On My Kitchen Table: Spinach Fettuccine Pasta With Crushed Tomatoes, Vegetables, & Chicken Meatballs

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Let’s talk pasta.  I live for pasta days.  I get excited seeing Mario Batali make fresh, homemade pasta from scratch on The Chew (homemade stuffed ravioli and pappardelle in olive oil, mushrooms, and buttered sage!  OH.MY.GOD), I daydream about ravioli, linguine, and egg noodles, and I almost always dive for the pasta dishes at self-serve, pay-by-weight buffets at supermarkets and gourmet food stores like All the Best Fine Foods and Daniel et Daniel.  The seafood linguine at The Pickle Barrel was even one of my favourite dishes back in the day when my high school friends and I used to frequent the restaurant for girls’ night get-togethers.  And yet, for a pasta and noodle lover like myself, I don’t eat it often enough and it’s sadly one of the more neglected foodie areas on the blog.  I am totally committed to changing that this year though; I love pasta too much to not see it shine! 

I had three very memorable pasta and noodle meals this past month though, including a delicious ramen and pork gyoza dumpling noodle-in-soup bowl, an amazing pesto chicken fusili from Daniel et Daniel (fact: pesto makes everything heavenly), and an Italian all-you-can-eat feast for my brother’s birthday at Frankie Tomatto’s where I had crab stuffed ravioli bathed in a light garlic, tomato, and parsley cream sauce, spaghetti and vegetarian meatballs, and braised beef and butternut squash pasta.  It was wonderful.  

It’s hard to get my pasta fix on a regular basis.  And by regular basis, I mean almost every day.  My entire family has different carborhydrate tastes.  There’s me, the pasta and noodle lover in the flesh.  Then there’s my mum who happily claims she could live on nothing but bread.  Then there’s my brother who will eat rice, bread, and pasta but not really noodles.  Finally, we have my dad who is, what my mum and I call, a “human rice bucket”.  It’s maddening trying to find things we all love sometimes.  Thus, when my mum suggested having fettuccine for dinner, I did my happy-fists dance! 

For dinner: regular and spinach fettuccine in tomato sauce with chicken meatballs, red, orange, and yellow bell peppers, button mushrooms, celery, crushed tomatoes, shredded mozzarella cheese, white pepper, and parsley flakes.  I love different cream sauces (garlic, mushroom, portuguese, white wine, the whole shebang) but every so often, tomato sauce hits the spot and for me, it has to be a tomato sauce devoid of meat.  Just plain old crushed tomatoes and herbs does the job.  I currently have my eye on some udon noodle bowls at a few sushi spots in town, some Portuguese chicken spaghetti, any and all kinds of macaroni and cheese, and ravioli.  Lots of ravioli.  The year is still young so we’ll see how many dishes I get around to enjoying!

*****

To view Ate by Ate’s archive of pasta related posts, click here.  More posts to come!

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On My Kitchen Table: Vegetable Fettucine Alfredo With Creamy Roasted Red Pepper & Mushroom Alfredo Sauce

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It’s been awhile since I last posted photos of my mum’s home cooking, so I figured I’d try my best to get in at least one more post before the sun really starts setting early.  I’ve come to the realization that if I want to take photos of my mum’s cooking, I can only do so during the spring and summer months with the exception being weekend breakfasts.  If I’ve learned anything over the past year writing this blog, it is that I absolutely HATE using flash on my camera, I HATE the yellow glow that my kitchen light casts on everything in photos, and chasing the sun does not always result in the nicest photographs.  Taking 10 photos resulting in only one nice one and cursing about it later also does not help. 

Okay, so I took away more than one nugget of knowledge over the past year, but I’m not lying when I say that I can’t take any more photos of home cooked dinners after September.  By the time I get home, wash up, put away my things, and head on down to our kitchen table, I’m already squinting and reaching for the lightswitch.  And I know other food bloggers who face the same dilemma!  How did I manage to post so many photos of my mum’s culinary endeavours last winter then when I first started the blog?  Here’s a secret: they were all “backlog” photos, meaning I had a stockpile of photos I had saved for months, even before I went live with the blog.  Aside from some of the scrapbooking, I don’t talk about “behind-the-scenes” stuff much (maybe I should?!), but this was definitely one of the ways I prepared weeks, even months, in advance before Ate by Ate’s launch and I’m relieved it paid off!

We had pasta night yesterday and I thank my lucky stars that my brother made the initial suggestion because, really, we don’t eat pasta as often as we’d like because of my dad’s distaste for it.  But as my mum likes to say, “it’s one meal, he can suck it up!”  She says this any and every time she wants to make pasta for the three of us or when she wants to go to Frankie Tomatto’s for some occasion or another.  Ah, marriage 😀  And funny enough, these photos are actually of my dad’s plate of pasta just before he sat down at the dinner table.  When my mum asked me why I was taking photos of his and not mine, I said, “his looks a little prettier on the plate” to which she replied, “oh…I’m sorry!”  *snort* I had a good laugh over that and told her I didn’t care how the heck mine looked; I was just grateful to be having pasta! 

Anyway, the pasta of choice was fettucine alfredo and we had ourselves a gorgeous Fall colour inspired dinner that left me in a happy food coma for the rest of the night: fettucine pasta noodles with green and yellow bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and chopped green onions (I love green onions/scallions so much I will eat it with almost everything) with a creamy fusion of roasted red pepper and mushroom alfredo sauce.  I relish meals like this and it was the perfect meal to warm us up on a chillier day.

In less than a week, the official first day of fall – September 23rd – will be upon us and I don’t know about you, but I am so, so excited about all the fall activities going on, the cooler weather, and the anticipation of tree leaves changing colour.  I’m really hoping to get out to an apple orchard this time around (can you believe the last time I went to one was when I was 6?!) and continue getting in as many farmers’ markets visits as I can before the outdoor ones start packing up for the year.  I’m preparing SO much fun stuff for the blog and I can’t wait to unveil a fabulous Fall Food series at the end of the month!  There will be lots more details to come, but for the time being I leave you with my weekend food baby.  

On My (Chinese) Kitchen Table: Ground Pork Fried Rice with Green Onions

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Rice has always been a part of my life.  Coming from a Chinese girl like myself, that probably doesn’t sound any alarm bells, but hear me out.  Rice has played a role in some of my funniest memories (according to my uncle, my aunt was enjoying her fried rice so much she flung a few grains into his ear with her rapid fire chopsticks), and in my early stages of socialization in true-blue Chinese culture where my great-grandmother would cook me baby portions of congee as a toddler.  It wasn’t until I finished high school and started university though that I started feeling restless about the consistent rice noshing.  I wanted to experiment, I wanted to try new things.  My dad has never had any qualms about inhaling on an everyday basis, but I knew my mum and I wanted to branch out and eat other kinds of meals.  In short, my mum and I started feeling bored and we could feel ourselves falling into a food rut. 

Mixing things up has pushed us to get more creative and to leave behind the safety net of the traditional Chinese white dinner, all the while reminding us that rice is still very much an integral part of our food culture.  The whole point was to seek a balance and I think we’ve found it: don’t necessarily abandon it, but don’t rely on it too heavily for the sake of tradition and routine.  For this reason, fried rice has functioned as a happy-medium, as a way of breaking up any form of monotony in the kitchen without denying the fact that we are Chinese and hey, we consume a lot of rice!  Even though I don’t consider fried rice in particular to be the defining dish in Chinese and/or Cantonese cuisine (this quick association actually makes me cringe because it’s so awfully misguided and stereotypical), I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love fried rice, or at the very least enjoys one specific kind.  Pineapple and chicken, egg and shrimp, seafood, mixed vegetables – I love them all, especially when I have it at the really nice sit-down Chinese restaurants with the banquet-style set dinner meals and the little dim sum tea cups! 

My mum has always made fried rice every so often as a treat for my brother and I when we were growing up, and my mum’s ground pork fried rice is one of my all-time favourite comfort, home-cooked meals.  Similar to the lemon green onion rice I posted a week and a half ago, it’s a white rice dish comprised of lean ground pork, chopped green onions, lots of minced garlic, sautéed buttom mushrooms on occasion, olive oil, and our special light-hearted touch: red pepper chili flakes!  Normally, I would sprinkle on some Worcestershire sauce (geep-jup, as we call it in Chinese) or sweet chili sauce, but this time around I felt like something cold on top of the hot rice, something with a little bit of tanginess to it: sour cream!  With a plate of pork and green onion fried rice, a dollop of sour cream, and a smattering of chili flakes, I have myself a plate of home-cooked comfort.

From the Television Screen to My Kitchen Table: Lemon and Green Onion Rice from Best Recipes Ever

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I thank my lucky stars for television cooking shows.  I don’t remember how many times I’ve mentioned this on the blog (or if I’ve mentioned it at all), but I adore Food Network on Channel 52 and I love Best Recipes Ever by Canadian Living with Kary Osmond on CBC, Channel 6.  I watch them both religiously.  I watch it on weekdays, weekends, while I’m scrapbooking, and after my soap operas.  When I’m home during the day, my television lineup from 3pm-5pm is as follows: Best Recipes Ever on CBC, Michael Smith’s Chef at Home on Food Network, Ricardo & Friends, and Giada at Home.  And don’t even get me started on Iron Chef, Best Thing I Ever Ate, and Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.  I avoid the reality tv type shows like the plague, but the ones I just listed?  LOVE.  I’d say 70% of my television consumption is dedicated to Food Network and food and cooking related shows (the other 30% is comprised of sports,  soap operas, and the occasional prime time show such as Big Bang Theory which I love to pieces) and I’m telling you, I’ve learned so much from watching others cook.

My mum and I have Best Recipes to thank for this new dinner dish of ours.  It’s SO simple that it makes me feel somewhat embarrassed that I didn’t think to do it like this before.  My family and I eat rice on a pretty regular basis and one of my favourite home cooked meals is this minced pork fried rice my mum makes (which I will be blogging about soon) with minced pork, garlic, and lots of green onions.  What we didn’t think to do was to flavour our rice with lemon zest to make a simple lemon rice.  I KNOW.  Lightbulb “duh” moment, right?  So thanks to Best Recipes, we snatched a new dinner dish to put on our kitchen table and we absolutely love it.

Cooked rice (we used white Jasmine rice, but any rice will do) with the zest of one lemon (there are 4 people in my house, so if you’re cooking for yourself or for two people, half a lemon should be good enough), and as many chopped green onions/scallions as your heart desires.  I love green onions so I dumped a bucket-full on my serving.  If you wish you can mix in a little garlic and olive oil, but I left mine plain the first time around with just the lemon zest and green onions and I have to tell you, this rice is now going to be a staple in our home.  Thank you television, I love you.      

Happy Canada Day! Enjoying Picnic Food and a Giant Bowl of Potato Salad

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Before you go “Oooo!”, I didn’t make these myself!  This was just a cute cupcake display celebrating Canada Day and Canada Day long weekend!  I feel kind of silly for not thinking of this sooner, but I totally should have compiled a bunch of food posts related to yummy maple things in the city!  A d’oh! moment on my part now that it’s after the fact, but the idea has inspired me to be on the lookout for some sweet maple goodies the same way I want to find all the best Nutella items in town!  I have a few maple foodie items in mind already (maple cupcakes!  Maple crepes!), so hopefully when Canada Day rolls around again next year, I’ll be prepared. 

I hope everyone is having (and will have) a fantastic weekend whether you’re staying in the city, going to the cottage, or leaving the province all together.  I’m actually spending my entire weekend at home and I am so looking forward to it.  I’m a little bummed to be missing out on some awesome food events (the 1st gourmet food truck fest in Toronto at the Distiller District tomorrow!  Why oh why did it have to be THIS weekend at one of my fave neighbourhoods when I’m not going out??), but I know that the heat won’t be good for me and I know when my body is telling me to slow down and stop.  So staying at home it is.  I’ll be catching up on my ZzzZzzz’s, scrapbooking, cookie baking, reading, watching baseball (I’m still bitter that our Jays lost today!), and taking advantage of some much needed down time.  Hopefully I’ll be able to take new photos of some previous scrapbook layouts, update the Food Calendar, and pinpoint my next farmers’ market visit for next week which is expected to be quite the scorcher, eek!   

I was very excited about dinner today.  Canada Day = picnic food in my mind and we had a giant bowl of potato salad chilling in the fridge from this morning with the baby potatoes I bought at the Queens Quay market on Wednesday.  Carrots, cucumber, red bell pepper, green onions, hard-boiled eggs, julienned salami and ham, black pepper, and chives make for one yummy Canada Day summer salad!  Annnd we can’t forget about the ice cream 😉  A lickety good ice cream post to come tomorrow!  Happy long weekend and happy Pride everyone!

Chunks of the baby potatoes, diced cucumber and red bell pepper, sliced carrots, and green onions all mixed in together.

Adding the wedges of boiled eggs, YUM!

The finished potato salad dressed in some mayo and seasoned with black pepper, dried chives, and bacon bits!  I like eating my salad on bread, so here’s the potato salad sitting on a bed of romaine lettuce on French bread.

P.S.  My brother has recently discovered the joys of sticking bars of chocolate in the freezer.  He says it tastes incredibly good, much better than room temperature chocolate *chuckles*

Putting Market Vegetables to Use: Roasted Eggplant, Marinara, and Mozzarella for Eggplant Parmesan Melts!

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It was eggplant day at my house today!  Remember the baby eggplants that I was so super excited about finding and buying at the farmers’ market this past week?  We put them to use for dinner and made our version of roasted eggplant parmesan sandwiches!  Super simple, super DELICIOUS!  I wasn’t always a fan of eggplant, but over the years it has grown on me and I’ve found ways to cook it that make my tastebuds and tummy happy.  Roasting, for me, is definitely the way to go and breading it also makes for delicious eggplant meals. 

This past Tuesday I bought 6 beautiful baby eggplants at the East York farmers’ market at the East York Civic Centre on Coxwell Ave. and we were hemming and hawing on how we should cook them and what to serve with them.  Should we throw them on the grill?  Mix it with other vegetables?  Eat them alone?  My mum came up with a great idea today: make eggplant sandwiches!  We sliced them to roast in the oven for our melty, cheesy, saucy sandwich melts.  The eggplants were sliced and seasoned and tossed in olive oil with a little bit of black pepper, dry basil, and minced garlic. 

We placed the slices of eggplant on a tin foiled baking sheet and roasted them in the oven for 25 minutes at 400°F.  I can’t even put into words have AMAZING they smelled!  And of course, tasted 😀  They were soft, the skin was nicely blistered and roasted, and the garlic…ahhh.  And then the fun part came: assembling our eggplant parmesan melts!  We loooove English muffins in our house, so we toasted some English muffins, put some mushroom and tomato marinara sauce on the stovetop to heat up, and got our slices of mozzerella cheese ready to go.  I slathered on a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce on the bottoms of the English muffins, placed two big slices of roasted eggplant on top, layered it with a slice of mozzerella cheese (which melted beautifully omg yum), placed another slice of eggplant on top, and topped the whole shebang with another generous dollop of tomato sauce.  Eggplant sandwich success! 

I was inspired by a lot of different things in making these roasted eggplant melts: the amazing breaded eggplant sandwiches at St. Lawrence market, Giada’s eggplant and asparagus stacks on her Food Network show, Giada at Home, and the eggplant parmesan at Frankie Tomatto’s!  Even though we didn’t have any parmigiano-reggiano cheese to shave on the roasted eggplant or fresh basil to finish off the melts, we made do with what we had at home and made a great dinner with fresh vegetables straight from the market.  It made me so happy to see my market vegetable purchase go from farm to table and it was such a simple way to make a wholesome, healthy, and hearty dinner.  I’m super excited to see what other fresh and delicious eats I find at my next farmers’ market visit!

Who Says Breakfast Food is Only Yummy at the Break of Dawn? Scrambled Eggs & Sausage for Dinner!

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Okay, I’m just going to be upfront about this: I watched footage of Prince William and Kate’s royal wedding 3 times today.  I was on the brink of happy tears all day long and I was absolutely entranced by the whole procession and string of events, from the ceremony to the carriage ride to Buckingham Palace to the balcony kiss.  I even prolonged eating lunch in favour of gluing myself to the television.  I even surprised myself with that move!  I witnessed a very special, beautiful thing today and my heart is filled with joy for both William and Kate.    So my head is a little up in the clouds at the moment with visions of pretty wedding dresses and smiles and Union Jack flags. 

Forgive me then for only posting some pictures of my “breakfast for dinner” dish that I love so dearly!  Given how a number of people around the city woke up in the middle of the night to watch and celebrate the royal wedding, it’s quite possible everyone’s eating schedules have been thrown off a bit.  Tea parties in the wee hours of the morning, lunch for breakfast, and who knows what else!  To celebrate my head-in-the-clouds, mildly disoriented state of mind, I present to you, scrambled eggs and sausage for dinner.  I loooove eating eggs for dinner and I have a weakness for breakfast sausage, so this goes hand-in-hand for me.  A yummy dish of fluffy scrambled eggs with ground breakfast sausage and chopped green onions, seasoned with a little black pepper.  I know I’m not the only one out there who jumps at the chance to eat all-day breakfast at diners and eats “breakfast food” for dinner!  Happy royal wedding day, and happy weekend!  I have LOTS to share with you guys 😀