30 May 2010

Feeding the Soul.

Yesterday, we went to see some friends who just moved into a beautiful country house.  We had tickets to see a play in Stratford, and were excited to head over and see the house, stop in at our favorite Stratford spot, Pazzo, and then see the play.  We struggled with whether it made sense to stay the night with our friends and head out in the morning, or to just drive home.  A number of factors weighed, we determined that we would drive home last night.  Which meant, impromptu breakfast at home before our second softball game of the season!

What to make?  You guessed it, one of my faves... BREAKFAST BURRITOS!

Yum!  I took three eggs and two egg whites, mixed them with some salt and pepper and a splash of water.  Set it aside while I cooked some chopped white onion with a little bit of diced chorizo.  Once the onion and chorizo were toasty and delish, I plopped in the eggs and scrambled the lot.  Divided it between mine and G's plates, with mine on a smallish whole wheat tortilla bought at Kensington Market and topped with a bit of low-fat shredded cheese and ketchup.  Really good!!!  (Oh, the softball game?  Lots of fun!  We lost something like 14-2 BUT I hit the ball and made it on base BOTH TIMES I was up to bat!  That's right!  I'm going to be sporty yet!)

One of our goals for this week is to eat at home more.  When I was in the midst of losing the 30 pounds I have lost, we ate at home most meals.  The last couple of months has seen a bit of an eating out fiesta that must stop.  I am pleased to say that I haven't put any weight back on (good fortune and running, I think), but I don't want to lose sight of all my healthy changes!  So we are using up what we have in the house and eating at home.

First up, must use the slider buns we bought forever ago that have been lounging in the fridge... so sliders it was for dinner!

G made an amazing onion marmalade to have with them.  I cooked the slider patties under the broiler (a bit too long, sadly) and topped them with more shredded low-fat cheddar (shredding really lets you feel like you are getting a ton of cheese for not a ton of WW points), tomato slices and the FANTASMAGORICALLY delicious onion marmalade.  Toasted the buns, had some garlic pickles and baked lays on the side, and woo hoo, a points friendly feel-good dinner that we all could enjoy. 

On the whole, it's been a good weekend!  

28 May 2010

Friday afternoon treats

On Fridays my office closes at 1:30, which is lovely. Most of the time I leave some time after that but it's always a lot earlier than any other day of the week and so is always something to look forward to. And on many Friday afternoons, I treat myself to a little Sri Lankan nibbly on the way home. There's a little bakery on Parliament St. just south of Wellesley called the Absolute Bakery. They make lots of the usual breads, cakes, and pies -- most of which I admit I have never tried. I go there only for their rolls and rotis. My favourites are the beef pancake rolls, a bit of spicy beef stuffed into a roll made I think of potato and covered in something crispy then fried. They have said rolls also with fish and sometimes vegetable. The other delicacy is the little rotis. Most often I have the veggie roti, which again is a bunch of spicy vegetable stuffed in a little roti and then fried up into a little package. Today I went for the chicken. Mmm. Good. And cheap. A nice treat on a sunny Friday afternoon.

26 May 2010

I feel like chicken tonight...

As a girl who has only recently embraced the vegetable as friend, I am still finding ways to incorporate them into my life that will trick my brain into eating them happily.  Case in point?  BBQ chicken dinner night with twice-baked potatoes.  Oh sorry, were you wondering where the vegetable came in?  No silly reader, it's not JUST the potato!  Them there potatoes had SPINACH lurking within!!!

Oh yes, bbq chicken is lovely.  And green beans lightly steamed with some salt, pepper, and lemon is a delight.  But the twice baked potato was DIVINE!!!  I sauteed some spinach (or did I microwave it?  hrmph) and, after baking the potato sans foil in the oven for about an hour, I cut the spud in half, scooped out the innards, mixed in some light laughing cow and spinach (and salt and pepper), and then stuffed the shells with the filling.  Sprinkled a little bit of grated old old cheddar on top (grating gets you the feeling of lots of cheese for very few points) and baked for about 15 more minutes.  You can't beat that sort of feel-good comforty food!!!  And pretty points friendly!  (I don't know about you, but I tend to save about half of my daily points for dinner.  It's how I eat and how I am comfortable keeping track... you???)


G's been doing an excellent job posting all of the DELICIOUS food that we've been eating the last few weeks... and how does a girl like me, who's reached her goal weight due to counter all this eating?  RUNNING!  But new gear was needed... and of course, I thought I would blog it...

Yep, a few running shirts, a running skirt, some Teva flip-flops recommended to me years ago by a friend and I never picked any up (and they are COMFORTABLE!!!)... I had already picked up some pants.  But that's not all, no sir.  The warm weather we've been having has meant that even MORE kit was needed...

Right... since I am no longer wearing jackets, I have no place to put my iphone when I run... there's the arm strap.  I needed a visor to help shield my face from the sun AND wipe up sweat (which this one does admirably) and a water belt.  The water belt.  I've debated this one over and over.  I run with a bottle that fits into your hand that's perfectly comfortable.  But it's been so hot that I can't stand carrying it the whole time.  Plus, I am going to need the ability to carry more water soon as my training kicks it up for the half.  So, water belt.  Thanks to all those on the dailymile.com who recommended Nathan products.  It's an absolute dream to wear!

Any running gear YOU particularly love?  Next up for me is a new pair of shoes.  I have been married to my Asics for some time now, but tried on a pair of Brooks Glycerin 8's yesterday and really, it was a swoon worthy moment.  They were amazing but PRICEY!  I don't know anyone who wears them...

And for a blast of food... I took my Mom to NY Fries today for her first taste of poutine.  She loved it!!!  No photos, but trust me, it was good.  :) 

24 May 2010

Dumplings are terrific

Today was a fantastic Victoria Day in Toronto. The sun was shining and J's mom was visiting so we went down to Cherry Beach and well . . . got sunburned. Nonetheless, a good day was had by all.

Of course, sitting outside makes one hungry and today's plan was to partake in some Mother's Dumplings. Now we haven't been back since this joint moved out of the nasty little basement digs in had in downtown Chinatown so did not know what to expect from the move. However, the stage was set by the note on its web site: "We have moved to 421 Spadina Ave. No longer does our restaurant appear to be a hole in the wall. We hope you will like it." Well it's much bigger, much airier and generally much less grim.

Known as perhaps the best dumpling place in Toronto, they have a wide selection of boiled, steamed, and fried dumplings plus noodles, salads, and some other items but we remained focussed on the main event: dumplings. From the steamed category we tried the beef and chives; our boiled choice were chicken and mushroom; and the fried were pork and bak choi. I did not try the pork dumplings but since the plate of 10 got cleaned up, I assume they were delicious. I enjoyed the chicken immensely. The beef were good too. They are all made fresh so the wrappers are soft and easy to bite through, which I feel is particularly important as rubbery wrappers really can make the whole operation of eating very, very messy. Fillings were flavourful and of a nice texture. All were dipped in a dipping sauce of my own design as the table comes with a couple of kinds of hot sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, salt, pepper, etc so you can make your own sauce in a little saucer. Apologies for the grim photo. I have not mastered the art of taking inside photos with my new phone.

The meal was rounded out with a bean sprout salad, which essentially was flavoured like kim chi but without the cabbage, which is currently not on the best of terms with my stomach. I enjoyed the pickled spiciness of it all. They also make a remarkable green onion pancake, which is crispy and delicious, especially dipped in my bespoke sauce!

A good, relatively cheap option and open on public holidays!

Mother's Dumplings on Urbanspoon

17 May 2010

Breakfast for dinner, Mexican style

We often have breakfast for dinner because it's generally fast and easy and we have the necessary ingredients around the house. So tonight we decided was a breakfast for dinner night as we were without any other dinner plan. But I didn't just want scrambled eggs and homefries or whatever, so put a bit of a Mexican (can you believe it?!!) twist on the whole affair. I'd been reading about chilaquiles but they are usually fried and that's not on right now. But the idea of them was in my mind . . . This is what I did. It's easy. It's tasty. This is pretty low fat. It's the way to go.

Took 4 whole corn tortillas and sprayed them lightly with cooking spray then put them on the pizza stone in a 400F oven to crisp up.

In the meantime, I found about a half a cup of frozen roasted tomatillo salsa (having the sauces and salsas in the freezer really makes it easy to whip up the dishes in a hurry) and heated it up. We had a few bits of leftover chicken, which got sliced up and added to the salsa with a little squeeze of lime juice. Also mashed up an avocado with some chopped green onion, salt, pepper, and the juice of half a lime. No chili because I didn't want to compete with the tomatillo salsa. Grated some queso viejo duro (old strong cheese, really, I don't make this up that's what is says on the package) which is a strong and dryish cheese so you don't need much. Last but not least, fried four eggs (if you put them in a good Teflon pan with just a splash of water and cover it, you don't need any oil here either!).

Then put it all together in layers on top of the crispy tortillas and serve with the avocado on the side.

16 May 2010

It's 10:30 pm - must be time for snickerdoodles

Well J had a hankering for cookies last night and it could not be denied. Her focus had been on trying to make the cookie part of a Twix bar. We didn't happen to have the ingredients for that adventure on hand late on a Saturday night but we did have everything two gals needed to put together some snickerdoodles, which just happened to be J's favourites anyway.

We perused a number of recipes and decided the classic from the Joy of Cooking was the way to go. So we mixed it up - basically eggs, butter, sugar, a bit of cream of tartar, baking soda and Bob's your uncle. Make 'em into balls and roll them in sugar and cinnamon, then bake.

Out they come and feast on the deliciousness, not to mention the house smells fantastic all night!

13 May 2010

More on the schnitzel front

So there's this place Schintzel Queen on the somewhat sketchy corner of Sherbourne and Queen streets in downtown Toronto. I'm always intrigued by places that seem to have been around forever and are kind of a bit rundown and homely looking from the outside. So I've always wanted to stop in and give the schnitzel there a try. Problem is it's not really open for anything but lunch during the week, which when it's at the edge of sketch downtown and you work 50kms away, it's not so easy. Well today I was working from home and my planned lunch got cancelled. I decided to grab the scooter and head down the few blocks and give it a try.

The menu consists of series of different schnitzel sandwiches (traditional and chicken) with various kinds of toppings including the basic mayo, tomato, and lettuce to cheese, roasted onions, and more. You can also just grab a piece of schnitzel or have a dinner that includes sauerkraut and potato salad. Well I just went for the basic sandwich but substituted mustard for mayo, as I'm not too keen on the may-o-naise. It's a big sarnie, let me just say.

It comes on a triangular multi-grain bun. I decided that there really was no need for the bun. It was just too much. So I had a stripped-down version of the schnitzel, tomato, and dijon mustard. It was actually very delicious. The schnitzel was light and crispy and not deep fried like at the last place where we had it. Usually I like to have lots of lemon juice squeezed on the meat but it was different and quite tasty with the mustard. Next time I'll try the potato salad because I've heard good things about it.

I had mine to go but there is a counter in the tiny little mom-and-pop shop where a few people can sit. I understand it gets quite crazy in there at lunchtime. I think when I arrived today, they'd just had a run of customers as the owners seems quite out of breath! But they were very pleasant and it homey inside and I liked it! You just have to get over the location and head in.

Schnitzel Queen  on Urbanspoon

09 May 2010

Classic chicken soup

Someone at work asked me for my recipe for chicken soup, so here it is. It's dead easy, just takes a lot of time on the stove. You can use this as soup or strain everything out of it and keep it as stock. I usually save it in 1 cup portions in baggies in the freezer, which makes it really easy to use.

Classic chicken soup
  • 1 whole chicken cut into pieces (if you're using it for soup) or any amount of leftovers and carcasses if you're just making stock
  • 2 or 3 ribs of celery
  • 3-4 unpeeled garlic cloves
  • 2 leeks roughly chopped
  • 2 mediums onions, sliced into chunks
  • 3 large carrots, cut up
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 8 sprigs of fresh parsley
  • 5 springs of fresh thyme
  • 10-20 black peppercorns
  • optional: 1 whole chile pepper

Put it all in a very large stock pot and fill with enough water to cover. Bring it all to the boil and then turn down to simmer. Skim the foamy stuff off the top when necessary and continue to simmer for about 4 hours.

Cool a bit and then strain it all so you have the veg/chicken and liquid in two separate containers. If you're going to be serving it as soup, save some of the carrots and shred some of the chicken and return it to the soup. If you're just looking for stock, then toss all the solids. Once it's totally cooled, you can seperate it and then freeze. It will keep for a few days in the fridge but quite a few months in the freezer.

Now if you're looking to add some matzoh balls to that soup, I've got a bit of a Mexican twist, of course, that you can use. This is especially excellent when you're in a week of eating a lot of matzoh-flavoured foods and need a little something different.

Poblano matzoh balls
  • I do not make my balls from scratch - use any boxed mix and this will work.
  • 1 large poblano pepper
Take one poblano pepper and either grill it on a bbq or in the oven until the skin is black. Take it out of the oven and cover it with a kitchen towel for a few minutes while it cools. Peel the skin and remove the seeds. The flesh of the pepper should be pretty soft and mushy.

Once you have prepared the matzoh ball mix, simply add and mix the poblano in well. Then, refrigerate and then make the balls and cook as per the instructions on the box.

They're not spicy but the pepper adds a little extra zip.

Sorry no pics for this one, but I'm sure it's not hard to imagine a steaming hot bowl of chicken soup with a couple of green matzoh balls floating in the middle . . . divine!

08 May 2010

The stuffing was excellent

I had bought the ingredients to try another Rick Bayless recipe: Ancho chiles stuffed with potato and chorizo with escabeche, which in this case is sort of like a quick sweet and sour pickle sauce. Well it sounded interesting and gave the opportunity to try some different techniques and flavours. I wouldn't say it was the most successful ever but I did learn something, so all good.

The escabeche was basically frying up some carrots, adding ground allspice, garlic, cider vinegar, piloncillo (unrefined Mexican sugar), water and onions. You get a sweet-tart sauce and into it let the ancho chiles sit and rehydrate for a while. Then cook up some potatoes and chorizo, split and clean the rehydrated chiles, then stuff them with the potato-chorizo mixture.

It is actually an appetizer but I made it as the main so we had a few each instead of just one and served it with salad and corn. Pretty good but not the best ever. I think there were a couple of reasons: 1. the ancho chiles I had were of varying quality. Some were really wrinkled and didn't soften up evenly, some had really thin skin and tore too easily, etc. etc. So every one was totally different. 2. The escabeche was okay - very tart and sweet - but I was not sure whether to serve it cold or warm. I didn't really want cold liquid on my dinner so heated it before serving.

But I try some new techniques: softening the dried chiles on a hot griddle, splitting and stuffing them, etc. And the potato and chorizo stuffing was really easy and can be translated into other things in the future for sure.

06 May 2010

Again with the champagne and chocolates

Another law firm hosted a champagne and chocolate event tonight. This one at Moroco choclatiers in Yorkville. It was a very fun event hosted by the firm's women's group and it was almost universally women clients. There were four different sparkling beverages - one was a hard cider from the Loire Valley in France, then there were three champagnes, of which I don't remember the names of any except the Veuve Cliquot. Along with that many, many, many kinds of chocolates. My favourites were the truffle balls with the fleur du sel liquid centre, truffle with strawberry and balsamic, the raspberry cream one and the marzipan with orange and brandy. There were a whole lot more but honestly, I couldn't keep up they were coming so fast. Each one had a different design on it - here are a couple of them. I believe the hearts was the raspberry cream and the dots were espresso.

We were greeted upon arrival with a glass of champagne and there was a table of sweet goodies ready for the guests that included: Maroc's famous homemade marshmallows, macrons, brownies on a stick, shortbread cookies, meringues, chocolate-covered pretzels, mini cupcakes, and more.

We also got a little goodie bag at the end that had some treats from Maroc and little bottle of French Cross sparkling wine.

All in all, I'm giving the law firms the thumbs up on these events and letting them know I'll be happy to attend your events if they continue in this fine style. And in keeping with the fact it's work . . . all pics taken with the work BlackBerry . . .

04 May 2010

Pot roast under pressure

I may have mentioned how much I adore the pressure cooking. Using it more, I'm getting used to how it works, how much liquid etc is needed. Pressure cookers are not really the cool kids of the kitchen, so there's not a tremendous number of recipes available for them out there. The recipe book that came with it is mostly Indian curries, which I like but . . . Ours is also pretty small. The combo makes it a bit complicated to figure out how to make things. But it's kind of fun to try.

Anyway with all that preamble, I'd been wanting to have some pot roast so pot roast it was. I cobbled together something quite delicious from a bunch of different sources that accomplished what some might consider the perfect Sunday dinner . . . pot roast in a mushroom wine sauce with potatoes and carrots. All cooked in about an hour!

A thing of beauty really, for the tummy anyway.

02 May 2010

Who Me?!

Yes folks.  It's official.  I completed my first 10K this morning!  I met my goal of running the ENTIRE race.  I exceeded my time goal.  I had wanted to finish in one hour and twenty minutes, but I ran it in one hour and 7 minutes!!!!!!

Here's me at the finish line...

Yeah, it's a bit blurry, but it's because I was sooo fast!  :)  I felt great!  Honestly, I felt really strong, really solid on my feet and totally pain free.  My breathing was steady, my mind was clear.  I kept trying to stay relaxed and focused on my breathing and my pace.  Thank you Nike+ for not letting me get carried away at the start!!!

I am a lucky girl.  G came to the finish with one of our friend's in tow and waited it out through the constant threat of downpour for me to finish.  Another friend was also running the race (he ran in 48 minutes!), and he waited to see my after.  It was brilliant and I was so happy to have so many smiling familiar faces cheering me on! 

Here's P and I at the end...

Yep.  There we are, wearing our medals and brimming with pride! 
Before the race, I was pretty nervous and could really only eat about half a WW bagel with some peanut butter... I brought my own water bottle to the race, and a few of the carb/electrolyte jelly beans that I got at the Running Room.  My stomach started growling before I'd even taken off!!!

But the race was run, and since it was my first, I had a PB!!!  Go me!

After the race, you corral through this area where there's food and whatnot.  First stop, gatorade.  Blessed fruit punch flavour.  Love it.  Then, off to the food bar.  Bagels, cookies, juice boxes, bananas. My stomach wasn't sure I wanted anything, but my mind told my stomach to get over it and eat something.  So a bit of a bagel, a juice box, and a delicious banana were enjoyed. 

It's nice that they give out food.  I mean, I suppose it only makes sense that they would, but it's nice that there's so much there to eat.  You're tired after running, even when it's "just" 10K, that having that little bit at the end really kept you from just wanting to lie on the ground and sleep.

From there, it was off to Cora's for a celebratory breakfast.  By then, my stomach was having some cramping, but I think I was just too hungry and too worked up.  It feels better now. 

A year ago I would never have dreamed that this would be possible.  I have made so many positive changes in my life, and I am really just so freaking proud of myself.  I have a few 5K's and 10K's this summer that I've already registered for, and then it's the big one.. the half marathon in September!!!!  Watch this space, I will keep news coming on the training, the food, and the fun of it. 

01 May 2010

Nothing goes together better than chocolate & chili

I had been jonesing to make make a chili chocolate cake for some time and during Passover last month, I found this one online and decided to make it when we had guests from out of town. It was the dessert for a Mexican-themed seder-type meal (which was very delicious but did not have an hour of pre-amble from the Haggadah before we could partake of the repast, so to speak.) Anywho . . . more on that at another time! This cake doesn't have any flour or other leavining agents so it was perfect for Passover but that's not to hold me back from making it any time because it is SO delicious!

For my version, I used good quality Belgian chocolate and ground the dried chipotles myself in the mortar and pestle so the flavour was still strong and smokey. I definitely used more spices than the original recipe called for and also had goose eggs in the house so used those (1 goose egg = 4 regular eggs), which I think makes it richer. It comes out a lot like a brownie but with a bit of a kick. I could eat the whole thing myself, so it's a good thing there'll be others to share it!

Chipotle Flourless Chocolate Cake
  • 285g of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 7 tablespoons (100g) of unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 5 large eggs (or 1 goose egg and one regular egg), room temperature
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons of chipotle chili powder
  • Dash or more of cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of salt
  • Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of a 9 ½ inch springform pan with a circle of parchment paper. Grease the sides and the parchment with butter or non-stick cooking spray.

Melt the chocolate and butter together over a double boiler stirring occasionally until smooth.

Whisk together the eggs and the sugar in a large bowl, and then slowly, a bit at a time, whisk in the melted chocolate. Add the salt and spices and taste, adjusting the spices if needed.

Pour into the springform pan and bake for 25-32 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let it cool completely on a wire rack. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.

A good 'ole Jewish breakfast

Today we went to Caplansky's deli for breakfast. We'd been for lunch with friends a few weeks ago and had some great smoked meat and tongue sandwiches. The breakfasts looked good too, so since we were up and at 'em early today, off we went. J also needed to get her strength up for her 10K tomorrow (so you know, any excuse!)
I had the smoked meat hash. I love corned beef hash and I will say it sure comes in many varieties of not good. This one was great! They use all the leftover bits from making sandwiches and then fry it up with some potato sticks and herbs. Add fried eggs, challah toast and presto. I ate it with some of the delicious brown mustard - one of may varieties of mustard on the table - and it was heavenly.

This pic was taken with my new Sony Ericsson Xperia Android phone, which has an 8MP camera. Not bad for a phone. It's my first personal smartphone and it rocks (a recently acquired BlackBerry is for work and I don't really want to carry work e-mail around with me all the time so bit the bullet and got this groovy tunes phone!)

J. had the fried salami and scrambled egg breakfast. It was also very delicious - with a lot of crispy fries! Definitely will go back again when looking for a particularly hearty breakfast. It's not an every week kind of deal. The heart would not go on, if you know what I'm saying.

Caplansky's Delicatessen on Urbanspoon


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