Spring is definitely in the air. The bulbs are starting to come out on our trees and soon the flowers will going to be making their appearance. Now that Easter has passed everybody's probably itching to get their garden started and planning for summer. But wait! What do you do with all that extra Easter chocolate? Well if you have a bunch of white chocolate lying around. I've got the recipe for you.
White Chocolate Toasted Coconut Popcorn! It would work with milk chocolate too but I find that white chocolate is a bit lighter which seems to fit this weather a bit better. Here is my recipe and I hope you enjoy whether it be at the park or in your backyard soaking up the warm sun. Hope you can put your Easter chocolate to use!
White Chocolate Toasted Coconut Popcorn Recipe
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Prep a flat sheet pan and spread the coconut flakes evenly on the baking sheet.
Leave in for roughly 10 mins or until the coconut flakes start to turn brown.
Meanwhile, pour popcorn kernels in popcorn popper as per machine instructions.
Microwave the white chocolate chips until melted approximately 30 seconds.
Slowly drizzle the melted chocolate over the popcorn until evenly distributed.
Mix in the toasted coconut flakes all over the popcorn so that it adheres to the melted white chocolate.
>> Thursday, April 6, 2017
A guilty pleasure of mine is watching cooking competitions, but not just any cooking competition. I watch Top Chef, Masterchef and all that, but I quite enjoy watching the original Australian version of My Kitchen Rules. I’m not sure why, probably because their catch phrases make me giggle. My husband and I always joke about how we would act and react if we were on the show. Since there always seems to be something going wrong in the kitchen.
Although we’d probably never go on a cooking show, it’s still fun to cook together at home and we often do. Trying different recipes and going outside the box to make dishes to see how we can handle cooking different cuisines. One dish that often seems to cause issues is a risotto dish. I can see why since people all like their risotto a little different, more or less runny, al dente, etc. Plus it would be hard to get it right for a large group of people if you’re not serving it straight out of the pan. Once risotto cools a bit it automatically turns gluggy.
So the other day I was craving risotto after watching an episode of MKR and decided to whip some up, expecially since I recently was sent a lovely bottle of truffle extract. What better way to use up some truffles that in a lovely Mushroom Risotto. Here is my recipe below, I thought it was lovely right off the stove top…but not sure how it’d handle being served to a group or a team of judges. Luckily for me I’m not going to be needing to worry about that, just about how great it tastes when I gobble it up!
Truffled Mushroom Risotto Recipe
1 medium onion, chopped
A handful of cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
1-2 tbsp Bitarome truffle extract*
2-3 cups chicken stock
1 tbsp butter
salt and pepper
In a medium skillet, warm up 1 tbsp of oil over medium heat and stir in the onions.
Let the onions cooks until translucent, approximately 8-10 mins.
Stir in the mushrooms and let them cook down for another 3 mins.
Spread the mixture to the side of the skillet and add in the rice. Cook for roughly 2 mins. This allows the rice to slightly crisp on the outside and create that al dente texture.
Pour in the white wine to deglaze the pan and stir until the wine evaporates.
Add in the truffle extract as well and also cook out the alcohol in the extract.
Scoop in 1/2 cup of the broth and slowly stir the rice so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
Keep adding stock once the rice starts to absorb the liquid. Add a bit at a time to allow the flavour to develop in the risotto. Don’t add too much at a time to prevent the rice from being overcooked. Adding about 1/2 cup of liquid a time allows you to control the consistency of the risotto.
Once the consistency of the risotto is what you’d like or try some (best way to cook!), remove from the stove and finish with the butter. Stir in the butter and let it melt. If you choose to use cheese as well you can shave some over top or mix it in.
Flavour with salt and pepper to taste and serve with your favorite protein or on its own. You can also top with additional truffle oil to really bring out the truffle flavour!
*Bitarome truffle extract provided by Qualifirst
>> Thursday, March 23, 2017
Atmosphere: Pub style interior with long benches perfect for larger groups or chatting up your neighbour!
Price Range: Mid $10s
Food & Drinks: The menu at Hayden Block is split between either 1/2 lb orders for specific cuts of meat versus single orders of their chicken, short rib or hot link aka sausage. It’s a great way to sample all the items on the menu if you’re not sure what to order. Their items are all smoked for 14 hours using a dry rub. If you like your BBQ ‘wet’, they offer different BBQ sauces to mix and match for all your dipping needs.
We decided to start with the Brisket (you can’t go to a BBQ place and not get the brisket!), the Pork Spare Ribs, and the Hot Link with sides of Cornbread, Coleslaw and Green Beans. The brisket came in nice thick slices and had wonderful flavour. I liked that it was tender but had a nice texture to it. It was delicious on its own but would probably be equally wonderful in a sandwich. The ribs also used their signature dry rub, although I’m personally enjoy ribs that are smothered in sauce, I didn’t mind these because you could taste the smokiness of them.
Surprisingly one of my faves for the evening was the hot link, which had a perfect ratio of fat and spices to the meat. Often sausages can be salty and overwhelming after a couple bites, but these were different. They were tasty without being heavy. We contemplated ordering another link however there was still more on the menu to taste!
The sides are a must to put a bit of a breather between all the meat heavy components of our meal. Coleslaw and cornbread is quintessential, being as much a BBQ necessity as ribs and brisket. The green beans were crunchy and sweet. All in all good accompaniments which lots of other selection available as well.
We decided to add an order of the Smoked Wings as well and they were delicious! They brine them for 24 hours which really packs in the flavour. They’re also on special every Wednesday for half off which makes them an even better deal!
To top off the evening, we had to try their Pecan Pie. It’s the proverbial icing on the cake. Nothing better than finishing the meal off with something sweet and sugary. The chewy center was perfectly balanced with the crunchy pecans and the sweet whipped cream on the side.
My Picks: Smoked Wings, Hot Link
Overall: With different daily specials, you can always count on Hayden Block to satisfy your BBQ needs. I’m looking forward to heading back for their wings and also try out other items on their BBQ menu such as the pulled pork and the short ribs! Also while you’re there don’t forget to check out their whiskey menu such as the smokey old fashioned, lovely twist on the original. They do have whiskey in their name for a reason.
Hayden Block Smoke & Whiskey
1136 Kensington Road NW
>> Monday, March 6, 2017
The Big Taste festival runs from March 3-12 this year and has many of Calgary's downtown restaurants showcasing some of their delicious cuisines through specialized set lunch and dinner menus or through special Big Taste events! For a full listing of the restaurants involved check out the Downtown Calgary website.
I'm always excited to try out the menus each year and have a couple reservations made for the upcoming week (reservations are highly recommended!). To kick start our dining journey we stopped by Buchanan's Chophouse for their delicious 3 course menu.
Buchanan's offered 2 options for each course, which allows you to pick and choose the dish to satisfy your cravings. For the first course it was a choice of either a Cajun Seafood Chowder or Sweet Chili Glazed Pork Belly with Mixed Green Salad. I opted for the latter because who doesn’t love a good pork belly dish? The sauce was sweet and tangy which helped cut through the fattiness of the pork. The lightly dressed greens were also refreshing. I did wish that the pork belly was a bit more tender but aside from that thought it was a great start to the meal.
Next was a choice between the New York Steak with red wine balsamic peppercorn reduction, fresh seasonal vegetables, Yukon gold mashed potatoes or Charbroiled Spring Salmon Filet with wasabi cilantro vinaigrette, curried rice and fresh seasonal vegetables. Since we were at a chophouse, I decided on the NY strip and was not disappointed. The steak was cooked perfectly to order with a good amount of seasoning. I enjoyed all the accompaniments, especially the creamy mashed potatoes. Sometimes you just can’t beat a good meat and potatoes dish especially when paired with a glass of Bordeaux.
Finally for dessert it was either the Sticky Toffee Pudding or Apple Crumble with vanilla ice cream. I went with a combo of the two choosing the sticky toffee pudding with an extra scoop of ice cream on the side. The pudding was covered with a lovely caramel sauce which I couldn’t stop swooning over. I was extremely happy that I added the ice cream because it did help balance out the pudding itself which was quite sweet due to all the chunky dates. Although the sweetness did go quite nicely with a cup of coffee to end the evening.
Overall we were quite satisfied with our selection and was happy that we made it out to kick start the first day of the Big Taste! I’m looking forward to our other meals this week and am debating whether I should check out more places before I blink again and it’s all over. Be sure to make your reservations if you’re interested because the Big Taste ends soon and the reservations are already booking up quick!
>> Thursday, March 2, 2017
Atmosphere: Upscale retro decor surrounding a beautifully designed interior reminiscent of old Hollywood glamour and style a la Mad Men.
Price Range: Mid $10s - $30s
Food & Drinks: Starting with the Oysters off their snacks menu, we figured it would be a nice way to start our meal that evening especially when paired with a bit of Varichon & Clerc bubbles! The oysters came with a unique dill pickle granita (think tiny ice chunks), where the salty and sour dill brought out the brininess of the oysters that I love.
It was hard not to order all the small plates since it was just the hubby and I (well..and baby but unfortunately he can’t contribute just yet). To start we had the Grilled Octopus which was nicely charred from the grilling process, while the orange and fennel provided a nice citrus and textural component. I love octopus and wish it was served more often!
Next was the Wagyu Beef Carpaccio dressed with a mushroom vinaigrette and topped with a mushroom salad. Steak and mushrooms go well and its no different here. The mushrooms were perfectly paired on this plate while the vinaigrette added the extra zing, which I find is much needed for carpaccio to really bring out the sweetness in the rare beef.
Another light dish we had was the Smoked Tuna Crudo, the fish benefitted from the crunch and freshness of the cucumbers as well as the creamy avocado. None of the flavours overwhelmed each other and it was definitely light on the palate overall. Similarly the Endive Salad was also refreshing! Reading mozzarella dressing on the menu made me a bit hesitant and I wasn’t sure what to expect but it was not heavy what so ever nor did it overpower all the delicate flavours. The orange slices along with the pecans made for a wonderful dish. I could eat this salad every day and not surprisingly it was one of my faves for the evening!
We decided to also try the Italian Pork Sausage with conchiglie pasta and I’m so glad we did. The pasta was perfectly al dente and the chili added an extra kick to the salty Italian pork sausage. It reads as such a simple dish but the flavours were literally exploding off the plate.
To end our evening we tried the Chocolate Hazelnut Bread Pudding with pickled red wine grapes and topped with hazelnut ice cream. The bread pudding was quite sweet, but that was mellowed with a lovely French press coffee on the side. I think the highlight was definitely the hazelnut ice cream, but I do have a thing for ice cream so I may be biased. =)
My Picks: Endive Salad, Italian Pork Sausage
Overall: Sitting in the surroundings of Bridgette Bar it just felt right to order a Manhattan and how could one resist, it felt like a place where Don Draper from Mad Men would be found after a long day at the office, especially if he enjoyed family style dining like I do. We had a blast that evening and even the baby enjoyed his night out (super happy that they’re family friendly)! Can’t wait to check it out again maybe when I’m hankering for another Manhattan or maybe a Old Fashioned.
739 10 Avenue SW