Sunday, May 29, 2011

building sites

Great excitement in our house this week, at least for the smallest member. A backhoe moved into the empty lot across the street and was digging a huge hole and loading dump trucks with dirt. All very exciting for our boy. He's been inspired to build his own Lego creations - a very large container ship with dock and loading truck, then that was taken apart and a locomotive was created, then a garbage truck, then a wind turbine transporter ship and finally a cruise ship (complete with passenger doors, cargo doors and an icebreaker snow plow). In between we have train crashes on the wooden railway or the battery CAT train set.

the backhoe

building the lego container ship
The weather finally warmed up enough for us to brave the outdoors wearing summery type clothes - shorts and capris, albeit with sweatshirts over top and I finally have more plants in the garden - some containers of flowers as well as summer squash and herbs. It still needs to be a bit warmer for the tomatoes, beans and basil. The boy was helping me load soil into the containers, digging holes for the plants with his excavator and then watering everything with the help of his elephant watering can. But then he had to experiment making brown water (regular water with dirt added) and running his battery train set outside. But it was lovely to be outside.

And in honour of summer type weather, I changed up our Sunday supper. Served potato salad instead of oven roasted potatoes. And I made mayonaise myself to go in the potato salad. Yum.

Mayonaise (from Luisa at Wednesday Chef)
1 egg yolk
1 garlic clove, minced
anchovy paste equivalent to 1 anchovy
1/4 lemon
1/3 cup sunflower oil
2 tbsp olive oil

Put the egg yolk into a wide mouth jar and whiz with an immersion blender for about 30 seconds. Add the salt, garlic, anchovy paste and juice of 1/4 lemon and whiz briefly. While whizzing slowly add the oil in a steady stream until the mixture is creamy and emulsified. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Potato Salad (adapted from the Tomato Fresh Cafe cookbook)
6 red potatoes, scrubbed and diced in large dice
1/4 red onion, diced finely
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 large spoonful sour cream
2 large spoonfuls mayonaise
1 tbsp dill weed
salt and pepper

Boil the potatoes in salted water until al dente. Drain and cool.

Meanwhile add the minced onion, mustard, sour cream, mayonaise and dill to a large bowl and mix together. Add the cooled potatoes and toss until coated. Taste and season with salt and pepper as required.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

two ways to be green

Or rather to eat greens. Spinach greens that is. The first way to eat more spinach came from Heidi at 101Cookbooks, a lovely quick sauté of chopped spinach with spices and toasted coconut that I served with oven fries and poached eggs for a quick Saturday supper. (Never mind that we had Rhubarb Crumb Cake for dessert).

Spiced Spinach with Coconut (adapted from Heidi at 101Cookbooks)

170 g washed spinach, roughly chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp vegetable oil
¼ tsp mustard seeds (I used black as it was what I had)
¼ tsp whole cumin seeds
Pinch of ground red chilis
Squeeze of lemon juice
1 ½ tbsp unsweetened coconut, lightly toasted

Mix the shallot, garlic and salt together and mash into a paste. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the seeds and let them toast. Add the chili powder, stir in the shallot/garlic paste and all the spinach. Keep stirring until the spinach softens a bit, about a minute. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and the coconut and serve.

The second way appealed to me because of it’s name, Spinach Gunge, from this month’s Bon Appetit magazine. How can you resist something called gunge? My version was a bit cheesy as I added to much cheese for the amount of spinach I had, oops. That will teach me to do math in my head while cooking. It was still a lovely accompaniment for baked chicken and potato salad.

Spinach Gunge (from Fergus Henderson via Bon Appetit)
2 lbs spinach, washed
¼ c butter
¼ c cream
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 ½ c parmesan cheese, grated
Kosher salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a large pan. Add the spinach and wilt down. Pour in the cream, mustard and cheese and process the mixture with an immersion blender (or in a food processor or blender) until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. (There's no picture of this one as I served it for a supper with other people and it was all eaten before I could snap a picture).

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

recipe serendipity, sort of

A few weeks back I read this post on Sprouted Kitchen. Sara had posted a recipe from Heidi Swanson of 101Cookbook’s latest cookbook, Super Natural Every Day and it called for broccoli, avocado and orzo, all things I had on hand. It also called for pine nuts so instead of subbing in the almonds or hazelnuts that I had on hand, I stopped by the grocery store on the way home to pick up pine nuts, along with a few other things and ended up with the very expensive but tasty pine nuts. I didn’t serve this as a salad as the recipe indicates, as my Skinny Man is not a big fan of pasta salad, but served it hot. It was very good. Worth the price of expensive pine nuts!

Broccoli Pesto Orzo
(Adapted from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson via Sprouted Kitchen)

1 c orzo
5 c  broccoli, cut into small florets
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2/3 cup pinenuts, toasted
1/3 c grated parmesan cheese
juice of one lemon
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c sour cream (as I didn’t have crème fraiche)
zest of one lemon
1 avocado, sliced

Cook the orzo in salted water according to the package instructions. In a separate pot, cook the broccoli for a couple of minutes until al dente. Drain the broccoli. Combine 2 cups of the cooked broccoli, garlic, most of the nuts, parmesan, 1/4 tsp salt, 2 Tbsp. of the lemon juice and pulse in a food processor. Drizzle in the olive oil and sour cream and pulse until smooth. Toss the orzo, remaining broccoli, pesto and lemon zest and season with salt and pepper to taste. Fold in the avocado and top with the rest of the pine nuts and a bit more grated parmesan.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

rain, rain go away

It was raining again on Wednesday. And it just seemed as though every last person around was just sick of it. Maybe because the forecast for the week was supposed to (finally) be sunny and warm. Not so much. It is cold and wet and we want sunshine.

When I picked up the boy from daycare, the kids were all singing, “Rain, rain go away – come again – NEVER!” And both the boy and I were grumpy.

I was reading Ottolenghi's column and he had recipes for quick cooking polenta. While his recipes had a decidedly spring like bent, it reminded me of my oven baked polenta recipe. So I made polenta with sausage and vegetables. More of a wintery food but it seemed to be called for on a wet, chilly, grumpy Wednesday night. And I made lots so there would be filling leftovers for lunches.

Polenta (adapted from Alton Brown)
2 shallots, sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
6 c vegetable broth
1 12/ c corn meal
¼ c parmesan cheese, grated

Heat the olive oil in an oven proof sauté pan. Add the shallots and heat until tender and slightly brown. Add the broth. Add the corn meal to the broth, whisking while adding. Let the mixture come to a boil. Put a lid on the pan and place in a 350 deg F oven. Bake for 40 minutes, whisking the mixture a couple of times in the baking process. Remove from the oven and mix in the cheese. Serve.

Sausage and Vegetable Cheese Sauce ( a mummydinosaur staple)
1 small onion, sliced
½ lb mild Italian sausage meat
1 orange pepper, thinly sliced
1 c of sliced mushrooms
1 c frozen peas
1 c frozen corn
2 ½ tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
420 mL milk or stock (or mixture)
½ c grated cheddar cheese
Salt, pepper, cayenne, worchestershire sauce

In a sauté pan, heat the sausage meat and onions until the sausage is a bit browned. Add the peppers and mushrooms and continue to cook until soft. Add the peas and corn. In a separate pan, add the butter, flour and milk/stock and heat over medium high heat, whisking until all the ingredients are incorporated. Heat to boiling and then turn the heat down to simmer for 5 minutes. Add the seasonings to taste. Add the cheese and stir well to melt it into the sauce. Pour the sauce over the sausage and vegetable mix and stir well to incorporate all the ingredients.

To serve with the polenta, plop a couple of big serving spoonfuls of polenta in the bottom of a bowl and pour a similar amount of the sausage and vegetable sauce over the top. Serve hot with extra cheese if desired.

Monday, May 9, 2011

games we play

I’ve mentioned before about our boy’s eating preferences. They are limited to say the least. We’ve been trying all kinds of things but still his preferred foods list is small and getting smaller. He announced a few weeks ago that he doesn’t like cheese anymore. Sigh. One of my big frustrations has been that he won’t even try new things. Or even things that he used to like and eat, for example green beans or corn. But a couple of months ago we came up with the Edward chart. As in Edward the Tank Engine, a friend of Thomas the Tank Engine. Our boy wants more train locomotives and carriages and freight cars and the wait for Christmas and his birthday is very long so we made a deal for him to work for Edward. Originally the deal was that he try 6 new foods for 6 weeks to get Edward. It seemed too much pressure on the boy to keep to the schedule without failing so we backed off a bit and made it try 36 new tastes to get Edward. Some days are good and we manage to tick more than one box. Other times a box doesn’t get ticked for days. But the end is in sight – three more new tastes and Edward is his. We haven’t made a lot of headway in expanding his preferred foods list but at least now he will take nibbles of more vegetables and some meat. He is resolute in his dislike of rice and pasta. He likes to take miniscule bites of things that barely touch his tongue and call it a bite. So we told him he has to take big mouse bites of things at least, or preferably a rat bite or even better, a bunny bite. Which has evolved over the weeks so now, almost every dinnertime, he will thrust a piece of his dinner at my husband and say “what animal bite?” So he’s learning all about animals, birds and fish and how big they are and what they eat and he’s eating his dinner. All good.

I’m not quite sure how the second game started but in order to try his new taste to get Edward points, our boy also wants his Dad to “talk like an Irishman”. So whenever a new food gets eaten, my husband talks like an Irishman for a minute. This is so funny to our boy he almost falls off his chair laughing. “Do it again, Daddy!” While I have to say that my man’s Irish brogue is far better than mine, the vocabulary is a bit limited and somewhat repetitious, not that a small boy notices.

A hopeful sign maybe, the other night our boy got a hold of my camera and shot a picture of his plate. I would say he's been watching me take pictures of dinners since starting this blog and copied me.

So here is a shot of his almost empty plate, proof that he does, sometimes, eat his dinner.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

happy mother's day!

It feels funny, still, being on the other side of Mother's Day, so to speak. For years, I was the one making the cards and cooking the breakfast in bed. My mum felt uncomfortable with the day, it must be said. She didn't really like the whole commercial aspect of the day and the cohersion of gift giving so to speak. She treasured all the kleenex flower cards and the handwritten menus for breakfast in bed ( they are still in a box in my dad's house). One menu reads "all bran with strawberries and milk, coffee and orange juice" so our cooking skills weren't really tested! But when we had outgrown all that, she didn't want gifts or cards unless they were handmade. After she died, I missed her on mother's day, tut tutting about its commercialism. She would so hate it now.

But now I am the recipient of gifts made for mom at preschool. This year's offering is a magnet and a card, which were already given to me on Friday because preschooler's can't wait to give presents. So here are my presents, on display on the fridge.

Please note the hearts on both the magnet (his cutout handprint) and the card, as well as the glitter, both of which my boy added just for me. I love it.

Saturday, May 7, 2011


It has been spring for a month and a half now, at least according to the calendar. But it has been cold and wet and unspringlike since the calendar announced it's arrival. There have been a few lovely days of sunshine. And I've planted my cold weather crops - the radish, chard, spinach and potatoes are peeking their way out of the ground. It is still too cold for tomatoes, zucchini and basil still. I bought basil a few weeks ago and it has already died. Sigh. To make it feel more springlike inside, we've had lots of field daffodils.

The flowers don't seem to mind the rain.

star magnolia in bloom
They are still showing their lovely colours

tulips in the back garden

tulips by the door

and the rain is sending cherry blossom snow across our backyard today. Everywhere the trees and shrubs are putting on their greenery and in a few months we will miss this green, when everything is parched in the summer sun (hopefully!).

Spring inspired supper a few nights ago. I pulled out some olive and feta ravioli and made a quick sauce using shallots, peas, roasted asparagus, parmesan, pasta water and a dash of cream.

 And for dessert, I made a roasted rhubard and strawberry almond crumble. First I took an idea from here, roasting the rhubard with sugar and vanilla for an hour, before adding the strawberries and almonds

 and then topping with a mix of brown sugar, flour, baking powder, butter and sliced almonds and baking for 30 minutes until brown and bubbly.