Monday, February 27, 2012

Slow Cooker Butter Chicken

Have I mentioned how much I love my slow cooker?  I think I have, but I'll say it again.

I LOVE my slow cooker.  There is absolutely nothing like it.  Throw a bunch of ingredients in there, turn it on and go to work.  Come home exhausted and starving, and your dinner is ready!  Whoever invented this fantastic contraption deserves a medal.  They have made our lives so much easier; everyone's life!!  Mothers, wives, single dad's, married dad's, heck, husbands with no kids even, bachelors, bachelorettes, the culinary challenged, pretty much the entire universe can thank the slow cooker for how simple it is to prepare a home cooked meal.

So my latest meal in the slow cooker was Butter Chicken.  Oh my, this was delicious.  The only thing I might have done different was add a little hot pepper in there.  My boyfriend made a wonderfully easy hot pepper sauce the other day, and it would have been perfect on the chicken.  I'll give you both recipes, the chicken and the hot sauce, although the hot sauce ingredients weren't really measured.

Butter Chicken...mmmm..
Slow Cooker Butter Chicken
2 onions diced ( I did these in big chunks, since you will be blending the sauce up anyways)
3 garlic minced (just cut them in half)
3 T butter
2 T chopped ginger
2 T brown sugar
2 tsp chili powder
3/4 tsp each coriander and tumeric
1/2 tsp each cinnamon and cumin
salt & pepper
1 can diced tomatoes (I used the seasoned hot pepper italian diced tomatoes)
1 can chicken broth (I used vegetable broth powder, was all out of chicken broth)
1/4c almond butter (I used peanut butter)
3 lbs chicken thighs (I used chicken breasts cut in bite sized chunks)
1c sour cream
2 T cilantro chopped

In the slow cooker, combine the first 10 ingredients.  Whisk broth with almond (or peanut) butter and pour into slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low 5-8 hours (mine cooked for about 10 hours; you can't overcook in a slow cooker, so go nuts!).  With a hand blender, puree the sauce until smooth.  Add the chicken, and cook covered on high 30-40 minutes (I did another hour).  Stir in the sour cream and serve sprinkled with cilantro.  I served this over rice with some store-bought naan that we warmed in the oven first.

CF's Hot Sauce
About 3 jalapeno's, seeds and all
About 6 green chilies
A couple of cloves of garlic
1/2c vinegar
1/2c water

Put all except pimentos and thyme in a food processor and process until smooth.  Pour into a mason jar, add pimentos and thyme, seal and put in the refrigerator.  Best hot sauce ever, and it gets better with time!
This really was one of the best butter chicken recipes I have tasted.  It was so fast and easy, with hardly any effort,  but it tasted like I had slaved over it for hours.

Definitely give it a try.

What next?  Hmmm...

Friday, February 24, 2012

Fishermans Wharf

A look at the inside of the restaurant - this is the whole place...tiny!
As mentioned in my last post, we went to a couple of restaurants this past weekend.  One of which was the Fishermans Wharf on Richmond, in downtown Toronto.  My boyfriend surprised me with this one.  It's a place I have wanted to check out, as they have been in business 38 years, and have been voted as Toronto's top seafood restaurant several times.  I've also read a couple of reviews in Toronto Life over the years, and my mouth waters every time.

The only problem was that we had the kids, and this is not a cheap place to eat.  But as my boyfriend reminded me several times throughout the night, it was for my birthday and we don't do this all the time.  Ok, fine. 

The restaurant is tiny, and seems a bit stuffy when you first walk in.  I could see the servers baulking at us because we brought kids with us; it was rather funny.  The first thing I did after being seated was take the girls to the bathroom downstairs, out of earshot, to have a little chat with them about acting like 'ladies'.  We even practiced holding our pinkies up as we sipped our imaginary drinks.  They got a kick out of this and I figured if I made it fun, they would actually listen.  I have to say, they were great, so it must have worked.  They behaved, and acted very mature...until I got a little wine in me, and my BF and I got them going.  Oh well.

We ordered starters and a bottle of wine.  The kids shared "Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail and Gazpacho" which speaks for itself.  The shrimp were huge, and served in a martini glass with a gazpacho and vodka salsa on the side.  They enjoyed it.

I ordered the Baked Oysters.  These were incredibly rich and delicious.  Almost too rich, but I was in the mood to indulge.  The oysters were baked with pancetta, baby spinach, diced tomatoes and parmesan cheese in a creamy white wine sauce.  Creamy is an understatement.  Check out the picture below.

Fishermans Wharf Baked Oysters - $16.00
My BF ordered the Scallops and Margarita.  It was explained to us that these were ceviche (or raw, which was enunciated for us, as if we didn't understand... 'that means raw'...yea, thanks).  I have never actually ventured into the world of raw fish, so I was actually looking forward to trying these puppies out (I did know the definition of ceviche though).  They were marinated with tequila, green onions, cilantro, ginger, lime juice and fresh mango and served in a margarita glass.  It was great, and the consistency wasn't what I had imagined raw scallops to have.  I'm assuming the citrus assisted in the cooking process.  Picture below...

Fishermans Wharf Scallops and Margarita - $14.00
At this point, after the appetizers, I was beginning to see how truly great the service was at this place.  I would be taking my last sip of wine, and before I placed my glass down on the table, a server was there to pour me more (that's probably why we went through 2 bottles!).  They were very polite and attentive, and I appreciated that quite a bit.  There is a fine line between attentive and annoying.  They were on the positive side of that line the entire night.

For dinner, my older daughter and BF ordered the same meal, the Lobster Fettuccine.  This was described as fettuccine with wild mushrooms, diced tomato and fresh asparagus, in olive oil and white wine sauce, drizzled with black truffle oil and topped with black caviar.  My daughter was a little hesitant about the caviar, since she didn't know what it was, but we assured her that it was just 'salty seasoning' (why tell her the truth?  It tastes like salty seasoning, I knew she wouldn't know the difference).  She also asked for her dish without mushrooms, but my BF left everything as is.  I tasted his, and it was incredible.  There were large chunks of lobster, and the sauce was great.  Everything was so fresh.

Fishermans Wharf Lobster Fettuccine - $29.00
My younger daughter ordered the Southwestern BBQ Fettuccine.  On the menu this was described as southwestern spiced and grilled chicken breast with black and green olives, diced tomatoes, and red chili flakes in light tomato salsa.  I didn't try hers, but it looked great.  She hates onions and won't eat anything with them, so the poor kid spent 20 minutes digging through her dish removing every onion that she could find.  Once her meal was onion-free though, she seemed to really enjoy it.

Fishermans Wharf Southwestern BBQ Chicken Fettuccine - $20.00
And than there was dessert.  Aaah, dessert. 

Who doesn't love a sweet treat after an amazing meal?  Regretfully, I didn't get a picture of this, because we dug in so fast that I didn't have a chance.  The kids ordered the Trio Cheesecake dish which was supposed to be a piece each of chocolate, New York, and creme brulee cheesecake.  When they brought it out, the server explained that they did not have any creme brulee cheesecake left, so he brought a creme brulee instead.  My BF and I shared this. 

Let me start by saying I don't normally like creme brulee.  Every time I have ever tried this, no matter where I go, it just tastes like caramel pudding to me.  Nothing to get excited over.  But this creme brulee was OUTSTANDING.  I could not believe how creamy and rich it was.  I could taste the cream, and the hint of caramel flavor..the vanilla bean..oh my, it was such a delight for the taste buds.  Like really.  Totally amazing.

Other offerings on the Wharf's menu included a variety of salads (ranging from $8-$32 depending on the seafood in it and whether it was a side salad or entree).  There were many seafood dishes including salmon, sole, sea bass, Tasmanian sea trout, and black cod (ranging from $20-$32). 

On the cover of their menu, they feature their award winning seafood platter which includes lobster, scallops, oysters, shrimp, mussels, and I'm sure a few other tasty seafood delights.  I did see a couple of people order this and it looked great.  You can get this platter for one for $70.00 or for two for $100.00. 

Fishermans Wharf Seafood Platter
They also had several pastas to choose from ($20-$29), a whole slew of shell fish dishes including lobster, shrimp, crab legs, and scallops ($25-$32), and of course beef options as well; ribs, rib eye steaks, striploins ($23-$29).

All things considered, this was a fantastic but expensive meal.  Our bill came to $365.  My BF tried to hide it from me - he knew this would inevitably cause a heart attack right in the middle of the dining room. I saw it though, and I almost died.  Thank goodness this isn't a regular occurrence for us, and that's the only way I can justify spending a small fortune on one meal.

Thank you darling BF for a wonderful birthday meal.  It was one that will be hard to forget.  I can still taste the creme brulee....mmm...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cuda's Tap & Grill

My family and I had a great long weekend.  Good old Family Day weekend.  On top of that it is my birthday today, so we celebrated all weekend long.  No cooking for me, thank you very much.  We did visit a few fantastic restaurants though, which of course I will tell you all about.

Cuda's Tap & Grill is located at 1107 Lorne Park Road in Mississauga. It's quite the hidden gem!

Legend has it, that there was a posh little restaurant down the street from this place called Barracuda's.  Two of the chefs left and opened Cuda's.  Barracuda's closed down, and Cuda's got busier.  Clearly, these chefs were the reason that the original Barracuda's had any business at all.  After trying the food, you'll agree, I'm sure.

When you first walk in to Cuda's, your taken back a little.  It's a tiny (I mean tiny) little sports bar-looking place.  It has 6 sit down tables, 2 bar stool tables, and a few chairs around the old wooden bar.  There are 5 big screen tv's at every angle, so it's a great place to watch some sports, although the volume isn't loud so it isn't overbearing at all. 

This place is so small, and so old looking, that it's hard not to pass judgment.  But wait.  Don't judge.  Because if you can get past the initial reaction, you will be greeted by a lovely young woman who is eager to please. 

A couple of things are clear from the get-go.  The people working there are probably family; and they definitely take pride in their food and service.  You are made to feel welcome from the moment you arrive.  They are also very professional, and act as if you are at a 5 star restaurant rather than a bar.  I can understand why after eating there - you are getting 5 star food, I promise you.

We sat down at one of the tables, and the same young lady who greeted us came over to tell us about their specials.  We're talking swordfish, black tiger shrimp, lamb tenderloin...a large list of mouthwatering meals that I couldn't wait to try.  She also mentioned their selection of fresh seafood that we could swap with pretty much anything.  She was very accommodating and wanted to make sure that we would be ordering something we enjoyed.

I started with a goat cheese salad.  This thing was fantastic.  It had cucumber, roasted red peppers, red onions, grilled zucchini, asparagus, and a variety of other wonderful vegetables on a bed of lettuce, and topped off with a large brick of warm, fresh goat cheese, and balsamic dressing.  Check out the picture below.

Cuda's Goat Cheese Salad
I was so utterly impressed with this salad that I couldn't wait to try the entrees.  For my dinner, I had ordered their smoked chicken and black tiger shrimp pasta special.  It was a bow tie pasta with sun dried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, a creamy sauce, huge shrimp and large chunks of smoked chicken.  It was amazing.  The picture is below.

Cuda's Smoked Chicken Pasta
My boyfriend ordered the curried lamb tenderloin special.  This came with basmati rice, grilled vegetables, scalloped potatoes (the most divine scalloped potatoes I have ever tasted) and tender lamb in a curry sauce like no other.  They are well known for their curry, and I now understand why.  Again, the picture is below.

Cuda's Lamb Tenderloin Special
The kids played it safe and ordered chicken ceaser wraps with fresh cut fries.  There was so much chicken in these babies, and the fries were incredible. They are definitely good on their word, these were clearly fresh cut and made.  Absolutely delicious.

Cuda's Chicken Ceaser Wrap
I saw a lot of mussels leaving the kitchen, these seemed to be popular, and they also had a large selection of pastas, pizzas, beef and lamb dishes, as well as upscale fresh seafood.

I have a feeling that the people of Lorne Park are used to 'upscale dining', and because of the interior look of this place, they haven't given it a chance, although it was quite busy while we were there, so they definitely have their regulars (who by the way were greeted by their first names, very family-like and welcoming). 

This restaurant is a true hidden gem, and I will be writing to the television show "You Got To Eat Here" to let them know about these guys.  I am truly blown away by the quality and taste of their food, and the incredible service we got.  I can't wait to go back again and again, and try everything on the menu.  I should also add that they were so reasonably priced, it was shocking.  Cuda's is a place to bring your whole family to, without breaking the bank.

Definitely take the time to check this place out, you won't be disappointed!! 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Slow Cooker Southern Style Pork Roast

I have a confession to make.

I goofed.

Yes, I made a mistake.  One of my New Years Resolutions was to have meatless Monday's and salad Wednesdays.  Well this Wednesday we didn't have a salad entree.  We did have a side salad with our entree...does that count?  I think so.

On Wednesday I made a delicious "southern style pork roast".  It came out WAY better then I thought it would, and the family loved it.  I served it as pulled pork over rice, along with the side salad.  YUM!

This was a slow cooker recipe.  I can't say enough about slow cookers.  They are fantastic.  You throw things into it in the morning, and when you come home from work you are greeted at the door by the smell of a promising dinner.  If you close your eyes very tight, you can pretend your loving husband is standing at the door with a steaming plate in hand.  Very little clean-up, and very little effort.  I have an old, and probably very tired slow cooker.  It's overworked and shows wear and tear, but my god I love that thing.  I can hear it cry to me every time I pull it from it's hiding spot under the sink.  "Again?" it says, "Please not again!".  I will always be a strong supporter of great slow cooker recipes.  And there are many out there.  Just fabulous.

Check out the the simple, delicious recipe below.  As always, my tweaks are in brackets.

Southern Style Pork Roast
2 onions thinly sliced
2 garlic minced
1 can diced tomatoes (I used the seasoned spicy diced tomatoes, they're great)
1/3c cooking molasses
1/4c cider vinegar
3 T brown sugar
2 tsp chili powder
salt & pepper
3lb pork shoulder
3T flour (I used about 1 1/2 T)

In a slow cooker, combine the first 8 ingredients.  Top with pork (I rolled the pork around in the sauce a bit at this point.  I couldn't understand why I would just sit the pork on top, I wanted it to be soaked in the sauce).  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours (mine cooked for about 10 hours.  That's one thing about a slow cooker, you can't really 'overcook' anything).  Remove pork to platter and tent with foil (I'm cheap...why waste foil?  I just sat it on a plate and set it aside for a second).  Whisk flour with 1/4c of water until smooth; whisk into slow cooker.  Cook covered on high until slightly thickened, 30 minutes (I began shredding the meat with two forks to make pulled pork here.  I then set it aside and waited out the 30 minutes before adding it back to the slow cooker for a few more minutes to heat it back up).  Serve pork with sauce.

While the pork was cooking, I had the trusty rice cooker going.  We ate this over rice, with a simple spinach salad & blue cheese dressing, with a little crumbled blue cheese on top (had to use up what I was left from the buffalo shrimp salad last week).  A wonderful, comforting meal.

For those interested in the nutritional value, if following the recipe exactly (without the rice) see below:

Serves 8, Per Serving:
316 calories
22g protein
14g fat
26g carbs
2g fiber

Next is Creamy Chicken & Spinach Pasta.  It's a super healthy recipe, looking forward to it.

Until then!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Spicy Tuna Pad Thai

So as mentioned in previous posts, Monday is Meatless Monday in our home.  Tonight I found myself in a small debate with my boyfriend over meatless Monday's.  What does "meatless" really mean?  No red meat?  Completely vegetarian?  Your thoughts?

Well, I'll give you mine.  In my eyes, meatless Monday's means no chicken, pork, or red meat.  Fish is perfectly acceptable. It seems logical to me that meatless Monday's means no MEAT.  Fish isn't meat.  Fish is fish.   He doesn't agree.  He believes that meatless should mean strictly vegetarian.  I guess none of that matters though since he enjoyed his meatless Monday, regardless of what it was.

I chose to make Spicy Tuna Pad Thai.  This is actually a Clover Leaf recipe.  It was incredibly (shockingly) delicious and by far the easiest meal I have ever made.  I don't think my BF knows that it was tuna from an actual can, and I'm not about to tell him.  He loved it, that's all that matters.

The recipe is below, and as always I have included my changes in brackets.

Spicy Tuna Pad Thai
This recipe only serves 2, so I doubled most of the ingredients...
1c rice vermicelli (I used half a pack of chow mein noodles, it's all I had)
1 can Spicy Thai Chili Tuna
1 can Spicy Peanut Satay Chili
(I used 4 cans of no name spicy thai chili tuna, delicious)
1/4c snow peas, julienned (I used about 2 cups, no 'julienning' here, no need, just trim the ends)
1/4c grated carrot (I used a large handful of baby carrots...these I actually did julienne)
1/4c light coconut milk (I used a full can...and full fat!)
1T ketchup (2 big squirts)
1T bean sprouts (I didn't have any, so I omitted these)
2T chopped peanuts (no thanks, omitted as well)

In large bowl cover rice noodles with boiling water and let soak 3-4 minutes (I cooked my chow mein noodles in boiling salted water for 3 minutes).  While noodles cook, in large saute pan add tuna, snow peas and carrots.  Reserve some for garnish (I didn't).  Stir together over high heat (I did for about 10 minutes because I didn't grate the carrots so they needed a little bit longer to cook).  Add coconut milk and ketchup.  Drain noodles and toss with tuna in saucepan (I didn't, just served the tuna and sauce over the noodles).  Serve in shallow bowls and garnish with remaining veggies and bean sprouts (since I hadn't reserved anything and didn't have bean sprouts, this step was skipped).

For those of you interested, the nutritional info is below based on the actual recipe if followed, and serving two people:

310 calories
12g fat
34g carbs
3g fiber
19g protein

I was thoroughly impressed with how this turned out, and ate leftovers of it tonight for dinner (yes, Tuesdays are leftover night in my house, for the most part).

Enjoy your Meatless Monday's ladies and gentlemen!!

Tomorrow I'm making a pork roast in the slow cooker - the greatest invention on earth.  I'll let you know how it goes...

Monday, February 13, 2012

Colossus Greek Taverna

For Valentines Day on Saturday night, my boyfriend and I went out to dinner.  We went to a Greek restaurant called Colossus Greek Taverna in Port Credit.  Let me tell you, this meal was FABULOUS.  I might have to mention that this was the first real meal I had eaten in a week, since my wisdom teeth were pulled.  I was dying for the taste of red meat…chicken…anything with substance and flavor.  Anything that required chewing.  This place definitely delivered.

 The restaurant is small and bustling – super busy on a Saturday night, but their service isn’t affected.  There is always someone to assure you that you will be seated shortly (we only waited about 10 minutes) and many people visit your table throughout the meal to ensure you are ok.  At some places this would be annoying, but Colossus somehow pulls this off tastefully and you barely notice it has even happened (but suddenly your table is cleared, or your entrée arrives).
We started by ordering an appetizer and of course a bottle of white wine.  I leave the wine to my boyfriend – I have no clue about the grapes, and dryness…whatever it is, he knows how to order for me and I take what I get.  The food is more important to me than the alcoholic grape juice.  For our appetizer we ordered the Saganaki and an order of pita wedges to eat it with.  On the menu the Saganaki is described as “Our famous opa pan seared sheeps cheese”.  I love cheese, so although this didn’t sound too exciting, it came recommended by the server.  When he brought it to our table, it was lit on fire, and a meek ‘opa’ came from his mouth.  He then put the fire out by squeezing a lemon over the fabulous fried creation, and placed it on our table. 

This cheese was DIVINE.  The pitas were absolutely the freshest I have ever tasted, still warm, and spreading the sheep’s cheese (which had a golden crispy crust) onto the pita was a taste of heaven.  Literally.  It was slightly crunchy on the outside, soft and creamy on the inside, a little salty, and fabulously defined by the little bit of fresh lemon juice that was added.  Just an incredible moment for my taste buds.  So good.

On to entrees…although I could probably talk about that appetizer for hours.   

My boyfriend ordered the Lamb & Sea.  On the menu this is described as “A combination of lamb chops, lamb tenderloin, and pulled lamb with sautéed shrimps and scallops topped with a Muscat wine reduction, served with lemon potatoes and grilled vegetables”.  It sounded like a great meal, and he’s a real meat & potatoes guy, so the perfect choice for him. 
I ordered the Surf N’ Turf.  I don’t have the formal menu description for what this was, since I believe it was a special and not part of their normal selection, but I’m more than happy to elaborate.  This incredible dish came with a lobster tail sitting on a goat cheese topped slice of eggplant, as well as beet risotto, asparagus, beef tenderloin stuffed with goat cheese (YES, stuffed with goat cheese!!) and béchamel sauce on top.  Oh.  My.  God.  This meal was INCREDIBLE.  I melted into each bite.  I don’t know what more I can say except that you MUST have this meal when you visit Colossus.  The presentation was gorgeous, the risotto was creamy, the asparagus perfectly cooked.  The tenderloin was the right shade of pink, with goat cheese oozing from each bite, the lobster was obviously lovingly prepared, and the béchamel…creamy and rich.  Delicious.
My boyfriend seemed to enjoy his meal, although I was too wrapped up in my own love affair to have a taste of his dish.  He did give me a piece of his scallop, which was wonderful.
When we left, we were thoroughly satisfied and I was mentally planning for when we could come back.  I seriously can’t wait to eat there again. 
Thank you Colossus for making my first visit back to real food a memorable one! 

Roasted Red Pepper Chicken & Buffalo Shrimp Salad

So as mentioned in the last post, next up was salad night.  I’m determined to get more fruits and veggies into my family’s belly, so I’m sticking to my guns.  With that said, my boyfriend is a home renovator and works very hard during the day.  He’s a meat and potatoes kind of guy, and is having a little trouble with some of the daintier meals I’ve been preparing lately. 

He had called me and let me know that he was going to be working a few hours late, so I decided that in addition to making the salad (which I was fine with eating), I would also make him a ‘real’ meal with some substance.

When you need a meal in a pinch, without having prepared, Campbells has some great recipes – I kid you not.  So to the menu last night, I added Campbells Roasted Red Pepper Chicken - it's been featured on their commercials lately, so it had caught my eye.  As always, I will give you the recipes below; they were both a hit. 

The other thing that I’ve been having great fun with is cooking with my daughter.  As I mentioned earlier, I have 2 children.  One is my 11 year old daughter, and the other is my 9 year old step-daughter.  They are great kids, but my step-daughter is a fairly picky eater, so when she is here I try and please her tastes with a little less daring recipes.  My 11 year old likes trying new things, and I am determined to teach her how to cook.  When I was growing up, I wasn’t allowed in the kitchen, and when I finally moved out on my own (at a young age…more on that another day) I survived off of hot dogs and Kraft macaroni and cheese for many years.  I have been emphasizing the importance to her of learning to take care of yourself and she is truly enjoying the cooking piece.  So she helped me cook dinner last night.

For all you lovely mothers out there who don’t want their children in the kitchen, keep in mind that not only is my child learning how to prepare a meal, but she is learning math (fractions with the ingredients) and how to follow steps to get to a goal…it’s great, and I get her to wash up the dishes with me afterwards, so less  work for me, yay!

So we started with the chicken recipe…super easy, see below:

Campbells Roasted Red Pepper Chicken
 4 chicken breasts (I used 6)
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
1/4c chopped roasted red pepper
1/4c apple juice (I used about 1/2c as it seemed to need more liquid)
2 T ketchup (I used a little more, but didn’t measure, just squirted it about 3 times around the pan)
4 garlic chopped
¼ tsp black pepper (I used a few dashes more)
2 T chopped basil (I had this out on the counter ready – but forgot to use it!  Blame the percocets!!)
1/4c shredded mozzarella
2c hot cooked rice (I threw this in the rice cooker before I began the dish)

Brown chicken well in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to medium and stir in soup, red peppers, apple juice, ketchup, garlic and pepper.  (It was at this point that I realized more liquid was needed, I also had to turn it way down as med-hi on my stove is VERY high so the chicken was about to burn…eeks!)  Heat to a boil (mine was already boiling).  Reduce heat to low.  Cover and simmer until chicken is cooked, 20 minutes.  Add basil (if you remember to use it!) and stir well.  Serve on the rice and sprinkle with cheese.

It was great, and super fast & easy to make.   

The salad was fantastic as well.  This one came from Women’s Health magazine.  Now I usually find their recipes to be a bit over the top.  They usually require ingredients that are impossible to find, or are never kept on hand in your kitchen.  But lately I have noticed a change in what the publish, and I’m pleasantly surprised, so I will be making more of their dishes and experimenting with what they have to offer. 

Women’s Health Buffalo Shrimp Salad With Spicy Pita Croutons
1 small whole wheat pita
1 large pinch of chili powder, garlic powder, and black pepper
1 T bbq sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray’s – use whatever you have on hand)
1 dash hot sauce (I used srirachi)
10 large shrimp boiled (I used a medium size bag, why count??)
3c romaine lettuce (I used spinach leaves – healthier and tastier if you ask me)
1 celery thinly sliced (I used 2)
1/2c shredded red cabbage (I used a pre-made bag of coleslaw mix, ½ the bag)
1c halved grape tomatoes
1T crumbled blue cheese
1 tsp sugar
1 ½ tsp white wine vinegar
2 T water
2 T nonfat Greek yogurt
2 T light mayo
1 T crumbled blue cheese
(for the dressing, I used President’s Choice Light Blue Cheese dressing and crumbled some fresh blue cheese in with it; I had it on hand, and figured I might as well use it up rather than making a new dressing…use what you have!)

Combine dressing ingredients and set aside.  Cut pita into eighths.  Spray with cooking spray on the both sides (I spread a very thin layer of garlic butter on both sides instead).  Sprinkle with chili, garlic, and pepper.  Toast in a 400 degree oven for 8-10 minutes until golden.  Set aside.  Whisk bbq and hot sauces together.  Toss shrimp with sauce and set aside (I put it in the fridge to wait – it only takes a few minutes for shrimp to grow bacteria, so be careful, it must stay cold!).  Combine all other ingredients in a large bowl and toss well with dressing.  To serve, divide salad among bowls, top with shrimp, pita croutons and blue cheese.   


Ginger Noodles With Tofu & Garlicky Green Beans

A week ago I got all 4 of my wisdom teeth removed.  For someone who loves to cook and eat the way I do, this has been absolute hell.  When I made the meal below, I had not eaten a real meal, with real food, in 51 hours and 40 minutes.  Absolutely brutal.  I missed the feeling of chewing, and tasting.  I missed the consistency of food, the way it felt in your mouth.  The temperature – whether it be hot or cold, the seasoning…oh how I missed it!  I guess the Percocets helped to curb the appetite, but I’d much rather the food over the drugs!!  And please forgive the lack of witty comments in this entry, my mind has been dulled by said drugs as I was still taking them when I wrote this, but so was the pain, so I guess no complaints.

The night after my teeth were removed,  I had watched my boyfriend eat a succulent T-Bone steak, while I had Campbells Chicken Soup.  Nothing against Campbells, but the steak looked wonderful.  And oh, the smell.  He was kind enough to cut up tiny little pieces for me to try chewing with my front teeth, so I had a bit of a teaser, but definitely not enough to satisfy my longing for red meat. 

The night before I made a fabulous meal; Ginger Noodles with Tofu and Garlicky Green Beans.  Of course, I couldn’t enjoy it at all, it took me an hour to get through half the bowl of noodles, but my family loved it.  We have started a new tradition in my home – Meatless Monday’s and Salad Wednesdays, so this meal was for Monday.  Neither my daughter or boyfriend even realized that the protein was tofu, they thought it was chicken breast, so I will give you the recipe below.  It was great, and 2 days later my daughter was still eating it for lunch.  As always, my tweaks are in brackets, although I didn’t change much here:
Ginger Noodles With Tofu
1 pkg extra firm tofu, cut in ¾” cubes & pat dry
salt & pepper
1/4c soy sauce
3 T grated ginger
1 T sesame oil
3/4lb fettuccine pasta
1 ½ T oil
8oz sliced mushrooms
1 12oz pkg broccoli slaw (I used 2 heads of broccoli cut in small pieces and steamed)

Season tofu with salt & pepper.  In a small bowl combine soy, 1 T ginger, and sesame oil.  In a large pot bring salted water to a boil with the remaining 2 T ginger.  Add pasta, and cook al dente.  Reserve 2 cups of cooking liquid (I only reserved 1 cup – I wasn’t look for the end result to be soup, I was looking for more of a pasta sauce).  Return pasta to the pot.  Meanwhile in a large skillet heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add tofu in a single layer, and cook until browned on one side, 3 minutes.  Repeat, turning the cubes, until browned on all sides.  Transfer to a plate.  (It was at this point that I was also steaming the broccoli in preparation for the next step).  Add mushrooms to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, 5 minutes.  Add broccoli slaw (or steamed broccoli), ginger-soy mixture, and reserved pasta water to pasta and toss to coat.  Divide pasta and broth among 4 bowls and top with tofu.

And for the easiest side dish ever (and most delicious!), see below…

Garlicky Green Beans
8 handfuls of green beans, trimmed
1/4c garlic butter
¼ tsp salt (I usually leave this out, the garlic butter is salty enough)

Boil a large pot of water.  Add beans and cook 2 minutes.  Drain and return to pot.  Reduce heat to medium-high.  Stir in butter until melted and season with salt & pepper (if you feel necessary).

Such a great, healthy, easy meal that the whole family loved! 

Next up is salad night, so I’m making Buffalo Shrimp Salad with Blue Cheese.  I hope I can chew it, because I’m looking forward to it!  I will let you know how it goes.

Stay tuned….!

Bacon-Wrapped Tenderloin & Roasted Veggies

Recently I made a meal fit for kings.  God, I love cooking!  But I love eating it even more!   

I made Bacon Wrapped Tenderloin with a Roasted Vegetable Salad.  I’ll give you the recipes below, and in brackets I’ll tell you what I did, since I always change the recipes I have to suit my needs and tastes.  I’m also a strong believer of substitutes.  I’m not running to the store for one ingredient when I can improvise and use what I have in the fridge. 

Below is how it should have looked had I followed the recipe exactly, courtesy of the fabulous Chatelaine Magazine:

Bacon-Wrapped Tenderloin W/Caramelized Shallots & Cranberry Port-Jus
(Sounds super fancy, right?  I know)
1/4 c grainy Dijon (I used regular old Dijon)
1/4 c horseradish
25 shallots (I used 5 – it’s all I had in the fridge)
4 1/2 tsp EVOO (I used Canola…ran out of Olive Oil…damn!)
1 T red wine vinegar
1 T brown sugar
1/8 tsp salt
2 kg filet of beef tenderloin trimmed (I used 8 beef tenderloin medallions)
9-12 slices of bacon (I used 8…for my 8 pieces of beef)
1/2 c port (I used some cheap red wine that I had in the fridge)
1/2 c frozen cranberries (I used dried – they’re sweeter anyways)

I’ll give you what the recipe says to do, but I did mine completely different as far as the cooking method goes, so I’ll give you that as well.

The recipe says to preheat the oven to 500.  Set a rack over a roasting pan.  Stir mustard with horseradish in a small bowl and set aside.  Peel shallots and trim off roots.  Cut larger shallots in half.  Place in a medium bowl.  Add EVOO, vinegar, sugar and salt.  Season with pepper and toss to coat.  Pat meat dry with a paper towel.  Remove any string around the filet.  Spread mustard mixture all over meat.  Drape bacon over tenderloin in an overlapping criss-cross pattern.  Tuck bacon underneath tenderloin so it goes all the way around the beef.  Transfer to rack in roasting pan.  Roast in the center of oven for 20 minutes.  Stir shallots.  Reduce heat to 300.  Continue roasting until 145 degrees internally, 40-45 minutes.  Transfer to cutting board and tent with foil.  Transfer shallots to serving dish.  Set roasting pan directly over 2 burners on med-hi.  Add port and cranberries.  Bring mixture to a boil, stirring frequently, mashing cranberries until tender, 3-5 minutes.  Jus should measure 2/3c.  Top mixture off with hot water to make a full cup.

Ok…thanks for coming out, but that cooking method is WAY to tedious and long for my lifestyle.  So here’s what I did.

I coated each piece of meat with the mustard horseradish mixture, wrapped each with a piece of bacon, than put a little more sauce on the bacon.  I heated a pan to med-hi, put a little oil in there, and seared them for 5 minutes per side.  I removed them from the heat, put them on a plate and tented the with foil.  Than I drained most of the oil out of the pan and reduced to medium.  I added the shallot mixture (all 5 of them..LOL) and added probably about a cup of my cheap red wine.  I let it boil for a minute or two and than tasted the sauce.  It needed more brown sugar so I added about a tablespoon.  That’s it, all done.  They were DELICIOUS.

Now for the roasted vegetable salad.   

I’ll put in brackets what I did:

4 carrots (I used a handful of baby carrots, it was all I had)
2 sweet peppers (I used one orange, one yellow)
1 small red onion (I used 2)
1 T olive oil (I used canola, 2 T)
3 T vinegar (I used 6 T)
1 T maple syrup (I used 2 T)
1 T Dijon mustard (I used 2 T)
1 tsp dried thyme
1/3 c olive oil (again, I used canola, and I doubled it to 2/3 c)
½ bunch kale leaves or spinach – 8 c (I omitted)
1 can chickpeas or 6 bean medley (I omitted by accident, completely forgot)
I also added 1 eggplant, and 2 zucchini (had to use them up before they went bad)
Asiago Cheese

Preheat oven to 450.  Chop of the veggies in large chunks.  Place all on a large baking sheet, drizzle with 1 T olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Toss to coat.  (I hate tossing things on a baking sheet…I think it’s dumb, messy and awkward, so I did this all in a large bowl and then poured it out onto a baking sheet).  Roast 20-25 minutes.  Meanwhile in a small bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients.  Cut spinach/kale into bite sized pieces and rinse and drain beans.  Place veggies in a large bowl with spinach and beans.  Drizzle with dressing and toss to coat.  I cut up a few small chunks of asiago cheese over each serving before giving it to my family.  It added an extra oomph.


Hope you enjoy the meal, I know I did.  Now, what to make tomorrow? Hmmmm…

Bistro Matisse

Since I'm so painfully careful about everything I do, I wrote a bunch of posts over the past few weeks to mull over before I started actually publishing online.  I've decided to post them all tonight so that I am up to date, and then I can begin posting daily, or weekly, as time permits.


A few weeks ago my boyfriend and I decided to go out to dinner.  We had received a flyer in the mail for what looked like a quaint little French Bistro in the Clarkson/Port Credit area called Bistro Matisse.  The reviews online were hit and miss – some people raved about the place, others hated it, so we decided to check it out for ourselves.
First impression upon arrival?  Small.  Homey.  Rustic.  Typical for a little Port Credit Bistro, I would say.  There is no privacy in the place, even if you whisper, the table on the other side of the very small establishment can hear you, but what the heck, we were there, we were hungry, and so we sat.
The waiter came over and told us 3 times that our bread was in the oven, and on the third visit he said that he would like to let us know of the specials for the day.  No problem.  We like specials. 

He began. 

He told us about the leek and potato soup (‘no cream, we use flour to thicken our soups…but it’s still very thick’), a few other soups of which only the French Onion I can remember, and than the entrees.  Steak in a peppercorn sauce with a lobster tail, and about 6 more…I can’t remember ANY of them.  It took him 10 minutes to go through the specials, and by than my boyfriend and I had mentally checked out.
He than left us to go get the bread that was warming in the oven.  Yum!  Who doesn’t love fresh baked bread??  He brought it over and asked what we would like to drink.  My boyfriend ordered a bottle of blue and I ordered a Bacardi Breezer from the menu.  No Bacardi Breezers.  I was told no one has ever ordered a cooler.  (Than why is it on the menu??)  Ok, I will take a Rye and Ginger please.  No ginger.  Really??? So I settled for a vodka and coke.
He left to get our drinks and we started in on the bread.  Mmmm…fresh baked, warm, wait…is that freezer burn I taste?!? It is.  And it’s horrible.  If the décor and the lack of drinks weren’t the strike one, this definitely was.
My boyfriend and I are pretty optimistic people, and when you’re hungry you hope for the best, so we moved on to ordering our entrees.  I figured the easiest thing for me was to order the steak and lobster special.  I was a bit concerned about the frozen bread, and didn’t want to risk ordering anything odd off of the menu only to be hit with more delightful freezer-flavor.  If it’s a special they’re probably serving a lot of it right?  This line of thinking would probably be a little more logical if there were customers in the restaurant, but since we were one of 3 couples on a Friday night, I guess I deserved what I later got.
My boyfriend went ‘safe’ as well, ordering the “Matisse Platter”, figuring that since we were at Bistro Matisse, this would be a specialty of theirs.  Nope.  The waiter said ‘no one has ever ordered that before’ (like the Breezer?) and he didn’t know what came with it.  My boyfriend read the menu to him so that he could get up to speed. 
The waiter also asked us if we would like to start with anything.  We looked at the menu but were cut off, and told that our meals are fairly large so he would just split the ceaser that he had forgotten came with my boyfriend’s meal, so that we each got some.  He told us this would save us money too.  Great, thanks.  I guess he thought we were trying to save? Or maybe he was saving us from the appetizers?  Who knows.
Things weren’t looking good.  The McDonalds across the street was beginning to look fantastic.
I am happy to report that the ceaser was great, if you like a lot of garlic.  We do, so this was just what we needed to renew our faith and give us strength to face the rest of the meal. The only complaint I had here was that we were only given our dinner fork, no salad fork.  Their dinner forks are VERY heavy and strangely shaped, so eating the salad was awkward and cumbersome.  It was delicious though.
We waited about half an hour for our meal.  Reasonable amount of time in my eyes.  Our food was brought to the table and I was starving.  My absolute favorite food to eat is a lobster tail, so I dug in.  Not bad.  Definitely frozen.  A little water-logged…but edible.  The steak was okay;  rubbery, not very well seasoned.  The vegetables were clearly frozen; they had the same freezer-burned taste of the bread.  The potatoes were cold so I didn’t even bother, and the shrimp was well cooked, but also cooked from frozen. 
I didn’t try much of my boyfriend’s meal, so my review is based solely on presentation and his word.  His dish was 2 lamb chops, 1 chicken breast, shrimp, mussels, calamari, potatoes and vegetables. 

Enough to feed a king. 

His chicken looked boiled with very little seasoning.  His shrimp was okay, I tasted it, very fishy.  He said his lamb was good.  The potatoes and veggies were the same as mine, so no explanation needed there.  The calamari was rubbery.  My boyfriend’s take was that the seasoning was great, It’s just a shame that everything was so clearly frozen.  There is no mistaking it.  Fresh would have been so much better.
My take?  Strike two.
We finished what we could of our meals (we packed up the rest) and decided to check out the desserts.  I heard the other table that was there ask for a dessert menu, and the waiter said that ‘telling you what we have would be easier” so I didn’t bother asking for a menu and just asked what they had.  He told us about the crème brulee that is ‘definitely fresh, I saw them make it today”, apple pie (no comment on freshness there), a couple other items that I zoned out on, and the profiteroles. 

Well…my boyfriend and I LOVE profiteroles, so what the heck, why not give them a try?  The waiter said they’re great, and he would be right out with them.  Lovely…looking forward to it.
Five minutes later, he came out with a martini glass filled with 5 profiteroles, whipped cream, and chocolate syrup.  We ate.  They were okay.  They were warm.  I think that was their only saving grace.  The whipped cream was from a can.  The chocolate syrup was Nesquick.  I know this because we use the same syrup at home for our kids…and I have been known to squirt a little in my mouth every now and than.  They would have been much better without that damn freezer-burned taste.  EVERYTHING had the same freezer taste.  I hate that taste.  I think it’s awful that I am paying for that taste when I can simply pull out an old eggo waffle from my freezer at home and have that taste for free. 

The waiter sealed any doubt I had about the frozen profiteroles when he cleared our table and said ‘aren’t they great?  I eat them frozen sometimes’ mean, rather than warming them up in the microwave in your kitchen back there?  Thanks.  You could have at least pretended they were fresh.

Strike three.  I’m done.

Bottom line…go to the Chinese grocery store and buy a lobster for 9.99/lb.  Cook it and eat it at home.  Throw a couple of steaks on the BBQ for 20.00…cook it how you like it.  Steam some veggies.  Fry some dough and squirt custard in it (I can give you a recipe another day).  Maybe an hour’s worth of prep work, and 40.00 later you will have yourself a fantastic meal for two.  We spent 115.00 on our meal and it sucked. 

The moral of the story?  Homemade is ALWAYS best!! 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

And So It Begins...

So…I am starting a food blog. 
I’m not a chef, I have no degree in cooking, I don’t work at a restaurant, and this isn’t something I’ve studied. 
I DO love food though; I love eating, I love cooking, I love going out to eat and trying new things.  Best of all, I love writing.  It’s the perfect fit for me, and I’m thinking those of you who decide to spend a minute reading this will get a kick out of it too.
My plan is to write about the different recipes I cook daily, the restaurants I visit, the deals I find, the problems I run in to…all related to food.  I’m a busy Mom of two young children, and also have a full-time job, so I know how hard it is to get a good meal on the table at the end of a long day at work, but I’ve got tips for that too!  I cook almost every night, and rarely the same thing twice in a month.  I’m a hard-core couponer, and love saving money and time, without sacrificing the taste and quality of the meals I serve my family.  
I am NOT a stepford wife, and by no means is my life perfect…I enjoy my daily alcoholic beverage and a cigarette here and there (ok, maybe a little more than here and there…), but I also enjoy feeding my family and keeping them happy.  I've wanted to do this for a long time - write a blog.  My ultimate dream is to become a food editor/food writer.  The death of Whitney Houston yesterday made me realize that there is no point in putting this off any longer.  We sit around and wait for the 'right' times to do things, and the truth is we just might run out of time before it gets done!  So here I am, jumping in head first. 
I’m a real person, with real issues, and I won’t be glossing over any of them.  So sit back and enjoy the blog…hope you learn something along the way!
Today I made Beef Stroganoff for dinner.  Unfortunately I didn't get a picture, but I will be trying to put pics of the meals in as I go.  I gave you a generic pic though, so you know what it's supposed to look like.  This is a long time favorite of mine…my Dad has been making it since as far back as I can remember.  The smell in my apartment right now is intoxicating, and brings me back to my childhood. 

Check out the recipe; super easy, and SO delicious.  I double the sauce, because we love sopping it up with the noodles:

Beef Stroganoff
4 Tbsp margarine (I use butter…mmmm)
1/2c minced onion (I use 3-4 small onions)
Garlic Powder (I use a huge garlic clove)
2 Tbsp flour
2 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1c sour cream
1 T vinegar
1 can tomato paste
2 lbs chopped beef
1 can sliced mushroom drained
1 can beef broth

In a skillet (or pan, whatever…always hated the specific requirements of cookware…does it really matter??) over medium heat, melt margarine (or butter!).  Saute onion and garlic, cook until soft.  Sprinkle flour, salt and pepper over beef in a bowl and mix to combine.  Add meat and mushrooms to skillet (pan!) and cook, stirring constantly, 6 minutes.  Stir in paste, broth, and vinegar, and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes uncovered (I do medium heat because the sauce has been doubled and there is more liquid to evaporate).  Blend in sour cream 2 minutes before serving (I’ve already blended my sourcream…and the family won’t be home for another hour or so, oh well!).  Serve over noodles.  Yum!!

Any noodles will do…I believe it’s supposed to be egg noodles, but tonight I’m serving whole wheat rotini.  It’s all the same, just a little healthier.  The smell in my small but acceptable apartment is absolutely divine right now, and I can’t wait for my family to get home so that we can devour it.  The truth is, I have snuck a few spoonfuls of beef and LOTS of sauce from the pan already…it’s very hard to walk past it on the stove and not dive in face first, so please forgive me. 

So that’s my blog for today…hope you enjoyed it.  I’m off to watch some Slice TV…maybe a little ‘Till Debt Do Us Part’ or ‘Rich Bride, Poor Bride’…whatever is on will do.  My vice is Slice!!