Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Summer Rolls and Newsy Bits

I have the uneasy feeling that blogging over the summer is going to take extra effort. For us, life tends to pick up speed in July and August and doesn't slow down until the pumpkins are ripening. Fueled by an essential café au lait in the morning and an energy drink post-lunch, I slip into a summer rhythm of applying sunscreen, collecting bathing suits & towels, and keeping everyone hydrated as we go from one event to the next. There's so much happening, it's hard to focus on one particular subject/meal and subsequently, much rambling ensues--hence this morning's post!

I've been too busy celebrating ten years in Quebec to sit down and share what I've been up to, but I plan to eventually!Everyone has such good suggestions and it's been a memorable summer so far.
We're enjoying beet greens, lettuce, radishes, herbs and chard from the kitchen garden, but has it merited it's own Update? Sadly, not yet. If I have a spare chuck of time, I'm weeding like a mad-woman, not documenting the progress of the tomatoes.
On top of everything, we're counting down the weeks (2 1/2!!) until we fly out to Western Canada and I'm trying to wrap my head around packing. Focus, girl, focus.

It doesn't help that I'm still in a dream-like state over our blissful weekend getaway; I didn't want to leave our private beach on a quiet corner of a lake.

It was an amazing little holiday, complete with a few wine tastings, dinner at a cozy restaurant that featured local ingredients (rabbit for me, duck for him), a picturesque farmer's market on Saturday morning and an local junk shop where I scored some antique Fiestaware.

Somehow this is our lucky month, because tonight we're off on another date in honour of Danny's birthday: a concert with Jazz legend Wynton Marsalis! It also happens to be opening night of the Montreal International Jazz Festival and the great Stevie Wonder is THE late-night event. We'll catch him after Wynton; it's going to be a fabulous evening of music under the summer night sky, rain or no rain.

Speaking of summer. we just can't get enough of these summer rolls. Ever since I discovered that Noah will scarf them down, peanut sauce included, they've become a staple. Ideal for those steamy hot days when you don't want to cook over a hot stove and your tummy is begging for a break from barbecued meat, these delicate summer rolls offer a fresh and flavorful alternative!

Here's the recipe from the archives with a few step-by-step photos: Shrimp Summer Rolls.

I hope everyone is enjoying their summer and to my local readers: Bon Festival!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Blueberry Maple French Toast

This will be short as I'm packing for a mini-weekend getaway with Danny and I'm nowhere nearly ready.
I used to be an organized packer, but apparently motherhood has turned me into a scattered, last minute throw-it-all-in-the-duffel kind of packer. It doesn't help to have the added pressure of remembering each child's appropriate stuffed animal and sippy cup, OR ELSE. Heaven forbid they should show up at the grandparents without them.

Anyway! We're off to travel Quebec's wine route in the Eastern Townships on a much deserved break. It's been two years since New York, our last getaway as a couple with no kids.

I wouldn't leave you high and dry for a recipe so here's a strong recommendation for your weekend breakfast: Deep-Dish Blueberry Maple French Toast. Yesterday I hung out over at Endless Simmer and shared this recipe with their readers, not to mention a personal glimpse into a weekend morning here at UtHC.

So jump over to visit the ES gang and be sure to bookmark this French Toast for your brunch! It's PRI-tty amazing.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Strawberry-Peach Cobbler and a Father's Day Gift

Apparently, after a recent cross-Canada poll, it was stated that the majority of dads want a flat screen TV for Father's Day. I hope that's not what Danny wanted because I got him something a little different...

See that cute black fellow on the right?
In a few weeks he's going to be delivered to our place in brown paper packages tied up with string, namely as organic, free-range Angus beef! Yep, I got my hubby a cow for Father's Day--all the barbecue he could ever want. How's that for manly?

It's been in the works for a while to split this locally raised yearling with some friends of ours; their cousin raises them on a gorgeous farm that has been in the family for generations in (very) rural Quebec. We drove out on the weekend to meet the farmer, select our calf and see where it was raised.
Gee, I wish I had this view. It was quite picturesque!

The cows were practically knee-deep in buttercups and clover. I haven't seen Food, Inc yet, but I'm pretty sure that few beef cows have it as good as these ones.

Our little ones snacked on all the carrots intended for the cows and enjoyed the outing immensely; however, Mateo didn't like it when they 'mooed'. Cows can be pretty intimidating up close, especially the bull that stared us down.

We attempted the whole "...this is where hamburger comes from" talk with Noah, but abandoned it pretty fast. He's extremely sensitive (he wept over the shorn tomato plants that were eaten by unknown creatures in our garden) and is much too young to be troubling his little head over such matters.

Zipping along Quebec's rural roads, I kept my eyes peeled for a sign announcing 'Fraises du Quebec'. It wasn't long before we found a fruit stand and treated ourselves to a basket of the season's freshest fruit. We devoured most of them on the spot, but I managed to save a few for later. I stretched them with some fresh peaches I had sitting around and made a few of my favorite simple summer desserts. Perfect for bringing to a pot-luck!

I'm anticipating picking my own strawberries soon and the endless possibilities that await! For now, I'm perfectly content with my cobbler--and have 125 lbs of beef to look forward to in a few weeks.

Happy Summer!

Strawberry-Peach Cobbler
(adapted from Everyday Baking)

For The Filling:

1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar (depending on sweetness of fruit)

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 pound peaches, halved, pitted, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices, and cut again in half crosswise

1/2 lb strawberries

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

For the Topping:

1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)

3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2/3 cup low-fat buttermilk

1. Make the filling: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar and cornstarch. Wash and prepare fruit; you should have about 4 cups of strawberries and peaches. Add fruit to cornstarch mixture and add lemon juice; toss to combine. Divide filling evenly among four 8-ounce custard cups (or one 2-quart baking dish); transfer to a rimmed baking sheet.

2. Make the topping and bake: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, blend in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk; stir just until a dough forms. Drop dough onto peaches, using about 1/3 cup dough for each custard cup. Sprinkle dough with remaining teaspoon sugar. Bake until fruit is bubbling and biscuit topping is golden brown, 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes; serve warm.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

UtHC Coast to Coast

A cool thing happened the other week:

We're a relatively low-profile blog and that is fine by us, but every once in a while we'll pop up on someone's radar and it's always entertaining to see what transpires after that and where our name ends up.

This happened recently when a Top 10 list I had posted a while back happened to land a spot in another Top 10 list over at the popular food blog, Endless Simmer. Demonstrating a stroke of pure genius, Brendan Spiegel (BS) compiled a Top 10 Top 10 Food Lists, a shout out to the "funniest food stories we've seen in list format".

Topping the hilarious, exhaustive and often insightful (I need to see Tampopo like now) list, was my Top 10 Things to Expect When Dining With a Food Blogger. Sweet!

That was just the beginning of the fun.

A few hours later, the New York-based food website, Serious Eats came calling. As this site has been praised by some as the "next generation of food media" and named by Time Magazine as one of the 50 Best Websites, I about hit the roof when they called my list 'inspired'.
Equally entertaining was a commenter who stated "I refuse to eat with food bloggers or vegan/vegetarians."! Hilarious.

I would have been content if the link love had ended there, but the next day we traveled to the opposite coast and popped up on Eater LA, followed in quick succession by a spot on UrbanDiner, for some Canadian love.

Apparently, it doesn't matter which country you find yourself in, you might want to think twice before dining with a food blogger, as was proven by well-known Korean Food Journal ZenKimchi who stated that my list hit close to home.

We could talk about blurbs on News Now Network or SpliceToday, or all the food blogs that joined in the fun (at their own expense) but I think you get the drift...Wait, what was the drift? I've already forgotten.

How about this: Internet 'fame' lasts about 15 seconds, so grab a glass of wine and enjoy it!

.. and we're back off the radar. Cheers!

Did that header photo make you hungry? It's a Warm Lobster Salad with Asparagus, Fiddleheads and Poached Rhubarb.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Irresponsibly Yours with Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

Most days I eat responsibly. I set a good example for the babies such as avoiding snacks before a meal, finish all my dinner before dessert, and generally conducting myself in a grown-up manner.

Then there are days where I pull an upside-down rhubarb cake out of the oven, attempt to photograph it while it is still warm, sneak a few bites here and there, and finally wind up eating it entirely-- and just before dinner, too. Strangely, I'm not hungry for spaghetti and meatballs after that. At all.

Fortunately the boys are still young enough that I can get away with such shenanigans, but in a few years, I'm going to have some explaining to do if I attempt to eat only cake for supper.
Maybe we'll skip the meatballs and everyone can have cake. I think I like that idea.

I'd like to see anyone try to resist this dessert.

I probably haven't made this cake in ten years, but a recent discovery of the recipe in an old handwritten cookbook of my mothers brought back some good memories and I knew I had to make it again.

Fortunately I did because it was even better than I remembered. I love, love, the combination of the tart, compote-like rhubarb top with the ever-so-light butter cake base. It's a perfect spring dessert, uncomplicated, and easy enough for everyday enjoyment.

Just you try and save it for dessert.

Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

Makes a 9-inch round cake. Serves 6-8. I also divided the batter and made two smaller 6 inch cakes. This is nice if you want to give one away.

Be sure to read through the recipe and have all the ingredients assembled before you start.

For the Rhubarb bottom:

3 1/2 cups rhubarb, washed, dried and chopped in 1/2 inch slices
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons orange rind
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a round 9 inch round cake pan with parchment paper and butter pan thoroughly. Mix together first four ingredients and pour into pan. Dot with butter and place in a preheated oven. Cook only as long as it takes you to put the cake batter below together.

For the Cake:

In the bowl of a mixer combine

1 cup cake flour, sifted
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons salt
2/3 cups sugar
1/4 cup soft unsalted butter
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

With the paddle attachment, beat ingredients for two minutes, scraping down sides as necessary.
Then add:
1 egg

Beat for another minute.
Pour batter over rhubarb and return everything to oven.
Bake 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. Place a plate or cake platter on top of the pan and re-invert cake onto the platter. Remove tin and peel off parchment. Allow to cool.
Serve with whipped cream.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

WFD? Lemon & Oregano Roast Chicken with New Potatoes and Asparagus

Spring has been acting a bit like a spoiled brat this year. I can handle the odd outburst or bout of crankiness, but this flat out misbehaving has got to stop. Instead of writing about perfect picnic fare, complete with idyllic photographs of us sprawled on a blanket, dining alfresco by a lake, as I had hoped, I'm posting on that classic winter meal: roast chicken.
It's June, but the weather has hardly warmed up, and don't get me started on all the rain and other tantrums thrown by spring. For Pete's sake, there's a creek running through my favorite picnic spot from all the rain runoff.

Yeah, so while the rest of you are probably sipping your G&T's and slurping your gazpacho poolside, I'm roasting a chicken and throwing another log on the fire.

This recipe does hint of spring, though, with it's roasted asparagus spears, new potatoes, and fresh oregano from the garden. Coating a chicken in lemon and herbs and roasting it is certainly nothing new, but this is basic fare that I find hard to tire of. I use oregano because I have copious amounts of it, but thyme or sage would be just as lovely. Use about half the amount that the recipe calls for if you do switch up the fresh herbs, though.

The potatoes and asparagus are roasted on the side, but do mound them up around the chicken afterward for a beautiful rustic presentation.

Lemon & Oregano Rubbed Roast Chicken
Serves four with leftovers

1 whole organic chicken, patted dry (about 6 lbs)
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh oregano leaves
two lemons, zested and juiced
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

In a small food processor, combine oregano, lemon zest, lemon juice and garlic. Pulse a few times until it looks like pesto. Add olive oil, salt and pepper and pulse to combine.

Using your hands, rub lemon-oregano marinade all over chicken. Lift the skin over the breast and be sure to get plenty of marinade on the breast meat. Refrigerate for 2-8 hours. Remove from fridge about a half an hour before cooking.
Preheat oven to 375F. Place chicken in roasting pan breast side up ( I like to use a clay baker for roasting fowl) and place in oven. Roast about 1 1/2 hours. Remove from oven and let stand 15 minutes before slicing. At this time, roast your vegetable garnish.

Roasted New Potatoes and Asparagus with Lemon

Enough small new potatoes for four people
a lemon
generous bundle of asparagus
olive oil
6 garlic cloves, peeled
sea salt

In a large pot, rinse potatoes and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 2-3 minutes until slightly softened, but still raw in the center. Drain and cool.
Snap the ends off of the asparagus and peel the bottom two thirds of the stalk. Slice at a diagonal into two inch lengths.
Crank oven to 450F.
Slice lemon in half lengthwise and each half into six wedges. Toss potatoes, asparagus, garlic cloves and lemon with a generous amount of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and spread out onto a baking sheet. Roast about 12 minutes until nicely colored and potatoes have cooked through. Shake the pan every few minutes during the cooking process to ensure even colouring.
Remove from oven, season with additional salt if necessary, and serve with roast chicken.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Announcing...UtHC Jam Swap '09

All badges by www.jessicaspring.com

UPDATE: Deadline for submissions is November 1, 2009. Get yours in now!

See Step 3 below for information on how to email your entry to me.

Calling all jam enthusiasts!

This fall, Under the High Chair is hosting its very first virtual jam swap and quite possibly the first event of this kind in the blogosphere! Come October, this will be the place to show off your home preserves and showcase how you captured summer in a jar.

Your last name doesn't have to be Smucker or Smith to contribute to the event; most of us are amateurs in the ancient art of home canning. Don't be shy! The goal is to inspire and be inspired.

No, we're not going to actually swap real jars of jam, as in mailing them all over creation. Somehow that just doesn't seem practical, frugal or even responsible in this day and age. Nope, no real jam, but if you will follow the simple steps to participate, I will provide the platform to bring us together to swap recipes and ideas.

Here's how to participate:

Step 1: Can it. Literally. Make your jam, jelly, fruit butter, marmalade or what ever you are inspired to create. Have fun and pay attention! Do NOT try to Twitter while home canning.

Step 2: Photograph and blog about your preserves. If you don't have a blog, don't worry, but do snap a photo to include with your submission. Do this anytime over the summer, but preferably before October 31. Include this post as a link in you blog post and feel free to grab one of our adorable badges designed by Jess Spring to decorate you post or sidebar.

Step 3: Send me an email aimee(dot)c(dot)bourque(at)gmail(dot)com with Jam Swap as the subject line containing the following info:
-your name
-your blog's name and url
-the name of your jam
-a link to your jam blog post with jam recipe*
-a photo of your jam

Step 4: Help spread the word! Twitter this event, write about it on your blog or discuss it over afternoon tea with friends. Thank you!

*(Please note that your submission should be for a jam recipe, not just a recipe that includes jam! Thanks.)

That's it! The Under the High Chair Jam Swap '09 roundup will be posted in mid-November.
Questions? Comments? Speak up in the comments section below or drop me an email.

I can't wait to hear everyone's stories and see the creations from your kitchens.

Good luck and Happy Canning!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Rhubarb Rosemary Daiquiri

Here's hoping your rhubarb plants are not flowering yet because I've still got a few recipes coming your way this spring that feature this juicy fruit. Rhubarb is one of my favorite fruits and one of the few I can actually grow myself. Bonus!

Sadly my plants haven't produced much this year, however just when I was thinking I was going to have to raid the market and buy my rhubarb, along came an offer from a friend that I couldn't refuse. A few days later I found myself looking into the trunk of her car at some of the largest stalks of rhubarb I had ever seen: as long as my arm and as thick as two fingers. Score!

I've had my eye on this recipe in Bon Appetit since last month and it did not disappoint. Even the rhubarb syrup itself was lovely over crushed ice without the rum, so if alcoholic drinks are not your thing, you can still blend up that rhubarb and enjoy it as a refreshing summer cooler. Try mixing it with iced tea or fresh lemonade for a twist on those classics.

Being the Margarita fan that I am, I also tried this with tequila and it was even better than the rum. Add a squeeze of lime and you're set for a new poolside drink this summer.
Oh, and Jamie Oliver has a recipe for a rhubarb Bellini that I'm dying to try. Rhubarb, the bartender's new BFF. Who knew?

Double R Daiquiri
(from Bon Appetit magazine)

Serves 8

2-1/4 cups water, divided

2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup fresh rosemary leaves
3 cups 1/4-inch cubes fresh rhubarb

6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided

1-1/2 cups white rum
Ice cubes

8 fresh rosemary sprigs
8 lemon peel twists

Bring 1 cup water and 2 tablespoons sugar to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat, stirring often. Remove from heat; add 1/2 cup rosemary leaves. Let steep 5 minutes. Strain, pressing on rosemary; discard rosemary. Let syrup cool 1 hour.

Place rhubarb, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1-1/4 cups water, and 1/2 cup sugar in blender. Process until coarse puree forms. Strain through fine-mesh sieve into medium bowl. Using hands, squeeze rhubarb pulp to release as much liquid as possible through sieve; discard pulp.

Cover and chill rosemary syrup and rhubarb juice separately at least 4 hours and up to 2 days.
Mix rosemary syrup, rhubarb juice, remaining 5 tablespoons lemon juice, and rum in pitcher. Fill 8 highball glasses with ice. Add rhubarb-Daiquiri mixture. Garnish with rosemary sprigs and lemon twists.


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