Monday, May 30, 2011

rhubarb crisp

The farm stands are open and I'm thrilled! I arrived at Tina's when they were still cleaning and bundling their fresh rhubarb Saturday morning. So I bought 2 bundles and made this Rhubarb Crisp from the first Everyday Food book, Great Food Fast.
This is a very simple recipe where all the other ingredients are pantry staples. I had everything prepped and in the oven in 10 minutes which is an awesome feeling for the kind of results you get from this recipe. This dessert is nothing short of incredible!! I couldn't imagine any revision to it whatsoever. I picked up some mixed berry frozen yogurt and it was the perfect accompaniment. I'm starting to regret not doubling this batch, but because of how easy this recipe is, I have no problem making this anytime including after work.
Pay no mind to the Fancy Feast presentation here. I made this for dessert on our Sunday night dinner at my parents house where I found these little dainty glass dishes. We had barbecued ribs, baked potatoes, baked beans and caesar salad and the entire meal tasted so very summery. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

zucchini and chicken salad

My poor family had to endure half a week's worth of meals revolving around zucchini, feta and chicken this past week. I hate to be boring, but when it comes to meal planning I ask Nuno if he's feeling like anything in particular and if he can't contribute then I just go with what's on sale and what's currently in season. But last week, when it came down to it, I had to go with what I was craving. So we had the Grilled Greek Chicken Kebabs with Mint Feta Sauce from Everyday Food, Fresh Flavour Fast. At the same time we cooked the chicken for the next night's meal, Zucchini and Chicken Salad from the first Everyday Food book, Great Food Fast.

Unfortunately the recipe link is broken so I'll explain, along with chicken and zucchini the salad also includes spinach, red onion, Parmesan, pecans and mint. It was our first time making this salad and it was a great way to build a second meal off of a first. It makes use of left over ingredients which is a bonus. The left over dressing from the previous night was delicious on this salad even though the recipe has it's own. So we went between both dressings for dinner and lunches. I think we'll find ourselves relying on these two meal combos in the summer because they are healthy, inexpensive, quick and require very little prep.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

warm quinoa, spinach and shiitake salad

I always try and celebrate the long weekends with something a little special like a cocktail and dessert. This long weekend I made a Sangria. As soon as summer hits we can't resist an excuse to make our favourite red sangria.
To make this I use a bottle of dry red wine, 1/4 cup of cointreau or triple sec, 1/2 cup of orange juice, 1 lemon thinly sliced & 2 limes thinly sliced. I let this steep refrigerated for at least half a day. To serve, top with lots of fizzy water & ice!

I've blogged about this before, it's Easy Tiramisu from the first Everyday Food book, Great Food Fast.  It's a real standby in this house because it can stand up to variations like Cool Whip instead of whipped cream. I know... to cancel out the inautenticity of Cool Whip I used freshly brewed espresso, an addition of marsala wine and Dutch process cocoa on top. So take that food snobs!

I also tried a brand new recipe over the long weekend. Again, from the first Everyday Food book, Great Food Fast (see a pattern developing?) this Warm Quinoa, Spinach & Shiitake Salad. So, I guess you’re probably thinking this isn’t the most appetizing dinner choice and you wouldn’t be alone. Nuno actually told me he was going to eat Tiramisu for dinner instead. Well, I pushed forward and hammered out this dinner in 20 minutes. It was the most rewarding lack of effort and ingredients I’ve ever mustered. 
This dinner is beyond delicious! It was one of those nice surprises when you don’t know what to expect from a recipe but then it turns around to be something better than you ever could have imagined. It is so balanced in flavours – each ingredient sets off the other. The mushrooms are roasted in the oven with a marinade making them taste almost bacon-y in flavour. And you know how spinach can have ‘that’ flavour – you know the one, that sometimes make it taste like high-iron dirt? This salad mutes that flavour and brings out the nice flavour spinach can have. I imagine this Warm Quinoa, Spinach & Shiitake Salad is relatively healthy so if you’re on a diet, you must try it (hand cut half the olive oil – it doesn’t need it!) If your vegetarian please try this... if you aren’t, try it anyways! Does that cover everyone?

Monday, May 23, 2011

a super 'blogger' type entry...

This long weekend was a mixed bag of unpredictable weather. Sunday was crazy - it started out sunny, then clouded over, dropped 20 degrees, then rained and then in the mid-afternoon we finished off the day hot and summery. When the weather is like this it's hard to decide how to dress your toddler, let alone yourself!
I intercepted this shirt from my sister Katie's bags of Goodwill clothes. With the sprinkling rain Owen got to wear out his shark rain boots as we ventured out for brunch downtown to Pan Cafe.

I avoid blogging about going out to eat, but we just love this place. It's a very baby friendly environment with baby change pad and loads of stimulating baby toys. And when dining here you couldn't possibly have any problems ordering from their organic and locally sourced menu.
Owen had a vegan carrot cake while Nuno and I enjoyed variations on eggs benedict & croque madame.
The end of the day found us outside playing in the backyard.
More about the long weekend soon...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

linguine with sausage and peppers

A couple of years ago I started my stand off with sausage. I decided that it wasn't exactly the healthiest choice and, with all the other delicious things to eat in this world, sausage just didn't have to be a consideration. But recently a coworker told me about this little Italian market on Garnet Street in St. Catharines called Rosa's where she intrigued me with her raves on their made on-site Italian sausage. 

So this weekend I fought the Sunday church crowd for some wonderful homemade Italian groceries. I worked Rosa's sausage into Linguine with Sausage and Peppers from the first Everyday Food Book, Great Food Fast. We chose the mild Italian sausage because Owen was going to be sharing this dinner and we didn't know what kind of spice level to expect from Rosas.

This recipe was a real winner for all three of us. First off, it's easy! It's about as brain-shut-off as you'd want on a busy Monday with a toddler tugging on your skirt. But I should warn - no toddlers in the kitchen when frying sausage - Mega Splatter Danger!

The other best part about this dinner is the final addition of arugula. Or in my case equal parts pasta to arugula. I'm so crazy over baby arugula. It's holds up really nicely when cooked into something like a pasta.

I think next time I'll make half mild Italian and half hot because I really think this recipe could use a bit more of a bite. 

Saturated fat aside, maybe sausage isn't such a bad thing... once in a long while.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

come see what's new in my kitchen

I love to shop for new kitchen items! I'm pretty much a stickler for keeping kitchen gadgets to a minimum and be efficient about what we own. But I like having really nice kitchen necessities.

Last Sunday, on Mother's Day, my mom and I made it out to the Handmade Market. The vendors are high quality artisans featuring handmade jewelry, cosmetics, fine art, pottery, bags, apparel, baked goods & confections (etc) which was all set on The Good Earth Food & Wine's vineyard & orchard property. I really regret not documenting this event, so you really must follow the link above to get an idea of what a quality craft show this is. I work with one of the vendors who was selling there and she told me they are holding another in September at 13th Street Winery (yay! even closer). And then another one at the very end of the year in time for Christmas. Holiday shopping!!
I couldn't resist buying myself this hand-crafted wooden chopping block. It was made by a gentlemen who is in the kitchen refinishing business. I'm really pleased with the quality of this board.

Since having to retire many of my Hello Kitty kitchen items, I'm still attempting to keep the room fun, but in a bit of a more male-friendly way.
Here's Owen's first salt & pepper shaker! I make every effort to keep Owen's food very low in sodium, but what are eggs without a touch of salt & pepper? Since we use a bulky pepper grinder, I felt like this robot s&p shaker is perfect for Owen when he's old enough to need a little more seasoning. 
The head (pepper) is magnetized to the body (salt) and it's made of sturdy steel. Cute!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

peanut butter waffles

This month's issue of Everyday Food features a recipe for Peanut Butter Waffles. In the published photo they are pictured with sliced bananas and all I could think about was how perfect this would be for Owen on the weekend. 

So this morning I made them and they are delicious! My only issue with this recipe is having to use the blender for the wet ingredients. I'm not sure there is really any way around this other than a workout of an effort in whisking. So the clean-up was a bit of a pain. But with this recipe you end up with lots of batches, which we froze. I blogged about our weekend waffle variations over the past year and how we freeze them then reheat in the toaster. Everyday Food published that tip for others which is great.

We served these waffles with sliced bananas and maple syrup, but when we eat them again I think we'll try them with jam. I also think this recipe would work well with Nutella substituted for peanut butter. If we end up trying it out I'll blog about the results.

Monday, May 9, 2011

mother's day

There's really no better feeling than waking up on Mother's Day and thinking about your child and how much you love them. For me it's still a very new feeling even though it's been a year and a half since Owen arrived. The idea of being a mom and having Owen call me "mama" a hundred times a day - it never grows old. Being a mom friggin' rocks!

We've been planning a playdate for a few months that kept getting pushed back because Owen was, surprise, too sick to hold it. Luckily we are going on 15 days and Owen is virus-free, so we held a playdate this past Saturday. Since it was the day before Mother's Day, I felt it was important for our kids to make a keepsake for this years Mother's Day. I designed a layout for print on wooden photo frames which were personalized to each of the 9 toddlers attending.
I took photos of all the kids when the arrived and then had the moms and babies stick foam embellishments around the frames to personalize it.

The other crafty thing I did for the playdate was to bake up these Mother's Day cookie pops.
We had extra green and yellow fondant from last week's Gumby cake so making these was pretty simple when much of the work was already complete. These are sugar cookies baked on sticks with three layers of shaped fondant pieces adhered with light corn syrup. I sanitized flower pots & some sliced pool noodles (used as frogs to hold the sticks in place) and then covered with lime green tissue paper. This really was a race-around-the-house the night before craft that looked like a million bucks!
I love the way they turned out because we've only ever used fondant for cakes, but it works beautifully for sugar cookies too. 

Every year for Mother's Day we brunch at Legends of Niagara Golf Course. This really is one of the highlights of the year for me. The food is outstanding and indulgent beyond belief. We were reflecting on last year's visit when Owen was six month old and showing his first signs of wanting to eat. A taste of whipped cream was his first taste outside of breastmilk. Now, this year he indulged in scrambled eggs, maple syrup & whipped cream on waffles, tater tots, meatballs, mashed potatoes, chocolate covered strawberries and cherries jubilee.
What a difference a year makes!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

beauty weekend

This weekend Nuno and I got away to Toronto. Owen stayed with Grandma & Grandpa so that we could go to Hot Docs to see the documentary Beauty Day.
This documentary was directed by a friend of ours, Jay Cheel. Beauty Day is about local Niagara legend Ralph Zavadil aka. Cap'n Video, an early 90's cable TV personality who filmed himself attempting extreme stunts in and around his home.
This documentary is hilarious, touching and a total blast to watch. We had a screener copy for the past few months in which time I've probably seen it 10 times. It was perfect for putting in time on those days when Owen was mid-day napping on at-home sick days. Upon repeated viewings of this documentary I found myself tearing up at key scenes which involved the relationship with is ex Nancy Dewar and the discovery of his daughter. Jay captured so many genuine moments that this documentary has a way of drawing you right into Ralph's life. I guess this is why I felt so compelled to see it at Hot Docs because this would be the very first time Ralph would be watching it. Not only that, we would get to see the final cut on 35mm, which is very cool as well.
On our way to Toronto our route to get on the highway took us to the Cap'ns neighbourhood. We peeked down the street to find a white stretch limo parked outside ready to whisk the Cap'n onto his movie premier.
While waiting in line to enter the theatre the Cap'n skateboarded up Charles Street with a pink hairy bag of popcorn.
As a filmmaker Jay has a perfectly executed artistic direction, story pacing and delivery. I really hope this documentary gets maximum exposure because there is no doubt in my mind that it will be successful.

Saturday was my sister Katie's birthday party. She decided to have it at the Duke for karaoke. The karaoke host is legendary 60's wrestler Sweet Daddy Siki. It was awesome and tons of fun especially when the birthday girl got up and belted out 'My Ding a Ling'.
And what's a birthday without one of Nuno's cakes these days? Katie is a huge fan of Gumby so this cake was perfectly suited.

Over the past 2 days we've seen so many friends and family, some we go months without keeping in touch with! It was incredible to just hang out at places like the Duke, Hot Docs, Burger Bar & Tequila Lounge and be surrounded by so many people we love. Seems like everyone is in Toronto now while we live in Niagara. Hopefully we will have a few more Toronto weekends this summer.