Monday, August 29, 2011

peach clafouti

I can tell the end of summer is drawing near because now is my favourite time for Niagara farm stand peaches! They've been in season for a few months, but the early ones are small, less juicy, difficult to peel and cling to the stone. 
These beauties are as delicious as they look. That is why when I had to stay home with a sick Owen last week (another sign of the end of summer) I decided to treat us all to a Peach Clafouti. I'll only bake on at-home sick days if: 1. the ingredients are already in the house and 2. it can be completed in the window of a nap. So this Peach Clafouti fit the bill perfectly.
This clafouti was published in the July/August issue of Everyday Food magazine and I love its simplicity. Even a non-baker could swing this. Like most desserts with peaches, you really have to check it after the suggested baking time is complete. Juicy peaches keep desserts (cakes especially) moist and require longer baking times. This clafouti took twice as long to bake as instructed.
It tastes like eating a vanilla cake batter flavoured custard. One of my favourtie things about baking is licking the beaters and spatula for cookies and cakes (I swear the batter is almost sometimes better then the end result!). If you're the same then this dessert is for you. It's homey and comforting especially for a sick toddler.

On Owen's sick-at-home day he only wanted to colour the 'sun and moon'.
And spend over an hour leisurely playing in the bath. For a kid who loves to get clean in the bath, you wouldn't know it by some of his filthy habits which include licking the soles of his shoes and the floor of Food Basics! As a parent you can only wash their hands so many times before a dirty thumb sneaks into the mouth.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

peach and blue cheese salad

I mentioned about how Nuno and I ate at a restaurant called Garde-Manger while in Montreal. This is where the television show "Chuck's Day Off" takes place (on Food Network Canada and Cooking Channel USA). I have to admit, I never watched an episode of the show before going there for dinner. I just liked that it was a block away from our hotel and it had very good reviews. But now that I'm home I decided to tune into an episode and Chuck Hugh's recipes look outstanding! The way they present the restaurant on the show as a bustling hip hangout with beautiful people is really how this restaurant is!
So upon my first viewing I couldn't resist trying this Peach and Blue Cheese Salad. He had me at blue cheese!
This salad is fantastic! While eating it I kept thinking about how happy I'd be if I'd ordered this in a restaurant. But, no, I made this at home all with ingredients I had around. Bravo Chuck, bravo!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

stuffed hot peppers, buffalo-style

Buffalo is a hidden food gem! After going to the food city of Montreal I've come to realize people who love food should trip to Buffalo as well. I can honestly say there are actually too many places I'd love to eat at and just not enough time. One item I've discovered over the past year is their infamous stuffed hot peppers. So I decided to make my own version of Buffalo's Famous Stuffed Peppers.
There wasn't really a recipe for this, I just did my best to decode the flavours. First I sauteed garlic and onion in butter until soft. Add breadcrumbs and a little Italian seasoning, Franks Hot Sauce and crispy proscutto. Once heated through, I blitzed everything in the food processor with Parmesan & Emmenthaler cheese (romano & pepper jack could work in substitution). 
We used a couple Cubanelle Peppers (mild & sweet for Owen) along with the traditional Hungarian Hot Peppers. The peppers were first baked for 10 minutes, cooled, then stuffed. A final bake at 350 for 5-7 minutes just before serving and they turned out perfect! Topping of fresh tomato and sprinkle of parmesan and these looked exactly like what you'd find in WNY. 
I also made a side of Corn Fritters.  I was initially going to use the recipe in Great Food Fast, but decided to use Jiffy Corn Muffin mix instead. The recipe is essentially the same thing and I had to try out my first ever box I picked up at Wegmans last week. Along with the mix you add fresh corn, an egg and some milk to a pancake-like consistency. They fry up just like pancakes and they are absolutely delicious! Great for kids.

This was an awesome American-inspired dinner that was a real treat. I'm sure we'll have both these recipes again but unless your dining with small children, I'd suggest sticking to banana peppers because the heat is what makes the stuffed peppers wonderful.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

best beef burgers and beer

This is our go at the Best Beef Burger recipe from Great Food Fast. It is a very simple burger of ground chuck, worcestershire and dijon.
We had this with a side of potato salad. With the rendered bacon fat we fried onions with a little cider vinegar and sugar and topped them on our burgers.

And to put it all over-the-top in indulgence we rounded things out with a glass of beer. We enjoyed Niagara College Teaching Brewery's Chopp Brazilian Lager. This is my favourite of all their brews so far. It's so refreshing for summer drinking. Unfortunately for a limited time because it's one of their current specialty brews.Guess we'll have to give Brahma a second try if were looking for something similar in the future.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

tomato and grilled-bread salad

Here's a recipe that didn't seem appealing from Everyday Food Great Food Fast for a Tomato and Grilled-Bread Salad. But I always wanted to say I knew how to make 'Panzanella' so we had it for dinner the other night.

And it's great! It tastes like a more rustic bruschetta. The reason this tastes better is because you grill (or in our case barbecue) slices of day old country loaf. Just another great way to eat fresh tomatoes because if you're anything like me we must get as many meals out of farm stand tomatoes before we are left with the mealy, watery grocery store tomatoes for the rest of the year.

Besides tomatoes this salad includes fresh cucumbers, basil and red wine vinegar. All the flavours work very well together but once it's mixed there's no turning back. You must eat it straight away or you're left with soggy bread.

Monday, August 22, 2011

phantom gourmet

Lousy restaurants beware! My husband and I are possibly your worst enemy. Nuno has taken to leaving reviews on the website Nuno and I have eaten at about 90% of the restaurants in St. Catharines so I'm sure we're qualified to give a reasonable restaurant review. 
He posted yesterday about our experience after a particularly rank breakfast at a diner just up the Welland Canal Parkway called The Good Eats Diner. We really could have used a fair warning. All signs pointed to this place as having great greasy spoon potential (we were hoping at best like Silks and at worst The Lancer or Opa and Oma's). With all the cars parked outside we assumed it was at least acceptable. Well, here's his review:

If you've ever wondered how anyone could possibly flub such simple breakfast fare as eggs over easy, home fries and pancakes, than The Good Eats Diner is for you!  Otherwise, I feel it's my civic duty to prevent anyone else from making the same mistake that I did this morning by setting foot in The Good Eats Diner at the Homer bridge.

For starters, this location was pretty filthy and we had to wipe down the surfaces ourselves before sitting at the table.  The eggs over easy were over cooked and they brought out white toast when we ordered whole wheat.  Also, for a bare bones diner with no flare, little menu variety and absolutely no skill in meal execution, charging extra for rye bread and onions on your home fries is a joke.  The home fries were dry, undercooked potato with an unmistakably familiar taste of, well, undercooked potato.  The pancakes were monsterous and sloppy in presentation with lumpy, uneven edges.  They were too thick, far too dense (who even wants dense pancakes?) and had a horrid, baking soda taste that instantly made me question whether they were poured from a box of dollar store variety, mix.  The offending pancakes bore no trace of dairy or eggs which would have imparted at least a little sheen, lightness and flavor and to top it off, the surfaces were speckled with pitch black, charred flakes that were either old batter from a dirty pan/griddle or teflon from a dirty pan/griddle.

The other offenses that Good Eats are guilty of include; refilling defaced Heinz ketchup bottles with runny, vinegary, off-brand tomato-flavoured red sauce, serving the single worst cup of diner coffee I've ever had - so bad that for the first time in my life, I refused a refill - supplying only 1 thin napkin with the 'meal' and worst of all, the gross misuse of the words, "Good", "Eats" and "Diner" in their name!  They should simply be called, "The".

Lastly, I don't mean to mislead anyone who enjoys 1 star dining.  I really wanted to give them a zero star rating but yelp doesn't give that option.

Ah, this review cracks me up. It already has two users rating this review as 'funny'. Way to go Nuno! We need you to perform more of your 'civic duty' and keep the hilarious reviews coming!!

I've set this all up to look like we are the ultimate food snobs. Don't worry, inviting us for dinner won't land you on a negative Yelp review. We almost always love what we eat when visiting friends and family. The simple act of the invitation of having us over and spending time is of value to us. I'd say we are probably the least judgemental of dinner guests because we know the kind of effort it takes to put on a nice dinner and aren't pain-in-the-asses with food restrictions or aversions. We just have an issue with paying money for food prepared poorly.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

spaghetti with oven-roasted tomatoes

This is Linguine with Grilled Tomatoes... or as I made it Spaghetti with Oven Roasted Tomatoes.
This is another from Everyday Food Great Food Fast but I took it off in my own direction. This recipe asks for you to barbecue the tomatoes. Oven roasting brings out their natural sweetness of tomatoes and if you haven't tried it yet you really must. Right now Roma tomatoes are in bounty and cheap (!). Nothing burns me up more than paying $4.00 for only a few of them in the middle of winter. So we loaded up on bags of them and I oven roasted them with olive oil, coriander and s&p. One hour later they were ready to be stored and used later for the quickest dinner of all time.

We had whole wheat spaghetti with this to add a little nutty flavour. I'm picky about whole wheat spaghetti and will only have it with certain sauces and it works very well with this one. A bit of fresh thyme, parmesan and more olive oil and s&p and dinner is served. So delish!

Friday, August 19, 2011

she's my little rock and roll

Ever since the internet and downloading killed indie music for me I started focusing on listening to rock and roll from the 60's and 70's. The one defining band of my late twenties and into my thirties is the Rolling Stones. I grew up listening to my mom's Beatles records but somewhere along the line I found myself on the dark side with a passion for the Stones (much to her dismay).
To say you're a fan of the Stones appears generally uncool. I sometimes wonder if people assume you just Googled "What is Rock and Roll" the other day. Oh well, there is a very good reason they ARE - not arguably here - truly, the greatest rock and roll band. There wasn't a single day from 2007 to 2010 that I didn't listen to them on a daily basis. Their songs are so steeped in my life through the years I got thinking about what some of their music has meant to me over the past years.

Get Off My Cloud - dancing to this song at Blow-Up (a brit-pop dance night at the El Mocambo) in 1999 made me realize how much I liked the Stones and need to hear more of them. The rough sound of the album Flowers reminds me of what it was like to begin listening to the Stones.

Exile on Main Street - listened to this album daily for the year of 2008 with good reason. This album stands the test of time with an amazing story behind what it took to record it. The best rock album of all time.

Loving Cup - had to have this song played at my wedding reception.

Angie - first trimester in my pregnancy being so hormonal letting all the lyrics read like a Harlequin novel. This came on the radio one day and I had to pull over and sob at the side of the road. *rolls eyes*

Wild Horses - If pregnancy hormones weren't bad, nothing compared to the sentimality and attachment I felt being a new mom. Although it's essentially written about Anita Pallenberg, this song was about Keith not wanting to leave Marlon to tour with the band. This song meant so much to me in the first three months of Owen's life.

Gimmie Shelter - This is a crazy good song that never grows old with me. I wish I lived in the days when Let It Bleed was just released and could have seen them preform it live. But when I need some rock an roll in my life and I wish I could get out and see live music I just pop in the documentary Gimme Shelter and it hits the right spot.

Sticky Fingers - This album is only slightly better than Let It Bleed. It has Sway and Can't You Hear Me Knocking on it. Nuff said!

Goat's Head Soup - I just discovered this album within the past 4 years. I avoided it because I assumed it wasn't any good but it is definitely right up there with Let it Bleed and Sticky Fingers.

Satisfaction - my absolute favourite song of all time. This song is the cure-all for shitty moods and anytime it comes on I instantly feel better. Even the DEVO cover is great.

Now Owen walks around wearing Rolling Stones shirts. I also wear a Stones shirt with their logo and Owen loves to see it on me. He names off "Lips, Tongue, Stars." By no stretch are we blasting sing-alongs to Starfucker or Some Girls (although when those songs come on my iPod I still chuckle). We listened to Rolling Stones Rock-A-Bye Baby in the first year and these days I sing You Can't Always Get What You Want and Satisfaction to him.

Who do I love more, Mick or Keith? I gave up trying to decide.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

grasshopper sundaes

I love when a recipe is so easy that you can make it right away whenever the craving hits. This Grasshopper Sundae from Everyday Food Great Food Fast is my new go-to summer treat.
I've been eating these for weeks but I never had the discipline to snap a photo before diving right in. Not that I need to explain, but I will anyways. This is two Mr. Christie chocolate wafer cookies with mint chip ice cream topped with a chocolate sauce and a sprig of mint. It might not sound like much but it packs a great flavour, in my opinion, superior to an ice cream cone. Here's why, the wafers are dark chocolate and provide a nice contrast to ice cream. That's why I think this works great as an ice cream sandwich using any other light ice cream flavour. It's also great because the wafers are the exact size of one scoop of ice cream providing portion control... if that's your thing.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

turkey cobb salad

Everytime I think I've discovered my favourite salad, I try a new one and proclaim, "No, this is my favourite." So there is a new one in contention here and it's Everyday Food Great Food Fast's Turkey Cobb Salad.
To have come this far along in recipe experimentation and have not made a cobb salad yet still surprises me. So this is our first and without much experience I made alterations to the recipe based on my personal tastes. First off, we didn't include bacon (hey, after Montreal we had to cut out a few things to get back on track). Secondly I made my own dressing with the leftover buttermilk from the previous night's chicken, mayonnaise, red wine vinegar, dijon and s&p (all ingredients eyeballed).

With fresh field tomatoes, Boston lettuce, cubed deli turkey, hard boiled eggs, avocado and the star of the salad - Blue Cheese, this is a fantastic salad. With all the revisions I made to this recipe I wouldn't make it any other way in the future.

Monday, August 15, 2011

slaws - the good and bad

Since our recent success with potato salad I placed a lot of faith in experimenting with Everyday Food's Slaws.

First up was the Bok Choy, Carrot and Apple Slaw from Everyday Food Great Food Fast we had alongside Turkey Burgers (these same burgers from the other week).
And it's not very good at all. Raw baby bok choy is too tough to eat. It didn't sound appetizing from the get-go, so I should have known better. Ah well.

We decided to make the Carrot -Cumin Slaw with Buttermilk Baked Chicken from Everyday Food Great Food Fast.
This slaw is a huge an improvement. It's only minutes to make when you use a food processor to shred the carrots and cabbage. A very nice side to buttermilk baked chicken, which is a total keeper of a recipe. It tastes like a more natural and flavourful Shake and Bake (sorry, that's my only point of reference here since that's how I grew up eating drumsticks). But the coating was light and crispy and you certainly don't feel like you're missing out since it's not deep fried.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

pancake weekends

We are totally missing out on a cottage weekend in Grand Bend right now. Nuno's busy with storyboard work so we had to stay home. We were planning on making a great brunch for everyone which included Montreal bagels, Jimmy Dean sausages and wild blueberry buttermilk pancakes (using our cottage blueberries from the other week). To help ease the pain of not being able to enjoy this weekend like we had hoped I made the wild blueberry buttermilk pancakes for just the 3 of us. I used this recipe I blogged about before and they turned out perfect. Then I got so sad thinking of the cottage a wave of inspiration fell on me to make Smores pancakes. 
I took half the pancake batter and added graham cracker crumbs. Then dropped several chocolate chips to the pancakes as they were grilling. A final dollop of marshmallow Fluff and here are our Smores Griddlecakes!!
I kid you not, this is a keeper. They turned out absolutely fantastic and I have a feeling we'll be making these down the road for overnight guests. The pancakes fluffed up and stayed light with the addition of the graham crackers, but they certainly didn't seem like pancakes anymore. We're calling them griddle cakes but they work as a dessert similar to a Whoopie Pie. My gosh, they are good. Eating these takes some of the sting away from not being on the beach right now.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

how big is owen? this big!

Our longest time away from Owen was our trip to Montreal. How'd he do? Having Nuno and I away didn't seem to bother him one bit. What a great relief it is that Owen's such a cool little guy. I'm still kinda shocked by all the changes we saw upon our return. He learned to say Outside "zoutzide", Owl "wowl" and "My Guy" along to the Mary Well's song. 

A huge step is his constant experimentation of repeating words and sentences back to us, such as naming off every colour in his crayola box. And then there's the not so desirable words that come back to haunt you. I had a frustrating moment with Hot Tot's incessant barking and asked her, "Why must you be so nasty?" Three guesses what came from Owen's mouth after hearing that? "Nasty!"

I thought I'd share a little bit of our lives with Owen caught on iPod in the past 2 weeks.
Owen's been into stickers for a while. Aunt Katie brought Owen some Yo Gabba Gabba stickers the other day and they are quite the hit. He sings the character's names as he places the stickers on whatever surface he pleases.

Owen's taken to dressing himself in the morning. Here's his first attempt.

Owen enjoys time at Nana and Papa's house and gets so pumped up sometimes he feels the need to entertain (especially when Aunt Katie is home too!)

Friday, August 12, 2011

you knew it was coming... bagels!

And what final entry about Montreal would be complete without mention of bagels? Every tour book lays it out for you - the choice between Fairmount or St. Viateur. And what a struggle it is.
First we stumbled upon Fairmount just by strolling around. So I stopped in for a chocolate bagel. This bagel had a dried fruit and nut flavour to it which I wasn't expecting. There was a lot of variety here so if you're into interesting bagel variations this would be your stop.
The very last thing we did in Montreal was trek out to St. Viateur just hours before hopping on our plane back home. 
That was so we could take our 4 dozen bagels and freeze them hours later. This plan seemed fool-proof, that was before Porter left our luggage behind in Montreal. Luckily it was only 12 hours later our baggage arrived at our doorstep and the bagels were no worse for wear. And with all the effort we went to, one bite and it's so worth it!
What a trip, what a city, what an experience! And we're going back next year!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

the beer rule

While on vacation I make certain exceptions. One of which is that it’s perfectly OK to have a beer at noon. So I might sound slightly dipsomaniac, but when you are in a city with so many different beers (most of which aren't available in Ontario), you need to spread the love throughout the day. My sister hipped me to the standard beer, Boreale. This blond is light and refreshing in the summer heat and can be found in almost all restaurants in Montreal. 
We sought out a couple different brewpubs & brasseries for tastings of their craft beer selections. The first one is Vices and Versa located on boul Saint-Laurent just south of Little Italy. 
This place is a beautiful spot with a lush and green patio. Because the weather was so gorgeous we couldn't help but spend couple hours just relaxing on their patio.
Here Nuno enjoyed a Rye IPA and I had Routes des Epices. All the beers available here are brewed in Quebec and their food is also local to Montreal. 
This was probably our favourite hangout spot our entire trip.

The other great beer spot in Montreal is Dieu du Ciel located in the Mile End on rue Laurier Ouest.
Nuno’s brother recommended this spot and a great one it is! All beers served here are brewed by the pub themselves. 
As you can tell by their chalkboard list, there is a ton of variety and we tried samples of at least half of them. 
My absolute favourite was Rosee d’Hibiscus. It was so unique and unlike anything I've had before. It was slightly pink with a very nice herbal flavour. Yes, very girly - but it very tasty.

Monday, August 8, 2011

viande fumee

Can you imagine my delight to find an entire city that is equally passionate about sandwiches as I am? Everywhere we went you could enjoy smoked meat!!! Terribly cliche, but it is with good reason this sandwich is as notorious as it is. 
There is a famous deli, Schwartz's, that is impossible not to hear about since they are cited with putting this sandwich on the Montreal map. So famed, there was actually a foodie musical playing at the theater down the street from our hotel all about their story. 
It was always our intent to stop there for a sandwich, however we found ourselves spending most of our time in the Plateau and the Mile End neighbourhoods. This is where, while strolling down Bernard Street Ouest at noon, we found Lester's Deli. This area was populated by Hasidic Jews so I figured eating our sandwich here was a great choice.
Ah, it was the most rich, melt-in-your-mouth smoked meat sandwich you could dream. Even though it was just noon we washed our sandwiches down with Boreale beer, but I now regret not tasting what the Montreal folk all seem to enjoy, Black Cherry Cott. Um, is this available in Ontario?

A few things I noticed about the sandwiches in Montreal - their love for pickles, thinly sliced bread, dijon and cheese. Grilled cheese seemed to be quite common on the menus and I had to wonder if you tire of poutine, grilled cheese must be a suitable switch-up.

Stay tuned for more carb-indulgent entries.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

viva montreal!

It's been a long time since Nuno and I went on a trip to a major city. It was pretty much a yearly trend for us to decide on a city and spend our vacation exploring it. We usually visit galleries & museums, walk through neighbourhoods, eating local food, drinking the beers & tour breweries and see our favourite bands play. 
Naturally, now that Owen is in the picture we aren't taking trips for beer tastings or late night shows. But lucky for us those days aren't quite behind us. Because of our amazing network of family and friends we were able to take in the gorgeous city of Montreal over the past half a week. Owen stayed with my parents while we got away to celebrate our anniversary. A couple special things about celebrating in Montreal was our stay at the Embassy Suites and our dinner at celebrity chef, Chuck Hughes' restaurant Garde-Manger. 
Just about the only possible way I'd eat poutine is if it was Lobster Poutine. Our dinner at Garde-Manger was great.
Old Montreal is so romantic! It was so much larger than I had ever imagined. We also lucked out because we had the most perfect weather our entire trip. 
I'm just starting to organize everything while sitting waiting for our delayed flight back to Ontario so I'll hopefully continue blogging about this trip soon. So check back shortly for more trip details!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

nosferatu creep cake

So far all of the sculpted cakes Nuno and I have been working on are cute animated characters. I think Nuno was up for more of a challenge when he proposed a Nosferatu cake for our friend Leslie's birthday.
For anyone who isn't familiar, Nosferatu is the first Dracula movie ever made. It's silent and black and white.
Seeing the completed cake you would think we went to a fan expo and picked up a sculpture of Nosfeatu, so luckily we snapped some photos of the cake in progress. This is vanilla cake with butter cream icing. We attempted to bake a swirl of cherry syrup into the layers to appear like blood, but that idea didn't really translate as well as we had hoped. But all in all we are really happy with how this cake turned out.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

turkey burgers with grilled corn on the cob

Everyday Food Great Food Fast claims to have 'Our Favourite Turkey Burger'. Could this be ours as well? Let's see...

These turkey burgers take a mixture of breadcrumbs, gruyere cheese, scallions, garlic, dijon and s&p. I used two forks to bring the ingredients together (which is a great tip) and formed them into patties. A few hours later I gave them to Nuno to grill. So, as usual, he cranked the heat to the highest setting and seared the outside, then moved them to a cool part of the BBQ to finish cooking. 

Then there was a side of Grilled Corn on the Cob from Everyday Food Great Food Fast. I've done grilled corn before by par-boiling a cob and finishing on the BBQ to get a nice grill flavour. But this recipe indicated to soak the cobs and husks in cold water first for 10 minutes then grill. Yeah, it didn't work out very well. These cobs were farm fresh but after grilling they became hard and dry. Even smothering in Butter Boy butter and chili powder didn't salvage the cobs. 
But the good news here is that, without a doubt, these are the best turkey burgers I've ever eaten. We both loved them and I'm planning on making them again very soon this summer. Super Yum!