Monday, January 31, 2011

Slow Roasted Balsamic Tomatoes

-    12 tomatoes
-    4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
-    1 handful of fresh basil leaves, torn
-    12 bay leaves
-    12 green onions
-    salt
-    fresh ground black peper
-    ¾ cup balsamic vinegar
-    2 tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven at 325°F

Make an X on the tops of the tomatoes. Springkle the botton of a glass baking dish with the garlic and basil leaves. Place the tomatoes snuggly into the baking dish. Push a bay leaf into each of the scored tomates. Lay the green onions on a board and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Using a rolling pin, press down on top of the onions to really press the seasoning into them. Weave the green onions in and around the tomatoes. Pour over the balsamic vinegar and drizzle olive oil over the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Bake in the preheated oven for one hour. Remove the bay leaves before serving.

Original recipe via Jamie Oliver

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

It's quilting time!

Remember the baby quilt that I came across when I was looking for gift ideas for my new niece? 

Well, I decided to try and make one myself! You must be warned… I have no knowledge or experience in quilting. What does one do when faced with such problem? Turn to You Tube of coarse! So I watched at a few videos, took a couple of notes and pulled my sewing machine out of my closet. 

There is this great little shop on the Plaza St-Hubert in Montreal called Effiloché. They offer an impressive variety of textiles (for quilting and sewing projects of all kinds) in many colors and motifs, tons of different kinds of yarns, all the knitting apparatus you can dream of and even offer sewing and knitting classes.  

Picking out the different textiles to use in the quilt is great fun but at the same time pretty tricky. I don’t really know the quilting rules of choosing the patterns (if there are any….), so I just went with what I thought looked really cute and girly!

More to come later… as I get this quilt making under control!

I can’t wait to see how this is going to turn out!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Herb Salad on a Tomato Bruschetta


-    3 or 4 large ripe tomatoes
-    olive oil
-    balsamic vinegar
-    salt
-    fresh ground black pepper
-    4 thick slices of crusted bread
-    1 clove garlic

-    juice ½ of one lemon
-    olive oil

-    1 handful arugula
-    3 or 4 springs of fresh tarragon, leaves picked
-    springs of fresh herby fennel top
-    2 or 3 springs of fresh mint, leaves picked
-    2 good handfuls of  fresh mixed herbs (ex. Mix of basil, parley and dill)

-    crumbled goat cheese

 Chop up the tomatoes and place in a bowl. Add a good glug of olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and fresh ground pepper. Mix together.

Toast the bread slices on a hot griddle or in the toaster (in the summer I like to grill the bread on the BBQ but for now, I just use the toaster).  Once the bread is nicely toasted, gently rub the clove of garlic over the bread to lightly flavour.

To make the dressing, whisk the lemon juice with 3 times the amount of olive oil. Season with salt and fresh black pepper. Toss in the arugula, fennel tops and and mixed herbs.

Put a heap of the tomatoes on top of each slice of toasted bread. Press the tomatoes into the bread. Place a good pile of the herb-arugula salad on top and finish of with some crumbled goat cheese.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pear Caramel Pots


Don’t be frightened by the different components of this dessert. Yes it takes a bit of time to prepare all of the layers but once they’re done, it’s quite easy to assemble and the result is stunning.

-    2 cups milk
-    1 cup 35% cream
-    ½ cup sugar
-    6 tbsp of all purpose flour
-    2 eggs
-    6 egg yolks
-    2 tsp of vanilla extract

Caramelised Pears
-    ½ cup sugar
-    3 tbsp water
-    8 pears, pealed, cored and cut into small cubes

Caramel Sauce
-    ¼ cup water
-    1 ¼ cups sugar
-    3 tbsp corn syrup
-    1 cup 35% cream, warm

Almond crunch
-    ¼ cup surgar
-    2 tbsp corn sirop
-    1 tbsp water
-    1/3 cup slithered almonds

Whipped cream
-    2 ½ 35% cream
-    ½ sugar
-    2 tsp vanilla extract

-12 lady finger cookies, cut into small cubes

In a pot, warm the cream and set aside. The cream must not boil.

In a pot, combine the sugar and flour. Add the eggs and the egg yolks and whisk until smooth and homogenous. Slowley whisk in the hot cream. Bring to a boil over medium heat stiring constantly. Add the vanilla. Pour the mixture into a bowl and place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard. Let cool and refrigerate for two hours or until the custard has cooled completely.

Caramelised Pears
In a large skillet, heat the sugar and water until the mixture becomes a golden brown colour. Add the cubed pears and cook for 5 minutes on high heat. Refrigerate until completely cooled.

Caramel Sauce
In a pot, bring the water, sugar and corn syrup to a boil. Cook without stiring until the mixture becomes a golden brown colour. Remove from the heat and gradually add the cream. Return to heat and bring to a boil, mixing constantly until homogenous. Let cool completely.

Almond crunch
In a pot, bring the water, sugar and corn syrup to a boil. Cook without stiring until the mixture becomes a golden brown colour. Add the almonds and stir until they are completely coated. Spread on a piece of parchment paper and let cool. Once cooled, the almond mixture will become hard and brittle. Chop up into small pieces.

Whipped cream
In a bowl, whisk the cream, sugar and vanilla until you get stiff peaks.

For the assembling of the pear caramel pots
In 12 small glass recipients (I used small jam jars but you could use a wine glass or small bowls), alternate a layer of custard, lady finger cookies, caramelised pears, caramel, almond crunch and whipped cream. Place the whipped cream and the custard each into a pastry bag (I don’t have any so I use a ZipLock bag and I cut off one of the corners). I find that this really helps to control the ingredients because you want the sides of the container to stay clean in order to see all of the different layers.
Repeat the layers twice and finish off with whipped cream, caramel sauce and almond crunch.

Refrigerate at least 2 hours, over night is even better.


Original recipe via Ricardo

Monday, January 17, 2011

Perfect gift ideas for a perfectly new baby

I have a brand new niece! Yahoooo! A new addition to the family and a whole new person to discover! How exciting.

I started browsing gift ideas for the new baby girl. Here are some of my favourites that I found at the online Etsy store.

Hello Mr Owl!

(Fongstudio on Etsy)

I adore these natural wood animal cut-outs!

(Littlealouette on Etsy) 

I‘ve always loved quilts. A baby quilt seems even more special!

 (Pieces of Pine on Etsy)

Personalized natural wood teether.

How cute are these lovely shoes with crocheted flower.

 Hmmmmm… I seem to have a fixation on textiles and wood. Oh well!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

My 5 tips for creating a fantastic dinner party (without breaking your piggy bank)!

As I explained in my Ellyson New Years Eve Extravaganza post, I love organizing dinner parties and coming up with nice table settings. I always like to try and find alternative (and less costly) ways to achieve the looks I want.  I rather spend more on the food…. because that’s the important part right? But I can’t sacrifice the setting, because that’s very important to me too.

Here are some of my little secrets that I used in order to create my New Years Eve party table on a super low budget! It doesn’t have to be expensive to wow your guests. You just have to be a little creative and think outside the box!

1- Be creative with your linens

One thing that can be super expensive when hosting a formal diner party are the table linens. The table cloths, the cloth napkins… that can really add up. I like to think out of the box and try to use things that you wouldn’t necessarily think of first hand.

Would you believe that for this particular table setting I used curtains and dish towels? Well I did.

The white table cloth underneath is actually a white curtain panel. Since I was using two tables side by side in order to fit in all 14 guests, I just put the curtain tabs between the two tables making it impossible to notice their original function.

For the cloth napkins I actually cut dish towels in half (the original size was way too big to use as a napkin) and simply hemmed the side (actually, my grand-ma did that part for me!).

As for the table runner in white and navy, I just purchased 1,5 meters of the fabric and cut and sewed it down to size.

This takes a bit more time then just buying a standard table cloth set but you can mix and match different colours and textures to create a much more interesting result and at a fraction of the price.

Here are my numbers:

- 2 table cloths: 2 white curtain panels    = 20$ for both (at Ikea)
- 14 cloth napkins: 7 dish towels    = 3,50$ (0,50$ each at Ikea)
- table runner: 1,5 meter fabric     = 9$ (6$/merter at Ikea)

So for 32,50$ (plus taxes), I was able to create all of the dressings for this table of 14 guests.

2- Decorate with elements from your fridge or pantry

Try garnishing your plates with some fresh herbs (they do in restaurants all the time) … or why not incorporate some coarse salt or river-bed stones to the presentation. They coast virtually nothing and really help to jazz put the plating. Your guests will think they are in a snazzy restaurant!

Using coarse salt to present a platter of oysters is a great idea. Not only does it look really pretty but it also keeps the oysters from rocking around in the plate.

3- Create your own fancy table wear

Owning all kinds of different fancy service table wear is really nice for dinner parties but they can be pretty expensive to buy and most definatly inconvenient to store (because lets face it, you don’t use them every day).

For the dinner, I wanted to use some 2 teared plates to present some of the food. I find that it gives a bit of height to the table and it’s also a nice way to save some space when you have many different dishes on the table… Since I didn’t have enough double deckers… I decided to make some. This is a really cheap alternative to going out and buying some. On a glass plate I stacked a glass bowl on a glass glass. In order to help with the stability I filled the glass with small river stones. Voila! An instant 2 levelled plate.

For the desserts I didn’t have 14 small ramequins to make my pear caramels. What I did have though are 14 small jam jars. They turned out to be the perfect size and I think it adds a cute homemade touch to the dessert!

4- Who needs place cards

Instead of cutting, folding, gluing, writing, … place cards to indicate the seating of the guests, I just wrote down the initial of their name on the plate. I used a balsamic vinegar reduction (so it’s 100% edible) with an artist brush the paint the initials onto the plates.  I just wrote down one letter but you could really go crazy and write a message or a motif… edible art!

5- Candles for a little romance

I love, love, love, love LOVE candles. Whether it be for romance or not, I find that they really create a great ambiance… especially for eating. Wow, I’m not teaching you anything new. My personal twist on candles is using lots of small votive candles as well as some other high ones to really create a relaxing and friendly atmosphere perfect for sharing a great meal amongst loved ones! Once again… try to think out of the box. Try using some cocktail glasses to nest the candles… it gives a nice height to the light but not so much that it blocks the person sitting in front of you.

Some candles can be pretty pricy while others not at all. You have to be carefull of the quality thought, because not all candles burn at the same speed and some tend to drip a lot (and wax on a table cloth is no good). I purchased to round candles at Ikea and if my memory is correct they were 2,50$ each and burned very well (slowly with no dripping).

 I hope that these little tricks will help you out next time you decide to have a dinner party. Whether it be big or small, there are always alternatives to the good old classics that will provide you with something unique… and inexpensive. You just have to think outside the box.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Ellyson New Years Eve Extravaganza

I am now 27 years old and I have to say that not once have I celebrated New Years Eve away from my family. My sisters and I consider ourselves a dying breed because we always skip out on all the big parties with friends to celebrate amongst our family and oldest family friends.

New Years Eve is my time to shine and I thank my parents for always giving me carte blanche as far as what food I want to cook up and how I want everything to be set-up. I actually came to the realisation that this is my 11th year organizing and preparing the celebrations.

Yikes…. Time flies when you’re having fun!

Every year I like to think of different dishes to cook up and different ways to spend a nice long meal together around the table. One difficulty though is always figuring out what to cook in order to please all of our different guests, who each have different tastes and eating restrictions.

This year, my recent trip to Morroco inspired me in the way of presenting the food. In Moroccan culture, everyone sits around the table and eats out of the same dish. I really like the sharing aspect and the way that everyone around the table gets involved. It’s very inclusive and really bring everyone together. I truly find that this is a great way of sharing a meal and I wanted to transpose that idea for this supper.

 I decided to prepare different dishes (a variety of different thing to suite everyone’s taste buds) that would be served in two different waves and placed in the center of the table (in 3 different groupings since we were 14 guestscand the table was quite long). This way everyone can eat what they want as we all share the dishes together.

Here is what the menu was composed of.

First wave:
-    Oyster platter with dad’s secret sauce (for as long as I can remember my Dad has always made this  oyster sauce… what a classic)
-    Lobster salade with avocado on endive scoops
-    Shrimp cocktail with 2 dipping sauces
-    Chicken skewers with fresh mint dipping sauce
-    Herb and tomato salad

Second wave:
-    Seared scallops on basil whipped cream
-    Blue cheese and walnut salad with marinated onions
-    Beef Wellingtons with a cream mushroom sauce
-    Slow roasted balsamic tomatoes

For dessert:
    - Pear caramel pots

The super was a real hit! Everyone had a great time and we brought in the new year on a really good note! I must admit that the whole shared dishes idea turned out great in the sense that it brings everyone together but at the same time everyone is really comfortable in eating what they want. Everyone insisted on being invited next year… so the traditional continues!

Here is the dream team! My sister Anne, myself and my sister Elizabeth. We pulled all of this off on our own! Hooray for teamwork!

I’ll share some of the recipes from this dinner party in later posts!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Deck the Halls!

I know that I should have posted this before Christmas but what the heck., I’ll post it anyways!  For those of you who, like me try to hang on to the holidays as long as possible, have a look at my small apartment Christmas décor!

Ah!!! Christmas time is by far my favourite period of the year! For me, a natural Christmas tree, no matter how small it may be, is an absolute must! On a snowy Sunday morning, I drove out with my sister and Daddio to go cut down a little Christmas tree to deck my halls!

Ah, the perfect tree for my place! Not too many branches but the size is just right!

Voila!!! The finished product.

Felt starts that I stitched up myself.

I turned some old pearl necklaces (fake of coarse) into tree ornaments.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care!

I purchased this little nativity scene at a crafts show from a polish man who hand makes the small ceramic figures. It’s one of my favourite Christmas decorations!

The warmest wishes from me to you!

Happy New Year to you all! I know I’m a bit late to be wishing the new year but it’s better to do things late then to never do them! May 2011 bring you all the joy, health and love that you deserve and may all of your projects be prosper!

For my resolution… 2011 is going to be about me (and you!!!). I really want to share many more things with you an do so on a much more regular basis! Lets see if I’ll be able to keep my new year resolution… this time I think I will because it’s something I really feel like doing!

Stay tuned to see what 2011 will have in store for us!

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