Monday, August 29, 2011


After a brief hiatus from blogging, I have returned with a healthy vengeance! For those who don't already know, I am 18 weeks pregnant. What this means for the blog is that I have to give up wine (sob!) and start watching what I eat more closely. No more sushi, no more lunch meats, no more soft/unpasteurized cheeses...but that doesn't mean that I can't have fun with food anymore! One of these fun, healthy foods I have been enjoying of late is quinoa.

If you are unfamiliar with quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wa), it's a grain that is said to originate in the Andean region of South America. What makes this food so super is that it's known as a complete protein, containing all 9 essential amino acids, making this a great food for the vegetarian/vegan diet. It is also gluten-free, great for celiacs too! All this on top of being fun to say, of course :P Quinoa can be cooked up like rice, couscous, etc, or eaten raw, but I find it best to rinse it first to remove it's bitter coating.

My vegetarian mother introduced me to quinoa a couple of years ago while I was visiting her back in my hometown. She likes to cook hers up and grill it in a wrap on a panini press with various vegetables she has in the house-she also includes hummus and sometimes cheese. One time she threw avocado in a wrap she made for me, WOW! I was sold on quinoa in that moment!

We've had quinoa in the house for the past week and since I'm a "qui-newbie" with using it, I referred to some of my cookbooks, as well as the internet, to see what I could do with it. I made 3 side dishes for 3 meals throughout the week to use it all up. A great time-saving tip I found on is to cook up a large amount of quinoa at a time, way more than you need, and use it as you need it throughout the week.

The first dish I attempted was called Basil Quinoa with Red Bell Pepper. Cooked quinoa is tossed with red bell pepper in a pureed basil-parmesan-garlic-lemon homemade dressing. I served it as a side along roasted pork tenderloin in a curry paste rub. The recipe is found in the Sonoma Diet Cookbook. Although the recipe is definitely healthy, I found it to be lacking in taste, despite the fact that I used fresh basil, garlic, etc. I will make it again, but will double the dressing recipe for added flavor.

The next dish I tried was also from the Sonoma Diet Cookbook, Grilled Beef with Quinoa and Vegetables. In this dish, cooked quinoa is combined with green beans, roasted bell peppers, and a dressing that includes red wine vinegar, olives, and olive oil. I had to make a few changes because I didn't have olives, and I prefer to eat my bell peppers raw instead of roasted. I served it alongside a top sirloin steak with a fennel seed rub. I will definitely make this again!

Finally, I found a great salad recipe on that pairs fresh cherries and quinoa with other power foods such as spinach and walnuts. Click here to see the recipe! Of course, I made a few changes. Instead of goat's cheese I used cranberry/pepper flavoured Boursin cheese, I didn't toast my walnuts, and I thawed frozen cherries and used the leftover juice to make a cherry vinaigrette. In my opinion, this was the best of all 3 recipes I tried. The bitterness of the spinach and walnuts was muted but was still complemented by the sweetness of the cherries and the cheese. Wonderfully balanced dish. It got great reviews at the BBQ I originally served it at, and I liked it so much I made it again tonight (cheese-free) as an accompaniment to chicken breasts stuffed with the leftover Boursin.

Quinoa doesn't have to be limited to just sides and salads - there are tons of other great recipes for cooking with quinoa, including the ones on the website I mentioned above. There's a recipe on the site for flourless chocolate cake, and I definitely plan to try it sometime! All you have to do is look, cook and definitely open your mind. At first, I had no intention of trying quinoa. And thanks to my mom, I'm glad I did!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Boston Bruins Celebrate Cup Victory with Veuve Clicquot

As a hockey fan who bled white and blue blood for years, I'll never cheer for Boston, one of the Toronto Maple Leaf's eastern conference rivals. Here's another reason why: Bruins defenceman Tomas Kaberle. He was traded from the Leafs organization earlier this past season, and after doing nothing productive in Toronto for many years, he walks onto a team that wins the coveted Stanley Cup, doing little else in Bean-town besides adding a couple of assists to the team late-season and in the playoffs. It must be nice to walk onto a team and be taken along for the ride for the ultimate prize!

However, something caught my eye last night when the Bruins returned to their dressing room post-victory with the Stanley Cup: bottles and bottles of Veuve Clicquot champagne on ice, ready to be sprayed around the locker room and imbibed from the top of the Stanley Cup. This photo was posted on in Boston:
Despite the fact that I dislike the Bruins, I do admire their taste in celebratory Champagne. I wonder if they chose it because their famous label matches the team colours, because they wanted something high-class, or any other number of reasons? Either way, they chose well!

Congratulations to the Bruins and their fans, the harder working team did win last night! Well deserved.

Side note: In a pre-game interview with CBC, Bruins forward Mark Recchi mentioned that he's been saving a special bottle of wine to celebrate a cup victory-and he would probably drink it anyways even if they didn't win. After a brief google session, I think the bottle he was talking about is his 1970 Petrus, one of Bordeaux's finest. It also turns out he has quite the extensive cellar, totalling over 1,000 bottles! Even though there are rumours flying around about his retirement, he just became one of my favourite players-how can a wino dislike a wine afficionado, after all?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Asian Menus Verdicts

The month of May is almost over. Can you believe it? They say time flies when you're having fun. I can agree to that, especially now that I'm having fun in the kitchen! Awhile back you may have read my post about trying to cook some Asian dishes. As of today, all the recipes have been tried and tested, and here's how it all turned out.

The first recipe was for Coconut Curry Chicken that I found online. It sounded great, but the reviews didn't agree with what was in the ingredients, stating the taste was quite bland. With that in mind, I modified the recipe and added more curry among other spices, and used less of the saucy ingredients. My husband loved it, but I was "meh" on the flavors. The verdict: I'll make it again, but the recipe needs works. It did go great with toasted garlic naan bread, however. Here's what it looked like:

No wine pairing was tested because I decided to make it last minute, and it was a week night (not like that would have stopped me any other day!)
I think it would pair well with a Riesling or Gewurztraminer.

The first major 3 course meal I did using the slow cooker was on May 20 where I tried my hands at a Chinese themed menu, which ended up being 2 courses because it was a Friday and we were pressed for time for later plans with friends. I did a honey hoisin chicken in the slow cooker, using onions instead of sesame seeds, what I was originally going to do. My hubby makes a delicious veggie fried rice that he paired up with it. And I forgot to accompany all this with garlic stir-fried broccoli. Whoops! The rice is always good, so props to my man as usual! The chicken breast recipe I've tried before and is a keeper, especially with the onion substitution-it added great depth of flavor. The wine pairing was an unoaked Mondavi Chardonnay from Cali that I thought would show more sweet, fruity flavours, but instead had notes of butter and vanilla; tasting like it was slightly oaked! For dessert I whipped up some almond cookies. Originally I was going to try to do them a little more fancy, but they wound up being regular cookies. We had friends over later that night and they said they enjoyed the cookies (almost all were devoured!), so I'll consider that a pass where the wine pairing was an epic fail. The verdict: Tasty, and an easy dinner to whip up.

Next was Thai night on May 23, which is also the 7 year anniversary of my journey to Alberta. What better way to celebrate (and spend a rainy day indoors) than to cook a 3 course meal and pair it with my favourite Riesling, Cave Springs? I did a Thai beef curry in the slow cooker, and for lunch we had pork satays grilled on the barbecue. Although my husband loved the satays, I felt the sauce fell a little short and there wasn't enough for all the food on the skewers. I'll make it again because he loved them so much, but next time I'll double up the sauce. In my opinion, the curry fell flat on many levels-there wasn't enough spice, and to me the flavours didn't jive with what I consider traditional Thai food. However, the pairing worked wonderful with the sweetness of the Riesling and the acidity playing nice with the spiciness of both dishes! Dessert was Kluai Buat Chi, bananas boiled in sweetened coconut milk. While my hubby found the dish way too sweet, I loved it! Will do it again, but will tone down the amount of sugar called for next time. Paired well with the Riesling as well! Here's what it looked like:

The verdict: Outside of the dessert, I shouldn't quit my day job :P But the pairing proves that I'm learning something in Sommelier school!

Next up for the finale of the Biggest Loser, I cooked up Beef Madras, the recipe on the side of our bottle of red curry paste. I paired it with an Argentinian Malbec (more on that in a future post). My husband requested that I use twice as much curry paste as the recipe calls for, so I did, and boy were our mouths on fire for the duration of the show! It is the first time I've ever used naan bread for anything other than dipping-I had to use it solo to cool off my mouth between bites! And the wine didn't help because the Malbec was spicy and just re-ignited the 5 alarm blaze!
The verdict: I'll do this one again, but next time only use the amount of curry paste it calls for! I love spice, but I have my limits!

Finally, tonight was Indian night. I received a recipe for Chicken Tikka kebabs through the mail-another reflection that the best things happen by fluke. So I modified the recipe because I had some other ingredients to use up and served it on a bed of rice with a side of carrot sambal, another really spicy dish. Here's what they looked like:

The verdict: now that my nose has stopped running from all the spices, I must say that the best of the Asian dishes came out tonight, both the Tikka kebabs and the sambal (although I think the carrot dish is really a Thai side)! Next time I might style up the food for photos for aesthetic purposes.

Now that May is almost over and I have vacation coming up in June, I plan to take the month off. Maybe if I stay out of the kitchen for a little bit time will slow down and us Canadians can enjoy what little summertime we have!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Factoid Friday: The Aging Power of Penfolds KH

Did you know...The 2008 Penfolds Koonunga Hill Cab Shiraz ages well? Food and Wine magazine mentioned this in their "100 Bottles to Drink Right Now" article back in 2010. Not only are Penfolds bottles found in stores throughout Canada at very reasonable prices, but the article also mentions that a bottle of the 1976 blend is still drinking well at time of writing!

Click here
to see the full article. I think I'm going to head to the store and add it to the cellar - a theory well worth testing!

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Rose By Any Other Vintage...

In a previous entry I mentioned Robert Renzoni's 2008 La Rosa rose of Sangiovese, my favorite rose. I wanted to pair it with soup one night, to see if it really cured a hangover. I also had a master plan to break out the bottle of wine the day before our best friends moved back to Ontario to test the hangover theory with them after a last night of heavy "celebrating". Unfortunately, I couldn't pull the trigger in either case, for 2 reasons:
1) I can't get this bottle of rose up here in Canada, and
2) The bottle was signed by the winemaker when we visited the Renzoni winery last May.

I suppose a third reason should be listed and that's because La Rosa happens to be my favorite rose...or so I thought. Until Saturday night, when I finally had the courage to open the bottle.

Ah, the anticipation...remembering how I felt when I first tasted it at the winery, and how it made me feel when I first tasted it. To me, it was the perfect rose! So why didn't it taste as good on Saturday night? Don't get me wrong, it wasn't corked or anything, just not the same as I remember it-and a little less vibrant of a palate. The possible reason hit me at work today: it could be past it's prime.

I did a little research; checking the internet, some of the books I've collected, and asked friends how long a rose wine should be aged for, if at all. The answers I found range anywhere from drink as soon as possible, to aging up to 2 years. Since the bottle of Renzoni that I have is a 2008, that makes it a year older than the 2 years advice-no wonder it tasted off!

I didn't want to waste the bottle so to try and balance out the rest of the wine, I looked up suitable pairings for rose. What I discovered was something I never would have dreamed would pair well with rose: lamb burgers with homemade tzatziki. The recipe and pairing is from the "This Food, That Wine" book. Here's what they looked like:

The end result: the fruity flavors of the rose helped tone down the bitter flavors of the lamb while bringing out the fresh flavors in the tzatziki-many different flavors blending in the mouth! Easily one of the best pairings I've ever had and perfect for summer!

Lesson learned: Rose wines are best drank as soon as possible. Isn't that the fun part anyways?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Slow Cooker Sundays: A Taste of Asia!

If cooking was a disease, I am now fully infected! I love to do it, even if I don't consider myself a great chef by any means. I do it all the time. I do it to kill the "Sunday Night Blues". I do it when I'm feeling romantic. I do it to celebrate the turning of seasons. I do it because I love cooking. I do it to try something new. The something new that I feel like trying for May's Slow Cooker Sundays is Asian cuisine, a fare I don't cook often.

I was going through my old cookbooks last Sunday and I found a recipe for Thai Beef Curry that I've always wanted to make. It turns out that I already have most of the ingredients, and after leafing through the rest of the cookbook I found a few more recipes to try under the same food umbrella, and the idea officially took off!

The last 2 Slow Cooker Sundays have been dedicated to my lovely mother and grandmother in honor of Mother's Day, cooking up some of their recipes that have inspired me. Floating Chicken, Roasted Curried Cauliflower & Spinach Soup, and don't forget the wine pairing: Hernder Vidal, the official white wine of the Holowatys! Starting this week and throughout the month, I will try my hand at concocting edible meals featuring the flavors of China, India and Thailand. Here they are:

Shanghai Potato Cakes
Slow Cooked Oriental Chicken with veggie-fried rice
Garlic Stir-fried Broccoli
Almond Crescents
Pork Satays
Carrot Sambal
Beef Curry
Kluai Buat Chi
Chicken Curry
Beef Madras
Tandoori Chicken
Onion Salad
Indian-style Basmati Rice Pudding

I might even try my hand at paneer, an Indian cheese. I'm also hoping to find a really spicy side to go along with the Tandoori Chicken.

Wine pairings are definitely in the cards. A German Riesling is a definite must, as the sweetness will cool down the heat of some of the dishes. Other recommendations I found via the internet and some of my cookbooks are Gewurztraminer (I would likely pair one of my fave whites, Summerhill's Ehrenfelser), Rose, Bubbly (we have a great Prosecco that's slightly sweet that could work well) and there's also the option of taking a night off wine and enjoying a good beer with the spicy flavors!

Any advice, definitely send it my way! And stay tuned for photos...

Friday, April 29, 2011

True Story!

You may have seen this come to you via email before. My husband sent this to me today and asked that I share it on my blog. This sounds like a scenario that may have happened between us before:

A woman is sitting on the veranda with her husband having a glass of wine.
The woman says "I love you".
The husband asks, "Is that you or the wine talking?"
She replies "It's me...talking to the wine"

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Tale of Two 3 Course Meals

Tale #1: A Cheddar "Battle"
Sommelier school is expensive. Really, really expensive. When I first expressed my interest in pursuing this passion to my husband, and after showing him the tuition costs, I really thought he would say no. After all, we are saving up for a new house and need all the money we can save for the down payment. And I'm not necessarily going to chase this as a new career path. However, to my surprise, he was very supportive of me and I just finished the Wine Fundamentals course through WSET! To thank him for his support and to show him that I did learn something in exchange for tuition fees, I cooked him a three course meal that focused on a couple forms of cheddar, complete with wine pairings.
First course was a slow-cooked French Onion Soup topped with broiled, mild cheddar on baguette slices, paired with a Chardonnay, 2008 Tinhorn Creek from BC. This chardonnay is medium bodied and doesn't go overboard with oaky flavors, and because of this I found it to be a great match with the soup, bringing out the rustic flavors of the onions. I'm not much on chard, but this one is great to pair with food or drink on it's own! Next time I will use a stronger cheddar for the soup, which I will make again!
Second course was a "grilled cheese" made with medium cheddar between grilled chicken breasts cut lengthwise in half. I marinated the chicken in a cocktail of Blanche de Chambly, a stronger Quebec beer, along with apple cider vinegar and a few herbs first, then my hubby grilled it on the barbecue. I served the chicken with fried butternut squash (sage was the main herb used for flavoring) and broccoli in a cheddar bearnaise sauce. The wine pairing was a merlot from chile, Anakena. Because the merlot was a 2009 it was very mild, soft tannins, and mild fruit flavors with a hint of spice. But it still held up to the flavors of the cheddar and I thought it paired well. Here's what it looked like:

Dessert was an apple crisp with mild cheddar woven into the topping. I don't think I will ever make an apple crisp without cheese in it ever again! I wanted to pair it with my sacred bottle of Robert Renzoni's 2008 La Rosa, a 2008 Californian rose made with Sangiovese grapes. But because this is the bottle that has the Renzoni autograph on it (and I don't know when I'm going to that area of California again), I couldn't pull the cork, so to speak!

So despite the missing wine pairing with dessert, the meal turned out well and needless to say, my husband was all full up in the end!

Tale #2: The Easter Parade of Pairings
The title comes from my dad, who used to sing the Easter Parade song to me and my sisters every year. Even though I live 3,000kms away now, he still "sang" it to me in the Easter card he sent. Easter is a big holiday for my family. They all get together, have a feast, and they never forget the wine! Easter is one of the three days I get a little homesick, not being able to to join in the fun back home. To help ease the homesickness, I made us a 3 course meal, and I didn't forget the wine pairings either! I chose to do a "best of" theme for our food adventures this past year, with hints of my Ukranian background to complement the meal.
First course was kielbasa and brick cheese infused with onion and parsley, paired with an Australian Shiraz, Wyndham Estate's 2008 Bin 555. Originally I wanted to pair it with a more mellow red since I find Shiraz has quite a bite for my tasting with it's peppery notes. This wine still maintains the quality of a good Shiraz, without slapping you in the face with spice. It paired decently well with the kielbasa and cheese, but I think I'll keep trying different wines to pair with kielbasa in the future.
For the main course, I took a chicken breasts supreme, pan-seared it skin side down, and then roasted it in the oven with butter and a sauce, a reduction of honey and white wine, flavored with rosemary. I continued basting the chicken with the reduction as it roasted, and topped it with the sauce when serving it. Very sticky, but very sweet! This chicken breast recipe is actually found in Anthony Sedlak's The Main cookbook, so props to him for coming up with it! I served the chicken over roasted garlic mashed yams, topped with bacon bits for a smokier flavor-after all, the chicken was super sweet, and I didn't want to go overkill on the sweetness. The side was paska, a ukranian raisin bread that we munched on after the official main. Here's what it looked like:
The wine pairing was my personal favorite white: Hernder Estate's 2008 Vidal, which you can only get in Ontario. It's light to medium bodied, very floral in bouquet with a sassy hint of lime. It's sweet but not overly sweet, so it brought out the sweetness of the chicken without making the main taste too sweet.
Dessert was originally going be a spiced banana rum cake, but since we still had chocolate fudge cake leftover from Friday night's family dinner, we ate that instead and paired it with a rum and coke to help kill the sugary flavors. A fantastic ending for a fantastic dinner!

Now it's time for me to take a break from three course dinners with wine pairings. Back to the regular family tradition of Slow Cooker Sunday, which will be my personal take on my nana's "Floating Chicken". Now off to the wine store to pick up the wine I'm going to use in that recipe!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Random Wine Rambling from Saturday Night

I'm sitting here trying not to finish a bottle of wine. Pretty crazy, right? It's one of those bottles that I know I'll likely never get to buy again. We picked up a bottle of Callaway 2005 Special Selection Dolcetto in Temecula, California while on vacation last year for my husband's cousin's wedding. We decided to age it for a year and then opened it this snowy night in Alberta. It's a fabulous red, very mineral in taste and nose with hints of ripe fruit. After jotting down a few quick tasting notes, I thought to myself how similar a rare wine is to life. You have to enjoy the good moments you have because they won't last forever. But you can also keep the memories with you as long as you can. So enjoy your wine to the bottle's last drop, and live your life until your last breath.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Veuve Clicquot: A Great Story of Triumph for Women

Imagine this scenario: You've been married for seven years, a young wife at 27 years of age. Suddenly, your husband passes away. You are now a widow, or "veuve" in French.

What would you do? One would obviously be devastated, and of course there would be a necessary period of mourning. Would you struggle to get out of bed on a daily basis? Would you somehow find the inner strength you need to try and move on?

Barbe Nicole Ponsardin found herself in this situation back in 1805 when her husband passed away. Fortunately, she made the choice to take over the family business. This decision ended up being such a great decision as she would bring the world one of the most prominent champagnes well recognized everywhere!

Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin's grapes are grown over 382 hectares in the vineyards surrounding Reims, France-the 2nd largest vineyard in the Champagne area. Of the total grapes they grow, 39% is Pinot Noir grapes, 46% is Chardonnay, and 15% are Pinot Meunier. Veuve Cliquot prides themselves on having a 97% vineyard rating based on the echelle des crus, a classification system for vineyard quality in Champagne. You can taste the quality in their bottles! The grapes are harvested only when the perfect balance between sugar & acidity in the grapes is reached. Harvesting is done by hand and the different grape varieties remain separated until the blending process.

Veuve Cliquot presses 2550 litres of juice from 4,000kg of grapes. The first 2,050 litres are called the cuvee and the last 500 litres are called the taille. Fermentation then takes place in stainless steel vats. Blending then takes place to maintain the house flavors and quality. The wine is bottled and sugar and yeast are added for secondary fermentation. Veuve Cliquot ages their bottles in their cellars in Reims for no less than 15 months as part of the Champagne A.O.C. regulations. The bottles are laid in riddling racks (shown below) that were actually invented by the house to make the process of disgorging (removing the sediment in secondary fermentation) easier.

The bottles are turned and tilted slightly to move the sediment to the neck of the bottle. When the aging process is complete, the sediment will be frozen and the pressure inside the bottle will literally push it out when the cap is removed. After a small amount of sweetened liquor is added to the champagne, the bottles are corked and wired and laid down on their side in the cellars to further develop flavor before being labelled and packed up for shipping.

My husband and I were fortunate enough to get the chance to visit this prestigious champagne house in mid-March. We were given the chance to see the cellars, learn their history and taste a few of the champagnes as well. We tasted the yellow label and the 2002 vintage, which I found light, lovely, and really easy to drink! Needless to say, there is a bottle of the yellow label in our house now too!
If you ever find yourself in Reims, it is well worth the visit and if you decide to spend the 75 euro on the tour, I hope you get Melissa Gaillard as your guide. She is very knowledgeable and passionate about the house and friendly. Tours must be booked in advance by calling the house or email:

Veuve Cliquot has become one of the most recognized champagnes throughout the world. It has become so popular, in fact, that Veuve now owns the legendary color of their label. Melissa showed us on the tour false replicates of other bottles that have been found all over the world, including Mexico. When you go to their website,, they mention a hoax promotion that is being offered for a free case of their champagne. To me, that speaks volumes of the quality and reputation that Veuve Cliquot maintains all over the world. After all, imitation is the best form of flattery, n'est-ce pas?

One of the things I love best about Veuve Cliquot (outside of the taste & quality of course!) is what they do for women. It's a tough life for a woman, working in a predominantly men's world. I experience this first-hand every day as I work with all men in the aviation industry. Veuve Cliquot hands out Businesswoman of the Year awards every year to outstanding businesswomen who embody the values of Madame Cliquot. Sixteen winners will be crowned for each of the countries that participate in the award, and the winners receive a trip to Reims to christen a vine in their own names, one each, at the International Business Woman Forum! On top of that, on their birthday every year of their life they will receive a bottle of a champagne from that vine. Amazing! Although internet rumors insist there is a jinx or curse on winning the award, I think it's great to see recognition of successful women on a worldwide scale.

Veuve Cliquot, je t'aime!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Pink Jewel Among the Bordeaux Wines

The same day that my husband and I toured Chateau Cantenac Brown we also stopped in at Chateau Lafon-Rochet. It was there that I found something I never expected to find in Bordeaux: one of the best rose wines I've ever tasted. The pink jewel I refer to in the title of this entry is "Le Rose de Lafon-Rochet" 2009.

That year was the first year the Chateau produced a rose, and they got it right the first time! Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are harvested by hand in the morning to retain freshness. Once the grapes are sorted, they are pressed directly with their stems and are fermented at temperatures just over 15 degrees. The resulting wine is a light salmon in color and the bouquet is very fruity-a wonderful aroma of citrus fruit, mostly grapefruit, seduced my senses on first nose! Very crisp in taste, and not really sweet at all, the wine has a fresh, clean finish that does linger. Although my preference would be to drink this on it's own, you could pair it with seafood or a grilled chicken salad (not caesar or anything with a creamy dressing, however).

The funny thing about discovering this rose is that we were never meant to sample this wine at the Chateau. There happened to be a magnum sitting on the counter behind the tasting table that I kept noticing. Fortunately, I found the courage to ask about it, and thankfully, our tour guide agreed to give us a sample! In exchange she made 32 euro off that tasting-2 bottles sold on our tour of 3 people! Another interesting fact that our tour guide shared with us is that this rose has become so popular, Lafon-Rochet no longer sells it in the regular 750mL bottles-they only sell the rose in magnums now! I think this is a great business decision in the long run.

If you are able to find it, I recommend trying it, even if you are not a regular rose drinker. There is a reason this wine took off in France! Unfortunately, it is not available here in Alberta. The magnum we purchased at the winery is currently resting from a bumpy ride across the Atlantic and will be drinkable again in 2 months. Until then, I have the memory of the first taste of this rose lingering on my tastebuds when I look at the bottle and this photo of me with my own pink jewel. Score!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Chateau Cantenac Brown-A Grand Cru Classe in Bordeaux

On Friday March 4th, my husband and I ventured into the beautiful vineyards of Bordeaux, France for the first time ever. The sun was shining, it was a warm day, and I was ready to learn as much about Bordeaux wines as I could possibly fit into my noggin. We got to visit Chateau Cantenac Brown in Margaux that day, and I was fortunate to get to learn a lot about their winery.

Chateau Cantenac Brown is situated in the Margaux appellation in the Bordeaux region, consisting of 104 acres (42 hectares) of vineyards producing 65% cabernet sauvignon, 30% merlot, and 5% cabernet franc grape varieties. The vines are grown in rough, gravelly soil, full of rocks. This encourages toughness of the vines-if you "baby" the vines by growing them in rich, nutrient-laden soil, they will produce grapes that become weaker wines. The rough soil forces the vines to search for water deep beneath the surface and through rainfall, producing stronger grapes that give their wines more structure and taste more full-bodied. The vines were recently pruned to a Y shape, and tractors would be heading out in a few days from our visit to turn over the soil, as grass can grow beside the vines and cause them to compete for essential nutrients. As spring progresses the vines will grow more branches, and summer brings the grape clusters. The clusters will be harvested in late September by hand. The ripe and rotten grapes are removed right in the vineyards, and secondary filtering is done again when they enter the vat house.

Each individual grape variety goes into stainless steel casks for 2-3 weeks, where the sugar transforms into alcohol. Malolactic fermentation will also occur in the casks. The grape varieties, each still separate from each other, will then be moved into French oak barrels and will age for 12-15 months. Half of the barrels are new and the other half is 1 year old. Once this process is completed, the winemaker will taste each individual variety and will blend them together for optimum taste and quality.

There is a very interesting history attached to the property itself. A Scottish animal painter named John Lewis Brown was the original owner and had the first portion of the Chateau built for him in Tudor style to live the lush life in the early 19th century. Tons of lavish parties to impress the ladies were held there at first. Unfortunately, he spent everything he had and the property was sold to a banker named Gromard in 1843. The property was sold to various other owners throughout the years.

The winery received the prestigious Grand Cru classification in 1855 for the Medoc region. Part of this classification comes a strict set of rules set out by the AOC that each winery must comply with in order to maintain their cru classification. Some of these mentioned in the tour include: the vines cannot be watered through any artificial means; and the harvesting of the grapes must be done at the same time every year- late September. If a reason arises that it can't be done during that time, affected wineries have to get approval from the AOC to do so, and have all their data well put together. Chateau Cantenac Brown believes in strictly following these rules to maintain their quality.

While at the winery we were fortunate enough to taste their 2004 Margaux. Deep dark red in color, the bouquet reminded me of berries and plum , definitely fruity. I found the palate to be full bodied with soft tannins, not as bold as some of the other reds we tried in the area but I tend to like reds that are smoother. This one tasted like it could pair well with a beef dish or a strong cheese.

Chateau Cantenac Brown accepts visitors by appointment and can perform tours in French (bien sur), English and German as well. If you can't get out there anytime soon, their website has phenomenal photos on the home page that really show off the true beauty of the property:

One such gorgeous area is the land behind the Chateau itself; a lush forest that shines a vibrant emerald green in the sun. Here's a picture that my husband took when we were there. I felt like I could feel the history of the property when we first stepped out there, like I was stepping into a fairy tale and I can only hope it reflects a glimmer of the backyard's true radiance. But above all this, try the wine for yourself and see if you can experience the winery's beauty through taste!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Great Vegetarian Soup for Hangovers!

"Hangovers. Because no good time goes unpunished."-A demotivational poster I have up on my wall at work. I spent most of today in pajamas with bangs wild & askew recovering from a great night with really good friends yesterday. It's just too bad that 3 pitchers of beer, too many to count amaretto & cokes and porn star shots will likely cause an internal revolution, because it is fun to do at the time!

I found the idea for this soup from a cookbook by a fabulous Canadian food personality, Lucy Waverman-the book was a gift from my mother-in-law last Christmas. I love this book because she shows her readers how to use unique items like fiddleheads in awesome ways. I'm hoping to try her recipe for cherry preserves in the future. The recipe I tried was her Spiced Cauliflower Soup with Spinach but her version calls for chicken broth, and I only had vegetable on hand. Also, I didn't season with salt or pepper-it didn't need it according to my tastebuds! The soup comes out a vibrant green color, a smooth, rich texture and full of spicy flavor. Here's my version:

1 head cauliflower, broken up into small florets
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp fennel seeds, ground
1L vegetable broth
1 bunch spinach
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 450F
2. Toss cauliflower with olive oil, cumin, curry powder, coriander and fennel seeds in a bowl. Pour into shallow roasting pan and roast for 20 minutes, turning once.
3. Bring veggie broth to a boil in a pot and add roasted cauliflower. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
4. Add wilted spinach and simmer for 1 minute max, until spinach is wilted and a dark emerald green colour.
5. Puree soup and return to heat on low simmer. Add lemon juice and season to taste.

Serve with crusty bread. Serves 4.

I calculated the nutritional information on this recipe through an iPhone app that I have. It's only 82 calories as made, and I love that you can make some changes so it's even healthier-by using canola oil instead of olive oil, and water instead of the broth! It's also be very high in iron from the spinach.

My husband took a photo of it when it was finished. Here's what it looked like:

Originally we were going to pair a bottle of rose wine with this, Robert Renzoni's 2008 La Rosa, but I want my friends to try this in a couple of weeks as I believe it cured a hangover in the past, so no go for tonight. Here's the side story for that belief:

Last May my husband and I took a side trip to Temecula, as part of a trip to California for his cousin's wedding. There is a small wine region nearby. The night before our wine tour we went out for sushi and wound up staying there until the wee hours of the morning drinking sake bombs as made by the sushi chefs. And boy did we ever get sake-bombed that night! I woke up the next morning while "praying to the porcelain Gods" and we had to leave the hotel at 10am for an all-day wine tour on the Grapeline. I wasn't sure I'd even make it through the first winery, I felt so sick during the first tasting! But I found a sweet surprise in the 2nd winery we visited, Robert Renzoni. Very plain looking on the exterior, but once we got to the tasting it was apparent that their main focus is on their wines, and they sell a fantastic Marinara Sauce too! The Rose was the highlight of the tasting, as I took one sip and I felt a million times better. In fact, I was easily able to stomach all the wines we tried from that point onwards! I ended up buying 2 bottles and the one pictured was signed by one of the owners, Fred Renzoni. He was so friendly and passionate about what he does. Lucky man.

After eating the soup I now feel so much better, just mostly lazy and tired, he he. If you're still reading, I'll end this entry with a video my husband took of us about to do a sake bomb on his phone. The girl knocking the sake into the beers with the samurai sword is me! If you're still reading this, check it out!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The V Day Menu Pt 2: How it Turned Out

Now that I am finally fully digested, it's time to write. I spent my entire weekend eating & drinking my way through the city and my cookbooks. Although I'm sure my waistline isn't happy with me, my taste buds sure are!

Saturday afternoon my husband and I went down to the "deep south" to Willow Park Wines & Spirits for a Port, Cheese & Chocolate Tasting. Tickets were only $20pp and I was fortunate enough to score 2 of the last 4 available. We got there early, expecting a line up and found no such line, but it was free samples day! After tastes of Chocolate Port, the new Mumm Napa Rose, Ukranian vodka (so smooth!) and even PEI "Straight Shine" (similar to moonshine but not quite-this version is legal to sell), I was almost stumbling into the tasting room when 2pm came! We found a seat at the end of the first row and these are the goodies we found on the table:

I was happy that I didn't eat lunch before this! The first pairing was a White Port with a triple cream Brie & White Chocolate-looked like the kind you melt and cook with. The Blood Orange rind inside the glass of port really brought out the citrus flavor and was nice. Then there was a 10 year Tawny Port paired with a Comte cheese (Matt really enjoyed the cheese) and Sea Salt Caramel w/almond & dark chocolate. At this point I'm thinking that I'm on Cloud 9, almost oblivious from the way all the flavors worked together! 3rd pairing was Warres Warrior Port (ruby) paired with a Blue Stilton in a shell of dark chocolate tart topped with port jelly. This was so amazing, I am now on the blue cheese wagon-I hated it before Saturday! And finally, the last taste pairing: St. Germain Liqueur paired with a Scottish Chevre Cheddar (just like Goat's cheese) and a candied pear with 38% milk chocolate. The St. Germain is an elderflower liqueur and the flowers are found in the Swiss Alps and made in Paris. According to the staff, this stuff is just about to take off with reviews being done in various media. We picked up a bottle and good thing we did: we heard there were only 2 cases left in the store! Other Port tasters left with bottles as well. The flavor is very light, very sweet, and we also got to try it mixed with Champagne. I'll be picking up some bubbly after work and drinking that tomorrow night! Here's a pic of the bottle:

After that we headed to the Keg for a steak dinner, using up gift cards we got from Christmas. We ate so much! I ended up with a "food hangover" and didn't sleep well that night.

And now, Sunday-my attempt at a spicy 3 course meal. I did exactly the menu I blogged about before and started the app, the Buffalo Chicken Bites, at 1:30pm to allow for a 4 hour cooking time on low. The chicken came out slightly overcooked I thought, but the sauce was robust and spicy (I added extra hot sauce to the mix and used beef broth instead of chicken-had to use it up) and Matt ended up dipping his bites into extra sauce!

I started the bread at 5:30pm - a cheddar herb bread. Although I followed the recipe exactly, it didn't rise as much as I thought it might and turned out more like a soft biscotti in size. Taste wise, it was a little dry, but was a great off-set to the heat of the chili.

Which brings us to the pork chili! I ended up making a last minute change: I can't call it Chipotle chili because I didn't use chipotle peppers-used regular hot chilis instead. I followed the recipe exactly as is and it turned out great-very rustic, flavorful and packed a good deal of heat too!

The wine pairing stayed the same as mentioned before, only I couldn't find a 2007 Sumac Ridge Gewurz anywhere-I had to settle for the younger 2009 version. The sweetness of the wine paired well with the heat of the buffalo chicken and the chili, but I thought it went best with the dessert...

Which leads me to my favorite course of the night! I made a spiced chocolate cake which was nice and moist, but the icing on the cake was the best part! I decided to get inventive for the frosting and here's the recipe-I call it "slowburn sauce"

1. Melt 3 squares of unsweetened chocolate in a bain marie (bowl over a pot of boiling/simmering water on the stovetop).

2. Add 2 tbsp of butter or margarine

3. Slowly add 1/3 cup icing sugar, add another tbsp of butter/margarine to bring to a good consistency, adjust to your taste

4. Add a few dashes of hot sauce to taste! I used Marie Sharp's Orange Pulp Habanero Sauce.
Stir it up!

Last but not least, frost & enjoy! Matt and I thought the sauce tastes mild at first, but wait about 10 seconds and a slow burn will rear it's hot head at the back of your throat. Loved it!!! I will definitely make this again.

So all in all our spicy Valentine's Day meal was great-and I had so much fun that I'm going to do another 3 course meal this weekend for Family Day long weekend! I don't know what the main event will be, but the feature food is cauliflower, or chou-fleur in French. And if Matt was smaller, he would be mon petit chou-fleur!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Popping (ok, pitting) Cherries

So the title isn't entirely true, I didn't exactly pit the cherries properly when making tonight's dinner. I was cutting each cherry at the pit on each side and then doing "quality control" on the remaining flesh on the pit when cutting them up for the cherry wine sauce! Hey, you gotta make sure the ingredients still work, right?

I have to admit it, I have a bad habit that I want to quit ASAP. Sometimes I buy produce and forget I have to use it up and it goes bad. I hate that I waste food, but I'm much better at using things up than I used to be. If you have any methods that work, feel free to share them! Anyways, earlier this week I found a bag of unused cherries in the fridge that I knew had a couple of days left on them. So ambitious to use them up I became that I spent one morning at work trying to find recipes that use fresh cherries-don't tell my boss! They're not that easy to find, sadly. The first one I found was a mediocre recipe for cherry muffins. I decided to try the recipe with a few changes: I used 1oz of Disaronno liqueur instead of the almond extract it called for, used whole wheat flour instead of all purpose, and I mashed up the cherries a bit to get some juice in the mix too. Although Matt says he really liked them, I thought it needed a bit more sweetness to it and found I could hardly taste the cherries, even though I left good sized chunks in the mash. Next time I'll add some cherry yogurt to it to add flavor and sweetness, and maybe increase the flour to get it to the right consistency. It's definitely worth making again.

Sometimes when surfing for recipes I find one that I feel so compelled to take on that it's hard to stop me. About $55 is what it cost me this time. I decided to try to make Lamb Chops with Cherry Red Wine Sauce & Mint, a modification from Lamb Chops with Cherry Balsamic Sauce & Mint because I didn't have balsamic vinegar on hand. I served it with broccoli & cheese sauce to put the focus on the lamb, and paired it with a bottle of 2008 Chateau de Courteillac, a red blend from Bordeaux. Bordeaux reds were recommended to be paired with the recipe. I came home this afternoon ready to take on Operation Lamb Chop (as I've cheesily pegged it).

I don't cook a lot of lamb. I don't eat a lot of lamb. I'm not necessarily for the slaughter of baby animals, but I don't mind veal about once per year - usually tasting it off Matt's plate. After spending $21 on 6 lamb chops, however, I wasn't taking this one lightly and I went long and slow with it. My chef in college would have been proud, I made sure I had my mise en place completed before starting the cooking process! Matt came home just as I was about to pan-sear the chops, and we decided to roast them as a reviewer suggested. It was great to have a 2nd set of hands around! When the cooking process was finished, we set the table and plated the food, and here is the end result:
Next was the moment of truth-tasting my effort. Would I like lamb? Did I fudge the recipe? Is Matt going to be mad if I just wasted $21 after spending thousands on a trip to France? I took a bite and thought I reacted well to the harsh, bitter taste of lamb at first. The sauce was phenomenal and paired so well with the lamb! Matt, who has ordered lamb in high-end restaurants before, thought it was flavorful and tender (in his own words). Unfortunately for me, I got to my 2nd chop and my tastebuds rejected the robust, bitter flavor. It was just too much for me I guess. I ended up giving most of my lamb to Matt, who happily gave it a home. I doubt that I will ever eat lamb again, much to Matt's protest (he literally just said it!) but I would make the sauce again, and even play with it over ice cream or for a future cheesecake-using sweet ingredients of course! Here's the link to the recipe:

And that brings us to now. I am finishing the bottle of wine, which turns out to be very easy drinking :) Ultimately, I'm glad I did it. I used up the cherries and I attempted something advanced that I viewed as a challenge, and it turned out pretty good I thought. This was day 1 of a food-filled weekend, tomorrow brings a Port tasting and a 3 course meal at the Keg, and Sunday is the day I spice things up! Here's hoping it turns out in the end!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Tasty Twist on Bruschetta!

A couple of weeks ago a group of us went to Pulcinella's restaurant in Calgary, which specializes in authentic pizza cooked the traditional wood-fired oven way. I have been there a couple of times this season and have grown very fond of their Bruschetta Misto appetizer, great for sharing or to have all to yourself! 2 slices of the 4 you are served are done the traditional way with tomatoes, olive oil, etc. However, the other 2 slices are different, but so delicious and inventive thanks to the Executive Chef! He tops them with roasted sweet red peppers and dried ricotta instead! I actually crave this now and am trying to hold my drool in while typing in this entry! Here's a photo of the Bruschetta Misto:

If you are ever in Calgary and craving pizza, I highly recommend trying out Pulcinella's in Kensington. Check it out:

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The V-Day Menu!

Once a month I like to delve into my past by cooking my husband a 3 course meal one Sunday per month, just as if I was in the college kitchen. I do this not only because I love to cook & bake, but I also find it helps ease the transition through the Sunday doldrums and into the "case of the Mondays" by having a wine-paired dinner to look forward to at the end of the weekend. The celebration of my 30th birthday continued on January to the 29th, when Matt threw me a party for my western friends & family, and to thank him (and celebrate our love around Valentine's Day...we are cheesy, I know!) I am going to start the 2011 3-course events by adding a little more spice to our lives on Sunday, Feb 13.

The Menu:

Slow Cooked Buffalo Chicken Bites
Chipotle Pork Chili
Herbed Cheddar Bread
Mexican Chocolate Cake

The wine pairing: Sumac Ridge 2007 Gewurtz-a good wine recommendation with the chili that I found recently.

To start accumulating the ingredients for this menu, my DH & I ventured to the local market yesterday. I was tempted to pick up blue cheese to pair with the wings, but decided last minute to try them with some of the feta I already have at home. I went to pick up some Louisiana-style hot sauce and to our surprise, there was a sale on 4 bottles for $10, so we decided to start up a habanero hot sauce collection! We now have 3 different sauces, each one featuring a different coloured pepper.

Stay tuned to see how the menu turns out!

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Best Alley Burgers in the West!

Calgary's best kept secret was let out of the bag when CBC did a brief expose on Charcut's Alley Burgers this weekend. Fans of this hip restaurant will line up in a dark alley in downtown Calgary to taste these delicious, freshly made burgers-no frozen patties at this place! Fans on Charcut's facebook page are notified of the date and time they will be sold and get in line an hour beforehand - with no thoughts of the freezing cold and snow! And it is well worth the wait if you can get your mittens on one!

Click Here to see photos of cbc's expose for more information on this fabulous place!

Some of my favourite menu items include the shaved pig's head mortadella, the 90z+ share burger (you need to share it for a reason), and a great side is the duck fat poutine. Bring a hefty appetite, you will leave full!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Best Wines I Can Find Almost Anywhere

Tonight I was in a liquor store to buy a Cave Springs Riesling to pair with Friday night's dinner. I know that the 2007 is sold in Alberta in select stores. Unfortunately, my local liquor store was not one of those vendors. Having to look for a new substitute passed me by some old "friends", wines I know I can always find in a pinch that taste great. Here's the list:

Whites: Cave Spring Cellars

Ok, I know that I couldn't find this one tonight, but I've seen it pretty much everywhere else I've looked. And it's always selling at a low price for when you can't break your budget. The very first white I ever remember tasting was at Cave Springs winery while in college. At the time, my goal was to get drunk on a school trip. But I do remember how light & fresh that Riesling tasted, easy drinking! Wine Spectator rated their 2008 Riesling CSV a 90, their 2008 Riesling Estate a 90 and their 2008 Riesling an 88! Try it for yourself!

Reds: Robert Mondavi

Whenever I am in a restaurant and have trouble deciding on a wine, a Mondavi is usually in consideration. All the reds I've ever tasted have been flavorful and paired well with the dish I'm eating when I need a good red. I've seen Mondavi wines in almost every liquor store I've ever been in, and they are usually priced moderately. A good, reliable pick but try it for yourself.

All Types: Sumac Ridge

We toured this winery, and played it's golf course, over Easter weekend 2010. Although I got really frustrated and walked off the course (it's a tough par 3 9 holes!), the wines inside were phenomenal. Sumac Ridge was one of the official sponsors for the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and supplied gold and silver medalists with their Tribute and Pinnacle bubblies. I myself have a bottle of the Tribute here at home just waiting for a good celebration to pop it open! Here in Calgary one can find their wines on almost every restaurant menu, as well as in every liquor store, all reasonably priced. Some of my personal favorites are the bubbly, and the 2007 Gewurztraminer. The reds are good as well.

A Good Almost Anywhere Wine: Australia's Jacob's Creek

I first found them through one of my iPhone apps-their 2005 Reserve Shiraz got a rating of 89 and I thought "If I can find them, I have to try them!" I can usually find at least one bottle of their wines in a liquor store, tasted and liked some later year Shiraz blends, and even picked up their 2009 Chardonnay in place of the Riesling I couldn't find (it's a very sweet Chardonnay with fruity notes, not like a regular oaky Chard). Take a look at their website to see how many awards they've won and then try one yourself!

Now that I've spent the last hour or so writing and thinking about wine, it's time for a glass for myself! If you have any other easily accessible wineries that you know about, please leave a comment! :)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Slow Cooker Sunday, Jan 16: Easy Does It!

Right now I am watching the Social Network win best picture at the Golden Globes while waiting for my last batch of peanut butter cookies to finish cooking in the oven for a friend's birthday. Lesson learned: sometimes simple recipes can be just as good as the more involved ones!

Once again, today was a great day to stay in while Alberta is still in this deep freeze, and since I was hungover from ribs & beer with great friends last night, I wanted to do something easy that would still taste good and make the house smell great. So I did a pot roast that cooked for 8 hours on low. When it was done the meat literally fell apart as my husband cut it, and it tasted amazing! We paired it with a Bordeaux Merlot from a winery called Chateau Timberlay, that was surprisingly light-it reminded me of a Pinot Noir. This is just my personal taste, but if I am going to drink a Merlot, I prefer it to be robust, full bodied and will hold up to the dish it's being paired with. However, I knew going in that there was a chance it would not pair well, and decided to try it anyways. Can't win them all! Here's the recipe for the pot roast:

I added garlic powder but would have rather used a clove or 2 of fresh garlic. I also forgot to add the Worcestershire sauce.

The recipe for the peanut butter cookies I am baking comes straight off the back of a Kraft Smooth Peanut Butter jar, with a healthier version on their website:


Friday, January 14, 2011

Yes-Soup For You!

I found a great recipe for Mulligatawny soup and made it on Thursday night. Here is my version of it, with vegetarian options listed in green:

1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, sliced (vegetarians use more)
1 cup baby carrots, sliced
2tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp all purpose flour
2 tsp curry powder - or to your liking
4 cups chicken stock (or veggie broth)
1 medium apple, peeled, cored & chopped
1/4 cup rice or 1 cup potatoes
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into cubes, cooked if you like (or omit)
Pinch thyme leaves
Salt & Pepper to taste

  1. Saute onions, celery, carrot, and butter in a large soup pot. Add flour and curry, and cook 5 more minutes. Add chicken stock, mix well, and bring to a boil. Simmer about 1/2 hour.
  2. Add apple, rice/potato, chicken, salt, pepper, and thyme. Simmer 15-20 minutes, or until rice/potato is done.

A few other ways to enjoy:
-Thicken soup with heavy cream and heat thoroughly
-Play around with the ingredients
-With Wine!

We paired it with Summerhill Ehrenfelser 2008, which I consider "the sister of Gewurtz" and my 2nd fave white of all time. Other great whites that would go with this are Viognier, Riesling, Vidal, and of course, Gewurztraminer.

This is a super healthy recipe (depending on sodium levels in the broth) that will make your kitchen smell good the day after. This soup is also good reheated as leftovers. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Peanut Butter & Jam on a Hot Dog?!? YES! And it's GOOD!

Guess what I ate for dinner tonight?!? And the first 2 don't count! Believe it or not, but there's a funky hot dog place in Calgary where you can have peanut butter & jam (and cap'n crunch cereal topping too!) on a hot dog! Tubby Dog in Calgary does up weird & wonderful concoctions of hot dog toppings right on 17th Ave. Matt got the A-bomb, which has ketchup chips, bacon, cheese sauce, mayo and mustard on it. D "chose her own adventure" and piled on items like a pickle wedge, coleslaw, and possibly chili or sauerkraut underneath that. Here are the pics of our dinner:

Nothing like good old PB&J-the PB melted underneath the dog, perfect for sopping up leftover bun!

The A-Bomb! Matt loved the crushed ketchup chips on top the best, I think!

D's concoction. Mmm, pickle...

They are also licensed so you can chase that dog down with a beer.
We'll be back again to try the rest of the menu, hopefully on a monthly basis!

Monday, January 10, 2011

NFL Playoffs in a Snack

The Snackadium

I wonder how long it took the creator to make this?!?
*Warning: Some of the other pictures on the website may cause nausea, drooling & extreme hunger. Vegetarians might be grossed out by some meaty items!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Xmas Presents that Keep on Giving! Starting 2011 in the Kitchen!

So due to the lack of popularity on my golf blog-and my lack of my motivation to write anything in it-I've decided to try something new for this year. This Christmas I was extremely blessed and received a LOT of cookbooks. It turns out one of my hobbies is collecting recipes :S I figured this would be a great way to keep track of what I've made each week, as well as my reviews of each recipe I tried out.

First Weekend of January-The Weather Outside is Frightful...

This weekend saw the first snow event in Calgary for 2011. We didn't receive a ton of snow, but the winds were high and blowing snow was the big problem, keeping Matt and I inside all weekend. As we also are at the beginning of the annual Calgary January deep-freeze, I decided to spend the weekend in the kitchen, with the oven going quite a bit to help warm up the house. I started Friday morning by throwing chicken breasts into the slow cooker. I found a recipe similar to my Nana's "floating chicken" on my fave recipe website, and thought I'd give it a try. The main difference between my version and Nana's tried and true recipe was that I added 1/4 cup of Hernder Vidal (Niagara white wine) to the mix in substitution for mushrooms, which Matt dislikes. 8 hours on low = a wonderfully fragrant house to walk into at the end of a work week! Paired it with Hernder Vidal to bring out the new flavor, and sides were garlic bread from M&M meat shops and a salad of green leaf lettuce, cucumbers, feta & bottled vinaigrette. Matt's review: he loved it! Super delicious and I think this one's going to go into regular rotation-as much of one as I have! I modified the recipe and added onions, garlic powder (will use minced cloves next time) and paprika sprinkled on the breasts. Special thanks to my Nana R for being such a great cook & inspiration; I only hope that one day I can be as good in the kitchen as you are! Both the chicken recipe & wine pairing are an A+, but still not as good as Nana's original!

Saturday night I decided to make my version of Cornflake Chicken, another Nana-inspired recipe. I found a great version of it on my fave recipe website (again), that incorporates cheddar & parmesan cheese into the cornflake mixture. I tried a few things different this time, including poking holes in the chicken while dredging in margarine to increase juiciness, and topping the cornflake mix with the shredded cheddar instead of mixing it with the cornflakes and herbs, and it was a winner! Matt's review: best version I've made to date, and I've made it quite a few times already. Slow cooker Sunday is a weekly event in the Holyantle household, but this time I decided to get it out on Saturday and made Maple-Glazed Sweet Potatoes & Carrots in it. The recipe came from a cookbook binder given to me by my godmother a few Christmases ago. I made a modification to the recipe as I didn't have any OJ in the house (I don't like it), and used Grand Marnier for the orange flavor in it's place. It worked out great! I'll definitely make that one again. Paired again with the Hernder Vidal to finish off the bottle (I consider it "crack wine" in my world!), I rate both recipes A+ and the wine pairing an A.

Sunday morning I made the first recipe from my loot of 2010 Xmas & birthday cookbooks, which was from The Food Network Kitchens given to me from my "seestor" Ang! The recipe: Potato Pancakes with Pink Applesauce. I made the applesauce the night before. WOW! I plan to make this again and again, it was sweet without having a lot of sugar in it (only 3 tbsp for 2lbs of apples), and brought out the flavor of the gala apples I used wonderfully! I might even try sweetening it with honey in the future too! I made the potato pancakes this morning, and despite the messiness and the 2 cooking wounds I sustained (grated my finger & burnt a knuckle on the skillet) they turned out great, albeit a bit bland for our tastes. The few modifications I will personally make in the recipe are to add some chopped garlic and more seasonings (salt, pepper & nutmeg) to the "batter", and will always pair it with the applesauce. I rate the applesauce an A+, and the potatoes a B due to the modifications and stickiness of the wax potatoes - although they held together well in the skillet.
*Note to my vegetarian family: if you come out to visit us in Alberta, I WILL make this for you for breakfast!

This afternoon for lunch I am making Holiday Spinach Pinwheels, something I made while spending time with my mother-in-law when in Ottawa for Christmas. A great simple recipe that yields yummy results! The recipe:
-mix cream cheese with sweetened dried cranberries, green onions, and a bit of feta cheese.
-mix together in a bowl, and then
-spread evenly on spinach tortillas - to add to holiday ambiance!
-roll up tortillas and refrigerate for about an hour
-slice them into pinwheels-I use a diagonal cut.
-eat & enjoy!
Thank you for the recipe Nancy :)

After this I won't be in the kitchen much as the work week begins again, and I will have my first "Tubby Dog" experience on Wednesday with a friend. To see what I'm getting myself into:

Thursday night is my estimated next cooking experience, and I am planning to make Mulligatawny Soup-another one from my fave recipe website! I tried good curry for the first time 2 years ago, and love to cook and experiment with it now. More on that later! Thanks for reading!