Newfoundland 2011

August 31, 2011

Lea & Jay at Petty Harbour Newfoundland

Back in the last week of July, Jay and I took a fantastic holiday to St. John’s in Newfoundland, Canada. We have been a couple of times in the past (see my previous posts: Off to Newfoundland Again, Ant in a Teacup, and Out with the Old) and absolutely love it there. We’ve always gone at the end of July, beginning of August and it is a truly blessed relief from the sweltering Virginia summers. Although the temps were 102°F (39°C) in Falls Church, the mercury never went over 65°F (18°C) in St John’s, for the entirety of our visit. Bliss! Now, I will say, one does see quite a bit of fog (even when it is sunny)

Sunny Fog over Signal Hill

and certainly more than a couple of raindrops have been known to fall in Newfoundland. For me that weather is right up my alley, whereas I understand it may not be desirable for some. However, the temperature isn’t the only thing that brings us back to St. John’s that time of year. The George Street Festival is also a huge attraction for us. For six days each year, they close George street off to traffic and hold the festival. There is a big main stage in the middle of the street where featured bands play until about 11:30 pm. However, the party doesn’t end there. George Street is a fairly short street-about 3 blocks-but it is jammed packed with pubs and bars of all sorts-literally about 45! To aid festival goers in being able to quickly get liquid refreshments, “speed bars” are set  up outside all of the pubs. I mean you wouldn’t want to have to walk all the way inside a bar to refresh your cocktail…would you?  Once the main stage activities end, bands in most of the bars start playing. The fun goes on until daybreak! This year one of our favourite bands, Great Big Sea, was opening the Festival.

The guys in the band are from the great island of Newfoundland, so we knew excitement would be running high and that was definitely the case. Even though it poured down rain for a good bit of the show, spirits were not dampened.

It was great fun. We did a lot of hiking on this trip as well, up to Signal Hill

Jay on the way up

Lea at the Queen's Battery

and out to Cuckold’s Cove

Cuckold's Cove

a long hike (perhaps a little longer than we intended) from Ft. Amherst to Freshwater Bay

Jay at the beginning of the trail

Still hiking...

a hike around Petty Harbour

Petty Harbour

and a hike out to Quidi Vidi lake

Quidi Vidi Lake shanty

and a hike up in the clouds.

It was a wonderful holiday. Great weather, great music, great food, and gorgeous surroundings.We’re just sorry it was over so soon! We’re hoping to spend more time there next summer. Don’t miss all of the rest of the great photos we took on our trip. Click here to see our Newfoundland photo gallery.

Food will once again be the focus of my next blog. Think boozy cupcakes….YUM!


Pain a l’Ancienne Focaccia with Herb Oil & Cheese

August 28, 2011

So here is another awesome recipe from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day. If you don’t own this book yet, run…don’t walk…to your nearest bookstore, kitchen supply store or simply go online and  buy it! Now!! I’ve only been the proud owner of said goldmine for a couple of months and it has not let me down. No…what it has done is left me amazed that I can actually make such delicious, mouth-watering artisan breads. I’ve mentioned previously that Jay likes to do a “pizza night” every once in a while. Well, we actually end up doing those once a week now. Which reminds me, I need to update our Napoletana pizza dough recipe. We used to use a Peter Reinhart recipe from a different book, which was great. However, he revised that recipe in Artisan Breads Every Day and that is our new go-to recipe. We like it even better than we did the first one, and that is saying something! Anyway, back to the Focaccia…Just recently, we were doing our weekly pizza night, but not just for ourselves, we were having company as well.  So I decided to give the Pain a l’Ancienne Focaccia with Herb Oil & Cheese recipe a try and serve it as an appetizer. Well Ladies and Gentlemen, it stole the show!

It is a bit time-consuming I must say. I used all fresh herbs for the herb oil which left me picking and chopping for a while. Not to mention, there are quite a few steps to get accomplished before popping that focaccia into the oven. But it is sooooo worth it! Oh. My. Gawwwddd! It was  unbelievably delicious! The first bite left everyone looking at me in awe. I was sitting there in stunned silence, just as amazed with myself. This focaccia is that good!  But don’t take my word for it. Hopefully your book is on the way by now and you can experience it for yourself.

Pain à l’Ancienne Focaccia with Herb Oil & Cheese

Recipe from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day

yield: 1 Large Focaccia or up to 4 rounds

Ingredients:

  • 4 1/2 cups (20 oz/ 567 g) unbleached bread flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons (0.4 oz/ 11 g) salt or 2 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons (0.14 oz/ 4 g) instant yeast
  • 2 cups (16 ox/454 g) chilled water (55°F or 13°C)
  • 1 Tablespoon (0.5 oz/ 14 g) olive oil, plus more for the pan
  • Herb Oil (recipe to follow)
  • Cheese to sprinkle on top (parmesan, pecorino romano or my favourite – a blend of asiago, romano & parmesan)

Directions:

Do Ahead

Combine the flour, salt, yeast, and water in a mixing bowl. If using a mixer, use the paddle attachment and mix on the lowest speed for 1 minute. If mixing by hand, use a large spoon and stir for about 1 minute until well blended. The dough should be coarse and wet. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes to fully hydrate the flour.

Drizzle the olive oil over the dough then resume mixing on medium-low speed using the paddle attachment, or by hand using a large wet spoon or wet hands, for 1 minute. The dough should become smoother but will still be very soft, sticky, and wet. Use a wet bowl scraper or spatula to transfer the dough to a clean, lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface. With wet or oiled hands, reach under the front end of the dough, stretch it our, then fold it back onto the top of the dough. Do this from the back-end and then from each side, then flip the dough over and tuck it into a ball. The dough should be significantly firmer, though still very soft and fragile. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover, and let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Repeat this entire process three more times, completing all repetitions within 30-40 minutes.

After the final stretch and fold, return the dough to the oiled bowl and immediately cove the bowl tightly and refrigerate overnight or for up to 4 days, or pan it immediately ( as described below)

To make 1 large focaccia, line a 12×16 – inch sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Oil it generously, including the sides, with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then transfer the dough to the pan. Drizzle another tablespoon of oil over the top of the dough, then use your fingertips to dimple the dough and spread it to cover about half of the pan. Make sure the top of the dough is coated with oil, then cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and immediately place the pan in the refrigerator overnight or for up to 4 days.

For round focaccia, cut out a piece of parchment paper to fit inside an 8 or 9 – inch round pan. Oil both the parchment and the sides of the pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then transfer the dough to the pan, For an 8-inch pan, use 8 ounces (227 g) of dough; for a 9-inch pan use 12 ounces (340 g) dough. Drizzle 1 teaspoon of olive oil over the top of the dough, then use your fingertips to dimple the dough and spread it as far as it will allow. Don’t force the dough when it starts to spring back. Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and immediately place the pan in the refrigerator overnight or for up to 4 days.

On Baking Day

Remove the dough from the refrigerator about 2 1/2 hours before you plan to bake, and if you haven’t already panned it, follow the instructions above to do so, spreading it to cover a portion of the pan.

Warm the over for just a few minutes, the turn it off. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil on the surface of the dough and beginning in the center and working toward s the sides, dimple the dough with your fingertips to spread it over more of the pan. The dough wills tart resisting and sliding back toward the center after a minute off this; stop dimpling at that point. It should now be cover 70 to 80 percent of the pan Cover the pan with plastic wrap and put it in the warm over (with the heat off!). Leave it in for about 8 minutes. If you have plenty of time, you can simply let the dough rest at room temperature for 30 minutes between dimplings, which will require a total of about 4 hours prior to baking.

After the focaccia has been out of the oven for 10 minutes, remove the plastic wrap, drizzle another small amount of olive oil over the dough, and dimple it again. This time it should cover about 90 percent of the pan. Cover it again and return it to the warm oven for 10-20 minutes. On the third dimpling (if not the second), the dough should evenly fill the entire pan If it creeps in from the corners because of the oil, don’t worry it will fill the corners as it rises. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and proof the dough in the slightly warm oven as before, removing it after 5 to 10 minutes and completing the rise at room temperature. It should be about 1 inch high in 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 500°F (260°C) Top the focaccia with the herb oil topping (recipe will follow), but wait until the end of baking time to add the cheese.

Place the pan in the oven. For large focaccia, lower the oven temperature to 450°F (232°C) and bake for 12 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the top fo the dough is golden brown. For round focaccia, keep the oven temperature at 500°F (260°C) and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. To test for doneness, use a metal spatula to lift the edge of the focaccia so you can see the underside; it should be a mottled golden brown in spots. Add the cheese when the focaccia appears to be done then bake for another 2 to 4 minutes to melt the cheese.

When you remove the focaccia from the oven, run a pastry blade or metal spatula along the sides of the pan to loosen the focaccia then carefully slide the focaccia, parchment and all onto a wire rack, /cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Herb Oil

I used fresh herbs for this recipe, which calls for dried herbs for the most part. If you would rather use fresh, 1 teaspoon of dried herbs is equal to 1 Tablespoon of fresh herbs, so you can do the math from there.

Yield: About 2 cups

Ingredients:

2 cups olive oil

2 Tablespoons dried basil

2 Tablespoons dried parsley

1 Tablespoon dried oregano

1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves

1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 Tablespoons granulated garlic powder, or 10 cloves fresh garlic, pressed and lightly sautéed in 1/2 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon kosher salt or coarse sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon chile flakes

1 teaspoon sweet or hot paprika

Directions

In a bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients. Let sit at room temperature for 2 hours before using.


Pistachio Covered Grape Stuffed Goat Cheese

August 21, 2011

This is the perfect appetizer for hot, steamy summer weather or any other time of year for that matter. It’s just that in the summer time, no one wants to be stuck in the kitchen, slaving over a hot stove/oven. I know I definitely do not. So this recipe is just ideal. Pistachio Covered Grape Stuffed Goat Cheese balls are not only incredibly easy to prepare, but are very tasty and refreshing on a sultry summer evening, especially when they are served chilled. The salty crunch of the pistachios goes along wonderfully with the savory/sweet goat cheese and grape pairing. Add a glass of wine (or two…or a bottle… :) ) and you are set!

Pistachio Covered Grape Stuffed Goat Cheese

recipe from Anja’s Food 4 Thought

Yield: 25 pieces

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup goat cheese – I prefer Purple Haze Goat Cheese, but any will do
  • 25 big seedless grapes (either green or red)
  • 1/2 cup pistachios-crushed
Directions:
In a dry pan, roast the pistachios for 5 minutes or so, shaking the pan regularly to avoid burned spots. Let cool a little. Chop finely and transfer to a shallow bowl.Take about a teaspoon of goat cheese and cover each grape with it. Roll each goat cheese ball in the finely chopped roasted pistachios. Keep in the fridge until serving. Serve cold or at room temperature.

S’mores Stuffed Cookies

August 18, 2011

Talk about a nostalgic, childhood memory…how about them S’mores? Sitting around a campfire, toasting marshmallows and just when that marshmallow is perfectly toasted, browned and gooey, plopping it right down on the chocolate bar covered graham cracker that you already have assembled and waiting, then smashing another graham cracker down on top. Deee-lish! The perfect campsite dessert! Never you mind that I don’t believe that I ever actually encountered a true-blue, made by a camp fire S’more until I was in college. Sure I knew they existed. I think I might have seen them on the Brady Bunch or Scooby Doo or some such show. But I didn’t experience one til college. That’s o.k. At this point in my life I can be nostalgic about the good ole college days, right? No matter how you look at it, the one thing that is true is that S’mores are awesome.

They are very popular on the food blogs recently too. I’ve seen S’mores, Adult S’mores, S’mores French Toast, S’mores Brownies and of course these S’mores cookies. I figured I’d start with these and work my way through all those tempting s’mores treats. I mean, I don’t want to miss out on anything – you know? And these cookies were not a bad starting point if I do say so myself. The S’mores Stuffed cookies had a wonderful texture, crunchy – but not so much so that the cookies shattered into a million little cookie shards when your teeth contacted it – chewy – just enough so that you knew you were working on eating something fantastic and sweet – but not so much that you feared going into some sort of sugar induced coma. This is without a doubt a “keeper” of a recipe. I knew it would be. It came from one of my favourite blogs, Buns In My Oven. If you’re in the mood to drool, check this site out. And then get out there, light a big ole bonfire in your back yard and make some honest to goodness real S’mores. On second thought, it might just work out better for you if you simply make some S’mores Stuffed Cookies. You know… in your kitchen. Thereby hopefully avoiding any contact with the local fire brigades. I’m just saying…

S’mores Stuffed Cookies

Recipe from Buns In My Oven

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1 cup chocolate chunks or about 12 little Hershey’s Bar pieces

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment.

In the bowl of your mixer, beat together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla until well combined.

In a separate bowl combine the flour, graham cracker crumbs, salt, and baking soda. Add to the butter mixture and mix well.

Scoop out a tablespoonful of dough and roll it into a ball and then flatten it into a disc in the palm of your hand. Place a couple of mini marshmallows and chocolate chips (or a single Hershey’s Bar piece) in the center. Roll out a second tablespoonful of dough and flatten that into a disc. Place on top of the marshmallow and chocolate filled disc of dough and seal the edges. Smoosh together to ensure everything is sealed in good. Repeat until all cookies are filled. I couldn’t resist adding a couple of chocolate chunks and marshmallows on top as well!

Bake for 8 – 10 minutes. Cookies should be lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.


I scream, you scream…Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream

August 15, 2011

Yummy! Home-made Ice Cream is a wonderfully nostalgic summer indulgence for many folks. As a kid I can remember our neighbor had an old ice cream maker complete with a hand crank and all that rock salt, that he would roll out during the summer months. I don’t know if the ice cream that came from that contraption was really that much better, or it was the whole seemingly magical experience that made it seem so. Flash forward to present day and you will find that Jay and I have invested in a modern, Cuisinart Ice Cream maker and I can definitely say it produces some fantastic ice cream and there is no hand crank with which to toil away. :) We recently took advantage of the outstanding strawberries found in abundance this summer and made some Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream. It was so creamy and delicious, it would truly give Ben & Jerry a run for their money if I do say so myself.

Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream

Yield: Makes ten 1/2 Cup servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint fresh strawberries, stemmed and sliced
  • 3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 Cup sugar, divided
  • 1 Cup milk
  • 2 Cups Heavy Cream
  • 1 Teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

In a small bowl, combine the strawberries with the lemon juice and 1/2 cup of the sugar. Stir gently and allow the strawberries to macerate in the juices for 2 hours. Strain the berries, reserving juices. Mash or puree half the berries.

In a medium mixing bowl, use a hand mixer on low-speed to combine the milk and remaining granulated sugar until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 -2 minutes. Stir in the heavy cream, reserved strawberry juice, mashed strawberries and vanilla.

Turn your Ice Cream maker on; pour the mixture into freezer bowl, and let mix until thickened, about 20-25 minutes. Five minutes before mixing is completed, add the reserved sliced strawberries and let mix in completely. The ice cream will have a soft, creamy texture. If a firmer consistency is desired, transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and place in freezer for about 2 hours. Remove from freezer about 10 minutes before serving.

Recipe from The Cuisinart Classic Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker Recipe Booklet.


Blueberry, Lemon & Chili Jam

August 11, 2011

I was so pleased with my Strawberry Balsamic Jam, I knew it wouldn’t be long before I was back at it again. For my second foray into the wonderful world of home-made jams, I chose Blueberry, Lemon & Chili Jam. The blueberries this year have been every bit as good as the strawberries and Jay and I both love spicy chili flavours as well, not to mention that there’s cilantro in this recipe too – another favourite – so I was really excited to try this jam out.

The recipe comes from the blog Local Kitchen. If you haven’t been by this site, you should definitely check it out, wonderful, interesting recipes with an emphasis on eating locally, sustainably and seasonally. Oh and you will find some beautiful photography there as well. This jam was actually quite easy to prepare. There was one little mishap when I rubbed my eye after having chopped up some jalapeno peppers and Habanero chili…I highly advise that you take every precaution to prevent that from happening to you. Otherwise everything was easy-peasy. I did get a bit nervous while the jam was cooking. It seemed like it was going to be outrageously spicy judging from the eye-watering fumes wafting up off of the mixture. However, once it had finished cooking and cooled down, I found that the sweetness of the jam really offset the spiciness of the chilis and you were just left with a little satisfying heat in the finish. Overall a great jam. Highly recommended.

Blueberry, Lemon & Chili Jam

recipe from Local Kitchen

yield: About 4 cups (or four .25 l jars)

Ingredients:

  • 7 cups blueberries, divided, rinsed & stemmed
  • 2 cups raw sugar (organic turbinado)
  • 2 medium lemons (preferably organic)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 small green jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped to yield 2 tbsp minced
  • 1/2 small orange Habanero pepper, seeded and chopped to yield 1/2 tsp minced
  • scant 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Directions:

Combine 6 cups of blueberries and sugar in a large stockpot. Mix to coat berries and allow to macerate while you prepare the other ingredients.

Zest the lemons with a sharp vegetable peeler (taking care to remove only the yellow and not the white, bitter pith) and then cut the strips into a fine julienne. You should yield a generous 1/4 cup of zest (add more zest from another lemon if necessary).

Juice the lemons, straining out seeds & pulp (about 1/2 cup juice), and add juice & zest to the blueberries, stirring well.

Toast the cinnamon stick, either by holding with tongs over an open flame, or in a dry, heated skillet, for 1 to 2 minutes until fragrant and darkened.

With a potato masher, mash the blueberries until mixture is soupy and berries are well mashed.  Add cinnamon stick, chile peppers, and salt. Mix well and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until jam is thickened and begins to spit when you stir it, about 45 minutes (about 218 degrees F).

Meanwhile, sterilize your jars and lids.

Once you feel your jam has reached the correct consistency, either judging by the thermometer or place a bit of jam on a chilled plate, if it does not run down the plate when it is tilted, it is ready. Add remaining 1 cup of blueberries and chopped cilantro. Taste and adjust flavors; remove cinnamon stick.

Bring to a boil and cook for 1 to 2 minutes (to allow berries to heat through). Remove from heat and fill hot, sterilized jars to 1/4-inch head space; wipe rims, affix lids and place back in the boiling water in which your sterilized the jars for 10 minutes.

Remove filled jam jars from boiling water and allow to rest on countertop. Middle portion of lid will suck down as jam cools signaling you that jars have sealed.

Canned, store in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year. Refrigerated, should last at least 1 month.


Spinach & Feta Couscous

August 7, 2011

I love this versatile side dish. We serve it year round. At room temperature or even chilled in the summer and it is fantastic! In the winter I serve it hot, right off the stove and it is likewise wonderful! It goes equally well with chicken or steak. It is so simple, yet elegant and full of flavour. Easy and quick to prepare…I just can’t say enough good things about my Spinach & Feta Couscous. Give it a try. You won’t be disappointed!

Spinach & Feta Couscous

serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 7.6 oz. box of whole grain couscous – it doesn’t have to be whole grain – we just prefer it :)
  • 2 cloves garlic –  minced
  • 1/4 Cup pine nuts
  • 2 Cups baby spinach
  • 1/2 Cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Directions:

Prepare couscous according to package directions and transfer to large bowl.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil, garlic and pine nuts over a medium heat, stirring, until golden, 2-3 minutes.

Add spinach to pan and gently stir until just wilted.

Fold spinach mixture into couscous along with feta and lemon juice.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Strawberry Banana Smoothie Bread

August 4, 2011

O.k. I’m not even going to pretend that any bananas were going bad. I’m just loving the strawberries this year and had a real craving for banana bread. So, I was delighted when I found this recipe over at Crumbs and Pixels site which calls for both. I actually had some vanilla yogurt on hand and was sure that including it in the mix would make the bread lovely and moist. I wasn’t wrong. This bread was great! Very moist and full of banana and strawberry flavours. The only thing that I did differently than called for in the original recipe was that I cut my strawberries into little chunks rather than giving them a whirr in the food processor. Again, I am so loving the strawberries this year that I thought having a chunk of berry in the bread would be fantastic. It was definitely nice, but it did tend to cause chunks of the bread where the soft berries were located to break off easily. In hindsight, I’d say Crumbs and Pixels were right to whirr those berries round before adding them to the mixture. That way, I think you still would have the yummy strawberry flavour, and your bread would be less fragile. You know, easier to spread with a nice healthy helping of butter. Well, there’s always next time. You know how often bananas tend to go off round here!

Strawberry Banana Smoothie Bread

recipe slightly adapted from Crumbs and Pixels   

makes one 4 1/2 x 8 loaf

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 1/4 cup fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour a loaf pan.

Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in one bowl and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar together.

Add in the bananas, eggs, vanilla, yogurt and cinnamon.

Add in the flour mixture.

Fold in the strawberries.

Pour mixture into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Remove from oven and let rest in the pan for 15 minutes. Then remove from pan and let fully cool on a rack.


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