Friday, September 30, 2011

spaghetti carbonara

If you wanted to taste everything that is wonderful about this world; the flavour would be Spaghetti Carbonara from Everyday Food Great Food Fast.
I don't think it's right to hype up macaroni and cheese when something like this exists. It's an easier, quicker and more inexpensive comfort food. I also love how it could really be made at a moments notice because the ingredients are items you probably already have on hand.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

french macaroons

Today marks another at home sick day with Owen. So welcome to another addition of What Do I Have Time To Bake During A Nap? This time around I decided to try making French Macaroons. They are notoriously temperamental to make and I don't have the skill, time or patience for it. So while perusing the aisles of Bulk Barn I stumbled upon a French Macaroon mix which I was all too curious to try.
You simply measure your dry mix, hydrate with water and beat the hell out of it. I added a little red food colouring so my macaroons would turn pink. I then piped them onto parchment and baked as instructed. They turned out homemade looking with cracked imperfections but they are still quite nice. I decided to use raspberry jam as filling to fulfill the pink flavour. They are sweet and chewy. I will probably try these again with the addition of cocoa and a chocolate ganache filling... yum!
Now that I know I can make French food at home, I'm taking them with me to my sister-in-law's as a treat before we meet Laura Calder. The host of the show French Food at Home is having a book signing at Springridge Farms later today and we were fortunate enough to have scored tickets to the event. Stick around and I'll be blogging all about it shortly.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

apple picking

It's important to me that Owen learns about where his food comes from. He goes grocery shopping with me regularly and for walks to the Farmer's Market downtown with his daycare. But the most fun is to get out there and pick your own fresh produce. This weekend we were invited to go apple picking with my in-laws and we had such a great time!
I love family outings berry picking, but apple picking is a whole new experience. I'm still learning which apples are in season, how to identify each of them and which are good for baking and which are good for eating. 
We went to Froot-To-Go in Waterdown. This place is a huge orchard with plenty of dwarf trees for little hands to pick off. We picked Empires and Courtland apples.
Here's Owen and his big cousin Ronan.
Owen has a bit of a hero complex with his cousin Ronan.
I'm hoping to use some of our pickings in an apple tart as part of our Thanksgiving dinner, which I'm really looking forward to hosting at our home this year.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

spiderman cake

Here's the latest cake Nuno and I made. Again I baked and Nuno brought it to life!
This cake is 2 layers of chocolate cake with chocolate butter cream filling and fondant icing. It was created for my sister Katie's boyfriend Mouth's birthday. 
While shopping for Halloween costume items at the dollar store Nuno stumbled up the most perfect plates and napkins to suit the cake.
This is our first cake that wasn't sculpted, which was nice, but still brought on it's own set of new learning experiences. Namely piping. Sure Nuno can draw with any pencil, crayon, charcoal and wacom with ease, but piping, that's a new challenge. 
I love the way it turned out so bright and colourful just like a comic cover. After this experience I think I'm going to have to sit and practice piping because I can tell this skill is one you get good at through monotonous & repetitive attempts.

Friday, September 23, 2011

lamb chops with mint-pepper sauce and steamed zucchini with scallions

Here is our dinner of Lamb Chops with Mint-Pepper Sauce and a side of Steamed Zucchini with Scallions from Everyday Food Great Food Fast.
There isn't much to say about this other than it was a great Greek dinner. I basically ended up eating it the way Owen did by cutting the meat and zucchini in to small pieces and topping with the sauce. It looked like a psychedelic mash teetering on the very definition of food. But visuals aside, all the flavours really work beautifully together.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

almond-apricot chicken with mint pesto

This dinner of Almond-Apricot Chicken with Mint Pesto from Everyday Food Great Food Fast was my flex dinner that's been in limbo for over a month now. This just means that every bit of this dinner requires pantry and freezer items so we could eat it when we didn't have any fresh meat & produce around (I made the pesto a few weeks ago and kept it frozen in a 'babycube' - yep, those little containers are useful beyond the 'solids' weaning stage). 

The chicken breasts were stuffed with a combination of goat cheese, dried apricots and sliced almonds. They were then dredged in Wondra (flour), egg then a breadcrumb/sliced almond combination. It feels very chef-y to brown the stuffed breasts in a cast-iron skillet and transfer to the oven to finish cooking.
There was a mint pesto suggested as an accompaniment. It made so much pesto I decided to create a side to make the most of it. This is just Israeli couscous and peas mixed with the pesto. I made it mostly for Owen, but we all really enjoyed it because mint and peas are a classic combination. You could always use a small pasta such as orzo in place of the couscous.

We all loved this dinner. The chicken was so incredibly moist and the stuffing was tangy and rich. I'm not sure how or why, but the mint pesto was lovely with it. Owen loved everything as well.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

otc and grilled cheese

We saw Olivia Tremor Control at Lee's this past Friday night. I have a really great bootleg of their show in '99 at the Opera House which was a performance I always felt sad to have missed because the recording is so fantastic. Luckily, the band has officially reunited which means I got to see the last E6 band I never had a chance to see live. And they put on an outstanding show.
They played a combination of Olivia Tremor Control, Sunshine Fix and Circulatory System songs which all blend together well since all three bands share members anyways. We also got a small sample of their new stuff which really was incredible. I can't wait until they release their new album. It's really thrilling to think that the magic is definitely still there.

Owen was returned back to us on Saturday with a cold so we changed our Saturday plans to stay home and help him rest up and recuperate. There really isn't much we can do for him and I know having a cold doesn't sound like a big deal, but in typical Owen fashion he's dealing with a fever accompanied with his bug. 
We did manage to get out for a family treat to the Gorilla Cheese Truck which was parked at Fielding Estate Winery all weekend. The event was in association with the Grape Festival which is happening over the next couple of weekends here in Niagara.
You are encouraged to bring your own picnic blanket and enjoy a snack along with your wine tasting. 
Even with the live music and a gorgeous escapement view Owen wasn't feeling 100%. So he had an OG sandwich. 
Stringy Cheese! 
This food truck makes a mean grilled cheese and we loved all of our sandwiches.

Friday, September 16, 2011

tandoori-style chicken burgers

It’s been years since we’ve purchased ground chicken, but these Tandoori-Style Chicken Burgers from Great Food Fast seemed interesting. 
The spice blend is more middle-eastern flavoured than Indian and tastes similar to a falafel. Because it was made with meat instead of  ground chickpeas it is so much more tender and juicy. It was a nice texture compared to the gritty falafels we’ve grown accustom to. This was served with a cumin sour cream, cucumber slices and coriander in pitas. If we make these again I’d probably stick to ground turkey since we like the flavour better.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

greek salad with seasoned flatbread

Who needs to use a recipe to make a Greek Salad? My mom's been making a great one since I was young and now I make the same one which I consider to be perfect. But we decided to give this Greek Salad with Seasoned Flatbread a whirl anyway.
What a throwdown this salad is. This is what I consider to be a perfected version of a greek salad. I ran out of red wine vinegar after making the Shrimp Gazpacho, so I used balsamic instead. But it really was great with that revision. The addition of the seasoned flatbread is a great idea. We used the dressing and spread it over pitas along with sprinkled oregano s&p. 
I'm so glad we tried this recipe because it tastes quite different than any greek salad I've ever had before. That's the great thing about cooking from recipes. There are people who are so expert in the kitchen they claim to never use recipes. Ah, I'm not one of them but am very proud of you if you are. The way I see it chef's are paid to invent recipes. Magazines like Everyday Food exist to simplify those recipes for home-cooks. As a household of two full time working parents I like to have some insurance that what we are having for dinner is tried-tested-and-true (which is how most of the Everyday Food recipes are). This gives us the opportunity to have lots of variety in our diet and experiment with different foods instead of having that same dinner over and over again. And I think having a varied diet helps to raise children who aren't such picky eaters.
Here Owen enjoying his pita with hummus and cucumbers.  He loves to ask for his "Pitahhhh!"

Monday, September 12, 2011

chicken parmigiana

Chicken Parmigina is the dinner every college student decides to make when they need a 'nice dinner to impress'. I made it for Nuno once to treat him back when we were students. It's pretty simple as far as ingredients and technique and I'm not sure there are too many people who could turn it away. Plus it looks like you went to a lot of effort.

I've made many different chicken parms in the past and have managed to burn it and over-cook the chicken. But to find a recipe for Chicken Parmigiana in Great Food Fast was a nice little switch-up for us since its been years since we've made it.
And this one is the absolute best one we've ever made. It's truly perfected here and we'll probably stick to this one anytime we decide to have it again. It's a dinner that Owen loved as well so as we approach fall this is a great dinner for kids. If there were any leftovers this would have made an awesome next-day sandwich.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

labour day away

After trying all summer we finally found our way to Sarnia to visit my grandparents last weekend. They can't get down to Niagara to visit us, so we make every effort to see them when we can, which really isn't often enough.
My grandma has a tomato plant she asked Owen to help her with. He was asked to pick the red tomatoes for us. And he had lots of fun picking that once the red ones were gone he looked at us then went for the green.
Who knew the concept of tiding up could leave such an impression. Owen thought that after picking the tomatoes they had to go back into the planter. But we assured him they are to eat and he decided to dig right in. 
The day before we arrived my grandmother made several batches of fresh peach jam. As we were leaving she sent us home with a few jars. She must have known that one of Owen's favourite breakfast options is jam on toast, pancakes, waffles, english muffins... I'm enjoying peach jam in a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. Inspired by the grilled cheese sandwiches in Montreal, I had the bakery thinly slices my sourdough loaf and it's made the most wonderful sandwiches this week.

Friday, September 9, 2011

watercress, endive and grilled-peach salad and shrimp gazpacho

Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it to blog about recipe duds. I was about to all but forget about these two dinners from this past week but then thought it makes sense to archive it anyways just in case my sieve of a mind forgets.
This seems potentially good using fresh peaches and arugula instead of watercress (sorry, does anyone eat watercress?). But all these flavours didn’t match or compliment. It was just a random mix of ingredients that would have tasted better eaten separately.

Then there is this total flop – Shrimp Gazpacho
My goodness this was hard to choke down. Tastes similar to a cocktail sauce in soup form without the horseradish flavour. I used fresh field tomatoes and it still didn’t help. Nuno and I were both craving carbs in the worst way after only a couple spoonfuls of this dinner! So I grabbed the closest thing and ate half a bag of Owen’s Goldfish crackers which were so much more satisfying than this soup. And that’s saying a lot because I swore I’d never eat these crackers, but desperation set in and I was weak.

Monday, September 5, 2011

storybook gardens

I have a list of things I want to show and experience with Owen and this long weekend we crossed one off the list. 
As a kid I remember loving Storybook Gardens in London Ontario. It really was exactly as I remember and possibly better because they've improved on the charm that I remember as a child.

Cheshire cat wishing well which steams after you make your wish.

Two Portuguese boys posing in front of a windmill.

Inside a whale! 
If you dare venture deep enough you'll discover Moby Dick has swallowed a treasure chest and buoy.

The frogs were one of Owen's favourites. We almost couldn't drag him away.

This Splash-pad wasn't around when I was small.
Splash-pads are a parents saving grace on hot days like this past Saturday.
The equipment here was the nicest we've ever seen made for children of all ages.
He kept returning to the seal. Little did he know he was in store for the real deal.
Two adorable seals we caught just in time for feeding. Along with an otter and a snake show, Owen got to meet many animals he'd never seen before which was pretty cool.

Steering the pirate ship!

This was the first time Owen is old enough to climb up rope ladders and play in tunneled play gyms. He's a real big guy able to play amongst kids much older than him.

This boot has been around since I was a kid. I remember loving it as did Owen.
A little home Owen-sized left him enchanted and he might have just set up camp there if it wasn't for...

Owen had a major freak out (think Beatles circa 1965) when he spotted "Humpty" in the distance. He has Humpty Dumpty mural on his nursery wall, so he could not believe his eyes when he spotted the real guy! We had to hold him back from jumping in on other families photos and we soon learned that he isn't the most patient toddler when it comes to meeting your hero.
Luckily Owen got lots of meet and greet time with this adorable bouncing humpty (who sits on two springs and wobbles back and forth).

Owen's first midway ride - a soaring elephant. Made me super dizzy and glad this place doesn't serve any midway fare.

Storybook Gardens is great because it's free for children 2 and under, inexpensive for adults, has free parking, in and out privileges, allows outside food and drink in, has many beautiful green picnic spots and wasn't busy. I only wish we lived closer.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

creamy fettuccine with asparagus

This is Creamy Fettuccine with Asparagus from Great Food Fast. 

This has a basic goat cheese sauce with grainy dijon. The recipe made enough for two nights and the second we poached eggs on top. We are quite often adding eggs to pastas like this because egg yolks make cream sauces creamier, add protein to meatless dishes and go well with ingredients such as asparagus, dill and dijon.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

tostadas salsa verde

This is our Tostadas Salsa Verde from Great Food Fast. It is great and it's fast therefore anyone who thinks they can't have a healthy meal on the table with limited effort must meet this dinner.
It doesn't get any easier using shredded rotisserie chicken for this. Along with the chicken there is just iceberg lettuce, cilantro, tomatoes, sour cream and salsa verde. Sounds simple and it is! We toasted the tortillas on the barbeque, but that's not a necessary step.
Chicken and salsa verde are a great match that have a very distinct flavour in combination which we like. If you're looking for something similar, this Chicken, Mushroom and Goat Cheese Burrito recipe from Everyday Food March 2007 was a staple for us 3 years ago and it's also very good.