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Equal Opportunity Kitchen





Updated: 2017-11-02T16:21:10.217-04:00

 



Lemon Muffins for School

2016-09-15T08:10:39.106-04:00

Where have we been???  I know, I know, we've been so AWOL and there are a million excuses but none that are really convincing.  I mean, we're still cooking and still eating but let it be known, life has changed a whole lot.My kids are grown and just when I thought I was done, I have a new role.  Psychgrad and "R" now have 2 children - E and K.  E is now 4 and just started JK.  Hard to believe.  K will be 2 this month.  I guess I'm kind of freaking out a little.  I never really imagined myself as a grandmother but here I am in my new role.  The interesting thing is that I quite like it - truly the best club in the world to be in. The whole JK thing seems to have taken Psychgrad and R for a bit of a rethinking of their menu planning.  All of a sudden E isn't getting meals in daycare anymore and now the bento box lunch kit has to include lunch, mid day and after school snacks. R jumped in with creating interesting, fun and healthy lunches and snacks.  I'm loving that he made  these delicious  Martha Stewart lemon mini muffins.  Here's how;2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder1/4 teaspoon baking soda1 teaspoon coarse salt1 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling (optional)2 large eggs, room temperature1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest plus 1/4 cup lemon juice1/4 cup whole milk, room temperature1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooledPreheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with baking cups. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, zest, juice, and milk. Whisk in butter. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients, until just combined. Divide batter evenly between muffin cups, adding a scant 1/4 cup to each. Sprinkle with sugar, if desired. Bake until tops spring back when lightly touched, about 20 minutes. Cool 5 minutes in pan, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. You'll notice how grown up E has become showing off her choice of nail polish as she models her Mini Lemon Muffins.So now, the big question.  What interesting things are you doing for your kids for lunches?  We're looking for great recommendations on quick, easy, healthy and most of all KID FRIENDLY!!  Your help with this will ensure parental mental stability and will make the grandmother look like a hero!!![...]



New Brunswick

2015-09-12T18:53:24.778-04:00

I asked a colleague from New Brunswick for some advice on places to visit while in the province.  Her husband (from another province) said, "Nova Scotia" (which is a neighbouring province).  It's not true!  There are some cool things to see in New Brunswick.  Here are a few of them from our trip this past August and a previous trip from 2010.For starters, after our visit to Quebec City (read my first post about our trip here), we continued on to a mid-way point between Ottawa and PEI, Grand Falls.  I could only vaguely recall visiting the fall on our first trip.  It is probably because this is what they looked like at the time:They were more memorable this time (and have added cables for zip lining) :In 2010, we spent time in southern New Brunswick, camping at Fundy National Park.  The park has some great programming, including local musicians who come down and play in their amphitheatre at night.  There are also a lot of artisans in the area, making it a nice place to explore by day.This area is known for having some of the highest tides in the world.  Here are some pictures of low tide.One of the biggest tourist attractions in the province is Hopewell Rocks.  At low tide, you can walk along some really cool shaped rocks that have been eroded by the water.  But, you have to be very careful about going at low tide and giving yourself enough time to get out of there before the tide comes in. This trip, we decided to visit Kings Landing Historical Settlement, which recreates life in New Brunswick in the 1800s.  I love going to these kind of villages and interacting with the actors who teach you about the era.  I thought the actors did a really good job of staying in character and living life as they would have in the 1800s.  Many of them were working making good the way it would have been made in the 1800 (e.g., carpenter, wood worker, spinning wool, blacksmith, etc.).  One guy was making a wooden butter bowl by hand that would take him about 6 weeks to make.  Aside from a fair bit of highway time, that's most of what we saw in New Brunswick, which is by no means a good representation of the province since we spent fairly little time in the cities (e.g., Fredricton, Moncton, St. John, etc.) and other areas of interest (St. Andrews by the Sea, Acadian Coast, etc.).[...]



Montreal & Quebec City

2015-09-10T13:13:05.431-04:00

About 5 years ago, we took a road trip to the Maritimes and I never blogged about it.  I love reading my old travel posts just to reminisce.  So, the fact that I hadn't blogged about the Maritimes has been bugging me for years now. I have a renewed motivation to cross this off my mental list since we just recently came back from a second road trip to the Maritimes.  So, what you'll see in these travel posts is a combination of our trip pre-kids to Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and PEI and a trip with an 10 month old and a 3 year old to Quebec, New Brunswick and PEI.   This trip, our ultimate destination was a cottage in PEI.  But, I wanted this trip to be about the journey as much as the destination.  So, we weren't in a rush to get to PEI.  Our general plan was to stop mid-day on each travel day to let everyone get out of the car, eat and burn some energy so that (hopefully) a good length nap would follow.We decided to spend our first night in Montreal in a Airbnb apartment to take the kids to the Biodome.  It is near several other tourist attractions in Montreal that we've previously visited.  But, having never gone to the Biodome, we wanted to check it out and thought the kids would enjoy it too.  Overall, I'd say the Biodome was pretty good.  You go through four ecosystems and see plants and wildlife that would be native to those habitats.  We got through it pretty quickly and found it to be smaller than we expected.  Here are a few pictures from Olympic Stadium and the Botanical Gardens, from a previous trip to Montreal.Football game at the McGill stadium (Stade Memorial Percival-Molson) Since I'm showing previous trips, I might as well throw in some pictures from another trip where we went to the Just For Laughs festival (digging these ones out was a trip down "pre-kids" memory lane).Schwartz's Deli -- A Montreal (smoked meat) institution:MarinaBack to this year's trip...The next day, we continued east, with a stopover in Quebec City.  The old town in a fair ways off the Transcanada Highway, so the visit  got us into our next stop (Grand Falls) later than planned.  But, we enjoyed walking around the cobble stone streets.  It was a very busy day with lots of tourists.  I preferred past visits that avoided peek season.Unfortunately, even after going through my three external hard drives, I couldn't find any of my old pictures from Quebec City.  So, I'm thinking my previous trips pre-date owning a digital camera.  [...]



E's 3rd Birthday

2015-08-22T12:18:43.910-04:00

I won't even apologize for a lack of posting.  Our lives have changed enough that posting isn't a priority anymore.  But, every so often, I get inspired to post; mainly to document something from our lives. It's strange how one day you're announcing the birth of your firstborn...and then the next it's his/her 3rd (10th...20th..25th..) birthday. 1st Birthday2nd BirthdayA few days ago, we celebrated E's 3rd birthday.I finally got to use the cupcake cake form that Giz decided should live at my house.  I used Barefoot Contessa's Ultimate Chocolate Cake recipe.  I was worried that the batter was too liquidy and would fall apart once removed from the pan, but everything came out perfectly.Actually, this was her second birthday cake, since we had an early birthday celebration in Toronto, with a Minion-themed family birthday party.Our friends came over for dinner on her birthday and I tried out a new recipe, 20 Minute Skillet Chicken and Spinach Parmesan.  It was a yummy recipe that I would definitely use again.[...]



Marinated Vegetable Salad

2015-08-07T21:06:25.666-04:00


I'm forever in search of new ways of preparing vegetables.  New salads, fritters, breakfast options, you name it I try them all.  The find this week is a marinated vegetable salad from The Seasoned Mom.  Hmmmm, marinated vegetables sound interesting to me.  I like the idea of putting on a dressing (marinade), putting in the fridge and have it taste better after it sits for a while.  Sure beats soggy salads.

This variation looks like an old family recipe and when mom passes it down to daughter, there's something that makes it more interesting.  The best - it takes 10 minutes to put together and lasts a few days in the fridge.

Ingredients

3/4 cup slice mushrooms
3/4 cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes
3/4 cup sliced zucchini
3/4 cup peeled chopped carrots
1 small sweet bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup broccoli florets
1/2 cup cauliflower florets
1/2 tsp minced garlic (I used a little more)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp chopped fresh chives
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp olive oil

Instructions

1.  Place all vegetables in a large bowl
2.  Place all remaining ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake until completely combined.
3.  Pour dressing over vegetables
4.  Refridgerate salad at least 2 hours (or overnight)



Fresh, addictive and healthy




    Polish Sorrel Soup

    2015-08-05T02:14:44.772-04:00

    Saturday was market day and Toronto is definitely a great place to visit the markets.  One of my favourites is the Evergreen Brickworks Farmer's Market.  It's more than just a market - it's an experience and it's impossible to leave there without feeling enriched somehow.  The vendors are all first class, extremely friendly and great educators.  It's not possible to go to the market without struggling over which slow food vendor you want to satisfy your taste buds with.  This should only be my worst first world problem.  On the trip to the market my friends and I talked at great length about the amazing breakfast crepes and how long the lineups were but so worth the wait.  Frankly, there isn't a vendor there who isn't worth the wait - seriouslyWhen we were in Poland it was always pretty easy to find unique soups with a bit of a sour twist to them.  I had no idea what the main ingredient was but found out it was sorrel.  I found a recipe for this interesting  Polish Sorrel Soup  from Barbara Rolek, Eastern European Food Expert.  Barbara is my "go to" person for all things Eastern European.  But, let me tell you - this is not a grocery store item one finds easily.  I had all but given up when, as I walked through the market....voila .... sorrel!!! I'm sure the vendor thought I had really lost it; who gets so crazy over finding sorrel.  For those who aren't familiar with this ingredient I looked it up on Wikepedia: "Sorrel soup is a soup made from water or broth, sorrel leaves, and salt.[1][2] Varieties of the same soup include spinach, garden orache, chard, nettle, and occasionally dandelion, goutweed or ramsons, together with or instead of sorrel.[1][2][3][4][5] It is known in Ashkenazi Jewish, Belarusian,[4]Latvian,[6] Lithuanian, Polish, Russian,[1][2] and Ukrainian[3][5] cuisines. Its other English names, spelled variously schavel, shchav, shav, or shtshav, are from the Proto-Slavic ščаvь for sorrel. Due to its commonness as a soup in Eastern European cuisines, it is often called green borscht, as a cousin of the standard, reddish-purple beetroot borscht.[1][4][3][5] In Russia, where shchi (along with or rather than borscht) has been the staple soup, sorrel soup is also called green shchi.[7][8] In some cookbooks it is called simply green soup.[2]Sorrel soup usually includes further ingredients such as egg yolks or whole eggs (hard boiled or scrambled), potatoes, carrots, parsley root, and rice.[1][2][9] A variety of Ukrainian green borscht also includes beetroot.[8] In Polish, Ukrainian, and Russian cuisines, sorrel soup may be prepared using any kind of broth instead of water.[1][2] It is usually garnished with smetana (an Eastern European variety of sour cream).[1][2] It can also be akosher food. It may be served either hot or chilled.Sorrel soup is characterized by its sour taste due to oxalic acid (called "sorrel acid" in Slavic languages) present in sorrel. The "sorrel-sour" taste may disappear when sour cream is added, as the oxalic acid reacts with calcium and casein."INGREDIENTS1 large peeled and sliced carrot1 bunch fresh parsley1 bay leaf3 peeled and cubed medium potatoes1 chicken or vegetable boullion cube1/2 pound fresh sorrel, washed, stemmed as for spinach and chopped1 tablespoon butter1 cup sour cream1 tablespoon all-purpose flourSalt and pepper to tasteChopped fresh dill or parsley2 hard-cooked eggs cut into quartersPrep Time: 20 minutesCook Time: 45 minutesTotal Time: 65 minutesYield: 6 servings Polish Sorrel SoupPREPARAT[...]



    Lentil Kale Potato Soup

    2015-06-26T16:55:54.244-04:00


    I think "R" is starting to influence my cooking.  I find myself looking for lentil recipes more often and, in fact, when I got an email from him with a picture and a link to Hummusapian's recipe for Lentil Kale Potato Soup, I was in the process of creating my own lentil dish.

    Growing up in a European meat and potato focused home, a lentil would never have made it into the grocery bag.  To this day I'm sure my mother would shrug her shoulders if I asked her what a lentil is.
    The superstar quality of this fibre and iron rich bean is worthy of paying attention to.  Spend a few minutes browsing through the Lentils Canada site.  So much information and great recipes too.

    Ingredients

    1 tbsp olive oil
    1 medium onion, diced
    2 stalks of celery, diced
    2 large carrots, diced
    1 cup dry lentils (not red), rinsed and picked over
    4 cups vegetale broth + 1/2 cup water
    1 tsp salt
    1/2 tsp garlic powder
    1/4 tsp cumin
    1/4 tsp coriander
    1 large potato, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
    1/2 bunch kale, ribs removed and chopped finely (or half a bag of thawed from frozen kale)
    salt and pepper to taste

    Instruction

    1.  Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat.  Add onion, celery and carrots and sauté until softened, about ten minutes.
    2.  Add lentils, broth, water, salt, garlic, cumin and coriander.  Stir together and bring to a boil.  Once soup has reached  a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 20 minutes.
    3.  Add chopped potatoes and simmer, covered for 15 more minutes or until potatoes are fork tender.
    4.  Add kale and simmer covered for 5 more minutes or until kale is wilted.
    5.  Remove from heat and stir in red wine vinegar.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    This is one of the better pictures "R" has taken of late.  The plate is actually centred in the photo.  I tried to salvage the clarity but we need to work on the photography skills.







      Bacon and Leek Quiche

      2015-04-29T09:57:26.702-04:00

      When Psychgrad and I initially talked about sharing a food blog many years ago I don't think either of us thought it would open us up to as much experimentation as it has.  We also never really thought that the name - Equal Opportunity Kitchen would be as literal as it has become.  What I mean when I say that is that over the years, we've spent a fair amount of time talking about food, about ingredients, trying new things and pushing our limits.  I laugh at "R"'s attitude initially which was seriously about eating just about anything and if it was mac and cheese or cereal, it didn't really matter to him. Slowly, "R" became more discerning about what he chose to eat and went from boiling a pot of water to make the mac and cheese to looking through recipes, to trying his hand at doing some of the cooking at home.  The best is that now "R" is an ongoing contibutor to the blog, fussier about what he eats and critical of how blog posts are written.  He certainly hasn't come out and said that he'd like to be the active contributor to the blog but then I'll get a link and some pictures with some direction about making sure it's all well represented on the blog.    I'm pretty sure that he secretly checks the blog reasonably often to see if we're posting enough and/or if I've posted one of his creations. Today's post for  http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/bacon-and-leek-quiche">Bacon and Leek Quiche is another of "R"'s dinners.  I know he studies the recipes, creates a shopping list, goes out to do the shopping and prepares the whole thing himself.  He's not the guy that sits on other peoples' efforts.  He's a doer - a great attribute.CRUST2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting1/2 teaspoon salt1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cubed1 large egg yolk1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons ice waterFILLING1 pound thickly sliced bacon, cut into 1/2-inch dice3 large leeks, white and tender green parts only, thinly sliced1 teaspoon chopped thyme leavesSalt and freshly ground white pepper8 ounces cave-aged Gruyère cheese, shredded4 large eggs2 large egg yolks2 1/2 cups heavy cream or half-and-halfIn a food processor, pulse the 2 1/2 cups of flour with the salt. Add the butter and pulse until it is the size of small peas. Add the egg yolk and ice water and pulse until the pastry is moistened. Turn the pastry out onto a floured work surface and knead 2 or 3 times, just until smooth. Pat the pastry into 2 disks, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 20 minutes.Preheat the oven to 375°. On a floured surface, roll 1 disk of the pastry to a 12-inch round. Ease the pastry into a 10-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom without stretching. Trim the excess and use it to patch any holes. Refrigerate the tart shell for 10 minutes. Repeat with the remaining pastry.Line the tart shells with foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake the tart shells for 30 minutes, just until dry. Remove the foil and pie weights and bake the crusts for about 15 minutes longer, until they are dry and golden. Transfer the tart pans to 2 sturdy baking sheets.In a large skillet, cook the bacon over moderately high heat, stirring, until browned and crisp, about 7 minutes. Drain the bacon, leaving 1 tablespoon of the fat in the pan. Add the leeks and thyme to the skillet, season with salt and white pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. Stir in the bacon and cheese.Divide the bacon-and-leek filling between the tart shells. In a bowl, whisk the eggs with the egg yolks and heavy cream. Season lightly with salt and white pepper. Pour the custard into the tart shells and bake for about 30 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through for even baking, until puffed and lightly browned.[...]



      Cheese Babka

      2015-04-28T18:10:34.491-04:00

      I just returned from trip #3 to Poland.  This trip was quite different than the others.  We weren't on our genealogical journey this time; we were there for Actor Boy's marriage to the lovely "M".  If you believe in fate, this union is one to put in the journal.  Both AB and M were attending the same conference, she from Warsaw and he from Toronto and met in Montreal.  Although many say that long distance relationships are particularly challenging, this one seemed to thrive and after many cross Atlantic visits for extended periods at a time, they decided to tie the knot. Each trip reminded me of my European roots; the phrases people use to describe things, the quirky shared history that summons both grief and uncontrollable laughter, words in a foreign language that I remember hearing my parents say and most familiar - the food.  I would often think to myself that I used to have this or a version of it at home. And the pastries - simple, plentiful (every street corner type of plentiful) and delicious.  It's easy to see how I developed a love for, no... love isn't exactly the word, it's more like obsession for European cuisine.  It started with Polish recipes and has now spread to the rest of Europe and moving into Asia.  I keep thinking that one of these days my European recipes on Pinterest will just explode but for the time being, we'll go through them one at a time.  It's a good thing there's a fair amount of overlap in European cuisine; often different names for the same thing with maybe just a little twist here or there.  Some recipes have ingredients that are similar but not the same as North American varieties so the challenge is always to recreate flavours with twists here or there.  Sometimes it works, sometimes not so much.Today I decided to give the Cheese Babka a whirl.  Even the name "babka" is endearing - it means "grandmother" so we associate this sweet with a kindly old grandmother kneading and filling pastries for her family to enjoy.  What could give you a warmer feeling of home than that vision?  Afraid of yeasted doughs?  Don't be.  This recipe is so simple and the hardest part of the whole thing is waiting for the dough to rise.Dough:2 pkg active dry yeast1/2 tsp and 1/2 cup sugar1/4 cup 110 degree water1 cup milk4 oz. (1 stick) softened butter1 tsp salt3 large beaten egg yolks - reserve 1 egg white for basting top before baking5 cups all-purpose flourFilling:36 oz. softened cream cheese ***3 large egg yolks1 1/2 cups sugarCrumb Topping8 Tbsp all-purpose flour8 Tbsp sugar4 Tbsp cold butter*** The cream cheese in this recipe is a dry curd cheese or quark cheese that's a full milk variety and when you mix it, becomes very smooth and cream cheese like.  Don't use the Philadelphia style cream cheese.Prepare 3 - 9x5 bread pans (you can either spray them or grease with a little canola oil)Preparation:Stir the yeast and 1/2 tsp sugar into warm water.  Set aside until frothy.Scald the milk and place in a large mixing bowl or stand mixer.  Add soften butter and stir to melt.   Add 1/2 cup sugar, salt, yeast mixture and the 3 beaten egg yolks.Add the flour and knead until shiny and elastic.  Place in a greased bowl, turning to coat both sides; cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise until doubled.  This could take a couple of hours.The Crumb ToppingMix the flour and sugar and cut in cold butter as you would for a pie crust until it's crumbly.AssemblyPunch down dough and divide into three equal parts.  Working with one part at a time while covering the rest, roll into a large rectangle 1/8 - inch thick.Spread dough with 1/3 of the cheese filling.  Fold the short sides towards the centre (about1 1/2 inches of dough) and roll up the long side away from you.( the way[...]



      Roast Chicken and Spinach Panini

      2015-03-19T00:54:22.959-04:00


      Not that long ago Psychgrad and "R" were having visitors for a few days.  I was asked what an appropriate gift would be for them.  Who knows??  But ... rather than ask them which is probably what I should have done in the first place, I said "get them a panini press, I'm sure they'd love it".  This was not a "my bad" situation but rather one of those moments that I probably should have thought about whether or not they had the space to store another appliance.  What I thought about was how simple and yummy it would be to create new flavours rather easily and open up a new sandwich world.

      Well, I wasn't wrong!  "R" seems to have taken to panini making rather passionately and tells me that he's already made  Prosciutto and Pesto , Pear and Brie , Toasted Whole Grain Apple and Cheddar , and  Roast Chicken and Spinach

      To me, the beauty is really in the flavour - choosing great combinations, putting them on wonderful bread and letting the magic create.  Ultimately, don't they all pretty much look alike?  I can't usually tell an Italian panini from a Cuban sandwich in appearance, but taste, well, that's a whole other story.

      "R"'s Roast Chicken and Spinach Panini  looks absolutely "to die for".  I'm really not sorry I suggested this gift since I am planning a trip in the not to distant future and would be more than happy to have "R" demo several different sandwiches for my eating pleasure.







      I want this right now!!!






      Eggplant Caprese Stacks

      2015-02-16T14:19:55.981-05:00

      Where has the time gone.  Seriously, I always have really good intentions about getting a post completed today.  Everyday is "today" and I guess you know the rest of the "good intention" story.  We're in sunny California and so grateful to be out of the gripping cold that has this firm grip on the north east.  My brother arrived the other day and brought with him what he calls his "new favourite cookbook".  He's determined to cook every recipe in the book.  Maybe we'll see a "Wheat Belly, The Musical" opening on Broadway.  He's already  tried several of the recipes and suggested that we would absolutely love them.  We took the challenge and decided to try one for dinner.We were pleasantly surprised.  My brother, who is affectionately known as the health nut of our family always has new natural remedies for everything that ails.  When he brought his new favourite we all admitted a little skepticism.  I take it back - this book is the bomb!  Who even knew that ground flax works as efficiently as bread crumbs.  Now I know!!  I would make this recipe again - it's wonderful and we're going to continue with the recipes in the book.Makes 4 servings1 eggplant cut into eight 1/2" slices1/4 cup ground golden flaxseeds1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning Mix (see recipe below)1/2 tsp sea salt1 egg, beaten4 Tbsp olive oil, divided2 tomatoes, each cut into four 1/2" thick slices**16 large fresh basil leaves8 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into 4 equal slicesLightly grease a baking sheet.In a shallow bowl or dish, combine the flaxseeds, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, the seasoning mix, and salt.  Place the egg in another shallow bowl or dish.  Dip a slice of the eggplant into the egg until both sides are moistened.  Dredge in the flaxseed mixture to coat.  Place the breaded eggplant on a plate.  Repeat until all the slices have been coated.In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 2 Tbsp of the oil until hot.  Cook the eggplant, covered, for 8 minutes, turning once, or until browned on both sides and tender when pierced with a fork.  If needed, add 1 Tbsp of the remaining oil during cooking  Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel.Meanwhile, preheat the broiler.  Place the tomato slices in a single layer on the baking sheet.  Drizzle with the remaining 1 Tbsp oil and sprinkle each with 1/2 Tbsp of the remaining Parmesan.  Broil for 4 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Remove and set aside.On 4 plates, place the 4 largest eggplant slices.  Top each slice with a broiled Parmesan tomato, 2 basil leaves, and a mozzarella slice.  Top with the remaining eggplant slices, a Parmesan tomato and 2 basil leaves.Italian Seasoning Mix2 Tbsp dried basil2 Tbsp dried oregano2 Tbsp dried rosemary, crushed1 Tbsp dried marjoram1 Tbsp dried garlic powder1 Tbsp onion powder1 tsp ground black pepperCombine all ingredients and store in an air tight container[...]



      Lentil Moussaka

      2014-12-21T21:19:14.361-05:00

      It would appear that I'm officially in the dog house.  Why you may ask?  Well favourite son in law has been cooking up a storm over the past while and I've become the designated blogger for his creations.  "R" has been "gently" reminding me that he's not seeing enough blogging happening.  He's right - we've been either busy for real or procrastinating.  At least Psychgrad has an excuse - between sleep deprivation, a toddler and a newborn, having a shower is a luxury.  This time when "R" gave me one of his "gentle" reminders, the tone had changed somewhat.  He compared my not posting his cooking to continuously withdrawing from your bank account.  Eventually you're in the red.  Ugh!!!With Christmas around the corner and Hanukkah in full swing, one might think that we'd be making lavish meals and incredible desserts.   Not so much.  Truth be told, I'd rather have a vegetarian moussaka than cheesecake anyway.   This dish is the full Canada Food Guide all in one dish.  Although a tad time consuming, the result is just so satisfying that it pays to take your time enjoying it.*** Did I mention that "R" couldn't remember where he got the recipe from so if we've insulted anyone by not giving them credit for their recipe - my humble apologies,3/4 cup whole green lentils1 eggplant sliced4-5 Tbsp olive oil1 large onion, chopped1 clove garlic, minced1 large carrot, diced4 sticks celery, finely chopped1-2 Tbsp dried mixed herbs1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes2 tsp soya saucefreshly ground pepper to taste2 medium potatoes, cooked and sliced2 large tomatoes, slicedSauce2 Tbsp vegetable margarine1/2 cup brown rice flour1 3/4 cups milk1 egg, separated1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese1 tsp nutmegfresh herb sprigs to garnishIn a saucepan, cook the lentils until soft but not mushy.  Drain reserving the liquid in a separate bowl.Fry the eggplant until lightly browned, drain on a paper towelSaute the onion, garlic, carrot and celery with a little of the lentil liquid.Simmer with the lid on , stirring occasionally until the vegetables soften.Add lentils, herbs and diced tomatoes simmering for 4-5 minutes.  Add the soya sauce and ground pepper.Place a layer of the lentils in a large casserole dish and cover with half of the eggplant.Cover the eggplant with half the potato slices and all of the tomato slices,Repeat with the rest of the lentils and the other half of both eggplant and potatoes.For the sauce:Melt margarine and add flour.  Lift the pan from the heat stirring vigorously to create a roux while making sure the flour is well incorporated.  Slowly add milk, stirring constantly to make sure you achieve a smooth consistency. Remove from heat and allow to cool enough to add the egg yolk and nutmeg.  If you don't cool the sauce, you'll have cooked egg - not pretty.Whisk the egg white until still and fold into the sauce.Pour the sauce over the moussaka covering the whole surface.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes or until golden brown.   Garnish with herbs and serve.Chef's notes:Don't overcook the potatoes otherwise they'll just fall apart.Use a large enough casserole that's reasonably deep to avoid spill overs[...]



      Welcoming K

      2014-11-30T03:27:27.301-05:00

      This post is really overdue.  Ironic, since K wasn't   I expected to be post date with the birth, since E was 10 days overdue.  But, K (the new little man in my life) came on his due date.  That's why I got to experience, first hand, labour denial: I am not in labour...these contractions are going to stop...don't get the look on your face (I said this to R when he looked excited about our baby's impending arrival)...After irregular, mild contractions that started around 10pm, I figured I should get back to the computer and try to finish some work.  Eventually, I went to sleep and slept through mild contractions throughout the night.  The next morning, I debated calling in sick (I was already working from home) -- so I just sent an email saying that I wasn't feeling great and would work as possible.  I also debated whether to cancel the cleaning lady that I had arranged (we don't have a regular cleaning lady, but I decided to splurge twice to get the house fully clean before baby arrived).  Even with contractions getting stronger, I was still skeptical and didn't want to change my plans.  Babies know not to come before you're ready, right?   I was semi-convinced that if I wasn't ready, my body wouldn't let me go into labour.  Plus, I wasn't feeling the urge to nest.  No water breaking (as it had to start my labour with E).  None of the other signs that you learn about.  Just contractions.  OK....maybe that's a big sign.  But, maybe it's just Braxton-Hicks. Still not committing, I asked R to go into work late so that he could take E to daycare.  Then, I figured I would just set up the birth pool.  If anything, it wouldn't hurt to try it out. As I was doing that and R was dropping E off at daycare, contractions got stronger.  So I figured that maybe it was the real thing.  Crap!  My house is a mess and I have two projects to finish still.  To add a little bit of a stress to the mix, the adapter that I have bought to hook up the hose for the birth pool to the sink wasn't connecting properly.  WTF?!?  I had tested it earlier in the week and it went on easily.  Images of filling buckets up with water were running through my mind.  This is not the home birth I had envisioned!!!The urge to clean everything was in full force since I knew I was too far along to have the house cleaner come in a couple of hours.  I debated it, but decided it wouldn't be fair to her to have to listen to me in labour.  Gotta say, it's still easier to clean a house in labour than it is to clean a house with a toddler.  We got the place in acceptable condition pretty quickly and R finally got the hose hooked up.   I was able to relax a bit.  Thankfully this coincided with contractions getting increasingly stronger.  Among the contractions that still sticks out is one I had on my yoga/labour ball.  First and only contraction on there -- man that hurt.  At R's suggestion, we asked the doula to come over.  I didn't want to waste her time in early labour.  But, R's arms were getting tired from the hip squeezes (I think I told him to "suck it up" a few times).  Shortly after my doula arrived, I got into the birth pool.  It felt good to be in there.  I had a small fan on me, along with a cold cloth on my forehead.  I spent pretty much the entire time leaning forward over the edge of the pool.  Unlike last birth, I felt pretty aware of what was going on.  I could tell that I wasn't in transition yet.  I  knew immediately when my water broke.  We called the midwife at that point.  My doula asked about how I felt a[...]



      E's Second Birthday

      2014-10-20T05:48:21.761-04:00

      When E turned one, I had debated throwing a birthday party for her.  It would be high on the cuteness factor, but primarily an event for the enjoyment of the parents, since she was still a bit young to play with other kids and understand the idea of a birthday. Instead, we let her destroy a cake (something I wanted pictures of) and Skyped with family in other parts of the country.Over the past twelve months, E has developed a lot socially (as would be expected).  She enjoys playing with other kids, talks about wanting to play with her friends and is a big fan of birthday cake (her daycare provider makes cupcakes for each child's birthday).  In fact, "birthday cake" is synonymous with anything birthday related (birthday cards, birthday parties, presents, etc.).  So, we decided to throw E a 2nd birthday party.I wanted to keep the party low key, so we invited friends with kids around the same age to join us for snacks and cake at a splash pad.  I spent some time looking on Pinterest for ideas for toddler birthday parties (note to self: do not look at Pinterest for inspiration when planning a low key party). I decided to make chocolate cupcakes (E loves chocolate) with sprinkles.  She was very eager to help.  At one point, before starting to bake, E starting crying about wanting "bacon", so I put my recipe search on hold to make us some eggs and bacon for dinner.   I later realized, after she finished dinner and still wanted "bacon" that she was actually saying she wanted "baking".Sure, it was messy, including when I spilled a bowlful of ingredients on the ground (and E said, "Oh...that's too bad" -- not sure where she picked that up from) and when E turned the mixed on full blast on the liquid ingredients (still finding random chocolate splatters to this day).  But, it was fun. Chocolate Lovers Cake3/4 cup butter2 eggs2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder2/3 cup boiling water2/3 cups buttermilk or sour milk2 tsp vanilla2 1/4 cups all purpose flour1 1/2 tsp baking soda1/8 tsp salt3/4 cup gDirections ( for cake - see link for instructions on making this into cupcakes)Let butter and eggs stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans; set aside. In a medium bowl whisk together cocoa powder and boiling water until smooth. Let cool for 10 minutes. Whisk in buttermilk and vanilla; set aside. In medium bowl stir together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.Preheat oven to 350F. In a mixing bowl beat butter with electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugars; beat until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined after each addition. Beat in one-third of the flour mixture on low speed just until combined after each addition. Beat in half of buttermilk mixture. Mixture may look curdled. Beat in half of the remaining flour mixture, then the remaining buttermilk mixture, and finally, the remaining flour mixture.Divide batter between prepared pans, spread evenly. Bake about 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted near centers comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire rack 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans. Let cool on wire rack. To assemble, place first cake layer on a serving plate. Spread 1-1/2 cups frosting over the top of the layer. Top frosted first layer with second cake layer, top side up. Frost top and sides of entire cake with remaining Chocolate Butter Frosting.Chocolate FrostingIngredients3/4cup butter, softened1/2cup unsweetened cocoa powder8cups powdered sugar1/2cup milk2teaspoons vanilla extractDirectionsIn a very large mixing bowl, beat butter, softened, and unsweetened cocoa powder with an electric mixer on medium speed until smoo[...]



      Potato and Spring Onion Soup

      2014-12-06T13:26:19.240-05:00

      Life has been incredibly busy in so many good ways.  The only problem with being so involved in many things is that making meals sometimes just takes a back seat. We spent this past Thanksgiving long weekend at the cottage.  This was our second annual effort at the cottage and it was incredible.  The leaves are in full colour and temperatures are changing  A 20 lb turkey had hardly any leftovers and the whole family togetherness was so meaningful.  We laughed alot this past weekend.  My sister makes her own wine so needless to say wine was in great supply.My friends used to say to me that being a grandparent is the best club in the world to join.  Intellectually it's easy to understand so agreeing with my friends was pretty natural.  I just returned recently from visiting Psychgrad, "R" and the babies.  I would often sit, play with or watch the grand babies and think to myself "you know, it really IS the best club in the world".  Nothing makes me laugh as hard, worry as much or love as deeply as being able to be part of their lives.   It amazes me how much work being a parent of a toddler and an infant is.  I guess as time goes by we forget, especially so when it's a labour of love."R", with all his teasing is really an amazing husband and dad.  He's always looking for new and healthy combinations and loves his soups   He loves the hearty and thick soups that are a meal in a bowl.  R's new recipe came from Saveur ; Potato and Spring Onion Soup and it looks like a keeper.A thick slice of fresh rye bread and this soup for dinner would for sure do it for me.  Tell me you wouldn't want a bowl?  The pureeing, although it makes a lot of soups look alike is a great way to pack the veggies in especially for a toddler who doesn't like vegetables AT ALL.  INGREDIENTS2 bunches spring onions (scallions), trimmed4 tbsp. sunflower or vegetable oil1 medium yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped3 russet potatoes, peeled and quartered4 cups chicken or vegetable stockSalt and freshly ground black pepperPREPARATION 1. Cut scallions in half crosswise, dividing white and green parts. Coarsely chop white parts and set aside. Finely chop green parts and set aside separately.2. Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add onions and chopped white parts of scallions and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until soft, 8–10 minutes. Add potatoes and stock and season to taste with salt and pepper. Increase heat to medium-high and bring just to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are soft, 30–35 minutes.3. Allow vegetables and stock to cool slightly; then, working in batches, purée them together in the jar of a blender or the work bowl of a food processor until very smooth. Return purée to pot and cook over medium heat until hot. Adjust seasonings. Garnish soup with reserved scallion greens. [...]



      Sawata

      2014-09-13T15:03:29.836-04:00

      Actor Boy has this idea that doing a theatrical piece with his mother is an interesting work to create.  We started this voyage with a simple improvised stage piece that we (he did most of it) performed for small theater festivals locally and on the west coast.  It was reasonably successful and we had alot of fun comments about how cool for a mother and son to go on stage together.Not enough.  Actor Boy decided we should do another piece.  Our ancestry is from Poland so his idea was to travel back to Poland and research our geneology and find our Polish roots.  It's been quite a ride and I just returned from our second trip to Poland.  The first trip in November 2013 was about research.  We drove all around Poland's countryside, went to both my parents' home towns, were able to find documents and history, met alot of people and ate alot of Polish food.  It was good.  This trip was slightly different.  We spent 2 weeks in a theatre that was entirely black (they call it a black box theatre - imagine that), working on creating a piece of work, or part of it and then performing for a couple of audiences who would give us feedback and suggestions.  We would start early in the morning and work until about 8 p.m. and start all over again the next morning.  That shattered any notion of this being a trip to a foreign country being even remotely romantic.The one thing I managed to salvage for my own interests was learning more about Polish food.  Most local food is heavily meat laden but since I was travelling with 6 other people, most of whom were either vegetarian or vegan we didn't spend much time sampling local meat meals.  I did learn to take some meat meals and adjust them and learned a whole lot about salads.My favourite salad, a potato type salad is called Sawata.  I had to come home and make it right away.  It's a little time consuming with all the tiny chopping but so worth it and I even found some shortcuts.Ingredients3-4 potatoes boiled in their jackets and cooled3-4 hard boiled eggs2-3 dill pickles, diced small (I used Vlasic pickles)peas and carrots - I used 1/2 bag of frozen peas and carrots - worked great(if you prefer you can boil 4 carrots with the potatoes, dice small and add canned,drained peas at the end)2 Tbsp chopped parsley1 heaping Tbsp dijon mustard3-4 Tbsp mayonnaiseDirections1.  Boil potatoes and cool before peeling2.  Dice potatoes, eggs, dill pickles really small and add to bowl3.  Add 1/2 bag or more (1 1/2 cups) frozen peas and carrots4.  Add mustard and mayo and gently combine all finishing with the chopped parsley.So so good.  This salad is a staple for all Polish celebrations.  There's really no set way to make it and I've seen it with boiled parsnip in it as well - equally as good. [...]



      Cream of Potato Soup with Garlic Scapes and Swiss Chard

      2014-08-23T22:09:26.844-04:00

      I mentioned in my last post that my favourite son in law will occasionally send me an email asking for new recipes.  I'm glad that he enjoys cooking and actually he's pretty good at it.  What I particularly like about R's style is that he doesn't cut corners.  He reads the recipe, gives it consideration, makes sure he has all the ingredients and if he doesn't, goes out to get them and spends the time and gives the energy into creating his works of art.  A good attitude goes a long way so I'm always happy to help resource what he's looking for.This time R sent out an SOS because they had an overabundance of scapes.  I went through my Pinterest boards and sent him about 6 or 8 links to chose from.  After consideration, he choseCream of Potato Soup with Garlic Scapes and Swiss Chard.Now, in my last post I also mentioned that R goes to great lengths to get to me.  For That Girl's sakeI'm sharing R's response to me after he sent me a link and a picture and suggested I post it on the blog..Your last post was mediocre. It didn't capture the emotion or the spirit of the salad. In order to mitigate the the risk of another mediocre post, I am instituting creative control on all future posts about my meals. Please prepare the post for my approval within three working days. Also, I want 80% of the revenues related to posts about meals I prepare.In spite of the fact that I'm leaving the country tomorrow for a couple of weeks I did promise R to have this up before I left.  When he told me that this soup was a total keeper I was thrilled and am happy to share it with you.  It does look pretty delicious, if I say so myself.Sorry R, I don't have 3 working days for you to execute your creative control .  AND, you can have 100% of all the revenues since there aren't any.2 Tablespoons Butter (or olive oil for vegans)5-6 Garlic Scapes2 cloves regular garlic, minced3 russet potatoes unpeeled, diced4-5 Cups homemade vegetable stock (enough to cover potatoes)1 bunch of Swiss Chard, stemmed1 stem of fresh Oregano1 Tablespoon fresh chopped parsley1/2 of a LemonKosher Salt to tasteFresh Ground Black Pepper1/4 Cup of Sour Cream (optional, but highly recommended)Saute Garlic Scapes in butter for about 2 minutes. Add minced Garlic and diced potatoes. Stir and saute in butter or olive oil another 2 minutes, add some kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Add vegetable stock, bring to boil. Turn to low and cover- let simmer for 20 minutes.After 20 minutes, check to see if potatoes are done. They should easily be pierced with a fork. It's okay if they are a little over cooked because they are going to get pureed anyway. Add fresh Oregano, parsley, and chard. Let simmer on low another 5 minutes. Turn off heat. With an immersion blender, puree the potato soup, leaving some lumps. Season with Juice of 1/2 a lemon, salt and pepper to taste. Stir in 1/4 cup of sour cream.Garnish with any combination of the following: fresh parsley, chive flowers, fresh ground black pepper, crispy bacon crumbles, or crunchy onions.The picture would look even better if you used the good camera and not your Iphone :)[...]



      Quinoa Chickpea and Feta Salad

      2014-08-17T21:49:13.224-04:00

      My favourite son in law "R" (he's also my only son in law) and I have this rather interesting relationship.  The banter between us (zinging is probably a better word) is pretty ongoing.  He loves to get to me and two of his favourite topics are usually around our well known mayor Rob Ford or how dedicated we are to posting on the blog.  He probably cares very little about each topic and when I give it right back to him, he'll turn to whoever happens to be in the room and say "you see what I have to put up with". Occasionally I'll get an email from him asking if I have any good recipes.  He's always attracted to the healthier vegetarian recipes and he'll review what I send him and surprisingly will find something that interests him and he goes ahead and makes it.  Pretty impressive.Recently he went on one of his rants saying he'll be doing a guest post and make sure he puts both Psychgrad and me to shame.  The rant goes something like this:R:  I haven't seen you post anything lately.  What's going on???Me:  I posted not long ago.R:  I take pictures and nobody ever puts up what I make.Me:  You want me to put up something you made?R:  Well, don't you think you should be? .... you get the idea.I recently sent him a blogpost for Quinoa Chickpea and Feta Salad and he made it.  I asked him where the picture was and he actually had taken a picture and sent it to me.  WOW!!  So "R" here's your post. Your salad looks pretty darned amazing. 1 cup quinoa (beige or red or black)1 cup water1 can chickpeas, rinsed, drained1 1/2 chopped unpeeled cucumbers1 pint cherry or baby heirloom tomatoes, halved1 cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley1 cup sliced baby spinach leaves1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese1/4 cup red wine or balsamic vinegar1 teaspoon honey1/3 cup olive oil2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprikaTo taste Salt and pepperBring quinoa and water to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, simmer until tender, about 10-15 minutes.In a large bowl, combine chickpeas, tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, spinach and about half of the feta.Gently toss in the cooled quinoa; do not overmix or stir.Whisk vinegar, salt, honey and smoked paprika in small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.Drizzle over the combined salad ingredients; toss gently. Add vinaigrette; avoid overdressing. Top with feta; serve immediately.[...]



      Tuna Patties

      2014-08-11T18:32:31.749-04:00






      Norene Gilletz's  The Pleasures of Your Processor is only one of the "Norene" cookbooks in my collection.  I've said it before - I raised my kids on her recipes and I can't remember ever having a fail. Her recipes are easy to follow and easy to execute (not the killing kind).

      The hardest part of this whole recipe is opening the cans of tuna.  For meatless Mondays this is a treat and also approved by "baba" who has sworn off meat.  I've actually heard alot of my contemporaries tell me their parents have more difficulties digesting meat.  Try these as an alternative and the great thing is that they're freezer friendly.


      1 medium onion, halved
      2 - 7 oz tins tuna, drained
      4 eggs
      3/4 cup bread crumbs
      1/2 tsp salt
      1/4 tsp pepper
      1/4 tsp garlic powder
      oil for frying

      Process onions until minced, about 6-8 seconds.  Add remaining ingredients except oil and process until mixed, about 10 seconds.

      Shape into patties.  Heat oil to a depth of about 1/8" in a large skillet.  Brown on all sides over medium heat.  Drain well on paper towels.

      Yield:  6

      Note:  If you want to avoid the oil, prepare in a teflon skillet and a little spray.



      Israeli Eggplant Salad (Hazilim)

      2014-07-23T16:21:08.541-04:00

      I've been accused of watching way too much CNN and these days it's pretty hard not to stay informed.  I won't get political other than to say that the loss of so many innocent lives is beyond horrific.  It doesn't matter where this happens, whether it's a downed plane, a war in the middle east or the kidnapping of innocent children, terrorism is just beyond my scope of understanding.Rather than stay glued to the set, I felt like making something that I know is delicious and comforting and great as either an appetizer, snack or even main.  Add some pita and you're good to go.  There are so many different varieties of eggplant salad and this one is one of my very favourites.2 large eggplants, peeled and roughly chopped1 large red bell pepper, chopped1 large yellow bell pepper, chopped1 scallion, chopped½ medium onion, chopped4 tablespoons olive oil1 cup tomato puree1 teaspoon dried basil1 teaspoon dried oregano​4 large garlic cloves, choppedSalt, pepper, and sweet paprika to tasteHeat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat in a large pan.Add the eggplant and cook until tender. Set aside on a plate.In the same, now empty, pan, heat the remaining olive oil. Once warm, add the red and yellow bell peppers, onion, and scallion.Cook for 5 minutes until the veggies begin to become tender.Add garlic. Cook for another 2-3 minutes. Fold the eggplant into the veggie mixture along with tomato puree, basil, oregano, salt, pepper, and paprika, and cook for another 2 minutes. Do not stir and let the mixture sit and simmer until the liquid has cooked off.Set the veggies aside and let them cool. Place them in a storage container and refrigerate for at least an hour, or until chilled.[...]



      Lentil and Sweet Potato Sheperd's Pie

      2014-06-17T17:38:54.240-04:00

      Sheperd's Pie?  I remember loving it many years ago and somehow it landed into retro culinary. I'm eating so little red meat that the memory of sheperd's pie was a more interesting memory than anything.  That was until I saw a recipe for Lentil and Sweet Potato Sheperd's Pie over at One Ingredient ChefBonanza!!! I had all the ingredients and that was the end of that. 4 medium sweet potatoes1/2 cup diced onions1/12 cup diced celery1/2 cup diced carrots4 1/2 cups prepared lentils2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes (I used 1 large 28 oz)2 Tbsp soy sauce1 Tbsp basil and more for garnish1/2 cup chopped spinach2+ Tbsp non-dairy milkSea salt to taste1.  Peel and chop the potatoes and boil on medium for 15-20 minutes. 2.  Prepare the onions, celery and carrots and add to large skillet with two tablespoons of water (I used the water that I was cooking the lentils in)  Heat on medium to soften the vegetables.3.  Add the prepared lentils to the vegetables and cook together  for a few minutes.    NOTE:  You can use any lentil you like.  I used about 2 cups of dry lentils with 4 cups of water;      bring to a boil and simmer to soften the lentils (about 30 minutes); drain4.  Add diced tomatoes, basil and spinach together with soy sauce.  Cook for 15-20 minutes on medium low.Preheat oven to 350 F.5.  Mash sweet potatoes with a couple of tablespoons of non dairy milk (I used coconut milk) until smooth.6.  In a 9x13 casserole, add the lentil filling mixture and top with mashed potatoes.7.  Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until the top begins to brown slightly.I did add a little garlic and some chopped red pepper to suit my taste and I believe you can either boost or minimize this recipe however you like.  Both delicious and nutritious.  Your body will thank you. [...]



      Chicago

      2014-06-12T05:23:07.826-04:00

      About 7 months ago, R found out that he had credits with Porter Airline that were going to expire that evening.  We had to either book a trip or let them go.  Not ones to make quick decisions, we were both caught off guard with having to decide if and where to travel.  We took a look at Porter's flight locations and narrowed the list down to Boston, Burlington (Vermont), Myrtle Beach or Chicago.  We decided to go with Chicago because we had both been to Boston (albeit not recently for me and only for work for R), Myrtle Beach was further and far more expensive than our credit and Burlington seems like a place we could drive to from Ottawa with stops in various small towns along the way.So, Chicago it was!  We picked spring hoping that we'd have nice weather and in consideration of other summer plan.  Turns out, April is a bit hit and miss for nice weather.  But, it was an enjoyable trip none-the-less.We got a good rate through Hotwire for the Kinzie Hotel.  We were both quite pleased with the place -- they have a large continental breakfast set up on each floor and evening happy hour, with a small but fresh buffet of appetizers.  On the first day, we went for deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati's and walked down the Magnificent Mile. E was quite happy to play in the Disney Store and Lego Store.  Don't be fooled by this innocent expression.  This is the face of someone who is about to start throwing overpriced little pieces of lego all over the place.The next day, we got out early to walk to the Navy Pier.  The pier itself is under construction, so it wasn't much of a draw at that time.  But, our main reason for visiting was to go to the Children' Museum.The busload of school kids arriving around the same time was a bit scary.  The museum was definitely packed.  But, it is probably the nicest children's museum I have seen.  They have several distinct theme areas that are really nicely developed.  E's favourite was the bubble area.  It reminded me of something out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.After grabbing bubbles for a long time, E had tonnes of fun "painting" a mirror with soapy water.  This would be an easy craft to replicate at home.After the museum and a nap, we spent some time walking around downtown and visiting the famous Cloud Gate.The next day was a Saturday and we were warned that the lineups for Willis Tower might be long, so we got there early.  Even still there was an hour long line up.  But, it was much shorter than the line up when we left.The place was packed.  But it was a nice clear day with good views. E perfectly timed her nap and passed out from the time we walked out of Willis Tower, through our walk around downtown and train ride to Wrigley Field.It was colder than we expected (note to self: get seats in the sun early on in the season).  R was thrilled to be able to include a ball game in our itinerary.On our last full day in Chicago, we had great weather.  So, we decided to walk along the waterfront to the aquarium.  When we got there, the line deterred us, so we opted for the Field Museum instead.The building itself is very impressive.  The quality of the exhibits varies, in my opinion. After a full morning of walking, I was ready to be transported back to the hotel for a break.Of course, E had other plans in mind about how quickly we should get back to the hotel.  Ever try to walk what i[...]



      Steak Fajitas

      2014-06-11T20:25:07.830-04:00

      My Pinterest boards are beginning to overwhelm me.  I love going through it all the time and finding dishes that I would, under normal circumstances, not think to cook.  I'm also not a big fan of beef but when I happened upon a recipe for Steak Fajitas by Apples and Sparkle, I had an inspiration and memory of smell that motivated me. Do you ever go to a restaurant, wonder what to order and then see a server walk by with these sizzling fajitas that smell so delicious?  More than once when I didn't order the fajitas I thought I really should have and tried to think of what made me change my mind.  I don't have an answer other than it felt safer to stick with what I know.  Not this time.. I took the quantum leap and decided to give it a shot.1/3 c. canola oil1/3 c freshly squeezed lime juice1/3 c. low sodium soya sauce3 cloves of garlic, minced2 T. brown sugar1 t. cumin1 t. chile powderabout 2 lb. skirt steak or flank steak2-3 bell peppers, ends trimmed, cored and seeded, cut into a couple large pieces1 large white onion, peeled and cut into 1/2-3/4-inch slices (keep the slices intact)18 6-inch flour tortillaslime wedges toppings of your choice such as, cilantro, salsa, cheese, sour cream, avocados or guacamole1. Get the marinade prepared: Whisk together the marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Reserve about 1/3 cup of marinade for the vegetables. Place the steak in a gallon-sized ziplock bag. Add the remaining marinade. Seal the bag, pressing out any excess air, massage the marinade into the meat a bit. Refrigerate anywhere from 3-10 hours. 2. After meat has finished marinating, remove steak from marinade and wipe off excess marinade withpaper towel. (I also cut the steak into a couple of more manageable sized pieces, for easier turning on thegrill). brush the vegetables with reserved marinade. Heat your grill to high. Scrape the grill grate clean and oil the grate. Add the steak to the super hot grill and grill, covered about 2 1/2 minutes per side(for medium/medium-rare), or until steak reaches desired doneness. Remove steak to a clean plateand cover with foil ,let rest for 10-15 minutes.Why was I so reluctant to make these at home?  They're so delicious and just as good as leftovers.3. Add the peppers and onions to the grill and grill, turning occasionally until cooked, peppers should take about 5 minutes and onions will take about 10. Remove from grill. Briefly add the tortillas to the grill, a couple at a time and grill until warmed and lightly charred around the edges. Wrap the tortillas in foil to keep warm.**** I put them in a cast iron skillet to brown (vegetables too) and then into the oven for 10 min. at 425 F)4. Thinly slice the steak, against the grain. Slice the onions in half and [...]



      E's Changing World

      2014-05-20T02:15:33.834-04:00

      Time is flying by and, thankfully, that involves the start of warm weather and green grass!  E is learning at warp speed.  Today, she sang the alphabet in its entirety for the first time.  Well...to be clear, she sings it the way I might sing a song in a foreign language (making the sounds I hear, rather than the correct sounds/words).  But, it's close!  

      Despite my efforts to avoid the whole princess culture that is marketed to little girls, E is into princesses.  She has two tutus (one pictured, below) that she loves wearing.  I'll admit, I may have enticed her to get dressed once or twice by asking if she wanted to wear her tutu (works every time).  Anyone wearing a dress is considered a princess.  She is also very interested in necklaces.  Not for the baby fascination of something to chew on; it's to look like a princess.


      Yesterday, I saw her play hide and seek for the first time.  She must have learned this at daycare.  She counts to 10 (her version of counting to ten is: one, two, three, six, nine, twelve, fourteen) and then she looks around in random places (the door frame, in the bathroom, the tv) to seek.  Giz, who is currently visiting, managed to go unnoticed by standing in the corner with an apron in front of her face.  E's hiding spot is the corner cupboard (every time) and if you are nearby, she'll yell, "I'm in here!"  So, still working on the whole concept.  But, really cute and exciting to see the beginnings of organized play.


      Giz asked me the other day if I was writing all of these details down.  I haven't been; hence, this blog post.

      Despite all of the current changes for E, the biggest one is yet to come.  Come early fall, she is going to a big sister!  So far, she knows that the baby is in Mama's tummy (though I usually have to ask her several times "where is the baby?" for her to point to my stomach).  Aside from that, the whole pregnancy thing has little meaning for her.  Hopefully, the interest she is currently showing in babies lasts for a while.



      Portobello Mushroom Wellingtons

      2014-05-07T18:09:22.650-04:00

      I know it's hard to believe but I've really reached my limited with two subjects.  The first is the ongoing debate around the longest winter in history and the second...well ... you know I live in Toronto, right?  What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Toronto?  Ya, ya, I know, we have the most colourful mayor internationally.  Even crossing the border into the U.S., the border patrol asked where I was from and when I told him Toronto he said ... "An how's Rob Ford?".  Ugh.  Today's news said Mayor Ford took a break from rehab to call his constituents.  Seriously?  And we're supposed to believe that?  Who gets a break from rehab to make phone calls?In spite of it all, I felt like having a mini celebration and make something I've never done before.  I found these Portobello Mushroom Wellingtons.  I changed up some of the ingredients (ie mozarella for gruyere and didn't use the crushed red pepper) and the result was very special.  Would serve this for company anytime.4 medium-sized portobello mushrooms, washed and gills scraped out4 cups crimini mushrooms, coarsely chopped2 tablespoons butter2 large cups tender baby spinach2 tablespoons olive oil2 shallots, minced and divided4 garlic cloves, minced and divided2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar2 tablespoons butter1/4 cup pine nuts1 tablespoon Seasoned Bread Crumbs1 cup freshly grated Gruyere CheesePinch of Crushed Red PepperSalt and pepper to taste1 sheet of Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry dough (or two, depending on how big your portobello mushrooms are)egg wash: 1 egg whisked together with 1 tablespoon waterPre-heat oven to 375 degrees f.Lightly brush the portobello mushrooms with olive oil and dust lightly with kosher salt.  Bake the portobello mushrooms for 15 minutes cap side up and 10 minutes cap side down.Once done baking place mushrooms on a paper towel so all the extra moisture will be absorbed.  Set aside.In a large skillet, saute 1 shallot and 2  minced cloves of garlic in olive oil until translucent.  Add the baby spinach leaves.  Stir to coat the spinach and lightly salt and pepper to taste, once the spinach looks like it is wilting, add the balsamic vinegar.  Once the leaves are wilted, remove from skillet and place contents into a bowl and set aside.  In the same skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and saute 2 minced shallots and 2 minced garlic cloves.  After about 1 minute, add in the chopped mushrooms and lightly season with salt and pepper and a pinch of crushed red pepper.  Continue to saute the mushrooms on medium heat until all of the moisture is cooked out and the mushrooms are soft.  Remove from heat, add the mushrooms to the spinach mixture.  Mix together and let cool.Once mixture is cooled toss in the bread crumbs, toasted pine nuts and Gruyere cheese.  Mix well.On a lightly floured surface, roll out one sheet of the puff pastry.I found a new variety of puff pastry that comes in one continuous roll and has twice the amount of pastry as you find in boxed packages.  The price comparison is interesting too - half the amount of pastry for $3.99 and this roll for $5.99.  The quality is very good and I would definitely use it again.  It's made in Montreal.Cut into 4 equal pieces (if you have really large portobello mushrooms then you might need t[...]