Happy Onion Day!

I'm a little late (Blogger problems whenever I tried to do this), so Happy Belated Onion Day!

In Berne (Switzerland) the annual Zibelemärit (onion market) is be held on the fourth Monday in November. This year it will take place on Monday, 27th November. More than 50 tons of onions - in artistically woven plaits - are offered on this day on more then 300 market stalls.

No, I haven't suddenly taken up researching onions or events around onions. Last week, Ivonne over at Cream Puffs in Venice posted a bunch of fascinating little items, included among them information about a blog event celebrating the humble onion, hosted by Zorra of Kochtopf. Sounded like fun to me.

I'm sorry to say I was uninspiring in my selection. I didn't go searching among my books for something new and fancy to make but fell back on simple and warm. Warm has been a very important part in meal making lately, with the weather usually involving rain and strong winds (instead of snow.) With the prerequists of onions, simple, and warm in mind, what else would I make but French Onion soup?

Again, no recipe involved. Instead I slowly sauted up a bunch of sweet onions with some olive oil and butter, seasoned with salt and pepper. When they reached the color I wanted, I added some stock, deglazing as I mixed the liquid and onions together. Crostini's, toasted in the oven, were floated in the bowls of soup (I don't own proper onion soup bowls, but do own some larger sized Corningware remekins that are perfect for this,) topped with freshly grated Gryere cheese and placed under the broiler. I love cheese, so my bowl had two crostini and extra cheese. :-)

A "plain" but comforting tribute to the onion, usually an unassuming background guest to most meals, highlighted in a bowl of warmth.

Cheers oh mighty Onion!

Only One month until Christmas?

OMG! I better get started on my cookie baking now!

Oh wait, I started already. :-)

Actually, I didn't start out with the plan to get a head start on my Christmas baking. It just ended up happening that way in the end.

My oldest son has been sick the last few days, home from school with a high fever. He is not, however, old enough to be on his own even for the 30 minutes it would take me to get back and forth to school to drop off and later, pick up, his younger brother. So my neighbour, whose daughter is in the same school and has the same hours as my youngest, has been kind enough to do drop off and pick up for me. So my Christmas baking started out as a way to say thanks to her. Funny how things morph from one plan to another so quickly!

Friday afternoon, while my oldest slept off some of his fever, I got busy in an uncluttered kitchen, alone with my stand mixer and ingredients. (It is amazing how much more quickly I can knock out a recipe without 4 year old help.) All my butter was frozen for future use, so recipe options were slightly limited. But knowing my neighbour, I knew she would appreciate a plate full of Ginger cookies. I didn't take a picture of these because I had already posted about them here. The recipe makes more than 3 dozen large sized cookies - more than enough to give her a big thanks and to stash some away in the freezer for when the house is filled with people.

Making ginger cookies put me into an odd frame of mind. Not sure how, but it led me to thinking about my Grandfather. Normally when I am baking cookies, the voice of my grandmother is in my head (sometimes way in the background,) telling me how she never had the patience for cookies, but she could knock out a pie in a jiffy! So baking cookies didn't lead me to think of my Grandfather, but baking coconut macaroons pointed me in his direction.

My Grandfather is in his late 70's, and still likes to tell stories about how when he was a kid he stole packages of shredded coconut from the local store so he could just eat it straight. I once bought a whole coconut so that we could crack it open, educate my oldest son about it, then have it on hand so my Grandfather could snack on fresh coconut for the rest of his visit.

These cookies are very easy to make: Mix together in a large bowl 3 egg whites, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 cup of white sugar, until light and frothy. Add in 5 1/3 cups of sweetened flaked coconut. Scoop by rounded tablespoon (this is where a nice scoop comes in handy) on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake 20 - 30 minutes at 350F, or until they are golden brown. They won't spread while baking, but keep a close eye out because the edges will burn quickly if you don't. Allow to cool on wire rack before chomping down on a few. Store in airtight container.

These cookies will not make it to Christmas, but were so simple to make that I can whip up a new batch even when I only have a few minutes of time. Which is good, because I've promised my Grandfather I will bake him some when we go up to visit next. Or when he comes here.

Btw, like my pretty new plates? I treated myself to a set of dishes yesterday, square white plates and bowls with Platinum rims. I don't know why some people think I am hard to buy for - you can always buy me fun dishes or cooking items!

Having been in a baking mode, today I decided to continue on with it. I had taken one block of butter out of the freezer, so I was prepared for making a butter based cookie. Looking through my traditional recipes, I wasn't smilling. Every year I make a whipped shortbread recipe, which was fine when I was a more inexperienced cook. Not only am I not an inexperienced cook, I'm a more finicky eater. I really don't like that recipe much, it never turns out the way I wanted, and the 10 minutes of whipping, to me, makes them too floury, and easily breakable. I want my shortbread to be tender, but not so tender that they fall apart when you pick them up.

With that in mind, I decided to try the recipe for Multiple Personality Shortbread cookies from Today's Parent. Not too multiple though - I doubled the recipe and made plain shortbread with half then added semi-sweet chocolate chips for the other half. I haven't tried the plain yet, have only tried the chocolate version, but think next time I will use milk-chocolate chips instead.
Though the children both tried them and hmmmm'd through their cookies, then told me that I made the best cookies ever! What greater praise can a home baker get? :-)

The real test will be to see how these handle freezing and defrosting.

I still have plans for several more types of cookies, including sugar cookies (a quiet day project to do with the children), chocolate-caramel squares, and I'm open minded enough to take suggestions from others for a few more recipes, so if you have one and think I should try it, send it along!

Now if you will excuse me, there is a container full of coconut cookies in my kitchen, calling my name.

PS. Speaking of cookies - check out my entry for this months Does My Blog Look Good in This.
For this one I submitted my picture of star cookies that I made for my son's birthday last month.

Generally when I submit a picture for this (this is my 3rd or 4th time), I'm usually reasonably happy with the quality of my pic, until I see the other entries. Then I just feel like I need to go take some photography lessons. And buy some new dishes. And backdrops. I'm not the only one, but oh well.

Falling behind on my blogging

I took a few extra shifts at work last week, not a huge amount of hours since each shift is only 3 hours long, but enough that I was distracted from my usual routine in regards to cooking and blogging. So here is a make-up post of some of the things I have made since last week, up to today!

I'm finding certain blogs are more "useful" to me than others, though I enjoy reading alot of them and my list of blogs grows with every event. The recent comfort event yielded 7 new blogs for my list! Good thing I love to read! However for recipes I tend to actually print out and cook, one blog has been tagged by me several times: Elise at Simply Recipes. She was one of the first blogs I tagged on Bloglines.

So it was a copy of a recipe from Elise's blog I turned to when I decided to roast a whole chicken last week. She had recently posted about a roasted garlic chicken, and I had immediately printed it off and gone shopping. Of course it took me a few days to actually get around to making the chicken, but eventually I did.

This chicken sat in a brine in my fridge for 24 hours, the brine made up of roasted garlic, lemon juice, water, salt, pepper and a bayleaf. It smelled amazing, especially considering it was raw chicken! Once roasted, the chicken itself was very moist and had good flavor, but I did not notice any of the flavor, or any further odor of roasted garlic. Sad, so sad. I love garlic. Despite that, I will make this chicken again. I will simply add more garlic and roast it 10-15 minutes longer so that my chicken is the dark, golden color of Elise's chicken.

Friday was a PD day for both my children. They both went to work with me that morning, then came home to a lazy afternoon. That lazy afternoon included making cupcakes with Mom though, including icing. Not a bad way to spend a day off school.

Our cupcake choice that day was for carrot cupcakes, with a cream cheese icing, a recipe I had used before, which can be found online at Today's Parent. Both boys helped out, with my oldest measuring out ingredients carefully, and my youngest pouring things into the mixer. I probably should have taken a picture but really didn't want icing sugar all over my camera.

The final result looked like these ones in the picture - I did the icing, not one of the children, and the last of those cupcakes were eaten today, making them the longest lasting cupcakes this house has seen in awhile!

Saturday night was date night for my husband and I. I took along my camera to the restaurant and will blog about that at a later time, pictures included.

Sunday night I made hamburgers, by request, but put my own spin on them. Double cheese burgers, but not the usual double of two patties. Instead these had cheese stuffed inside them as well as melted on top of them.

I was after a Tex-mex flare to my burgers, and had intended to use some salsa in or on them (but was personally distracted by coleslaw for on them later.) Lean ground beef was seasoned with salt, pepper and cumin, then bound together with an egg. I can't for the life of me remember what else I put into the burgers for seasonings, but those ingredients I am sure of.

After mixing the meat mixture up, I shapped them into very thin patties, using some waxed papper, piled high the shredded Monterey Jack cheese in the middle, then topped them with another thin patty before sealing them closed and trapping the cheese inside. It was already black outside when I needed to cook them, so I opted for a frying pan rather than the bbq. Still these burgers ended up with good color and very little of the cheese managed to escape the center. Served with coleslaw and flavorful potato chips, dinner was simple but yummy, something we all neeed to have while watching the Grey Cup.

Now I skip ahead a few days to day's dinner, chicken enchiladas, again a recipe I have made many times before, though I always consult my printed copy before I ignore it.

At one point this recipe came from a Weight Watchers CD I own (somewhere - I like cookbooks in every form.) Though if someone who initially wrote this recipe were to come in and see my version, I suspect they wouldn't recognize it as their own. For starters, mine uses flour tortillas instead of corn. And I don't measure much. I swap out green peppers for any other color, and I like cheese, so I use more than is called for. Plus the original produced 8 - 6 inch tortillas filled. Mine produced 14, using 8 inch tortillas. More is better, right?

Today I did something else a bit different while making it, though - I poached the chicken in chicken broth with some pepper. This allowed me to work on my veggies while not paying attention to the chicken, and resulted in meat that was very moist and flavorful. I will be doing this again the next time I want precooked chicken of any kind, it was that good.

This dish was supposed to be served with a simple salad with a ranch dressing, but instead I had it alone with just some sour cream. One of my children now has a fever (and not much interested in eating,) and the other informed me that he just wanted tortilla with cheese to dip, no chicken, no veggies, no sauce. Since it meant more enchiladas for my husband and I, I was not going to argue.

I'll post the recipe for the enchiladas after I have had a chance to look at my original and figure out the changes I made. Then I'll post the recipe I actually made!

Chicken Enchiladas

1 1/2 cups canned whole tomatoes, drained, or 1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes, drained (but reserve liquid in case you need to thin out sauce.)
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloved, minced
1 1/2 teaspoon mild or hot chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch ground red pepper, or pepper flakes
pink cinnamon

In a food processor or blender, combine all the ingredients and puree until smooth. Transfer to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, simmer, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes, until thickenend.

1 teaspoon vegetable or olive oil
1 cup diced red bell pepper
1 cup diced green bell pepper (I used yellow and orange instead of green.)
1 cup diced onions, I prefer red onion here
14 8" flour tortillas
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cooked and shredded (try poaching in a pan with some chicken stock and pepper, bring to a boil then reduce and simmer until chicken is cooked through. Allow to cool a bit before shredding with two forks.)
2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

Preheat the oven to 375F.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil. Add vegetables and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes or until vegetables are softened.
Spread 1/4 cup tomato mixture into bottom of 13 x 9 pan (I prep two pans because one is two small.)

Place a tortilla onto a work surface. Spoon about 1 large tablespoon of bell pepper mixture into the center of the tortilla, in a line. Top with about equal amount of shredded chicken and cheese. Roll up to enclose filling. Place seam-side down in prepared pan. Repeat until out of tortillas, chicken and pepper mixture. You should still have about 1 cup of cheese left.
Top tortillas evenly with remaining sauce then sprinkle evenly with remaining cheese.
Bake 25-30 minutes, until heated through and bubbling.

Comfort from the kitchen

I was reminded yesterday that one of my favorite blogs Cream Puffs in Venice, was co-hosting an event called "Dishes of Comfort." Ivonne's single serve rice pudding dish, her choice for comfort on an autumn day, set my thoughs down the creamy dessert path in search of my own "dish of comfort" from my childhood.

While my mother used to cook alot when I was young, it is usually my grandmother's cooking I recall most when thinking of food. Her making apple pies, once I recall her making raspberries pies with me, with berries we'd picked just for my little birthday pie. Dessert was a requirement for just about every meal, as it is for her and my grandfather now. On those cold dreary days when she didn't want anything too fancy, my grandmother would pull out her box of Minute Tapioca and make a potfull to be enjoyed after dinner.

With those thoughts in mind, and a recipe dog eared in my August 2006 Cooking Light, I decided to make an old fashioned tapioca pudding, not from the box, but using real small pearl tapioca. Which I happened to have picked up when I first read the recipe, but had not yet gotten around to making it.

I admit, I've never made the tapioca from a box. I've eaten it, as well as the kind that comes in the mini snack sized pudding containers. I had high hopes that tapioca made from scratch, with real pearls, would be much more flavorful and soothing than the boxed kind.

I was disappointed.

It was good. The texture of the pearls was more pronounced than in the minute kind. But it couldn't hold up to my memory of the pudding my grandmother used to make sometimes. I have the feeling that nothing would. Afterall, you can't compete with a memory and expect to come out ahead.

I ended up making a few changes to the printed recipe. I substituted 1 cup of light cream, 10%, for some of the 2% milk. Mostly because I had it in the fridge and needed to use it. My timing was different - the recipe called for low heat for 30 minutes or until thickened. My pot was plenty thick in less than 15 minutes, and starting to scorch the bottom of the pot. Again, when it came to cooling it in an ice bath, my pudding was cool and thick well before the 15 minutes given in the recipe.

Looking at the online recipe now, copied here, I see readers only rated it 3 out of 5 stars. I think I can agree. As I said, it was good, but not so overwhelmingly good that I would seek out the pearl tapioca at a specialty store again rather than using the little red box that I can buy at a normal grocery store.

All this making, talking and reading about comfort food, however, has given me a craving for home made macaroni and cheese. Maybe for dinner tomorrow night.

Note: I forgot earlier to mention the name of the other co-host to Dishes of Comfort: Orchidea of Viaggi e Sapori. Thanks to both Ivonne and Orchidea!

Last minute dessert request

I hadn't planned on making dessert tonight. Though my little guy was hoping I would make him some rice krispie squares (which we can do tomorrow together.) His dad though, had a bad day and requested dessert. His actual request was for rhubbarb crumble with butter tarts on top of it, and macaroons on top of the butter tarts.

I didn't take him seriously.

But I did throw together a rhubbarb crumble for him, just to ease the day a little bit.

I always have lots of rhubbarb in my freezer. The reward, I guess, from planting a bush in my garden a few years ago. The stuff freezes amazingly well, and seems to keep forever. I can never tell the new bags from the old bags, they always look alike!

I didn't measure anything for the filling, simply threw the rhubbarb in a pan with some sugar, a sprinkly of nutmeg, some flour for thickening, and a nob of butter. I didn't bother adding any water, since the rhubbarb was coming straight from the freezer. While it stewed, I pulled out the crumble recipe I use for apple crumble and crumble pie, posted about here.

While we ate dinner (nothing fancy, meatballs with honey garlic sauce, steamed sugar snap peas and jasmine rice,) the crumble cooked.

Served with ice cream, I hope it made up a bit for the icky day.

Another pasta

I don't normally make lasagna. I buy it premade and pop it in the oven. The one recipe for lasagna I occassionally make (as in every couple of years,) involved 4 or so eggs, 3-4 pounds of different cheeses, breadcrumbs, sauce, and spinach as well as the noodles. Alot of work, and I couldn't eat it, it was too rich!

My husband, however, loves lasagna. Second only to spaghetti for him.

And my children will eat it too - or at least the noodles part.

So I decided to try making a lasagna for dinner, just not the fancy, heavy kind. And I didn't bother with a recipe either. (That really amazes my 7 year old, that I can make things without a recipe.)

I used no boil noodles, and a simple tomato and herb sauce that I watered down a bit. Separately I mixed together a package of frozen, chopped spinach, that I had defrosted and wrung dry, with a 500ml tub of extra smooth ricotta cheese, half a finely chopped red onion, some salt, pepper and a bit of freshly grated nutmeg. I layered the cheese mixture between noodles and sauce, making for 3 layers of lasagna (12 noodles for the pan I was using), then covered it with parmessan cheese before putting some foil on top and popping it into a 375F oven.

While the lasagna cooked, I chopped garlic. Lots and lots of garlic. Which I mixed with butter and slathered onto a few panini style buns I'd picked up that day, making my own garlic bread. it was so yummy, I should have made more. Though if I'd done that, I wouldn't have eaten any lasagna, garlic bread being one of my food weaknesses.

My lasagna turned out very well, with obvious layers of cheese and noodles, tender but not over done, or too rich. It wasn't light, but no lasagna ever is. Nor was it heavy though. Instead it was just the right balance, a filling and reasonably healthy cheese and spinach lasagna. I served it with the garlic bread I'd made as well as some caesar salad.

I think my husbands eyes lit up when he saw dinner, surprised that I would make him a lasagna. I was just happy to be in the kitchen, making something that everyone would eat.

Next time I think I'll make more garlic bread. Just in case.

Standing up for my own tastebuds

As in, I wanted fish for dinner. Fish with some crunch to it, but not the premade, frozen tempura battered fish that I know my family will eat, but real fish. My fishmonger suggested tilapia, so I went with his suggestion. Tilapia it would be, pan fried with a crispy coating. Close enough to battered without deep frying, healthier than the frozen stuff.

My coating was simple: breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, parsley, salt and pepper. I cut each fillet in half, then dipped them in a mixture of egg and water before coating them in the bread crumbs. My pan was waiting, hot, with a combination of melted butter and olive oil, ready for the fish.

Oh it was good. It was very good. (Even the small bit left over the next day, reheated in the oven.) The outside was crunchy and flavorful, the inside mild and flaky. Even my picky seven year old liked it and complimented me on it.

I'm glad I decided to make what I wanted to eat instead of caving into the food likes and dislikes of the rest of the household. Everyone ended up eating it, and I enjoyed being able to cook something that I would like, no matter what anyone else felt about it.

In a food funk

I've not had alot of luck with new and different recipes when it comes to feeding my family lately. I can bake anything and they will eat it, but when it comes to meals, it has been very miss and miss lately. So this post is about some of the misses I've had, leading up to dinner tonight.

Last month I made two recipes in one night for dinner, one from memory, having seen it on Barefoot Contessa but not written it down or found it on FoodTV, for zuchinni gratin. I paired it up with parmesan chicken, which I had long ago bookmarked from Elise over at Simply Recipes. I didn't end up blogging about these simply because I came down with the flu the day after I made them, and by the time I was feeling better, it seemed a little late. And I had other things to blog about by then.

The chicken bites of parmesan were well received by everyone in the family. Crunchy, juicy and full of wonderful flavor, these were popular. There were no left overs. That was the good news.

The bad news was no one but me would eat the zuchinni gratin. Filled with pieces of zuchinni, sliced onions, a light cream sauce and covered in cheese and breadcrumbs, I found them to be a wonderful accompaniment to the crunchy chicken bites. They were soft and mellow, though still with a bite of texture to them. It was comfort food, a healthy side to the not very healthy chicken.

This dish ended up being brought over to my neighbours house to try, where it was liked by everyone, and a copy of the recipe was requested. Too bad I didn't actually have one and was just trying to remember what she had done!

Then a week or so went by where I didn't cook at all, being sick, being competely uninterested in food in any form. When I was better, I wanted to make up for being unable to cook, so I started out with spaghetti and meatballs (not pictured.)

Spaghetti always goes over well, meatballs are another hit and miss item. This time the children decided they were a miss without trying them. They worked for me, and for my husband.

I followed that meal up with another family favorite, baked ham with Poppa's sauce. Only I couldn't remember where I had put Poppa's sauce recipe, so I went from memory: gingerale, crushed pinapple with juices, brown sugar, honey, mustard and corn starch. I'm sure the preportions weren't exactly right, and I didn't bother measuring, but the sauce came out pretty close to the original created by my father-in-law and tasted very fine on the slow cooked, bone in ham. The biggest ham eater of our family, my husband, agreed, and ate alot of it between dinner that night and left overs for lunch. The children informed me they didn't like that kind of chicken and declined eating it. (Too bad I hadn't made chicken.)

There were a few days of left overs: left over pasta (thumbs up), left over ham and sauce with scalloped potatoes instead of mashed (thumbs down from children, up again from spouse.)

Then there was last night, moroccan chicken. This received several big thumbs up from my neighbours, including a phone call from her little girl telling me how much she loved the chicken I had made (which I thank her very much for, I was really needing the good review by then,) since they were the recipients of most of this meal when my family again declined to eat it.

I'm tempted to go on a creative cooking strike (again) but the last time I did that, I ended up frustrated from being unable to cook, and my family was completely happy eating things that came out of a box or a can.

Instead I have decided to creatively cook for myself. I will attempt to cook items for my family that they are likely to eat, and I will make something separate for me. Or I will cook and they either will or won't eat it, but I won't stress about it. I'll have lunch left overs instead.

With that philosophy in mind, I ended up at my local grocery store after school with two children who wanted to go home to play. Too bad, it was time to figure out what to make them for dinner. They surprised me; they were offered samples of linguini noodles with alfredo sauce, and both of them inhaled it.

Sounded good to me, so premade alfredo sauce in the cart, linguini noodles as well. Husband won't like it, but we had jarred sauce at home that he could have with his pasta instead, though I did decide to make some mild Italian sausages for the children and spouse as well, making the pasta with alfredo the side dish instead of the full meal. I had the feeling that the children would be unable to eat too much alfredo.

Sausages, however, were not what was on the menu for me. I wanted seafood, something I rarely get to eat because, again, I am the only member of my family who will eat it.

I love my fishmonger. He is friendly, knowledgable, and understands that I don't often buy fish when the rest of them won't eat it, but I frequently visit his department, both so I can see what is in, and because the kids, despite not eating it, love to visit the fish and see what new and funky things he has. Today he had bay scallops and shrimp for my alfredo. (And talapia fillets which I plan to make into "fish sticks" tomorrow for dinner.)

I'm sure some purists are shaking their head in disgust that I would use premade alfredo sauce, as well as having a jar of pasta sauce in my pantry. Oh well, too bad. I wasn't going to make alfredo from scratch, not with all the warm reception my cooking has had lately (and they had just tried the Farm Boy sauce and were willing to eat it at home, so let's not mess with what little works with them.) And jarred pasta sauce is a great emergency staple, one that is available for oops last minute meals. Beside's, I wasn't going to eat it, I was eating the alfredo, loaded with the scallops and shrimp, extra parmesan cheese mixed in and topping the pasta. Yum!

I hope everyone else has had an easier time feeding their families lately. Guess I should go find some outlets to my creative needs in the kitchen through my stand mixer. Wonder if I have enough flour?

Sneaking in a new recipe

I received my latest copy of Fine Cooking magazine late last week, the December 2006 issue, and finished the magazine with a long list of recipes I wanted to make. A bit unusual for me - I love to read magazines and cookbooks, I don't cook out of them that often. To have a magazine with so many recipes I want to try is amazing!

While I plan to make the cover recipe of prime rib roast for Christmas, right now it is November, a cold, rainy November, so instead I wanted to make warm and hearty. The article on braised chicken caught my attention, and the recipe for braised chicken legs with carrot juice, dates and spices made my attention sit up and notice! This was what I was looking for - hearty, warm and different. (And it is on page 58 for those who get the magazine. If not, the website hasn't updated for this issue yet.)

I should say that there has always been a good chance that no one other than myself would enjoy this meal. (Actually, that isn't true - my kind neighbour has said she will eat and enjoy anything I cook, so she frequently ends up with stuff that the rest of my family refuses to eat. I personally think I feed her quite well!) The addition of carrot juice and dates with chicken makes this a bit of a risk, but no risk, no gain. For all I know it could become one of my families favorite chicken recipes!

However, knowing how highly unlikely that is, I decided to boost my odds but making this while the children were at school. What they didn't see go into the chicken, they couldn't complain about. My children love carrots, but I suspected they would turn their noses up at carrot juice. And while I hoped to pass dates off as just very large raisins, I wouldn't worry too much if they chose not to eat them.

So to start, my version looks absolutely nothing like the picture in the magazine. Mine was brownish, theirs was a deep, warm red. Did I use the wrong kind of carrot juice? I hope not, I used juice that I made myself that afternoon! Maybe they had a specific type of cinnamon, one with tones of red in it. Sorry, mine was regular cinnamon. Same with the ground ginger and the cumin. No red anywhere. Yes my onion was red, as the recipe called for, but when you cook red onions, you know they lose their color.

And I definitely did not have a large enough pan for this. Those pieces of chicken were very crowded in my saute pan! Oh well.

I found this quite tasty, not too strong, but very flavorful. I love cumin, but could not taste it, though the cinnamon was the dominant spice, as I couldn't taste the ground ginger either. The chicken was tender, fall off the bone, the onions soft and melting. The dates didn't exactly grab me, I found them instead to be a bit too sweet and overwhelming. Perhaps if I had added them in earlier, or chopped them smaller instead of in half, they would have been softer and more mellow. However, eaten together with a bit of chicken and rice, they melted in nicely.

No idea yet how this meal will be received by my husband. My children have both decided they don't like it, they've never liked it and they won't ever like it, without even trying it or knowing what it was. Somedays it doesn't pay to try something new.

Regardless of how he feels, I have promised my neighbour at least one piece of chicken to try, so I still have hope that at least someone will like what I made for dinner tonight.

CBBP #2 - My package came!

Huge box waiting for me in my mail box today (okay the key to get into the package door was waiting for me in my mail box, but inside the door was a huge box!) All the way from Calgary, Alberta, where I lived as a child and haven't been to since I was about 12 or 13.

What an amazing package from Sara of I Like to Cook!

I actually opened it up while sitting at the playground after school, trying to stop the packing popcorn from flying away, while fighting off children wanting to eat the Kettle corn, with friends curious as to what I'd received! And what a package!

The first thing I saw was the Kettle corn, or Cowboy Popcorn. Then I saw a little post it note warning me of fragile items, which ended up being wrapped in a fabric shopping bag from Planet Organic. The items were a bottle of chilli garlic sauce and a jar of cranberry chutney. Also in the box was a jar of curry masala, a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, a large container of creamed honey, Sara's favorite type of honey, and a bar of cucumber and comfrey soap, very well wrapped.

My children can't wait until I break open the popcorn, and I can't wait to try out all the rest of my goodies, including the popcorn!

Thanks so much Sara!

It's good to be "home"

It's been over a week since I did much of anything in the kitchen. I was sick, a cold that turned into a flu, that aggravated my asthma, which aggravated the flu more, endless cycle of coughing and not getting better. A few days with an inhaler, a few nights of sleep, and I'm still coughing, but not as much and not as badly. Best of all, I am ready to both cook, and eat again.

I've so missed being able to cook.

Actually, when I was really sick, the only thing I really wanted was sleep, but if I had been getting that, I probably would have missed cooking too. Or at least eating.

So last night I cooked dinner for my family. Nothing too fancy; pork chops and carrots in a taryaki sauce, steamed yellow beans, and some steamed spaghetti squash for me. No pictures, no recipe, just what was thrown together. It was good to be back in the kitchen.

This morning the children and I had a breakfast date with old friends from out of town, but I had made a commitment before I came down sick, to make a baked good as part of the fundraising efforts for my son's taekwon-do school, who was hosting a large tournament today and wanted to have items for sale in the cafeteria. I was originally going to make chocolate chip cookies but when I woke up this morning, way too early, I didn't want to make cookies. I wanted to make brownies.

I am happy to say I managed to meet my original commitment and donate a batch of brownies to the fundraising efforts. I only hope they all sold out!

Having made a batch of brownies though, I promptly gave them all away, much to the dismay of my children (bags of Halloween candy notwithstanding, they are so hard done by!) So I made a second batch, with the help of my youngest son. This time I made them a little more kid friendly, putting them into individual mini-muffin tins and adding some Smarties to the bottoms. Both these things allowed my son to have a job: put the paper liners in the cups, and put a Smartie, his choice of color, on top of each of the brownies.

The brownies are extra chocolatey, and the house was filled with the scent of them baking (despite the big slow cooker filled with spaghetti and meatballs, made between the two batches of brownies.)

These little morsels of chocolate should be just about perfect for me. Unused to eating too much, or things that are too rich or decadent after a week of soup and orange juice, bite size brownies provide perfect portion control. And the Smartie on top of the brownies with the Smarties on the bottom reminds me that those brownies (36 of 48 of them) are meant for the children.

I don't miss doing dishes, or cleaning up the counter, but I'm happy to be back in my kitchen.