Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Make Ahead Cooking: Turkey Sausage and Egg Breakfast Sandwiches

The ever loveable and oft spoken of Mr. Kitchen Witch is on a bit of a health kick of late. This because with the two of us steadfastly approaching 50 we've both become more aware of the importance of keeping it healthy so the second half of our lives is as wonderful as the first.

That being said, we both love to eat and at least one of us has the sad misfortune of loving breakfast sandwiches (with melty cheese and a big sausage patty, thank you very much) like the ones sold at McDonalds or other like minded establishments.

And though both of us is committed to eating better and neither is sneaking contraband anything at the late night drive thru, through the magic of cooking, it's actually very easy to re-create fast food classics as healthier (and much tastier) dishes.

Like today's homemade apple and turkey sausage McBreakfast Sandwiches.




























Sausage patties made with extra lean ground turkey breast, fresh herbs, onions, and green apple are fried to crispy golden perfection and then placed on toasted whole wheat English muffins with an over hard egg, and a slice of sharp cheddar.

Better still, these can be cooled, wrapped, and frozen for on the go breakfasts, snacks or lunch.

Visit the printable recipe here: McBreakfast Sandwiches

Please enjoy my easy to follow step by step video: 


Ingredients
  • 1 lb ground turkey breast
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp each fresh chopped rosemary, sage, thyme
  • 1 tsp each salt, pepper, and garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp HP or A1 sauce
  • 1 grated granny smith apple
  • 1/2 cup diced white onion
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 6 fresh eggs
  • 6 whole wheat English Muffins
  • 6 slices sharp cheddar cut thin with a mandolin
Directions
  1. Mix the first 7 sausage ingredients together in a medium bowl and form into six even patties
  2. Pan fry in 1 tbsp of  vegetable oil in a non stick skillet over medium heat - app 5 minutes per side, turning every minute or two until golden and cooked through. Set aside onto a paper towel lined plate.
  3. Fry 6 eggs in the second tbsp of oil to over hard.
  4. Toast and lightly butter the English muffins. 
  5. Pace a sausage patti and egg onto each and top with a cheese slice. 
  6. Serve immediately or cool and wrap in freezer bags. 
  7. Can be frozen up to 3 months. To re-heat, wrap in a paper towel and microwave on high for 2-3 minutes depending on the strength of your microwave.


***

Author:

Lyndsay Wells is a professional trainer, writer, and program developer with a passion for food and cooking. She is an award winning recipe developer, and a website ambassador for Kraft Foods Canada. Lyndsay believes cooking should be approachable and easy and has great tips and ideas for putting together sophisticated looking dishes that cooks of all levels can accomplish.

Visit her daily on her blog, The Kitchen Witch or on her YouTube Channel, CHARMED With The Kitchen Witch.

Facebook Twitter YouTube





Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Phil Traini's Gets its Groove Back - Next Food Network Star Season 9 Episode 9

This week's episode began with the final five on their way to Food Network studios - and as they chit chatted in the limos about, well, each other, I marveled once again that they're still so sane composed. Put me into that kind of pressure cooker and I'd be ready for the rubber room quicker than you can say "Whatever happened to Amy Finley?"

Meanwhile, the Mentor's challenge was right up my Kitchen Witch alley because the finalists were challenged with cooking from the pantry. According to Alton Brown, the Next Food Network Star is going to have to be an "imaginative problem solver."

Using ingredients from the pantry, and a variety of products made by the good people at Special K, Demaris and Rodney would be whipping up breakfast, Nikki was on lunch, and Russell and Stacey would be cookin up some dinner to culminate in "a whole days worth of deliciousness" prepared by them. At the end of the challenge they would each have one minute on camera to describe what they made, how they came up with the idea, and give one tip for using their pantry ingredient in a creative way.

While the finalists cooked Alton came around and gave them feedback. Nikki was told she needs to work on having more authority, Rodney was reminded to give viewers useful information, Damaris (who I think Alton is a little sweet on), was encouraged to teach, Stacey was advised to be less guarded, and Russell - who came up with a cool idea for oven roasted smashed potatoes with a crunchy salt and vinegar topping - was encouraged to finish as strongly as he started.

When it came time to present, Rodney did an okay job, but his breakfast pie with blue crab and eggs just didn't appeal to me.

Damaris was as wonderful as always, but it was her conversation with Alton afterward that I just loved. Right before he was about to take a big bite of her splendiferous looking French toast, she whispered "Don't eat it," and then threw her head back and laughingly and said "JK" (this means "just kidding" to the non texters out there).

It was just so Damaris - so, because I love her (and badly need to get a life), here is a picture I took of my TV screen (yes, I am that big a food nerd), so that you too can drool over that gorgeous French toast!



Alton's response: "Damaris, this is really good."

Despite having a disaster during the cooking portion of the challenge (Nikki burnt her croutons and had to switch gears at the 11th hour), I was really impressed by how well she recovered and thought her tip for using up the last bit of cereal left in the bag as a salad topping was fun.

Stacey came across as much more at ease and her cereal coated chicken looked delicious. Ditto for Russell's plate - he just has to be careful because when he starts trying to remember what he wants to say next, he looks away from the camera. At the end of the day, though, I find his stories about being a chef and working late nights really interesting and I hope he's going to continue weaving those things into his point of view.

You know, along with the bourbon.

Because everything goes better with it. (Even Special K)

In the end, though, only one could emerge victorious and that person was Stacey - which would give her a big advantage during the Star Challenge. To be able to take feedback and bounce back stronger is a personality trait I admire, so good on her - especially since Robert Irvine, was a guest mentor this episode. Prior to coming onto Food Network Star, Stacey's diner was featured in an episode of Restaurant Impossible, so winning that first challenge probably meant a lot to her.

As an aside, I'm going to take a moment to toot my own Robert Irvine horn. Several months ago I entered a contest on his Facebook page and came in second for, what else? Another winning pork tenderloin recipe - and won this t-shirt!


So as an official member of Team Robert, I was excited to see him. I was also excited about the challenge because the finalists got to do something that would be a dream for me: re-interpret classic dishes from the restaurant Phil Traini's  in Long Beach California.

And because Stacey had the advantage this round, not only did she get to pick what dish she would re-imagine, she also got to select what the other finalists would be creating.

The Star Challenge Dishes

In an effort to be strategic, Stacey assigned dishes based on the strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes of her fellow finalists and this is how it panned out:

Rodney, the pie man, was going to have to put a brand new spin on Chicken Cacciatore with Pasta, Damaris, who is not a big steak lover, got Tournados of Beef with Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Stacey kept Crab Stuffed Halibut with a Baked Potato, Nikki - who dislikes salmon - was given Salmon with Rice Pilaf, and Russell was left with Stuffed Chicken.

As the finalists got cooking, I was concerned about Rodney's chicken cacciatori pie concoction and wondered if it might have been a good idea this challenge to do as Russell did and leave his point of view behind. If I was assigned this dish, I would stuff beautifully seasoned chicken, cheese, and fresh herbs into billowy pillows of ravioli, and then top it with a simple and incredibly fresh sauce made with heirloom tomatoes. Hmmm... I smell a brand new Kitchen Witch dish coming in the very near future...

Damaris, who's filets looked amazing despite her aversion to them, had a bit of a crisis with her smashed potatoes but in a move even McGyver would be proud of, she saved the day with a pinch of ingenuity and a large sieve.

If I had to re-imagine this dish I would probably do a version of my New York Strip with Sherried Mushrooms and Gruyere Mashed Potatoes.


When it came time to present, the judges were underwhelmed by Rodney's underbaked pies. Nikki's Salmon was cooked well but when she described rice pilaf as being "Rice that has stuff in it," she lost credibility with the judges, and though Stacey's crab cakes were tasty, once again the judges weren't feeling a connection with her.

There was, however, this magic moment when Robert Irvine said to Damaris "I detect an accent, where are you from?" and Damaris dead panned "New York."

Alton looked positively ga ga as he gazed across the table at her.

And yes, I've been taking more pictures of my TV screen.

Don't judge.

Love notwithstanding, the dish everyone wanted more of came from Russell.

As he served his tender looking chicken breasts lovingly wrapped in spinach and poached in an onion and vermouth broth, Russell said: "This won't be something to alienate your old client base but will definitely give your new client base something to bite into."

With that one line and his response to a question from Robert Irvine over why he should be the Next Food Network Star:  "I'm the old dog with a lot of new tricks. I know an awful lot and I'm capable of teaching that," Russell shot  into the top two for me along with Damaris. I watch cooking shows because I want to learn how to be the best possible cook I can be - and both Damaris and Russell bring that to the table for me. 

On the other hand, I truly like Stacey and, from my couch, find her engaging and approachable; it's just that I already know how to be an excellent home cook and did the whole retro cooking thing for years. Remember, I'm the nutty collector who has over 75 pieces of vintage Corningware and a retro cookbook collection that could rival a library. I can also coat a chicken breast 8 ways past Sunday.

Crunchy Coated Chicken with Mushroom Cream Sauce
Rodney is interesting - and I do still LOVE his pie kit idea - it's just that I find he may have put himself into a box with the pie style idea. What do I know, though? The rest of the world loves Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives.

Sadly Nikki, to whom I was subscribed on Youtube long before she ever came onto the show, was sent home and I was crushed for her.

Onward and upward Nikki! Not only did you get onto a huge national television show - you made it to the final 5 and I can't wait to see what you do next!

***

If you enjoy reading food related fiction, pop by and check out my hilarious new web series "Starring Samantha."

Samantha Wentworth's catering business goes belly up along with her marriage to cut throat divorce attorney Alan Wentworth. To recoup her losses she applies to be on a reality TV show, falls in love with the married producer, just about kills the pompous chef host, and gets herself into all kinds of other interesting predicaments. 

Stay tuned Saturdays for this brand new serial on The Kitchen Witch! I'll be basing the characters off of well known food world celebs to keep you guessing! Each installment will come with a signature cocktail, recipes, and a fun question and answer to include you in the plot twists - so be sure to bookmark The Kitchen Witch and come along for a fun, food related, romantic romp through the world of reality TV!

Click here to read Episode 1: Samantha Drowns her Sorrows in a Vodka Gimlet 



***

Author:

Lyndsay Wells is a professional trainer, writer, and program developer with a passion for food and cooking. She is an award winning recipe developer, and a website ambassador for Kraft Foods Canada. Lyndsay believes cooking should be approachable and easy and has great tips and ideas for putting together sophisticated looking dishes that cooks of all levels can accomplish.

Visit her daily on her blog, The Kitchen Witch or on her YouTube Channel, CHARMED With The Kitchen Witch.

Facebook Twitter YouTube



Monday, July 29, 2013

Crispy Grilled Honey Garlic Chicken Wings

Those of you who have been around the blog awhile know I love a nice crispy chicken wing. As such I've tried many methods for cooking them and, up until now, had decided the best possible way to get the crunch I wanted was to deep fry them.

But, oh for the fat and calories! Deep frying meant that chicken wings were an indulgence I could only enjoy once, or maybe twice a year. However, thanks to the delectable dedication of J Kenzie Lopez at Serious Eats, a new method has been discovered that guarantees crispy, crunchy chicken wings when baked in the oven!

And then, oh for the sweet, sweet fabulousity, Mike Vrobel at Dad's Cook Dinner took things a step further and used the technique on the grill!

Something I had to try myself.

And the result... the best damn chicken wings I've ever had!!!




















Visit the printable recipe here: Crispy Honey Garlic Chicken Wings

Please enjoy my easy to follow step by step video to learn how to make these yourself!



Ingredients
  • 4 lbs chicken wings
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
Honey Garlic Sauce Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup Hoisin sauce
  • 4 tablespoons liquid  honey
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Siracha chili sauce
  • 2 tsps sesame oil
Directions for the Sauce
  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a medium saucepan. Bring to a slow boil over medium high heat stirring constantly. Let boil 2 minutes, remove from heat and set aside until ready to serve. Recipe can be done ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Directions for Grilling or Baking the Wings
  1. Mix the salt, baking powder, and cayenne pepper together in a small bowl
  2. Place the chicken wings into a large, deep mixing bowl and sprinkle with the baking powder mixture. Toss well until all the chicken pieces are well covered. 
  3. Place on a rack on a sheet pan and refrigerate uncovered 8 hours or overnight.
  4. Grill at 350 for app. 25-30 minutes, turning constantly and moving the wings around (as per the video) or bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven on cookie sheets for 40 minutes, turning once or twice during the cooking process. 
  5. Serve on their own with your favourite dipping sauce on the side or toss them in  sauce right before serving.


***

Author:

Lyndsay Wells is a professional trainer, writer, and program developer with a passion for food and cooking. She is an award winning recipe developer, and a website ambassador for Kraft Foods Canada. Lyndsay believes cooking should be approachable and easy and has great tips and ideas for putting together sophisticated looking dishes that cooks of all levels can accomplish.

Visit her daily on her blog, The Kitchen Witch or on her YouTube Channel, CHARMED With The Kitchen Witch.

Facebook Twitter YouTube

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Marjorie Wilson Longs for a Normal Life Cherry Hill Episode 25

Hello dear readers! Welcome to the 25th episode of my popular Cherry Hill blog series - the story with adventure, nostalgia, and great recipes all rolled into one rollicking good story that will keep you guessing right until the end!

When we last left Cherry Hill our two main characters, Jack and Amanda, were on the run from a group known as "The Association." In the meantime, there has been much speculation around town...

Please enjoy the story and today's Cherry Hill recipe for Afternoon Tea and Cookies Cheesecake featured at the end.

Missed an episode? Get caught up here: Cherry Hill index

***

Marjorie Wilson was not happy. It had been days since the disappearance of her son Jack along with Amanda Fitzpatrick and her children, and the entire town of Cherry Hill was abuzz with speculation. Especially since there had been so many rumours last year when Amanda's husband Paul was killed in a late night car crash with another woman by his side.

Although Marjorie knew there was far more to the disappearance than something as silly as an affair, it was all she could do to keep her mouth shut because it seemed as if no matter where she went in town, people were talking - and there was absolutely nothing she could say to quiet down the rumour mill.

The latest was a doozy, though, and Marjorie sighed with disappointment that anyone could so much as entertain the thought that Jack might be up to no good. She heard about it last Thursday at the beauty parlour while in to get her weekly set. When Edith Winkler put the dryer over her head, everyone in the room assumed Marjorie couldn't hear the conversation - and though Marjorie played deaf - she was shocked to discover many of the good people of Cherry Hill thought Jack may have kidnapped Amanda and the children. A rumour that had apparently been started by Dr Walt Fischer.

From the moment Walt Fischer had set foot in Cherry Hill, Marjorie hadn't liked him. As a secret keeper it was both a blessing and a curse that Marjorie got feelings and hunches about things that more often than not turned out to be correct, and she knew she was right on the money when it came to the good doctor. Though with everything so up in the air at present, there was blessed little she could do about it.

The intuition, the knowing - these were all things Marjorie would give up in a second if given half the chance, and truth be told, if she could walk away now she would. But this wasn't, nor would it ever be, an option. Though she had worked diligently when Amanda had first come to Cherry Hill to make her life miserable, Amanda was made of stronger cloth and had stuck it out - thus activating the Zanzibar. 

And now there was no turning back.

Marjorie tried to put it out of her mind and decided to pop into Sal's Soda Shoppe for a Cherry Coke - anything to feel a sense of normalcy, even if it was just for a short time. But when the entire place fell into hushed silence the minute she walked in, Marjorie realized her reprieve was going to be short lived. And the fact that Dawn Grassick was playing court with her cronies from Ladies Bridge certainly didn't help matters!

Dawn and Marjorie had been silent enemies for many years - though they certainly never socialized (the Protestant Auxiliary and Ladies Bridge seldomn mixed) - the rivalry between associations during bake sales at winter fair was known all over the province. Especially since Dawn had taken over from Marjorie as blue ribbon baker the last two years in a row at the District County Bake Off and Baseball Tournament in nearby Poplar Grove.

"If only you knew who you were really dealing with," thought Marjorie as she glared in Dawn's direction, "You would take your strawberry pie and head for the hills!"

As though reading her mind, Dawn stood and approached her.

"Quite the kettle of fish Jack's gotten himself into isn't it Marjorie? As his mother, you must be so worried."

Marjorie turned, grateful she had worn sufficient lipstick and blush to hide the pallor of rage slowly creeping from neck to face.

"In all the days of his life," said Marjorie in her haughtiest voice, "my son has never given me cause to worry. And that includes the time he spent overseas where, you will recall, he was decorated as a war hero. That he is currently away should be none of your concern, and shame on you for inferring otherwise!"

With that, Marjorie turned on her heel and with a ramrod straight back and head held high, walked out of the shop.

Inside, however, she was quaking. Ever since last night, Marjorie held a bad feeling - a niggling deep in her being - that something wasn't right.

She could have no way of knowing as she stood in the sunshine of a late summer afternoon, that her son, Amanda, and the children had been surrounded by members of The Association and were about to be taken somewhere a world away from Cherry Hill.

As if to console herself, Marjorie went home and began baking. Dawn may have beaten her last year, but the Fall Harvest dance was just around the corner, and Marjorie had a show stopper she planned to present at this year's bake off:

Afternoon Tea and Cookies Cheese Cake


As Marj got to work perfecting her recipe, she could almost forget the complicated world of the Zanzibar.

How she longed for a life that was normal...

***

Stay tuned next week for another exciting installment of Cherry Hill. If you'd lie to enjoy making today's featured recipe yourself, please enjoy.

The printable recipe can be accessed here: Afternoon Tea and Cookies Cheese Cake
   
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup icing sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 cup chilled butter cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 400 grams  cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup icing sugar
  • 3/4 cup whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons strongly brewed Lady Grey tea
  • 1 tablespoon contents of one of the brewed teabags (the tea leaves)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 Lady Grey teabags
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 1 cup white sugar
Directions
  1. Toast the almonds in a non stick pan over medium heat until they are golden and fragrant. Set aside.
  2. Combine almonds, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 cup flour, 1/4 cup icing sugar, and 1/4 tsp salt; stir well.
  3. Add butter and blend until coarse meal forms.
  4. Add egg yolk and blend until moist clumps form. Knead dough into ball.
  5. Roll the dough into an 8 inch tube. Divide into 12 equal pieces.
  6. Spray a non-stick muffin pan with cooking spray and then press each dough piece into the muffin tin forming cups.Pierce bottom all over with fork. Cover pan with foil and freeze crust at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.
  7. Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake cookie crusts uncovered about 5 minutes until edges the begin to brown, press sides and bottom with back of fork and then cover pan with tinfoil, continue to bake for another 7-10 minutes checking often so as not to burn. Cool completely. When cooled ( after about 20 min) turn the muffin tin upside down and tap the bottom of each cup with a knife. They should all just pop right out.
  8. For the cheesecake filling... Beat cream cheese, 1/3 cup icing sugar, the tea, vanilla and tea leaves
  9. Whip the whipping cream until stiff peaks form and gently fold into the cream cheese mixture.
  10. Spoon the cheese cake mixture into each individual tea cup. Refrigerate at least 4 hours.
  11. To make the tea reduction... Bring the cold water, tea bags and sugar to a boil in a small sauce pot. Reduce to medium heat and allow the liquid to reduce down to a glaze. Remove the tea bags halfway, so that they don't make the sauce bitter and to prevent them from sticking to the bottom. When the reduction has become the consistency of maple syrup, remove from heat. Allow to cool.
  12. Top each individual cheesecake with orange zest and a generous drizzle of the tea reduction
  13. Serve in tea cups with a slice of orange and mint leaf to garnish.

***

Stay tuned next Sunday for the next exciting installment of Cherry Hill! And if you enjoy reading my food related fiction, pop by and check out my hilarious new web series "Starring Samantha."

Samantha Wentworth's catering business goes belly up along with her marriage to cut throat divorce attorney Alan Wentworth. To recoup her losses she applies to be on a reality TV show, falls in love with the married producer, just about kills the pompous chef host, and gets herself into all kinds of other interesting predicaments. 

Stay tuned Saturdays for this brand new serial on The Kitchen Witch! I'll be basing the characters off of well known food world celebs to keep you guessing! Each installment will come with a signature cocktail, recipes, and a fun question and answer to include you in the plot twists - so be sure to bookmark The Kitchen Witch and come along for a fun, food related, romantic romp through the world of reality TV!

Click here for the series index: Starring Samantha



***

Author:

Lyndsay Wells is a professional trainer, writer, and program developer with a passion for food and cooking. She is an award winning recipe developer, and a website ambassador for Kraft Foods Canada. Lyndsay believes cooking should be approachable and easy and has great tips and ideas for putting together sophisticated looking dishes that cooks of all levels can accomplish.

Visit her daily on her blog, The Kitchen Witch or on her YouTube Channel, CHARMED With The Kitchen Witch.

Facebook Twitter YouTube

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Grilling: Herb Marinated Pork Tenderloin with Blueberry Compote

In the spirit of better late than never, I'm just now getting today's Foodie Friday blog up! But remember, good things take time and today's tender herb infused grilled medallions of pork tenderloin served over a fresh blueberry compote is a great meal for entertaining or kicking back on a Friday night!




















It's also super quick and easy, can be put together ahead of time, and because pork tenderloin is a lean cut of meat, the dish doesn't pack a lot of fat and calories.

Plus, it's a great way to use the phyto chemical rich blueberries that are abundant where I live this time of year.



















Visit the printable recipe here: Herb Marinated Pork Tenderloin with Blueberry Compote

Please enjoy my easy to follow step by step video.



Marinade Ingredients
  • 1 1lb pork tenderloin
  • Fresh Herbes de Provence made with 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsely, and 1 tsp each chopped fresh thyme, rosemary, and lavender *or* 1 tsp dried herb de provence
  • 1/4 cup extra virigin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp fresh minced garlic
  • zest from one lemon
  • 1/8 cup fresh lemon juice 
Compote Ingredients
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup red wine 
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp water to form a slurry
Directions
  1. Whisk the marinade ingredients together
  2. Cut the pork tenderloin into  even pieces, 2 inches in diameter
  3. Place in a ziplock bag with the marinade for 4 hours
  4. After the tenderloin pieces have marinated, pound each to an inch and a half thickness using a meat mallet (the tenderloins should resemble small filet steaks)
  5. Grill at 400 for for 3 to 4 and half minutes per side this will depend on how you like your pork cooked. If unsure, use a meat thermometer - 145 degress will be a perfect medium, and 160 degrees will result in a tender juicy well done.
  6. Bring the blueberries and wine to a boil in a saucepan over medium high heat. Add the sugar and lemon zest and continue to simmer 7-10 minutes on medium low stirring often.
  7. Add the cornstarch slurry and continue to stir until thickened
  8. Place a heaping tbsp or two of the compote onto a plate and place a medallion over top.



***

Author:

Lyndsay Wells is a professional trainer, writer, and program developer with a passion for food and cooking. She is an award winning recipe developer, and a website ambassador for Kraft Foods Canada. Lyndsay believes cooking should be approachable and easy and has great tips and ideas for putting together sophisticated looking dishes that cooks of all levels can accomplish.

Visit her daily on her blog, The Kitchen Witch or on her YouTube Channel, CHARMED With The Kitchen Witch.

Facebook Twitter YouTube



Friday, July 26, 2013

Krissi Makes Fresh Pasta - Camping with the MasterChefs! Season 4 Episode 15

Well now. Ever since last week's previews depicting Krissi and company in the great outdoors, I've been excited. Why? Because what could be better than our home cooks being sent into the middle of nowhere on a rustic camping trip? Kind of like a dysfunctional version of the "Very Brady Camping" episode I loved as a wee lass in the 1970's - only with cooking, wild mushrooms, and Joe Bastianich.

It was a team challenge so as per usual, the two people with the best dishes last week - Natasha and Bri - were captains, and there were no surprises when Krissi was once again, chosen last. But there was a surprise when the captains were told they would be switching teams - which meant that arch rivals Krissi and Bri would be stirring their collective pots together!

And here's where I want to say "I told you so" because even though Krissi is vocal and has no problem spewing her burning disdain for Bri (and all other hipsters in the South Street area), she was a respectful team player during this challenge - even going so far as to say "That's okay," when Bri dumped an entire plate full of food on the ground at the 11th hour before the dish was to be presented to the judges.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

*Rewind*

Bri's chosen blue team was Eddie, Luca, and James but with the twist, she ended up with Natasha's team of Krissi, Jordan, and Jessie - which meant that Eddie, Luca, and James ended up on the red team with Natasha.

When both sides sorted themselves out they were presented with their ingredients and because Bri had the best dish last week, she got to choose between rabbit and pigeon as the team's protein. She picked rabbit - and came up with an idea to braise it and prepare it with wild mushrooms and pasta!

People, fresh pasta! In the forest, *again* with Joe Bastianich!

As if that wasn't enough excitement, the villainous Krissi stepped up to the plate, pushed all fear aside, and said "I will make the pasta," mixing out that dough while sitting amongst the tree stumps and rolling it out to pasta perfection using a wine bottle.

Not to be outdone, Eddie on the red team also had his superhero cape on and spit roasted those pigeons within an inch of their medium rare lives - finishing them off in a pan like the meat maestro he is in an effort to secure a win for the red team.

When all was said and done, the judges loved both team's dishes, but in the end they loved the red team's pigeon just a little bit more, which meant that Eddie, Natasha, Luca, and James were all free from elimination. They were also tasked with choosing one additional cook from the blue team to go to safety and, big surprise, they chose Krissi.

People am I alone in this when I say I'm shaking my head in disbelief?

The woman has proven time and time again that she can cook - I mean, Joe even went so far as to compare her fritatta to his mothers! And, hello, his mother is Lydia Bastianich! She has produced the perfect cheesecake, amazing homemade sausage, and rolled out pasta on a tree stump using a wine bottle.

In other words, why doesn't anyone think she's a bigger threat?

But Krissi ain't no fool, and smiling like the Cheshire cat, made her way to safety as Bri, Jordan, and Jessie - who has never competed in an elimination challenge - were told what they would be making: six perfect chocolate eclairs.

Though this was a challenge I assumed Jessie would rock, both she and Bri ran into trouble. Bri's choux pastry was undercooked while Jessie didn't get her filling into the middle of her eclairs; and Jordan - who is the cook with the least baking experience - managed to put together the best eclairs and was sent to safety.

This left Jessie and Bri, and because the judges felt undercooked choux pastry was the bigger of two sins, Bri was sent home.

Stay tuned next week for more MasterChef recap action!

***

If you enjoy reading food related fiction, pop by and check out my hilarious new web series "Starring Samantha."

Samantha Wentworth's catering business goes belly up along with her marriage to cut throat divorce attorney Alan Wentworth. To recoup her losses she applies to be on a reality TV show, falls in love with the married producer, just about kills the pompous chef host, and gets herself into all kinds of other interesting predicaments. 

Stay tuned Saturdays for this brand new serial on The Kitchen Witch! I'll be basing the characters off of well known food world celebs to keep you guessing! Each installment will come with a signature cocktail, recipes, and a fun question and answer to include you in the plot twists - so be sure to bookmark The Kitchen Witch and come along for a fun, food related, romantic romp through the world of reality TV!

Click here to read Episode 1: Samantha Drowns her Sorrows in a Vodka Gimlet 



***

Author:

Lyndsay Wells is a professional trainer, writer, and program developer with a passion for food and cooking. She is an award winning recipe developer, and a website ambassador for Kraft Foods Canada. Lyndsay believes cooking should be approachable and easy and has great tips and ideas for putting together sophisticated looking dishes that cooks of all levels can accomplish.

Visit her daily on her blog, The Kitchen Witch or on her YouTube Channel, CHARMED With The Kitchen Witch.

Facebook Twitter YouTube







Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Moroccan Style Chicken with Apricots and Couscous

One pan meals are a great idea for busy weeknights, and with a full arsenal of flavours in your spice racks and pantries, it's amazing how creative a cook can get! In fact, stocking the pantry is the first piece of advice I give any new cooks, and was something I did for my son when he finished school and got his own apartment.

Spices like cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and paprika are wonderful to have on hand and dried fruits like apricots, cranberries, or raisins can add a hint of sweetness to a dish. Put that all together with boneless, skinless chicken breasts, vegetables, and a cup of dried couscous, and you've got the makings for an exciting, and easy to prepare meal.























Better still, this is a weeknight dinner that will satisfy the soul and the waistline as the flavour in this dish comes from wholesome ingredients like toasted almonds, fresh broccoli, low sodium chicken stock, and orange juice.

So join me this Weekday Wednesday in putting together this exotically comforting, easy dish!

Visit the printable recipe here: Moroccan Style Chicken with Apricots and Couscous

Please enjoy my easy to follow step by step video.



Ingredients
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon coriander
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper 
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
Directions
  1. Mix the spices, salt and pepper together in a small bowl and sprinkle them over the chicken. Stir well, cover and refrigerate until ready to cook. 
  2. Saute the broccoli and onion in 1 tsp of the olive oil over medium heat until the onions are translucent the broccoli is softened slightly. Add the garlic and continue to saute about another 30 seconds until the garlic is fragrant. Remove the cooked vegetables to a bowl. 
  3. Heat the second tsp of olive oil in the same pan and saute the chicken over medium high until cooked through. Add the apricots, orange juice, and honey and stir to get all the flavour off the bottom of the pan. 
  4. Return the broccoli and onion to the pan and add the chicken stock. Bring to the boil, add the cous cous, stir an remove from heat. Cover for five minutes. 
  5. Stir in the toasted almonds and fresh mint and serve. 



***

Author:

Lyndsay Wells is a professional trainer, writer, and program developer with a passion for food and cooking. She is an award winning recipe developer, and a website ambassador for Kraft Foods Canada. Lyndsay believes cooking should be approachable and easy and has great tips and ideas for putting together sophisticated looking dishes that cooks of all levels can accomplish.

Visit her daily on her blog, The Kitchen Witch or on her YouTube Channel, CHARMED With The Kitchen Witch.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Lovely Returns for Redemption - Next Food Network Star Season 9, Episode 8

This week's episode opened with Russell's decision to go with sin as his main culinary point of view - this after the mentors expressed confusion last week over whether he was a rebel or a sinner because, apparently, you can't be both.

As a professed sinner (and lover of bourbon), his decision to stick with the devil made me happy. In today's dairy free, scent free, wheat free, sugar free, sanity free world, I relish the idea of lascivious culinary indulgence and hope Russell will go all in with it as the competition continues. Horseradish ice cream? I think so!

Next came the announcement I've been waiting for all season: Seven departed finalists have been competing under the stewardship of Robert Irvine in something called "Star Salvation." If you've been following along from the beginning, you know I've been waiting for this ever since Viet was sent home - so imagine my disappointment when Lovely walked back into the kitchen.

Nothing against her, as I'm sure she's, well, lovely. It's just that I really wanted to see Viet or Chad return - but that's life in the reality food zone. You never know what you're going to get.

Speaking of which, tonight's mentor's challenge, which required the finalists take pasta and whip it up into their best Italian dish, came with a surprise. Part of the challenge involved the chefs giving their dishes a mouth watering description that would make the mentors hungry; but the twist was that they would not be describing their own dishes. Instead they were tasked with describing the dish of one of the other finalists.

Though some of the finalists did well with describing the dishes of their fellow contestants, Nikki hit it out of the park with her description of Russell's sinful concoction of Veal Sugo and as challenge winner had an advantage going into the star challenge.

As an aside, not only did I love Nikki's dish this week, it inspired a new recipe from me. Shrimp Linguini with Burst Tomatoes and Fresh Basil.




















The Star Challenge

The finalists were divided into two teams of three, and Nikki's advantage was that she got to choose who would be with her. She went with girl power and chose Damaris and Stacey - leaving Russell, Rodney and Lovely on the other team. Each group would be going on the road to write, produce, and direct a segment about a popular eating establishment.

The women got a donut shop called The Donut Man, and the other team got Vito's Pizzaeria featuring pizza dough made with 500 year old home made yeast.

Russell did a great job with his presentation and even though he referred to the 500 year old yeast as a culinary sin, he was still engaging. I also really enjoyed Rodney's presentation this episode and can see now that this is where he shines - one on one with people, making conversation, and flying off the cuff. To me, this was Rodney at hist best - just being himself.  I would also like to go on record one more time, by saying that I still think his pie kits are a genius idea.

Gaff tape notwithstanding.

On the other team, Nikki kept everyone organized and focused and we saw Damaris shine - which is nothing new. She's amazing. The end.

Not so much for Stacey, though, who is also amazing - just not this episode. She got too caught up in her head about wanting to get everything right and one of the things she's going to need to be careful about is to trust the process. This can be difficult for a planner - to just let things flow - and the interesting thing is that where she tripped up, Rodney and Damaris excelled. Conversely, in past challenges where Stacey shined, Rodney and Damaris struggled. I think this gives us a really good indication of the level of skill (and emotional fortitude) it takes to make it on a show like this.

In the end, the challenge winners were Nikki, Damaris, and Stacey. Though the other team did a good job all the way around, Lovely didn't make enough of a connection with the people she interviewed in her piece and for that reason, was sent home.

I would like to say, however, that she deserves many kudos for fighting her way back. There is no doubt she is a great cook and an engaging person.

***

If you enjoy reading food related fiction, pop by and check out my hilarious new web series "Starring Samantha."

Samantha Wentworth's catering business goes belly up along with her marriage to cut throat divorce attorney Alan Wentworth. To recoup her losses she applies to be on a reality TV show, falls in love with the married producer, just about kills the pompous chef host, and gets herself into all kinds of other interesting predicaments. 

Stay tuned Saturdays for this brand new serial on The Kitchen Witch! I'll be basing the characters off of well known food world celebs to keep you guessing! Each installment will come with a signature cocktail, recipes, and a fun question and answer to include you in the plot twists - so be sure to bookmark The Kitchen Witch and come along for a fun, food related, romantic romp through the world of reality TV!

Click here to read Episode 1: Samantha Drowns her Sorrows in a Vodka Gimlet 



***

Author:

Lyndsay Wells is a professional trainer, writer, and program developer with a passion for food and cooking. She is an award winning recipe developer, and a website ambassador for Kraft Foods Canada. Lyndsay believes cooking should be approachable and easy and has great tips and ideas for putting together sophisticated looking dishes that cooks of all levels can accomplish.

Visit her daily on her blog, The Kitchen Witch or on her YouTube Channel, CHARMED With The Kitchen Witch.

Facebook Twitter YouTube













Monday, July 22, 2013

Shrimp Linguini with Burst Tomatoes and Fresh Basil

After having three glorious weeks off, I returned to the office today. But don't feel too sorry for me, I'm only back until Thursday and then I have another two weeks off. Despite all that, I worked hard and didn't want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen when I got home.

Before I left this morning, I took a 400 gram bag of frozen shrimp out of the freezer and, craving fresh bright flavours like basil, tomatoes, and lemon, I put together tonight's dish.




















My shrimp linguini with burst tomatoes and fresh basil took less than 20 minutes to put together, start to finish, and was absolutely delicious!

Mr. Kitchen Witch gave this one his resounding stamp of approval!

Visit the printable recipe here: Shrimp Linguini with Burst Tomatoes and Fresh Basil

Please enjoy my easy to follow step by step video.


  
Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp chili pepper flakes
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 cups sweet cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil
  • 300 grams dry linguini
  • 400 grams medium sized shrimp or prawns, uncooked, peeled, tails removed
Directions
  1. Whisk 2 tbsp of the extra virgin olive oil,  the fresh lemon juice, sugar, garlic, and salt together in a small bowl and set that aside. 
  2. Saute the shrimp in 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil over medium heat and add the chili pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Continue to saute until they began to cook through and take on a nice golden brown colour.
  3. Add the white wine to the pan and scrape all the brown bits off the bottom. Turn heat to medium low and let the shrimp continue to cook in the wine until it is almost completely evaporated.
  4. Place the prawns in a separate bowl and set aside. 
  5. Using the same pan, heat another tbsp of olive oil over medium heat and add two cups of cherry tomatoes. Continue to saute stirring occasionally until the tomatoes begin to burst (this should take about 10 minutes). In the meantime, bring a pot of well salted water to the boil and add the linguini. 
  6. Add the shrimp back to the pan with the tomatoes, and the reserved lemon juice mixture. When the pasta is almost cooked to al dente (this should take about 8 minutes) add a ladle of the salted water to your pan and stir to incorporate. 
  7. Drain the pasta and then add to the pan. Toss well, add a half cup of fresh basil, and let that sit for five minutes as the sauce incorporates into the pasta.



If you enjoy food related fiction, be sure to get caught up on my Cherry Hill blogs! This romantic adventure series takes place in the 1940's and features plenty of food, fun, and mystery. Join all the action by visiting the Cherry Hill Index.

***

Author:

Lyndsay Wells is a professional trainer, writer, and program developer with a passion for food and cooking. She is an award winning recipe developer, and a website ambassador for Kraft Foods Canada. Lyndsay believes cooking should be approachable and easy and has great tips and ideas for putting together sophisticated looking dishes that cooks of all levels can accomplish.

Visit her daily on her blog, The Kitchen Witch or on her YouTube Channel, CHARMED With The Kitchen Witch.

Facebook Twitter YouTube



Sunday, July 21, 2013

Jack's Embrace Lights a Fire in Amanda - Cherry Hill, Episode 24

Hello dear readers and welcome to this week's installment of Cherry Hill! When last we left Jack, Amanda, and the children, they were in a cave overlooking the Twin Lakes where Jack had shared the secrets of Amanda's birth. Confused and upset, Amanda fell into Jack's waiting arms...

Missed an installment? Click over to the Cherry Hill Index to get caught up!

***

Amanda sunk into Jack's comforting embrace and as their bodies melted into each other; their hearts beating faster, it occurred to her that he had known of her past all along. Pushing him away, eyes flashing, she looked at him in bewilderment and exclaimed "How could you have kept this from me?"

Jack didn't know what to say. He had known he was a Watcher his entire life. It had been bred into the very fabric of his soul and as the son of a Secret Keeper Jack had never questioned what had been kept from Amanda.

"I feel like a fool," she said softly, and then looking into his eyes, "All those times you were there for me, the trip to Regina, the stretches of time when Paul was away, and then when he died... you knew about this all along and you said nothing."

"Amanda, I'm sorry," he choked out, "None of this was ever intended to hurt you. I was your friend. I am your friend and I have always cared for you very deeply..."

Amanda cut him off. "Oh, I'm certain you have! Cared for me deeply? Was that before or after the father of my children was killed? Did you care about me deeply then? Or at the Chinese restaurant when you poured your soul out to me and I believed it? I believed it. Every single word and it was all a lie. My life is a lie. Don't you see," and as the lake water pounded against the jagged rocks below, she grew more angry. "Nothing that I knew to be true was real, and you knew it. YOU KNEW IT!!"

"Amanda please, don't, you'll wake the children..."

"Just leave me alone," she said quietly, I need to take some time to think."

Jack fell into a restless sleep as Amanda sat in the darkness looking out over the moonlit lakes, and tried to piece together what she knew.

She had been adopted by the people she believed were her parents. But did they know the secrets surrounding her birth? And what about Paul? Did he ever really love her or was the entire marriage a sham? Further, if Jack was her supposed "Watcher" why hadn't he been assigned to marry her?

There were still so many unanswered questions, and with this group Jack called The Association breathing down their necks, Amanda realized there was probably not going to be enough time to answer them all.

Though she was still angry with Jack, she knew he was the only person who could help put the puzzle pieces back together, and as dawn broke over the lakes, she picked herself up, and began looking through their food supplies to put together something for breakfast. Her relationship with Jack would never again be the same, but he was her only ally and if she and the children were to get to safety, they would need to rely on him and on each other.

They would also need to eat.

Amanda rummaged around the rucksack where they stored their food. There were two large potatoes, an onion, a tin of Spam, and some powdered eggs. She started a fire and then gathering it all together, began dicing the onions, Spam, and potatoes into small chunks, sauteing them in the little bit of butter they had left in Jack's cast iron pan. She added water to the powdered eggs and stirred them until any lumps were out, and just as the mixture in the pan began to grow golden and crispy, added the eggs.

 "What smells so good?" asked a sleepy Bobby followed by his sister.

"We have a big day ahead little man," said Amanda ruffling his hair, "So I've made us all a camp breakfast. Go wake Jack and then wash up."



Bobby scurried off to wake Jack and as the two made their way back to the fire, Amanda's heart skipped a beat despite itself. She could tell he hadn't slept well, and the mixture of sadness and hope in his eyes as he settled his lanky frame onto a log by the fire, gave her pause. Amanda couldn't help but notice the ropey strength of his sinewy arms, or the way his white t-shirt strained against the muscles of his chest.

Reclaiming her senses, she shook her head, clearing it of any such nonsense and began to dish up the hash. Jack Wilson would make some woman a good husband one day - but that woman would not ever be her.

Swallowing her pride, and any residual feelings she may have had for the man, Amanda turned to the fire and asked, "What is our plan for today Jack?"

Jack looked surprised by her sudden turn of mood, and looking into her eyes, felt a deep stab of disappointment. Somehow during the night she had moved on. Moved away from her anger and confusion and moved away from him. He knew it as well as he knew himself - something significant had changed in their friendship. Something Jack feared they would never get back. And as he ate his breakfast, outlining his plans to get them to their final destination before sundown, he vowed once again to fulfill his obligations as her Watcher but to keep his heart at a professional distance. When they got to the cabin, everything else would be explained and Jack would be able to leave.

"Amanda," he said kindly, "The breakfast was delicious, thank you. You're a true magician when it comes to cooking - even over a camp fire - and I've appreciated everything you've done for me."

Looking over at the children he smiled, "All of you. I know it hasn't been easy taking this leap of faith with me, but when we arrive at our destination everything will be clear and you'll be safe. It will be then that I'll leave you."

"Leave us?" cried the children in unison, "Where will you go?"

"My assignment has always been to keep you safe," Jack said softly, "When that is accomplished and your mother understands fully, the truth of who she is and why all of this has taken place, you will meet your Protector and will no longer need me. When that day occurs, when the Protector is in place, I'll be freed from all duties as a Watcher and can resume a normal life."

Looking sadly at Amanda he said, "I'll probably go back to teaching."

In that moment Amanda experienced shards of regret so deep they made her heart ache. Jack would be leaving them. There were no further explanations. Amanda blinked back new tears. It had been unfair to get so angry with him, and now it was too late.

When camp was picked up and their belongings packed for this, their last hike together, Jack, Amanda, and the children made their way out of the cave.

"Don't move," came a voice from behind a boulder, and then as if from out of the shadows, Walt Fischer stepped out and he was carrying a gun.

In the distance came the cry of a lone wolf...

***

Stay tuned next Sunday for the next exciting installment of Cherry Hill! And if you enjoy reading my food related fiction, pop by and check out my hilarious new web series "Starring Samantha."

Samantha Wentworth's catering business goes belly up along with her marriage to cut throat divorce attorney Alan Wentworth. To recoup her losses she applies to be on a reality TV show, falls in love with the married producer, just about kills the pompous chef host, and gets herself into all kinds of other interesting predicaments. 

Stay tuned Saturdays for this brand new serial on The Kitchen Witch! I'll be basing the characters off of well known food world celebs to keep you guessing! Each installment will come with a signature cocktail, recipes, and a fun question and answer to include you in the plot twists - so be sure to bookmark The Kitchen Witch and come along for a fun, food related, romantic romp through the world of reality TV!

Click here to read Episode 1: Samantha Drowns her Sorrows in a Vodka Gimlet 



***

Author:

Lyndsay Wells is a professional trainer, writer, and program developer with a passion for food and cooking. She is an award winning recipe developer, and a website ambassador for Kraft Foods Canada. Lyndsay believes cooking should be approachable and easy and has great tips and ideas for putting together sophisticated looking dishes that cooks of all levels can accomplish.

Visit her daily on her blog, The Kitchen Witch or on her YouTube Channel, CHARMED With The Kitchen Witch.

Facebook Twitter YouTube