Thursday, August 25, 2011

Love Grows Here

I know this is a cooking blog and I should probably be discussing food and all things culinary, but this week, I'd like to share with you, a little more intimacy, and a little more ME.  It is still dark out, as I type, and my cat, Buddy, is curled up on my lap, purring steadily, with his face pressed into my tummy.  He hops onto my lap every morning when I sit at the kitchen table to check my emails. I think this is his way of telling me he loves me.  Love is everything, isn't it?  It's funny how such a small word, only four letters, can hold such big meaning.  It's simple, it's complicated, it's everything, it's eternal, it's necessary, it is...

1. a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.

2. a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.

 This heart shelf hangs in my bedroom, on the wall by my night table.  I love the primitive hanging hearts!

 This is my heart rock collection.  I have four now, biggest to smallest.  My girls found three, and the tiniest one was my niece, Emily, who found it, and gave it to me.

 This sign hangs in my bedroom, because who doesn't want to be kissed goodnight, every night?  It's just a little reminder!  

This little kitty door stopper greets family and friends at the door, because family and friends are always welcome!   

 Home Sweet Home!  No matter how far away we roam, there's no place like home.  After all the adventures, no matter how big or small, home is the place where we eventually want to be.  There's nothing like sleeping in your own bed!

 This mug was a Christmas gift from my friend, Rachel.  It holds my morning cup of coffee and reminds me how blessed I am to have found such dear friends in this world! 

 These are my chrysanthemums, blooming in the front of the house.  They are a reminder that Summer is almost over and Autumn is just around the corner!  

As you can see, love is everywhere, and all around me.  I am surrounded by it every day.  As soon as I open my eyes, I love, and am loved in return.  

Thank you for dropping in. I hope love is everywhere in your home too, because where there is love, there is happiness.  It's as simple as that.  Happy Thursday dear friends! xoxo

Nobody has ever measured, even poets, how much a heart can hold. - Zelda Fitzgerald

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What's Cooking Wednesday

Another week has come and gone, and it's Wednesday again.  The sun is shining and it is going to be another beautiful day in our neighbourhood.  I can't believe we're already in the middle of August!  In just three short weeks, the girls will be back in school and Autumn will be peeking around the corner!  I am going to enjoy these last few weeks of Summer.  I hope you do too! 
Today, I would like to share a few photos of  some of the things I've been cooking since my last blog post...

Pancakes are a special breakfast treat.  I usually make pancakes on weekends, on a day when we're all home to enjoy them.  There really is nothing like homemade pancakes with butter and fresh maple syrup! 

  I had some leftover dough and decided to make a quiche tart for lunch.  Some of the special ingredients I added were Portuguese chorico-diced very finely, parsley, and gruyere cheese.  I call it my Portuguese Quiche! 

I served it with assorted baby lettuce salad, tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette and garlic butter croutons.

This was last night's dinner - my Portuguese style chicken stew.  Here you can see it bubbling on the stove top with one of THE most important Portuguese seasonings - paprika!  I used a whole chicken and chopped in 8 pieces.

Here it is, served on a plate - chicken breast with sliced, boiled potatoes and plenty of sauce for dipping.  A nice, crusty bread is the perfect accompaniment !

Thanks for stopping by.  Make the most of today and fill it with sunshine and happiness.  See you next time!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Stuffed with Inspiration

A couple of weeks ago, Nuno, the girls, and I went to dinner at an Italian restaurant in Orillia, about half an hour's drive from our home.  The restaurant is called Zat's.  This was our first time dining there.  The girls ordered spaghetti and meatballs and Nuno and I each ordered a tomato-based seafood pasta .  The restaurant was participating in "Barrielicious" - a food festival where restaurants in and around Barrie offer customers a 3 course prix fixe menu for only 15-25 dollars per person. What I loved most about the pasta was the addition of the goat cheese, cherry tomatoes, and black olives.  Those simple ingredients made an otherwise standard dish, taste deliciously gourmet.  It really left an impression on me.  I decided to use some of that inspiration towards Monday's dinner. 

First, I made the tomato sauce using tomatoes, onion, garlic, oregano, and fresh basil.  I let it simmer for approximately one hour, then set it aside.

Using a sharp knife, I sliced into the thickest part of the boneless, skinless chicken breast.  This forms a "pocket" so you can fill it with the stuffing.  Be careful not to cut through the other side!

Ingredients for the stuffing - soft unripened goat cheese, chopped fresh basil, and sliced black olives - mix these together until well combined

Fill pockets with the stuffing and secure opening with a toothpick, so the stuffing doesn't escapeSeason chicken breasts with salt and pepper. 

Next, I braised the breasts in some vegetable oil (no photo).  You can braise them for 4-5 minutes each side over medium high heat.  This gives the breasts a nice golden color. Add enough tomato sauce to cover the bottom of the pan and place the chicken breasts on top.  Cover them with more tomato sauce. 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake covered, for approximately 20 minutes. Take care not to over cook, or the breast meat will dry up.

In the meantime, cook your favorite pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente.  Add tomato sauce.

...and here it is on a plate.  I added bits of goat cheese to the pasta as well as sliced black olives and some fresh basil.   

In my love affair with cooking, I have learned that inspiration is key.  I will never have enough cookbooks, food magazines, or restaurant experiences. These all provide me with constant inspiration for everyday meals and culinary adventures.  Thank you again for visiting my kitchen.  I love reading your comments.  Have a wonderful day! xo

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Little Mexican Flavour

One of the first things I do when I wake up in the morning is decide what I will be making for dinner that night.  First, I look in the fridge or freezer to see what I already have at home.  If I'm lucky, I'll have all the ingredients on hand (which is usually not the case).  Yesterday's freezer contents were 2 whole chickens, ground beef, assorted fish, hamburgers and chicken breasts.  I decided to make something with one of the chickens.  But what would I make?  A stew? Roasted chicken?  And then it came to me, chicken tacos!  I love Mexican food and my favourite Mexican restaurants are those teeny tiny ones, that have just a few tables, if none at all.  I find the food at those restaurants, by far, have the most authentic Mexican flavour.  Less is more.  The simplest, freshest ingredients make for the best tacos - nothing too fancy.

I allowed the 3-4 pound chicken to defrost, chopped it up, then boiled it for approximately 30 minutes.  Once cooled, I shredded the entire chicken.  It gave me approx. 5 cups of shredded chicken.

I chopped an onion & garlic and sauteed in vegetable oil until golden.

I added shredded chicken, salt, pepper, oregano, ground cumin, cinnamon and cloves.  After some research, I found that these ingredients are key to making "authentic" chicken tacos.  However, it still didn't have the distinct taste I was looking for.  I added some chili powder, chopped cilantro and a cup of the chicken broth that was left over from boiling the chicken.  Without the broth, the chicken would have been too dry.   Now, it was perfect! 

Some of the taco toppings - freshly grated white cheddar, iceberg lettuce, homemade salsa and sour cream

Homemade salsa - chopped onion, garlic, tomatoes, avocado and cilantro, along with lime juice, salt and pepper.

Here it is on a plate.  The taco shells are Mexican corn tortillas.  They come refrigerated...all I had to do was warm them up in the oven.  I made some rice to serve on the side, it was boiled in the strained, leftover chicken broth.   Nothing goes to waste in this kitchen!

I hope I have inspired you to make something different with your chicken. The tacos were delicious and hubby and girls loved them.  I will definitely be making these again in the future.  Thanks for stopping in!  It has been raining here for most of the day.  Waiting for hubby to get home, so we can have dinner together.  Have a good evening everyone! xo