Sunday, April 26, 2009

Leg of Lamb

I made leg of lamb the same weekend as the Chocolate Cake I blogged about earlier. I find I keep getting distracted by my dessert dishes and forget to mention how the main course turned out. So. Leg of lamb:

This recipe is also an epicurious find: Leg of Lamb with Mint Pesto, New Potatoes and Baby Carrots. I made this dish about ten years ago for friends - the very same friends for whom I made it as an encore just recently. It really is a great dish. It doesn't have a lot of ingredients, requires minimal prep time and it cooks in one pan. All of these details may partly explain why my husband loves this recipe. Anything that can be made in one dish / one pot is generally a meal he enjoys, since he typically gets stuck with clean up duty on the days I cook.

I made this recipe for Christmas dinner a couple of years ago when it was just the four of us for dinner. Like the previous two times I've made it, the dish did not disappoint this time out. I cooked the lamb medium rare so it was a bit pink in spots. The potatoes and carrots were perfectly done and the pesto added the right amount of flavour (mmm...garlic....). A great dish to serve for company when you want something different but low stress.

Spring Sandwiches

This post isn't so much about Sunday dinner as it is Saturday lunch. Saturday lunch is very random at our house. It usually consists of leftovers from Friday night dinner (pizza anyone?) or something put together based on whatever happens to remain in the fridge at the end of the week. This Saturday we got moving very early so I actually had something in mind for Saturday lunch and was able to stock up at the grocery store before hand. The object of my desire - tuna.

I have become obsessed with tuna. More specifically, I've become obsessed with tuna subs from Subway: toasted on honey oat bread with cheddar cheese (white - the orange is bit too colourful for me) and laced with sweet pickles. Tuna (sub) obsession can be an expensive proposition. So I decided last week that I needed to find a way to satisfy my tuna craving at home. Happily, while flipping through my Bon Appetit cookbook I came across an entire section dedicated to sandwiches. Yes, a whole section! A few tuna salad recipes were included; I settled on Tuna, Pickle and Chopped Vegetable Pita Sandwiches.

The results were better than I expected. No toasting involved, but with the lovely Spring/Summer weather we've been having this weekend toasting wasn't strictly necessary. This recipe basically combines tuna with chopped sweet pickles, red pepper, vidalia onion and granny smith apple. The tuna was dressed with equal parts yogurt and mayonaisse. I enjoyed mine with crinkle cut Old Dutch potato chips and a nice cold Coke - the perfect lunch.

I didn't even bother to try and convince my family to taste my latest discovery. No one is particularly interested in tuna around my house. However, since discovering a sandwich section in my Bon Appetit cookbook I decided to flip through others in my collection. Joy of Cooking also has a great sandwich section. I plan on putting together a nice roast beef sandwich on focaccia bread this week for my husband, to thank him for putting up with the tuna.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Cake me

I was trying to decide what dessert to make for a weekend dinner with friends this past week, flipping through my various cookbooks in search of inspiration. When your company includes six guests under the age of 7, you want to get dessert just right. I settled on a chocolate cake from my Bon Appetit cookbook. This recipe appealed in its simplicity: Old-fashioned chocolate cake with cocoa frosting. It sounds like a good book or a new sweater; a treat to congratulate yourself on getting through a hard week.

In a word, this cake is a-mazing. Moist layers of chocolate cake with chocolate icing smooshed between each layer and nuggets of semi-sweet chocolate chips every few bites. A definite lick-your-plate-clean dessert. My only warning is to have plenty of milk on hand to go with and don't serve to young children close to bed-time. It's got a wicked sugar kick. I will admit to eating a slice for dessert last night, breakfast this morning, a treat at lunch and a prelude to dinner. And I don't regret one forkful....

Monday, April 13, 2009

Sunday Breakfast

What with Easter family obligations Sunday dinner was not going to happen this week. So instead, I decided on Easter breakfast. Pancakes are my usual breakfast repertoire so I decided to mix it up a bit and do waffles.

My boys often make me breakfast for Mother's Day using a waffle recipe from a cookbook called Cooking for Two by James Barber. Barber died a few years ago, but was a Canadian chef known as 'The Urban Peasant'. I remember seeing him on CBC (or maybe it was CTV) years before I owned one of his cookbooks. I really like Cooking for Two because it organizes the recipes as Menus. The Mother's Day menu includes waffles and an awesome smoothie made with bananas, orange juice and yogurt.

We had an excellent Easter morning breakfast together after hunting down a seriously large stash of chocolate eggs left by the Easter Bunny. We used blueberries as a garnish. My younger son shows a serious aptitude for giving great plate...

Monday, April 6, 2009

Carrot Cake

We seem to have established a tradition around our house where carrot cake is the dessert of choice for Easter dinner. If I recall correctly, this started two or three years ago. I'm a sucker for themes, so when asked to bring dessert to a family gathering at Easter I figured I'd go with carrot cake. (Because Easter is about bunnies, and bunnies eat carrots. Seriously - that's a theme.)

On the weekend my older son was invited to a birthday party leaving my younger son a bit put out. I suggested we bake a cake together while his brother was out and he immediately perked up. Who knew? I pulled out a Williams Sonoma Kids Baking Cookbook I received for Mother's Day a few years back and we settled on carrot cake.

A few words about the WSKBC. I've made a few things out of this book and have always been happy with the results. In particular there is a S'mores cake-thing that's fudge, marshmallow graham cracker goodness.

We had fun baking our cake. The recipe was simple enough that my son actually did participate. He even tasted our efforts during the dry ingredient phase, which was too cute, as it must have tasted horrible but he smiled gamely and pronounced it 'great'. He was especially excited by the cream cheese icing, since it involved using the electric mixer. He managed to jack it up to top speed in a bowl of butter and cream cheese while I was across the kitchen getting icing sugar. He scared himself a little but was nevertheless pleased with the results of that little experiment....

We ate our cake for dessert on Sunday and it was good. We choose not to include the 'yucky' optional walnuts and golden raisins, which I think would have been a nice touch. All things considered it wouldn't have mattered if the cake tasted poorly - we had a great time making it together. It was one of those afternoons that get you through a long week.

Raspberry Pork Medallions with Asparagus and Wild Rice

Whew. That's a mouthful.

For this Sunday dinner I went to a new cookbook in my collection, Weekend Cooking by Ricardo. This is a lovely cookbook to browse for inspiration on a day you can't quite decide what to make for dinner. The pictures are mouthwatering and the recipes fairly simple to execute.

The weather around here continues to be variable, to put it politely, meaning we can't quite commit to Spring yet. Poo I say, and decide I want asparagus to figure in our Sunday menu if only to see if my youngest son continues to love any green vegetable put in front of him (more on that later).

So Raspberry Pork Medallions it is. All that is required is a pork tenderloin and some fairly typical pantry staples (chicken broth, honey, onion, garlic). And fresh raspberries of course. Which, being out of season I should have figured would be expensive this time of year. Indeed - $6.99 for a smallish pathetic looking package. Yikes! At this stage I'm committed so into the cart they go. I also need a teaspoon of raspberry vinegar. Luckily I can get a half litre of the stuff for another $5.99. Excellent. Mental note - find some salad dressing recipes that call for raspberry vinegar.

I must say that once I had assembled my ingredients preparing this dish was truly a snap. The tenderloin is cut into medallions and pan fried in a combo of olive oil and butter. Add a splash of this, dash of that, some fresh berries and into the oven to finish. Looked nice on the plate (add another sprinkling of fresh berries) and no leftovers in sight. Still, I was expecting more flavour from this dish - more tang, if you will. Could be the out of season raspberries. Only two of us enjoyed pork prepared this way. My kids just couldn't wrap their heads around fruit paired with meat. The youngest in our household did, however, enjoy his asparagus.

Roasted asparagus is one of my favourite Spring dishes. Here is the best method I've come across for preparing roasted asparagus:

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Clean bunch of asparagus, snap off woody ends. Lay asparagus on cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt. Cook in oven for 5-10 minutes, depending on thickness of asparagus. Serve immediately. (Try it drizzled with balsamic vinegar!)