Articles

Remains of the Day

Posted on Apr 23, 2010

When I was young the term “left-overs” instilled pure, unadulterated fear into my immature, teen-aged heart. I wasn’t the only family member who felt this way, either — not by a long shot. You could easily see my one brothers’ eyes glaze over, the skin of the others’ cheeks become tinged with a greenish-greyish hue. My older sister would usually slink out of the house after hearing those two words… but not before having made a face and sticking her tongue out at me from behind my mother’s back. My dad, who loves absolutely everything would even look a little solemn at those woeful words and my little sister didn’t often have a choice in the matter (that’s what little sisters are for) and had to stick around, whether she wanted to or not.

You would think that I would have learned from such displays of anger and disappointment and that I would never, ever in a million years endure an evening that is based on left-overs, let alone create an entire meal from something so vile that it would remain “left over” for longer than a fortnight. Because, really, that is what left-overs are; food that is still there after a certain amount of time. Food that has outstayed it’s welcome. Food that has been… well, let’s be honest: left over after the other, more popular food has been eaten and enjoyed.

Everyone has them, sitting in their fridge as we speak. A Tupperware container full of cold, sauced pasta, a foil-wrapped pile of grilled vegetables, a few frozen portions of lasagna… whatever the genre, whatever the denomination, they’re there, awaiting the time-honored tradition of left-over night in your house.

I have to say that I do believe I am the world’s most tenacious eschew-er of left-overs. You might say I am an Olympic Left-Over Evader. I will look at a container in the fridge and pass it over. I will know, on my way home from work, that there is already a perfectly good meal in the fridge or freezer, but because it is not new, not exciting, not tantalizingly up-to-the-minute, I don’t want it. There are nights where I eat toast-sticks and popcorn in order to avoid eating something made from food that has been patiently waiting to be eaten for who knows how long.

What does all of this have to do with the sparkling dish pictured above? Well, as much as I hate to admit it, this was our “left-over meal” quite recently. Left-overs, in a different way: we had a sweet potato that had lingered just a few days longer than I thought it should. We had a whole butternut squash lounging on the windowsill, which had remained uneaten for way too long. We had a half bag of Arborio rice in the cupboard that really, should have escorted itself out the door months ago. And, lastly we had a heel of Pecorino Romano that was dying to be used up — leaping out of the fridge at me every time I opened the door.

So left-over night became butternut squash and sweet potato risotto night. Redolent with memories of childhood left-over nights… with a new twist to make those nights just a little bit less painful and a little more delicious.

Read More

Dinner Disasters (CONTEST)

Posted on Mar 18, 2010

I want to hear your dinner disaster stories! Please send them to me (ASAP!!) and I will chose the four that make me laugh the most (yes, I’m mean that way) and post them on my site or link to them if they are online. Those four winners will each receive a $20 gift certificate from Longo’s to help out with their next dinner disaster**.

In the meantime, can you please explain to me why many moms feel as though they need to berate themselves on a regular basis because they are not short-order, haute cuisine chefs…? I’ve heard all the reasons a million times, and even muttered a few of them to myself under my breath while grocery shopping at 10pm on a weeknight. You know what I’m talking about – the sorrowful lament of "my mother cooked all of our meals from scratch when we were kids", and the sad refrain "my kids deserve the best", or even the melancholy chords of "I won’t pull out a frozen lasagna for dinner again this week".

Why is it that every day mothers have no problem forcing themselves to do tasks they don’t have the time, don’t have the inclination, or don’t have the resources to complete…? Dinner is one of those responsibilities around my house that seems to always fall to the mom. (Of course, these days I am the only one tall enough to reach the freezer or turn on the stove.) Moms everywhere (at-home, work-from-home, mom-preneurs, work-outside-the-home, retired) are made to feel as though they are utterly useless unless they are capable of preparing and serving a fresh, hot, not-from-frozen, not-from-takeaway, gourmet meal to their loved ones.

Dinner with children can rapidly go from being an easy-going affair to something akin to Fatal Attraction, especially on a weeknight. I personally have too many dinner disasters to count, but I try not to let them get me down. Obviously we still need to eat and macaroni and cheese is rarely on the menu (unless made from scratch, then I can’t wait to dig in). But there is the odd night when I haven’t had time to prepare for, time to shop for or time to think about dinner.

Evenings like these can easily turn into a complete disaster – particularly with a small, tired, ravenous boy (are boys always hungry?!?) in the mix who just wants to eat, maybe read a book and go to bed. And I will admit that once in a while I turn to someone else for help. Recently I found a good, inexpensive, tasty "helper" for just these occasions. Longo’s sent me a few of their Fresh Meals Made Easy packs to test out at home.

Usually when I buy something pre-packaged, I find it lacking. With these I was pleasantly surprised. For the price ($9.99) and the convenience (dinner from fridge to table in less than 10 minutes…really, less than 10 minutes!) I don’t think you can get a better meal. And the quantity was quite good. Enough to feed myself, my son and left just enough for my lunch the next day. Fresh ingredients, no preservatives, lots of veggies; these packages are right up my alley. And with so much variety (Ginger-Lime Beef Stir-Fry, Roasted Garlic and Red Pepper Chicken Linguine (Leith’s favourite), and Chili Garlic Shrimp Stir-Fry to name a few), how can you go wrong?

I did however have one small complaint: the instructions tell you to add the vegetables to the pan and saute for two minute and then to add the noodles. The veggies and the noodles are packaged together, sometimes all mixed in with each other. I’m a stickler for proper instructions, so I think they need to either tell you just to add it all in together or find a way to keep the vegetables and the noodles separate. I spent more time picking carrots out of noodles than I did cooking the entire meal. A small thing, but kind of irritating to someone as nit-picky as I am.

**Longo’s has locations in Ontario only – specifically across the GTA in areas like Downtown Toronto, Aurora and Brampton. Anyone can participate, but those living in/around the GTA would be best able to redeem the gift certificates.

Read More

Your Tender-est Twosomes (WBW and SHF)

Posted on Mar 1, 2010

I am so very sorry it took me until today to get this round-up posted for WBW #66 and SHF #63. While I did have time to read through everyone’s fantastic pairings on Friday evening, by the time I was finished I felt a little tipsy from the wine and bit shaky from all the sugar. I then spent the rest of the weekend in bed; not sure what to attribute that to. But, now, without further ado, here are some of the tender-est twosomes possible.

Read More

My Tender-est Twosome

Posted on Feb 24, 2010

My Tender-est Twosome

When Lenn and I finally decided to do a combined Wine Blogging WednesdaySugar High Friday event, I couldn’t resist the lure of chocolate for my entry. I knew that even if I had to sip a dozen different kinds of wine I would eventually come across one that went with chocolate. And even if I had to swelter through baking baker’s dozen chocolate cakes, I would make one that went well with the wine.

Read More

Food-Ease

Posted on Feb 8, 2010




When I was growing up, comfort food was something I learned about very early on. I don’t subscribe to the motto that ice cream will cure all of your woes or that a chocolate bar will help you cope, it is more that I think you should eat what your body is craving. I’m not prescribing that you eat chocolate for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but if you’re craving a hunk of dark chocolate, you should probably indulge. It’s most likely not going to kill you.

I learned to listen to what my body was craving when I was pregnant with Leith and then again when I was hospitalized a few years ago. I won’t get into all the medical mumbo-jumbo but will admit that I ate a lot of food high in iron (a good steak is my best friend) on a regular basis. It wasn’t that I ate poorly before then; it was more that I became more aware of what my body desired and have continued to eat in that fashion since.

Sometimes what your body needs is compassion. For some this comes in the form of a cup of tea or a bowl of soup. For others it might mean eating toast or left-overs. Pasta is definitely one of the greatest comfort foods for me. Effortless to prepare, and with so many different ways to serve, it is also my stand-by side dish. But your average tomato sauce or everyday white sauce sometimes just doesn’t cut it when you whip pasta out for dinner. Besides, why should you stick to old standards when you can create new and interesting ones instead?

This little beauty of a dish can be an appetizer, main dish, side dish or, even a snack. The cheese in it is a rich-tasting, full-bodied experience and it holds its own next to the sausage and the roasted peppers. The spice is just right, enough to make your toes curl but not enough to make your tongue burn. The recipe is extremely simple to prepare (and could be done well in advance) and the only real "work" is roasting of the peppers in the beginning, which can be done well in advance if you like.

That is what I love about pasta – it is so versatile and so simple. You can eat it every day of the week and have marvelously diverse dishes to eat each time that are healthy, hearty and utterly scrumptious.

If you want some more truly delectable Macaroni and Cheese recipes, be sure to visit the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board’s 30 Days, 30 Ways blog.

Read More

Your Tender-est Twosome (WBW # 66 & SHF # 63)

Posted on Feb 2, 2010

February is the month for perfect dinners – and even more perfect desserts. Everyone wants to make that quintessential meal for their loved one(s); and not only on Valentine’s Day. Here, in the ice-covered northern hemisphere, we are starting to feel the dog days of winter upon us and beginning to wonder if spring will ever arrive. I think it’s time to step it up a notch and make dessert a serious priority.

Most meals end with dessert and coffee or a glass of liqueur. The focus on the meal is long since gone, as is the wine. Guests are getting sleepy, hosts are getting antsy about the clean-up ahead of them and no one is paying attention to what they’re eating or drinking anymore. I think this is shameful. Every once in a while, dessert deserves the attention given to a main course; and a wine to match. That chocolate torte needs a nice glass of Bordeaux. That lemon tart is calling out for a few sips of Vidal. Your signature coffee cake demands a swig (or two) of a good ice wine.

The proper pairing of a sugary confection with a good wine is a difficult thing to maneuver. I have seen it done a few times in restaurants, once or twice at dinner parties and maybe done it once myself – and I almost certainly managed it by accident. Do you go sweeter with the wine than the dessert or match it? Do you go red or white or ice? Do you try to harmonize regions or go completely off the map (so to speak) with your choice…?

You have the chance to decide all this and more for yourself this month with the first ever joint SHF-WBW Dessert-Wine Pairing Event! All bloggers (food, wine or otherwise) are welcome to participate. Post your entry on Wednesday, February 24, complete with tasting notes, comments and a picture of the wine and dessert. Email me with a link to your entry, your name, your blog name and a 100 x 100 jpg titled with the name of your blog. I will post a roundup in the following days.

I am looking forward to seeing what sort of Tender Twosomes you come up with.

If you are interested in hosting SHF in 2010 please get in touch with me as soon as possible. I have slots available but they are filling up fast!

Read More