Saturday, December 8, 2012


Many years ago I had an uncle who was fond of saying, "I love change, as long as it's the other person who is changing."  All these years later I tend to use that phrase often and infused with the humor and underlying truth of its original user.

As many of us do, I have come to a point in my life where I must change.  I must change the way I cook, the way I commune with my food and shed the addiction I have to "fast food".  Those of you who are also addicted will understand what I mean.  It's not just fast food, but what comes with it that I tend to add to my home cooked dishes.  I add far too much salt and fat. It's my guess that some of us are just more prone to such things, such addictions.  Who knows for sure?  What I do know is that either I beat it or it will beat me, right into the ground.

I would be hard pressed to tell you the last time I served a vegetable dish as even a side dish.  Here at our house our main meals consist of a meat and the other half of the plate will be taken up by a starch, most often white rice.  My spouse is Filipino and white rice has been a must at 98 percent of our meals and I do mean breakfast, lunch and dinner.

So here is the new adventure and the change I've been strongly hinting to.  I will begin to post about what I will call "Life Food".  By Life Food I mean food that is not overly processed and filled with chemicals and other things we simply don't need and in the end do us harm.  I like anyone else want to ease into the second half of my life with my mind and body intact and I'm sure that the things we put into our bodies plays an enormous role in how we age and how healthy we are during that journey.  There'll be no fad diets here, no fake Mayo Clinic diets or any other such craziness.  What I will tell you about is something that all those who sell diet plans, books and other methods don't want you to know -- It's all about paying attention, it's about being mindful of what goes into our mouths and what we are doing while that food goes into our mouths.  In its simplest terms I'm talking about portion control and better healthy choices.  That's all it is people.  The idea is simple -- however as I well know putting it into practice is not.  Our food addictions and over-eating are hard to break.

So for this first post there will be no recipe or lovely photo of what I just cooked up.  Only this missive of what is to come.  I hope you join me in what will be a difficult journey for me -- stay tuned.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Doigts de Poulet

You see them in the frozen section of your local grocery and of course the kids love them.  They are easy and quick to make and they are loaded with all kinds of things that you or your kids don't need.  Frozen chicken fillets or more commonly known as "chicken fingers".  Another shared attribute - they all have the same fairly bland taste.

So, here you see what I like to do instead.  I get some lovely boneless, skinless chicken breast.  I cut them into strips, dip them into a mix of egg and milk then into some seasoned bread crumbs - repeat the process.  This way you get a good crispy coating.  You can season the breadcrumbs any way you want of course.  This time I added some chili powder and other ground red pepper - a few red pepper flakes to boot.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and bake them for 13 to 15 minutes so they reach a temperature of 170 degrees.  I always check the temperature of the thickest piece with a meat thermometer to be sure.

Once they are done, they will be delicious as they are or you can toss them in a sauce.  We love buffalo sauce so that's what we do most of the time.  These take little effort and the end result will please your guests and family.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mushy Mango?

Yesterday as I thought about what to make for dinner, my mind drifted to a couple of mangos I had popped into the fridge.  They had reached their perfect ripeness, but we were leaving for the weekend.  What's a boy to do?  I popped them in the fridge to slow the ripening to a snail's pace.  Fast forward a week - there they were, staring up at me from the bottom shelf of the refrigerator.   Dang - forgot about the little fellas.  Now what?  I found that they were to "mushy" to eat as they were, but they were not unusable.

As I contemplated tonight's dinner my mind drifted to the always perfect answer to the dinner question - chicken!  What could go better with a lightly floured fried chicken but a lovely spicy mango sauce?  I had all I needed in the pantry.  Below you will find a basic recipe.  I added extra spice as we like things "HOT" in our house.  Also, if you don't have fresh mango, you can use frozen as well.  You also will want to add more or less brown sugar depending on the sweetness of the mango. 

Another suggestion - slowly simmer the sauce once it is together and finish seasoning it after it has some warmth to it.  The flavors wake up much more when heated.  This sauce is also great for wraps the next day - hmmm - yum!  Of course as always, when you make something yourself you have control over the amounts of sugar and sodium.  Most store bought sauces have incredible amounts of both.


2 Mangos (or two cups frozen chunks)
1 Red Chili, de-seeded and diced or 1 tsp chili sauce or 1/2 tsp dried crushed chili.
1 Tbsp rice vinegar or white ( you can also use apple cider)
1 1/2 Soy Sauce
3 Tbsp Fish Sauce
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1 Thumb sized piece of Ginger, sliced
4 Cloves Garlic
1/4 tsp Tumeric
Zest of 1 lime


Combine all ingredients into a blender and puree.  Pour into sauce pan and gently heat.  Taste and add more brown sugar or red chili if needed.  If you want a to kick it up to the roof, use a habanaro pepper. Remember you can use other fruits for this sauce.  Peach would work very nicely as well.  As always - use your imagination.  Einstein once said: "Imagination is more important than knowledge".  I agree.  Without imagination how will you use your knowledge?


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

From Pantry to Plate in 20 Minutes - The Basic Biscuit

There is seldom a more pleasing thing than a fresh made biscuit.  I'm talking about the basic biscuit.  Flour, baking powder, salt and milk.  My grandmother used to always bake her own biscuits as well as bread.  I've not taken on bread as yet.  That can be left for the future.  Today I planned on having some of the left over mulligatawny lamb soup I made for dinner last night.  I only had some store bought rye bread on the shelf and that was not going to pair well with this lovely soup.  I thought for a second and a little biscuit appeared above my head!

First, preheat your oven to 400.  Then I simply put together 2 cups flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, one stick of butter (cubed in small bits) and just under a cup of milk to start.  If you find you need more milk, then you can add it.  Today, I did indeed need a bit more to make the dough just right.  Another tip I heard on the TV show, "Chef At Home".  He suggest to freeze the stick of butter and then grate it into the dough mixture.  Works great!   Once you have the dough - and be sure to not over work the dough, I suggest to either roll it out or work quickly with your hands to flatten it out to about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.  Then take a sharp knife and cut it in triangles or squares and please, please don't worry about making them all the exact same size and perfect shape.  To me it is much more appealing to have these rough made looking biscuits piled on a plate to welcome your family and or guests.  Bake them for about 10 to 15 minutes..check them after 10 minutes and if they need it, you can bake them up to 15 minutes.  Today, mine were ready after 13 minutes.

The great thing about basic biscuits is that they only take about 20 minutes from pantry to plate.  I also found these rich enough...okay, maybe I used a bit more butter than was needed, but only a tad...that I did not need to spread butter on these biscuits.  Needless to say, lunch was great with these biscuits.

Enjoy the biscuits when you make them and by the way, this recipe makes about 6 triangle cut biscuits of a good size - if you're from the south or another area that just loves sausage gravy with biscuits, this biscuit is the one for you.  Bon appetit!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mulligatawny Soup

I had never heard of this delectable dish until I had it at a restaurant in the 1000 Islands area – sadly the soup was the only thing I enjoyed at that particular eatery. Lucky for me and mine, it is just in time for Fall - the time of great soups.

This soup comes to us here from the British who adopted it from India. What we enjoy here as mulligatawny soup is somewhat anglicized for our tastes. The original would translate as “pepper water” and as the name implies, it is quite spicy. This toned down version offers a curry soup that is very tasty and just the right amount of heat. The recipe I used was found in "The Joy of Cooking".  I should mention that in my opinion, this cook book should be on every gift registry for any and all weddings of young couples.  It is also the perfect gift for those who are moving out of a parent's house for the first time.  I say this because this book was my go-to book when I first started stretching my cooking experiences.  If I saw a cooking term that I did not know, I just looked it up there and kept on cooking.

As with many recipes, I tend to add more of things.  In this one, I added more onions, extra curry powder, a tad more thyme and I doubled the cooked rice.  I also added the juice from 1/4 of a lemon.  I of course served this with a fresh baked baguette smeared with butter of course...not margarine. Salad would also make a great addition to this to complete the meal.

I absolutely love the qualities home made soup can bring to my home in the Fall and Winter.  The construction of soup is a meditative process for me.  You bring the ingredients together - then chop, slice and possibly puree a group of vegetables and anything else that will make its way to your soup kettle. 

Before we continue, let's say a word or two about soup kettles.  The best choices for stockpot and soup pot material are stainless steel with an aluminum core (or aluminum disc on the bottom) or anodized aluminum.  Often you will see pots or kettles with no heavy bottom.  These are great for...well, nothing that I can think of.  No matter what you try to simmer or make in them will burn to the center at the bottom of the kettle.  A nice heavy bottom pot or kettle will distribute the heat evenly and prevent the burning and sticking on the bottom of it.

Now, back to the qualities of soups.  In the colder months, nothing welcomes your family home like the aroma of a great homemade soup.  Same goes for your guests - when they come to your house for dinner you will see them take a deep breath and a smile will appear on their little cold, hungry faces.  Trust me, the aroma of mulligatawny soup will melt the chill off of your family and friends like a warm summer breeze.  It's magic really.  Okay, so let's get to the recipe.  I had hoped to show you a video of me putting this together, but I ran out of time today and only ended up with a picture of the finished product. Best laid plans yes?  So here it is - enjoy and adapt as you please.  Let me know how you made it your own!  I'd love to hear from you.


Sauté lightly, but do not brown:
    1/2 cup diced onion
    1 diced carrot
    2 diced ribs celery
    1/4 cup butter

Stir in:
    1 1/2 Tablespoons flour
    2 teaspoons curry powder
Stir and cook them about 3 minutes.

Pour in and simmer 15 minutes:
    4 cups chicken or lamb broth
    1 bay leaf

Add and simmer 15 minutes longer:
    1/4 cup diced tart apples
    1/2 cup boiled rice
    1/2 cup diced cooked lamb
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon pepper
    1/8 teaspoon thyme
    1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind

Immediately before serving, stir in:
    1/2 coconut milk and bring back to temperature and serve.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Brockberry Café In Brockville, Ontario

On first glance we were attracted to the cafe as it looked pretty nice from the street as we drove by that evening. This was our first time in the area and did not have any recomendations for eateries.  So, we ended up at Brockberry Cafe.  The atmosphere seemed nice and we were greeted by the hostess promptly.  We noticed a table in the corner and wanted to sit there but we were told it was reserved and were promptly seated in the middle of the room.  A few moments later another couple came in and wanted the same table we were told was reserved.  I overheard the hostess say it was reserved and another of the staff spoke up and said, "no it's not, it's open".  The place was not that busy so it did not bode well in my mind that such a mistake would happen when it was not busy.

We ordered our food before the aforementioned "other couple" even came in to the place. Oddly enough the other couple got their food first.  They had ordered some of the same items we did and it appears their waitress grabbed our items thinking they were her orders.  Again, the place was not busy at all, so this should never have happened.  I noticed that our waitress caught what happened and quickly went to the kitchen.  Could explain why our food was below standard - they rushed to "fix" it.  The waitress should have come to us and explained what happened, then the chef could have taken the time to get it right.  Of course it should have not come out of the kitchen until it was right regardless of the circumstances.

So, we each had a bowl of the soup of the day which that day was mulligatawny, a lovely curry soup with lamb.  It was wonderful - we each could have just had the soup and a nice crusty bread and been happy.  Of course if we did that, this review would have an opposite outcome.  Let me apologize now for the fuzzy pic - I took it with my IPhone.

For our main we both ordered the prime rib with au jus and roasted potatoes.  I've seldom been so disappointed in a dish.  The prime rib was barely above room temperature, the potatoes were under cooked and also barely warm.  There was one hot spot on the plate - it was some bland sliced squash under the prime rib...of course I did not know it was there till I was done with the meal.  The au jus had no flavor - if my eyes were closed I would not have been able to tell what it was.

We paid over $80 dollars for this meal and it was an immense disappointment.  I would have called them on it, but we were traveling all day and we both just wanted to get back to our hotel and get some sleep.  We had planned on staying the entire weekend, but among a few other things the bad meal was the topper.  We left the next day for home and cut our weekend short.

When I looked up other reviews of the Brockberry Cafe, I found that the food is consistent only in its "hit and miss" quality.  I suggest to the chef to buy a soup cart and start over.  The soup always seems to get a good review; however the main courses seem to lack any consistent standard.  We will not waste our time at the Brockberry Cafe again as we are not willing to drop another $80 dollars on a gamble of a good meal.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Stuff It!

Poblanos are often refered to as the Mexican Bell Pepper. "Poblano" is also the word for an inhabitant of Puebla, Mexico, so be sure not to mix up the definition with this recipe.  The outcome will be very different indeed!

Poblanos are not as sweet as bell peppers, but do carry a bit more spice to them which is in the range of mild to medium heat.  It should be noted here that you may encounter a poblano pepper with significant heat and the peppers from the same plant can vary as well.  The heat level is not exact.

They are usually dark green and 4 to 5 inches long and about 2 to 3 inches across.  If you let them ripen more to a reddish-brown color they will be even sweeter than the bell pepper and their heat will have kicked up as well.  The great thing about this recipe is that it is very open to your imagination.  Remember when you cut out the little opening to stuff the pepper, be sure to either save the bit you cut out or chop it up and put it in the stuffing.  If you save it, I suggest chopping it up and freezing it.  Then when you want to add some flavor to your morning eggs or  another dish, you have them handy and they don't go to waste. 

Speaking of waste.  I found that made a bit too much of the stuffing.  I had gone to my favorite sasuage maker and gotten four rather large sasuages.  Two named "Diablo" and two that were bacon and cheese flavor.  Both home made sausages and very tasty!  So what to do with the extra?  My partner said or joked...not sure which, but he said very enthusiastically, "empanadas!"  Now I love those little pockets of goodness myself - but I did not want the hassle of making the dough.  So what's a boy to do?  I thought of Pillsbury and those little wonders in that familiar pop and fresh can.  Here in Canada they sell hot dog wraps to make what we used to call, "Covered Wagons" in grade school.  So I bought some of those and will wrap some stuffing in those - bake and Ta Da! A nice, easy empanada type food.  I'm making them tonight, so I'll let ya know how they worked.  Well, on to the recipe.  I doubled up on it when I made it since we found a nice basket of peppers at the market.  Too tasty to pass up!  As a side, I sauteed some mini squash from the market with a slightly spicy seasoning.

This recipe was inspired by the one I found here.   I made only a few slight changes.


4 small/medium sized poblano peppers
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 links chicken sausage (I used a spicy hand made pork sausage from a local market - two types)
1/2 cup salsa
1/2 cup corn
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
Salt and pepper
1 oz. manchego cheese, shredded (I thought a nice smoked cheese would do well here - I used a smoked Gouda; however I would suggest a stronger flavored cheese that is smoked)

1. Preheat the oven to 400.

2. Heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat, and saute the onion until tender. Add the garlic, and cook for an additional minute. Crumble in the chicken sausage, and cook until the sausage starts to brown. Add the salsa, corn, and cumin. Season with salt and pepper, and simmer over low for a few minutes.

3. Lay the poblanos flat, and cut a T-shaped slit into the top of the poblano. Pry the slit apart, and remove all of the seeds.

4. Stuff the sausage mixture into the peppers. Top each pepper with  some of the manchego cheese.

5. Bake until the poblano is tender and browned around the edges, about 25 minutes.  I did 25, then turned the oven off and let them sit another 10 minutes as the lager peppers needed a little more time.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Mussel Bound

To me, there is nary a better flavor in food than the ingenious blend of Thai flavors.  The blend of sweet, salty and spicy is something I never tire of - so when we found these great mussels (2 pounds for $4.50 CDN) at a store called "Poissonerie Shamrock" near the Jean-Talon Market here in Montreal, I knew the flavors I wanted to blend them with.  The sauce was so lovely, that I know it will inspire a soup down the line somewhere in my kitchen.  By the way - Poissonerie Shamrock has the best when it comes to price and quality that I've found thus far here in Montreal.

I also had some cabbage that I needed to use - it wasn't much, but it was enough for a side dish.  I just braised it with some nice balsamic vinegar, garlic, onion, butter and a pinch of sea salt.  I served the cabbage over rice with a bit of hot sauce drizzled over it.  The flavor worked well with the mussel dish.

A reminder - Be sure to wash your mussels well, scrub the little fellas down and be sure to inspect them.  If the shell is broken or open give it a toss.  If the shell is open just a bit give it a firm knock on the counter and if it closes, your good to go.  If it does not, toss it and continue scrubbing the survivors.  Also, after they have cooked and you find some that have not opened, toss those as well.

Now once you put the mussels in the pan to cook they will only take about 5 minutes or so; therefore you should have your other side dishes done and ready or just about ready.  Again, I used rice with this particular recipe.  If you were doing a sauce with more of an Italian flair, then pasta would be the perfect choice. Some prefer fries with their mussels. But no matter what you have as a side, you must and I say must have some great crusty bread so you can sop up the sauce.  We are so very lucky to be here in Montreal - in particular we live in a borough of Montreal called Pierrefonds and there are some amazing bakeries here with fresh bread daily.  Well, enough of this.  Let's get on to the recipe!


1  can (13.5-ounce) coconut milk
1/2 cup white wine
2  tablespoons Thai ginger marinade, (Such as Lawry's)
1  tablespoons brown sugar
1  tablespoon curry paste (red or green), (Such as Thai Kitchen)
1  tablespoon bottled minced garlic
3  tablespoons butter
1  pound fresh or thawed frozen mussels* (rinsed, de-bearded, and drained)
2  tablespoons chopped green onion, for garnish


1. For sauce, in a medium saucepan, combine coconut milk, wine, marinade, brown sugar, curry paste, and half me garlic.  Bring to boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes until sauce thickens and is reduced by half. Remove sauce from heat; set aside.

2. In a large skillet: over medium-high heat, melt butter. Add mussels and the remaining garlic. Add 1/2 cup of sauce to mussels. Let simmer until mussels start to open, about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a shallow bowl and spoon remaining sauce over top. Garnish with green onion.

Note: If mussels ore not available, substitute one 12-ounce bag of uncooked large-count shrimp

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Triple Threat - Peanut Butter, Oatmeal and Chocolate, Oh My!

Think of a home made cookie.  Picture it in your mind.  Chances are that you are thinking of either a peanut butter, oatmeal or chocolate chip cookie.  These seem to be some of the most popular and most often made cookies - with some variation of course.  The basics are there though.  This cookie may become a new favorite - I call it the "Triple Threat" cookie.  It combines the best of the best and then some.

Your first bite tells you something familiar has come home.  You taste the chocolate and oatmeal, then the peanut butter and a surprise of coconut come into play.  Delectable indeed are these petite treats!

This is not only a delight of flavor, but of texture.  The creamy chocolate, the lovely coconut, oatmeal and chunks of peanuts crumble across your tongue as well.  These are a simple joy. 

Have you ever noticed that when one bakes a cookie there is a feeling of warmth? (And I don't mean from the oven) A feeling unlike any other feeling.  Especially when you are making these for those you cherish or just that very special - singular person.  Even to sit and write about the process brings feelings of love, friendship and home.

Well, enough talk of the deed. Let's move on to the how.


2 Cups Rolled Oats
1 Cup All Purpose Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Chunky Peanut Butter
1 Stick (1/2 Cup) Unsalted Butter (Softened)
1/2 Cup Packed Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup White Sugar
3 Large Eggs
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
2 Cups Chocolate Chips (Semi-Sweet)
1 1/2 Cups Shredded Coconut (Unsweetened)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a medium bowl, combine oats, flour, baking powder and salt.  In a large bowl, with a mixer at medium speed, beat together peanut butter, butter, brown sugar and white sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each egg.  Next add the vanilla.  Then gradually beat in oats mixture.  Now step away from the mixer and add the chips and coconut by hand, mixing with an adequately sized spoon.

Drop the dough by the tablespoon, spaced about an inch apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 15 to 18 minutes and let cool on a wire rack.

Lastly - share the love.

Friday, August 13, 2010

May I Pretty Peas?

As a child, many years ago I must say, the only thing I liked about peas had been the smell of pea soup simmering on the stove and at times - the nursery rhyme:

Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold  
Peas porridge in the pot 9 days old  
Some like it hot, some like it cold  
Some like it in the pot 9 days old.
I absolutely abhorred canned peas.  Mushy almost bitter little things.  Can't blame them really, I'd be a tad bitter myself if I were them. 
When first rescued from the can, they looked slightly pale and sickly.  At the time we did not use frozen veggies, as a family could stock up on canned veggies that had a shelf life of nearly a millennia.  I found any way possible to leave the table without consuming them.  Wrapped in a napkin or fed to the dog.  Any possible avenue of escape would be found and used.
Today, all these years later I find myself in an entirely different opinion.  Let me clarify - I do not hate peas all together; however I still detest canned peas and just about any other "canned" vegetable.  If one cannot find fresh, then frozen is the way to go and please remember to not over cook them.  When I was a child it was the norm to boil the life and taste out of all veggies for at least 20 minutes if not longer.  Let me interject here that canned asparagus is quite possibly the most hideous food on the planet.  Fresh is divine. 
An important thought about peas - they start to lose their sweetness and lovely taste within hours of being picked and once removed from the pod, this process moves along even faster.  Fresh uncooked peas are a delight by the handful or in a salad.
This little rant brings us to soup - pea soup to be exact.  I have come to enjoy this dish very much and it is not a singular dish, it has variety and can have many layers of flavor. The recipe I will share here today is a basic one and I do this with purpose.  You can take this simple blueprint of the soup and launch yourself into the creative ether.   First, you can decide if it should be smooth or more robust with chunks of potato, carrot, onion and other surprises.  Meat or no meat, sausage or smoked ham?  You decide - maybe a dash of hot sauce or extra black pepper. A dollop of sour cream.  Any way you can think of begins here.

    * 1/2 pound sliced bacon, diced
    * 1 large onion, chopped
    * 2 celery ribs, sliced
    * 1 pound dried green split peas
    * 2 quarts water
    * 2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
    * 2 cups diced fully cooked ham
    * 2 teaspoons salt
    * 1 bay leaf
    * 1/4 teaspoon pepper
    * 1 cup heavy whipping cream


   1. In a Dutch oven or soup kettle, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon to paper towels; drain, reserving drippings. Add onion and celery to drippings. Saute until vegetables are tender; drain. Add the peas, water, potatoes, ham, salt, bay leaf and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 45 minutes or until peas are very tender, stirring occasionally. Discard bay leaf.

   2. Cool slightly. Process in small batches in a blender until smooth. Return to Dutch oven; stir in cream. Heat through (do not boil). Garnish with reserved bacon. 
Create and enjoy a dish that had its beginnings during the Bronze Age settlements in Switzerland, c.3000 B.C.