Thursday, October 28, 2010

halloween lollipop cookies

Owen started day care this week and it's going very well for him. Me on the other hand... well, I just have to keep busy or I find myself missing the little guy like crazy. Luckily the daycare was fundraising this week so I got to participate in my first bake sale!! I wanted something festive and as well as something parents could buy for their kids, so I made Lollipop Cookies

They took quite a bit of time (all afternoon) but the I made out with 35 cookies, 25 which went to the bake sale and 10 which went to Owen's first halloween party with all of his baby friends. 

I had to share a pic! He wasn't too impressed to be dressed up.

One of the many things that makes me feel so comfortable with Owen at daycare is their focus on nutrition and healthy eating. There is a staff who provides all the snacks and lunch for the children at the facility. It's all based on Canada's Nutrition Guide and the on site cook prepares all the food and shares the menu plan a month in advance. We are given a copy of this menu at the beginning of the month where we are able to note changes, omissions and modifications. Since attending daycare he's already had minestrone soup & sandwiches, ham & hashbrowns, meatloaf & dollar chips and tons of fresh fruits and veggies.

roast chicken and parsnips with swiss chard

This Roast Chicken with Parsnips and Swiss Chard was a very traditional dinner and perfect for fall. 

The parsnips are the most delicious I've ever had but I can't say the same for the swiss chard. I expected to like it quite a bit more than I did. I have a feeling that if we ever sautee swiss chard in the future I'll be sticking Everyday Food's other swiss chard with raisins and pine nuts.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

london broil with potatoes and peppers and roasted cauliflower with paprika

There is a strange situation with London Broil here in Niagara (and possibly all of Ontario?). If you go to any butcher around here and ask for a "London Broil" they will sell you a sausage patty wrapped in a thin slice of sirloin. I've tried it and it's not good. For years I wondered why, when Tony Soprano gets clocked with a London Broil, it was just a big hunk of red meat. But when I read the entire recipe in Everyday Food, I'm so glad they made the distinction that in the US a London Boil is a top round steak and it actually refers to the way it's sliced - across the grain (which to me is how you should be slicing flank or top round). I went to my butcher and asked for a pound and a half of sirloin and it worked beautifully for this recipe. It was simply seasoned with s&p and paprika and then boiled in the oven for 8 - 10 minutes for medium rare. Sliced up beautifully.

Alongside were potatoes and peppers pan-fried and cauliflower roasted with the same seasoning as the meat. It was all very delicious but time consuming. I'm beginning to realize there is no way Owen, Nuno and I can continue to eat dinners like these once I'm back to work. It was hard enough picking Owen up from day care and coordinating this dinner.

Monday, October 25, 2010

salmon with potato-artichoke hash and sauteed kale with garlic and lemon

Here is last night's Salmon with Potato-Artichoke Hash with a side of Sauteed Kale with Garlic and Lemon.

This dinner was mediocre as far as effort and pay-off. Not super delicious but it's nice and healthy. Owen ate one of everything here but didn't seem to enjoy it very much so I doubt we'll ever try this one again.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

glazed chocolate cake

If there is a heaven, which I don't believe there is, but if I'm incorrect and it exists, I'll be feasting on this Glazed Chocolate Cake night and day - slim all the while.

This cake is my new favourite dessert and will be my go-to chocolate cake recipe from here on out. Some things are so simple and sublime and this cake is the epitome of that. If you are going to try any recipe from Everyday Food, Fresh Flavour Fast let it be this one. It was so much fun to bake I'd say I had a few 'Joy of Baking' moments here. It's very moist, dark and rich and the glaze is the perfect accompaniment if you are anything like me and aren't into icing. But if you are, well, I hope you plan on attending Owen's first birthday party because we have an icing winner! The glazed chocolate cake became our first birthday cake fondant test. 

I can't stand fondant. I didn't want it for our wedding cake and I always breathe a sigh of slight disappointment when I am served a slice with this chewy sickly-sweet cake slayer. But Nuno insisted that Owen's first birthday cake needed fondant to pull off the style, so we put our trust in Duff's (Ace of Cake) butter cream fondant. 

Nuno nailed this tester in mere minutes and we were both in shock at how simple it is to do. He then made me a tiny petits fours with the scraps of cake & fondant for a taste test and I can tell you this fondant is unbelievably good. I'm a convert, fondant can be delicious and easy to work with.

Friday, October 22, 2010

spaghetti puttanesca and apple crisp

This Spaghetti Puttanesca is a perfect pantry dish that tastes like restaurant dining. With black olives, capers and anchovies this is the perfect dinner if your craving salty bites. Nuno and I just loved it but this was not suited for babies. Owen had an alternate dinner of salmon and avocado but he was able to share in our dessert of fresh baked Apple Crisp.  

I couldn't let this apple season go by without making my most vivid childhood comfort food. Apple crisp is the dessert my mom made on Sundays in the winter. I'm not sure I've ever made one from scratch, but this recipe was quite easy. Peeling, coring and chopping the apples was the most time consuming part and it's not the sort of process you can do at a leisurely pace. Apples brown quickly, even with lemon juice, so I had to devote a non stop 20 minutes to the task. Now that Owen is reaching one year, he wasn't too happy about it, even with snacks on chunks of apple.

Things are really winding down with working through Everyday Food along with my maternity leave. A spot opened up at our first choice of day care. We are so insanely lucky to have actually scored this spot since there are only 6 infant spots, so we jumped right at the opportunity and will start bringing Owen next Monday. While he's having half days I think I'll try and tie up the cookbook and then it's back to work for me.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

lighter chicken potpie and cauliflower gratin

Here's a comfort food duo if there was ever one, Lighter Chicken Potpie and Cauliflower Gratin.

I made this gratin back when it was first published for a Thanksgiving dinner I held for both sets of my grandparents 3 years ago. I remember everyone enjoyed it except my grandfather who thought it was too jazzed up for his taste. I believe there is no tastier way to eat cauliflower than with this gruyere cheese sauce. It's fantastic and a fairly easy dish to make.

For years now I've been wanting to make this Chicken Potpie but the October 2007 issue had too many other delicious recipes that took precedence over this one. Well, luckily it made it into Everyday Food Fresh Flavour Fast. This chicken potpie was fairly easy but time consuming. From start to finish your looking at over an hour. I'm also afraid of attempting to make this ahead because the phyllo dough crust would certainly dry out if made a day in advance. Of course, you could always prep up until the crust step and save that till right before baking. The phyllo seems to blend into the stew once it's served, which might not be to the liking of someone who loves the pastry crust element to potpies.

Although each dish is fairly straight forward, what wasn't so simple is coordinating these two baked dishes simultaneously. Once one hit the oven I had to quickly start on the next. The best part of making these two recipes was that they lasted 2 nights so the big payoff was having one night off.  But this combo is definitely well suited for a two person prep but easiest if you choose just one per night.

Monday, October 18, 2010

fig and almond crostata and vegetable lasagna

The two Everyday Food recipes from this weekend look a lot better as slices.

First off is a Fig and Almond Crostata. I made a short crust pastry from scratch for this one and found every step of making this free-form tart a pain. That is only because I really didn't expect much of this recipe, I just wanted to get it over with. 
Well, after it baked and tasted a slice, I was dazzled by how absolutely over-the-top this dessert is. I've added a new favourite dessert with this one and what's great is that you don't need to use figs. Since the filling is an almond paste (of sorts), you could always substitute cherries or chocolate - anything you like with almonds. Even sliced almonds could work.

I've never been able to pull off a really great lasagna. I always felt like making lasagna was just too much work. Well, after cooking through this book I've realized it can be quite simple and this Vegetable Lasagna proves it.

There aren't many ingredients to it, but the few the recipe requires deliver an amazing flavour. I give a lot of credit to the Fontina cheese. It works beautifully in this dinner. I made this lasagna for my dad's birthday meal and everyone agreed it's a great recipe. I'm pretty sure Owen loved it as well, he polished off a piece as large as mine!
This was a big birthday weekend for us with my dad and Hot Tot celebrating the same day.
It was the first time Owen saw lit candles on a birthday cake and he was in awe. Instead of learning to blow them out, he had the innate ability to scoop some whipped cream frosting off the side.
Hot Tot lived it up this weekend because it was not only her birthday weekend where she got a bunch of new toys, she also went to Pug-O-Ween. Her Halloween costume wasn't ready in time, so she didn't score any prizes like her first palace finish two years ago, but she had fun none the less.
Owen is just a little bummed that, for once, it's not all about him. Not to worry, we are currently working on four themed costumes which we'll reveal at the end of the month. They are shaping up really well!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

pork loin with figs and port wine sauce and wilted mustard greens with sweet onions

PORTUGUESE! That was the theme of our Friday night dinner. If you couldn't surmise from my husband's name, Nuno, he comes from a Portuguese background. I'm familiar with a number of traditional Portuguese dishes from my in-laws and have grown to love many of their staple meals.

Pork Loin with Figs and Port Wine Sauce is not a staple meal, but the ingredients are. To add to this meal I decided to make a side of Wilted Mustard Greens with Sweet Onions. Instead of Mustard Greens, which I can't seem to locate anywhere in Niagara, I substituted for Collard Greens (which is a key ingredient in my all time favourite Portuguese soup, Caldo Verde). 
So this meal wasn't all that great. I enjoyed the roasted pork, but the sauce didn't seem to add much. Luckily I made a dessert to save the meal. 
Arroz Doce is Portuguese Sweet Rice and is about as close to the definition of comfort food as you can get. Fragrant, smooth, comforting, sweet and all too easy to eat. This dessert is really a sort of risotto. And like I blogged a few entries ago with risotto, it's great for babies! I want Owen to grow up enjoying this comfort food and so he had his first taste with this meal and loved it. Or in his words, 'Num, num'.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

chipotle pork posole

Ah, the Chipotle Pork Posole.

I've been dying to dive into this one. Back at our weekend in Grand Bend we tasted an authentic version of Posole from a New Mexican transplant. It was super good and Nuno and Owen loved it.  Well, Everyday Food's version didn't disappoint. It was quite simple and straight-forward with very few ingredients. Most of the flavour is just from onions, garlic and chipotle.

I guess babies aren't supposed to eat soup (as per registered dietitian with Healthy Ontario). Well, I've decided that if a soup is thick and pureed enough it's perfectly acceptable. I added a little couscous to the soup with the puree to thicken it and it worked out great for Owen.

Friday, October 15, 2010

update on MSLO and canadians

I blogged a bit of a critique on how Everyday Food has its limitations for Canadians a week ago. I got a very prompt response from the television department of MSLO in response to my blog post and I wanted to publish what they indicated.

Thank you for contacting Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.
We appreciate your support of the Martha Stewart Show. We're sorry to hear that you are not be able to view the show on the Hallmark Channel.
As you may have heard, moving to the Hallmark Channel means we will air more than once each day and offer more content. Our viewers have told us that they would like more opportunities to view Martha, and more in-depth programming and holiday-themed specials.
Our new arrangement with the Hallmark Channel allows us to better serve most of our viewers.
We appreciate your feedback, and will share your concerns with our television staff, in addition to Martha Stewart.

Thank you once again for your interest.
MSLO Customer Relations

So that's not exactly what I wanted to hear. I guess I was hoping they were going to make their television shows available to view online. But since I've expressed my observation and they will take it under consideration, that certainly counts. As does their prompt reply. I feel very validated that they took the time to recognize my concerns.

lamb chops with parsley pesto and roasted herbed potatoes

This is Lamb Chops with Parsley Pesto and Roasted Herbed Potatoes.

Yay, the second lamb chop recipe is over! Tried them once and tried them a second time and I can firmly say I'll never buy these again. The flavour is very game-y and I wouldn't exactly call them lean. However, I couldn't have a more opposite view on leg of lamb - totally delish! I will give this recipe credit as being the quickest meal in the book. The parsley pesto is a quick blitz in the food processor and the meat is pan fried for a few minutes for medium rare. This parsley pesto, like the parsley sauce made as a side for this flank steak is so pungent. I could still taste it 14 hours later. Gross! But I'll admit to being a glutton for punishment because I was spreading gobs of it on my potatoes along with the lamb.

We all loved the herb roasted potatoes! Just as simple as the previous days sweet potato wedges, these had a sprinkling of dried rosemary, thyme and oregano s&p and olive oil. The potatoes are my last purchase from the now closed Tina's Farm Stand. So sad to see the summer farm stands close shop for the fall. Anyways, these are the sort of roasted potatoes I grew up with where the outside is crispy and toasted and the inside is fluffy and light. But you have to eat them hot and fresh straight out of the oven. I think where so many people go wrong is to let roasted potatoes sit and the outside then becomes slightly soggy and too soft. Catering tends to have this problem as well. Oh well, I know the 'secret' and now you do to!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

mushroom and parmesan risotto and sweet potato wedges

I think risotto is a great food for babies. I know Owen just loves it. I made the Mushroom and Parmesan Risotto from Everyday Food with a side of Sweet Potato Wedges.

I know, it's a little odd to have two starches in one meal. I didn't think mushrooms could be considered a healthy contribution to Owen's dinner so to boost it I made sweet potatoes. All three of us LOVE roasted sweet potatoes and these are absolute perfection. Just a sprinkling of dried thyme with s&p and olive oil. I can see us making this all winter.

As for the risotto, if I was asked to whip up a risotto off the top of my head it would probably be a clone of this one (although I might add fresh thyme). It was delicious! How could it not be? Well, if you don't prepare risotto properly you could have a gloopy mess or a chewy hard center to each grain of rice. But I think I'm well past those days along with the days of non-stop stirring. I found success with these two key points: move the rice when each addition of stock is added and taste-test as you go.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


With each passing year there seems to be more and more to be thankful for. That most certainly applies to this year. 
I'm so happy and thankful for Owen and what a beautiful person he's becoming. I'm thankful for my husband and how 'support' is a word too limited because he goes way above and beyond for us. I'm thankful to have the chance to visit and have time with my grandpa and see that he's doing so well after his stroke. I'm thankful to have the time I had with my extended family whom I'm reminded love us as much as we love them. I'm thankful for this year and all I've learned about being a mom. And I'm thankful for the chance this year to devote myself to nurturing my passion for cooking and baking.

Friday, October 8, 2010

roasted stuffed chicken and broccoli and gingered plum shortcake

We have the ultimate 'guys' meal here. Both Owen and Nuno went crazy over this dinner of Roasted Stuffed Chicken and Broccoli.
This is the typical meal I don't enjoy. I'm not into traditional dinners at all and Thanksgiving is probably prime example. But, you know, when it's been ages since you've had something like this it can be really nice. Both Nuno and I had chicken breasts and Owen had a chicken thigh all stuffed. The stuffing was really nice and simple, but super flavourful. Want to know the secret to great stuffing? Sage! Dried sage in the stuffing and I added fresh leaves across the top of the chicken for added flavour.

The Ginger Plum Shortcakes were a sinch to make and don't they look lovely? I didn't really like them as much as Owen and Nuno did. Owen was such a good little baby eating his broccoli whole. I'm surprised he didn't reject it, but once I tasted the broccoli I realized that roasting is the best way of prepping it (without all that gross processed cheese spread over top). As a reward Owen had his own Gingered Plum Shortcake!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

squash and apple soup

This time of year was perfect timing to make this Squash and Apple Soup.

I had no idea so few ingredients could create something so flavourful. This is a real winner of a soup. It's creamy, fragrant, comforting and couldn't be more perfect for Fall. I'd say it's little work, which it is if you buy squash puree in a can or frozen squash defrosted and then pureed. But I took the long road and bought 3 butternut squash (mostly because they were on sale this week), peeled, chopped and baked. Ever try and peel a butternut squash before? It's quite a long and difficult process because of its shape and the skin is quite tough & thick.  Chopping is also not simple because of its round shape and tough flesh, so you must be very steady on that first cut.

This soup was thick enough to serve to Owen for dinner. He really enjoyed it along with his bagel - his new favourite carb munchie.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

parsnip fries and a desperate plea to MSLO

These are last night's Parsnip Fries that went along with the leftovers from Monday night's strip steak. Not much to say here other than they were tough, chewy and not the most pleasant of flavours. I love caramelized parsnips as part of a baked root vegetable tray, but on their own there isn't too much to enjoy. Especially since potatoes and sweet potatoes make better fries.

I don't want to sound like I'm addicted to Martha Stewart or anything. I bet tons of people who read this blog think I worship her or something. I really respect her business savvy - she fills a niche and, yes, profits. The two things I like most about her brand is that she hires some the most creative & talented people and encourages people to eat fresh, healthy and local. 

One thing that is kinda bugging me about the Martha Stewart camp is how it has its limitation to the Canadian market. Now, the Everyday Food publication's best issues are always October and November because of Halloween & Thanksgiving. But as we approach Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend, I always have to pull out the previous year's November issue for Thanksgiving inspiration. Another problem I have is, of course, the measurements. Here in Canada we're imperial, so ounces are just something I've learned to estimate on my own since our labels don't indicate. Because of the show Breaking Bad, I learned there are 16oz to a pound (a measurement I can accurately guess-timate in one hand), so that's really helped me while shopping. Finally, I'm totally ticked that the Martha Stewart Show, Everyday Food and the brand new, Mad Hungry (remember this book I picked up a few months ago - Lucinda Scala Quinn now has her own show about feeding men and boys) are all on the Hallmark Channel. This is only available in the US, how are we supposed to see any of these shows when they are EXCLUSIVE to this channel?! 

Yeah, MSLO - if you're out there and listening, can you please find a way of helping us foreigners feel a little more included?! Maybe an exclusive Canadian addition of your publications and a broader reach on all your television shows?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

pan fried shell steak with boston baked beans and roasted sweet-potato fries

New York and Boston. They may be rivals when it comes to the World Series, but these two cities teamed up to create one harmonious dinner last night. 

This is a Pan Fried Shell Steak with Boston Baked Beans and Roasted Sweet-Potato Fries. Now, all this time I read the title of 'Shell Steak' and wondered where I'd ever find one of these types of steak. Upon looking into it a bit more I was pleasantly surprised to discover it's a New York Strip Steak. I'm 31 and have never had a NY Strip! That is far too long to have gone without and I doubt I'll let another living year go by without eating one. Country Corner had them on sale for $7/lb, which is a super great deal considering their quality. I picked up two steaks, which looked of good size behind the counter, but once home we realized this was enough meat to feed 6 people! Ah well, these will last us at least two meals, so we're more than happy.

I think if your pan frying steak, there is only one way to prep it and that's in a well seasoned cast-iron skillet. This is our largest one and the steaks barely fit! And what a beautiful medium rare with a delicious dark charred exterior we got off these.

So, let's see, we have a trifecta of saturated fat in this meal with bacon in the baked beans and steaks seared in butter! All we needed to top this one off was a bearnaise sauce and one of us might have had to been rushed to the Emergency with a coronary. But let's look on the bright side here. This is a meal with very basic prep with most ingredients already in the fridge and pantry. And the steak is the only real investment you have to make for a dinner I'd pay 10 times the price for at a steakhouse. It goes without saying that we absolutely LOVED this meal! It now looks like I won't have to travel to the US for Bush's baked beans now that I've discovered this recipe. Homemade is always better!

And Owen had some too. He ate several sweet potato fries and a bowl full of baked beans sans bacon with processed (and well cooked) NY strip.  Damn Owen, it's no fair he's eaten Rib Eye and NY Strip and he's not even one!

Monday, October 4, 2010

chana masala

This is last night's Chana Masala. The recipe was taken from Molly Wizenberg's "A Homemade Life" book.

This is one of my all time favourite Indian dishes. I always grab a spoonful of chana masala at Indian buffets and have made it a couple times at home where it never tastes the same. In my opinion it's the easiest Indian dinner to make short of opening a President's Choice Indian cooking sauce and adding to a slow cooker with chick peas or chicken thighs. But from scratch, I love this recipe.

I picked up the garam masala spice blend from Brampton Sweets. Brampton has an amazing selection of Indian grocery, dining and take-out. Nuno is nuts about Naan Kebabs and Samosas. You don't get better than Brampton Sweets take-out counter with samosas for less than 50 cents each with their perfectly flaky pastry crust, spice blend and potato doneness. All other samosas are a complete piss-off because Brampton Sweets set the bar.

Anyways, this is the sort of dinner that is wonderful for next day leftovers because, like so many spice infused dinners, the longer they sit the better the flavours enhance.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

baked flounder (halibut) with roasted tomatoes and sauteed escarole

I know a few vegetarians who chose their lifestyle because the animals we eat are too cute to eat. I don't know if they saw "Babe" and were forever changed. But what happens when your food frightens you? That's what happened when I looked into flounder.

Flounder - I pictured the cute character from the Little Mermaid with his kiddie voice, so I was endeared to the idea of buying flounder. Then I asked at the seafood counter and was told that no fish market here in Niagara sells flounder, but this species of fish are similar to sole and halibut. So I googled these fish and became so irked by the hideous look them that I went to bed after my search to be haunted by these fish in nightmares all night! In an effort to feel empowered, I'm now looking forward to roasting this guy up and chow down to show this creepy fish who's boss!

Anyways, halibut was on sale this week (I use the term sale loosely because this ugly son-of-a-bitch fish cost $12/lb). But I made Baked Flounder (Halibut) with Roasted Tomatoes along with Sauteed Escarole. I had to clear my afternoon schedule for several hours of tomato roasting in the jank oven. Well, I can officially say this is the last meal in the old oven because the new one will be installed Monday!

This dinner was quite easy to make with very little prep, just a lot of downtime as the tomatoes roast in the oven. Well worth the wait because roasted roma tomatoes are one of life's simple luxuries. The fish was sweet, moist and flavourful. The sauteed escarole was nice but slightly bitter. But, wow, this entire meal had an air of high-end dining which is a wonderful feeling when you enjoy home cooking and have a little one to spend the evening with. Best of both worlds!

Friday, October 1, 2010

meatballs with rosemary

Here's an easy pleasin' meal of Meatballs with Rosemary!

I'm pleased because of how simple it is (i.e. few ingredients, very little chopping, super-quick to make and not a lot of clean-up) and Owen and Nuno were pleased to eat it. Owen's a little pasta baby so he absolutely loved this dinner.

I purchased my meat combo of half pork & half beef at Goeman's Lakeshore Meats (Lakshore Rd. and Lake St.) where they also sell jars of a locally owned tomato sauce purveyor called Marinelli's. I've always seen this sauce around, but this was my first time trying it and it's really super good. I like to make my own tomato sauce, but this sauce is of superb quality.

On my way out I happened to notice that a brand new bakery just opened its doors beside Lakeshore Meats. 'Your Bakery' makes fresh bread (white, sourdough - even San Francisco-Style Sourdough!), bagels, buns, cookies, pies, croissants and pastries. Everything looked so professional and delicious but I thought I'd start with trying their bagels.

They taste very handmade and are the perfect size. I gave Owen his first bagel today which was a portion of the sesame seed bagel with cream cheese. He ate it all and seemed to love it. I really hope they do well because ever since Olson's closed their doors I never know where to go for fresh bread and single portion sweet treats.