Made with Love

February11

I have a dear friend who has a Christmas birthday. She is so busy throwing parties and giving perfect gifts to everyone in her life that Christmas kind of trumps her birthday. But I believe that you can commemorate a person any time and we were only too happy to celebrate wonderful her about 6 weeks after the date of her birth.

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The festivities were planned when her husband gave her five different bottles of Apothic as a gift (one of her favourite wines). The two decided that the best way to enjoy their unique tastes would be with courses and pairings. And so she sent out invites which we all gratefully accepted.

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We arrived on a frosty Friday to be warmed up with Strawberry Crush Cocktails. They were served in tippy scotch glasses that were a lot of fun but were a subtle warning not to imbibe too much or our worlds may look a bit tippy too.

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Cheese, fruit and biscuits were placed in a casual manner around their enormous kitchen island. A fine champagne gift was poured out next and shared all around. I am not partial to champagne but I sure can tell a good bottle of one!

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We sat down to a gorgeous table with a line up of glassware which included a map of the wine choices that would be served throughout the evening.

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Also at our places were menus of the rest of the evening’s fare.

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To accompany the delicious pear, pomegranate, butter lettuce salad with a honey balsamic vinaigrette was Apothic Inferno.  This wine boasted dark fruit flavours with hints of maple and spice.

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Apothic Red was paired with sautéed sea scallops. They were finished with brandy and cream and I savoured each tiny bite to make the luscious seafood morsels last as long as possible. The Red had a lighter body to offset the richness. The scallops were d.i.v.i.n.e.

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The robust tastes of Vietnamese lamb chops, coconut rice and snap peas almandine were complemented by Apothic Dark. Wine and food were perfect together, eclipsed only by the friends old and new, loving on each other and getting right to the heart of the matter; strengthening our bonds and intimacy.

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Dessert was prepared by the birthday girl herself. I had tasted it on another occasion and dearly hoped they would serve it again. The chocolate torte was delectable on its own; sublime when drizzled with a fine olive oil and sea salt. Apothic Brew was appropriately served with the final course.

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I think that I can easily say for all the friends that we felt pampered and loved. In deed, that was the secret ingredient in each and every dish. And this is the generous man (with his wife of almost 30 years to the right) who put the fabulous evening together so that we could delight in each other’s company.

Kath’s quote: “I love the way women friends have with each other. When I gather with a group of women friends, inevitably someone begins to rub someone else’s back. Hair gets played with. Merciful, tender, caressing healing touches are given.” -Stasi Eldredge

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Love never fails.

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Mexican Rice from Cocina Islena

February8

I was at an event this week and a person sitting opposite me wondered where she could find an authentic Mexican Rice recipe. I have made this one oodles of time and sent it off to her.

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The first meal I ever ate on Isla was decades ago at La Lomita. Where was yours?

We are off to the island in 14 sleeps and I am eagerly anticipating one of the many reasons we love the island so much and that is the food! When I come home I cook Mexican food to keep the memories and experiences vivid. It occurred to me than many persons on the Isla Mujeres’ Food page (that I moderate) would be interested in these recipes too, when they regretfully arrive home.

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So here we go:

Mexican Rice from Cocina Islena
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
This is the way the Islenas make their rice. You can cook it ahead, then heat it thoroughly but gently, in a tightly covered pot for about fifteen minutes. Leftover rice can be heated in the same way the next day and it freezes well. To reheat, make a foil package with the rice and place still frozen, in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes.
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups rice
  • ⅓ cup oil (I use canola)
  • I large tomato (1/2 pound) chopped
  • 1 glove of garlic chopped
  • 3½ cups chicken broth
Instructions
  1. Wash and clean rice, taking out any stones that may be in the bag.
  2. Drain in a colander.
  3. Heat the oil in a pan.
  4. Stir in the rice until all the grains are well covered, then fry until a light golden colour, stirring and turning the rice over so it will cook evenly and not get too dark.
  5. This should take about 10 minutes and should be done over a high flame.
  6. In a blender, blend the tomato, onion and garlic until smooth.
  7. Add the vegetables to the fried rice, then continuing to cook over a high flame, stir and scrape the bottom of the pan until the mixture is dry.
  8. Add the broth and add salt as necessary then stir well.
  9. Cook over a medium flame, uncovered until the liquid has been absorbed and small air holes appear in the rice.
  10. Remove from flame and cover tightly, so that no steam can escape, for about 20 minutes and the rice continues to cook in its own steam.

The cookbook was originally a fund-raiser so I ask that each time you print or cook a recipe, please make a donation to one of Isla’s many worthwhile charities. I will do the same. Here are a couple of our favourites:

http://littleyellowschoolhouse.org/

https://islakids.org/

http://islaanimals.org/

https://www.islascholarships.com/

Kath’s quote: “Education is the most powerful tool you can use to change the world”.-Nelson Mandela

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Love never fails.

 

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“Uncomplicated-Taking the Stress Out of Home Cooking”-Claire Tansey

February7

I mentioned recently that I took a blogging hiatus in order to rethink where I was at with food and life. Even though I struggle to find the words to describe my new attitude, I am experiencing confirmation that my epiphany is on track.

One confirmation, (believe it or not) is the amazing minute and a half commercial recently aired by Loblaw’s/Superstore where the narrative is about dreaming 75 years of dreams and then finally dreaming “where you are now”-outdoors, around an enormous table, with multi-generations of family/friends. The final graphic suggesting: “Eat Together”. The truth is, I don’t even remember seeing food in the Superstore commercial. So I am concluding it is not about the food it is about “together”.

Now I will confess that there are times that I make one-bowl dinners so that D and I can catch up on a favourite Netflix series or catch the puck drop of a Jets game, but for the most part we eat together at our kitchen peninsula most evenings, sometimes with a candle lit to brighten the winter darkness.

Getting a nutritious hot meal on the table is just part of my daily routine so the need to scale back preparations to do so is not a big deal for me, but for two income couples, students living alone or young families with active kids, the task must be overwhelming. Enter the new approach that I have towards food (and life): from scratch, simple, uncomplicated… Claire Tansey the author of “Uncomplicated” shared recently that we all need to “lower our expectations” in order to make daily cooking a part of our routines.

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Another confirmation are the cookbooks that Daughter #1 has gifted me with recently and the one that I added to my collection last evening: “Family”, “Simple”, “Uncomplicated”.

Claire Tansey is straightforward and without pretense. I was so sad to have missed her when she was in Winnipeg this past September at the Food Bloggers Canada event. Last night though we had a chance to chat, hear her interviewed and watch her in her element-mic’d, pony-tailed and posed at an enormous wooden cutting board ready to share her thoughts on everything from knife skills to salt. This was all delivered at Deluca’s Cooking Studio by my dear friends at Canola Connect.

I cannot wait to dive into Claire’s beautiful cookbook. I have only had a chance to flip through, but it is thoughtfully laid out with sumptuous photos and straight-forward recipes. Pick up “Uncomplicated” as soon as you are able. You will come to understand where the “Food Revolution”  started by many, is currently at.

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With the crew from Deluca’s, Tainsey prepared our uncomplicated dinner from her new cookbook. The kitchen commenced with a yummy snack to hold us until the entree arrived (you can call amuse bouche if you’d like). Popcorn? Yes popcorn, you can’t get more uncomplicated than that, can you? But this was no ordinary popcorn-it was simply seasoned with both salt and sugar and a pinch of cayenne pepper to add what Claire referred to as “sexy sizzle”.

A little salad came next as Claire declared “salad is the essence of uncomplicated”. Greens, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper-that’s it.

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Next up was a delectable rosemary pork tenderloin which had been roasted with broccoli and potato wedges. The pork was cooked to a perfect pink and full of its natural juices.

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Surrounded by Canola family, I was content to put down my fork and call it an evening, then along came Claire’s chocolate cake. I enjoyed it immensely but with my last bite I had to run. My mantra and new attitude of making time for the most important people in life by making less fuss and muss in the kitchen also takes time management: I was home in time for a visit with D and the evening was perfect!

Kath’s quote: “Brown stuff tastes good.“-Claire Tansey

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Love never fails.

 

 

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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.

 

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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.

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