Thursday, 29 May 2014

Baked Asparagus Fries

It's Asparagus season!!!

I am so excited to be heading to Barrie's Asparagus Farm located in Cambridge, Ontario.  I can't wait to get my hands on some farm fresh Asparagus as well as some Asparagus products, like their Gluten-Free Tortilla Chips and of course tell all you lovely people about my finds when I return.

Our family enjoys Asparagus year round, we are willing to pay the higher prices in the winter to enjoy this yummy treat.  Asparagus is generally on our menu at least once a week, sometimes two.  Occasionally, for a at home date night Jon and I will cook up a bunch of appetizers and watch a movie.  A few weekends ago we had one of these date nights and I whipped up these Baked Asparagus Fries.

Now when I say whipped, I mean whipped.  These fries were so simple and quick to make I even tried my hand at a homemade garlic aioli while they baked (get the recipe here). 

This was a yummy addition to our usual appetizer fare and I cannot wait to make them again (with fresh seasonal Asparagus of course).

Note the double dredging in the recipe, this step is very important to get full Asparagus coverage and a nice crispy crust.  I am also thinking of trying this recipe with other veggies, maybe green beans or zucchini.  What do you think??? Are you as excited for Asparagus as I am???

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Cajun Chicken with Spicy Sweet Potatoes, Bacon and Green Beans

Where do you find cooking inspiration??? I find inspiration in many things;  Pinterest is a great place, check out my plethora of pinteration here.  Fellow food bloggers have me salivating over their creations daily, I am really loving this blog right now.  Cooking shows, magazines, local farmers markets and the grocery store round out my list.  Really inspiration is every where and since starting this blog every where I look I am finding new things to try in the kitchen.

For quite some time I have been a BIG fan of collecting cook books and specifically Jamie Oliver's cookbooks.  For Christmas this year I recieved Jamie's 15 Minute Meals from my mother in law.

I am IN LOVE with this book.  I have always enjoyed Jamie's story like style of writing, it's like he is right there in the kitchen with you.  Every recipe is accompanied by a photo which I believe is a MUST; how am I suppose to know if my finished product is what was intended by the original creator?  I also enjoy that the recipes only take fifteen minutes. 

Ok, truth be told I have yet to accomplish making any of the recipes in fifteen minutes.  I can see how 100% kitchen organization, accompanied by solid cooking skills, the ability to improvise and memorization of the recipe could in fact have dinner on the table in fifteen minutes.  The reality is to that to the typical home cook the fifteen minute title is a little bit of a tease.  That being said half and hour is defiantly doable and that isn't too bad when you have a screaming, hungry toddler clinging to your legs as you try and hold off feeding them more O shaped snacks in the hopes that tonight they will in fact eat dinner.  Nope folks I will take thirty minutes, especially when that screaming toddler has devoured everything I have made from the book, score one for Mom!

So I will reiterate, I LOVE this book.  It quickly feeds my family healthy, whole some, real food, that is toddler approved.  It also offers me a tonne of inspiration, which is one of the reasons I enjoy my cookbook collection.  When I am at a loss for what to make, when the creative juices have run dry I flip through a cookbook and usually a recipe will catch my eye and although I very seldom recreate it word for word I will draw inspiration from the author. 

Take Jamie's recipe fro Spicy Cajun Chicken.  I pulled from it the parts I loved, like the cornmeal and cajun crust on the chicken which is an amazing alternative to fried chicken.  My family also enjoyed the addition of sweet chili sauce to the sweet potato mash, so I kept that.  Oh, and the bacon, of course I kept the bacon.  I said see you later to the okra, I've never cooked with it before and the first time I made this recipe I wasn't about to start, plus it isn't always available in supermarkets here, so I swapped it for green beans.  I also omitted the feta cheese as I dairy intolerant and try to omit it wherever I want to and most of the time I DO NOT want to omit it so I do it when I can.

My Cajun Chicken with Spicy Sweet Potatoes, Bacon and Green Beans was inspired by Jamie Oliver's recipe and tweaked to fit my cooking style and my families tastes. Oh and as a bonus, thanks to my tweaking of the recipe I have made it a true fifteen minute meal, for me, it may take you a little longer the first few times as you learn the steps. 

Feel free to make this recipe your own, that's all part of the inspiration process.  What inspires you to cook??? Where do you go for ideas???

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Mussels in a White Wine Shallot Sauce

I LOVE mussels and the only person in my life that shares my affection for these little gems is my Dad.

In April I attended the Waterloo Region Food and Drink Show (check out the details here) and received 2 lbs of mussels free from Caudle's Catch right here in KW.  That's right FREE!  So I couldn't let them go to waste.  I knew my husband Jon wouldn't be too enthusiastic about eating them and there was no way I could eat 2 lbs by myself. Ok, I could have ate 2 lbs myself, but I did not want to feel sick and never want to eat a mussel again.

We were having my family over for dinner so I decided mussels would be on the menu for appetizers. 

My Dad and I highly enjoyed them and even my brother and Jon. dug in.  My brother just couldn't get over the texture and declared them a no go, but my Jon was intrigued and said he wouldn't write them off completely.  Yeah food score for me!!!!

Mussels seem scary to attempt making at home, but trust me they are not.  The most difficult part is deciding how you want to cook them as there are a million ways to prepare them (check them out here).  I chose a simple and classic white wine sauce and amped it up with some shallots.  So simple, so delicious.

What is your favourite way to prepare mussels????

Friday, 16 May 2014

Kids in the Kitchen - Homemade Bread

My little loves to get her hands messy in the kitchen and help me out with the cooking.  She is only 23 months old so getting her involved is a bit of a challenge.  She generally loves any mixing, pouring, or kneading but things like knives, stoves etc are totally off limits until she learns the concept of safety.

Have I mentioned before that I  run a home daycare?  That's right, in addition to my 23 month old I have a whole brute of toddlers at my heels as I try and make them lunch and snacks everyday.

Children love to get involved in the cooking process; in the past I have made pizza, cookies and apple pie with the daycare kids.  In honour of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Day on May 16th, 2014 (you can read more about the movement here) I decided to make with the children a simple recipe that allowed them to be involved and get messy in the kitchen.

For those of you thinking I am CRAZY to cook with children this young I am going to break the process down into simple steps. 

First I prepped all the ingredients.  I did this in the morning before any of the children arrived and was able to think straight without littles grabbing at my pant legs or screaming out my name.  Cooking of any kind is easier when everything is ready to go, but it is especially important when little one's are helping, this way you don't have to run around the kitchen looking for supplies, you can simply focus on them.

While the kids were eating snack I mixed together the 2 cups of tepid water (hot water from the tap),  2 tablespoons of cornmeal, 2 tablespoon of instant dry yeast and 1 tablespoon of honey and let it rest for five minutes.

Then the fun started;  each child helped me individually by pouring a little of the 4 cups of flour into the mixer and then watched it mix.  It is important to stress the safety factor of NOT sticking our hands in the mixer when it is moving!  I always stop the mixer when having children this young add ingredients, as they get older they can perfect the skill of adding flour while the mixer is running, a skill I am still working on.

Then each child was given a small amount of dough to knead.  I gave them a VERY small amount as I knew  the chances of it actually being dough we would want to eat in the end was slim.  I made the right call as the dough was squished, thrown, licked and ended up on the floor, but they had fun.  If you are cooking with older children who are able to not consume or drop the raw dough by all means give them the full experience of kneading the dough; I used my dough hook on my stand mixer to do the job for me while I supervised the dough eating kneading.  As I told the children, you are trying to get the dough to "feel like play-doh".

It was then time to let the dough proof.  I am pretty sure the children had no idea what was happening and stared at me blankly while I tried to explain the science behind baking.  I filled the hour with this #tbt Magic School Bus episode and lunch.  Note: we did not eat lunch in front of the television, I do not believe in TV during meal times.  Meal times are opportunities to teach children table manners and the art of conversation and let me tell you two year old's can have some pretty amazing and funny conversations.

After lunch the children were each given two balls of dough and lots of flour and allowed to go to town creating whatever they wanted out of it.  Being under three, most of them kind of just squished it and said "all done", but older children would get a kick out of creating different shapes out of the dough.  Perhaps they could braid it??? Or practice their geometry making squares, circles and triangles; that's geometry right???

During nap time I baked the bread in a 375 degree oven for 25 minutes and the children enjoyed it for afternoon snack with some healthy toppings of Honey Butter (recipe here) and some homemade Rhubarb and Ginger Jam a  friend had given me.

They had lots of fun baking in the kitchen.  This was my third successful baking experience with them and I cannot wait to share more Kids In The Kitchen experiences with you.  My little even created some Food Love with her raw dough (done completely by accident).

What did you do to celebrate Food Revolution Day????

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Leek & Potato Soup

I am wishing and hoping that one day soon these rainy day posts can be done.  I know I should be rejoicing in the warmer temperatures, but being stuck inside with five toddlers all day can be taxing.  Good thing I usually have a yummy recipe in the works like this Leek & Potato Soup.

This soup is made the same way as my Easy Peasy Cauliflower Soup , which you can find here.  Everything is placed in the slow cooker in the morning and then pureed when you get home from work.  What could be easier then that?

Have you noticed the potato in my pictures? This was totally unplanned but it looks like even the potatoes in my kitchen are getting into the Food Love frame of mind.

To top everything off my two year old gobbled up three bowls of this soup at dinner and four more the next day!  Talk about super points for Leek & Potato Soup, it's easy and toddler friendly.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Oops! We had Slow Cooked BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches Instead

Sometimes I find that I set out with the intention of cooking one thing and half way through the process everything completely changes.

That delicious looking sandwich was originally going to be this healthful salad courtesy of Six Sisters Stuff

Doesn't that look yummy????

So how did I get to this:

Well it is simple really.  In the morning I placed all the ingredients in my slow cooker; a bottle of BBQ sauce and four chicken breasts.  Yep, that's it!  I am not even going to do a recipe write up for this one as that is literally all that goes into these sandwiches.  You can get all fancy pants and make your own homemade BBQ sauce like one of these listed here, but let's be honest who has the time for that on a weekday.

So the intention was to make the yummy looking salad shown above. I spent the day in the house with the aroma of the chicken cooking and there was something not quite right.  The smell, not that it smelt bad, it just didn't scream to me "put me on a salad".  We make pulled pork A LOT in our house, especially when entertaining and it was reminding me of that.  What this chicken needed wasn't a salad, it was a bun.

I quickly sent a text asking the hubby to stop and grab some buns on the way home from work and the veggies for the salad became this;

Ok, so I really haven't changed the original plan too much.  I added a bun, omitted some store bought ranch dressing and created this;

So this is where oops becomes yeah!  Wrong type of BBQ sauce = yummy pull chicken sandwiches and a homemade salad dressing that was a BIG hit with our almost two year old. Double Win!  

Have you every completely jumped ship in the middle of a recipe?  Did you end up with a fabulous discovery?

Monday, 5 May 2014

Happy Cinco de Mayo!!! Steak & Shrimp Fajitas

We love Mexican Food and enjoy fajitas, tacos and nachos quite regularly in our house.

At least a few times a month I make these quick and simple fajitas.  Sometime I make them with chicken, sometimes with pork, but this time I whipped up some Steak & Shrimp Fajitas and thought it would be an appropriate recipe to share with you today.

For this particular batch I made use of my fancy new old cast iron skillet a cast off of my brothers.  You could use a regular cookie sheet or baking pan to make these fajitas.

I love this method of making fajitas because I can prep everything at nap time, place the peppers and onions in the oven and set the automatic start timer.  Automatic start on an oven is the BEST feature EVER, if your oven has it and you've never used it I suggest you try.  It can help speed up the dinner making process and give you more time to spend doing the things you want/need to do.

Because of my handy dandy automatic start, when all my daycare kids leave the peppers and onions are done and I can add in the tortillas, steak and shrimp and prep the rest of the toppings and supper is on the table in less then 20 minutes!

If you are looking for a supper that will help you celebrate Cinco De Mayo today give these fajitas a try, they are quick, simple and delicious.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Lemon & Thyme Icebox Cake - A Mother's Day Treat

Mother's Day is just over a week away so I though I would share a simple, delicious and stunning recipe with you to make for your Mama.
I originally stumbled across this recipe here and though it would be a fitting dessert to share at our family Easter celebrations.  I was right, this cake was a huge hit and I am pretty sure I ate it three days in a row!

I also gave these Candied Lemons a go, but failed miserably.  I had the stove temperature set too high and they ended up burning, boo :(  So instead I just topped the cake with fresh sliced lemons and some thyme sprigs, not edible, but still fancy.

This has become one of my favorite desserts and I cannot wait to make it again.