Sunday, October 24, 2010

You are what you eat!

Alas, my time this weekend grows short, so I'll just finish up with a post I've been planning for awhile.  While I did fit some fun food exploits into this weekend (namely, going for dim sum at Kum Koon Garden, getting bagels at Harvest Bakery, and scoring some free peanut butter ice cream with raspberry mixin at the Marble Slab), I did also keep busy with some wedding planning.

How does nuptial stuff relate to this post?  Well, my dear sibs keep telling me that they plan to embarrass the pants off of me during the wedding reception with a puppet show (starring miniature versions of me and Hubs) in lieu of a more traditional speech.  I'm about 99.9% sure that they're bluffing.  Hopefully.  Maybe.  Anyway, I happen to have a few embarrassing food-related items for them.  Call it a preemptive strike.  These just make me hope that the titular idiom for this post is false.

Ahh, Sar.  Why on earth are you holding tuna and dog food?  Oh, that's right, you thought the dog food was chili, which might be nice to take to school to heat up for lunch.  Please, put the Ol' Roy down.  That's for our subservient quadruped, Cindy.
Moving on to the next sibling: I'm pleased to announce, for the first time on "A Weekend, in Food", a video!

Yes, that's Al, the chef-in-training, chugging a container of McDonald's pancake syrup.  Hmm.  A total class act, that one.

Don't even get me STARTED on what Ni has eaten, particularly if there's a monetary wager involved.  The tamest of these has been about a teaspoon of freshly crushed garlic, straight up... I won't get into the most disturbing.  Let's just say, my bearded dragon Max would've shared in the meal with her, given the chance... *shudders*

Hoping my sibs, as wonderful as they are, choose not to retaliate on The Big Day,

Belly Up to the Bar

I've had a few occasions over the past weeks to make various types of bars.  We're not talking the tiki variety with mai tais (though this makes me miss my dear friend Jer), but more the baked-goods variety.  I love bars; they're so versatile, easy to prepare, and are great for making large quantities of treats in one go.  They also give you the option of portion control- just cut them into smaller squares, and you instantly have less fat and sugar per serving! *wink*

At any rate, first I wanted to revisit a childhood classic with my cousin** Sally's butterscotch brownies.  These would make their way to big family campground picnics, and I liked them so much that I requested the recipe when I was probably 14-15 years old.  These are so easy to throw together, and give you a bit of a different take on the usual brownie fare.  They sort of remind me of a mash-up of chocolate chip cookie flavour with traditional chewy brownie texture... definitely delicious.

**Being a genetic counsellor, my "party trick" is to teach people how they're actually related to their "cousins".  To be absolutely precise, Sally is my first-cousin-once-removed-in-law (that is, the wife of my father's first cousin).  Most people don't understand how the once-removed thing works, and would incorrectly label Sally as my second cousin.  This is not the case.  I shall refer you to Robin L. Bennett's book, "The Practical Guide to the Genetic Family History".  Hubs and I have debated this one to death, and this book was sort of a tie-breaker.
Butterscotch Brownies
From Cousin Sally

Makes 24 brownies (or more, depending on how you slice 'em)
  • 1 1/2 cups lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Cream brown sugar and butter together thoroughly; beat in eggs and vanilla until light and fluffy.
  3. Add flour and salt, folding just to combine; stir in chocolate chips.
  4. Spread into an 8-inch square greased pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.
  5. Cool in pan and cut into squares... resist as long as you can before devouring (they continue to cook as they cool).

Look good, don't they?  I'll confess... these didn't make it to the office.  I enjoyed them over the course of a long work-week, with milk and/or coffee and/or tea.  Mmmm.
 Next up, also from the family archives: zucchini fruit bars.  If you've ever lived in Southwestern Ontario, you probably know someone who grows zucchini.  Perhaps multiple people, as in my case (both Nonna and my future mom-in-law have quite the green thumb).  At any rate, it seems like everyone is always looking for ways to use up this summer squash before it goes bad.  As a result, my intelligent future M-I-L, Carla, has quite the repository of zucchini recipes.  This is one of them.

Zucchini Fruit Bars
From Hubs' mom Carla (who doesn't remember where she got it.  I asked.)

Makes about 24 squares, again, depending on how you slice them
  • 3/4 cup margarine
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 3/4 cup chopped dates
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini (sometimes mom pre-shreds hers, freezes it, and then thaws it out)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF
  2. Cream margarine with the white and brown sugars.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla.
  3. Combine the flour, salt, and baking powder in a separate bowl.  Add to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.
  4. Stir in the coconut, dates, raisins, and zucchini.
  5. Spread into a greased 9 x 13 inch pan and bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until brown around the edges and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Carla's recipe also includes a glaze that can be poured over the baked bars, but I think they're just fine without it.  If you want to go ahead and add it, mix 1 tbsp margarine, 1 1/2 tbsp milk, 1 tsp vanilla, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and 1 cup icing sugar until smooth and pour over the partially cooled bars while still in the pan.  You can also sprinkle on chopped nuts if you want.

I brought a batch of these moist, "naked" (i.e. no glaze or nuts) bars to work, and they seemed to be an instant hit.  I think I got more compliments on them than any of my other baking endeavors so far!  Could it be because they had some semblance of healthy ingredients?  Who knows!  At any rate, thanks again to Hubs' mom for sharing the recipe with me!
Last up: the classic favourite, chocolate brownies.  I was asked, as a "voluntold" member of the social committee at work, to bring something "small and sweet" to celebrate a coworker's impending nuptials.  This request came the day before the congratulatory event, on a night when I had American Sign Language class to attend.  Hrm.  A quick mental inventory run-down told me that I had everything needed for these suckers, so I quickly tossed them together, threw them in the oven, and whipped them out in just enough time to get down to the Deaf Centre Manitoba.  Whew! 

 This is apparently Anna Olson's go-to brownie recipe... though I found them to be just a tiny bit too cake-y for my liking.  Two things that could remedy that: a larger pan (for thinner brownies) and less cooking time.  I did approve of my swapping of toasted walnuts (in the original recipe) for chocolate chips... I suppose that makes the double chocolate brownies, no?

Whatever you call them, they were pretty good.  One of the geneticists I work with kept going back for more... I think his total count was five or six.  AND he's thin as a rail.  Jealousy, thy name is Honeybee.
All of these were relatively simple and worked well... but I've been feeling like I need to up my game in the bar department.  For example, I LOVE Nanaimo bars and date squares, but have never had the guts to take a DIY approach to them... I'm thinking that's got to change.

Looking forward to more rectangular treats in the future,

Catching up: Meatballs by request

I'm back!!  After a couple of crazy weeks of work and play, I'm finally in possession of some spare time to get back to noshing and writing about it.  Hooray!  Now we get to play catch-up.

First up: hot and spicy meatballs.  An old friend from elementary school, who's been following the blog, requested that I put these up for the enjoyment of all.  I can distinctly remember making them for some sort of French class potluck... which, if I recall correctly, was only for the teachers and staff.  We students just got to translate the recipe into French, bring in the finished product, and help transform the resource room into a romatic bistro.  Looking back now, I'm not sure if that counts as child labour... ah well, c'est la vie.

Regardless, these little cocktail meatballs are definitely worth an entry.  My mom used to make these for potlucks or "finger-food" parties, where they were always a hit.  How could they not be?  They're the perfect size for spearing with toothpicks, and end a hot component to the otherwise chilled selection of cheeses, dips, and crudités typically found at these gatherings.  Of course, as pre-cooked frozen boxed cocktail meatballs became more prevalent, this homemade version became too much work.  In fact, it took my dear sister Sar quite a long time to dig the recipe out of the archives.

THE ARCHIVES.  Stand in awe.  We weren't sure if the recipe would be filed under "meatball" or "Swedish"; turns out, it was under H for "hot and spicy".
EUREKA!  Thanks Sar!  The hilarious part: my fifth-grade handwriting still graces the page.  Sar thought it was our brother's clumsy scrawl... which doesn't saying much for my manual dexterity at age 11.
Once we found the recipe, and Sar immortalized it in digital format (thanks again seester!!), I could re-create the meaty goodness that were these little gems.  And now, Jo, for your enjoyment:

Hot and Spicy Meatballs
From my wonderful mother (whose primary source, alas, is not known)

Makes about 50 meatballs and lots of tasty sauce

  • 1 ½ lb ground beef
    ½ lb ground pork
    2 eggs
    ½ cup breadcrumbs
    ¼ cup finely chopped green onion
    1 tbsp horseradish
    1 tsp salt
    ½ tsp pepper

    ¼ cup brown sugar
    1 tsp dry mustard
    ½ cup each ketchup, chili sauce, water, & grape jelly**
    ¼ cup cider vinegar
    1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
    ¼ tsp Tabasco sauce
    1 onion, finely chopped
    1 clove garlic, minced

** Don't laugh.  The grape jelly is key.  You can find chili sauce in the condiments aisle (Heinz makes one), but I substituted hot salsa with no ill effects.
  1. Meatballs:  mix all ingredients and shape into small balls.  Bake at 350ªF 10-15 minutes until well browned
  2. Sauce: In saucepan combine all ingredients.  Bring to a boil, sturring constantly.  Reduce heat and simmer 5-10 minutes.  Add meatballs and simmer 15 minutes.  Serve warm.
Yes, folks, that cookie portioner can do more than just sweet dough.
Sauce in the making, with baked meatballs.
Marriage of the happy couple: meat and sauce.  Mmm.
While traditionally these would be served as an appetizer, I made a meal of them with some red-skinned garlic mashed potatoes and some steamed broccoli.  Quite a delish dish.
 To me, the great thing about these meatballs (aside from their complex flavour and universal appeal) is the fact that they're baked instead of fried, allowing you to quickly cook up large batches.  It also saves on the mess of pan-frying.  I may apply this procedure to other meatballs, as well.  Which reminds me... I need to make a point to watch Nonna like a hawk next time she makes spaghetti and meatballs.  Hers are always PERFECT.

Still enjoying leftovers of these spherical carnivorous delights,

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Brief hiatus!

Hello all!

Just wanted to apologize and inform everyone that, due to being in the middle of an insane couple of weeks, my kitchen has been largely abandoned.  Last weekend, I filled up on all things American while visiting my classmate in Nebraska; this weekend, I'll be enjoying the luxurious offerings of the Delta Armories in London (Ontario, the "less exotic" London) at the spectacular nuptial celebrations of Kimmi and Seanno.  The only food being served in my apartment during weekends these days is dry kitty kibble.  Fun for Chief and Figaro, but not exactly blog-worthy.  I do have plans to come back with a bang... I made some delicious goodies prior to the Weeks of Insanity that I need to post, and I'll most definitely do a blow-by-blow of all the delicious food I've missed from the "land of the free and the home of the brave".

Steph and I, displaying the ardent love that Nebraskans have for their university football team, the Cornhuskers.  I'm not kidding.  I bought a shirt just for the pure hilarity.
Be back in a couple of weeks!!


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sunday Cranberry Apple Oatmeal Pancakes

 Some mornings just call for a large, pampering breakfast.  For example, the morning after the consumption of a bottle of wine at a dubious “wine bar” and copious amounts of dancing at Gio’s… thankfully pancakes seem to have anti-vino-hangover-headache properties for me.  Huzzah.

Normally, I cure hangovers with a super-greasy bacon-and-eggs breakfast… but I already felt bad enough about myself, so I reached (yes, AGAIN) for my G.I. Diet Clinic’s recipe for oatmeal pancakes and fiddled with it a bit.  I’ve made these pancakes before… the only downside is the 20-minute oat-soaking time period.  But, just get them soaking, make some coffee, prep the rest of the ingredients, and feed your cats… it doesn’t take much extra time overall.  Undoctored, these are delicious, but they needed some oomph for me this morning.  I accomplished this “thusly”, as Alton would say:

Oatmeal Cranberry Apple Pancakes
Adapted from “The G.I. Diet Clinic” by Rick Gallop
(Seriously, I hope he doesn’t sue me)

Makes five respectable-sized pancakes… which is supposed to be 2 servings for those without hangovers.  One serving for those suffering for their EtOH transgressions.

  • A generous 1/3 cup large-flake oats
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/8 cup (or 2 tbsp) ground flaxseed
  • ½ tbsp Splenda
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 Omega-3 egg
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • ¼ of a large apple, peeled and chopped
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  1. In a 2-cup measuring cup, soak oats in buttermilk for 20 minutes
  2. In large bowl, combine flour, flaxseed, Splenda, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  3. When the 20 minutes is up, whisk the egg, oil, and vanilla into the buttermilk-oats mixture.  Pour over flour mixture and stir until just mixed.  Add the apple and cranberries and stir just to incorporate.
  4. Meanwhile, heat non-stick griddle or large non-stick frying pan over medium heat.  Give it a quick spritz of non-stick spray oil.  Ladle about a half of a soup-ladle’s worth of batter onto the griddle for each pancake.  Cook until bubbles appear on top, edges are starting to brown, and the top has almost completely lost its shiny “uncooked” sheen (about 3 minutes or so)
  5. Flip pancakes and cook for another minute or two until golden.  Transfer to a plate and devour. 
I call this piece, "As the Pancake Turns".  But is it art? ;)
These doctored pancakes are probably okay in the G.I. world, but what I did to them next most definitely is NOT:

That’s right.  Margarine and table syrup.  It’s not even light syrup, which tastes gross to me.  I was tempted to buy the “diabetic” pancake syrup in the store, but I couldn’t justify spending twice the amount of money for half the amount of product.  It’s also not maple syrup, which is incredibly expensive and, in my opinion, too runny.  My mom always bought a huge jug of No Name table syrup for family pancake mornings, and if it was good enough for her, it’s more than good enough for me.  Blood sugar levels be damned!! (Well, for me.  No disrespect to those for whom monitoring this level is serious business).

The combination of a warm, sunny (if windy!) fall morning combined with these delicious pancakes chased away the blahs of overindulgence from the night before.  A great start to a gorgeous Sunday.

Wishing that all pancakes could be considered healthy,

Intrepid International Marketgoing and Practically Perfect Pad Thai

The finished product!  Find out how I got here...
On another great suggestion from Shannon (thanks again!), I found myself in one of Winnipeg’s unique local marketplaces.  This time, I went to Young’s Asian Market in search of ingredients for what stated would be perfect authentic Pad Thai, minus the plane ticket to the former Siam.

Now, I’ve been to asian markets before for things like fish sauce, red bean paste, and those delicious lotus root steamed buns.  Mmm.  Every time, though, I feel like I’m rubbernecking as I walk up and down each aisle.  Everything is so different, so brightly packaged, and covered in characters I don’t recognize… it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed!!  Luckily, I knew exactly what I needed: fish sauce, tamarind paste, rice noodles, and cilantro (yes, I bought the fresh stuff).  

Noodles galore!
Despite the crowded shelves and jam-packed aisles, I found everything I needed in short order.  I also bought a small package of udon noodles to try out… I love their thick, soft, doughy texture.  I also grabbed a package of adorable Thai chilies… sometimes a squirt of sriracha just isn’t the same as slicing up one of these puppies and tossing it in a dish.  Overall I was super-pleased with my purchases and the pleasantness of the staff.  I really wish I was better at recognizing spoken Asian languages, or else I could have practiced what little I know with my cheerful cashier.

The spoils!!
Back at home, I tackled this recipe from  I’ve made homemade pad thai before, under the tutelage of my half Thai, half Laotian former college roommate.  However, her (admittedly delicious) family recipe did not involve tamarind.  I know this to be the key to authentic pad thai, and thanks to Young’s, I could now forge ahead.  

The recipe was fantastic, and amazingly simple to follow.  I deviated in that I put the chicken in the marinade several hours prior, before going out for the rest of the ingredients.  Also, neither Young’s nor Superstore had any bean sprouts, so I just doubled the amount of green onion and sautéed the white and light-green sliced portions along with the chicken.  Lastly, since I only used one chicken breast, I tossed in a handful of frozen shrimp during the chicken-cooking stage.  Everything else was followed quite closely, with a stunningly delicious result and enough leftovers for a lunch!

I strongly suggest giving this pad thai a shot.  For a recipe that serves two, it comes out WAY cheaper than ordering in.  Last note: if any of my fellow coworkers is reading and wants to try this recipe out, let me know… I’d be happy to bequeath you some tamarind paste and/or fish sauce.  I have tons now, and few other recipes to use it in!!

Thaan aahaan hâi aràwi ná khá! (Enjoy your meal!)

Super-delicious Feel-good Scones

This is a bit of a quick entry.  After a long week at work, I came home and just felt a bit out-of-sorts.  Couldn’t really pinpoint the problem… I had just a touch of a headache, a bit of tummy upset, and just generally felt blah.  The solution?  Scones!

A few reasons for these: I wanted something hot-baked, G.I.-friendly, quick, and easy to throw together.  I’d also been meaning to try out the recipe to see if it was any good.  Things came together lickety-split; I had all the ingredients on hand.  I opted for both raisins and dried cranberries in my version, for some nice sweet fruitiness.  I imagine these could also be adapted to a more savoury application, like cheddar cheese and green onion, but I wasn’t in the mood for that.

Whole Wheat Fruit Scones
Adapted from “The G.I. Diet Clinic” by Rick Gallop

 Makes 8 scones
  • 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup wheat bran
  • ¼ cup each dried cranberries and raisins (anyone else ever wondered why they don’t just call them “dried grapes”?)
  • 2 tbsp Splenda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ cup soft non-hydrogenated margarine
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk (or you could use skim milk; I just had buttermilk that was about to expire)
  1. Preheat oven to 425ºF
  2. In large bowl, combine flour, bran, dried fruit, Splenda, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg.  Using your fingers, rub margarine into flour mixture to combine.  Add buttermilk and toss with fork to form a soft dough.
  3. Place dough on floured surface and knead gently about five times.  Pat dough out to ½ inch thickness.  Cut dough into 8 squares, or use cookie or biscuit cutter (I personally cut my round flattened dough shape into eight pie-like wedges)
  4. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet and sprinkle just a touch of extra Splenda on the top.  Bake for about 12 minutes or until golden on bottom.
  5. Let cool slightly, and enjoy with a hot cup of tea and/or spread them with some jam.
Tasty stuff.  I think, subconsciously, I was trying to recreate the BRATT diet touted as a cure-all by my parents: bananas, rice, applesauce, tea, and toast is what that stood for, I think.  I got some bread and whole grains in there, some fruit (though it wasn't bananas or applesauce), along with tea, so I came pretty close (and avoided the dreaded “tea and toast” mush that mom tried to serve me once.  Yeah.  NOT good eats, though I wholly appreciate her efforts to make me feel better!)

Thinking that that garlic-and-ginger laden Thai shrimp soup probably also has medicinal powers,

La notte delle tre zuppe...

…or, in English, the night of three soups.  I just thought it sounded better in Italiano.  Don’t ask me what possessed me to make three soups in one night.  They all just seemed so easy that I couldn’t help but throw them all together, then package them and freeze individual servings for those busy nights before ASL class.  

It all started when I had a craving for pea soup, and wanted to use up a bag of frozen President’s Choice peas (or PCPs, as mom says :P).  Instead of the warm and hearty ham variety, though, I came across the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe for a summer pea and mint soup.  I didn’t have any mint, but basil stood in for it nicely; ditto for heavy cream vs. crème fraiche.  Quite a tasty and almost sweet little soup, which I chose to eat that night.

Next, I made an adapted form of the G.I. diet’s thai shrimp soup recipe, which features delicious flavours of ginger and lemongrass.  I didn’t have any bean sprouts or mushrooms (since I hate the latter), so I omitted the first and swapped halved cherry tomatoes for the second.  I also didn’t have any rice noodles at the time, so I threw in a handful of orzo pasta.  I’d give you the recipe, but overall I think it needs some significant tweaking before I’m ready to share it… the finished product was edible, of course, but not optimal.  I’ll get back to you on that one.

Lastly, I made a curried lentil soup, after seeing one on Food Network that made me start to salivate.  A quick Google led me here, where I adapted the recipe only by using canned lentils instead of dried, and Thai yellow curry paste (since it didn’t specify).  The only thing I would change: I was a bit overzealous with the paste.  If I had used less, I think things would’ve ended up tasting better… as Nonna always says, “You can always add, but you can’t take'm away”.  Questa donna e bellisima é intelligentissima.  I don’t think I need to translate that one.

Feeling a bit like a squirrel getting supplies ready for the winter,

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Best (and Worst!) of Winnipeg

I wrote this as I was minding Brodie, my coworker’s adorable subservient quadruped, so I thought I’d share some of her suggestions for me when I asked, “Anyone got any blog ideas for this weekend??”  Luckily, Shannon had a few, and last weekend I set out exploring them.

First up was Mitzis chicken finger restaurant, downtown at St. Mary’s Ave and Garry St.  Meaning “tasty food” in Chinese (not sure if it’s Cantonese or Mandarin), Mitzis has a fun backstory.  I love the idea of a home-grown, family-based restaurant, particularly when it has a “secret recipe” it’s adapted itself to please the customer.  So, large library book/solo dining companion in hand, I took a drive down to sample their famous poultry offerings.

Starter consommé soup, with green onions and rice, alongside my dinner companion book.
Stand in awe.  This were FANTASTIC.
I was NOT disappointed.  Aside from the huge portion (I ordered a “medium” platter), these suckers were juicy, tender, perfectly cooked, well seasoned, obviously hand-made, and piping hot.  The fries were your standard crinkle-cut, and were quite tasty.  Best of all: the dipping sauce.  Judging by the jar on my coworker’s table, the concept of honey dill chicken finger dipping sauce isn’t unique to Mitzis, but it was a first-time experience for me (could it be a “Manitoba thing”?) Not too sweet, and with that delicious dill flavour, this was a great condiment for the chicken.  I’ll have to find a recipe for it and use it at home, though that certainly won’t stop me from making another trip back for more of the original.

The next day, I took a trip out to the Bridge Drive-In, also known as BDI.  We’d had a conversation at work about this soft-serve ice cream/milkshake/sundae joint, and it sounded fantastic.  Fun little side note, though; not being familiar with the name, I originally thought the place was called “The Beady Eye”… and later mistakenly referred to it as “The Hairy Eyeball”.  Not exactly appetizing… luckily, the true place didn’t disappoint.  It is all soft-serve ice cream, but they offer truly unique combinations of flavours and toppings all at a very reasonable price.  I went for vanilla soft-serve swirled with black cherry flavouring… and yes, little brother, if you’re reading this, they do have the “blue goo” variety that you so enjoy.  Despite the cooler bite in the air, this place was still hopping.  I’ll definitely be back next season, once Hubs is here, for a romantic stroll on the epynomous bridge across the Red River.

So there’s two of the “bests” that this city has to offer.  Now, before I go on to the “worst” of Winnipeg, I need to clearly state that this was NOT one of my coworkers’ suggestions.  In fact, everyone at work warned me AGAINST trying out the following establishment.  It was I who chose not to listen.  I will never stray from their sound advice again…

Cue the omimous music...
Obviously, one of my goals has been to try uniquely Winnipeg- or Manitoba-based food fare.  Salisbury House fit the criteria.  Kyle told me a little bit about this home-grown burger joint and their relative success.  As far as I’m aware, Salisbury House does not exist outside of this fair province.  How could I live here and NOT try it?!  They’re seemingly EVERYWHERE, including the HSC cafeteria, YWG airport terminal, and the famous Esplanade Riel.  There had to be SOMETHING about them that kept people coming back, and I would not be left out of the loop.  So, last Friday I left work and drove about a block down Notre Dame Ave. to a location I’d seen before, strategically placed across the street from a Burger King and McDonald’s.  Fierce competition!

Right from the get, I was uneasy.  I quickly scanned the menu up on the wall behind the open kitchen, and politely told the surly and unpleasant employee that I’d like a cheese “nip” (aka burger) dinner to go, please.  The nice part was that I got to watch my order be made by a much more pleasant cook.  This was definitely not “fast food”; my burger was made right from ¼ lb of ground beef and formed into a patty right before my eyes.  That part I could get behind.  The display of red velvet cake, pie, and homemade doughnuts also looked tempting.  The whole place had the feel of a Waffle House (if you’ve ever been to one in the southern United States), which I enjoy… and their greasy-spoon breakfast menu looked quite yummy.  I started to wonder if my coworkers had been over-exaggerating a touch.

Um, no.  They weren’t.  I got home and opened up my takeout package… and saw this:

Okay, so looks aren’t everything.  Let’s rearrange:

 Slightly better.  And now to the tasting… what a letdown.  Despite being almost wafer-thin, my burger was still pinkish and cool in the middle.  I did like the cheese and fried onions, but was slightly disappointed that I was responsible for all my other toppings.  The bun was almost like cotton candy, the way it sort of dissolved as it hit my mouth… NOT good eats.  I like a bread with backbone, and this wasn’t it.  The whole mess was just as greasy as can be… it sort of reminded me of a larger White Castle burger (which is not a compliment, in my mind).  Well, okay.  Usually fries can save this kind of burger mess.  Nope, not in this case.  Y’know how sometimes fries can have a mealy, almost grainy interior and a dry, cardboard-esque exterior?  The kinds of fries that make the potato gods weep with fury?  Yeah, these were a prime example of that.  To top it all off, after eating the grease pit that was dinner, I ended up feeling a touch queasy.  

Figgy liked the coleslaw... and he seemed to be fine after his little taste.
 Not a pleasant experience, overall.  Perhaps I’ll visit the Provencher Bridge location one time in the future to enjoy a piece of cake and a coffee while looking out onto the Forks, but that’ll probably be my last Salisbury House experience.  I only wish it had been my first.

Hoping that hardcore ‘Peggers don’t run me out of town for bashing their fast food chain,

The Switch-Up: Thai Coconut Curry

The title might seem familiar for those Food Network affectionatos out there; Anna Olson, host of the former program Sugar, often finished off an episode by showing how one recipe could be easily and slightly modified (whether with ingredients, assembly, cooking methods, etc.) to become a whole new dessert.  She does the same in her Sugar cookbooks as well, which I came to own through a generous gift.  I actually met Anna Olson once at her former Port Dalhousie bakery; I never thought I’d hear a Food Network chef ask me to “just swipe your debit card with the stripe facing me”.  Surreal!  But I digress.

Today’s switch-up: Thai Coconut Curry.  I found the initial recipe when I was fancying something curry-based and had two gorgeous fillets of basa in the fridge that needed to be prepared.  So, I turned to the lovely Google and typed “Thai curry fish”.  I came across this lovely recipe, which I jumped on.  Only modification?  A teaspoon of red curry paste (I’ve talked about that before) instead of chili powder, whole coriander seeds (my food processor, alas, failed utterly at turning them into a ground form), and freeze-dried cilantro (since I neglect the real deal until it rots).  I also didn’t have banana leaves, so I opted for some parchment packets (using a technique that I learned, ironically, by watching Chef Olson’s new show “Fresh”).  I also prepared the suggested coconut rice accompaniment, along with some steamed snap peas… a fantastic little Thursday night dinner ensued, followed by an even better Friday lunch.

Wine certainly helps any meal be fantastic... ;)
Now for the switch-up: coconut chicken salad.  The recipe for the coconut curry sauce made way more than I needed, so I used the rest to marinate a chicken breast overnight.  I wrestled a bit with the best way to cook the chicken, since I don’t have a barbecue and pan-frying might burn the sugars in the coconut milk.  So, I opted to bake it (like the fish) in a foil packet in the oven.  I also inserted my handy-dandy President’s Choice meat thermometer, which has a gauge that is kept outside the oven, and will sound an alarm when the meat has reached proper internal temperature for chicken.  Hooray for preventing a salmonella infection and/or overbaking!!

After baking and cooling, I sliced up the chicken and arranged it on a plate with some tasty baby romaine, red onion, green onion, and cherry tomatoes.  I had wanted to use mandarins instead of tomatoes, but unfortunately the container I had in the fridge had outlived its usefulness (shudder!).  I finished it off with a quick drizzle of sriracha on the chicken, for some kick, as well as a Thai-inspired vinaigrette made with canola oil, lime juice, garlic, ginger, minced lemongrass, rice wine vinegar, and a hint of Splenda.  Quite good, and just right for a light-ish Sunday night dinner before a jog.

So overall, this little curry recipe is quite versatile.  Amazing what Google will lead you to… I really had no idea that ran to instructional international cooking articles.  You learn something new every day!

Encouraging continuing gastronomic education through search engines,

This is what I deal with at every meal: cats who want my food.
Great companions, but terrible table manners.