February 2012 archive
Jonty is constantly spoiling me on a regular basis, so it was now his turn. This past Saturday Jonty celebrated his birthday. Since we love anything involving food and eating, I knew what his birthday festivities would be based on. I love making people feel special and doing thoughtful things for them, especially for Jonty, and especially on his birthday, so I started off by preparing him a little surprise brunch for the two of us. It included bagels, cream cheese, tuna, and a couple of his favourite treats including cocktail wieners and tiramisu, with a candle of course! I also had a couple of candy bowls with some of his favourite candies.
As for dinner, I also left Jonty in suspense as to where I was taking him. We have been to Lee Restaurant (one of Susur Lee’s) once before and fell in love. Since we have been wanting to go back, I figured his birthday would be the perfect opportunity. The menu and decor is Asian inspired, as well as unique and trendy. Luckily I made a reservation because the place was booming, with a line up out the door!
The Singapore Slaw is a famous staple at this upscale, chic restaurant. As quoted by Susur Lee, “One of my signature dishes, Singapore Slaw features 19 different ingredients including edible pansies, daikon, tropical ginger, pickled onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, daikon sprouts, cilantro sprouts, toasted sesame seeds, red onion, rice vermicelli, crushed roasted peanuts, fennel and hazelnuts. It’s crowned with a birds nest of taro and tossed with salted plum dressing. It’s a great hit. Everybody loves it. I’ve been doing that in my restaurant in Toronto the past four years”.
Unfortunately I did not get a chance to photograph the slaw as it came, because the waitress started mixing it right away, but as Mr.Lee mentioned, it comes piled high with taro and edible flowers. The flavours of the 19 ingredients come together so perfectly to create the best slaw I, and probably most people have ever tasted!
Next to grace our table were Cheeseburger Spring Rolls which were also wrapped in lettuce and drizzled with a smoked chili mayo. The classic take on an American favourite was displayed in such a creative, delicious way and really took our tastebuds on an interesting ride!
The two of us absolutely love shrimp, so it was a no brainer that we ordered the Garlic Tiger Shrimp, accompanied by a spicy tomato jam, potato pea croquette, soya bean crumb, cucumber & mango salad. The shrimp were so juicy and cooked to perfection.
Last to arrive was the Korean Style Skirt Steak, prepared medium as per our request. It was topped with garlic mushroom & spicy ponzu for added texture and flavour. The meat was incredibly juicy and tasty, and even though we were stuffed at this point, it was too yummy to not finish off the plate!
If you have never experienced any of Susur Lee’s (world renowned chef) cooking, I demand that you visit one of his restaurants ASAP! Everything on the menu is too delicious to pass up! By the sounds of it, I think Jonty was pretty pleased with my food selections for his birthday!
Years ago my brother perfected a risotto recipe. Not too long after, my mom decided to attempt it. I had never even thought about cooking risotto, as it was something I viewed as timely, difficult and reserved as my mom and/or brother’s specialty. However, all that changed after Jonty’s risotto craving for the past little while.
As dinner time approached, we debated the popular questions of “what’s for dinner?” “Should we cook or go out?” Yes, going out can be the easier and tastier option, but Jonty and I like to think that our homemade meals are just as delicious, and usually even better than a restaurant! Jonty’s automatic suggestion was that we make risotto. Although my mom and brother’s recipes are mouthwatering, I decided to try out a different one, by one of my favourite chefs, Giada De Laurentiis.
Mushroom risotto is a pretty popular choice, and Giada’s recipe looked absolutely to die for! We did make some changes to the recipe, which I will describe below.
Accompanying our risotto was a mixed green salad topped with homemade crostini. We thinly sliced a french baguette, drizzled with olive oil and stuck them in the oven for about 10 minutes to get crispy. After adding them to the salad, we gave it a light toss in balsamic vinegar and our simple side salad (say that 10 times fast!) was ready to eat.
You’d never know this was our first shot at risotto after tasting this exquisite meal. It tasted so creamy and comforting, with the shrimp adding an extra bang of flavour and texture!
Here is the recipe
- 8 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
- 1/2-ounce dried porcini mushrooms (we used fresh cremini mushrooms)
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups finely chopped onions
- 10 ounces white mushrooms, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/2 cups Arboria rice or short-grain white rice
- 2/3 cup dry white wine
- 3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed (we omitted the peas)
- 2/3 cup grated Parmesan
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, optional
- Shrimp (as many as you’d like)
Bring the broth to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan. Add the mushrooms Set aside until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Keep the broth warm over very low heat.
Melt the butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil. Add the onions and saute until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the mushrooms and garlic. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the porcini mushrooms to a cutting board. Finely chop the mushrooms and add to the saucepan. Saute until the mushrooms are tender and the juices evaporate, about 5 minutes. Stir in the rice and let it toast for a few minutes. Add the wine; cook until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of hot broth; simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Continue to cook until the rice is just tender and the mixture is creamy, adding more broth by cupfuls and stirring often, about 28 minutes (the rice will absorb 6 to 8 cups of broth). Stir in the peas. Mix in the parmesean. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
I absolutely adore Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I also love creating my own masterpieces in the kitchen. What better way to combine the two and create homemade peanut butter cups?!
After browsing through recipes, the task is pretty simple. All you need is peanut butter, powdered sugar and chocolate. Since people’s preferences of chocolate differs, I made some milk and some dark chocolate cups (I stuck to milk chocolate personally).
I began by melting the chocolate (the amount depends on how many you want to make, I used about 2 cups of milk and about a 1 cup of dark) on a double boiler by placing my bowl on top of a pot of boiling water. After stirring to ensure it didn’t burn, I poured the melted chocolate into muffin tins lined with cupcake wrappers. Next, I combined 1/3 cup of peanut butter with 1/3 cup powdered sugar, and a splash of vanilla (optional). Small chunks of this mixture were then placed on top of the chocolate that had already been poured.
The peanut butter cups were now ready to be coated with their final layer of chocolate. They were then placed in the fridge to become firm, delicious peanut butter cups! My family and friends were quite impressed by these, and now you can all see how easy they actually are!
PS-I’d like to dedicate these and give a shout out to my friend Brooke who is currently on exchange studying in Italy. She loves peanut butter so she was part of my inspiration for these!
I think it’s safe to say that the Super Bowl is also just another excuse to have a feast. I personally could not care about actually watching the game, other than the half time show, so I tend to stick around the food table. This year my parents had some friends over and instead of ordering the typical wings and pizza my mom prepared her own dishes. She had a lot planned so Jonty and I stepped in as her Sous chefs. She conjured up quite the spread so unfortunately I cannot take the credit for this one.
To start, my mom poured butternut squash soup into little individual tea cups for everyone to enjoy. After that, the spread began. Homemade spring rolls, beet hummus, rosemary crackers, pumpernickel onion loaf, nachos topped with melted cheese, and a vegetable arrangement. Empty avocado shells were my mom’s creative idea as the bowls for the hummus and dill dip.
As the game continued, so did the food. Next it was time to make your own fajitas. The options to stuff your tortilla with were chicken, red peppers, caramalized onions, lettuce, avocado, shredded cheese, tomatoes, and sour cream. At this point, the typical food coma that goes on at almost every Super Bowl event was starting to occur.
Half time (before the performances of course) was the perfect time for dessert. Naturally, this is where I came in. My mom’s idea was to make chocolate covered strawberries and since she was slammed in the kitchen, I took on the task. Because it was the Super Bowl after all, I turned ordinary chocolate covered strawberries into footballs! I used white chocolate to make the lines on the football. Who knew football could be so cute?! Some were also just drizzled in white chocolate. As well, I did a couple blueberry chocolate clusters and some chocolate dipped pineapple.
As for the rest of the dessert, we had a lemon blueberry loaf, chocolate cookies made by my parents’ friend, vanilla caramel chocolate frozen yogurt, and a lemon cake with strawberry sauce. A little dessert with a side of Madonna (who looks great for 53!) ain’t so bad!
My mom did a great job of hosting a wonderful
Super Bowl party food fest!
Just when you thought Queen West couldn’t get any better, a piece of Italy appears. Piola, an Italian eatery started where else but Italy has opened its first Canadian location about a month ago at 1165 Bathurst St. just East of Dufferin. I first discovered this European wonder a few years ago in Hallandale, Florida. The buzzing, welcoming ambiance can be felt while indulging in pizzas topped with egg, tuna, shrimp, along with many others and an array of pasta dishes and salads.
There is now reason to celebrate the 29th of every month. On this day, Piola offers-get ready for it…All You Can Eat Gnocchi! Whenever I tell someone about this, they are in complete awe. Jonty and I had been planning our “Gnocchi day” since we heard about it’s opening.
Foolishly we did not make a reservation and entered a packed, booming restaurant. Luckily shortly after we arrived two spots opened up at the bar where we were able to begin our gnocchi journey. Every few minutes wait staff bring over a huge bowl of the carby goodness and load it onto your plate. The flavors vary each time, while the same kinds also stop by for seconds, thirds, fourths…Since Jonty and I do not eat Pork, we steered clear of the ham and mushroom gnocchi and the pork bolognese.
A perfect start, and my favourite was the pesto gnocchi. If Jonty could be covered in Pesto, I would probably love him a little bit more…just joking-but I do love a good pesto! After polishing this off, we were greeted with a spicy tomato sauce. I am quite a wuss when it comes to spicy foods, and this was very hot! I was brave and ate some of it, but gave my leftovers to Jonty.
Next was tomato and bocconcini which was simple but the bocconcini gave it extra creaminess and texture.
An odd combination for pasta was the spicy tuna gnocchi. I got excited at the sound of it and thought it would be some sort of tuna tar tar like I’m used to in Sushi, but it was actually canned tuna. This was quite interesting and not my first choice. At this point, we were getting pretty stuffed, as gnocchi is very thick and filling. Just when I was craving something creamy, the four cheese gnocchi appeared. It was a white, creamy, rich sauce which pleasantly greeted my taste buds.
Lastly for us was the simple tomato basil gnocchi. Strings of basil combined with the sweet tomato sauce was a nice ending to such a rich, filling meal. I think I was so full that I couldn’t even reach for my camera!
PS-If you check out the post from Florida this past December you will see other dishes from Piola.
All winter I have been teasing my taste buds at the thought of homemade hot chocolate. There is something comforting about the warm, creamy, chocolatey goodness that is created over a hot stove. Chilly Sunday’s are the perfect opportunity to cuddle on the couch while sipping a warm drink and watching a good flick (with snacks of course). Jonty and I chose to watch Bridesmaids which was absolutely hysterical!
Since I love Nutella (who doesn’t?!) I knew it would be the perfect ingredient and star of the show in my hot cocoa. We also threw in milk chocolate along with milk and heated it in the pot while stirring with a whisk. The creamy, frothy creation was then poured into two mugs (the “S” one was a Hanukkah gift from Jonty!) and topped with mini marshmallows and chocolate shavings. I cannot believe I have waited this long to make probably the best hot chocolate I have ever tasted.
*These ingredients are the pathway to pure bliss 🙂
On this particular Sunday I also woke up in the mood to bake. Every baker knows that browning bananas=great excuse to bake! There were also some frozen blueberries in the freezer, which turned my idea into a banana blueberry loaf. Since the hot chocolate was pretty indulgent I opted for a rather healthy recipe. Take a look at the finished product and the recipe below!
Let’s just say I was one happy lady this Sunday afternoon!
Blueberry Banana Loaf Recipe
- 1 cup(s) flour, whole-wheat
- 3/4 cup(s) flour, all-purpose
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup(s) oats, rolled, quick cooking
- 3 tablespoon margarine (I used apple sauce)
- 1/3 cup(s) sugar or honey/agave
- 1 large egg(s), or 1/4 cup egg substitute
- 1 cup(s) banana(s), mashed (about 2 bananas)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice, fresh
- 1 cup(s) blueberries, fresh or frozen
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8 1/2- x 4-inch loaf pan with nonstick spray.
2. Combine both flours, the baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in the oats.
3. Cream the margarine and sugar in the large bowl of an electric mixer. Beat in the egg; add the bananas and lemon juice. Stir until blended.
4. Add the dry ingredients and mix just until moistened. Gently fold in the blueberries.
5. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for about 1 hour, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
6. Let the bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes; turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Wrap and refrigerate several hours before cutting into 16 slices.