Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The Quinoa Quotient....

This blog is a little late in being written as we were on holidays this past weekend.  What is it about holidays that makes me want to come home and drink nothing but water and eat nothing but salad?  We ate pretty healthy and swam twice a day, but still...with all the eating out we did - all the sodium I consumed was evident by my wedding bands not fitting by Sunday!  (they fit fine now, thanks for asking).  Its amazing how quickly your body reacts when you stray from your normal eating patterns.  I guess it was the copious amounts of fries I had between Friday and Monday that did me in.  And I was SO GOOD in the days leading up to said vacay!  The Moroccan Spiced Turkey burgers were delish and there were so many leftovers that I didnt have to cook until we got back (and I had to put a few in the freezer too!). 

While on holidays we met up a few times with my old friend Lisa and her hubby and their kids.  For those of you who dont know, Lisa is probably the first friend I ever made in my life.  Our moms were (and are still) BFF's  and we lived across the street from each other for the first 18 yrs of my life.  Its a friendship I hold dear to my heart and even though we dont talk as often as our moms, I consider her one of my closest and dearest friends.  After 10 yrs of wedded bliss I finally got to meet her hubs and we actually double dated!  Left the kids at home with our moms (oh, mom came on vacay too) and hit up Hopkins in MJ.  It was a great night out!  Great conversation, great food and great friends!

A few nights later (after the maple leaf donuts made their appearance), we made our way back over to Lisa's parents place for supper.  And oh man....was it good!  Lisa busted out the Quinoa and made this phenomenal greek salad.  Ah-may-zing!  I think I may have just found a new favorite!  

On the way home we stopped in Brandon to pick up some groceries (we knew we wouldn't get back to Winnipeg in time to do so).   While chasing the little dude around Safeway, I spotted a brightly coloured, super yummy foodie mag on the display.  I quickly grabbed it and put it in the hubs basket.  He bought it for me and I poured over it for the next 2 hours.  Only when we got home did I look down and discover that said magazine cost a whopping $11!  My first thought was 'I could've bought a cookbook with that kind of cash!'.  But let me tell you, this mag has already paid off!   Tonight's salad supper was courtesy of the mag and theres TONS of recipes for Quinoa, wheatberries, salmon, and a whole section on flexible meals (making the same meal for the vegetarians, and some for the carnivores).  It shows you exactly where to stop cooking for the vegetarians and when to add meat to make it non-veg.  Super cool!

So be prepared in the coming summer months to see not only the burger challenge continue, but also once a week salad meals and the odd quinoa recipe to pop up!  This weeks recipe will be for the Moroccan Spiced turkey burgers.  While I was making them, it occurred to me that these would make excellent appy burgers.  Get the mini pita's and make mini burgers.  Best thing about Turkey burgers?  THEY DON'T SHRINK!  yay!

3 1/2 - 4 LBS ground turkey
2 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp paprika
1 tbsp coriander
1tsp cayenne (left this out b/c of the wee dude)
1 tbsp curry powder
1 sm onion grated
3 garlic cloves chopped
1/4 c fresh cilantro or flat leaf parsley chopped
zest and juice of 1 lemon
s & p
1/4 c. mango chutney
1/4 c plain greek yogurt
1 sm. bag coleslaw mix (shredded cabbage mix)
8 pita breads, any flavor (i used the weight watchers ones.  way less calories and whole grain too!)

Preheat BBQ to med-high

Combine turkey, spices, onions, garlic, cilantro, parsley, lemon zest, s & p in a large bowl.  MIX WELL WITH HANDS!  Form mixture into 8 - 10 patties (depending on the size of those eating them - i made mini ones for the mini dude).  Drizzle with EVOO and bbq for 6 min each side until cooked through.

While burgers are grillin', mix chutney, lemon juice and yogurt in a bowl.  Add the cabbage and a little s & p  and toss to combine.

When the burgers are done, place the pitas on the grill and heat on each side for a few minutes until warm.  Tear (or cut) each pita in half, open the pocket of the pita and place a turkey burger inside and top with the mango chutney slaw.  Enjoy!

On the menu for this week:

Southwestern grilled chicken salad with tomato and black bean salsa (made it tonight.  SOOOO GOOD!)
Sirloin burgers with garlic black pepper parmesan sauce and roasted tomatoes with basil and balsamic drizzle
Buffalo Chicken Pizza (from scratch.  including crust.  I've made this before and its DELISH!  Great way to use up left over chicken!)

Have a great week :)

p.s. the little dude saw me taking pictures of the burgers and wanted me to take a few shots of his plate.  he put all his food back on it and said 'mommy take picture?'.  so of course I had to!  here's his creation.  reminds me of a pic my dad would've taken!  lol!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The Polenta Paradox...

Ok, so last week was a bit of a fiasco.  I tried my hand at making Polenta, and lets just say....that will never happen again!  IT WAS DISGUSTING!  I pity my family for having to choke down the stuff!  But they were so kind and said they didnt mind it - although it wasn't their favorite.  The little dude gobbled it up with his chili and the hubs ate it.  Somewhat slowly, mind you, but he seemed to enjoy it.  I, on the other hand, was completely disgusted with the stuff!  BLECH!

The burgers turned out fantastic!  It was a bistro style burger, thus meaning you needed to eat it with a knife and fork.  After plating supper and placing the hub's burger in front of him he looked at it, looked at me and said 'I'm supposed to eat this how?  With a knife and fork?  And what are these purple things?'.  I replied 'Yes babe, with a knife and fork, and those are beets.'.  He took that as a challenge to eat said burger the old fashioned way and proceeded to sandwich the monstrosity together and eat it.  How successful he was remains to be seen, but considering 2/3 of the burger burst out the other end of the bun on his first bite, I'll safely say he wasn't all that successful at his attempt.

The vegetarian meal this week - Asparagus Tagliatelle - was full of flavour and nice and light.  A perfect summer pasta meal.  It was equally as good cold, a bit of a pasta salad feel to it.

And another dud in the slow cooker.  Why does everything turn to mush in that dang thing!?  Thats it.  I'm pressing pause on the slow cooker this week...

(mainly because I'm going on holidays and  won't be around Friday...phew!)

This week has been an interesting one in the kitchen so far.  We celebrated mothers day with my MIL on Saturday and my sisters birthday party on Sunday.  Both events involved Italian restaurants and copious amounts of pasta and ice cream were consumed.  I don't think I've ever had that much left over food in my fridge at one time WITHOUT ordering Chinese take out!  Like I told my mom on Sunday 'You know that line where you've eaten enough to be satisfied.   Not that full feeling, but that just pleasantly satisfied feeling.  Well,  I am soooooo far past that line right now - I'm pretty sure I'm coming back around to the line!'.  So needless to say there was no meal cooked yesterday, we just ate whatever was leftover in the fridge.

Like I said I'm going on a bit of a holiday this weekend, so the meal plan has been abbreviated this week.  On the list:

Grilled Moroccan Turkey Burgers (making these tonight!  Can't wait!)
Summer Corn Fettucini

(I'll post pics of the bistro burger later on as the pictures are on my camera at home... ;)  )

Get out there and enjoy the weather!  Happy cooking!

Sunday, 8 May 2011

The Challenge Has Been Accepted....

(this is the burger I made this week, but this is not my picture.  By the time I thought about taking a picture there wasn't any burger left!)

It's almost summer!  With the exception of the dump of snow we got last weekend, the weather has been ripe for barbecue season to begin.  The hub's is filling up the tank for the barbecue today and for the next few months it will be barbecued steak, chicken, ribs, grilled vegetables and anything else I can think of to throw on there..

Oh yeah!  And burgers too!

I was making my weekly grocery list yesterday and asked the hub's if he had any requests for this weeks meals.  This is how the rest of the conversation went:

me:  'So thats it?  Burgers?'

hubs:  'Yep'

me:  'Is that going to be your answer for the rest of the season?  Until the snow flies and stays in December?'

hubs:  'Yep'

me:  'So I take it that's a challenge?  For me to make burgers each week for the next X number of weeks?'

hubs:  'Yep'  (as you can tell, he's a man of many words)

me:  'Ok, challenge accepted!'

So thats the next layer to the 2011 food challenge that I've set out for myself.  Make a different burger each week for the next, I dont know how many weeks.  Lets say until...ummm...Thanksgiving weekend.  I havent actually looked at a calendar so I dont know how many weeks that is, and guaranteed when I do I'll freak out, but hey!  It's a challenge and I've accepted it!  BRING ON THE BURGERS!!!

(I will say that I am excited about this because he didnt specify BEEF burgers.  So there will be Chicken, Turkey, maybe even Salmon burgers in there!  But no soy....blech!  so bad for you!)

This week was an interesting one.  As I mentioned in last weeks post, for someone who has only made 3 casseroles in her married life, this week was an odd one because there was 2 on the menu!!  The main reason I never make the things is because the ones I cooked previously were so dreadfully awful that the Hub's asked that I never make them again.  And like a good wife I didnt.  Mainly because I agreed with him and didn't want to subject our family to that horror ever again.  But this week...well...this week may signal the return of the casserole to the fam's menu!  Seriously!  They were THAT GOOD!  The enchilada casserole was tasty and healthy and full of flavor.  And yes, it was VEGETARIAN!  The Fajitas Chilaquiles Casserole was equally as tasty, with plenty of cumin and chili and a touch of cinnamon, but I think the onslaught of flavours may have been a bit too much for the little dude.  He eats what we eat, but didnt really like all the flavour in this one.  He opted out for chicken and avocadoes, his go-to meal.  The slow cooker meal of the week was meh at best.  The rice was mush by the time I got home and the flavours were so indistinguishable that it was almost a dud.  The little dude ate 3 chicken legs though so that part turned out ok. 

The hit of the week though has to be the Bacon Bit Burgers with Gouda and Onions!  Soooo delicious and full of flavour.  The smothered onions were a nice touch and complimented the smokiness of the bacon in the burgers.  They were so good, in fact, that I'm making them today for Mother's Day! 

Here's the recipe:

Bacon Bit Burgers with Gouda and Onions

6 slices of smokey bacon chopped
2 onions - 1/4 finely chopped, 1 3/4 thinly sliced
1.5 lbs ground sirloin
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp hot sauce
1 lrg tbsp Montreal Steak Seasoning
4 crusty kaiser buns, split
4 slices gouda (smoked or not)
1/4 c. steak sauce (A1, HP or Lea and Perrins)

Fry bacon in a non stick skillet for 4-5 min until crisp.  Transfer the bacon to a paper towel lined plate and drain off majority of the fat, keeping about 1 tbsp. Return the pan to medium-low heat and add the finely chopped onions to sweat out in the remaining fat (2-3 min).  Remove onions and place on the same plate as the bacon to cool.

Preheat a second non stick skillet with 2 tbsp of EVOO over medium heat.  When the oil is hot, add all the thinly sliced onions and top with a plate that will seal securely (or a pot lid if you have on that fits).  Smother the onions for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  If using a plate, lift it with tongs as it will be VERY HOT!  Remove from heat and stir 1/4 cup of the steak sauce into the smothered onions. 

Place the beef in a bowl and add Worcestershire, hot sauce and grill seasoning.  Once the bacon and onions are cool add them to the beef and mix well (with your hands!).  Form it into one large ball and score into 4 equal portions.  Form into 4 large patties (or split one in 2 and make 5 if you have a little person like we do). 

2 ways to cook:
Stovetop - Add a bit of EVOO to a large, nonstick frypan.  Fry burgers on medium high heat for 4 min each side for medium rare, or 6 min per side for medium well.  When flipped place gouda on top to melt.

Barbecue - dont know the times for these as I havent barbecued them yet, but keep an eye on them and use a meat thermometer if you have one.  Just dont over cook.  Nothings worse than a barbecued hockey puck!

Place burgers on the bun bottoms and top with onions and set the bun tops in place.  Enjoy!!!

To up the ante:
Toast the buns under a hot broiler until golden.  Definitely recommended!

On the menu for this week:

Asparagus Tagliatelle (veg)
Hungarian style chili with polenta
Big Bistro Burgers with Shallots on grilled bread with beet and goat cheese salad (the challenge burger!)
Chicken with spinach, artichokes and mushrooms (slow cooker).

Happy cooking!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

The APP factor...

It was a good week.  A couple of change ups (we weren't home for supper on Monday so Tuesday became our meat free day of the week) and everything else went pretty much as smooth as can be expected.  With one surprise...

I'll admit, last week when I mentioned making Gwyneth Paltrow's recipe for Spaghetti Limone Parmaggiano it was with trepidation.  Usually when a celeb comes out with a cookbook I'm thrilled at first, but after trying some of the selections I'm left disappointed and the book either collects dust or is handed off to a family member or sold at a garage sale.  Thats why I was kind of skeptical of Queen Goop...until I made her pasta.  It was sooooooooooooooooooo good!  Tasty and light and filling and easy to prepare all at once!  And not only for me, but the rest of the family couldn't get enough.  I even caught myself saying that it would be contender for the next time I make supper for the extended family!  I KNOW!  It was THAT good!

I didnt find her recipe from when she appeard on Rachael Ray last week, I found it on a handy-dandy app on my iPhone.  I heart my may be a hand me down from my hubs (and 'fingers crossed' I'll get another hand me down when the iPhone 5 comes out in the fall), but its something I'm finding i'm using more and more for more than just calls.

When I first got the phone I thought 'cool!  I can play music on my phone now too!'.  But oh, how its become so much more!  With apps like 'Epicurious', 'Starbucks', 'All Recipes', 'Listpro', 'Convert' and various yoga apps (I could seriously go on for days!), my phone has become my go to place for new recipes, converting measures, checking up on news and other fun stuff!  And thats where I found Gwyneth's recipe.  While searching Epicurious for new vegetarian recipes I stumbled upon her recipe and decided to give it a go.  If you're looking for a new cooking app - definitely check Epicurious out.  Well worth it.

So this weeks reviews -

The creole meatloves were ok, and I think I'm going to give up on trying to feed my family sweet potatoes.  I love them, but the others...lets just say I've got LOTS of leftover sweet potatoes.  The homeade chicken fingers and fries are a much loved staple in our home and the slow-cooker boneless chicken cacciatore was good at best - my dads from scratch recipe blows it out of the water, but this one was an ok 3rd place.

And well - you know how I feel about the Spaghetti Limone Parmaggiano!

Try it!  You'll agree :)

Spaghetti Limone Parmagianno

3/4 box spaghetti (I used whole grain)
Coarse salt
1 lemon
1 1/2 c. parmesan cheese
fresh ground black pepper
2 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4c pasta water (to thin)
Handful of fresh basil leaves

Cook pasta according to package directions.

While pasta is cooking grate the zest from the lemon into a bowl.  Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice into the bowl, being careful to make sure no seeds get in.  Add the cheese, pepper and pinch of salt.  Mix in the olive oil to form a wet paste.

When the spaghetti is cooked, add 2-3 tbsp's of the reserved pasta water to the cheese mixture and stir.  Strain spaghetti and return to the pot.  Add the cheese sauce and toss thoroughly (add 1-2 tbsp of pasta water if necessary so that the sauce coats each strand.  Roughly tear in the basil leaves.  Serve with a fresh grind of black pepper and a sprinkle of extra parmesan.  Enjoy

*My version - I added 2 cloves of grated garlic to the cheese mixture.  I couldn't help myself.   I have a habit of putting garlic in everything!  lol!

On the menu for this week:

Enchilada Casserole (Meat free Monday!)
Bacon Burgers with Smoked Gouda and Onions (first bbq of the season!)
Fajita Chilaquiles Casserole (for someone who's made a total of 3 casseroles in her married life, I'm making 2 this week?  wha??????)
Mediterranean Chicken Breast with Wild Rice (slow cooker)

Have a great week!  Happy Eating!