Saturday, May 29, 2010

Book Review & Giveaway - The Gourmet Pregnancy


I was contacted a little while ago by someone I follow on twitter and she asked me if I would be interested in reviewing a cookbook. I was absolutely flattered that someone would want my opinion and so I jumped at the opportunity. I was told the cookbook was called The Gourmet Pregnancy, which was perfect considering my belly has reached epic proportions!

Seriously? I'm only 22 weeks along, this is scaring me!

Pregnancy is a time you battle with food. Either it's making you queasy, or you just can't get enough of it. You crave the weirdest things and hate your usual favourites. And then there's the "forbidden" list. The foods you just shouldn't eat, which inevitably, makes you want them for the whole torturous nine months. (I'm dying for a sushi roll and a caesar!) The author of The Gourmet Pregnancy, Leah Douglas, struggled with what to eat when she was pregnant also. She found that there were so many conflicting opinions on what was safe and what wasn't that she wanted to create a cookbook that would make meal planning easy and worry-free. She partnered up with a doctor to make sure that the recipes included were not only tasty, but met the nutritional needs and restrictions of pregnant women.

Now, just because it's called The Gourmet Pregnancy doesn't mean that everyone won't enjoy these recipes! There is something for everyone in this cookbook from soups and sandwiches to burgers, pizzas and seafood dishes. And the desserts... oh lord the desserts, I read over each recipe like I was studying for the SATs! There is a picture with every recipe which is always something I look for in a cookbook (we eat with our eyes first!) and the photography is gorgeous.

I received the cookbook in the mail the day before the Canadian May Two-Four Weekend (or as it's officially know, Victoria Day Weekend) and we had guests coming to visit. I thought it was a perfect opportunity to make some of the recipes for my guests and treat them like guinea pigs. We flipped through the book and picked out a few recipes we wanted to try.

So here are the judges:

Phil - my husband's best friend, he's a Doctor (bonus!) and a health nut/runner
PJ - Phil's wife, a now stay-at-home mom to their adorably impish son Kieran who is also very health conscious
Jason - my husband, a lover all things junk food and picky eater when it comes to "green stuff"
and Me - pregnant, stay-at-home mother of two who will eat just about anything these days!

We tried 3 recipes which I will share in separate posts along with our reviews. We graded them on my patented cupcake scale:








White Peach Bellini










Mild Curry Chicken Pizza on Naan








Cherry and Fresh Mint Tart with Rustic Vanilla Shortbread Crust





And now for the GIVEAWAY!

The good folks over at Wiley and I would like to give away a copy of The Gourmet Pregnancy to one of my luck readers. To win, simply leave a comment telling me either

a) What your biggest pregnancy craving was/is, or
b) if you've never been pregnant, what your favourite food is.

The Rules
1.) Open to Canadian and continental USA residents only.
2.) One winner will be chosen on 05/06/10 by using random.org.
3.) Make sure that I have a way to contact you when you leave a comment; either through your blog or an email.
4.) I will contact the winner via email or commenting on the winner's site.
6.) You have until 05/06/10 to claim the giveaway, or I will have to choose another winner.

enjoy!

White Peach Bellini - The Gourmet Pregnancy

For our first recipe we tried from The Gourmet Pregnancy was the White Peach Bellini. A simple drink using fruit, ice and a bit of flavouring. It was so good on a hot spring morning alongside our eggs. This will be a repeat recipe in my kitchen for sure!

Print this recipe

White Peach Bellini

2 ripe, white peaches
1 lemon, juiced
2 tsp grenadine
1 c crushed ice
1 tsp pure orange extract

Instructions:

1. Peel peaches and remove the pits. Chop into quarters and place in a blender.
2. Add the lemon juice, grenadine, ice and extract and blend until smooth.
3. Pour into a large wine glass and enjoy!

Review: Phil and PJ both said it was refreshing and not too sweet which they loved. Jason didn't have any cause he hates peaches. I loved it, peach is one of my favourite fruits and I thought it was a great summery drink. We gave it 4 cupcakes!

Print this recipe

enjoy!

Mild Curry Chicken Pizza on Naan - The Gourmet Pregnancy

For our 2nd recipe from The Gourmet Pregnancy, we tried the Mild Curry Chicken Pizza on Naan for lunch. The recipe calls for you to pan sautée chicken breasts, but the night before I was making chicken breasts for the girls for dinner on the grill so I threw a few extra on for the pizza. It was excellent! I also cooked the pizzas on the grill (it was far too hot to turn on the oven!), as the toppings were already hot all it needed was 5 minutes on low for the cheese to melt and the naan to heat through.

Print this recipe

Mild Curry Chicken Pizza on Naan

1 tsp vegetable oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1 cloce garlic, minced
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp mild indian red curry paste
4 pieces naan
1/2 c fresh spinach, finely chopped
3 1/2 oz Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:

1. Heat vegetable oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.
2. Add chicken, browning one side for about 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Flip chicken and add the onion and garlic and continue to cook until the other side is browned.
4. Remove the chicken from the pan and cut into thin slices then return to the pan to finish cooking.
5. In a small bowl, combine the tomato paste and curry paste. Spread on the naan.
6. Top the naan with the chicken & onion mixture, spinach and cheese.
7. Place on a baking sheet and broil for 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbling.
8. Sprinkle with the pepper and enjoy!

Print this recipe

Review: We all thought this was delicious. We wanted a light lunch as we had early dinner reservations and this was perfect. Phil and PJ loved the curry flavour and Jason was too busy eating for me to get anything more than a thumbs up out of him. I loved the chicken and onion and monterey jack combination. I also loved how quick and easy this recipe came together, the whole lunch took me about 15 minutes to make. We gave it a score of 4.5 cupcakes!
(It would have been a 5 but Jason never gives out a perfect score... he's weird!)

enjoy!

Cherry and Fresh Mint Tart with Rustic Vanilla Shortbread Crust - The Gourmet Pregnancy

For our final recipe from The Gourmet Pregnancy we enjoyed the Cherry and Fresh Mint Tart with Rustic Vanilla Shortbread Crust. The title is a mouthful and so was the dessert! The crust was heavenly, so light and crumbly and buttery and it was the perfect base for the minty cherry filling. I can see doing this recipe several times and switching up the fruit to strawberries, raspberries or peaches.



Print this recipe

Cherry and Fresh Mint Tart with Rustic Vanilla Shortbread Crust

Crust
1 c butter
1 tsp pure vaniall extract
1/2 c icing sugar
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tbsp cornstarch

Filling
1/4 c chopped fresh mint leaves
1/2 c water, boiled
3 c cherries, halved and pitted
1/2 c granulated sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Fresh mint sprigs, for garnish
Instructions:

1. To make crust, cream the butter and vanilla. Add sugar and blend well.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour and cornstarch and add to the butter mixture and whip with a hand blender until well blended.
3. Transfer dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet and press with your hand to make a relatively flat and even 8 x 12" rectangle.
4. Roll up the edges to about 3/4" for a rustic-looking crust.
5. Prick base all over with a fork and bake in a preheated 325˚F oven until just golden, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
6. To make filling, place mint in a heatproof bowl and pour boiling water over top. Muddle the mint with a spoon or pestle crushing it into the water. Let stand for 10 minutes.
7. Once the water is cool pour the mint mixture into a saucepan and add the cherries, sugar, cornstarch and vanilla and mix well.
8. Cook stirring often over medium heat until the cherries soften and the mixture becomes thick and glossy.
9. Spread cherry filling evenly on the crust. Let cool completely and serve.

Print this recipe

Review: Once again my husband didn't have any because cherries "aren't his thing" but Phil, PJ and I weren't sad about it, more for us! We all agreed the crust was amazing, definitely the star in this recipe. Phil and PJ both liked the cherry/mint combination and liked how impressive the dessert looked for how easy it was to make. The mint/cherry combination left me a little perplexed. I've never had minted fruit and I wasn't sure if I loved it. I think the next time I make this I will take the muddled leaves out of the water before making the cherry filling as I personally found the leaves to be over-powering in the tart. But the bites I had without any of the mint leaves were excellent! We gave this recipe 3.5 cupcakes!





enjoy!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Weekly Meal Plan - May 17-23

As I said in my last post, this weekend I asked twitter what they'd like to see more of on my blog. I got some great requests and suggestions. One of them came from @jyetman. She read the post I did a while back on Meal Planning and wanted to see my meal plan every week. As a busy working wife and mother, having a plan to follow that had recipes to go with it is something she could really use. And I'm sure she's not the only one!

So I'm happy to share my family's meal plan with you all if anyone wants to follow it.



I base my week around our schedule and my shift-working husband's hours, so feel free to switch meals around (or for easier options for your lifestyle, like take-out pizza as opposed to homemade) so it better suits your schedule. I'm going to post a PDF of this week's schedule as well as a PDF of a blank meal plan that you can use if you want to move meals around or simply create your own!

I have some of these recipes up already and I'm working on getting the missing ones posted.

This Week's Plan (for download or print)

Blank Meal Plan (for download or print)


This Week's Recipes:


Chicken Parmesan
Pork Tenderloin - will post soon
Pizza Sauce
Roasted Chicken (if you don't have a beer can bbq roaster, this is delish!)
Risotto (with pictorial!)
Lasagna - will post soon

I hope this will help some of you get organized to beat the dinner time rush, inspire others to try new recipes or have more variety, or simply provide a glimpse into what meal time is like at our house!

enjoy!

Amanda's Chicken Parmesan


I may or may not have a cheese addiction. And by "may not" I mean I totally do. This weekend I asked my twitter peeps what they'd like to see more of on my blog. I got some great requests and suggestions. One of them was for more pictorial posts for those not so adept in the kitchen (thanks @Avalea!), and another was for me to post my weekly meal plan (as per my meal plan post) every week so that some hard working moms could follow it. I'm always happy to oblige.



This is one of my favourite pasta recipes. I LOVVVVVE Chicken Parmesan. Noodles, breaded tender chicken breast, and cheese... mmmmmm. Comfort food at it's best. I have a pretty busy week ahead and I wanted to start it off right with this dish. It sounds complicated but it's pretty simple.

(Please excuse the pitiful photography, my kitchen is pretty dark in the evenings and I haven't mastered the fine art of cooking with one hand and shooting with the other yet!)


Start by placing your chicken breasts (one at a time) between some plastic wrap and pounding the living daylights out of it until it's an even thickness. This ensures even cooking, also, it's a great stress reliever after a hard day.
Ignore that sticker on my mallet, that sucker just won't come off!

Next, pat your chicken breast with some paper towel to dry them off. Wet meat doesn't bread well.

Now you're gonna need to set up a little breading station. In one shallow dish you'll need flour, which I season with some sea salt & freshly ground pepper. In the 2nd you need some eggs that are lightly beaten and in the 3rd, bread crumbs. I like to use seasoned Italian bread crumbs to which I add a little hot pepper flake action. Piccante!

Now to bread, don't worry, you can do this. First put your chicken in the flour turning to coat both sides. This gives the egg something to stick to. Then dredge the floured chicken in the egg mixture. Then move your floured/egged (is that a word, egged? it is now) chicken to the bread crumbs. Place in the bread crumbs and press down lightly to get the bread crumbs to really stick to the chicken, Then flip it over and press down again.

Heat a little extra-virgin Olive Oil in a skillet and brown your chicken cutlets until golden. They're not fully cooked yet, but don't worry, they'll finish in the oven. I'm not trying to get anyone to eat under-cooked chicken!

Transfer the chicken to a baking dish and cover with your favourite pasta sauce. Homemade or bottled, your call. Then top with some shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Mmmmm. Cheese.

Bake at 350˚F for 20 minutes. In the meantime cook some of your favourite pasta to al dente.
Top your cooked pasta with more pasta sauce and a cheesy, saucy chicken cutlet. Now mangi!(that's supposed to be eat in Italian, hope I got it right!)


Print this recipe

Amanda's Chicken Parmesan

4 chicken breasts
1/2 c flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 c seasoned Italian bread crumbs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp hot pepper flakes
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 c shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 c shredded parmesan
3 c pasta sauce, your favourite
4 c cooked pasta, your favourite, I enjoy spaghetti or buccatini with this

Instructions:

1. Start by placing your chicken breasts (one at a time) between some plastic wrap and pounding it until it's an even thickness. This ensures even cooking.
2. Pat the chicken breasts with paper towel to dry them off.
3. Set up a little breading station. In the first dish put the flour, seasoned with some sea salt & freshly ground pepper. In the 2nd put the eggs and lightly beat. In the 3rd put the bread crumbs and add the hot pepper flakes. stirring to mix.
4. One at a time, put the chicken in the flour turning to coat both sides. This gives the egg something to stick to.
5. Then dredge the floured chicken in the egg mixture.
6. Then move the chicken to the bread crumbs. Place in the bread crumbs and press down lightly to get the breadcrumbs to really stick to the chicken, Then flip it over and press down again.
7. Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a skillet and brown the chicken cutlets until golden.
8. Transfer the chicken to a baking dish and cover with the pasta sauce. Then top with the shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
9. Bake at 350˚F for 20 minutes.
10. In the meantime cook some of your favourite pasta to al dente.
11. Top the cooked pasta with more pasta sauce and a chicken cutlet.

Print this recipe

enjoy!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Chocolate Coffee Cupcakes with Bailey's Buttercream Frosting

My good friend Michelle sent me an email the other day. That's not out of the ordinary at all, except for the fact that it was a recipe. Michelle is not really known for emailing out recipes (pictures of her fun nights out, and more recently of her expanding belly yes, but not recipes). So immediately I knew it HAD to be good!

OH. MY. GOD. The name alone had me drooling. Chocolate. Coffee. Bailey's Irish Cream Liqueur. Hello? Even my husband, who hates cake of any kind, was intrigued. He asked me to make these when he was on night shift this weekend so he could take them into work to help keep the guys awake. He's so funny.

These cupcakes taste like your favourite coffee blend. They taste like a chilly winter's night by the fire. They taste like... heaven. Give'em a try and tell me I'm lying!


Print this recipe

Chocolate Coffee Cupcakes with Bailey's Buttercream Frosting


cupcakes:

1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 c buttermilk, room temperature
3 heaping tbsp cocoa
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup coffee, hot
1 c sugar
1 c flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla

frosting:

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
4 c icing sugar
1/4 c Bailey's Irish Cream
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp milk
2 tbsp coffee, cooled

Instructions:

1. In a small bowl, dissolves the baking soda in the buttermilk.
2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter slowly over low heat and add the cocoa. Mix until combined and smooth.
3. Remove from the heat and add the coffee to the cocoa/butter mixture and stir.
4. In a seperate bowl sift together the flour, sugar and salt.
5. While slowly mixing add the cocoa mixture and egg to the flour mixture.
6. Next add the buttermilk and vanilla and continue to beat until smooth.
7. Bake at 350˚F for 20 minutes or until cupcakes spring back when touched.
8. Cream together the butter and icing sugar for the frosting.
9. Add the Bailey's, vanilla, milk and coffee and whip until combined and smooth.
10. Frost tops of cooled cupcakes and decorate with chocolate shavings, chocolate covered espresso beans or enjoy all on their own!

Print this recipe

Look at how moist these babies are!


enjoy,

Sunday, May 2, 2010