Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey and Ginger

31 Jul

jd ginger 1I’m not usually a big Jack Daniel’s drinker. Until recently, I couldn’t even think of the last time I’d had it (although I definitely remember the first time, and it wasn’t pretty). All that changed at this years World Pride in Toronto. We were in beer garden with friends when we inquired what are friend was drinking. Matt said he got a cocktail of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey and Ginger Ale, and that it was great. After finishing our beers, we thought, what the heck, let’s try that cocktail. OMG! Was it ever good! The refreshing bite of the ginger ale pairs perfectly with sweet honey flavours in the Jack Daniel’s. We processed to recommend these to everyone who asked “hey, what are you drinking?”. This is now my favourite cocktail to enjoy after a long day at work (not that I need a cocktail after work, but you get what I mean…)

1 part Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey
3 parts Ginger Ale
ice

Pour the Jack Daniel’s into a glass, and top with the ginger ale. Add a couple of ice cubes. Enjoy leisurely!jd ginger 2

Coconut Rice with Green Tea Shrimp and Pineapple Salsa

30 Jul

Coconut Rice Shrimp1Oh technology! This post was meant to go up yesterday, but due to some internet switch up/modem issues at home, I was delayed in blogging. But thankfully, we’re all sorted out now, which means I can share with you one of my favourite new recipes! This dish is an adaptation of a Jamie Oliver 15 Minute Meal. Jana and I were watching the Food Network one Sunday morning and salivated  while watching Mr. Oliver whip up this amazing green tea seasoned salmon and coconut rice with miso vegetables. We were so taken with this meal that I was tasked with recreating that night for dinner! (Though I have to say, I consider myself a fast cook, and have NEVER been able to make one of his meals in only 15 minutes!) The dinner was delicious, but since I can’t leave will enough alone, I got mega inspired to take some of the recipe elements and create my own version, and so I present to you: Coconut Rice with Green Tea Shrimp and Pineapple Salsa!

The key to this dish is cooking the rice in coconut milk. The rice soaks up all the sweet creamy coconut flavour. Savoury green onion, sugar snap peas, and cilantro, spicy red chili, and sour lemon are then added to round it out. The rice is then topped with shrimp that’s been lighted coated in green tea, and fresh vibrant pineapple salsa. This recipe might seem like a lot of steps, and while it does take longer then 15 minutes, I promise it can be made quickly and is well worth the effort. This dish has quickly become a favourite in our house.
Coconut Rice Shrimp2Ingredients:
Rice:
1.75 cups Jasmine Rice
4 cups Coconut Milk
1.5 cups of sugar snap peas
3 green onion
1 red chili
0.75 cups of cilantro
2 lemons

Shrimp:
300 gram shrimp (fresh or frozen), peeled and tails removed
1 green tea bag

Pineapple Salsa:
1/2 a fresh pineapple
0.25 cups of cilantro
Coconut Rice Shrimp7Start with pineapple salsa. Roughly chop the pineapple into small pieces and place in a small bowl. Finely chop the cilantro and add to the pineapple and mix together. Set aside. (How easy was that?!)
Coconut Rice Shrimp3Next, cut the ends off the sugar snap peas and then cut them into thirds (they should all be bite size pieces). Place in a steaming basket and cook on the stove for about 5-6 minutes. They should be vibrant green and tender, but still have a slight crunch. Once cooked, remove from the stove and set aside.
Coconut Rice Shrimp4Now we’re on to the shrimp! Open your green tea bag and sprinkle the contents onto a plate. Arrange the shrimp on the plate and gently move around and toss to coat them on both sides with the green tea leaves. Once covered, it’s time to cook! I used a small grill pan, but if you don’t have one, a frying pan will work as well. Heat your pan on medium/high heat. When the pan is nice and hot, add the shrimp. Cook on each side for about 1.5-2 minutes. When the shrimp are cooked, remove them from the pan, and set aside.

Now it’s time for the rice! You’ll want to cook your rice according to the package directions – you just substitute the water for coconut milk. For the rice I had, I brought the coconut milk to the boil, added the jasmine rice, reduced the heat to low, covered and cooked for 11 minutes. (You can get the coconut milk on the stove and heating while you’re doing the pineapple salsa, snap peas and shrimp)Coconut Rice Shrimp5While the rice was cooking, I prepped the rest of my ingredients. First, thinly slice the green onions. Next, finely mince the red chili. The cilantro should be finely chopped. Zest 1 lemon, and juice 2.
Coconut Rice Shrimp6As soon as the rice is done, add the sugar snap peas, green onions, red chili, cilantro, lemon zest and juice and gently mix together.
Coconut Rice Shrimp8Now it’s time to assemble! Dish the coconut rice mixture into bowls. Top with the green tea shrimp and a good scoop of the pineapple salsa. Serve and enjoy!

Mini Condo Spruce-up

25 Jul

Home AccesoriesWe currently live in a great rented condo downtown. We both love our space and neighbourhood, but as much as we love it, there is only so much we can do in terms of decorating a rented space. Both Jana and I look forward to the day when we’ll be able to get a house. I have Pinterest boards filled with design ideas. I’ve already mentally decided on the paint colour for every room. So while I patiently wait for a future house that I can decorate from top to bottom, in the meantime, I decided to do a mini spruce-up of our current place. The easiest way to do this is with decor accessories.

Pillows: I adore throw pillows. I could spend hours (days!) searching for and shopping for throw pillows. They are one of the quickest ways to change the look of a room. We’ve got a grey couch, so I wanted something bright and fun to punch it up. These Ikea pillows (1 and 2) from the PS 2014 collection where the perfect find. Large, colourful, and inexpensive, they look good on the couch and are great for curling up with.

Storage: There isn’t anything overly glamourous or designy about storage for a rental space. It is however every necessary. We got a couple transparent boxes with lids (3) from Ikea for seasonal clothing storage. Next up was shoes. You can imagine in a home with two women we have our fair share of footwear. A small shoe rack (4) placed at the bottom of our hall closet now keep many of our shoes organized and out of the way. The price for all our new storage pieces was also a major consideration, as we don’t want to spend big bucks on something that looks and works great now, but might not work as well in our future home.

Frames: Along with pillows, picture frames are a great way to add some new life to a room. Since we now have some really nice engagement and wedding photos, we decided to splurge a little with some beautiful grown-up looking picture frames – after all, these are images we’ll want to treasure forever! A trip to The Bay had us drooling over leather (5) and tweed (6) frames by Ralph Lauren (which now hold some of our engagement photos) and a gorgeous silver (7) Kate Spade frame that was perfect for our wedding photos.

Fresh Pasta with Squid

24 Jul

Fresh Pasta with Squid4Once I started making my own fresh pasta, it was love at first bite. I found recipes for the most amazing slow cooked Bolognese, dishes generously accented by mozzerella, or covered in glorious cream sauces. And while all these were amazing, they were also rather heavy (thankfully we were eating these in the Winter, so the added bulk around the waistline helped keep us warm during those cold months). But I wanted to be able to eat some fresh pasta without feeling like I needed a nap afterwards. Something that felt a little fresher. This is what I love about cooking pasta with fresh seafood. As it’s generally considered a major no-no to use cheese with fish in italian cooking, I can happily rely on getting big bright flavour from a few simple, healthier ingredients (I know this recipe still calls for olive oil AND butter, so while it’s by no means diet friendly, it doesn’t have cream or cheese, so cut me a little slack!)Fresh Pasta with Squid2Ingredients:
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
2 large fresh squid, cleaned and sliced into rings*
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 red chili, minced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup of fresh parsley minced
2 portions of fresh pasta, made into fettuccine noodles

This recipe cooks quick! You’ll want to make sure you have all your ingredients prepped and ready to go, otherwise you run the risk of over cooking the squid and/or pasta

Have a large pot of salted water boiling and ready to cook the pasta. Heat the olive oil and butter together in a large pan over medium-high heat. Once the butter is melted, add the garlic, and red chili. Cook for about 1 minute, then add the lemon zest and parsley, tossing everything in the pan. Add the squid rings to the pan, and toss everything together. About 1 minute later, drop your pasta into the boiling water giving it a stir so it doesn’t stick together. The pasta and squid will both be done in about another 2 minutes. Quickly drain the pasta, and add it to the large pan with the squid along with the lemon juice. Turn off the heat and gently stir the pasta and squid together, making sure the pasta is coated with the oil, butter and lemon juice, and that the chili, parsley, garlic and lemon zest looks sprinkled through out. Dish up onto some large plates and tuck in!
Fresh Pasta with Squid3* if you don’t like the idea of squid, this dish is also amazing with scallops, shrimp, and especially lobster!

Fresh Pasta

23 Jul

fresh pasta1Pasta is not something we eat everyday (at least not until our honeymoon in Italy), so if I’m going to have it, I’m going to HAVE it. And if I’m going to HAVE it, I may as well MAKE it. As in fresh – from scratch. The idea of making homemade fresh pasta always seemed very overwhelming to me, until we stumbled upon a cooking show that aired in the fall called Simply Italian. The host spent the series showing you dozens of ways to make and use fresh homemade pasta. It looked SO easy! Around that time, we had kindly been given a gift card to Williams Sonoma as an engagement gift, so we decided to get ourselves a pasta machine. I was on my way to becoming the Italian cooking Nonna I’d always dreamed of!!

Let me just say – this takes practice, and patience. It’s not that making fresh pasta is necessarily hard, but it is a little time consuming. But at the end of your effort, you will be rewarded with something far more delicious than box pasta could ever be.
fresh pasta2The ingredients are quite simple:
100 grams of cake flour
1 egg
pinch of salt

These measurements will make 1 serving. I find it’s really important to weight the flour. I tried Googling how many cups 100 grams of flour should be, and the dough just ever came together properly. (I actually start with just under 100 grams, that way I can add a little more if I find the dough to be too sticky.)fresh pasta3I pour the flour in a little mountain on a clean counter, and dig a well in the middle. I place the cracked eggs into this well along with a pinch of salt. (you can certainly do this in a bowl to avoid making a mess, but I kinda like the messy aspect of this!) With a fork, carefully break the egg yolks and start to incorporate the flour from the sides of the well. Do this gradually until you have mixed in most of the flour. The dough has now started to take form – although it will likely look like a bit of a disaster. With your hands, start to combine the dough into a ball that you can start to kneed. This dough is very needy (a little pasta humour for you!) and will need quite a bit of kneeding. fresh pasta4Keep at it until you have a smooth soft ball of dough, it should not feel sticky but silky. Now the dough needs to rest – all that kneeding will have tired both of you out! (again, a little more pasta humour). Tightly cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for a least 20 minutes. This is a great dough to make a few hours in advance.fresh pasta6Once the dough has rested, take about 1/4 of dough (re-wrapping the rest) and gently kneed it again. Then, using your hands, shape it into a flat disk. Run the disk of dough through the pasta machine* on the widest setting.fresh pasta7The first time you run it through, get might fall apart a little and not look like it’s going to hold together. Don’t fear! Keep pressing the pieces of dough back together into a rectangular shape and run it through the pasta machine again. It will slowly start to come together. Once it’s beginning to hold together, set the pasta machine one setting narrower, and fold the dough into thirds. Run it through the machine again. Do this a couple more times. Once you have a nice smooth edged piece of dough, turn the pasta machine down another level. Keep doing this until you are on the second narrowest setting.fresh pasta8Now that the dough is the right thickness, I add the slicing attachment to the machine, which quickly turns my dough into perfect fettuccine strips.fresh pasta9Place the strips onto a baking sheets that has been generously sprinkled with polenta**. Gently toss the pasta in the polenta to keep it from sticking together. Continue with these steps until all of your dough has been used. Allow the pasta to dry for a couple of minutes.

Cooking the pasta is super quick and easy. Dump the pasta into a large pot of boiling salted water. It’s cooked perfectly in approximately 2 minutes. Drain, and enjoy with your favourite sauce. Tomorrow, I’m posting a recipe for Fresh Pasta with Squid!

* if you don’t have a pasta machine you can use a rolling pin to flatten the dough. This will definitely take more elbow grease! You’ll want to keep the pasta on a well floured counter and keep moving it around to prevent it from sticky to the counter. To make the strips, you can slice the dough with a knife. The end result will look more rustic, but taste just as good :)

** the polenta keeps the pasta from sticking together, but it will also keep your cooking water from going cloudy (which it would if you used flour)

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