Overnight Oats

Snacks

Hello friends, long time no speak! Or read? Blog? Lord knows.  I’d love to tell you I’ve had the wildest few weeks, packed full of adventures that have taken me away from What The Fork Is For Dinner and all you lovely people.  But that would be a lie.  I’ve been lazy.  I guess a tiny bit busy too.  But mostly lazy.  But it’s almost spring and it’s time to turn this ship around so I present to you…. Overnight oats.

I’m a big (huge) lover of breakfast.  The minute my feet hit the floor in the morning I need to eat.  When people tell me they hate breakfast, or it’s a struggle to eat in the morning, or they generally forget about eating until lunch time, I’m awe-struck.   Eating is literally the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning.  Ok not literally.  That’s a little bleak.  But it’s the first thing that gets me up and moving and the thing I go to sleep thinking about.  Especially when it’s these delicious little jars of oat-y goodness.  The best part is they’re really easy, and you make them the night before so they’re ready to go the second you wake up, and you can use any kind of toppings you want! Ok that’s three best parts. These oats are so good.  

 

Ingredients:

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 milk (I use good ol’ cows milk, but you could probably do almond milk, or soy milk, or any of those other fancy things)

1 tbsp flax seed (good for digestion, allegedly)

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1/3 cup vanilla greek yogurt

1/3 cup blueberries (not frozen – it’ll get slushy)

You could easily swap out the blueberries for any other kind of fruit.  You could also add chopped nuts the morning of (they’ll get soggy if you put them in the night before).  Raisins.  Brown sugar (unless you’re using a flavoured greek yogurt because there’s already lots-o-sugar in that). Shredded coconut. Dried cranberries. OMG THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS.

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How to make it:

1)Take your oats, milk, flax seed, cinnamon and nutmeg and stir it together in a Tupperware container. Or a pretty little jar if you’re a keener like me.  See above.

2)Top with greek yogurt and fruit.

3)Seal container, put in fridge and go to sleep

4)Wake up 12 8 hours later and eat!

Chicken and Arugula Salad

Lunch

Don’t get used to this, my friends.  There’s not going to be a lot of salad action on this blog.  Unless of course it is preceded by the words “creamy” and “macaroni.”  I don’t hate salad, but I’m certainly not one of those liars people who claim to love it.  I eat it because I know I should, and because I know it’s good for me, and my Catholic guilt gets the better of me if I go too many days on a carb-only diet.

So, we hosted a family lunch over the weekend.  I love to host, and I love to cook for people, but I’m generally more of a dinner-at-8 kind of person which gives this little control freak the better part of 10 hours to get prepared.  Lunch is a different beast, because I am in no way willing (love you mom and dad!) to sacrifice sleep or Saturday morning laziness for a tasty lunch.  So it has to be something I can either mostly prep in advance, or that is super quick so that it looks and tastes good but hasn’t involved a ton of sweating and kitchen kerfuffle.  I also knew that we were going to be doing a lot of beer-drinking and carb-eating for the majority of the weekend so I opted for something on the lighter side for lunch.  Oh, and then served it with warm croissants and butter.

Good old chicken salad is a great go-to.  It’s a crowd pleaser, it’s easy, and you can add a few different ingredients, change up the dressing ever so slightly and boom, you’ve got yourself a brand new salad.  I went for a citrusy dressing this time around, and a good combo of sweet/salty/crunchy accompaniments.  I also marinated my chicken in advance in olive oil, orange juice and garlic (because I’m a try-hard) but I’m not sure it was all that necessary.  Do what you’ve got time and the inclination to do.

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Ingredients:
4 medium sized chicken breasts (allow about 3/4 of a breast per person), cooked, cooled and chopped roughly.

2 cups arugula

3/4 cup seedless grapes, halved.  I used Sable grapes – they’re really dark in colour and not too sweet.  Green would be great too, as long as they’re not too sour.  Test your grapes first, people.

3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/3 cup crushed pecans

1/4 cup chopped chives

Dressing:

1 cup mayonnaise (I use the half fat variety.  Full fat would work too.  Don’t even talk to me about fat-free…that’s not mayonnaise)

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup orange juice

juice of 1/4 of a lemon

1 tsp lemon zest

Salt & Pepper

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How to make it:

1) Mix up the dressing, as in: pour all the ingredients into a bowl or a measuring cup and whisk it up.  Taste it and season it with more of whatever you think it’s missing.  Set aside

2) Take your halved grapes, your crumbled cheese, your chopped chives, your pecans, and your chunked chicken and throw it in a bowl.

3) Cover in dressing and give it a toss until everything is combined evenly.

4) Set it in the fridge (or in my case, on the balcony) for about an hour and then pull it out 10 minutes before you’re ready to serve.

5) Lay your arugula (or really, whatever green doesn’t make you gag you prefer) on a flat serving plate or dish, and top with the chicken mixture.

7) Garnish with lemon wedges so it looks real professional-like.

8) Enjoy with your favourite buttery carb or on its own if you’re a saint.

Beef & Pilsner Stew

Dinner, Miscellany

It was a very cold February.  I’m pretty sure it was record setting cold, whatever that means.  I’m very much over the whole boots, and scarf and big puffy coat and snotsicles thing, you know? And then there’s the snow.  When it’s not rip-off-your-face-windchill-and-freeze-your-eyes-shut cold, it’s snowing.  O Canada, you cruel mistress. 

We’ve been in hibernation mode the last few months weeks.  It took us all of 2 weeks to get through a months’ worth of internet data this month and I don’t even want to admit to you how many seasons of Friends I’ve breezed through on Netflix.  Read: too many.  And with hibernation comes long naps and hearty food.  In that order.

Nothing says winter comfort food like beef stew.  It’s rich, and rib sticking, and …healthy I think? Plus, it gives you something to do on an otherwise unproductive Sunday.  My day went something like this: wake up, chop some veggies, lie down, chop a few more veggies, lie down, brown some beef, lie down, deglaze the pot and get everything in there to start cooking, lie down, transfer from the stove to the oven and lie down for 3-4 hours until it’s ready to serve.  A nice little Sunday.

 

Ingredients:

About 1kg of stewing beef, in chunks the size of an ice cube.  You’re going to cook this low and slow so it’ll be very tender – don’t fret too much about getting a nice cut of meat. Save that money for wine.

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1 onion, chopped roughly

3-4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped

2-3 medium parsnips, peeled and chopped

About 3 cups chopped potatoes – whichever are your favourite.  I did a mix of red and yellow, because I’m an equal opportunist eater.

½ cup frozen green peas

2 cups beef stock

4 tbsp tomato paste

1 bottle of beer – I used a light pilsner but something dark and hoppy would also be good

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

2 tsp ground oregano

2 tsp ground basil

2 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp onion salt

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ground black pepper

Dash of nutmeg

1 bay leaf

 

How to make it:

1) In a large pot over medium high heat, warm up 1-2 tsp of olive oil.  If you have a coated cast iron pot, use it.  If you don’t, any big oven-safe pot will do.

2) Chop all your veggies in between naps.  I went for chunks about the size of a toonie.  You can go larger or smaller, just make sure all your chunks are roughly the same size so they cook evenly. (Put your rules away, I’m not talking that precise.)

3) Lay your beef chunks on a cookie sheet and lightly dust with about half the flour, trying to get even coverage on all the pieces.  Shake off any excess.

4) In small batches, brown your meat in the pot.  “Don’t crowd the pot!” the experts always say.  I think what they mean is leave a little daylight between all the chunks of meat so that they have enough room to brown up and not just sweat each other out, like a Grade 9 dance.

5) Once all your meat is brown, set it aside on a plate.

6) The bottom of your pot is going to look all brown and gooey and a little crispy. THAT IS PERFECT.  This is when I suggest adding all your spices and Worcestershire sauce.  Scrape it around until it forms a paste.

7) Add in your beer and bayleaf and bring it to a boil.  Reduce the heat and let it simmer for a couple minutes so the beer starts to reduce.

8) Add your tomato paste and stir it around to loosen it up and get the flavours activated.  Like a tomato machine…ACTIVATE.

9) Add your veggies (except the green peas!), beef, and beef stock.  The stock should juuuust cover all your ingredients.

10) Cover and let it simmer for about half an hour.

11) Have another lie down.

12) Remove the cover and give it a stir.

13) Place it in a 300 degree oven, and maybe put a cookie sheet underneath the pot in case you’re like me and filled your pot too full and have a little stock overflow.

14) Go have a 3-4 hour nap

15) Remove the stew from the oven.  At this point your house probably smells amazing.  That means it’s working!

16) Remove the cover and let it stand for about 5-10 minutes.

17) Skim the top of pot to remove excess fat.  This is easier than it sounds.  Take a small spoon and just go around the edges of the pot, scooping out as much fat as you can.  It will feel tedious but it’s worth it.  If you get a bit of the stock in with it that’s okay.  (Sidenote: I am all about fat. Fat = flavour. In moderation, etc.  But if you leave too much of the beef fat in the stew it’ll coat your mouth when you eat it and it’s super unpleasant.)

18) Place the pot back on medium heat on the stove and add the green peas.

19) Drop in flour, one tbsp at a time, and stir and simmer until your sauce starts to thicken to the consistency you like.  Give it about 5 minutes between flour bombs to gauge how it’s working.

20) Taste your broth and season with salt, pepper and anything else that tickles your fancy.

21) Serve with warm garlic bread and red wine and then go back to bed.

 

Oyster night

Dinner, Miscellany

I am a huge seafood fan, particularly crustaceans.  Soft shell, hard shell, any little sea creature found in a shell is fine by me.  If you can dip it in melted butter, even better I say.  A few years ago, my family and I hopped into a rented minivan and cruised down the Pacific Coast highway for what was probably the 7 best food days of my life.  Dungeness crab, craft beer, repeat.  All this is to say I love seafood and tend to surround myself with people who do too.

Last weekend was a long weekend – and what better way to celebrate Sunday Funday than an Oyster Night? Turns out, there is no better way.  An by the way, Oyster Night is now an official thing, so I’ve decided that title case is in order.  Anyhoo,  if you’re like me, you probably enjoy oysters in a restaurant, shucked by professionals, served with all the necessary accoutrements.  The idea of home-shucking is a daunting one but can I just tell you? It’s easy and doable and a LOT of fun and I think you should try it for your next party. And invite me, please.

Over Christmas I got a brief oyster-shucking lesson from my brother and -lo and behold-, it is not nearly as difficult as it looks.  Could I survive longer than 45 seconds in a professional setting, like…let’s say buck-a-shuck night at the pub down the street? Not a chance. But in the privacy of my own home, among friends who don’t (openly) judge me, I’m pretty much a pro.

The deal for Oyster Night (patent pending) was BYOS: bring your own shucker…because seriously, do I need 14 shuckers in my little condo cutlery drawer? Nope.   We pre-ordered 5 dozen oysters from Hooked which I think is the only place in Toronto you should consider buying seafood.  They are total pros…and really nice guys to boot.  We got an assortment of East Coast oysters. A party pack, if you will.

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A quick demo and we were off to the races.  Normally, our parties consist of cheese plates, wine and beer and the best of intentions until the hilarity ensues, usually starting around 11pm.  Having an “activity” portion of the night really added a new level of fun and gave people something to talk about, and even the non-seafood lovers got in there and shucked around.

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To host a successful Oyster Night party, you’ll need:
1) Oysters! Get a variety if you can.  It’s fun to taste test and compare, and pretend to know what you’re talking about

2) One or two large platters – I used stainless steel.

3) Ice.  lots of ice.  Both for cocktails and to keep your shucked oysters cold before you eat them.

4) A shucker! You can find these at any kitchen supply store and they’re not all that expensive.

5) Tabasco. Non negotiable.

6) A large lemon, cut into little wedges.

7) A mignonette.  Which is a very fancy French word for a mixture of minced shallots and vinegar.  The ratio is 1:1.  I used Apple Cider vinegar which was delightful, but you can use Red Wine vinegar or Champagne vinegar for equally delicious results.

8)Tea towels.  Or something to provide for your guests’  little digits, lest they slice their hands open on some of the more gnarly shells.

9) Side dishes:  I suggest garlic bread or French fries, which go really well with oysters.  Chips, cheese and crackers or anything else that says “party!” to you is also a great choice.

10) Gatorade for the morning after.

Have fun!

 

 

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sweet Treats

Is there anything better than a homemade cookie fresh out of the oven? Don’t answer that.   I can picture you all sitting there shaking your heads.  “No of course there isn’t Emma!”  I hear you. You’re exactly right.

Baking cookies has always been one of my favourite things to do.  There’s something kind of magical about the process.  You follow the rules, you mix all your ingredients together, you throw it in the oven and when you come back a few minutes later a little miracle has transpired.  Those random ingredients have become a real and (ideally) edible little piece of heaven.  So much fun. And then your house smells like sugar and butter and chocolate chips.  Can’t argue with that.

I am a big fan of The Joy of Cooking.  I think it’s a staple that every good, great or amazing cook should have in their kitchen.  It’s my go-to cookbook for any of those basics: roasting a chicken, banana bread, Yorkshire pudding, and these ridiculously perfect oatmeal cookies.  I always substitute the raisins for chocolate chips because I hate those shrivelled little chocolate imposters, but to each his own.  The best part of this recipe is that if you take them out of the oven 1 minute early, they’re a little bit chewy and if you leave them in 1 minute too long, they’re crispy and amazing.  You can’t go wrong!  Unless you leave them in more than 3 minutes too long because then they are REALLY crispy and not-so-amazing.  Trust me.

I know I said that I’m not generally a recipe follower or a recipe maker but in this case I do and always will follow a recipe religiously – baking is science, you guys.  Don’t mess around.

 Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups flour

3/4 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 cup of soft butter (do not melt!)

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1/4 cup sugar

eggs

2 tsp vanilla

cup chocolate chips (if your hand slips and you throw in too much I’d say that’s not the end of the world)

3 1/2 cups rolled whole oats

How to make them:

1) Preheat oven to 350

2) Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg into a  bowl. It’s going to smell real nice and get you all excited.

3) Beat butter, brown sugar, sugar, eggs, and vanilla with a hand mixer at medium speed.  You can also use a wooden spoon if you have incredibly strong biceps and come from the year 1895.

4) Add flour mixture into butter mixture and mix well

5) Add in oats and chocolate chips and mix until everything is combined

6) Roll dough into little balls about the size of a beer ping pong ball and place onto a greased baking sheet in 3 rows of 4.  Or 4 rows of 3.

7) Take a fork and flatten your cookies so that they’re about 1cm thick.  Like so:

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8) Bake for about 10 minutes.  Check them after 5 to see how they’re doing.  When they’re a golden brown around the edge they’re ready.

*Disclaimer: If you make these cookies when you’re home alone, like I usually do, you will eat at least 7 before your significant other gets home.  That’s okay.  Just tell them the batch only made 41 cookies – SO WEIRD RIGHT?*