Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Quick Chicken Quesadillas

From time to time we buy a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store for dinner. It's relatively cheap, it's quick and everyone in our house likes to eat it. Sometimes, when I am sick of making chicken salad the next day, I turn to the quesadilla for a change. With a tiny bit of prep work, you can enjoy some leftover chicken in a whole different way.

I also wanted to try Dempster's new Corn Tortillas. They are soft and yellow and perfect for quesadillas. You can use them right out of the package too. Comes in handy on a weeknight!

Quesadillas are like a sandwich, you can put whatever you like inside, and it's pretty much guaranteed to taste good. Add some shredded cheese and it holds everything together like glue when melted.

I like to serve them hot, either straight off the grill or out of the pan, with some sour cream on the side, and a crisp salad.

Quick Chicken Quesadillas
Makes 6

6 tortilla wraps

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 onion, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 chipotle pepper, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
2 cups sliced or shredded boneless cooked chicken, from rostisserie chicken
150g shredded cheese (I used mozzarella because I like the melt factor)

Heat oil in a non-stick pan. Add onion and peppers and cook over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes. You want to peppers and onions to soften but also get a little charred. Add garlic, chipotle, chili powder, cumin and oregano. Stir for 1 more minute. Remove from heat, stir through chicken meat.

Place 6 tortillas on counter and divide chicken mixture between tortillas. Divide cheese mixture between tortillas, fold over and press closed.

In a clean non-stick pan (or grill plate), heat with a little oil. Cook quesadillas until lightly browned and crisp. Serve hot.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Turtle Cake Pops

A quick post today - these are the turtle cake pops I made for a customer (actually, if you remember my pig cake pops from last year - it's the same customer). Her girls wanted turtle cake pops for their birthday, and this is what I came up with.

Inside, the cake is chocolate bound together with chocolate frosting. Then I picked through a bunch of Skittles to find enough green ones for the feet and heads. I flattened the cake pop before dipping into green candy coating, stuck on the feet and the head before they set. After about two hours, so I knew they had fully set), I piped extra green candy coating on the tops and sprinkled with green sugar. I used royal icing for the eyes and then used an edible marker to draw on the eye balls and the smiles.

Apologies for the lighting, I think I had to take these outside at 5am to get enough light before they were packaged up.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Olive Rosemary Bread

An abundance of olives, a bush of rosemary and a little bit of time is what I had today, so naturally, I made olive rosemary bread. I used to go to a restaurant in Sydney, Australia called Bayswater Brasserie and they served the most amazing olive bread I have ever had. It looked like a really good bread dough, shaped into a flat log and stuffed with olives. It was so good and salty, I still remember it.

From a quick internet search, it looks like the restaurant has been closed for some time - it's been 12 years since I lived in Australia - which is a shame, because it really was a great restaurant in a prime location. Part of me wonders what is in it's place. I am sure Kings Cross is not the Kings Cross I remember, but hopefully some of the good places to eat are still going strong.

On a side note, one of my other favourite places to go was Roy's Famous on Victoria Street. But, another internet search, and it too has closed. There was that place, too, that made you wear a crazy hat every time you ate there. Oh, I am having some good flashbacks to some great nights out with friends. Makes me a little homesick.

Anyway, back to the bread. It's not the same as the Bayswater Brasserie (btw, if anyone has the recipe and wants to share it with me, I would be much obliged), actually, it's not even close to the olive bread I ate there, but this is still a delicious bread. We ate it fresh, we ate it smothered in butter and we even ate it grilled with a little olive oil and then smothered in Boursin cheese...yum!

Olive Rosemary Bread
Makes 1 loaf

1/2 onion, minced
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

3 cups flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 egg
160ml warm water
1 cup pitted Kalamata olives, roughly chopped

Gently cook onion in oil, with salt, until softened - it looks like a lot of oil, but it is the fat you need in the bread. Remove from heat and stir through minced garlic and rosemary, and leave to cool slightly. You want the mix to be warm, but not hot or it may kill the yeast.

When oil is warm, combine all ingredients into bowl of stand mixer, fitted with a dough hook, and mix until a smooth dough forms. You may need to add a little more water or flour to get a nice dough. Knead for 5 minutes, and then transfer to a lightly greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to proof in a warm place for 1 hour.

Remove from bowl, shape into a round loaf, and place onto parchment lined baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave for another hour.

Preheat oven to 400F. Place bread into oven on middle shelf and bake for approximately 40 minutes. The bread will be well browned all over. Remove from oven and cool before slicing.

*Note, the easiest way to pit olives is to squash them gently with a knife and then basically peel off the flesh. Or, use an olive pitter, or, but them pitted.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Creamy Creamed Corn

I know it's an odd thing to say, but ever since last summer when fresh corn was in abundance, I have had a hankering for some good creamed corn. By the time I got around to it last summer, the local corn was all gone and I didn't think it appropriate to use frozen kernels. So, a whole 12 months later, here I am gorging on creamy and sweet and absolutely delectable creamed corn. The corn kernels are so tender (I used local Ontario (Canadian) corn ) they just pop in your mouth. And, I would have to mention this recipe is designed to serve 8-10 people, but my husband and I managed to eat half of it last night. We just kept going back for one more scoop. Kind of like ice cream.

I came across a million recipes while looking for the perfect one, and I basically used this recipe from the Food Network, and added some red pepper and parsley. You could definitely leave out those two ingredients and still end up with a wonderful dish. For some reason, I thought a bowl of "yellow" might not look so great in a picture.

I also thought, that some red pepper, minced jalapeno, coriander and maybe some cheese in here and you would have another wonderful take. Might have to try that one later in the week and see how it turns out.

Creamy Creamed Corn
Makes 8-10 serves

1/2 onion, diced
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ears fresh corn
1 red pepper, diced
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
1 cup whipping cream
fresh ground pepper
fresh chopped parsley, to sprinkle

In a saucepan over medium heat, sweat the onion in butter and salt until translucent.

On a large rimmed baking sheet, resting the cob on the sheet in a vertical position, remove the kernels with a knife, using long downward strokes and rotating the cob as you go. After the cob has been stripped, use the dull back side of the knife to scrape any remaining pulp and milk off the cob.

Add the corn and pulp mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium high until the juice from the corn has thickened. Add the rosemary. Sprinkle the corn with the sugar and turmeric. Stir constantly for about 2 minutes. Sprinkle the cornmeal onto the corn, and stir to combine well. Add the heavy cream and cook until the corn has softened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the rosemary. Season with freshly ground black pepper.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Orzo Stuffed Tomatoes

The time is ripe for tomatoes - perfectly hot weather for the whole month of July, lovely and dry so the tomatoes get extra sweet, this is a stunning way to serve a salad at your next entertaining opportunity. They can even be assembled a day ahead, so no last minute running around. Love it!

I find I am leaning toward more prep-friendly meals. With my three crazy kids, one crazy wiener dog with a short-dog syndrome, a part-time job and a husband that travels for work, life gets kinda busy, and easy is what I crave. Easy but delicious. Delicious and sometimes even on the healthy side. Only sometimes :)

These really are a big serving for one person. You could search for those Campari tomatoes, I bet they would look adorable on a buffet, filled with orzo, feta and basil.

Stuffed Tomatoes
Makes 8

8 tomatoes (I used hot house because they are always perfect in colour and shape), tops cut off and middles scraped out

1/2 cup dry orzo, cooked in salted boiling water until al dente, and drained
1 green onion, chopped
4 large basil leaves, chopped
50g feta cheese crumbled (keep a little left for garnishing the tops)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts (optional)
1/4 red pepper, chopped fine
juice from 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
salt & pepper to taste

When your tomatoes are scooped out, sprinkle the insides with a little salt and turn them upside down on a paper towel lined baking sheet so the juices drain right out. Leave them there until your salad is ready.

Place cooked and cooled orzo in a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Season well.
Divide salad between tomatoes, top with a little crumbled feta cheese and a small fresh sprig of basil.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ham & Cheese Waffles

I tried the Rachael Ray waffle method of putting brownie batter into my waffle iron - no luck! The entire mess completely stuck to my non-stick waffle iron. Yes, I know, nothing is meant to stick to a non-stick surface, but I guarantee you, I was scraping that muck off my waffle iron for hours. Never again, as delicious as that sounded.

When I came across this recipe from Bon Appetit (in the March 2012 edition), I literally could not wait to to try it. Perfect for brunch, perfect for lunch and even perfect for dinner. Perfect for breakfast too! They are so delicious, they will be making their way onto my plate sometime soon...and yes, I am still using up that leftover ham from my last post.

These waffles are surprisingly light and crisp and the ham and the cheddar is baked right in the batter, so every bite is filled with the sharp and salty flavours of cheddar and ham. Of course, I added more cheese and more ham to mine.

Ham & Cheese Waffles
Makes 6 (their recipe says 12, but I must have a bigger iron)

1 3/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large egg whites
3 large egg yolks
1 cup (2 sticks) melted butter
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup soda water
Non-stick vegetable oil spray
1 cup thinly-cut strips of ham
3/4 cup shredded sharp white cheddar
Maple syrup

Preheat oven to 300°. Heat waffle iron until very hot. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and kosher salt in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites in a medium bowl until medium-soft peaks form. Whisk egg yolks, melted butter, buttermilk, and soda water in a medium bowl; gradually whisk into dry ingredients. Fold in egg whites.

Coat waffle iron with non-stick vegetable oil spray. Pour batter onto iron, spreading it into corners (amount of batter needed will vary according to machine). Scatter 1 rounded Tbsp. ham and 1 Tbsp. white cheddar over each waffle. Cook until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer to a baking sheet; keep waffles warm in oven between batches. Serve with butter and warm maple syrup.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Cauliflower Leek & Ham Pot Pie

It's kind of weather for pot pie, but verging on not. Part of me wishes it was cold enough to enjoy a steaming hot pot pie, but the other part is longing for the warm sunny days of Summer to continue. Actually, all of me is waiting (not very patiently) for the sunny days of Summer to return.

Cauliflowers are in all the grocery stores right now, albeit not locally grown yet, they are all beautiful and large and white. I also saw leeks today as well so they hit my basket rather quickly too. Ham, I already had, yes, in my freezer left over from a baked ham dinner earlier in the year. I hate leftovers, I don't know why. Maybe it's because I grew up on lots of them, and this is my way of rebelling - HA to you, mum and dad! But, my husband has challenged me to clear out the freezer, instead of just buying more food. So, this is one way. Plus, I absolutely hate throwing away good food. There's no reason for it, if you buy it (or grow it) you should not waste it - simple.

That being said, I throw out my fair share of food. I try so hard not to, I shop every other day so I am not stockpiling, but inevitably something finds it's way to the back of the fridge and I miss it. Right now there's some suspicious looking apple juice I saw today. Not sure how long it lasts once it's opened, and then I am not even sure what to do with it....let me think about it and I will see what I come up with.

I made my pastry (rough puff dotted with pink peppercorns) and made a basic white roux with chicken stock and cream to bind the filling. It's rather simple, but so delicious all together.
It's my kind of comfort food - belly filling and heartwarming.

I do warn you, if you make your own puff pastry, this recipe will take some time. I did make my own "rough puff", but you can use the pre-rolled sheets that are sold in the freezer section at the grocery store.

Cauliflower Leek and Ham Pot Pie
Makes 4-6 serves (depending on the size of your ramekins)

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

3 tablespoons butter
2 leeks, chopped fine
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup cream
150g ham, roughly chopped (I used leg ham)
1 cup (125g) shredded cheddar cheese (I used 2 year old cheddar)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon pepper

4-6 rounds puff pastry, cut to fit your ramekins
1 egg, lightly beaten (add 1/4 teaspoon salt if using store-bought)

Preheat oven to 375F. Combine oil, cauliflower and salt in a large bowl. Toss to combine. Place cauliflower, in a single layer, on a baking sheet and roast 15-20 minutes until softened and beginning to brown. Remove from oven and set aside.

To make filling: melt butter in a large saucepan. When melted, add leeks with salt and cook gently until softened. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Stir in flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring. Slowly stir in stock, being careful to stir out any lumps.

Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook gently for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened. Add cream, and stir through ham, cheddar, parsley and pepper. Remove from heat, and stir through cauliflower. Cool for 30 minutes.

Divide pie filling evenly between your oven-safe ramekins. Top with puff pastry and brush with egg wash. Bake at 375F until pastry is golden brown and you can see the filling bubbling below. Remove carefully from the oven and serve. Remember to warn your guests - the ramekins are HOT!

Note: You can make this a day ahead. Portion the pie filling and chill. On day of baking, preheat oven to 375F. Top ramekins with puff pastry, brush with egg wash and bake as above.