Wednesday, March 25, 2009

In memoriam.

My Dad passed away nine years ago today. It was unequivocally the saddest and most trying day of my life. My Dad was the strongest, bravest, and proudest man I have ever known. So when he became ill, I refused to believe he would not pull through. When he passed it was very difficult for me to believe he was really gone. It's been nearly a decade since he passed, and I still can't believe it...

This morning I decided I would make a dinner in honour of him. A few posts ago I described a polenta my Dad used to make. Like I said before, if I had to choose a last supper, this would be it. It's polenta mixed with bacon and feta cheese. Sometimes Dad would add onion and parmesan to the mix. That is how I made it tonight. It was delicious. And just like my Dad used to make. I think if he were to taste it, he'd be proud.

Tomislav's polenta with bacon and feta cheese


1 1/2 cups coarse ground corn meal
1/2 lb slab bacon
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
2 handfuls of crumbled feta
1 handful of grated parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 350*F.

Heat a 10" cast iron skillet over medium heat. While skillet and oven heat, cut bacon into small cubes and finely chop onion. Add bacon to skillet and stir occasionally.

While bacon cooks pour 1 1/2 cups of water and 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth into a medium pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add polenta and remaining water and broth to a bowl. Stir to combine and set aside.

When the chicken broth and water comes to a boil, add the onion to the skillet and lower heat to medium-low. Stir occasionally. Then slowly add the polenta mixture to the pot and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 15 minutes. When bacon is caramelized and onion is translucent, strain fat and set aside.

Remove pot from heat. Add bacon mixture to polenta, stirring until combined. Pour half of this mixture into the skillet. Sprinkle with a handful of feta cheese. Pour remaining polenta bacon mixture into skillet. Top with remaining feta cheese and parmesan. Pour heavy cream over top (optional).

Bake in oven for 40 - 45 minutes, until polenta is golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 - 15 minutes before serving.

Friday, March 20, 2009

I say Spring. You say... Fish?

Spring. The ugly duckling of seasons has arrived. Sure, the days are longer. But once you get passed that, this part of the season is pretty crappy. It's the time of year when everything is muddy and covered in a layer of dirt. Everything is brown and unappealing. It's still cold enough that you have to wear a warm jacket and snow is still a possibility. I prefer Spring once it's shed it's ugly exterior and the plants/trees finally come out of dormancy. Until that happens, I still feel like hibernating and eating comforting food.

It is also the Lenten season, so we've been eating a lot of fish. We haven't tried the Wegman's Friday fish fry. To be honest, I'm not patient enough! In the same time I'd waste standing in the insanely long line, I could have battered and fried my own fish. Plus, fish is healthy for you. Why waste that by battering and frying it? I find it also masks the flavour of the fish, not enhance it. So we've been mixing it up with different fish and cooking methods.

Grilled Tilapia with Smoked Paprika and Parmesan Polenta
Adapted from Cooking Light


4 cups fat-free milk
1 cup quick-cooking polenta
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 oz grated Parmesan cheese

1 1/2 tblsp olive oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 (6-ounce) tilapia fillets
Cooking spray


Bring milk to a boil in a medium saucepan; gradually add polenta, stirring constantly with a whisk. Reduce heat, and cook 5 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly; stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt. Remove from heat. Stir in cheese; cover and keep warm.

Heat a large grill (I used a regular frying pan) pan over medium-high heat. Combine oil, paprika, garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper in a bowl, stirring well. Rub fish evenly with oil mixture. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add fish to pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I'm not a baker.

Last weekend we went to Ontario, Canada, to visit my family. Saturday was my nephews third birthday party. My sister-in-law loves to bake. At Christmas she always bakes a slew of different cookies and treats. For birthdays she always makes extremely tasty cakes. This year my nephew's party was pirate themed so his cakes were pirate ships!

I wish I could be this adventurous with baking. I attempted to make a guitar shaped cake for my husband's birthday. My plan was to make a decadent chocolate cake, cover it with vanilla butter cream, and then a chocolate ganache. Unfortunately, my plan was foiled when the cake would not release from the pan and fell apart. This happened despite following the pans instructions - Thank you Wilton! The cake itself was delicious. So I made a delicious chocolate trifle instead.

My baking skills have been improving. This past summer I mastered making pies from scratch. My favourites were Blackberry Apple and Blueberry. Prior to becoming pie savvy, the only baked good I could make with consistent good results was banana bread. My banana bread never comes out too dry, or too moist. It's always perfect. And it should be, since I've been making it for as long as I can remember!

Banana Bread
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup sugar
6 tblsps butter, softened
3/4 tsp lemon zest
2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/4 cups ripe bananas (2 - 3), mashed


All ingredients should be at room temperature. Preheat oven to 350*F. Grease 8.5 X 4.5 loaf pan.

In a small bowl whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together. Add the sugar, butter, and lemon zest to the bowl of your mixer. Beat on medium speed until creamy. Add the eggs and bananas until incorporated. Then add the dry ingredients in about 3 parts, beating until smooth after each addition.

Pour batter into greased loaf pan. Bake for about 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the certain comes out clean. Cool slightly, then remove from loaf pan. Cool completely before slicing.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Long over due.

I apologize for not posting anything in over a week. The past two weeks were very busy and left me exhausted. Exhaustion is like kryptonite to my immune system. So I wasn't surprised last Friday when I started to feel a cold coming on. I thought I could fight it off with shear will and Zicam. But on Saturday we had a bunch of friends over to celebrate my husband's 32nd birthday. I discovered that an evening of alcohol, greasy food, Rock Band, and Big Lebowski at 1 o'clock in the morning, does not encourage a weakend immune system to fight off an invading cold. Instead, it causes your immune system to lift up the castle gates and wave a white flag. So now I'm sick and feel like my face may explode momentarily. I bet imagery like that is really making you crave the next recipe...

Chicken and Mushrooms in a Garlic Wine Sauce
Adapted from Cooking Light


4 oz uncooked medium egg noodles
1 lbs skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
2 tblsp all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 tsp salt, divided
1/4 tsp black pepper, divided
2 tblsp olive oil, divided
1 tblsp bottled minced garlic
1/2 tsp dried tarragon
8 oz sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and keep warm.

Cut chicken into 1-inch pieces. Place chicken breast halves in a shallow dish. Combine 1 tablespoon flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper, stirring well with a whisk. Sprinkle flour mixture over chicken; toss to coat.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until browned.

Remove chicken from pan. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan. Add garlic, tarragon, and mushrooms to pan; sauté for 3 minutes or until liquid evaporates and mushrooms darken.

Add white wine to pan; cook 1 minute. Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon flour; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in broth, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper; cook 1 minute or until slightly thick, stirring frequently.

Return chicken to the pan. Cover and simmer 2 minutes. Uncover; cook 1 minute or until chicken is done. Stir in noodles; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon cheese.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Chocolate cubed

My husband and I never go out to dinner for Valentine's Day. I'll be honest, I hate people and he hates crowds. Restaurants are flooded with people on Valentine's Day. The wait for a table is ridiculous. You're lucky if you can even get a reservation. To quote news anchors on inauguration day, the restaurants become a sea of humanity. Not exactly what we'd describe as a good time. So we stay home, and I cook something "special." Special meaning the meal is something I normally wouldn't make during the week, and all dietary concerns are forgotten.

This year I had a hard time deciding what to make for dessert. Then I watched an episode of Barefoot Contessa where Ina made a chocolate gelato. I watched Ina prepare the gelato and I drooled. I had to make it for our Valentine's Day dinner.

The recipe calls for not one, not two, but three types of chocolate; bittersweet, unsweetened cocoa powder, and Baci chocolates. And the deliciousness doesn't stop there, it also calls for Kahlua - my favourite liquer. The gelato is decadent, creamy, and down right delicious. I'm drooling a little thinking about...

Deeply Chocolate Gelato
Courtesy of Ina Garten


2 1/4 cups whole milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 large egg yolks
2 tbsp Kahlua
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Large pinch kosher salt
8 Baci chocolates, roughly chopped, optional


Heat the milk, cream, and 1/2 cup sugar in a 2-quart saucepan, until the sugar dissolves and the milk starts to simmer. Add the cocoa powder and chocolate and whisk until smooth. Pour into a heat-proof measuring cup.

Place the egg yolks and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light yellow and very thick. With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the hot chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Pour the egg and chocolate mixture back into the 2-quart saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. A candy thermometer will register about 180 degrees F. Don't allow the mixture to boil!

Pour the mixture through a sieve into a bowl and stir in the coffee liqueur, vanilla, and salt. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the custard and chill completely.

Pour the custard into the bowl of an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer's directions. Stir in the roughly chopped chocolate, if using, and freeze in covered containers. Allow the gelato to thaw slightly before serving.