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.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

clea's birth story

I'm a huge lover of birth stories, whether by mouth or blogs. I shared Owen's birth four years ago, so I thought I'd share Clea's as well. Sometimes these sort of posts need forewarning, a tag of over-sharing, so click through the jump cut and consider yourself forewarned.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

pre and post baby body

We're three weeks since our beautiful baby Clea joined the family. It was so wonderful to experience the months of mystery where my belly grew and grew. It really does seem like a long time passes being pregnant and then suddenly the baby arrives and life gets turned upside down. Truly though, this transition is a fraction of the change life undertook once Owen arrived four years ago. This time around we're a little more seasoned in the parenting a baby category, so the frequent wake up calls in the middle of the night with Clea seem like a bat of an eyelash compared to the earth-shaking bleary eyed person I was with Owen. I think I'm just used to intermittent sleep and it's not that bad, honest!
Speaking of not so bad is my post pregnancy body. I'm pleased to be restored to a somewhat pre-pregnancy body. What's different, well, growing 2 cup sizes. So I'll be the first to tell you that breastfeeding (in my case) helps bounce you back to pre-pregnancy figure. There's loads of evidence of this out there.

Here I am just before giving birth (41 weeks pregnant) and then hours later after having Clea. You can see I'm in our hospital room bathroom for this selfie.
My post pregnancy body blog entry is a tough one to write. I didn't want to post it, but I knew I'd regret it if I didn't document the changes. This will be my final selfie from Owen/Clea's room (See how it's in transition?) Clea is sleeping in a bassinet beside our bed which is working very well for us. But Owen's room is a huge task to undertake and once his room is complete I'll be sure to blog about it.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

past year in music

I'm not quite the indie music aficionado I used to be, but then again the indie music scene isn't what it used to be. It's different and so am I - but I believe we still cross paths and meet in some really happy places. Here is a list of albums from this past year I really enjoyed.

1. Wild Nothing - Empty Estate
Nothing ground breaking nor their best work, but this EP is short, varied and energetic. It makes me want to move so I find it's great to run to.

2. Deerhunter - Monomania
Still sounding the same as their previous releases which is nothing but a good thing. They are noisy, strange and interesting in all the right ways.

3. My Bloody Valentine - MBV
My favourite band throughout the high school years finally releases their follow up to 1991's Loveless. Picking up where they left off decades ago this album can only be listened to loudly though your stereo or with headphones and with your undivided attention. This album was set up for disaster decades ago and could have gone very wrong. I think we are all breathing a collective sigh of relief as this is a fantastic album.

4. Arcade Fire - Reflector
You just don't get bigger than Arcade Fire! I still marvel at their career releasing Funeral on Merge Records, seeing them in a basement club in Hamilton and then excitedly watch everyone else discover what we loved about them, then launch the band to monster concert venues and inflated ticket prices. With every album since they bring it and this album is no exception. It's an easy listen and is a shining example of an album as a complete experience. 
5. Beach Fossils - Clash The Truth
Couldn't let a year pass without including a Captured Track release. I'm kicking myself for missing them not only once, but twice this year when they toured and stopped in Buffalo. Music like this makes me feel young and reminds me of similar garage recorded bands like the Aisler's Set in aesthetic, but are actually more akin to Joy Division.  
6. Pure Bathing Culture - Moon Tides
My only decent new music discovery this year, Pure Bathing Culture create music similar to 90's dreampop we love such as Lush or the Cocteau Twins.

7. Camera Obscura -  Desire Lines
Another Camera Obscura release sounding just like all their previous releases. And can we possibly complain? They are everything we want them to be and magical when at their best. Their music is heartfelt, genuine and sounds effortless. It always feels so good to listen to albums like this straight through.
8. The Pastels - Slow Summits
Another band I worshiped in high school release new material in 2013. This one was a surprise and only discovered when a video for Check My Heart appeared on the Wedge. They are a fun & sweet listen and Stephen is still adorable in his 50's with his signature shaggy blonde hair.

9. Sigur Ros - Kveikur
Beautiful and haunting. Just bought this for Nuno's birthday in December so it's still very new to me. But after several listens it's the perfect soundtrack to the winter.
10. At the moment I can't seem to recall any other noteworthy albums. I did revisit some oldies I never really enjoyed when I first listened decades ago. Namely Pavement's Wowee Zowee and Brighten The Corners. I had gotten over them by those later releases and never gave those albums a fair chance. What a mistake! They are gold. I was also just a few months late with Allo Darlin's - Europe. Simply loved that release all this year as well. 
Any album recommendations out there? Let me know what you loved!