Thursday, June 30, 2011

roasted salmon with lemon relish

Wow, we haven't had salmon in a long while. So here is Roasted Salmon with Lemon Relish from Everyday Food Great Food Fast.
This was a simple oven baked salmon with a relish of raisins, pine nuts, parsley and lemon. Very tasty but isn't anything to write home about. The leftover relish was added to our Rice Salad with Raisins and Radicchio side and it really enhanced the flavour of an already delicious side.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

blackberry and ginger trifle

When we make our sculpted cakes we end up with a lot of leftover scrappy chunks of cake. Sometimes it's the baker's perk to snack on these, but do you realize how that can add up? My recent weight gain will attest to that. So this time around we immediately froze those leftover cake pieces and pulled them out for this weekend's Blackberry and Ginger Trifles from Everyday Food Great Food Fast.

I needed a dessert for family who were coming down for a picnic this past weekend. I assembled these into Ziploc containers so they were portable. This also worked great because a dessert like this benefits from sitting around for a few hours.
I made blackberry and strawberry trifles. Along with the thawed cake pieces, the cake gets brushed with a quick and easy ginger syrup. It's that little je ne sais quoi that makes this dessert a notch above the standard strawberries and angel food cake. The flavour was quite similar to Nuno's favourite dessert from Everyday Food Fresh Flavour Fast, Ginger Plum Shortcakes.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

mini muffins, mini money

I mentioned a few blog entries back that I have a whole new wardrobe courtesy of my sister Katie but I'm also enjoying a new hand-me-down appliance - this Betty Crocker Mini Muffin Magic. 
I remember when my mom bought this for Katie. She was in early high school and she'd request my dad bring home a coffee and chocolate chip muffin from Tim Horton's every Saturday morning for when she got up (at 11am no less!). My dad never thought it was too much trouble, but my mom must have thought it would be more convenient if we just made these muffins at home.

This week I decided to give this novelty appliance a test run. It's similar to a waffle iron with 5 chambers that you pour your muffin batter into and in five minutes they are ready. I was skeptical, but am so pleasantly surprised with the results. It really works like a charm! 
I bought this PC Chocolate Bran mix and with the addition of dried cherries I've been using the Mini Muffin Maker every morning and they are ready in less than 10 minutes start to finish!  It's been a welcome change having fresh baked muffins instead of pulling out my daily  Raisin Bran Muffins from the freezer every morning.
I decided to make some muffins from scratch Saturday morning. After a dozen Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins were in the oven to bake, there was quite a lot of batter left over. So this is where the Mini Muffin Maker came in REALLY handy. I was able to bake mini muffins for Owen so he didn't have to wait.
"Hellz yeah, Mini Muffinz!" They are the perfect size for him! 

When it comes to muffins nothing beats the real thing. It isn't difficult to get a lot of use out of this appliance because of it's convenience and my muffin habit. I always say I'm not big on extra needless kitchen tools, but as far as I'm concerned this Mini Muffin Maker is about as essential as a waffle iron!

Friday, June 24, 2011

asparagus and gruyere tart

This dinner fell into place quite nicely. Nuno came home with a random brick of gruyere cheese last week, so we had the Asparagus and Gruyere Tart from Everyday Food Great Food Fast last night.
What a looker! Does this not look like foodie modern art? Asparagus in a puff pastry frame! And it was super delicious. I mean, anything in butter puff pastry is bound to taste like a million bucks, but asparagus and gruyere are a great match! 3 ingredients - it was that simple!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

father's day

Sounds cliche but this father's day was filled with grilled steaks and loads of beer! I'm not sure there has been a week where we've consumed so many choice cuts of beef consecutively. Not that I'm complaining and neither is the man of the day, "Dada" - Nuno!
We caught wind of an event at Niagara College's Teaching Brewery program had to celebrate both Father's Day and the kick off of Ontario Craft Beer Week.
This was our first visit to the college since they've implemented the program. The brewmaster program shares a tasting room right in the greenhouse area - two for one shopping for me since I've been buying my plants from the college for years now.
We've recently gotten to know Kevin, one of the guys who started the program, so it's really neat to see someone who is so talented get a chance to share his knowledge and passion.
At the tasting, dad's received free beer and a custom 'First Draft' bottle opener! First Draft is the college's brew and don't you just love the name?! They offer a lager and an ale and if you're lucky, they might have their specialty brew on draught. 
We bought 2 growlers, one of the ale and one of the lager and headed to our family barbeque. Since we are really into growlers these days we noticed that the college's tap might need a little calibration because our growler lost it's effervescence in just one day!
At our family Father's Day barbecue on Sunday we got to sample Nuno's brother Miguel's new batch of homebrew. Lately Nuno and I have been enjoying his many batches of craft beer made straight from scratch. At the party we got to try his lastest- a California Common (tasting very similar to San Fransico's Anchor Steam). Absolutely loved it!

Ah, beer, glorious beer!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

first birthday cake eye candy!

We've had two back to back weekends of first birthday parties. 
We were asked to make a cake for Owen's friend Alejandro's fire truck themed birthday party yesterday. 
My friend requested vanilla cake so I used this recipe. Since making sculpted cakes we've discovered that denser, pound cake-like cakes work best for sculpting and keeping the structural integrity of layered cakes.
4 stacked layers and six cakes went into the fire truck cake.
 Butter cream crumb coat.
Bright fire engine red fondant. Red dye looks great, but tastes like ass.

Again, everything was edible on the cake. All the details sculpted with gum paste and the lights were all gummies. The wheels were moulded chocolate with black fondant on top.
Nuno even worked in flashing red lights underneath two pieces of fruit leather to look like a siren. Worked like a charm!

The other amazing birthday party we attended was an outdoor picnic for our friends Karissa & Kevin's daughter Pepper. 
Here is the adorable cupcake spread all home baked by Karissa herself! The birthday party theme was strawberries so we were all treated to a side of vanilla ice cream with strawberry topping.
Along with the cupcake tower, Pepper had a gigantic pink cupcake all to herself.
These cupcakes were so light and delicious and the frosting was amazing! Owen loved his chocolate cupcake!!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

beef tacos with avocado and radish salsa

This week is gearing up for Father's Day. I'm always treated to one extraordinary mother's day after another, so it isn't hard to be inspired to return the favour. One of the best ways I know how to make Nuno happy is to make him some great eats. So I asked him to gear up the BBQ, it's going to be a grilling week. 

This past weekend I made homemade barbque sauce and planned Monday's meal of baby back ribs. Next up were a couple rib eye steaks! With the leftover rib eye's I made Beef Tacos with Radish and Avocado Salsa from Everyday Food. This recipe calls for skirt steak but it was sold out, so I decided to live it up and enjoy the first barbeque of the season in style with a great cut of beef, so rib eye it was!

Nuno absolutley loved this dinner where I thought it was just OK. The salsa has a really fresh & nice flavour with lime, cilantro and pickled jalapenos (my new favourite condiment!!). It could definitely work as a vegetarian option because the salsa is so flavourful. This entire dinner was super quick and easy to make. And if you're using leftover beef this entire meal goes from fridge to plate in no more than 15 minutes. We ate it cold and will probably have it this way throughout the summer.

Super colourful dinner!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Welcome to Canada!

So many people ask me about the appeal of shopping in the US. There are certain items I've grown accustom to bringing home with me from my shopping trips. But it looks like Canada is starting to catch up with the times.
I always have Bush's Baked Beans in our pantry and I used to buy them in the US, but last year my mom told me she found them in Canada. And I can confirm, Bush's are now sold at Walmart! 
The big shocker this week for me was opening my Sobey's flyer and finding Chex cereal is now available in Canada. I'm not sure how long it's been for sale here, but I'm super happy because Corn Chex is my fav. I also love it for Owen because it's just the right size for him and is low in salt & sugar. 

One thing that drives me crazy is how strict Ontario is with their alcohol distribution. Particularly with micro brews. I'm sorry, but Molson Canadian and Labatt Blue are absolutely disgusting! It's like Tim Horton's coffee, why are Canadian's so proud of these beverages? There are so many amazing microbrews we find while shopping in the states, it makes your head spin! Then you return to Canada and they have you believe Mill Street is the microbrew of choice. Ah well, in time, right?
Lastly, I'm sure everyone knows all about Target coming to Canada, I read in the paper last weekend that they've confirmed one of the first stores in Canada and the only one in Niagara will be at the Pen Centre. Ten million dollars will be going into the revamping of the Zellers into Target and renos are projected to be complete by Spring 2013. I rarely shop at the Pen, so this will be a great excuse to make it over there more frequently.

Wow, I can't believe managed to mention Walmart, Zellers and Baked Beans in one single entry. I'll be tagging this one as 'classy'.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Everyday Food Challenge number 2

Maybe this isn't going to come as much of a surprise to anyone who's been keeping up with my blog recently, but I'm now officially throwing my hat in the ring and announcing that I'm planning on cooking through the first Everyday Food book, Great Food Fast. 

This book was published in 2007 and over that 4 year period I've only tried a handful of the recipes - many of which became our go-to dinners. The Shrimp Pad Thai recipe is wonderful, and although I've never blogged about it, I've made it for friends and everyone is surprised how delicious it is and simple to make. Of course, I go on and on about Easy Tirimisu. Every winter I find myself going back to the Curried Carrot Soup recipe.

However, I've had a whole load of failures from the book over the years. Like the Spaghetti and Turkey Meatballs which we thought were bland, Enchiladas with Pumpkin Sauce which tasted just odd and the Blueberry Crumb Bars weren't very good at all. The Whole-Wheat with Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes was a real go-to for us 3 years ago, but now I'm not quite on board with it since discovering the Penne alla Norma from the latest Everyday Food book (which is a more revised version of that recipe). And, most recently, the Orzo and Snap Pea Salad I made 3 weeks ago we disliked because it wasn't the most flavourful - and the snap peas browned from the lemons which made them quite unappealing.

My goal isn't to do what I did with Fresh Flavour Fast. I had a maternity leave and heaps of time to nail that one down. My expectation is to try one or two new recipes a week and I'll create a list of links along the right side of the blog to correspond with every recipe entry. This is just a way of experimenting, documenting and sharing the successes and any interesting things about these recipes. Some I probably won't try (like any dish which includes steamed fish) but for the most part, these Everyday Food recipes are a lot of fun and are a great way to try new things without investing a whole lot of effort and time. There really are a ton of potentially delicious opportunities here! So keep up with me and we'll see how this goes...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

spring vegetable risotto

I'm blogging about a dinner that I had very little to do with. Maybe I shouldn't say that because I shopped for all the ingredients. I couldn't stop myself from going a little overboard shopping at the farm stand last week when I returned home with some asparagus from Tina's.  Although it wasn't an ingredient in this Spring Vegetable Risotto from the first Everyday Food book Great Food Fast, I can't imagine it without it!
So to give credit where due, Nuno made this entire recipe. That includes perfectly preparing the asparagus when it wasn't even called for as an ingredient. I can't help but continually say, "So delicious. We loved it!" when I talk about every single thing we eat. So I'm going to be redundant again by stating it applies to this recipe. Such a winner. Owen was such a a little vegetable eater with this one because along with asparagus this risotto also includes zucchini and peas. I think this dinner could go horribly wrong if you overcook the vegetables. You want them soft with a bit of bite.

When Owen was finally feeling better we took him to an animal farm close to home. His reaction was so much more intrigued this time compared to our first visit earlier this spring in Sarnia. He waved at all the animals as if he was introducing himself to them.
I could not get over how adorable this bunny is.
 How perfect is it that the pigs were covered in mud?
 I think he likes the horses the most, we had to tear him away from this foal.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

chocolate raspberry pavlova

This long stretch of health was too good to be true, little Owen's sick again. He just can't have a touch of something. No, he goes full blown. A cough... who knew that could lead to being projectile vomited on from head to toe, not once but twice in one day? Not just on himself, on me as well. Oh, yes, this is a sorta food blog. Maybe this will lighten things up.
I'm checking one off the culinary to-do list with this Pavlova! And there isn't one more notorious, more talked about and praised than Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova. For over ten years I've been meaning to make this and it so happens that it is the most ideal, stuck-at-home for a day dessert. You see, with what minimal ingredients this includes, it does require technique. Don't let that scare you, any culinary novice could pull this one off. It's basically a meringue, so that requires a low and slow oven bake that finishes off with you cracking the oven door and letting it cool from there. See why this recipe suits a day at home caring for a sick little one?

Owen found his way up onto a chair while I was snapping pictures of the pavlova and dove right in. Nothing to make a little sick guy feel better than a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.

A bit about this dessert. This recipe deserves all the accolades it receives. I can't think of any more luxurious combination than chocolate and raspberry. I always think of our wedding cake when it comes to raspberry flavour combinations because ours included several different types of raspberries, pastry cream and vanilla cake. It was divine. Anyhow, this pavlova has chunks of best quality dark chocolate baked into it so the contrast of melting chocolate, crunchy meringue, luscious whipped cream and tangy berry. Ahh! It's just a giant psychedelic flavour overload!  Not only will I make this again, it's dinner party worthy.