Individual Pumpkin Cake Recipe

>> Wednesday, October 31, 2012

This morning my friends and I were reminiscing about the good ol’ days of trick or treating. Seeing who could last the longest out in the cold collecting their bagfuls of candy. Who doesn’t remember the pillow cases and all the calculations behind minimizing the number of drop offs required to maximize the time spent going from house to house. More time spent going home meant you would miss out on the last couple houses that might still have their lights on waiting to give away the rest of their candy so they can call it a night.

Yup, those were the days. Instead, this morning I woke up realizing that it was another work day and I probably had to a bunch of meetings waiting for me and probably cooking of dinner and dishes in the evening. Yes, I will be giving away candy tonight, but it’s really not the same. So I figured why not “treat” myself this evening and bake a pumpkin flavoured dessert. Here’s is a quick little recipe makes just 2 (maybe 3, if you’re generous) servings to savour. It’ll be a great thing to do while to wait for the kiddies to come along. Plus, what better way to wind down Halloween then with a pumpkin flavoured dessert! It’ll be great to use the leftover pulp from the pumpkin carvings.

Nutrition Tidbit: Pumpkins are full of Vitamin A, carotenoids, alpha and beta carotenes, all great antioxidants preventing your body from free radicals. They’re also a good source of Vitamin C and magnesium, potassium and iron. On top of all that they’re a versatile ingredient, great for cooking and baking. Even their seeds make great snacks, being a great source of Vitamin E and protein!


Pumpkin Cakes
1/4 cup sugar
6 tbsps vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/8 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Pinch of salt

Low Fat Cream Cheese Frosting
4 ounces low fat cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted


Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease 2-3 4 inch ramekins with oil or butter and set aside.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine the sugar, oil, and vanilla. Add in the egg and mix until well combined.

Stir in pumpkin puree until incorporated.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to wet mixture a bit at a time until the batter begins to thicken.

Divide the mixture equally amongst the prepared ramekins and bake for 15-20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow them to cool.

In the meantime, prepare the cream cheese frosting. Beat cream cheese and vanilla until smooth.

Slowly add confectioners’ sugar and mix until incorporated.

When the cakes are cool, spread a bit of cream cheese frosting on top and serve!

Makes 2-3 mini cakes.


Cities by the Sea - Valparaiso and Vina del Mar - Chile

>> Thursday, October 25, 2012

Situated just an hour outside the hustle and bustle of Santiago, sits two adjacent towns that are literally merged together by the ocean, yet are both as different as you can imagine. Valparaiso and Vina del Mar not only draw in tourists from around the world but are also preferred getaway locations for locals as well. You really can experience everything from the corner dive bar to street vendors or fine dining and retail shopping.  

Valparaiso, an old shipping town, known for its colorful houses built upon rolling hills. Evokes the feeling of stepping back in time, especially when navigating the narrow passageways that lead from their main square up to the hilltops where the restaurants and bars reside. If you’re looking for an easier way to get around, there a many funiculars that transport locals and tourists alike, to and from each hill top to another. No matter where you turn, there are amazing pieces of artwork enveloping the walls done by local graffiti artists, which truly does bring a unique charm to the town.

When stopping in Valparaiso, I highly recommend stopping by Pablo Neruda’s famous Sebastiana home, one of the three houses owned by the famous noble prize winner. Positioned high atop one of the hillsides, the view of the house is unlike any other. Especially when designed with the poet’s love of ships and boats, you truly do feel like you’re navigating the ocean right there on land. You can also enjoy the many collections Neruda was known for, especially after you see his Isla Negra home. If you’re not busy, I highly recommend driving down or joining a tour to Isla Negra (the Black Island) to fully understand Neruda’s unique collections. It is in a category of its own because the poet gathers anything and everything he can find (ie. Ashtrays, goblets..etc).

Close by Sebastiana is also the famous cemetery of Valparaiso. There are two different cemeteries, one that houses the families that originated in Valparaiso and another that houses the souls of those who were lost at sea nearby. Here you get a great view of all of Valparaiso and you can understand why the cemetery was chosen on that particular hillside.

Wondering down towards the main square, there are many different eateries where you can find local seafood treasures like fresh made Chilean seabass ceviche. If you’re looking for something special to the region, I suggest the seafood stew. Everything from mussels, squid, shrimp to sea bass and scallops. You can’t go wrong with this dish. In the main square aka Plaza Sotomayor stands the Monumento a los Héroes de Iquique, which pays tribute to Chile’s naval martyrs. On the weekends you can find the Muelle Prat, near the harbourfront which sells different handmade crafts by the locals.

If you wander along the coast north you’ll slowly make your way to the modern resort town of Vina del Mar (roughly 5 mins by car), a stark contrast from the old town charm of Valparaiso. In Vina, you’ll find the large hotel complexes and many new high end restaurants catering to the tourists and resort goers of Chile. If you’re looking to do some shopping, there is also a 4 storey shopping complex (be sure to stop by the Xurro stand for amazing churros..especially with ice cream!) or if you’re looking to do some gambling, Vina has the only casino in the region.

Be sure to stop by the main Flower Clock that is at the entrance of the town. It is the most beautiful during sundown, where the light hits the clock at the perfect angle. If you wonder down a bit further you’ll see the famous Castle Wulff, which was built by British settlers in 1917. There are many beaches located along the coastline, so we enjoyed walking along until we found one that was a bit more quiet and secluded from the hustle and bustle of the town.

As for dining options, there is a whole array of restaurants to choose from in Vina, ranging from Japanese to Mexican and down home Chilean cooking. Since we’re right by the ocean, the sushi was some of the best that we had since it’s so fresh. We stayed at the Sheraton Miramar, which had an amazing location and view of the Pacific Ocean. All the rooms including the restaurants faced the ocean, so it was quite an experience waking up and enjoying breakfast right on the cusp of the Oceanside.

We also had the opportunity to dine at Erdiko, focused on serving fusion cuisine in a contemporary atmosphere. Dishes like sardines with apple and cucumbers with caviar or ribs with mashed potatoes encased in a candied coated shell. They also featured a great selection of local Chilean wine, which are grown in the Casablanca region approximately 30 mins away from town. You definitely have to try a bottle (or three) of the Carmenere, when in Chile.

There are so many highlights on this portion of our trip, it’s hard to summarize it all in to blog without it feeling like you’re reading an essay of my experiences. I truly did have a great time in this part of Chile and hope that anybody headed down to South America will find the time to stop by as well. You really can’t beat the ying and yang of old and new like Valparaiso and Vina del Mar and it’ll always hold a special place in my memories.


Restaurant Review: Carino Japanese Bistro and Wine

>> Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The weather outside today made me want to crawl straight back in to bed and sleep away the next 4-6 months.  I believe the bears are on to something there.  Unfortunately, humans just keep pushing onwards, so the least we can do is warm our stomachs with good food and in a surrounding that elicits comfiness. That's how I always found the little winebar just off of Edmonton trail.  So I was glad to have heard that it didn't shut down, but instead now houses a new restaurant that serves Italian food with an asian flare.  What better way to excite your tastebuds in to forgetting the foot of snow awaiting you outside?

Atmosphere: Occupying the space that once was AKA winebar, the interior remains intimate, warm and cozy.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $20+

Food and Wine: The menu was very focused featuring a few items for appetizers, entrees and sides, which always helps the decision making process.  My friend and I both really enjoy the traditional tofu agedashi and was intrigued by their version of Mozzarella Agedashi, guessed it...mozzarella instead of tofu. After my first bite, I was surprised at how fresh the mozzarella tasted and it was nice to get the slight crunch of the crispy outer deep fried shell.  It was very light and not heavy at all, I especially liked the plum jelly on top adding that bit of needed tartness. A nice start to the meal.

Next we tried the Seared Foie Gras, served with braised daikon overtop a light dashi broth.  The daikon was extremely sweet and infused with dashi flavour due to the broth.  Perfectly cooked, it just fell apart when cut in to.  I didn't even really need a knife.  It was the same with the foie gras. Seared just enough to caramelize the outer layer, but still remaining soft and silky on the inside. Perfect over the pieces of toast that came with the dish.

Our shared main was the Lamb Ribs.  It came with different Asian vegetables, creamy mashed potatoes and a lovely au jus.  The ribs themselves were fall off the bone tender.  They were a bit fatty, but they are ribs after all.  The mashed potatoes were a perfect accompaniment to the ribs, there to soak up all that wonderful au jus along with the veggies. I could eat this dish all to myself, so I definitely would recommend ordering a side or two if you're sharing.

We had the Gnocchi with Pork Belly as our side, you can never have too many carbs in a meal.  The gnocchi was soft and fluffy while the pork belly brought the much needed seasoning.  Our pork belly was a little underdone making the dish a little oily. I would have preferred them to be a bit crispier but that's because I also really like crunchy bacon bits. 

For dessert, they had a special on that night just for the autumn season and we decided to give it a try.  The Pumpkin Duo came with a pumpkin pudding and a profiterole filled with pumpkin cream served with a side of vanilla ice cream.  The pudding was smooth and creamy with hints of cinnamon and spice.  I enjoyed the whipped cream and chocolate on top as well, adding a nice bitter flavour to accent the pumpkin.  I wasn't as much of a fan for the cream puff. The dough was a bit more dense, but I did enjoy the pumpkin cream filling.  As for the ice cream, you can never go wrong with serving a dessert to me a la mode!

The server was great assisting us with our wine choice that evening because our first selection was no longer available. We ended up on the Acien Pinot Noir to start off our meal and it was the perfect pairing for our lighter appetizers. Medium bodied, you can really taste the abundant cherry and chocolate flavours in the wine.  The light tannins finishes off with a silken mouthfeel and hints of strawberries.  I highly recommend this wine with pasta or lighter to mid fare. If you'd like to have your wine aerated, Carino has an amazing decanter which is quite the experience.  Be sure to ask if you're intrigued.

My Picks: Seared Foie Gras, Lamb Ribs

Overall: It's always interesting to see Asian and European influences in the same dish on one menu, but I've always found it to be a successful marriage of flavour even though the cooking styles are so uniquely different.  Carino is no different.  Combine this with a warm and inviting atmosphere that the owners bring forth and you can definitely hide yourself away here in the midst of our cold Calgary winters. 

Carino Bistro and Wine
709 Edmonton Trail NE
Calgary, AB
(403) 984-7534

Carino Japanese Bistro + Wine on Urbanspoon


Passion for Pork in Calgary

>> Monday, October 15, 2012

 What is Passion for Pork?

The Passion for Pork initiative is a new project to bring more awareness to pork and pork products here in Canada including cities like Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. Calgary’s Passion for Pork week begins today, Monday October 15th and runs until Sunday October 21st. For the whole week, different restaurants around town will be showcasing pork in various ways on their menus.

Yesterday night I had the honor of attending the official kick off event at the great new restaurant Downtownfood right in…you guessed it downtown Calgary. We got a chance to sample ten amazing dishes which either had hints of pork flavour or featured pork as its main ingredient.

We started off the evening with a light Consumme infused with Broek Acres house cured bacon and house made kimchi with pickled Asian vegetables and green apple. It was sweet and warm with a slight spiciness at the end, a good way to amp up the appetite.

Next we had the Beet Tartar which was made with bacon fat aioli and served over a thin cumin crisp. There was just enough cumin to taste it without it overwhelming the gentle flavours of the beets. The bacon aioli gave the bite that nice unctuousness that otherwise would have been missing, a must in a tartar.

The third course was a Crostini topped with lardo infused mushrooms and Noble Meadow goat cheese. It didn’t feel like I was eating mushrooms at all. If it wasn’t for the texture of the mushroom I would have thought that I was biting in to pieces of pork. The infusion of flavour was truly amazing.

To cut the heaviness of the last couple courses, we were presented with a house made (down to the wrapper itself) pork Wonton in a light rice wine and Szechuan chili oil broth. I really enjoyed the chewiness of the wrapper and slight spiciness of the chili oil. It was a great way of utilizing pork in a healthier manner.

Then came the highlight of the evening, the West Coast Oysters. House smoked, then tossed in the Meta4 hot sauce, breaded and fried. The oyster flavour wasn’t overpowered even though it was fried and the smokiness still permeated each bite. It was definitely the favourite of the table and a topic of conversation the rest of the evening.

We were then served a light breakfast of sorts, with breaded quail eggs over buttered toast and bacon. We were all jealous of how perfectly cooked my husband’s dish was, when he cut in to his egg, the egg yolk just ran all over his toast and became the perfect sauce.

Our seventh course of braised Pork Tail Cake has always been one of my favourite dishes at Downtownfood. The pork cake is lightly seared and served with a lightly spiced Korean BBQ vinaigrette and crunchy house made kimchi style vegetables. I really enjoy the combination of sweet, salty and spicy in this dish. Hope they don’t remove it from their menu.

To end our savour courses, we had the Scallop Sashimi cooked with peanut oil heated to 600ºc, accompanied by a ginger garlic puree and topped with a bacon dust. Due to the method used, the scallop had an interesting texture and flavour. I especially liked the addition of ponzu, which made it feel like you were eating an elevated piece of sashimi.

Our first dessert was a Pumpkin Tart topped with a good helping of whipped cream. The perfect seasonal dessert, the filling was smooth and silky, not overly too sweet. We also got to try the Bacon and Apple Fritter, fluffy, cinnamony goodness with just the right amount of honey for that hint of sweetness.

If that wasn’t enough, the night was topped of with a decadent strawberry liquer Truffle. The perfect pairing for coffee!

After that amazing meal, I personally can’t wait to see what else is in store at all the other restaurants around town. I’m sure you must be too and I can help! I have a couple gift certificates to start you on your way to porky goodness! Please respond to this blog with a great pork dish you’ve tried locally in around town. All the entries will be put in to a draw and the winners will be contacted mid week. Good Luck!

Also, be sure to checkout the Passion for Pork website for more details on participating restaurants. You can also get great recipes and tips on how to use pork at home. There area great Chef interviews and videos as well. What better time to try pork!


Restaurant Review: Anejo Restaurant

>> Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Heading in to fall after just recently coming back from a part of the world that’s preparing for their primavera (aka spring…not the pasta) has made it a little hard for me to adjust. Missing the food in addition to it all really doesn’t help either. Luckily while I was away, the highly anticipated Mexican restaurant Anejo on 4th street opened their doors. Although I was sad to miss their grand opening, I was pretty excited to visit and enjoy a bit of Latin cuisine, hoping that it would take away my autumn blues by easing me back in to reality.

Atmosphere: The boisterous and lively crowds really make this location, which features vibrant Mexican décor including comfy couches for those looking for an easy laid back evening.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $20+

Food and Wine and Tequila: It was hard not to get distracted by their Tequila menu right off the bat, but I knew it was going to be a lengthy evening so we decided to pace ourselves by starting off with a few appetizers and entrée items, like the Scallop and Shrimp Ceviche. I got extremely addicted to ceviches while on my travels to South America and was pretty excited to order the dish here in Calgary, knowing of course that I was pretty spoiled there so I tried to remain unbiased. The ceviche was very lightly seasoned and I didn’t taste much of the acid used to cook the seafood. However the bright side is you could taste the shrimp and scallops themselves with the creaminess of the avocado. I really enjoyed the side of jicama salad, adding some texture and acid that was missing in the delicate dish.

Next up we had the Molotes ‘Beggars Purse’, which is slowly braised adobo pork stuffed inside a crispy shell aka purse, served with a sweet and smoky pepper sauce and a refreshing red onion salad on the side. The pork was tender and the adobo had just the right about of spice, when mixed with the sweet peppery sauce and the crispy wonton outer layer, it all just culminated in to a perfect bite. Don’t forget the red onion salad though, which helped to cool the palate between bites.

Our highlight that evening was definitely the Guacamole, which I noticed every table ordering since we got there to when we left. After taking our first bite, I knew why. It’s made fresh table side, where the server mixed together the avocados, spicy Serrano peppers, jalapenos, onions and tomatoes all with a big squeeze of lime. I thought it was a very nice touch to watch it all come together and couldn’t wait to dig in. I could barely stop after the first scoop with their house made tortilla chips and to be honest I didn’t really stop. The guacamole was creamy, sweet, garlicky and to top it all off, had the right amount of spicy kick at the end. We polished it off pretty quick and wanted to order more, wish we had.

Saving the tacos for next time, we decided to share the Molcajete with Seafood (would have been the beef tenderloin if not for the headlines in the news right now, next time!). Molcajete essentially means in a stone mortal, so the stew was served piping hot with fish, grilled cactus, green onions, tomatillo sauce and topped with Oaxaca cheese. I wrapped a bit of everything in the warm tortillas and really enjoyed the combination of flavours. It’s a nice alternative to the traditional fajitas and it’ll be great during the upcoming cold winter months in the city.

Since the serving sizes weren’t overly large we were still able to enjoy a bit of dessert and decided on the Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream. Dark and luscious, creamy and chocolately without being bitter. The best part was the lingering spiciness after each bite. It was definitely a good way to end the meal…but only along side some great tequila.

Anejo carries a great selection of Latin wines from Spain, Chile and Argentina. After looking at the wine list I quickly ordered the Carmenere, a wine varietal only available from Chile, clearly still trying to reminisce about my recent trip. However, they were no longer carrying it (heartbreaking and a complete story in itself about the difficulties of importing SA wines) but the server suggested a Spanish Rioja, which was a great substitute. The Bozeto Tinto Rioja was a very nice drinking wine and since we were eating a seafood heavy meal, it was nice that the red didn’t overpower the dishes. A medium bodied wine with light fruit and cherry flavours helps to cleanse the palate after each bite of food so your taste buds can be amazed over and over again.

The night would not be complete if you go to Anejo and did not try one of their tequila flights, which is what I think truly sets them apart from other restaurants and bars in Calgary. Our server suggested we try the Avion Tequila Flight, so tried we did, each getting a flight consisting of the Blanco, Reposado, and Anejo. It was amazing contrasting the three, sipping each and going back and forth.

The Blanco – young tequila, clear in color when compared with the others, very bold and gives you that zing you’re looking for.

The Reposado – slightly golden in color, much smoother than the blanco but still had quite the kick.

The Anejo – honey to almost amber in color, very smooth definitely the best of the three (also the first one fully consumed)

The manager that evening was also very generous and brought us a sample of the Patron XO Café, which was served chilled in a very neat looking tumbler. This was significantly different from the other tequilas we sampled earlier since its closer to flavoured vodka, it was both creamy and full of nutty coffee flavour, definitely meant to be sipped and savoured. I found that the colder the liquor got the more it tasted like having an iced Vietnamese coffee. I can definitely use some of that in my morning coffee, wouldn’t that kick start the day!

My Picks: Guacamole, Molcajete

Overall: If you’re feeling a bit below the weather, nothing will change that faster then a shot (or flight) of tequila. What better place to do it then at a restaurant that’s gotten its name from a type of tequila? Plus when you’re starting to feel peckish, there’s a full menu waiting for you.

Anejo Restaurant
2, 2116 4th Street SW
Calgary, AB
(587) 353-2656

Anejo Restaurant on Urbanspoon


15th Annual Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival

>> Wednesday, October 3, 2012

It’s that time again! If you’re thinking autumn – it did come fast and furious here in Calgary. Quite literally overnight - but I was referring to the Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival happening next weekend October 12 & 13 at the BMO Centre in Stampede Park. It’s also the 15th straight year that the event has been running. What better way to kick off the autumn season!

Again, I have a set of tickets for Friday October 12th to give away as well! So message me through twitter or respond to this post and I’ll do a random draw this weekend for the winner.

For all of you that are interested, here’s a bit more information. Plus there are still additional tickets available for purchase, but they might sell out soon so don’t wait too long!

Swirl, sip, and savour at the 15th Annual Calgary Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival

What: The Calgary Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival is back for two days of indulgence, offering a little something for everyone. The Grand Tasting Hall will be bustling with more food and beverage exhibitors than ever before, leaving taste buds seduced and craving more. The Festival offers the opportunity to sample an extensive variety of world-class wine, scotch, premium spirits, import and micro-brewed beer along with gourmet culinary creations from local restaurants, hotels and food purveyors.

Liquor Depot will once again feature an on-site liquor store, where attendees can purchase their favourite finds from the night. Liquor Connect will also be available to demonstrate how can help find sensational sips after the Festival. Additionally, Sunshine Village will be sponsoring the Grand Prize All-Inclusive Weekend Getaway including two nights’ accommodation at Sunshine Mountain Lodge, VIP parking, $100 gift certificate for food and beverages, a couple’s spa treatment and next day lift tickets.

Who: Wine, spirit and beer enthusiasts, food lovers with healthy appetites will unite to indulge in a tasty selection of mouth-watering delights. It’s a weekend of excitement and flavourful fun for those who are passionate about wine and food.

Why: To celebrate the art of food and beverage creations brought to light by talented local restaurants, hotels and food purveyors, as well as wine, spirit and beer providers. The weekend presents Calgarians with an exclusive night of indulgence, sampling and savouring with friends, family and co-workers alike.

When: Friday, October 12, 4-10 p.m. and Saturday, October 13, 3-10 p.m..

Where: Stampede Park’s BMO Centre, Halls D & E

For ticket information visit:

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