Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Goose Breast

Dear Jess,

Recently, Jason and I reconnected with my friend Andrew. I have known him for about 9 years but haven't seen him for 2. Over dinner and drinks a couple weeks ago, the subject of hunting came up, and thus meat! I asked if I could purchase meat from his hunts (ranging from Moose, Deer, Goose, Duck etc) in order to cook them for this blog. He got really excited and said 'I'm going Goose hunting this weekend! I will bring you some meat!'

For the days following this conversation I  began pouring over recipes for Goose. I have never cooked a Goose let alone touched one. We ended up with the breast meat, which is surprisingly steak-like. It is the shape of a chicken breast, but the colour and texture of a steak. 

I can honestly say: I have never done this before. I can also honestly say: It was delicious! I am always nervous trying something completely new when people are coming for dinner... but this turned out magnificently. I would recommend this to anyone. (adapted from this recipe.)

Goose Breast 
2 goose breast fillets
Black pepper
1tbsp honey
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp chopped thyme

1. Preheat oven to 200C. Score a deep cross in the skin of each goose breast. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and rub with the honey.
2. Preheat a frying pan until very hot. Add the goose skin-down and cook for 1 minute. Transfer the goose breasts to a roasting tray, uncooked side-down. Sprinkle with the balsamic vinegar and thyme.
3. Roast the goose breasts in the oven for 15 minutes, remove and rest in a warm place for 10 minutes. 

Mashed Sweet Potatoes
5 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves, minced
freshly ground salt and pepper
1. In a large pot, boil sweet potatoes until tender (10-15 minutes) and drain.
2. Mash with a potato masher or fork until there are no chunks. Add little bits of milk while stirring until smooth. Add garlic and as much thyme, salt and pepper as you wish. Stir thoroughly.

Black Currant Jus
100ml beef stock
100ml red wine
2 tsp black current jelly
1 knob of butter

1. Put the stock and red wine into a saucepan, bring to a boil and cook briskly until reduced by half.
2. Add the black currant jelly. Bring to a boil and cook briskly until it forms a thick gravy. (mine was never thick...) Stir in butter and keep warm.

I love you so much! I am sorry we were not able to hook up this weekend. I hope all is well and your planning is being accomplished. I can't wait to hear stories!


Friday, September 16, 2011

White Chili

To my Lovely Jess,

As (I think) you know, my parents are on holiday. I have been trying to keep food at the house for brother Jim and the border Ryan. Rhiannon has been a regular the last few days as well. She got her wisdom teeth out not a long time ago and is just starting to eat solid food.

Following her first yoga class after her wisdom tooth extraction, Rhi came over for dinner. We were admiring how it had looked like a hot summer day outside, and yet all day it was quite chilly. I had looked out of the window that morning and saw the sun so I didn't bother to worry about a sweater... or pantyhose. My errands turned out to be a very drafty adventure!

In honour of the chill, we made one of our (Jason, Rhi and myself) favourite recipes (again, from Eat Shrink and Be Merry): I'm Dreaming of a White Chili. This recipe has the spices and beans of chili, but the comfort of a creamy stew. Even better, is it only takes 30 minutes to but together!

I'm Dreaming of a White Chili
From Eat Shrink and be Merry by Janet and Greta Poldeski
2 tsp olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 lbs) cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 C chopped onions
1 C diced celery
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp each ground cumin and dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 C all-purpose flour
3 C chicken broth
1 can (14 oz) evaporated 2% milk
2 cans (19 oz) white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (4.5 oz) chopped green chilies
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 C light sour cream
2 tbsp minced fresh cilantro

1. Heat olive oil in a large, non-stick soup pot over med-high heat. Add chicken and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly, until no longer pink. Add onions, celery, and garlic. Cook and stir for 4 to 5 minutes, until vegetables begin to soften.
2. Add chili powder, cumin, oregano, and coriander to chicken. Mix well and cook for 1 more minute. Add flour and stir until chicken is well coated. Stir in broth and evaporated milk. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
3. Add navy beans, green chilies, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper to chicken mixture. Reduce heat to med-low. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Remove chili from heat. Stir in sour cream and cilantro.

** We didn't use cilantro, as I find it doesn't need it. We also topped ours with Shredded Pepper Jack Cheese.

I am so excited to see you tomorrow! Please be sure to let me know what time and where.

So much of my love,

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mexican Lasagna

Dearest Jessica,

I love autumn. At first I was severely bitter about rushing through summer and thus feeling I missed out on it. But with the changing of the winds, wearing cardigans, hearing the geese fly south... I think I'm coming around to the idea.

This weekend was a very cozy one. On Saturday Jason and I made a last minute visit up to Bancroft to visit with Julia, Marky, their little boy Jack (2 years old!) and the little bun in the oven (7 months in!) We hunkered down, made individual pizzas, played some games and had a great visit. On Sunday we went to church for the 'intro' of the school year at the Gathering. Great teaching by Johnny. We then joined Jason's Mom (and family) and Grandparents for dinner. I love when a weekend can be full of community and relaxation. There was lots of sunshine and deep breaths.

Sometime in there I made one of my favourite 'go-to' recipes and realized I have never blogged it! It's from Eat Shrink and Be Merry. The dish: No Weigh, Jose! (Mexican Lasagna) I love this recipe for so many reasons. It's so healthy for you. You can keep the meat or ditch it and replace with more veggies and it's just as tasty. There is no pasta in it! I have made this so many times for sceptical eaters and never mentioned this. To this day no one has noticed the absence of the noodles. (Until I tell them because I love the expression on their faces!) And for a lasagna, it doesn't take much time.

No Weigh, Jose! Mexican Lasagna
From Eat Shrink and be Merry by Janet and Greta Podleski

1-1/2 lbs extra-lean ground chicken
1 cup each diced red onions and diced green bell pepper
2 tsp minced garlic
1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup diced tomatoes
1/2 cup frozen or canned corn
1-1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
2 cups your favorite tomato pasta sauce
1 cup medium salsa
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp minced fresh cilantro
4 large or 8 small whole wheat flour tortillas
1-1/2 cups packed shredded light old (sharp) cheddar cheese (6 oz)
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1 cup light sour cream

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish with cooking spray and set aside.

2. In a large, non-stick pot or skillet, cook ground chicken, onions, green pepper, and garlic over medium-high heat until meat is no longer pink. Break up any large pieces of chicken as it’s cooking.

3. Add black beans, tomatoes, corn, chili powder, and cumin. Cook and stir for 2 more minutes. Add pasta sauce, salsa, and black pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low.

4. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in cilantro and remove from heat.

5. To assemble lasagna, spread 1/3 sauce mixture over bottom of casserole dish. Top with 1/2 the tortillas, overlapping and cutting them as necessary to fit. Top with 1/3 sauce mixture, followed by 1/2 the cheese. Cover cheese with remaining tortillas, followed by remaining sauce. Sprinkle remaining cheese over sauce and top with green onions.

6. Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 more minutes. Let lasagna stand for at least 10 minutes before slicing for easier serving. Top each piece with a dollop of sour cream.

Hint: If you prefer, you can substitute extra-lean ground beef for ground chicken and Monterey Jack cheese for cheddar cheese.

I added Zucchini and cut back on the meat. Usually I cut the meat out completely and sub in a smallish eggplant and 2 small zucchinis. There are many different ways you could do this.

As always, I miss you and love you. I hope your week is going so smoothly! I am very excited for this weekend. (Caitlin is most likely going to be here too!) Can't wait to hear lots of Kindergarten stories!

So Much Love,

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Champagne Birthday

Dear Sally,

Thank you so much for your words of encouragement. Junior Kindergarten is so much fun! My students are so little and have the most wonderful ideas about God’s love and power. I am sure I will have many stories to share over the next ten months.
Your last blog about breakfast sounded absolutely delicious! What a perfect way to start a day! As I mentioned earlier in the week I have accepted the position of EA in the Grade 8 classroom on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They are a wonderful bunch of 33 students and I am blessed to be working with them as well as my own students. Between the two grades I am keeping quite busy so I am very glad to have some time this morning to write about your 25th birthday. It was a pleasure to be able to work with your parents to plan this special evening with you. I have truly enjoyed our friendship and cannot wait for the things that are to come in our lives. Thank you for letting me share your joys, fears, anger and tears. I love you!
For those of you who were not able to join us for Sally’s party I will try to do my best to explain the extravagant spread that we laid out for all. I wanted to feature as many gluten-free items as possible and if you know food at all you will know that this can sometimes be a challenge! We had cheesy and flaky cheese straws smothered in a two-year-old cheddar. For those who enjoy a little dipping action while they eat I sliced two fresh breadsticks in to large chunks and hollowed out the middle. This allowed me to fill the bread with sliced vegetables and dip. Beside these were copious amounts of the mushroom polenta squares. These small delightful treats – I am told – were a delicious little pop-in-your-mouth treat combining savory mushroom flavours with a hint of sharp cheddar and roasted red pepper topper. Of all the foods featured that night I have to confess that I am most proud of the flourless chocolate cake. A small piece is all you need of these tasty treat but it is well worth the wait.

Easy Flourless Chocolate Cake with Silky Chocolate Glaze
(all recipes are adapted from mathastewart.com)
6 1-ounce squares coarsely chopped semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
For Glaze:
2 1-ounce squares coarsely chopped semisweet chocolate squares
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoon milk OR light coconut milk
1 1/2 teaspoons Agave syrup OR honey
1/8 teaspoon vanilla
1. Preheat oven to 350°F
2. Spray a 7-inch tart pan with removable bottom with cooking spray. If you don't have a tart pan, use a 6 to 7-inch springform pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and spray the paper.
3. Melt 6 ounces of chopped chocolate and butter in a heavy saucepan over medium low heat. Stir until chocolate and butter are melted and smooth.
4. Add sugar and salt and reduce heat to low. Cook while stirring for about one minute, until sugar starts to dissolve.
5. Remove pan from heat. Whisk in eggs, one at a time. The mixture will look smooth and glossy.
6. Use a mesh hand sieve to sift cocoa into mixture. This prevents lumps. Whisk until the cake batter is smooth.
7. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in preheated oven for about 25 minutes. The center of the cake should be just firm to the touch, but be careful to not overbake the cake or it will be dry.
8. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Invert the cake on a plate.
9. To prepare the glaze, melt 2 ounces of chopped chocolate and 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter in the same saucepan you used to make the cake. When melted and smooth, remove the pan from heat. Add milk and Agave syrup OR honey and vanilla and stir until smooth and glossy. Let the glaze cool for about 3 minutes before pouring it on the cake.
9. Pour all of the glaze in the middle of the cake. Use a silicone or rubber spatula to spread the glaze evenly over the cake, allowing the glaze to evenly run down the sides of the cake.

Cheese Straws
1 ¾ cups finely grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 package frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 teaspoons coarse salt

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Sprinkle work surface with ½ cup cheese. Place chilled puff pastry on a work surface and roll out until it is about 1/8 inch thin. Trim to a 14-by-16 inch rectabgle. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and ¾ cup of the cheese.
3. With the long side facing you. Fold in half by bringing the top edge down toward you. Sprinkle with the remaining teaspoon of salt and ½ cup cheese. Using a pizza wheel or a very sharp knife, cut the dough horizontally into 1/2-inch-wide strips. Divide strips between two baking sheets, placing them evenly apart. Holding each end of a dough strip with your fingers, carefully stretch and twist the strip in opposite directions. Repeat process with remaining strips.
4. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes. Let straws cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Loaded Sweet-Potato Skins
4 medium sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds total), scrubbed and patted dry
1 tablespoon olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika, plus more for garnish
4 slices bacon
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1 scallion, sliced, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet, rub sweet potatoes with oil; season with salt and pepper. Bake until tender, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool on sheet (keep oven on).
2. Halve sweet potatoes lengthwise; scoop out 1/3 cup flesh from each half into a medium bowl. Add buttermilk and paprika to bowl. Mash until smooth; season with salt and pepper. Stuff sweet-potato skins with filling. (To store, refrigerate, up to 2 days.)
3. Arrange sweet-potato skins on sheet; bake until lightly browned around edges, about 15 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, in a skillet, cook bacon over medium until crisp, 5 to 8 minutes. Drain on a paper-towel-lined plate; crumble. Stir together sour cream and 2 tablespoons water; drizzle over sweet-potato skins. Garnish with bacon, paprika, and scallion; cut in half to serve.

Mushroom-Polenta Diamonds
6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, and caps wiped clean
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus more for baking sheet
1 small onion, minced
2 tablespoons port or dry white wine
6 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more for seasoning
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup instant polenta
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (2 ounces)
2 roasted red bell peppers, cut into thin slivers, for garnish (optional)
Mascarpone cheese, for garnish (optional)

1. In a food processor, pulse mushrooms until finely chopped. Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add mushrooms; cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add port, and stir until evaporated. Stir in cream; simmer until mixture is thick, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat; let cool.
2. Butter a 10-by-15-inch rimmed baking sheet; set aside. Boil 1 quart water in a large saucepan; add 1 teaspoon salt. While whisking constantly, gradually add polenta. Reduce heat to a simmer; cook, whisking constantly, until soft and all water is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Stir in Parmesan. Immediately transfer to prepared baking sheet; spread evenly. Let cool completely; cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to proceed. Polenta can be made up to 1 day ahead.
3. Halve the polenta crosswise. Carefully transfer one half, smooth side down, to a clean work surface; spread mushroom mixture on top. Place remaining polenta half, smooth side up, on top; trim edges.
4. Cut polenta lengthwise into 3/4-inch-wide rows; cut rows at an angle to form 1-inch-long diamonds. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Wrap in plastic wrap; freeze until ready to use, up to 6 weeks.
5. To serve, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Transfer sheets to oven. Bake diamonds, rotating sheets halfway through, 12 to 15 minutes. Garnish each with bell pepper and a dab of mascarpone, if desired. Serve warm.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Sunday Brunch

Dearest Jess,

First: extra prayers to you today as you dive into your first kindergarten class! I am so proud of you!

The weather is getting cooler. This past Labour Day Weekend flew by as Jason and I enjoyed the coolness of the air while listening to Jim play drums at the Black Horse Pub in his friend's band, sipping on some red wine, reading The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and making warm and comfy foods.

Ken (Jason's Dad) and Carolyne were in town for Saturday and Sunday. When they got back from church on Sunday I had just pulled out of the oven my first ever frittata!

It was a perfect beginning to an autumn Sunday. Golden onions, cherry tomatoes, fresh spinach and basil all wrapped in ricotta cheese and fluffy baked eggs. What a treat! Jason made a delicious fruit salad for a beautiful side. I told Jason that 'I love when you can put as much time into breakfast as you do dinner... it seems to be so enjoyed by everybody.'


Ricotta, Tomato and Spinach Frittata
adapted from this recipe
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely sliced
300g cherry tomatoes
140g spinach leaves
large handful basil leaves
100g ricotta
8 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper

1. Heat oven to 200C. Heat oil in a large non-stick frying pan and cook the onion for 5-6 minutes until softened and lightly golden. Add the tomatoes and toss for 1 minute to soften. 

2. Remove from the heat, add teh spinach leaves and basil, and toss together to wilt a little. Transfer all the ingredients to a greased 33cm x 22cm rectangular dish. Take small scoops of ricotta and dot over the vegetables.

3. Season the eggs (with salt and pepper) and beat well, then pour over the vegetables and cheese. Cook in oven for 20-25 minutes until pale golden and set.

I can't wait to hear all about your first day in the classroom! I love you and miss you so much.

So Much Love,