Thursday, May 31, 2012

potato leek soup

Leeks are now in season so I made Potato Leek Soup from Great Food Fast. 
This is a very easy recipe, almost rivaling caldo verde in it's simplicity. It is actually quite similar to it as well but I almost like this soup better. The onion flavour of the leeks is such a wonderful pairing to the cream and potato. Each flavour compliments the other in a very simple and nice way. A topping of fresh chives and ground pepper and this soup is delicious warm on a rainy day or cold on one of our warm spring days. This is, hands down, the best soup we've had from Great Food Fast and a real keeper.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

salmon with spicy cucumber-pineapple salsa

Can you believe this weather? It was incredibly hot and humid here on Monday. I know it's still only May, but we're in full-swing with the flavours of summer. The oven is on hiatus, stove-top cooking is at a minimum and our Weber grill is fired up!
This past weekend we took our first trip of the season to the farm stand and came home with 6 mini cucumbers specifically for this dinner of Salmon with Spicy Cucumber-Pineapple Salsa from Everyday Food Light. And, wow! This is a must-try recipe and a real keeper for the upcoming months. The reason we enjoyed this so much is because it includes some of our current favourite flavours of lime and fresh coriander. Paired with fresh fruit, this really was an incredibly fresh summer-y dinner. It's great how the texture of the cucumber is so similar to the pineapple. The cucumber basically served to fill out the salsa without making it too over-the-top sweet. My goodness, there is something about salmon the the grill - there really isn't anything like it. Melt-in-your- mouth and smoky. We had white basmati rice on the side with the leftover salsa and rice it made for a refreshing cold salad.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

lighter cobb salad

I seriously love cobb salads, so much so I've been looking forward to this dinner for a long time. Now, imagine taking something you love and making it better for you - now that's a real treat! This Lighter Cobb Salad from Everyday Food Light was absolutely fantastic.
The reason this salad is considered light is their suggestion to hold back on the blue cheese and bacon as well as remove the egg yolk (which is a great idea b/c I feel you never get the flavour from the yolk in this salad but I enjoy the egg white texture). The dressing is light as well but I don't suggest using the full amount of buttermilk the recipe recommends. Add it to the other dressing ingredients till you get the texture you like.

Monday, May 28, 2012

blueberry-lemon johnnycakes (pancake-style)

I woke up this past Sunday morning with the inspiration to go out for breakfast. Then the idea of washing up and packing Owen (who was feeling under the weather) to most likely be disappointed at one of this city's not-so-great diners ultimately changed my mind. But it actually turned me on to the idea of making something new and different for a breakfast here at home. 
Between corn bread, polenta and corn muffins we've become huge fans of cornmeal. I know I've gone from finding its gritty texture unpalatable, to seriously doing a 180 on the idea cooking and baking with it. A few months ago I made some delicious Blueberry-Orange Cornmeal Muffins from Everyday Food's Jan/Feb 2012 issue (I never blogged about them but they were to-die-for) and reflecting on these I decided to try making Johnnycakes. These are basically a pancake using part cornmeal. A big fat Google confirmed that my idea isn't original at all, but gave me a place to work from and come up with these seriously delicious blueberry-lemon johnnycakes (made pancake-style).
Blueberry-Lemon Johnnycakes
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup flour (scant)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg + 1 egg white
grated zest & juice from one lemon
1/4 cup oil
3/4 cup milk
1 cup frozen blueberries, defrosted

Heat nonstick skillet over medium-low. Blend dry ingredients in large bowl. In second bowl lightly beat eggs and mix in lemon juice, zest, milk and oil. Add wet to dry and mix until just combined. Add blueberries and stir (don't overmix as blueberries run out - and if they do don't worry about it since it doesn't really show in the final pancake). Let batter stand for 5 minutes. Cook just like pancakes and serve with warm maple syrup.

This recipe makes approx 20 pancakes.

Friday, May 25, 2012

chili-spiced steak with grilled onion tacos

We are all about picnicking these days. We packed up the mini bbq and headed out to Happy Rolph's Animal Farm the other night. Not only is there a farm - there is also a bird sanctuary, waterfront trail (of Lake Ontario), playground and picnic facility all just minutes from our home. It's been completely redone this year and their grand reopening this past Victoria Day long weekend.  
Owen loved meeting all the animals. And I really like that they are no longer within reach of the public.
Our picnic dinner included Chile-Spiced Steak with Grilled Onion Tacos from the Everyday Food June 2011 issue. Not following the recipe exactly, I made a topping of sautéed poblano peppers and sliced red onions seasoned with some flank steak marinade. We then added aged white cheddar and green salsa. 
Owen’s telling us these days that he’s not into meat. I’m planning on sneaking it in where I can but for this dinner we let him go vegetarian with a pinto & refried bean cheese quesadilla with a side of avocados. Avocados never loose their novelty with Owen.
After just 2 picnics, Owen’s now asking to go on more!
I love the idea! So I’m almost wondering if we should implement a once a week picnic day throughout the coming summer months. It might be a neat meal time challenge, so stay tuned.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

cheddar scallion cornbread muffins

Victoria Day Monday morning I made some Cheddar Scallion Cornbread Muffins for breakfast. This is another of Anna Olson's recipes she has available for download online through her website. All the ingredients for these muffins were pantry items, except for the buttermilk. All I did instead was add a tablespoon of vinegar to the milk measurement and let it sit for 5 minutes. Homemade buttermilk!
Owen, as eager as ever, helped mix the wet and dry ingredients and line the muffin tray. These baked up really quick but in the future I recommend not using paper muffin liners but spray instead. Any of the cheddar in the muffins ended up sticking to the paper liners. These are, of course, savoury muffins and the combination of cheddar, corn and green onion is so complimentary together. Super delish and something totally different that would be great as a dinner side. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

apple butter cinnamon raisin loaf

With my new Kitchenaid, I thought it would be appropriate to christen the appliance with an Anna Olson recipe so I choose to try her Apple Butter Cinnamon Raisin Loaf. First I went to Bulk Barn and found they sell apple butter at the most competitive price (what was I thinking buying PC black label variety before?!). Once I had all my ingredients I got baking to only realize this recipe didn't require the stand mixer at all. That's not the only thing it didn't require. This recipe does not contain any sugar (white refined or brown). All the natural sweetness comes from the apples. It also doesn't require any refined white flour - just whole wheat. And finally, when you didn't think it could get any healthier, this recipe doesn't include any oil or butter. I guess the only fat would be from the two egg yolks. Man, I was starting to think this was a recipe my mother-in-law concocted because she's notoriously making sugar and flour substitutions in her baking. 
But with all that's missing from this loaf, it's not short on flavour. It's actually sort of miraculous how delicious it is. First off, it's a super moist cake that doesn't taste too healthy either. All three of us loved it and I plan on making it again to share because of how excited I am about this recipe in particular.

So I wanted to pass along the recipe for this. Anna Olson's website includes many recipes for .pdf download so please stop around for some inspiration.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

homemade burgers

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend. This Victoria Day long weekend brought us so many good times and great food, it might just take me an entire week to recap all the goodness. I think the most memorable event of the weekend was our first ever attempt at making burgers from scratch with a meat grinder.
This all began when I picked up some fresh sirloin steaks. I chose this cut because the cap of fat along the side was a great way for us to control how much fat went into our meat.
From here Nuno got to play. He sliced the beef into long strips and then chilled the meat in the freezer for 5 minutes before passing it through the grinder on the coarse grind setting. Then he went in for a second pass through the finer grind for our burgers. No eggs, no breadcrumbs - just our fresh ground meat formed into patties and chilled.

We then decided to take them to-go for a picnic.
Because these burgers are the star of the meal we had veggies and dip on the side. I always keep fresh veggies around for snacks and we all enjoy them with ranch dip.
Our little grill works really well and we love to just set up a spot on the grass and eat off a blanket. 
The burger family! Our burgers were lightly salted and peppered just before grilling. A topping of gruyere cheese and a pile of caramelized onions for ours while Owens had cheddar and ketchup.
Our burgers were melt-in-your-mouth with a real beefy taste. The texture was really light and the flavour tasted like a sandwich version of French onion soup.
It really was a huge success - the burgers and the picnic. We've always really loved picnics and eating outdoors but because of Owen we've scaled it way back in the past few years. This year he really seems into it. For years our favourite spot has been Queenston Heights Park. I'd say this is one of Ontario's best kept secrets because when you come here you pretty much get your own little piece of well manicured real estate. There is hardly ever anyone there and I can't figure out why. It's picture perfect with a gorgeous view of the Niagara River from high up on the escarpment. There is a playground and splash pad with well maintained bathroom facilities. It's also perfectly situated near bike paths along the Niagara River Parkway. We recently installed a seat for Owen on the back of Nuno's bike, so we took our bikes along with us for a ride in 75 degree temperatures. 

After years of impromptu picnics, I thought I'd share my picnic checklist:
• Barbeque (if using), 2 barbecue lighters & 2 propane tanks or briquettes, lighter fluid with matches, bbq scouring brush
Picnic basket 
Ice Packs
Thermos with water, juice, lemonade etc.
Salt & Pepper
Tin Foil
Metal spatula
Table Cloth w/ weights
Outdoor games & toys 
• Bug Repellant
• Sun Screen
• Band-aids
• Wet Ones
• 2 Plastic bags, one for garbage and one for dirty dishes
It also helps to write a list as you prep your food. Anything prepared, write it down as you finish so you don't forget it. Then imagine what you'd use to assemble the food while on the picnic and pack that as well. Even forgetting a sharp knife can foil plans. Once on your way there really isn't anything else to do but just relax and enjoy.

Friday, May 18, 2012

my grand prize winning recipe

Something very cool and super-flattering happened to me last week. I won the grand prize in the Olson Recipe Maker Contest for my recipe for my Panang Curry Noodles.
Let me start at the beginning. Anna & Micheal Olson have an app which is a recipe generator. I downloaded right when it was introduced and have played around with it quite a bit since. How it works is you enter random ingredients that you’d like to use and this app creates recipe options using your list. It also includes tutorial videos with Anna & Michael. When I caught wind of the contest on Anna Olson’s Facebook she asked for anyone interested to submit their original pasta recipe for a chance to win a Kitchenaid Stand Mixer (& loads of other prizes). My recent Panang Chicken recipe came to mind and when I had a few moments to spare I entered the contest back at the beginning of this year. I’ve never entered a contest before, so I was really nervous & cautious, and of course never expected to win. Come to find out last week that my recipe was awarded the grand prize! So I’ll share it here (and feel free to try it and share it as well).
Panang Curry Noodles
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons peeled &
finely grated fresh ginger
1 to 2 tablespoons light-brown sugar
salt to taste
boneless skinless 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

half a package of Thai rice noodles or 1/4 pkg of linguine

Boil noodles according to package directions, drain.

Whisk peanut butter, rice vinegar, soy sauce, grated ginger, brown sugar and salt, 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 milk in skillet until heated through. Add curry paste until fully incorporated. Add peanut butter mixture to pan and mix until combined. Add chicken and cooked noodles till just reheated through.
Serve with scallions and chopped peanuts for garnish.

Some notes about this recipe: 
• I came up with this based on my favourite item at Sahala Thai Restaurant on St. Paul Street in St. Catharines. There’s nothing better than the real deal, but when Owen arrived going out for Thai regularly just didn’t fit our lifestyle any more. So this is my riff on it.
• I recommend using light peanut butter and light coconut milk, the flavour is the same with those  substitutions. You could also use pretty much your choice of protein instead of chicken thighs here.
Vegetarians - cubed eggplant or tofu would be great here!!
• With rice noodles this is similar to Pad Thai, but I almost like it better over jasmine rice.

Thank you Peace Point Entertainment, The Olsons, Kitchenaid and everyone involved in the judging process.
Here’s my prize in the kitchen! It fits in perfectly, I love it. The latest feature of a glass bowl will help ensure I will never under-mix another cake batter. 
Since it was shipped to me it also came with a bonus prize - feet of bubblewrap! A toy for me and a toy for Owen.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

oven roasted tomatoes

I came home one day last week with 5 lbs of roma tomatoes to oven roast. There is a great method of roasting them at a high heat (500 degrees) for 20 minutes. Just half them, remove the seeds & pulp and roast skin side down. I added a head of garlic (cloves crushed, still in paper) with some thyme and rosemary and drizzled olive oil over. Once cooled you can store them for up to a week refrigerated air-tight.

So with my tomato gold-mine I made a Roasted Tomato Frittata. I based this loosely on Mark Bittman's recipe.
1 baking potato, peeled & sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 large white onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
4 eggs + 4 egg whites, beaten
8 oven roasted tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/4 cup parsley, roughly chopped
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat butter or oil in a 10-inch ovenproof skillet, preferably nonstick (I used cast iron), and turn heat to medium-high. When butter melts, or oil is hot, add potato and onion and cook, stirring only occasionally, until potato is nicely browned on both sides. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, lightly beat eggs and stir in remaining ingredients.
When potatoes are browned, turn heat to low and wait a minute, then add eggs. If necessary, move solids around so they are evenly distributed.
Cook until frittata is set on edges, then transfer to oven and bake until mixture is barely set on top. Serve in wedges, hot or at room temperature.

Then with the rest of our oven-roasted tomatoes I made a simple spaghetti sauce. These tomatoes are so sweet, they really are irresistible and you may never want to buy bottled tomato sauce again. All you do is take your oven roasted tomatoes, a tablespoon of anchovy paste and blitz with an immersion blender. I added some of the water from the cooked pasta to thin out the sauce until I had a nice consistency. Served with grated parmesan, salt & pepper to taste - this was simple and wonderful dinner all of us really enjoyed.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

chicken tostada salad

Last Friday night we enjoyed Chicken Tostada Salad from Everyday Food Light. Ever since Cinco De Mayo I've been wanting more Mexican dinners and this one sounded really delicious. But did it ever take a long time to prep!
It seemed like there were a lot of steps involved before the dinner was actually finished. Possibly because I added the extra side of a crema made from sour cream, chili powder, lime juice and scallions. I was OK with this amount of work since it happened upon on a Friday night, a night I usually don't feel pressure to get on with things for the next day. So I was happy to putter on this dinner.
As I was making Owen his portion I ended up using the kitchen scissors to cut up his tortilla. Once his was ready it looked just like nachos, so I told him he was eating chips/nachos. The kid loved it. And really, when you think about it, this really is just a slightly more formal version of nachos. So a kid friendly dinner tag is in order. But it was really super-fresh and light without leaving you feel like you need a snack after dinner.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

cayenne-rubbed chicken with avocado salsa and black beans with lime and scallions

That might be one of the longest blog post titles I've ever written because just about every single ingredient in this dinner gets a mention. So, when you think about it, it's really not a whole lot of ingredients that went into this dinner. Just a few really nice and fresh flavours that all compliment each other.
To start, the Cayenne Rubbed Chicken with Avocado Salsa. I was kinda 'meh' about the rub. I wish there was almost a more creative spice blend that might have worked. We actually had to rinse off Owen's chicken portion because of the level of heat. The quick avocado and red onion relish was super tasty and it definitely enhanced the flavour of the chicken. The Black Beans with Lime side was great, but again I think the spice blend could use a little tweeking. But everything balanced out if you manage to get all three in one bite.

Monday, May 14, 2012

handmade mothers day

I hope everyone enjoyed their Mother's Day yesterday.
We always brunch at Legends on the Niagara Golf Course for Mother’s Day with my parents and my sister made it out to join us as well. The food was outstanding! Owen loved the chocolate dipped strawberries and I swear the kid was on a sugar high because he had a lot of difficulty sitting through the second half of our brunch.
I received a couple of the most thoughtful gifts yesterday. Owen's really blew me away, he gave me two necklaces! One he made at child care and it’s a shrinky dink in the shape of a butterfly he coloured with a written massage on the back side. It’s attached to the chain with a cute ‘made with love’ charm. I combined it with the other necklace Owen gave me which included charms and swarovski crystals. He also made a hand print flower card with an adorable sentiment printed inside.
Lucky, lucky mom I am!
The other tradition from last year was going to the HandMade Market Spring craft show. Katie came along this time and Iwas thrilled for her to experience this show. It’s smaller than most of the shows in Toronto, but the caliber of crafts is equal. Katie’s an amazing knitter and some of our gifts to her on her past birthday were knitting and crocheting books.
We both found items at the same vendor’s table. This headband Katie purchased was made from the fabric of a retro bed sheet our parents had when we were small. Very nostalgic and looks amazing on Katie since she’s always rocked the hairband look so well.
I found this adorable crayon wrap. Where was this during our brunch earlier in the day?! I love the fabric motif of castles since Owen always talking about castles and princesses who live inside.
I’m keeping this in my purse for those unexpected times you must keep a busy toddler entertained while waiting (like, for example, a half an hour wait for a haircut this past Saturday morning).

Just reflecting on Mother's Day I feel extremely blessed to have our parents help us the way they do. Owen loves his grandparents and for the past few weekends since Vegas, he's been spending some of the weekend nights over with them so Nuno and I can get out and enjoy time together going to parties with/for friends and family, going out to the movies, dinner, a show at the Casino, a pint at our old stomping grounds The Merchant Ale House... If I don’t state it enough, we really are lucky to have the families we have. 

But having said that, our time with Owen is so precious. When he’s not around I’m thinking of him and I somehow always manage to bring him up in my conversations with Nuno while we are out. He’s a real hoot these days since he’s getting so great at speaking we’re now opened up to the world of his imagination, and it’s a lot of fun. He loves to read his nursery rhyme book from cover to cover (and when I say 'read', I’m using the term loosely, he’s basically resighting them, which is a talent in his own right). He’s also taken to helping around the house. He helps me take care of his laundry by putting his clothes away and he’s now feeding our dog Hot Tot. The other day Nuno caught Owen snuggling Hot Tot and singing a made-up tune “Wonderful, wonderful”. These moments go by in a flash, by the time he cued up the iPod he caught the tail end of the love-fest, but it’s cute none-the-less.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

sauteed chicken in mustard-cream sauce

This is our Sauteed Chicken in Mustard-Cream Sauce (from Great Food Fast) with a side of Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan and Roasted Cauliflower with Paprika.
I mentioned last week, I'm all about roasting veggies because soon enough it will be too warm to want the oven on just for the sake of a side. This dinner was really great and a keeper because it's quick, easy and delicious. Since we are now buying our chicken at Costco, a dinner of sauteed chicken is always seared perfectly, moist and tender throughout. The mustard sauce was delicious and both veggies went really nicely with it. The only thing I'm thinking is that we probably could have used some sort of carb on the side.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

great northern beans with collard greens, pasta and bacon

I decided to try another recipe from How To Cook Everything - White Beans with Cabbage, Pasta and Ham. This book features a whole lot free-form recipes compared to how we usually cook from Everyday Food. After I get home from a long day at work I sometimes just like to cook according to a recipe because it's simple and I'm not quite up for too much of a challenge. But Mark Bittman's recipes give you options and switch-ups that really work. Mind you, this recipe in particular was a little scary because all the ingredients together sounded like it could potentially be a horror. But you never know till you try, right? I also felt like there wasn't any loss in trying this out because it was basically a fridge/pantry clean-out. Plus, we are now finding ourselves attempting to make more bean recipes because Owen's so crazy about them. 
Bittman’s suggestion for a take using collards was to pair it with flageolet beans. I can’t say I’ve ever seen those kickn' around the grocery store, so I opted to use the rest of an open bag of Great Northern Beans. Along with the beans we used, leftover collard greens, left over bacon, an open box of broth and open bag of pasta to make Great Northern Beans with Collard Greens, Pasta and Bacon.
After tasting this dinner all I could think is this is a simple cassoulet in pasta form. Similar ingredients as a cassoulet, but with the addition of thyme was a great flavour boost. Beans and pasta are a little heavy, but on a cold day this is a very comforting dinner.  This really is surprisingly delicious and when you make a dinner without any expectations and are pleasantly surprised it's always nice.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

baked gnocchi with ricotta and marinara

This is Baked Gnocchi with Ricotta and Marinara from Everyday Food Light. Just another super simple, easy and tasty dinner we need to keep on file.
Literally no prep here. OK, you must boil the gnocchi, but that's hardly any work considering the rest is assembly and baked. It's really hard to imagine this is light even though it was published in Everyday Food Light. But now I see how it counts, they expect this recipe to feed 4. Um, if that's the case I had 2 portions and that certainly doesn't count as light. Oh well, it's very rich, creamy and comforting. Total hit with Owen too!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

cinco de mayo

This past Saturday was Cinco de Mayo. For us, this is just simply the day we set aside to have Mexican for dinner. I started out by making us Watermelon Margaritas. I don't typically enjoy margaritas, but after having an unbelievable one at Mesa Grill in Vegas, I decided that this might work for us. We had everything already in the house including a small seedless watermelon, so I got right to work. You start by making a simple syrup with steeped orange zest. Once cooled, it's simply blending and straining the watermelon and adding tequila. O-M-G - killer, killer drink. Like, deadly and all too easy to guzzle. We both absolutely loved this recipe and I'd definitely make these for friends/family in the future.
Then for dinner we had Seared Steak Fajitas with a side of the ever popular Cilantro Lime Rice. Both recipes are from Everyday Food Light. I took my own liberties with the fajitas. To start, I bought poblano peppers along with green peppers which worked really well. Gave a great Mexican flavour and slight bite that they wouldn't have had otherwise. The recipe also indicates to add diced tomato as a topping, I actually made this salsa fresca instead and it gave it even more of a flavour boost. After making these I'd definitely use a different cut of beef. The recipe is 'light' because they recommend you use top round, which I did, but the flavour was just too mild and the meat wasn't tender enough to my liking (even after marinading in soy and lime juice). We don't eat a lot of beef, so when I have it it's gotta have the right flavour. Having sharp, aged white cheddar and corn tortillas, everything came together wonderfully. There were tons leftover and made for great next day burritos.

Friday, May 4, 2012

caldo verde

There are some recipes that I've adopted as comfort food having never grown up with them. Being with my husband for over 13 years, I've grown to love food he grew up with to the point it's nostalgic. Rice pudding and tuna noodle casserole are a couple of examples, but Caldo Verde (potato soup with collards and chorizo) is my favourite of all the Portuguese soups. It's served at traditional Portuguese weddings, but I find it's just the perfect platform to enjoy chorizo sausage. 

I love the flavour of my in-laws homemade chorizo. We had it last week on pizza and it was so great it reminded me about caldo verde soup, so I mentioned to Nuno we should try and make it. Funny how things work out because we were not only to see my in-laws this past weekend, but they happened to be smoking their chorizo right as we arrived at their home.
I love this soup because it's the quickest and simplest dinner you can imagine.

Caldo Verde
1 onion, diced
3 baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks
6 cups of water or broth (any combination of)
1 tsp salt
1 bunch of collard greens (ribs and stems removed)
1 chorizo sausage (cooked and cooled - sliced thin as possible)

Sautee onion in olive oil. Add potatoes and broth/water and bring to a boil with salt. Simmer until potato is tender, 10 - 20 minutes depending on size of potato chunks. 
Meanwhile, roll collard greens and slice thinly in a chiffonade. Unravel and roughly chop. Rinse several times to clean and remove some of the pigment. 
Puree soup with immersion blender. Add collards and cook until tender. Serve with several slices of chorizo and season to taste.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

couscous with cauliflower and almonds

After making last week's Roasted Salmon in Butter I decided to seek out Mark Bittman's infamous cookbook How To Cook Everything. I've been contemplating this book for years, but once I flipped through it, I totally geeked out and became elated with all the possibilities this book has to offer. I'd say this cookbook is the closest thing to Everyday Food but obviously its predecessor. It's full of tips, tricks, techniques and stripped-down simple recipes. From what I can tell, most of the recipes contained in this book don't take very long to prepare and that is one of the key decisions that go into how I choose recipes to make on any given week (that, and what's on sale and in season).
The first recipe I chose to make from this book was Couscous with Cauliflower and Almonds (with a rotisserie chicken on the side). This recipe in particular reminded me of Owen because I knew he'd love it. It was very quick, easy and delicious. We all loved it, so much so we were pretty bummed when it was all gone. It almost became a quick, go-to noshing food in our home. So it's a winner and total make-again. 

My only initial observation of this book is that the language used is not quite phrased the way I'm used to reading recipes. For example, in this recipe Mark describes the cauliflower as "deep fried". I almost didn't make it because I imagined a pan with half an inch of oil,  frying the cauliflower in batches. What it actually meant (to me) was to sautee the cauliflower in olive oil. Kinda strange but just indicated to me that I need to read the entire recipe first before deciding against it.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

my sister's 30th birthday party and the unfortunate baking disaster

People always say not to try new recipes for big events. Most of the time I know better, but I’ve gotten to the point where I'm so zealous, I dive head-first into everything with self assurance. That’s why when my sister asked for cupcakes for her 30th birthday party I was only too eager to make a double batch of these Tiramisu Cupcakes for the first time for the event. Well, I guess this genoise-style cupcake got the best of me because the final step of adding a liquid-y mixture of butter, milk and vanilla to a light and airy batter of flour & whipped eggs did not combine properly (probably because of my hesitation of overworking the flour and deflate the light batter).
The first batch of cupcakes were the egg mixture and the second batch was the milky mixture. What a disaster! Panicked, and with only hours till the event, I turned to The Frosted Cupcake (local cupcake bakery) for a variety of gorgeous and delicious cupcakes. 
I love the idea of cupcake bakeries! Super cute, fun and like a variety pack of donuts, everyone gets to choose their favourite! Everyone loved these cupcakes and the birthday girl was thrilled. The selection included red velvet, rainbow bright, banana split, chocolate chip cookie, nanaimo bar, after eight, chocolate strawberry cheesecake and chocolate banana. Thank you Frosted Cupcake for saving the day!
Looks like I have a lot to learn about baking because all it takes is one misstep to screw-up an entire dessert. I wish I could take classes, but I guess the next best thing is the new series Bake with Anna Olson (on Food Network Canada). I’ve set up a series recording to try and catch the show to learn from her. My favourite part of Anna’s old show Sugar as her little tidbits of seasoned baker advice. This show is so super informative and everything she makes is extremely creative and inspiring.