Chicken in Wine

March 19, 2010

I’ve been really bad at keeping my blog up to date and I’m out of excuses. I’m not even going to try and give you one.  The good news is that I haven’t stopped cooking. I’ve actually made some great meals that I’m really proud of and promise to get them all up here eventually. Pinky swear.

Weekend cooking is probably one of my favourite things to do. Last weekend I was pacing the isles of the grocery store for ideas and inspiration. After what seemed like hours, I left the store with a whole chicken, vegetables and potatoes. I wanted to take a stab at making some sort of “Coque-au-vin” dinner. I’m no Julia Child, so I asked the butcher at Sobeys if he could cut up the chicken into pieces for me (I wanted all of them). He actually flat out said no. Can you believe that?

I’ve seen it done many times before on the Food Network and I guess it was time for me to try it out. It was actually a lot easier than I thought. My cut up pieces of chicken were almost perfect… if I do say so myself. I even used all the leftover bones and pieces to make homemade chicken stock that I used to complete my recipe. Just place all the bones, etc. in a pot, cover with water, add carrots, celery, onion, a few bay leaves, salt and pepper and simmer for a few hours. It really couldn’t be any easier.

My “coque-au-vin” is no traditional version so I’m just calling it chicken in wine sauce. I used white wine, instead of red and didn’t start by frying bacon. Sorry Madame Child. I will try your infamous recipe one of these days!

Chicken in Wine

  • 1 whole chicken, cut into pieces (skin on and bone in)
  • 1 bottle of white wine
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 tbsp butter, room temperature
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tbsp ground sage
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper

Start by heating the oil in a dutch oven or deep pot. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. When the pot is hot, add the chicken pieces, skin side down and cook until golden brown. Flip the pieces and repeat on the second side. Remove all the chicken and set aside.

In the leftover oil sauté the garlic and onions gently on medium heat. Season them with salt and pepper and add the sage. Add the wine and chicken stock. Place the chicken back in and simmer on low for an hour or so. Remove the chicken pieces again and set aside.

In a bowl, mix the butter and flour together to form a paste. Add about a cup or two of the wine sauce to the paste and whisk vigorously. Then pour this mixture into the pot with the remaining sauce and keep whisking. The sauce will thicken instantly. Cook for a few minutes to cook out the flour taste.  Add the chicken back in et voila! It’s ready.

I served this with mashed potatoes (check out my Steak Dinner post for a great recipe) and baked carrots. I drizzled olive oil, honey, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper over peeled carrots and baked them in a 425 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes. Yum!

Spanikopita

February 24, 2010

I’m back!!!

I don’t really have an excuse this time for taking a hiatus from blogging (other than laziness), but I have certainly missed it. The start of 2010 has been a bit of a bumpy ride and I am now ready to start climbing that ladder of greatness again. I’ve come to understand that life isn’t easy and each new challenge just makes you stronger.

One of my best friends in the world, Maija, came over yesterday for dinner. Maija and I always make all sorts of promises to hangout often and keep in touch. Unfortunately, we don’t always follow through with our plans, but when we do, it’s a guaranteed good time. In our defence, I think that we are getting better and better at it!

Last night I decided to make another one of my all-time favourites for one of my all-time favourite people: Spanikopita (also known as spinach pie).

Spanikopita is another recipe that I learned from my mom when I was quite young. My mom always used the famous Spanikopita recipe from the Moosewood cookbook, a cookbook (and now restaurant) that is based on healthful, natural foods cuisine. Check out http://www.moosewoodrestaurant.com/index.html for more info. Since then, I think that we have both memorized the process of making the dish and enjoy spicing it up with different ingredients.

This time around, I decided to make individual mini spinach pies and was pretty pleased with the result. I definitely recommend this one if you are a spinach and feta fan. It’s actually super simple, but does take a little bit of time for assembly.

Spanikopita  

  • 1 box Phyllo Pastry (found in the freezer section at the grocery store), thawed
  • 2 packages frozen spinach, the chopped kind (you can also use fresh spinach and chop it, but I was feeling lazy) Be sure to thaw and drain any excess water from it
  • Greek Feta (I used half of a container that was the size of a sour cream container)
  • Half a container of cottage cheese
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp dried sage
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly oil mini loaf tins (or a large casserole dish to make one big pie, instead of individual ones).

In a large frying pan, heat the oil and sauté the onions and garlic until softened a bit (2-5 minutes). Add all the spices (oregano, sage, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper) to the onion and garlic mixture. Be careful not to add too much salt because the feta is pretty salty naturally.

Add the defrosted spinach (I like to pat it dry with a paper towel), and sauté for about a minute until the onions and garlic are incorporated into the spinach. Add the flour and cook and stir for about 2 minutes until the flour dissolves. Add the feta and cottage cheese and turn the heat off the pan. If the mixture is looking too dry, feel free to add a few tablespoons of water or chicken stock. You want it to look thick and moist.

Now you just have to layer the phyllo, one sheet at a time in the mini loaf pans, or casserole. Brush each phyllo sheet with butter before placing the next sheet on top. After you have about 10-15 layers, add the spinach mixture.

Continue to layer and butter the remaining phyllo on top of the spinach mixture about 5-10 more times. At the end, fold in any edges that were overlapping the pan. Make sure you brush the last layer with butter and cook for about 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and delicious.  

I served mine with a simple tomato, basil and mozzarella salad.

Congrats Canada for dominated women’s double bobsleigh and men’s hockey tonight!!!!!!!

Thanks for coming over Maija! xx

Mango Salad

February 10, 2010

It’s catch up time. I have a ton of posts that have been sitting on the back burner and this is one of them. It’s been awful battling this stomach virus and am glad that I can finally start thinking about food again.

A few weeks ago I was craving Thai. I love Thai food, but haven’t been able to master the fine art of Thai cooking quite yet. On this particular evening, I didn’t have much time and decided to try out one of the Pad Thai kits that you can get at the grocery store. The end result wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. After buying all the ingredients to make it, I figure you may as well just go support your favourite Thai restaurant and get an order for takeout. This is what I’ll be doing from now on, until I master Pad Thai cooking myself.

I can, however, successfully make a fresh Thai mango salad (at least I think I can). To be honest, it’s super simple to make. With just a few ingredients, a regular salad becomes something a little more exotic.

Mango Salad

  • 2 Semi-ripe mangos (regular mangos OR green mangos…I portion 1 mango per serving)
  • 1 bell pepper, julienned
  • A few slices of finely sliced red onion (green onion also works)
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tbsp rice wine vinegar (optional)
  • 3 tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • 3 tbsp chopped peanuts
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

Place everything in a bowl and toss gently. Couldn’t get any easier!

Chou-fleur

February 8, 2010

Wow. Mid-February already? Really?

It’s been a rough few weeks and I haven’t felt like blogging. It’s just like when you take a “break” from the gym, doing yoga or exercising…the longer you stay away, the harder it is to get back into the game. Today I made a deal with myself. I would finish a blog post tonight and go to yoga tomorrow (now that it’s in writing, there’s no breaking the promise).

I bought some cauliflower the other day for a veggie and dip platter and as it turns out, cauliflower isn’t the favourite veggie of the bunch. I personally go through fazes with cauliflower, sometimes I love it and sometimes I just don’t want to eat it. I blame part of this on my dad who used to boil it up and sprinkle on shredded cheese, about twice a week. There’s definitely nothing wrong with this, I just got a little sick of it as a kid. To this day when I eat cauliflower I think of my dad.

To use up all the leftover cauliflower I made a Cauliflower Gratin, or as the French would call it “Gratin de chou-fleu”. It took about 45 minutes from start to finish and was pretty darn tasty. Too bad I couldn’t really enjoy very much of it…stupid stomach virus that doesn’t seem to want to go away.

Cauliflower Gratin  

  • 1 cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 ½ – 2 cups grated cheese (I used white cheddar)
  • 1 cup panko break crumbs
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tbsp onion, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

In a saucepan, boil the cauliflower florets in salted boiling water for about 4 minutes. Drain.

In another saucepan, bring the milk, bay leaves, garlic and onion to a very gentle simmer. Let this infuse on low heat for about 10 minutes.

In a frying pan melt half the butter and add the flour. Stir and cook this mixture for about a minute. Take the bay leaves and garlic clove out of the milk mixture and slowly add the mixture to the butter and flower. Whisk constantly until all the milk mixture is incorporated and smooth. It will thicken instantly, but you really need to whisk hard.

Stir in ¾ of the grated cheese and toss the cauliflower in the sauce. Pour the mixture into a baking dish or casserole. Melt the remaining butter and mix with the panko breadcrumbs to make a topping. Sprinkle this topping on the cauliflower, along with the remaining cheese.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 25 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.

PiZah!

January 29, 2010

I’m going to try to not rub it in too much, but I had such an amazing day!!!

I had a much-needed day off work that I devoted entirely to myself. I slept in until 9, laid on the couch until 10, had a coffee and went to Body Blitz. For all of you ladies out there that haven’t heard of (or been to) Body Blitz yet, you are missing out! I spent two hours doing the water circuit before my hour-long massage. Maybe it’s my European roots that crave saunas, steam rooms and cold plunges, but it was pretty friggin fantastic. You walk out of this place feeling like a million bucks (and it cured my two-day headache that Advil could not). Check out the website for more info  http://www.bodyblitzspa.com/.

I stopped off at the market on my way home and picked up some pizza dough from the Italian pizza place (not sure what the name is, but it’s on the first floor towards the back on the west side). I’ve tried going through the process of making my own dough several times and it just never tastes as good as the one I get from the market.

Am I sounding like a sales person yet?

Anyways, I rolled out this dough, tossed it around a little bit and topped it with some of my favourite toppings (pretending I was Chef Pasquale). With a little pizza sauce and cheese, this pizza was definitely the perfect end to my perfect day!

*I topped my pizza with fresh Prosciutto, sun-dried black olives and hot peppers.

Steak Dinner

January 25, 2010

I spend a big part of my day talking with writers, journalists and bloggers and not until today, can I honestly understand what it feels like trying to keep up with every story, every idea and every post. Yikes!

Tonight I made homemade chicken pot pie…with a twist, but I’ll have to add this post to my “to do” file. I promise to get it up soon though, because the recipe turned out really well and I’m excited to share it.

The truth is, I’m not ready to let go of the weekend yet.

This past weekend, we indulged. From homemade pizza to a Friday night steak dinner, we definitely ate very well. After a busy week, I was completely content with hibernating, yogaing and eating food that is a little extra special. Even if it meant eating on our “not so special” couch.

On Friday night I made it to the market just before it closed and decided to pick up a couple Striploin steaks. I typically only make steak in the summer on the bbq, but thought I’d give it a shot on the stove top. I paired the steak with some mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables.

Sadly, my steak ended up more on the medium well side, instead of the medium rare side, but it was still great!

Mashed Potatoes:

  • 2-3 Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 2 tbsp light cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 2 tbsp green onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

Peel and cube the potatoes. Place them in a pot with cold water and a pinch of salt and boil them until fork tender. Melt the butter and cream cheese and mix the two together with the milk. Mash the potatoes using a potato masher and add the melted butter, cream cheese and milk. Keep mashing until smooth, but be careful not to over mash because you don’t want the potatoes to get too starchy. Add the salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the green onion right before serving.

Mixed Vegetables

  • chopped vegetables of your choice (I used peppers and mushrooms)
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp chopped garlic
  • 1/2 tsp chopped ginger
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

In a sauté pan heat the oil on medium high and add the garlic and ginger. Add the vegetables, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and sauté until tender.

Steak

In a large sauté pan, heat a bit of oil on high. Add the steak and brown for about 3 minutes on each side (depending on how you like your steak). A few minutes before serving add some bbq sauce of your choice (optional) to the hot pan and glaze the steak by flipping it over a few times in the sauce.

Who needs The Keg?

Green

January 20, 2010

When I think about the colour green, I think about trees, grass, apples, kiwi, limes, beans, peppers, brussel sprouts, flowers, green tea, green P parking…

Ok, ok, maybe I also think about money (just a little!).

I also think about salad and how much I love it. After scarfing down half a box of Triscuit crackers and half a container of cream cheese at work (and this was just my appetizer) I wanted a lighter dinner tonight. A nice big green garden salad sounded exactly like what my hips had ordered.

At the grocery store I discovered the mini pickled spicy peppers that you get when you order the bottomless garden salad from East Side Mario’s. I almost dropped my grocery basket because I was so excited to see them (they are not easy to find…this is the first time I have spotted them at a grocery store downtown). Some people love em, some people hate em, but we are definitely big fans!

Oh! Pickles are another green “item”! Other than fruits, nature and vegetables, I’m having a really hard time figuring out what else is green.

Anyways, with a few delicious ingredients, garden salads do not have to be boring. I sliced up cucumbers and peppers, shaved some carrot and parmesan cheese using a vegetable peeler, added some craisins and pickled peppers and my salad du jour came alive. I also made homemade croutons and a homemade balsamic dressing. Here’s how:

Croutons

  • whole wheat bread, cubed
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Heat your oven to 425 degrees. On a sheet pan lay out all the cubed bread on a single layer. Pour the melted butter on top, sprinkle on the seasoning spices and mix around with your hands until each cube gets some of the love. Bake until golden (about 5 minutes).

Balsamic Dressing

  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients together, except for the olive oil. When all the other ingredients are combined slowly pour in the olive oil while whisking quickly. This will help emulsify everything together. Extra dressing will keep well in the fridge for a few days.

Bada bing bada boom! At least I think that’s what the East Side Mario’s tagline is…

Too bad my salad is better!

Green Curry

January 19, 2010

The week is flying by and my schedule is pretty much maxed out. I love being busy, but sometimes you just need to take a bit of time to chill out and take a break. As my yoga instructors often say…just let go of everything and breath. 

Tonight we’re going to go see Tegan and Sara (love them!), but I wanted to cook up a little something something before heading out. I made a super quick chicken green curry that I thought was pretty amazing. I can’t take full credit for it, because I did get a little help (ok…maybe a lot of help) from the Thai section in the grocery store. One day, when I have my dream kitchen, I will have every spice out there organized perfectly so that I can make everything from scratch (such as curry paste). I’m using that as my excuse, at least this time.

But honestly, I often order green curry at Thai restaurants because I love it so much, but making it tonight (with my store-bought helpers) tasted just as good…if not better. In the time that it takes you to cook rice, the dish is ready!

Chicken Green Curry

  • 1 can coconut milk (I used the reduced fat one)
  • 2-3 tbsp green curry paste (you can get this in the Thai section in the grocery store)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp ginger, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, julienned
  • 1 big handful of green beans
  • 2 chicken breasts, sliced

Start by getting your rice going (I used Jasmine tonight). Then, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and blanch the green beans. They will start turning a super bright green colour after about 4 minutes. Once they are at this stage, fill a bowl with cold ice water, drain the beans and shock them in the cold water. This will stop them from cooking and keep them bright green.

In a frying pan, heat about 1 tbsp of oil and add the garlic and ginger. As soon as you can smell them, add the chicken and cook through. Add the coconut milk, green curry paste, chicken stock, brown sugar and simmer for about 10 minutes. About 2 minutes before serving add the peppers and green beans. Et voila!

Time for me to go rock it out!

Cabbage Rolls

January 16, 2010

What a lovely Saturday!

We woke up somewhat early, did a little cleaning and went for a stroll around town. I can’t believe that  it’s mid-January and +4 degrees out. Us Toronto folk really can’t complain too much about winter thus far. I know I have been guilty of complaining  myself, but with the sun setting later and the days getting longer, life in Canada really ain’t so bad. Only a couple more months until Spring is officially here!

I love weekends for many reasons. A break from work, extra sleep time, chance to catch up with friends and most importantly…do whatever it is that you feel like doing. Freedom is bliss!

Weekends are also great for cooking. I like to choose dishes that are easy, but ones that may take extra cooking time that I often don’t have during the week.

Today I wanted to cook up a bunch of food for my dad and freeze it in individual sized portions. I don’t get to cook for him often and wanted to make his life a little easier by filling up his freezer with some homemade grub. I haven’t made cabbage rolls before, but have seen my grandma and mom do it a handful of times. Having European roots, this dish was a pretty traditional meal in my household. I didn’t mind though, because it’s one of my top favourites.

*For the non-cabbage lovers, the filling also makes for a tasty stuffed pepper. I had a bit of extra filling, so I made both cabbage rolls and stuffed peppers.

Cabbage Roll Filling:

  • Ground sausage (I used 4 sausages that I took out of their casings)
  • 1 package ground beef, pork, chicken or turkey
  • 2 cups rice, already cooked
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1/2 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 tbsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 4-6 cups tomato sauce

Remove the core of one green cabbage and place it in salted, boiling water. Cover and boil until leaves become tender. Remove leaves and let dry. Use the outer, tough leaves to line a baking dish. This will make sure that the cabbage rolls don’t  stick to the pan. Pour a bit of tomato sauce to coat the cabbage leaves.

In a pan on medium high heat, sauté the garlic and onion in a bit of oil or butter until tender. Add all the oregano, basil, salt and pepper to the onion and garlic and let cool a bit. 

In a bowl, combine ground sausage, ground beef, egg, breadcrumbs, rice, tomato paste, onion and garlic mixture, and a few spoonfuls of  tomato sauce. Use your hands to mix everything together. The mixture is now ready to be stuffed into halved peppers or cabbage leaves.

With the cabbage leaves, make sure to cut the tough stem out, which is at the bottom of the leaf. Lay the leaf flat, fill with about 3 tbsp or so of the mixture and roll up like you would a spring roll. Fold in the edges as you roll so that the filling stays inside.

Place each roll seam-side down in the cabbage  lined pan. Pour the remaining tomato sauce on top. I also like to add about 1 cup of the cooking water from boiling the cabbage to help steam the cabbage as it cooks. Cover with foil and make in a 350 degree oven for about an hour and fifteen minutes.

Here’s a shot of my cabbage roll with my stuffed pepper. I added a slice of provolone on the stuffed pepper and put it under the broiler for a few minutes for a little something extra. I think my dad will enjoy these!

Arrrriba!

January 14, 2010

It’s been a bit of a rough week and I just haven’t felt like writing much. I think I started and stopped at least 2 different post ideas, but wasn’t happy with any and put them aside in my “I’ll finish that later” pile.

I decided to start fresh with a little experiment that I thought would help lighten the mood. I bought some tortillas a few nights ago to make chicken caesar wraps (a blog post #FAIL) and have a pile of them still leftover that I wanted to use up before they expired. The only logical solution I could think of to address the “leftover tortilla” dilemma was to attempt my first ever fajita night…totally from scratch.

See you later store-bought fajita mix and hello homemade marinade!

I spent a few minutes surfing the net for some recipe ideas and found a common thread of ingredients: cumin, chili powder, garlic and lime.  Pretty simple n’est pas? PLUS it would make a much healthier alternative than the sodium induced seasoning pouch from the grocery store. As a bonus, it gave me an excuse to make guacamole. I LOVE  me some guacamole. 

I came home from work, skipped yoga, mixed up a marinade, sliced up some chicken and let it sit in the fridge for 2 hours or so (we always eat dinner late). Had I committed to fajitas last night, I would have done this then to get extra marinating time, but for some reason I like to live on the edge and keep my options open up to the last-minute. Maybe I’m just making an excuse for my inability to make a decision. 

Here’s how I did my marinade.

Fajita Marinade

  • 1 Cup chicken stock
  • 10 Drops Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Clove garlic, minced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp Cumin
  • 1 tbsp Chili powder
  • 1 tbsp Garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp Oregano
  • 1 tbsp Paprika
  • 1 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Chicken breasts, sliced
  • 1 tbsp Cornstarch (optional)
  • 1 tbsp Water (optional)

Mix all the ingredients, add sliced chicken (or beef ) and marinate for a minimum of 2 hours.

In the meantime shred up some cheese, slice up some peppers and onion and get all of your other favourite sides set up so that when it comes to assembly, everything is ready. Oh! Don’t forget about the Guacamole.

Guacamole

  • 1 Avocado (ripe)
  • 1 Clove garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tbsp Cilantro, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Slice up the avocado and add every ingredient in a bowl. I find that if it’s a nice ripe avocado, a potato masher works best to mush everything together until combined.

When the fajitas are ready to cook, in a skillet or frying pan heat a bit of oil. Add the chicken with the marinade. Cook until browned on high.

Add sliced peppers and onion and stir until the veggies are tender, but still crisp (2-5 mins). If the sauce needs thickening, add a bit of cornstarch, diluted in water (I added 1 tbsp cornstarch with 1 tbps water).

Serve with a glass of red wine and you have yourself a delicious fiesta (and a sunnier spirit)!  This was just as easy as the store-bought option and tasted so much more authentic.

Now lets play a game of “Can you spot the cat in the dryer”?