Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Bowen Island Getaway

Before the Christmas rush began some friends rented a house out on Bowen Island and how can you say no to that?
I'm not actually fishing, I just like casting and I'm pretty sure you can't catch anything in 5 cm deep water, but let's just pretend I am.

Perfect weather.

Just out watering the herbs! No, not really. There was supposed to be a herb garden but we couldn't find it, though being December might have had something to do with it.

Honestly, look at that view. Fully equipped kitchen, Bon Iver tuneage, crackling fireplace, glass of red, leave me there.

Small little grocery store, very few choices, 7 hungry people..

Easy easy, pasta and grilled meat.

Island contentment.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Meatballs, 2 Ways

Spicy Meatball Subs
Gift exchange eats! My favorite way to make them is with ground veal, beef, pork and Italian sausage and simmered in a San Marzano tomato sauce.

Perfect for a party, you can make it ahead of time and just warm it on site. I pre-ordered Vietnamese baguettes from my fave banh mi shop on Kingsway, for this I prefer them over French baguettes because they're lighter, crispy and not as bready.

A little mizuna ( a green similar to arugula but slightly less peppery) fresh shaved parm and a warning from our hostess that she would kill anyone who drops a meatball on her large cream suede ottoman.

Spaghetti and Meatballs
The week before the party was actually where I got the idea for the subs. I was craving total comfort food and this is exactly what I wanted. A couple friends came over and thought we could catch a movie later on but I told them we had a surprise guest coming over. They said, tell em to come! I said we have to stay home, just wait!

Meet Rufio, I was puppy sitting! They were pretty enamored with the guest :)

You'd think he was the one that ate the pasta. The little guy pretty much slept the whole night.

Makes approx 45

1/2 white onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb ground chuck beef
1 lb ground veal
1/2 lb ground pork
1/2 lb Italian sausage (ask butcher for this or buy sausage and remove casings)
2 eggs
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup fresh grated parmigiano reggiano (optional)
1/2 whole wheat panko bread crumbs, give or take
10 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp chili flakes
*if paleo, omit water, cheese and bread crumb)

1. In a small pan saute onion and garlic until soft, let cool.
2. Mix together all 4 meats, add in onion and garlic, basil, chili flakes, s+p eggs and water, just till combined.
3. Preheat small pan with a little oil
4. Add in whole wheat panko, just enough until mixture comes together.
5. Take a bit of the ground meat mixture and form into a little patty, pan fry till done, taste and check for seasoning.
6. Form into golf ball size rounds. In a large pan with oil, fry until golden brown on all sides. Place in tomato sauce.

San Marzano Tomato Sauce
2-12 oz can San Marzano Whole Tomatoes
25 oz bottle of tomato puree
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp chili flakes
1 tsp sugar (if needed)
6 fresh basil leaves, rough chopped

1. In a large pot, saute garlic until soft, add San Marzano tomatoes and puree. Slightly crush the whole tomatoes.
2. Season with chili flakes, sugar, s+p and basil. Let simmer.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Secret Santa

At the beginning of December friends and I have a Secret Santa gift exchange, we do dinner and then open presents.

It's pretty obvious to whoever gets me that I'm their Secret Santa. Last year I did a 3 course dinner for my friend, so everybody knows if I get you, you're gettin food!

Bachelor friends are pretty easy to please.
(I hid the tag but he knew as soon as he opened the cookies)

For dinner that night a bunch of us made food and brought it over (full post comin up). My friend Soph's the host sent me a message a few days before:
S: Hey, how can I combine potatoes with mac and cheese.
Me: Seriously?
Me: Well you could make mac and cheese, top it with mashed potatoes, cover it with more cheese and bake it.
Me: That's total carbolicious overload're going to comatose everybody. but DO IT.
S: I'm doin it.

When your real fam doesn't live in the same city, you feel pretty grateful for your second family of tight friendships :)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Rib Eye Steak with Wild Mushroom Bacon Ragout

It's funny, I don't really like to put a label on how I eat or what I eat. I went to a nutrition school where everyone was very adamant about only bringing in their soaked nuts, kale, quinoa salads, kombucha and whole grain sandwiches but then felt bad when they let it slip that they ate chips and cookies on the weekend. I went to a French cuisine based culinary school so no matter what I was taught, I knew there was no way I'd cut out butter, flour and sugar. Now, it just tends to be more in moderation. It's only my little opinion, but I just think there's a need to really not care what anyone thinks. Everybody is different and everyone has foods that work and don't work for them. For myself, I eat whatever makes me feel good (eating a chunk of cookie dough as I type!). I was just talking to a lady who has been on a raw food diet for a year and feels fabulous. Awesome, that's what works for her! I once tried take out from Gorilla Foods, a raw food resto downtown, I had one bite of the collard green wrap and came home and stuffed it with chicken.

That said, I seem to naturally eat pretty Paleo during the weekdays. Breakfast is usually eggs, avocado,vegetables and fruit and dinner is usually meat and veg, like this Rib Eye with Wild Mushroom Bacon Ragout. Meat and veg can get a little boring so I like to come up with things that will compliment the protein. I know not everybody is a fan of mushrooms, so it can absolutely be substituted with a vegetable you like such as roasted butternut squash, zucchini, asparagus. Pretty much everything goes well with bacon. Well except Vegetarianism..but good on you!

Rib Eye Steak with Wild Mushroom Bacon Ragout
(Serves 2)
2 cups cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 cup chanterelle mushrooms, torn into pieces
10 strips bacon, sliced crosswise in 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 white onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
1/2 cup low sodium beef stock (or chicken stock)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
s+p to taste
2 rib eye steaks, grilled, broiled or pan fried
kale, steamed
cherry tomatoes, roasted
2 eggs, sunny side up

1. In a medium size pan, fry bacon until crispy. Transfer bacon to a side plate and reserve bacon fat. Sample bacon, obviously for quality control purposes.

2. Add back 3 tbsp of bacon fat, saute onions until caramelized on medium high heat. Add mushrooms, garlic and thyme and cook until soft.

3. Add beef stock and balsamic vinegar, turn heat on high and reduce down until sauce becomes thick. Add bacon back in, season with salt and pepper.

4. Place kale and tomatoes on plate, add steak, mushroom ragout and a sunny side up egg because we all know everything tastes better with an egg on top.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Vancouver Winter Farmers Market

If you ever need to find me on a Saturday morning this is where I'll be. Every. Saturday. Freezing rain, slushy snow or lack of sleep, I won't miss it! These are the potatoes I can't stop talking about. Get your butt outa bed if only to come for these.

The stand is called Helmer's Organic

Purebread, artisan bread and baked goods brought down from Whistler.

Get the lavender earl grey scone, rosemary chocolate cookie or pudgie pie (croissant type dough stuffed with goat cheese and caramelized onions).

Chanterelles! Probably my fave mushroom. Saute w/ butter, garlic, splash of white wine or marsala, cream, s+p. Spread on crostinis, stuff in an omelette or eat straight out of the pan.

Maple syrup! I was talking to the guys here about the maple syrup process. From extracting the sap from the tree, to boiling it down, to what it yields after its been reduced to a syrup, it's pretty crazy how much it takes just to fill one bottle. They also have maple syrup hot chocolate. Soo good, very similar to the hot chocolate I had in Spain, it's thick and rich. My friend and I shared 1/2 a cup and it pretty much filled my daily chocolate quota!

Squash season. My fave way to eat it right now: cut in half, scoop out seeds, roast cut side down at 375 degree F until a knife can easily be stabbed through with no resistance, scoop out the inside and add a spoonful of coconut oil and salt and pepper.

This farmer has the nicest carrots and the best kale, it's slightly sweet which he told me is because of the freezing temperatures we've had.

The only place I buy salmon. Local, wild, sustainable and flash frozen at sea. Really the best I've ever had. Fish should never have a fishy smell when you cook it, if it does...then you know it's really not that fresh.

Sunchokes! Roast with s+p or mash with the Sieglende potatoes and a drizzle of truffle oil.

I don't trust a vegetable that doesn't have a little dirt on it. If you find a bug in your salad don't freak out, be glad those greens came from the earth! Unless it's an Asian restaurant, then it might just be bad handling...I once found an animal tooth in my sweet and sour chicken, but that's a whole other story.

Best handcrafted local sausage of all time.

Saltspring Island Cheese, love the lemon chevre. (Bought 3, one to bring back home for Christmas, and the others for wine night or a last minute dinner party)

My good friend who had never been to the market came with me one time and was in total aw as a local musician played and kids danced around, he said "everyone is so happy here..!". I said, yeaa! Surrounded by food, how could you NOT be!?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fleur del Sel Toffee Chocolate Pretzel Cake

Can you imagine if we didn't make mistakes? If we didn't make mistakes how could we learn from them or discover something new? Here are a few of mine as of late...

Slipped and hurt my back at Crossfit
Lesson: Listen to your body when you start to feel yourself burning out.
Discovery: I feel very fortunate for my body and what it does for me. I will also never take for granted putting on a pair of pants.

When recovering, trading baking in for Crossfit is never really a good thing.
Discovery: You start to get really creative in the kitchen.
-Friends love you even more for getting to be your taste testers.
-You will love your Lululemon lycra workout pants even more than you did before.

Rushing to get ready for work I somehow managed to put my underwear on backwards. and inside out. and it's not exactly granny underwear. (sorry too much?)
Lesson: Getting ready 5 minutes early would be super beneficial.
Discovery: Hanky Pankys really are extremely comfortable (ask everyone of my girlfriends, they will concur).
-Apparently I can't dress myself but I can bake 2 dozen cupcakes while cutting a cake, while boiling butter and sugar for toffee and whipping chocolate buttercream.

My mom taught me this, it helps keep the edges clean when you're icing a cake, when you're done just pull out the parchment paper and voila! Clean sides with no messy icing left on the cake plate.

Late night baking, 2 a.m. Still waiting for my neighbours to pound on my door complaining about the loud screeching noise my kitchenaid mixer likes to make. In the back of my mind hoping a sincere apology and fresh baked goods would make things a-ok.

I baked this cake for my friends birthday and forgot the baking powder.
Lesson: Thoroughly read over your recipe, no matter how confident you think you are at making a cake.
Discovery: 10 minutes in you can still save the cake by pouring the warm batter back into a mixing bowl, adding the baking powder and it will still turn out great!

Trust, faith, patience, perseverance and I think things will turn out just the way they are meant to be.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Intuitive eating

I've definitely learned to listen to my body these days, it drives me nuts to hear about crazy diets, magic pills, formulas and packaged low fat foods that are on the market. Finding a balance is different for everybody but for me it starts with what I eat. Intuitive eating; eat when you're hungry, eat what you crave, stop when you're satisfied. But make sure most of the time (scroll to my post on Portland and lunch at Save on Meats if you're sick of this already!) it's clean, whole foods and includes greens galore, healthy fats and protein. Exercise, strength train, sweat, find something you love. My faves are running, crossfit, yoga and snowboarding. That's definitely not for everyone but don't stop searching until you find something that makes you want to get that adrenaline goin and that heart rate up! Portion control, which leads back to intuitive eating and eating just until you feel satisfied. We're not kids anymore, you don't have to finish your plate, save it for later!

Random shots of eating what I crave:

After a hot flow yoga class: Light lunch of toasted Persian flatbread, tomatoes, roasted balsamic asparagus, poached egg w/ truffle salt, Italian olive oil tuna, 6 yr aged cheddar, Nicoise olives. (Not shown, coconut water; hydrate hydrate hydrate, nature's natural source of electrolytes).

After Crossfit: MEAT.

Vegetables, perfectly cooked and loaded with flavor (shown here, brussels sprouts and swiss chard with leeks, garlic, white wine and bacon). When I cook with bacon I use an organic, nitrate free kind.

I try and prep things ahead of time so I can grab something quick or throw together a salad (shown here, steamed broccoli, swiss chard, roasted butternut squash, caramelized onion and garlic hummus)

On a cold wet, rainy Vancouver day:
Comfort food stews like Coq au Vin (Chicken stewed with carrots, onions, celery, red wine, chicken stock, bacon and mushrooms)

When I'm fighting off a cold:
When I'm sick and can't smell or taste food I get super sad, so I'll eat for texture and to fuel and nourish the body: Chili with spinach, fried egg, pickled red onion, avocado, tomato. My cure all sick concoction: Fresh juiced apple and a TON of fresh ginger, mixed with orange juice, 1 packet of orange emergenC, side of coldfx and sleep sleep sleep!

Often, very often: (Who am I kidding, ALWAYS.)
Cookies, chocolate, DESSERT. Life is not worth living for without this. But make it the best cookie, best chocolate, best dessert you can get your hands on, cheap stuff aint worth it!

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Challenge

Most challenging dinner party menu planning everr! 8 friends, all with various food restrictions. Ready for this?

-No Dairy -No Fruit
-No Sugar -No Grains -No Starch -No Shellfish
-No Nuts -No Chicken -No Beef -No Pork

I know. I thought about putting a huge bowl of spinach in the middle and passing out forks but of course that's not me. Truth be told, I love a challenge. Two of our friends were visiting from out of town, our mutual friend had introduced us as, Mary is YOU but in San Francisco! This girl loves food. I've always wanted to cook for her.

So the menu I designed had options for everyone.

-Brined Roasted Free Range Organic Local Chicken
-Local Provencal Style Chicken Sausage
-Roasted BC Sockeye Salmon

-Local Greens, Crispy Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus, Soft Boiled Eggs, Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Vincotto (Balsamic Roasted Asparagus for no pork friend)

-Ratatouille (1/2 with Whole Wheat Panko Bread Crumbs and Feta, 1/2 without)

-Aged Cheddar, Butternut Squash and Kale Bread Pudding

-Truffled Mashed Potatoes

-Double Chocolate Lavender Sea Salt Ice Cream Sandwiches (No sugar, no fruit friends really can't be helped)

My awesome friend Son's helped me tie these. "You have to work fast before they melt, also I like the thicker pieces of rafia, not the scraggly ones!". "Yes Laura!". When a couple of our other friends showed up they were actually talking about ice cream sandwiches, ohh really I said, you like ice cream sandwiches? I'll keep that in mind...

Cheese factor, get ready.
Love, Heart and Soul. I truly believe these have to go into your cooking and I really do think you can taste it. 3am the night before I'm roasting off butternut squash, dicing shallots, sauteing kale and I'm happy. Tired! But happy. Why? Because I know who I'm feeding and I know how appreciative they are.

Ever wonder why the host waits till everyone gets their food? Of course to be polite, but we're also probably not that hungry after tasting and smelling it, while cooking it all day. Another reason is to sit back and watch your guests (hopefully!) enjoy themselves.

Last night? Silence (because food was being shoveled into mouths), the friend who says the bf neverr takes seconds and the friend who described my ice cream sandwich as this exquisite texture of crispy, soft and chewy and the perfect contrast of sweet and salty. I tried really hard not to smile. First time I ever met him, he knew nothing about me and said if it were possible, he would rather take a pill instead of eat real food. Knew I could change that.