Monday, July 29, 2013

Giving Back - Goal # 5

I am so excited to start working towards achieving Goal # 5! 

I had a wonderful childhood. I was happy, healthy and blessed with the most loving parents and family a child could ever have. I always had the emotional, financial and physical support of my parents whenever I needed any help or guidance. I know I am very fortunate, and everyday I thank the universe for giving me so much. Because all my life I have been extremely lucky I have always felt the need to give back. I have volunteered in orphanages, refugee shelters, the Ronald McDonald House and participated in many fundraising efforts. However, since I started law school I have not made an effort to volunteer in Kingston, and all year I was bothered by this... until now!

There are kids in my community who are dealing through a lot, and who perhaps don't have anyone to talk to or even play with. I am so excited to begin volunteering at the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada. This is an organization that matches adult volunteers to children needing adult mentoring. Serving as role models, mentors teach by example the importance of giving and giving back, of staying in school, and of having respect for family, peers and community.

I can't wait to meet my "little brother" or "little sister" - hopefully I can help him or her feel as strong, confident and happy as my family made me feel growing up.



Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Thousand Island Cruise and Boldt Castle!

This is quite overdue, these past couple of weeks have been really chaotic at work and at home. This trip to Boldt Castle was amazing and the perfect quick getaway! 

The Story of Boldt Castle is really interesting so I am adding it here in case you are wondering why there is a German-like castle in the St. Lawrence River.

"At the turn-of-the-century, George, C. Boldt, millionaire proprietor of the world famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, set out to build a full size Rhineland Castle in Alexandria Bay, on Picturesque Heart Island. The castle was to be a display of his love for his wife, Louise.In 1904, tragedy struck. Boldt telegrammed the island and commanded the workers to immediately "stop all construction". Louise had died suddenly. A broken hearted Boldt could not imagine his dream castle without his beloved. Boldt never returned to the island, leaving behind the structure as a monument of his love. For years it was left abandoned but in 1977 the 1000 Island Bridge Authority acquired the property and have been spending millions in restoration and preservation."

I really recommend this trip if you are ever in the Canadian 1000 island region or in upstate New York, the cruise takes you through several islands and the views are incredible. The cottages on the water are beautiful and you even get a chance to see the only property that is both in Canadian and America territory. 



Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Recipe 7 (Goal # 33) -Tuna Potato Salad with Peas and Paprika Aioli

My friend Hayley claims she doesn't like to cook, I think this is a lie because she is a wonderful baker. She complained that my recipes were too hard and took to much time. For her I decided to prepare this REALLY easy potato salad, that can stand on its own or be a wonderful side for a pot luck or large dinner. 

The best part about this salad is that it basically has all your food groups in one dish, protein, carbs and veggies and you can store it in the fridge for a couple of days!

Ingredients: (enough for 4)

2 cans of tuna - preferably in oil ( I used the one seasoned with jalapenos) 
3 eggs
300 g of Sweet Peas - a small bag
500 g of Ruby Little Gems Red Mini Potatoes - about 15 little potatoes or a small bag
2 tbsp of light mayonnaise
1 tsp of olive oil
1 tsp of Smoked Spanish Paprika
1 tsp of garlic powder

Cut the mini potatoes in half. Boil the potatoes with a pinch of salt, when the potatoes are about to be done throw in the peas in the same pot and cook for about 5 min. Drain the potatoes and peas and throw them in a large bowl. Drain the tuna and add it to the potatoes and peas, making sure the pieces of tuna are not too large. 

At the same time that you started to boil the potatoes in a different pot boil the eggs, leave them for enough to ensure they are hard boiled. 

In a small bowl put two generous tbsp of light mayonnaise, and paprika, garlic powder and a little olive oil to make it smoother. Taste it, and play with the ingredients until its perfect!



Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Recipe 6 (Goal # 33) - Seared Duck Breast with Mushroom/Zucchini Gnocchi

I never had duck until very recently. I am Venezuelan and this bird is not really part of our cuisine. I also like ducks alive, they are cute and adorable and my mom used to collect duck figurines. As a non-red-meat eater I also didn't venture outside of the typical birds. I think all these elements combined drew me back from ordering duck at Chinese restaurants, and no matter how delicious it seemed Duck Confit never made it to my plate. 

Then I met G, he is half-Hungarian, and they eat duck like it is chicken. His family actually has this holiday called "Duck Day" in which his uncle (who is a fabulous cook) roasts 12 to 15 ducks. His mom cooks breast on a regular basis and the smell of duck fat alone reminds me of his family home. I have been living with G for 5 years and never cooked duck until this week. It was a conscious effort on my part, not because it's my favorite, but because I want duck to be part of our home as it was for him growing up. I want my future kids to be comfortable on Duck Day and to love and look forward to their grandma's duck dishes. 

Although this was my first time, duck was good to me. The breast cooked crispy, juicy and delicious. Combined with the berry compote the flavors blended wonderfully. I accompanied the breasts with a mushroom-zucchini gnocchi and laid it on a bed of greens. 

This dish looks fancy and complicated but really it is not, it took me less than an hour to prepare and the ingredients are probably in your weekly grocery list... well except the duck. You can also use sour cherry jam if you don't have time to make the compote.

Ingredients: (dinner for 4)

4 duck breasts
Mixed greens(for a bed to lay the duckies on)

500g Gnocchi. Preferably homemade or  if you don't have time De Cecco brand is great
1 or 2 Zucchini depending on size - finely chopped
1 1/2 cups of cremini mushrooms - finely chopped 
1/2 onion - finely diced
1 clove of garlic crushed using a press or a mortar (powder equivalent works too)
1 tbsp of olive oil or butter
A squirt (2 tbsp) of white wine or wheat beer
Parmesan cheese
Salt to taste

Berry Compote:
2 cups of raspberries
1 cup of blackberries
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Rinse the duck breast halves and pat dry. With a sharp knife make criss cross incisions on the fat-side of the breast without cutting too deep. Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Immediately place the duck breasts in the pan, skin and fat side down. Do not move the duck breasts until the skin is deep brown, about 5 minutes. Discard the fat. Turn the breasts and cook until the internal temperature of the thickest part is 160 degrees F (71 degrees C) for well done. I would advice covering it to make sure it cooks evenly and juicy.

For the gnocchi - assuming it is ready or store bought 
Chop the zucchini, mushrooms, onions and prepare the garlic. Preheat a large skillet over medium heat. Sautee the onion and garlic with a bit of olive oil or butter until the onions become translucent. Add the mushrooms and zucchini.  When the mushrooms have shrunk quite a bit and the zucchini is looking soft add the wine or beer. Let it simmer on low until combining with the gnocchi. 
Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add 1 tablespoon salt. Add the gnocchi; when they rise to the top (after about 2 minutes), continue to cook until tender, about 15 seconds more. Transfer gnocchi with a slotted spoon to the pan with the mushroom-zucchini.
Mixed well adding olive oil if needed and a generous amount of Parmesan cheese. 



Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Veggie Burgers! (Goal # 39)

Believe me it tastes amazing, please forgive my messiness...
Veggie burgers are tough to make, trust me this was not my first attempt, and I still feel they are not perfect (expect an update!). My recipe uses a quinoa base, they are not vegan since they contain eggs and cheese and we are working on making them stay together. Although they are not pretty enough for a food magazine, I feel I accomplished this goal because they are absolutely DELICIOUS!
These were the perfect dinner to accompany a delicious peppery Greek salad my friend Clara brought to our weekly -please don't judge- Bachelor(ette) TV Night. The patties paired wonderfully with any (or all) of the following: salsa, sriracha, mustard. ketchup, pesto, goat cheese... really anything you love to put on top of your veggie burgers. Check the recipe below to make your own!

Ingredients: Makes about 3 burgers

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa (about 2 cups cooked)
1 tsp olive oil 
1/2 227 g pkg cremini mushrooms, coarsely grated (1 cup)
1 cup coarsely grated zucchini
3/4 cup coarsely grated carrot
1 small shallot, minced (or onion)
1 garlic clove, minced (powder works too)
2 egg, beaten
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese 
3 tbsp cornstarch 
1/4 tsp salt 
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper 

Cook quinoa according to package directions, omitting salt, about 14 min. Transfer to a large bowl.
Heat a large, wide non-stick frying pan over medium. Add oil, then mushrooms, zucchini, carrot, shallot and garlic. Cook until soft, about 5 min. Add to quinoa. Stir in egg, cornstarch, salt, cheese and cayenne.
Heat the same non-stick frying pan over medium. Firmly press quinoa mixture into a 1/2-cup measuring cup. Turn and release into pan. Gently press to shape into a patty about 4 in. wide. Repeat, cooking 2 patties at a time. Cook until golden and warmed through, about 4 min per side.
You can use portobello mushrooms as the "bread" or Boston bib lettuce wraps if you don't want to add any carbs to this awesome, healthy and tasty dish.



ps: If you are Venezuelan, use a TostiArepa, it really does the trick to make them stick together!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Running, Travelling ... Updates on Goals!

Hi Everyone,

I haven't accomplished a full goal this week but I have made TONS of progress in a few:

Today I ran a 10K - this was a very special race because it was the first one that G ran with me. He only did a 5K but he was amazing at it and I am so very proud of him. I did a 10k in an hour which is around 12 min more than my last 10K, but I barely did any exercised during the crazy school year and my running shape really suffered. Nonetheless, I am happy with my performance and most importantly I finished it and it is one step closer to fulfilling Goal #12!

We are going to California (Goal # 26)! Yesterday we booked our tickets for our end of summer vacation (around Labour Day Weekend) and we decided on San Francisco and a road trip to Napa and Sonoma. We had a pair of tickets we needed to use before October and it worked out perfectly. I am so excited and we can't believe it is happening in little over a month. We would love to hear suggestions if you have been or lived in the area. 

    For the long weekend in August we are going to Montreal (Goal #42 - although I already went once in June w/ Naomi) and we have tickets to Osheaga Music Festival (Goal # 20). I get to see The Cure, although this is not one my goals it is nevertheless a dream come true!
    I am also getting better at doing my own manicures... (Goal # 43)

    I am currently reading Notes from Underground (Goal # 35) and really liking it! I also bought Crime and Punishment which I will probably start reading soon. 

    We are planning to go to Boldt Castle (Goal # 47) when G's parents visit next week and I am giving it another try to a new recipe for veggie burgers tomorrow (Goal # 39).



    Tuesday, July 2, 2013

    Raspberry Cheesecake and Failed Attempts

    No one is perfect, I know, however I lose sight of that in the kitchen. There is nothing I hate more than spending time and money on a recipe and it not turning out to be as planned or sometime even edible. This weekend I had 2 weddings on one night, needless to say I was rundown and exhausted. Although tired and busy I made time to cook some recipes I wanted to try for a while... and they all flopped. 

    First I made a no-bake raspberry/blueberry cheesecake (see picture above), although it looks beautiful in my opinion it tasted like a tub of cream cheese, then I made croissants  and they were just a buttery mess. I also tried to fulfill goal #39 - make my own veggie burgers and let me just say that they were closer to hummus than patties.

    I am making blueberry jam tonight and Coq Au Riesling, they may not turn out perfect but that's the beauty of cooking I guess it shows you that no matter what we are all human in the end. 

    Here is a recipe for a successful Raspberry Cheesecake I made years ago:

    8 digestive biscuits (arrowroot or Maria cookies if you are Venezuelan)
    50g butter, melted
    600g cream cheese
    2 tbsp plain flour
    175g sugar
    vanilla extract
    2 eggs, plus 1 yolk
    142ml sour cream
    300g raspberries
    icing sugar

    Heat the oven to 350F. Crush 8 digestive biscuits in a food processor (or put in a plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin). Mix with 50g melted butter. Press into a 20cm pie tin and bake for 5 minutes, then cool.

    Beat 600g cream cheese with 2 tbsp of flour, 175g  sugar, a few drops of vanilla extract, 2 eggs, 1 yolk and a 142ml sour cream until light and fluffy. Stir in 150g raspberries and pour into the tin. Bake for 40 minutes and then check, it should be set but slightly wobbly in the center  Leave in the tin to cool.

    Using the remaining 150g raspberries, keep a few for the top and put the rest in a pan with 1 tbsp icing sugar. Heat until juicy and then squash with a fork. Push through a sieve. Serve the cheesecake with the raspberry sauce and raspberries ( I like to use my home made jam on top when too lazy to do this last step).