Horseback riding with quick Tortellini and Meatballs you say? ok…

Caribbean Life

Caribbean Life

Skip forward past the summer..a North American summer that is being July & August…Here we are, at the end of August. It’s the end of August already?  but it’s still summer to me. I need to respect mother natures set seasons.  Even when the sun shines in December as we lay on the beach, deep down I know its winter because I am Canadian! 🙂

Ok, not really sure how any of the above relates to what I wanted to talk about today..ohh yes, that I have been working on a summer post with beautiful pictures that I just can’t finish..why? because summer just keeps going & going…kinda like me, it just doesn’t stop. 🙂

Ok, i’m back again..Lets talk Horses..yup, i said horses. I love me my animals of course because of my Farm Nonni’s, but horses we never had. The last time i sat on a horse was in my teens. Again, irrelevant..

We have stables here on the island? I always passed them by with no regard. Recently though I became curious, reading about riding etc. So planning went into play and well yesterday it happened.  Myself and ‘Lil D’ (which is my best buddies son) packed up our back packs and did like tourist. We went horseback riding.  ohhh my, is the best I could explain it. Smiles from “‘lil D” , smiles from “ME”. Greatest experience for both of us. We saw our island from a different view. The many animals they house made me feel like a child with my Nonno on the farm. Well, except for the random turtles of course..really, turtles chillin with the bunch? 😉

Chill

Lets all “Chill”

Enough about the animals..we turned into animals after the ride..hungry!! No food prepared at home but we were not eating out so something quick was going to happen.

I try to keep a few quick items on hand in the freezer..viola, my homemade meatballs..store bought  tortellini..fresh veggies in the fridge..I can work with this.

Tortellini

Tortellini

Quickly and I mean quickly a pot of water set to boil…Next, I sliced up 1/2 a pepper, bit of an onion, few mushrooms, fresh garlic and sautéed in olive olive. fresh basil with salt etc was added. oops & also..i freeze tomato paste in ice-cube trays for 911 reasons and today was one of them. added 2 cubes, chicken stock & then added my meatballs. Keep in mind they are uncooked, frozen so they needed a lot of liquid to poach around in. Done, within an hour we ate..

quick lunch

quick lunch

This is how I cook, I don’t follow recipes, I follow the fridge. Food should not be complicated. We should always have good food on hand for those days we go horseback riding 😉

I realized while writing that i need to share my meatball recipe to really relate to this. Coming soon to a kitchen near you! 🙂

Buon Appetito 😉

Crazy Corn Bread..Gone Mad! Thanks to the internet I found you my Love! Past to Present..

more then just a corn bread

more then just a corn bread

Naming this was real simple. The past few weeks I’ve craved cornbread. Not just a cornbread with cornmeal, I needed actual corn in it. Who am I kidding, I needed cheese and a part of the pig. I didn’t care if it was lardons, bacon or pancetta. I just needed a taste of my old-time cornbread. Problem, I couldn’t find the base of my recipe. So on the phone to my Daddio, begging him to find my recipe. It was from one of my favorite books, Robin Hood “Baking Festival” .

Robin Hood Baking Festival

Robin Hood Baking Festival

“Everythings packed in bins” he said. Ahh yes, my life over there has turned to Rubbermaid. So off to the internet I went in search of my cornbread past to bring it present.

A moist cornbread is always an issue. I didn’t grow up in the South USA but for some reason many kitchens back I took to a good corn bread. A bread with cornmeal could at times end up very dry. A funny married time in my life I had ran across this recipe in that said book & it was always the base for my corn creations. It was a hit, no matter how many times I changed it up. Well, a bunch of Italians experimenting with cornbread for the first time could have gone terribly bad.  😉  Looking back I realize I spent a heck of alot of time in the kitchen during those short years. Obviously I found much-needed refuge. Ahhh a blessing in disguise. Maybe this recipe brings me a sort of comfort, back to all that nutty kitchen time.

Back to Robin Hood, what can I say, grew up with the flour. Canadian grown wheat. It’s the only flour we know. Even the French here on the island swear by the flour. D’best they tell me. 😉  The price here has doubled over the years. I remember buying a 10 Kg bag for $10.99 Canadian at No Frills. Now I spend the same price here for 1/2 the flour..Is someone eating our wheat fields over there?

price is way up

price is way up 17.99 Naf Guilder

Fantastic baking book, wish I had it here with me. Note to self, ask Daddio to send it to me 😉

End note, Corn bread is not a West Indie food. Caribbean yes, certain islands, Jamaica yes, but not the West Indies.. It just doesn’t fly here like on other islands or back in North America. I had some strange reactions to what was a love of mine..not a love of here.. Time to tweek and keep baking this bread and show them how good a Corn bread really is! 😉

The original base recipe can be found here :

http://www.robinhood.ca/Recipes/Savoury/Appetizers-Sides/Bacon-Corn-Muffins

Crazy Corn Bread 

1/2 cup lardons, bacon or pancetta – a part of the pig! – sautéed

1 Cup (250ml) AP Flour

1 Cup (250ml) Cornmeal

1 Tblsp baking powder

1 Tsp paprika

1 Egg

2 Tblsp Honey

10oz / 284ml creamed style corn

1/2 cup (125ml) milk

1/4 cup butter – melted & cooled

2/3 cup grated Emmental cheese

1/3 cup canned or fresh corn kernels

Fresh parsley, chopped finely

Saute the lardon, bacon or which ever part of the pig you choose 😉 set aside

In a large bowl combine flour, cornmeal, salt, paprika and baking powder. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk Egg, honey, creamed corn, milk and cooled melted butter.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until combined. Stir in the grated cheese, corn kernels, cooled fried lardon/bacon and chopped parsley.

Pour into buttered/floured pans. I also topped the unbaked batter w/ extra corn kernels & grated cheese.

corn bread in pans

Presently I used an 8 inch loaf pan & 2 fun minis..

Bake loaf for 30 – 35 min…please check it along the way. Insert a toothpick always works.

If making muffins & minis less time is required.

corn bread

corn bread

So my crazy search for my original cornbread recipe has been put to rest.  Grazie to the internet and for my daddio being patient as I searched and of course my Caribbean buddy for reminding me that he is not North American! Corn Bread is not his deal! lol lol 😉

Buon Appetito  😉

End, End note…this is what I do w/ the rest of canned corn..I know it may sound gross but I enjoy it cold. Everyone has a few strange eating secrets!

Corn from the can, staright to the spoon, to the mouth!

straight to my mouth!

Coq Au Vin (O) – Cheers to Julia Child on her birthday..Brandy you say?

chicken after mushrooms added

Yes, I added an “O” . Needed to change-up the traditional French dish into an Italian dish without altering the ingredients and a simple vowel did the trick! 🙂 Just a little funny

So, apparently living on a French island is starting to get under my little “chicken head” skin. (inside joke) Finding myself interested in exploring some of the classic French dishes.

When I hear Coq Au Vin I immediately think about Julia Child. How could you not. This is one of her famous dishes which she featured in her first cook book in 1961 “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”.  Ahh Julia,  very 1st cooking show I remember watching as a child. It also just so happen to be Julia Childs birthday on the day I prepared the dish, so it was a cheers to Julia and all that she brought to the table!

The traditional dish calls for fresh Thyme which I don’t always have (must start growing). So that was really the only ingredient missing from what I researched. I almost added fresh Rosemary sprigs and I am so happy i didn’t. The Rosemary really would have thrown the flavours off. I also opted out of using any garlic. This is one of the 1st times I cooked without fresh garlic! The temptation was there. Next time I’ll be sure to add fresh thyme. Season the chicken the night before is a must to allow the dry spice to absorb. Some also marinate in wine overnight and I’m pleased i didn’t. You will notice I used cremini mushrooms. Find them to have a firmer texture then a white mushroom and well a tastier mushroom overall.

Cremini Mushrooms

This dish will become one of my regulars. The aroma that day in my kitchen was delectable. The rich deep colour and flavour of the sauce is lip smacking!

Here is my take on the dish. I cut back on Brandy I’d actually used. A close friend who is a great sport when I’m experimenting in the kitchen felt the brandy was a bit much. I don’t even want to admit how much I actually poured in! ooops

Coq Au Vin (O)

4 piece chicken leg & thigh attached – separate & you’ll have 8 pieces of chicken. Remove skin

1/4 cup Lardons

3 medium carrots sliced into coins

1/2 onion – diced

1/4 cup Brandy + 2 tblsp

250 ml Red Wine – i used a Bordeaux

475ml (2 cups) Chicken Stock

Bay Leaves, fresh thyme

salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, dried thyme

butter – as much as you need 😉

10 Cremini mushrooms or white – quartered

1 tblsp Flour

The night before:

I take the skin off the chicken because you don’t want all that grease floating around in this dish.

Season the cleaned chicken with all the dry spices. Rub it in nicely. Break up a few Bay leaves and place on the chicken. Cover and refrigerate over night.

Next day:

Start with a large pot, sauté the lardons until cooked but not crisp. Remove from the pot & set aside.

Take your seasoned chicken & sear all sides. About 8 min. Remove from the pot & set aside.

seared chicken

Add diced onions, carrot coins and a bay leaf. Butter will be required at this point if the lardons & chicken did not release enough juices. Saute until tender.  Deglaze the pot now by adding aprx 1/4 cup brandy. This should be sufficient. Add the cooked lardons & chicken back to the pot. Add the red wine, chicken stock & fresh thyme. Simmer covered and allow to slowly braise for aprx 30-40 mins.

While the chicken is floating around in all that booze, take a small pan with 1 tblsp butter. Add the quartered mushrooms and reserved 2 tblsp of brandy.  Use even less if you prefer. Fry just until slightly tender.

After the 30 mins of cooking, add the sautéed mushrooms to the pot. Continue cooking uncovered for another 10mins. At this point I also added a small bit of roux to the sauce to thicken it. I used aprx 1 tblsp of both butter and flour. Melt the butter. stir in the flour and add it to chicken. This should thicken slightly.

To serve, well It could be served with rice, mashed potatoes or I did something different. I served it with Chow Mein noodles. I’m addicted to a particular brand of these noodles here. I know the combination sounds odd but it was a nice change to plain ‘ol rice.

If you’ve never ventured into the past with classic dishes, I urge you to try this one.

Coq Au Vin

Coq Au Vin

Bon appetit (O)

😉

Boot shaped pancakes rounded’up to perfection. No excuse for store bought

DSC_9240

pancakes

Ask any Nonna (an Italian grandmother) to say “Pancakes” and they will almost all repeat “Panacakes”. Addition of that unnecessary vowel makes the word understandable to them. lol lol  My city Nonna never made and I dont believe ever ate a pancake. The closest I could compare anything she made that resembled the texture would be a fritter of some sort using the same basic ingredients but using more flour making a thicker batter, savoury then deep-fried. hmmm, well like I said there were no pancakes there. 😉  Farming Nonna would make us “panacakes” quite often. As I grew older with my hands in the kitchen I started to question why they were never round like i would see in restaurants. Honestly i’m still not sure why they were always so odd-shaped. Now that i think about it, my mothers pancakes were never round either. Both always tasty with at times bananas, apples or chocolate chips added. Just never round.  Possible reason was the batter was more on the thicker side. Italian style I guess, shaped like a boot! ha ha  Any who I’m not going to hurt my head over boot shaped pancakes now, all i can do is round them up myself.

Posting this easy recipe for a few reasons, 1st off I truly enjoy pancakes. One of my comfort foods. The fluffier the better. Secondly I’ve noticed friends here always mixing up the famous box of pre mixed preservatives. Not to knock her or anything, heck, her face is on a box on grocery shelves and the freezer section…eewl I call those frisbees.

Unless you don’t keep flour in the house you truly have no excuse to buy pre made.  Mix up the batter the night before and let it rest in the refrigerate overnight. Even just a few hours is fine. I’ve been out of milk at times and used almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk and always work just the same.

Canadian Maple syrup

Maple Syrup my Daddio sends to me

My perfect breakfast plate consists of pancakes spread with peanut butter, drizzled with REAL maple syrup, scrambled eggs on the side with bacon & sausage. ohh when the Maple syrup slowly creeps its way all over the dish giving everything a hint of sweetness is delightful. Whats yours?

 

Pancake Batter

1 cup AP Flour

2 tblsp Sugar

2 tsp baking powder

cinnamon

pinch of salt if using sweet butter

1 cup Milk

1 Egg

2 tblsp butter melted & cooled

1 1/2 tsp vanilla or almond extract

In a small bowl stir together Flour, sugar, baking powder.  In a larger bowl whisk the Milk, Egg, cooled Butter, vanilla extract until combined. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients whisking gently until all incorporated. Sprinkle cinnamon to taste if desired.  Place in a plastic container and refrigerate overnight.

Next morning breakfast couldn’t be simpler.. heat your pan, I always use my 8 inch pan to make perfect rounds. Add a pat of butter and desired amount of batter depending on the size of pancake you’d like. Allow to cook on medium heat until these beautiful bubble holes begin to appear.

pancake

Once the pancake is full it’s time to flip. Please don’t flatten your pancake with a spatula. I’ve seen people do that. A perfect fluffy pancake needs to work its magic!

Of course i rarely make them without adding something! Bananas, coconut, diced apples, blueberries, choco chips..the list is endless, use your imagination.

Buon Appetito! 😉

Bolognese Babble. Time always permits for a good Ragu

Orecchiette Bolognese

Orecchiette Bolognese

Making a rich red, meaty, flavourful traditional Bolognese Ragu takes a good few hours. However it is possible for all working families to prepare a quick batch on a weeknight to serve to the family within an hour. Yes 1 hour..everything in the kitchen is possible in an hour if you put your mind to it. Prepping ingredients the night before is always a time saver. Do as the French say “Mise en Place”

The traditional Ragu Bolognese originated from Bologna, Italia in the 18th century. Hence the name. Ahhh yes Bologna..I vaguly remember that visit 😉  No blog post or pics to follow..

The traditional way to serve Ragu is over a homemade plate of Tagliatelle but i must admit i prefer mine with Penne Lisce or other medium cut pastas. Again that’s my preference.

Many chefs have their own special technique or should I say twist on the process. Because Ragu making is exactly that, a process. Every chef believes their way is the “original authentic” recipe.  A chef I once worked for said “A true Bolognese should not be a thin based tomato sauce with meat YET a thick meat based sauce with tomato”  So think meat!!

Now these days hours to dedicate to a pasta sauce may not be in your schedule. That doesn’t mean you cannot whip up a quick batch of Bolognese for your weeknight family dinner. One should never sacrifice good food for your belly!

I needed to make a small batch so I used only 1/2 the package of ground beef I had bought. Leftovers are fine if they will be eaten quickly. Another option is to part out and freeze. But I didn’t want leftovers and I needed to have it made within a reasonable time. Ragu Bolognese is also a perfect way to hide vegetables from children. I’ve added diced mushrooms, zucchini, peppers to my basic recipe for picky children. Once the vegetables are diced, sautéed with beef and tomatoes poured over a pasta cut of their choice, they really can’t tell the difference. The trick is to ask them what “shape” of pasta do they want to eat. It worked for me tonight. I had my friends child with me who only eats spaghetti and swore to me thats all he eats. After running through my pantry he chose Orecchiette.

Orecchiette

Orecchiette

A southern cut from Puglia. Southern pasta met Northern Ragu in my kitchen. As I explained the meaning behind the little ear shaped pasta he became excited. Explain the history and meaning behind food to a child and they can be swayed..

Alrighty, enough Babble on the Bolognese

 Basic Bolognese Ragu

1/2 cup Pancetta

1 Carrot

1 small yellow Onion

1 celery stalk

sprig of fresh rosemary

1 Bay leaf

2 crushed garlic cloves

splash of Olive Oil

350 gram ground beef

1/2 cup red wine

500 ml  tomato purée

handful of fresh basil leaves

handful of fresh parsley

salt, ground pepper

Small dice the carrot, onion, celery and set aside.

In a medium saucepan sauté the pancetta until fat becomes translucent. Add the carrots, onions, celery, bay leaf, rosemary and sauté until tender. Add a splash of olive oil should there not be enough fat released from the pancetta. Continue by adding the ground beef and crushed garlic. Stir breaking the meat up into small pieces. Add the red wine and continue to stir and sauté over high heat. Do not boil the meat in the wine. You want all ingredients to sauté absorbing all flavours creating a rich meaty flavour. Season with Salt and ground pepper.

1/2 way there..

1/2 way there..

Once the ground beef is fully cooked add the tomato purée. Season with Salt and ground pepper.

Finely chop the parsley. Basil I tend to Chiffonade as I enjoy the longer strands of this fresh herb.

Add both herbs to the Ragu and continue cooking for aprx 1/2 hour. In total this quick weeknight Ragu should not take more than an hour. Personally I tend to be a sergeant in the kitchen so I apologize now if an extra 1/2 hour is needed. 🙂

Bolognese Ragu

Bolognese Ragu

I assure you if plenty of fresh rosemary, basil, parsley and the Bay leaf are used you will have a flavourful Ragu.  Additional dry seasoning are not needed. I’m not a huge fan of dry seasonings if I can avoid them then I do.

This will serve about 4 large appetites

Buon Appetito 😉

An Island i now call home….

welcome to our island! ;)

welcome to our island! 😉

Being a new blogger I find myself with a new agenda every 5 minutes..planning at all hours. I wake and I sceem about what I want to cook/bake, photograph & share.  I have this crazy list of all my favourite ol’school comfort foods that i enjoyed eating while growing up, baking as well as many of my own creations.

Growing up I spent most of my weekends at my Nonnis city home and many summers on my Nonnis farm learning how to make Fresh pasta of all shapes, stuffed etc. Jaring tomatoes, fresh Salsiccia, roasting peppers, formaggio hanging, fresh ricotta (ohhh yum) & biscotti of every form! Just a few favourites that take me back to my #italian childhood. Recipes were never used. It was always made from the heart. To this date, i still cook in that fashion, from my heart.

Between my city life, farm life and now island life I’d say i have plenty to share and about time I start..now it’s just getting it out there!

Never enjoyed writing or reading much..Now, I love to read about anything. Write about what drives my passions.

Tonight I wanted to share a few photos, not from my kitchen. A random array of photos to describe this beautiful island I now call home! I have thousands to share very slowly…Like I’ve said, this is an adventure through my lens. What I see, what I cook, what i feel.

Buon Appetito! 🙂

Picture 1541hibiscus

an old balance in the local market

an old balance in the local market

life

life

herbs in the market

herbs in the market

Picture 646Picture 854

I go Bananas for Bananas!

Banana Figs from the market

Banana Figs from the local market

Doesnt everyone? Love Bananas that is. A fruit that is available all year round no matter where you are from. Buy them green and let them ripen, buy them ripe and use in your favorite recipe. I tend to always have bananas in the house. Stir them into pancake batter, banana bread, smoothies, fry in butter or my personal favorite a peanut butter, honey & banana sandwich drizzled with Nutella..oh yum! picture to follow..

ready for baking!

ready for baking!

A few years back I discovered Saba. I floated over on a boat to the island of Saba and hiked through the rain forest up 1064 steps of Mt Scenery

Hiking up the rain forest on Saba

Hiking up the rain forest on Saba

Along the way with my camera on hand, I encountered my 1st real banana tree. Understand growing up in Canada that buying bananas from a grocery store is nothing compared to this. Wow, i was in awwww & I still am.

the bundle i found hiking up Mt Scenery on Saba

the bundle i found hiking up Mt Scenery on Saba

Back to my kitchen…As i was visiting a friend this past weekend who needed cheering up i figured what a perfect snack to bring but a Banana Chocolate Chip loaf. On my comfort food list.

DSC_0937

So I was on my way heading out with my loaf in hand to my parking lot, walked down a different path and found this beauty. uggggg, no camera of course!

Judging by the fruit size, I believe this is actually a Plantain tree

Beautiful

So this morning I was out with my camera snapping pictures. I’ll be keeping my eyes on them as they ripen.  Judging by the size, they may actually be plantains. Regardless I will eat. A step stool will be required for capture! 🙂

The recipe I’m finally sharing was given to me by a cousin when I was younger just starting up in my parents kitchen. Back when my mom would remind me over and over that it was HER kitchen..ok women! lol lol

This was the first banana loaf I had made. I have never needed to venture off to try a different recipe.  Moist, packed with flavour with basic ingredients that are always on hand. Why fix whats not broken?

Banana Bread

275 gram (1 ½ cup) Brown Sugar

125 gram (1/2 cup) softened Butter

2 Eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 Ripe Bananas

235 gram (1 ½ cup) AP Flour

1 tsp Baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

hand full of chocolate chips

Combine all dry ingredients except chocolate chips in a small bowl & set aside.

In a large bowl or stand mixer beat brown sugar & butter until fluffy. About 2 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla extract. Continue beating for a minute or until all is combined.  Finally add the bananas, i add them whole and then beat slightly. Makes for chunkier pieces.

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir until combined. Do not beat.

Finally Stir in the chocolate chips.

DSC_0926

Divide into prepared greased loaf tin or muffin tin.

DSC_0928

bake at 180 C until golden or inserted toothpick comes out clean

DSC_0939

Variations:

Zest…lemon or orange zest go so well if you have citrus kicking around

Nuts..enough said!

Pineapple, stir in pineapple but scale back on the bananas

Coconut, but of course..no need to scale back on anything..just stir it in.

I promise you that another Banana bread recipe is not required!

Buon Appetito! 😉

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