Smoked Salmon... Pasta for Guests

We actually didn't have any guests but this dish would definitely be guest appropriate. Something I've discovered recently is that there just aren't a whole lot of recipes out there which include smoked salmon.

It's a strange thing, I think. I really like smoked salmon. It's delicate but can totally change a dish, which is really cool. I got a whole lot of it sitting in the frigo slowly dying - now that our Montreal Bagels are officially finished :-( So, I've gotta get some creative and think something up myself. This poses a problem however because I'm feeling totally UNcreative of late. Burnt out maybe. It's a complete drag though because I was really looking forward to cooking all kinds of crap over the summer. You know, no time restrictions, great weather, sleeping in therefore lots of energy and farmer's market bounty. And yet - here I am feeling dry, tired and thoughtless. Truth be told, I've been living on these Montreal bagels for the past week and a half (which ain't a half bad life, I won't lie) and avoiding the kitchen like nobody's business.
I guess that it's all gotta change though. Can't keep this listlessness in the kitchen up forever. We have to eat and I need to find some energy.

My food box helped just a little bit this week by bringing me a whole big batch of fresh basil. So, after a quick pesto was whipped up in the blender the rest of the dish took shape. Pasta, Cream Fraiche (sounds hard but it's easy and worth it), green beans, smoked salmon. Do what you like with the green beans. If they're not your thing then try fresh peas or just add more spinach. Totally tasty AND, after a nice plateful, I feel just a little bit more inspired.

Smoked Salmon and Creamy Pesto Pasta
Serves 6 - 8

Penne or Rotini Pasta, boiled in salted water to al dente

1 large bunch of basil (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 cup of walnuts or pine nuts
1/2 cup of parmesan
1/2 cup olive oil (I used half olive oil and half water though)
1 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 red onion sliced thin (green onion, leek or chive would work well too)
3 cups of green beans, cut in half
3 cups of spinach, cut up small
2 cups creme fraiche (literally mix 1 cup of heavy cream with 1 cup of sour cream and let it sit for a bit)

For the pesto:
Place the basil leaves, walnuts and olive oil in a blender and blend until pureed. Add the parmesan and salt and blend until mixed. Should make almost 2 cups or so.

In a large pot saute the onion and green beans just until soft and pliable. Add in the spinach and let it wilt. Turn the stove to low heat and add in the pesto. Mix well. Add in the creme fraiche little by little mixing well. That way you can decide how thick you want the sauce. Once it's at the thickness you like mix it in a large bowl with the cooked pasta and serve.

Chocolate Chip Again... with a twist.

Blah Blah... who wants to hear about yet another chocolate chip cookie right. Hear what. We're going on a road trip tomorrow. Please, I can't do these road trips where you stop at some fast food crap to do a 'chew and swallow'. Life is too short for no taste fast food. So, we've got fruit, corn chips (technically junk food... I know) and I'm making these cookies. We're on our way to Montreal so I don't want to fill up too much on the car stuff because we are going to be heading to our favouritest pizza joint in the whole world once we get settled into the hotel. Amelio's is our most favourite, bar none. So, if we eat too much then we won't have enough room for our pizza unless we make ourselves sick - which, believe me, is not out of the realm of possibility for us. It's also a weekend that will include consuming and bringing home copious amounts of Montreal Bagels.

Back to the cookies. I just jacked them up completely with some weird changes that blew my mind (not really but it sounded exciting there, didn't it?). I replaced some of the flour with some oats that I whizzed in the blender for a few minutes until it was like flour. That was cool. A little added texture without the whole big oatmeal cookie thing. I also used totally crazy amounts of chocolate and threw in some white chocolate too - I was feeling crazy today, what can I say. Chocolate stores are a bad place for me. Godiva had a special on recently and I got 3 3.5 oz bars of dark chocolate for $10. Not bad right? They came home with me. And then they went into the cookies.

Lastly I had some Macadamia nuts that were in the freezer and needed to be used up. Yup - they went in too. So, what started as plain old chocolate chip cookies ended up as dark chocolate chunk, white chocolate chunk, macadamia nut, oatmeal flour cookies. It was that kind of day.
Montreal road trip - here we come!

'Chunks of Chocolates' Cookies
makes about 3 1/2 doz. medium sized cookies

2 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup oatmeal, whizzed until it's flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
12 oz chocolate (I obviously used a mix ;-) feel free)
1/2 - 3/4 cup chopped Macadamia nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a cookie sheet with parchment or a non-stick something.
In a medium bowl mix together the flours, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In a larger bowl mix the butter and sugars together until fluffy and well mixed. Add the eggs in and continue to beat until even fluffier. Add in the vanilla and mix well. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and incorporate well but try not to over mix. Add in the chocolates and the nuts and make sure everything in mixed well.

Place in medium spoonfuls on a baking sheets (about 12 to a sheet). Bake for about 11 minutes but watch that the centre is still a little gooey (yum). Carefully remove to a cooling rack and eat once they are cool enough or you just can't resist any longer.

Leftovers and Shepherd's Pie

A beautiful evening breeze is blowing through the windows. D and Kid #1 are finishing up their epic read of 'The Lord of the Rings'. Kid #2 is in bed and asleep. All is peaceful and quiet. Believe me, the moment is not lost on me. I should by rights be outside enjoying the cool breeze on this summer night. But instead I am inside, writing this post. Because I love it, I guess. I love how doing this blog has inspired me to try new recipes. Things that I probably would not have considered previously or just wouldn't have given time or effort to. There's a real creativity to it - ya know. I enjoy and savour...

We had a nice BBQ the other day and D made his own burgers. It was a beautiful mix of meat and spices, done perfectly and served on my homemade buns. Yum. D BBQ'd a crazy amount though, which is good I guess because then we have leftovers. Boy, do we have leftovers. What do I do with all the leftovers? I ponder... chili, salisbury steak, stew... I can't decide.

However, I had potato in the cupboard and earlier in the day I had ridden off to one of the local Farmer's Markets and picked up a dozen ears of corn. This is just about perfect corn time and at our house it's sacred. We eat it for meals all by itself, boiled perfectly (just a few minutes in boiling, salted water) and with copious amounts of butter - is there any other way? I also cut some fresh off the cob and freeze bags of kernels for the winter months. Beautiful fresh corn in the middle of winter. That was it, I had to use some corn.

What ended up happening? I made a Shepherd's Pie of course! Once the ingredients were in front of me it all made sense.

Leftover Shepherd's Pie
serves 4 - 6

Meat mixture

1/2 an onion, diced small
1 rib of celery, diced
3 cups of mushrooms, sliced
1 cup green beans, cut in half
2 cups of spinach, diced
4 - 5 leftover, cooked burgers (1 1/2 lbs ground meat), chopped small
2 - 3 cups of beef broth
couple of pinches of salt
spices to taste (I added some cinnamon, parsley, nutmeg, rosemary)
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp cayenne (optional)
1/3 cup cornstarch made into a paste
2 cobs of corn (kernels cut off the cob)

Potato mixture

5 medium sized potato's cut up for mashing
1 - 2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup butter
1/4 cup milk or cream
cheese for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
In a large pot of water boil the potato's and garlic cloves until they are soft and mashable.
In another pot (preferably oven proof so that you don't have to dirty an extra pot) saute the vegetables in some oil until they are soft - about 5 minutes. Add in the chopped burgers. Season with the spices, salt and sugar. Add in the broth and let the mixture come to a simmer. Add in the corn starch paste, make sure to add just enough to notice that it's thickening up. Check the taste and adjust as necessary.
Drain the potato and add the butter and milk. Mash the potato. Place the corn kernels on top of the meat mixture. Spoon the potato over the corn. Smooth out the potato and sprinkle with cheese. Bake the mixture for about 25 minutes or until bubbly. Let it set for about 10 minutes once it's out of the oven. Serve.

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St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.

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Wanda Thorne
St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.
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