Sunday, July 31, 2011

potato salad with sour cream and scallions and thai-style steak salad

Nothing could feel more like a summer supper than eating Grilled Rib Eye Steaks with a side of Potato Salad with Sour Cream and Scallions (from Everyday Food Great Food Fast). I've got to laugh about Nuno's barbequing skills on this dinner. I sent him out with several rib eye steaks and asked that he put my homemade BBQ sauce on. So he heats the BBQ up to 700 degrees, throws the steaks on and is back in mere minutes. Nothing unusual right? Well in those mere moments he not only perfectly seared the outside of the steaks with a pink centre but he also caught the BBQ on fire (from the amount of fat rendered from these steaks) and smothered it out using the rest of the BBQ sauce.
It wasn't until I had this potato salad did I realize how much I love potatoes. I'm never tempted by fries or chips and would choose a garden salad over a potato side any day, but this potato salad might just be one of the most pleasurable things I can imagine eating. So cool, creamy and rich. Then top it with bacon and we're talking. Ah, it's too good.
Then with our leftover rib eyes from the previous night's dinner we had this Thai-Style Steak Salad from Everyday Food Great Food Fast.
I absolutely LOVE this salad. If you like salad rolls, this is the way to have it for an entire dinner. And have you ever made salad rolls? I have, and they took 2 hours. Well, this is super easy and crazy delicious. This salad makes up for that friggin' France salad from the other night.

Friday, July 29, 2011

salad nicoise

I can't be the only one out there with romantic notions about Paris. If you told me that a particular food item was from Paris it suddenly becomes that much more appealing. That explains my unabashed excitement at the prospect of making this Salad Nicoise.
Unfortunately this recipe is a fail on all levels. Lets start with the instruction - or lack there of. It all seems simple enough, but for half the items they must be cleaned, trimmed, cooked and sliced. Each item taking a different course of prep. This is where I give huge props to Nuno who always begins dinner first since he's home within minutes. He hard boiled the eggs to perfection. Luckily, top to bottom all the produce (half of which came from Tina's farm stand) was beautifully fresh and cooked perfectly.

Some minor revisions to this recipe include adding anchovy paste to the dressing instead of eating whole fillets. This recipe is actually published as a Salmon Nicoise Salad in Everyday Food's Great Food Fast book, but I really liked the idea of keeping this salad traditional so we used Skipjack Tuna. Thank goodness we made that revision because I can't imagine how much longer it would have taken to steam the salmon considering all the other prep work involved.

All in all, the flavour just isn't there with this salad. It looks delicious so colourful and fresh, but really isn't anything special. Even knowing this is the classic salad eaten on the French Riviera isn't enough to make me think it's delicious.

The one nice thing about this dinner is that this is the one salad Owen can eat. He's not into lettuce and dressing yet but he does like 'veggies'. Along with several of the veggies, eggs and tuna this a great healthy meal for a kid.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

strawberry shortcakes

Fresh strawberries are still in season up north (where they are a week or two behind us in southern Ontario). I grabbed a final basket of strawberries as we headed out of town and made these Strawberry Shortcakes from Great Food Fast once home. I know, who unpacks and then begins baking? I do! I was just really looking forward to this dessert as a 'welcome home'. These shortcakes are only minutes to assemble blitzed in the food processor and brought together by hand. After baking for just under 20 minutes they came out warm and tender like scones.
Just delicious like this with whipped cream and the next morning with homemade strawberry rhubarb jam!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

cottage dinners - grilled vegetable tostatas with fresh tomato salsa, lemon-garlic lamb kebabs with feta dipping sauce, chickpea, tomato and feta salad

When I arrive somewhere on vacation I always look for the farm stands & markets in town. In North Bay the farm stand had fresh tomatoes, onions, garlic, zucchini, cucumbers, strawberries & blueberries. I devised several of our cottage dinners around what I grabbed at L'Amis Farm Stand at Hwy 11 and Lakeshore Rd.
My new go-to summertime meal is Grilled Vegetable Tostatas featured in Everyday Food Great Food Fast. I remember reading about tostadas for years and thinking, "Arg, what a skimpy way to eat Mexican." Those were the days I packed away burritos and cheese sauce. Now-a-days I'm a little more aware of flavour vs. fat and indulgence vs. daily dinners. And, boy, was I wrong. Tostatas are the most amazing grilled dinner option and are so satisfying. These include grilled zucchini, summer squash, portobello mushrooms and scallions. I'm also pumped about these because a topping of Fresh Tomato Salsa is the perfect condiment. The pico de gallo made from fresh summer tomatoes at the cottage is heads above all my previous ones I've made earlier this year with store-bought tomatoes. 

The other dinner we had from Everyday Food Great Food Fast were these Lemon-Garlic Lamb Kebabs with a Feta Dipping Sauce. There really is nothing like the flavour of lamb! The feta sauce on the side was a necessary addition to give the kebabs a little tang since lamb is so rich. I also made this quick side salad of Chickpea, Tomato and Feta Salad from Everyday Food's Special Summer Issue. I was pretty 'meh' about it. Something about the chickpeas didn't work for me and the left overs had to be thrown out the next day because it didn't stand up to overnight refrigeration.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

cottage pics

Ah! Our trip to the cottage this year was probably the most amazing one we've ever had. Great weather and so much fun.
Webers is our tradition. We'll hit it either going up or coming back down - or some years both ways. It really breaks up the trip.
Owen decided he was really into fries with ketchup.

Once up, Owen was a little sand & water guy. We knew he was into both, but to spend a week doing nothing but hangout beach side, this was what I think Owen's perfect vacation must be.
Every year all the kids get measured on the cottage growth chart. Owen's already taller than I was at two and a half.

We always spend tons of time at parks while up north. We visited at least one a day and a total of 4 in North Bay.
This is at Champlain Park.
Owen always ran right over to the frog bouncer.
Kiwanis Park.
As you can tell from Owen's windblown hair, Thursday was really breezy. Which was a good thing because that was the day that registered 50 degrees in Southern Ontario. 
It was so gusty we decided to fly our kite at Sunset Point. We weren't the only ones with the same idea. There were many windsurfers catching waves at the park.
At sunset they were windsurfing right in front of the cottage along our bay. This was a rare thrill. 
I didn't capture it, but some surfers launched at least 30 feet in the air.
Owen's at an age right now where he's completely obsessed with ducks. At Zooz we couldn't tear him away from just one animal - the duck taking a bath. 
Can you imagine what it was like for Owen when he had a chance to feed the ducks? They came only inches from him.
Speaking of baths, here's Owen in his little tub where he was washed down every night. He could spend an hour just playing with his squirty toys in this tiny little tub.
There is a very cool train by the waterfront. Owen is now old enough to enjoy the rides.
 "Choo-Choo" Owen claps as the train pulls in.
 He got to ring the bell and blow the whistle.
There is also an adorable carousel with hand crafted animals all inspired by the local wildlife. Owen wanted to ride the 'lion' which was a cougar.
Bye bye ducks. Bye bye chipmunks.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

favourites collide!

Is now not the perfect time to raise your children? Trembling Blue Stars covering Free Design on Yo Gabba Gabba.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

cottage treats

Every year at the cottage we get hooked onto something special we wouldn't otherwise indulge. Last year it was fresh fruit cobblers. I can remember previous years snacking on Twizzlers, Rollos, Cherries and Peanuts until my stomach ached.
This year I decided to pull my popsicle molds and hand blender out of storage and pack them for up north. That way Owen would be able to have a healthy cottage treat. There seems to be a renewed interest in ice pops right now and I think it's because of this book Paleteas. But whatever the reason, popsicles are a great way to stay hydrated and cool in a cottage without air conditioning (and I must mention, we are not enduring what everyone in Southern Ontario is dealing with. We are luckily enjoying 29 degree sunny days with a cool breeze blowing into the cottage off the lake.)
I started out making Mango / Pineapple Yogurt Pops. This was a delicious combination.
Then my favourite are these Strawberry / Wild Blueberry Yogurt Pops. The fresh strawberries were picked up at L'Amis Farm Stand and picked from Leisure Farm's berry patch in Sturegon Falls. Of course, the wild blueberry portion of the pop was from our pickings the other day. With all these popsicles I used blitzed fruit with yogurt and layered between fruit blends. You truly don't need anything more!

I don't think anything beats cottage S'mores. We grew up at cottages with campfire S'mores but recently the city's by-laws limit campfires, so that really isn't an option for us anymore. 
Too bad because these Jet-Puffed Marshmallow's are now available in a rectangular, wider and flatter size. Why didn't they think of this sooner?
Well, second best to the real thing is this cottage week discovery I made on sale at Metro. Ritz S'Mores! These are graham crackers shaped like mini Ritz in sandwiches of mashmallow creme and chocolate. Other than their shape there really isn't anything Ritz about them. These are truly addictive beach side snacking!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

cottage week in B's

This week is our week at the family cottage. I don't know if I'm reading too many Dr. Seuss books these days, but at the cottage we have 5 of my favourite B's all right outside the doorstep.
A Beach – yes our very own private sandy (to Owen's delight) beach overlooking the lake.
A Boat – no power/muscle/macho boat. A charming tin can that's been around since my dad was a young boy.
A Barbecue – the quintessential flavour of cottage dinners.
More on these grilled vegetable tostadas later.
And, in my eyes, one of the most priceless culinary luxuries - wild Blueberry bushes. Two steps from the cottage door, between the cottage and the beach is an expanse of wild blueberry bushes!
I've mentioned before about wild blueberries, and they are truly one of Ontario's most prized treasures. You can't go to the local garden centre and buy yourself a 'wild' blueberry bush. And, you might be able to transplant a bush, but whether it grows or not – well, that takes years and mother nature to determine. My grandmother told me last year that they started out with a small little bush, but the patch has now overgrown the property to the sandy beach.
Nuno showing Owen how to pick blueberries.
Great beach snack on their own.

We went out in the bush and picked even more. We picked a total of about a quart basket full which go for $15 - $30.
And one last precious B - my Baby. Having Owen up with us and enjoying every minute together is definitely the MOST priceless of all.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

halibut with tomatoes and fennel

Anytime I've had halibut before it's always been my choice for fish and chips but it really is a delicious fish without all the batter and deep fry.
Halibut with Tomatoes and Fennel over Couscous appears in this month's Everyday Food issue and is pretty much my favourite white fish dinner. I think we'll be going back to this recipe again very soon.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

chicken chilaquiles and chicken & quinoa burritos

It's not the easiest task coming home after work and making homemade dinners every night. But I discovered the best short cut. Rotisserie Chicken! It's available at most supermarkets and is the same price as buying a fresh bird, but it's already seasoned and cooked. It also works perfect for us because Nuno loves dark meat and I'm very particular about having moist white meat.

I first used a store bought rotisserie chicken with this Spring Vegetable Couscous and then decided that it works in so many different dinners. Green Curry Chicken, Chicken Fried Rice, Chicken and Dumplings, Chicken Stir-fry, Chicken Fajitas, Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches, Chicken Salad Sandwiches... or any variation of a Sandwich, Wrap or Salad. The only trick is to just reheat the meat because it can get overcooked quickly.
I used half a chicken for this Chicken Chilaquiles recipe from Everyday Food, Great Food Fast. Shredded chicken cooked with garlic, tomatoes, chipotles, cilantro and topped with feta (or queso freso if you can get it), tortilla chips and sour cream. It's very good and surprisingly light. There was a very nice heat from the chipotles. Am I the only one getting sick of seeing chipotle in everything? It works sometimes and this dinner is a good example of a chipotle tasting right!

While getting a pedicure last week I was flipping through Real Simple magazine and I saw this recipe for Chicken and Quinoa Burritos. Lots of cross-over ingredients from the previous night's meal so we gave it a go.
And it is actually quite good. We were surprised how moist it was, but it needs the salsa and sour cream for a little extra flavour. Again with the buzz ingredients - Quinoa! I love using it whenever I can because of it's nutritional value but we really don't use it enough.

Monday, July 11, 2011

at the zooz

Saturday we spent the afternoon swimming in the pool and playing in sprinklers in the backyard. Sunday we had a morning playdate and an afternoon at Zooz.

I used to joke about this place for the first years it was open because I didn't believe the animals could possibly be treated well. I think it was Marineland that instilled my initial distrust in the whole Niagara-Zoo combo.
But I've let my trepidations and assumptions go and had a full appreciation of how amazing it is to be able to be one-on-one with animals we spend every night reading about.

Owen loves animals like any one and a half year old does. Recently he's been not only emulating their sounds but he's also starting to call them by name. Eric Carle, Sesame Street and Dr. Seuss are prime examples of books that have made Owen aware of the animal kingdom.
I'm still in disbelief at how interactive and almost domesticated some of these wild animals are. Now I'm not saying that this is 'petting-zooz', but so many animals make eye contact and really connect with you. It's also cool because Zooz isn't crowded, so it feels like a very personal visit when you go.
At one point the monkeys seemed to be lined up along the fence staring back at us the way we were at them.
It takes a while to work your way to the back of the park where the giraffes are. The two giraffes came right over to meet us and lowered their heads so we could really get an idea of how large they are. They were so gentle and majestic.

As were the tiger & lion!
The lion saw us and gave a huge growl as if he knew exactly what was expected of him. Owen's really into making a growl sound when he sees any illustration/photo of animals with pointy teeth, so this demonstration really thrilled him. 
It's very cool to make one-on-one eye contact with a lion only feet infront of you.

And we love the splash park at Zooz. 
I'm surprised Owen didn't find himself overwhelmed by the big kids splashing and running past him. He's still so small compared to all the big kids playing around him, but he got right in there and rode the whale with vigour!
And worked himself up quite an appetite. On days like this he deserves a treat like Goldfish crackers. And the kid is in love! 
So he saw zebras, lions, giraffes, tigers, bears, monkeys but on the way out Owen asked for the Zizzer-Zazzer-Zuzz. Thanks to Dr. Seuss Owen's convinced he still need to find one at the zoo.