Summer is a great time of the year to experiment with fun cocktails.You can use fresh fruits and herbs, play with various juices and all kinds of ingredients.
I really like taking an common drink and turn it into a more exotic one. Here we have a basically a Mint Julep with a more ginger twist. I know everyone is into Mojitos like mad but I like Bourbon so Mint Juleps are favored in my home. How about you? Or have this Ginger Julep Cocktail and then let me know your favorite hi hi.
Tasty reading ahead, KEEP GOING… →
Contrary to popular belief summers in Montreal can be incredibly hot and humid. Montreal is actually an island so when you are surrounded by water the humidity levels can skyrocket, both in sweltering summer and chilling winter. Right now we are in a second bought of a heat wave. it is currently 27 C (84 F) with a humidity factor that makes it feel like 34 C (97F).
At work we are freezing with the air conditioner (I am happy); in the buses and subways one wants to pass out, and at home well it depends on each person’s set up. Do you have an air conditioner? If so is it a window, central or portable one?
Tasty reading ahead, KEEP GOING… →
As you know I often have friends over participating in my kitchen, especially for the daring kitchen challenges.We always have a blast and the same friends often come back for more. Well this time the tables were turned, so to speak. My great friend Karyn has been my guest sous-chef several times and has performed many stunt appearances on this blog lol. This time she had us over to here place for a whole weekend. Yes this dates back about 6 months already when the leaves were green and coats were laughable. Her breakfast treat was such a hit I asked her to write up a post on it. And finally here it is. Take it away Karyn….
Finally, after talking about it since last summer, the time had come. Evelyne and Raquel were coming to my house for a sleepover! Guest rooms (OK, I only have one) and the couch were prepared, the kitties preened and I made darn sure that the pool was ready to be swam in, since Evelyne had warned me, come Hell or high water, she was swimming! Once I located my guests, at the locations they were supposed to.. or maybe not supposed to meet me at, we went to my place. That night, we had a nice BBQ of my home made hamburgers and hot dogs (veggie burgers and soy dogs for the lovely Raquel), and that hit the spot for all of us, in between the dangerous libations that Evelyne was mixing up in the kitchen.
The next morning, it was a quiet and slow start… I awoke to find one of my guests was missing! Upon some investigations, I realized that Raquel had not been abducted by aliens (because aliens would have left the sheets and blankets right there, and they were gone too!) She had simply moved downstairs during the night as it was cooler in the basement.
Slowly, both of my guests awoke and made their way upstairs and we all sat on the deck, praying to our coffees and trying to wake up. After a few coffees it was time for breakfast, and I had prepared to make the standard fixings of eggs and bacon for my friends, along with cinnamon raisin bagels that we had picked up the day before along with a basket of beautiful perfect peaches, that Evelyne and I agreed to split. While sitting out on the deck and talking about food (duh, what else.. ) I had a thought! I know what I can make with these lovely peaches, that will be so much more impressive than plain ol’ bacon and eggs! I leaped out of my chair and scurried to get my Martha Stewart cookbook. For my special guests, I was going to make Dutch pancakes! Now, my friends are great friends, not only because of their awesome greatness, but also because we are close enough, and cook together often enough, that I knew they would give me a hand in the kitchen. I set Raquel up with a cutting board and the peaches to slice up for me, while I made the batter. Somewhere along the way, Evelyne took over and Raquel later assumed dish washing duty, which was so appreciated. I even noted to them that the last time I made this recipe, it was for a special someone, and that he never offered to wash the dishes… making me reconsider who I should be cooking for in the future.
So this scrumptious recipe is started with some butter and honey in the pan to start, then adding in the peaches (the recipe calls for apples) to caramelize and soften the fruit. Well, I had some maple syrup in the fridge, and decided to mark this special occasion of finally having my friends (and first house guests!) over by making two versions, the first with honey and the second with the maple syrup in the pan. The peaches were laid over top of the caramelized mixture, and then topped with the batter that I had made while the peaches were being sliced, and into the oven they both went. In a little while, the house started to smell like the most wonderful mixture of peaches, honey, maple syrup and just good sweetness.
Raquel set a beautiful table outside for us, and we indulged in some apple cider with our breakfast. The dutch pancakes came out beautifully and we ate to our hearts content, sampling each version. I can’t say that the difference is very noticeable between the two versions, but they were both delicious and make a beautiful presentation.
Served with an apple cider
Dutch Baby Pancake
- 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch wedges (we used peaches)
- 1/3 cup honey (we did 2, one with honey and one with maple syrup)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 3 large eggs
- 3/4 cup milk
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
- Heat oven to 400 degrees. Heat a well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet over high heat. Add butter. When melted, add apple wedges. Cook until softened and lightly golden, about 2 minutes. Stir in honey and cardamom, and remove skillet from heat.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients, except confectioners’ sugar, until smooth. Pour over apple mixture. Bake until puffed and brown, about 20 minutes. Slide pancake onto a serving platter. Serve immediately, cut into wedges, with confectioners’ sugar sifted over the top.
Read more at Marthastewart.com: Dutch Baby Pancake – Martha Stewart Recipes
Of course one of my favorite fruits would have a season that lasts about the length of a slow blink of the eye. Raspberries have always been a favorite of mine. I love their taste, their look, their feel. They compliment chocolate so well too. You can find them in jams, pies, puddings, cookies, ice creams, sorbets, coulis, cobblers and mousses.
And raspberries have become a yearly tradition at my parent’s cottage. A local farm opened shop on their raspberry production maybe 20 years ago. And they are not 15 minutes away on foot. When in season, getting fresh from that morning berries at a much cheaper price is a normal treat. You can pick them yourself or call ahead to reserve a basket. Alas the last couple of years have cut down my visits to the cottage so I only get them from the Ferme Sarazin once a year (they also sell naturally raised pigs, the whole thing or the cuts you want).
This year I got a pint of them. That is a lot of raspberries so I decided to use half in a recipe. But I was feeling really lazy too so I used a cake mix. Please don’t shoot me! I know its bad, nothing beats a cake from scratch. I just succumbed and took the easy road out. But it was really good!
Lazy Chocolate Raspberry Cake
1 package chocolate cake mix
eggs as per cake mix (I needed 3)
oil as per cake mix (I needed 1/2 cup)
3 cups fresh raspberries (or mix of berries, I had a few blueberries)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
Pre-heat the oven to 350°F degrees and grease a 13×9 inch baking dish or pan.
Mix the cake mix as per directions on the box. Pour the cake batter into the baking dish or pan.
Sprinkle berries on top of the batter. Cover everything with the heavy cream.
Bake for about 60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool before serving.
And with the magic of the oven all your berries are now at the bottom of the dish. Yep I was surprised too. Make sure to keep a few extra raspberries for decoration and a bit of cream. I just poured a couple of table spoons on my plate before serving the cake portion. You could whip the cream too and put a dollop on top.
Please forgive my cake mix, it was hot, I was lazy! Of course you could do your favorite cake recipe instead. I also chose this pan format for convenience but for a fancier occasion you could divide the batter, berries and cream into 2 layer cake pans and make a 2 layer cake, perhaps with a raspberry whip cream frosting! Warning, it is extremely rich in taste with all the cream so go easy on it lol.
I was recently asked to try out Kraft’s new Sizzling Salads collect. These packages contain each 1 dressing for the salad and 1 marinade for the meat. They are all four ethnic flavored:Greek, Asian, Southwest and Caesar. I was sent the first 3 to test. Let me take a break here and let you read Kraft’s “schpeel” on their Sizzling Salads….
Kraft is inspiring Canadians to turn over a new leaf and change the way they enjoy salads. As a leading salad expert, Kraft is sharing its fresh thinking with delicious new ways to dress up your greens: restaurant-inspired Kraft Sizzling Salads entrée salad kits are an innovative addition to the grocery aisle; pure Kraft Refrigerated Dressings offer unique recipes and premium ingredients; and the entire Kraft dressing line-up has been reinvented to offer only natural flavours. Finally, your greens are getting the attention they deserve!
Available in the salad dressing aisle, each Kraft Sizzling Salads kit (SRP $4.29) perfectly pairs a cooking sauce for your chicken with a complementary dressing for your greens. Take your salad beyond a simple side with these delicious choices:
- Kraft Asian Chicken Sizzling Salads kit pairs Teriyaki Ginger cooking sauce with Toasted Sesame Dressing
- Kraft Chicken Caesar Sizzling Salads kit pairs Cracked Black Pepper Cooking Sauce with Classic Caesar Dressing
- Kraft Southwest Chicken Sizzling Salads kit pairs Spicy Fajita Cooking Sauce with Barbecue Ranch Dressing
- Kraft Greek Chicken Sizzling Salads kit pairs Lemon Oregano Cooking Sauce with Mediterranean Feta Dressing
That is all nice but are they any good? To find out I put them to the test. There are of course suggested recipes for each pairing and I used one for inspiration but I took it wayyyy out of the comfort zone boundary. I knew I was making this for Sunday dinner and I happened to be in Chinatown on Saturday afternoon. I picked up a few unusual items for my version….
(Really) Asian Chicken Sizzling Salads
makes 2 servings of 2 cups each
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tsp oil
¼ cup Kraft Sizzling Salads Teriyaki Ginger Cooking Sauce
400 gr pre-cooked udon noodles package
6 cups baby spinach leaves
1 cup shredded carrot, red cabbage, brocoli stem, leek (or what you like)
¼ cup Kraft Sizzling Salads Toasted Sesame Dressing
1 clementine, segmented
10 chestnuts, quartered
handful logans, shelled
4 lotus rootlets, diced
paper thin slivers of fresh ginger
- Marinate chicken breasts 30 min before cooking.
- In a pan heat 1/2 tsp oil and lightly cook the shredded veggies. Set aside in a bowl.
- Heat 1/2 tsp oil in pan and cook chicken completely (15-20 min)
- In the mean time arrange udon noodles on two plates and divide spinach over noodles.
- On top add the cooked shredded veggies.
- Pour dressing over salad.
- When chicken is ready remove from pan and cut into strips. Place cut chicken on top of salad.
- Arrange remaining ingredients decoratively on top, finishing with the ginger.
So how was the salad with the Kraft Sizzling Salads combo? Honestly, really really good. I thought the chicken had a wonderful flavor and found the dressing very tangy, tasty and refreshing. I have not tried the other two flavors yet but if they follow the quality of the Asian kit I would recommend it without hesitation. And how was my salad ingredient mix…awesome except for the logans. They really had no business being there. Hey its trial and error right?