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


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Dark Chocolate Bark with Seeds

I don't write much about desserts on this blog because we rarely eat dessert. But this is a tasty snack for after a healthy meal or to get you through the afternoon.  It's inspired by the Bon Appetit Food Lovers Cleanse.  

This is all you need for this easy, tasty treat:

100 grams dark chocolate
1/3 cup pepitas (raw, shelled pumpkin seeds)
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/4 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt

Monday, January 28, 2013

Confetti Lentils

Here's a healthy side dish.  Since I still cant get into eating beans, I like to eat lentils or chickpeas on a regular basis since they're good for you too.

I actually used a bean and lentil blend that's pretty tasty. You'll need:
1 1/4 cups of lentils
2 medium carrots
1 medium celery root
1 medium onion
1 tablespoon olive oil

That's it.  No spices (except some salt) and no other flavours.  But don't worry, it'll work out.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Spaghetti with Braised Kale

Eating healthier has been going well but one challenge is weekend lunch. This is the time we'd usually grab something while out running errands or have some pizza.  But this pasta is a great solution to the problem.  It is healthy, tasty and, as long as you have some kale, can be made with a few staples.

Here's what you need:

1 bunch of kale (this is Tuscan kale, sometimes called lacinato kale which is darker and flatter than standard kale, but you can use either)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion
8 small garlic cloves
1/2 lb spaghetti (I used whole wheat)
Juice of one lemon
Grated parmesan cheese

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Chicken with Cranberry Agrodolce

Here's another healthy recipe that's still very tasty and even a little fancy.  It is based on this recipe from the Bon Appetit food lovers cleanse. 

The sauce is called agrodolce, which is a traditional Italian sweet and sour sauce, similar to a French gastrique.

Here's what you need:

For the sauce:

  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium red onion
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 Granny Smith apple
  • 2 cups fresh (or frozen, thawed) cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

For the Chicken:
  • 2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 8 fresh sage leaves (optional)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
Let's start with the sauce.  It can be made in advance.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Butternut Squash and Shiitake Mushroom Ragout

Here's another healthy dish that was surprisingly tasty.  Bon Appetit magazine published a Food Lover's Cleanse for the new year.  There are lots of nice, healthy recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.   This one would be great as a vegetarian main course but I served it with roasted halibut.  

Here's what you need:

8-10 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms
4 sun-dried tomatoes, not packed in oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/2 cup tawny Port
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium butternut squash
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Short & Sweet Sunday - Swiss Chard

Chard is an extremely healthy vegetable. Dark greens are always good for you and this preparation is so easy, there's no excuse not to try it.

All you need is chard, garlic and olive oil (and salt & pepper).  This is rainbow chard which is just a mixture of different types with nice bright colours.

Strip the leaves from the stems, slice them into ribbons and rinse them well in a colander.

Cut the stems into pieces.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large pan over low heat, slice the garlic and add it to the oil.  Let it cook for a few minutes until lightly brown, then remove the garlic from the oil and set aside.

Add the chard stalks to the pan and sautee for 2 minutes, then add 3 tablespoons of water to the pan and cover and cook for 5 more minutes.

Then add the leaves to the pan.  Don't worry they'll wilt a lot.  Cover and cook for 3 minutes, then add the garlic back in and season with salt and pepper.

This is easy and very tasty.

I served it with roasted halibut and squash.  

Friday, January 18, 2013

Roasted Halibut

You should be seeing some healthier food around here for the next little while. Healthy eating went a bit off the rails over the holidays but we're back on course!

I want to eat fish more often but there are a lot of obstacles to that goal.  I'm picky about the kind of fish I like. My favourite is halibut but it costs the earth! Two small portions of halibut cost more than I've ever paid for steak. But as a special treat, it's worth it.  

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Matt's Shepherd’s Pie (Guest Post)

Here's one of my wonderful husband's dinner specialities.  It's fantastic! And not just because I don't have to cook it.

If it’s not obvious my now, I’m lucky to be able to taste so many of Jen’s wonderful dishes. As much as I like helping and tasting, I even enjoy cooking sometimes too. One recipe that I’ve been tinkering with for ages now is my shepherd’s pie. You can make this recipe in lots of different ways but there are a couple of tried-and-true tips to make any shepherd’s pie even better that I’m happy to share below.
This is what you’ll need to start off:

1 lb of ground beef
3 lbs of Yukon Gold potatoes (5 lb if you want left over mashed potatoes)
1 cup grated marble cheese or old cheddar
1/3 to ½ cup of milk
3 to 4 tablespoons of butter
2 zucchinis (or ¾ cup frozen peas if you’d prefer)
1 cup frozen corn
2 large carrots
1 large red onion
5 heaping tablespoons of salsa
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

Monday, January 14, 2013

Cheddar & Beer Soup

These ingredients are pretty popular around here. To be honest I didn't love the way this soup turned out but I think it might have been because of the beer I used.  We only have fancy beer at home, and the one we chose turned out a little bitter. But if you used a normal ale it would probably be perfect.  This recipe is from Epicurious.  

Here's what you need:

2 medium leeks 
2 medium carrots
2 celery ribs
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1 bay leaf
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk (I used a combination of 1% milk and cream)
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1 12-oz bottle beer of (ale)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 lb extra-sharp Cheddar (4 cups grated)
4 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled (optional, I didn't use it)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

London Wine & Food Show

When we first moved back to our hometown of London, Ontario from the Toronto area seven years ago, I was somewhat disappointed in the local food scene compared to what we had in the GTA.  But one bright spot on the horizon was the London Wine & Food Show.  We've been going to the show since its first year and it has gotten better and better every year.  And the food scene in London has gotten better and better too.  It's running this weekend, January 10-12 so check it out if you get the chance!

My new favourite restaurant in London was represented at the Wine & Food Show.  The Early Bird is a local diner downtown, right across from Budweiser Gardens (formerly the JLC).  We had dinner here one night before a London Lightning basketball game, and it was amazing.  They have fantastic sandwiches and entrées and the housemade perogies are the best I've ever had.  At the Wine & Food Show they're serving up duck and smoked meat sliders with chips.  Both are absolutely fantastic.  

The Wine & Food Show has different sections to highlight local counties, and this year they've added a "Man Cave" to attract some dudes, I guess, focusing on beer and spirits.  I'm not really onboard with this idea because the whole place is great for men and women and there are local beers featured all over the show.  But that's where The Early Bird is, and also my new favourite pop - Dry Soda. The cucumber soda is so delicious and refreshing on its own or with vodka, and they have vanilla bean, blood orange, lime and rhubarb flavours as well as lavender and juniper berry.  These make a great mixer and are also nice on their own.  They're available in London at Remark, Sunripe and Covent Garden Market.

You may be aware that I love hard cider. Twin Pines Cider House is in Thedford, Ontario, about an hour West of London, right near Pinery Provincial Park. They have a great little orchard where they sell several varieties of cider in growlers.  It is fantastic.

The show works on a ticket system. Most wine samples are 2 tickets ($2), but fancier wines and spirits are more. Some of the LCBO Vintages selections were up to 18 tickets for a 2oz sample! Many beer samples are only 1 ticket.  Food ranges from 1 to 6 tickets, depending on the portion size.  So we were able to cobble together a nice dinner out of several "sample" plates.

This was our main course. Top of the Fair seems to have some of the best value and most delicious food each year.  Last year it was a beef, mashed potatoes and gravy served in a martini glass, and this year we had pork ribs with parsnip creamed potatoes and crispy onion straws.  The ribs were very tasty and the portion was impressive.  

Each year there's also more and more spirits represented and this year there were plenty of cocktails available.  You may know how much I love tequila. Tromba is an independent tequila from Mexico founded by a Canadian. It was very tasty in a margarita.  

Right next door were some amazingly delicious quesadillas from Fonda Lola. They're opening a restaurant in Toronto and currently do catering. The guys were so nice and the food was fantastic. 

I think the tastiest thing I tried at the whole show was the Five Brothers cheese from Gunn's Hill Artisan Cheese in Woodstock. It's a cow's milk cheese similar to Gouda and it tastes unbelievable. I can't believe it's made so close to home. We plan to visit the cheese shop in the spring but until then we bought some at the show to bring home.

We also tried a cheese plate from Thornloe Cheese in Northern Ontario and bought their Temiskaming cheese, a wine-washed goat's cheese and some curds to bring home.

We had a delicious bite of asparagus wrapped in duck proscuitto from Braywick Bistro.

We also tried some Jalapeno Cheddar Sausage from Farmgate Deli and Fresh Meat and I plan to check out their St. Thomas shop for local meat products.

And I finally tried something I've always wanted to try - Nepalese Dumplings.  I see these dumplings from Momo's at the Market every time I visit the Western Fair Farmer's Market and I've always wanted to try them and finally had some tonight.  There's veggie and pork and they were spectacular.  I especially loved the pork ones.

But what about the wine?  Besides cider, my favourite thing to try is all the Prosecco, Cava and other sparkling wine.  But I tried some nice Shiraz and Pinot Grigio too.

And now I'll pass it over to Matt to talk about all the local beer he tried at the show...

Even though I'd had this one at Milos' before, I have to say, I was impressed, not only with the beer itself (despite the fact that I generally tend to prefer styles other than lagers) but also with how friendly the staff was. Easy-drinking but still interesting, I'll be sureto visit their church-turned-store in the Niagara region once it is up and running.

Hops & Bolts India Pale Lager by Mad & Noisy (new brand by Creemore Springs)

Apparently, Creemore Springs created their new Mad & Noisy brand to do more non-traditional styles, starting with their India Pale Lager. Once again, lager isn't my favourite but once again, this one was still worth drinking. Nice citrusy notes... far more interesting than a typical lager.

The cool thing about Ramblin' Road is that they are a "brewery farm", which means they actually grow their own hops. The beer itself was decent and balanced but not quite as intense or interesting as I personally prefer. That said, kudos to them for their business model and for the fact that they are starting to grow more interesting hops and barley varietals for future beers.

Ok, enough with the lagers. Let's get on to the big boys. I had the St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout when I first arrived, but if you haven't already tried that one, shame on you. As for the Railway City Black Coal Stout, it was pretty darn good. Nice bitterness and roasted notes... not fantastic, but they are working towards it.

This was one of the more pleasant surprises of the show. The first Nickel Brook beer I ever tried was at the Food & Wine show five years ago or so. It was their green apple beer and while I'm sure it has its fans, I am not among them. What a difference five years and the change in the Ontario craft beer scene makes. This stout was deep, rich, creamy, bitter and delicious, which leads me to...

As much as bourbon-barrel-aged stouts are incredibly popular on Ratebeer, more often than not, I find myself preferring the original stout they are based upon. Perhaps I just love stout more than bourbon, but I usually find them either too strong on the bourbon end or just unnecessary. That said, this one worked. It just added depth of flavour and another nice note to appreciate. Best news of all? They told me Milos already picked up two kegs of it, just in case you don't make it to the Food & Wine show. Cheers!

[Also of note at the show to beer aficionados  Mill Street brought their Paradise IPA and Vanilla Porter, Muskoka brought their Twice as Mad Tom DIPA on tap, Granville's Winter Ale was there, Lake of Bays had two different booths (one in the main room and one in the "Man Cave"), and all the other local / Ontario stuff you might expect. I didn't try Bud Light Platinum but I'm sure it is... umm... bad. Also, there was a little magazine called Indulge, which highlighted some Ontario beers and local brewers and  craft beer pubs.]

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Chicken Paprikash

How about some Clean Eating for the New Year?  I plan to make some healthier recipes this month after the excesses of the holidays, and this is a great one!  

Here's what you need:

2 tablespoons flour (whole wheat or white)
4 teaspoons paprika, divided 
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 onion
1 red bell pepper or hot red pepper
2 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon chopped dill

Place flour, 1 teaspoon paprika and a pinch of salt and pepper on a plate.

And mix it together.

Dredge each chicken breast in the flour mixture.

Turn to coat and shake off any excess.  

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large pan.

And add the chicken breasts and cook 3-4 minutes until lightly browned.

Oops, one got a little more brown than the other. No matter. Flip the chicken and cook 2-3 minutes more.

Remove the chicken to a clean plate and set aside.

Thinly slice the onion and red pepper (if using) and add to the pan.  Cook for about 5 minutes until onion is translucent.

Meanwhile, chop the garlic cloves.

And add them to the onions in the pan along with the remaining 3 teaspoons paprika and cayenne pepper, if using.  Cook, stirring for about a minute.  

Then add the chicken stock and stir.  

Return the chicken to the pan and cook, covered for about 10 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

Remove the chicken from the pan again, this time to a clean cutting board.

Take your Greek yogurt...

And add a couple of tablespoons of the pan juices to temper it.

Stir them together.

Then add the yogurt mixture to the pan and mix together.  Bring back to a simmer.

Slice the chicken.

And return it to the pan to mix with the sauce.

You can serve this over rice or any grain but I like it with noodles.  These ones are whole wheat.

Top the noodles with the chicken and sauce.

Chop some fresh dill.  You can also use dried if you have to.

And sprinkle the dill over the chicken.  I served this with some steamed broccoli and it was extremely tasty.  It's very quick and easy and pretty healthy.  Give it a try!