Sunday, February 28, 2010

Saturday & Sunday - Say Goodbye to February

Another crazy weekend and month is quickly coming to an end.  Saturday my family stepped out to celebrate a cousin’s milestone birthday. We descended a bar called C’est What around 2:00pm.  The bar is very spacious and cozy at the same time, perfect for a gathering/celebration.  There was an amazing live band who really brought me back to the French Quarter in New Orleans.  C’est What sells great microbrewery beer, excellent food and fantastic atmosphere.  All the service staff was great!  Thanks Curtis!  A place you will certainly want to check out.  Small Note: The crowed is pretty mature on Saturday afternoon, but they are very embracing.

As long as I can remember my cousin (the birthday girl) never had a birthday cake she could eat.  She has a milk allergy like most of my family.  Since she probably has everything she needs.  If not, I probably could not afford what she really wanted, I decided to bake her a dairy free cake.  Lets just say for the record that baking doesn't give me the same pleasure as cooking. Therefore my baking repertoire is a bit limited.  I contacted my baking guru at Tikitonic to find a recipe that would fit the occasion.  She suggested a Clementine Almond Cake.  I pulled the recipe off her blog at Speed of Life.

 The Clementine Almond cake is gluten and dairy free, made mainly of almonds and eggs.  The frosting is a ganache with dark chocolate and soy milk.  The soy milk is not my beverage of choice, but it sure worked well with the ganache.

There were a few down sides to the cake though, 1. I couldn't eat it because I'm allergic to nuts. 2. I have 20 clementines and a 1.89L of soy milk left over. LOL
I guess I'll have to make a few more cakes. 

Anyway, the reviews were great!  Everyone said they enjoyed.  Thanks Tikitonic for your help on this one.

After the celebrations Mark and I wanted to go out for dinner since he kids were still with Nana and Papa. A foodie couple suggested that Mark and I try out a Japanese restaurant called the Prince Japanese Steakhouse near home.  It was delicious.  The prices ranged from $20.00 – $35.00 for soup, salad and entrée.  We were pleased with our meal.  Yum Yum.  I can't wait to go back.

Today I literally ran out the door to purchase a few cookbooks.  I was under a time crunch; I had to make it back home before the Olympic hockey game started. GO CANADA!!! I did make home by the 2nd period so all was good.

I purchased the following books:

Flavor, by Rocco Dispirito
A Taste of Canada, by Rose Murray (My efforts in celebrating Canada)
The Weeknight Cook, Williams-Sonoma
Simply Thai Cooking by, Wandee Young & Byron Ayanoglu (My cousin received this book for her birthday).

I’m not sure which one to start with.  If anyone out there has a preference please let me know.  I’ll take a vote.

The Cookbook Addict

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Day Five - Jamie's Food Revolution - Paella

Day five...I almost had to pass on making something from this book today.  I spent most of the day at the mall getting ingredients for a surprise birthday cake for my cousin and wineglasses for me.  Another addiction I have (the wineglasses) that is.  These aren't any old wineglasses; they are Crystal blown Bordeaux Wine glasses made in Germany.  They are larger than any one wineglass I own, which is saying a lot if you know me.  I had to lower one of my cabinet shelves so they could fit.  I have to say I am enjoying my wine in them tonight. 

With my wine in hand, I decided to make the Paella.  I started dinner very late today, since I spent most of the day at the mall and I really didn't feel like going to the grocery store in a snow storm today.  I really had a hard time getting this dish started.  I sucked it up, went to the grocery store and at 7:30 PM I started making the dish with little enthusiasm since I still had to make dinner for my 5-year-old, and feed the baby.  Once I got past a few challenges, the dish was fast and easy to put together.  I'll be honest, it's not your traditional Paella, but it's close.  I believe Jamie designed this recipe so that even a novice could put it together.  The flavors really melded together.  Even my husband rated it between good and amazing on this one.  I have to agree.  It was quite good.

After a week of this book, I feel like I still need to try out more of the recipes.  A week is just not enough time to give this book a try.  The recipes are diverse and there are a few good and bad dishes.  I realized that this book is certainly for the novice cook.  The recipes are very easy to put together and the instructions are plain and simple.  You need to keep in mind though, that this book has a strong British influence, unlike Jamie's other books which are very Italian in nature.  So in Jamie's Food Revolution the flavors are basic and mild.   I would say that this book is for your average bachelor looking for something plain and easy to cook.

Although I may not have been a fan of the Bolognese and the Lasgane, I still think this book is worth the bucks.  I would buy the book just for the Paella and Fajita recipes alone.  I still want to try out some of the curry dishes, so I'll be hanging on to this book.  For that reason:

 The Cookbook Addict

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Day Four - Jamie's Food Revolution - Lasagne(a)

So today I took the plunge and made the Lasagne (a).  I kept reading over the recipe and figured I would be in trouble since Jamie spells Lasagna with a (e) and not a (a).   I will continue to respect the book and spell this dish Lasagne.

One thing that is very common with British cookbooks is that they use creme fraiche/sour cream in a lot of recipes.  What floored me was that Jamie uses this ingredient in this Lasagne recipe where we would use cottage cheese or ricotta.  I built the lasagne like the true food architect that I am.  I laid the foundation bolognese sauce, the bricks fresh sheets of lasagne, then the mortar sour cream???, and then paint parmesan cheese. 

Once this suspicious creation was baked and ready, I served it up with a side salad.  Thank god for salad.  The salad had more flavor that the lasagne! We weren't too impressed.  My theory is even though Lasagna is considered a basic and simple every ingredient should have its debut. I didn't get that with this dish.  This lasagne just reminded me of all the great ones that I've had.  Look the dish wasn't uneatable, but why waste calories on something so so, when you can have something so much better.

The Cookbook Addict

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Day Three - Jamies Food Revolution - Chicken Fajitas

Because I was disappointed with the bolognese sauce yesterday, I decided to pass on eating Jamie's Lasagne for today.  I need another day before I can bring myself to taste the sauce again.  So, I decided to try the Chicken Fajitas.   Although this recipe called for organic chicken breasts, I went with the organic chicken thighs.  For this recipe I went 90% organic. I was skeptical that I would notice the difference in flavor, but I have to say that this dish had amazing freshness.  Organic does make the difference.

The Chicken Fajitas Recipe also has a salsa recipe.  Both recipes were very simple. Jamie's goal with this book is to encourage fresh ingredients and to convince people that simple home cooking is much healthier and tastier than take-out.  I believe that with these two recipes that he could easily persuade a junk food addict that home cooking is best.  This dish reminded me of an amazing meal I had in a Mexico restaurant that sat by the ocean.  The meal was delicious.  The Fajitas were refreshing and absolutely delicious.

I will surely make this recipe again and again and again.

The Cookbook Addict

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Day Two - Jamie's Food Revolutation - Bolognese Sauce

Once again, it was a day where time was not on my side.  Between running to emergency with a puffy eyed five-year-old, shopping for groceries, and trying to get my laundry done I was limited on cooking time.  However, I also had a wonderful visit with my friend/aunt.  But once we get together I loose all motivation to cook anything. But because I feel very committed to this blog, I couldn't let my readers down.  So I decided to prep myself for tomorrow by making a Bolognese Sauce for Lasagne.

I have to confess though, that I found it very hard to pick a recipe today.  After reading this book for a few days, I feel so uninspired.  All the photos in the book look like unformed, watery messes on the plates.  Not to mention, everything looks like it's made with ground beef.  What I realized later was that this book is very British.  The curry dishes, the breakfasts and the fish dishes.  The photos look very rustic, but very unappetizing at the same time.  Not to mention, I'm very particular about my sauces.  I like my sauce think, clinging to the plate, making love to the food and leaving an after glow where the meal once sat and a memory on your tongue.  With Jamie's book you get more of a watery sauce which leaves your meal swimming on the plate.

The outcome of the Bolognese Sauce you ask.  I maybe a harsh critic on this one since my mother has always made an amazing sauce, with various relatives including myself try to replicate.   I have to say I make a pretty fantastic sauce.  So that said, I was very disappointed with Jamie's sauce.  It lacks a richness that sticks to your fork and flavor that should haunt your pallet for more.  Sorry Jamie not impressed with your Bolognese.  However, I'll let the sauce sit overnight and see if it redeems its self in the morning.

The Cookbook Addict

Monday, February 22, 2010

Day One - Jamie's Food Revolution - Cherry Tomato Sauce with Cheat's Fresh Pasta

Hello there!  You may notice I didn't get a chance to blog over the weekend.  It seems that every weekend gets just a bit busier.

Mark, the kids and I went to Cannington to watch dog sledding races.  We spent a full day outdoors enjoying the activities.  What were even better were the food trucks and tents with their  interesting mix of dishes.  There was the Jamaican tent serving peas and rice, jerk chicken and coleslaw, which was very tasty on a cold winter day.  We also tried pulled pork on a bun.  Mark enjoyed it, but I've had better.  Then there was the walking taco.  You ask, what is a walking taco. I had my own visions dancing in my head. When Mark came back with his order I was stunned and hysterical (laughing) at the same time.  A walking taco is a bag of Zesty Cheesy Doritos crushed in a bag, topped with ground beef, shredded cheese, lettuce, sour cream and a fork.  You eat the taco from the bag.  Low overhead I guess since you don't need plates. It's not a bad idea and didn't taste too bad. However, my favorite for the day was the vendor truck fries yummmm.  Just love them.

The rest of the weekend was pretty packed, but I won't get into the details since we didn't eat anything else new.

The book being tested for this week is Jamie's Food Revolution.  I have all of Jamie Oliver's cookbooks.  I've never been disappointed with his recipes.  They're easy, with simple ingredients, and he has always used fresh ingredients, which really makes you fall in love with the dishes.  Lately Jamie has been working hard to teach the nation about sustainable food.  Going back to basics when it comes to raising our animals and growing our food.  So in this new book he really encourages organic.  I have to say, organic makes the difference taste wise and budget wise.  Jamie promises that the meals in this book will be simple, delicious, and affordable.  I’m a bit suspicious about affordable, since organic and be pretty costly.  So I'll test it out to see if he's right.  I also want to know if the family will notice an obvious difference in taste with the organic produce and meats. 

Today I started with Cherry Tomato Sauce with Cheat's Fresh Pasta.  I used fresh cherry tomatoes, basil, 6 year old cheese and a nice aged balsamic vinegar.  Cheat's part of the dish is using fresh lasagna pasta from the store and cutting it into strips to resemble pasta noodles.  But since I already had fresh pasta in the fridge, I just used that.  I have to admit that I never had a pasta sauce made with balsamic vinegar, I was worried that the meal would end up in the garbage.  But the sauce was rich, smooth and mellow.  The dish was light and flavorful.  The best part was having the ingredients on hand.

Tomorrow I'll have to venture outside and pick up some ingredients.

Wish me luck.

The Cookbook Addict

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Day Five - Gordon Ramsay Makes It Easy - Spaghetti with Lobster in a Creamy Tomato Sauce and Creamy Spinach Tart

I'll be honest; I didn't have very high expectation from Gordon Ramsay.  As far as I was concerned he was all talk not much chopping.  After a week with Gordon "Makes It Easy" Ramsay cookbook, I have to say that his recipes are pretty great!  I really enjoyed the food this week.

Today I made the Spaghetti with Lobster in a Creamy Tomato Sauce.  Other than having to shell the lobster this recipe took little time.  I was easy on myself today and decided to purchase the fresh pasta. The dish reminds me of a similar dish I have every birthday at Rocco's Plum Tomato.  This dish was truly a treat to the pallet. The chili's give the dish a nice bite and using cherry tomatoes keeps the sauce mellow and not too acidic.
 I also decided to make the Creamy Spinach Tart.  I was worried that this dish would be watery since it called for so much sour cream. But the tart came together nicely.  This tart is a true spinach tart, the ingredients in this dish really compliment and bring out the spinach flavor, instead of being more on the eggy side which is usually the case.
This cookbook is simple to read, but does provide minimum information with the assumption that you do have some cooking background.  The layout of the book is a bit confusing since the recipes are not categorized by anything in particular.   The book almost reads like Gordon had a handful of recipes and he just randomly put them in the book. What saves this book is that you can prepare delicious meals in a relatively quick span of time.  What I love best about it is that Gordon provides alternative ingredients for items that may be hard to find.

 The Cookbook Addict

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Day Four - Gordon Ramsay Makes It Easy - Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Legs Stuffed with Pork and Pistachios and Eggplan Gateau

I really don't know how to start this blog today.  What do I say?  How do I say it?  Gordon Ramsay Makes It Easy is certainly living up to its title.

Today's recipes which consisted of Eggplant Gateau and Bacon Wrapped Chicken Legs Stuffed with Pork and Pistachios took me mere minutes to make.  The Gateau was so quick to make.  This dish would make the perfect summer dish with flavors that scream fresh from the garden.  This dish melts in your mouth.  If you are a true eggplant eater, this dish is for you.  It presents well and even though there are few ingredients the flavors erupt in your mouth.

As I sat at the table with my dish in front of me, getting ready to sink my teeth into the chicken dish I had a nagging feeling that bacon, chicken and sausage steamed and fried, may not produce a palatable product.  I was certainly wrong. Again, it was a fast recipe to pull together, presented well on the plate and the taste was out of this world.  I'm not sure if it was the texture that had me sneaking extra pieces or just the addictive characteristics of the combined ingredients.

To make the stuffed chicken or any of these dishes, you really have to use good quality ingredients.  I used nice thick maple bacon and good quality mild Italian sausage that made this dish sing. I loved the look of the meat once it was fried and sliced into portions.  It's an excellent recipe that makes any cook look professional.

There is one thing I didn't mention.  I'm allergic to nuts.  I've never tried pistachios, so I was unsure if I would react.  So I purchased a bag and tried one.  So far no reaction.  To be safe rather than be sorry, I left the nuts out of the recipe.  I can eat cashews, so the next time I try this dish I'll try it with cashews.

Here is a link to Gordon Ramsay's online demo of this dish:

You may want to give it a try.  I would recommend you do.

A Cookbook Addict

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Day Three - Gordon Ramsay Makes It Easy - Steamed Asparagus with Blood Orange Hollandaise Sauce, Chateaubriand for Two, Fondant Potatoes

Today my hat goes off to Gordon!  I was very surprised by the results of the above noted recipes. 

As I confessed yesterday, I killed my hollandaise sauce.  I could have revived it, but time was tight.  However, today I followed my own method for the hollandaise sauce and just added Gordon's touch " reduced blood orange juice” It turned out great!

Now for the Chateaubriand....lets just say that the cow died a worthy death and would have been proud of its contribution to this dish. It was touch and go for awhile though.  Instead of using my trusty oven timer, I chose to ask my husband to let me know when 15 minutes passed so I could take the meat out of the oven.  Of course he used his new toy, his cell phone.  As time went by my instincts told me to ask him if 15 minutes was up yet.  He then realized that he set the phone for 15 hours, so needless to say follow your instincts and keep you husband out of the kitchen unless he's pouring you a glass of wine or he can cook LOL! Long story short. The meat was saved and this dish was a good way. 

A while back my husband asked if we could just have meat and potatoes for dinner. NOT!  Variety is good for the soul I told him.  I was also concerned since in my world potatoes have their limitations, mashed, baked, boiled, scalloped.  Okay in my taste bud world these are limitations to me.  But let me say for the record the Fondant Potatoes were by far the most scrumptious spuds I've had in a longtime, not to mention the least work.

So if I haven't made myself clear yet, this meal was effortless, speedy to make and tasted fantastic.  Just one thing to keep in mind.  Season, season, season.  Gordon really leaves it up to you to balance the dish with salt and pepper and sometimes with one extra ingredient, which maybe listed without a measurement.  So in some small way, you are making these recipes your own.

The Cookbook Addict

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Day Two - Gordon Ramsay Makes it Easy - Steamed Asparagus with Orange Hollandaise and Fruit Kebabs with Chocolate Dip

Not my most ambitions day!  After serving pancakes at my 5-year-old Sons school, the rest of my day was consumed with a 7-month-old who just needed his Mama.  Thank God I made the Pasta with Bacon and Peas for dinner tonight.  As a side dish I made the Asparagus with Orange Hollandaise Sauce.

Two things I'm pretty good at making and was recognized for being the best at making was Hollandaise Sauce and Custard Cream.  Today, I really didn't show my expertise.  My Hollandaise sauce separated. I followed the directions precisely, so I'm not sure what went wrong.  Before my butter split from my yolk, the sauce needed a lot of seasoning.  Once the seasoning was balanced the sauce was tasty, even with the separation.

I then tried out the Fruit Kebabs with the Chocolate Dip.  If I screwed this up, then I really needed to go back to school.  But I didn't.  How do you mess up melted chocolate? Yes it's possible, but I didn't.  This entire recipe called for cut fruit and melted chocolate.  No flavorings were added, no cream, no nothing.  All in all it was simple and could it be anything but.  We're talking chocolate here.

What I noticed about this is, the cook really has to control the seasonings for the recipes in Gordon's book.  Given that it's a family book I suspect it's not a bad thing if you are catering to fussy children, or your trying to control their intake. Also, the directions for combining the ingredients are very short which concerns me since something could be lost in translation.

Tomorrow I'll be trying the Hollandaise Sauce with Asparagus again, Chateaubriand for two and Fondont Potatoes.  Wish me luck, since I'll be using a pretty costly piece of beef.  I do plan to use my own technique for the Hollandaise sauce this time.  Same ingredients of course.

The Cookbook Addict

Monday, February 15, 2010

Day One - Gordon Ramsay Makes It - Pasta with Bacon and Peas

First try for the week Pasta with Bacon and Peas.  Gordon, Gordon, Gordon, granted this was a very easy and simple dish, but really I thought my mouth would be watering for the next fork full of food, not the case at all.

The Pasta with Bacon and Peas recipe had a few little things that could stand some changes.  First, Gordon instructs that you sauté onions and garlic in olive oil, then add bacon and cook until bacon is crisp.  The problem with this approach is that your onions and your garlic starts to burn which adds a bitter taste, not to mention an unpleasant presentation.  To try and control this, I lowered the heat and kept stirring the ingredients.  It helped some, but not much.  Best idea is to cook the bacon first then the onions and garlic. The second issue I had was, he indicated to season with salt and pepper to taste.  This dish needs a bit more than salt and pepper to kick up the flavor a bit.  Even after I added the Parmesan Cheese, the dish was still lacking something.  It's a plain and simple dish, which would make for an ideal midweek dinner, but a bit of butter; lemon zest or nutmeg would have given it a bit more punch for taste.  This dish looked great, but a bit bland.

I'm still reviewing the book, so I hope to pick a recipe that provides a bit more wow factor.  Hey! It doesn't have to be glamorous and expensive to taste great.

The Cookbook Addict

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Saturday & Sunday - Happy Valentines Day!! - Gordon Makes It Easy Ramsay Cookbook

Once again the weekend has come and gone.  However, Monday is a holiday.  So for those who are not on Mat Leave,  it will  a great 4-day work week.

Today is Sunday, February 14, 2010 - Valentines Day!!!  Which means chocolate, champagne and flowers in translation.  Mark and I gave up going out for Valentines Day since most restaurants have set menus, and most restaurants are over priced for this one special day.  So, even if you go to your favorite restaurant for the dish that you always love to eat, you may not be able to order it, and what you do get will cost a whole lot more.

Sometimes on Valentines I make a fussy, high-end dinner.  But since I started testing cookbooks, everyday is Valentines Day to me.  So today we used our dinning out money to by groceries, bought a bottle of bubbly and ate left over pizza with added homemade toppings like minced sun dried tomatoes, black olives, garlic and anchovies.  I also added buttered caramelized shrimp to my pizza and washed it down with a great bottle of red wine.  Cheep and Cheerful.

For this weeks cookbook testing, I was given a suggestion to try one of Gordon Ramsay's cookbooks.  I've watched a few of his shows, but I usually end up turning the channel because his temperament reminds me of the Chefs in my first semester in cooking school, which made me tough as nails today

I did decided to purchase his book Gordon Makes It Easy Ramsay to see if he demands the same perfection from himself as he does from others.  I have high expectations from this book.  A DVD is provided with the book, so I expect minimal complications.  This book is sold as a family friendly book, providing recipes for children to make and eat, to romantic dinners for two.

I believe that if you want any recipe to be the best it can be, you need to ensure that you buy good ingredients. Fresh and organic foods can take your meal to a whole new level.  Since Gordon is of the same mind set, his book better be great.

The Cookbook Addict

Friday, February 12, 2010

Day Five - Into The Vietnamese Kitchens - Fried Wontons

Thank God It's Friday.  Daddy has night duty with the baby and today is the last day of making Vietnamese food.

 I didn't make an extravagant meal today.  I actually only made an appetizer.  The Fried Wontons (Hoanh Thanh Chien).  I filled the wontons with ground pork and shrimp and added the seasonings listed.  As usual with this book, the dish came together quick and easy.  I then made the dipping sauce, which was minimal effort. Why do take-out I say....these little bad boys were delicious.

I learned one thing about testing certain cookbooks for five days.  It's five days of eating the same style foods so you better love it!  I did and still do love Vietnamese food, the questions is do I like Vietnamese cooking?

The book Into The Vietnamese Kitchen is the perfect cookbook if you want an introduction to this style of cooking.  Author, Andrea Nguyen, provides extensive details about frequently used ingredients in Vietnamese dishes.  Pictures are provided to help point you in the right direction in the produce section and she gives a homey explanation about how these dishes bring her back to her childhood and how some recipes have been adjusted to north American ingredients, such as butter.

Into The Vietnamese Kitchens is definitely a buy, not just for the recipes but for the reading and the history.

The recipes were true to form.  The meals tasted just like what I've experienced at of the many Vietnamese restaurants in downtown Toronto and Mississauga.  Is it authentic?  I hope to one day be able to answer that question.


 The Cookbook Addict

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Day Four - Into The Vietnamese Kitchen - Shrimp in Spicy Tamarind Sauce & Beef Sitr-Fried with Cauliflower

Another day of Vietnamese! Today I chose to make the Shrimp in Spicy Tamarind Sauce.  It took me awhile to find the courage to make this dish.  Just the sound of Tamarind Sauce put a bit of fear into my soul.  You're probably wondering why.  I had to buy a block of tamarind and create the sauce from the block. I was hoping that the sauce came from a jar or a seed. No chance.  Once I started the recipe for just the sauce, I realized that it was much easier than I expected.  Actually, the complete recipe took a total of 15 minutes to put together.  The end result on this dish.....Fantastic!  The flavors were complex.  The taste was salty, sweet, spicy and tangy.  The heat in the dish kind of sneaks up at the end of the meal and warms your heart.
The Beef Stir-Fried with Cauliflower was straightforward.  The beef is marinated first and the cauliflower is parboiled, then both items are fried together.  The combination was perfect.  The meat melted in my mouth and the cauliflower took on the flavors of the marinated in the meat.  Although it was very tasty, I still have to say the shrimp won me over big time.  The Tamarind Sauce is a good ingredient to add to a sauce to put that extra zing in the dish.

The Cookbook Addict

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Day Three - Intro The Vietnamese Kitchen - Honey-Roasted Duck Legs

I'm not sure why, but I'm having a bit of trouble getting my head around this new cookbook.  It could be the painkillers or maybe I'm just stepping out of my comfort zone. I love Vietnamese food.  The soups, the noodle bowls, spring-rolls etc.  So I figured this week I would enjoy every meal.... depending if the book brought out the tastes I'm familiar with.  

One thing about Vietnamese food that I took for granted is the many steps you have to take to make a great meal.  The recipes are not complex by any stretch.  But there are numerous steps you have to take before you get your reward.... The food!  I'll be honest.  If it weren’t so snowy and cold outside, I would have ordered the food instead. But I didn't so in the kitchen I stand.

I made the Honey Roasted Duck Legs first.  The legs were steamed, roasted, baked and glazed.  I swear they got the full spa treatment. The taste was well worth being an esthetician for a few hours.  The duck tasted like it came from a restaurant.  A pretty good restaurant that is.  The crispy skin, roasted color, sticky finger savory glaze left me wanting for more.
I also made the Garlicky Noodles with Maggi and Butter. I would consider Maggi a secret sauce in this book.  No mixing or blending is required to create the sauce.  Just go to your nearest Vietnamese store and buy a bottle.  The sauce apparently is a staple in Vietnamese food, which was originally introduced to them by the French.  Maggi Sauce is a condiment, very much like Soy Sauce.

The Garlicky Noodles was a fast and easy recipe.  I added bean sprouts and green onion for texture and color, which really brought the dish alive.

Both dishes were delectable.

The Cookbook Addict

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Day Two - Into The Vietnamese Kitchen - Pho Xao Don

Today I was a bit frazzled from the moment I woke up for the second feeding (for the baby that is) at 3:45 a.m..  I was scheduled for minor surgery on my right hand, so my day started pretty early trying to get everyone out of the house on time to get to the hospital, finish the procedure and shop for food.

The surgery went fine, but I knew that I had to pick a menu that would accommodate a one handed cook.  So I went with Pan-Fried Rice Noodles with Beef and Vegetables (Pho Xao Don).  The meal was pretty easy to pull together with the help of my Souse Chef (my husband) who cut the veggies for me.  The dish was relatively tasty.  Although I was expecting more punch in the flavors of this dish, I was satisfied with the mild nuances that did come through in this recipe.

The book is very organized with the instructions.  You couldn't miss a step if you wanted to.   What was even a better surprise was the ingredients were very easy to find.  Mind you, I do live close to a Vietnamese grocery store.

Anyway, before my pain medication fails me, I just wanted to say that I'm looking forward to trying out a few recipes tomorrow. I may have to start early with only one hand in use. LOL!

The Cookbook Addict

Monday, February 8, 2010

Day One - Into The Vietnamese Kitchen - Baked Shrimp Toasts

Even though I have more cookbooks than I know what to do with, I felt the need to go to the bookstore and check out a few more cookbooks. My Husbands cousin asked me why I am I not choosing a cookbook to test from my current collection.  I guess it's like cloths.  You look in your cupboard and you feel like there is nothing in there you want to wear, so you go buy yourself a new outfit.  Since I'm not much of a fashion person, cookbooks are my cloths and my shoes.

Today I bought three books. Into The Vietnamese Kitchen by Andrea Nguyen; Gordon Ramsay Makes It Easy, by Gordon Ramsay; and Jamie's Food Revolution, by Jamie Oliver.  I went through each book to figure out which one would be on my testing blog this week.  They all looked great, but I went with the cookbook that I could use today without going to buy groceries - Into The Vietnamese Kitchen by Andrea Nguyen.

As I do every Monday, I took it easy.  I tired only one recipe today, the Baked Shrimp Toasts. I had a lot of doubts about this recipe. Usually Shrimp Toasts are deep-fried.  They are one of my Dim Sum favorites. The recipe calls for baking the bread first, then adding the topping and baking it again.  The recipe was so simple, that there wasn't even a mess in the kitchen, not to mention, I had time to play "Who's There" with my five-year old.  The results?  Lets put it this way......I wish I made them when I had a guest or two over.  I've eaten so many of them, I think I'm going to explode.  They are fantastic! My husband loves them as well.

Although they are tasty, the are still missing that golden brown finish that I'm familiar with which comes from deep-frying.  The other thing that I notice about the instructions in this book is that, you really have to read all the instructions, because the ingredient listing is not very descriptive.  It didn't indicated raw or cooked shrimp, and it notes to separate one egg, but it fails to tell you that you will need both the white and the yolk in the recipe. Again, the instructions clarify things.

I've read through part of the book.  Although Vietnamese is relatively low in fat, Andrea Nguyen seems to cut out just a bit more fat.  So far so good.  We'll see during the week if it takes away from the recipes.

The Cookbook Addict

Where Did The Weekend Go? Straight To My Hips!!!

I don't usually blog on Sundays, but I missed Saturday so I felt obligated to blog tonight. Not to mention I ate a lot of great food this weekend.

SATURDAY - I went to a baby shower for my Godson and his cute girlfriend.  The mother to be had a belly the size of a little basketball and she's due in 5 weeks.  She makes my pregnancy's look alien like, my belly was so big when I was pregnant, I wouldn't dare try to walk through a doorway sideways.

What I noticed about going to friends houses to eat, is that they always think I won't enjoy the food there because they think it's nothing like my cooking.  There is a little secret that most hosts and hostesses should know.  People who spend most of their lives in the kitchen cooking usually like to eat other peoples food.   Diversity is beautiful!

The food at the shower brought me back to the days when I first moved to Toronto.  My friend would have Sunday dinner every week to keep home traditions.  I loved her cooking.  It had been a long time since I tried it. She and her sister did the cooking, so there was a lot of food at the shower and it all tasted delicious.  The chow mien (I went back for seconds but it was all gone) That says a lot right there. The macaroni pie hummmmmmm delicious and the Jerk Chicken.  The list goes on.  The food was fantastic.  I love home cooking because the hosts put the love in the food and I sure tasted the love.

SUNDAY - Super Bowl Sunday. I know people say it's about the football, but really....isn't it about the food?
There is a lot of pressure to deliver a nice spread for Super Bowl, so to take the pressure of the host we did a pot luck.  My mission which I chose to accept was chicken wings.  Did you know there must be more ways to make a chicken wing than there is money being printed (legit or otherwise).  After hours of searching the net and going through my cookbooks I finally chose three recipes.  1. Hot Spicy Sticky Wings; 
2. Red Hot Chicken Wings; 3. Chicken Wings from the Bamboo Cookbook (in order left to right)
 All three recipes were easy to make. No. 3 Chicken Wings from the Bamboo were excellent.  They tasted just like they did at the restaurant.  All I needed was a curry chicken and rice and it would be like being back at the Bamboo

No. 1 was great.  Paula Deen out did herself.  Other than frying, there wasn't very much fat. in this dish.  The sweetness and the tang on these wings were very yummy.  I couldn't stop eating them.  It appears that the guys all liked No 1 and No 3.  Clear winners and so worth it.

The Cookbook Addict

Friday, February 5, 2010

Day Five - Mastering The Art of French Cooking - Homard Thermidor

Day Five already? This has been the fastest test week ever.  I couldn't say goodbye to testing this book until I tried the Lobster Thermidor - Graitneed in its shell.

Julia is very clear and honest in the beginning of this recipe.  There are a lot of steps, but it's well worth the dish.  Not to mention, now I know why it costs so much in a restaurant. It's not so much the lobster, but the work involved in making the dish.  The process is easy, just a bit time consuming.  But like true Julia Child cooking, each part of this dish is carefully pampered and cared for.

I'm a lobster lover from birth.  My father, a fisherman to the core of his soul taught me how to cook, eat and not waste a lobster.  It's been my duty in life to share my knowledge with my friends and husband.  Admittedly I don't eat lobster in public too often, because I eat every part of the lobster.  This does not make for elegant dinning on my part.  The only people in my life who are willing to dine with me during a lobster feast are my father, husband and my best friend.  A matter of fact, even though my best friend and I live 500 km from each other, we always think of each other when we eat lobster.  We've actually planned a family vacation together in PEI just to eat lobster. LOL!

So it was only fitting that I test the Homard Thermidor - Lobster Thermidor.  True to Julia's word, this recipe did have a lot of steps.  I started cooking at 3:30pm and finished at 7:00 p.m.  Mind you I did have a few interruptions.  Baby feedings, changings, cook a separate meal for the 5-year-old. etc.   So all in all, it wasn't too bad.  Although there are a lot of steps, each one is well worth the effort and easy to follow.

My verdict on this dish......  I'm a firm believer that cooking and eating at home is cheaper and better than eating out.  And I can also loosen my pants when I'm finished eating, which makes things even more enjoyable. End result, It was amazing! We would have paid a small fortune for this dish, plus wine if we went to a restaurant.  I would have also waddled out of the restaurant.  Needless to say, I'm glad I made this dish.

Now the week is over and I've tested Volume I and a bit of Volume II to the detriment of my arteries. The books are amazing. The recipes are very detailed, but may still be a challenge for a newbie cook. I firmly believe that having this book on your cookbook shelf is essential.  If you have never been to cooking school, these volumes teach you the techniques that will improve your cooking skills that you will carry throughout your cooking life.


The Cookbook Addict

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Day Four - Mastering the Art of French Cooking - Boeuf Bourguignon

It would be crazy not to make the Boeuf Bourguignon (Beef Stew in Red Wine, with Bacon, Onions and Mushrooms) while testing these books.  This dish is famous!  Julia Child debuts this dish on her cooking show.  It was in the movie Julie and Julia, it’s one of the first stews you make in cooking school, and a few of my cookbooks have mentioned that its an amazing stew.

So today, I made the Beef Bourguignon.  I wouldn't say that it was a difficult recipe. However it was a bit time consuming.  The key ingredients beef, small onions, mushrooms and sauce were individually treated with tender loving care.  Was it worth the time in the end?  I would say so.   Although this dish was tasty, I prefer the complexity and sweetness of the Carbonnades A la Flamande.  Don't get me wrong.  Both stews were excellent and I'm not even a beef stew kind of person.  But I did prefer the Carbonnades A La Flamande.  It could be because I made and ate Boeuf Bourguignon more times than I care to remember in cooking school or I had to put almost a 750 ml bottle of my red wine in the dish instead of drink it.

This Boeuf Bourguignon recipe is a good dish that every cook should try and make.  I've eaten a lot of beef stews that made me wonder if I would even survive the meal.  Dry, chewy and tasteless beef or bitter, pale or watery sauces.

So if you are going to make your standard beef stew. Don't let the cow die in vain, make the Boeuf Bourguignon or the Carbonnades A La Flamande.

The Cookbook Addict

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Day Three -Mastering The Art of French Cooking - Duck Confit, Duck Stock and Shrimp Crepes

I'm very committed to trying at least one recipe per day when testing out a cookbook.  So I was a little stumped when my husband insisted on having yesterday’s leftovers, Carbonnades A La Fammande.  With big dishes like that one, I usually freeze the rest for a weekend meal.  No chance this time.

I decided to take the opportunity to deal with the duck carcass I had in the freezer. I've always wanted to know how to make duck confit.  You hear about it all the time on cooking shows and in restaurants.  So, this was now my challenge.  I also wanted to have duck stock on hand.  Can't find duck stock in a store too easily, so waste not want not.

The duck confit (bottom container) was simple.  I just pulled all the fatty parts of the carcass and put them in the pot, added a cup of water and just let nature take it's course.  The water evaporates over time and Bob' your uncle...Duck confit is created.  I have to say it looks beautiful, clear and golden.  I've never been so proud. 

The stock (top container) was easy.  Julia gives you a few simple ingredients to add with the duck bones and neck and all you do is add water and simmer for a few hours.  The stock is excellent for sauces and gravies.

Even though I did the confit and stock, I felt a bit guilty not cooking a real dish.  So, I decided to make Julia's Crepes with Shrimp.  I've made crepes many times so I felt pretty sure what to expect.  The batter was straight forward, until the recipe called for the batter to sit in the fridge for 2 hours.  I'm not sure this step was really necessary.  I didn't find a difference in the ingredients from any other recipes I've tired before. None of them called for a 2-hour cooling period.  The crepe its self cooked, worked and tasted like any other recipe.  However, the filling was something else.  The filling was so creamy, buttery and yummmmmm.  I don't know how to explain something so delicious other than to say you have to make this recipe yourself.  The actual recipes are called Pate A Crepes + Fondue De Crustaces (Crepes + Cream Filling with Shellfish or Clams).  The recipe called for flaked or canned shellfish.  I used frozen shrimp.  It was fantastic. The recipe didn't even call for a lot of butter; but the taste was there anyway.
If your not a fish person, there is another variation in the book Cream Filling with Chicken or Turkey.

Although I didn't start any of these recipes until after 6:00 pm. They were sure worth working through the evening to get them done.

The Cookbook Addict

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Day Two - Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume I and II

Today I decided to make Carbonnades A La Flamande (Beef and Onions Braised in Beer).  One of the main reasons I picked this dish was, I first heard about it on the show "As Time Goes By" with Judy Dench.  Her dish didn't turn out so well when she forgot to turn the oven on, so they ended up having take-out.  For some reason the dish stuck with me.  So, I wanted to know how it would turn out if the recipe were followed precisely.

I followed the recipe, which was very straightforward.  The recipe called for Pilsner Ale, I purchased a Czech Blond Pilsner Urquell.  I'm not much of a beer person.  But when I do indulge I usually go for a light Canadian beer.  So the Pilsner beer had a bit too much of a bitter after taste for me.  Julia indicates that this will be the case, so brown sugar and vinegar is added to the dish. 

The dish turned out great! The sugar, beer and vinegar pulled the sauce together.  I have to say I had my doubts.  With the butter noodles, and the butter braised broccoli (another Julia Child dish, Volume II).  The meal was to perfection.

The best things about this recipe is, I didn't spend all day in the kitchen, the beer aspect seemed to appeal to my husband, and my son actually ate all his broccoli.

The Cookbook Addict

Monday, February 1, 2010

Monday's New Cookbook For The Week

Mondays.. I'm not to fond of Mondays.  Do you know statistically that people are more prone to heart attacks on Mondays?  I guess after a mellow weekend shocking your body back into the fast pace of getting to work would do it.  That said, I would rather go down with a lobster tail dripping with garlic butter, hanging out of my mouth first.  Which means, take time to taste your food and savor the moment and always look forward to your  next meal.

I received a request to test the Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck.  What may surprise some people is that, there is a Volume I and a Volume II to Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  Volume I was once tested on Grocery Bags with Anna Wallner & Kristina Matisic. It was also the book used in the movie Julie and Julia.  At first I was going to just test Volume II, written by Julia Child, and Simone Beck since Volume I seemed to have received so much attention.  But after reading both books, I realized that the second Volume really refers back to the first Volume.  So it looks like I have to work with both books this week.

Today I tested the Poulet Pele A L'estragon  with Farce Duxelles (Casserole-Roasted Chicken with Tarragon and Mushroom Stuffing) and the Pommes De Terre Sautees ( Potatoes Sauteed in Butter).  Both dishes were from Volume I.

The recipes were easy to read, and although I thought the main ingredients for each dish would be Chicken and Potatoes, It happened to be BUTTER. So you know the dishes  had to be amazing.  Everything melted in my mouth.  And the mushroom stuffing was great even with the chicken gizzard and the chicken livers.

The book is a bit intimidating at first, but if you ever read a Julia Child cookbook before, you'll know that her books are very detailed. Reading through the book, brought me back to cooking school, because of it's descriptive preparation techniques. The techniques are essential. Once you have the skill and techniques, you'll never lose them

I suspect this will be a week of decadence, so I'm going to really have to work that treadmill.

The Cookbook Addict

Saturday and Sunday More Food and More Food!

The weekend was a blur.  Saturday, my husband and I went to an opera "Carmen" It was fantastic! I really enjoyed the show and the wine at the bar during intermissions.

My mother-in-law watched the baby and my cousin had my 5 year old over for a sleepover.  Which meant that my husband and I had the evening to our selves.  So after the opera, we splurged and went to a pub (Scruffy Murphy's). Sounds elegant right?  Not!!! But the place was clean and the service staff was friendly and efficient. 

I ordered the Irish Spring Rolls.  I kept thinking, it should be interesting.  What could an Irish spring roll have wrapped up inside, cabbage?  Nope.  Potatoes, cheese and green onion with a creamy curry dip on the side.  I'm not much of a potato person, especially if you are trying to hide it in a spring roll wrapper.  But let me say for the record,  IT WAS AMAZING!!!! I licked the dip bowl clean and tried to trick the waitress into getting the recipe from the cooks.  No such luck. My husband wanted me to save him half of one of my spring rolls.  It took everything I had in my soul not to eat it.

I also had a Grilled Shrimp Salad.  Trying to keep things light....ya who am I kidding LOL.  I ate everything on my plate, and held myself back from licking the plate.  The shrimps were a bit over cooked, but the taste was there.  It's all in the taste I say.  Mark, ordered wings, they were well cooked.  They should have been marinated prior to cooking, but the sauce made up for any missing flavor.

For a pub, this place is great even with if a name Scruffy Murphy's sounds a bit dingy, because it's not.

Today, I had a good friend over for dinner.  We both love cooking and food and she's taught me a great deal about Italian cooking.  You guessed right.  She's Italian.  One thing about her is she's introduced me to easy ways to make a dozen Italian home cooked meals, without having to live in the kitchen all day.  Best of all, shes given me the in on the best Italian products to use when cooking. Boy I love her.

Needless to say, I wanted to make her a nice meal.  I repeated the Duck Breast with Cherries & Roasted Fingerling Potatoes I made awhile back.  For an appetizer, I made Wild Mushrooms and Asparagus in a Puff Pastry with a Madeira Sauce.  When I make this sauce I have to hold myself back from drinking all the sauce before I serve the dish.  I tell self control is tested every minute I'm in the kitchen.

For dessert, I kept it simple.  I just served the Key Lime Sorbet I made the other day.  It's a very rich dessert, and my friend is always watching her weight, so I didn't expect her to finish it, but she shocked me when she ate the complete dessert.  She said she really loved it.  No kidding.  I was pretty happy about it.

So after driving from one end of town to the other to pick my five year old up, shopping for groceries, cleaning the house and cooking, I have to say it was a well spent Sunday.  The company and the food were pretty great.  If I do say so myself.

The Cookbook Addict