Monday, February 28, 2011


I had one of those moments tonight. I got distracted unloading the dishwasher while microwaving some popcorn and before I knew it, the kitchen (and the whole house) was full of smoke. So I spent a good deal of time running around opening windows and trying to wave the smoke out of the house before the smoke detector went off and woke up our boy. Why is it that bad smells spread so quickly, while lovely smells such as roasting cheese or baking bread take much longer to fill the house and don't linger nearly so long? I've filled small bowls of vinegar to dot around the house to soak up the odour and hoping it works.

Life has seemed a bit full on lately. Cold and snow last week which is unusual on the wet coast, a cold lingering in our boy, characterized by a chesty cough and the sniffles, just the daily stuff of life. But there are golden moments. Our boy will finally graduate from killer whales this time around, his third try and achieve his ambition to be a shark in swimming lessons. I got a great compliment from someone I admire today. So why am I so upset by a bit of burnt corn? I guess the moral is don't get distracted while microwaving popcorn or even better, don't even eat microwave popcorn.

Friday, February 25, 2011

spa trip nachos

It was our spa ladies annual spa weekend this past weekend. We visited here, and had a wonderful time. The weather was nippy but sunny, the company was stellar, the spa was divine and much food, wine, margaritas and daiquiries were enjoyed. And we left relaxed and buffed, kneaded, and with shiny toes. A newish tradition, now that we have condo type accomodations, with kitchens, is nacho night. We try our hand at making margaritas with the provided blender (not quite so successful this year as last for whatever reason - although in the end everyone pronounced the drinks good). Next year we might try and bribe the bartender in the restaurant to make us up bucketfuls and send them over to our suite, so we don't have to work so hard. We also make nachos. These are pretty basic so as to avoid various things that some members of the group don't like (jalepenos, green onions, olives, etc). So this year we used red and blue chips as the base (pretty), added some salsa, cooked ground beef and lots of cheese and cooked them until all melty. Served with sour cream they were delicious.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

baking with mum

A wierd thing happened the other day. A woman at work approached me and said "I found a cookie recipe on your blog, the one with coconut and banana, and I made it. My family loves the cookies. I made some more with walnuts, would you like to try one?" Of course I did. They were great with walnuts and I'm so happy someone is making one of my favorite cookies for her family and made the recipe their own by adding walnuts. We didn't usually add nuts to cookies as my Dad isn't a big nut in cookies fan. Says that walnuts squeak on his teeth.

So tonight, when faced with a blackish banana left from T's lunchbox, I made a batch of oatmeal macaroons (as they are called officially on the recipe from mum's recipe box). I used a big cookie scoop so the cookies are about triple the size they normally are and only yielded about 18 cookies.

 But as I was mixing them up, I was back with my mum in our old family kitchen, with the brick wall and horrible 70's wallpaper (rust orange and brown) and the avocado appliances. And behind the ghost of my mum was the ghost of my gram, a big baker. So I hope one day, T will bake cookies and remember things we baked together and continue the tradition.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

a valentine's supper

Completely out of character for me, I made a big (ish) deal out of Valentine's Day this year. Normally all those hearts and lovey-doviness is enough to turn my stomach (no offence to my beloved D) but smaltsy really isn't our scene. I blame it on having a preschooler in the house. At preschool they celebrate everything. So minutes after T was wandering around the house singing " a Chinese dragon has lots of feet" for Chinese New Year, his school and daycare were awash in pink and red hearts. We got a notice on the protocol for sending Valentines to preschool along with the sign-up sheet for the party treats. I sourced mini cupcake tins (thanks K!) and made dozens of tiny chocolate cupcakes with red sprinkles, bought Cars valentines for T to give to his friends and found a goofy card for D. Then I found this recipe for heart stuffed shells and thought why not make a valentine's dinner for D - artichoke hearts are one of his favorite foods. And it came to be - heart stuffed pasta shells, hearts of romaine salad (which sounds deliberate but was a total fluke) and peach crumble for dessert. It was pretty good if I do say so myself. Of course, being me, I lost my printout of the recipe and had to run back and forth from the computer to the kitchen and ended up missing some steps in the stuffed shells recipe but it all worked. I used less onion and more artichoke hearts, and as I couldn't find frozen artichoke hearts, I used canned marinated ones. Also I missed the step about adding the wine but we liked the result so I would make it again my way.

Heart Stuffed Shells
adapted from Deb Perelman's recipe at bon

1/2 box large shell pasta (~32 shells from my box)

3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cans marinated artichoke hearts, drained (~ 1 lb)
2 large egg yolks
1 c grated parmesan cheese
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper

4 tbsp butter
1/4 c flour
2 c milk
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 c ricotta cheese
2 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper

 Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the shells and cook to al dente. Drain and set aside.

Melt 3 tbsp of butter over medium high heat until brown and bubbly, stirring in the solids as they separate. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and mix well, then add the onion and saute until they are light brown, about 5 minutes. Add the artichoke hearts and cook them until they are softened a bit, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour into the bowl of a food processor. Add the lemon juice, cheese, egg yolks and salt and pepper and pulse until well mixed and chopped.

Meanwhile, melt 4 tbsp butter. Add the flour and milk and whisk well to blend. Add the garlic and bring to a boil. Once boiling and thickened, add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, salt and pepper and turn down the heat to medium.

Pour about half of the sauce into the bottom of a greased 9x13 baking dish and spread evenly over the bottom. Stuff the shell with about 1 tbsp of the artichoke mixture and lay into the sauce. Continue until all the shells are filled and nestled into a single layer in the baking dish. Pour the remaining sauce over the filled shells.

Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes. Sprinkle with basil or parsley if desired and serve.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

a season of cabbage

I didn't use to like cabbage. But once upon a time, I came across a recipe that makes a thrifty dinner using bacon, onion, rice and cabbage and during my single days, when I was feeling poor in the winter, I would make it. The recipe made lots and was surprisingly good. So once in a while, during the long winter, when other root vegetables had lost their appeal and I'd spy lots of cabbages waiting to be chosen in the vegetable aisle, I would dig the recipe out of my memory and make it. Then last year I read Molly's "A Homemade Life" and her lovely cream braised cabbage recipe. I made it and we love the flavour but owing to clutziness on my part, I found the cabbage triangles hard to deal with. So I tried finely slicing the cabbage which worked well for us. I found it easier to handle in the pan and we liked the texture beter. Plus it cooks faster which is a bonus on nights when the time between arriving home and a starving family descending on the kitchen looking for supper is tight. Combining the recipes didn't occur to me until I had some sausage meat, a red cabbage and about 30 minutes to make supper in. Which didn't give me enough time to make a favorite braised red cabbage dish so I made up this recipe instead. And it is a hit in our house. So this winter we've been eating lots of cabbage. The braising in cream renders the cabbage melty soft and flavourful with none of the side effects normally associated with cabbage. And it works with both green and red cabbage (although red cabbage does turn sausage meat a bit of a bizarre colour).

Cream Braised Cabbage with Sausage
mummydinosaur original

1/2 lb (~ 250 g) of sausage meat (or diced pancetta or sliced bacon)
1 small or medium head of cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/4 c cream

In a saute pan, over medium high heat, brown the sausage (or bacon). Once brown, add the thinly sliced onion and cabbage and toss well in the pan to coat with the oil from the sausage. Saute until the cabbage starts to brown in places (5-10 minutes). If you are using pancetta, add it about halfway through this step. Add the cream and stir. Cover the pot and simmer over a medium low heat for 15-30 minutes or until the cabbage is soft. If there is a lot of liquid, remove the lid and cook down for a few minutes. Serve with baked potato wedges.

green cabbage with bacon 

red cabbage with sausage and baked potato wedges

For a vegetarian version of this, leave out the sausage or bacon and saute the onion and cabbage in 1 tbsp of butter.