March 17, 2017

Ready, Set, Weekend With Simply Beautiful Eating

Green isn’t limited to shamrocks and leprechauns. At this epic spread, it’s the inspiration for a healthy, yet hearty lunch that offers a spread of crudités with green goddess dip, mini fruit-topped pavlovas, and iced green tea.

Here’s what comes to mind when I think about St. Patrick’s Day: loads of green food, rainbows, pots of gold, shamrocks and of course, leprechauns. Even if you’re not Irish, you can create, style, cook, bake and host a gorgeous and elegant St. Patrick’s Day party!

This table offers a lush meets luxe dining experience. Think green and leafy intertwined with white and gold accents for your table settings. In keeping with the traditions of this theme, I used all of Martha’s recipes to blend together a wonderful, healthy lunch for family and friends.

One of the most eye-catching details at this table? The four-leaf clover napkins! Since this holiday is always fun and festive, I wanted to try my hand at napkin-folding. The only problem I have with this type of challenge is following instructions. This was a perfect job for my husband to tackle. (I bet you didn’t know that he is an expert napkin folder. Now you do!) He has so much more patience when it comes to tasks like this, it’s wonderful. Here’s how!

One thing I loved doing for an anniversary party I hosted recently, was a DIY garland for the table runner. It was super easy, reasonably priced, and packed a punch as a focal point for a simply beautiful centerpiece. For this garland, I included frisée (pronounced “free-ZAY”), which is used to refer to a variety of endive with curly, pale green or yellow-ish leaves. I created the garland with an edible factor, which is also appealing to the eye.

Let’s get back to the food. I chose these recipes carefully, based on three ingredient colors: green, white, and a pop of gold. For a quick appetizer, I created a wonderful crudité platter with green goddess dip.

My main course dishes were super healthy, green, and packed with protein. A warm quinoa and chicken salad, baby bok choy with ginger and garlic plus a refreshing salad with buttermilk dressing.

Don’t forget a signature mocktail. I served a cool and refreshing iced green tea with cucumber, which paired perfectly with the meal.

Lastly, dessert was easy: mini pavlovas garnished with fruit and a fresh herb that kept the St. Patrick’s day theme going — green grapes, kiwi, and mint.

Wishing you a pot of gold and all the joy your heart can hold.

Here are some quick tips for hosting this party:

Get festive with your food, think green and clean.

Showcase your creativity by cutting foods into pretty themed shapes. For example, a green pepper sliced width-wise looks exactly like a shamrock or four-leaf clover.

Give your tablescape a focal point, like the DIY garland.

Incorporate traditional with a modern twist: a four-leaf clover napkin, gold drinking straws, confetti and a menu filled with color themed food.

Include a signature “green” drink.

Have fun!

Credits
Author/Photographer/Stylist: Debi Traub | @simplybeautifuleating created exclusively for

Martha Stewart Living

Party props: Little Miss Party

Tableware, Props: Pier 1 Imports

Florals: Irene’s Floral

Tableware, Props: HomeSense (U.S. readers can shop similar product at HomeGoods)

View all recipes by clicking on the pictures above

xx, Debi
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March 10, 2017

Ready, Set, Weekend with Simply Beautiful Eating

Two words.

PRETTY PIZZA.

I could probably stop right here and just move forward to the recipe because that’s all you need to know, right?

But of course I can’t go on without my usual and much anticipated ramble.

What inspired me about making this pizza was one simple ingredient – watermelon radishes. I can’t even look at them because they are just too stunning. LOOK AT THIS COLOUR!! A perfect shade of hot pink and a real show stopper for many recipes. Here’s the real story behind me buying ONE, yes ONE watermelon radish.

It’s all because of the popcorn.

Wait.

What?

Yes, popcorn.

Do I still have your attention? If you haven’t scrolled down to the recipe already, I’m going to tell you about my current obsession.

Every night I stuff my face with a good size bowl of low fat popcorn from a very well known company. Before I tell you more, you need to know this. I HATE SHARING MY FOOD. Like HATE. Okay, hate is a very strong word, how about DISLIKE IMMENSELY. Wait. That’s two words, but who cares.

When I go to the movies, I get my very own “pig size” popcorn. If I happen to drop a kernel on my lap while shoveling it in, I get anxious and sweaty. If my husband happens to reach over and steal from my bag when he clearly has his own, that’s grounds for divorce. So  yes, I don’t like anyone in my popcorn space.

The other night, as I was enjoying my bowl of popcorn I noticed that it had a strange, almost sweet taste. I asked Steve to taste it just in case it there was something wrong with ME. This would be the ONLY time I would share this snack because, technically it was yucky. (I actually googled my Med MD website to see if there was a correlation to a change in taste buds due to eating high volumes of popcorn). Ya. That’s how nuts I am.

Then I checked the bag and it was my usual popcorn brand, so I have no idea why it tasted different. I thought about different factory based scenarios that would interfere with the production of MY popcorn. Other than the possibility of a sweet flavour version somehow making its way into the wrong bags on the conveyor belt, I don’t have a clear cut answer. I just wanted MY slightly salted and oh so perfect popcorn, not this sweet crap.

Still with me?

I went to buy another bag of it the next day from a different store. The second I walked in, I spotted these magnificent watermelon radishes and completely forgot about why I was there in the first place. I put ONE radish in the cart, picked up additional ingredients and toppings for a whole wheat pizza and left the store…..

….WITHOUT THE POPCORN.

Wasn’t this worth reading?

NO, but this pizza is worth eating.

WHOLE WHEAT PIZZA WITH BUFFALO MOZZARELLA, GREENS & WATERMELON RADISH

– 1 recipe whole wheat pizza dough (see below)
– ½ teaspoon oregano
– 2 – 3 tablespoons fresh pesto
– 1 watermelon radish, thinly sliced
– 4 – 5 slices fresh buffalo mozzarella
– 3 cups of mixed greens (I used mixed greens with edible flowers)
– ½ cup part skim shredded mozzarella cheese
– fresh basil for garnish

1) Preheat oven to 400F. I like to use the convection option for making pizza. If you don’t have this type of oven don’t stress. Just bump up the temperature to 425F
2) Prepare a 9 x 13 baking pan by greasing it with butter.
3) Stretch the pizza dough onto the pan. Spread pesto sauce over the dough, sprinkle with oregano and top with sliced watermelon radish. Place buffalo mozzarella over the top of the pizza dough. Sprinkle 1½ cups of the mixed greens over the buffalo mozzarella, then sprinkle with the shredded mozzarella. Bake for 20 -24 minutes or until crust is nicely browned underneath and around the edges. Remove pizza from the oven and top with remaining 1½ cups of mixed greens and basil. Slice and serve hot.

WHOLE WHEAT PIZZA DOUGH

– 1 cup water, heated to 110 degrees
– 1 tablespoon sugar
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 1 envelope (2¼ teaspoons) rapid-rise or instant yeast
– 2¾ cups white or regular whole wheat flour (or a combo of both)
– ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
– 1 teaspoon sea salt

1) Whisk water, sugar, oil and yeast in a liquid measuring cup or small bowl. Allow yeast to proof for 5 minutes. It should puff up.
2) Pulse flour, parmesan cheese, and salt in food processor until combined. While running the food processor, slowly pour in the water mixture and process for one minute until a rough looking ball forms.
3) Dump the dough onto a floured work surface and quickly knead dough a few times until it comes together. Cut your dough in half if your are making two smaller pizzas or use the entire ball for a large pizza.
4) On your floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll dough as thinly as possible. Place into prepared pan and stretch it out with your fingers if it bounces back. It can get sticky so dip your fingers lightly into oil to help it spread. Once you have all your toppings on, brush the edges of the dough with olive oil.

See you next week!

debi @simplybeautifuleating

xx, Debi
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February 17, 2017

Ready, Set, Weekend with Simply Beautiful Eating

Okay guys. This maybe wasn’t such a good idea but I don’t want to discourage you from attempting to make your own (supposedly easy) Chinese dumplings.

Reason being is that these are a huge “patchka” (literal translation: to mess around with food or a project)

Think of these as a culinary challenge to your dexterity and patience.

Have you ever watched professional chefs make dim sum dumplings? Truly an art.

They take the dough, stuff it, seal it and steam the dumplings efficiently. Within seconds, they have mastered hundreds of precisely made dumplings. That being said, they do this for a living. Day in and day out. THEY ARE DUMPLING  MAKERS.

I had a few factors working against me when I tried these. One being that I’m not Asian and have never made a dumpling before (hang on, I tried making what we call “Jewish wontons” once and experienced the same result….crappy kreplach. Secondly, for a change I was in a hurry to make and photograph these in time for the Chinese New Year. Do you know what happens when you rush? Besides breaking into full on shvitz (sweat) here’s a list of my excuses……

#1.

I didn’t feel like making my own dough. Already, that’s a problem and classified as a cop out for authentic dumplings.

#2.

Although I’m pretty good with my hands, the majority of these SO CALLED dumplings fell apart as soon as I steamed them. Not pretty, not pretty AT ALL.

#3.

I ate the ones that fell apart so no one would witness aftermath of the exploded dumplings. Not a great idea since I was trying to hide the disaster and therefore couldn’t eat dinner seeing as I WAS STUFFED to the gills with dumplings. A full out giveaway that “something went awry” with my experiment.

I came to the conclusion that it’s much easier to go out for Dim Sum and I plan on doing that in the future.

Have I scared you enough to look away from this blog post?

Nah.

Check out how nice they are……..(I mean, see how nice the ones that turned out look?)

The truth of the matter is, practice makes perfect and the next time I tried making these I used yoga breathing to get through the process and they were STELLAR.

almost forgot something. The dipping sauces. I wanted to make MY own and I did. What I didn’t do was write down the recipes for each one. Brilliant right? I’m going to do my best to remember what was in them but just in case I forgot an ingredient please forgive me. I’m blaming it all on the dumplings.

CHICKEN & BOK CHOY CHINESE DUMPLINGS

– ½ lb ground chicken
– ¾ cup baby bok choy, steamed and finely chopped
– 2 tablespoons, chives finely chopped
– 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
– 1 garlic clove, finely minced
– 1 tablespoon sesame oil
– ½ teaspoon rice wine vinegar
– ⅛ teaspoon white pepper
– 1 package round wonton wrappers (you can find these at an Asian supermarket)
– 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, if pan frying
– black and white toasted sesame seeds for garnish
– Additional chopped chives for garnish

1) Combine the ground chicken, bok choy, chives, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, vinegar, and pepper into a medium bowl until well blended.
2) Place wrappers on a work surface lined with parchment paper.
3) To assemble the dumplings place ½ tablespoon of filling per wonton.
4) Rub the edges of the wrappers with water using your fingertip.
5) Fold the dough over the filling to create a half-moon shape, and pinch the edges to seal. (here’s where you need to be very careful, make sure those edges are tightly sealed otherwise you will end up with E.D.S. – Exploded Dumpling Syndrome.
6) Now you can either steam or pan fry the dumplings, here’s how:
7) To steam the dumplings, add about 1 to 2 inches of water into the bottom of a large pan and bring to a boil. (I have a double decker bamboo steamer and I make sure not to submerge the bottom layer of the steamer into the water)
8) Layer the steamer baskets with vegetable leaves (I used bok choy) to prevent the dumplings from sticking.
9) Place the bamboo steamer over the water and cook for about 10 minutes or until the dumplings are fully cooked.
10) To pan fry the dumplings, add oil to a pan and sauté dumplings for 2-3 minutes on one side until golden brown. Add in some water (3-4 tablespoons) and place a lid over the pan to steam. The dumplings should be done once all of the water has been absorbed. Garnish with additional chives, chopped peanuts and serve with dipping sauces. Makes about 24 dumplings or in my case 15 due to E.D.S.
11) Serve with dipping sauces and garnished with sesame seeds and chives

GINGER SOY DIPPING SAUCE

– 1⁄4 cup light soy sauce
– 3⁄4 tablespoon rice vinegar
– 1 teaspoon honey
– 1 minced garlic clove
– 1⁄2 teaspoon sesame oil
– 1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
– 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh ginger

Whisk all ingredients and serve.

SZECHUAN PEANUT DIPPING SAUCE

– 2 tablespoons peanut butter
– 4 tablespoons hoisin sauce
– 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
– 1 teaspoon sriracha ketchup
– 3 – 4 tablespoons water
– 1 tablespoon crushed peanuts

1) In a small microwave-safe bowl, add hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, 3 tablespoons of water, peanut butter, and sriracha ketchup. Mix to blend ingredients.
2) Microwave on high for 20-25 seconds. Remove from microwave, and use a fork to combine ingredients together.
3) If sauce is too thick, add 1-2 additional tablespoons of water to achieve a thinner consistency.
4) Sprinkle with chopped peanuts. Serve as dipping sauce.

FIERY THAI DIPPING SAUCE

– ½ cup water
– ¼ cup rice vinegar
– ¼ cup white sugar
– 1 large garlic clove, finely minced
– 1 ½ teaspoons red chili flakes
– ⅛ cup water
– 2 teaspoons cornstarch

1) Combine water, rice vinegar, sugar, garlic and chili flakes in a small sauce pan. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly to dissolve the sugar.
2) Bring to a slow simmer and cook for 5 minutes, keep stirring so it doesn’t scorch.
3) In a cup or small bowl, make a slurry of the cornstarch and ⅛ cup water.
4) After the sauce has simmered for 5 minutes, slowly pour in the cornstarch mixture.
5) Bring the sauce to a boil and cook gently for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
6) If the sauce isn’t as thick as you want, boil for another minute or so.
7) Serve as dipping sauce.

xx, Debi
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January 11, 2017

Chef Luke makes Cream Cheese Cake Dip

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This week Luke is making Cream Cheesecake Dip. Luke and I brainstormed to come up with a recipe for the Football Sunday which is always a big eating day in our house. Since he’s not the biggest fan of spinach, we went with a dip that falls in the cake family. Curious to see how this recipe goes over with the men on Football Sunday…though I know the boys will be throwing back this fruit while they yell HUT!

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We felt the best thing to dip into our cheesecake dip was fruit. So Luke chose his faves and then thread them onto skewers to make kabobs.

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Luke’s favorite part of this recipe was smashing up the biscuits which were the perfect, crunchy, topping to the sweet dip.

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Wanna join in on the fun here?  Here’s how:

Chef Luke’s Cheesecake Dip:

Ingredients –
1 brick of cream cheese
¼ cup brown sugar
Squish the juice from 1 lemon
3/4 cup cream
6 Butter Snap biscuits

The How to –

Let the cream cheese come to room temperature to soften before you start the recipe.

Place the softened cream cheese in a large bowl and whisk in the brown sugar, lemon juice and cream until combined.
Place the biscuits in a re-sealable bag and crush using a rolling pin.
Pour the cheesecake mix into a serving bowl and sprinkle with crushed biscuit.
Serve with fresh fruit for dipping.

ENJOY!

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Don’t miss Luke in action. Find him on the Little Miss Party YouTube channel cooking away!

Photos by Abigail Copleston

Video by Maggie Antalek

xx, Seri
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January 6, 2017

Ready, Set, Weekend with Simply Beautiful Eating

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I dreamt about this dinner party for a long time.

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As visions of southern Italy danced in my head (while I was supposed to be sleeping but instead tossing, turning and shlepping my covers on and off because lately I’m always hot and cold at the same time) I planned an evening filled with warmth and family to help Steve and I celebrate our 10th year of marriage.

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Let me give you a little history on us and forgive me if I’m repeating myself but I’m getting old and it happens. When I first met Steve my boys were 13, 11 & 8 years of age. I was a single parent struggling to make ends meet and was too busy working full time and tending to my boys to look for a love interest in my life. BUT my friends and family seemed determined to find a match for me. After all, there is a lid for every pot.

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SO I dated…and dated…..and dated and I kept track of each and every one of those dates.

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Some were tall. Some were short. Some were rich. Some were poor. Some had boats. Some had cars. Some had even cars that didn’t start. Some had kids. Some had pets. Some were nice. Some were not. Some were clean and some were dirty. Hang on. By dirty I don’t really mean DIRTY….I mean….like, kind of smelly. Until one day a gentleman named Steve (otherwise known as blind date #47…..ya…..47) knocked at my door.

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He stood outside on the porch holding a bouquet of yellow roses in his arms. When I swung open the door all I heard him say was “WOW”. That’s it. Just WOW.

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Wow what? Was it that my hair was starting to frizz already in the mid summer humidity? Was it that I was not his type and he thoughts were just vocalized by mistake (“wow, what were my friends thinking?”)

Or was it just wow, I’m glad she is my date tonight.

If you ask him now he will tell you this……..she will always be my WOW.

Now here’s my take on what I said inside my head when I opened the door and saw him for the first time.

A. He’s not short

B. He’s polite

C. He’s not smelly

D. Why the hell is he wearing cowboy boots (never mind…I haven’t seen them since that day 18 years ago….but I know they are hidden somewhere in the house and I WILL FIND THEM)

E. He’s well….um….pretty handsome.

F. He arrived in his dad’s woody (station wagon) because he was one of those dates that had a car that didn’t start.

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Anyway, we dated. And dated. And dated. And eventually we ended up living together for 8 years without formally tying the knot. Until one day, my boss and his wife had enough of us living in SIN and said….you two need to get married and we will continue to bug you until you do.

So.

We did.

In a very small informal way, we finally made it legal.

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Here we are 10 years later and this is were I started off this blog…….dreaming about a dinner in Tuscany.

I quickly opened Pinterest. Made a secret Anniversary Board and starting pinning like crazy. I had the theme so the rest was basically easy.

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As much as I love to cook, there was as special menu I had in mind and the only person I know who could pull off an authentic Italian style meal was my good friend Chef Ritacca of Cucina Mauro. A few blogs ago I introduced you to Mauro when he was kind enough to open his home to Steve and I for dinner. I will never forget how delicious the food was that he expertly prepared in his kitchen. It was an evening filled with Nonna’s recipes, rich with cultural undertones and laden with thousands of calories but totally worth the indulgence.

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I contacted Chef Mauro last month to see if he was available to come and cook for our upcoming special occasion. Boy, was I ever excited when he said YES! We began collaborating on the menu and although Chef Mauro was in charge of the majority of the courses I really wanted to try my hand at creating a charcuterie board.

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I must say, as a virgin charcuterie maker, I think this turned out pretty darn nice. I gave Steve the task of buying all the puzzle pieces (ingredients) and he came home with some stellar stuff. Now here’s the dilemma I had. When was I going to actually take photos of this board? It gets dark here pretty early in the dead of winter so I jumped ahead of the game and set it up at 2 p.m., took a load of pictures and dismantled the whole thing only to put it back together again at 5:30 p.m. Humpty Dumpty ain’t got nothin’ on me yo.

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It was showtime when Chef Mauro arrived just after 5 p.m. and unloaded his pots, pans, produce and various weapons of mass food preparation to commence making this four course meal.

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Guests started arriving at 6:30 p.m. but one special person was missing. Francine (my boss Alan’s wife) was home sick with pneumonia. OH NO ! Not to worry. Alan made sure that his wife was still able to be at the table with him. He brought a picture of her face on a stick and placed it in his front pocket so it basically looked like he had two heads. As you can see, she looked less than thrilled to be on a stick let alone not be able too attend this shindig.

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The chef and I made sure to send home a full doggie bag for her to enjoy but there was no doubt that “the life of the party” was truly missed.

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The table was set in advance. LIKE WAAAAAAY IN ADVANCE BECAUSE REALLY? I was too excited to wait another minute. I had rented harvest tables from a great guy (B.J. Charbonneau) here in Toronto who we have worked with in the past. His company is called Woodstock Rentals. The chairs and tableware were from the Event Rental Group and the menus and place cards were from our friends at Minted. Table decor was a collection of this and that from CB2, Crate & Barrel and believe it or not Dollarama (one of my favourite places on earth).

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I sourced out prices for a floral garland from several places and each one was coming up way out of my budget so I decided to put my thinking cap on and get creative. First I purchased sheer panel curtains for the base runner and a roll of burlap to nestle the greenery upon.

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Then I purchased small pots of succulents, bunches of ferns and eucalyptus then added in fresh lemons and limes to create this beautiful centrepiece that took no more than 10 minutes to do. Easy shmeasy not too cheesy and really cheapsie.

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Once the candles were lit and the ambiance was set, the rest of the evening flowed effortlessly.

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The meal was served and spaced out with lots of breathing room. Espresso was freshly brewed and the dessert table was laden with beautiful treats that were brought by the guests who attended. My boss (through the direction of his wife) brought an out of control lemony meringue style cake from Phipps Bakery festooned with a very traditional but hilarious wedding topper.

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And then there was another cake, this one from my youngest son (AKA the jokester in the family). It said, Happy Anniversary. Can’t Believe You Made it this Far.

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All in all a simply beautiful evening with amazing company and a stellar chef.

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Oh and Steve….my sweetheart, my husband and my best friend. You are my light, my love and my source of entertainment. Without you I’m not whole. Here’s to another 40 years of laughter and fun. xo

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SIMPLY BEAUTIFUL CHARCUTERIE BOARD
Red and Green Grapes
Assorted Cheeses, hard and soft
Assorted cold meats, prosciutto, salami, etc.
Duck liver pate
Sweet & spicy red pepper jelly
Assorted crackers
Fresh figs
Assorted nuts
Assorted olives
Mixed fresh seafood salad
Marinated artichokes
Assorted Dried Fruit

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Here’s my detailed instruction on how to put together this board. Gather all your ingredients and throw them on. Could this be any easier? NO.

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See you next week!

debi @simplybeautifuleating
simplybeautifuleating.com

xx, Debi
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