Monday, October 31, 2011

what a hoot halloween owl costume

Does looking at kid's in Halloween costumes ever get old? Well, for some it does, but not for me. Especially when your kid loves wearing the costume you began planning a month before Halloween. 
The nice thing about planning and making your own costume is that your two year old learns about Halloween costumes and tells everyone what he is dressing up as. Owen also practiced a convincing 'hoot, hoot' over the last couple weeks. This costume was the brain-child of Parenting Magazine, but without templates and their ever-so-brief instructions, we ended up having to somehow 'make it work' without having any costume-making skills. 

This was constructed out of an old turtle neck of mine and a hacked up taupe men's shirt for the layered feathers. The wings are felt with the cuffs of the men's shirt reattached. The hood are the arms of my old turtle neck reconstructed. The eyes are layered white fur trim, copper scouring pads and buttons Nuno made at work. The beak a finger from a black dish glove. Most of the work on this costume was my wonderful and talented husband who can visualize anything and bring it to life.
This entire costume is no-sew and believe it or not, fabric glue held this all together for a Halloween Party with friends Sunday afternoon, 
a day at day care with a costume parade,
and the final trick-or-treat around the neighbourhood. 
He didn't poop (as in tire :) or chicken out to trick-or-treat at this creepy grim reaper's house. Yep, Owen loves Halloween just as much as his parents.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

pumpkin-spice cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

Owen's all about pumpkins - from visiting the pumpkin farm to carving jack-o-lanterns, he can't get enough pumpkin fun. The November issue of Everyday Food has a recipe for Pumpkin-Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting which I though he'd really enjoy baking as well as eating. Owen's been my little baking apprentice for a while now helping me every other Saturday morning baking Raisin Bran Muffins together. He was only too eager to help with Pumpkin Cupcakes.
He helps by dumping measured ingredients.
And stir them together. He even asked to crack an egg, which turned into a mess on the counter top, but it was still fun.
Then he lined the cupcake tray and finished things by licking the beaters and spatula. 
And here are the finished cupcakes. Owen did a great job helping out. These cupcakes are very moist and light. The cream cheese frosting was a bit of a trick on our treat because it split again (similar to the Red Velvet Cupcakes from last year). I think it's because I use light cream cheese, which might make a difference in structure even if the flavour is the same as regular.

Friday, October 28, 2011

pumpkin-chocolate whoopie pies

I love when Owen's daycare announces they are holding fundraising bake sales. So many delicious desserts pop into my head, most of which contain nuts, so I have to immediately cancel out the majority of my favourites. But this month's issue of Everyday Food magazine featured a Pumpkin-Chocolate Whoopie Pie recipe. And how I love my pumpkin desserts paired with chocolate!
I've toiled for hours in the kitchen and lost sleep painstakingly baking away on weeknights before bake sales. Luckily, this is not one of those recipes. These whoopie pies were so easy and fun to make. The pumpkin cake is moist & fragrant and the chocolate filling is fudgy. And I know whoopie pies are super food trendy right now, but they are very sturdy making them perfect for bake sales! Most people enjoy them in sandwich form, but when no one is looking I like to eat mine the way I eat my Oreo's - by pulling them apart and licking off the filling. How do you eat your whoopie pies?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

birthday invites

Owen's birthday invites are in the mail now. This year the party's theme is, big surprise here...
Yo Gabba Gabba!
We are planning two parties again this year. First is the one for the kids, then a second immediately after for our family and close friends.  What we learned from last years experience was to host our party a week after we return from Florida. That way we aren't scrambling to put a party together hours after walking off a plane. I'm really looking forward to the big day!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

turkey potpies

We came home this weekend with a huge take-out container of leftover turkey from a thanksgiving celebration at my in-laws. I decided to make the recipe featured on the cover of this month's issue of Everyday Food, Turkey and Mashed Potato Potpies.
The filling was per the recipe, but since we didn't return home with any mashed potatoes I used a leftover piece of puff pastry, which is more traditional for a potpie anyways. This filling is insanely delicious! I think this is the best potpie we've ever had (the addition of bacon will do that). It was very rich and the combination of cremini mushrooms and peas is a perfect filling.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

vegetable egg scramble with feta

The recently published November issue of Everyday Food magazine looks incredible! I find that there aren't always recipes that interest me in every issue, but that can not be said for this one in particular. There doesn't quite seem to be enough time for me to try the number of recipes I'm dying to experiment with. 
 This past Saturday morning I tried the Vegetable Egg Scramble with Feta from this issue.
I'm not big on omelets and wouldn't go out of my way to ever make one with bell peppers or tomatoes in my life again. But this recipe takes the idea of an omelet and amps it up to something so much more tasty (albeit not as pretty). I know people always try and hide veggies so kids will eat them, but in this the vegetables are so delicious you forget that you are eating something so healthy. This recipe calls for zucchini, tomato, red onion and baby spinach and if you cook them just right they are wonderful in this. We were afraid that eating huge hunks of red onion might be too overpowering, but they were so mild and sweet they were one of the tastiest elements of this dish. Each bite is different and interesting. Owen loved it but picked out the spinach. I have to agree with him on this. The spinach wilts and becomes tough. If we have this again I think I'll treat it more like a herb and chop it into small pieces.

Friday, October 21, 2011

october & november 2011 playlist

Recently my iPod went kaput. This is a big deal because I’ve had it for 8 years and so much of our iTunes collection was on it (which has since been deleted just for the sake of hard drive space on the Mac). So I’ve had to delve into my closet of high school and college albums to upload once again, which has been a lot of fun.
I love revisiting music and getting reacquainted with the classics. I always wanted to find a way of including more music into this blog so I’m hoping to keep a playlist coming up every couple of months for download. You can expect to hear indie from the 1990's and early 2000’s. I might throw on some of my other favs which include stuff from the 60's like the Byrds & Mama’s and Papas etc.

The first playlist for October and November 2011 is one I’ve been enjoying for a little while now. There are many mid-90’s Merge albums that I wore out in high school. I listened to these albums through most of the eras, but can’t claim to have for the final two tracks. The Replacements & Galaxie 500 are artists I discovered in high school who's music still resonate to this day.

East River Pipe - Make a Deal With The City (1995)
Butterglory – Demons and Avalanches (1995)
Trembling Blue Stars – November Starlings (2007)
Cat’s Miaow – Portland, Oregon (1997)
Club 8 – All Dressed Up and Shy (1996)
The Radio Dept. – Always a Relief (2006)
Guv’ner – Difficulty in Openness (1998)
Modest Mouse – Grey Ice Water (1999)
Pavement – Loretta’s Scars (1992)
Henry’s Dress – Feathers (1994)
Spent – The Quarter Conspiracy (1996)
Teenage Fanclub – Born Under A Good Sign (2005)
The Replacements – Unsatisfied (1984)
Galaxie 500 – Tugboat (1988)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

coconut shrimp soup

Last night we had Everyday Food Great Food Fast’s Coconut Shrimp Soup.
And as you can tell it didn’t quite turn out very soup-like. Substituting spaghettini for angel hair pasta sure makes a difference along with doubling the amount of pasta. But what did it matter because I almost like eating coconut shrimp noodles better than a soup anyways. It was easier for Owen to enjoy (which he did with the addition of edamames). The flavours in this recipe are SO nice. From the moment you heat the ginger, garlic and peppers you just know this will be a delicious meal. And we all love anything sweet or savory with coconut.
One thing we noticed was that you need to add A LOT of salt. I must have added at least ½ tsp to my serving alone. But once it was seasoned properly it was absoultely delicious.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

roasted salmon with lentils

Roasted Salmon with Lentils from Great Food Fast wasn't one of those meals you anticipate coming home to after 9-5. What I was anticipating was a total rejection from Owen. It's not the prettiest dish, especially sitting in a bright turqouise bowl. What I was looking forward to how simple and quick it is to make.
This dinner is relatively quick, extremely inexpensive and healthy. It was very balanced in flavour with the dijon flavour coming through just right. It really was nice. But the big surprise was that Owen ate it! He thought it was just fine. I guess he's just at the age where he tries everything without question and lets the flavour determine if it's OK to eat or not. We're pretty lucky that if Owen is hungry he'll try anything. He may not like everything he eats, but he'll try it.

Monday, October 17, 2011

seasonal salads

Here are a couple salads that I consider to be best eaten seasonally. First is a Cantaloupe and Bocconcini Salad with Mint from Great Food Fast that I made not too long ago.
It's so fresh, bright and delicious it tastes just like summer. It's like an entire meal of those little hors d'oeuvres of prosciutto wrapped cantaloupe. This is my favourite salad to eat in warm weather.

Then there is this Arugula, Beet and Goat Cheese Salad from Great Food Fast that we had tonight which is the perfect salad for cooler temperatures.
It's quite similar to the Orange, Beet and Arugula Salad from Fresh Flavour Fast but I almost like this one better. It's the same orange/beet flavour combination, but the goat cheese and walnuts make it eat like a dinner. I also did something that I never thought I'd do, I bought canned beets. Hey, the recipe said to use them (in fact, I just recently learned they even sold them canned!). And after tasting them I'm not sure I'll ever go to the trouble of roasting or boiling beets again. All the work is done for you and there isn't any difference in taste. So delicious!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

spinach and prosciutto lasagna

I grew up in a family that always had to travel far to reunite for holidays. We're the lone rangers here in Niagara and for most holidays it is usually easier for us to celebrate on Sunday instead of the designated holiday Monday for Thanksgiving. Since the main food focus was Sunday's Thanksgiving, I never gave much thought to what to have the next day and with all the stores closed. I had to dig deep to come up with Monday night's dinner. Luckily I came across this Spinach and Prosciutto Lasagna from Everyday Food October 2008.
Very often items like mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan and prosciutto go on sale so we always have these ingredients on hand. On a whim I added a layer of Thanksgiving's leftover Cauliflower Gratin (which worked great!). This was a quick assembly in the morning then we spent the rest of the day at the zoo to return home to a finished lasagna. I programed the oven to begin and end baking the lasagna (all the ingredients in this lasagna stand up to sitting out all day). Owen's latest word on an enthusiastic "Lasagna!". It was a total success and I'm inspired to start finding more recipes to take advantage of the programed bake in the oven because nothing is nicer than walk in the door to a finished meal.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


We had our Thanksgiving celebration here in Niagara this year. It was hosted at my parent's house and my mother was so kind to let me plan the menu. Through some trial and error over the years I felt like we had an ideal Thanksgiving dinner planned. My mother prepared the most perfectly cooked turkey with stuffing, gravy (a gigantic Pyrex bowl of it!), mashed potatoes, coleslaw, roasted vegetable tray of carrots, fennel, shallots & garlic and a crudite tray.
Owen contributed a craft to each place setting which were these cute turkey hand print cut-out napkin rings. 
I helped round out the menu with several items. This Cranberry Pomegranate Relish was savory and slightly tart. I was a little nervous about it because I don't typically eat cranberry sauce so I wasn't sure if the seasoning needed to be altered. Luckily everyone who tried it said it was great.
I think this Cauliflower Gratin is an essential Thanksgiving side. I made it for Thanksgiving 5 years ago and felt like it needed to be brought back to our table.
And desserts! This Rustic Apple Tart is from Everyday Food Great Food Fast and is as easy as pie. Wait, pie is super complicated! It's easier than any Thanksgiving dessert should really be. The only revision I made to this was the addition of apple pie spice, which I really think this dessert needs. These are the apples we picked the other weekend from Froot-To-Go. Very light and nice after a huge Thanksgiving Dinner.
The other two desserts were a Chocolate Pumpkin Tart (an old favourite from Thanksgiving's past) and my sister-in-law brought the most to-die-for Apple Coffee Cakes. They were the size of Owen's head! No, but they were huge that I had to stow one away for breakfast the next morning. So tender and delicious! I hope she shares this recipe.
One last photo of the two cousins having fun. "Hey Buddy!" is what Owen says to Ronan. I'm not sure where he got that from but it's funny none the less. The two played with blocks, coloured on giant rolls of paper and pretended to be frogs! There was no need for football on TV when you have these cuties entertaining!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

yo gabba gabba live in b-lo

I don't keep much of a secret of how we all as a family love Yo Gabba Gabba. This week we took Owen to his first ever live show at the University of Buffalo Centre for the Arts to see Yo Gabba Gabba Live. 
Owen was totally thrilled when he realized he was going to see, "Muno". This cut-out is as close as we came to meeting Muno, but our seats were very close to the stage. 
It was actually the perfect spot because any closer you probably would have strained to see the entire stage. 
Bright lights, cannons shooting off confetti and loud music were all things that I wasn't sure how Owen would deal with, but he was delighted by it all. He watched with wonder through the entire performance.
There were some great appearances including Biz Markie!
 And we weren't expecting to see Leslie Hall on tour with them.
Probably the thing that really surprised me was how dressed up everyone was. I guess it isn't much of a surprise to see kids dressed up as baby DJ Lance Rock and homemade outfits to suit their favourite characters. But half the parents were dressed up as well! These are our type of people! Usually we are the ones arriving in public places unashamed to be dressed up. But here, we looked pretty conservative.

Then we finished our night out with dinner at Duff's. This place is famous for Buffalo wings and gained notoriety when President Obama came here for lunch. They offer a limited menu of wings and fries. We ordered a combo of 20 wings, fries and beer for $20. Owen even tried a medium wing!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

panang curry

Back when I was cooking through Everyday Food Fresh Flavour Fast we tried the Steamed Eggplant and Mushrooms with Peanut Sauce. I remember tasting the sauce and finding it similar to my favourite Thai restaurant dinner of Panang Curry. We've attempted to make Panang Curry at home in the past with ingredients from the Thai supermarket which included kaffir lime leaves and fish sauce, but it might have just been too authentic because it just wasn't to our tastes. This past weekend being so rainy and cold was ideal for spending leisurely time having fun in the kitchen. So I decided to do my best to recreate Panang Chicken Curry. My goodness, it's so creamy and rich it really turned out delicious. We all loved it and I know we'll be eating this all fall & winter.
Panang Curry
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons finely grated, peeled, fresh ginger
1 to 2 tablespoons light-brown sugar
salt to taste
8 chicken thighs, cut into large chunks
1 can coconut milk
3 tbsp Thai red curry paste
4 scallions, cut into 2-inch lengths and thinly sliced lengthwise
1 cup cooked rice (for serving, optional)

Whisk peanut butter, rice vinegar, soy sauce, grated ginger, brown sugar and salt and set aside. 
Cook chicken thighs in a large non-stick skillet with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Once cooked through remove from pan and set aside. Heat coconut in skillet until heated through. Add curry paste until fully incorporated. Add peanut butter mixture to pan and mix until combined. Add chicken just to reheat through. 
Serve over rice with scallion for garnish. We didn't do it here, but chopped peanuts would also be a nice garnish as well.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

macaroni and cheese

One more kid-friendly dinner post here:

OK, I might take it back saying that Spaghetti Carbonara is more delicious than Macaroni & Cheese. I guess I've never made a good one... till last night! This is the Macaroni and Cheese recipe from Everyday Food Great Food Fast and it's insanely delicious. Like 3 helpings delicious!
I've tried many different mac & cheese recipes all which were total flops. I even tried to convince myself that Nigella Lawson's quick mac & cheese was good - but it's not. To make a good mac and cheese you must be willing to mess up the kitchen a little, put a bit of effort into it and a lot of time. I made this on a Monday night after work - well, that won't happen again. It was close to an hour and a half before it even hit the oven (then bakes for another half an hour). But then again, I was probably a little pokey taking my time and enjoying the entire process. Regardless, this is better off being made on a weekend and I can assure you, it's worth all the effort because you have enough to last at least 2 meals out of one single recipe (feeding 2 adults & one toddler).

It's rich, creamy and the ham & cheese flavour is so complimentary. I love that you can buy thick slices of cured bone-in ham at the grocery store now which work perfect for a recipe like this. I followed this recipe exactly, even to the very measurement here, (I often just eyeball seasoning measurements) and it really was a total pay off because it's beyond heavenly. So glad I discovered this recipe at the beginning of fall because I look forward to enjoying this for the next 6 months! Did I just say that - half a year of comfort food to come?!

Monday, October 3, 2011

sloppy joe's

On the topic of feeding kids, Sloppy Joe's... Never made them before, never had them before but now that we have a kid it's probably a good idea to learn how to make them. So it was great to get the chance to give the Sloppy Joe's recipe from Everyday Food Great Food Fast.
And they really are quite good. Very sweet probably because of the ketchup, but with the addition of chipotle sauce on the side that is remedied quite nicely.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

chicken nuggets

Chicken nuggets are kind of a parents worst nightmare. You basically resign yourself to feeding your kid a mystery chicken meat sprinkled with preservatives and deep fried. But kid's love them. I decided to take matters into my own hands and make homemade chicken nuggets for Owen. 

We first used Chuck Hughes' recipe for Chicken Nuggets, but found they were too strong of a lemon flavour. Although they were super tasty deep fried, they were much too moist having boiling juices drip everywhere. So we refined the recipe to taste and it's so good I am not only excited about archiving it, I am thrilled to share it.
Here's how to make them. First make the breading by blitzing panko bread crumbs with 2 tbsp butter, 2 garlic cloves, s&p in the food processor. Set aside in a shallow dish.

8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 egg
cup chives, finely chopped
cup grated parmesan cheese
tablespoons soy sauce
teaspoon garlic Tabasco
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper
All above ingredients go into the food processor and blitz a few pulses attempting to keep a chunky texture to the meat.

Form into small nuggets and spread on a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze till solid. Take frozen nuggets and coat in breading. 
1/2 cup of flour w/ s&p in shallow dish, 2 beaten eggs into a second dish and final dish of panko breading mixture. Coat nuggets in flour, egg, then panko. From here they can be frozen for up to a month or are ready to bake at 450 for 20 minutes, turning once.
Nuno made several dipping sauces to have on the side from items we had in the fridge and pantry. First is a blue cheese and ranch mix. The second is a honey, mustard and orange marmalade blend. The third is a sweet and sour sauce using strained sweet chili spring roll sauce mixed with ketchup (Owen's favourite!) All these sauces are excellent.
I've never enjoyed chicken nuggets so much in my life and I'm so happy that Owen loves them too!