Monday, July 25, 2011

An Offal Snack!

Yesterday I saved the hearts and livers from the three chickens I fried for supper. I just sauteed them with oyster sauce and water for a quick pre-dinner snack...and my boys inhaled them! Am I the only person who considers chicken innards a potential kid snack?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Grandpa's Birthday Dinner

My father-in-law plays a big part in our lives, since he watches the boys three mornings a week while I work. I can never thank my in-laws enough for all their help, so I give what thanks I can in the form of cooking. Today was his birthday, so we invited uncles and cousins over to share in a meal that Grandpa would enjoy:

Deep-fried chicken(s)
Boiled new potatoes with farm butter and fresh dill
French-cut green beans from the Farmers' Market (I bought a new bean Frencher, and D loved helping me cut the beans!)
Corn on the cob
Birthday cake!

...and not just any birthday cake, but mixed-berry chiffon cake with almond cream cheese frosting. When I asked him what kind of cake he wanted, he said, "anything sweet and gooey and not good for me." Not only does this cake fit the bill; it is also perfectly seasonal, since it calls for a huge mound of fresh berries.

I made the cake once before, but not since I got an awesome new kitchen, equipped with a Kitchenaid mixer. The recipe is painfully complicated—in particular, it calls for almond paste, which I have learned from experience is hard to find outside of the Christmas season. So I made my own. On top of that, you make a white chocolate cream custard filling, and the cake instructions direct you to put different amounts of batter into two cake pans so that one cake can be cut in half and the other left whole, to create three layers. I think the last time I made this cake, I just made three cakes. This time, I tried to follow the instructions to the letter, only to find that the recipe was assuming I had eight cups of batter, and I did not. It also assumes that the filling, when chilled for several hours, is quite stiff. My filling was not. So when I tried to 'fill' the cake, it just ran over the sides and the layers slid all over the place.

It didn't really matter in the end, because the cream cheese frosting is supposed to be laid on thick enough to create a bowl for the berries on top of the cake. The final product wowed the crowd in spite of the multiple moments of self-doubt I experienced along the way.

We had one minor technical malfunction on the day of the party, because the propane tank had to be moved to the turkey fryer, and I thought we had another one I could use on the bbq at the same time, so we could boil the potatoes and grill the corn outside. I discovered late in the game that the second propane tank was both empty and expired, so the potatoes and the corn ended up being boiled in the house. Thank God for air conditioning.

Grandpa felt appropriately pampered, which is what mattered, and D was super excited to present Grandpa with the first piece of cake. D got the second piece. And ate the entire piece, quite a feat after having filched a large portion of one of the chickens while I was cutting it into pieces.

Much of our focus for the rest of the week will be on planning and packing for a fairly major road trip to the Sunshine Coast (over a series of days, with several stops along the way). I'm sitting in front of a list of potential snack ideas that will be easy to hand to kids in the backseat:

Mini-Babybels/cheese sticks
fruit: berries, peaches, bananas, apples
trail mix (D's favourite)
veggie sticks: carrots, snap peas
squish'ems (apple sauce or baby food in resealable squeeze-packs)—discovered these first while traveling in Australia; rediscovered them at WalMart. May be the only thing I ever buy at WalMart. I'll be making a 'squish'em' run this week to stock up. Mostly these would be for G—relatively mess-free instant snacks—but I can guarantee that D won't let them pass him by.
I may give in and buy some yogurt tubes. I don't usually go for the sugar-packed yogurt, but depending on the mood I'm in when I reread the label, I might still get them for their novelty value.
Sardines (what?! you say? Yes, you heard me—protein-dense foods that are easy to serve are my goal, and while I wouldn't just hand a sardine over to my kids in their carseats, they do make a nice quick sandwich or snack at a picnic site. And my dad is traveling with us for the first three days (we've begged them to come along and bring their camper), and sardines are one of his favourite things. An unlikely treat for everyone.)

I'm open to other suggestions for travel snacks, too. Anyone?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sushiro...So Good

I had a fantastic evening last night, sampling amazing food at Sushiro (the beef tataki is so delicious! I'm not sure how beef comes out tasting creamy, but they did it! While everything tasted good, the beef tataki was what made me stop, set down my chopsticks, sit still and let the waves of bliss wash over me. The tako yaki and spicy octopus salad were both excellent as well) and connecting with a group of amazing women. We're all mothers, mostly with two kids, as well as having too much education and interesting careers. Getting some kid-free downtime with and moral support from my peers is exactly what I need to stay sane. And getting all of that over an amazing meal and some delicious drinks makes it that much better.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cool Lunch

I'm having leftover ziti with grilled gazpacho sauce and sausages for lunch, and just like real gazpacho, it's even better served cold! Delicious! And Baby G is hoovering it up. D, on the other hand, appears to lose his entire appetite when it gets hot. He reserves the right to eat only frozen juice pops and fruit. Can't blame him, really.

Grilling in the Heat

I decided to spare my house last night and cooked dinner outside. I forgot that that meant I would be standing in front of a hot grill in 30+ degrees in 70+ humidity for the duration of the cooking. It did make the rosé taste particularly good.

I have a women's night out this evening at Sushiro (YAY!), so my meal plan this week includes ample leftovers so I don't have to cook for the boys tonight. Last night I made Ziti with Grilled Gazpacho Sauce and Sausage, using kamut spaghetti instead of ziti, since that's what I had. It's an amazing dish—with one small word of warning. It says it serves 4, and our family of four usually manages to eat an entire recipe that states it makes four servings, because we eat a lot. We barely ate half of what this recipe produced. Which suits my purposes, so I'm not complaining. But whatever you do, don't double the recipe if you have six guests. There will be more than enough.

To feed my long lost friends tomorrow, I've decided to do a nice hot weather dish of Kujolpan, a make it yourself dish of pancakes and eight fillings. I have the plate for it, and it's fun to use. I'm also going to serve Miang Kam, Thai lettuce wraps with fresh fillings. I'll save the heavy stuff for dessert when I make my favourite Thai sticky rice pudding with fruit.

I said I wasn't going to cook today, but it may be wise for me to get started on some of the fillings today. They're very simple, but do require some chopping and prepping, so it would be good to get them out of the way so that there's more time for visiting tomorrow.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Returned from Cowpersonland

Just spent the weekend 'on the range' on our annual "Wyse Womyn's Trail Ride." It has also been known as the "Wyld Womyn's Trail Ride." I joke that whether it's "Wyse" or "Wyld" depends on the amount of gin consumed around the campfire. It is always a wonderful weekend, and always involves cooking over an open fire.

My mom and I are on supper duty, in spite of her efforts to shift to breakfast and lunch. I think we manage suppers a little too well, so we'll never get out of it. I really don't mind, though. No matter how tired I am after a day of horseback riding in the hot/wet/windy weather, I always have enough energy to pour myself a cold beer and sip it while marinating steaks and cutting up fresh veggies to feed everyone. The favourite meal this year was grilled corn in the husk, grilled steak, grilled zucchini (are you sensing a theme?) and steamed baby beets and greens. The fire was a bit cool, and so those people who really wanted their meat well done had to put it back on the grill after I thought I was done cooking; but anyone who likes their meat rare-ish thought it was perfect.

I made a popular salad recipe the next night, which is when we invite men and kids to come for a weiner roast (otherwise there are no men allowed). I was asked to post this recipe for Southwestern black bean salad:

1 19 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 14 oz can corn, drained
1/2 sweet red pepper, finely chopped
1/4 c. red onion, chopped
1/2 seedless cucumber, cut in small cubes
1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro


2 cloves minced garlic
1 t. seasoned salt
1/2 t. seasoned pepper
1 t. cumin
Juice of half a lime (about a tablespoon)
3 T. olive oil

Combine salad ingredients and toss gently. Pour dressing over and toss well. Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes to allow flavours to blend. Best served at room temperature.

I made the dressing ahead of time and brought the cans and veggies along with me. Pretty easy to throw together and very popular.

More to come this week--a summer supper for friends visiting from New Zealand (they've been overfed and over-holidayed till now, so I'm going to cook up something lighter and refreshing). But now I have to run out to the Eastern Market to pick up groceries for said supper. Later!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Two Delicious Dinners

Our kitchen is now completed to the point that I can count on one hand what is left to finish (not including restocking the shelves with all the stuff that has been living in the basement for the last two months). I am LOVING it. In between my cabinet makers' frantic efforts to finish (they've been here every day this week), I have made some delicious dinners, as well as two kinds of homemade popsicles, and hosted a Pampered Chef party.

Mostly I was just making do with what I had in the fridge, but the meals turned out well enough to make again on purpose. So I thought I'd share.

Grilled Taco Pizza

Your favourite fresh pizza dough (enough to roll out two 12-inch rounds—sorry, I didn't think to measure...about three cups?)
1/4 c. olive oil
1 lb. ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 T. chili powder
1 t. each oregano and cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1 250 ml jar of bottled salsa
1 c. cooked or canned pinto beans
1/2 c. sliced stuffed green olives
1 1/2 c. grated Monterey Jack

Preheat your grill to medium heat. Roll pizza dough out on a floured surface, creating two thin 12-inch rounds. Set aside with olive oil.

Brown beef, onion, garlic in a pan. As it starts to cook, stir in chili powder, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper. Stir and simmer until cooked through. Drain if the beef is fatty (I didn't find it necessary, if you scoop out the meat with a slotted spoon).

Bring all of your pizza ingredients to the grill, as you will build the pizza while it is grilling. Place one of the rounds on the grill; brush the top with olive oil. Close the lid for about two minutes, checking to make sure the crust isn't burning. Once the bottom is lightly browned, flip the crust. As quickly as possible, spread salsa over the crust, then sprinkle with a generous amount of ground beef, half the pinto beans, half the olives, and half the cheese. Close the lid of your grill and let cook for about 5 minutes. Check half way through to ensure that nothing is burning.

When cheese is melted and crust is well-browned, slide onto a cookie sheet or plate, let cool a minute, cut and serve. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

A great way to enjoy pizza on a hot day without heating your kitchen!

Farm Egg Omelet with Garlic Scapes, Mushrooms and Cheddar

This dish surprised me with how delicious it was. I have only ever had garlic scapes (the tender young stems of hardneck garlic) in stir-fries, and I was worried that I wasn't using them in a manner that most suited them, but I have a glut of eggs, and my friend had brought me the scapes from her garden, and we're leaving for the weekend tomorrow, so they needed to be used. At first I thought I would slice them like green onions and put them right in the egg mixture. But I forgot how dense they are, kind of like firm green beans, so instead I decided to slice them in 1-inch lengths (like green beans) and saute them with the mushrooms, then use the combination as the filling for the omelet, topped with 2 year-old cheddar. We ate the omelets with our first pot of boiled new potatoes from the Farmers' Market, topped with fresh dill and farm butter. Oh. So. Good.

6 large eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
4-6 oz. fresh garlic scapes, cut in 1" lengths
5 large fresh mushrooms, sliced thin
1 1/2 c. grated old cheddar cheese
butter for the pan(s)

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of butter. When the butter has melted, add the garlic scapes and mushrooms, along with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Stir occasionally until the mushrooms are cooked and beginning to brown, and the garlic scapes are bright green and tender. Remove from heat and set aside.

Beat 3 eggs in a small mixing bowl until frothy. Add a quick splash of water to the bowl (about a tablespoon) and season with salt and pepper. Heat an omelet pan or your favourite skillet and add a tablespoon of butter. When the butter has melted, pour the eggs into the pan, let sit for a minute or so until the bottom begins to set. Swirl the pan to run the remaining liquid around the sides of the pan, and make small tears in the omelet, allowing the liquid to fill the holes.

Once the liquid is no longer moving around, place half your filling onto half of the egg in the pan. Top with half the cheese. Carefully lift the other half off the pan and fold over the filling. Cover pan and reduce heat. Let sit undisturbed until the egg is set to your liking and the cheese has melted. Slide omelet onto a plate, and keep warm while you make the second omelet using the remaining ingredients. Or, feed the first omelet to your hungry family while you make the second one to feed yourself...

We couldn't keep the omelet or the cute little baby potatoes on the kids' plates. There were several refills. A hit all around. And then for dessert we enjoyed my second batch of homemade popsicles: the first was watermelon-mint; the second was strawberry buttemilk. We will never go back to storebought! So easy an delicious.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Rick Bayless Rocks

We had friends over last night for dinner (I'm putting this new kitchen through its paces!). Since I had purchased tortillas at the Farmers' Market and I had a small package of pork cutlets that I had thawed, I combined the two ingredients and decided to go Mexican. I pulled out Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen. I found just the thing:

Tangy Yucatecan Grilled Pork with Roasted Onions and Fresh Garnishes (the recipe is posted on this blog)
Classic Mexican Fried Beans with Onions and Garlic (using lard, baby!)
Fresh tortillas
Sliced radishes and cucumbers for added crunch
Plus: strawberry shortcake for dessert!

Basically all you do to make the grilled pork is marinate the pork in lime juice, grill it, grill some onions, toss in lime juice, salt and pepper, and serve on a bed of shredded cabbage tossed in lime, salt and pepper. Wrap a bit of everything up in the warm tortillas, along with refried beans, cucumber and radish, and enjoy. It was heavenly. Fresh, crunchy, warm, tangy, silky...just so good. Every recipe of Rick Bayless's I've ever made has been fabulous, as long as you have the ingredients and the time available. Oh. And his margarita recipe is good, too.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


We spent the bulk of our day out and about while our cabinet people worked from mid-morning to 9PM trying to finish up our cabinets. We planned to be out for the morning, so we went to the Farmers' Market. Giuseppe's quiche (my two top flavours are ham-cheddar-onion and mushroom-tarragon) is my all-time favourite breakfast here in the city. Our usual routine is: drop off hubbie and the boys in front of the nearest busker. While they dance, I get in line for quiche, then get in line for coffee and a muffin (black currant and flax is my favourite) at the Prairie Pie Company, pick up quiche, scan (hopelessly) for a table, and then head to the playground with quiche, coffee and kids in tow. Baby G sits in his stroller and chows down on the quiche, D takes breaks from trying to master the monkey bars to run over to where we're sitting, grab a bite of quiche, beg for a sip of our latte, and then back to his playground antics. It's a relatively relaxing way to have breakfast.

When we arrived home just at lunch time, we discovered our kitchen in fairly major disarray. We decided for an impromptu dim sum lunch. After a quick diaper change and a minor meltdown by D who didn't want to do anything but play with his new bike, we headed back to the west side of town, only to discover that the Mandarin, our favourite dim sum place, is closed for holidays. We opted instead to head down the street to formerly Saskatoon Garden, formerly Harbour View, now (we just discovered) Good Fortune Grand Restaurant. It's amazing what ripping up the carpet will do for the looks of a dim sum place—that simple change made the newly named restaurant seem bigger and cleaner. There are new fish tanks at the front, as well as a bbq window, containing whole bbq duck and pork. When I say whole bbq duck, I mean heads and all. Very cool!

I certainly wasn't hungry enough to really go to town on dim sum, and D was punchy enough to disrupt the entire meal, but what I did taste was absolutely excellent. We had our usual favourites, rice rolls, shrimp dumplings, pork dumplings, bbq pork buns, sticky rice for the kids, bean curd pork rolls...and that pretty much was enough for me. But then they brought around the 'adventurous' cart, with beef tendon, squid, and other delights. I actually love beef tendon, but was nowhere near hungry enough to tackle an entire plate on my own (no help from hubbie on that front). I couldn't resist the squid though—these were the cutest little baby squid I'd ever seen, with little bulbous bodies and the tiniest tentacles, all bathed in a curry broth. THAT I could manage all on my own. This place is flagged for a Planet S review in the near future. YUM!

We made it back home at 2PM with exhausted kids in tow. I was also ready for a nap, so we all had a little siesta for a couple of hours, at which point we realized we were STILL not going to be able to use the kitchen. Darn! And I had come home from the Farmers' Market with fresh peas, new potatoes, and freshly cooked tortillas that I was dying to use.

We were running out of ideas for a dinner out, so we thought we would try living like the majority of Saskatonians do, and head to 8th Street. We were thinking pasta at Eastside Marios would be simple enough; little did we know that you can't just drop in to Eastside Marios at 6:30 on a Saturday night. Half hour wait! Red Lobster was walking distance, so we tried that. Longer wait! Huh. These are not places I would ever plan to visit in advance, but apparently many people do. I noticed that across the street was the Afghan place I hadn't yet tried. We left the car parked and walked across the street. Only to discover that it had since closed and was in the process of being replaced by another restaurant. Last try: Lebanese Kitchen. No high chairs, one single table, since it's primarily a take out place, but we knew they would be friendly and the food would be good. After all, they had hummous, always popular with the kids.

We completely over ordered, because by that time we were starving. No worries, though—we have no problem with having leftover Fatayer, their little delicious pastries. We ordered a mixed dozen of those, some kibbi, tabbouleh, hummous, and a Zatar pie, since it is one of the best things I've ever tasted. We visited with the guys who run the place, as well as another lady who eats there often, and left feeling nurtured and satisfied.

The kitchen renovation has advanced from 85% to 95% complete, and is looking better and better all the time. Just one last shelf, one last cupboard door, one last drawer, and kicks, crown molding and handles left to go...oh yeah...and lights, and installing the sink...maybe we're only at 92%.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Burger Night

As promised, Friday night was planned during the week and involved burgers and good friends whom we haven't been able to connect with for a long while. We got to show off our (almost) finished kitchen, and then opted to dine outside, since it was warm and a brisk wind was keeping the bugs away.

Our timing for the meal was rather tight due to our last minute decision to take the kids berry picking, since it was my husband's day off. We spent part of the afternoon at the Strawberry Ranch. It was a good day to be out there—not too busy, and lots of fat strawberries. We filled our two gallons so fast we decided to pick another one. It was also the first day of Saskatoon berry picking. We just bought a couple pounds of those.

I had intended to make a dessert with the strawberries, but since we didn't get home until 4:30, we decided to just serve them with cream (which is delicious enough!).

The rest of the meal was inspired in large part by

Sweet and sour cucumber with fresh dill
Portobello burgers with basil mustard sauce
My own standard hamburger recipe
Lettuce, tomatoes, cheddar, buns, ketchup, mustard
Our friends brought along a delicious salad
Fresh strawberries and Saskatoons with cream

I've been wanting to share my hamburger recipe. It's dead simple, and best used if you have a glut of hamburger meat, which we always do, since we get our beef in bulk. No filler required. Just beef and seasonings. Years ago I spent quite a bit of time researching the best hamburger for a party that I catered, and this is what I have come up with. I have never gone back to the traditional egg/breadcrumb approach, and I have actually converted my parents to this recipe:

1 lb. ground beef (lean or regular, your choice)
1 t. kosher salt
1 t. dried chopped garlic
1 t. dried onion flakes
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 t. red chilie flakes (optional)

Mix all ingredients together well, form into patties and grill. Enjoy! We did!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Crispy Skin—Not Just for Chicken

Hours later, I am still relishing the memory of tonight's dinner: crispy-skinned steelhead trout with salsa verde rice. I don't know why it took me this many years to learn how to let my frying pan get hot enough to do justice to the skin.

I meant to buy salmon, because that is what the recipe called for, but when I got to Charlie's Seafood Market today, I discovered that the steelhead looked fresher, and was a full $7/kg cheaper than the wild sockeye salmon. And the trout is local. That clinched it.

This afternoon while Baby G napped, D (who is growing out of his naps...*sigh*) and I roamed the garden and collected herbs and onions for the salsa verde. I couldn't distract him from his toys until I offered to let him run the food processor, which he did with gusto. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that he couldn't stop sampling the finished salsa verde—which you'd think would be too strongly flavoured for an almost-three-year old—this kid grazes on fresh chives, sage and oregano on a daily basis, after all. I finally had to call him off and tempt him with watermelon, so that we'd have some salsa left for supper.

I used the burner on the side of my gas grill to cook the trout, since our hood fan isn't hooked up yet (arrgh) and our gas stove puts out too much heat on 30 degree days. It was a good thing, too, since the oil spatter was impressive. I let the pan get good and hot, and left the fish longer than I was comfortable, walking away so I wasn't tempted to worry them. The results were fantastic--the skin was crisp and solid, the meat had started to caramelize a bit around the edges, and with a quick flip (no sticking in my stainless steel pan), the meat was just barely cooked through and still creamy delicate.

I have never really enjoyed eating salmon or trout skin, because it is usually soft, sticky and somewhat slimy. Now I know that if I'll just give it enough heat and enough time, I'll be rewarded with a savoury, crispy, slightly greasy (but full of Omega 3s!) prize.

Crispy-skinned Steelhead Trout with Salsa Verde Rice (adapted from Ross Dobson's Kitchen Seasons)

1 cup brown rice
1/2 cup wild rice (or use another 1/2 cup brown)
2 T. peanut oil
4 trout fillets with skin on
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedges, to serve

Salsa verde:
1 large handful of chopped, fresh parsley
1 large handful of chopped fresh tarragon or basil (I used tarragon)
1 large handful celery leaves
6 green onions (I used 3 that I had and topped them up with Egyptian onion from my garden)
4 salt packed anchovies (or use oil-packed)
2 T. capers (I use salt-packed)
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Put all of the ingredients, except the olive oil and lemon juice, in a food processor and coarsely chop. Add oil in a thin stream and blend until fairly smooth. Pour into a bowl and stir in lemon juice. Set aside. Cook the rice, then rinse in cold water and drain. Mix with the salsa verde.

Season skin of trout well with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a heavy frying pan over high heat. When the oil is very hot, add the fish, skin side down and cook for four minutes, until the skin is golden and crispy. Turn over and cook remove from heat. Fish will finish cooking in the hot pan while you prepare plates. Serve the fish with the rice and lemon wedges.

I also added my first fresh lettuce salad and sage flowers from my garden as a side. Fresh and delicious!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"Honey, is there any rosé in the fridge?"

This has become the daily question I can set my watch by. It is spoken about eight minutes after my husband has walked in the door from work. The answer, in case you were wondering, is, "yes."

This year, we stocked up on rosé. We have decided it is the perfect summer wine. It's cold, it's not too sweet, and it tastes good with all sorts of food. It tastes particularly good with Mediterranean dishes. So we enjoyed it with the Greek salad pitas. But we also enjoyed it with the grilled Asian chicken heart skewers and soba noodles. Not so much Mediterranean, and perhaps a Riesling would have been a better choice, but the rosé was just fine. (As an aside, I was amazed at my kids' response to the chicken hearts. They both went crazy for them! Maybe it's because it's the only meat I've given them this week...)

Tonight, the thought of rosé got me thinking more about tapas and antipasti, and the kind of light, refreshing finger foods I enjoy eating when the weather heats up. Alongside my roasted pepper bread salad with fresh garden herbs, I added a simple plate of radishes and well-rinsed salt-packed anchovies (an amazing combination), and then decided to use up a half cantaloupe by wrapping prosciutto around it. I could seriously eat like this every day. I just hope we have enough rosé to keep up. 

I'm fairly serious about staying well stocked in the rosé department. I'm taking note of when and if we run out—we belong to a wine club, and if we don't make it to cooler weather with a couple bottles still to spare, I'll have to order more for next year. My husband and I agree it's a lucky thing we're taking a holiday at the end of July and traveling through B.C. wine country. That should ease the pressure on our dwindling cellar.

In the meantime, I was trying to decide what wine we might want to sip alongside our salmon with salsa verde rice tomorrow. Pinot Noir would be okay, but it's kinda warm for a hot day...don't have any big white wine on hand...I guess we'll have to put another bottle of rosé in the fridge, just in case.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Home at Last!!

Oh the many things to be thankful for:

It's finally truly summer!
We're back in our house!
My kitchen is awesome! ...although, sitting at about 85% complete.

I can't unpack everything into my new kitchen just yet, so we're still sort of camping out in the space, but at least we're home and moving in the direction of completion. I got confirmation that my horribly delayed sink has finally shipped, so it is also in motion. I would have been able to unpack all my stuff if I hadn't insisted that my 39" upper cabinets have four shelves instead of the usual three. What is the use of having extra tall cabinets if you don't have any more surface area for storage than in average cabinets?? Our cabinet guy went away to cut more shelves.

In spite of all that, we are in love with our new space. No photos just yet, because we haven't quite made it to "after". I will be sure to post them when everything is 100% complete.

In the meantime, our first night back was Canada Day, and I served up a simple celebratory meal of grilled steak, corn on the cob, roast baby potatoes, grilled asparagus, and spinach and strawberry salad with sugar pecans for a couple of friends who had offered to help with the restocking of the kitchen. It was a nice way to break in the space. I tracked down the salad with my new app, which I've been enjoying. It sort of eases the sting of being excluded from the epicurious app because I don't have an iPhone...

Now that the heat has turned up a bit, I'm gung ho to dust off my favourite summertime recipes. Last night we had chicken lettuce wraps and one of my favourite summer salads, cucumber watermelon salad with hoisin-lime dressing. While planning for a week of warm weather, I checked off several other recipes that will resurface over the next couple months of summer: Vietnamese salad rolls, ziti with grilled sausage and gazpacho sauce, and gazpacho, to name a few. I have it on my to-do list to use my turkey fryer this summer for traditional southern fried chicken as well, in case any of you were becoming concerned that my cooking was becoming overly healthy.

My husband's first request when I asked him for summer cooking ideas was, "Hunza wraps!" This was a golden discovery a few years ago, and we have made them every summer since. I originally found it on line, but can no longer locate the site. It's a perfect, easy, healthy, delicious no-cook meal for the dog days of summer:

Hunza Wraps

2 T. lemon juice
1 lb. (or one package) cubed tofu
3 T. red miso (or whatever miso you have on hand)
1/2 c. warm water
3/4 c. tahini

In a large bowl, sprinkle lemon juice over the tofu. Dissolve the miso in the warm water, then blend with the tahini. I use a hand blender, which is quick and easy.

Mix into the miso mixture:
1 1/2 t. garlic powder
2 T. dried dill
1 T. balsamic vinegar
2 T. toasted sesame seeds

Add the miso mixture to the tofu and toss.

Spread generously on a tortilla. Add sprouts, green onions, lettuce and black olives, and wrap.

We have taken to pre-mixing the tofu and sauce and taking this with us on camping trips. They're so quick and easy to throw together while you're setting up camp and getting the fire going. And so, so satisfying. And vegan! I'm always pleasantly surprised when vegan recipes turn out delicious and satisfying as well as healthy.

D enjoyed hunza wraps last year. This year, apparently, he has decided he doesn't like tofu. I think the heat might be affecting his appetite, or perhaps he's getting to an age where he is becoming more fussy. He's kind of funny—today at lunch I made an Asian iced tea packet and D announced that it was bitter. I tasted his drink, and it was bitter. His was in a smaller glass and therefore steeped stronger than the one I made for myself. Is it normal for a two year old to identify flavours like "bitter"?

Baby G on the other hand, has become a bottomless pit regarding food in the last few weeks. He packed away most of half of a wrap (except the black olives—he gave them a go, but then shuddered and spit them out), and later had a third of a cup of yogurt before bed. Here's hoping this helps him sleep through the night.

So this week's meal plan goes something like this:

Greek salad with warmed herb vinaigrette in pita pockets

Grilled skewered chicken hearts (that's right, I've got chicken hearts burning a hole in my freezer, and they're going on the grill!)
Soba noodle and veggie saute

Italian bread salad

Crispy-skinned salmon with salsa verde rice from Ross Dobson's Kitchen Seasons (can't wait to put all my beautiful herbs to work in this one!)

I only got as far as Thursday, because I suspect there will be more entertaining on the horizon. I figure I'll leave the planning of Friday's meal until I know who is going to share it with us.