Tuesday, August 31, 2010

pico de gallo, yellow-tomato salsa verde and 8-layer dip

Alright, we are now at the point in Everyday Food that we are coming upon recipes that I might have been putting off. There are three main reasons I'd put off a recipe. One is because this dish is not in season yet. The second is because it requires the oven to reach a temperature over 350, in which case I have to go elsewhere (my parent's house). And lastly, I can't locate the ingredients in any of my regular market & store visits.

Before cooking through Everyday Food we ate a lot of homemade Mexican dinners. We've gotten pretty good at making all sorts of enchiladas and tacos. Nothing too different or exotic. Now, with Everyday Food's Mexican entrees and sides, they seem to be calling for a lot of ingredients that are very hard to come by here in Canada (or at least Niagara).

This dinner is Pico de Gallo, Yellow-Tomato Salsa Verde and 8-Layer Dip. In amongst the lengthy grocery list to complete this meal were Serrano chillies, can of chopped green chillies and fresh yellow tomatoes. All three seemed to be difficult to find but I managed to purchase the first two ingredients at El Milagro (a Latin market beside R&J Meats). I had to substitute a can of pickled Serrano chillies and it worked out great. The yellow tomatoes are very hard to come by even though it's tomato season. I picked up a pound at Quiet Acres Farm Stand (Lakeshore Rd. & East West Line). The yellow tomatoes went into the Salsa Verde, which was a total pain-in-the-ass to make! I smoked up the house right off the bat by heating the tomatoes, jalapeno and onion on high in a skillet. It's all part of the process, but wasn't pleasant. However, once complete, this Salsa Verde is outstanding and it made a ton!

Luckily the Pico de Gallo was quite a bit easier and with the field tomatoes the way they are now I don't think there could be a better time than now to enjoy this recipe.

The eight layers in the 8-Layer Dip (not from Everyday Food, Fresh Flavour Fast - but from Everyday Food June 2010 issue) consisted of a layer of seasoned refried beans, layer of sour cream, layer of grated cheddar, layer of chopped green chilies, layer of plum tomatoes (which are currently in season), layer of avocado, layer of lettuce and a final layer of scallions. I gave Owen a 3-Layer Dip of unseasoned refried beans, layer of sour cream and layer of grated cheddar. He didn't really seem to be on board with this one.

I'd say this entire meal was very time consuming because of all the fresh produce that went into the 3 dishes. There was a lot of washing, peeling and chopping. Time consuming intricate cilantro plucking and jalapeno chopping. But having said all that, this was a super delicious dinner! We loved it. If we ever decided to make this dinner again it would have to be a two person meal prep on a Saturday or Sunday night.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

couscous with carrot and cilantro and green beans and tomato

I think we've completed every possible barbecue recipe in Everyday Food. There is still a whole container left over of the wonderful barbecue sauce from the pork back ribs. So I pulled a flank steak out of the freezer and made a quick marinade using some of the same ingredients found the the bbq sauce. I eyeballed apple cider vinegar, 2 smashed garlic cloves, dry mustard, chili flakes, salt & pepper and let it defrost in the marinade. The flank steak was then barbecued with the bbq sauce. Super good.

I was really after knocking off a couple Everyday Food side dishes. I thought I'd give that failed Couscous with Carrot and Cilantro side another try. I had no idea that it would take 10 minutes from start to finish. This is one of the most rewarding sides because of how speedy, inexpensive and totally addicting it is.

The Green Beans and Tomato are also just as great. The onion, tomatoes and green beans are from Tina's farm stand. Beyond that there is just the addition of oregano. It's so simple but so delicious. It has a ratatouille sort of flavour. Green beans are the best side for a nice piece of red meat. I would pass on a potato any day for this side with a steak!

Owen had a steamed portion of the flank steak which had not been marinated. Because this is a cheaper cut of beef I feel as though it must always be marinated to be tender so it's not the meat best suited for babies because it doesn't seem to break down very well. He had his steak processed with green beans but it took a while to find the right consistency for him. Owen really enjoyed the couscous with carrot and cilantro which he could eat as-is.

I can't believe that we ended up with two sides that were equally impressive in the same meal. We enjoyed them so much they are sure to be a staple for us from here on out.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

peach-strawberry smoothie

This Peach-Strawberry Smoothie is the last in the 4 smoothie recipes in Everyday Food. I originally planned on making it during strawberry season but then had a change of heart because a good peach is hard to come by during strawberry season. So I froze some of our processed fresh berries in June and made this smoothie today during the height of fresh peach season!

Judging by the ingredient list I felt as though it was a little too simple to be any good. I always figure you need a little fat to make a great smoothie. However, I stand very corrected with this smoothie. I think this may be the best one of the bunch, especially right now with the way the Niagara peaches are.

While Nuno was enjoying his early Saturday morning smoothie today in bed, Owen was with us and kept eye balling the drink.

Nuno helped guide the straw into his mouth and he knew exactly what to do. After several icy sips Owen started teetering and tottering as if drunk. Turns out he had Baby's First Brain Freeze!

edit: Sunday morning and I made this again but this time using frozen raspberries in place of strawberries. It's just as good, or maybe better because it tastes like a peach melba smoothie!

Friday, August 27, 2010

spiced butterflied leg of lamb with lemon orzo and cabbage and fennel slaw

We eat like kings & peasants alike and it couldn't be better illustrated than yesterday's meal and the aftermath. Last night we enjoyed Spiced Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Lemon Orzo and Cabbage and Fennel Slaw. Sounds sophisticated, but it was a super easy meal to prepare!

I nearly counted out lamb altogether with my previous Everyday Food lamb experience. Then it came down to buying a leg of lamb. I was only after a pound, but I guess when you buy a leg of lamb you must commit to the entire leg. I ended up walking out with five pounds of meat that I didn't expect to really enjoy eating. But with an open mind I portioned the lamb all the while thinking of how I just returned home from Happy Rolph's petting farm with Owen after showing him the woolly lambs. Now he was going to eat it for dinner. How cruel? Well, I'm over it because this piece of meat was insanely delicious! I'm so happy to report that this entire meal was a ticket to Greece on a plate. Lemon, Lamb, Fennel! All so wonderful I haven't a twinge of guilt over the lamb or the cost to purchase the meat. A glass of Inniskillin 2007 Reserve Cabernet Franc (Winner of Best Red Wine Cuvée 2010) on the side and we were eating like kings. Owen had steamed lamb and the lemon orzo blitzed in the processor and I guess I don't need to state the obvious, but he loved it.

Later that night we took the deep fryer outside and fried a whole whack of corn dogs. I needed something portable for the mom meet-up since the ice cream bars are no longer an option.

With the left over corn dog batter, Nuno concocted a Chocolate and Banana Johnny Cake this morning. Your killing me Nuno!

I then took a moment to reflect on my recent eating habits and for the first time in a long time I'm thinking things are getting a little too indulgent around here. Ice cream made with whipping cream and turned into sandwiches, deep fried feasts, brownies, red wine and red meat. This will probably end up with us having to find a way of easing off the summer of indulgence. September will be when we start exercising restraint. And exercising!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

classic ice cream sandwiches

Boy, was I looking forward to making these Classic Ice Cream Sandwiches!

There were many steps to get to this final stage. First starting off with baking a super-thin cake on a cookie sheet. I took great care in using my offset spatula to get an even thickness. It baked up beautifully.

Then, instead of what the recipe suggests of using 2 pints of store bought ice cream, I decided to make my own. It took me a while to decide, but David Lebovitz's malted milk ice cream was my pick. It is something different that you can't purchase in the store, so I like the novelty of it.

Once I got the ice cream to the proper state of frozen, I slathered it on the two sheets of chocolate cake and felt like a total pro at this point. That's when everything fell apart. I might have attempted to slice into bars before they were quite frozen enough, but they really finished up messy. It might also have to do with making my own ice cream which doesn't have the same sort of freezing properties as regular ice cream which has chemical stabilizers. When I wrapped my eight bars in plastic they are so amateur looking. I guess it wouldn't matter much, but I was planning on bringing these to a mom meet-up tomorrow. I'm afraid that in travel they are sure to melt, so I'll have to bring something else instead.

Overall, this is a 100% on flavour and a fail on technique. These are so friggin' tasty it's a sin! The cake is so damn good that eating it in broken shards straight from the freezer is almost better than in a sandwich. I'm serious, I actually have a cracked batch in a ziploc bag for chocolate cravings. I was even thinking of making a batch of vanilla ice cream and dropping broken pieces of this cake into it for cookies and cream ice cream. For all the involved steps I'd say leave the sandwich making to Nestle. But for the experience, this is a really neat thing to try making on your own.

montreal-style bagel with cream cheese and lox

I have the best sister in the world! On her recent trip to Montreal, she returned with a sleeve of Fairmount bagels for us. I've never had a Montreal-style bagel before so last night we decided to toast them up with some cream cheese & lox.

These bagels are very different than the grocery store & Tim Horton's ones I'm used to. They are very dense, have a tough and chewy exterior and a slightly sweet taste. They certainly aren't your cookie-cutter type of bagel. I took the first one out of the sleeve and thought it was burnt on the outside. I then clued in that it must be wood-fire oven baked. We had both sesame seed and onion bagels and I can't decide which I like more. Because of their pretzel-like density eating one was enough for me for dinner.

Eating a Montreal-Style Bagel with Cream Cheese & Lox crosses off another of my life's 'to do before I die'. Actually, I could really get used to eating these, I wonder if they mail-order?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

jerk chicken with cucumber and watermelon salad

Last night we had Jerk Chicken with Cucumber & Watermelon Salad.

This meal was just not to my taste at all. I am not really much of a fan of any of these foods, so to have them put together in one meal - well, I'll just pass. Nuno and Owen seemed to enjoy this dinner though. Owen had a chicken leg without jerk seasoning and an unseasoned portion of the cucumber and watermelon salad.
I really am intrigued by jerk seasoning because it tasted pretty good. But if I make it in the future I'll have to find a way of grilling a skinless & boneless piece of meat (which to make it work is a near impossible feat, right?)

While I'm blogging about Everyday Food's take on Jamaican food, I have to mention about a new 'tropical' treat on the market. M&M's Coconut.

I'm trying to remember if I shamelessly blogged about my love affair with the new M&M's Pretzels. I never eat M&M's but I'm now a convert with the pretzel candies they just released. I was buying them in the US, but they are now available in Canada. But I don't think the limited edition M&M's Coconut are available here. I picked up a few packs on the request of my Aunt who had trouble finding them on a recent cross border shopping trip. I had a lot of trouble finding them as well. Target, Wegmans and Walmart didn't have them. Then on my way back home I took a chance at a gas station and there they were. The taste takes a little getting used to. At first I thought it tasted like Hawaiian Tropic sunscreen exploded on M&M's in my beach bag. But after a while I was getting a chocolate coconut tart type of flavour. Total novelty, like all candy I suppose.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

old-fashioned cheeseburgers and cucumber salad with sour cream and dill

I think this is officially the easiest and quickest dinner I've made since starting Everyday Food. Old-Fashioned Cheeseburgers with a side of Cucumber Salad with Sour Cream and Dill was completed in 15 minutes!

The burgers are straight up ground chuck. I went to R&J Meats for the beef simply because they are our closest butcher since I decided on this meal at the last minute. I didn't skimp out on the fat content, I think it's important to stay away from lean ground beef when making a burger. I originally anticipated that we should grill these on the BBQ, but Nuno recommended frying in a cast-iron skillet. I have to say, this is the way to prepare a burger! Restaurant chefs do it this way and after doing so I think this might just be one of the best burgers I've ever eaten! The patty was instructed to be very thin but it didn't shrink up. It was seasoned with salt and pepper and fried for no more than 3 minutes. The recipe recommended American cheese, which I have a stash from a trip to the US. Kinda similar to my previous entry about American food availability in Canada, I never see American cheese here in Canada, but I might just have to do a little more searching. Anyways, we loved these burgers and will make them again indefinitely. The side of cucumbers was a great cool contrast to the burger.

As far as food milestones, I guess at nine months you can start your baby on cheese. So I decided Owen's introduction should be a special one.
I know this may sound totally crazy but I decided to make Owen a cheeseburger as well!

Let me clarify that I took the idea of a cheeseburger and applied it to what babies eat. I toasted bread, steamed a patty of the ground chuck and added American cheese & ketchup. The ketchup is Trader Joe's organic ketchup with less sugar and salt. Contrary to what the photo suggests, everything was quartered and eaten in pieces.

Loving it!!! Although the photo doesn't show, he also ate the cucumber salad.
I don't know, but this dinner made Owen so giddy and he seemed very proud of himself for being a big boy.

Monday, August 23, 2010

canadian-bacon strata and fudgy brownies

For the past three years I've blogged about our weekends cottaging in Grand Bend with my in-laws. It's always a blast! We love to have the opportunity to get away and spend quality chunks of time with the family. I was expecting Owen last year and this year he was our newest inductee into the get-away. He was wonderful up there sleeping and napping well. Probably from all the work it takes to entertain people. Even though the weather wasn't great, we still managed some beach time. Owen had fun splashing in the water until repeated fistfuls of sand in his mouth spoiled the good time.

I don't know if I've mentioned in the past how much of a food-a-thon this weekend always ends up to be. You see, most of my in-laws are equally passionate about food as I am. We each take care of a meal up there and it's always a great array of well thought out delicious meals. I wish I could go on and on about what we enjoyed, but it would be a little too lengthy for an entry, so I'll cover what we contributed relative to Everyday Food.

Ever since I saw the recipe for the Canadian-Bacon Strata, Grand Bend weekend came to mind. It fits the criteria for a group breakfast. Because the photo isn't telling, I'll explain. It is shingled english muffins and smoked bacon covered with an egg custard.

I have to note that there is a very odd conundrum with Canadian Bacon - you can't find it in Canada. Well, I'm sure it's available somewhere here, but not 3 hours before you leave for vacation. I called every butcher and supermarket being very specific about my request. I'd always have the person on the other line saying, "Yep, we have it!" To which I'd reply, "You're not referring to peameal bacon, right?" Then there would be an agreement that they are in fact referring to peameal bacon. Then I'd attempt to explain what I was looking for and, of course, they didn't have anything like that. So peameal it was. I was a little disappointed about the whole thing because if I'd anticipated this situation it would have been no problem to have grabbed some Canadian Bacon in the US. But luckily it was fantastic with peameal bacon. I thought the cornmeal would somehow not work well with this recipe, but many english muffins have cornmeal anyways, so it was a non-issue. The best thing about this particular recipe was that it's best made the night before. It worked out so well because Nuno and I also made Jam Filled French Toast. Since making it back in March, we have remade it a total of 4 times now, making this the top hit of the Everyday Food book. We never stray from the original recipe, although we have a plan to someday coat the french toast in crushed Corn Flakes or Cap'n Crunch and deep fry it.

I guess before we arrived in Grand Bend there was a conversation about what will Erin bake this year. I think I brought Anna Olson's S'mores Bars the two previous years. They are so decadent! I wanted to bake something, but was a bit limited because of the oven. I then came upon Fudgy Brownies which bakes at 350 (the highest temperature my oven will reach). I had all the ingredients in my pantry, so this recipe is nice for an anytime treat.

This one was a blessing because if I'd made these alone I might have eaten the whole pan! They are very dense and chocolatey. Not too sweet and super-moist. I added walnuts to balance. As a kid nothing made me more angry than when my grandma added nuts to brownies. I always felt like you were ruining a good thing by adding nuts to - oh, any sweet. But I feel differently now because the contrast in texture is nice. I must also note that, opposite to myself as a child, I don't like frosting on brownies.

So I'm a little bummed out that this is our last cottage trip of 2010. But in reflection, I'm so excited that Owen will have the opportunity to grow up summer cottaging. They are some of my favourite childhood memories and continue to be some of my favourite times.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

crispy ginger-lime chicken thighs, big love quinoa, cranberry and zucchini loaf

I had quite a few mishaps while cooking yesterday. I'm sure most of us modify recipes to suit what we have on-hand. I really do my best not to substitute while cooking through Everyday Food. See, my general rule for the first time making something is to stick to the recipe. If something doesn't quite turn out right, I would most likely have to blame my choice in deviating from the original recipe. About half of what I cook a second time around gets modified to my taste and what I have on hand.

Today I had a major fudge-up that actually just served as a mother of invention! I decided to make the Crispy Ginger-Lime Chicken Thighs along with the suggested side of Carrot Couscous. I have a stash of grains that I buy at Bulk Barn including bulgar wheat, quinoa and couscous. They are still in the Bulk Barn bags and unlabeled. As I was searching for couscous I found several bags of bulgar and one that was questionable. So I assumed it was couscous. Unfortunately, I chose wrong and ended up using quinoa. That's when I decided that I could just rethink the whole side. Since I was stuck with carrots I took a little inspiration from Chloe Sevigny who's always making Carrot & Raisin Salad in 'Big Love'.

I added more water to properly cook the seeds along with a minced shallot, handful of raisins, olive oil, cinnamon and ginger. It turned out awesome!! I've been wanting more quinoa recipes and this one is a definite winner. Owen enjoyed it as well!

The Crispy Ginger-Lime Chicken Thighs, they are seriously to die for. The marinade is so delicious - what a winner! The only problem I have is that I'm not a huge bone-in, skin-on chicken fan. I'll definitely use this marinade again for possibly a quick cubed chicken breast and vegetable sautee.

Lately I enjoy making dessert loaves. I think it might be because it's a great excuse to eat a slice for breakfast and dessert... and snack! They are great anytime and especially good with tea and coffee. With an oven that doesn't heat past 350, loaves are very forgiving to an extended stay in the oven and don't ever seem to dry out.

So I decided to bake up a Cranberry and Zucchini Loaf from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook. The thing I love most (next to eating them) is how simple they are to make. What could be more fuss-free than wet ingredients into dry ingredients then both mixed till just combined. I jumped into this one without really reading the ingredient list where it asked for fresh or frozen cranberries. So my minor adjustment was to add dried cranberries instead. You know what? I love it so much I can't see myself using fresh because the dried are great!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

spinach, pear and blue-cheese salad and watermelon and feta salad

I have neighbours who always call this time of year because their Bartlett pear tree yields more fruit than they know what to do with. We are always so glad to accept a bag full and it's not difficult to get through. Pears are actually one of the best baby foods to work with. I'm always steaming peeled, cored and chopped pears and then pureeing. I've used them with just about any of Owen's favourites because they go well with sweet and savory. Luckily beyond baby food we were able to work them into our dinners as well.

I recently made the Spinach, Pear and Blue-Cheese Salad from Everyday Food. I mentioned before, I love blue cheese in salads, and this was no exception. Delicious!

The other salad we ate which wasn't quite as great as the previous, but still holds its own is this Watermelon and Feta Salad. Watermelon and feta is a combination that puzzles most but has become a very popular option in the past few years. I think I saw Nigella first introduce the idea and up until this salad had still not tried it. So there wasn't any leg twisting when it came to making this. It's nice, perfectly summery and refreshing. I guess I expected a bit more of a 'wow' factor. I almost doubt I'll make it again.

Monday, August 16, 2010

deep-fried feast - onion rings, corn dogs, deep fried chocolate bars and banana fritters

Our dinner last night was exclusively battered and deep fried! What started as wanting to make the Onion Ring recipe from Everyday Food made us decide to pull out all the stops and have corn dogs too. I grabbed my parents deep fryer as well as ours so we could have two fryers on the go (anyone who's deep fried before knows that it's all done in batches, so the more fryers the faster it will all come together). But the onion ring recipe recommended keeping the rings in the oven at 250 while you worked the batches so this worked out great as well because they stayed as warm as if they just came out of a fryer.

It's been exactly a year since we obsessed over corn dogs at the Erie County Fair. Now with Owen with us, it's not so easy to get over to the U.S. on these hot and humid August days to spend the day at a fair. So I found a Corn Dog recipe in the July issue of Martha Stewart Living and thought that might work just as well. I used corn meal purchased at Wegman's, Quaker brand Yellow Corn Meal. I'm sure you can use any corn meal, but I like the idea of this being as American as I can make it. I actually bought some Ballpark Franks in the U.S., but decided to go with fresh dogs purchased from Country Corner Market (located on Quaker Road, right at the edge of Welland and Fonthill). They have several different types of hot dogs at their counter and the guy who waited on me recommended a certain type for corn dogs.

Nuno even purchased wooden dowels, trimmed and sanded them just for this meal! We ended up halfing the entire corn batter recipe as well as the hot dogs, which was a very wise decision because they fit perfectly into the deep fryer.

So the fryers were on and hot, why not make dessert deep fried as well?
Nigella made the deep fried Bounty famous, but I checked all my cupboards and stashes for a deep fried candy bar trial of my own.

Here's what was fried: Kit Kat Chunky hunks, Heath Bar, Milk Duds & Terry's Dark Chocolate Orange. I first dredged the bars in powdered sugar and then battered.

Worked like a charm. The Milk Dud was a dud as the caramel seemed to harden. But the other three were wicked!

Inspired by El Gastronomo Vagabundo and their banana fritters, we decided to use the extra batter from the onion rings, add a little cinnamon and deep fry bananas. These worked out so great because the banana was warm and rich inside and the coating was, of course, perfect!

Everything about this meal was perfect and I wouldn't change a thing (except no Milk Duds in the future). We both agreed that this will be a yearly tradition! I love the idea of making this especially for Owen and his friends. I know I would have flipped out as a kid if I'd had this experience. Maybe we can make a little deep fried macaroni and cheese to round out a kid's party version.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

sister blog

My sister Katie asked me to take a photo of her wine stash the other day. What I stumbled upon was the most amazing collection of wine I've ever seen outside of a fancy restaurant or wine boutique.

For some time now Katie has taken a break from blogging. This really bums me out because I started writing a blog just to comment on all of Katie's blog entries. You see, Katie is the funniest and most clever blog writers ever. I'm not saying that because she's my sister. It's true! She has a way of articulating what's inside her head in an endearing way that makes you want to be a reader. More so, her friend. But she told me because she's interested in a career as a teacher she has to be very careful of her online presence, so she's no longer keeping a blog. Imagine my surprise when she told me she may reconsider and start a new one! This one will blend two topics she is extremely knowledgeable about: Off Beat/Cult Film and Wine. Reviewing a film and then pairing/comparing to a bottle of wine. If she goes through with it, it should be lots of fun to read!
So Katie, please start your blog! I'd love to be a reader!!!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

heirloom tomato salad and zucchini noodles with pesto

There are some things in marriage that are not mutually appreciated. When it comes to food, Nuno and I are very aligned. We didn't come into our relationship that way, me who enjoyed tri-colour rotini with Italian salad dressing and Nuno with lean skirt steaks pan-fried in oil. We both realized we didn't eat well, so we learned to cook and along with that have a very mutual appreciation for food and each other's cooking. And we really don't exclude any type of food other than poorly prepared. But there are some things that one of us enjoys just a little more than the other. One thing Nuno doesn't share the same sort of passion for is a daily dose of toasted tomato sandwiches. You mean you don't enjoy eating the same thing on a daily basis?

Nuno's out of town for a couple days leaving me to my vices!
I decided to pay a visit to Pelham Farmer's Market this past Thursday. Mostly in search of some heirloom tomatoes. I was totally thrilled to come upon a beautiful assortment. Some of the types included in this selection are Mrs. Bots, Golden Queen, Maruel Striped Orange, Green Zebra, Black Zebra, Marmande, Stupice.

I was so precious about this entire assortment. I handled them gingerly the same way as Owen in the first week of life. And they produced the most pleasurable tomato experience, I can only second it to the tomato salad from the previous weekend.

Salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil and some thyme on hand. I'll admit it, this whole salad was for just me! I wanted to try other seasoning, but I'm so in love with thyme in this combo, I'll be leaving the predictable basil for my toasted tomato sandwiches. I'll have to keep my eye out for heirlooms because I think I might just be able to convert Nuno to the other side with this one!

The other thing that Nuno does not share the same appreciation I have is for pasta with pesto. This is my quick single go-to meal. Where most people crack open a box of Kraft Dinner, I just grab a couple frozen blocks of homemade pesto and cook pasta. I then remembered 'A Homemade Life' had a recipe for Zucchini Noodles with Pesto. I quickly read the recipe and realized that I could dress up this quick meal with zucchini from Tina's!

Well played Molly, well played! This is a very good recipe. First the banana bread was killer and now this one. It was even appropriate for Owen as well. I blitzed this assembled pasta dish along with some chicken thigh and he loved it. So maybe Owen has inherited his mom's taste buds.

Friday, August 13, 2010

the first of many blogs about salads

Now is the time of year for salads. At least that's what I think. No one wants to heat the kitchen, so simple and fresh vegetables are the way to go. I find myself making side salads on a daily basis.

The other day I made Anna Olson's Quinoa Bruchetta Salad. Ever since I discovered quinoa with the Quinoa Cucumber Salad from Everyday Food I love to eat it as a side. I just dislike how expensive quinoa seems to be. I'm only finding it at Bulk Barn right now so I'm going to do a bit of hunting through supermarkets to price compare.

I had a meet-up at Zooz the other day and we were all to bring something to contribute. I wanted something that moms and babies could enjoy, so I threw together a salad based on ingredients I had in the house along with fresh produce from Tina's farm stand (located on Lakeshore Rd. just a few km from Werner's farm stand).

I can officially say this is my favourite farm stand. Like a fool, I arrived at Tina's at 10am on the first of many stops of the day without cash! I picked up 3 zucchinis, 2 yellow squash, 1 red bell pepper and 4 cobs of corn to arrive at the cash register with only a debit card. How embarrassing. The gentlemen who cashed me through asked if I was a local and told me to just take my produce and come back when I had time to pay my tab. Would that happen anywhere else these days? Nowhere. I felt so humbled and appreciative of this gesture that after Owen's nap I scootched over to the ATM and made sure to give the stand a tip for their kindness.

Along with singing the praises of Tina's I must mention that my total for everything was just over $4. They are the most well-priced farm stand out there. I know if your into local farm stands you don't visit them to save money. You shop there because everything is picked at the peak of freshness and ripeness, therefore the flavour is beyond anything you will purchase in a supermarket. As well, you are supporting your local farmers keeping your spending local.

Back to the salad - I used these vegetables grilled to make this Israeli Couscous Salad. I made a vinaigrette of balsamic vinegar mixed with olive oil, pepper and dijon. I added some parsley and basil and voila! I held back on the salt since I wanted this to be considered a baby-fied version. I know, dijon and vinegar aren't typically considered baby food, but it went over well just the same. Everyone loved it!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

pork ribs with barbecue sauce

Owen's not the only one who gets to eat with his hands. Last night's dinner of Pork Ribs with Barbecue Sauce and Corn on the Cob meant that no utensils were needed.

The rack of pork back ribs were from Lococo's, which to my surprise, were on sale this week. All this barbecuing is awesome. It's the taste of summer through and through. I'm handing Nuno the meat and he's returning with the most perfectly executed bbq'd dinners. These ribs were no exception. I've been to many rib-fests in my time, but this recipe should be entered into one. I don't use that statement lightly because my dad can make a mean rack of ribs (slowly braised in the oven and then sauced and seared on his Weber grill). Last night's ribs were of the best quality and the time it took to make them was well worth it.

The barbecue sauce was my effort toward the meal. It was made from scratch, but very quick and easy all with pantry ingredients. My favourite part is the charred bits from the sauce which gave an almost caramelized flavour to the ribs.

Eating with our hands didn't stop at dinner. Here are Rocket Pops from the August issue of Everyday Food for dessert. Since we are always processing and pureeing fruits, it made sense to make these. Great way to use up the very last in a coming due container of yogurt and the last few fruits which are starting to seem a bit mushy. The pop in my hand is strawberry/blueberry and Nuno's is kiwi/mango.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

rib-eye with garlic-thyme marinade, green beans and almonds, beefsteak tomato salad

This may be the ultimate died and gone to heaven dinner. Delicious, super easy and fast to make.

Rib-eye with Garlic-Thyme Marinade, Green Beans and Almonds and Beefsteak Tomato Salad. Hands down, best steak I've ever eaten outside of a restaurant!

I've been dying to blog about Lococo's Market for some time now. I don't get there very often because it's in Niagara Falls, but if it's up to me to buy choice cuts of meat, well, this is my first choice. Lococo's has been around for a very long time and is a staple of Niagara's markets. It's located on Victoria Ave and Bridge St. They carry very few boxed and pantry goods. What you'll find there is farm-fresh produce and butcher quality meats in a cold room style shopping environment. I can't walk past their selection of steaks without having every urge and temptation to pick up their priciest steaks.

Yes, they aren't cheap, but so, so worth it! Keep in mind these three steaks fed Nuno and myself for two dinners as well as Owen's 2 baby portions. This is some high quality meat! Nuno grilled these on the BBQ for no more than 6 minutes. The fat rendered huge flames that cooked the outside quickly and kept the inside medium-rare (how we both like it).

Owen comes by the meat eating honestly. Yep, baby got rib eye steak too, only his was steamed. This time around he had a seasoned portion of meat (garlic, olive oil and thyme) and a seasoned portion of green beans pureed. And in true Owen eating fashion, he chowed down and loved it!

I can't let all this meat talk deter from the tomatoes. Of all seasonal produce, tomatoes in August are my absolute favourite. Since college, I spend all of August and September eating toasted tomato sandwiches for lunch. I keep a toaster at the office just for tomato season. My favourite way to enjoy tomatoes is with salt and pepper. Sometimes I'll switch it up with a little olive oil, fresh mozzarella and basil. But this recipe is killer as well and will be another option for my late summer tomato indulgences.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

family reunion

This past Sunday was the Durant family reunion. I couldn't decide what to bring but knew I wanted to make a salad and dessert that used seasonal produce.

So I decided on Anna Olson's Corn and Blueberry Toss from Fresh. This is the salad of this summer for us, so I had to share the good word on how wonderful it is. The corn and half the blueberries are from Inn the Pines farm stand. The other half of blueberries are from what we call the "German Farm Stand" in Ridgeville.

Woah! They have a lot of great produce here. They are located at Canboro Road & Effingham Street. I then made another Peach Buckle from the rest of the peaches on hand.

I also was dying to try these everything-but-the-kitchen-sink style cookies. After making them I'm not sure I'll make them again. They are a thin and crispy type of cookie made with pricey ingredients like super-nice bitter sweet chocolate and dried cherries. They baked up perfectly and everyone at the family reunion was buzzing about them. So they are a crowd pleaser.

I had a lot of family asking how I could bring three things with a baby. For me it's easy. I made the corn and blueberry toss at 10:30 at night with Nuno's help and baked all afternoon at my parents place after visiting Flat Rock. I have a great sous chef in my husband who will always come into the kitchen and ask, "How can I help?"

My family who hosted the reunion have live-in help with two amazing Filipino girls. They cooked amazing food (who shared their secret to a delicious salmon) and kept things clean. They watched the children and did everything with a genuine smile. How amazing to host 60 guests and actually spend all your time mingling and making sure everyone is comfortable.

This got me wondering, are there people out there who wonder if caring for Owen is somehow compromised while spending so much time in the kitchen? I want to make it clear, I'm cooking, tiding and blogging all while Owen naps. If he's awake and it's dinner time he's happily bouncing in his jolly jumper as I cook and we sing and dance together in the kitchen. It's a great set-up.

Since becoming a parent I find myself with limitless inspiration as well as energy (which I guess explains how I eat through three different desserts a week). I'm up at 6:30am every morning and sometimes late to bed. I have to confess, I don't watch much (if any) T.V. anymore and I can't sit through a movie. It takes a lot for me to get through a show and I'll have to have PVR'd it and watch half in fast forward to devote time to it. Luckily, Nuno got me out to Inception while we were on vacation, so I think I'm learning to take it easy.

A lot of parents say, 'What did I do with my time before I had kids?' I'm totally on board with this statement as I truly have to look back on this blog and wonder how much time I wasted before being a mom. What a marked improvement Owen has made on my life. He makes both Nuno and I so happy.

Monday, August 9, 2010

flat rock cellars + el gastronomo vagabundo = perfect summer outing

Nuno and I had a chance to visit Flat Rock Cellars Winery this weekend.

This winery is located on the Niagara Escarpment in Jordan. It's actually in an area of Niagara I've never ventured to before and is located in a very rural setting. The main reason we trekked out was to visit El Gastronomo Vagabundo.

This cart is parked at the winery selling inventive tacos, salads and desserts using seasonal and fresh ingredients. I ordered 'Last Samurai' Taco which was tempura salmon, wasabi, cucumber & pickled ginger with a dessert of banana fritters, vanilla ice cream and coconut caramel.

Nuno had the prix fixe menu which was 'Gara Yakka' Taco which was a combination of yellow curry, chicken, eggplant and crispy garlic and 'Triad' taco of san choi bao and a Heirloom Tomato salad of watermelon, cucumber, beet chips with house vinaigrette. I sampled Flat Rock's Twisted wine (love!).

Everything was incredible! Oh my gosh, seriously, if you read this you must go. Actually, first let me know you are going so I can invite myself along. Nuno and I kept saying that we felt like we were on vacation. The setting actually felt a little California-like. Not that it was dry and barren like Sonoma & Napa, but there was a nice breeze blowing up the escarpment from the lake in the August heat. Also, the tortillas were so reminiscent of what we ate while on honeymoon in San Fransicso. I think I'd recommend this experience over and above all other wineries in Niagara if you've already visited Hildebrand and Inniskillin. This is a much more personal and easy going type of winery experience and perfect for summer dining al fresco.