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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Will and Kate Forever

April 29th 2011 will always be remembered as the day of Will and Kate's Royal Wedding.  It seems like the whole world is going to grind to a halt to celebrate this happy occasion, and so are we.   Here are some of our plans for the Big Day:

In the tradition of Charles and Diana's wedding, it's going to be a pyjama party with mothers and daughters.  We'll be setting the alarm for 3:00am to catch the start of the media frenzy.  Who will be there?    Who has the best fascinator? We will be watching all the "red carpet" details.

 You know with us, food will be central to the celebration.  At that hour, we'll only be ready for tea and scones, and a little fruit,  but there will be more to come. Once the marriage vows are finalized, we'll head outdoors to fire up the barbecue and produce a Full English Breakfast in honour of the royal couple's nuptuals.  But you don't need the excuse of a Royal Occasion to treat yourself to breakfast cooked on the barbecue:  this feast is great for any day. 

Will & Kate's Wedding Breakfast

Banana, Coconut and Ginger Scones 
Fresh Fruit Cocktail

Grilled Sausages
Grilled Canadian Bacon
Grilled Tomatoes and Mushrooms
Baked  Beans
Eggs, sunny-side up
Crumpets with Marmalade

Optional:  Champagne and Orange Juice

Banana, Coconut and Ginger Scones

For the scones
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour; more as needed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2-1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 small ripe banana, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon minced crystallized ginger
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons coconut milk plus more for brushing
Coarse sugar for dusting

For the glaze
3/4 cup icing sugar
1-1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
Pinch salt

Make the scones Position a rack in the top third of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest, and salt. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until a few pea-size lumps remain. Stir in the banana and the ginger. Add the coconut milk; with a fork, gradually stir until the mixture just comes together.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat gently into a 7-inch circle about 1 inch thick. Using a chef’s knife, cut the dough into 8 wedges. Transfer to the baking sheet, spacing the wedges 1 to 2 inches apart. Brush the tops with coconut milk and sprinkle liberally with sugar.

Bake until the tops are golden, 19 to 25 minutes, rotating halfway through baking for even browning. Transfer the scones to a wire rack and cool slightly, 3 to 4 minutes.

Glaze  In a small bowl, stir the confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice, butter, and salt until smooth. Drizzle the warm scones with the glaze. Serve warm or at room temperature with butter and jam as desired.

Full English Breakfast for Two

A side-burner is a plus especially when making the whole meal outside at once.  However, it is also possible to heat the pots and pans directly on the grill.  Just be sure to protect your hands with a good oven mitt as the
barbecue tends to heat up the handles.  

4 breakfast sausages
2 slices peameal bacon
1 1/2  tablespoon olive oil, or more as needed
2 tomatoes, halved and cores removed
4-6 button mushrooms, wiped clean and stems trimmed
1 small can beans in tomato sauce
4 eggs
2 crumpets
2 tablespoons marmalade
salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat barbecue on HIGH, then brush grids clean and reduce temperature setting to MEDIUM.  Place the sausages on the top rack, and turn as needed to brown evenly.   Brush the mushrooms and tomatoes with olive oil, and place them on the grill (cut side down for the tomatoes).  Turn the vegetables until tender and warmed through, about 5 minutes.  At the same time,  grill the peameal bacon on both sides.  Meanwhile,  place beans in a small pot to heat through on the barbecue, and place a small saute pan on the side burner.  Brush the pan with a little olive oil or a spot of butter, and crack the eggs.  Cook to taste.  Lightly toast the crumpets on the grill.  Enjoy!


Last week, we mentioned that we were going to try to convince Bev to share her vinaigrette recipe with us, and being the great friend that she is, here it is:

Spring Vinaigrette from Fine Cooking Magazine April/May 2011
3 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp fragrant honey
1 tbsp finely chopped shallot
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Whisk all of the ingredients together and refrigerate for up to 3 days. 

This is a very deilcious dressing, and the honey is the reason!  Bev also shared the source of her honey - of course it is local!    
She used Wildflower honey from Saugeen Country Honey purchased at the Kitchener Market . Their “farm” is in Elmwood Ontario.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Celebrate Easter with the Flavours of Spring!

 We had an interesting holiday weekend, starting on Thursday night in Toronto.  We celebrated the launch of Teddy's new playbill for the Red Light District Theatre Company at an art space near Ossington and Dundas.  The creative enthusiasm of the people in his company was amazing, and as always, our kids opened our eyes to something new!  For those of you who are interested in contemporary theatre, watch for upcoming productions of La Ronde, Brave New World and Faust.  Before the party, we all went to a great new restaurant in the same area called Salt:  a Portuguese restaurant featuring tapas.  We sampled a host of wonderful plates with the highlights being some delicious charcuterie as well as some outstanding pulled pork with guacamole on toast points and a nice white wine, Esporao.  

Friday night we were invited to Bev and Tim's for Prime Rib, asparagus, roasted cherry tomatoes,  yorkshire pudding with brown sauce and a green salad with pistachios.  We're going to try to pry the recipe for the vinaigrette out of was delicious!  Nora made a lovely light dessert of pistachio meringues served with fresh berries.

Saturday, as usual, involved a morning walk with "the walkers", and a trip to the market.

Easter Sunday was celebrated with family, and since spring definitely was in the air, spring lamb was on the menu. For a traditional Easter you can't beat this combination of light, bright flavours:

                  Stir-Fried Vegetables

  2      cups  broccoli, cut into small florets
  2      cups  cauliflower, cut into small florets
  1      red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
  1      zucchini ,sliced 1/4" thick
  1      cup  carrots, sliced on the diagonal
  1      cup  sugar snap peas, strings removed
  3      green onions, sliced sharply on the diagonal

                        For the Marinade:

  2        tablespoons  canola oil
  1         tablespoon  sesame oil
  1         teaspoon  asian chili sauce
  1         tablespoon  lime juice
  1         tablespoon  oyster sauce
  1         tablespoon  honey
  1         clove  garlic , minced
  1         tablespoon  fresh ginger , grated
  1         teaspoon  kosher salt

                        For the Garnish:

  2        tablespoons  fresh cilantro -- chopped
  2        tablespoons  toasted sesame seeds

Prepare all the vegetables and place in a large bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk together the marinade ingredients.   Pour the
marinade over the vegetables and toss to coat evenly.
Preheat barbecue on HIGH, placing the Wok Topper or Grill Topper on  the
cooking grids.  When it is nice and hot, brush or spray the wok liberally
with vegetable oil.
Place all the vegetables into the wok, and stir briefly, then close the
lid. Continue to toss the vegetables with tongs
until they are tender-crisp and starting to brown, about 10
Using good quality oven mitts, transfer the vegetables to a heated serving
platter, and sprinkle with chopped cilantro and toasted sesame seeds.

       Honey Garlic Leg of  Lamb on the Rotisserie

  2        3 ½    pound  boneless legs of lamb
  2        tablespoons  lemon pepper
1/4       cup  butter
  2        teaspoons  dried rosemary
  3        cloves  garlic -- minced
            juice and zest of 1 lemon
            juice and zest of 1 orange
 1/3      cup  honey
For the Drip Pan:  optional, 2 sprigs fresh rosemary

Up to 24 hours or at least 1 hour ahead of cooking, rub the meat all over
with lemon pepper.  Melt the butter in the microwave, and stir in the
remaining ingredients, except for the honey.   Place the lamb in a heavy
resealable plastic bag, pour the marinade over, seal and refrigerate.
One hour before cooking, remove lamb from refrigerator to bring it close
to room temperature.  Remove from marinade, pat dry with paper towels, and
brush lightly with olive oil.  Reserve marinade.  Place a drip pan directly on the flavour wave, beneath the cooking grids, in the centre of the barbecue.  Fill with water or wine and rosemary, if desired. Preheat the barbecue on HIGH.

Meanwhile, skewer the meat on the rotisserie rod.  Tie meat tightly and
fasten securely with the prongs.  Position the counterbalance for even
rotation.  (To do this, lay the rod with meat over the kitchen sink
allowing the heaviest side of the roast to turn to the bottom. With the
counterbalance loosened, rotate it to the opposite side...facing up.
Twist the end of the spit rod to secure tightly)
 If using main burners, reduce temperature to MEDIUM-LOW.  If using rear
rotisserie burner only, reduce the temperature to MEDIUM.

Place the spit rod on the barbecue, inserting into the motor and close the
lid.  Check the water level in the drip pan every 20 minutes to 1/2 hour
to ensure that the liquid has not evaporated.  Carefully pour in
additional HOT water as needed, using oven mitts to protect your hands.
Meanwhile, pour reserved marinade into a small saucepan and add 1/3 cup
honey.  Bring to a boil, then simmer until slightly thickened, for at least 5 minutes. 
For best results, use a meat thermometer to ensure that it is cooked to
your liking (Rare:135F, Medium- Rare:145F), but as a general guide aim for 20
minutes per pound for medium doneness.   Place on a carving board, tent
with foil, and cover with a kitchen towel to rest and reabsorb juices. 
Cut into slices and serve with the reheated marinade. 

Moroccan Couscous

2 tsp canola oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
3   cup chicken stock
2 large carrots, diced
1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1 tsp coriander, ground
1 tsp cumin, ground
1 tsp chili pepper flakes
½  tsp salt
1 medium zucchini, diced

½  cup currants
1 ½  cup medium grain couscous
½  cup fresh parsley, chopped

Heat oil over medium heat and add onion, garlic and ginger. Saute for 2 minutes, until softened. Add chicken stock, carrots, black pepper, coriander, cumin, chili pepper flakes and salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5-7 minutes. Add zucchini and cook 2-3 minutes. Stir in currants.
In a large bowl, pour chicken broth and vegetable mixture over couscous. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff , taste and adjust seasonings Garnish with parsley, just before serving.

Monday, April 18, 2011

First Dinner Party of Spring

What did we say about April showers and May flowers?  Where does this snow fit in?!

Bev and Briar braced against wind and snow.

Last week we were on very different paths:  Andrea was in England by her son Charlie’s bedside post-op, and the good news is he came through very well.  Andrea and Charlie got to watch one great movie The Lives of Others,  and a string of really bad ones too.  

  Meanwhile, Kris was busy volunteering at the Child Witness Centre 8th Annual Youth Symposium, where 2,000 grade eight students came together to be inspired by some leaders who have overcome challenges in their lives. 

At the end of the week we gathered around the barbecue for some creative development and the earliest dinner party ever (all the guests were gone by 9:45!!  ....yawn!)  On the menu was:

Bev's Arugula Salad with Pecans, Smoked Gouda and Asparagus
Polenta with Gorgonzola and Sundried Tomato Vinaigrette*
Grilled Vegetable Succotash*
Potato Gratin with Caramelized Onions and Emmenthal Cheese
Smoked Beef and Pork Ribs with Spicy Indiana Barbecue Sauce
Ginger Carrot Cake with White Chocolate Frosting

One of our guests, Linda Jarrett, was preparing for the annual MS Walk which was happening the next morning.  She is the top fundraiser for our local chapter with over $18,000 in pledges!  Congratulations, Linda.

Grilled Polenta with Gorgonzola and Sundried Tomato Vinaigrette
Polenta is very versatile and is a great make ahead dish.  The polenta should be prepared in the morning, then let to sit in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat.   We adapted this recipe for grilling by putting the cheese on top instead of inside the polenta.  It is quickly grilled and then ready to garnish and served as an appetizer, side dish or even main course.  Another time, try serving it with a marinara sauce, or for a Mexican twist, with salsa and black beans ( and lots of cilantro!)
2 cups cornmeal
6 cups water or chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
2 tsp Mediterranean rub (stay tuned for more information about our product line; meanwhile, substitute Italian Seasoning)
3 tbsps  butter

Sundried Tomato Vinaigrette

2 tbsp sundried tomatoes, packed in oil, finely chopped
4 tbsp fresh herbs, chopped – we recommend basil and fennel
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
½ tsp grainy mustard
½ tsp honey
½ cup extra virgin olive oil

3 ounces gorgonzola cheese, sliced

Prepare polenta by combining cornmeal, water, salt, and herbs in a large saucepan, whisking until blended. Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly. As you notice the cornmeal thickening, keep stirring, reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Stir every 3 – 4 minutes to prevent scorching. When polenta is thick and creamy, it will start to pull away from the sides of the pot. Add butter. Transfer to a small baking sheet which has been lined with plastic wrap. Flatten and smooth the surface with your hand, or a flat spatula dipped in water. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours .

Prepare vinaigrette by chopping herbs, sundried tomato, garlic and salt together. Scrape off cutting board and add to glass jar. Add sherry vinegar, grainy mustard, honey and extra virgin olive oil. Shake vigourously and set aside.

Preheat grill on MEDIUM-HIGH. Cut polenta into triangles, brush with oil and grill 4 minutes. Turn and top with gorgonzola cheese and cook another 4 minutes. When ready to serve, drizzle vinaigrette over top. If serving as an appetizer or main course, plate on top of a bed of arugula.

Grilled Succotash

Succotash is typically a combination of late summer corn and beans, but we took our cues from what looked best at the Farmer's Market on Saturday.   Only the tomatoes were grown locally, but there was a big stack of corn from Florida that looked juicy and moist and that inspired the rest of the dish.  The green beans (which would have been our preference) looked sad, so we used sugar snap peas and asparagus instead.

4 cobs corn, husks left on
1 bunch scallions
2 ripe tomatoes, cored and halved
1 cup sugar snap peas, trimmed
1/2 pound asparagus, ends snapped
2 tablespoons olive oil
juice of one lime
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat barbecue on MEDIUM-HIGH for 10 minutes, reduce heat to MEDIUM-LOW and brush the grids with oil to prevent sticking.  Place the corn on the grill, and turn every 5 minutes until cooked through, about 15-20 minutes.  Set aside until cool enough to handle.  Meanwhile, brush the remaining vegetables with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place the tomatoes cut side down on the grill, lay the scallions on the grill on a diagonal, and place the asparagus and sugar snaps (or green beans if using) horizontally on the cooking grids.  Another option is to use a wok topper to minimize vegetables slipping through the grids.  Continue turning and cooking the vegetables until they are softened and have light grill marks.  Cool slightly.

Into a medium bowl, cut the corn nibletts off the cob.  Slip the skins off the tomatoes, then chop them coarsely and add them to the bowl with the corn.  Chop the green vegetables into bite-sized pieces and add them to the bowl.  Sprinkle with lime juice, chopped herbs, and salt and pepper to taste.  Toss to combine well.  Cover and let sit at room temperature for up to 2 hours. 

Monday, April 11, 2011


April showers bring May flowers - or so the saying goes. Well, yesterday morning, the skies darkened here and then let loose with 15 minutes worth of hail and a lot of rain! Nonetheless, the sun burst forth shortly after that and the temperature rose to 23C.  If that doesn't make you  feel like spring, I don't know what does.  The garden is now looking very promising with the crocuses poking through the soil and we are tempted to spend more time in the backyard. It is definitely time to to start thinking about cooking outdoors! But first, we want you to do a bit of spring cleaning - to your barbecue!

One thing that our husbands have in common is that they both take pride in having a nice clean barbecue, so we have no problem  handing that job over to them!  The dogs are always a big help too.

 Not only do we want it to look good on the outside, we want it to be safe on the inside, so follow these simple steps to ensure that you have a safe and delicious grilling season ahead of you.

Cleaning Your Barbecue Grill Before Each Use:
1.     Preheat grill on high with the lid closed for approximately 10 minutes.  Do not leave the grill unattended.
2.     Turn the grill to desired temperature setting.
3.     Use a stainless steel bristled barbecue brush to clean the warming rack and cooking grids.  Remember the grill is hot so protect your hand with a safety mitt.
4.     Brush the cooking grids with vegetable oil to prepare the surface for cooking.

Periodic Cleaning of your Barbecue Grill:
1.     Preheat grill on high with the lid closed for approximately 10 minutes.  Do not leave the grill unattended. 
2.     Turn off the grill and let cool. 
3.     Empty the Grease Pan and Grease Tray and put back into place before proceeding. 

Stainless Steel, Porcelain Wire and Chrome Plated Cooking Grids and Warming Racks:

4.     While cooling, use a stainless steel bristle barbecue brush to clean the warming rack and cooking grids.  Remember the grill may be hot so protect your hand with a safety mitt.  It is not necessary to wash the grids and warming rack, but if you wish to do so, use a barbecue cleaner such as Barbecue Genius Grill Cleaner or mild soapy water on stainless steel or porcelain coated wire cooking grids.  Be sure to rinse thoroughly.  Never use commercial oven cleaning products.  Cast Iron Cooking Grids:  While cooling, use a stainless steel bristle barbecue brush to clean the cast iron cooking grids.  Remember the grill may be hot so protect your hand with a safety mitt.  Do not wash cast iron cooking grids with soapy water or use a grill cleaner as this may promote rusting.  Brush the cast iron cooking grids with Vegetable or Olive Oil to protect from rusting.
5.     Remove Cooking Grids and Warming Rack.
6.     Flav-r-wave: Scrape the Flav-r-wave or Vaporizor Heat Tents and inside of Firebox with flat scrapper and vacuum the debris.  (A wooden paint stir stick works well.)
7.     Remove the Flav-r-wave or Vaporizor Heat Tents.
8.     Firebox: Scrape the bottom of the Firebox with flat scrapper and vacuum the debris.
9.     Burners: Lightly brush the burner ports with the (back side of the) stainless steel bristles.  Clean the Venturi Tubes with a bottlebrush or venture brush.
10.   Grease Pan and Grease Tray: remove, clean and replace.
11.   Replace the Burners (if removed), flav-r-wave, and cooking grids.

Cleaning the Exterior of your Barbecue Grill: 
1.     All exterior surfaces may be wiped clean using a cotton cloth and a mild soapy water solution.  For a more thorough cleaning follow the steps below.
2.     Die Cast Aluminum components are rustproof and require very little care.  Wipe clean using a cotton cloth and a mild soap and water solution.  If white oxidation spots appear, wipe with a clean cotton cloth dipped in cooking oil to restore the lustre.
3.     Stainless Steel components are rust resistant.  Wipe clean using a cotton cloth and a good quality Stainless Steel cleaner. For aggressive stains, use an aggressive cleaner suitable for Stainless Steel and plastic scrub pad following the manufacturer’s directions and then wipe clean using a cotton cloth and a good quality Stainless Steel cleaner.  Caution: be careful not to use an aggressive cleaner on other surfaces of the barbecue grill or on Stainless Steel Cooking Grids. 
4.     Painted Surfaces: Wipe clean using a cotton cloth and a mild soap and water solution.  To restore lustre, apply an automotive wax following the manufacturer’s directions.
5.     Resin/Plastic Surfaces: Wipe clean using a cotton cloth and a mild soap and water solution.  To restore lustre, wipe using a clean cotton cloth a resin/plastic protector.

After all of that hard work,  what better reward than a steak and salad dinner -simple, healthy, delicious! We always throw a few extra strip loin steaks on the grill so that we can make steak salad, fajitas, or sandwiches for a quick dinner midweek.

As always, the technique for grilling a Perfect Steak is on the Broil King website. Follow the link for this no-fail method.

We also prepared a simple appetizer, because the kids were getting a little rest-less during the intense grill cleaning period. The asparagus is another harbinger of spring - can't wait until it is available at our local asparagus farm, Barries.

Grilled Asparagus and Prosciutto Spears

2 lbs asparagus, cleaned well
1 tbsp. olive oil
12- 15 slices prosciutto
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Preheat barbecue on HIGH for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to MEDIUM.
Meanwhile, prepare asparagus by rinsing thoroughly in cold water to remove sand. Snap off the woody end.  Toss lightly in olive oil, place on grill and cook for 6 minutes, turning once.  Remove from grill and sprinkle lightly with salt.
Meanwhile, cut each piece of proscuitto in half, lengthwise. Wrap bottom half of each spear of asparagus in proscuitto.
Arrange on platter and sprinkle with balsamic vinegar and freshly cracked black pepper.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Baby Eleanor with Uncle Andrew
We often talk between ourselves about how the early years spent raising our children were filled with some of the happiest moments of our lives.  We marvel about how often, at the end of an extremely hectic/busy day, we would wonder what we had accomplished all day, other than having cared for and nurtured our large and busy broods. With four children between the ages of newborn and six years, a good day included bathing them, feeding them, dressing them, playing with them, getting them outside, getting them inside, naps,  toilets, more food and so on.  Little accomplishments were big.  If we were able to spend a few moments on ourselves, it often involved knitting a baby blanket, or photographing the kids while they played.  But two things are  certain: those days were filled with a lot of laughs, and all of the hardwork was a labour of love.  We were reminded about those amazing times recently when we spent time with some of the new little people in our lives – babies of friends and neighbours. It's a whole different ball game, we still have the love, but definitely not as much labour!
We made sure that we vacuumed before  J. J. came over, so that he wouldn’t get covered in dog  fur!!

Hand knit for baby Eleanor - More love than labour for a sweet god-daughter

But getting back to the present, we have another busy week ahead of us, with one of us having just returned from a family visit to NYC, and another heading out to the UK to have a visit with Charlie.
As always, when things get busy, we look for fresh ingredients to grill up a quick meal. One of our sons  just returned from Miami and filled us in on a delicious shrimp ceviche that he enjoyed at a Cuban restaurant there. So here is a meal inspired by that, and the delicious fresh tortillas made by J & D Peters, available at the Kitchener Farmers Market.

Grilled Shrimp Wraps with Fresh Avocado and Tomato Salsa
1 package fresh whole wheat or corn tortillas
1 lb large shrimp, shelled and deveined 
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp honey
Pinch of chili flakes
2 avocados, diced
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2 medium red onion, finely diced
1/2 cup. fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp lime juice
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup sour cream, garnished with lime zest.

Combine the marinade ingredients in a glass bowl and add thawed shrimp.
Preheat barbecue on MEDIUM for 10 minutes.Meanwhile, prepare salsa by combining all ingredients in a medium glass bowl and set aside.
Brush the cooking grids with vegetable oil. Grill shrimp 2 minutes per side, until the shrimp becomes opaque and curls. As the shrimp are cooking, heat up the tortillas by placing them on the top rack of the barbecue.
Assemble wraps by layering shrimp and salsa in the wrap, top with sour cream, fold and serve.

Our dogs are another daily source of fascination for us these days!