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Saturday, March 24, 2007

kick your butt chicken caesar salad

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I know I know.....I haven't posted. And this post doesn't even have a picture. So I officially suck right now. Work has been draining lately and weekends have been quite busy. Last weekend, actually, I didn't even cook ONCE! On the Friday night, hubs and I made a little impromptu visit to our favourite haunt, Absinthe Café and ate like kings. Then on Saturday, we lunched with friends (who made amazing eggs benedict with homemade hollandaise....I am in AWE). And then we had dinner with other friends (who made an amazing italian feast, complete with guiness cake at the end! yum!). And then Sunday, we had pizza (go Gabriel's). And then this week, I did cook a few things, but had zero energy or creativity left in me.

But last night we did have a kick ass dinner. I didn't think it would be that good, so I didn't take any photos....but don't let the lack of photographic evidence discourage you from trying this out, because it was AWESOME.

Last night was actually a perfect evening.....I'm such a homebody....or perhaps I'm finally moving beyond the pseudo-student mentality....I'd much rather have a quiet evening in (or out at a friend's place) than go to a bar, pub or other such social mecca. I am officially lame.

But we started out with shrimp and cocktail sauce (Hubs was astonished to discover that rather than buying cocktail sauce, I've just been pulling the old mix-ketchup-with-horseradish-and-call-it-a-day trick.....he didn't believe that's what he had been eating). This was yummy. I paired it with a lovely bottle of bubbly - a 2002 Méthode Classique from Jackson-Triggs Grand Réserve (about $25 and a fabulous alternative to the real deal).

The main attraction was the most decadent chicken caesar salad - you don't need to have the chicken, or even the bacon, because this dressing is so fabulous, you could practically eat it with a spoon. It's brutal for you, but don't let that deter you. You want decadence, you shall find it right here. The dressing recipe is from epicurious and you should all make it now. Because it's THAT good. I think the bubbly would have been a nice compliment to this, but we'd already consumed it all (winos!) so I had it with an Inniskillin Méritage (LOVELY wine, not the best food match).

Caesar Salad Dressing (slightly cheating version)
3 garlic cloves, crushed/minced
3/4 cup mayonnaise (not miracle whip/whipped salad dressing)
1 t anchovy paste
2 T chopped capers
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
fresh black pepper

1. Combine all these ingredients (can use blender or food processor, but by hand is fine if you don't mind a less-smooth dressing). This dressin makes enough for 4 main-course salads, or 8 side salads.

To make caesar salad:
- romaine lettuce
- croutons
- bacon (5-6 slices, cooked and crumbled)
- parmesan cheese

1. Wash and tear romaine lettuce, add bacon and parmesan cheese. Don't add croutons until the last second, or they can get soggy.
2. Add a small amount of dressing and toss to coat (start with a smaller amount than you think you'll need, and add more until you are satisfied. This dressing is intense and you don't want your salad to be sopping in it. Three cloves of garlic is quite strong; if you're making this for company, 1.5-2 cloves might be more prudent!
3. Top with BBQ'd or grilled chicken (as always, I brine my chicken in 1/4 c. kosher salt, 2 T sugar, dissolved in about 2L of water for 30 minutes or so - the chicken ends up juicier at the end).
4. Add more grated parmesan and pepper to taste.

You don't regret making this salad is AMAZING and totally worth your time....even if I don't have any pictures. :)

Thanks for reading and I promise, I WILL be back again soon!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

picky people piss me off

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This particular rant runs the danger of preaching to an already-converted choir…. Or perhaps bringing down the wrath of all parents who are reading this (hopefully not mine....) clearly anyone who frequents a food blog already enjoys food, and probably wouldn’t enjoy my blog in particular unless they had a somewhat varied taste.

But picky people piss me off. And picky children piss me off even more. I don’t get it. When I was growing up, my mom made a wide variety of different food (thanks mom!) and didn’t cater all that much to pickiness. I mean, she was kind enough to leave the mayo and butter off my sandwiches, and she didn’t force us to eat liver too often, but when I was a toddler/small kid, we didn’t get to choose what we had for dinner.

Mom made dinner. We ate it, or went hungry. There was no separate meal of chicken fingers, or mac&cheese, or hotdogs. There was a wonderful dinner, prepared by mom, and too freaking bad if you didn’t want to eat it. And we NEVER went hungry. I might have picked the beans, mushrooms and tomatoes out of my chili....but I can assure you I never starved....

All too often, I hear of people decrying the fact that their children will only eat chicken fingers and hotdogs. Let’s back up for a second. In a traditional household….who buys the food? Who controls the food? Who prepares the food? Is it a toddler? Ummm….at last count, no. It’s the parents. I don’t understand why these houses have a constant supply of chicken fingers and hot dogs. The reason these kidlets are eating these culinary transgressions is that the parents are FEEDING IT TO THEM. They have little nutritional value, are chock full of nitrates and yucky things I can’t pronounce. I could be wrong here, but children don’t generally starve themselves. People who are hungry will eat what is available. And it’s only kids in North America who seem to be succumbing to the separate dinner/chicken finger phenomenon. So bottom line, don’t start your kids on crap and they probably won’t end up eating only crap.

People talk about making sure that toddler food is super bland and plain….but what do you think toddlers in India eat? Chicken fingers? What do you think toddlers in Asia eat? Exactly. Children eat what is given to them. If you don’t want them to eat only chicken fingers and hot dogs, it would seem to me that the simple action of not purchasing and hence not offering them would suffice. Will they scream? Maybe. Will they starve? No, because if they truly get hungry, they’ll eat what’s available.

The worst part about picky eaters is that they evolve into picky adults. I’m not going to lie and say I wasn’t picky, or that I didn’t cause tons of issues for my poor beleaguered mother when it came to food. I WAS picky, bordering on ridiculous. But the reason I’m NO LONGER picky is that my parents persevered, didn’t fall into the crap trap and actually made it so I enjoy nearly anything. Hubs wasn’t exposed to as many different cuisines as I growing up, but he still had parents who insisted he eat what was prepared. So when he and I started dating, and I started exposing him to things like curries, sushi, etc., he was open to trying it and he ended up loving it. Again, he grew up in a chicken-finger-free zone (can I get a sign? A bumper sticker maybe? hahahaha) so he was willing to at least try new things.

New food does not equal scary food.

The result though, is that I have NO patience for people who are picky. It drives me up the wall to try to cater to a myriad of ridiculous requests (I’m cool with things like no fish, or no mushrooms or simple [and common!] requests). But when people pretty much eat only meat, potatoes and one particular vegetable…..they just needn’t bother coming to my house. And even worse is when people are rude about it! It’s one thing to just eat around something you despise (though I still think at someone else’s house you should suck it up and suck it back) but making a big fuss about its mere presence on your plate makes me want to dump said plate over your head and send you on your merry way. Never to be invited back. Especially if you're over the age of three.

I make food with lots of seasonings, lots of different flavours, and I’m always hiding new and fun vegetables inside it. Do I like everything I make? Obviously not. Does hubs act like I'm trying to poison him when I put tofu and eggplant in food? Only sometimes...and less than he used to. ;)

I try all kinds of new things, and not everything is necessarily yummy. But I’ll still try it, and still try to brave my way through the leftovers (note to self: don’t make new recipes that serve 12!) because I made it, it’s food, and it would be a shame to waste it. As with my stinky cheese experience a few weeks ago…I’m not always successful (had to throw that sucker out), but hey, at least I gave it the good ole college try.

So the bottom line on this rant is that I think if a parent has a child who is refusing to eat anything but chicken fingers, mac&cheese and hotdogs….the blame is squarely on the parent. The kid didn’t buy those things, and they’re not the one preparing them either. Children depend on their parents to make the kinds of nutritional choices that they can’t make for themselves. If you hand them carrots with some healthy dip and tell them it’s a snack, odds are they’ll eat it. But if you hand them chips and tell them it’s a snack….they’ll eat that too. It’s up to YOU to make the healthy choice.

So for the love of food, DON’T fall into the crap trap!

*back to your regularly scheduled programming.....chorizo omelette coming up....*

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

the burger, revisited

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Has there ever been a food that is so ubiquitous, and yet so adulterated and destroyed as the lowly hamburger? While on one hand there are restaurants in the US that are trying to serve $40 burgers topped with shaved truffles (or made from ground tenderloin or something), it's far more usual to find craptastic "beef" fast food burgers that just really don't deserve the food moniker. Meh.

Ottawa is home to a chain that's been attempting to elevate the common patty to something a little more special - The Works. In theory, I love this idea, but in practice, my burger is ALWAYS underdone there (I know, true foodies like rare ground beef.....but I"m way too skeeves me)....and the burgers are just too big. And the buns aren't fresh enough. And to be perfectly honest, a 100% beef burger isn't actually as yummy as one that has a little seasoning.

But I can, however, take a lot of inspiration from their menu, as it features all sorts of crazy flavour combinations. It introduced me to the idea that there was more than the classic ketchup, mustard, relish, pickle type toppings.

MBR's ultimate burger patty
3 lbs lean ground beef
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T worcestershire sauce
1 T montreal steak spice
1 t anchovy paste (secret ingredient!)
2 T bbq sauce
1 egg
1 t salt
fresh ground pepper
1/2 t hot pepper flakes

1. Combine everything (it's gross, but it's best to use your works better!!!!!).

2. Make into 1/3 lb patties (I have a small squar-ish plastic container that I use to make them - comes out better and less likely to fall apart). Just under 1/3 lb seems to be a good size - 1/4 lb ends up too thin/small and 1/2 lb is just waaaaay too much meat. I don't really measure, but my container helps me keep the size consistent. I took some of the burgers and dipped them in cracked peppercorns. This was kickass.

3. Grill to desired doneness (I really can't tell you how long - hubs does the bbq'ing in our house! Try 5-6 minutes per side and check to see how cooked they are). I can only eat ground beef well done but if you like it otherwise, power to ya :)

bbq'd burgers

So once I had these burgers, I made two different kinds of burger, both of which kicked all kinds of butt. SOOOOO yummy. You must try them. You'll never put the k/m/r combo on a burger again. This is like a new level of food.

Bruschetta Burger
multi-grain bun
burger patty
slice gouda cheese
dijon mustard
bruschetta topping (chopped tomato, minced onion, minced garlic, fresh parsley, olive oil, pepper and sea salt)

bruschetta mix

And the burger....
bruschetta, provolone, and dijon on a burger

Caramelized Onion Horseradish Burger
caramelized onions (slow-sauté onions with butter and a bit of marsala for about 40 minutes)
caramelized onions


burger with horseradish, provolone, caramelized onions and mustard

So yeah....I don't really need to go to a gourmet burger place to get an awesome burger. These were better and MY buns were fresh. Yum. Make them now.

Thanks for reading!!!!!!


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Ugh. I'm such a procrastinator. I made this dish on Wednesday and just haven't been able to motivate myself to do anything about it. On the upside, I finally did the dishes (from this meal...hehe) my kitchen is finally pseudo-presentable. :)

I'm continuing my italian obsession here. I was inspired by a recipe I posted on my recipe storage blog almost two years ago - Rigatoni with Roasted Squash and Goat Cheese. I altered it a little bit, but it was a very nice meal for our mid-week guests. Definitely not the best thing I've ever eaten or made, but it was enjoyable, made a boat load of food, and brought in all kinds of yummy, healthy ingredients.

I'm still on the fence about goat cheese, but I enjoy how this recipe dilutes the flavour (and uses a milder, less goat-y cheese). I served this with spinach salad with poppyseed dressing (thanks to my Krafty friend) and some yummy wine.

Penne with Squash, Goat Cheese and yummy Veggies

1 small butternut squash or 1 lb pkg squash pieces
1 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic
pinches of salt and pepper
1 onion, chopped
2 cups quartered mushrooms
1 lb asparagus, chopped
1 pint grape tomatoes, or two large tomatoes, coarsely chopped
400 g penne
130g log creamy goat cheese
1/2 c chopped basil

1. Preheat oven to 450 F. To cook pasta, fill large saucepan with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, peel squash, then cut into 1/2 in pieces. Place in a large bowl with oil and seasonings. Toss until evenly coated.

2. Tumble onto a rimmed baking sheet. Roast in centre of preheated oven 10 min. Stir, then bake another 15 minutes. In the meantime, halve the grape tomatoes and place on a greased pan. Bake for about 15 minutes. then add whole grape or chopped tomatoes. Continue roasting, stirring occasionally until squash is fork-tender and tomatoes start to soften (about 15 more mins).

grape tomatoes

3. While the squash is cooking, heat olive oil in a large pan. Add onion, garlic and mushrooms and cook until vegetables are mostly soft. Add asparagus and cook to desired doneness (I tossed in a glug of white wine here). About 10 min before squash is done, add pasta to boiling water and cook according to package directions until al dente (10-12 min). Before draining pasta, ladle about 1 c pasta water into a small bowl of cup.

4. After draining pasta, return to pan set over low heat or turn into a big bowl. Add squash, tomatoes and vegetables. Crumble in cheese. Gently stir until evenly coated and cheese starts to melt. If pasta is too dry, stir in saved pasta water, a little at a time until moist and creamy. Stir in basil. Spoon into large wide bowls.

penne with roasted squash, goat cheese and veggies

Very enjoyable and full of tasty, natural things. :)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


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Where is my italian fairy grandmother when I need her......I will say up front that I've never made any sort of pasta/gnocchi type thing before in my life. I've never seen anyone make this type of when I read stories about how people grew up with their nonna teaching them how to make pasta, gnocchi and all sorts of italian delicacies, I become peevishly and inordinately jealous. I need a nonna to teach me these things.

As I'm not remotely italian, I had no such good fortune. So I've decided to trek out on my own, embrace my non-existent italian roots and just attempt to break into this world of carby, wondrous decadence.

I thought sweet potato gnocchi would be at least a tad easier than actual pasta - no rolling really thing (or pasta maker) or anything like that required. They're much more little dumplings than actual pasta.

But I am, quite evidently, in need of a little italian guidance. Mine were WAY too big (had to cut 'em in half after cooking), I have no idea how to get that cute little fork imprint on them (mine were all blobby) and I'm not entirely convinced I had the dough texture right (SO sticky.....I'm still picking little bits of it off everything!).

But it tasted good. I stole the gnocchi recipe from Food and Wine (March 2007) and came up with the sauce mostly on my own. Not too shabby. Hubs ate it, but not his whole plate, as he'd gorged himself on homemade hummus and was already full, the poop.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Balsamic Fig Butter Sauce

2 pounds sweet potatoes, scrubbed
2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 t fleur de sel
2-3 cups flour (initial recipe says 2, I vote 3+)
freshly ground pepper
pinch of nutmeg

1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Pierce the sweet potatoes with a fork and bake on a rimmed baking sheet for about 1 hour (line your sheet as they bubble and are generally super messy). Let cool slightly.


2. Peel the sweet potatoes and transfer them to a food processor. Purée until smooth. Transfer the purée to a large bowl and stir in the eggs and 1 1/2 t of fleur de sel. Add 2 cups of flour, a generous amount of pepper and the nutmeg and stir until a soft dough forms (if in your mind, "soft dough" is synonymous with sticky goo, then yes, a soft dough does form.....I added at least another cup of flour before this even remotely resembled a dough that wouldn't disintegrate into a sticky mess.

3. Transfer the dough to a heavily floured work surface and gently knead in more flour (as much as 1/2 cup.....or more.....) until the dough comes together but is still very soft (what a freaking mess....totally stuck to all my fingers.....had to call hubs to rescue me).

4. Divide the dough into 4 pieces and roll each piece into a 1 inch thick rope. Cut the ropes into 1 inch lengths and dust each piece with flour. Roll each gnocchi against the tines of a floured fork (bah...overrated....I think my dough just sucked because I had no luck with this). Transfer the gnocci to a lightly floured baking sheet.


5. (Start sauce now) Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add half of the sweet potato gnocci and cook until they float to the surface, about one minute, then cook for 2 minutes longer. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the gnocchi to a large plate. Repeat with the remaining gnocchi.

Balsamic Fig Butter Sauce
1 T evoo
1 T butter
1/2 vidalia onion, minced
1/2 c dried fig, finely chopped
2 T balsamic vinegar
4 oz smoked ham, chopped
1 c. broth
2 T butter
green onion, parmesan

1. Heat butter and olive oil together in a large skillet. Add the onion and fig and fry until the onion is translucent. Add the ham and balsamic vinegar. Cook 1 more minute.

3. Add broth and bring to a boil. Let simmer for a couple of minutes, and then stir in the last 2 T butter.

4. Add in the gnocchi and toss to combine, and heat until the gnocchi are hot.

5. Serve, topped with green onion/chive and parmesan cheese.

sweet potato gnocchi with ham, figs and balsamic butter

This was very different, and despite my complete ineptitude, was actually really tasty - out of the ordinary, not your average pasta dish. I'd make it again, but would certainly appreciate some italian insight on how to make gnocchi that actually look like gnocchi. :)

Thanks for reading! LOVE hearing your comments and questions.

pity the pho

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I seriously can't believe how cold it is. There is something inhumane and just downright cruel about -41C windchills in March....I seriously want to just cry instead of go outside. I could take small (but inadequate) comfort in the fact that this is record cold weather, and perhaps even go so far as to decry global warming as a sham.

But since Al Gore's house is proving an inconvenient truth to him, and since global warming appears to be going full steam (or flood....or extreme weather) ahead.....I think this is just nature's way of reminding me that I live in Ottawa and that there's no way in heck winter is over yet. Meh.

Few places ellicit the warmth, conviviality and pure cheap awesomeness of a vietnamese noodle soup restaurant. Pho is practically a way of life here in Ottawa, with the city literally peppered with fabulous little haunts willing to sell you joy in a bowl at a ridiculously low cost. But we're trying to eat out less.

And I'm trying to cook more (hence blog a little more!).

So I made pho......and it really wasn't bad, but I have another recipe that I regularly use, and I loaned out that cookbook.....and couldn't find the recipe anywhere I had to search around for other pseudo-vietnamese authenticity....I didn't really want to take two days to make broth (though I'm sure my physique could stand it, I don't think my mental health could) I wanted something simple/instanty, but that would still give me what I wanted. Or, more precisely, what hubs wanted. This is a fave of hubs.

Pho Bo

6 cups low-sodium beef broth (yeah, you could make it, but who's got the time????)
1 1/2 inch piece of ginger, cut in thin slices
1/2 t anise seeds
1 cinnamon stick
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 c asian fish sauce
2 T low sodium soy sauce
1 lime
1 onion, diced
1 t sesame oil
1/2 lb steak, trimmed and sliced very thinly
thinly-sliced sirloin tip

1 t sri racha (or other hot sauce)
1 cup (packed) spinach leaves (or bok choy) - would have added more, but hubs acted like I was trying to poison him!
1 cup fresh bean sprouts, rinsed and drained
1/4 c fresh coriander (I would normally use basil but my stupid grocery store was out kingdom for a reliable source of basil!)
1/4 c fresh mint
1/2 lb rice stick noodles

1. In a large saucepan, bring broth, ginger, anise seeds, cinnamon stick, garlic and onions to a boil. Add in the fish sauce, soy sauce, and the zest and juice of one lime.

2. In a large bowl, pour boiling water over the noodles and let soak for about 15 minutes (until soft - noodles may take more or less time depending on the width).

3. Add sirloin, sprouts, coriander, mint and spinach and cook until steak is cooked to your liking. I like to toss my noodles in to, to keep them hot. Serve super hot, and you can top with fun things like coriander/mint/basil, lime wedges, etc.


A tasty meal pho sho.

Okay....enough with the lame jokes.....however, in keeping with lameness, keep an eye out for my sad attempts at gnocchi.....

Sunday, March 04, 2007

more grocery-less creativity.....

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Another day, another dinner, another scramble to find stuff we could eat that would be yummy, have the odd vitamin and not necessarily be lentils and rice (we enjoy lentils and rice, but there isn't a lot of adventure in that, is there?).

Hubs was away playing hockey (he won and scored a goal! woohoo!) so I wandered downstairs to our chest freezer to see what I could find.....

I found food (obviously) - I found some rainbow trout (with SKIN - EWWWWWWWW), some raw shrimp and some mixed frozen seafood.

This started the wheels in my head turning - I'd seen a couple of seafood pot pie recipes lately (one in Food&Drink and one in Cooking Light) so I took some inspiration from those recipes, raided the fridge and came up with a meal that was surprisingly tasty! For those who like seafood, this is a's comfort food, but a little outside of the box, and it's made from relatively virgin ingredients, so you control exactly what goes into it.

Seafood Pot Pie with Lemon-Dill Biscuit Crust
adapted from the Food&Drink Magazine, Holiday 2005 (the original calls for whipping cream and puff pastry....)

8 oz salmon, trout or other firm fish fillet (I used rainbow trout, 2 small fillets)
1 T butter
1 clove garlic, minced
12 oz shrimp, peeled and deveined (give or take)
8 oz mixed seafood (you could used mussels, scallops or crab - I had a bag of mixed seafood that included mussels, calamari, cuttlefish, etc.)
2 oz lemon vodka (happened to have it, tossed 'er in!)
1 T butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 shallot, minced
1/3 c flour
1 c vegetable stock or water
1 c. light cream or milk
1 small can tomato/pizza sauce (about 1 cup)
1 cup cooked carrot pieces (I nuked mine)
1 small green pepper, chopped
1 t dried dill

1 1/3 c flour
2 t baking powder
zest from 1/2 lemon
1/4 t salt
1/2 t dill
3 T cold butter
1/3 c milk
1 T lemon juice

1. In a large skillet, sprayed with cooking spray, cook the fish fillets and remove skin (if there is skin - GROSS...can I say how freaking peeved I am that the blasted fillets had said so NOWHERE on the package). GRRRRRRR.
rainbow trout

2. When the fish is done, set aside. You'll cut it into pieces to put into the pie.

3. In the same skillet, melt 1 T butter along with the garlic. Cook shrimp and seafood until they are almost cooked (shrimp will turn opaque). Add vodka and sauté until the mixture bubbles. At this point, rather than using broth, I tossed the cooked seafood in a strainer and used a bowl to catch the juices. It made for a more flavourful broth!).

4. Again, in the same skillet, melt 1 T butter. Add onion and shallot and sauté for about 5 minutes over medium-low. Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring.

5. Gradually pour in the stock and stir until blended. Stir in the cream. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the tomato sauce and dill and combine completely. Add in the green pepper and carrots. Bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and stir in the seafood and cooked fish.

seafood pot pie filling

6. Transfer to a large casserole dish.

7. To make the crust, I use a food processor, though it really isn't necessary if you're less lazy. First step is to combine the flour, salt, baking powder, dill and lemon zest. Next, cut in the butter - in the food processor, just pulse it. If you're going it by hand, use two knives to cut the butter into the flour. Next, add the milk and lemon juice. If it's not quite enough liquid to make a ball, add a little bit more milk.

8. Press the dough into a flat disk and roll out so it will cover your pot pie. I suck at this and my edges always look like crap, so I just fold 'em and press 'em with a fork. :) Prick all over with a fork, in the vain hope that your pie won't boil over. Meh.

lemon dill pot pie crust

9. Bake at 350F for about 30 minutes, until the crust is nice and puffy and a bit golden. Enjoy - it's SOOOOOOOO yummy. :)

Tasty yummy cooked pot pie

This makes 4 generous servings....or, enough for one hungry hubby, one hungry wife, and two tasty lunches. :)

Hubs came back from his hockey game and was quite stoked to come home to the sweet scents of seafood and baking biscuit. Judging by the speed at which the food flew of the plate, I think he liked it. ;) He espied the steaming leftovers and is quite excited about tomorrow's yummy lunchies. :)

Dinner time!

I'll buy groceries tomorrow, I promise...hehe. Thanks for reading! I LOooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooove your comments too! :)

grocery-free ingenuity

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Every once in a while, hubs and I go through a little phase where I don't really have any motivation to plan or cook anything at all. This is really a terrible thing for both our waistlines and pocketbooks and it's something I really have to stop doing. I'm not sure why I do it....I don't really like fast food all that much, and I know that it's basically just a slow way of killing yourself.....

I occasionally crave fast food like there is no tomorrow, and then eventually find myself lost in the land of factory-farmed rot and wobbly wobbly people. Uck. And, I realized, but due to my newfound zeal for not eating factory-farmed meat, there's actually very little I can eat from a fast food place. Take today, hubs and I stopped into a Tim Horton's/Wendy's shop.

Do you know what a non-meat-eater can eat at Wendy's? A plain baked potato or a garden salad. So lame. They don't have a veggie burger, and no veggie chili or anything. SO I went to Timmy's, where I had a grand total of ONE choice - a veggie sandwich with cream of mushroom soup (all the non-cream soups had meat in them). Blah.

This reminds me why I need to cook at home....I can buy yummy non-factory farmed meat, and there is SO much choice out there.

On Friday though (and still today) I didn't really have all that much in the way of groceries, so I decided to make something based on what I had in the fridge.....and after a little googling and recipe-tweaking, I am across something that used a record amount of random ingredients - chicken, tomatoes, chickpeas, zucchini, I was a happy camper. I had to make a few alterations to the recipe, and I can't for the life of me remember where I stole it from (apologies to the original author), but it brought a little touch of exoticism into the kitchen.

And a touch that was VERY badly needed after my forays into nutritional purgatory. This had vitamins, vegetables and other things that are SO much better for me than the nastry crap I have a bad habit of hoarding and hoovering....blah.

Hubs and I both enjoyed this recipe, though I think it would have a little more spice, and my bad habit of adding cinnamon to all things to all things pseudo-north-african wouldn't have been amiss here. Overall, I liked it. Not too shabby when you haven't bothered to brave the grocery store for a few days. As usual, there's little authenticity to this dish....rather than recreating the perfect dish, I'm generally more concerned with whether or not a particular dish will be enjoyable. There are many authentic things out there that I'd rather not touch with a ten-foot pole, such as hàkarl, which is an Icelandic dish of fermented shark flesh. So um yeah....I don't necessarily bow down to the gods of authenticity, as necessity is often the mother of invention....not necessarily taste or yumminess.....

North-African-Inspired Chicken and Chickpea Stew
1 T olive oil
4 chicken breasts, chopped
1 t salt (I used fleur de sel)
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T grated fresh ginger
**I measured all of my spices quite generously!
1/2 t smoked paprika
3/4 t ground cumin
1/2 t oregano
1/4 t curry powder
1/4 t cayenne pepper (I rounded it and this added a touch of heat....I could have doubled this and still enjoyed it)
1.5 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup crushed tomatoes (I just took diced and blasted them with my immersion blender)
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 zucchinis, halved and sliced
3 T fresh parsley, chopped
1 T lemon juice
hot cooked coucous

1. In a large pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Toss in the chicken (mine was still mostly frozen at this point) and cook until browned. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
browned chicken

2. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and spices and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.

3. Add the broth, tomatoes and about 1 t salt, scraping the bottom of the pot to get any browned bits that have accumulated. Add the zucchini and cook for about 5 minutes, until it begins to soften.

4. Add the chicken and cook until the chicken is cooked through and zucchini is cooked to your liking. Add the parsley and lemon juice. Serve over couscous and garnish with lemon.

moroccan-inspired chicken chickpea stew

Voila - it's as easy as that! This is a pretty quick dinner that would work for a weeknight....I wouldn't personally serve it to company, because I think it needs a little more tweaking to be awesome, but it's tasty and nutritious, so I won't whine too much. ;) Tonight, I'm about to attempt something a little creative with seafood and pastry....stay tuned for the results and thanks for reading!

Friday, March 02, 2007

one last yurt post.....

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fire time

The last post dedicated to camping food....I don't have any pictures of the food, because the only one that I didn't brutally underexpose has me looking like a right twit. So you don't get to see it. ;)

On day 2, we had a fabulous dinner of grilled fish, spanish rice and pico de gallo. I again cut a few corners to accommodate the requirements of preparing a meal with only a fire and coleman stove.....

Pico de Gallo (I forgot the jalopenos at home, so this version doesn't have any!)
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 c coriander, chopped
juice of 1 lime
salt to taste

1. Combine tomato, onion, garlic, coriander and lime. Taste and add salt until you like it. This can be used as a dip for chips (yummy) or to top chicken or fish.

We served it with rainbow trout that hubs grilled over the fire. Yum.

For the rice, I actually have a fear of cooking rice without a rice cooker, and I wasn't going to be so lame as to bring one on our trip (especially because I've made fun of people for doing the exact same thing before...hehe....seriously, I was tent camping a couple of years ago, and these people brought their rice cooker and were using it in the bathroom! gross!!!!!!) get over this fear, and also the fact that my coleman isn't big enough for both a pot and pan, I cheated. NOt sure if this is lamer than using a rice cooker in a public be the judge.

I ended up using Uncle Ben's bistro express rice (I think this is called ready rice in the States). It's the SUPER lazy rice that you don't even have to just open the package and head it. I bought the long grain and wild flavour with fine herbs. To make it tasty, I blackened vidalia onion and chopped red pepper, and then added the rice with a touch of lemon and water. It flavoured up nicely. Tasted awesome with the fish and pico.

We ended up snacking all day on the third day, so didn't really have lunch. Dinner was king crab legs over the fire....this was also amazing. I served it with garlicky melted butter. Total yum.

So that's it for the stories of yurting and yummy food......despite the lack of running water, we had a great time. I read two books, slept a ton and spent some great quality time with hubs. We even went on a bit of a hike and didn't manage to get lost and become headlines (I have these only semi-irrational fears of being one of those stupid people who go out unprepared and get lost in the woods). But we didn't get lost, though we did climb some pretty darn steep hills through the snow.

And hubs snapped this, which turned out better than my attempts at yurt photography....

And of course this is all before the nasty-ass winter weather bomb that whipped its way through here today. Glad that's over....I was scared to go outside and there were over 200 traffic accidents in the city. Good day to stay home, if you ask me.

Thanks for reading!

cast iron is the way to go

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Despite owning several teflon pans, I will freely admit that this material kinda scares me. It flakes off after a short-ish amount of time and I can't imagine that ingesting those little bits is in any way, shape or form, good for me.

I finally bought myself a cast iron pan a couple of months ago (broke it in on my tarte tatin!) and it seemed the logical choice to bring on our camping expedition.

Not having had our fill of red meat the night before, we opted for a second steak meal - not filet mignon this time though.....just a sirloin medallion, which hubs grilled.

I used the handy cast iron pan to grill peppers, onion and garlic to add to provolone and make a sort of cheese steak sandwich, which we feasted on out in the snow.

There isn't really much of a recipe for this - it's just as a simple as peppers, butter, onion, garlic and pepper, and steak seasoning for the steak. Yummy!

cheese steak out in the snow!

Yum. Clearly, we don't like out steak to be well done.

Breakfast was equally yummy.........back bacon (or Canadian bacon, as it's known in the states), free range eggs, leftover potatoes as hashbrowns, fresh melon and blackberries, orange juice and yummy, yummy coffee. Making coffee while camping can be a little bit of a challenge for those of us accustomed to an electric coffee maker.....I used to depend on a melitta drip filter for camp coffee......but a couple of unfortunate clumsy incidents led me to believe that really wasn't the best now I've brought my melitta to work (because that's clearly a better idea...hahahaha). Anyway, for Christmas, we got a bodum-esque coffee maker and it's great for camping. Love it.

The morning light did very strange things to the steam coming off the could actually see all the little particles. I was transfixed, so hubs started snapping away.....

i neeeeeeeeeeeeeeed coffeeeeeeeeeeeee

Coffee is very important for camping.

return to ancestral roots

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I apologize for the dearth in posting lately - I was far away in the wilds of Algonquin Park celebrating my first wedding anniversary with hubs. In a return to ancestral roots, we celebrated the anniversary of our wintry wedding in classic Canadian style.....camping!

It's been a great year and we COMPLETELY and totally lucked out with our weather - at a balmy -3C during the day, we were practically sunbathing.

Granted, the fact that it went down to -20C at night was a little less exciting, and I was even less stoked to find out they decided to perform "maintenance" on the only running water in the place, and hence took away my nice warm, flushy toilets and left me to deal with a cold yucky (and oh so ickily-named) 'vault' toilet. A vault, eh?

Technically, I should be at work today and not writing this (especially as I only worked one day this week....), but I awoke to the sound of ice pellets grinding down my windows in gale-force winds and decided that I just really really REALLY could not stomach making the the 10-minute trek to the bus stop, only to wait fruitlessly in the blizzard and never have the blasted bus show (rule of thumb - if it's nice out, the bus will show, if it sucks, well, it sucks to be you because you are OUT in the cold).

SO I'm at home, still in my jammies. I did do some work, but as I'm not really going to call this 'working from home' I thought I would blog about my nice wintry trip. Of course, I'm a bit of a knob when it comes to packing, so I forgot the camera battery charger at are limited and of extremely mediocre flourescent tube really does NOT make for ideal photography.......

Anyway.....we arrived on Sunday the 25th (our anniversary!) and celebrated in style with filet mignon, peppercorn sauce, potatoes over the fire and a robust yummy bordeaux.

For the steak, it was simply seasoned with montreal steak spice and cooked to perfection over the fire by hubs. I will confess that the peppercorn sauce came from a packaged was easy and somewhat tasty, though once you've had the yummy homemade stuff, it really doesn't compare.

But the potatoes are amazing, and make for fabulous hash browns when they are leftover. :)

Potatoes over the fire
Serves 2, plus hashbrown leftovers!

2 very large potatoes
1 small onion
2 T butter
1 t fleur de sel (yes, I brought fleur de sel camping)
1 clove garlic, minced
heavy-duty foil

1. Take one large piece of foil, and spray with non-stick cooking spray (or just oil it). Cut the potatoes into 1/2 inch pieces and place in the centre of the foil.
2. Chop the onion relatively finely (it seems like a lot, but always cooks down!) and sprinkle over top of the potatoes.
3. Add the minced garlic, and cut the butter in small pieces, spreading them somewhat evenly on top of the potato/onion mixture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
4. Seal completely in the foil. Wrap with two more layers of foil (in my experience, this keeps the potatoes from searing themselves to the foil). Cook over the fire for about 30 minutes, flipping every 5-7 minutes. Enjoy with sour cream.

Please excuse the inferior pictures.....

Doesn't make it less yummy!

So I'll leave you with a good picture, but it isn't one I took....this one is from our wedding last year, taken by Frank Fenn, after the snow finally stopped coming down!

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