Food Blogger Bake Sale - Holiday Edition!

>> Friday, November 30, 2012

Seeing as tomorrow is the beginning of December, I feel the holiday season has officially approached and I can finally start all my holiday baking. I know it’s not the only time during the year that calls for baking, but there’s something to be said about ringing in the holidays surrounded by sugar and sweets. Plus, there’s really nothing better than the exchanging of homemade baked goodness with friends and family.

To piggy back on to all of our holiday baking this year, the food bloggers of Calgary have come together to donate some of their goodies to the Food Blogger Bake Sale supporting Calgary Meals on Wheels. 'Tis the season for giving!

Calgary Meals on Wheels is an organization dedicated to providing healthy and nutritious meals to Calgarians who would otherwise have no access to food. Their program enables clients to enjoy two freshly prepared meals delivered to their place of residence up to seven days a week. In service for close to 50 years, they service some 1900 clients plus several unique programs without ever missing a delivery! Meals on wheels is run by some 750 volunteers, working out to roughly 75,000 hours a year, who deliver meals within Calgary city limits. So it is our hope that we could provide some assistance to such a great program through your support!

The Christmas Food Blogger’s Bake Sale will be held at Casel Marche located on 17th Ave and 24th Street SW, who has once again graciously offered up their space for the cause.

The sale will be Saturday Dec 8th from 10 am – 4 pm or until all the goodies are gone. So please stop by pick up a couple (perfect for those Christmas exchanges) and say hi!

Casel Marche
2503 – 17th Avenue SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 770-4700


Recipe List

>> Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Somebody asked me the other day how long I’ve been writing my blog and I was shocked to tell them that I was approaching 4 years! Time sure does fly! However, I still enjoy maintaining the blog as much as I did the first post and looking back, they sure started to add up. I started to find that it was a bit difficult to locate recipes and other hidden information, so why not make it easier for all.

Here is a list of all the recipes I’ve blogged about so far and I’ll remind myself to update it once I add another healthy recipe to the site! Thank you everyone for their continued support and I hope you all enjoy the recipes!

Appetizers, Sauces and Sides
Apple Fennel Salad
Apple Raisin Phyllo Rolls
Butternut Squash Soup
Chinese Steamed Buns (Man Tous)
Chinese Sticky Rice
Crab Cakes
Crab Phyllo Rolls
Egg and Prosciutto Cups
Grilled Eggplants
Honey Sriracha Popcorn
Hollandaise Sauce
Kabocha Squash Soup
Peach Crostinis
Pickled Beets
Pizza Bites
Quinoa Tabouli Salad
Roasted Chickpeas
Ssamjang Sauce
Scallion Pancakes
Spicy White Wine Mussels
Sushi Rice
Turnip Cakes (Lo Bak Go)
Tzatziki Dip
Watermelon Cucumber Salad
Whole Wheat Pitas

Apple Pork Meatballs
Basa Fish Tacos
Banh Mi Subs
Beef Satay Skewers
Beer Can Chicken
Buttermilk Panko Baked Chicken
Butternut Squash Quinoa Risotto
Chicken Fajitas
Chicken Mole
Chicken Shawarma
Chilled Asian Sesame Noodle Salad
Chili Kebabs
Creamy Shrimp Penne
Fisherman’s Stew
Gochujang Chicken Drummies
Hearty Chili
Herbed Chicken
Herbed French Toast
Italian Meatballs
Jerk Chicken
Korean Kalbi Shortribs
Lamb Casserole with Beans and Biscuits
Lamb Koftas
Lamb Tagine
Mushroom Barley Risotto
Peas and Carrots Risotto
Truffled Mushroom Risotto
Pho (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)
Pork Tenderloin with Apple Onion Chutney
Steak and Veg
Seafood Linguine
Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
Spicy Scrambled Egg Wraps
Sticky Soy Chicken Drumsticks
Sun Dried Tomato Chicken and Orzo
Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Swiss Chard Fusilli Pasta
Thai Coconut Yellow Curry
Tomato Braised Lamb Shank

Baked Goods and Desserts
Banana Bread
Banana Coconut Cake
Cappuccino and Coconut Biscotti
Caramel Popcorn Monkey Bread
Chocolate Cake
Chocolate Cheesecake Truffles
Cinnamon Buns
Cinnzeo or Cinnabon Copycat Cinnamon Buns
Cappuccino Cheesecake
Coconut Yogurt Tarts
Oatmeal Cinnamon Banana Muffins
Oven Baked Apple Fritters
Prosperity Cakes (Fat Go)
Pumpkin Bread
Pumpkin Cupcakes
Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes
Pumpkin Cake
Pumpkin Pie Dip
Red Velvet Whoopie Pies
Ricotta Stuffed Crepes
Spicy Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies
Sticky Toffee Pudding
Upside Down Banana Cake
White Chocolate Toasted Coconut Popcorn
Whole Wheat Waffles
Whole Wheat Bagels
Whole Wheat Sour Cream Blueberry Pie
Whole Wheat Yogurt Pancakes
Yogurt Cheesecake Soufflés


Restaurant Review: Canvas Coffee and Wine

>> Thursday, November 22, 2012

Does anybody remember the old days of Electric Avenue? I was still a wee little thing back then and have only heard of stories and when I got to be old enough to experience said ‘Electric Avenue’, somebody turned the lights off. For years 11th Ave sat quiet, but within the last couple years, the avenue has started to liven up again thanks to many great eateries opening up along its infamous sidewalks. Although it no longer boasts the boisterous bars, I believe it’s a turn for the better with great restaurants that I couldn’t wait to check out, like Canvas.

Atmosphere: An intimate space designed with art in mind. True to its name, dining in the restaurant is like stepping in to an artist’s gallery.

Price Range: $10s – $20s

Food and Wine: The best thing about eating with all my girls (aside from the great times and interesting convos that is), we all enjoy trying everything, which usually calls for a full menu experience. This time was no different, after perusing the dishes we figured that we can attempt to sample them all (aside from the soup and burger, just doesn’t work no matter how you try). If you’re only looking for smaller bites, Canvas has a good selection of appetizers. There’s even a special if you order three of them! It might be hard to choose though, I’m glad we didn’t have to.

Following the layout of the menu our first was the Roasted Mushrooms which was sautéed with white wine, lots of fresh garlic and shallots. It was creamy and perfect over toast. The Barley Croquettes were a favorite amongst everybody at the table, served 3 to an order. They were made with a combination of short ribs, mascarpone and barley topped with tomato sauce and grana padano. The croquettes were crunchy without being oily and the texture was reminiscent of eating arrancini. It was nice mixing it up a bit with the lighter Spaghetti Squash served with crispy fried chick peas, and salty speck (Italian smoked ham), a good appetizer for those that are looking for something healthier.

Another favorite amongst the group was the White Bean Puree, with only a slight hint of chevre (goat cheese). It was a perfect spread for toast where the sweetness of the mint honey really added a nice aspect to the dip. When the Beet Chips first arrived we were all drawn to all the shrimp interspersed through the plate since we were literally expecting a plate of deep fried beets. The beet chips were crispy and the shrimp were sweet, a nice build on flavours especially with the pickled ginger and slightly bitter radicchio.

The Short Rib dish was composed of pulled short rib with a mixture of red pepper and bacon jam, topped with garlic, wild mushrooms and arugula. The meat itself was nicely flavoured but I liked it better when combined with the roasted mushroom appie. The Braised Leeks were quite unique since I’m used to eating leeks as part of an entrée and not as a stand alone appetizer. They were wrapped with speck and topped with cambozola cheese, olive oil and pecans for the textural contrast. The leeks were extremely supple but could be a bit overwhelming. I recommend combining them with other appies as not to overwhelm your palate. You can even try it on some baguette.

The entrees were perfect for sharing especially the Artisan Greens with a mix of sweet raisins, cucumber, tomato, walnuts and radicchio all topped with grana padano and their herb vinaigrette. It was extremely refreshing and a great accompaniment to any meal. Another great sharing dish was the Bowties - little bowtie pastas cooked in white wine with shallots, tomatoes, herbs and pine nuts and drizzled with olive oil. Don’t expect to eat this all by yourself, it’s quite a large portion, even though the pasta is cooked perfectly al dente, there is a lot of it! Plus then you’d be missing other great entrees like the Chicken. It’s rare that I order chicken at a restaurant because I tend to associate it with being dry, but not this time. The meat was juicy and tender, very flavourful and I really enjoyed the buttery barley risotto as well, perfect with the creamy tarragon sauce.

Just as tender and succulent was the Hanger Steak, I couldn’t stop nibbling at it all night. It also came with amazingly spectacular housemade onion rings. They’d be great as an appetizer in themselves! If you’re looking for lighter fare, I recommend the Steelhead Trout. It’s served over a tomato and scallion broth with quinoa, spinach and a tangy almond lemon pesto.

Canvas makes it easy to choose dessert. You have the option of either the Chocolate or Citrus Platters. They’re the perfect size for sharing, but if you only want to sample one of two, they also sell them separately. The chocolate platter consisted of:
Praline chocolate mousse – decadent with a slight nutty flavour
Pecan caramel tart – lots of creamy caramel of a light shortbread crust
Espresso pot de crème – smooth and infused with espresso and chocolate yet very light

We enjoyed the platter so much we decided to order it again!

The Citrus Platter was composed of:
Passion fruit mousse with olive oil herb sponge – you can really taste the olive oil in the sponge and the passionfruit was tangy and sweet
Lemon tart – a crunchy French macaron with citrusy lemon curd filling
Grand marnier Madeline – a light mousse infused with grand marnier and citrus flavour French madelines (small cakes)

Our libation of choice that night was the Boedecker Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley. It can easily be a simple drinking wine or you can pair it with lighter fare. It was great for the meal we had that evening because we were bouncing back and forth between so many different dishes. Not overly tannic, slightly earthy with hints of pomegranate and a soft finish.

My Picks: Barley Croquettes, White Bean Dip, Chicken Entrée, Hanger Steak

Overall: While enjoying the lovely entrees prepared by the chef you can also feast your eyes on the abstract art displayed throughout the dining room. Although I never got a chance to experience the infamous Electric Ave at its prime, I feel the avenue has really found its place again, especially with eclectic eateries such as Canvas.

Canvas Coffee and Wine
602 11 Avenue SW
Calgary, AB
(587) 353-1299

Canvas Coffee and Wine on Urbanspoon


Pumpkin Pie Dip

>> Friday, November 16, 2012

It’s always fun getting together with the girls, especially with everybody’s busy schedule it definitely doesn’t happen nearly enough. I’ve known some of my best girlfriends for most of my life. They’re pretty much like my sisters. So it’s sad to realize how much time flies by between each dinner and outing, which is why I try to spend more time catching up then time in the kitchen prepping food while everybody is around.

A great recipe that’s quick and easy to prepare but perfect for such an event is the pumpkin pie dip. It literally only takes 5 mins to pull together, relatively healthy and light enough to still have room for a meal or other goodies later on. It also works well accompanying other tapas or appetizers. Something for everyone to nibble on while they catch up!

Note: It's also a great way to use up the extra pumpkin puree that's leftover from baking!

1 8oz can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
1/4 cup brown sugar or confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
3 oz fat free Greek yogurt
8 oz cool whip or whipped cream
Apple slices
Ginger snap cookies
In a medium sized bowl, mix the pumpkin puree, sugar, cinnamon, ginger and cloves.

Fold in the greek yogurt and the cool whip (or whipped cream) until just combined.

Sprinkle a bit of cinnamon overtop and serve with apple slices or ginger snap cookies.



Restaurant Review: Cucina Market Bistro

>> Thursday, November 8, 2012

With the cold chilly weather outside, there is nothing I want more than to curl up on a warm comfy couch with a hot drink or a heart warming meal. Unless it’s a work day and you’re stuck..literally, either on the road or in the office because Deerfoot Trail is a parking lot. Why not aim to both avoid traffic and fill your stomach with a comforting meal, especially at the brand new Cucina Restaurant located right in downtown Calgary on Stephen Avenue.

Atmosphere: Eliciting the feeling of stepping in to an Italian kitchen on the Tuscan countryside, with antique styled tableware and seating it evokes the feeling of truly visiting somebody’s friendly home.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $30+

Food and Wine: After scanning the menu, I knew fairly quickly what I wanted to try. I love offal, any type of it. So our starters contained just that, beginning with the Chicken Liver Parfait served with a wonderful sour cherry balsamic cipollini jam (aka onion jam) and crunchy ciabatta crostini. The parfait itself was heavenly! Extremely light and mousse like in texture. I really enjoyed eating a bite of it without the jam and then another bite with the jam to contrast the flavours and almost reset my palate. Each bite ended up being sweet, unctuous, crunchy perfection. Note - you’ll probably want to ask for more crostini because there is more than enough liver parfait to go around.

The Beef Heart Tartare dish came with amazing homemade chips (I could eat a bag of these). First looking at the tartare you’ll see the chunkiness of it with bits of capers and pickles throughout and all blended together with creamy egg yolk and mustard. The consistency of the tartare it unlike what you’d expect due to the texture of the heart muscle, but that’s to be expected since its not made with regular beef. I enjoyed that it was different. However our table did find the mustard to be a bit overwhelming, which might be due to the garnish around the plate.

Since Cucina’s menu is market fresh, a lot of their dishes change on a daily basis. This was the case for both of the mains that we chose. The first being the Halibut Cheeks, slightly seared accompanied by broccolini, tomatoes and a velvety smooth cauliflower puree. The fish was very lightly seasoned to allow the flavours of the halibut shine through, but I found my favourite item on the plate to be the amazing cauliflower puree.

The featured Risotto that evening was a vegetarian dish made with Peppernada, which are roasted bell peppers, along with mascarpone. It was rich and creamy, full of cheesy mascarpone flavor. There was a good sized portion of the risotto, perfect for sharing amongst several people, especially since it felt like true comfort food while remaining refined and decadent.

We couldn’t leave without trying the dessert and stayed with the classics. The Tiramisu, said to be made with a traditional family recipe, was served in a charming martini glass. You definitely get all the characteristics of a time-honored tiramisu starting with the creamy mascarpone topping down to the coffee liqueur soaked cake. We all really enjoyed it! But we didn’t stop there, also ordering the Warm Apple Thyme Tart made with sweet and sour granny apples layered over a flaky buttery crust and served with cinnamon Chantilly cream. It was nice having the cream for that additional burst of flavour but ice cream would have definitely benefitted the tart even more. I can just imagine the cold ice cream slowly melting over top the warm tart, providing almost a sauce and that extra bit of sweetness. We tried ordering the daily gelato flavour to accompany it, but figured blood orange probably wouldn’t do the trick. Next time!

Keeping it light that evening I decided to have some of the Nino Franco Rustico Prosecco di Valdobiane from Veneto, Italy. I’ve always found Prosecco a great go to, if you’re not in the mood for wine. The bubbles along with the slight tang sip after sip is a great companion to a meal. This selection was clean and crisp, with hints of citrus and just enough sweetness as not to overwhelm the meal. A nice start or end to a meal (to accompany dessert..mmm).

My Picks: Chicken Liver Parfait, Risotto 

Overall: Hopefully enjoying a great meal at Cucina not only lowered your level of traffic stress after work (maybe you need another prosecco…) but allowed you to feel transported away from all the snow and in to a warm cozy kitchen on the Italian countryside. It’s always nice to see a restaurant using the traditional methods to create truly wonderful classical dishes, especially using market fresh ingredients! There really isn't anything else that’s more gratifying.

515 8th Avenue SW
Calgary, AB
(587) 353-6565

Cucina on Urbanspoon


Restaurant Review: Mercato West

>> Friday, November 2, 2012

I’ve been meaning to check out Mercato West since they first opened earlier this year. However, due to the location we always found ourselves wandering back to their 4th street location in Mission. So when we were meeting our good friends for dinner, we decided it was a good time to check out the elusive west location.

Atmosphere: A wide open dining room, featuring contemporary tables and streamlined interior while showcasing the open kitchen in the middle.

Price Range: Mid $10s-$40+

Food and Wine: It was our friends first time to Mercato’s so we decided to follow their traditional menu of ordering antipasti, primi, secondi followed by dolce (of course), all family style, which is what Mercato specializes in. Our friend recently started to venture in to pork territory so we decided to make a meal of it, starting off with the Bruschetta and Prosciutto. As you can imagine, the prosciutto came as thinly shaved slices of Italian prosciutto di parma, that’s been aged for 24 months, drizzled with olive oil and parmigiano reggiano. The meat itself was perfect, slightly salty with the tang of the olives coming from the oil. It was a good sized portion to share amongst the group.

The bruschetta was served in three different styles over classic Italian grilled bread. One was topped with classic tomatoes, the second - a white bean puree, and lastly prosciutto. The traditional bruschetta is always welcomed with perfectly plump tomatoes, but my favourite was the white bean version. The taste and consistency reminded me of hummus, creamy but less garlicky. We decided to put a bunch more prosciutto that we had ordered on to the prosciutto bruschetta, you really can’t go wrong with more pork.

Our primis were the Gnocchi and Linguini. The handmade potato gnocchi was served with peas and pea shoots, coppa (Italian for pork shoulder or neck) and pecorino romano cheese. I really enjoyed the culmination of flavours but others at the table found the dish slightly over salted. It was definitely a dish meant to be shared family style since it could become a bit heavy. This was contrasted by the linguini featuring prawns, halibut, guanciale (unsmoked Italian bacon) and cherry tomatoes all in a light lemony garlic olive oil sauce. We did specify that we wanted a bit less olive oil as not to overpower the delicate flavours from the seafood. Although we found this dish to be a little under salted, so between the two pastas we were able to find a nice balance.

Now that we were filled with carb-goodness, it was time for the main entrees (secondi). To follow through on our pork theme, we had the Rosticciana, which are Calabrese style seasoned pork ribs, roasted with scallion and fresh peppers. The ribs were nicely seasoned but we did find them a bit dry. They’re not your typical fall off the bone type of ribs and if you’re expecting that then I would avoid ordering these. They are meant to be smokey and charred, with a hint of crunch. If you’re looking for melt in your mouth goodness, the Vitello would be your better choice. It’s a seared grain fed veal chop served with red onion compote. Everyone at the table agreed that it was extremely tender and succulent, with big flavours from each bite.

For the contorni or side we had the Asparagi, which is asparagus spears wrapped with pancetta and taleggio cheese. Pancetta is salted pork belly which provided all the seasoning that the asparagus needed. I did find the asparagus themselves a bit more done then what I’m used to, but they weren’t inedible.

Dolce was inevitable, dessert is always warranted at the end of a meal, especially when you’re eating family style. It just feels like an end to a feast. We had the Pinolata which is a pine nut and almond marzipan tart drizzled with apricot marmalade and the Stratum a rich chocolate flourless cake layered in between with chocolate ganache. It was really nice having bites of both, back and forth. The tart had a crumbly crust with a slightly sweet marzipan center. We all really enjoyed the apricot marmalade and asked for more because it really pulled the tart together. It also came with pine nuts to add a bit of crunch to the dessert. The chocolate cake on the other hand was dense and rich. Each spoonful was decadent and fulfilled all my chocolate cravings for the week. The texture of the cake was reminiscent of cutting in to a soft brownie.

The wine to pair with our porky meal was the Pacina Chianti, a very Italian wine. A lovely medium bodied wine with smooth tannins and a nice fruit finish. It paired quite nicely with the meat dishes (which was most) that evening and would even make for a nice drinking wine.

My Picks: Gnocchi, Veal Chop

Overall: With its big dining room, Mercato West is a great meeting spot, especially if you have a bigger group. I enjoy round tables so everyone can interact over their traditional Italian menu. The food is just what I would expect from their 4th street location and what made me a fan in the first place. Now I’m just envious of all the people that live downtown and out west. I just I’ll just have to wait until they decide to open one down south? (hint hint).

Mercato West
5000 837 85th Street SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 263-6996

Mercato West on Urbanspoon

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