Spread Joy This Holiday Season - Win a $25 Gift Card to Edo Japan

>> Tuesday, November 26, 2013

It’s truly shocking that Christmas is less than a month away. There are festive decoratins in all the shops and malls around town. Several places I visited over the weekend were already playing Christmas carols. I guess it’s just that time of year. The holiday season is one of my favorite times of the year. People generally seem happier (probably because soon enough everyone’s going to be getting a much needed break over the holidays) and in a celebratory mood.

So I was pretty excited to hear that Edo Japan is doing something extra special this year. To celebrate the holiday season, they’re going to be sending around Edo Elves to help spread the holiday cheer with their good deeds from Nov 28 – Dec 21. The Edo Elves can be seen sporadically throughout the city performing good deeds to make the holiday season easier and a little less stressful.
Edo Japan is also helping the Calgary Food Bank to provide food and resources to those in need. Together, both organizations are working to reduce hunger in communities in which they serve and make the holiday season simply better. For every $25 gift card sold, Edo Japan will donate $5 to a local food bank, in hopes of raising more than $15,000.

To learn more about how the Edo Elves are planning on spreading some holiday cheer please visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m4RhYvVBtD8.
Find out where the Elves will be and who they will be surprising follow them on Twitter at @edo_japan and #EdoElf and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/edojapan.
To kickstart the event, I have a $25 Edo Japan gift card to giveaway. Please tweet me or respond to this blog for a chance to win!
Good luck and hope you’re out there spreading holiday cheer as well!


Restaurant Review: LeVilla on 4th

>> Thursday, November 21, 2013

When people think of steakhouses, they often think of two things: One - an older business clientele. Two – you only go for the steak. I believe those are both false assumptions because there are places that are more welcoming and have a greater selection on their menu than the typical prime rib or tenderloin. An excellent example of that is the new LeVilla Restaurant on 4th Street, the sister restaurant of the original LeVilla in the west side of town.
Atmosphere: A lush and posh interior with the classiness of old steakhouses mixed with the contemporary styling’s of the new.
Price Range: Mid $10s - $30s

Food & Wine:  We were given delicious nutty slices of bread with a light whipped butter to start the meal. I love bread in general, but this one was warm, soft and chewy, I wanted more but had to remind myself that there was a whole meal ahead of me.  As an appetizer we ordered the Parmesan Frites with a side of truffle oil and roasted garlic aioli for dipping. I’ve always preferred mayo over ketchup with fries, so I was glad they offered an aioli as a dip. There was a pleasant garlic flavour highlighted with hints of acid but both my friend and I didn’t quite notice the truffle in the mayo. The fries themselves were nice and crispy without being overcooked or soggy. They were nicely seasoned and could have stood alone on their own if presented that way.
For our mains I decided to go with the Pan Fried Steelhead Trout topped with a side of lobster risotto and topped with a seared scallop, a creamy citrus hollandaise sauce and lots of arugula.  The dish was a perfect balance between healthy and decadence. The trout was seared just right, each section of the fish flaky off with just the touch of a fork. It was beautifully seasoned, enhanced with the velvety hollandaise sauce and the bitterness of the arugula. The lobster risotto was extremely rich and creamy featuring large chunks of lobster meat. It was nice going back and forth between the trout and risotto, each bit enhancing the next, so my palate wasn’t overwhelm by the risotto. The scallop on top was perfectly seared, with just enough of the opaque centre. I had some of the scallop with the hollandaise and some with the risotto, allowing me to play a little with the different flavour combinations on my plate.

My friend ordered the Roasted Honey and Chipotle Glazed Pork Chop served with yam fries and sautéed haricots vert.  The chop was a very decent size perfect for those who have a good appetite. It was cooked to a perfect medium well, with just enough pink to keep the chop tender and juicy. The honey chipotle glaze was incredible. Sweet, tangy, smoky and robust all at the same time, it was a nice change from the traditional pork accompaniments such as apple or leeks. The green beans were crunchy and tasted great with the mix of onions and almonds. The yam fries were sweet and crispy. Who doesn’t love a bit of yam fries on the side of every dish? Since they were covered with the honey chipotle sauce, it was a nice flavour kick for the fries.
As a side dish, we ordered the Sautéed Kale and Spinach for some added greens to our meal. They had a nice tanginess to them, which made for a lighter side. I imagine that they would also be great with one of the many different steak options available at LeVilla.

For dessert, we had to order the Apple Tart with Praline Crumble and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream (with extra ice cream on the side, we’re ice cream fiends). The tart was divine! The pastry was buttery and flaky, coupled with the sweet and tart apples, it was the perfect apple pie. Especially when served with creamy vanilla ice cream, it was inevitable that we had to get an extra scoop.
My Picks: Chipotle Glazed Pork Chop, Apple Tart
Overall: Blending together the best of the old and the new, LeVilla offers both traditional plates for those that are looking for a great steak or amazing seafood and entrees for those searching for something different. All that and they’re able to do it in a space that’s both elegant yet trendy.  
LeVilla Chophouse on 4th
150 1800 4 Street SW
Calgary, AB

(403) 453-3670
Website: www.levilla.ca

LeVilla Chophouse on 4th on Urbanspoon


Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

>> Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I don’t know what the correlation is with colder weather and baked goods, but somehow they’re directly proportional in my books. It could be that all the autumn produce is perfect for baking or the fact that the cooler weather is enticing me to stay indoors more often. Either way, there is always something cooking in the kitchen or rather the oven.

The only downside is that often times the recipes I’m using only calls for a cup of this or a half a cup of that, making my fridge rather cluttered with leftover ingredients that I’m struggling to use up in my everyday cooking. This was the case after we decided to carve a pumpkin, leading to homemade pumpkin puree and a pumpkin pie. However, after the pie was baked and consumed, we were left with still more pumpkin puree and now an open can of evaporated milk it’s like the domino effect.

In a last ditch effort to use up the leftover ingredients, I was able to find a delightful pumpkin recipe specifically calling for those ingredients. So I whipped up a batch of moist pumpkin spice cupcakes, but now it seems I’m left with some extra cream cheese. Maybe they make ingredients with non-specific volumes for this exact reason, to keep enticing people to continue baking….anybody got a recipe that calls for cream cheese?

Cupcake Ingredients:

1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 cup salted butter
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla

Cupcake Preparations:
Preheat oven to 375ºC. Place paper baking cups in the muffin tin and set aside.
In a bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. Cut in the butter until the pieces are fairly granular (like the size rough sand).
In a separate bowl, mix together pumpkin, evaporated milk, egg, and vanilla.
Slowly sift the dry ingredients in to the wet ingredients. Gently fold them together until just incorporated.
Fill each of the paper cups to roughly 3/4 full (fill slightly less if you want a flatter cupcake).
Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of one of the cupcakes comes out clean.
Allow to cool in pan for 5 mins then remove and place on a wire rack to cool fully before icing with cream cheese.
Makes 12 cupcakes.
Frosting Ingredients:

1/8 cup butter at room temperature (salted or unsalted, it’s based on the baker’s preference, I usually use salted because I find that it provides that extra bit of flavour)
1/2 cup light cream cheese
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Frosting Preparation:
For the frosting, whip the butter and cream cheese together on high.
Add in the vanilla and continue to beat until combined.
Turn the speed to low and add the powdered sugar a bit at a time until incorporated.
Scrap in to piping bag or use a spatula to ice each cupcake.


Thai Coconut Yellow Curry

>> Wednesday, November 6, 2013

We’ve been trying to finalize our travel itinerary on our upcoming trip the past couple of weeks and it took us a while to decide where the last leg was going to be. There are just too many great places in this world and too little time. So after some long conversations and flip flopping back and forth we finally landed on Phuket, Thailand. A smaller island in the deep southern part of the country, Phuket is a breath of beauty, but for a foodie like me, I’m extremely excited for all the food! We love Thai cuisine and what’s better then enjoying their amazing curries, tom yum gung and other famous dishes while watching the sun go down in the Adaman Sea.

 So I decided to cook this yellow curry to kick off our vacation countdown. Plus, it’s perfect for the Calgary weather right now, comforting and warm. It can be served with anything ranging from bread for dipping, to sticky rice for those looking for a bit more chew. I’ve always enjoyed it growing up with jasmine rice. It’s a great way to wind down the day with a nice steaming bowl of curry. This will have to do, until we take off on our trip.
Nutrition Tidbit: Tumeric is the spice that provides curries its signature yellow color, but it also has amazing healthy benefits. Known for its anti-inflammatory properties, there are countries where people use it topically, but taken internally turmeric has been said to help the liver and kidney functions. It may also aid in digestion and weight management. The best is you don't even notice that you're eating it when it's incorporated in the curry.

5-6 chicken drumsticks
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp yellow curry powder, can be found at Asian markets
1 medium onion, diced
3-4 slices of ginger
2 stalks lemongrass, 1 chopped, 1 cut in to large 2 inch pieces
4-5 cups of water
3 carrots, peeled and cut in to 1 inch pieces
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup coconut milk
Salt and pepper
2-3 red thai chilies (optional)
2 stalks green onion, chopped (optional)
Fried onions (optional)

In a large mixing bowl, cover the chicken drumsticks with the salt and pepper and curry powder. Set aside and let marinate for 20-30 mins while preparing the other ingredients.

When all the ingredients are ready, warm a large stock pot on medium to high heat. Pour in a bit of oil to coat the bottom of the pan.

Stir in the onions, ginger and lemongrass, cook for 2-3 mins.

Add in the chicken drumsticks, let the skin brown a bit on each of the drumsticks. Scraping the bottom pieces so it doesn’t burn. Searing them for another 2-3 mins.

Pour in the water until it covers the chicken drumsticks. You might need more than 4-5 cups depending on how deep or wide your pot is.

Add in the carrots and bay leaves. Turn the heat down till the water is at a slight simmer. Let it cook for 2-3 hours or until chicken is tender.

When ready, add the coconut milk, stir until incorporated.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Scoop in to serving bowls and top with thai chilies, green onions and fried onions.

Can be served with bread for dipping or over rice. You can also try this recipe with duck and add in potatoes for more substance.


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