Monday, May 11, 2009

Mommy's Meal

Did everyone have a wonderful Mother's Day? Did you hug something or someone motherly? Good children you all are!

Ironically (though as seems to be the usual case around here), I didn't actually get to see much of my mother yesterday. When I woke up, she was already out and about... this time with my stepdad to the cemetary for his mother's day visit. When they came home, she spent about 15 minutes rushing around to get ready for the lunch that SHE had to book and organize, and I couldn't attend due to my dietary issues (FYI, the stepdad filled this break by watching TV). Then, grandparents arrived to go to lunch and ZAP! gone again for another 5 hours. It was late afternoon before I got to properly tell her "Happy Mother's Day"!

But, that doesn't mean I wasn't doing anything for her! I may have forgotten to buy a card (thank you Andrew!) and I couldn't afford a nice gift, but I made her dinner and dessert last night. And just because I can never do anything simply, I chose to make a recipe that required multiple components, meaning multiple steps, which actually worked out into multiple days! To capitalize on time (and kitchen space) I actually began preparing elements of this meal on Wednesday. Actually, if you count me making (and freezing, for relative freshness) the loaf of bread for the toast cubes, I started this project the Sunday before. Yes... I made bread specifically to dry it out. Wednesday was full of onions and garlic slowly caramelizing in the oven before being pureed silky smooth (I thought I had died and gone to heaven), Saturday saw me cutting the bread into cubes so it could sit and dry out, and roasting the other "croutons" (yummy, healthy chickpeas - they came from a can but that was it!) for the topping. But, as with all labours of love, it was worth it! Everything (but the bread, which had to toast a la minute) was prepped and ready to go come dinnertime, meaning that all I had to do was boil water, chop some veggies and throw together a basic saute - 20 minutes. Beat that, RR! I'm going to ship off this dish to Ruth's event Presto Pasta Nights for this Friday's roundup, hosted by Patsy of Family Friends & Food.

Summer Pasta With Broccoli Rabe And Croutons
Serves 6
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
1/2 large Vidalia onion, roughly chopped
5 cloves of garlic, peeled but left whole
2 tbsp water
2 cups cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and patted dry
3/4 cup small cubed, preferably grainy bread
1 pound broccoli raab (sometimes called rapini or broccoli rabe), trimmed and washed
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tbsp fresh basil, shredded
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 lb whole grain pasta (I used spelt linguine, but I reccommend a chunkier, short cut)
  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. In a bowl, toss 1 1/2 tbsp oil with the onions and garlic, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Pour into a deep casserole dish and tent (do not seal completely) with foil (or use the lid if it isn't airtight).
  3. Bake 45 minutes, then stir the casserole contents.
  4. Re-cover lightly with foil and continue roasting a further 15-20 minutes, until onions and garlic are soft. Allow to cool.
  5. Place the onions and garlic, with any liquid and the extra water, to a small food processor bowl or blender and puree. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  6. Heat oven to 375F and lightly mist one or two baking sheets with non-stick spray.
  7. Spread the chickpeas onto the sheet(s) in one layer, then spray with the non-stick spray.
  8. Roast for 25 minutes, then stir / shake the pan to prevent sticking.
    Return to oven *NB: if serving immediately add the tray of bread cubes at this point* and bake 15 minutes longer, watching carefully to prevent burning.
  9. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta and cook according to package directions (reserve 1/2 cup of cooking water), and prepare a steamer pot for the broccoli raab.
  10. Steam broccoli rabe 5 minutes, remove from heat immediately.
  11. Meanwhile, add remaining oil to a large pot over medium heat. Add the steamed broccoli rabe, tomatoes, pasta water and onion/garlic paste, tossing well.
  12. Stir in the lemon zest, pepper flakes and basil. Remove from heat and toss with lemon juice and drained pasta.
  13. Just before serving, toss the pan mixture with the bread cubes and chickpeas to maintain their crunch.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 337.2
Total Fat: 9.2 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 322.7 mg
Total Carbs: 56.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 10.9 g
Protein: 12.3 g

I am actually kind of ashamed to say that dessert started out as a major fail, then fell into the "afterthought" category of my daily activities. The fail came when I tried to use the last of the free bottles of POM juice that I received from the company. I had enjoyed one straight ages ago, used another in a (forthcoming) fruit bread, and given one to Andrew. When I found a recipe for Chocolate Cupcakes with the juice on their website, I couldn't wait to give it a go. Mom loves chocolate, and fruit (especially since the bottle I had was my personal favourite - with added cherry juice), so I figured it would be a hit.

Well, um, it wasn't. I even followed the recipe to a T - unusual I know, but I wanted something for mom's dessert. The batter was so liquid it was water - we're talking thinner than crepes - and even then I forged ahead, rationalizing that cake batters are usually on the thin side. But I knew, ohhh I knew (and all us cooks can empathize!) it wasn't going to fly. The cupcakes sunk... no wait, imploded... into little cakes of what looked like charcoal, smelled like caramel and was totally unsalvageable. So into the bin the batch went, and I let the idea of dessert slide by. Until yesterday morning.

Because I'm just good like that, I got the idea to do a fairly light, fruity dessert from scratch to cap off the meal. A granola-topped, custard, blueberry and mango parfait, to be specific. And I wanted to do it all from scratch. So I spent my morning alone roasting up a vanilla and honey granola, cooking a delicious (though slightly runny, which I fixed for the recipe below) vanilla custard with a touch of lemon zest and creating the most delicious (I ate half of it the first time, then had to make more *blush*) compote with the two unlikely fruits. Everything got squirreled away until I could assemble the two layered glasses later that afternoon, leaving off the granola until just before I served them.

Mothers Day Spring Parfait
Serves 2
1 tbsp custard powder
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup of whole milk, divided
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp grated lemon zest
150 g fresh (or frozen, thawed, juices reserved) mango, cubed small
1/2 cup fresh (or frozen, thawed, juices reserved) blueberries
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
3 tbsp cold water (or reserved fruit thawing juices)
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
3 tbsp honey
2 tbsp water
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 tsp canola oil (if needed, included in NI)

For Custard Base
  1. Combine powder, sugar and 1 tbsp of milk to a paste in saucepan, add remaining milk and heat to just under the boil.
  2. Cook 5 minutes or until thickened, stirring, then remove from heat and let cool 2 minutes.
  3. Stir in the vanilla and lemon zest and chill before serving.
  4. Can be made 1-2 days in advance.

For Compote

  1. Combine the fruit, 2 tbsp water, honey and brown sugar in a small saucepan, bring to a simmer and cook 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently, until the fruit begins to break down.
  2. Whisk together cornstarch and water (or juice) in a small dish until smooth.
  3. Stir the slurry into the cooking mixture and simmer, stirring for 1-2 minutes until thick and the fruit is coated.
  4. Can be used warm over pancakes and waffles, for this parfait cool completely.
  5. Can be made up to 5 days in advance.

For Granola Topping

  1. Preheat oven to 275F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl - I find tossing and mixing by hand works best - until everything is evenly coated.
  3. Spread evenly on the lined sheet, as close to one layer as possible.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan in the oven.
  5. Bake a further 10-15 minutes, or until the oats are crispy, toasted and mostly dry.
  6. Cool completely on sheet, then stir to get the clusters.
  7. Store in an airtight tin. Can be made up to 10 days in advance.


  1. Layer an even smount of custard on the bottom of each serving dish.
  2. Top with a generous amount of fruit, then add equal amounts of granola to the top of each dish.
  3. Serve immediately.
Amount Per Serving (NB: this included all the granola - I used maybe 1 1/2 tbsp per portion)
Calories: 550.9
Total Fat: 7.8 g
Cholesterol: 6.1 mg
Sodium: 535.7 mg
Total Carbs: 115.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 7.9 g
Protein: 10.5 g

So the verdict on my home cooked dinner? My mom loved it - it was light, full of vegetables, colourful and the perfect mix of texture for her. She adored the finishing touch of lemon zest and juice with the sweetness from the roasted garlic and onions and cherry tomatoes. The only thing she mentioned changing (and I agree with her) is the size of the croutons. I'd probably halve them once again to balance out the texture, especially if served with linguine like I did. I think rotini or rigatoni would be okay with the bigger chunks though. The broccoli rabe was perfectly cooked (for once - I think mom comes from the school of "veggie mush"). I can't wait to make this again in the Summer when the cherry tomatoes can be our own! Mom also made a good point that this would be delicious as a cold pasta salad for BBQs, and that without the pasta it would be great over some greens on it's own. Dessert was deemed "really good" by Mom too - not too sweet, and the perfect portion especially after the large meal. My stepdad, however, didn't have any of it (he preferred microwaving popcorn).


  1. Mmm, that pasta sounds deliciously healthy!

  2. What a wonderful meal you made for your mom! Thanks for sharing it with PPN this week!

  3. The pasta looks great! Sorry to hear about your POM cupcake issues, I hate when that happens.

  4. Well, the pasta looks awesome and I'm sure your mom enjoyed as much as the rest of us will. Thanks for sharing with Presto Pasta Nights.

    As for the dessert...oh well, she probably was stuffed from all the rest of the eating.


Thanks for the feedback!