Menu Plan Monday: Short week for us

We have a busy week coming up, which includes my finally getting to start going to Taekwon-Do classes, a tournament and a triathlon. So evenings are going to be very busy, and carb loading will probably happen somewhere this week.

Sunday: "Let's pretend it is nice out!" and serve spareribs with corn on the cobb and watermelon. Course it wasn't nice outside, it rained, then stopped, then rained, then stopped, then rained..... I'm sure you get the picture. But it was nice to fake it for awhile.

Monday: Roast beef, mashed potatoes, carrots and asparagus. Probably slow cooker style.

Tuesday: Honestly, I don't know yet. If I get called into work in the afternoon, chances are it will be take out pizza. If not, I likely will throw together a quick pasta.

Wednesday: Fish and chips.

Thursday: Homemade chicken fingers with veggies and dip.

Friday: The kids and I are all going to be away, so hubby gets to fend for himself, sorta. He's carb loading, so he will likely make use of the spaghetti sauce I have left him in the freezer and eat a tonne of pasta.

My menu for this week is not overwhelmingly inspiring. It is probably the rain doing it. I like some rain, but this constant dreary rain is getting ridiculous. And makes it hard to put clothes out on the clothesline too!

For better menu plan inspiration, go see Menu Plan Monday and look up a few dozen other planners. I think I might do the same, see what I can find that is new and inspires me. And if you are a regular reader here, let me know what you did for your menu plan this week. I know of two people who decided to try menu planning recently and I'm curious to know how they are doing.

Farmer's Market: I can't wait for the next growing season

It was opening day at the North Gower Farmer's Market this morning. Bags and camera in tow, I threw the kids into the car and got lost on my way to it. Silly of me, getting lost. Followed the sign that said "Farmer's market this way" and it wasn't the right way.

Luckily, I was not in a completely unfamiliar area, and my husband can get me unlost from anywhere, just with a phone call.

Only one vendor selling fresh produce, Rochon Farms, the rest were a combination of plants and alot of crafty items. I was not interested in crafty items, and while I bought some basil plants (cause I've killed two since I showed the picture of mine in my kitchen window), I was after some produce.

This spinach, while a bit pricey, will make some lovely creamed spinach. I hope.

Yes, my little guy is still coming to the markets with me with my little point and shoot camera. It is amazing how quickly even the biggest frown disappears when someone sees him taking pictures. He had a former teacher, whom we ran into at the market, laughing when after he took this shot, he took a picture of his feet.

My husbands dinner plan for today was hamburgers, so he'd requested tomatoes. I wasn't hopeful going in but paid the $5.50 to get him these juicy, fresh tomatoes. And they were good on my burger.

I don't like cucumbers, unless they are in tzaziki sauce, but my little guy does, so he carefully examined all the cucs and picked one to his liking. He'll eat it with his lunch at school on Monday.

And while none of us like radishes, I love the colors of them, so had to take a picture.

I also bought some asparagus, at $2.50 a bunch, a much better price than the $6 a bunch it was 3 weeks ago.

Hopefully in a few more weeks there will be a better selection of produce to be had. Strawberry season is only about a month away and I can't wait!

The North Gower Farmer's Market is each Saturday, from 8:30am to 1pm, from now until October 30th, rain or shine.

Tyler Florence Fridays: Farmer's Market Potatoes, Part One

Remember a few weeks ago when I went to the opening of the Ottawa Farmer's Market? One of the things I brought back with me was some lovely potatoes. Two different kinds, actually.

Well, the two different kinds of potatoes means you get two different potato posts!

To start, I used these lovely Red Cheiftain potatoes to make Tyler Florence's Crispy and Creamy New Potato Pie.

First the potatoes are boiled with a bay leaf, then smashed with some sour cream, some horseradish, chives and more chives. Then they are put in a pan, flattened into a pancake like shape, and baked in the oven to get a crispy outside texture, while the inside stays soft and creamy.

My outside texture didn't work too well, most of it stuck to the pan, despite the oil on the bottom of it, but it was alright. This "pie" was very good, tasty, and simple to make, even on a busy weekday.

And it is another one of those "presents very elegantly" dishes, one that would also do well in smaller sizes for a make ahead or fancy meal. I can easily see this pairing with a nice roast beef, a turkey dinner, and, dare I say it, yes, I'll dare... a roast chicken dinner. It needs no extras with it, but could so easily be customized to your own flavors and liking.

I'm calling this one a winner and submitting it for Tyler Florence Fridays.

Crispy and Creamy New Potato Pie

by Tyler Florence, as found on the FoodNetwork

2 pounds potatoes, washed and halved
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon freshly grated horseradish (or prepared)
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup chives, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Wash and boil potatoes in salty water with bay leaf until fork tender. Drain potatoes and mash along with horseradish, sour cream, and chives. Season with salt and pepper.

Put mixture into a 10-inch skillet with 1 tablespoon olive oil and bake until golden and crispy. To serve, invert onto a plate and cut into pieces.

Daring Bakers: Studelling along, with pictures

I had help this month, both in the making and the photographing. I hope you enjoy it. I know we did.

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

Many thanks ladies! I don't think I'd have tried this without a challenge and am very glad I did! The strudel turned out fantastic, and the stretching was not that difficult to do at all!

Well I've got good news and bad news

First the good news: the Anadama Bread, the first bread baked by the newly formed Bread Baker's Apprentice group (no, I am not a part of it, I was too late, again,) is fabulous.

My children loved it - one even asked for a slice of "that amazing bread" at dinner tonight.

And that is with mine not rising quite as much as I think it should have, it just didn't seem to want to go any higher. So my loaves are a bit on the small side, but that's okay, good things come in small packages!

The bad news?

Today, I killed my bbq.

With a fire extinguisher.

I had to! I really did! It was not a ploy to get a new one, it seriously was flaming and flaming and flaming, with nothing on it anymore, no gas on, nothing, and the flames were getting worse!

Good thing I'd taken my chicken off when it started. Or we'd have had no dinner. Except for the bread.

I was cooking chicken, legs and thighs, on the bbq. I had all 4 burners on, not because I needed the flames but because I was creating an oven. I'd grilled the chicken pieces on a high heat, to get my grill marks, and then had lowered the temperature on the two middle burners to low, but left the outside ones to medium, and was cooking the chicken slowly. When I was ready to start basting with sauce, I put a double layer of tin foil on the grill and placed the chicken on the foil, before I added even a drop of sauce. I wanted the sauce to get sticky, not to burn.

Since I didn't want the chicken to stick too much to the foil, I was keeping a pretty close eye on things, so I noticed that there was alot of flaming going on at the back half of the bbq, in a spot where nothing had flared up before, and where there was nothing over top of the flames. Just to be sure, I turned down the heat some more and moved the foil closer to the edge. Just to be sure.

Well, the flaming started getting worse, and spreading. Not from the burners, from something else on the bottom.

Now I will admit, the bottom tray of my bbq was not pristine, but it wasn't a huge mess either. I had scrubbed down my bbq in the fall before I shut it down and moved it into the garage prior to our move. It has been used maybe 8 times since we moved, so it hasn't had a chance to have a huge build up of gunk in the bottom.

Getting nervous, I turned the gas off entirely, removed the chicken and moved the foil as far away from the flames as possible - by then I had to, the foil was starting to light on fire and burn! How hot does fire have to be to make tin foil burn?

Closing the lid, with no gas, did not seem to make a difference, the flames were, again, just getting worse and worse. And higher.

So I had to take out the fire extinguisher.

Can you use a bbq once you've used a fire extinguisher on the burners? After a very good scrub, that is.

On the bright side, my children were across the street playing with a friend, so they never saw the flames, and were no where near when the extinguisher came out.

I think I will be without a bbq for the rest of the year. (Sigh.....)

The Great Turkey Hunt

One day I said to my husband, "I think I saw wild turkeys in a field on my way home from work today." He didn't laugh at me.

So I started carrying my camera back and forth with me on most trips.

Which means I didn't see a single turkey for the next two weeks!

Then this guy caught my eye one day, all alone in a field that I hadn't seen a turkey in before. Just to confuse me.

At least I had proof that I had indeed seen a wild turkey on my drive.

My oldest son spotted this group, so I pulled over to the side of the road but couldn't get close enough to them to get a really good shot.

I was feeling frustrated with my lack of a good zoom lens, but didn't have any intentions of doing anything about it any time soon.

Then I visited my grandfather and he sent me shopping at my favorite camera store for something for him. Which is why I left with a new lens for me.

I got this little fella the next day.

Did you know a wild turkey can run really, really fast? When I pulled over to get some shots of this guy, he was fairly close to me. By the time I'd stepped out of the car and crossed the road, he was on the far side of the field, running for the trees.

The turkey hunt continues for me. When I am driving, my camera, with my new lens, sits in the passenger seat of the car, turned on, ready to go. Cause those little suckers move fast!

Menu Plan Monday: Sometimes I can't come up with a catchy title

I've noticed lately that my menu plan seems to fall apart around Wednesday. Have you noticed that as well? Sure, there are usually good reasons: I was called into work so ran out of time, we had an extra music lesson, I wasn't feeling well. Always something reasonable, but still, this menu plan falling apart on Thursdays is getting expensive, since I usually choose to pick something up instead of cooking.

To be fair, though, last week I didn't make what I'd planned for Thursday, but I replaced it with something I had everything for: toasted bagel sandwiches, which included scrambled eggs, cheese and slices of tomato. Yummy, but messy!

This week I'm going to try and outwit Thursday but making dinner for it on Wednesday. And if that doesn't work, then the next week my husband gets to cook dinner on Thursday, but likely for only a few more weeks as my preschool job is about to end for the summer and so is music lessons for the kids.

On to this week!

Sunday: Left over Ethiopian. Dodo Wot, combined in one pot with Yeti Wot (go see my Ethiopian post to see what those are), is very tasty served over rice and with Lebanese pitas instead of Injera.

Monday: BBQ chicken with coleslaw.

Tuesday: Pork tenderloin in gingerale sauce with candied carrots. And maybe mashed potatoes. If I pick up potatoes that day.

Wednesday: Egg rolls and fried rice.

Thursday: Spaghetti and meatballs. With garlic bread.

Friday: Left overs. And if there are none, my Hubby has offered to cook this night since I took over his usual Saturday night last week.

Saturday: Whatever the Hubby wants to cook or buy for the rest of us.

Monday morning I will be over at Menu Plan Monday, where I've sometimes gotten some good dinner ideas, but am just as likely to find really good breakfast ideas!

Bread Baking Babes: Injera and too much food!

Last month's Bread Baking Babe challenge was hosted by my friend Mary, aka Breadchick, so you know it was going to be something challenging involving bread, right?


The challenge was to make Ethiopian Injera bread, which isn't hard to make at all. If you can find the Teff flour to make it.

I couldn't.

So Mary extended the deadline for me and shipped me off a present, that included a bag of Teff flour. (Which I've since found in two different stores, but hey, I couldn't find it when I was looking for it earlier!)

Tonight was finally the night, my Injera starter was on day 5, the minimum needed for making the bread, I had friends coming over to try everything with me (so I would not have to eat all of it alone.)

Meet some of my eating helpers: BC, her son and her daughter (isn't her hair just screaming 'Summertime fun!'), sporting the newest look, fancy dishes in which to pile high the Ethiopian food.

Now the traditional and proper way to eat Ethiopian involves a huge platter, with Injera bread covering the bottom, all the various dishes loaded on top of the bread. You use your fingers to pull off pieces of the bread from the outside and eat the dishes with the bread as your scoop.

We couldn't do that tonight as BC's daughter is glutten intolerant, so instead, I put out all the dishes and the Injera and everyone made their own platters, piling things up high on it. Here is what I made:

Yetakelt Wot, also known as Yeti to those of us eating tonight, a vegetable stew that was slightly spicy and wonderful. I submerged some hard boiled eggs in the Wot, which I've had before the one time I had Ethiopian, and let people choose if they wanted one or not.

I doubled this recipe, thinking I would need extra with lots of people coming for dinner (we had 5 friends over for dinner, but dinner included non-Ethiopian items for people who would not enjoy and/or appreciate it.)

Ayib Be Gomen, also known as "All Be Going", a cold dish involving collard greens and cottage cheese, which was surprisingly good. And a big help tempering some of the spice.

(As an aside, I'd never had collard greens before, and dislike cottage cheese, but I liked this. I will have to try the collards some time without the cheese and spices.)

Ethiopian Lentils with Yam, which we dubbed Yentil when I messed up the name of it. Something else I doubled, since it didn't seem it would make much. I have left overs, but not many. I liked this and hoped my boys would as I'd like to introduce some lentils into our diet and rotation. (Unfortunately, this didn't go well with my guys, one tried and the other two refused.)

Doro Wot, a chicken stew with the same baseas the Yetakelt Wot, which was dubbed Dodo. I followed Breadchick's advice and used boneless, skinless chicken thighs in this, which was good advice. I didn't double this recipe, thinking it would be fine as is and was happy with what we had. Plus I have enough left overs for my lunch this week.

Oh, and the smell of the Niter-Kebbeh (the butter you use to make everything) was amazing! My house smelled so good, and the butter turns out a pretty green. I only wish the pretty color of it had shown up in the pictures, then I would have posted one to show. But like the Berbere (the spicy spice mixture used in the Wot's), pictures did not work well for these.

Finally, the entire reason for this feast, the Injera bread.

Now I will be honest and say I messed up my bread slightly.

Yes, I read the recipe in advance.

Did I remember any of it?

No, of course not, don't be silly.

I fed my starter early this afternoon, remembering that I needed 4 hours or so of rest time before I could make the breads and since we had people coming for 6 pm, thought I'd left enough time.

What I didn't remember was that after that 4 hours, I was going to need an additional 4-6 hours!

So I rattled off a quick email to Breadchick, then took a brave leap and faked it. I left the starter for 2 1/2 hours, instead of at least 4, then went on to the next step, adding the self rising flour, put it somewhere warm and left it for maybe 2 1/2 - 3 hours.

Then under the supervision of BC and her children, we made bread. Not pretty bread, but tasty bread. Bread that did indeed get spongier and softer after it cooled, and was wonderful with all the dishes I made.

My only problem? I have lots of food left and almost no Injera bread!

Good thing I can pick some up at the store tomorrow (and now understand the big exciting sign at my former corner store that said, "We carry Injera!")

This was alot of fun and very tasty. I look forward to making this again and trying more new recipes. Just next time, maybe I won't make quite so much!

Big hugs and thanks to Mary for the Teff flour (and I didn't forget my other one, I just am not ready to show what I did with it yet!)

If you'd like to try any of these recipes, please see The Sour Dough for all the details.

TFF: I'm not against chicken

I'm really not against chicken at all, despite the lack of enthusiasm for roast chickens. I love all different kinds of chicken dishes.

So I had to try this recipe from Tyler for Chicken Paillard. Had to. Look at it. Thin chicken breasts, panko crumbs, tender on the outside, crispy on the inside. What good chicken is supposed to be.

And exactly what this recipe turned out. Chicken good enough that when I reheated some the next day for my children, they inhaled it. And asked for more.

Now that is a winning recipe.

Actually, now that I think about it, I bet this would work great in their lunch boxes. They would think they were getting chicken fingers!

I did not make the dressing to go along with this recipe. I wasn't feeling great that day and did not want to mess with raw eggs when I wasn't feeling well. Which won't stop me some other time, I'll make it eventually.

Chicken Paillard with Creamy Parmesan Dressing
from Tyler Florence, as found on FoodNetwork

For the chicken:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs, whipped slightly with splash milk
2 cups panko bread crumbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

For the dressing (which I did not make this time):

2 anchovy fillets
2 egg yolks
2 clove garlic, smashed
2 lemons, juiced
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salad (which I also did not make, yet):

1 cup organic grape tomatoes, halved
1 bag fresh baby arugala
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, boccancini, halved
Shaved Parmesan, for garnish
Lemon wedges, for garnish
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

For the chicken:

Begin by pounding out the chicken breast gently between 2 pieces of plastic wrap.

Prepare a breading station with flour, whisked eggs and milk, and panko crumbs. Season all with salt and pepper. Coat the breasts in flour, egg then panko. Lay the coated breasts out on a flat tray and refrigerate to let the crust dry out (about 10 minutes) this will ensure there is less moisture and less chance your coating will break when frying.

Shallow fry the paillard in hot oil for approximately 2 to 3 minutes per side depending on how thick the breasts are. Drain well, season with salt and set aside when done.

For the dressing:

Put the anchovies, egg yolks, garlic, lemon juice, and water into a blender and process for 30 seconds until the mixture is smooth. With the blender running, pour the olive oil in slowly for the dressing to emulsify. Stir in the Parmesan, season with salt and a couple of grinds of black pepper; set aside. (Refrigerate the dressing if you will not be using it right away.)

Prepare the salad by splitting the grape tomatoes in half through the middle lengthwise, mixing all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add the dressing and toss the salad well.

To serve lay the warm, crispy chicken paillard on the base of the plate and top with the salad. Garnish with shaved parmesan cheese, a wedge of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil.

This is my entry this week for Tyler Florence Fridays. (Even though it is not yet Friday. I wanted to be early. Early is good.) The round up can be seen each Friday at Tyler Florence Friday, the blog.

Soups on: Sweet Potato Curry Coconut Soup

You may recall that when I attended Savor the Tulips a few weeks ago, I raved about a soup served there. The Sweet Potato Curry Coconut soup from The Red Apron, a local shop run by two ladies, Jo-Ann and Jennifer. I loved that soup. I went back for more of that soup, it was so good.

When I got home, I emailed the ladies and asked them for a recipe. Not for myself, no, not at all. So I could share with my readers, of course. (You believe me, right?)

Well they were happy to come up with a recipe for me, and as I said I would, I'm sharing it with you!

Thank you Jo-Ann and Jennifer! (Btw, they sell a really nice granola at the Ottawa Farmer's Market on Sunday mornings. My kids inhaled the three types available.)

Sweet Potato Curry Coconut Soup
from The Red Apron

Olive oil or canola oil
1 medium white onion, diced
2 clove garlic, diced

2 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
5 Medium sized Sweet Potatoes
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock

2 cans coconut milk
1 pinch sugar
1 ½ teaspoon curry powder, or to your taste
1 pinch nutmeg
½ cup whipping cream (optional)
Salt and pepper

1: Place sweet potatoes on a greased baking sheet and pierce with a fork. Bake in a 375 degree preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until tender. Let cool and remove skin and mash with a fork.

2: Sauté onion, garlic and ginger in oil until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add stock, coconut milk, sugar, curry, nutmeg and mix well. Add sweet potato, stir until combined and simmer for 15-20. Taste for seasoning.
3: Blend with a hand blender or remove from heat and cool. Blend in batches in a blender and add more water/stock if necessary to achieve the desired consistency. Return to pot and simmer until heated through and finish with the whipping cream (optional). Serve.

Menu Plan Monday: Better late than not at all

Didn't get in until late last night from our trip, and since today is a holiday here (Victoria Day weekend), nothing is open around here for shopping. Good thing I have a well stocked freezer and don't really need to pick anything up for today's dinner.

Sunday: We stopped to eat on the way home, so no cooking for me last night.

Monday: Pork Tenderloin with Chimichurri Sauce and crispy and creamy new potatoes (yes, this was scheduled for last week, but I was busy so it is tonight now.)

Tuesday: Shrimp Scampi with pasta.

Wednesday: Grilled flank steak with roasted ricotta roma tomatoes.

Thursday: BBQ chicken with crispy new potatoes and aioli.

Friday: Blueberry blintzes. Maybe. I hope.

Saturday: Sounds like we are having friends over for an ethnic feast. More about this later.

As usual, go see Menu Plan Monday for more menu plans.

Hi from my grandparents party!

Sixty years is a big milestone. For a birthday.

Sixty years of marriage is a HUGE deal.

Combine that with a 60th birthday (my lovely Aunt), and my grandparents combined birthdays, and my family had lots of reasons to celebrate.

The weather didn't cooperate with us, we crammed way too many people into my grandparents house, but there was plenty to eat, plenty to drink and no lack of conversation and catching up.

After a marathon cooking/baking session the night before, and an early morning drive to get there, I finished up my cooking in my grandmother's kitchen, while she "supervised" me.

Little story before I explain this photo. Yes, I have a blow torch in my hands and am using it on pies.

My grandfather turned 81 in May. For years he worked shifts, where he would get his schedule months and months in advance. If he worked on his birthday, my grandmother would always make him two banana cream pies for his birthday: one for him at home and one for him to bring into work to share with a co-worker who shared a birthday with him.

When I asked what he wanted for his birthday and the party, my grandfather said banana cream pie. So I made a bunch. Ten little ones and one regular sized one. (He invited that former co-worker over and they had the first pieces of pie.) While there are lots of recipes for banana cream pie, I used my grandmother's recipe.

And I used his blow torch to cook the meringue, which my grandmother was fascinated by (while my husband pretended to cringe on the far side of the room with my camera.)

I left a couple of these little pies in my grandparents fridge, which made him very, very happy.

And I will be getting myself a torch, not a mini kitchen one, but a propane torch like I used at my grandfathers, cause that was fun and I love the way the meringue browned and expanded under the flame.

I hope that I look as happy at my 60th anniversary. And that someone knows how to make banana cream pie.

Banana Cream Pie
by my grandmother
Makes 1, 9 inch pie

Single pie crust, prebaked (I used Dorie's Good for Almost Anything recipe)
1/4 cup corn starch
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups milk, scalded
3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp vanilla (I used ground vanilla beans)
1-2 bananas
3 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
pinch of salt
1/3 -1/2 cup sugar

Mix the corn starch, sugar and salt in a medium sized pot. Gradually add in the warm milk, stirring constantly. Cook over medium heat (you could use a double boiler if you are worried about scorching the bottom of the pan), for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly, until the mixture is bubbling and thickening. Slowly add a ladle full of the milk mixture into the egg yolks, to temper them, then add the egg mixture back into the milk, still stirring constantly. Cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat. Add in the butter and vanilla, stirring to be sure it is well incorporated.

If you are not filling the pie shell immediately, the lay a piece of plastic wrap across the top of the custard to prevent a film from forming.

For the pie, spread a thin layer of cream in the bottom of the prebaked pie shell. Slice the bananas thinly and cover the cream with a single layer of bananas. Layer more cream, thicker, then more banana, then more cream, until you are at the top of the pie, ending with the cream.

Make the meringue; Mix the salt and cream of tarter with the egg whites on medium-high speed with an electric or hand mixer, until light and frothy. Increase the speed to high and gradually add in the sugar, continuing to beat the egg whites until they have firm peaks but are still shiny and glossy. Mound on the pie. Place under the broiler until the meringue is golden brown and puffed, or borrow a propane blow torch and have some fun.

Daring Cooks: Its premier time!

For the past few years, I've proudly been part of the Daring Bakers. Heck, I'm proud that I was a Daring Baker before we became the Daring Bakers. Sure, I've had my complaints about the challenges from time to time, but I've gone along with all of them, and done them regardless of whether or not they were sweet or savory.

So when Lis and Ivonne announced that we would be having a second group, independent of the Daring Baker's, a group that was about cooking instead of baking, I was in. I like to think I'm a decent cook. Not a chef, but a cook. I have the occasional disaster, but mostly I do fairly well and get good reviews from my meals.

Still, if the Daring Bakers made me conquer my fear of melted sugar, what could the Daring Cooks do?

For their first month, they sent me somewhere I would not have gone on my own, making ricotta gnocchi, (from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook.) I'd have made gnocchi eventually (it is still on my to-do list), but I'd have never thought of making ricotta gnocchi. It just does not seem like something that would appeal to my family. Which was my first thoughts upon reading the recipe, "Oh boy, they are not going to like this."

Still, I pressed on. And learned something important.

I suck at hand forming a soft ricotta gnocchi.

Does that look like something even remotely edible to you?

Me either.

Which is why after butchering 9 gnocchi, I pulled out some spoons thinking, "I can't possibly make them worse."

Which was a good idea. I continued dropping a small amount of the dough into the flour, then would pick one up gently and essentially roll the gnocchi from one spoon to the other, over and over again, until I had a nicely shaped gnocchi that wasn't too floury.

A major improvement, but they still do not look very appetizing to me.

Nor did they appeal to my guys, but being true Daring Baker testers, they stepped up to the plate, literally, and became good Daring Cook's testers.

My little guys tried one gnocchi each, served very simply with just the butter 'sauce'. No go, they didn't really like them.

My 'big' guy, the hubby, actually tried three of them. He and I agreed: they taste much better than they look, but they didn't appeal to either of us. I doubt adding in more of a sauce would have done it, it was more a textural dislike than a flavor.

Like my comparison photo? Don't mind the wrinkles, I'm testing out my homemade light box still, made with the help of my father-in-law and brother-in-law, and had not yet gotten lights or broken out my iron to clean up the fabric when I took this picture. It's an ongoing project right now.

So my first Daring Cook's challenge is over (phew!) and now I get to wait for the next one to show up in a few days! Which reminds me, I should get moving on my Daring Baker's challenge, which I am still participating in.

If you are surfing around the blog worlds today and see a mountain of little white gnocchi, don't worry, you aren't crazy, you have just stepped into Daring Cook's land. Stop in, leave a comment, and then head over to the Daring Kitchen, pull up your Daring Kitchen mug (Lis and Ivonne, I know we have t-shirts and aprons and underwear, do we have a mug?) and sign up to join us for the next challenge.

Big thanks to Ivonne and Lis for inspiring us, pushing our boundaries, getting us cooking, all that fun stuff! You can find this months recipe on their sites (okay, not Ivonne's yet, but when her pc is feeling better, it'll be there.) Don't forget to tell them I said hi if you go visit!

Want some free meat?

If you live in Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Montreal or Halifax and take transit, keep an eye out for someone dressed like a butcher between 4 and 6pm today. If you spot someone, be sure to say hi as that person may just give you a coupon to try the new President's Choice meat products for free!

That's right, free meat!

With rising prices, who couldn't use a little break in the grocery department?

TFF: Playing with my food again

Some days, part of the fun of being in the kitchen is getting to play with your food. If chef's never played with their food, we'd wouldn't get great recipes that push the boundaries of what is considered "normal."

Molecular gastronomy is a good example of that, playing with food.

I'm not ready to go that far in my kitchen, and not just because of the lack of "tools" to do it. I don't keep dry ice on hand, or canisters of nitrous oxide. Heck, I don't even have a mini torch. Yet.

I did, however, have a paper bag, and Tyler's idea for steaming asparagus in it. Plus, the kids thought it was funny that I was baking a paper bag. (Not enough to want to help do it, but they did stop and ask what I was doing.)

My only complaint? Too much oil used. The asparagus didn't come out oily, but still, it was alot of oil being used, drizzling on the asparagus and on the bag. There was a puddle under the bag when it was done. Maybe I should have put it aside for the next time I make it. While nothing fancy in terms of flavors, I like grilled asparagus better for flavor and texture, it presented well.

Steamed Asparagus in a Paper Bag
By Tyler Florence, recipe found on the Food Network

1 pound medium asparagus, tough ends trimmed
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and cracked black pepper
1/2 lemon, sliced paper thin
1 bay leaf (I skipped this)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and arrange an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Get yourself a paper bag (try to get one without any writing on it,) large enough to hold the asparagus comfortable. Throw the asparagus in there and drizzle the outside of the bag with olive oil to keep the bag from burning. Sprinkle the asparagus with the salt and cracked pepper and toss in the lemon slices and bay leaf. Close the bag, folding it over several times and creasing the folds well to hold the steam in. Put the pan on a baking sheet, drizzle it with more olive oil, stick it in the oven, and bake for 20 minutes.

Take the baking sheet out of the oven and set it on top of the stove. Set a serving plate next to the stove. Using a kitchen towel or a pair of kitchen tongs, raise the bag over the plate, open the bag, and slide the asparagus out onto the plate. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and serve hot. (I'd skip the extra oil, it really didn't need it.)

This is my week's selection for Tyler Florence Fridays. The round up of this week's participants can be found each Friday, here. Anyone can join in at anytime.

That "chicken" thing

I ended up with alot of giggling people the day I posted about chicken for Tyler Florence Fridays, where I said the organic, free range chicken I'd made, using Tyler's Ultimate Roast Chicken recipe (and a full cup of butter!) tasted like chicken.

Well of course it tasted like chicken!

What I forgot to say was that it tasted like boring chicken.

A few people agreed with me - they liked chicken, enjoyed eating it, but for some reason, a roasted chicken was just not their thing. Not ours either it seems.

Despite that, I still tried again.

Twice, with two different recipes.

One of these chickens was a free range, organic, but I have no idea which as I forgot to mark the bags when I put them in the freezer.

First up is the top picture, a simple garlic roasted chicken, with a twist. Taking the advice of fellow Tyler Florence Friday blogger Michelle, over at Big Black Dog, I tried presalting a chicken, letting it sit in a bag in the fridge over night, with generous amounts of kosher salt on it. The next day I continued with her suggestion to mix some garlic and butter and rub them under the skin. The chicken sure looks pretty, and smelled good.

Did it taste any better? Well, I don't know really. Taking a bit of the chicken itself for a trial, it tasted okay. But then I shredded it up and used it to stuff chicken tortillas wraps, with salsa and sour cream and cheese and guacamole sharing space with the chicken. Wouldn't matter how good it tasted, next to all that, who was going to notice?

Then I used the rest of the chicken to make stock, which I bagged up and put in my freezer for later.

Now this chicken, despite the horrid picture, is much better than it looks. Much. It is what I served for a big family dinner, POM glazed roasted chicken (plus spoon corn bread, Ina's cheese biscuits, chive mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli.)

The glaze on this chicken was so flavorful, it added so much to the chicken, that I will make it again. Only I will skip doing an entire bird, which takes too long, and will do individual bone-in pieces. Yum, yum, yum.

Chicken anyone?