Tuesday, March 30, 2010

New Orleans-Style Barbecued Shrimp

The Recipe: New Orleans-Style Barbecued Shrimp from the April 2010 issue of Everyday Food

The Substitutions: I used peeled shrimp instead of in-the-shell so it would be easier for the kids. I think I also used regular sized shrimp rather than jumbo because that's what I had in the freezer.

The Verdict: The Everyday Food people promised that this would turn "a weekday meal into a party!" and while this certainly wasn't a party, it was okay. It had some spice, but wasn't too hot for my shrimp-loving kids (these kids will eat shrimp in any form though -- it's by far their favourite food). It was incredibly easy to make, but for some reason I was expecting something unbelievably delicious, and this was kind of mediocre. Still, the combo of the Creole salt with lemon and a boat-load of Worcestershire (which is one of my favourite condiments -- lord, I love an anchovy) was interesting and shook up our usual curry/soy sauce/tomato triad of flavours that are served over rice. Probably won't be making this one again, but it was a nice diversion from our regular mid-week repertoire.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Warm Potato Salad with Goat Cheese

The Recipe: Warm Potato Salad with Goat Cheese from the April 2010 issue of Martha Stewart Living.

The Substitutions: none

The Verdict: This was another party food (I served it as a side with grilled steak, some cauliflower, and a green salad) and it was gone before I had time to do a photo. It was good, but not necessarily make-again-often good. The store was out of the regular goat cheese I get, so I ended up with a very creamy, non-crumbly chevre, and while it worked fine, it wasn't exactly what I was looking for. But the combo of warm, almost mushy potatoes (I cooked them longer than I should have) with a mustard-vinegar dressing was interesting and actually pretty nice. The creamy cheese just melted into the potatoes, and it tasted pretty darn good. So, not an out-of-the-park winner, but a nice side to go with a nice meat.

Artichoke Dip with Fontina

The Recipe: Artichoke Dip with Fontina from the March 2010 issue of Everyday Food

The Substitutions: none

The Verdict: Delish! You may notice that this is just a picture from the recipe in the magazine. The reason? The dip disappeared before I could photograph it. I served this at my two-year-old's birthday party (it was a family party, not a little kids' party) and the fam scooped it up on homemade pita chips in no-time flat. I like this because it serves my love of creamy artichoke dip while respecting my disgust with all things mayonnaise. The creaminess comes from pure cheese, baby! There are a lot of artichokes here, which may not be to everyone's taste, but you could always put in two cans instead of three. A great dip for when you're throwing a party and can convince yourself that calories don't count when you're having fun.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Parmesan Chicken Breasts with Crispy Posh Ham

The Recipe: Parmesan Chicken Breasts With Crispy Posh Ham from Jamie Oliver's Jamie's Food Revolution

The Substitutions: not a one

The Verdict: This was okay. The combo of the chicken with the prosciutto is a good one and as with everything in this book, it is pretty easy to cook. Will I make it again? Doubtful -- and I'll tell you why. If I'm going to add the salt and fat that comes with prosciutto to my diet on a regular basis, it better be damn delicious. Like, over-the-moon delicious. This was not. As I said, it was okay. Salty and yummy, but not even as tasty as a slice of un-fried prosciutto on it's own. And for that, I will have to take a pass in the future. Sorry.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Recipes: Irish Beef and Stout Stew and Irish Soda Bread, both from Martha Stewart.com (stumbled upon them from her weekly email update).

The Substitutions: nil

The Verdict: Obviously, these were made on Wednesday, for St. Patrick's Day. I really love the idea of theme cooking, and St. Paddy's Day is always a fun one, since Irish Recipes tend to be simple, yet unmistakably in their Irish-ness. I've gotta say, these two might become my festive standards. It was all easy peasy to make, and pretty yummy, as far as Irish recipes go (with my family's penchant for curry, anything without full-on zing is often frowned upon).

First up, the stew. It is a fairly average, but foolproof Irish stew. It's done in the oven, which is nice, because you can tuck it in there and basically forget about it. I think I would consider adding additional veg next time because it was a little low on nutritional value with just potatoes and peas. The stout (I used Guiness, natch) was a good flavour booster, making the gravy taste almost like it had been spiked with red wine. Rich and delicious. It's also pretty good served over rice the next day.

The bread was also a winner, but I think I liked it more than just about anyone else in the family. Believe it or not, this is the first time I've made bread that actually requires kneading, and I looooved making it! I think Aaron considered it kind of amateurish because it didn't come out of the oven in a perfect bakery-style loaf, but I loved its rustic quality. I usually am not very big on caraway and I considered skipping the caraway seeds, but the flavour is actually pretty muted. Hooray for soda bread! This meal was a real success. Luck of the Irish, I suppose.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

The Recipe: Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Dark Chocolate Frosting from Martha Stewart Cupcakes.

The Substitutions: I used about half the chocolate asked for in the frosting because 1.5 lbs just sounded ridiculous.

The Verdict: Okay. I made these for my son's birthday, thinking a simple chocolate chip cupcake would be fun. These are a little labour intensive for a cupcake -- I was looking for a typical box-style cake batter, but this is a little bit different. You essentially make a dense sticky dough (it felt like bread dough) and fold in whipped egg whites. The result is kind of a cross between a biscuit and an Angel Food cake. It's light, but crumbly, not spongey. Still fairly delicious though, but required a lot of bowl washing.

The frosting is not something I'd necessarily go with again. It calls for a lot of chocolate and even after halving the amount, it was really rich (though, my chocoholic kids quickly became obsessed with it). It's also fairly runny, acting more like a thick glaze than a frosting. Next time I'm going with a classic buttercream for sure. That's not to say that these cakes weren't happily eaten, they're just not cupcake perfection.

P.S. You can half the frosting recipe. It makes five cups, which is way more than these cupcakes need.

Friday, March 12, 2010

My New Favourite Sandwich

The Recipe: Egg Salad Sandwich from the "Everyday Food on TV" section of the January/February issue of Everyday Food

The Substitutions: nil

The Verdict: Yum. This isn't technically a recipe, it's just a small blurb in the back of Everyday Food. I don't think I'm violating copyright law by telling you it's chopped egg whites, avocado, red onion, mayo, sour cream and salt and pepper. And it's delicious. That's all I really have to say on the matter. Now go make yourself one.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Chocolate Pecan Puddle Cookies

The Recipe: Chocolate Walnut Puddle Cookies from Dinner With Julie

The Substitutions: I used pecans in place of walnuts

The Verdict: When Julie posted this recipe on her blog last week she was raving. Raving. Since I have long trusted her opinion because of her great work on CBC radio, I thought "Those must be some fine cookies." And they are. But I'm not quite as enthusiastic as Julie, though that boils down to a matter of taste.

These cookies don't contain flour, so they're just cocoa, egg whites, and a load of sugar and nuts. Which makes them delicious, but in my mind, not really a true cookie. I like 'em cakey and these are not cakey. They're gooey and fall apart and are a delicious desert of some variety, but not a lunchbox cookie.

That aside, these puddle cookies are so chock full of nuts and so chocolately that I can understand how they could easily become someone's favourite cookie. My dear husband, for example, went a little crazy for them. And I do admit, their meringue-like exterior is very appealing. So if you like your chocolate and don't care if your cookie is cakey, please go forth and bake.

One caveat: Julie recommends baking these guys on parchment paper and this step is not optional. Martha Stewart asks for parchment in every cookie recipe and I usually just use my silicone cookie sheets on top of a regular cookie sheet. This did not work with the puddle cookies. Because they are not, as I mentioned, cakey cookies, they could not simply be lifted off the sheet once cool. I did one batch with parchment and the paper beautifully peeled off the bottom of the cookies. The ones baked on silicone were literally a hot mess. It was more like pudding than cookies. So go forth and bake, but don't cheap out on the parchment.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Chai-Spice Granola

The Recipe: Chai-Spice Granola from Blog Aid: Recipes for Haiti. The recipe was contributed by Backseat Gourmet, but I don't think Cheryl has it on her site. More incentive to contact the Blog Aid folks and order a book (I'm pretty sure they'll still print them out on demand even though the run is officially over).

The substitutions: I overestimated the amount of oatmeal I had on hand, so I put in four cups instead of five. I didn't realize this until I had made the "sauce." It did not turn out to be a problem. In fact, I think I'll do the same next time. I also omitted the sesame seeds because I didn't have any.

The verdict: Yum. Big yum. I've never made granola before and I'm telling you, I will never purchase pre-made granola again. This was so easy to do and the payoff is pretty high. Plus it's pretty easy to tailor the ingredients to your own liking. I kept it as is because I love almonds and pistachios, but many other combos would be delightful. The spice combination is pretty great too. It had my whole house smelling like chai for the better part of an afternoon, but when it came to the actual granola, it wasn't overpowering in the least. It isn't too spicy at all, even with the decreased amount of oatmeal.

I've been eating this like crazy. It's really handy to grab a little baggie of this stuff as a post-workout snack, what with all the nuts and all. I have not fed any of it to my kids because I am afraid of those round pistachios choking them (plus you can't send nuts of any kind to school, so it's disqualified from being a school snack). Which means more for me. A win-win, if you think about it.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

One-Pot Chicken and Brown Rice

The Recipe:One-Pot Chicken and Brown Rice from the January/February 2010 issue of Everyday Food (I don't think it's up online yet).

The Substitutions: I threw in six chicken thighs instead of four, because four wouldn't have been enough for my crew. If you take a look at the picture in the magazine, there are at least five in the pot.

The Verdict: Ugh. I was a little afraid that this one would be bland (other than onions, there isn't very much in the way of flavouring), but I didn't expect it to go into the garbage. Because the recipe was new to me, I went ahead and used the skin-on chicken thighs. Since this is from the "light issue" of Everyday Foods, I figured it couldn't be that bad. But, the way that the rice cooks in the pan after frying the chicken, even after draining the majority of the chicken fat, this was way way way too greasy. The chicken was greasy, the rice was greasy, the veg was greasy. The kids kind of liked it (of course), but neither Aaron or I could eat more than about half a serving. Luckily, there was some leftover Thai in the fridge, so we ate that after the kids went to bed. In other words, fail.