Thursday, November 29, 2012

Puff Pastry Pinwheels

This is a no-fuss appetizer for Christmas parties.  Only 4 ingredients - store-bought sheets of puff pastry, slices of deli ham, grated cheddar cheese and a fancy mustard.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Unroll a thawed sheet of puff pastry, and slice it in half.

Spread a nice mustard, thinly on top.  I used a grainy mustard flavoured with whiskey, but use your favourite.

Lay 3 or 4 slices of ham on each section and spread a handful of grated cheese, mostly along the middle.

Roll up the pastry, make sure when you get to the end, that you tuck the filling in and press pastry to pastry so it will seal.  Then slice into about one inch pieces and bake on parchment paper for about 20 minutes until lightly browned.  In Canada, you can buy sheets of puff pastry from President's Choice.  They come rolled in parchment and I just use those sheets to bake them on.

The roll can be made up a day ahead and wrapped up in the fridge to be baked just before your guests arrive.  They are tasty - just out of the oven or even when they are room temperature.  Enjoy.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Caprese Pasta Salad

In the interest of not wasting food, I rifled through the fridge tonight to come up with a light fresh pasta salad for dinner.  I went out to Red Lobster for lunch today with my Mom and my cousin, Dot so we wanted something lighter for dinner.  I had some girlfriends over for an Italian feast last Friday.  We had Antipasti, Caesar Salad, Lasagna, Fettucine Alfredo and Brownies for dessert.  There was some leftover bocconcini and grape tomatoes in fridge so I built my pasta salad around these.

I cooked some pasta - drained and cooled it.  Then I made the dressing, 2 Tbsp of mayo, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar and 1 tsp of dried basil, salt and pepper.  If I had fresh basil, instead I would have used a Tbsp or two cut in a chiffonade.

Add the past and stir to coat.  Then stir in mozzarella and tomatoes and serve.  It's a nice side dish or light supper.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Easy Peasy Homemade Jam

 In the interest of saving money as well as having delicious jam for family and friends, make your own.  If you have never done this before and you are intimidated, don't be!  It is easy peasy!

Gear you will need...
2 large pots (a large dutch oven for jam and a larger one for sterilizing jars)
(Hint - if you don't have a canning pot, check second hand stores or sites like Kijiji)
Canning jars
a large mouth funnel
soup ladle
wooden spoon
potato masher
2 bags of frozen fruit
6 1/2 cups of sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
liquid Certo
I made the jam pictured above for $9 (not including the cost of the "gear" as you will use it over and over.  You will only need to buy new lids for the jars each time).
Start with a couple of bags of frozen fruit.  I always to get these on sale.  These are mixed berries but I've used raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, peach, etc.  Put your clean jars into the canning pot.  Make sure the water covers them and set them on high to bring to a boil.
Pour the berries into the other pot.  Mash them (the front of the pot has been done and the back is still whole berries).  Add lemon juice and sugar.  Turn on high and stir to melt the sugar into the berries.
Bring the jam to boil and boil hard for a couple of minutes.

Take off the heat and pour in envelope of Certo.  Stir gently for at least 5 minutes.  This is an important step.  It helps the fruit from floating to the top of your jars and I find that I rarely have any "scum" on top to skim off.  If you are left with any foamy bits, make sure you skim them off with a spoon.
Now you are ready to bottle.  Your jars need to have boiled for at least 15 minutes.  I boil my tongs, ladle, funnel and rings for at least 5 minutes.  The lids with their rubber rings only need about 3 minutes to activate the seal.
Remove the jars with the tongs, place the funnel in each jar with the tongs, ladle jam into each jar (leave about 1/4 inch of space), set the lid on each jar with the tongs and twist on the rings until tight.  Basically you are doing everything with sterilized tongs until you twist the ring on.  You need to have everything clean so your jam doesn't spoil.  With the funnel, you will avoid getting jam on the edges of your jars.  If you do, use a clean dishcloth with very hot water to wipe off the edges.  After a few minutes, you will hear the jars start to "pop".  Once they are cool, see if the rings might need tightened again.  See - easy peasy and cheap!  Now make your own...