Friday, May 31, 2013

buttermilk cilantro steak with corn salad and baked potato chips

Steak on the barbeque in summer! I can’t tell you how long I’ve been wanting steak back in my life. As much as I wish this recipe for Buttermilk Cilantro Steak could have been made with skirt steak, flank is much more readily available to us. The one great thing about flank steak is we always make one steak last 2 meals. And our favourite way of using leftover steak is with this banh mi inspired steak sandwich. My goodness, it’s such a treat.

But back to the recipe at hand, the marinade was very nice and for anyone who enjoys cilantro (which we sure do), you’re bound to enjoy this marinade. A portion is set aside as a side sauce so you get to enjoy the extra flavour. As a side I used the Corn Salad portion of this recipe which made for one awesome summer side. I’ve made several variations of corn salads in the past, but this recipe is the best of any one I’ve tried. All the flavours of summer with lime, cilantro and avocado – a real winner. I know it’s cliché, but steak and potatoes go hand-in-hand and I needed a starch to round out the meal. This potato side is simply sliced potatoes with olive oil, salt & pepper and baked in the oven until crispy. Tasted just like potato chips.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

cranberry upside-down cake

It’s funny what kids pick up. While watching TV last week a commercial for Ocean Spray cranberries came on. The ad depicts cranberry farmers waist-deep in a pool of floating cranberries and Owen was mesmerized. He then turned to me and said, “Cranberries, I love cranberries! They are so delicious! Can I have one?” Now, he eats raisins so I decided to oblige him by offering him some dried cranberries. But I couldn’t pull the wool over his eyes and he immediately noticed that they weren’t the same asking for the big round ones. So I went to the basement freezer and grabbed a bag of frozen cranberries. For a short moment I considered offering him a defrosted cranberry on its own for the sheer entertainment of that ‘tart face’ us parents love so much. But it dawned on me that I’d been wanting to make this Cranberry Upside-Down Cake from Everyday Food Great Food Fast for ages so now was the perfect opportunity.

After using copious amounts of sugar for the topping alone along with the defrosted cranberries it was time to make the cake. Owen helped me add and the mix ingredients into the batter which felt like a perfect old-timey cake with a beautiful silky batter. Once complete the outward appearance of the finished cake didn’t come close to being as beautiful as the photo which appears in the cookbook. Our cranberries were the deepest shade of crimson, almost brown.
But slicing into the cake showed a beautiful and rich texture. The cake part was very mellow offsetting the intense jammy sweetness of the cranberries. And looks didn’t seem to bother Owen who ate 2 slices and proclaimed, this time with actual experience and conviction, “I LOVE cranberries! Thanks for making this cake mommy.”

Sunday, May 26, 2013


A couple years ago I had a compulsion to write on this blog about how much I love worship the Rolling Stones. So it's no secret if you've been keeping up with my blog or know me personally that I have been obsessed with the Stones for a long time (it's no exaggeration that I listened to Exile on Main Street daily for 4 years straight). Of the hundreds of concerts I've seen, I've somehow always managed to see most of my favourite bands in small venues and found myself pretty close to the bands during their live performances. But then there's the Rolling Stones - the Holy Grail of concert-going experiences. The band thats live performance has eluded me. As much as seeing their concert was a to-do before I die, I thought it was a desire I'd best leave to rest. All felt lost when, no matter what I did & how hard I tried, I wasn't able to purchase even the most inexpensive ($165 dollar) seats in the nosebleeds when the tickets went on sale a month and a half ago for their limited 50th Anniversary Tour. But with a little tenacity and a shit-load of luck I was able to be one of the lucky 1,000 people who purchased $85 tickets to see the Stones play the Air Canada Centre. It feels like a dream and is honestly like winning the lottery.

Last night Nuno and I had the time of our lives seeing the Stones play every song we've ever wanted to hear. Never before have I been to a concert with such a string of hit after hit.

At nearly 70 they are still at the top of their game and totally rewrite what it takes to make rock n' roll. At no point during the show did you ever feel as if these are aging rock stars - they are like gods! And they were right there in front of me.

Mick bounced, dashed and pumped the crowd like no other performer I've ever seen before. He's charismatic, energetic and his voice was absolutely perfect. The sound at this show was far beyond any live concert footage I've seen. 
I tried my best to capture photos but was so entranced with the experience. We were so lucky to somehow have 2 empty seats beside us during the show, so I had lots of room to dance the night away to what seemed like a never ending, but was actually non-stop 2 full hours and 22 song experience. Setlist here. They finished with my favourite song of all time, Satisfaction.

Nothing compares to seeing the biggest band in rock n' roll live. That's why I can firmly say it was one of the best days of my life. 
More photos of the best day ever.

El Gastronomo lunch at Montabello Park & Momofuko Noodle Bar Toronto for dinner

Friday, May 24, 2013

pasta with asparagus and ricotta

Although I hate to blog back to back pasta recipes, I'm super thrilled to spread the word on this recipe for Pasta with Asparagus and Ricotta from the May 2012 issue of Everyday Food I just can't quit.

We tried another pasta recipe (this Pasta with Snap Peas and Spinach) from the same issue just last week and thought it was alright but a little dry. Well, this recipe is the remedy to that. Funny thing is it has the same technique of creating a sauce with left over starchy pasta water and parmesan. But the key difference is ricotta. Delicious and creamy ricotta with the scrambled eggs somehow blend into something so beyond delicious. I know it seems like an odd combination, but you have to go with me on this because if you imagine the final result is a pasta version eggs benedict with asparagus. Although this isn't a one pan pasta like the pasta from last week, it's almost there. And that little extra effort and time (I'm talking like 5 minutes), is well worth it. This is my idea of a perfect spring dinner and if we're going to have it my way we'll be having it at least once a week until asparagus season comes to a close.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

susan's manicotti

I try and keep up with the daily posts Everyday Food is sharing on their blog. It's not the same as having the monthly digest delivered to your door, but it's still a way of feeling a part of the Everyday Food kitchen experience. I'm so glad Sarah Carey is the face of Everyday Food. She's super likeable and so entertaining on their video segments. I must look kinda crazy laughing out loud as I watch them over the ipad. Anyways, I can remember seeing an episode of the Martha Stewart show (years ago, when us Canadians had access to it) and Sarah's father appeared on the show because he was an illustrator of some of the famous Woodstock artwork! How cool is that?! Growing up in Woodstock must have been an amazing experience. When I saw she shared her mother Susan's Manicotti recipe I was intrigued, so I decided to give it a whirl.

What is is about moms and manicotti anyways? Was it big in the 80's because my mom made it quite often and made a point of letting us know it was special because of all the work that went into it. She spent ages spooning the filling into each shell which always looked so painstaking. Then I remember she began using a cookie press to fill the manicotti and it became a whole lot less of a chore for her. So that's exactly what we used to fill ours. Works like a charm!
My only issue with manicotti is how easily the tubes tear. They are a very thick pasta, which I assume gives it structure to prevent tearing, but even cooked to al dente I still managed to tear a couple. Luckily, this baked pasta hardly shows the tears if they only creep up an inch or two, so no worries.
As far as flavour we all really enjoyed it. We both agreed that we'd eliminate some (or all) of the sugar in the filling. We also would use a roasted garlic marinara sauce to give a little bit more of a flavour to the entire dish. But what we loved about the filling was how firm yet tender the final dinner was. It sliced beautifully and wasn't messy at all.

Monday, May 20, 2013

victoria day long weekend

Long weekends are so great when the weather cooperates. This year isn't a stellar example of pleasant spring weather, but when it came time to shine - did it ever! We began by baking a cheesecake to enjoy all weekend long with friends who came down for a dinner and movie and with my parents on a backyard pool side afternoon. This is a cake I've been dying to try for years, Everyday Food Light's Light Cherry Cheesecake.

So simple to make and baked up like a dream. It literally came out of the oven perfectly set without a crack. I honestly haven't been so pleased with a dessert like this in months! Using all light ingredients  such as substituting cottage cheese and sour cream for some of the cream cheese made this a tasty and less over-the-top cheesecake option. I wasn't too big on my slice, maybe because cheesecakes aren't really my thing, but if it's yours, I highly recommended giving this one a whirl.

Owen's been chatting about nature walks at childcare so we took him to our favourite forest hiking spot, St. John's Conservation Area for a hike on the longest and steepest path.

Something about the quiet wilderness seemed to bring out some new found nudist tendency.

Owen insisted on being the leader, but then offered to take turns. This time of year is the most lovely time for nature walks because the temperatures are warm, humidity is low and the bugs aren't out.

At the end of the walk there is a pond with trout, turtles, frogs, tadpoles and various birds.


We also decided to check out Welland's Victoria Day celebration.

There was lots of free family fun here. Owen's first concert of the year, "New Kid In Town" - an Eagles tribute band.

Between the hike and the event we had to bow out before the fireworks display began. Maybe next year?

Finally on Monday we got through a lot of much needed yard work and then treated ourselves to a picnic at our favourite spot, Queenston Heights.

Brock's monument is open again. They are even allowing visitors to climb to the top. Owen was fascinated by the Battle of 1812 asking the tour operator tons of probing questions. The kids three going on thirteen.
With our mini bbq in tow, we enjoyed hot dogs from our favourite butcher and this Herbed Potato Salad from Everyday Food's June 2012 issue. Using low fat yogurt our salad was generously covered in dressing without feeling too indulgent. It's a fantastic recipe I think we'll stick with for the summer. Just one revision I made to this recipe was the addition of celery salt (we had it out from our evening Caesars) which added just a little extra hit of flavour which we really enjoyed.

Friday, May 17, 2013

quick veggie fajitas

One dinner I thought was pretty kid-friendly from Everyday Food May 2012 issue is their Quick Veggie Fajitas. Anyone who’s a parent is probably well versed in all the different ways of making breakfast, lunches and dinners using tortillas. Some of our favourites include:

Peanut butter, granola & banana breakfast roll-ups.

Quesadillas with refried beans and cheese for lunch.

These veggie fajitas include poblano peppers, corn and zucchini. Typically the veggies for a fajita are stir-fried, but I decided to roast them in the oven (I love the flavour of roasted corn). Worked great but had to add the zucchini for the last 4 minutes in the oven or it would have ended up mushy. There isn’t much more to this recipe (er, assembly) than spreading refried beans and topping with sour cream – or in our case loads of guacamole. I was a little inspired by summer and did a fridge raid while making this dinner, decided to make a quick 7 Layer Dip for fun. This dip I made was cream cheese, refried beans, guacamole, salsa, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, cheddar cheese and sprinkled with scallions.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

pasta with snap peas basil and spinach

You didn’t think I was over with the May 2012 issue of Everyday Food yet did you? Ah, not even close. We tried the Pasta with Snap Peas Basil and Spinach recipe too.

This gets our vote as simplest and quickest one pot pasta. Everything gets cooked in the same pot you boil the pasta in which is something we just loved. You have to be very in-tune with timing in order to make this dinner work. I’m to the point of neurotic about the doneness of my pasta and with something like snap peas, I like them tender crisp. So luckily when all was said and done the dinner was bang-on. So if you follow the instructed timing chances are you’ll be successful too. I love how fresh and healthy this pasta is. I felt great about getting those extra veggies in Owen.
In the end, the pasta was a little dry. They recommend adding reserved pasta water to get the consistency you like, but it did risk getting soupy if I added much more water. If we make this again I think I’d consider adding a creamy cheese like goat’s cheese to it.

Monday, May 13, 2013

happy mother's day

I hope everyone had a great Mother’s Day yesterday.

We did our usual (but glorious) brunch buffet at Legends where everything was fantastic. If you ever question the power of a Mother, Mother Nature managed to remind us that us moms are capable of awesome things. The weather went from sunny to cold, wet, windy with a hail thrown in for good measure. This changed our plans a little since we were eager to hit up the Handmade Market at Ravine Estate Winery.

I feel like my Mother’s Day was an entire weekend because I had the amazing treat of getting a Saturday night out to see the Breeders perform “Last Splash” in its entirety. This is a big deal for me, my sister and cousin because we all listened to at ton of 90’s indie rock. 20 years later we are having fun seeing bands from our teens. And like most indie rockers from the 90’s, I still listen to all my records from that era finding it somewhat difficult to appreciate all the new indie music of today. When it was first released I purchased Last Splash making it the 2nd CD I ever bought (and buying albums was pretty much how I spent every last dollar in my teens and 20’s). This show was at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto which is a great large space that packed in a sold-out crowd of 30 and 40-somethings. It was thrilling to see exactly how they created so many sounds I took for granted off the album. I had no idea of how instrumental the violin was in so many of their songs off Last Splash. One of the most amazing songs live was Roi because the unique composition and effort the band went to recreate the sound. The band actually indulged in a huge encore set which included Safari(!) which the entire crowd went nuts for. Kim, Kelly, Josephine, Carrie and Jim all looked amazing, sounded fantastic and were so much FUN! I won’t argue with anyone here – Kim Deal is the best woman in 90’s alternative rock. Not only because of her Pixies pedigree – but she’s funny as hell and so likeable I only wish I could have gone out for a beer with her after the show. So I’m wondering if we’ll get a Guided By Voices reunion tour for Bee Thousand next year? Just putting it out there with fingers crossed.

Another concert pic from the other weekend. DIIV at The Tralf in Buffalo Friday April 26th.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

tabbouleh and lamb kebabs

Yet another recipe from the May 2012 issue of Everyday Food magazine goldmine. This is last night’s Grilled Lamb Kebabs with Tabbouleh.

We don’t get the opportunity to enjoy lamb very often. It's most comonly found as a whole leg, which doesn’t suit weeknight dining. But for these kebabs we used trimmed chops. My husband did a killer job dealing with the lamb. It was seasoned with only ground coriander, salt & pepper. I had my initial hesitations about something so simple, but once they came off the barbeque they were just perfect! The flavour was great even Owen ate his entire portion. He loved the soft pita and plain yogurt accompaniment but rejected the tabbouleh. I’m not terribly surprised about that one. It’s very herb-heavy which is a little intense for a 3 year old. But its that same quality that makes me just love it. I doubled the amount of bulgur the recipe called for to try and tame the herbaceousness of the tabbouleh. It is also one of the simplest tabbouleh recipes I’ve ever come across but a total winner.

This meal proves less is more and minimal amount of ingredients allow flavours to shine through. This is another example of a perfect mid-week spring & summer dinner.

Monday, May 6, 2013

bbq chicken thighs with pineapple-cucumber salad

Another recipe we decided from the Everyday Food May 2013 issue was the cover shot of Chicken with Pineapple-Cucumber Salad.
The chicken was bbq’d with a simple spice blend of lime zest and chili powder. Then the salad was pineapple, cucumber, lime juice & cilantro. Our evening was so warm and sunny this is a perfect summer style dinner. It smelled fantastic as the chicken was bbqing and the side salad was cool and sweet. We all really loved this dinner and based on simplicity, this is a perfect busy weeknight go-to dinner option.

Friday, May 3, 2013

skillet shrimp and orzo

Another from the May 2012 issue of Everyday Food magazine is Skillet Shrimp and Orzo.
Only a few simple ingredients create such a full flavoured dinner we all just loved. The combo of tomato – basil – garlic – shrimp, is a total match. This seems like an improved and simplified version of the cover shot of the first Everyday Food book, Great Food Fast – Shrimp, Tomato & Basil Pasta. I recall not being all that impressed with that recipe in particular. It lacked umph. Well this dinner we had last night was the solution doing justice to all the ingredients. Infact, it was outright addictive. I think Owen's become quite the little foodie guy when he had a forkful of orzo observing - "Orzo is just like rice and pasta!" Overall we highly recommend trying this recipe for yourself.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

chicken kebabs in lettuce cups

Our second choice recipe from Everyday Food May 2012 was Chicken Kebabs in Lettuce Cups. Through complete coincidence, and fortune, this was a barbecued meal that fell on the very first warm evening of this year. The kebabs are a mixture of ground chicken and Greek-inspired ingredients including mint, garlic, red onion and feta. The patties are formed onto skewers and barbecued. From there the toppings are sliced grape tomatoes, mint and red onions dressed in oil & vinegar. All served on Boston lettuce leaves. These were just so delicious and perfect for the season. Owen loved the patties, he successfully ate them in the lettuce cups, which is no easy feat for a three year old since I had tomatoes rolling out. Tzatziki on top would be very nice to make these just a little richer and add creaminess.

We opted for a side Greek salad, which was great but I was missing some sort of starch to round out this meal. If we make this again (and we certainly will) I think a side of lemon orzo with pine nuts would be delicious with this. Nuno was going crazy over how great this dinner was. I kept insisting it’s the first barbeque of the season, so of course his feeling about this meal would be amped up. But he maintains that it’s something he’d love to eat all summer. He accurately described these as a cross between chicken souvlaki and naan kebabs. 

So, what I’d tell ya? May arrived and with it, some outstanding weather. Just perfect temperatures. Our windows are open, I took Owen to the park, there are a ton of people out for walks along the canal path and we had frozen yogurt for dessert. It honestly feels like a different life living days like this!