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VACATION AND COOKING WITH KITCHEN BASICS AND MUST HAVES

We recently had a week vacation – a lovely cabin on the lake at one of our Gulf Islands.  We love the cabin with its rustic charm, a cozy big fireplace, a kitchen (most important!) and beautiful lake views.

Over the years, I have learned what to bring as usually the kitchens are quite small, and just stocked with the very bare bones essentials.  These are the must-haves that I pack with us each year:

In terms of the kitchen supplies stocked in the cabin, the knives are sadly very dull, with an even duller vegetable peeler in the the utensil drawer. And (yikes!) a glass cutting board on the counter.  I would not dream of using my beautiful knives on a glass cutting board – they should all be recycled into something else more useful.  What that might be is food for thought…no pun intended.

A good quality non-stick frying pan is definitely a must-have to bring along as well. Usually the cupboards contain a various assortment and size of pots and frying pans from yesteryear.  Ideally, I would prefer to bring my cast iron frying pan but the size and weight alone stops that idea right there.

Although the stove, fridge, and counter space was small it is surprising what one can create in the kitchen. While at times it did feel challenging, it was also fun and creative.   During our time away, we had steaks with risotto and steamed vegetables, oven baked chicken breasts with pan fried potatoes and steamed vegetables, gourmet sausages with yellow roasted beets, garlic mashed potatoes and salad.

We also had the pleasure of visiting a cheese farm where we purchased beautiful goat cheese and organic eggs. Plus, real homemade organic English Toffee – my huge weakness! Finding a good restaurant for dinner out is always a lovely treat…ask the locals – they will tell you the best places to eat out. In my case, restaurants that can safely create gluten free meals. (we research the net as well)

My kitchen at home is not that large by some standards, although considerably bigger than the one at the cabin.  If I could have my “dream” kitchen it would be large enough to comfortably fit a farm style table and seating for 8 – I have never been keen on “dining rooms”.  The kitchen for me is the heart of the home where family and friends can come together to share great food. A special bonus in my “dream” kitchen would be to have a gas stove/oven.  Ohhh heaven.  My mom’s favorite way to cook was with a gas-fired stove. She always said that it was the best way to cook as you have a greater range of control with the heat.

How about this stove/oven from BlueStar?  That would definitely be on my wish list.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a built in grill?  Especially on those cold winter nights when the BBQ is not an option and you have a crowd to feed.  Or what about a stove with 6 burners and a double oven?  Yayyy I could cook to my hearts content with a stove like that.

Whether I am cooking in a small kitchen with the bare bones minimum for supplies, or back at home in my fully stocked kitchen, it is all about great tasting food.  Still, that BlueStar stove is a beauty…and it is always fun to dream right?

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TOMATO PESTO PASTA WITH ROASTED GARLIC GOAT CHEVRAI (A RECIPE INSPIRATION)

We are huge lovers of pesto in this household.  Each year I make Organic Garlic Scape Pesto which we freeze to have throughout the year.  This is the first time I have made Tomato Pesto and Oh My Goodness, do we ever love it.

As mentioned in previous posts, every year, we buy our local organic produce and eggs at our Farmer’s Market (just down the street from where we live) which runs from May through to October. This year I signed up for their fall/winter program whereby I was able to go to the farm (8 minutes away) to buy winter vegetables, eggs, and these lovely dried tomatoes.  The farm is called Alm Organic Farm – founded by Mary Alice Johnson.

As I have never made tomato pesto before I used Mary Alice’s recipe as a guideline as well as my own Garlic Scape Pesto recipe – to create this heavenly tomato pesto.  (pasta recipe to follow) Alm Farm tomatoes are the best I have ever had. (we were able to buy tomatoes in November!)  They are super flavorful, and amazingly sweet as was this pesto recipe.  Dinner tonight felt like a fresh breath of summer even though we are in the height of winter.

So, here is my recipe for Tomato Pesto – thank you Mary Alice & Marika for your inspiration and for your beautiful organic farm grown vegetables!

1 1/4 cups dried tomatoes – soak in boiling water, just to cover for 20 minutes (reserve drained water)

3 minced garlic cloves

1/3 cup Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil

28 gram package of fresh Basil or 3/4 cup chopped Basil

3 Tblsp. reserved water from the tomatoes

a generous 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted

fresh cracked pepper

Add the dried tomatoes to a 4 cup glass measuring cup.  Add boiling water just to cover.  Let sit for 20 minutes, then drain, reserving the liquid.

Lightly toast the sliced almonds in a dry cast iron pan on low/medium heat – about 8 minutes stirring so they do not over roast.  Then place into a food processor and process until fine.

Drain the water from the tomatoes, reserving the liquid.  Add the tomatoes to the food processor with the minced garlic and blend, scraping down the sides.  Add the Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Parmesan Cheese, Basil, and fresh cracked pepper.  Blend again then scrap down the sides.  Add the 3 Tblsp. reserved tomato water and continue to blend scraping down the sides.  If too thick, add a bit more of the reserved water.  Once combined set aside for the pasta, or refrigerate to use in another dish.  Pizza would be amazing.

TOMATO PESTO PASTA WITH ROASTED GARLIC GOAT CHEESE CHEVRAI:

1 340 gram package of Gluten Free Fusilli Pasta

1 large shallot, diced

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 Tblsp. Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil

3 crimini mushrooms, chopped small

Tomato Pesto recipe from above

salt and fresh cracked pepper

1/2 cup of fresh chopped Basil

113 gram package of Roasted Garlic Goat Chevrai

3-4 Tblsp. reserved tomato water

freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.  Cook pasta as per directions.

Meanwhile, heat up a medium/large dutch oven on low medium heat with the 1 Tblsp. EVOO.  Add in the shallots, garlic, mushrooms, salt and pepper – saute about 5 minutes.  Add in the the reserved tomato water a Tblsp. at a time.  The mushrooms shallot mixture will absorb most of the water.  When the pasta is cooked, drain well, and add to the mushroom shallot mixture. Turn the heat down to a low minimum.  Add in the tomato pesto and 1/2 cup of fresh chopped basil, mixing well.  If needed add in 2 or 3 more Tblsp. of the reserved tomato water.  Break up the Chevrai with your hands, sprinkling throughout the pasta stirring to combine and lightly melt.  Plate and add some freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top – serve while hot.  Enjoy!

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BALSAMIC CHANTERELLE RISOTTO

Chanterelle mushrooms are by far my favorite mushroom – even re-hydrated they have such a distinct woodsy sweet flavor.  Although, fresh is always the best.  They do have a short window of time for harvest, and as we did not get any fresh ones this year, I was happy to be able to buy dehydrated Chanterelle’s.  In this dish you could certainly use a dry white wine instead of the Balsamic Vinegar – however, we have discovered we much prefer the Balsamic Vinegar in risotto compared to white wine – but, both are delicious.

What better way to showcase Chanterelle’s than in a Risotto.

1 cup of re-hydrated Chanterelle mushrooms – chopped.

2 tblsp. butter

1 tblsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 large shallot, diced

1 large garlic clove, minced

4 cups chicken stock (homemade if you have it)

1 tsp. dried basil

2 tblsp. Balsamic Vinegar

salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

1 cup Arborio rice

Add the mushrooms to a bowl and cover with very hot water.  Allow to re-hydrate for 40 minutes, then drain well, and place the mushrooms onto a paper towel to absorb any extra moisture.  Then chop into small pieces and set aside.

Heat up a good sized saute pan on medium low heat adding in the butter and EVOO.  Saute the shallots and garlic about 5 minutes.  Season well with salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Meanwhile, heat up the chicken stock to a low simmer.

Add in the rice, basil, and balsamic vinegar – stirring about 3- 5 more minutes.  Add a ladle full of chicken stock to the rice – stirring well, then allow to bubble a minute or so.  Continue to cook and stir until the stock has evaporated, then add in another ladle full of stock.  Repeat until the stock is finished and the rice is cooked tender, about 40 minutes. Add in the re-hydrated Chanterelles, and freshly grated Parmesan Cheese.

Check for seasonings and serve along side any main dish.  Enjoy!

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PORK CHOPS IN A SHALLOT MUSHROOM SAUCE

What is not to love about shallots?  They are in my humble opinion much more flavorful than any onion – hands down.  They are also more of a “killer” on the eyes in terms of their sting!

Regardless, they are my favorite in the Allium family.  So much flavor – and a flavor that retains itself [...]

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SUN DRIED TOMATO BASIL VEGGI DIP

This is a recipe where you could certainly use cream cheese, however, in this household I always make Yogurt Cheese – or dripped Yogurt.  Recently, I discovered there is a company in California called Green Valley Organics that makes lactose free dairy products including sour cream and cream cheese.  Oh heaven!  It is very difficult [...]

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GLUTEN FREE CRANBERRY CHOCOLATE FUDGE CAKE

Merry Christmas everyone, and all the best for 2016.  Wow, that sure came up fast – where does the time go?

Mercy!  This was one decadent chocolate fudge cake.  It is rich, with full on chocolate flavor, a nice touch of cranberry, dense and ultra moist.  A very special occasion festive cake.

What is really nice about [...]

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A LOVELY WINTER ROOT MASH

Last year, I was not aware – or more likely not on “the ball” enough to find out about a local farm that delivered fresh weekly organic vegetables – till December no less.   And the farm is only 8 minutes away from where we live.

The above picture, at least to me, is pure delight, [...]

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GLUTEN FREE GINGERBREAD CAKE WITH STICKY TOFFEY DATE SAUCE

If you love the flavors of gingerbread, this is a cake for you!

I found a most gorgeous picture of this Gingerbread Cake with Sticky Toffee Date Sauce in a local grocery store flyer, which then said to check out their recipe website….here is the original.

I have made this cake twice now.  The texture is luscious, [...]

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CREAM OF LEEK AND KALE SOUP

Please excuse the picture quality here…very bad lighting!

It has been freezing in our neck of the woods.  When it gets to 4 degrees below zero, that is cold!  And unreasonably so for our area.  All I can think about is a lovely hot bowl of soup with warm Gluten Free French Bread.  Mind you, I [...]

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SWISS CHARD AND MUSHROOM GRATIN

We received 2 huge bunches of fresh Swiss Chard from our Organic weekly farm delivery, so with one bunch I decided to make up a gratin.  Our temperatures are now dropping to freezing levels, so we will probably  not be seeing any more Swiss Chard until next year.

Most of the chard was green, but there [...]