Tag Archives: food

Eating REAL Food

juliachild

I’m asking your forgiveness for the lull in my blog posting.  It’s been a busy couple of years, and I’ve just decided to put more effort into writing — and cooking!

My cooking passion comes from feeding the men and boys in my life. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy cooking for myself or for the women and girls in my life — it’s just that the guys truly love to eat good food, real food.

So for the next while you’ll see postings about hearty, healthy, real food that you can put on the table before 6 p.m. with minimal effort and minimal cost.  Wish me luck!

 

Home By Five, Eat By Six

This is my dad and I. I was clearly having fun playing a little joke on him. I wonder who took the picture??

This is my dad and I. I was clearly having fun playing a little joke on him. I wonder who took the picture??

I’ve met so many people who have trouble getting a meal on the table at the end of the day. Maybe it’s a lack of experience or knowledge of how to cook. Maybe it’s a need to follow a recipe. Maybe having one more thing to do at the end of the day is overwhelming. Maybe there just isn’t an example to follow.

When I was growing up, my mom made dinner every night. She stayed at home when we were really little, but then went back to work as a high school teacher. Every night, I helped her with things like peeling carrots and potatoes and setting the table. I was the youngest in the family, so it seemed the easiest place for me at that time of day was in the kitchen with my mom. I loved it, and remember having my own step stool so I could be at the same counter height. I learned funny things like how to butter bread all the way to the corners, and how to chop walnuts like a pro.

We didn’t eat the same things all the time, and there wasn’t a menu on the fridge to follow. She just decided what we were going to have and then made it. Sometimes she asked us what we wanted, but not very often. Things didn’t come out of a package. There wasn’t a microwave. I remember meals like ‘corned beef hash with an egg on top’ or ‘spaghetti with meat sauce’ or ‘creamed chicken on toast’ or ‘pancakes’. I know, we wouldn’t necessarily make those choices today, but they were all made from scratch, they all filled up our bellies, they were all tasty, and they were all on the table by 6.

What I learned, and practice with my own family, is that eating together is important. And feeding your family is a pleasure, not a chore. I also know that a lot of relationship building happens around food. My kids sit at the kitchen counter, on the laptop, while I make dinner. They play me music I’ve never heard before, and tell me stories, and read to me about crazy things they find on the internet. They see me cook, and they learn by osmosis. My younger son can make crepes from scratch without a recipe, and he’s been inspired to just try — he makes amazing pasta carbonara, or spaghettini with olive oil and capers.

The most important thing is to have confidence, and be inspired by what you know. My dinner plans come together in one of three ways. Either I start thinking about it before I get home – “man, I’m hungry…what should we have for dinner? …what’s in the fridge??”, or when I get home, I open the fridge and get inspired by an ingredient. Or if I’m particularly organized, I would have already prepared something from the night before or in the crockpot. (The third option is rare)

One way or another, there is not much time to make dinner. When I get home, everyone is starving. I’m the kind of person that just keeps going after work. I immediately start multi-tasking and getting things done. I prefer to get all those things done, then when I sit down to relax, I don’t feel guilty and I’m done for the night.

As the kids got older, many times we were rushed for dinner so everyone could get to their activities – swimming, Scouts, school plays, soccer. And when I’m hungry…or my kids are hungry…we all get pretty surly. Now my kids are older, 16 and 19 (both boys), and they love to eat. Personally, I think it’s the food that keeps them coming home on time and looking forward to seeing me.

If all else fails, before you get frustrated at the end of a busy day. Before you give up and go to the drive through, have a yogurt and chill out for a few minutes before getting dinner on the table. But my advice, and my modus operandi, is to just keep moving until it’s all done.

 

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Portion Size vs. Serving Size – Canadian Style

Click above to see this very helpful (Ontario) link to understand the difference between portion size (as labelled on your food packaging) and serving size (how much you should put on your plate).   Can you believe that one serving of rice is equal to the size of a computer mouse?    Check out the link to see just how much we regularly overeat!  And in the case of vegetables how much we undereat!  




Fast Tacos…or Are They Burritos?

Tonight we’re having fast and homemade tacos. Actually they are probably burritos. I never know. Lets call them fast soft tacos. Brown a 1/2 lb of ground beef (I always buy lean), in a medium saucepan with a teaspoon of avocado oil. Add a few chili flakes, 1/2tsp of chopped garlic, salt and pepper. Chop 1/2 tomato into a small dice and set aside. Chops two inches of seedless cucumber (keep skin on) into a small dice and set aside. Chop 1 or 2 green onions into small rings and set aside. Now You’ll need a few soft tortillas. I like to use the 6-8 inch size, you can use any type you like. Gather some extras such as salsa, guacamole, chopped lettuce, shredded cheese, plain yogurt or ranch dressing. Now it’s just a matter of assembly. This is one of the quickest and lost popular meals at our house!!! That’s fast!! Manga manga.

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Back to School Risotto

risotto

It’s that time of year — Back To School!   I have one child left at home, in his last year of high school.   Somehow the beginning of the school year has still not changed.  It’s a time of new beginnings, a time to get back to a regular schedule, and I always experience mixed feelings.   On one hand I’m excited for a fresh start. On the other hand, it’s another milestone in my children’s lives which means they are growing older and inevitably away from home. 

Risotto is one of those rice dishes which is much easier to prepare than you think.  It is also a very – read VERY – versatile.   Today I needed a warm, hearty dish which fills us up and lets us enjoy a dinner together. 

Mushroom Risotto:

Some butter for the pan

1/2 chopped red onion. Chop this quite finely, so you don’t notice it in the finished product.

2 cups of mushroom stock. I buy the cubes and dissolve in hot water.  It’s easy to make your own, but even easier to buy it!

2 cups of water

1 package of dried porcini mushrooms

1 cup of good quality risotto rice. I like anything from Italy. 

2 TB butter

Salt and pepper

Chopped green onion.

Before you begin, put about 1/2 cup of dried mushrooms into a bowl and just cover with boiling hot water. Heat a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Drop in the butter and chopped onion, and stir until the onion is soft.  Dump in the dry rice, and stir until everything is coated and hot.  Add about 1/2 cup of stock, followed by 1/2 cup of water, at a time. Each time you pour in the stock, stir the pot until the liquid is dissolved.  Near the end, add your porcini mushrooms with juice. It will take about 20 minutes of stirring and pouring, stirring and pouring until the rice is done.  The mixture will be creamy, not dry.  If it’s dry, pour in some more water until you get a creamy consistency.   Take the rice off the heat.  Add 2 TB of butter, salt and pepper to taste and a small handful of chopped green onion.   That’s it. You just made risotto.  

I made a garden salad with lettuce and veg that I already had in the fridge.  Topped with some lemon juice, olive oil and chopped garlic.   That’s dinner.  Easy peasy, and yummy.

 

Post Vacation Detox

 

 

 

 

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Vacation was amazing. It was great to get out of town and enjoy some great food, great wine and great friends.   Now, I need a rest!  

With so much rich food, it’s time for some detox.  This is a great link to some ‘after vacation detox”.   Time to drink lots of water and eat lots of dark green leafy vegetables!   http://livewell360.com/2012/07/how-to-detox-after-an-indulgent-vacation/

Confession Time – What’s In My Fridge?

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The most important thing in determining what I’m going to make for breakfast, lunch or dinner, is what’s in my fridge.   Shopping and keeping a stocked pantry is very important to making tasty quick meals.   This doesn’t mean that you have to do one big, very expensive, grocery shopping trip.  

I’ve stocked my fridge and pantry over time.  Each week, I probably go to the grocery store twice.  Once a week I do a fairly large shopping trip, for a family of four I spend about $125 on that ‘big’ trip.  It includes all the basics: milk, eggs, bread, meat, stuff for sandwiches, fruit, vegetables, lots of salad stuff, drinks, cereal, crackers, and other things I might have run out of in the pantry.  Of course that also include toilet paper, shampoo, cat food, kitty litter, and a myriad of other things we don’t need to talk about here.

For the other shopping trip during the week, it’s usually for fresh meat (I tend to buy what’s on sale to work my dinners around), maybe cheese and deli meats, some more fruits and veg.  That trip is usually in the $20-40 range depending on what I buy. 

To stock my pantry, I buy a few things each time I shop.  It could be a spice mix, maybe a new oil (the latest is truffle oil), or a balsamic vinegar.  It could be anchovy paste, or wasabi, or kimchi.  Maybe it’s a great tin of Italian tomatoes, or a special pasta.  I usually find something cool at the store, and add it to my groceries, and it adds a fantastic variety to what we cook and eat!

Here’s a picture of what’s in my fridge today.  And the sheer ‘un-organized-ness’ of it inspires me to clean and re-organize it.  What’s in your fridge?

Thank You, My Friends!

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Big ‘thank you’s’ to my friends, and my new followers, for your support of this blog.  Real food for real people is the theme.  We all need to eat, and I’ve embraced preparing whole foods for my family and friends.   One great joy of my life is to have friends around the table, or on the back deck, or bellied up to the kitchen counter, eating great food.   I don’t like to slave in the kitchen all day, so over the years I’ve developed a body of knowledge of how long various foods take to prepare, how to prep foods and keep them fresh until you’re ready to use them, how to present new foods for people to try, how to stock a pantry with quick meals.   So I’m ready to entertain whenever someone shows up!  And I’m ready to make dinner whenever it’s time — sometimes we get very little time in between activities, and I’d much rather grab something at home than at a drive-through.  Truth be told, we do the drive-through sometimes, but not often.   Life is about balance, life is about friends, life is about sharing.    Thank you for letting me share with you! 

Bevo Pizza and Le Bremner in Old Montreal showcase truly authentic cuisine

Yesterday afternoon, we met Giovanni the chef at Bevo in Old Montreal. He made sure that we tried his homemade capicolo and fresh cheese, with warm flatbread. With just a little sea salt and some watercress, it was the perfect afternoon snack. They make their own charcuterie which is very good…not too salty. The cheese is made fresh daily and you can pull it apart with your fingers. Next, Giovanni brought out a saffron risotto riceball with his homemade ragu. He said he should pay his mom a royalty for every one he sells. It was spectacular, and I would pay his mom!! He finished the afternoon off with a warm Nutella pizza….wow, so good.

Giovanni was kind enough to walk down the street, and secure us reservations at Chuck Hughes’ restaurant Le Bremner. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves at this restaurant. From the first cocktail, a vodka with their home made tonic, and homemade ginger syrup with peach bitters, to the oysters from New Brunswick, to the tuna and tahini sashimi, to the incredible snow crab with Kimchi…everything was absolutely authentic, perfectly seasoned, innovative and just plain yummy! We also had a bottle of French Pinot Noir which they privately import, very very nice. To end the meal, we enjoyed a toasted coconut banana cream pie and an espresso.

Both of these chefs are passionate about food. There is nothing fussy or pretentious about either place. Danny Smyles chef from Le Bremner is friendly and clearly loves what he does. Chef Giovanni is a true Montrealer, with an immediately friendly attitude, and really great Italian food.

I have to make a special note about our bartender Vito at Le Bremner. We left having made a new friend, and inspired to give whatever you do for a living 100%. Thanks Vito!

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The Mechant Boeuf is tres Mechant

This weekend I’m in Montreal for the International Jazz Festival. Last night we thoroughly enjoyed a dinner of oysters and a trio of tartare’s at a restaurant called The Mechant Boeuf. The food was amazing. The oysters were shucked right in front of us, nice size (not too big, not too small), and a nice sauce with cilantro. We also got a trio of tartare’s…salmon, beef, and bison. They were all super fresh and yummy. This place has the coolest vibe. It’s a restaurant with about 30 4 top tables, another bunch of stand up tables and a great bar. The d.j. Played classic rock mixed with dance or funk, the bartenders were friendly and fun. I loved it!!! It remi des me that how you feel while you’re eating might be as important as the food itself.

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Anthony Bourdain’s boozy trip to Montreal — I think I love him!

I grew up in Montreal, and I still visit as often as I can.   I have to say, Anthony Bourdain does it right.   For anyone who hasn’t seen the Quebec episode, you’re in for a treat.  Warning, you’ll be hungry and you’ll be left with a feeling of longing for Montreal and it’s resident’s ability to enjoy life, food and friendship.  

Big Sandwiches – When Your Kids Ask For Them, Just Say Yes

Quick dinner doesn’t have to be fancy. As long as everyone is happy and full, then I’m happy too. My kids call them Big Sandwiches — they really aren’t that big, but they’re meant to be enough to fill up at dinner. The trick to Big Sandwiches is fresh ingredients and….Brie or Camembert cheese. Choose ultra fresh buns…we like Portuguese white rolls from our local bakery. Then we add all of Tony Soprano’s favorites: capicolo, mortadella, and ham. Add a nice mustard and a couple of ooey gooey slices of Brie or Camembert cheese. Voila, Big Sandwiches. sandwich

Glazed Meat Balls – Sounds Weird, But Tastes REALLY Good!

1 lb ground beef
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp salt
1 small onion, chopped finely
1 egg

Mix all ingredients with your hands, and make small-ish meatballs. Put in a large skillet and brown at medium-high heat. If your meatballs are about inch round, it will only take about 10 minutes to brown.

Add 1 cup of chili sauce (I use Heinz or No Name brand) and 1 regular size jar of grape jelly. Stir gently (so you don’t wreck the meatballs). These ingredients will melt and glaze the meatballs. Cover the pan and let cook for about 15 to 20 minutes.

I serve these as appetizers, or as a main dish with rice. I’ve also made meatballs sandwiches. Very versatile and everyone loves them — especially kids.

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Easy Souvlaki – Who Doesn’t Like Souvlaki?

souvlakiThe other day pork tenderloins were on sale. I bought two and put them in the fridge. Last night I saw them and thought “Souvlaki!” This whole process only took about 15 minutes. I used a sharp knife to remove the silver skin from both the tenderloins and cut them into bit sized pieces (maybe 1″ square) and put them in a plastic bowl. I put a large skillet on the stove and heated up about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. While the pan heated, I added about a tablespoon of olive oil to the pork, salt, pepper, granulated garlic and dried mint. I also had a ‘greek spice mix’ in my spice cupboard so I threw some of that in too — and stirred it all together so the pork was covered. Then I put all the pork in the skillet at once and moved the pieces around until brown (maybe 5 minutes). I put a lid on the pan and turned the heat down to simmer/low and let cook for another 5 minutes.

On plates I put tomato salad (see other post for recipe), tzatiki sauce that I had bought from Loblaws, and rice which I cooked while I was making the pork. Yum. Yum. Yum. The whole dinner from fridge to table might have taken 30 minutes.

Tomato Salad with Croutons – Nice and Soggy!

tomatoThis is an easy, tasty salad especially if you like fresh tomatoes. Rough chop a whole ripe tomato. Finely chop about 1/4 of a medium sized red onion. Mix these two ingredients together in a bowl or on a plate. Pour a tablespoon of olive oil over the top. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste (you’ll probably need more salt than you think you do!). If you have capers in your fridge, add some! Add 1/2 cup of good quality croutons, then mix the whole thing together with your (clean) hands or a couple of spoons. Let sit a few minutes and serve. Makes two sized portions.

You can’t live without food — and why would you want to?

Eating-Dinner-Together

Food is necessary. Food is one of the basic ingredients in a happy and healthy life. It took me a long time to like making meals, but now I love it. I never spend much time slaving over a hot stove, or incessantly chopping onions. My goal for most days is to be home by five and to be at the table eating by six. I’d like to share my meal ideas and prep methods with you! Let’s eat!