Wednesday, March 27, 2013

seafood stew

I was really looking forward to try Everyday Food Light's Seafood Stew since we are huge seafood lovers. For the stew I purchased fresh tilapia along with an assortment of shrimp, squid, clams, mussles and scallops. One of my favourite seafood dinners is this Everyday Food Halibut with Tomatoes and Fennel, so I naturally assumed this would be the soup version.

One revision I made was to cut back on the chicken broth and use a jar of clam juice instead. Once complete, I realized I really should have sliced the fennel smaller. Slicing length wise, they cooked to long noodle like strands that were messy to eat. But, unfortunetly, we won't be trying this again. The flavour just was not there and no matter how I tinkered, nothing could improve it. Bland, bland, bland. I was so close to making a cioppino recipe instead which called for more ingredients, I now realize would have imparted way more flavour, and after tasting this I realize I made the wrong decision.

Monday, March 25, 2013

lighter chef's salad

One recipe I was really happy to see in Everyday Food Light was the Lighter Chef's Salad from the May 2008 issue. I made this when it was first published in the magazine and I swear we had it every couple of weeks back in the 2008 & 9. Then Monterey jack cheese started to get scarcer so we just sorta forgot about it.

Everything about this salad combination works. The best part is every bite tastes different. I've been tempted to switch it up and there is something about all the elements of this recipe that just work. This is a wonderful summer salad when you want something cool and refreshing for dinner.

Friday, March 22, 2013

snap shots of life lately


Blueberry-Orange Cornmeal Muffins |  Owen is obsessed with the graffitti across the street from Mahtay Cafe downtown St. Catharines |  Huevos Rancheros on a Tortilla |  listening to all my old Pavement albums | Formal Superheros |  St. Patty's day at Niagara Oast House Brewers | peanut butter and jelly breakfast monkey | cute tot | Nuno drew all 4 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for Owen to colour (all three of us just love the new TMNT show!) | Sushi Buffet, Owen enjoying Fried Rice

Thursday, March 21, 2013

whole wheat pasta with lighter pesto

Everyday Food Light features a recipe for Whole Wheat Pasta with Lighter Pesto. I adore pesto while Nuno is pretty lukewarm to eating it. This recipe is probably not the best pesto recipe to sway anyone on the fence about the flavour. It was pretty pungent with the abundance of herbs. To my fault, I also threw in some mint that needed to be used up, and I feel like that might have just enhanced the herbal flavour.

Surprisingly, everyone enjoyed it. I actually didn’t really have high hopes for Owen, but he seemed to like it (maybe it was the bright colour). But after trying this recipe I’d probably just stick to a more traditional ratio for pesto and eat less than to overindulge in this figure-friendly version.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

cantonese lemon chicken

So, it’s not all tasty adventures for our week in Food and Drink-land. We had a recipe fail on our hands this past week as well. The current Spring 2013 issue features a recipe for Cantonese Lemon Chicken which sounded great. I really enjoy making my own Chinese take-out classics at home. I understand they aren’t always what you can expect from the restaurant (which is usually a good thing b/c I like to leave out deep fried food and MSG when possible). Healthier, lighter, fresh and homemade are the way to go in my home.
The recipe takes chunks of marinated pieces of chicken breast coated in panko and scallions and then oven baked. That wasn’t the fail part (but a little more salt would have certainly helped), the odd sauce was the kicker. The sauce looks and tastes a lot like lemon meringue pie filling. It might be me, but I could not get the balance between sweet/tart/savoury to work not matter what I did. Scallions seemed to take the sauce from dessert to dinner so it was edible. But Owen shuttered at the taste of the sauce and ate mostly chicken and rice (and hardly any at that).

This past week has shown me there is loads of potential with this magazine, and just like any other cookbook, magazine or website there are great recipes and some which just don’t work based on technique or maybe they just aren’t to your tastes. Food and Drink features a collection of recipes from multiple sources, some which just don’t seem reliable. And that’s the reason I love Everyday Food - they work in a test kitchen which simplifies cooking techniques and gives you a little bit of ‘food insurance’ making each new recipe a likely success. You know they’ve been tested and refined to succeed.

Monday, March 18, 2013

chilorio tacos

Another recipe I chose to try as part of my experimenting with Food & Drink magazine were the Chilorio Tacos from the current Spring 2013 issue. I quickly read through the recipe first thing in the morning and realized that pretty much everything had to be prepared ahead of time which includes pickling red onions, making a chili paste and slow cooking beef. Luckily, it was all pretty straight forward and I was able to get it all done while Owen ate his breakfast (having said that, he usually takes half an hour to eat). I was already behind on the onions which indicated they needed to marinated 24-48 hours. So in order to speed up the pickling process I brought the recipe to a boil on the stove and then left it to marinate the rest of the day at room temperature, which luckily worked out perfectly.

It was great to come home to a practically completed meal. It almost felt too easy so I made a side of Cilantro Lime Rice to round out the meal.
This is definitely one of the best recipes I’ve ever made. Every element of the tacos were perfect, each topping setting off the other. This recipe was submitted to Food and Wine magazine from a Mexican restaurant in San Francisco toting them as the “The Best Tacos” and I had to admit, they are the best I’ve ever tasted. They taste so authentically Mexican I am still kinda surprised I managed it. This was a wonderful surprise and delicious Friday night meal. You really have to try them. Unfortunately the recipes from the current issue aren’t available online yet to link to. So I did a very abbreviated summary of the recipe, but the magazine is available now, for free, at all LCBO stores.

2 1/2 lbs beef chuck in one pieces
1 small onion, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 cup water

Put all ingredients into a slow cooker and cook for 8 hours on high. Once cooked shred beef and return to cooker along with prepared chili paste below. Heat till warmed through.

Chili Paste
5 ancho chilis, deviened and seeded
2 guajillo chilis,
deviened and seeded
2 cups boiling water
6 garlic cloves
1 tsp dried orgeano
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 c white wine vinegar
1 tsp sea salt

Rehydrate dried chilis with water for 15 minutes. Drain and reserve liquid. Add chilis, and all other ingredients into a food processor and blend till smooth. Add reserved liquid as needed if paste it too thick.

Lime Crema
1/4 c mexican crema / sour cream / plain yogurt
1/3 c lime juice
salt & pepper

To Finish
12 white corn tortillas, warmed
6 c chopped romaine / micro greens
Cilantro sprigs
Marinated Red Onions (below)

Marinated Red Onions
1 lb red onions slices
2 c white wine vinegar
3/4 c cilantro sprigs
1/2 c fresh lemon juice
1/2 c fresh orange juice
1/2 tsp salt
Combine all ingredients and marinate for at least 24  hours (48 hours is best).

Friday, March 15, 2013

steak n' eggs mexican style

From the Winter 2013 issue of Food and Drink I decided to make the Steak n' Eggs Mexican Style. The photo in the magazine didn't really give a telling image of the completed recipe, but once I read the ingredients I could tell this was going to be delicious.
When was the last time we had steak for dinner? I know lots of people who grill steaks on the bbq throughout the year (even in the dead of winter). But we're aren't included in that lot. I prepare our winter steaks on the cast iron skillet and, believe it or not, it's just as great as the bbq... honest!
The recipe begins with a dry-rub coating on each steak. Then a rancheros sauce is prepared. At the last minute before plating you fry your eggs. So there are quite a few steps and pans, but I can assure you, this dinner is well worth it.

This dinner won rave reviews! The dry rub is definitely one we'll use again soon - simple and delicious. And I can't stop dreaming over the rancheros sauce. It was spicy and just the perfect accompaniment for the eggs. My only regret in this is serving it with a side of french fries. Next time we must try it with polenta.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

braised beef with asian spice and coconut

Braised Beef with Asian Spice and Coconut is the first meal we chose to try from Food and Drink magazine’s current Spring 2013 issue. This is essentially a Thai flavoured beef stew. Cooking it according to recipe instructions took us all afternoon to prepare. The major issue I found with this dinner were all the extra steps that can be eliminated if you simply use a slow cooker. I don’t know how you feel, but I find stewing beef is tough and requires a very low and slow cooking process to soften the meat. Because this made so much food I used the slow cooker the next day to reheat the meat and sauce and what a difference it made! The flavours came together so much better and the meat was so tender. Served over rice the flavours of this stew are very nice I’d have to say we have a winner.

Here is the recipe with our revisions:

Braised Beef with Asian Spice and Coconut
3 lbs stewing beef, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
1/4 c  cilantro,
coarsely chopped
1/4 c Thai curry paste
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 box no salt or low sodium beef stock
1 can light coconut milk
2 large sweet potatoes, cut into 1 inch chunks
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp packed brown sugar
1 tbsp fish saucesalt & pepper
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
Pat beef dry with paper towel and season with salt & pepper. In a large skillet heat vegetable oil and brown beef in batches on all sides (2 minutes). Place beef in slow cooker along with all ingredients up to sweet potatoes. Cook on low stetting for 6 - 8 hours. Just before serving stir in lime juice, brown sugar, fish sauce and s&p. Taste for final seasoning. Add green onions and cilantro as garnish over rice or noodles.

Monday, March 11, 2013

food & drink magazine week!

There is a great magazine you can find at most LCBO stores across Ontario called Food & Drink. It’s huge, beautiful and free!

I’ve picked it up on occasion and once home I see recipes that include “caviar” and “confit”, the sort of words which seem just a little too much for me to handle on a weeknight basis, so I’d always defer back to my Everyday Food magazines. While shopping in the LCBO this weekend I came across the Spring 2013 issue of Food & Drink and decided to give it a good look through and found myself inspired. I realized that a majority of these recipes are quite straight-forward and, although there are some more technical recipes that call for high-end ingredients, the majority are more geared toward weeknight dining. I bookmarked several recipes and even pulled out a couple back issues and flagged recipes from those as well. So this week we’ll be preparing all our dinners from recipes published in Food & Drink. I’m out to see how easy they are to prepare and how they fare in flavour.

I started off yesterday by baking these Espresso Chocolate Chunk Cookies from the Early Summer 2012 issue. When I read the recipe I realized we had everything in the house to make them so I literally jumped right into them. This recipe doesn’t require room temperature butter so it meant I could get started right away. No fancy equipment, just a couple bowls, whisk and spatula are all you need. Instead of a double boiler I opted to microwave the chocolate, espresso powder and butter together on a low setting and stirring frequently. A little more risky but easier when you are careful. I used Ghirardelli bittersweet baking chocolate along with Ghirardelli chocolate chips. The cookies turned out very dark and rich. Out of the oven they were like eating the cookie version of a chocolate lava cake. Although these are definelty a chocolate lover's cookie there are loads of other flavours going on here. The abundance of added ingredients meant the cookies didn’t really have as much butter and sugar as I’m quite used to seeing in most cookie recipes. So in my rationale (if you can call it that) these are maybe a little healthier? Yes, and we all know dark chocolate is better for you indeed! And considering all the different additions each bite gives you a little something different. Some cherry, some pecan and some strictly chocolate bites. These are a total breeze (and joy) to bake and total pleasure to eat!

Friday, March 8, 2013

leek, bacon and pea risotto

Leek, Bacon and Pea Risotto is a dinner I made when Everyday Food magazine first published it, but since it appears in Everyday Food Light, I figured we’d have it again. This is a great stand-by risotto recipe to keep around. Most of the ingredients are always on hand (you can always substitute the leek for spring onions or white onions in a pinch). I can’t remember the last time I was able to get through a pound of bacon. Instead of throwing out unused portions I find it’s helpful to slice it in half and portion 4 slices per Ziploc and keep them in the freezer. It’s perfect for recipes like this one.

Owen loved it but couldn’t help pick out all the pieces of bacon first.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

spinach pasta with ricotta and pine nuts

There are some recipes that don’t seem like they could possibly be good but I’m always willing to give them a shot. Sometimes, to my surprise, they are fanstasic. Then there are those that sound like they have all the potential in the world to be tasty but end up being a total flop. This Spinach Pasta with Ricotta and Pine Nuts is an example the later.

All the ingredients sound like they could work, the photo in Everyday Food Great Food Fast makes it look so appetizing. It took me a year to find spinach pasta (finally came across spinach linguine at Wegman’s). I can understand why it’s so difficult to find, no one is buying it. I didn't realize how pungent it was (since I've only tried it before in a tri-colour rotini) but on it's own, it's quite putred. Although the spinach pasta throws this dinner, it's not the only problem - this meal is a fail on all ingredients. No amount of refining could save it.

Monday, March 4, 2013

TO time with KT at the CN

We took a little day trip this weekend up to Toronto to visit my sister and her boyfriend. We initially didn’t have any plans other than to let Owen spend time hanging out and admiring their toy collection. But since it wasn’t slushy and somewhat sunny and clear on Saturday we ventured to the CN Tower.

Funny enough this was a first for not only Owen, but for Nuno and myself as well. Kinda strange Nuno and I were born in Toronto but had never visited the CN Tower before. Well, luckily I’ve gotten my fear of heights under a reasonable amount of control (that’s what flying in a plane 4x a year will do). But how did Owen fare?

This pose says it all.

Afterward we visited Katie & Mouth’s fave comic store. I guess Comics and More on the Danforth sell their excess copies of recently published comics in a $1 discount bin. As you can imagine the ‘E’ everyone rated comics don’t really move. Great news for us because Owen just loves to sit with daddy and read comics before bed.

lemon-horseradish fish cakes

I've been eyeing these Lemon-Horseradish Fish Cakes from Everyday Food Light for quite some time now. After making the salmon burgers the other week I've become a fan of fish paired with horeradish and a mayo style Herb Dipping Sauce.

So these little jems bring the house down. They are so easy to make (and eat) it's unbelievable. The recipe yields so many cakes we ate them for two nights in a row (since I used frozen tilapia in these I couldn't refreeze the cakes like suggested in the recipe). First time around (pictured above with roasted broccoli) I used the cracker crumb coating as directed in the recipe. But the cakes never really got very golden and were a little dense. So the next day I used panko in place and they were even better. We put them into small buns with lettuce topped with the mayo dressing and they were delicious fish burgers. This is one of the best ways to get kids to eat fish.