Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Chicken and Mushroom Stew

The basil plant died. It is in a better place now (the green bin) I have a new one and it is doing ok. It isn't growing much but it looks healthy. I have a little thyme plant as well that thinks it's weeds and is growing madly. I guess I will have plenty of thyme on my hands later on! Hardee har har har.

I wanted to comment on a loverly dinner we made complements of my favorite chef, chef Michael Smith. Please view the recipe here. We followed it almost exactly except we used boneless skinless thighs. Oh. My. God. It was, like, the best chicken ever. We used Kumala Shiraz (South African) for the wine. I didn't care for the wine to drink (we had bought it the night before because we wanted a glass of wine) . I found it rustic tasting. I can't explain it exactly but it sort of reminded me of a log cabin or something. I am not good at explaining wine. However the qualities I disliked in the wine went absolutely phenominally with the chicken and mushrooms. It really brought out the earthyness of the mushrooms. I didn't have any left because I dumped it all in the dinner so I don't know if it drank any better with the meal than it did with sitting on the couch. However, I do know I would buy it again if only to cook this dish.

This meal would have been better with mashed potatoes, as it was served on Chef at Home. We used Lundberg Jubilee Gourmet Rice Blend (which is available at Superstore in the Organic section) I liked the rice, Lundberg rice is always good, but Travis prefers white rice, so it wasn't such a hit with him.

So that was the mushroom and chicken stew. Please try!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

As seen on Food TV (the website)

Here is an interesting article from food tv. I enjoyed this article because of the information regarding seasoning foods allows for experimentation. With basic knowledge on how to season your broth/soup/stew/rice according to the national cuisine you are aiming for, it opens the door to experimentation. Basically, by matching the correct ingredients you have a starting point for whatever you can imagine!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

How to Grow Basil

Here is a quote from an ehow.com article:

"How to Grow Basil
...Difficulty: Easy"

It's a lie. All lies, I say. So they magically grow big and tall and bushy, you claim. Lies! Look at this thing:

Is that not the sorriest looking thing you have ever seen? And this is the third one! The THIRD! I found the second one crawling across the counter towards the trash can, just creeping along, dragging its pot, like some kind of dismembered hand from a horror movie.

Ok, so that's a slight exaggeration.

So all you plant-o-philes out there, if anybody thinks this poor thing can be rescued, and have any advice, I would love to hear it. If you think I should put it out of its misery and try again, let me know. For now I am feeding and watering it and I moved it to a different spot. I am going to pluck its leaves.

I mean, all I want is a big plant so I can make pesto whenever I want. Is that too much to ask?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Mac And Cheese

I't a classic, but just a recent favorite at our house. We always got by on K.D. But I didn't want to give that to Ian so we learned to make it from scratch. It's really not hard. At all.

Melt about 1/2 cup butter in a pan. add about 1/4 cup of flour and stir until dissolved and you have a liquidy paste. Add salt, pepper, and/or whatever seasonings you want (dry mustard, parsley, anything you like) Add about 2 cups of milk (honestly I didn't measure I just poured it in until it looked right. It's better to add less milk and then add more later if it's too thick than to add too much right off the bat) Add 1/2 cup cream cheese and mix until melted in and combined. Add about 2 cups grated old cheddar cheese and mix until melted in and combined.

Here's the sauce when it's ready to go:

Add to about 3/4 package (a package is about a pound) of cooked pasta. The best pastas are Macaroni (duh) Penne, bowties, shells, or Gemelli. They should be a little firm still because they will soak up some more liquid from the sauce. Mix it all together and add whatever you like to it (hotdogs, chicken, veggies, shrimp, etc) Put it in a baking dish. Mix together about 1/2 cup of bread crumbs with melted butter or olive oil and sprinkle over the top. Bake it at 400 for about 20 mins, until the top is golden and crispy. Yum!

Healthy options: Whole wheat noodles, whole wheat bread crumbs, low fat cheese and milk. I don't recommend replacing the butter with margarine, especially low fat margarine. Margarine tastes terrible to begin with, and low fat margarine is mostly just water. If you insist on avoiding butter, then use olive oil instead, although I have never tried that and so I can't speak as to how it would work.

You can use any cheeses you like. It doesn't have to be cheddar and cream cheese. And this meal is so flexible you can alter it any way you like and it will probably turn out. Here's an alternative:

Instead of using milk, use cream, and instead of using cheddar and cream cheese, use parmesan. Be careful with the salt, but add lots of black pepper. Pour over fettucine to make fettucine Alfredo! (Yep, it's not fancy, it's just Mac and Cheese!)

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Bish World Cuisine

Bish World Cuisine

We went for a fancy pants dinner last night and before you ask, yes, we were both wearing our fancy pants. It was really classy in there. It is right on the waterfront with a view of the harbour. We did not get a seat by the window. We had a seat by a column. It was very nice in there nonetheless, with real roses on the table. In one wall sconce was a few sprigs of cotton, which was very unique. The staff was really nice, and the waitress was very friendly and knowledgeable.

We decided to forgo the wine. We both really like wine but gift certificate or no, I can't bring myself to pay $40+ for a bottle or $9+ for a glass of wine so we just had water to drink. The bread was amazing. I am not sure what the first piece had in it but I suspect it was Chipolte peppers and poppy seeds. There was also an Italian loaf with poppy seeds on top and the single most delicious piece of corn bread I have ever had. It was moist and crumbly, very muffin-like in texture, and with a faint hint of sweetness. It made me want to make corn bread all week until I can get it to come out like that.

We started our meal with High Spiced Pulled Pork and Manchego Roast Pepper Quesadilla, Habanero Spiked Guacamole...10.95 It was pretty spicy but good. The Guacamole wasn't that spicy (although I can't be sure, Trav hogged it all) but the pulled pork had a bit of a kick to it.

Trav's main course was: Grilled NY Striploin Cubano with Ropa Viejo Plantain Empanada, Chimichurri and Likkered Greens...32.95 He says the veggies were a little sweet, but very good, it had cherry tomatoes and some greens. The empanada was like a samosa actually, I had a bite of it. It didn't scream out "bananas", but I have never had plantains so I didn't know what to expect. The steak was good but not $32.95 good. We have made better steaks at home.

I had Roast Pheasant Breast "Oscar", Stuffed with Crab and Asparagus, Five Herb Aioli and Madiera Reduction...34.95. It was really good, although I believe I got a leg, not a breast. It was tender and tasty. The Madiera Reduction was awesome. I have been experimenting with wine reductions lately with moderate success. Now I know what it should taste like when I do it right. It definitely tasted like something I would make at home, just better. I guess that is what years of training and a Chef degree does. The Aioli was great too, it also tasted like something I would make, likely because I love using fresh herbs. It was all served with roasted baby potatoes and veggies. The veggies were great, baby carrots, broccoli, and brussells sprouts. I have not had a brussells sprout since I was about 8, and I remember I hated it, so I bit into the sprout with apprehension. However I really enjoyed these, as it was crisp and flavourful, and did not have the life cooked out of it. Like all veggies, it benefits from being steamed until hot but still crisp, not boiled until soft.

The only complaint I would make about my meal was that both the pheasant and the potatoes were crusted in salt to the point that if there was any potatoe or pheasant skin in the bite I had it was almost unbearably salty. I really appreciated my glass of water at that moment, let me tell you!

For dessert I had a cup of Desert Lime tea, which was good but tasted like it should be served iced with vodka. But good nonetheless. We had Bish Made Ice Creams and Sorbets...8.85 for dessert. We got a scoop each of rum raisin, pistachio, dark chocolate, and ginger ice cream. The rum raisin was fantastic, it actually tasted of rum. I didn't care for the pistachio much, but I don't like nuts in dessert at the best of times. The dark chocolate was extremely rich. It tasted like cocoa, not chocolate. Very dark. The ginger was the best. I have had ginger ice cream before, I wouldn't say this was better, but it definitely wasn't worse. The ginger was very subtle, you almost wouldn't notice it if you were not looking for it. It didn't leave so much of a heat in your mouth, rather than a warm aftertaste. Very good.

The whole bill came to $102, so we gave her the gift certificate and let her keep the tip. It was overall a very good meal, but not something I would do every day, and definitely not something I would pay for myself, as I could make very similar meals at home for a fraction of the price. We did, however, enjoy our meal. Thanks so much, Adrienne and Daryl!

Chop Suey

Chinese food bender the last few weeks. Yum. I made four different Chinese dishes over the last 2 weeks. They were pretty good. To make Chinese stir frys, dont forget the most important rule: Chop everything first and have it ready to go. Then stir fry it.

Chicken Chow Mein
Heat wok, add about 3 tbsp of peanut oil (another vegetable oil is ok if you have peanut issues). Add some sesame oil too, about 1 tsp. It is strongly flavoured and a little goes a long way. Drop in 2 or 3 whole cloves of garlic and some slices of ginger. When the garlic turns brown, pick the garlic and ginger out of the oil and throw them out. Don't leave the garlic in there, it will burn. By cooking the garlic and ginger in the oil for a few minutes you infuse the oil with the flavour without having to bite into big chunks of it.

Put about a cup of chopped up or sliced chicken in the pan and stir fry until done. I used boneless skinless thighs for mine because they taste better. When the chicken is cooked, add some soy sauce and black bean sauce. Take the chicken out and set it aside.

Put some more oil in the pan, and saute some more garlic and ginger in it. When that is cooked (and picked out of course) begin stir frying vegetables. It is important to cook them in the order that they will take the longest to cook. I used, in this order: carrots, frozen broccoli, onions, celery, and bean sprouts. I put in the carrots and broccoli, gave it a stir to cover with the seasoned oil, and put the lid on for about 5 mins to let it steam. Then I added the onions and celery, and let it cook for about 5 more mins. Finally I added the bean sprouts.

In the mean time, cook some ramen noodles to al dente. (just looking at that sentence boggles the mind) Put the chicken in with the noodles and toss with some more soy sauce and black bean sauce. When the veggies are done, right after the bean sprouts are added, throw the chicken and noodles back in the wok with the veggies, add more soy and bean sauce if necessary, sprinkle with ground ginger, and toss the whole works together. Put the lid on for another couple of mins to make sure the veggies are cooked, and then enjoy!

That chow mein is a meal in and of itself. We had enough for all 3 of us for dinner and for my lunch the next day as well. It heats up well as leftovers. Ian really liked it, he discovered slurping noodles last week!

Tonight I made a 3 course Chinese meal.

I started with stir fried veggies. Pretty much the same as the chow mein except I left out the noodles and the meat. I used carrots, peppers, bok choy, and snow peas today.

I also made beef and broccoli. I cooked the beef in the same manner as the chicken above, except when it was cooked I added Hoisin sauce and frozen broccoli, and sliced onions. The dish was good exept for Hoisin has a hint of sweetness and would have better with chicken or pork. It was also kind of sucky because I bought beef stir fry strips which are basically mystery meat. You don't know what you are getting. I should have marinated them a bit, or bought a steak and sliced it up. But despite these drawbacks, it was still really tasty.

Finally tonight I made fried rice. I used some sticky rice because I like to eat with chopsticks when I eat Chinese food and sticky rice clumps together and is easier to pick up. But sticky rice is kind of glommy sometimes so I actually mixed 1 part sticky rice with 2 parts good old long grain white rice. I put some big chunks of ginger in the rice because it aromatized the rice with ginger.

People are intimidated by rice but it is really easy. You need to cook rice one part rice to 2 parts liquid. It doesn't have to be water, it can be stock or tomato juice or wine or whatever. But today I used water. Bring the rice to a boil, slap a lid on, and turn the heat to low. DON'T OPEN THE RICE! Set the timer for 20 mins and just leave it alone until it is done. If you open it before it's ready, it won't work. Unless you are making risotto. But that's a different blog entry.

I sauteed garlic and ginger in peanut and sesame oil as above, when it was done I took it out and chopped it up fine. I then put 2 eggs in the oil, and fried them up. You want the yolks to break. When the fried eggs are done, put some frozen peas, stir it up, and add the rice. You can add some soy sauce to it if you want, or any other asian seasoning. I like oyster sauce as well. When the rice is all mixed with the peas and oil and seasoning, add the chopped cooked garlic and onion back in. Mix it all up, serve, and enjoy.

All of these dishes benefit from chopped green onion, either mixed in or sprinkled on top as a garnish. I didn't have any this week. I just forgot when I went to the store I guess.

Well, that's it for Chinese Food. Hope you like it.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Stupid me.

Oh my god. I just spent almost an hour explaining how to make bread and then I accidentally deleted it. I even had a picture. Oh my god. I think I will go watch American Idle now.

Addendum to previous post:

I have not gotten over deleting this post and so I won't rewrite it any time soon, but I learned to save it occasionally. And you can have the picture. It's a shame to waste such pretty bread.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Butter Chicken

This is more of a food review than a recipe. We had butter chicken for dinner. I have yet to tackle actual butter chicken. I can't find a recipe yet I want to try, they all have about forty million ingredients. I know I could whip it up with things I have in the spice cupboard, but I am still a little intimidated (and for those who know me, the thought of me being intimidated in the kitchen is alien)

Still, just because I am afraid of butter chicken doesn't mean I am not going to enjoy the yummiest of all Indian dishes. So we use (drum roll) President's Choice Butter Chicken Sauce In A Jar. Just cook the chicken, add the sauce, and dump over rice. Dee-licious. Possibly not the healthiest choice, but quick and tasty, and as it is not terribly spicy, it is a good entry-level Indian dish. We got the Our Complements sauce from Sobeys this time. (No link unfortunately. Internet-wise, it is as though it doesn't exit) Pretty much the same, I'd say. It was a little tangier with slightly less curry taste, but it would have been well served if we had just toasted a little garam masala and stirred it in. Ian's mostly ended up on the floor. But he doesn't seem to be eating as much at supper time lately as a rule, so I don't know if I can entirely chalk that up to the dinner.

Altogether, I prefer the PC version. They are both around the same price. We prefer it with boneless, skinless chicken thighs, and of course Basmati rice which has a sweet smell and aroma. Although we didn't have them this time, PC also makes a great Naan bread that goes really well with this dinner. It's soft and buttery. The package says not to microwave it but 30 seconds or so in the microwave is quicker than grilling it.

While I am on the subject of Indian food, here is some advice for fellow Haligonians: the Curry Village makes terrible butter chicken. It was like chicken in gravy. It didn't have much flavour, and it was a sorry greyish brown colour. They had fresh Naan bread, though, which hooked me for good. If you want to go out for a bite of curry in Halifax, the best Indian food I have had is the Dude Who Sells Curry at the Brewery Market on Saturdays. $5 will get you curried chicken, Basmati rice with vegetables, and a meat samosa. And it's about the best I've had anywhere.

So if anybody has a relatively simple butter chicken recipe they have tried I would love to hear about it. Please feel free to comment!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Lasagna, Part Deux

Well last night was leftovers. And as promised, here's Trav's recipe for 4 Cheese Lasagna:

whole wheat lasagna noodles (enough to make 4 layers when cooked)
1.5 lb lean ground beef


1 can or jar of your favourite sauce (I just use whatever's on sale)
1 small can tomato paste
1/2 cup finely chopped zucchini
1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
1/2 cup finely chopped tomato
3 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 small onion finely chopped
1 tsp oregano
salt & pepper to taste


500g mozzarella cheese
150g cheddar cheese
500g cottage cheese
100g fresh parmesan cheese

In dutch oven (large pot) brown lean ground beef, add remaining sauce ingredients and simmer for about an hour or until veggies are soft. You can use whatever veg you like, these are just what I prefer. While sauce is simmering, grate mozza and cheddar into one bowl and then grate parmesan into cottage cheese into another bowl. When sauce has about 20min remaining, boil large stockpot of water for noodles. The water should be well salted and some oil will help keep the noodles from sticking together. When the water comes to a boil add noodles. About 12min will cook a lasagna noodle al dente. When noodles and sauce are done layer everything in this order: sauce, noodles, sauce, noodles, cottage/parmesan mix, noodles, sauce, noodles, mozza/cheddar mix. Bake in 375F oven for approx 40min. Enjoy! By Trav

Tonight was pretty easy dinner, I just whipped up a Lazy Chicky Noodle Soup, with some chicken stock, sauteed chicken, veggies and noodles. We have chicken out of the freezer for tomorrow. I don't know what it will be yet, though. Stay posted!

Sunday, January 07, 2007


Kind of a lazy day today. Well, food wise, anyway. I was a little more focused on getting the house clean than on cooking. Not that I was successful at that either. We made Lasagne, Caesar Salad, and Garlic Toast. It was great. Trav made the lasagne, he's not here right now otherwise I would write out what he put in it, but sadly I wasn't paying attention. I was in charge of the salad and I must confess, we used Renee's Caesar salad dressing. I liked it the first time I bought it but ever since then I have never enjoyed it as much. It's too tangy or something. I made my own last time but it was a first go and relatively unsuccessful, that, plus the fact that I was super lazy today both contributed to the jarred dressing. I did, however, make the croutons myself.

Krispy Krunchy Kroutons: Bread, cubed. Salt and pepper to taste, season to taste (I used Oregano today) toss with olive oil, bake until crispy.

Ok. So Trav's recipes are a little more specific. I prefer to throw it all together. Anyhoo, I will have him write out the lasagne for tomorrow. Here's a pic of what's left of the lasagne:

Ok, so it looks bad in the picture but I am a good cook and a bad photographer. Get over it.

PS: Ian Rating: Eleven. Ok, that means nothing. Lets just say the tummy/floor/face percentages were about 85/10/5, just about right for pasta. He even ate some salad. Ok, he sucked the dressing off the lettuce, but hey, he's only 19 months old!

Saturday, January 06, 2007


Howdy folks and welcome to Leoal and Travis's Online Dinner Diary. Why, you ask, would someone create an entire blog around what they had to eat? Well, it's just so good we felt we should share. So this blog will involve recipes we have created, links to other recipes we have tried and how they have turned out, and possibly a critique of any dinners out we have. We will talk about our kitchen tools, and we will also provide a kid rating for our dinners based on how well Ian likes them. He's not that picky, though.

So to begin. For dinner tonight we had boiled potatoes and frozen peas. Not too glamourous, I know, but we didn't want anything to interfere with Travis's Sweet and Spicy Back Ribs :

2-3 lbs pork back ribs
salt and pepper

1 1/2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tsp tabasco
1 tsp dried chilies
1 tsp dried mustard
1 tsp chili powder

Preheat oven to 350F. Chop ribs into 2-3 rib sections. Place in med roasting pan, fatty side up. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste. Add about 1/4 inch of water to the roasting pan, cover, and place in oven for 45 mins.

Meanwhile, in bowl mix remaining ingredients to a sauce. After the ribs have been in the oven for the allotted time, remove pan from oven, lower heat to 275F, Pour out the water and melted fat, add sauce, and place back in oven for 90 mins. Increase heat to 350F, for 30 mins. These babies will fall off the bone and melt in your mouth.

By Travis

Normally we would put a pic in here as well but we didn't think of it until after we ate it all, hahahaha. Ian really liked it, he gobbled it all right up. We poured the extra sauce on the potatoes. Yum! It has quite a zing, you can leave the spicy stuff out if you want to make it a bit milder. If anybody tries this and it turns out for you too, please leave a comment!