Well actually it starts at home. However if you have an opportunity to have as good or bettera meal in a restaurant that resembles your grandmother’s home, then look no further. The owner appropriately refers to it as “my apartment café” as the exact location was her home.
Noticed the heritage building with the inviting sign out front by accident during the summer when I was on Main Street. Unfortunately the restaurant was closed at the time. A few of the surrounding business owners who were sitting out front raved about the regular lunches that are served only by RSVP and then received at the takeout window. Elizabeth; the owner and chef, used to reside at what is now the restaurant, specializing in lunch and brunch menu. I called to make a reservation and was told they were opening for dinner (and would continue to on occasion for private parties) starting September 10th. Voilà! Went with my friend Janice on a lovely evening where we sat outside. The inside is very tiny with only a few tables that were already reserved. Lucky for us the weather cooperated. The food is local, sustainable, creative, comfort food. Of course I had to check it out.
The only upside of self isolating is all the time you have for self reflection. Which, by the way, can be a positive.
Having said that, we would prefer it be of our own accord. Not a forced thing.
But since this is a totally new situation we try to make the best of it. I don’t know how you’re handling it but I’m spending quality time with my dogs (more than usual), getting back to reading, watching movies on TV (mostly comedies; one million ways to die in the West, etc.) and stirring the pot; for real. Good opportunity to get back to good ol fashioned cooking. Something else that had fallen by the wayside with my over abundance of socializing. Also time to work on a little project I’ve been mulling over to do with Palm Springs. More on this later – no one’s going anywhere for now.
As I’m leaving Palm Springs shortly I’m using up the contents of my fridge and trying to be as creative as can be with the contents. Note: there’s not much left to the imagination.
So last night I roasted fresh compari tomatoes with garlic, olive oil, spices and chilli peppers. Fresh squeezed lemon over top and grated toscano pepper cheese. Very simple comfort food with spaghetti. Simply delicious. It doesn’t take many ingredients to make a great meal.
I also want to say that I posted a few poems the other day. To those who follow via e-mail I believe I made a mistake in publishing one of the poems. At first I thought it was timely, but when I re-read it, I realized it was more depressing than uplifting so I decided to delete the post from my website. Also; we don’t know who the author is, so best to leave it alone.
These are strange times for sure. Something like covid-19 virus has never happened in our lifetime. Let’s hope things get back to normal soon. However, maybe this will make us wake up to what is most important in life in general. Simple but important things like Health, Family, Friends.
And one more positive – it’s officially SPRING! I’ll meet you back here very soon.
A slow cooker is such a great kitchen appliance to have around. Especially if you want to let something simmer for a long time without worrying about it. I found this recipe on a website called dinnerthendessert. Original recipe calls for chicken breasts but it’s equally good using chicken thighs. It’s also perfect as a pasta topping! In fact that’s exactly what I did the next day – with tossed linguine.
This recipe is not only simple to make, it’s simply delicious with a creamy butter, garlic and lemon coating.
5 *chicken breastsboneless and skinless
1/2teaspoon **kosher salt
1/4teaspooncoarse ground black pepper
1teaspoon Italian seasoning
2lemonsjuiced and zested
1cuphalf and half
1tablespoon chicken base (optional) but delicious! I use “better than bouillon”
In a large cast iron skillet add 1 tablespoon of butter to melt on medium high heat.
Add the kosher salt, black pepper and Italian seasoning to the chicken and add it to the pan.
Cook on each side for about 5 minutes to brown.
Add the chicken to your slow cooker.
Cover with lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic and the rest of the butter in pieces (lemons in the picture is just for reference. Don’t cook the lemons in the slow cooker).
Cook on low for 4 hours or on high for 2 hours.
In a large measuring cup add the half and half, cornstarch and chicken base (bouillon) and whisk well.
Add the liquid, mix, and cook an additional hour on high.
*Did you know?
Canada banned the use of hormones in Canadian poultry on March 4, 1963. Though it is rare, some marketers still classify their chicken as “hormone-free.” This is used as a marketing tactic, since all chickens raised in Canada have been raised without added hormones.
**Why do recipes recommend kosher salt?
Kosher salt is often recommended by TV chefs because it has a less intense and more pure, salty taste and because it’s easier to pick up the crystals and toss them into the pot! The flaky structure also makes it easy to spread atop your food.
By the way, kosher salt is so called because of its role in the process for preparing foods such as meats according to the Jewish tradition. Because it has so much surface area and doesn’t dissolve as quickly as table salt. Though it’s not much different than regular salt, it’s less likely to contain anti-caking agents and added iodine.
A hearty stew is perfect comfort food for Fall. This one pays homage to Julia Child’s legendary boeuf bourguignon, stealing her trick of flavoring a wine-rich beef stew with bacon drippings, but adding generous chunks of carrot, potato and butternut squash. Serve with a side of crusty fresh bread. And make sure to drink some of the wine.
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 pounds boneless beef chuck, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
2 strips bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips
1 pound butternut squash; peeled, seeded and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
4 carrots, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 stalks celery, sliced into 1/2-inch thick
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
In a large plastic bag, combine flour, salt and pepper. Add beef; shake to coat evenly. In a Dutch oven or large heavy pot, cook and stir bacon over medium-high heat until crisp. Transfer to paper towels with a slotted spoon. Add enough oil to bacon drippings to equal 2 tablespoons. Add half the beef to pot, shaking off any excess flour. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned. Remove beef with a slotted spoon. Repeat with remaining beef.
If pot is dry, add 1 tablespoon of oil. Add onions; cook and stir for about 4 minutes or until starting to brown. Stir in garlic; cook for 1 minute. Stir in tomato paste. Return beef, bacon and any remaining flour to pot. Stir to combine. Add chicken and beef broth, wine, bay leaves, thyme and paprika. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 1 1/2 hours or until meat is tender, stirring occasionally.
Add potatoes, squash, carrots and celery. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove lid and simmer about 15 minutes more or until vegetables are tender and liquid is desired consistency. Remove bay leaves. Stir in parsley.
SUKIYAKI is the perfect nutritious dish for cooler weather to share among close friends. My friend Ryoko makes the most wonderful Sukiyaki. Being from Japan it comes naturally to her, and I’m so glad that she showed me how to make it. We sat at her counter while talking and chopping the veggies. She explained that the meat you use is very important. She gets it sliced thinly from a butcher and prefers rib eye – the thinner the better for fast results. You can’t buy readily cut meat for sukiyaki otherwise, and it’s almost impossible to slice it yourself.
You could cook it on the stove although an electric skilletis the simplest and best thing to use since all the ingredients are served at the table. It’s actually quite easy to make if you chop and assemble everything beforehand. Just add what you like and noodles are optional – but since I love noodles I prefer adding them at the very end.
Add a little *dashiof this and a little **mirin and soy sauce to taste. If you’re not used to using these condiments you can go to any Japanese grocery store and ask someone that works there. They’ll know what you need.
Ryoko never uses a specific recipe but if you’ve never made it before I found an easy one online that you can adapt to suit your taste.
What you need:
Common ingredients include beef,tofu, negi (green onion), leafy vegetables, shiitake mushrooms and shirataki noodles. Have fun cooking and eating at-the-table!
Ingredients (serves 4):
1 lb. thinly sliced beef (she buys paper-thin rib-eye. You must get the butcher to cut it for you otherwise it will be too thick.
1 cube tofu
1/2 head nappa cabbage
1 bunch green onions
2 medium onions
7-8 shiitake mushrooms
7-8 white button mushrooms
1 Tbsp. oil
1 package frozen *udon noodles (optional)
1/3 cup soy sauce (I prefer low-sodium)
3 Tbsp. sake (Japanese rice wine)
3-5 Tbsp. sugar (to taste)
3/4 cup water
Cut all ingredients into bite-sized pieces. Arrange all ingredients on a large plate for a beautiful display.
Mix ingredients for sukiyakisauce in a separate bowl.
Add a little vegetable oil to an Electric Skillet, and set the temperature to high. Once the surface is hot, sauté some of the beef slices until brown. Add other ingredients.
Pour half the sukiyakisauce in the pan, and close the lid. Simmer until the ingredients are cooked through.
Everybody should take as much as they’d like to eat. Keep adding more ingredients and sauce as they disappear from the pan. Feel free to add more or less sugar, soy sauce and water to adjust the flavor of the sauce.
If you can find frozen udonnoodles in your supermarket, add it to the sauce to enjoy a whole new meal.
楽しみます= Tanoshimimasu = ENJOY!
*What is Dashi?
Dashi is a flavouring stock used in Japanese cuisine, giving that quintessential Japanese flavour to your favourite foods. It all starts with something called “umami”, which when translated from Japanese to English, “savoury” is probably the closest word. Umami was discovered as one of the five senses to accompany sweet, sour, bitter and salty and is a more friendly name for the taste of glutamates.
**What is Mirin?
Mirin is a common staple used in Japanese cooking. It’s a type of rice wine, similar to sake, but with a lower alcohol and higher sugar content.
THE ULTIMATE CULINARY CARBS! Do you have a preference?
Most people like either or and they’re both important food staples in most countries (especially Asia & Africa) even for breakfast where they’re sautéed with vegetables. Here in North America we’re having a noodle moment with noodle places like The Noodle Box opening up all over….so tasty and comforting and versatile. Rice is also nice but seemingly more ordinary – as in you don’t see rice joints opening up all over town…but it’s equally diverse. I personally love both depending on what they’re served with (obviously noodles with Pad Thai & Spaghetti and rice with Paella & anything Indian). It would be hard to make a specific choice because we need both (I don’t care what the diet books say – I’m sticking to this rule because there are so many varieties of either and gluten-free noodles are available). *Rice in all forms (white, brown, basmati and enriched rice) are all gluten-free.
There was recently in Vancouver a Taiwanese street festival where chefs battled out their unique rice or noodle recipes. I was there but didn’t sample either. Instead I’m giving you two simple and satisfying one-pot dishes for both which you can improvise to your liking (after you read the recipe). Enjoy!
SPICY TOFU HOTPOT
Warm up a chilly evening with this light but satisfying one-pot meal. The tofu absorbs the flavors of this fragrant, spicy broth, making it anything but bland. Look for fresh Chinese-style noodles in the refrigerated case of your supermarket alongside wonton wrappers.
4 cups vegetable broth, or reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons chile-garlic sauce, or to taste
4 cups thinly sliced tender bok choy greens
8 ounces fresh Chinese-style (lo mein) noodles
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Drain and rinse tofu; pat dry. Cut the block into 1-inch cubes.
Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add ginger and garlic; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add mushrooms and cook until slightly soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in sugar, broth, soy sauce and chile-garlic sauce; cover and bring to a boil. Add bok choy and tofu, cover and simmer until greens are wilted, about 2 minutes. Raise heat to high and add the noodles, pushing them down into the broth. Cook, covered, until the noodles are tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in cilantro. TIPS: Chile-garlic sauce is a spicy blend of chiles, garlic and other seasonings; it is found in the Asian section of the market.
Per serving:251 calories; 7 g fat (1 g sat, 1 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 40 g carbohydrates; 13 g protein; 7 g fiber; 636 mg sodium; 191 mg potassium.
Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin A (45% daily value), Vitamin C (40% dv), Fiber (27% dv), Iron (20% dv).
READER’S COMMENT: “Awesome!! we used Udon noodles in place of Lo Mein, but otherwise same recipe. The broth with garlic and ginger is fabulous! “
MUSHROOM & RICE ONE-POT
Take a handful of simple store cupboard ingredients and turn them into this hearty comforting dinner.
200g basmati rice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 tsp chopped rosemary or 1 tsp dried
250g chestnut mushrooms, quartered
2 red peppers, sliced
400g can choppedtomatoes (can use fresh)
425ml vegetable stock
handful parsley, chopped
Heat oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Tip the rice into a sieve, rinse under cold running water, then leave to drain. Heat the oil in a flameproof casserole, add the onion, then fry until softened, about 5 mins. Stir in the rosemary and mushrooms, then fry briefly. Add the rice, stir to coat in the oil, then add the peppers, tomatoes, stock and some freshly ground pepper. Bring to the boil, give it a stir, cover tightly with a lid, then bake for 20-25 mins until the rice is tender. Scatter over the parsley and serve.
TIPS: you can modify this recipe a little bit by
– using fresh tomatoes and tomato puré
– using chicken stock
– adding chicken and green chillies in recipe
*More about RICE:
Plain rice — regardless of whether it’s whole-grain brown rice, polished white rice, long-grained basmati rice or even exotic black rice — is always considered gluten-free.
So is the form of rice called glutinous rice, also known as sticky rice or sweet rice. Despite the name, it doesn’t contain the form of gluten that’s dangerous to those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance; the term “glutinous” simply refers to the fact that glutinous rice gets glue-like, or sticky, when cooked.
Source:Rice Recipe from Good Food magazine. Tofu Noodle Recipe from EatingWell: The EatingWell Diabetes Cookbook (this recipe is not just for diabetics – it just happens to come from the cookbook). xo
First off…let’s just talk about good cheese in general. There are so many great varieties. Just when you think you’ve tried them all…there’s a new kid on the block (or cheeseboard). Today I sampled a bunch of Beecher’s Handmade Cheese at Pike Place Market in Seattle. So good that I decided to do a whole blog dedicated to only cheese….but then decided I’d post a recipe of a gourmet version of Macaroni and Cheese instead.
Sometimes you just want a good old Mac’ n Cheese. This one has a little bite to it and the croutons provide a crispy topping.
To make croutons – 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, 4 slices white bread, cut into ½ inch squares, kosher salt, 21 seasoning salute (or something similar). In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add bread; stir until golden. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate and season with a pinch of salt & seasoning. Set aside.
Unsalted butter, for greasing pan
2 cups elbow pasta
8 ounces each – Monterey Jack,Cheddar and Manchego (or you can use Colby) cheese, all shredded.
2 tsp. all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
½ tsp. dry mustard
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
¼ sour cream
1 large egg, beaten
¼ cup grated sweet onion
1 ½ cups half & half
Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 9” x 13” baking dish. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta until almost al dente; drain, then return pasta to pot. In a medium bowl, combine all three cheeses. Then mix 2/3 of the cheese with pasta. Set aside. In a large bowl combine flour, salt, black pepper, cayenne, mustard, nutmeg, sour cream, egg, onion and the half & half. Pour over pasta and mix.
Transfer to baking dish and scatter remaining cheese over top. Bake uncovered until just beginning to brown, about 35 minutes. Top with croutons and bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes more. Let sit 15 minutes before serving. Makes approx. 10 servings.
Southern Comfort. I have a sneaking suspicion that you can put a pork shoulder into a *slow cooker all on its own (with no rub, sauce, etc.) and it will still turn out pretty darn tasty…but why chance it. This delicious ‘once on occasion’ recipe (as filed under guilty pleasures or football games) was served on buns this past weekend (with other food like stuffed peppers, etc.) as a request.
One 3 or 4 lb. boneless pork shoulder (boneless is easier for shredding). Have butcher roll and tie for you if it doesn’t come packaged that way.
Combine the following dry spices and rub them all over the pork. Make sure you get all surfaces well covered. Place seasoned pork in a bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. kosher salt
2 Tbsp. smoked paprika
1 Tbsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. ancho chili powder (or any Mexican chili powder)
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cumin
Next morning – remove the pork from refrigerator.
Put into slow cooker the following:
1/2 cup of water
1 cup of apple juice
1 cup of barbecue sauce (if you buy it try to get one with a smoky BBQ flavor – I like Kentucky wild whiskey or a wild hickory smoke). See homemade version below.
Juice of 1 lime
hot sauce, to taste
Add pork shoulder, cover & turn on low for at least 8 hours.
When done, remove roast from stoneware (slow cooker), and pull the meat into shredded pieces using two forks. Pour out any liquid in the stoneware. Combine shredded pork with a chopped medium onion & put back into stoneware with about 1/2 cup of the reserved liquid & bit more barbeque sauce. Turn on low for one more hour. Keep warm until serving on hamburger buns or rolls. Warm up extra BBQ for buns if needed.
*If you don’t have a slow cooker then put it into a covered roasting pan set on a low heat (250 F) for same amount of time. Just be sure to check & baste periodically.
Homemade BBQ Sauce (great for ribs too). A little more time but I promise it’s totally worth it:
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp. molasses
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. ketchup
1 tsp. yellow mustard like dijon, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, onion powder and kosher (or Lawry’s seasoned) salt.
1 cup chopped onion (optional)
1/2 cup strong black coffee
dash of Louisiana-style hot sauce
(makes two cups)
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Whisk thoroughly or combine with a hand-held blender to ensure there are no lumps. Simmer over low heat while stirring frequently for 1 hour (this pasteurizes the sauce). Cool for at least 1 hour before transferring to an airtight container for storage. Store for up to 1 month in the refrigerator but you can also freeze what you don’t use.
This “so simple it’s crazy” chicken dish is pure comfort food, baked to perfection if you like it juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside.
I used bone-in chicken thighs but you can use breasts, drumsticks or a mix thereof. Cooking with the bone-in tends to give it more flavour & helps retain moisture. If you like Southern fried, it tastes similar but without the breading & excess fat – a healthy alternative.
Place chicken on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
Sprinkle chicken generously with garlic salt, dehydrated chopped onion (or onion salt) + white pepper on both sides. Rub it in, then put bay leaves over top. Pour fresh lemon juice & a little bit of extra-virgin olive oil on top & cover with thinly sliced lemons. Bake at 325 F for about 1 ½ – 2 hrs. or until crispy on the outside. Turn oven off & leave for up to ½ longer.
Inspiration for this delicious recipe came from a renowned urban diner in Chicago, namely the “White Palace Grill.” There are Diners and then there are Diners!
Open since 1939, The White Palace Grill might be the finest example of an urban diner in Chicago or anywhere else for that matter. It has managed to stick around while other businesses have come and gone.
In addition to an extensive lunch and dinner menu, the White Palace Grill serves up eggs practically any way you can think of 24 hours a day. The diner attracts city workers, policemen, firemen, business people, college students, politicians, the after hours club crowd and just about anybody. The mix of people is terrific and diverse. It is an urban oasis.
Just as a picture tells a story (if the walls could describe every patron who has walked into the place they could write a book), the White Palace Grill is a key part of Chicago history. If you need a break from “caramelized onions”, “infused” sauces and names of food you can’t pronounce then go over anytime 24 hours a day 365 days a year.