Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Easter Fallout

I ate more this weekend than I have in ages. Besides the usual yummy Easter dinner of turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, cabbage rolls and all the usual trimmings, there were just so many delicious desserts! I had worked my way through apple pie, a traditional Czech lamb-shaped pound cake coated in buttercream from my sister's in-laws, almond-raspberry and peanut butter cupcakes (one of each), and a small piece of my Grandma's birthday carrot cake, before I realized I hadn't even had any chocolate!

Hence, this week, things will be on the light side (with the occasional chocolate Easter egg thrown in for good measure). On our way back to town (yesterday, due to a one-day delay while we waited for D to get over a stomach bug--YUCK.) we stopped in at Dad's Nutrition Centre to stock up on organic vegetables. I decided to just build a meal plan from what I found rather than starting out with one.

Last night I started things off using the bundles of fresh broccolette in a delicious dish of pasta with chickpeas and broccoli. It was just what the nutritionist ordered.

Another great thing about it was that Baby G could eat it as well. I pulled out some pasta and chickpeas before I made the sauce, and cooked one of the broccolettes whole instead of chopping it, and he pretty much ate what we did. In fact today I just gave him some of the leftovers, 'sauce' and all, since the sauce was just olive oil and lemon juice, really. G has moved forward in his eating by leaps and bounds since I gave in and let him have puffed wheat. Which means he can also have bread. He seems much happier now that he can eat toast with D and me in the mornings. He just wants to skip the baby food stage and move on to the real thing! It helps that, while he's only 8 months old, he has eight teeth, so he can chew as well as or better than most one year olds.

It's 4 PM and I didn't have a plan for supper tonight, until I looked at Moosewood's Simple Suppers and realized I can turn the leftover Ukrainian Easter bread (Paska, lovingly braided by my grandmother) into a savoury bread pudding. It's going to get turned into Savory Bread and Cheese Bake. The golden raisins in the bread will add just the slightest touch of sweetness. Not terribly light, but I'll keep the portions small and eat extra broccoli slaw, dressed with simple olive oil and lemon juice.

Still have Thursday and Friday to figure out...I'll get there. But it will contain one or more of the following: Swiss chard, zucchini, yellow and orange peppers, yams, potatoes or celeriac.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Meal Plan #12: Entertaining, Shortcuts, Staying Healthy

My meal planning last week happened on Friday night, while D had a playdate with his uncle, and we had a chance to get to the store, together, with just one kid. I was also doing some entertaining on Saturday, so needed to restock our suffering pantry.

(sister and niece visit for lunch)
Canadian Cheddar Soup (from The Canadian Living Cookbook)
Fresh bread from Christie's bakery
Spinach salad with goat cheese, tomatoes and salad mix (soynuts, sesame, sunflower seeds, and more)

(supper for a friend who is on his own with his kids while his wife is out of the country)
Grilled steak
Warm roasted potato salad
Roasted asparagus
Sauteed zucchini, peppers and mushrooms

Steakhouse wraps from a new magazine, Clean Eating (review coming soon), plus veggies and dip and coconut black rice pudding for dessert. Here's the staying healthy part. These "Clean Eating" recipes might feel a bit too much like 'diet food' for my liking, but it's basically steak and roasted sweet potatoes topped with a spinach and blue cheese sauce, which all has my approval, except I think I want more blue cheese...

Tonight we're trying another Clean Eating recipe: Baked Manicotti Bundles. It's a white fish and cream cheese filling in whole wheat lasagne noodles. I have cooked lasagne noodles in my freezer, so I'm pleased to find something to do with them. I won't be using the requested tilapia fillets, though—I'll be using the pickerel fillets in my freezer. Review to come...

Tuesday (vegetarian night)
Asparagus-mushroom quiche (I cheated and opted to buy a premade pie shell, since my rolling pins are already in storage due to the impending kitchen renovation. Not to mention that all of my kitchen surfaces are covered in flooring and countertop swatches... No recipe here, but I'll be taking pointers from Mollie Katzen's Enchanted Broccoli Forest.

Wednesday (family finger food night)
Chicken wings
Sweet potato fries
Veggies and dip

Heading out of town for Easter weekend first thing Friday, so will be pulling something ready made from the freezer in an effort to avoid leftovers. We still haven't got to the lamb and kidney bean stew leftovers, so that will probably be it.

Busy Mom Tip #8: Don't Let Delays Throw You

On weekends, one of our family's favourite things is a leisurely hot breakfast, and pancakes often play a key role. On Saturday, my husband and I agreed that Sunday morning should be a pancake morning. But then Saturday night happened. With Baby G waking up screaming every hour on the hour from 2AM to 8AM (teething? cold? earache? who knows) and D also waking in the middle of the night, I was in no shape to leap out of bed and start breakfast.

Hubbie quietly accepted his lot, entertaining the boys and serving them a basic breakfast (because every parent knows you can't delay feeding the kids) while I tried to catch up on sleep. He sadly let his visions of pancakes, bacon and eggs slip away into disappointment (hard to pull off while juggling two sleep-deprived kids). When I did finally surface, my first thought was, I still want my hot breakfast! So I made it for lunch.

As we sipped our noon coffees and tucked into buttermilk pancakes, bacon and basted eggs, we basked in the well-being that can be derived from a much-anticipated comfort meal. Hubbie said, "Suddenly, the crazy morning doesn't feel all that bad." Ahhhh.

Perfect Buttermilk Pancakes (adapted from The Rustic Table)

This recipe is our absolute favourite pancake recipe—we often add bananas and nuts to them, but yesterday, we simply made them 'plain'.

1 large egg
1 1/4 c. buttermilk
2 T. butter, melted
1/4 t. vanilla
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. white flour
2 T. sugar
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt

Preheat a griddle or large cast-iron skillet (we use a cast-iron griddle made for our gas range). Grease with oil. Beat egg in a medium bowl. Add the buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla and mix thoroughly. In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients thoroughly. Make a well in the centre and pour wet ingredients into dry. Stir lightly and quickly to incorporate. Lumps are okay.

Spoon batter onto the griddle, spacing pancakes well apart. I use a smallish serving spoon and make three-inch pancakes, fitting eight at a time on the griddle. Turn pancakes when the surface bubbles and the bubbles around the edges don't close over with batter. Serve with butter and maple syrup.

For banana pancakes, add one small mashed banana and a handful of chopped nuts to the batter.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Blog to Blog

I just posted a (mostly tongue in cheek and slightly partisan) piece on Election Debate Party Menu Ideas on the Planet S blog. Thought my readers might get a kick out of it.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Kitchen Renos Take Over

As I packed up tools and ingredients for storage to prepare for the beginning of our kitchen renovation, I made a list of all the things I won't be doing in my kitchen until it is finished:
• ricing potatoes
• rolling pastry
• making an Oreo cookiecrumb crust
• making green tea ice cream
...among other things. Not that I was really doing much of that prior to this renovation either, but now those special tools are even less handy than they were before. The good news is that the finished kitchen, with our old cabinets moved into the basement for added storage, will have tons of room for all my goodies. My cookbooks are all currently living in the basement as well, which turned out to be not as upsetting as I thought it might. They're all visible on a bookshelf, so I can still sort through them easily.

Having my kitchen under construction wreaks havoc on cooking opportunities. We've had takeout (pizza, then Thai food, then (embarrassingly) KFC) for three out of the last four meals here. Tonight I have pledged to cook (and I did make a hot breakfast this morning, including a hash of leftover root vegetable and wild rice pilaf mixed with moose sausage from Friday night's dinner, which was delicious), although all I'm going to make is spinach salad and:

Pasta with Asparagus and Toasted Garlic

1 bunch of asparagus
3/4 lb. spaghetti or other long pasta
2 T. olive oil
3 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1/4 t. red chili flakes (I'll likely add these later, for the sake of kids' palates, although I love them cooked right into the sauce)
1 2/3 T. anchovy paste (I will use a whole salt-packed anchovy fillet from Italian Star Deli)
1 T. basil
2 T. fresh lemon juice
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta. Drain, reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid. Quarter asparagus lengthwise. Heat olive oil. Tilt pan to create a pool of oil. Add garlic and chili flakes, if using. Stir 4-5 minutes, keeping garlic submerged in oil until it's golden brown. Remove from heat, stir one minute to cool. Add anchovies and asparagus. Return to heat, add water, cover and steam until asparagus is tender. Combine pasta, asparagus, basil and lemon juice. Top with cheese.

Photos on renovation to come. So far, so good. The removal of a wall has made a world of difference to the quality of light in here!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Foodie Book Review #1

I just finished a short, quick, melancholy yet beautiful read: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender. It's sort of the opposite premise to Like Water for Chocolate: a young girl suddenly gains the ability to taste the people and places linked to the food she eats. So she tastes the health or lack thereof in the animals, the factories behind processed food, and the emotions and personal situations of the people who cook her food. At first I was ready to write it off as just another junkfood for the mind kind of book, but when I finished, I was awash with feelings of bittersweet melancholy that were absolutely...delicious. A sad, yet hopeful book. Worth the read for anyone in love with foodie novels.

Hey readers! Anyone have any foodie book recommendations? I will start compiling a list of others that I like and I'll share soon!

Meal Plan #11: The Calm Before the Storm

At the end of this week, my kitchen will have undergone the first steps of deconstruction, beginning our renovation. I'm torn between wanting to get in a few last minute new recipes, and accepting that I might have to ease off on the cooking for the next six weeks or so (ACK!! That's a long time!!). One important thing I realized is that I have three large bags of beef bones in my freezer, waiting to be turned into stock. I kept forgetting about them, but now I've realized that if I don't make stock this week, they will be sitting in my freezer until the kitchen gets put back together in June, at which point it will be summer (at least in theory), and I will be loathe to have my stove on simmer for eight hours at a time. So. I will be making beef stock tomorrow. The resulting stock, stored in my freezer, will be far more useful in a pinch than a bag of bones.

So. Meal Plan.

Lamb ribs in honey and wine
Tabbouleh, with extra vegetables (green peppers, cucumber, tomatoes, red onion)

Tuesday (beef stock day/yoga)
Soba noodles with ginger sauce (also uses a couple of eggs from my glut of farm eggs thanks to my aunt. Brunch was great for using up eggs.)

Wednesday (preschool board meeting...)
Mexican polenta-stuffed peppers from Moosewood's Simple Suppers

Moosemeat sausage patties (that's right. Moose meat. I often end up with somewhat unusual things in my freezer, and wild game is one of my favourites)
Autumn vegetable, barley and wild rice pilaf (both the sausage patties and the pilaf are from Anita Stewart's The Flavours of Canada, a gorgeous cookbook that I discovered years ago while on a juice fast. My husband, who was also fasting, and I purchased the book and sat mesmerized, flipping through the pages, blurting out the names of recipes like some kind of prayer for healing: "Onion Soup a la Blanche de Chambly!!"; "Pan-seared Arctic Char with Golden Oat and Cheddar Cheese Risotto and Balsam Fir Browned Butter!!!" I've made both, by the way, and they are FANTASTIC). Incidentally, my favourite beef stock recipe comes from this book, too!
Green salad

Not sure...plans will be made once I have more information on the arrival of my demolition crew. Family will be showing up to help with knocking out walls, installing water heater, and so on. I will be in the process of hauling all of the cookbooks, currently shelved on those walls, into the basement, where they will have to reside until their new home is ready. Trying not to think about the level of inconvenience. The final result will be so so so worth it.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

And on the Seventh Day...

Usually on the seventh day, I plan meals for the next week. But today, after a rather busy weekend of hosting guests for both Saturday dinner and Sunday brunch, in among trips to home renovation and flooring stores on Friday and Saturday to move our kitchen renovation project forward, I have opted for rest.

The good news is, we have enough leftovers to carry us through tonight. I may be behind the eight ball for lunch tomorrow, but that's why I have cans of baked beans and salmon in my pantry.

Some delicious items passed through our kitchen over the last few days:

Thursday: to make up for our southern BBQ gluttony the day before, we went vegan (except for the Parmesan cheese...) and had Spaghetti Squash with lentil tomato sauce. I didn't have a recipe, but I did have some purchased tomato sauce in the fridge, so I sauteed extra onion and garlic, added the sauce (about 2 cups), an extra cup of homemade vegetable stock, and 3/4 cup French green lentils. Once it was all done cooking, I decided to add about 3 T. of reduced balsamic vinegar that was also in my fridge. The results were delicious--a slightly sweet and sour tanginess that made the dish much more interesting than I was expecting spaghetti squash and tomato sauce to be. Unfortunately, this is not a kid favourite, because D is a huge pasta fan, and he feels cheated when we use the word 'spaghetti' but there are only vegetables on his plate.

Friday: Noodles with Gingered Miso Carrots and Chicken from Mark Bittman's Food Matters. This was one of those meals that I was sure would appeal to D, but we just got him on a bad day. A very simple noodle dish of stir-fried chicken and fresh ginger, grated carrots, and a simple but delicious sauce of equal parts miso and pasta cooking water. My husband and I liked it. D gave it a pass. In his defence, he had eaten a monstrous lunch of leftover ribs, chicken, apple slaw with honey Dijon dressing (also from Food Matters) and brown rice rotini, which had been intended for baby G, and we served supper early so D could go on an adventure with his uncle.

Saturday: made dinner for my inlaws who graciously watched the boys while we did a renovation shopping intensive that afternoon. Had salmon marinating while we were away, and a brown rice pilaf ready to bake (from Whitewater Cooks at Home). We got back from our shopping, I threw the fish and pilaf in the oven, tossed another batch of the apple slaw, steamed some asparagus and made homemade chocolate pudding, and we were sitting down to eat 45 minutes after we got home. I will never reminisce about Jello pudding mixes ever again. That pudding was amazing, and the only thing that took time was chopping the chocolate. D ate four helpings of salmon and two spears of asparagus as well as tastes of salad, pilaf and pudding.

Sunday: my inspiration for the chocolate pudding was that I was going to have extra egg yolks leftover from making buckwheat waffles with cassis, yogurt and granola. I used two in the pudding, and four to make blender Hollandaise to top off Eggs Benedict Salad. The salad in particular got rave reviews. I love buckwheat, and was delighted to find a good waffle recipe. And the cassis sauce was the perfect excuse to open Stonewall Kitchens' Kir Royale Jam. Both are definite make-agains. In fact, I may make the salad again tomorrow for lunch, as I have all the fixings still in my fridge!

Meal plan to come tomorrow, after an evening of rest.