Tuesday, October 30, 2012

pumpkin sausage ravioli with sage brown butter sauce

Our favourite local butcher makes dozens of fresh sausages, one of which is pumpkin flavoured. My sister swears by them so I thought I'd try one an see. With this sausage I built a dinner around it making Pumpkin Sausage Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter Sauce.
After browning the sausage removed from the casing, I filled wonton wrappers with a combination of the meat and ricotta cheese. As they were cooking quickly in boiling water, I made the brown butter sauce. I heated the butter over medium then fried fresh sage leaves until crispy (only one or two minutes). In moments the leaves were crispy, the butter began to smell nutty and change colour everything was complete. These were super tasty. 
Of course folding individual ravioli's is a slightly time consuming process (we used an entire package of wonton wrappers) took about 20 minutes in total. It was well worth the effort because this was an absolutely delicious dinner.

Monday, October 29, 2012

niagara oast house hosts 'pinky and the grain'

This past weekend we attended one of the first events at the yet to be opened Niagara Oast House Brewers.  The event was a fundraiser benefiting the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. 3 beers were featured one of which was a special 'pink' inspired brew as well as catering from El GastrĂ³nomo Vagabundo. In keeping with the 'pink' theme of the event, the brewmaster and chef worked together to include pink peppercorns and pink grapefruit in the featured beer and entree. El GastrĂ³nomo didn't dissapoint with their fresh and flavorful dishes.
What can I say other than that everything was exceptional? The beers, across the board were some of the most amazing and inspired that I've ever tasted. My personal favourite being the Barn Raiser Pale Ale.
I can't wait until Niagara brews make their mark on the Canadian craft beer scene. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to have tasted some of the beers that the Oast House will be offering. 
While Niagara-On-The-Lake is renowned for their wineries, the Oast House and Silversmith offer a selection of artisan brews that compete on the level of craft beers we seek out in the US.
Niagara Oast House Brewers is located at 2017 Niagara Stone Rd, Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario (just before Jackson Trigg's Estate Winery).

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

cheese steaks with peppers

I don’t really talk about my job on this blog, but I get a whole lot of personal satisfaction out of my career. I’m a graphic designer and I do a whole lot of work for room service and restaurants. Yes, I look at food all day, which might just explain why when I get home I have the intense desire to make delicious dinners. Although many of our clients are high end and supply us with some of the most beautiful and appetizing food photography, I also work with many people who don’t know what they want and leave everything to my discretion. This is when the job is a lot of fun. Like, for example, one restaurant on Yonge Street in Toronto called “I Went To Philly”. They told me to just come up with something and use a stock image of a cheese steak. Unfortunately we don’t have any on file and every image search came up with unappetizing photos. Since this client is easy going, and I was desperate to fulfill his request for a cheese steak photo, I decided to use the photo I took of our Philly Cheese Steaks from the other night for his ad.
The November 2012 issue of Everyday Food Magazine features a recipe for Cheese Steaks with Peppers which were the perfect way to use up the rest of our steak from the previous night's dinner. Probably the biggest challenge in this was to make the cheese sauce. Using evaporated milk and provolone, I could not get a smooth and creamy consistency, it tasted great but I became frustrated (especially since my photo for the ad was hanging in the balance) I opted to blitz the cheese sauce in the blender. That did the trick, however, the flavour somehow changed and it because extremely unappetizing.
Here is our finished steak and it looks a lot better than it tasted. I was really not pleased with the result and just left the cheese sauce off.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

pan-seared steak with onions and worchestershire and slowcooker baked potato with yogurt cheese

Steak and potatoes are not something we eat a whole lot of. Generally neither are particularly good for you and when they aren't done right - oh, they are basically inedible. The steak recipe is a very brief recommendation from Sarah Carey (the current editor-in-chief of Everyday Food Magazine) in the October 2009 issue of Everyday Food magazine. This instruction is for a quick go-to on a simple and delicious steak dinner. Seared flank steak with a quick onion, worchestershire and butter accompaniment. This took moments to prepare, was super easy and totally delicious. This is a recipe you want around when you want to enjoy a great straight-up steak dinner.
Then there are the slowcooker potatoes. I used the cooking technique from the Loaded Slowcooker Baked Potato recipe from the October 2012 issue and then top it according the Everyday Food Light's Baked Potato with Yogurt Cheese. The magazine recommends taking your russet potatoes, wrapping in foil and leaving on low in your slowcooker for 8 hours. Naturally, we did this in the morning and they were done the moment we walked in the door from work. Great technique, great potato. The topping was simply plain greek yogurt (which I now prefer over sour cream) and topped with fresh dill. This entire meal was something we all loved and it one of the easiest dinner's we've ever made. Owen ate every last bite of his steak and we were all quite full in the way only meat and potatoes can can ll you.

Monday, October 22, 2012

chocolate malt cupcakes

This weekend was my dad's birthday. To him, the ideal birthday weekend was to have Owen stay over night and then visit his friend's pumpkin patch together. We were only too happy to oblige, so with our free evening we went to see Sloan perform their album Twice Removed at the Tralf in Buffalo. This album has a lot of history with not only myself, but also my sister and my husband. While waiting for the band to go on my sister gave me a bit of a shock when she said this album was 18 years old. I remember waiting at Sam the Record Man with her to buy the tape it the day it was released. Their tour for this album was my first rock concert I was allowed to go to with a girlfriend. This album is a fantastic piece of 90's Canadian indie rock and has lost none of its charm to me. It really was a thrill to hear it preformed live in its entierty.
Here are a few pics of our time at the pumpkin farm.

I baked Chocolate Malt Cupcakes from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes book to celebrate my dad's big day. They were good but next time I'd bake mini chocolate chips into them to give them a bit of a chocolate boost. They were tasty, but the malt flavour was pretty undetectible.

Friday, October 19, 2012

buffalo chicken pizza

I try and keep this blog as Canadian as possible, but struggle because I sometimes feel like one of the most American-loving Canadians out there. I use fahrenheit to tell temperature instead of celsius. I understand ounces better than grams. I love American Beer and find hard to appreciate beer sold in Ontario (as Molson and Labatt are our only choices and they control which beers get distributed here). I'm not necessarily proud of my unabashed Americana, but I really don't make any attempts to hide it either.
When I think about nostalgic flavours, sure my grandmothers meat pies and butter tarts come to mind. But as far as experience tied to flavour, Pizza and Wings in New York is the epitome of my experience growing up. I think we ate out in Western New York more than in Ontario. My parents did a lot of cross-border shopping when I was a kid and to keep my sister and I into it we'd always go out for pizza and Buffalo wings. Even all my friends and their families went over and we'd all argue over who made the best wings. Bars offered beer, pizza and wing combos with Canadian money at par (which, with the exchange rate at the time, was a huge savings) and always asked us if we wanted bridge tokens for the way home. Now Nuno, Owen and I go over often - but not as often as I'd like. Imagine how exciting it was to see a recipe for Buffalo Chicken Pizza in the October 2012 issue of Everyday Food magazine? Looks like we won't have to sit on the Peace Bridge for an hour to get all the flavour!
Here is our pizza in all its glory! It was delicious and definitely had the flavours of a night out in WNY (save for the overly salty & peppery thin pepperoni and sweet tomato sauce). But I just loved the contrast of the hot sauce and the blue cheese.
Carrots, celery and blue cheese are totally part of the experience and it was really neat to see all these uncommon ingredients made into a pizza. We'd totally make this again.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

pasta with lentils and arugla

We decided to try Great Food Fast's Pasta with Arugula and Lentils. I guess it sounds a little out there as a pasta choice, but it worked for us when we had half a container of baby arugula needing to be used up. I think one of the main flavors not mentioned in the title, but much more of a selling feature is the caramelized onions. This is really what saved the dish.
There was a whole lot of prep that went into this dinner. Cooking the lentils in one pan, the pasta in another, caramelizing onions in a third. To me it was just too much effort and clean up for a mediocre pasta. Owen didn't do too bad with it, especially liking the lentils. Of course you don't need the arugula, it's just as good without. But I'm fairly certain I was the one who enjoyed it most.

Monday, October 15, 2012

low fat pumpkin muffins

This time of year I find it really easy to eat pumpkin. We made these delicious and simple Spicy Enchiladas with Pumpkin Sauce last week. Then there's all the pumpkin muffins being cranked out of the oven. Just a little hooked over here.
I decided to try a new recipe Anna Olson posted on her site for Low-Fat Pumpkin Muffins. Baking muffins is a bi-weekly ritual in our home on Saturday mornings. Owen loves to help and the spider web muffin liners got him really pumped. This recipe is very easy to bake and super healthy. The muffins are very moist and not overly sweet. One little tip I only recently discovered is so let muffins with liners cool completely before eating. The muffins tend to stick to the paper when warm. The way I get around this is to also bake a tray of mini muffins without liners, that way we can eat them right out of the oven.
Every month leading up to Halloween Owen's been asking if it's time. I'm pretty sure it's his favourite holiday. We decorated our home for Halloween this weekend. Its fun that Owen's at the age to help now. As we were putting up the decorations he said, "It's starting to look very spooky in here Mommy." So with that I thought I'd share a pic of our decor.
I also pulled out all the costumes I've been hoarding for the past 3 years. Owen's been having lots of fun playing dress-up. Here he is as a swamp creature!
I hope everyone is getting into the Halloween spirit too!

Friday, October 12, 2012

sloppy joes with kale chips

I menu plan for the upcoming week and make a grocery list towards the end of the weekend. This past week the menu plan included Sloppy Joes and Kale Chips from the October 2012 issue of Everyday Food magazine. When I proposed this dinner to Nuno he did his best to disguise his smirk. OK, yes, kale chips are an oxymoron. A cruel joke against all who love potato chips, right? But, hey, Owen doesn't know the difference and what mom isn't willing to throw a disguised leafy green whenever possible. All week, I beared the brunt of Nuno's chuckle even as I was making them. But guess who got the last laugh? Yes, the kale chip!
Anyone tried these before? Because they are killer. It's next to impossible to understand how a heavy and tough leaf is transformed by roasting in the oven to a light-as-air crisp that practically melts in your mouth. The crunch you get from these produce a better sound than a kettle chip. Seasoned with salt these were delicious and totally addictive. Just be sure to eat them all in the first hour because the spell is broken the longer they sit and become tough once again.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

vegetarian split pea soup

There seems to be a lot of talk here in Canada about our national dish being Poutine. This always confuses me because I don't know anyone who makes it and only a handful who eat it. Just about the only thing Candian about it is that most adults have at least tried it. I only imagine if it became a regular staple in anyone diet they'd be dealing with a whole lot of digestive and heart related ailments. Homecooks have been making Split Pea Soup for longer than poutine and, to me, it's Canada's national dish. If our parents didn't make it from scratch we all grew up enjoying cans of Habitant soup. It's a very warming and comforting soup that is Canada's answer to Posole.
Making Everyday Food Light's Vegetarian Split Pea Soup was pretty enticing since I've never made one from scratch. And like so many recipes these days, I'm all for eliminating meat whenever possible. The recipe calls for 4 quarts of water, that's equal to 16 cups. So that gives you a pretty good idea of the volume of soup you can expect to yield. Once complete I took a taste. Woah.... wait... Salt! Yes, it needs plenty of salt and pepper. Second taste, there is still something... Puree, it needs to be more smooth. Third taste... it needs Meat! I can't eat it without ham. Luckily I had a ham steak in the freezer, so for our dinner portions I added the ham and it was so totally delicious! This soup is nothing without ham and if I ever make it again, which I definitely will, I'm making mine with a big ol' ham hock.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

thanksgiving weekend 2012

I hope every Canadian reading had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I'm still attempting to revive myself from a sugar and turkey induced coma so excuse my sluggish and slightly scattered entry recounting this weekend.
We started this weekend with a hike, and when I say 'hike' I probably should just say a muddy stroll through Shorthills. Starting at Decew Falls we took a quick tour through Morning Star Mill.
This is a restored mill which mills bran and wheat.
Decew Falls is beautiful. This time of year is so gorgeous as the leaves are turning but it's still mild enough to really spend a lot of quality time outside.
Although I'm not the biggest fan of fall, I can appreciate the beauty and cooler temps, just not the shorter days.
I'd like to propose Canada post-pone Thanksgiving. Is it just me or is our Thanksgiving too early and American Thanksgiving too late? In my perfect world we'd celebrate Thanksgiving between the two and together. I know it doesn't make a lot of sense because of Halloween and the logistics of having 2 holidays back to back, it's just a time of year thing for me. I'm probably on my own here, but anyhow... Our Thanksgiving was celebrated at my brother & sister-in-law's home. My sister-in-law, Maggie, is my holiday dinner hero. She single-handedly made the most incredible turkey dinner with all the trimmings, appetizers and soup course. And did I mention she also has 3 kids (including a 4 month old)? I'm not sure how she did it without any mother-in-law's to assist, but she nailed it! We contributed a couple items which included a brussles sprouts side which accidently got over cooked in the reheating process (oops :) I didn't get photos, so we'll just pretend like that never happened. But there were a couple successes.
Our Buttermilk Biscuits come from the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook and are a personal favourite. They always work out!
The other contribution to the meal was dessert, Pumpkin Donut Muffins. I baked standard size muffins and mini muffins. The mini muffins kinda resembled Timbits when finished. This is a very good recipe creating dense and rich muffins and the cinnamon sugar exterior is a nice touch (and taste!).
I wish I’d made an effort to take photos of our Thanksgiving, but I think we were all busy chasing the little ones around. At the same time, I struggle with anonymity on this blog. I understand the majority of people who keep up with this blog are personal friends and family, but I wish to respect them, especially those with children. That's why I don't always blog lots of details about what's really happening in our lives unless it involves just Nuno and Owen. The only other person you’ll get lots of photos and mentions outside of my husband and son is my sister Katie. I spent years appearing on her awesome blog, and she always adds tons of life and humour whenever she’s mentioned here.

Friday, October 5, 2012

lighter chicken cordon bleu

Chicken Cordon Bleu was my absolute favorite "fancy" meals as a kid. My mom made it from scratch several times, then she went back to teaching, M&M Meats pre-made frozen chicken cordon bleu it was thereafter. Fast forward 25 years later and the current October 2012 issue of Everyday Food magazine features a recipe for Lighter Chicken Cordon Bleu. And, you know, this recipe bridges the gap between.
Boy, was I ever looking forward to trying this. This recipe is Canadian bacon and swiss cheese sandwiched between two chicken cutlets then broiled with a dijon dressing & panko crusted exterior. Simple it was and what literally floored me was the cooking time. Nine, got that, 9 minutes under the broiler. I had no faith in the cooking technique, but it worked beautifully. Served with a side of fettuccini with breadcrumbs (1/2 c chopped fresh parsley, 1/8 c breadcrumbs, 1/8 c Parmesan, zest of 1/2 lemon, s&p over pasta coated in olive oil), this was one delicious and impressive dinner. Owen gobbled it up and we both agreed this is a total make-again.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

lighter blue plate special

Everyday Food Light includes a recipe for a Lighter Blue Plate Special. I haven't heard of one before (is this possibly a 1950's or American thing?), but this recipe is for meatloaf, mashed potatoes and green beans all done light!
We followed the recipe except for the type of meat. Ground sirloin is what the recipe calls for but we just used lean ground beef. I'm so glad I made that revision because this meatloaf isn't the most flavourful one I've ever tasted. It was pretty one-note and the texture wasn't exactly moist and crumbled easily. What I did love about this recipe (and will probably continue to do in the future) is to use the food processor to quickly finely chop veggies. But when it comes to meatloaf I don't think I can stray from what I know works and love to taste. I like a blend of pork/veal/beef and binders like oats. I also standby using chili sauce as a topping (where this recipe calls for bbq sauce). The buttermilk mashed potatoes worked out well and the green beans were just delicious. But all in all, this dinner took ages to make, was a huge clean-up and a whole lot of work. I think I'll be sticking to making meatloaf a weekend effort from here on in.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

vegetarian chili

With fall in the air who doesn't love a good chili dinner on a cool night? Over the years we've experimented with many different chili recipes and I always felt like chili doesn't require meat to be delicious. I think we've tried more vegetarian chili recipes than meat. This Vegetarian Chili from Everyday Food Light is loaded with beans and uses only zucchini and tomatoes as main vegetables.
Now, as far a chili is concerned, this is relatively quick, but still takes at least 45 minutes start to finish. Using such a large amount of tomato paste really speeds up the thickening process and adds depth to what might ordinarily be considered "too light". This chili is a great option for dinner in a pinch because most of the other ingredients are pantry staples where all you'd need to buy fresh is the zucchini. I think zucchini has a bad rap, I know I struggled accepting it. But lately it's one of my main vegetables of choice because it's easy to chop, is low calorie, keeps a wonderful texture when cooked and takes on the flavours of anything you cook it with. The contrast in texture between the beans and zucchini is my favourite element of this particular recipe. 
One note about this recipe is that it requires a can of green chilies. I didn't look too hard, but didn't come across any, so we substituted canned jalapenos and only put a few in. I'd love to try this again using chilies because jalapenos have a very strong heat you feel in your throat and chest and is probably not for everyone. 
I love how inexpensive this chili is to make, the limited amount of prep work and how truly delicious it is. Overall, I think we have another Everyday Food Light winner.