Early Grey Shortbread cookies and Bachelorette Brunch

Earl Grey TeaThe recipe for Earl Grey shortbread cookies is one of my best tested and fail proof recipes.   The recipe is also very versatile.  It is delicious with Earl Grey tea, green tea, as a plain shortbread cookie without the tea, with sprinkles on top or with a fruit preserve blended in.  This recipe goes well with some pictures from brunch because just like good friends this recipe never lets me down.  I wanted a bachelorette brunch because I love food – and wanted time to relax and chat with friends.   We all had so much fun getting dressed up for brunch in Toronto and spending the day together.Me and my BridesmaidsBeef Wellington and brunchCranberry Waffle with Plum CapoteCream puffs and mini cheesecakeDesserts

Laura did a fantastic job hosting the bachelorette brunch and she put together beautiful gift bags.  It included passionfruit tea, a nail polish and some jelly beans – my favourite!  Laura is my Matron of Honour and she is doing a wonderful job so far!  We always tease her that her real career should be party planning because she does it so well.  All the little details come together so nicely when she is planning a party.  Laura knows me well, and knows I love food, and the King Edward Hotel is extremely well known for its delicious brunch.  Some of my favourite things from brunch were: Beef Wellington, mini cranberry waffles with plum capote, all the fresh fruit, pesto chicken, smoked salmon and so much more!  My sisters who are able to enjoy nuts and chocolate had a blast with the dessert table.  There was chocolate mousse, red velvet cupcakes, cream puffs dipped in chocolate, and mini cheesecake.  I could not have dreamed of a better day with my bridesmaids, Mom, Grandma and Aunt!  I am extremely lucky to have such wonderful people in my life.

Mom and Me

Stay tuned to my blog for my Mom’s blueberry Grand Marnier jam recipe!  Mom, Ophelia and Heather made the jam a few weeks ago and it looks amazing.  These little treats will be the wedding favours on the tables at the wedding.  We will be having a little get together to tie ribbons and put stickers on the jam jars.  My Mom has worked in product development for many many years and says this is the best jam she has ever tasted!  We have similar tastes so I know the jam is going to be amazing!

Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon Earl Grey tea leaves, finely ground
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  In your mixer, mix softened butter and slowly add in sifted icing sugar.  Add in vanilla extract.

3. Mix flour and salt together in a separate bowl.  Slowly add to the butter sugar mixture.

4. If the batter looks too dry and its not coming together, add 1 tsp at a time, a little bit of water.

5. Put plastic wrap on the counter and wrap the dough in a log shape.  Then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

6.  Slice and place on your cookie sheet.

7.  Bake for 12 minutes, until very lightly golden at the edges.

8. Enjoy!

Quinoa and Barley Salad and Chicken Piccata

IMG_4835I love to try new recipes and for dinner I was feeling adventurous.  I wasn’t feeling like regular rice, so I found a recipe for Barley and Quinoa salad on the Canadian Living website.  There were a few adjustments because of what we had in the fridge at the time.  The salad would be delicious with a few cherry tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini and onion.  Jonathan also mentioned that it would be good as a warm salad with roasted vegetables.  To go with this summer salad I made chicken piccata with the recipe from Giada DeLaurentiis.  The lemony chicken with capers was the perfect pairing for a summer meal.

If you are wondering why the quinoa looks slightly darker, it’s because it’s black quinoa that my sister Laura bought for me.  At the bridal shower part of the gift was to share a favourite recipe and bring an ingredient that goes into making the recipe.  So, Laura, knowing that I love new ingredients found black quinoa.  It was delicious!  If it is possible – it seemed healthier than regular quinoa.  I would definitely make this recipe again for a barbecue.  It is an alternative to one of my weaknesses – pasta salad!  Jonathan teases me about my love for pasta, but he also allows it to go on the menu quite frequently!

Quinoa and Barley Salad with Chicken Piccata and peas

Quinoa and Barley Summer Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
  • 2/3 cup (150 mL) barley
  • 2/3 cup (150 mL) quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) each finely diced carrot and sweet red pepper (could add zucchini, cucumber, and celery)
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) each fresh mint (3-4 leaves, torn)
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) dried thyme (or fresh if you have it)

Vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) garlic chili sauce
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) each salt and pepper

Directions

In saucepan, bring 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) water and half of the salt to boil; add barley. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until tender and liquid is absorbed, about
40 minutes; let cool.

Meanwhile, in separate saucepan, bring 1 cup (250 mL) water and remaining salt to boil; add quinoa. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until tender and liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes; let cool.

Meanwhile, chop carrots, red pepper and other veggies you might like to add.

VINAIGRETTE: In small bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, garlic sauce, mustard, salt and pepper; set aside.

In large bowl, combine barley, quinoa, vegetable mixture, mint and thyme; pour dressing over top and toss to coat. Refrigerate to cool and allow flavours to be enhanced.  Refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

Chicken Piccata

Ingredients

2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts, cut in half

Sea salt and black pepper

All-Purpose Flour for dredging

6 tablespoons butter

5 tablespoons olive oil

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

½ cup chicken stock

¼ cup brined capers, rinsed

Directions

  1. Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Dredge chicken in flour and shake off the excess.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 2 tbsp of butter and 3 tbsp olive oil.  When butter and oil start to sizzle, add 2 pieces of chicken and cook for 3 minutes.  When chicken is nicely golden, flip and cook on the other side for 3 minutes.  Remove chicken from skillet and place on a plate.  Cook the rest of the chicken in the same way.
  3. Add lemon juice, chicken stock and capers to the pan.  Stir well and put pan back on element.  Put the chicken in the mixture and cook for 5-6 minutes.
  4. Add extra sauce over chicken when serving.

Bridal Shower

Bridal Shower Cake Baking is fun in itself, but the truly creative part is with the decorating!  I am on Pinterest all the time, looking at new cake decorating ideas.  I was delighted with the beautiful cake that my family dreamt up and had made for the shower.  The cake was beautifully decorated with fresh pansies.  This trend of decorating with fresh flowers isn’t new, but I wanted to share the picture of the amazing cake.  I love the contrast between the deep purple flowers and the creamy icing.  The cake was made by Maunder’s food shop in Aurora, which is one of our favourite places.  I believe my Grandma was in there quite a few times verifying all of the food and buying more food.

Another highlight was getting my future Mother-in-law’s recipe for pork bafath.  It is a recipe from South India – and Jonathan’s favourite!  I don’t know if I could marry Jonathan without having the recipe for his favourite dinner.  I have yet to try it on my own, but I have lots of time to perfect my cooking skill.  Recently, though I perfected his Mom’s chili chicken recipe.  I will have to share this recipe another day though, because it is a delicious dish, worthy of its own blog post.Future Mother-in-law, me, Gran, and Mom

Bridal showers are fun because they are a day with the ladies.  My closest friends from high school Lauren and Krista came.  My closest friends from Trent University attended: Emily and Laura.  Along with wonderful neighbours and my Mom’s high school friends.  It was great to catch up with everyone before the wedding.  I am extremely lucky to have such a wonderful group of friends and family!

Mixed Berry Cupcakes

Raspberry, Blueberry, Blackberry CupcakesMy blog has been a place to store some wonderful memories.  So, leading up to my wedding to the wonderful Jonathan Pinto – I will document some more memories.  It’s funny how memories and food are so closely tied together.  There is a great deal of lead up time and excitement that a wedding brings.  I’m sure I will be busy with details and planning.  I will also make time to bake some cookies or scones and share a few stories.

Today marks my last day of volunteering with an amazing grade 2 class in Windsor, Ontario.  I have been volunteering since March, and I will miss them.  I will be volunteering again in September though, with a junior kindergarten class!  It should prove to be tons of fun and high energy.

I love cupcakes for celebrating – and I really want to celebrate all that I have learned from the grade 2 class.  As well, to thank them for sharing all of their stories, reading with me, and allowing me to teach them a math lesson tossed in there.  I have enjoyed watching them learn, grow and tell their stories.  I believe literacy is important because no matter what career you are in, it is important to be able to communicate your interests, what you are passionate about, and as an individual to tell your story, as you move throughout the world.

Countdown to the wedding: 15 days! (Not including today or the day of June 22)

Mixed Berry Cupcakes

with Vanilla Icing and Confetti Sprinkles

Ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature, beaten

½-1 cup pureed raspberries, blueberries and blackberries, strained

Instructions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Set out cupcake papers and set aside.

2.  In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

3.  In a food processor or blender puree 1-2 cups of mixed berries that will be reduced to about ½-1 cup.  With a strainer, strain the puree to get ride of the seeds.

4.  In your mixer combine the sugar, canola oil, vanilla extract and eggs.  Then add in the buttermilk and strawberry puree.  Add lemon zest.  Slowly add in the flour mixture.

5.  Spoon the batter into the cupcake pans and bake until the cupcakes spring back when touched lightly in the center (20minutes).

6.  Cool before icing.

Buttercream Icing – from Canadian Living Website

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 5 cups sifted icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Preparation

In large bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy. Alternately beat in sugar and cream, making 2 additions of sugar. Beat in vanilla. (Make-ahead: Refrigerate in airtight container for up to 24 hours; let come to room temperature, about 1 hour. Beat slightly before using.)