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.