bits and bites - june 2013

Hi friends!  It's definitely been a while... I guess you could say I've been on a bit of a 'pregnancy hiatus'.  I just didn't seem to have time to do everything that I wanted to over the last few months and, unfortunately, blogging was put on the back-burner.  This week was my first week of maternity leave - I'm about 8 1/2 months pregnant, so we're almost there.  I've been working on getting the house and nursery in order and managed to find a bit of quiet time to relax on the couch with my lap top.

This was taken last month when I was in Victoria

In all honesty, I haven't been doing much in the way of cooking or baking in the last several months (due to lack of energy, ongoing nausea and severe reflux) but I did take a few pictures that I can share along with some recipes.

Sweet Potato Skins

These make great appetizers if you're having friends over for movie/sports-watching or an easy light dinner (just add a quick side-salad).  The left-overs also warmed up nicely for lunch the next day too.  Depending on how many you want to make, slice 1-2 sweet potatoes into 3/4"-1" slices and brush with olive oil on both sides.  Bake at 375 F on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet for about 45 minutes (or until soft all the way through and lightly browned).  While the sweet potatoes are baking fry up a few slices of bacon, drain it on some paper towel then cut it into small pieces.  When the potatoes are cooked, remove them from the oven, sprinkle on some grated cheddar/mozzarella cheese and the bacon bits then put them under the broiler for a few minutes to melt the cheese.  Serve them up with sour cream and finely sliced green onion.  Easy and yummy - I love sweet potatoes.

Pizza is a pretty common dinner in our house.  It doesn't really take that much effort, it tastes great and we're both happy eating the left-overs for a few days.  I don't think I've found *the best ever* dough recipe yet (or baking method - I really want a pizza stone!) but this one is easy and pretty tasty, so I thought I'd share it.  For the pizza in the picture I topped it with tomato sauce, fried Italian sausage, wilted spinach, toasted pine nuts, sliced green olives, provolone and a sprinkle of freshly-grated parmesan cheese - definitely a tasty combo!

Food-Processor Pizza Dough

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 envelope instant yeast (about 2 1/4 tsp)
  • 1 1/4 cups room-temperature water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cups bread flour (it's best with bread flour, but you can substitute all-purpose if that's all you have)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • olive oil or cooking spray for the bowl

Combine the warm water with the yeast in a measuring cup and allow it to sit for about 5 minutes, until it looks foamy.  Add in the remaining water and olive oil and stir together.  Pulse the flour and salt together in the bowl of the food processor fitted with the dough blade (if you have one).  Allow the food processor to run while you slowly pour the liquid ingredients in through the feed-tube.  Continue mixing until the dough comes together into a ball.  Continue mixing for another 30 seconds, then turn the dough out onto the counter and knead a few times to form it into a smooth ball.  Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Allow the dough to rise until doubled in sized, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.  Press the air out of the dough, then form your pizzas & top them (I found that it's best to roll out the dough as thin as possible).  I usually bake at 450 F until the bottom looks lightly browned.

This last one is just a photo - I can't find the recipe that I used.  Trevor and I made this cake together for a family dinner.  All I remember is that it involved poaching the pears in a bottle of wine (riesling maybe?) and spices then nestling them into a very thick, pound-cake like, batter.  It looked really pretty when sliced up and had good flavour.

So what else have I been up to?  We sold our first little house and bought a new one (to make room for our expanding family), so things were a bit hectic with packing, moving and getting settled again.  We both love our new home, and I really think it suits us perfectly, but we've decided to do a bit of renovation in the kitchen.  Trev just started tearing tiles off the existing backsplash and we've picked our new stone countertops, so stay tuned for kitchen-reno posts in the future :)

Pizza dough recipe adapted from Baking Illustrated.

bits and bites - october 2012

Ok, so I know I'm a day late for October, but I simply ran out of time this week!  Actually I ran out of time all month.  It's been a busy transition back to life in Canada, but the dust is starting to settle and I'm itching to get back to a regular(ish) blogging schedule.  I have lots of stuff I wanted to share, so better late than never, right?

First of all, how great is fall?  I love it - I think it might actually be my favourite season, so I was feeling pretty lucky that most of October had lovely weather.  It was great that the leaves turned goldeny yellow, but actually stayed on the trees for a while.

We spent Thanksgiving weekend out at the lake.  We enjoyed a massive feast (of course) then lots of turkey sandwiches over the next few days afterwards.  Here's two of my favourites:

Turkey BLT sandwich (perfect for brunch).  Thick cut slices of bacon, crispy fried, juicy red tomatoes, fresh lettuce, a smear of mayo, grainy whole wheat bread and turkey.  So good.

Turkey-brie sandwich (great for a quick dinner one night).  I don't have a panini press, so I use the little George Foreman grill that I had back in my university dorm days as a substitute.  Just butter the outside of two pieces of multigrain bread.  Spread the insides of the bread with cranberry sauce (on both sides) then stack turkey, slices of brie and peppery arugula up in the middle.  Squash it into the George Foreman grill and let it get nice and toasty.

The weekend after Thanksgiving we had a potluck BBQ with some friends at our place.  Trev's been wanting to try to cook a brisket on the charcoal BBQ for quite a while, so this was the perfect opportunity.  He picked up an 11 lb. brisket at Real Deal Meats, then made a spice rub for it to marinade in overnight (check out the recipe here).  Brisket takes a looooong time to cook - it seemed awful early when our alarm clock went off at 6:30 so that Trev could get the Webber BBQ going and the brisket on the grill.

So here's the gist of it:  Trev aimed to keep the BBQ temperature between 200-250F all day.  Once the internal temperature of the brisket reached 150F (which took 7-8 hours) he wrapped it in aluminum foil then returned it to the grill so it could continue slow-cooking.  It took another 4 hours for the internal temperature to come up to 195 F.  Then he put the aluminum foil wrapped brisket on a cookie sheet and let it rest in a pre-warmed (not on) oven for another 45 minutes.  (Here's the website Trev used forbrisket-cooking info)  It's best to slice it right before serving, but it turns out 11lbs. was waaaay too much for the number of people at our house (probably because of all the other delicious things our friends brought), but that's okay, there was lots to share and more than enough for tasty sandwiches the following week.  (I'm realizing this 'bits and bites' post has a bit of a sandwich theme...)

I love roasted veggies so now that it's fall I've swapped the zucchini, tomatoes and mushrooms for a mixture of root vegetables.  This time I had potatoes, carrots, golden beets, onion & garlic.  I pretty much do the same thing every time - regardless of what's in the pan - toss the veggies with a drizzle of olive oil and a generous sprinkle of fresh ground pepper & sea salt, then bake at 350F for about 45 minutes.  Yum, so good.  And check out the haul of potatoes Trev's mom and grandpa got out at the lake!  

Oh, one more thing: I'm heading to Atlanta, Georgia for a conference in November - any recommendations for must-see-things or must-eat-foods?  I'd be happy to have them :)

bits and bites - september 2012

I can't believe it's already September!  Time goes by waaay too quickly.  I really enjoy writing 'bits and bites' posts because it allows me to give quick little recipes or stories, and they don't have to be connected at all - just little random things.  But I'll admit that I slacked over the summer.  C'est la vie - sometimes it's more fun to MAKE food and EAT food than write about it.

Okay, so first a few photos from Nord Markt.  We both love it there - the market is so lively and filled with beautiful produce, bread, meat, cheese and other stuff.  And of course, there's also Winkel, the cafΓ© on the corner, with their delicious Dutch apple pie (I'm going to miss that).  We have fantastic markets in Edmonton too, and I'm hoping to be able to make it to one or two outdoor markets around Edmonton once we get back (fingers crossed).

mmmmushrooms, so many mushroom

The masses descending on Nord Markt

I was reminded earlier this week that sometimes simple is best - I rediscovered scrambled eggs on toast :)

I've also been enjoying camembert on bread.  Yup, gotta love it.  

cute kitty - I shall name him "Van Gogh"

Because it's September that also means it's almost the end of our adventure abroad.  We're heading to Croatia tomorrow for a couple weeks for one last (hopefully) sunny and hot "hurrah!"  I've got a few post lined up for when I'm away, then I've got to get cracking and share the rest of my European adventures!

One more quick story: I have a love/hate relationship with swans... They're pretty, but when I was three years old I was bitten by a swan in the park when I was feeding them with my Grandma.  I'm not sure if you've ever been bitten by a swan but it really hurts!  Especially when you're a little tyke and the swan is almost the same size.  So I'm naturally slightly apprehensive when it comes to swans BUT like I said, they're pretty so I can't stay away.  We came across this little family of swans one evening when we were biking - yes, those grey ones are this year's babies/ducklings/swanlings (?).  The big daddy swan was full of hissing but Trevor protected me by being the bigger swan.  Thanks Trevor :)

bits and bites - june 2012

Well, my first block of time in Europe is coming to an end and I'm heading back to Canada for a few weeks on Saturday.  Three months sure has gone by quickly, but I'm totally amazed by how much Trev & I got to see and do.  We definitely have an "active" vacation-style and I think my feet can vouch for the many, many kilometers I've walked!

I am sad to leave Amsterdam (especially because Trev will still be here while I'm back home) but I'm looking forward to seeing my family, my friends and my cat. I'm also looking forward to spending time in my own kitchen.  Oh, how I've missed my KitchenAid mixer!  And Edmonton has a lot of great 'foodie' stuff to offer - I love the markets and I have lots of favourite restaurants that I've been missing.  Other Edmonton bloggers have been writing about new places that have popped up and I'm looking forward to trying those too - thanks for keeping me in the loop Loosen Your BeltOnly Here for the Food, In My ElementDine and Write and a few others!

Caprese Sandwich
Ok, now I know this is super-simple... But delicious can be simple, in fact, simple is often delicious.  We've been making these caprese sandwiches fairly regularly since Trev tried one from our favourite pizza place on Queen's Day.  There are a couple things that will make this sandwich really special:  use good-quality fresh buffalo mozzarella, if possible, and use a fresh baguette with a nice crispy crust and soft squishy interior.  You can stack it up however you like - mozzarella, fresh basil leaves, slices of garden-fresh tomato and a sprinkle of salt & pepper all topped off with a drizzle of olive oil...oh, it's heavenly.  

Last week my sister was here visiting.  We spent a few days in Paris and a few days here in Amsterdam.  One of the things we did together was visit EYE Film Institute.  I had been once before and I thought Jill would like it.  EYE is located across the IJ (the body of water, pronounced 'aye') from Central Station, so you need to hop on one of the free ferries headed to 'Buiksloterweg' to get there.  It's seriously the shortest ferry ride ever, but you do get a good view of EYE as you're crossing.  The architecture of the building is unique and beautiful, both outside and inside.  

The first time I visited I was pleasantly surprised by EYE's restaurant.  It has wonderful views of the harbour AND good food.  When Jill & I went we saw a film, checked out the Stanley Kubrik Exhibition then grabbed some lunch.  We both ordered the vegetable quiche.  The crust was buttery and thick and the filling had lots of pieces of zucchini, baby tomatoes, mushrooms and onion, all topped with melted slices of fresh mozzarella.  It was really good, and along with a side salad it really hit the spot.  If you're visiting Amsterdam and you're interested in either film or architecture I'd recommend a visit to EYE (and it's nice to be able to bring your cappuccino into the theatre with you).

I've also been up to a bit of baking...although I have to admit...this cake wasn't from scratch.  My mom bought me this cute Zuiderzee button cake pan and a Dutch cake mix when my family was here visiting.  I baked it for brunch on Sunday morning.  The cake had little bits of spice cookie & chocolate chips in it and it tasted pretty good - almost more like a loaf than a cake.  I also thought it looked adorable.  I can't wait to use the cake pan for another recipe.  

Do you like yogurt?  I really like yogurt and the tiny little to-go yogurt cups back in Canada can be frustrating if you're actually hungry.  There is a wide variety of yogurt container options here in the Netherlands: yogurt comes in large tubs, single serving, cardboard, even 1L. cartons that require you to pour it out...I like them all, but these little cups are the perfect size for breakfast.  It's just enough yogurt, and the shape of the container has a wide mouth, perfect for mixing in granola.  See this Canada?  We need yogurt cups like this.    

Okay, so that's it for now.  There's probably going to be a bit of a wait for new posts because I'm jumping back into work as soon as I get home, then my brother in law is getting married!  I'm looking forward to a week full of parties with my favourite people, but time spent celebrating seriously cuts into blogging time.  I still have some fun stuff to share from Mallorca, Paris and Amsterdam :)

Tot ziens Amsterdam!  See you in August.   

bits and bites - april 2012

Whew!  It's been a busy AND fantastic month!  I've been here in Amsterdam for almost a month and I've been busy seeing and doing a lot (as well as catching up on reading and other little projects).

looking across Museumplein to the Rijks Museum
Cooking around here has been more basic than at home...I'm feeling a bit disorganized and underprepared without all of my regular kitchen stuff at home.  Also, grocery shopping is different.  I know, I know, excuses, excuses but I'll start working on my 100 list again soon.  Here's one of the dishes I made a little while ago: tortellini with sausage, pesto and wilted spinach.

It's pretty simple, remove the casings from 2 Italian sausages.  While you're cooking some tortellini, fry the sausage with about 1/3 cup pesto and one leek, thinly sliced.  When the sausage is cooked add in a few large handfuls of spinach and toss it around to wilt it.  Drain the tortellini and toss it all together, then grate a bit of parmesan cheese on top.  Pretty satisfying, and really easy to make.

Trev and I bought annual museum passes, which I've been putting to good use.  I loooooved the Van Gogh museum (I've been twice so far) - it's great and does a really good job of showing his evolution as an artist.  You can't take photos in the galleries, so I don't have any photos of paintings, but here's one of my lunch: mushroom soup and a latte.  The flavour of the soup was good, but it was waaay too salty.     Oh well, it's not like it ruined my time at the museum.

Ok, so I've been doing some baking as well.  I made these chocolate chip cookies last week for the folks at Trev's office (here's the recipe).   Actually they were chocolate chunk cookies, because it's next to impossible to find chocolate chips here.  I found a bag of chocolate chips at a specialty import store and it was, like, 6 euro so I chopped up some chocolate bars instead.  They turned out pretty good - chewy and chocolatey.  The people in his office were calling them "American-style" cookies - I guess their cookies are more on the crispy side.  I got a thank you note from all the "cookie-eaters" at Trev's office.  

Okay, one more thing: I found this dino-sandwich cutter at a grocery shop, and I just couldn't resist.  Who wouldn't want a grilled cheese sandwich cut into awesome dinosaur shapes?