Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Basil Pesto Pasta Salad w/ Grape Tomatoes & Sweet Peppers

During the summer months nothing beats a delicious pasta salad.  Like me, this salad seems to find it's way to all summer barbecues and outdoor celebrations.  With endless flavour combinations, it's safe to assume you'll never get bored, plus, it's pasta, and who doesn't love/adore that starchy wonder.

If I'm picking pasta salad favourites, which I tend to do on occasion, I'd have to say Pesto takes gold.  I love the freshness and simplicity, scratch that, I love everything about it.  Summer lovin'.

Basil Pesto Pasta Salad w/ Grape Tomatoes & Sweet Peppers


4 cups uncooked bow tie pasta
1 sweet red pepper, diced
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 - 2/3 cup prepared pesto (homemade or store bought)
1/3 cup pine nuts
fresh basil for garnish


Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain.
In large mixing bowl add pasta, pesto, peppers, tomatoes, and nuts.  Toss well.  Top with fresh basil.
Serve @ room temperature or chilled.

Serves: 6-8

Monday, 27 August 2012

Nutella, Nutella

Ever since I had the Nutella calzone from Cibo last week, I've been craving Nutella.  Before Cibo, the last time I ate/thought about the chocolaty, hazelnut-y spread, I was shopping in junior department stores and carrying a cartoon inspired pencil case.
However, a recent trip down a certain aisle at a grocery store, has now made me the proud owner of a jar of Nutella.  This occasion is 20+ years in the making and as such, needed to be marked by a special treat.  Done & done.  Introducing...Nutella Oatmeal Crumb Bars.

Now to share the love....

Nutella Oatmeal Crumb Bars


1 1/3 cup Quaker quick oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
3/4 cup Nutella


Preheat oven to 350F.  Line 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper.  Set aside.
In large bowl whisk together oats, flour, sugar.
In smaller bowl mix together melted butter and maple syrup.  Pour over oat mixture and stir until thoroughly combined.
Pour 2/3 of oat mixture into prepared baking pan.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.  Remove from oven.
Meanwhile, heat Nutella for 15 seconds in microwave safe dish to soften.  Spread Nutella over baked oat mixture.  Crumble the remaining 1/3 oat mixture over Nutella.
Return to oven and bake for an additional 25-30 minutes.  Turning once halfway.
Allow bars to cool.  Transfer to fridge.  Cut into squares.

Adapted from my Strawberry Jam & Pecan Bars

Sunday, 26 August 2012

PB & Chocolate 'faux' Ice Cream

I think I've crossed over into obsessed-ville when it comes to eating faux-ice cream.  

Exhibit C ( or Saturday) = Exhibit A + Exhibit B

I suppose we could call this a 3-peat.  At least this dessert is guilt free.  Score.  Now where did I leave the spoon?

PB & Chocolate 'Ice Cream'

2 large bananas
1 Tbsp peanut butter
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 Tbsp icing sugar

Peel and slice bananas in half crosswise, then lengthwise.  Freeze until firm 2-3 hours.
Place frozen bananas food processor and whirl till creamy.  Add in peanut butter, cocoa powder and icing sugar.  Whirl until smooth and blended.
Serve immediately as soft serve, or re-freeze for a couple hours to achieve harder ice cream.

Yields: 2 servings

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Tagliatelle w/ Homemade Meat Sauce

My hubby loves pasta & meat sauce.  Loves it to the extreme.  I'm pretty sure if he was stranded on a desert island and could only pick one meal, this would be it (assuming of course my homemade apple pie wasn't available.)  So, because I ditched him @ breakfast to go for pancakes with a friend, I promised him I'd make it up to him.  Homemade meat sauce & tagliatelle pasta it is.
You're welcome J.

Note: I'm pretty sure if I keep my end of the bargain, I could go out for breakfast 7 days a week.

Tagliatelle w/ Homemade Meat Sauce


1lb extra lean ground beef
1 red onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-28oz can diced tomatoes, w/ juice
1-28oz can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup tomato paste
3/4 cup red wine
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp olive oil
sea salt & pepper to taste.

Tagliatelle pasta

Parmesan cheese for serving


In dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat, add beef.  Cook until golden brown.  Add in garlic and onion and cook till translucent.  Add in herbs cook for 1 minute stirring constantly.  Add in tomatoes, paste, wine, salt & pepper, stir, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour.  Remove bay leaf.
Meanwhile, bring pot of water to a boil.  Salt.  Add in pasta.  Cook according to package directions.  Drain.
Serve pasta w/ sauce.  Garnish with Parmesan cheese if desired.

Refrigerate or freeze any leftover sauce.

Going Dutch For Pancakes

By now you know I have a strong appreciation for pancakes have an obsession with pancakes.  So it's only fitting that today for breakfast I went to Pfanntastic Pannenkoek, a Dutch pancake house.  Sweet pancakes, savoury pancakes, so many choices, so little stomach space.

I attempted to visit this restaurant a few weeks back with my mom, only to have my dreams squashed by a sign that announced they were on holidays.  What?  Surely, I'm not on a holidays from pancakes, how can they be?  Well I'm back today for a second shot @ pancake bliss/heaven/deliciousness with my buddy JM.  Together we are ready to take on the world of pancakes, or for starters, at least two (huge, delicious) plates worth.

2 pancakes down, 40+ varieties to try.  Mission Accepted.

Cinnamon Roll |  brown sugar, baked apple, cinnamon & cream cheese icing

Rosti | potato, leek, tomato, spinach & sour cream

Friday, 24 August 2012

Pairings: Apples & Cheese

The duo of apples and cheese frequently makes an appearance as our morning snack.  We usually opt for Babybel cheese and a Gala apple, however,  since receiving the fall edition of "All You Need Is Cheese" magazine, I now have a new appreciation of how to pair the right apple with it's cheese counterpart.  Morning snack just got interesting, well for me at least, the kids can keep their Babybel.

Canadian Bocconcini with Crispin/Mutsu

A relative of the Golden Delicious, Crispin has a  crisp but coarse texture with a delicate hint of exoticism.  The balance tips more towards the sweet than the tart, making it a mellow apple.
Canadian Bocconcini's young, milky simplicity needs the smallest sprinkling of salt to make it sparkle.  The chewy, stringy texture of this stretched curd cheese contrasts well with the crisp apple, and the salt makes both the cheese and the apple sing.

Grown primarily in Ontario, the Crispin matures in late October and is available until May.

Canadian Smoked Gouda with Spartan

Highly aromatic, the Spartan announces fall like no other apple.  Its snappy skin reveals crisp white flesh and a juicy texture, and its sweet/tart balance is reminiscent of a Riesling when it comes to cheese pairing.  Cold storage makes it sweeter, so customize to your preference.  For a dramatic contrast, pair with a Canadian Smoked Gouda.  Creamy and sweet, the hickory smokiness grounds the cheese with earth notes while the Spartan elevates and brings out the sweetness in the cheese.  Matched in intensity, neither overwhelms, and both retain their character harmoniously.

Harvested across the country, the Spartan is available from October to May.

Canadian Feta with Granny Smith

Unwaveringly face-puckering, the Granny Smith is perennial favourite for its firm texture and mouth-watering sourness.  Yet in its bright sour-candy green cloak, this apple conceals exceptional cheese complementarity.  The subtle sweetness quieted by the evident tanginess makes it a refreshing match to salty, complex, sharp cheeses.  While an unusual pairing, Canadian Feta is a wonderful companion to the Granny Smith.  Rich, lemony, sweet and sour, the soft, crumbly texture of Feta is a welcome counterpoint to the apple.

The Granny Smith thrives in British Columbia and a few small orchards across the country.  It is harvested and best in October, but available until May.

Canadian one-year Aged Cheddar with Fuji

Developed in Japan, Fuji is a highly popular apple because o its pear-lychee undertones, crisp flesh and higher sugar content.  Its pineapple aroma and sweet muskiness demands a saltier cheese, and a Canadian one-year Aged Cheddar provides the perfect counterpart.
Aged Cheddar matches the apple's complexity in its balance of salt, sweet and a touch of sourness.  Both simply make the other taste even better.

Harvested in September in British Columbia and Ontario, the Fuji is available until May.

Photos and content courtesy allyouneedischeese.ca

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Dinner @ Cibo

Two reasons to celebrate.

1. Happy 300th blog post to me
2. Wednesday date night @ Cibo

I traded in my typical "mom wardrobe," put on a fabulous pair of shoes, mascara-a-plenty, and met my wonderful friend ST for a mid-week date night.  ST is my foodie bestie, we couldn't be more alike if we tried.  Whenever we go out, we order and share food, we don't do individual meals.  We tackle food as a pair, trying as many flavours as possible in a single sitting.

Tonight we tackled Cibo.  "Cibo translated means,  feed, food, nourishment."  Located @ 1012 17th Ave SW, I was immediately drawn to the brick exterior of this restaurant, a sucker for design.  This restaurant is perfect from its use of reclaimed wood, communal tables cut from a single tree, and B-17 hangers from RCAF that have been turned into walls and tabletops.  Truthfully, I'd like to move in, or at the very least have my home done in the same fashion.  Bonus, if I moved in I could also have access to the food 24/7.  Hmmm, I just might be on to something here.

The food @ Cibo speaks for itself.  Delicious and fresh on all accounts.  Between the wine, plates of food, and conversation, here is a look at our evening.  Thanks for a delicious meal, we are already looking forward to our next visit so we can tackle the rest of the menu!


lamb meatballs |  tomato fresca, pecorino
bruschetta |  tomato, crushed artichoke, grana, basil
asparagus |  mustard, hazelnuts, egg, truffle oil, grana padano

pappardelle |  lamb, olives, mint, mushroom, tomato, grana padano

pesto |  ricotta, zucchini, peppers, black olives, pine nuts

nutella calzone |  signature dough, nutella, sour cherry compote

Best of the Night - Recommendations:
  • lamb meatballs
  • bruschetta 
  • pesto pizza 

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Poptails | Pretty Pink Margarita

We still have a few weeks of summer barbecues, picnics and pool parties left to enjoy before we break out the oversized sweaters and boots.  So with the mercury high, I thought it appropriate to share a cookbook (rather 'drinkbook') with you  -  "Poptails" by Erin Nichols.   

Let me start by saying this book is genius.  It takes a childhood favourite, the Popsicle, and gives it an adult spin "with an alcohol-infused kick."  Cocktails on a stick?  Don't mind if I do.
This book features 60 boozy treats, each one sure to add excitement to any summertime gathering.   From classic cocktails, to dessert on a stick, the recipes featured will no doubt put the "happy in 'happy hour'."

As I flipped through page after page of recipes, I was immediately drawn to the 'Pretty Pink Margarita.'   I think we can all agree that the margarita is as much of a summer staple as flip flops and sunscreen.  Bonus, this one is flavoured like pink lemonade.  Double win!
Now to try my hand at the rest of Erin's recipes.  'Big Girl Root Beer Float' & 'Cherry Cheesecake' you're next!  Oh summer why can't you last forever?

"Spike!  Freeze!  Enjoy!"

Pretty Pink Margarita


3/4 cup prepared silver tequila (see note below)
1/4 cup prepared triple sec (see note below)
1 1/4 cups pink lemonade
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice


Prepare and chill the silver tequila and triple sec of your choice.
In a medium bowl, combine the tequila, triple sec, pink lemonade, and lemon juice.
Carefully divide the mixture equally among your ice pop moods.  Do not fill the molds to the top.  Leave a small amount of space to allow for expansion when the liquid freezes.
Top with ice pop sticks or reusable ice pop tops with attached sticks.  Let pops freeze for at least 24 hours.
Unmold the pops.

Yields: six 3-ounce pops or four 4-ounce pops


How To Prepare Alcohol for Use in Your Poptails

In order to have the alcohol freeze properly into your poptails you will need bring liquor to a boil.
After reviewing the chart (below), pour the indicated amount of liquor into a 2 quart sauce pan.  For instance, if you need 3/4 cup of vodka for your recipe, you will add 1 cup of vodka to the pan.
Turn the heat to high.  Watching for the next 5 minutes, keep a careful eye as the alcohol heats on the stove.
As soon as the liquid begins to bubble, set timer for 2 minutes.  Remove from stove.  Immediately pour the liquid into your heatproof container.  Place liquid in the refrigerator and allow to cool completely.

Amount of Alcohol in Recipe ------------------> Add this much Alcohol to Your Pan

1/4 cup ----------------------------------------------> 1/2 cup

1/2 cup ----------------------------------------------> 3/4 cup
3/4 cup ----------------------------------------------> 1 cup
1 cup    ----------------------------------------------> 1 1/4 cups
1 1/4 cups ------------------------------------------> 1 1/2 cups

Monday, 20 August 2012

Birthdays & BBQs

I got to spend Saturday night with some of my favourite people and celebrate the birthday of my great friend KR in the process.
Despite being her birthday, KR played hostess and put on one of the most delicious food spreads/backyard BBQs I've laid my eyes/taste buds on.  BBQ chicken, warm potato salad, macaroni salad, fresh fruit, and of course dessert!
If I'm picking favourites, it would have to be her BBQ chicken.  Made exceptional by her homemade BBQ sauce.  Delicious.  I was tempted to eat it by the spoonful, I didn't, remember I'm classy like that.  However,  I'm now a BBQ sauce snob and will forever be leaving the store bought ones on the shelves.

Thanks KR - for your recipe, hospitality, and my 'care package.'  I always love your annual BBQ.  Is it 2013 yet?
Happy Birthday Friend!


Ultimate BBQ Sauce


1 slice bacon
1 bunch fresh thyme
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
2 Tbsp red or white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp dry mustard
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika or smoked paprika
freshly ground black pepper


Wrap the bacon around the bunch of thyme and tie with kitchen twine.  Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the thyme and cook slowly 3-4 minutes to render the bacon fat and give the sauce a nice smoky taste.  Add the onion and garlic and cook slowly without colouring for 5 minutes.  Add the remaining ingredients, give the sauce a stir, and turn the heat down to low.  Cook slowly for 20 minutes to meld the flavours.
Use sauce for both basting meat and for serving alongside @ the table.

From KR - taken from Tyler Florence

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Breakfast @ The Chuckwagon Cafe

Breakfast this morning started with a nice relaxing country drive.  We decided to leave behind the busy, hectic, urban oasis we call home, and opt to try a restaurant in small town Alberta instead.
So with cowboy boots on, the four of us piled in the car bright & early and headed out to Turner Valley, where we were meeting my in-laws for breakfast @ The Chuckwagon Cafe.

I first heard about this restaurant while watching "You Gotta Eat Here" on the Food Network.  As a self-proclaimed foodie, I enjoy following other foodies and taking cue from dishes and restaurants they like.

Sidenote:  anyone who gets paid to host a show where they just travel and eat, pretty much won the 'profession lottery' in my books.  How come my guidance counsellor never told me about that job.  All I got was banker, accountant, and lawyer.  Clearly he did not have my best interests in mind.  Fail.

Thanks Chuckwagon Cafe, we couldn't have asked for a better start to our Sunday.  Great service & delicious food.  I urge all of you to check this place out, I promise you won't be disappointed.  Also, if you want I'll come with you, I have other menu items that I still need to try, like lunch!

 And now for the stars of the show....THE FOOD.

Huevos Rancheros | soft tortilla, salsa, basted eggs, cheese, tomato & green onion.  served w/ toast & fruit salad

Breakfast Burritos | grilled tortillas stuffed w/ mushrooms, cheese, bacon, sausage, onions & eggs.  salsa & sour cream.  served w/ grilled hash browns

French Toast | grilled.  maple syrup.  served w/ fruit salad

Buttermilk Pancakes | homemade served w/ butter & hot syrup.

Ranchman's Breakfast | eggs, ham, sausage & bacon.  served w/ toast & grilled hashbrowns.

Call me biased but I'm pretty sure mine was the best.  How can you go wrong with Huevos Rancheros?

Happy Sunday!


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