Tuesday, July 30, 2013

welcome to 20 weeks pregnant

Last night we got out to Buffalo to see Wild Nothing play at the Tralf. Their new EP Empty Estate is in constant rotation in our home and on my work playlist.

We saw them half a year ago in Toronto and, naturally, they played for a huge crowd. Buffalo shows are always more intimate and I'm the sort of concert goer who likes to be right up front so this venue always suits me well.

I have a general rule about going to shows and that is that I must wear platform wedges. I'm five foot two pebbles, so the added lift shoes give me help me see at shows better. Before the show we ate at Salsaritas Fresh Cantina on Delaware & W. Chippewa where I ate a burrito the size of my unborn child. It was our first time there and it was a fresher and tastier Chipotle, we were surprised at how good this place was. I had Nuno snap a photo of me at the aforementioned intersection because this week marks exactly half way into the pregnancy at twenty weeks. Boy, am I a whole lot more at ease this pregnancy compared to my last. Having done it once before this all seems so familiar and that's a real piece of mind. One major reason I’m not stressed is because with Owen I was in a constant panic as all the girls due around the same time (even months after) had beautiful bumps and I was stuck looking the same but with a bloated belly (kinda like a beer gut). Well, it’s happening all over again and I’m pretty dang shocked that in comparison between the two pregnancies I’m the same size on a week-to-week basis. I’ve heard (and witnessed) most women showing earlier with their second, but that just isn’t the case for me. I’m wondering if it's the four year break between that must have helped my body recoup. Which might just mean I’m back to square one when it comes to labour then? God, I hope that’s not the case, but only time will tell.
Luckily, in browsing back on this blog I had a monster bump by 22 weeks, so I’m going to do a pregnancy #1 and pregnancy #2 side-by-side. I have to admit, I’m looking forward to looking the part. But, ladies, this is a great time to be pregnant in fashion. These loose fitting tops that everyone is wearing means you are pretty inconspicuous and just perfect for the bloated belly weeks in pregnancy. My pregnancy is pretty undetectable wearing this style. Staying relatively the same size has meant that I only last week told my office I was expecting and they were all floored, then a second shocker when I disclosed I was half way along. Not that I was hiding anything, I just expected my bump would tell the story... but I gave up waiting and spilled the news because half way into it is a long time to keep a happy & exciting secret.

Monday, July 29, 2013

black-bean tostadas with corn relish

Tostadas are a great way to enjoy Mexican flavour without going overboard. They are light & cool in the summer and are something we have at least once a month. I was browsing an ancient issue of Everyday Food magazine (September 2007) when I stumbled upon these Black Bean Tostadas with Corn Relish. In reading the recipe I felt like these were very simple and straight forward to make and might be a real winner.
So colourful and fresh, these are so great for a weeknight family dinner. Any dinner with avocado is a bonus for Owen who had no problem diving right into these. They are a little messy, but that’s never been too much of a problem for us before. I was surprised these tostadas used a toasted flour tortillas. We’ve really been enjoying the store bought corn tostadas are using corn tortillas toasted. But these were great with the flour tortilla option.

Friday, July 26, 2013

grilled ratatouille muffaletta

It seems in pregnancy there isn’t a sandwich I don’t want to stuff in my face. I don’t even think I could turn away those dainty little cucumber and salmon tea sandwiches if I tried. But Pita Pit’s Dagwoods and Wegman’s turkey sandwiches have come to the rescue when nothing else will do. I actually have slotted some time today to hop over to the USA for another Wegman’s sub. The latest issue of Everyday Food magazine (which is now free to download people – get it!) features a totally irresistible Grilled Ratatouille  Muffaletta Sandwich.
Not totally authentic to the familiar New Orleans favourite nor similar in taste to a ratatouille, this sandwich reminds me very much of the Toasted Turkey Sandwich Everyday Food published a few years ago (which is still to this day a picnic/zoo lunch staple for us). This is its own type of mash-up. This sandwich features a homemade spread using olives, pepperoncini, parsley and mayo which is basically a variation on a homemade tapenade – which I love! I’m finding it increasingly difficult to find olive tapenade in stores, so now I have a go-to recipe on it. All the ingredients are so fresh, if you’re a veggie lover (like me), you are sure to fall head-over-heels for this sandwich. It works and is totally delicious. Just don’t do what I did – I added turkey cold cuts because we had a package needing to get used up. It added nothing, I ended up removing it. The other revision I’d make for next time to is to try my best to slice the bread right to the edge and hollow out as much interior as possible. I found there was just too much bread and I tossed the bready top and edge.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

grilled fish sandwich with cabbage slaw

It's been a long time since we tried one of those not the most appetizing, potentially disastrous, out on a limb dinners. Being a picky pregnant gal and having an opinionated kid are well enough reasons for us to find ourselves continually pulling dinner ideas from the massive archive of this blog. But this blog would collect dust if I didn't continue to try new meals. That's why when this Grilled Fish Sandwich with Cabbage Slaw popped up on my Pinterest feed it left enough of an impression on me to pull out Everyday Food Light and work it into last week's meal plan.

I always leave purchasing fresh fish to the last minute, which can be dicey because you sometimes just have to go with what's available in store even if it's not your first pic. Which is exactly what happened with this dinner. No halibut in sight but piles of fresh trout on sale. I've never tasted trout before but it kinda looks like salmon. I'm desperate, oh, what the hell?! Let's try it. 5 minutes of prep work while Nuno BBQ'd the fish and this dinner is ready. We nervously try it and we both had one of those "Ah - ha moments." This dinner is totally delicious in an unexpected way. Individually these ingredients might not impress, but together they sing! I found that discarding the top slice of bread and eating it open face helped get the perfect ratio of ingredients to each bite. And the verdict on trout - we'd definitely have it again. Very similar to salmon in texture - super nice! Great, easy summer meal idea.

Monday, July 22, 2013

exciting news to spill...

I’m thinking it’s about time to let the cat out of the bag, more appropriately, the baby girl out. Yes, we are expecting our second child and I’m about half way into the pregnancy. We are so happy to be adding to our family, this really is an exciting time for us.
To say I was surprised to discover the ultrasound results on the gender would be an understatement. This pregnancy is an exact duplicate of my pregnancy with Owen so I had made a huge assumption that our new addition was a boy as well. That means I was feeling tired and slightly nauseated in the evenings in the first trimester and craving sandwiches for every meal since. My other uncontrollable cravings include salad and eggs. I had to start sticking to more whites than yolks on the eggs because 3 or 4 eggs a day was getting a little excessive. But this pregnancy is smooth sailing and quite enjoyable overall. The added bonus of an excited and involved Owen has made everything even more fun this time around. From the moment we told him he had total comprehension of what was happening and to come. Probably from the other expectant moms who’ve had babies since he’s started attending child care. That and the fact that he’s one smart cookie.

So along with the posts you’ve come to expect I also plan on sharing more details and photos as we excitedly await the arrival of our daughter.

Friday, July 19, 2013

emeril's crazy nachos

This is not the time of year we’ll find ourselves pulling out the slow cooker for pulled pork. However, when we make pulled pork it always ends up making so much we freeze several batches of leftovers. We had our final batch of pulled pork from earlier this year in the freezer needing to be used up so I decided to try Emeril’s Crazy Nachos.
There are several steps involved in making these crazy nachos. First up is a chipotle salsa, which is perfect for this time of year and into August when tomatoes are delicious and fresh. Secondly there are quite a few steps involved in making a homemade queso cheese (which includes roasting poblano peppers). This is my first time making queso from scratch and this cheese dip is quite good for homemade, however it needs to stay warm or it will cease up and get lumpy, so it’s important to make this the final step before placing the nachos in the oven. If your pulled pork is already prepared (as in our case), the nacho portion of this meal is just assembly and takes only moments (which makes up for all the effort involved in the first two steps).

The results are truly delicious and most definitely the best homemade nachos we’ve ever made or tried, but, holy moly, it's a lot of work and best done on a Friday night or weekend.

Monday, July 15, 2013

grand bender weekend 2013

This past weekend we had our annual family reunion cottage weekend in Grand Bend. Every year seems to be getting better and better because one more baby joins the ranks. The cousin total now stands at 7 with even another on the way!

All the cousins with Avo.

Not only that, there was also the bonus of having gorgeous sunny weather the entire time (and this hasn’t happened since we started).

We used to joke that it was expected to rain on that weekend exclusively. But as you can see it was just clear and gorgeous, perfect for the beach which is where we spent our days.

We had a really nice arrangement of chairs, beach blankets, beach umbrella and a tent/canopy which came in handy when the sun was just blazing and the kids needed their water and sunscreen reap.

 Or just a place to play hide and seek.

We packed bottles of water, sandwiches, chips and watermelon for lunches (along with a couple ciders for the parents).
Owen really connected with his cousin Paige (who’s 3 months older than him) over the weekend. Her and her family flew in from Calgary! Both kids stuck together, made up silly words & songs... and bickered. They’d tattle on each other and one would always want what the other had. Of course this was all innocent enough and us parents, after settling the squabbles, found ourselves chuckling at the antics when the kids were out of ear shot. Of course, most of the time things were pretty copasetic between the two.

Seeing as how this is a food blog, I’ve got to mention some of the treats we enjoyed. This was the first year our cottage hosts arrived with the arsenal of food (every previous year each family has taken responsibility for preparing one meal). This worked out great because there wasn’t too much food, avoided a crammed fridge full of doubles and triples of the similar items and allowed us parents a little more freedom to watch the kiddos. Naturally our dinners included barbeque – steak and salmon along with delicious salads and vegetables. For dessert I made Dirt Cake!

Have you heard/tried it before? This is a chocolate cookie crumb / pudding concoction layered similar to a trifle.

But the fun part (other than tasting great) are all the gummy worms hidden inside and insects on top all served in a beach pail.

This is something my mom made us kids in the summer when we had large groups of friends or cousins over. She was so into it she had a designated pail and serving shovel along with 4 mini shovels specific for her Dirt Cakes. A while ago my mom asked if I’d be interested in it and of course, jumped on the opportunity to make one!

This went over really big with the kids and adults alike. The other really great thing is that it serves a crowd – all 19 of us had our fair share.

The kids got dirty. Max - totally dirty. But it was really a lot of fun – thanks mom!

Did you notice how we are all in dressed in yellow? Some families who use cottages in Grand Bend for reunions wear custom t-shirts to the beach. Our hosts Steven and Linda thought this was a neat idea, so this year my husband designed and printed the most amazing custom shirts for us all. Yes, bright yellow is very difficult to miss on a pile of munchkins on the beach.

We ate our meals outside on the deck, it was just amazing. Including our Sunday breakfast which was like something out of a nice hotel, the spread was something I wish I’d grabbed a photo of. Among the items were some Blueberry Muffins I made.

The recipe is from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook and it’s an excellent recipe. I doubled the batch aiming for 24 muffins but ended up with so much excess batter that I was also able to bring 24 mini muffins. Great for kids and snacking. Everyone seemed to enjoy them, I’ll definitely stick to this muffin recipe down the road.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

kid friendly chicken dinners

When I stumble upon articles recommending foods kids will love I'm always intrigued to look further into it. Is it wholesome, fresh, simple to prepare and most of all, will Owen love it? One recipe I made specifically with Owen in mind was from a back issue of Everyday Food Magazine July/August 2006 for BBQ Chicken Tenders with a side of Corn Fritters. I was especially happy to finally have the opportunity to use some of the BBQ sauce I made on Father's Day.

Now, I've already stated how Nuno is great on the barbecue, so I can confidently say that tiny boneless pieces of chicken on the barbeque will probably always turn out dry. And that's the reason Owen didn't get too far with this meal. He was telling us the chicken was chewy and we ourselves could hardly break it down. Luckily the corn fritters were delicious albeit totally indulgent.

Another chicken recipe aimed for kids is this Bacon Wrapped Chicken Tenders from Everyday Food magazine December 2010. This was a dinner I made when a projected spaghetti and meatball meal found me in a pinch with an empty meatball stash.

I opted to use cut up chicken thighs instead of tenders and to fry the chicken as ways of preventing another dry chicken episode. Both tricks totally worked with keeping the chicken moist and delicious. And, really, how can anything wrapped in bacon not taste great? Owen and Nuno loved it and I enjoyed them after removing the outside bacon. It was neat how the bacon actually infused a whole lot of flavour into the meat. 

However I find that our usual dinners, ones that don’t get flagged as kid friendly, seem to go over best with Owen. And it’s of course a welcome surprise to find a meal that all three of us love equally. That’s what we found in Chicken Stirfry in Wraps.

I made this once about a year ago, and while browsing Pinterest I noticed a photo of a lettuce wrap and decided to add this dinner to our meal plan for this week. There are so many things I love about this recipe. First is how simple it is to make. Secondly, it’s very quick to prepare. Finally, it’s healthy and balanced. Although I half expected Owen to eat the rice and stirfry mixed together in a bowl, he actually ate the entire dinner assembled in lettuce wraps. He was such a hoot meticulously placing his rice, veggies and chicken and then holding the wrap together as he ate it. Maybe because he was eating with his hands he had so much fun. If you haven’t tried a Boston lettuce wrap dinner, give it ago on a recipe you’d normally enjoy in a flour tortilla.

Monday, July 8, 2013

veggie burger

So while on the subject of burgers, we also tried a brand new veggie burger not too long ago. This one courtesy of Bon App├ętit magazine’s June 2013 issue. There is this great portion of the magazine which fields reader’s requests for copy cat recipes from some of their favourite dining experiences. One reader wrote in about the veggie burgers at the Rosewood Grill in Hudson, OH. The magazine offered their own take on that particular item. Intrigued by the delicious ingredient list, I decided to give them a whirl.

I made these burgers on a frying pan indoors and am certainly glad I did. Like just about every other veggie burger I’ve ever attempted (especially those using beans as the main ingredient), it was quite crumbly. But it’s that same texture which I really liked. They weren’t dry and the seasoning was spot-on. The addition of pickled jalapenos were genius. But, as much as I loved them, once finished I couldn’t help but feel as though I got the veggie burger-kick out of my system for another good year. Oh vegetarians/vegans, I admire you... I just don’t know how you do it.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

burgers galore

I'm sure everyone out there has been busy firing up & enjoying the BBQ over the past few weeks. I love it because my husband is pretty much a Grill Master, but he's now officially crowned the Burger King. For a couple years now he's been interested in making burgers from scratch with some success. But in the spring we stopped around Burger's Priest (cult burger joint in Toronto) for the first time and, as the name indicates, it was a religious experience. Burgers in the summer are the prefect reminder that as much as I enjoy several vegetarian meals a week, I'm most likely always destined to be a satisfied carnivore. We learned that Burger's Priest uses beef chuck with a high fat to meat ratio, which must account for the flavour as well as the soft melt-in-your-mouth quality these burgers possess. Inspired, Nuno's been experimenting with a combination of beef short-rib chuck and boneless shoulder for beef burgers with great results.

(left to right: beef chuck burgers, lamb burgers, turkey burgers)

And we are not limited to beef. Taking inspiration from these Greek Lamb Kebabs we loved this spring, Nuno purchased lamb and ground it along with a simple seasoning of ground coriander, salt & pepper. The toppings included lettuce, tomatoes, red onion and a dressing of plain yogurt, lemon juice, fresh mint & coriander.
I'm a huge turkey burger fan and Our Favourite Turkey Burger is probably my favourite burger to eat. I just love the addition of grueyere making these burgers perfect with just a simple topping of lettuce and tomato.

And my favourite side to any burger is potato salad. We purchased an assortment of colourful fingerling potatoes for the potato salad above. I don't really use a recipe for potato salad, just use whatever we have on hand that I think might work and taste-test till satisfied. This potato salad used light plain yogurt, mayonnaise, minced shallot, thinly sliced scallion, dijon, cider vinegar and salt & pepper.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

happy canada day!

I hope all you Canadians out there had a wonderful Canada Day Weekend. Our first long weekend of the summer is always a good time and we packed this past one with lots of family outings. My boss gave me 2 complimentary tickets to one of Niagara’s largest concert festivals of the year at Butler’s Barracks. Maybe because I live under a rock and don’t listen to any modern Canadian rock I wasn’t really aware of all the artists playing at this festival. Kinda embarrassed because most of them are Juno winners. The festival line up included Yukon Blonde, Serena Ryder, Jimmy Eat World (OK, I know about them), Metric (them too) and City and Colour. This festival is located across the street from Fort George in Niagara-On-The-Lake at Butler’s Barracks and I just loved how close it was for us to attend. What didn’t impress me was the majority of people who paid upwards of $75 per ticket also had to pay $20 parking fee and $11 for a plastic cup of beer. Totally outrageous! What I loved about this festival were the awesome food vendors, the festival vibe, all the cool kids (of what my guess would be about 15 thousand in attendance) who were really chill and cool with Owen. He loved hanging out, dancing and enjoying the concert.

Yes, we brought Owen because the Niagara Parks website indicated it was a family event where children 10 and under were free so we really had nothing to lose going into it. He had loads of fun, so I’m glad we took our chances and let him come with us to another concert (especially considering he was really disappointed about not being able to see the Rolling Stones with us).

The bands were fantastic but by 8pm when Metric hit the stage their totally underwhelming performance had us teetering on leaving. But the major deal breaker happened when the sky opened up and poured buckets on everyone. We vacated to the parking lot but were soaked from head to toe by the time we made it to the car. But it was awesome and such a great day we won’t soon forget.

The other big outing for us was on Canada Day Monday to a picnic held by Toronto’s classic rock station Q107 at Woodbine Park in Toronto.

I have family who leave near the Beaches, so all of us cousins decided to meet up and enjoy an afternoon of kid’s midway rides, food trucks, live classic rock cover bands and fireworks.

Owen really got into the spirit.

And to get back to food blogging, I tried a new celebatory red and white recipe this past weekend for a Raspberry Buckle.

Making it reminded me of this Peach Buckle I was quite hooked on baking 3 summers ago. And when it comes to homey desserts, this one rates up as one of the best. It may not look like much but it’s an absolute delight! An easy and economical bake, I can honestly say that buckles are one of my favourite ways to enjoy baked summer fruits.