Friday, April 4, 2014

jamie's fifteen minute meals - sizzling beef steak with hoisin shrimp & noodle bowls

Now we're talkin' surf and turf. Well, not really, but let's just say this is a way more interesting version of. Jamie's Sizzling Beef Steak with Hoisin Shrimp & Noodle Bowls is a crazy combination of everything but the kitchen sink.

Not everything even made it into this photo. There is wonderful seasoned noodles, carrots, lettuce, radishes, oyster mushrooms, sesame seeds, bean sprouts, crushed peanuts and sprouted cress. This is a fun and tasty dinner I'd just love to make again.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

jamie's fifteen minute meals - veggie chili with crunchy tortilla & avocado salad

I'm thinking this might just be our last chili dinner until the fall. The temperatures are still very cool, a warm veggie chili still feels good even though we are technically into spring. Jamie's veggie chili is a quick one but actually tastes like one that has been simmering for a long time. This chili is much better than my go-to veggie chili, however I did make a revision according to my taste in replacing chickpeas with pinto beans.

The side salad was a wonderful accompaniment. Kinda Caesar meets the southwest. The dressing is delicious using lime, cilantro and avocado. I really loved using seasoned corn tortillas for a much tastier version of a crouton.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

jamie's fifteen minute meals - pork marsala, porchini rice & spring greens

Now, who doesn't love a good veal marsala? I know its a personal favourite of mine, but I never considered using pork. Jamie's Pork Marsala with Porchini Rice & Spring Greens sounded awesome but unfortunately feel a little short.

The porcini rice didn't have very much flavour beyond regular white rice. But it was nice enough to carry the star of the show - the marsala cream sauce! I would definitely remake the sauce portion of this dinner again. But what really threw me off were the greens. Boiled greens aren't to my taste and I didn't expect either of the guys to enjoy them either. I understand the meat and rice could use a veggie side, but we can certainly do without this one.

Friday, March 28, 2014

jamie's fifteen minute meals - blackened chicken san fran quinoa salad

Last night I decided to try Jamie's Blackened Chicken San Fran Quinoa Salad. I was really looking forward to this dinner in particular because all the fresh ingredients are just the sort of foods that could brighten things for us on the last stretch of what feels like a never ending winter.

This dinner is one of the more quick to prepare meals from the book. I cooked the quinoa ahead of time, which made things even faster in the evening. The quinoa has a green dressing somewhere between a pesto and green goddess dressing. I found it had a little too much of a strong onion flavour, so down the road I'm thinking two scallions would do the job just fine. Then a layer of sauteed bell pepper, sliced blackened chicken breasts, mango, avocado, feta along with a final garnish of cilantro and sprouted cress. Owen picked out and ate most everything around the green quinoa. But Nuno and I were in suspended pleasure from beginning to end with this. It's all kinds of delicious that felt so good to eat. If you are looking for a pick-me-up, this meal is the ticket!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

jamie's fifteen minute meals - glazed pork tenderloin with cajun-style pepper rice & bbq sauce

I'm not sure why I chose this recipe in particular because it didn't sound like anything I'm normally attracted to food-wise. I'm thinking it was the okra that initially turned me off making this, but then I considered, why not just omit it? So I added it to the meal plan and figured it was worth a go.

There is a great cooking technique with the pork tenderloin which cooks quickly and evenly when sliced open and butterflied. Once browned, it's broiled with a killer homemede BBQ sauce - nice and simple to prepare. Even though the pork is lean, you definitely get the taste of saucy ribs. The rice is delicous as well and I think I'll go back to this particular rice dish often as it's simple to prepare and could go well as a side to just about any meat. Another big winner on our hands.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

jamie's fifteen minute meals - chicken cacciatore

Chicken Cacciatore was always my absolute favourite as a kid. Oh, we were dining high style growing up when my mom made this for dinner. Then I learned to make it in college and it was nothing compared to mom's. How does Jamie's Chicken Cacciatore Spaghetti & Smoky Tomato Sauce compare to the one I grew up with as a child? Why, this meal is one of the best cacciatores I've ever tried. Real depth of flavour in minutes.

Again, I was really confused with the instruction on this one. I find this book requires a whole lot of intuitive cooking, so I hope anyone who tries these recipes is on their toes and ready to deflect possible disasters as they work. I know I don't mind a challenge in the kitchen, but I find myself really thrown off when a recipe like this indicates to add an ingredient not listed as part of the step-by-step process (this one asks for 'broth' which I still can't figure out where it comes from). Oh well, I made this not in the hurried fashion the recipe is instructed, but at my own pace and how I cook. I understand there is this 15 minute benchmark, and if you are holding yourself up to it I'm sure you'd find yourself fumbling and scrambling. Honestly, my head would be spinning if I put myself to the clock here. I do believe it is possible to make these in fifteen minutes if you've tried these recipes at least a couple times before, then it's plausable to nail the timing element. So here's hoping when I go back to work next year I'll have gained enough knowledge and experience to make these happen on a weeknight.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

jamie's fifteen minute meals - goregous greek chicken

On Friday I decided to try Jamie's Gorgeous Greek Chicken, Herby Vegetable Couscous & Tzatziki. Chicken, couscous, peas and yogurt - this meal was chosen with Owen in mind. I had quite the trouble with Jamie's instruction on this meal. To begin, his ratio for couscous was WAY off. He has a two to one ratio (water to couscous) and it's a damp mess. I went back to my no-fail ratio of one to one and a quarter (couscous to water). Then Jamie indicates to add bell peppers, scallions and peas - raw to the dinner. I deferred and sauteed them to make them a little more tender, and it came out beautifully. With all the challenges this recipe I was relieved to even complete it that I forgot to top with feta.

Oh well, didn't matter because this dinner was friggin' awesome! I know some of these recipes might seem simple, or that you can imagine when beginning how it will taste, but I'm consistently surprised at how amped up the flavours are and truly enjoyable these dinners are.

Friday, March 21, 2014

save with jamie - really tasty charred asian salad

OK, don't make this Really Tasty Charred Asian Salad indoors - ever. This dinner has quite the back story. In the afternoon I prepped all the veggies and dressing leaving the task of grilling on the cast iron grill pan for Nuno should he want to start dinner while I escaped for a pedicure. This time away from home was my longest stretch of separation from Clea since shes been born. Returning rejuvenated, I walked into an open home with the smoke alarm blasting. I won't get into all the details for the sake of my husband's pride but suffice to say he had his hands very full that evening. But with all the trouble this dinner caused it was damn delish.

We ate the wonderful variety of broccoli, carrots, butternut squash, scallions, mushrooms, savoy cabbage and tofu. Can you really imagine a more healthy dinner to be feeding your children? I love the flavour of charred veggies, especially the cabbage. The dressing works perfectly and it was so easy to eat. For me, I could eat something like this once a week, but I just don't know how well that would bode with the boys. Realistically, I can see us enjoying this again during the summer as an outdoor barbequed meal.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

jamie's fifteen minute meals - tasty daal curry

I was excited to try Jamie's Tasty Daal Curry with Warm Tomato Salad & Naan. I've always been intrigued by daal, seeing it on Indian menus, but always going back to my favourite staples when it comes to eating Indian out. I really loved the simplicity of this dinner and this is just another stunning example of how well seasoned Jamie's ethnic recipes are. They are so accessible for everyone and provide great variety for our family. Jamie even manages to sneak in spinach, which I thought would end up with chewy, hard to break down leaves, but they blended so wonderfully I can't imagine this daal without it.

Ok, so I could have done without the chili powder seasoning in the tomato salad but it was a nice cleansing bite against the rich daal. This dinner was a hit for all three of us.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

jamie's fifteen minute meals - thai chicken laska

I got pretty hooked on Save with Jamie there, but over the weekend I cracked open Jamie's other most recent book, Jamie's Fifteen Minute Meals. Didn't take very long before I found myself bookmarking many recipes to try. Having had previous experience trying some recipes from this book (Ko Samui Salad and Chicken Fajitas) I have already set the expectation that there is no possible way any of these recipes will be complete in 15 minutes. Now that we've got that out of the way I can appreciate these recipes for being healthy and delicious which is pretty much what's most important anyways.

Kicking things off with Thai Chicken Laska from Jamie's Fifteen Minute Meals. We're really getting into Jamie's take on Asian noodle dishes and this one is a must eat again. A coconut and squash broth with asparagus seemed like an odd combination, but it works so beautifully. Jamie is great at taking fresh ingredients and spices, blending them into a flavour paste that creates dinners you really didn't think you'd ever be able to achieve at home. But I'm super glad we're trying all these recipes because I think we'll enjoy dinners like this for years to come.

Friday, March 14, 2014

save with jamie - sicilian squash and chickpea stew

This Sicilian Squash and Chickpea Stew from Save with Jamie tastes just like Moroccan Chicken Couscous from Everyday Food Great Food Fast, one of my favourite recipes ever. Although the seasoning is quite similar, the ingredient list between the two recipes is slightly different and I feel like this one which includes butternut squash in place of chicken is tastier.

For quite some time now we've been eating at least one vegetarian meal per week. If a recipe is tasty, meat or no meat there isn't much of a reason to take note. I doubt we'd ever go vegetarian unless it was for a health concern. I really admire those people who choose to do it. But I believe in variety and enjoying tasting everything this world has to offer and Jamie Oliver's recipes are definitely expanding our family's dinner experiences.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

save with jamie - carrot, orange and ginger soup

After a Saturday of indulgence (bacon pancakes for breakfast and lunch out), I decided to make something super healthy and light for dinner. Save with Jamie's Carrot, Orange and Ginger Soup is probably the simplest soup recipe I've ever made.

But with all its simplicity it fell short - way short. It was basically inedible. The consistency was that of baby food puree and although I've never used or tasted a jar of baby food (that I can remember) it was what I imagine baby food could be. I added yogurt to give it a bit of body and richness, but it was quite unsalvageable. A total bomb of a recipe - boo.

Friday, March 7, 2014

save with jamie - sloppy brisket po'boy

Using the last of our beef and gravy we enjoyed Jamie's Sloppy Brisket Po'boy. I was a little surprised to discover that po'boy's were originally made with beef. I was always under the impression they only contained fried seafood. This is a wonderful end of the week meal because of its simplicity. On a large ciabatta loaf you load up roast beef and gravy along with shredded lettuce, pickles and mustard. And that's it! Super simple and very delicious.

Infact, these taste very similar to my other favourite sandwich, a cubano! Must be that mustard and pickle combo.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

save with jamie - beef rendang

Another new experience from Save with Jamie is his recipe for Beef Rendang. I didn't really have high hopes for this dinner based on first impressions, but, boy what a surprise this one was!

I've never tried rendang before so I wasn't sure what to expect, but this is one recipe I'll go for anytime there is leftover beef. My goodness, Jamie wasn't kidding when he indicates it is touted as one of the tastiest foods in the world. A lot of the flavour is built from ginger, garlic, cilantro, turmeric and cinnamon. Then more flavour, body and richness is built from the leftover gravy and coconut milk. And it was exciting that such little effort and time produced such spectacular results. This is the sort of dish I'd order in a restaurant and be very happy with. As you can tell, I really could not get over this meal and if anyone has Save with Jamie I highly recommend trying this recipe.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

save with jamie - spiced beef tagine

With lots of leftover roast beef from our previous night's dinner I was ready to plan on making a handful of Save with Jamie's beef recipes. First off, I decided to tackle Jamie's Spiced Beef Tagine. This recipe has one of the longest ingredient lists I've come across. Luckily, I only had to buy 4 key ingredients (olives, tomatoes, potatoes and mint) as everything else was on hand.

I'd be willing to admit this is an overall quick meal to prepare, however I made a huge error that set us back on our cook time. I used 2 russet potatoes which was far too much potato for the meal. I guess Jamie is, without saying, indicating small (Carlingford) potatoes. It took ages to get these potatoes to be cooked through and it certainly didn't help that I cut them too large to begin with. After all was said and done with the stew, there is a final step of adding segmented orange, mint and shredded carrots as garnish. I have to admit, those flavours didn't seem to blend very well with the rest of the stew. Infact, overall the list of ingredients were a slightly odd combination that really didn't work for me (Owen seemed to enjoy it, but he's loved all the Save with Jamie meals). The spice blend of garam masala and cumin was certainly nice. But as far as the overall experience I doubt we'd attempt this meal again.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

save with jamie - sunday roast brisket

Charting into very foreign cooking territory here... It's almost funny to imagine I've only cooked one oven roast in my life. But those humble Sunday roasts are the sort of dinners we frequently have at our parents homes for family gatherings and aren't the sort of dinners we consider on a weeknight. However, being home during the week is kinda like a permanent weekend right now so it wasn't too much trouble to try Jamie Oliver's Sunday Roast Brisket. Strange thing is briskets aren't the usual cuts of beef we can find easily around here.  Roast beef is plentiful, so I opted to use one oven roast and one standing short rib roast in this meal hoping to yield enough leftover meat to make many more beefy recipes from Save with Jamie for the week.  

The roasts were to cook for 6 to 8 hours and I only wish I'd used my probe thermometer earlier to check because after merely 6 hours they were done. For my tastes, overdone! The potatoes and carrots needed a higher heat then Jamie indicated and longer time as well (even after par-boiling). The Yorkshire puddings were alright, maybe this is the sort of item that might be a treat if you grew up enjoying them. But to me they were a little rubbery and I was expecting them to be a little more melt-in-your-mouth. Then the gravy; our roasts seemed to provide lots of moisture and drippings (even though neither had much fat), so it made a ton of gravy. I had to tinker quite a bit to get the seasoning right, but I was pretty happy with the end result. 

So this was my first time making Yorkshire pudding & gravy and I was pleased with the results overall. But considering the time, effort and payoff I won't be too eager to make this again.

Friday, February 28, 2014

save with jamie - singapore noodles

I was aiming to use up the last of a head of green cabbage leftover from the lazy cabbage rolls and chicken from the previous night's oven fried chicken when I found the perfect recipe, Jamie Oliver's Singapore Noodles. This meal includes many ingredients, most of which you may already have on hand. We switched things up a little compared to the original recipe using twice the amount of pork (full pound) and omitting the shrimp. Other than that everything else was prepared as written.

The flavours in this meal are pretty spectacular. The Chinese 5 spice and curry cook with the ground pork which imparts so much flavour into the entire dinner. Because of the long list of ingredients, no two bites are the same. I really regret not including shrimp (we didn't have any in the freezer). If we try this again I'll be sure to include shrimp because I really did miss it.
It's vibrant, exotic, healthy and tasty - we all really loved this one. The other great thing about this dinner is that it's even better the next day, awesome lunch!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

save with jamie - the best cauliflower & broccoli cheese

On the side of our Oven Fried Chicken I decided to indulge in a treat of Jamie Oliver's Best Cauliflower & Broccoli Cheese.

Using frozen, or in our case fresh broccoli and cauliflower, this side dish is to-die-for. If you know anyone with an aversion to vegetables I challenge them to not love this. And you would think in order to love a creamy sauce like this you'd be using gobs of butter, gallons of cream and pounds of cheese, however Jamie did keep this light all things considered. Part of the secret is a bechamel using low fat milk and a scant amount of cheese. But the flavour is there and it really wasn't difficult to finish this dish in one meal.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

save with jamie - happy frumpy ministrone

To help warm us through the last cold days of February there was nothing more comforting than Jamie's Happy Frumpy Minestrone. What looks like a bit of a hodgepodge is a smart little pantry clearing soup that eats like a stew.

This is a vegetarian soup with loads of cleverly used veggies including carrots, tomatoes, peas, butternut squash and spinach. Although most minestrone soups I've made before use kidney beans, this one uses romano beans and they were an excellent choice as they are slightly milder than kidney beans but very meaty. For the pasta Jamie recommends tossing in any leftover packages laying around, of which we have many. I chose the last of a package of orecchiette and another partially used bag of tri-colour bowties. As I threw them in I felt a little hesitant because I've used pasta in soups before to only have them absorb all the liquid and then become overcooked (this recipe distinctly comes to mind). Once complete it's served with a sprinkling of parmesan which adds so much flavour to the soup. Unfortunelty, as the soup sat around the pasta did infact absorb a lot of the liquid, which was a little annoying. This made so much soup we had it for lunch for the next few days afterward after adding chicken stock to help bring it back to soup-form. Overall, I loved the flavour of this dinner and it went over really well with Owen. I'm so pleased with how kid friendly so many of Jamie's recipes are and jam-packed with nutrition.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

food & drink magazine - chow mein hong kong style

For stir-friday we decided to try Food & Drink's Chow Mein Hong Kong Style. I love that this recipe includes so many different vegetables. Owen is so big on broccoli I couldn't let this one pass us by. Most of the effort is in prepping the vegetables. Like any stir fry you'll find cleaning, trimming and slicing veggies is time consuming. When tackling a dinner like this I'll usually get everything set up before turning on the stove because once you begin there never seems to be a good time to pause a cooking stir fry. 
One element of this dinner that sets it apart from all other Asian-style noodle dishes we've tried before is frying the noodles till crispy. I've only ever tasted this before in restaurants and I felt pretty accomplished nailing it at home. Unlike several other recipes from the magazine, this one has successful instruction.
I feel like a bit of a broken record here, but this dinner was awesome! So nutritious and fresh considering we're in the dead of winter. We all loved it so much I know of all the recipes we tried from this issue of Food & Drink, this will be the one I'll add to my repertoire. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

food & drink magazine - western omelette sandwich with root vegetable home fries

I'm surprised I never blogged about my pregnancy cravings after finding myself uncontrollably devouring eggs. At one point, four months along, I was eating five per day! The good news is that I'm now averaging one a day. But as much as I adore eggs Owen is on the exact opposite end of the spectrum being completely unappetized by them. The smell of an egg cooking sickens him and when I eat my daily egg sandwich I resort to eating in another room. When it comes to meal planning I normally overlook recipes with eggs as a main, but I couldn't resist trying the recipe for Western Omelette Sandwich with Root Vegetable Home Fries from the Food & Drink Winter 2014 issue. It was easily convertible as an option for Owen but still keeping within my rule of not making separate dinners for picky tots. Owen had his croissant with ham and cheese along with the sides.
Now, onto the recipe at hand, the Root Vegetable Home Fries were fairly straight forward using sweet potatoes, russet potatoes & parsnips in a half inch dice. A quick trick in the instruction is to microwave the vegetables to speed up the cooking process and from there they are sauteed till golden. The cook times on this recipe were a little off as it took nearly 4 times longer then indicated to brown. In my mind it makes a lot more sense to roast them on a tray in the oven.
The instructions on the Western Omelette Sandwich were also a little off, so I just winged this one as well. I didn't end up with an omelette but more of a scramble, but the taste was the same so no loss there.

What was most important about these recipes is how delicious and well seasoned they are. Nuno loved them and I would definitely make this entire recipe again. There were quite a lot of home fries left over along with ham so I was thrilled to enjoy a frittata the next day for lunch.
Sooooo great!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

food & drink magazine - mini wiener schnitzel with sauerkraut & creamy roasted beet mustard

I'm sure you can tell by the title of this post, this was a very involved recipe for just a meat without a side. It all starts with the kitchen's favourite task, roasting beets! A messy job at best. After learning about dealing with beets back when cooking through Everyday Food, I've devised a plan of attack that gets me by which involves latex gloves and a black cutting board. Since I was going to the effort of roasting beets, I made extra and enjoyed a bonus of beet and orange salad for the next couple of days. The beet needed for the mustard is processed along with hot mustard and sour cream and is used as a side for the star of the show - Wiener Schnitzel! This was our first time making schnitzel at home, but we've made chicken milanese before which is quite similar in flavour and technique. The recipe from Food & Drink uses a turkey breast, portioned and then flattened. We found that placing the meat between plastic wrap and using a rolling pin worked best (after a dismal attempt using parchment and the suggested cast iron frying pan - I'm surprised our cupboards are still standing). Once complete the cutlet is breaded and deep fried. The recipe suggests putting the cast iron skillet to better use for deep frying. Another first for me and I'll be sure to continue to do it this way from now on. I used a probe digital thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature, which was difficult to keep consistent, but nonetheless got the job done effectively. The schnitzels turned out crisp and golden and delicious. I found it difficult to tell we were even eating turkey and the recipe does mention about substituting for pork or veal in its place. 
The sauerkraut isn't worth mentioning other than it made enough to feed the German Olympic team, wasn't very tasty, didn't add or bring anything to the dinner and in the end was a waste of time and money. There was actually an excess of both the beet mustard and sauerkraut and I have a particular distain for tossing out food that can't be used again, so to me that is a flaw in the recipe when ratios are off.

I decided to defer from the German theme and roast some sweet potatoes as a side which helped round things out a bit. But I won't lie, the schnitzel and beet mustard was criminally good together. An indulgence to eat and a lot of fun to cook, but similar to the cabbage rolls, best suited for the weekend due to the time consuming nature of these recipes.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

food & drink magazine - mini lazy cabbage rolls with vodka-spiked tomato sauce

I'm not sure I've ever been a fan of cabbage rolls but enough time has passed since I last tried them where I was willing to give them another try. The recipe for Mini Lazy Cabbage Rolls with Vodka-Spiked Tomato Sauce published in this seasons Food & Drink magazine really sounded like something all of us would enjoy.
We began by keeping some white rice to the side from the previous night's chicken fried rice, so that took care of the first step. Secondly there is a step of boiling the cabbage, which takes a bit of time because you need to let it cool in order to chop. That was just the beginning of a whole lot more work including lots of chopping, assembling, baking and making the sauce. Wait... lazy these are not. Got me thinking, in most peoples cases who work during the weekdays, a recipe like this doesn't allow enough time to complete unless you are quite used to eating at 9pm. But, as with the cake, there are steps upon steps, which I quite enjoy while being at home with the baby. It's February during one of the coldest winters in recent memory, so if it takes all afternoon to putter on a dinner with great results, then I'm quite happy. A recipe like this is great to prep on the weekend and then you can expect to enjoy this for 2 nights as it makes many rolls.

Overall, this is an amazingly delicious dinner with an economical list of ingredients. The entire family really loved these cabbage rolls and it definitely delivers beyond the standard cabbage rolls we might be used to.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

food & drink magazine - valentines chocolate cake

I hope everyone had a wonderful Valentines Day and those in Ontario who celebrated Family Day, I hope you had a great one of those as well. Valentines is not only about the love you feel for your sweetie/significant other, but I also believe it's a time to show love for your whole family. I know Owen sure feels it. He is terribly sweet with his baby sister, even after two months her novelty hasn't worn off. Every morning there is a snugglefest in our bed.

One thing that made this weekend great was our first dinner night out in a sit down restaurant with the kids in tow. A total success which was a great relief. We also exchanged gifts and cards and Owen helped to bake Valentines brownies.

There was another serious baking session going down here. This week I'll be blogging about recipes from the most recent Food & Drink magazine, available for free at the LCBO. Their Valentines Chocolate Cake from this current issue looked divine and after reading about it I was inspired to give it a try. I committed myself to baking it for a family dinner and only after realized that this recipe calls for two 6-inch square and two 6-inch round pans (as well as an additional 8-inch). We have accumulated various cake pans after years of our sculpted cakes, but we definitely didn't have that particular combination of pans laying around. It just didn't seem worth it to run out and purchase 4 small cake pans just to try this cake. So I modified slightly and used four 8 inch pans and eliminated the spare 8 inch to make up the difference in volume. 

Once that was sorted, I got to work and ran into another snag. I didn't have any semi-sweet chocolate in the house, so I substituted for my best quality bittersweet chocolate. The rest of the recipe was a fun challenge to bake. It took an hour from start till it hit the oven. Once complete I was pretty happy with the results. The cakes didn't rise very high, and I can't figure if it's because of the lack of leavening ingredients or the cake pan swap-out I made. But once assembled two layers seemed to do fine for height. The cake was huge, but that was alright because the whole family was getting together for this dinner.

I wasn't entirely sure where I stood with this cake when we ate it for dinner, but after having several slices since I'm quite pleased. The best thing about this cake is the texture. Smooth and velvety but also very light. The baker who shared this recipe indicated she bakes it in three 9-inch rounds and if I ever try it again I'll be interested in using that combination down the road.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

save with jamie - lamb pastilla

Our final go at the lamb recipes from Save With Jamie was his recipe for Lamb Pastilla. I never really knew what a pastilla was before this and I guess the best way to describe one is a meat pie using phyllo in place of pastry crust. The inside of this pastilla includes a spiced couscous along with shredded lamb. From there the filling is bundled in a couple sheets of phyllo and from there, things get a little odd... The rolls are sprinkled with slivered almonds, cinnamon and icing sugar.

I can't quite figure out how anyone came up the pastilla. I picture someone making a meat pie and then a completely different person coming along and finishing it as a dessert. But however the real story goes (probably the Moroccans natural inclination for combining cinnamon in meat and savory dishes), this dinner really works!

It's surprising and unexpected just how delicious this is. I found myself getting super addicted and going back for seconds and thirds. Hey, phyllo is light, right? Nevermind the layer of oil between every sheet. Just another outstanding and pallate expanding dinner courtesy of Jamie Oliver.

Friday, February 14, 2014

save with jamie - incredible lamb biryani

I think we might have found our first lackluster recipe from Save With Jamie. It feels a little strange to use the full recipe title for this dinner as incredible it was not. This lamb biryani required gravy from a roasted leg of lamb, which we didn't have as we slow cooked a boneless leg. So therein lies the main issue with this dinner. The gravy element I imagine keeps the dinner moist and without it we found it a little dry. We ate it with yogurt on the side to help keep it moist. The flavour wasn't too bad with the mango chutney saving the day big time here. Overall, it needed lots of extra salt and I disliked the spinach. Surprisingly, Owen seemed to enjoy it and overall, it's quite healthy (esp. without gravy), but we won't be making this one again.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

save with jamie - bad boy bbq burritos

So, were back trying recipes from Save With Jamie. This time around I chose several which include a leg of lamb. Not one of our usual meat choices at home, in fact I don't know many Canadians who eat it regularly. But the Brits seem really big on it, and, of course, we've cooked it before on several occasions and have always been pleased with the results (especially ground).

To begin I cooked our leg of lamb in the slow cooker with lemon, rosemary, garlic, olive oil and a little water for 8 hours. Once finished I used some of the meat for Jamie's Bad Boy BBQ Burritos. These burritos include basmati rice, cheddar cheese, red onions and shredded lamb covered in BBQ sauce. We typically include beans and veggies in our burritos, but Jamie usually has good reason for including/excluding specific ingredients we find ourselves accustom to using. Another unexpected instruction outside of our typical burrito-making was to bake in foil for 20 minutes. This extra step really helped to blend the flavours of the filling and warm the entire bundle to a perfect temperature.

We were really pleased with the results. The BBQ sauce seemed to dull the lamb flavour, so really, we could have been eating beef without really knowing the difference. And, my bad, I bought 8" tortillas instead of 12", so we had bambino burritos. I spent half an hour making 10 small burritos where it would have been a whole lot easier to make less in a larger scale.

Monday, February 10, 2014

asian chicken lettuce wraps

Where do you find yourself getting inspiration for food? I've made recipes from books, magazines, tv, movies, websites, apps, trips to the grocery store and market, trips/vacations, dining at restaurants and other peoples homes. I feel constantly inspired by so much of what I'm exposed to. This dinner of Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps was inspired by an image I quickly scrolled through on Pinterest. I didn't pin it, but reflected on how delicious it looked days later, far too behind to ever recover the recipe again. So I did a Google and found this recipe which seemed to sound like what I was after.

I tinkered with it slightly to my tastes and it turned out wonderfully! Like serious good eats here. It's the sort of dinner just about anyone with taste buds would enjoy. I'll share it and promise me you'll try it.

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps
2 tsp sesame oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1 pound ground chicken
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 c hoisin sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tsp sriracha sauce (be careful if making this for kids - you can always add more to your own seving once complete, but there's no turning back if you are too generous)
1 can (8 ounces) sliced water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped
1 small bunch green onions, thinly sliced
Iceberg lettuce leaves, rinsed and drained

In a medium skillet on medium heat 1 teaspoon sesame oil in a non-stick skillet. Cook onion, garlic and ginger until soft. Add ground chicken breaking up as it cooks. Once cooked through add soy sauce, hoisin sauce, rice wine vinegar, and sriracha sauce until well incorporated. Add water chestnuts, green onion and sesame oil, and remove from heat. Salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with additional soy sauce, hoisin, spicy mustard sauce for dipping, roasted peanuts, fried mung bean noodles if desired. I tried it with fried rice noodles and they didn't add much to it. I also tried several with Boston lettuce leaves, but the cool, crisp iceberg lettuce leaves work much better.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

steel cut oatmeal and the leftover oatmeal muffins

Sounds like everyone is getting on board with steel cut oatmeal, and with good reason! It's an all around better oatmeal (in my humble opinion). I've been using the same recipe for some time now, but recently over on Orangette blog, Molly posted a recipe for a different variation using milk. I was intrigued since I've always made my quick-cook oatmeal with milk since I was a child. So we gave it a whirl.

I tried with great attention to be sure the simmering oatmeal didn't boil over, as I'm sure we've all had an experience or two with scorched milk. Well, the temperature must have gotten just a little too high and the partially covered pot sealed and we had a major spillover. Cleaning messes like that really reinforce the importance of keeping attention to simmering milk on the stove. Once complete Owen and I had our helpings with maple and brown sugar and it was fantastic! Definitely a recipe we'll continue to use.

Then Saturday morning with the leftover oatmeal I tried Orangette's Leftover Oatmeal Muffins. Very simple and quick, these muffins were in the oven before 7 am. We used chocolate chips in ours but you can use any add-in of your choice (half a cup). 
Molly wasn't kidding when she called these muffins anemic looking.

But they weren't bad at all. I quite enjoyed them and they were a hit with Owen. I'm sure we'll continue to make these if we ever have leftover oatmeal.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

at home chipotle burrito bowl

Back when the Canadian dollar was at par in the USA we made frequent trips over for dinner and to do a little shopping for fun. Unfortunately, the Canadian dollar seems to be weakening compared to the American dissuading us from visiting. Let's face it, Target is now in Canada, so is there much of a reason to visit these days anyways? Well, maybe there are... but I'm trying my best not to focus on them. Oh, what the heck? One of our favourite shopping locations includes Trader Joe's and Chipotle on the same block. The other day I had a HUGE craving for Chipotle, but the idea of crossing the border and imaging where we might be able to find a decent place to breastfeed quickly changed my mind. I then decided, "Why not just make Chipotle at home?" Last I visited I tried their Burrito Bowls and thought they were pretty tasty. I Google image searched one and then put together these bowls for dinner last night.

First Layer: Cilantro Lime Rice - recipe from Martha Stewart
Second Layer: Corn Salsa - corn, red onion, dried coriander, dried & fresh cilantro, lime, salt & pepper
Third Layer: 
Beans - we used Trader Joe's Cuban Black Beans, next time we might try it with pinto beans cooked with bacon
Fourth Layer: Tomato Salsa - we used my grandma's homemade and a mild jarred one for Owen
Fifth Layer: Romaine Lettuce
Sixth Layer: Diced Avocados - I was a bit too lazy to bother making guacamole
Seventh Layer: Shredded Monterey jack cheese
Garnish with cilantro leaves and voila!

Once assembled we mixed them up into one big mess and ate them. They went over so well Owen ate two helpings. We didn't miss the meat in this dinner, but I'm curious to try making a copy cat of their carnitas. Most of the ingredients were what was hanging around the fridge in need of being used up, but really these bowls can be whatever you like. I'm pretty sure we'll continue to make these especially when we have cilantro, limes, romaine and cheese in the house (the rest of the ingredients are pantry staples).

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

healthy oatmeal cookies

Oatmeal raisin cookies are something I gained a taste for in adulthood. As a child I balked at anything 'healthy' for dessert, instead asking for chocolate ice cream and chocolate chip cookies (they had to be manufactured and name brand). Oh how times have changed. I have 2 go-to recipes for oatmeal cookies, both are different in really nice ways. One is crispy and the other is soft and tender... just depends on my mood which one I go to. I was flipping through Everyday Food Light, a book that I haven't examined to try new recipes for in quite some time, I saw a recipe for Healthy Oatmeal Cookies and I felt like it was perfect as a snack for Owen to take to school. I'm a little more interested in baking these days because breastfeeding allows some extra calorie consumption, so why not use those extras on desserts?

Using vegetable oil in place of butter was an element I felt might comprimise flavour, but the benefit of not having to cream butter and sugar meant these cookies were super fast to prep compared to most. The rest of the ingredients were the usual suspects when it comes to oatmeal raisin cookies. I was surprised there weren't any swaps, such as honey in place of some of the sugar or more whole wheat flour in place of white. But after making them I wouldn't change a thing. They are most delicious right out of the oven because as they cool they get crispy and crumbly, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The flavour is quite nice but not over and above my two favourite recipes. But when it comes to healthy swap-outs, this one is a recipe I'll go to again for sure.

Friday, January 31, 2014

save with jamie - sticky chicken chinese noodles

It's Chinese New Year! Instead of ordering take-out, might I suggest trying these Sticky Chicken Chinese Noodles.

This recipe from Save with Jamie has a totally unique flavour which was totally delicious. The one taste that set this dinner apart from all our previous attempts at Chinese take-out classics is the use of Chinese Five Spice. The spice blend is used to season chicken thighs and after cooking a final coating of honey makes them sweet, spicy and sticky. Another element to this dinner which rounds things out is dry pan frying black beans. They were slightly crunchy and spicy on the outside but maintained their soft interior. Of course, the noodles were incredible and benefited from sitting around for a little while to absorb the flavours. We didn't neglect any details with this dinner and the final hit of cilantro and lime juice made things just that much more wonderful.

Owen didn't stop for a word, or hardly a breath for that matter as he devoured this dinner. This is definitely one of the best recipes we've tried from the book.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

save with jamie - chicken & chorizo paella

Oh, how I've always wanted to try making a paella from scratch. Leave it to Jamie to provide a kick-butt super easy version in Save with Jamie. For this Chicken & Chorizo Paella, as the name suggests, you'll find more than just chicken as the main protein as this dinner also includes shrimp and chorizo. We used my in-laws homemade chorizo which made this entire dinner so flavourful! We all just loved it and will make this again indefinitely. 
Arg, again, with the chicken boullion cube! I'm not really loving the taste of it. Not to say I'm totally giving up on them, I think we might just have to try a different brand. Another issue I found with this dinner is the type of rice we used. Jamie suggests using paella or Valencia rice so I'm going to have to do a little searching around for all future paellas as the basmati rice we used just didn't give us the consistency I was after.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

save with jamie - american hot pizza pie

Wow! I forgot that this past weekend we also tried the American Hot Pizza Pie recipe from Save with Jamie with the leftover pork. I decided to make pizza dough using Fleischmann's Pizza Dough dry active yeast. This must be a somewhat new product since I hadn't noticed it before, but now seemed like a perfect time to try it. The yeast packet's pizza dough instruction is quick and doesn't require any rising which makes pizza making even easier. When the dough was ready it was quite a bit more pliable compared to all other doughs we've worked with. One detail in this recipe I just love is to use bread crumbs on the bottom of the pizza crust (we usually use cornmeal). The results were so tasty compared, this is a tip we'll probably stick with from now on.
We then followed Jamie's recipe as instructed which included making a spicy tomato sauce from scratch. This sauce was super flavourful but could have used a little tomato paste since we found it slightly runny. However, a runny sauce is pretty much required as this pizza cooks quite low and for longer than most pizzas. The reason being that there is raw spicy Italian sausage removed from the casing as a topping (along with the leftover shredded pork, red onion, pickled jalapenos and a blend of cheddar & mozzarella cheeses). Jamie indicates to top with sprinkled paprika and bashed fennel seeds. The addition of fennel on this pizza is the total kicker! Jamie totally nailed it with this one, everything about this pizza was incredible. It was sweet and spicy and the contrast of the two different meats was pretty outstanding. Yeah, pretty addictive. Our only disappointment was that the dough didn't rise very much. Still tasted great as a thin crust, but I'd love to try is one again with a more substantial crust. This one is a must try again.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

save with jamie - pulled pork peppers easiest baked risotto

The final dinner we had with the leftover pork roast was Pulled Pork Peppers with Easiest Baked Risotto. I'm not the biggest fan of stuffed peppers, but since we've had a series of hits with Save with Jamie I figured this recipe would be our best bet for a decent try.

I was under so much pressure making this dinner. The reason being that once you begin you need to be sure to continue along till finished because you are under the clock. I think I'd have had a lot more fun cooking if I didn't have to bounce a fussy Clea in her bouncer, indulge Owen in his run-on story of the Lego characters he'd just finished making, all simultaneiously while reading the recipe and cooking the dinner. What a balancing act! I had to let a phone and facetime call go to message... something had to give, right? Jamie's created this recipe so that both dinners cook between two dishes in the oven at the same time, which was quite ingenuous. However, each has their own steps that need to be done at key moments during the cooking. Luckily, we came out on top of this one with no mishaps.
Now, what do you think of a risotto recipe you don't have to tend to while cooking? That's what Jamie offers here and I'll admit, I was excited at the prospect. After tasting it I'm not quite sure if it was what I expected (namely the artificial flavour in the recommended bouillon cube). For risotto it really didn't taste right. Not to say it was inedible, but I'm in love with risotto and it's just got to be done right. So I might just give the risotto recipe a second try using ingredients I know taste great in attempt to see if the consistency works on this method. As for the peppers, they were good. The pork was dry and I'll admit, I can't quite be fair with this recipe since were going on four pork dinners.

Monday, January 27, 2014

save with jamie - bbq pulled pork waffles and slaw

We're on to another recipe from Save with Jamie using leftover pork in BBQ Pulled Pork Waffles & Slaw. This recipe I made on Friday night as a treat for the family, as well as myself because it was so simple. All the effort was in the coleslaw. I'm on board with Jamie's use of the food processor for tasks you can get away with. It really speeds up chopping but also keeps ingredients uniform. For the coleslaw I added a little Dijon to the dressing, added scallions and omitted the mint. The other 'cheat' I used was to use frozen Belgian waffles (Our Compliments makes great ones available at Sobeys). The final add on was the leftover pork shredded and covered in BBQ sauce.

The consensus on this one: Amazing! Sweet and savory, these are a real treat. We all loved these (especially Owen). Inspired by this dinner we decided that we'd love to try our own chicken and waffles another night. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

save with jamie - slow-roasted pork ragu

Our second recipe trial from Save with Jamie was his Slow Roasted Pork Ragu. Upon reading through this recipe it was just about as quick and simple as you can get - cooking leftover pork and vegetables with a jar of passata. But, wait... I had no clue what passata was and I almost didn't bother with this one because I didn't think this was an ingredient I'd be able to find. Then I looked it up online and it's simply one of those tall jars of tomato puree that you find in the Italian section of your grocery store. The book suggests serving it alongside pasta or toast, but we decided to serve this on oven baked polenta.

We all truly loved this dinner. Again, totally transforming the pork into something that didn't taste anything even close to the previous night's dinner. I wish it photographed a little more appetizing because this picture doesn't really do any justice to how delicious this ragu is. We all agreed we'd love to try this one again.

What I'm finding with the recipes in this book is that they always manage to include a lot of fresh vegetables. I swear most recipes include at least one carrot! Because Owen loves these dinners so much I'd recommend this book for parents looking to include more fresh veggies in their kid's diet. Most of the vegetables are cooked into the dinners, so if your child turns their nose up when veggies are offered as a side dish, these dinners are a great option offering a little disguise.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

save with jamie - crispy pork tacos

Since Clea's arrival we've somehow not skipped a beat with continuing to prepare home cooked dinners. We've dove into our freezer stash on a couple hectic occasions, but cooking our simple favourite Everyday Food staples has been pretty manageable. Now I feel ready to tackle some new recipes. This past Christmas I received several cookbooks I'm really excited to dive into. The first book which seems to have got me really excited is Jamie Oliver's Save with Jamie.

The idea behind this book is to prepare a large meat staple on, say, the weekend and then carry over the excess into one (or several) meals later that week. We already tend to eat on this trend as I'm constantly building dinners off a ham or rotisserie chicken. I find this way of cooking is, as the book's title indicates, a very thrifty way to eat and can really simplify dinner prep. After flipping through this book my initial impression is that pretty much every single recipe sounds delicious and seems relatively simple to prepare. Having said that, we'll need to give this book a test-run to see if this is in fact the case.

Every January grocery stores advertise pork shoulders and legs at a reduced price. And every year we make pulled pork from an entire shoulder and freeze portions which we eat all year. This time around we purchased a pork shoulder to test several recipes from Save with Jamie. To start we slow cooked the pork shoulder in a Cajun rub with Worcestershire sauce on low for 8 hours. Once cooked we used the meat in several recipes, one of which was Crispy Pork Tacos.

The idea behind this recipe is to season the leftover pork, cook the black beans into a simple refried bean, prepare a pickled red onion & green pepper and fill with fresh lettuce and sour cream. It's been years since I've had a hard cooked taco shell, so this recipe really was a novelty and the first time Owen tried this type of taco. Although there were quite a few different steps in this recipe, the entire meal was crazy simple and super quick. Blink and it's done! But the kicker was how delicious it turned out with such minimal effort. All I had to do was enjoy them and all the praise. A big hit with the boys. This recipe totally transformed this pork into something unpredictable and delicious.