Monday, February 25, 2013

potato-leek fritatta

These days I find I can't go too long before I start craving a frittata for dinner. They are my idea of a perfect dinner. I know initially I wasn't into the idea of eating eggs for dinner, it just wasn't something I grew up with. But because of Everyday Food I tried something new and now it's a favourite. I was flipping through the January/February 2011 issue of Everyday Food magazine and the Potato-Leek Fritatta stood out because we had some ricotta and leeks that needed to be used up and the rest of the ingredients are kitchen staples so they were also on hand.

The recipe indicates to used pre-cooked potato but I decided to use several regular baking potatoes, cubed and fried in the cast iron skillet until tender. They were nice and crispy which added to the flavour of the finished frittata.

I'm always so pleased with them once they are complete. I think it's that sense of relief (and reward) when I've successfully turned out the frittata onto the platter without burning myself from the hot skillet or left half stuck in the pan.

Love it!

Friday, February 22, 2013

jamie oliver's 15 minute meals chicken fajitas

A couple weeks ago I was home in the middle of the day with a sick Owen when I stumbled upon Jamie Oliver's 15 Minute Meals show on the Food Network. I was first hooked by just the sight of Jamie, but once Neneh Cherry's "Buffalo Stance" blasted on the intro a grade 7 flash-back set in. Yep, I was locked. Because TV time for me is precious, but so limited, I immediately set a series recording and have since viewed at least 5 full episodes. At first I was struck by the interesting recipes and quick time saving kitchen tips. Some I've since implemented (using the food processor for quick slicing), some which I already use regularly (walking in the door after work and bringing the kettle to boil to make pasta quicker), and some I'll never use (Uncle Ben's instant rice packets and the jars of pickled lemons he believes we should somehow all find in our grocery stores). I was very interested in trying one of the delicious dinners Jamie demonstrates, so I decided his Chicken Fajitas looked like something we'd all like. It was a challenge writing down the ingredients, measurements and techniques while watching the show but I did manage to jot it all down and added it to our Tuesday night menu plan.

So many steps! First off was the salsa, which took mostly kitchen staples and was easy enough to create. It was delicious to boot - so fresh and tasted as good as any salsa I've had at Mexican restaurants. The chicken was seasoned with paprika (a very underused spice in our cupboard) but the results were awesome. The peppers and onions were grilled on our cast iron grill pan (another underused kitchen tool). And underused with good reason, it smoked up the entire house. But that smoky flavour came through in the veggies, so it was worth opening the windows in ten degree weather. Next up was the rice and beans. This was the disappointing part of the meal. Seasoned only with salt, pepper, cumin and lemon they were totally underwhelming. But doused in the salsa they were heavenly! The final garnishes were avocado, crumbled feta, drizzled Greek yogurt and fresh cilantro... and I'm exhausted now. Seriously, I was almost too tired to bother eating. But then look at this photo. It tastes just as good as it looks.

So after trying Jamie's Chicken Fajitas, along with repeated viewings of Jamie's 15 Minute Meals, I can conclude that there are a few things that just don't work for us. First off is that you'd be a serious 'ninja in the kitchen' to complete one of his meals in 15 minutes. The fajitas took over an hour from beginning to end. Secondly, the majority of his meals are by no means inexpensive to make. Some of his ingredient lists are as long as my weekly shopping list! And lastly, if I was only a little more clever after watching his show I'd have made a deal with Nuno that if I cooked all the meals he'd take care of the clean up. This would have been to my benefit because in any given episode Jamie manages to dirty 3 pots, 1 blender, 1 food processor, countless bowls for preping food and then another set for serving along with a giant ass serving board. Oh, and that's not even including all the plates and cutlery a family would be eating from. At least you won't find yourself cleaning any knives because Jamie seems to have a particular aversion to chopping anything in this show.

Having said all that I'm still totally on board with making his meals. The flavour of the chicken fajitas was so beyond any we've had before, but the solution is to stick to making them on the weekend.

My Interpretation of Jamie Oliver's 15 Minute Meals Chicken Fajitas

Cook basmati rice according to directions.

Next make Salsa in blender.
Tear 1 ancho chilie (stem and some seeds removed) into blender with a little boiled water to rehydrate pepper. Let stand for a few minutes.
Next add the following ingredients:
2 spring onions
2 plum tomatoes
Half a jalapeno pepper ribs & seeds removed
1 large handful of coriander
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 clove garlic
1 or 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
Blitz in blender and taste for seasoning.

Season coloured peppers and red onion with salt & pepper and sautée or grill.

Place 2 chicken breasts on large sheet of parchment. Season breasts with salt & pepper and 1 tbsp smoked paprika. Fold over parchment and flatten breasts slightly with rolling pin. Grill on pan, rest, and slice to serve.

Fry 1 can pinto beans in 1 tsp oil and pinch of cumin until beans begin to jump and pop (get a little colour). Add cooked rice season with salt, pepper and lemon.

Garnish with cilantro, crumbled feta, avocado curls and Greek yogurt. Serve with flour & corn tortillas.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

easy chickpea curry

Flipping through last year's January/February issue of Everyday Food magazine and the recipe for Easy Chickpea Curry really stood out. Seeing cauliflower on sale sealed the deal that we needed to try it.

This recipe builds on other previous recipes in the issue, so we had to modify the cooking just a little. All it meant was that we had to first roast the cauliflower & tomatoes, which worked well because we got on with the rest of the recipe as well as cooking the basmati. I just love roasted cauliflower with curry... so, so good. This dinner was very similar in flavour to this One Pot Curried Caulflower with Rice we tried a few months ago. Both are excellent. The challenge was to get Owen to eat it. Like most kids, he's sensitive to spice. So I added plain greek yogurt to his dinner to mellow it and he didn't even notice the spice in the madras curry, just flavour.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

3 grain cranberry almond salad

I hope everyone in Ontario enjoyed this past Family Day weekend (and those American’s – President’s Day). We sure did; getting out and doing lots. One thing I wanted to share was our trip to the Buffalo Museum of Science. This was our first time visiting and we were so impressed with the facility. In the past year we’ve gone to Toronto to visit the ROM and the Science Centre, both sort of dark with a slightly stuck in the 80’s sort of vibe, teeming with people everywhere and very little opportunity to get a space to yourself to enjoy an exhibit. I’m thinking it was through those experiences we gained an appreciation for the Buffalo Museum of Science. It’s just the right size to see in one day and the exhibits are interesting and engaging. 

The building is old but they’ve maintained the integrity of the original 30’s architecture details such as crown mouldings and wooden dioramas. Exhibits included wildlife native to Niagara, space, the human body, our marvelous earth, nano, ancient Egypt and dinosaurs to name a few.

It’s neat how demonstration provides a different sort of learning books might not be able to provide. 
Owen was so engaged with the entire museum and absorbed a whole lot of knowledge.

He hasn't stopped talking about all the things he saw and learned.

With the extra time this past weekend provided I decided to put together a grain salad that turned out great.

3 Grain Cranberry Almond Salad 
2 cups couscous
1 cup bulgur wheat
½ cup quinoa
1 cup whole almonds (roughly chopped)
1 cup dried cranberries (I used sweetened)
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 handful parsley, roughly chopped
¼ cup olive oil
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar

Cook couscous, bulgur and quinoa according to package directions. Mix grains and other ingredients together. Dress salad, season with salt & pepper to taste and let stand refrigerated for at least an hour.

Friday, February 15, 2013

red-leaf salad with roasted sweet potatoes

It's always a bit of a challenge getting Owen to eat salads. Sure, gobbs of dressing can certainly help. However, when I came across this Red-Leaf Salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes in Everyday Food Light I felt like we might just have a winner. Owen's crazy about roasted sweet potatoes, nuts and yogurt so I was very eager to give this salad a go and see how they taste together.

Our finished salad was quite delicious looking and judging by the high praises the reviews on Martha's website I felt like this might just be a new fav. Taste test time: I enjoyed how healthy this salad is, but didn't really feel the ingredients worked together. And I think Owen felt the same, eating his favourite items and leaving the lettuce and onions. We probably won't bother making this again but would recommend it (especially for vegetarians) since it looks like a whole lot of people really enjoy this recipe.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

salmon burgers with yogurt dill sauce

The recipe featured on the cover of Everyday Food Light is Salmon Burgers with Yogurt Dill Sauce. We tried these for dinner the other night and they are absolutely fantastic. I think this is the first recipe chosen for the cover of Everyday Food's recipe book collection that is worth making.

The burgers are made up for diced fresh salmon, horseradish, scallions, lemon zest, breadcrumbs and egg. Simple to prepare and baked up quickly the oven. The dill sauce is so simple but fresh and full of flavour. Our burgers were prepared & dressed exactly as the cover photo & recipe indicate and I wouldn't change a thing. Delicious for dinner or lunch. It's simple, healthy and delicious.

Monday, February 11, 2013

snow day classic chocolate chip cookies

So how about that snow storm last Friday? After years of predicted storms that never quite pack the projected punch, this storm hit us pretty hard. But all the while the winds blew record snow down there was a hint of sun and when all was said and done (for us at 4pm) we were left with 44cm of snow. Our city was hit the hardest in Ontario with a record snow fall. It was beautiful and quite the event to witness. I took Owen out for some snow play, but the wind was just pelting snowflakes too hard to get much more than a quick toboggan ride around.

So we warmed ourself back up inside and baked Anna Olson's Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies instead. This was my first time baking this recipe and it's honestly been years since I last made chocolate chip cookies.

This recipe has a couple little twists that make it different than the standard chocolate chip cookie. First is the use of cornstarch to keep the inside moist (and it worked, they were still super soft a day later). The second tip was to chill the dough before baking.

I pull my cookies out moments before they brown (almost under baked), because as they cool on the pan they continue to bake. This technquique always makes my cookies turn out great - and these cookies were miles beyond great. They were the best everyone who tasted them ever had. The batch didn't last more than 30 hours in our house.

Friday, February 8, 2013

steamed flounder with vegetable couscous

This recipe of Steamed Flounder with Vegetable Couscous from Everyday Food Light was one I was really looking forward to. Owen loves couscous and fish so I knew this was something that would please him, not to mention I also enjoy light dinners like these as well.

It wasn't until I started making this that I realized the entire dinner is cooked in the microwave! Something I thought might just ruin it, but intriguing enough to keep an open mind.  Of course, microwave cooking is super fast, so before we even started making the fish we roasted sweet potato wedges in the oven as a side. Now, I should mention, flounder is not a fish we find available around here, so I substituted sole and it worked just perfect.

All I can say is, wow! This dinner is so beyond delicious. We all love it I can't wait for an excuse to make it again. The final drizzle of the dijon based dressing sets everything off. Super fast, light, inexpensive and healthy this is definitely one of the best recipes in Everyday Food Light.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

vegetable pad thai

When making pad thai at home we always stick to this recipe, but decided to try the Vegetable Pad Thai from Everyday Food Light the other night. Come to think of it, giving it the name of vegetable pad thai leaves you under the impression you'll find several vegetables in the dish. However, the only vegetable in this pad thai are scallions. This recipe has hardly any ingredients and was done in a matter of minutes. After taking a taste of the finished dinner, it needed a whole load of tweeks. It was quite sweet and very bland, almost to the point of inedible.
So I decided to add more of all the liquid ingredients along with fish sauce & chili sauce. Made a world of difference, but it needed more protein. I don't enjoy tofu, so I really doubt I could live as a vegetarian. To me this dinner was begging for shrimp, so I'll continue to use this shrimp pad thai recipe because it's so bang-on.

Monday, February 4, 2013

applesauce raisin muffins

I ritually bake muffins on Saturday mornings. I keep all the extras in the freezer and take them to work for breakfast during the week. This Saturday I decided to try Anna Olson's recent Applesauce Raisin Muffins recipe from on her website.

As I was baking I had Anna's website open and was baking directly from the recipe posted online. As I was finishing up there was a mention of oats but they weren't listed in the ingredients. So I downloaded the .pdf and it was there that I saw the 1 cup measurement for oats in the ingredient list. A slight oversight I thought would be worth mentioning here if you choose to try this recipe (bake from the .pdf download). Anyways, this is my first vegan muffin and what was especially nice is that I had no worries about Owen licking the spatula and bowl. This was quick and easy with all pantry staples. The muffins have a great applesauce flavour which is nice because anytime I've baked with applesauce before I find the flavour gets lost among the other ingredients. The muffins are loaded with raisins which we all really liked. The only drawback with was that we found they stick to the muffin liners.

Friday, February 1, 2013

just a january pizza night

How lazy is it that I always buy pre-made pizza dough from the grocery store? I think I was under the impression dough needed to proof at least twice, in order for that happen we would have make it on a weekend. The other week I planned on a pizza night but every grocery store only sold frozen dough and I didn't have time to let it defrost. Frustrated, I decided to attempt making it from scratch. Naturally, I consulted Martha's website for guidance and came across Wolfgang Puck's pizza dough recipe. It seemed really fuss-free and simple enough to have Owen get in on the action. He helped add all the ingredients into the mixer and we let the dough hook do all the work. I love, love this technique for pizza dough making the difficult kneading step that much easier. I did turn it out onto a floured work surface just to get the feel for it and let Owen have a little bit of fun as a reward. He thought it was really neat to make pizza crust.

After proofing (wow, the dough increrased in volume!), we formed it into many individual pizzas. We all love different toppings. I had an arugula, tomato and balsamic vinegar pizza. Nuno had a caramelized onion and blue cheese pizza and Owen had a margherita. Here's our final one - The Works.