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Archive for January, 2012

Sunday was a gorgeous day in Toronto so we decided to high tail it up north and do a little skiing at Mount St. Louis Moonstone. We made for an early departure because it’s about a two hour drive from our house and we didn’t know how busy it would be. It turned out to be quite empty and not particularly too cold (although that wind-chill on the lifts was pretty bitter!). We packed our lunch so we wouldn’t have to endure the disgusting deep-fried slop that’s generally served at these establishments. They have a great little area where you can eat your own lunch and quite surprisingly, it was chuck full!

I knew we’d be pretty tired from a day’s skiing, particularly since we haven’t skied since two years ago, and even then we skied only once or twice, so I dragged out the crock pot and assembled the Navy Bean and Mushroom “Risotto” the night before. I refrigerated the mix overnight (without the water) and in the morning, I just tossed the whole thing into the crock pot and added the water so that it can cook all day. I love coming home and being greeted by the warm and comforting smells of home cooking! I also made some biscuits to go with our tasty dinner, but you’ll have to wait for that post another day.

I love Navy Beans because they are so darn creamy, that is why I think of this dish as “risotto”. You can make this vegetarian by omitting the sausage and the prosciutto in the scones!

Navy Bean and Mushroom “Risotto”

Now that's a tasty looking meal!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dry navy beans, rince well
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic finely minced
  • 1 cup chopped shitaki mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped cremini mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup of celery root, chopped (I had a bit left over so I needed to use it up)
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped (I had a bit left over so I needed to use it up)
  • 1 sausage, your choice, chopped
  • 4 cups water, yup, plain old water!
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • salt
  • Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. I like all my ingredients uniformly chopped, but that’s personal preference.
  2. Put all ingredients except the Parmesan Cheese into the slow cooker, give it a good stir and turn it on high for about 35 minutes (while you’re getting breakfast ready). Once it has warmed up, turn it down to low and cook for 4-5 hours or until beans are done.
  3. Serve with shredded Parmesan Cheese and some tasty Maple and Prosciutto Scones.
  • You may need to boils off some water if the beans didn’t soak it up, so do that before you add the cheese!

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  • We’ve been to a few Vietnamese restaurants in Toronto and one in Montreal and its the only restaurant nationality I’ve ever seen the self-serve order check! The menu items are all labelled with numbers and you write your item number, size and price on the form. There is NO TALKING. Now my friend Barb, from Profiteroles and Ponytails can attest, I’m not a big fan of small talk – but I must admit, I find this custom is quite strange! Even the Japanese establishments we frequent with freshly landed Japanese wait-staff suffer through the language difficulties without the order-by-number form. Is this custom world-wide? Do other cultures use it? Please do comment and let me know!

    Fill out your order, there will be NO TALKING!

    My favourite Vietnamese place close to work (Asia 21) know me as #102 small, I don’t even have to order. I just walk in (OK, I fill out the form, but she places the order to the kitchen before I fill it out) hand the lady my cash (they don’t take credit or debit) and they hand me my soup to go. Rare Beef Pho (pronounced Fa). I could eat this every day, except for the sodium content (my rings are tight even thinking about it!)

    Pho Huong is a relatively upscale Vietnamese restaurant; it has great lighting and very nice contemporary décor (compared to Asia 21 which still has light blue ‘fake ship motif’ décor, remnants from the predecessor Greek place, and fluorescent lighting). And, it’s close to our hood, it’s a bit further north than Bloor West Village in The Junction. It’s usually packed and this past Saturday was no different. JT and I stopped in for lunch because it was a drizzly, snowy grey day and I wanted soup! And they give you free tea!

    I order the Pho with rare beef; I love this soup because it takes time to eat it. First, you have to add all of the inclusions: sorrel, thai basil, a squirt of lime, bean sprouts (if you wish, I usually don’t) and Sriracha Sauce and Hoisin Sauce. JT’s polished off half his lunch before I even start! And then the soup is really, really hot, so you can’t guzzle (not that I would :-P).

    These are all the inclusions for the soup

    The soup it so hot, it actually cooks the thinly sliced raw beef. I like to add Srirachi sauce to spice it up a bit!

    JT gets Bunn or something like it. Lots of fried stuff.

    Overall rating of Pho Huong (in my opinion. I’m rating this compared to other Asian restaurants in Toronto): Decor 4/5, service 3.5/5, food 4/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 5/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

    Disclaimer: We purchased our meal for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

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    The other day I was watching Jamie’s 30 minute meals (hey, I was on the elliptical doing a 30 minute cardo routine!!!) and saw a short part of a Celeriac Remoulade (it’s a mayo-type dressing) that I knew I would have to make for dinner. It turned out to be only an inspiration due to ingredients on hand but after searching the web, I came across Laura Calders Celeriac Remoulade, which resembled my salad a lot more (really, I only spotted it after I made mine for dinner the other night, really!)

    It was already dark out, that's why the photo sucks! 🙂

    One of the things that caught my eye in Jamie’s recipe was the prosciutto, but I completely forgot to add it in the end so we just had it plain :-(. I have to admit, I did not love the dressing and if I were to do this again (very likely as I adore raw celeriac) I would alternate the dressing to something else…I thought it was a bit too acidic not enough balance, but I really did love the contrast of the smooth Dijon to the Grainy Dijon (maybe all I needed was to add a touch of honey, since my granny smith was not as sweet as Jamie’s pear?).

    Celeriac Remoulade

    Ingredients:

    • 1/4 to 1/2 of a celeriac, cleaned, peeled and julienned (I have a wonderful julienne grater that makes this so easy)
    • 1 granny smith apple, washed but not peeled and julienned (the green of the peel adds a lovely light, fresh colour)
    • a handful of chopped flat leaf parsley

    Dressing:

    • 2 tbsp Dijon Mustard
    • 2 tbsp grainy Dijon Mustard
    • 2 tbsp white wine or champagne vinegar
    • 4-6 tbsp EVOO
    • 1-2 pinches of flaked hot peppers

    Directions:

    1. Mix the celeriac, apple and parsley together well and toss with the dressing.
    2. Enjoy.
    3. If you plan to have this on more than one day, I would only dress what I am eating now, so that it doesn’t get all soggy!

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    Years and years ago I was invited to one of our freelancer’s home for a pot luck dinner. Lisa (our generous hostess) made a Greek Salad that really was bang on for me and then I made it for JT and he loved it and we’ve been making it ever since. It’s really not rocket science, but it is a wonderful combination of colours and tastes and I just had to share it with you because I recently made it for Sunday dinner with Brian! This is simply a mix of proportions to your liking!

    Lisa’s Greek Salad

    A burst of colour to brighten a dreary winter meal

    Ingredients:

    • 10 small yellow tomatoes, washed and sliced in half (I love the cocktail sized campari)
    • 10 small red tomatoes, washed and sliced in half (I love the cocktail sized campari)
    • 10 Kalamata olives, cut into thirds
    • 3 mini English cucumbers cut into a similar size as the tomatoes
    • a good handful of hand broken Brebis sheeps milk feta (less fat than ordinary feta and much creamier)
    • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
    • 3-4 tbsp EVOO

    Directions:

    1. Toss the vegetables together.
    2. Mix the balsamic and the oil and dress the salad just before serving.

    Ok, now the moment you’ve all been waiting for, the big draw and the give away winner.

    We've tabulated the entries and made lovely entries with everyone's names (those who answered correctly, that is). BTW, this is an authentic Goulash pot (miniature)!

    Now we need someone to make the draw…

    JT was kind enough to make the draw...

    and the winner is….

    Oh my gosh...Kristy of Eat, Play, Love - our family food adventures, CONGRATULATIONS!

    Congratulations Kristy. Please email me your info and I will send you the cool salts!

    Thank you to everyone who participated. My first give away was a very fun event for me and I so appreciate your participation.

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    Sunday dinner with nephew Brian is quite the meal. I usually like to have a few courses consisting of an hors d’œuvres, an appetizer, a main, a salad and a dessert. I blogged about the Saganaki that we had as an hors d’œuvres. And then there was the salmon cake with Cilantro Pesto, now for the appetizer.

    A few days ago, Charles at Five Euro Foods posted a recipe for Curry Roasted Jerusalem Artichoke Soup which peaked my interest on a number of levels. First, I have never had, or even cooked Jerusalem Artichokes and secondly, there are not too many of our friends or relatives that will eat and enjoy curry, and Brian is certainly one of them — so I thought, perfect. He’s a good guinea pig and like Mikey will eat almost anything.

    The Jerusalem Artichokes were not inexpensive so I added a potato to the mix to help increase the volume (5 smallish heads were about $4.00 Canadian). This recipe ended up making about 8 cups, so I’m going to freeze it for another time. To see the original Charles’ recipe, please click here. This is a highly flavoured soup with a touch of heat. Would I make this again? I have to say that even though I was not overwhelmed by the Jerusalem Artichokes I would certainly take the spices in this soup and make it with other vegetables, such as cauliflower. The flavour certainly hit the spot, thanks Charles!

    I read a tip quite some time ago, to lessen the oil used for oven roasting vegetables; fill a bowl with cold water and add 1-2 tbsp olive oil, then dump your evenly cut vegetables into the water — they will pic up the oil as your remove them with a slotted spoon. Works like a charm!

    Just grab a piece of bread and dip already!

    Curry Roasted Jerusalem Artichoke Soup

    Ingredients:

    • ~5 medium-sized Jerusalem Artichokes
    • 1 medium sized Yukon Gold potato (or another potato that is creamy and not starchy)
    • ~1 litre low sodium vegetable stock or water
    • 3 tbsps Olive Oil
    • 4-5 cipolini onions
    • 1 small head of garlic
    • 2 tsp Garam Masala
    • 2 tsp Curry Powder
    • 4 tbsp Greek yogurt with 2 tbsp milk or cream (to loosen a bit)
    • Salt

    Directions:

    1. Pre-heat oven to 375°F.
    2. Peel and clean the artichokes and the potato and cut into even pieces. Peel the cipolini onions.
    3. Mix the garam masala and the curry powder together with a pinch of salt. In the method described above, ‘oil’ the vegetables and place evenly on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with the spice mixture.
    4. Remove the outer skin from the garlic and place into a small ramekin; drizzle with the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil, sprinkle with a bit of sea salt. Cover with foil. Place in the corner of the baking sheet with vegetables.
    5. Once the vegetables are cooked through to soft, place them into a large bowl; remove the roasted garlic cloves and add to the bowl, sprinkle the olive oil onto the mixture.
    6. Pour the vegetable stock over the cooked vegetables and blend well with your immersion blender. Add stock or water until the desired thickness and consistency is achieved. Press through a fine sieve for a velvety smooth and creamy texture.
    7. Serve in a small bowl drizzled with the yogurt mixture.
    8. Enjoy.

      Did anyone see where I left my glass of wine?

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    Sunday was a relatively quiet day, recovering from our very first Robbie Burns dinner organized by my fire-fighter friend (Christine). She’s been doing it for years and I’ve always managed to have something else planned, but this year we bit the bullet and committed early. What was my hesitation, you may ask? Well, they serve Haggis. Now you might say that, “Eva, you have eaten some very unusual items, what’s with the Haggis?” It’s really the unknown, all that weird innards stuff ground up and stuffed into the stomach, cooked in the stomach and served in the stomach (it’s pretty grey, by the way). They have an actual ceremony for the Haggis and then they cut it up and serve it as a side dish along an enormous pile of roast beef. I couldn’t even get through it all. I did have some of the Haggis, it was heavily spiced and let’s just say I didn’t hate it, but you won’t see me running to the front of the line for another bowl! On top of it all, I think it gave me the worst heart-burn I’ve had in ages.

    I own nothing tartan, nothing. So a week before the night I made the pilgrimage to the mall to pick up something nice in tartan but not too expensive and to my surprise, there was nothing but lumberjack shirts to be had and you know what a lumberjack girl I am! So I came home empty handed when I got a text from my friend (boss) Kim that she had a little tartan mini she would be happy to lend me! I was ecstatic! I have been told that see myself through ‘fat eyes’ and so this was no exception, I looked at the skirt and thought “this isn’t going to fit” but then I gave it a go, and it did, quite nicely, I might add! I paired it with a cute little black top, solid black tights and my slouchy suede red boots (5″ heel)! I was ready for the prom, I mean the Robbie Burns dinner.

    The skirt was very short, but with the opaque tights it worked like a charm, and the boots.

    Slouchy Red Suede Boots

    JT found himself a very fetching plaid tie at the dollar store (guess how much it was?) The evening was a lot of fun, a little Scottish dancing (some local kids) and then the DJ started with the dance-hall music. We danced until midnight, screaming our heads off, bouncing around on the dance floor. My legs are killing me today, but it was well worth it.

    This is the second course of our Sunday dinner with nephew Brian. No, I haven’t forgotten about the give away…I’ve been a bit busy! Stay tuned, I’ll make the announcement a little later this week!

    Baked Salmon Cakes with Cilantro Pesto on Greens

    Makes 3 huge ones, or 6 much smaller appetizer portions

    Ingredients:

    • 1 can low sodium, Skinless, Boneles salmon, drained
    • 1/2 cup mashed potato with roasted garlic (you can use instant for this, but I made this when I had left overs)
    • 1 egg slightly beaten
    • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
    • 1 tsp horseradish
    • 2 green onions finely chopped
    • 1/4 cup panko
    • 2 squirts of non-stick spray for baking

    Directions:

    1. Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
    2. Mix everything but the panko and the non-stick spray together, making sure all the flavours are evenly distributed.
    3. Roll in panko evenly.
    4. In a large frying pan, heat and squirt one squirt of non-stick spray. Gently fry each side until golden brown, place on sprayed cookie sheet until all have been browned and place in oven for 15-25 minutes, until cooked through.
    5. Serve with Cilantro Pesto on a bed of leafy greens.

    Cilantro Pesto

    Ingredients:

    • 1 cup cleaned and dried cilantro
    • 1/2 cup cleaned and dried parsley
    • 2 tbsp sesame oil
    • 1 small clove garlic
    • 3 tbsp white and black toasted sesame seeds
    • 1 tsp soy sauce
    • 2-4 tbsp lime juice (to taste)
    • 1-2 tsp agave nectar

    Directions:

    1. Place all the ingredients (except the lime juice and agave) into the bowl of an immersion blender and blend until desired consistency is achieved, adding the lime juice slowly.
    2. Taste, add more lime juice and a little agave to achieve the correct balance of sweet, salty, sour and bitter.

    The earthy, slightly sweet pesto made a wonderful accompaniment to the salmon cakes

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    OPA! Saganaki

    Sunday dinners are always special chez nous because from time to time my lovely nephew Brian (I have to be nice, he reads my blog) comes over for dinner, and yesterday was the day! Other than mushrooms (and he’s trying them to see if he might like them now), he’ll try almost anything, and he usually brings a good appetite so I am challenged to make something new, sometimes unusual and always delicious! Year’s ago I started keeping a food diary detailing what I cooked for whom and when so that I don’t duplicate (too often) — you know, we all have our favourite meals to cook, so I know what I served the last time he was here, or even a year ago. I now keep this diary on the cloud so I have access to it on my mac, my iPhone and my iPad! It’s very handy particularly when I’m at the grocery store and they are out of what I had planned, I can check back for an alternative option that hasn’t been had in a while (who are you calling “type A”? Hmmmmm!).

    Last week, JT and I were mulling around at the grocery store, checking out what’s new and we both (at the exact same time) spotted the Saganaki cheese in the deli section! We looked at each other and went for it. Now this is not one of those foods you read the nutritional values for, you either commit to it or you decide for the better and put it back. It was not very expensive and we found a piece that was not too large and we both thought, OK, let’s do it. As it turned out, it was our supper that night, it’s a very filling dish.

    Saganaki is a very fatty cheese that is pan fried until golden and then doused with Ouzo and set a flame (en flambé), and served to the table. Wikipedia claims that the flaming tradition was developed in 1968 at The Parthenon restaurant in Chicago’s Greektown (John or Bill, you’ll have to verify that for us!). I didn’t have Ouzo on hand, so I used the Pastis (French version with the same anise taste) and it worked out beautifully. We are going to start our dinner with Brian with this cheese dish ; it’s not light, but it will help us with the absorption of the copious amounts of alcohol we generally consume with the man — he is such a bad influence!

    OPA! It's best not to wear anything flamable; and for safety's sake, tie that crazy mop with all the hairspray back!

    Saganaki

    Ingredients:

    • 1 container baking soda or 1 fire extinguisher (always be prepared 😉)
    • 100-400g Saganaki cheese
    • 1/4 cup plain white flour
    • 2-4 tablespoons of oil (something with a high smoke point, like peanut oil)
    • 2-3 tbsp Ouzo (or Pastis as I had on hand)
    • 1 fresh lemon
    • Fresh bread (JT made his no knead bread and we added sesame seeds to it for extra flavour)

    Directions:

    1. Have the baking soda handy or bring out the Fire Extinguisher to a handy location.
    2. Remove the packaging from the Saganaki cheese. Dredge with flour, coating both sides really well.
    3. Heat the oil and add the cheese and cook until it is golden brown, flip and repeat.
    4. Douse the cheese with the Ouzo and light.
    5. Present to the table with sliced bread and wedges of lemon. A quick squeeze of lemon juice with stop the flames.

    This is a dangerous appetizer, it’s best to have it with adult supervision!

    Oh ya, I almost forgot. I must say a HUGE thank you to all who have participated in my very first give away. What fun I had reading your comments and I was so pleased that some of you found interesting posts from the past, and thank you for commenting on them. This is the best part of blogging, the feedback that we get and give. We had a great turnout, and I am very pleased that we had some new folks enter too, thank you and welcome. But I am also pleased that many of my loyal followers participated! I am so excited about giving away the salts. I have tabulated the entries and will be making the draw soon, so you’ll have to come back this week when I reveal the winner. Good luck to everyone, and THANK YOU!

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