I love my new KitchenAid stand mixer, with all of the attachments! I have just used the pasta roller and cutter for the first time; and the result was the best, freshest pasta I ever had. The freshness of the ingredients is enough to make this simple dish delicious. It’s great when I can pronounce everything that I’m eating!

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Pasta ingredients – eggs, flour, water and salt. The sauce – olive oil, butter, onions, garlic, tomatoes, fresh basil and oregano, and a dash of salt, pepper and salt. Nothing else needed! Simple, nutritious, clean and delicious, the way food should be!

It must be the sleep deprivation that comes with having a 3 month old that made me think buying a KitchenAid Stand mixer with an ice cream attachment is exactly what I needed at this time. So after some research I decided that for my purposes the least expensive mixer would do, especially given the fact that it has been at least a few years since I used a hand-held mixer. So without giving it much further thought, I ordered one from Amazon.

To my great excitement, it arrived within a few days; however to my great disappointment I wasn’t home to accept the package. So I had to go to the post office and get it myself. What I didn’t realize when I checked off the “ship all items together” box when ordering, is that this mixer is heavy. As well as the ice cream attachment. And bulky. So, while dragging this 25 lbs thing from the post office I did a quick calculation in my head. I’m already $400 in the hole, and haven’t had a single scoop of ice cream yet. I could’ve saved all that money and go to Dairy Queen every day this summer! But homemade is better, it’s healthier, fresher, and ingredient-cleaner; I know exactly what is in that ice cream. At least that’s what I kept on telling myself.

After some recipe searching I settled on Martha Stewart’s Blood Orange Gelato, with modified ingredients, of course: less sugar (I used 1/2 cup instead of the 3/4) and lower fat cream (18% and not heavy). At least I didn’t use skim milk and an artificial sweetener!  A quick dash to the nearest (and most expensive) grocery store for the ingredients I needed, I was another $50 in the red, and ready to start ice-creaming. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post I have a 3 month old, so time is luxury! Once he was fed and put to sleep I had about an hour to do my magic in the kitchen.

This is what I imagined my dessert will look like

This is what I imagined my dessert will look like

Now this is where the title of this blog kicks in. I neither read the instructions for the making of the ice cream, nor for the proper operating of the ice cream machine. So while my orange juice was reducing (on high heat as I don’t have 40 minutes to spare) on one burner, and my custard mixture was thickening on the other, I was reading how to attach the ice cream bowl to the mixer. (I at least had the common knowledge to freeze the bowl first, because I really didn’t have 15 hours to spare). Needless to say, the eggs started cooking as I wasn’t stirring the mixture (nor paying attention to it, to be honest, as I was too involved in reading the instruction manual), so what started out as an ice cream mixture almost ended up as eggs for dinner! To get rid of any chunks and achieve the smooth ice cream consistency, the recipe called for passing the mixture through a sieve into a bowl that is sitting on an ice water bath. Well, I neither have a sieve, nor do I have ice, so a strainer and cold water bath had to do. Thankfully, most of the cooked eggs remained in the strainer. To my pleasant surprise, a taste test revealed a very pleasant tasting mixture, rich and creamy, not too sweet and a subtle yet so refreshing orange tang. And it was much smoother than I thought it would be, given that I almost made scrambled eggs.

At last I was ready to start churning it! I turned on the mixer and patiently waited for 30 minutes for it to freeze. And just as I was about to scoop some into a bowl and savor it, my little one woke up and started crying. So I had to quickly transfer all of the ice cream into the freezer and leave it for later, along with a sink-full of dirty dishes. So still no taste of home made ice cream, other than quickly licking the spatula as I was throwing it into the sink. But I will not give up! Not only will I savour my blood orange gelato soon, I will attempt to make a whole bunch of other flavours as well. And that is a promise!

By now you’ve eaten all the chocolate, but not all the eggs you coloured. Here are some ideas as to what to do with all the leftover eggs.

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1. Egg and potato salad:
Prep 15 min, Cook 30 min. Serves 6 people.
What you’ll need: 6 yellow potatoes (peeled and cut into desired size), 2 green onions, 2 tsp mustard, 3 hard boiled eggs (chopped), ¼ cup olive oil, ¼ cup white vinegar, ¼ cup chopped parsley, salt and pepper to taste.
How to make it: Boil potatoes until just tender, rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process, drain really well. Add eggs, celery and green onions. In a separate bowl, mix mustard, oil, vinegar and salt and pepper. Add to potato and egg mixture, and gently stir until mixed. Season to taste.

2. Egg salad sandwiches:
Prep 5 minutes. Serves 1.
What you’ll need: 2 hard boiled eggs (diced), 1 tbsp sour cream, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, salt and pepper to taste, 2 slices of bread.
How to make it: In a bowl, combine eggs, mustard and sour cream. Season to taste. Put between two slices of bread.

3. Smoked salmon Deviled eggs:
What you’ll need: 6 hard boiled eggs, 2 tsp Dijon mustard, 2 tbsp mayonnaise, 12 small pieces of smokes salmon, 12 capers, 1 tsp of lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, 2 tbsp coarsely chopped dill.
How to make it: Cut boiled eggs in half. Remove egg yolks by gently squeezing the halved egg from both sides – the yolk usually pops out easily. To the bowl with egg yolks add Dijon mustard, mayonnaise and lemon juice. Mash together with a fork. Fill each egg white by either spooning or piping the yolk mixture. Garnish with a piece of smoked salmon, a caper and dill.

4. A new take on a Cobb salad:
Prep time: 20 minutes. Serves 6.
What you’ll need: 6 cups of baby spinach, 6 slices of crispy prosciutto (microwave slices of prosciutto in a single layer, on a paper towel for 1-2 minutes until crisp), 6 hard boiled eggs (peeled and sliced), 12 cherry tomatoes (halved), 1 avocado (pitted, cored and cubed), ½ cup Goat feta cheese, 3 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, salt and pepper to taste.
How to make it: In a bowl, arrange baby leaves as the base. In rows, arrange prosciutto, eggs, tomatoes, avocado, and Goat cheese. In a separate bowl mix olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Dijon, lemon juice and salt and pepper, and serve as dressing on the side.

5. Asparagus, potato and egg soup:
Prep time: 20 minutes. Cook time: 20 minutes. Serves 4.
What you’ll need: 1 bunch of asparagus (diced and woody ends removed), 4 medium gold potatoes (peeled and diced), 1 tsp Dijon mustard, ¼ cup dill, 1 cup of vegetable stock, salt and pepper to taste, 2 boiled eggs (sliced).
How to make it: Cook the potatoes for about 10 minutes, until starting to get tender. Add asparagus, and continue to cook until potatoes are soft and easily pierced with a fork, for another 10 minutes. Drain potatoes and asparagus, reserving the cooking liquid. Allow to cool slightly. Transfer to a blender. Add vegetable stock and enough of the reserved cooking liquid to cover potatoes and asparagus. Add Dijon mustard and dill. Blend until pureed. Season to taste. Transfer to bowls, and garnish with boiled egg slices.

People asked how the designs were made for the eggs in my last post, so here is the step by step guide for leaf-printing Easter eggs, re-posted from last year.

The art of decorating Easter eggs is almost as ancient as Easter itself, and the colouring methods vary greatly from one culture to the next. Growing up in Eastern Europe, the technique most familiar to me is dyeing Easter eggs in onion peel, using the leaf print method. It is heartbreaking to see that this tradition is in danger of extinction with the ever growing popularity of mass produced colour packets, stickers and sleeves for Easter eggs.

Since my Grandmother, who’s turning 91 this year, came to Canada 10 years ago, I have gone to her house on Good Friday, to join her in the kitchen and dye Easter eggs. Initially, I wasn’t sure of my artistic ability, and never imagined I could produce such exquisite designs using only leaves and flowers as stencils, however with time and patience, I have noticed my designs have become a real work of art.

Thank you grandma, for passing this tradition...

Thank you grandma, for passing this tradition…

Making leaf print eggs is easy. All you need is white eggs (preferably a few days to a week old, as older eggs peel easier), spring flowers and leaves, onion peel and pantyhose. Traditionally old, ripped stockings were used, as they were not easy to come by, and were not that cheap. Times have changed, and I can safely say, it is okay to buy new stockings to use when colouring eggs.

Gently place a leaf or flower on an egg with the flattest side down. The finer and flatter the original leaf, the better the end result will be. Cover the leaf with a piece of pantyhose, stretch the pantyhose all the way to the back of the egg, and tie it using elastics or a piece of thread. Repeat with all eggs.

Thank you Sauce Boss for letting me use your images

Thank you Sauce Boss for letting me use your images

Tenderly arrange eggs in a single layer in a pot. Cover with cold water, at least 1-2 inches above the eggs. Add onion peel (the more peel you add the darker the eggs will be) and a tablespoon of vinegar. Slowly bring water to a boil (this will keep the eggs from cracking), cover and turn the heat off. Let stand for 15 minutes.

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Remove eggs with a slotted spoon, and place into a bowl of cold water. This will stop the cooking process, as well as cool the eggs, allowing for easier handling. Carefully remove the nylon and the leaf. Allow the eggs to dry completely. When completely cooled, rub the eggs with a tea towel that has been dipped in oil, to give the eggs a glossy finish. Arrange eggs in a basket.

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On Easter Sunday, everyone in the household chooses their favourite egg, and plays a traditional game of egg tapping with it. The rule is very simple. You take your egg and tap the other participant’s egg, trying to break it, while keeping your own intact. The person whose egg remains intact wins the game. The winning egg is believed to possess a strong spirit that will guard the household and ward off all evil spirits.

I am very grateful that this tradition was passed on to me; I will definitely cherish it and keep it alive.

Easter is around the corner, and we all have a fun day planned with the family: coloring Easter eggs, organizing an egg hunt, and eating all the chocolate.

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These eggs were coloured using onion peel and red cabbage

But do you know how to boil an egg? Yes, there is a right and a not-so-good way of doing it. You want the yolk to be perfect, not to firm and not overcooked. To perfectly boil eggs place them in a single layer in a pan, and add enough cold water to cover. Add 1 teaspoon of vinegar (it makes the colours brighter). Add the dye. Use more for a darker hue or less for a lighter hue. Bring water to a boil, cover, and turn the heat off. Let stand for 18-22 minutes for large eggs, or 15-18 minutes for smaller eggs. Remove lid and marvel at the beautiful colours you created. After you have removed the eggs and allowed them to cool, rub eggs with a paper towel dipped in oil to give them a glossy look.

And this year, Why not use natural dyes to colour your Easter eggs? Mother nature has more colours and hues than you can imagine!

Here are some ideas for natural colours:
•Blue – red cabbage leaves and blueberries.
•Yellow – golden delicious apple peels and carrot tops.
•Orange – carrots and chili powder (or paprika).
•Brown – yellow onion skins.
•Pink – beets, cranberries and raspberries.
•Violet – red onions skins, red wine, hibiscus tea.

And go ahead, dye as many eggs as you want, because there are about a million things you can do with those leftover boiled eggs! But that’s a whole other blog post, so stay tuned!

Happy Easter everyone!

To match the glamour of the red carpet, serve dazzling hors d’oeuvres and finger foods at your Oscar party that everyone will love.

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The award for the best hors d’oeuvre goes to the avocado cracker. This simple appetizer is packed with the goodness of whole grains and healthy fats. Peel an avocado and remove its pit. Cut into slices. Place each avocado piece on top of a whole grain cracker, and top with a slice of red bell pepper.

In the best dressed category you’ll find this low sugar, low salt popcorn, that you season yourself. Microwave a bag of plain popcorn. Divide into two bowls. Lightly spray popcorn with cooking spray and sprinkle with the spice mix. Use nutmeg and cinnamon for the sweet version, and cayenne pepper, curry, turmeric and black pepper for the savoury twist. You can decide who is the winner of this category.

This appetizer will win your heart with its omega 3 fats that are promoting cardiac health. Spread quark cheese (a spreadable low fat fresh cheese available at major grocery stores) on whole wheat Melba toast. Add a slice of cucumber. Top with a slice of smoked salmon.

Hollywood stars are not the only ones to sparkle at this award ceremony. Mix equal parts of your favourite 100% pure juice with soda water for a refreshing sparkling drink that has less than half of the sugar and calories of regular pop.

The stars of the night are the fruit skewers. Cut pineapple, strawberries, and melons into cubes. Arrange on a small skewer. To be completely star-struck with this vitamin packed bite, finish each skewer with a slice of star-fruit.

These tasty, nutritious bites are sure to add glitz and glamour to your Oscar party while taking away the salt and the fat. They are all so good, it’s hard to pick one winner.

Staying in this Valentine’s Day? Instead of spending the whole day in the kitchen trying to impress your significant other with your culinary skills, make simple everyday recipes that both of you like and enjoy. Make the evening special by using your best china, having a simple floral arrangement as your centerpiece and lighting candles for a more romantic atmosphere. Make a playlist of your favourite songs and have it play all night long. With the table set and ready, why not grab a glass (or two) of wine each and head to the kitchen for a couples cooking experience. If your partner is not an expert in the kitchen, let him help with the prep, dicing and cutting. The idea is to spend the night together, enjoy the company, relax and have fun.
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On the menu: A three course meal, romance, love and smiles.

Appetizer – Baby spinach salad with goat cheese, slivered almonds and dried cranberries •The salad is easy to make, all you need to do is toss all the ingredients in a bowl and top with your favourite salad dressing such as a balsamic vinaigrette. Voilà! First course prepared!
Entrée – Shrimp and tomato pasta •What you’ll need: spaghetti (6 oz), olive oil (1 tbsp), minced garlic cloves (2), large cooked shrimp (100g), white wine (¼ cup), fresh parsley (¼ cup), cottage cheese (¼ cup), chopped tomato (1), a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper (to taste).
Cook pasta according to directions. While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a skillet. Add garlic and cook while stirring, until golden. Add wine and tomatoes, cook for a few minutes until most of the alcohol has evaporated. Add cottage cheese, and stir until melted. Add chopped parsley and shrimp, turn the heat off. Season to taste. Since the shrimp is already cooked, you only need to heat it through. Combine with pasta, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve. For the added fun and romance, you can play out the scene from “Lady and the Tramp” by slurping the same strand of spaghetti until your lips meet in a kiss.
Dessert – Chocolate covered strawberries •Melt dark chocolate in the microwave on medium heat for 30-45 seconds, or until melted. Add a little bit of butter and mix until it melts. Dip washed and dried strawberries into the melted chocolate and set on parchment paper lined plate. As a friend suggested, before the chocolate hardens you can sprinkle them with chopped nuts or candy. When all the strawberries have been dipped, put the tray in the fridge for the chocolate to harden. Enjoy a glass of bubbly with your dessert, or continue with the wine from dinner.

The whole dinner will take less than 40 minutes to prepare. And by doing it together, you are making it more fun and a part of the Valentine’s Day experience. Clean up as you go, however don’t worry about cleaning up after dinner. Leave the dishes in a sink full of soap water. This one time, you can leave the mess until the next day, or at least until a few hours after dinner.

Have fun and enjoy each other. Nutrition Check wishes you a Happy Valentine’s Day!