Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Classic Apple Pie (from harvest to table)

When we bought our home 9 years ago, my hubby planted a multi-grafted apple tree to mark our first spring in this house. Every year since then, I look forward to seeing the beautiful blossoms that will eventually give us 3 delicious varieties - yates, golden delicious and jonagold  apples in autumn. This year, the harvest was abundant - even wild rabbits and squirrels feasted on the fruits that fell on the ground.

Almost everyday, hubby and I picked an apple or two to go with our packed lunches or simply enjoyed the juicy and crunchy fruits for breakfast or snacks after late afternoon workouts. I also love slices of apples on my tuna or chicken salad.

If we are at home during weekends, the house will be filled with the sweet smell of freshly baked apple pies, apple coffee cakes and apple turnovers. For classic apple pie, I find Canadian Chef Michael Smith's recipe simple yet delicious.

Classic Apple Pie (adapted from chef Michael Smith)

Pastry Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks frozen butter
12 tablespoons ice water

Filling Ingredients:
8 large apples (I used the 3 varieties I have from my backyard - yates, golden delicious and jonagold) peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Whisk the flour, sugar and salt together in a large bowl.
Using a grater, grate the frozen butter into the flour and toss lightly with your fingers until it’s thoroughly combined. Sprinkle in the ice water and stir with your fingers, mixing and firmly kneading until the dough comes together in a ball.

Divide dough into 2 pieces; making sure that one half is slightly larger than the other. Wrap in plastic wrap, flatten and chill for at least 30 minutes, or  overnight. Resting tenderizes the pastry, making it easier to roll.

Remove the pastry from the refrigerator and allow it to warm slightly, just until it’s pliable. Lightly flour your hands, the rolling pin, your work surface and the dough.

Roll out the larger pastry piece into a circle large enough to slightly overlap the edges of a 9-inch glass deep-dish pie dish. As you roll, for ease of handling, lightly flour the dough every time its diameter doubles, then flip it over and continue rolling. Transfer the dough to the pie dish by folding it into quarters then unfolding it in the dish.

Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C).

Toss the apple slices with the brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Add the apple mixture to the bottom crust. Roll out the remaining smaller piece and carefully place it over the top of the pie.
Roll and crimp the edges of the dough together, tightly sealing them. Poke a few vent holes into the top of the pie and place on the bottom rack of oven.

Bake for an hour or so, until the crust is golden and the juices are bubbling.

Serve with vanilla ice cream and enjoy!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Bites and Nibbles @ George

After a late afternoon walk while in Grandville Island Vancouver, I took the water taxi and headed for Yaletown for a quick bite. Since it was too early for dinner, I opted for cocktails and tried George Lounge along Hamilton Street.

George's interior is trendy and cozy - from the huge, intricate  blown glass chandelier above the onyx bar to the red velvet and black leather chairs. The heated and covered patio where I decided to take my cocktails was also comfortable and  perfect for people watching (my favorite past time when traveling alone).

They have a good selection of cocktails but since I am watching my caloric intake for the past 2 months, I settled for a glass of refreshing Pinot Grigio. Then ordered two appetizers from George's :From the Kitchen" menu - Beet and Goats Cheese Salad and Dungeness Crab Cake.

The salad was perfect - beets are roasted and lightly pickled - its sweetness was a perfect contrast to the salty goat cheese. The lemon vanilla vinaigrette was subtle yet noticeable in the palate. The surprising ingredient was the sweet and tangy pomelo - a nice touch to the perfect salad. The crab cake was just OK. It was  a bit dry for my liking. However, I loved the rouille and pickled fennel that were served with the dish.

1137 Hamilton St.
Vancouver, BC

George: Ultra Lounge & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Me and My Camera along False Creek @ Dusk

I traveled alone in Vancouver last week. My schedule was pretty much filled with work-related activities inside the hotel so I was not expecting a lot of "me" time around the city. Having visited this beautiful city quite a number of times in the last 10 years, I know it is always wise to have a camera on hand (even with limited leisure time) because there's always something to capture.

Before grabbing dinner, I walked along False Creek to catch the last rays of the sun illuminating the mountains and casting vivid blue shadow on the calm water.

In moments like these, I am glad for camera to capture nature's beauty. But more so, I am thankful to the Maker for the beauty of nature!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Grilled Trout and Vegetables Soft Taco with Garlicky Coriander Sauce

It's been a month and a half now since I started my "journey to a healthier me". After a series of very high blood pressure readings, my physician and I agreed to regulate my salt and fat intake and engage in regular physical activities instead of taking pills to address the readings. One thing I am good at is ... if I commit myself to achieving something, I will do anything in my power to succeed. So far, I lost 13 pounds and and my BP is now down to 135/85 mm Hg (from 185/100 mm Hg).

Since I love to eat, I don't want to deprive myself with flavours that my taste buds are so used to. Instead of eliminating a lot of things from my diet, I focused on preparing food that are bursting with flavors and the best way of doing that is eating with the seasons. My mantra: Bring to the table what the season has to offer!

Hubby and I went to a nearby farm and found some yellow squash and zucchini. I have bell peppers and portobello mushrooms left over from previous recipe so hubby fired up the grill and I tossed in the fresh veggies and a trout for a delicious soft taco dinner.

The sweetness of grilled veggies was complemented by the garlicky, creamy coriander sauce.

Bursting with colors and flavours, this soft taco recipe will definitely go to my real keeper recipe list.

I am losing weight and yet having delicious concoction like this for dinner. The  journey is more fun that I thought it would be!

Grilled Trout and Vegetables Soft Taco with Garlicky Coriander Sauce

2 small zucchini, cut lengthwise ( about 4 slices per zucchini)
1 red bell pepper, cut lengthwise
2 large portobello mushrooms, stemmed
2 small yellow squash, cut lengthwise
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium size fresh trout
6 pieces flour tortilla
Salt and pepper

Drizzle extra virgin olive oil on both sides of all the vegetables
Season with salt and pepper
Grill until all vegetable are heated through and tender. (mushrooms will be ready in about 5 minutes)
Season trout with salt and pepper.
Grill until well done
Let it cool and remove meat from bones

Garlicky Coriander Sauce

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
6 cloves garlic, grated (add more if you wish)
1/2 cup coriander (leaves and stems, finely chopped)
Salt and pepper

Put yogurt, mayonnaise, garlic and coriander in a mixing bowl.
Using a spatula or spoon, mix ingredients thoroughly.
Season with salt and pepper.
Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes to intensify the flavour

To Assemble
Heat tortilla on both sides
Arrange slices of grilled vegetables in the middle of tortilla
Add grilled trout on top of vegetables
Put a dollop (or two) of the garlic/coriander sauce
Fold tortilla and enjoy!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Where in the World : Cheltenham Badlands, Ontario

Hubby and I went to this spontaneous hiking trip as soon as I dropped my luggage coming from a 4 day-trip in Vancouver. With barely 2 hours of sleep in the plane (I promise I will never take the red eye flight again!) and a quick shower, we drove to Caledon not expecting anything like  this. I know how beautiful the badlands in pictures but standing on it was quite an experience - A true geographical spectacle!

The blue skies, the mild breeze, and the vibrant hues of autumn leaves from trees surrounding the badlands complemented the already dramatic soil formation. I couldn't wish for a better day to  climb and walk on top of these bizarre but lovely landscape.

Standing on one of the peaks, I would never thought that this marvelous piece of land in Caledon hills Ontario was a result of "poor farming practices in the 1930’s which caused overgrazing of this land and the resultant exposure of the Queenston shale that supports little or no vegetation." My research (a.k.a. "googling") revealed that "the reddish hue of the Queenston Shale is caused by iron oxide, while narrow greenish bands show where groundwater has transformed the rock from red to green iron oxide."

While looking, touching and feeling the grainy soil from "mistakes" of the past, James Joyce's (Irish poet) words come to mind...

"A man's errors are his portals of discovery".

So true!

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