Mug Meals

Mug meals. Make your meal, in a mug. In the microwave. What could be easier?

I was approached by Robert Rose Inc. a publisher of cookbooks and given a choice selection of cookbooks to review. One of the choices, and I’ll admit the least appealing of my selections, was one titled, “250 Best Meals in a Mug“. My initial thoughts were negative because I felt an individual meal for one, in a mug, is not very helpful when there are two people living together in happy harmony. I also thought the meals would be unappetizing, made with processed pre-made foods, and not very pretty to look at.

However, in the spirit of my Twitter account tag line @walshcooks, “Everything. At least once”, I thought I better give it a try. So I did. Am I ever glad I did.

The first recipe I tried was poaching an egg. In a mug of water.  With a bit of vinegar. In the microwave. Because of special laws and regulations I cannot share the method with you because that would be WRONG in the eyes of the publisher and the author. But I can tell you this. It was as simple as putting a bit of water in a mug adding a drop of vinegar and adding a cracked egg. Then putting it in the microwave. The result of my first attempt was PERFECT, providing you like a hard egg yolk. My second attempt had a softer yolk, which is my preference. Poached eggs are vexing, and I’m more than happy to continue my quest for the perfect poached egg. Here’s a picture of my first poached egg attempt using the instructions in the “250 Best Meals in a Mug” cookbook:

P1020484P1020487P1020488The thing of it is though, even if you aren’t a fan of a hard-cooked egg, but ARE a fan of egg salad sandwiches and want to make an egg sandwich for your own lunch, you could purposely hard-cook your poached egg, and in more than minute and less than two minutes, you could have the perfect cooked egg for the sandwich, without the bother of listening to Julia Child by boiling up a bunch of eggs, take them off the heat, cover, and let them sit for 17 minutes, and then peel and peel and peel the eggs.  You couldn’t use this meal in a mug method for a church lunch of egg salad sandwiches. Nope. But for YOUR lunch, at work that day, you could.

And this is where I get really excited. The recipes in this cookbook are perfect for taking to lunch at work, especially when you have to worry only about your own lunch because you have an independent spouse who can forage the wilds for his own lunch. If he actually decides to eat lunch that is. My hubby is able to survive on a single banana and cups of tea until supper time. AND he remains civil, fun-loving and humourous. I’m grouchy five seconds after breakfast and counting the seconds to my morning snack. I digress.

The next recipe I tried from this cookbook was “Spiced Lentils with Yogurt, Almonds & Mint”. Here’s a professional photo:

SpicedLentilsYogurtAlmondMintMealsMug

Courtesy of 250 Best Meals in a Mug by Camilla V. Saulsbury © 2014 http://www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission.

And here is the official recipe, I got permission you see. So let me hand you off to the author, Camilla V. Saulsbury:

Spiced Lentils with Yogurt, Almonds & Mint, page 164, Meatless Mains

Zesty tomatoes and chiles, warm spices and earthy lentils are the stars of this lively vegetarian mug. A trio of toppings − yogurt, almonds and fresh mint − heightens the wow factor.

16-oz (500 mL) mug
1 cup rinsed drained canned lentils 250 mL
1⁄2 can (10 oz/285 mL) diced 1⁄2 tomatoes with green chiles, with juice
1⁄2 tsp ground cumin 2 mL
1⁄4 tsp ground ginger 1 mL
1⁄8 tsp hot pepper sauce 0.5 mL
1 tbsp plain Greek yogurt 15 mL
1 tbsp chopped roasted salted almonds 15 mL
2 tsp chopped fresh mint 10 mL

Suggested Accompaniment
Warm naan, pita or flour tortilla

In the mug, combine lentils, tomatoes, cumin, ginger and hot pepper sauce.

Microwave on High for 11⁄2 to 21⁄2 minutes or until hot. Top with yogurt and sprinkle with almonds and mint. Serve with a suggested accompaniment, if desired.

Tips
If available, you can use vacuum-packed lentils in place of canned ones. They are typically found in the produce section, near the tofu products.

Canned black beans or pinto beans can be used in place of the lentils.

An equal amount of chopped fresh parsley or cilantro, or minced fresh chives, can be used in place of the mint.

Freeze the remaining tomatoes in a small sealable freezer bag for future use. Be sure to label the bag with the contents. Store for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator or microwave before using.

Prep Ahead Option
Combine the lentils, tomatoes, cumin, ginger and hot pepper sauce in the mug; cover and refrigerate. Measure the yogurt, almonds and mint into a small airtight container; cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Courtesy of 250 Best Meals in a Mug by Camilla V. Saulsbury © 2014 www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission.

Cathy back. I feel so… pure…. giving credit where credit is due. Now. The moment you all are waiting to see. How did MY version work out? Here’s the real life version pre-cooked:

P1020492 I need to explain that I don’t have a mug (16 oz) big enough to make these meals in. But I do have a 2 cup Pyrex that works beautifully. I also couldn’t find diced tomatoes with chilies. Instead, I used one of the many abundant cans of plain diced tomatoes I have in our storage cupboard sort of in Mormon fashion, “just in case” of alien invasion, end of man-kind, Revelations sort of action. I mean, a girl has to be prepared, and nothing says prepared more than a storage cupboard full of canned diced tomatoes. Anyway… as I have many cans of diced tomatoes, I didn’t really try that hard to find diced tomatoes with chilies. Instead, I picked up a small tin of jalapeno peppers in the Mexican section of the grocery store. I diced these up and added it to the diced toms. I mixed the stuff up, stuck it in the microwave and cooked it. Here’s the end result (without the yogurt… I’m on a dairy free kick right now):

P1020493And this is where I got really excited. I mean REALLY EXCITED. I’m always looking for satisfying healthy options to eat at lunch. I’m not a fan of left overs. But here, after trying this recipe, I had my lunch. As you can see in the picture above, I dumped the lentils into a Glad-ware container, and took it to work for my lunch that day. It was perfect! Not as pretty as the professional photo, but it was delicious, satisfying and super-easy to make.

This is going to be a long blog. I hope you stay with me. Because I am honestly super-excited about this whole prospect of meals in a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup and taking it to work for your lunch!!

The next recipe I tried, and was even MORE impressed with was…. Pesto Chicken Couscous… (and I now hand it over officially to the publisher/author):

PestoChickenCouscousMealsMug 2

Courtesy of 250 Best Meals in a Mug by Camilla V. Saulsbury © 2014 http://www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission.

Pesto Chicken Couscous, page 46, Fast & Easy 4-Ingredients or Less

Keep a jar of basil pesto in the refrigerator − it will guarantee a multitude of tasty meals in minutes, 24/7. Need proof? Try this delicious couscous and chicken mug.

16-oz (375 to 500 mL) mug
1⁄2 cup water 125 mL
1⁄2 cup couscous 125 mL
1⁄2 can (5 oz/142 g) or 45 mL water-packed 1⁄2 chunk chicken, drained and flaked
3 tbsp basil pesto
Salt and ground black pepper
1 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese 15 mL

In the mug, microwave water on High for 11⁄2 to 21⁄2 minutes or until water is boiling. Stir in couscous. Cover with a plate and let stand for 5 minutes.

Fluff couscous with a fork. Stir in chicken and pesto. Microwave on High for 1 to 11⁄2 minutes or until heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with Parmesan.

Variations
Pesto Chickpea Couscous: Replace the chicken with 1⁄2 cup (125 mL) drained rinsed canned chickpeas.

Red Pepper and Pesto Chicken Couscous: Add 1⁄4 cup (60 mL) chopped drained roasted red bell peppers (from a jar) with the chicken.

Tips
Either regular or whole wheat couscous can be used.

Freeze the remaining chicken in a small sealable freezer bag. Be sure to label the bag with the contents. Store for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator or microwave before using.

You can replace the canned chicken with 1⁄2 cup (125 mL) diced cooked or deli chicken or turkey.

Prep Ahead Option
Measure the couscous into a small airtight container; store at room temperature. Measure the chicken and pesto into a small airtight container; cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Courtesy of 250 Best Meals in a Mug by Camilla V. Saulsbury © 2014 www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission.

Cathy back….. canned chicken creates too much of a negative visceral reaction, so I opted instead to buy one of those pre-cooked chickens you see/smell at the entrance to Safeway. To you, mass cooked Safeway chickens might cause an unpleasant visceral reaction, so IF you have the time and money, cook up your own free-range, hormone free, angel kissed chicken, and use the left overs for this recipe.

I loved this recipe, and didn’t tire of it. I made if for three lunches in a row, and can’t wait to make this recipe again. Here’s how it looked in my reality:

P1020494

The couscous

P1020496

The chopped pre-roasted Safeway chicken

P1020497

The best Pesto I could find in Safeway. Of course, the BEST pesto ever is the pesto you make yourself, or buy from Strathcona’s Farmers Market.

P1020499

Quite pleased with my 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup. This is pre-warmed.

P1020500

This is post-warmed, with fresh Parmesan cheese in the handy Glad-ware tub to take to work for lunch.

Now…. best for last. This probably isn’t the best idea to take to lunch at work, but say you are excited because you have a Sunday brunch planned with your spouse, friend, secret lover and suddenly it’s cancelled! SHOCK. And all morning you have been anticipating something rich and delicious which is typically brunch-ish. Well. Here’s what you do….. back to Camila:

FrenchToastMealsMug 2

Courtesy of 250 Best Meals in a Mug by Camilla V. Saulsbury © 2014 http://www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission.

French Toast, page 85, Breakfast

I’m a firm believer that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, not just for the usual reasons, but also simply because the offerings − from bacon to cheesy eggs to cinnamon rolls − are so scrumptious. French toast proves my point. With the help of a mug and the microwave, it’s now an any-day option, even on the busiest mornings. Don’t forget the syrup!

16-oz (500 mL) mug
1 tbsp granulated sugar 15 mL
1⁄8 tsp salt 0.5 mL
1⁄8 tsp ground cinnamon 0.5 mL
1 large egg
1⁄2 cup milk 125 mL
1⁄4 tsp vanilla extract (optional) 1 mL
11⁄4 cups bread cubes (preferably stale) or small plain croutons 300 mL

Suggested Accompaniments
Confectioners’ (icing) sugar; pure maple syrup; butter

In the mug, use a fork to whisk sugar, salt, cinnamon, egg, milk and vanilla (if using) until very well blended. Add bread cubes, stirring and pressing them down into the custard to absorb the liquid. Let stand for at least 15 minutes (so the bread absorbs the liquid). Press bread down with a fork to compact.

Microwave on High for 11⁄2 to 21⁄2 minutes (checking at 11⁄2) or until firm to the touch and liquid is absorbed. Serve with any of the suggested accompaniments, as desired.

Variations
Orange Marmalade French Toast: Replace the sugar with an equal amount of orange marmalade.

Buttermilk French Toast: Replace the milk with buttermilk, and replace the cinnamon with a pinch of ground nutmeg.

Banana French Toast: Reduce the milk to 1⁄4 cup (60 mL) and add 1⁄3 cup (75 mL) mashed very ripe banana. Replace the sugar with packed brown sugar.

Tip
Add up to 2 tbsp (30 mL) raisins or chopped dried fruit, or 1 tbsp (15 mL) miniature semisweet chocolate chips with the bread.

Prep Ahead Option
Whisk the sugar, salt, cinnamon, egg, milk and vanilla (if using) in the mug, then add the bread cubes; cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Courtesy of 250 Best Meals in a Mug by Camilla V. Saulsbury © 2014 www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission.

Cathy back….. O.M.G. this works so well. Now…. my pictures just don’t do it justice at all, but O.M.G….. PMSing? Craving richness? Sweetness? Butteryness? I can’t tell you how perfect this is, how easy it is to make, and how yummy and satisfying it tastes. Here’s my pictures:

P1020501

Pre-cooked mush

P1020505

Post-cooked mush on presentation plate.

P1020506

Split for sharing, buttered and maple-syruped to sooth the most ornery of dispositions.

I tried something new by following the recipes in “250 Best Meals in a Mug”, and am deeply satisfied and thrilled to have learned how to make instant meals (for one). I hope you will give these recipes a try as well.

Posted in Breakfast, Breakfast, Dessert, Dessert, Dining Out, Dinner, Eating Healthy, Left Overs, Lunch, Recipes, Supper | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Have You Eaten a Ford Lately?

Have you eaten a Ford lately?

Indeed, that is a serious question. When is the last time you took a bite out of your car? Getting into a fender bender and having  your teeth smash into the steering wheel doesn’t count (and why weren’t you wearing your seat belt? Perhaps you need a new car with airbags?).

The people at Ford are asking us the question. I was lucky enough to attend an event in February at NAIT’s Ernest’s restaurant which was all about showcasing Ford’s commitment to using sustainable products in their vehicles. Things like soybeans, wheat straw, rice hulls, sweet potatoes, coconut and dandelion roots.

What made this particular event exciting for me, was the test of the Ernest’s culinary students to create our supper using ingredients that can be found in Ford vehicles. They did not disappoint us.

As a for instance, the evening started with a Oriental Hot Shooter with Tofu. The soybeans not only make tofu, soybeans are also used to make the seat cushions, backs and headrests in Ford vehicles. One appetizer was a Sweet Potato Puree with Dandelion Honey, along with maple bacon and baby arugula. I learned that dandelions are being tested as a possible alternative to synthetic rubber, and sweet potatoes are used to create the plastic in the door map pocket. I bet you look at your front lawn differently this summer as the dandelions appear!

P1020489 P1020491I am very happy that Ford is taking deliberate steps to move forward with environmentally sustainable vehicles (at least pieces of their vehicles), and in particular that they are brave enough to sell their hybrids and electric vehicles here in Alberta, with monstrous pick up trucks on the roads as far as the eye can see.

Ford is even giving an Ecoboost option to its butch F-150. In the same breath, they also say it is the Future of Tough. I’m not judging you, but let me tell you when I’m sitting in my (gas) car next your diesel spewing monster machine, I would probably give you a big smile instead of a frown if you were driving an Ecoboost F-150.

I grew up with a Dad who was mad keen about having a vehicle with “power”. This meant we had the 1974 Ford “Country Squire” Station wagon, with it’s V8 engine, to give us enough vroom to tow our tent trailer and get up the hills in the mountains with nary a drop in speed. That sort of thing sticks in your mind as you get older, and a few years ago was thrilled with my V6 Ford Fusion. I do want power, I also want to make choices that will not only help the environment, but also help me at the gas pump.

When I’m ready for my next car, I’ll definitely kick a few tires on Ford’s hybrids, and maybe even get one out for a test drive.

fsn14_highlight_lg_energiplugin

This would do nicely.

 

 

Posted in A Night Out | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cally’s Teas Celebrates Earl Grey’s Birthday

Walsh Cooks:

Cathy here. Reblogging this post today, because March 13 is Earl Grey’s birthday! This post is worth re-visiting, but you need to know that Cally’s, who carries the BEST Earl Grey, is now located at 10151 82 Avenue, Edmonton, AB. Her number is 780-757-8944.

I hope you enjoy a re-blog of my post from March 2010:

Originally posted on Walsh Cooks:

The title of this blog is a punctuation fanatic’s nightmare. Even owning the book and day-per-page tear off calendar of Eats Shoots and Leaves, I’m still never quite sure if I’m applying apostrophes correctly.

It’s a big day in the land of tea lovers, and especially those of us who are dedicated lovers of Earl Grey tea!!  HOORAY FOR TEA!!! HOORAY FOR EARL GREY!!! And HOOTS AND HOLLERS OF JOY for Cally:

As I sit here and enjoy my steamy mug of Earl Grey, I must pay homage to Cally’s Teas. Cally’s is just a block from where I live (at the moment, Cally expects she will be moving this year – stay tuned), and is a delightful treasure trove of tea and tea things:

There are also yummy edibles, such as Duchy Originals. I like to think Prince Charles has a hand in making each batch of…

View original 277 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cottage Pie aka Shepard’s Pie aka Apartment Pie aka Busy Cubicle Dweller’s Pie

I was thinking about this. Cottage Pie has been around in name since 1791. Shepard’s Pie is the newest kid on the block, arriving on the scene in 1877.

I can imagine the scene it caused at the time. Daily Telegraph paperboys shouting at London street corners, “Shepard’s! Baked in pie! Shepard’s! Baked in pie!”. The terror it must have caused in the UK at the time.

Naturally, it didn’t help when the Daily Mail’s paperboy was shouting from across the street, “National Sheep Association Concerned about Henry Plumb! Henry Plumb not seen for Weeks!”.

My timeline might be a little skewed, but you get the idea.

Here we are in 2014, 137 years after ….  (I did the math. Look….)

IMG_1955… and we are still calling it Cottage Pie. Or Shepard’s Pie. In our fast-paced society, it is time to modernize the name of these simple, yet delicious meals. I think Apartment Pie and Busy Cubicle Dweller’s Pie (if you work for the government, you can call it BCDP) have a nice ring to them. The point about this meaty delicious pie, is that even if you live in a squishy flat with a hot plate, you can create this awesome meaty pie.

If you are a purist and want the EXACT recipe to make the PERFECT Cottage/Shepard’s/Apartment/BCDP’s pie….. you don’t get it. Cottage and Shepard’s Pie are all about tossing together:

Meat
Veg
Potatoes

Yes, it is that simple. If you want to make it delicious, you will add a bit of salt and pepper. If you want to make it like Mum or like the cook in the pub down the street, then you need to talk to them to see what “little bits of this and that” they add. For me, I keep it simple. A bit of Worcestershire (pronounced, in our home, as woo-stur-shur) Sauce, salt, pepper, a spoonful of Knorr beef stock, a few proper teacupfuls of potato water, and a happy sprinkle of dried thyme.

There is a bit of multi-tasking whilst making this. But you can do it! Here’s how (my way):

a) Put the ground beef/lamb/pork/bison in a pan. Cook. Stir often, breaking it up into a crumbly mess of cooked flesh.

b) Chop an onion into smithereens if you don’t like onion, or into nice chunks if you do.

c) When the beef if browned and crumbly, turn down the heat and add the onion. Cook it on low and slow until the onion has melted into the beef.

d) Meanwhile, remove the dirt bits from a bunch of mushrooms, and leave them on a piece of paper towel to dry a bit before chopping. This is a good opportunity to take a picture if you write a food blog.

P1020488e) Peel your potatoes (I use russets), cut in quarters, boil (in water).  When mashable, drain, then mash. Add a bit of butter (the amount depends on how your lab work came back from your last doctor’s visit), salt and pepper. You may want to add a bit of the potato water you smartly reserved if you are lactose intolerant, or a splash of milk if you want to please the Dairy Farmers.

If you are lucky, the beef is browned, the onions melted, the mushrooms softened, the potatoes mashed all at the same time. Then, you find a casserole type of dish and pour in the meat, and top with mashed potato. Flatten the potato over top of the mess of meat so you can call it, PIE. If you feel artsy, use the back of a fork and make forkie marks over the potatoes.

IMG_1953Put the casserole of meatie potato goodness in a pre-heated oven at 400F until the top of the potatoes brown and the meatie bits burble through.

If you are trying to impress someone:

All you need to do is present them with a glass of wine when they enter your abode and have a candle burning (safely) somewhere in your home (not in a closet please). After a glass or two of wine, declare, “Let me check on dinner!” and swish into your kitchen, and peek in the oven. When you notice the burble and delicate browning, lower the temperature to Warm (or less than 200F if you don’t have the words “WARM” on your stove). It is sometimes helpful to open the oven door and fan the aromatics around the apartment. This is the best opportunity to build suspense and let your guest smell the deliciousness coming out of your kitchen, yet make them wait for supper through another glass or two of wine.

Honestly, there is no trickery with cooking. Cook things that smell good. Invite people over. Serve wine. You will be happy. I certainly am.

xo

 

 

Posted in Dinner, Drinks | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog-on-ese Sauce 2.0

Warning. Ladies underthings are discussed in this here post. Proceed with caution.

Happy and bit concerned that my blog has been around long enough that I’m officially repeating myself. Back in 2010 I posted this family treasure of a recipe for spaghetti sauce. I thought I was clever calling it a blog-on-ese sauce seeing as I write a blog and it is a meat based sauce for pasta after all. Oh yes. It’s a side slapper. Blog-on-ese. HA HA. (pause). Hm. I seem to be the only one laughing. (shrugs and carries on).

Well, today with the howling wind outside and the (in-the-back-of-my-mind) threat of our building cracking and tipping over into the river valley below, along with my moment of drama in a change room earlier in the day, I thought an ambient lit and musical evening sipping on a hoity-toity wine and simmering a hearty meat sauce for supper would be the right thing to do…what? What drama? You didn’t hear?

Friends, today I was out shopping and on a whim thought I would try on a few bras. I am a creature of habit and lean towards those types of bras that are all about comfort, jiggle room and pretty colours. Wires, padding and itchy lace make me think of this sort of contraption:

1882-corset.ad_dI would like to point out her arms are in the air simply because she cannot lower them.

Whilst shopping, I pulled a few blouses to try on that are uncharacteristically transparent, frilly and girly for me, and in order to wear them, I would also need to own a bra that is not black, a leopard print, fushia or turquoise. So I wander over to the bra section, and since my favourite type isn’t available in flesh-tone, I pull off a few with under-wires and extra padding.

I am unconcerned, because I’ve been down this road before, and never, not once, had a problem trying on a bra. Well…..

I enter my change room remove boots, shirt, shoes, socks (because standing around nearly nude in socks is silly IMHO), and finally deftly remove my Old Reliable bra. I pick up Wired Flesh Tone, and do the usual thing, put it on backwards, clip it together, spin it around my torso, and put one arm through the strap. The too tight strap…..

At this point, a “normal” person would take the bra off, loosen the arm straps, and start again. Not me. I bend my other arm, pleased I didn’t need to dislocate my shoulder, and insert it the other arm hole. I look in the mirror. I have two bra cups supporting my double chin, and the girls swinging free below. You could, if you listened, hear them sing Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run.

Undeterred at this point, I try to extract myself. My arms are held in place by the straps. I cannot reach around behind me to unsnap as I usually would. My body flails like Harry Houdini extracting himself from a straightjacket. I have to stop. I take a few deep breaths. I try again. No luck.

I try pulling the thing over my head. I can hear ripping sounds, so stop immediately. I sit. I Tweet:

Clerk knocks at the door, “How’s everything going in there?”. I respond, “I am trying on a pair of slacks, and need another size, can you check and see if you have it for me please?”. She says sure, and wanders away. I sit there and marvel at how I could not admit that I was trapped in one of their bras. She returns happily hanging a new pair of slacks over the door, and leaving saying “Let me know if there is anything else I can help you with”. I say a chipper “I will, thanks!”.

I return to my task. With a great deal of pain and elastic stretching to its maximum, I count to five and just pull the thing over my head. Face red, hair a mess, panting slightly and a little damp, pack up the whole “shopping for clothes” idea and go home.

So here we are. Candles lit. Favourite music playing. Blog-on-ese Sauce 2.0 simmering on the stove, and sharing a delicious 2010 French red.

And the sauce? Well, this particular one is:

1 lb (ish) lean ground beef (Costco purchase, I take the stuff by handfuls and put it in freezer bags, so I have no idea how much I use).
1 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
1 head garlic, roughly chopped
Thyme
Oregano
Basil
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 can D.O.P. tomatoes
Generous glugs of said 2010 French red wine

Simmer until you can’t stand it any longer. Serve over your favourite pasta. Generously grate Parmigiano-Reggiano over top.

Posted in Dinner, Wine | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Select

We went to Select (formerly Cafe Select) to celebrate an anniversary. Reservations were made by Open Table, a quick and reliable way of making reservations. They didn’t appear to be needed however, because January 3 seemed to be a night most everyone in Edmonton decided to stay in. When we arrived, there was only one other table of two, Michael and I had the place to ourselves most of the night.

My first reaction to the lack of customers was that the night could go one of two ways. Service will will either be fantastic, or non-existent. Happy to say, that they had two servers working, and the service was perfect. Attentive, intuitive, friendly, and accessible. We weren’t blasted with over-the-top food romance – I’ve had a little bit too much of that in 2012/2013, and am weary of having to smile politely at our server while they reach an orgasm beside our table while describing the demi glace.

The place is comfortable. The tables are nicely spaced, the chairs comfortable for a long night in. There is a bar, and above it three television screens. Michael was thrilled to see Man with the Golden Gun playing on all three screens. I was content to sit under a framed picture of Pierce Brosnan. If you are a James Bond fan, this is the place to go. Sports fans don’t have to twitch. The middle screen will play whatever important game happens to be on that night. The screens are in plain site, but the volume is off so it doesn’t take away from the evening.

As we were celebrating, I started with a single serving bottle of Prosecco. Michael had a good old fashioned Caesar with an appetizer sized garnish of pickled asparagus spear and giant green olive. Both were delicious.

The ubiquitous basket of bread was brought to the table along with some herbed butter. The bread was aromatic, dense and chewy, fresh and warm. If you vowed to eat less carbs in 2014, I would advise you to tell your server to not bring the bread at all, because I promise you, once it hits the table, you will eat it. Yes you will.

Our appetizers were the tartare, which was YUMMY, albeit done with a coarser chop than we are used to, as well as a small plate of the mesclun greens, which in themselves was fresh and delicious. I wasn’t a fan of the pistachio vinaigrette.

Michael chose the seared arctic char for his main, and I went with the beef tenderloin along with a lobster tail. All of it was delicious and did not disappoint. I had my first experience with Brussels sprouts – they were honey glazed. Honey glaze any vegetable, and I think I would eat it.

Our wine selection for the evening was a nicely priced and delicious Malbec. Our evenings of studying the wine menu are over, especially when dining at a place that has knowledgeable staff. If you have a smart server, tell them what you are thinking of having for supper, discuss your price point, and let them decide for you. This is what happened here, and our Malbec was perfect.

We ended the night with a shared crème brulée, which we never tire of. Sharing is done  with a close eye on each others spoonful lest someone take more than their half.  Select’s crème brulée has the perfect crunchy top and smooth silky custard, just as it should be.

If you haven’t been to Select yet, consider it for an intimate evening with great food, service and ambiance.

Select on Urbanspoon

Posted in A Night Out, Dessert, Dining Out, Dinner, Drinks, Eat Local, Supper | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Hello 2014!

Don’t know about you, but I am happy to see the rear end of 2013 as it gallops off into history.

Despite some challenging and sad times, there are a number of memorable highlights:

1. I have great, supportive family that manages to see things through during hard times. We are a tough (but loveable) bunch.

2. I have amazing friends, made some new ones, got to know some older ones better. Thanks especially to my enabling wine and beer drinking friends (Keith, Mickey and Scott… that means you).

3. Rice cookers are not frivolous. Get one. They make life easy.

4. The Cask & Barrel, The Bothy, and Furusato, are my A-Rated Number 1 Favourite Places in Edmonton.

Happy New Year everyone!

Stay tuned for my upcoming brunch buffet feature….

Posted in Breakfast, Dining Out, Dinner | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Shirred Eggs and Toast

Nothing like starting a healthy eating plan to get creative and want to try to new things. In my first week of my new healthy eating plan, I though repetition would be key. So I had the same thing for lunch throughout the week. By the second week, this became a little tired. Now, I have a bunch of things to take to work throughout the week, from chicken and rice, to butter chicken and rice, to chicken in garlic and chili sauce…. and rice.

Breakfast also, as been a repetition of steel cut oats. Instant oatmeal. Steel cut oats. Instant oatmeal. Weekends I treasure because I would indulge Michael and I in some sort of egg dish. Poached eggs and toast. Scrambled eggs and toast. Repeat.

Then yesterday, while we were enjoying our steel cut oats for breakfast, Michael admitted to buying ramekins and explained he made shirred eggs. Shirred eggs? Shirred eggs, thought I, was a complicated egg dish that required laying chickens in the yard, a full set of knives, an herb garden, a sous chef and cooking pots and pans with highfalutin French names.

You don’t.

All you need is:

Ramekins or an oven proof tea cup/bowl
Oven
Toaster
Eggs
Cream
Butter
Bread
Salt
Pepper
Bit of herb (optional, but it’s what makes it extra savoury)
Grated Cheese

To make this, switch the oven on to 425F. With a delicate hand, butter the inside of the ramekins. Crack an egg in each. Top with salt, pepper, a teaspoon of cream, a few light handed strands of your favourite grated cheese, and a delicate sprinkling of thyme.

P1020455Place both ramekins on a baking sheet, and put it in the oven for about 9 – 10 minutes.

With careful timing, make your toast with about 2 minutes remaining on the clock for the eggs.

P1020457The result is a delicious,flavourful, savoury egg dish, and if light handed with the butter, can, in Weight Watchers points, add up to 6, including the toast (white). Supplement with fresh fruit and you have a very satisfying breakfast.

 

Posted in Breakfast, Dinner, Recipes | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Rice Cooker

P1020429I’m an easy sale. I was talking with co-worker and rice fanatic, Zerlina, at work the other day, and the merits of a rice cooker came up.  She mentioned how delicious the rice is from a cooker, how the fragrant jasmine rice will make the house smell good, explained the versatility of the machine and why it is popular with University students – cook rice and Chinese sausages all in one pot! I was hooked.

I quizzed her further on what sort of rice cookers are out there and she, being a mobile Wikipedia in human form, described them all from a stove top clay pot variety, to a simple electric, to the high tech.

Here’s your basic clay pot variety:

claypotInexpensive. Stop top method. Of course, you can also make rice on the stove top, using one of these:

pot with lidBut using either of the above involves some risk, primarily leaving it unattended while writing a blog post and returning to an overflowing mess because you forgot the step to reduce heat and cover once the water starts to boil.

Then some smarty pants decided the rice cooker could become a stand alone electric device.

basic electricThese basic models have been around for ever, and although I was intrigued, I do have a loose sort of rule that does not allow me to buy anything that has only purpose. At the time, my mind thought a rice cooked but one thing. Rice. So I poo-poo’d the rice cooker, and kept cooking rice in my trusty pot, that I also use regularly for tomato soup, popcorn, porridge, boiling eggs, etc. etc. As you can see, one pot, many purposes.

But then, we fast forward to my conversation with Zerlina, and my multipurpose being hears “cooks sausages with the rice”. Well now. Now we have a multipurpose! What else can it cook? Porridge! I’m now starting to obsess about getting a rice cooker! But what kind?! The ever so helpful Zerlina recommends a Zojirushi rice cooker, which also happens to be available at Amazon.

So I do some research. Rice cookers do cook more than rice. Breads and sponge cakes too! As it happened, Amazon had a nice 3 cup Zojirushi rice cooker on sale, free two-day shipping, and extra savings because of Black Friday week.

A moment please. Let’s talk about Black Friday. All week on Facebook, I have been “liking” and “sharing” a variety of posts from “Buy Nothing Day” to being minimalist, to “Spend More and Support Local”, etc. etc. all in the spirit to bring awareness to not fall to the craze of consumerism, and think local, reuse what you have, etc.

…Then I go and buy a Zojirushi rice cooker imported from Japan… BUT IT COOKS PORRIDGE, AND I CAN SET A TIMER TO WAKE UP TO HOT COOKED STEEL CUT OATS FOR BREAKFAST AND NO POT WILL BOIL OVER ON THE STOVE.

It also plays Twinkle Twinkle Little Star when you press Start, and that alone, makes it worthwhile.

Now let’s talk about porridge. To me, porridge is things like steel cut oats, Sunny Boy cereal, cream of wheat and the like. I went to bed last night excited about making porridge in my new rice cooker. But I woke up around midnight and started giving this some thought. I cook steel cut oats with a 1:3 ratio. According to the markers in the rice cooker pot, it’s label for porridge made it about a 1:5 ratio. Something was wrong. I tossed and turned, and when I woke up early this morning I Googled “Japanese Porridge”. Japanese porridge, it turns out, is also something also called Zosui or Okayu, a nourishing sort of comfort food. I was intrigued.

For breakfast, I still made us steel cut oats using the 1:3 ratio. The rice cooker was a dream. Pushed the button, danced to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and while the rice cooker cooked our breakfast, I did some further research on okayu and zosui. I wrote up a list of things needed, and once breakfast was done, we headed out to T & T Supermarket at West Edmonton Mall. Couldn’t think of a better one-stop shopping place to get white miso and carrots.

Before going head-on into a more traditional konbu dashi (seaweed kelp) stock as the base of my zosui, I thought I would ease into this new soup using a more familiar chicken stock base. This is what I did:

In the rice cooker, I put in:

1 cup sushi rice
3 cups chicken broth
1 chunk ginger root

I hit the “porridge” button on the menu. Danced again to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

While that cooked, I poached and shredded a chicken breast. I finely chopped some green onion – white and green bits, and finely grated some carrot. I beat a single egg.

When the rice cooker sang out the hit song “Amaryllis”, I added a few more ladles of chicken broth from the poached chicken to give it a soupier texture. Then, I mixed up about a tablespoon of miso paste with a ladle full of chicken broth, and added it the pot. Next up, using chopsticks, stirred in the beaten egg. Then mixed in the chopped green onion, chicken, and carrots.

This is what we got:

P1020441It tastes far better than it looks. It’s hearty, rib sticking soup. It’s got the chicken thing happening for familiarity, the miso gives it a delicious umami kick. The egg gives it richness, the ginger its warmth, and the green onion a freshness that we don’t get in our regular North American chicken soups. The inspiration for this concoction is mostly from Gekiuma’s blog post, Japanese Soupy Rice Porridge For Colds and Unhappy Tummies.

I have always enjoyed rice, and really never had a problem with cooking it on the stove top. However, lately I am trying for health and economic reasons, to pack my lunch during the week instead of eating out all the time. I am happy to have a protein and a carb, along with an assortment of veggies. Potatoes, although delicious, I find hard to measure out and eat within moderation. Pasta encourages things like cheese or olive oil. Rice, on the other hand is easy to portion out for each meal and is delicious on its own – no added fats or oils.

Yes, our rice cooker is a bit extravagant. But the extravagance is also time saving and is encouraging healthier eating, so that, in my books, is priceless.

 

Posted in Breakfast, Dinner, Eating Healthy, Lunch, Supper | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Almond Chai Latte

P1020426My newest passion.

An almond chai latte from Remedy Cafe. Spicy. Sweet. Warming. Relaxing. I have these when things get a little harried and I want to relax. I have these when it is inappropriate to turn to a bottle of wine… for instance, while at work or driving. It is, seriously, the next best thing. So much so, I wonder if the people at Remedy Cafe shouldn’t put a warning on the sleeve, “Drive with caution when consuming the drink you are about to enjoy”.

Yesterday I spent an hour sitting in traffic. I had one of these, my chill mix on the stereo, and I was in another world. Still alert enough, mind you, to flip the bird to the guy that cut me off, but I quickly slipped back into my mellow mood and the hour drive was a pleasant experience. Blocked turn lanes? Meh. Buses that ooze in my lane? Whatever. I was in my spicy almond chai latte space with Marshmello playing Sounds from the Ground.

This delicious cup of spicy relaxation is also available with regular cows milk (1% or 3%) and soy milk. I enjoy the almond milk version primarily because of my intolerance to lactose found in cows milk, and have an aversion to how soy might be messing with my hormones. The drink is pre-sweetened so give it a taste before you think about topping it up with a few more spoonfuls of sugar.

Now, the first time I tried one of these, I was a bit indifferent. But a day or two later, it started to haunt me. So I had another. Now I am an addict and carry around a punch card to get a “free” chai latte after every six.

One of the most delightful things is sometimes, if you are lucky, you will get a drawing or sticker on the lid, depending on the barista’s whimsy. It adds a bit of fun to the whole experience. And an experience it will be.

Remedy Cafe is found in two locations. Downtown on the southeast corner of Jasper Avenue and 103rd Street, or on the southside, on 109th Street and 86 Avenue.

Posted in coffee, Eat Local | Tagged , | 2 Comments