Friday, February 26, 2010

Mexican Shrimp Cocktail

If you think of shrimp cocktail and picture some sadly, limp shrimp submerged in seafood sauce, then you need to be brought over the Mexican border for a wake-up call.

This cocktail's sauce is more like the main part of the appetizer; the shrimp just coming along for the ride. It is fantástico! And very fácil (easy) to make.

photo by shrimp magic

Mexican Shrimp Cocktail

1 lb. jumbo shrimp; cooked, cleaned, chilled
40 oz. chilled tomato juice (5 small 8 oz. cans)
2 cucumbers; peeled and cubed
1/3 cup finely chopped purple onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 avocados; chopped
Splash of hot sauce
1/2 cup Ketchup
5 limes; squeezed

Preparation: mix together and chill. Serve with chilled shrimp. Now where'd I put my margarita...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My Nemesis

Do you see this innocent looking black and white cookie? This cookie is my nemesis. I first put myself in its path on a shopping trip with a bus load of girls last fall (great weekend, ladies!).

Not one to really shop, I found myself wandering into the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Shop and eyed this baby for the first time. It actually took me two days to eat this thing. This four dollar, five inch delicacy was my companion during the long ride home.

This leads me to the following scientific experiment I now face:

Problem: My cookie addiction can now only be fed via a 6-hour drive to Pennsylvania

Hypothesis: Perhaps I could recreate this beauty in my own kitchen

Method: Have made several attempts. Cannot figure out if the filling is a cookie, cake or something in between. Had entire family drive to said location on way back from Florida to retrieve samples. Have dispersed samples around town to savvy bakers who can guide me in right direction.

Conclusion: Still to come.

I've had to literally fight off my family in order to preserve the last sample kept in the freezer. It taunts me at night; whispering its sweet nothings as I battle the urge to consume its remains . It hasn't been pretty. If I let down my guard, I will find myself back in the car for another long ride back to Pennsylvania. Audio books, you've been a good friend and have taken me across many borders but I am not ready to endure another road trip for said cookie just yet (a big thanks to Sidney Potier, Larry King and the Dalai Lama).

I do apologize to the people I have enlisted to help with this experiment as, they too, run the risk of becoming addicts. When I do find the recipe, and I vow I will, I promise to share.

For now, I leave you with another favourite cookie recipe of mine; the one that formerly haunted me prior to the black and white.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
photo by tofutti break on flickr

2/3 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cup peanut butter
2 eggs
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 package milk chocolate chips

Cream together butter and sugars. Add remaining ingredients. Drop on cookie sheet, press with fork then bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes. I want to make these after typing this...

science photo by paultillinghast on flickr

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Spring Cake

photo courtesy of Bon Appetit

This was the first cake my daughter and I made together. Well, she was actually in a papoose at the time as I whipped around the kitchen mixing everything. But that was the start of our many baking memories. Time graduated her from papoose to kitchen chair, to stool to free standing. Now she barely needs my help to whip up dinner for the family; shooing me away from her creations under lidded pots until the final reveal.

I think back to those first moments in the kitchen; my little assistant keeping me company while I went about the task of creating sweet smells and tastes. I can still picture Samantha with her intense, deeply concentrated stare as her eyes fixated on a tiny chocolate chip resting on the counter. It challenged her chubby little fingers' fine motor skills as her diapered bottom wiggled to and fro while she tried to keep her balance.

That tiny chocolate chip eventually made its way into the dough after her unrelenting effort. As she rewarded herself with smiles and claps, I knew it was no longer my kitchen. It now belonged to the both of us. Since then, that room in our home has seen many culinary inventions. Some tasty, others horrible, and others that -- through the mysteries of childhood mayhem -- end up on the ceiling. Time will work its magic again one day and graduate Sam to her own home in her own kitchen. But for now, I am more than happy to share my apron strings.

Even as her grasp of them slowly releases.

Strawberry Basket Cake

Bon Appetit Magazine Spring 1999 Edition
note: this cake is now my go-to cake recipe for any occasion that requires a white cake mix. You'll never go back...
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange peel
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides. Line bottom of pans with parchment paper. Sift first 4 ingredients into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter and 1 cup sugar in large bowl until well blended. Beat in sour cream, orange juice, orange peel and vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add dry ingredients and beat until well blended. Divide batter between prepared pans; smooth tops.

Bake cakes until light golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 28 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on rack 30 minutes. Turn cakes out onto racks and cool completely.

Meanwhile, hull and slice 1 basket strawberries. Place in medium bowl. Add preserves and 2 tablespoons sugar; toss to blend. Let stand at room temperature until juices form, about 2 hours.

Place 1 cake layer, flat side up, on platter. Top with sliced berry mixture in even layer. Spread 1 3/4 cups Whipped Crème Fraîche over berry mixture. Top with second cake layer, flat side down, pressing slightly. To make basket weave, spread 1 1/4 cups Whipped Crème Fraîche over top and sides of cake; then follow directions in the box at right. Or to frost simply, spread all of Whipped Crème Fraîche over top and sides of cake. (Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover with cake dome and refrigerate.) Mound remaining whole berries in center of cake.

Ice With Creme Fraiche:

  • 3 cups chilled whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup chilled sour cream
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange peel
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Beat all ingredients until soft peaks form.

Old Favourites

I was rooting through my old recipe book and came across these two dishes. I forgot how easy they were - great over pasta. The first one is super quick and easy. The second is the best baked sauce you could put over noodles. Try one or both! Perhaps they'll make their way into your recipe collection too...

Tracey's Goat Cheese Chicken
photo by desert culinary on flickr

4 Skinless, Boneless Chicken Breasts
Jar of Spaghetti Sauce
1/2 roll of Goat Cheese

Layer bottom of greased casserole dish with chicken pieces. Pour sauce over chicken - enough to cover. Sprinkle goat cheese on top.

Cover casserole and bake in 350 oven for 1 hour or until chicken is no longer pink. Serve over linguini or pasta of choice.

Baked Tomato Sauce
This recipe originally calls for 1/2 cup olive oil, but I like it without. Add it back in if you wish...
photo by Texas to Mexico on Flickr

2 large cans diced tomatoes; drained
4 cloves garlic; crushed
2 onions; finely chopped
4 tsp. chopped fresh basil
chili flakes
2/3 cup bread crumbs
2/3 cup parmesan cheese

Mix first five ingredients in bowl. Pour into casserole dish. Mix bread crumbs with parmesan cheese. Layer on top of tomato mixture. Sprinkle top with oregano.

Bake uncovered in 350 oven until heated through - about 45 minutes. Serve over pasta. I usually like to use whole wheat egg noodles.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Attention Male Shoppers...

photo courtesy of on flickr

Due to the fact that I am, against my free will, in the grocery store about forty three times a week, I am confident with labeling myself a heavy user of said establishment. On that note, I am going to use this space to express my grievances with the *MALE SHOPPER.

Now I know this write-up won't be deemed politically correct in (what is supposed to be) a gender-respected society, but there are some serious infractions that need to be addressed.

*note: I know there are some exceptions (Spanky, perhaps you're reading this) but I know this speaks for the majority:

1. When you (yes, I mean YOU - the male shopper) need to linger over a shelf's selection, park your cart to the side of the aisle. Do not park your cart in the middle of the aisle while your eyes search for an item on your list; clearly written in your wife's hand-writing.

2. Don't stress. I know you were sent to get a can of diced tomatoes. The fact that there are several brand names shouldn't confuse you to the tenth degree. Stop clogging up the aisle with your cart and your stupified look as you survey all the cans. Just pick one. Not necessarily the cheapest one either. Splurge a little for that pot of chili she's going to make for the family tonight.

3. Most of my frustration is experienced in the produce section. Here's a thought. Bag your fruits and vegetables. Don't let them roll around in the cart and then pile them on the conveyor belt at check-out. It's in everyone's best interest if you group your selections together.

4. When you do come across the roll of bags in the produce section, grab a whole bunch while you have your chance. That will prevent you from stationing your cart in front of the bins that everyone is trying to access while you aimlessly (with much bewilderment) search for a bag while walking around with six bruised apples in your hand, and a watermelon in the other.

5. Do not bag vegetables and fruits together in one bag. This creates a massive hold-up at check-out. Much appreciated.

One day, as I was in checkout waiting for a man to pile his sixteen oranges and twelve kiwis on the conveyer belt, I perused through a 'Bon Appetit' issue and came across the most amazing dessert. It is one I now treasure and make on special occasions. It was time well spent alongside the agony in watching him complete his purchase. So, to him, I say thank you. For the rest of you, I leave you with the recipe. It's a lot of work, but well worth it. Just like the man in your life.

Molten Lava Cakes

  • 4 1/2 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract

  • 5 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • Vanilla ice cream

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Smoked Salmon Spread

photo by Alex 0x07D9 on Flickr

My Mom used to make this whenever company came over. One I've forgotten about, but now that I've remembered, will be making soon! It is a good one if you like seafood and it was always the first to disappear at her parties.

Mom's Smoked Salmon Spread

1/4 lb. cream cheese
2 green onions, chopped
1 Tbsp honey mustard
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp horseradish
1/4 tsp ground pepper
3 oz. canned salmon
1 oz. smoked salmon; diced

In food processor, blend all ingredients except for smoked salmon. Stir in smoked salmon last. Serve with crackers.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Coffee Cake

My Auntie Olga was my great grandmother's sister. She was a sweet, sweet lady who always embraced our visits. I can recall visiting her in this little apartment in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She was an incredible woman with lots of love to give. I can still hear her voice when she'd open her door, "Oh! Traceeee! Come in, come in!" .

There were many things to admire about Auntie Olga and I wish now that I could sit and talk with her; learn so much from her.

But my youth, of course, had me take her for granted and I missed the opportunity to ask her the important stuff. Nonetheless, I can recall asking her about two specific things. As superficial these talks seemed to be at the time, little did I know that it would be these two moments that help me remember her; for I can see her face and her smile as I replay them in my mind.

#1. Her Wrinkles: she never got wrinkles; even into her eighties. She looked incredible for her age and I remember being mystified by this. I asked her how this was possible; perplexed by her youthful appearance. She just laughed and said she was thankful for her good skin.

#2. Her Coffee Cake: she made great coffee cake. She really did. She served it often when we visited; a fancy dish resting on the coffee table atop a lace doily. I came to expect it and she never disappointed. I couldn't figure out what that crunchy good stuff was on top and she was happy to share her tips.

I can't do much about whether or not her fantastic skin made its way into my genetic makeup, but I can at least recreate her coffee cake.

photo by fusher is now on flickr

Auntie Olga's Coffee Cake

Mix Together:
3/4 cup sugar
4 Tbsp butter
1 large egg
1 cup sour cream or milk
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

Filling (the crunchy stuff I liked):
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Pour 1/2 of batter in 9 x 12 baking dish (or double the recipe to pour into a bundt pan). Sprinkle half of filling. With butter knife, cut filling through and into the batter. Repeat this for second layer of batter/filling.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Test with toothpick. (for Bundt pan, bake a little longer)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Classic Spinach Dip

photo by chef Ira on flickr

I assume that everyone has heard of this one by now - it's so popular and usually adorns any event's food table. But every time I make it, there's always someone who has yet to try the recipe. It's so simple! I like to use fresh spinach so that's what I've listed here, but the original recipe calls for 1 package of frozen spinach; drained and squeezed. Do as you prefer!

Classic Spinach Dip

1 - 16 ounce (or 500 ml) container sour cream
1 cup Hellmann's mayonnaise
1 package Knorr vegetable soup mix (there is NO other!!)
2-3 cups chopped fresh baby spinach
1 tin sliced water chestnuts
1 Pumpernickel Loaf; 1 Sourdough Loaf

Mix together sour cream and mayonnaise. Add package of Knorr veggie mix. Give it a stir. Finely chop up baby spinach and water chestnuts. Stir into sour cream mixture.

Hollow out the loaf of pumpernickel bread by slicing a 'lid' off the top of the loaf and scooping the inside of the loaf. Save scooped out bread and set aside. Pour dip into bread bowl. Cut up reserved bread into squares for dipping. Cut up sourdough bread into squares for dipping. Let dip set for appx. 1 hour before serving.

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