Sunday, January 30, 2011

Zuppa du Jour

Life has been busy and I haven't been cooking as much as usual lately. Well that isn't quite true... I still have been cooking, but I've been relying on tried and true recipes that I make each year, which are mostly almost all already on my blog. Which (amongst my complete lack of time lately) is one reason I haven't been blogging lately. Hopefully, once our renovations are completely done (will I ever see the day??) and my house is once again organized (as if!), I'll have more time to try new recipes again.

In any case... I made this soup last night for our lunches for the next few days. My friend April gave this recipe to me many years ago and I used to make it all of the time, but just got out of the habit of making it. I saw it in my recipe book the other day and had it whipped up in no time tonight. It really only takes a few minutes, so it's great when you're in a pinch for a quick meal.

6 slices bacon, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp. each marjoram, thyme
1/2 tsp. each oregano, rosemary
2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil or 2 tsp. dried
1/4 C chopped fresh parsley (I just threw in some dried)
1/2 tsp. hot pepper flakes
5 C chicken stock
28 oz. can Italian tomatoes, chopped
2/3 C baby shell pasta (I used whole-wheat macaroni)
14 oz. can artichoke hearts (12-14 count), drained and cut into wedges
salt and pepper to taste
grated parmesan cheese to sprinkle (optional)

1. In a large heavy pot, cook bacon, onions, celery, garlic, herbs and hot pepper flakes, until onions are softened.

2. Stir in stock and tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Add pasta. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes or until pasta is just tender (12 minutes for macaroni).

3. Stir in artichokes and season to taste. Serve with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

Makes 6 servings.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Fondant au Chocolat

I made these cakes in early December to take to our friends, Cynthia and Mike's, annual Chranukkah party. The theme is always chocolate and we always try to find a new recipe to bring each year. I chose this, as I had become somewhat obsessed with 'les fondants au chocolat' while in France this past fall, after having an absolutely amazing one from Pizza Hut, of all places. My dad has sent me a few other recipes for these which I had intended on trying, though that will probably not be for awhile now that Jerome has diabetes. But these ones are pretty delicious, both cold and warm. They will disappear in an instant. They are extremely rich though, so be warned...

200g of dark chocolate (minimum 60%)
8 squares of the same chocolate
220g butter
160g sugar
120g flour
4 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Farenheit.

2. Boil water in a pot. Place a smaller pot in the pot of water and melt the chocolate in the butter as quickly as possible. Let cool.

3. Beat the eggs and sugar until the mixture becomes a golden yellow. Add the flour and mix with a spatula. Gently fold in the chocolate mixture.

4. Fill well buttered muffin tins (I used the silicone tins and didn't need to butter them) half full. Place one square of chocolate into the middle of each muffin tin and then fill to near the top with the batter.

5. Bake for approximately 15 minutes and then let sit for 15 minutes before taking them out of the tins.

When properly baked, the cakes should be cooked on the edges, but the centre should be runny. You will have to play with them with your oven to see how long you need to cook them. The difference between them being properly cooked, a bit too raw, or overcooked can be a question of only half a minute. The magic number in my oven was 11 1/2-12 minutes. When I first made these, you can cook just one to test it, before putting the rest of the batch in, just so that you don't risk overcooking the whole batch (as the runny centres are key to these).

These cakes can be eaten either cold or warm. When warm, the chocolate centre will be melted. To reheat them, place one in the microwave for 10-15 seconds.

Variations: replace the chocolate square in the middle of the cakes with a white chocolate square, peanut butter chips, mint chocolate chips, etc.

Makes 8 cakes.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Zucchini Soup and Hot Coconut-Ginger Shrimp

Let me start by wishing everyone the best for the upcoming year. I hope that everyone had a wonderful holiday, had time to relax with friends and family and of course, enjoyed some wonderful food over the holidays. I was lucky enough yet again to not be the one doing the cooking this year :) Which was further simplified by us not having our New Year's Eve party this year, though we'll get back to that again next year (mark it on your calendars!).

This blog has become a bit of a Dear Diary at times... settle in, as this is a long one... lots going on these days...

2010 was a bit of a challenging year for us. Well... not the whole year. Particularly the fall. The whole having a baby part of it turned out to be not quite as challenging as I had anticipated. But there's been quite a bit going on otherwise that has kept us running for the better part of the past few months. Though I'm sure that throwing a baby in on top of it all hasn't made things any easier, even if we do have a relatively easy baby (and I thank God for that, as I think that otherwise I'd have lost my marbles!). I have decided that recent events are all about me learning to refine my coping skills :) And I have to say, I feel that we're doing quite well, given all that's been going on lately. I've even managed to still cook/bake fairly regularly and get some recipes up on here regardless.

I feel like we literally haven't stopped since early September when we got the call that Jerome's mom was quite ill. I had thoroughly enjoyed my time at home with Logan prior to that, but feel that I've barely had a moment since to just sit down and enjoy him. I'm hoping that 2011 will restore some of the balance that we had in our lives prior to the busy rhythm that our lives have taken of late.

We went from rushing over to France, to having my mother-in-law pass away, and all of the associated stresses of losing a loved one, arranging a funeral and emptying out the apartment where my husband grew up in just a few short weeks. And all of that with a 5 month old...

Upon our return home, we found out that Logan hadn't been putting on adequate weight and was considered failure to thrive. This had gone unnoticed, as we skipped our 4 month visit, since we had to leave suddenly for France. This led to a flurry of different visits to try to figure out the cause of his lack of weight gain. I think that we had 11 different doctors' appointments in 5 0r 6 weeks for him, in addition to meetings with nutritionists and a couple of physio appointments, as our pediatrician was also concerned about his motor development (which I decided to follow up on even though my gut telling me that he seemed ok).

I'm happy to report that the physio recently told me that his development is within the normal range. He had also put on quite a bit of weight at his last pediatrician's appointment (so much that the pediatrician joked he was going to send him to Weight Watchers). We have another appointment with him in a couple of weeks and if Logan continues to put on good weight, this will lead to the end of the harrying schedule of appointments we've been keeping up lately (cross your fingers for me, as I'm sick of running around!). Alternatively, if his weight doesn't continue to improve, it will lead to a whole new set of referrals to gastro and genetics to look at possible causes. My gut tells me that the lack of weight gain is due to his reflux, which has apparently been particularly bad for a baby, but much better since they doubled his dose of Prevacid. So I'm not terribly worried, but feel a bit run-down on certain days from having to run to so many appointments (don't they know that parents have their own appointments to run to as well???).

Oh... and did I mention that we've been in the middle of renovations since mid-July?? I CAN'T WAIT for them to finally finish so that I can put everything back where it belongs and finally be able to walk in all of the rooms of my house again. Never mind the sawdust. I've just given up cleaning it up every day and just thank my lucky stars that Logan isn't crawling yet and getting into the mess. We are now having our basement finished so that we'll have a play room for him. Which will be fantastic, as I am already more than sick of tripping over his toys everywhere, and he's only 8 months old. I'm sure it would only get much worse as he gets older. They've promised us that it will be done by March at latest, so here's hoping...

I was finally starting to feel like I was getting back to a 'normal' level of activity when we got a call from the doctor a week before Christmas that he needed to see my husband, further to a routine physical and blood work. Uh oh was my first thought... that can't be good...

Well, I guess that in the grand scheme of things, it could have been a lot worse, as he doesn't have anything fatal. It turns out that he's diabetic. Which came to us as a complete surprise. And the doctor suspects from some other things in his blood work that he has a genetic blood disorder called hemochromatosis that has caused the diabetes. Basically, this disorder leads to accumulation of iron in different tissues of the body, which eventually damages different organs. The doctor suspects that this has caused his pancreas to stop working, leading to diabetes. We consider ourselves lucky, as the first symptoms could have been in his heart or lungs, which would have had much more serious consequences. He was tested yesterday for hemochromatosis and we will find out shortly whether or not that is the cause of the diabetes. Either way, he has diabetes. And I suspect that our year to come will still include a fair share of craziness for the next little while, as he will most surely have many different medical appointments to go to to figure out exactly what is going on. But at least everything is treatable, manageable and ultimately, he is likely going to be just fine, even if he does have hemochromatosis.

So although we generally eat a
relatively healthy, varied diet, this will most certainly have an impact on my future cooking (and particularly baking!). I made the cheesecake recipe that I just posted to take with us to dinner last night with Splenda instead of sugar and it worked out just fine. So I guess my blog will reflect that... though I'm sure I'll still make the occasional treat when we have people over. And I'll definitely do my best to modify our favourites as best as I can.

The many, many events of the past few months have led me to realize that I don't want to go back to work in April. Which is kind of hilarious, as my mom reminded me how insistent I was, even after Logan was born, that I wanted to return to work. But I feel like my mat leave was a bit stolen from me, with everything that has been going on. And I just want some time to hang out with him and relax... So I've decided to not go back to work, at least for the next little while. No real decisions just yet as to when I will return and I haven't even yet requested a formal leave from McGill beyond September (even though I don't intend to go back just then)... Ultimately, my intention is to not return until after eventually having a second baby. But we'll have to see how things go. Wow how life changes so quickly!!! I intend to fully enjoy the next few months, as I know that we can't afford for me to stay off of work indefinitely. But I look forward to cherishing my time at home with Logan and just enjoying the fun of watching him discover new things every day, as I did in his first few months of life.

So for those of you to whom I still owe an e-mail (and there are many of you!), here is my explanation as to why I haven't gotten back to you yet, even if it has been a couple of months... I will dig through my inbox as soon as I have a chance.

And with that, I will now get on to the recipes. Clearly, that is the only reason anyone looks at this anyhow :)

We had this wonderful soup at Heather's on New Year's Eve last night. I called her first thing this morning to get the recipe to make some myself. I doubled the recipe to have lots to stick in the freezer. She had made it with a mixture of cream and milk, which was clearly delicious. I decided to treat ourselves for the holidays and did the same, though I will typically probably make it with milk. I used brown rice in this, as (1) that's the only kind of rice I had in the house and (2) it's better for Jerome's diabetes anyhow. But I suspect Heather's had white rice in it, as it puréed a bit more smoothly than mine did (or maybe that was your hand blender??).

Zucchini Soup

1 onion
1 apple
2 tbsp. butter (omit to make it dairy-free)
1 tsp. curry powder
4 C vegetable broth
2 zucchini, not peeled
1/4 C rice
1 C any combination of cream/milk/water

1. Melt butter in a pot. Peel apple and roughly chop into 4 chunks. Chop onion into a few large pieces. Add curry powder and sauté for 10 minutes.

2. Add broth and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the zucchini and rice. Simmer for 20 minutes. Blend in blender or food processor. Add cream/milk water.

I also made this shrimp dish for dinner, though I realized as I was making it that there is sugar in both soy sauce and the hot chili-garlic sauce. So it's likely something that I won't make often. I served this with a small portion of quinoa instead of rice, as it has a lower glycemic index and is therefore better for diabetes.

Hot Coconut-Ginger Shrimp

1 lb. large shrimp, fresh or frozen, raw or cooked
1/4 C finely minced fresh ginger
14 oz. can light coconut milk
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. hot chili-garlic sauce
2 C snow peas
1/2 sweet red pepper (optional)
3 green onions, thinly sliced
fresh coriander leaves
1 lime

1. Shrimp shells may be left on or removed. Devein shrimp and set aside.

2. Combine finely minced, peeled ginger, coconut milk, soy sauce, sesame oil and chili-garlic sauce in a wide saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring often, over medium-high heat. Boil gently, uncovered and stirring often, until sauce is very thick, from 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, trim snow peas. Seed pepper, if using, then slice into matchstick-size pieces.

3. Reduce sauce until it just covers bottom of pan and measures about 1/2 C. If making ahead, remove sauce from heat and leave, covered, at room temperature for several hours or refrigerate.

4. Just before serving, add shrimp, snow peas, pepper, if using, and onions to hot sauce. Stir almost constantly until shrimp are hot and bright pink, from 2 to 4 minutes. Serve over rice or rice noodles. Sprinkle with coriander and squeeze a little lime juice overtop.

Makes 4 servings.

The soup is freezer-friendly, but the shrimp is not.