Monday, April 30, 2012

two cheese pizza with arugula salad

Everyday Food Light has a recipe for Two Cheese Pizza with Arugula. Then on further reading you eat this on a tortilla with a side of salad. Yep, they don't call it Everyday Food Light for nothing. Actually, this sounded wonderful for me, but for my boys - no way! I bought a pizza dough and added a ton more toppings so that we could make man pizzas! 
OK, here is the whimpy one and it was nice. I love my pizza with tomato, arugula and balsamic vinegar. But, really, that's not most people's idea of a good pizza. Which is why whenever we make pizza we do a fridge and pantry raid and throw in half used bricks of gruyere and random chorizo sausages from my in-laws. 
Actually, the large pizza below is a combo I highly recommend of tomato, mozzarella, gruyere, parmagiano reggiano, chorizo, kalamata olive, arugula and balsamic vinegar. It's so good and a pizza we'll make over and over again (which in our terms means our next pizza night in maybe, October). Even Owen's margarita was delicious.

sausage and swiss chard strata

There are some issues of Everyday Food magazine that contain so many intriguing recipes they need to be gold stamped. For example the April 2011 issue is chock-full of really great recipes. There is an entire section on bar recipes (including one that's a reworked Hello Dolly called Gooey Layered Everything), a Breakfast Egg Salad that looks divine with avocado and smoked salmon on multigrain loaf and one of my favourite recipes of last year the Linguine with Asparagus and Egg. Last week we had the beer baked beans and we also enjoyed the Sausage and Swiss Chard Strata from the very same issue. 
We used the previous nights Italian loaf for the bread and Country Corner's Italian chicken sausage. I'd have this again in a heartbeat. It's no weekend dinner, but perfect for any midweek night.

Friday, April 27, 2012

cheesy pasta primavera

The April 2012 issue of Everyday Food Magazine's Family Fuel recipe was for Cheesy Pasta Primavera. This sounded like a great way of getting loads of veggies in a very delicious way.
The unfortunate thing is that, although this was published for April, summer (yellow) squash is not available - anywhere. What was available is another type of squash called vegetable marrow. I've never had it before but saw it everywhere, so I bought a couple in place of the summer squash. Along with zucchini, I couldn't detect a difference between the two vegetables but  all the veggies were wonderful. What a nice fresh pasta dinner this is. So delicious, everyone LOVED it and it was great the next day - warm or cold.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

roasted salmon with brussels sprouts and beer baked beans

We just had to try these Beer-Baked White Beans since stumbling upon the recipe from Everyday Food magazine April 2011 issue. They were just too interesting not to try, but I also imagined they could potentially go so wrong. The recipe requires a Belgian style white ale so after Nuno came home with Mill Street’s Wit I decided to run out and buy a couple cans of Rickards White to use instead. We used Great Northern beans for this particular recipe but you could always use cannellini or navy. It really wasn’t very appetizing assembled in the pot, but then as they baked the magic happened! They thickened up and made the entire house smell like a pub. Once we tried them we agreed they really are something different and delicious - if you like the flavour of beer. You don’t have to be into beer to enjoy them, but this recipe in particular brings out all the great qualities of a Belgian white. They obviously didn’t fly with Owen since he loves that traditional molasses sweetness you get from a Boston baked bean. But we'd definitely have these again.
Along with the baked beans we started out with the idea of making the Roasted Salmon with Brussels Sprouts recipe from Everyday Food Light, but I got a little side tracked. I decided to buy an entire fillet of salmon and prepare it according to Mark Bittman’s recipe in Everyday Food magazine’s April 2012 issue. It’s Roasted Salmon with Butter and I just loved the simplicity of how he recommended cooking it. As it was roasting, the melting butter (half a stick) had the fragrance of a fine restaurant which eliminated the pub smell quite nicely. On the side are Roasted Brussels Sprouts which we prepared according to Everyday Food Light. This has got to be my favourite way of eating brussels sprouts. More and more we are roasting our vegetables (such as broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus and sweet potatoes). The flavour is much nicer and you get great texture from your vegetables. It also gives you more nutrition and control over the done-ness of your vegetables compared to boiling. I can really only see myself boiling potatoes for mash from now on. Amazing dinner but I'm glad we rarely attempt three dishes in one night - the clean up, arg!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

butternut squash risotto

What the heck is with a snow storm in April after experiencing one of (if not) the warmest winters on record? It's unexpected to have a dinner like risotto be appetizing this time of year, but Monday’s storm proved there is still time for warm comfort food. So we had Butternut Squash Risotto from Everyday Food Light last night.

I had a game plan to buy a bag of frozen butternut squash (which I bought quite frequently along with sweet potato a couple years ago at Zehrs in their frozen organics). These were so great for when Owen just started solids – it was the ultimate easy cheat for mixing purees. Well, the goods gone and I’m not happy. Frozen vegetables are not something I use often, but I always have edamame, peas and corn on hand. I have to go to the US to find more interesting frozen vegetables such as diced roasted red & poblano peppers. I think they should take half of the frozen foods department and revise them for healthier and more interesting produce and cut out some of the seasoned fries, frozen pizzas and over manufactured entrees. But what do I know about what sells?  I ended up buying the squash from the produce department, like I really should have all along.
Back to some notes about this dinner. I love risotto when it’s done right and it’s like tasting a warm snuggle. Unfortunately this dinner didn't reach those heights. The thing that I don’t like about this recipe is the lack of richness and depth of flavour. I'm not one to add mounds of butter to my risotto, but even with a 1/3 cup of parmesan cheese the flavour never really came through. Lots of salt and sage made this tasty, but not anything we’d ever have again. This was the first time Owen’s rejected risotto, so I’m thinking we’ll stick to our favourite flavour combos of peas and prosciutto and mushroom. I think this might be a great option if you’re a fan of butternut squash, but I have to admit is one of my least favourite vegetables anyway.

Risotto takes a little while to make, there isn't much we can do about that (although I have soaked the rice in an attempt to speed up the cooking process - and I'm pretty sure it worked). But I’ve come up with a tip that simplifies things and really helps with clean-up. Every risotto recipe I’ve cooked from asks for stock to be heated in a saucepan and ladle into the cooking rice. I used to do it that way and made a mess of the stove top. Now I microwave the stock in my largest measuring cup and zap it every 5 or so minutes to keep the temperature up. It works like a charm!

Monday, April 23, 2012

oatmeal raisin cookies

This weekend was jam-packed. After being away from Owen on our vacation I was so ready to get back into the swing of things. Owen's cousin's birthday party was on Saturday and was a great reunion of family. The kids are just too cute and so much fun to be around. Then on Sunday we went to visit my grandmother. She recently had a new and innovative non-invasive heart surgery to replace a valve in her heart. I remembered how much she loved these cookies we brought to our family reunion 2 summers ago, so I decided to bring Oatmeal Raisin Cookies as part as our well wish gifts.
These are my other grandmother's recipe and they are simply the best oatmeal raisin cookies ever baked. I love them! The recipe yields 42, so I froze 3/4 of the monster pile of dough for another occasion. I always slightly under-bake my cookies and let the cool on the pan for at least 10 minutes, that way they always just right.

After our visit we headed to the Ontario Science Centre which is close to her home. I had my initial hesitations about how this attraction could apply to children Owen's age, but there was an entire area devoted to preschool learning and play, so it is just right for children starting 2 and up.
It's very like Owen's day care on a much, much larger scale. 
Lots of stations for lots of different types of learning.
Push the table and smoke rises up.
 Owen was racing around from one experience to the next.
Very cool exhibit where balls roll through a track and set off neat triggers like chimes, springs and bounce on trampolines. Anyone remember that clip from Sesame Street? It was one of my favourites!
 "Owen see things far away"
 His favourite was the blue tunnel.
 Gorilla hands.
There was an area devoted to President's Choice branded grocery store play. It looked like the zombie apocalypse had just happened.
Looks like Owen's not expecting to stick around too long since his last dinner choice was lobster. He's going out with style!
Like most attractions in Toronto it was super busy. I'm glad Owen's in daycare because he was truly unfazed by the hundreds of slight misses and near collisions he has with all the kids around him.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Vegas finale

I’ve mentioned before on this blog about how we like to tie our vacations to seeing a show. Not like a regular Vegas act, we chose the week we did based on attending the Shins show at the Cosmopolitan. I was really into them when their first album came out and enjoyed their second album as well – then I lost track of them. I think my loss of interest happened when we saw them live in Toronto and this one little hobbit-like guy in the band kept jumping in with annoying alcohol/drug-induced commentary between songs. I was pretty much over them after that experience. Come to find out the hobbit was fired and they had a huge release with their third album, Wincing the Night Away. Just as we were booking this vacation they released their 4th album. So we were reacquainted with the band by the time of the show.
There is a huge jumbo tron that broadcasts day and night on the strip-side of the hotel. This monitor broadcast the show to everyone, which was a really neat feature.
The Shins were great live. Totally a new line-up from what I was used to, but the band seemed more together, so it's probably for the best. I guess James Mercer is and always was the Shins.
The rooftop show was definitely one of my most memorable concert experiences. I've been to hundreds of rock shows and this one rates up in my top ten just based on the venue alone. Yes, there is a pool with floating lounges at this concert. Everything about Vegas is luxury!

It's going to be difficult for me to not devote an entire entry to The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. I was in awe of everything here from the moment you step in. This is their 3 level lounge called The Chandelier.

We spend entirely too much time at this hotel because every inch is fun!

And not to mention this hotel features many amazing restaurants. 
 Before the Shins show we ate at China Poblano a fusion restaurant.
I ordered the 20 Vegetable Fried Rice. Totally connected it to the "Best Thing I Ever Ate Las Vegas" episode.
Nuno had dim sum!
At the China Poblano just enjoying time.

There was a film crew happening in our hotel while in Vegas and I figured it was for the Food Network when it was in a restaurant filming. Well, Nuno, the ever vigilant media guy immediately recognized Ahbed from Community and went all paparazzi.
Yeah, we're small town, things like this are exciting for us.
The Fashion Show Mall.
One of our reservations was for Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill. Talk about cliche, eh? I know. But, woah, what an experience his restaurant was! My goodness, we just loved Mesa Grill inside Caesar's Palace.
These corn muffins were totally out-of-this-world. So tender and moist, we both just loved them.
This is Flay's Shrimp Tamale, which is also really super delish.
And the Chicken Tacos were great. Nuno's bent on trying to remake the sauce pictured here.
Just a few night time shots.
There is always something happening on the Strip at any hour of the day. I'm am sometimes so sleepless and up at all hours even during the night (especially when Owen was small), I wish there was a live web-cam of the strip!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

image heavy Vegas

Vegas is a wild city and there is hardly enough time to see and do everything. So it really helps to go in with a game-plan and tackle the city according to what you're most interested in. 
I booked us on a tour of the Neon Boneyard, a museum of old Vegas signs. So worth the time and effort it took to get there. 


It's really an amazing trip through time and our guide really enlightened us to the history and culture of Vegas with humour. 

I love and collect fonts (what graphic designer doesn't?). It's so much fun to see these up close and personal.
This is a top must-see while in Vegas.

As is the Fremont District. I'm tellin' ya, it's was so tempting to stay on the strip and lounge by the pool. But Fremont is the older Vegas, it's the area that started everything and a riot to walk through.
 Lots of nostalgic fun here.
At night there is a canopy of light, but we didn't stay to witness that spectacle. That just gives us another reason to come back.
The Beatles have a Cirque du Soliel show at the Mirage hotel devoted to them.
 And look at this lounge!
I told Nuno, if they ever do Vegas up for the Rolling Stones they way they did for the Beatles we are back pronto!

OK, more about our dining in the city. We stumbled into an old Vegas joint in Fremont called the Main Street Station. Of course you can gamble here, but we stopped in for some microbrews and sushi. Yes, a combo you wouldn't expect but worked for us. 
Here I am enjoying the King's (i.e. Elvis') Klocht and Nuno's swigin' their IPA.
One of my life culinary to-do's was to eat at a Thomas Keller restaurant. French Laundry is off the list, but the best we could do was to have breakfast at Bouchon. 
While dining out I always ask myself what I'd like to eat at that given moment, and waffles where what I was feeling while at Bouchon.
What a highlight this was.  Even more Vegas exploits to come...