January 13, 2017

Ready, Set, Weekend with Simply Beautiful Eating

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I’m sorry but it’s hard.

Every week I go through the same drudgery. What to do for an easy weeknight meal? And what about all those pots, pans and utensils? Wash and dry, wash and dry, wash and dry. Ugh  MAKE IT STOP!

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That’s why this one pan meal is so great   I’m just going to refer to it as Four Breasts and a Pan (rated PG 13 because, well, there are naked breasts involved).

I featured my tablescape last week, which included a fresh greenery garland complete with lemons and limes. Do you know how many lemons and limes were on that table? An obscene amount. What was I supposed to do with these afterwards?

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Well….

When life gives you lemons you clearly need to make a sh&*t load of chicken or one big ass lemon pie. I opted for the one pan meal deal because, frankly I have had my fill of sweets in the past few weeks. Speaking of which, I received a gift of cookies from my son’s future mother-in-law and was methodically going through the tin night after night. It contained some of my favourites from the past years, and to be honest, once I get a hold of these I count the days until I get another delivery next year. Now, here’s where the story begins………you knew I would have a story with these cookies right?

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My first mistake was leaving the container in full view on the counter. Not to say I don’t share, but what I should have done was clearly mark the “no touch ones” in the container or better yet, separate them and HIDE them for ME.

I know what you’re thinking. SELFISH SELFISH SELFISH.

This is what I have to say to that.

I DON’T CARE.

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Where am I going with this? Oh ya. I went down to make myself a nice cup of tea the other night, which included a sweet treat from “the container”. When I opened “the container”, this is what I saw……

Crumbs. Just crumbs.

And then, I turned to glare at my husband, who sheepishly looked up at the ceiling lights and tried to ignore me.

Only 341 more days until those cookies come around again Steve…..ONLY 341.

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How did I get from breasts to cookies? Oh ya, I opted for this fairly healthy meal because:

A. It’s easy to make.

B. It’s got chicken in it.

C. There’s only one pan to clean up afterwards and,

D. I used a few of the lemons up so there was no chance of me making something sweet and fattening with them.

ONE PAN LEMON CHICKEN WITH BRUSSELS SPROUTS

-4 small skinless & boneless chicken breasts (about 1lb )
-½ cup Italian-style bread crumbs
-½ cup panko crumbs
-¼ cup parmesan cheese
-juice and zest of 1 lemon
-about 4 small lemons sliced
-½ teaspoon garlic powder
-1 teaspoon of any poultry seasoning (I used an herb one)
-fresh thyme sprigs
-4 tablespoons olive or avocado oil
-2 tablespoons honey (I used organic Manuka)
-2 cups small brussels sprouts, washed and cut in half
-additional oil for drizzling

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1) Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and grease with oil; set aside.
2) Cut chicken breasts in halves then into long tenders about 2 inch wide. (or you can also buy chicken tenders to save yourself from cutting them)
3) Combine the breadcrumbs, panko and parmesan cheese one a plate and set aside.
4) Combine the lemon juice, zest, oil, honey, garlic powder, and seasoning in a shallow bowl.
5) Dip chicken pieces one at a time in the lemon oil mixture then into the breadcrumbs and place the tenders on the baking sheet. Top chicken with fresh lemon slices and fresh thyme sprigs then drizzle with remaining lemon oil mixture.
6) Add the brussels sprouts to the pan. Lightly drizzle the chicken and brussels with a tablespoon of oil. Then sprinkle the brussels sprouts with additional parmesan cheese.
7) Bake 20 – 25 minutes or until chicken is golden and and brussels sprouts are tender.

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See you next week!

debi @simplybeautifuleating
simplybeautifuleating.com

xx, Debi
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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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December 27, 2016

Bacon Bloody Mary

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I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! I know I’ve been enjoying relaxing at my parents house and catching up on some much needed sleep. I am also in full prep mode for New Years Eve, since I’ll be hosting some friends in the city this weekend.

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In anticipation of the big partying days ahead and the fact that I will be entertaining some friends in from out of town, I thought it might be fun to perfect a brunch-friendly cocktail to nurse us back to health.  What better way to do so than with a Bloody Mary?! Seri helped me out and shot this beauty for me to have it ready for you guys in time!

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Here’s what you need:

-vodka
-tomato juice
-tabasco
-Worcestershire sauce
-prepared horseradish
-celery salt
-fresh ground black pepper
-salt
-bacon
-celery stalks
-lemons
-limes
-ice
-cocktail shaker

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Here’s what to do:

1) Start your bacon frying in a skillet.  Once fried to your desired crispiness,  stick onto a bamboo skewer and set aside for later use!

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2) Place mixture of celery salt, fresh ground black pepper and salt on a flat plate.  Take a lime wedge and wet the rim of your glasses. Place wetted rim in spice mixture on plate, coating the rim.

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3) Fill each newly rimmed glass with ice, about halfway. In cocktail shaker, add juice and rind of one lime wedge, one lemon wedge, 2 oz of vodka, 4 oz tomato juice, 2 tsp. horseradish, 2 dashes of Worcestershire sauce, and one pinch each of celery salt, fresh ground black pepper and salt.
4) Also add ice to shaker, then cover and shake well, combining all ingredients.
5) Strain into each cocktail glass.  Should be enough for two bloodys, so mix again for more!

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6) Garnish each glass with a celery stalk, bacon, and a lemon or lime wedge.

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This beautiful, bacon-ey Bloody is the perfect hangover cure… and I will most certainly be serving it up to my friends on New Years Day after we party it up with the Ultimate New Years Eve Party in a Box. Today is the last day to order yours in time for your NYE Bash, so don’t miss out!

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Until next week… Happy New Year!

xx, Abby
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December 23, 2016

Ready, Set, Weekend with Simply Beautiful Eating

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Here’s a little pop quiz. Ready?

What has one bowl.

A few ingredients.

Lot’s of deliciousness.

And looks like this ↓

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If you guessed this recipe …..YOU’RE RIGHT!

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I wanted to share this with you for like ever but I had to wait for my future daughter-in-law to be available to help me with my “video filming day” (plus she’s my “C.O.D.” CHIEF OF DRIZZLING *see her skills below).

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If you saw my post on Instagram or Facebook you’ve already had the heads up on this recipe….ANNNNDDD…if you’re lucky enough to work with me (namely the “office gals”) you have taste tested this yummy apple pecan cake.

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Speaking of which, I always get mixed reviews on my samples when I bring them to work.

Some give me the thumbs up.

Some ask me for the recipe.

Some are too shy to admit they have had two pieces (or three).

Some just walk by my office, plaster their face up against my window and glare at me (because …..well…..these treats are irresistible but totally not small tush friendly)

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Oh good God. Who doesn’t love a baker!!!???

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K.

Back to the cake and the fact that technically, notwithstanding the topping and drizzle, this thing is made in ONE BOWL.

YES!

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Throw it all in. Mix it up. Top it. Drizzle it and that’s it.

It absolutely cannot get better than this one bowl cake. Oh wait. Yes it can.

You can make two bowls….and two cakes.

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One Bowl Apple Pecan Cake

For the Cake:
-2 cups all-purpose flour
-1 cup granulated sugar
-½ cup plain Greek yogurt
-½ cup butter, room temp
-¼ cup milk (I used coconut)
-2 large eggs
-1 tsp cinnamon
-1 tsp baking powder
-1 tsp baking soda
-1 tsp vanilla
-¼ tsp salt
-3 – 4 granny smith apples, peeled and diced (I used 4 medium size apples)

Topping:
-¼ cup butter – cold and diced in small pieces
-1 cup chopped pecans
-½ cup flour
-⅓ cup sugar
-¼ cup brown sugar
-1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
-¼ teaspoon salt

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Optional Drizzle but really GOOD
Vanilla Drizzle
-½ cup powder sugar
-1 tablespoon milk (more or less, depending on thickness desired)

Caramel Drizzle
-1 cup Kraft caramels
-1 – 2 tablespoons milk

1) Make your topping in advance by combing all topping ingredients in a bowl. Use your fingers to work mixture into the texture of small clumps. Cover and keep chilled in the fridge.
2) Butter a 13×9 in baking dish and preheat oven to 350F.
3) Combine all cake ingredients except the diced apples in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix at medium speed just until mixture is combined. *Don’t over mix.
4) Use a rubber spatula to fold in apples. Batter will be super thick but don’t worry, this is a very dense cake.
5) Spread batter into prepared baking dish, evenly to the corners.
6) Sprinkle topping over the batter and pat it down with your hand.
7) Bake 40-43 minutes. Check for doneness with toothpick. Remove cake from oven and let cool completely.
8) If desired (and it’s crazy not to, make the two drizzles, you won’t be sorry).
9) For the vanilla, combine the powdered sugar with milk until you have reached your desired consistency for the drizzling.
10) For the caramel, melt candies over low to medium heat with milk, keep stirring constantly and try not to scorch the mixture. Once the mixture is melted see if it runs off a spoon with the same consistency as the vanilla drizzle. You don’t want it too thick, add more milk if needed.
11) Drizzle both the vanilla and caramel over the cooled cake. Enjoy!

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xx, Debi
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December 16, 2016

Ready, Set, Weekend with Simply Beautiful Eating

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It seems that for the past couple of years I’ve been out of town when the cookie exchange is going on at my office. I REALLY REALLY REALLY HATE MISSING THAT.

Oh how I long for those trays and trays of home baked goodies and going around in circles around the table filling up my large tupperware container. This is my idea of a good time and UGH…I MISSED IT AGAIN!

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As you might have guessed, I love to bake. I love it even more when someone else is the baker and I get to be the TAKER.

This year, one of my fellow food bloggers who I follow on Instagram decided it would be great to host a cookie party right here in Toronto.

Um.

BRILLIANT IDEA.

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We each received the name and address of a “secret recipient” and the premise was to bake at least a dozen or more cookies, package them and mail or deliver them in person. I didn’t live that close to my secret recipient, so I let good ol’ Canada Post do my delivering right to her doorstep.

OH! And the good folks at Ghirardelli Chocolate sent me an amazing gift basket filled with everything I needed to make one of my all time favourite cookie recipes. Chocolate Cranberry Biscotti (or in Jewish terms – Mandelbread). With the selection of chocolate I received, I wanted to kick them up with a black and white ganache drizzle to add some glitz for this cookie party.

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BRING IT ON.

Now, listen. They are perfectly fine without the drizzle shnizzle but really? They look pretty darn nice with the chocolate dripping all over them don’t they?

I literally whipped them out of the oven, dipped them in a cinnamon sugar coating then let them cool. And man oh man I went to town with that drizzle. So much so that I think I ended up wearing half and the floor ended up wearing the other half.

I packed them up in a cookie tin, added a little baking gift inside, addressed the package and ran to the post office.

Thank you Sara @thekitchensinkblog for organizing this great cookie exchange!

I received mine from @hautesucre and let me tell you, they were nothing short of spectacular. Take a look at these gold dusted chocolate Christmas trees. I mean. Stop.

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THEY ARE PERFECT!

And speaking of gifts, I also received the most wonderful package from my niece @littlemissparty. She sent a wonderful photo book filled with beautiful memories from 2016 PLUS two dish towels from Target which I’m totally obsessed with and used immediately for this shoot. She certainly knows how to make her Auntie D. happy.

Cheers to the holiday season and to lots and lots of cookies!

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CHOCOLATE CRANBERRY BISCOTTI (MANDELBREAD)
-3 eggs
-1 tsp vanilla
-1 cup sugar
-1 cup oil
-4 cups flour
-1 tsp baking powder
-1 8 oz pkg semi-sweet chocolate chips
-Optional – ½ cup each dried cranberries & sliced almonds
-Cinnamon Sugar ( ½ cup sugar to 1 tsp cinnamon mixed together on a plate)
-Optional Drizzle – 1 cup each dark & white chocolate chips, melted

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1) Mix eggs, vanilla, sugar and oil together. Gradually add flour that has been sifted with baking powder. Just before it is totally incorporated add in your chocolate chips, dried cranberries and sliced almonds. Form into a large ball and cut the ball in quarters.

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2) You will have 4 pieces of dough which you need to form into rectangular logs.
Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper (I use a silicone baking mat) and bake at 350F for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and slice into ½ inch cookies.

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3) Place them back on the cookie sheet and bake for another 10-15 minutes. As soon as they are easy to handle and not super hot, dip in cinnamon sugar mixture and place onto baking rack to cool. Optional drizzle. White and dark chocolate chips. (melt in a heat proof bowl over simmering water)

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See you next week!

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debi @simplybeautifuleating
simplybeautifuleating.com

xx, Debi
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