Back to reality

As you’re reading this I am back at school for professional development week sitting through the first of many meetings after flying in from Seattle and IFBC on the redeye (ouch!).  Never fear, there will be posts about my weekend coming up soon but for now, since it’s back to reality after a long summer that has seemed short (thanks to trips to Philadelphia, California – more road trip coming up too! – and Seattle), I thought I would share a couple of my “how to make sure we eat decent, homecooked meals despite our busy work schedules” secrets…

First up, another couple of contributions to this month’s Kitchen Bootcamp where the theme we have going on is vegetables.

One of my favourite recipes to make in advance when in a big batch is ratatouille.  I was pleased to see Professional Chef has a recipe that gives you the exact order in which to add the veggies which means they stayed “al dente” rather than being mushy like they get when you add everything all at the same time. Ahem.

Ratatouille from The Professional Chef, Chapter 25, p 763 uses the following vegetables (and in this order): onions, garlic, tomato paste, eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, tomatoes, basil, parsley and oregano.
I followed the recipe exactly and it made a really flavourful, unmushy ratatouille. Loved this.

Next up, I made a roasted salsa with some of the gorgeous tomatillos I received in our organic delivery box the other week and our one lone red pepper from the garden.

I simply roasted both the tomatillos and the pepper in the oven at 400F until the skins were blistering (about 15 minutes) and then combined the flesh of the tomatillos and the chopped pepper with some lime juice, cilantro, grape tomatoes (also from our garden) with a couple of cloves of garlic in the food processor.

I then reduced it in a small saucepan over medium heat for about 30 minutes to produce a gorgeous salsa.

I served it with a simple chicken quesadilla, sour cream and avocado.

For a tasty, light summer dinner.

Now whilst made from scratch dishes ARE the best, I sometimes go to high-quality jarred sauces and marinades when I am really pressed for time.  Hall’s Kitchen (who I have written about before) recently contacted me asking if I would like some samples of their new sauce range and, as I know I am heading into a busy time where jarred sauces might be my friend in the kitchen, I was happy to try them out.

I chose the Lemon White Wine Cream SauceA decadent sauce for fish, seafood, chicken, asparagus, green or yellow beans but also great on any kind of pasta, especially seafood This sauce is literally so good, you’ll just want to eat it cold with a spoon! Locally made with fresh 100% cream from Hewitt’s Dairy in Hagersville, Ontario and white wine from Niagara.  With only a handful of ingredients (100% pure cream, pure lemon juice, onions, white wine, corn starch, sunflower oil, sea salt and pepper), it tastes like something you would make yourself.  I had it on a simple pasta with sautéed shrimp dish and it was a lovely light dinner that was also start to finish in about 30 minutes!.

The second sauce I tried out was the Maple Soy Ginger Sauce and Marinade – an extremely versatile sauce and marinade for chicken, tofu, pork, ribs, salmon and tuna that combines sweet Ontario maple syrup with tamari and fresh ginger.  Again, with only a few ingredients, (vegetable stock (water, carrots, onions, celery, leeks), pure maple syrup, tamari (water, soybeans, alcohol, wheat), cornstarch, ginger, sunflower oil), it tastes homemade.

I marinaded some skirt steak for a few hours and grilled it on kebabs with red peppers and more zucchini.

I imagine in the next few weeks, make-ahead dishes will be my standard and there will be a little help from some jarred friends too. Wish me luck – here we go!

35 thoughts on “Back to reality”

  1. My first day back – for our 2 PD days before school starts Wednesday, too. It is a bit of a shock – but not the one you are experiencing coming back from blogger’s conference! Have a great week!

  2. Hi Mardi!!

    In school we made this ratatouille and you are absolutely right – the order you add the vegetables makes all the difference ( as some students who didn’t follow the recipe figured out!!) ! Followed your comments on Twitter re: IFBC – thanks so much for them – I really enjoyed them – you all had so much fun I am definitely going next year!!!

  3. I can’t wait to read your posts about IFBC and I promise that next year I’ll be there! It sounded fantastic just from the tweets! And this is a fabulous array of dishes. I love ratatouille but mine is usually hit or miss – sometimes great, sometimes bland. Yours looks perfect! Love the salsa especially served with those delicious quesadillas. Yum! All of it is great, Mardi!

  4. I like Hall’s Kitchen. They use good ingredients and no preservatives. I was recently sent samples of dip and a noodle salad from another company to blog about. I already knew that I wasn’t crazy about their dips. I was prepared to do a full on taste test at work, which I did, but I haven’t blogged about my experience because it comes down to “Dip #1: Dominant flavour is potassium sorbate. Dip #2: See dip #1.” and so forth. Potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate taste like acid to me. Sodium benzoate is the sodium salt of benzoic acid and can be produced by reacting sodium hydroxide with benzoic acid. In my opinion, it should be banned from food.

    Hall’s doesn’t do that. They can send me sauces to blog about and I’ll be happy to do so. The only positive thing I got from the aforementioned samples was a bunch of ice packs and a Styrofoam cooler. The cooler probably would have tasted better than the dips.

    …And once again, I’ve essentially written a blog post in reply to someone else’s blog.

  5. I have to say, the tomatillos sauce was killer.

    A touch more spice for me (ahem) would have been a welcome addition – but it was outstanding.

    If we had a proper gas range, charring them slightly over a flame might have just added a touch more smoky flavours. (Or carcinogens, as GM would say!)

  6. Breaks are never long enough! Enjoy reading your summer break and adventures. And yes, onwards and forwards!

  7. Back to reality….do we have to?!?! LOVED seeing/hanging with you this weekend. Glad you made it home o.k., and hope the beginnings of school prep. haven’t been too onerous. Hey, the week’s already half way over 🙂

  8. i always like kebabs – such lovely presentation with not a whole lot of extra work. i rarely make beef kebabs, but have to try some with that PC balsamic glaze we brought back (i am in love with that stuff) when we visited you and neil. thanks for the dinner ideas!


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