A Night with Lynn Crawford and Catelli Ancient Grains Pasta!

>> Thursday, March 26, 2015

Last week I had the honor of attending a special event hosted by Lynn Crawford and Catelli introducing the Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains Pasta collection. I’ve used Catelli Healthy Harvest pasta in many of my dishes before and was looking forward to testing out this new version in their product line. The difference between this new variation (which is only available in Western Canada for the time being) and what they offered before is due to the 5 ancient grains, so called due to the fact that they’ve been around for a very long time and is used in many various recipes around the world. (Contest to win a year's supply of Catelli Ancient Grains Pasta at the end of the post!)

The most familiar of them all would be Quinoa, all the rage right now due to its heart healthy aspects. The other four ‘supergrains’ are slightly more mysterious to us but has been a large part of staple diets in African and Native American cultures. Amaranth has been used by the Aztec civilization for a millennia. They would create sculptures of the gods from Amaranth and later break them apart and share it amongst the community as a type of communion. Amaranth like quinoa is rich in protein and key vitamins and minerals.

Teff is mostly used in Ethiopia, some people might have tried it without knowing. If you’re familiar with injera, the spongy bread served as a side at Ethiopian restaurants, than you’ve eaten the ground up version of teff. Normally they’re poppy sized grains that can come in a variety of colors. It has a mild nutty flavour and is a great source of protein, calcium and iron.

Sourghum is a staple food source in Northern Africa. It can be milled in to flour similar to all the other grains highlighted here and can be squeezed to make syrup similar to molasses. It’s naturally gluten free and has a nutty flavour perfect for pasta. The fact that it’s also a great source of vitamins and minerals such as B6, thiamin and magnesium making it a great option for those looking to boost their vitamin intake.

Last but not least, there’s Millet, often associated to bird seed due to its grain size, when cooked millet produces an amazing fluffy texture similar to that of mashed potatoes. Although it looks small in size, don’t doubt its healthful benefits, it packs a punch with providing heart healthy properties.

Although I’ve heard of these amazing grains I’ve never actually cooked with any except quinoa, so I was extremely excited to taste the ancient grains pasta. We got the opportunity to sample the pasta on its own, without any accompaniments to fully appreciate the nuttiness all those ancient grains provided. The pasta was cooked with various times to allow us to choose the perfect al dente chew we preferred. My favorite was the 6 min cook on the pasta (there was 6, 7 and 9 min), although still quite chewy. I believe after the pasta is mixed with a sauce or dressing for a salad, it would help soften it a bit further without losing that al dente mouthfeel. However, it is all a personal choice at this point!

Lynn Crawford provided some great tips on how to cook pasta and some things never to do and watching her demonstration was definitely a fun time. She cracks me up plus her pasta dishes were divine! Here are some things I hope you’re already doing in your kitchens:

• Salt the water thoroughly to ensure the pasta picks up flavour while simmering
• Use a large pot to avoid sticking and skip the oil which will prevent the pasta from picking up sauces
• NEVER rinse your pasta afterwards – a huge no no because you get rid of all that rich starch which in turn helps thicken up sauces

Afterwards we also got the opportunity to try our hands at making the Chilled Noodle Salad with Ginger Wasabi Dressing using Catelli Ancient Grains Spaghettini noodles. It was extremely fresh and a great way to showcase the pasta aside from the usual pasta sauce.

Overall, I had a great time learning about all the ancient grains and watching Chef Crawford do her thing! I can’t wait to experiment with the pasta myself to see what other unique creations I can come up with, but for now here’s the recipe we tested that evening, with a few slight tweaks I made on how to combine the dish, I hope you enjoy!

Pasta Salad Ingredients:

1 pkg Catelli Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains Spaghettini
2 cups snow peas, thinly sliced
1 cup shelled edamame beans
1 small English cucumber, thinly sliced
2 cups napa cabbage, finely shredded
3 stalks green onions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp black sesame seeds
1 ripe avocado
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, thinly diced

Vinaigrette Ingredients:
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
3 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp grated ginger
wasabi powder to taste


Start a pot of water boiling and add in a generous amount of salt (think ocean salty).

Add in pasta and cook accordingly to package directions. Remove from water and set aside to cool – DO NOT RINSE!

In a mason jar, mix together all the ingredients for the vinaigrette dressing. Shake until well combined.

In a large mixing bowl, toss the noodles with the dressing until well incorporated. Toss in the snow peas, edamame, cucumber, cabbage, green onions, and black sesame seeds.

Thinly slice the avocado and set aside.

Plate the salad in to individual portions and garnish with avocado slices and cilantro leaves.

Or if saving for later, store in an air tight container and place in the fridge until ready to serve.

Makes 4-6 servings

For those that are interested, please comment below or email me your contact info for a chance to Win A Full Year's Supply of Catelli Ancient Grains Pasta! Good Luck!!!


Restaurant Review: Rodney's Oyster House

>> Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Both my husband and I love seafood, although to be honest, I don’t think I know anybody that loves seafood as much as he does. I am still shocked to this day how much shellfish that man can stomach in one sitting. It’s quite amazing. So when I heard that Rodney’s was opening a location here in Calgary, I couldn’t wait to check it out with whom else, my husband.

Atmosphere: Bright and open the space is able to transport you mentally to a seaside town by the ocean and far from land locked Calgary.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $20s

Food & Wine: We’ve been back several times since they first opened and the food has been consistently amazing. The shellfish is always fresh, which is extremely important when you’re enjoying rare oysters. Although it’s tough deciding on which items to order since everything is delicious. We usually tend to start with some fresh oysters. For those that aren’t quite certain of their taste for rare oysters, I suggest staying with the East Coast options, which tend to have a mild briney flavour and are less chewy in texture. Village Bay, Ruisseau and the Raspberry Point were my favourites. Since they’re all less robust in flavour I can easily choose any of the ones on the list.

As for West Coast Oysters, they’ve definitely got a creamier texture to them. My favourite west coast selection is the Kusshi, smaller and out of Vancouver Island, they have a nice briney flavour and a lingering taste. I also enjoy all the sauces that Rodney’s provide. It’s fun to mix and match the different flavours to see which combo works best for you. I’m still somewhat traditional and one of my favourite combos is horse radish, mignonette, tabasco and a squeeze of lemon. If you’re a fan of spicy foods, then give the “Back From Hell” a try. My husband and I really enjoy it but be careful if you’re not used to super spicy foods.

If you’re looking for more shellfish, the Mussels are a great appetizer in addition to the oysters. They come in an amazing garlicky white wine sauce which is perfect for dipping your bread. The mussels themselves are super sweet and meaty. The server told us it was roughly a pound of mussels, but I’m not certain if it’s because of the size of each mussel, but it sure seemed like there was more.

Another great option is the Soft Shell Steamers, which are a bit larger than your typical clam but just as if not even more sweet than normal. Be sure to have the server show you have to eat them since they have a membrane surrounding them which needs to be removed or else it makes the whole clam extremely chewy. Although we were hoping for the Quahogs (an even bigger clam), but they were out the last couple times, now that we know they have the soft shell steamer clams, we’d definitely order these again.

Next up was the Clam Chowder, easily the most notorious dish at any seafood restaurant. The clam chowder by far one of the most ordered items off the menu. Here at Rodney’s they have both the New England (cream based) and Manhattan (tomato based) versions. We’re both partial to the New England version and ordered a large bowl to share. I really liked the creaminess of the soup, but more so how many clams there actually was in the chowder. I’m not a huge fan of too many potatoes so I found that Rodney’s version had a nice balance of the ingredients.

For our main we had the Fish Hot Pot, which isn't a traditional hot pot with boiling water and a mini stove top aka Asian style, but its more reminiscent of a cioppino with a bit of each type of seafood. My only qualm with the dish was that it was quite a bit smaller than what the description led us to believe, but aside from that all the ingredients were perfectly cooked and extremely fresh.

We couldn't leave without a bit of dessert and had the Lime Pie, which isn't in the form of your typical pie, but more of a trifle. The lime custard was extremely smoothly with just the right amount of tartness, when mixed in with the gram crumble and whipped topping it really pulled the 'pie' together.

If you’re looking for some wine to accompany your meal, I would suggest a nice white or even some bubbles so the delicate seafood flavours aren’t overwhelmed by the robustness of the alcohol. For those that enjoy their cocktails, they serve a bourbon iced tea, which reminds me of a sweet old fashioned or try the Rodney’s Caesar which comes with a shrimp as well!

My Picks: Oysters, Mussels, Soft Shell Steamers

Overall: We’ve had great means at various Rodney’s across the country and are glad to report that the food in Calgary does not disappoint. If you too are a seafood lover then you really can’t go wrong at Rodney’s. There are so many great dishes to try and even when you think you’ve had them all, they offer daily features which can definitely switch things up. Just make sure to make reservations so you can avoid the wait.

Rodney’s Oyster House
355 10 Ave SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 460-0026
Website: rodneysoysterhousecalgary.com

Rodney's Oyster House on Urbanspoon

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