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"A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." - James Beard


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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Mulled Wine


I've been really enjoying hot beverages this holiday season.  Normally I prefer cold drinks, but hot apple cider (with rum), hot chocolate (with Peppermint Kahlua), and hot mulled wine with spices have been keeping me warm lately.



Mulled wine is so easy, I can't believe I've never made it before.  You can add any spices you choose.  I went with a wide variety but you can select just a few of these:


plus about 1/4 cup of brown sugar



Pour a bottle of wine over the spices.  You can do this in a pot on the stove or in a crock pot.  If you're serving a crowd, go ahead and double this.

Warm over medium heat until steaming, then keep warm for serving.  

I like the spicy flavour the ginger adds, but you can play around until you find your personal ideal spice combination.



Ladle into mugs to serve and enjoy this winter treat.  Happy Holidays!  



Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Pappardelle with Sausage Tomato Sauce


99% if the time when I make pasta, I use whole wheat noodles.  I've found a wonderful brand that really tastes great.  But whole wheat pappardelle isn't easy to find, and I have to admit I loved the white pasta in this.  But it us just as good with whole wheat! 

The recipe comes from Lidia Bastianich and it tastes fantastic.  It's a little more time-consuming than ideal for a weeknight, but if you make it once you can eat for a week (or refrigerate or freeze the leftovers for next week).  



Here's what you need:

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Beef Barbacoa Tacos


One of the best techniques I discovered this year is creating a rich, flavourful sauce from dried chilis.  It works beautifully with pork, chicken, and now here's a beef recipe that tastes incredible.  


The original recipe comes from Serious Eats.  I made a few adjustments based on the chilis and meat I had available.  Here's what you need:

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Gougères (Cheese Puffs)


It is the secret dream of my life to become a pastry chef. Pastry is usually considered more exact and less forgiving than savoury cooking and it appeals to my love of being careful and following rules.  Particularly, I would love to make croissants.  There's a course at the Cordon Bleu school in Ottawa on Viennoiseries (croissants, brioche) that I would love to attend.  



These little cheese puffs are made from pâte à choux.  The dough steams to create a light, fluffy puff that can be used to make cream puffs, profiteroles and éclairs.  Or you can add cheese like I did for a delicious, savoury treat.  

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Baby Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Pecans


This is a lovely, fresh salad.  It makes a great side dish or main course.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Cookies! Ginger Crackles


It's about that time of year.  Time for baking.  

I've made these cookies almost every year for a while now and they're very easy and delicious.

The recipe came from Chatelaine magazine.  It makes a soft and spicy ginger cookie that freezes well.

Here's what you need:



Thursday, November 28, 2013

Road Trip: Toronto Treats


Toronto is just under two hours away so we go there pretty often for concerts and events.  This time we pretty much just went for the food.  We normally stay at the Westin Harbour Castle on Queens Quay near the harbourfront.  It's a great hotel but the neighbourhood historically wasn't the greatest for food and drink.  It's a close enough walk to St. Lawrence Market though, and we'd usually stop into C'est What or the Bier Markt on the Esplanade for drinks.  

Sunday, November 24, 2013

How To: Home Made Gnocchi


Last time I made store-bought gnocchi I really liked it but I vowed to make the real thing from scratch.  Now that I've done it I can see the benefits of both.  Home made gnocchi is very simple to make with only a few ingredients, but it's somewhat time-consuming and messy.  I wouldn't go all out with home made on a week night, but it is well worth it and actually fun to do if you have a bit of time.  The results are fantastic.  The gnocchi are so tender and full of potato flavour.  


Once you make them, they're also incredibly simple to cook and serve.  I tossed them with some browned butter and sage and a little fresh Parmigiano Reggiano.  


Friday, November 22, 2013

Prime Rib Hash



This is a fantastic second life for leftover prime rib.  You can also use up some leftover mashed potatoes while you're at it.  

Here's what you need:



Monday, November 18, 2013

Small Prime Rib Roast for Two


I've already made grilled prime rib for two, and it turned out great.  But the weather's a little unpredictable for grilling right now.  So I decided to use my favourite cast iron pan to sear and quickly roast this little prime rib.  


This prime rib has just one bone and weighed just over two pounds.  I seasoned it by cutting little slits all over the meat and stuffing them each with a thinly sliced garlic clove.  


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Gnocchi with Broccoli


Gnocchi.  Why didn't I make these sooner?  These little potato dumplings make a hearty main dish or an interesting but simple side dish.  

I fully intend to use my potato ricer to make home made gnocchi in the future, but for now I can pick up a package ready-made at the grocery store and have a meal in minutes. 

Here's what you need for this tasty meal:


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Vegas Happy Hour


Besides slot machines, one of our very favourite things about Vegas is happy hour.  If you don't live in Ontario, Canada like us, it may be hard to believe but we don't really have happy hour here.  


Half price drinks and snacks are a great way to save money in Vegas.  You can even make a meal of it.  Many bars and restaurants have happy hours.  Most fall somewhere between 2:00 and 7:00 pm.  I tried to plan a happy hour stop each day and even made a spreadsheet with different times and locations because that's just the kind of nut I am.

One happy hour stop was completely spontaneous though.  We were driving on Paradise, trying to get away from the strip traffic, when we happened to pass Gordon Biersch Brewery.  We noticed it was 3:00 and decided to check what they might have for happy hour.  Great choice!  We shared sliders and garlic fries and tried some beer and cocktails.  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Viva Las Vegas!


We've travelled to Las Vegas together almost every year of our marriage.  This year we spent our 7th anniversary in Vegas and had a fantastic time as usual.  

I love Las Vegas.  It is just so much of everything.  Food, drinks, lights, gambling, crowds, shows.  Everything is bigger and brighter there.  



On this trip we stayed in three different hotels! Our first room was a suite at TheHotel at Mandalay Bay. It is the last hotel on the South end of the Strip. This was our first time staying at this hotel, but we love the restaurants here and they have a great pool with a lazy river, wave pool and sand beach.  We loved it!  

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Cauliflower with Easy Cheese Sauce


I'm still trying to cook locally and seasonally, even as it becomes slightly more difficult as the weather gets cold.  We still have lots of local cauliflower in the market though.  I love to roast it, but this simple cheese sauce really makes steamed cauliflower special.


Normally, I make a cheese sauce starting with a roux (flour cooked in butter), then heat milk and remove from heat and add the cheese.  But this sauce uses corn starch and evaporated milk.  I used 7 year old cheddar (!) and fat free evaporated milk, but you can use the cheese and milk-fat level of your choice.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Tostadas


These tostadas are wonderful!  Matt went bananas for them.  Tostadas are fried, flat corn tortillas topped with beans, meat and vegetables.  You can be very creative in your toppings and make things from scratch or use shortcuts.  These have refried beans, shredded chicken in a smoky sauce, avocado, sour cream, lettuce, onions and radish, topped with Mexican queso.  


The tostadas themselves can be made or bought.  I found these at our local Asian grocery store that also has a great Latin food section.  I found four kinds of queso and real Mexican crema as well!  Instead of these you can buy corn tortillas and fry them in oil until crispy.  Or you can make your own corn tortillas and fry them.  The point is a crispy, flat shell to hold the toppings.  This dish was created to use up stale, leftover tortillas.  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Lobster Corn Chowder


Is there anything as pretty as a seafood chowder?  Chunks of lobster, potatoes and vegetables, fresh corn and bacon.  So tasty!


How about a close-up?


I was lucky enough to find some frozen lobster claws at the supermarket right when the last corn of the season was available.  So I snatched it up and chowder was an easy decision.  

Sausage Party!


Last night we had a small dinner party for friends.  I wanted to serve something relatively simple and something beer-friendly.  Since we are lucky enough to have a fantastic sausage-maker nearby in The Hungary Butcher, we ordered a variety of sausages and grilled them up.



We got our favourites: Hawaiian Bacon, Spanish, Jalapeño Cheddar and Honey Garlic. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Cranberry Ketchup!


Every year at Thanksgiving and Christmas I'm responsible for making the cranberry sauce.  I usually make a very simple whole-berry sauce with just cranberries, sugar and water.  Sometimes I add a little orange zest.  


I had plenty of cranberries left and Natrel Organic was kind enough to send me a preserve kit with jars, tools and labels for canning.  

Saturday, October 12, 2013

How Brussels Sprouts Grow


Usually when you buy Brussels sprouts in the grocery store, they are sold as individual sprouts in a bin or packaged in a bag (or even frozen).  But have you ever seen how they grow?


If you're lucky, you might find a Brussels sprout stalk for sale at a farmers market this time of year.  

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Quesadillas Made of Leftovers



Quesadillas are such an easy, satisfying meal.  I rarely think of them but they can usually be whipped up quickly from stuff on hand.  

Friday, October 4, 2013

Scallop & Corn Pasta - Two (More) Ways


Am I ever going to miss fresh corn on the cob season. I combined scallops and orecchiette with frozen corn last winter, but nothing beats corn fresh from the cob.  It is so crunchy, sweet and delicious.   


This time I used cherry tomatoes, jalapeños and herbs in the sauce.  I love these multi-coloured little tomatoes in pasta. I combined them with the smaller ones from my garden.  

I like to dice them but you can halve them or even leave them whole.  

Cook the pasta in boiling water according to package directions.  Orecchiette (little ears) are really fabulous in this because the corn and scallops rest in them beautifully, but you could use penne, bowties or any short pasta.  

Remove the corn from the cobs with a sharp knife.  


Heat a little butter and oil in a large pan and add 3 minced garlic cloves and 2 minced jalapeno peppers.  


Sauté for a few minutes, then toss in the tomatoes and corn.  


Add about 1/3 cup of white wine to the hot pan.  Let it simmer about 3 minutes until slightly reduced.


I love these little bay scallops with this.  Dry them with paper towels and toss them right in to the pan.  They'll steam in the sauce in about 2 minutes.  


Add the cooked pasta.


Toss it all together and sprinkle with fresh pepper and herbs.  I used parsley and chives.  Terrific!

BONUS SECOND DISH!


This one is just as good, maybe even better!  This time I used larger sea scallops and bacon.  


I cooked the diced bacon until crisp then removed it from the pan, leaving the bacon fat behind.


Then I dried the scallops really well, sprinkled them with salt and pepper and seared them in the pan.  Then removed them and covered with foil.  

Next I added 3 minced garlic cloves, minced hot pepper, 3 cobs of corn removed from the cobs and sautéed for 3 minutes.  Add in 1/2 a cup of white wine and simmer about 3 minutes longer.  Add 1/2 a cup sour cream and simmer 1 minute until thickened. 


Add the pasta into the pot and toss it all together.  Sprinkle with chives and top with the seared sea scallops.  Tangy and delicious!