Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Last Post of 2011 - Pozole Verde

We had a great trip to Mexico ( I HATE the term Mayan Riveria but that is where we were) but because it seems that everyone needed more rest than usual, we didn't leave the resort all that much - so unlike us. We usually jump in the jeep every morning after breakfast and go do stuff and that also means we look for great stuff to eat while we are out and about. Breakfast is always good at these resorts because you can load up on a huge plate of tropical fruits like papaya and mango, have some yogurt with granola, a nice cappuccino, maybe a pastry and be on your way. This time, because we hung out on the beach and read and swam and only really went on on big outing to Coba to climb the ruins, we came home tanned and happy but feeling very unsatisfied in the eating department. Even the resorts with the best food get kind of boring and repetitive after a few days if you stay on site and eat all of your meals there. This means I have lots of things I have to make to make us all happy and the first thing I chose to make is Pozole Verde. I love to make chili verde with pork and was going to just do that but I have never made pozole so I thought it the perfect dish to ring out my year of making new things.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Still No Cooking - Urge Taquitos in Tulum

This should have been my Monday post but I had to turn around and go back out of town as soon as we got home to visit with my sister and her family, so better late than never, right?

I kind of feel terrible that after all of the hard work , I am ending my official year of no reEATS with nothing to share. We got back from our holiday in Mexico at about 3am Xmas morning and we had Xmas dinner with my father in law and his family and it was lovely but I didn't cook anything at all. Now, it's boxing day and we are on our way to visit my sister and so, clearly I have nothing to share again. I promise that even if I have nothing for Thursday that I will share one last dinner before NYE. As I wrote earlier, Dianne and I are going to continue on with the blog but only devote one day a week to making something brand new so the content will slow down to a steady twice weekly entry but we are exited to keep going and hope we will inspire others to break out of their comfort zones and explore new things.
I will share the best meal we had in Mexico - actually, it was the only great meal we had. We usually stay at a resort but after eating breakfast there, we go off in the jeep to have adventures all day and we eat endless delicious things while we are out and about but this time we all needed a serious restful week and we only ventured out a few times. That means that most of our food was eaten on the resort and so that also means that 95% of what we ate was unmemorable.

The day before we left we drove down to Tulum and ate at Urge Taquitos for fish tacos and ceviche. They basically make fish and chips battered fish or shrimp and they have a big selection of delicious salsas and condiments like shredded cabbage, a great chipotle tamarind sauce, super spicy avocado sauce etc. If you go to the area, you MUST seek this place out for a nice cold beer, some great tacos and one of the yummiest shrimp/fish ceviches ever.

For my final no reEATS of the year, I will be making pozole because for the first time ever, this trip held no food love apart from this meal and I am left with unmet cravings that I am going to have to fill myself over the next few weeks.

I swear to god that there is some deep fried fish under all of those condiments

I can never decide and end up using all of them

this ceviche is ripe with lime juice and salt and so much black pepper that it will make you a bit sneezy but only in the best way possible

until you have eaten resort guacamole, you don't realize that there is such a thing as bad guacamole. THIS is not that.

crazy habernero sauce

the carnage

My favourite taco joint in Tulum, by far

Thursday, December 22, 2011

No cooking down Mexico way

I had a long, detailed post complete with pictures but it won't post. Long story short, I am on vacation and not cooking and enjoying a week of not thinking about cooking.
We come home Xmas day, eat Xmas dinner at my father in law's and then go to my sister's for dinner boxing day so I might have nothing to share Monday as well. I feel a bit guilty for shirking cooking duties at the end of this

year but I am very happy to be with my boys in Mexico.
Merry Xmas, happy holidays and eat well and often my friends!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Squash Baked Macaroni

I was looking for variations on macaroni and cheese this week, but most of them were overly rich and also pretty "adult," with additions of pancetta and mushrooms and the like (probably unlikely to be a hit with the kiddies). So when I came across this hidden-squash version, I thought it might be worth a try, even though Maddie hates the stuff. If I could fool her by slipping it into her fave meal, it'd be a success. Austin and Q loved it, with full vegetable disclosure, but we did the blind test with the little missus who, despite being able to taste the offending veg from her first bite, liked it regardless. Am I showing my age if I say, "Hey Mikey, she likes it!" (anyone over 40 will relate...). She said that I should write in my blog that any moms whose kids hate squash and yet they want to secretly get it into their tummies should try this recipe. The perfect endorsement as far as I'm concerned.

Squash Baked Macaroni
(adapted from Martha Stewart)
serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
1 medium acorn squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
1 tbsp butter
1 lb macaroni or pasta of your choice
1/2 cup light cream
1/2 cup milk
pinch nutmeg
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup fresh ricotta cheese
1/2 cup breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place squashes on a rimmed baking sheet; drizzle with oil. Toss squashes until evenly coated and rub the cut sides and the cavities of the squashes with the butter and season with salt and pepper. Place cut side down and bake until very soft, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Do not turn off oven.

When cool, use a large spoon to scoop the flesh of the squash into the bowl of a food processor. Add cream and milk, and puree until smooth. Add nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. Process until well combined. Transfer mixture to a large bowl; set aside.

Cook pasta to al dente in boiling salted water. Drain and add to bowl with squash mixture along with the cheeses. Top with breadcrumbs and bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Rest of the week
Dec 17 Pizza night for girls' sleepover
Dec 18 Family Xmas get-together
Dec 19 Salmon hash
Dec 20 Squash mac 'n' cheese with broccoli

Monday, December 19, 2011

Dec 15- 19 Salmon Cakes

Dec 15     Salmon Cakes
Dec 16  
Dec 17
Dec 18

I spent the entire day on Thursday baking and making candy because on Wednesday night we decided we would go to Mexico and we had to leave on Saturday. That suddenly meant that I would have to have all of my baking done by Friday morning so I could package up treats for The Kid's teachers etc. Since I spent the entire day working with nothing but chocolate, sugar, butter and more sugar, I wanted something really simple and quick and light and I didn't want to have to do a big grocery shop so I had to turn to the pantry. It was either salmon cakes or a can of pork and beans with toast and although the can of beans was tempting me like nobodies' business, I couldn't really write about that, now could I? Not now, after lasting for 11 months and two weeks of endeavouring to make not just something different every night but something kind of worth talking about. Not that salmon cakes are the most exiting thing in the world but it's better than heating a can of beans, right?

Sorry for the bad iPhone photo but The Kid ate the extra salmon cake I had tried to sneak into the fridge so I could take a pretty picture tomorrow in the daylight.

Salmon Cakes

1 213g can pacific wild salmon
1/4 cup panko and then another 1/4 cup or so for dredging
1/2 tsp grated ginger
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/3 shallot, finely chopped
1 heaping tbls of kewpie mayonnaise if you have it or regular if you don't
1 tbls black sesame seeds
a squeeze of lemon (i squeezed in half of a meyer lemon)
the zest from half of the lemon
kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper to taste
1 egg yolk (I would normally use a whole egg but I had yolks leftover from making meringues)

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. I put it in the fridge for about 45 minutes to firm up and then I take it out and form my little hockey puck sized patties. Dredge them on both sides with more panko.

Heat a frying pan over med heat and add a bit of oil. Fry them for about 4 or 5 minutes per side so they get nice and crispy.

We ate them with a salad with a japanese sesame dressing. I also put them on a nest of really thin rice vermicelli and if you want to do that you just put the nest of dry noodles in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let it sit for about 3-5 minutes until it's softened and then drain it and rinse it under cold water and let sit and drain in a strainer while you get the salad ready.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Quick and Easy Borscht

Ever since Carole posted her beet risotto a week or so ago, I've been wanting to make something beet related. I'm not sure if it's all in my imagination, but I always feel stronger after eating beets. Yes, I know they're chockful of all sorts of nutrients and vitamins, but someone long ago told me they're especially great for your blood, and after fainting recently and feeling a bit lightheaded/dizzy at times, I figured I had nothing to lose and hopefully everything to gain. Borscht isn't something I've ever made before, or even wanted to, for that matter, but what better time to try it than in the final stretch of our all-new journey. Easy enough to roast up the beets and prep the soup. A bit harder to find someone to eat it alongside me since the boyfolk are all away and Maddie took one look at the vivid jewel tones of the final product and headed straight out the door with an empty stomach instead of having to partake. As for me, I loved it, feel stronger for it and will repeat again sometime next year.

Quick and Easy Borscht
serves 4 to 6

6 medium beets plus tops and stems
4 medium carrots, peeled and grated
1 medium bunch kale, trimmed stems, then coarsely chopped
1/2 28-oz can plum tomatoes, with juice, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 red onions, medium diced
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp sugar
2 bay leaves
3 chopped dill fronds
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
3 to 4 cups water

Roast beets in foil for 40 minutes at 425 degrees. Cool, peel and medium chop along with stems and leaves. In a large soup pot, heat 1 tsp oil over medium heat and then add onions, garlic, caraway seeds, dill and bay leaf and saute briefly. Add rest of the vegetables (except tomatoes), cover and saute briefly. Add tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, juice and water; stir, cover loosely and simmer for approximately one hour until flavours blend and vegetables are soft. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Rest of week
Dec 14 Hors d'oeuvres a la Daniel et Daniel at Q's work party
Dec 15 Dinner propped up at the bar of The Keg w Maddie
Dec 16 Borscht with crusty loaf

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dec 12-14 Crock Pot Fennel Roast Beef

Dec 12     chicken green bean stir fry
Dec 13     meatloaf sandwiches
Dec 14     Crock Pot Fennel Roast Beef with pasta

I truly had no idea what I was going to make for dinner on Wednesday night until I went to the grocery store and they had eye of round roasts on sale so I grabbed one and walked around the store getting all of my baking stuff trying to figure out what to do with it. I actually don't like roast beef. I don't like prime rib or standing rib roast or any of that stuff. The only way I enjoy a big chunk of beef is if it is falling apart so I pretty much only braise them or cook them in my handy dandy crock pot (or as we like to call it, my crotch pot). I was either going to go beer, mustard beef on mashed potatoes or a more italian beef served over pasta.
Clearly I chose to go the Italian over pasta route. I might just pick up another one at this price and make it with beer next week now that I think about it.

I will have a post for next Monday but I am leaving this Saturday for a week of christmas beach and sand and will be be back until christmas day. Clearly I am not going to be cooking anything myself but I will post next thursday with photos of some of the delicious things we will be eating and then that only leaves ONE LAST WEEK UNTIL THIS NO REEATS CHALLENGE IS FINISHED!!!

Clearly, we lost our third partner, Jen, somewhere around the end of October when her work schedule sent her into a black hole but I am pretty thrilled that Dianne and I have made it to the bitter end. We have both decided that although neither of us wants to do this again for another year, we do like being forced to step out of our comfort zones and make things that we would not normally make. We will continue with the blog but we will each just take one day a week where we have to make something completely new and we will share that with you. I plan to make exactly the same thing the other six nights of the week just for sport.
If there is anyone out there who is crazy enough and would like to take the year long challenge, you are welcome to get in touch and let us know and maybe you could join our crazy train.
With that, I give you:

Crock Pot Fennel Roast Beef 
1 lb (about 600g) beef eye of round roast
kosher salt and pepper
glug olive oil
*tbls of #5 Umamai paste 
1 cup tomato puree
3/4 cup of chicken stock
fresh thyme, at least a small handful or to taste
2 cloves garlic
1 fennel bulb, sliced

serve with any hearty pasta - I like it with paperadelle but it's good with rigatoni or something like that

Slice the fennel bulb like this:

Put the fennel and the garlic into the crock pot. Mix in the tomato and 1/2 cup of the chicken stock and the thyme. Add salt and pepper to taste ( I have to salt because I use my own tomatoes that were preserved without salt).

Heat a frying pan over med heat, add a little glug of oil and then liberally salt and pepper your roast before putting in in the hot pan to sear on all sides until nice and brown.
Put the browned meat on top of the fennel and push it around until the fennel is surrounding the meat and the meat is partially submerged.
In the hot pan you just seared the meat, add the umami paste and then the last 1/4 cup of chicken stock and let that bubble up. Take it off the heat immediately and use a spatula to scrape all of the goodness into the crockpot over the meat.
Put the lid on, turn it onto high and walk away.

I cook it all day on low or if you don't have all day, you can do it for about 4 or 5 hours on high but the longer you let it sit, the softer the meat gets and the easier it is to shred it up.
When it's done, as your pasta is cooking, open the lid and take two forks and start shredding the meat up until it looks like pulled pork.
Ladle the meat, the fennel and some of the liquid over pasta and grate lots of fresh parmesan on top. Of course, I like to sprinkle lots of hot chili flake on mine. You can also eat it over rice or mashed potatoes of course.

*about this #5 umami paste, I am LOVING it. It adds a really nice depth of flavour, a hit of salty, briny goodness and I will make sure I always have a tube of this in my pantry. In Canada, you can get it at Loblaws as part of their new Black Lable line and it looks like it's widely available at fine food stores like Dean and De Luca in the States. If you don't have it, you can just use some tomato paste for thickness but it won't bump up the flavour

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Quinoa-Crusted Chicken or Salmon with Sage

I found myself leafing through Quinoa 365 again this week, looking for a salmon recipe, and this simple weeknight Quinoa-Crusted Chicken with Sage sounded light, fresh and delicious--and I figured I could adapt it to salmon for three of us, while the remaining holdout from anything fishy could enjoy her chicken alone. The recipe called for a gouda cheese sauce to go alongside the chicken but since I don't really like gouda and I didn't want a heavy sauce, I wasn't tempted to make it and I was also pretty sure that none of us would miss it anyway. And they didn't. Then again, I didn't tell them that it even existed so who knows, it might have been a hit since nobody in this family ever turns down anything cheesy.
Since I didn't have the quinoa flakes that were listed, I just used my regular quinoa and it worked perfectly... grainy, nutty and light, with a zing from the Dijon and the freshness of the sage... a nice change from normal breading of any kind. No complaints from anyone, neither fish nor fowl camps, and that's often the highest praise since my food critics are feeling the fatigue of providing positive feedback after more than a year of new stuff. Just quiet acceptance is enough for all of us right now and I'm grateful for that.

Quinoa-Crusted Chicken with Sage
adapted from Quinoa 365
serves 4

3 tbsp milk
3 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp minced fresh garlic
3/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup quinoa flakes
6 tsp finely chopped fresh sage
1/2 tsp salt
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

cheese sauce
1/4 cup milk
2 tsp quinoa flour
1/4 cup grated Gouda cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.

Mix the milk and 2 tsp of the mustard in a small, shallow bowl. Add the garlic and Worcestershire sauce and mix well. Set aside.
Combine the parmesan, quinoa, 2 tsp of the sage and the salt and place in a shallow bowl. Working with 1 chicken breast at a time, dip evenly into the milk mixture, then place in the bowl and coat with the quinoa mixture.
Place the chicken breasts on the baking sheet and bake on the centre rack for about 20 minutes, until the meat is no longer pink and the juices run clear.
To make the sauce, heat the milk and quinoa flour in a small saucepan on medium heat, stirring frequently. Whisk in the cheese with the remaining 4 tsp sage and 1 tsp Dijon. Heat the mixture until it thickens, about 3 to 4 minutes, whisking frequently. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve immediately.
Rest of the week

Dec 10 Dinner with family at golf club

Dec 11 Busy day so ordered in from Vivetha

Dec 12 Quinoa-crusted salmon with tossed salad

Monday, December 12, 2011

Dec 8-11

Dec 8      Creamy Tomato Fennel Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons
Dec 9      We had to be out and didn't really eat dinner
Dec 10     ordered in Thai
Dec 11    Meatloaf

This ended up being a bit of a stressful end to the week for various reasons so we either weren't home to eat or too spent to think about cooking. Thankfully I had made a fabulous tomato soup and The Kid was happy with two big bowls full of grilled cheese croutons for Thursday because he certainly didn't get any real dinner on Friday night.
Sunday came along and Shack had to work so I felt like I should make something that the boys would find really comforting. It was time to whip out a basic meatloaf. I have been holding back on a couple of winter staples so that I could make them this last month of this challenge to make it all go by a bit faster. They really enjoyed the turkey meatloaf but they both love a good, solid meatloaf so much and it was the perfect meal to end a not so good week.
It's not like anyone is actively counting the days until I no longer have to stick to this crazy challenge or anything.

The Kid's Favourite Meatloaf
makes 2 meatloaves, serves 6 to 8

1 onion, chopped fine
1 stalk celery, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
olive oil
600 g ground pork
600 g lean ground beef
1/4 cup milk
1 slice whole grain bread
1/2 cup of your favourite bbq sauce
about a tbls each fresh thyme, sage and rosemary chopped fine
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dry hot chinese mustard

1/4 cup bbq sauce
1 tbls chipotle chili in adobo
1/4 red onion sliced really thinly

heat a sauté pan over med heat with a small glug of olive oil and sauté the onion, celery and garlic for about five minutes until it's softened. Remove from heat and let cool to room temp.
Preheat oven to 400F

Put the slice of bread in the food processor and grind up into crumbs. Add the milk and let sit and put aside. Put the beef, pork, bbq sauce, eggs,  herbs, salt and chinese mustard in a big bowl. Add the bread crumbs that you soaked in milk and mix with your hands for about a minute. Don't over mix or your meatloaf will be tough.

Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil. Divide the meat mixture into halves and form each half into a loaf shape on the parchment lined pan. Mix the glaze ingredients and then brush each of the two meatloaves with the glaze. Scatter the red onion slices over each meatloaf.
Put the baking tray in your hot oven and bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hr. Check after 45 minutes and the internal temp should be at least 160F. Take it out of the oven and let it sit for about ten minutes to settle before slicing and serving.

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Simple Hearty Minestrone

I don't know about you but at this time of the year I could pretty much skip dinner altogether most evenings. Maybe it's overindulging during the day so there's no appetite left at night or I'm tired and/or lazy or I'd just rather be bakin' instead of cookin'. Whatever the reason, the last thing I want to do is make dinner. But with the eldest home from university and craving home-cooked meals and drinking us out of house and home in terms of milk but who's keeping track of these things, it still seems to be a priority (to him, at least) and order-in or take-out aren't viable options right now.
So, on one busy Friday afternoon, this minestrone soup pretty much made itself and hit the spot for all of us, as we all came and went at different times. Chopped up some veggies, got the onions and garlic a-going, and then threw it all in the pot and walked away for the good part of an hour. I waited til almost dinnertime to add the pasta so it wouldn't be too soggy once we made it to the table. Good, stick-to-your-ribs fare that will tide us over til the next piece of shortbread.

Hale and Hearty Minestrone Soup
serves 6 to 8

2 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
6 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 tbsp chopped basil
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 dried bay leaf
1 28-oz can chopped tomatoes, with their liquid
1 cup canned kidney beans, drained
1 cup dried penne pasta

In a large stockpot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onions and cook until translucent.
Add the broth, tomato paste, parsley, basil, celery, carrots, bay leaf, and tomatoes along with their juice and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked tender.
Add the kidney beans and pasta at the very end, and simmer for another 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Rest of the week

Dec 6 Bubble chicken with salad

Dec 7 Barbecued ribs w mashed potatoes and broccoli

Dec 8 Linguine with pesto and veggies

Dec 9 Minestrone with cheese sticks

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Dec 5-7 Tandoori Salmon and Parippu

Dec 5     sparkling wine and candy at Dianne's gingerbread house party!
Dec 6     Tandoori Salmon and Parippu (dal)
Dec 7     Tandoori Salmon Tacos

Shack is back on another movie so he hasn't been around a ton for dinner which means we are back to finding things that The Kid and I love that Shack doesn't love as much. We both really, really love salmon and Little Shack is developing a love for Indian food so I decided on tandoori salmon. I used the tandoori marinade from my beloved The Food Of India book for both the tandoori and the parippu, which is just a kind of dal using red lentils. For those of you who find making Indian food intimidating, this is a really simple thing to start with and although the list of ingredients can look kind of long, it's so easy to throw together. My only recommendation would be to grill the salmon if you can because it would have been better if it had all the nice, dark bits and the slightly burnt skin that comes from grilling but it's December and I don't have a gas grill so that was out of the question.

Little Shack loved the coconutty lentils and I will eat that dal every day until it is gone and be very happy about that so I made a big pot. I also made extra salmon because I knew we would do tandoori salmon tacos the next night because, remember, everything is delicious in a corn tortilla!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Candy for Dinner because It's the Annual Gingerbread House Party

Ever since December 1, the kids have been having a little piece of chocolate from their advent calendars as part of their breakfast, so I figured it was only fair that I also got to eat candy for dinner on this, one of my favourite nights of the year--my annual gingerbread house party for some of my closest girlfriends. This tradition started out about 11 years ago, I think, because my first memory of the Kitchenaid whirring away making batches upon batches of royal icing was when Maddie was still a wee baby, strapped in her car seat on the counter and a totally captive audience, watching me run around the kitchen before my guests arrived. Now she's graduated to my second- or third-in-command, if Austin is around, and they're both part of the action as my friends are sweet enough to include them in decorating their own masterpieces.

Over the years, the group has whittled itself down to the true "hard-corers" who come armed and ready with blueprints, plans, spreadsheets, and bags of candy/cereal/props/lights to adorn their creations, and be part of the (generally) warmhearted "competition." Hard to believe that everyone starts with the same simple pre-assembled six-inch house and ends up with such completely unique and amazing results. From English cottages to pink wonderlands to silver winter scenes and even a Whoville extravaganza a few years back when the Grinch was in theatres, the possibilities are endless and we've seen it all over the years. Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas in this household without feeling sticky for two days straight, finding globs of royal icing stuck in my hair the next day, hearing all the leftover dragees/sprinkles/candies being sucked up by the vacuum later that night, and enjoying friendly female company and competition in my warm kitchen. Thank god for girlfriends at any time of year.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Dec 1-4 Beet Risotto

Dec 1     Butternut Squash Pear Soup and a big salad
Dec 2     Dinner with The Neighbours
Dec 3     Beet Risotto
Dec 4     Shack made pasta with meat sauce

When your 12 year old requests beet risotto, you make him beet risotto. You don't ask questions, you just say yes, of course I will make you beet risotto.That is all I have to say about that.

So, about the actual risotto, all the recipes I saw called for peeling, chopping and roasting the beets before hand and then mixing them into the almost finished risotto but I didn't want to go to all that trouble AND I wanted the risotto to have a really pretty, strong colour. I decided instead to grate the beets and cook them right in the rice and I also threw some  beet as well as the stems into the stock for good measure to make the stock red and beety. I think I made the right choice because the colour on this risotto was insane - Little Shack said it's the perfect Christmas dish what with the beautiful deep red from the beets and the dark green from the beet greens making it all festive. I put aside a tiny bowl, thankfully, because between the two of them, they hoovered the entire thing. I was lucky to get a small bowl for myself alongside the tiny portion I hid so I could get a picture the next day. I am actually pretty exited that now, on the home stretch in our year long challenge, I am actually still making stuff that I know will become life long family favourites.

Beet Risotto
Serves 4

5 1/2 to 6 1/2 cups of chicken stock
3 small beets with greens attached
1 tbls butter
1 tbls olive oil
2 large shallots, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
salt and pepper
3 tbls cold butter
3/4  cup grated grano padano
a drizzle of truffle oil

Put the stock in a large pot. Chop the stems and greens off of the beets and add the stems to the pot of stock. Wash and chop the leaves and set aside.

Peel the beets and grate on a large box grater and set aside. Throw the nubs leftover into the stock pot.
Finely chop the shallots and throw the skins and any scraps into the stock pot.

Heat up the stock pot on a back burner until it comes to barely a simmer. On the front burner, heat the oil and butter in a deep sauté pan and cook the shallot and garlic for about 4 minutes. Add the arborio rice and stir constantly for about 2 minutes, until the rice is opaque.
This is when you add the wine and stir until the wine is almost completely absorbed. Start adding stock, one ladle full at a time. After the first ladle, add the grated beets. Keep stirring, pretty much constantly for another ten minutes, adding a ladle full of stock when the rice absorbs the last addition.
At the halfway mark, about ten minutes in, add the reserved, chopped beet green leaves. Keep adding a ladle of stock until it is absorbed and stirring non stop, making nice figure eights, for a bother ten minutes for a total of about 20 minutes of cooking time. Salt and pepper to taste.
When the risotto is finished (it should be a tiny bit soupy and the rice should still have a bit of bite to it - just keep tasting as you go but it will almost always take between 18 and about 23 minutes) take it off the heat and add in the cold butter and the grano paddano and stir vigorously until all the cheese is incorporated and the butter is melted.
Don't worry if you don't have truffle oil because this stuff is so delicious that you don't really need it but I have some so I use it.
Serve in shallow bowls.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Roasted Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

Maddie mentioned the other day that the only soup she really likes is tomato soup. Campbell's, that is. That of the liquidy ketchupy fame. A definite yuck for me but apparently appealing to her. Felt like she'd thrown down the gauntlet and I was up for the challenge. When I found this roasted tomato soup recipe I was pretty sure I could top the canned variety but obviously I spoke too soon. My first mistake was probably thinking I could make a truly flavourful tomato soup when it's the end of November and not exactly prime tomato season. But I still held out hope that the roasting process would somehow intensify the flavours. It didn't. Then, of course, as the pic shows, my soup turned out more orange than red, which led to kid-suspicions that I had actually made butternut squash soup or sweet potato soup and was trying to pass it off as the tomato variety. Taste couldn't convince them otherwise since it was so bland that none of us could identify what the main vegetable even was. The only redeeming grace was the addition of the grilled cheese croutons, which saved the greasy finger approach of having to dip your sandwich in da soup. But enough said: quite simply, Campbell's won this showdown.

serves 4

2 lbs tomatoes, diced

1 red pepper, diced and seeded

1 onion, diced

1 carrot, diced

4 cloves garlic, unpeeled

olive oil

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp paprika

1 tsp oregano

2 cups chicken stock

1/4 cup heavy cream, optional

handful of basil, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place the tomatoes, red pepper, carrot, onion and garlic on a baking pan and drizzle with the oil and salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Place everything but the cream into a saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes. Puree with a hand blender and mix in the cream and basil.

For the croutons, make up a couple of grilled cheese sandwiches (I used my panini press) with the cheese of your choice. Cut off the crusts and cut into small squares.

Rest of the week

Nov 26 Dinner at Bravi with friends

Nov 27 Rotini with sun-dried tomato sauce

Nov 28 Roasted tomato soup

Pulled Braised Beef and Onions

Trust me, this meal is more delicious than the photo may suggest (totally brown food is never easy to photograph, especially in the evening)... totally delicious, in fact, if we do say so ourselves. I was looking for a throw-in-the-oven-and-walk-away kinda meal because Q and I were hoping to hit a matinee but still wanted to walk in to a homecooked dinner at the end of our day. And this recipe not only met both these criteria but also had the house smellin' like a cozy dream. Austin kept an eye on things in our absence and even took care of the "pulling of the beef" too. A perfectly easy Sunday night dinner that began before noon with a quick browning of the roast, followed by a super-fast toss of all the other ingredients. Then I threw it in the oven at a low heat, walked away and it took care of itself from there on in. Sweet, caramelly, slightly spicy pulled beef is the reward--and a nice change from the traditional pulled pork.

Pulled Braised Beef and Onions
serves 8 to 10

a bit of olive oil, for browning
1 eye of round or top round beef roast
2 onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups beef stock
1 1/2 cups barbecue sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp grainy mustard
a few cloves garlic, crushed

In a heavy skillet, heat a drizzle of oil over medium-high heat and brown the roast on all sides. Meanwhile, toss everything else together in a slow cooker or ovenproof casserole; top with the browned meat. Cover and cook on low (in the slow cooker) for 6-8 hours, or cover and bake at 275 to 300 degrees for 6 hours. Using two forks, pull the meat apart in the sauce and serve on soft buns.

Rest of the week

Dec 3 Ordered pizza and watched a movie

Dec 4 Pulled beef

Friday, December 2, 2011

Turkey Sweet-Potato Shepherd's Pie

I was inspired by Carole's mini-turkey-meatloaves a week or so ago and had been thinking about making something similar, when my dear friend Peggi-Jean mentioned that she'd also made turkey/veggie/mashed potato cupcakes or muffins that same week and they were totally delicious. So as not to be a complete copycat of Carole (accidental alliteration), I figured I'd use PJ's recipe, which had originally been posted on Foodbuzz. Sadly for us, however, I had no success finding them in their archives and by that point PJ had flitted off to NYC for a crazy girls-gone-wild weekend so I had to resort to Rachael Ray's version instead. The verdict here on the homefront was that this one was on the bland side... a common refrain lately so I'm going to have to work on the seasoning side of things... and since we're all lamb lovers, we'll likely return to that in the future for traditional shepherd's pie. But I won't give up on PJ's cupcakes once she makes it back to TO and gives up the elusive recipe.

Turkey Sweet-Potato Shepherd's Pie
adapted from Rachael Ray
serves 4

2/ lb sweet potatos, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb ground turkey
1 onion, chopped
1 large carrot, diced
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 cup peas
1 cup turkey or chicken broth
1 tbsp flour
a few dashes Worchestershire sauce
1 tbsp butter
1/4 cup grated cheese of your choice

In a large saucepan, combine the sweet potatoes and enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, salt the water and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a deep skillet or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil, add the turkey and cook, breaking up with a spoon. Stir in the onion, carrots, celery and salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the meat mixture and cook for 2 to 3 minutes and then add the chicken broth and Worchestershire sauce. Stir and allow to thicken, about 5 minutes. Add the peas and remove from the heat.

Mash the sweet potatoes with the butter and season with salt and pepper. In individual ramekins or a larger casserole dish, top the turkey with the sweet potato and then sprinkle with cheese. Bake until the cheese is completely melted, about 5 minutes.

Rest of the week

Nov 30 Ordered Thai food for early celebration of Austin's birthday; molten lava chocolate birthday cakes

Dec 1 Cheese on toast due to crazy night of parent-teacher interviews

Dec 2 Turkey shepherd's pie

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Nov 29-30 Creamy Pasta with Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta

Nov 29     Date night with The Kid at Amaya Bread Bar
Nov 30     Creamy Pasta with Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta

I had to make something that was going to be quick and easy because we had a busy Wednesday night filled with parent/teacher meeting, karate and then I had to go back out to a "thing" so I was pretty sure it would be a pasta. Before this year, we usually ate pasta at least three times a week but I realized that we have not been eating much pasta at all lately and I am missing it.
I was feeling like I was probably shooting my self in the foot by wanting to make a simple pasta out of ingredients we all love and would appear to be a no brainer because I can never forget the great cauliflower pasta incident where it all went terribly wrong. That is the day that I learned that my adventurous foodie eaters were actually not as adventurous as I thought and just because they love all the ingredients in a dish doesn't mean they are going to love them all together as a finished dish.
I have no patience for this nonsense but  I was going to throw caution to the wind and do it anyway. To be honest, since Little Shack was doing his vow of silence for Free The Children he couldn't complain about it even if he didn't like it, so I was kind of taking advantage of his generous spirit. You gotta do what you gotta do to get by sometimes.
In the end, this pasta was really, really, really good and even my little silent bob was having a hard time not moaning and rhapsodizing about the deliciousness that he was shovelling into his non speaking little mouth.

Creamy Pasta with Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta
300 g brussels sprouts
2 tbls olive oil
2 cloves garlic
50g pancetta, diced small
2 tsp PC #5 Umami paste (spiced tomato/anchovy paste) (or you can do 1 tsp of anchovy paste and 1 tsp of tomato paste instead I would think)
3/4 cup evaporated milk
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
grana pandano cheese
300g pasta ( I used PC Splendido gemelli )

wash and chiffonade the brussel sprouts (I use a mandolin to get them really fine but you can slice them really thinly with a knife too) and set aside

Get a big pot of salted water boiling.

Heat a saute pan over med heat and throw in the pancetta. Cook the pancetta until it's crispy and remove it with a slotted spoon, reserving whatever fat has rendered in the pan. Add the olive oil to that and throw in the garlic, stir it around for 30 seconds and then add the brussel sprouts and stir them until they are softened. I keep going until they actually start to brown up a bit but you don't have to go that far if you don't like your brussel sprouts as sassy as I do.
Meanwhile, your water should be boiling so you can add your pasta and cook according to the package directions.
 Add the Umami paste to the brussel sprouts and stir that around for a minute. Throw in the evaporated milk, add the pasta and toss to make sure everything is mixed up and the pasta is completely coated in the sauce.  Taste and salt and pepper to taste. Throw in 3/4 of the pancetta, toss again and plate it up. Top with freshly grated grana padano and the rest of the crispy pancetta.
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