Saturday, 23 June 2012

Caesar Salad Dressing ...a sure-fire way to "de-stress" for study success!

This is not my Sari...but I think you get the idea!

Sara is in exams...she cloisters herself in her room to study...I come in for a quick peak and see my sweet girl, sitting on her couch, surrounded by papers, notes and is like she is stranded on a deserted island of academia with no hope of rescue for at least 2 more days.

Oh how I remember high school exams, so much information that needed to be committed to memory...studying for so many hours that you brain starts to ache...then writing the exam and discarding everything you just learned so you can cram the next subject in there!

The difference between Sara and me is that she is a great student, bright and well-rounded, and I was not.  I didn't develop a love for learning until I went to universsity, where the floodgates opened and education was transformed from a drudgery to a delight.  

I have told the girls many times before to seriously consider staying home for their undergraduate studies.  We live in a fantastic city that boasts 3 universities and a number of colleges...why not live with us - eat well, dwell well, and avoid the additional burdens that going away adds to an already stressed student's life?

When I was in university, I lived with my parents.  I worked during the day, and studied at night.  My evenings and weekends were spent poring over textbooks and notes...reading, re-reading, highlighting, typing notes, reducing the notes to short form, and then further reducing them to point form.  Who had time for cooking and cleaning and laundry?  Not I, and I was fortunate to have a mother who just wanted to see me surpass her achievements, so she indulged me by taking care of the day-to-day life stuff, freeing me to devote my time to work, study and socializing.  Thanks, as a mother myself, I am able to see just what she did for me, and only now can I fully appreciate her efforts, her devotion and the sacrifice of her time just to make my life easier.  

Which brings me to the present day...right now there is little I can do for my sweet Sara, except try to be there and support her where I can...are you guessing where this story is going?  Where is always food!  

To add insult to injury (a favourite expression of Mom's, by the way), Sari has come down with a cold and nagging cough...bad enough that she is back on asthma meds to help her heal.  The timing could not have been worse if we had planned it.

So what can I do?!?!?   Nouridh my baby, feed her foods that she loves and that will give her strength...pastas, proteins, and salads, of course!

In recent years Caesar salad has lost its tastes fantastic during a meal, but all the garlic and seasonings wreak havoc on my aging system.  None-the-less, Sara loves Caesar salad, and I wanted to cheer her up before her math exam, so I added it to our dinner menu.  

On the way home from our final tutoring session before the exam, we stopped at Metro to pick up some simulated bacon bits (what's a Caesar without it?!). Then we headed home, and I put all the fixings together and went to the fridge to get the Renee's Caesar wasn't there!!!  Where had it gone?!?  I was sure that I had a bottle in there...well, there was no time to dwell on the missing salad dressing, the troops were I pulled Norene's Meal-Lean-I-Yumm, now Healthy Helpings cookbook and looked up dressing recipes (page 278).   Seemed easy enough, but I didn't have all the ingredients.  So, I decided to wing it, using her recipe as a guide.

Sara loved it!!  She said it was flavourful yet not overpowering, and because there was no anchovy paste, she wasn't left feeling queasy afterward.  The best part for me was that Becca and Carlo gave it the thumbs up too.  An added bonus was that I didn't suffer any after effects from this dressing either.

So I guess Caesar salad dressing is back in the running as a regular option for our dinner salad and no longer relegated to a treat we indulge in once every couple of months.  I hope you enjoy this recipe, a Norene-based Naomi original, as much as my family does.  

Until next time, I wish you a wonderful weekend filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!

Naomi's Caesar Salad

Salad Ingredients 
  • lettuce - cut or torn into bite-size pieces (I use romaine or iceberg)
  • Caesar croutons (any brand will work, I prefer No Name or PC)
  • "bacon" bit (I keep simulated on hand but you can use the real deal if you prefer)
  • parmigiana cheese, grated

Dressing Ingredients
  • ½C mayonnaise (I use Hellman's Olive Oil mayo) 
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 to 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • ¾ tsp  each of salt and pepper

This is a shitarein recipe.  Prepare your salad (notice there are no measurements for the salad ingredients...I toss in whatever looks like it will satisfy my family depending on how hungry we are - although I must admit we eat tons of salad, and I will take any leftovers to work the next day.  I then mix all the salad dressing ingredients, pour over the salad, toss and serve!

Thursday, 14 June 2012

"What's Cooking Good Looking" - It's Thrilling Thursday!

For those of you who do not subscribe to Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest, I wanted to share today's "What's Cooking Good Looking" with you!

It's Thrilling Thursday for me, and here's why.

A couple of months ago Rebecca came to me with a plan she'd devised to raise money for Alzheimer's Research...she and her best buddy "A" started a project called "Super Books".  All on their own, without any help whatsoever, these girls developed a plan of action plan, wrote and illustrated short story and colouring books for children, printed them, made matching bookmarks, bags and bracelets.

They produced over 60 individual books & bookmarks by hand, and started to market them to friends and family.  They've raised over $100 thus far, and tonight is the Super Books Official Debut at a local school Arts Night.

We are meeting with the York Region Alzheimer's Society next week to see about getting some support for this project and taking it to the next level.

And that is why it is Thrilling Thursday in my world.

In the meantime, Becca won't be home for dinner tonight!  So, it's just the 3 of us...I will whip up stuffed pasta shells with tomato sugo, a side salad, crusty bread & spizza camientu...and voila - dinner is complete!

Whatever you are having, I wish you a wonderful day filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Going Greek on a Meatless Monday - Greek Pesto Pasta: A Nomi Original

I love pasta.   I don't discriminate among shapes or sauces - I adore them all.

Growing up I knew of only 3 ways to eat pasta - with Mom's delicious meat sauce (the closest I've come to recreating it is Gloria Kobrin's fantastic meat sauce), with jarred tomato basil sauce, or with jarred Alfredo sauce.

In fact, until I met Carlo, I did not know you could make your own sauce!  Embarrassing but true.

This little tidbit is even more shameful when you consider that I have always gravitated towards Italians.  My closest girlfriends in high school were Italian - Nadia, Luciana and Elsa - and it seemed like I was always eating at Nadia's house - ie. I was eating the real deal, no jarred sauce would ever pass their threshold.
Then, when I went to university I met Diane, and she introduced me to Mary - they've been my closest friends since my late teens, and they, too, are Italian!

So you see, while I have always treasured and embraced my Jewish heritage,  have also fallen head over heels in love with everything Italian.  The country, the cuisine, the people - especially the people!

So it made sense that, as I was working my way through university, I would meet a handsome Italian man with whom I struck up an immediate friendship.  As I got to know him better I decided to play matchmaker and introduce him to my best friend, Diane, who was also Italian.  She came to meet him after work one evening, and afterwards she asked me why I introduced her to someone who I was clearly nuts about, and that it was just as obvious that the feeling was mutual! ... and so began my dance with destiny.

Carlo and I started dating soon after, and then he invited me to his place for dinner.  I asked what I could bring, and he said "sauce and bread".  That was easy enough...I went to the grocery store and bought a jar of Ragu tomato sauce and a loaf of Wonder bread.

Really, I did.

What does a nice Jewish girl know about Italian cooking?  And what was this nice Italian boy thinking when he asked the nice Jewish girl to bring sauce and bread!?!?

Well, we laugh about it (read: "at me") all these years later.  Soon enough I learned to appreciate the fine flavour of a fresh, home-made tomato sugo, and eventually I even learned how to make it!

Fast forward to the present and my current beautiful family gets tired of the same old sugo week after week.  So I have incorporated a couple of new sauces and shapes into our family menu.  Carlo loves fusili, Sara loves spaghetti, Becca is pretty easy and I adore pennine rigate.  And for sauces...well, if you follow me on Facebook you know that Alessandra Rovati's pasta cacio e pepe is a huge hit in our household.

This week I needed to shake Meatless Monday up a bit.  We are falling into a pasta rut, alternating between the two.  Then I remembered a pesto, feta and vegetable pasta I used to make.  The family used to really like it.  So, I declared it "Greek Night at the Brunis", stopped by my neighbourhood No Frills for a bottle of pesto, and a fresh dinner idea actually made it to the table.

As I began sauteing the vegetables in olive oil, the girls started making their way to the kitchen, sniffing the air and asking what smelled so good.  Then, Sara abandoned all her EQAO preparations to stir the sauteing veggies, add the pesto and grate the feta ("it just tastes better that way Mom").  Becca was setting the table and photographing the final dish.   FINALLY...dinner was served.  We sat down, exchanged a B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito, shared our day's happenings with one another, and started to eat.  All you heard were a lot of "mmms", "this is really good", "make this at least once a month please" and "can I have this for my lunch tomorrow?".

All in all, it was a lovely, refreshing, healthy and flavourful dinner - one that I will happily recreate again next month.  A pictorial step-by-step of my Greek Pesto Pasta follows the recipe below..

Until next time, I wish you a wonderful day filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!

Greek Pesto Pasta: A Nomi Original

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Chinese eggplant, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1 cooking onion, diced 
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • ½ green pepper, diced
  • ½ yellow (or other colour) pepper, diced
  • 1 package white button mushrooms, rinsed & quartered (cut of the ends!)
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 6 - 12 cured ripe black olives
  • 2 heaping tablespoons of pesto sauce
  • ¼ C feta cheese, grated
  • 1 package of pasta (whatever shape you like)

Heat oil (medium heat) in large skillet.  Add both the red & cooking onions, eggplant, zucchini, green & yellow peppers (all vegetables are diced) and saute for about 5 minutes.  In the meantime, boil a large pot of water for your pasta.  Around the same time you add the pasta to the boiling water, add the mushrooms and tomatoes to your veggies, and saute for 5 more minutes.  Then add 2 heaping tablespoons of pesto sauce and the cured ripe olives to the veggies and cook for 5 minutes longer.  Remember to stir occasionally throughout. 

Drain the pasta and add to sauce in skillet.  Toss and serve with a garnish of grated feta.  B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!

Add 3 tbsp olive oil in large skillet
Add  ½  red onion, diced 
Add 1 medium cooking onion, diced
Add  ½  yellow pepper and  ½  green pepper, diced 
Add 1 Chinese eggplant, diced
Add 1 zucchini, diced
Saute all veggies in olive oil on medium heat 
Add 1 package white mushrooms, rinsed and quartered
Add mushrooms to sauteed veggies
Add 1 tomato, diced
Saute all veggies, then toss in ripe cured olives
and 2 heaping tablespoons of pesto sauce 
This photo does not do the sauce justice smells & tastes delicious!
My dinner plate, garnished with grated feta,
because `it just tastes better grated Mom`