Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bon appetit ma cherie. Je t'aime beaucoup

It's official; it's Valentine's Day!

The annual celebration of love, and the only day of the year that it's acceptable to wear red & pink TOGETHER. I do love this day.

Though many previous celebrations of the big V-day have been less than exciting, what with last year spending it on my couch after a nasty fall down the stairs resulting in my fantastic plans to learn snowboarding with some girlfriends being cancelled and replaced with wallowing in pain [physical] with chocolate and chick flicks, I do still love and look forward to the day of love, romance, heart shaped chocolates and flowers.

A romantic dinner of hearty (pun intended!) lasagne with meat layered between tender noodles, cottage cheese and crushed tomatoes, topped and baked with Parmigiano-Reggiano to accompany a spinach & arugula salad with pancetta crisps will pair nicely with a big ol' bottle of red and a decadent dessert. A must have mix of Nora Jones and John Mayer will provide a romantic atmosphere, perfect for any Valentine's meal, be it alone or with the one you love.

Nothing says love better than the aphrodisiac of chocolate, and luckily, I have a friend who makes the best cookies for a day that needs a sexy and delicious treat. Miss Stephanie Gorchynski is a wonderful creator of baked goods, and from her blog, I have adopted her recipe for chocolate-chili cookies. 

The recipe has been modified a bit to suit my lack of certain ingredients (see the blog link for the original) and the addition of mini cinnamon hearts are perfect finish to the treats that are sure to kick start a fire and melt your cold, cold heart.

Makes 24 cookies
1 cup minus 2tbsp all-purpose whole wheat flour
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup margarine
3/4 tsp chili flakes
4 tsp maple syrup
1 cup dark chocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a mixing bowl or a food processor, add flour, unsweetened cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and brown sugar. Mix well, add butter and chili flakes – and using your fingertips, work the butter into the flour mixture and break it up until the mixture have a sandy texture. Stir in agave with a wooden spoon then form the dough into a ball. Add dark chocolate. Shape into 2 logs, cut each in 12 slices and place 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for 8-10 minutes. If you can, let stand for 2 min before cooling on a rack.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

You Dim Sum, You Lose Some

With the lunar new year upon us this Thursday night, many are headed home to be with family for Chú Xī , the traditional reunion dinner. Who said us westerners couldn't join in on the fun, festivities, and most importantly, the food when the celebrations of Chinese New Year begin?!

I'm a big fan of Asian cuisine and will do all that I can to flip a person into a fellow Asian cuisine enthusiast. Jon is one of my greatest food flipped "students". An avid eater of thai, but far from a fan of traditional Canadian Chinese food, Jon was hesitant to try the Chinese fare of dim sum. It was well received and became a staple in our weekly meals.

Our Thursday dinner will be a lighter version of the full blown Asian spread, consisting mainly of dim sum and sticky rice. To avoid excessive salt & fat, we will steam all dumplings in bamboo steam baskets (a MUST have in the kitchen!). Though they may look healthy and harmless, these little morsels of deliciousness are often very high in sodium and cholestersol. Not a recommended food for those with high blood pressure, heart issues or diabetes.

On our Chú Xī menu:

har gau: shrimp dumpling
siu mai: shrimp & pork shaomai

bau: pork steam buns
seong hoi siu lung bau: Shanghai  soup filled steam buns
lou mai gai: Lotus leaf filled with sticky rice, mixed seafood & mushrooms

jiao zi: vegetable & pork dumplings
All served with Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce, Hoisin Sauce & Low Sodium Soy for dipping.

With all this snow and cold weather, this comforting and warm meal with good friends and family couldn't have come at a better time.

Kung Hei Fat Choy (Congratulations and be prosperous!)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Healthy & Happy Buddha Bowl

My new found obsession in food: The Healthy & Happy Buddha Bowl
Packed full of protein and gives me tons of energy pre & post yoga.

Serves 4-6
2 cups brown rice, cooked as directed
2 medium tomatoes, diced
2 cups spinach or kale, steamed
1 large sweet potato
1/2 cup all natural almonds
1/4 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 ripe avocado, sliced
Optional: 1 cup medium cooked tofu

1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup tamari or low sodium soy sauce or teriyaki sauce

Cook brown rice as directed. Steam spinach and/or kale until tender (usually about 7 minutes). Pierce sweet potato and microwave for 3 minutes on side and 3.5 minutes on the other side. Slice sweet potato into 3/4” slices.

Place 3/4 cup scoop of rice into each bowl. Top each bowl of rice with an even portion of  steamed spinach and/or kale and sliced sweet potato. Optional: add medium cooked tofu

Mix the olive oil & tamari (or soy sauce/teriyaki sauce) in a small bowl. Spoon the mixture over the steamed vegetables and rice.

Next, top with chopped diced tomato, slice avocado, almonds, sunflower seeds and cilantro. Divide topping ingredients evenly amongst the bowls. Serve warm or cold. Enjoy!


When January hits, it not only kicks off a new year, but the beginning of a new food tasting season.

As an avid frequenter of all things food festival, I make sure to visit at least one restaurant during Winterlicious, Summerlicious, The Taste of Burlington & The Taste of Downtown Oakville.

This year, the Winterlicious restaurant chosen was Joe Badali's Ristorante Italiano (156 Front Street West)

Although named a "Ristorante Italiano", I would classify it more of an "Italian Kelsey's" or "Fancy East Side Mario's"

This restaurant was selected based on rave reviews from previous customers (one being of Italian heritage) and for the menu that offered vegetarian options for my dining partner, Sarah, who after many years as a vegetarian is new to the meat eating world but not quite into red meat. I, on the other hand, am a newly found carnivore and the menu had me at "steak".

The menu selections looked promising, and at a welcome $25 per person for dinner, we were quite excited.
What we had:
Robyn (me)Sarah (friend)
Butternut Squash & Pear Soup
EntreeSteak Diovolo Pasta Penne pasta with top sirloin steak slices marinated in a pesto chili rub, tossed with portabello mushrooms and caramelized onions in a port wine and beef jus reduction.Pollo alla ParmigianaLightly breaded boneless chicken breast baked with fresh tomato basil sauce and mozzarella cheese. Served with pasta and garden fresh vegetables.
DessertDouble Chocolate CakeWhite Chocolate Vanilla Cake
Folonari Valpolicella Classico

The meal was also accompanied by mini ciabatta with and olive oil & balsamic.

I can't say much for Sarah as she genuinely seemed to enjoy her meal. I can say that I was less than impressed and truly understood the meaning of a $25 three course dinner.

The soup was less than comforting, with a runny texture and very little flavour.
The entrée of Steak Diovolo Pasta tasted more like penne in a brown gravy hunter sauce with no hint of pesto nor chili. The steak was very tender but there were only about 4 small slices present, a disappointment to say the least.

As for dessert, I'm not entirely convinced that my Double Chocolate Cake was not in fact, a McCain Deep & Delicious with shaved chocolate added to the top. A dry consistency with a pale hue, hardly considered "double chocolate".

The wine was marked up more than one would generally find. Though not a great wine, Folonari Valpolicella Classico was light enough for a Monday and not too overpowering. With a menu price of $20 per 1/2 bottle (375mL), and $8.95 for a 6oz glass, the wine mark up is astonishing as it has an LCBO list price of $7.95 for 375mL.

I may just have to splurge on one of the $45-$55 menus at a better restaurant to remedy this experience.

Care to join?