Monday, October 31, 2011

Love, Loss and Cooking

One of my very close friends is grieving the loss of her mother. Her funeral took place today. I knew this, but in the Halloween madness it was not front and centre for me until I remembered a recipe. Then it all came flooding back.

It all started with Halloween, and the discovery that my jack o'lantern pumpkins were lovely and fresh, with beautiful, thick flesh. I decided they were too good to go to waste, and planned to haul them in before they froze and turn them into something yummy.

The first time I met her, my friend's mom and I got talking about food. I was in my early college years, and just getting warmed up when it came to my food obsession. She had several interesting books and magazines, which I leafed through as we visited. While I was there, I copied several recipes down, by hand, onto folscap. One of them was Harvest Pumpkin Bisque with Nutmeg Thyme Croutons. I have made this soup at least once a year since, from that same piece of folded paper, stuffed into my recipe box. It is one of my favourite soups, and I am grateful to my friend's mom for introducing it to me, every time I taste it.

Fitting, then, that I should suddenly crave it as her nearest loved ones are wishing her a final farewell. As for me, I will make soup.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Halloween Dilemmas

It still has not been agreed upon what we will hand out to trick-or-treaters on Halloween. We are not against candy per se, but we also don't like to buy into rampant commercialism either. Last year was a compromise. I found some Kernels popcorn bags, and bought a few, and when those ran out we offered raisins. Raisins didn't elicit particularly enthusiastic responses from our ghoulish guests.

What I really wish is that people weren't so paranoid about homemade and unwrapped gifts. The whole 'razor in the apple' fiasco really ramped up purchased, pre-packaged Halloween treats, now didn't they? How convenient for the makers of those pre-packaged Halloween treats. (Oops, my husband's conspiracy theory tendencies are rubbing off on me.) I've been trying to figure out a way around that, like putting my address on a sticker on a popcorn ball, for example, in an effort to reassure parents that I'm not trying to poison their children. But there are obviously inherent flaws in that approach as well. The days are counting down, and no satisfactory solution has been reached. Help!

Then there's the preschool party. We've been asked to bring something, and I wanted it to be at least slightly thematic, since I'm a compulsive themer, but I didn't have a lot of time or inclination to do anything over the top. They are three- and four-year olds, after all. They aren't going to care THAT much.

A quick internet search found this: Martha Stewart's Goblin Flatbreads. Perfect! Nut free, healthy and low-key enough to please the teacher who likes to encourage people not to go overboard, using pizza dough that was already in my freezer, and I think (hope) the kids will enjoy it, as long as they're not too freaked out by the little ghosties. I'll let you know!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday Dinner Menu

My husband's coworker and his wife have two boys, 5 and 3. We've been trying to get their boys and our boys together for a playdate, so we decided to invite them for dinner. Success all around! The boys had a great (loud) rough and tumble (but no crying) play, and the rest of us enjoyed a dinner that pays homage one last time to autumn fare:

Fresh vegetables and yogurt cheese dip with olives and sweet pickles (a stand-by for me from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian). Recipe below.
Sirloin steak with gorgonzola sauce (a la Filet Mignon with Gorgonzola Sauce—all my favourite ingredients in one sauce!)
Buttermilk mashed potatoes
Roasted beet salad with beet greens and feta 
Balsamic roasted kabocha squash
Homemade oatmeal raisin cookie ice cream sandwiches (from Sarah McClachlan's cookbook, Plenty)

Poured a Chilean Cabernet Merlot to go with, and enjoyed immensely.

Yogurt Cheese Dip

Okay, so if you've never made yogurt cheese, you should really give it a try. Dead easy, especially if you have cheesecloth on hand. I actually didn't this time, so did it the lazy way—just dumped a whole 750ml container of plain yogurt into a fine mesh sieve, placed it over a bowl, and let it drain over night. The resulting 'yogurt cheese' is the texture of soft cream cheese. The dip then calls for you to mix in:
• 1 large clove finely chopped garlic
• 20 pimento stuffed green olives
• a small handful of sweet pickles (I use homemade bread and butter pickles, but gherkins or any other sweet pickles would work)
• a pinch of something spicy (I use coarse ground chilis, often used in Korean cooking)
• salt

Mix thoroughly and serve with anything you can think of—potato chips go fantastically with this dip, but we served it today with newly dug carrots, kohlrabi and radishes. There's a lot left over though, so some of it might find itself placed next to a bowl of chips...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Odd Bits: A Surprise Only a Foodie Could Love

One of my oldest friends orders books for the public library. She, being a foodie herself, enjoys encouraging my own foodiness, and will occasionally come across a cookbook that she thinks I'll like. She then puts it on order on my library account. I then get a call from the library, saying the book I requested has arrived. When I get there, I discover that I haven't requested the book at all, but rather it has been requested on my behalf by my thoughtful friend, who is so far two for two in nailing the kinds of books I'd like to read.

The first one was The Flavor Thesaurus, a collection of 99 essential flavours, and a discussion of how those flavours work together, with examples of chefs who have used them and/or recipes where they have been used together. I immediately fell in love with it, and tried to renew it, but it had already been requested, so I had to return it before I could finish with it. I haven't yet gone out and purchased my own copy, but I'm definitely going to—it's a book I will use as a resource, I'm sure. 

The second is Odd Bits: How to Cook the Rest of the Animal, by Jennifer McLagan, author of Bones: Recipes, History and Lore and Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient. I have only flipped through Bones, but loved the idea of the book. When Odd Bits turned out to be my "library gift," I couldn't wait to dig into it. In fact, I couldn't resist flipping it open while stopped at a light on the short drive home.

I know I'm at risk of alienating myself from my vegetarian friends by getting into this, but I regularly have 'odd bits' in my freezer. My dad delights in passing on some of the more obscure meats that he ends up with from butchering his own animals, and friends will often line me up with their weird meat connections. Until this evening, I had a beef heart, beef liver, soup bones, chicken hearts, and pork hocks in my freezer, along with the usual hamburger, chicken, sausage, steak and so on. The heart is no longer in the freezer, because it has been transformed into a gorgeous Moroccan braise with dates and preserved lemon, served over couscous, thanks to McLagan's beautiful book, and most importantly, thanks to my girlfriend, who saw a cookbook with raw pig's feet on the cover, and thought of me.

I'll be inviting my girlfriend over for Sweet and Sour Pork Hocks with Savoy Cabbage and Capers to thank her.

One Chicken, Three Great Meals

I see many benefits to buying local, happy chickens and storing them in my freezer. This week I realized how easy it is to stretch one of those largish birds (just under 6lbs.) into three weeknight meals. I'm usually not one for economizing when it comes to food, but this week I was quite pleased with the idea of using one bird three different ways.

I already mentioned the first meal: Mark Bittman's Curried Chickpeas and Cauliflower with Chicken, which I made by chopping up one leg, thigh and partial breast of my still mostly-frozen chicken. I saved the bones for later.

Next came another Bittman recipe, Anise-scented Poached Chicken with Squash which I shared in an earlier blog, except this time I had a kabocha squash, so I used that. I made the white-cut chicken dipping sauce to go with it, and served it with the poaching broth over soba noodles, and it was a hit with everyone.

The last day, we were down to a pretty pared-down chicken carcass, but it was enough to make into a broth, and save the meat for stew. I used the left over poaching liquid from the day before, and made a standard chicken stock:

Chicken pieces/back/neck/giblets
1 coarsely chopped onion
1 coarsely chopped carrot
1 coarsely chopped celery stalk
bay leaf
a few sprigs of fresh marjoram, thyme and parsley (still growing in my garden!)
Cover with water (in this case, I used yesterday's poaching liquid as part of the water I added) and bring to a boil. Lower heat, skim off foam and let simmer gently for two hours.

Strain solids and remove all the pieces containing meat and let them cool.

Then make the stew (inspired by the chicken stew in Quinoa 365)
1 T. chicken fat (skimmed from the stock)
1 c. diced carrots
1 c. diced celery
1 diced onion
1 t. minced fresh garlic
2 1/2 c. chicken stock
1 c. diced potato
1 c. diced kabocha squash
1 bay leaf
1/4 c. chopped fresh dill
chopped cooked chicken meat (removed from bones of chicken used to make stock) and giblets
1 c. diced sweet pepper
1/2 c. quinoa flour
1 c. cold chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the fat and cook the carrots, celery, onion and garlic for about 8 minutes, or until they begin to soften. Stir in chicken stock, potatoes, squash, bay leaf and dill. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer 10 minutes, or until potato and squash are tender. Add chicken and sweet pepper. Remove the bay leaf.

Whisk flour and stock together in a small bowl. Add mixture to saucepan and cook until the stew thickens (a couple of minutes). Season and serve.

I served this with another batch of fresh oat rolls from King Arthur Flour's Whole Grain Baking cookbook. I'm on a roll (no pun intended, well okay, maybe it was) with baking buns. Easy peasy with the Kitchenaid Mixer!

I have to say that I am entirely sold on using quinoa flour in place of wheat flour for thickening soups and stews. The stew is actually noticeably more filling, I think due to the additional protein hit from the quinoa, and it thickens in a way that seems much less 'glue-like' than flour. And the flavour was excellent.

So there you have it. Three dinners for a family of four (although the kids aren't fully grown) out of one chicken.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Two (surprisingly) Kid-Popular Meals

Sometimes my kids surprise me. The last two nights, I have made meals that I worried would be rejected outright. Not so! Here is proof that if you push the envelope occasionally, you may be surprised with your kids' responses.

Sausages with Black Grapes
Farfalle cooked al dente with herbs de Provence heated in butter
Steamed peas and carrots
Cucumbers (last out of the garden)

While Baby G wasn't at his best (cold and teething) and didn't eat overmuch, D had three servings of the pasta and carrots, as well as having seconds of the sausage. I'm not sure he touched the onion/grape sauce on the sausages, but I certainly enjoyed it, and it didn't seem to slow him down as far as eating the sausage was concerned. I was pleasantly surprised by the farfalle—herbs de Provence contain thyme, basil, savory, fennel seeds and lavender—and they were just right as an accompaniment to the sweet Italian sausages. Coincidence? D slept through the night and actually slept in a bit this morning. Maybe because he didn't wake up hungry?

Tonight, I was sure that I was taking a big risk serving a curry:
Mark Bittman's Curried Chickpeas and Cauliflower with Chicken
Whole wheat chapatis
Yogurt, more sliced cucumbers, and rhubarb chutney (a gift from a friend)

I was concerned the recipe was a bust, because it seems overly fussy for what it is (cook the chicken, then add the ginger and onions, then remove the chicken from the pan, then add the chickpeas and curry powder, fry THEM, then remove them, then cook the cauliflower in the same pan in the coconut milk, then add everything back in...made me wonder why I couldn't just simmer it all together for a more harmonious and tender result. I sort of did that at the end), and the spices blackened quite dramatically in the hot pan between additions. The final results looked kind of rustic, with dark bits in the sauce, but it didn't taste bitter at all. And Baby G went to town on those chickpeas, in spite of the curry powder (I did skip the chili in order to make sure it didn't get too spicy for the kids). D called the chapatis 'tortillas' and filled up primarily on them, but also the cucumbers, and tasted some of the stew. Both kids also sampled the chutney, to mixed reviews. The best part was that my husband and I got to enjoy a version of curry (we love it, but don't get to have it often because of the kids' sensitive palates) and the kids were satisfied, too! In spite of my misgivings, I would do it again. Chapatis were very easy to make with the hlep of my Kitchenaid Food Processor and Lodge Cast Iron Griddle. There are many more flatbreads in my future.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Post-Turkey Week

Last week was a bit of a blur—many times I wanted to post my activities, but I opted for sleep or cleaning instead.

First off: Thanksgiving was a great success. The dry-cured and herb-stuffed turkey was succulent and infused with flavour, and the fresh herb bread stuffing was everything I hoped it would be. No complaints, and in fact, enthusiastic reviews from all the guests. I mentioned, ruefully, to my father-in-law, "I guess I'll have to get up at 6AM again next year," since the turkey was good enough to justify the early wake-up call. Instead of reassuring me that that wasn't necessary, which is what I hoped he'd do, he said, "You'll get used to it."

One of the benefits of a roasted turkey, if you're up for the challenge, is finding things to do with the leftovers. That isn't as much of an issue with a deep-fried turkey, because the carcass can't really be used for much. This year, though, I was prepared for days of post-turkey...turkey.

We had several lunches and snacks of turkey sandwiches on homemade whole wheat buns (these turned out beautifully as well, and I am now committed to making fresh buns as often as possible—the boys absolutely devour them), but I also referred to my Canadian Living Christmas Book for leftover turkey ideas. Here's what my turkey turned into:

Turkey cranberry pancakes
Turkey jambalaya (using Andouille sausage purchased at the Prince Albert Farmers' Market)
Traditonal turkey noodle soup

I'd be happy to share recipes for these if anyone is interested; I confess that right now, it is late and I must get myself off to bed.

One more thought: my craving for chicken has certainly subsided since the turkey-fest.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Thanksgiving Thoughts

I have cooked quite a few turkeys in my day, beginning with one that played the role of procrastination tool  when I was supposed to be writing a paper in grad school. That one, while popular at the potluck I took it to, was not my most successful; it was undercooked, and my paper REALLY could have benefitted from the extra attention I gave instead to roasting a bird.

The stuffing for that one, however, was quite excellent: Apricot, Orange and Wild Rice Stuffing, which could easily serve as a vegetarian dish all on its own, if you chose not to stuff it into the body cavity of a large bird.

Another year, when I lived in Vancouver, I had some adventures with cornbread stuffing. I baked the cornbread the night before Thanksgiving, and then left it out on our outdoor freezer overnight, because our refrigerator was full of a large turkey and several other goodies. I woke at 5AM, with the sense that something wasn't right. I opened the back door to check on things, only to discover two raccoons with their faces buried in my cornbread. I had to re-bake another batch of cornbread first thing in the morning, because my roommates wouldn't go for my suggestion of scraping off the parts the raccoons had touched. I can't imagine why not.

My next revelatory bird was roasted here in Saskatoon, using Emeril's Brined Roasted Turkey recipe. This was my first experience with a Pine View Farms turkey, and I attribute its success partially to the brine and partially to the amazing quality of the turkey prior to any interference on my part.

I continue to be enamoured with the concept of brining, particularly where a deep-fryer is concerned. Last year, I went for Alton Brown's deep-fried brined turkey. Being easily swayed toward anything resembling instant gratification, this is a strong seller in my books. A turkey can be brined overnight, and ready to eat one hour after beginning to heat the oil. Forget all that you've heard about deep-frying being dangerous. Well, perhaps don't 'forget it.' Just be smart! If you follow the instructions, it's quite safe. And delicious!

There is still something to be said, however, for the traditional roasted bird packed with stuffing. And I have now, after all the years of helping my mother pull off Christmas/Thanksgiving/Easter/Birthdays for 30+ people, as well as my own personal experiences, outlined above, reached the point where I am ready to experiment a bit. Which leads me to this year.

Number one, I will never purchase any other turkey but a Pine View turkey, if I can help it. These are gorgeous, healthy, tender, juicy...what other adjectives can I employ...YUMMY. They are also expensive, but heck, you only buy one or two a year. Why not do what I do and splurge on the turkey and ask your guests to bring some of the other dishes? They'll be happy to oblige.

Second, I have been having great success with dry rubs. This is a simpler method than brining, and while those of you new to the process may be concerned that putting so much salt on something is bad for you or will make your meat taste overly salty, I assure you that adding the factor of time makes all the difference.

I have been doing dry rub experiments, using chicken, all summer. I have been having great success using the simplest of simple dry rubs (recommended by such chefs as Thomas Keller and Judy Rodgers) on roasting chickens and roasting them over indirect heat on the barbecue. Seriously simple. As in: salt and pepper. I generously salt and pepper my bird, inside and out, preferably the night before, but often just earlier in the day, and then heat one burner of the bbq and place the bird on the other side. I turn it once while it roasts, but otherwise, I ignore it completely. Delicious, with salty, crispy skin. Sometimes I add herbs under the skin, a la Zuni Cafe, but often I don't. Although I have had success with just picking a huge handful of herbs and stuffing it in the cavity before I toss it on the bbq. I must add the requirement that you use a fat, happy, healthy chicken that didn't know it was on the way to the chopping block. Just any old store-bought chicken doesn't have enough flavour and natural goodness to pull off this light seasoning treatment.

Anyway, I've been loving the idea of doing a dry rub for my Thanksgiving turkey, combined with traditional roasting and a good old-fashioned bread stuffing. I picked up my 15 lb. turkey yesterday (Thursday) and rubbed it down, inside and out, and under the skin where possible, with 1/4 cup Kosher salt mixed with 1 teaspoon Sucanat. I then ran out to my still-flourishing herb patch (love the weather we've been having!) and picked generous handfuls of thyme, sage, marjoram, and a bit of rosemary. These I stuffed under the turkey's skin, breast, thighs and backs, wherever I could reach. The turkey will sit in my fridge in the roaster until early Monday morning (and I mean early. One more reason to go for deep-fried...), when it will be stuffed with fresh herb stuffing, loosely following this recipe but also borrowing from my mom's traditional stuffing recipe.

I will give a report how this turns out. The chemistry of the salt on the turkey goes something like this: the salt pulls out the liquid in the turkey and penetrates the meat. When sitting with the salt on it for three or four days, it will eventually re-incorporate the liquid that it originally lost as well, leaving the ready-to-roast bird both nicely seasoned and juicy. It won't have any salt showing on the skin. I'm also tempted to try covering the bird in a piece of muslin soaked in butter. Not sure whether I can find a piece of muslin...cheesecloth I have, but not muslin...although I do have a lovely thin organic bamboo receiving blanket that would be just the thing...I wonder if my sister would ever forgive me for using one of the baby gifts she gave G as a baster for my turkey...

Enough about the turkey. Here's the rest of the menu, as currently planned (subject to change without notice):
Roast Turkey with Fresh Herb Stuffing and Giblet Gravy (I'm making stock from the turkey neck, etc, tomorrow)
Cranberry sauce
Buns (my MIL offered to bring buns, but I'm playing with the notion of baking them myself)
Mashed potatoes (provided by my inlaws)
Mashed turnips (also provided by inlaws)
A small roast ham (there are only going to be 12 of us, and the turkey is 15 lbs., which is lots, but my MIL thinks it wise to bring a ham as well, "because you need SOMETHING left for sandwiches!")
Brussels sprouts side dish (provided by my brother and sister-in-law)
Candied Sweet Potatoes (made the day before)
Spinach Salad with Pears, Cranberries, and Hazelnuts (dressing made the day before)
Pumpkin pie, apple pie (provided by my mom)
Sour cherry pie (made the day before)

This will truly be a Thanksgiving Feast!

What are your turkey...or tofurkey preparations?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Three Sisters, Take 2 (and, how plans don't always make things easier)

I am usually an enthusiastic supporter of planning. Hence meal plans. Lists. Calendars. Schedules. Today, however, I was thrown by the addition of one appointment to my already hectic day.

My menu for this evening was a little more involved than some, because there were three separate recipes, none particularly complicated, but all requiring a bit of time. This is kind of ironic, considering I pulled off brie, walnut and apple phyllo triangles last night—also a bit ambitious for a weeknight. But delicious! And regarding last night's Montebello beet soup

Last night was a success. Tonight, technically, was also a success, but my equanimity suffered. Last night I was zen through the whole thing and even had time to read the kids a story and construct a lion for D out of modeling clay. Today, while supper got on the table on time, in between a last minute chiropractic appointment for G and me (G had his first, hopefully only...but I can't count on that, tumble down the stairs, and even though he seemed fine, I wanted to get him looked at sooner than later), a preschool executive meeting, and my husband's first night of pilates classes.

I started prep as soon as G went down for his nap (1:00), and I continued working on everything until I headed out the door (around 4:30), with of course pauses for diaper changes, pee breaks, plugging in G's soother, nursing G AGAIN, getting D snacks, putting the bbq back together (which was needed for the recipes, and I didn't know until I went out to turn it on that it was taken apart), emptying the dishwasher, and so on.

So truly, the entire meal would only have taken an hour to prepare, without interruptions. That was not how today went.

So here's the menu. Note the corn, beans and squash components:

Cumin Carrot Tofu Patties
Baked Spaghetti Squash (from Whitewater Cooks at Home
Marni's Roasted Corn and Feta (also from Whitewater Cooks at Home

The baked spaghetti squash was just the squash, halved and baked in the oven (be sure to scoop out the seeds first) until tender, then the strings tossed with butter, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, parsley and nutmeg. The nutmeg threw me off. I just did a couple of other searches for baked spaghetti squash, and found some that use basil and oregano. I think I might enjoy those more.

The roasted corn and feta, on the other hand, was perfect. But really, how can a side dish drenched in garlic butter, feta cheese and lime juice be bad?? Here is the recipe for you to sample (I used the last of this season's corn from my parents' garden):

6 ears of fresh corn in husks
2 red peppers (I used several mini-peppers instead)
1/2 c. butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. ground cumin
1/2 c. cilantro, chopped
1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese
juice of two limes
salt and pepper to taste

Soak the corn in cold water for an hour or so, then place on a bbq preheated to low. Roast, turning occasionally, for 45 minutes. Throw on the peppers for 20 minutes. Remove the red peppers, peel off the charred skins (I actually just shut off the bbq with the peppers and corn still on it, because I was late for my appointment. The peppers' skins were loosened just perfectly after cooling on the bbq).

Melt butter and add chopped garlic. Remove husks from the corn and slice off the kernels. Place in mixing bowl and add all the remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper and toss. YUM.

I kept looking at this recipe and swinging between determination to make it because it sounded so good and the temptation to just boil the damned corn, because my kids would like it just as much that way. I was won over by the recipe eventually, and pulled it off, and am grateful for it. I think I have a new favourite when corn season rolls around again next year.

Tomorrow, my parents are coming through on the way to British Columbia to see my sister and her new baby (imminent arrival), so they're stopping here for supper. I had already planned to cook Greek Style Flank Steak with Feta Green Pea Orzo and Greek salad. Should be good.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Yummy Soup Supper

Relying entirely on for dinner tonight:

Montebello Beet Soup
Brie, Apple and Walnut Phyllo Triangles (phyllo pastry has been languishing in my fridge, so I found a way to use it as well as the mountain of apples I haven't had time to process)

I'll let you know how it goes!

Product Placement #4: Lime Yogurt!

I made an exciting discovery yesterday at the Saskatoon Co-op grocery store: Astro brand lime flavoured yogurt!!

Why am I so excited about this, you ask? We all know how so much of our relationship with food is linked to comfort and memories. Well, when I was very young, my all-time favourite yogurt flavour was the Dairyland brand of lime yogurt. It was the artificially coloured, gelatin-filled stuff, but that's what yogurt was back then (to me at least) and I loved it.

Perhaps part of its appeal was that was so rare. There would usually be one lime yogurt flavour in the cooler, among all the other multitudes of flavours. We always bought it if it was there.

And then they stopped making it. I have pined for that flavour of yogurt ever since. I was keen to try the new replacement that several brands offered: key lime pie flavour. But that to me was overly sweet and had that disgusting fake meringue flavour which just didn't do it for me.

But now. NOW! Astro's lime flavour is much closer to what I remember. And it has no fake colour or gelatin. I am SOLD.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Pulled Pork: A Hit!

I've been getting somewhat lukewarm responses from the kids lately on my food. This means I'm getting lukewarm responses from D, mostly, because he is the big eater. Baby G sort of picks at whatever is in front of him, occasionally really going to town, but mostly staying pretty steady at moderate food consumption and high levels of dumping food all over the floor.

Tonight, I had a winner. Now that Baby G has a good complement of teeth, I've decided it's time to keep raw vegetables on constant offer. I haven't been putting out raw veggies regularly, but when I do, they disappear in a blink. Tonight's entire meal was popular all around:

Slow cooker pulled pork on whole grain burger buns with shredded old cheddar (if you make this recipe, be sure to let the sauce reduce on high in the slow cooker for quite a while—like an hour. I let the sauce reduce while the meat cooled, then shredded the meat and put it back in and let it simmer while I made the rest of the meal, then seasoned it with salt and pepper before serving)
Lemon coleslaw (there is also a shredded pork recipe recommended with this slaw recipe on Epicurious, which I have also made before. It's good, too, but I had a shoulder roast, not a pork loin, so I opted for the one above instead)
Raw mini cucumbers, baby garden carrots, sliced garden kohlrabi, sliced celery and sugar snap peas

D ate everything on his plate and asked for seconds, and ate a good portion of his seconds. G went for more cheese, and shoveled in handfuls of meat, bread and veggies. He even sampled the coleslaw. And my husband was sold on the aroma from the minute he walked in the door. Success!

...I have a meal plan for this week, just no time to post it. I'll try to get it posted tomorrow. Thanks for your patience!

Two Dinners in One

I have been remiss in writing for the past few days, due to intense busyness on all fronts: work, family, life in general. The good news is, our kitchen backsplash has been tiled, and therefore I am quickly running out of excuses not to post photos of the finished renovation. Coming soon! As soon as the grout is completed! Promise.

In the meantime, I wanted to share a dinner menu that offers the added bonus that you can toss leftovers all together in one pot, add some chicken broth, and have amazing soup the next day. This has many layer of kid-friendliness as well, since the fish is baked separately from the sauce. Fussy kids (if they eat fish) can have plain fish and rice, while everyone else can ladle on the sauce.

Ling Cod with Tomato and Coconut Curry

4 ling cod fillets (about 200g each)
1/2 c. canola oil
12 kaffir lime leaves (I buy a bag of fresh kaffir lime leaves at Eastern Market and then keep them in the freezer)
1/2 t. fenugreek seeds (I just had fenugreek powder)
2 T. minced garlic
1 finely chopped onion
4 medium tomatoes, diced
1 T. ground cumin
1 T. ground coriander
1/2 t. turmeric
1 t. salt
1/2 t. cayenne pepper (I went easy on the cayenne to make it more kid-friendly)
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 t. cloves
1 can coconut milk (14 oz)
1 c. fresh cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in medium sized pot for 1 minute. Add kaffir lime leaves and fenugreek seeds and allow them to sizzle for 30 seconds. Leaves should shrivel a bit. Add garlic and sautee 3 to 4 minutes (if you use fenugreek powder like I did, hold off on adding it until you add the garlic. I also found the garlic browned pretty fast, so didn't cook for the full 3 minutes.) Add onions and saute until light brown, about 10 minutes. 

Stir in the tomatoes, cumin, coriander, turmeric, salt, cayenne, cinnamon stick and cloves. Continue cooking for about 10 minutes, or unti lthe tomatoes have reduced a bit. Add the coconut milk. Bring to a boil. Cover, turn heat down to medium low and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Place cod on a baking tray and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 350F for 15 minutes, or until it is starting to flake. Serve fish with sauce over top, garnish with cilantro.

To round off this meal, I made basmati rice (just white this time, for the sake of time, since dinner preparations got started late) with about 10 cardamom seeds tossed in, as well as a pat of butter.

For vegetables, I had one last little eggplant left over from an impulse buy at Costco (we never buy eggplant, but I couldn't resist, because they were so cute), so I found this eggplant and cabbage salad recipe. I also found an excellent web resource, Ashbury's Aubergines, for what to do with eggplant. Over 3000 recipes!

While the curry has a lot of ingredients, it would have been fast to put together, had I lined up my tomatoes ahead of time. Instead, I went on a wild goose chase/comedy of errors kind of adventure trying to find my husband and the boys who were sent to get tomatoes from my neighbour, except then they disappeared, and there were no tomatoes to be seen. So after that 20 minute delay I had located the tomatoes and could finish the dish. Dinner was quite late that night. The boys quite enjoyed the meal (and we loved it!), with baby G being open even to the cabbage and eggplant.

Curried Fish Soup

We ended up with a few fish fillets left over from our large package of ling cod (a generous gift from a friend who had great luck on a west coast fishing trip this summer), as well as 2 cups of curry sauce, rice and some of the vegetables. On Sunday, I played volleyball from 3-6, so tasked my husband with throwing all the leftovers (fish, sauce, rice and cabbage/eggplant) in a pot, adding some chicken stock from the freezer, seasoning it and calling it soup. The results were amazing. And again, Baby G gobbled it up. It reminded me a bit of seafood laksa, and would have been perfect over vermicelli noodles. Instead, we just enjoyed it with the rice added to the soup, and I spiced it up a bit with Sambal Oelek. Afterwards, I thanked my husband for dinner, and he scoffed. "It's not like I did anything. I just tossed a bunch of stuff in a pot and added fish sauce." There's a bit leftover still today, and I'm looking forward to lunch time! When you start with good ingredients, it doesn't take much to make excellent food.