Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Why I don't bake.

I'm not one much for baking and there is a good reason for that. Aside from the fact that baking is more of a science and you must be precise, while I prefer to toss things in and use a recipe more as a guideline, I have another reason I don't bake. We eat it all. I have no self control. I made these fantastic Skor Bits Cookies on the weekend for the holidays. I ate 7 on Saturday. So did Tim. We had such a sugar high going. But for 2 people who don't eat a lot of sweets, it left us with a yucky feeling in our stomachs. I finally had to freeze most of them. I left us out a dozen. This is what was left by Tuesday....

Here is the recipe I got from a friend who got if from her mother. If anyone knows where it originally came from, let me know so we can give credit where credit is due. These really are fantastic and they freeze beautifully!

SKOR COOKIES

2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1-3/4 cups (10-oz. pkg.) SKOR English Toffee Bits

1. Heat oven to 350F. Lightly grease cookie sheet or use parchment paper.
2. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt. In large bowl, beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla until well blended. Add eggs; beat well. Gradually add flour mixture, beating until well blended. Stir in toffee bits. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto prepared cookie sheet.
3. Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until lightly browned but still soft, don't over cook!! Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. About 4 dozen cookies

I cooked mine for 14 minutes because I thought they were too soft and they ended up too hard, still tasty and will dip nicely in coffee or hot chocolate over the holidays but won't cook them that long again.

Grocery List Efficiency

Yesterday a friend showed me a new gadget for grocery shopping. It's a SmartShopper Grocery List Organizer. I thought this was hilarious at first. There really is a gadget for everything. Some people love their gadgets. Although I have to admin, I'm a pretty big kitchen gadget gal myself but I am learning that no matter how big the kitchen, you can't have everything and there are a lot of good multi-purpose gadgets out there so I like to maximize my space and spending by only buying things if I really need them or if they can do more than one thing.

For people with severe arthritis or any other type of condition that makes writing difficult, these new electronic list keepers are a real god sent. Call me old fashioned but I use paper and a pen to do my lists. And I do a lot of lists. Now some may say, electronic lists save trees. True but a lot of electronic parts are hard to safely dispose of. In the future there are federal acts to ensure electronic equipment is made without some of the harmful parts so there is hope. In the meantime I use the old pages from my 'quote-a-day' calendar.

This gadget does something that both my friend and I agree is a necessity for efficient grocery shopping and general sanity. It organizes the list for you by category. That is the most important thing you can do before hitting the grocery store. Organize your list! I rewrite mine and have different areas of the page for different sections of the grocery store, top left is always fresh fruit and veggies, under that is shelf items, bottom left is household items, top right is meats, bottom right is dairy. But if you don't want to waste time and paper, pull out the highlighter set. Go through your list and highlight all the items in the dairy section in one colour, use another colour for the freezer section, another for meats, another for fresh items, another for items on the shelves, etc. You get the idea. Don't have highlighters in the house? Crayons will work too! Then when you get the the store, don't leave a section until you have all the items of that colour group. Easy!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Let's Talk Tofu!

I'm going to be honest. I'm not a huge tofu fan. I can have it out in a restaurant and enjoy it just fine but I hadn't had a lot of success cooking it at home. And Tim enjoys Tofu. It's certainly very healthy. As we head into the holiday season where eating delicious treats are as much a part of the season as Santa Claus and reindeer (which makes a lovely roast by the way, but that's another conversation altogether) I try to make sure we have healthy meals on the table in the time leading up to the actual holidays. So last night I attempted tofu again.

Armed with a recipe for Five Spice Tofu Stir-Fry from Weight Watchers magazine, Sept/Oct edition, I was prepared. I had extra veggies to add in, something I often do and I had soft tofu instead of extra firm but that was all I could find at the grocery store and it still felt pretty firm.


As per usual, I didn't follow the recipe but used it more as a guideline. First thing I learned this time was that tofu must be cooked in a little canola or vegetable oil (1/2 tbsp for about 1/2 lb) over a very high heat. I let the wok heat up over a medium high heat with the knob turned more to the high than the medium. Then I seared the tofu on all sides. It gives it a nice crispy outside. Take the tofu out of the pan, cook the rest of your veggies and such. Add the tofu back in at the end with any sauce to heat through.


The second thing I learned when cooking tofu is to marinate it. Tofu acts as a sponge for marinates. I marinated mine for the afternoon but not everyone is home in the middle of the day to put their tofu in marinade. I would say to prepare the marinade and tofu (cut it in chunks) the night before and then before you head out for the day, simply toss the tofu in the marinade and let it sit all day. There will be some serious flavour absorption. At the very least, if you can't get it together in the morning to get the marinating action started, when you come home get that tofu right in the marinade and let it sit for at least 30 minutes but preferably for an hour. Asian inspired marinades are the best starting place since tofu is often used in this style of food. Yes, you can cheat and use a bottled sauce just watch the sodium content. I had a nice Szechuan-style sauce I added into mine.


I have leftovers for lunch and I can't wait!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Some entertaining advice. Or "the holidays don't have to suck the life out of you"

This is the time of year when people start baking and planning their holiday party menus. This year I'm a humbug! I'm so overwhelmed with Christmas knitting (see other blog) that I can't be bothered with anything else. Luckily we have a freezer full of leftovers so there is no need to cook most nights. I'm not a baker so my Christmas baking has always been minimal at best. I made some pumpkin biscotti the other day. It was good but the friend I got the recipe from put white chocolate chips in hers which made them taste quite a bit better but I didn't realize this so mine didn't have the chips. I have since added it to the written recipe. I like making biscotti, since they need to end up dried out and hard, it's a pretty easy recipe for a non-baker. And they are great to have on hand to dunk in warm drinks when guest stop by.

Last night Tim informs me that he wants for finally do a tapas type party for his team at work. We had talked about this last year but the team couldn't set a date so it fell off the Christmas schedule. This year they have a date set. Great. Tim says he is going to do all the cooking (which is better than last year when he wanted me to help even on the night of the event). He only needs my help to set the menu. We had solidified a menu last year but do you think I can find that now? No, of course not. So we have to sit down and do it again. And argue over it again. As an inexperienced caterer, Tim wants to do unrealistic things. So I have to burst his bubble to make sure he doesn't make the whole thing too labour intensive.

That's the problem when people entertain, they tend to make the whole event too labour intensive. My advice, do as much a head as possible, pick only one labour intensive item for the time of the event, and plan out everything in advance. Make a project plan like itinerary for the food prep during the event. What has to go in the oven at what time, what you can put out on plates while waiting for the oven stuff to get done. Plan what order you will serve things. Even plan what serving dishes will be used for what items.

Here is how I break it down. For each item I write out the following:
Preparations - ahead and at serving time
Cooking or chilling instructions and times
Serving instructions and serving ware.

Then I piece it together like a puzzle, not thinking of the dishes as a whole but as each task as an event that can be done when it best fits in the puzzle. You'll be surprised as how much you can do ahead of time. For example Tim wants to do a version of my layered salad on a stick. That's his theme, "Everything on a Stick". So he can put the cherry tomato, a small boccochini, a slice of proscuitto and a basil leaf on each skewer ahead of time on serving trays if he can fit them in the fridge. This can be done the day of the event (some things can be done a couple of days ahead of time). Then about 20 - 30 minutes before serving, he can drizzle the skewers with a olive oil balsamic drizzle. And they are good to go! So as soon as he gets to the event, he would drizzle these skewers and have them ready to go out as the first course while doing everything else he needs to do. I always try to have something either waiting for my guests as soon as they arrive or within minutes of their arrival. Best to get some food into those bellies as the drinks start to flow!

Planning how you are going to serve the food is actually more important than what you serve, in my opinion. If your guests are waiting around for food or it is overcooked, undercooked or turns out wrong, it's a bad thing. Do less but do it right. Less really is more!

Now back to knitting!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Leftover Mania and the Wonder of the Freezer

Last night I made a simple meal based on some leftover chili. Never freeze your leftover chili in one big container. To defrost it requires a commitment to eat chili for many days. If you freeze it in 1 cup servings you only have to commit to a lunch or dinner of chili. Or better yet, you can use it in other dishes. I made a frittata or omelet out of 1 cup of leftover chili. I added in some salsa, green peppers and onions, topped it with some cheddar and it was really tasty. It worked out to 4 points per serving with 3 ounces of cheese and 3 eggs. We had a side of refried beans to round out the meal.

Did I mention how much I love my freezer. Tonight we're having leftover Sicilian pasta and sauce (I must have gotten the recipe from a book or mag because it's not on the blog) with some fresh grilled swordfish. All I have to do is quickly grill the fish, heat the leftovers and dinner is ready! Which is a good thing because there has been some talk of heading out to do some Christmas shopping tonight. Bah humbug!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Time for Turkey Tips! - Homemade Broth

Yup, it's that time of year again, when I make 3 turkeys in 3 months. 2 down, 1 to go! I had some beautiful pictures of the turkey I made for friends for the American Thanksgiving but some divine intervention caused them to be erased from my camera. I believe this was due to the inclusion of an incriminating video of a certain Wii boxer hitting his head during game play, resulting in fits of laughter from the spectators. Or it could just be because I should not be allowed to play with the menu on my camera after too little sleep and too much wine... Either way - no pics. And she was a good looking bird too. And really, really tasty!

My friend and host finally came clean this year and told me he has found my stuffing dry in the past. Usually I am manhandling a 25+ pound bird which I feel would never cook if I put the stuffing inside so I make it as dressing in a separate dish and baste it with turkey drippings. This time I had a totally manageable bird of just 16 pounds so I stuffed 'er up! The stuffing was almost too moist! Boy was it good, especially mixed with some gravy and layered on top of turkey for the requisite day after, and after, and after, turkey sandwich.

One thing that I have been doing for the last few years is making a homemade turkey stock or broth the night before. It's pretty easy and a flavourful touch to the big meal. Now for those of you thinking to yourself... 'yeah, because I don't have enough to do before the big day!', don't panic. You can just buy a couple of boxes of chicken broth from the grocery store. It's not the same but it's better than just using water to boil your potatoes in, steam veggies and add to the turkey drippings for the gravy. But if you really want to add a special touch give homemade broth a go. And you can do this anytime ahead of the big dinner. I do it the night before but you can do it earlier. Just buy a turkey neck in the grocery store instead of taking the neck and gizzards out of the bird you are going to roast.

Ingredients:
  • Turkey neck and gizzards from the inside of the turkey. DO NOT USE THE LIVER - it will give it a bitter taste
  • 3 or 4 celery stalks, cut in chunks
  • 1 onion, cut in chunks
  • 3 or 4 carrots, cut in chunks
  • Fresh herbs, I use thyme, sage, rosemary and flat leaf parsley, just throw in a couple of stalks of each
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 - 6 cups of water

  • Throw everything in the pot and set it over a medium low heat to simmer, covered. If you get a good boil going it will start to develop a foam on top. Scoop this foam off but don't worry about it too much, nothing you are using the broth for will require it be perfectly clear.
  • Let it simmer for a couple of hours until the neck is falling apart. Once that starts to happen, uncover the pot and let it reduce for 30 - 40 minutes. I like a nice intensely flavored broth.
  • All that is left is to drain the broth and discard the solid bits of veggies, gizzards, neck and herbs. Chill the broth overnight and then in the morning you can scoop off any fat that has risen to the top.
  • I put aside one cup for my gravy. I use the rest to boil the potatoes and turnip in and to steam any veggies I might be making.
  • You can freeze any leftovers but make sure the container you put it in has LOTS of room to expand. I have come across leftover broth in my freezer in a broken jar months later.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Lunch Wrap

Hello!

I finished my cookbook query, I think. Maybe. I have reviewed it once and will do that again before I send it out to literary agents. Wish me luck! It's hard to 'wow' anyone with just one page.

I've been eating out of my freezer so I don't have any new dinner ideas but I do have a lunch idea that is worth sharing. It's a fantastic wrap. Points per wrap is 3!! And it's quite filling.

One whole wheat wrap (I use the Weight watchers ones since they are just 1 point)
1 tbsp hummus, store or homemade
diced up veggies of your choice. I use tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, green onion, peppers
1 tbsp of crumbled light feta cheese.

Layer it all in the order above, roll it up and eat. It's one of my favs for a quick, light lunch. Grab a piece of fruit or add a fat free pudding snack and you have a full meal! Enjoy!

Monday, November 12, 2007

The mad rantings of a cookbook writer to be - and a Pumpkin Soup recipe.

I'm still trying to figure out how to work on my cookbook. One would think you would just sit down, grab some recipes (I have tons), organize them in some fashion and put it out there. Writing is hard work! And organizing your thoughts and ideas is hard work! And I'm lazy! I'm trying to figure out a way to approach this task methodically. I'm torn between a project management approach with a work breakdown structure (WBS to those of you in the know) or my old term paper approach that got me through high school and university. It involves index cards and a filing system. A highly effective system but time consuming. UGH! I have no excuse this week. Tim is away and I can totally focus. I have a freezer full of good food (more about that in a minute) so I can't get distracted by cooking which is still my favorite distraction from reality. Focus, it's all about focus. Did I mention I am typically doing 3 things at once? Right now I am playing ball with the dog, considering knitting patterns for some gifts for friends I'm going to visit next week and writing this. Oh, and I'm job searching and about to go start my breakfast. I'm so screwed.

On a happier note, yesterday I totally ate out of my freezer. I had pumpkin soup for lunch. Holy snappin' arseholes, was it tasty! I have no idea why I haven't blogged about this one before but here is the recipe.

Perfect Pumpkin Soup

Here is a quick and delicious pumpkin soup that makes a great meal. And it’s cheap! It is also an excellent starter when you don’t have fresh salad ingredients on hand. Even though there is real cream in this, don’t sweat it. It’s only 1 cup worth for the whole recipe which works out to 1.33333 ounces of cream per main course dish. But don’t skip it, it really smooths out the soup.

I keep a can of pure pumpkin on hand at all times just so I can throw this together in a pinch. Where do you find can pure pumpkin in the grocery store? Why with the canned pie filling, of course! (I spent 15 full minutes racing up and down aisle looking for it the first time…. I figured it would be with the canned fruits! Nope)


Serves 6 as a main course or 8 as a starter course - 2 Points per serving! (it tastes way naughtier than that!)


Ingredients

· 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
· I onion, chopped
· 1 carrot, chopped (optional)
· 1 rib of celery, chopped (optional)
· 2 tsp or 2 cloves of minced garlic
· 5 cups of low sodium chicken broth (almost 2 large cartons of the store bought kind)
· 1 796ml of pure pumpkin
· 1 tsp of dried sage or thyme or savory
· 1 cup of whipping cream

Directions
1. Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat

2. Sauté the onion, carrot and celery until softened, about 3 minutes

3. Add in the garlic and cook one more minute

4. Add in 3 cups of the broth and cook for 5 minutes. Puree the mixture using either a blender, immersion blender or potato masher.

5. Stir in the can pumpkin, the rest of the broth and the sage. Cook for another 5 minutes.

6. Stir in the cream and just heat it through, about another 2-3 minutes.

7. Enjoy!

This recipe freezes beautifully. (See, I can say that for sure, having just eaten some that has been in the freezer for 6 months!)


Nutritional Information 6 Main Servings with Carrot and Celery: 117 Calories, 11g Fat, 5g Saturated Fat, 0g Trans Fat, 27 mg Cholesterol, 87mg Sodium, 4g Fiber, 16g Carbohydrates


Then for supper I had Lamb Ragu on pasta. Wowzers! Both dishes survived the freezer unscathed. So the term "freezes beautifully" really does have meaning.

Today is a holiday, in lieu of Remembrance Day... Maybe I should just take the day off, drink coffee and knit.... FOCUS, FOCUS -man I suck.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Risotto again and the rumblings of a future cookbook

I've been trying to get my act together to work on a cookbook but often I feel as if I am not a prolific cook. This blog does not get the input like my knitting blog does. I try to remember that my knitting blog isn't about trying to share my knowledge of how to knit, it's just a place to show off my work. This blog has always been more about sharing my knowledge and experience with food. Teaching is hard. That's why people make a commitment, go to school and get paid to teach! And writing is even harder. Not everyone can be a writer, even those of us who are passionate about that which we write. It still doesn't mean we are good at it. I looked back and reviewed my entries. There is some good stuff here! Maybe I will take a stab at that cookbook. I have this nasty habit though... I tend to do at least 3 things at once. No wonder I can't focus to write... Wish me luck!

While I'm here I might as well once again preach about the virtues of risotto. It's one of my favorite elegant, quick, easy and cheap meals. Don't be intimidated! Here's my last rant about risotto "Let's Talk Risotto" . I want to share my latest risotto. One thing that really makes risotto sing is to add a dash of wine or I used vermouth this time, even a dry sherry would do. But what if you don't want to add alcohol to your dish? Use a bit of apple juice! This is a standard substitution for white wine. I buy the juice packs and keep them on hand. Then when a recipe calls for white wine and I don't have it, I just pop open a juice pack!

Serves 4 - 5 points per serving

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup of arborio rice
  • 5 cups of low sodium chicken or veggie broth (you may use more or less, one carton of the campbells broth will cover it)
  • 1/3 cup white wine, vermouth or apple juice
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped broccoli, frozen or fresh
  • 2/3 cup grated parmesan

Heat the oil in a pot or high sided saucepan over medium heat. Saute the onions until soft but don't brown them. Add the garlic and saute for one more minute. Add the rice and saute for 2-3 minutes.

Start adding the broth 1/2 cup or so at a time. Stir a bit and keep an eye on the pot. You don't want it to go dry. When the liquid seems mostly absorbed, add more. Keep doing this for about 20 minutes. Then taste a piece of rice. It should taste like it is just got a little bit of give to it. it's almost done but not quite. Which is fine. Now we add the veggies!

You will still be adding broth, add in the veggies too. Let the liquid cook out. Add the wine/vermouth/apple juice. Taste a piece of rice again. It should have no give and no crunch. It should be smooth, like a well cooked pasta.

Remove from the heat and stir in your cheese.

Someday soon I must do a video of this. It's easy but seeing it done will really make you feel comfortable making it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Chicken Roll Ups!

I got home after being away for the weekend and my mom had bought some fresh chicken breasts for dinner but she couldn't decide what to do with them. After watching her painfully consult a number of cookbooks I offered up this suggestion. Quick, yummy and they do freeze well. You could use pork or veal in place of the chicken if you wanted. And if you aren't into pounding the meat (I'll leave the obvious jokes out here) then you could just cut them in half through the centre and stuff the ingredients inside instead of rolling them up.

Serves 1 (you can make as many as you want, it was just easier to write the recipe this way) - 4.5 points per serving.

Ingredients:
1 chicken breast per person
sprinkle of italian seasoning or Ms. Dash's garlic and herb seasoning
1/4 oz thinly sliced pancetta, proscuitto or ham
1/2 oz of shredded part skim mozzarella cheese ( you could just slice it but I find you get better coverage by shredding it)
5 or 6 asparagus stalks

Heat oven to 350. Heat an oven safe nonstick saute pan (or use a pan to sear this then transfer it to a baking dish just heat the baking dish in the oven while it's preheating) over medium high heat. Spray the pan with non stick spray. Pound out the chicken between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Try to get it the same width so that the chicken will cook quickly and evenly.
Sprinkle the seasoning on top of the breast.
Layer the pancetta, asparagus and cheese. Roll up and close with a toothpick.
Place in the pan and brown on all sides. Place in the oven and cook for 20 minutes.

Layered Leftover Turkey Pie

I got sick of turkey leftovers this year. And I still have another Thanksgiving to celebrate! I was going to make an Asian inspired dish with my leftovers but Tim was on his way to China for 2 weeks so I thought I'd better not. Instead we had this super healthy Italian inspired dish. Again I didn't take a picture of this dish but I do think it is worth sharing.



Serves 4 - 4 points per serving



Ingredients:
Layer 1
  • Spaghetti Squash or 2 cups of cooked spaghetti

Layer 2

  • 1 cup of fat free cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded part skim mozzarella
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 tsp of italian seasoning or a combination of dried thyme, basil and oregano

Layer 3

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 4 cups fresh spinach or 1 package frozen
  • 2 cups chopped broccoli
  • 6 oz of diced cooked turkey (about 2 cups) or ground turkey
  • 2 small cans (156ml) or 1 1/4 cup of low sodium V8 or 1 small can of tomato sauce (14 oz)
  • 1 tsp italian seasoning (yes, again)

Layer 4

  • 1/2 cup shredded part skim mozza and parm

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the spaghetti squash in half, scoop out the seeds. Place squash cut side down on either aluminum foil sprayed with nonstick spray or on parchment paper lining a baking sheet. Cook for 35 - 45 minutes until the strings inside the squash can be easy scrapped out with a fork. I did this in my toaster oven to prevent heating up the whole kitchen. Remove the strings from the squash.

While the squash is cooking, prepare layer 3. Heat a large non stick skillet over medium high heat. Spray the pan with nonstick spray. Saute the onions until they start to soften, add the garlic cooking one minute longer. Turn the heat down to medium. Add in the broccoli, turkey (if raw) and the V8 or tomato sauce. Simmer until the turkey and broccoli are almost cooked, about 10 minutes. You could brown the turkey if using raw, it's up to you. Add in the cooked turkey if using and the spinach with the italian seasoning. Cook for just a couple of minutes until the spinach is wilted. Remove pan from heat and set aside.

Prepare layer 2. Mix together, in a small bowl, the cottage cheese, the first bit of mozzarella, the egg whites and the other bit of italian seasoning. Set aside.

Spray a pie plate with nonstick cooking spray. Put the strings from the squash on the bottom of the pie plate. Make a sort of crust with it. You don't have to be perfect here so don't sweat it.

Pour on the cheese mixture (layer 2) and spread evenly over the squash. Pour on the meat and veggie mixture (layer 3) and spread evenly. Sprinkle on the mozza and parm (layer 4)

Bake for 40 minutes at 350 until the top is bubble and the pie is set.

Maple Dijon Apple Pork Chops with Pan Sauteed Veggies

I threw this dish together one evening on a whim. It got such rave review I had to share it. I didn't take a picture of it because I really didn't plan on repeating it. It really was just a throw together kind of meal.

Serves 4 - 6 points each

Ingredients:
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 apples, chopped (peeled or unpeeled, it's your choice, I did one of each)
  • 1 beet, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 3 medium carrots, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 3 medium potatoes, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 cups of vegetable broth or chicken broth, low sodium
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 4 pork chops, centre loin lean cut
  • sprinkle of either salt and pepper or some sort of steak seasoning. I used Ryan Duffy's Steak Spice.

Heat the oil in a deep saute pan or dutch oven. Saute onions until soft and starting to brown. Add in the apples and saute for another 2-3 minutes.
Add in the beets and carrots and half of the broth. Cover. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Add in the potatoes, rest of the broth, maple syrup and Dijon. Cover. Simmer for another 10 minutes
Season the pork chops with the salt and pepper or steak seasoning. Add them into the pan, pushing them to the bottom of the pan, moving the veggies out of the way. There should be a nice thick sauce in the pan at this point. Cover and let the pork chops steam for 10 to 15 minutes until cooked. This makes the chops extremely tender.

This is a nice hardy dish on a chilly fall day. You can use other veggies if you want, like sweet potato, squash or turnip. I happened to have a beet that needed to be used so that is why I threw it in.

Super Skinny Pizza

So I had these wonderful globe zucchini I had picked up at the market. Globe zucchini are round, as their name implies. I was going to stuff them but it was a warm day and the thought of baking them in the oven for a while didn't appeal to me. So I came up with the idea to make them into pizzas!


I took my round zucchinis and cut them into 1/4 inch discs, but I could have done the same with a some medium or large regular zucchinis, cutting them lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices. You could also use eggplant this way. I then baked just the zucchini at 400 for 10 minutes, check them after 5 and flip them if necessary. You are trying to brown them and dry them out so they will make nice pizza shells.
Once the 'shells' are brown and crispy, top them with sauce and your favorite toppings. We used a little rose sauce with veggies and mozza. Think about the point value! We just has a little sauce and cheese for points. I ended up eating a plate full of mini pizzas and the point total was 4!

Here's another thought. Cut small or medium zucchini in half, scoop out some of the seeds from the centre and use the zucchini like a french bread for pizza. Remember to bake the zucchini first to make it crispy!

Broccoli and Cheese Soup - 1.5 points

Here is a recipe that is great for upping your veggie intake. It's quick, light, tasty and freezes well. And it's a variation on a Weight Watchers recipe.




Serves 3 - 1.5 points each



Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of Broccoli, chopped roughly
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 1/2 cups of vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt or Ms. Dash
  • 1/4 teaspoon of pepper
  • 1 cup of shredded light cheddar cheese.
Combine the broccoli, garlic and broth in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook until the broccoli is tender. Puree the soup in either a blender or with an immersion blender. Don't have either? Your potato masher will work. Leave the soup in the pan or return it to the pan if using a blender. Stir in the milk, salt and pepper, heating through over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheese. Keep stirring until the cheese is melted.

That's it! This is a great starter dish in place of a salad or great with a sandwich for lunch. Split it between 2 servings and serve it with some whole wheat toast for a light meal. The point value per serving goes up to 2.5 (check the math, yes I rounded up).

Monday, September 24, 2007

Healthy Newfie Style Pea Soup

We had Jiggs Dinner Sat. night. It was awesome. Whenever we have Jiggs Dinner (it's also known as a 'boiled dinner' or 'corned beef and cabbage' in other parts) I always get in the mood for pea soup. I usually make it out of leftover peas pudding but we like the peas pudding so much we hate to save it for soup. So today, since it's blustery and chilly, I made a pot of soup without using the leftover peas pudding but I did use the very tasty leftover broth from the boiling pot for the Jigg's Dinner. It turned out so good that from now on I'm always saving my leftover broth from Jigg's Dinner for pea soup! (It will freeze well so I won't have to make pea soup right away)




Serves 8, almost 2 cup servings (at least!) - 5 points per serving

  • 2 slices back bacon, diced
  • 2 ounces (60 g) prosciutto, diced
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 cups diced onion
  • 2 cups diced carrots
  • 2 cups diced celery (don't like celery - try using 1 tbsp of celery seeds from the spice aisle, you can even grind them up to make celery powder, you just want the undertone for the mirepoix(fancy french word for stock base))
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley and thyme
  • 1 450g/1 lb bag of dried split peas, yellow or green
  • 9 cups of low sodium veggie broth - you could need more broth if the consistency of the soup needs it for your preference.
Saute the bacon and prosciutto over medium heat. Add the oil, onions, celery and carrots and sweat (cook until tender over medium heat). Add the parsley and thyme and cook one minute. Add in the peas and broth. Simmer until the peas are the consistency you like. You may need more broth to make it the way you like it.



I topped ours with croutons (don't forget to add the extra points!) but it didn't need it. It's a pretty filling soup on it's own.

I used 6 cups of broth leftover from our Jigg's Dinner the night before. It was really fat free. I had trimmed a lean cut of corned beef when I made the Jigg's Dinner so there was no fat in the leftover broth. Plus it sat in the fridge overnight so any fat would have risen to the top to be skimmed off. I used the last 3 cups of broth from the organic section of the Superstore. It's a low sodium veggie broth.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Zucchini, Zucchini, Zucchini

This picture is deceiving. These veggies are huge! and I got all 3 of them for $1!

I'd like to say that my garden overfloweth but I didn't have a garden this year... but watch out next year! Here I have 3 recipes that are great for the zucchini harvest and the tomato harvest! And they are all super healthy and freeze beautifully. So here's to farm fresh veggies in the dead of winter! (I'm adding point values for those of you doing weight watchers and for those of you who aren't - it still gives you an idea of how healthy the dishes are!)


Healthy and Quick Zucchini Au Gratin - Serves 6 - 3 points per serving.


Ingredients:

  • 2 cup zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 cups tomato, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 cups yellow squash, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 cup shredded part skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan
  • 4 tbsp italian seasoning or fresh herbs of your choice

Place a layer of zucchini, followed by tomato, then yellow squash. Mix the cheeses together and place a thin layer on top of the yellow squash followed with some of the herbs. Repeat this until all of the ingredients are used, Ending with cheese and herbs.

I make on 4 serving square casserole and 2 individual casseroles but you can use a bigger dish and make all 6 servings in one. Bake in a 350 oven for 30 minutes.

Substitutions: Fresh herbs for the dried italian seasoning mixture, can diced tomatoes for the fresh and you can omit the yellow squash if want.

Indian Curry Chickpeas and Zucchini - 6 servings - 4 points per serving

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp canola oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp minced ginger
  • 2 tbsp curry powder (or mix some cumin, coriander, turmeric and Madras curry powder - try your own combination of indian spices!)
  • 28 oz (large) can of chickpeas
  • 1 cup vegetable broth (use more if it's dry)
  • 28 oz can of tomatoes (or about 3 cups fresh)
  • 2 cups diced zucchini
  • 2 cups diced yellow squash
  • 1 cup string beans, cut into 1 inch pieces (optional)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Saute onions until brown, add garlic and ginger and cook another minute. Add in curry powder, chickpeas, broth and tomatoes. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Add in the zucchini, yellow squash and cook for 5 minutes. Add in fresh green beans if you have them for the last minutes. Then remove from the heat immediately.

Greek Pork and Zucchini Sauce (serve with rice or pasta) - Serves 6 - 5 points per serving without the rice or pasta

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp Olive Oil
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb of lean ground pork
  • 28 oz can of diced or chopped no salt added tomatoes (or use about 3 cups fresh)
  • 2 tbsp of greek seasoning (or use dried oregano and a bit of dried mint)
  • 2 cups diced zucchini
  • 2 cups diced yellow squash
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat feta cheese
  • 1/3 cup shredded parmesan

Heat oil in a saute pan over medium high heat. Saute the onions until brown. Add the garlic and saute one minute then add the pork and brown. Sprinkle with the greek seasoning (or if you have no greek seasoning just use some dried oregano and add in some dried mint if you have it). Add in the tomatoes and let simmer for 10 minutes. Add in the Zucchini and yellow squash and cook for 5 minutes. Mix in the cheeses and serve over rice or pasta.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

First the the nutritional void and then to the market!

Welcome to The Rock!


I just returned from Newfoundland. If you remember last year after my trip I had a rant about the storage of cooked chicken (48 hours+ in the oven, just sitting there). Well this year was no better but I won't bore you with the details. Lets just say I don't do leftovers in NFLD.....

I will rant briefly about the pointless murder of cows and pigs as cooked by my grandmother. She put in 2 small beef roasts to cook for supper (served around 5 pm) in a 425 degree oven at around 10 am. Yup, you heard me, 10 am. Luckily we had already decided to get chinese food for supper (I won't talk about the quality of that but greasy and over cooked is the best way to describe it) so we weren't required to gnaw our way through what could only be described as shoe leather. Why, oh why would anyone do that to a poor piece of meat?! What did that poor cow ever do to my grandmother to deserve such a sad ending?! And this explains why Newfies like gravy on EVERYTHING - it's the only way to get it down!

My Uncle, who is eligible for sainthood, and we aren't even catholic, did buy me some bologna, also known as Newfie steak. I like a piece fried up with my toast for breakfast. Yup, breakfast of champions! He also shared some of his river trout with us. He caught over 400 this year! Here he's frying them up but he does mine on the bbq and they are delicious.
While I'm at it, lets talk vegetables. And potatoes don't count. While there is nothing wrong with potatoes, a person can not live on them alone! They have limited nutritional value and no one should be eating them every single day. I'm currently carrying a lump of mashed potatoes right around my mid-section. As soon as I landed home, first thing I did was have a salad!

On the reverse side, this morning I headed to the market. It was packed and that alone renewed my spirits and my faith in the ability for humankind to carry one without sucking the health care system dry. I got some beautiful fresh string beans, salad greens and basil. I stocked up on corn which I'll clean and roast on the bbq tonight. Then I'll take the leftovers and remove them from the cob and freeze it. I just had some from last summer done up like this and it was perfect! I will always keep roasted corn niblets in my freezer from now on. They just taste better.

I also got some blueberries. I think I'm going to make some muffins out of them. And have them on my oatmeal for the next few mornings. I always have frozen ones in the house but it's nice to support the local farmers and buy then in season. I can always freeze any extra. I'll share the muffin and/or scone recipe if they turn out well. I'm going to try substituting yogurt for the buttermilk called for in both recipes. I'll let you know if it works or not!

I also got an amazing deal on zucchini. 3 large, huge ones for $1! I'm going to cook most of it and freeze it. I'll share the recipes as I do them. First one I'm doing for sure is what I call Zucchini Au Gratin but healthy. I layer in thinly sliced zucchini, tomatoes, herbs and cheese (mozza or parm or both) until the casserole dish is filled. I use a low dish like a lasagna pan or quiche pan. Just bake it up and freeze it. Defrost and warm and you have farm fresh right in the middle of winter! I also have some ground pork and feta - I may do a greek inspired casserole or stuffed zucchini. I'll post the recipes when I have success but it will be soon as I like to get things out of the garden and cooked up quickly. It's just a good rule of thumb to ensure freshness!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Fall? Already? And Book Review

You know how I was complaining about the heat? Well it seems that summer has ended and fall is here already. The humidity is gone (my hair says thanks) and there is a chill in the wind. I love fall but it seems like summer was awfully short. However this is the Maritimes - there is a good chance the weather will change again - soon.

In the meantime I am taking advantage of the coolness to bake up some dishes. Baking up casseroles is a good way to use up the fabulous fresh vegetables that are available now and you can have meals to go just waiting for you in your freezer! Mom had given me some eggplant she had and I bought another one, a white eggplant, at the market on the weekend. So I thought I'd make up some Eggplant Parmesan. I'm not a huge fan of eggplant but smother anything in tomato sauce and cheese and I'm there! I scanned my cookbooks for a recipe (to use as a guideline). And then opened my new cookbook that I received for my birthday, Jamie's Italy. I am currently reading it from cover to cover, something I have never done with a cookbook. I'm doing this because I have such a huge appreciation for the simplicity, healthiness and wonderful flavours that come out of Italy. This book is a must have for every collection. Even if you don't cook - the recipes are simple, really sticking to true flavours. And if you can catch the series on TV, I highly recommend watching it. In one of the poorest areas of Italy a MacDonald's opened and then closed again in 3 months. No one wanted to eat there when they got such good food at home and on the streets! This book is expensive in the book stores but order it on-line and save a bunch (watch out for free shipping - you may have to order something else to go with it but, hey, we all need another good trashy novel - which you'll have time to read since Jamie's recipes are so easy and quick!)


I followed Jamie's recipe for Eggplant Parmesan. I started with a basic tomato sauce using sauteed onions, garlic, dried oregano and canned tomatoes. Simmer for 15 minutes, then toss in a little red wine vinegar and some fresh basil (you could used dried just put it in before you start the simmering time). Salt and pepper to taste and that's it! It's a really great, simple base sauce. I would have gladly had it over pasta just as it was!


To make the eggplant Parmesan you grill or saute the eggplant cut into 1/2 strips. Jamie advises not to use too much oil. I sprayed the pan but that was it. Brown it on both sides while your sauce is simmering. Only other ingredient is freshly grated Parmesan. And then you just layer it, sauce, Parmesan, eggplant. You could also add in sliced zucchini if you have lots around or make this with just zucchini. So many of us end up with more zucchini from the garden then we know what to do with. Sprinkle with some bread crumbs and I added some torn up bits of fresh mozzarella on top. Bake at 375 for 1/2 hour. That's it.

And this freezes beautifully. Now in the pit of January you have garden fresh flavours just waiting for you. God, I love my freezer...

Friday, August 10, 2007

Manhattan Inspired Seafood Chowder

Well the end result was excellent. Tim called it as good as anything you'd get in any restaurant... until he found out there was V8 in it! Then he thought I totally cheated but the end result was well worth it. Here's the recipe and variations. And this one freezes beautifully.

Serves 3 - 4 points per serving


  • 3 tbsp of diced pancetta (or back bacon but you may need to add a little oil to saute it and then the onions in)
  • 1 cup of sweet onions
  • 2 tsp of minced garlic
  • 1 398ml/14 oz. can of tomatoes, low or no sodium
  • 1 1/2 cup of low sodium V8
  • 2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning or a mix of salt, pepper, red pepper, paprika
  • 5 dashes tabassco (it won't make it too hot)
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 cup of bay scallops
  • 1 fillet of haddock
  • 1/2 cup of chicken or veggie broth if needed

    Heat the saucepan or soup pot to medium high. Brown the pancetta and remove
    it from the pot. Add in the onions using the oil from the pancetta to brown it.
    Reduce heat to medium

    Add in the garlic and saute for one minute.

    Add in the can of tomatoes and use a wooden spoon to break up the
    tomatoes

    Add in the rest of the ingredients up to and including the
    parsley.

    Simmer for a minimum of 15 minutes or up to an hour

    Add in the scallops, fish and broth if needed to get the right consistency
    for your liking.

    Toss in the pancetta and serve with mutigrain crusty bread.



Leave out the seafood and puree the soup and you have the best tasting homemade tomato soup! Want to make cream of tomato? Substitute the last 1/2 cup of broth for milk. I'd be tempted to add in some cheese to at the end to make it just like I used to have as a kid!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Relief from the Heat! Finally!

Will it last? Probably not but a cool summer day means it's time to think chowder! I have no idea who invented this rule but I follow it like an old medieval maritime religion. And since Tim slept in his long sleeve pajama top last night (this from a man who doesn't like to wear so much as underwear to bed in the middle of winter) I think we are definitely in chowder territory. Now, I went to mecca (also known as Halifax) earlier in the week and did nothing but eat out. So I'm looking to veggie-load today. And tomorrow I have lunch and dinner plans out... yikes. Okay, I really need to pack on the healthy food today!

Now I love a good traditional chowder but with respect to my need to veggie-load - I'm stepping outside my traditional definition of chowder. Yup, I'm going Manhattan inspired. The bonus with Manhattan versus New England (or just plain old chowder around these parts) is that Manhattan is tomato based. And, surprise! Tomatoes are a veggie. Okay, technically they are a fruit but they are part of that healthy section on the Canadian Food Guide that none of us ever get enough of. So Manhattan it is. But I just got Jamie Oliver's new cookbook "Jamie's Italy" and it has some great, simple and delicious recipes in it, including one for zuppa di baccala which is salt cod soup. You don't have to use salt cod. In fact I'm going to use frozen haddock. Of course I won't actually follow the recipe. I typically only use recipes for inspiration unless I'm making something completely new for company. I cannot wait to further dissect Jamie's book. Poor people in Italy are far healthier than most of us in North America and they keep it simple. Sounds good to me! But once again I digress. Back to tonight's dinner.

Okay so I have a plan. I got chunks of pancetta and prosciutto yesterday in Mecca (aka Halifax) so I'm going to start by dicing up a little bit of this (see the need for healthy eating as mentioned above) and browning it in the pot. I'm going to go with the pancetta. Then I'm going to add some sweet onions and then some garlic. Now the questions is where do I go from there? I don't have any potatoes in the house so I was thinking I would use Orzo (rice shaped pasta) but I don't have any of that either! Which surprised me and had I known I would have gotten some yesterday at the Italian Market. I do have small bow tie pasta and filini which is like angel hair broken in 1/2 inch sticks. Then I was thinking brown rice would be nice instead. I'm still not committed. I am going to use a small can of tomatoes and low sodium V8 juice for the broth and a nice smack of veggies. If I add some dried herbs - I'm thinking parsley, basil and bay leave- it would be nice to let it simmer to get those flavours melding. Which would work nicely with the brown rice. Both pastas I have are really small and would only take a matter of minutes to cook. I'll decide when as I make the soup.

And then there is the matter of veggies. Using the V8 juice means there is already a good amount of veggies in the dish. I do have frozen homemade roasted corn that I could add in. I was also thinking about adding in some frozen spinach. But Jamie's recipe is really simple, mirepoix (carrots, onion and celery), garlic, broth, tomatoes and fish. There is much to be said for simple. Conveniently the V8 contains the mirepoix with the tomato juice! That's something to keep in mind as we soon turn into stew and soup season... Just remember to get the low sodium version. Jamie's recipe doesn't have potatoes, pasta or rice. But brown rice would be a great fiber boast and would give us some of that great slow burning whole grain carbohydrates. However it is the first televised football game of the season and I've already requested Tim make his fantastic hummus for snacking on during the game. So we could afford to go with the lighter version. Something else I'll decide as I'm making the soup.

For the seafood I have a haddock fillet and some bay scallops. I keep them frozen and will cut the fish up right before I put it in the pot. It's a thin fillet so I can cut it easily without defrosting. This way I don't over cook the seafood and the fish tends to stay in chunks better.

I'll let you know how it turns out and hopefully I'll remember to take a pic. Here's wishing you one day of coolness during this very hot summer!

Friday, August 03, 2007

No- Cook Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Here's a recipe that's sure to please during these dog days of summer. It has be ridiculously hot around here. Everything, including breakfast for company, is going on the bbq these days.

I had come across a bag of cheap red peppers at the grocery store so I thought I would roast them up. I knew I wouldn't use them up before they went bad and roasted them is a great way to extend their life span! Roasting is easy. I just threw them on the bbq while I was bbq'ing something else. Turn them to blacken them all around. Then take them off the bbq and put them in a plastic bag. Let them cool then the skins will peel right off. Remove the seeds and you've got perfect roasted red peppers. Don't want to bother? You can buy them in the jar! Here's me making my sauce with show notes below.




Okay, here is the ingredient list
3 roasted red peppers
6 tomatoes, I used canned.
3 cloves of garlic, roasted if you prefer
2 tsp Italian seasoning
2 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice

Toss it all in the food processor and blend. And then add salt and pepper to taste. That's it. No food processor? A blender or one of those stick/immersion blenders work too. Neither of those? Try a potato masher. You're sauce may not be as smooth but it'll work.

This recipe is also good if you have a surplus of tomatoes on hand.

This recipe makes between 4 - 6 servings but you can double or triple it and freeze the leftovers! You can heat this up on those cold winter nights. Or add some chicken or veggie broth and make a tasty roasted red pepper soup! How's that for versatility?!

Monday, July 16, 2007

How to handle fresh peas

Another video! There is no way to make this the right size so just bare in mind that I'm not actually that wide!

My Bloody Caesar Recipe - in person!

Here is video I did for my bloody caesar recipe. Enjoy!
Click on the second bottom from the bottom right to make it the right size.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

100 Mile Diet

Yesterday I was watching the Gill Deacon Show, a good Canadian daytime talk show on the CBC. Yesterday's show was about the 100 mile diet. That's where you live off of food only available to you within a 100 mile radius. It's meant to curb greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel consumption by not eating food that has traveled half way around the world to get to your table. Sounds great right? And you all know I am a huge supporter of buying locally. But there is a little fly in this ointment when you try to exclusively buy only food stuff that can be found in a 100 mile radius.

First of all there is a nutritional impact. One of the issues that has been uncovered over the years in the fight against heart disease has been regional diets. Diets in the Mediterranean area are known to have significantly lower rates of heart disease and these diets are full of olive oil, fresh fruits and vegetables. Diets in northern climates like Canada and the UK have high rates of heart disease. So finally we are importing and including elements of the Mediterranean diet into our everyday lives and now we need to stop that?! That isn't logical. And for another example lets look at citrus fruits. Without vitamin c you'll get scurvy. So should we stop eating oranges, lemons and limes and stop drinking OJ that all comes out of Florida? And what about the great high blood pressure fighting potassium in a banana? Last time I checked there wasn't a single banana grown in Canada. Imported items are important to maintaining a balanced diet. And this leads me to my second point.

The food industry is an industry that relies on exporting and importing. We have a food industry here in Canada but also there are many parts of the world that rely on exporting food stuff for their economic stability. It's a give and take situation. If Chili no longer exported grapes to Canada the cost to their economy would be $144 million according to the information on the Gill Deacon Show. That means money out of people's pockets and not being able to put food on their families' tables. And there are side industries like shipping that also rely on the exporting and importing of food stuff to keep them in business. Economic instability creates serious political issues and affects the world economy. It's the big picture here.

It can be frustrating to walk into your grocery store during the height of broccoli season in the summer here in New Brunswick and only see broccoli from Ontario. Grocery store chains have contracts with major suppliers, it's how they keep you supplied during the off season but it means they have to keep buying from these sources year round. Farmers markets are popping up all over the place and they are the best places to hit during the growing season. Nova Scotia has a website for the ones around their province http://www.nsfarmersmarkets.ca/. New Brunswick links theirs through the arts and entertainment section of their tourism site which strikes me as funny... http://www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca/en-CA/HNThingsToDo/HNArtsAndEntertainment/HNAEFarmersMarket.htm

Also be aware of where the food stuff you are buying is coming from. According to the Gill Deacon show Canada imports $278 Million of fish and seafood. As a maritimer, I'm not buying any seafood that hasn't come out of local waters. It just doesn't make sense to me. It's not just about supporting local industry, it's also about quality of taste!

Stock up when things are in season but don't forgot great leafy greens in the off season, it's just too important to your health. I like frozen broccoli in the off season myself. And corn on the cob? Unless you know it was picked that morning, don't even bother! The sugars in the corn start converting to starch the minute it comes off the stalk. I buy a large quantity when I can get it fresh and bbq it all, taking the extra off the cob and freezing it. I end up with wonderful roasted corn all year long this way!

Bottom line is that it is a balance. I love supporting local farmers. I love buying in season. But I also love eating healthy and that means buying imported food stuff. Heart disease runs in my family. Olive Oil, fruits and leafy greens are crucial to my long term health. And to yours!

And that's my 2 cents.

(My camera should be back today or tomorrow, so stay tuned for recipes and pics.... I have a plan for leftover rice, chicken and broccoli - quick and easy!)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Even I have a few naughty secrets...

I've been reading so many blogs and listening to so many podcasts today that I just had to sit down and blog myself. Unfortunately my camera is still in the canon hospital so no pics. And I'd love to share some fantastic recipe with you but aside from having one of my Indian burgers for lunch (it was fantastic), I'm eating what I would call crap for dinner.

Okay, just so you know, I never claimed to be perfect. I have this one weakness that has been with me for years. I love Liptons Pasta and Sauce Creamy Bacon Carbonara. It tastes nothing like real carbonara but I love it anyway. And as the rain clouds rolled in this evening, the idea of grilling my salmon fillet in the rain seemed less and less appealing. Then I remembered I had picked up some of my beloved Creamy Bacon Carbonara a little while ago to have when Tim was out of town. I would never make this when he is around - waaaay too high in sodium for him. But since he left for Sweden yesterday I thought I'd indulge myself.

And as though it's not bad enough, I pile it high with freshly shredded parmesan cheese. I did add 2 cups of fresh spinach to it just to make me feel better. I'm enjoying it right at this minute. Here's to being naughty every once in a while! ; )

Saturday, June 09, 2007

More Burgers (Tex Mex, Caesar, Greek and Indian)

Yesterday I did my annual burger making. This is where I take 4 lbs of ground meat (usually half extra lean beef or pork and half ground chicken or turkey) and make our burgers for the summer. I've been doing this for as long as I can remember. Then we can just throw them on whenever we want. If we are having a crowd around then I usually do up a separate batch so we can keep these for ourselves for convenience.

This year I did Tex Mex, Indian (huge hit last year), Greek (always popular) and I thought I'd try something new with a Caesar burger. I used 2 lbs of extra lean beef mixed with 2 lbs of ground turkey. It works out to 4 burgers of each type, each 1/4 lb.

For each mixture I started with 1/2 cup of freshly made bread crumbs. I used some ends of whole wheat bread I had frozen and even one old whole wheat bagel. I put them in the food processor. I swear this is the secret to moist burgers. Last year I made buffalo burgers which are quite lean and can easily be dry but mine were really moist.

Okay, back to the burgers. I then added one egg for each mixture. And that is where the similarities end.

Tex Mex
1 tablespoon Ms. Dash Southwest Chipotle seasoning but you could use chili powder or chipotle powder
1/2 cup grated cheddar (monteray jack would be nice here too)
1/2 cup salsa
(you could also add either Tabasco sauce, one canned chipotle diced or cut up a jalapeno if you want extra spice)

Mix and freeze

Greek
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried mint
2 tablespoons diced red onion
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
juice of half a lemon (about 2 tbsp)

Indian
2 tablespoons diced red onion
1/2 cup yogurt (I used fat free)
2 cloves of garlic, minced (or about 2 tsp bottled)
1/2 inch of ginger, minced (or about 2 tsp bottled)
2 tablespoons of curry powder (I used Madras Curry powder from the Asian market)

Caesar
30 dashes of the Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup grated parmesan
juice from half of a lemon (1 tbsp is enough)
2 tsp of minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
2 tsp of anchovy paste

I haven't tried these Caesar burgers yet but I will have one tomorrow night. If they didn't turn out well, I'll edit this post! (I came back to edit this... the lemon zest in the Caesar burgers was too much so just use 1 tbsp of juice)

Veggie Burgers (but you'll never miss the meat!)

Still no pics. Sorry. Weight update - I ate out last night and had drinks... no way am I getting on a scale today. The water retention from the salty foods will give me an inaccurate read!

Thursday night we had a fantastic veggie burger. And it wasn't one of those soy things which are too high in sodium for Tim. It was a portabello burger. Might I remind you that I don't really like mushrooms but nothing is as yummy as a grilled portie!

We grilled portabello mushrooms, a ring of red onions for each burger and some sliced zucchini. We grilled the porties with the cup side down first then turned them over and added some blue cheese and let it all melt while on the bbq. Don't like blue cheese, try brie, Camembert, cambazola or Gorgonzola. The cheese makes this burger. Then all we did was serve the burger on whole wheat buns, layering the portie with cheese side up, then the red onion, then the zucchini. That's it, nothing else was needed! The way blue cheese melts, it gave moisture to the whole burger. And these were frozen, half stale buns!

Oh, and I keep saying "we" cause Tim grilled and I offered polite suggestions.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Chicken Tex Mex Salad

Weight update - lost another pound.

A little sad news - my beloved camera fell ill on the weekend. Currently it is on it's way to canon emergency care for repair work. I'm eagerly awaiting it's return. So no pics until then.

But you don't need a picture to put this delicious and simple salad on the table quickly!

You will need the following: (the amounts are done per person)

1 boneless chicken breast per person
1/2 a pepper per person (I mixed up the colours, using yellow, red and green)
1/4 a medium red onion per person
6- 8 cherry or grape tomatoes per person
2 cups of lettuce greens per person
1 ounce of cheese per person (I used one ounce of cheddar and one ounce of Jarlsberg for 2 servings and mixed them together)
1 tbsp of light ranch dressing per person
Lime juice.

Ground cumin, Ms. Dash Southwest Chipotle Seasoning, Chili powder, or use a combine of any tex mex seasonings you have. Cumin and Chili powder are a must! But you can add ground coriander, paprika, onion and garlic powder or even some chipotle powder in place of the Ms. Dash.

Sprinkle your chicken, peppers and red onion with the ground spices and let sit for a couple of hours or all day. You can do this the night before. Sprinkle them all with lime juice right before grilling, letting them sit for about 20 minutes.

Grill the chicken, peppers and onion on high heat until cooked.
Assemble the lettuce and tomatoes on each plate. Pour on the dressing.
Slice up the chicken, peppers and onions. Layer them on top of the lettuce, tomato and dressing.
Sprinkle with the cheese.

That's it! Easy and totally delicious. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Jane's on the Commons

Mom and I went to Jane's on the Commons for Mother's Day brunch. Actually we went Saturday to avoid the rush. We had been wanting to go. I had read about this restaurant several times while on the road in several different Canadian publications.

http://www.janesonthecommon.com/index.html

It was everything I had read about and more. We just had coffee since it was brunch and it was an excellent cup of coffee and I'm pretty fussy about my coffee (surprise, I'm fussy about something food related...). I ordered the grilled cheese. I had heard so many good things about the grilled cheese I just had to try it even though there were so many good things on the menu. Mom had the ricotta pancakes. Mom is doing LA Weight Loss and I'm also trying to eat healthier. So this was our treat outing that wasn't suppose to break the bank, if you know what I mean.

This was the most amazing grilled cheese I had ever had. It was made on french bread with sharp cheddar (the secret to great grilled cheese and mac and cheese is using a good sharp cheddar, even kraft's old or extra old will do the trick) and provolone. It was served with tomato butter. I can't even begin to think of how you make tomato butter but it was delish. I had the spinach salad on the side with goat cheese and pistachios. Yum, yum, yum!

Mom's pancakes had bananas in the middle and had maple syrup on the side but it was so tasty that mom didn't use much syrup. And the service? It was impeccable. And you all know how I have high expectations for service!

The grand total for this excellent meal - just $30 with tip! And we were full right up until dinnertime. So if you are in Halifax anytime soon, make a trip to Jane's on the Commons. You won't be disappointed.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Expanding Waistline (aka How did I get this big?!?!)

I"m a pudgy little wino. Okay, I'll admit I've gotten a little thicker around the middle in the last few years. It didn't happen overnight. And it didn't happen because I quit smoking (the exact date, I don't remember because I was so ready it was a non-event but I think it's been about 4.5 years) I was already gaining weight before I quit. It might have something to do with the huge lifestyle change that came with going from being single to being a couple. Every night was a romantic candlelight dinner with wine and gourmet fare. And then there was the introduction into all sorts of evil fast foods that I never would have indulged in but that my new partner was used to.

It hit me a while ago when Tim said to me that this was the best he had ever eaten in his life. This from a man with stage one hypertension ( we had just found that out. since then he has gotten it down with diet and exercise!!!!!) I had to tell him it was the worse I have ever eaten. Time for a reality check.

So after a few too many pounds I decided it was time to do something about it. I don't believe in diets. Anything that deprives you is going to fail in the long run and research has shown that those who diet never really keep it off. The regular meetings of weight watchers do work but you must always go, forever. Yup. Big commitment for me.... But how was I nice and healthy sized before? Well for me it was about grocery shopping and menu planning. See I used to go to the store and buy all the nice looking veggies. Then I'd come home and plan my menu based on using those veggies up before they went bad. Sounds funny? Maybe but works for me. In the last 3 weeks I've lost 6 pounds. No pain, no misery. I also started weighing or measuring my cheese portions. I try never to have more than an ounce at any one meal. We are cheese craze around here so any 'diet' that says no cheese isn't going to fly. But if I can have a little at every meal then I'm happy.

I'd like to add that I've lost weight but still ate out, including a trip to MacDonald's (they have those Shrek glasses!). We had date night (lamb chops and creme brulee were on the menu) and girls night (more creme brulee, mussels, bruschetta, shrimp) in the last week and I still didn't gain anything back!

I do have at least 2 veggie servings per meal. I weigh my meat portions ( i buy in bulk and then bring it home, cut away visible fat and divide it up into 4 ounce serving portions). We eat red meat. We drink wine. Tim hasn't really lost anything but he has been eating out for work related events for at least 13 meals in the last 3 weeks. Eating out is tough. The portions are way too big, everything is well salted and the fat is not controlled. That doesn't mean you can't eat out but I do limit it to only once a week. Now that is something I couldn't have done when I was travelling all the time. Although now when I eat out I make sure to get a salad to start because it fills me up and I can split the main course for 2 meals - less calories to burn at once!

So stay tuned as we see how I fair. Also, I have a restaurant review of Jane's on the Commons in Halifax that I have been meaning to share.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Sunday Suppers

We had a roasted leg of lamb for dinner on Saturday night for my mom's birthday. After dinner we didn't know what to do with the leftover leg bone. There was still quite a bit of meat on it but it was entangled with a lot of fat and grizzle. I decided to make an Italian Sunday Gravy out of it. Basically you just brown some onion, toss in some peppers, mushrooms, celery, carrots, whatever you want. Add in some wine, apple juice or broth to deglaze the pan. Add in some fresh or dried herbs of your choice. Open a can of tomatoes or tomato sauce and simmer the lot with your leftover lamb, beef or pork bone. Let it go for a couple of hours until the meat has fallen off your bone. Serve it over pasta or potatoes and you have a healthy dinner with freezable leftover!

Another great tip for a Sunday supper is to use chicken or turkey parts for a nice home cooked meal without the fuss of a whole bird. You can buy turkey breasts, legs or thighs and roast them just like a whole bird but in about 1/4 of the time. You can even make a stuffing and cook it on the side or under the turkey pieces with some stuffed under the skin of the pieces. Same with Chicken. Gravy can still be made out of any drippings or use chicken broth as the base. Yes, you can even cheat and buy the can or package mix gravy.

Mom's Birthday Cake

Alec and I picked out a nice looking, not too terribly sinful, cake to make for my mom's birthday. She's losing weight (15+ lbs so far!) and didn't want to spoil it on her birthday. We won't speak about the wine and chocolate she ate while waiting for her special dinner.... Anyhoooo. This was the cake we decided to make. Isn't it beautiful?
So I cheated and got an angle food cake mix. Then I discovered I didn't have a tube pan. I don't bake much so I'm not that well equipped. I put half the mix in one round cake pan and then added cocoa powder to the rest of the mix and put it in the second cake pan. I was a little worried about the chocolate cake because it seemed that adding the cocoa powder really took the fluffiness out of the angel food cake batter. But it cooked up okay. I layered the pieces on top of each other but didn't trim around the top of the while cake to give the cake a good slope like the one in the picture. Therefore the glaze didn't drizzle down the sides well, it just dripped from the top to the bottom of the dish. And it seems my cocoa powder wasn't as dark as the one they used in the picture because I ended up with a brown and white cake instead of a black and white cake.

Luckily it tasted great.

Worse part of the meal was that I had planned to make a Squash, Spinach and Boccochini salad but ended up completely forgetting. I've never forgotten a whole menu course before!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Quick Haddock Dinner, Suitable for Guests!

Tonight I made a really quick dinner that was totally suitable for guests. Healthy and delicious! And cheap! So let me share it with you.
Here are the ingredients:
3 Haddock fillets (or one per person)
1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes (I got mine from the Italian market so they had no salt added)
2 tsp of capers (something I didn't think I liked but I have found add a nice flavour even if I don't like to bite into them, I just pick out the whole ones when I see them)
1 zucchini, cut in half and sliced
1 tbsp Italian Seasoning (I have the no salt version but you can use the regular or just mix up equal parts of dried basil, oregano, thyme and rosemary)
2 tbsp of crumbled blue cheese (optional or use another cheese like Cambonzola or Gorgonzola or even Parmesan)

Spray a baking dish with olive oil. Place the fish fillets on the bottom of the dish. Pour the rest on top, mixing it all together as best as you can. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 if the fillets are thin. If they are thick you may want to cook longer. You can test to see if they are done by poking them with a fork in the middle of the dish and seeing if they are flaky. Be careful not to over cook the fish! I served this on polenta I had from a roll that I just cut into slices and grilled but you could use pasta, I would go with spaghetti, linguine or fettuccine. Or risotto or polenta. Serve with Parmesan on the side for sprinkling on.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Trattoria Toscana

Saturday night Tim and I decided to try the new Italian restaurant in town. It opened 4 months ago in the former Mavericks location. I reviewed the menu on line www.toscanas.ca before we made the reservations and started drooling immediately... So expectations were set. We've eaten at some amazing Italian restaurants in NYC and in Stockholm, yup you heard right, Stockholm. So we were pretty excited to try this new place. We had heard nothing about it from anyone we knew so it was risky but we were up for the challenge.

When we arrived we were pleased to see they had updated the decor to match a more Mediterranean style restaurant. It was a bit bright but cheery. We were seated in the back room along the wall. Now this is the seating style I dislike the most when you have a row of tables lined up so that you are sitting beside your neighbor like it is communal dining. It's hard to have a private conversation this way. The waitress did look to move us but the place was fully booked. The real reason she looked to move us was because we couldn't hear each other. It was so noisy! Neither of us could ever remember it being that noisy when we ate in the same room when it was Mavericks. And there was no background music. Some nice cheery Italian dinner music would have been perfect. I could see speakers but only heard the loud ramblings of the other diners.

We were served drinks in a reasonable time period which always makes me happy. The waitress took our order then had to come back to clarify a few things. She quickly explained that she had only been waitressing for 3 weeks but that the food was way better than her service. She was actually a full time paramedic who was waitressing as a new challenge. By her taking the time to share this with us it endeared her to us and we were quite willing to be patient and offer our feedback. And, as I said to Tim, I could never imagine being able to waitress myself so I have a lot of respect for those who attempt this.

I ordered a bloody caesar to start. I feel this is one of the basic measures of a good restaurant. Tim had a glass of chianti. Both were perfect. And my caesar had 2 spicy green beans as garnish - my favorite! They also served us bread with olive oil and balsamic for dipping, another of our favorites. We were off to a good start. And the large table behind Tim was about to leave so there was hope that the noise level would drop soon.

Tim ordered the calamari to start and I ordered the mussels. I only ordered the mussels because usually the calamari is a relatively small order. Not here! It was huge. Had we known that I wouldn't have ordered the mussels too. However, they were delicious. They had a cream wine sauce with basil that was amazing. The calamari was obviously seasoned with course salt because we would actually bite into a piece of salt while eating them. Now if you remember, we eat low sodium at home which means we are a little salt sensitive. Tim told our waitress because really the calamari should have been salted with a finer salt, even a plain kosher salt would have been better. Tim figured this was a course sea salt. It may have had more to do with the fact that the calamari may not have been salted as soon as it came out of the fryer so the salt didn't melt into the calamari like it should have. We also recognized that we may have to start asking for the chef to leave off the last seasoning of salt because of our own sensitivity. Anyway, the calamari itself in the batter was a good texture, not too chewy. We had the remainder of it wrapped to take home because it was just too much food and we didn't want to spoil our appetite for the main course.

We didn't order salads because there was creme brulee on the dessert menu. However I saw a bunch of the salads come out to other tables and I will definitely be trying one next time. They looked divine.

I should tell you about our dining neighbors because they were moderately amusing. I wouldn't normally but I'm pretty sure they won't be reading this and there are some good lessons to be learned from their night out. First of all they were seated after us with wine in their hands so they had obviously had to wait to have their table prepared. There were 4 of them. From what I could tell, a couple, the sister and the mother. We had reservations for 7:30. Even if they had their reservations for 7, it is still way too late to be taking out Granny. When dining out with your beloved elderly mother or grandmother, make reservations for no later than 5pm. Older folks tend to be on an earlier schedule. This poor woman looked as though she was going to fall asleep in her chair while her dining companions proceeded to sling back the wine and behave badly... When I say they behaved badly, well aside from the basic disregard for Granny needs, they sent back the caeser salad which I drooled over when it came out. It was not a diner caeser salad, no this was a gourmet caesar salad with big freshly toasted croutons and beautiful crisp green romaine. I think their complaint was how the dressing was placed on the salad. I believe it was drizzled and they wanted it tossed. I'm not sure why they hadn't gone to East Side Marios, especially when I heard them order the lasagna. Why bother going to an upscale Italian restaurant if all you want is lasagna? Mind you, every good Italian restaurant in North American must have it on their menu but all 4 of them order it. So you could tell they were really gourmet connoisseurs...

Things were moving slowly as we waited for our main course. We had ordered a bottle of wine and neither of us was driving home so we were quite content to drink our wine and enjoy each other's company. However, the table next to us were missing Granny's med time and were getting antsy. The gentleman went to complain to the manager and felt quite vindicated when, as he returned to his seat, their meals appeared. The lasagnas were individually baked so while the gentleman was convinced that complaining to the manager made their meals appear, the truth is it was just coincidence that they came out of the oven at the same time. At this point he felt compelled to tell the waitress that he was from Nova Scotia. I'm not sure what that proved but as a fellow bluenoser I was embarrassed. And then he went on to state that they were reviewers. Okay no reviewer ever reveals himself like that. It was quite laughable and Tim and I were quite entertained.

We were offered complimentary drinks for the wait since we had polished off our bottle of wine. This is always a nice touch when the service isn't going smoothly. Nothing like free booze to make your customers happy! Our meals arrived, Tim had the beef tenderloin with wine sauce and gorgonzola while I had the salmon stuffed with shrimp and scallop puree. It was totally worth the wait! And this is an important point - if you make your customers wait, it better be perfect when it gets there! We both cleaned our plates.

We were too full of wine to have room for dessert. The chef came out to say hello. But this time there was only us and one other table left in the restaurant. Apparently he had just come back from catering. It's a hard call to make for a lot of these folks in the restaurant business in small markets like Moncton. When it's busy you have to try and do it all because in a small market it can be slow for a long time. It turned out that the kitchen had a hot water problem halfway through service and the chefs in the kitchen were panicking. I thought the service was just slow because they had been only open for 4 months and getting the timing down to keep meals running smoothly is truly an art. My point here is to tell your customers what is going on. You'd be surprised at how most of them will be understanding. Life happens. We still had an excellent meal.

And then the chef sang for us. This chef is known as the "Singing Chef" and he was quite good. At the end of the evening when the bill came we were shocked. We had a full evening for under $125! Tim tipped the waitress well and made sure he told the chef what a great job she had done. We'll be back!

On a side note, on the cab ride home we were also sang too. Seems our cabbie was a long time singer songwriter. Tim and I just may have to get out more often.

Mac and Cheese Tip

Everyone knows I am a big fan of freezing meals for eating later when life is short on time or I just don't feel like cooking. This week we had a meal I wasn't thrilled with. I had made macaroni and cheese a few months ago and put one square aluminum pan in the freezer. I took it out this week and baked it. It was toooooooo dry. And not very cheesy. I've talked about freezing your pasta separately from sauces and soups because they tend to continue to absorb the liquid until completely frozen, making for mushy pasta and gloopy soup. Well I think this also applies to some casseroles. In the future I will make my cheese sauce and boil up my macaroni but I will stop there. I'll freeze them separately. When I'm ready eat the meal at a later date, I'll defrost both the pasta and the sauce and then combine them in a pan for baking. If it gives a nice creamy casserole then it is definitely work the effort!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Crepes! They aren't just for breakfast!

Here is a fun idea for the whole family or for a romantic evening in.... Crepes! They aren't that terribly complicated and you can put almost anything inside of them. We used a simple recipe of 1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 large eggs, beaten
2 cups of skim milk
2 Tbsp melted butter
Mix it all together. You should have a thin batter. You don't need a crepe pan, any frying pan will do. Heat the pan to medium and spray it with a little cooking spray. You should put the batter in the middle of the pan and then sort of swirl it around. You want to cover the bottom of the pan. It will most likely take you a couple of tries to get a nice crepe but even Julia Child used to throw out the first one she made out of each batch! So don't get frustrated. Once you get the hang of it you'll be fine. This recipe makes about 10 - 10" crepes. They freeze well so don't worry if you aren't going to eat them all at one meal.

The recipe I used was inspired from the cookbook "A New England Table", a great resource for home style recipes.

We had crepes because I had bought some lovely asparagus at the grocery store and Tim isn't a big fan of them just steamed or sauteed with garlic so I wanted to dress them up a little. We had leftover ham from Christmas in the freezer so we pulled it out to go with the asparagus. Then I made a "mock" Hollandaise sauce.

Mix 1 cup of milk with 1 Tbsp of cornstarch and 1 egg yolk. Heat them in a pan over low -medium heat, stirring until thick. Remove the pan from the heat and add 1 Tbsp of butter, 2 1/2 Tbsp of lemon juice, 1/2 tsp of dijon mustard, 1 tbsp of sour cream and a pinch of salt and pepper.

I sauteed the asparagus and ham, which I had cut into strips. We then assembled the crepes by putting in some asparagus, ham, shredded mozzarella and mock Hollandaise sauce. The important thing is for everything to be warm. That way the cheese melts all through it.

You make your crepes with different things. Chicken and broccoli with cheddar cheese would be nice. Smoked salmon and spinach with a yogurt dill sauce. Lunch meat would work well since it's thinly sliced or leftover roasted meat would be nice too. Layer in some veggies like spinach or any other leafy green, green onions, chives, mushrooms, sliced tomatoes, zucchini, etc. Consider cheese if you like. Cheddar and mozzarella are good choices but what about brie or feta or Gouda? Remember crepes are french so hit that section in the cheese aisle. Sauces are optional but aside from Hollandaise, Bearnaise or any of the store bought fondue sauces will work. Or just add some herbs and seasonings to yogurt.

The nice part about crepes is that each family member can make their own. So if you have picky kids they can just put add the ingredients they like to their crepes.

Turning Leftovers into a Frittata

How many of us had a nice "cooked" dinner yesterday? Being part Newfoundlander, it is a tradition in my family to have a nice big dinner on Sundays with all the fixin's. Usually there is a roast chicken, beef or pork with mashed potatoes, turnip and carrots. There may be some greens, turnip tops or green peas. Gravy is a must. All these things freeze reasonably well which is convenient for quick meals at a later date. However, how about trying something different with the leftovers on Monday night? I'll often take the leftover veggies, sometimes the meat too, and make it all into a Frittata (which is basically Italian for omelet). Due to the fact that the eggs add protein to the dish, I often leave the leftover meat out, using it instead for sandwiches for weekday lunches. And I put away the gravy in the freezer for making meat pies at another time. There is no place for gravy in this frittata unless you are feeling super adventurous...

All I do is fry some onions in a non-stick pan with some cooking spray. Add in the veggies, dice up any veggies that are big. You want everything to be about 1/4 to 1/2 inch. If you mashed your potatoes and/or turnip, don't worry, just add them to the pan as is. I like to get the veggies browned a bit over medium high heat. Stir over 4 to 6 beaten eggs. I like to add some cheese too. Mozzarella or cheddar work well as do ricotta or even cottage cheese. Yes I'm serious! Put a lid on the pan if you have one. It will be quite thick and a lid will help it cook through quicker with the steam. If your pan is oven safe you can also put it in the oven for about 10 - 15 minutes at 350.

And that's it! There is your Monday night dinner. Quick, delicious and nutritious. Anything the kids don't like? Make smaller ones for each person or just a separate one for the kids. And if you are lucky you'll have leftovers for lunch on Tuesday.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Bogart's Restaurant Review

When your dinner companion asks you at the end of the evening "was that really worth $125?", you have to question your restaurant selection. For years now we have had a "like" versus "not so crazy about it" relationship with Bogart's. I used to live close by so it was great fun to stroll over for a good bloody caesar and a nice appetizer. They used to make a great hummus back in the days before Tim made his own. Then they changed the menu. Tim was so disappointed at the time that we stopped going.

Every once in a while we give Bogart's another try. They have a solid menu of fine dining classics. Veal Osso Bucco, Chicken Cordon Bleu, Rack of Lamb, Roast Duck, etc. Last week we tried it again. They always make a fuss about having reservations. In the city of Moncton a reservation on a weeknight for 2 people is rarely needed unless you are going to the Windjammer or Pastelli's. Few other restaurants are that busy during the week. I called ahead. This time they had lost our reservation in the 30 minutes that elapsed between the time we called and the time we showed up there. They were still able to seat us given that the restaurant was only about 20% full.

We were served drinks fairly quickly which as you all know is one of my pet peeves. Don't leave me sitting there without a cocktail! I can eat at home and have a cocktail in my hand in a timely manner! The bloody caesar was okay but not one of the better ones I have had. Tim ordered a brandy and the waitress had to bring out the whole selection for him to pick one because she knew nothing about brandy. Okay, I could let that slide.

Tim ordered the fish chowder as a starter and I ordered the roasted duck salad. We never got our bread until we already had our appetizers on the table. And we had to move our own bread plates out of the way for the waitress to put our appetizers down. These are little things but when you are paying fine dining prices, you should expect fine dining service. She kept saying how I was the first one who had ever ordered a duck salad in the 6 months since she had been there. That should have been a sign.... I now know why no one orders it. It was mostly salad with a little duck that was basically tasteless. The greens were nice and there were lots of them. The dressing was lovely too. But there was really no need for the duck. Except that it was called a "duck" salad. And for $12.99, I wanted to taste some good duck! I was a little disappointed. Tim's chowder, on the other hand, was fantastic. Full of flavour and rich. It even had corn in it which Tim does not like but he thoroughly enjoyed it anyway.

For our main courses, Tim ordered the Chicken Aphrodite. It was an interesting dish of chicken stuffed with walnuts and cooking in phyllo pastry. It had a sweetness about it. It was interesting but Tim was full after the chowder so he was a little disappointed that he couldn't enjoy his main dish more. This is why sometimes we just go out for appetizers or don't bother ordered them if we are being sensible.

I had fillet of sole stuffed with shrimp and crab. It tasted just like the ones you can get at the Costco. Isn't that a terrible thing to say?! But I've had the ones from the freezer at the Costco and they are pretty darn good. Now we should point out here that the kitchen at Bogart's is open for all to see so I'm pretty sure they aren't whipping out boxes from the Costco. The fillet was served on a bed of creamed leeks and spinach which was divine. I also had the rosemary mashed potatoes which were lovely.

We shared a bottle of Germany Pieroth Riesling, had cocktails to start but no dessert. So was the meal worth $125. For us I'd have to so no. I can do most of the dishes at home but I am The Gourmet Goddess. For most folks looking for the fine dining standards, this is a good place to go and it's not too fussy so you won't feel embarrassed if you don't know which fork to use.

If you have a different view or something to say, leave a comment. We all work hard for our entertainment dollar so let's share our experiences!