Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Think Out Of The Box With These Ten SuperBowl Sunday Snacks


Okay, I will be straight with you. I don't give a rat's ass about football and I have no interest in eating three quarters of the traditional SuperBowl food that I see all all over the internet and on television. If you want to eat 30 layer bean dip and giant casseroles of melted Velveeta you probably won't want to hear my ideas about what I think makes a great game day spread and I am okay with that. I won't take it personally when you tell me I am nuts to recommend middle eastern inspired crashed potatoes instead of nachos covered in queso if you promise to not take it personally when I refuse to taste your delicious dip made with a package of dried onion soup, uncooked ramen noodles and nutella mixed and sour cream.

Deal?

So, just because I don't care about football doesn't mean I don't care about a good party with great food, drinks and friends and with that in mind, I always accept an invitation to watch the game and, more importantly, eat with people I enjoy hanging out with. I always bet on the team with the nicest outfits and I almost always win money with that method so take that under advisement this Sunday when you are getting your wallet out.

So, without further ado, here are some ideas for a Super Bowl party spread that is delicious, maybe a bit healthier and totally delicious.



The King's Crashed Potatoes are tasty on their own or you could serve them with a bit of tzatziki to dip them into. I served them as part of a buffet dinner on Xmas Eve and they were the first item to disappear




Jamaican Patty Pops using frozen puff pastry in place of the traditional but labour intensive patty pastry are easy to make and absolutely crazy good. Skip putting them on a stick and just make them small enough that they can easily be eaten out of hand and you are good to go.



Pasteis de Bacalhau are a bit unexpected and take a bit of planning and prep work but these crispy cod fritters are perfect. They can be cooked ahead of time and served at room temperature, like they are in Portugal.








Cauliflower "Wings" with Spicy Korean, Honey Garlic and Buffalo sauces are a great alternative to chicken wings so your vegetarian friends can hop on the wing train.




Oven Fried Korean Drumsticks  (easily adapted if you want to use chicken wings) are just as tasty as deep fried wings but are a much healthier alternative AND you won't burn your house down right before your guests arrive, which is always a bonus




serve them with this lightened up blue cheese dip because a lighter dip means you can eat twice as much and who doesn't want to be able to do that?



Sticky Asian Meatballs because everybody loves food on a stick



my MVP Caesar puts a fun spin on a classic cocktail by using Peruvian booze called Pisco instead of vodka, some Peruvian hot sauce and pickle juice. It might require a trip to your closest Latin American store but it's worth the trek ( spring for the Walter's too if you can find it)




Watermelon Rosemary Gin Pops if you really want to make a splash. This is usually a summery treat but I think they would be fun for a SuperBowl party.




Lastly, every party spread needs at least one sweet thing and this is the perfect sweet treat that is still manly enough for the guys who probably don't want to enjoy a tray of macarons in the tones of their favourite teams uniforms.  Compost Cookies are a nice, grown up sweet that are irresistible and a great way to use up those little dregs left in your chip/tortilla/pretzle/salty snack bags

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Week In Yum Jan 16-22 Pho Hung, Patois and Wahlburgers

my rare beef pho was every bit as delicious as I remembered and it will not be 10 years before I return


Pho Hung

I have to say just one thing before I get started:
One of the things I love most about The Kid is the fact that he will go rogue when we eat out and order something off the menu that none of us have ever heard of and doesn't really even care what might or might not be in it.

It was haircut time so we made our way to Kensington Market an hour or so before the scheduled appointment so we could whip in to Tap Phong for some espresso cups and grab lunch. Even though I know that neither of my boys feels the same about Vietnamese as I do, I asked if he would mind if we went to Pho Hung.

I started going to Pho Hung 30 years ago, when I first moved to Toronto. It used to be at a location a bit farther north on Spadina and although I miss the open kitchen and the big, wrap around bar that you could slurp your soup at, the current location is nice and bright and cheerful and it's only old fogies, like me, who still refer to it as the "new place". I used to eat at the Bloor St location from time to time during TIFF when we worked out of the Intercontinental Hotel but I think it's been at least a decade since I have dined at the Spadina restaurant. Despite the fact that we are at Kensington at least two or three times a month, we never eat here because I am the only one who ever wants pho and it's usually Shack, our picky toddler,  who decides where we will eat.

waiting for the strong coffee to drip into the cup of condensed  through before adding the hot, sweet coffee into the glass of ice

The minute we walked in the door, I was assaulted by familiar smells and I almost wept with happiness and nostalgia. Not even having to read the menu, I ordered myself a small rare beef pho and a cafe su da for The Kid. I went over the menu quickly to recommend a number of dishes that I knew he would like when it happened:

"I'm going to try #37"
#37 was just called  BÁNH XÈO or "Vietnamese Pancake with Shrimp and Pork"

Honestly, that could be just about anything. Is it a crepe? Is it a pancake? Is it more like an omelet? the whole shrimp and pork thing could mean anything.

It ended up being this giant, almost crispy omelet like thing stuffed with a ridiculous amount of bean sprouts, shrimp and pork and served with tons of fresh mint, lettuce and pickled vegetables.  He couldn't finish it all because it was huge but he liked it and said he would eat it again but would prefer to order it as something to share so that he could have something else too.

So, hat's off to The Kid for officially becoming the most adventurous eater in the family.

Patois


If you haven't had brunch at Patois yet, you need to do something about that. We joined some friends for brunch last weekend and I took a page from my kid's notebook and ordered something new. I pretty much always just want the fried chicken with waffles but, instead, I got the Patois Eggs Benny with jerk mortadella and hollandaise served over mini beef patties. It was so good that I don't know what I am going to do the next time we go there. Life was so much simpler when I only craved the fried chicken but the combination of the spicy meat from the patty, with the smooth, creamy sauce and the rich, runny yolk was absolutely perfect.

The Kid got that Hong "King" Kong Waffle with nutella, berries and whipped cream up there and judging by the speed at which he inhaled the food, I would say it's probably pretty tasty. Underneath the waffle is some french toast stuffed with spekulas cookie butter. I didn't get to taste that because it belonged to the son of a friend and so I am not at liberty to just take a big bite but, like the waffle, it was devoured in no time. The special was the Rude Boy- an oxtail grilled cheese served with coleslaw and kale salad. This is not a brunch for the faint of heart, the mildly peckish or those looking for a simple smattering of egg and bacon but if you want to try something new, delicious, decadent and indulgent, this must be on your list of places to visit.


Wahlburgers

Shack and I popped into Wahlburgers last weekend to see what that's all about. It wasn't super full when we first got there but by the time we were finished our lunch, there was a line up and it was absolutely jam packed. So, these are not cheap burgers at all. The burgers are all at least $9.25, fries, onion rings and tater tots are another $3.50 so you are looking at a $15 burger and fries lunch. If you are bringing a couple of kids, it's going to add up and so it better be one fantastic burger and fries, right?

We decided to try the trio of sliders for $16, which is actually not a bad deal. Each of the sliders is actually somewhere between a slider and a full sized burger at 3oz each and I really wanted to try more than one flavour. The big surprise for both of us was the Thanksgiving Burger. A moist turkey patty covered in stuffing, cranberry sauce, squash and mayo was our favourite out of the three and the one that we would happily order again as a full size burger. The buns are delicious, fresh and just soft enough to squish down so the burger fits in your mouth but with a nice, shiny crust that keeps it from falling apart.

The BBQ Bacon Burger was a close second but the OFD was not that great. It's a fine burger patty but it's kind of bland and there are way too many bulky toppings. It totally fell apart when we tried to eat it and we ended up just picking at the deconstructed burger. Burgers that can't be eaten unless you have a mouth like Jim Carrey are my pet peeve (which is why I love the Burger's Priest so much).

Fries arrived lukewarm and so we sent them back and when they were replaced with piping hot fries, they were very good and we barely touched the caesar salad that tasted like mayo with a touch of garlic. If Shack doesn't finish a caesar salad it says more about the salad than anything I can write, so there you go.

A featured array of grown up $15 boozey milkshake  tell me more about the crowd they are catering than anything else about the place - I use the term "grown up" loosely because no true grown up wants to drink a cocktail that contains four kinds of flavoured liquor, ice cream, chocolate cookies and blueberry syrup.

All in all, the food was good, it's really bright and lively, kind of loud and I would imagine it's hopping whenever there is a big sporting event going on. I will stick to lunch.



I want to Target this week with The Neighbour to help her pick out a frame for a photo and this is what happened to me. I just want to say that to all of you assholes who are crowing and almost gleeful that Target Canada was a failure and is pulling out, there are also over 17,000 Canadians who are going to be out of work. Say what you will about Target's issues with stocking shelves and pricing, they know how to train their staff to provide great customer service and I, for one, will miss my neighbourhood Target and I will miss the always smiling, helpful staff and I would take 100 understocked Targets over 1 Walmart and I hope that all the smart retailers out there run to snap up the wonderful staff that are going to be out there looking for a job when the door finally shuts.
Target, we hardly knew ye.

Oh yeah, my recipe for Cauliflower "Wings" Three Ways  has been included on The Healthy Living with Greatist #StumbleBloggers List




Again, it's almost time for Winterlicious! If you haven't tried my favourite Indian restaurant, Pukka, now's the time.
I think I am going to try to hit Daisho for lunch, Lee for dinner and then I have to pick a spot near the AGO for the day we go to see the Baquiet exhibit. Make sure to try at least one new restaurant before it ends on Feb 15.

Pin of the week: Oh, this will be happening in this house

Instagram of the week: This woman's feed will make you drool all over your shirt

Facebook share of the week:

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Lighten Up That Shepherd's Pie


This recipe is an oldie but a goodie and what with the weather holding fast at -30000556C for the last week or so, a young girl's thoughts turn to comfort foods. It's been all stews, soups and things that bubble up in the oven around here.

This shepherds pie is a lightened up version of the classic, subbing chicken in for the ground meat, it leaves out the cream in favour of a mixture of stock and evaporated milk and you replace 1/3 of the potato /sweet potato with cauliflower for the topping. If you really want to lighten things up , you can replace as much as half of the potato with cauliflower if you like but it won't be quite as creamy. As always, feel free to change up your veg - if you don't like zucchini, replace it with something you do like - you know the drill by now.

It's not that I don't enjoy a heavier, meatier shepherds pie once in a while but when I can make something a bit healthier without sacrificing the Yum, I like to do that.

Chicken Shepherd's Pie 

makes about 6 servings


1 tbls olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 small zucchini, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 lb ground chicken ( I ground my own from thighs but you can buy it pre ground)
1 tbls tomato paste
1 1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 tbls cornstarch
fresh thyme ( a small sprig of fresh or about 2 tsp or to taste of dried)
small handful fresh italian parsley, chopped
2 lbs combined potato/sweet potato/cauliflower
2 tbls butter
1/4 to 1/2 cup buttermilk (depends on how thick you want them)
Preheat oven to 375F.


Put the potato and the sweet potato in a pot of salted water, bring to a boil and cook until soft. Drain and put it back in the same pot. At the same time I put my chopped up cauliflower in another pot of salted water and cooked it separately so that I could puree it before adding it to the potato/sweet potato. You can put the cooked, drained cauliflower in a food processor, a blender, use an immersion blender or you trusty bullet, like I did. Add that pureed cauliflower to the pot that contains the drained potato/sweet potato, mash in the butter and then start pouring in the buttermilk while you continue to mash until you get the texture you like. Taste, salt and pepper, taste and adjust until it's right. Set aside.


Heat the olive oil in a non stick sauté pan over med heat and sauté the onion and garlic for about five minutes until it softens. Add the ground meat and continue to cook until the pink is gone. Add a pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper and then add the carrot and celery and continue to cook for another five or six minutes. Throw in the zucchini and cook, stirring a couple of times for another five minutes. Push all of that to one side of the pan and add in the tomato paste and cook that for a minute on it's own to brown it (it's something that many of the Italian chefs I like do so I do it too) before adding 1 cup of stock, the thyme and parsley. Cover, turn the heat to medium low and let it cook for about ten minutes. Remove the cover, turn the heat up to medium high. Stir the cornstarch into the 1/2 cup of evaporated milk and add that to your chicken and vegetables and let it come up to a simmer and let that cook for a couple of minutes and then remove it from the heat.


You can do one of two things now. You can transfer your meat mixture into a baking dish or casserole or individual baking dishes OR if you used an oven proof sauté pan you can bake it right in there. I used three smaller casserole dishes because I knew we wouldn't eat it all and I wanted to freeze one.


Fill the dish up 3/4 of the way with the chicken and then top that with a nice, thick layer of the mashed potatoes , pop them in the oven and bake until the top is golden brown or for about 30 to 35 minutes.


Friday, January 16, 2015

The Week In Yum Jan 10-15 Blade and Skillet , My Place and how Bud's Coffee Bar and Starbuck's Flat White Will Fuel My Winter

Bud's Coffee Bar on Queen East

The week started off with a surprisingly good strip loin at My Place in the Beach, a place where we have been regular wing eaters for years (okay, the healthy wine pours don't hurt). A new cook in the kitchen and a bit of a menu shake up has seen the place offering a pretty tasty looking array of nightly specials and since I spent the entire day thinking about steak, thanks to Blade and Skillet, I was all over it when Shack suggested we try their Saturday night $12 steak night.

$12 8oz NY Strip , cooked perfectly med rare as order, with garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed veggies. I know where we will be on Saturday nights now.

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Week in Yum Jan 3-9 Laying Low In Pjs





midweek nachos are a family favourite

This was a very, very low key week as far as eating goes. Because we were away in Washington over New Years and we all ate more in four days than we had eaten the previous month, we have laid low this week. We did start it off with a nice charcuterie and card night with The Neighbours though. Foie gras and truffle pate with apricot jam, olives, some meats and a very white cheese plate was the perfect dinner to enjoy over a rousing game of cards. Not that it matters but

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