Monday, May 23, 2011

Sesame Street Birthday Brunch

I had a Sesame Street birthday brunch for my daughter's 2nd birthday and thought I'd share some of my decorating and food ideas. I had so much fun preparing, crafting and decorating...all of my favourite hobbies put to use for my favourite little girl.

It all started with a few (okay a lot of) printed images of Sesame Street Characters. I even found some of the old school characters that used to be on when I was a kid...(Guy Smiley, the yip yips...) It was fun finding these characters.
You can make a lot of inexpensive decorations with the simplest supplies.

I made this cute little birthday banner with some sticker letters and clothes pins.

I also printed the same Sesame Street images on labels and stuck them on clear plastic cups (in which I served Yogurt Parfaits).

Since I had some left over images, I just cut them out and stuck them on the walls, hung some voilà!

I found the idea for these cute party hats on etsy. If I had orange paper, I would have made Zoe and Ernie as well...but alas...i had to make do.

Et la pièce de résistance...Elmo and Cookie Monster cupcakes.

Here's what I served for the birthday brunch:

Fruit skewers (green grapes and strawberries)
Yogurt parfaits (layered vanilla yogurt, mixed berries and granola)
Ham and Broccoli Quiche (recipe below)
Spinach and Artichoke Quiche (recipe below)

Quiche 2-ways (Spinach Artichoke and Ham, Mushroom and Broccoli)
2 pie shells, thawed
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 pkg spinach thawed (squeeze as much water out as possible)
1 jar marinated artichokes, drained and chopped
100g black forest ham, chopped
1 cup broccoli chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese
6 eggs
2 cups milk
2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Prick pie shells all over and bake for 15 mins at 400F. Allow to cool.
Beat eggs, milk, cornstarch, salt and pepper until blended.
Fill one pie shell with spinach and artichokes and half of the cheese
Fill other pie shell with ham, mushrooms and broccoli and the rest of the cheese.
Divide the egg mixture between the two pies and place pies on a baking sheet (to prevent spill-over in your oven while baking!).
Bake at 350 for about 35-40 mins or when egg is set.
(You can test by inserting a knife and if it comes out clean, it will be ready.)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Prego Rolls

Yup, this one is sooooo delicious that I couldn't resist taking a bite before taking the picture! My mother-in-law made this for us when we went to visit them in Cape Town this year. It is so fast and easy to make and so so so so satisfying and yummy. The egg just oozes out and creates the most complimentary creamy sauce to the peri-peri steak. And the arugula gives it a fresh peppery taste.
Peri-peri sauce is a South African staple. It is Portuguese in origin, but adaped a little for South African tastes. We used Bushman's peri-peri sauce, but Nando's is also good. You should be able to find this at your local No Frills or Loblaws, but if you have no luck, try the Nando's chain restaurant...they'll have it for sure. There is no other flavour substitute for peri-peri I'm afraid. If you can get a hold of the actual peri-peri powder, then all the better. Not sure where you can find it in Toronto though? Perhaps in a Portuguese grocery shop? You can leave a comment if you know where to get it.

2 large thin cut beef steaks (sirloin should do it..)
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp peri-peri sauce
1/2 tsp peri-peri powder (optional)
juice of 1 lemon
2 large crusty rolls,
2 large eggs
2 handfuls of arugula

Marinate the steaks in the garlic, peri-peri sauce/powder and lemon juice for a few hours in the fridge.
Quickly toast buns in the oven for about 5 minutes.
Get out 2 skillets...this goes really fast. Heat one skillet on high and flash fry the steaks for about 2 minutes on each side. Cook 2 eggs in the second skillet on medium either sunny-side up or over easy, but do not allow the yolks to set completely. Put the steak and egg on the bun and top with arugula. Squish down so the yolk breaks and makes a runny sauce. Eat up...this is a messy one, so have napkins nearby!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Chicken with Artichokes and Mushrooms in Avgolemono Sauce

My best friend married into a Greek family, and every time we go and visit them in Chicago, we often end up at a Greek restaurant. And let me say Chicago has amazing Greek food. Don't get me wrong...I have love for our own Greektown on the Danforth here in Toronto, but every time I go to Chicago and eat Greek food there, I'm always surprised at the different variety of dishes I find on the menu. Sometimes I even have to this really Greek food? Because when I think Greek, I have to admit that I think of roast lamb, souvlaki, feta and garlic. I have since learned, that there are other delicate, milder flavours used in Greek cooking. When I discovered avgolemono sauce, I think I fell in love. The creamy, lemony, savoury flavour is both tastebud awakening and light and mellow at the same time.
In discussion with my best friend's m-i-l, she told me about this dish she makes with avgolemono sauce and chicken with artichokes and mushrooms. I just HAD to ask for the recipe and make it when I got home. It was so good that even baby gobbled it right up!

2 chicken breasts sliced
1 large onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
5-6 button mushrooms, sliced
1 can artichokes, drained and quartered
1 cup water

Avgolemono Sauce
2 eggs
1/3 cup lemon juice (juice from 1 large lemon)
1 tsp cornstarch
1/3 cup hot broth or cooking juices reserved
1/3 cup freshly chopped dill (my own addition)


Saute the onions garlic and mushrooms in a skillet until soften and golden. Add chicken and brown slightly. Add water, cover and simmer on med-low heat until chicken is cooked through. Reserve a few ladle-fulls of the hot pan juices/broth (approx 1/3 cup)
Prepare the avgolemono sauce:
With a hand mixer, whisk eggs until pale and frothy. Slowly stream in the lemon juice and then the cornstarch. Very slowly stream in the reserved hot broth so that it does not curdle the eggs. Once the sauce is well incorporated, pour it all into the skillet, mixing well. Turn the heat on low and allow the mixture to heat through and thicken to a creamy consistency and do not allow sauce to boil. Sprinkle fresh dill, stir well and serve over rice or orzo. OPA!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Braised Short Ribs Penne

This is just one of those really hearty meaty dishes that will warm you up on a winters night. Braising marbled meats like beef short ribs for hours in the oven, makes them soooooo juicy and fork tender. I remember seeing this recipe from Everyday Italian on the Food Network. I couldn't remember the exact recipe, so I just made up my own. This would be a GREAT dish to make for a dinner party or a potluck, because it is not only delicious and satisfying, it is really easy to make and shredding the meat like this stretches pretty far... plus short ribs are not really an expensive cut of meat. Serious good eats.

4 large short rib slabs
1 large onion, diced
1 rib celery, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 can tomatoes
1 cup beef stock
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 box penne

1 clove garlic, minced
zest of one large orange

Preheat oven to 325 F
In a dutch oven, brown the short ribs in olive oil on both sides.
Saute onions, celery and onions until soft. Add tomatoes, bay leaf, pepper and 1/2 of the beef broth. Bring to a boil and cover and transfer to the oven. Braise for about 2-3 hours. Check on the liquid halfway through and add the rest of the beef stock.
Boil penne to al dente.
When meat is fork tender, remove from sauce and shred with 2 forks, removing the bones and excess fat.
Skim the sauce of oil and puree slightly with an immersion blender. Add shredded beef back in and top with gremolata mixture (the heat from the sauce will melt the garlic and orange mixture slightly and give an amazing flavour). Drain penne and toss with the sauce. Eat with a salad and bread.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bacon Cheeseburger Macaroni

Bacon cheeseburger meets mac & cheese. What more do I need to say? It's comfort food heaven.

1 lb lean ground beef
4 slices bacon, chopped
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup canned tomatoes
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp thyme
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 cups macaroni
1 cup shredded cheddar (I used the Tex Mex shredded cheese)
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tsp Dijon mustard (or yellow mustard...whatever you like to put on your burger)
2 tsp Ketchup

Boil macaroni in a large pot of salted water for 11-12 minutes or until desired
Meanwhile, fry bacon in a skillet. Drain bacon on paper towels, set aside. Drain away fat from the skillet and brown the ground beef.
Make a hole in the middle of the skillet and saute onions and garlic until fragrant.
Add oregano, thyme salt and pepper and tomatoes and mix well and leave on low heat while you deal with the macaroni.
By now, the macaroni should be cooked. Drain water and while macaroni is still hot, add cheese and mix until melted and gooey. Stir in the sour cream, dijon mustard and ketchup. Then add the beef & tomato mixture from the skillet and the bacon. Stir everything together and season with more salt if needed. Serve with additional ketchup and mustard if you so please. I recommend you eat this in your pjs. It's that comforting.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Char Kway Teow

Wow, it's been a while since i've blogged some recipes! A friend reminded me that she liked to get recipe ideas from here, so I will keep on posting when I remember.
Over the weekend, I went to T&T to take advantage of some of the CNY sales, so we'll be indulging in Asian food all week. Sunday night, I made enoki beef rolls and char kway teow. Char kway teow is a really popular dish in Singapore, and during my visit there last February, I ate my fair share in the food courts...ahh...Singaporean food courts...I miss you! Here's my recipe for char kway teow. Enjoy.

1 package of fresh ho fun (rice) noodles (you must use these the same day as you buy them, or they get hard and dried out)
1/2 lb thinly sliced beef
1 clove minced garlic
1 inch minced peeled ginger
2 cups bean sprouts
2 cups spinach
2 green onions chopped

1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp kecap manis (thick sweet soy sauce or sugar if you can't find it)
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 cup beef stock

In a colander, gently wash noodles under hot tap water, carefully separating them.
Mix ingredients for sauce in a measuring cup and set aside.
Heat oil in a wok or large frying pan on med/high heat and fry garlic and ginger quickly until fragrant. Add beef, and stir fry until cooked. Add beansprouts, and saute until softened. Gently stir in noodles and cook through. Add spinach to wilt gently and pour sauce over, while tossing gently. Just before serving, sprinkle with green onions and give a final gentle toss.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mussels in White Wine Tomato Saffron Sauce

I've never made them at home before but I heard they were super easy, so when I saw them on sale today, I bought a bag.
This recipe was so good. It tasted very restaurant quality if I do say so myself. Can't wait to go diving for fresh mussels while we're in Cape Town.
The broth was so good for dipping fresh crusty bread. Even our baby LOVED the broth. I gave her a few sips from a mussel shell. She couldn't get enough.
Please do try this at home.

3lb bag mussels, scrubbed and rinsed (discard any cracked or open mussels)
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion chopped
5-6 cloves garlic minced
1/2 cup canned tomatoes
1 cup good white wine
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp good quality saffron
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper

In a large pot, heat olive oil and butter at medium heat. Saute onions and garlic until fragrant (about 3 minutes). Add tomatoes, wine, thyme, saffron, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Add mussels and stir. Cover pot and cook for about 8-10 minutes. Shake the pot a few times (with the lid closed) while cooking so the bottom of the pot doesn't burn.
Serve in a large bowl with plenty of fresh bread to soak up the broth. Delicious.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bloody Mary Burgers with Roasted Broccoli

I am usually a purist when it comes to making burgers. I don't like to add any filler to my patties. I simply flatten out the ground beef and salt and pepper both sides before grilling. Today I thought I'd try out a recipe from the trusty Rachel Ray Cookbook my bestie got me for a birthday present one year. I LOOOOOVE Caesars, the Canadian Clamato twist on Bloody Mary's. The burgers were SO good. Of course, I adapted the recipe to suit my tastes. ;)


1 large head broccoli
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp peri peri powder
1 tbsp olive oil
600g ground beef
1 1/2 tsp celery salt
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp Frank's Red Hot sauce
1 tsp Tobasco
2 tsp prepared horseradish
3 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tomato, diced
1 tbsp Frank's Red Hot Sauce
1/2 tsp dried dill
4 hamburger buns
4 leaves lettuce
cheddar cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 F. Toss broccoli with olive oil, garlic, peri peri powder, salt and pepper and roast in the oven for 15-17 minutes or until stems are tender and treetops are brown.

Lightly mix ground beef with celery salt, hot sauces and horseradish with a fork (fluff, do not mash!) Score meat into 4 equal parts and form into patties. Grill for about 4 1/2 mins per side until cooked through.

Mix mayo with diced tomatoes, hot sauce, dill and black pepper. Serve sauce on burgers with lettuce. I also added cheese, because my husband insists that cheese naturally belongs on burgers!

Hoisin Honey Grilled Pork and Chap Chae

I should have known that eating Korean food a lot while I was pregnant would affect my growing baby. I made chap chae and the little one couldn't get enough of it! She even tilted her head back so I could drop noodles in her mouth with chopsticks, and then she slurped them down. It was the cutest thing. However, baby garlic breath is NOT cute. Okay, it kind of is...
This is my version, and I served it with Chinese-style pork chops.

3 pieces pork loin chops
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 tbsp honey
2 thai chilies minced

4 bundles vermicelli noodles (or if you want to be authentic, Korean sweet potato starch noodles)
1 carrot cut into 3 and slivered into matchsticks
1 onion sliced thinly lengthwise
4 Chinese mushrooms soaked in boiling water and sliced
5 pieces Cwiss chard stalks and leaves chopped (should be 1 cup spinach but I didn't have any)
1/4 cup sodium reduced soy sauce
3 tbsp sesame oil
2 cloves garlic finely crushed...use a garlic press or mortar and pestle

Place the pork, garlic, hoisin sauce, honey and chilies into a Ziploc bag and marinate in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. Grill about 4 minutes per side on the BBQ or until pork is cooked through properly.

Chap Chae
Combine soy sauce, sesame oil and garlic in a bowl and whisk until well blended.
Place vermicelli noodles in a pot of boiling water and boil until softened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, drain, rinse and set aside.
Heat a little olive oil in a skillet, and sauté onions and carrots until softened, about 3 minutes. Add Swiss chard and sauté until wilted. Add mushrooms, noodles and sauce and mix well and heat until sauce has absorbed, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and eat warm or at room temperature with grilled pork

Monday, May 3, 2010

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake

When I brought home vanilla beans from our trip to Indonesia, I knew I would make a vanilla bean cheesecake for my husband's birthday. I didn't take the best pictures (note my baby's finger about to taste a sample) but this was honestly the best cheesecake recipe EVER. The texture was so light and creamy. I brought it to the restaurant to celebrate my husband's and my mom's birthdays and it tasted like it could have been on the dessert menu. I bought a really nice spring form pan from The Cook's Place on the Danforth and they had just about anything you could ever need to cook or bake with very knowledgeable staff. What an awesome store! Anyway...this recipe is pretty much guaranteed, so give it a shot if you want a texture-perfect cheesecake. I found the recipe on My Baking Addiction. The tips were so helpful!

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 stick melted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

3 packages Philadelphia cream cheese at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
2 vanilla beans, (scraped innards only)
2 tbsp Bailey's Irish Cream (I added this)

Preheat oven to 350 if you have a light colored cheesecake pan, or 325 if your spring form pan is darker. Line the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan with parchment paper, and wrap the outside of the pan with aluminum foil to insure it is airtight.

In a bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, sugar and vanilla and press lightly into the bottom of the spring form pan.
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add eggs one at a time ensuring each is incorporated fully.
Add heavy cream, vanilla bean innards and Bailey's and ensure the batter is smooth.

Pour cheesecake batter over the graham cracker crumb crust and place the pan into a larger pan. Pour boiling water into the larger pan so that the water comes halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. Carefully place into the oven and bake for 45-55 minutes. The cheesecake should be slightly wobbly but should hold together when finished. Do not over bake the cheesecake. To avoid cracks, turn off the oven and allow the cheesecake to gradually cool in the oven for an hour or more. Once cool, carefully remove the cheesecake pan from the waterbath and chill in the fridge.