Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Cajun Chicken Mushroom Soup

Damp, dreary days like today need a good creamy soup.  I had something like this in a restaurant in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia about 6 or so years ago.   I remembered it yesterday and decided to try and recreate it for tonight.
I like that blended mushrooms give the soup a velvety feel without the need for any cheese.  I think that a thick version of this would be great for a baked chicken dish as well.

Try this for a spicy, earthy, and filling soup.

Cajun Chicken Mushroom Soup - serves 2

1 litre of chicken stock, warm
6 ounces mushroom, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tomato, diced
1 cooked chicken breast, shredded.
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup flour
1/4 milk or cream
1 tbsp. Cajun seasoning*
salt and pepper

Melt butter an olive oil together in a medium saucepan.  Saute onions and garlic until onions are translucent.  Add flour and cook two minutes, but do not brown.  Slowly add stock while whisking to prevent lumps - if you like your soup thicker, you may not need all the stock.  Add carrot, mushrooms and Cajun seasoning.  Simmer, covered on low until carrot is tender, 10 minutes.  Puree half or all the soup until smooth.  Pour back in to saucepan add chicken, tomato, milk/cream and cook over medium low heat.  Season with salt and pepper.  Garnish with cilantro or green onions.

* different blends are spicier than others - go easy on the seasoning if you are not sure how hot it will be.  You can always add a bit more if you want to turn up the heat.  I made a blend that I found on Allrecipes, but you could use any commercial blend you prefer.

finished with a drizzle of flavoured olive oil

Friday, October 10, 2014

Pie Pumpkins. A painting that needs help

I am not happy with this painting.  I might try and rescue it with some pen work, but first I think a redo may be in order.  They say practice make perfect right?  I really liked the display of pie pumpkins at the store I work at last week, so I took a picture to work from at home.  I am a sucker for anything autumnal and also afraid to put bright cadmium red straight onto the page.   So this is a good image to play with....just have to work on getting them to seem weighted.  I don't believe these are heavy objects sitting on each other in this piece.  Deeper shadows for sure.

Farm Boy Pie Pumpkins.  Watercolour  8"x11"

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Red Barn in the City - Experimental Farm, Ottawa

Watercolour study.  The Experimental Farm is a large working farm right in the middle of Ottawa.  I believe Agriculture Canada uses it to test strains of corn and other grains.  They also have fantastic resources for folks to go and see the farm animals.  Kids can learn about sheep shearing and dairy production - I once took a workshop on canning.  It is such a unique spot.  Here is a link that gives more detail Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Urban Red Barn.  8" x 11" Waterolour

Friday, October 03, 2014

I spent some time this morning working on clouds.  I can see how you could work on these forever.

these are fairly small 4x6 and 5x7

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Yellow and Green Barns - Experimental Farm, Ottawa

As shown in the original printout, the sky has no clouds to speak of.  I have added some as I really need practice getting them to look right.  More work is needed, they are tough to get right!  These pictures of the farm were taken in late August when the corn is high.  I will try to go back at a different time to capture other seasons.

Big Yellow Barn.  8"x8"  Watercolour

Here is the original image, not a great one as my printer is running out of ink, but it's something to work from.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Yellow Barns - Experimental Farm, Ottawa

I can see a couple of areas I could have worked differently, but this paper feels like it's had enough.  I will try this one again.

Yellow Barns  8"x8"

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Yellow Barn - Experimental Farm, Ottawa

Same view as previous exercise 'Blue Farm'.  Working with yellow forces me to use one of my least favourite colours!

Watercolour.  8"x12"

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

First Exercise - Watercolour Class Week 2

Exercise #1 - Monochromatic, 4 washes with a 5th layer for the darkest details.  I need to work on flat washes, gradient washes and working in one direction.  It was awesome to see how lovely everyones' example turned out, all blue and yet all different.  The image was provided by the instructor.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Friday, September 19, 2014

Begin at the Beginning.

Have started a watercolour class in the city.  Starting from the beginning is always good!  working from a photo I took at the Experimental farm last summer; a monotone study. 7"x4"

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Biking: Osgoode Pathway Review

Sun was in the forecast, with high 20's for the temperature.  Also, it was Sunday.  So really a perfect day to take our new bikes out for a good ride, break them in so-to-speak.  The Mister has been riding his to work for the week, so clocking 30k a day means his is already broken in, but I really needed to get out on mine.   The difference between this new Escape RX w  and my old Town and Country KHS is tremendous!  it is soooo light.  It really begged for a longer ride.
Luckily, while googling random ottawa info, I came across a page describing the Osgoode Pathway.  It starts not far from our house and is a solid 20k to the village of Osgoode on a former rail bed.  There is a cafe in town that does brunch, so it seemed like a great Sunday morning trek.

The signage is easy to spot and there is a parking lot at the pathway entrance.  USE IT!  We rode from home along Albion Road and Leitrim Road.....NEVER AGAIN.  The roads are so bad on the way there, I honestly wondered if I was going to make it.  The shoulders are slanted and chunky, but riding close to the white line is taking a huge risk as the road is in terrible shape and very narrow.  My hope is that as Findlay Creek grows, the municipality will no longer be able to ignore the condition of Albion Road south of Lester.
The beginning of the trail:

Check out how lovely and flat it is!!  The trail is also wide and sparsely populated, which meant we could ride side by each and actually talk to one another!  That was a huge bonus.  The few folks we did encounter were friendly and courteous - no Tour de Francers here!   At times the canopy of trees almost touches above and other times they spread out to reveal scenic rolling famers fields.

quiet, calm and peaceful.

This trail stays remarkably flat and straight the entire way, thus is perfect for novices hoping to add some kilometres to their ride.

Is it also clearly marked with kilometre markers and signs indicating the Red Dot Cafe!  I had already checked them out online to ensure that they were indeed open and we did not need to bring food with us other than some granola to nibble.  Brunch was our destination and it looked like we were among many with the same idea!
20k later and here we were.

The tricky part was, that once we were at the Main street in Osgoode, we didn't see any sign of the cafe and I had assumed ( bad, I know!) that it would be fairly evident where it was from all the signage on the actual path.  For no good reason, we decided to ride along the main road to see if we could find it.  Eastward somewhat, we became a bit confused as we seemed to be running out of town!  Luckily, we were so close - tucked in a strip mall and overwhelmed by a grocery store - was our cafe.  They have a small outdoor patio, the food was varied and plentiful, the staff friendly and thank Fate - they had Keith's on tap!!!!
I am thrilled we found this trail practically in our own backyard.  Ottawa is so full of surprises and I love that there are so many opportunities to get outside and get some fresh air.  My only reservation is that the connections to these destinations are fraught with difficulty - many of the main roads in South Ottawa are dangerous to bike and awful to run with the onslaught of construction vehicles and unending cars.  I hope the future sees more thought towards building streets that can accommodate more types of transit than just the car, so that getting from point A to point B can still be enjoyable.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Fish Tacos - Banh Mi style!

It was time for an experiment in our efforts to eat 'clean'.  I've been seeing fish tacos everywhere on the 'net, but haven't had the chance to try one - nor have I been losing my mind over it.    However, 'Tac -O-The Town'  Taco Fest is right round the corner and that has got me thinking...... about making a soft taco that has lots of bright, lovely flavours that aren't trying to be a fajita.

Banh Mi!!!!  and Tacos!  I love this sandwich so much.  I don't care what the protein is, it's the cilantro and the spice and the ....etc, etc.

So here goes.  There are a couple of elements to this, that you can do the day before, making this light work.  Make some sriracha mayo.  Easy Peasy.  Add a couple of tablespoons of sriracha to a 1/4 cup of mayonnaise.  Like it less hot?  add less.  Set this aside.

Then you need some pickled carrot.  I am not talking pickles like your gram made.  Just grate up a carrot or two (if they're small) add half a chili, seeded and minced, a tablespoon or two of rice vinegar, a tablespoon of sugar and a minced clove of garlic.  It would be great to add some daikon radish, but I didn't have any, so I used a regular radish - just one - that I peeled and shredded. You can do this ahead as well and just keep it in the fridge until you're ready to assemble.

Then you need to marinate your, whatever.  Steak, pork, chicken, tofu....I chose cod because of the whole 'fish taco' thing and also because it was really inexpensive and I've never eaten cod before.  The marinade is simple as well. 

Marinade - adapted from Gordon Ramsay's Great Escapes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk of lemongrass
2-3 tablespoons veg oil
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
solid grinding of pepper
*original recipe called for ginger, but I left it out for The Mister

To get ready for your taco eating, have ready; 
~hot (steamed or grilled) soft tacos
~your pickled carrots and spicy mayo
~fresh cilantro leaves
~thinly sliced cucumber
~fresh salad greens
~thinly sliced chili - if you like it hot!
~and a finished pan of hot, marinated yummy whatever

Fry, grill or broil your fish or chicken or steak however you like. Warm up some little soft corn tortillas. Spread them with your spicy mayo and start layering your ingredients.  Fish, roughly chopped cilantro, thinly sliced cucumber, field greens, pickled carrots. 

 Fold it in half and ENJOY!

as an addendum.....The Mister really didn't like the cod.  I was neither here nor there about it, but I am definitely trying this again, perhaps with some steak....lol

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Easy Peasy Coconut Macaroons

With the nicer weather and Easter over, The Mister and I have been trying to clean out the pantry and start eating cleaner and lighter.  I know a recipe for a sweet treat doesn't seem to be the way to go, but this used up a can of sweetened condensed milk lurking in the cupboard since Christmas and two bags of coconut.  If I take these to work, then I'll have only eaten a couple.  yeah that....  So for a easy treat to make, that you can dress up any way you like, here are Coconut Macaroons.

These were drizzled with some chocolate because The Mister is happiest if there is a little bit of chocolate in something!  Left plain, with a little silver dragee in the centre they would be great at Christmas or a wedding sweet table.

Easy Peasy Coconut Macaroons
makes approx. 4 dozen

51/2 cups flaked coconut
2/3   cup  all purpose flour
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350*  Mix together coconut, flour and salt in big bowl.  Add condensed milk and vanilla.  Mix well, using your hands if you need.   Drop tablespoon sized balls onto parchment lined cookie sheet.  Bake in oven for 12-15 minutes, until coconut looks nice and toasty.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Ramen Noodles from Scratch

Whenever I get a cold, I get a craving for spicy noodle soup.  Somehow it helps the congestion, I am convinced.  With ramen noodles on the brain, I found this link with detailed instructions on making them from scratch.  It didn't seem any harder than making regular pasta so I got to it.

Flour, egg, water and salt.  It's great when something is so incredibly simple.  Ingredients we all likely have at home.  Next time I will double this.  As it is, it is enough for two servings.

3/4 cup flour
1 egg, beaten
3/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp water

Make a well in your flour, add the egg and water and stir it all up.

Place dough on a floured surface and give it a good knead.  It is ready when it's nice a smooth and doesn't stick to your hand.  Wrap it in a damp tea towel to rest.  I left it for an hour, Instructables recommends  30 mins in summer and up to 2 hours in winter.  My kitchen was pretty warm from making pita chips so one hour seemed to suffice.

Roll it out on a floured surface, you want to get it really thin.  I didn't go thin enough and will make sure to roll it out more next time.  It really seems to 'puff' a bit when cooked.

I have a pasta machine, but a rolling pin will work just as well.  I found this one at the Salvation Army Store for $10.  You do find some great kitchen tools there!
Once you have it super thin - 1mm is recommended and I might check it next time to make sure.  Mine were a bit on the thick side even though I thought they were 1mm.  Dust with flour, fold in half, dust with flour and fold in half again.  Make sure there is lots of flour between the layers so they don't stick when cutting.  Slice thinly.

dust them again with flour to keep then from sticking.

I made my soup right away, so I had one pot of boiling, salted water and one pot with chicken stock at the ready.  I also made some chili oil to drizzle on top as I wanted it to be spicy.  Boil your noodles for 3-5 minutes depending on how thick.  Taste one to see if it's done to your liking.  After dropping them in the water, give a stir so the noodles don't clump.

I had some toppings ready as well, it is January and like everyone else, I have resolutions to eat healthier!

You really could put ANYTHING on this soup.  And use anything for the soup base.  My chili oil wasn't as spicy as I would have liked....I was hoping for a running nose and to break out into a sweat.  Next time!  Despite that, it was super tasty and the noodles had a pleasing chewiness to them - so different from the packaged noodles that we are used to.

I hope folks try these noodles, they were super easy to make and ramen noodles in broth is the perfect antidote to a cold dreary day.  Next stop: Sip'n'slurp at the Ottawa Convention Centre February 22, to get some flavour ideas for my noodles!