Monday, May 31, 2010

Meatless Monday: Asparagus & Tomato Pizza with Pesto

I feel oh-so-lame telling you to go elsewhere after you've been so kind to drop by Under the High Chair, but the staples of today's Meatless Monday recipe are a still a click away.

Last week was hot, dang hot. Fortunately, I was prepared, thanks to my post on Warm Weather Batch Cooking over at Simple Bites. Both pesto and pizza dough were stashed in the freezer, making Monday's meatless option pretty obvious.

Roll dough, slather with pesto, top with mozzarella, snap a few asparagus spears on top and finish with diced fresh tomato. Cook pizza on the barbecue to help keep the house cool, plus get that charred, crusty bottom on the pizza that is so, so good.

Serve on the shady back deck, with strawberry limeade made from the first local berries and the not-very-local limes. Toss your crusts to Mr & Mrs. Mallard who flew in half-way through dinner and stayed for dessert.

Head here for the pizza dough and pesto recipes. You probably won't want to miss the Strawberry-Limeade either.

Friends, I do believe summer has arrived.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Freezing Strawberries: The Basics

Quebec strawberries are here! I picked up my first flat at my local market early this week and after we ate our fill, I turned them into all sorts of delightful things.

Find out some of my preserving methods over at Simple Bites today, where I share Four Simple Ways to Freeze Strawberries.

From the post:

"While you feast on a bowl of strawberries and cream, consider your options for freezing the berries. Why yes, there are options!

Please don’t lump the ruby jewels together in the bottom of a plastic bag, so that they freeze into an indistinguishable lump that is destined to become freezer burnt.

Your berries deserve more than that."

Head here to read the rest and get the recipes for a vibrant strawberry coulis and the refreshing strawberry-limeade concentrate.

Enjoy your weekend!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Meatless Monday: Falafal & Pita

In case you missed this full disclosure communiqué, we are now embracing one meatless meal a week, in conjunction with the official Meatless Monday movement.

We're actually eating more like 2-3 meatless meals a week, and so far there are no complaints.

Let me just state for the record, Meatless Monday was no invention of mine. Apparently there was some confusion on the subject, and I can't take credit for this global crusade.

(Wordless Wednesday isn't mine either, but it doesn't hurt to have a few people thinking that is was my creation.)

Chickpeas. Yep, I mashed them, seasoned them, shaped them into patties and baked them with a bit of bacon fat. Which felt weird. Like I was defeating the purpose of cooking vegetarian. But the falafal tasted amazing.

We stuffed the patties in organic whole-wheat pitas, crammed fresh vegetables in along side and enjoyed everything topped with sour cream. Tzatziki would have been even better.

Head over to Chow Vegan for the recipe, but please, don't compare photos!

One note on the recipe: I didn't have a sprig of fresh herbs in the house (recipe calls for parsley & cilantro) so I threw a handful of dried mint from my mother's potager into my mortar and pestle and crushed it up. It always amazed me how these home-grown, home-dried herbs retain their fragrance and flavor.

The mint was subtle and delicious in the falafal. I would use it again.

Enjoy your Meatless Monday! Its a holiday here in Canada--and I'm in the mood to grill. Please pass along ideas for fabulous vegetarian grillables!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Thankful Thursday & Poppy-Seed Lemon Cupcakes

5:30pm is my new favorite time of the day.

It used to be my worst. Occupying two hyper kids in a hot house, waiting hungrily for papa to arrive home from his hour-long commute, and sitting down to a 6:30 supper. That doesn't leave much family time before baths and bed.

Then we moved to a place with a huge yard and a forest to call our own--all within ten minutes of Danny's work. And I invested in a MacBook.
Both of those actions were enough to greatly improve my daily life.

Now it's 5:30 in the afternoon, and I'm sitting on my shady back deck with a chilled glass of Reisling. I'm typing away at two or three upcoming posts, tweeting occasionally, and watching the boys blow bubbles while barefoot on the grass. A fragrant paella is on the stove and Danny will be home in minutes. We'll have supper at a normal hour, then take a stroll down to the water.

We're at a good place right now. I'm not trying to project a false impression or brag that my life is perfect (OhBoyNo); I'm just taking a step back to look at the big picture and appreciate what I've got. It's good to count your blessings once in a while.

OK, let's talk cupcakes.

Remember this cake? You'll be happy to know it makes some pretty decent cupcakes.

To make these light, summery and highly memorable cupcakes, start with one recipe of Poppy-Seed Lemon Butter Cake and bake into 24 cupcakes.

Glaze while still warm with the tart frosting below and try to share a few, OK?

Puckery Lemon Frosting

  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • icing sugar to desired consistency

In a small bowl, whisk melted butter and lemon juice until smooth and light. Stir in icing sugar until mixture is thick, but still drops from the whisk when lifted.

Add more lemon juice if frosting is too thick.

To frost: turn cupcake upside down and dip into frosting. Invert immediately and place on a tray or rack to set. Garnish with as sprig of fresh thyme if desired.

Best enjoyed the same day they are made.

(Apologies for the poor photo, but truth be told, I was on my way out the door with a kid on each hip.)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Meatless Monday: Coconut Rice & Beans (but so much more than that)

I wish I could form one or two well-written paragraphs about how our eating habits are changing here at UtHC. I keep procrastinating over writing anything because I don't know where to start and there's so much I want to say, but not enough time to devote to this space.

If I had a quiet afternoon to write, I would begin by filling you in on how our family table (and pantry, fridge, etc...) has slowly been evolving into more nourishing food, even though the rare (we're talking twice in 8 years) appearance of glazed doughnut would make it look otherwise.

In those paragraphs, I would paraphrase the many conversations Danny and I have had over what we put into our bodies, feed our kids, and the small, but steady steps we are taking to improve our families diet.

I would aptly summarize my myriade of thoughts after watching programs like Food, Inc. and Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food, conveying my ragged emotions after each one finished, (cried myself to sleep after Food, Inc, no joke) and my square-shouldered determination to DO something. For myself, for my family, for my community.

(Oh, not to mention this book club with the enlightening and deeply disturbing-yet-inspiring, In Defense of Food. There would be a pretty long rant about the state of our grocery stores these days.)

Then, if anyone besides my mother was still reading*, I would formulate a moving conclusion to my post by sharing some of the steps we are taking to eat more nourishing, real, food, as well as daily making choices with our fork to help change our sadly derailed food system.

Things like Meatless Monday.

I brought you The Beef Chronicles** which honored (and rightly so) the locally raised, grass-fed Angus, and now I'm swinging the pendulum and introducing a new series called Meatless Mondays.

You can call it contradictory OR balanced, either way I'm still going to be eating one more vegetarian meal a week, so it doesn't really matter. Why says you can't have a meat-lovers series and a vegetables series on the same blog anyway? (OK, so it's a little confusing.)

I'm going to try my darnedest to share the dishes with you every week, which may end up being every second week... I think we all know that the new baby gets all the attention--and there's not a lot of leftover time for older siblings.
I'm aiming for a Sunday posting, so you can add the recipe to your weekly menu plan.

We'll see how it goes.

OK, about this weeks recipe. We enjoyed it, but then again anything with a cumin/lime/cilantro combination, I pretty much flip over. Add toasted coconut and mango, and it gets added to our regular repertoire stat.

You know what the thing is about this recipe, besides the brilliant flavor profile, of course, it that it is CHEAP. Plus most items are pantry stapes, making it a good choice when the fridge is bare.

Give it a try. Give Meatless Monday a try. Be a part of the solution***.

Coconut Rice & Beans
adapted from this recipe, originally found in Southern Living.

1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup chicken broth
3/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons butter, divided
1 1/4 cups uncooked basmati rice
1 small onion, chopped
1 (15-oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can black eyed beans, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 red pepper, chopped (optional)
1 lime
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Toppings: lime wedges, diced mango, sour cream, cilantro, green onion.

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Bake coconut in a single layer on a baking sheet 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted. Cool.
2. Bring broth, coconut milk, salt & pepper, 2 Tbsp. butter, and 1 cup water to a boil in a 2-qt. saucepan. Stir in rice. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 15 to 20 minutes or until rice is tender and water is absorbed.

3. Meanwhile, melt remaining 1 Tbsp. butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; add onion and sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in beans, chili powder, cumin, and 3/4 cup water. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes.
4. Grate zest from lime, avoiding pale bitter pith, into a bowl; squeeze juice from lime into bowl.
5. Fluff rice with a fork. Fold lime zest and juice, coconut, green onions, and cilantro into hot cooked rice. Serve bean mixture over rice with desired toppings.

*My mother doesn't read. That's right, you heard me correctly. It's kind of hard to when you don't have the Internet. I'd like to see you try.

** The Beef Chronicles are alive and well, on our table, anyway, if not on this blog. We ordered another half-cow, having plowed through all 120-plus pounds of Angus over the winter. It's currently at the butcher, getting divided up into future ossobuco and roast beef dinners.

***Meatless Monday: a worldwide movement to reduce consumption of animal products in favour of more plant-based meals to fight global warming and improve personal health.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

To-Do List Extraordinaire

This June, Danny and I are hosting a highly anticipated Wimbush family reunion. Two parents, three siblings, three siblings-in-laws, and three nieces and two nephews will join our family of four. Count it up, folks, that's seventeen mouths to feed, and I couldn't be happier about the fact.

Yup, I'm pretty tickled about it all. We haven't all been together since summer of '07 ( I know) where we threw this little country party under the watchful eyes of the mountains. Three years (and three more grandchildren later) is just too long to be apart.

Obviously, we have much to celebrate.

Since the countdown is actually weeks and not months now, I sat down today to start a to-do list. Yes, I like to feed people. A lot. And I like to be organized. That means stocking the freezer and pantry, jotting down a loose menu plan, and reserving another side of beef.

Here's what will be joining the beef in the freezer, I mean, ideally -- if I only sleep four hours every night between now and then.

For Breakfasts:

Several dozen of these Lemon-Ginger Cream Scones, raw.

Cubed fruit for smoothies, bananas, berries, etc.

Buckwheat pancake mix. Still have to come-up with a good recipe.

This Granola
. Like about a gallon of it.

Pre-cooked bacon. I bake it on a foil-covered baking sheet, where it cooks nice and flat. I might even glaze it with maple. Then I toss it in Ziplock and freeze for easy, no mess, bacon & eggs.

For Dessert/Picnics

Julie's Puddle Cookies. We're addicted.

This Dark Chocolate Caramel Sauce. Technically, it will go in the fridge, not freezer.

Pie crust, for this Stone Fruit Patchwork Bake or quiches. Also puff pastry, but not homemade.

Oat topping for fruit crisps/crumbles.

My Tonka Bean Spice Snaps. They freeze wonderfully.

Marshmallows. Of course. We have a fire pit in the back yard and have discovered that these Toasted-Coconut Marshmallows are pretty heavenly when roasted on a stick.


Most meals will be cooked from scratch, but there will be staples stashed in the freezer that will make those dinners that much more special, such as:

Homemade tomato sauce.

Beef bone stock and demi glaze, a lovely reduction of beef stock and red wine used for flavoring sauces.

Chicken stock.

Lobster butter, for this killer salad. Perhaps.

I'm getting excited just planning this part and this is just the beginning! As the date draws closer, there are cheeses to select, a wine rack to fill, and markets to scour for the very best Quebec produce.

There's only one rule when my family visits: NO diets.

OK, what am I missing?? What would you make ahead of time and throw in the freezer to simplify meals, while trying to keep it as yummy as possible?

Please add your suggestions in the comments! Bear in mind we will be eating most lunches on the go (beach, mountain, zoo, downtown, winery, etc) and most dinners will be prepared fresh.

Wo-hoo! Five weeks to go 'til the first airport pick-up.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Tomato & Chevre Phyllo Tart with Thyme

It sounds fancy, but honestly, this tart is easy to make. I put it together on an afternoon when I was didn't have a minute to spare to make pizza or tart dough, and was headed to a rooftop party with a few friends.

The base is phyllo pastry, which requires a delicate hand, but is well worth the care.

And tomatoes and thyme? I think their even better suited than tomatoes and basil.

Ah, the return of tasty tomatoes bring so many options for lunch. Hope you enjoy this one.
Oh, and please, don't call it pizza.

Tomato & Chevre Phyllo Tart with Thyme

About 8 sheets of phyllo, defrosted if frozen
1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled (you could also use olive oil)
3 medium tomatoes
1 clove garlic, chopped
several springs fresh thyme (or fresh herb of your choice)
3/4 cup fresh goats cheese,(chevre) crumbled
2 Tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

Slice tomatoes thinly and toss in a bowl with chopped garlic, thyme leaves, and olive oil. Set aside and allow to marinade while you prepare your pastry.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Lay a sheet of phyllo on a baking tray and brush with melted butter. Cover with another sheet of phyllo and brush again with butter. Repeat until you have about 8-10 layers. Don't sweat it if the phyllo tears, just patch it up with butter.

Roll up the sides slightly until you have a small rim all around. Crumble goats cheese all over tart base.

Drain any liquid from marinating tomatoes and lay them in a thin layer over the chevre. Sprinkle extra thyme over, if desired. Season with salt and pepper.

Bake until crust is brown, about 20-25 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve.

Note: If you love tarts such as this one, then you may want to try my Asparagus & Gruyere Tart.
It's perfect for spring.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

There’s no such thing as bad weather...

...just bad gear.

There are many joys that come with motherhood, however, the scads of laundry is not one of them. The list of enriching life experiences as a mother is indeed lengthy, but not once has laundry duty ever made mine. Nope, not even folding those ultra-soft, teeny-tiny pastel infant sleepers with the cotton pom-pom bunny tails.

I just plain detest laundry.
I'd rather pull weeds all day long than fold laundry.
However, I’ve been blessed with two boys. Boys who love the great outdoors, and everything it offers from mud puddles to slimy toads. This makes me happy, don’t get me wrong, but Oh. The. Laundry.

It piles up faster than kitchen scraps on the compost, and, unlike the compost, it doesn't decompose when ignored.

Enter Puddlegear.

Boasting to be "Environmentally friendly and kid safe rain gear for tough customers", Puddlegear is all that and much more. It has helped reduce my laundry pile from Mount Everest to Mount McKinley, and that alone is reason to love it. Less time doing laundry means more time to cook and bake.

Made by Abeko, leading manufacturers of raingear in Europe, Puddlegear is simply the best of it's kind --and who knew rain gear for your 'littles' could be so cute? Or more importantly, so comfortable, practical, and downright essential.

Now we can get outside every day, no matter the weather. The turtles, snails and woodland critters don't stand a chance.

Let me quickly highlight some of Puddlegear's attributes:
• PVC and Phthalate free
• tear resistant
• soft & flexible
• wind and water tight
• certified by Oko-tech to be chemical-free
• machine washable
• totally cute!

There are also many small, but thoughtful details such as the reflective tape, reinforced knees and (my favorite) the boot stirrups.

(yes that is a toad in hand and a large turtle on the log)

The day after our Puddlegear arrived, we were downtown running errands and got caught in the rain. (OK, so we weren’t so much running errands as completely spoiling our lunch with treats from all our favorite places.) Somewhere between Café Myriade and Riz en Follie, it started splattering, heavily.

“MOM!” Noah cried, urgently. “We don't have our Puddlegear!!!”

Somehow, overnight it had become essential for his existence in rain.

I laughed, but when the rain drove us into MMFA for an impromptu visit to our favorite Riopelle, I found myself agreeing with him. Eventually the rain dried up and we moved on to Ben & Jerry's for ice cream; however I learned an important lesson that day:

Never, ever get caught in the rain without Puddlegear again.

(Disclaimer: I was not paid for this review, however I did receive free Puddlegear. Thank heavens I did, because it's improved our quality of life. The boys are wearing Albin jackets with Ollie pants).

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Tips for a Peaceful Mother's Day (via Simple Bites)

It's Mother's Day this Sunday!

Don't worry, I've got you covered with my latest post over at Simple Bites:

How to Have Peace, Serenity AND Breakfast in Bed on Mother’s Day.

From the post...

By simply planning ahead and offering a few instructions/suggestions for the well-wishers, I increase my chances of getting a speedy and tasty breakfast in bed, minimize kitchen disasters, and ensure a relaxed start to the day for all.

Click through for a full confessional, helpful to-do lists for the whole family and a basic scone recipe to bookmark.

Happy Mother's Day!


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