Wednesday, January 30, 2013

oven-fried chicken

I've mentioned before about how I'm not the biggest bone-in chicken fan. But what are the chances that since having the Soy-Ginger Chicken, Owen is constantly asking for more chicken legs? So, these days I'm not so reluctant to make chicken legs when they are such a hit around here and this Oven-Fried Chicken recipe is quite good. Nothing can replace a true southern fried chicken, but we don't typically eat deep fried food so a dinner like this works really well for us.
Soaking the chicken pieces in garlic and buttermilk overnight was pretty key for this dinner. It tenderized the meat as well as added a lot of flavour, so it is a very necessary step. When it came time to make dinner it was super quick coating the meat in processed whole wheat bread crumbs. With the extra buttermilk I made a side of buttermilk mashed potatoes. While the chicken was baking I had time to use my food mill to mash the potatoes and it created the most rich and creamy mashed potatoes we have ever tasted. Just another thing I'll be doing from now on.
Real comfort food and really big with the boys. The chicken coating was crispy and surprisingly flavourful while the meat was so insanely juicy, even I had to admit we I might actually enjoy more bone-in meat.

Monday, January 28, 2013

light pineapple upside-down cake

On Sunday we had friends from the GTA come down for a visit. We decided to take them to Ravine Vineyards in St. David's. This is a beautiful winery that offers much more than just the winery experience of tours, tastings & sales. There is a cafe, bakery and full restaurant on site. They set up a skating rink on the property for the winter, so we thought it would be the perfect place to have Owen try skating for the first time.

We have him on double blades, which made him very confident, to the point he insisted on doing it all himself. As I hovered over him I knew the inevitable spill would happen, and when it did Owen didn't take it so well. He gave up after his first fall so we took him in for hot chocolate. It was sunny and beautiful Sunday afternoon, but as the day wore on the temperatures dropped. Once inside we were pleased to see this winery has our favouite local brewery Niagara Oast House's Barn Raiser on tap.

Earlier in the afternoon I baked this Light Pineapple Upside-Down Cake from Everyday Food Light. We used a gorgeous juicy pineapple which Nuno expertly sliced. I love the checkerboard pattern (instead of the traditional rings), it just ensures you get all the more fruit on your piece of cake. Owen helped mix the ingredients for the cake and snacked on extra slices of pineapple.

It was only after the cake was out of the oven, I re-read the recipe to discover I forgot the oil in the cake. I was quite nervous because the cake has whole wheat flour and I had a concern it might be tough and dry. But amazingly, this cake turned out fantastic. The pineapple keeps the cake super moist my baking flub might be one I continue to make. This cake reminds me of a coffee cake but in place of strusel we have fruit. The fruit layer makes this a 'healthy' cake, perfect for breakfast with my morning coffee. Definitely a winner of a cake, perfect for those of us who like the odd sweet allowing us to indulge relatively guilt-free!

Friday, January 25, 2013

lighter eggplant parmesan

This is our dinner of Lighter Eggplant Parmesan from Everyday Food Light. What makes it light is the technique of baking the eggplant first and then assembling it in a lighter tomato bechamel sauce. This is one of the recipes from the book I've made when it was first published in Everyday Food Magazine December 2008 and I distinctly remember not being all that impressed with it. After making it a second time it tasted exactly the same and, again, not anything I'd highly recommend trying. To me, the bechamel sauce was gummy which I believe unintentionally made it heavy.

One of my favourite dinners to order at my favourite Italian restaurant is Eggplant Parmesan so I am probably a little hard to please when it comes to this dinner in particular. I love it coated in breading and deep fried, so I'd be more inclined to do just that for any future eggplant parm dinners. There really is no trade-off comparable to the real deal.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

soy-ginger chicken

Sunday we decided to give a slow cooking dinner a try. Soy-Ginger Chicken is from Everyday Food Light and it wasn't immediately one of the recipes I was dying to try. I'm not a big chicken leg fan, but there is something about the cold winter months that a dinner like this can be a real comfort. 
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Now, if you follow the link, you'll notice the cooking time is way off. It was initially to be a slow cooker recipe, but the recipe published in the book was altered for a dutch oven cooking method. This suits me way better because it only takes an hour an a half to cook compared to the 3 hour slow cooker method.
This was very simple to prepare, you didn't even need to bother browning the meat first, just add everything in the pot and into the oven it goes. I had my hesitation about this dinner but the moment it came out of the oven I couldn't believe the final result. Perfectly cooked chicken with a sweet and fragrant glaze that tasted on par with Chinese take-out. I'd actually be thrilled if I ordered this on take-out, so naturally I was really happy with this recipe.
There is something really nice about the final garnish of fresh cilantro that makes this dinner go from good to great. I kept adding more because I wanted this herb with every bite. The other detail about this dinner which was so fantastic was how across the board we all loved it. Owen ate 3 chicken legs to himself. So needless to say we have a major winner on our hands with this dinner. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

broiled shrimp scampi

Last entry I mentioned I hadn't ever tasted shrimp scampi before. I decided to make that history and give the Broiled Shrimp Scampi recipe from Everyday Food Light a try. I can honestly say this is one of the recipes in the book I might have never tried it if it wasn't for how the meatball recipe left me wondering.
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 Both Nuno and I love shrimp and have tried it a myriad of ways, but I can say this is the best. This is such an amazing and succulent way to enjoy shrimp. Just lemon, garlic and parsley and voila! So, after having tried shrimp scampi I can say the meatballs taste just like the real deal.
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The accompanying photo in the cookbook showed the shrimp served with some sort of tomato rice dish but the recipe wasn't included in the book. So I made it up based around the green bean and tomato recipe from Fresh Flavour Fast but with canned tomatoes. Yes, fresh tomatoes this time of year are criminally tasteless canned just has to do in January.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

shrimp scampi meatballs in garlicky broth

The October 2012 issue of Everyday Food magazine features some amazing meatball recipes. I blogged about the chicken parm meatball last month. It's so good we've actually gone ahead and had it again since. I decided to give another meatball recipe a go, this time for Shrimp Scampi Meatballs in Garlicky Broth.

This is definitely something different and totally interesting. I've never tasted shrimp scampi before so I can't vouch on how authentic tasting it is, but this was nice. Ground chicken helps to round out these shrimp meatballs which were very simple and quick to make. They held together fantastically straight from shaping to cooking. The garlic broth was fantastic with the flavour of the seafood and lemon helping to boost it. My only issue was the texture of the shrimp. I kept it chunky which made me feel like there were rubbery parts to the chicken and I'm notorious for detecting even the smallest piece of 'non-meat' parts of chicken.

Monday, January 14, 2013

mushroom and black bean tortilla casserole

Well, this year we are starting life without Everyday Food magazine. I'm tellin' ya, it's not getting easier as time passes not having the monthly digest arriving in my mailbox. Yes, I'm attempting to visit and see if keeping up with this site will fill that void. So far, it's not... But on a more positive note, I did try one of their recipes posted last month. It's for Mushroom and Black Bean Tortilla Casserole.

I set up my iPad and watched Sarah's video segment and then followed the recipe. What initially shocked me was just how fast it came together. Just a few minutes and it was in the oven. And the taste was more like a dinner that takes ages to create. Yes, it's simple and totally delicious. Initially I thought the mushroom and black bean combo was just a little odd but that's what I ended up loving most about this recipe - the texture contrast between the two. We all loved it so much this will totally be in regular rotation for us.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

kung-fu panda movie night

I've always appreciated Pixar and Disney movies, but since Owen arrived I've given a whole lot of movies I probably wouldn't have considered before a chance and have had some real surprises. How To Train Your Dragon and Kung-Fu Panda being examples. We were so lucky to have had a good chunk of time off during this past holiday to keep Owen home with us so with some of that time I decided to put together a fun family movie and dinner night based around Kung-Fu Panda. We started, of course, by watching the movie. Owen was so thrilled with all the action he suddenly jumped up and asked to wear his gi. How perfect was it that he has once straight from Pacific Mall (thanks Aunt Katie!).
Here are some of his moves!
Once he tuckered himself out and the movie was over we had my version of "Secret Ingredient Soup" and dumplings.
This soup is rice vermicelli noodles, julienned cabbage & carrots, grated ginger, minced garlic with a broth of chicken, soy sauce, fish sauce and sesame oil. There were probably other ingredients I threw in while working on it, but that's why they call it Secret Ingredient Soup. Not because there is no secret as the movie reveals, but because I just don't remember.
Delicious store-bought frozen dumpling steamed in our bamboo basket. Dipping sauce is Nuno's secret recipe... honestly, I don't know what he puts in it but it's damn good every time.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

happy tuesday news - trader joe's in WNY!

There’s been months of speculation but it’s finally confirmed – Trader Joe’s is coming to WNY
They will be situated on Niagara Falls Boulevard in Amherst near the Boulevard Mall. This location is one we visit frequently for trips to hit up our favourite spots including Target, Wegmans, Delta Sonic, Ted’s, Consumer’s Beverage and Anderson’s. Only downside is the traffic. On our last visit we sat for 15 minutes just to get back on the 290. And for anyone who’s visited Trader Joe’s before, traffic is ALWAYS an issue (most I’ve visited have someone employed just to direct traffic in and out of the store). Small price to pay for such a great store. Once our Nexus passes go through we’ll be hittin’ it up and adding to that traffic volume.

Monday, January 7, 2013

pasta carbonara with leeks and lemon

Looking to use up some leeks we had in the fridge I decided to try Pasta Carbonara with Leeks and Lemon from the November 2011 issue of Everyday Food magazine. I think we've tried well over half the recipes from this issue over the past year but somehow overlooked this one. I'm certainly glad I gave this one a go because it was so great.

The only thing that was a little odd about it was the stringy leek pieces (since they are sliced they unfold like ribbons and don't really break down). So I'd probably give them a rough chop to make the texture a little better, but other than that it was a great pasta option when you're after something different and delicious.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

candy popcorn

One day in mid-December a coworker and I were sharing details of food perks associated with our husband's jobs. My coworker, who's husband is a trucker, had a list a mile long of all the different types of produce and frozen goods that somehow get rejected on destination. I only had one to share, the time my husband came home with piles of microwave popcorn. As I was stating that I don't even eat the stuff and it was sitting in our pantry, an idea came to mind; why not pop it all into candy popcorn gifts for the holidays?

I decided to research a recipe and found Smitten Kitchen had a great recipe for sweet and spicy popcorn. On my first trial I overcooked the caramel and the spicy heat just wasn't the style I was looking for when it came to gift giving. So I modified the recipe to suit my tastes.

Sweet & Salty Candy Popcorn 
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen's Sweet & Spicy Popcorn)
Makes 4 quarts

Nonstick cooking spray or vegetable oil
2 bags of microwave popcorn
3 cups sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups salted peanuts (optional)

Lightly coat heat-proof rubber tongs or 2 spatulas, a very large mixing bowl and two large baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray or a thin slick of oil.
Microwave popcorn according to instructions. Transfer to the prepared bowls, removing any unpopped kernels. Have the two large baking sheets ready.
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, salt and 1/2 cup water. Cook over high heat, without stirring, until the mixture becomes a light golden-yellow caramel, 10 to 14 minutes. Remove from the heat and carefully whisk in the baking soda & vanilla (the mixture will bubble up).
Immediately pour the caramel mixture over the popcorn and don’t fuss if it doesn’t all come out of the pot — you’ll have plenty. Add peanuts on top if using. Working quickly and carefully, use the prepared tongs to toss the caramel and popcorn together, as if you were tossing a salad, until the popcorn is well coated.

Spread the popcorn onto the baking sheets and quickly separate them into small pieces while still warm. Cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes. Once cool, store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
This recipe is so easy I managed to make 5 batches over the holidays. I was tempted to do a little more research to try and figure out what temperature the caramel must reach to be 'optimal' but a new candy thermometer was on my christmas list I just had to make the best of it. But and no matter what, it always worked out as long as it was left to cook till it turned golden yellow (yes, it's very forgiving). The clean up is also just as forgiving. I'll never forget making peanut brittle 8 years ago and nearly ruining my favourite sauce pan and giving up on a wooden spoon I just threw away over attempting to clean. This caramel needs only to sit for a few minutes in warm soapy water to dissolve away.