Monday, September 27, 2010

Snack attack - popcorn

I love potato chips. Which is a funny way to start a post about popcorn. I've turned to popcorn as a way to curb my appetite for chips. So to keep it interesting, I try to change it up by dressing it differently. Which begs the question, if you douse your popcorn with butter (among other things) should you just have gone for the chips in the first place?

Not if you make Cracked Pepper and Honey Butter popcorn. I found this recipe in the Winter 2010 Food & Drink magazine from the LCBO. I had to cut down on the pepper (it calls for 3/4 tsp, coarsley ground) but partnered with the sweet of the honey this makes for a wonderful treat on Saturday night. It hasn't improved the selection of what is on TV, unfortunately, but I care less when I'm cramming popcorn into my mouth...

I also tried a wonderful popcorn recipe from the Two Dishes cookbook I mentioned recently. But given the state of my clipped recipe file, which is disaster right now after it fell out of my cupboard and became all...aflutter, I can't find it. It was also based on butter and honey, but calls for chili powder instead of pepper. Made my fingers red but totally worth it. D. liked it even better than the Cracked Pepper, which suprised me because he is not a chili fan, but totally a pepper fan. If that makes sense. I'll try and find it. If you Google chili honey popcorn, you'll get the jist.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Two For One

I've already admitted that I buy food I think is pretty, even if I have no intention of eating it. Now I'm going to expose my husband's bad grocery shopping habit.

D. can't seem to resist buying 2 for 1 items. Even if we don't need it, even if it isn't something he likes, he'll bring it home because it was on sale, 2 for 1! (He also tends to buy things in very, very large sizes. Like, beyond econo-size, even. But I digress.) A month or so ago he brought home 2 for 1 pork tenderloins. Which wasn't actually a bad score, because you can do a lot with pork tenderloin and everyone in our house likes pork. But when I opened up the first of two pork tenderloin packages I found...two pork tenderloins. In his 2 for 1 haste D. had actually bought 4 pork tenderloins. The first package I used when we were still grilling but the second package has been lingering in our freezer. Sunday I decided it was go time. And since we'd already exhausted my typical pork tenderloin dishes with the first two loins, I could try something new.

My kids like food you can eat on a stick. I noticed this when I fed them fruit as toddlers. They ate fruit more readily and more abundantly if I gave them toothpicks to spear with. Sadly this phenomenon did not translate to vegetables...which are harder to sell, even on a stick. But I wondered if I could do something stick-tastic with meat. I found my answer thanks to, which aggregates recipes from a number of magazines including my favourite, Cooking Light.

Pork Satay with Peanut Dipping Sauce comes courtesy of Oxmoor House, who appear to be a publisher of cookbooks. Only problem with this recipe - I didn't have chicken broth, a necessary ingredient in their Peanut Dipping Sauce. So I decided to use their pork recipe but sub-in another peanut dipping sauce that I found in my Canadian Basics cookbook that didn't require the broth.

This proved to be a good recipe for a Sunday dinner for a couple of reasons. One, you have to pound the tenderloin to make it thin for threading on skewers, so you can work out a lot of 'darn the weekend is over already and it's back to work' aggression. Two, once you've pounded the pork and marinaded the pork and threaded the pork you only have to broil it for a few minutes each side to finish it off. So it's fast and doesn't take up a lot of oven time. Three, everyone ate it with no complaints because it tasted great. The marinade also has peanut butter, so you may find the dipping sauce is overkill but I liked it. I find there are two kinds of people in the world, those who dip and those who do not. I dip, D. does not. So there was lots of sauce left over. Here is how I made the sauce:

Peanut Dipping Sauce

1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
3 tbsp each: sugar, soy sauce, lime juice
1 tbsp each: minced garlic, minced fresh ginger, dark seasame oil
1/2 tsp (or to taste) chile paste or hot pepper sauce
1/4 cup warm water or coconut milk

Blend all ingredients in food processer until smooth.

Overall this was a great dinner, enjoyed as part of our triumphant 'holy cow I can't believe we ran 10K today' euphoria.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fig Jam

Every once in a while a new food follows me home from the grocery store. I don't mean for it to happen. One minute I'm sticking to the list and the next minute a food stuff I can't pronounce or have no idea how to eat is in my cart. Last weekend figs followed me home:

Sometimes I buy food I don't need or won't eat because I think it's pretty. I know. It's an odd habit to have let alone admit. For example, two weeks ago I brought home the cutest little baby eggplants I had no intention of eating because they were perfectly shaped and a deep, lustrous purple. I put them in my fruit/veggie bowl on the counter and admired them until they rotted. Then I threw them away.

Figs are okay as far as looks go, but they aren't eggplant. Which is to say I wanted to make something out of these figs. In the back of my mind I think I was recalling a recipe I read in Bon Appetit when I bought the figs - Country Ham and Cheese Biscuit Sandwiches with Fig Jam. The jam part of this recipe does indeed call for black mission figs but dried, not fresh. Foiled! So I poked around Google for a bit and came upon various recipes for fig jam, most of which called for the figs to be cut up and simmered in a sugar/water combo. So that's what I did:

I made a simple sugar syrup out of water and sugar and threw in my cut figs. Plus a splash of vanilla. They didn't thicken after an hour of simmering, so I turned up the heat a bit and sprinkled on more sugar. After another thirty minutes or so I had something that appeared to be the consistency of a jam. So I cooled it and I mason jar-ed it. Then I had to decide what I was going to do with it.

Sunday morning at breakfast I decided to put the jam into action. I made fried egg sandwiches with bacon and mozzarella on toasted english muffins with...a nice helping of fig jam spread on the bottom muffin. I like foods that serve up a salty / sweet combination and this hit the sweet (and salty!) spot. You can't see the fig jam in the picture below but trust me, it's there. I still have about 1/2 cup of jam left so let's see if I can get creative and use it up before it goes the way of the eggplant.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Terry Fox Run - The Pride, The Shame

Thank you to everyone who sponsored us in the Terry Fox Run this weekend! D. and I surprised ourselves by completing the 10K distance. We had only set out to do 5K but felt so good when we completed the first 5 that we decided to keep running. We finished in 1 hour, 1 minute and 58 seconds. D. took a celebratory picture of us with my iPhone shortly after we finished:

Yeah. That's my shoe. And my hand on D.'s shoulder. It's mostly assorted foliage from Springbank Park. Apparently we need to work on how to use the camera phone. Anyhoo, we raised (drum roll please) $320.00, so again thank you for your generous support.

That would be 'The Pride' of my post headline. 'The Shame' is what we (okay, I) did after, which was head to Smoke's Poutinerie and order up a helping of pulled pork poutine. Voila:

So any health benefit I might have gained by running 10K was immediately obliterated by greasy french fries slathered in gravy topped with cheese curds and pulled pork. But it was so good. I washed it down with a Lime Rickey Pop Shoppe Pop. So given the choice I'm going to choose to bask in the (sweaty) glow of having done a 10K, my first, and worry about the damage I've done to my arteries through poutine (not the first, nor the last) tomorrow.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Disney World Dishes - Corn Bread

I have been to Disney World...a lot. I don't even want to say how many times because it's embarrassing. My family loves going to Disney World. It's as far from day-to-day reality as you can get with nice weather to boot. And a monorail! What's not to like?

Our last trip to Disney World we had a couple of stand out meals. One that I particularly enjoyed was the Hoop Dee Doo Review dinner which featured the first corn bread I've actually liked. I've always gone through the motions with corn bread. It's the kind of thing I think I should like. It works well with stew, chili, fried versatile! And yet so disappointing. Until Hoop Dee Doo.

Now I must admit I might have enjoyed the HDDR corn bread so much because my husband got dragged on stage mid-way through dinner to participate in the show. When I booked the HDDR my husband made me promise that we (meaning he) would not have to participate in the show. I promised. We're sitting in the balcony, I said. No way can we get dragged into the action.

So when we were seated the night of our HDDR dinner near the front of the stage, just off to the right, I got a look. The nice Disney Cast Member perkily informed us that we'd been upgraded. For free! Uh-oh. How much to sit in the back?

My husband is not a joiner. He's perfectly wonderful and I love him to pieces, but he hates being the centre of attention. Which means that he is always chosen for things like audience participation theatre. When, mid-way through dinner the nice lady from the HDDR cast came and asked my husband if he would mind joining the show, he looked at me, looked at his two boys (wide-eyed and very excited for daddy) and threw aside his napkin with no hesitation. Sure, he said. Why not. Hence, the brave indian scout -

So while we enjoyed our corn bread, fried chicken, ribs and strawberry shortcake my husband gamely particpated in a scene right out of his worst nightmare. Because he knew the kids would love it even if he hated it. To make it up to him I make him corn bread. Whenever he wants. And remind him that it could have been worse. At least he wasn't the guy they dressed up as a fairy.

Walt Disney World Corn Bread - served at Fort Wilderness and Hoop Dee Doo Review

3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup milk

Heat oven to 375 F.
Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt. Add beaten eggs along with milk and vegetable oil. Use a whisk to stir mixture, mixing only enough to incorporate the elements. Pour batter into 13x9 baking pan hat has been coated with nonstick cooking spray.

Bake 20-25 minutes, or until golden. Cut in wedges and serve. Makes 12 servings.

Sandwiches. Again.

I think I've talked about my obsession with sandwiches before. It continues. I borrowed this book from the Library a few weeks ago:

Basically both mom and daughter cook, but they have different styles. Mom is a little more traditional with what I would call 'fussier' dishes. Daughter makes food that is simple and perhaps more 'modern'. Whatever that means. Both are blond and thin and stylish. So 'dishes' is a kind of double entendre, right? Right. Anyhoo.

I copied a bunch of recipes from this book with a few selections from both mother and daughter. Last Saturday I tried the Mona Lisa sandwich (courtesy Devin) and it was very, very good. I'm always amazed at how often simple recipes become my favourite recipes. And not because they are simple - because the results are just so good.

The Mona Lisa is a chicken sandwich. I loved how the chicken for this 'wich was cooked because it used on-hand ingredients and it was fast. Egg white, bread crumbs, chicken fillet. Dip in egg, dip in bread crumbs. Cook in 400 degree oven for 12 minutes. I did this the other night and ended up cutting up the second chicken fillet for my kids, who enjoyed their Mona Lisa chicken but were less than satisfied with the name. They know the Mona Lisa is a painting of a woman, not a chicken. So what gives mum?

Once you have cooked the chicken all that is left to do to make the Mona Lisa sandwich is melt some mozzarella on top of your fillet, which you accomplish while also toasting your bun. I used ciabatta buns picked up from a local bakery. You spread a mixture of pesto and mayonnaise on the toasted bun and top with a nice slice of tomato (just bought some at the local outdoor market - so much better than plastic tomatoes from the supermarket) and fresh basil leaves.

Both my husband and I loved this sandwich. Which is why I enjoyed it both on Saturday and again mid-way through the week. But once again, no picture. I seriously remember thinking I should take a picture but I didn't want to stop eating. Seriously. That good.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mac and Cheese, hold the radioactive powder stuff...

This weekend included a trip to Stratford to see Evita, one of the musical offerings of the Stratford Festival's 2010 season. It was a great performance and I had a nice afternoon exploring the great shops of Ontario Street with my SIL. Since we attended a Sunday matinee, there was no Sunday Dinner chez Robinson. I did, however, leave the husband, BIL and kids a huge casserole dish of macaroni and cheese for lunch.

I was so disappointed when my kids discovered Kraft Dinner. I wasn't responsible for this discovery but really, it made no difference how it was introduced. Once tasted, the neon-orange anemic noodles immediately usurped my version. I still puzzle as to what it is exactly that makes KD an attractive food option to kids. I mean, KD is to macaroni and cheese what the Big Mac is to a real hamburger, which is to say a pale imitation.

And yet every once in a while I serve up the good stuff hoping to lure my boys back to my way of thinking when it comes to mac and cheese. It didn't work. Which, while disappointing still has an upside since I just scarfed the remaining portion for lunch.

Macaroni and Cheese

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 cup milk, heated
1 1/2 cups cheese, grated (I used mild or medium)
1 1/2 cups cooked macaroni

Cook macaroni according to package instructions. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt butter over low heat in small saucepan. Add flour, stirring to combine. Slowly add heated milk, stirring until thick. Add cheddar about 1/2 cup at a time, melting into milk mixture.

Drain macaroni and place in casserole dish. Pour milk/cheese mixture over pasta and stir to combine. Top with grated cheese (another 1/2 cup) if desired. If you like crusty cheese (and who doesn't) I highly recommend this step!

Now Sunday Dinners (or lunches) are often all about the dessert at our house. There was a lovely pan of Sweet Maries at our house for the kids to finish off after mac and cheese (funny - they never turn up their noses at dessert) but SIL and I left well before these were brought out. Luckily we stumbled across Balzac's Coffee during our Ontario Street travels. Luckily Balzac's had Magic Cookie Squares. Luckily we were both happy to consider a Magic Cookie Square lunch. I've tried several MCS recipes over the years, from that espoused by Cook's Illustrated to the one typed out and preserved in the Optimist Cookbook I got from my mom years ago circa the 70's. The Eagle Brand website has a version that is totally reliable (and available!) so here it is - click!

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Unlike many of my contemporaries, I never discovered a taste for coffee until I was well into my thirties. My husband was late to coffee as well, using it to stay awake the year he earned his MBA, which was also the year we had our first child. Coincidence? Nu-uh.

So. Coffee. I would not thank you for a cup of straight black coffee, which is what my husband favours. I'm a designer drink girl, something that began when I had a Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks a few years back. Starbucks lattes are expensive. Some lattes (yes, I mean you PSL) are also a bit hefty in the calorie department. PSL are seasonal and a sometimes treat, so no biggie, right? Then Starbucks introduced the Cinnamon Dolce Latte.

This Summer I drank way-y too many CDLs. Sure, the calories aren't so bad (when you order skinny) but the cost per day was getting a bit out of control. Last Mother's Day my husband had attempted to make me a CDL as part of my 'breakfast in bed' and it was passable. It needed some work - the cinnamon was a bit gritty, for example, and left a rough after-taste but overall it was a respectable fascimile of the real thing. So I recently decided to try and find a way to make a good CDL at home. And it wasn't that hard. Here is the recipe -

1/2 cup strong brewed coffee
1 1/3 cups milk
2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Combine the sugar and cinnamon with the milk and heat. I did this on the stove top. I strained the milk mixture through a fine mesh sieve to get rid of the gritty cinnamon problem of Mother's Day memory. Add the coffee and voila. It's pretty darn close to the real thing.

For the gadget-happy crowd, a slight variation on the above. Go get yourself a Keurig Milk Steamer / Frother. Put the milk, sugar and cinnamon in this bad boy and it will steam your milk in about 90 seconds. Oh yes. Steamed, slightly frothy milk at the touch of a button. And the nifty little stirrer thing-y that whirs the milk around does a great job of dissolving the sugar and no need to strain. I haven't even tried the frother yet. It had me at steamed.

Now I realize that to save myself a few bucks I went and invested in a not inexpensive gadget. Thank you, kind husband, for pointing this out. I've made peace with my purchase. Up next - the homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte. Oh yes, you can!

Chocolate Mocha Cream Cake

I love food magazines. I've tried to curb how many I buy and stick to getting my foodie fix through websites like food gawker but try as I might I can't fully resist the glossy pages of what my husband calls my food porn. I have gotten more selective the last couple of years, but I still have literally dozens of pages of recipes that I have clipped from various magazines stuffed in a box alongside my recipe books. I go through them every season looking for something new to make. This past Sunday I finally got around to trying the 'Category Winner - Desserts' from a Cooking Light Recipe contest that I think is circa 2006. It's called One-Bowl Chocolate Mocha Cream Cake. It's fabulous. Truly. I can't believe I didn't get a picture...I must have been too distracted licking my plate.

Those of you acquainted with McCain Deep and Delicious Chocolate Cake - OBCMC Cake is kind of like that. But better. The cake part is moist and studded with chunks of chocolate. The icing is whipped, melt in your mouth deliciousness with just a hint of mocha flavour. I must admit that I originally wanted to try this cake because it calls for one jar of Marshmallow Fluff, and I have always wanted to buy said product. A win-win all around. No one was disappointed in this cake, which I served at our 'back to school' Sunday dinner. The main course was good too - (Steak Frites with Shallot pan reduction) but really, we only had eyes for dessert.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Cottage Food

I think this Summer was a record for our cottage attendance. We made it up three times, once each in June, July and August. Never before attempted, never before accomplished!

While at the cottage we tend to eat. A lot. Which is why I'm glad we only went up three times. Ahem.

I have a few favourite dishes from the cottage this Summer. I always try to attempt something new, something different, something I wouldn't necessarily try at home when we're North. This year we finally got to make 'Frogmore Stew', a recipe that has been clipped and patiently waiting to be executed for years now. It's another Cooking Light find that you can get here. I served it with small dinner rolls but next time will make corn bread, since I've found a reliable (and yummy) version! This was so easy to put together, effortless - which is nice at the cottage.

Peaches for dinner!

Well, officially this recipe is advertised as an appetizer, but I made it for dinner one night and it was delicious. Ooey, gooey and messy but worth the clean up involved. I can't say that the fam was as excited about this dish as I was. While D. loves peaches I think he wishes I would just focus on the classics like his beloved peach crisp and stop being so fancy-dancy with fruit.

So all this recipe requires is quesadillas, peaches and brie cheese. The dip is honey and lime juice/zest. You assemble the peaches and brie on the quesadilla, top it with another quesadilla then heat it up in a frying pan on the stove. I didn't do the best job cutting up the brie but no matter - it ate just fine. The full recipe, including the dip, can be found here at Cooking Light.