Thursday, March 31, 2011

March 28-30 and a very Le Creuset Le Birthday

my delicious  birthday lemon pie from Jen!

March 28   Red curry made with the leftover Pork with Orange, Cumin and Cilantro
March 29   I worked late and Shack turned the bolognese into a tomato based meat sauce
March 30   Fried haddock with cornmeal, green beans & birthday lemon meringue pie courtesy of Jen

This is my birthday week and that usually means it is full of food and eating out but it was also a busy week so it was more of an every man for himself type of week. I didn't even have dinner on the 29th for my birthday since I worked until too late but I did get to come home to a nice bottle of wine and a fun card game with our friends, The Neighbours. These wonderful friends also gifted me with a HUGE, sexy, silky white stoneware Le Creuset roaster! They are the best neighbours and the best friends you could ever hope to have and we adore them. Now I just have to figure out what to cook in it for it's maiden voyage. Then, if that weren't enough,  Shack and Little Shack surprised me with yet another a Le Creuset beauty - an enamelled cast iron dutch oven so I am a very, very, lucky, happy old girl. I guess this is also my cue to get cooking and put these babies into action.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tuna Noodle Casserole

March 26 - Tuna Noodle Casserole & Shuba's homemade Butter Chicken & Saag Paneer
March 27 - dinner out at Queen Margherita Pizza (our new regular spot is seems)
March 28 - leftover pizza from QMP
March 29 - Meatless Tuesday - Creamy Polenta with Greens & Cheese, mache salad with cherry tomatoes and balsamic vinaigrette

I was raised on Tuna Noodle Casserole.  The kind with a can of tuna and a can of cream of mushroom soup, sometimes Mom would add peas, though I have to admit I'd always pick around them.  It was actually one of my favorites too.  I think mom made it because it was ridiculously easy and for the most part it was something she could count on all of us kids eating. I will admit I made the gloopy delicious goodness a few times in college and maybe even after.  While it's not one of my crave worthy comfort foods, it definitely has those comfort food qualities being something I grew up on and remember so vividly and let's be honest carbs generally make anything comfort food in my book.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pecan-Crusted Chicken Breasts with Sweet Potato and Arugula Risotto

Invited my sister and her family over for dinner on Sunday night and wanted something good-enough-for-company but easy-enough-for-family, if you know what I mean. A meal that made them feel a little bit special but that didn't involve me standing in the kitchen for the entire afternoon. I owed her bigtime thanks for the past few weeks anyway since my kids regularly found themselves on her doorstep in one way or another, looking for "auntly assistance"--be it an early-morning mango-strawberry smoothie for which she is famous, or to pick up an extra key after locking themselves out of the house (although nobody would responsibility on how this possibly could have happened but managed to cumulatively text me about 100 times to pass the blame in the midst of our late-season snow storm) or my eldest calling her for a ride, sympathy and maybe even dinner too after he passed out on the gurney while donating blood last week. One way or the other, Aunt Karen always manages to come to the rescue. Lucky for me.

So I flipped through the LCBO website (totally love their recipes and have never been disappointed in any of them) and went back to this old favourite, which I promise we haven't had for the past few months and which I knew their family would love and appreciate.

Monday, March 28, 2011

March 24-27 Bolognese For My Baby

March 24    Tuna Noodle Casserole with a salad of pea shoots, orange, daikon and bean sprouts
March 25    Wing night with the neighbours
March 26    penne with bolognese sauce
March 27    Roast pork loin with orange/cumin/cilantro

It's been a pasta heavy week here on no reEATS but it also snowed again so we all had to shift gears from "time to grill!!" to "oh crap, more cold weather comfort food required!"

On top of the last ditch effort for winter to kick us in the teeth, Shack is still feeling pretty terrible with his broken ribs so I thought I would do something nice for him and make him a bolognese sauce. Not the delicious, but quick meat sauce that we all love, but the all afternoon simmering on the stove sauce.
That is love people. You spend your sunny, Saturday afternoon indoors, stirring meat around in the pot for your damaged man.

I borrowed the beautiful Le Creuset pot that we got The Neighbours for christmas so I could test drive it before shelling out that kind of dough on one for myself. I will say right now, that pot is worth it's weight in gold and I am getting one for myself ASAP now that I have cooked with one.

I found a few recipes that looked okay and finally settled on one from a blog called Food Nouveau. I didn't stray too far because it sounded pretty perfect already.

Ragu Bolognese
adapted from this recipe on Food Nouveau

2 tables olive oil
4 tbls butter
1 onion, finely diced
3 small carrots, finely
2 stalks celery, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
150 g of pancetta, diced small
kosher salt and fresh black pepper
500 g ground veal
500 g ground pork
1 cup white wine
2 cups of milk
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock

pinch of hot chilli flakes
fresh grated parmesan for serving
fresh basil

Place your big saucepan over medium heat and melt the butter with the oil and sauté the carrots, the onion, the celery and garlic with some salt for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the pancetta and cook for at least another 10 to 15 minutes, until your pancetta is starting to colour.

Increase the heat to medium high and at the meat 1/4 at a time, stirring and breaking it up with each addition. Once all the meat has been added and there is no visible pink left start letting your meat brown for about ten minutes before you turn the heat back down to medium and continue to brown for another 5 minutes or so (make sure your meat is start to brown).

Add the wine and de glaze the pan with it, scraping up all the cooked bits on the bottom of your pot for a few minutes.

Throw in the milk , tomatoes, chicken stock and some another good pinch of salt and some pepper. Bring it to a boil and the turn the heat down to low and let it simmer slowly for at least 4 hrs. I let mine simmer for closer to 5 hrs to get the right consistency. Check for salt and pepper

Cook your pasta (we used penne - just make sure it's a nice, rugged pasta that can stand up to the meatiness of the sauce), drain well and then spoon some sauce on to it in the pot or a serving bowl and mix well to make sure all of the pasta is well coated. Add more sauce on top of each serving and sprinkle lots of freshly grated parmesan over the top. I add chilli flakes to mine and I think that little kick of heat helped to cut the intense meatiness for me - it's a really rich, fatty sauce and NOT a tomato sauce at all so for me, that bit of chilli made a big difference.

I quite liked it but couldn't eat a big bowl of it because it's just really heavy but very tasty. Little Shack didn't like it because he likes his sauces to be more tomato based than all meat but Shack was thrilled and that was the goal.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Roasted Carrot Soup

Saturday finally arrived and even though I worked for part of the day, it was shorter than normal and at least an end is now in sight. Q and I had plans for the evening to join friends for our quarterly Around the World dinner party... tonight's theme was Italian and we were responsible for drinks so we grabbed a yummy bottle of Limoncello (bringing back memories of our great times in Capri, one of my favourite places in the world) as well as some red and wine Italian wines and Peroni. Q mixed the Limoncello with some sparkling wine and ice, and the party was off to an entertaining start. Alison brought amazing Crostini with Proscuitto, Goat Cheese and Fig Jam for appetizers, Shari created an out-of-this-world Osso Buco with gigantic veal shanks she'd found that morning at the market as well as creamy risotto, and Erin brought a cool and delicious Mango Panna Cotta to top off the meal. Such a great dinner all around and it set a high standard for subsequent countries of choice. Glad I ended up eating so much because otherwise the alcohol consumption would have taken an even greater toll.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tomato Soup, Chicken Salad and my very first NoREEAT dilema

March 23 - Tomato Soup with Parmesan Toast and Chicken Salad
March 24 - Moussaka Stuffed Baby Eggplant with a Horiatiki Salad
March 25 - Roast Chicken ala Christian Delouvrier via Chez Pim with roasted broccoli with lemon & chili flake

So, it's finally happened.  I had my first real struggle with craving something for dinner that we have already eaten. We got hit with a whole bunch of snow on Wednesday.  It was absolutely in the forecast but I'm not sure anyone expected as much accumulation as we got.  I have to say I actually didn't mind it that much, since I'm not quite ready to give up my warm, cozy and winter weight camouflaging sweaters. But when that snowy weather hits I just want warm, comforting foods and my most comforting, as I've said before, is grilled cheese and tomato soup.

The boy was set to work late, so I could make anything I wanted and I wanted my perfect tomato soup. The tomato soup the Boy's not really a fan of that I can't make too often when he's around, but there was one little problem, I made it already.  It turns out I made it far too early on.  I mean what am I going to do next fall/early winter? But I remember that day, we were exhausted from insane work schedules, I didn't want to go to the store and I wanted something comforting and easy.  I knew it was early but all I cared about at that moment was dinner.,  But that rich, creamy soup is my ideal and it would have been perfect for a solo dinner for me this week.  What to do?  I mean how could I get the same satisfaction and comfort that my favorite creamy tomato soup brings with a nice grilled cheddar cheese to dunk in it?  Remind me why I signed up for this crazy challenge again, because at that moment I was absolutely regretting it.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Mac and Two Cheeses with Caramelized Shallots

It's interesting how Jen, Carole and I all ended up making, and posting, pasta recipes over the past three days without having any knowledge of what the others were doing. This, despite our early-spring dreams of grilling and BBQing from last week, this week's return of cold temps and a dumping of snow obviously sent us all running back to comfort foods. My motive for returning to mac 'n' cheese was twofold: it's Maddie's favourite and she pointed out that we hadn't had it in a while, and I needed a make-ahead meal for one evening this week since I knew I'd likely be working late.
So I went looking for a new twist on the old fave. When I saw "caramelized shallots" in the name of this recipe, I personally would have skipped the pasta and cheese part and stopped right there and tossed them on a salad and been totally happy, but I realize it might not have fit the bill for the not-so-little ones. The recipe called for two cheeses so I used old cheddar and a bit of brie that was hanging around and needed a home before it began to grow a furry green coat. I skipped adding the goat cheese to the shallot topping since it seemed like it would be gilding the lily. Too much of even a cheesy good thing....
Needless to say, this was creamy, rich, stick-to-your-ribs delicious and the crisp sweetness of the shallots was a nice change from plain old breadcrumbs on top. The leftovers went quickly as well.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

March 21-23 Spaghetti with bacon, breadcrumbs and arugula

March 21   Spaghetti with Bacon, Breadcrumbs and arugula
March 22   Worked way too late for dinner - guys had pizza, I had leftover pasta
March 23   Thai Curry Chicken from Supperworks and Green Papaya and Daikon Salad

We have had a crazy couple of weeks. I worked really long days for an entire week, last week when we should have all been off having fun on March Break and going to visit family in Kingston, we were home taking care of Shack and his fractured ribs. This week we are STILL taking care of Shack and his fractured ribs, I am working on a couple of big projects for Little Shack's school and juggling work and I got a car over the weekend which had to be dealt with. Under normal circumstances this would have meant eating out or ordering out or falling back on Supperworks the entire time but I am pretty pleased with myself. We only missed a few dinners and still managed to cook some delicious new things.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Baked Ziti with Turkey Meatballs & Spinach

March 19 - Dinner by the Boy - garlicky grilled white shrimp & local pork chops with string beans
March 20 - nectarine glazed chicken thighs with pan-fried mixed potatoes & string beans
March 21 - Pinto Bean Enchiladas with Red Sauce
March 22 - Baked Ziti with Turkey Meatballs & Spinach

So I'm on week 2 of this whole meal-planning thing and it's going fairly well so far.  I stuck to the four meals I planned for last week.  I'm going with four meals because we do eat out or order in occasionally and at least one meal in a week will yield leftovers that need to be dealt with.  Plus it leaves a little room for me to have a spontaneous inspiration and cook what I'm craving.  I had planned out Tortilla Pie, Mussels with Saffron & Mustard, Rouladen & Spaetzle and Marmalade Glazed Chicken Thighs.  The chicken thighs were supposed to be for Friday, but the boy got home from work early nand we were able to go out for dinner, then on Saturday he decided he wanted to cook dinner, which I will never turn down and boy am I glad I didn't because it was delicious!  I got to Sunday and had defrosted the chicken thighs but still hadn't made them, so I knew rather than let them go to waste I had to cook them.  Since I had made a dinner plan I didn't have to put too much thought into the meal which was great.  I had planned ahead had all of the ingredients and threw together a quick and easy meal.

This ziti is an idea I've been playing around with and decided to try out this week when the boy asked for lasagna.  He rarely asks for things, but for whatever reason I wasn't up to making it and then decided that a baked ziti would be a nice compromise. I tested something I had been wanting to do and he got a hearty cheesy, baked pasta.  Win, win.  I also got to freeze half of it for when I'm out of town for two weeks and he'll be on his own for dinner.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Creamy Quinoa Primavera.... And cookies too

Just so happy to finally spend Monday afternoon in my kitchen again after the prolonged absence... Felt great to fill the fridge and choose what we'd be eating instead of having it delivered at work and eating off styrofoam plates with plastic cutlery at the same time as wondering what everyone at home is doing to fill their stomachs.... Even if it also means stacking the dishwasher and wiping the counters and doing all the cleanup, it's totally worth it to be back in the old routine.
Was dying for something fresh and warm and full of crisp veggies so decided to try this quinoa primavera recipe and toss in some leftover chicken to round it out. The addition of cream cheese really did make it creamy (although I used just a bit instead of the four ounces called for) and the kids had no complaints.

Monday, March 21, 2011

March 20 Pork Panini

March 20   Roast pork panini with a beet salad

This is my week to post two days in a row which really puts the pressure on to make sure that I actually cook something worthy of sharing two days in a row. It also forces me to plan ahead and you know what? I like that more than I thought I would. Saturday night we had the roast pork loin with orange herb sauce and ate  half of it. For our Sunday night supper, I made paninis using some of the leftover pork, using up some of the orange sauce as well in there. It was very touch and go there for a while as far as actually eating in instead of going out for dinner but luckily, Fractured Rib Shack over did it during the day and was really sore and grumpy by dinner time so he was happy to be fed in his man chair.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

March 17-19 Pork Loin Roast with Orange Sauce

March 17   St Patrick's Day Shindig at The Neighbours
March 18   Went out for Oysters
March 19   Pork loin in an herbed orange sauce

Thursday night was a great dinner party with The Neighbours. They made a delicious beef stew, home made bread with some sort of fabulous soft butter/garlic/asiago and we ate my Black and Tan cupcakes for dessert. Green beer, green white wine and a rousing game of Yahtzee with an honest to goodness young Irish couple - what more can you ask for?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Mussels with Saffron & Mustard

March 16 - Mussels with Saffron & Mustard with fresh ABin5 baguette and a big green salad
March 17 - Guinness Braised Pork Belly & Purple Sweet Potato Hash with Eggs & Chipotle Ketchup
March 18 - Dinner out at Queen Margherita Pizza

So this week was a test in if I could plan out the meals for the week and stick to my plan.  In case you couldn't tell from reading my posts, I NEVER plan a weeks worth of meals, no matter how busy we are dinner is very often a "What do you feel like tonight?" kind of thing.  It's a bit more tough to constantly work on the fly with the challenge and it's generally not very cost effective.  In planning this week's meals I went with recipes I wanted to try, as well as planned around produce and ingredients I knew we had on hand. It's the first time in awhile that I didn't utilize leftovers in anything, mainly because I made smaller dishes and I had just enough leftovers for a lunch or two for me. Leftovers are perfect for me for lunch since most days I can't be bothered to figure out lunch for myself, but if I have something sitting in the fridge I'll heat it up when I get hungry.  Just one of the ways I've had to adjust to being an unemployed feature film assistant/independent producer/aspiring writer.

Anyway, this was one of those dishes that when I saw it in my Bouchon cookbook, I knew I had to make.  With the weather getting warmer I start to crave those foods I love in the summer and mussels are absolutely one of those things.  Not that I don't eat mussels in the winter, but there is something about the messiness of using your hands and sopping up the brothy goodness with bread, that begs to be eaten on a patio in the sun with a nice cold Belgian beer or glass of white wine.  I think one of the reasons I think that is that I distinctly remember one summer when I was still living in Boston spending a few Saturday or Sunday brunches on the patio at Charley's on Newbury Street inhaling mussels and their delicious bread that's always soft and warm and is oddly reminiscent of a saltine, yet it all always worked perfectly with their big bowl of mussels.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Roasted Salmon Wrapped in Swiss Chard

When the weather finally changed this week and the temperatures were springlike and promising, my thoughts turned to lighter meals as well as the appealing prospect of grilling outdoors in the near future. The fact that I could finally see my deck, without it being covered in ice or snow, leads me to believe that I actually might be standing next to the barbecue very soon indeed. Looking forward to trying some new BBQ recipes in the coming weeks and especially looking forward to the easy prep and cleanup. I think we've all had enough of the comfort food that usually goes alongside with wintertime.

Anyway, back to the spring theme... when I saw this recipe for salmon roasted in Swiss chard leaves, it sounded like a perfect light springtime meal for the family. And I figured that if the littler ones really hated its beautiful green cocoon, they could simply unwrap it and all would not be lost in terms of the salmon. The fact that I only needed to pick up a couple of ingredients from the grocery store on the way home from work sealed the deal. I prepped this the night before and left it in the fridge so hopefully someone will be willing to preheat the oven, pop it on a tray and let the oven do the rest. A nice light spring meal awaits the person with such initiative. My bet is that it'll be Q but we'll wait and see.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

March 14-16 Pork Chops with Porter Onion Sauce (the beer, not the airline)

March 14   Salmon Cakes with yams
March 15   Wing night with The Neighbours
March 16   Pork Chops in Porter,  triple mash

I was going to make a different dish with the centre cut pork loin chops that I bought but I realized that I had over a cup of beer (a Porter from Black Creek) left after making my Black and Tan cupcakes for St Patrick's day and didn't want to waste it. Instead I decided to cook the pork with the beer and stole the idea of doing a trio of mashed root vegetables from the original recipe that I found in this month's LCBO magazine.
I made mashed potatoes with buttermilk, mashed sweet potato and mashed purple yams and some sugar snap peas. I have finally used up the last of the purple yams with this dinner and they are my new, favorite thing. They have a surprisingly floral taste and smell and are totally unlike anything I have ever tasted. Purple yams are most definitely NOT just yams of a different shade.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Veggie Tortilla Pie for Meatless Monday

March 13 - Meatball Subs with Caramelized Onions - this recipe from Smitten Kitchen is unreal! Seriously make these now.
March 14 - Veggie Tortilla Pie
March 15 - Rouladen with Spaetzle & Roasted Brussel Sprouts

OK so I made this for dinner on Pi Day, so I'm calling it Tortilla Pie just to be festive. Plus one of the inspiring recipes was called a Tortilla Pie, so that's what I'm going with.  Meatless Monday is always a bit of a challenge fro me because my gut always goes to pasta or some type of breakfast for dinner kind of thing.  Not only can I not repeat recipes, but I'm also trying to not over use the old faithful kinds of dishes that I know I can use different recipes or easily tweak to fit within the parameters of the challenge.  I initially had the same problems I always do coming up with a meatless recipe when I remember two similar and yet different takes on a Tortilla Pie from You Can't Eat What or Tortilla Casserole from Dishing the Divine, depending on who you ask.  Bon Appetit also had a Stacked Quesadilla recipe last month that also had a similar look and feel.  Each recipe stuck with me and I decided it was about time I come up with my own version.  I took what I consider to be the best from each treatment and came up with this yummy pie that the Boy didn't even realize was meatless.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Austin's Easy Sunday Night Pizza

Thank goodness for 14-year-old boys who are willing and able to cook -- and equally willing and able to bail their Mom out of a tight fix. Bless them, even if they sometimes drive you crazy too. Because otherwise, quite possibly, I would have had nothing to post here today since the closest I've been to a kitchen for most of the week has been grabbing a drink from the fridge in the photocopier room at work.
I promise that today's post will be the exception rather than the rule, but since Jen, Carole and I have promised to "keep it real" and admit our successes and failures during this challenge for the next year, this week is one such confession on my part. We haven't repeated a meal but I also just haven't been around to cook in person because of crazy work, so after we ran out of the make-ahead options from last weekend, it's been a matter of resorting to make-your-own creations in order to survive. (Good life skill for kiddies anyway.)

Monday, March 14, 2011

March 12-13 Chilli Cashew Chicken Noodles Without the Cashews

March 12     Chilli Cashew Chicken Noodles Sans Cashews
March 13     chermoula salmon , baby seedling shoot salad and Jen's yam/purple yam fries

 I had such big plans to make something really elaborate Saturday night since I had been working like a dog all week and not only hadn't cooked anything at all, I hadn't eaten anything other than fruit, smart food, chips and gummy worms all week. 

We went to the Brickworks farmer's market in the morning where we ate three freshly made corn tortillas with black beans, salsa and pea sprouts and the amazing french fries with coarse salt and fresh thyme. I bought a delicious goat cheddar from Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co from Picton, some beautiful baby seedling sprouts from Cookstown Greens and a really nice little bottle of organic EVOO from Greece. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Apricot Dijon Chicken Paninis & Yam Fries

What to do with leftover chicken? This is a regular question in our house.  We love roast chicken and while I haven't really made it thus far in the challenge, at least not for dinner, I did make one on Friday night.  The Greek Roast Chicken that Carole shared a month or so ago.  Now I have to say, my experience with this chicken was not as sublime as Carole's.  My potatoes were not as tasty, they didn't get all crisp and brown the way hers did, nor were they as deliciously flavored at least as she described.  It was a disappointment because I consider myself a little master of the roast chicken.   I'd love to test it out again in the hopes that maybe my uneven oven was the culprit or that it was just an off night.  Maybe the next time we have friends over for Sunday lunch.

The one potential problem with that plan was that one little part of the directions caused the first real domestic we've ever had over dinner.   I pulled the chicken when the internal temp was 172F, a whole 7 degrees more than the recipe called for and about 8 degrees less than the standard 180F internal temp for chicken.  I was 100% comfortable doing this, not only because it's what the recipe called for, but because I knew the bird would carryover cook, that is it would continue cook as it rested out of the oven.  But once the boy started carving he wasn't comfortable with the juices, I looked at the meat though, even tasted it, it was cooked.  We had words over it, that's all I'm going to say.  It wasn't fun and it was really the first time we have EVER had an argument about anything I've cooked for dinner, EVER.  I'm not going to lie, I was pissed that he didn't trust that I knew it was cooked and ok.  He begrudgingly ate it at the coffee table in front of the TV and, because I was pissed, I ate at the dining table.  It was not a happy dinner time in the Hoffleby house.  We got over it though, watched a movie and ended the night on a good note.  But it was a surreal experience to be fighting over food like that.  So if I do tackle this puppy again, I'll keep him out of the kitchen and carve the bird on my own.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Posole, Biscuits and a little venting

March 9 - Dinner with the in-laws for March Birthdays

March 10 - Posole & Cream Biscuits

March 11 - Greek Chicken with Lemony Potatoes - a must make after Carole posted it last month

I've been on such a roll cooking over the past few weeks, not just dinners but baking and all kinds of other things for my other blog.  I kinda feel like I've been chained to the kitchen.  I'm thinking a fabulous meal out is in order in the next few days.  Lucky for me I get to post Saturday and Sunday this weekend!  Do you note the sarcasm?  Now don't get me wrong I love sharing with everyone recipes I've come up with and how things are going with the challenge, but right I have to be honest I'd love to be taken out for dinner every night for the next week.  Not even just have the Boy cook, because I don't want to do the dishes.  I'm done!  At least for a few days.  Except I'm not, because you'll hear from me tomorrow all about what's on the menu for tonight's dinner.  But I won't get into that.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Spinach and Ricotta Lasagne

The culinary aspect of our week didn’t unfold quite as planned… Despite stocking the fridge for the evenings ahead, anticipating that I’d be working late, I was actually able to join the kids for dinner most nights. Shrove Tuesday was a pleasant surprise and so we all decided pancakes were in order. I wish I’d been organized enough to put together Jen’s delicious potato pancakes from a week or two ago but instead we just had our regular ones, with fruit and chocolate chips.

Then the boys both came down with tummy bugs on Wednesday so they skipped the spinach ricotta lasagna and had chicken noodle soup and crackers. Maddie tried the lasagna but then I watched in awe (and somewhat admiration for her focus) as she methodically picked through and painstakingly, like the highly skilled surgeon that she is destined to become, removed every stringy spinachy part with huge disdain and carefully stacked them into a green mini-mountain at the side of her bowl. God forbid if some veggies accidentally made their way into her by way of a bite of pasta. I couldn’t even taste them because of the tanginess of the ricotta, but Maddie assured me that that’s because I’m an adult and basically immune to vegetables. Maybe she’s right. I’m hoping that the boys might take some leftovers to school for lunch on Thursday or Friday because it was nice and light and probably still good eaten cold… less cheese than we’re used to and, since I skipped the bĂ©chamel sauce that the recipe called for, not as rich as advertised.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

March 7-9 Purple Yams

March 7   Fish tacos with snapper and corn tortillas
March 8   I worked until 9pm so the boys ate out
March 9   BBQ chicken sandwiches with coleslaw- supperworks and potato salad

This week is a bit of a wash because I am working all week and will be gone from early morning until bed time so there won't be much cooking going on until the weekend. I made fish tacos on Monday night, tuesday I the bb1 chicken in the crockpot and left for work and let Shack deal with it. I had two gummy bears and and an apple for dinner and they went to Ceili Cottage with Jen and Mr Jen for delicious dinner. Bitter? Who me?

Wed night will be the BBQ chicken sandwiches from supperworks that are basically chicken thighs cooked in the crockpot all day in bbq sauce, shredded up and eaten in a nice, soft bun. To go with it, I made a simple potato salad using potato and some dark purple yams that I found at my magical asian store. I think they are from somewhere in the caribbean and they are stunning. They keep their colour too so after you cook them, they don't fade to a weird lavender/grey. I will atone for my lack of culinary achievements next week by chaining myself to the kitchen. I also used Kewpie mayonnaise because it's kind of more savoury and has more flavour than regular mayonnaise and although I have heard that it breaks down in heated dishes, I really like the texture and flavour in cold dishes like this or in egg/tuna salad etc.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese

March 6 - Trius Red Wine Mini-Burgers & Pumpkin Mac & Cheese & salad
March 7 - Spelt pancakes layered with goat cheese garlicky spinach, grated beets & carrots & a fried egg for Meatless Monday
March 8 - dinner out with Shack & Little Shack at Cieli Cottage - oysters abound!

Monday I had my first big fail of the challenge.  The Boy ordered in a pizza he was so unsatisfied by dinner.  I liked it but it was an on the fly kinda of thing that I wasn't sold on either so it didn't cause a domestic, but it did bum me out.  It's been quite some time since I had a fail like that for dinner.  At least I now know for sure he doesn't just pretend to like everything I make.  The meal in my mind was a delicious like crepe filled with tasty veggie goodness and folded, with  almost all of the ingredients coming from the Brickworks Farmer's Market (organic spelt flour, beets, carrots, goat cheese) I was excited as I haven't made a farmer's market meal since the fall.  Unfortunately my crepe-making mojo was not there on Monday, so I improvised with little spelt pancakes and made a napoleon-like dish with them.  It sounds oh-so-pretty and maybe even delicious, but according to the Boy something was missing.  I don't necessarily agree but it was a but clunky and not as elegant as I would have hoped.  Luckily I can't try it as is again, but I look forward to playing with this idea on a future Meatless Monday.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Black Bean Soup with Sweet Potatoes

Spent most of Saturday afternoon preparing meals for the week ahead since Q is out of town and I knew I’d be working crazy-long hours and the kids would still be hungry and life would go on so they’d may as well be full so they’re not calling me at the office and asking what’s to eat, mom, and what time will you be home and whose turn is it to clean up the kitchen and by the way, what’s for lunch tomorrow. Since I usually prefer to just decide what to cook sometime in the morning and therefore tend to shop every day or two, I don’t have a lot of make-ahead casserole-type dishes in my roster so I had to give it some thought. I managed to pull together a Spinach Ricotta Lasagna; some Parmesan Chicken with Rice that could also be made into a stirfry with the leftovers; and this Black Bean Sweet Potato Soup.

Monday, March 7, 2011

March 3-6

March 3    Turkey meatballs, tomato/red pepper/ mushroom sauce and cheese tortellini (supperworks)
March 4    Out for dinner with family
March 5    Sauce from march 3 with spaghetti, hot chilis and lots of fresh parmesan
March 6    Whole roasted tilapia, couscous and broccoli

Just in case you didn't already think that the three of us are slightly insane for even attempting this year long project, I had to roast 100 chicken drumsticks at 9pm Thursday night to serve the next day for a fund raising lunch at school. I volunteered. The chicken was even my idea. Nobody held a gun to my head. Clearly I am nuts.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Orecchiette with Brussels Sprouts, Gorgonzola, and Brown-Butter Pecans

I don't know about you but I love and adore roasted Brussels sprouts and would happily eat them several times a week, as long as they are caramelized, salty, crunchy and served in abundance. Even better that they're good for you too. I think many of us have bad memories of eating overboiled, waterlogged, soggy, smelly Brussels sprouts as we were growing up, but I'm pretty sure that's just because maybe our moms didn't know how to make them any other way. Luckily my whole family now likes them this way too and I loved the idea of pairing them with a pasta... combining two of our favourite things. Really beautiful creamy sauce, although a bit rich, and the toasted pecans added great crunch.
To cut down on the fat, I used half milk and half cream for the sauce, and reduced the amount of blue cheese because my kids find it too strong tasting. I wish I'd doubled the amount of roasted Brussels sprouts because I found myself trying to fish them out of the leftover pasta, much to Q's disdain. Waste not, want not.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Pizza Night!

I'm on a quest to find the perfect pizza dough recipe.  I often use the Olive Oil Dough from Artisan Bread in 5. It's quick, easy and I can use it to make loaves of bread too.  While it's good, it doesn't really give me that great Neapolitan flavor with just the right amount of chew that I love so much. So I did some web research and found a few recipes that sounded promising, only to realize that many of the good-sounding pizza doughs are recommended to sit for 24 hours.  This was a problem considering I did my research the same night I was planning to make pizza for dinner.  I then came across a recipe from Michael Ruhlman that could be done in a few hours, much more manageable for my purposes this week anyway.  So I set to work making the pizza dough and thinking about what tasty ingredients from my fridge I could put on this pizza.

Pizzas can be a great way to use up either leftovers or veggies and meat that is hanging in your fridge that you just aren't sure what to do with.  My dad was in town last weekend and I bought a couple of sliced salamis that we didn't finish.  One of them was a spicy Calabrese, that even of those of us that like spicy sausages found it to be almost too spicy.  The great thing about it was that it really reminded me of the style of pepperoni pizza places back home put on the pizza.  I find if you go to your average grocery store here in Toronto looking for pepperoni you get this odd, not very spicy almost like a small German salami. It's OK but not what I know and love as pepperoni.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Quick Hearty Soup for Busy Night

Everyone was busy this week and our evenings were filled too so I made this easy soup one afternoon and then it was waiting for us as we all ran in and right back out again. It was a hit with the kids in terms of flavour and a hit with me because it was such a no-brainer to throw in all the ingredients and then let it simmer while I did a quick cleanup. To speed things up, I used canned beans but one of my goals this year will be to get more comfortable with learning how to use dried beans and preparing them properly.

The only things I would change with this recipe for next time would be to add more chicken stock since the pasta must have absorbed more than expected (probably because I made it earlier in the day) and I would have preferred it to be slightly more liquidy, and throwing in some green stuff like spinach towards the end. Next time... But the addition of the sausage meat and the beans provided the heartiness they all needed to get through hockey, hiphop and treadmilling without running out of steam.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

March1-2 Aloo Gobi

March 1   aloo gobi with peas, basmati rice and chicken baked with bread crumbs and pumpkin seeds
March 2   roasted tomato/red pepper soup and grilled gouda and ham sandwiches

Do you ever crave a couple of things that don't really go together but you want to eat them both at the same time? Please tell me that I am not crazy and that other people will crave green curry chicken and corn chowder at the same meal.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Potato Pancakes with Mozzarella & Pesto for National Pancake Day

Yesterday was National Pancake Day, at least back home in the US. It seems to also have been National Pig Day and National Peanut Butter Day, but I chose to go with the pancakes. I put together a recipe round-up over on Piccante Dolce of the pancakes I think look delicious and hope to make this year.  The boy and I were under the weather on Monday, so instead of following Meatless Monday I made Slow Cooker Pho Ga to help sooth our upset tummies.  To make up for that I went for a Meatless Tuesday and wanted to also have my own little Pancake Day Celebration.  I could have gone with a traditional pancake recipe like one of those in my round-up but upon doing a quick we search, these gems popped up and I had to make them.  Mainly because they sounded delicious but also since I had some Spinach Pistachio Pesto leftover in the fridge.  I had grand plans of using it with a pizza or calzone and still have a bit leftover if I want to do that, but I knew it would be great with potatoes and cheese too.

The Boy was out for the evening working so it was dinner just for me, with leftovers for lunch today.  I adapted the recipe to be perfect for 2, something we need to get better at because I'm getting sick of the obscenely stocked fridge that's mostly leftovers.  I am constantly putting off recipes I want to try in a week because I need to reuse these leftovers.  While I'm having fun getting creative with the leftovers, I really loved the Pork & Black Bean Chili, my first priority in this challenge is to make sure I'm trying plenty of new things.  Especially when something new is a tasty as this dish.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Dulce Dessert for Dinner

If you can have breakfast for dinner, then surely dessert for dinner is also allowed? Is that in our fine print as part of this challenge? I can't exactly remember what I signed up for but I definitely think that once in a while, it's okay to skip the meat and potatoes, or pasta and sauce, or whatever, and go straight to the good stuff. Especially on Oscar night.
As Carole noted in her post yesterday, Sunday night was our annual Academy Award party. We had a buffet dinner for 25 of our nearest and dearest, but since we simply grilled some meat and fish and threw together some side dishes, there wasn't anything particularly noteworthy to write about here. And because I was busy in the kitchen, I didn't end up eating any of the hot stuff but did manage to lick my fingers as I served up all the desserts. So it turned into dessert for dinner for me as I watched all the celebs on the red carpet.
In addition to Carole's scotch (or was that butterscotch) cupcakes, I made trifle and two bar recipes from Alice Medrich's amazing baking cookbook that Carole had given for Christmas, Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy: Caramel Cheesecake Bars and Gooey Turtle Bars. I realized afterwards that I must have been drawn to them because they both contained caramel as one of their main ingredients. Oops... but our guests didn't seem to mind.
I decided to substitute dulce de leche (fyi... easily bought and consumed from a jar from Costco, although I realized afterwards that I basically made some from scratch for the turtle bars that follow) for the caramel called for in the Caramel Cheesecake Bars because I'm trying to make up for lost time in only discovering this sweet nectar of god (or more likely goddess) so late in life. My only question is, "Dulce de leche: where have you been all these years?" I could have been a nicer, happier mommy and wife if only I'd known about you earlier... I swear it's not only smooth and mouth-wateringly delicious but it even makes my skin glow, my hair shine and my teeth whiter. Well, maybe those benefits are just in my imagination but all I know is that I try to add it wherever and whenever possible lately because it somehow just makes everything all right.

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