Tuesday, January 31, 2012


valentines day is fast approaching, and with it, feelings of anxiety.
expectations can be so high, unnecessarily so, and then comes the frenzied planning to fulfill those expectations.

wouldn't it just be nice to hang out at home and enjoy a tasty dinner & bottle of wine without the pressure of making a reservation at the 'right' spot? listening to the conversations of the couples beside you at the restaurant? stressing over parking, driving conditions & what to wear?

my answer is yes to all of the above & thought it might be sort of fun to provide an alternative.

i'm offering a valentines day special menu of a three-course dinner for two delivered to your door on february 14th. appetizer, main course & dessert with detailed heating and plating instructions to create a restaurant-style meal in the comfort of your own home.

here's the menu:

choice of soup or salad

lightly curried butternut squash soup with a cardamom cream, spiced maple and toasted pepitas

roasted beet salad with candied walnuts, pickled red onions, arugula & balsamic vinaigrette

choice of beef, chicken or vegetarian

boeuf bourguignon with parmesan mashed potatoes, cremini mushrooms, glazed carrots & wilted kale

herb roasted chicken breast with bacon & blue cheese gnocchi, caramelized onions, spinach & natural jus

root vegetable lasagna with sweet potato, cauliflower, oven-dried tomatoes, roasted garlic bechamel & goat cheese


decadent chocolate brownies with chocolate ganache, strawberries & cream

passionfruit tarts with italian meringue & raspberry coulis

red velvet cupcakes with a chocolate filling and cream cheese frosting

beef   $55          chicken  $60          vegetarian  $50

just so i don't have a mental breakdown, the meal has to be the same for both people, but i am more than willing to accommodate dietary restrictions & allergies. delivery will take place between 4 & 6pm on valentines day - and if by chance you're home from work earlier than that, even better.

most people are used to frozen meals from me, but for this special occasion everything will be prepared fresh to cut down on cooking times & i promise to include super detailed instructions to eliminate the margin for error.

i'll be accepting orders until february 11th. they can be sent to jennadurling@hotmail.com, to 850-2465 or you can just place an order with me over the weekend at the market if you're interested. upon delivery, payment can be made by cash or cheque or prior to that with an interac e-mail money transfer.

ok, hope this sounds awesome to tons of folks - look forward to hearing from you.

Friday, January 27, 2012

it's baaaaaack

lobster mac & cheese is back on the menu.
it's got all of the usual suspects: creamy leek bechamel, roasted cherry tomatoes, panko crust, foxhill cheese curds & big chunks of lobster meat.
small $12.5 large $25

there are also three fresh salads to choose from (all vegan):
4 bean - sprouted lentils, adzuki & mung beans, fresh green beans, red onion, red pepper, celery, dijon dressing, dill & parsley.
quinoa - olives, artichokes, sundried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, capers, cucumber, red onion, garlic, lemon & arugula.
wheatberry - noggins beets, shaved fennel, oranges, red onion, tarragon, garlic & red wine vinaigrette.

we're also celebrating chinese new year at the market. on sunday starting at 10am there will be lots of fun events going on, including a dragon! join in the party with some good luck foods like my udon noodle soup from the freezer & i'm also making some special tangerine cupcakes for the weekend.

here's a quick glimpse of what's in the freezer:
boeuf bourguignon $25
british seafood pie s $11 l $22
curried chicken & chickpeas $20
chicken, leek, broccoli & bacon pies $10
shepherd's pies s $9 l $18
plain or broccoli mac & cheese s $9 l $18
fish cakes & baked beans $15
vegan sweet potato stew with rice & beans s $9 l $18
asparagus strata $15

and i may have gotten a little carried away with the soups lately...
curried butternut squash (vegan)
thai chicken & rice
beef stew
pork posole
white bean, lemon & kale (vegan)
miso mushroom with udon & choy (vegan)
beet, parsnip & pear (vegan)
roasted red pepper, sweet potato & tomato (vegetarian)
vegetable stew (vegan)
chili (vegan)
french onion with beer & cheese (vegetarian)
hearty chicken stew
cream of cauliflower (vegetarian)
potato leek (vegetarian)
lentil & veggie (vegan)

yeah, i think 15 flavours is enough...

ok baking beckons - cheesecakes, tarts, brownies, squares, cupcakes, cookies, macaroons.
see you over the weekend.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

i heart julia

julia child is one of the main reasons why i started cooking, why i wear pearls, why i went to le cordon bleu & why i have a le creuset collection. her unabashed love of butter, proper french technique & outrageousness in the kitchen gave me the cooking bug at an early age. when i was a little girl, i would watch baking with julia every saturday on pbs. it was just amazing to me what was possible in the kitchen. the accompanying cookbook is a beautiful thing & was also the first 'grown up' cookbook i ever got... it still has the tag in it from christmas '96.

what was so great about julia, was that she didn't cut any corners, unlike most of the drivel on the food network these days (rachael ray, i'm talking to you). she showed people that if you followed the steps properly, and took the time & care required you would always be rewarded with a wonderful dish.

last week i was in a boeuf bourguignon frame of mind - perhaps the most famous of julia's recipes given the popularity of the movie julie & julia. normally i don't follow recipes when i'm cooking but thought this would be fun...

so i started off with stewing beef from getaway farm. the key to developing all of the flavour in beef is to properly brown it off. the trick for getting the best sear is to pat it dry first - instead of sticking to the pan, it will cook up nicely and release naturally (the same goes for most other proteins - particularly sea scallops).

i just blotted it on some brown paper towels and cooked up the bacon in the meantime. for this recipe, of course that had to be done in a le creuset pan.

once the bacon is crispy and all the fat has rendered, remove it from the pan and begin to cook off the beef in the bacon fat - either open a window or disable your smoke detector for this part! the trick is to not overcrowd the pan. work in batches because a single layer at a time is more than enough.

this took awhile given the quantity that i was producing so i had my mirepoix cooking off at the same time. a classic mirepoix is just onion, celery & carrot and is at the root of a fair number of classic french dishes. i wanted in to cook down nicely so i cut it pretty small and threw in some bay leaves and minced garlic for good measure. this was done in a large roasting pan and as each batch of beef was browned off i could just fire it in on top. 

when all of the beef was done, my poor pan looked a little sad.

but that's the beauty of deglazing. when it's still smoking hot, just pour in some red wine, scrape up all the yummy bits off the bottom with a wooden spoon & you're good to go.

julia's recipe calls for a young & light-bodied red wine. this is the wine i've been using lately for cooking. it still tastes pretty good & the price is definitely right given that the recipe calls for 3 cups of it and i was making a double batch...

so add all the wine into the casserole dish along with beef stock (i just used water - i figure if you do a good enough job browning off the meat, you don't have to rely on stock to add flavour - sorry julia, blasphemy i know) and a healthy dollop of tomato paste - it gives great body & richness as it cooks down.

cover & fire it in the oven until the meat is falling apart. i finished it with a little butter, sauteed mushrooms & chopped flat-leaf parsley which really brightens it up after a long cooking time.

i served it with parmesan mashed potatoes with roasted garlic, white turnips, glazed carrots & roasted brussels sprouts.

i guess it went over pretty well, i'm already sold out of smalls & have 2 or 3 larges left... don't worry though, i think i'll be adding this one to the permanent rotation. and don't be afraid to try this on your own - the exact measurements and instructions are all over the internet.

and as julia would say - 'bon appetit!'

Friday, January 20, 2012

comfort food

yesterday i made lots of stick-to-your-ribs soul-satisfying food.

lately my menu has been a little light on the beef options so i remedied that with 15 lbs of getaway farm beef. luckily for me i remembered to order everything early last saturday morning, getaway has been super busy the last couple of weeks and selling out of beef by about midday. if you're in the mood for steak this weekend, make sure you get down to the seaport market bright & early... which reminds me, it's been awhile since i've had a steak & sweatpant sunday...

my purchases made their way into a classic boeuf bourguignon. i followed julia child's recipe and will be blogging about it step by step early next week... here's a little sneak peak:

properly browned meat is the key... remember the movie?
so it's braised in red wine with a classic mirepoix and finished with sauteed mushrooms & flat leaf parsley. it's served with rich, parmesan mashed potatoes & roasted white turnips, brussels sprouts & carrots. i underestimated how much i was producing this week and ran out of my usual packaging, so the larges are extra large (fyi).
small $11 large $25

there's also a fresh batch of shepherd's pies. so it's browned ground beef in a tangy gravy with a smidgen of homemade bbq sauce, finished with peas & corn and topped with cheddar-green onion mashed potatoes.
small $9 large $18

here's what else is in the freezer:
fish cakes & baked beans   $15
asparagus strata (savoury bread pudding)   $15
plain or broccoli mac & cheese  s $9  l $18 (just a few left!)
curried chicken & chickpeas  s $10  l $20
creamy british seafood pie  s $11 l $22
chicken, leek, broccoli & bacon pies  $10

and i know it's been absent for a little while, but don't worry, i've already ordered lobsters for next week so lobster mac & cheese will be back shortly.

today i'd also like to make a vegan main - i have a southwest inspired sweet potato stew in mind with a side of rice & beans... i just need to finish my baking first...

yesterday i also made two new batches of soup. the first is a new batch of roasted red pepper, sweet potato & tomato with hits of chipotle, cumin & cilantro. it's got some heat but it's not burn-your-face-off hot. the second is a new concoction - white bean, kale & lemon. it's really rich & creamy while still being vegan.

i've got a new salad in the works this week too: sprouted beans & lentils with fresh green beans, red onion and a mustard-dill vinaigrette. the quinoa & wild rice salads will be like usual.

ok cupcakes, tarts, cheesecakes, squares & cookies beckon - i'm off to the races.

ps: if the weather is really bad over the weekend i might skip the sunday market, so make sure to pop by tomorrow if you can.

Friday, January 13, 2012

soup season

well the freezers are full again. one of my new year's resolutions was to not bite off more than i can chew - well i guess i made it 11 days... yesterday i made 4 types of soup, baked beans & a mountain of fish cakes. here's a little breakdown:

chicken stew - rich & hearty classic chicken stew with potatoes, turnip, carrots, parsnips, celery, brussels sprouts, peas & herbs.
pork posole - traditional mexican soup with braised pork shoulder, hominy, potatoes, bell peppers, green chillies, cumin, chipotle, cilantro & lime.
french onion - not your typical french onion. there's no beef broth, i use beer instead, so it's vegetarian and there's foxhill parmesan cheese melted right in.
miso mushroom - this is my one vegan offering this week. it's a shiitake broth with white miso, baby bok choy, udon noodles, finger chillies & cremini mushrooms.
baked beans - 'not your mother's baked beans' is what i like to call them. they have sort of a sweet & sour thing going on with maple, molasses, worchestershire, vinegar and tomato.
fishcakes - the usual suspects with salt cod, onions, celery, savoury, pei potatoes & a light panko crust.

today is baking day - cupcakes, brownies, lemon meringues, butter tarts, hello dollies, cookies, macaroons, mini cheesecakes.

i'm also catering a reception for 40 this afternoon with lots of fiddly little hors d'oeuvres & a giant cake... oops. i'm not sure how i'm going to manage this... especially on friday the 13th... eeekkkk!

oh yeah, i almost forgot about salads. the quinoa salad was really popular last week so i'm going to keep it exactly the same. the wild rice salad will stay pretty much the same and then there is also a wheatberry/beet/balsamic/basil concoction in the works. they will also be vegan but the wheatberry obviously won't be gluten-free.

time to boogie - see you tomorrow & sunday.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

let them eat cake

 for those of you who know me, you probably know how much i dislike making cakes. it's not that there is technically anything wrong with cake, it's just that cupcakes are much better for my mental health.

cakes are just too much pressure. if i mess up a batch of cupcakes - no big deal, but if i mess up a giant cake that's sort of a big deal. they're typically ordered for really special occasions so they have to be perfect, require loads more ingredients and can be a little unruly to manoeuvre. i also do all of my baking in a conventional oven on one rack (everything burns no matter what on the bottom rack) so if it's monopolized by a giant cake, that takes forever to bake, then all other production pretty much has to cease. then it's the waiting game - it's a fine line between an over-baked & dry cake or an under-baked & gummy cake, thus contributing to my stress level and mental anguish.

that being said, last week i made an awesome cake!

it was large enough to feed 50 people & the biggest cake i've ever made. the cake was a classic butter cake, using the same recipe i grew up with. it's a 1-2-3-4 cake, aptly named given the recipe... which i guess i'll share :)

1-2-3-4 cake

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 cups flour
4 eggs
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 c milk
1 tsp vanilla

so it's basic creaming method - mix butter, sugar & vanilla til fluffy - add in the eggs 1 @ a time - stir together all of the dry ingredients - alternate the dry ingredients with the wet - bake @ 350 - boom it's done.
i made a few flavour adjustments for mine, but i can't give away all my secrets now can i?

then i cooked down berries with a little sugar until it was almost jam consistency & layered that in the centre with fresh berries.

then i slathered on a healthy layer of lemon curd. 

with all of that awesome hidden inside, it helps to counteract any dryness that inevitably happens around the edges. and then to top it off, i frosted the entire thing in italian meringue - the marshmallowy concoction that tops my lemon meringues.

after a whole lot of stress, i was pretty pleased with the result... and i guess the customers were too... they've ordered another one for tomorrow!!!
this one will be a gingerbread cake with a honeyed date puree, whipped cream & berries.
i had better get started...

Friday, January 6, 2012

a little rusty

i just had to consult my recipe book... for oatmeal cookies of all things... i'm a little rusty today. 

after what feels like an eternity, i'm back in the kitchen in full swing & definitely a bit out of practise. normally on fridays (aka baking bonanza day) i don't have to look at recipes at all because they're all memorized... alas, not today!

barring any disasters, i'll be back at the market tomorrow & sunday in my usual spot under the stairs by selwood green, boates cider & seablooms nursery. yesterday, i 'de-christmasified' my nook & it looks so sad & depressing... i'll commence work on my valentines day installation soon ;)

ok, so if you're wondering what's on the menu this week, here goes:

acadian rappi pie small $10 large $20
maple & ewe farm chickens, pei potatoes, caramelized onions, salt pork - best eaten with lots of salt & pepper, butter, cranberry sauce & pickled beets.

quinoa salad $5
asparagus, arugula, whole grain mustard, fresh herbs, garlic, lemon & toasted pinenuts

wild rice salad $5
roasted butternut squash, cranberries, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, red onion, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar

since i wasn't at the market last weekend, i still have everything off that menu as well.

asparagus strata with caramelized onions & foxhill cheese             $15
chicken, leek, broccoli & bacon pies                                                         small $10 large $20
creamy british seafood pies                                                                         small $11 large $22
braised brisket with blue cheese polenta                                                $23
mac & cheese (plain or broccoli)                                                                small $8 large $16
vegan lasagna                                                                                                $16
smoked salmon quiches                                                                               5 smalls $15 large $17.50
braised pork & sweet potato pie                                                                  $20
fishcakes & baked beans                                                                              $15
shepherd's pies                                                                                                small $9 large $18
sausage & cheese curd penne                                                                      $7.50

for soups there's:
thai chicken & rice
lentil veggie
beet, parsnip & pear
potato leek
curried squash
cream of cauliflower
seafood chowder
baked beans
vegan stew

i think that next week will just be a soup & salad week. i've had lots of requests for miso mushroom & french onion to come back & i'm sort of in the mood for beef & barley, chicken stew & pork posole. i also need to experiment with the peppers & spices i got from the spice man... plus i have a new gadget that needs to be put to work.

yahoo - no more exploding blender or bbq sauce on the ceiling!

ok, back to baking.
tomorrow's cupcake flavours will be chocolate-mint, red velvet-raspberry, vanilla-strawberry, carrot-cream cheese & banana-chocolate buttercream. there's also macaroons, mint oreo cheesecakes, milk rolls, snickers brownies, lemon meringues & butter tarts will be making an appearance this weekend.
oh & i almost forgot about those oatmeal cookies that i forgot how to make...

a demain.