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

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.



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

Ruth's Chris Steakhouse on Urbanspoon


Bruschetta and Market 17

>> Saturday, December 17, 2011


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
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

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


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.


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.


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

UNA Pizza and Wine on Urbanspoon


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

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)

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

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

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!



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

Giuseppe's Italian Deli and Market on Urbanspoon

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