Wednesday, March 24, 2010

My Noodly Appendage

I've always been known to keep a well stocked fridge and pantry. Among other basic necessities, you'll rarely find me lacking any of the following foods: assorted cheeses, frozen vegetables, multiple bags of pasta and jars of Classico tomato sauce. [A note on the latter: though I'm a stickler for homemade, those chefs over at Classico really know what they're doing. Though I wasn't paid to say that, I'd just like to inform the fine folks over at Classico that I really wouldn't mind some free sauce. Or a coupon. You know, both are good!]

All I had was an hour, but all I wanted was pasta. With some garlic toast. And maybe even a little use-up-the-veggies-up-before-they-wilt salad. I thought it would be as fast as boiling some noodles and opening up a jar. Alas, I was jar-less. My Classico supply had been depleted.

That's when I hit the vodka... 

Paired it with tomatoes and cream and turned it into a velvety smooth sauce!
Though the actual preparation is quick, if you have the time I highly recommend that you make this earlier on in the day and let it simmer over low heat in order for the sauce to thicken and the flavours to enhance. I served mine over spinach fettucine (to add a splash of colour & pizzazz to the plate... yes, I just used the word pizzazz) with a side of pumpernickel toasted with garlic butter and a hint of shredded cheese. I balanced it all out with a cherry tomato, avocado & romaine salad tossed with Renee's naturally low-cal cucumber, dill & yogourt dressing.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sweet Tart

I am not one to make New Year's resolutions, but this year, I quietly promised myself that I would learn as many new skills as I can. This vow came in an effort to better myself as a teacher and an artist... and may also have been slightly backed by my desire to add some pretty pictures to my portfolio. So far, I have explored watercolour painting (frustrating, yet so pretty when it's done right), charcoal drawing (tried once before, but the mess has always kept me away), metal embossing (time-consuming but relaxing), and most recently, knitting (just because it makes me feel so crafty). My artistic explorations have also extended into the culinary realm: until recently, I hadn't expanded my baking repertoire further than simple cakes, cookies and muffins, always sticking to traditional, simple recipes. I've decided that it's time to change that. I've decided that I am going to eventually learn to bake all of the basics as described Michel Roux's "Pastry: Savory & Sweet"

I am not doing this Julie & Juila style, though the book may have inspired me somewhat, but I am doing this because of my friend Lisa, who has recently commenced pastry school, of which I am quite envious. I've therefore decided that Michel Roux will be my teacher, and "Pastry" will be my textbook. I will be assessed by my partner, who has no qualms telling me if something is dog-gone awful - though, let's be honest, it rarely is -  and will be evaluated by my brother, who is perhaps the world's pickiest eater. I will share my explorations with you, dear readers (hi mom!), and perhaps you'll get to learn a thing or two along the way!

I have started with the most basic pastry, and, according to Roux, a sturdy one - Tart Dough, or Pate Foncee in France. I filled it with a homemade custard - a massive, chunky flop the first time around - and a delicious wild blueberry filling with a hint of cranberry (definitely a keeper.) So, without further adieu... I present to you a delectable, buttery, custard and blueberry tart. Savourez!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Spring Sweets

Springtime: It's almost here. The weather is warming, the trees are budding and the sweet aroma of cow-dung fills the air. Ah yes, there is something about cow dung (or perhaps it is melting doggy doo) that triggers something nostalgic in my brain.

I love spring! I love the colours, the warmth and the fashion. Most of all, I love spring because it means that summer is just around the corner! And summer means that my garden will be in bloom. I love being able to go into the backyard and pick a myriad of vegetables to fill up my salad bowl. I love the endless vine-ripened tomatoes, the fresh chives, the large zucchinis and the abundance of mint leaves. The only downside to gardening in the North is the limit to the kinds of fruit that can be grown. Oh, how I long to have a citrus tree. Alas, until I live my dream life in a warmer climate, I'll have to settle for the lemons at the supermarket.

Incredible things, lemons are. Their smell triggers memories of being a small child and watching my mother dust the living room table. Yet, I still want to eat them. And how! I love to squeeze a little lemon into my iced tea (a summer favorite), over a nice piece of grilled salmon (another summer love), or into a light dressing (to pour over my garden vegetables). But, give me lemons, and I will make cake.  Actually, give me a new mini bundt pan, and I'll jump around until I can make many little cakes! I have a soft spot for exciting new kitchen gadgets. And pans. And spatulas. I love spatulas. Enough daydreaming, let us bake cake!

Superfood, Superfast.

However you pronounce it, Quinoa is one little superfood that packs a nutritious punch.

If you're a foodie, you're probably familiar with the grain-like substance, often served warm in place of rice, or tossed into a chilled side salad. A little bit fluffier than couscous and slightly larger than millet, quinoa is surprisingly not considered a grain. Quinoa is in the spinach family, which might explain it's nutritional power: quinoa is a complete protein, which means that it contains all ten essential amino acids - and, it is the only known plant source that does so. This makes it an excellent choice for those of us who follow a meatless diet. Quinoa is gluten-free, low in calories and is an excellent source of iron, magnesium, manganese, riboflavin (vitamin B2), folate, zinc and dietary fibre.

Quinoa can be found in most supermarkets either in the organic/health food section or alongside the grains and rice (usually next to the couscous.) If you're not in a prime grocery location, you can always buy quinoa online. 

What I like most about quinoa is the pseudograin's versatility: quinoa has a rather neutral flavor on it's own, which offers up the opportuntiy to toss it with whatever your tastebuds are craving, or whatever you have lying around in your fridge! You can serve it sweetned topped with cinnamon and raisins (think rice pudding), spiced up with chili or curry, robust with pesto, or refreshing and light with lemon, rosemary and dill. I made a slightly creamy version using some leftover sour cream and goat cheese and I added some extra colour and crunch with steamed broccoli and chopped fresh basil. So, what are you waiting for? Get it onto your plate today!