When I moved out of my parent’s home and into my own I really didn’t know how to cook. At all. I wasn’t sure how long to boil an egg for or even how to make scrambled eggs. Truth! In fact, my difficulty with eggs took a particularly embarrassing turn when we hosted a Christmas tree decorating party and I successfully made scrambled egg nog. Chunks in the egg nog! Good Lord how embarrassing to be asked what all the lumps were…I wanted to die.
That Christmas, my Auntie Ann gave me a copy of “The Joy of Cooking” and it became my constant kitchen companion as I tried new things, with much trial and error. My boyfriend, now husband, still occasionally will bring up the chicken casserole with a stuffing topping and a few other adventurous attempts at impressing him with my culinary talents, such as the time I nearly caused a fire attempting to make fish and chips. You know the old adage…the way to a man’s heart and all that… Thank goodness that was not the case with him! My lack of skills in the kitchen could have had him running scared for sure.
I started to voraciously read cookbooks like they were novels, each week bringing home large stacks from the library to consume. This is how I learned to cook because I hadn’t learned growing up. My mother wasn’t a good cook at all – she overcooked everything and my father was a practical cook…very good at hearty stews and soups, something he had picked up from his time in the Navy.
All these years later, I have a huge collection of cookbooks and I still read them like they are novels, always trying and learning new things. But want I want to tell you Dear Reader, is that recipes are only guidelines. Years of reading recipes has given me a feel for what works and what doesn’t. For example, my husband isn’t crazy about dill so I will use thyme instead in certain recipes. If I feel like substituting red onion for Vidalia onion because that’s what my family prefers, that’s what I do. It’s not carved in stone. Unless you’re baking and baking is chemistry and that my friend is a whole other blog post for another day.
So about that red onion. The recent issue of Food and Drink magazine (a fantastic freebie magazine put out by the LCBO here in Ontario which now you can access online!) has a recipe that piqued my interest. It’s summer time, hot and humid, and I live with a man who doesn’t want the oven turned on to further heat up the house (that is air conditioned!) Dinner, not to mention this little food blog of mine, can be a challenge. I’m always looking for sides that can be made on the bbq or on the stove-top. This recipe went perfectly with the chicken quesadillas we had. My husband bbq’ed the chicken and grilled the corn on the cob at the same time. The rest of it was just chopping and assembly. An easy-peasy, fresh summer side in no time at all. I think this just might become your new summer favourite...to serve at home or take along to a family bbq.
Mexican Street Corn Salad
Adapted slightly from Food and Drink magazine (2017 Summer issue)
For the Crema:
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
4 tsp fresh lime juice
Zest of 1 lime, grated finely
¾ tsp smoked paprika or ground chipotle pepper for a spicier kick
Salt to taste
For the Corn Salad:
6 cobs of corn, shucked
⅔ cup red onion, finely diced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste
4 cups salad greens (optional)
1 cup crumbled feta
To make the crema, whisk the mayonnaise, sour cream, lime juice, lime zest and smoked paprika or ground chipotle pepper in a mixing bowl. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate at least 2 hours but for as long as one week.
Preheat grill to high. Grease bbq grate and place shucked corn onto the grill. Cook, turning occasionally, until cooked through and slightly browned in spots, about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet and let cool completely.
Stand corn on end and carefully slice downward with a sharp knife to cut kernels away from cob. Place corn in a large mixing bowl with the red onion, cherry tomatoes, cilantro, olive oil, lime juice, crumbled feta, salt, pepper and toss together until mixed together evenly.
For each serving, place a little mound of salad greens in a bowl, if using. Spoon in some corn salad. Top with a dollop of crema and serve with lime wedges. (I skipped the greens and served it with a dollop of crema on top. Next time I make it, I am going to put the crema in a squeeze bottle and drizzle it over the corn salad for prettier presentation)
Bye for now!
Hello? Are you still there?
I haven’t posted since last September (!) and I guess you are probably wondering why and what I have been up to. 2016 turned out to be quite the year. Lots happened. Good things and bad things. Happy things and sad things. It broke me for a while.
We bought our first home last May (happy thing)…It was exciting and hectic and continues to be…finally our own home! My great nephew Mason was born (very happy thing) in May too. A few months after we moved in, my cranky old cat Bijou died (sad thing) after being my furry friend for 19 years. It’s been nearly a year and I still miss her.
What I haven’t told you is my Mum died too, about a week before Bijou. It all was just too much for my heart to bear and I couldn’t write about it here. It was just too hard. It still is. I debated whether or not to share this with you, but in the end, I decided to because this is life, my life and that is what My Cupboard Love is…life, love and stories from my kitchen. It isn’t always pretty.
My Mum was a month away from turning 72 and her health had been fragile for years, but still it came as a shock. Over a 24-hour period we waited and watched her fade. That experience left me traumatized and I feared I would never be the same again. Like a lot of mothers and daughters, my Mum and I had a complicated relationship. It had always been that way. I loved my Mother – she just never made it easy. And now it never can be. It can’t be changed. That’s life…I just needed time to absorb that. It took me a while.
I wanted you to know that I’m back now and although it has been a year of great happiness and profound sadness, I’m still here. I’m hoping you are too...I have missed you. I will be back here soon with happier stories and wonderful recipes for you to try. Come back soon!
It has been a few months since our big move to our new home and we have unpacked most of the boxes Dear Reader. I have a nice, new kitchen that I will be sharing recipes with you from...I am so excited about it! It is very open and bright, a welcome change from my last kitchen which felt like a cave. I feel inspired again - it must be the warm afternoon sunshine that fills the kitchen...and my heart.
It has felt like home to me since the first time I saw this house and now it is starting to look like it too. It's been a lot of work with a lot more to come...a new deck to be built in a few short weeks and a new fence in the Spring, not to mention the painting but we're getting there.
I haven't bothered with a house warming party - instead opting for smaller, intimate gatherings with good friends and family. They have been much easier to arrange over the busy summer and nicer to host. Having fewer guests allowed for inclusive, catching up conversations. My kind of get-togethers.
A few weekends ago, my cousins Marjory and Tom came over for the afternoon for the official tour and nibbles and drinks. I didn't feel like making anything too fussy - instead something we could graze on while we chatted in the living room. Had we had the deck built, it would have been a whole different story!
I was up and out early the day before their visit and heading down to Scheffler's Deli at the St. Lawrence Market. As you know, it's a favourite haunt of mine - Ody, the owner, has helped me on quite a few occasions to choose the perfect cheese and meats to pair together. It is a bit of a trek since our recent move, but it is always worth getting up early for. So with his suggestions and a few bottles of nice wine, I put together this beautiful cheese board.
It was easy to put together. I sliced assorted crusty breads, and then arranged olives, grapes, dried apricots, figs, heirloom tomatoes amongst the cheese and Serrano ham, mortadella, pepper crusted salami and provolone wrapped with sun-dried tomatoes. The only thing I "made", if you can even call it that, was the 5 Spice Pecans. Chinese 5 spice is a blend of spices, the most common being star anise, cloves, cinnamon, fennel seeds and Sichuan pepper. Mixed and made in under 15 minutes, these pecans are a tasty nibble for your cheeseboard. Some versions of 5 spice include ginger, which is what I used. It gives the nuts a nice warmth and would make a nice hostess gift at Christmas.
5 Spice Pecans
4 tsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp plus 1 tsp brown sugar
4 tsp water
1 1/2 tsp five-spice powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 cups pecan halves
1/4 tsp salt
Heat oven to 350°.
In a medium saucepan, warm the vegetable oil over medium-low heat. Add the brown sugar, water, and five-spice powder, ground cumin and freshly ground black pepper. Stir until the sugar dissolves and mixture bubbles. Add the pecan halves and stir until the pecans are cooked and evenly coated, about 3 minutes.
Spread evenly on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and sprinkle with salt. Bake until fragrant and crisp, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cool completely. Once cooled, break apart.
How's your summer been so far Dear Reader? I hope you are enjoying the sunshine and popping a few freckles.
We are slowly settling in to our new home. I'm still unpacking boxes. So many boxes!!! There is always something that needs done when you have a house it would seem. Let's not even talk about gardening.
The best part of my garden are the two bunnies that visit everyday and the beautiful robins that call my trees home. We have a skunk that visits too. Bijou certainly seemed interested in all these visitors to her yard. Sadly, after nearly 19 years, I had to say good-bye to her a few weeks ago. She was a cranky, old girl and I loved her, despite her. I miss her terribly. The house just isn't the same without her following me around.
It has been crazy hot here. The hazy, humid heat has made me a bit lazy when it comes to getting into the kitchen and cooking. Who in their right mind wants to turn on the oven when it is 42 degrees outside? Not me. We have been eating a lot of salad although my waistline doesn't appear to be any better for it. That could be the wine though...hmmm.
I can only eat so much ice cream during the summer months. Let's save the chocolate cake for the winter Dear Reader. The markets have an abundance of beautiful fruit right now that makes for some light and lovely desserts, like the one I am going to share with you today. The crust takes 8 minutes in the oven...not too bad for a hot summer day. The filling is mixed and poured into the shell and left to chill before being topped with the fruit. That my friend, is what you call easy living. Doesn't get much simpler than that. Oh and did I mention that the crust is ginger? I adore ginger! I loved this dessert and I think you will too. I used nectarines, but I will be making this again with peaches...and then pears.
Ginger Mascarpone Tart with Nectarines
(adapted from Bon Appétit Magazine, July 2002 issue)
For the crust:
28 gingersnap cookies
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
For the filling:
1 8-ounce container mascarpone cheese
6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp lemon peel, grated
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp crystallized ginger, finely diced
For the topping:
4 to 5 small nectarines, halved, pitted, cut into thin slices
1/4 cup peach jam, warmed
2 tbsp crystallized ginger, finely diced
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grind gingersnaps in food processor until finely crumbled. Pour in melted butter and process until mixture is combined. Next, press mixture over bottom and up the sides of a 9 inch tart pan with removable bottom. Bake until crust darkens slightly, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely.
For the filling:
In a medium bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, lemon peel and vanilla extract together until creamy and smooth. Add the crystallized ginger and stir until combined. Spread the mixture evenly into the prepared crust. Cover loosely and chill at least two hours.
For the topping:
Arrange the nectarine slices in concentric circles, one slightly overlapping another on top of cheese filled tart. Generously brush the nectarine slices with the warmed jam. Sprinkle top with crystallized ginger. Allow to chill for at least one hour before serving. Can be made a day ahead.
Well hi there. Remember me?
I bet you thought I had forgotten you! Well here I am, finally, with stories to tell and recipes to share once again. All is well Dear Reader - I just got super busy for a while there. Since my last post I have thrown a baby shower for my niece, bought a house (!!!) moved and welcomed baby Mason into our family. It has been hectic!
Most of my house was packed by the time the baby shower happened, so with a lot of planning I took the party on the road to my niece's home. It was a challenge because of my impending move - I had to make sure I didn't pack any dishes I would be using for the shower. Thank goodness for my love of writing lists - it went off without a hitch. I planned a simple, make-ahead menu that would travel well and present well on the day and despite my type A, control freak nature, I let other people help too. And, BIG and, I ordered the cake. Sometimes it is best to just accept your limitations and move on. Ordering the cake was a smart decision! I made these Bacon, Cheddar and Chive Biscuits that I have shared with you before. They come together quickly and easily and give the impression that you are a master baker. Paired with ham and fancy mustard or mayonnaise they were a hit with the ladies. I made this macaroni salad, and this potato salad and rounded out the menu with pickles, beets and some lovely cheeses. Just for fun, I created a virgin Mimosa bar with fresh fruit and a variety of fruit juices to add to sparkling water. It was very festive!
So Dear Reader, I do not have any new recipes to share today, just an explanation for my extended absence. I have moved into my new home and I am so excited to have a new kitchen to cook and share recipes with you from.
Come back soon...I promise I will too. Next time, a new recipe and more about my new home...
It's nearly St. Patrick's Day Dear Reader, and if you're anything like me, the thought of a pint of green Guinness just isn't your cup of tea. Luckily, the Irish have many other, more comforting choices, such as Boxty, to celebrate the day that don't include a hefty dose of shamrock green food colouring.
Boxty, is a traditional Irish potato pancake with its origins in the northern counties of Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim and Monaghan. There are many variations on boxty recipes, including its name, some calling for eggs, grated potato and a small amount of flour, others calling for a combination of mashed potatoes and grated, raw potatoes. Some add savoury ingredients such as garlic or green onions.
Boxty, which dates back before the Irish Potato Famine, is so much a part of local culture, that it has been the inspiration for rhymes such as:
Boxty on the griddle,
Boxty in the pan,
If you can't make boxty
You'll never get a man.
Boxty on the griddle,
Boxty in the pan,
The wee one in the middle,
That's the one for Mary Anne.
It is comfort food at its most basic. With the addition of green onion, my version is savoury and is quite lovely to eat with a dollop of sour cream or as a side to your favourite breakfast of bacon or sausage. My son makes a breakfast tortilla out of his by filling it with scrambled egg and bacon. No matter which way you eat boxty, you will find yourself making it more than once a year.
Boxty (Irish Potato Pancakes)
Makes 8-10 small pancakes or one large pancake
1 cup mashed potatoes (2 potatoes cooked and mashed)
1 1/2 cups grated raw potato (2 medium potatoes)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 green onions, sliced
3 tbsp butter
Peel and cut potatoes into similar sized chunks. Cover with water in medium sized pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and continue to simmer until potatoes are fork tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes, mash, then set aside.
Next, grate the other two potatoes onto a clean tea towel. Gather the towel and squeeze as much liquid as you can from the potatoes. Discard the starchy water.
In a large bowl, combine the mashed and grated potatoes. In another bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together. Add flour mixture to the potatoes and toss to combine.
Add one cup of buttermilk to the potato/flour mixture and stir well to form a thick batter (It should have the consistency of rice pudding) If the mixture seems too thick, add up to another 1/2 cup of buttermilk to achieve desired consistency. Stir in sliced green onion until evenly distributed throughout the batter.
Melt one tablespoon of the butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Taking care not to crowd the pan, dollop batter into 3 inch sized pancakes. Each pancake should puff up to about one inch in height. To ensure the raw, grated potato cooks through, low and slow is the key to boxty success. Cook until each side is browned and crispy, about 8 to 10 minutes per side. Melt another tablespoon of butter in the pan between batches and continue until all of the batter has been used. (I usually use two skillets at a time to speed up the process)
Alternatively, you can cook this as one large pancake in an 8 inch pan with each side taking about 10 to 12 minutes to brown.
Well hi there. Sometimes, when you have trudged through your week just hoping to make it to Friday, the perfect reward for surviving is cake. Because it is February and even though it hasn't been too cold yet, it is February and that in itself is a good enough excuse to bake a cake. Just because. Are you with me?
This beauty is moist. The frosting is nothing short of caramel comfort that will have you licking the bowl. Go ahead. It's February Dear Reader and we are going to get through it together, starting with this cake. You need to plan for this cake so let those bananas on your counter get all freckley and really ripe. I know the anticipation is killing you now, but the wait for those brown freckles will be worth it. Believe me.
Banana Bundt Cake with Penuche Frosting
1 cup bananas, mashed (3-4 bananas)
½ cup buttermilk
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups icing sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour bundt pan and set aside.
In a large bowl, mash the bananas until slightly lumpy but quite soupy in consistency. Stir in the buttermilk and set aside.
In a smaller bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together until well combined. Set aside.
Next, in the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the butter together with the vegetable oil and brown and white sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla.
Next, alternately add the banana mixture and flour mixture to the butter mixture in two additions of each until well combined.
Pour batter into prepared pan smooth top to even out in the bundt pan. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from bundt pan. Once slightly cooled, remove from bundt pan and continue cooling cake on wire rack.
To prepare the frosting:
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and stir until mixture begins to bubble. Stir in the heavy cream and salt and continue to stir until mixture starts to bubble gently once again. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Set aside to cool.
Once cooled, transfer butter mixture to bowl of your stand mixer. Add icing sugar in half cup increments and continue to beat until a nice spreadable consistency has been reached.
Spread icing over entire cake with offset spatula until completely covered and desired look is achieved.
Alternatively, this cake can be baked as a snacking cake in a 10 x 13 pan and cut into squares. Reduce baking time to about 20-22 minutes. Perfect take-along dessert for a pot-luck when prepared in this manner.
We've nearly survived January...just one week left to go! February is a short month and well....hell once we are into March, it is just a hop, skip and a jump until April! I shouldn't complain. There hasn't been much snow, at least not yet anyway and it really hasn't been all that cold. Still, I find myself longing for the brighter, warmer, longer days that Spring will bring. Until then, I guess we are stuck with thick socks, cozy pajamas and comfort food to see us through the long dark days of winter.
An escape helps too! Every January, we try and run off somewhere for a few days. It helps me ease my way into the new year and chase away the winter blahs after the excitement of Christmas has come and gone. Last week, we took off for a few days to Niagara Falls and Niagara on the Lake. Just the two of us!
We had a nice time wandering around, in and out of shops and a few pubs. Acting like tourists is thirsty work!
All that walking meant we were so tired we had to have an afternoon nap each day too - LUXURY! I really could get used to this.
While everybody else opted to eat inside, there was us and one other couple that enjoyed dinner and the ambiance on the heated patio of Corks in Niagara on the Lake.
With our little adventure over it is back to real life and home cooking...but it was much easier to accept with a bowl of the rice pudding I made the day we came home. A perfect winter dessert, it is comforting in its simplicity. My version has a kick of spiced rum - helps to warm your soul.
Spiced Rum Raisin Rice Pudding
3/4 cup golden raisins
2 tbsp spiced rum
3/4 cup white basmati rice
1/2 tsp salt
5 cups half-and-half, divided
1/2 cup sugar
1 extra-large egg, beaten
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Cinnamon, to garnish, optional
Place raisins in small bowl and add the spiced rum. Gently stir to combine and set aside.
Combine the rice and salt with 1 1/2 cups water in a heavy bottomed pot and bring to a boil. Stir once, then continue to simmer on the lowest heat for 8 minutes, or until most of the water is absorbed. Next, stir in the sugar and 4 cups of the half and half. Bring to the boil once again. Stirring often, simmer uncovered for about 20-25 minutes until the rice is very soft. Remove from the heat and slowly stir in the beaten egg.
Next, stir in the remaining half and half, vanilla and the rum-soaked raisins, along with any rum that the raisins didn't absorb until well combined. Transfer to a large bowl and place plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming. The pudding can be enjoyed warm or chilled. To serve, divide among your prettiest bowls and top with a sprinkle of cinnamon, if using. Makes 8 servings, or 6 if you're feeling greedy.
Christmas has come and gone and a new year with a fresh start has begun. Anything is possible! Optimistic and hopeful for whatever life will bring this year. That's what the start of another year means to me. As I get older, I have begun to shy away from New Year's resolutions. Better to try and make good choices each day rather than feel doomed to fail when I inevitably fall off the wagon.
I have a list of self-improvement goals Dear Reader...getting organized, losing a bit of weight, and connecting better. These are the things I plan on working on one day at a time. With an occasional detour. And that's ok. It's about progress not perfection for me.
So before we embark on this new year, I owe you a recipe! I am late to the gate with this post (another thing on my list of things to improve upon!) You make have taken a sneak peek at it here. This frittata/quiche like dish is perfect for a light lunch or your offering on a brunch buffet. Add a side salad and a glass of wine and you have an impressive, stress free Easter brunch or a nice lunch for Mum on Mother's Day. I think you're going to like this!
Potato Bacon & Leek Frittata
4 red-skinned potatoes (about one pound)
6 slices bacon, cooked and coarsely chopped
1 cup leeks, washed thoroughly and thinly sliced
2 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
4 oz goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup half and half cream
1/3 cup milk
salt and pepper, to taste
Grease a 9" pie plate or quiche dish and set aside.
Cook potatoes in boiling, salted water until just tender, about ten minutes. Drain and set aside to cool. Once cooled, cut each potato into 1/2" slices and place in large bowl. Set aside.
Next, cook bacon until beginning to crisp and drain on paper towel to remove excess grease. Add leeks and thyme to pan and cook over medium heat for 7 minutes, until softened. Add the leek mixture to the potatoes along with the crumbled goat cheese. Next chop the bacon and parsley coarsely, reserving two tablespoons of each for garnish. Add the bacon and parsley to the potato mixture and gently toss to combine. Spread evenly into prepared dish and set aside.
In separate bowl, whisk the eggs, cream and milk together. Season with salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture over potato mixture. Next, scatter reserved bacon and parsley over the top.
Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, until puffed and golden and the centre is just set.
Makes 6 servings.
So the tree must come down and the decorations need packed away. Until next time, friend.
The Wednesday Chef
The Vanilla Bean Blog
3191 Miles Apart
Forty-Sixth at Grace
spoon fork bacon
Joy the Baker
just a smidgen
Lottie + Doof
Couple of Cooks
Apt.2B Baking Co.
Chocolate & Zucchini
Rocket & Squash
the little loaf
Once Upon a Chef
The Eating Tree