Monday, April 26, 2010

boy oh boy

Last week T asked D – “how do you make people?” D was caught off guard and consequently can’t remember what he said. He did at some point talk about babies being in their mummies tummies (we have a picture of me in T’s baby album entitled “waiting for Figlet” with a massive bump which T always comments on “is that me in your tummy before I was born?”). D thought kids didn’t start asking this until they were about 8. Hmm – maybe he needs to reread the parent book. Even I knew that it was coming any day….

Later in the week we were talking about planets (that’s what they are doing now in preschool). I asked T, “what is your favorite planet?”

T: “Mars.”
T: “Because it’s bumpy.”
Who knew?

The other day we went to visit Auntie Kerry’s “farm” (the place where she rides) and saw the horses, a bunny and a duck. Later T was explaining what he learned about horse poo (he saw the big pile of horse manure) – they roll it out and make it into fish and crab meat. Really? (D says it is no wonder he won’t eat fish and crab!)

And there has been much more submarine construction, of the lego variety. One night I heard T and D talking about submarines and next thing I know we have a whole submarine station in our bedroom with many submarines large and small including bathroom submarines (which if like me you don’t know what they do – bring bathrooms to houses). It is parked next to the shark submarine which has a special shark stun probe. Not to be confused with the shark looking submarine which is easy to spot as it has a window.

Then there is the message he left his Uncle Mike on the weekend. It went (according to Mike) like this: (shouted) Hello, Hello, hello … (D in background, “you have to leave a message”), then there was a long pause, then a whispered “this is T”. Mike phoned back to see what T had wanted to tell him and it goes as follows:
– can T see the Big Rocket before it leaves
– can Uncle Mike come over for a play date
– T had scored a goal on his soccer team

Yes, now T has soccer on Saturdays. He is part of a pre-school soccer “class” where they run around with soccer balls for 30 minutes and play a “game” for about 10 minutes. Lots of fun! There is much excitement when anyone scores a goal, half the time they score on their own nets but nobody minds. The teacher/coach is trying to explain the rules to them but mostly it’s all about the running and kicking (and playing what time is it Mr. Wolf?).

T also moved up to Killer Whales in swimming last week. He really had fun in his last Dolphin lesson. As an end of lesson treat they got to go down the Big Red Slide, several times. Killer Whales is a bit more serious swimming than Dolphins and T is worn out by then end of the 30 minutes. But he still loves it. Even though he struggles with the float board exercises. He makes me so proud. Except when he doesn’t listen to his teacher and then I’m embarrassed. All within 30 seconds.

4 year olds can be very sweet. Occasionally T comes up and gives me a drawing or a flower and says “I made this/found this for you, Mummy”. Aw – just melts my heart. Yesterday his little friend C gave me a flower too. So sweet. And they still are very huggy. At least the ones I know are. It could be a cure for the world – Hug a 4 year old! (Lots!)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

so i was a bit out of control

Sometimes I get crazy ideas in my head. So yesterday, I decided I would try three recipes. Corn custard, which I've made before mainly because I wanted to use up 3 of 4 egg yolks I had left over from a tortilla the other night. To that I also decided to add zuccini pancakes and blue cheese scallion biscuits, because I'd read the recipes during the week and wanted to try them. And on a whim, during the cooking process and because I'd just read about a similar recipe in Bon Appetit, I turned some rhubarb sitting in the fridge into a strawberry rhubarb crumble. I hadn't thought it through - mainly the issue was the dueling cheeses - smoked gouda in the custard, feta in the pancakes and obviously blue cheese in the biscuits.

The custard was creamy and cheesy and filling.

 And it tastes just as good with frozen corn as it did last summer with fresh kernels. I added a touch of cayenne this time around and will make that a permanent addition.

The pancakes worked well, unlike another recipe for zuccini pancakes I tried last year, which resulted in a zuccini frittata hashy mess. But I am getting better about wringing water out of zuccini

 (wring really well using tea towels!). These were relatively easy to make and quite good.

They will be added to our repetoire this summer when I'm hoping to be awash in zuccini from the garden although I might add some chili or cayenne to add a bit of bite.

Or bump up the fresh mint.

The biscuits were easy to make, and I felt quite virtuous mixing the butter into the dough with my fingers.

The dough yields big biscuits. Baking, they filled the house with a lovely cheesy aroma. Baked, they looked beautiful, just like a biscuit should look.

D loved them. I was a bit overwhelmed by the blue cheese. We decided that they would be a wonderful appetizer with wine (instead of wine and cheese - wine and biscuits) or a lovely summer lunch served with a peppery, slightly bitter salad (arugula) with balsamic vinagrette.

Ultimately, we didn't have room for the crumble but we managed it for dessert tonight. The strawberries melted into the rhubarb and disappeared - it would be better with local strawberries but that is a few weeks away still.

pesto chicken with leeks and mushrooms

After my ambitious cooking day yesterday I went back to my casserole roots and came up with this recipe. It was somewhat inspired by a Martha Steward Living article about changing old favorites to slim down recipes but ultimately I'm not sure I achieved that. But I did put some of our favorite things in the dish so was fairly certain it would work out.

pesto chicken with leeks and mushrooms

5-6 medium red potatoes, peeled and thickly sliced into rounds
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 medium leeks, white and green only, sliced into half moons
2 c. sliced mushrooms (sometimes it helps to have help in the kitchen - here is my mushroom slicer)

1 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp olive oil
salt, pepper
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp dry mustard
2 chicken breasts, thinly sliced
1/2 c. pesto (I used sun dried tomato and arugula pesto with walnuts)
1 c. chicken stock
1/2 c plain yogurt
1/4 tsp cayenne
parmesan shavings

Boil the potatoes

in salted water until fork tender. Drain and layer the bottom of a greased 8x10 casserole dish with the cooked potato rounds, filling in the holes.

Into a saute pan, add the oil and heat to medium hot. Add the onion and mushrooms and cook ~ 5 minutes. Add the leeks and cook another 2-3 minutes.

Add the garlic, mustards and cook a few more minutes. Move the vegetables to the side of the pan and add the chicken. When the chicken is brown on all sides, mix in the vegetables and add the pesto, stock and yogurt. Stir well to mix. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne to taste.

Pour the chicken mixture over the potatoes, evenly.

Sprinkle the parmesan shavings over the top.

Bake at 350 deg F for about 30 minutes or until bubbly. Serves 4-6.

Friday, April 23, 2010

polenta crush

So now that I've learned to make polenta myself, from cornmeal, I'm probably going to make it a lot for a while. I made some again the other night although it was thicker this time around. I added some sundried tomato pesto to it at the end which made it delicious!

I served it with a cheesy ham and mushroom sauce.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

happy earth day

Happy Earth Day! And my blog is 1 today. Thanks for reading, if you are out there!

good friday pizza

I'm going to share a pizza dough recipe that is perfect for Friday nights. It is quick and easy - really the only person I know who could not make this is my mum. We used to have it on Saturday nights growing up and it was the one thing my dad made better than mum. I even watched her try and make the dough one time and it didn't work - the strangest thing. Anyway - here is the recipe for the dough.
2 c flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 c milk
1/3 c vegetable oil

Mix the ingredients together in a bowl until they form a dough. Divide in two and roll each half into the shape you want your pizza - it will make 2 - 12" pizzas.
Top with your favorite toppings and bake for 25 minutes at 325 deg F.

Here I topped the pizza with tomato sauce, torn spinach leaves, sliced mushrooms, sliced red pepper, sliced onion, crumbled feta and grated parmesan - for Good Friday. Here is the baked and half eaten pizza.

I have several favorite versions of this - one is to top the dough with a good amount of pesto followed by onion, spinach, mushrooms, ham or bacon and feta/parmesan. Another current favorite is to top the dough with grated mozarella, carmelized onion, torn pieces of prociuto (sp) and lots of grated parmesan. Other combinations include roasted red potato slices with rosemary, feta, olives, onion and parmesan or barbequed chicken, bechamel, onion, mushrooms and get the idea. Experiment in your kitchen. Eat and enjoy!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

thanks molly (and alton)

I've been cooking with polenta for a while now (and have even posted recipes using polenta as a base for a casserole) but whenever I tried to make it from scratch myself, I hated the grittiness of it. D always said it was fine, but I wasn't a fan. So I've been buying the tubes, which work. But then I read this, which lead me to this, and so a few weeks ago I gave it a go.

I had asked my sister-in-law and her hubby to be our guinea pigs, um, er, guests when I tried making pot roast for the first time. I've never been a great roast cook and my former recipe for pot roastish type meat involved a can of mushroom soup and a package of onion soup mix sprinkled on the top. Delicious in its own way but the last time I made it both D and I woke up in the middle of the night and stuck our mouths under the running water because there was soooooo much salt in the dish. So in one of my crazier moments I decided to make pot roast for the first time and a new polenta recipe. I made blueberry cinnamon dumplings
for dessert (based on this)because I knew whatever else happened, these would provide sustenance.
Here are the browned onions for the pot roast,

And the browned carrots. Then I got so busy cooking I forgot to take pictures.

The pot roast was delicious although next time I would beef it up with more seasonings - salt, pepper, garlic, some red wine and possibly serve with browned garlicy mushrooms. The polenta turned out really well - creamy and smooth and the perfect base for the meat and juices. And the dumplings were a hit as well. And D had seconds when he was cleaning up the kitchen.

After supper, when I was up tucking T into bed, he could hear D talking to our guests so he said "what are they still doing here?" I guess as he had left the party, he couldn't understand why everyone hadn't gone home....

balsamic feta mushrooms

This is a mushroom dish (I finally gave it a name!) that D loves and is loosely based on a mushroom appetizer at the restaurant we used to frequent - you know, back in the days when we used to eat out....Where we had our second date. Anyway, whenever we go we always order the mushroom appetizer and we love their version of it and we love the version I came up with at home. Usually I make it with portobello mushrooms but have discovered it jazzes up regular button mushrooms as well.

Heat a knob of butter in a saute pan until bubbly. Add sliced mushrooms (portobellos work really well but cremini or button will do as well). When the mushrooms are brown, add a dash of cayenne, a splash of balsamic vinegar and ~ 1/2 c of crumbled feta cheese. Stir until the cheese is melded into the mushrooms. Add a splash of cream. You can also add some sliced green onion or some snipped chives if you have any on hand.

The mixture should be creamy and mushroomy. Serve warm. If serving as an appetizer, serve with bread or something to sop up all the yummy saucy bits. I served this batch with some chicken with pesto and goat cheese and roasted sweet potato.

garden update

T's seeds are starting to sprout so he's very excited. The seeds, soil pucks and seed tray (and the singing bird behind them which is just out of the picture) were all presents from Auntie K. She works part time at a garden center and I think she spends all her wages on buying gifts for our boy. He's very spoilt.

My backordered potato grow bags finally arrived in the mail last week so I planted them up along with another sample grow bag so here is a photo of all my potato grow bags lined up along the fence amid the apple blossom snow...

The squirrels seem to be staying away from the bulbs and they have so far, weathered the rain and wind storms....too bad you can't get scent in photos - the hyacinth smell amazing!

I sowed peas and sweet peas last weekend and T is under strict instructions (I'm sure he listened to those as well as he listens to everything else...) not to dig up those beds and containers. We shall see how it goes. Here is why I have to give the instructions - the first picture was taken this morning

after I tied up the rose bush that T kept running into (the peas were sowed just south of where the construction trucks are parked in this picture). This second picture was taken this afternoon after T's haircut.Here T is rescuing his quarry truck from the bank where it rolled over. He's called in his rescue trucks - "let go into action!"

T had his hair cut at the "fancy hair cut place" where he gets to sit in a boat (or car or train) and watch TV while his hair is cut and then gets to chose a toy. He chose a rocket ship (aka airplane) and was showing it to everyone (and I do mean everyone) down at the Quay both before and after he had ice cream. In between trying to convince me that we needed to take a ride on the Seabus right now. D is devasted that T's nordic curls are gone but T's been asking for a hair cut for weeks and was constantly pushing his hair out of his eyes. I figure T's more in charge of his hair than D is....


This was our Saturday yesterday. Awakened just minutes after the clock rolled over to 7AM by T - " Mummy.....Mummy.......Mummy.......Mummy - when are you waking up?" Then he decided to start wearing my glasses and I figured for the future of being able to see, it was better to get up and keep the boy somewhat amused with things other than my glasses. Of course, as soon as I get up and give him juice and breakfast, he can amuse himself with making lego roads and reconfiguring his trucks into new positions on the roads. So I took myself to the kitchen and roasted rhubarb. Once that was in the oven I made banana chocolate chip muffins (again) except I only had two remaining bananas in the freezer so I added one very ripe pear to the mix and used white sugar instead of brown. I guess I zoned out during the mixing process. D ate two muffins seconds after they came out of the oven and pronounced them delicious. The roasted rhubarb
was also declared delicious as dessert after supper. I debated making lemon yogurt cake but in the end decided against it as I would likely eat it all. (This morning I read this post and think that might be made soon.)

We all got ready and off we went to run errands and then it was time for soccer! Yes, yesterday marked the second week for T's pre-school soccer - mostly a 40 minute running around session for 7 kids T's age with some soccer balls thrown into the mix. T doesn't listen very well to instructions, so during the drills was the only child continuing to run around the room when all the others were stopping their ball with their heads or ears or elbows as instructed. He did better with the airplane kick the ball into the net drill and actually played "what time is it Mr. Wolf" this week although he is still a bit unclear on the rules. I think we'll be doing some soccer drills and playing Mr. Wolf a bit today. Then it was time for the game - 10 minutes of kids running in a pack after the ball, all around the room! Very fun. The kids don't really have a sense of which net they are supposed to be defending or shooting into. T scored a goal in his own team's net this week....Oh well. The kids all end the class with pink cheeks and they have fun!

After soccer we met up with some friends visiting from out of town for lunch. After a long visit we came home in time for me to make almost vegetarian chili and for T and D to play with trucks.

Almost Veggie Chili
1 onion, chopped
sliced mushrooms
1 sliced red pepper
2 carrots sliced into thin slices
1 c. frozen corn
1 tsp garlic
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 cans (or cooked equivalent) of beans (red kidney, black, navy)
1 jar tomato sauce (I used a batch of frozen sauce from last year's harvest)
2 tbsps tomato paste
chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika to taste
4-5 bacon rashers, sliced

Saute the bacon and onion together until the onion is soft. Add the pepper, mushrooms, carrots, corn, garlic, chili, paprika, mustard and brown sugar and cook about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste. Then add the rest of the ingredients and cook together for at least 20 minutes until the flavours are melded. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve topped with grated cheddar cheese and sour cream.
Note - I sometimes add chopped zuccini to this recipe - yesterday I added 2 c of cubed roasted winter squash (from the freezer) - it added fiber and texture to the chili.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

mushroom risotto

Once every few months we make a trip to what we call "the Italian grocery store". We stock up on olives, pasta, pesto, cheese - all kinds of goodies. One of our staples is arborio rice.

On the box is a recipe for Porcini Risotto with onion and sage. This is my adapted recipe from the box:

1 1/2 c. of sliced cremini mushrooms

1 medium, sliced onion

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp olive oil

2 c. rice

1/2 c. white wine

1 tbsp fresh, chopped sage

5 1/2 c. chicken stock

1 c. grated parmesan

splash of cream, grating of nutmeg, and a good grinding of pepper

Melt the butter and oil in a medium hot pan and saute the onion and mushrooms for about 10 minutes. Add the rice and heat for about 5 minutes. Add in the wine and sage and stir. Add the chicken broth about 1/2 c. at a time, stirring regularly. Once the rice is cooked and the broth all absorbed, add the cheese and a splash of cream. Serve immediately. The sage and mushrooms work really well together to give a deep, woodsy flavour - yummers!

Monday, April 5, 2010

potato grow bags

While I wait for my grow bags to arrive from England (or wherever they are coming from), my seed potatoes are sprouting. So I decided to start a grow bag using a black garbage bag as per a post I saw somewhere on the web. T helped me move the soil - I was using regular garden implements (trowel), he was using his earthmover and dumptruck. The earthmover did have a problem getting into the big bag of soil but eventually the job was done. I planted some potatoes and we'll see if it works. Hopefully I can continue with this idea for all the potatoes.
And we found a new bird feeder this afternoon and installed it so the birds don't go hungry.

easter dinner leftover casserole

We had our Easter dinner on Saturday - I made ham (boiled in ginger ale, then baked with a glaze of ginger marmelade, dry mustard, cloves and brown sugar - from Nigella Lawson's Christmas book), creamed roasted onion, mushrooms and spinach, my sister-in-law made cheesy scalloped potatoes and we had strawberry blueberry cinnamon dumplings for dessert. So tonight's supper used up some of the leftover ham and all the leftover veggies (everything else was already gone!).

I made mashed potatoes and added some olive oil, sour cream, milk, grated cheese, dijon mustard and a dab of wasabi. I boiled up and then mashed together 8 carrots, 1 rutabaga and 1 swede along with some butter, grated nutmeg, pepper, cayenne pepper and dry mustard. In the bottom of a greased dutch oven I layered half the potato,

then added a layer of leftover creamed onion, mushrooms and spinach,

followed by a layer of diced cooked ham,

then the layer of mashed turnip and carrot,

followed by the last of the potato mixture.

And being the kind of cook I am, I added a layer of grated gruyere cheese on the top

before baking at 350 deg F for 30 minutes.

Dinner is served. It was pretty yummy!

spring gardening

So everytime I think I will have a few hours to putter in my garden, something happens. Rain, mostly. And I know, you can garden in the rain. But as with most things, I'm a fairweather gardener.

I posted about having planted a pot of bulbs. The day after I planted, I had hurried outside (in the rain) to add some sea soil to the veggie patch prior to planting peas when I noticed that my bulb planter had a hole in it. On closer examination, I noticed 2 brown bulb skins lying on the ground near the planter and that one of the tulips was missing. Grrr. A squirrel had breakfasted on one of my bulbs. I discovered that said squirrel had thoughtfully left me the stalk with tulip on the side of the planter which I brought in and stuck in a vase. Then I went outside and put cayenne pepper all around the remaining bulbs in the planter and moved it up onto a railing. I don't know whether that will make it easier or harder for the squirrels to reach a bulb snack. I'm hoping it is harder. So far, so good.

I'm also going to blame squirrels for breaking the ceramic dish I had filled with bird seed after the bird feeder smashed to smithereens a couple of weekends ago. I guess I should get another one so T can watch an assortment of birds feeding. I love watching them as well. Ok - that's my plan. Off to the garden center for seed starting pots and a bird feeder. As it is raining today and we need something to do besides watch Bob the Builder videos.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

cabbage and salad

Yesterday T announced that he wanted to build lego submarines just like in the book. The book in question was a photo album with pictures of lego submarines that my nephew F made a few years ago when D and I were visiting. (D as I recall, was irritated by F's models not being accurate and consequently unsailable. D, you see, is very into military history and is picky about accuracy and detail. I told him to get over it as these were lego submarines and F was only 8 at the time.)

So D and T looked up pictures of submarines in D's military books so T could see what they looked like and while I whipped up a batch of banana chocolate chip muffins, they made submarines.

The top one is D's model and the bottom one is T's. T's has the propeller in the front and comes equipped with bedrooms and bathrooms and a dining table. The crew eat cabbage and salad for dinner. When we asked T if he would eat cabbage and salad he said no. But he would eat the chocolate chip cookies for dessert. Unless he couldn't eat the cookies until he ate his dinner, in which case he would eat cabbage and salad. That is news to us! Apparently he's not ready for a submariner's life yet, he still is only eating cucumber and carrots - no cabbage or salad yet!