Divisions of Labour

6 Nov

We’ve all heard the old adage: when you live with someone, once you do a chore it becomes your chore. Take out the garbage a couple of times? Now it’s your job. Vacuum the dust bunnies? Oh yeah. You and the bunnies become mortal enemies. I have found the same to be true in the kitchen:  make a dish or prep an ingredient and find yourself doing it again and again.

In my house, I am the shrimp peeler, the rice/quinoa/couscous maker, the pork puller, the soup stirrer, the slow cooker obsesser. J is in charge of breakfast, omelettes, proper macaroni & cheese, broccoli rabe, deep frying and cornbread. These are our unofficially assigned jobs and only in the strangest circumstances do they change.

Do you have specific tasks in the kitchen? Certain dishes or preps that only you do?

My Kitchen Essentials: Pantry Edition

25 Sep

Our pantry shelves collapsed a couple of weeks ago. We don’t have a huge pantry, but it’s generally pretty well stocked so when the shelf brackets decided to go on strike, we lost a lot of counter space to cans and bottles and bags of things. The only positive to come out of this was that we were able to take stock of what we had, what we needed and what we had in triplicate. So what did we have in there? What do we always have in stock?

  • Peanut butter. Not only do we have this staple in the pantry, but we have it in the cupboard, too. I don’t think we have less than two jars at any time. God forbid we run out of it. Pandemonium!
  • Apple juice. Because our inner 6-year olds are not always satisfied with just peanut butter.
  • Four Tupperware containers full of spices. We have enormous bags of cumin and chili powder – the two spices we use most – but everything else is in smaller quantities: thyme, oregano, peppercorns, paprika, mustard seeds, turmeric, bay leaves, ground ginger, curry powder, etc. I love having all those spices available as it makes cooking on the fly a lot easier.
  • Every variation of canned tomatoes possible. Crushed, diced, whole, paste…we’ve got ‘em. J makes a lot of pasta sauce and I make tomato soups and tomato-based stews so these are in constant demand in our kitchen. They may also be the shelf-collapsing culprits.
  • More rice wine and balsamic vinegars than one needs. Same re: plum sauce.
  • Nutella. Since discovering a recipe for Nutella brownies, it’s rare I can’t find a jar in the pantry.
  • Pasta. So. Many. Noodles.

There is also a whole pile of Tupperware in which to store leftovers  and the foodNURLDling’s pureéd goodies, beans of all sorts and other assorted odds and ends. Ninety percent of the above items were scattered over the various surfaces of our kitchen driving me justifiably batty. The only good thing was that we got a chance to reorganize and rethink our shopping list: do we need so much apple juice? Do we need more Nutella?

Fresh Canteen Grocery Service

16 Sep

You worked all day. Getting home in rush hour is a hassle and you just didn’t have the time or desire to hit the grocery store. You’re home now and you’re starving. You want to have something healthy for dinner but you don’t have all the ingredients you need so you throw your hands up in the air and pick up the phone and order delivery.

Let’s rewrite this scenario:  you worked all day. Getting home in rush hour is a hassle and you just didn’t have the time or desire to hit the grocery store. You’re home now and you’re starving. You want to have something healthy for dinner…so on your way in the door you pick up the box of ingredients you ordered from Fresh Canteen and prepare yourself a healthy, flavourful, properly portioned meal.

This second scenario sounds more appealing, non?

From six possible entree options, I tried out the Jamaican chicken dinner. The box was delivered Tuesday afternoon and I received an email notification when it arrived. (Note: in speaking with owner Matt O’Leary , he told me that the boxes are packaged with materials and ice packs that allow the ingredients to remain unrefrigerated for up to 24 hours. Additionally, all the materials are recyclable. ) When I got home, I opened up the box to find all the ingredients I would need: two chicken breasts, pineapple salsa vegetables and herbs, 1/2 cup of quinoa and individually packaged spices. Included in the box was a step-by-step recipe card with clear instructions and pictures.

fc box

Food is snug as a bug in its recyclable packaging.

fc menu

Helpful recipe card.

The whole meal, from the time I opened the box to the time I sat down to eat, took 40 minutes. It didn’t require me to use any special kitchen tools and the only things I needed from my own pantry were salt, pepper and vegetable oil.  I wondered if there would really be enough food for two of us but we were quite full – in fact, there actually might have been too much salsa. That being said, having extra red pepper and pineapple salsa on hand is not a bad thing: it makes for a good snack later!

fc chicken

fc veg

fc final

Fresh Canteen is serving most of the GTA thus far, delivering a package of three meals once per week. “We know people are going to order out, too,” Matt tells me, “but at least they can have enough food in the fridge for a few days so they can eat healthy meals at home.” FC is a great service for those who love to cook but don’t always have the time to get to the grocery store. Each week the menu options change and there are fish, chicken, beef and vegetarian dishes from which you can choose. Check them out, folks. It’s a great service run by friendly, knowledgeable people who care about your food as much as you do.

Portobello, Walnut & Goat Cheese Salad

23 Aug

As I mentioned in my last post, I received a copy of refresh for my birthday. I have been making my way through it, greatly enjoying the results. After a particularly meat-heavy dinner on Tuesday, I thought it would be a good idea to eat a little lighter the next night. I was craving crunch and when I saw the portobello & walnut salad I knew it would work for me. As I often do, I made a couple of changes to suit my tastes but it was a good jumping off point. It came together in 15 minutes – including prep time – which is a big bonus on top of it being a healthy vegetarian option. (To make it vegan, just omit the cheese.)

Serves 2.

Ingredients

4 portobellos, cleaned & sliced
1/2 c cherry tomatoes, scored on the top
1/2 c walnut pieces
2 tb extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for greens
2 tb balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper
4 c greens
2 oz goat cheese, crumbled

Directions

1. Heat the olive oil in a pan to medium. Toss in the mushrooms and the vinegar. Sauté until the mushrooms soften, roughly 5 minutes. Season with a little salt and pepper.
2. Add in the walnuts and scored tomatoes. Cook an additional 2-3 minutes, until the tomatoes start to split.
3. Split the greens over two plates & drizzle with olive oil. Place the cooked mushrooms, walnuts and tomatoes over the greens and top with crumbled goat cheese.

p, w & c salad

Curried Chick Pea Rice Bowl

7 Aug

I received the cookbook refresh for my birthday and I’ve been debating what healthy, vegan recipe to make first. The book contains a variety of recipes from breakfast through dessert, sauces, shakes and more. Finally settling on the Energy Rice Bowl, I set to work prepping the curried garbanzo filling. (side note: I really wanted to name our dog “Garbanzo.” J was having none of it. Buzzkill.)  I adapted the recipes a bit to utilize what I had on hand also to my taste but it’s essentially the same. It’s filling, it’s healthy, it’s vegan and it’s great. Once the prep is done, you toss everything in a pan and in less than 10 minutes, dinner is ready.  Hard to argue with that!

Serves 4.

Ingredients

2 tb extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 green pepper, finely diced
1 carrot, peeled & finely diced
1 jalapeno, finely diced (remove the seeds if you want less heat)
5 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tb cumin
1 tb salt
1 tb turmeric
1 tb oregano
4 c cooked chick peas, rinsed
1/2 c tomato paste
2 c cooked rice
1/2 English cucumber, peeled & diced
handful cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 green onions or 1/2 red onion, finely diced
4 tb tahini
drizzle of Sriracha

Directions

1. Heat the oil over medium-low heat in a sauce pan. Add the vegetables and spices and cook until soft.
2. Mash the chick peas and toss into the pan with the tomato paste. Stir together and cook until heated through.

Cooking away...

Cooking away…

3. Serve over rice and top with cucumber, tomato and diced onion. Drizzle with tahini and Sriracha.

curried banzo 2

Distillery District’s Mexican Fare: El Catrin

2 Aug

I had the pleasure to attend the opening night of El Catrin, the new restaurant replacing The Boiler House in Toronto’s Distillery District. The massive space has been transformed into a fabulous south-of-the-border(s) venue with a massive mural taking up the entire north wall. It has to be seen in person to be believed, but here’s a shot from my perch at one of the high-tops:

mural

The Mexico City-born chef, Olivier de Calvez, and his team prepared an eight-course tasting menu for the launch, each item paired with an impressive cocktail. We started off with fresh tortillas and table-side guacamole with three salsas ranging from mild to hot and nueces picante: mixed roasted nuts rubbed with Mexican spices.  The peanuts and walnuts were a big hit at the table, with many of us squirrelling them away in our bags to snack on later. Accompanying this course was the enormous traditional margarita. In all honesty, tequila and I are not amigos so I am not a great judge of a good margarita; however, those who like them reported back that it was excellent.

Evil margarita.

Evil margarita.

The second course of the night had what I considered one of the best dishes we had that night: ceviche de atun. The beautiful ahi tuna ceviche was done up simply with lime juice, olive oil, watermelon and habanero. It was light, refreshing and I would have been thrilled to eat five or six more servings of it. It was served with a pepino diablo, a tequila-based drink traditionally made with cucumber, jalapeno, pineapple juice and basil. The glass was rimmed with spiced salt and the tequila was not overpowering. Along with those five or six additional ceviche dishes, I could have had as many of this drink. Happily.

Ahi tuna ceviche

Ahi tuna ceviche

Pepino diablo

Pepino diablo

Next up were the Mexican staple tacos al pastor: shredded pork marinated in pineapple and axiote topped with cilantro and chopped onion. It paired nicely with the fuego sandia, a popular drink at our table made with watermelon, tequila and some heat. Nicely balanced, this was my second favourite drink of the evening. Brought out shortly after the pork tacos was my absolute hands-down winner of the evening: tostada de higado de pato. Seared foie gras placed on top of a freshly-made tostada and served with a mezcal mango syrup, poblano and pickled red onion. By turn sumptuous, crunchy, spicy and rich, this was a stand out of the night. I was not as big a fan of the accompanying drink, however, the hibisco rosa. Unfortunately, all I could taste was the rosewater which gave the drink a soapy taste. Some people quite liked it; I couldn’t do more than a couple of sips.

Foie gras tostada

Foie gras tostada

Fuego sandia

Fuego sandia

A lovely, light cactus salad followed and then camarones al ajillo, jumbo shrimp sautéed with guajillo pepper, garlic, lime juice, white wine served over red rice, black bean purée and guacamole. The shrimp was plump and beautifully cooked but the guacamole needed more salt and a little more lime juice.

Shrimp

Shrimp

Our final main was a gorgeous braised short rib with black mole sauce, sweet potato purée and sugar snap peas. The meat was incredibly tender and the mole was lovely and complex with the warm, rich flavours you should expect of the complex, multi-ingredient sauce.

Braised short rib

Braised short rib

Topping off the indulgent evening were two desserts: the classic churros and a barra de chocolat, which is best described as a Mexican Nanaimo bar. It was spiced and smoked with hazelnuts and chocolate and I was in love after one bite. The heat sneaks up on you after a couple of bites which is fine by me. If you’re not a fan of spicy food, you might want to stick with the churros and their chocolate, cajeta and strawberry sauces.

Churros and Mexican chocolate bars.

Churros and Mexican chocolate bars.

No doubt, El Catrin will do well in its spot in the Distillery. There is a fabulous, sprawling patio with separate bars and a fire pit for chilly fall evenings.  There is a separate room for private parties and the bar itself is quite lovely. There was a great buzz in the air at the launch, and not just due to the copious tequila- and rum-based beverages. Should you go – and you should – do not miss the ceviche, the short rib or the foie gras tostada.

Heart-Healthy Condiments BBQ & Giveaway!

20 Jun

I had the chance to spend a sunny afternoon on a downtown rooftop with some fellow foodies trying out David Marcus’ line of heart-healthy, low sodium, preservative-free rubs and sauces. (Check out his site!) Our host had an array of products perfect for BBQ season, from spicy marinades to savoury rubs.  David created his product line as a result of two health emergencies: both his father and father-in-law required heart surgery within months of each other. Consequently, heart health became an important consideration in David’s life and he began to experiment in the kitchen. What he came up with was a healthy alternative to often salt-heavy sauces and rubs. And, for a couple of lucky readers, I have two giveaway packages of three products and BBQ utensils! Read on, mes amis…

sauces

Our first dish of the day was guacamole using the spicy rub, proving that David’s line doesn’t have to be utilized only on meat. The guacamole had a nice little kick to it!

guac
Next up: prosciutto-wrapped asparagus using the special steak rub, kind of reminiscent of Montreal steak seasoning. It has a nice, lemony hit and paired well with the earthy asparagus and  salty prosciutto.

The asparagus before it hit the grill, covered in steak rub.

The asparagus before it hit the grill, covered in steak rub.

Along the vegetarian line, David has created a Caesar salad dressing that is gluten- and dairy-free (no anchovies, no eggs, no milk). He also has an anchovy-free version for those looking for a vegan option. It does have lots of garlic, though, and features his own brand of first-pressed extra virgin olive oil (also available for sale).

caesar
Then it was all-meat-all-the-time…time. We were treated to French-cut lamb chops with David’s steak rub; baby back ribs with the steak rub and Fierce Marinade; New York steak with steak rub; chicken breast with the herbacious chicken rub; and spicy peri-peri-marinated shrimp. I really enjoyed the heat of the peri-peri sauce and thought the steak rub complimented the lamb and steak beautifully.

lamb bbq

Lamb chop!

steak bbq

New York steak

 David is definitely on to something with these healthier products. Most of us are looking to incorporate healthier food where we can and this could be a great way to cut back on some salt in your diet. You can find David’s Condiments at Longo’s, Pusateri’s, Sanagan’s, McEwan’s and other fabulous food establishments!

Here’s how you can enter to win 1 of 2 sets of David’s products and accompanying BBQ utensils:
1. Follow me on Twitter at @foodNURD. RT this post with the following message, “I want to win a #davidscondimentsbbq prize pack!”
OR
2. Share this post on Facebook, tagging “@foodNURD”, and write “I want to win a David’s Condiment prize pack!”

giveaway

Winners will be chosen at random on Wednesday, June 26th!

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