Back in the Kitchen

New Orleans Vacation 2011

I am back home in Toronto and I had an amazing time in New Orleans Louisiana! I went to New Orleans for the International Food Bloggers Conference put on by Foodista. I went to the IFBC last year when it was in Seattle and I really enjoyed it so I was looking forward to this years! When I heard that it was in New Orleans, I immediately signed up as I have long been fascinated by Southern/Creole/Cajun cuisine and I had been wanting to head down there for a while.

On Vacation

This morning I am off to New Orleans to attend the International Food Bloggers Conference put on by Foodista. I have been wanting to visit New Orleans for a while now and this was the perfect chance! In addition to the conference, I will be spending a few extra days there to explore the city. What are the must eat foods and restaurants in New Orleans? What are the must see and do things in New Orleans?

Fresh Corn Pancakes

Fresh Corn Pancakes

Right now we are smack dab in the middle of corn season and I have certainly been enjoying it! Mostly I have just been eating it off of the cob simply dressed with melted butter and some salt but I wanted to use some corn in a recipe. Normally when I think about corn I am thinking about recipes for dinner but this time I was thinking that it would be interesting to use corn in a breakfast and I knew just how to do it. I had recently made some blueberry pancakes and I figured that fresh corn pancakes would also be great in pancakes!

Blue Cheese Guacamole

Blue Cheese Guacamole

I didn't really get into avocados until just a few years ago but ever since then I have been hooked. One of my favourite way of enjoying avocados has to be in guacamole as it show cases the avocados beautifully and it is just plain amazing! The base recipe for guacamole is pretty easy and once you have it mastered it is fun to play around with it and I often like to try adding different ingredients to change up the flavour profile a bit. After having both avocado slices and a blue cheese in a sandwich a while ago I had been fantasizing about combining them in a guacamole and on fajita night it was the perfect chance to try it out. I pretty much just took my number one guacamole recipe and added blue cheese which I brought up to room temperature first so that it would more easily mash into the guacamole. In the end I quite enjoyed the blue cheese guacamole! The tangy blue cheese played particularly well with the cool and creamy avocado and added added a hint of flavour that just made everything better.

Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese Sandwich

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After the success of turning jalapeño poppers into grilled cheese sandwiches (aka the jalapeño popper grilled cheese sandwich ) I was wondering what other dishes I could turn into grilled cheese sandwiches. The basic idea is to take all of the flavours of a food that I am already totally into and use them in a grilled cheese sandwich. It did not take me too long to think of something perfect and it is interesting that it is also classic bar food, buffalo chicken wings, which are also one of my favourites. Buffalo chicken wings are chicken wings that are tossed in a spicy hot sauce and they are commonly served with a side of carrot and celery sticks with a blue cheese dip.

Habanero Salsa

Habanero Salsa

I am a huge fan of salsas and given my obsession with Mexican cuisine I tend to have them quite frequently. Of course, I like to make my own salsas fresh whenever I can and since there are so many ways to make salsas its always nice to have a good collection of recipes on hand. Although I tend to prefer fresher and milder salsas like pico de gallo , I also like a bit of heat every once in a while and I was thinking that a spicy hot salsa would go perfectly with the fajitas . I had been wanting to to try making a salsa with habanero peppers for a while and now was my chance!

For this salsa I kept things pretty basic using the staple ingredients for a simple tomato based salsa and I used the habanero peppers for the source of heat. Habanero peppers can be quite hot so you are going to want to be careful when adding them if you do not enjoy things really hot. You can seed the peppers to reduce the heat and start by adding half of a pepper, testing it and go from there. I ended up adding 2 peppers with the seeds and to help ensure that their heat came out I simmered the salsa for a while and then pureed it. The habanero salsa turned out really well and it definitely satisfied my craving for a touch of heat! Given all of the fresh produce around these days I could not resist also using some pico de gallo in the fajitas along with some creamy avocado to help tame the heat.

Fajitas

Fajitas

Lately I have been craving some Texmex food and since it has been a while since I last had fajitas I was thinking that they would be perfect. Fajitas are Mexican and a Texmex dish where grilled meat, typically beef, is served in a tortilla. The grilled meat is often accompanied by sauteed onions and peppers and the fajitas are finished off with your favourite topping including things like salsa , guacamole , sour cream and shredded cheese.

Fajitas are pretty easy to make but you have to plan a bit ahead so that you have time to marinate the meat. After marinating is is as simple as grilling the steak and sauteing the onions and peppers. This is one of those family fun meals where all of the ingredients are served on the table and everybody gets to assemble their own as they like. Although I like to make my own condiments for fajitas, you could easily save to time and effort by using store bought. This time I served my fajitas with a fiery hot habanero salsa , a fresh pico de gallo , a blue cheese guacaole , shredded cheese and sour cream.

Greek Green Beans in Tomato Sauce (Fasolakia)

Greek Green Beans in Tomato Sauce with Feta (Fasolakia)

The farmers market is literally bursting with fresh local produce these days and there are so many different things that it's sometimes hard to choose what to get. When I saw some fresh green beans and perfectly field ripened beefsteak tomatoes close together it reminded of a dish for Greek style green beans in a tomato sauce that I had been wanting to try. This dish is called fasolakia and it is pretty simple with the green beans being braised in the tomato sauce until they are soft at which point they become nice and sweet. The recipe that I used here is really just the base and from here you can add what you like. Diced potatoes are a common extra but you could also add some cubed meat and zucchini would be perfect right about now with it also being in season. Of course I could not resist serving the green beans in tomato sauce with a healthy helping of feta and some crusty bread on the side works well to sop up any of the tasty tomato sauce that gets left behind in the bowl.

Blueberry Iced Green Tea

Blueberry Iced Green Tea

I ran out of blueberry lemonade sometime during the week and I was looking for something else that was nice and cool and refreshing. I still had some of blueberry syrup that I wanted to use and I had just the idea! Green tea is often my warm drink of choice but these days I have been thinking about an iced green tea and why not add blueberries to the mix? Although I usually prefer my iced tea to to be unsweetened the thought of a blueberry iced green tea was all that I needed to try it out. This iced teas is super easy to make; you simply need to boil some water, steep the green tea in it, mix in some more water and the blueberry syrup until it has the blueberry flavour and level of sweetness that you are looking for. After that you need to have some patience to wait while it chills out in the fridge but then you can throw some ice into it and enjoy! A small hit of lemon also works wonderfully to brighten things up.

Grilled Chicken Club Sandwich with Avocado and Chipotle Caramelized Onions

Grilled Chicken Club Sandwich with Avocado and Chipotle Caramelized Onions

Armed with my (half devoured) batch of chipotle caramelized onions , the only question was, what to use them in? With the recent success of my grilled chicken club sandwich I was thinking that the chipotle caramelized onions would be a perfect fit. In fact with the chioptle this was sandwich was kind of reminding me of an avocado BLT with fried egg and chipotle mayo and I was thinking that the cool and creamy avocado would finish things off perfectly and complement the spicy heat of the onions!

Chipotle Caramelized Onions

Chipotle Caramelized Onions

I recently came across the idea of chipotle caramelized onions and it immediatly caught my attention as I am hopelessly addicted to caramelized onions! After reading over the recipe, it reminded me of the balsamic caramelized onions that I like to make, only with smoky chipotle chilies. Once the idea of combining sweet caramelized onions with spicy chipotles got into my head there was no denying it and I had to make it.

Blueberry Lemonade

Blueberry Lemonade

With all of the hot days that we have been having lately I have been thinking about ways to cool down and it seemed only natural to use the blueberry syrup in a chilled drink. When it comes to quenching thirst I find that a drink with a slight tartness does the best job so lemonade comes up at the top of the list and I was thinking that a blueberry lemonade would be perfect. Lemonade is actually pretty easy to make from scratch at home! You pretty much just need to squeeze some lemons, add a simple syrup, water and a generous helping of ice. During the summer with all of the amazing fruit around I often like to use a flavoured simple syrup like the blueberry syrup instead of just a plain old simple syrup and they elevate your average lemonade to something magical! Blueberry and lemon are a great flavour combination and it works amazingly well in lemonade form! What a great way to enjoy a momentary respite from the heat on a warm summer day!

Blueberry Syrup

Blueberry Simple Syrup

Blueberries have to be one of my favourite parts of summer and with blueberry season finally here I certainly have been enjoying them. So far I have mostly just been having them by the bucket load for breakfasts either on yogurt or mixed in with peaches or melon but it was finally time to do something more with them. One of the first things that comes to mind when I think about blueberries is almost always pancakes and I figured that it would be nice to kick the season off with some blueberry syrup. This syrup is pretty simple, you just simmer some water, sugar and blueberries to extract all of that amazing blueberry flavour and colour into the syrup and then strain the solids from it. With just a few minutes of effort you can elevate those average every day pancakes to something completely new and wonderful. But why stop there? There are some many things that you can do with this blueberry syrup and I am looking forward to using it.

Duck Quesadillas with Chipotle Cherry Salsa and Goat Cheese

Duck Quesadillas with Chipotle Cherry Salsa and Goat Cheese

After enjoying the duck tacos with chipotle cherry salsa and goat cheese a few times last week, I wanted to try something a little different with the remaining leftovers. Right up there with my obsession with tacos is my obsession with quesadillas! I mean you really cannot go wrong with a tasty filling being held together with ooey gooey melted cheese being lovingly held together by lightly toasted and crispy golden brown tortillas! If there is one thing that I like more than straight up goat cheese it is melted goat cheese and I was just itching to use some in a quesadilla along with the chipotle pan seared duck breast and some of that tasty cherry salsa. When goat cheese melts, it does not really have the power to hold things together so I added some jack cheese to ensure that the filling was not going to spill out the sides while eating the quesadillas and you can't go wrong with two kinds of cheese! I often like to add something to quesadillas to help complement and contrast all of the melted cheesy goodness and this time I went with some sliced green onions and fresh cilantro. I served these duck quesadillas with cherry salsa and goat cheese with some extra cherry salsa and some sour cream for dipping.

Jalapeño Popper Quiche

Jalapeño Popper Quiche

Jalapeño poppers have to be one of my favourite snacks and I am pretty addicted to them. Recently I have been experimenting with using the signature jalapeño popper flavours in other dishes with great success. Not too long ago I tried a jalapeño popper dip that was even more addictive than the original and the jalapeño popper grilled cheese sandwich quickly made its way to the top of my list no too long after.

Chipotle Sweet Potato Vichyssoise

Chipotle Sweet Potato Vichyssoise

Today's recipe is for a creamy chipotle sweet potato vichyssoise which I guest posted on DairyGoodness.ca for their Anyday Magic Dinner Makeover event. Augusts makeover recipe was for a vichyssoise soup that is served chilled, which is perfect for cooling down on these hot summer days! I decided to spice things up a bit with some smokey chipotles chilies and you can find the recipe for the chipotle sweet potato vichyssoise here.

Taco Pizza

Taco Pizza

It certainly has been a while since I last had a pizza and lately I have been craving one. I have a fairly large list of pizza ideas to try and next up on that list was a taco pizza. The basic idea being a pizza with all of your favourite taco flavours. It seemed only natural to use a spicy salsa in place of the pizza sauce as salsa is almost a required ingredient in your basic tacos. I went with my salsa ranchera which is a quick and easy to make salsa but you could easily use your favourite store bought salsa instead. Next up was the meat and I decided to go with ground beef seasoned with a taco seasoning blend , though I was also thinking that seasoned shredded chicken or even seasoned black beans for a vegetarian version would also work well. I finished the pizza off with some shredded jack and cheddar cheese.