Year in Review with Oven Baked Apple Fritters

>> Saturday, December 31, 2011


Oven Baked Cinnamon Apple Fritters

Another year is about to pass and it’s always fun to take a look back at everything that has happened. It’s amazing how fast 2011 flew by and it has been a great year full of get-togethers, great memories and of course…food. I look forward to continuing the celebration tonight with more said good food and great friends. Here’s hoping that everybody’s New Year brings in even more joy and happiness!

Here’s a recipe to help end everybody’s year in a bang, baked apple fritters! It’s a healthier version then deep fried fritters, but still remains decadent and apropos for any celebratory event. I adjusted the original recipe (found here) a bit to reduce the amount of sugar used in the dough and nobody seemed to notice (especially because the final step includes rolling the fritters in a bit of cinnamon sugar). I hope you enjoy this recipe and I look forward to another great blogging year!

Oven Baked Cinnamon Apple Fritters

Ingredients for fritters:
1/4 cup brown sugar, do not pack down the sugar
2 tbsp white sugar
1 1/2 cups of bite size chunks of apple, peeled and cored
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp clove
1/3 cup cold butter, frozen and I’ll tell you why later
1 egg
1/4 cup skim milk

Ingredients for coating:
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon powder


Preparation:
Preheat oven to 350F and grease two muffin pans.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugars, salt and nutmeg in a bowl.

Remove the butter from the freezer and grate in to mixture using a mandolin. This makes the dough moist because the butter remains in solid pieces. Combine until the dough becomes crumbly.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg and then mix in the milk. Fold in the apple chunks until combined.
Carefully fold the flour mixture in to the egg mixture without over stirring. Place a spoonful of batter into each mold of a buttered muffin pan.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until toothpick inserted in to fritters come out clean.

Remove from the oven, unmold and lightly brush each fritter with the melted butter. Roll the fritter in the sugar and cinnamon.

Best served warm but the fritters can be made in advance and then rolled in butter and cinnamon sugar shortly before serving.

Enjoy!

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Restaurant Review: Ruth's Chris Steakhouse

>> Thursday, December 22, 2011



I remember when the Calgary Tower used to house a Chinese restaurant when I was younger. It was my family’s favourite go to place because of how quiet it was. Chinese restaurants and quiet don’t normally go together, but this place was and it was perfect in my mind (as a 7 year old). I enjoyed going to the Calgary tower every weekend, although I didn’t necessarily get to ride to the top of the tower I still got to walk around the base and look at the souvenir shops. It really doesn’t require much to occupy a kid’s attention. However, as quiet Chinese restaurants go, it’s quiet for a reason and unfortunately didn’t last very long. I was sadden by this and over time the space has been occupied by many different restaurants, which I haven’t really visited until Ruth’s Chris took over the location and again made it a place where I wanted to return to.

Atmosphere: Mahogany wood interior, high glass windows and plush surroundings with a great view of Center Street due to its location at the base of the Calgary tower.

Price Range: Mid $20 - $50

Food and Wine: It was a fairly large group of us heading to dinner that night and it took us a bit to get settled (I didn’t help the situation). However, it didn’t really take us that long to order our food. Most of us were there for the steaks of course. Ruth’s Chris normally carries USDA beef, however since Calgary is the heart of steak central, our Calgary Ruth’s Chris does have a selection of Alberta AAA beef on their menu, in case you were concerned.

Unfortunately we didn’t realize that we forget to order our appies at the same time (like I said, took us a while to get in to the groove of the evening, too focused on steaks). After calling our waiter back, he was able to suggest a few sharing options. We settled on the Calamari, which is fried and then coated in a light sweet chili sauce; and the Lemon Thai Chicken, crispy pieces of chicken breasts with a similar but citrusier honey ginger sauce. I found the chicken itself to be a bit dry and preferred the calamari. The table all enjoyed both of the appetizers. Although next time I probably wouldn’t order them both at the same time seeing how they were very similar in taste.



It took a bit for our entrees to arrive due to the size of our group, but in the interim we were served some Garlic and Cheesy Bread. I wasn’t a huge fan of the cheese bread, but couldn’t stop eating the garlic ones. Nothing beats butter and garlic on toast in my opinion. With my order also came a Harvest Salad to start, with pecans, bacon, dried cherries, corn and crispy onions all over wild greens. The lemon basil vinaigrette was pleasantly tangy and didn’t overwhelm the delicate greens. It was definitely a nice way to lightly start in to my meal.

My Petite Filet Steak arrived with my choice of side, which was the Chef’s special that night, green beans sautéed with garlic. There are many other options available as sides also including mashed potatoes, fries, etc. I enjoyed the side of green beans because it helped cut through the heaviness of the butter on the steak. Aside from that though, the beans didn’t really have much flavour to them. My steak was seared perfectly rare and came with their signature butter garnish on top (actually more all over as seen in the picture). I’ve never really been a huge fan of the butter since I find it overwhelms the taste of the steak, seeing as how salty it is (my husband disagrees). I purely forgot to ask them to taper down the amount used. Since I decided to go with the set menu that evening, my steak was not Alberta beef (I know, I do prefer Alberta myself on a normal basis, but I rolled with it). I am glad to report that it was very tender, still succulent and juicy.

It didn’t take me long to decide that I needed dessert to end the evening. A quick browse through the menu landed me with the Banana Cream Pie a la mode (which cost $4 more but was well worth it). The pie does come cold, so should you decide not to order the ice cream, it’s still quite refreshing. The custard, actually the whole pie overall, wasn’t overly sweet. It had a nice balance between the crust and bruleed bananas on top. The size was also good for sharing. I found it hard to finish the whole pie all by myself, guess the ice cream didn’t help in that regard.



My dining companions decided on the Pennys Hill Shiraz to compliment our red meat heavy meal, but to my surprise it was a much milder, fruitier shiraz then I expected. Lots of berry notes with a gentle tannic finish.

My Picks: House Salad, Petite Filet

Overall: Even though now I’m eating steak and not dim sum, I find the food definitely defines Calgary more so then Chinese food at the tower (but that also includes an increase in the price point). The location itself still holds fond memories for me and I’m glad that I can once again visit it and enjoy the quiet in a different sense. I just need to keep in mind not to order the steak with all the butter next time, totally a personal preference though (husband continues to disagree)!

Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse
294, 115 9 Ave SE
Calgary, AB
(403) 246-3636
Website: http://www.ruthschrisalberta.ca/

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Bruschetta and Market 17

>> Saturday, December 17, 2011


Bruschetta

Since the first time I visited Cassis Bistro, I’ve made a mental note to check out the organic food market, Market 17, connected to the restaurant. What better way to ensure fresh ingredients at a restaurant then to have your supplier next door!

I just had to stop by one day on my way home from work and pick up some fresh ingredients for a recipe I had in mind…bruschetta! Cravings usually win the war in my world.

To my amazement, the market carried many different items that couldn’t be found in regular grocery stores. I found myself lost in there for quite some time and ended up picking up a few items that weren’t necessarily in my ingredients list. Right now they also have a few items on special for the month of December and I was informed that they’re promoting items for the Christmas season and the Drogheria Balsamic Glaze was one of them. Perfect for bruschetta! See here for their other specials.

Drogheria Balsamic

Usually I make my own balsamic reduction for bruschetta (instructions included below), but I was a bit short for time and decided to try the imported Italian glaze instead. I found the glaze to be sweet and tangy, a nice addition to the bruschetta. It’s a bit less tart then reducing my own balsamic vinegar and would go nicely with many different appetizers or salads.

Nutritional Tidbit: Not only is balsamic vinegar low in calories, but it’s full of antioxidants. Great at fighting off free radicals that cause damage to our bodies. It has also been shown to boost digestive enzymes in the body, which is good for heartburn and other stomach related issues.

Organic Tomatoes

Bruschetta Recipe
Ingredients:
4 small tomatoes, diced
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
5 basil leaves, chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
Balsamic glaze or 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 loaf crusty bread, I prefer sourdough but any baguette works

Preparation:
In a medium sized bowl, combine tomatoes, onions, garlic, basil and olive oil.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cut the bread in to 1/2 inch slices.

Place a spoonful of the tomato mixture on top of the bread.

Drizzle the balsamic reduction on top and serve. (Or if you don’t have a reduced balsamic glaze, you can reduce your own balsamic vinegar. Place 1/2 cup of the balsamic vinegar in a small pan on low to medium heat. Let it go on a small boil for 15-20 mins or until the vinegar starts becoming thick. Cool and use as a glaze.)

The bruschetta can be made up to 2 days in advance and stored in an air tight container in the fridge. Making it ahead actually allows the flavours to blend and come together.



As an aside, another great thing about Market 17 was the fact that they carried Sidewalk Citizen Bread, known for their scones and sourdough bread in Calgary. I couldn’t help but pick up a baguette to use as a base in my bruschetta. What a great one stop shop!

Market 17 at Casel Marche
2503 17 Avenue SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 770-4700
Website: www.caselmarche.com

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Restaurant Review: Una Pizza and Wine

>> Wednesday, December 14, 2011



Lately I’ve been throwing around the idea of heading off to Europe again. Preferably to some place warmer then Calgary in the middle of winter (it’s really not that hard to find such a place). Southern Italy definitely sounds a lot more inviting then Southern Alberta. However, our work schedules are really preventing us from making any solid plans. So to appease my desires of Italy and everything Italian (for now), we decided to stroll on over and grab a few bites of Italian pizza instead.

Atmosphere: Vibrant, boisterous and extremely busy. Get here early to ensure you get one of the few coveted tables (or you could also take the pizza to go as well).

Price Range: Mid $10s - $20

Food and Wine: Una is one of the new restaurants in town where they don’t take reservations, so it’s often pretty hard to get a table. A great way to know when they’re free is to follow their twitter account, since they give up to date wait time estimations.

When we do go, we opt to go early! This definitely helps the table situation. When we arrived, the restaurant was still fairly quiet and we were able to get a seat pretty quickly. There are a couple features of the day, so make sure to pay attention to the chalkboard at the front.

We decided to start with the Patatas Bravas, which is a popular Spanish tapas dish. I was surprised to find that Una also had a tapas menu (aka their bar menu). The patatas are basically fried baby red potatoes served with smoked paprika ketchup and a garlic aioli. The potatoes are lightly salted and super crispy. I really enjoyed the garlic aioli, but since it’s fairly heavy the ketchup helped cut through the oiliness.


Pizzas

It was hard to decide on which pizzas to try, but we were able to narrow it down to two. The first being the Mushroom Pizza, with roasted cremini mushrooms, smoked mozzarella, grana padano cheese and topped with lots of fresh arugula and truffle oil. I really enjoyed the nice crust on the pizza (people who don’t eat the crust are silly…don’t be surprised if I reach over and steal it), but still has a nice chewy texture. The truffle oil was a great addition. Truffles being in the mushroom family just go hand in hand with the cremini.

The second pie was the Prosciutto Pizza with thinly sliced crispy prosciutto, provolone cheese, over tomato sauce and topped with more fresh arugula. Arugula on pizza really contrasts the fatty cheese and prosciutto. There were just enough toppings on this pizza to still allow the dough to shine (as with all their pizzas), which is a closer representation of pizzas found in Italy. I definitely prefer my toppings this way compared to what we’re used to here in North America.

No dinner is complete in my books until I get dessert, even though I was quite full at this point. We decided to go with the dessert special on the chalkboard, which happened to be the Lemon Chevre Cheesecake. It came with a red wine poached pear reduction and whipped cream. I’m not a huge fan of goat cheese and wasn’t a fan of the cheesecake. I found the goat cheese taste overwhelming. Instead I went with the Pear Sticky Toffee Pudding with vanilla bean gelato, it was definitely calling my name. The toffee sauce and the gelato itself were nice, but I did find the pudding itself to be a dry.


Desserts

My friend isn’t much of a drinker so I stuck to only ordering a glass or two of wine that evening. I wanted to stick with the Italian theme and went with the Corallo Valpolicella. A medium bodied ruby red wine with hints of oak and berries. It paired well with the truffles in the pizza but would have also been good just by itself.

My Picks: Patatas Bravas, Mushroom Pizza

Overall: The chewy yet crusty dough, the light but flavourable toppings all makes me reminisce about our times in Italia. Definitely one of the best I’ve had so far in Calgary and unlike Italy, I don’t have to jump on a plane for 8 hours. Instead I just need to make sure I jump the line and go for an early dinner to quell my cravings.

Una Pizza and Wine
618 17 Avenue SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 453-1183
Website: www.unapizzeria.com

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A New Party Favorite - Pizza Bites!

>> Friday, December 9, 2011

Pizza Bites
With the holiday season pretty much in full swing, I’ve found that I’m constantly in the kitchen baking and cooking. The holidays always go hand in hand with cookie exchanges and potluck parties. It isn’t always the easiest to figure out what to make for those parties since there are so many people. You never know if you’ll end up bringing the same side dish as everyone else. Next thing, there are 6 casseroles sitting on the table.

To avoid that ever coming to fruition, I decided to go with something bite sized. What’s better then providing people with something that’s easy to eat while they’re trying to juggle their drinks and conversation? Plus, the explosive taste of all the ingredients in just one single bite. Sign me up!

I had a perfect recipe in my mind. Pizza bites! Who doesn’t love pizza, especially when they come bite sized, I doubt anybody can resist. Great for adults and kids at any party!

The recipe that I found recommended making your own pizza dough and I’ve included that recipe below. If you’re pressed for time, you can always buy your pizza dough as well. I did really enjoy the dough recipe and found that the leftovers were great as a flatbread as well, just spread some pesto, spices and cheese over top!


Pizza Dough Recipe

Ingredients:
1/2 cup warm water
1 envelope (2 1/4 tsp) instant yeast
1 1/4 cups water, room temperature
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups bread or all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 1/2 tsp salt
olive oil for brushing crust (optional)
garlic salt for brushing crust (optional)


Preparation:
In a small bowl, mix together the warm water and yeast until it all dissolves. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes to allow the yeast to reconstitute.

Add the room temperature water and oil to the yeast mixture. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, add in the flour and salt. Stir to incorporate and slowly start pouring in the yeast mixture.

The dough will start to come together and pick up all the flour. It will be quite sticky at first, refrain from adding more flour. It’s supposed to be this way.

Now it’s time to get your hands dirty. Start kneading the dough until it becomes smooth and elastic. It’s done once the dough is no longer sticky but nice and smooth, approximately 10 mins.

Brush some oil in a separate bowl, form the dough in to a ball and place it in the bowl. The oil will prevent the dough from sticking to the sides of the bowl.

Let it rise at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours or until it doubles in size. You’ll definitely be able to tell when it’s done.

Punch down the dough and it’s ready to use.

Use in any pizza or flatbread recipe (including pizza bites)!


Pizza Bites Recipe

Ingredients:
1/2 of the above Pizza Dough
mozzarella cheese, cubed
Pepperoni slices
olive oil
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Pizza sauce

Preparation:
Preheat the oven to 400˚F.

Prepare a 9 inch pan by greasing it with olive oil and set aside.
Punch down the pizza dough if it’s starting to rise again and tear off a golf ball sized amount.

Stretch the dough into a small circle and place in a cube of mozzarella cheese and pepperoni slice.

Pull the edges of the dough together to seal the edges and form a small ball.
Place it in the 9 inch pan with the seam side down.

Repeat with the rest of the dough. When placing the dough in the pan, have them slightly touching so when they bake it forms together.

Brush the top of the dough with some olive oil and sprinkle on the oregano, basil and parmesan cheese. You can also add crushed chili peppers or other herbs and spices.

Place in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or remove once they become golden brown.

Great one their own or with pizza sauce as a dipper.

Next time I’d like to try adding the sauce right in to the dough itself or change it up and use pesto. Feel free to experiment yourself!

Enjoy!

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Restaurant Review: Giuseppe's Italian Market

>> Monday, December 5, 2011



My husband loves everything to do with the ocean, snorkeling and scuba diving, even just the smell and sounds of the waves crashing against the rocks amazes him. So needless to say he’s a big BIG fan of seafood as well. It just goes hand in hand right? However, we live in Calgary. Great seafood is hard to come by in our little land locked part of the world. So the last thing we expected when we went for dinner at Giuseppe’s Italian Market, was to get some of the best seafood in town, matching some of those great cities by the sea.

Atmosphere: Casual market downstairs serving forno baked pizzas and Italian products, but hidden upstairs in a quiet and secluded dining area, great for romantic dinners.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $20s

Food and Wine: Luckily from reading previous reviews I knew just to walk right past the market area downstairs and straight for the stairs leading up to the restaurant. The actual dining area is more of a balcony that overlooks the market below and can be missed if you’re not looking for it.



It was a slow start because they didn’t have our reservations and our waiter mentioned that their wine list was currently being updated and he had to check with the kitchen to see what they had on hand, same with the specials of the evening.

After finally getting settled, the waiter brought us some bread with olive oil, balsamic and olives. We perused their menu and decided to start with two appetizers the Cozze Alla Marinara (Marinara Mussels). We were shocked at how many mussels came with the order, which consisted of fresh mussels sautéed with garlic, white wine, chili flakes and tomato sauce served with crispy crostinis. The mussels were big and juicy, I’ve personally never seen them so big and they looked more like oysters then mussels (I wonder who their distributor is?). The sauce was perfectly balanced, didn’t overwhelm the mussels and we couldn’t stop using the bread to sop it all up.

Our second appie plate was the Calamari Alla Puttanesca, seared calamari with olives, capers, anchovies, chili flakes and tomato sauce. It isn’t very often that I can find grilled calamari at a restaurant and I always order it when I do because you can really taste the sweetness of the squid. The saltiness of the olives, capers and anchovies were a perfect contrast to the tart tomatoes and the squid. The calamari was perfectly cooked. We both really enjoyed the great sauce and couldn’t stop dipping in to it either. Our bread was running really low by this point, I was tempted to ask for more but from the size of our appies, I had a feeling our entrees were going to be quite large as well.



When they did arrive, my husband ordered the Linguine alla Pescatora (seafood linguine) with prawns, clams, (more) mussels, calamari in a spicy garlic, basil tomato sauce. The portion was fairly large as expected and the noodles were cooked al dente. The seafood was fresh like our starters with prawns being slightly overcooked. This could be due to the fact that the noodles were prepared a little early and were ready before we were done our appetizers, so the dish sat out a bit longer then ideal. However it didn’t ruin the overall taste.

I heard the pizza was good, some saying it was better than other local pizza restaurants in town, so I just had to try it. They had a good selection but I decided on their house named Giuseppe pizza. It featured mozzarella, hot pancetta, red onions, and sundried tomatoes on a spicy red sauce. It was a traditional forno baked Italian thin crust pizza and the blend of toppings complimented one another. One thing I did miss on the pizza was a bit of greens. I personally would have liked it even better with a bit of spinach or arugula to give it that little something extra. It wasn’t a bad pizza though (wasn’t the best since I prefer a chewier crust) and I wouldn’t mind trying some of their other combinations next time.

For dessert, our waiter again had to check with the kitchen for the dessert of the day, which was carrot cake. Definitely calling my name! The cake was moist, nicely flavoured with raisins throughout and the coconut cream cheese frosting wasn’t overly sweet. Seeing how large the portion sizes were all evening I was a bit surprised that the dessert was quite a bit smaller. It was just enough to allow us to finish off our espressos, which I guess is really all the dessert I needed anyhow.


From the choices of wines our waiter gave us at the beginning of our meals, we decided to go with an Italian Ruffino Chianti wine. It was medium bodied with fruity and floral notes. Since our meal was very seafood heavy, it worked well for us. I think anything with a bolder finish would have really hindered the flavours of the seafood.

My Picks: Cozze Alla Marinara (Marinara Mussels), Calamari Alla Puttanesca.

Overall: Even right now as I’m typing this blog, I’m craving the mussels that I had at Giuseppe’s and I can’t wait to go back and try some of the other dishes that I saw on the menu that night (gnocchi and risotto anyone?). I know my husband won’t say no either, since he can’t have the ocean he’s always wanted, at least he can enjoy a part of it…in his stomach.

Giuseppe’s Italian Market
1207 1 Street SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 232-6230
Website: www.giuseppesitalianmarket.com

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Restaurant Review: Model Milk

>> Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Calamari

Recently I’ve been wondering if I am really impatient. I wasn’t shocked really. Instead I attributed it to being an only child growing up. I never really had to wait for anything or anyone. We had two washrooms in my house, one for my parents, and one for me. I always got both of my parent’s attention (often way too much). So really, in my defense, I didn’t really get a good go at it from the start. But now that I’m older, I think I’ve worked well with what I’ve got. I’ve managed. Although, I’ve found a new way for me to gain some of that needed patience. What better way to work on it then to wait for a table at a restaurant. Especially now with all the new places popping up that no longer take reservations? Sometimes the stomach just edges out all else.

Atmosphere: Trendy surroundings with the iconic Model Milk brick wall logo highlighting a two level dining space. The area evokes a casual comfy cool, a place to linger and enjoy your favorite libations.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $20s

Food and Wine: To avoid the dinner time rush, my dinner companion and I decided to have an extra early meal (I’m working on the waiting thing), which lasted until late in to the night (sorry to all that was eyeing our table, just be patient).


Foie Gras Parfait

To kick start our long dinner feast, we started with a couple of the ‘small plate’ items like the Foie Gras Parfait. A smooth almost mousse like foie served with a thick layer of blackberry compote on top and crispy crostinis. I really enjoyed the blackberry which gave the foie the added sweetness it required. We were utterly amazed by how much foie gras came in the ramekin and had to order extra bread to finish off the parfait.

The Calamari Fricasse also came out at the same time, but I found that I was busy attacking the parfait and as such the calamari didn’t get as much attention. It wasn’t a bad dish, though I did find it to be slightly over salted. I wasn’t sure if it was the bacon or the crispy croutons or both, but they sort of over powered the plate and the calamari taste was lost.


Chanterelles

Our server was nice enough to wait until we finished the first two dishes before bringing our next plates, which was the Chanterelles. The dish was decadent and creamy, made with none other than…you guessed it, cream and cheese. It was also served with freshly baked bread (which again we had to ask for an extra order). Many people know that I’m not a big cheese eater, but for those of you that are, you’ll love this dish. Lots of stringy cheese paired with lovely chanterelle mushrooms making it velvety and rich.

When we were finally ready for the ‘large plate’ orders, we choose the sesame crusted Walleye served over gnocchi and mushrooms in a cream sauce. The dish came with two pieces of the nicely seared fish, though I did find it a bit milder and somewhat bland. If you’re in to flavours, then I would stick to the meatier dishes.



By now we were stuffed with all the food over last couple of hours but just couldn’t bring ourselves to skip dessert. So we ordered the Pecan and Bourbon Pie with cardamom ice cream. I’ve never been a big fan of pecan pie, but serve me anything a la mode and I’m done. This wasn’t any different. I loved the cardamom ice cream, nicely spiced (and yes, we ordered an extra scoop), creamy and refreshing. I could have eaten it alone and called it a night, but I didn’t. The pecan pie was chewy with a crunchy crust, nice texture contrasts. My companion enjoyed it quite a bit.

To get us through our long night, we ordered a bottle of the 2009 Chateau Nenine Bourdeaux. It’s a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. It was a fuller bodied wine with lots of blackberry notes and a nice chocolate finish. It was a nice compliment to the creamy foie gras and chanterelle mushrooms, but did over power the fish a bit. It needed quite a bit of aeration to truly bring out its flavours, making it a nice sipping wine.


Pecan Pie

My Picks: Foie Gras Parfait

Overall: The food was definitely worth the wait and I can see why the lines continued to lengthen as our meal progressed throughout the evening. However, was my patience truly increased? That is yet to be seen, though I did find that the addition of vino to a satiated stomach definitely increased patience all around.

Model Milk
308 17 Avenue SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 265-7343
Website: www.modelmilk.ca

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Making Pulled Pork in the Slow Cooker

>> Friday, November 25, 2011



There is nothing better than going home after a long days work. Period. Well…there is one thing. Going home, opening the front door, smelling delicious food stewing away and realizing that dinner is ready. Don’t have to cook and still enjoy an amazing meal because it’s been brewing away all day in the crock pot while I’ve been at work. That’s a pretty amazing feeling.

Lately I’ve found that I’m using my slow cooker more and more. I wonder if it’s because the cold weather is calling for that warmth and comfort or because I want to spend more time by the fireplace and less time everywhere else in the house. Either way, it works for me. I’ve been meaning to try a slow cooker pulled pork recipe for a while now, so I really didn’t need any excuse (who needs excuses for pulled pork?).

Nutritional Tidbit: The original recipe calls for the use of pork shoulder because it’s a bit fattier and will provide more flavor, but you could also use pork tenderloin. Tenderloin is the leanest cut of meat often touted to have less fat then chicken breast. So if you’re conscientious of the fat content (especially saturated fat) of the pork then go with the tenderloin. Definitely let the meat stew on lower heat and use a bit more liquid to ensure it doesn’t dry out.

The inspiration for this recipe was one that I stumbled upon online during the summer while I was craving BBQ. I figured it would work nicely when the BBQ is tucked away during the winter, but I can still get a BBQ styled dish without actually having to smoke anything for hours outdoors. You can find the original version of the recipe here. I’ve made a few adjustments to the recipe below and added notes where I found they helped me. Also instead of serving the pulled pork on a bun, I opted to go for little pulled pork tacos, allowing the pork to shine more without having to fight with the big burly bun.

Hope you enjoy the smells of yummy slow cooked pork as you walk in through the door this frosty winter!



Ingredients:
2 – 3 lb pork shoulder blade roast (bone in) or pork tenderloin
1/2 tsp canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp garlic powder
3 bay leaves
1/4 cup favorite BBQ sauce (I found using a bit of the BBQ sauce gave it that extra smokey flavour that was missing when it wasn’t included)
2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tbsp packed brown sugar
Water
Salt and Pepper

Preparation:
Heat oil in skillet over medium to high and sear pork until it becomes brown and caramelizes all over (really adds additional flavour). Transfer pork to slow cooker.

Mix together the chili powder, coriander, garlic powder, bay leaves, BBQ sauce, worcestershire sauce, cider vinegar and brown sugar. Rub it all over the pork.

Add in water until it just about covers the pork. Toss in the onions and garlic.

Turn the slow cooker to medium for a cooking time of roughly 5 hours or high for roughly 2-3 hours of cooking. (Low for overnight or all day).

To test whether pork is done, try to remove the bone (if bone-in pork shoulder used) or shredding off a bit of the pork for tenderness.

Once ready, remove the pork from the slow cooker and place in bowl, began to pull the pork apart. The meat should fall apart without much effort.

Empty the remaining sauce in to a pot and reduce to create the mop sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.

When ready, add the pork back in to the sauce and serve.

I served them with a vinaigrette based coleslaw (recipe here), cliantro and home made tortillas. You can opt to serve them on the traditional bun or just with the slaw itself.

Enjoy!

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Restaurant Review: Haru Sushi and Grill

>> Tuesday, November 22, 2011


BBQ Squid

I like order, schedules and lists. I’ve found that I am a very organized person and will have planned things out to the ninth degree in everything I do. It could be work, dinners with friends and even outings with family. It’s very nice knowing what my calendar looks like and what my free time is for the upcoming weeks. However, sometimes things spring up on you and that’s just life. One of those curve balls occurred the other week when we looked at our groceries and decided that we just did not want to eat anything that was inside our fridge. I know, shocker, but food is a big deal to me. Luckily for me, there was a new sushi restaurant that just opened by our place and it didn’t take much convincing at that point to eat anything but what we were staring at. So off to Haru Sushi we go.

Atmosphere: A contemporary and tranquil space due to the usage of calming colors and keeping the dining area nice and open. Great for small groups and families.

Price Range: Mid $10s

Food: Since we arrived without me getting a chance to look at the menu online first (which is what I always do). I’ve realized that it was quite the menu to peruse. Luckily for me, we always have certain go-to dishes when we eat at a sushi restaurant. Although there was a dish that did jump out at me when I was reading the menu and that was the BBQ Squid and I’m glad I decided to go with it.


Sushi Combo

When the dish arrived, the squid came on a hot plate with a bubbling sweet teriyaki sauce on the bottom and drizzle with spicy mayo. The aromas were amazing. I couldn’t wait to dig in and lucky for me, it tasted just as good as it smelled. The combo of the sweet and spicy sauce went very well with the squid which was a bit chewy, but nicely flavoured. I could have eaten nothing but that the whole night, but our sushi quickly came to the table shortly afterwards.

We stuck with the Spicy Tuna Roll – a must whenever we eat sushi. Each section of the roll came with a good amount of spicy mayo. I found I didn’t even need to dip my roll in to the soy sauce. It was good just the way it was. Another thing we noted was how perfectly uniform the rolls were. Each with just the right amount of rice surrounding the tuna and none of the rice were falling apart when we picked it up, very impressive indeed.


Spicy Tuna Roll

The fish was fresh tasting and we both definitely noticed that when our order of the Favorite Sushi Combo arrived. It’s a sushi platter made up of 6 nigri sushi (Tuna, Salmon and Ebi aka Shrimp) and a Tuna Maki Roll. Each piece of the nigri sushi had just the right amount of rice and wasabi. A lot of restaurants no longer put wasabi in the nigri sushi so this was refreshing.

To end we had an order of the Stampede Roll, which is a Haru special roll made up of salmon, avocado and cucumber wrapped with tuna, red tuna, avocado & mango. They say you eat with your eyes first and this was definitely the case with this roll. The different combination of colors on this roll made it look really appetizing (not to mention the amazing uniformity of the rice to filling ratio as well). The balsamic reduction drizzled on top was a nice added touch. Again the light acidity from the balsamic made the use of the soy dipping sauce almost obsolete.


Stampede Roll

My Picks: BBQ Squid, Stampede Roll

Overall: The food at Haru definitely makes me to come back (if not for anything but that squid) so I may sample more of their semi fusion sushi menu. Especially the appetizers, with mouthwatering sounding items like Chili Prawns and Grilled Scallops. Plus the proximity of it to our house makes it that much more inviting. Who knew that sometimes not planning is the greatest plan of all!

Haru Sushi and Grill
150, 35 Mckenzie Towne Ave SE
Calgary, AB
(403) 457-5880
Website: www.myharu.ca

HARU Sushi & Grill - Southeast on Urbanspoon

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Restaurant Review: Catch Restaurant and Oyster Bar

>> Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Naked Lobster

Cold weather always make me crave good wholesome food and since Calgary is cold 10 months out of the year…makes sense why I’m always craving food. However, it’s not always that I find a great place with great food. So when I recently got invited to the grand reopening at one of these amazing restaurants I couldn’t wait to attend, but I was crushed to find out that I was out of town during that time. Therefore when I got back I couldn’t wait to mosey my way over to this great newly renovated space to satiate not only my appetite but also my visual senses.

Atmosphere: An elegant upstairs dining area, refurbished to focus on the restaurant’s unique rustic brick surroundings. Great cozy place for a romantic evening out. If you’re looking for something more casual, check out the Oyster Bar below.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $40+

Food and Wine: We had the opportunity to try both the upstairs dining area and the downstairs oyster bar. I definitely noticed the difference in atmosphere but the food was equally delicious.


Veal Cheeks and Scallops

When were seated upstairs our waitress quickly took our orders and brought out some of their great house made bread. It was delicious and had a caramelized onion flavour (we had to ask for seconds). It wasn’t long before our appetizer arrived, which was the BC Seafood Terrine served with Pumpernickel Toast. The terrine has big chunks of seafood complemented by the creamy crème fraiche and ikura caviar (roe). The roe was very much needed because it provided that bit of saltiness which was required by the terrine. We needed quite a bit more bread to finish off the terrine and the waitress was happy to bring us more.

Our waitress suggested that we try the “Naked Lobster” as an entrée and how could we not with a name like that. It came with honey and dill glazed root vegetables and wilted spinach. This dish was made with lots of buttery goodness. The vegetables and the spinach were all bathed in the aforementioned butter, but it wasn’t overwhelming. Since the lobster was literally naked (with no shell, no sauce or seasoning) the sauce on the vegetables was required and complimented the lobster very well. The lobster itself was perfectly poached and since the shell was removed, it took away all the nuisances of eating a lobster.


Moules Frites

The second entrée dish we tried was the Qualicum Beach Scallops and Alberta Veal Cheeks served over top a cauliflower and truffle emulsion, sautéed wild BC mushrooms and gremolata. The braised veal cheeks were so tender that I didn’t even need a knife to cut through it, due to the hours of braising. Every bite was to be savoured and I wished we had more at the end even though the dish came with three good sized portions. The scallops were just as succulent. Each had a perfect sear and cooked wonderfully. Eating them with the truffle emulsion and mushrooms made for a perfect blending of flavours.

At this point we wanted to order dessert but the evening was still young. So we decided that it would be a good idea to grab a few drinks before ending the night off. Since the oyster bar was right downstairs we headed that way for the remainder of the night. However after glancing at the menu downstairs we noticed that the Moule Frites were on special that evening…how could we not order them? There’s always more room for seafood. The mussels were cooked in a classic Provencal style with white wine, garlic, shallots and tomatoes served with a side of crispy fries and aioli dipping sauce. The mussles were cooked just right and the sauce was divine. We asked for some bread (mmm more onion bread) to dip in to it as well. We could have dipped the fries, I guess that’s why they serve them together, but they were so crispy that it would have been a sin to make them soggy by dipping them in to the broth. Instead I suggest sticking with the fries and aioli with mussels, broth and breading combo.

To end off the evening we finally ordered our dessert, which they allowed us to do so from both the Catch menu and the Oyster Bar menu. After such an amazing meal we couldn’t wait to try the dessert. We decided on the Pumpkin Pie Crème Brulee with biscotti (which was a bit tough to bite through more so then the usual biscotti). The crème brulee did indeed taste just like pumpkin pie with a nice crunchy bruleed top. Our second dessert was the Toffee Coffee Cake with Berry Ice cream. When I dug in the cake was dry and crumbly, which wasn’t what I expected for a toffee cake. However the waitress noticed that we were a bit disappointed and offered to bring us a dessert to replace it. So we had the Brownie with ice cream from the Oyster Bar menu. Unfortunately this was no different, the brownie was dry and hard. I couldn’t even get my spoon in to the brownie, which was shocking. The berry ice cream was good though.


Brownie

Later the waitress apologetically told us that their desserts weren’t actually made in house but catered by the Hyatt, which was really too bad since the meal was so phenomenal we really couldn’t wait to end the meal on a high note and dessert, which was the last thing we ate, was not.

Our wine for the evening was a bottle of the Tolaini Al Passo Sangiovese Merlot, which took me a while to decide on since Catch now offers their wine selections on an ipad and it was quite the selection indeed. Catch has always been known for their extensive wine list, but with this new ipad format, you really need to know which region or wine varietal you’re looking for instead of perusing through the whole list…which would take quite some time. The sangiovese merlot blend had nice cherry and earthy flavours with a nice tannic and long finish. It complimented the veal cheeks well but I found I had to put it aside when enjoying most of the seafood.



My Picks: Qualicum Beach Scallops and Alberta Veal Cheeks, Moule Frites

Overall: Catch didn’t disappoint visually or in the taste department. My dining companions and I still talk about the dinner to this day (although we do leave out the sad dessert ending). I can’t wait to go back and try more of Catch’s new menu (and the Oyster Bar) and lucky for me…there’s still another 8 months of cold weather to keep me craving for more!

Catch Restaurant & Oyster Bar
100 8 Avenue SE
Calgary, AB
(403) 206-0000
Website: catchrestaurant.ca

Catch Restaurant & Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

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Lamb Casserole with Beans and Biscuits

>> Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Lamb Casserole

Now that the weather is starting to cool outside, I’ve found that I’m starting to crave warm recipes and comfort foods. Nothing says cozy like something piping hot, warming you up from the inside out (even better when consumed by a fireplace in your PJs…). So I’ve broken out the crock pot again and started experimenting with different recipes that I’ve been collecting all through the summer.

One recipe that really jumped out at me was the Lamb Casserole. Everything in this recipe read delicious, lamb, beans, and dumplings. Perfectly braised lamb is succulent and tender. Then rosemary and thyme are added in to the pot and it just brings forth a whole new level of wonderful. The addition of beans not only works to thicken up the sauce, but also provides an added source of protein.

Nutritional Tidbit: Cannellini beans aka the white kidney bean like all other beans are a great source of protein and fiber, both of which keeps us feeling fuller longer. A cup of kidney beans provide 45% of your daily fiber requirement. They’re also a great source of iron, folate and magnesium. If using beans from a can, remember to by the low or no sodium versions. Canned goods often have hidden sodium content aside from just salt.

Since the original recipe called for dish to be cooked in an oven proof casserole dish, I altered it a bit to utilize my crock pot but it still turned out great. My husband and I both really enjoyed it and can definitely see ourselves eating it a couple of times throughout the long Calgary winter.

Casserole in the oven
Ingredients:
1 tbsp canola or olive oil
1/2 lb lamb shoulder, cut in to chunks (I used bone in for extra flavour)
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2-3 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
2 cups white wine
1 cup low sodium beef stock
2 sprigs of thyme or 1 tbsp dry thyme
1 rosemary stalk or 1 tbsp dry rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp dry parsley
1 can of cannellini beans
Salt and Pepper

Preparation:
In a medium skillet, heat the oil for 2-3 minutes. Put in a third of the lamb shoulder meat and brown. Rotate each piece until brown on all sides and remove from the skillet and transfer to a bowl.

Repeat with the remainder of the lamb.

Add in the onions, carrots and celery to the skillet. Cook for 5 mins or until the onions start to become translucent.

Stir in the lamb, wine, beef broth and herbs. Add in a good pinch of salt and pepper. Heat until the liquid begins to boil.

Remove and pour it in to a crock pot. Turn the crock pot on high and let it simmer for 2 hours.

Meanwhile you can make the rosemary biscuits. (Recipe below)

When about ready to serve the casserole, preheat the oven to 350º.

Using a ladle, remove the contents in the crock pot and place everything in a 9x13” baking dish. Add Salt and Pepper to taste.

Remove the biscuit dough from the fridge, split the dough in to 6 or 8 sections and place on top of the casserole.

Bake in oven for 10-15 mins or until the dumplings are golden brown (you'll notice them puffing up). Remove and enjoy!

Rosemary Biscuits Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups self raising flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tbsp baking powder
2 tbsp butter
2 tsp finely chopped rosemary or dried rosemary
3/4 cup milk or yogurt

Biscuit Preparation:
In a mixing bowl, add in flour, baking soda and baking powder.

Slowly cut in butter using a mandolin or pastry cutter. Working fast so the butter doesn’t melt.

Mix in the rosemary. Slowly pour in the milk a bit at a time until the dough pulls away from the bowl.

Once the dough is formed, wrap it in up and place in the fridge until ready to use.

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