Saturday, September 29, 2012

scallops with hazelnut browned butter

This dinner of Scallops with Hazelnut Browned Butter from Everyday Food Light was a dinner I almost didn't consider making. It didn't look very interesting and seemed like it could easily go wrong. Between removing the skins from the hazelnuts, to the risk of overcooking the butter and scallops, I felt like we might just skip this recipe altogether. But a sale on frozen scallops (President's Choice vacuum sealed) enticed me enough to try it out anyways.
It's certainly not the sort of dinner I think a two year old would enjoy, but on Friday Owen came home with a fever and went to bed at 5pm. That left Nuno and I all the time in the world to make this dinner which actually turned into one of our most romantic dinners in months! Probably the biggest pain in the butt was removing the skins from the hazelnuts. I've done this once before so I knew what I was getting into and through that experience I learned that roasting them in the oven and then rubbing the skins off with a kitchen towel works well although time consuming. Once that task was taken care of this dinner came together in mere moments. Starting with a very hot non-stick skillet you brown your butter (took us only 1 minute to achieve), add vinegar and chopped hazelnuts and set aside. The best trick to this dinner was to half the scallop width wise. It ensured a quick and even cook, more surface to sear and twice the scallops! We returned the pan to high heat the scallops are seasoned with salt and pepper. Once all the scallops were in the pan the first ones were already seared. Literally moments and they were perfect. Sweet and succulent, I couldn't stop myself from snacking on them like popcorn. Served with fresh baby arugula and couscous, this really was like a dinner out. I highly recommend this dinner for special occasions because with such little effort, quick prep the results are nothing short of brilliant.

Friday, September 28, 2012

spiced tomato soup

A month ago I purchased a 25lb box of roma tomatoes. This was a pretty big commitment because I decided they'd be best used for oven roasted tomatoes. I spent a Saturday roasting the tomatoes, 2 trays at a time for a grand total of 10 batches! What we ended up with was a whole load of oven roasted tomatoes we froze to use all winter.
Since the tomato blitz we've had our tomatoes in several different ways, but probably my favourite is this Spiced Tomato Soup from Everyday Food Light. It's dead simple and definitely one of the best tomato soups I've ever tasted.
What I loved most about it was the seasoning, it's so spot-on. Just the right amount of spice to warm you but mellow enough that the tomato flavour stands out. The recipe indicates to strain after pureeing, but I just removed the skins and ate it without the straining step. Oh, and I didn't mention that not only is this healthy, it's super light at 162 calories per serving!?! So in just about every way, you've gotta love this soup.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

monkey wrap

This is a fun little breakfast idea that found all three of us fighting over the last piece. This Monkey Wrap is published in the Fall issue of What's Cooking magazine.
Spread peanut butter (or other nut or nut-free butter) on a flour tortilla, sprinkle with granola and wrap around a banana. It's quick and on the go for when we scurry to make it out the door weekdays at 8am.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

summer beef and rice casserole

Here's our unplanned Summer Beef and Rice Casserole from the September issue of Everyday Food magazine.
This so easy - so, so easy. We invited my mom over for dinner and what I really liked about having this was that I was in the kitchen for only 10 minutes. It was very nice to be able to spend so much time with mom and not slave away making dinner. I'll give a bit of a description as the photo doesn't really do a whole lot of justice. I added rice to the leftover meat sauce from yesterday's gnocchi dinner. Then this casserole is topped with thinly sliced zucchini, bread crumbs and parmesan. Since we don't eat these sort of dinners very often it was a bit of a nostalgic trip, tasting like the old fashioned casseroles we grew up eating. We all really enjoyed it.

Monday, September 24, 2012

gnocchi with quick meat sauce

The September issue of Everyday Food magazine features Gnocchi with Quick Meat Sauce.
This was a very quick and easy dinner to make that went over very well with Owen. He loves gnocchi and it's been ages since we had it last. As he was loving his dinner he kept pointing to the gnocchi and asking what they are called. "Gnocchi", I'd say, pronouncing it very slowly and clearly. "Yucky, it's not yucky, I like it!" These little dumplings are far too easy to eat and this sauce paired very nicely. Only after finishing this sauce did I realize that it makes enough for a second meal. Looks like we're eating Summer Beef and Rice Casserole tomorrow.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

square bake-athon

We were looking forward to a family reunion picnic today with my husband's side of the family. In potluck style everyone chose their contribution and I penciled us in for desserts. After changing my mind even up to the day before, I settled on a couple of my grandma's best desserts - brownies and pumpkin pie bars. But once I got baking I threw in a couple Anna Olson favourites including date squares and s'mores bars.
That's a whole lot of sweetness there. Baked with love, I was really pleased with how they all came out. Then last night we get the text that the picnic is cancelled. Eek!
If you're close and want a take-away box, come over and we'll load you right up. Otherwise it looks like our offices are in for a sweet surprise tomorrow morning.

Friday, September 21, 2012

pasta with easy italian meat sauce

The other night we decided to try Pasta with Easy Italian Meat Sauce from Great Food Fast. This is a really nice fall dinner that satisfied all three of us.
It's a very straight-forward dinner that came together with everything we already had in the house. Owen, who regularly tells us he doesn't like pasta didn't have trouble finishing this dinner. I found the sauce a little bland and probably wouldn't make it again, but for simplicity and ease I'm pretty happy with the results of this dinner.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

tandoori chicken kebabs with peach chutney

Seems like we're on a bit of a chicken kebab kick lately. I think we're doing our best to try and get the last little bit of summer bbq out we can. This Tandoori Chicken with Peach Cutney is from Everyday Food Light.
We made the marinade in the morning and let the chicken sit all day to absorb the flavour. It's a yogurt based marinade with jalapeno, garlic, lime and ginger. That little extra bit of effort made things very quick and simple after work, where all we had to do was skewer the meat and grill. While the meat was bbq'ing I made the peach chutney. Our peaches were quite firm but that really worked for this recipe because they didn't break down completely. The longer this chutney simmered the more caramelized it became meaning it had a real nice depth of flavour by the time we ate it. Served over basmati rice we all just loved this dinner including our dining guest. This is a real winner of a recipe we highly recommend.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

couple of shows

We probably only make it out to a tenth of the number of concerts we used to since becoming parents, but this year has been good to us all things considered. I'll typically see reunion shows of the bands I grew up with (although some bands never called it quits). I don't know if anyone else out there has experienced this, but I think at some point in my late 20's and early 30's I felt like I wasn't able to connect with very much new music anymore. It recently dawned on me that maybe I'd reached an age where anyone making new music was a whole lot younger than me. That was OK because I still really love the music of my teens and 20's, but a few bands have came onto my radar and become some of my recent music staples. Wild Nothing and Wye Oak are a couple of examples. We saw Wye Oak play the Horseshoe on Monday and Wild Nothing at the Great Hall last night.
Wild Nothing had the most incredible opening act, DIIV, I enjoyed so much I went over to the merch table and bought their album. When DIIV first came on stage I immediately expected dark, heavy stoner rock (I mean the drummer was wearing a touque and Hellraiser shirt). Then they began and their swirling chiming guitars immediately brought me back to my years of shoegaze. As their name suggests, they aren't the reincarnate of Slowdive but they definelty sound more akin to Ride. They played with exuberance and energy and the smile across my face didn't finish till the end of Wild Nothing's set.
Wild Nothing were fantastic live. I wasn't sure how their music would translate live because I always imagined it being created in Jack Tatum's bedroom. But as a full band they managed to take the songs I've loved for the past two years and flesh them out to a full and danceable live show.
We arrived too late to Wye Oak and because the club has a habit of overcrowding and packing in I couldn't see the band on stage. But they sounded great and it was still an awesome night out.
On our way to the show last night we saw this rainbow over Lake Ontario in Mississauga. This was Owen's first rainbow and luckily it was probably the most clear and full rainbow I'd ever seen before. Owen thought it was pretty cool and once it disappeared he asked for us to make new ones for him. To distract Owen from begging for more, Nuno started immitating this 'double rainbow guy' which made Owen laugh hysterically that he joined right in.

Monday, September 17, 2012

buffalo brew bash 2012

Oh yeah, Octoberfest is in the air! Nuno was itching to get over to Buffalo for the Brew Bash at Coca Cola Field (Buffalo Bison's stadium). This event was held by Consumers Beverage this past Saturday. $25 bucks got us in with a 3 oz tasting glass along with 20 tickets. There were over 50 breweries represented and it was an all-out beer lovin' party.
We started out with the plan to hit up particular breweries and matched samples to our general tastes. I like super light and fruity and Nuno likes strong IPA's. My personal winner was Community Beer Work's "Frank" which was very fragrant and unlike any beer I've tasted before.
As the event wore on I think I stopped writing sampling notes and just enjoyed the setting and people.
Here I am enjoying a beer sample in the dugout. 

I'm still trying to figure out how much beer I drank because I came out with 2 rows of unused tickets still in hand. However, some unscrupulous vendors didn't take tickets, or maybe I was a little too tipsy to drop them off. But whatever the case, by the 8pm closing I was definitely feeling it, so it looked like it was going to be a long night for us.

We took the NFTA (B-lo's rail) to Allentown for part of the evening enjoying many places including Allen Street Hardware, Founding Fathers, The Pan American inside the Hotel Lafayette and finishing our night at an old haunt for us, Mohawk Place for Transmission Dance Night (which brought back floods of Red Square memories).
Of all the places we enjoyed in Buffalo, Nuno and I just can't stop reminiscing about Founding Fathers Pub. This place is a little slice of American History in a tiny little charming and unassuming location.
It's like stepping back in time and into some place really special as you stride over the horseshoe entry. When we arrived we walked in amongst a group of uniformed Navy sailors stopping in for a drink.
This pub is decorated in a charming century old style. Lots of flags, framed portraits of past presidents and wood detail. Founding Fathers even offers complimentary nachos with con queso cheese and chili. Yep, we love this place. The people of Buffalo are the greatest group of party people you could ever want to be around. Everywhere we go and every time we hang out in WNY we have the most amazing nights out.

Friday, September 14, 2012

shredded rainbow salad

This month's issue of Everyday Food magazine features a Jamie Oliver recipe. I first got into Jamie Oliver 12 years ago with Nuno when Naked Chef aired on TVO in the wee morning hours after our Saturday night out at the bars. The Brit-pop, the scooter, his general cuteness! The Naked Chef was probably the catalyst for me to even get into the kitchen and actually consider it fun and not a chore. I'm pretty sure the first recipe I ever cooked from was from Jamie Oliver. This month Jamie shared a recipe for a Shredded Rainbow Salad. A collection of simple and healthy produce creating a gorgeous salad which Jamie proclaims is a very kid friendly recipe. Yes, I was so looking forward to trying this.
Here's our finished salad and "it's all too beaut-tee-ful". So what's the story here? I never took the time to consider this is really a fancy coleslaw. And really what kid loves coleslaw not drenched in gobs of mayo-style dressing? But that's not what this one is all about. However psychedelic and beautiful this is, was Jamie on hallucinogens thinking kids would eat this? Was he more mesmerized by the pretty colours than to take a taste? Because I did, and neither Nuno nor I got too far into our helpings. Owen didn't touch his and we still have 3/4 of this salad around 3 days later. The dressing was just odd... leave it to the British to throw worcestershire sauce in a coleslaw dressing - that just didn't work for me. What I did like about this salad were the pears (which are in season and delicious right now) and the mint were lovely additions. But come on Jamie! Let's bridge the gap between healthy and kid friendly without tipping totally off the scale!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

greek chicken pitas with quinoa tabbouleh

The other week we tried Lemon Chicken with Tabbouleh, once finished I kept reminicing about the flavours and had a few ideas on how to boost this already delicious dinner into something possibly better. So here's my rework which created Greek Chicken Pitas with Quinoa Tabbouleh.
2 chicken breasts cut into 2 inch chunks & skewered
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 tomato, diced
1/2 english cucumber, diced
large handful of parsley, chopped
small handful of mint, chopped
3 soft pitas
Quinoa Tabbouleh:
Cook 1 cup of quinoa according to package directions. Let it set aside to cool. Meanwhile, mix 1 tbsp of olive oil with 1 tbsp of lemon juice, salt and pepper for tabbouleh dressing. Add cucumber, tomatoes, parsley and mint to cooled quinoa and mix with dressing.
Greek Chicken Kebab:
Mix remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil with 1 tbsp of lemon juice, garlic clove, salt and pepper together till blended. Barbeque skewered chicken basting with marinade. Serve inside your favourite soft pita topped with tzatziki.

We liked this so much I had to share it on this blog. I know it's really simple, but it's really good and very easy. Owen loved his portion as well. Here's his Meze Platter which also included hummus.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

summer peach cobbler

This summer I've found myself scaling back on baking and making desserts. But with the rain and cooler temps this past weekend I was interested in baking for the first time in months. At the very end of the peach season, we had some peaches that were slightly firm and not as juicy as I like. This meant that they were probably best used for baking, so I made Anna Olson's Summer Peach Cobbler.
I'm all about quick, fuss-free, home-style baking and this recipe really suits the bill. It was so much fun to bake! Anna has a clever trick for cutting in butter. Grating your cold butter against a box grater! Worked like a charm. I formed my topping into biscuits, which I'm not sure if that was how it was supposed to finish. Anna's recipes online don't include finished photos and this one didn't include much of a description other than to 'spoon the dough'. After baking this I now see that you really could just drop tablespoons down and it would work out great. But I'm pleased with how our version turned out.
The biscuits were fragrant with vanilla and the addition of oats created a very nice texture. They were firm and crispy on top and moist inside. The peaches were covered in a caramel syrup which all rendered into a delicious sauce which was delicious with vanilla ice cream. Together with my parents, our family had it as part of our Sunday night dinner and it went over really well.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

cappuccino parfaits

We had a tub of light ricotta hanging around and I was racking my brain to find a of a way to use it. Most of the time I’d associate ricotta with savory cooking, but while flipping through Great Food Fast I stumbled upon Cappuccino Parfaits. I did a quick read-through and realized we had everything in the house to jump right into these. The blender was fired up after making one of Owen's breakfast smoothies so I used it for this recipe instead of the food processor as the recipe suggests. These came together in just 2 minutes start to finish and the results were nothing short of fantastic!
The recipe is simply light ricotta, sugar and instant espresso powder blitzed until smooth. Crushed amaretti cookies provided a really nice contrast between crunchy and smooth. Although it might initially seem like pudding type of dessert, I'd compare the tangy and rich flavour similar to a cheesecake. I'd definitely make these again and will keep this idea around for a dessert option when impromptu dinner guests come over.

Monday, September 10, 2012

strawberry peach breakfast smoothie

I remember Owen was about 9 months when he started drinking smoothies with us. For whatever reason, probably just the winter months, we stopped making them. But when peach season rolls around, enjoying smoothies is one of the first things that come to mind.
Fresh peaches are probably my favourite fruit to work into a smoothie because they add sweetness and body like no other fruit can. Since it's been so long I decided to reintroduce Owen to smoothies and now he's asking for them every morning. Here's how I make our favourite Strawberry Peach Smoothie.
In a blender blitz a combination of:
2 large fresh peaches
1 cup frozen strawberries
1/2 cup greek yogurt (plain or strawberry)
1/4 cup milk
squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Add more milk if you enjoy a more fluid smoothie.
This literally takes just 2 minutes from start to finish.

Friday, September 7, 2012

risotto with peas and prosciutto

I'm surprised I never blogged about Risotto with Peas and Prosciutto before. 
It is a favourite go-to family dinner around here and if you haven't tried it I recommend you do. One of the many reasons we love it (besides being crazy delicious) is because it's a great in-a-pinch dinner as all the ingredients are always on hand. If you don't keep something like prosciutto and parmesan around, wait till they go on sale. They can always be purchased at close to half price, which is when I buy and keep around since both last for ages in the fridge sealed in their original packaging. I didn't find a formal recipe to link to but with risotto, like pizza, you really can add whatever you like. But peas and prosciutto is definitely our favourite. So I'll share the recipe along with a few other tips on how I make it since I'm getting lots of feedback that people are reading this blog and taking my recipe recommendations (thank you!!). I just hope anyone who reads this blog isn't a food expert, because if you are I'm sure you shake your head knowingly as you follow ("why does she insist on freezing her coffee beans, doesn't she know it destroys the bean's natural oils?!"). Yeah, I'm no expert, but I have a few tricks up my sleeve as I cook through my cookbooks.
First, I love to crispy bake prosciutto. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Taking your first baking sheet lined with parchment, layer your prosciutto slices. Then lay a second layer of parchment and top with your second baking sheet. I hope my photo explains it better than my phrasing because after 10 minutes your resulting prosciutto is beautiful, golden and flat!
Of course, you can just cook your prosciutto the way you cook bacon with a skillet, but I prefer the method above. On with the rest of the recipe:
One box of reduced-sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
2 tbsp butter
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 c Arborio rice
1/2 c dry white wine (or dry vermouth)
1 c frozen peas, thawed
1/2 c grated fresh Parmesan
1 pkg thinly sliced prosciutto
So my second trick with risotto which I find works a lot better than most standard recipe's instruction is to take your largest measuring cup (in my case a 4 cup pyrex measure) and heat the broth until it's just short of boiling in the microwave. I'll also boil a kettle full of water as part of my prep in case I need more liquid than the broth can provide.
I make risotto in my largest non-stick skillet. Starting over medium heat, melt the butter and add the onion cooking until soft (5 mins or so). Season with salt and pepper. Add rice, stirring for about 2 minutes. Add wine and cook until absorbed. Now is the time to add the hot chicken broth 1 cup at a time (stir until almost all liquid is absorbed before adding more), until rice is tender, 25 to 30 minutes total. Add peas and cook till bright green, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan. And what I like to do with the crispy prosciutto is to snip it with my kitchen shears instead of painstakingly chopping it. I find it easiest to cut it right above, that way there isn't any mess. Serve topped with more cheese.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

crustless vegetable & ham quiche

There is probably only a handful of foods I'll take a pass on and pastry crust is one of them. I don't bake or eat fruit or meat pies but I love quiche. I'll eat the filling of a quiche and leave the crust. So to me this recipe for Crustless Vegetable & Ham Quiche featured in the current fall issue of What's Cooking is a huge epiphany.
Everything about this recipe is wonderful. The majority of the filling is grated vegetables, so anyone with an aversion to vegetables might not detected them. We opted for sharp white cheddar cheese, used only half of the olive oil suggested and left out the asparagus (only b/c we couldn't find it in store). I'd probably stick to all of these substitutions when making it again (which we certainly will). We had this with a side of my cousin's tomato and blue cheese soup and it was a real match. The other great thing about this quiche is that it is fantastic the next day cold for breakfast!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

labour day weekend

We are getting so predictable with our vacations since Owen arrived. Especially when you keep a blog, it becomes a lot easier to track what you did and when you did it. This year we did a big repeat on 2011's labour day by heading to Sarnia for the weekend. I think one of the main differences is that last year was one of our final visits with my grandfather before he passed away. That's why going to Sarnia to visit family is important to me. We don't see them as much as I wish we could, but every single time we go we have a wonderful and fulfilling visit and this weekend was no exception.
Here's Owen and 'grandma' (his great grandma). He was a very good and sweet boy during our stay with her. He really did pour on the charm.
When planning our visit I asked my grandma how she was enjoying the beach. She told me she hasn't been in years! See, this was one of my most vivid memories of visiting her in the summer, our long and drawn out beach days. Hours past "too long in the sun" my grandma parked us in the sand for long beach days. What a surprise to hear she's not going anymore considering how much she loved it. I was determined she must go with us.
After an initial hesitation she made it out and even got a swim in. It was a great albeit much shorter day on the beach.
My Aunt & Uncle hosted amazing dinners twice during our stay. Owen just loved their trampoline especially when Nuno gave him big flips. He was super hammy at their house.
Speaking of ham, what trip to Sarnia is complete without a trip to the animal farm?
Strangely enough Owen wasn't really into the animals, he wanted to climb all over the benches and fences instead. Since we've been to the zoo 2 weekends in a row the novelty must have worn off.
While he was not looking at anything around him, he got the surprise of his life when he accidentally stepped on this snake. Owen's a kid who fears nothing, but he's been telling me that he's scared of snakes. However, he's never actually seen a real one! This was a pretty good introduction since he saw how harmless and small a snake can be.
Maybe we didn't have to go to the effort of the animal farm considering my grandmother lives next door to a young couple with a pet potbelly pig. This pig just about melted my heart, he was seriously the most adorable pet you could imagine. He was super affectionate and even wagged his tail.
This smarmy smile (Humpty Dumpty - not me) can mean only one thing... the rest of this entry is devoted to photos of one of our favourite places to take Owen, Storybook Gardens in London.
"London Ontario Bridge"
Owen's turn for a smarmy smile.
Owen put his mouth around the tip of the teapot's spout just to see how his dad would react. Yep, it wasn't pretty.
Owen recently learn to pee standing up. Oh, and this picture is of the splash pad.
Short of climbing mountains, no one can say this kid didn't have an eventful summer. This was probably one of the busiest and most enjoyable summers I've ever had!