Monday, January 28, 2013

Creamed Green Things - A BBC Original



Your momma always told you to eat your greens.


Remember when you thought December was crazy?

January is crazy. 

It’s nuts. It’s December’s creepy uncle that comes out of nowhere and starts breakdancing at your wedding. You can’t fight it. You just have to watch it happen.

I’m pretty sure in 1987/1988, there were a lot of parents getting busy in June, because this month is JAMMED with birthdays. I’ve been trying to have a sober weekend for a while now, but there’s just so much to celebrate. 

It’s not alcoholism if you’re wearing a party hat, right? right?

I was extremely blessed this year to have my celebrations spread over almost two weeks. I’m pretty sure to an uninformed observer I looked like a birthday-zilla, but I promise, I was just going with the flow. Spending the beginning of 24 with the most amazing people in the world really kicked it off right. 

One of my favourite celebration nights for the combination Smitty and Amanda bithday bonanza started off quiet and wonderful and ended with a danceoff (the way all good nights should end, really). But, although the danceoff was pretty amazing, I’m going to focus on the beginning of the evening. 

The Boy took me out for a lovely and romantic dinner to a restaurant I have been coveting for ages. And when I say coveting, I mean, reading the menu, drooling while I eat my vegan quinoa salad at my desk, and maybe crying just a little (just a bit though). 

We had cheeses (hello, burrata), bone marrow, carpaccio, steak and the most magical creamed spinach I have ever had in my life. It made all other creamed spinaches seem pale and sad by comparison. I almost didn’t need the steak. almost.

So! the next evening (because I’m a fiend), I attempted to recreate the spinach in my own kitchen to pair with a roast chicken. I’m pretty sure I got as close as possible without adding a whole pound of butter and a container of mascarpone cheese (which I’m 100% certain is what they did at Enoteca Sociale).

Let me know what you think!

mmm green.


Creamed Green Things - Serves 4 as a side, but it’s addictive!
The world’s best creamed Spinach (a copy from Enoteca Sociale)

Ingredients

  • 4 tbs butter
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1/4 cup flour 
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 1 clove
  • nutmeg (a few pinches)
  • 1.5 cups of milk (I used 2% but whole milk would be creamier)
  • Parmesan cheese (about 1/4 cup grated)
  • 1-2 tbs of mascarpone cheese ** this is a welcome addition but not necessary

  • 1 bag of fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 head of broccoli chopped fine (or another bag of spinach if you’re not a broccoli fan, although, who likes spinach and not broccoli).

  • 2 handfuls of pecans, chopped fine (or pine nuts!)
  • 1 handful of raisins (yes. I said raisins. trust.)

  • Salt and pepper.


Instructions:

Start by scalding your milk. Add the milk, bay leave, clove and nutmeg to a pot and heat it over a medium flame until the milk releases a pouf of steam when gently shaken (not quite to a boil). Set it aside to steep.

Steam your broccoli and spinach in a stovetop steamer or in the microwave and squish all of the water out with a paper towel. 

Take the bits out of your milk (the leaves etc) after about 20 minutes - the longer you leave it, the more flavour they will impart.

Heat the butter in a heavy-bottomed frying pan and add the flour, stirring continuously (you’re making a roux!). When the flour starts to turn golden brown, slowly pour in the milk as you mix (I promise, it’s not hard); bring the mixture up to a simmer and continue to stir.  You just made a bechamel sauce!

Once this is all thick and bubbly, take it off of the heat and add the raisins, salt, pepper and cheese(s). Taste it. Die of happiness. 

Add the veggies and nuts, then stir. Serve hot. 

This can also be made in advance and heated up or put in the oven with breadcrumbs and served family-style. 

Happy Monday, y’all.

Much love,

-BBC

So. Much. Birthday. Love. How lucky am I?




Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Cap'n Crunch French Toast and New Year's Resolutions

Hungover me wanted this soooo bad this morning.

Oh hi there!

A very merry 2013 to you! I hope that your new year’s eve was filled with dancing, debauchery and delectable company. I know mine was. 

This year I have a few things that I want to change and a few things that came to be in 2012 that I was extremely proud of and hope to continue into the new year. Resolutions are a very hated tradition, but I think that spring cleaning your attitude is needed sometimes (and now seems as good a time as ever)

I hope that you can look back on 2012 today and remember the best bits of it and then wipe the slate clean for yourself. Every day is a chance to start anew, but today seems like the best day to make a bit of a change (even if it is just hitting the snooze button less). 

I’m also going to share a bit of a mini recipe. Something that I think would be a perfect tradition to start in 2012. On the weekends, my roommate and I have a big breakfast, we chat about the night before and then we clean up the apartment and tackle the day. This recipe is a great way to start a weekend off right, and even if all you have in your kitchen is one pan, a bowl and a fork, you’re set! 

Ok, let’s start with the things that made 2012 AWESOME:


1.  Writing in a journal every day. In 2012 I started writing a journal each night before I sleep that has a few components; one of which is the top 3 things I was grateful for that day. It’s made a big difference in my perspective. 


2.  Being brave. This year I tried really hard to step out of my comfort zone. I put myself out there in so many ways and I haven’t regretted a single one of them. Filling my life with new experiences has definitely prepared me for the current journey I’m on. 


3.  Change of headspace. Moving out of my apartment in Etobicoke changed way more than my address. Somehow, making the shift made me into a whole new person. A person that I really like and respect. 


4.  Learning that being happy is independent of external conditions. This was a big one for me. Moving definitely helped, but realizing that being happy is a choice has really changed the way I look at life. Your state of mind is a choice, and I choose happy (except at work. there I choose “indifferent”).

Now for the big stuff. Things that will make 2013 MORE AWESOME:

5.  Trying to love the daytime. I’m currently trying to figure out what the heck I should do with myself once I get those lovely letters on the end of my name, and I hope that in 2013 I’ll be able to wake up and be excited for the challenge of the day, instead of dreading the next 10-14 hours. 

4.  And on that note, in 2013 I am going to try and hit the snooze button less. It doesn’t make me less tired and it’s just a bad habit. 50 times is too many. 1 is ok. Cheer me on.

3.  In 2013 I would like to post more. Nuff said. 

2.  I would like to be extremely clear how much I appreciate and love all of the wonderful people in my life. I tried to do this in 2012, but I think I can be better at it. I’ll start now: if you’re in my life, even in a small way, I appreciate all you bring to it and everything you do. I’m going to say it more, so get ready for some mush.

1. Someone I know and like an awful lot has a great attitude towards life, it’s very carefree (read: the opposite of mine) but very thoughtful at the same time. It’s starting to rub off on me and I’d like to continue that process and see where it goes. I know I need to stress less (to save my body and my mind), so that is going to be my main goal for 2013. 

I’m about to start a few months of busy season tomorrow, which also happens to coincide with the switch of my relationship from short distance to long distance and I’m a little worried. This seems like the best time to test my stress-dealing abilities. Wish me luck! 

Now to the stuff you really want to know.

This french toast is magic. I promise. Mom and dad discovered it on an episode of Diners Drive-ins and Dives and we’ve been making it ever since. The cereal gets all crispy and it adds a bit of a twist to plain ‘ol french toast. You’ll love it.


his eyebrows are on his hat! 



Cap’n Crunch French Toast
Serves 4

Ingredients:


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Holiday Cheeseball and a bit of Existentialism (both perfect for your next holiday party)

Let's just hang out and stare at the lights for awhile. 


Hey! It’s been a while. A loooonngggg while.

I should explain. I had a bit of an existential crisis regarding this little blog that I hope you can understand. After a lengthy discussion with a good friend of mine, wherein he expressed some honest opinions about blogging, I began to think that having a blog where you basically talk to the internet about your life and the food you put on the table might be a bit narcissistic.

For those of you who write blogs that I read on a daily basis (there are about 20 of them) or blogs that I have yet to discover, I don’t mean you. I think I was just debating whether what I was putting out into the world was making a difference to anyone but my own personal ego. I wasn’t really internally debating whether blogs themselves were narcissistic, because, to be honest, I absolutely love being invited into your kitchens each day. I love hearing about your babies, your husbands and your dating slips and trips. It makes me feel like I’m part of something.

It’s for this reason that I realized I was being silly, because if I absolutely love being invited into other people’s homes via this crazy thing called the internet, then maybe other people get a kick out of being invited into my loony bin too.  And boy oh boy, has it been a loony bin lately.

But that’s enough about my brief foray into existentialism (past that one course I took in first year that I somehow got an 86% in with only showing up twice). Let’s move on to more delicious topics.

I’m currently neck-deep in Christmas cooking and loving every minute of it. I’ve got all of my canning done and have now moved on to the baking portion of this year’s entertainment. I don’t think there’s anything I love more in this world than blasting Christmas music and making a giant mess of the kitchen. Especially when that giant mess produces treats (even better when those treats produce smiles on the faces of the people I love).

Ok, I might love it a bit more if I had my parents here to enjoy the mess with me, but they’ll be here on Sunday. I’m currently counting the minutes.

I read somewhere recently that we all think our families are intolerable and a bit weird until seeing them isn’t an option (paraphrase. Obvs). Now I never found mine intolerable, and I still think they’re mighty weird, but not getting to see my parents for months on end makes me feel a bit disjointed. Seeing them (and the rest of my extended tree) is like yoga for my heart. And I’m beside myself with excitement.

Goal: to have enough baked goods that even this massive pile of tins can't contain them. I think I can do it.


To start off my holiday recipes this year, I’m going to holler out a recipe for a cheese ball that can barely be called a recipe. It’s beyond simple and is something you can make in less than 30 minutes (including going to the store) if you’re in a pinch.

The ball in the photo was made by none other than my roommate (the lovely Ashcrash), to prove that it is literally the easiest and least-time-consuming recipe ever.

This little guy needed a few more pecans, but I've upped the amount in the recipe below. It's a winner for sure.


Amanda’s Holiday Cheeseball - Almost as delicious as Chris Marques’s Mom’s Cheeseball (but not quite)
Excellent for a potluck, serves between 2 and 20 people (depending on your love of cheese and tolerance for over-eating).
  • 4 cups of grated cheese (half orange cheddar and half old cheddar is my preference)
  • 2 blocks of cream cheese (standard size)
  • 4 green onions, minced fine
  • 2 roasted red peppers, minced fine
  • 2 tsp of your favourite spice mix (or paprika, cayenne, chili powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper – 2 tsp total).
  • 1 cup of chopped pecans  (you could toast these, but you’re a busy beaver this time of year, so I’d understand if you didn’t)
  • Fancy crackers and hot pepper jelly (to serve)


Step one – whip the cream cheese in a mixer (or beat with a spoon).

Step two – dump all of the other ingredients into the mixer (except the pecans) and mix until combined

Step three – form into a ball with your hands (fun!)

Step four – roll said ball in pecans until covered

Step five – wrap in cling film until needed and serve with your crackers and pepper jelly.

Step six – impress everyone with your cooking skills. Bask in the glory.

DONE.

I really did miss you. I made you bacon jam to say I’m sorry.

muchos love,
-BBC

p.s. do you follow me on instagram yet? I’ve got tons of fun photos on there. It’s a great way to get to know me outside of my kitchen. @butterybc

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sweet Potato Pumpkin Pie - A BBC Original

Take me back! Where things are green and where there are real fireplaces (not just the one on channel 208)

Hey there handsome!

This recipe is one that I swear needs to be in your repertoire every year. It’s stupid good and makes the humble pumpkin pie into a very delicate, smooth, almost mousse-like dessert.

My Nana, who doesn't like pumpkin pie, had 3 pieces of this. It’s ridiculous.

This pie would be perfect for a Halloween bash (tartlettes maybe) or for any sort of fall family gathering you might be having. It’s also a great addition to your Christmas repertoire (pumpkins are always delicious).

Sidenote: normally my rolling is pretty stellar (or at least passable), but all I had at the cottage was a wine bottle and some knives for cutting, so it looks fairly... childlike. I hope you appreciate that sometimes things aren't perfect, but gosh darnit, they're delicious. Moreover, you don't need to have things look like the magazines for your family to appreciate how much love you put into a dish. 

Perfection isn't the goal! Yummy is! (remind me of this every day. thanks).

Stellar rolling job for only having a misshapen wine bottle as a pin and a dull knife to cut leaves with. 


Crust:

You’ll need a double recipe of crust, because this recipe makes two regular dish pies (aka not deep dish), and it warrants lots of little decorations (because pumpkin pie is a special kind of pie).

You can use your favourite pie crust recipe (or even a pre-made one, if you’re so inclined), but I’ve attached my favourite to this recipe in case you don’t have one.

I highly suggest this pie crust recipe – Canadian Living Classic Pie Crust, with about 1-2 teaspoons of cinnamon added to the flour at the beginning.

Promise it's not product placement. 


Filling Ingredients:
  • 1 ½ cups pumpkin puree (use the rest of the can to make pumpkin hummus, or pumpkin curry)
  • 1 ½ cups sweet potato puree (purchased, or made by cooking sweet potatoes and mashing)
  • 1 ½ cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tbs all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp whiskey or bourbon


You really do need a helper-dad that spins the filling at the speed of sound.

Instructions

Make pie dough according to instructions and leave it to chill in two discs in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. This step helps to relax the gluten in the flour, making it easier to roll and less likely to crumble all over the place.

Roll out your discs and fit them to the pie shells, cutting around the edges to make them even. Don’t worry if they’re not perfect, we’re going to fix that with some cutouts. Pop them in the fridge while you do the other steps.

With the scraps from your bottom crusts, combine them and roll them out. Cut leaves, turkeys, squirrels or whatever else you fancy and place the cutouts on a plate. Stick that in the fridge too (this is a great step for kids to help with: they can make the pie their own!).

Combine all of the ingredients for the filling in a bowl and mix with a whisk until smooth.

Once the crusts have chilled for at least 20 minutes, cover them with tinfoil and fill them with pie weights (I use dry navy beans – they’re cheaper and last the same amount of time). Bake at 375 for about 15 minutes, until the crusts are almost cooked. Take the crusts out and let them cool for 20 minutes.

Turn your oven down to 350 while you’re waiting.

Once your crusts have cooled, pour the filling in. Letting them cool is a key step, because if you don’t, your bottom crust will be soggy (and no one wants a soggy bottom).

Then! Whisk an egg in a little bowl and use your finger to “brush” egg onto the bottom of your crust cutouts. This is the glue that will hold them on. Glue them to the crust of the pie around the outside (to make a pretty edge) and stick one in the middle of the filling by gently setting it on top.

You’re now a pie artist!

Bake the pies for about 50 minutes to 1 hour at 350, watching them (because all ovens are different). They should be darker in the middle and cracking slightly when done. You will also be able to feel that they are solid in the middle by gently poking the filling with your finger.

If your crust browns too much during this hour, take the pies out and cover the edges with strips of tinfoil. This process is tricky and should be done with a helper and lots of curse words. It’s worth it.

Dear Santa, I want a pie crust saver for Christmas. Oh, and polysporin for my clumsy, burnt fingers. Kthanks.

Once the pies are out of the oven, let them cool for a few hours and serve with whipped cream (sweetened with sugar and vanilla or sugar and amaretto). Die of happiness.

Much love!

-BBC

I wish you were here now, Pie. You and I had a good thing going on.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

It's Turkey Time!

Sunday afternoon farmstands with my grandma. Love it. 


I can’t really remember if I've told you about my mom’s pet turkey yet.

But I feel like it is an appropriate story for today. His name was Ted. He was a lady.

Long story short, one house ago (military family), my mom had a wild turkey that she fed outside of the kitchen window and that my dad constantly threatened to make into dinner. She named him Ted. He was a good turkey.

In the spring, Ted the Turkey came by with his/her babies for a snack. She became Tedette (originality is not one of my mother’s strong suits). Tedette had a limp and wasn’t seen too often in the following summer, perhaps she made her way to warmer pastures (for my mom’s sake).

Turkeys are graceful, lovely and delicious animals. Not the best pets, but great centerpieces for your Thanksgiving table.

I really do love thanksgiving; it’s one of the few holidays that don’t involve over-the-top gifts and massive commercialization. It’s all about family, food and coming together. I’m into that.

This year I’m having a family thanksgiving and a friends’ thanksgiving (two things I’m definitely thankful for this year). The family one was fairly standard (with a few upgraded twists) and the friends one is going to be Southern-themed (have to spice things up a bit).

Cottage thanksgivings are the best. A crackling fire makes everything more delicious


So here are my tips for thanksgiving this year, if you’re doing it on your own for the first time, or even if you’re a vet, there might be something helpful in here:

1.       Use a bag for your turkey. Holy moly does this ever make a difference. 17 lb turkey in 2.5 hours. No prob. Easy peasy gravy? Yes please. Juicy Bird? Of course.

2.       Elevate things just a little bit. Add garlic to your brussel sprouts, and roast them rather than boil them. Crazy good, and just a little different.

3.       Switch it up! This year I made a pie combining sweet potato and pumpkin (rather than straight pumpkin) and topped it with an amaretto whipped cream. It wasn’t crazy different, but it was unexpected. People love your pumpkin/apple/pecan pie, but maybe you’ll pleasantly surprise them with something new this year.

4.       Lighter options. Now, I’m not advocating a healthy thanksgiving dinner, at all, but something on the menu that doesn’t induce “the itits” (read: food coma), might be a good option. This year: green salad with bacon vinaigrette. (read again: bacon = better).

5.       Make a plan – plan your menu around a theme or family traditions (I’ll attach mine at the bottom if you need a direction), then where you need to buy things (by store, and even grocery section so you don’t forget), then when everything needs to be started, cooked or thawed. Don’t forget that it might take a day for your turkey to defrost.

6.       Get help! Cooking with family and friends is what the holiday is all about. Rock some sweet tunes and bond with the people you love. That’s what makes this holiday my #2.

Yeah. I got the drumstick. Whatup.


My thanksgiving menu (traditional and cottage-friendly)
  • Turkey with Venison sausage, fennel, apple and nut stuffing
  • Dark ale gravy
  • Homemade cranberry sauce (easy!)
  • Brussel Sprouts roasted on the barbecue with garlic and olive oil
  • Fresh corn  
  • Mashed potatoes with herb infused cream and gruyere cheese
  • Green salad with pecans, goat cheese, dried cranberries and bacon vinaigrette
  • Warm bread with compound butter (butter mixed with herbs and cream cheese)
  • Pumpkin and sweet potato pie with Amaretto Crème Anglaise (whipped cream with sugar and vanilla) (recipe tomorrow)


*note: infusing the milk/cream for the mashed potatoes is an easy way to make them a little fancier. Just head the cream until it steams (not to boiling) with some of your favourite herbs and let it steep for a bit while you make the potatoes. (I used bay leaves, sage, and thyme). 

I hope you have a family and food-filled Thanksgiving this year! Take a nap on the couch with your head on someone's shoulder. It's really the best way. 

Much love, 

-BBC

Obsessed with venison sausage stuffing. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Prince Edward County - Top 10 Things to See and Do

Munch. Munch.


Sometimes all you need is a vacation.

Alright, every morning at 7:00 (7:10 and oh! Crap! 7:40), I need a vacation.

Vacations, the planned and pined-for kind, are all fine and dandy, but an impromptu getaway can just as easily be what the doctor ordered. No plans, no google maps and most certainly no clouds or stormy skies to be seen (literal or metaphorical) make for a fabulous weekend jaunt.

Over Labour Day, my fabulous friend Julia and I headed off to Prince Edward County (henceforth called “the County” for those of you who didn’t grow up in Bay of Quinte Country) for a weekend of snacking, wine tasting and other girly pursuits.

The weather was beyond perfect and we had two days of no stress explorations that helped to ground me a bit, screeching me back to a reality that doesn’t exclusively revolve around work. A little bit of a break really helps your perspective.

Now, I’ve been to the County before, so I had a list of places that we just had to see, but with a little bit of “let’s just go that way” and “is this map the right way up?”, we found a few new gems that even a veteran like me didn’t know about.

I’m going to preface this list with a bold statement – fall is the best time to head to the county (even though there are great beaches). The crisp air is perfect for stopping at roadside stands to pick up apples, pumpkins or baked goods. Sitting by a fireplace in a century home, drinking hot apple cider and wine tastings are perfect fall activities. Plus, since you really need a car to get around, drives through the leaves make for the perfect backdrop for good conversation and a relaxed mind.

Doesn't this just relax you? Green makes me calm. I think it's the country, sneaking out of my subconscious.

 The Top 10 things you need to do in the County this year:

10.  Foodie Frenzy: Check out new restaurants/hotels cropping up in small towns all over the County. Toronto-based chefs and entrepreneurs are venturing out into the County to be closer to local produce and change their pace of life. You can get great value out here; prices are better than in the Big Smoke and the emphasis on local fare makes for a tasty dish. Check out Pomodoro in Wellington (Chef Matt DeMille of Enoteca Sociale fame) for some seriously good Italian food (http://www.pomodoropec.ca/ )

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Homemade Burrito Fixings - Sunday Cooking Extravaganza


Grill-em for even more awesomeness. 

I need to talk to you about Sundays. And Burritos. And so many other things.

Sundays are probably my favourite day of the week (ssshhhh). Ok, well they’re my favourite if Saturday didn’t involve me peering through the bottom of a vodka soda glass, but still.

Sundays are the days that I cook and clean and read my book. Sometimes I take big walks that end in big bubble baths. There’s always ice cream.

Last Sunday my dad was in town and we capped off an amazing weekend visit with a stroll through Kensington Market and a big kitchen-trashin’ cooking session in the afternoon.

Look a GIF! technology is soo cool. 

 Burritos sound innocuous enough, but I promise there so much more than that. These ones were dad and boo burritos. (Yes. My parents call me Boo. And judge all you want. I’m into it). Burritos with real Mexican peppers and tortillas from a little latino grocery store that smelled like mole. Burritos that can only be made on Sundays.

But don’t fret about the time they might take, because they’ll last you all week at lunch. A week of burritos! (Ok, maybe switch it up a bit, or share with your loved ones, or do like I do, and burrito-fest your way through an otherwise kindof iffy week. Olé!).

Also: you could just make the Pineapple Habanero Salsa from this troupe, it’s a knockout on its own.

A fabulous idea for back to school too! Your kids will be the coolest with these babies. 


Burrito Fillings – BBC Style
Readdddyyyyy:
  • Triple Pepper Beer Braised Pork
  • Pineapple Habanero Salsa
  • Mexican Rice
  • Refried Beans
  • Cabbage
  • Cheese
  • Avocado