“Deconstructed” Beef Enchiladas

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Two words that go great together  … Tex and Mex!

I really love enchiladas, but the idea of rolling so many of them can be daunting. Here’s a recipe that gives you that great taste but in a form a bit easier to manage.

Let’s see what we’ll need to make this:

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  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 8-12 7″ tortillas (more if smaller) – corn or wheat
  • 1 lb shredded cheddar
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 2-3 jalapeno peppers
  • 1 cup of whole corn kernels
  • 12 oz of black beans (1 can)
  • 12 oz tomato sauce
  • 4 tbsp chili powder mixed with 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp cumin (separate from above)

First thing you’ll need is enchilada sauce. Sometimes you can find it pre-made, but let’s do it from scratch.

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Take the tomato sauce

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and add it to a medium sized mixing bowl.

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Add the chili powder/cumin mixture

Stir until smoothly mixed. Put this aside for later!

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Chop the jalapenos (again, make sure not to touch your eyes after this until you wash your hands!)

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The heat comes mainly from the seeds. You can control how spicy this dish is by adjusting the amount of seeds in it. Less seeds means less spicy heat!

Heat a little olive oil in a skillet and add the ground beef

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Add the jalapenos

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Stir and let this start to cook a bit. While that’s going on, chop up the onion.

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Add the onion

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and stir!

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Now add that cumin

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Mix this all in

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this is now smelling pretty damn good!

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Corn!

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you know what to do here … stir!

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Finally some black beans …

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stir this in, let it cook for about 2-3 more minutes

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Your filling should end up looking like this!

Get a 9×12 pan and coat the bottom with your enchilada sauce

Cover the bottom with a layer of tortillas. Slice a few to make sure to fit all the way to the sides.

Cover this with more sauce!

Spoon the beef mixture on top, covering the entire pan

Add shredded cheese until covered.

HOLD ON, we’re not done yet …

Cover this entire thing with another layer of tortillas

Top with sauce …

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Add the remaining meat mixture and cover with any remaining sauce

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Top it with your remaining cheese

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Place into a 375F oven for approximately 15-20 minutes … until the cheese has melted and started to get a bit golden.

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Ready to serve!

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Individually plate them … you can top them with a dollop of sour cream in you are feeling fancy!

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There you have it … my “Deconstructed” Beef Enchiladas

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Bon Apetit!

Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits

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We have a Jack Russell-Pug-Sheltie-Border Collie cross named Pippi. (As we discovered upon moving to Quebec, this name does not translate and basically means to pee. This has led to many awkward conversations at the dog park). What fun is it to have a pet if you don’t spoil them silly? In that vein, we thought maybe we should make our own Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits!

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“Did you say you were going to make me Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits?”

Yes Pippi, yes we are!  For everyone who wants to try this themselves, here’s what you’ll need:

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  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 cup natural, unsweetened peanut butter
  • 1 cup flour (whole wheat or white flour works)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

Pour the milk into a mixing bowl or food processor

Add the peanut butter. Natural peanut butter is much more liquid and easy to pour.

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Mix this together

Add the flour and the baking powder

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Mix it all together

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Pour the dough out in a ball on a floured surface

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Knead for a couple of minutes

Roll out the dough to about a 1/4 inch thickness

Now use cookie cutters to cut the dough into shapes!

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Place the cut out biscuits on a well greased cookie sheet

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“I eat them now?”

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Not yet Pippi … place in preheated oven and 375F (190C) for 20 minutes or until starting to brown

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SOON

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Take out of the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack

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Now you can have one Pippi!

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Sit! Now roll over …

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“Now?”

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Here you go!  How is it?

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“Can’t talk … eating”

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“OM NOM NOM!”

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“MORE?”

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So there you have it, all you need to spoil your dog with Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits!

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Bon Apetit, petit chien!

Apple & Beet Salad – Midsummer: Part 3

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Another favourite at our Midsummer table is Apple & Beet Salad. As a spread on a slice of hard bread or the base of an open face meatball sandwich, the table wouldn’t be complete without it!

Okay, let’s see how it’s made

This is what you’ll need:

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  • 2 cups pickled beets (drained)
  • 2 Granny Smith apples (cored and chopped)
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 5-6 sweet gherkins
  • 1/3 cup celery (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Oh, and a food processor (or blender)

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Add the apples to the food processor

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Blend for about 1 minute

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Now, add the beets

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and blend

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now add the gherkins

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Yup, you guessed it … BLEND!

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Onions! (ignore that man in the background … my father in law … and those are scissors in his hand, not walking around with a knife)

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did someone say BLEND?

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okay, add the celery

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… wait for it … wait for it ….

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BLEND!

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Keep this blending going until you have a pretty smooth mixture

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finally, add the sour cream

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I think you know what I’m going to say …

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BLEND! (until smooth)

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Should look like this!

 

Just serve it in a bowl (make sure your guests know it’s not ice cream!)

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So there you have it, our lovely Midsummer Apple & Beet Salad

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Glad Midsommar and Bon Apetit!

 

Räksmörgås (Swedish Shrimp Salad Sandwiches) – Midsummer Part 2

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To me, no food says “Summer in Sweden” quite like Räksmörgås. Served usually open face on either hard bread or a slice of rye, this is the core of our Midsummer table.

So, how do we make this delicious dish?

Here’s what you’ll need:

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  • 2 lbs cooked & shelled shrimp*
  • 1 bunch fresh dill
  • 4 tbsp mayonnaise

* note: if you send someone out to get you shrimp because you are busy preparing other things (for example, your Father-in-law), make sure to specify PEELED or SHELLED shrimp, or preparation times can get much longer

 

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Fine chop the dill. It should give you about a cup of chopped dill when you are done.

Grab a large mixing bowl.

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Add the cooked shrimp.

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I did have to peel these (I had quite the horrifying bag of shrimp heads at the end of it). While it was time consuming, I have to say the quality of the shrimp is much higher this way.

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Add your chopped dill

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Should pretty much cover the shrimp

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Add the mayonnaise

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Your main ingredients are ready

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Mix together well

At this point taste your mix and add salt and pepper. As much or as little as you want, it’s your Räksmörgås!

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Served on hard bread with a nice slice of hard boiled egg

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For me, the egg is the finishing touch that makes the sandwich

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The Midsummer food table is shaping up!

Sit outside and enjoy your Räksmörgås !

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Glad Midsommar and Bon Apetit!

 

Midsummer – Part 1

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Around our home, or any place you find some Swedes, the time of year known as Midsummer is a big deal. Every year we have our big Midsummer party that starts at 1pm and goes until basically people stop coming over.

Midsummer is the longest day of the year, the summer solstice. In Sweden, especially the further north you get, this means a day that never really gets dark … so why not just party?

This year, having moved to Montreal our annual festival was in doubt. Still, we arranged to come back to Toronto and have our party. What a great way to see everyone again!

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Traditionally, it’s a time to dance around the maypole … we skipped that part

For us, it’s mostly about friends and food!  Oh, and aquavit

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This was our bottle of choice this year!

What’s on our Midsummer table?

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Gravlax (Gravad Lax)

Seems this cured salmon is for every occassion. You guys already have this recipe from this blog …

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Sil (Pickled Herring)

Coming in many different styles, we always have at least three different type of sil on our table (I like the mustard sauce the most!). Served on hard bread, it’s a must

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Gubbröra 

Gubbröra means “old man’s mix” and is a type of Swedish egg salad made with dill, onions and Swedish anchovies … it’s delicious, but I’ll show you how to make it another day, we have a lot to cover!

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Meatballs

I think you have a pretty good understanding of these … remember we did this recipe a few months ago?

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Strawberry Cake

A double layer vanilla sponge cake, iced with whipping cream and covered in strawberries … a highlight for sure!

So, you’re now wondering if I’m going to show you how to make anything?

Of course!

Coming next the recipe for Räksmörgås (Swedish shrimp salad sandwiches) and Beet & Apple Salad !

Glad Midsommar!

Spicy Thai Pineapple Salad

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Okay, I’m not the biggest fan of a salad, even though I have had some fantastic tasting salads in my life.

This is one of those dishes that you’re not quite sure how to qualify … is it a salad? Is it a dessert? Why is my mouth on fire? In the end, just say “this is delicious” and go from there!

I’m sure that over the summer you’ll be invited to someone’s house for a BBQ and you’ll see the words “pot luck” somewhere … THIS is a great dish to bring over to the party!

Let’s see how to make it!

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You will need:

  • 1 pineapple (you can buy it peeled and cored if you want to save time)
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 2 thai chilis (trust me, that’s enough!)
  • 4 oz fresh cilantro
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

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First thing you’re going to need to do, once you have large bowl, is cut off the top of the pineapple

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Now slice off the bottom

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Stand the pineapple up and slice off the rind (or skin)

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Get it nice and clean … try to dig out any leftover nodes

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Slice in half. You should be able to spot the inedible core quite easily.

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Slice into quarters and remove the core. Now cut the quarters into halves again .

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Slice into approximately 1 inch slices

Slice again in half, and you should have nice, bite sized pieces of pineapple.

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Repeat this until your pineapple is all bite sized pieces, like this!

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Slice your onion in half, and then dice that half

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Should look like this

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Add those onions to the bowl

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Time for the chili peppers!  Now, let’s talk about what NOT TO DO when you cut hot peppers. You are going to get very hot chili oil on your fingers. No matter how carefully you wash your hands, this is going to last for a few hours. Be cautious not to touch your eyes after! For extra precaution, you can wear latex gloves … seriously, once you’ve accidentally touched your eye after cutting chili peppers, you’ll understand!

(Think your fingers are clean? Touch one to your tongue and let it sit there for a moment … you feel that burning? Yea … once you can touch your tongue without a burn, you’re okay!)

Cut off the tops and tips, then slice open

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We’re going to remove the seeds

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The majority of the heat from chili peppers come from the seeds. This will be plenty spicy without the seeds … but you can keep some if you really want some heat!

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Chop the chili peppers into very small pieces

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Remember, you don’t want a big mouthful of chili when you eat this!

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Add the chili peppers to the bowl

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Chop some fresh cilantro

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Not too fine … remember, some folks can’t stand cilantro, so it’s nice for them to be able to see and avoid it

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Now add this to the bowl

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Okay, almost done!

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Pinch of salt (I am using a nice grey salt here … not sure if it makes any difference, but I feel fancy!)

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Now add the olive oil

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… and mix it all together!

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Great Spicy Thai Pineapple Salad !

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Perfect to bring to a picnic or BBQ. Just make sure to warn people that it’s spicy!

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Bon Apetit!

Curried Coconut Chicken

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Not sure if this dish is Indian or Caribbean … what I can say is it’s spicy, sweet and delicious, which is all you really need to know.

Okay, so this is what you’ll need

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  • 2 lbs diced chicken
  • half large white onion, sliced
  • 1 can (14oz) of diced tomatoes
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 8oz (small can) of tomato sauce
  • 2-3 tbsp of curry powder (to taste)
  • 3 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 clove minced garlic

Let’s do this!

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Pour 2-3 tbsp of oil into a large skillet

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Once the oil is hot (medium-high heat), add the curry powder

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You’ll want to cook the curry powder for 2-3 minutes. The heat will activate much of the flavours

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Next, add the onions

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Stir until well coated by the curry

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Let those onions cook a while, until they are getting clear

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Add the chicken

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Already smells amazing! Stir and cook until the chicken is mostly cooked through and the juices are running clear.

Now add the tomatoes

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Mix well

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Add the sugar

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A little extra tomato sauce

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Don’t forget that garlic!

 

Now add the coconut milk. Don’t worry if the milk has separated and the cream is on top in a lump … once you mix it with the hot ingredients it will blend nicely

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Now let your curry simmer on the stove for 30-40 minutes.

While it’s simmering, prepare some rice. I like to use basmati rice for this.

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Okay, ready to serve!

Place some rice in a bowl. Get a large spoon and spoon the curry over the rice.

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So good

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So there you have it, my curried coconut chicken

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Bon Apetit!

 

Cabane à sucre (A Sweet Death by Maple Syrup)

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Springtime in Quebec means it’s now maple syrup season!

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Maple syrup here is a serious deal. A few years ago, there was a heist at the Quebec Strategic Maple Syrup Reserve … I know, you don’t believe me. It happened in 2012 and you can read about by following the link!

Springtime means Maple Syrup Festivals!

 

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This is about 2 minutes from our front door … close down the streets, have a festival

If you really want the full maple syrup experience (and really, who doesn’t?), you want to get outside of the city and go to one of the many cabane à sucre located through out Quebec.

Growing up in Ontario, we had “sugar shacks”, which is the translation in words only. You’d go, you’d see how they make maple syrup now and how it was done in the ‘olden days’, then you’d buy some maple candy, possibly get pancakes, go for a hay ride on a horse drawn cart and go home.

Quebec it’s a full experience, with a huge traditional meal (followed by dancing in the discotheque … yea, it’s about as amazing as you’d imagine!)

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Of course, you’ll be greeted by the image of thousands of buckets tapping thousands of trees … the old wagon wheel thrown in there for atmosphere?

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But it’s inside the cabane that you’ll find all the treats!

First of all, most cabanes are designed so it will feel like a home meal. Big long tables, communal seating.

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Now, let’s look at the food you can expect … other than maple syrup

 

 

There’s usually ham (glazed in maple syrup), eggs (with maple syrup), baked beans with pork (and maple syrup), sausages (cooked in maple syrup), a myriad of maple based desserts, pea soup (the one non-maple infiltrated food) and the traditional treat oreilles de crisse!

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Now, if you understand French, you may be a bit concerned about eating Christ’s ears … don’t worry, these are just pork jowls that are deep fried until super crispy, and then you drizzle maple syrup on them. Yes … a wonderful crunchy, salty, sweet treat that only Quebec would figure out!

The final treat of the night is tire sur neige or tire sur neige d’erable or tire de neige … any way you call this, it’s just this … you take hot maple syrup and pour it on snow …

Then, you let it cool for about 30 seconds, place a stick on the cooling maple syrup, and start to roll it up.

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Pure maple taffy on a stick …

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you want this …

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So good, you may want to steal millions of dollars worth of maple syrup from the strategic reserve … see, now it all makes more sense!

Springtime in Quebec! Bon Apetit!

 

 

 

 

Paella (Or how to get a Spaniard angry because you did it wrong!)

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Paella is a both the name of the dish and pan in which it’s cooked. Originally from the Valencia region of Spain, Paella quickly became a national dish. Each region prepares it using different ingredients, thus insuring that whatever ingredients you use, there will be a Spaniard telling you that you’ve done it wrong! (Canadians are this way when it comes to poutine)

So, let’s see how this Canadian prepares it!

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You’ll need:

  • 6 diced chicken thighs
  • 2 cups Arborio rice (think of this kind of like a risotto)
  • 1 diced spanish onion
  • 1 diced red bell pepper
  • 4 oz green peas (frozen or canned can work)
  • 4 oz sliced Chorizo
  • approx 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp of saffron

Basically, you can play with the ingredients, as long as you have the rice and the saffron

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Oh yea, and a paella. It can certainly be prepared in a large skillet, but the pan is what makes it paella. You can get them in most kitchen stores. I got mine in Madrid, but I’m sure you don’t need to travel that far.

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Add some olive oil to coat the pan. Put at medium heat.

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Add the chicken

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and some salt

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Stir and get the chicken cooking

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Cook the chicken until it’s mostly cooked through

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Add the onions

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Cook until the onions start to get a bit clear

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Add the red pepper

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Add the chorizo

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… and the peas

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Mix it all together, let it heat through

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Add the rice. Stir it all together

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Add the saffron

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Looking pretty good, almost there …

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Cover the entire dish with chicken stock … really fill the pan, as the rice is going to absorb it

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Get the dish simmering

Okay, so here’s where we get away from a risottto …

 

 

Cover the paella with foil and let it simmer over a low heat for about 20 minutes. You can test the rice and add a bit more stock during this process if you think it needs more, but DO NOT stir it. One of the distinctive traits of paella is the rice on the bottom should be toasted and have a crunch. You want to let this sit!

Okay, internet magic, time has passed …

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Paella!

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Now, let’s get this to the table

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Paella should be served at the table, right from the pan to your dish. This pan is for making a 2 person portion. You can get anything from single person to like 10 person sized pans! (Large pans must be prepared outside, over a fire … the real traditional way!)

Okay, this looks good!

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Note the toasted rice on the top of this dish

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That crunch is an important textural element of paella

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Feel free to change up the ingredients. Make it with seafood, or make a vegetarian version!

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Just remember, however you make it, you’re gonna piss off a Spaniard!

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Bon Apetit!

Madrid – An Unexpected Adventure

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Okay, so here’s the backstory …

In October 2013 I was lucky enough to get cast in a commercial that was shooting in Madrid, Spain. (Oh, yea … I’m a professional actor, doing commercials, TV, film, etc.). Like it is with most castings, you find out you got the job just days before you are filming, so this sudden trip to Madrid was not something that had crossed my mind.

My first thought … where exactly is Madrid?

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Madrid, as it turns out, is smack dab in the middle of Spain. I can’t think of another big city I’ve ever visited that didn’t have some kind of waterfront. I knew nothing of what to expect. I spent a few days feverishly scouring the internet to find out all I could before I was off to the city for a week.

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This is me when I have to get up at a very early hour to get a flight to Chicago, from where I will be getting a connecting flight to Madrid … 14 hours of travel, here I come!

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Hmm, the airplane food isn’t terrible … and I’m on the Spanish national airline … this bodes well for what I’ll find there

So, after 14 hours of travel (including a Home Alone style run through Chicago O’Hare airport to not miss my flight from Chicago to Madrid), I finally arrive

After a car picks me up from the airport and drops me at the hotel, it’s a quick shower and then they need me in wardrobe … the driver just waits for me to get ready

It’s about 10am, (though my body thinks it’s much later) and we’re driving through a city that looks pretty damn cool … maybe I’ll even get to see it?

After a couple of hours getting fitted for outfits I would wear on the day, I’m told that I won’t be needed again until Thursday morning. I ask what they need me to do.

“Have you seen The Prado Museum? You should go see that!”  With that advice, I’m given my per diem and sent on my way. It’s Monday, it’s about noon, and I am free to explore this city, one which I never really had given much thought to,  for 3 days.  My first decision, get lunch!

In most restaurants in Madrid, there is a Menu del Dia served during the day. It’s a fixed price meal of usually a soup, main course and dessert with a drink (note, as you can see above, my included ‘drink’ is a bottle of red wine and a bottle of sparkling water to mix it with … yes, a bottle of each!). At about 9 euros for the entire meal, this is definitely the best way to eat while in Spain!

Walking around the city I couldn’t get over how much it reminded me of Paris … with a touch of Rome. I often describe it as what would have happened if Paris and Rome had a child.

All this walking is making me want to stop at cafe (cafeteria in Spanish) and get a lovely pastry and coffee!

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Yea, that’s more like it!

Okay, maybe I just get this out of the way with a mosaic off all my tasty coffee and snacks!

Do I know what all these things are called? Nope! I can tell you there’s a tuna pie, a dish that is basically cheese baked on bread and folded over … just good stuff

In the heart of the city is the stunning Retiro Park

Located nearby are the 3 big art galleries … the Prado, Thyssen and Reina Sofia

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No pictures allowed inside … this is the amazing fountain across the street … of course, you didn’t think I wasn’t going to sneak pictures inside, right?

All that art was a bit overwhelming … time for a break

Beer and a lovely calamare bocadillo on a terrace … this will do!

In Madrid, everyone goes out for dinner all the time … after 10pm. The city really comes alive at night

Now, I wasn’t going to go to Madrid and not partake in some amazing paella. First, I had to find the right restaurant …

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Yea, any place with a front window like this … I’m gonna try it

Served table side, with chicken, chorizo, saffron …  yes, this was amazing. Don’t worry, next post I’m going to show you how to do a paella at home!

Although I was given breakfast daily at the hotel

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I still had to have a treat I had been told many times about in the few days I was hearing about Madrid

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Churros y chocolate … yep, a cup of melted chocolate and a plate of hot churros to dip in the chocolate

I got to see much in my unexpected week in Madrid, but obviously there is so much more. One day I plan to go back, this time take Claire … an amazing city that I had never really ever given much thought to, but now I think about it often.