Hummus

It’s been awhile since we posted (ok way too long). I guess life sometimes gets in the way of the things we really enjoy like cooking, eating, exercising and blogging.

Well, we’re back! After being members of GoodLife Fitness for many years (Greg was a member for almost 12 years), we recently both transitioned to Greco Lean +Fit. We look forward to the challenge, and the many new healthier recipes we will be making or trying to make.

So to kick things off…I made hummus from scratch today (insert applause)! Something I’ve done before, but never really seem to get it right (either too much garlic, not enough garlic, not smooth enough, etc.).  I came across this recipe on SmarterFitter via Pinterest, it’s apparently an adaptation of a Mark Bittman recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups drained well-cooked or canned chickpeas (reserve cooking liquid)
  • 1/4 cup tahini, or more to taste
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled, or more to taste
  • Juice of 1 lemon, plus more as needed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Paprika for garnish
  • Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish

In the blender (or food processor, or even your Magic Bullet) combine the chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Begin processing, add a little water or cooking liquid to make smoother (I added probably a 1/4 cup of water). Now to the taste-testing (the best part), it needed a little more garlic, lemon juice and pepper (all to taste). I sprinkled it with paprika (might be a bit too much, bag got away from me lol). Greg doesn’t like parsley, so I didn’t “pretty-it up”.

We enjoy the hummus with raw veggies or even spread on a brown rice cake. ~kM

Lobster Bisque

If it has lobster in it, I’m either going to make it or order it! I love the flavour and there is something almost special about eating lobster (you almost feel little spoiled right?). If I had my choice between clam chowder or lobster bisque, I would definitely pick the latter, and therefore the attraction to this particular recipe from Food,Wine & Mode Podge.
Ingredients:
1 to 2 cups cooked lobster meat (we used the frozen/canned lobster meat from Farm Boy)
1/2 cup dry sherry
3 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. flour
1/2 cup onion, diced
1/4 cup celery, diced
1/4 cup carrot, diced
Salt and white pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp. seafood seasoning (we couldn’t find the recommended Old Bay at Loblaws, so we used the President’s Choice variety and it seemed to work)
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 cup whole milk
1 cup half and half
1 cup chicken stock (lobster stock is recommended, but you can use chicken stock like we did)
Preparing this recipe with Greg certainly made all the steps a lot easier.  You start by combining the lobster meat (defrosted) with the sherry. Cover and refrigerate. We weren’t sure how long the lobster needed to marinate in the sherry, but figured the 30 minutes or so it took to prepare the rest of the recipe was probably enough time.
Melt butter until it stops sputtering in a hot pan over medium heat. Then add: onion, celery, carrot, salt and pepper and seafood seasoning. We initially used a little less seasoning than the recipe calls for (we add more later to taste).  Stir veggies until they are translucent and begin getting soft. Add the tomato paste and let cook for a few more minutes, and then the flour, cook for two to three minutes, constantly stirring (I know the mixture looks dry, but don’t worry).
While whisking, add the cold milk, the half and half and the stock, bring to a boil for approximately one minute (don’t stop whisking!). Turn your heat down and let simmer until it is slightly reduced.
Now the recipe is like a choose your own adventure book, remember those?  You can either use your immersion blender and blend until the soup is smooth OR you can strain your soup through a fine mesh strainer, using your muscles to  press down on any solids. We definitely chose the blender 🙂
Now the fun part…tasting! Feel free to add more seafood seasoning (we did), salt, pepper. And then the piece de resistance you add the lobster and sherry mixture to your pot and let it simmer making sure your lobster is heated through.
Served with some crusty bread, this is by far the best lobster bisque we have ever had, seriously. ~kM

Turkey Taco Lettuce Wraps

I love tacos, but the shells (soft or hard) just make the meal so heavy and full of unwanted carbs/calories.  So since our recent visit to Sidedoor, I’ve been inspired by their beef with butter leaf lettuce wrap and house pickles, and I now substitute the traditional taco shell for Boston lettuce. I can now eat even more and not feel full (or guilty), it’s perfection.
I came across this recipe one night while browsing Pinterest (another new foodie hot-spot I’ve discovered).  The recipe is from a great site called SkinnyTaste, creator Gina Homolka provides healthy, family friendly recipes like this one:
Ingredients:
1.3 lbs lean ground turkey
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 small onion, minced
2 tbsp bell pepper, minced
3/4 cup water
4 oz can tomato sauce
8 large lettuce leaves from iceberg lettuce (I use Boston lettuce, the large leaves are perfect for wrapping, might even want to double-up)
Brown the meat in a skillet, once brown, add the seasoning, mix well.  Add the onion, pepper, water and tomato sauce.  Cover and let simmer on low for approximately 20 minutes. Wash lettuce and pat dry.  Place a spoonful of meat mixture in the middle of the a lettuce leaf and add your favourite toppings (i.e. low fat cheese, salsa, fresh cilantro, etc.).
This is one of our favourite go-to weekday meals, it’s quick and easy to make, just perfect when you’re on the go.~kM

Easy Barbecue Slow Cooker Ribs

Greg always says he wants to find the perfect chili recipe, the perfect rib recipe (I think he wants to be ready if asked to participate in a cook-off or something). So when I came across this recipe one day on a blog called Mmm…if for Mommy, I knew we had to try it.  I liked it because we had most ingredients in our pantry, and the little oven worked required was actually after the 6 to 8 hours in the slow cooker (perfect if you want to prepare them on a weeknight).
Ingredients:
1.5 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste, approx. 1 tsp each
2 lbs pork (baby) back ribs – leave the membrane on the ribs to help hold them together
1 cup barbecue sauce (I used Diana’s rib sauce)
Vegetable oil spray
Mix the first five ingredients in a small bowl and rub all over the ribs.  Then place the ribs standing up along the sides of the slow cooker (see picture), meaty side down and facing outwards.  Pour the barbecue sauce all over the ribs, cook for 6 to 8 hours on low.
Once the slow cooking is done, carefully remove the ribs and place them on a foil-lined baking sheet with a rack place on top and sprayed with vegetable oil, place ribs bone side up, set aside as oven preheats on broil (place oven rack approximately 10 inches from the broiler element).  In the meantime, strain sauce (using a mesh strainer) from slow cooker removing all excess fat, place into a saucepan, and bring to a boil, and then reduce heat by one-third for approximately 15 minutes.  Brush sauce on ribs with and place in oven for approximately for 3 to 4 minutes.  Remove ribs from oven, flip ribs over, brush again with sauce and place back in oven for another 9 minutes (brushing them with sauce a couple of times throughout).  Serve remaining sauce as a side.
These ribs were fall-off-the-bone good, and we would definitely make them again.  I think I would experiment a little with the barbecue sauce we use, I think that is where the goodness lies.~kM

We’re back

Okay, it’s been way too long since our last post and we’re committed to providing you with more of our food adventures moving forward.  Over the past six months or so we’ve revisited some of our favourite restaurants, uncovered some new ones, and had less than favourable experiences at others.  I won’t provide you with all the details, but will give you the low down on our visits.
Let’s get the bad out-of-the-way – one of our not so good experiences was at Farbs Kitchen & Wine Bar.  We’d consider the food and service to be mediocre, however, having done a food and wine pairing that evening, the wine was great :).
We visited Sidedoor for the first time, we tend to prefer smaller more quaint environments, but it’s sectioned off nicely and it’s got a good feel.  I was a little surprised to find out that it’s an Asian and Mexican influenced tapas restaurant, nothing would give this away (i.e. décor, theme, etc.), but it somehow seems to work. We really enjoyed the Bajan crispy fish tacos, grilled beef with butter leaf lettuce wrap and house pickles (we now make our own version at home, and love wrapping things in Boston lettuce), and of course the cinnamon sugar mini donuts.  Overall, a really enjoyable dinner, not too filling, just the right amount of food, I can understand why more restaurants are going to tapas menus.
At a Christmas dinner with friends I was pleased to discover a great new brewery while dining at Burnt Butter.  If you haven’t tried Barley Days be sure to try it next time.  Their dark ale is phenomenal and I ended up enjoying more than a few during our visit. We enjoyed a set menu this evening, our experience was good and I think we would go back to try something from their regular menu.
We rang in the new year at Hintonburg Public House with a large group of friends.  For this evening we enjoyed a family-style menu of braised beef short ribs, roasted vegetables and mash.  It was a cozy meal, perfect for sharing, warm and rich in flavours.  I could eat a bowl full of just the roasted vegetables they were so hearty.  We’re impressed by the food, although the ambience (very bright for a late night seating) need a little work.
We celebrated Winterlude at Zen Kitchen and Hidden Bench Winery.  A five-course dinner (including a papaya slaw with apple dumplings, mushroom tart, gnocchi, coconut cake, etc.) with wine pairing.  It was lovely and even educational evening (thank you to Marlize Beyers from Hidden Bench). We look forward to making brunch at Zen Kitchen soon.
We revisited Navarra and it wasn’t long before we remembered why we love this place.  The service was once again fantastic (thank you Jeffrey), and their new tapas menu (every night, not just reserved for Tuesdays) provided more options than our previous visit with new Mexican dishes.  Their tartar remains on the menu and for good reason….it’s incredible (this coming from someone who isn’t a big fan otherwise).
A great new addition new to the Ottawa restaurant scene is a great new gourmet sandwich shop called Pressed on Gladstone.  Expect to receive high quality, local ingredients in a variety of unique sandwiches, soups and salads at a reasonable price.  We really enjoyed the wild boar with apple slaw and a butternut squash soup that’s extremely hearty and tasted great.
We continue to visit one of our favourite local spots, the Pelican Grill.  When considering overall value, it’s a great visit.  We ventured to try the lobster poutine (quite a large portion for an appetizer), and although it doesn’t top our favourite go-to, the lobster bisque, it’s worth a try due to its uniqueness.
It took us way too long, but we finally made our way to Fraser Café and really enjoyed it.  The albacore tuna and pork belly appetizer was fantastic.  The service was just okay (we felt a little rushed), but the food was so good that despite this we’ll definitely pay a return visit.
So there it is, a quick update on our last six months.  Please stay tuned for more regular posts.~gL

Banana Bread

There are a few recipes I remember my mother making growing up: shortbread cookies, magic bars, cheesy olive balls, etc.  Like many of us my mother had her go-to recipes, the ones that she had memorized, that turned out perfect every time, and that people always wanted the recipe for.  I’m proud that her banana bread is now one of those recipes for both my sister and I.
I’m not sure where the recipe came from, I think the only change my mother made over the years was the addition of chocolate chips – it was a good change. She made it for school fundraisers, potlucks, holidays; for family, friends, colleagues, everyone loved it and it was a great excuse not to eat bananas.
Ingredients:
3 ripe bananas mashed
2 eggs
4 tbsp. melted butter or margarine
1 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups white flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup chocolate chips (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan (not sure if you can use an insert, I haven’t tried). Mix banana, eggs, butter and sugar in a large bowl until blended well.  Sift in dry ingredients, add chocolate chips if using.  Pour batter into loaf pan and bake for approximately one hour.  Let banana bread cool in pan, then gently remove it.
Serve warm or cold, I prefer it plain, Greg and my sister, Sara, both like it with a little butter.
The smell, the taste brings me back to a time when my mom was still in the kitchen, it’s a true comfort food ~kM

Sheldon Says: Toronto Trip Proves Delicious

It’s been a while since Mrs. Sheldon and I have had a weekend away, so when one of our favourite bands from our days at university announced a surprise show in Toronto, we hustled mini-me off to the grandparents and headed to the big smoke early on a Friday afternoon.  Since we had no obligations to visit family or friends, and no real schedule to keep (save for the show Saturday night), we decided to make the most of our trip by trying out some culinary hot spots we hadn’t experienced before.

Friday Night
The first stop on our whirlwind tour was The Bohemian Gastropub on Queen St. East.  Those of you who’ve read some of my previous StuffedOttawa posts know that the Wellington Gastropub is our favourite restaurant here in town, so we were excited about trying another gastropub experience.  We certainly weren’t disappointed.
The Bohemian is a small, relaxed restaurant that opened mid-summer and is already gaining quite a following in the Toronto scene.  True to the pub concept, the service is friendly, unhurried, and most of all, unpretentious.  The menu is creative, fresh and focused.  Based on Bavarian cuisine, Chef Christopher Scott combines non-traditional ingredients to create inventive selections, including spaetzle poutine, and curried bratwurst.
I couldn’t resist the opportunity to try the poutine, featuring diced bratwurst, bratwurst gravy and local cheese curds.  In a word – delicious.  The diced sausage added a bit of texture to the dense, chewy noodles, while the gravy was flavourful and salty.  Mrs. S opted for the fried zucchini dumplings.  These were an interested take on the more traditional fritter, filled with aged cheddar and served with a concorde grape chutney.  The sweetness of the grapes offset the sharpness of the cheddar, giving the dish a definite depth of flavour.
For our mains, I opted for the bratwurst.  The sausage came served in a gigantically thick slice of multi-grain bread, top slit almost in two.   The curry in the sausage was a little overpowering, although the mango chutney did manage to cut some of the spiciness.  Mrs. S was served what had to be the largest portion of veal schnitzel I’ve ever seen.  It was literally hanging over both sides of a full dinner plate.  Served with a warm potato salad, this entrée could have easily fed two people.
Despite its enormous size, the breading was nicely crisp, the meat inside tender and moist.  Our server mentioned that the secret was the buttermilk marinade that’s used on the pounded veal for 24 hours before cooking.
The beer selection was relatively small, with a strong focus on local Ontario brewers.  Beaus Lug Tread, Hop City and several others were available.  Our only real disappointment of the night was that the dessert menu was not available.  Apparently the kitchen staff had a late start to prep that day, and had no time to prepare the house made offerings.  Hopefully we’ll get back to sample again.

Saturday
The next day we started our food tour at St. Lawrence Market, an amazing collection of vendors selling almost everything you can image.  Butchers, bakers, fresh veg, fresh pasta.  It’s truly an amazing spot if you’re a foodie.  (Aside: While I enjoy trips to the Ottawa Farmer’s Market, The Byward Market and the Parkdale Market; none of these compares to what I saw here.  It’s a shame that the concept wasn’t incorporated into the Landsdowne Park redesign.  But that’s another whole post).
Lunch was a couple of shared appetizers on the patio at OB Cafe Grill.  The chicken and leek pot stickers were perfectly cooked, while the jalapeno ponzu sauce was an interesting mix of sour and spicy.  The vegetable spring rolls were crispy on the outside, while the veg remained fresh and crunchy on the inside.
After lunch it was back to the hotel for a brief nap (hey – we’re parents.   Sleep while you can) before prepping for our big night out.  Dinner was a short walk from the hotel to Beer Bistro.  This place is a beer lover’s dream.  Every menu item incorporates beer into the ingredients.  There are (count ‘em, I did) 20 different offerings on tap.  Want something from a bottle?  Choose from over 100 different selections that are on the menu, or ask your server about some tasty specialty offerings that are stored in their custom beer cellar.  Can’t decide?  Try the draft sampler – three small tasters to help whet your whistle and maybe try something a little different.  Our greatest discovery of the evening was Muskoka Brewery’s Mad Tom IPA.  This Ontario craft brew is a hoppy, crisp food friendly ale.  In the word’s of our server, it’s Dangerously Drinkable.
The design of the restaurant gives the feel of a modern bistro, complete with Chef’s table, open kitchen and a jazz trio playing in the bar area.  Mrs. Sheldon and I opted to enjoy one of the few remaining warm evenings in the fall and chose a seat out on the patio.
Dinner started with shared Kobe beef tacos.  Mrs. Sheldon went for the Hog Wild pizza (pulled pork, smoked sausage on a crispy flatbread crust), while I went for the tartare.  Tacos were amazing, filled with a Vienna lager chilli.  The pizza was equally good, with a light airy crust, and a smoky undertone from the Berkshire port.  While the tartare was enjoyable, it was slightly bland.  I have had better on a few occasions.  The star of the show, however, were the fries.  Served with a house-made, smoked tomato ketchup and house- made mayonnaise.  Blanched in a combination of duck and beef fat, these crispy little taters were the BEST fries I’ve ever had.  That’s a bold statement from me, consider I love to make duck fat fries at home.
Despite the copious amounts of food, we couldn’t resist sampling dessert (especially since we got shafted the night before.)  The ice cream sandwiches feature a house- made coffee porter Rocky Road ice cream scoop pressed between two walnut stout cookies.  Did I mention they make the marshmallows for the ice cream too?   Mrs. Sheldon was in heaven when she saw the chocolate, peanut butter and banana spring roll.  Elvis himself couldn’t have devised a better dessert.
After dinner, we rolled ourselves down to the legendary Horseshoe Tavern for the show.  A great end to a great foodie tour.  Next stop, the LCBO for some more Mad Tom!~SS

Carrot Ginger Soup

I love and hate this time of year.  I love the pretty fall colours, the cozy clothes, but I hate the heavy meals and the calories the usually come along with them. Finding recipes that warm me up but don’t tip the scale is really hard in the fall and winter months.  I did come across this Carrot Ginger Soup recipe from the Dietitians of Canada Simply Great Food cookbook (one of my favourites).
Ingredients:
3 cups water
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 cups sliced carrots
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tbsp. vegetable bouillon powder
2 tsp. pure maple syrup
1 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. grated gingerroot (tip: use the side of spoon to remove skin before grating)
1 1/2 cups milk
Bring the water to a boil and add all ingredients except the milk.  Reduce the heat and simmer until the carrots are tender (approximately 40 to 45 minutes).  Remove from heat, you might want to let cool just slightly so that you can work with it.  Transfer the mixture into a blender or food processor and purée on high  until smooth.   Return to saucepan, add milk and heat over low (don’t boil).
This recipe makes six, one cup servings, with each serving only 66 calories!  Probably less because I used skim milk in my recipe (it’s the only milk we had), the texture is a little less thick, but the flavour is not lost. A warm, almost Thai influenced soup, rich in vitamin A (helps keeps your eyes and skin healthy), low in sodium and super easy to make (maximum ten minutes of preparation time and 50 minutes of cooking time).  Chop a little fresh cilantro when you’re ready to serve, et voilà!~kM

Homemade Chicken Broth

When Greg and I are in a pinch for supper during the week, we sometimes buy the whole roast chicken available at the meal counter at our local supermarket.  Once we’ve picked off all the meat, I like to make homemade chicken broth perfect for soups.
Homemade chicken broth is easy to make, plus unlike many of the store-bought varieties it has a lot less sodium.  I came across this recipe for homemade broth while searching for a chicken noodle soup recipe (also really good).  There always seems to be something comforting about the Chef at Home, Chef Michael Smith, and now that the fall weather is settling, a recipe like homemade chicken broth to warm you up, is just what the doctor order.
The recipe is fool-proof really (just chop, add water, boil, strain and cool), maybe I can convince Greg to start making it 🙂
I’ve played with the fresh herbs, the grocery store didn’t have thyme, so I used savory.  Both provide more than enough flavour to the broth without being overpowering.
One tip – I have found straining the broth using cheesecloth has left the least amount of residue.
So what are my plans for this broth? Let’s just say, it will involve more chicken and some slurping~kM

Pelican Grill

On a Friday evening after a busy week at work, I can’t think of anywhere else Greg and I would rather go than the Pelican Grill.  Only minutes away from our place, the basic comfort of the newly painted dining room (including pictures of the staff on the wall), plus the regular staff including our server John, makes this south end neighbourhood eatery one of our favourites.
On this particular night, I couldn’t wait for a bowl of their lobster bisque.  Warm, creamy, large pieces of lobster.  It’s a treat, one I often stop by the restaurant for take-out when Greg’s travelling!
Greg opted for the soup of the day, chilled beet with orange soup, garnished with smoked salmon and crème fraiche.  It wasn’t the lobster bisque by any means, the orange was a little overpowering, and neither of us really tasted the smoked salmon.
As I sipped on a glass of Huff Estates Riesling and Greg a pint of Stemwhistle (the Pelican Grill only supports local breweries), it was nice to chat amongst the full dinning room, contributing to the perfect atmosphere.
It wasn’t hard to decide on our mains, I was in the mood for moules et frites (mussels steamed in creamy garlic sauce with fresh cut fries and aioli), and Greg the freshly steamed lobster with a side salad (bib included).  We were both happy with our meals.  My mussels were full of flavour, the fries amongst the best I’ve had.  Greg worked hard for his meal, not sure he would order it again.
It’s nice to have a place we can relax and unwind at come the end of the week.  Thank you to the Pelican Grill and our server John for being there when we need them. ~kM