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


Monday, March 26, 2012

Roast Chicken with Red Grapes and Port Sauce

Normally when I roast a chicken I stay pretty basic. I like a crispy skin with garlic and herb flavours. I've tried many recipes and, to be honest, they're all pretty good. My main method is roasting at about 400 degrees for about an hour and it generally works out fine.  Last night I decided to do something a little more special.

Serious Eats is one of my favourite food websites. I found this recipe and adapted it a bit. It was amazingly delicious and only a little more effort than a basic roast chicken.

I happened to have some red grapes in the fridge that were a little softer than I like so this recipe was the perfect way to use them up.  

I also just bought a new non-stick roasting pan with a V-shaped rack, so I put that to use. 

I preheated the oven to 375.

And rubbed the chicken with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper.  I also threw a few grapes inside the chicken along with a clove of garlic.

I roasted the chicken alone for 15 minutes before adding grapes, onions, garlic...

and some chunks of multi-coloured heirloom carrots 

I added them to the pan with a little more oil and balsamic.

I let this roast for about 40 more minutes until the chicken was an amazing mahogany colour and the veggies were cooked.

I removed the vegetables, grapes and chicken from the pan and set them aside to rest, covered.

Then skimmed as much fat as possible from the pan juices and boiled them with some port until thick.  

I added the grapes and vegetable back to the port sauce to warm through and served the sauce over the chicken.

I carved the chicken, poured the sauce over it and served it with boiled potatoes and roasted Brussels sprouts.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Detour - Grand Rapids Michigan

We took a trip away last weekend, hence the lack of posting. But for a change of pace I thought I’d talk about where we went and what we did.  We ate some yummy things, but nothing super special, and didn’t take any pictures of food, but we had a wonderful time and really enjoyed the trip.
Grand Rapids, Michigan

I love to travel and love visiting new places.  On four occasions I have travelled to a place for the first time and felt I could live there. These are the places I tend to travel back to – or plan to travel back to – as often as possible.

My husband is a beer fanatic, so the main reason for the trip was to visit Founders Brewery, one of the top breweries in North America.  I was delighted to find out that the city has a terrific tourism website with tons of info on food, drinks and things to do. 

On the way we did some outlet shopping and then stopped at the Michigan Brewing Company in Webberville, MI for lunch.  This location is just off the highway, tucked in an office park, but it was busy on this beautiful Saturday afternoon and the service, food and drinks were terrific.

I had a Celis Raspberry and Matt had a Russian Imperial Stout. The beers were delicious and the food was really good too. They have a nice menu of sandwiches, burgers and pizzas.

I had chicken sliders and Matt had a twisted turkey sandwich on pretzel bread. This was a great lunch stop and, refreshed, we headed on to Grand Rapids.

Even though we read about great restaurants in Grand Rapids, we were more interested in the beer scene and we visited a few great pubs.  The hotel we chose was the JW Marriott. It is one of several downtown hotels and very highly rated. It cost a little more than we’d normally spend on a hotel, but it was so worth it.  What a beautiful place!  Our room was lovely:

And we had a wonderful view of the river.

Once we checked in, our first stop was Hopcat, a highly rated brew pub only a short walk from the hotel. We happened to be there on St. Patricks Day so we were lucky to get a seat at all, but they led us up to a small section upstairs with a few tables and couches.  We  got amazing service up there from a wonderful server with a tattoo of Michigan.  She also gave us great advice on other places to check out in town.  

That's a view of the bar from our table on the floor above.  Matt had a farmhouse ale and I had a framboise, then I tried a coffee milk stout on nitro. I don't usually like beer, but this one was so delicious! It was basically like a mocha milkshake. So creamy, light and tasty.  I loved it.  

While there we also had a couple of snacks.  A Jumbo Jalapeno Pretzel, soft with a delicious cheese sauce and Loaded Crack Fries which lived up to their name covered in cheese sauce, jalapenos and bacon.  Healthy!

Because it was St. Patricks Day there was a huge street party going on, but we skipped that in favour of a walk to Founders Taproom, one of the top breweries in North America. (RateBeer rates it #2 in the world!)  This place was busy as well, but we managed to find a table. 

Founders Taproom only serves beer. I tried a dark beer and then had a shandy (beer and lemonade), but Matt was in heaven trying all their dark beers.  We also tried the beer cheese dip that was perfectly tasty. A band started playing and we stayed a while, then stumbled back to our hotel via the riverfront.

The next day we did a little more shopping then headed to the Frederik Meijer Sculpture Garden to visit the Butterflies are Blooming Exhibit.  This place was spectacular.  

132 acres of gardens with a variety of sculpture and a huge greenhouse currently housing the butterfly exhibit. 

We got some great butterfly pictures...

Then headed out to the sculpture park.  

It was a beautiful day and we had a wonderful time. I love public art and it is great to see so much on display in one place. They also have a wonderful children's garden with interactive stuff for kids to explore.

Next we headed to a beautiful brew pub just outside of downtown Grand Rapids in an old church.

Brewery Vivant is a Belgian style brew pub with a lovely atmosphere and terrific food.

Inside there are long communal tables as well as a bar with a gorgeous stained glass window.  I was thrilled to see hard cider on the menu. 

I believe Matt had Solitude Belgian Amber Ale.  He also had a beer flight.

Once again the service was just great. We ordered a late lunch/early dinner.  I had the croque monsieur and Matt had a yummy burger. Both were served with amazing fries. If this place was near our house, we'd be here all the time. It was fantastic!

We had concert tickets at Van Andel arena, just around the corner from our hotel. Before the show we popped in to Bar Divani for a quick drink. They have a nice atmosphere and great menu, especially at Happy Hour. The arena is very nice and seems brand new.  Afterwards we went back to Hopcat for a quick drink but it was incredibly busy again so we headed over to Pyramid Scheme where we had beer, cider and played pinball!  It was a lot of fun and we once again weaved our way back to our hotel.  

On our last morning we took a swim in the lovely pool at JW Marriott they also have a eucalyptus steam room that was very refreshing. We took one last walk around the riverfront and then headed home.

We loved this town and can't wait to return to Grand Rapids. Next time we'll try more food, not just drinks.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Pork Stir Fry

This is a quick and easy recipe with some shortcuts to make an easy weeknight meal.

First, I want to share my favourite appliance. This thing is almost 10 years old now and I don't know what I'll do if it ever breaks. It is a two-tiered steamer/rice cooker.  

To steam rice, just fill the reservoir below, add a cup of rice and 1 1/4 cup of liquid to the insert, cover and plug in.  Steam for 30 minutes for delicious, fluffy rice.  If you like you can steam veggies above in the second tier at the same time.  

For the stirfry I used two shortcuts - pre-chopped veggies and bottled stir fry sauce.  

I chopped pork and browned in a pan.

Added the vegetables and sauce.

And served over rice, sprinkled with sesame seeds.   

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Potatoes New Orleans

When I was in college my friends had a potluck dinner. I have no recollection of what I brought but I'll never forget that night because I was introduced to Potatoes New Orleans.  Thankfully, the friend who brought them didn't assemble them in advance but let us watch her put them together in all their glory.  It was fascinating to me how these trashy-seeming ingredients could come together and make something so delicious!

This is not a recipe I make often because it doesn't fit into my general healthy eating plan, but once in a while it's a delicious treat and your guests will be blown away by the flavour. Do make sure you make it for guests because this is way too much for two people.

Here's the crazy stuff you need. Don't be afraid, it'll all work out.

I bag hashbrowns
500 ml sour cream
1 can cream of mushroom soup (or any cream soup)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
green onions
2 tablespoons butter
1 can/carton fried onions (this should be availble near the croutons in your grocery store and is a totally crazy ingredient. If you can't find these, you can substitute crushed potato chips, believe it or not)

Grease a 9 x 13 pan and add all the ingredients except the fried onions.  

Mix together well and smooth into the pan.  Top with black pepper.  I didn't use any salt because all these processed ingredients will make it plenty salty, but you can add a sprinkle if you like.  

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Then top with the french fried onions and bake another 10 minutes until crispy on top, warm in the centre and bubbling at the sides.

We were in such a hurry to chow down I almost forgot to take a picture of the finished product but here it is after a few servings were removed. So delicious and terrible! 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Chicken Fajitas

The first time I had chicken fajitas was at the Lone Star Texas Grill in Mississauga, Ontario in the late 1980s.  It was so unbelievably exotic to me!  I'd had tacos before, from Old El Paso and Taco Bell, but I'd never had someone bring me a sizzling plate of meat and vegetables to assemble myself in warm flour tortillas!  I was in heaven.  This particular chain restaurant served rice with their fajitas, so that's how I prefer them to this day.

I like to use grilled boneless chicken thighs with so much more flavour than chicken breasts.  I use a spice rub on them. This also makes a great taco seasoning.

To make a large portion of this taco seasoning you need:

1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp pepper
2 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp cumin
1 tsp cayenne

Mix it all together and sprinkle over the boneless chicken thighs.

Grill the chicken.  Meanwhile we'll make some rice.  Cook rice with tomato puree instead of water if you like (or just with water).  Do this in advance if possible so it'll be cooked and hot when the chicken goes on the grill.  Add some corn (frozen is ok) to a pan to toast.

Add the white parts of some green onions and a chopped jalapeno pepper.  

Add the rice and saute until warmed through.

Meanwhile, chop a red onion and pepper (bell pepper or hungarian pepper) into thick slices.  Add them to the grill along with the chicken.

One more meanwhile... chop some lettuce and shred some cheese while the chicken finishes grilling.

Bring the chicken in from the grill and chop with the onions and peppers.

Finally, warm the tortillas and assemble with cheese, rice, chicken, veggies and sour cream.