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Archive for March, 2011

Beet Cupcakes with Raspberry Icing

cupcakesTHE VERDICT:

Spring Break has afforded me enough free time to do a bit of baking, and I just had to try this recipe because I was curious to see if beet-based cupcakes would taste good. The beets essentially allow you to make red velvet cake without the food colouring and their natural sweetness reduces the amount of sugar required to make the cake. According to Chatelaine magazine, this recipe is also a superfood dessert. It is definitely a way to sneak vegetables into your kids without them noticing.

The final results were pretty tasty, especially the raspberry cream cheese frosting. The cake was a little dry, but that may have more to do with the temperature issues we’ve been having with our oven (I had to bake them for an extra 15 minutes to get them to cook through) than with the recipe itself. The beets added a chewier texture to the cake and an interesting sweetness. The recipe is worth trying, but not one of my favourite cupcake recipes.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPE:

Velvety Beet Cupcakes with Raspberry Icing (source: Chatelaine magazine; original recipe)


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Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

Chocolate Chip Zucchini BreadTHE VERDICT:

This is probably one of my most successful recipes. I have baked it for gifts, brought it along to potluck brunches and served it at tea parties, and I always get compliments on it. I have shared this recipe with others in a one-on-one manner for years, so when I baked it for breakfast this week, I thought it was about time I shared it on Tonight’s Dinner.

I love this bread because it is as easy to make as banana bread, but doesn’t have the same run-of-the-mill feeling to it. It is a perfect blend of healthy food (zucchini) and tasty indulgence (chocolate chips) all accented with a yummy hint of cinnamon.

A couple of things to try: Use parchment paper to line the pan instead of butter and it will lift right out after you let it cool in the pan a bit. Substitute 1 cup of flour for a cup of whole wheat flour to up the fibre.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPE:

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread (source: some magazine I read a long time ago)

3 zucchini, shredded (about 5 cups)
1 ½ tsp. salt, divided
3 cups & 2 Tbsp. flour, divided
½ tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder
1 ¾ cups sugar
1 cup oil
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips

  • In a large colander: toss zucchini with 1 tsp. salt. Place a smaller plate over the zucchini. Weigh down with a heavy can. Set aside 30 minutes to release liquid.
  • Position oven rack to lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 350⁰F.
  • Butter and flour a 9 x 5 loaf pan.
  • In a large bowl: combine 3 cups flour, cinnamon, soda, powder and remaining salt.
  • In another bowl: combine sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla.
  • Toss chocolate chips in remaining flour.
  • Pat zucchini dry between paper towels.
  • Stir sugar mixture and zucchini into flour mixture until combined. Add chocolate chips.
  • Transfer to pan. Bake 1.5 hours or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  • Cool on rack 30 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool completely on rack.

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Restaurant Row

restaurant rowOne of the best parts of living where we do is the block of Lonsdale between Carrie Cates and Esplanade that we have nicknamed “restaurant row.” Whether it’s a special date night or a casual family meal, we have plenty of options within a short walk of our house.

Gusto di Quattro is located on the corner. It’s a little on the pricey side, so we usually only go there for special occasions or during Dine Out Vancouver. Their phenomenal Italian cuisine is worth every decadent penny, and no meal is complete without indulging in their incredible Tiramisu. The atmosphere is intimate and their service is impeccable. It is our favourite big budget date night spot.

Burgoo is next door to Quattro and is the perfect place for dinner on a rainy Vancouver night. The atmosphere is cozy (big stone fire place, dim lighting, big brown leather booths), and the menu is loaded with comfort food from around the world: soups, sandwiches, stews, macaroni and cheese, fondue and more.  Burgoo is also one of the few places in North Vancouver that has a decent dessert menu (tip: save room for the hot chocolate chili pot). One of our favourite pre-baby spots for a casual meal, it is surprisingly family friendly. Their friendly staff is great with kids, and they are able to serve many of their dishes in kid-sized portions. There are even a couple of booths tucked in the corners that have plenty of room to park a stroller. So when you don’t feel like a Pirate Pak or a Happy Meal, we suggest you give Burgoo a try.

Anatoli Souvlaki is the next restaurant in the row and one of the many good Greek restaurants on the North Shore. Their restaurant is large so we hardly ever have to wait for a table, even if we’re dining with a large group. They are also a family friendly place with an extensive menu that is bound to have something that will appeal to even the pickiest eater. I love their spanakopita and Justin highly recommends their souvlaki.

The District is the newest addition to restaurant row and has already become a huge hit with trendy diners in our neighbourhood (they were so popular in their first year that they expanded into the storefront next door). It’s a very hip, modern place that takes its inspiration from Belgian braisseries. It is a great place for a more casual date night or to wine and dine with a small group of friends. The food is truly unique and the wine and beer list are so extensive your jaw will drop.

Raglan’s is the last restaurant in the row. It is decked out like a surf shack and known throughout the neighbourhood for its fishbowl-sized fruity drinks and its hamburgers the size of your face. They also do a great brunch on the weekends.

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Ricotta Pancakes

PancakesTHE VERDICT:

Every family has a  favourite breakfast recipe (or two) that they associate with special events like Christmas morning or Mother’s Day brunch, the kind of recipe that is only prepared as a treat because it is either too impractical or too indulgent to enjoy on a weekday morning. After making these a few times, we’re pretty sure that these pancakes will become the special holiday treat in our house. We made them this time to kick off our Spring Break family time. Zayden loves these flavourful, though crumbly pancakes, and we thought a special breakfast was in order to kick off our week of free time.

This recipe is a great twist on a classic breakfast staple. Besides, these pancakes are a beautiful marriage of cheese and carbs–the most beautiful union on Earth, in my humble opinion. But fear not, Atkins dieters. If you make them with the raspberry sauce called for in the original recipe, then your meal is apparently packed with “superfoods” according to the Chatelaine article that I snagged this recipe from.

So if some Sunday morning you feel inclined to try it yourself…

THE RECIPE:

Ricotta Oat Bran Pancakes with Maple Raspberry Sauce (source: Chatelaine magazine; original recipe)

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Apple Tuna Melts with Broccoli Slaw

tuna meltsTHE VERDICT:

I  am a big tuna melt fan, so when I came across this recipe for tuna melts topped with slices of apple, I had to try it. I was especially curious to find out if the flavours of apple and tuna would mix well together. The answer? They do! These tuna melts are super tasty, and it’s that apple/tuna flavour combo that makes them so good.

These tuna melts are great for a light lunch, but also pair well with a bowl of soup for a hearty dinner. We’ve made them several times and typically serve them with salad. This weekend we served them with a packaged broccoli slaw, which is a crunchy and flavourful alternative to traditional cabbage slaw. It’s made of shredded broccoli stems, carrots and purple cabbage. We jazz it up with a little Miracle Whip and some raisins and/or sunflower seeds. It is available at most grocery stores that sell salad kits.

We didn’t serve these melts to Zayden as they’re a little beyond his self-feeding skills at the moment, but he did enjoy some apple slices and an English muffin with peanut butter for his lunch, so we didn’t have to completely reinvent the wheel in order to feed him at the same time.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPE:

Apple Tuna Melts (source: Today’s Parent magazine; original recipe)

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