Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Paella and Bilogia

Paella - a perfect easy dish for entertaining a large crowd.  It's delicious, cooked all in one pot, can be basically made right before people arrive and stays warm in the oven, can be made with any meats or veggies you desire, and looks pretty impressive too.

Tonight's Chicken Chorizo version:
1 pound of Bomba Rice (special spanish rice)
12 chicken drumsticks
3 spicy chorizo sausages, sliced
1 cup of wine
2 1/2 cups of hot water
2 tablespoons of hot smoked paprika
1 pinch of saffron
1 onion diced
1/4 cup of diced roasted red peppers
1 1/2 cups of frozen peas

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a large roasting pan on the stove at medium-high heat, put a glug of olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan, and add the chicken until all sides are browned.  Take the chicken out and put aside.  Add the onion and chorizo and cook until onions are tender, about 4 minutes.  Stir in paprika, then roasted red peppers, then tomato paste and finally crumble in the saffron threads.  When everything is dissolved, pour in the rice.  Add the wine, and stir it all continuously until the wine is absorbed.  Add the water, bring to a boil, stir in the peas, and then add the drumsticks to the dish in a pretty presentation, and put the whole dish into the oven for 30 minutes.  Voila.
For this pairing, we decided to go with a fantastic Spanish red, a blend of old vine, organic Monastrell and Tempranillo. The 2008 Bodegas Los Frailes "BILOGIA" from DO Valencia.
This winery is located in Valencia (southern Spain) just off the coast of the Mediterranean sea, and high in the hills at over 600 metres above sea level. Valencia creates warm days and cool nights which is optimal for a slow and long ripening period. This lengthy period will produce grapes with great balance and complexity. It boasts nice fruit aromas of blackberry, currant, grilled plum and spices with a bit of really nice earth tones. It is medium to full bodied with nice firm tannins.
Availability:  Delivered to you door in 48 hours. $18.95/btls (Case of 12 x 750ml) +HST.

dinner is served.
bon appétit. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Good Morning Cookies

It's been a crazy November!  Which hasn't left to much time to blog all the delicious food and wine we've been indulging in.  But these breakfast cookies are perfect to have around to take on the go.  These took thirty minutes to whip up, have no sugar or flour or dairy or eggs or butter, and are packed with goodness.

Blueberry Banana Coconut Walnut Cookies
1 1/2 cups of rolled oats (could use gluten free oats)
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 tablespoon of golden flaxmeal
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup of blueberries
3 over rip bananas, mashed
1/4 cup of coconut oil (liquid)
1 tablespoon of honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine oats, coconut, flaxmeal, salt, nuts and seeds into a bowl.  Mix bananas, oil, honey and vanilla in another bowl and add mixture to the dry bowl.  Fold in bananas.  Scoop two tablespoons of the mixture at a time on to parchment lined cookie sheet.  The mixture is not easy to mould, and needs to be firmly pressed together on the sheet with your hands.  They should be a bit larger than your average chocolate chip cookie!
Bake for twenty five minutes or so until golden.  Let them cool on the pan and harden on a cool rack before packing them away.

A fun dinner party is planned for the weekend, and so a full blog post with lots of new wine discoveries is on it's way!

breakfast (and snack) is served.
bon appétit. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Wine and Cheese Party

We hosted a wine and cheese this weekend.  Everyone had a task of bringing one cool piece of cheese to throw on the table to nibble on, and one cool bottle of wine to open and share.

Very simple and fun way to spend an evening with friends.  We went down to the local butcher and asked him for a bunch of butcher paper and taped it down to cover our kitchen island.  Everyone was invited to put the cheese on the table, and write beside the cheese what kind you brought.

We chopped a whole bunch of sausage and salamis, put out some crackers, a couple loaves of baguette, and voila.

Here are two special bottles of wine we found and enjoyed.  Both are from Vintages at LCBO and available right now.

This is in the LCBO right now for $17.95. I've never seen a Grand Cru Pinot Gris at such a low price. I don't think I've seen a Grand Cru anything priced so low for that matter. Wow does it ever deliver. The wine is certainly "off dry", which means it's basically sweet. 38 grams of sugar / litre to be exact. However, its packed with powerful juicy acidity which balances everything out. It's full and rich with peach, apricots, baking spices and flowers. It has a great long finish and pairs oh so well with charcuterie and cheeses. You can drink this now, or put it in your cellar for up to 8 years. I'm betting it will not be on the shelf for long...

This red just came out in Vintages this past weekend and will not last long priced at $19.95. Such great value for "Vacqueyras" which is a Cru Village in Frances Southern Rhone Valley known as the Cotes du Rhone.  Down there they make big (balanced) fruity blends of Grenache and Syrah grapes. This red has range and focus. You could pair it with so many things or with nothing at all. That's why it was a great pick for this kind of party. It has a lovely underlying graphite edge to it's suave plum sauce, fig and blackberry fruit nose. Take a big sip and you get crazy flavours of black tea, cassis and tobacco, which keeps a nice velvety feel it all the way to the finish. Buy this wine by the case, as it will only get better in the cellar. I poured it into a decanter for 3 hours before serving it, as you should do with younger wines of this pedigree. 

wine and cheese and salami is served.
bon appétit.  

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Curried Quinoa Butternut Squash Soup

 The soup you think of when you think of fall.  Butternut squash soup.  This one is curried, and full of quinoa, and just-enough spice to feel the warmth.
1 litre of stock (chicken or vegetable, boxed or homemade)
1 big peeled and diced butternut squash (we peeled it with a regular potato peeler)
1 sliced onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 heaping tablespoon of garam masala
1 can of coconut milk
1 cup of cooked quinoa (any kind will do, but black or red works the best for the most crunch!)
1 long red chilli pepper, finely diced
some cilantro leaves for on top

Cook 1 cup of quinoa and place aside.  Put the onions and cilli peppers and olive oil into a deep pot.  Cook for just a coupe of minutes and add the garam masala.  Cook the onions on medium high until they become translucent.  Add the diced squash and cook until tender to the fork, about 5 minutes.  
Pour in the stock and bring to a boil.  Add the coconut milk and stir until heated through.  Remove from the heat and let cool for half an hour.  Put a hand blender inside the pot and blend until smooth.  Add salt, pepper and the cooked quinoa.
Ladle into bowls and serve warm, with a few cilantro leaves on top.

bon appétit.  
dinner is served.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Mexican Hash and Bubbly for Breakfast

We wanted something hardy for breakfast this morning.  Warm, filling, and most importantly paying homage to the last of the tomato season.  So we started with fresh salsa and made mexican hash with scrambled eggs!
Fresh salsa
-Chop a couple of handfuls of whatever tomatoes you have found.  Finely dice a small red onion.  Juice half of a lime.  Add a diced avocado.  Chop of small handful of cilantro leaves.  Add a pinch or two of salt, a little bit of pepper, and mix it all together.  Voila.

 Anything Mexican we cook in our home requires a special Mexican mixture of amazingness that we have found in Kensington Market.  I think it's officially called 'the blue dot package.'  That's what we call it anyways, and so did the woman in the store who makes it.  Not to be mistaken for the red dot package.  You can pick one up at Emporium Latino, at 234 Augusta Ave.  If you can't make it there, you can always use any kind of taco spice mix blend you can find at the grocery store, but it's worth it to make a trip to Kensington.
2 tablespoons of olive oil
10 mini potatoes
1 Poblano peppers
1/2 red onion, sliced
1 Chorizo Sausages
4 eggs
1/4 cup of shredded of fresh mexican queso cheese
1 heaping tablespoon of Blue Dot spice
 Put the sliced potatoes in the pan with a cup or two of water.  Bring to a boil and cook the potatoes for 4-5 minutes.  Drain the water, and put the potatoes on the side.  Slice the sausage casing and take the meat out, pulling it into small chunks of meat.  Put the chorizo in the pan and cook with a small spoon of oil until browned and cooked almost through.   Now take the meat out of the pan, leaving all the flavoured oily goodness.  Put the onions and cooked potatoes in the pan and cook until almost crispy.  Add the cooked chorizo for a few quick minutes, and then add the scrambled egg with cilantro, stirring it up until the egg cooks through.  Add the cheese and stir till melted.  Plate, and serve warm, with some salsa on the side.
 The brunch was a celebration for Jessica, as she had just completed her first half marathon. So we had to pop some bubbly, naturally. The wine we selected was Terregaie Fior d'Arancio DOCG from Colli Euganei in the hills of Veneto, Italy.  The wine/appellation has just been granted a DOCG status (DOCG — Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (controlled designation of origin guaranteed) and it is just starting to get recognized around the world for its amazing quality and style. Fior D'arancia means Orange Blossom in Italian, and the appellation is named after the distinct orange essances. The winemaker, Salvatore Lovo, from Terregaie was the driving force to have this wine style recognized as a DOCG and they have some of the oldest vines planted in their vineyards. It is made from 100% Moscato Giallo. It is lightly sweet with very low alcohol (6%) so it is a perfect brunch wine. Unfortunately you cannot find any of these wines in the province of Ontario, but you can replace it with the Batasiolo Moscato D'Asti DOCG Dla Rei, $14.95, #277194.
bon appétit.  
brunch is served.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Take That, Turkey

Don't get us wrong, we LOVE turkey.  But side dishes are really what make the whole meal.  Here are three successful sides we tried this weekend.  And so begins the season or warm roasted veggies.  Happy Fall.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Curried Roasted Cauliflower

1 head of cauliflower cut into small florets
2 tablespoons of garam masala
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of honey
2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
4 teaspoons of olive oil
     Put all the ingredients except for the cauliflower into a bowl and stir until dissolved.  Add the cauliflower and toss until coated.  Put on parchment paper on a baking sheet in the oven at 450 degrees for 30-40 minutes until desired tenderness.  Serve them on their own, in a salad, mixed with raisins and watercress, dropped in butternut squash soup... delicious endless possibilities.

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad
3 chopped sweet potatoes into 1 inch cubes, leaving the skin on
1/2 cup of green onions sliced into thin rounds
1/4 cup of chopped parsley
1/4 cup of olive oil + more for roasting
2 tablespoons of honey
1 1/2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary
1 minced shallot
2 teaspoons of dijon mustard

Coat the sweet potato cubes in olive oil and lay them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and roast in the oven until tender.  At 450 degrees, it should take 30-ish minutes.  Stab them with a fork and it should be tender all the way through.
Put the green onion and parsley and cooled down roasted potatoes in a bowl.  the remaining ingredients will be the salad dressing, so put them all in a small bowl and whisk until blended.  Pour the dressing over the sweet potatoes, and mix until coated.

Roasted Onion and Blue Cheese Salad
2 red sweet peppers
2 red onions
6 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup of olive oil
4 tablespoons of sherry vinegar
8 cups of frisee
shaved blue cheese
   Start by roasting 2 red peppers, putting them in the oven whole at 500 degrees turning frequently until the whole pepper appears burnt and crispy.  Take them out and let them cool, and then peel the skin off with your hands.  The skin should separate easily from the flesh, discard the skin and the seeds.  Slice into strips.
Cut the onion into quarters.  Place the oil, garlic cloves (whole), red pepper in a small shallow roasting pan, and roast them in the oven turning the onion occasionally, at 450 for 40 minutes, or until the onions are soft and caramelized.  Remove from the oven and drizzle the sherry vinegar over the veggies, letting the flavours marry in the bottom of the pan.  Spoon the veggies over small mounds of frisee, and spoon a little of the extra juice from the bottom over each plate.  Top with shaved blue cheese, serve warm.

We shared a couple bottles of Chenin Blanc with our loved ones this weekend. TORMENTOSO OLD VINE 2011 priced at $ 14.95 in LCBO Vintages. The winery is located in Paarl, South Africa and has a cool historic name because the Cape of Good Hope was originally known as Cabo Tormentoso when it was discovered by Portuguese explorers in 1488. This translates into the Cape of Storms.
The diverse grape variety Chenin Blanc shines bright in the vineyards of South Africa and claims the title as the country's signature white varietal. Chenin Blanc is most famous as the grape of France's Vouvray in the Loire Valley.  The colour is straw with hints of gold, this one teases with suggestions of orchard fruit on the nose but really struts itself after the first sip with well integrated flavours of pear, apple, grapefruit, spice, vanilla and flinty mineral notes. Somewhat of a creamy middle followed by loads of lively acidity and a bold lengthy finish. Really good juice! Pick up a bottle and give it a try. It's a good replacement if you are stuck on oaked Chardonnay's and are looking to break free and try something new.

dinner is served.
bon appétit. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

spicy crunchy sweet moist banana bread

So this is one of the most interesting banana bread's I've ever tasted.  It tastes like fall spices, reminds me of pumpkin pie, stays moist for days, is gluten free, and crunches when you eat it.  Crunches.  My very favourite texture in the world.  This is the second best banana bread ever because my Mom's Bread takes the cake.  She makes a coconut lime glaze thing that's pretty damn great.  Totally different thing, different realm of banana bread.   
3 large ripe-to-over-ripe bananas1 large egg
1/3 cup virgin coconut oil warmed until it liquefies
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1 cup of almond flour                             
1/2 cup of coconut flour  
(substitute flours with 1 1/2 cups of white whole wheat flour if desired)
1/4 cup uncooked millet
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and grease a 9X5 inch loaf pan.  Mash the bananas until they are smooth (a few bigger chunks are ok).  Add the coconut oil and egg and whisk together till blended.  Add sugar and maple syrup and stir it up again.  Toss in the baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, and stir again.  Add the flour and stir just until it's blended.  Don't over-stir!  Add the millet, stir it in, and put the mixture into the pan and then straight in the oven for 40-50 minutes.  Put a wooden skewer or toothpick into the centre to test if it's done.  It's done when a toothpick or fork comes out clean.Pour a glass of wine, a mug of tea, a cup of coffee, a hot toddy, anything your little heart desires and wait.

bread is served.
bon appétit. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Mushroom Risotto and Norm Hardie County Chard.

 Mushroom risotto is one vegetarian dish I will ALWAYS order off the menu at a restaurant, and one that Nick orders rarely (can't convince him not to eat the fancy meat) but none the less he loves.  He loves anything covered in cheese.

The dish isn't particularly difficult, but isn't necessarily easy, per se.
6-8 cups of stock, chicken stock, veggie stock, whatever you like.  Choose low sodium, or use homemade.
1 small package of dried mushrooms
9 ounces of fresh wild mushrooms (make a fun mix of whatever you like)
6 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 cup of chopped shallots
1 cup of risotto rice (arborio or carnaroli)
1/2 dry white wine
4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese

Turn the stock you have into mushroom stock.  Put the stock in a large pot and add the dried mushrooms.  Bring to a boil and lower the heat.  Let the mushrooms soften in there for 5-10 minutes.  Remove the mushrooms, chop and put aside.  Chop the fresh mushrooms you have, chopping the stems into smaller pieces and separating them into a pile on their own, and chopping the caps into 1/4 inch slices.
 Grab a wooden spoon, an important tool for risotto.  Use it the whole time!

Place half the butter into a sauce pan and melt, adding all the fresh mushroom caps.  Once the mushrooms are sauteed (soft and brown) remove from the pan.  Add the other half of the butter, melt, and add the mushroom stems and the shallots.  Cook until the shallots are translucent.  Add a glug of olive oil and the rice and cook on medium high until the rice resembles little glass beads.  Add the 1/2 cup of white wine and start stirring.  Add a ladle of stock (3/4 cup) at a time, stirring the rice constantly until the ladle is absorbed and you can see a line in the pan (shown below).  When you can see that line, add another ladle and continue until the rice doesn't absorb any more liquid and has a creamy consistency.

The rice should be mostly translucent but opaque in the centre.  Add really tiny small amounts of liquid stirring consistently until desired thickness of the sauce.  The sauce will thicken a bit once removed from the heat.  Add the chopped up mushroom caps and the chopped up mushroom from the stock, and slowly stir in the parmesan.  Salt and pepper it, and spoon onto plates (or bowls really).  Eat while it's hot!
We opened up a bottle of Norm Hardie's 2010 County Chard.  A rare treat in our house, only because we drink it all when we have it.   After spending a least a few weekends a month in the county this summer, our PEC (Prince Edward County) cellar collections and tasting notes have grown generously. This entry is the second from our favorite vineyard in PEC ( and winemaker).   Norm actually makes a kick ass risotto too. So if you are ever at the winery, ask him for a few of his tips.
Intense fruit aromas with Citrus, apple, peach, pineapple and an insane amount of appealing minerality with gun flint and crushed rocks. Medium bodied with generous acidity and delicate texture. Norms wines really speak of his land. It is hard to find wines this distinct anywhere else in the world. However, ironically enough... some top international critics have said his wines are the most Burgundian you will find outside of Burgundy. So It's nice to have access to these wines, so close to home. I recommend sourcing them out. LCBO:VINTAGES has a few selections in stock right now. It retails for $35.
bon appetit.
dinner is served.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Pickled Onions and Oodles of Vino

Red Onions.  Capable of so many things at the dinner table.  We're going to pickle some.  It takes only minutes and it's soo very worth it.

We are headed to a friends cottage for the long weekend and wanted to bring something homemade as a hostess gift, amongst oodles of yummy wine of coarse.  Who doesn't like pickled red onions with just about any meal at the cottage?

3/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons of sea salt
3 tablespoons of maple syrup
1 dried bay leaf
4 whole cloves
1 red onion, thinly sliced

Place the vinegar, cloves, bay leaf, maple syrup and salt in a deep pan.  Bring the liquid to a slow boil over medium heat.  When bubbling, add the onions.  Stir for 1 minute and remove the pan from the heat.  Let the onions and liquid cool to room temperature, then pour into containers and put in the fridge.  The onions will last a month or so, but are best at one week.  Put them on anything.

Dress the jar up with a label and pretty paper and you have a perfect hostess gift everyone can enjoy for days.

Happy Long weekend!  Enjoy a BBQ or two, and lots of warm sunshine.  Happy summer.

bon appetit.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Veggie Curry and Organic Lager

Tonight was "clean the fridge of all our veggies before we go away for the weekend" night.  My favourite.  Veggie Curry.  Nick was skeptical.  He doesn't jump up and down for veggies and tofu like I do, but he played along with a smile.   It all started with the huge bag of colourful swiss chard we had in the fridge.   We'll give you the recipe we used for our dinner tonight, but know that you can start with the curry onion base, and then add whatever veggies YOU have in YOUR fridge.

1 White Onion chopped
2 Garlic Cloves chopped
4 Tablespoons of Coconut Oil + more as you go along in case you need more moisture
1 heaping spoonful of turmeric powder
1 heaping spoonful of curry power
1-2-3 (depending on your taste) chopped whole chillies
rice - of your choice (we used brown and wile rice mixture)
Loads of veggies (what we used is listed below)
a chopped handful of cilantro (optional)
1 package of organic firm tofu
1 can of coconut cream
1 lime
Put the coconut oil and sliced onions in the pan to sweat the onions.  This means cooking them until they are moist, or 'sweaty.'   Add the garlic, turmeric and curry powder and stir until the powders make a thick paste around the onions.  Add the chilli.  This is something you have to play with a bit, adding more oil if it's too thick, and more powders if it's too runny.  You don't want anything to resemble liquid in the pan, but you don't want it so thick that it's not a paste.  Above all, don't worry too much because it should taste yummy no matter what.
Cook a pot of your favourite kind of rice to serve underneath the curry.  Follow the directions on the package.  We used a brown rice and wild rice mixture.
Now start adding veggies to the delicious curried onion mixture in your sauce pan.  We chopped 2 sweet potato (and cooked the pieces in a bowl in the microwave for 4 minutes to soften them first), 1 chopped zucchini, 1 chopped bell pepper, a whole bunch of swiss chard, a handful of cilantro, and 1 package of fresh peas.  Put the hard vegetables in first to give them a head start, and then add the rest of the veggies and a package of cubed firm organic tofu.  Then finish it all off with the peas and leafy greens.
Once all the leaves have wilted down, add one can of coconut milk or cream, and one can of water.  Let it all bubble away for 15-20 minutes on low so all the flavours can infuse the veggies.
Nick has been waiting a long time to say this next step with a serious face.  Squeeze the juice from one lime and "you put de lime in de coconut."  He laughed out loud.  Nick's been waiting to do that since he laughed at a moment on Top Chef Canada when Trista said that to Carl during the season finale.  Honestly.

We have traditionally always paired our meals with wine, but tonights dish was screaming for ice cold beer.  We went with Mill Street Organic.  Light, crisp, refreshing, organic, and local!  Beer tends to cut the spiciness of curry quite nicely (maybe because you can take a much larger gulp than a sip) but a cold white sweet wine will also pair with any spicy curry.

sprinkle with toasted coconut if you have.
bon apetit.
dinner is served.

Friday, August 3, 2012

lake kezar, lobstah clam bake, and alagash

We went to a very close friends wedding in Portland, ME.  It was perfect.  Everything about it.  The vows, the lights and linen, the dress, the family and friends, the food and wine...  The day after the wedding we all travelled up to Lake Kezar for an afternoon lobster bake, lawn games, swimming, boating and Alagash.

The wedding guests were separated into cabins by the water.  The cabins were specially outfitted with details that would appeal the each guest.  There was lots of Canadian literature in our cabin.  This is a couple that pays attention to detail.  It was incredibly special.

The sunset was gorgeous, despite the rain that day.  Everyone that spends a significant amount of time there will tell you that Lake Kezar has been deemed by National Geographic as one of the top three lakes in the world.  I searched online and couldn't find any evidence of that, but who's counting.  I'll let them have it.  It's a pretty special place.

 What a beautiful fresh simple dinner.  Fresh lobsters and clams and corn on the cob, boiled till cooked, with a little potato salad on the side, and you have a traditional Maine feast!

My most favourite potato salad
3 pounds of little baby potatoes
1/4 cup of chopped dill
1/4 cup of chopped green onions
1/2 cup of chopped basil
1 lemon - grated rind and juice
4 garlic cloves
1/2 cup of plain fat free yogurt
dash of hot sauce
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon of honey
1 tablespoon of dijon
olive oil for cooking
-cover potatoes in olive oil and salt and oven roast them.  For the baby potatoes I use, I roasts them on a parchment lined baking sheet and cook at 450 degrees for half an hour or so.  Stick a fork in a medium sized one and you know it's done when it slides in easily.  Combine yogurt, garlic, dill, onion, basil, mustard, honey and lemon juice.  When the potatoes are cooked, let them cool to room temperature.  Add the lemon rind to the potatoes and then the dressing, chill and serve!

Alagash White, a beer you see almost everywhere in Portland, on tap and in bottles.  A white wheat beer that's light, crisp, spicy and fruity.  As far as I know you can't get it in Canada.  It's local to Portland ME.  Pairs incredibly well with lobstah.  Then again, what doesn't?

bon appetit
dinner is served.