Food Musings

A Winnipeg blog about the joy of preparing food for loved ones and the shared joy that travel & dining brings to life.

Daughter #2’s Favourite Salads

May17

While I am on the topic of Daughter #2’s birthday, the Frenchman totally surprized her with a birthday barbecue dinner where we assembled for our mandatory Sunday night family supper and a number of her bestie old friends and new school friends were also invited.

You know that you have done a pretty reasonable job raising a child when you see the people that she has chosen to surround herself with.  Every single one of them: engaging, intelligent, creative, demonstrative and authentic.  They all have hearts for social justice on a global scale-this generation is about to change the world!

But I digress.  I volunteered to make her favourite salads knowing that some guests might need to fill up more than others since it was a pot luck invite.  Here are the recipes:

French Potato Salad

2 lbs. small red and white new potatoes

hard cooked eggs to your liking, we start with 4

3 T chopped fresh parsley

2 T chopped fresh dill

4 green onions, chopped

1/3 c finely chopped red onion

Dressing:

1/3 c red wine vinegar

3/4 olive or canola oil

2 t Dijon mustard

1 clove garlic, minced

freshly ground black pepper

Boil potatoes until just tender.  Drain and cut according to your liking (various preferences in our family from almost mashed to almost whole).  Hard boil eggs for 12 mins., cool, peel and slice.  Place both into bowl with remaining salad ingredients.  Combine dressing ingredients, mix well and toss with warm potatoes.  Add freshly ground pepper.  Salad should marinate in dressing for several hours in refrigerator.

Rotini & Mediteranean Veggie Salad

2 c uncooked rotini

12 asparagus spears chopped into 2 inch pieces

Dressing:

3 T white wine vinegar

1 T grainy dijon mustard

1 T honey

2 T coarsely cut fresh dill

1 tsp finely cut capers

1 garlic clove, smashed & chopped

S&P

1/3 olive or canola oil

 

1 c halved cherry or grape tomatoes

1/4 c pitted & coarsely chopped kalamata olives

1 T roasted pine nuts

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil and add rotini.  Cook for about 15 minutes until el dente, adding asparagus to pot during last 2 mins.  Drain both in a colander, rinse with cold water and set aside.

To Prepare dressing:

In blender or food processor, combine vinegar, mustard, honey, dill, capers, garlic, S&P.  Slowly add oil and continue to emulsify.

Place pasta and asparagus in large bowl and toss with dressing.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving and gently toss in tomatoes, olives and pine nuts.

There were other lovely treats contributed to the dinner including Sam’s amazing sushi and J2’s Chocolate Trifle with real (not instant) chocolate pudding-oh my!

Kath’s quote: “To remember a successful salad is generally to remember a successful dinner; at all events, the perfect dinner necessarily includes the perfect salad.”-George Ellwanger

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Casa Grande Revisited

May15

With so many amazing restaurants on my must try list in Winnipeg, it is rare that we dine at a single place with regularity, even if it is one of our favourites.  But since Casa Grande is the special spot of Daughter #2,  she selected it for her family birthday celebration.

We all started with their delicious house salad again and the Frenchman shared his olives with us-can not get enough of them!

I choose exactly the same dish as my last visit-the seafood spaghetti.  This time I switched things up and ordered the scallops.  The scallops were succulent and meaty and added more protein than the baby clams.  The kitchen also obliged me by going really easy on the olive oil and the juice of the scallop was enough to make every twirled forkful, a delight.

The birthday girl ordered the same dish that her Dad had ordered previously so I did not take another photo of it.  It looked exactly the same as when D ordered it-fancy that.

D selected this loaf of lasagna.  Hearty and authentic was the way he described the dish.  His portion was so huge that he enough to share with Daughter #1.

The Frenchman chose the penne. He tried so hard to leave a helping on his plate for his lunch the next day but that proved to be difficult and he was drawn by one more forkful on repeated occasions.

Daughter #1 choose the gnocchi and was the only one not overly impressed.  It was not that there was anything wrong with the dish, just that when she has selected gnocchi at other restaurants, she has enjoyed it more.  She put this down to misordering and will simply select something different next time around.  D was willing to share his lasagna with her.  Unfortunately for her, I was enjoying my spaghetti too much to offer her any (I am not always a perfect Mom…).

The servers at Casa Grande who we are getting to know us quite well by now, overheard us making reference to a birthday and brought out a dish of ice cream (and five spoons) to celebrate.

Casa Grande Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Kath`s quote: “Once again, my life has been saved by the miracle of lasagna.”-‘Garfield’ (Jim Davis)

Casa Grande

May14

My husband and I have been together a very long time and he is a very thoughtful partner.  Anticipating a week that he was going to be out of town, he asked me out for a Saturday night date.  It was a tough decision to figure out where we wanted to go.  We have a long list of  “want to” visits.

Every so often, we get a yearning for real Italian food.  By “real” I mean, not the Olive Garden version, that was in fact lined up out the door as we drove by.  There are many authentic Italian restaurants in the city but one of our favourites has become Casa Grande on Sargent Ave.  Our youngest was jealous when she heard our destination because it is her and the Frenchman’s “place”.

We were escorted to the second floor which I recall from long ago being more like an eating balcony.  Our server was over quickly to light our Chianti bottle candle and offer us the menu.

The Frenchman had suggested their house wine which was Giacondi Sangiovese Merlot.  I am not accustomed to many Italian merlots but found it to be a lovely dry, earthy flavour to offset our menu selections.

I started with the antipasto plate which was little morsels of capicola, salami, a firm and nutty cheese, tomato, olives and an extra dose of marinated eggplant with a liberal sprinkling of red pepper flakes.

D had a light Italian salad including shards of what I thought might be the same cheese.

Both were served with garlic toast that we used like crostini as we placed our antipasto treats atop of the crunchy, garlicky bread.

I knew that I was going to select the seafood spaghetti but did not know if I should choose the mussels, clams, scallops or shrimp.  As I often like to do, I let our server decide for me and I was delighted by the buttery fresh clams that arrived still on the half shell.  The unadorned spaghetti with a simple garlic and olive oil toss was perfectly satisfying without being overwhelming.

D on the other hand, might have been overwhelmed. Daughter #2 suggested that he order the carbonara and even though it was not the tradition recipe that we are accustomed to, he was delighted with the addition of a cream sauce, mushrooms and caramelized onions.  The pancetta added richness to an already rich concoction but he loved every single bite.  It did mean that we had to go for a long walk when we got home, but that was not an issue.  It was a beautiful evening, the sun was setting and we love our neighbourhood.

Casa Grande Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Kaths quote: “Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.”-Sophia Loren

Read A Good Book Lately?

May10

Cookbooks are an interesting medium.  I love getting them as gifts.  I will set aside time to pour over them and then my imagination takes over: which guests will I prepare it for? when shall I try the dish on my family? do I have the ingredients in the house right now? etc. etc.

My cookbook collection is so well used that I now have to keep many of the worn and torn books in cardboard magazine holders on my bookshelf (which is actually the space around my micro-wave when I converted the first humongous one that we received as a wedding gift to the more practical and streamlined variety of today).  In truth, I would like to eliminate my microwave altogether and fill the entire space with cookbooks, but that is another story…

Over the years I have had my favourites, in the 80’s I cooked almost entirely from the Best of Bridge Series and still refer to them from time to time.  In the 90’s my cooking “lightened” up and Canadians Bonnie Stern and Anne Lindsay became my premiere resources.  During these times I also subscribed to Time Life  Cookbook Series and had two entire collections.  But like encyclopedias, their usefulness seemed to diminish.  More recently, my largest collection is of Jamie Oliver books. The first one was a gift to me by J1 and J2 (my son and daughter-in-law).  I love when my kids try to teach their old momma new tricks.

I can’t get rid of a beloved cookbook-they become like family photo albums for me.  Like a collection of memories, I believe they deserve a permanent position on my bookshelf.

This weekend and Eat Write Retreat, I was gifted with three books.  The first was written by Michael Natkin and contains vibrant vegetarian recipes.  Michael spent part of the weekend with us and was an inspiration to us all.  I am trying to adopt the attitude that if most of  the world can cook creatively with beans,  lentils and more veggies, then so can I.

One of the weekend’s creators-Robyn Webb is the author of the second book: The Diabetes Comfort Food Cookbook.  This one is close to my heart for two reasons.  Comfort food is what I am all about, in fact, I am learning to find other means of comfort (like walks in the park and bubble baths) so that I will turn to food for solace, less often.  In addition, diabetes is rampant for us in Manitoba and has penetrated into my own family.  So far I have kept it bay and intend to continue to do so.  Interestingly, when my youngest flipped through my new cookbooks, she found this one to be the most appealing.  So Robyn is successfully enticing a new generation of foodies.

The last one that I lugged home from Washington in my carry on bag (for fear that the weight of my books would necessitate an extra checked baggage charge)  is a collection of recipes by bloggers with this dedication: “To food bloggers everywhere.  Thanks for leading us back into our kitchens”.  This is a collection of easy weeknight meals.  Midweek cooking is everyone’s challenge isn’t it?  Putting wholesome and nutritional meals in front of our families when we are just dashing in the doors ourselves, can be a frustrating experience without some great resources (like this one).  A collection of bloggers recipes….I think that I maybe onto something!

Kath’s quote: “When treasures are recipes they are less clearly, less distinctly remembered than when they are tangible objects. They evoke however quite as vivid a feeling-that is, to some of use who, considering cooking an art, feel that a way of cooking can produce something that approaches an aesthetic emotion. What more can one say? If one had the choice of again hearing Pachmann play the two Chopin sonatas or dining once more at the Cafe Anglais, which would one choose?”-Alice B. Toklas

Grateful that I Lost My Job

May9

This post is inspired by something that has recently occurred and another that is about to occur. This past weekend I attended “Eat Write Retreat 2012” where I met so many amazing women.  Yesterday I read the post of a fellow blogger that really stirred me  One Simple Step That is Changing my Life.  In the writing exercise that she is referring to, I was given the single word focus of JOY Her post reminded me about a lesson that I learned long ago, but have not focused upon lately, and that is “an attitude of gratitude”.  I am about to adopt a new routine where I awake each morning to perform an inventory of what brings me joy in my life and be grateful for these blessings.

Tonight I am attending my first meeting of the Women Business Owners of Manitoba, where I happen to be the dinner speaker.  I do not think that the timing of this is by accident.  Often I bemoan the conclusion of the career that I loved so much and that prompted me (kicking and screaming) into becoming an entrepreneur.  But this morning, I am so grateful and not because I am making wads of cash (because that is certainly not the case) but for these reasons:

The first relates to the above, when you are self employed you never really know where your next assignment will come from and during this roller coaster ride, it is hard not to feel defeated and sorry for yourself.  In these “desert” times of money coming in, I focus my energies on reducing the money going out-by cooking from scratch, creating hand-made gifts, decorating with refurbished materials, shopping second hand with a little revamping on my sewing machine and cleaning and re-organizing.  It is amazing how new and fresh my house feels when the dust bunnies are chased away.

Reason number two is that I am still considered an expert in my former field so that I get just enough projects to keep me connected to my many friends in the media industry.

Another reason is sharing my love of the things that I know how to do well in teaching, training and instructing.  This is new to me and I am loving it!  I had always wanted to be a Home Ec. teacher and now, many years later,  I am (in a mixed up way) fulfilling that dream.  This too is becoming a revenue source that proves to come in handy.

This next reason, is a surprize to me –I get to write every day.  My imagination wakes up even before my body does, with ideas of how I will approach my next assignment or blog post.  Before I fall asleep I say to myself, “in the morning, I am immediately going to get out for my walk”, and then I find myself inexplicably drawn to the computer to record my thoughts before they slip away (one of the challenges of being a menopausal writer).

AND I get to write about what I love.  Food and the preparation of it for my extended family and friends brings me- JOY.  Sure I produce flops, think my kitchen is too small and hate that I often seem to get stuck emptying the dishwasher, but I love the intimate bond that food creates.

Another reason is that I have become a traveller.  My instructing and my own learning have taken me to places that I have never been before, in addition to having the time and resources to regularly visit our precious Isla Mujeres in Mexico and cities in the US and Europe on our bucket list.

I have so much freedom.  I can work from my backyard gazebo or our little cottage at the lake, I can take my morning walk along the river(accompanied by my cell phone), I can volunteer each week as a baby hugger,  I can visit my aging Mom, I can babysit the kids of friends, I can teach my daughter-in-law how to plant her first perennial garden, I can drive my youngest to university for a crucial exam, I can dog-sit our grand-dog when my eldest becomes extra busy, I can meet my sister for lunch and friends for coffee, I can garden on my lunch break, I can tidy the house while I am awaiting for an email, I can be available for family emergencies and best of all, I can pamper and take care of my husband (who fills in the financial gaps by working very, very hard).

A huge reason is that I am my own boss.  I concentrate on the projects that I enjoy.  I can work in one of my many turquoise house coats and woolly socks if I choose and have a luxurious bath (instead of a quick morning shower) in the middle of a rainy day.

I could go on and on (and I will do so privately, every morning) but I think that you get my drift.

I have not truly thanked my friend and former employer for presenting me with this freedom when we had that tearful “pink slip” conversation a couple of years ago or another friend who suggest that I start blogging.  In spite of my initial resistance, I can truly say I am happy to be a Woman Business Owner in Manitoba!

Kath’s quote: “The primary requisite for writing well about food is a good appetite.”-A. J. Liebling

 

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