Thursday, March 30, 2006

Happy Birthday M!

Here is what he woke up to this morning... lucky birthday boy!

His birthday breakfast menu consisted of:

Whole grain toast with homemade hazelnut spread and peanut butter

His gifts? A cookbook on pasta and a pasta maker... A real surprise (and now he looks forward to making ravioli)! Posted by Picasa

Monday, March 27, 2006

Office pantry essentials

Tired of spending money on junk food, and in an effort to eat better, wholesome food, I endeavoured to outfit my desk drawer. I am happy to report that I succeeded and that I now have access to the following, which are my office essentials. I now have all the necessities to have a snack; have lunch at my desk if I a) forget my lunch bag at home, b) don't feel like going out, or c) an broke; or add a burst of flavour if I find the lunch I brought seems too bland.

So here is my list of essentials:

Foods and beverages:
- Unsalted almonds
- Ryvita snack breads
- Astro naturally flavoured/sweetened yogurts
- Natura strawberry-flavoured soy milk
- Sprouted grain cereals
- Pacific Organic individual soups
- Sardines
- Club Soda
- Herbal teas (mint, fennel, and ginger)
- Fresh fruit

- Spice wheel (curry powder, mint, oregano, herbes de Provence, chili flakes, cinnamon, thyme, and paprika)
- Pepper mill
- Maldon sea salt
- Balsamic-maple vinaigrette

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Soup, anyone?

What to do when you're overwhelmed with vegetable? Soup! I am glad to report that, thanks to M.'s efforts, no old vegetable is lurking in our fridge. Yippee!

This is how it starts...

In a big pot, throw all your vegetables (anything goes, really). Pictured below are carrots, celery, onions, broccoli, chard stems, lots of garlic, a few bay leaves, a few peppercorns, and two icy blocks of homemade, concentrated chicken stock, and a bit of salt. Fill with enough water, and let cook until everything is very tender.

Purée, and voilà! A nice big pot of healthy soup. No fat, no starch, no fuss.

Enjoy! Posted by Picasa

The sweet smell of weekend mornings

To me, breakfast is more than mere sustenance. It is the time of the day where you awaken your senses and your soul.

And it is my favourite meal of the day. Really. Does anything smell better than toast and coffee? Not in my book!

During the week, I keep my breakfasts at the bare minimum. A peanut butter toast with fruit, yogurt and coffe does the trick and keeps me going until lunch time.

On weekends, I like to experiment a bit more. This morning, I made Cranberry Oat Muffins (from Cook Great Food, by the Dieticians of Canada). These muffins are topped with a cinnamon-sugar mixture. Can you imagine how good they smell? I bet our neighbours are jealous!

Cranberry Oat Muffins

Preheat ovent to 400F.

3/4 cup rolled oats
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped
2 tsp grated lemon zest
2/3 cup 2% milk
1 egg, beaten

Topping: 2 tsp each sugar and cinnamon

In a food processor or blender, process oats until very fine. Combine oats, flour (except for 2 tbsp), sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or food processor until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Toss cranberries with reservedflour; stir in flour mixture.

Combine lemon zest, milk and egg; mix thoroughly. Add to dry ingredients, stirring just until moistened; do not overmix. Spoon into lightly greased or paper-lined muffin cups, filling three-quarters full.

Topping: Combine cinnamon and sugar; sprinkle over muffins. Bake in preheated oven for 20-24 minutes, or until tops of muffins spring back when lightly touched.

Notes to self:
1. Since I did not want to use butter or margarine, I used 1/4 cup each of apple sauce and canola oil, which I added to the wet ingredients.
2. I used 3/4 cup of dried cranberries instead of the fresh or frozen ones.
3. These muffins are very good, but also quite sweet. Next time, I'll cut down the sugar in half, which will also make them more healthy.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Beef stew à ma mode

Tonight, I improvised a little beef stew, and I am quite glad of how it came out.

Here's what I did.

I sprinkled 2 lbs of lean stewing beef with flour seasoned with salt, pepper, a generous pinch of hot smoked paprika, and a generous amount of oregano.

I then seared the meat, a few cubes at a time, in olive oil, reserving the meat as it was ready.

Once all the beef had been seared, I sautéed 2 onions, 5 large cloves of garlic, 3 carrots and 3 celery stalks for a few minutes, and deglazed with a large can of diced tomatoes. I put the meat back into the pot, added enough water to barely cover the meat, threw in a few bay leaves and some onion soup base (I had no beef stock on hand), brought everything to a boil, reduced the heat and simmered for a couple hours. The result: a rich stew filled with good stuff. The only thing missing is a nice bottle of red... oh well.


This weekend I had a big project... making ciabatta bread. Yes, for once, I would not let my bread machine do all the work.

And it was not so much a lot of work as a lot of waiting. 24 hours for the poolish to proof, then the mixing, then 3 hours for the dough to double, then a bit of work, then another 2 hours, and then the 20 minutes baking. Wow... I'm glad the waiting and the working paid off.

I now have 3 nice, tasty and crusty ciabatta breads that will make wonderful sandwiches this week (heck... if that's what it takes to make me bring my lunch at work, well so be it!)

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Who said that Oscars rhymed with Caviar?

For M. and I, Oscars rhyme with pizza... Buenos Aires style.

For the 2006 Oscars, we dressed our pizza with a very flavourful tomato sauce (made by M.), back bacon, mozzarella, roasted red peppers, and anchovies.

We made our Oscar night pizza 'M. way', i.e. with the cheese underneath the other garnishes. I like mine 'Québec way', i.e. with the cheese on top (and a little burnt from the grill). Next time, we'll do it my way.

That pizza was definitely fit for the red carpet... and it certainly will make the 'best dressed' list!