Food Musings

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

Another Snowy Weekend

January28

By Guest Blogger Laura

One of winter’s first snowy Saturdays and as luck would have it, we planned the perfect welcoming event  – a fondue party to celebrate a friend’s birthday.  There are so many different ways to enjoy this congenial way of eating but we have our favourite plan and usually stick with it for the most part.  We use two pots of boiling oil – many people use chicken or beef broth which is terrific too – but we generally go for a combination of canola and peanut oil.    The most exciting part of the fondue for me is the creation and presentation of a wide variety of dipping sauces that allow guests to try new flavours and combinations that they wouldn’t normally try.  Each and every bite can be different from the one before and it’s that experimenting that makes this such a celebration of eating. 

Early in the day I prepare a hearty plateful of each of prime rib steak, boneless pork, boneless chicken breast and peeled and deveined shrimp.  My husband prepares the chocolate fountain and cleans strawberries, cuts bananas, peels mandarin oranges and cuts up sponge cake. 

 I wanted to be sure to have a good variety of choices.  I picked up some store bought sauces…sweet and sour, BBQ, seafood sauce and then had tons of fun preparing the homemades. 

Horseradish Cream – 1 cup sour cream, 3 T horseradish, 2 t lemon juice, 2 green onions, ¼ t worchestershire, salt & pepper

Herbed garlic butter – 1 C butter, 2 T lemon juice, 1 t fines herbes, 2 cloves garlic

Peanut sauce – 1 cup vegetable broth, ½ c peanut butter, 3 T shallots, 1 t worchestershire, 1 t sugar – cooked on stove and allowed to thicken and cool

Honey Mustard – ½ c mayo, 2 T honey, 2 T grainy mustard, salt & a pinch of cayenne

Curry Mango – ½ c unflavoured yogurt, ½ c mayo, ½ c mango chutney, 1 T lime juice, 2 t curry powder, 1 T chopped red onion, dash of cayenne

The surprising hit was one I just invented at the last minute.  I used a small jar of green jalapeno jelly and mixed it with ½ c mayo.  Then I chopped in some fresh red chile pepper and green jalapeno pepper primarily to add some colour because the sauce wasn’t looking that attractive.  Even the guests who don’t usually go for food with too much heat loved this combination of sweet and spicy. 

Our friends brought along a bowl of cheese fondue which we simply heated in the microwave and put on a warmer and then enjoyed with chunks of French bread.  They also contributed mushrooms, peppers and pearl onions along with a beer batter that worked really well in the fondue pots. 

I’m not sure there is a better way to enjoy wonderful dinner conversations than with good friends sharing  a fondue.

“When you ask one friend to dine,
Give him you best wine!
When you ask two,
The second best will do!”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

invite someone to warm up at your table

The Most Decadent Lasagna

January26

Do you know the song entitled Seasons of Love from the play/movie Rent?  The lyrics are about quantifying the passing of time: 

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

In my family we recently reached a milestone.  We celebrated the 18th birthday of the thirteenth and youngest grandchild in our family.  We had been celebrating these birthdays for 20 years and in all there were 234 of them.  A person much better at math (my husband or one of my children) could calculate exactly how many birthday candles had been blown out over the years.   

Our family has grown to be so large that we have to rent a room to accommodate us all for dinner.  The special efforts put into this last soiree were handled beautifully by Sister #2 and her husband-complete with video tributes and trivia games.  And is always the case-there was a lot of love poured into the preparation of the food. 

Sister #3 is the sister that is a formally trained cook.  I am said to be an “inventive” cook and Sister #2 is an “indulgent” cook.  For this dinner she prepared four different kinds of pasta including two lasagnas that were to die for.  This recipe is appropriately entitle “Death to Dieters Chicken Lasagna” as it is made with…..Hollandaise sauce!  Can you see how she came about her title?

3 c fresh mushrooms, sliced

2 c onions, chopped

3 c hollandaise sauce (2 packets if not making from scratch)

1 lb. pakage lasagna noodles, cooked

2 lbs. chicken breast, cooked & thinly sliced

1 t basil

1 t oregano

3 c mozzarella, shredded

1 c parmesan, grated

Saute mushrooms & onions until soft.  Using 2 9″x13″ pans, spread a small amount of hollandaise on the bottom & place a layer of noodles over top, then cover with 1/2 of the chicken .  Top with 1/2 of the mushroom and onion mixture, then 1/2 of the remaining hollandaise and sprinkle with 1/2 of the basil & oregano.  Top this with 1/2 of the mozzarella and Parmesan.  Repeat the layers ending with the cheese.  Cook uncovered in a 350 degree oven for 35 minutes or until hot and bubbly.  Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.  Serve with a salad with a tart dressing to offset the richness.  Serves 20-24. 

Kath’s quote:  “You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.”-Julia Child

Today is my Mom’s 84th birthday!

Authentic Chinese Food – Sister #3

January24

For the past 6 months I have hosted a young lady from Beijing who is in Winnipeg completing university entrance English at U of W and hoping to be excepted to attend U of M when she is done.  After a visit back to Beijing she brought her Mom with her to Canada for a visit.  It was very important to them that her mom be allowed to cook dinner for me.  I was not sure what to expect as she had always told me that they mostly eat at restaurants and take out and just bought their first ever oven. 

I was pleasantly surprised by the array of delicious dishes that were served.  A lovely broth with peas and spiced pork meatballs, shrimp cooked and served shell on in sauce of just the right mix of sweetness and soy, tomatoes with egg, rice with added cornmeal, finely cut potatoes with bacon.  Everything was great and all tasted so good together.  They told me that this meal was not what would be made for a festival, it was more like what we would serve for Sunday dinner. 

So, now it is my turn. I think I should try to cook something “typically Canadian”.  I’m open to suggestions.  I’ll let you all know how it turns out. 

Kath’s quote:  “The gentle art of gastronomy is a friendly one. It hurdles the language barrier, makes friends among civilized people, and warms the heart.”-Samuel Chamberlain

Hermano’s

January21

I tried hard to honour D’s birthday request as he had a yearning for some Mexican flavours and we still have a month before we depart for the turquoise Caribbean.  But we couldn’t get into La Bamba because they do not have wheelchair access (shame on them) but he was more than content to try Hermano’s and their South American fare.

And speaking of wheelchair access-with one quick phone call from the car, the owner was at the accessible entrance to escort us to our table.  He came by again later to teach us that one of our favourite winter holiday dishes-ceviche, was invented in Peru.  He also enthralled us with tales about his frequent trips to Brazil and the story of how he has recreated this Latin approach to dinner for us in Winnipeg.

So the wide open spaces, long tables and boisterous atmosphere is not by accident.  South Americans gather as a family to share their day over an evening meal.  This is the goal of our family too and yet with working late, volunteering, late university classes and trying to fit in some exercise, it rarely happens.  Or shall I say, that it does not occur as often as we would like.

We started by ordering a Chilean Merlot (very familiar) but also found a Chilean Gewurztraminer that was lovely.  I professed my love for D over a bottle of Alsatian Gewurztraminer almost thirty years ago….

We ordered just about everything that wasn’t off season from the Tapas menu and were delighted.  The large bread board was laden with Potato Rosemary Sour Dough, Portuguese Pumpkin Loaf and Onion Jalapeno Corn Bread.  They were all distinctive and we concluded that the corn bread was the hit.  But in all honesty, any bread with a scoop of the spinach & basil pesto, or dunked into the white wine juice from the mussels or the garlic butter which accompanied the shrimp, would be delicious. 

food musings

Of the three Empanada’s that were served, I tasted the Chicken and Sausage-a lovely and savoury concoction in a crunchy wrapper. 

food musings

Pipa Camaroes were served “head on” as we recall eating them on seaside vacations.  I was quite adept at lopping off the head with a sharp knife but our Frenchman guest decided to twist his off with his fingers and was sprayed with a red juice-cacbaca perhaps? 

food musings

The grilled chicken skewers with mango salsa were a nice complement to the other seafood items. 

The Calamari tasted particularly fresh which is unusual in the middle of the prairies in the midst of winter.  The tentacle portion was particularly crunchy in its corn crusting.

food musings

Two of the girls were happy to see that we weren’t going to have to eat 13 pounds of mussels when they misread this on the menu: “13/LB”.  I think D&I could and likely have eaten 13 lbs of mussels in the past, thinking back to our honeymoon on Cape Cod where they were served in a big black cauldron (think the witch scene in McBeth).

We also enjoyed what are simply called “chips” on the menu.  OMGoodness-  hand cut potato chips with just a hint of salt.  And there were lots of folded ones which were extra crunchy.  Does anybody else remember the Mr. Greenjeans days when a version of these were served with every order?

Even though we had brought along our traditional Jeanne’s Banana log birthday cake, we couldn’t resit the Tempura Banana split.  Fried bananas is a family favourite-we even make them for late night, “around the fire-pit” snacks.  This version did not disappoint especially because it was served with Eva’s gelato.  Eva’s original storefront was near the end of our street and became the destination of many summer walks.  We think that their Argentinian recipe is superior to the offerings elsewhere on Corydon as they use “real” ingredients not merely the flavouring and colouring of the real thing.

Hermanos on Urbanspoon

D was delighted with his gifts and was a very contented man.  He deserves it: “Cause he’s good, so good, and he treats (me) like a real man should”-Carrie Underwood

love, love will keep us together

Healthy(er) Perogy Lasagna

January19

 

A version of this recipe has been posted once before, but I had not prepared it myself. I decided to pull the recipe out when D & I were hosting our monthly young families’ group.  I thought that the kids might enjoy it with some veggies and dip and the adults with heaps of salad.  

Now you know that I love my carbs but the combination of fat and carbs seemed a little too indulgent in January especially knowing that I will be on the beach again in a month (travelling-not here in MB).  So I used no fat cottage cheese and sour cream.  The original recipe calls for Velveeta which I never have in my house so I substituted 250 g of Imperial Cheddar Cheese that was a gift to us over the holidays.  I also used a shredded sharp cheddar because I sense that if you use a sharper cheese, you get much more of the taste with less of the fat. I doubled the recipe to make a lasagna for the kids assembled with us in the dining room and another for the parents attempting to have some adult time together in the living room.

1 large onion, chopped

olive oil for sauteeing

250 g Imperial cheddar cheese

500 g no fat cottage cheese

500 g no fat sour cream (thinned with 1/4 c skim milk)

500 g lasagna noodles

1 c sharp cheddar (shredded)

1 lb. bacon, crumbled and cooked until extra crisp (carefully blotted with paper towel to remove all visible grease)

5 lbs. (or more) cook potatoes with the the skin ON

Lightly grease 2 lasagna pans and set aside.  In a large pot boil potatoes until they can be easily mashed; drain.  In a frying pan, saute onions until soft.  In a large pot of boiling water, cook noodles according to package directions.  Add 1/2 onion to half of the potatoes along with the Imperial cheese, mash.  Add the other half onion to the other half of the potatoes along with the cottage cheese and mash. Pour a couple of dollops of sour cream in the bottom of lasagna pans.  Cover with a layer of noodles.

 

Layer more noodles over one potato mixture, top with 1/3 the sour cream.  Layer again over the other potato mixture, top with another 1/3 sour cream.  Add last layer of noodles, sour cream and top with shredded cheddar.  Cover with foil & bake at 350 F for 20 minutes or until edges are bubbly when you peak under the foil.  Remove and let set for 5 minutes (very NB).  Top with crumbled bacon and serve.

Kath’s quote:  “Pray for peace and grace and spiritual food,
For wisdom and guidance, for all these are good, but don’t forget the potatoes.”-
John Tyler Pettee

love illuminates

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