Here is a brilliant idea that I came up with recently for dinner. I wanted a simple dinner one night with no difficulty involved, so I pulled out a pillsbury weiner roll out of the fridge and thought pizza! I took one chicken breast out of the fridge and cut it into cubes, and sauteed it with shallots, garlic, and artichoke hearts. Then I mixed it together with flavourful tomato sauce, covered it with cheese and I ended up with a quick individual style rustic pizza. Give this a try at your next party!

Makes 6

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Baking time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • pillsbury weiner rolls (6 rolls)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large chicken breasts, cut into small cubes
  • coarse salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 shallot, sliced thin
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 1 can (28 oz.) quartered artichoke hearts, in water (drained)
  • 3/4 cup of tomato sauce (your favourite)
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Take the pillsbury weiner rolls out and lay each one flat onto the baking sheet, and set it aside for now. Heat oil in a heavy bottom skillet, on medium high heat, and add in the chicken, salt, pepper, shallot, garlic and carrot. Saute until the chicken has cooked through; then add in the quartered artichoke hearts. Cook for 1 minute, then go ahead and add in the tomato sauce and dried oregano. Once everything has cooked through, start to spoon on the chicken mixture onto each pillsbury weiner roll, sprinkle mozzarella cheese, then bake it in the oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom. Serve immediately.


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CHICKEN PAILLARD

Chicken paillard is a French bistro classic that really takes no effort to make at home. I first started making this easy lunch favourite several years ago, when I happened to be flipping the pages of one of my many cookbooks. Later on, I was watching Bobby Flay on the Food Network and he simplified the recipe even further by really enhancing the freshness of lemons. Any recipe that involves this citrusy fruit gets a "I'll try that" from me. I fooled around with my existing recipe and made a super quick version of my old favourite. Fresh and satisfying is all I can say about this yummy chicken salad dish. In the summer I highly recommend grilling the chicken for more flavour. Enjoy!


Makes 2

Ingredients:
  • 2 chicken breasts, flattened
  • coarse salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • juice of one lemon
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • mixed baby greens or spinach
  • carrot, thinly sliced
  • freshly shaved Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • juice of one lemon
  • drizzle of good quality olive oil

Take the chicken breasts and place them in between two saran wrap pieces, then start to flatten them by using a cast iron skillet or a meat tenderizer. In a medium sized bowl, add in salt, pepper, lemon juice, olive oil and dried oregano. Add in the flattened chicken breasts and leave it in the marinade for 20 minutes.

In another bowl, add in the tomatoes, mixed baby greens, carrots and the Parmesan cheese. Place it into the fridge until you're ready to serve. Preheat a non-stick skillet, on medium high heat, and cook the chicken on both sides until cooked through. Place it onto a large plate, then take out the salad from the fridge and lightly toss it with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Place half of the salad onto each of the cooked chicken, shave fresh Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.


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MATT'S WINE NOT! TOP V (FIVE) WINES OF '09

Well dear reader, here you go! To follow up on my wife's posts regarding her top recipes, it's only fair to all you winos, erm, connoisseurs, that I ingratiate you with my top five wine picks of 2009! Now, of course, this does not mean that these wines were produced in 2009 (frankly I don't even know if there are any 2009 vintages out...that'd be awfully damn early!), but rather I had the pleasure to review these wines this year.

I have chosen these top five wines based on one lone criteria: did I dig it, and did I dig it LOTS. This list, therefore, is my top five reviewed wines based on my star system out of four (4) stars. There were many wines that scored identical scores, so choosing what DID get on the list wasn't easy, and there are many that I did not put on here that I enjoyed equally.

It is my sincere hope that you have enjoyed these simple wine reviews, even if you've come to disagree with my ratings, or tasting notes, whatever, because I wanted to write about wine for the 99% of us who cannot and do NOT want to taste pencil shavings, freshly crushed stones, or care about nuanced smooth tannins, cellaring, or fussy food pairings.

That being said, enjoy this brief summary of the best of 2009!

V) ***1/2 out of 4
MAGNOTTA 2007 WHITE MERLOT SPECIAL RESERVE VQA



Number five on the list was the deliciously refreshing and scintillating Magnotta White Merlot, whose aromas of peaches and strawberry, and equally delightful hue, reminded one of a bright Summer day. Light to medium bodied, it was a sweet, well-flavoured drink, whose aftertaste, although a little faint, did not leave one disappointed.

I reviewed many other reds and whites which also recieved the ***1/2 out of 4, but for its sheer distinction of having the character of a red with the lightness of a white, this one deserves a spot of honour. If you can find a bottle still, grab one, it'll remind you that Spring will again return one day.



IV) ***3/4 out of 4
LA VIEILLE FERME COTES DU VENTOUX


Number four on our top five list was this delightful, and very price friendly red out of France. A very berry and fruit forward red, it was medium bodied and went down very well.

I recall being in a rottenish mood not long before writing this column, so I didn't do a very good job noting tastes or anything, but I can assure you it was damn tasty, and at under $12/bottle, will compliment your next meal nicely.


III) ***3/4 out of 4
DUBOEUF BEAUJOLAIS VILLAGES 2008

Ah, Monsieur Duboeuf, you made an awfully amazing wine, so much so that you earned the #3 spot on this year in review crap! Pouring a deep cherry coloured hue, this Beaujolais was light and fragrant, of flowers and fruit, and reflected these smells in the taste as well. It was light, refreshing and easy to drink, and simply wonderful, with even an excellent aftertaste.

This wine too, not unlike the White Merlot, reminded me of a lovely Spring day in a garden. Weird as that may sound, you'll want to taste Spring especially if you're in one of those Godforesaken snow belt states or provinces or nations.

I repeat what I wrote in my original column: Beauj-olais!


II) **** out of 4

COMTE DE LAUZE COTES DU RHONE 2007



Ah what fond memories this wine generates, and was only one of two which I graded a perfect four out of four...is any wine truly perfect? Probably not, but damn, it was near close to this wine amateur.

A deep ruby red, it burst forth from the bottle with copious amounts of berries and fruit (muchas strawberry), and although definitely dry, the flavours just overflowed and filled one's mouth beautifully, immersing the senses in a symphony of taste.

To quote my column once more, it was bold, beautiful, and was long and satisfying, an utter treat to enjoy.



And now, the top, triumphant, Lord and King of all wines for 2009 as reviewed here on Matt's Wine Not!, the undisputed champioooooooonnnnnn...


I) **** out of 4

MALIVOIRE 2007 GAMAY

Just thinking of this beauty makes my mouth salivate. What a tour de force, a triumph. This Gamay was my first foray into Gamay style wines, and it was simply magnificent.

It was rich, and thick and tempting, and was scented of wild, foresty type fruits, as well as cherries, and tasted of blueberries, blackberries, and other dark fruits.

Almost like a dessert wine, this medium to thick bodied wine was truly sumptuous, luxurious, a treat to even experience and enjoy. I look forward to next year's vintage, although this one will be damn tough to beat!

That about wraps it up! In fact, it does wrap things up for Matt's Wine Not! "best of" 2009 wines. I had a lot of wonderful wines this year, a few duds too, but those thankfully were few and far between, and I look forward to serving you, my adoring public, next year!

All kidding aside, thanks for reading, and if you drink this New Year, don't drive. Take care!

Matt

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MINI QUICHE

Quiche are always a favourite appetizer at any party, so I made these cute little quiches this weekend as Christmas appetizers for our family gathering. These really took no effort at all. I took pre-made pie dough and cut circles, using a cookie cutter, fit them into mini muffin pans and poured in a simple egg mixture. After you bake it for 12-15 minutes, they will come out as perfect little party treats that everyone will love!

Makes 36 mini quiche

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Baking time: 12-15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 box of Robin Hood Flaky Pie Crust mix (makes 4 pie crusts)
  • 12 tbsp cold water
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup cream or whole milk
  • salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 3/4 cup gruyere cheese, grated

1. Pour the pie crust mix into a large mixing bowl, slowly add in the water and using a fork bring the dough altogether. Knead the dough in the bowl for a minute, then using a pastry cutter, cut the dough in half and cover both halves in plastic wrap. Place the two discs in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.

2. Roll out the dough, and using a round cookie cutter, cut the pie dough into circles and place each one into the mini muffin pans. Take a fork and prick the bottom of each quiche a few times, this will ensure even baking. Once you're finished doing this, preheat the oven to 350 F.

3. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream or milk, salt, pepper, green onion, and parsley. Pour the egg mixture slowly into each prepared dough in the muffin pans. Top each quiche with a little bit of shredded gruyere cheese, then place them into the oven to bake for 12-15 minutes or until firm to the touch. You will notice that the egg will puff up like a souffle but don't panic, once they're out of the oven the egg will shrink back into the right size. Serve the quiche warm or at room temperature.

Cook's tip: You can add or substitute whatever you want in these. I suggest adding red bell pepper, bacon or even a different type of cheese.


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SLOW COOKED SHREDDED BEEF IN TOMATO SAUCE ON FETTUCINE

I was watching the Food network one day months ago and saw Jamie Oliver slow cook beef in a tomato sauce to serve on pasta. After I saw that episode I really wanted to create a similar version of that rustic pasta dish. The beef being slow cooked just melts in your mouth, there is really nothing like it. Here is my version of the melt in your mouth tomato sauce.

Serves 2-3

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb stewed beef chuck
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • coarse salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 can (28 oz.) of whole tomatoes, in their juices
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup red wine or beef stock (add a 1/4 cup more if you like)
  • handful of fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/2 lb fettucine
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Heat oil in a large deep shallow pan, on medium high heat, and sear all sides of the stewed beef chuck. Place the beef on a plate for now. Saute the onion and garlic, seasoning with salt, pepper, and dried thyme for 3 minutes. Pour in the can of whole tomatoes, breaking up the tomatoes with your wooden spoon. Make sure to scrap up all of the brown bits from the pan.

2. Add the seared beef back into the pan, add in the bay leaf and red wine; and once it comes up to a bubble, turn the heat down to a gentle simmer. Place the lid on the pan and cook for a good hour, stirring a few times while cooking. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Put on a large pot of boiling water, salt the water and cook the fettucine as per package instructions. Take the pan with the tomato sauce off of the heat, and place the cooked meat on a cutting board. Take two forks and start to shred the meat, the beef should be extremely tender at this point. Place the shredded meat back into the sauce and gently cook for another 2 minutes for the sauce to come together, then take out the bay leaf. Once the fettucine has cooked, place the cooked pasta into the sauce and toss it altogether using tongs. Serve immediately with a sprinkling of fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.


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MATT'S BEER WE GO! GREAT LAKES BREWERY WINTER ALE

T'was the night before the night before Christmas,
And all through the house,
Not a drop of liquor was stirring,
Not even Fame'd Grouse.

(Just kidding, lots of liquor was stirring.)

As a shopper I ventured to the liquor store with great care,
Knowing a Great Lakes specialty beer was sure to be there.

I bought it and tasted it, and orange with spice it lead,
With much dryness and some bitterness smacking me in the head.


...okay, not unlike my Pumpkin Ale post, you're nuts if you think I'm doing this whole post in verse and poetry!

But welcome once again dear reader to ye olde Matt's Beer We Go!, this time featuring yet another beer from our friends at Great Lake Brewery, who present to you and I at this festive season, their Winter Ale. And no, I can assure you, it does not taste of misery and road salt, but is rather lively and jovial much like said festive season.

Coming in a very generous sized bottle with very generous booze (6.2% alchy, and 750 mL, size of a standard wine bottle!), this colourful ale comes with muchas bright bottle art, featuring a charming chree, erm, tree, with festive snow flakes falling about (don't worry, you don't have to shovel it).

Upon removing the white wrapping paper around the bottle neck and pouring it into your vessel of choice (usually a glass), a rich deep orangy red hue, bronze if you will, fills the glass not unlike flames in a fireplace. It certainly looks rich and deep, and flavourful.

And by George! it certainly is rich and deep and flavourful, especially in its scent. One instantly gets a strong punch of spices (I picked out cloves, the smart ass bottle says cinnamon and ginger...yeah, I guess they're right), and of course, oranges, the latter of which is a subtler scent. Winter Ale is very fragrant and fresh, and reminded me of a Christmas candle or potpourri (disclaimer: I do not own potpourri).

The taste goes on to verily much reflect the smells present, which is not always the case though: scent does not always translate into flavour. The taster gets a full but lightish spicy taste ride, with the spices reminding me of my old friend, Pumpkin Ale (or simply pumpkin pie). Medium bodied and dryish, it is a fairly smoothish, distinct ale, whose alcohol content does not trump the taste, and whose orange appeal is in the very background, with the bitterness of the peel certainly making an appearance.

Its aftertaste still speaks to the spices present, which is in fact a pleasant experience not unlike waking up Christmas morning to find one's stocking stuffed with $100 bills.

Great Lake's Winter Ale is of course a unique beer, made only at this time of year, so it's not something you'll be able to go out and grab say, in July, so if you're a fan of spicy, jumpy ales, go grab a handful now while you can. I originally graded this beer slightly lower, but after its second serving (I wasn't about to chug the whole 750 mL at one sitting), it grew on me slightly more.

A full, robust beer, it's sure to take the edge off the misery of driving in crappy weather or dealing with the morons at the mall, and put you back in the spirit of things (even if only for a brief time).

In short:

Jingle bells, this beer smells, but it's actually kinda swell.

**3/4 out of 4

Purchased at a Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) store for C$6.95 (US$6.63).

From LCBO.com:

GREAT LAKES WINTER ALE, 750 mL bottle
LCBO #90845
Beer, Ale, Craft Brewery
6.2% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content: 3
Made in: Ontario, Canada
By: Great Lakes Brewing Co. Inc.
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THE "BEST OF" FOOD TASTES YUMMY DESSERT/BAKED GOODS RECIPES OF 2009

Food Tastes Yummy readers you're in for a real treat! Here is my list of my favourite FTY dessert and baked goods recipes from the past year. I've done so much baking this year and I'm so glad that I got to share them with you all. Here is my top 20 recipes in 2009, enjoy!

1. Cherry Cheesecake Pie (Guest Post by: Jen Tilley)

2. French Chocolate Cake (Guest Post by: Divina Pe)

3. Honey Apple Cake

4. Lime Blackberry Muffins

5. Simply "The Best" Chocolate Brownies

6. Fresh Apple Cake Muffins With a Buttermilk Glaze

7. Pear Cranberry Cake (a tribute to Gourmet Magazine)

8. Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

9. Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

10. Autumn Apple Coffee Cake

11. Lemon Olive Oil Cake

12. Blueberry Lemon Bread

13. Double Chocolate Chunk Fudge Brownies

14. Lemon Tart Shortbread

15. Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars (this is the one pictured above)

16. Chewy Gingersnap Cookies

17. Traditional Apple Pie

18. Dessert Crepes with Apple Pie

19. Oatmeal Cookies with Walnuts and Raisins

20. Holiday Beer Spice Cake

I hope you've all enjoyed this look back at some of the best dessert/baked goods recipes that I've posted here on Food Tastes Yummy. Matt and I wish all of our readers a very happy holidays!

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THE "BEST OF" FOOD TASTES YUMMY RECIPES FROM 2009

The holiday season is upon us and Food Tastes Yummy wants to help you make your future meal plans! Here are some of our favourite savoury meal ideas from the past year. Just click on the link provided and it will re-direct you to the specified recipe. We hope you all enjoy!


Appetizers:

Breakfasts:

Lunch/Salads:

Dinner:


Side Dishes:

I hope all of the Food Tastes Yummy readers have a wonderful holiday season! Happy eating everyone!

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MATT'S WINE NOT! PIRRAMIMMA SHIRAZ 2005 AUSTRALIAN RED WINE

Once again, it's that time of year dear reader, as people hurry about shops looking to buy last minute doodads and doohickeys for significant others, loved ones, and gifts-for-the-boss-so-they-might-give-you-a-raise-next-year, and of course, they're shopping for wine.

Here at Matt's Wine Not!, I want to assure you that my wine suggestions for the holidays may or may not work out to ensure you have a beautiful pairing with your meal, and which may or may not just knock your taste buds off to may or maybe not make your dining experience memorable!

If that's not a guarantee of excellence, I don't know what is.

The next item up for bids here on ye olde wine bloge, is Australia's Pirramimma Shiraz, which will, I can assure you, leave you with a lasting impression of a very uniquely tasting wine. And, on a nice note, this wine is made by one of Aussie's oldest wine making families, and have continued to be vintners for over 115 years. Bravo to them!

This wine comes with a nice natural cork, and pours a deeper blackberry red colour, and oozes juiciness as the wine slowly slides around the glass, showing this to be a wine of body and consistency.

Taking a whiff, a distinct chocolaty flavour kicks thy nose, which is certainly dark, a little kicky (@14% alcohol), but not overwhelmingly so.

A dry, full and robust wine upon taste, Pirramimma is quite chocolaty indeed, with a slight bitterness, without many other notes of fruit present (although I concede the bottle's noting of plum and blackberry present, after well, reading the back of the bottle and having a few more swigs). I also picked up some licorice/sweetiness, although again my buddy, the back of the bottle, notes vanilla. Licorice, vanilla, close enough...*whistles* The aftertaste wasn't mind blowing, but was fine as the wine lingered away.

So! To be honest, the chocolatiness was a bit much, as it did dull away the other background fruity tastes as per Mr. Back of the Bottle. However, it was still a very rich and luxurious wine, almost something you could pair up with your favourite Christmas dessert, and over time, the chocolate did become less noticeable as it was enjoyed after a few glasses.

Not my #1 Shiraz, but still worth trying just for the taste experience alone.

**3/4 out of 4

Purchased from a Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) store for C$19.95 (US$18.70).

From LCBO.com:

PIRRAMIMMA SHIRAZ 2005, 750 mL bottle
LCBO/Vintages #987784
Wine, Red Wine
14% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content: D
Made in: Australia
By: Malesco Wine Broker
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BAKED RIGATONI IN MEAT SAUCE

For me, this is the ultimate comfort food that takes me right back to my childhood. Although my mom didn't make this for us kids, she would often take us to a wonderful Italian family style restaurant in our neighbourhood and I would often order this dish. There were tons of other tantalizing options on the menu but I would almost always pick this baked pasta dish. The oozy and crispy baked on cheese, and the thick chunky meat sauce always got my lips smacking. Although there are a thousand different ways to make this I find this recipe works wonders for me. This is my version of my childhood favourite.

Serves 5-6

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Baking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 pkg (450 g) dry rigatoni
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • coarse salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 8-10 mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 can (28 0z.) crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup low sodium beef stock
  • 1 bunch of kale, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp each: dried basil and dried thyme
  • fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded (or more as needed)
  • handful of grated Parmesan cheese

1. Put on a large pot of boiling water, salt the water, then cook the rigatoni as per package directions. Drain then set aside for now. In a large deep shallow pan, drizzle in the olive oil, then saute the onion and garlic for 2 minutes. Add in the ground beef and break it up using a wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper. Cook the beef mixture until all the ground meat is brown.

2. Add in the sliced mushrooms and saute for 2 minutes. The mushrooms should let out it's natural juices. Throw in the diced tomatoes, saute for a minute or so, then pour in the canned crushed tomatoes and the low sodium beef stock. Stir to combine and bring it up to a gentle bubble.

3. Add in the chopped kale and the dried herbs. When the kale cooks down and all of the ingredients come together, take the sauce off the heat. Taste and season if needs be. Toss both the cooked pasta and the sauce together to combine. Then pour the pasta and sauce mixture into a lightly greased casserole dish. Sprinkle the chopped parsley, mozzarella cheese and the Parmesan cheese on top. Bake it in the oven for a good 30 minutes or until the top of the cheese has melted and lightly browned. Serve hot.


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Who doesn't love a baked potato? I think that most of us order this lovely starch vegetable as a side dish whenever we all go to restaurants. We pile high the butter and sour cream, and sprinkle a generous amount of salt and pepper. Now although I do love the traditional way of eating a baked potato I like to change it up now and then to make it more interesting! This particular night I decided to serve the baked potato as the main course. I made a deliciously creamy sauce with Italian sausage and sliced mushrooms, and poured it on top of the hot steamy baked potato. It tasted almost like a chicken pot pie, honestly folks, the taste was simply heaven!

Serves 4

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Baking time: 50 minutes

Ingredients:
  • 4 baking potatoes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • coarse salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 6-8 mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 sweet or hot Italian style sausages, out of their casings
  • 2 heaping tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 large handfuls spinach or chopped kale
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • shredded cheddar cheese (optional when serving)

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Prick the cleaned potatoes with a fork all over to help steam in the oven, then place the potatoes onto a large baking sheet. Bake it in the oven for 50 minutes, during which time you will be making the sauce.

2. In a large deep shallow pan, heat oil on medium heat, saute the onion and garlic for a minute. Season with salt, pepper and dried thyme. Add in the mushrooms and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the mushrooms have let out their natural juice. Add in the Italian sausage and break it up using a wooden spoon, cook for several minutes or until the sausage has cooked through.

3. Sprinkle in the 2 tbsp of flour and stir it around to coat. Cook the flour for a minute or so to take out the raw flour taste; then pour in the chicken stock and milk. Let the sauce come up to a bubble and keep stirring until all of the ingredients have come together. Add in the spinach or chopped kale at this point, and once it has wilted down, take the pan off the heat.

4. Take out the baked potatoes, and mark an X on top of each using a very sharp knife. Using your hands, squeeze each potato together and it should open up easily for you, creating almost a pocket which the sauce can be filled in. Plate each potato, top generously with the sauce, then sprinkle with cheese and green onions if you wish. Serve immediately.


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LEMON YOGURT BREAD

I'm always on the lookout for new quickbread recipes and when I found this lemon yogurt bread recipe I knew this one was one I had to try. After reading through the ingredients, it sounded as if it could possibly be a healthy substitute for buttery pound cake. After baking this and giving it the good old taste test I found this to be a real winner! My husband, his co-workers, and my little sister all loved it, and so did I! I think the next time I have guests over for tea or coffee I'll be serving them a slice of this moist lemony bread.

Adapted from the "Lemon Yogurt Bread" recipe on the Taste of Home website . Recipe submitted by: Suzy Horvath

Yields about 12 slices

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Baking time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup lemon yogurt (substitute: tangy sour cream)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 325 F and lightly grease a 8 x 4-inch loaf pan. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and baking powder. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and add in the egg, lemon yogurt, olive oil and lemon juice. Slowly combine all of the ingredients together until just moist. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake it in the oven for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in comes out clean. Cool the bread and slice.


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SMOKED SALMON AND ASPARAGUS FETTUCINE

I consider smoked salmon to be a once in a while treat for me. It's not the most cost efficient thing to buy at the grocery store, but when I do buy it I know I have to create a masterpiece using this delicious and delicate fish. For me, pasta is always a blank canvas that can be paired with almost any ingredient including smoked salmon. I find fettucine to be a very sophisticated pasta so why not pair it up with a very sophisticated fish. I created a cream-like sauce to meld all of the flavours with. Sprinkle a bit of Parmesan cheese right on top and there you have a dish fit for a king. Make this for your special someone tonight!

Serves 2

Ingredients:
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup red onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bundle of asparagus, cut into thirds
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 can of light evaporated milk (370 ml)
  • 1/2 lb fresh fettucine
  • smoked salmon (0.205 kg package) or use equivalent amount
  • 3 green onions, cut into thirds, then sliced lengthways
  • handful of chopped fresh parsley
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • grated Parmesan cheese (when serving)

1. Heat oil in a large deep shallow skillet, on medium heat, saute the onion and garlic for a minute. Add in the asparagus and the zucchini and cook for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Pour in the can of evaporated milk, stir and let it reduce slightly. This should take 3-5 minutes. At this point put on a large pot of boiling water to cook the fettucine. Fresh fettucine does not take long to cook.

2. Slice the smoked salmon into the sauce, then once the pasta has finished cooking add it into the sauce quickly. Sprinkle in the sliced green onions and the chopped fresh parsley. Toss it together. Then once the fettucine is coated with the sauce, take it off the heat and toss it once more with the zest and juice of the lemon. Serve with a generous sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

Cook's tip: If you would like the sauce to be a bit more loose then pour in a bit of reserved pasta water. Do this a ladle full at a time.


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DOUBLE CHOCOLATE CHUNK FUDGE BROWNIES

I know what you must be thinking dear readers... Here is yet another brownie recipe on Food Tastes Yummy. Honestly, I really can't help it! When I look through cooking magazines, websites, cookbooks etc. and I happen to see a delectable chocolate brownie recipe I have to try it. I'm always on the lookout for "The Ultimate" brownie recipe and it always seems that I stumble on something that's even better than the last. After making this batch, the chocolate smell filled the kitchen air and I knew I was in for a treat. After test tasting this brownie I have to say this is one of the easiest and hands down "fudgiest" brownie recipes I've come across so far. This would be a good one to serve warm to guests with a huge dollop of vanilla ice cream right on top! yum!

Adapted from the "Double Chocolate Chunk Fudge Brownies" recipe in The Best Of Fine Cooking: Chocolate Magazine (Winter 2006)

Yields: 12 brownies

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Baking time: 33-38 minutes

Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1-2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp table salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup very coarsely chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease an 8-inch square pyrex baking dish or metal baking pan. In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Take the pan off the heat, then stir in the cocoa powder until smooth. Add in the sugar and salt. Stir in the eggs and vanilla until just blended. Sprinkle in the flour and gently combine using a rubber spatula, then fold in the chopped chocolate. Pour the batter into the baking pan and spread evenly. If using, scatter the chopped nuts over the batter. Place the pan into the oven and bake it for 33-38 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in comes out clean. Make sure not to overbake so the brownies can stay a fudgy consistency. Let cool and slice.

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ORANGE MOLASSES GLAZED CHICKEN WITH PINEAPPLE RINGS

Here is a recipe that I found on the Everyday Food Website a while back. I had bookmarked this and always said that I would try it down the road. Being a food blogger the list of things that "I would like to try" is quite long as you can imagine, but needless to say I finally got around to making this terrific chicken dish! I was originally intrigued by the addition of molasses in the sauce. Although molasses is an ingredient used in both savoury and sweet dishes I associate it mostly with gingerbread recipes and not much else! It has such a strong flavour that I was worried that there might be a chance that I wouldn't like this dish at all. Well I'm happy to say I was clearly wrong. I added the pineapple rings right on top when baking and poured some of the sauce over it. The pineapple added a nice zingy sweetness to the dish that made me feel like I was somewhere in the tropics, enjoy!

Adapted from the Everyday Food website

Serves 4

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Baking time: 35-40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 can pineapple rings, drained

1. In a saucepan, on medium high heat, add in the orange juice, vinegar, and molasses. Season with salt and pepper. Bring the sauce up to a boil and let it bubble for a good 15 minutes or until it reduces to around 1/2 cup. Make sure to skim the foam occassionally. Reserve a bit of the glaze for serving.

2. Preheat the oven to 400 F and line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Place the chicken breasts onto the foil, then sprinkle salt, pepper, and the dried basil on both sides of the chicken breasts. Brush the glaze all over each chicken breast, and bake it in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until the juices run clear. Make sure to brush the chicken two more times during baking, then place the pineapple rings on top of the chicken breasts the final time you glaze. Serve warm.

Cook's tip: Make sure to open the windows while you're reducing the sauce. The vinegar and orange juice creates a very strong aroma.


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CHERRY CHEESECAKE PIE (GUEST POST BY: JEN TILLEY)

Here is my final Christmas guest post from my twitter friend Jen Tilley. After you indulge in her delectable cherry cheesecake pie recipe go visit her fantastic food blog How To: Simplify. Thanks for writing Jen!

I have a confession to make: I have a love affair with cheesecake... chocolate, strawberry, cherry...you name it, I want it. Let's just put it this way, when my husband and I decide to order a dessert while dining out, my eyes are drawn to the cheesecake option and my mouth immediately begins to water. Sad, isn't it? But then again, how can you blame me? It's so delicious, especially around this time of year.

As the end of the year approaches, many of us have holiday menus on the mind, especially when it comes to the desserts. Holiday cookies and other treats are some of the items that make this season full of cheer and bring families and friends together.

When I was younger, my Mom and I would always pick a day before Christmas and dedicate the entire day to baking and decorating holiday treats. The house was full of the sights and sounds of Christmas and our tummies were over-stuffed with the tastes of the season.

As I reminisce about the holiday treats we would bake together, a couple of items stick out in my mind: No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies and Mini Cherry Cheesecakes. Using inspiration from the mini cheesecakes we used to bake, I would like to share with you a recipe for Cherry Cheesecake Pie.

On How To: Simplify, my goal is to provide tips, tricks and recipes to simplify life in the kitchen. Similar to this blog, all of the recipes posted on How To: Simplify are easy-to-prepare and are top-notch in the taste department, if I do say so myself. I've had the pleasure of writing this guest post for Food Tastes Yummy. This pie is quick and easy to prepare and it will make your home smell delicious. I hope you get a chance to bake this pie during the holiday season and enjoy it as much as I do.

Cherry Cheesecake Pie

Ingredients:

  • 1 box refrigerated ready-to-bake pie crusts (2 crusts)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 bricks (8-ounces) cream cheese (for the health conscious, it's OK to use 1/3 less fat cream cheese), room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract (depending on your taste)
  • 1 can (21-ounces) cherry pie filling
  • Optional: Sliced almonds

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place one pie crust onto pie plate. Cut the second pie crust into 1/2-inch-wide strips; set aside.
  3. Mix sugar and flour in a medium bowl. Add cream cheese and beat until smooth. Beat in egg and extract until just blended.
  4. Pour batter onto crust and spread evenly.
  5. Spoon cherry pie filling evenly over top of the cream cheese mixture (the cherry pie filling might not cover the entire surface but don't worry, it will spread during baking).
  6. Arrange 6 of the pie crust strips evenly spaced across pie filling. Place 6 more strips diagonally over first strips to form a lattice. Trim and press ends to bottom crust.
  7. Push almond slices into edge of crust (optional)
  8. Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until crust is golden brown and cherries bubble. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

This pie can be served warm or cold.

You can find this recipe and more at http://www.howto-simplify.com!

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PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY SHORTBREAD BARS

Here is the fourth and final installment of the series of Gay Lea Butter shortbread recipes. As mentioned in a previous post, Gay Lea Butter had conducted a contest, with cooking school students, for the best shortbread recipe for this holiday season. This peanut butter and jelly shortbread recipe is the contest winning recipe. You're in luck FTY readers! You can to view this awesome recipe along with me. I will definitely be trying this out sometime down the road. Gay Lea says that, "nothing beats this peanut butter and jelly treat and an ice cold glass of milk."

Created by: Robert Maxwell, Liaison College
Recipe and image courtesy of Gay Lea Foods

Makes 24 bars

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Baking time: 20-25 minutes

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Shortbread Ingredients:
  • 1 cup unsalted Gay Lea Butter, softened*
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
Filling Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup blueberry jam
  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp unsalted Gay Lea Butter, softened*

Instructions:

In a large bowl, beat the butter with the sugar and egg yolk, using an electric mixer, for 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl blend together flour, baking powder and salt until well combined.

Divide the dough into two equal portions and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Freeze dough for 1 to 4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9 x 13-inch (3 L) baking dish with parchment paper; reserve. Remove dough from freezer. Shred dough using a coarse grater or food processor, fitted with a metal shredding blade; replace one portion of shredded dough to the freezer.

Arrange remaining dough in an even layer in the prepared baking dish; lightly pat the dough down. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly golden around the edges; cool for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, blend the peanut butter with the icing sugar and butter until smooth and well combined. Spread the peanut butter mixture over the shortbread base in an even layer. Drop spoonfuls of the jam over the peanut butter and gently spread in an even layer.

Remove the remaining dough from the freezer and scatter over the jam layer. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the top is set and lightly golden brown. Transfer pan to a wire rack and cool completely; cut into bars.

*Disclaimer: the recommendation to use the Gay Lea Butter product is strictly from the Gay Lea company and from the creator of this recipe. Food Tastes Yummy does not fully endorse products.


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LEMON LAVENDER SHORTBREAD

Here is the 3rd installment of the four shortbread recipes that I am posting on Food Tastes Yummy, courtesy of Gay Lea Butter. Gay Lea describes this yummy lemon lavender shortbread cookie as: "A tender, citrus infused shortbread cookie topped with lavender for a unique flavour and crunch. These cookies are especially great when served with orange pekoe or earl grey tea."

Makes 48 Cookies

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Baking time: 12-15 minutes per batch

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 cup unsalted Gay Lea Butter, softened*
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup icing sugar, sifted
  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted (approx.)
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch, sifted
  • 1-1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest (about half a lemon)
  • 1/4 cup coarse sugar
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped dried lavender
  • 1 egg white, beaten

Instructions:

In a large bowl, beat the butter with the sugar using an electric mixer, for 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cornstarch and lemon zest. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture; stir until just combined. Form dough into a 1-1/2-inch (4 cm) thick disc; wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 20 minutes or until firm.

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Roll dough out, on a lightly floured surface, to be 1/4-inch (5 mm) thick. Cut dough with a 2-inch (5 cm) cookie cutter of any shape. Re-roll scraps and cut additional cookies until all the dough is used. Place cutouts on parchment-lined baking sheets; refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine coarse sugar with lavender. Lightly brush cookies with egg white and sprinkle with sugar mixture. Lightly press the tops to ensure the lavender sticks to the dough.

Bake cookies, in batches, for 12 to 15 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned around the edges. Cool cookies on baking sheet for 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

*Disclaimer: the recommendation to use the Gay Lea Butter product is strictly from the Gay Lea company. Food Tastes Yummy does not fully endorse products.

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MAPLE GLAZED BACON AND CHIVE SHORTBREAD

This shortbread recipe is the second of four shortbread recipes to be posted on Food Tastes Yummy. The first being of course the Lemon Tart Shortbread recipe. Take a peek and you can read about how Food Tastes Yummy was able to post these delectable holiday treats!

This recipe was created by: Andrea Schmidt, George Brown College. The recipe and image was courtesy of Gay Lea Foods.

Here is what Gay Lea says about these shortbread goodies: "This savoury shortbread is perfect for breakfast, brunch or any time of day."

Makes 16 squares

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Baking time: 25-35 minutes

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup unsalted Gay Lea Butter, softened*
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup crispy bacon, chopped
  • 2 tbsp chives, finely chopped
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp rice flour
  • 1 tbsp pure maple syrup

Instructions:

Grease an 8-inch (20 cm) square baking pan; reserve. In a large bowl, beat the butter with the sugar and salt using an electric mixer, for 2 minutes or until light and fluffy.

Add the bacon and chives; mix until evenly distributed. Combine the all-purpose flour with the rice flour. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture; stir until just combined.

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Press the dough, in an even layer, into the prepared pan. Cover and chill for 30 minutes or until firm.

Lightly score the dough with a knife into 16 squares (do not cut all the way through the dough). Brush the top with maple syrup.

Bake for 25-35 minutes or until set and lightly golden. Immediately cut through the scored wedges. Transfer pan to a wire reack and cool completely.

*Disclaimer: the recommendation to use the Gay Lea Butter product is strictly from the Gay Lea company and the creator of this recipe. Food Tastes Yummy does not fully endorse products.

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LEMON TART SHORTBREAD

This yummy shortbread is the first of four shortbread recipes to be posted this holiday season on Food Tastes Yummy. Recently, I was asked via email by a person representing the Gay Lea company marketing if I would be willing to post these holiday shortbreads on my blog. What really appealed me to this idea was the fact that these were the shortbread contest finalists recipes, which indicated to me that they had to be good.


These shortbread recipes were created by cooking school students and I think you can tell by this picture alone why this lemon tart shortbread recipe made it to the finals. As Gay Lea puts it, "These cookies are the perfect sweet treat to brighten any day."
Makes 20 cookies

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F

Baking time: 10-12 minutes per batch

Preparation time: 45 minutes

Lemon Curd Ingredients:
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp finely grated lemon zest (about 2 lemons)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted Gay Lea Butter, chilled (cut into 1/8" or 3 mm pieces)*

Shortbread Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup unsalted Gay Lea Butter, softened*
  • 3 tbsp finely grated lime zest (about 4 limes)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 20 toasted almonds

Instructions:

In a medium, metal bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar for 2 minutes or until light and smooth. Add the lemon juice and lemon zest; whisk until well combined.

Place the bowl over a saucepan with a small amount of gently simmering water; do not allow the bowl to sit in the water. Cook the egg mixture, stirring constantly, for 8 to 10 mnutes or until the mixture has thickened and coats the back of a spoon.

Slowly whisk in the butter, one piece at a time. Transfer mixture to a glass or ceramic bowl. Cover the surface of the lemon curd directly with plastic wrap to avoid a skin from forming; cool completely. Chill until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 325 F. In another bowl, mix the flour with the sugar and salt until well combined. Add the butter, lime zest and vanilla; stir until just combined. Chill for 1 hour.

Roll dough out, on a lightly floured surface, to be 1/4 inch (5 mm) thick. Cut dough with a 1-1/2 inch (4 cm) round cookie cutter. Cut a small hole out of the centre of half of the cookies. Re-roll scraps and cut additional cookies until all the dough is used. Place cookies on parchment-lined baking sheets.

Bake cookies, in batches, for 10 to 12 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned around the edges. Cool cookies on baking sheet for 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

Spread a small amount of the reserved lemon curd over the bottom of the solid cookies. Garnish the centre of each cookie with a toasted almond.

*Disclaimer: the recommendation to use the Gay Lea Butter product is strictly from the Gay Lea company and the creator of this recipe. Food Tastes Yummy does not fully endorse products.

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After reading about this yummy arugula salad recipe go visit Michelle's super delicious blog Taste As You Go. Thanks for writing!

The long dark days of winter are upon us again, and I find myself plagued with a craving for leafy greens and citrus that is nearly as desperate as my craving for more hours of daylight. The sight of anything green on my plate helps me forget that the vibrant colors of fall are long gone and the smell of anything citrus awakens my senses and pulls me out of the near-constant state of sleepiness that I fall into when the temperatures approach freezing. Thankfully, oranges are appearing more and more in the grocery stores these days, and I am able to satisfy my food craving by making a very simple, but delicious, salad featuring peppery arugula, sweet oranges, and butter avocado.

To add an extra layer of depth in terms of flavor, I like to garnish this salad with shaved Parmesan because the slightly salty taste of the cheese makes all of the other flavors pop. If you want to go a little further texture-wise, feel free to sprinkle some toasted walnuts or pecans on top, as well. This salad can be made in no time and is perfect for a laid back dinner for one or an elegant dinner party for more than one. Just adjust the ingredients accordingly. So, next time you find yourself feeling fed up with the wintry weather, try making this salad. It'll definitely help pick up your spirits!

Thank you, Nancy and Matt, for giving me the opportunity to write a post for Food Tastes Yummy! I loved being able to return the favor and to share one of my recipes with your readers. Happy Holidays!

Arugula Salad with Oranges and Avocado - Serves 1
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1-1/2 tsps white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp honey
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 ounces lightly packed baby arugula, washed and dried*
  • 1 orange, peeled and segmented
  • half a large avocado, sliced thinly
  • Shaved Parmesan

In a large bowl, whisk together oil, juice, zest, vinegar and honey. Season with salt, and pepper, to taste. Add the arugula to the bowl and toss gently with your fingers until the greens are lightly dressed. Shake the excess dressing from the leaves and place the arugula on a plate.

Add the orange segments and avocado slices to the bowl. Toss gently with your fingers, making sure not to break the avocado. (The acid in the orange juice will help prevent the avocado from browning too quickly.) Arrange the orange segments and avocado slices on top of the arugula. If desired, pour some or all of the remaining dressing over the salad.

Garnish with shaved Parmesan and serve immediately.

*I used baby arugula that was triple-washed prior to packaging.

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TORTELLINI WITH CREMINI MUSHROOMS & CHERRY TOMATOES

There are so many different types of pasta in the supermarkets nowadays, especially when it comes to fresh pastas. You can get fresh linguini, spaghetti, ravioli etc. and really with any filling you want! I decided to get tortellini (partly because I love the texture of the pasta). I also decided on tortellini because it had a nice meaty beef filling in it, which really saves me the trouble of defrosting any meat for that particular day, which is always a plus in my books. I sliced up tons of meaty and earthy cremini mushrooms and sauteed them in olive oil and butter. what is better than that you say? Well let me tell you... adding in the cherry tomatoes made this extra special and really juicy without adding any tomato based sauce. Altogether I have to say it is a match made in heaven! Taste like a dish served at a beautiful Italian restaurant.

Serves 3

Ingredients:

  • 1 pkg of fresh tortellini with beef or cheese filling (350 g)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 3 cups cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • coarse salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup reserved pasta water
  • grated Parmesan cheese (sprinkle when serving)

1. Put on a large pot of boiling water, salt the water and wait until you have cooked most of the sauce before you cook the tortellini pasta. Cooking the pasta should take about 5 minutes. Heat oil and butter in a large heavy bottom skillet, on medium heat, and add in the garlic and onions. Saute for a good 2 minutes. Add in the sliced cremini mushrooms and cook them for about 5 minutes.

2. Note: this would be a good time to drop in the tortellini, make sure to reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water once you have finished cooking the pasta. Stir in the halved cherry tomatoes to the cremini mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and cook another minute. Once the pasta has finished cooking, add the tortellini to the sauce, sprinkle the chopped fresh parsley, and while stirring add in the reserved pasta water to help thicken the sauce. Serve with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.


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VEGETABLE & SARDINES RISOTTO

I find too many people intimidated by the whole process of making a risotto dish but in fact it's quite easy once you know the method. Risotto is a dish that requires a whole lot of stirring and a whole lot of stock; other than that, you have a rice dish that you can add whatever ingredients you want to it. After I posted a simple sardines pasta dish I had quite a few comments from readers asking for more recipes using this underrated fish. I figured the best way to use canned sardines would be along side tons of vegetables. The fish just melts into the risotto and helps to create a beautiful fish sauce. So here you have it Food Tastes Yummy readers another sardines recipe coming up...

Serves 4

Ingredients:
  • 5 cups chicken stock, warmed through
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 slices pancetta, sliced thin
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-1/2 cup arborio rice
  • coarse salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 8 cremini mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small head broccoli florets
  • handful of fresh basil, chopped
  • handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp Italian herb seasoning
  • 1 can sardines, drained
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • large handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Take the stock and re-heat it in a pot to warm through. Heat oil in a large deep shallow skillet, on medium heat, and render the pancetta until it is lightly crisped through. Using a slotted spoon transfer the crisped pancetta into a bowl for now. Saute the onions and garlic for a minute, then add in the arborio rice and lightly toast the rice for a minute. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Deglaze the pan with 1 cup of white wine, cook until the alcohol has cooked out. Make sure throughout the whole process to keep stirring. Start adding in the stock one ladle full at a time (about 1 cup), keep stirring throughout the whole process. When you see the stock start to evaporate, add another ladle full of stock.

3. Around the 3rd ladle full of stock add in the mushrooms, red bell pepper and broccoli. In the final ladle, add in the chopped fresh herbs, and Italian herb seasoning, then turn the heat off once the rice has cooked through. Note that you may or may not need to add another ladle, so try the rice and see if it has cooked to your liking.

4. Stir in the canned sardines, butter, and Parmesan cheese. Break up the sardines as you're stirring to make sure that it melts into the sauce. Serve the risotto immediately, sprinkling the crisped pancetta right on top.

Cook's substitution: If you're not into sardines or don't have any that day you can certainly substitute it for canned tuna instead.


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MATT'S BEER WE GO! SCHNEIDER WEISSE GERMAN WHEAT BEER

Guten tag mein herr reader! Break out the lederhosen and waltzing music, it's time for ein gut German beer!

The German brewer who makes this fine drinky is Bavaria's oldest Weizen (i.e. wheat) brewer, and was founded in 1827 by Georg (not a typo!) Schneider (I guess that's his mug on the label) and his son of the same name, and the firm continues to be operated by a line of Schneider's to this day.

How refreshing (just like their beer!) to see a brewer that has not been gobbled up by some faceless soulless multinational...at least for the time being. That being said, go out there and remember to support your locally owned breweries or microbreweries (or vineyards for that matter): they continue to innovate and keep the craft evolving.

On to the main event! Let's get ready to drrrrrrrrinkkkkkkk! (In a refined manner, of course.)

After uncapping this German beauty with a bottle opener, it pours a very cloudy, orangey brown brew, frankly apple cider in appearance. Why cloudy? I'm assuming that it is due to the top-fermenting yeast (used in the making of the beer) which has settled on the bottom of the bottle (so says the bottle, and I listen to bottles...maybe that's why I drink ahaha...ha.)

Quite! It is a fragrant, light and sweet smelling beer, giving off notes of bubble gum (the pink original flavour, not watermelon strawberry crap) and yes...banana.

As a brief aside, believe it or not, this banana scent is common amongst wheat beers, the most famous and popular (arguably) of which is Belgium's Höegaarden. While a banana smelling beer might sound like a turn off, believe me when I say it's not!

Tasters time: some of the banana-ny-ness is indeed present, with light to medium, dryness and maltiness prevailing upon the taste buds (this maltiness is from the malted wheat). The aftertaste provides some bitterness and continued dryness.

I enjoyed this beer quite a lot, and as with many great European beers, it comes in a pint size bottle, so definitely another good bang for one's buck. One also gets a bang from the 5.4% alcohol content, but Schneider Weisse is crafted as such that the alcohol doesn't take away anything from the flavours.

Truly ein gutes Bier!

***1/4 out of 4

Purchased at a Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) store for C$2.80 (US$2.65).

From LCBO.com:

SCHNEIDER WEISSE, 500 mL bottle
LCBO #366070
Beer, Wheat
5.4% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content: 3
Made in: Bavaria, Germany
By: Privatbrauerei G. Schneider & Sohn
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PORT BLACKBERRY SAUCE ON SEARED CHICKEN

Here's a romantic dinner idea for two... Seared chicken with a beautifully reduced port and blackberry sauce. Now try saying that to someone special in your life. I can only imagine what the response would be. This chicken dish is absolutely stunning on a plate and when the chicken is perfectly cooked there is really nothing better. Serve this dish with some extra fresh blackberries that you have leftover. You will definitely have your sweetie whistling a happy tune after this meal. Enjoy!

Adapted from the "Beef Tenderloin with Blackberry Port Wine Sauce" recipe in the post-gazette.com website (in the Lifestyles section). Posted by: Suzanne Martinson on August 4, 2002.

Serves 4 (in case you both want seconds)

Ingredients:
  • 1 large shallot, finely diced
  • 3/4 cup fresh or frozen blackberries (1/4 cup fresh berries when serving)
  • 2 cup port wine
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tsp cornstarch + water
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • coarse salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
1. In a saucepan, cook the shallots, berries, port and sugar. Boil and reduce the sauce by half. Strain the sauce into a bowl and set it aside for now. This should take about 15-20 minutes.

2. Pour the chicken stock into the saucepan and on medium high heat, reduce the stock by half. Whisk the port-berry sauce into the reduced chicken stock and let it come up to temperature. Make a cornstarch slurry by whisking the cornstarch with water in a small bowl. Pour the slurry into the simmering sauce and add in the butter as well. Keep stirring the sauce together until it becomes nice and thick. Taste the sauce, then season if necessary. Set it aside until the chicken is ready.

3. Chicken preparation: Take the chicken breasts, season both sides with salt, pepper and dried basil, then heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet on medium high. Sear the chicken on both sides until golden brown, then turn the heat down to low and cover the pan. Let the chicken steam until it has cooked through completely. This should take several minutes. While the chicken is cooking re-heat the port-berry sauce. When the chicken is done serve them both immediately. Serve along side some fresh blackberries and crispy potato wedges.

Cook's note: You can substitute the chicken and use beef tenderloin or even duck breasts instead. The sauce pairs perfectly with all of these meats.
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A HEARTY "GOOD FOR YOU" SALAD WITH ITALIAN DRESSING

I consider this a "not to be missed" salad that has just about everything but the kitchen sink! With the holiday season here and all of us stuffing our faces full of high calorie food I figured a salad would do me some good now and then. I'm thinking my tummy would thank me! This salad has fresh avocados, diced ham, tomatoes, spinach, arugula, lightly toasted whole wheat pita (for croutons), grated Parm, red cabbage etc. There are so many flavours and colours going on that it's really hard to resist. I remember saying "it's a work of art" after I put this salad on the plate. Also, I made a homemade Italian dressing that gives the right amount of acidity to help brighten up the salad even further. Make this salad today so your body can feel a big sigh of relief!

Dressing recipe adapted from the "Homemade Italian Dressing" recipe in the http://www.cooks.com/ website.

Serves 4

Salad Ingredients:

  • pkg of baby spinach
  • pkg of baby arugula
  • handful of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 small red onion, sliced thin
  • 2 cups red cabbage, sliced thin
  • 3 medium tomatoes, diced
  • olives, sliced thin
  • 8-10 slices of ham, diced
  • 3-4 ripe avocados, sliced
  • 4 large whole wheat pitas, sliced and lightly toasted
  • Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Italian Dressing:

  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp grated Parmesan cheese

On a large salad platter, layer all of the salad ingredients. Make sure that the spinach and arugula leaves go on first and then layer the rest of the ingredients right on top. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper on last. In a bowl, whisk together all of the Italian dressing ingredients. Serve the salad immediately and drizzle on the salad dressing.

Cook's tip: If you really want to make a full meal out of this, I suggest adding some thinly sliced grilled meat right on top.


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