Friday, November 26, 2010

 The Governor's Garden at Château Ramezay is like a little oasis in the middle of Old Montreal. This past October we enjoyed one of our many strolls through this peaceful haven but this time to view the squash display.  To my delight there was also a small floral photo exhibit at the entrance to the garden. I thought posting some of the floral photos was the perfect "food for the soul "on such a bleak and cold day in Montreal. Regardless of the weather in your neck of the woods, I hope you also enjoy the photos. To all my friends south of the border, I would like to wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday weekend. 

Smiling guardians of the pumpkin patch...... trying to keep warm while welcoming visitors and answering questions

Our very own Montreal Melon.....who would have thought?

Some of the photos on exhibit at the entrance to the gardens .......
 helping to recapture summer for at least a few moments.

 Snow on the flowers.......... but too beautiful not to include in my ode to summer

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chicken Tikka Masala

My friend Wayne, from the  Food Network community site recently pointed out that he was haunted by the chicken tikka masala dish appearing everywhere on the Food Channel. Everyone from the "Spice Goddess", Bobby Flay, and even the " Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" program were focusing on this popular east Indian dish. Talk about the power of the media being persuasive: I too succumbed and had made the recipe but had not gotten around to posting it. My version is probably a lazy one as I didn't marinate the chicken nor pre-bake it before adding it to the tikka masala sauce. Also for my vegetarian friends, I'm sure this would be a great recipe for you if you simply replace the chicken with tofu. Now, without further ado and thanks to Wayne's reminder.......

3 chicken breasts cut into bite size cubes
3-4 tablespoons of  vegetable oil or grape seed oil
1 large onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 teaspoon garam masala (spice mixture)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon cardamon
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 tomato chopped
1/2 cup water
1 small container plain yogurt (about 1/2 cup)
fresh coriander for garnish
Salt to taste

In a small bowl mix all the spices including the ginger. Set aside. In a large saucepan, heat the oil. Add the onions and cook until golden brown. Add the garlic and continue to cook for a minute. Stir in the spices and allow the flavours to infuse. Stir in the tomato paste. Add the chopped tomato and pour in the water. Simmer and season with salt to taste. Add the chicken pieces stirring well to coat the meat with the sauce. Continue to simmer until the chicken is cooked and the sauce has thickened, about 12 minutes. Stir in the yogurt and continue to simmer 5 minutes. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro and serve with bismati rice.

Ricotta Almond Cake

 This almond cake recipe comes from Anna Olsen of the Food Network Channel. I recently made it for a dinner party to which we were invited, and it was such a success that it has now found its rightful place in my repertoire of favourite recipes. Filled with ricotta (I used 2%), almonds, and a dram of rum...... who can resist  a slice? The only other change to the recipe was to add an apricot glaze to help what I thought to be its somewhat anemic appearance. No only beautiful to look at but delicious.

4 eggs (room temperature)
1 1/3 cups sugar
2/3 canola oil
2/3 cup 2% ricotta cheese (or whole ricotta)
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoon rum
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup+2 tbsp ground almonds 
1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup 2% ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/4 cup+ 2 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons milk
1 cup sliced almonds

1/2 cup apricot jam
1 tablespoon orange liqueur (optional)

In a large mixing bowl beat the eggs, sugar, and oil on high speed until thick and pale (about 8 minutes).  Add the ricotta , lemon juice,zest, rum, vanilla and almond extract. Mix until blended. In a separate bowl, sift together the ground almonds, flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk into the ricotta mixture, in 3 additions. Pour the batter into 10" springform pan which has been buttered and the bottom lined with parchment  paper. Bake in a preheated  350ºF oven for 45-50. The cake is done when a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
Increase your oven temperature to 375º F
Heat the milk and stir in 2 tablespoons of sugar. Toss in the almonds, making sure that the nuts are coated.
In a separate bowl, blend together the 3/4 cup ricotta, egg, 1/4 cup sugar, zest and vanilla. Spread the ricotta mixture topping over the baked cake and sprinkle with the almond slices.
Return to the oven and continue baking for 15 minutes, until the almonds are a golden brown. Remove from the oven and spread the glaze over the almonds. Allow the cake to cool before removing from the cake pan.
In the microwave or in a small pan heat the apricot jam until it starts to liquefy, it takes a minute or two. Stir to make sure it doesn't burn. Strain the jam if their is a large amount of pulp. Brush gently on the baked cake.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Banana Coconut Loaf with Tibetan Goji Berries

I've been hearing a lot about Tibetan goji berries, the new miracle ingredient; they apparently will help increase your immune system. I happened upon some while while shopping at my favourite "en vrac" store and curiosity got the better of me. Before I knew it, they were in my shopping basket on the way to my kitchen and God only knows which recipe. Exotic ingredients have always attracted me, and knowing little about there use has never deterred me from tackling a new one. Maybe it's a remnant of my childhood were my parents spared no expense when it came to food, introducing me to exotic ingredients, especially during the holidays. Pomegranates, persimmons, figs, Brazilian nuts, fennel to name a few, all found there way to the festive table way before such food items became mainstream. Tibetan goji berries were not about to stop me from attempting to incorporate them into" something or other". 
You might ask why a banana loaf recipe? Unfortunately I don't have an interesting response other than my daughter off-loading her overripe bananas on me ( she didn't want to waste them). I tested some of the berries and was not impressed with their rather bitter taste. Well, the bananas weren't long for this world anyway so in a way, so they became my "guinea pig ingredient" to go with the lovely sounding Tibetan goji berries. I rehydrated the berries in some water and trying to improve the taste, soaked the drained berries in agave "maple flavoured" syrup. I figured I couldn't do any more damage to the taste than mother nature had already intended.The sweetness of the agave seemed to lessen some of the bitterness but little to improve the flavour of the berries themselves. At least the milder flavour of the berries did not overpower the banana and coconut in the recipe. All in all, the mini cakes were delicious and hopefully a bit more healthy with the addition of the " miracle" Tibetan berries which did add an interesting texture as you bite into one. 

3 cups all purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
4 eggs
1 cup Tibetan goji berries (soaked in some water and drained)
1/4 cup agave syrup
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 cups mashed ripe bananas

Add the drained berries and agave syrup in small bowl. Set Aside In a large mixing bowl stir in 1 1/2 cup flour,( reserving 1 tablespoon), baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar and coconut.  Using the reserved flour coat the berries and toss into the dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl beat the eggs and mix in the maple syrup and bananas.  Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the egg banana mixture. Do not over beat, stirring only to blend all the ingredients. Spoon into 24 prepared  muffin tins or 2 greased 8½x4½x2½ loaf pans.  Bake in a preheated 350º F oven for 20-25 minutes for the muffins and 50-60 minutes for the loaf. The muffins and loaves are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pumpkin and Raisin Spice Cakes

When I purchased  the bakeware concoction pictured below, I was excited with my find. The swirly shape really got my attention........."how great to have two different shapes in one mold."  Once home, I realized that the swirly sections were to be combined with the muffin shapes thereby creating "Super Size" muffins. The thrill of my latest find soon turned to disappointment and regret. As a result my new purchase languished in the cupboard for weeks while I waited for some inspiration. Thanks to another monstrosity biding it's time and taking up valuable space, the muffin tin was about to have its coming out party. Yup, one humongous leftover pumpkin from Halloween can surely alter your perspective. Faced with the thought of a truckload of pumpkin puree, suddenly made me regain interest in the the "Super Size" mold. To use up even more of the puree I doubled the recipe and used my pretty small bundt mold. The recipe given is for one 8" cake or 12 muffins. Once the muffins were baked and iced I had far less regret for my purchase.  As can be seen from the finished product, the darn mold really grows on you and has found its rightful place in my kitchen.

Some assembly required after baking.......Super Size Muffin Tin
Mini Bundt Cake Molds

To make the recipe easier I combined the puree into the wet ingredients and folded it all into the dry ingredients instead of alternating the puree and egg butter mixture into the dry ingredients as is normally done. The cakes were moist and had the perfect texture.

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup soft butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 cup raisins
Sift the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Toss in the raisins.  In a separate bowl cream the butter and gradually add the brown sugar. Continue beating until light and creamy. Add the egg and beat well. Stir the pumpkin puree into the egg mixture.  Make a well in the dry ingredients and gently stir in the wet ingredients.  Spoon into an 8" prepared pan or 12 muffin tins and bake in a 350º F preheated oven. the cake will take 40-50 minutes and the muffins about 20 minutes.  Cakes are done when a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Delicious with a dollop of cream cheese icing.

Winner of the $35 CSN stores gift certificate

In order to chose a winner of the CSN stores $35 giveaway gift certificate, all entries were submitted to Random.Org (draw services). Congratulations go out to Maureen, "Suburban Prep" who was chosen winner of the contest!

My sincerest thanks go out to all those who visited my blog and entered the contest. Your support is truly appreciated.

Monday, November 8, 2010

$35 CSN Giveaway Reminder!!.....Just leave a Comment to Enter.

Congratulations go out to Maureen, "Suburban Prep" who was chosen winner of the contest!

My sincerest thanks go out to all those who visited my blog and entered the contest. 

Chocolate Apple Mini Coffee Cakes

 Instead of using a standard 10 inch bundt pan, I decided to christen my new "square muffin tins" to bake my version of an old apple coffeecake recipe. Yup, I once again gave into temptation and bought more bakeware. What can I say, the "square muffin tin pans" were calling out to me with visions of mini cakes just waiting to be baked. Thank goodness I had just redone my little pantry and managed to make room for my latest acquisitions.
Given my need for a chocolate fix, I altered the original apple coffee cake recipe quite a bit. I added deep dark Dutch cocoa, pecans and raisins to compliment the apples. Deciding to diminish the amount of oil  in the recipe, I added an extra egg.  I suggest you fill the mini tins to the top as the batter doesn't rise much while baking. The batter is rather thick, and appears crumbly but bakes up perfectly rich and moist with chunks of apples with every bite. Also delicious slightly re-heated in the microwave with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Don't be concerned with the thick and somewhat clumpy appearance of the batter

Fill batter to the top

Baked mini cakes

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup dark Dutch cocoa 
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup raisins
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1 cup pecans chopped
3 eggs
1 1/2 cup sugar 
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup canola oil or vegetable oil
4 cups of apples peeled and diced

In a large bowl sift the dry ingredients to blend. Toss in the raisins, pecans and chocolate chips.
In a separate bowl beat the 3 eggs and add the sugar, vanilla and oil. Beat to combine.
Blend in the egg mixture to the dry ingredients. Mix in the apple pieces. The batter will be thick and  crumbly. Spoon into 24 prepared square muffin tins or into a 10" prepared tube pan. Fill to the top of the muffin tins as the batter will not rise much.  Bake in a pre-heated 350º F oven. Mini coffee cakes will take 30-35 minutes and 50-60 minutes for the larger cake.

Friday, November 5, 2010

New......$35 CSN Stores Giveaway Contest #2

I'm happy to announce my second giveaway contest, thanks once again to the kind folks at CSN Stores. They are offering a $35 gift certificate giveaway for use on their online stores where you can choose from a wide variety of products, anything from children's luggage  to home decor and of course cookware.  Did I mention that I just checked out their children's luggage site, and the "doubting Thomas" in me was put to rest. They actually offer so much more than just children's luggage.The site has a wide assortment of diaper bags, baby carriers and fun sleeping bags. It's a great site for those with young kids, and perfect for the gift giving season ahead. In fact, I just spotted the cutest gift which of course I can't mention because I will be ordering it for Christmas.  
To be eligible for the gift certificate giveaway, all you have to do is leave a comment on my blog.  The contest is open to residents of Canada and the U.S. and will run until Thursday November 11, 2010. The winner will be selected at random and be announced on Anna's Table. The lucky winner will then be contacted by a CSN representative to finalize the prize arrangements. 
Thanks for your continued support and good luck to all!  

Thanks all the participants for entering the contest. The winner was chosen by (draw services), and  the certificate goes to  Maureen,"Suburban Prep". The promo staff at CSN stores will be in touch with the winner by email. Congratulations to Maureen!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Arancini....Stuffed Rice Ball Fritters

When I told my daughter that I was about to attempt making arancini "little oranges", crispy rice balls packed with a delicious meat and cheese filling, it brought back memories of her stay in Florence. She would often rely on these "fast food" rice balls for a quick inexpensive lunch. Proof that arancini may have had their humble beginnings in Sicily but are now enjoyed in all parts of Italy and even beyond its borders. While in the process of tackling my first arancini recipe, filling and forming the rice balls, I asked myself "what was I thinking given the "toil and trouble" involved?"  I could have easily purchased them at one of my favourite Italian stores. Determined to finish what I had started, I managed to make eight perfectly formed rice balls stuffed with veal and cheese. Straying from the traditional recipe, I opted not to use the"ragu" tomato sauce in the meat mixture. One crunchy bite and I was hooked, already dreaming of  possible filling combinations for the next attempt. Arancini are traditionally fried but I decided to once again turn to my trusted panko crumbs to turn out a baked version which could be just as crispy and tasty. Mission accomplished!!! These delightful fritters adapted well to my "no frying zone" take on the recipe. Yes, I should definitely have stocks in a panko breadcrumb company and join Jamie Oliver's  "Food Revolution". A totally healthy recipe with all the flavours and crispiness you would expect but none of the grease. The trick was to process the panko breadcrumbs to a fine texture and drizzle extra virgin oil on the finished rice balls before baking them. I simply rolled each ball on some oiled parchment paper so that they they were totally coated with the rich flavours of extra virgin oil, and to ensure that they turned out golden brown.


1½ cups Arborio rice
1/8 teaspoon saffron
1 tablespoon hot water
1 egg beaten
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or pecorino cheese

1/2 pound ground veal
1/2 small onion finely chopped
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or pecorino cheese
1/2 cup mozzarella (cut into small cubes)
1/2 cup frozen peas
Breadcrumb Coating:
1 cup flour
2 eggs beaten
1-1½ cups panko crumbs (processed fine with a food processor)

In boiling salted water cook the rice to "al dente". Drain and let cool. Stir in the saffron which has been soaked in a tablespoon of hot water (this will give it an orange colour). Stir in the beaten egg and 1/2 cup of grated Parmagiano-Reggiano cheese. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a frying pan and saute the onion for about 3 minutes. Add the veal and brown. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss in the parsley and peas and cook for another minute or two.  Let cool. Mix in the mozzarella cubes and  3 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese.
 Take a handful of the rice mixture in your left hand and make a hollow with your thumb. Spoon in a heaping teaspoon of the meat/cheese mixture into the hollow. Take some more rice to cover the meat mixture and form a ball (about the size of a very small orange). Once you have finished forming the arancini balls, dredge each one in some flour, then roll them in the beaten egg and finish off by rolling them in the breadcrumbs.
Drizzle extra virgin oil over the surface of the arancini. Bake in a preheated 375º F . Turn them midway through the baking to ensure that all the surface is golden. Total cooking time 30-35 minutes