Saturday, April 30, 2011

Marinated Grilled Flank Steak

April 27 - Marinated Grilled Flank Steak with oven roasted cherry tomatoes, avocado salsa and a baby spinach & arugula salad with cranberries & hazelnuts
April 28 - Dinner with former co-workers in LA at Beechwood in Venice
April 29 - Camp Blogaway!

Well folks, I'm off for a 2 1/2 week adventure beginning with a quick stop in LA before heading to the San Bernadino mountains for Camp Blogaway.  After af ew days with some of the most fab food bloggers there are, up in the mountains at a proper camp with plenty of wine, food and all kinds of awesome speakers I head back to LA for a few days of eating and drinking with friends.  Then, my sis and I jet off to Colorado to see our baby bro graduate from college and since he's the last of four to reach this milestone and since my dad likes to say he's now rich with no more school to pay for, he's taking us all on our first family vacation in year to Costa Rica.  

Friday, April 29, 2011

Southwestern Grilled Chicken Salad with Tomato and Black Bean Salsa

In hindsight, this week should have featured some type of Royal-inspired dinner for us, in tribute to the big honking wedding of the century, but unfortunately it failed to materialize since I was focused instead on the scones and clotted cream for breakfast on Friday for a group of girlfriends who were planning on gathering at my place at 5:00 a.m. to celebrate the nuptials. At first I thought I would be one of just a very few crazy Canucks who was interested enough to rise at 3 a.m. to not miss a minute of the patriotic jubiliation, but as I spoke with friends I realized that many of us were intending on doing the same thing in the solitude of our own homes. Okay, maybe not everyone, but definitely quite a few... and even more once I mentioned the orange juice mimosas and scones. And the promise that they could arrive in your PJs and slippers, with unbrushed hair and teeth, and not be judged. Even my kids, who at the beginning of the week had said incredulously, "Your friends are coming at what time to watch what??," by Thursday night were asking to be woken up at the same godforsaken hour to share the wedding experience. Since we all remember where we were when Princess Diana got married, this will now be our shared memory of Will/Kate.

So I sit here at 3:48 a.m., with my pink plastic tiara in my hair and my blue ring-pop on my ring finger, trying to remember this delicious salad... and it was... while the TV calls to me downstairs to go and watch the pretty bride and her entourage and keep my fingers crossed that this is one Royal couple who manages to defy the odds and hold the marriage together. So forgive me for the brevity of my reflections on this meal... it was a hit but I need to go and watch the wedding coverage and not miss history being made. Lesson learned (again): don't leave things to the last minute.

Another salad as part of our pre-salad month, with a nice combination of different flavours and textures and a full meal in and of itself. Definitely a make-again for next year and I'll try variations on it throughout the summer.

Southwestern Grilled Chicken Salad with Tomato
and Black Bean Salsa
from Fine Cooking
serves four

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast half, trimmed
1/2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
kosher salt
6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp plus 2 tsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp plus 2 tsp chopped fresh cilantro, plus leaves for garnish
2 tsp honey
green Tabasco (optional)
1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
4 ox small cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered or halved
1 large scallion, thinly sliced
9 cups assorted salad leaves
1 medium firm-ripe avocado
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Heat the BBQ or grill. Trim and butterfly the chicken breast. In a small bowl, combine the chili powder, brown sugar, coriander, cumin, and salt. Rub some of the spice mixture over both sides of the chicken breast (you won't need it all) and let sit while grill heats.

Clean and oil the grill grate. Grill the chicken for 3 minutes, until edges are white. Flip and cook until done, about 1 to 2 minutes. Let the chicken rest for about 10 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, lime juice, 1 tbsp of the cilantro, the honey, salt and pepper, and a few shakes of the Tabasco (if using). Whisk or shake well to combine.

Combine the black beans, tomatoes, scallion, cilantro and salt in a small bowl. Add 2 tbsp of the dressing and toss gently.

Put the lettuce in a bowl, season with a little salt, and toss with just enough of the dressing to lightly coat. (Save some dressing for the chicken.) Arrange the lettuce on a platter. Slice the chicken thinly. Pit and slice the avocado. Arrange the chicken, avocado and salsa on the lettuce. Drizzle with a little dressing over the chicken and avocado. Garnish with the pine nuts and cilantro.

Rest of the week

April 26 Grilled salmon and carrot-raisin salad (all courtesy of the talented Austin while Mom was away on girls' overnight at spa)

April 27 Southwestern grilled chicken salad with tomato and black bean salsa

April 28 Leftover salmon and chicken for the family... I had delicious beet salad out with girlfriends

Thursday, April 28, 2011

April 25-27 Artichoke Risotto Almost Fail

April 25    Take out greek
April 26    Artichoke Risotto
April 27    Beef Stew, rice and yorkshire puddings from Supperworks

I guess it was a week for culinary misfires. First Jen had her pasta fail and then I had an artichoke malfunction. I hope that our bad mojo will not rub off on Dianne because she is hosting a crack of dawn royal wedding tea and if something bad happens to her scones, I am going to be very grumpy.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Homemade Spaghetti and a bit of a dinner fail

April 24 - leftovers from Saturday night's dinner, Thanksgiving sammie for me, grilled ham & cheese for the Boy
April 25 - homemade whole wheat spaghetti turned into a gloopy pasta al pomodoro
April 26 - Chicken Schnitzel from Gourmet Schnitzel House

On Monday night I set out to make the deliciously perfectly looking cover recipe from the most recent Bon Appetit.  An issue I'm mildly obsessed with because it's all about Italy.  Few things make me as happy as a basic pasta in a good red sauce.  This recipe sounded similar to my red sauce but using a different method.  I made one catastrophic mistake though, rather than using the recommended dried, boxed pasta I wanted to make my own.  Now normally I'm certain this wouldn't be an issue, but I am now certain that I am just not a fan of homemade spaghetti.  It is so delicate and cooks so ridiculously quickly and turns far too fast into a gloopy mess.  Which while it had good flavor, a gloopy mess is what we ended up with.  Maybe If I had cut the pasta into tagliatelle or even fettuccine it would have worked out differently.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Toasted Israeli Couscous Salad and Sea Bass with Mushrooms and Garlic

When I picked up the latest issue of Fine Cooking this week, I was totally seduced by all the new recipes for crunchy fresh salads and veggie dishes in anticipation of the upcoming spring bounty. So inspired, in fact, that I decided that May would be officially Salad Month for us and that each day will include a new salad to pull us out of our rut of simply tossing together some greens and vinaigrette as an after-thought to any meal. Of course, whenever we actually do make a conscious effort to make a different and original salad, it's almost always well received and inevitably also becomes a popular leftover for lunches the next day, but sometimes you just need an incentive or a kick to plan ahead and make the added effort.

So, even though it's still technically April, we kicked off our salad challenge early with this nutty toasted couscous dish and everyone loved it. Lightly toasting the grains before boiling them added depth of flavour because sometimes couscous can be a bit tasteless, especially if I inadvertently overboil it, and the cucumber and feta added freshness and saltiness.

Monday, April 25, 2011

April 21-24 Birthdays, Easter and Spaghetti and Meatballs

April 21     Little Shack's 12th birthday = taking 6 boys out for all you can eat sushi
April 22     spaghetti and meatballs, creme brulee
April 23     butter chicken at my sister's   
April 24     Easter dinner at my sister's

For the kid's birthday, we took him and five of his friend out for a sushi feast. Remember when we were kids and all we wanted for our birthday dinner was cake and maybe some hot dogs?
Anyway, ask any stranger on the street what my kid's favourite food is and they will say sushi. On April 22, which was also good Friday, we had our family birthday dinner with his grandmother and The Neighbours. I asked him what he wanted me to make for dinner and gave him some time to think of something other than sushi. Creme brulee was a no brainer but he really had to think about dinner. He finally settled on spaghetti and meatballs AND risotto. I quickly shot him down, shattering his dreams and told him that he had to choose one or the other because asking me to make home made meatballs, creme brulee AND risotto meant that I would spend the day chained to the kitchen and we are a one starch per meal kind of family.
Spaghetti and meatballs it is.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Sunday Eggs Benedict

Happy Easter!  We had a big pot luck family dinner last night with the in-laws for Easter.  Since I wasn't responsible for anything other than dessert and I am posting on Easter Sunday I thought it was more appropriate to share my favorite thing about this day, specifically Easter Brunch.  My favorite brunch dish will always be Eggs Benedict.  I love all the creative treatments you can get when you go out for brunch, but at home since I had never made hollandaise or poached an egg before, I wanted to keep it simple.  This ended up being a good idea since one of our friend's had a 40th birthday bash last night and let's just say the boy isn't exactly up to eating a rich and delicious brunch right now and if I went all out with crab cakes or something else I'd be pretty annoyed to be eating it alone. I did add tomato to my benny since I think tomatoes make everything better.  But if you have great ingredients, make your hollandaise from scratch and have access to peameal, real Canadian Bacon, classic is really pretty perfect.  The only thing that would have made this better was if I had made the English muffins, something I hope to tackle in the next few months.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Ginger Chicken Thighs with Parsnips

April 20 - Four-Cheese Mac & Cauliflower Bake with a green salad with tomato & blanched green beans
April 21 - Ginger Chicken Thighs with Parsnips and leftover Broccoli Slaw
April 22 - Dinner out with friends.

This recipe came from some time spent with my ever-growing cookbook collection.  I had a package of chicken thighs in the freezer so I picked up a few of my books that I have yet to cook out of and started looking.  The one that stood out with the most options was a book that was gifted to me by a good friend of my sister's, she's basically an honorary member of our family and was a very important guest at mine & the Boy's wedding.  The book is called Simply Ming: One Pot Meals: Quick, Healthy & Affordable Recipes, it came as a surprise in the mail one day.  Miss B (as she'll be known) actually works part-time at Blue Ginger, Ming Tsai's restaurant in Wellesley, MA she had an extra copy of the book and thought it would be helpful with this very challenge.  So it's only right that the first recipe I cook out of it is posted here.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Lemon Orzo Salad and Balsamic Pesto Chicken

I couldn't wait until it was officially summer to make this salad, even though I associate it with barbecue dinners and picnic lunches on hot days under the sun. It's light and fresh and sweet and tangy and salty and creamy, all rolled into one. Definitely not your typical pasta salad since the pasta is almost an after-thought as the orzo is so tiny and is oerfectly overpowered by the vegetables and the salty cheese. I usually cut down on the amount of the oil called for in the dressing since the caramelized onions bring their own oiliness to the salad and the lemon juice just freshens up all the flavours. Even though the recipe makes a huge serving, I make it just for our family without reducing anything because the leftovers make a nice lunch the next day. Ina Garten makes a similar salad with roasted vegetables and it's another one of our favourites.

Another fantastic recipe from Magwood's Dish Entertains is her recipe for balsamic pesto chicken, which we had the following night. I wanted to use up some of my remaining arugula pistachio pesto, so I tossed it with some balsamic vinegar and olive oil (again, easy to reduce the amount), left it to marinate and then popped it in the oven. Really simple and flavourful meal (smelled like a fish-and-chip shop when you walked into the house because of its sweet vinegariness) that also translates well into picnic fare the next day.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

April 18-20 Cumin Cilantro Pork

April 18   Cumin Cilantro Pork on basmati rice
April 19   Grilled Cheeseball and Broccoli Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing
April 20   Fish and Chips or Breaded, Baked Sole and Oven roasted thyme potato and yam wedges

I love cumin. I would almost wear cumin perfume, if there were such a thing or even use cumin scented glad plug ins. Instead, I have to content myself by cooking with cumin as often as I can so that my house can smell delicious and if I eat enough of it, I create my own special cumin eau de moi. I am not sure that others enjoy this as much as I do but nobody has complained yet.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Prime Rib Burger

April 16 - Semolina Gnocchi with Creamy Leeks
April 17 - Indian Take-out
April 18 - Salmon with Beans & Pesto in a foil pouch
April 19 - Prime Rib Burgers with caramelized onions and horseradish mayo & broccoli slaw

Here in TO, at least on many of the channels the Boy and I watch, there have been a bevy of commercials for A&W's new Grandma Burger, which is a prime rib burger.  I was curious about the idea of a burger made with prime rib meat, so curious that I considered hitting up an A&W to try one myself.  Then I remembered that I had a prime rib roast in the freezer that I had bought a few months ago on sale and I have a fancy meat grinder attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer, which meant I could make my very own prime rib burger!

Many people might see it as sacrilege that I would take such a rich and tender cut of beef and grind it up.  Well those people aren't doing noREEATS where I can't make the same burger more than once all year long.  Also I got a great deal on the roast so I didn't feel bad grinding it up, if I had bought a super high quality, grass-fed, locally raised prime rib you best believe I'd roast it.   With my mind set on prime rib burgers, I pulled that puppy out of the chest freezer let it defrost and got ready to put my fabulous Kitchen Aid meat grinder attachment to use.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Simple Grilled Cheese for Grilled Cheese Month

Monday night was one of those crazy nights where everyone was running in one direction or the other and needed to eat at different times so I decided this would be the evening where we'd make our tribute to Grilled Cheese Month. My kids are traditionalists when it comes to this sandwich so I knew I couldn't deviate much from the tried-and-true without risking an all-out boycott. Yes, I read all the delicious inspirations and variations of adding caramelized onions, bacon, garlic, roasted red peppers, eggplant and even potato, but somehow I didn't think those would be a big hit with the kids on a busy school night. Ultimately, I chose a relatively simple change from the original--a cinnamon-raisin bread coupled with a nutty Gruyere and some toasted sliced almonds for added crunch. Verdict? Unfortunately, not a big hit. Sometimes simple is best and everyone preferred our usual grated cheddar on rye, lightly grilled please, mom. And that's fine too. There's room for experimenting and then there are times for staying with the status quo.

Rest of the week

April 17 Dinner out with the kiddies

Monday, April 18, 2011

April 14 - 17 I wish these potatoes didn't sound so much like David Hasselhoff

April 14   Dinner with The Neighbours
April 15   Pork tenderloin with a pomegranate sauce (supperworks) hasselback potatoes and asparagus
April 16   Sushi at Nami
April 17   Last minute late night pasta with tomato, cream and basil

I mean, what did these delicious, elegant potatoes ever do to deserve having a name that sounds like David Hasselhoff invented them? Nothing, that's what. Okay, this version is a little cheesy, but the similarity ends there. They are Swedish potatoes and their proper Swedish name is Hasselbackspotatis but that isn't any better. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Roasted Marmalade Chicken

Saturday in Toronto this week was awash. Not only awash because it poured all day long, accompanied by hugely strong winds and gusting, but also a wash because it meant I missed my training walk since I optimistically waited for a break in the downpour, which just never materialized. A waste all around. If I'd been completely committed, I guess I could have just wrapped up and faced the elements but somehow I couldn't face the bone-chilling cold that definitely awaited. When I watched my crazy Canadian son and his friend come in drenched after golfing nine holes (and then sensibly bailing!!) and I threw their almost icicle-laden clothes into the dryer, I knew cocooning and doing my taxes was my destiny for the day. Call me a chicken. So is Carole. (At least I think she probably was too since she's too practical for that nonsense.) So when dinnertime rolled around, my thoughts turned to something warm and comforting for all of us.

When I initially read this recipe and saw "marmalade" as a main ingredient, I was worried that although I liked it on toast, it might be too sweet for this chicken dish. However, as it turned out, the balsamic vinegar became the overriding taste here, not only cutting the sweetness perfectly but also offering a more rounded, rich flavour. The nicest surprise of this recipe was the roasted onion sauce created during the cooking process... a beautiful marinade thickened and turned into a "sop it all up and don't miss a bit" perfect complement to the chicken and veggies. I served the chicken and sauce on a bed of quinoa alongside some sauteed crispy parsnips and asparagus, with not a complaint from the crowd.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Pasta alla Norma

April 13 - wine & cheese out with a friend for me and the Boy worked late
April 14 - Pasta all a Norma with lemon scented peas in butter
April 15 - Shrimp Scampi with roasted asparagus & baby greens salad

I've been feeling super nostalgic this week for the semester I spent in Florence in college.  I took my very first, and I guess only, cooking class there.  It was in Florence that my love for all thing Italian began.  I went to Italy hating red wine and eggplant and left loving both.  This dish is a main contributor to my love of eggplant.  My Italian cooking class was set up so that in each class we focused on a different region of Italy. Pasta alla Norma is from Sicily, which is where my grandmother's family is from.  It is apparently named after Vincenzo Bellini's opera Norma, though I'm not sure about that.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Arugula-Pistachio Pesto and Reflections on the First 100 Days

This week marked the end of the first 100 days of our challenge and gave me pause to reflect on our collective stick-to-it-iveness in continuing with this journey, despite our various ups and downs since we began in January. As Carole, Jen and I have all noted at different times, this can be a frustrating individual struggle, and a family one, but none of us has thrown in the towel (but nor have we decided to continue this forever either!). Like parenting advice I once received, "The days are long but the years are short," the same concept applies here. Some days can be busy and a real struggle to think of something new, but most of the time I can honestly say that I still enjoy exploring the endless culinary possibilities out there.

In retrospect, my family agrees that the challenge has provided us with significantly more positives than negatives, and we've officially stopped mourning the "too bad we can't have..." and open-heartedly embraced the "so, what's new tonight?" Granted, spring also arrived at the perfect time since the change in season has provided renewed interest in eating lighter, checking out different BBQ cookbooks and websites, and dusting the cobwebs off the outdoor grill.

The past 100 days have taught me a few critical lessons:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

April 11-13 Indian Mexican Fusion or Confusion?

April 11     Went out for thai food
April 12     Tandoori chicken sopes and mediocre butter paneer
April 13     Grilled BATs with a roast potato/asparagus salad

Dianne and I are doing a half marathon on May 15 and we are really just starting to sort of train this week. You know, I don't need you to tell me that we are clearly insane and look at me like that. Monday we decided to do a 10k training walk (yes, we proudly walk people, and I'll have you know that walking can be harder than running and why are you are still looking at me like that). After I got home, I decided to just lay down on the couch for a few moments to read and promptly fell asleep. I am no longer a young pup and obviously needed to just rest my eyes for a minute or 70.
That said, there was no cooking going on in my home that day and I forced Shack to take me out for thai food.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Herb Roasted Chicken or How many ways can you make chicken & potatoes?

April 9 - dinner out with friends at Guu Saka
April 10 - Herb Roasted Chicken, Fried Smashed Baby Potatoes with Pesto & Green Salad
April 11 - dinner out at Queen Margherita Pizza
April 12 - Chicken Tacos with a three bean salad

Carole posted on Sunday some of her frustrations with this whole noreEATS business and I have to take a moment to echo them.  I love cooking, I do.  I love making a meal for the Boy and I to share or to share with friends.  I tend to consider it a fundamental part of who I am, the cook.  But the work it takes to constantly figure out something new to cook every night is absolutely taking it's toll.  I've had some wins and tried some new recipes that have been great.  But I spent and hour at the grocery store on Sunday, with not a clue what I wanted to cook this week.  I have been doing really well the past few weeks with creating a meal plan for at least 4 of the 7 days and sticking to it.  But on Sunday I was feeling zero inspiration and knew I needed groceries so rather than pore through cookbooks and magazines I just went to the store hoping something would jump out at me. It didn't work out too well, I left feeling like I had just wasted $100 and didn't have any meals.  I just grabbed some veggies, some frozen shrimp and a couple chickens that were on sale.

Chicken is the last thing I had wanted to make since we ate a ton of it last week.  Then I realized it was Sunday and the first day in almost a week that the Boy and I were able to sit down and have a proper meal together.  I used to do a roast chicken and potatoes every few weeks, but have shied away from that  during the challenge.  Since I had just picked up a chicken, had some baby potatoes on hand and the Boy would be home early, a Sunday Supper just seemed to be in order.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Caramelized Pancetta and Fennel Salad alongside Ravioli with Balsamic Brown Butter

I was craving a huge salad for dinner on Sunday night but somehow knew that everyone else would be wanting something more substantial so I combined this amazing warm-and-meaty pile 'o' greens with a sweet-and-tangy pasta dish. For the salad, roasting the fennel and the pancetta in the brown sugar mixture added a warm depth and sweetness to the caramelization and soon my kitchen was oozing the most fragrant aromas and the resulting high expectations from everyone for an outstanding meal.

I'd read that bacon could be substituted for the pancetta but I think it would alter the dish too much for my liking and be too greasy and too bacony. The less-familiar and light combination of ingredients of fennel and pancetta was what made this salad so special and a big hit with all of us. After explaining to the kids to expect the licorice taste of the fennel, Maddie seemed disappointed that it wasn't red licorice instead. Somehow that's not a taste often found in nature but she remains hopeful.

Monday, April 11, 2011

April 10 Tandoori Chicken

April 10    Tandoori chicken

It's finally warm enough to grill without a parka on! Saturday night we celebrated the opening of the Grilling Season old school with an aged New York Strip, a couple of sausages, some chicken souvlaki with grilled asparagus and little potatoes. Sunday night's dinner was going to be another thing i LOVE on the grill, tandoori chicken. I had to check with my go-to book when I cook Indian, the beautiful Food of India, to refresh my memory since I haven't made tandoori since last summer. I love this book as much for it's beautiful photography as I do for the recipes and can just sit and flip through it from time to time just to look at the pictures.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

April 7-9 Pasta Primaverish

April 7    Wing night with the neighbours
April 8    Pasta with spring vegetables
April 9    Grilled striploin, roasted baby potatoes and grilled asparagus

The weather is finally turning and spring is here at last. No more stews and cheesy, heavy baked dishes until late fall, and that feels like a lifetime away now. Shack was working really late on Friday so it was just going to be me and the kid. Originally, the kid was supposed to be gone with his dad and I am going to be honest with you - I was going to buy myself a falafel dinner from a place by the subway that is supposed to be amazing but since I am the only one who really loves falafel, I haven't been yet. Shack was going to be so late, he wasn't going to be able to take Little Shack out for dinner with his Grumpa so I had to feed him as well. Good bye falafel, hello pasta!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Greek Salad with Chicken

April 6 - I had a late meeting and the boy worked late so dinner didn't really happen
April 7 - Greek Salad with Chicken
April 8 - leftover pizza

First off if you are reading this on Saturday morning and are in the GTA get your butt to the Evergreen Brick Works market to support the Toronto Bakes for Japan Bake Sale.  You make even get to meet me or the fabulous mamashack. If you can't make it on Saturday, check out the locations for Sunday April 10 at the Toronto Bakes for Japan website.  If you aren't in the area please donate online

Now, why you're really here, to hear all about what exciting things we've been eating in the Hoffleby house.  Sorry to say, while tasty I wouldn't call it exciting since I've been prepping for today's bake sale.  This is not a fancy dinner by any stretch.  But it was something I was craving.  I had actually picked up the ingredients to put to use in a few lunches for myself this week, but that didn't happen.  When my dinner plans for Thursday night fell through and the boy ended up not having to work as late as we had thought it seemed the best thing to do was to throw this salad together.

I lived on salads very similar to this one when I was in grad school and commuting into Boston from Norfolk most days.  I was living alone and couldn't really be bothered with cooking for one.  There was a pizza joint in my small town that made a mean Greek salad that I always rationalized with some grilled chicken made the perfect meal.  Of course being loaded with feta cheese doesn't hurt either.  Rather than try to find a salad like it at a pizza place around here I decided to just make it myself.  The funny thing about this salad is that after eating it I learned that three of the ingredients in it are actually considered useless salad ingredients in that their ratio of nutritional value to calories isn't great.  Regardless of that it was an easy dinner and I got the Boy to eat mostly veggies which is a win in my book.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Salmon, Leek and Mascarpone Parcels

I was searching through some Italian food blogs this week and the ingredients in this recipe immediately caught my interest until I realized that this meal is an exercise in contradictions... healthy fish enveloped in less-than-heart-healthy puff pastry; quick and easy yet oh-so-impressive; and crispy and flaky outside yet soft, tart and luscious inside. I was pretty sure it would be a hit with the kids (pastry and mascarpone make everything better, as we all know) but wasn't sure how it would go over with Q, who had to bike for three hours later that night. Bottom line: I set aside any reservations and decided to go for it. After all, just a few weeks ago, when Carole and I had spent the afternoon together making cupcakes, we had both decided that we needed to work on our pastry skills. This provided the justification I was looking for to test my skills while also indulging in such a decadent and rich meal mid-week.

The recipe was extremely simple to prepare--the hardest part was remembering to defrost the puff pastry in advance (and no, I didn't make it from scratch, even though my kids seemed disappointed when I admitted this... I was too busy raising them to spend years in a culinary school in Paris learning such an essential life skill). Three easy steps of sauteeing the veggies, mixing the mascarpone with some lemon zest, and prepping the pastry, and voila, you're done. The puff pastry rose and browned beautifully and Austin said it tasted like fish in a croissant. And he was totally right. I had bought some beautiful orange tomatoes with Carole at the market earlier that week so I stuffed them with quinoa and then baked them, and they were the perfect complement to the fish.

Salmon, Leek and Mascarpone Parcels
serves 4

 4 salmon fillets
3 leeks
1 shallot or 1/2 small onion
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
zest of 1/2 lemon
1 egg
2 sheets of puff pastry
sea salt & black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil knob of butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Heat a tbsp of olive oil and a little butter in a pan. Add onions and cook over a low heat for about 8-10 mins until soft but not coloured. Add chopped leeks, season and cook over a low heat for about 15-20 mins until soft. Add lemon zest to the mascarpone and season. Throw a bit of flour on the counter and roll out the pastry. Once the leeks are cooked, transfer to a bowl and leave to cool and then mix with mascarpone. Place salmon on the pastry sheet and season well; place leek/mascarpone mix on top. Brush some beaten egg around the edges so the sides will seal. Fold over the pastry and cut away any excess, making a square or rounded shape. It doesn’t have to be perfect so don’t worry about it. Press down the edges with a fork and then egg-wash the entire outside. Place on a greased (rub the tray with some butter) baking tray and cook for around 20 mins until pastry has risen and is nice and golden…

Baked Stuffed Tomatoes with Quinoa

serves 4

4 medium-large, ripe tomatoes. Each tomato should average about 5 ounces each

1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, plus a little to drizzle

about 12 fresh basil leaves, chopped

2 shallots, minced

1 tsp soy sauce

1 garlic clove, finely minced

1/2 cup quinoa

sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and oil a medium baking dish. Cut the tops off each tomato, allowing enough room to spoon in the mixture. Scoop out the flesh of each tomato and break up any large chunks of the tomato flesh. Arrange the hollowed out tomato shells in the greased baking dish. Lightly brush the outside of the tomatoes with a bit of olive oil.

For the filling, combine 2/3 cup of the tomato flesh and juice, olive oil, most of the basil, shallots, soy sauce, salt, black pepper and garlic in a bowl. Add the quinoa and stir until all ingredients are combined.

Spoon the stuffing into the tomatoes until the tomatoes are almost full. Bake for about 50-60 minutes, or until the quinoa is cooked. The tomatoes will start to wrinkle and brown. The top layer of quinoa on the tomatoes will be slightly crunchy. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and remainder of the basil. Serve warm.

Rest of the week April 1-4 New York City April 5 Pasta with mushroom sauce April 6 Pork Cutlets Parmesan April 7 Salmon Parcels with Tomatoes Stuffed with Quinoa

Thursday, April 7, 2011

April 4-6 Stove Top Mac and Cheese

April 4     Greek beef stew with feta(supperworks) and portuguese corn bread
April 5     Grilled Cheese Sandwiches on Poppy Seed Bread
April 6     Stove top Mac and Cheese

I have a weird kid who doesn't seem to like a lot of "kid" foods. I have tried a few baked mac and cheese dishes and he never loves them and even if will eat a small portion sometimes but rarely finishes and will not request for it, that's for sure. I am always a bit jealous when I see all of the delicious versions of mac and cheese that Dianne gets to cook for her mac and cheese loving family because it's a waste of time and money in this house. I don't hate it either, but I don't really like to eat foods that are that gooey and heavy so the baked versions are only for Shack. Maybe I should start sending Shack over to Dianne's for dinner.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Buffalo Chicken Burgers

April 3, 2011 - Dinner out for Carole's b-day
April 4, 2011 - Indian take-out
April 5, 2011 - Buffalo Chicken burgers

There has not been a ton of cooking these last few days.  Sunday we went out to dinner with the Shack's and their Neighbors as a belated birthday dinner for Carole.  We had a ton of fun and ate lots of yummy food. Monday I had started dinner early in the day and due to some kitchen clumsiness it ended up all over the kitchen floor.  I was so not in the mood to deal with it and luckily the Boy called and saved the day by suggesting Indian take-out.  He picked it up on his way home from work from our favorite local place and I couldn't have been happier.  What this all did though was put some serious pressure on me to cook something somewhat blogworthy last night.  Suffering from a lack of inspiration I went out to run errands and hoped an idea would come to me by the time I got to the grocery store.

I've been craving burgers like you read about lately but because of my schedule and other factors haven't had the chance to have that really great burger that kills the craving for a bit. Thinking of burgers, but not wanting to use my fave beef burger up yet I thought about chicken.  A few years ago a tried to make a buffalo chicken burger that just didn't work so well and have been meaning to give it another go since then.  It seemed like the perfect thing, since I wanted a burger and the boy will always happily eat buffalo sauce, as can be seen from my various buffalo-inspired recipes: pizza, lasagna, and nachos.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Weekend in New York City

Spending a weekend in the Big Apple with a 10-year-old can be a lot of fun but I quickly realized it wasn't going to be a true foodie experience since her attention spanned ranged from "let's share a pretty cupcake and eat it while we keep power-shopping" to "those hot dogs on the corner look great, Mom, and we can eat them on our way to the show." Sigh. Visions of enjoying leisurely meals together flew out the window, although there was one evening when I managed to convince her that a fancy dinner was in order and I knew I was in the right place when Maddie first commented on how large my glass of red wine was (everything is bigger in NY, thank goodness) and then noted how she couldn't find anything on the menu that appealed to her. We must finally be in an adult-friendly place! Other than that meal, as you'll see from the colourful photos below, our travels revolved around discovering a variety of brightly fluorescent child-appealing tones of different candies, cupcakes and baked goods... all of which begged to be photographed (and then eaten).

Monday, April 4, 2011

March 31-April 3 Fakey Bakey Beans

March 30   Panko pork chops
April 1       Panini with leftover orange cumin pork, spicy marmalade mayo, arugula, brie with
                  home made Portuguese corn bread
April 2       Baked Beans and Meatloaf from Supperworks
April 3       Dinner Out

This was a really pork heavy week with pork chops, pork paninis and then baked beans with bacon but you know what? Pork makes everything okay.

I was looking for things to make in my new Le Creuset but it's really huge and I will have to save it for large batch cooking, like the baked beans from scratch I was going to attempt. This is something I have never done even though we eat baked beans quite often but I make "doctored up" baked beans like my mom did. My mom tried to make baked beans once using dried beans and they were terrible that I think I was traumatized for life by them. Her doctored up canned baked beans were so fabulous there was no need to ever try that again. There are only a handful of things that my mom cooked that I loved enough to really crave them and her baked beans are one of those things.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Seafood Saturday

April 2 - Mattaki Oysters with Pear Horseradish Minonette, Pan Fried Ontario Pickerel, roasted baby potatoes, mache salad

It was a gorgeous day here in Toronto yesterday.  The sun was shining, you just needed a light jacket, I have so been longing for this kind of day and from the traffic and people everywhere, it seemed the whole city was.  All this week I've wanted to hit up Hooked, a new fish monger over in Leslieville.  I popped in there a few weeks ago when I was looking for the mussels for my Mussels with Saffron & Mustard but they unfortunately didn't have any. They promised they were coming in first thing the next morning but, sadly, I needed them that night but I loved how eager they were to serve and l knew I had to go back.

Once the Boy got up and did some errands, I worked out and did some things around the house, I decided that we should take the pups down to Kew Beach for some puppy playtime on the lake.  They're been so good with putting up with short walks due to cold and weather, I thought that Sampson and Stella, who LOVE being out in the sun, probably more than me, deserved some serious outside time. I also saw on Hooked's Facebook page that they had fresh made lobster rolls.  Sign me up!  It may not have been on the way to the beach but it was in the same direction and I convinced the boy that a stop to get some grub fro dinner was absolutely in order.  I grabs the cooler bag and a freezer pack, we loaded the dogs and were on our way.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Maple & Black Pepper Pork Chops

March 30 - Maple & Black Pepper Pork Chops with Grill Roasted Baby Potatoes & Salad
March 31 - Apple Butter Pulled Chicken with Broccoli Slaw and yam fries
April 1 - Boy worked late, just had a couple of breakfast tacos and some roasted yams

When I was planning out the meals for the week I knew I wanted to used the gorgeous naturally raised pork chops we bought at the Brickworks Market a few weeks ago.  I also knew I wanted to make something with maple syrup since we're at the height of sugaring season and I missed all the maple events last weekend.  I was going to do a salad with some sort of maple vinaigrette but in looking for pork chop ideas I came across this one over on Eggs On Sunday.  Not only is this a new to me blog, which I'm always excited to discover  but I loved the sound of this dish and is seemed like the perfect way to treat my lovely local chops.

One thing to note, I let my glaze cook a bit too long so that it almost candied when poured on the chops.  It was tasty but made them kind hard to cut and eat.  I was ready to call the dish a fail, based on the way I cooked it, but the Boy said absolutely not because the flavors worked so well.  I'm bummed I won't be ab;e to try this one out again until next year, but it will absolutely be bookmarked and added to the regular rotation then.  And if I ever doubted the benefits to buying locally, naturally raised meat (which I didn't) these chops converted me.  They had so much flavor and were so tender I would have happily ate them with just some salt and pepper.  I know naturally raised meats are often more expensive, but I promise it's worth it.  Even if it means smaller portions of meat, which most of us should be doing anyway, give it a try.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Goat Cheese, Roasted Pepper and Baby Spinach Frittata

I've spent a lot of time recently on the LCBO website, checking out recipes--not booze, honest! And although they have tons of company-impressive options, they also have simple ones like this frittata that called to me as an easy "made-in-minutes" weekday meal that all of us would like. When it also bragged that the frittata could be served warm or at room temperature (perfect for everyone eating at different times) and that the leftovers were delicious between sliced foccacia, I was totally sold on it. Unfortunately, as it turned out, there were no leftovers to be had but we did eat it with some chunks of country ciabatta and it made for a perfect light dinner.

Since my local supermarket was out of red peppers, I grilled up some beautiful orange ones instead... All five burners of my stove were crackling away with the sound of the skin grilling, snapping and burning, and the boys can use the extras left over for some delicious grilled-veggie manwiches on the weekend while Maddie and I hit the streets of NY for some serious girl time together. While we're away, I figured I had one of two options for our No ReEats challenge: ask the boys to document their meals and take pix and make notes of their adventures OR Maddie and I take photos of all the foods that us girlies find and eat during our travels in the Big Apple. Somehow the latter sounds more interesting to me, so that's what we'll do. Hopefully we'll find some yummy stuff, and I'll try not to follow her 10-year-old lead and spend the next four days simply leaving a trail of multi-coloured cupcake crumbs in our wake. Torontonians in New York cannot live by cupcakes alone... no matter how beautiful and sweet they may be.

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