Food Musings

A Winnipeg blog about the joy of preparing food for loved ones and the shared joy that travel & dining brings to life.

Theresa’s Chicken & Black Beans

February5

What started as a “ministry” (defined as a term of service to others) for D and I has turned out to be anything but.  I’ll explain.  A number of years ago a young family came to our house to learn a little bit more about our community.  I had put out refreshments and a couple of things to nibble on.  They asked in advance if they could bring their newborn baby along.  When they arrived, our youngest daughter whisked the baby away and kept him entertained while the adults enjoyed some one on one time together.  This was our version of hospitality, nothing out of the ordinary, just how you take care of people when you invite them to your home.  Well, the husband and wife went on and on about how our evening together was an absolute delight and the most pleasurable evening that they had enjoyed in a very long time.  Even though our family is all grown up, it doesn’t mean that D and I do not remember those years, when everything was focused on the caring of our children with little time alone with other adults.  Well this got me thinking-maybe D and I should host one of these evenings once a month!

We start as soon as most parents are getting home from work so all that they have to do is gather up the family and arrive at our place in time for dinner.  D and I (and Sister #3 who had to be recruited when the gang grew too large for us to manage on our own), eat with the kids in the dining room and the parents help themselves in the kitchen and find a spot in the living room.  As soon as we have completed supper we head downstairs to our family room that we have set up for play.  The evening commences when the young families head home in time for their kids to have a regular bedtime.

Fast forward a number of years (I truly do not know how many), and our little time “of service” is rolling along.  Except that it does not feel anything like a favour to others but an absolute joy for us.  In fact, D is like a little child himself, watching out the window in anticipation of the families’ arrival.  I have had to become more and more imaginative with my cooking as the group has grown quite large and I want to ensure that the meals are quick, not messy, nutritious and affordable.  We plan in advance.  We have a gathering this week and found a great buy on whole wheat tortellini that I will serve with a tomato veggie sauce.

In addition to the joy that we experience when being with the families and all of the hugs and kisses from the toddlers upon their departure, the families take the time to reciprocate whenever they can with pictures for the fridge (both from the portrait studio and crayon renditions by the children), other much appreciate gifts and often times, dinners at their home.  I know that cooking for us is stressful.  Not because we are picking eaters, in fact, we are quite the contrary, but because people seem to think that we consume culinary masterpieces on a regular basis, when this is absolutely not the case.

Recently, one of “our” families asked us to dine with them.  As we were heaping accolades upon Theresa and the meal, she quietly said :”Oh, I am so glad.  We wanted this meal to be special, because we wanted to show you how much we appreciate what you do for us.”  There it is again:  Food=love.  We knew we were loved because of the care that went on in kitchen, in fact we knew we were loved, from the very time of the invite.

I didn’t want to put any extra pressure on T and J, so I didn’t take my camera that evening.  Instead, J texted me the main course recipe with his I Phone and I recreated it at home.  I altered the recipe quite substantially, not because it wasn’t perfect, but because I didn’t have the exact same ingredients as Theresa in the house.  Her version is from The Joy of Cooking which she indicates is her go-to recipe book.  It was mine too when I was a young Mom, but when the spine broke and my favourite recipes kept slipping out to be forever lost in the untidiness of new parenthood, I had to lay it to rest.

I assembled the dish last evening, but then when no one came home for dinner (I indulged in Superbowl leftovers in front of the Jets game) I baked it up this morning.  I have a dinner date tonight so that our house will enjoy this scrumptious dish without me.  In the mean time the taste is just as delectable as Theresa’s version.

theresa2.jpg

theresa3.jpg

Theresa's Chicken & Black Beans
Author: 
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 3-4
 
Adapted from the Joy of Cooking
Ingredients
  • 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (not IQF- individually quick frozen)
  • 4 oz. feta cheese (original calls for goat cheese)
  • 1 T chopped hot banana peppers (original calls for 2 jalapenos)
  • 3 minced rehydrated sun-dried tomatoes
  • 540 ml canned black beans, drained
  • 1 shallot, chopped (original calls for a small red onion)
  • ⅓ c cilantro, chopped
  • 1 T canola oil
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1 t red wine vinegar
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • lime wedges if desired
Instructions
  1. Using a sharp knife, place a cut into the side of the middle of the thickest part of each chicken breast.
  2. Carefully moving the knife around, create a pocket in the meat.
  3. Using a small food processor or chopper, mince the peppers and sundried tomatoes.
  4. Add the feta and pulse another couple of times until well blended.
  5. Spoon ¼-1/3 of this filling (depending on whether you are using 3 or 4 breasts) into the pocket of the chicken.
  6. Refrigerate 15 minutes.
  7. Cut 3-4 pieces of aluminum or parchment paper.
  8. Lay the breast, smooth side up onto these sheets.
  9. Mix the beans, shallot, cilantro, canola, cumin, cayenne and red wine vinegar together in a small bowl.
  10. Place onto the chicken on the sheets.
  11. Carefully fold the sheet edges together and create a firm seal.
  12. Bake at 375 degrees for half an hour. Check and leave until desired doneness.
  13. Serve with a squeeze of lime if desired.

Theresa4.jpg

Theresa1.jpg

Kath’s quote: “Stand facing the stove.” – Marion Rombauer Becker (collaborator of the Joy of Cooking)

Love-that is all.

 

What to Pack for Isla Mujeres

February4

I have been anticipating our annual sojourn to Isla Mujeres in an whole new way this year.  Since we will have access to a little house and we have stayed in this neighbourhood a number of times before, I am really looking forward to going “home” to Isla, as opposed to going “away” to Isla.  Perhaps the primary reason too, will be that our entire family will be with us including the Wee One.  I am almost organized and our departure is still almost two weeks away.  But getting out my flip flops and sun dresses adds to the joy of anticipating our trip.  Coincidently, Sister #3 must be in packing mode too as she sent this to me by email today:

 

What to pack for Isla Mujeres

Personal Items

Ear plugs (Especially if the person you travel with is a snorer but sometimes you can have noisy neighbours)

Kleenex packs, small hand sanitizer, wet naps (Carry with you as some bathrooms don’t have toilet paper or soap to wash up)

BeFunky_IMG_1843.jpg

Clear plastic rain poncho-dollar store variety (When it rains it comes fast and hard), easier and lighter to pack than an umbrella

Your toiletries (Most hotels and some casa’s provide shampoo and soap)

day1007.jpg

Sun glasses, sun screen (Vital as the cost of sun screen if very high in Mexico)

Sun hat (It is very windy on the island so one that has a tie is a good idea)

Blow dryer etc. (I don’t bother with any of this stuff on the island.  I just let my hair go crazy – and it does.  I wear a lot of head bands and scarves to keep my hair out of my face in the wind.)

Bank card (there are lots of ATMs) You don’t have to bring pesos as it is easy to find an ATM. You don’t need to bring a credit card as you won’t use it except maybe at the airport. Don’t bring traveller’s cheques, they are next to impossible to cash these days.

Clothes

I typically pack the following for two weeks.

Three bathing suits, two beach cover ups

day13-16.jpg

6 sun dresses, two pashminas, jean jacket (It can get a bit chilly in the evening so I carry one of these so I have something to slip over my shoulders)

2 pairs of shorts

4 t-shirts or tank tops

2 nighties

something light to through on when I get out of the shower.

One pair of long cotton pants and a hoody to wear on the plane.

Flip flops, one good pair of walking shoes.  Don’t bring anything with a heel, the sidewalks are cobblestone and you can kill yourself.

day14-15.jpg

The restaurants are all pretty casual.  I like dresses as they keep me the coolest.  Remember you can always go see Hortenzia if you run out of things to wear.  She can whip up a light cotton dress for less than $20.00 in a day or two.

You can drop off a load of laundry at one of the many Laundromats and they will wash, dry and fold it for you for later that day.  It is a very affordable option and helps reduce what you need to pack.  Your clothes will come back smelling fantastic.  I wouldn’t recommend it for anything delicate.

Other things to consider

I scan my passport, bank card, travel insurance card etc and I keep a copy in the room safe.  Just in case I was to lose my stuff.

I put the address of the place I am staying inside my bag in case my bag goes missing it can be sent to where I am.

If you have a soft sided suitcase you might want to put the clothing in a garbage bag inside your suitcase as cases can get wet on the ferry ride over or on the airport tarmac.

Tag all your luggage even carry on.

I also bring

BeFunky_IMG_1988.jpg

A laptop or iPod to check email

docking station with speakers to play music

digital camera with charger

baggies, cutting boards, containers for food preparation

laundry soap to wash out bathing suits etc.

Clorox wipes for cleaning up the kitchen area

Peanut butter and jam packets to have on fresh buns from the bakery

Tea, hot chocolate packages, salt and pepper, granola bars, homemade granola (to go with breakfast of fresh fruit and yogurt or for a late night treat.)

Bubble wrap and masking tape (to pack breakable things for the trip home)

Beer sleeve, cooler bag (I like to fix sandwiches in our room to take to the beach and a beer sleeve keeps my water or beer cold on a hot day)

I bring tea towels to do my own dishes (I don’t like leaving them for the maid as I don’t want to attract bugs) and a small hand towel to take to the beach in case I get really sweaty. I don’t pack towels as they take up a lot of room and the casa we stay in provides them.

BeFunky_day413.jpg

Kath here to add a couple of things that I bring along:

my own folding/back pack beach chair so that I can pick my place on the beach instead of renting a chair,

water proof sturdy-bottomed sandals (like Merrels) to beachcomb and climb over coral

an insulated coffee mug (Contigo brand is my fave) because I like my coffee to stay hot as we watch the sunrise and I fill it with ice and water for my walk to the beach.

I pack more bathing suits and put one on as soon as I get out of my pjs.  Then I wear one of Hortenzia’s dresses over top and I am ready for anything the day throws at me.

Gravol, Imodium, polysporin, band aids because you just never know what may occur.

Kath’s quote: “14 more sleeps!”-me

BeFunky_32630_506604932735416_181021657_n.jpg

Love-that is all.

Apple Oatmeal Greek Yoghurt Muffins

January30

Things have not exactly been going swimmingly for me this past week.  For one, I have had to eat out twice.  The first time was by invitation to a new location of Smoke’s Poutinerie where I took D with me to ensure that I would only have to sample a single bite.  But of course, I ended up eating the whole order of my Country poutine.  For one, he had his own serving to eat and for two I absolutely abhor food that goes to waste.  Even this is BS that I feed to myself because I could have packed it up to bring home for our boarder and I also was taught long ago:  “It isn’t a waste if you leave it on your plate.  It is a waste if you ate it when you were already full and didn’t even want it.”  Why can’t I listen to my own good advice?  To make matters worse, the very next day we were celebrating my Mom’s birthday by ordering Chinese food from her traditional spot.  All of her favourites were ordered and there were a number of deep fried and sweetly-sauced items.  I approached the table, determined to take the egg foo young and a couple of the veggie and noodle dishes but returned to my spot at the dining table with a taste of every dish on my plate.

I have been in the kitchen as often as usual, but this week I have been batch cooking for our boarder to fill the freezer for the time while we are on vacation. After making a zillion pizzas and casseroles, I am not inspired to flip through cookbooks and spend the time to make anything healthy for myself.

But because I always try to look on the sunny side, so here goes: I got out my summer clothes to launder and pack for our winter vacation and everything fits better than it did when I put it away last fall.  I have made a significant paradigm shift-instead of “cheating” by eating a whole bag of chips or cookies, I feel as if I have “cheated” if I eat a white noodle, white rice or white pizza crust.  So even though I was not completely on track this week, at least I haven’t totally derailed either.  In addition, the miserably cold weather seems to have broken and the days are getting noticeably longer.

muffins6.jpg

In addition, I have finally perfected a Nuts and Bolts recipe that is low salt, low fat and high in non-soluble fibre, soluble fibre and taste!  I use whole grain waffle pretzels (Presidents Choice Blue Label), Shreddies, Cheerios, Corn Chex and popcorn.  The secret is glugs and glugs of Worcestershire sauce.  After I slow roast it all, I put into small zip locs and put it in the freezer.  Then when I get hungry, bored or too busy to make something, I grab a bag.  Yum!

muffin1.jpg

Lastly, I found and baked one fabulous new (and healthy) recipe.  I often buy no fat Greek yoghurt when it has been marked at 50% off, but this week I was not able to eat it fast enough.  When I was concerned about using it up, I went recipe searching and found this delectable one.  See the end of this post for the recipe.  Something is amiss with my recipe template….

muffin3.jpg

muffin4.jpg

Kath’s quote: “Well, I can’t eat muffins in an agitated manner. The butter would parobably get on my cuffs. One should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the only way to eat them.”-Oscar Wilde

valentineheart.jpg

Love, that is all.

 

Apple Oatmeal Greek Yoghurt Muffins
Author: 
Recipe type: Breakfast, Brunch, Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12-16
 
Ingredients
  • 1c whole wheat flour
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1c quick cooking oats
  • ¼ c milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c 0% plain Greek yogurt
  • ⅓ c canola oil
  • ¼ c brown "sugar" splenda
  • ¼ c real maple syrup
  • 2 c finely diced Macintosh apples
  • ¾ c raisins
Instructions
  1. In a medium sized bowl, with a sturdy whisk, blend all the dry ingredients together.
  2. In a second medium bowl combine, milk, eggs, yogurt, splenda, syrup and blend well.
  3. Combine the ingredients of the two bowls and stir until all ingredients are moistened.
  4. Add chopped apples, raisins and stir one last time.
  5. Spoon into paper muffin liners or muffin tins sprayed with canola oil.
  6. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.
  7. Makes 12-16 muffins.

Wedding Plans-Episode Two

January29

The next major step for the lovebirds was finding the ideal venue for the wedding.  The church was not an issue as they attend the same church and in fact their Pastor was instrumental in creating the opportunity for them to court.  While they were together in South Africa, they were visited by the gentleman (who would eventually become their pastor) whom offered the Frenchman an internship in Winnipeg.  So, in the fall of the year that they returned to Canada, the Frenchman had an excuse (or perhaps a second one) to move to Winnipeg.  When their engagement was announced to the congregation, their Pastor lead a chorus of “It is about time!”  I guess true love is an obvious state.

Harder though, was finding the right venue.  There were so many things to consider.  They wanted a fall wedding and so they looked for a place to reflect the cozy and rustic season.  They wanted a casual feel because they are laid back people.  They were hoping that there could be some outdoor space because they are also the outdoorsy types.  They hoped that it could somehow be close to the neighbourhood of their many dates and engagement on the Provencher Bridge.  They also wanted a place that would reflect the blending of their cultures: first generation French and more distantly- Scottish Metis.  They needed to consider a central location close to hotels for out of town guests.  The facility had to be wheelchair accessible as there will be a number of guests who use wheelchairs.  Of course, of utmost importance would be the imaginative and authentic taste and presentation of the FOOD.  They knew that their search was going to be difficult, in fact close to impossible.  After a couple of stressful weeks, much research and many rejections,  they found THE perfect venue!

I am not going to reveal all of their special arrangements with Fort Gilbralter but I will tell you that their event planner Angie and Shawn who will take care of all the food details, could not possibly be more helpful with suggestions and things to remember and consider.  We know that the food will be excellent as we dine as often as we can at Shawn’s nearby restaurant The Promenade.  In addition, Fort Gilbralter’s website is fantastic with video views so that the engaged couple can actually visualize the room, the placement and flow of their guests in the room and how to set up the room for maximum space and mobility.

Kath’s quote: May their joys be as bright as the morning, and their sorrows but shadows that fade in the sunlight of love.” -Minna Thomas Antrim

Love-that is all.

Sabich and Save A Child’s Heart

January28

In the olden days Air Canada had this great offer for students.  You could buy a special pass which allowed you to fly standby on domestic flights until you turned 22 years of age.  I took full advantage of this and visited Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto on a regular basis.  I imagined my self to be very “worldly”.  Well our 22 year old puts me to shame.  She has traveled across western Canada, to El Salvador, across all of South Africa, Nicaragua, Israel and Jordan.  As opposed to my style of young travel which was to shop and hit the tourist spots and clubs, she volunteers- performing humanitarian work when she leaves home.  After her most recent stint in Israel, volunteering with the wonderful organization entitled Save a Child’s Heart, (more about this later) she made us her favourite Israeli meal.

Sabich was brought to Israel by Mizrahi Jews who moved in the 1940s and 1950s. On the Sabbath, when no cooking is allowed, Mizrahi Jews ate a cold meal of precooked fried eggplant, cooked potatoes and hard-boiled eggs. In Israel, these ingredients were stuffed in a pita and sold as fast food. In the 1950s and 1960s, vendors began to sell the sandwich in open-air stalls.

This is where Daughter #2 fell in love with the taste of Sabich.  She said that the street sellers came to recognize her as a regular and knew her name.

sabich1.jpg

sabich2.jpg

She assembled all of these fresh, whole, simple ingredients and then instructed us as to how to assemble our Sabich.

She first showed us how to carefully open our pitas so that it would remain intact when stuffed.  Next, we placed a big smear of hummus on the floor of the pita and then placed slices of potatoes, hard cooked eggs and cubed eggplant inside.  All the other toppings of sliced banana peppers, parsley, kosher pickles, Israeli salad (like a pico de gallo), chopped and seasoned cabbage and hand-formed falafel were optional but she encouraged us to try them all and she was absolutely right, as each bite was just a little bit different but absolutely delectable.

sabich4.jpg

She also demonstrated how to knead the falafel in the bottom of the pita to break it up and spread the crunchy, spicy concoction into the other ingredients.

sabich3.jpg

Not everyone was successful in rolling the stuffed pita up but I was pretty impressed wth my own.  We washed everything down with lemonade which she made the old fashioned way-with lemons!  I can still smell the lemon groves in Israel from my own sojourn there.

Now that Daughter #2 is home, she is still raising money for Save a Child’s Heart.  This is the organization’s mandate:

Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) is an Israeli-based international humanitarian project, whose mission is to improve the quality of pediatric cardiac care for children from developing countries who suffer from heart  disease and to create centers of competence in these countries. SACH is totally dedicated to the idea that every child deserves the best medical treatment available, regardless of the child’s nationality, religion, color, gender or financial situation.

If you would be so inclined to contribute to her fund raising goal, you can do so with the link imbedded here: Give Your Heart Out this Valentine’s Day.  The link tells you more about how her heart was touched by the kids that she cared for there and how you can help.

Kath’s quote: “You can close your eyes to the things you do not want to see, but you cannot close your heart to the things you do not want to feel.” -Unknown

BeFunky_geoffrey_tn_390x250.jpg

Love-that is all.

PS to B-I am humbled by the honour of being your Momma.

 

 

 

« Older EntriesNewer Entries »