My Favourite Soup Right Now

The other day I had a big bunch of tomatoes that were on their way out and as it would have broken my heart to throw them away I decided to try and save as many of them as I could and make some homemade tomato soup. I washed them and then trimmed all the nasty bits and threw them into the pot.  As I peered into the pot it looked like a rather meagre offering so I had a bit of a think and then remembered I had a full jar of roasted red peppers!  They joined the tomatoes along with a few other ingredients and I ended up with a really delicious soup!

Here’s how it came together:

Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup

1/4 cup of butter

1 – 1 1/2 lbs. of ripe red tomatoes cut into chunks

1 med. red onion, chopped

1 – 20 oz jar of roasted red peppers cut into chunks

salt and pepper to season

1 tsp.sugar

1 tsp. red wine vinegar

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (add as much or as little as you like)

5 – 6 cups of vegetable broth

1/2 cup of half and half

fresh basil for garnish

Melt butter in a large pot, saute onions until soft.  Add tomatoes and peppers and cook until the tomatoes break down and lose their skins. Season with salt, pepper, sugar, red wine vinegar and red pepper flakes, stir to combine, add vegetable broth bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer for about 30 minutes. Turn off heat and puree with an immersion blender, strain removing all seeds and skins and return to a low heat, add cream stir and gently heat through. Serve with a garnish of chopped fresh basil.

Paula’s Cheddar Dill Tea Biscuits

Sometimes you just want soup! It’s my ultimate comfort food but of course soup needs a partner something to soak up all that delicious soup! A nice baguette is always a favourite but today I made tea biscuits and not just any old tea biscuits, this recipe is loosely based on my Granny’s recipe and they are light as air.

 

Paula’s Cheddar Dill Tea Biscuits.

2 cups of all purpose flour

2 generous tsp. of baking powder

1/2 scant tsp. of baking soda

1 tsp. of cream of tartar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp. sugar

1/3 cup of cold butter cut into cubes

1 large egg

1/2 cup of white cheddar cut into a 1/4 inch dice

1 tbsp. of chopped fresh dill

milk

Preheat oven to 450 F.  In a stand mixer (or by hand) mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt and sugar until well combined.  Add the cold butter and mix until it forms lumps the size of peas, add the cheese and dill and combine.  Add the egg and allow it to mix through and then add milk a little at a time until you have a soft dough.  Turn out onto a floured board and roll about 1/2 inch thick, cut into biscuits and arrange closely on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Top with melted butter or rub tops with a little milk if you like. Bake for 12 minutes.  Makes 12 biscuits.

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The Quest for the perfect Mac and Cheese

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Like everyone else I’ve been making macaroni and cheese forever but I’ve just never been completely satisfied with my results.  I’ve made some good ones over the years but nothing that really blew the top off…..until now.  I can proudly say that I’ve just made the best basic mac and cheese of my career and I’m quite thrilled.  The proof came when I got my husband to taste the sauce and I got an “oh yeah” and a head nod, you see, my husband does not like homemade mac and cheese, he prefers the “ahem” boxed stuff ( I like it too but homemade is better in my opinion).

Anyway I’m tickled pink and thought I would share my recipe for anyone interested or has also been in the pursuit of a fabulous mac and cheese recipe.

Most of these measurements will be approximate as I never really measure anything when I make mac and cheese.  (This might be part of my problem).

Paula’s Mac and Cheese

About 1 1/2 cups of dry pasta of your choice suitable for mac and cheese

Big pot of salted water.

3 tbsp. unsalted butter

1/2 small onion chopped

1/4 cup of white flour

1/2 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. tumeric

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

1/4 cup of half and half

3 cups of milk

1 tbsp. yellow mustard (the wet, not dry)

3 ounces of crumbled gorgonzola

1/2 cup of grated emmenthal (or swiss or gruyere) cheese

2 cups of grated cheddar cheese

Topping

1/2 cup of bread crumbs

1 tbsp. of melted butter

1 tsp. of chopped fresh parsley

Bring water to a hard boil, add pasta, cook until al dente, drain.

In a saucepan, melt butter, add onion, cook until tender with no colour.  Add paprika, tumeric, salt and pepper, stir to combine, add flour and cook for about a minute.  Add milk and half and half slowly, whisking all the time to get rid of lumps, cook for about 5 minutes add yellow mustard continuing to stir.  Add cheeses and whisk to incorporate and keep on the heat until melted.  In a buttered casserole dish pour in sauce, add pasta a spoonful at a time until you feel you have enough and give it a good stir to meld it all together.  For topping, mix together the melted butter, bread crumbs and parsley and sprinkle over top of the mac and cheese.  Bake for 20 – 30 minutes until golden and bubbly.

 

 

Creamy Cauliflower Soup a la Paula

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I recently found myself with a huge head of cauliflower and despite using it for a couple salads there was still an amazingly large portion of it left.  As it was getting a little past it’s prime I figured the best way to use it up was to make a pot of soup.  I checked my cook books and didn’t really have the right ingredients for any of their cauliflower soups so I set out to make my own, turns out I was thrilled with the results!  Here is the Paula version of Creamy Cauliflower Soup, I hope you will give it a try.

1 large head of cauliflower cut into florets (save a handful of the nicest and smallest florets for garnish)

1/4 cup of butter

1 large onion chopped

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

salt and pepper to taste  (don’t add to much, you can taste and always add more if needed)

6-8 cups of chicken stock (enough to entirely cover cauliflower)

1/4 tsp. fresh grated nutmeg

1/2 cup of half and half

1/2 cup grated gruyere cheese

In a large sauce pan, melt butter and saute onions and cayenne pepper, add cauliflower, salt and pepper and  continue to saute for a couple minutes.  Add stock and cover, cook for about 20 minutes until cauliflower is very tender.  Turn off heat and  puree with an immersion blender until completely smooth.  Add nutmeg, cheese and half and half and stir until cheese is completely melted.  Throw in your florets and gently heat for about 10 minutes the florets will still be a little firm.  Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.  Sprinkle over a little fresh parsley and enjoy with a nice crusty bread!

Panettone, looks pretty, but usually dryer than a popcorn fart.

pannetoneOkay, we’ve all received that beautifully boxed Italian Christmas bread/cake with high hopes that this time it might just be edible.  The more beautiful the box, the higher the expectations, but alas, it’s always the same old, dry, nasty cakey thing you remember.  Well I’ve decided that rather than wait a courteous amount of time and then discreetly toss it away, this year I would make lemonade out of lemons, or I should say bread pudding out of pannetone.  Just substitute the pannetone for the bread, use about half the amount of sugar as the pannetone is already sweetened and voila!  It makes extra good bread pudding as it usually has wonderful things in it like raisins, or other dried fruit, the one I got this year had dark chocolate chunks and the pudding was extra super duper delicious!

Here is what I did with this years’ pannetone:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Grease a 9″ x 9″ x 3″ glass or ceramic baking dish

About 2 1/2 – 3 cups of whole milk

2 eggs

1 tsp. real vanilla

1 tbsp. butter

1/2 c. sugar

about 1/2 large size pannetone torn into chunks

In a large bowl beat the milk and eggs together, add vanilla and sugar beat some more.  Add chunks of the pannetone and keep adding as long as the milk will sop it up.  Dot with butter and bake for about 1 hour and 15 – 30 minutes.  Test with a toothpick and make sure it comes out clean.  Serve warm or at room temp. with cream, half and half or vanilla ice cream.  Yummy!

Parsnips and Scallops!, who knew?

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Hello everyone, I know it’s been a while but after a very busy summer I think it’s about time I got back to blogging.  So, without further ado here’s my first recipe for you after taking a few months off.

Here in Ontario we are lucky to have a publication offered free at our local LCBO stores.  A beautifully produced magazine called Food & Drink, the photo’s and recipes are always mouthwatering and inspiring.  I leaf through these every time a new edition comes out and as my drool hits the page vow to make as many of these scrumptious dishes as I can.  The Autumn 2013 issue had this little gem and it tastes every bit as good as it looked in the photo.  I hope you get a chance to try it out.

Parsnip Soup with Scallops and Grated Horseradish Froth – serves 4

Froth

1/2 c whipping cream

1/2 c milk

1/2 c of fresh grated horseradish (okay, I confess, I used prepared horseradish here NOT the creamed kind, and it worked just fine)

salt to taste

Soup

2 tbsp butter

1 lb. parsnips, peeled and diced

1 c chopped onion

1 c Yukon Gold potatoes peeled and diced

4 cups of chicken stock

salt and freshly ground pepper

Garnish

1 tbsp butter

4 large sea scallops (seasoned with salt and pepper) ( I used two scallops per person as this was served as a dinner)

2 tbsp. of finely chopped fresh chives

Method

combine cream, milk and horseradish in a small pot, bring to a boil, lower heat and let simmer for about 5 minutes.  Let cool, strain to remove horseradish and season with a little salt.

Heat 2 tbsp butter in a soup pot over med. heat  Add diced parsnips, onion and potatoes and saute for about 5 minutes, add chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and let cook for about 20 minutes until veggies are soft.  Using an immersion blender puree until smooth, add salt and pepper to taste.

Heat 1 tbsp. of butter to a skillet. Over high heat, sear the scallops about 2 minutes per side until golden brown.

Froth the horseradish cream mixture, I used a hand held frother usually used to froth milk for cappucino, but some immersion blenders have a frothing attachment.

Ladle soup into bowls, top with a scallop and a couple of tbsp. of the froth and sprinkle with chopped chives.

My husband and I oohed and ahhed our way through every spoonful!

Zippy Corn and Cheddar Chowder

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This recipe is somewhat similar to a corn cheddar recipe by a famous cook who here shall remain nameless, however I have given it my own twist and frankly,  if I do say so myself,  like it better.   This recipe was really the result of a necessary fridge cleaning , I had some bbq’d ears of corn left over from a few days ago, some boiled potatoes also left over from a previous meal, a box of chicken stock with only about 1/2 cup missing and so, not having the heart to throw all this in the bin, I was pretty sure I could turn it into something tasty for our dinner tonight.  So this is how it played out.

Zippy Corn and Cheddar Chowder   serves 4

4 strips of bacon cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 tbsp of olive oil

2 tbsp bacon

1 yellow onion chopped

1/4 cup of  flour

1/2 tsp of salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1/2 tsp turmeric

2 cups of diced boiled potatoes

3 1/2 cups of chicken stock

4 ears of barbequed corn, kernels cut from cob, toss the cobs

1 cup of grated cheddar cheese

1/2 cup of half and half

1 tbsp of Franks Red Hot Sauce

Saute bacon in olive oil on med. heat  until crisp, remove from pan, add butter and onions to pan and saute until onions are tender but not browned, add flour, salt, pepper and turmeric, cook for a minute or two and gradually add in stock stirring to keep a smooth consistency.  Add cooked potatoes and barbequed corn, bring to a boil, keep stirring to avoid lumps.  Reduce heat to med. low and add half and half and cheddar.  Allow the cheese to melt and then add hot sauce.  Serve with a nice chunk of bread and a garnish of bacon bits.

Holy Aioli!

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So, loving all things Provence, I decided to try my hand at aioli.  I felt it may be somewhat of a daunting task as I had recently watched an episode of  ‘ Anthony Bourdain No Reservations’,  where he decided this was something too difficult and finnicky for him to try and attempt.  Still, it felt like a challenge and it sure looked good slathered all over those lovely veggies so I was willing to give it a go.  Now I must add that months ago I planted garlic and luckily it was ready for harvesting as I made my decision to make a pot of aioli.  The bulbs were very small but there was definitely an added bonus and a little pride in being able to use my own garlic.  So the recipe and method go as follows:

2 – 4 large cloves of garlic ( use more if your cloves are small)

1/2 tsp salt

2 egg yolks

1 cup of olive oil

In a mortar and pestle, grind up the garlic and salt to a very smooth paste, don’t cheat here, it has to be very smooth.  Add egg yolks one at a time and continue to stir with the pestle incorporating really well and keeping a thick, smooth consistancy, add olive oil a few drops at a time and continue to stir with the  pestle, keep doing this until you’ve used all the olive oil, your arm will be quite tired but I believe if you do this on a regular basis you will develop amazing upper body strength!  When you are finished the aioli should be thick enough to stand the pestle upright in the aioli.  If you like you can add a couple of tbsp. of lemon juice for extra flavour.  Serve this over steamed potatoes, carrots, green beans, asparagus, boiled eggs, poached or pan fried cod fish, just about anything you want.  It packs incredible flavour to just about anything although I don’t think serving it over ice cream would be a good choice here.  Needless to say it turned out to be a great success, all it took was a little patience.  This recipe requires patience more than anything else,  without it there’s a good chance your aioli will split and turn into a great disappointment, so steady on, it was well worth the effort!  To complete the meal I baked a couple of loaves of french bread.  I’ve been looking for the right recipe for french bread for ages and finally think I’ve found it!, but that’s another post!  Happy Eating!

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Tasty twist on a taco

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This recipe was inspired by one of the many cooking shows I enjoy,  I’ve taken inspiration from the original concoction,  but given it my own spin.  I love Mexican food, beans, rice, spicy, corn, salsa, guacamole, all so very yummy to me, especially taco’s, my very favourite.  My youngest son once ate eight beef taco’s in a row when he was about ten or eleven,  I don’t know if  he set  a record but we were certainly very impressed  and maybe a little concerned there wouldn’t be enough for everyone else at the time, lol!   He has since become a vegetarian so your beef taco’s are safe, at least from him.  These are a little different and much more tasty in my opinion, I hope you will give them a  try, I don’t think you will be disappointed

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Pork and Bean Tacos – serves 4

Meat Mixture

2 tbsp. olive oil

Pork tenderloin, 3/4 lb or so, cut into a 1/4 inch dice

1 heaped tsp. of  fennel seeds.

1 heaped tsp. of smoked mild paprika

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

salt and pepper

Beans

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 can of black beans with liquid

1 ear of fresh corn

3 spring onions

1 large jalapeno pepper

1 tsp of cumin seeds

2 cloves of garlic minced

salt and pepper

Fresh Topping

1 medium tomato, diced

1 large or 2 small avocado diced

1 hand full of fresh cilantro leaves

juice of  1 or 2 fresh limes (if your limes aren’t giving up much juice use 2)

salt and pepper

olive oil

Garnish

1/2 cup sour cream marbled with 2 tbsp. hot sauce

8 or ten hard corn taco shells, warmed for 5 minutes in a 350 F oven.

In a frying pan on med. high heat, heat 2 tbsp. of  olive oil, add the fennel seeds , diced tenderloin, smoked paprika, ground cumin and salt and pepper, cook stirring often so the pork doesn’t stick to the pan,  until a deep colour and well done.  Meanwhile in another frying pan on med. heat, heat 2 tbsp of  olive oil, add spring onions, corn, jalapeno pepper, cumin seeds, salt and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes, add garlic and cook for another minute, don’t let the garlic burn, add black beans with the liquid from the tin, reduce the heat a little and continue to cook for about 10 minutes until most of the liquid had evaporated.

In a  bowl mix together chopped tomatoes, diced avocados, cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper and then drizzle with a little olive oil.

In a small bowl add sour cream and stir in hot sauce

Assembly:

I like to start with the bean mixture in the bottom of the taco shell, it kind of holds everything else in place, (at least to some degree), then pork , then the mix of fresh ingredients and top it off with a dollop of the sour cream/hot sauce mixture.  This is just so flavourful your taste buds will be doing a little dance!  Enjoy!

What to do with that last, fat, lobster claw.

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Last evening my husband and I were lucky enough to have a lovely feed of lobster.  So much fun, sitting outside, up to our elbows in lobster bits and melted butter.  The freedom of eating outside tends to lend itself, or at least in our cases to extra messiness and I’m pretty sure the lobster tasted all the better for it.   We  happily jammed those delicious butter soaked morsels of tender lobster meat into our maws until we could take no more and as we finally looked up realized that there was yet one lonely lobster claw that had managed to escape our savagery.  Now as we all know, no lobster shall go uneaten, it’s an unwritten law or something, but just one claw, what to do?  “I know, I’ll make us a lobster benedict for breakfast”, I said and, true to my word that is just what I did!  I made eggs benedict as I normally do with toasted bread layered with bacon and then a poached egg, but I mixed the chopped lobster meat into the lemony hollandaise sauce and voila!  Lobster Benedict!  It was very yummy and very rich so be warned, you don’t need much to be sated.  Just a nice subtle lobster flavour to accompany all the other goodies of an Eggs Benedict, a nice ‘once in a while’ treat!