December 31, 2006

My Fantasy Meal


I have had some fantastic meals in my life. Some are because I think I have fabulous friends and family, others because I am pretty darn good at choosing quality restaurants, and finally because I know quite a few really good cooks.

Food, ambience and great company make for a fabulous meal. Here is what I would love to have for a meal in my little fantasy world.


Ambience: outdoors near the ocean in the early evening so that we could watch the sun set; tonnes of candles and wildflowers; a large round table so everyone could see and hear one another.

Chefs: A combination of Mark McEwan, Nigella Lawson, Thomas Keller and Mario Batali.

Guests: 10-15 people at the most. People that add to stimulating conversation without trying to dominate it. Friendly, funny, smart people that I love and care about.

The Menu: 10 -12 courses (like at French Laundry) - with matching wines/digestifs/apperitif
It would include the following ingredients in some shape or form: foie gras, short ribs, duck, gnocchi, ashed goat cheese, truffles, chocolate, sweet potato, Kaffir lime leaves, fennel, butter, cream, spinach, porcini muchrooms, tuna toro, chorizo, risotto, tomatillos, polenta, fresh breads, lobster, fresh crab, avocado, mango, beets, parmigiano reggiano, gorgonzola, basalmic vinegar.

December 27, 2006

Play With Your Food


* Check out the amazing watermelon carvings at this website - http://haha.nu/creative/watermelon-carving-artwork/

December 24, 2006

Entertaining...

I adore entertaining - in all shapes and forms. It rarely stresses me out and I love being able to plan and prepare for something that I know will make people happy.

Over the holiday season this year I have not had as many parties as usual. I did have my teaching staff over for an end of 2006 party and I had my family over for brunch as well. I am hoping to have some of my girlfriends over in the next week for a relaxing evening of appetizers and cocktails - we'll see what happens though.

Here are some of my menus and recipes from the past week.

Mexican Buffet Dinner for 12

*Shredded Beef with Corn and Flour Tortillas
Gaucamole and
Tomatillo Salsa with Nacho Chips
"Jicama" Coleslaw
*Spicy Chorizo and Onion Potatoes




Gift Exchange Brunch for 4

Gingerbread Latte
Prosecco Mimosa
Cranberry Apricot Yogurt Parfait
Cornmeal Waffles
Brown Sugar Glazed Bacon


Shredded Beef (For Tacos)

1/2 large can of whole tomatoes, chopped
1 bottle of beer
Juice of one lime
3 lb roast of beef (inexpensive cut)
1 t cinnamon
1/2 T cumin
1 t chili powder
S&P to taste

Combine all of the above ingredients in a crockpot and cook on low for 8-10 hours (or high for 5-6 hours). When the beef is cooked, carefully remove the roast from the pot and place on a cutting board. Using 2 forks, shred the beef into bitesized portions.

Pour the remaining liquid into a small pot and simmer on medium-low heat until the mixture is reduced by half. Stir the reduced liquid and beef together.

Eat with warm tortillas and your favourite toppings.

Spicy Chorizo and Onion Potatoes

10 red potatoes, cleaned and cut in half
4 large "hot" chorizo sausage, sliced into 1 inch pieces
1 large red onion, sliced thin
2 T + 4 T olive oil
1 T white wine vinegar
S&P, to taste

Boil potatoes in a large pot of water until they are fork tender. Drain potatoes and cut into bite sized pieces - return to pot.

Saute onion in a large pan with 2 T olive oil, until onion has softened. Add chorizo and saute 7 minutes more. Add vinegar and stir - take off heat.

Add sausage mixture to potatoes with remaining olive oil. Combine with S&P and serve warm.

December 13, 2006

Cooking Club - Brunch Theme


Last week our Cooking Club met with our new member, Rosemary. How fitting that she would have a food name! We came together and made brunch. It was super fattening - as most Cooking Club meetings are - but very tasty.

Here is the menu:

Dana - Sausage Au Gratin with Potatoes and Beer (see below)

Melanie - Cheese Biscuits & Passion Fruit Mimosa

Jillian - Baked Eggs and White Truffle Mushrooms in Ham Crisps (see below)

Danielle - Black Forest Waffles


Sausage Au Gratin with Potatoes and Beer

4 c water
Pinch salt
1 c cubed carrots
1 c cubed turnip
2 c cubed potato
1 t butter
1 lb sausage
1/2 c chopped onion
2 T chopped parsley
12 oz beer
2 c chicken stock
1/2 lb sliced provolone cheese


In a pot bring the water to a boil. Add salt, carrots, turnip & potatoes. Cover and Simmer for 10 min. Drain and set aside.

In a frying pan, melt butter and cook sausage for 2 min. Add onion and parsley - cook for 2 more min.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Place sausage in dish and cover with potato mixture. Add beer and chicken stock. Garnish with cheese slices and bake for about 20 min.


Baked Eggs and White Truffle Mushroom In Ham Crisps

Active time: 45 min Start to finish: 1 1/4 hr

¾ lb fresh cremini mushrooms (3), trimmed
I oz dried porcini mushrooms, rehydrated
1 teaspoon butter
3 tablespoons crème fraîche
1 tablespoon finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon white truffle oil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
12 slices Black Forest or Virginia ham (without holes; 10 oz)
12 large eggs

Preheat oven to 400°F.
Prepare mushrooms: Cook mushrooms in butter with salt and pepper in a large heavy skillet over moderately high heat, stirring, until mushrooms are tender and liquid they give off is evaporated, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in crème fraîche, parmigiano, and truffle oil.
Assemble and bake: Fit 1 slice of ham into each of 12 lightly oiled muffin cups (ends will stick up and hang over edges of cups). Divide mushrooms among cups and crack 1 egg into each. Bake in middle of oven until whites are cooked but yolks are still runny, about 15 minutes. Season eggs with salt and pepper and remove (with ham) from muffin cups carefully, using 2 spoons or small spatulas.

Cooks' note: • The eggs in this recipe are not fully cooked, which may be of concern if salmonella is a problem in your area.

Makes 6 servings.

December 6, 2006

Off topic

Okay, okay - I know this is supposed to be a food blog but I just want to hop on my soapbox for a bit. As women living in a patriarchal society, we get screwed in many ways. Does that mean that we should sit and whine about it? Heck no! Doing something to create change is important. That is why the above website is a good one. Check out "The Women Are Angry"
for more information about Canada's current government and it's stance on women's issues.

December 3, 2006

You may want to avert your eyes.


On someone's reccomendation I recently came across this site which proudly discusses the Weight Watchers food plan from 1974. It is like a food horror film!!

My God, were they trying to scare people away from eating so that they would lost weight? Disgusting - just horrible. There is no reason, ever, that anyone should have to eat food like this.

And just what is Caucasian Sashlik??? (It looks much more appetizing in those pics.)

November 28, 2006

Catering


I have decided to start up my catering business again. I have given it the name of "Maple Syrup and Poutine Catering" - how original!

I haven't done a real catering job since I moved back from Burlington and I do miss it. It helped me to challenge my culinary skills as well as adding some extra moolah to my pocketbook.

On Thursday I will be putting out sample appetizers at a few workplaces, along with some pamphlets, in the hopes of attracting a few customers over the holidays.

Here is what is included in the pamphlet:

Spanakopita Triangles
These phyllo triangles are from a family recipe. They are stuffed with spinach, dill and feta and covered in crispy phyllo dough. Always a party favourite.


Shortbread Crackers
These savoury crackers come in two different flavours, please specify when ordering. Try both kinds: parmesan with pepper jelly or rosemary with blue cheese.

Gyoza
These Japanese dumplings make for a substantial appetizer at a cocktail party. They are filled with ground pork, cabbage and spices.

Satay
Both of these meat satays can come spiced to your liking. The tandoori chicken satay comes complete with a cucumber raita, while the jerk beef satay is served with chutney for dipping.

Phyllo Purses
These tasty purses come with one of two types of stuffing. Choose between tangy cranberry with brie or pear, blue cheese & walnuts.


I am still perfecting the shortbread, but I am having fun tasting all of my efforts! Hopefully I'll be able to do some extra cooking and help out a few busy people over the holidays.

November 22, 2006

Correction!!!

Re: Post about Port.

What I should have said is that all of the Ports come from the same area in Portugal (Douro Valley) except for the Madeira which is from Madeira, Portugal.


Sorry about the mix up!

November 19, 2006

Cheers!

Boohoo, my LCBO classes are officially over. I have now completed my last "Wines of the New World" course, as well as the decadent "Port, Cheese & Chocolate" class. All were well worth the money. I am hoping to go back in the Winter to take the "Wines of the Old World" course. The new calendar has come out at all Ontario liquor stores, so check it out.

Here are some products that I really enjoyed:

Wines of the New World

Grove Mill Pinot Gris, Marlborough, New Zealand (2005) - $20

Robert Hall Syrah, Paso Robles, California (2003) - $30

Casa LaPostolle Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile (2004) - $17

Bonny Doon Cardinal "Zin", California (2004) - $27

Henry of Pelham Cabernet Franc Ice Wine, Ontario (2004) - $36



Port, Cheese & Chocolate

(Obviously all of these are from Portugal - except the Madeira, which was just an extra thrown in by the instructor, but was really yummy. The industry is apparently working on establishing "Port" as a protected name, just like "Champagne". The rest will be referred to as "port- style wine")

Package of Taylor Tawny 10 yr, 20 yr, 30 yr, & 40 yr Ports - $ 280 (anyone want to buy me a gift?)

Nieport LBV Ruby Port, 2000 - $23

Harvest Malvasia Colheita, Madeira, 1987 - $85

November 5, 2006

Blissfully Buzzed...

This week at the LCBO I continued my course on "Wines of the New World" on Monday, while on Wednesday I took a course called "Wine Spectator - Wines of 90 Points and Over". In the Wednesday course I was the youngest and least experienced person there. At least that is how I felt. It seemed that there are quite a few people out there who have the big bucks to blow on wine.

It is nice that our instructor's attitude about expensive wine, is that it is only worth it when it is phenomenal. He is all about getting the best "bang for your buck".

Here are some of the wines that I enjoyed.

New World Wines:

Toasted Head Chardonnay 2004 , California (594341)

Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon 2002, Columbia Valley, WA ( 332320)

Ridge 3 Valleys Zinfandel 2004, California (652875)



Wine Spectator Wines:

Pio Cesare Barolo 2001, Piemonte, Italy (736587) 94 Points

E&E Black Pepper Shiraz 2002, Barossa Valley, Australia ( 731620) 97 Points

Gerard Bertrand Banyuls Grand Cru 2000, Southern France (7310) 92 Points

October 29, 2006

Cooking Club - Black and Orange


Wednesday was our first Cooking Club meeting without our original five members. Dana was the host and the theme was "Black and Orange" food in honour of Hallowe'en.

Amazingly enough we were all able to come up with food that followed the guidelines but was edible and nobody used black licorice!

The menu included:

Dana - Ghoulish Crisps with Vampire Black Bean Dip and Lots of Garlic
Crostini with Black Olive Tapenade and Orange Peppers

Jillian - Blackened Shrimp with Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Andouille Cream


Danielle - Pasta with Butternut Squash, Sage, and Poppy Seeds


Melanie - Graveyard Pumpkin Mousse

We're Doug and Wendy Wine-er!!!!!

Last week, I began my "Wines of the New World" Course at my local LCBO. Our first class consisted of a tasting of 8 different wines from the Australia/New Zealand area.

I love wine but I never realised all the subtle differences in smell, colour and taste until I was able to compare them side by side. I have done tastings before, but never quite like this. It is helping me to realise exactly what I really look for in a wine.

So far I seem to like wine that has high to medium acid but is smooth, dry and full bodied flavour.

The wines I enjoyed most included:

Stoneleigh 2005 - Sauvignon Blanc $14.95 (293043)

D'Arenburg 2005 - Olive Grove Chardonnay $15.95 (702845)

Nick Faldo 2001 - Cabernet Sauvignon $22.95 (1685)

All of these are available through the LCBO, but if you live somewhere other than Ontario they are worth looking into buying.




** A tip from our instructor - Aussie wines are cheaper in Canada than the US, but Californian wines are a rip off in Ontario. He suggested buying them at Costco in the States and then bringing them back with you. Even after paying the duty it is still a better price than at the LCBO.

October 22, 2006

Lazy.

So I am feeling less than active today. Therefore there will be no "real" post this weekend. This week looks like a promising food week though.

Monday - "Wines of the New World" Class at the LCBO

Wednesday - Cooking Club at Dana's place (Theme: Black and Orange)

Friday - Team Party at my place

Recipes and reviews will be posted ASAP.

October 14, 2006

The next day...


For some unknown reason, my husband hates leftovers. I just cannot fathom this. I love opening the fridge in the morning and finding half a steak with a few rods of asparagus. A slice of turkey with stuffing? Fab! I'll use them to make lunch, breaky or a nice dinner for one.

Last week I was one of the many lucky people that was able to enjoy Thanksgiving leftovers, but I was also able to sue leftovers to make part of the Thanksgiving meal. I was fortunate enough to have some duck fat leftover from a meal last week and I was able to make some fantastic duck fat roasted potatoes. They were garlicky and crispy - everything I've ever wanted in a potato.

October 10, 2006

To Set a Table.



I adore decorating and setting tables almost as much as I enjoy cooking. I think that each table helps to create the mood of the meal. I don't have a tonne of stuff, but I do think that I have been fairly successful at using what we do have. I find it pretty easy, and inexpensive, to collect different vases, platters, serving implements, napkins and placemats. Varying sets of dishes, tablecloths and cutlery will come with time.

Above, are some examples of my favourite table settings - compliments go to my mother in law who has been my "food photographer" for the past few years.





October 9, 2006

Best Meal of My Life



The best meal of my life was part of one of the most enjoyable vacations I have ever been on. In March of 2006 I went to San Francisco to visit my friend Christine. It was a relaxing break, yet a fun place to visit.

On my last day there, we ventured to Napa and Sonoma Valleys and had lunch at The French Laundry in Yountville. Thank you Thomas Keller and crew for a fabulous afternoon of food! Some people go there for bragging rights, I went to experience some of the best food in the world. From where I was sitting I could here some of the things going on in the kitchen - it literally gave me goosebumps.


Christine and I decided to order different tasting menus so that we'd be able to enjoy 18 courses instead of nine. In the middle of lunch we were on a bit of a "high" and there was no wine or illegal substances involved. The meal was expensive, but worth every penny. I am really glad I got to share it with Chris though - another foodie and great friend.


Christine's Menu

cauliflower "Panna Cotta" with Beau Soliel Oyster Glaze and Russian Sevruga Caviar

Salad of Big Island Hearts of Peach Palm Haas Avocado, Cara Cara Orange "Confit", Bitter Orange "Coulis" and Young Cilantro

Sauteed Fillet of Pacific Kahala, French Laundry Garden Broccolini, "Piperade"
and Sweet Garlic Gastrique
"Saffron Vanilla" Main Lobster Tail "Cuite Sous Vide" with Wilted Arrowleaf Spinach and Saffron Vanilla Emulsion
Devil's Gulch Ranch "Jambonette de Lapin" with a "Cassoulet" of Spring Beans and a Whole Grain Mustard Sauce
Snake River Farm "Calotte de Beouf Grillee", Hen of the Woods Mushroom, Cipollini Onions, Fingerling Potato "Puree" with Watercress Leaves and "Mignonette Bourdelaise"
"Ossau Vielle" Glode Artichoke "Tapenade", Crispy "Panisse" and English Thyme "Vinaigrette"
White "Verjus Granite" with Nicoise olive "Nougatine"
"Feuillantine au Caramel" Butterscotch "Boite", Caramel Mousse and
Milk Chocolate-Praline "Feuillentine"
"Mignardises"

Danielle's Menu

"Puree" of Sweet Parsnip Soup, Granny Smith Apples and Madras Curry Mousse.

Salad of Melted Cipollini Onions, Grilled Baby Fennel, Wild Watercress Leaves and Saffron "Syrup"

Jidori Hen Egg "Omelette", Creamed Stinging Nettles and Forest Mushroom "Salpicon"

Yukon Gold Potato "Rissolee", Caramelized Spring Garlic, Marinated Sweet Peppers, Field Arugala and Nicoise Olive Oil

"Choufleur Servi En Deux Facons" , Celery Branch "Coulis", Cutting Celery Greens and Black Winter Truffle

"Carnaroli Risotto Biologico", with Preserved Myer Lemon, Shaved Marcona Almonds and Sacramento Delta Green Asparagus

"Valencay", Slow Baked Heirloom Beets, "Tardivo Radicchio" and Red Beet Essence

"Hot Chocolate", Jivara Milk Chocolate Sorbet, "Chocolat a la Venicoise", Tahitian Vanilla-Infused Marshmallows and "Creme Chantilly"

"Delice au Chocolat et Menthe", White and Dark Chocolate "Ganache", Garden Mint-Infused "Jaconde" and "Guanaja" Chocolate Sauce

"Mignardises"

S&M Baking

October 7, 2006

Sweet, sweet potato pie.

The problem with having a coworker who is also a foodie? Ummmm, nothing!

Last night Dana and I got together to create some Sweet Potato Pies for Thanksgiving weekend. We went grocery shopping, opened a bottle of wine and got to cooking. Once again, those delicious fall spice smells filled up the kitchen.

We made too much of the filling - oops - so we made a pie sans crust just for a taste test. Yummers!

Our recipe is a combo of recipes from the Food Network, Epicurious, and Martha Stewart.

Dana & Danielle's Sweet Potato Pie

25 gingersnap cookies
4 T butter, melted + 3T melted & cooled
1 large sweet potato, peeled, cut in chunks and boiled until soft
2.5 T flour
0.5 t salt
1 t ground ginger
1 t cinnamon
0.5 t nutmeg
0.5 t allspice
1/4 c brown sugar
1 T vanilla
3 large eggs + 1 egg
1 c condensed milk
1/4 c corn syrup
1 c pecans


1. Heat oven to 325. Place cookies in food processor and pulse until fairly fine - should make about 1 c of crumbs. Transfer to a bowl and add 4 T of melted butter. Press mixture into the bottom of a deep pie dish. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until set. Do not overbake.

2. Turn up oven to 375. In a bowl, combine flour, salt and spices. Set aside.

3. Mash sweet potatoes. Add sugar, vanilla, eggs and condensed milk. Stir. Mix in remaining 3 T of melted butter. Add flour/spice mixture and stir. Pour filling into cooled crust.

4. Whisk together remaining egg and corn syrup in a bowl. Add pecans and stir to coat. Place pecans on top of pie. Drizzle pie with remaining egg/syrup mixture. Bake pie until filling is set and pecan topping is golden - 30-35 minutes.



P.S. A sweet potato is NOT A YAM!!!!!!!!!!!! Don't get me started, don't even get me started.
Some grocery stores need to get their act together.

October 1, 2006

What the hell?????


It is for this reason that I do not buy frozen prepared foods. Nasty!!!!!

September 30, 2006

To market, to market, to buy a fat duck.


I adore food markets. I try to find them when I am traveling and I have enjoyed the ones in cities where I have lived. The Windsor Market is not bad. I have not yet been able to enjoy their summer extension in the Armouries building but I have heard good things about that as well.

This morning started out fairly dreary and cool. That inspired me to want to create something comforting and warm for dinner so I headed out to the market. It was packed for noon on a Saturday. I figured all the hardcore shoppers would have been done by then. It is nice to see so many people supporting local farmers and shopping for great quality food.

Once I got there I did get a bit excited and decided to buy a duck. A freakin' big duck. This guy was about 8lbs. The butcher at the stand did a fantastic job cutting the bird into pieces so that I could use the breasts immediately and save the legs and what not for a later date.

Walking around the rest of the market I took a gander at the cheese (always a fave), fresh honey, tomatoes, and abundance of squash. I decided to pick up a butternut as a side dish for dinner. As I left I had to make a pit stop at the Lebanese place that makes the yummy spinach pizza. They didn't have any pizza ready but I was able to pick up rice with lentils and carmelized onion and a spinach pie.

The duck, squash and Lebanese treats hit the spot. See dinner recipes below.

Duck with Port Cherry Sauce

Squash Brulee

Cooking Club


Since April 2006 I have been part of a Cooking Club, along with 4 other women. This past Thursday, we met for the last time with our original group. One of our members is moving to San Diego - she'll be sorely missed, but now we can just have a San Diego chapter to share recipes with!

Once our club is able to decide when to meet, a host is chosen. The host will usually have the club over to use their kitchen, while also choosing the theme for the meeting. Some themes that we have already done include: Favourite Family Recipes; South East Asian Food; Barbeque. The host is also in charge of providing drinks and assigning which course each person will cook. Each member each chooses their own recipe and then we get together and cook.

This months theme was "Fall Foods". My kitchen had lovely smells of spices and fall fruit for the entire evening. It was heavenly. In my opinion, this was one of our best menus yet. Our meal consisted of:
Port Roasted Pears with Gorgonzola and Hazelnuts on Arugala Crostini

Veal Saute with Apples

Cranberry Glazed Chicken

Hazelnut Stuffed Pears with Maple Glaze

We are looking forward to finding out what future meetings - and new members - will bring!

If you are truly Canadian...

September 17, 2006

50 Things Every Foodie Should Do...


I found an article about "50 Things Every Foodie Should Do" from The Observer - May 2005, while searching the Internet. I am pleasantly surprised to have completed some of them already! I'm not sure if this will be one of my life lists but I am proud to have done # 1, 6, 18, 20 (I'll count a dog from Coney Island in Detroit), 29, 40 and 44 (They were from Nova Scotia, instead of Nantucket which makes them even better).

How many have you completed?

September 16, 2006

Yes I am.

T.V. Dinner


Televised cooking shows have secured their place in pop culture. There are now celebrity chefs from all over North America that are loved not only for their cooking but for their talk shows, books, and cooking products. There are some more deserving of these spots than others. (Rachel Ray - is there a reason that you thought your annoying voice would be less like nails on a chalk board if you spread it over a full hour?)

Before there were people like Bobby Flay, Anthony Bourdain, Ina Garten or Christine Cushing there was
Wok with Yan . This was the first cooking show ever watched by me, and I remember waiting for it to come on CBC each morning. Stephen Yan was hilarious with his cute little aprons - "Wok around the clock"- and really gave me some of my first glimpses into Asian cooking. I'm sure that by 10 I knew that most good Asian dishes started with loads of minced garlic and ginger, stir fried in a wok. Unfortunately, in the late 80's and early 90's cooking shows were few and far between, especially when your parents didn't have cable - probably because cable wasn't invented yet.

CBC did not fail me though. The 1990's brought
The Urban Peasant with James Barber. This was the show that really started me cooking on a regular basis - that and because my parents said that I needed to contribute at least one meal a week. His recipes were usually fairly uncomplicated and focused on one ingredient. I remember attempting a few in my early teens when it was my night to make dinner. One of James' recipe books now has a place on my shelf, along with that of one of his researchers, Anik See.

Growing up in a city that so closely boarders the United States, we are inundated with American T.V. channels. Luckily one of those channels was PBS. This channel was able to present
"America's Test Kitchen" and Lydia Bastianich's show. From here I learned how to make the perfect burger and buy the best bacon. Lydia, who is obviously before her time, first sparked my interest in the slow food movement. Her recipes were made with high quality ingredients and were not fussy. They were dishes that took time and care and had amazing levels of flavour.

In the mid-nineties I finally purchased cable and along with that came
Food Network Canada . I think it changed me forever. I can now inundate myself with T.V. chefs that discuss the science of food, what to drink with your food, how to entertain, regional food, as well as how to make frozen and packaged food part of your regular meals (someone needs to fire the producer that came up with that one). They seem to give more confidence to us laypeople cookers. Food television has helped to create a new generation of foodies.

I, for one, am addicted. Desert island + FoodTV = contentment.

September 12, 2006

Why you should love broccoli.


Okay, so sometimes it smells like an egg leftover from Easter and the whole "looks like a tree" bit rarely works with children, but broccoli is a great vegetable. It has good texture - crisp when raw, a bit crunchy after steaming - and the flavour is fresh and sometimes has a bit of sweetness to it. It is extremely versatile and can be used in sauces, stir fries, pizzas, dips, quiches, breads and as part of a stuffing - just to name a few.

Another of broccoli's positive qualities is its nutritional value. It can kick other vegetable's butts on its fibre and Vitamin A content alone! Not to mention the fact that it has hardly any calories. These little florets are also known for their ability to
protect against rheumatoid arthritis, boost your immune system, fight birth defects, protect against ulcers, build stronger bones, prevent cataracts, prevent stomach cancer, fix sun damaged skin and reducing risk of heart disease.

If you still aren't convinced and are one of those people that will ONLY eat it doused in cheese sauce then I have a suggestion. The following is a recipe for a "Cheddar Vinaigrette" that my husband uses when we have steamed broccoli. It has much less fat and calories than the usual creamy sauce and much more flavour in my opinion.


Source: Gourmet Magazine

Cheddar Vinaigrette

Mix the following in a blender until smooth.

1T olive oil
1 1/2t white wine vinegar
1T water
1/2t Tabasco
1/2c grated old Cheddar cheese

Pour over steamed broccoli.

Makes 2 servings.

September 5, 2006

September 3, 2006

Restaurant Review - Mimi Gardens, Windsor ON.


Now that we are cooking more at home, it is quite rare that we go out for dinner. Last night though, after seeing "Little Miss Sunshine" (I highly recommend it), we decided to treat ourselves. We went to Mimi Gardens on Tecumseh Road - across from Catholic Central High School. It has been quite reliable in quality and taste over the years but our food last night was very disappointing.

The menu there is quite large and there are a few things that we almost always get: spring rolls, hot & sour soup, bbq chicken noodle salad, and black bean chicken or beef. Last summer I noticed that their hot& sour soup had changed. It was neither sour, nor hot and it had no cabbage or tofu and lots of uncooked white onion. Needless to say I did not finish that course and last night my husband realised that, once again, my opinions should be trusted when it comes to food.

For our first course last night, the spring rolls were light but tasty. The outside was crisp and the sauce was just sour enough to counteract with the filling in the roll. The other dishes we ordered included black bean chicken on noodles and bbq squid with fried rice. The bbq squid was nice. It was a bit chewy but not overdone . The rice was soft and had a subtle flavour and was not dried out and burned as I find many restaurants will do. The black bean chicken was another story. It had little flavour and the noodles added nothing to it. They were starchy and underdone.

The service at Mimi Gardens was fine. It was pretty empty for a Saturday night but the servers were as attentive as they needed to be.

I think next time we will stick with
Thai Pan. Boy do I miss Red Chillie in Burlington - mmmm, dumplings!

August 31, 2006

Cooking Dinner - Shepherd's Pie

In general dinner is my favourite meal to prepare. That being said, it is much easier to get excited about doing that when you have the whole day to prepare and plan. We used to go out to eat quite a bit, but that is much more exciting when you live in the Toronto area instead of Windsor. There is only so much roadhouse food and pizza that one person can handle and it is just so darn unhealthy and costly.

This is my last week of vacation and I know my dinners during the school year will not be up to the same standards as those in the summer. My garden has been such a great inspiration, and the Food Network is helpful as well.
Yesterday I was watching the newer Christine Cushing show - I used to love Christine Cushing Live - and she had a great recipe for Shepherd's Pie. I know it is more of a Fall/Winter meal, but it just looked so good! I downloaded the recipe and made it my own (see below).

Here is some info about Shepherd's Pie that I was able to find:

"Shepherd's pie is a traditional British dish that consists of a bottom layer of minced (ground) lamb in gravy covered with mashed potato and (often) a layer of cheese. It is a favourite dish of institutional cooks keen on feeding large groups of people ... In North America, shepherd's pie is usually a layer of ground beef, a layer of corn and a layer of mashed potatoes. Peas are a common replacement for corn.
In
Quebec, this variant is called pate chinois "


Here is my recipe - adapted from Christine Cushing


Shepherd's Pie (4 large servings)

1 large Yukon Gold Potato - peeled and cut into chunks
2 large Sweet Potatoes - peeled and cut into chunks
1 T butter
1 t nutmeg
2T sour cream
S&P

1 T olive oil
1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion - diced
1 clove garlic - minced
2 stalks celery - diced
2 carrots - diced
1t thyme
2t basil
1 c beef stock
1/2 c red wine
1 T Worcestershire Sauce
1 T Dijon mustard
S&P


1. Boil potatoes in salty water for about 10 minutes or until fork tender. Then drain and mash - adding sour cream, butter, nutmeg and S&P. Stir until desired consistency. Set aside.

2. Saute celery, garlic, carrots, and onion in the olive oil until softened - about 7 minutes. Add meat, breaking it apart until it is browned. Add thyme, basil, and S&P. Add stock and wine and stir. Add Worcestershire and Dijon and mix in. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer on low until the liquid is mostly evaporated - about 1/2 an hour.

3. Season the meat mixture with S&P and pour into a square baking dish. Spread the potatoes over top and cover the dish. Bake covered in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Take off the cover and bake for another 10 minutes - until the top is golden and the mixture is bubbling.

August 28, 2006

The Second Best Meal of My Life - Perigee


I was looking through my saved emails today and found the following. I am so glad that I wrote this down and kept it. It is from June 26, 2005 - it was just before we moved from the GTA and I am so glad that we were able to go to a restaurant like this while we were still living there.

Why is it the second best meal? Well, just wait until I post about my experience at The French Laundry in Napa Valley, CA.

For more information you can go to the website www.perigeerestaurant.com


"On Saturday night we went to Perigee in the Distillery District (and we are now disappointed that we did not discover that area sooner). The restaurant itself seats 32 and all tables look onto the open kitchen. While eating there you can choose from a 5, 6, or 7 course blind tasting menu - with or without wine pairings. This is called omakase dining. A whole table of 6 people could order this and none would get the same dish. It is one of those special occasion restaurants because it can be a bit pricey but it was easily the best food I have ever tasted. We ordered the 5 course tasting menu with wine pairings but ended up getting 6 courses, lucky us!

Breads - Polenta Flat Bread, Caraway Buns, Multigrain Bread with fresh churned butter, olive oil and duck liver mousse.

Amuse Bouche - Bryn - Smoked Salmon on an Apple Slaw
Danielle - Miniature Skewer of Venison with Pita and Onion/Radish Slaw

1st Course - Bryn - Escargot Stew with Butter Sauce and Wild Mushrooms
Danielle - Seared Tuna with a Stew of Tomatoes, Orzo, Baby Potato, Fava Beans
and Artichokes

2nd Course - Bryn - Grilled Calamari with a Red Pepper Drizzle
Danielle - Seared Scallops with Morels on a Puree of Fresh Peas and Mint with
Fried Pork Belly

3rd Course - Bryn - Foie Gras (He couldn't remember any other details for this one because he was too much in love with the dish)
Danielle - Braised Oxtail on Smoked Tomatoes with a Port Reduction

Palate Cleanser - Bryn - Ginger Beer with Lime and Cucumber
Danielle - Cointreau Soaked Strawberry in Crème Fraiche with Black Pepper

Main Course - Bryn - Sliced Sirloin with Goat Cheese and Frisee
Danielle - Lime Infused Duck with Black Bean Puree and Smoked Corn Sauce

Cheese Course - Bryn - Goat Milk Brie with Apricot Carpaccio and Honey flavoured Brandy
Sauce
Danielle - Blue Veined Sheep's Milk Cheese with Sliced Pear, Mini Toast with
Date Butter and Pine Nut Cream

Pre- Dessert (Yes, the dessert BEFORE the dessert)-
Bryn - Cherry Wood Smoked Marshmallow on Chocolate Ganache
Danielle - Homemade Fig Newton with chocolate chunk, pistachio sorbet

Dessert - Bryn - Pound Cake 2 Ways
Danielle - Apple Tart


I know this sounds like a TONNE of food but they were all small plates. By the end we both were full and mildly tipsy. The wines were fabulous and Bryn has a new found love for white wines. Unfortunately we didn't catch the names of half the wines because the Sommelier spoke so quietly. All in all it was fabulous!!!!!!!!"

August 27, 2006

Dinner Party - August 26, 2006.


Last night my father and his wife were over for dinner. I love being able to base my menu on the things that I can take from my garden. I was able to use - zucchini, tomatoes, parsley, basil, oregano, and lavender. I also cut a few flowers from the Butterfly Bush for the table.

The menu last night included:

Sliced Beefsteak Tomatoes with Vinaigrette, Parmesan and Parsley

Zucchini Stuffed with Sausage and Brown Rice (recipe below)

Grilled Zucchini and Chickpea Salad with sundried Tomatoes and Asiago Cheese (original has tortellini)

Spicy Thai Mussels

Grilled Tequila Pineapple with Vanilla Ice Cream and Toasted Coconut


In my opinion it all turned out really well. I would maybe order only 2 lbs of mussels instead of 3 next time, but that is about it. Lots of flavour and fresh ingredients - YUM!

The mussel recipe was taken from www.epicurious.com and the salad from www.lcbo.com .

My recipe for stuffed zucchini came from us having too many of them lying around. My mother-in-law told me about a recipe that she saw, but I figured I could make one up just as well.
Please note that when I am cooking I rarely measure things so these are approximations. Tweak the recipe to your liking.

** When using canned tomatoes always buy whole ones and then chop or squish them to your desired size or texture. The best quality tomatoes are canned whole and the ones that are chopped or minced are like the fish they serve at restaurants on Monday - yucky!

Danielle's Savoury Stuffed Zucchini

2 large zucchini

1c small dice mirepoix (onion, carrot, celery)
1 T minced garlic
1 T olive oil
S&P
1T chili flakes
3 mild-medium Italian Sausage links
3 T fresh basil, chopped or 1T dried basil
1 c partially cooked brown rice
1 regular can whole tomatoes or 3 large tomatoes, chopped + 1/2 c water

1/2 c shaved Pecorino or Parmesan


1. Slice the zucchini in half length-wise and scoop out all the seeds. Set aside.

2. Saute the mirepoix and garlic in a pan with the olive oil and S&P (to taste) until soft, about 7-8 minutes. Add chili flakes and saute 1 more minute.

3. Remove the sausage from the casing and add to the pan. Saute until the meat is cooked through, breaking it into smaller pieces as you go.

4. Stir in basil, brown rice and tomatoes. If you are taking the tomatoes from a can, crush them in your fingers before adding them to the pan. Make sure everything in thoroughly mixed in and then leave the mixture on simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated - about 25 minutes.

5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

6. Allow the sausage mixture to cool slightly and then fill the zucchini with the mixture. Place them in a glass pan and cover with aluminum foil. Bake them in the oven (covered) for about 20 minutes. Then uncover them and allow to bake for another 10 minutes.

7. When complete, serve stuffed zucchini with shaved cheese on top.

Makes approach. 4 servings.



August 23, 2006

Inspiration

Lots of friends of my ask me how I learned to cook. I give my mom most of the credit for this - though she claims that I may have surpassed her in my skills.

Growing up we were never a "meat and potatoes" type of family. I think that my mom may have been so turned off by her mother's cooking that she felt that she really needed to put her skills to use. We did have our staple meals during the week but they were always punctuated by a few days when we had Mexican, Asian or maybe a curry. I don't think that I always loved
everything that we had, but I like the idea that we didn't just eat stereotypical white Western European/Canadian food. I do remember friends coming over for dinner and asking to have "eggs" for dinner instead of the refried bean burritos that we were eating.

I love my memories of shopping for food with my parents as well. I remember going to Detroit to get ingredients for Mexican dishes because there were no grocery stores that carried them in Windsor. I used to love going to the market and shopping for different fruits and vegetables. If we were lucky enough, my sister and I would be able to snag a few loose grapes, a bag of cheese curd, a giant pretzel with mustard or a big sugar cookie with some cartoon character on it made of icing.


My family was traditional in that my mother did most of the cooking but I am sure that my father inspired me as well. First off, he was my guinea pig when I started to try to make dinner. I think I was about 13 or 14 - some things went really well (chili and cornbread), some things bombed (homemade pasta with burned tomato sauce) - and he ate all of it. Well, he at least tried it. My father was always good for experimenting when it was his night to cook. There was always his scrambled eggs recipe from the old Mary Moore cook book as well as his "Tuna Casserole with Honey Bran Flake Topping" - it wasn't as bad as you'd think. My dad's eating habits definitely influenced what we ate every day. He was usually on some fad diet and did spend quite a bit of time as a vegetarian (the kind that ate fish though). Coming up with meatless meals in the 70's and 80's was no small feat, I am sure.

As I have gotten a bit older I have looked to friends, books, magazines, tv shows, cooking club and some classes for inspiration. There isn't much that I wouldn't try to make and still not all of it is successful (Cod with Roasted Beets - ew!) but I love the process.

August 19, 2006

Food Blogging


I have always been interested in blogs. I didn't know much about them until I took a food writing course at George Brown with Carol Ferguson - from Homemakers and Canadian Living mags. She suggested that keeping a blog was a great way to get experience with food writing so that you can then use that as part of your portfolio.

Food writing was going to be my new thing - for about 5 minutes - and then the reality of actually being able to get a job writing about food in Windsor, Ontario hit me. I'm over it now, and I think this blog may be able to fill my writing needs for now. (Thanks Cara for the suggestion!)

As for me, I am a foodie. I am obsessed with food - eating it, cooking it, reading about it, and watching it on tv. My shelves are packed with recipe books, magazines, non-fiction and fiction books - all related to food. I have taken cooking classes, food anthropology courses, and writing courses. I frequent various food websites and I adore looking at menus for restaurants. In my circle of friends I am known for my ability to cook, entertain and choose fabulous restaurants. I love food.

I decided to name this blog "Maple Syrup and Poutine" after my recent visit to Quebec. My interest in Canadian food in general was also an inspiration.

This is the beginning of something fun...