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Thursday, February 17, 2011

showered with food

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So this post relates to my previous post, detailing all my monkey-themed baby shower craftiness. This is where you come for the menu.


The baby shower was at 11 am on a Sunday, so I went with a brunch theme. Dietary restrictions of the crowd included one vegetarian and one with a moderate intolerance to wheat (i.e., not celiac, but not piles and piles of flour everywhere either).

The Menu (recipes, or links to recipes, all below)

spinach cheese souffle (or not so souffle)
potato fennel hash
buckwheat oatmeal scones with preserves
fresh fruit skewers with chocolate drizzle
BLT skewers with dijon aioli

chocolate cupcakes with chocolate mint swiss meringue buttercream

non-alcoholic mojito punch
OJ, coffee, tea

Spinach-cheese soufflé
These were delicious little yummy ramekins of goodness. I took this recipe from epicurious and modified it to be crust-free mini-dishes.

1 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1b-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed dry
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
8 ounce jarlsberg cheese, grated (or other cheese - mozza, cheddar, gruyere)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
6 large eggs, beaten to blend

1. Melt butter in skillet. Add onion and sauté until tender. Mix in spinach, salt pepper and nutmeg. Sauté until all liquid is gone.

2. Combine ricotta, jarlsberg, parmesan. Mix in eggs. Add (cooled) spinach mixture. Blend well.

3. Spoon into 12 ramekins (mine are small). You can make them up the day before.

To BAKE: preheat oven to 350F. Bake about 30-40 minutes, until filling is set in center and brown on top.


Potato-fennel hash
(hash is at the bottom left of the picture. Scones are midway up the right side of the picture)
No creativity here - it's straight from epicurious. Get the recipe here:

It's a nice change from regular breakfast potatoes and because of the fennel, it's a bit lower in calories. I put mine together the night before and just heated it up with the souffles.

Buckwheat Oatmeal Scones with preserves
These are based on this epicurious recipe, which I've made before, with great success. I wanted to try them with light buckwheat flour (not dark!). The result was surprisingly wonderful! If you can source gluten-free oats and buckwheat, this recipe can be suitable for celiac sufferers. Using the food processor will make your life easier, but it isn't crucial. You just need to otherwise use oat flour and a pastry blender.

1 2/3 cups buckwheat flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar plus additional for sprinkling (I used organic palm sugar)
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups old-fashioned oats (I used large flake oats)
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces
Finely grated zest from 1 large navel orange
2/3 cup well-shaken buttermilk plus additional for brushing

1. Preheat oven to 425F. Put flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, salt and oats in a food processor. Pulse 15 times. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer to a bowl.

2. Stir together zest and buttermilk. Pour onto oat mixture, and stir just until you can get it to stick together in a ball. Divide dough into two balls.

3. Form each ball into a circle, about 1 inch thick. I don't use a rolling pin for this. Just my hands. Cut the circle into 8 pieces (like a pizza) and put them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Do the same with the other half of the dough. So you now have 16 cute little scone triangles.

4. Brush the top of each triangle with more buttermilk, and sprinkle with sugar. Bake in the oven until golden brown (15-18 minutes) and transfer to a rack.

These are rich but light. Yum. Totally recommend.

Fruit Skewers

Pretty self explanatory. Put fruit that won't brown on a skewer. I used starfruit, canteloupe, strawberry, kiwi, pineapple and dragon fruit. Just avoid things like apples and pear, which go brown. For the drizzle, I tried to be fancy and mix mine with sour cream. Don't do it. Just melt your chocolate and drizzle using a zip loc with a teeny bit of the corner snipped off. My drizzle was a little awkward and not nearly as fine as I wanted. Ah well. It tasted good.

BLT skewers with dijon aioli
Another easy one. Cook bacon (I candied it in the oven like this recipe). Cut into pieces. Thread onto skewers with some romaine and a grape tomato. The sauce is simply 1/2 c mayonnaise, 1/4 dijon mustard, 1 minced clove garlic, pepper. Add a spoon of grainy mustard if you have some). Voila!

Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate-mint swiss meringue buttercream

OMFG I was proud of these. Don't they look amazing!!!!! Now, before you're too impressed with me, I absolutely did NOT make the monkey toppers. Those were made by my friend, who runs the amazing Sophie Bifield Cake Company. She is so super talented. If you're crafty and know how to do these sorts of things, there are great instructions for the monkeys on the Frosted Cake n Cookie. This is well outside my comfort zone, so HUGE thanks to Sophie for the help.

The cake part of the cupcake was from this epicurious recipe that I've used before with great success. It makes great cupcakes, just adjust the baking time to 18ish-20ish minutes. 1 cake recipe makes 36 decent sized-cupcakes.

The cake is good, but holy crap...the frosting has opened up my entire cupcake world to new possibilities.

I'd never made swiss meringue buttercream before...but it's so bloody wonderful. It's an enormous pain in the ass to make (it took an HOUR), but it's fabulous. Don't make it if you don't have a stand mixer. I used Martha Stewart's icing recipe. and beat in 4 oz of melted, cooled 70% cocoa chocolate, and 1 t of peppermint extract. The recipe makes enough to generously frost 24 cupcakes.

To ice the cupcakes, I used the Wilton 1C icing tip. I love the ruffly deep swirls it made. And if I can do it, so can you, because I suck at this kind of thing. I bought it at Bulk Barn and used a disposable piping bag. My bag was only 12 inches. Buy a bigger one. Mine was irritatingly small.

lime-mint mojito punch
I wasn't sure how this punch would go the point that I yelled at hubs for stealing a glass of OJ the morning of the shower...but it was a HUGE hit! I'd make it again. It was refreshing and yummy and totally doesn't need the rum. Although rum wouldn't be a bad long as half of your guests aren't pregnant or nursing. ;)

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
zest of 3 limes

1 cup lime juice
1.5 cups mint leaves, whole (give or take)
4-5 cans club soda

1. On the stove top, combine the sugar, water and lime zest. Heat until the sugar is totally dissolved. Cool.

2. To make punch, combine lime juice, sugar syrup and mint leaves. Add club soda. Taste - add more club soda, juice, sugar, mint depending on what you think.


And voila. That's what we ate. It was super yummy and everything disappeared off the table. So I'd recommend all of the recipes here.

so i'm definitely not martha...

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...but every once in a while I pull off something that does a pretty darn good Martha impression.

I had one such moment this past weekend. Most of you know I have a young kid (lil Z), but what most of you don't know is that I don't have a single niece or nephew. Not yet, anyway. ;)

So when my sis-in-law told us she was expecting, we were all SUPER stoked. I grew up having two younger brothers. We fought. A lot. Kay...maybe the word 'fought' is a little strong...but..hmmm..nah, it totally isn't. We so did not get along as kids. ;) I pretty much always wanted my mom to take them back and exchange them for a sister. Like a two-for-one trade deal.

Thankfully we all grew up, and now all get along. I love them to death....but they still aren't sisters.

It's kinda funny how things end up though, because now, 30 years on, I've gone from having zero sisters, to having four sisters (2 step-sisters and 2 sisters-in-law). Hubs' sis was the first of my four sisters to come along and she's always been such an amazing friend and so supportive of hubs and I (I cannot even count how much baby-sitting we owe them!).

She's the kind of woman who would do anything for a friend, and so I was just about beside myself with excitement to be able to repay the favour. While we wait for the wee little dude in her belly to make his grand entrance, it was the least I could do (and a whole lot off fun for me, I might add!) to throw a shower for her. I went with a monkey theme, with green and brown...before you go thinking I'm all creative, I stole this colour scheme and motif from my sis-in-law, who is using it in her nursery.

All of these crafts are completely do-able. Trust me - if I can do it, anyone can do it. Also, far smarter people than I have put step-by-step instructions on the internet, so that makes it so much easier.

Here's a pic of some of the decor:

So, first the diaper cake

I take no credit for the design. The fabulous monkey ribbon is from Michaels, and the monkeys on the top are from Chapters. There are detailed, very easy-to-follow instructions to make a three-layered diaper cake on Alphamom. Plus, there is a bottle of bubbly in the middle. Everything is better with bubbly. Can't go wrong here.

Hanging mobile

Stole this idea from Ms. Martha Stewart herself. The hoop is two coat hangers (thank hubs for shaping them) wrapped in ribbon. The circles are made from scrapbook paper. And it's all strung on fishing line. I'd also like to give a shout out to hubs' dad, who had the brilliant idea of stringing more fishing line from my curtain rod to the light fixture plate [I know....been in the house almost three years and still have no chandelier....I'm picky....what can I say]. It worked fabulously, because I got to have my mobiles hanging over the table, and there were no holes put in our stippled ceiling.

Wall hanging
I bought this frame from Umbra a year ago. And I never put anything in it, so it was just moldering away, up in one of our guest rooms. I had extra scrapbook paper, so I just cut it to size and popped it in. Gotta love it when you put $2 worth of paper in a $100 frame. You could emulate this idea with inexpensive ikea frames.

Alphabet garland

These alphabet cards were $5 in the Michaels discount section. I punched holes in them and strung them up with fishing line. Cheap and cheerful. Kickass. Plus, there's a darn cute monkey.

Floral decor and game
I have to say, I totally rocked out this floral arrangement. I have a hard time putting even pre-arranged bouquets in vases. I was pleased with this. Because this shower was the day before Valentine's Day, grocery store floral selection was at an all-time high. I just grabbed a few $5 bunches of flower and put them together.

The snarky baby shower bingo cards (a little cut off, sorry) were from Knock Knock. I got the idea of them from Morgan's fabulous blog and was fortunate enough to find them at Chapters. They were quite a hoot and exactly the right game for my sis-in-law....who is not the type to embrace having her belly size guessed, or eating mysterious smears of baby food out of diapers. This was much more her (and my!) speed.

These didn't turn out *quite* as cute as I would have liked. I totally fell for these adorable little green takeout boxes, but at $2/each, it was a little too hard to justify. The green bags were $4 for 12 at Michael's, and I filled them with green and brown candies from Bulk Barn. The monkeys on the front are from a foam sticker set.

awesome zazzle invite
I got these guys (pic from from, in a super fabulous and sparkly ice metallic paper. I thought they were awesome. A little overpriced, but whatever. Super cute. Service was pretty quick and quality good. The only complaint I have is that they have the designers name and printed on the back...considering the invitations are not exactly cheap, I don't think I should have to cheapen my invites by advertising for their company! I would use them again for casual invites, but the ad on the back would make me hesitate for wedding invites.

Anyway, you don't come here for martha-esque come for the food. And you know what....I'm often really hard on myself when it comes to food (things are always 'too....something' [you name the adjective]. Too salty, too bland, too hard, too soft, too...whatever.

Everything I made turned out pretty great! This is a shocker.

I don't have step-by-steps of each recipe, but I will share what I've got in my next post, because this stuff all turned out great. YUM. Stay tuned....

Monday, February 07, 2011

crazy good vegan eats for meatless monday

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No, don't worry, I'm not a vegan, nor am I likely to become one. BUT, meatless Monday is a movement that has been gaining momentum over the last decade. The tenet is pretty simple - don't eat meat on Monday, and it's better for the planet than eating meat on Monday. ;)

I actually didn't plan to make this today, as it was a bit more time consuming than I was wanting for a weeknight dinner, but as circumstance would have it, I was at home today, tending to a sick little kiddo, and I had a lot more time for prep than normal. Before I delve into this mysterious recipe, I also wanted to share links to a couple of recipes that you should also check out. They aren't vegan though - sorry. ;)

First, I was at a Pampered chef party last week, and while I'm not normally gaga over magical kitchen gadgets that will change your life, I tasted a recipe that totally shocked me with its deliciousness....when the PC consultant started talking about cooking pasta in the microwave, I was full-on skeptical. I'm pretty picky when it comes to my pasta, and I really didn't think it would be possible to have decently-textured pasta from the microwave.

I was so so wrong. While I don't have ANY of the PC goodies that are supposedly needed to make the recipe, I will say that I got great results with good old-fashioned corningware, a potato masher (to squash the tomatoes) and a plain old knife for slicing the garlic. ;) Check it out - Grilled Chicken Penne al Fresco (btw, someone needs to tell them that al fresco simply means 'outside' and hence makes no sense in the title of the recipe).

Oh, and did I mention that I cooked a FROZEN CHICKEN IN A CROCKPOT and put some of that on top? This truly is an alternate universe. The chicken in a crockpot was pretty good - perfect for transforming a frozen chicken icecube long having lain forgotten in the freezer into something useful and edible. I wouldn't serve it as a main course, but for putting in pasta, pot pie, fried rice or burritos, it's perfect. And did I mention it was easy? Booyah.

Last couple of things I want to mention....while I know my fettucine alfredo has had my site listed on food porn aggregators and I do stand by the wonderful richness of occasional indulgence....I have an alternative for a delicious pasta carbonara that is absolutely delicious without being the least bit fake. It's still not super healthy, but it's a lot better for you than pure cream, butter and cheese. From Cooking Light, Spaghetti Carbonara with Leeks and Pancetta (I used shallots instead of leeks, along with whole wheat farfalle). It's awesome. You should make it. Also, since Z was feeling under the weather today and not really into eating anything, I made her a batch of this yummy vanilla rice pudding (made with coconut milk instead of heavy cream). It's super yum. Wish I could eat more of it - Z thought it was pretty tasty.

Grilled Mediterranean Pizza with Baba Ghanoush
This totally rocks. It's rich and delicious and smokey and fabulous. I completely and utterly cheated on the grilled factor here - I used a stove-top cast iron griddle (in a perfect world, I would have one of those super fancy stoves that has a grill right in the middle....but alas, what I have is a slightly wonky ceramic top stove and a non-working exhaust fan. Awesome.) But I made it work.

There are a couple of tricks to smokey-tasting non-grilling on your stove. The first trick is cast iron. You can't get the same results with non-stick. And really, you don't want to, because it means you're heating up chemicals to crazy high chemicals. Not my choice. The second trick is a bit of a cheat - I like to use smoked salt. My grocery store carries it, but I imagine you could also find it in a specialty shop or buy it online. You could also use smoked paprika, chipotle powder or liquid smoke.


* you can find the pizza dough recipe on the Clean Eating website - I made mine in my kitchenaid, (you could also use a breadmaker or just purchase dough)

Baba Ganoush 'sauce'
1 large eggplant (about 1 lb)
1/2 c flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped)
3 T tahini
3 T lemon juice (I just juiced a lemon)
1 T olive oil
1 clove garlic
1/2 t salt (I used smoked salt)
1/4 t cumin (I also added a bit of chipotle powder)

1. [Original instructions said to grill the eggplant for 15-18 minutes - I had to cook mine in the oven] I cooked it at 400F for 45 minutes. Pierce it with a fork, toss it on a foil-lined baking sheet and cook it until it starts to almost collapse. I also broiled each side for a couple of minutes to get a bit more charring.

2. Once eggplant is coolish, you should be able to peel the skin off, drain the flesh in a colander and then plop it in a food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients and whirl away. You could also use a blender, immersion blender or just mash it all with a fork.


1 T olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 t chile powder
1/2 t each salt and pepper (I used smoked salt)
1/2 each red and orange pepper, cut in half, stem and seeds removed
1 red onion, peeled and sliced into 1/2" rings [I think you could use less onion]
1/2 each green and yellow zucchini, sliced lengthwise in 1/4" thick strips (I couldn't get yellow, so just used a whole zucchini)
1 lb whole wheat pizza dough
cooking spray

1. Mix together oil, 1 T water, minced garlic, chile powder, salt and pepper. Brush peppers, onion and zucchini with the mixture. Grill until charred and tender.


2. Remove veggies from heat and roughly chop.


3. Divide dough ball in half and roll until thin. This could take a while, as the gluten flour causes the dough to contract. You may have to fight with your dough for a little bit, but it will eventually roll out thin. Just be patient.


4. Spray one side of the dough with cooking spray. Place dough sprayed-side down on the grill [my stove top grill really only gets hot at one end, so I just cooked one at a time]. I also used a large (all metal) pot lid to trap some of the heat for a more bbq/oven like effect.



5. After 2-3 minutes (it really doesn't take long), spray the uncooked side of the dough and flip it. Spread the dough with about 1/3 c of babaganoush. Toss about 1 cup of roasted veggies on it (more if you like). I covered mine with a pot lid to help make sure the veggies and babaganoush would get warm. Once you start to smell a bit of burning, the crush is pretty much cooked.


And voila. There ya go - delicious indoor grilled pizza. Considering my bbq is under about 3 feet of snow, I'll take it.


According to Clean Eating, 1/4 of each pizza has 174 calories, 8 g fat (1 sat), 22 g carbs (5 g fibre), 5 g protein and 241 mg of sodium. Yummy.

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