A moment to reflect, be thankful, celebrate birthdays and old years.

In Trinidad 'New Years' isn't quite celebrated as such.  Instead 'Ol' Years' is celebrated instead.
I like this idea.
I like the celebrating of what's been done, what's gone by, what we've survived (in essence ;-).
Truth be told, I've never gone in much for celebrating New/Old Years in any significant way.  My church background meant that when I was young I celebrated by going to a church service, testimonies were given and then all the young people would stay up all night... eating, listening to music, playing sports and generally having fun away from their parents.  Admittedly, since those days, it's pretty much been at home, quiet with a bottle of champagne (Veuve, of course!).
That was until the year 2000.  Yes, the very last day of the year 2000.  At 10 in the morning, after too many hours, my beautiful Kid #1 was born.  She was born at home in the middle of a snow storm.  Friends unwittingly drove down in that same snowstorm to celebrate with us.  We had a houseful of friends and a new baby.  It's been 10 years.  My baby is in gr. 5.  She is still, and always, the youngest in her class.  She is bright, beautiful and talented.  She drives me to near insanity and yet she makes me so proud.  I love her to bits.
Now every Ol' Years is also her birthday celebration.  And we Celebrate:

She gets to choose her cake and her favourite meal each year.  This year she has chosen... not a cake but a pie.  A complete change for her but totally her choice.

So, for this Ol' Years and for my Beautiful Kid #1's birthday, I give her Caramel Truffle Pie.

Remember all that's gone under the bridge this year.  All that you've gained, all that you've lost.  The ways that you have loved, the many ways you've grown.  All the love you've been given along the way.  Celebrate, Breathe deeply, be Thankful and look ahead.

Caramel Truffle Pie (adapted from Good Housekeeping)

1 1/2 cups graham crackers, crushed
1/4 cup + 4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup cream or evaporated milk

1 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup cream
3 tbsp butter

To Assemble:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large pie plate add the graham crackers and the melted butter.

Combine until the graham crackers can form a ball, stick together - you get the idea.  Press into the base and onto the sides of the pie place.  Bake for 8 - 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool.  Turn OFF the oven

Heat the sugar in a high sided, heavy bottomed pan over med/low heat.  Once it begins to turn golden stir it regularly.  Once it's liquified and golden brown then add in the butter, turn the heat down to LOW. Once the butter is mixed in well add in the cream or evap milk.  Mix well.  Let it simmer for a few minutes on low heat.  Should look like caramel.  Might still be a bit runny.  You could simmer it a few more minutes.  Take off the heat and pour into the cooled graham cracker crust.  Be sure not to eat anything left in the pan - we all know that caramel tastes awful!  Let the caramel cool for about 20 minutes before adding the chocolate on top

Place a stainless steel/heat proof bowl over gently simmering water.  Don't let the water touch the bowl.  Add in the chocolate chips, butter and cream to the bowl and begin to melt together.  Once completely melted, remove from the heat.  Whisk it well for a few minutes to add in some air.  Pour on top of cooled   caramel.

Refrigerate the whole thing overnight or at least for a few hours until set.  Remove from the fridge a half hour before serving.  Serve with whipped cream on the side (or on the top) and a birthday candle or two.

Turkey and Chicken Pot Pie... leftovers galore!

This is probably the first day of the winter break (ie.  my time off) that I have not gone out of the house.  We all slept in this morning.  It seems that a series of late nights and lots of family visits, presents, food, skating, events, etc. has left us all exhausted.  Even kid #2, at 4 years of age, slept in until 9 a.m. this morning.  That's sayin' something.
So far this holiday, and I'm quite proud of myself for this, I have been keeping up with running and yoga faithfully.  This morning was no exception.  It was yoga day so instead of doing a morning session it ended up being a 'brunch' session.  No problem.  Not like I had anything else to do today.  Beautiful.
We completely unplugged.  It's awesome.  I highly recommend.
Down side:
We still have to eat.  After making all kinds of crazy cookies, scalloped potatoes, roasted veggies for the various christmas dinners AND having people over to eat... well, we're cleaned out.  Nothing.  Nada.
Once again, I'm proud of myself here.  We did not order in.  I made this...

Let's just say that leftover turkey from my Mom's turkey dinner and some frozen cooked chicken that I gleaned off of chicken that had been used for chicken broth came in really handy.  Some veggies, a little pastry and *shizaam*  it appeared.  Well, almost.
Look, if you decide that your leftover turkey needs to be stewed and tucked under some pastry I wouldn't blame you one bit if you opted to purchase some ready made puff pastry and use that.  Let's just  be honest here:
a.  I was wearing yoga gear and hadn't showered.
b.  I was too damn lazy to go buy some even had I been perfectly clean.
Also, I used some broth that I made a couple of weeks ago (I save my chicken carcasses and use them for broth - please be impressed.  Thank You) but by no means is it necessary.  Store bought broth or chicken bouillion cubes dissolved in water would do just fine.  Make sure that you do some good tasting along the way just in case the flavours aren't quite strong enough though.

So, if you are looking for something kinda homey and comfort foodish.  If you are a little sick of turkey sandwiches.  If you aren't looking at each other before a meal saying: 'If I eat turkey one more time, I'm gonna...'  Well then, maybe you could give this a whirl.  Otherwise... pick up the phone... you know the number.

Turkey and Chicken Pot Pie
serves 4 - 6

4 cups turkey/chicken, cooked and cut into smallish pieces
4 cups bouillion or stock
1/4 cup milk or cream
1/4 cup flour
1 med onion, diced
2 med potato, diced
2 med carrot, diced
2 med parsnips, diced
2 cups green beans (or frozen peas if it works better for you), cut into 2 inch pieces
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
2 tbsp Soy Sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp thyme
dash pepper sauce
dash nutmeg
salt to taste


1 cup unbleached, all purpose flour
1/4 cup cold butter, diced into cubes
dash salt
4 tbsp cold water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat a large pot and with some oil, saute the onion, potato, carrot, parsnip and green beans. Saute over medium heat until the veggies (especially the carrot and parsnip) are softened a bit.  Lower the heat and add in the garlic and swish around for a few minutes.  Add in the turkey or chicken and swish that around for a few minutes.  Things should look pretty colourful at this point.

Throw in the Worcestershire, Soy Sauce, sugar, thyme, pepper sauce, nutmeg and salt.  Let that mix with everything for a minute and then add in the bouillion.  Stir well and let it come to a low simmer.
In a small bowl, mix together the milk and flour until it forms a thick paste.  If you need extra flour, don't hesitate to throw a little extra in there.  Once the paste is smooth and the pot is gently simmering, add in the paste to the pot and mix well.  Allow the whole thing to simmer gently for about 5 minutes or until it all thickens slightly.  Set aside.
In a large bowl place the flour, salt and the cubed butter.  Using a pastry cutter or a fork (that's all it got!) combine the two together until it's a coarse crumb.   Add the cold water a tbsp at a time mixing well until the dough can form a ball.
Roll out onto a lightly floured surface.  (You only have to roll it out enough to cover the baking dish that you are going to use.  I used a round dish so if you are using a larger baking dish you might want to double the recipe.)

Place the turkey mixture into a baking dish (I used a 9 inch round) and cover with the rolled out pastry - tucking the edges up the sides of the dish.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until the crust looks golden and crunchy.  Like the top of a pie... right???
Remove from oven and let it rest for about 15 minutes before serving.


I got off pretty lucky.
I didn't have a big turkey to soak, roast or BBQ (?).
I haven't yet prepared a Ham big enough to share with about 50 of my nearest and dearest.
I haven't had a big event at my place causing me to stress out for days about enough food and making sure that no one will trip on 'hotwheels' that might be lying around.
I didn't spend hours on Christmas Eve wrapping presents meticulously, listening to carols and drinking mulled wine (although that mulled wine part doesn't sound too bad at all).
In other words Christmas 2010 so far has been deliciously laid back.  Christmas morning we found that Santa put some things in our kids stockings and there was one present under the tree for them (yeah, I know... just one)
Late lunch at the 'in-law's' with about 15 of us.  That was nice and I was only responsible for veggies - a salad (she wanted greek salad!) and some roasted veggies.  So, in negative temps I went outside and fired up the BBQ to grill some peppers and eggplants (I also oven roasted some squash and sweet potato).
Boxing Day at my parents.  I was responsible for bringing a potato dish.  The specific request was for scalloped potato - awesome.  Nice quiet, relaxed day.  

Earlier in the week though I decided that food needed to be had at our house.  Being off work and therefor having some extra time to cook, I figured that it was time to finally try making something resembling Moussaka.  I've always wanted to try it and D has been 'suggesting' for some time that he likes it a lot.  Well, finally time and ingredients aligned and I gave it a whirl.

It's quite a nice dish at this time of year, I think.  It's sufficiently rich and heavy (in a good way) but also well balanced with veggies.  I gave the eggplants a little dredge in some flour and a little fry up in some oil or fat and that worked very well.  It's extremely tasty.  The only suggestion that I would give is to make sure that you let it stand for at least 20 minutes before cutting into it.   Also, make sure that the baking dish is DEEP!

Give it a try for your New Year (or Old Years Night) celebration... which reminds me - I gotta get me some champagne!

serves 6 - 8

75ml/6fl oz oil, olive or safflower or something else (like bacon fat!!!)
1 large onion, finely chopped
675g/1½lb lamb or beef mince
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1 400g tin of diced tomato
2 cubes beef bouillion (low salt)
1 tbsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
1 tbsp pepper sauce
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 large eggplants, cut into 1cm/½in slices
1 1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup flour
2 bay leaves


6 tbsp unsalted butter
6 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
3 3/4 cup milk, warmed
1/2 cup parmesan
1 egg

Rinse the sliced eggplant, toss with some salt and let it sit for about a half hour. More if possible. I did mine the night before.

In large pan, over medium heat, put a couple of tbsp of oil and begin to saute the onions. Leave for a few minutes and then add the minced meat and garlic. Stir and saute for about 7 min. or until the meat is cooked through. Add in the cinnamon, allspice, oregano, bay leaves thryme, pepper sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Stir well. Add in the bouillion and the canned tomato. Let the mixture simmer about 45 min - 1 hr.

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, melt the butter and combine with the flour. Let it cook together for just a minute. Slowly add in the warmed milk, whisking as you go. Once all the milk is added, let it cook slowly over med/low heat. Keep whisking just so that it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. Once it begins to thicken, add in the parmesan, egg (slowly to that the egg doesn't scramble), salt, sugar and pepper sauce. check the tastes and set aside.

Put the remaining oil in a large frying pan (I used caste iron) and heat. Dredge the eggplant slices lightly in the flour and fry on both sides for a few minutes (until the eggplant looks cooked and soft).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Get a large baking dish, preferably with high sides. I also put my baking dish on a cookie sheet covered with foil - just in case.
Begin lining the baking dish with the meat sauce. Then layer with eggplant slices. Continue until it's all used up. On top of everything pour the Bechamel sauce.
Bake for about 50 - 60 minutes or until bubbling and lightly browned on the top.
Cool for about 20 minutes before cutting into it.

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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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