Celebrating our 100th with Pork Chops and Peppers!

Pork-chops-in-a-pan

It’s Official!!!! This is our 100th blog post!!!!!!!

Writing this blog has been a labour of love. I have learned so much and had fun researching the material for each post, then cooking, baking, styling and photographing the food.

I have taken you along on vacations, written about my culinary classes, and shared my journey to become more fit and healthy and shared stories with you. I have tried cooking new cuisines and mastering techniques and skills that I did not know, when I started.

I think this quote describes how I feel about writing this blog.

“We are at our very best, and we are happiest, when we are fully engaged in work we enjoy on the journey toward the goal we’ve established for ourselves. It gives meaning to our time off and comfort to our sleep. It makes everything else in life so wonderful, so worthwhile.”
Earl Nightingale

Special thanks to my 490 regular followers and the 8,530 viewers from 85 countries around the world for reading and commenting and sharing my posts. You have inspired me to keep writing and to continue to learn and to grow.

I also want to thank my family, my friends for their patience and support. I cannot tell you how wonderful it feels to know that they believe in me and support my dreams.

I look forward to writing my next 100 posts with great enthusiasm! Some of the things that you can look forward to in the coming months are Food Styling tips from my next course at George Brown College, stories from my travels, interesting food events and great recipes and cookbook reviews.

This recipe comes from a new book called Gordon Ramsay’s Home Cooking.

Pork-chops-and-peppers

Pork Chops with Peppers
Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

2 pork chops, about 7 oz. each
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
2 garlic cloves, skin on, crushed
Small bunch of thyme
Butter

For the Sweet and Sour Peppers:

Olive Oil
1 red onion, peeled and sliced
2 red peppers, seeded and thinly sliced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Small bunch of basil, leaves shredded

Directions:
First prepare the peppers. Heat a little oil in a large frying pan, then add the onion and peppers. Season with salt and pepper, add the sugar, and sauté over high heat for 4-5 minutes until soft and coloured. (Make sure you can hear the vegetables hissing in the pan. If not, the pan isn’t hot enough and you’re in danger of boiling the vegetables instead of sautéing them.)

Add the vinegar and let it bubble for a minute or two until it has reduced and the peppers are soft. Turn down the heat, add the tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Stir in the shredded basil and continue to cook for 30 seconds, then turn off the heat. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to infuse. Wipe the pan clean, ready to cook the pork.

Using a sharp knife, make cuts into the fat of the chops, about a 1/4 inch deep and at about 1 1/2 inch intervals, making sure you don’t cut into the meat. (This will stop the meat from curling up during cooking and will make it cook more evenly.) Season the chops with salt and pepper really well on both sides, pushing the seasoning into the meat.

Place the frying pan over high heat until hot and add a dash of oil. Add the chops, garlic and thyme and cook for 2-3 minutes until coloured. Turn and cook for another 2-3 minutes on the other side, pushing the thyme under the chops and breaking up the garlic a little.

Toward the end of the cooking time, add 3 chunks of butter and baste the chops with it as they are cooking, to speed up the cooking process and keep the chops moist. (Push the fatty edge of the chops toward the back of the pan to help render the fat.) Squeeze the garlic out of the skin and place with herbs on top of the chops.

Transfer the chops to a plate, and let rest for 5-10 minutes, spooning over the basting butter now and again.

Serve the chops on top of the peppers with the resting juices and a little juice from the peppers.

Recipe from Gordon Ramsay’s Home Cooking by Gordon Ramsay

Advertisements

Meatball Sliders

Meatball-Sliders

It has been a little more than 2 years since I launched my blog. During that period I have developed my baking skills, traveled through France, taken you on a tour of Italy through food, carried you along on my fitness program, enrolled in a culinary arts program and cooked more than 80 recipes.

They say that life is a journey and I can confirm that writing this blog has certainly been a journey. I have learned so much and I hope to continue on this path for a long time.

The interesting thing is that I started writing this blog to entrench myself in the world of food and to grow my food photography business. Yes, my passion is photography.

Saying that you well understand my frustration that my new camera is in the repair shop. I bought a Nikon D800 a couple of months ago and have been back to my local camera store a few times because it has gobs of oil on the sensor. Yikes!!!

I kept wondering what kind of dust was causing black blobs on my shots so I tried the self-cleaning function on the camera and blew air on to the sensor to blow the dust away. The gobs only moved and multiplied!!!

I realized I needed to get professional help so I took the camera back to my camera store and got my sensor cleaned. A few weeks later it happened again. Then it was time for the internet search to find out if this is a common problem. Apparently; this happens in new Nikons and Canons but usually corrects itself after 2-3 cleanings.

My camera is now in the hands of Nikon because I have well passed the normal adjustment period and the self correction did not happen. I believe that I have a lemon. Not the kind that you eat or cook with but the kind that brings frustration and loss of productivity. I am waiting for a replacement camera because I believe that Nikon backs its products. In the meantime I have rented a Nikon D3X which is awesome!!!

I shot these meatball sliders with my D800 and removed the blobs in Photoshop.

Sliders are my version of diet food. If you like burgers, pulled pork or meatballs and are watching your weight you can do portion control by eating a slider instead. It may not be perfect science but it makes me feel better.

Meatball Sliders

Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

3/4 lb. ground pork
3/4 lb. Italian pork sausage, casings removed
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 (20-oz.) can tomato puree
1 (14-oz.) can diced tomatoes
Soft rolls, sliced in half horizontally
Fresh basil leaves
Mozzarella slices

Directions:

Combine the ground pork and pork sausage, red pepper flakes, 2 cloves of the chopped garlic, panko, grated cheese, eggs, parsley, kosher salt and black pepper, to taste, in large bowl. Form into 2-inch meatballs and set aside on a platter.

Heat 2 tbsp. of the olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and cook until brown on all sides. Transfer to plate.

Meanwhile, start the sauce. Add the 2 tablespoons of the remaining olive oil to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, and the remaining garlic. Sauté until the onion begins to brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Add the tomato puree and the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, stir in the meatballs and simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally, for approximately 40 minutes.

To serve, put a meat ball on the bottom of each roll and drizzle lightly with some sauce. Top with a fresh basil leaf and a slice of mozzarella cheese. Cover with the roll tops and transfer to a platter. Serve warm.

Recipe from FoodNetwork.com

Culinary Arts Class Week 2 -Tuscan Bean Salad

Tuscan-Bean-Salad-v2

Well I survived another week of my Culinary Arts classes.

This week we all showed up in class donning our crisp white chef’s uniforms and our steel toe safety shoes. We all looked professional compared to the first week.

The atmosphere was filled with excitement and perhaps a little fear. Here we were in a professional kitchen waiting anxiously for the moment that we would start cooking.

The instructor demonstrated 3 different salads for us, Tuscan Bean, Cucumber and Onion, and Pacific Rim Beef. We watched this master chef as he breezed through the dishes showing us how to cut vegetables and herbs properly and the differences between the various types of cuts. He gave us tips on how to make each recipe and how to test the wellness of the steak as it pan-fried. Then we sampled each of the beautifully plated dishes so we would understand what the finished product should taste like.

Next it was time for us to step up to our stations and get to work. I loved the energy in the room as 24 cooks set about to make the same dish; each person adding a little of their own personality but still careful to practice the correct technique and knife skills. At the end of the evening we cleaned up and took our finished products home to share with our families.

I think this course is about as close to Top Chef as I will ever get. The most important thing is that I am having a good time and I am learning.

Tuscan Bean Salad
Makes 8-10 servings

Ingredients:
1 ½ cups (340 g) white navy beans, presoaked and cooked
1 cup (230 g) Prosciutto, Julienne
6 Roma Tomatoes, seeded and Julienne
1 cup (230 g) Asiago cheese, grated
1 green pepper, Julienne
1 yellow Pepper, Julienne
1 red pepper, Julienne
1/2 medium red onion, Julienne
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup (120 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup (90 ml) red wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
6 black sun-dried olives, sliced
4 sprigs fresh oregano, chopped
6 sprigs fresh Basil, chopped
4 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
Spice sachet
1 sprig fresh Flat-leaf Parsley stems
1 Bay leaf
3-4 black peppercorns
1 whole clove

Directions:
Soak the navy beans overnight in enough water to cover them by 2 inches. Drain and rinse.
Place the beans in a medium pot and cover with water to 1 inch above the beans. Add the sachet to the water.
Simmer over medium heat until the beans are tender, approximately 35 minutes. Drain and allow to cool.
Whisk together the oil, vinegar, garlic and lemon juice. Marinate the peppers, onion, cheese and tomatoes in the dressing and fresh herbs for approximately 30 minutes.
Add the beans to the marinated vegetables and add the prosciutto.
Salt and pepper to taste.

Recipe modified from the George Brown College Culinary Arts 1 syllabus.

A Walk to Remember

A Walk to Remember.

For those of you who have been following my blog this summer, you will know that this past Saturday was the day I walked in a 32km charity walk to raise money for cancer research.

After many months of training and pushing beyond my limits, the big day arrived. I rose out of bed at 5:30 AM to get to the starting point on time for our team’s 7:15 AM photos. I looked out the window to check the weather and it was pitch black and pouring rain.

I madly rushed around getting my gear ready and thinking about how I would stay dry throughout the long walk. I had been given a rain poncho in my walk kit so I decided that it would go over my walking gear to keep the rain away. I packed my gear, called a taxi and off I went.

After the opening ceremonies, team pictures and a few stretching exercises 4,590 walkers made their way to the streets of Toronto.  A river of bodies moved like a colourful snake along Lakeshore Boulevard wearing their multi-coloured rain ponchos. Each person moved as quickly as possible toward each rest stop, carefully avoiding puddles and running water along the streets and sidewalks.

We walked for four hours before the rain let up. Once it had stopped I ripped my rain poncho off in one fast motion. I wanted to get rid of the wet, nasty feeling as quickly as I could. Unfortunately; it was no longer usable and the rain started again an hour later. We reached the lunch stop at the 16km mark where I purchased another rain poncho, enjoyed a 30 minute rest stop with a healthy bagged lunch and started off to conquer the next 16km.

The rain finally stopped for the last 11km and we enjoyed a warm, sunny afternoon after all. The walkers raised over $10 million for cancer research that day and they never gave up in spite of the weather. People came from all over Ontario to walk. Some walkers were cancer survivors; many had lost friends and family members to this terrible disease. All were there with a purpose. This year I walked to support my colleague who is a brave young single mother who has been fighting breast cancer for the past year.

It was a day filled with laughter, with  tears, with plenty of hugs, a day of stories, and most of all it was a day of hope.

After a walk that long I prefer to eat a light dinner and relax. This Chilled Cucumber, Basil and Mint Soup is fast and easy to make. It is light and fluffy but packs enough flavour to make it delicious. The recipe would be perfect for a summer lunch or as a first course on a summer meal.

Chilled Cucumber, Basil and Mint Soup

Ingredients:

1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup fresh basil
1/2 cup fresh mint
1/4 cup sliced scallion
1 cup water
1 English cucumber, peeled, seeds removed and chopped
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. hot sauce
salt

Directions:

Puree sour cream, basil, mint, scallion and water in a blender. Add cucumber. Pulse until combined but still slightly chunky.

Stir in lemon juice and hot sauce, season with salt to taste.

Chill soup at least 3 hours but not more than 12 hours. Top each serving with slices of cucumber and a sprig of mint before serving.

Recipe from Martha Stewart Living

Summer Caprese Salad

My life has been in transition for the past few months. I have been working on a creating a permanent lifestyle change that involves finding balance, eating healthy and getting more exercise. As you have read in my previous posts, I have taken up cycling and walking. Now I am going to start running.

I started this process by committing myself to a 32km walk this September to raise money for Cancer research. Then I bought a bicycle and started riding it all over Toronto. This week I decided to make things more interesting by making a commitment to run in my first 5km run with my daughter.

It has been a long time since I ran on a regular basis and I have never run a 5km race. I am going to step up my training routine to include daily runs and power walks to get ready.

Each of these physical activities has brought its own unique set of challenges. For each one I found it helpful to set mini goals that push me farther toward my ultimate goal. This 5km run may be the most challenging of them all.

The best part of my healthier lifestyle is that I enjoy living more each day. I am learning to live in the moment and to see the world through a positive lens. I have lost weight, dropped a few dress sizes and my blood pressure is under control. This has started out to be one of the best summers ever. Life is good!

Summer is also about the great flavours of fresh local produce. Farmers’ markets are brimming with fresh fruits and vegetables. One of my favourite flavours of summer is the taste of ripe, fresh tomatoes from the garden or farmer’s field. That is why Summer Caprese Salad is such a regular dish at my dinner table. The combination of sweet tomatoes, soft mozzarella cheese and the bite of fresh basil are a combination made in heaven.

Summer Caprese Salad

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

8 oz. (250 g) fresh mozzarella, sliced ½ inch (1 cm) thick
1 lb. (500 g) field tomatoes, sliced ½ inch (1 cm) thick
Leaves from 2 large bunches basil

Vinaigrette

1 cup (250 ml) balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. (15 ml) Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp. (2 ml) salt
¼ tsp. (1 ml) freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup (75 ml) extra virgin olive oil

Directions

To make vinaigrette, in a small saucepan, bring balsamic vinegar to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until reduced to ½ cup (125 ml). Let cool. It will thicken as it cools.

In a bowl, whisk together reduced vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper. Slowly drizzle in oil, whisking until emulsified.

Arrange cheese, tomatoes and basil leaves on a platter. Up to 1 hour before serving, drizzle with vinaigrette.

Recipe from In My Mother’s Kitchen by Trish Magwood

 

Panzanella with Roasted Peppers, Tomatoes and Basil

This has been a weekend of sporting events. Last night the Stanley Cup Playoffs game between the New Jersey Devils and the L. A. Kings ended with a 3 game to 2 lead for L.A. In spite Los Angeles having a 3-0 lead in the series, the Devils worked hard to regain their competitive place in this challenging series.

The NBA eastern conference semi-finals ended last night as the Miami Heat won over the Boston Celtics in game 7 of the series. I was sad to see the Celtics lose because they are a team steeped in history and have a line up that belongs in the basketball hall of fame. There was a lot of media hype about the age of the players but in my mind they played each game with the wisdom and perseverance of a seasoned team.

Today the Euro 2012 soccer matches are broadcasting throughout the day. Earlier today, long time rivals Italy and Spain ended their match in a 1-1 tie. My daughter, son-in-law and grandson came over to watch the Ireland vs Croatia match. My son-in-law is from Dublin and played soccer there as a young boy. My 17 month old grandson is already starting to kick around a soccer ball.

I think watching sports together as a family builds bonds and lasting memories. We each take our own perspective and vote for our favourite teams or players. We make sportsmen’s bets on who will win and get very excited as we watch each play unfold.

It makes me feel contented to have the kids over for an afternoon game and a meal. I love to make simple, comforting food for everyone to enjoy. This Italian Panzanella is a hearty peasant style salad made from tomatoes, roasted red peppers and stale bread. The flavours of the oil, the fresh basil and vegetables are infused into the bread creating a burst of flavour in every bite.

Panzanella with Roasted Peppers, Tomatoes and Basil

Ingredients

6 oz. stale country bread, cut into 1/4 inch cubes (about 4 cups of cubes)
1 red roasted bell pepper, roughly diced
1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
coarse salt
freshly ground black pepper
large handful fresh basil leaves

Directions

Combine bread, peppers, and tomatoes together in a bowl. Whisk the vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, and anchovies together in a small bowl and drizzle over salad. Tear the basil, toss everything together with your hands, and let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Distribute the panzanella on plates, drizzling each with a little extra virgin olive oil and serve.

Recipe modified from My Father’s Daughter by Gwyneth Paltrow