Food Musings

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

Kids Birthday Party Menu

February5

When our family was young, there were a couple of standard offerings to serve a birthday gang: hotdogs and pizza. We always let the birthday child pick and because our family were a little bit more adventurous I could serve make-your-own subs, strawberry trifle and/or zucchini chocolate cake.

Boy has the game ever been upped since those days! This past weekend we celebrated one of the Wee Ones birthday with a Sunday brunch. When we entered the home of J1 and J2 intriguing aromas wafted by.

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As guests continued to arrive and get settled they served a bruschetta topped with whipped feta, brightly coloured cherry tomatoes, red pepper, purple onion and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Half the tray was topped with extra fresh basil. Absolutely delectable!

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For our main, there was a veggie stew that included a secret ingredient that added a subtle sweetness. My carb-loving self spotted the cheese scones which J1 said were a new recipe and they were extra crunchy, just the way I like them.

A festive (non-violent) piñata was opened by pulling on colourful ribbons. It contained brown rice krispie treats and the kids were delighted.

Dessert was a chocolate cake that the Wee Ones helped make. It was adorned with purple icing as “poo poo” is Wee Ones favourite colour (pink already being claimed by her big sister). The cake was served with ice cream and berries.

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The Birthday girl with Auntie Boo.

It was one of a couple of times that both sides of the family get together and we had lots to get caught up on.

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Gift time could have gone either way with the alluded to big sister wanting to help. But both Wee Ones handled themselves with generosity and grace. It was a special celebration.

Kath’s quote: “You are small in size, but you don’t even realize how much power you have to change our lives, Lovie. May God bless you and keep you safe in every step. We love you so much.”-Glamma

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Love never fails.

 

Pan Seared Scallops in Lemon Caper Sauce

February4

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D and I love to cook together but we rarely get the opportunity. We have a wonderful division of tasks. D takes care of shoveling, laundry and garbage detail and I ensure the house is tidy and that supper is waiting for him when he is home from work. Sounds pretty tradition doesn’t it? It is and we love it this way.

We adore pan seared scallops and I was shocked to find such huge ones on for 30% off at Superstore (by the way…have you seen their fabulous new commercial?) We decided to go to a move Friday evening and have a popcorn supper so the scallops were waiting for us at the end of a busy Saturday. We had a number of plant based meals that week so I didn’t feel bad at serving an entrée with no veggies.

This is how we decided that it was supper time: D said “I am thirsty. I am going to pour us a glass of wine. Since we are wine-equipped why don’t we start on supper?”

We divided the tasks into two and I prepared the pasta portion while he seared the scallops. The dish was a keeper but so filling, we each left scallops and pasta in our bowl to have during the 3rd period of the Jet’s game when we typically get peckish.

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Pan Seared Scallops in Lemon Caper Sauce
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: International
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2 large portions
 
A two step recipe best prepared by two cooks.
Ingredients
  • 1 lb jumbo scallops
  • grinder of rock salt
  • 2 T ish olive oil
  • 3 T ish butter
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 225 g spaghettini (we like the President's Choice brand in the white box)
  • 1 T minced garlic
  • ½ c sauvignon blanc wine
  • 1 c chicken broth42 T lemon juice2 T capers
  • 1 T parsley (I was out of fresh and used dry)
  • 1 c chopped roma tomatoes
  • ¼ c ish parmesan
Instructions
  1. Scallops:
  2. Dry scallops really well with a clean cloth or paper towel.
  3. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Heat a skillet over high heat until the oil begins to slightly smoke.
  5. Place scallops with tongs into pan without crowding.
  6. Cook the scallops without moving them about 3 min.
  7. Add 1 T butter to pan, turn the scallops and brown on the second side about 90 sec.
  8. Turn off heat and hold.
  9. Pasta:
  10. Prepare pasta according to package directions.
  11. Select another pan and cook garlic on medium heat in 1 T butter, about 1 min.
  12. Increase heat and add wine.
  13. Cook until wine is reduced by half about 3 mins.
  14. Add chicken stock, lemon juice, capers and increase heat again. Cook until sauce is reduced to half (approximately 8-10 minutes).
  15. Turn off heat and another 1 T of butter.
  16. Drain pasta and add to sauce.
  17. Add parsley and tomatoes and toss all.
  18. Place scallops on pasta and top with grated parmesan.

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D at the stove in Charlottetown.

We had not had scallops since our sojourn to PEI last September. Coincidentally, that evening we arranged a meet up with those friends our first night on Isla Mujeres where alas, there are no scallops.

D poured another glass of wine and we sat down to our HNIC pre-game dinner.

Kath’s quote: “Close your eyes,” he had said to her. “Food demands complete submission.” And then he placed a perfect scallop in her mouth. “Do you taste the sea?” Delphine did. Not just the salt of the sea but the very air of the moment that the shell was pulled from the sand. “A storm, perhaps. There is a dark edge to the sweetness of the meat.” N.M. Kelby, White Truffles in Winter    Just reserved it on line from my library. I LOVE culinary fiction!

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Love never fails.

The Little French Bistro by Nina George

January31

If you are from Canada or been on social media lately, you cannot help but know that we are in a deep freeze right now. You can still buy some local produce like beets, carrots and potatoes but that’s pretty much it. We are well stocked with beef, pork and chicken right now but our fish and seafood supplies are dismal ,not just in our freezer but in the grocery store freezers as well.

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Portugal

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Isla Mujeres

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Prince Edward Island

Fresh fish and seafood is one of the many reasons why D and I love to travel. Last year In Portugal, Isla Mujeres, Mexico and Prince Edward Island we ate fresh fish at as many meals as possible.

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Tuscany

This year we have booked Tuscany. On our last journey there, we we overjoyed with the fish.

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I recently read The Little French Bistro by Nina George. It was a great read but I was especially fascinated by this excerpt:

“He had lectured Marianne on the importance of food and its effects on the soul, even though he knew that she barely understood a word. He talked about how he loved to shop and how true gastronomy began with hunting down the freshest, choicest produce. He spent his days off in low season visiting distilleries and mussel farms, or strolling along the Avon and Belen rivers or around the Bay of Morbidhan to find patient retired anglers reeling in wild fish.  These men still understood the rhythms of Brittany’s coastline. They knew that they had to be there at the right time, according to the dictates of moon and tides. High and low tide arrived a little earlier every day-two to four minutes earlier-and so they needed to be as swift and stealthy as foxes to catch the best moment for the fish to bite.”

Chapter 15, page 91

Boy do we have a lot to learn about fish!

Kath’s quote:“Fish, to taste right, must swim three times -in water, in butter, and in wine.” –Polish proverb

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Love never fails.

 

Cold Weather Fighting Cookies

January30

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The cold grip continues in Manitoba and when we say that we are colder than Mars we are not just using a figure of speech. Overnight temperatures (with the wind chill) have been in the -50 range. Because I work from home I am one of the fortunate ones. It is simply treacherous for our eldest who uses a motorized wheelchair to go outside. My beautiful grand-babies can’t get to school because of frozen vehicles (their Daddy, our son has been walking to work). Our 2nd son (son in law) works on the front lines at Siloam Mission and I can only imagine what they are trying to cope in this weather crisis.

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Anyhoo…I was trying to decide on a stew or soup that would keep us warm tonight and I came upon a top ten list of foods that, for various reasons, will keep you warm: cinnamon, dried fruits, eggs, ginger, honey, pepper, saffron, sesame seeds, turmeric and hot soups. The latter being an obvious. This didn’t sound like a soup concoction but it did sound like a spice cookie recipe! I started with a recipe from the Middle East and modified it to incorporate more of the list. It already covered off cinnamon, dried fruits, eggs and ginger. I added honey, pepper and sesame seeds and I swapped  whole what flour for white flour, vanilla whiskey for brandy and raisins for currants.I couldn’t find a way to incorporate turmeric or saffron. Drat.

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The result?

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An unusual tasting but satisfying cookie.

Cold Weather Fighting Cookies
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 3 doz
 
I took a spice cookie recipe and modified it to include more ingredients from a list of top 10 foods that keep you warm.
Ingredients
  • ¾ c raisins
  • 2 T vanilla whiskey
  • 2 c whole wheat flour
  • 1½ t cocoa
  • ½ t baking powder
  • ¼ t baking soda
  • ½ t each cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg
  • ¼ t salt
  • 1 quick grind of pepper
  • coarsely grated chocolate to taste
  • ½ canola margarine
  • ⅓ c icing sugar
  • ⅓ c liquid honey
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 t grated orange zest
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ c sesame seeds
Instructions
  1. Soak the raisins for 10 minutes in the whiskey.
  2. Use hand whisk or stand mixer whisk to combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, spices, salt and grated chocolate.
  3. If using a stand mixer, remove to a second bowl.
  4. Place butter, sugar, honey, vanilla, orange zest and mix with the beater attachment for 1 minute.
  5. With mixer running add the egg, then dry ingredients, followed by raisins and whiskey mixture.
  6. Drop by teaspoons on a parchment covered baking sheet.
  7. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  8. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.
  9. Allow to cool.

So now you can go off of your January diet and have a really good excuse to eat cookies!

Kath’s quote: “C is for Cookie, that’s good enough for me.”-Cookie Monster

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Love never fails.

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The Book Lover’s Cookbook

January29

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I love to read and I love to cook. My family knows this best and that is why my eldest gave me Outlander Kitchen which I wrote about last week. At any given time I will have a work of fiction and another of non-fiction, in addition to what I have going on my Kindle and what I am reading for blog research.

I typically borrow books from Sister #2 who holds an unbelievable library or my eldest who’s book collection is equally fine but focused towards literature that helped her attain her Masters Degree in Disability Studies. In fact her thesis included excerpts from various fiction and how she related to it in light of her personal disability. The thesis is absolutely fascinating, but I’m her Mom, so I guess that makes me biased. If you would like a copy to ready for yourself, just let me know and I can send it to you.

I also borrow extensively from the library. D and I sometimes go on book dates. We will spend a cozy evening in a bookstore and while I am there, I will make a note about new authors and titles I would like to read and then come home, go online and request them from the library. A good friend of mine who happened to own a bookstore asked me to please not advertise this habit of mine, so that booksellers (who already have a tough go of it), could make some money. I do also purchase second books on Amazon.

When I am in the midst of a good read, I use a bookmark to keep my place but I also turn up the bottom corner of a page that includes a particular culinary reference. I go back through the book once I am finished and make note of these references. Sometimes you see them below as one of “Kath’s Quotes”.

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I have never been invited to a book club but I think that I would greatly enjoy one, not just to hear other perspectives but to imbibe with some other bookies. Here is one such book that is extremely popular among the book-club set. It is called The Book Lover’s Cookbook by Shauna Kennedy Wenger and Janet Kay Jensen. Together they have compiled many references to noshing in literature both past and current and then included the recipe for said reference. For example a recipe entitled “Wished-For Spicy Tomato Sauce with Meatballs” includes a reference from Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms.

A number of my favourite writers are quoted, in addition to Ernest Hemingway, including: Anne Tyler, Isabel Allende, Frank McCourt, Maya Angelou, Jan Karon, Margaret Atwood, Jane Austen, Isak Dinesen (Babette’s Feast), Barbra Kingsolver, Elizabeth Berg, Maeve Binchey, Toni Morrison, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Charlotte Bronte, Marlena de Blasi, Robertson Davies, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Fanny Flag, Charles Frazier, Joanne Harris, Alice Munro, John Irving, Wally Lamb, D.H. Lawrence, Madeline L’Engle, C.S. Lewis, Charles Dickens, William Faulkner, Laura Esquivel, Colleen McCullough, Yann Martel, James A. Michener, Anais Nin, Rosamunde Pilcher, Annie. E. Proulx, Anita Shreve and last (but not least) Amy Tan. Wow, I didn’t think the list would be that long!

As I write this it is the coldest day of the year and throughout the night it was -50 degrees! Last night we snuggled up in front of a hockey game and then got under the feather covers to read our books as the wind howled outside our window. Luckily for me, I work from home and had no client meetings to venture out for. This evening just may be the repeat of the last one. Stay warm Lovies.

Kath’s quote: “The return to the kitchen was not easy. I wanted my daughter to know her past, to eat what I had eaten in my childhood; however, I quickly realized that I no longer remembered my family’s recipes…I forced myself to try and remember a recipe on my own. And that is how I discovered, as I had already known in my childhood, that it was possible to hear voices in the kitchen”.-Laura Esquivel, Between Two Fires

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Love never fails.

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