Mocha Cupcakes

dan's birthday is tomorrow. the girls helped me make these cupcakes this afternoon for his party tomorrow night. they are made with chocolate cake and coffee icing. i just used the same chocolate cake recipe that i always use. here's the coffee icing recipe...

...recipe my own creation
3 tablespoons instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon hot water
1 stick butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
a little bit of milk

Dissolve the espresso powder in the hot water. Set aside.
In a mixer beat the butter until soft. Add the powdered sugar and the espresso mixture a little at a time, alternating back and forth. If needed add a little milk at the end to thin the icing a bit.

Onion Soup Au Gratin

during all our cold weather last week i was craving some soup. this hit the spot. this soup was great and was even better the next day. here's the recipe...

...recipe from Bistro Cooking at Home
2 tablespoons butter
3 medium onions, thinly sliced
salt and pepper
1/2 cup Port
5 cups beef stock
1 baguette
2 small cloves garlic, pressed
1 teaspoon olive oil
6 ounces gruyere cheese, shredded

Melt the butter in a wide soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions, season them with salt and pepper, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occationally, until the onions slowly brown. This will take 30-45 minutes.

When the onions are brown, add the port, the beef stock, and 3 cups water to the pot. Stir, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the pot. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower heat and let simmer for about a half hour to meld the flavors. Taste and season with more salt and pepper.

To serve, heat the broiler. Cut the baguette into slices about 1/8 inch thick. You want enough slices to cover the soup bowls, usually about 2 slices per bowl. Put the slices on a baking sheet and toast each side under the broiler. Mix the garlic and the olive oil together and spread a thin layer over each toasted bread slice.

Set four ovenproof soup bowls on the baking sheet. Ladle the soup into the crocks. Put the slices of baguette on top of the soup. Sprinkle the toast with a handfull of the cheese. Carefully place the baking sheet in the oven and melt cheese under the broiler until it just starts to brown in spots, about 2 minutes. Serve immeadiately.



we had our first snow yesterday! it fell during the night and by the time we woke up it had already melted on the streets and sidewalks. the snow only still clung to cars, and trees and bushes. after i dropped andi off at school dan and jodie and i walked up to regent's park to see the snow. in regent's park it actually looked like it had snowed. it almost covered the grass.

Shrimp with Garlic, Oil, and Hot Peppers

this was really yummy. i couldn't find crushed red pepper flakes here so i used a fresh chilli instead. i think it would have been a little better with the crushed red pepper. here's the recipe...

...recipe from Patricia Wells' Trattoria: Simple and Robust Fare Inspired by the Small Family Restaurants of Italy
1 pound large shrimp, in their shells
1/2 cup extra-virgen olive oil
4 fresh plump garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons freshe thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
coarse sea salt
1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

In a skillet large enough to hold all the shrimp in a single layer, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic, thyme, red pepper flakes, and shrimp. Toss to coat with oil, and cook, stirring occationally, just until the shrimp are pink.

Remove the pan from the heat and , with a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to a serving platter. Pour the sauce over the shrimp, sprinkle with coarse salt and shower with parsley.

Tagliatelle with Tomato Sauce and Butter

we had this for dinner this week. it's really easy to make. dan and i both thought it had more flavor the next day for lunch. also my grocery store was out of parsley so i used basil instead. here's the recipe...

...recipe from Patricia Wells' Trattoria: Simple and Robust Fare Inspired by the Small Family Restaurants of Italy
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
sea salt
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 pound fresh tagliatelle
4 tablespoons butter, at room temp
1/4 cup flat leat parsley, chopped
freshly grated parmesan cheeese

In an unheated skillet large enough to hold the pasta later on, combine the oil, garlic, and a pinch of salt, stirring to coat with oil. Cook over moderate heat just until the garlic turns golden but does not brown. Add the tomatoes. Stir to blend, and simmer, uncovered, until the sauce begins to thicken, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta until tender. Drain thoroughly.

Transfer the pasta to a skillet, off the heat, and toss to blend. Cover and let rest for 1-2 minutes to allow the pasta to thoroughly absorb the sauce. Transfer to shallow soup bowls, placing 1 tablespoon of the butter on thop of each serving. Shower with parsley.

My Dad's Tomato Bisque

i got this recipe from my dad. he did a bit of tweaking from another recipe he had and this is the result. it was delicious. we had it for dinner last night with fresh rolls. here's the recipe...

2 tablespoons butter
1 & 1/2 Medium Sweet Onions
4 Gloves Garlic Pressed
15 Ounce Can of Whole Tomatoes
2 Cups Chicken Stock
1/4 Cup White Rice Uncooked
3 Large Leaves Chopped Basil
1/4 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
1 Cup Half and Half Milk and Cream (or all Cream or just milk)
15 Ounce Can of Tomato Sauce
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Several Dashes Tobasco Sauce
4 Heaping Teaspoons Sour Cream

1. Melt butter in sauce pan and saute onions and garlic soft and golden over a medium heat.

2. Pour in tomatoes, stock, rice, salt, pepper, basil and thyme. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer and partially cover for 30 minutes.

3. Pour the contents of the pan into a blender and puree, then put back into sauce pan.

4. Stir in Half and Half or Cream, sour cream and several dashes of tobasco sauce. Heat just to a boil, then turn off the heat and serve.


Fresh Roasted Salmon with Olive Oil

this is another recipe from one of my new cookbooks. it was much better than i thought it would be. the flavors in the sauce went really well with the salmon. here's the recipe...

...recipe from Bistro Cooking
1 2/3 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots. finely chopped
4 tomatoes, peeled, cored, seeded, choppped (i used canned)
1/2 cup creme fraiche or heavy cream
4 salmon fillets
1 bunch fresh basil

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a small skillet over high heat. When the oil is hot add the shallots and saute until soft. Add the tomatoes and continue cooking until most of the liquid has cooked away. Reduce heat to low and add the creme fraiche. Cook long enough just to heat the cream through. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Brush salmon and skin with the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil on all sides. Preheat a 12-inch dry non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Adding no fat, cook the salmon skin side down, for 2-3 minutes. Season with salt. Turn the salmon over and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Season with salt.

Remove the salmon to a roasting pan. Bake about 10 minutes more or until done.

To serve mince the basil and stir it into the sauce. Spoon several tablespoons of sauce in the center of a dinner plate and place the salmon on top.


Tagliatelle with Lemon Sauce

this past was very very good! we had people over for dinner when i served it so i forgot to take a picture of it. it was easy to make and doesn't have a long list of ingredients. here's the recipe...

...recipe from Patricia Wells' Trattoria: Simple and Robust Fare Inspired by the Small Family Restaurants of Italy
4 tablespoons butter, at room temp
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
sea salt
1 pound fresh tagliatelle
grated zest of 3 lemons
freshly grated parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

In a skillet large enough to hold the pasta later on, combine the butter, cream, and lemon juice over low heat. As soon as the butter is melted, remove the skillet from the heat, cover and set aside.

Meanwhile cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water until tender. Drain, leaving a few doplets of water clinging to the pasta so that the sauce will adhere.

Transfer the pasta to the skillet, off the heat, and toss to blend. Add the lemon zest, and toss to blend once more. Cover and let rest for 1-2 minutes to allow the pasta to thoroughly absorb the sauce. Transfer to warm shallow bowls, shower with the parsley leaves and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.


Farfalle with Smoked Pancetta

we had this for dinner tonight and it was delicious! it was very easy and simple to make. here's the recipe...

...recipe from The Silver Spoon
1 tablespoon olive oil
100 grams smoked pancetta, diced
1 fresh chilli, seede and diced
250 grams tomatoes, peeled and chopped (or canned)
200 milliliters double cream
350 grams farfalle
parmesan cheese, grated

Heat the oil in a large skillet, add pancetta and chilli and cook over medium heat until lightly browned. Add the tomatoes and season with salt. Lower heat and cook for about 10 minutes. Stir in cream and cook for 5 minutes until slightly thickened. Meanwhile cook the farfalle according to the package instructions. Drain the pasta and then add to the sauce and stir. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve.


Tasty Fried Prawns

these were really good and very easy to make. here's the recipe...

...recipe from Ken Hom's Foolproof Thai Cookery
1 pound raw prawns, shelled and devained
flour, for dusting
1 pint vegetable oil, for frying

for the marinade
1 red chilli, chopped and seeded
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
3 tablespoons garlic, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons ginger, finely chopped
3 tablespoons coriander stalks, chopped
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
50 ml canned coconut milk (2oz)
2 teaspoons water

Briefly process all the marinade ingredients together in a blender or food processor. Pour the marinade over the prawns and mix well. Chill for at least 2 hours.

Drain the marinade from the prawns, scraping off any bits; discard the marinade. Dust the prawns with flour, shaking off any excess.

Heat oil over high heat. When the oil is very hot and slightly smoking add a handful of prawns and fry for 3 minutes or until golden. Drain prawns well on paper towels. Serve immeadiately.

Northern Thai Chicken Noodle Soup

we had this last night for dinner. it was a little on the spicy side for the girls and i, but really flavorfull. here's the recipe...

...recipe from Ken Hom's Foolproof Thai Cookery
175 grams fresh or dried egg noodles
2 fresh lemongrass stalks
175 grams boneless skinless chicken breast
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons garlic, coarsley chopped
2 pints chickens stock
1 400 ml can coconut milk (14oz)
2 small red thai chillis, seeded and finely shredded
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons madras curry paste or powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons lime juice
handful fresh coriander and basil leaves

Cook the noodles according to the package instructions. Drain thoroughly and set aside.

Peel off the tough outer layers of the lemongrass. Cut it into 3-inch pieces and crush with the flat part of a heavy knife. Thinly slice the chicken into strips.

Heat a large heavy saucepan over high heat add the oil. Add the onion, garlic, and lemongrass and stir-fry for 3 minutes. Stir in stock and coconu milk, turn heat to low, then cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the chillis, chicken, fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, curry paste, salt and pepper and stir well. Add the drained noodles, then cover and simmer 5 mintes.

Remove the lemongrass with a slotted spoon. Stir in the lime juice. Garnish with coriander and basil leaves. Serve at once.

New Cookbooks

i got a couple of gift certificates to amazon for christmas, which i've already spent. i ordered several new cookbooks that arrived this week! i'm looking forward to trying them out in the new year.
Ken Hom's Foolproof Thai Cookery
The Silver Spoon
Patricia Wells' Trattoria: Simple and Robust Fare Inspired by the Small Family Restaurants of Italy
Bistro Cooking


Andi Cooks Dinner

andi helped me make dinner the other night. she picked out what we made and also helped me shop for all the ingredients. we had oven-barbecued salmon, roasted asparagus with parmesan cheese, onion rings, and ginger shortcakes with blueberries. she had a great time measuring, pouring, separating onion rings, spooning sauce on the salmon, trimming asparagus, zesting an orange, grating parmesan cheese, cutting butter, pressing out dough, and stamping out shortcakes. here's the recipes...

all recipes taken from The Family Kitchen: Easy and Delicious Recipes for Parents and Kids to Make and Enjoy Together

...oven-barbecue salmon
for the sauce
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup champagne or white wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon orange zest
salt and pepper

for the salmon
4-6 salmon fillets
salt and pepper

In a small saucepan mix together the orange juice, both vinegars and sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for 50-60 minutes, or until thick and syrupy.

In a medium saute pan, heat the olie oil until hot. Add the onion and garlic and saute for 3-4 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, ketchup, brown sugar, worcestershire sauce, and mustard and simmer over medium heat for about 25 minutes, or until thickened.

Add the orange juice reduction and the zest to the tomato mixture and simmer for 8-10 minutes, until blended and slightly thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Season salmon with salt and pepper and put the fillets in a lightly greased shallow baking dish. Spoon a generous amount of the barbecue sauce on top of the salmon and bake for 25 minutes or until done.

...roasted asparagus with parmesan cheese
1 pound asparagus sprears, trimmed
2 tablespoons extra-virgen olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 450 F.

Lay the asparagus in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Return to oven for about 5 minutes, or until cheese melts and turns golden brown. Serve immeadiatly.

...buttermilk onion rings
3 cups buttermilk
1 cup flour, plus more for dredging
1 large white onion
4 cups vegetable oil, for frying
salt and pepper

In a shallow pan mix the flour and buttermilk together. Slice the onion into 1/2-inch slices and carefully separate them into rings.

Put the onion rings in the pan and toss together with the buttermilk mixture. Cover and refrigerate for 2-12 hours.

Heat the oil in a deep pot over medium-high heat until the oil reaches 350 F.

Spread some flour on a plate and season it with salt and pepper. Lift the onion rings out of the buttermilk mixture and let the excess drip back into the pan. Dip the onion rings one at a time into the flour mixture to coat evenly. Fry the onion rings 2-3 at a time, turning once, for 2-3 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Lift from the oil with tongs and drain on paper towels. Season with salt and serve immeadiately.

...ginger shortcakes with blueberries
1 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
1/2 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup chopped crystalized ginger
1 cup + 2T heavy cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1/2 pint blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In the bowl of and electric mixture fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the butter and mix until the mixture is the consistancy of cornmeal. Add the buttermilk and crystalized ginger and mix on low just until the dough comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and flatten with your hands until the dough is 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter stamp out 4-5 circles. Reroll the dough to cut 1-2 more shortcakes.

Put the shortcakes on and ungreased baking sheet. Brush the tops with 2 tablespoons heavy cream and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until light golden brown.

Meanwhile, whip cream, wash blueberries, and slice nectarines.

Cut shortcakes in half. Put a dollop of cream on each shortcake bottom and a sprinkling of fruit. Top with the other shortcake half.


New Years Day

we went to kensington gardens to enjoy the sun today!