Sunday, December 12, 2010

Lasagna Sundays

Tyler wanted to start Lasagna Sundays in our house. I guess now that Parker is here we are thinking more about traditions that he will remember. You know, like the Sunday roast of years past. Who can knock a tradition that involves cheese? Not I. To kick off our first Lasagna Sunday last week, I made this basic lasagna that tastes anything but basic (thank you goat cheese, you will always have a special place in my heart).

You could also switch it up and make baked ziti instead. Use ziti or even penne instead of lasagna noodles. Then you can be lazy with the layering too. I would probably add some water to the pasta sauce though to ensure there is enough liquid to cook the pasta without drying everything out. Also, a mix of half mozzarella and half provolone cheese is delicious in baked ziti (I would leave out the goat cheese if using provolone though). I made a huge pan of baked ziti this way for a Labour Day pot luck years ago. I had totally forgotten about it until somebody recently asked me for the recipe (Courtney- this is for you!).

SUNDAY LASAGNA
adapted from Ina Garten via Lottie + Doof
Makes about 8 servings
  • 3 mild Italian pork sausages, or turkey sausages, casings removed
  • 1 jar good marinara sauce
  • 1 container (about 15 oz) ricotta cheese
  • 3 oz goat cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 lb (250 g) mozzarella cheese, half of it grated and half of it thinly sliced
  • 16 lasagna noodles

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. If using traditional lasagna noodles (not no-cook noodles), cook in a pot of boiling salted water until pliable- about 6 minutes or according to package directions. Lay noodles on a clean tea towel until ready to use.

Brown sausage in a frying pan over medium high heat, breaking into small pieces with a spatula while cooking. Pour off fat from pan. Reduce heat to medium, add tomato sauce to warm through.

In a medium bowl combine ricotta, egg, goat cheese, salt, pepper, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, and grated mozzarella cheese.

Spread tomato sauce in a thin layer in the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch pan. Layer in this order with 4 noodles between each layer: meat sauce, cheese, meat sauce, cheese, ending with another layer of meat sauce and the remaining sliced mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until pasta is cooked through and cheese on top is starting to brown.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Let your light shine in

Small things make me happy. Today, I took down the curtains in our living room/dining room that were here when we moved in a year ago. Now there is so much more light and I can see trees and sky. I'm sitting here at the table gazing out the window while I write. It makes me think of the line from a poem "Barn's burnt down... Now I can see the moon". Of course now it kind of feels like we just moved in and we haven't put up curtains yet, and Tyler will put them back up when he gets home until we get new ones (I'm thinking like this) cause that's how he is, but now I've seen the possibilities.

I also started a sourdough starter today, following the method on Serious Eats. Starter is what gives sourdough it's unique flavor and also takes the place of yeast in bread. As the author, Donna Currie, says "sourdough is as old as the pyramids". This is what they used before commercial yeast. I'm stoked for this project (it's super easy) and to have some sourdough bread in 10 days or so.

In the spirit of bread making, here is the recipe I've been using lately. Since I'm home with the baby I figured we could save money if I made bread once or twice a week. Plus it's fun. This dough is really easy to work with and it makes a nice crusty loaf, so it's perfect if you've never made bread before. Seriously try it. Baking bread is actually quite simple but it's so impressive. Yeast is not scary! Just make sure your liquid is only warm, not hot, so you don't kill the yeast. Otherwise, relax and just do it.


CRUSTY CROWN LOAF
Adapted slightly from The Complete Canadian Living Baking Book

  • Pinch of sugar
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 2 1/2 tsp dry yeast (traditional, although I've used quick rise and it's fine too)
  • 3/4 cup warm milk
  • 1/4 olive oil
  • 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour (approx)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • cornmeal

In a large bowl, or in a mixer fitted with a dough hook, dissolve sugar in warm water. Sprinkle in yeast, let stand until frothy. Stir in milk and oil. Stir in 3 3/4 cups flour and salt. Add more flour if needed to form a shaggy, moist dough that isn't too sticky.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Or knead in your mixer for about 5 minutes. Form into a ball, place in a large greased bowl, turning dough to cover with oil (this helps it to rise as the top won't dry out). Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Dust a rimless baking sheet, pizza peel, or the underside of a rimmed baking sheet with cornmeal to prevent the dough from sticking to it when you slide it in the oven. Punch down risen dough, form into a ball. Place on prepared pan; cover with a damp clean tea towel and let rise until not quite doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Spray loaf with water. With a sharp knife, cut three 1/2-inch deep intersecting slashes across the top of the loaf. Bake in the center of a preheated 450 degree F oven for 10 minutes, spraying loaf 3 more times with water during this time. Reduce heat to 400 degrees F; bake 35 minutes or until loaf is golden and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool on a rack at least 1 hour before slicing.

I came up with a variation for a whole wheat loaf: Reduce all purpose flour to 1 1/2 cups plus up to 1/4 cup more if needed in the mixing stage and add 2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Chicken Pot Pie

I am really proud of this recipe. I created the perfect pie dough by taking tips and bits from other recipes and combining them into this amazing, flaky dough. The filling is full flavoured but not full of fat because I used milk, not cream. Plus there are lots of veggies- I love it when I don't have to make a side dish with vegetables to ensure we are getting our 5-10 a day (more on the 5 end- does anybody really eat 10 servings of fruit and veg a day?). Chicken pot pie is exactly what I want to eat on snowy, cold days. Like today. Ugh.

Look how flaky!!!

One Year Ago: Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cookies and Spicy Cheese Dip

CHICKEN POT PIE
Serves 4
Any mix of vegetables can be used. To freeze pot pies freeze pastry and filling separately. Thaw both in fridge overnight, then top with pastry and bake as directed.

Pastry:
  • 2 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup cold butter, cubed
  • 1 tbsp vodka*
  • 6-8 tbsp ice water
Filling:
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, fresh or frozen
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 cups diced vegetables- I used mushrooms, carrots, celery, squash, peas
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 5 tbsp flour
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp flat leaf parsley, finely chopped - reserve stems to flavor broth
  • salt and pepper
To make pastry: Combine flour, salt, and butter in a food processor using short pulses until butter resembles small marbles. With motor running, add vodka and 6 tbsp ice water. Add more water one tbsp at a time if needed just until dough forms a ball in the machine. Dump onto counter, pat into two discs, refrigerate for 30 minutes.

To make filling: Place chicken (no need to thaw if it is frozen), carrot, celery, peppercorns, bay leaf, parley stems, and enough water to cover chicken in a pot. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken breasts and cut into bite sized pieces. Strain liquid, reserving broth.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Melt butter in a large saucepan. Add onions, garlic, vegetables, saute until just tender. Add white wine, cook until only a little liquid is left in the pan. Sprinkle in flour, stir for 2 minutes until flour is cooked out. Whisk in milk and 1 cup of reserved chicken broth. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer until thickened. Stir in cooked chicken and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour filling into 4 large ramekins or 6 smaller ramekins.

Roll out pastry to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut out rounds big enough to cover ramekins with a bit of over-hang. Top ramekins with pastry, pressing around edges to seal. Cut a vent in top of pastry. Place ramekins on a baking tray in case they overflow in the oven. Bake 25 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown and filling is hot and bubbling around the edges.

*Every time I make pie dough Tyler asks why I'm drinking vodka. Every time I tell him it's for the dough. I'm more of a rum person. Adding vodka to pastry keeps it tender and flaky as gluten cannot form in alcohol.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Clean Out the Fridge and Pantry Week

First off, sorry there's no food photo. I forgot to take a photo of today's recipe until it was already on our plates and it didn't photograph very well then. Instead, this is a funny picture of our dog because everybody likes funny animal photos, right?

Last week we decided to only buy produce and a few staples (milk, eggs, cheese) at the grocery store and use up what we have in the pantry, fridge and freezer for our weeknight meals. We normally spend spend about $120 on average a week on groceries (there's only 2 of us!), last week we spent $50 and we've still eaten well. I think we will do this again this week I still have lots of beans, rice, etc in the cupboard. Only I do want to buy some ricotta cheese because I have a craving for it. Here's what we ate this week on our budget menu:

Monday: Mushroom and Butternut Squash Risotto
*Arborio rice from the pantry, then I sauteed mushrooms and squash in a pan until cooked, made risotto (I don't follow a recipe anymore, but I started out making risotto according to Jamie Oliver's recipe) and stirred in the squash and mushrooms before serving

Tuesday: Whole Wheat Fettuccine and Italian Meatballs
*Pasta and sauce out of the pantry, PC meatballs we had in the freezer

Wednesday: Chicken Pot Pie
*Chicken breasts from the freezer, and the rest is produce and fridge staples (recipe tomorrow)

Thursday: Chorizo, Cheddar, Squash and Leek Bread Pudding
*I found some sausage in the freezer, and I've been keeping the stale ends of bread in a Ziploc bag in the freezer for a couple of weeks for a time when I wanted to make bread pudding. Recipe below.

Friday: Prosciutto, Fresh Mozzarella, Tomato and Basil Pizza
*We already had all the ingredients in the fridge except for the mozzarella, but was on sale at the store

One Year Ago: Easy Drop Biscuits


CHORIZO, CHEDDAR, SQUASH AND LEEK BREAD PUDDING
Serves 2 but recipe is easily doubled, tripled, etc
If you love Thanksgiving stuffing as much as I do (really, who doesn't love stuffing?) then you'll love this- it's like making a meal of stuffing. Almost any meat and veg can be used in this dish- use whatever you have on hand.
  • 1/2 small butternut squash, cut into 1-inch dice
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • butter
  • 2 cups day old bread, cut into bite sized pieces- Italian or French loaf rather than sandwich bread is best
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 uncooked Chorizo sausage, casing removed
  • 1 leek, white and light green parts only, washed well and chopped into half moons
  • 1 cup shredded old cheddar cheese 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly butter a casserole dish. Toss squash with a drizzle of olive oil and season with salt and pepper, roast until squash is cooked through and browned, about 20 minutes. Scrape into prepared dish. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl whisk together eggs, milk, thyme, and season with salt and pepper. Add bread, stirring to coat. Leave to let bread absorb the egg mixture 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a saute pan over med-high head, cook sausage until no longer pink and it is a bit crisped, breaking sausage into small pieces with a spatula as it cooks. Scrape into casserole dish, leaving any liquid in the pan. In same pan over medium heat, saute leeks until they are softened but not browned. Add to sausage. Pour bread mixture and 1/2 cup of cheese into casserole dish and stir everything together. Top with remaining cheese. Bake 20 minutes covered with foil. Remove foil and bake for another 20 minutes.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Organizing Your Life

Click to view larger
Okay, well just your recipes. But for me, having my recipes organized on my computer means I don't have piles of magazines with recipes I want to save piled up around the house, or pages that I've ripped out lying around, and this makes me more sane. Or feel that way anyway.

So I wanted to share how I save recipes with you. I have tried many different systems over the years. I say "over the years" as if I am middle aged or something, but I've been cutting recipes out of magazines for probably 15 years*. I recently flipped through my journals from when I was backpacking through Australia when I was 18, and there were recipe cut outs pasted in there. I was living in a tent and cooking over an open fire at the time for god sakes (and yes, buying magazines that cost a third of a weeks "rent" at the campsite, because I am addicted).



I've tried pasting recipes them into journals, putting them in file folders, albums, writing them onto recipe cards, but all of these were time consuming or made it hard for find the recipe I wanted. Thank goodness for the Internet. 99% of recipes in magazines, on TV, etc, can be found online (no, that's not a scientific fact or anything). Now I only save as many magazines as will fit in one magazine file and when it's full I spend some time going through what I've dog eared and saving them to Internet bookmarks that I have organized into folders. Sometimes I save the same recipe to multiple folders, like "Cakes" and "Chocolate"- sort of cross referencing them. I you have the same problem as I had with "recipe clutter", hopefully this will help. Now I just need to find a good system for saving stuff I find in design magazines... 

*I also remember watching Yan Can Cook on sick days when I was probably only 8 years old. That and the Flintstones which was always on at noon.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Vegetable of the Week: Cauliflower

I love cauliflower. I think it's underrated in the vegetable world. Sure, butternut squash and mushrooms and tomatoes are sexier, but I am here to contend that the humble cauliflower is just as delicious and nutritious. You wouldn't think that cauliflower is very nutritionally dense being that it's white, like potatoes (which are very good for you as well), but it is high in fiber, folate, vitamin C, and according to Wikipedia, sulforaphane- an anti-cancer compound.

My favorite way to eat cauliflower is to roast it. I first had this at Thanksgiving a few years ago at my Grannie's, and I make it all the time now. All it needs is a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and a hot oven and the little white trees get crispy, browned, and nutty tasting. The soup that I am sharing with you today is super easy and delicious too. Bonus- the cauliflower makes it creamy without any cream! So, if I haven't convinced you to give cauliflower another try, below are some more recipes from my bookmarks that I want to make featuring our friend the cauliflower.

Oh, and it all that wasn't enough, it also makes a good Halloween costume in a pinch.

Penne and Cauliflower with Mustard Breadcrumbs
Oriccheitte with Cauliflower, Anchovies, and Fried Croutons
Sausage-Cauliflower Spaghetti
Roasted Cauliflower with Panko and Pecorino
Potato and Cauliflower Curry
Cauliflower Risotto
Curried Cauliflower Fritters (which I will probably never make- as you may recall I don't deep fry at home. Or anywhere else for that matter)

CAULIFLOWER AND LEEK SOUP
Serves 3-4

  • olive oil
  • 1 small head cauliflower, trimmed of leaves and cut into large chunks
  • 1 leek, white and light green parts only, washed well and sliced into half moons
  • chicken stock
  • milk
  • salt
  • ground white pepper*
  • croutons to garnish, if desired

Heat olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add leeks, cook until just softened but not browned. Add cauliflower. Pour in enough chicken stock to halfway cover vegetables, add milk until vegetables are just covered. Bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer until cauliflower is cooked through, about 25 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender, or in a regular blender (careful- it's hot!) until smooth. Season with salt and white pepper. Top with croutons and a drizzle of olive oil if desired.

*Black pepper can be used but you will have black flecks in your soup. White pepper makes it look nicer.

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER

  • cauliflower, separated into bite sized florets
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • pepper

Toss cauliflower with a drizzle of olive oil, a big pinch of salt, and freshly ground pepper. Roast at 400 degrees F until browned and crispy, about 20 minutes, stirring to ensure even cooking partway through cooking.

** I have now written "cauliflower" so many times that it doesn't even look like a real word anymore

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pasta or Pizza?

I was torn whether to write about the pizza I made last night or the pasta I made tonight, so I am going to include both in this post. The link between them is the wine. There is no wine in the dishes, but the glass of wine that I drank both nights was perfect with each dish. The wine: 2007 Wayne Gretzky Un-oaked Chardonnay. I usually don't drink white wine and actually, I usually only have a glass of wine on the weekend, but I'm glad I made an exception with the pizza and the pasta. Do yourself a favor and pick up a bottle of wine and make one of the below recipes. Even if it is a Wednesday.


 
POTATO, PROSCIUTTO, AND CAMEMBERT PIZZA

  • 1 pizza dough, homemade or store bought
  • 1 potato, sliced as thinly as possible, using a mandoline if you have one
  • 3 slices prosciutto, sliced into ribbons (roll into a cigar shape and slice)
  • 170 g round Camembert cheese, sliced
  • 3 tbsp white sauce

White Sauce:
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • salt and pepper to season

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F with oven rack on lower middle setting. Boil a large pot of water and season the water with salt as you would for pasta. Add potatoes to water and cook 4 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside.

Meanwhile, make white sauce. Place butter and garlic in a small sauce pot. Turn on heat to medium, saute until garlic starts to sizzle. Whisk in flour, cook for 2 minutes. Whisk in milk, thyme, salt, pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until sauce is thick. Turn off heat and set aside.

Roll out pizza dough- not too thinly as the toppings are somewhat heavy. Transfer dough to pizza pan. Spread 3 tbsp sauce over dough. Top with potatoes, overlapping slices to cover pizza. Scatter over cheese, then prosciutto. Bake 15 minutes or until crust is browned on bottom and cheese is starting to brown a little.


FARFALLE WITH TOMATO MUSHROOM SAUCE
Adapted from Ricardo Larrive
Serves 6 (can easily be halved)

  • 500 g farfalle (bow tie) pasta, or other dried pasta such as penne
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 3 tbsp butter, divided
  • 227 g package sliced mushrooms
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 2 1/2 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup juice from canned tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional to serve
  • 2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • salt and pepper to season

Cook pasta in salted boiling water until just al dente. Meanwhile, place pine nuts in a dry pan over medium heat until golden brown, shaking pan a few times during cooking.

While pasta is cooking, melt 1 tbsp butter in a large saute pan over medium high heat and add mushrooms, breaking them up a bit as you add to the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Saute mushrooms until they have released their liquid and are browned. Add garlic and green onions, cook for a minute. Add vodka, boil until pan is almost dry.

Move mushroom mixture to sides of pan and add remaining 2 tbsp butter and flour in the middle. Cook flour and butter for two minutes to in order to cook out the flour taste. Add milk slowly while stirring to ensure no lumps occur and bring to a boil. Add tomatoes and juice. Simmer until sauce is thickened, about 3 minutes.

Pasta should now be just al dente and ready to finish cooking in sauce. Remove pasta from cooking water with a slotted spoon and drop directly into saucepan with sauce. Stir for about 2 minutes to coat pasta with sauce and finish cooking. Remove from heat, stir in Parmesan cheese and parsley. Taste for seasoning, add salt and pepper as needed (I found this dish shockingly bland until I adjusted the seasoning- with enough salt and pepper it is stellar).

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes

I love Sundays, and this Sunday was no exception. Sleep until the baby wakes us up around 8:30 or 9, play with the baby and the dog in bed for a while, eat a weekend breakfast, then cook, read, or nap while Tyler watches football and hangs out with the baby. What could be better?

One question though... Why is it that having a drink while still in your pajamas seems so trashy? It was one o'clock in the afternoon last Sunday and Tyler and I wanted to have a beverage but we both agreed that we should get dressed first. Even if you don't shower, I feel you at least need to change out of your PJs into track pants. Agreed?

Tyler loves pancakes on Sundays. I'm not a huge fan of pancakes, but these are really good. They have more flavor than regular white flour pancakes. Plus basic pancakes are pretty nutritionally devoid, but these are a healthy start to the morning, with or without the berry sauce. I haven't tried this, but you could probably freeze cooked pancakes and thaw to eat on weekdays too.

These pancakes would also be great with chopped up apples or bananas in the batter like my dad used to make us on weekends. Just don't top with chocolate chips, chocolate syrup, sprinkles, and whipped cream as my brother and I were allowed to do once for some reason. Pancake sundae for breakfast = tummy ache for the rest of the day.


WHOLE WHEAT BUTTERMILK PANCAKES WITH MAPLE BERRY SAUCE
Makes 6 large pancakes

Dry Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup wheat bran
  • 1/4 cup flax meal
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Wet Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp melted butter, cooled or canola oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  •  Maple Berry Sauce (below)

Preheat a large non stick pan over medium heat. While pan is heating, mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix wet ingredients in a large bowl. Add dry to wet and stir until just combined.

Spray pan with cooking spray. Pour in 1/4 cup batter for each pancake. Cook until pancakes look set around the edges, there are holes from bubbles in the middle and the bottom is lightly browned. Flip, cook until lightly browned on second side. Serve with berry sauce or other pancake topping of choice.

MAPLE BERRY SAUCE

Thaw 1 cup frozen mixed berries. Blend until smooth. Stir in a glug* of maple syrup and a dash of cinnamon.

*Yes, that is the technical term

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Korean Style Pork Tenderloin with Vegetable Stir-Fry

I used to be scared of cuts of meat that I hadn't cooked before. I think Tyler and I had been living in our own place for a year before I cooked a pork tenderloin. Don't make the same mistake I did! There is nothing to fear. Pork tenderloin cooks quickly and is a great alternative if you find you're always making chicken. One tenderloin is enough for Tyler and I for dinner with a bit leftover even.

The only kind of tricky part, for me anyway, the first time you cook with this cut of meat is removing the silver skin. Check out this video demo. You can probably ask the butcher at the grocery store to do it as well, even if you get it in a package in the meat case- they'll just package it up again for you after they deal with it.

This Korean Style Pork Tenderloin from For the Love of Cooking is so delicious. You have to try it. It tastes like Asian barbecued pork with all the good crisp browned bits, only it's done in the oven. I only marinated the pork for a few hours as I didn't realize the recipe called for 8 to 24 hours of marinading (is that a word? It sounds wrong), but it was still really flavorful and moist. I can't wait to make this again and marinate it for the full time period.

For the vegetable stir-fry: start canola oil, minced garlic, and minced ginger in a cold pan. Heat over med-high until sizzling and fragrant but not browned. Add your choice of veggies*, fry for a few minutes, tossing frequently, until veggies are tender-crisp. Add some soy sauce and a drizzle of sesame oil to finish. Simple, delicious, and healthy.

*I used some bok choy along with peppers, onion, mushrooms, broccoli- if using bok choy don't add the leaves until the veg is almost finished cooking

One Year Ago: Hawai'i

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Jalepeno Poppers or Death Boats to Hades

Ok I know this is a food blog, so I'll use a related expression. Couldn't you just eat him he's so cute? He helped hand out candy.

He's a frog, in case you didn't get it. AND I got all the materials for his costume at the dollar store. Again, in case you couldn't tell. I'm sure this is going to be a case of Parker wondering what the hell his parents were thinking ten years from now, but I'm pretty proud of myself.

I made BBQ Jalapeno Poppers (or, on October 31st "Death Boats to Hades") from The Pioneer Woman Cooks for a snack today. I forgot to put the BBQ sauce on them as directed in the recipe, but they were still delicious. Really delicious. I also sliced the bacon into smaller pieces and just laid it on top rather than wrapping it around the whole jalapeno as that seemed like a lot of bacon. I find that the easiest way to remove the seeds and white membranes is to use the tip of a potato peeler as it is just sharp enough (I use this to scrape out squash too). That being said, watch out for the bastard jalapeno. You know the one I mean- there's always a super hot one that slaps you in the face when you least expect it despite your best efforts to remove the all the really spicy bits.

I also carved a pumpkin for the first time in probably fifteen years. It didn't quite live up to the picture in my head. The mouth was supposed to be a spider. So I made the eyes lopsided too so that it looked intentional. I don't think it's bad for a first try, right? I think it's kind of scary. Or at least I freaked myself out a little when I took it into the bathroom with the lights off (cause there's no windows in the bathroom of course... does anybody else do that?). I have a new found love for Halloween. I even clapped my hands and hopped around a little when I was getting out all the Halloween stuff today. Too bad the book that I ordered from Chapters didn't come in time, but next year it is on like donkey kong.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Kale Chips

I just opened a savings account for Parker. My 6 week old son now has more money than I do. This is a sad state of affairs... maybe I shouldn't have bought that Martha Stewart Living magazine today. Especially considering I have a pile of 5 magazines waiting to be read because I am a magazine junkie and currently have five subscriptions. But c'mon, it's Martha Stewart!

Moving on, I made kale chips today. I didn't think I'd like them. But I do. In fact, I almost ate them all before I took a photo even though I was typing this post as the kale chips were baking. They taste nutty and salty and are super crispy. They kind of taste like roasted cauliflower, which on a side note, if you haven't made before make it tonight- trust me. This would be a good time to use the sea salt you never use because you think it should be used on special dishes. Or maybe that's just me.

Here are some more kale recipes too.


KALE CHIPS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Wash and dry as much or as little kale as you like. Chop or tear kale into bite sized pieces, discarding the stem.

Place kale on a foil lined baking sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil. Toss kale with oil and lay out in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt.

Bake 10 minutes or until crispy. Do not let the kale brown.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Breaded Shrimp and Vegetable of the Week

One day last week there was nothing in the fridge to cook and Tyler didn't feel like having any of the pre- made meals I have stashed in the fridge (not even chili with the promise of fresh biscuits!), so I had to put my thinking cap on. Shrimp is easy to defrost quickly so I started there. But then I was stuck. I didn't have lemon juice to make a lot of the recipes I was finding and there was no feta cheese to make my favorite shrimp dish. I knew I wanted have this rice as a side dish (I don't recommend it), so I came up with this breaded shrimp. It's easy and quick and perfect for dipping- Ranch dressing for Tyler as always and PC Memories of Bengal Curried Mango sauce for me. It's all about the dipping.

So, to the Vegetable of the Week. Following the theme of my previous post, each week I want to use one vegetable in a few ways to bump up the nutrition in our meals. Last week was kale*. I usually use kale in soup and that's about it. I also found that I like it in other dishes as well. I chopped it up, steamed it in a pan with salt and pepper and added it to the rice as you can see in the above photo. I also added some to pasta. Just put chopped kale into the pasta pot for the last 5 minutes of the pasta cooking. I still have a few leaves left, so I'm going to try kale chips today. I'll report back.

*With leafy or thin-skinned vegetables I try to buy organic as these vegetables can absorb more pesticides. Also, I just saw that peaches have the highest pesticide concentrations of any fruit- another one to buy organic I would say.


OVEN BAKED SHRIMP
Serves 4

  • 1 lb large (31-40 count) shrimp, cleaned and peeled
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne 
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • water
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • cooking spray

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Dry shrimp on paper towels. Mix flour, salt, pepper, cayenne in a Ziploc bag. In a shallow bowl or baking dish, mix egg, Dijon, and a splash of water. Place bread crumbs in another shallow bowl or baking dish. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.

Put shrimp in bag with flour, seal, and shake to coat the shrimp in flour. Working with a few shrimp at a time, remove from bag, shaking off excess flour, coat in egg mixture, then in bread crumbs and place on baking sheet.

Bake shrimp 11 to 13 minutes or until just pink all over (you'll be able to see the color a bit through the bread crumbs) and they are curled up. Ensure to flip them over half way through cooking.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Hiding in Plain Sight + 1 Year!

It has been exactly a year since I started this blog! A year ago I wasn't sure how long I would continue this. I thought I'd just see how it went and I figured I'd lose interest after a while to be honest. I tend to do that with hobbies. I know I haven't been posting much lately- hopefully that will change as this baby thing gets easier.

Lately, however, I have been putting a lot of thought into how I can boost the nutrition in what we are eating. When I do get a chance to make something to eat when Parker goes to sleep, I want it to pack in as much vitamins, fibre, etc as I can without compromising flavor. I mean, if I want to eat mac n' cheese, I don't want some super healthy bastardization of mac n' cheese with tofu and cauliflower instead of noodles or some such nonsense. But I do want something a little healthier- and I hate side salads- so I try to think of some way to boost the nutrition a bit so as to not feel guilty about eating just a bowl of noodles and cheese for lunch. Plus I get a certain satisfaction from saying, "How do you like the mac n' cheese? HA! There's pumpkin in it and you didn't even know it!"

So, this post is about sharing some of the more creative ways I have been upping the nutrients in our meals.  Hopefully I will inspire you to trick your kid, husband, or yourself into eating just a little healthier.

Leafy Greens: For the last few weeks I have bought a tub of baby spinach or arugula to keep in the fridge. Then I find ways to use it throughout the week, mostly by throwing a couple of handfuls into the pan at the end of cooking and letting it wilt. This works great for pasta, rice, etc. and was delicious with a fried egg on toast (pictured at the top). I have even put a small handful of greens into my morning smoothie.

Pureed Pumpkin: I used canned pumpkin left over from making pumpkin pie in all kinds of things. Add a quarter cup to mac n' cheese or Kraft dinner and you won't even know it's there. I also put it into a spread for crostini (pseudo-recipe below).

Beans: White beans are delicious in pasta, or pureed with herbs into a hummus-type spread.

Frozen Vegetables: I would say throw frozen veggies into any number of dishes, except that I hate frozen veggies. I find them watery and gross. So what I do is thaw them, drain off any excess water, and puree them with tomato pasta sauce.


Frozen Peas: I'm sure you've caught on to my love of frozen peas by now- see this post and also this one- but I also put peas in anything that I think needs a boost of veggies.


BUTTERNUT SQUASH, ROASTED GARLIC, AND CANNELINI BEAN SPREAD

I haven't listed measurements here for two reasons: I didn't measure as I made this and because it is really a throw together recipe that I came up with because I had all these odds and ends of leftovers in the fridge. 

  • cannelini beans (also called white kidney beans)
  • roasted squash
  • pureed pumpkin
  • roasted garlic cloves
  • salt and pepper
  • red pepper flakes
  • splash of lemon juice
  • olive oil
  • fresh parsley, rosemary, or sage

Puree everything but herbs in a food processor until smooth, scraping down sides as necessary. Add herbs, pulse a few times to chop herbs small and combine into spread. Serve on crostini, crackers, or even use as a sandwich spread.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Labour Pasta

Despite the deceiving title of this post, this is a really easy dish to make. I made it while in labour. Seriously. It was almost three o'clock September 14th and I hadn't eaten lunch yet so I was starving. While the pasta was cooking I went into labour. But I still finished cooking the pasta, made the sauce, and ate it. I needed my strength, right?

The pasta sauce is basically this fresh pea crostini spread from a previous post with a couple of other things added. As in the previous post, I am giving you ingredients with no measurements- use the amounts you feel in your gut and then taste. To give you a place to start, for one serving I used a 1/2 cup of peas. All you are doing is pureeing everything in the food processor which means the sauce is done before the pasta, and because it isn't cooked you don't lose any nutrients. This is my new favorite pasta dish right now, please try it!

I can't sign off of this post without mentioning, as you've guessed, that baby is finally here!!! Parker is perfect and healthy and keeping me very busy so I'll try to post when I can. There's not a whole lot of cooking going on right now in our house... good thing I froze so many meals while I was waiting for his arrival.

PASTA WITH FRESH PEA AND FETA PESTO
  • frozen peas, thawed in a sieve under running water
  • olive oil
  • lemon juice
  • salt
  • pepper
  • feta cheese
  • small handful arugula or baby spinach
  • flat leaf parsley
  • dried short pasta such as rotini, penne or farfalle (bowties)
  • Parmesan cheese to serve (optional)
Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions. Meanwhile, puree all other ingredients in a food processor. Drain pasta, reserving some cooking water, and add pasta back to pot. Add pesto sauce and stir- the heat from the pasta will warm the sauce- adding a little of the pasta cooking water at a time if the sauce is a bit dry. Serve with Parmesan cheese grate over top if desired.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Moroccan Chicken and Eggplant Dish

I don't really have a story behind this, or anything interesting to say about this dish really, except that it came about because I was planning on making this Moroccan Lemon Chicken on Friday but I realized I had used up all the lemons I had. Lemon being a pretty important part of that recipe, of course, I made up something entirely different but using the same spices as the lemon chicken recipe.

The nice thing with this as well it that it is a one pot meal. Well maybe it's technically two, as you need a baking sheet to roast the eggplant, but I always line my baking sheets with foil so that I don't have to wash them. Leftovers are really good as well- just make sure to cover the plate or dish you are warming it up in so that you don't end up with rice and tomato sauce on the roof of your microwave like I did.

MOROCCAN CHICKEN AND EGGPLANT WITH RICE
Serves 4

1 eggplant, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp lemon pepper, or the rest of 1 lemon if you have it and increase the pepper when you season
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 tomatoes, diced, or use some drained canned diced tomatoes if this is what you have on hand
1/2 cup black olives, chopped
1 14oz can crushed tomatoes
2 cups water
1/2 cup long grain rice
2 chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a bowl, toss eggplant with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste*. Place eggplant in a single layer on foil lined baking sheet coated with cooking spay. Roast eggplant in middle of oven until golden brown- about 20 minutes- stirring eggplant halfway through cooking to ensure all sides are browning evenly.

Heat a large skillet with about 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Cook onion and garlic until softened. Add spices, cook for 1 minute. Add diced tomatoes, olives, crushed tomatoes, salt and pepper to season, and water. Bring to a simmer. Stir in rice and add chicken pieces on top. Cover pan and cook until rice is cooked through, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Add roasted eggplant, stir to combine. Adjust seasoning and serve.

*I never measure salt and pepper unless I'm actually following a recipe. I seasoned the eggplant with 2 big pinches of kosher salt and maybe 8 grinds of pepper, so I don't know the measurements. Go with your gut, you can always adjust the seasoning later.

Friday, September 10, 2010

These are a few of my favorite things... today

Yes, I can be fickle.

* Red River Cereal with blueberries and nectarines = fall porridge with summer fruit. Yum.

* Anthropologie - this blazer, this cardigan, this dress, and I love that this cardigan is called "Irina"- it's so fitting right? Oh and these boots. Sigh, I wish I were rich.

* Anna and Kristina's Grocery Bag on Viva. They test recipes from one cookbook an episode and give a recommendation on whether it's worth buying. Cause you never really know with a cookbook until you test out some of the recipes, you know?

* Twilight Woods Candle from Bath and Body Works

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Broccoli Salad

I know, it's not really a salad kind of day today, being windy and cloudy and cold. I made this salad the other day when it was still nice out, however I think it can work for a fall day too due to the bacon and pecans. Ah, the magic of bacon and pecans.

BROCCOLI SALAD
Makes 4 servings
Soaking the onion in vinegar briefly mellows it out, which I prefer over onion breath. 

4 tbsp red wine vinegar, divided
4 tbsp low-fat mayo
salt and pepper to taste
1 large head broccoli
1/2 red onion, finely diced
3-4 slices bacon, depending on the thickness
1/3 cup pecans, roughly chopped

In a large bowl, whisk 2 tbsp vinegar, mayo, salt and pepper. Trim and discard any dry ends and leaves from broccoli stalk. Chop broccoli, including stalk, into small pieces- I used the slicing attachment on my food processor for this. Place in bowl with dressing.

In a small bowl, mix onion and 2 tbsp vinegar. Cook bacon in a pan, or in a 400 degree F oven on a rack, until crispy. Drain on paper towel and crumble into broccoli. Toast pecans in a dry pan over medium heat until lightly browned a fragrant. Add to broccoli. Strain onions from vinegar, discarding vinegar, and add onions to broccoli. Toss everything together and serve.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mexican Pizza

Lettuce on pizza is weird, right? Two words- warm lettuce. Just saying those words makes my bum suck in (don't pretend you don't know what I mean). But I sucked it up (haha) and made the pizza, lettuce and all. Don't let the lettuce deter you from making this pizza! It tastes like nachos, and you don't think lettuce on nachos is odd, right? Plus, it really a very healthy recipe. More so than pizza normally is anyways.

The recipe is from Food and Wine Magazine. It's by Spike Mendelsohn, who was on a recent-ish season of Top Chef. He drove me nuts on the show (seriously, dude, don't talk back to Tom Colicchio), but after seeing his food in F &W and trying out this recipe I actually want to buy his new cook book. If that's not an endorsement for you to try that recipe, I don't know what is. As you know, I can be a little judgmental.

MEXICAN PIZZA - Food and Wine, July 2010

Here it is without lettuce, if you must.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Freezer Meals

Here is my cure for waiting-for-baby boredom- clean things you normally wouldn't clean, rearrange cupboards, and cook lots of food to freeze for when you're too tired to cook after baby arrives. The first two are both cathartic and problematic. Problematic in that cleaning really dirty things- like the grates on your gas stove- takes elbow grease and now my back is sore(-er), and rearranging cupboards leads to daily conversations like this:

Tyler: Where is the {insert object here}?
Me: It's in the cupboard to the right of the stove
Tyler: Didn't it used to be in the cupboard to the left of the stove?
Me: Yes, but I moved it. It's better where it is now.
Tyler: Oh my God you're making me crazy.

As for the freezer situation, I had a whole list of things to make for the freezer but I had to stop short because we've run out of room. In both the deep freeze in the garage (it's just a small one!) and the regular freezer in the kitchen. If you want some back up meals- once in a while I'll spend a few hours on the weekend making something to freeze for later in the week- or you want to go on a cooking binge like me, below is what I've made. So far. I think if I eat the half carton of ice cream that's in there I'll have room for one more dish.

BEEF AND VEGETABLE EMPANADAS
Makes 8 to 10 empanadas, a dinner serving being 2 or 3 per person

- Empanadas are a hand pie from the Caribbean and South America. They can be eaten as a snack or a main with a salad on the side. The filling can be pretty much anything- I've included at the bottom a variation with black bean and sweet potato that I've made before and didn't fulfill my promise to share the recipe.

- Although the pastry below is delicious and pretty easy, I've seen recipes that call for store-bought pie dough (like Pilsbury) instead, if you prefer.

Pastry:
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cake and pastry flour (or just use another 1/4 cup of regular flour)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 cold egg
  • 1/3 cup ice cold water
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar

Filling:
  • 1 pound simmering steak, such as outside round
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 3/4 cup salsa (use mild or medium unless you're brave as hot salsa will cook down and be suicide hot)
  • 1 medium leek, sliced in half, washed well, then sliced into half moons
  • 1 large jalapeno, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed or still frozen
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup Monterey Jack or white Cheddar cheese

Pastry:
Place flour, butter, butter, salt in a food processor and pulse a few times until butter is the size of peas. Mix egg, water, vinegar together in a small bowl, add all at once to flour mixture with motor running, process until dough just starts to come together. Turn dough out onto counter and gather into a ball. Divide in half and flatten each into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 1 day.

Filling:
Sear steak in 1 tbsp of oil in a pan over medium-high heat 3 minutes per side. Add broth and salsa, reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer 1 hour partially covered, or until meat is tender and can be shredded with a fork. If, like me, you couldn't get the heat right and ended up boiling your steak or bought the wrong type of meat and therefore it won't shred, just chop it up really small and mix into sauce again.

Remove sauce and meat from pan into a bowl. Heat remaining tablespoon of oil over medium heat, add leeks and jalapeno. Cook until softened but not browned. Add peas, cook until peas are heated through. Mix vegetables into meat and sauce. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 1 day.

Assembly:
Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll out to 1/4 inch thick. Cut 6 to 7 inch circles (I used a dessert plate as a guide)*. Whisk egg lightly in a small bowl. Working with one circle at a time, brush 1-inch of edge with egg wash. Place 2 heaping tablespoons filling on one half.


Fold dough over to make a half moon. Press edges to seal, then starting at one corner fold bottom edge of dough over top to ensure a good seal. Place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper (or with plastic wrap if you're going to freeze these). Repeat filling dough, roll the second half, and fill as well.

Brush tops of pastries with remaining egg wash. Top each with cheese. Using a paring knife, cut two steam vents in the top of each. Freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet until solid and then store in a freezer bag, or bake right away at 425 degrees F for 20 minutes or until golden. To cook frozen empanadas, bake from frozen but add about 10 minutes to cooking time.


*You're not really supposed to re-roll the scraps of dough after cutting the first time as it supposedly makes the dough tough and not as flaky, but I do reuse the scraps. I can't tell much of a difference and let's face it, you're not making these every day so you may as well make as many as you can, right?

FILLING FOR BLACK BEAN AND SWEET POTATO EMPANADAS
  • 1 cooked sweet potato, peeled
  • 1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp hot sauce
  • salt and pepper 
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese, whizzed briefly in food processor

Crush beans with a potato masher, ensuring they still have some texture. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add jalapeno and garlic, saute 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add cumin and coriander, saute 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add sweet potato, lime juice, and hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and stir in cheese.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Gangsta's Paradise


Apparently, the Gangsta's Paradise is the kitchen. I have based this conclusion on the fact that Coolio has a cookbook. That's right. Coolio. Has. A. Cook. Book. This is almost as awesome as if Mr T had a cook book (I pity the fool who under seasons a dish). And equally as awesome as Christopher Walken's video on how to roast a chicken.

The photo above is a preview of the first page of the book on Amazon. And really, who doesn't want to become a kitchen pimp? I certainly do.

All jokes aside, I actually really want to make these Strawberry Banana Muffins from the book. Which also makes me want to buy the book if Coolio is making muffins this good. What is the world coming to?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Ham, Swiss and Asparagus Crepes

Two posts today! Aren't you all lucky! I made this for lunch when my Grannie came to visit a few months ago. Remember how hot it was in May? We had a perfect afternoon sitting out on the desk under the gazebo for a few hours. This recipe is perfect for a light lunch or brunch. We also had a simple baby spinach salad on the side- just baby spinach tossed with a quick lemon vinaigrette.

You don't have to make the crepes from scratch; you can purchase crepes at the grocery store but I can't attest to the quality. Homemade crepes are not as tricky as you think, I swear! Here's a short how-to video. Give it a try. The first few attempts may not be pretty, but they'll still taste good anyway, and you'll get the hang of it in no time! Maybe I'm weird, but I think making crepes is fun.

The recipe below is from a cooking class that I took my dad to for his birthday. We had a fantastic day cooking and eating at Log Cabin Heaven in Elora a couple of years ago. The lessons were private and hands on at Ontario's only private B&B. We chose in advance what type of cuisine we wanted to cook- we did French in the morning and Greek in the afternoon. I could go on and on about this place and the great time we had.

Any leftover crepes can be filled with lemon juice and sugar, Nutella, or berries for dessert (or breakfast, or a snack), I've even used crepes for ham and cheese "sandwiches" for lunch at work. They can also be frozen between waxed paper which makes it easy to just take out 1 or 2 whenever you like.

CREPES
Makes 12-16 crepes
Recipe courtesy of Log Cabin Heaven
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted and cooled slightly

Whisk together all ingredients in a bowl, or mix in a food processor, until just combined. Transfer to something with a spout for easy pouring. Let batter rest at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Heat a crepe pan or small skillet over medium-low heat. Using a paper towel lightly dipped in canola oil, lightly oil pan. Pour 2-3 tablespoons of batter (depending on how big your pan is) into the pan, turning pan to spread batter around evenly at the same time. Cook until edges of crepe start to get a little crispy and top of crepe looks set. Flip and cook other side of crepe for 30 seconds. Turn onto a plate to cool while you cook the next crepe, then transfer the cooled crepe to a square of waxed paper. Continue cooking and stacking crepes on new sheets of waxed paper until all batter is used up and you'll be an expert!


HAM, SWISS, AND ASPARAGUS CREPES 
  • 3 to 4 crepes per person
  • sliced Swiss cheese
  • sliced ham
  • 3 asparagus spears per crepe, washed and trimmed of tough ends
  • Dijon mustard
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread a thin layer of Dijon mustard on a crepe. Top with cheese, ham, asparagus, with asparagus tips peeking out of one end for a pretty presentation. Roll up crepe, place in a large glass baking dish. Continue filling and rolling crepes, placing in baking dish in a single layer. Cover with foil and bake until warmed through, 15-20 minutes.

Vanilla Iced Coffee

I love iced coffee in the summer, but I never have time to stop for coffee on my way to work. I've tried to make iced coffee at home before and it's ok, but not stellar. If these issues plague your access to good iced coffee as well, here is your solution. Inspired by a small article in Food and Wine Magazine on cold-brewing coffee, I figured out how to make amazing iced coffee at home! This is not just cold coffee people. There is a method and a recipe. You can thank me later.

VANILLA ICED COFFEE
Recipe makes 1 serving, but method for coffee base and simple syrup is enough for multiple servings.
  • 1/2 cup cold-brewed coffee
  • 2-3 tbsp vanilla simple syrup
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • ice cubes
To make cold-brewed coffee: Stir together 1/2 a pound of coarsely ground coffee with 4 cups of cold water. Cover and let stand 24 hours at room temperature, then strain. Keep in fridge for up to 1 week.

To make vanilla simple syrup: Pour 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water into a saucepan. Add one vanilla bean* that has been halved lengthwise. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring once or twice. Remove from heat and cool. Store in a jar in the fridge.

Stir together all ingredients for iced coffee in a tall glass. I think it tates better drunk through a bendy straw, but that's just me (I'm sure of it). Sadly, as you can see from the photo, I am currently straw-less.

* I have found that the best place to buy vanilla beans is at Bulk Barn. They are half the price there as at the grocery store. Look for them by the cash register in a glass tube. There's usually 2-3 per tube for $3.50, I think.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Funny AND Edumacational

I apologize in advance if you came here to look for a recipe for dinner. This is not a post with a recipe for dinner. Unless... no, nevermind I won't go there. Please everybody (even if you are male cause it's still funny- but it may also be educational for you) read the post at the below link so that you can laugh as I did. Dang that felt good. This is my new favorite blog.

The Art of Doing Stuff

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Green Curry Chicken Summer Roll Salad


As promised, here is the recipe for last Wednesday's dinner. Clearly the photo above is a summer roll, not a summer roll salad. I didn't take a photo of the salad when I made it as I assumed the recipe with a photo would be on their website and I was going to just link to it in the previous post, but alas, it didn't work out that way.

This salad is perfect for a summer lunch or dinner. In the note preceding the recipe in Food and Drink magazine they describe it as "deconstructed summer rolls". It's very refreshing light. And delicious of course.

As I mentioned in the the previous post, the flavor of the green curry paste didn't come through in the salad as it was only in the marinade for the chicken. I have adapted the recipe to include some green curry paste in the dressing for the salad as well.

GREEN CURRY CHICKEN SUMMER ROLL SALAD
Adapted from Food and Drink
Serves 4 for lunch or 2 for dinner

*All of the components of salad can be made up to 24 hours in advance, refrigerated, and and tossed together when ready to serve. 
*To change up the salad, you could also use shrimp in place of chicken, shortening the marinating time to just an hour.

Marinade
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk from a 398 ml can
  • 1 tsp packed brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp green curry paste
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 4 large)
Salad

  • 8 oz rice vermicelli
  • 2 large carrots, julienned
  • 1 seedless cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 1 large red pepper, thinly sliced
  • chopped fresh cilantro or mint, to garnish
Dressing
  • remaining coconut milk from can
  • 3 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp green curry paste
  • 1 tsp lime zest
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
Combine marinade ingredients in a large freezer bag and add chicken. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to 48 hours.

Preheat grill to medium or preheat broiler. Remove chicken from marinade, discarding marinade, and season with salt and pepper. Place on oiled grill or on baking sheet under broiler for about 20 minutes, turning once, or until no longer pink inside. Remove from heat and let cool.

Place rice noodles in a large, heatproof bowl or baking dish and cover with enough boiling water to cover. Let soak for about 2 minutes, or until tender. Drain water and rinse under cold water. Drain well.

For dressing, combine coconut milk, brown sugar, fish sauce, and curry paste in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring often, until reduced by about one third. Remove from heat and stir in lime zest and lime juice. Pour into salad bowl that you will be using to serve salad and cool slightly. Add drained noodles, toss, and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.

To serve, slice chicken, add chicken and vegetables noodles and garnish with cilantro or mint.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

What we ate for dinner...

I cook from recipes a lot. I read so many food magazine, blogs, cookbooks, etc that I collect a lot of recipes. I tweak the recipes quite often, depending on what I have on hand or what I feel would work for me, but the my inspiration generally comes from a recipe. What I cooked for dinners this week is a really good example of this, and everything I made was delicious so I wanted to share.

I started of the week with a recipe that I made up, actually. One of the best meals I had at a chain restaurant eating by myself, actually. I was in St. Catherines for work, and I ordered two appetizers for dinner- a shrimp dish and a spinach salad topped with phyllo-wrapped goat cheese. I figured both would be easy to make at home, and although I haven't attempted the salad yet, the shrimp dish has become one of my favorite meals.

The other three meals we had came from the summer issue of Food and Drink Magazine from the LCBO. I love this magazine- I would probably pay money for it if it weren't free, in fact. I always bookmark a ton of recipes in Food and Drink, but I never get around to making a lot of them as they aren't always weeknight meals. This issue, however, had more quick meals to make and they turned out fantastic.   

Monday: Greek Shrimp and Tomatoes with Feta and Crostini (recipe below)
*I got the pork and chicken for the next two nights marinating on Monday as well

Tuesday: Chipotle Pork and Pineapple Skewers with Basmati rice mixed with corn and peas on the side

Wednesday: Green Curry Chicken Summer Roll Salad (recipe in a coming post as I couldn't find it online)
*This was delicious, but the green curry flavor didn't really come through as it was only used in the marinade for the chicken. Next time I make this I would add about 1/2 tbsp of green curry paste to the dressing as well.

Thursday: Sweet Potato and Black Bean Empanadas (again, they don't have this recipe online so I will post it very shortly)
*The pastry for these is really delicious. To cut out the pastry I used a cup with a 4-inch diameter rim. In the filling, I used a few shakes of Frank's Red Hot Sauce instead of the chili flakes because my chili flakes have been around for a few years and I probably need to replace them. Plus I love Frank's on everything.

Friday: Ok, the low point in the week. We had frozen burgers from a box. I wasn't going to tell you, but there it is.

GREEK SHRIMP AND TOMATOES WITH FETA AND CROSTINI
Serves 2 but the recipe is easily doubled

  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes - I use PC Blue Menu diced tomatoes for everything. They only come in a 28 oz can, so use about half the can and refrigerate or freeze the rest.
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • shrimp, shelled and cleaned
  • salt and pepper to season
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
Crostini
  • 1/2 a baguette, sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • butter for buttering bread
Put olive oil and garlic in a skillet and heat over medium heat. I like to start garlic in a cold pan so that it doesn't burn. Once garlic is fragrant and sizzling, add white wine. Bring to a boil, then simmer until wine has reduced by half.

Add tomatoes with their juice and oregano, season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and add shrimp in a single layer on top of the tomatoes. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook until shrimp are cooked through- they'll be pink and curled up- turning the shrimp once throughout cooking. They should take about 8 minutes total.

Meanwhile, for the crostini, toast the baguette slices. While they are still warm rub one side with the garlic clove and then butter the bread. 

Serve shrimp and tomatoes with parsley and feta sprinkled on top with crostini for scooping up the tomatoes and juices.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Gifts from the Kitchen

My team at work held a dog wash to raise money for the Humane Society last weekend (we called it Bark and Bubbles- how cute is that?). I couldn't attend to help wash the doggies, so I donated some gifts from the kitchen for the raffle we held.

I had an idea in mind that I wanted to make a couple of jar cookie mixes- you know the kind where the dry ingredients are layered in a jar and you just dump in it into a bowl and add a few other things? The logistics of this, however, were easier said than done. I wanted it to be simple, so my idea for a lemon and lavender shortbread mix went out the window as that requires rolling the dough, cutting, so on. Plus I burned the lemon zest when I was drying it out in the oven for the test recipe. Anything that required sugar to be creamed with butter, eggs, etc was out as well as I wanted it all to be in one jar, rather than having to separate the sugar from the rest of the dry ingredients.

I ended up adapting my absolute favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe to work with the jar concept. The unmodified recipe is below, but if you want to give it as a gift in a jar you would half the recipe. Layer dry ingredients in your jar and include the measurements of wet ingredients plus instructions to mix the melted butter, vanilla, 1 egg and add to the dry mix.



The other two jars are Olive Oil Hand Scrub and my Olive Oil Granola (which I made this time with dried mixed berries from President's Choice instead of cranberries).

THICK AND CHEWY CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Makes 18 large cookies

This recipe not only makes the best cookies ever, but I also love it as it calls for melted butter which means I don't have to plan in advance to soften butter. Cookies on demand!
  • 2 cups plus 2 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup  plus 2 tbsp butter, melted and cooled until just warm
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 to 1-1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Adjust oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions. Heat oven to 325 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or spray them with cooking spray.

Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Mix butter and sugars in a large bowl until thoroughly blended. Beat in egg, yolk, vanilla until combined. Add dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips by hand.

Roll a scant 1/4 cup of dough into a ball and place on baking sheet, keeping dough balls 2 inches apart. Bake until cookies are light golden brown, the outer edges start to harden, and the centers are still soft and puffy, 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the baking sheets between upper and lower racks halfway through baking. 

Cool cookies on the baking sheets. These are best eaten warm from the oven, or microwave 15-20 seconds before eating.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Slower Cooker Awesomeness

I saw a post last week on The Kitchn about using your slow cooker during the summer so as to not heat up the house by turning on the oven, and this made a lot of sense. I hardly ever use my slow cooker, but I'm going to try to use it more now that I have re-discovered it's awesomeness. When I walked in the door last night my house smelled delicious, plus dinner was cooked already except for putting some potatoes in the microwave! I couldn't speak throughout dinner except to say "oh my God this is so good".

The recipe accompanying the post was for pork carnitas which I was going to make but they didn't have pork shoulder, or any other suitable pork product, at the grocery store this week. They had beef brisket though. The butcher said they rarely have it, so if you can find brisket at your store pick some up. I wish I had bought two. It's that good. I had brisket sandwich once at a restaurant and it was really fatty, but this wasn't fatty at all- there wasn't even any fat on the top of the leftovers when we took them out of the fridge the next day.

To serve, I shredded the falling-apart-tender meat and we ate it on top of some mashed potatoes with the delicious sauce left in the slow cooker spooned over top. Heaven! I have had leftovers on a kaiser bun for lunch the last two days, and it's delicious this way too. The recipe is dead simple- I was able to throw it together in 10-15 minutes before leaving for work. Don't worry too much about the measurements, I eyeballed everything as I threw it in, it will turn out great. Plus, the cooking time is very forgiving- if you get caught up at work and it cooks for 10 hours, that's ok. The only change I would make, and I've included this below, is to add some chopped fresh parsley when serving.

PS We had peas and corn with it too, in case you were worried about the lack of vegetables in the photo.

SLOW COOKER BRISKET WITH ONIONS AND TOMATOES
Adapted from Epicurious

  • beef brisket- I think mine was 2 to 3 lbs, but you can go bigger and don't have to change anything
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 small onions, sliced 
  • 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 bottle beer- I used Moosehead Light because that's what Tyler had, but any beer will do
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  •  1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp yellow mustard
  • 3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

Trim any visible fat from the outside of the beef. Season with salt and pepper. Brown on all sides in a skillet over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, put all other ingredients except parsley in the bottom of the slow cooker and stir to combine. Place beef in slow cooker, cover with lid, and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours. Stir in parsley before serving.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Breakfast Club Sandwiches

I'm back on the bacon train! I've been off bacon since I first became pregnant because it made me feel sick, even just the thought of it. Slowly but surely over the last month, however, I've been becoming friends with bacon again. As a result of my temporary bacon aversion, I haven't made weekend breakfasts for a while. I saw Ricardo Larrivee make these sandwiches on his show this past week (side note: does he play for the other team or is he just French? Talk amongst yourselves) and I've been thinking about it ever since, so made this on this holiday morning and it was fantastic. Tyler high-fived me, so I take it the breakfast club sandwich gets the husband stamp of approval as well.

BREAKFAST CLUB SANDWICH
Serves 2 (recipe is very easily multiplied to serve more)

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 6 slices sandwich bread
  • Mayonnaise (or Miracle Whip if you live in my house)
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 2 leaves Romaine lettuce

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly beat eggs, milk, salt, pepper in a small baking dish. Put bacon on a baking sheet or broiler pan. Bake eggs and bacon in oven until bacon is crisp and golden and eggs are set- about 10 minutes for the bacon and about 5 minutes more for the eggs. Remove bacon to drain on paper towels. Cut eggs in half and fold each half over itself (like you would an omelet).

While bacon and eggs are cooking, toast bread. Spread one side of 4 of the slices with mayo, spread both sides of the remaining bread with mayo (this is your middle piece of the club sandwich).

To assemble each sandwich, place egg on the mayo side of a slice of toast, top with double-mayo toast, top that with 2 slices of bacon, tomato, lettuce. Top sandwich with another slice of toast. Slice in half or quarters diagonally to serve.