The Friday Five – January 28th, 2011

28 01 2011

A weekly round up food and drink-related news stories:

1.  If you’ve ever been stuck somewhere with a bottle of wine and no corkscrew (I have), take note of these Five Creative Ways to Open Wine Without a Corkscrew. Consider it crucial survival training! (The Daily Meal)

2.  When it comes to diets, I thought I had heard it all (cabbage soup diet, Atkins, grapefruit diet, South Beach…). However, Le Whif and Le Whaf are new to me. Apparently you inhale vapours such as chocolate or caffeine to satisfy cravings. (Gawker)

3.  A lawsuit has been filed against Taco Bell concerning the contents of their beef. An Alabama law firm claims that Taco Bell’s fillings are only 36% beef but the popular chain disputes this number (they claim their tacos contain 88% beef). I’ll let the courts decide but the lengthy list of ingredients in their taco filling is certainly interesting… (The Globe and Mail)

4.  These are the types of things I shouldn’t read: the FDA’s handbook of Food Defect Action Levels outlines how many parts of foreign objects (ie. bugs, rodent hairs, etc) can wind up in your food. Anyone fancy a nice bowl of broccoli and aphids? (Salon)

5. This sounds like one of the most terrifying jobs I’ve ever heard of: In Canada’s Arctic, the Inuit harvest mussels from under the sea ice, risking their lives as it shifts with the tides. (BBC News)

Have a great weekend!

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My Favourite Winter Comfort Dishes

26 01 2011

Beef Pie with winter vegetables in a rich wine sauce and topped with a cheddar-flecked crust

For anyone living in a northern climate, we’re into the toughest point of winter: the weather is frigid, the days are often gloomy and spring is still far, far away. The warm glow of the holiday season is a month behind us and people are starting to get cranky. However, there is no need to despair! It’s the perfect time to enjoy winter activities such as skiing, skating and sledding as well as indulge in our favourite hearty dishes. Here are a few of my favourite cold weather comfort foods. They’re not exactly diet-friendly but they are delicious and will be sure to warm you up!

Braised Short Ribs – The most popular recipe on The Seasonal Gourmet, these ribs are perfect for cold winter nights. Serve with Horseradish Cream and mashed potatoes.

Meatloaf with Zesty Tomato Glaze – Forget dry, boring cafeteria-style meatloaf: this version is moist and flavourful.  Serve with lightly steamed and buttered green beans and mashed potatoes.

 

Baked Rigatoni with Sausage and Three Cheeses

Baked Rigatoni with Sausage and Three Cheeses – Light?  No. Delicious?  Yes! This easy pasta dish can be assembled in advance and baked just before serving, making it perfect for busy nights.

Beef Pie with Cheddar Crust – A hearty pot pie packed with beef chunks and winter vegetables in a rich red wine sauce. Topped with a cheddar-flecked crust, it’s a great dinner after a busy day of skiing or skating (see photo, above).

Slow Simmered Ragu with Pasta – One of my favourite meals to make on a lazy Sunday.  Once the prep work it done, it just requires low and slow simmering to develop into a rich and flavourful sauce.

Juicy Herb Roasted Chicken – Roast chicken is the ultimate comfort food and this version doesn’t disappoint.  Serve with mashed potatoes, Savoury Mushroom Bread Pudding and a green salad.  Celery Root Slaw also pairs well with the chicken.

Lobster Pot Pie – For a special treat, splurge on a bit of lobster meat to make this decadent pie. Serve with a simple salad.

Steve’s Osso Bucco – This braised veal dish is ideal for snowy winter nights.  Serve with traditional Risotto Milanese.

Sausage and Mushroom Lasagna – Another Seasonal Gourmet favourite, this make-ahead dinner has layers of pasta and rich meat sauce, studded with mushrooms and topped with a hearty bechamel.  Decadent and delicious!

 

Chocolate fondue with fruit and cake

Chocolate Fondue – Melted chocolate, fruit and cake – what’s not to love?  A staple of 70’s parties, fondue is making a comeback in the 21st century.  Light a fire, gather ’round and enjoy!

Pear and Pecan Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce – Pears, nuts and a decadent caramel sauce make this dessert a favourite.

Baked Apples with Apple Brandy Sauce – These baked apples are one of my new ‘go-to’ easy desserts.  It’s simple to put together and the results are surprisingly delicious. Don’t let the apple brandy put you off – if you can’t find it, just use extra cider in the sauce. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Pumpkin Cream Puffs with Maple-Caramel Sauce – Cream puffs stuffed with a pumpkin pie-inspired cream filling and topped with caramel sauce – what more could you want in a dessert?

Brownie Cheesecake Bites – Fun little desserts combining the best of brownies and cheesecake are just the thing to end a decadent meal.  They’re also portable so you can pack them in lunches or take them on a picnic.

Bon Appétit and Stay Warm!

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The Friday Five – January 21st, 2011

21 01 2011

A weekly round up food and drink-related news stories:

1.  Good news for people who don’t like foods that are bitter: there is now a pill that blocks bitter flavours.  Campari, here I come! (Salon)

2.  We’ve always been told to eat our fruits and vegetables for good health but you may want to take heed of these 21 Deadly Dishes. Of course, not many people consume 11 lbs. of rhubarb leaves or an entire nutmeg in one sitting… (The Daily Meal)

3.  Savannah’s favourite celebrity chef, Paula Deen, recently celebrated her 64th birthday. To honour Paula, you can enjoy some of her creations such as Deep-Fried Butter Balls, Bacon Wrapped Fried Mac ‘n’ Cheese and Bacon Donut Egg Brunch Burgers (yes, they are real recipes).  I think I feel a little sick, y’all. (Serious Eats, Food Network)

4.  Scotch drinkers can now get their favourite tipple to go with Scotch Whisky in a Can. I can only imagine how rowdy some Scottish football fans could get – there are 8 shots of liquor per can. (Eater)

5.  A bar in Massachusetts is experimenting with allowing customers to text servers to speed up service.  Do we really need to be encouraged to do more texting at the table than we’re already doing? (NPR.org)

Have a great weekend!

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Creamy Tomato Soup

19 01 2011

Tomato Soup with a grilled cheese sandwich is a classic cold weather meal

Tomato soup is a classic winter favourite.  Paired with crackers or a grilled cheese sandwich, it’s the perfect meal on a cold and gloomy day. Canned soup is quick and easy but making your own doesn’t take a lot of effort and you can control how much salt and additives are in the finished product. It can also be made in advance and re-heated for an easy meal on busy days.

Obviously tomatoes are not in season right now but canned tomatoes work beautifully for this recipe. Try to use good quality tomatoes that don’t have a lot of added salt or citric acid. I like Aurora brand diced tomatoes because they have good flavour, don’t have any additives and are affordable.  San Marzano tomatoes are also a good choice but they tend to be a bit more expensive.

Creamy Tomato Soup

Makes about 4 servings – can easily be doubled

(Can be made VEGETARIAN)

  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock (use vegetable stock if serving vegetarians)
  • 28 oz. (796 g) can of tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream or evaporated skim milk
  • Pinch of sugar, to taste (optional – it’s to balance the acid in tomatoes)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Grated swiss, parmesan or old cheddar cheese to garnish (optional)
  1. In a large saucepan or medium enameled cast-iron pot, heat the butter on medium-high heat until melted. Add the onion and sauté until it’s just beginning to soften, about 4 minutes.
  2. Add garlic, thyme and red pepper flakes. Continue to cook for another two minutes.
  3. Pour in the stock and tomatoes. Break up the tomatoes with a large spoon and let the soup gently simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes (don’t let it come to a hard boil).
  4. After 20 minutes, remove the pot from the burner and let the soup cool for a few minutes.  Carefully puree the soup mixture with a hand blender until smooth (or transfer to a regular blender and puree – use extreme caution with hot liquids).
  5. Return the pureed soup to the pot and place back on the burner. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar, if necessary. Add the cream and stir until combined.  Heat on medium until the soup is hot.  Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.
  6. To serve, top with grated cheese and fresh ground pepper if desired. Serve with crackers, sandwiches or Cheddar Herb Biscuits.

A tip for freezing: Prepare the soup as directed but don’t stir in the cream/evaporated milk at the end.  Freeze the pureed tomato base.  To thaw and prepare: Defrost the frozen soup base and place in a pot.  Add the cream/milk as directed and season as necessary.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

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Slow Simmered Ragu with Pasta

12 01 2011

A Tuscan-style ragu, simmered slowly with herbs and wine, pairs perfectly with fresh pasta

We’re deep in the heart of winter and snow is blanketing much of North America (including areas that don’t normally get a lot of snow). It’s the kind of weather that makes you want to put something comforting on the stove to simmer while you curl up with a blanket and a good book.  A slow simmered Tuscan-style ragu sauce fits the bill perfectly.

A few years ago I was visiting Tuscany and happened upon an outdoor cooking demonstration. A chef and his mother, Mamma Donatella, were demonstrating how to make classic Tuscan dishes.  One of the dishes was fresh handmade pasta with a ragu sauce and Donatella’s version was unlike any I’ve had before: rich with flavour and light on tomato sauce.  Since then, I’ve worked on developing my own take on this Italian classic.  The secret is to let the sauce cook down for a long time (at least 2-1/2 to 3 hours).  You can make your own noodles or buy fresh pasta at many Italian markets. Good quality dry pasta will work as well – try wide noodles such as papardelle or tagliatelle.

Click here for the recipe on Suite 101: Slow Simmered Ragu with Pasta.

Bon Appétit and Stay Warm!

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The Friday Five – January 7th, 2011

7 01 2011

A weekly round up food and drink-related news stories:

1.  The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has come out with their list of unhealthiest cookbooks of 2010.  Deep-fried bacon doughnuts, anyone? (Eater.com)

2.  Many cities are famous for a particular dish, such as Philly cheesesteaks, Buffalo wings and Boston Cream Pie.  Serious Eats highlights eight cities and their best dishes that aren’t famous yet.  (Serious Eats)

3.  Check out some of the latest innovations in the world of drinks, including a bottle that acts as a decanter and wine packaged in test tubes for single-serve tastings. (The Daily Meal)

4.  Speaking of futuristic innovations, can you imagine getting a tweet from your scale telling you you’ve put on weight?  Surfing the net on your fridge? The future is now… (CNN.com)

5.  If you’re looking for extra incentive to lose weight this year, you might want to pick up a copy of Neil Setchfield’s ‘Yuck! The Things People Eat’.  Photos of such delicacies as stir-fried tarantulas and Korean penis fish are likely to dampen your appetite. (Montreal Gazette)

Have a great weekend!

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Healthy Recipe Ideas

4 01 2011

Eating healthier is one of the most common new year's resolutions.

Happy New Year!

If you’re anything like me, the holidays were a whirlwind of crazy overindulgence. From turkey dinner with all the fixin’s to an insanely decadent trip to Montreal (which included such delights as foie gras poutine, smoked meat sandwiches and vintage champagne), it’s now time for me to get back to eating a more balanced diet.

Many people make new year’s resolutions to eat better and exercise more.  To get inspired, here are a few helpful links to recipes and sites that will make eating a healthier diet pleasurable and delicious (no dry rice crackers and starvation diets are necessary!)

 

Fish can be a delicious part of a balanced diet

Recipes:

Sablefish with Caramelized Fennel and Cherry Tomatoes

Roasted Green Beans with Shallots

Avocado Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

How to Make Flavorful Low-Fat Soups

Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Thyme Croutons

Spiced Apple Walnut Bread

Peppery Leek and Potato Soup

More great ideas can be found here:

Cooking Light

Simple Till Six: An Eating Plan for Busy People

Five Healthy Ways to Post-Holiday Detox

Healthy Eating – The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada

I’d like to wish everyone a healthy and happy 2011!

Bon Appétit and Enjoy,

Trish

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