Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Celebrating Victoria Day in Ireland

Yesterday, I'm guessing most Canadians had the day off and likely celebrated Victoria Day in their own fashion. Some held BBQs, some acknowledged the unofficial start to summer, a few took part in races and I'd imagine some actually honoured The Queen's birthday or the current reigning Canadian sovereign's official birthday. In our little corner of the world, following the Queen's visit to Ireland and in the midst of America's President and First Lady visiting Ireland, we celebrated Victoria Day with a few of my favourite Canadian treats. Well maybe they're more like British Columbian treats; but for all intensive purposes and the spirit of this blog we'll consider them Canadian.

I lived in Vancouver for 3 years prior to arriving in Ireland. There's a handful of things and people I love from my time in Vancouver, even experiences I know I will never be able to repeat again. For instance, eating Garlic Wings with my Foodie co-workers-come-friends in Chinatown. Picnics with wine and friends on the beach in Kitsilano. Pints at the Railway Club. Walking through fog thick-as-thieves to get to work, while drinking a coffee and munching on toast and jam. Walks around the Seawall and through Stanley Park. Even creating foods to share with my co-workers!

Yesterday, wasn't quite the day for a BBQ. The winds were so strong it was a perfect day to stay indoors and reminisce about my time in Canada, read up on Canada's National Holiday and spend time in the kitchen creating one of my favourite dishes and a popular sweet treat. Thankfully, Patrick is game for nearly everything I create in the kitchen which makes this new hobby quite fun, with this in mind I made Maple Curry Chicken Salad and Nanaimo Bars. Both were a hit; I know this because Patrick licked his plate and said I can make both again whenever I like!

The Maple Curry Chicken Salad is my version of a salad available at Maple Delights. A co-worker introduced me to this pricey, but tasty salad and I quickly fell in love, realizing the best way to repeat the experience was to figure out how to make it - which I did. We enjoyed the salad many more times with my version.

Here's what you'll need to serve 2 people:
4 chicken breasts, cubed and cooked in a moderate pan
2 bunches romaine lettuce, chopped
2 green apples, cored and cubed

For the sauce, in a small saucepan:
2 T yellow curry or the curry powder of your choice
1/8 C water or enough to wet curry powder
1 C milk, reserve 1 T to mix with 2 T cornstarch for thickening
1/4 C maple syrup or 4 T maple butter from Maple Delights

Mix the above until hot and a nice thick consistency. Allow to cool for best results on salad. Otherwise, toss cooked chicken, lettuce, apples and sauce in a large bowl and serve with your favourite French Loaf.

For the Nanaimo Bars, I followed a recipe I found on the Internet from the City of Nanaimo. I'm quite pleased with the results and the only thing I changed was that I used pistachios in place of almonds, since that's what I had on hand. I think next time, I'd use milk chocolate for the top layer or even just make the base alone with a few marshmallows.

Our version of Victoria Day was lovely and low-key. We enjoyed our taste of Canada and only wish we'd had a Canadian beer to go with our dinner and sweet treat.

Now to plan for the next holiday/food/culture celebration... if you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them, otherwise I'm leaning towards one or a few of the following:

Memorial Day (one last May celebration)
Shavou'ot / Pentecost
Flag Day
St. Baptiste Day

Friday, May 6, 2011

Back... and ready to eat!

And we're back! That's right, I'm here with my very special Miss Niamh.

After months away from this blog, it's time to revive and freshen it. I now have a little girl and have been thinking of all the things I would want her to learn in her lifetime, especially while she's young and Patrick and I have influence of the subject matter. That said, yesterday was a holiday I like to acknowledge and celebrate, Cinco de Mayo. This is a mostly American holiday, I know many Americans and Mexican-Americans who like this holiday for the drink and festivities; however, I like the holiday because it is intended to celebrate the Mexican's independence from the French and because I love Mexican food.

It dawned on me last night, Patrick and I can have great fun teaching our daughter about the people of the world by acknowledging significant holidays and enjoying food from around the world. So last night, marks the beginning of what I hope will become a favourite memory for Niamh as she gets older and as a bonus will help her to know and love the people in this beautiful world we live in.

On the fifth of May many people in America and in certain areas in Mexico celebrate Mexican independence, this holiday, Cinco de Mayo, is one of my favourites even now as an American living abroad. I like the idea of remembering those who fought for their freedom and celebrating this annually, plus I love to eat, so why not learn and eat at the same time, might make for a good dinner conversation along the way.

To kick start my new idea, last night we enjoyed beef burritos. Ok, these aren't a traditional Cinco de Mayo food, but I figure every idea has to start somewhere. The ingredients for Mexican food are a bit difficult to come by in Ireland and at times you have to do your best and be a little open-minded and creative.

Cinco de Mayo Burritos for two - Irish style

1 pkg flour tortillas
1 pound ground beef (mince)
onion, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder
1/2 cup bulgar wheat
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 ripe avocado, mashed
1/2 cup salsa
Lettuce, tomato and avocado to garnish
Shredded cheese

Brown meat with onion and cook bulgar wheat, mix together in pan and season to your liking. Spoon mixture into tortilla shells and wrap into burritos, place in pan and sprinkle with shredded cheese. Heat in moderate oven until cheese melts. Meanwhile, in pan, mix together mashed avocado, salsa and yogurt over medium heat, this will top the burritos with other garnishes when the burritos are ready. Serve with your favourite cerveza and tortilla chips.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cinnabon - Cinnamon Rolls

After making Taco Pizza earlier this week, it dawned on me I could use the same dough mix for Cinnamon Rolls! Imagine my excitement and how pleased I felt with my idea.

Even though there's half a batch of Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies and a batch of mostly flopped Eclairs to be eaten or morphed into something else, I just felt the need for Cinnamon Rolls. Yummy, gooey, hot, sweet, melt-in-you-mouth goodness.

As I type, the Cinnamon Rolls are rising in a warm oven {Not quite double their size}. The frosting is made and my taste buds are anxiously waiting. Yes, I tasted the frosting, to make sure it will serve it's purpose atop the baked rolls. If all goes well, I'll be able to reminisce in my happy memories of enjoying Cinnamon Rolls and it will be a new sweet treat for Patrick, as he's never tasted Cinnamon Rolls before - so deprived!

My Great Grandmother's Cinnamon Roll recipe wasn't at my finger tips, so I decided to "loosely" follow Copy Kat's Cinnabon recipe. I've always enjoyed Cinnabon and while in Vancouver would trek out at lunch or for an afternoon break to enjoy a scrumptious Cinnabon. My friend and former colleague, Greg, was such a sport when I got a hankering for Cinnabon, Banana Split Blizzard....

Speaking of my Great Grandmother; she's the only one I ever met. She was German/Russian and spoke very little English. My mother enjoyed some of her recipes so much, one weekend mom picked Great Grandma up, brought her to our house and proceeded to work with Great Grandma (GG) to document her recipes. One of those being Cinnamon Rolls. Mom, stood beside GG and before GG could throw the handful or pinch of ingredients in the bowl, mom would measure the ingredient, write it down and preserve the recipe.

Honestly, I've never made Great Grandma's Cinnamon Rolls. I'm afraid of yeast, much like I'm afraid of custard. So I think while I'm in Colorado, I'll spend time with my Grandma Lauer and my Aunt Pam to learn the secrets of yeast doughs and custards-not-from-a-box. If I figure either out and shed the fear, I'll be sure to post about it here.

For now, it's time to turn up the flame on those Cinnamon Rolls, not sure I can wait much longer to see how they taste.

And the wait is over....

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Back in the Kitchen

So, I'm back in the kitchen. It's a nice feeling, although there are still a a few ingredients I'm steering clear of. Like onions and garlic.

In the last few weeks, I've been making foods I remember from my childhood. Comfort foods, I suppose, something my Irish mom tells me happens when you're expecting. All of a sudden, your body only wants those foods you enjoyed when you were younger. So far her words haven't been too far from my experience as I've made Chicken Chalupa, Tuna Tetrazzini, Pork Chops and Creamy Rice, Grandma Lauer's Dill Dip, among other things. It's amazing what the right food + an iron supplement + the 2nd trimester can do for a persons hunger, nausea, and starvation feelings!

One of the foods I've really had a hankering for is Donuts. As it turns out, Ireland, like Canada, is really not hip on Donuts. Sure you can find a Jelly Filled or Chocolate Glazed at Tesco; however, these just don't really cut-it when you've tasted Hostess Donettes or Dunkin Donuts, a Chocolate Raise Glazed from Safeway, heck even a fresh of the belt Krispy Kreme. Yes. I admit, I LOVE Donuts and with that love comes a discerning taste bud.

When you want a Donut, this is not an easy void to fill. My parents are wonderful, FULL STOP. A few weeks back they sent us a care package with Coffee for Patrick and Chocolate Covered Hostess Donettes for me. The Best Before Date gave us about 3 days to polish off the two bags of Donettes and lets just say there wasn't a crumb left at sunset on the third day.

All that aside, I found a recipe for Chocolate Eclairs on the Copy Kat Recipes website. I'm thinking, this fancy Donut, just might do the trick until I can get myself to a Dunkin Donuts!

So, I'm going to give these babies a whirl, turns out I have all the ingredients in the press, even a can of whipped cream so we can have two versions. Chocolate Eclairs with Homemade Custard and Chocolate Eclairs with Whipped Cream. I think it will be a calorie-filled day in Hog Heaven. I'll let you know how they turn out!

Now go find yourself a Donut Shop and enjoy a Baker's Dozen for me!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Grandma Lauer's Recipes

A handful of years ago, while I was still living in Vancouver, I worked with my Grandma Lauer to collect all the recipes she's made over the years into one place, a cookbook for all of her kids and grandkids, even great grandkids who love everything she makes.

At the time, it made perfect sense to put these recipes and some of her favourite quotes onto disks that I could share with the family at Christmas. Personally, I was happy with the idea and the result and consider myself the lucky one in that I got to bond with my Grandma through something we both enjoy - food, plus I have the original notebook with her hand writing and all the notes back and forth.

An email from my Aunt Pam, earlier today, got me thinking that I would like to introduce Patrick to one of Grandma's Jell-O salads for the upcoming 4th of July. Alas, it's one of a handful of recipes we forgot to include. The first recipe I noticed that we omitted were her famous Dunk Pancakes. Something she makes for any of us that show up for breakfast, if you're extra lucky sometimes she'll have homemade sausage from her sister Rose. I justified this omission in a rather selfish way - figuring it would be a wonderful way for my family to connect with Grandma, instead, most still show up expecting this special treat and some never visit at all. Another recipe we left out of the mix is her Dill Dip. What makes this dip unique is that it has Beau Monde and Worcestershire Sauce. Again I had a justification for leaving this one out, as she submitted it for the Lauer Family Cookbook and lucky me, I have a copy. All this aside, I have no written account of her Jell-O Salad, one I have happy childhood memories of. Sometimes pink, sometimes red, sometimes orange, but always with this lovely, marshmallow-like layer on top! Perfect for a summer picnic and for my Irishman who is not familiar with many of the dishes I enjoyed growing up in the States.

Thankfully, Grandma Lauer is still alive and cooking! If only she were on email, it would make it easier and cheaper and quicker to get the recipe. Instead, I've just sent an email to Mom, to relay the request to Grandma. Which makes me wonder if any of my cousins take the time to make any of Grandma's recipes or if they simply take for granted that she will always be in her kitchen cooking for all of us. Ah well, I have the love and appreciation to carry on her tradition of sharing her love through her cooking and baking.

We were able to work together in the kitchen, for the first time while she visited us here in Ireland. It was a truly special time for her and for me. On this occasion we enjoyed the Chocolate Swiss Role Cake I like to make (not one of her recipes). And on another occasion she made me Stiff Cocoa, a hot drink she used to serve to her children with buttered toast. They enjoyed it like a soup (of course, one more recipe not included in the cookbook).

I suppose, at the end of the day, that's why books go through so many revisions and reprints. Although, in this case, I'm not sure we'll do a re-write, so instead, I'll just keep adding these uncovered recipes, as I find them, to my notebook and look forward to sharing them with the people I love and in-turn with anyone interested in this blog.

Thank you Grandma, for all the love you've given me, for sharing your love of food and for taking the time to share your recipes with me. I couldn't ask for more.

Sure hope Patrick likes Grandma's Jell-O Salad - stay tuned for the verdict!

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Staple for Anyone who loves Mexican Food

My parents and grandmother visited us last week. It was a fun, food filled week and it sounds like they all went home a few pounds heavier! That's my idea of a good holiday.

While they were here, my Irish mother introduced us to a few new stores in Galway City Centre. One being an "international" farmers' market. Amidst many familiar and some new fruits, veggies and root veggies I spotted a basket of green chilies - similar to those roasted on the roadside in Colorado and New Mexico and other states influenced by Mexican food and culture. It was difficult to contain my excitement as I paid 2 euros for 8 smallish green chilies - and to think at Wal-Mart in Colorado I could buy 8 cans of already roasted and peeled chilies for the same amount. Ah well, to introduce Patrick to one of my favourite Mexican food experiences, the price is worth it!

I know, i know, Green Chili is really a New Mexican food; but in Colorado, I was raised that most foods/restaurants that served chips and salsa, burritos and margaritas were Mexican Food. So bare with me.

Anywho, I've just peeled the meat from the skin of my roasted green chilies and I've got my aunts recipe in hand, which is really quite simple and I'm ready to cook up some homemade Green Chili to pour over our burritos this evening.

If you love Green Chili as much as I do, try my Aunt Pam's recipe, it's simple and delicious

Cube about 1 lb. of pork, I usually pick up cheap pork chops.
Brown the meat with a bit of flour, with salt and pepper in a little oil. Once browned and crisp on the outside:

Add a can of chopped tomatoes and 1 - 2 cans green chilies (in my case, I'm adding the meat of 8 smallish green chilies)

If the sauce is really thick, add some water.

Add cumin to taste. Allow the Green Chili to stew for about 30 - 450 minutes and enjoy with your favourite Mexican food dish, or with a handful of good tortillas chips.

That's it! Enjoy this Mexican Food Staple and be sure to share it with your loved ones.

All the best from Ireland!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ready. Set. Go!

As I type, there is 1 day, 15 hours and 46 minutes until my parents and Grandma arrive in Ireland! Pretty exciting considering they were supposed to be here a month ago and couldn't fly due to the giant plume of ash from Iceland. Now that plume of ash is being pushed far enough north and east that their flight will be able to touch down at Shannon Airport on Friday morning.

All excitement aside, it's time to get ready for their visit. The house is in order: beds are dressed, towels are hung, mementos made, bogs and floors are clean. This morning I layered Ice Cream with homemade apple jam, blackberry jam and honey - that's in the freezer. All that's left to do is bake Crackers, make an Apple and Blackberry Crumble, and prepare the Fish Pie. These things I won't prepare until tomorrow, so they'll be near enough to fresh for Friday.

Crackers are easy enough and great to have for snacks with crab or smoked fish and cheese. I stumbled upon a recipe this past winter and have adapted it to be my own. I make the recipe similar to Soda Crackers and usually add an extra teaspoon of soda, seasoning and a bit of bran. They're so tasty and I usually can't stop eating them when they're fresh from the oven. I have found, (maybe it's our oven) that the crackers take a bit longer to bake, which is usually no bother, so long as I don't forget and burn them. I'll bake these in the morning.

While the crackers are baking and since I'll have the oven on I'll prepare the Crumble, only thing is I don't have Bramley Apples which equates to less tart. No bother. Crumbles are a beautiful reminder of summer and they're handy enough to make. If there's any left, I'll have to take a bit down to our neighbour Eileen. She enjoys my baking nearly as much as Patrick and considering she gave us a bag of turf, it's the least I can do to show my gratitude for her kindness and friendship.

Last dish to prepare is the Fish Pie. I have to say, I'm not 100% on board with the idea of "Fish" in Pie. I have this phobia of fish in any "broth" or "sauce", something about the juices makes me cringe. Nevertheless, Patrick has ensured me it is very good and I will learn to love Fish Pie as much as I love him. We'll see!!! To ease me into this new dish, I'll be doing minimal prep work which entails slicing the veggies for the pie and making the mushroom sauce that everything will be mixed into. I'll get this all ready once I've finished the Crackers and Crumble. Once Patrick's home from fishing, he'll assemble the pie. To keep the meal light and easy on our visitor's stomachs we'll have a light salad with the Pie and save room for the Crumble and Ice Cream.

What I didn't mention is that Patrick will be making up a big dirty frying, traditional Irish Breakfast, when we arrive home from the airport. That' should be a wake up to the taste buds and will certainly require a bit of fresh air and exercise before we get to lunch or dinner. Sure hope grandma is up for the experience!

However it all turns out, we've got a great week to look forward to! Stay tuned for recipes, pictures and posts about my families time in Ireland.