Friday, August 25, 2006

"Without bread, without wine, love is nothing." - French Proverb

Ahhhhh Naramata was gorgeous - a true super ending to the summer season. I had such a great time with my sister and brother in law. We ate amazing food at the Naramata Spa/Restaurant (couldn't get a recipe from the Chef as he already left the house when I asked). We also drank copious amounts of fabulous red Cab and I made a nice dinner one night for the family....I've been savoring that weekend and have been re-inspired in all areas of my life. As the summer season comes to an end and as the crisp cool air of fall begins to cast it's cozy spell, my husband and I have found ourselves enjoying a few good meals together in bed. Here are two delicious recipes that are easily savored while under the covers watching a good movie:

Grilled Cheddar and Bacon with Mango Chutney: 8 slices of whole grain bread, 1 1/2 tbsp. of unsalted butter, softened, 4 tsp. mango chutney, 6 oz. of thinly sliced Cheddar (preferably Colby or Longhorn), 8 cooked bacon slices, halved crosswise. Spread 1 side of each bread slice with butter, turn over 4 slices and spread with chutney, then divide cheese and bacon among them. Top with remaining bread slices, buttered sides up. Heat a dry 12-inch heavy skilley over moderate heat until hot, then cook sandwhiches, 2 at a time, pressing occasionally and turning over once, until bread is golden brown and cheese is melted, about 5 minutes total per batch. (Recipe from February 2005 Gourmet Magazine).

French Onion Omelet (from Mr. Breakfast): 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 cups coarsely chopped red onion, 1/4 cup chopped shallots (optional), 2 teaspoons sugar, 1/4 cup sliced green onion
2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard, 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme -- crushed, 6 eggs, 1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper, 1 cup shredded Swiss cheese (4 ounces) 1. In a 10-inch ovenproof skillet heat oil over medium heat. Add red onion, shallots (if desired), and sugar. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes or until tender and golden, stirring often. Remove 1/4 cup cooked onion mixture and set aside. Stir green onion, mustard, and thyme into skillet.2. In a bowl beat together eggs, water, salt and pepper. Stir in 3/4 cup of the cheese and reserved onion mixture. Cut into wedges. Makes 6 main-dish servings.

Eggs a la Tara: Here is a different take on a standard omelet - it is a simple souffle. In a small 6" frying pan melt some butter with fresh garlic over a medium heat. Mix together 6 egg whites (absolutely can not let any yolk get into it or it won't whip) until thick like whipping cream. Fold in the beaten egg yolks, but don't mix. Pour eggs into garlic/buttered pan and cook until the bottom of the eggs are set and nicely brown. Then take off the stove and put under the broiler in the oven at about 400 degrees until brown. Top with cheese of your choice and melt. The egg souffle will slide out of the pan. Serve with some salsa.

Artichoke, Roasted Shallot, and Camembert Donduta (this is a deluxe version of a warm artichoke dip from the September 2004 Bon Appetit magazine): 1 large head of garlic, 3 tbsp. of olive oil, divided, 6 large shallots, peeled, halved through root end, 2 tbsp. or 1/4 stsick of butter, 2 8-ounce packages of frozen artichoke hearts thawed, 1/2 cup of dry white wine, 1/2 cup of vegetable broth, 1/2 cup of whipping cream, 1 12 to 14 ounce wedge Camembert cheese, rind trimmed, cheese diced, 2 tbsp. of chopped fresh tarragon, then some purchased colourful nacho chips or the veggie ones would be nice too.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil. Place head of garlic in centre of 12 inch square of foil. Drizzle with 2 tbsp. of oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Seal foil around garlic. Place on prepared sheet. Toss shallots and 1 tbsp. oil in medium bowl to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Scatter on sheet around garlic packet. Roast until shallots are tender, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Transfer shallots to work surface; chop coarsely. Continue roasting garlic until very tender, about 15 minutes longer. Open packet; cool garlic. The squeeze garlic from all cloves into small bowl and mash. Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add artichoke hearts; saute until tender, about 6 minutes. Add shallots and 2 tbsp. of garlic; stir 2 minutes. Add wine; simmer until reduced to glaze, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of broth and cream; bring to boil. Add cheese and tarragon. Simmer until cheese melts, stirring often, about 4 mintues. Thin with broth if needed. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl and serve with chips.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Wine Country, British Columbia

My Family and I are heading to Naramata, British Columbia this weekend to visit my husband's brother and wife. I can hardly wait! Naramata is a quaint scenic wine town with great restaurants, a beautiful spa, and apparently (as Jacki told me) a cooking school as well. I would say Naramata is a rustic Napa Valley or at least, the way Napa used to be many many moons ago. I'm not sure if we"ll be going out for dinner or if Tom and I will be cooking dinner one night for the family; but one thing is for sure....I am really looking forward to browsing the local Farmer's market and lounging on their dock sipping several glasses of local summer wine! Summer just keeps on getting better and better!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Using Up a Left Over Loaf of Bread

I love buying bread - but sometimes after I go to a really cool bakery, I buy too much and my family can't eat it all up before it looses it's freshness and gets tough. When I'm about to throw anything out I can still hear my Grandmother say, "waste not want not, there are children starving in Europe." My husband's Grandmother echoed the same philosophy but instead of Europe she said, Biafra. Yesterday's housewives were ingenious at using up leftovers and would save every tablespoon of left over meals to add to the next day's soup. My Gram used to bake her own bread (for a family of 9) and then use the left over bread to make some delicious Apple Brown Betty, Bread Puddings, Stratas, or Bread Crumbs that would crunch up a casserole. You know if you think about it, using up your leftovers takes an enormous amount of creativity. Here are some left over bread uses and menu ideas:

Camper's Focaccia Bread: While camping recently I had a bag of hot dog buns left over and wanted to use them up. Throw them out? Are you kidding, this was just another opportunity to get creative. This is a recipe for 6 hotdog buns. Cut up one hot dog bun in half lengthwise - cut again to make a thinner focaccia bread stick if you like and put onto a cookie sheet. Then melt together 1/4 cup of butter and 1/4 cup of olive oil. Add 1/2 tsp. of garlic, 1/2 tsp. of basil, 1 tsp. of rosemary, and 1/2 tsp. of salt, then brush the buns with this olive oil/butter mixture. Toast in the oven at 350 degrees until nice and toasted. I served these hot dog focaccia sticks with a nice pulpy/tomato/balsamic dip. Here is the recipe for that too.

Tomato Balsamic Dip: Cut up about four tomatoes and put into a frying pan over medium high heat with 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar, 2 tbsp. of olive oil, 3 tbsp. of sugar (you can use brown sugar or Splenda), fg of salt and pepper. Add whatever herbs you like oregano is nice. Simmer until the liquid is reduced substantially to a dip like consistency. Serve with focaccia bread sticks. Yum, yum.

Wife Saver Casserole: I made this version for the first time last Christmas morning and it was amazing! Serve this casserole any time of year for a luncheon or brunch. Great way to use up a whole loaf of day old bread. Trim the crusts from each piece of bread and lay half of the bread slices in a large buttered casserole covering the entire bottom of the casserole. Then cover bread with 8 slices of bacon. Top with slices of cheddar cheese and cover with remaining bread slices. In a bowl beat eggs together with remaining ingredients. Pour over bread. Cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning melt butter and pour over top of casserole. Cover with crushed Special "K" or Cornflakes. Bake at 350 degrees uncovered for one hour. Let sit for 10-15 minutes before serving. This casserole is delicious.

Christmas in August

A crazy idea that turned into a very delicious summer meal and party. I'd just opened up my freezer like I do every day to find something to make for dinner and like all evenings previous I'd been greated by a mondo sized turkey my husband had boughten a few months earlier because it was on sale. Here is another excuse for party I thought! Why not make a Christmas like dinner and adapt some traditional favorites into summer fare? The challenge was on. I asked my hubby to invite a few good friends to partake in our Christmas in August feast and before you knew it we had RSVPs for 30 people - my once big bird was looking smaller by the minute! Here is the menu I came up with:

Roasted Bourbon Turkey Sandwiches
with Cranberry Jelly and Mayo
Sausage and Sundried Tomato Stuffing
Mashed Potato Salad
Peach/Strawberry Jello Salad
Spinach Salad with Cranberry Raisins,
Feta Cheese and Sugared Pecans
with an Aged Garlic Vinaigrette Dressing
Brown Sugar Shortbread and Strawberry
Ice Cream Sandwiches
(I've included a few of the recipes - my mom made her
delicious potato salad and I don't have the exact recipe.)
Bourbon Turkey Marinade: I am getting so close to the perfect Bourbon Marinade - the way I like it anyway. I've read so many recipes that have ketchup as an ingredient in a Bourbon Marinade. All I can say is DON'T DO IT. You will taste the ketchup. The secret ingredient to the perfect Bourbon Marinade is honey! Here is the recipe that I put together: 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1/2 cup of honey, 1 cup of bourbon, 2 Tbsp. of Provencial Herbs, 1/4 cup of soy sauce, 1 tbsp. of cumin, and 1 tbsp. of vanilla - yes vanilla. I can only imagine what my marinade will taste like when I do chicken. I brushed the turkey with this marinade, stuck a thermometer in the meatiest part of the leg and cooked at 325 degrees until it was done about 4 hours later. To tell you the truth I'm not sure how long the turkey was in because I went to a girlfriend's house for appetizers/drinks while my mom babysat the kids and she took the turkey out - such a good woman! Trust your thermometers however. I now absolutely do not roast any meats without one. The marinade sealed in all the juices and the turkey was fabamondo.
Sausage and Sundried Tomato Stuffing: Saute one medium sized onion in a pan with 1/4 cup of butter until the onions are soft. Mix onions with two tubes of sausage meat and two small bags of herbed bread crumbs. You don't have to have herbed breadcrumbs but that is what I had in my freezer. I then added about 1 tbsp. each of sage and poultry seasoning. Then I found some sundried tomato flakes in my pantry and added 1/2 a cup. The sausage stuffing should look like sausage not breadcrumbs as you want it moist and succulent. Mix well and stuff the bird. I put a thermometer in the stuffing too - I don't know why I did to tell you the truth, I mean it's not like I would take the stuffing out of the bird if it had cooked earlier - I think it was because my mom was coming over to babysit and I wanted her to think that I was super careful and responsible making sure the sausage meat would get cooked!
Spinach Salad with Cranberry Raisins, Feta, Sugared Pecans, and Garlic Vinegrette: Add a bag of spinach, 2 cups of feta cheese, 2 cups of magic nuts (recipe follows), 1 cup of cranberry raisins (I used a bag of cranberry raisins that I had boughten last Christmas for baking - so I'm not sure if they are in the market as of yet). Toss with the vinegrette just before serving. Also, I made this salad in advance, however I put the feta and the pecans in separate ziplocks to keep fresh and tossed the entire salad together just before eating. Vinegrette: either use the Garlic Vinegar (or any special vinegar for that matter - I also like Apple Cider Vinegar), 1 or 1 1/2 cups of olive oil, 1/2 cup of vinegar, 1/4 cup of sugar or Splenda - taste and adjust with more oil/vinegar/or sweetener to your liking.
"Magic Mixed Nuts" (Best of Bridge) (My friend Lisa gave these pecans to me recently and I put them in the Spinach Salad) Here is the recipe - they are worth making: 2 egg whites, 4 cups unsalted nuts (cashews, almonds, pecans and/or hazelnuts),
1/2 cup sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon. 1 tsp cayenne, 1/2 tsp salt, Preheat oven to 325. Whisk egg whites until foamy, add nuts and mix until coated. Combine remaining ingredients and add to egg white mixture and stir until fully coated. Spread evenly on greased cookie sheets and ake 20-25 mins, stirring frequently. Cool and store in covered container.
Brown Sugar Shortbread Ice Cream Sandwhiches: 1 cup of butter, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 2 cups of flour, 1/2 tsp. of vanilla. ***I also added a delicious spice called, "Poudre Douce" (the ingredients to make this spice are 2 tbsp. of sugar, 1 tsp. of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. of nutmeg, and 1/2 tsp. of cardamom). Obviously this spice is optional. Mix well and roll out to 1/4 inch. Put a little flour on the rolling pin and the counter or else it will stick. Cut out cookies using a coffee cup. Put on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 300 degrees for 25 minutes. Once you cool, start assembling your ice cream sandwhiches. I used strawberry ice cream which tasted so damn good with these cookies. I also had a package of thin chocolate cookies for the kids and used the strawberry ice cream as well.
Happy New Year! Actually September is next month and always feels like the New Year to me!!!!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Tara's Imaginary Friend

Tara's partner in all things food actually does exist. Here I am, a little slower to get started but no less enthusiastic about the Succulent Sage and all the fabulous food you will find here. As mentioned by Tara, no matter what subject we start to discuss it eventually ends up in the gastronomic realm. We love new recipes. We love to cook. We love to eat (and a little glass of wine would not be turned down!). And now we can share our passions with you. You may not always find a traditional recipe with proper measurements, but you will always find inspiring thoughts on food, recipes that we love, and maybe a laugh or two (see Tara's Trashy Food List).

Now to the real reason that this is my first post to TM's 6th or 7th. I am not a very decisive person, and I can't decide what recipe to share with you. I have just started making a most delicious corn and avocado salsa, or maybe I should put up the blueberry pecan crisp, or I could kick things off with my husband's amazing ribs. I simply can't decide. Tara would say put them all up! But that might overwhelm everyone, so I am going to start with the one that I don't have to get up from my computer and check the recipe. This one is my variation for a yummy summer-y salsa that goes great with anything that comes off the bbq.

1 diced avocado
1 roasted corn cob
1 diced tomato
2 tblspn diced red onion
2 tblspn chopped fresh cilantro
1 tblspn lime juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
a few dashes of hot sauce (optional)

remove corn from cob, combine with remaining ingredients. I like to add the avocado at the end after everything has been combined, this keeps it from getting too mushy.

Important serving hint: goes best with ice cold mexican beer! Cheers

Elegant Fruity Dessert
Until today this amazing family dessert favorite has never had a name. It has simply always just been referred to as, "that fruit, wine, ice cream thingy." It is however absolutely delicious, and it looks gorgeous to boot.
1 pint of strawberries sliced, 1 honey dew melon and 1 cantelope cut into cubes. Put into a large bowl and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of sugar or splenda, (you may want to add a little more sweetener later - just taste and decide), 1 tbsp. of vanilla, and finally one 750 ml bottle of rose wine (you can actually take a glass for yourself as one bottle minus one glass of wine is still fine)! Now soak all the fruit, sugar, and vanilla together and put into the refrigerator for about 3 hours. Finally pour over vanilla ice cream and serve in wine glasses.

Ice Cream Sundae Bar
Speaking of Ice Cream, this summer my husband and I hosted a lacrosse wind up party for my son's team. I served an ice cream sundae bar; it was so much fun and obviously the kids loved it. I had fun shopping for a variety of chocolate candies (smarties, M & Ms), gummy bears, and sprinkles and set them up in two separate condiment serving trays on two separate tables to keep the lines going. Then we added a chocolate and caramel sauce and a can of whip cream. I also used small paper bowls so the kids couldn't overfill their dessert. I also got my hubby to scoop out the vanilla ice cream and my friend to handle the whip cream or else it all would have been gone after the first few sundaes. I love getting the kids to do something creative at my parties. This ice cream bar would also be fun for an adult dinner party - you could melt some good chocolate perhaps, add the above elegant fruity dessert recipe, or add some bananas that have been pan fried in cinnamon, rum, and butter (the possibilities are endless).

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Here are some trashy food recipes
Deep Fried Monte Cristo Sandwich
Ingredients: vegetable oil12 slices white bread, 8 slices Gruyère cheese1/2 pound sliced cooked ham, 1 tablespoon prepared mustard, 1 teaspoon prepared mustard, 1/2 pound sliced cooked chicken breast, toothpicks, 4 eggs, beaten, 3/4 cup milk. Directions: Heat oil in an electric deep fryer to 400° F. Place a slice of cheese on a slice of bread and top with ham slice. Spread with mustard and top with another piece of bread. Cover with another slice of cheese, chicken and last piece of bread. Repeat for remaining sandwiches. Cut triple decker sandwich into quarters and secure with toothpicks. Combine egg and milk in a bowl. Dip sandwich quarters into egg mixture, coating all sides. Deep fry 3-4 minutes until golden. Drain on absorbent paper. Remove toothpicks before serving. P.S. When I had this sandwhich at the Blue Bayou they sprinkled the cooked sandwhich with powered icing sugar and served with a blueberry jelly. I may be wrong, but then again - I may be right!

Mom's Kraft Dinner Hash
Cook two boxes of Kraft Dinner and mix with powdered cheese. Fry up 1 pound of hamburger over a medium high heat with one chopped onion and once completely cooked, drain off any extra grease. Mix hamburger and onion with the KD and add one small can of stewed tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Add at least two cups of your favorite cheese like cheddar or mozzerella. Mix well and then pour into a casserole dish (do not need to grease casserole) Save some of the cheese to sprinkle over the top and put into a 300 degree oven until warmed through and the cheese is melted.
Hash Brown Casserole

You will need 1 normal sized bag of frozen hash browns then mix with 1 chopped onion, 1 can of mushroom soup or other favorite cream soup, 1/2 cup of milk, with 1 pt. sour cream and 2 cups of cheddar and season with salt and pepper. Put into the oven at 350 degrees for about one hour. Serve warm with a nice green salad and of course.....a diet coke (ha ha ha).

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

An Ode to Trashy Food
A few moms and I revealed some of our favorite trashy foods tonight while at our children's friend's birthday party. I don't know if this conversation was inspired by the birthday cake and orange pop combo, but somehow we were inspired to share our inner most trashiest food secret indulgences. If you can think of more - please let us know. Trashy foods are great when you are PMSing, when you are royally hung over and your brain is in dire need of a little grease, when you need something forbidden, or needing a good hit of of seretonin. Trashy food should really not be in our homes; however, when it is, somehow it ends up calling us to the cupboard or fridge to have a taste, or two, then a whole bag or pot. There is no need to impress the masses with sophisticated eating all of the time. Sometimes we all need to let our inner food slut emerge without regret. Hopefully everyone has a little bit of trash within - it's what makes those who are lusty and fun....lusty and fun.
Trashy Food List:
1. Deep Fried Monte Cristo Sandwhich at The Blue Bayou Restauant @ Disneyland, California. I'll print a copycat recipe for this in a few minutes. (may envoke chest pains).
2. Ripple Potato Chips with French Onion Dip for lunch.
3. My Mom's Kraft Dinner Hash.
4. A Good Chicken Fried Steak
5. Hashbrown Casserole
6. Nachos with all of the creamy condiments
7. Hamburgers/hotdogs with piles of buttery onions
8. Canned Soup with a pile of crushed Premium Plus Crackers
9. French Fries topped with Pountine
10. Any doughy concoction fried and bathed in a vat of sugar and cinnamon
All recipes will be added this weekend.