This Reuben Sandwich Was A ‘Holy’ Experience

Hello My Fellow Blog Lovers & Supporters!

Warm weather is finally here!! So excited to get my tan on and get outside and enjoy the beautiful countryside that is Niagara.  Recently, my Mom and I went on a bit of a road trip and discovered a new found gem – Shelly’s Family Dining & Catering.  What makes this place so unique, is that it is not a traditional restaurant per say, this one is located in a converted church! Gotta say first time I have been inside one of those in many years 😛

As we pulled up, we were intrigued by the beautiful architecture of the brick church which just screamed history and eclectic beauty in my books.  Fun fact about me, I am a bit of an architectural nerd who LOVES to take pics of structures that intrigue me or are unique.  Seriously my trip to Europe was three quarters buildings and landscapes – True Story!

18301398_813863312099942_218479836676217155_n

But I digress, you walk into the funky entrance way and are greeted with fun artifacts and antiques adding much charm and whimsy.  You proceed to open the big church doors and you are greeted with this large, expansive space which feels like you are being transported back in time, but not style.

Beautiful wooden accents, gorgeous stained glass windows and antique blown glass accent this space. I would be remiss not to mention the AMAZING archway framing this wonderful newly discovered gem as well, beyond gorgeous!

Mom and I grabbed a seat not before admiring their use of old church pews for seating – added a great feature and overall feel to this place.  We were greeted by a wonderfully bubbly server who was excited to see new faces.  We casually looked over the menu and I decided to go with a classic – Reuben sandwich! While waiting for our order, Mom and I took in all the cute and quirky features of this unique venue.  I really do cherish these moments I can experience new places to eat and sit and chat with my Mom – Brings me back to the times just after my Dad died when me and her would go on these epic road trips with no direction in mind, we just hopped in the car and went.  Discovering some really great out of the way hole-in-the-wall places that we otherwise never would have discovered.  Certainly felt like old times and I was loving it!

18527622_10154812126807741_8265836770154086712_n

My mouth was watering when my Reuben got to the table, thick slabs of home roasted pastrami, still juicy and succulent, the bite of yellow mustard accented by the slight tang of the classic sauerkraut all encased by the toasted yet soft rye and kind of nutty bread.  Just delish!

I really would recommend you give this little gem a try if you are looking for homemade food in a very unique atmosphere, then Sherry’s Family Dining & Catering is the place to check out!

Thank you once again for coming along on this blogging journey with me and for taking the time to read my ramblings each week.  But, before we go, let me ask you this, what are some interesting or hole-in-the-wall places that you have discovered in the Niagara region? I am always looking for new places to check out and explore and of course excuses for more epic road tips with my partner in crime, my vivacious Mama!

Can’t wait to hear your recommendations!

Until next time,

Love & Light I send to you always,

Dina xxoo

Sometimes The Answer is Simple – CHOCOLATE!

Hello my fellow blog lovers and supporters!

Well I need to apologize to you all, I definitely spoke too soon,  last week I said that Spring was just around the corner and here we are under 30 cms of SNOW right here in Niagara!

Yeah,  sorrrrrry eh, my bad 😛

So I don’t know about all of you, but when things are crappy outside, the first thing I want to do is tuck in the kitchen and get creating – specifically BAKING!

So, I wander into the kitchen yesterday and who is already in there baking fresh bread – MOM!

Gosh we are so much alike 😛  So I asked her, “Hey Ma, what about something chocolatey?” Well let’s be honest this is really a no brainer, “ummmm YES!”

Now, the first thought that came to my mind is this little Chocolate Cake recipe that I remember had a little bit of a twist to it – Miracle Whip.  YES you read that right, it has Miracle Whip in it!  Searching through our box of hand written recipes low and behold there it was – The 100 Dollar Chocolate Cake.  Now, we have only ever made this cake a couple of times but every time I was always so amazed at how moist and chocolatey it was.

17202745_10154648536287741_4348358752716304557_n

Now I can’t take credit for this one – Our neighbour from when we lived in Dunnville back in the day is the one who gave us this recipe – Trudy Williamson, this one is for you!

As the snow was blowing outside, our hearts and bellies were getting filled inside –  Mom and I danced to country and western music as we baked and laughed the winter day away.

Gosh this brought back so many memories, all the while making new ones for me and hopefully Mom too. This was a wonderful reminder, to treasure those moments you share with those that you love, for tomorrow is NEVER guaranteed…

So without further adieu, here is the recipe for this chocolately goodness!

17308797_10154648723457741_6399289915838656182_n

100 Dollar Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup miracle whip
  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 4 tbsp dutch cocoa (or whatever kind you have.  We use dutch because well, we are dutch and its what is in the house.) 🙂
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/2 package of chocolate chips (or take a couple of Hershey chocolate bars and bang them into small pieces like I have done here)

Directions

Add all of the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl.  In a separate bowl add all of the wet ingredients.  Add the wet to the dry and mix until well blended but try not to over mix. Pour the batter into a greased cake pan or if you like add them into a bundt pan like I did here.  Sprinkle the chocolate chips on the top of the cake covering it evenly.  Put into a 350 degree oven until a fork or tooth pick comes out clean.  Approximately 20 minutes.  Take out of the oven and cool before removing from the pan.  Serve either still warm with a bit of whip cream or I have had it with vanilla ice-cream as well. Both are simply DELISH!

17200906_10154648723327741_7812405100710757514_n

There you have it, 100 dollar chocolate cake – a dessert that is easy to make and will satisfy anyone’s chocolate craving!

Thank you all once again for coming along on this blogging journey with me, your support and you taking the time to read my ramblings every week do not go unnoticed or unappreciated!

But, before I go, let me ask you this – What is your favorite chocolate treat or recipe?  I am always on the look out for new and exciting ways to use chocolate, either sweet or savory!

 

Until we meet again,

Love & Light I send to you always,

Dina xxoo

 

 

Autumn in Ontario =’s My Roasted Butternut Squash & Pear Soup!

Happy Tuesday My fellow Blog Lovers!

Another week is upon us and for the first time I am sensing that ‘fall’ feeling all around me, the cooler weather at night, the trees are starting to bloom into their glorious colourful hues of autumn and my need to cook is definitely bubbling.

I don’t know if it was the Flavours festival that was just here in Port Colborne this past weekend; I actually did a live taste test of the Donair & Tabuleh dish from The Smokin Buddha from the festival, check it out here:

https://www.facebook.com/dinaarsenaultdigitalstrategist/videos/681213318698276/ 

or just my inkling to stock up and get me and my family ready for the cold and unforgiving winter season, which according to the Farmer’s Almanac it is supposed to be a doozy this year. I find my mind and my taste buds are leaning towards my most favorite and flavourful fall creation; my roasted butternut squash and pear soup.  This has to be my go to creation every fall, when the squashes, apples and pears are in great supply and begging to be transformed all around us here in the Niagara region.

Now this recipe has evolved every time that I have made it, my taste buds, creativity and what was available in the house have made it a chameleon of sorts but always delicious.  It can be sweet or savory, that flavour profile is entirely up to you.  Again, as I had mentioned in my previous recipe posts, I do not always give you amounts for spices etc as my Mother and her Mother and so on were taught to cook by feel and I also like to leave that part open to your own flavour likes and your own creativity.  So break open your hot apple ciders, or cups of tea and pull up a chair and let’s begin the process of making my delicious;

Roasted Butternut Squash & Pear Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 Butternut Squash
  • 2 White Cooking Onions
  • 2 Apples
  • 2 Pears
  • Maple Syrup
  • Brown Sugar
  • Butter
  • Chicken Stock
  • Heavy Cream
  • Cinnamon
  • Allspice
  • Cloves
  • Nutmeg
  • Ginger
  • Salt & Pepper

Note:  I have used leeks instead of onions, fresh ginger instead of powdered in the past.  I have also substituted one of the butternut squashes with an acorn or a small pumpkin and I have also substituted molasses instead of maple syrup as well and each substitution lent itself to another evolution of the recipe.  Again, use your imagination and play with the it.

Also, if you are vegan or vegetarian, use veggie stock and or instead of heavy cream use almond or coconut milk.  However, since both of these milks are sweet, use less of the brown sugar and maple syrup to counteract their sweetness.

Directions:

Peel, core and de-seed the butternut squash, apples, pears and onions and cut into smaller pieces and place in a baking dish.  Sprinkle salt & pepper and the spices over the mixture. Dollop butter over top of the veg mixture in all the corners, edges and in the middle. Sprinkle the brown sugar and maple syrup over the mixture.  If you are going for a more savory taste in your soup use less of the sugar and maple syrup, if you like it more sweet add more.

Pour the stock over the mixture until it comes up about half way up the baking dish.  Place the baking dish in a 375 degree oven and bake until soft, sporadically tossing the veg mixture while cooking so it does not stick and burn to the bottom of the dish. Remove the baking dish from the oven, careful not to burn yourself.

12036613_10153543847682741_2589409589045037653_n

Let it cool slightly, blend until smooth.  I use my Nutri bullet, but I have used a submersion and or high powered blender in a pinch and they worked great.  If you find that there is not a lot of liquid left from baking, simply add a bit more of the stock when you are blending. Place the blended mixture in a pot and slowly add the heavy cream and blend until you get the consistency you desire for your soup.  Ladle into bowls and serve.  To add some crunch you can toast the seeds from the squash and sprinkle on top of the finished soup. Delish!

12063728_10153544068092741_7247738320775730882_n

This recipe both freezes and cans great, just don’t add the cream if you do.  Add it when you serve.  I can not wait for you all to get cooking in your own kitchens and give my soup a try!  Let em know how it goes and what were your own ‘twists’ did you do to make it your own!

Thank you once again for taking the time to read my ramblings every week, that never goes unnoticed.  But before I bid you adieu, let me ask you, what is your go to recipe in the fall that you and your family love?  I would love to hear!

 

Until next time,

Love & Light I send to you always,

Dina xxoo

Tis The Season To ‘Preserve’ Family & Tradition

Hello Everyone!

I hope that you all had a wonderful week.  Time for me to pen another blog and continue letting you all into my little world here in Port.

As you all know, the summer is starting to wind down as we head even closer to Labour Day; kids going back to school and all you parents will finally get your sanity back.  But, what this also means is that we are in prime canning season.  Yes you heard me, canning season, that time of year we turn into furry animals prepping and storing our bounty of summer fruits and veggies into a ‘canned’ state so we can nourish ourselves over the long cold winter, which if you follow the Farmer’s Almanac it is going to be a doozy this year…You know THAT time of year.

But what comes to mind even more profoundly more than anything about this time of year, is the bonding that Mom and I would have over each and every one of these seasons. As far back as I can remember, Mom canned beets, peaches, lady rose pickles, pickles, apple sauce, jam, you name it she canned it.  I remember pulling up a stool next to her in the kitchen and I would be in awe of the smells, textures and colours of all the beautiful fruits and vegetables my Mom was carefully and with precision chopping, sauteing and stirring on the stove, like an orchestra of beautiful sights and smells singing to every one of my senses.

You have to remember, we didn’t have a lot of money growing up, my Dad became very ill and was no longer able to work when I was very young and my Mom had to stay home to take care of him. As you can probably guess this made money very tight in our home and resourcefulness became a means of survival.  Mom had to become creative in making a dollar stretch while still ensuring that we all ate good, healthy food.  This is where canning came in.  But, what I remember most from these times is the life lessons that my Mom was teaching me whether she knew it or not; the value of a dollar, if you want something out of life you have to work for it, making your own food is more economical and better for you, and most importantly my love for cooking, and that by being creative in the kitchen you were able to not only feed your family with nutrition but with love as well.

So many years later, I find myself back in canning season once again with Mom.  Both of us laughing, music playing and a sense of satisfaction that we are once again making food that is not only nutritious but filled with love for our family and friends.

14068117_10154120326192741_8574757965007344225_n

14088658_10154120329617741_7474633276648553527_nPeaches are in prime season right now, and as tradition should be, it must be passed down to keep it alive.  So I would like to pass on the tradition of canning peaches by sharing our canning recipe to all of you.

This year, we altered the recipe a bit as both my Mom and my Stepdad are diabetic so we we decided to get creative with the ‘syrup’ we used this year; pure apple juice.  But, if you are a true traditionalist then by all means substitute simple syrup for the apple juice in the recipe I am about to share below.

So from our house to yours, here is our simple recipe for Canned Peaches:

Ingredients

  • 1/2 bushel of Free Stone Peaches (peaches that come freely from the pit, Red Raven is a good example)
  • 2 cans of pure apple juice (enough apple juice to cover the peaches adjust accordingly)
  • 1/4 cup of lemon juice
  • 1 cup sugar (adjust to your own taste)

Directions

Place the whole peaches in a large pot of boiling water so they are submerged around 5 minutes, just so the skins can come away from the fruit easily.  Remove the peaches and place them in the sink with cold water.  Once the fruit is cool enough to touch, peel the skins off of the fruit and slice the peaches into pieces and place in another pot.  Repeat until the 1/2 bushel is complete.  Pour the apple juice over the sliced peaches until they are just covered.  Add the lemon juice and sugar.  Bring the peaches just to a boil and remove from heat.  While the peaches are being brought to a boil, have a separate pot for a boiling hot water bath to place your canning jars in.  Place the rubber stop lids of the canning jar in a separate pot and bring to a boil as well.  All of this is for sanitation and to ensure your jars will seal.  Now this is where the real ballet begins, now it is all about timing, once the peaches have been brought to a boil and removed from the heat you have only a small amount of time to get them in the hot jars and sealed.  Remove the hot jars from the hot water bath, but be sure not to touch the mouth of the jar, fill the jars with the peaches and liquid and then place the boiled lid on top of the jar and then put the ring around the lid until secure and then place the filled and sealed jar upside down on a tea towel until cooled.  Repeat until all of the peaches have been filled in jars.  Once cooled, flip the jars back upright and if the lid is concave or appears to be sealed downwards then it has successfully sealed and can be stored.  If not, simply place the entire jar in a boiling water bath and leave the entire jar submerged for 10 to 15 minutes which should reseal the lid.  If not, you have have to start all over again for that jar.

14067600_10154120333257741_1998659776881574955_n

Label with what is in the jar and year it was canned and voila you have delicious and nutritious food to feed your family over the cold and unforgiving winter.

Again, thank you for stopping by and for coming along on this blogging journey with me, it does not go unnoticed or unappreciated.  But before I go, what do YOU like to can or what are your recipes that you and your family love?  I would love to hear!

Until we meet again,

Love & light I send to you always,

Dina xxoo

Orange Cranberry Pumpkin Spice Loaf – For Those Times You Need A Little Warmth & Comfort

Baking ingredients on a wooden board, top view

May the Fourth be with all of you today!

I think I just revealed the more nerdy side of myself, ah well, it was bound to happen at some point!

We are officially in the Spring season now in the Niagara region even though I don’t think the weather temps got that memo as I sit here in a sweater and slippers typing this, Brrrrrrrr. So it got me thinking, what are one of the things I love to do to not only warm the cockles of my heart but my tummy as well, BAKING always does the trick!

So for today’s installment I will be writing about a go to recipe my family and I love, Orange Cranberry Pumpkin Spice Loaf.  It has all those great Christmasy smells and flavours and the ability to give you that comfort and warmth no matter what time of year.

I have to make a confession I did steal ok ‘borrow’ this recipe initially from Anna Olson’s cookbook ‘Sugar’, which I will be honest is so worn and battered from so much use, it really has become one of my baking bibles.  Side note:  I actually got to meet her at a women’s conference last year and made a complete fangirl of myself, but that is a whole other story.

Anywho, I do play with the spices depending on my mood, sometimes I add nutmeg or ginger or turmeric or extra cloves etc.  Baking really is a science and you must measure so that the magic can happen in the oven, but once you understand what spices work well with you can then play around with flavours and really start making recipes your own!

So here we go, from my family’s kitchen to yours,

Orange Cranberry Pumpkin Spice Loaf

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups All Purpose FlourIMG_20160313_192029_resized
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • cinnamon
  • cloves
  • ginger
  • 1/2 Cup unsalted Butter, Room Temp
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 Cup Canned or Roasted Pumpkin Puree
  • Zest of an Orange
  • Vanilla
  • 1 Cup Orange Juice (Real Or Bought will work)
  • 1 1/2 cups of Cranberries, Fresh or Frozen ( I have used re-hydrated Dried Cranberries as well and it tasted great)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Sift together flour, baking soda and powder, salt and spices and set aside.  I didn’t put any quantities for the spices because as I mentioned this is where you can really play around with flavour, I have added nutmeg and all spice to the flavour profile before and it gave it this wonderful warmness.  Again, play around with what you like in your flavour profile but do note I have never gone over 1 tsp for any spice so as not to over power.

In a medium bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Do note, once in a pinch I did substitute brown sugar for white and it gave it a nice molasses richness which was lovely as well.  Add eggs, one at a time, and stir in pumpkin puree, orange zest and vanilla.  Stir in orange juice.  Add dry ingredients in 2 additions and blend until just incorporated.  Fold in cranberries.  Spoon batter into a greased loaf pan and bake in the center of the oven for 60 – 75 minutes until a tester inserted into the loaf comes out clean.  Try and allow to cool before slicing but I tell you it will be hard as it will leave your house smelling AMAZEABALLS!

IMG_20160313_204544_resized

So there you go, my and well Anna Olson’s recipe for Cranberry Orange Pumpkin Spice Loaf.  Do give it a go and let me know how it goes.  I always welcome feedback and would love to hear about how you liked the recipe or how you changed it up to make it your own.

Who knows, it might just make a perfect addition to your Mother’s Day brunch this Sunday, just saying. 🙂

Until next week, PEACE OUT!

Love Always,

Dina xxoo

 

Somebody’s Cooking in the Kitchen with Dina

Bacon crackling and popping while frying in the pan, fresh coffee percolating and hissing with every whir, Conway Twitty playing on the radio, toast popping in the toaster, dancing and twirling with my Mom in the kitchen, and most importantly laughter.

These are my sights, sounds and smells of my childhood, memories I still cherish to this day.  These Sunday morning family breakfasts were some of the rare times I felt like I could just be a kid and not a mini adult that had to worry if my Dad had taken his heart medication, or if today would be the day the big heart attack would come and he would be taken from us forever.  Big responsibility and burden for an 9 year old don’t you think?

I never knew my father healthy, he had his first open heart surgery when I was 4 years old. With a large age difference amongst myself and my siblings, I essentially grew up as an only child.

My reality was different than most kids.  But, I have to say it was through these ‘differences’ I was molded into the woman I am today; strong, compassionate, loving, a never quit attitude and a love for cooking!

My Mom immigrated to Canada when she was a young teenager from the Netherlands. Trying to assimilate into Canadian culture was overwhelming and scary for her and her family understandably. But there was one thing they held onto, their European values and traditions.  These very traditions were naturally passed down to all 9 of us kids.

Like most European families, EVERY life event is and will always be centered around food. Glorious, delicious, decadent, lip smacking good food. Mmmmmmmm

It was in these precious moments of watching my mother take just basic ingredients and with what seemed like magic in my little mind, create a wonderment of smells and tastes that would make anyone’s mouth water with anticipation.  With every chair I pulled up next to my Mom, I got a front row seat into the world of dollops, smidgens, pinches and sautes.  Waffles, pancakes, pot roasts, apple fritters, oliebolen, croquets, homemade mac and cheese, lasagna, chicken devan and, and well the list could go on forever.

As I think about all of these moments and tastes we shared, one word always comes to mind, HOME.

Now since, I did invite you to come along on my journey called my crazy life, it would be rude of me if I didn’t invite you in for a little something to eat.

So pull up a seat, pass the bread and let me share some of my favorite recipes that were either passed down to me from my Mom or ones I had picked up on my own.

So from my home to yours, here is our first dish:

Homemade Potato Gnocchi with a Pancetta White Wine Cream Sauce

Before I begin, I am a cook who well ‘cooks’ by feel, that is how my Mother taught me, and her Mother taught her and her Mother and so on.  So my recipes may not always have exact measurements but a round about amount.  I do however invite you to take any and all recipes that I will be sharing with you and make them your own, add or subtract any flavours or ingredients that would better suit and please your families pallet.

So let’s begin:                     

Ingredients

Gnocchi            

4-6 Russet Potatoes

2 Eggs

Flour

Dried Basil

Dried Oregano

Dried Parsley

Salt & Pepper

Pancetta White Wine Cream Sauce

100 grams Pancetta cubed

3 shallots

2 cloves of garlic finely chopped

3/4 cup Sliced Crimini Mushrooms

White Wine

Chicken Stock

Heavy Cream

Dried Parsley

Dried Basil

Dried Oregano

Salt & Pepper

1/2 cup Shredded Asiago Cheese

1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese

Directions

Take the 4 – 6 Russet potatoes, peel and rough chop and toss into boiling salted water, boil until tender.  Drain well and mash, add the dried herbs and salt & pepper to taste.  Set aside to cool.  Once cooled add the 2 eggs and keep adding flour until the mixture makes a bread dough consistency.  I find my hands work the best, they are your best tools in the kitchen after all.  Roll the dough out onto a floured cutting board or counter.  Slice the dough into 1 cm thick strips, roll each strip into a log.  Cut each log into 1 – 2 cm in diameter pieces.  Once they are all cut, drop them into boiling salted water until they float, around 2 minutes.  Drain and add to sauce.  Toss them around the sauce until they are fully coated.

Sauce

Chop the shallots, pancetta and crimini mushrooms.  On medium high heat, heat some olive oil in a pan and add the shallots.  Once they become translucent, add the mushrooms and garlic.  Saute’ until the mushrooms start to brown, add the pancetta.  Fry until they all start to caramelize.  Deglaze the pan with white wine ( I generally use a chardonnay or sauvignon blanc, which ever you prefer)  Using between 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup.  Reduce the liquid, add 1/2 a cup of chicken broth, reduce some more.  Add the medium size carton of whipping cream, blend and then add both cheeses.  Keep an eye on the sauce so it doesn’t burn or stick, if it looks like it is getting too thick simply either add more wine or chicken stock, or the gnocchi water whatever your taste.  Reduce.  Once it is a bubbling, tasty and rich, add the cooked gnocchi and cook for another 5 minutes or so.  Serve with freshly grated Parmesan and a nice glass of wine if you are so inclined.

1458862311056_resized

Voila, Potato Gnocchi with Pancetta White Wine Cream Sauce.  Bon Appetit!

Now its time for the best part, EATING!

I would love to hear how this turns out for you, or what modifications you made, like adding yams, squash or pumpkin to the gnocchi recipe or instead of using a cream sauce you use a brown butter sage sauce.  The possibilities are endless!

Until we meet again folks, eat, drink and Mangia!

B0askndIcAAW8Y3