Saturday, August 8, 2009

Changing Credit Cards: What does this have to do with Food?

Very good question, even if I did ask it myself. The reason it is relevant to cooking is that I have reward points on the account and want to use them up before switching cards. I have been collecting the points since I was in university, hence I have a bit of money tied up in points. Now because I consider this free money, I figure I have to do something a little extravagant that I would probably not do if I had to actually spend the money myself. This leads me to the dilemma of what to get and that is where you hopefully come in. I have about 9000 points (but I can top up with a little cash if needed). I have narrowed my choices down to a few items with a brief thought about each one. I would love to hear comments on what you think is the best spend of points. Thanks and I look forward to any feedback.

1. Maytag® Jet Clean Tall Tub Dishwasher: 9800 points, I have no idea if this machine is any good, but I would like to replace my white washer with a stainless to match the rest of the kitchen. Whether this is extravagent I guess depends on your perspective (my wife made me put this one in :)).

2. Weber Genesis EP-310 Black BBQ - Propane: 8000 points, my current BBQ works fine as long as I only use one side, the other side doesn't light. I could probably fix this by taking it apart and cleaning out the tubes, but I probably will never do this. My other dilemma is that I actually don't know why Weber BBQs cost so much comparatively to similar seeming models from competitors. But I am trying to be extravagant.

3. Vermont Castings Deluxe Stainless Steel Smoker: 8000 Points, I have never used a smoker and don't know how often I would, but it does sound extravagant to have your own smoker.

4. Delonghi Magnifica Rapid Capuccino Machine: 7300 points, I am sure I don't need this as I only drink decaf and don't really understand why I would need a machine that costs over $700 to make froth for me, especially when the my french press works so wonderfully. That being said, maybe I should become a latte man and make froth art for the blog (is that hard?).

5. Canon EOS Digital Rebel Xsi with 18-55 IS Lens Kit: 6500 points, this isn't completely about cooking as much as it is about blogging and sharing the food I cook. I am working with a descent point and shoot camera right now which is great for capturing family moments, but we have some challenges capturing food in the right light with the right tones (I would also need to learn how to use it).

6. KitchenAid@ Professional 600TM Series 6 Quart Lift Bowl Stand Mixer: 4500 points, I guess I could make a really nice cake with one of these. I have often thought about getting a mixer, but I just don't do enough baking to justify spending the money. I guess if I am looking for extravagant, having a KitchenAid mixer to use a few times a year fits the bill.

7. Salton 28 Bottle Dual Zone Wine Cellar: 4000 points, I sold my last wine fridge with my previous house as it was built into the kitchen. Also, I am not sure where I would put this, but there is something about having a wine fridge that seems quite snotty and extravagant. The other problem is that I am horrible at cellaring and mostly drink what I buy each week.

8. Zwilling J.A. Henckels TWIN Professional 'S' 6 Piece Knife Block Set: 3100 points. I have Henckel knives, but they are about 10 years old and I got them from Costco as a deal. They work great and I really can't complain, but why do people buy new BMWs and Benzes when a 3 year old Camry is a perfectly good car.

9. $1000 Starbucks Gift Card: 8000 points, okay this one is absurd and would make me quite fat and unhealthy but along with the one below probably helps put the others in perspective.

10. $1000 Gift card to The Bay (department store similar to Sears): 8000 points, this one doesn't seem extravagant at all as I would probably use it for something practical, but it does allow me to open myself up to other options. Hence please feel free to post your own extravagant thoughts here!
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Friday, August 7, 2009

Recipe: BBQ Turkey Thighs and Salad with a Blueberry Balsamic Reduction

BBQ Turkey ThighsThe weekend means that I like to:
a) BBQ (along with every other day of the week) and
b)try something new.
This leads to dinner and with my wife nursing, we have had to stay away from strong vinegars and garlic for the last year. Hence salads have become a little predictable. Having a little more energy recently with the kids becoming a tiny bit less work, I decided I had to break away from the standard salad dressing, although not straying too far. The recipe is for 4 people.

The Recipe: Turkey Thighs
2 lbs of flatten turkey thighs
2 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp roasted paprika
1 tbsp mexican chili powder
15 peppercorns
2 tbsp of Olive Oil

Pound turkey thighs with meat pounder until about 1/2 inch thick (this will be a bit of work). Grind sea salt, oregano, paprika, chili powder and peppercorns in a mortar and pestle. Coat both sides of turkey thighs with spices and drizzle with olive oil. Work the rub into the thighs with your hands and let sit for about 20-30 minutes. Heat one side of BBQ on high, add the thighs to the opposite side of the BBQ (using an indirect heat method). Flip after about 15 minutes depending on the heat of the BBQ (I like it to get as hot as possible, about 600F). Remove after about 30 minutes and enjoy

The Recipe: Raspberry and Baby Greens Salads with a Balsamic Blueberry Reduction
1/4 cup of blueberries (you can use frozen if they are out of season)
1/4 cup of balsamic (the everyday stuff, nothing fancy needed)
1/2 lemon
pinch of sea salt
1 tbsp of honey

The Salad:
5 oz package of mixed baby greens
1/4 cup of Gouda broken into small pieces by hand
1/2 cup of raspberries
10 raincoast crisp crackers broken in pieces
3 tbsp of Olive Oil (the good stuff

Combine balsamic, blueberries, honey, salt and lemon in a small sauce pan and heat over high heat stirring occasionally until reduced by half or 10-15 minutes. Strain reduction though a sieve to remove blueberries and let cool by placing in fridge for 20 minutes. Combine greens, cheese, raspberries and crackers in a larges bowl. Drizzle olive and reduction over top, you may not need it all. The dressing should cover all the leaves, but should not pool at the bottom. Toss and enjoy!
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Thursday, August 6, 2009

St Jacob's Market: Food Inspiration

St Jacobs Market fresh peachesIt all starts at St Jacob's Market for our weekly grocery haul. We have our usual stops which include picking up some steak, chicken, organic breads as well as perusing the stands for seasonal produce.This is the starting point for my weekend menu as I get inspiration from what looks good and what's in season. The summer months are especially inspiring with all the fresh fruits and vegetables available.

Related Recipes:
Nana's Rhubarb Pie
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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Recipe: Mushroom, Bacon and Cheese Stuffed Breaded Chicken Breasts

Mushroom, Bacon & Cheese Stuffed Chicken BreastThe recipe is not hard, but it is more involved. Meaning, more time, more pans and more steps, but it is worth it in the end if you are looking for a chicken breast recipe that stands out. I made it for my son’s birthday, but it would be great for any type of celebration if you and your guests want chicken. The recipe below makes a great meal for two and takes about one and a half hours start to finish, at a casual pace

The Recipe: Mushroom, Bacon and Cheese Stuffed Breaded Chicken Breasts
2 Large Chicken Breasts
¼ Cup of Fresh Parsley
4 Strips of Bacon
4 Slices of Gouda Cheese (you could also use mozzarella or swiss)
8 Crimini Mushrooms
2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 Small Tomato (like a vine or roma) chopped in small cubes
1 tsp Sea Salt
10 peppercorns
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1 Egg
3 tbsp Olive Oil
½ Cup of Bread Crumbs
¼ Cup of Grated Parmesan
1 tsp Sea Salt

Start by preparing the stuffing:
Mushrooms: Add butter, salt, pepper and mushrooms to a small pan and cook over high heat until liquid has been reduced.
Bacon: Heat oven to 400F and place bacon on cookie sheet in oven. It should only take about 5 minutes depending on the thickness of the bacon. Remove and place in paper towels to remove excess fat.

Flatten out chicken breast with a meat pounder until at least double in size and about ¼ inch thick. Try not to puncture the chicken or your cheese will melt out when cooking. Split parsley, bacon, cheese, mushrooms and tomatoes into two piles and place on one side of each breast so that the other side can be folded over. Grind oregano, basil, salt and pepper together in a mortar and pestle and add to stuffing. Add one tsp of Worcestershire to each breast and fold the other half of the breast over.
Preheat an oven to 375F. Heat a cast iron pan (or a pan that can be transferred to the oven) to medium heat and add olive oil once up to heat. Whip the egg in a small bowl and paint one side of the chicken breast using a small brush. Mix the bread crumbs, parmesan and sea salt on a plate. Dip the egg side on the plate with the bread crumbs and place in the pan, breadcrumbs side down. Once in the pan, paint the side facing up with the remaining egg yolk. Place the remaining breadcrumbs on this side and pat them into the chicken. Flip the chicken after 1-2 minutes, once the breadcrumbs begin to turn a nice golden colour, and place the pan in the oven. Cook for 20-25 minutes and Enjoy.

Chicken Breast on Foodista
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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Rocket Ship Cake: Part 2

Chocolate Sponge Cake with White Truffle Filling & Butter Cream IcingMy son's birthday was today, meaning that the terribly cute twos are over and we are starting the threes, it also means that the Rocket Ship cake has launched!!! The question is whether or not the launch was successful...

Let's start with the far as taste goes the cake itself was very good and I would definitely use Jacques Pepin's chocolate sponge cake recipe again. The icing was nice in flavour, but could have been a little more buttery (considering it was a buttercream recipe). I used a Betty Crocker base recipe and added some cream cheese and a little salt to try and soften the sweetness. The fresh sweet cherry reduction used for colouring worked very well and added great flavour to go with the chocolate cake. The filling was a white chocolate truffle, although I think it got lost a little bit with the powerful chocolate cake and icing flavour (in other words not a great use of $10 of organic white chocolate). Taste was a success.

Now on to the rocket ship part...let's start by saying I don't think NASA will be calling anytime soon for my blue prints. My first problem was that I couldn't find a small spring form cake pan, hence the smallest pan I could find was 8 inches. My second problem was the icing was not fondant, I guess I should have known from watching enough cake shows on TV that if you want it to look great use fondant. I put taste first.... My third problem was that I didn't want to waste cake by cutting away the sides to make a nice torpedo shape. Hence the end result was more of a tasty rocket boob, oops I mean blob. Although you can be judge...

But in the end, the only thing that matters is that my son thought it was a rocket ship (after we told him), he wanted seconds and had a great birthday!
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Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Rocket Ship Cake: Part 1

Well I am about to embark on a endeavour not ventured before. I thought I would do a blog post before I made the cake because then I would actually have to follow through on the plan, or at least own up if it doesn't go completely to plan. I should premise this whole post with the fact that although I like baking and usually turns out well, I mostly stick to cookies, muffins and pumpkin loaf (definitely to be document this fall).

So it is my son's 3rd birthday and with the bombardment of cakes on children's programming, he wants a cake (his mom helps a bit too). Although I think he likes the candles more than cake itself, I can't help myself but to try something a little bit more than your average cake (I don't even think I have ever actually made a proper cake before).

So back to the plan, an erect Rocket Ship cake. The idea is to layer four cake sections on top of each other with a chopstick done the middle for support. The cake will be a chocolate genoise from Jacques Pepin, with a white chocolate truffle filling and some type of "not too sweet" buttercream icing. I will doing some colouring with either reduced blueberries or cherries and the rocket thrusters will be done with the scrapes from the carved layers. On that note I should get some sleep as the countdown has begun.
check out the final result!

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