Rosemary & Balsamic Beef Fillet on Garlic, Arugula Pesto Crostini + Grilled Zucchini, Roasted Cashew, Parmesan Salad

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A variation on some recipes I found in my ‘Plenty’ and ‘Relaxed Cooking by Curtis Stone’ cookbooks. I’ve written out the recipes in the flow that I did them, including the variations I improvised with. You may find a different way works for you, or you may even want to substitute some ingredients… but I heartily recommend you try at least the crostinis with arugula pesto – so yummy!

INGREDIENTS

Salad:

  • 2 medium zucchinis
  • Mixed greens/mescaline
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Cashews/pistachios/nut of your choice
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Pepper
Crostinis:
  • Baguette
  • 1 lb beef tenderloin/beef you can slice
  • Rosemary (fresh or dried)
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic powder or chopped garlic cloves
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Balsamic vinegar
Arugula Pesto:
  • Arugula
  • Olive oil
  • Walnuts or pine nuts (I used walnuts)
  • Parmesan
  • Pepper
  • Salt
STEPS
Arugula Pesto:
beef2Wash a big handful of arugula and place it in a food processor with a few tablespoons of olive oil, pepper, and your walnuts/pine nuts. Put the lid on and mix. If it doesn’t mix to a paste put a bit more olive oil in and try again.
Then add 2-3 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese and mix again.
Set aside.
 
Grilled Zucchini, Roasted Cashew & Shaved Parmesan Salad:
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  •  Grill the Zucchini: Turn the heat up high on your griddle/sandwich press. As it heats, wash the zucchini then slice and coat it with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill the zucchini when the griddle is hot. Remove from heat and let cool.
  • Roast the Nuts: Place the nuts in a skillet and heat it on Medium to toast them. Shake the pan every so often to prevent burning. Remove from heat when they’ve browned a bit and set aside to cool.
  • Prep the Salad Greens: Wash and drain the salad (I highly recommend a salad spinner for this) and place in a bowl. Drizzle a bit of olive oil and balsamic over the leaves, then grate some pepper, and mix.
  • Mix ‘Em Together: Throw on the zucchini, nuts, and grate some Parmesan on top.
It’s now ready to serve.

Crostini – Preparing the Bread:

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Thinly slice the baguette and arrange on a pan. Drizzle some olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder (or chopped garlic) on top. Heat in oven for about 5 mins (or until bread starts to brown). Turn off the oven but leave the bread in there to keep warm until the beef is ready.

Beef:
beef4Heat a skillet to medium-high.
Slice the beef thinly and coat it in some olive oil, a light drizzle of balsamic, some salt and pepper and rosemary. (If you’re using fresh rosemary pull the leaves off the sprigs.)
Line the pan with the beef, let it cool a minute or two then flip. The goal is to sear and cook it while still leaving a bit of pink in the middle.
Remove from heat.
To assemble the crostinis:
You can either pre-assemble all of them or place the pesto, hot bread and beef at the centre of the table for diners to help themselves to (which is what I did).
Here’s what you do:
– Spread some pesto on a slice
– Put some beef on it
– Put a bit more pesto on top
Savour the deliciousness!
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JAM! (And canning.)

Ok, it’s been a loooong time, but I’m back and ready to post about something AWESOME: Making Jam!!

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I’ve always been interested in making jam – it makes for such a nice, personal gift – and I fondly remember when my dad used to make it when we were little. I just wasn’t sure how it was done and the task seemed a little daunting.
Let me start off by saying this: It’s actually not hard! The more complicated part is the canning – but even that is actually pretty cool and fun.

After some quick Google searching (gotta love Google) I came across a really helpful blog post by a woman who enters her jam in competitions. She includes some great in-depth information about what to do, a bunch of progress photos, as well as a more concise recipe section at the bottom of the post (also included at the bottom of *this* post). But I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you read her entire post before attempting the recipe – it’ll make the process SO MUCH EASIER. And you’ll learn a lot of really valuable stuff for future canning endeavours.

Since this was our first time making jam we wanted to try something super simple, so we chose pectin-free peach jam. Pectin is that powdery stuff that helps to thicken jams & preserves… but we were able to achieve a thick yet spreadable consistency by just being patient and spending a little more time slowly boiling down/’reducing’ our concoction. (Note: You can’t rush this process since you could risk burning your jam – and it tends to spit all over the place when you turn up the heat… Yes, I tried…). I like my jam a little softer/more spreadable anyhow (I’d rather my jam doesn’t come out of the jar in chunks), so this turned out perfectly:

jampic2SO! Let’s get down to business.

Here’s the quick version of the recipe we found online:

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds of fresh Peaches
  • 3 cups of Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons of Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 cup of Water

Instructions

Prepare the jars for canning
    1. Wash jars and bands in hot, soapy water. Rinse
    2. Place jars inside a canner filled with water, bring to boil.
    3. Boil jars for 15 minutes to sterilize.
    4. Place lids and bands in warm water, do not boil. Leave until ready to use.
Peach Jam Recipe:
  1. Rinse the peaches under cool running water.
  2. Place whole fresh peaches in a pot of boiling water for 2 minutes.
  3. Remove and place in a sink with cold ice water.
  4. Peel peaches, remove the pit, slice in half, then into quarters.
  5. Slice each quarter into 2 or 3 chunks.
  6. Place cut peaches in bowl and toss with lemon juice.
  7. Place in food processor and pulse into small bits but do not liquefy.
  8. Place a saucepot on stove, set to medium heat.
  9. Add water, then sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved.
  10. Add peach pulp and continue to stir until it thickens.
  11. As it thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking and burning.
  12. When done, ladle into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.
  13. Remove air bubbles, wipe rim, add lid and band. Finger tighten.
  14. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner or according to the time for your altitude.
  15. Remove from canner, and place on folded towel for 24 hours in a draft free location.
  16. May be stored in a dark cool place for a year or longer.
  17. Enjoy

We took some video footage of our experience making the jam and put it on Instagram – but I’ll include links to them here as well:

Part 1

Part 2

Before you try out the recipe, you may be interested in reading about the simple modifications we made, making our life a little easier:

  • Except for the jars and fruit, you probably already have everything you need at home. We didn’t buy a canner, rack, special measuring utensil, can remover (to protect hands from the hot water) or funnel. If you want to, though, Canadian Tire offers a kit for $50 or a tool kit without the canner and rack for $16. Instead, we used two pots, a ruler, rubber gloves from the dollar store, and made a funnel from the top end of a plastic bottle. Our 12-pack of adorable bitty 125 mL cans came from Loblaws for about $12. (I’m a tad peeved since I just spotted the same pack available for $7.79 on Canadian Tire’s site – but what can ya do? We were already at Loblaws for the peaches so getting the jars there was convenient.)
  • Not enough big pots? No problem. I didn’t have an extra pot to boil the peaches in (to remove the skins) since my 2 big pots were already in use sterilizing the cans, so I put them in a big bowl and poured hot water from our kettle into it. I placed the bowl in the sink and then added a second kettle of boiled water to loosen the skins a bit more. Worked like a charm.
  • You can play around with flavours. We decided to take out some peaches and add in a mango for a slightly different flavour. Why not? Worked out well (since the overall fruit weight was still the same). You can try all sorts of fruit combos – have fun with it!
  • You don’t have to take recipes too literally. I don’t own a food processor yet, so we carefully pulsed the fruit in the blender (making sure we didn’t completely liquify it – we wanted some little fruit chunks still visible).
  • Oops. I forgot to toss the lemon juice on the sliced peaches so I added it into the blender and mixed it around with a spoon. This was ok since I worked quickly with the peaches, but if you let yours sit on the counter for a while they may brown – the lemon helps prevent this.

BIG TIPS:

  1. If you don’t own a canner & rack and decide to just use pots like we did, make sure you put your jars into the water while it’s still cool/lukewarm – this helps prevent them from cracking. I also didn’t bring the water to a rolling boil since I didn’t want my jars knocking against each other – so you may want to keep an eye on that. Some people use a towel for the bottom of the pot and between the jars – that’s up to you. Ours turned out fine and they ALL sealed properly! It was SO satisfying to hear the lids ping shut after removing them from the water, indicating they were properly done. Woo hoo!
  2. You’re going to wonder when the mixture has boiled down enough, and when it’s ready to place in the cans. Here’s what you do to check: Spoon a little bit of your mixture onto a plate and let it cool a bit. Then, run a finger through the middle. There should still be a space where your finger just was. If the jam quickly goes back to fill that space, it’s not ready yet.

The jam turned out deliciously!!
We spread some on leftover biscuits we had from brunch the other day, and on some hot, slightly crunchy toast. Mmm!

I designed and printed sticker labels for the lids…
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… and then packaged the jars up in a fun way:

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Now they’re lined up for some special folks, and we can’t wait to make more batches to give as gifts to more people.

If you have any questions feel free to put them in the comments section below – I’ll do my best to answer them!

Mu(n)ch love,

A

Scrumptious Vanilla-Orange French Toast

Yum yum yummy!

I heard about this idea from a friend, and thought I’d try making my own version. I’ve since repeated the recipe numerous times and it’s always a hit!

The flavour is fresh and homey– the orange is unexpected yet welcome, and the vanilla adds irresistible richness. — Not to mention cooking it will make your place smell fantastic.

Try it out and impress whoever you’re cooking for!

What you need (assuming the recipe is for 6 french toast pieces):

  • 4 eggs (about 1 extra large egg per 2 pieces of bread)
  • milk (a small dash)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest of 2 large oranges
  • bread slices (I use challah bread for this recipe)
  • grease (butter or margarine)
  • optional: pure maple syrup (I always use this!) & icing sugar (for decorated, “professional” appearance)

What you do:

Grate the zest off of the oranges, into a shallow, wide bowl.

Add your eggs, vanilla and dash of milk to the bowl. WHISK. (I use a plain ol’ fork for this.)

Let the egg mixture sit for at least 15 minutes (up to 30 mins), since this will help infuse the egg with the orange flavour. (You don’t want to let the egg sit out too long, though, for safety reasons.)

Get out the largest pan you have. Set it onto medium-high heat. Grease it.

Working with one piece of bread at a time, dunk the whole piece of bread into the egg mixture, so that the bread is lying face-down in the bowl. Let it soak in the egg for about 3 seconds. Flip the bread over, and let it soak on that side for another 3 seconds. Immediately transfer to the hot pan***. Repeat with as many slices as will fit comfortably in the pan.

Ensuring the first side of each bread/egg piece has cooked, flip them over to cook through the other side.

Set aside cooked french toast (stacking to keep warm), and repeat the process of greasing the pan and dunking, flipping & cooking the bread with however much bread is needed to use up the egg mixture.

Top with your favourite syrup and enjoy alone or with your choice of sides!

*** IMPORTANT: The more of the egg mixture that gets used up, the more of the orange zest that will stick to your bread slices when you soak ’em. Use your finger to swipe off excess orange, since it could end up being too much to handle. (Some is okay.)

Chive Scrambled Eggs


A simple twist on a classic, this is a super easy (and yummy) recipe.

What you need:

  • eggs (approx. 2-3 per person)
  • chives (amount depends on your preference)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • grease (I use butter or margarine)
  • milk (a small dash)

Here’s what you do:

Wash and chop up some chives (amount depends on your preference).

In a bowl, beat together however many eggs you need (I usually do 2-3 large eggs per person), a small splash of milk (to add fluff), a dash of salt and sprinkle of pepper, along with your chopped chives. You can use a traditional whisk, but I just use a fork. Try to beat quickly and well, because this will add air into the eggs which adds more of a fluffy texture.

Turn a stove element up to medium-high, grease a large pan (I usually use butter or margarine), and add in your egg mixture. With a spatula, slowly mix the eggs in a folding motion (bringing cooked egg to the top, and flipping uncooked egg to the bottom of the pan). “Cut” larger pieces with your spatula.

When your eggs look just cooked, remove from heat. Don’t overcook the eggs- the heat in them will help to further solidify the egg. If you’ve never made scrambled eggs before, this may take a few trials to master– you don’t want them wet, but you don’t want them over-cooked. You’ll figure out how you like them best.

Serve and enjoy!


Easy Peasy Home Made Iced Tea

Easy Peasy and so refreshing!

The variation shown here is caffeine-free (so I could enjoy it any time of day). Try it with any of your favourite teas– the flavour possibilities are endless!

  1. Boil enough water to fill a glass jug. (Not plastic, since the heat can increase your risk of ingesting harmful chemicals.)
  2. Insert 3-4 bags of your chosen tea flavours. You may want to use more tea bags, depending on how strong you want the flavour. The tea pictured here was a combination that included 1 cranberry & pomegranate tea bag, along with 2 blueberry tea bags (and a peppermint tea bag very briefly at the start for a bit of cooling mint sensation).
  3. Let steep until jug is no longer hot to the touch.
  4. Refrigerate.
  5. Enjoy!

Note: You may decide to add a little bit of flair to your iced tea with some FRESH FRUIT, like the strawberries pictured above. I also sometimes like to squeeze in a bit of fresh LEMON, or chop up some fresh MINT.

Alternately: You may decide to slice some citrus fruits and add your favourite berries (without tea) to create a lovely (milder) fruity water.

Creamy Chocolate Velvet

I found this gem of a recipe in Curtis Stone’s “Relaxed Cooking”. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to pull it off (it looked so fancy!), but it was actually quite easy and unbelievably good.

Let me post some descriptive words from Curtis, since they’re right on the mark:

“Smooth, beautiful, chocolatey– this is so much more delightful than a mousse, which contains a lot of air. This creamy chocolate velvet can be made the day before, and can be cooked in different-size and -shape pots or cups. Use good-quality chocolate; it will really make a difference to the texture and flavour” (Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone, p. 236).

I’m just going to copy the recipe word-for-word, since I had such an easy time with it.

Believe me, you’ll love this.

Ingredients

  • 1 2/3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao), coarsely chopped
  • 6 large egg yolks

Instructions

Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 250 F. Whisk the cream, milk sugar and vanilla in a medium-size heavy saucepan to blend, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the chocolate and whisk until all the chocolate has melted. Remove from the heat.

Using a whisk, stir the egg yolks in a large bowl to blend. Then, in a slow, steady stream, add the chocolate-cream mixture, whisking until smooth. Divide the mixture among 6 ramekins or small custard cups (each about 51/2 ounces), and place them in a large high-sided baking dish or roasting pan. Carefully transfer the pan to the centre rack in the oven. Add enough cold water to the baking dish so that it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for about 1 hour, or until the custards jiggle slightly in the centre when gently shaken (the custards will thicken as they chill). Let cool to room temperature, and then refrigerate until cold.

Serves 6

Skillet Chili Cornbread

The following is a variation on a jalapeno cornbread recipe I saw in the April 2011 issue of Style at Home magazine.
I didn’t have certain ingredients, so I substituted. One thing about cooking is that it’s okay to modify! Don’t get too concerned when you don’t have all the ingredients a recipe calls for– if you have a suitable substitute, try it out!
I’d never made corn bread before this attempt, and I wasn’t sure what to expect since I’d made some changes to the recipe… but my goodness, it was delicious!

The flavours of this bread are rich and addictive; It starts out sweet and scrumptious and finishes with a slightly spicy zing– not overpowering, but definitely welcome.

I also like this recipe since it’s super simple. This would be a fantastic accompaniment to so many meals, especially with soups– squash or root vegetable, perhaps?

New addition to the holiday rotation? I think so!
Plus, the house smells so nice while it’s baking!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk (the original recipe called for buttermilk, but I used almond milk)
  • 1 1/2 cups cornmeal (the original recipe called for stone-ground, but I used regular yellow cornmeal)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 dried chili peppers, seeds whole and peppers finely chopped

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Lightly grease a 9-inch cake pan or cast-iron skillet (I used a springform pan).
  3. Mix all dry ingredients well in medium-sized bowl.
  4. In a large bowl, beat the eggs well. Then beat in the milk and butter (I used a fork, or you can also use a whisk).
  5. Add dry ingredients into the large bowl with the wet ingredients, and mix with a spoon until everything is fully blended.
  6. Pour batter into the prepared pan, and gently pat with your hand so that it fills the bottom of the pan.
  7. Bake on centre rack of oven for 30-35 minutes, until bread is set.
  8. Slice into slivers while still warm (to prevent crumbling) and enjoy!

Makes about 12 slices.