Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Zingy Purple Potato Salad

May is drawing to a close, which means an end to our official Salad Month. Sad but true. But we'll still continue it on some level since the best thing has been having a variety of great leftovers for the week that round out lots of other meals. I wouldn't normally be tempted to make a potato salad since I usually associate them with childhood memories of the KFC version: soft, crumbly, snow-white, globby, mayo-laden and bland. And yes, I realize that many more varieties exist but even though I might try them at someone else's BBQ or picnic, I don't typically seek them out on my own. But in the spirit of trying new things during our 365 challenge, I decided to get me some assorted mini-potatoes (including pretty purple ones so at least the dish would be attractive even if did turn out to be inedible) and find a recipe that didn't involve mayo in any way, shape or form. The inclusion of the word "zingy" in the recipe title sold me on this one... combining zesty lemon juice and tart Dijon with lotsa fresh herbs and spring onions. Perfect. Served icy-cold right from the fridge, we loved the zippy flavour punch. I knew Austin must love it because he took a tiny taste of the potatoes and then immediately turned back to methodically and silently eating all his fish. High praise indeed because he always leaves the best food til the very end. And no complaints even about the weird colour.

Monday, May 30, 2011

May 26-29 Aloo Jeera

May 26    some chicken chili from the freezer eaten with whole grain tortilla chips
May 27    aloo jeera, raita, flat bread and salad
May 28    Shack's birthday dinner out
May 29    Grilled Pork Chops with marinated vegetable couscous

I am working hard to find things to be exited about, as far as months of cooking for two goes. One of the things I like about cooking just for me and The Kid is that I can make side dishes like this and it can serve as our entree. Again, Shack would love this as a side but if I tried to tell him that this potatoes and chickpea bowl was all the dinner he was getting, he would have the pizza speed dial going so fast it would make your head spin. We had this aloo jeera with some raita and flat bread and a bit of salad and we were satisfied with that. I left out the heat but if you want it spicy, the way it is meant to be, just add a seeded, chopped hot chili pepper when you add the tomatoes (or more if you are really hard core).

We had a great birthday dinner out at Lolita's Lust on Saturday with friends and then Sunday, thanks to the siren son of Jen's delicious looking chops, we grilled pork chops that I marinated in olive oil, rosemary wine syrup and grainy mustard.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Dijon Grilled Pork Chops

May 28 - dinner at Au Pied de Couchon

As you are reading this I'm likely still based out in a foie gras coma from my dinner last night at Au Pied de Couchon.  Rather than pretend to attempt to come home from that meal and write about it, I thought I'd share with you the dinner I made on Thursday night before we jetted off to Montreal.

On Sunday we went over to Royal Beef on the Danforth to pick up some meat for the week.  I knew I needed a Tr-Tip, which I've already shared with you, but wasn't sure what else I wanted until I saw two love pork loin chop with a gorgeous layer or fat around the edge.  That layer of fat that I'm sure so many of you shun for being bad for you, but it's that fat that keeps the chop juicy and flavorful while cooking.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Leftover Tacos and Chipotle Creamed Corn

May 25 - Leftover Tacos with Pineapple Salsa and a side of Chipotle Creamed Corn
May 26 - Dijon Pork Loin Chops with Caramelized Onions & Fennel
May 27 - In Montreal, dinner at DNA Restaurant

This post is going up while I'm likely sleeping in in my hotel room in Montreal.  As a birthday present the Boy took me to Montreal for a weekend chock full of food, shopping and tourist fun.  We took the train yesterday, something I haven't done at least for anything other than commuting for 7 years, when I was last in Italy.  

Anyway, on Wednesday night I decided on a meal that would take advantage of the steak I had leftover from my Tri-Tip with Tomato Romesco and my favorite way to use leftover meat is in tacos.  It requires little thought and always tastes good.  But it wasn't a no work meal by any stretch since I made the flour tortillas, pineapple salsa and creamed corn from scratch.  

Friday, May 27, 2011

Fregola with Broccoli and Cipollini Onions

Any type of pasta that reminds me of demerara sugar can't be all bad. At least that's what I thought when I first saw fregola on the shelf of my local Italian supermarket. Tiny toasted golden-brown balls of pasta that my kiddies would likely gobble up. More meaty and nutty than Israeli couscous but lighter and less stodgy than our usual pasta choices. I quickly found a recipe by Giada that combined cannellini beans and cipollini onions with the fregola so I went in search of these beautiful onions. Unfortunately, none could be found, although Carole's eagle eyes did spy some adorable teeny ones among the rainbow produce at the greengrocers' stores on the Danforth as we did our long walk this week. They ended up being a perfect substitute but I'm not giving up on the cipollini ones for another time.

After shedding a few tears as I carefully peeled them all, they happily bubbled, rolled and tumbled in the olive oil, browning themselves to a gorgeous sweet mid-summer tan. Tiny shiny caramel candies in my saucepan. So sweet and delicious, in fact, that Austin and I fought over the ones that Maddie had carefully moved to the side of her plate (she didn't know what she was missing and we weren't going to tell her). By the time Q ate his dinner later that night, he had no idea that the onions had ever existed since they were long gone by that point. The cannellini beans were a creamy and meaty addition and my only regret with this dish was not including more onions and broccoli than the recipe called for. It's a rare day that all of us unanimously love a dish and ever rarer that we're all claiming it for our lunch the next day but that's what unfolded with this salad. Gotta love it when life's that easy for Mom the following morning. Thanks, Giada.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

May 24-25 Beet Hummus

May 24     Indian spiced chicken burgers with tzatziki and pasta/greek salad
May 25    Cold Dinner of beet hummus, tzatziki, pita, cheese

  Ah, a new chapter in this endeavour and a new challenge as I admit something I probably would rather not admit about myself. As adventurous as I am with my eating, I am also a real creature of habit, as is The Kid. When I was a child, I would eat the exact same breakfast every morning for months on end. Then, without warning to my poor mother, I would wake up and announce that today I would like to have something else and I would go on to eat THAT every single morning for months on end. Little Shack does this too - the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tri-Tip with Tomato Romesco

May 21 - out late shooting a video with the Canadian Pie Co & Acts of Sweetness
May 22 - dinner out a Guu for my birthday courtesy of Carole & Shack
May 23 - Meatless Monday Pizza with garlic, caramelized fennel, shaved asparaus &  parmigiano with a side of sauteed fiddleheads
May 24 - trip-tip with romesco, roasted asparagus and mache salad

Yay! Finally, a full day without rain, I think Tuesday was the first one we've had since I've been home from my travels.  I made the most of it.  I walked, yes that's right walked, to a Zumba class and then did all kinds of errands on my walk back home.  It felt so good to be outside in the sunshine, getting some good exercise and being productive too.  One of my errands on my trek home was to pick up some poo bags (probably not appropriate chatter for a food blog, but I'm doing it anyway) for the pups at our local dog supply shop, while there I couldn't help but pick up some marrow bones for my loves.  First, because they love them but second, because I knew I want to get some planting done and if they (specifically Stella, our puggle) were occupied with bones I could plant in peace.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Grilled Asparagus and Red Pepper Salad with Shaved Parmesan

Two of the kids disappeared to their friends' cottages for the long weekend so we were footloose and fancy-free and hardly knew what to do with ourselves. The teen entertained himself and kept busy so Q and I were able to get gardening done and other stuff around the house uninterrupted. He's almost at the peak of his Ironman training, which meant an easy six-hour bike ride followed by a one-hour run, so that consumed most of Sunday. Unfortunately he ran into technical issues on the bike so it ended up being just five hours instead of the full six (slacker) and we almost had to send out search-and-rescue to teams to Stouffville for sympathy pickup, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't make a huge difference in the greater scheme of things. Since we were kid-free, we ate out for an unprecedented three nights in a row (lots of carb-loading for him)... memories of long ago when we did this more often. Nice break from the cooking but by Monday I was ready to get back in the kitchen.

Between thundershowers, we grilled some steaks and I threw together this fantastic salad to go along with it. The grilled asparagus, red pepper and croutons all added real warmth, meatiness and substance and we didn't need any other side dish to go along with it. And we all took seconds... high praise indeed.

Monday, May 23, 2011

May 23 Sticky Rotisserie Chicken

May 23    Guu Saka Bar with Jen and her Boy for her birthday!

This is the week that I take Sunday so that means posting Sunday and again the next day and last night we took Jen out for her birthday for dinner so clearly I didn't cook last night but I will post my my dinner from Friday night.

 I made this a year ago and totally forgot all about it until now. Whole chickens were on sale so I bought one and then couldn't figure out what to do with it. I will admit now that I don't roast whole chicken often because it's cheaper to buy a rotisserie chicken (fondly referred to as bubble chicken in reference to the plastic case it comes home in) and everyone loves the bubble chicken from Loblaws. IT'S REALLY TASTY SO SUE ME OKAY?
I was researching making rotisserie chicken at home and found some dodgy sounding recipes involving inverted pie plates and crock pots when I found this one on all recipes.com. I don't know who you are Sue Rogers, but I am a little bit in love with you. Words cannot express how delectable this chicken is. The skin is so crispy, the meat is so moist and tender and you are left with such delicious drippings. I just pour off all of the liquid in the roasting pan and let it sit for a bit and then take off as much of the fat as I can and serve the juice. I don't reduce it or try to make it fancier, I just serve it as is. It's really that tasty.
I didn't even bother making a spice rub this time. I used my favourite Buffalo Chicken Rub from Irie that I get at a west Indian grocery store. 

This isn't a recipe as much as it is a method and it could NOT be simpler.

Sticky Rotisserie Chicken:

1 chicken
1 onion, quartered
1 clove garlic
spice rub of your choice

Preheat the oven to 250F

You just rub the chicken (make sure the giblets etc are out of the cavity and rinse it in cold water and dry off with a paper towel) with whatever spice rub you want, let it sit for a few hours or overnight, stuff an onion and the garlic clove in the cavity and then throw it in a 250F oven for 5 hrs and walk away.

It's that easy. No basting, no nothing. Five hours later you will have the most delicious, crispy skinned chicken imaginable and your family will love you forever. I remove the chicken to a platter to rest and pour off all of the juices in the roasting pan and let them sit, skim off all of the fat and then just serve the remaining pan drippings as is.

We had  mixed rice/orzo, sautéed red cabbage and rapini and a bit of the mesa grill bbq sauce

Sunday, May 22, 2011

May 19-21 Black Sesame Tilapia, Gai Lan

May 19     Black Sesame Tilapia, Gai Lan with Oyster Sauce
May 20     Slow Cooked Rotisserie Style Chicken
May 21

Okay, The Kid is back from his retreat and Shack is in the groove of being on a movie full time and we can establish a routine now. Tonight was a typical Mama and The Kid dinner. We had a light, pan fried tilapia with some gia lan (chinese broccoli) in oyster sauce and steamed basmati rice with seasoned sea weed. If I served this dinner to Shack I would either have to include a steak on the side or he would be ordering pizza an hour after supper. By the way, if you like seaweed or have a kid who does, get that seasoned seaweed. It is delicious sprinkled on rice, crushed into maki rolls or thrown into a bowl of miso soup or soba noodles. It's great stuff.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Matzo Ball Soup

May 18 - Matzo Ball Soup
May 19 - Grilled Chicken Thighs with ramp pesto, grilled tomatoes & caesar salad
May 20 - The Boy cooked - grilled rib eye, mushrooms & onions,  sauteed fiddleheads & green salad

As of yesterday the rain seems to have finally broken, thankfully.  So it's on to grill recipes and salads.  But the thing is, on Wednesday it was still awfully rainy and I had an upset stomach.  When I was living in LA all I ever wanted when I was sick was Matzo Ball Soup. I luckily had a great Jewish Deli nearby and a grocery store that always had Matzo Ball Soup on the go, so it was ridiculously easy to come by.  Since moving to Toronto I had to adjust my sick cravings based on the fact that there was no place in a reasonable distance that had this soup.  Beef Pho has been a good stand in thus far, but on this day I just wanted my standby.  Rather than drive across town to get it, I set my mind to making my own.  I knew I had a ton of chicken stock in the freezer and some boneless skinless chicken thighs in the fridge and with just a few veggies I could trow together I quick chicken soup. I just had to figure out where I could get matzo meal and pray that the box had a recipe for matzo balls on it.  Luckily I found Streit's Matzo Meal at my local store, which also had a recipe on it.  Couldn't be easier!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Orange Cranberry Wild Rice Salad

Thursday was a day of lasts for us. Last day of high school for Corbin. Last exam. Last time for me to have the privilege of driving him to school, which he convinced me I'd regret missing when he's away at university in the fall and I'll apparently be crying in my porridge. As if. But for old time's sake we made the drive together, even though at this point he's probably happier to drive himself. All the cliches surfaced... where have the years gone? Where's the little boy I dropped off on his first day way back when in grade 4? All grown up now and towering over me. That's where. All Corbin feels (understandably) is huge relief at it all being over finally, mixed with overwhelming excitement at the flurry of proms, parties, grad ceremonies, dinners, BBQs and cottage weekends to celebrate the end of an educational era. And all the inevitable freedom, independence and prospects of moving out and away to university in the fall. It's all good. He's ready and it's time. And every once in a while, when he's out playing road hockey with the younger kids on the street, if I look really hard, I can still get a glimpse of that little boy who's not quite totally grown up.

On to the food.... crazy week of busy nights so it seems like we've all been eating easy meals that can be served up at different times. This salad was simple to make but just needs a bit of extra cooking time for the wild rice mix. Perfect accompaniment to the pork kebabs and looking forward to eating some for lunch leftovers.

Orange Cranberry Wild Rice Salad

serves 6

1 cup brown rice/wild rice mix

2 cups water

1 tsp butter

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted

1/2 cup green grapes, halved, or Granny Smith apple, diced

1/4 cup sliced green onions

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp honey

2 tsp grated orange peel

1 tbsp orange juice

Bring rice, salt, butter and water to boil. Reduce to low heat, cover and cook for 50 minutes. Do not stir or uncover. Remove from heat and let sit, still covered for 10 more minutes. Uncover, stir a little and let cool to almost room temperature.

In a large serving bowl, mix the rice, cranberries, pecans, grapes/apple and green onions together.

In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice, olive oil, orange peel and juice, honey, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix dressing with the rice mixture. Serve warm, chilled or at room temperature.

Rest of the week

May 17 Assorted omelettes and roasted potatoes with onions

May 18 Pesto and tomato farfalle with asparagus, broccoli and salad greens

May 19 Grilled pork kebabs with orange cranberry wild rice salad

May 16-18 Rescued BBQ Beef

May 16     Leftover penne with balsamic butter transformed into mushroomy goodness
May 17     Late dinner at Gio's
May 18     Rescued Beef with BBq Sauce, coleslaw and potato/yam wedges

This will be a weird week for me. Shack went off to start his movie last week, which means that he is not here for dinner during the week anymore again until next fall. Right now they are prepping so he is hungry when he gets home so I have to keep him in mind but once they start shooting, he is fed at work so he just leaves the equation. Then it will just be me and The Kid for dinner.

The only thing that we both love that Little Shack hates are mushrooms so when The Kid is not around, we often make something ridiculously mushroomy. It made sense to transform the leftover penne with balsamic butter into something loaded with mushrooms.

Tuesday was supposed to be gnocchi in a mushroom cream sauce but Shack wanted to take me out for dinner since it was our only evening alone before The Kid got home from his retreat and I couldn't say no to that.

Wednesday came and I  knew I either had to deal with last Sunday's bland roast beef or throw it away and I really didn't want to do that. A perfect solution was to turn it into bbq since it was all falling apart and would be perfect for shredding and serving like a pulled pork sandwich. I settled on a good, old school style bbq sauce by Bobby Flay from his Mesa Grill coookbook. A couple small changes but pretty much followed the recipe. This bbq sauce is really good. It's kind of sweet, not very spicy and really full of flavour. It will be delicious with chicken or pork or even basted onto a burger.

This was the perfect thing to make too because it was delicious right away but it just got tastier the longer it sat so by the time Shack got home, it was still great after I heated it up.

Rescued BBQ Beef Sandwiches:

BBQ sauce (about half the mesa grill recipe for one roast)
1 tri tip roast, cooked all day in the slow cooker until it's falling apart, cooled and shredded
Soft white buns
buttermilk coleslaw

Mesa Grill BBQ Sauce for my Rescued BBQ Beef
Makes about 3 cups

2 tbls vegetable oil
1 large spanish onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 28oz can plum tomatoes, pureed
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup worchestershire sauce
1/4 cup molasses
3 tbls grainy dijon mustard
3 tbls dark brown sugar
2 tbls honey
6 tbls chile powder
1 tbls chipotle chili puree
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil over medium high heat in a heavy bottomed medium saucepan. Add the onion and cook for about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook one more minute before adding the tomatoes and 1 cup of water. Bring that to a boil and cook, stirring from time to time, for ten minutes.

Add the rest of the ingredients, lower the heat to medium and simmer, stirring from time to time, until thickened. It should take about 25 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to a food processor and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and pour into a bowl, set aside and let cool to room temperature. It keeps in the fridge for a week.

I took my previously slow cooked roast, shredded the meat, tossed it in the bbq sauce and slowly heated it up over medium low heat in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Served on soft hamburger buns with coleslaw and potato wedeges.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ramp & Ham Pizza & a Vacation Recap

May 15 - dinner out in Costa Rica
May 16 - cheeseburger at the Counter in Miami International Airport
May 17 - Ramp & Ham Pizza and a mache salad with asparagus and orange segments

Well I am back to reality after 2 1/2 weeks of travel and eating out.  I have to say that as fun as vacation was and as much fab food as I ate, I'm pretty pumped to be back to cooking my own meals. Because of the gluttony I happily subjected myself to during my vacation, I am ready to put the Boy and I on a serious cleanse.  Especially since we will be indulging in two weeks during a birthday trip to Montreal, including a dinner at Au Pied de Cochon which is sure to include a copious amount of foie gras.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pasta Salad with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

The day after a half-marathon (for me, anyway) usually spells relief and also some pain or at least exhaustion. I was lucky this time, however, that my overriding feelings were relief, a little pride that we actually didn't totally embarrass ourselves and just a bit of fatigue--but nothing requiring even a little cat nap in the aft. I guess this means Carole and I were slightly better prepared than we had expected and perhaps our (very) long-term muscle memory managed to kick in after all.

Since I wasn't feeling the need to stay horizontal on the couch for the afternoon, I figured I'd grill some meat and throw together a salad for dinner. This pasta salad is one of my family's favourite summer dishes and probably the first recipe I ever made from any of Ina Garten's cookbooks. It's a good example of how she takes simple ingredients and assembles them in a no-nonsense, foolproof way. While the pasta is rolling around in the boiling water, you pull out the handy-dandy food processor and quickly whip up a slightly tangy dressing, chop up some tomatoes, cheese and basil (I omitted the olives because I didn't feel like watching all three kiddies, with curled lips and looks of disgust, fastidiously pick out all things black off their plates during dinner... usually entertaining but maybe not that night), and that's basically it. This has been a popular dish at barbecue dinners, picnics and as leftovers.

Monday, May 16, 2011

May 12-15 The Last Supper - Pre Marathon Pasta Dinner

May 12     Pork and Shrimp Potstickers, Basil Tofu with red rice and chinese broccoli
May 13     Dinner out with the neighbours
May 14     Penne with roasted broccoli and balsamic butter
May 15     Dinner out due to extreme exhaustion and disinterest on my part

Dianne and I were walking a half marathon on Sunday, which means that Saturday night I had to eat some pasta and carb up! Honestly, as a woman, being to told that I have to carb up is probably the best part about long distance walking. I wanted something really simple and clean because cream sauces and meat sauces don't work for me as my pre race meal ( this time I use the word "race"loosely since we did not train for this and will not be breaking any land speed records this time).  My usual go to pasta for the night before would be whole wheat spaghetti a la olio but I can't waste that one on this "race" so it was time to find something else that would fit the bill. I found this recipe for Penne with Roasted Asparagus and Balsamic Butter on Mel's Kitchen Cafe. The only problem was that asparagus has suddenly jumped to $4.99 a bunch and I didn't really want to pay that much for it so I bought some broccoli to roast instead. Little Shack doesn't care for asparagus so he was much happier with the finished dish and I didn't have to spend a small fortune on a vegetable that only two of us would eat. Win, win.

In the end, Dianne and I did not embarrass ourselves and managed to get a respectable time. I attribute this both our delicious pre race pasta dinners and the fact that we are both, inherently, superwomen. Hear us roar.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Pancetta Spaghetti for the Pre-"Race" Dinner

"The night before a marathon [or half, in our case] is about loading up on carbs, not making complicated dishes." This, according to Gordon Ramsay, spicy-tongued chef and long distance runner, who hopefully knows whereof he speaks. So I took his advice to heart and decided to take a very temporary one-evening diversion from my salad journey (although we did eat broccoli salad leftovers, which, incidentally, improve as time goes by) and prepare this simple, plain, five-ingredient pasta dish from Runner's World magazine on the eve of our half-marathon walk. I only hoped that it would actually perform a miracle and somehow provide enough nutritional oomph to compensate for our shortcomings in recent training walks. Neither Carole nor I believe we've put in enough time or effort for this particular event but she keeps assuring me that "speed will come" and "muscle memory" (from our last race in October?!) will kick in. Here's hoping.

The weather predictions for "race day" (which may be a race for everyone else but we're refusing to view it that way since it's too much pressure) is an ominous combination of rain, cold and 50-km/hour winds. Yet, really, how often are the weather forecasts correct? I'm praying they're wrong and somehow it's turns out just slightly overcast and cool. Surely this ain't too much to ask? Fingers crossed for us that it's not as bad as predicted.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Sausage & Pepper Calzone

May 11-13 - still in Costa Rica

This is the final and likely the favorite freezer meal I made for the Boy to have while I was out of town.  It's a pretty basic recipe that can be tweaked with a wide variety of fillings, I make homemade dough but it works just as well with store bought.  I made some earlier in the challenge using more ricotta, some asiago, fried eggplant and chorizo. Anything you think will be good on a pizza will absolutely work on a calzone.  Have fun and play with it!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Curried Quinoa Salad and Broccoli Salad

My friend (who doesn’t cook) took one look at this broccoli salad and accused me of buying it from Costco. Yes, I know the salad she’s referring to and, yes, my family has eaten it from time to time; however, this one was made from scratch and although it took a little more time and effort than simply cracking open Jen’s proverbial bubble and tossing and going, it was better than the big-box store-bought version and I can vouch that I didn’t cheat. The original recipe called for 1/3 cup of mayo in the dressing but that amount brought back bad memories of mayo-heavy, eggy, cloying potato salads from my childhood so I reduced it to a tablespoon and the buttermilk added the rest of the creamy flavour. Only Austin and I were around to eat it for dinner but both of us gave it the thumbs-up, and liked the raw crunchiness of the broccoli.

May 10-11 Pasta with Checca Sauce

May 10    Pasta with Checca Sauce
May 11    BBQ steak

I had a pint and a half of super ripe little grape tomatoes that were going to go bad if we didn't eat them soon. I had no choice but to make some pasta again. Honestly.

I found this Checca sauce in Giada's Everyday Italian and it is very similar to something I make all the time but different enough that it counts as a new recipe. When I make my version of this I just chop up super ripe tomatoes into a pretty fine dice, toss with olive oil, kosher salt and pepper, sometimes fresh basil, sometimes not and a whack of fresh boccaccini and let it sit all afternoon before tossing hot pasta into the room temperature tomato mixture. In this version, you process the tomatoes with some scallion, garlic and parmesan until you have a nice, coarse sauce. She doesn't say to do it ahead but I let it sit at room temperature for a couple of hours to let the flavours really mingle and get to know one another.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Shrimp Cakes

May 7 - May 10 - Costa Rica for family vaca

In prepping for my time out of town I knew making a few dishes that could be frozen and kept for the Boy to cook.  Don't misunderstand, the Boy is a very good and capable cook, but I know that getting him to cook just for one is something that doesn't always happen.  All I could think about as I planned my packing and the schedule for my trip is that 2 1/2 weeks is alot of wings and pizza.  On top of that I couldn't just leave the ladies in a lurch on my posting days, especially since as you read this one I'm somewhere in Costa Rica zip lining down from a volcano or horseback riding or relaxing in a hot spring. While doing all of this the last thing I wanted to worry about was posting.  So freezing some meals ahead allowed me to leave some good food for the Boy and have some recipes to share recipes that are great for freezing.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Springtime Bulgar Salad

It's an obvious statement but one of the positives of our 365-day challenge is the (forced) opportunity to try different ingredients instead of relying on the old familiar standbys. This time last year, if I had been looking to make a side dish for salmon, I likely would have resorted to rice just out of habit because I know everyone in the family likes it. Now, however, I'm more likely to think of something like quinoa, couscous or another grain. The salad for today, in fact, was originally intended to be a farro salad but I couldn't find it in the four stores I searched. Normally I would have kept looking but Carole and I had just finished our final 20-kilometre training walk, before our big event this Sunday, and my feet were blistered and a little tired so I decided I could turn to bulgar instead and nobody need know the difference. I will shoot for finding farro sometime before my salad month ends.

The bulgar was a light, nutty, healthier alternative to rice and nobody pushed away their plate so that's always a good sign. This dish ended up being a combination of several recipes since it sounded good to add cooked chickpeas, nuts and berries, as suggested by various authors. Next time, I'll make sure to choose vegetables that stay relatively crunchy during roasting, like the asparagus and carrots, and perhaps skip the peppers, which got a big mushy even though I was keeping an eye on them.

Springtime Bulgar Salad

serves four as a side dish

an assortment of vegetables, cut into bite-sized pieces (I used asparagus, carrots, red onion and yellow, orange and red peppers)

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup bulgar

juice of one lemon

1 cup cooked chickpeas

some toasted almonds

some dried cranberries

Toss veggies with some olive oil and salt and pepper on a baking sheet and roast in oven at 425 degrees, for about 20 minutes, until veggies are tender but not mushy.

Meanwhile, boil two cups of water, then add bulgar and cover and reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes or until water is absorbed. Toss with the roasted vegetables and chickpeas, add lemon juice and top with the nuts and berries.

Rest of the week

May 8 Mother's Day dinner out at Relish

May 9 Grilled maple salmon with bulgar salad

Monday, May 9, 2011

May 5-8 Pork Carnitas for Cinco de Mayo

May 5     Pork Carnitas, Ceviche for Cinco de Mayo
May 6     Dinner at Guu Saka Bar
May 7     leftover pork carnita on mexican rice
May 8     Mother's Day dinner at Guu Saka Bar AGAIN

We love Cinco de Mayo because we love Mexican food. That means that even though I am way more Irish than I am Mexican, I prefer Cinco de Mayo over St Patrick's day. Who wouldn't rather eat slow braised well seasoned meats, wrapped in a fresh corn tortilla with bright, fresh salsa over a plate of boiled meat and cabbage? Honestly.

Every Christmas eve I make cochinita pibil and we all really love it but it's also very labour intensive and time consuming. You have to make achiote paste and marinate the pork, wrapped in banana leaves for a whole day before you can even think about cooking it. This is why it's a once a year kind of meal and the rest of the time when we eat tacos, I do fish and chicken mainly. Now that I have this stunning Le Creuset Dutch oven I feel like it needs to be used so I decided it was time to do a pork butt in the oven but pare down the recipe so it wouldn't require all that spice rub making and marinating and banana leaving. I have been looking around for a recipe for some time and decided that I liked the sound of a Cook's Illustrated recipe I found on The Bitten Word.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Cappelletti with Mixed Greens and Goat Cheese and Fresh Mushroom and Parsley Salad

Our lazy Friday night family pizza nights have now somehow morphed into pasta nights because on Saturday mornings Q is trying to squeeze in relaxing four-hour bike rides followed by one-hour runs as part of his Ironman training, and apparently, so he tells me, a few slices of zza the evening before these events don't fuel his system adequately for such Herculean athletic endeavours. It's up to me to adjust our traditions and skip my lazy approach of simply flipping open the delivered box 'o' dinner, and instead create some carb-loading, veggie-packed alternative so I can't be blamed for any slow pace or reduced performance. Yes, it's true, these are the difficult, unreasonable demands I'm asked to accommodate.... With no promise of pizza, all three of the kids vamooshed to their friends' houses and dinner became a candlelight affair (not) for the two of us.

When I read Giada's description of this dish as a combination of pasta and salad, I knew I was in the right place. I liked the idea of the goat cheese simply melting to create a sauce, with the sun-dried tomatoes and mixed salad greens as the main attractions. With five ingredients that were already on hand and the process totally idiotproof, my only regret is that I can't make this again sooner. Simple, straightforward and tasty... will make sure Corbin takes this recipe off to university with him in the fall since it meets all the requirements of student cooking.

Even though the pasta could be interpreted (at a stretch) as a partial salad, I also tossed together a fresh mushroom and parsley salad as a side dish. Again, five ingredients and super-quick and easy. Unfortunately, however, it wasn't very flavourful and not something I'd make again, unless perhaps to accompany something more substantial like grilled steak or chicken. Or maybe adding some balsamic vinegar to the dressing would have given it more oomph and depth.

Cappelletti with Mixed Greens and Goat Cheese
serves 4

1 cup dried cappelletti pasta
2 cups Mediterranean-style mixed salad greens
2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes (packed in olive oil), chopped
1 tablespoon goat cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
Pinch freshly ground black pepper

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the water.
In medium bowl, mix the salad greens with the sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese, and parmesan. Top with warm pasta and 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water. Toss to combine and wilt the greens. Season with a pinch each of salt and pepper, or to taste.

Fresh Mushroom and Parsley Salad
serves 4

1 pound large button mushrooms, trimmed, cleaned and thinly sliced
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2-ounce piece parmesan

In a medium salad bowl, mix together the mushrooms and parsley.
In a small bowl, whisk together the oil and lemon juice until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Add the oil mixture to the salad bowl and toss until all the ingredients are coated. Using a vegetable peeler, shave the Parmesan on top and serve.

Rest of the week

May 7 Cappelletti and mushroom/parsley salad

May 8 Went to a fun Kentucky Derby party and had delicious Kentucky burgoo and Kentucky Derby pie

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Pasta e Fagioli

May 4 - dinner out in LA
May 5 - Dinner at John's Restaurant in Boulder, CO to celebrate the little bro's college graduation
May 6 - Dinner at Denver airport as the fam gets ready to take the red eye to Costa Rica

Now you're likely wondering what I'm doing making a hearty soup like this at the beginning of May, well in fact I made it about a month ago to give to friends of ours who had just had twins.  I made enough to send to them and keep some for us in our freezer.  I did this because as you read this I'm in Costa Rica with my family while the Boy is still in TO working.  To help the girls with posting and to try to ensure the Boy ate something other than pizza and wings during the two weeks I'm gone I made a few meals that froze well so that he could just heat them up and go.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad and Pan-fried Chickpea Salad

Just making and enjoying a variety of different salads recently is making me feel like summer is right around the corner. There's also something about cold or room-temperature food that automatically seems lighter and healthier... I guess that's the whole point of the raw-food movement. Crispy, crunchy deliciously good.

I couldn't choose between two recipes I had found for Thursday night's dinner so I ended up making both. Each of them was unique and delicious in its own right. The first, with shaved raw Brussels sprouts had an unusual sprinkling of delicate egg confetti on top and ended up being a filling side dish. Luckily my kids love Brussels sprouts so they never turn up their noses up at the prospect of eating them, although we typically eat them cooked rather than raw, as they were in this cold salad. I used my food processor to make quick work of the shredding part but the other steps of this recipe were easy but more time-consuming. Gotta hard-boil, peel, separate and rice (yes, rice) some eggs, juice the three citrus fruits, simmer and reduce the dressing, and toast up some nuts. Phew. But the result was a crunchy, flavourful and zesty accompaniment to the pork. The only thing that might have improved it would have been some salty shavings of Parmigiano, but maybe I'm biased because this is how I eat a similar salad at one of my favourite local restaurants, Gio Rana's.

The second salad, pan-fried chickpeas in a smoothly spicy yogurt sauce, was my kids' favourite of the two. This was a quick and easy recipe--just a couple of steps of frying the chickpeas to a golden brown to bring out their nutty flavour and crisp them slightly, and tossing them with the creamy dressing. I even went back for seconds because it was so tasty.

serves 4 as a side dish

1 tbsp butter or oil

2 cups cooked chickpeas (or canned), patted dry

1 cup chopped leeks

1 garlic clove, minced

zest of one lemon

1/3 cup plain yogurt

1 1/2 tsp curry powder

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1/2 cup chopped red onion

Heat the oil in a large skillet and add the chickpeas. Saute over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until they become a bit golden in colour. Stir in the leeks and cook until the chickpeas are more golden and the leeks have browned a bit too, about 7 to 10 minutes in total. Then stir in the garlic and lemon zest. Remove from heat and set aside.

While the chickpeas cool, make the yogurt dressing by combining the yogurt, curry powder and some salt in a small bowl. Taste, adjust and set aside.

When you are ready to serve the salad, toss the chickpea mixture with most of the cilantro and red onion. Add about 1/2 of the yogurt dressing and toss again. Add more dressing if you like. Serve at room temperature with the remaining onions and cilantro.

serves 4

1 orange, juiced
1 lemon, juiced
1 lime, juiced
1 small shallot, minced
1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved
20 to 30 raw Brussels sprouts, depending on size
1⁄2 cup toasted almonds, chopped

In a small saucepan, combine the orange, lemon and lime juices and simmer over moderate heat until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Pour into a heatproof bowl and let cool to room temperature. Whisk in the minced shallot and the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Separate the yolks and whites from the hard-boiled eggs. Press them through a potato ricer, separately.

Using a mandoline, carefully shave each Brussels sprout, holding on the stem end, or use a food processor to slice the sprouts thinly and quickly. Toss the shaved Brussels sprouts with the vinaigrette and transfer it to a serving bowl. Top with the egg whites, followed by the yolks and almonds. Serve.

Rest of the week

May 3 Skillet macaroni and cheese with tri-color pepper salad

May 4 Grilled salmon with soy/honey sauce and grilled veggies with salad

May 5 Pork tenderloin with chickpea salad and Brussels sprouts salad

Thursday, May 5, 2011

May 2-4 Swedish Meatballs

May 2     Swedish Meatballs and basmati rice
May 3     Stovetop Roast Chicken with Lemon Parsely Sauce (Cook's Illustrated)
May 4     Spaghetti with tomatoey sauce made using leftover bolognese from the freezer

I had planned to bbq but the weather did not agree with these plans so I was kind of left hanging, not sure what to cook. I went into the freezer for some ice and a bag of frozen meatballs fell out on on foot- OUCH- and I took that as a sign. We had pasta the night before so the next best thing to do with meatballs is go all Ikea and make Swedish meatballs. It certainly scores me brownie points with The Kid, who loves these things.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Grilled Eggplant Parmesan

May 1 - Grilled Eggplant Parmesan
May 2 - Dinner out at Salt's Cure with the Domestic Diva
May 3 - Dinner out at Son of a Gun with my sis and her BF

I write this post and cooked this meal from my old condo in LA, the condo that I used to share with my sis.  It was brand spanking new when we moved in with the most perfect kitchen you can imagine.  I was nervous that on this quick trip, only 3 1/2 days that I wouldn't get a chance to cook at all here.  When we decided that I would cook on Sunday night and one of my good friends would come over, I asked my sis and her BF what they wanted.  They were not too helpful at first, but then I had a mini-meltdown explaining that I have to decide on dinner ALL THE TIME, especially with no reEATS, so they had to work with me.  At least make it a conversation, right?  Eggplant Parmesan was requested, but their AC is on the fritz and the thought standing in front of hot oil and turning on the oven was beyond unappealing.  But then I remembered the gorgeous grill up on the roof deck.  Instead of frying up the Eggplant I could grill it, in effect making the whole dish more healthy.  But there was still the whole baking thing.   But why can't you bake on the grill, it's basically what you do when you cook with indirect heat.  So I decided to try it out.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Sweet Potato Salad with Toasted Pecans and Dried Cranberries

When I prematurely (and optimistically) launched Salad Month last week, the weather was warmer and I had visions of enjoying various crispy cold salads out on our deck throughout the month of May. By the time Sunday rolled around, however, it was cold, rainy and dank outside again, and only warm salads were beckoning to me. So maybe this explains why I chose such a carby, autumnal salad for this meal instead of something more seasonally appropriate. Having said that, one of the great things about this salad is that it would be delicious served cold throughout the summer months, on a picnic or by a pool, but it also worked well slightly warm or at room temperature. Lots of options. In fact, it even tasted kind of Thankgiving-y to me since we typically make a sweet potato dish with toasted pecans at that time of year and this was a lighter, less creamy, less rich-and-decadent choice. And packed with beta-carotene and vitamin C, it's a nice variation on any traditional potato salad. All five of us enjoyed the mix of vegetables with the crunchy nuts and chewy berries.

Besides getting its zippy flavour from the chipotle pepper in the dressing, the main appeal of this dish was its prettiness. Beautiful little jewels of cranberries peeked out from the caramelized sweet potato chunks and dark pecans, all freshened up with the punch of parsley. Very colourful and captivating. It even kept its beauty, banished to the fridge for leftovers, over the next couple of days. No easy feat for any salad.

makes 6 servings

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch cubes

1 tsp olive oil

1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary

2 tbsp finely diced sweet onion

2 tbsp chopped toasted pecans

2 tbsp dried cranberries

1 tbsp minced fresh parsley


2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

2 tbsp honey

1/4 tsp salt

1/8 tsp black pepper

1/8 tsp ground chipotle pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place diced sweet potatoes on a baking tray and toss with the olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes or just until fork tender. (Don't overcook or the salad will be mushy.) Allow to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing. Place potatoes in a medium bowl and stir in the onions, pecans, cranberries and parsley. Drizzle with the dressing and gently stir until coated. Serve warm, room temperature or cold.

Rest of the week

April 25 Penne with caramelized onions, feta and marinara sauce, and tossed salad

April 26 Ate out at Vivetha

May 1 Pork tenderloin stuffed with mushrooms, sweet potato salad, tossed salad with roasted peppers

Monday, May 2, 2011

April 28-May 1 Penne with Roasted Sausage and Peppers

April 28     Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and steamed artichokes
April 29     Take out Greek
April 30     Wine Tasting in Niagara so all food consumed  was served to me
May 1        Penne with Roasted Peppers, Zuchinni and Italian Sausage

I was working Sunday with my good friend and fellow makeup artist, Alice. On the drive home, she couldn't think of what to make for dinner and I told her that I still had to decide what I was going to make at this late hour myself. I asked her what she had in the fridge and told her to roast her sausages with some tomatoes and veggies, olive oil, big cloves of garlic and then toss some pasta into the roasted sausages and all the amazing juices from the veggies that mixes in with the fat from the sausages.  Talking about it made me so hungry that I knew that I was going to make exactly the same thing. This is a dish that is usually a regular last minute dinner here that I have avoided making so far but I managed to get through the winter months without needing to turn to it so it was perfect for a quick meal on a rainy night.

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