Sunday, October 31, 2010

Magazine Monday #70: Lemon Loaves!

OK, I got a great deal on lemons from the States recently (yes, you can bring certain types of fresh produce across the border, but stop off at Canada Customs on the way down to find out what you can & cannot bring home; tropical fruits are OK) - something like 2lbs for $3.50. This is an unreal deal since lemons are ridiculously expensive up here and if I'm lucky, I might be able to find a 2/99¢ sale, but I guarantee you the lemons will be crappy.

So, I brought all these lemons home and proceeded to not really know what to do with them. I'm a single person who lives alone; I was tempted to make a lemon pie, this one or a meringue, but seriously, I didn't want to eat it all myself. So, I made stuff I could freeze and pull out if I have company (which doesn't happen often).

The first thing I made was this lemon poppy seed loaf from Canadian Living. The original recipe has them as mini bundt cakes, but there is a variation in the recipe saying you can make it into a loaf, too. What issue is a mystery to me; the date was clipped off when I took the recipe from the magazine and the web site doesn't mention the date, either. Delicious! But a warning: there is too much batter for the specified loaf pan. I wound up getting a really ugly-looking, flat-topped loaf because the batter came right up to the rim of the loaf pan. But the texture and richness was lovely.

On a lemon roll, a couple of days later, I decided to make another Canadian Living recipe, this time the Lemon Yogurt Loaf from the September 2010 issue of the magazine. I had a bit of a disaster, though: my oven element began sparking away most alarmingly, and caught some piece of debris on fire. The loaves were almost done, but not quite, so I had to stick them in the toaster oven to finish baking. Disaster averted, but now I'm ovenless until the element can be replaced, and since the whole appliance is a total dinosaur, I'm worried they don't make the part anymore. (Check out The Dino here.) Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of these loaves before I wrapped them up tightly and put them in the freezer!

Oh, I also made a roast chicken with lemon, but that is a post for another time!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Some Calgary Hot Spots

On my recent travels to Calgary for my friend Barb's beta version of BlogCon, I went to a couple of other foodie places in addition to the sushi restaurant I mentioned here.

The first one was a Lebanese restaurant on Steven Avenue, right in the heart of downtown Cowtown. I haven't had any Lebanese food since I left Ottawa 5 years ago, and let me tell you, if I miss anything about that fracking city, it's Shawarma King - the Bank St. location. Holy crap was that place amazing. As my fellow bloggers were enjoying a WordFest event held on Steven Avenue, I went off to have a mall experience and walked by this falafel place called Falafel King. When we all met up again, peckish, we decided to go to Falafel King for lunch.

Awesomeness! Everyone but me had a falafel wrap; I had to have a chicken shawarma plate, which is what I always had at Shawarma King in Ottawa. Similar deal: shawarma chicken, pitas, rice pilaf, garlic sauce, hummus, and veggies. While not as completely awesome as the Ottawa eatery, this Calgary place was pretty damned good and it hit the spot. The guy who served us even gave me a bonus falafel, which was delicious. It was a huge plate of food, it was satisfying, and I left there a happy camper. We were even offered a sample of baklava for dessert, and it was fab! Great find; glad we went!

The other place of interest was Cookie Mama in Inglewood. Fellow BlogCon attendee, Sean, and I were looking for a cake place to purchase some cake for a belated birthday celebration for Barb. We eventually stumbled upon Cookie Mama after a fascinating trip to a second hand CD store in the same area. For specialty cakes, you need to give the bakers there about 48 hours notice, but they did have a wide selection of cupcakes to choose from, so we ordered a dozen of those. We chose flavours like Super Freak (lemon), Rocket Man (cookies & cream), Love Shack (chocolate & peppermint), Smooth Operator (red velvet), and Bohemian Rhapsody (ginger cupcake with cream cheese icing), amongst some others I cannot recall right now. They were excellent! Check out their menu on their web site, because if you are in Calgary, this is a good place to go if you want some really great cake action!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Lunch at The Alpine Grind

We have quite a few coffee shops in town, but since I don't drink coffee, I don't get out to them regularly. Most do light lunches however, and one day when our usual spot, the Sunshine Cafe was closed, my brother, SIL, and I went to The Alpine Grind, one of our local hot spots, for lunch. The Grind changed hands back in December, and I had been there for the odd mocha as it's the daytime watering hole of my employers at The Rossland Telegraph. Under the previous ownership, I'd only had lunch there once or twice, and it was good, but pricey. Under new ownership, things have changed somewhat. There is a micro-bakery there now and I had an awesome baguette from there a few months ago, bought spur of the moment during a staff meeting I was attending. There is a wider selection of goodies, and one of town's most famous bakers, Rebecca of Sweet Dreams Cakery, sells her creations there, including her wildly popular cupcakes. There are also bagels from Nelson and a new sandwich selection.

Here is what we had.

Shan had the smoked salmon panini, which she said was excellent. The side salad comes with a house dressing that was really good.

Jem had the salami panini; he enjoyed it very much.

I had the chicken, brie, and pear compote panini, and it was totally awesome.
Now, onto dessert. I wasn't going to have dessert because the sandwich ate up my small lunch budget, of Rebecca's cakes was calling at me from the display case. I'd had one of her lime margarita cupcakes at the farmers' market during the summer, and I was instantly addicted to this woman's baking. The cake at The Grind looked like something from my version of heaven: chocolate cake, pumpkin cake, ganache, pumpkin cream...How do you possibly pass something like that up? You simply do not. I broke my budget. And it was so frakking worth it.
This was un-effing-believable. I mean...unspeakably un-effing-believable. I savoured every freaking bite! It was a positively spiritual experience. I simply do not know what else to say about it...

Yeah, it was a good lunch. But it was an even better dessert.

Rebecca of Sweet Dreams Cakery sells her famous cupcakes at The Alpine Grind on Thursdays, now that the farmers' market is closed for the season.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Magazine Monday #69: Sesame Chicken with Snow Peas - and Hostessing Duties

Thanks to my mom, I now have a subscription to Food Network Magazine! I love it!

After a series of heavy meals around Thanksgiving, I craved something lighter. I found a deal on snow peas at LOGS, and after a cross border shopping trip a few weeks ago, I finally had some chicken breasts on hand. And I found a recipe for this meal, which is actually supposed to be a healthier version a take-out dish, nutritionized by Ellie Krieger. I actually adapted the recipe to suit me more, leaving out the chili paste and doing this as a stir fry instead of steaming the snow peas separately. It was a tad bland, however. I love the idea of this recipe but next time I'll have to up the flavour a bit to make it pop a bit more.

The recipe is here.

This week I am also hosting Magazine Monday in order to help my good buddy Creampuff out, so here is a run-down of the other magazine recipes that were submitted by busy foodies intent on getting through their piles of magazine clippings!

Lynn of I'll Have What She's Having made Summer Rolls with Peanut Sauce from Gourmet Quick Kitchen.

Lorie of A Savory Nest made
Roasted Winter Vegetables with Feta from the March 2010 edition of Food & Wine.

Sue of Couscous & Consciousness made Fig & Blue Cheese Wontons from Dish Magazine's spring 2004 issue.

The awesome Heather of Girlichef made two things: Currywurst Sauce from Saveur and Bacon & Four Cheese Mac from the Oct. 2010 issue of Family Circle.

Jamie of Life's a Feast made a beautiful French Apple Flognarde (AKA a clafoutis) from Saveurs' Sept./Oct. edition.

Ranjani of Four Seasons of Food made Peanut Butter & Banana Bread from Cooking Light's Oct. 2010 issue.

Jan over at Kitchen Heals Soul made Pumpkin & Spinach Lasagna from the Jan. 1998 issue of Food & Wine Magazine.

Thanks for entering, everyone!

Edit @ 9:15pm: We have a late addition! Melissa of It's the Way She... made Rustic Spinach & Cornmeal Soup from this month's Bon Appetit.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I Ate Sashimi!

Last weekend's trip to Calgary was a very awesome experience, and I have a zillion stories to tell but one I thought might be interesting for my readership here was a sushi restaurant I visited with my one of my BFFs, J.

J loves sushi and she knows I love sushi, so she took me off to a place whose name I cannot remember, though it began with a K, on McLeod Trail. What's fascinating about it is that this was one of those sushi restaurants that has the little boats on a moving waterway carrying colour-coded plates of food around the bar, and you just pick off what you want as it comes around. I have heard of these places in Vancouver, but never been to one, so this was exciting for me.

Unfortunately the frenetic pace of the place, the yelling of sushi chefs, and the multiple birthdays that necessitated the staff doing a Happy Birthday routine several times during our time there, didn't make the place somewhere conducive to having a good chat. In fact, the high stimulation environment really bothered me to the point of almost not being able to function. But it was fun, and when we were done there, we repaired to a Tim Horton's so we could actually have a good chat.

The food was good. We started off with some tempura and J had some miso soup. We ordered several rolls as we watched plates go by us on the boats. Thankfully, we were provided with a picture menu so we had an idea of what was floating by us.

J ordered some salmon sashimi, I got some interesting octopus rolls and some calamari. The calamari was disappointing and overly greasy, as was, I have to say, the tempura. The octopus was good. We had a variety of other rolls, too, that were very good.

You'd think the plates were just whizzing by when you look at this photo. They were not. I just have a shitty camera.

The calamari. The sauce it came with was spicy, so I skipped it.

This is the octopus roll.

This is the salmon sashimi, and I really did enjoy it. It was my first ever foray into sashimi! It was served on a bed of shredded daikon radish.

And this was my most daring choice of the night, a raw scallop roll with some...stuff on it. Not sure what the stuff was, but it was delicious!

This was a very cool experience, and I'd definitely like to go to one of these places again, especially as there were some very interesting menu items that I'd never seen before. I will say, however, something did upset my stomach that night; I'm not sure what it was, but I was quite uncomfortable for a while. But it was not enough to put me off experimenting with sushi and sashimi again.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Magazine Monday (on Tuesday, not to mention a record!) #68: Pumpkin Pecan Bundt Cake

Of course, just as I start getting back into the swing of things, I go away for a few days, but there will be lots to post here when I get back.

Anyway, I managed another magazine recipe for the week, which is a record: two in seven days is not the norm, as we all know. In fact, it's two in four days to be precise. Well, it was Canadian Thanksgiving here on the weekend so I made a nice dessert to take to a friend's for dinner on Sunday night, and since I have a ton of pumpkin in my freezer, and there was a special pumpkin section in the Oct. 2010 issue of Canadian Living, I just had to take advantage of all these planets aligning for me.

The recipe for the Pumpkin Pecan Bundt Cake I made is here.

OMG - this was so fantastic I barely have words. It was a huge hit, and I even had enough left over from Sunday night's dinner to serve my dad for dessert at our own little Thanksgiving celebration last night. He doesn't like pumpkin that much and even he loved it! This cake was really moist and flavourful, and the crunch of the pecans was wonderful. It was perfectly spiced. I didn't make the rum glaze, but instead served this with some sweetened whipped cream and some caramel sauce I've had hanging out in my fridge for ages. It was perfect!

Definitely a keeper!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Hill's Garlic Festival and Triple Garlic & Roasted Tomato

I mentioned before that during my camping trip last month, I attended the Hill's Garlic Festival in New Denver with my brother & SIL. It was the first time at the festival and I was really looking forward to it, though the day was seriously crappy with a steady downpour. I'd only heard great things about the festival so I was really excited, despite the rain.

The admittance fee was $4 for the day - one buck, I was informed, more than it had been in previous years. As I came through the gate, I was greeted by a huge farmer's market-like set-up with tents all over the place containing the booths of all kinds of vendors, interspersed with big food vendor trucks of all different kinds. We were hungry and all wanted different things - Shan wanted Indian food, Jem wanted BBQ, and I was indecisive because there was so much on offer: Greek food, vegetarian food, Asian food, burgers, gourmet sausages, gigantic wraps, and so much more. So I poked around and eventually decided on the gigantic wrap place, where I ordered a chicken curry wrap that was absolutely delicious.

After grabbing some food, I went around the entire park and looked at everything. Though this is billed as a garlic festival, there was a lot more there than just fancy garlics - though there were plenty of those. There were a ton of local artisans - potters, jewelers, painters, and other crafty things - and tons of produce vendors. This was a foodie heaven! In the end, I had a budget and didn't spend much. I got two fancy varieties of garlic, some awesome corn on the cob, and some honey from a local apiary, one with garlic in it and one chocolate & honey mixture. I also got a decadent cinnamon bun from an artisan bakery truck that came from the Okanagan. There was a local baker there selling slices of her cakes, but I got there too late and she had already run out.

All in all, however, the prices at the festival were outrageous. Jem & Shan, Garlic Fest veterans, found the same thing. As Jem put it, it's gotten more "boutique" as it's gotten more popular. It use to be less expensive, but now that the bug has caught on, vendors seem to have jacked their prices up. Jem & Shan also didn't think it was as good as it had been in previous years, but as this was my first time, I had nothing to compare it to.

I treated myself, as I mentioned, to two gourmet garlics: some soft neck Siberian garlic and some hard neck Yugoslavian garlic. For two heads of the Siberian stuff, which were about the same size as that generic stuff we find in our grocery stores around here, I paid $3. For one head of Yugoslavian stuff, which was HUGE, I also paid $3.

I didn't really know what to do with all this garlic until I was inspired by one of Shan's relatives at a family dinner the night we came back from the Garlic Festival. She told me of a recipe she'd found somewhere in which you roast tomatoes with garlic in some olive oil and then put that on pasta. Perfect! It was simple, tomatoes are cheap right now, and I had some fancy black, squid ink pasta I'd been keeping for a special occasion, and I thought the colours would make a lovely dish. And I was right!

Triple Garlic & Roasted Tomato Pasta

  • 4 huge tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • tons of garlic, peeled but whole: I used all of the Siberian stuff, plus three out of the four cloves of giant Yugoslavian garlic, plus two heads of the generic garlic I had in my pantry - we're looking at over 20 cloves of garlic in all
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 lb pasta, cooked to package instructions

In a roasting dish, drizzle some olive oil. Place the tomatoes in there, followed by the garlic. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. Drizzle with a little more olive oil. Roast in a 400F oven until all the garlic is nice & soft.

Add the tomato & garlic mixture to the pasta and serve, with a little Parmesan cheese.

OH MY GOD. This was so simple and just so divine. It was ridiculously amazing! I might never go back to canned tomato sauce again, because roasting the tomatoes was so easy and so tasty.

Magazine Monday (yes, on a Saturday!) #67: Pulled Pork

Long have I wanted to make pulled pork, but alas, the availability of the proper cut of pork - the butt, which is the shoulder - and the cost of said cut, has always put me off. Enter cross border shopping! On a recent trip across the border to get some good deals on all kinds of things, I found a 1.5lb pork picnic roast for a few bucks. Perfect size for one person!

The recipe I used came from Canadian Living's December 2005 issue, found here. It's a slow cooker recipe, which was perfect because this past week was seriously busy for me and I needed a no-brainer kind of meal.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed, which rarely happens with Canadian Living recipes. I didn't care for the sauce at all; it was not zippy or tangy, and it was way too thick for my liking. Also, I found the pork difficult to shred. The roast came with one of those handy-dandy blue dot devices that pops out when the meat is done, and so I took the roast out when I saw that happen. Apparently, according to my SIL, I needed to overcook the roast in order to facilitate easy shredding. I didn't know that; the recipe only said cook until pork is tender.

Anyway, I am eating this still - it's provided me with at least four meals. I served it with a tomato-y rice and black bean side dish and some nice creamy coleslaw.

Next time, I'll be trying a different recipe, though.

On Facebook

OK, in an attempt to motivate myself to post more here, I have created a Facebook page for ReTorte: check it. There is also a handy widget thingy on my side bar, though I'm not totally stoked about how it looks...

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Herb Muffins

The menu is changing at work because the seniors are getting bored and, quite frankly, so are us cooks. A whole bunch of new recipes are being tried out, and this one for herb muffins is one of them. Last night, I served these with beef stew, and judging by the lack of muffins coming back & getting chucked, it seemed like a success. Some seniors even wanted more, but I only had enough for one each. After sampling one myself, however, I don't think they are exactly my cup of tea. They were a bit too sweet. But that's just me. If anyone out there makes these, let me know what you think!

I made these pretty small, almost a mini muffin, and I got 39.

Herb Muffins

Dry Mixture:

4.5 cups flour
1.5 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup sugar
10.5 tsp baking powder
1.5 tsp salt
6 tbsp fresh basil, chopped (3 tbsp dried)
6 tbsp fresh parsley (3 tbsp dried)

Wet Mixture:

3 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 cups milk

You know the drill: mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl; combine wet ingredients in a medium bowl. Add wet to dry. Combine. Scoop.

Bake at 400F for 25 - 30 minutes, or until done.


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