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


Sunday, July 29, 2018

Happy Hour - The Last Word

The Last Word

I've been interested in The Last Word cocktail for quite a while. It was invented in Detroit during prohibition and seemed like something I'd really like. I had all the ingredients in my bar at home, except green chartreuse. At the time I just couldn't justify tracking down an expensive bottle for a single cocktail.

The Last Word

Then we visited Cliff Bell's in Detroit again, and I finally tried The Last Word. And I fell in love! It isn't as bitter as some of the cocktails I've tried recently, but it's herbal and a little sweet, and has a wonderful colour. 

chartreuse, luxardo, gin, lime

When I received an LCBO gift card for my birthday, I knew I'd use it to buy green chartreuse.  And I finally had all the ingredients to make my new favourite cocktail.

Here's the super simple recipe:

3/4 oz gin
3/4 oz green chartreuse
3/4 oz maraschino liqueur
3/4 oz lime juice

Pour all ingredients over ice in a cocktail shaker and shake until chilled.  Pour into a coupe or cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry, lime peel, or nothing at all. 

Since the recipe is equal amounts of each ingredient, it's easy to remember and easy to double or triple! 


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Vegan Bacon

vegan bacon

Every year I take a girls trip with my cousins and sister-in-law. We head to a cottage to eat and drink and relax all weekend. I like to try to make something special to bring when I can. We have two vegetarians in the group, so this year it was Vegan Bacon!

vegan bacon

Wait, don't go! This recipe is meant to taste like bacon, but it's just made of roasted mushrooms and it's totally delicious in its own right. Meat-eaters will love it too!  My husband, the opposite of a vegan, loved it and calls it "facon".

I've adapted this recipe from Serious Eats.  The original recipe calls for roasting, then smoking the mushrooms with a chunk of wood on the stovetop. 

smoked salt

I decided that was a little ambitious for me on a weeknight, so I just used smoked salt and smoked paprika instead. The "bacon" probably isn't as smoky as it could be, but it sure is delicious!

king oyster mushrooms

The secret to making the mushrooms look like little strips of bacon is to use king oyster mushrooms.  These are usually available in Asian grocery stores, and some specialty grocery stores.  They have a mild flavour and cook to a chewy, crisp texture in the oven. 

king oyster mushrooms

If you can't find king oyster mushrooms, you can make vegan bacon bits out of smaller mushrooms using the same technique in the recipe below. 

vegan bacon

The vegan bacon will keep about 5 days in an airtight container.  If you're serving it with breakfast, you can crisp it up again in the oven for 5 minutes.  Or just serve it at room temperature on sandwiches, salads or as a snack!

Here's the recipe:

4 king oyster mushrooms (about 250g)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil 
smoked salt
cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

vegan bacon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Use one large or two regular-sized baking sheets and line them with parchment paper or foil.  Spread two tablespoons vegetable oil over the parchment or foil.

Slice the mushrooms lengthwise into planks, about 1/8 inch thick (each mushroom will make about 6 slices with some scraps left over).

Lay the mushrooms on the oiled baking sheet(s) in a single layer. Then flip the mushrooms so the side with oil on it is facing up. 

Sprinkle smoked salt and pepper over the mushroom slices.  Flip again, and sprinkle the other side with smoked salt and pepper. 

Bake for 20 minutes.  Carefully flip the mushrooms and bake for 20 minutes more, watching carefully for the last 5 minutes, until they are crisp but not hard. 

Remove the mushrooms from the oven and drain on paper towels. 

Mix the remaining tablespoon of oil, maple syrup, sugar, paprika and garlic in a medium bowl.  Toss the mushrooms in the mixture and lay them out on the baking sheet again.  Return the sheet to the oven and bake about 5 minutes until the sugars begin to caramelize.  

Serve warm or store for up to 5 days and share with friends!  

vegan bacon recipe

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Lazy Deviled Eggs

lazy deviled eggs

Deviled Eggs are always a hit at parties and potlucks. My aunt's deviled eggs are famous in our family. But they're kind of a pain to make and transport, even if you have a fancy deviled egg tray

lazy deviled eggs

These lazy versions are much easier! You don't need a piping bag or any other special tools - although there are a couple of pieces of equipment that do make these especially easy, but you can make them without anything special. 

Instead of scooping out the yolks, you just slice up hard boiled eggs, season them and serve them on a cracker. It couldn't be simpler!  And you can transport the peeled eggs to your location and make them fresh on site quickly, instead of transporting piped egg halves that can get squashed.

Instant Pot

One of the things that makes this particular recipe so easy is using an Instant Pot to cook the eggs. If you don't have one, you can just hard boil your eggs the normal way, but the Instant Pot makes wonderful hard boiled eggs that never get that green line around the yolk. 

Instant Pot Hard Boiled Eggs

To hard boil eggs in the Instant Pot, use the rack.  Put a cup of water in the bottom of the pot and place your eggs on the rack. This recipe calls for only 3 hard boiled eggs to make 18 bites, but why not cook more eggs to double the recipe or have for lunch during the week?

Instant Pot Hard Boiled Eggs

If you want to hard boil a dozen eggs, just pile them on top of each other!  Close the lid and set to low pressure for 7 minutes for a creamy hard yolk. For a firmer yolk, try 8 minutes. For a jammy yolk, 6 minutes (not for this recipe, but if that's what you like, go for it.)

Instant Pot Hard Boiled Eggs

Release the pressure manually, remove the lid, and use tongs to plunge the eggs into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. 

The nice thing about the Instant Pot is peeling the eggs. The peels come off beautifully! I do recommend peeling them just after cooling, because the peels are a little harder to get off cleanly if you refrigerate the eggs in their shells. 


Mix some mayonnaise and Dijon mustard together.

Lazy Deviled Eggs

Spread a little on 18 plain rice crackers.

Lazy Deviled Eggs

Peel the eggs and slice them into even rounds.  An egg slicer is really great to have for this step, and super cheap.  If you don't have one, carefully cut them with a knife as evenly as possible. 

Lazy Deviled Eggs

Place an egg round on each rice cracker. Sprinkle with smoked paprika, kosher or sea salt, and a sprig of dill. 

I took these to a work potluck and it was so simple to mix up the dijon mayonnaise and cook the eggs the night before, then slice the eggs and assemble the bites right there in our work kitchen. People loved that it was just a taste of deviled egg, rather than half an egg.  And you really get a lot of bang for your buck, making 18 servings out of 3 eggs!

Here's the recipe:

3 hard-boiled eggs
1 tablespoon mayonaisse
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
18 plain rice crackers
smoked paprika
sea salt or kosher salt
fresh dill

Mix the mayonaisse and mustard together and spread on rice crackers
Slice the eggs. Place one egg slice on each cracker
Sprinkle with paprika and salt and a small sprig of dill


Lazy Deviled Eggs

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Poke Bowl 101: An Introduction to Awesomeness

This post comes from Matt, the Beer Baron.
Tuna Poke Bowl

Depending on where you live, poke bowls could be anything from a curiosity you’ve seen popping up at local restaurants or sushi counters to a mainstay part of your culinary world.

While they are ubiquitous in Hawaii, where the dish originated as a blend of Japanese and Hawaiian culinary traditions, a quick Google search shows a growing number of poke bowl shops in Toronto. Alas, in my hometown of London, Ontario, there isn’t a poke bowl shop to be found -- although I was lucky enough to discover the dish as a special at the best craft beer bar in town.

In Hawaiian, “poke” means “to cut crosswise into pieces” or even just “to cut or to slice”, and that alone should give you a pretty good idea of what the dish is and what you are in store for when preparing it. You can think of it as deconstructed sushi if that helps, but to me, the way a poke bowl eats makes it an even more satisfying meal.

For starters, the bed of rice served as the base of the bowl is warm, which gives the dish a balance of hot and cold that most sushi doesn’t have. From there, every mouthful is a wonderful mixture of salty and sweet, soft and crunchy. So, when I saw the beautiful, little piece of tuna below frozen and vacuum packed at my local Farm Boy, I knew it was time to make my first poke bowl. 


Before I got to work on all the cutting (with my slow and cumbersome but relatively effective knife skills), I got everything I needed together for a group photo:

poke bowl ingredients

First up, the marinade, so it can go back into the fridge to marinate the tuna while you do the rice and all your slicing. It was dead simple but very flavourful:

¼ cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger root

Ginger root is one of my absolute favourite things and something I find more and more pleasing with each passing year. The lesson? Being old kicks ass. The is what is looks like:

grated ginger

And this is what the marinade looks like:

soy ginger marinade

Now, onto the star of the show: the tuna! I am by no means an expert in the kitchen or with a knife, which is why I’m the Beer Baron and not the… Butchering Baron? Anyway, I still have a few tips to share:

  1. Put the tuna in the freezer for 15 or 20 minutes. Not enough to freeze it solid, just enough to help it keep its form a little bit better and make your life easier when cutting it.
  2. Decide how thick you want to cut the pieces. If you LOVE raw tuna, then go a bit thicker at about ½ an inch (just more than a centimeter too all you hosers) and if you are new to it and want a little bit less of the raw texture or fishy taste, go smaller. 
  3. When you are cutting the tuna, pull your knife backwards towards you, starting at the heel of the blade and use the longest, sharpest knife you have. The goal is to try to make the cuts in one slice and avoid a front-and-back sawing motion.
Not all my slices were perfect, but I enjoyed the process and did ok:

sliced raw tuna

Going from the thin slices to the cubes was a little more challenging, as the tuna was getting warmer having been out of the freezer for longer, as I’m so slow, but they were decent:
raw tuna

The tuna goes into the marinade and into the fridge. 

tuna in soy ginger marinade

Start your rice cooking while you work on the rest of your cutting / poke-ing. Traditionally, you’d use short-grain sushi rice. But one of the great things about poke bowls is that there is really no right or wrong. It’s not a science like baking. I had long grain rice, so that’s what made it into my bowl.

Dice the mango:
diced mango

Slice the red onions (or leave them out altogether if they are too strong for you and you aren’t crazy about red onions like I am):

sliced red onion

Slice the jalapeno (which provide a nice bit of crunch as well as a little bit of heat):

sliced jalapeno

Chop the green onions:

sliced green onions

Slice the avocado: (I got lucky and mine was a perfect ripeness, which is a miracle unto itself. You kind of get used to picking the ever so slightly soft ones with experience, but if you want help, the internet is all about avocados:

sliced avocado

Now, it’s time to assemble your masterpiece. Keep in mind that no poke bowl is perfect for everyone but do your best to make it perfect for you. If you like more or less of any one ingredient, go for it. (Also, I dumbly didn’t include cucumbers in this dish, which would have been perfect. Radishes too, for that matter.) Lay down your bed of warm rice:


Top it with your marinated tuna:

Surround the tuna with the mangos and avocado:

poke bowl

And then add your final garnishes, including a sprinkle of sesame seeds and a little bit of freshly squeezed lime juice. (Don’t use the lime juice in the marinade or earlier in the process. The goal isn’t to cook the tuna with it, just add a nice hit of acid.) 

tuna poke bowl

As the Beer Baron, I was thinking that a session IPA (nothing too crazy to wreck your palate), a fruity sour, or a weissbier with tropical notes would all be nice pairings -- and they certainly would have been. In the end, I chose a Riesling, as they tend to be great with lightly spicy foods and the balance of minerality and fruitiness was a perfect complement to the balance of the poke bowl. However you make your poke bowl and whatever you pair it with, I hope you enjoy it. Cheers!

how to make a poke bowl

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes

Scalloped Potatoes

I was never a big fan of scalloped potatoes growing up.  I had a thing about mushy food, so that's probably why I didn't appreciate them.  As with so many things, my tastes have changed over the years.  It also helps that I am making my own recipes so I know what goes into them and can appreciate the finished product more. 

Ham and Scalloped Potatoes

This is not a simple weeknight recipe, but it's not that complicated and the results are definitely worth the effort!  This is the perfect choice to serve with ham, and I'm going to halve the recipe for Easter dinner for two this weekend. 

A large gratin dish is great for this recipe, or you can use any glass baking dish. 

sliced potatoes

I find that slicing the potatoes in the food processor with the slicing blade really simplifies things.  But you can slice by hand or on a mandoline if you prefer.  It just takes more time. The important thing is to have thin, even slices of potato. 

Scalloped Potatoes

The potatoes are boiled in milk, then placed in a buttered gratin dish.  I like lots of black pepper. 

Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes

The potatoes are then covered in the scalded milk and shredded gruyere cheese, then baked until brown and bubbly.  The cheese gets shredded in the food processer too, to make life easy.  

Scalloped Potatoes

You end up with these amazing, creamy, cheesy potatoes.  The crispy edges are the best part!

Here's the recipe.  Enjoy!

3 pounds yellow-fleshed potatoes
3 cups whole milk
1 clove garlic
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup whipping cream
150 grams gruyere cheese, shredded
salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Peel and thinly slice potatoes using a food processor with the slicing blade or a mandoline.  Place potato slices in a large pot and cover with milk. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Occasionally gently scrape the bottom of the pot so the potatoes don't stick, but be careful not to break up the potato slices.  

Drain the potatoes in a colander over a bowl to reserve the milk. You should have 2 cups of milk remaining.  If not, add additional milk to make 2 cups.  

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

Use a large oval gratin dish or rectangular glass baking dish. Slice the garlic clove in half and rub the cut halves all over the inside of the baking dish.  Brush the melted butter all over the inside of the dish. 

Carefully layer the potatoes in the baking dish.  Sprinkle each layer with salt and pepper.  Pour milk and cream over potatoes.  Top with shredded cheese. 

Bake for about 90 minutes until milk has become creamy and thick but not dry, and cheese is deep golden brown.  If the cheese begins to become too brown, you can cover the dish loosely with foil to finish cooking.  

Let sit for 10-15 minutes before serving. I suggest serving with glazed ham

cheesy scalloped potatoes

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Pan-Seared Chicken with Maitake Mushroom Cream Sauce

chicken with maitake mushrooms

I love finding local treasures - especially foods produced close to home.  I recently discovered that a company is producing maitake mushrooms right around the corner from our house!  

maitake mushrooms

Also known as "hen-of-the-woods" mushrooms, maitake are tasty and said to have cancer-fighting properties.  Here's an article about the local production facility here in London. 

maitake mushroom

The mushroom has a thick base but is topped with petal-like segments that are thin and delicate.  Cut off the base or pick off the tops to separate pieces easily. 

chicken with maitake mushrooms

In this recipe the mushrooms are sauteed and then cooked with wine and cream into a thick, rich sauce served with crisp-skinned chicken.  It's delicious!

chicken with maitake mushrooms

I cut the chicken into 8 parts - 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, and split each breast in two, keeping the wings on. I ended up taking the bone out of the breasts, which makes a lovely presentation. 

This isn't the most quick and simple recipe, but it's definitely doable for Sunday dinner and impressive for company.  I served it with roasted cauliflower, but it would be nice with a green salad or steamed broccoli.  

Here's the recipe...

1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
salt and pepper
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 cup white wine
3/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup whipping cream
230g maitake mushrooms (or mushroom of your choice)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet or dutch oven over medium heat. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and place them, skin side down, in the sizzling butter. Cook for 10 minutes until deeply browned, then flip and cook for another 5 minutes.  Remove chicken to a baking sheet and roast in the oven until cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. 

Meanwhile, add the diced onion to the pan drippings and cook for about 5 minutes until softened. Add the wine and cook, scraping the bottom of the pan, until the wine is mostly evaporated. Add the stock and cream and simmer about 10 minutes until thickened. 

Break apart the maitake mushroom.  Heat the last two tablespoons of butter in a separate pan and add the mushrooms. Cook until slightly browned, about 8 minutes. Toss the mushrooms with the cream sauce.

Put some mushrooms and sauce on the plate and place the chicken on top. Drizzle sauce over top. 


chicken with maitake mushrooms