanikopita. Hard core!

Kickpleat of Everybody Loves Sandwiches shows off her food obsession in unique and creative ways. Always a delight to read, her blog is never predictable.

Thanks, everyone!
And now for that recipe...

Steak and Boursin Sandwiches

Serves 4

1 (1-lb) piece flank steak

Salt and pepper

4 ciabatta buns

5 oz Boursin cheese (herb or pepper)

Fresh greens of your choice

Preheat broiler. Pat steak dry and season with salt and pepper. Put on rack of broiler pan and broil 2-3 inches from the heat, turning over once, 6-7 minutes for medium rare. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes.

Slice buns in half and spread with Boursin. Add greens of your choice.

Slice steak across the grain into thin slices and divide among sandwiches. Assemble sandwiches, slice in half and serve.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Peek Through My Window

An October view from my kitchen window

Are you inspired to cook by the view from your kitchen window? Prompted to create?

Writing from sunny Cairo, Egypt, Lynda of LuLu's Bay has asked bloggers the question "What is the view from your kitchen window?" and in return she has gotten a peek through kitchen windows all over the world as people responded.

When Danny and I started house hunting a few years back, I had some specific requirements for what I wanted in a kitchen- all within reason, of course! For example, a double sink was a must-have for doing dishes and washing vegetables at the same time, while a window over that sink would be a really nice bonus. Goodness knows we spend enough time standing there and a window is ideal for daydreaming while doing the washing up!

I was fortunate to get my double sink AND a view of the back yard out one of the two windows in my kitchen. In the summer, the sun streams in, reminding me to get out to weed the garden or just plain GET OUT and enjoy the day. On gloomy rainy or blizzardy days, the weather beating against the window pane inspires me to brew another cup of tea and bake something to warm up my kitchen.

So I give you the view out my kitchen window. It's not all together dismal, but neither is it particularly transporting!
Visit Lynda's blog to see what others are looking at right now as they fix dinner or polish wine glasses.

I can't resist leaving you with the view from my brother's kitchen and dining room in Northern British Columbia, Canada. Talk about transporting...There are a few grazing horses missing from this scene, too.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Cake and Coffee for Dad

Happy 65th Birthday to my Dad!

Today is the birthday of one of the very special men in my life: my dad, John.
Although he's seems about a million miles away on the other side of the country, I made a cake for him anyway.

Whether self-appointed or elected, I was always the one in the family to make my dad's birthday cakes when I was growing up. Usually they were ghastly creations, covered in garishly colored icings, but slowly improved over the years, thank goodness! Even though my siblings teased me about how some of the cakes looked, Dad alway made me feel like they were beautiful works of art.

This recipe for coffee cake became a favorite in our home as simply everyone in the family loves coffee (we kids all started drinking at the ripe old age of twelve) and my dad often requested it.
No subtle coffee flavoring in this moist cake! The basic white crumb is steeped in a strong coffee syrup and then layered with vanilla bean whipping cream.

Oh yeah.

I'll save the really personal stuff for a phone call to my dad, but I will say that he has encouraged me in my cooking skills for as long as I can remember and next to my husband, is my biggest fan.

Thanks Dad, for all the support-not just in cooking, but in every area of my life.

I love you.

“Cake and Coffee” Cake

¾ cup butter, room temperature
¾ cup sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups flour, sifted
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 Tablespoons milk

Coffee Syrup (see below)

Whipping Cream for garnish
1 vanilla bean

Preheat oven to 350F.

Grease a 7 inch round cake pan and set aside.

Combine flour, salt and baking powder together in a small bowl.
With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one. Beat in vanilla.
With a spatula, fold in dry ingredients, alternating with milk. Combine gently.

Scrape batter into cake pan and level top with the spatula. Bake until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cake will be fairly dark on top and sides.
Cool five minutes in pan, then remove from pan and cool cake on a wire rack.

While the cake is baking, prepare the coffee syrup.

When cool, slice cake horizontally so as to have two layers. Pour a little (1/4 cup) of the coffee syrup into the bottom of the 7-inch round cake pan and place the top layer of cake into it. Take another 7-inch cake pan and add some syrup to the bottom. Place the bottom layer of the cake into it. Pour more coffee syrup over both pieces of cake and place in the fridge to soak. Keep adding syrup to both layers as it is absorbed. Chill well.

Whip cream to stiff peaks and sweeten with sugar. Remove seeds from vanilla bean and fold into cream.
Place the bottom layer of the cake on a cake stand and cover with a layer of whipped cream. Place second layer of cake on top and cover whole cake with whipped cream. Chill well.

Slice and serve with -what else- great coffee!

Coffee Syrup: boil two cups strong black coffee with 1/3 cup sugar. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla. Cool.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Caramel Corn and a Martha moment


That was my nickname in culinary school, courtesy of my classmates and my teachers. I am still not totally sure why.

I am not a particularly crafty person as far as sewing or origami and certainly not an expert on spot removal or anything household oriented like that.

My rose bush hasn’t been pruned in two years and dutifully produces about three roses every June, but OK, OK, I do have an occasional Martha Stewart moment in the kitchen.

Maybe that is where I earned the nickname.

Recently I hosted a book party (think: Tupperware party, only children’s books instead) and among a sweet table with assorted goodies, served these cute paper cones of homemade caramel corn.

My Martha moment? I rolled pages from an old novel and taped them to make the cones. See how fitting for a book party a literary caramel corn dispenser can be?

I was astounded at my own corniness (no pun intended), but went with them anyway and they sure looked cute!

The recipe for this highly addictive and totally yummy caramel corn can be found here. It's an easy party food that can be made as early as a week before the big day and is always popular-and not just with the children!

As for the paper cones? That's may be a step further that you want to go; it's entirely up to you.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Cornmeal Cranberry Muffins and some fresh air

Yesterday balmy temperatures and brilliant sunshine beckoned us outdoors before we had a chance to busy ourselves in the normal day-to-day routine, and welcomed us there for most of the morning.

While my ever-expanding girth kept me from romping in the snow as enthusiastically as Noah would have liked, I did manage to create the requisite snowman and thus Noah had a playmate to replace me.
With false contractions seizing my belly every so often, I hauled a lawn chair out of the shed, wedged it's feet in a snowbank and sank into it to watch Noah play.
The sun shone down on me, warming my skin and lifting my spirits with it's friendly reminder of spring to come.

We spent the better part of the morning like this until I noticed Noah had been snacking on the snowman's carrot nose and had gnawed it down to a mere sad-looking stub.

Lunch, anyone?

These cornmeal muffins are a cinch to whip up, but don't expect a cake-like, sweet treat. They are substantial enough to have for lunch with a bowl of yogurt and some fruit. I imagine you can use any berries you have on hand (blueberry-cornmeal is always popular), but I just had some dried cranberries left over from the holidays and they were just fine, too.

Cranberry Cornmeal Muffins

Makes 16 large muffins

3 large eggs
1-2/3 cups vegetable oil
1-2/3 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon lemon zest or orange zest
4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1-1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1-1/4 teaspoons salt
1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen or dried cranberries

1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350F.

Prepare muffin tins with cooking spray. Mix together cornmeal, brown sugar and butter for topping. Set aside.

In large mixing bowl stir together dry ingredients. In separate bowl mix together wet ingredients. Add wet ingredients to dry mixture and fold together until moistened. Do not overwork.

Gently fold berries into batter and fill prepared muffin tins three-quarters full. Sprinkle topping over each muffin and bake 20-25 minutes or until tester comes out clean.


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