Saturday, December 31, 2011

Roast Turkey and the BEST Shortbread EVER - Celebrating the last day of 2011

The last day of 2011 is certainly cause for celebration this year - celebration of God's provision and each other, of change and the unknown.  So today we had a celebration feast - on the menu:  Appetizer: Extra old White Cheddar with Scottish Oat Cakes and Sesame Rice Crackers served with Spicy Hummus and clementines; Main: Roast Turkey with Maple Mashed Sweet Potatoes; Dessert: Creme Caramel coffee with Homemade Shortbread.

We laughed and feasted then gathered around the tv to watch the family-friendly classic comedies: The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, The Reluctant Astronaut and The Shakiest Gun in the West.

I think a new tradition was born today in our little family.  From now on we will take this day as a family to celebrate and reflect on the many blessings we've received throughout the past year (and the challenges) as we welcome in a new year of excitement and possibility.

Roasted Turkey
  • 5-6 kg Butterball turkey (10-12 lbs)
  • Olive Oil
  • Clementines, halved
  • Fresh Rosemary
  • Fresh Ground Sea Salt and Pepper
  • Onion, cut into 8 wedge
  • 1-2 Tbsps Cornstarch
Thaw turkey overnight in the sink.  Remove giblets.
Preheat oven to 500F. And rub the entire bird down generously with olive oil.  Season well with salt and pepper.

Stuff cavity loosely with onions wedges, clementines and fresh rosemary.  Sprinkle a few rosemary leave on top of the bird as well.

Cover tightly with foil.  Place in the oven (I had to remove my top rack) and turn down the temperature to 350F.  Roast, basting every 20-30 minutes.  After around 3 hours, remove foil so the skin will turn brown and crispy.  Continue roasting and basting until the internal temp of the fattest part of the breast/thigh reaches 170-175F (it took our 5.5 kg turkey 3.5 hours).

Remove from oven and let rest for 30 minutes uncovered.  Continue to baste every ten minutes or so.

Strain drippings through a gravy separator and pour into a saucepan.  In a small bowl, mix cornstarch with several spoonfuls of drippings to dissolve.  Add to saucepan to slightly thicken the gravy.
Serve turkey and gravy with your favorite potatoes and/or veggies.

We always remove every bit of usable meat from our bird and make stock.  If you think that sounds complicated, see for yourself ...

All you do is place the turkey carcass in a big pot with a lid.  Cover with water.  I throw in everything extra - all the bones, skin, wings.  Throw in some rough chopped celery (the best part is the leafy heart), carrots and onion.  Season with a little fresh ground pepper.  Taste and make sure the salt is good ... you might need to add a little more.  Simmer on low for at least 6 hours.  It can really go all day.  When it's finished, strain with a colander ... and you are left with the most beautiful stock.  Store in the fridge or freeze for future use - make sure to skim off the layer of fat that forms on top.  I usually make a turkey noodle soup the next day to use up the leftovers ...

Shortbread (adapted from Jamie Oliver)
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp powdered sugar (icing sugar)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup semolina
Preheat oven to 300F.  Cream together butter and sugar.

Slowly fold in (on the lowest mixer speed) flour and semolina.  Just in case you've never used semolina before, it can usually be found in the rice section of the grocery store (here in Canada).  It really gives these cookies a great texture.

The dough will resemble coarse crumbs.  Knead by hand a few times and press into a buttered 9x9.

Prick with a fork.


Bake 50 minutes.  Cool for a few minutes, then cut and dust with powdered sugar. They're yummy warm, but the payoff is when they're completely cooled.

So ... happy last day of 2011!!  We only get it once ... so make an effort to celebrate it well! :)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Harvest Apple Pie

This is the last fall we will be spending in this house ... and the first for apples on our tree.  They were small, VERY tart and we had just enough for one pie.  So here it is .... apple pie with an all butter pastry!

I used a pastry crust recipe from Simply Recipes.  I personally prefer an all butter crust over lard or shortening.  Before I bake the pie, I glaze it with one egg yolk mixed with 1 tbsp water.  The end product is perfectly golden, rich and flaky ... just delicious!

The filling is typical, but I always choose brown sugar over white for richness.

8 medium-large tart apples
2 tbsp lemon juice
3/4 cup  brown sugar
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon

Mix together and place into prepared bottom pie dough.  Top and seal with remaining pie dough (lattice or solid - whatever style you prefer).  Bake in a 425°F oven for 15 minutes with crust shield*. Reduce heat to 350°F and bake for 25 minutes.  Remove crust shield and bake for another 15 minutes or until golden, filling is bubbly and apples are soft when pierced with knife. Bring to room temperature on a cooling rack ... if you can wait that long.  MMMMM!!  The smell is divine!

*This is by far the best pie crust shield I've ever used.  I found it in a kitchen store in Orillia, Ontario, but I've also seen similar ones at flea markets.

We had to kill some time while our pies were in the oven, so Morgan practiced back-bends while we waited.  Lots of good fun and giggles.  We had a couple helpers in the kitchen as well ... dual vacuums really, waiting for any and all morsels to drop. :)

Serve pie with a scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt and top with a little fresh ground nutmeg.

Sadly, Matt is in the UK on business so he didn't get to enjoy the fruit of our labour ... but Morgan and I managed to put a pretty good dent in it.

Morgan is an amazing baker ... she even made her own cinnamon-sugar pie!  She loves to be in the kitchen ... and I'm so glad!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Take It ... and Grow

Change is in the air for our little family ...  BIG CHANGE.

It’s my time to embrace the gift of freelancing from home.  Exciting, scary, hard, overwhelming … I know many others are in the same boat: job loss – one of my biggest fears.

With this opportunity comes selling, moving, down-sizing, purging, simplifying and a whole myriad of change.  At times I don’t know what to think or feel … am I dreaming?

All this could be quite discouraging, but I purpose to choose a different path.  It’s taking me more than effort to rise above my superficial bend and welcome this kind of new beginning.

To my surprise, my faith hasn’t weakened (though I have had my moments), but strengthened … I’m realizing I can’t control life.  There is no plan or preparation great enough.  God is teaching me to let go and trust (Isaiah 55:8-9 - "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts").

He's also teaching me that maybe, just maybe, this entire series of events is not about me at all.  Maybe He's answering someone else's prayer through my trial?  Maybe He's answering a prayer that I've had deep in my heart for a while, but never would have embraced on my own?

My confidence in Him is strong … and through that, somehow, so is the confidence I have in myself.  This adventure brings a new freedom and a hope of endless possibilities.  It can be better than it’s ever been.  (Jeremiah 29:11 - "... I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. ")

“If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we aren't really living.” – Sheehy

It’s time, Wendy, to take it and grow …

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Jalapeño Popper Dip

Ahhh!  Football season again ... my favourite!  (Not really, but it's Matt's so I try and be supportive). Sunday is a day for kicking back, so we typically eat snacks after church (and all afternoon) instead of sitting down to a real meal (though we do that all the other days of the week).

We love Mexican food!!  And let me tell ya, this dip cannot be beat.  It came about, really, out of laziness.  I used to make jalapeno poppers a lot, but it's not exactly a quick and easy treat.  So, from the need for speed and cheesy heat was born my version of Jalapeño Popper Dip.

8 large jalapeños, halved and seeded
1 cup light real mayo
2 - 250g or 8oz pkg of light cream cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar
1 cup panko bread crumbs**
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup non-hydrogenated margarine or butter, melted
olive oil

**to make this recipe gluten-free, substitute 1 cup of coarsely ground rice crackers

TIP:  Seeding the jalapeños can be a bit tricky.  If you have sensitive skin, wear gloves as the oil from the peppers can really burn.  My tool of choice is actually a grapefruit spoon.

 The serrated edges make it perfect for scraping out the seeds and veins, where most the heat is stored.

Toss the jalapeño halves in a little olive oil and place under a 500 degree broiler for around 5 minutes each side.

Watch them closely!!  You know they're done when the edges start to char.  Switch oven to Bake setting and turn down to 400 degrees.

Finely chop the jalapeños ... they actually form a bit of a paste.

Mix together mayo, cream cheese, cheddar cheese and jalapeños until well combined.  Spread into a small casserole dish.  Place in the oven while you prep the topping so the dip gets a head start.

Mix together bread crumbs, Parmesan and margarine until the mixture forms soft crumbs.  Pull the dip out of the oven and evenly coat the top with the crumb mixture.  Place back in the oven for 18 minutes.

You'll know it's done when the crumbs turn a beautiful, tasty golden brown.  It looked too good not to dig in right away, as you can tell.  Serve with your favourite tortilla chips - we like Tostitos Restaurant style.  MMMMMMM!!!

Even Morgan loves it!  (Warning: it may be too spicy for the average kid - ours is just used to it. ;) )

My laziness has certainly paid off this time (according to Matt) - just look at those happy faces. :) :) :)  If you'd like a little cheesy heat in your life, this dip is a MUST try!

MMMMMMMMM!!!!  El mejor sabor!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Nicole's "Grilled" Burritos

Thanks to Nicole for this amazing recipe!  Today is Morgan's birthday ... and she asked for these.  Really, Nicole, AMAZING.

1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup shredded colby-jack cheese
1 onion, finely chopped
1 cup salsa (if it's a more watery salsa, drain)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1 large lime
10 pack flour tortillas
cooking spray

2 cups minute rice
2 cups boiling water
Juice of 1 1/2 limes, divided
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon non-hydrogenated margarine
1 cup shredded colby-jack cheese
salt to taste

Spray skillet with cooking spray and preheat to low.  Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Add the juice of one lime and two cups of minute rice.  Cover and remove from heat. 

Mix the first six ingredients together.  Warm tortillas for 30 seconds in the microwave.  Spray each side with cooking spray and fill with a large spoonful of the filling mixture.

Place seam side down in preheated skillet.  Press each burrito lightly with your spatula.

Once the burritos start to turn golden, flip and "grill" the other side.

Add the juice of the remaining 1/2 of a lime and 1/2 cup cilantro to the rice.  Stir in the cheese and add salt to taste.

Serve with your favorite chips and salsa (the rice is yummy on chips too).

Here she is!  The birthday girl ...
We all loved these little meatless burritos and will definitely be adding them to our regular menu!  We didn't even miss the meat!!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Strawberry Salad

We are nearing the end of strawberry season here.  If you've never gone to an orchard to pick your own berries, plan to!  I don't think I've ever tasted such true, fresh flavor - it's completely different than the fruit you buy in the grocery store.

Tonight we headed to a BBQ.  BBQ = MEAT ... but, to stay on track with meatless week, I wanted to bring something that could stand on it's own as a meal (protein), yet, double as a delicious side salad.  I love adding fruit/berries into my salads ... but for this one, strawberries are magic.


1 head of green leaf lettuce or 1 bag of baby spinach
1/2 red onion, finely sliced
1 small can of mandarin oranges, drained
1/2 - 1 cup crumbled light feta
1 cup pecans (you can also use walnuts or candied nuts)
1 lb strawberries, trimmed and sliced
Perfect Poppy Seed Dressing (recipe below)

1/2 cup real mayo - light
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons poppy seeds

Add ingredients to a medium-sized jar or shaker.  Shake until combined.  I try and make it the night before serving so the flavors have time to develop.

Wash and spin the salad dry.  It's difficult to eat a slippery wet salad - gag.  I spin the oranges too because I don't like the added moisture.

Chop strawberries and onion.  I like to make a little assembly line so I can artfully plate each portion.

If you're taking the salad to a get-together, you can do an beautiful arrangement of ingredients in your serving bowl before you head out the door.  Toss with dressing just before serving (you might not need all the dressing).

The BBQ tonight was full of stories, laughter, and good food ... and at the end of day I received the greatest compliment a girl-who-loves-to-cook could ever get - I came home with an empty bowl.  Ahhh ... sweet and delicious success!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Veggie Kabobs and Fried Rice

I love the freshness summer brings!  The farmers market is bursting here in Southern Ontario, which was my inspiration for these yummy veggie kabobs.

1/4 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons honey
1-2 teaspoons tabasco
3 slices fresh ginger root
2 cloves garlic, crushed

Veggies of your choice - Any color of pepper, red onion, mushrooms, zucchini, etc.

1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

4 tablespoons canola oil
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
1 bunch green onion, white and green parts chopped and separated
5 cups cooked minute rice (add in a 10 oz can of organic vegetable broth as part of cooking water for flavor)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Chop veggies into large bite-sized pieces.  Feed onto skewers.  (TIP:  If you don't have reusable flat teflon skewers, use two bamboo skewers for each kabob - it keeps the veggies from twisting and makes them much easier to turn when they're on the BBQ.)

Mix together ingredients for the marinade.  Warm in the microwave for 30 seconds - 1 minute, just until it starts to boil.

Pour over kabobs and let them sit for about 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, make the minute rice using the water/broth combo.  Set aside.  

Prep the ingredients for the rice, then preheat the BBQ to medium.  

Mix together ingredients for the dipping sauce.  Set aside until ready to serve.

Place kabobs onto the grill and baste with the leftover marinade.  Continue to baste as you turn them as well.  They will cook pretty fast ...

Heat a wok or large nonstick skillet over high heat. (I did this on the BBQ side burner, since I was BBQing the kabobs anyway.)  Add 2 tablespoons of the oil and swirl to coat the pan. When the oil starts to bubble, add the eggs, which puff up really quickly. Allow to set about 5 seconds, then flip to finish cooking.  Be very careful not to overcook or the eggs will be dry.  When it's set, slide onto a dish and with the edge of the spatula, chop the eggs into small pieces. Set aside.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of the oil to the wok and swirl to coat the pan. When the oil starts to bubble, add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the white parts of the green onion and the rice.  Toss thoroughly until heated through. Add the soy sauce, pepper, and reserved eggs and toss.

Ahhhh!!  Dinner at sunset with Matt after a long day.

I really could get used to this way of eating.  I feel so much better and surprisingly, have more energy.  Even though I don't think I could be a permanent vegetarian, I've proved to myself I don't need as much meat as I thought - I'm definitely inspired.  Maybe my one meat-free week will turn into two?