Monday, November 22, 2010

Sweet Potato Tuna Melts and Ham, Spinach and Gruyere Croissant Ring

Dear Jess,

I agree! The weather is so frightful! I hope you are feeling better and getting some rest! I just started feeling that my cold has left me (for now) so I completely know how you feel. The chilly wind doesn't help either.

To aid in keeping warm and happy, I made two recipes that are both hearty, simple, and (of course) delicious.

I found this one in a Canadian Living (I think) magazine at Moksha. I was sitting with Jason on Sunday night, and neither of us wanted to go outside just to pick up some groceries. I decided it was a perfect opportunity to make this, because we had some sweet potatoes lying around.

Sweet Potato Tuna Melts
olive oil
2-3 sweet potatoes (the ones I had were extremely skinny, so I used 3)
1 can of tuna
thyme or basil or oregano (anything you like, actually)
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
cheese (the recipe called for swiss, I used cheddar because it's all I had... It would be yummy with any kind)

1. Stab and bake your sweet potatoes on a tray and/or in foil at 375 for 45-50 minutes. When they are cooked, cut them in half length-wise and with a spoon, scoop out the potato into a large bowl.
2. In a small pan on medium heat, put some olive oil, onions and celery. Cook for 10(ish) minutes, or until they have softened. Add to your bowl with the sweet potato. Add tuna and thyme (or whatever you choose).
3. Line the potato skins on a cookie sheet. Stuff with your filling and top with your cheese. Broil until cheese is melted.

This next recipe I found in Tana Ramsay's cook book 'Home Made'. I think you were with me when I bought it at Costco last year. This is the first recipe I have tried from it, and I am so excited to try more! I chose this because it looked fancy yet simple. It also had lots of spinach in it (which I love) and honey ham (which I had leftovers of). I made some changes (of course), so I will give you my changes in brackets!

Ham, Spinach and Gruyere Croissant Ring
oil for greasing
2x240g packs of croissant dough
250g/9oz spinach, washed
10 slices of honey-roast ham, cut into strips (I used my leftover 2-3 slices of ham, and added 2 chorizo sausages, skinned and finely chopped, that I had left from my soup)
zest of 1 lemon
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
5 spring onions, chopped (I used one small yellow onion finely chopped) 
10 small button mushrooms, sliced into quarters
50g/2oz rocket leaves (I just used 2oz more spinach) 
5 tbsp mascarpone cheese
50g/2oz Gruyere cheese, finely grated (I used feta) 
black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Oil a pizza stone or grease a baking tray. Leave the croissant dough in the fridge until the last minute.
2. Start by blanching the spinach. Bring a pan of water to a boil, drop in the spinach and allow it to wilt for 3 minutes. remove from the pan and leave to drain over the pan - this takes a little while but you don't want excess water in the dough ring.
3. Meanwhile, put the ham (and sausage) into a large mixing bowl, add the lemon zest, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms and rocket (extra spinach, not blanched.) Once the spinach has drained, stir the mascarpone cheese through it and add to the ham mix in the bowl. Add a good grinding of black pepper.
4. Take the dough out of the fridge, lay it out on the chopping board and separate along the perforations until you have them separated. Arrange the triangles (if they are squares, then cut diagonal into triangles) so they overlap and are in a large circle - the idea being you place your filling along the middle then pull over the top tips of the triangle and tuck underneath to encase the filling. (I did two logs rather than a circle to save space.) Continue until you have used all your triangles, then spoon on the filling. Finish by sprinkling the Gruyere cheese (feta) over the filling, then fold the triangle tips over and tuck them underneath.
5. Place in the oven and cook for 30 minutes. Ensure the dough is cooked through and has a golden top. Serve immediately. 


I love you and miss you. Although I am thrilled that I get to see you more often these days! 


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday Soup

Dear Sally,

As we figured out today . . . "the weather outside is frightful" and after waiting for the Santa Clause parade in the windy streets of Toronto I returned to my snug little apartment desperate for warmth!

As I am writing this I think a better title would have been "Triple S!" Sickness, Soup and Sunday.

Nothing warms me up better than fresh homemade soup and so I set to work on creating something that is easy enough to make when drowsy with a cold but most importantly delicious.
Carrots, Celery, spices and a few other things is all you need to make a yummy smooth and satisfying soup. I will warn you that I didn't use an actual recipe for this but then again I have never been one to follow a recipe directly anyways.

Creamy (creamless) Carrot Soup

1 bag carrots
1 stalk celery
1/2 red onion
3 cloves garlic
1/2 red, orange and yellow pepper
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
3-4 cups chicken stock
olive oil
dried thyme
salt and pepper

1. Wash and trim the bag of carrots and chop into small chunks. Toss with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and thyme. Crush garlic and mix with the carrots. Roast in the oven for 1 1/2 - 2 hours depending on temperature and size of the chunks (I just kept cooking them until they were all tender)

2. While the carrots are cooking chop the onion, celery and peppers into small chunks and cook slowly. Season lightly with salt, pepper and thyme and add the chicken stock after vegetables have softened.

3. When the carrots are finished roasting add them to the soup pan and cook for another 30 minutes. Blend the vegetables and stock in small batches until thick and creamy. Reserve most of the stock and add as needed to ensure the soup is thick enough but doesn't have any chunks.

4. Top with a dollop of sour cream and serve!

Sally I quickly want to thank you for those silent moments when I swear you can read my thoughts or at least what is on my heart. Thank you for a silent hug and a love that extends beyond the boundaries of friendship.

I love you,

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Jamie Oliver's Scrumptious Spanish Chickpea and Chorizo Soup

Dear Jess,

Firstly, I am sorry about the delay in this post. It has been unavoidable, because of some neighbourhood squirrels that seem to thoroughly enjoy chewing through internet chords (even after we have fixed them numerous times). Thus, I find myself making frequent trips to OCAD (which, I believe is now named OCADU) between teaching my classes, to use the internet here.

The weather has been crazy. It was calling for snow this week, however I don't believe it has dipped below 8 degrees. Due to this, and my lame sickness that seems to have completely owned me for a week, I decided to make soup last night!

This recipe actually came from your house. Jamie Oliver's book 'Jamie's Dinners' to be more specific. I made a few changes during the process, however it turned out delicious, and very appropriate for an easy, hearty and tasty mid-week, curl-up-in-your-track-pants, dinner. Instead of using ham, I doubled the sausage, and I used half a pound of spinach instead of a full pound.

Scrumptious Spanish Chickpea and Chorizo Soup
olive oil
5 1/2 oz chorizo sausage, finely chopped
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 sticks celery, finely chopped
1 lb fresh spinach, washed and chopped
8 fresh tomatoes, deseeded and roughly chopped
1 14oz can or jar of good quality chick peas, drained
5 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper
2oz spanish ham or prosciutto, finely chopped
extra virgin olive oil
2 hard boiled eggs

1. Put your oil and chorizo in a large pot. Cook for a couple of minutes and add onion, garlic and celery. Turn heat down and cook for 15 minutes with the lid on and without colouring the onions. Take the lid off and allow a little colouring to happen. Add your spinach, tomatoes, chickpeas and chicken stock. Bring to boil, and then lower the heat and simmer for 40 minutes.

2. Partly puree. Remove from heat and stir in your ham or prosciutto and 2 or 3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil.

3. Garnish with grated hard boiled egg and serve!

In closing, I want to express how much I appreciate our friendship. You are such a supportive and encouraging force in my life. I am truly blessed to have you in my life. Last weekend was precisely what I needed. I love that we don't have to pretend about anything with each other, and that sincere honesty and love reigns.

I love you,

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Chicken and a Movie

Dear Sally,

This is a late post for which I am very sorry but better late than never! By the way I am SOOOO excited about our sleepover :)

Ok so I had Greg over for dinner and a movie and I had ZERO time to prep and two thawed chicken breasts that needed to be used. I went to the only place to go in this situation . . . . Jamie Oliver!

I made Parmesan Chicken Breasts with Crispy Posh Ham, roasted rosemary garlic potatoes and lemon balsamic green beans.

The food and company were nice but I have to admit that the entire time I was thinking WHERE IS MY STINKING WINE OPENER!!!!! Is this bad?


Parmesan Chicken Breats with Crispy Posh Ham, 
Roasted Garlic Potatoes and Lemon Balsamic Green Beans

2 fresh sprigs of thyme
2 skinless chicken breasts

freshly ground pepper
1 lemon
1 1/4 ounces grated parmesen
6 slices prosciutto
olive oil

1. To prepare your chicken grate the parmesan and pull the leaves off the thyme sprigs. Carefully score the underside of the chicken breast in a criss-cross fashion with a s
mall knife. Season with salt and pepper (DO NOT add any salt because the prosciutto adds anough). Lay the chicken breasts next to each other and season with thyme, lemon zest and parmesan cheese. Lay 3 prosciutto slices on each chicken breast, overlapping them slightly. Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with the remaining thyme leaves. Cover with plastic wrap and bang with a fry pan till they are about 1/2 inch thick.

2. Cook the chicken over medium heat for three minutes on each side) a little longer on the prosciutto side so it is crispy) and serve.