Monday, January 30, 2012

breakfast quinoa

Owen's been asking for rice for just about every meal lately. This past Saturday morning I figured I'd beat him to the punch and decided to make him something similar with this Breakfast Quinoa.
It's basically just a rework on oatmeal with brown sugar, cinnamon and blueberries. It is really tasty. I haven't looked into if it's nutritionally superior to oatmeal, but in my mind I'll say it is. So, it is not any quicker to make and doesn't have that gooey soft texture we've all grown to love with oatmeal. What it does have on its side is that it's great warm or cool. Typically we'll just toss out extra uneaten portions of oatmeal, but this breakfast quinoa retains its texture and can reheat well. I even used all the leftovers for some Sunday morning blueberry Quinoa Cakes. What a protein-packed weekend!

Friday, January 27, 2012

gnocchi with broccoli pesto

There was an interesting recipe published in this January's issue of Everyday Food for Pasta with White Beans and Broccoli Pesto. We used the pesto portion of the recipe and paired it with gnocchi last night. 
The seasoning on this pesto is spot-on with a nice lemon and garlic flavour. We love the texture of this pesto because it has body and substance. The thing that really turned Nuno off pesto was how pungent it tends to be - this recipe eliminates that. Because it doesn't call for pine nuts, it's a very economical pesto to make. The broccoli/potato pairing is really nice, I doubt we'd ever try the recipe the way it was initially intended to be eaten. The tender gnocchi dumplings absorb a lot of the pesto which we liked a lot. Owen loved it, so it's an all around winner. DELICIOUS!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

potato and onion frittata and bell pepper sautee

If you couldn't tell by the pork loin & black eyed pea salad and iceberg wedges, I spent most of last week making meals that I was hoping wouldn't look or smell appetizing. My husband was doing a cleanse. Bless his heart, fasting from food is something I am unable to conceive for myself, but is a yearly thing for him. He rocked it and had amazing results, I'm so proud of him. Anyways, this Potato & Onion Frittata from Fresh Flavour Fast was something I thought he'd be disinterested in because of the whole breakfast for dinner thing. Turns out it was so fantastic I just had to make it a second time this week so he could experience it!
It doesn't look like much but not only smells amazing, it tastes fantastic. It seems like a total mess when you make it. There were many moments I felt frustrated and was just about to throw it out, but it somehow works out every time. The rosemary and parsley add such a wonderful flavour, I can't imagine a more delicious frittata.
The Bell Pepper Sautee also from Fresh Flavour Fast is a perfect accompaniment to this frittata. Delicious eaten together! I love this dinner. It's light, inexpensive, flavourful & healthy.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

broiled pork with black eyed pea salad

Here is our Broiled Pork with Black Eyed Pea Salad from Everyday Food Light. And it's bad...
Just horrible! Even Owen, who's never met an avocado he didn't love, couldn't eat it. If this is eating light - count me out!

The only consolation is that the leftover tenderloin made for great next day Cuban Quesadillas.

Monday, January 23, 2012

applesauce cake

Owen received a book titled "Owen" for his birthday this year.
Upon Owen's introduction we learn he loves, "Ice cream, peanut butter and applesauce cake". For applesauce cake to be listed so nonchalantly along with these other childhood staples I felt for a moment as though I hadn't quite fulfilled my motherly expectations by not knowing how to make one. That's when I stumbled upon Anna Olson's recipe for Applesauce Coffee Cake in my Another Cup of Sugar cookbook. Well, there isn't anything more delicious than a streusel topping, so it didn't take long for me to bake up my first ever Applesauce Cake!
And, wow, what a stunner! This loaf is great in the same way banana bread is. Besides what sets it apart (doesn't require any fresh produce - which is great), I'm treating it like a banana bread and eating it as a breakfast & dessert. It has the familiar applesauce taste but a coffee cake dessert-like quality. The house became so fragrant with spices while baking I can image it's perfect for those apple picking days before Thanksgiving. 
I love loaves and muffins that don't require room temperature butter that needs to be beaten. I need simplicity when I bake at a moments notice (i.e. during naps) this recipe required ingredients I already had right on hand. This Applesauce Coffee Cake not only fits the bill, it exceeds any other dessert loaf I've made before.

Friday, January 20, 2012

beef & orange stirfry

This is Great Food Fast's Beef and Orange Stir-Fry. I looked forward to this dinner all day because this recipe calls for RIBEYE! I had a marbled masterpiece of a meat slab that was 2 inches thick. Once I tackled slicing the steak there was the tedious process of dealing with the oranges. Slicing the peels off the oranges with a paring knife is no fun. While making this dinner, at no point did it indicate to season with salt & pepper. Almost every recipe does so this puzzled me and I ended up seasoning to taste once it was complete.
Here is the finished dinner. Everything was fantastic except the oranges. They started to break down immedietly and weren't very tasty anyways. I don't really eat oranges, and even though all the pith was removed they were still bitter. This would be way, way better with steamed broccoli.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

iceberg wedges with thousand island dressing

This is Great Food Fast's Iceberg Wedges with Thousand Island Dressing. Or as it tastes -  a deconstructed Big Mac.
I've only had one Big Mac in my life, but, I swear this tastes very similar. Sure, there isn't any meat (do they even use 'meat?'), cheese, tomato and faux buttery flavoured bun. But it really is tasty albeit a little odd to sit down to a huge wedge of lettuce and chow down with a knife and fork. I actually used a steak knife on this because the serrated edge helped slice through the layers. This recipe is really just one for a homemade Thousand Island dressing, but it's killer. After a couple days now I've single handedly polished off an entire head of lettuce. This oh so retro salad is quite addictive, but I'm sure next week the novelty will have worn off.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

my morning coffee

I'm really into New Year's Resolutions. I've made many and kept some of the most challenging ones. To start yoga, to start working out, to learn to cook and make homemade dinners, to keep up this blog, to stop my daily Starbucks habit (ie. save $). The way I made that last one work was to learn to make a fantastic cup of coffee at home. Here's my daily ritual.
It starts with the beans. I'm really into this Mapled Mocha Java that I buy 5 lb vacuum sealed. Buying in bulk is the most economical way to purchase quality beans. 
Once I open the bag I weigh 1lb of beans into ziploc bags and freeze immediately. Then as I need them I pull them out and store them in airtight containers. 
Every morning I grind the beans fresh. I can eyeball the ratio, but if you're just learning the ratio this tool will always give you the perfect cup. Once scoop per cup of water.
This tool is so basic, but along with boiled water it's all you need for one single cup of great coffee.
But I need way more than one cup daily, and this Cuisinart DCC-1200 Brew Central 12 cup programmable coffee maker is the best I've ever owned.  Use cold water when brewing fresh coffee through a coffee maker.
There is a built-in water filter and a setting to brew small coffee batches (because have you ever tried to brew 3 cups on a 12 cup machine? It never works out!)

I'm no coffee somalier (if I were, I'm sure I'd know the proper term for it). So I hesitate to blog and come across like 'this is the right way' to make coffee. It's just what I like and found works for us through lots of trial & error.

So, what's my New Year's Resolution this year? Well, I'm giving my previous years failed resolution another go. It's to watch more TV. I keep finding myself in social situations where people go on and on about all these great shows like Breaking Bad and Boardwalk Empire. I feel like I'm really missing out on quality television and it bums me out. So I've got to find a way of making time to let myself relax and unwind - and stay awake. Believe it or not, it's a challenge for me.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

mushroom ragout

We decided to make Great Food Fast's Mushroom Ragout the other night.
I used a mix of mostly crimini mushrooms along with shiitake and button. I also used fresh and dried thyme so I expected some big flavours to come through. However, it was really lacking and needs to be amped up quite a bit. If we choose to make this again I'd probably find a way of working in beef broth, wine or cream into this recipe. We ended up finely grated parmigiano reggiano upon serving and that certainly helped. Luckily, the ragout's flavour improved the second day. This would be so delicious over polenta.

Monday, January 16, 2012

lentil soup

Unfortunately there isn't a way to make this dinner of Lentil Soup sound or look delicious. You'll just have to trust me when I say this is a fantastic soup! Definitely the best one we've made from Great Food Fast.
It is so rich and full flavoured. I followed the recipe exactly but also added celery salt while sauteeing the onions and carrots. We ate this for dinner on the first snowfall and there wasn't anything more comforting. Owen just loved it. He kept talking about this soup for days after we ate it. The other big bonuses is how economical and easy it is to make. It can be made in a pinch because all the ingredients are pantry & freezer staples.

Friday, January 13, 2012

winter 2012 playlist

I've put together a second playlist for download.
The Aislers Set – Mission Bells (2003)
Guided By Voices – Don’t Stop Now (1996)
Built To Spill – In The Morning (1996)
Olivia Tremor Control – A New Day (1999)
The Byrds – Lady Friend (1967)
Teenage Fanclub – Discolite (1995)
Essex Green – Cardinal Points (2006)
Butterglory – Edward Brown (1995)
The Acid House Kings – 7 Days (2005)
California Snow Story – Brook Lune (2007)
Jens Lekman – Black Cab (2003)
The Radio Dept. – Where Damage Isn’t Already Done (2004)
Wild Nothing – Chinatown (2010)
Trembling Blue Stars – Idyllwild (2007)
Ride – Sennen (1990)

It can be a challenge to choose songs in compiling a playlist. The way I listen to music is through entire albums which means the songs are more complete, have context and play off each other. When you remove it from its place, many songs can somehow lose something. But on the other hand, some bands sound fantastic right up against each other. Like of how Teenage Fanclub can sit right up against The Byrds and blend nicely. Then there are bands like the Byrds where it's hard to choose just one song because they are a great 'single' band. I don't know how many Byrds songs I removed from this list before deciding on 'Lady Friend'. There is something about David Crosby's voice that gets me. Now I'm music monologuing...

Anyways, if you choose to download you can expect to hear lots of indie jems... Some pop, rock, chamber, swedish & shoegaze. Lots of hooks and harmonies. Hope you all enjoy!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

couscous salad with roasted vegetables & chickpeas

Of all the recipes I wanted to try in Everyday Food Light, I was really looking forward to this Couscous Salad with Roasted Vegetables & Chickpeas. We’re on a real kick with couscous & chickpeas so I thought this combo would be a real winner. The other thing I like is to be able to time-bake food in the oven so that it’s ready when we get home - so this recipe suited us perfectly. Along with a tray of cauliflower and carrots, I also roasted a couple trays of sweet potatoes & red onions so that we could make this Roasted Sweet Potato Salsa again.
Here’s the finished dinner and we weren’t all that impressed. It was OK but I combined concepts from this dinner and the Roasted Sweet Potato Salsa to make the most delicious salad/lunch you can imagine. 
I’ll share this recipe:

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced small
1 red onion, diced small
2 plum tomatoes, diced small
¼ cup lime juice
Fresh cilantro, small handful, chopped
1 cup cooked coucous
1 can chickpeas, drained, rinsed & cooked till tender
1 avocado, diced small

Spread sweet potatoes & red onion on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with s&p. Roast at 450 for 20 minutes and cool to room temp.
Mix cooled vegetables with remaining ingredients. Just before serving add avocado and taste for final seasoning.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

ham struffed chicken with broccoli

One recipe I’d always wanted to try to make from scratch is a homemade chicken cordon-bleu. While flipping through the new Everyday Food Light book I stumbled upon Ham Stuffed Chicken with Broccoli and assumed that it was exactly what I was after. Turns out this recipe doesn’t include cheese, which I had initially wanted. But we made this dinner exactly as the recipe instructed (except using fresh sage instead of dried and fresh broccoli instead of frozen) and it was truly outstanding. 
The result is a very nice moist chicken and stuffing. Incredibly quick & easy and was perfect for a Sunday night dinner. It certainly didn’t need (and we didn’t miss) the cheese element I had hoped for. What a great start to experimenting with the new Everyday Food Light book. This dinner didn’t taste light – it was just delicious. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

roasted cornish hens with grapes

Seafood, alfredo and cornish hens are three special meals my mom often made to celebrate New Years. That's why I thought it was perfect timing to make the Roasted Cornish Hens with Grapes.
As pretentious as saying you're eating cornish hens for dinner may sound, they are WAY easier and faster than cooking a whole chicken. The meat is more tender and sweeter in flavour. They really should be more popular than they are. The grapes and shallots blend to taste like a sweeter roasted shallot which is nice.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


We said goodbye to my Grandpa this past weekend. He outlived all of his friends and 11 other siblings so to honour him the burial was attended by close relatives followed by "an Irish wake".  Although we didn't live up to past Butler wakes which found my great aunts dancing Irish jigs, we all shared memories over piles of family photos, tons of catered food and bottles of wine.

I've been reflecting all week on the time I had with Grandpa Butler and no matter which memory I draw from they are all fond and bring a smile to my face. He was an understated, stand-up man with an incomparable sense of humor. How lucky were we to have had him with us to the age of 88.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

looking back on the tastes of 2011

My family is on the mend from a stomach bug so there won't be much food blogging for the next little while. I can't imagine even stepping foot inside the grocery store, let alone cooking anything. Besides, I never did much say good-bye to 2011 and hello to a New Year on here, so I thought I'd reflect on my most memorable food discoveries of this past year. This list was devised to include new food and flavour combinations I discovered in 2011, food trends I jumped on, cooking and baking life to-do's checked off and recipes we continually go back to enjoy (and probably will for years to come).
1. First up is the Warm Quinoa and Spinach Salad. I love this salad and reworked it based on a version  I ordered at the Rivoli for dinner in the summer. Their version now has me substituting mesclun mix for spinach and goat cheese for feta. Add parsley and a little bit of finely diced red pepper if there is any lying around.

2. Cobb Salad, a to-do that I wish I'd only discovered sooner. I should also note that this is the year I went nuts-o for blue cheese.
3. Eggs with/on Pasta. Whether it's a carbonara or a poached egg over spring vegetables on pasta, I just love how this now completes a day making it possible to eat eggs for any meal. 

4. Fritters. They started with banana, then we got hooked on corn. But fritters can be made with so many different ingredients including zucchini and chopped herbs. Sweet or savoury they are an excuse to eat a pancake as a side.

5. Bacon Jam, a decadent treat that is a versatile condiment anyone who eats meat can't resist.

6. Chocolate-Mint Chip Ice Cream Sandwiches are the best and easiest tasty treat. I've even simplified it in recent months to scooping Chocolate-Mint Chip Ice Cream with Oreo Thinsation Cookies and making sandwiches from two Oatmeal Bear Paw Cookies with Vanilla Ice Cream. 

7. Chocolate/Raspberry Pavlova - is a revelation. One of the best desserts I've ever eaten... and I made it!

8. Whoopie Pies, trendy but fun. I love them because they up the cake to frosting ratio, which works for me.

My food to-do list for 2012 is to make a show stopping Croque Monsieur, cook through Everyday Food Light and blog much more about kid's recipes based on this wonderful cookbook Aunt Katie gave called C is for Cooking.
I've flipped through it and it sounds great for making kid-friendly food and involving them in the kitchen.

Monday, January 2, 2012

curry chicken

This is the other night's Curry Chicken from Great Food Fast. 
It was simple enough to prepare but did not deliver. I've had really great curry chicken before and this one just does not cut it. The thing that bothered me the most was eating potatoes and rice in the same meal. It really was not appetizing at all. To give it a bit of a boost I added golden raisins which was pretty necessary. It could also use a bit of yogurt to make it creamier. But we've got to find a better recipe for curry chicken or it's take-out from now on.