Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Grilled Salmon with Balsamic Drizzle and Green Couscous

Sorry for the delay in recipes - it's been a crazy weekend, there will be a blog post about it soon.

This recipe was not my favourite.  I felt like maybe my palate wasn't sophisticated enough to appreciate the taste of the cucumber and cider vinegar in the cousous and the balsamic drizzle on the salmon.  I think my box of couscous might have gone a bit stale too, because it definitely didn't taste as good as the last time Rachael had us cook couscous.  I wasn't thrilled with the salmon either, but I seem to have developed a bit of an aversion to barbequed meats right now.  Ah, the joys.  Jagger enjoyed the salmon though.  Give it a go, and let me know how it turns out for you!

Grilled Salmon with Balsamic Drizzle and Green Couscous



Serves: 4  Prep: 10 min  Grill: 20 min

One 10-ounce box couscous
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon mustard seeds, toasted
1/2 english cucumber, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
salt and pepper
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
5 sprigs fresh thyme
Four 4 to 5 ounce skin-on, boneless salmon fillets



1. Preheat a grill to medium-high.  In a small saucepan, add 2 cups water, cover and bring to a boil over high heat.  Place the couscous in a shallow, heatproof bowl and pour the boiling water on top, reserving the pot.  Stir in the olive oil, then cover tightly and let stand for 5 minutes.
2. Fluff the couscous with a fork, then stir in the mustard seeds, cucumber, parsley and cider vinegar, season with salt and pepper
3. Add the balsamic vinegar and thyme to the reserved saucepan, cover and bring to a boil on the grill, about 5minutes.  Uncover and simmer until the vinegar is syrupy and reduced to 1 tablespoon, 5 to 7 minutes.  Carefully remove from the heat and discard the thyme.
4. Increase the grill heat to high.  Season the salmon with salt and pepper.  Arrange skin side down on an oiled grate, cover and grill until the skin is crisp, about 3 minutes.  Flip and grill until just cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes.  Drizzle the balsamic reduction over the salmon and serve with the couscous.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Fender and Gibson Strike Again

Did you ever read the Bunnicula books by James Howe when you were a kid? 

I did, I loved them. 

Just the right amounts of scary and funny for a little kid.  The books are about these pets, and there's a vampire bunny who sucks the juices out of vegetables.

Little did I know that my childhood love of these books would actually come somewhat to life for me as a grown-up.

Observe the remnants of the tomatoes left on my kitchen counter.

Apparently, we have two cats who have developed a taste for tomatoes.  Or, at least a taste for ripping into tomatoes.

I don't know what to make of it - these cats are crazy.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Open-Face Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Pickled Red Onions and Cucumbers

Every time we do one of these Rachael Ray weeks, there's always one recipe that stands out and we really look forward to.  This time, it was this recipe.

The meal turned out great, and was a really nice summer meal.  It was a rainy day here, so we didn't use the barbeque, just the oven and it turned out just as well.  It even kept well for leftovers for lunch today, nothing like a meal out of a toaster oven at work!

(And yes, I ate soft cheeses while pregnant - pasteurized soft cheeses that were heated.  I think we'll both live)

(We also had more corn on the cob because it's just too good to resist right now)

Open-Face Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Pickled Red Onions and Cucumbers

Serves: 4  Prep: 10 min  Grill: 10 min

2/3 cup cider vinegar
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup sugar
1 english cucumber, thinly sliced
1 cup feta cheese crumbles
1/2 cup goat cheese crumbles
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 baguette, split lengthwise and halved crosswise
1 tomato, cored and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley



1. Preheat a grill to high.  Add the vinegar to a small saucepan, cover and bring to a boil over the grate, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the onion and sugar until the sugar is dissolved; cover and return to a boil, about 2m inutes.  In a large, heatproof bowl, pour the vinegar mixture over the cucumber, toss.
2. Lower the grill heat to medium.  In a medium bowl, combine the cheeses.  Brush 2 tablespoons olive oil over the cut sides of the baguette.  Arrange on the grate cut side down and grill until lightly toasted, about 1 minutes; transfer to a work surface.  Sprinkle each piece evenly with the cheese mixture, top with the tomato slices and drizzle with the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil.  Transfer the baguettes cut side up to the grate, cover and grill for 3 minutes.  Sprinkle with the parsley and serve with the pickled onions and cucumbers.

No recipe tomorrow, I didn't cook tonight and won't get to cook tomorrow night either.  Should be back on track on Wednesday and Thursday, then I think that completes the "week" of Rachael Ray goodness for this time!

Sunday, 22 August 2010

To Park or Not To Park.

It seems that one of the great pregnancy controversies is the designated parking spots.  You know the ones, the "Expectant mother/caregivers with young children" parking spots located oh so temptingly close to the store?  Ever since we found out about the kid, Jagger's been bugging me to use the spots.  "Let's park in the preggo spot!" He'd suggest as we pulled up to the grocery store.  "No, I'm hardly even showing and there's a regular spot right there, it's not a big deal."  I was really resistant to using the spots.  It just seems so unnecessary, especially right now.  There's nothing wrong with me, I don't need to have a spot a bit closer to the store.  If anything, I need the walk through the parking lot.  I always figured I would rather use it after the kid gets here and I'm struggling with the car seat and stroller in a parking lot filled with snow. 

I'm sure lots of other girls jump at the chance to use the spots - it is handy, especially at a busy movie theatre.  That's cool, I don't have a problem with people using them at all.  In fact, I encourage my mom to use the spots all the time (she's a foster mom to a three year old, a one year old and a six month old, so I think if anyone should get to use those spots, it's her!).  I would never get worked up if there weren't any available preggo parking spots though, it's not like they're required, they're just a courtesy.

I spend a bit too much time trolling on message boards on The Bump.  I never post on them because, well, those girls are crazy.  It blows my mind the things that they manage to find to complain about.  One of those things always seems to be the parking spots.  There's not enough of them, you should use them, you shouldn't use them...back and forth and back and forth.  Really, it's not that big of a deal.

That being said, we did happen to make use of a preggo parking spot for the very first time yesterday.  We foolishly decided to head out to Walmart just as a downpour was about to start.  "Now is the time to use those parking spots," I decided.  I still felt a little nervous parking there, like some overdue pregnant woman was going to start screaming at me for taking "her spot" so I held my belly a little bit more than I usually do as we dashed into the store through the rain.

You know what though?  It was kind of nice having that spot.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Grilled Lemon Chicken with Greek Salad

Sorry for posting this one so late, but I didn't get around to uploading the pictures until now.  And really, what's a food post without pictures?

This one turned out really nicely, I've been so impressed with how closely the finished product resembles the pictures on the recipes.  I didn't like the chicken, but I think it was more of a preggo reaction to the chicken than anything else.  Jagger liked it enough to eat his and mine, and even though I thought it smelled and looked great, I took one bite and was like, "No, I do not want to eat you."  Sigh.

We also had ours with some awesome maplesweet corn on the cob...so, so good!

Enjoy!

Grilled Lemon Chicken with Greek Salad



Serves: 4  Prep: 15 min  Grill: 20 min

4 cloves garlic, 1 clove finely chopped
grated peel and juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
4 skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts (about 3 1/2 pounds total)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tomatoes, cored and chopped
1/2 cup feta cheese crumbles
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
4 cups mesclun greens (I just used a spring mix.  I don't know what mesclun means.)

1. Preheat a grill for indirect medium heat.  Using a food processor, puree the 3 whole cloves garlic, the lemon peel and 1 teaspoon each lemon juice, olive oil and salt.  Using your fingers, gently loosen the skin of the chicken breasts and spread the lemon mixture underneath.  Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil on the undersides of the chicken.  Season with salt and pepper.
2. Arrange the chicken, skin side down, on an oiled grate over direct heat, cover and grill until golden and marks appear, 3 to 4 minutes.  Flip and place the chicken, skin side up, over indirect heat, cover and grill until cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes.  Transfer to a work surface, drizzle with some lemon juice and let rest for 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, in a salad bowl, whisk together the finely chopped garlic, balsamic vinegar and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil; season with salt and pepper.  Add the tomatoes, cheese, onion and mesclun greens and toss; season with salt and pepper.  Serve with the chicken.



I was quite proud of myself for not overcooking the chicken - something I'm tragically guilty of.  It was weird BBQing chicken without using a sauce, but it seemed to turn out really well.

No new recipes for a couple of nights - we didn't cook tonight and are off to a friend's place on Saturday night.  Should be back on schedule for Sunday though!

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Shrimp and Corn Chowder

Second night of Rachael Ray - it was a nice change of pace to have some soup in the summer.  Luckily for us, the heat wave has broken for a few days and it wasn't unbearable cooking this.  We used fresh local corn (Maplesweet corn - so, so good!) but didn't use the barbeque.  I don't have a Dutch oven like the recipe calls for and the shrimp we bought were already cooked, so I just threw them in at the same time as the corn.  I didn't bother to toast the bread either, we just had nice soft French bread.  Yum!

Shrimp and Corn Chowder
Serves: 4  Prep: 15 min  Grill: 25 min

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, 4 crushed
1 pound medium shrimp - peeled, deveined and patted dry, tails reserved separately
2 small zucchini, quartered lengthwise and chopped crosswise
1 red bell pepper, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
salt and pepper
One 32 ounce container (4 cups) vegetable broth
4 ears corn, kernels removed
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2 baguette (uh yeah, we ate a whole baguette) thinly sliced crosswise

1. Preheat a grill to high.  Position a dutch oven on the grate, add 3 tablespoons olive oil, the crushed garlic and shrimp tails, cover and cook for 5 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, discard the garlic and the shrimp tails.  (This was a weird step, but I assume it flavours the olive oil??)  Add the zucchini and bell pepper, season with salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes.  Stir in the broth and simmer for 15 minutes; add the corn and thyme during the last 5 minutes of cooking.  (I threw in the shrimp at the same point)
2. Meanwhile, toss the shrimp with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Thread onto skewers and transfer to the grate; grill, turning once, until opaque, about 3 minutes.  Remove from the skewers and stir into the soup.  (I also failed to read the recipe ahead of time and didn't have any skewers, yet another reason why I didn't follow the whole grilling aspect of the recipe)
3. Brush the bread with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Arrange on the grate and grill until toasted, about 3 minutes.  Rub the toasts with the remaining garlic clove.  Serve with the soup.



The soup was great, and made plenty for both of us with lots leftover for lunch tomorrow.  The corn gave it such a great sweetness.

This recipe is also fun for practicing our New Englander accents - Chowdah.

Tonight we're making Grilled Lemon Chicken with Greek Salad - tune in tomorrow for the recipe and details!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Ham and Spinach Salad with Mustard Seed Dressing

We're starting another week of Rachael Ray recipes after a long hiatus.  We'd gotten into this bad habit of being too lazy to get groceries, so we were constantly going out to eat.  All that must stop, as the spending has gotten out of control!  So, we're back to Rachael and her $100/week meal plans.  This was Monday's meal, but because of Jagger's baseball, we didn't cook last night so the week will stretch out a little longer than usual.  Check back for lots of yummy recipes!

Ham and Spinach Salad with Mustard Seed Dressing
Serves: 4  Prep: 15 min (yeah, right)  Cook: 15 min

4 eggs
1/2 red onion (1/2 thinly sliced and 1/2 chopped)
One 8-ounce package sliced mushrooms
One 6-ounce bag baby spinach
1 1/2 tablespoons mustard seeds
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
salt and pepper
1 pound boneless smoked ham steak, patted dry

1. Place the eggs in a small saucepan and cover with water by 1 inch.  Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat; cover and let stand for 12 minutes.  Drain and submerge the eggs in ice water to cool, then peel and chop them.  Transfer to a salad bowl along with the slice onion, mushrooms and the spinach.
2. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, toast the mustard seeds until beginning to pop, about 3 minutes.  Reserve half in a small bowl, then transfer the remaining seeds to a blender along with the chopped onion, 5 tablespoons olive oil, the sugar and vinegar; season with salt and pepper.  Blend until smooth.
3. In a medium skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat.  Add the ham and cook, turning once, until browned, about 10 minutes.  Transfer to a work surface to cool slightly.
4. Drizzle the vegetables with the dressing, season with salt and pepper and toss.  Sprinkle the ham and reserved mustard seeds on top.



We were pretty happy with how this one turned out - it was a nice summer meal and didn't heat up the kitchen much.  All of these recipes are supposed to be designed that you can do the cooking on the grill if you want to, but to just cook one ham steak, it was just as easy to use the stove.  I wish I had read through the whole recipe before I started though, since I didn't realize I needed to hardboil the eggs or that I would require the blender.  Finding the blender and its lid in the cupboard proved to be the hardest part of this recipe, and resulted in the most cursing.



The recipe made loads of salad, more than enough for us both to have dinner and have lots leftover for lunch the next day (always the goal).  I'm not crazy about leftover salad though, especially when it already has dressing on it - it's always too soggy.  Next time I make it, I would try to reserve half of the dressing and toss it later for lunch.  Spinach is just so wilty!

Next up: Shrimp and Corn Chowder!

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Desk - Updated!

Well, after much painting, I'm nearly done my furniture re-vamps.  I'm still working on a couple of end tables and might still paint a small bookcase, I haven't quite decided yet.

Remember my old $15 desk from this post?  Here's a reminder of what it used to look like...



And here it is after a quick sanding, a coat of primer and a couple of coats of white paint...


I'm pretty happy with the results, but about halfway through painting the drawers, I really regretted it and wished I had only painted the desk itself and left the drawers their original wood.  You lose the line detail in this picture, but they are still there.  The drawers were just a huge pain to paint and there's a few drips.  I suppose I can't ask for much out of a face lift on a $15 desk though.

I've moved it to the office and it does prove to be quite a handy work station.  It's more comfortable than my old desk (remember this whole fiasco?) and even though I lose room on the desktop itself, it's so nice to have drawers again!  Having the wireless keyboard should make it easy to just slide it out of the way when I need more surface area on the desk for proofreading transcripts or some crafty-type activity and the Mac is really only ever on the desk to charge since we usually have it out in the living room with us to immediately solve any arguments with a quick Wikipedia search.

Here's another view of the desk, just for fun.



And you can see part of our ticket board up there too.

The cords are obviously a disaster, I'll have to fix that up at some point.  That's really not unusual for me though.

The office is really starting to come together as a much more usable space now.  I'd still like to get a futon or something in here so we could have something for guests to stay on, but it's not anything we need immediately or anything.  This desk definitely has a smaller footprint than the old one though, so it feels like there's lots of spare room in here.  The old desk is still kicking around in the basement though, just in case we ever should require its services!

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Pros and Cons of Life with a Preggo...

Conversation 1:

Scene:  I just got home from work and sat down with one of my favourite snacks - mozzerella cheese and digestive cookies.

Jagger:  Can I have a cheese and cracker?
Me:  They're not crackers, they're digestive cookies.
Jagger:  Oh, okay.  Can I just have some cheese?  (Begins to reach for a piece of cheese...)
Me:  No, that'll throw off the whole ratio!
Jagger:  Grumble, grumble.

Conversation 2:

Scene:  A weird in-between time, do we want lunch, do we want a snack...you know how it goes.  I get up to get a snack.

Jagger:  Can you get me an apple?  I don't really want lunch.

I go out to the kitchen and make us each a plate with apples, cheese, digestive cookies (for me) and some pepperettes and come back out with Jagger's plate.

Me:  Here you go, honey.
Jagger:  Looks at his plate with surprise.  Aw, you cut up my apple!  And - oh!  There's a whole snacky plate here!  Oh, honey, I love you.
Me:  Yeah, I love you too.

See?  It's not all bad.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Back to School Supplies...

Well, it's that time of year again.  The shelves are stocked and the commercials are running constantly.  Yes, it's back to school shopping time.

I was always one of those kids who loved school - and who especially loved back to school shopping.  I can distinctly remember spending hours pouring over the flyers in August and clipping out pictures of all the items I thought I would need.  Strangely enough, every year my mom assured me that I didn't need all those supplies (since when does a kid in Grade 4 not need a stapler, four binders, tape, highlighters, pens and report covers?) and that we could wait until after the first week or so before we went back to school shopping.

I disagreed.

I always had some fear of being unprepared - that I would walk into school and that would be the day that the teacher told us all to whip out our binders and fancy pens and go to town on some assignment.  It never seemed to happen, maybe my mom did know the score.

My obsession with back to school "necessities" only got worse as I got older.  You see, by the time high school rolled around, I had my own money.  I remember babysitting all summer between Grade 8 and Grade 9 and saving up my money to go back to school shopping.  I'm pretty sure I was more excited about the supplies than the idea of new clothes.  Finally, high school!  I'll actually need that compass and protractor now!

Still didn't really need any of that stuff.

Every year it was the same though - I would stock up on hundreds of sheets of plain lined paper, new binders, more pens than a single person could ever go through...you name it, I wanted it.  There's something so hopeful about a brand new binder filled with clean, lined paper.  Every year, my mantra was "This year, I won't procrastinate!  I'll take my time and start things as soon as they're assigned!  No one can stop me now, I have a binder with 250 sheets of blank lined paper!"

To this date, I have only ever written two essays on a day other than the day before they were due.  No word of a lie.  And one of those essays ended up being trapped on my computer that refused to turn on the night before it was due and forced me to rewrite the entire 3000 word assignment.  That's what you get for trying to get a head start.

University proved to be the ultimate in school supply obsession.  I spend an obscene amount of money the summer before my first year of university.  I remember even buying a "student starter pack" through the university that came with a pad of lined paper with the University crest on it, disks (this was before flashdrives, kids) and all kinds of goodies.  It wasn't enough though.  I bought a desk, I bought a chair, I bought packages of pens and highlighters from Costco.  I was completely prepared.

By the time I entered my fourth year of University, I had the supplies down to a science.  I had a clipboard that I used to write all of my in-class notes.  Every single note was then transposed into a specific notebook at home for each specific class.  Each class notebook was divided into sections so I could have a section of notes from class and notes from reading the texts.  Each note was written in rough during class in blue ink only and then transposed in black ink with colour for emphasis.  I was a machine.

Then, it all ended.  I completed University and had to face the scariest option of all - not only was I faced with growing up and finding a real job and starting life, I had to face a Labour Day weekend that meant nothing.  An August where I didn't have to go and spend gobs of money in Staples or the student book store to get ready for those wonderful early September days where the weather was beautiful and hopes were high.  There was no back to school for me.

Every year since University, this time of year makes me a little sad.  I still obsess over office supplies, but can't justify many of them.  Getting engaged brought the beast out of hibernation again though - so much to organize!  I must have these 20 different coloured pens!  But now, the wedding is long behind me and I'm finding that planning for a baby doesn't require quite the same gusto for notebooks, pens, and Post-It Note flags.  What is a girl to do?

I might just have to buy myself a little present, just to get me through these August days...like maybe one of these or these and a few of these ...

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Before and After

I've finally finished painting some of the furniture I've been working on.  Yes, I've been painting while pregnant.  In a well-ventilated area.  While wearing gloves and a mask.  And using low-VOC paints.  And only painting for short periods of time.  I fully expect Children's Aid to show up anytime now. 

Anyway, I'm still working on a few pieces, but here's what I've managed so far.

You remember my plain-o hutch at the front door?


Well a coat of paint and some new hardware has turned it into this...



I love the white against the newly-painted walls, and our art wall is coming along.  Just ignore the fact that the doors are crooked (and always have been) and that there's a light fixture hanging off the wall.  I'm working on it.

Over in the baby's room, I painted the old bedframe - remember that?



Boo.

Now it looks much cleaner and sharper with the new grey paint.



Although my childhood doll on the bed has been officially voted as creepy.

I still need to get a comforter for the bed (which will be used as a mommy napping area/changing area once the kid gets here).

The desk was my big challenge.  It was a lot of work to get everything covered.  I'm so happy with the results though, it really gives the old desk some new life.

Here it was before...


And after...



Once again, it's amazing what a new coat of paint and some updated hardware can do.  I'd like to get a new chair for it though, because the red one doesn't fit in the little area so it takes up too much room.  I also still need to re-attach the face on that top drawer, but haven't gotten around to it yet. 

Here's a better look at the shelves - I filled them with our childhood books (and books enjoyed in adulthood but were meant for childhood) and my Dr. Seuss figurines, topping the whole thing off with some much-loved stuffed animals that have spent some years in a hope chest.


I'm so happy with the results and it was a total bargain to do.  Thanks to a friend with connections (hi Sarah-Rae!) I got a great deal on paint and primer.  $30 in paint plus $20 in hardware spent so far.  I still have 2 quarts of white paint to get through as well!  I'm hoping to finish painting my other desk tonight (remember this one?) and have a couple of end tables and a little bookcase that could use a facelift.

Have you been up to any home improvement projects lately?

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Radio star and summer movies

I just got back from my appearance on AM 980 with my friend Dan (check out his blog).  He's taking over the McArthur in the Morning radio show all this week - check it out!  I was on today as a guest to chat about summer movies and how much people are getting paid in Hollywood.  It was really fun, I had a great time - hopefully you had a chance to listen in! 

If you didn't hear us, here's my thoughts on summer movies to come - I'm super duper excited for Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (August 13th).  I love the graphic novels and love that the creator is from London.  It looks like such a super fun movie, I can't wait to see it!  I'm also stoked for Piranha 3D.  It looks like the perfect entertaining movie for a hot day in a cold theatre.  It looks like an awesome way to spend 90 minutes or so.  Another movie I'm really excited for, but didn't mention on the radio is The Switch.  You know, it's the one with Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman?  Where he "hijacks her pregnancy" as it says in the trailer?  Some people seem to think it looks a little watered down, but come on - it has Jason Bateman, Jeff Goldblum and Patrick Wilson in it.  Just try to keep me away from that one. 

What about you?  Any big movies coming out that you're dying to see?  Anything you were disappointed by this summer?

If you're new to the blog - thanks for stopping by!  Let me know what you think.  There's more posts to come - I've been busy painting furniture at home and have lots of before and afters to show off!

Monday, 2 August 2010

Airtime!

Hey - if you're looking for something to distract you tomorrow morning at 10:00, check me out on the radio!  I'll be on AM 980 talking about summer movies.  If you're not in the London area, you can check it out online here.  Apparently we'll be taking callers as well, so call in if you'd like - just don't ask me any hard hitting questions!