Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Green Beans 2 ways

I bought a lovely bag of fresh green beans the other day. They were tender and not stringy. Almost like spring. This is how I fed them to my family!

Sesame Green Beans

1 Large handful of fresh green beans, topped and tailed
1/2 red pepper, julienne cut
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp butter
1/2 tsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 tbsp sesame seeds*
coarse salt and fresh cracked pepper

In a large pot of salted boiling water, blanch the green beans. Take them out after 2-3 minute and immediately put them in to a cold water and ice bath to stop the cooking and to keep that bright colour. You can carry on with the steps or you can put them in the fridge for later use that day or the next.

Just before you are ready to serve the beans, heat up a large pan and add the oil and butter. When it is hot add the sliced peppers, beans, garlic and ginger. Saute the mix until it is hot and cooked to desired consistency. (I like my veggies crispier than my husband)

Season generously with the salt and pepper and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.

*look for black sesame seeds next time you are out, they look really cool alone or mixed with the white kind

Mint Green Beans for Baby


1 large handful of green beans, topped and tailed (again, take out the thick string down the spine)
1/2 tsp dried mint or small handful of fresh mint, cleaned and picked off the stem

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the green beans until they are soft and cooked through. 6-7 minutes. Stop the cooking immediately by putting them in to a bowl of ice water. Reserve the cooking liquid.

Put the chilled green beans along with the mint in to a blender or food processor. Blend to desired consistency that your baby is eating. You may need to add a little of the cooking liquid to help it puree.

Use up with in 3 days or freeze in ice cube tray for up to 3 months.

*When I made these I felt like my baby is almost ready for a chunkier puree so I did it in 2 batches. The first more chunky and the second really smooth. Make sure you remember to label them clearly!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Lactation Cookies

Ingredients
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
4 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons ground flax seed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups oats (not quick)
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup raisins
4 tablespoons brewer's yeast


Preheat oven to 350°.
Mix the flax seed meal and water and let sit for 5 minutes.
Beat butter, sugar, and brown sugar well.
Add eggs one at a time and mix well.
Add flax seed mix and vanilla.
Mix together flour, brewers yeast, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl.
Add dry ingredients to butter mix.
Stir in oats, raisins and chips.
Scoop onto baking sheet.
Bake for 10-12 minutes

So what makes these "lactation cookies" anyway? Well I think it is the nutrient dense ingredients that work together to help out the boobies do their thing. I think we tend to neglect some basic dietary needs when looking after our little ones and our supply can tank because of it. Now I am not a doctor or lactation expert but I have read a few things and I can put 1 and 1 together.

After a few days away from my little guy I noticed a big dip in my supply. I made a big batch of these (with a few adjustments) and have been snacking on them since. I'm not 100% sure that they have made a difference but I do feel pretty good eating these tasty treats.

My adjustments, by the way, were that I cleaned out the fridge a little when making them. I added a cup of walnuts and about a cup of yogurt to the mix and I chopped up the last few dried apricots that I had in the pantry and tossed them in too. Instead of scooping the cookies out I pressed the batter into a large glass baking dish, lowered the temperature to 325 and let it bake for about 25 minutes. Basically until it was golden brown and firm looking. After cooling I cut them into squares. Just seemed easier to me and faster.

Brewer's Yeast: really high in B vitamins, folic acid and Chromium. Active ingredient in beer making, maybe the reason why it is sometimes recommended for women to drink dark beer to help their supply too.
Oats: B Vitamins
Flax seeds: Omega 3 Fatty acids!
Raisins: High in iron and tasty!
Chocolate: Releases endorphins supposed to help with let down and who doesn't need a little chocolate?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

Mushroom Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

1 tenderloin
1 tsp butter
3 mushrooms, diced
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp thyme
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp of olive oil
1/2 cup of cheese, grated (I used a gouda but a goat cheese would be really good too)

preheat oven to 400 degrees.
saute onions in a pan on a medium to high heat. when they are translucent and starting to brown add the garlic and mushrooms. cook until liquid evaporates from mushrooms, about 5 minutes. season with salt and pepper and add the thyme.
set aside and allow to cool
trim your pork tenderloin of any fat and that strip of thick silver skin. with a boning knife, pierce the tenderloin from both ends to create a pocket that goes all way through the center.
Now that your filling is cool, add your cheese and mix it well.
Put the filling into a piping bag and fill the pocket that you made in the pork from both ends. Try and fill it evenly. Keep the outside of the pork clean.
Spread the olive oil around the pork and season generously with fresh cracked pepper and coarse salt. Put the pork on a baking sheet ( I lined mine w/ parchment paper).
Roast it in your oven for about 30 minutes. Internal temperature should be 160. Cover it loosely in tinfoil and let it rest for ten minutes before slicing.
Slice into 2 inch slices and arrange on a serving plate.

*serves 2-3 people. I tripled this recipe and fed 6 of us and had a little leftover, this included 3 grown men, a breast feeding mama and a jock chick and a grandma

**herb crusting here would be easy to do. On a plate mix together a tablespoon of your favourite dried or fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, basil, sage...) and roll the pork in it (after s&p and olive oil) and roast it as above.

Pear, apple and apricot for baby

Peel and core 2 apples and 2 pears, cut into quarters
Rough chop 10 dried apricots

Put the pear, apple and apricots into a small sauce pan. Add 1/3 cup of filtered water or unsweetened apple juice.

Let simmer for 15 minutes. You should be able to pierce the fruit easily with a knife but you don't want it to be total mush.

Throw everything in the blender and puree away. Make it as chunky or smooth as your baby is eating. Again, use in 3 days or freeze in ice cube trays and use up in 3 months.

*substitute apricots for prunes, it just wont be as pretty :)

Cocoa Energy Bars

Cocoa Energy Bars

Ingredients:
¾ cup smooth peanut butter
¾ cup liquid honey
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ½ cups quick cooking oats (not instant)
1 ¼ cups crisp rice cereal
1 cup dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, chopped apricots)
1 cup chopped unsalted peanuts

Directions:
Spray 13X9 (3L) cake pan with cooking spray.

In saucepan combine peanut butter, honey, brown sugar and cocoa. Cook over medium heat for 6 minutes stirring often, or until smooth.

Remove pan from heat. Stir in oats, cereal, dried fruit and nuts. Press firmly into prepared pan. Cool before cutting into 32 bars.
Makes 32 servings.

Approximate values per serving:

150 calories
3.5 g protein
5.8g total fat (2.7 g monounsaturated)
21g carbs

* When I make these I like to slice and wrap them and then freeze them. They are great for grabbing and going!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

What would Ramsay say?


Gordon Ramsay at The London West Hollywood

We were very excited to try out this restaurant and as I write this I have to say that I am a little disappointed. It could have been better and it should have been. It started out with 2 mess ups with our reservation. We had made a reservation on the first night we were here for Saturday night. They were to confirm and when they didn't we double checked with them. There was no reservation. We booked again for Saturday night and took the 8:30 slot. When we arrived at 8:25 we were told that our reservation was for 9:30. Even though there were empty tables she was unwilling to let us stay and she didn't really seem to care either.

We returned at 9:30 and we were seated promptly. We both ordered the Chef's Menu. 7 courses of tasting size. It looked good on paper and we were hungry. Amy our waitress annoyed me straight off the bat when she asked Aaron what he would like to drink and then walked away. I guess she assumed we were having the same thing or maybe she just didn't see me there. It was a good thing that our Johnny Depp look a like bus boy was looking after us or I don't know if we would ever have gotten to order.

First Course: Steamed bamboo shoot and shiitake mushroom chawanmushi

The custard with chopped mushrooms was really good. Well seasoned and really great consistency. I was glad it was included in the menu as it is a perfect example of something I would never have ordered but ended up loving.
Second Course: Smoked Brook Trout with avocado and cucumber, basil purée, paddle fish caviar

This was the prettiest plating of all the dishes of the meal and the food was as good as it looked. I thought the trout tasted fresh and had a beautiful colouring.

Third Course: Pressed Foie Gras with truffle, apple and brioche

The foie was really clean tasting and paired really well with the crisp apple. It was good. Really good. The brioche wasn't all that special and was kind of unnecessary and also a little burnt.

Fourth Course: King prawn ravioli, creamy fennel purée, light lobster bisque

Aaron liked his better than I liked mine. I thought the prawn was overcooked. Maybe mine was the first one in and the last one out. It wasn't special, it tasted good but I have high expectations for this place. The bisque though was AMAZING. Really great flavour and a fantastic consistency.

For our mains, Aaron had a lamb dish that was really well prepared. It was cooked perfectly and seasoned with skill. I had the duck done 2 ways. The first way was the best duck I have ever had. The skin was crispy and the meat tender. It was delicious. The second way was pan roasted duck breast and it was pretty mediocre. Greasy and cold. It was the only thing out of the whole menu that I was glad there wasn't more than a few bites of.

Pre-dessert :(yes that is what they called it) Cara cara orange three ways, cinnamon ice cream and rose water sabayon.

It was a nice finish. It was light and sweet and fresh tasting. Served in a larger shot glass looking dish it was also beautiful to look at before digging in.

Dessert : Chocolate cream savarin with malted milk emulsion and salted caramel ice cream

Lovely taste, good textures and fresh ingredients. I could eat this for dessert every day. The savarin was so smooth.

With espresso they brought out a plate of petit-fours that were creative and tasty. I think it was a wasabi macaroon and a chocolate that was filled with a honey mixture. The food runner who brought it out was a bit of a mumbler so I missed what he'd said. Naturally it was not Amy the waitress who brought it out. She only bothered to come back to bring us the bill, before we asked for it which is a major faux pas in a caliber of this restaurant.

So what would Ramsay say? I think he would tell them to tighten up and quit being pretentious. If you are going to charge that much then you should earn it on every level. They won't get their Michelin Star with dinners like this even with Gordon F@$&ing Ramsay's name all over the place.

Eating in LA

On holiday in Los Angeles and we are having a great time stuffing our faces.
Highlights:
Salads at Aroma Cafe, fresh, tasty and HUGE!
Sushi at Koi...the crab! the tuna!
Eggs Florentine at Mel's
Pizza at the Fire Stone
Dinner at Gordon Ramsay
Fresh avocado everywhere

Lowlights:
Sushi at Koi, it has RUINED sushi at home for me...le sigh
18 dollar cocktails
Not having enough room for dessert

Stay tuned for more details about Koi and Ramsey in the near future. I am off to get a snack now.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Tacos or How to be sneaky with the veggies.

Tacos are always a favourite at our house. The ones I made last night were tasty. I'm not a fan of the taco seasoning packages so I always play around with the seasonings from our pantry. I am liking how this concoction is tasting :)

Taco Meat

1 lb of ground meat (I have used turkey, beef, buffalo and pork)
1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tbsp paprika
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp chili flakes (more or less depending on your taste)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup of salsa

Saute onions in medium sized pan, add the ground meat and garlic. Cook through. Drain any fat.
Add all the dried herbs and spices and then the salsa. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve with diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, grated cheese, green onions, salsa and or sour cream. We like the hard shells but if you use soft ones I won't judge you.

I also like to clean out my fridge in to the meat if that makes any sense. If I have peppers or tomatoes that need to be used up I will dice them up and pop it in the meat. Plus its a good way to get some veggies in your meal if you have someone who isn't a big veggie eater. Frozen spinach is also really easy to put in without drawing any attention.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Babyfood-a-thon

I made zucchini and roasted sweet potatoes for my little munchkin. The zucchini turned out a very pretty colour and I was excited for him to try it. He doesn't like it as much as I do. Oh well. We will try it again but maybe I will mix it with some apple or pear or something else a little more sweet. The sweet potato we will try tomorrow.
Zucchini Puree

I used a small bag of organic zucchini, maybe 1lb worth. It's the methods that matter in this one, not the amount you use.


  • preheat a large pan that has a lid on medium heat

  • wash and trim the zucchini, slice it in to 1 inch rounds

  • try to fit the rounds in to just one or two layers in the pan

  • add a splash of water (just to get some steam going) and put the lid on

  • stir the zucchini a few times

  • after about 8-10 minutes the zucchini should be soft

  • transfer the zucchini and any liquid left in the pan to a blender or food processor and blend until desired consistency.

  • use in three days or freeze in ice cube trays and transfer cubes to a freezer bag for 3 months

I think that if you had a vegetable steamer you could use that instead. I needed the steaming water to make the puree really smooth as my baby is new to solids. You could add less liquid if your baby is used to some textures.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Pho recipe and some nostalgic ramblings

One of the things I miss about working in the food industry is the fantastic staff meals the Vietnamese ladies would cook up. I loved when there was a big family dinner over the weekend and on Monday they would bring me in things to try. Some I liked better than others. The chicken curry was always so good but the odd flavoured gelatin "cake" is something I don't ever need to try again.
I got this recipe from one of the gals and I have only made it once before. It turned out quite nice but somehow not quite the same as when she would bring it in for me.


Beef Pho
4 servings

small bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
2 green onions, thinly sliced
fresh hot chili peppers(the little red or green ones), cut in to rings (2-3 but more or less depending on your taste)
1 small onion, sliced thinly into rings
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 lemon, juice only
8 oz of sirloin steak (raw and thinly sliced) *
8 oz pack of rice noodles
4 tbsp of fish sauce
8 cups of beef stock, simmered with a small handful of cloves, star anise, slice of fresh ginger and a cinnamon stick **
Toppings to serve on the side:
Hoisin sauce
Fresh basil
Lemon or Lime wedges
Bean sprouts
Chilies
Soak the sliced onion and garlic in the lemon juice at the same time as soaking the rice noodles in warm water, 20 mins each. After the noodles have soaked, finish cooking them in boiling water for about 5 minutes. Don't let them get mushy!
Split the following between your 4 bowls. Layer the noodles, onions and garlic, chilies and then the sliced, raw beef. Pour the boiling hot stock over top and then add a table spoon of fish sauce to each bowl. Sprinkle with the cilantro and green onions. Serve immediately!

On a side plate serve lemon or lime wedges, bean sprouts, extra chilies and basil for people to add as they like. In restaurants when I have ordered this I have had shredded lettuce, sliced cucumbers, broccoli or even fresh tomato added to the bowl. I think you can be creative when adding the garnishes and add veggies that are in season.

*using a meat slicer is ideal but assuming we don't have one at home you can ask your butcher to slice it thinly for you or try your hand using a super sharp knife. It is easiest to slice it if the meat is semi-frozen.

**last time I was in T&T (local Asian supermarket) I found a paste that you just whisk in to hot water. It has all the seasonings and flavourings in it. I bought some and it was pretty good. There were other Vietnamese people buying it so I assumed it was reputable.

Restaurant Vietnam

Restaurant Vietnam (227 12th Avenue SE) aka The Upstairs Place by the Stampede Grounds.

The Hubs, the kid and I hit up our old favourite Restaurant Vietnam today for a late lunch. There were two other tables eating plus a table with some of the staff having lunch. We used to eat here 1-2 times a month when we lived downtown but since moving to the burbs last year I think we have only been maybe three times. We know the menu pretty well and we know what we like.

The pho is always good. Their broth is light and tasty. Today's did not disappoint. I had the beef sate pho with vegetables. They have never been consistent with the spiciness in this dish and I was happy that it was not burn-your-lips off hot like it some times can be. The beef was a little more gristly than usual and it was a little over cooked. The noodles were perfectly done and the veggies were bright and crisp.

Hubs had a vermicelli dish with shredded BBQ pork and shrimp balls. I think the empty bowl spoke for itself. We also split an order of spring rolls. The dipping sauce here is always so good and usually the rolls are delicious too. Today they were a little on the greasy side and I couldn't help but think that the deep fryer oil needed to be changed. I do like how they serve the rolls with a side of fresh basil and crunchy romaine lettuce.

All in all, fair price for what we got. The service wasn't nor has it ever been that great. Food comes out when it's done regardless of if all the party's food is ready. Appetizers are barely started when the mains are hitting the table and I hope you don't need a refill on any of your beverages. I know we will be back but I don't think we'll go out of our way to eat here.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Peas on Earth

Puree of Pea

2 cups of frozen peas ( read the label, some have salt added and some don't)
water, just enough to cover the peas

Bring the water to a boil, add the peas. Let them cook for 2-3 minutes. They should be soft. (If you use fresh peas they will need to cook longer)

Immediately put the peas in an ice bath to stop the cooking and to keep that bight green colour. Reserve the cooking liquid.

Puree the peas to desired consistency. Use the reserved cooking liquid to help thin.

Good in the fridge for 2-3 days or freeze in ice cube trays for 3 months.

Rice Cereal Update

I tried feeding the kid some of the rice cereal that I had made and then froze. It was not a hit. The texture was not good. I think I will just make enough for 2-3 days and not bother with the freezing.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Years Eve

We had a small get together. Appetizers were served. Baked Brie, chicken wings, spinach dip with pita chips and veggies, and sesame salmon skewers. Friends brought a crab dip with sour dough, a meatball dish and a lasagna. So so so good. The salmon and brie were my favourites and I will make those again.

Sesame Salmon Skewers

salmon fillet cut into finger sized pieces
soy sauce
sesame seeds (black or white)
fresh cracked pepper

Skewer the salmon with wooden skewers that have been soaked in water for an hour. Using a pastry brush, brush the soy sauce on all sides of the salmon. Crack fresh pepper on the salmon. Put the seeds on a small plate and gently roll the salmon skewers in the seeds until all sides are coated.

Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and put it in a preheated oven at 350 degrees. They should take about 5 minutes, depending on how big your fingers are.

I served a chili dipping sauce made up of mayo and a Thai chili garlic sauce I had in the fridge. I just "eye balled" it until it was a good consistency and spiciness. I had originally thought about serving it with teriyaki sauce but forgot to put it on the list.

Baked Brie

1 small round of brie
1 onion, julienned
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Put the onion in a hot pan with the butter. When the onions soften add the garlic and thyme and seasoning.
Cook the onion until it is caramelized and nice and brown. Scrape the top of the rind off of the brie and put the brie in an oven safe baking dish ( a pie plate is a good choice )
Pile the onion mixture on top of the cheese and pop it in the oven (preheated to 350) until it is soft and gooey. It took about 15 minutes for the size that I used.

Serve it with crackers or baguette.

I should have taken pictures.

Brown Rice Cereal for Baby

The babe turned 6 months last week and we officially started solid foods. Started with a homemade rice cereal. I used the recipe from www.wholesomebabyfood.com.

Rice Cereal

Ingredients:

1/4 c. rice powder (brown rice ground in blender or food processor)
1 cup water

Directions:

1. Bring liquid to boil in saucepan. Add the rice powder while stirring constantly.
3. Simmer for 10 minutes, whisking constantly.
3. Serve warm.

It is good in the fridge for 3 days or in the freezer up to 3 months. I froze some in ice cube trays and then popped the cubes into a freezer bag for future single servings. I wonder how the consistency will be after freezing. If it's gross it won't be a huge investment lost.

I thinned it out with filtered water so it was a good consistency for him. You could thin it with expressed breast milk or formula. When he gets a little older and more used to the textures I wont thin it as much.