Rocky Mountain Icehouse

IMG_2676Michael and I got a sneak peek at the too-cool-for-words, super relaxed Rocky Mountain Icehouse, located at 10516 Jasper Avenue.

Wayne and Susan have done it again. They have taken the best bits of the Cask & Barrel –  the cozy seating, best drinks, awesome music (live and playlist), and great design… and ramped it up into a beautifully designed, comfortable space in the old Jasper Block.

Jasper Block_1The main floor of the old Jasper Block has been completely gutted and designed into a flexible, comfortable space to enjoy time with friends, listen to some great music, nosh on delicious food (the menu is exciting – topping the list? Pig Nuts!), and most important, still encourages the art of conversation.

IMG_2673We attended a sneak peek. I will not give away all the secrets because to get the full effect, you must go and check it out for yourself (plus my pictures don’t do it justice).

IMG_2668The Grand Opening is July 25 and 26, starting at 4 pm both days.

We hope to see you there!

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Sponge Cake

Happy first day summer! The sun is shining, the leaf curler caterpillars are dangling from the trees, friends are meeting on sunny patios for icy beverages, having great conversation and giving away eggs (thank you @Super_Su!).

P1020678 Not regular eggs either. These are beautiful farm fresh eggs which I am sure were laid by the prettiest chickens in Alberta. Look carefully, some are blue and green! The city girl in me wants to know how a robin mated with a chicken to come up with a blue egg… but I have been assured (perhaps comforted) that robins and chickens are not going at it behind the coop. And I’m sure someone out there sighing deeply and rolling their eyes and wants to leave a comment that chickens don’t need to “go at it” in order to lay an egg for breakfast. I don’t know about these things. Let’s leave it a mystery for now.

Now the thing is, I went to Seba Beach a few weeks ago and popped in at the farmers market. I came home with a dozen farm fresh eggs from Nature Spring Farm. We love our eggs Michael and I do, but two dozen is a bit much. What to do?

Sponge cake.

I could hear Mom’s voice in my head from ages ago…. “If you ever have a lot of eggs to use up, make a sponge cake”. So I did. It takes six eggs. And a lot of stamina.

P1020679If you have a modern kitchen you probably have a Kitchen Aid mixer you bought at Costco, which cracks and separates the eggs for you, beats yolks to a buttery yellow froth, self cleans, then beats whites to stiff peaks. I don’t have that luxury. I used my little electric hand mixer quite successfully, but it took away 10 MINUTES OF MY LIFE. I am kidding. Not about the 10 minutes, but I went in to a sort of trance, occasionally snapping out of it when the thought of the hand-mixer slipping and chewing through my fingers would pop in my head.

P1020684P1020687P1020688P1020689P1020691P1020692P1020693P1020695The recipe I used is in my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. There are many recipes on the net.

But what does one do, once one has baked a sponge cake? You make a Victoria Sponge. That’s what you do. And here’s how:

Find a sponge cake, slice it, put a nice smear of raspberry or strawberry jam on half, fill with fresh whipped cream, and add another slice of sponge cake. If you want to get all fancy-schmancy, dust with powdered sugar. Serve with…… ?  Tea of course!

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Gin! The 2014 Season has Begun

Today I am enjoying my first (second if we must be honest) gin and tonic of 2014. Hoorah for gin!

The idea was planted in my head mid-day when I realized that my plans to do 1,427 “things” at work today would not happen. I settled for two “things” (but they were pretty important so am living quite happily with my under-achievement).

I have resumed commuting to and fro from work and home on foot, and the hills I face each way seem to be getting steeper. Today, instead of the “just make it to the next tree”, “make it to the next crack in the path” self-talk I sometimes have to do to help motivate me on my climb, on the way home I had visions of a gin and tonic. It looked something like this:

P1020675The climb home went much faster with the promise of a G & T at the end of the walk. We are talking about climbing Grierson Hill and Scona Road hill in Edmonton. I can’t even begin to think what imagery I would need to climb Everest!

IMPORTANT:  For those healthy people out there, or those who are taking me literally, I would not allow myself to drink my G & Ts until properly re-hydrated with plain old water-water, and after a nice long shower. Now if it were beer we were talking about…..

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The F-Words: Food Fun Family Friends Flowers

It’s Mother’s Day. I have had an ache in my chest for most it. But rather concentrate on what I no longer have, decided, after a pleasant afternoon nap and head clearing walk, to concentrate on what I do have.  And rather than provide you with an Oprah list of those things, let’s take a wordy and winding pictorial walk and see a few things that I am grateful for:

STONEHOUSE PUB:
Discovered THE coolest little pub on Vancouver Island called the Stonehouse Pub. As you can see by the following pictures, it is buried in among BC’s trees and shrubbery. Michael and I were tipped off about this place as we arrived in Swartz Bay and were lining up to disembark the ferry. I was looking at my iPhone and remarked, aloud, that there should be a Pub Finding App. As it happens one of the crew overheard me say this, and helpfully recommended this place. It’s our new favourite on the Island. The food was delicious. The beer beery. The surroundings, absolutely amazing. Two different patios, lush greenery all around. Loved it enough we were happy to go a second time and invite friend Bonnie with us. We sat outside for hours, despite the chill in the air. We Albertan’s are hearty. It was April. Things were green. It wasn’t raining. We WILL sit outside.

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The Stonehouse Pub, complete with tenant that lives upstairs. YES! Just like Coronation Street! (Without the street).

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We were sitting on one patio, and this is a picture of the second patio, and side entrance. Can’t wait to see this place in the middle of summer.

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Bruschetta. My go-to appy to please the Canada Food Guide people who insist on vegetable intake.

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Bonnie and I chilling on the patio.

3rd STREET CAFE – Sidney, BC
If you know me well, you know that I am on a quest for the perfect poached egg. Friend Leslie came back from BC shouting the praises of the 3rd Street Cafe in Sidney. Michael and I went. Three times in one week. Each time? The PERFECT poached egg.

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You are looking at the PERFECT poached egg. A little poke in the yolk, and we had oozy goodness for toast dipping.

GREEN WASABI
This place got a very high rating on Urbanspoon. It did not disappoint us and was one of the highlights of our culinary adventures in BC. It was raining this evening, and off to the right, you can see the tents he set up. Tents for two. Lucky for us, one of the tents were available. It was cozy warm for the space heater. Ambiant with the rain pitter-pattering on the tent. The food was outstanding. The price shockingly reasonable. It was a special evening.

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EARLS
Back in Edmonton, Earls makes Michael and I  happy and nostalgic. Despite its modern look, it still takes us down memory lane every time. They are reliable, consistent and always make us feel at home. A few weeks ago we were invited over to Earl’s to sample a few of their new food and boozy items. We had a great time, and love the enthusiasm and hospitality of chef Rui, sous chef Riley, manager Jessica and server Rachel. And honestly, if you are thinking of a career in the food industry, think of Earl’s. I am always impressed to hear how they treat their staff and happy they promote from within.

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BBQ Pork Buns. Adorable and delicious!

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My ribs. Go away. My ribs. NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM. I’ve never enjoyed ribs so much in my life. These were succulent. Messy to eat. Definitely not first date food. But definitely 28 years together food.

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Crispy Tuna Sushi Cone. My kind of sushi, which means, if you have textural issues, you will be able to eat this and love it.

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The Mad Hatter. Vodka, pear, black tea, Kaffir lime, coconut water. A little dry ice for MYSTERY and EXCITEMENT. It was icy cold, refreshing and perfect for patio season. Yet you can still look like a teetotaler.

CAFE BICYCLETTE
The BEST poutine. The BEST steak frites. Their prices are starting to rise a bit, but even then, probably the most economic yet perfectly cooked steak in town.

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Steak frites with peppercorn sauce. Yum. The wine menu is decent, and that there bottle of Malbec made for a perfectly relaxing evening.

EASTER SUPPER at Chez Walsh

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That’s a ham steak. Served with corn and mashed potatoes. There is nothing else to say. So shush. Don’t judge.

BC WINE
Very lucky and grateful for the opportunity that presented itself by the BC Wine people. Wine aficionado and friend Keith and I went, and enjoyed a brilliant afternoon of blind wine samplings – comparing BC wines against their global counterparts. (I reaaallllly enjoyed it because I don’t spit out my samplings – tee hee).

IMG_2312 IMG_2309Learned quite a bit at this event, mainly because Edmonton’s famous wine expert Gurvinder Bhatia (@edmontonwineguy) was in attendance and generated some informative commentary/discussion.

FUN
If you are into British television, you may have seen Broadchurch. Well, Broadchurch, is English. And apparently the American’s don’t understand English, so they had to remake Broadchuch for the American audience. And they were doing this in Canada. In Sidney. So here is your sneak preview of Gracepoint.

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A bit of a surprise to see the American and Californian flag flapping over what used to be Mineral World in Sidney BC.

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Inside the Gracepoint police station.

IMG_2139We were lucky enough to see David Tennant (from afar), and watch a few takes. The security staff surrounding the set were friendly and happy to explain what was happening and shush us up when the camera was rolling. We met up with some crazy David Tennant fans who were not shy about taking pictures of him. I have a few I took myself, but I was shy and the picture quality sad. So you’ll just have to take my word for it that I saw this Dr. Who icon live and in person. He’s tall by the way. Really tall.

FRIENDS AND FAMILY

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Soaking up some April sunshine on the patio.

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Our techno savvy family/friends from the USA. They speak English by the way.

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Best friends.

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Lawn bowling/hot dog eating friends from Victoria.

FLOWERS
And other than my quest for the perfect poached egg, I am always in the pursuit of natural beauty in flowers. Michael’s and my favourite place in the world is the beautiful Butchart Gardens just north of Victoria near Brentwood Bay. Our little game is to arrive just at closing time, which gives us an hour to view the gardens with no one around, and then wait until we are politely asked to leave.

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A view from our tea spot.

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My favourite bench in the gardens.

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The view from my favourite bench in the gardens.

So there you have it… a hodge-podge of things that make me happy. Nothing extravagant or expensive. Just simple things – good food, friends, family, flowers and a sense of fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Super Easy Risotto that you Don’t Have to Stir

If you are like me, you Googled “Super Easy Risotto that you Don’t Have to Stir” because life is hard and you don’t want to fuss for your lunch, yet you demand to have risotto over having a peanut butter sandwich. This is not that recipe. You will be stirring.

This story starts a few weeks back where a cartoon bubble with a picture of risotto gets planted in over my head and I begin to obsess. I try a few Google searches and learn the basics of how to make risotto. I learn that in its most basic form, you need special rice and time. Time dedicated to standing at the stove stirring. Nothing else.

I rise to the challenge in the way only I can do, by pleading with Facebook and Twitter to tell me where I can buy an awesome risotto for supper at local restaurants. This social-media based searched resulted in some responses that were very encouraging, most telling me how “easy” it is to make it myself. The most inspiring was a message from Teresa Spinelli from the Italian Centre Shop because she gave me two very viable options:

1) Come to the Italian Centre Shop and select an arborio rice from their nicely stocked shelves and make it myself, or,

2) Have supper at Massimo’s Cucino Italiano restaurant and eat their daily risotto special.

I did both.

Michael and I made reservations at Massimo’s for our supper that night, but not until after he and I argued for several minutes about which Italian Centre Shop location it was at, if it had a pizza oven, and did Teresa mean the little coffee shop attached to the South Side location?

To clear this up:

The South Side store has Massimo’s (complete with pizza oven and daily risotto), as well as the coffee shop, Spinelli’s Bar Italia. All three can be found at 5012 104A Street, Edmonton.

The new west end store at 17010 90th Ave, and the original shop located in Little Italy at 10878 95 ST NW have Spinelli’s Bar Italia attached as well.

IMG_1986We were pleased to discover delicious Italian fare at Massimo’s without the month-long reservation wait time one finds with Corso 32. Not to pit one against the other, both are fine establishments and offer amazing food, but we felt far more comfortable and at home in Massimo’s. They had a daily risotto which provided a very satisfying fix to my craving.

As we are early eaters, we still had time to shop in the Italian Centre shop for a package of arborio rice. Michael and I like to go for a little walk after supper to aid in digestion. This evening, we were delighted to take our stroll through aisles of varieties of canned tomatoes, olive oils, balsamic vinegars, pastas, rice, dried beans, baked goods, fresh produce, and our highlight, olives, meats and cheeses. Even on full stomachs, my mind was inspired to cook greatness!

Fast forward two weeks, and here we are on a lazy Saturday. I am armed with:

1-900 mL box chicken stock. You can use your own made-from-scratch-stock, which we all know is better, but impossible if you haven’t roasted a whole chicken in well over a year

1/2 cup white wine (reserve the rest of the bottle for the cook)

Butter (2 – 3 tablespoons)

Olive or vegetable oil (a glug – or about one tablespoon)

1 1/2 cups arborio rice

Parmesan cheese – grated (1/4 to 1/2 cup)

Onion (I used a half a medium onion), or one or two shallots (finely chopped)

Here’s what you do to make a basic risotto:

1) Don house slippers with arch support. You will be stirring risotto for at least the next 30 minutes of your life. Be comfortable:

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2) Select iTunes playlist that will entertain you non-stop for the next 30 to 40 minutes. I cannot stress enough that you will be TIED to your stove. I made the error about 20 minutes in, to go to the bedroom to change out of my going-out-for-coffee-with-a-friend-attire into my cooking-risotto-for-one-attire. I only very narrowly averted DISASTER because of swift stirring and gentle cooing and apologies to the risotto.

3) Pour chicken broth in pot, and bring to a simmer on the stove.

4) Finely chop an onion.

5) Grate about a 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

P10205156) Melt about two tablespoons of butter along with a glug of vegetable oil in a heavy saucepan.

7) Add the finely chopped onion, and cooked it on medium low until soft and translucent.

P10205168) Add 1 1/2 cups arborio rice, stirring steadily about two to three minutes.

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Arborio rice, onion, butter and oil.

9) Add 1/2 cup white wine, stirring steadily until the wine is absorbed in the rice.

10) Add a ladle full (or tea-cup full) of hot chicken broth, stirring steadily until the broth is absorbed in the rice. Sip glass of wine reserved for the cook.

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What it looks like after a ladle full of chicken broth.

11) Repeat step 10 for the next 30 minutes, or, more accurately, until the rice is tender and liquid absorbed. You may run out of broth before the rice gets tender. If this happens, keep adding more broth. I had the kettle boiled and a packaged dry chicken stock on the ready in case this happened. But it didn’t.

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What it looks like after the ladle full of chicken broth is absorbed.

12) When the rice is tender, the broth absorbed, stir in your grated Parmesan and another tablespoon of butter.

13) Salt if needed.

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What the finished product looks like. DELICIOUS. Nom nom nom nom.

14) EAT IT! Risotto, as I can attest to from experience, does not have the same allure once it is cooled and reheated. It’s still good, but it’s not the same. Life’s too short to eat left over risotto. Eat it fresh with reckless abandon! Then have a nap. That’s what I did.

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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):

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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:

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The couscous

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The chopped pre-roasted Safeway chicken

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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.

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

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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:

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Pre-cooked mush

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Post-cooked mush on presentation plate.

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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.

 

 

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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…

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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

 

 

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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.

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