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Weekend specials – Second weekend 2019, first real snow :)

Second weekend of 2019 came with first real snow in Toronto.

Snow blanketed the city from Saturday morning to well into the early hours of Sunday.

My initial plan was to go out and look for some flower pots but the biting chill in the air and the eye-watering winds changed my mind.

And it was just as well since I had a few projects to finish while inside: two scarfs that are ready to go to charity to hopefully help someone in need to keep warm this season, as well as starting my new pullover. (I am thinking of making a post sometime next week to showcase the progress of my pullover – if that’s something you think you’re interested in seeing, please leave a comment below!)

I also had plans to spend some time in the kitchen, doing what I enjoy best: cook. Which brings me to the best bit: weekend specials!

Saturday morning for breakfast, I decided to try a recipe that caught my attention: Potato Latkes from jyospassions.

Breakfast in the making: shredding 5 small to medium potatoes, drain well the excess water; season with salt a pinch of smoked paprika and dried dill.

Heat a nonstick pan and with a scooping spoon add the latkes to the pan. I pressed a bit the mixture and arrange the edges.

After the latkes were ready, in the same pan I grilled a few breakfast sausages which made this a more wholesome breakfast.

Shredded potatoes, salt, dill, smoked paprika and a bit of flour
Potato Latkes in the making
Potato Latkes and breakfast sausages

Since Saturday was a day for savory dishes, and so on Sunday we started the day with two kinds of pancakes: Orange oats pancakes – gluten free and double chocolate pancakes-also gluten free 🙂
I was so lucky to discover a very nice blog where I will return to for some more inspirations: giverecipe. 

In this post I will show you the Double chocolate pancakes.

Ingredients needed:

  • two large eggs
  • 1 cups of original almond milk (you can use whatever milk you prefer)
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 cup 1/3 white rice flour
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter powder (optional, I used it because I wanted to finish what I had left in the cupboard and the recipe was asking for chocolate chips which I did not have at this time )
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • cocoa syrup ( the original recipe was asking for chocolate genache and I am pretty sure would have been delicious, I just didn’t have what I needed so I made a cocoa syrup instead )
  • raspberries for garnish I would definitely recommend this to add some acidity to go with the rich cocoa 🙂
Double chocolate pancake


Double chocolate pancake

Looking at the snowy white canvas outside the kitchen window and knowing that I had to brave the biting cold come morning, was enough to arouse my craving for some good old-fashioned hot soup. And the winner was Lemon Chicken Soup from Pinchofyum.com. It is rich and hearty and frankly, quite delicious. Just the perfect hot dish for all soup lovers out there.

Lemon chicken soup
Lemon chicken soup

What I used for my soup: three large carrots, two medium parsnip, a quarter of a celery root,two medium 2 zucchini, fresh dill, two chicken breast, juice from one lemon, almond milk ( about a cup and a half ) and half a teaspoon turmeric, seasoned to taste with salt and pepper.

And of course there has to be another more substantial dish which was my adaptation of a Mediterranean lunch. I had some chicken breast stripes which I grilled in a non-stick pan over medium heat. I seasoned the chicken only with salt and lemon juice. I made a quick homemade tzatziki sauce, with Balkan yogurt, cucumber, fresh dill, salt and a pinch of garlic powder.

Pan roasted chicken stripes, oven roasted wedges with homemade tzatziki sauce


Pan roasted chicken stripes, oven roasted wedges with homemade tzatziki sauce

And if you were wondering if there was enough room left for desert I will let you know there was. Driven by the holidays that we just passed I decided to fall back on my favorite Apple crumble recipe.

Apple crumble
Apple crumble
Apple crumble – a bit messy but delicious

And I cannot end this post without showing you who kept me warm throughout the weekend 🙂

Sherlock , the grey tabby and Steve, the white and orange

Good bye 2018 … Welcome 2019 !

2018 was an eventful year, but that was not the reason for my absence. Somewhere along the way, the drive that once fueled my desire, my passion for cooking dwindled until months had gone by without me realizing it.

Some major personal breakthroughs in 2018: (Not in a chronological order) the best thing that happened was that I found a “cure” for my digestive problems. Looking back, I realize that this was the turning point for me. Little by little, my passion for cooking returned and I found myself thinking of what recipes I could try my hand at again, and most importantly, what the next post could be. Additionally, I changed my department under the same company at work. I am very happy with my decision. I had the chance to learn new things and to meet a bunch of new, wonderful people. And last but not least, we have also decided it’s time for us to buy a condo and move to a new location. Like I said, it’s been a busy year.

All I can say looking back at 2018, is that I am so grateful to have such a wonderful family, including my two furry boys, Sherlock & Steve, of course :); I am so grateful for my friends and coworkers and not at least for being able to improve my health.

Do I have a list of resolutions ? Not really. But I have a few ideas I would love to stick with and achieve in 2019:

  1. to read more: I decided a book a month;
  2. to knit/crochet more: at least on little thing a month;
  3. Socialize more. As my daughter says YOLO.
  4. Blog more; a post a month (at least).

I am pretty sure most of you have a say that whatever we do the first day of a new year, we will do it through the year. So what better way to start the new year with than a platter with grilled cheese and ham sandwiches.

What cheese and ham did I use? Soft goat cheese, Old Cheddar cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano, Brie and Camembert cheese along with Black Forest Ham. Who doesn’t want to eat cheese all year round?

Happy New Year 2019!!!

Ham and cheese sandwich ready for the pan

Ham and Cheese sandwiches in the pan
Getting the platter ready
Grilled ham and cheese platter for the first 2019 breakfast
Am I going to get a sandwich or not ?!?

Bon Appetite!
and
Happy New Year 2019 !!!

First Weekend Specials 2018 and Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone! I had so many plans to cook and to post many delicious meals and recipes for the first weekend of 2018, but unexpected bronchitis got my plans ruined. 😦

Anyway, I tried to satisfy some of our preferences for the first day of the year and to indulge a bit from breakfast through dinner 😉

Me and my daughter, we started the day with a chocolate chia pudding that I prepared the day before and let it in the fridge overnight. For that, I mixed three tablespoons of chia seeds with one tablespoon of each cocoa and brown sugar and 2 cups of unsweetened cashew milk. Give it a good stir or shake to mix all the ingredients in a jar and let it in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Now, you can imagine I had to let mine warm up for a while as eating right from the refrigerator was not an option at this point 😉

Cocoa chia pudding 2

While the two of us continued with some delicious Ricotta Chocolate Overloaded Pancakes:

Ricotta Pancakes.jpg

my hubby decided to move to the savoury side and enjoyed an Italian Sausages Omelette with Sauer kraut and homemade pickled beets. While the Sauer kraut was store bought I like to make the pickled beets at home. I just boil the beet with skin on. Let them cool down, peel them and cut them into cubes or chunks depending on your desire. I just drizzle the beet pieces with lemon juice ( I use the juice from a small lemon ) and half teaspoon balsamic and a  pinch of salt.

Sasauges Omelette

 

With such an indulgence for breakfast, you can imagine that our lunch was quite late, or we could call it an early supper. But this gave me a chance to take care of the cake. I made the same cake for my daughter’s  birthday, early December 2017. The cake was quite a hit after a try like ” mom, really I am not little anymore. You don’t have to make a cake every year …yadda, yadda, yadda. ” And because we all loved it I decided to make it again as the first dessert of 2018.

While the lunch was cooking, I prepared the ingredients for the cake. As a Romanian tradition, we would serve cabbage rolls for New Year. However, I did not go for the original recipe, but I made something to remind us of cabbage rolls. I had left two Italian sausages, and I made some pan-fried turkey meatballs from extra lean ground turkey. I cooked the sausages in a large pot. After they turned quite brownish, I added the sliced cabbage. I seasoned all with salt, black pepper, smoked paprika, dried dill and oregano. I give it a stir and let it cooked until the cabbage softened a bit. I added some more hot water and the turkey meatballs on top and let them simmer on low heat for another hour or so. If you are wondering why did I add boiling water instead of just water, is because the sausages and cabbage were already cooking and by adding the hot water you won’t stop the cooking process. I had to admit the combination of pork, turkey and cabbage was just delicious.

Sausages with cabbage

 

And we end our first day if 2018 with a decadent Chocolate Tiramisu:

You could check the original recipe, my inspiration for this delicious cake here.

Here is what I used. I changed a few ingredients, but the final result is very close.

  • 500 g ladyfingers
  • 500 ml coffee, sweetened with 1 tbsp of brown sugar ( I made it again, and I skipped the sugar and was just okay as well )
  • 1/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 500 gr smooth ricotta
  • 300 gr semisweet chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee ( optional)
  • 1 teaspoon rum extract
  • a few amaretto biscotti for decor, optional.

Here is the result. I think that the pictures talk a thousand words :

Chocolate tiramisu 1

 

Chocolate tiramisu 2

You could add a beautiful festive ribbon around. I just couldn’t find mine, and I had no energy to look for it. Like my daughter says ” mom, don’t put it away too well, you know that you never remember after that” LOL

 

Chocolate tiramisu 3

I have only one more comment to make about the cake: with every day that passes it becomes more delicious, the ladyfingers will be so moist and soaked with the coffee, and the cream cheese just melts into your mouth. Now it depends on how long you can resist it but in my opinion, the third day was the best, so maybe if you have guests, it’s better to prepare this one day ahead. 🙂

Weekend Specials

I don’t know about you, my dear reader, but when I go groceries shopping I pretty much have in mind what I want to cook throughout the week, and I also go for what’s in season. Sometimes I do the groceries shopping by myself and hubby just picks me up when I am ready. Sometimes he likes to come to explore the shelves.  We both love to explore the International aisle for new spices and other goodies.

Anyway, Saturday was one of those times when he decided to come along. We had just reached the pasta section when he asked: “do we have pasta? ”

Me: ” actually we do, but I bought cabbage to make ” Pasta with cabbage” ( a dish we both liked as kids, back home in Romania). So I need  a special kind of pasta.”

Hubby: ” I like this funny shape” train wheel pasta ” and he puts the bag in the buggy ”

Me, quite sceptical: “No way that will go with the cabbage dish.”

He, stubborn: ” I want this one. They are so funny … ”

I took both pasta packages as I was really concerned the one he chose will not turn out right for his lunch.

Now you might ask what’s the reason I told you this pasta story? Well because it turned out pretty gosh darned delicious with the Cabbage and I also ended up stealing some of my Tuna and Veggies Salad, and I just loved it so much as I made twice already 😉

Train wheel pasta with cabbage:

  • 1 green cabbage, chopped.
  • 1/2 a red onion, chopped
  • salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil ( optional )
  • grapeseed oil, about 5 tablespoons
  • 3 cups of pasta, boiled as per package instructions ( 2 cups were enough, so I end up stealing some 😉 )

In a big pot heat the oil and add the chopped onion, When translucent,  add the shredded cabbage and mix well. Sauteed the cabbage stirring frequently for about 40 minutes.

While you cook the cabbage, boil the pasta as per the package instructions.

Drain the pasta and wash it in cold water. Add it to the cabbage. Season with salt, smoked paprika and black pepper. Black pepper is a must in this dish.

Pasta w Cabbage 3 A

Tuna Pasta Salad with Veggies:

  • 2 zucchini halved and sliced
  • a handful of grape tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 small tuna can drain
  • lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil
  • salt

In a large non-stick, skillet heat the oil. Add the zucchini and sautee them until light brown. Add the tomatoes. Season with salt and lemon juice. Add the parsley.

Add the veggies to a large salad bowl. Add drained pasta and tuna and stir gently.

Enjoy it.

Tuna Pasta salad 3

 

Tuna Pasta salad 4

 

Becuase it was pretty chilly and wet here in Toronto this weekend I decided to warm up with a Mushroom soup –  Vegan, Creamy, Mushroom Soup. Not as creamy as I wanted because I added a bit too much broth 😉 )

mushrrom soup 2

 

mushrrom soup.jpg

 

And there can be no weekend without a dessert. The winner was:

Raisins Cinnamon Sticky Buns. 

Raisins cinnamon sticky buns

 

 

 

Weekend Specials

Saturday morning I woke up way too early for a weekend morning, but I decided to get some things done instead of going back to sleep, so I choose all the ingredients to make some muffins: Carrot Raisin Muffins that my husband said they were one of the most delicious I’ve ever done 😉

Here are the ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of apple cider ( I use it to soak the raisins )
  • 2/3 cup of raisins
  • 2 cups of grated carrots
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 2/3 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • juice from half a lemon ( to activate the baking powder )

Directions: 

Beat the eggs with sugar until creamy. I didn’t use the electric mixer as it was too early but you could do so to save your energy and time ;). Add the melted butter and whisk a bit more. With a wooden spoon mix in the apple cider and raisins followed by the grated carrots. Add the sifted flour mixed with cinnamon and the baking powder on top. Activate the baking powder by adding the lemon juice. Fold in the flour careful not to over mix the batter.

Carrot muffin 2

Carrot muffins

Carrot muffin 1

 

If you believe it or not all 12 muffins disappeared on Saturday as we had them for breakfast, dessert and some of us, the luckiest ones, for dinner. For the Butternut squash Muffins, I used exactly the same ingredients and directions, but I substituted the carrots with the squash. And because I started with the butternut squash I decided to continue on the same note for lunch and snacks for the day.

squash muffins

Butternut Squash Muffins 

squash muffins 2

Sunday’s lunch: Spaghetti Squash with Oven-roasted Butternut Squash:

spaghetti squash

And the weekend’s snacks: Backed oven Acorn Squash and Butternut squash …

Acorn Squash

 

 

Butternutsquash

Well, I think it enough squash for this week, don’t you? Lol

 

Pumpkin cream cheese swirl – Giving Thanks

pumpkin cheese cake

We enjoyed the warm and beautiful weather here in Toronto for the 2017 Thanksgiving weekend. Like the weather channel announced a June-like weekend in October, the temperatures reached 24 Celsius in the afternoon, and it felt like Spring was around the corner, instead of the cold and rainy Fall that will soon be upon us. But the Auburn colours outside and the stores full of all kinds of pumpkin helped me come back to reality, so to speak.

When I asked my peeps what dessert they’d prefer, I was given two choices: Creamcheese cake was my daughter’s preference and Pumpkin pie my husband’s. At first, I decided to give both of them their options, but I ran out of time, as it’s often the case during long weekends. You know how it is, we think we can do so much each day, and we fill up our schedules to the brink. Sounds familiar, right?

Inspiration soon knocked on my door, and I decided to combine the two deserts, instead; and this, dear reader, is what came out. A delicious dessert to be enjoyed by all.

Here are the ingredients for the crust:

  • 3 cups cracker crumbs ( I used Maria’s cookies )
  • 2 sticks of butter

Ingredients for the pumpkin cream cheese filling  

  • 2 packages of cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup of sugar ( pumpkin pie filling has also sugar added )
  • 3 small range free eggs
  • small can of pumpkin pie filling
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Ingredients for the cream cheese filling  

  • 2 packages of cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 3 small range free eggs
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation: 

Prepare the pan: spray it with some oil ( optional) Wrap the bottom pan with aluminium foil and place it in a rectangle pan.

In a food processor crumb the cookies. Melt the butter. Mix together the cookies crumbs and the butter. Place the mixture into the pan and even it using the bottom of a glass or your hand. I always like to raise a bit the crust sides with my fingers just to avoid the filling from seeping through the bottom of the pan.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Some of the recipes ask to bake the crust for 8 to 10 minutes. I usually skip this step because of my old oven, as in the end, my crust would always look burn on the outside.

In two large mixing bowls, using an electric mixer beat together the filling ingredients. Add the pumpkin filling to the pan. Pouring in the middle of the pan add the cream cheese filling. Using a knife make circular moves from the centre to the edges of the pan.

Bake the cake for an hour. When the sides are firm, and the middle slightly jiggle the pie should be ready. Let the cake cool down to room temperature for a few hours.

I baked the cake around 09:00 in the morning so we were able to indulge around 5:00 pm. I put the cake in the fridge for the last hour.

 

pumpkin cheese cake 3

 

pumpkin cheese cake 4

 

pumpkin cheese cake 5

 

 

 

 

 

Apple Compote

Last week I made a so called childhood desert. Some of you might know is also as “Compot de mere”. I think we all have those moments when we crave a childhood dessert. I will share the recipe, and the way my mother used to make it for us, although I noticed that French compote is more like a stew, I love the extra juice from mine. As a kid, I always thought the more juice, the better 😉 I still like it this way.

Apple compote.jpg

Ingredients:

  • 7-8 apples (I used green apples)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 5-6 cloves
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • juice from two lemons
  • about 2.5-3-litre water

Directions:

Bring a large pot with water to boil on medium high heat. When the water starts to boil add the sugar, the cinnamon sticks and the cloves.

Wash the apples thoroughly. Peel and core the apples. Cut them in pieces. I love mine a bit bigger. While I cut the apples, I put them in a large bowl, and I squeeze the lemon juice over the apple pieces so they won’t oxidize.

If you like it sweeter, you could add some more sugar. If you are not fond of cinnamon, you can use only the cinnamon sticks or the powder. Simmer all together for about 15-20 minutes. You can serve it hot or cold. I like it mostly cold, from the fridge.

You can serve it hot or cold. In the Summer I will definitely have it cold ], right from the refrigerator.

You can keep it the compote in the fridge up to two weeks if such a thing is possible. Mine will probably vanish in a few days 😉

 

Aplle compote 2

 

 

Aplle compote 3

 

Enjoy ! 

Turmeric Sandwich Bread

I love to make home made bread. The smell of freshly-baked bread is simply…mouth-watering. Most of the times I make buns. I think they are easy to share and eat at home, work or school and they are suitable for all meals: breakfast, lunch dinner.

Last week I wanted to try something different: a sandwich loaf. I followed pretty much my usual recipe, and I was impressed of the high bread I got.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp. Instant yeast (or active dry yeast)
  • 1 Tbsp. Sugar (it helps using sugar but it works without as well, so it’s optional)
  • One tsp salt
  • 2 cups of warm water
  • 2 Tbsp. Olive oil (or any grape seeds oil)
  • 1/4 Tsp turmeric
  • about 1/4 cup additional bread flour to work the dough and flour the work surface

Directions:

1. In a medium size bowl, add the warm water, sugar, and yeast. In about 10 minutes the yeast should be activated.

2. In the large bowl add the flour, salt, and turmeric; stir all together. Add the yeast mixture and the oil. Work/knead the dough for a few minutes or until it comes off easily from your hands. You might need to add a bit more flour when you work the dough if it’s too wet or still sticks to your fingers.

3. Put the dough in an oily bowl. Brush the top of the dough with oil and cover it with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in a warm place aside from any draft. Let it rise for about an hour. The dough should double the size.

4. Oil a loaf pan. Set the pan aside. Place the dough on a floured surface. Knead it for a minute by folding it a few times. Form a loaf shape and add it to the prepared loaf pan. Cover it with a kitchen towel and let it rise for another half hour.5

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the bread for about 35 to 45 minutes until the top is golden brown. If you noticed that the top of the bread turns brown too soon, add a piece of aluminum foil to stop it from burning.

6. Let it cool completely on a wire rack.

Here is the result:

Turmeric loaf

 

Turmeric loaf 2

 

Turmeric loaf 3

 

I hope you enjoyed a slice of the turmeric sandwich bread!

 

 

 

 

Tuna melts

When it’s time for grocery shopping, I always check the fridge and pantry for the items I have already. It’s good to know what I have left around because those should go first.

One of the things I hate the most is wasting food. I think most of you would agree with me that it can be pretty challenging to do the groceries to stay in the budget but also to buy healthy and nutritional food.

There might be a few reasons why I haven’t used left items through out the week:  we were not in the mood for a particular recipe, or I had a missing ingredient from the recipe that stopped me.  However, on Saturday mornings I am more eager to use what we have left around, and sometimes ideas come quickly, and the missing items are not as important anymore.

While the coffee was brewing and the kitchen started to smell of good things, I checked the fridge: half of tuna can; a little bit of cheese ( no more than 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella). Some white baguette that my hubby bought but that was not as fresh anymore. So it took me around 30 seconds to figure out how to use all of these ingredients before the new ones come to fill the fridge shelves. In other circumstances, I would love to have had some tomato slices or olives or maybe more fresh cheese, but everything that’s left has to be used.  I sliced the baguette, added the little bit of ketchup left in the bottle, put the tuna on top and sprinkle with cheese and bake for about 8 min in the preheated oven at 350 F and the last three minutes on broil.

I sliced the baguette, added the little bit of ketchup left in the bottle, tuna on top and sprinkled the cheese. I baked the baguettes  for about 8 min in the preheated oven at 350 F and the last three minutes on broil.

The result I think speaks for itself: Tuna melts

tuna melts 1

 

tuna melts 2

Bon Appetit! 🙂

Weekend specials

As much as I wanted these days to stay away from the kitchen, and mostly for the oven, we still had to eat something.  The idea to stay away from the oven it’s not as easy as it seems.

Like almost every Saturday, we indulged a frittata for breakfast. Usually, when I make the weekend frittatas, I just check the fridge and decide pretty quick what should I throw into the pan. This time the winners were: green olives; red pepper and tuna. The greens you can see in the picture is fresh dill. In my opinion, there is no frittata without fresh herbs. They make such huge difference in frittatas. I have to admit though, that I don’t have them always handy so I will use dry herbs instead. The herbs I used the most are dill, parsley, oregano or basil.

 

tuna frittata 3

 

Saturday’s lunch followed with a homemade (from scratch) pizza: Artichoke, Tuna, and Feta Cheese Pizza. Some of you might think tuna again? Well, the tuna can in olive oil I like to buy is pretty big, so I try to use it throughout the day. When it’s not possible, I would store the rest in an airtight glass container and use it in the next days. Most of the time the other half of the can will end up in a Greek Pasta Salad or Potato Tuna Salad.

What I like about making pizza is that you have just enough for lunch and dinner and you have time to focus on other projects.

 

artichoke tuna and feta pizza

And, of course, there’s no such thing as not indulging our sweet tooth during the weekend 😉

I checked what we had in the fridge and pantry, and the winner was chosen:  Cinnamon – chocolate chips buns! You might ask: why chocolate chips in a cinnamon bun but it was my daughter’s request to try them this way, and I have to say I will most definitely make them again. They were yummy!

 

Cinnamon chocolate chip buns

 

And because is Summer and it’s so hot, and it’s very humid here in Toronto, one way I ensure that we all stay hydrated is making citrus infused water that the whole family can enjoy.

 

citrus-infused-water-3

 

Stay chilled!