Pumpkin Fritters with Vanilla Ice Cream

30 Oct

Hallowe’en is almost here and I find myself in a contemplative mood. I’m thinking about Samhain, and the ancient roots of this end-of-harvest celebration.

Random bits of myth and legend float to mind, swirling like deeply coloured leaves in the low-ground wind of a crisp late fall afternoon.

Following my workout at the gym, I overhear the yoga teacher’s closing meditation encouraging us to acknowledge our dark or shadow side. I pause. I’m listening.

I have fond memories of trick-or-treating as a kid. Funny what’s happened to some of my memories over time…there’s a magical, meaning-making haze surrounding special occasions like Hallowee’en and Christmas. A type of perfection, frozen in time, that makes me nostalgic for the good old days. Wow, can I be getting that old already!? 😉

I have to admit that somehow it doesn’t seem as perfect taking Jax to the nearby mall to trick-or-treat. But, as always, I know it’s what I make of it that counts.

In the spirit of the season, last night I whipped up Colin Cowie’s Pumpkin Fritters with Vanilla Ice Cream. (See page 258 of the cookbook.) These are essentially pumpkin-flavoured mini donuts! (Yes, I know there are a lot of mini donut lovers out there.) Little dollops of dough made with 100% pure pumpkin, quickly pan fried in veggie oil, topped with tasty cinnamon sugar and served alongside vanilla ice cream.

Great tasting, very quick and easy to make, and a delightfully uncomplicated ingredient list. Assuming you have canned pumpkin on hand, you probably have everything else you’ll need.

Happy Hallowe’en. I hope your festivities are magical and memorable. Some day today will be the good old days. Enjoy!

Welcome, Fall

15 Oct

Now that fall is upon us (beautiful, sunny, Ontario-like out there today) I’m feeling almost biologically compelled to be in the kitchen, cooking and baking, cultivating and consuming warmth. Mmmm…

I’ve actually made a few Oprah dishes over the last while and sadly been too lazy to blog about them. Better to eat, sometimes, than to write. Here’s what I’ve tried:

1. Banana-Pecan Honey Bread created either by Susan Chumsky (according to page 22 of the Oprah Magazine Cookbook) or by Rori Trovato (according to O’s website). Baking this, Jax was a happy little helper. I remember “helping” my mom in the kitchen when I was younger and it’s neat to fast forward all these years and have my own mini assistant. He loved colouring the recipe and stirring the dough, anyhow! I wouldn’t describe this bread as extraordinary. It was pretty good but seemed like a bit more work than it was worth. I imagine there are better banana bread recipes out there.

2. Cuban Grilled Corn on the Cob with Queso Blanco & Lime by Rori Trovato (page 204). This is essentially just corn on the cob, grilled in the husk, rubbed with chili powder, paprika, salt, butter, cheese and lime. I didn’t track down queso blanco and just substituted mozzarella. Um, likely not as authentic. I can’t remember, but we probably made up for this lack of authenticity by having accompanying mojitos. In any case, this recipe was super easy and offered an interesting flavour twist to regular corn on the cob. We liked it well enough but aren’t in a hurry to have it again.

3. Spicy Shrimp with Basil by Nina Simonds (page 156). Now this was a delicious dish! Shrimp marinated in rice wine, soy sauce and fresh ginger, added to crisp-tender snow peas (which we like to eat but somehow rarely do) and seasoned with red pepper flakes, garlic, red onions, Thai fish sauce, sugar, and fresh basil. I love fresh basil. So delightful. This meal was quick, healthy, flavourful and one I’d definitely make again. Try it, I think you might like it.

Well, time now to head back into the kitchen. I have the oven warming up for cookies…

Grilled Shrimp with Mango Salsa

1 Aug

It’s been forever since I last cracked open my beloved Oprah cookbook. I started this blog while I was on mat leave; somehow, crazily, I was looking for things to do at the time! 😉

Since I’ve been back at work, however, I’ve made little time for culinary capers. I miss trying new dishes that might be out of my comfort zone and the meditative act of writing about what we’ve eaten. I also miss your feedback dear readers–yes, that’s you. 🙂

I’ve resolved to write for a half hour every day in August, and with today being August 1, I figured resurrecting my blog would be a good place to start. On that note, let me tell you about the delicious Grilled Shrimp with Mango Salsa we had for lunch. (Check out the Nina Simonds recipe on page 154 of the O Magazine Cookbook or click here.)

This is an exceptionally easy and light dish to make, perfect for the summertime. Essentially, it’s just skewered shrimp (brushed with soy sauce and fresh OJ) grilled on the BBQ, with yummy mango salsa (think red onion, cilantro, lime juice and fresh ginger) on the side. Peeling, chopping and squeezing time included, the salsa only took 5 mins. Meanwhile, the shrimp were also ready in about 5 mins–especially easy for me, considering Chad was the one working his typical magic with the BBQ.

The only part of the meal I felt weird about was the packaged Uncle Ben’s basmati rice. I simply microwaved a squishy package for 2 mins and then–voila!–we had a nearly perfectly cooked side dish. I’ve always been slightly suspicious of microwaves in general. If you don’t happen to have similar reservations, this truly instant rice trick may just be the way to go. Given the amount of time saved and the potentially averted burnt rice/crunchy rice/under done rice fiasco, I reluctantly admit that I’ll try this again at some point. (Not for fancy dinner parties.) 😉

All in all, if you’re looking for a quick, healthy and refreshing meal to whip up this summer, give this Grilled Shrimp with Mango Salsa recipe a try. Enjoy!

The Harlem Tea Room’s Scones

15 Jan

It’s been so long since I last blogged that today my mom asked me if I was still hungover from the Christmas cocktails I wrote about in mid-December! 😉 So I figure that writing about The Harlem Tea Room’s Scones we indulged in last weekend is long overdue.

The Patrice Clayton recipe (see page 217 of The Oprah Magazine Cookbook, or click here) actually has 3 variations: baking powder, cheddar-thyme, and raisin. We decided to try the baking powder version and were not disappointed. These are your classic, plain variety, high tea scone, just begging to be a vehicle for delicious jam, marmalade or whipped cream toppings.

Our Sunday morning baking presented us with the perfect opportunity to enjoy the yummy raspberry jam that Jan and Chuck gave us for Christmas. Chad’s loved their jams since he was a little kid, and let me tell you, that jam was goood.

Although the recipe was supposed to make about 1.5 dozen 3/4 inch scones, we ended up with closer to 2.5 dozen, slightly smaller ones. Cooking them for 10 minutes was perfect.

Next time we plan to go closer to the cheddar-thyme route (simply because our jam is almost all gone) but create a rosemary-rocksalt variation instead, inspired by the rosemary-rocksalt bagels we had in Kitsilano the other day.

Christmas Cocktails

19 Dec

Last night we had some friends over for a Christmas cocktail party. What better occasion to try a signature Oprah cocktail?

To welcome our guests in style, I wanted to make the O Fizz, an Olivier Cheng creation, for which you can find the recipe here or on page 43 of The Oprah Magazine Cookbook.

Chad, on the other hand, wanted to make Dark & Stormies (an Alison Mesrop concoction found on page 47 of the cookbook or online here). After a split-second argument about the virtue of one libation over the other, we decided to compromise–and make both!

The O Fizz was a pretty combination of bubbly, vodka, fresh lime juice, and sugar, splashed with cranberry juice, and topped with fresh mint and raspberries. It was a fun, sophisticated, girlie drink that’s definitely a make again. Think girlfriends for brunch and you get the idea.

However, the Dark & Stormies (a blend of ginger beer, fresh lime juice, and dark rum) were not a big hit. Most people didn’t like it–one of our friends couldn’t even finish his drink–but then again another guy absolutely loved it; proving once again that there’s something for everyone.

Well, thanks to those of you who came out last night. As always, it was great to spend time with our friends. And, based on last night’s performance, it seems that many of us are indeed in the holiday spirit. Merry Christmas! 🙂

Moroccan Chicken over Couscous

13 Dec

Feeling that it had been far too long since we’d made an Oprah dish–read: had a home-cooked meal–last night we decided to try Moroccan Chicken over Couscous. (See chef Rori Trovato’s recipe here or on page 120 of The Oprah Magazine Cookbook.)

The recipe claims to be super easy, and I guess it was. What was weird for me, though, is that the dish calls for chicken thighs, as opposed to the boneless skinless chicken breasts I’m used to cooking. (This odd aversion is probably due to my friend Afke’s vegan influence back in my early university days!)

For those of you used to cooking with various bird products, however, this dish is delicious! Chicken, cumin, pepper, olive oil, chicken stock, fresh mint, chopped kalamata olives, all served on a bed of couscous–you get the picture.

It was savoury, pretty quick to assemble, and Chad wanted seconds right away. I consider that a make again, relatively odd bird parts and all. Hey, I guess I knew I was in for eating some things I wouldn’t normally choose to make, given my commitment to making all 175 recipes featured in The Oprah Magazine Cookbook! 🙂

Mayne Island Crab Cakes

6 Dec

We were lucky enough to spend last weekend on Mayne Island, where my father-in-law, Graeme, had caught us some fresh crab. We happily turned the fruits of his crabbing labour into Oprah’s Favorite Crab Cakes. (Find the recipe here or on page 157 of The Oprah Magazine Cookbook.)

I have to say that my mom-in-law, Harolyn, is a pro at making crab cakes, so I didn’t have to do much other than sip bubbly and supervise nearby. Life is tough, I tell ya! 😉

This traditional crab cake recipe calls for egg, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, mayo, dry mustard, celery seed, Old Bay seasoning (Harolyn had made her own,) salt & pepper, fresh crabmeat, parsley, and breadcrumbs. We didn’t really make any adjustments to this dish, but Harolyn would recommend using more breadcrumbs (let’s say 4 Tbsp. as opposed to 2 Tbsp.) in the crab cake mixture itself, just to make it a little drier.

The verdict? These large, tasty cakes are a make again, for sure. Especially if we can get Graeme to catch us some more fresh crab, and Harolyn to serve us some more bubbly! 🙂

Ever Eaten Raw Brussels Sprouts?

16 Nov

It never would have occurred to me to eat Brussels Sprouts raw. Leave it to Oprah, or chef Colin Cowie to be exact, to give this classic holiday veggie a surprising new twist.

Brussels Sprouts Salad with Almonds & Parmesan is pretty healthy, easy to make, and comes together really quickly. If you like Brussels Sprouts–and I appreciate that not everyone does–you’ll probably enjoy this dish. Plus, even if you don’t typically like cooked sprouts, you still might enjoy this.

Note that the recipe (found here or on page 24 of The Oprah Magazine Cookbook) makes 10 servings. Divide appropriately if you’re cooking for a smaller army. Essentially, here’s all you need to do:

1. Roast 1 cup of slivered almonds at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes;

2. Whisk together 3 Tbsp. olive oil plus 1 Tbsp. truffle oil, 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, 2 Tbsp. chopped chives, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper;

3. Toss with 30 ounces of Brussels Sprouts, your toasted almonds, and 3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan.

4. Serve!

I must say that the drizzle of truffle oil adds a nice touch. Luckily, my in-laws ferried us back some of the good stuff from their recent holiday in Italy. (Thanks, guys!)

Chad loved this salad and for us it’s definitely a make again. In fact, since it’s taken me a few days to post this entry, we already made it again last night. 🙂

Quick & Healthy Garlic-Orange Spinach

7 Nov

Well, it’s official, my maternity leave is over, and I’m pleased to report that I had a great first week back at work. I liken it a bit to following a show like Young & the Restless…even if you hadn’t watched it in a year, you could probably still tune in and pretty much pick back up where you left off. There would be some new characters and twists in the plot, to be sure, but still…It’s good to be back. 🙂

That said, I haven’t dusted off my Oprah cookbook in far too long. These work/grad school/volunteer commitments really seem to be cramping my culinary style! 😉

So tonight, to complement the beautiful steak Chad BBQ’d us, I made Michel Nischan’s Garlic-Orange Spinach. This side dish is super simple, super fast, super economical, AND super healthy. All good things. It’s pretty tasty, too. Click here for the recipe, or see page 173 of The Oprah Magazine Cookbook.

The only change I made was using cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil instead of the grapeseed or rice oil the recipe called for. Not sure what the taste or texture difference would have been (?) but the olive oil worked just fine.

Even though this “just wilted” citrus spinach isn’t the best side dish I’ve ever had, it’s definitely a make again. Why? Because it’s super good for you and can be whipped up in about 5 minutes. Just perfect for a working mom! 🙂

Orange-Ginger Pork Medallions & Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts & Honey Mustard Dressing

30 Oct

Honestly, it’s hard to concentrate on anything but treats in the days leading up to Halloween. 😉 Plus, with my return to work this coming Monday–following a full year off on maternity leave–Oprah’s been a bit far from my mind. Not so far, mind you, that I don’t want to share a couple of new recipes with you. 🙂

First up, Laura Pensiero’s Orange-Ginger Pork Medallions. See page 98 of The Oprah Magazine Cookbook or click here for the recipe. We’d never made pork medallions before, but my mom happened to give us a couple of pork tenderloins, so we figured this would be the perfect opportunity to give these sweet-and-sour morsels a try.

The verdict? Delicious. The flavours of orange juice, peanut oil, fresh ginger, shallots, red pepper flakes, chicken broth, and soy sauce all came together quite nicely. And, since they were pan-fried, they were surprisingly easy. I think this dish would make a good workday family staple. (Ha! I may rethink that statement after I’m actually back to work.) 🙂

The second recipe (I guess we were in a festive mood) was April Bloomfield’s Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts & Honey Mustard Dressing, which you can find on page 177 of the cookbook, or by clicking here.

Essentially, these were boiled and pan-fried sprouts drizzled with a lemon, olive oil, Dijon mustard, and thyme dressing.

The dressing was quite tasty, but I did find it a bit too time-consuming given the end result. For example, the recipe said to boil a lemon in water for a full hour (?) PLUS called for fresh chestnuts (a novelty for us–we found them at Kin’s) which also required boiling, simmering, draining, and peeling. Again, pretty time-consuming given the end product.

I’m not sure what effect it would have, but next time I might consider using the lemon without boiling it first, and also substituting canned chestnuts. I’d welcome any other suggestions!

Don’t get me wrong, these would make an impressive and welcome addition to the holiday dinner table. I just think I prefer the roasted Brussels Sprouts, lemon and pancetta recipe our CEO shared with us one year. I’ll have to be sure to get that recipe again before the Christmas holidays roll around.

Speaking of holidays, it’s official, this weekend Jax is going as a Jax-o’-Lantern, and Hiro is channeling Super Hiro! I hope your weekend is magical, delightful, and sweet. Happy Halloween!

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