Cooking on Sundays: Butter and Vegetables

Butter potato

Butter Potatoes and ZucchiniAfter a couple of days in Montreal, I have a new found appreciation for the flavours that butter brings to a dish. I stayed with some friends of mine and when we cooked, butter was often the first and last thing in the pan. The aromas that melted butter produces is truly heavenly.

Having been on the road and visiting my parents for Father’s Day, it was an easy decision to make a simple and delicious dish – baby potatoes, red peppers, green and red onion all sauteed in butter as well as sauteed zucchini sticks with the¬†cilantro sauce from last week. I paired it all with meatloaf I had in the freezer.

vegetables

Realizing that it wasn’t going to be enough food, I went and got more vegetables and made a stir-fry. Tossed everything together and a meal was done ūüôā

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vegetable stirfry

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Cooking on Sundays: Shrimp Pasta and Pork Loin with Cabbage Slaw

This weekend started out with a Saturday night taco fiesta since it’s a very easy meal to customize for everyone (there was a vegetarian in the group). We ended up doing steak tacos with all the fixings:¬†saut√©ed peppers, mushrooms, corn, beans, beans, guacamole, sour cream, and salsa complete with a¬†lemonade citrus rum punch.¬†IMG_20160611_174449On Sunday, I only made a couple of meals since I’m travelling for work this week.

Seafood is not something that I often cook because it’s unfamiliar to me, other than salmon¬†– so I took it upon myself to try it out in a small batch. At the grocery store,¬†I circled the¬†frozen seafood section, trying to figure out what to buy and how to best cook it. There was¬†someone standing¬†near the frozen shrimp area and I asked her perchance if she knew what was the difference between the shrimp brands and¬†how best to¬†cook it. She was a nice Portuguese lady and was super helpful. Her advice was to: defrost the shrimp, melt some butter in a pan, add some garlic and herbs to it, put shrimp in and¬†saut√© until it’s pink, and then finish it with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. As she tells me this, all I can imagine was the sweet smell of butter mixed with garlic. I bought the shrimp and decided it was time to conquer cooking it.

I also tried a new grocery store, one that had been recommended to me time and time. If you’re in Toronto, check out Fiesta Farms (Christie and Dupont Sts.). They are independently owned and have been in the neighbourhood for over 20 years. They have a great selection of organic foods and meats. Prices are comparable to the big box chains. I was trying to figure out on what my second meal should be when I saw an organic head of red cabbage and decided to make a slaw with apples to be paired with pan fried pork loin. It’s nice when ideas pop up and you run with it.

Shrimp Pasta

Butter Garlic Shrimp with Spaghetti tossed in Cilantro Sauce

Ingredients

  • Frozen shrimp, defrosted and¬†shelled – use as many as you want
  • 1 glove of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tablespoon butter (1 for shrimp, 1 for vegetables), room temperature
  • Spaghetti – as much as you want
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 lemon wedge

Sauce Ingredients (adapted from this Eating Well recipe)

  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup tahini , at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Boil a pot of water and follow instructions on package to make the spaghetti.
  2. Cut up the zucchini, onion, garlic and cilantro and set aside.
  3. In a frying pan, melt 1 tablespoon on butter and add the minced garlic. When it smells heavenly (about 30 seconds), add the shrimp and¬†saut√© until it’s pink on both sides.
  4. Add the cilantro and toss a couple of times.
  5. Finish with a squeeze of lemon.Saute shrimp
  6. Put shrimp aside and add the second tablespoon of butter to the pan. Melt and add onions (second heavenly smell).
  7. When the onions are translucent, add the diced zucchini and sauté until cooked.
  8. For the sauce, add the cilantro, tahini and lemon juice into a food processor.
  9. Pulse until the ingredients are blended into a paste. Pour over spaghetti and shrimp.

Pork loin and slaw

Pork Loin with Cabbage and Apple Slaw

Ingredients

  • Pork loin – you decide how much meat you want to consume
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 head red cabbage, sliced thinly
  • 1 Gala apple, diced
  • 3 sprigs green onion, diced
  • 1 handful cilantro, diced

Dressing Ingredients (adapted from this Detoxinista recipe)

  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 tablespoons honey, as needed for sweetness
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried red chilli pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. In a frying pan, heat up the tablespoon of olive oil.
  2. Pat both sides of the pork loin dry and sprinkle salt and pepper. Place into frying pan.
  3. Fry both sides and until the centre is no longer pink. Set aside.
  4. Cut up the red cabbage, Gala apple, green onion and cilantro. Mix it all in a bowl and set aside.
  5. Mix the dressing ingredients together and pour over the cabbage slaw. Place in the fridge for flavours marinate.
  6. When ready to eat, cut up the pork and serve with the slaw.

It was a very successful cooking weekend altogether. Happy cooking ūüôā

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Balcony Gardening: Tips and Ideas

Gardening listHaving moved out almost a year ago, I have been staring at an empty balcony long enough. With the weather getting nicer and actually some outdoor space, my love for food easily translated into growing my own food. Unclear on where to start, I spoke to an avid gardener friend of mine about starting a balcony garden and he was eager to impart his advice to me. There is something very satisfying in knowing that you grew something from the start and are able to harvest it for consumption.

Here are some tips and ideas on how to get your small space garden started.

Containers

The bigger the better but basically anythingcan house your plants – empty peanut butter jars, empty laundry detergent containers, old lunchboxes, etc. It also depends on how much space you have. Most of my containers came from my parents’ place since they haven’t been planting much over the last couple of years. Take a look around you and be creative, advice I was given that I’m passing onto you. As most of my containers are on the smaller side, I’ve chosen to plant foods that don’t require deep containers. This Apartment Therapy article has some interesting ideas.

Also, since I don’t have a lot of space, I opted to get a small shelf where all the containers can sit in a compact area. This VINRUTA¬†Plant Shelf from IKEA was inexpensive, easy to assemble, and fits my space perfectly.

Balcony garden3

Potting Soil

I’m putting it out there now, I know nothing about potting soil. However, this article from Proven Winners gives a great explanation.¬†My friend said get potting soil so that’s what I did, a huge 60L bag. He said I would need it all but that was a lie – for all my pots, I used maybe a quarter of it. Depending on the number and size of your pots, it might be better to get a smaller bag. Potting soil can be found at your local garden centres.

When planting, fill up the pot to almost the edge since when water, the soil will compact a little.

Seeds

What do you want to grow? Flowers, herbs, vegetables, fruit, there are many choices. For my balcony garden, I decided to grow radishes, chives, chard, cucumber, spring mix, green onions and nasturtiums.¬†One thing I’m missing is a tomato plant – looking to get one this week. I also wanted to grow garlic but apparently it’s supposed to be planted in the fall, so that’s what my plan will be. My best resource for the types of food to grow comes from the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

When you’ve decided on what you want, visit your local garden centre and talk to the people there. They are experts and can also give you advice on what’s best for your space. If you’re in Toronto, a great place to visit would be the Evergreen Brick Works, there is a great garden centre there and plenty of plants and seeds to choose from. I got my cucumber and salad spring mix seeds there.

I do realize that some people may not want to start plants from seeds, there’s nothing wrong with buying already grown plants. I was skeptical of growing from seeds because it was already late in the planting season but it’s worked out well so far.

Seeds

Water and Sunlight

Depending on the type of plants you choose, it may require more or less sun, shaded or full sunlight, everyday watering or more intermittent. Consult with the Almanac or refer to the seed packaging as there are usually instructions on what your plant needs. My balcony faces west so the plants get the most sunlight in the afternoon Рthere is no shade whatsoever, the plants get full sunlight, which seems to be working out. As for watering the plants, I do it first thing in the morning when I have time and the soil stays moist for the most part until the next day.

Most importantly, have patience. I was starting to fret a little because it had been a couple of days and nothing had sprouted yet. But, it all works out in the end. Here’s the difference between Day 1 of planting and Day 10.

Balcony garden1

Day 1 of planting

Balcony garden2

Day 10 of planting

Follow me on Instagram @gt20¬†for more gardening progress.¬†Hope this helps in getting your little garden started ūüôā

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Cooking on Sundays: Egg Noodles and Portabello Mushrooms

Sesame noodles

This week, I tried two new recipes, both came with recommendations. For the first one, a friend¬†introduced me to the New York Times’ cooking website¬†and I was instantly obsessed. There are thousands upon thousands of recipes on the site and I was drawn to the “Takeout-Style Sesame Noodles” for a couple of reasons. The first and foremost, I love noodles. Second, the recipe was versatile – simple enough that I had most ingredients in my pantry and I could add my own twist to dish as per the comments section. There is a very engaged readership and most comments are helpful or bring some insight into what makes the dish. For my version, I added a lot of vegetables, tofu and did my own version of the sesame sauce. It added a lot more colour and texture¬†to the dish.

For my second recipe, a co-worker had stuffed portabello mushrooms¬†with spinach and feta for lunch last week and it looked very delicious that I had to try it for myself. The recipe had it paired with a lemon rice, which I opted out with and went with roasted vegetables¬†instead, since I had leftovers from last week. I also omitted some ingredients such as the golden raisins and slivered almonds, since I didn’t have either.

Also, due to some health concerns, I’ve been trying to cut back on eating a lot of red meat so I’ve gone with making the noodles vegetarian. I may add from shrimp or salmon to it but will add that later on in the week.

Sesame noodles2

Takeout-Style Sesame Noodles (recipe adapted from New York Times Cooking)

Ingredients

  • 400g pre-cooked Miki Noodles (Chinese egg noodles)
  • 1 package firm tofu, diced
  • Canola oil, for frying
  • 1 1/2 mini cucumbers, seeded and sliced
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 1 small head of broccoli
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1/2 yellow onion, sliced
  • 2 stalks green onion, sliced
  • 1 handful cilantro, sliced (optional)

Dressing Ingredients

  • 3¬†tablespoons sesame oil, plus a splash
  • 5¬†tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3¬†tablespoons Chinese rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
  • 2¬†tablespoons crunchy¬†peanut butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • 2¬†tablespoon finely grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 5 red Thai chilis, finely sliced
  1. Wash and chop up all vegetables.
  2. Put some canola oil into a frying pan and add onions. Cook until translucent, add garlic, carrot, broccoli and red pepper. Sauté until vegetables have softened but still firm.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil. Add noodles and follow cooking instructions (mine only needed to be in for 30-40 seconds because it was already pre-cooked). Drain, rinse with cold water, drain again and toss with a splash of sesame oil.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 3 tablespoons sesame oil, the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame paste, peanut butter, sugar, ginger, garlic and Thai chilis. Set aside.
  5. Drain the water from the tofu container and dice into cubes. Pat dry with paper towel.
  6. In a second frying pan, heat up some canola oil and place diced tofu into the pan. Do not over crowd the pan – do multiple batches if need be. Turn and fry all sides and drain excess oil on paper towel.
  7. Once all the noodles, vegetables and tofu are prepared, assemble the ingredient all together and toss with dressing.

Stuffed portabello mushrooms

Stuffed Portabello Mushrooms (adapted from Canadian Living)

Ingredients

  • 4 portobello mushrooms, trimmed
  • 2 teaspoon¬†olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 package frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 3 tablespoon¬†shreddded¬†old cheddar cheese
  1. Arrange mushrooms, stem side up, on lightly greased rimmed baking sheet. Bake in 450 F (230 C) oven until browned and tender, about 15 minutes. Using tongs, tip mushrooms to discard any liquid; pat dry with paper towels.
  2. In a frying pan, heat oil over medium heat; cook onion and garlic until garlic is fragrant, 1 minute. Add spinach; cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. When no liquid remains, remove from heat. Stir in feta cheese. Spoon into mushrooms. Sprinkle with old cheddar cheese. Broil until cheese is melted.

If you have any favourite vegetarian recipes, post them below because I’d love to try them out! Happy cooking ūüôā

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Cooking on Sundays: Meatloaf and Salads

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Even though it’s only May, the weather has been super hot and will continue this week. To combat that, I’m sticking¬†with a salad/sandwich combo for lunch and meatloaf with roasted vegetables¬†for dinner. It was super simple to prep since I didn’t want to be in the kitchen with the stove on. Below are some simple recipes that you can put together in very little time.

Chickpea Salad

This is adopted from a recipe I had at a friend’s place – super easy since it’s mixing vegetables together with a dressing. I usually go with what I already have in the fridge and need to use up.

Salad Ingredients

  • 1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 2/3 English cucumber, de-seeded and diced
  • 1 cup Edamame beans (I use PC Frozen ones)
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 handful curly parsley, finely chopped

Dressing (I usually go with 1/3 part lemon juice, 2/3 part olive oil ratio. It all depends on your taste but it’s my basic dressing recipe.)

  • Olive oil
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Garlic, minced (the more the merrier unless you’re taking it to work, might want to hold back on putting too much)
  • Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Cut up all vegetables. Mix the dressing ingredients together. Pour dressing over cut vegetables and enjoy!

Tuna Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 cans of flaked tuna, drained
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 onion, diced finely
  • 3 TBSP plain yogurt (I use PC 2% Lactose Free¬†Yogurt)
  • 3 TBSP mayonnaise
  • 1 TSP Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients together. Refrigerate for 2 hours minimum and serve with bread, crackers or on a bed of salad greens. I went and got bread at a local bakery – did a taste test and it was excellent.

Meatloaf (recipe and instructions from Allrecipes.com, with a couple of modifications)

I didn’t have any protein in the fridge so I decided to get a family sized tray of ground beef and figured meatloaf was the best choice. Having never made it before, my roommate tried this allrecipes.com one and it turned out great (moist and delicious). I made a couple modifications since I didn’t have some things on hand. There’s another recipe I want to try next time so I can compare the moistness of the two.

Meatloaf Ingredients

Glaze Ingredients

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place the carrot, celery, onion, mushrooms, and garlic in a food processor, and pulse until very finely chopped, almost to a puree. Place the minced vegetables into a large mixing bowl, and mix in ground beef, Worcestershire sauce, and egg. Add herbs, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Mix gently with a wooden spoon to incorporate vegetables and egg into the meat. Pour in bread crumbs. With your hand, gently mix in the crumbs with your fingertips just until combined, about 1 minute.
  3. Form the meatloaf into a ball. Pour olive oil into a baking dish and place the ball of meat into the dish. Shape the ball into a loaf, about 4 inches high by 6 inches across. Or, make two smaller loafs
  4. Bake in the preheated oven just until the meatloaf is hot, about 15 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together white sugar, ketchup, Dijon mustard, and hot sauce. Stir until the white sugar has dissolved.
  6. Remove the meatloaf from the oven. With the back of a spoon, smooth the glaze onto the top of the meatloaf, then pull a little bit of glaze down the sides of the meatloaf with the back of the spoon.
  7. Return meatloaf to oven, and bake until the loaf is no longer pink inside and the glaze has baked onto the loaf, 55 more minutes. 

Share in the comments below what easy recipes you use. Happy cooking!

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Victoria Day Long Weekend Adventures

I now this is a little late but, it’s been a busy week. This has been one of my favourite long weekends I’ve had in a very long time. It was filled with adventures, food and spending time with friends and family.

Ribfest1

Friday night – Ribfest Toronto, Yonge and Dundas Square

An Aussie co-worker of mine had never had American ribs before so we decided to meet up along with his girlfriend (also an Aussie) and check it out. The event was put on as a part of the Northern Heat Rib Series, which is different from the Toronto Ribfest¬†put on by the Rotary Club.¬†Since the line-ups weren’t too long, we decided to get all our ribs from one vendor, Louisiana Bar-B-Que. Originally we wanted to get ribs and chicken but they didn’t have any available so we went with a full rack of ribs, beans and coleslaw. We lined up to get extra sauce – it was delicious and slightly sweet but tangy. Along with the ribs, I suggested we get a blooming onion – a whole onion is¬†battered and deep fried and served with an amazing dipping sauce. For dessert, we got funnel cake, neither of them had eaten any of this before. I was happy to introduce them to some great food ūüôā

Ribfest2

Saturday – Blood Donation and Yard Sale

In the morning, I went to donate blood. This is one habit I’ve been trying to keep up since it really is in me to give. I can give every 56 days but usually end up going every 2-3 months, depending on my schedule. Saturdays work best because I’m not in a rush to go somewhere afterwards. The last time I donated after work, I threw up and was nauseous since I didn’t eat much before getting to the clinic – learned my lesson.

After giving blood, I went over to my parents’ place and helped out with the yard sale.¬†There have been a lot of changes happening at my parents’ house and with a much needed purge, a yard sale was bound to happen this year. It was extremely hot and sunny that day¬†with no shade in the back yard¬†– I burnt my shoulders slightly (thank goodness for aloe gel, it’s a skin saver!). There wasn’t a lot of foot traffic since it was a long weekend and due to the heat. However, at the end of the day, I did make a couple of sales and we ended up making a whopping $23! It was sad but then decided to have the yard sale on again the next day because things needed to go.¬†

Yard Saleblood donation1

Sunday – Hiking and Waterfalls in Hamilton

Since I already made plans to go hiking, I couldn’t help out with the yard sale (I left that to my siblings and sister in law). The idea to go hiking started off as having a “gardening party at my place” to “let’s BBQ in the back yard”¬†to “I want to go on a trek and have a picnic”. The last idea stuck and I suggested we go to Hamilton and see waterfalls (I love them!!). We decided on the Devil’s Punch Bowl in the Stoney Creek area and found this self guided walk. Stopped off at the Punch Bowl Market and Bakery and got some treats for the hike. To be honest, we were a little disappointed due to the lack of water from a very dry winter. However, it was still nice to take in all the nature. Failing¬†to find the entrance¬†to the Bruce Trail and getting to the Lower Punch Bowl,¬†we walked 2km on the Dofasco 2000 Trail instead. Pretty but very flat and not quite the adventure we were looking for – wanted more inclined¬†terrain¬†so looked up another waterfall to hike, the East Glover Waterfall.Punch bowl1Punch bowl2Hamilton Hiking2Drove to the indicted parking area, which really was the side of the road and found the side trail leading to the Bruce Trail. It was clearly marked and when we go to the fork in the trail, we went left. This decision eventually led us to a waterfall, but not the one we were looking for. A fellow hiker told us it was Felker’s Falls. To see East Glover, we should have turned right instead. There was a lot more water at this one and we found a path that led us to the top before the cascading part. The water was calm but you can tell that the dry winter left the water line a lot lower than what it normally is. We stopped to have a snack and take in the scenery ūüôā

Hamilton Hiking1 Felkers Falls

As a treat and the main purpose of going to Hamilton – we had dinner at Chicago Style Pizza¬†(534 Upper Sherman Street). We ordered the goat cheese bruschetta, gnocchi with a non-meat pasta sauce and the¬†No Self Respect (All Meat) stuffed pizza.¬†It was delicious and¬†there was so much meat!!! ¬†The bottom crust was thin and solid for holding everything together. ¬†The cheese was stringy when you separated the slices yet firm to taste. My friend was worried that there wasn’t enough meat since it didn’t look like that much from the top but once you took the first bite, the meat took over your mouth – what a great feeling.¬†I must mention two things: 1) we arrived at 4:30pm and there was already a 30-45min wait so get there early on the weekends since they open a 4:00pm. 2) While you wait, there is a fantastic ice cream shop across the street that is a must try. They had moose tracks (vanilla ice cream with chocolate ribbon swirls and mini peanut butter cups), which was to die for.

Chicago Style Pizza

Monday – Woodbine Racetrack

It was my friend’s birthday and she wanted to go bet on some ponies, so we did. Most of the group had never been and we ended up having a great time! First, we learned how to bet. We stuck to the basic betting¬†method:

  • WIN = Your horse must finish first (you get 100% of the winnings)
  • PLACE = Your horse must finish first or second¬†(you get 60% of the winnings)
  • SHOW =¬†Your horse must finish first, second or third¬†(you get 30% of the winnings)

I like that the betting caters to both high and low risk takers since the bets start at $1. I kept it conservative and only made $2 bets. There was a race every 30 minutes so that gave us enough time to figure out who to bet on for the next race. The odds for each horse are shown on the screens and are based on the number of bets placed on it. We ended up staying for five races and I think I got the basic betting down. I lost a little bit of money but it was time well spent ūüôā I must say, the races appear more fun on TV. I only say this because the race itself only lasts for a minute and a half, then you have to wait the half an hour until the next one. On TV, it looks more exciting and as if there’s constant action.

Woodbine Racetrack

We were a big group so¬†we headed to Boston Pizza for dinner, since they could accommodate 15 people. I waffled on whether I wanted to get a burger or tacos because I’ve been craving both. In the end, I had the shrimp tacos and it had great texture and flavour to it. They were¬†soft tacos filled with lettuce, red onions, cilantro, cheddar and tomatoes with a hint of lime, topped with crunchy tortilla strips, a¬†creamy sweet chili sauce. The breaded jalape√Īo shrimp was nice and crispy.¬†Shrimp Taco

It was an activity filled weekend but I wouldn’t have changed anything. Now that the weather has gotten warmer, there will be more adventures to come ūüôā

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Visiting Canadian Cities Part II

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As you may remember, I visited a couple of Canadian cities last year. For 2016, our events season is in full swing¬†and this past week sent me to Calgary and Banff. We flew to Calgary a couple of days earlier to ensure everything was¬†in place. On our way there, to our surprise, we got food on the plane (had forgotten that we pre-ordered food with our flight).¬†That¬†was one of the best decisions we could have made because there wasn’t enough time before getting on the plane to grab a bite to eat and we got served food first, which was a bonus. This would be my first time in Calgary and Banff.

Calgary, AB

I spent most of the time at our hotel, the Hyatt Regency Calgary since that’s where our event was happening. We ate at both the hotel restaurants: Thomsons Restaurant and the Sandstone Lounge (there’s also an oyster bar restaurant that I didn’t get to try). Thomsons had a good buffet breakfast selection but it was pricey at $24. They had eggs benny to order and smoked salmon (see picture below). The Sandstone Lounge carried a variety of snacks and dinner options along with a good beer selection. The nachos were really delicious – the chip to cheese ratio was perfect and the cheese was layered. I also tried the pulled pork tacos with a light slaw on top, which was tasty but missing a crunch to it.

As for the banquet food, we got to do a tasting the day before our event and it was heavenly.

Calgary Food Tasting

Appetizers

  • Chorizo Meatball with Tomato Sauce
  • Smoked Local Lamb Loin, Onion Jam on a Crostini
  • Mini Haddock Fritter with Lime Aioli

Starters

  • Summer Corn Chowder, Peas and Corn
  • Chef’s Blend of Micro and Petit Greens, Sliced Strawberries, Pumpkin Seeds, Feta Cheese and Balsamic Vinaigrette

Entree

  • Roast Peppered Alberta Bison Tenderloin, Green Pepper Corn Jus, Potato-Mushroom Charlotte, Sauteed Baby Kale, Heirloom Carrots

Dessert

  • White Chocolate Panna Cotta with Prairie Berry Compote and Apricot Glazed Strawberry

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Since the hotel breakfast was pricey, I needed to¬†find a cheaper option and that’s when Chef’s Cafe | Market (101 6 Ave. SW)¬†came into the picture. My colleague and I went on our the second morning and I got a bagel with cream cheese and the potato vegetable hash. It was nicely flavoured and within budget (paid $4.81 for the pair!!). The next day we went back and¬†ordered what the two guys in front of us ordered, the chef’s special thinking it was the breakfast wrap. It¬†turned out to be an omelette with potato vegetable hash again – it was still very delicious and I ate it all! It was a good meal to have before getting into the car and driving one and a half hours to Banff.¬†Calgary Breakfast food

Banff, AB

The drive into Banff started out uneventful but as we neared, we started seeing the mountains – granted it was raining/snowing so we didn’t see any of the peaks. It was raining/snowing, IN May, which was crazy and unexpected!! I’m really glad I brought a thicker jacket. The mountains, every direction that you turned, they were there. I couldn’t stop looking out the window and pointing at them – I was a child in awe¬†and couldn’t contain my excitement, which is most of the time.
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Built in the year 1888 by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel was styled after a Scottish baronial castle (according to their website). This can be seen throughout the corridors and rooms, which were all beautiful and luxurious. The staff were friendly, attentive and helpful; my clogged sink was fixed with one phone call. There were restaurants, shops and lots of meeting spaces inside the hotel and plenty of green space, hiking trails and nature outside. Upon meeting our catering sales manager for our site inspection, I could tell we were in good hands. She was pleasant in manner and easy going, which was very comforting for us since we would be working with her over the next couple of months to make sure our October conference would run smoothly. The tour of the hotel and the meeting spaces gave us a good sense of how long it would take to get to one room to another and where to place tables and have registration, etc.

After the site inspection, we went to the 1888 Chophouse since we couldn’t do a menu tasting – they had only released the banquet menu the week prior. I think we got the better deal because the food was exquisite.

  • Bread: Rye, French Baguette and Sourdough with whipped butter and whipped butter with bone marrow (I have no words to describe how good the bone marrow butter was)
  • Starter:¬†Roasted Beet Salad (pecan, goat cheese, lemon, pear) and Alberta Beef Tartare (pickled Mann egg yolk, a√Įoli, potato skin)
  • Entree:¬†Brant Lake Wagyu 8 oz,¬†1888 Classic AAA Filet Mignon 6 oz, and lobster
  • Sides: Roasted Asparagus with Shaved Parmesan, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Bacon, Cranberries, and Mac and Cheese
  • Dessert:¬†Sticky Toffee Pudding (Medjool dates, earl grey toffee, granola) and¬†S’more √Čclair (smoked milk chocolate ganache, graham crumble, vanilla marshmellow)

On top of the food, we also had champagne and wine. The company we kept was fantastic and the conversations were down to earth, definitely a night to remember! Stay tuned for more on Banff.

Banff food 1 Banff food 2

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Cooking on Sundays: Salad in a Jar

After a long week of being on the road, I didn’t have a lot of time to do groceries so I ended up with the easiest recipe I know: salad in a jar. Went to my local fruits and produce¬†store and stocked up on vegetables (something I ate very little of, other than being smothered in butter or jus). I went with a list in my head and then changed up some things when I saw what was available.

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Ingredients today include:

  • Organic spring mix
  • Organic cherry tomatoes
  • Zucchini
  • Green and yellow peppers
  • Carrots
  • Cucumber
  • Bag of kale salad
  • Grapefruit (to eat on its own and to put in the salad)

I layered celery, carrots, green pepper, onion and spring mix in the jars. Then I roasted the yellow peppers, zucchini and cherry tomatoes with the balsamic reduction from a couple of weeks ago. To add some protein, I made two servings of egg salad (two eggs, celery, yogurt, mayonnaise and pepper). Along with this, I made a quick dinner of freezer dumplings (the last of them) and bok choy. I can’t wait to get back into the rhythm and cook some more later this week. Happy cooking ūüôā

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Cooking on Sundays: Pantry Clearout

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Cooking on Sundays post but I have kept up with my meal preps on weekends to make sure that I bring my lunch to work instead of buying it (saving money and eating healthier).¬†Since I will be going on a work trip next week, this would be the best time to use up some foods I already have. It includes some already made meals (that I didn’t want to eat anymore at the time of making) as well as frozen veggies and chickpeas.

On the menu this week: roasted chicken thighs, roasted asparagus and grape tomatoes, chickpea salad, and steel cut oats with frozen blueberries/raisins/cinnamon. Simple recipes allowed me time to clean the apartment and run a couple of errands.

Roasted-chicken

Roasted Chicken Thighs (recipe adapted from this The Kitchn recipe)

Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken thighs, skin on and bone in
  • Salt and pepper

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp¬†olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar reduction (already includes sugar, no need for additional)
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp red chilli flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated (wish I had more but we ran out :()

Preheat the oven at¬†375¬įF.

Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken, set aside. Mix all the sauce ingredients and spread it over the chicken on both sides.

Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes, until juices run clear.

 

Roasted veggies

Roasted Asparagus and Grape Tomatoes

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint of grape tomatoes, halved (I left some whole ones – variety is the spice of life)
  • 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
  • Leftover sauce from roasted chicken thighs recipe above
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven at¬†375¬įF. Line pan with parchment paper

Mix grape tomatoes with leftover sauce and mix asparagus with olive oil and salt and pepper.  Place all in a single layer on the pan.

Bake for 25 minutes and voila, delicious veggies are done!

Chickpea salad

Chickpea Salad

  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1 cup Edamame beans
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 2 stalks celery, diced,
  • 2 stalks green onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 white onion, diced
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Rinse and drain chickpeas in a colander, put aside. On the stove, prepare the froze Edamame beans according to package (I buy the PC brand ones).

Cut up all vegetables and mix in with chickpeas and Edamame beans.

For the dressing, I go by taste. I add some of the apple cider vinegar (1 part), olive oil (2-3 parts) and salt and pepper. I mix and if something is missing, I add more of it.

Steel Cut Oats

Overnight Steel Cut Oats (recipe is from Marin Mama Cooks)

I make this recipe the night before and I have breakfast for 4 days.

  • 1 cup steel cut oats
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 tbsp raisins
  • A dash of cinnamon

Boil water and then add the steel cut oats. Stir for one minute and remove from heat. Let sit overnight.

In the morning, separate portions into containers and place in refrigerator until ready to eat.

I reheat it on the stove until it’s bubbling. Add the frozen blueberries, raisins and cinnamon, then enjoy!

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Discovering Montreal

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This is part II of my short vacation. You can read about my Ottawa stay here.

A short train ride from Ottawa took me to Montreal, where I met up with my friends and hung out with them for a few days. They had moved to the St. Henri neighbourhood, which is a little further away from downtown Montreal. They have a family now so it’s a quieter neighbourhood and they have room to grow.¬†I mainly stayed in the St. Henri neighbourhood and walked around, getting the lay of the land.

The weather improved a lot since Ottawa so¬†on my first day,¬†we took a long stroll along the canal¬†to Chinatown. Gentrification has taken over the area with many new buildings under construction and new restaurants taking on old store fronts – this can be seen mainly along the canal. However, the neighbourhood has retained it’s charm – it can be seen at¬†the local Atwater¬†Market, the churches and the residents. The walk was really nice to finally feel the sun on my face, brightening up my day ūüôā I wasn’t aware that there was a path along the canal that took you all the way downtown to Old Montreal/Downtown.

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When we arrived, eating was first priority. Originally we wanted to eat Vietnamese but they didn’t have any high chairs so we went for dim sum at Le cristal chinoise. The service was slow (we were seated for 1.5 hours, with a 10 month old) and we had to remind them that there were still items missing. No cart service, you ordered from a list. However, the food was delicious when it arrived. Try going on a weekday instead of the weekend, it should be less busy.¬†I didn’t realize how much I missed Chinese food until my stay in Montreal because my friend’s mom was also ¬†in town and staying with them, so she cooked a few of the dinners while I was there and dim sum – it’s so good and tasty; think of it as Chinese tapas where the portions are bite sized and you can try a lot of different things. After eating,¬†my friend and her mom did groceries and I wandered around with the baby and the baby’s dad. Many new sights and sounds but also very familiar – elderly people playing music in public had assembled to perform tai chi,¬†the delicious smells of baked goods, various dialects of Chinese being spoken that I don’t understand, and people just standing in the middle of the sidewalk so you have to walk around them. It had been a long day and we headed home on the¬†M√©tro¬†instead of walking.

The night, we took advantage of them having them having mom around to be babysitter for a night so we went out for drinks at Ludger and then some snacks at Satay Brothers. Once again, the theme of Asian food continued and Satay Brothers had Singaporean/Malaysian street food to offer. We got some¬†pork buns and some veggie fritters that were delicious. The best part was, one of the servers (maybe owners??), Phil started chatting with us and we got onto the topic of Hong Kong street food (he’s mixed, half Chinese and half French Canadian). It was so nice to talk to someone in Cantonese about some of my favourite foods – I had to translate for my friend and got her interested in possibly taking a trip to Hong Kong. I will definitely be paying them a visit on my next trip to Montreal in June.

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Throughout the rest of my trip, my friend had a back spasm and was immobile for a bit so I helped around the house and with the baby. It was really nice to spend time with her since I hadn’t been in Montreal for a couple of years and only get to see her when she’s home in Toronto. I did take some time for myself and walked around. I went back to the Atwater Market and got a Croque-monsieur to enjoy. Didn’t have as many pastries as I would have liked but there is my next trip. Also, a trip to anywhere really isn’t complete without getting tacos, so we went to¬†Caf√© Frida. It was a small place with seating for maybe 15 people max. The interior was bright and colourful. The food was delicious! I got the conchinita and carnita – one of each. I really do love food a lot!!¬†Other than eating, I also spent a lot of time reading and napping, which are both things I haven’t done in a while. Since the weather was really nice, we also got to BBQ – made sausages from the Market and grilled eggplant.

For the train ride home, I got two sandwiches from Sandwicherie St Henri: a pork and a chicken salad since the ride was almost six hours. They really hit the spot. The train ride was pretty uneventful but I got a window seat and had a little table in front, rather than getting a fold down table like on the plane.

I cannot wait to go back to Montreal in June (will be there for work and I’ll be staying the weekend with my friends again).

List of places that I visited:

 

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