Monday, December 31, 2012

Sweet and Spicy BBQ Ribs


Baby back ribs - as many as needed, I made 4 racks for 4 people (so there would be leftovers)
1 can of light beer - I used Pabst Blue Ribbon

1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup molasses - you can use brown sugar instead if you do not have molasses
1/2 cup dark beer
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup grainy mustard
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon chipotle powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne (or to taste)


Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Take a large roasting pan with a wire rack and pour one can of light beer into the bottom.  Top up with water until just beneath the wire rack. 

Rub ribs with pepper and place on top of the wire rack in the roasting pan. Put in oven and allow to steam for 45 minutes.

While ribs are steaming prepare bbq sauce.

In a large saucepan on low heat, saute the onions and garlic with the vegetable oil for 10 minutes. 

Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 30-45 minutes. 

When sauce is done and ribs have steamed for 45 minutes take them out of the oven and brush a layer of bbq sauce on the ribs and return to the oven for 15 minutes.  Remove and flip the ribs over and brush a coat on the other side.  Repeat this stage, so that the ribs have two coatings of bbq sauce on each side. 

BBQ on medium high heat for 5-10 minutes. 


The BEST Chocolate Cake

This chocolate cake has become a staple in our family.  It is rich and moist and everything a chocolate cake should be.  The recipe is from Barefoot Contessa at home - Ina Garten, Beatty's Chocolate Cake.  I opted for the organic or unbleached option where ever possible.

Chocolate Cake


butter for greasing the pans
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup good cocoa powder - this is important, I used Camino Organic
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken - I have also used cream as a replacement and it works fine
1/2 vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed coffee - I grind it and make it nice and strong
Chocolate frosting (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter two 8" round cake pans.  Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined.

In another bowl, combine the buttermilk (or cream), oil, eggs, and vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry.  With the mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.  Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

Place one layer, flat side up on a flat plate or cake pedestal.  With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting.  Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.

Chocolate Frosting


6 ounces good semisweet chocolate
1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 extra large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder - I have subbed with 2 tablespoon of cold coffee left from the pot made above and this works fine

Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature. 

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating  for 3 minutes.  Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners' sugar, then beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy.  Dissolve the coffee powder (or coffee) in 2 teaspoons of the hottest tap water.  On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended.  Don't whip! 

Spread immediately on the cooled cake.


Monday, December 24, 2012

Fresh Pasta with Bolognese

Fresh Pasta

Fresh pasta is a fun thing to make.  It is simple, having only two ingredients, and takes any pasta dish up a notch.  It is time consuming, but worth it.

We often will make a trip to a neighbour that sells farm fresh eggs out of a cooler at the end of her driveway.  Since it is the eve of Christmas eve I opted for organic free range eggs from our local grocery store. 


2 cups unbleached flour
3 eggs

Put flour and eggs in a food processor and blend until a ball forms.  If pebbles appear instead of a ball add 1/2 teaspoon of water at a time until it forms a ball.  Once you received the ball form, remove from food processor and knead for one or two minutes until it is smooth.  Cut 1/4 of the dough ball off and wrap the remainder in plastic wrap.

Take the 1/4 chunk and run through a pasta maker.  I have a traditional one that works well for me. 

Start by running it through stage one.  Fold the pasta in half lengthwise and run through 3-4 times.  Move the setting to stage 2 and run through 3-4 times, folding dough in half lengthwise and running it through the open end.  Continue through this process until you get to the desired thickness.  Take the sheet of dough and dust with flour.  This will prevent it from sticking.

Take another quarter slice of the dough ball and do the same thing.  Once the entire ball has been rolled through the pasta maker add the attachment and choose the variety of pasta you'd like to make.  I did Fettuccine for this recipe and rolled it through until #4, so it was nice and thick.  Roll it through and set aside until you want to cook it.



2 cans of organic diced tomatoes
1lb. organic ground beef (or you can do 1/2 ground pork and half ground beef)
1 chunk of spicy salami, quartered
1 1/2 cups of good Italian red wine
1 small can tomato paste
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
olive oil
chili flakes
fresh ground pepper
course salt

In a large pot over medium high heat put olive oil.  Once heated add garlic and onions and fry until lightly browned.

Add ground beef and continue cooking until it is lightly browned.

Add tomatoe paste, red wine and then canned tomatoes and bring to a boil. 

Turn heat down.

In a frying pan on medium high heat pan fry the quartered salami until lightly browned.  Add to the pot.

Add chili flakes, oregano, fresh ground pepper and course salt.  Take a hand blender and lightly blend the entire pot of sauce.  This will get rid of the large chunks of diced tomato and some of the salami quarters. 

Simmer on low for 1 to 2 hours.

Once sauce is ready bring a bowl of water to a boil and cook the pasta. 

Drain and put back in the pot.  Scoop spoonfulls of sauce into the pasta until you have the desired amount. 

Plate and serve.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Kale & Quinoa Salad with White Wine Vinaigrette

Kale & Quinoa Salad


1/2 a bunch of kale
1/2 cup red quinoa - cooked and cooled
1/4 of a large cucumber
2 stalks celery
1/2 red pepper
1/2 yellow pepper
1/2 orange pepper
1/4 red onion
seeds from a squash - roasted and seasoned with salt & pepper

Chop all veggies and put into a large bowl.  Add 1/2 cup of quinoa and squash seeds.  Toss with white wine vinaigrette or another of your favourite salad dressings.

White Wine Vinaigrette


2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/2 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients with a fork or small whisk.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Garlic Salad with grilled chicken breast, croutons and shaved parmesan

Garlic salad is a favourite with our family. A simple weeknight dinner that everyone will love.
I picked up 2 bone in-skin on chicken breasts from the local butcher.  We are lucky enough to have a local butcher that serves local, farm fresh and all natural products. 

Chicken Rub

1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper or chili flakes
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Put all ingredients into a mortal and use the pestle to combine and crush seeds/flakes.  Apply the rub to the chicken breasts. 

BBQ the chicken breasts.  While they are cooking prepare the salad.


Chop, wash and dry romaine or other lettuce of your choice and put into a bowl.

Garlic Dressing

2 garlic cloves, minced or finely chopped
1/3 cup mayonnaise
splash of lemon juice
splash of white wine vinegar
coarse salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients.


chunk of stale bread/baguette, cut into cubes
1 clove of garlic, minced or finally chopped (or in a pinch you can use garlic powder)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
course salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Put the olive oil in a frying pan and heat over medium heat.  Add the garlic and allow to cook until lightly browned. 

Add the cubes of bread and allow to brown on as many sides as possible. 

Add salt and pepper and set aside to cool.

Assemble the salad

When the chicken is done set it aside for a couple of minutes before cutting it into chunks.

Toss the garlic dressing with the romaine.  Add the croutons, chicken and some shredded Parmesan cheese!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Cowbell Restaurant Review - Farm Fresh Food

We went to this small restaurant in Parkdale after reading about the sustainability accolades it was receiving from various on line sources.

We were greeted by a friendly and knowledgeable waitress and we were seated right away.  She happily shared information regarding the restaurant philosophy and the farm sources with us.

Cowbell is known for it's chalkboard menu, that changes daily based on the availability of ingredients. 

The menu displays fresh seasonal ingredients from local farms and a wide variety of meats reflecting the whole animal movement that Chef Mark Cutrara is involved in. 

The charcuterie included an assortment of house cured meats including mortadella, capicola, Pâté, sausage and house made gherkins. 

The hanger steak frites was cooked to perfection.  It was served with a farm fresh egg, fresh cut fries and a red wine shallot jam. 

The cowbell burger was served in a foil wrapper with a side of fresh cut fries and mayo.  The melted cheddar cheese and mortadella added a great flavour to the burger. 

The olive oil cake with pecan spiced pumpkin puree, poached cranberries, frozen honey cream and poppy seed brittle was displayed nicely and was a nice end to a good meal. 

Cowbell is known for their Sunday brunch.  I would definitely be interested in going back to try it out.

Cowbell was the first Toronto based eco-friendly restaurant named by
LEAF - Leaders in Environmentally Accountable Foodservice.

Cowbell.....good food you can feel good about eating!

Cowbell Restaurant
1564 Queen Street West,
Toronto, Ontario

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Coq au Vin - Julia Child's of course

Here is another one of Julia Child's classic recipes.  This dish was easier to make than I had guessed.  It was also fun to experience my first flambe!  If you have never ignited alcohol in a dish before this is something you must try.

Coq au Vin translates to rooster with wine and in my opinion it is just divine!


[Chicken in Red Wine with Onions, Mushrooms, and Bacon]


3-4 ounces chunk lean bacon (ask your local butcher to cut this for you)
2 1/2 to 3 pounds frying chicken parts (I used two bone in skin on chicken breasts - free range)
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup cognac (for the flambe)
3 cups young, full bodied red wine (Burgundy, Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone or Chianti)
1-2 cups brown chicken stock
1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves of garlic mashed
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
12-24 brown braised onions (recipe below)
1/2 lb. sauteed mushrooms (recipe below)
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons softened butter
sprigs of fresh parsley


Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
Remove the rind and cut the bacon into lardons (rectangles 1/4 inch across and 1 inch long).  Simmer for 10 minutes in 2 quarts of water.  Rinse in cold water. Dry.

In the dutch oven saute the bacon slowly in hot butter until it is very lightly browned.  Remove to a side dish.

Dry the chicken thoroughly.  Brown it in the hot fat in the dutch oven.

Season the chicken.  Return the bacon to the dutch oven with the chicken.  Cover and cook slowly for 10 minutes, turning the chicken once.

Uncover, and pour in the cognac.  (this is the fun part)  Averting your face, ignite the cognac with a lighted match.  Shake the dutch oven back and forth for several seconds until the flames subside. 

Pour the wine into the dutch oven.  Add just enough stock to cover the chicken.  Stir in the tomato paste, garlic and herbs.  Bring to a simmer.  Cover and simmer slowly for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and its juices run a clear yellow when the meat is pricked with a fork.  Remove the chicken to a side dish.

While the chicken is cooking prepare the onions and mushrooms.

Simmer the chicken cooking liquid in the dutch oven for a minutes or two, skimming off fat.  Then raise heat and boil rapidly, reducing the liquid to about 2 1/4 cups.  Correct seasoning.  Remove from heat, and discard bay leaf. 

Blend the 2 tablespoons of butter and 3 tablespoons of flour together into a smooth paste.  Beat the paste into the hot liquid with a wire whip.  Bring to a simmer, stirring, and simmer for a minute or two.  The sauce should be thick enough to coat a spoon lightly.

Arrange the chicken (I used a bowl) in the dutch oven, place the mushrooms and onions around it, and baste with the sauce.

Decorate with sprigs of parsley.


[Brown-braised Onions]


18-24 pearl onions (peeled)
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons oil
1/2 cup brown stock
salt and pepper to taste
herb bouquet: 4 parsley sprigs, 1/2 bay leaf, and 1/4 teaspoon thyme tied in a cheesecloth


When the butter and oil are  bubbling in the skillet, add the onions and saute over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling the onions about so they will brown as evenly as possible.  Be careful not to break their skins.  You cannot expect to brown them uniformly.
Pour in the liquid, season to taste, and add the herb bouquet.  Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but retain their shape, and the liquid has evaporated.  Remove the herb bouquet. 


[Sauteed Mushrooms]


2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms, washed, well dried, left whole if small or quartered if large


Place the skillet over high heat with the butter and oil.  As soon as you see that the butter foam has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add the mushrooms.  Toss and shake the pan for 4 to 5 minutes.  During their saute the mushrooms will at first absorb the fat.  In 2 to 3 minutes the fat will reappear on their surface, and the mushrooms will begin to brown.  As soon as they have browned lightly, remove from heat.
Serve with a young, full bodied French red wine.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Shortbread Cookies with Toblerone

Christmas baking on a Sunday afternoon in December is one of my favourite things to do.  There is something about the warmth of the oven and the sweet smell that fills the house that makes me happy. 


1 cup of unsalted butter at room temperature (I used Organic Meadows):
Room temperature butter is key to the melt in your mouth shortbread we strive for.  If it is cool you will over work the dough, if it is melted (last minute in the micro - we've all done it) this will also result in a tougher cookie.
2/3 cup icing sugar
1/4 cup of rice flour :
this makes the shortbread a finer texture - in my opinion this is the secret to good shortbread
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (organic, non bleached)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (make sure to use pure and not imitation)
3 small Toblerone bars (or something similar)



Preheat your oven to 350 F

Using a hand beater, beat the room temperature butter until it is light and fluffy.  Sift in the icing sugar and continue to beat.  Using a spatula scrape down the sides of the bowl frequently, making sure that the butter gets evenly distributed.

Sift in the rice flour, all purpose flour and salt and mix just until combined. 

Add vanilla.

Chop the Toblerone bar into chunks and add to the mixture.

Using a large spoon or ice cream scoop place dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat.  Leave about 2" between cookies.

Bake on the middle rack for 7-8 minutes before rotating the sheet and baking for an additional 7-8 minutes.  Bottoms of cookies will look lightly browned.

Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 24 cookies


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Julia Child's Boeuff Bourguignon

To be honest my love for Julia Child didn't begin until the movie Julie and Julia.  That movie made me want to cook!  My amazing husband, supporting my whim (not selflessly I may add), purchased the Julia Child cookbook set (Mastering the Art of French Cooking) for me.  So it began! 

I have a Kitchen Aid dutch oven.  One day I may invest in a Le Creuset, but until then mine works just fine. 

Boeuf Bourguignon

Julia Child's  Boeuf Bourguignon is time consuming, but it will be worth every moment as soon as you put that first spoonfull into your mouth. 


  • 1 6 ounce piece chunk bacon (ask your local butcher, they will be happy to help you)
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 pounds lean stew beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups red wine, young and full bodied
  • 3 cups beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cloves mashed garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 bay leaf, crumbled
  • 20 small white onions
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, one-half bay leaf, one-quarter teaspoon thyme, tied in cheesecloth)
  • 1 pound fresh mushrooms, quartered


Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Remove bacon rind and cut into lardons (sticks 1/4-inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and lardons for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts water. Drain and dry.
Sauté lardons in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a flameproof casserole over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to side dish with a slotted spoon.

Heat fat in casserole until almost smoking. Dry beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Add beef, a few pieces at a time, and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the lardons. In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the excess fat.

Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat again and return to oven for 4 minutes (this browns the flour and coves the meat with a light crust). Remove casserole and turn oven down to 325 degrees.

Stir in wine and 2 to 3 cups stock, just enough so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs and bacon rind. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Cover casserole and set in lower third of oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers very slowly for 3 to 4 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with one and one-half tablespoons of the oil until bubbling in a skillet. Add onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling them so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect them to brown uniformly. Add 1/2 cup of the stock, salt and pepper to taste and the herb bouquet. Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet and set onions aside.

Wipe out skillet and heat remaining oil and butter over high heat. As soon as you see butter has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add mushrooms. Toss and shake pan for 4 to 5 minutes. As soon as they have begun to brown lightly, remove from heat. When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan.

Wash out the casserole and return the beef and lardons to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms on top. Skim fat off sauce in saucepan. Simmer sauce for 1-2 minutes, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons stock. Taste carefully for seasoning.

Pour sauce over meat and vegetables. Cover and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve in casserole, or arrange stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles or rice, and decorated with parsley.

Serve with a light French wine and some crusty bread.


Hello and welcome to my blog.  I have decided to start a blog that will follow my culinary adventures.  I have no formal training and do not claim to be a professional, but I love food. 

It is important to me to avoid foods that are processed.  I eat as local and organic as possible, within reason.  I hope to further explore the notion of eating ethically while sharing the information that I gather and the food that I cook!

There is nothing more rewarding than cooking for the people that you love.  Sitting around a table with friends and family for a meal is where magic is created. 

Food made by hand and heart will keep you smiling, laughing and loving for a lifetime.