Saturday, November 19, 2005

BBM3 from Kristina

Early this week I received a wonderful package from Kristina of Clivia's Cuisine. What a shock! I thought that this BBM was confined to our neck of the woods. My package came all the way from Sweden and due to Kristina's careful packaging the contents arrived all in one piece. At this writing I already finished the Nut Tops she sent. They have very little flour and are almost an hazelnut macarron. Can't wait to try the recipe myself. Lussekatter are leavened saffron cakes and are delicious. I had them for breakfast, warmed in the oven and dripping with butter. Heavenly! Blåbärstryffel are wonderful white chocolate covered blueberry truffles and I'm enjoying them as I write this. Very rich, to be sampled slowly and enjoy the goodness. Rounding up the package she sent a Christmas tree ornament, a potholder decorated with a gingerbreadman, Pepparkakor (ginger cookies), Salt Lakrits and Polkagris, a salt licorice candycane (to die for) and mint candycane. I also got a package of Glöggkryddor, the special spices to make glögg (a Swedish mulled wine) and, last but not least, a jar a loganberry jam which Kristina says is essential in Swedish cuisine, being served with both savoury and sweet dishes.

Kristina also sent a beautiful letter telling me all about the Christmas traditions of her family, some postcards of her hometown and of of Stockholm and pictures of herself and her family and, of course, the recipes. Thank you Kristina for a lovely package.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Working on another house

One of these days people will ask me how come I have a cooking blog, since it looks like any construction job can get me away from the pots and pans in no time at all. My last post is dated almost a month ago. During this time I've tried to keep in touch and read and comment on my favourite blogs, as a way to let people know that I'm still breathing.

My son bought his first house, a nice house in a great location with "good bones" but in need of quite a bit of TLC. In the photo you do not see the jungle of vines that was hiding the front door. I wish we had taken a picture before we started the work. By this time I had cleared all the vines and was about to start painting the windows white. Although the windows themselves were white, the surrounding metal was black, as were all the doors. As it is, and since we can only work on the weekends, it was a bit of a race against time - once the temperature gets below 10ºC you cannot paint. We had some frustrating weekends full of rain but we lucked out in the last weekend of October. Mild weather allowed us to finish all the exterior repairs. There was much work my son did but I will not bore you with the details. Suffice to say we are now ready to start working inside. Here is viewew of the backyard before we cleared the weeds and mowed the lawn.

During this time I spent my weekends going up and down ladders either painting or sanding. By the end of the day me knees were killing me and I was so tired that either cooking or blogging was just too much work. Fortunately Loblaws, my favourite supermarket has an excellent selection of delicious prepared foods. I love their Vegetable Lasagna with 7 Cheeses, which is enough for six to eight servings, the Shepherd's Pie (they say it is enough for 4 people, but I liked it so much I had seconds), and the Moussaka.

Last week I made another pot of soup, this one losely based on Clotilde's Une Simple Soupe. I had it several times with a fat slice of organic bread and some unsalted butter. This recipe of hers was the first recipe I ever tried when I first discovered the blogosphere back in December of last year. I tried her soup recipe and was hooked on Clotilde's blog and her recipes. The rest, as they say, is history.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Chickpea Spinach Soup

Sopa de grão com espinafres (chickpea and spinach soup) is one of my favourite Portuguese soups. Full-bodied and satisfying I make it often once the weather turns colder.

When I make this soup I always make a large quantity because it freezes so well. When the weather is cold and you come home after a long day at work, it is nice to just take a portion out of the freezer, nuke it in the microwave for 5 to 6 minutes depending on the quantity, and presto! A wonderfully satisfying bowl of hot soup that will warm your body and soul. Many times, this soup a melted cheese sandwich and some fruit is all I will need for supper.

In this recipe I used potatoes. When I was following Atkins I made this soup without them and actually I prefer it that way. The chickpea flavour is much more pronounced. So, in the recipe below, feel free to leave the potatoes out.


Chickpea and Spinach Soup

1 lb dried chickpeas (about 420 gr.)
2 medium potatoes, quartered (optional)
2 large cloves garlic
2 medium onions, quartered
10 oz. spinach, fresh or frozen
2 cubes chicken buillon (optional)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Soak the dried chickpeas in three times their volume of water for about 8 to 10 hours.

Drain the chickpeas, rinse with fresh water and put them in the soup pot. Add the quartered potatoes, quartered onion, and whole garlic cloves. Add water to cover or, if you prefer, chicken broth. If you use broth, leave out the buillon. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and let simmer for about 2 hours or until the chickpeas are tender. Remove from the heat.

Remove about 1 1/2 cups of chickpeas and set aside. Now using a hand blender, blend your soup until you have a creamy puré. Add more liquid if necessary. Bring the soup into a boil again and add the spinach and the olive oil. Let cook for about 10 to 15 minutes until the spinach cooks through.

Correct the seasoning, add the reserved chickpeas and serve.

Friday, October 14, 2005

The Index

I finally spent some time creating an index for my blog. You can see on the right, a button that will take you to the Index and also another button HOME, to get you to the main page, a feature that has not been available since I created my banner.

Once on the index page, on the right, you will find the different categories. Click on each one to go directly to that page.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Marlborough Pie

I had two cups of homemade applesauce languashing in the fridge. I took it out of the freezer about a week ago but can't remember what exactly was I planning to do with it. So a search into my "Cooking Light" electronic recipe book brought me this.

Since this is "Cooking Light," the recipe has low-fat/low-cal ingredients for the sake of saving calories. Mostly I ignored; I used wheeping cream instead of the evaporated skim milk which I detest, and I used unsalted butter instead of calorie-reduced margarine. The pastry recipe however was interesting and I followed it to the letter. I had never heard of making a paste with water and flour in order to add it to the flour and butter mixture, but I actually had less trouble mixing it in.

I rolled the pastry between two sheets of parchment paper. The recipe recommends plastic wrap but my plastic wrap was not wide enough. The pastry was not easy to roll as the parchment paper kept creasing underneath. Eventually I got a weel of pastry large enough for my pan. The remaining of the recipe went smoothly as per instructions and the pie behaved as the recipe said it would.

The pie also passed the taste test with flying colours. The pastry was tough, especially at the border, but the filling was heavenly. The next time I will use regular pastry.

From Coking Light Magazine, September 1997

Marlborough Pie

1 cup all-purpose flour, divided
3 1/2 tablespoons ice-water
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons vegetable shortening
2 cups sweetened applesauce
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup evaporated skim milk (I used whipping cream)
2 tablespoons reduced-calorie margarine (I used unsalted butter)
2 tablespoons lemon juice (I used lime juice--did not have lemons)
2 tablespoons cream sherry (I used vintage Port)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I made a mistake and used 1 teaspoon)
1/4 teasppon ground nutmeg
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 400º.

Combine 1/4 cup flour and ice water; stir with a whisk until well-blended. Set aside. Combine 3/4 cup flour, 1 teaspoon sugar, and salt in a bowl; cut in shortening with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add ice water mixture; mix with a fork until flour mixture is moist. Gently press mixture into a 4-inch circle on heavy-duty plastic wrap; cover with additional plastic wrap. Roll dough, still covered, into an 11-inch circle; chill for 10 minutes or until plastic can be easily removed.

Remove top sheet of plastic; fit dough, uncovered side down, into a 9- inch pie plate coated with cooking spray. Remove bottom sheet of plastic. Fold edges under; flute. Pierce bottom and sides of dough with a fork. Bake at 400º for 8 minutes; cool on a wire rack.

Combine applesauce and remaining ingredients in a bowl, and stir well with a whisk. Pour into prepared crust; bake at 400º for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325º; bake an additional 55 minutes or until filling is set. Cool completely on a wire rack.

This recipe makes 8 servings.

Per serving (original version): 247 calories, 1 gr. fibre and 8 gr. fat, Weight Watchers: 5 points

Per serving (my version): 286 calories, 1 gram fibre and 13 gr. fat, Weight Watchers: 7 points

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Kitchen Meme

This meme was created by Cenzina, from Rome Italy. In her blog il cavoletto di Bruxelles, you can read about what gave her the idea of creating this meme.

She says: "So, as I was saying in the Italian version , it's raining, it's cold, so why not have a little fun: five questions about your kitchen, a place where you're presumed to spend quite a bit of time..."

For this meme, I have been tagged by Elvira, from Tasca da Elvira, a wonderful blog chockfull of delicious Portuguese recipes.

1) Show us your kitchen (a picture) and tell us what is it about this place that reflects your own personality.
This is a picture of my kitchen, the only place in my house that is more or less renovated. There are final touches missing, and the floor will be redone(I'm thinking in linoleum), but basically this is it. Probably this Winter I'm also planning to enroll in those ceramic making places that let you purchase prepared objects, you paint with ceramic paints and then they fire them. I'm planning to make copies of 17th century Portuguese tiles to put in the backsplash. Colours are blue and yellow. You can see here and here some tile arrangements that I am considering. This picture of the kitchen was taken yesterday night and I was making Marlborough Pie, which will show up in this blog sometime later. Here is another view, seen from the dining room. Notice that I have not yet started plastering the sheetrock joints in the dining room. How does this kitchen reflect me? Well, I like things close at hand so my counters will always have stuff in there, even if I know that everything in its proper place would look much better.

2) Open a cupboard (the one you feel to open), take a picture and tell us what we see.

I do not have a cupboard yet, so I can only show the pantry. What's inside, are everyday staples: flour, sugar, cereal, baking chocolate, canned tuna and salmon, sardines, tissue paper, you name it. I also have an old-fashioned oak kitchen cupboard with marble top. It is presently in the dining room and I keep some of my serving dishes there. On top of the marble top there is another marble stone, which I use when making and kneading bread. In my old house this marble stone was always available since my kitchen was bigger. Here, I know that one day it will be stored in the kitchen but right now is has plants on top. Sigh!

3) Present us your favorite kitchen-based electric tool.
The electric kitchen gadget that I use the most is probably the hand blender. I also have a countertop blender, but the idea that I have to wash it after use makes me choose the hand blender 80% of the time. Same with other tools. I have a Sunbeam mixer but I end up using my handmixer most of the times. Another gadget I really like is my kitchen scale. It measures both pounds and kilos and I would be lost without it.

4) Take out the ingredients you like the most, the ones you always keep stored.
These would be Portuguese sardines in olive oil, organic whole wheat bread flour, dried chickpeas, canned tuna and salmon in water, and Nestlé Rich Blend Instant coffee. There might be others, but these I always have.

5) My little steel friend: present us to your favorite cooking/baking recipient.
My pans are my favourite baking recipients. You have all seen the foods I bake in them. The loaf pan is steel but unfortunately the ring pan is aluminum. If I ever find one like that in steel I will purchase it.

And I tag Lyn, from LexCulinaria and I hope she has the time to do it and has not been tagged by anyone else.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Shrimp Avocado Salad

Dieting or mostly thinking that I should really go on a diet, has been a constant since I was a teenager. I cannot say that I've tried all the diets I know of (I do not count those I tried and could not go past the second or third day), but I've tried Weight Watchers and Atkins with some success. I managed to follow Somersize for a couple of months, the Schwarzbein Principle and the South Beach sound like too much work. On the positive side, all diets have some dishes that are so good that you keep making them even after you ditched the diet.

For Weight Watchers it was the applesauce and fat-free cottage cheese sprinkled with cinnamon. I still love it and make it often. Basically you add 1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce (if you make your own using sweet apples, you can still call it unsweetened even if it tastes sweet), 1/3 cup fat-free cottage cheese, mix the whole think, sprinkle with cinnamon et voilá! A tasty low-cal desert.

Today's salad is one that I concotted when I did my stint into Atkins. True you loose weight fast on that diet, but I'm a carb girl and living without bread, and muffins, and bagels, was not fun. I tried the low-carb flours which are basically a mixture of soy flour and some gluten but it was not the same thing. So another diet went by the wayside and, as expected, when I went back to my old stapples I put back all the weight I had lost, plus some. Well, that's life I guess!

But this salad is delicious, great to take to work and I make it time and again. It is very satisfying. With a piece of fruit you have a good and healthy lunch.

For this salad I usually purchase one of those packaged 250 gr. rings of shrimp. They are very flavourful, you only need to shell the tails, and they are usually cheap. I get several boxes when they are on sale, for about $2.99 or $3.99 per package. Considering that our cafeteria charges $5.75 for a platter with about the same portion of food, this is a good price indeed.

Shrimp Avocado Salad

1 shrimp ring (about 250 gr. / 10 oz.)
1 avocado
6 brazil nuts, cut up
1 tablespoon vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Peel and dice the avocado, put the shrimp on top and the cut up brazil nuts. The nuts give this salad a crunch that I do very much love. Add the vinaigrette, mix lightly and cover. I add the vinaigrette right in the morning when I make the salad. There is no green to wilt and the flavours have time to meld.


1/3 cup roasted garlic olive oil
1/2 cup cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons mixed dried herbs or 2 tablespoons finelly chopped fresh herbs

Mix all the ingredients in a jar. Give it a shake before using.

I usually use dry oregano and thyme or fresh lemon thyme and basil. These are my favourite herb combinations.