Pancakes, Grilled Cheese & More: Three Recipes for a Snow Day


I’m writing about my favorite eats today on Simple Bites: comfort food.

I’m sharing Three Easy Recipes For a Snow Day, or any stormy weather day, for that matter!

From my post:

“What is the best way to spend a snow day? Around here we head straight to the kitchen, P.J.’s and all. A snow day calls for comfort food, with recipes simple enough that the children can get involved.
It is an ideal opportunity to teach your little ones that cooking can be more than a chore, it can be fun. There is no rush, no place to go, and anyway–the car is snowed in!…”

Head HERE to read the rest of the post and print up three of my favorite recipes.

Reminiscing over Italy and the sandwich that came of it.


If you were to rewind ten years back you would find me eagerly stepping off a boat on a rainy April morning onto Italian soil. Six weeks of backpacking in South East Asia had left me ravenous for some good, crusty bread and I knew I wouldn’t have to look far. An apparent dependency on all things yeasty had surfaced amidst the many bowls of perfect Pad Thai and sublime Nasi Goreng, and despite my love of those flavours, I couldn’t help but dream about the focaccia and calzone of ‘the Boot’.

I had arrived in Brindisi via a flight to Turkey and a boat from Greece and to me, this port town had it all going on. No, there was no Ponte Vecchio or Trevi Fountain, but I quickly found all I needed- a bakery.
It had just opened it doors for the day and the shelves were stacked high with the most knee-weakening array of Italian specialties I could have ever hoped to see. This small-town Canadian girl nearly swooned at the perfectly dimpled Focaccette al Rosmarino, fruit and nut studded Cantucci and Biscotti, rustic peasant Pagnotta and perfect Grissini.

I don’t remember all that I purchased, but it was way more than I could possibly eat for breakfast. Standing at a small bar, I washed everything down with a perfect café and the gruff yet efficient clerk wrapped up the leftovers in brown paper and string for me, rations for the long train ride to Roma.
The rain soaked me as I walked the nearly deserted streets, but I barely noticed. My belly was happy and so was I.


I was to stumble upon a market a little later in the day and again satiate my bread-lust with a roasted vegetable-laden focaccia and a sausage-stuffed panini–both of which today’s immense sandwich reminded me of.
I guess that is why we took this little trip back in time; flavors have a strong tendency to transport one back to a certain spot, no matter how many years have passed. How amazing that memory fails, but taste buds do not!

I finished my gastronomical feasting for the day with a lemon gelato and another coffee before heading to the station to catch my train. Brindisi had been good to me and the rest of Italy awaited.

Ciao Brindisi Panini
serves 2

1 Italian sausage, grilled, sliced lengthwise
2 slices slab bacon, cooked, or Pancetta
4 slices Provolone
1 red pepper, quartered and seeded
1 zucchini, sliced lengthwise into four
4 thin slices of lemon
1/4 red onion, sliced into 4 wedges
olive oil
salt
Two crusty bread rolls, Ciabatta or ‘petit pain’

Preheat grill.
Combine red pepper, zucchini, lemon and red onion in a bowl with a generous splash of olive oil and toss to coat. Season with salt and grill everything until soft and cooked. The lemons will only take a few seconds on either side.
Reduce the heat of the grill to low.
Slice buns in half, brush generously with olive oil and grill slightly. Pile all ingredients onto the bottom two buns and place the top bun on the pile. Yep, it will look gigantic!
Grill in a panini press until cheese is melted OR, if you are like me and don’t have a panini press, simply wrap a brick with tinfoil and place it on top of the two sandwiches on the BBQ. You will need to flip the panini once if you are doing this.

Enjoy possibly the best sandwich you have ever had.

An Afternoon Outing and The Best Autumn Sandwich


Our annual apple picking outing is always more than a trip down memory lane (we pick apples in the same orchard where we were married) and buying bushels of apple for canning, but usually evolves into a gastronomical tour of the region as well.
We munch on wedges of local aged cheddar with our Mac’s, scarf warm apple-custard tart straight from the pie pan and sample maple taffy. Along Mont Saint-Hilaire’s Chemin de la Montagne (Mountain Road) apple growers are selling the best their orchards have to offer and at some places, that includes some pretty amazing organic ice cider. Yum!
We usually pick our apples and then sprawl out on the grass for a picnic lunch, but last Saturday the bitter winds blew us out of the orchard and back into the car where we headed for one of our favorite bakeries just down the road, La Femme et Le Boulanger.


Our pockets and bags bulging with crisp cold apples and various delicacies we had already picked up, we snagged a little table by the window and surveyed the tantalizing baked goods. It was hard to choose, but we selected several croissants for our sandwiches, rum & coffee cannelés for dessert and a bacon baguette to have with our poached eggs for Sunday breakfast. (If you’ve never tried a toasted bacon baguette with a poached egg on top, you haven’t lived, my friends)
I sliced some three year cheddar, cracked open a jar of confit d’onion, both purchased from La Vieille Cave, and with some slices of our Macintosh’s and the fresh croissants, constructed the best sandwich I have had since my pulled pork party.

Seriously, the tart apple paired with the strong cheese and the sweet onion jam was just fabulous packed between flaky croissants. With a hot latte to wrap our chilled fingers around and a bottle of fresh squeezed apple cider, we were in heaven.

So by now you are probably wondering-where are all the recipes?

Yeah, I know, it’s been a while; I’ve been giving you interviews, garden updates, and oatmeal, for pete’s sake, and now a sandwich??
Hang in there, there’s tons of good food coming, I promise. In the meantime, why don’t you head over to the Blogger’s Choice Awards and vote for me. Much appreciated and good luck to all the nominees!

Since I’m already on a rambling streak, allow me to get sidetracked for another minute with this sequence of photos from Noah’s apple picking experience…

Boy spies apple
Boy picks apple
Boy eats apple
Boy contemplates the meaning of life.

WFD? Southern Pulled-Pork Sandwiches


My parents returned to British Columbia this week and I returned to blogging catch-up, an overgrown garden, a neglected house, and piles of laundry! We are recovering from the non-stop action that ensued while they were here, not to mention a nasty cold for Yours Truly, and trying to get back to a normal routine, whatever that is!

It is always fun to play tourist in your own town and we had a great time soaking up the culture of the city together: visiting art galleries, catching a few shows at the Jazz festival, window shopping, and of course, dining out. Quebec’s beautiful countryside didn’t go unnoticed either as we managed to spend three days touring rural Quebec, visiting wineries, local farms, quaint towns and relaxing by lakes. Such fun!


But mostly during their visit we ate!
We feasted on grilled lamb, fresh seafood, BBQ-ed steaks and a cheese fondue and plenty other delicious dishes as I was determined to put a few pounds on my svelte parents.
As usual I was too busy hosting, cooking and mothering to take any photos of our dining enjoyment, let alone half a brain to remember what ingredients I put together, but there was one exception that managed to get partially captured and that was a Sunday afternoon garden party where we stuffed ourselves with pulled pork sandwiches.

Inspired by the cover of Gourmet magazine’s June issue,I thought pulled pork would be a great way to go for a hungry group of twenty-five or so close friends and family. This was a very homey menu, perfect for a backyard party, with plenty of comfort food favorites like potato salad and brownies. Guests helped themselves to a table full of food and made their own sandwiches, while paper plates made for easy clean-up.

The menu:

Tortilla chips with guacamole
Crudités

Southern Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Cole Slaw and Pickles
Potato Salad with Hard-boiled Egg, Baby Cucumber and Radish

Salad of Endive, Pecans, Cheddar and Granny Smith Apple

Homemade Refreshers:
Raspberry Limeaid
Earl Grey Lemon Iced Tea

Brownie Bar

I was determined to keep the menu simple, and almost everything was made the day before. I had to talk myself out of making the recipe for buns in Gourmet and saved time and energy by buying several dozen. I also had a few people bring brownies, so we would have an assortment without me having to bake all afternoon. That helped a lot and so a big “thank you” to those who made brownies!


It was a sweltering hot day, but we kept cool in the shade with the help of some homemade beverages. I made my iced tea with Earl Grey, then added thin slices of lemon and lots of ice just before serving. The day before the party Danny squeezed oodles of lime juice to which I added simple syrup. I stored that concentrated mixture in my fridge and then added cold water, ice and raspberries when I served it. The berries turned it a pretty pink color.


The pulled-pork sandwiches were the highlight of the meal, though: crusty buns, crunchy coleslaw, tender sweet and sour pork. I had tried a few recipes previously and found this one from Martha Stewart to be best suited to my busy schedule. While the Gourmet recipe takes over 8 hours on a charcoal kettle grill with plenty of basting and babysitting, this recipe turned my 12 pounds of pork shoulder into fork-tender shreds in about three hours in my oven. Perfect!

This recipe, together with my simple coleslaw and some buns, you are set to entertain this summer!

Southern Pulled Pork Sandwiches (adapted from Martha Stewart)
Serves 8. 1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Coarse salt and ground pepper

3 pounds boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), cut into 4 equal pieces

1 cup cider vinegar

4 garlic cloves, minced

8 soft sandwich rolls, split

Store-bought barbecue sauce, for serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with racks in lower and upper positions. In a small bowl, combine sugar, cayenne, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper.
Place pork in a 5-quart Dutch oven or large heavy-bottomed pot; rub with spice mixture.

In a medium bowl, combine vinegar, garlic, and 1 cup water; pour over pork. Cover pot, and place in oven on lower rack. Bake until pork is very tender and separates easily when pulled with a fork, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Transfer pork to a work surface, reserving pan juices. With two forks, shred meat. Transfer to a large bowl, and toss with pan juices to moisten (you may not need all the juices). Pile pork on rolls, and top with barbecue sauce, if desired.

Coleslaw

1 1/2 lbs green cabbage, shredded
1 lb purple cabbage, shredded
2 large carrots, grated
7 large radishes, grated
1 1/4 cups mayonnaise
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
salt and pepper

Toss cabbage, carrots and radishes with salt and pepper in a large bowl.
In another bowl combine mayo, vinegar and sugar. Toss mixture with slaw until well combined. Cover and chill for at least one hour.
May be made up to one day ahead of time and kept chilled.

WFD? Steak and Boursin Sandwiches and an Award!


With the impending birth of my second child hovering like a curtain about to drop on a whole new act, I am not logging as many hours in the kitchen as I normally would. The day are filled with all the little precious tasks that precede the arrival of a newborn, and any spare time I happen to have is spent with my feet up and my nose either in a cooking magazine or a children’s book as I invest in some precious one-on-one time with Noah.
I haven’t deserted the kitchen entirely (that would hardly be possible) nor have I resorted to frozen or take out meals, I have just simplified our meals considerably, while still keeping the fresh flavors and variety that we like.


For example, this steak sandwich that came together in less than ten minutes: with fresh, crusty ciabatta buns, creamy Boursin cheese and Angus AAA flank steak, this is a meal to really sink your teeth into.Recipe at bottom of the page.


In other news…..I was recently surprised and thrilled to be awarded an “E for Excellence” award from the delightful Valli over at More Than Burnt Toast! Thank you so much, Val, for recognizing Under the High Chair and for your high praise. I am honored to be included in such company as Sugar Plum and Canary Girl!

Despite spending less time in the kitchen, I have been cooking vicariously through some of my favorite food blogs and want to highlight a few for you to check out. I believe I have to pass this award on to five other bloggers, and let me tell you, narrowing it down to just five is no easy feat.

However, in no particular order, here are the five that decidedly deserve these accolades and a big old E for Excellence!

Lynn of Cookie Baker Lynn is a sweetheart who has the picture perfect blog, not to mention she’s a supermom!

David of Book the Cook writes from the UK and I love how he brings back old British favorites with a new twist, inspiring me to dig a little deeper into my heritage.

Helen of Tartelette sets the food blogging bar high. Her creations are beautiful in every way and she is always an inspiration for me.

Peter of Kalofagas proved his dedication to true Greek food when he made his own phyllo dough recently for spanikopita. Hard core!

Kickpleat of Everybody Loves Sandwiches shows off her food obsession in unique and creative ways. Always a delight to read, her blog is never predictable.

Thanks, everyone!
And now for that recipe…

Steak and Boursin Sandwiches Serves 4 1 (1-lb) piece flank steak Salt and pepper 4 ciabatta buns 5 oz Boursin cheese (herb or pepper) Fresh greens of your choice Preheat broiler. Pat steak dry and season with salt and pepper. Put on rack of broiler pan and broil 2-3 inches from the heat, turning over once, 6-7 minutes for medium rare. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes. Slice buns in half and spread with Boursin. Add greens of your choice. Slice steak across the grain into thin slices and divide among sandwiches. Assemble sandwiches, slice in half and serve.