Monday, 29 October 2012

Greek Salad with Chickpeas and Rice - Eating for Energy Without Deprivation

Another one of my staple recipes!  I love making this one for lunches during the week.  It's based on the Greek Salad and Chickpeas with Orzo recipe from the cookbook: Eating For Energy Without Deprivation - The 80/20 Cookbook.  My take on it is:

  • 3/4 of a cucumber (long english or regular...the regular ones are normally a lot less expensive), chopped
  • 1 green pepper chopped in bite-size pieces
  • 1 tomato chopped
  • Kalamata olives (I normally put in about 16)
  • 1/8 of a small onion, minced
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
Whisk about 2 tbsp olive oil with 1-1.5 tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice or white wine vinegar, a couple dashes or dried oregano, and a couple dashes of pepper.  Add the salad and toss.  Drain one can of chickpeas and rinse them, then add to the salad.  Toss.  Add rice or quinoa and toss.  Pop it in the fridge and you have 3-4 lunches for the week!

Things to note: the onion and garlic obviously pack a wallop.  It tastes so much better with them, but you should make sure to have some wicked mints or mouthwash in your office if you have to talk to anyone in the afternoon!

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Chicken Stirfry with Homemade Sauce - Eating for Energy without Deprivation

This is one of my favourite go to recipes.  It's yummy, quick and easy to make, and is great as leftovers for the week.  I initially got the idea from the Crispy Tofu Stirfry recipe in "Eating for Energy without Deprivation - The 80/20 Cookbook."  My take on it as follows:

  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tbsp soya sauce
  • 1 tbsp sherry cooking wine
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 2 tsp hot sauce (I think Frank's Red Hot tastes the best in this recipe)
Mix all of the ingredients together and set aside.

  • 2 chicken breasts (or red meat, or pre-cooked tofu), cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2/3 of a red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2/3 of an orange bell pepper, chopped
  • 2/3 of a yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 10-12 mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 cups of kale, broken into bite-size pieces
  • Pretty much whatever other veggies you like
Cook the chicken in a fry-pan with 1-2 cloves of crushed garlic, and 1-2 tbsp of peeled and grated ginger.  Sometimes I add the garlic and ginger to the sauce instead of adding it to the chicken while it's cooking.  If I do add it to the chicken, I normally add it at the end, or I find the garlic and ginger burn.  Once the chicken is cooked, add the sauce to the pan.  It will thicken and start to bubble quite quickly.  Once it has, add your veggies and cook until the veggies are cooked to your liking.  Serve over rice.  This normally makes 3-4 servings for me.


Cache Bistro and Lounge

If you haven't noticed, brunch is one of my all-time favourite meals.  There is just something warm, comforting and fun about brunch.  So, needless to say, when I saw a Social Shopper deal for brunch at Cache Bistro and Lounge in Yaletown, I bought that coupon faster than Usain Bolt could have!

My fabulous brunching partner in crime enjoyed the food as much as I did.  She had the vegetarian frittata with sun-dried tomato, gouda, spinach and caramelized onion, with yam hashbrowns and multigrain bread.  She said the frittata was delicious, and I tried some of the yam hashbrowns and boy were they good!  I thought they were going to be too sweet for breakfast, but they most definitely weren't.

I had two eggs poached with regular hashbrowns, applewood smoked bacon, and multigrain bread.  The bacon was out of this world, but the eggs were just so, so.  They were cooked well, they just seemed to be lacking flavour.  I realize poached eggs don't have much flavour, but these ones just struck me as flavourless.

The highlights of the main meal for me were definitely (i) the bacon, (ii) the fact that the fruit bowl was actually a serving of fruit and came with good fruit (pineapple, orange and grapes), (iii) the freshly steeped lemon and mint iced tea, and (iv) all of the cute individual serving dishes they had.  The iced tea was out of this world!  It was so minty and refreshing.  Even if you're not going to try brunch there, I recommend stopping by for the freshly steeped lemon and mint iced tea.

Then, to top it all off, we each got a waffle for dessert.  We were only supposed to get one to share, but the waiter accidentally said we each got one so he honoured it!  Needless to say, we thought he was awesome.  :)  And let me tell you, a waffle with strawberries and maple syrup is a great way to finish brunch!

Things to note: (1) The atmosphere is more of a lounge than of a typical brunch spot.  I don't know why, but the red velvet booth backs kept throwing me off.  (2) It gets busy, but they take reservations.  So, I highly recommend making one.  (3)  Be prepared to ask for pepper, and jam.  For some reason they don't have any on the tables.  The servers are more than happy to bring it to you, though.





Saturday, 27 October 2012

Apollonia Greek Restaurant

After a day of chores and errands I figured I deserved a treat...and there's no better treat than Greek food!

Apollonia has been a favourite of mine for quite some time.  Great for take-out, great for delivery, and even better to eat in at.  Due to timing, I opted for take out tonight.  Chicken souvlakia, rice, roast lemon potatoes, Greek salad, pita and satziki.  Yummy in my tummy!

Friday, 26 October 2012

Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria

We were craving some sustenance after our fun-filled time at Vancouver Urban Winery so we headed to a pizzeria that had been recommended to me by a lady who knows her food and loves it as much as I do.  She definitely made a great recommendation.

The pizza was the way pizza should be, in my opinion.  I don't think anything will ever beat the pizza that I had in Napoli, but this came darn close!  It was so good that four of us inhaled three pizzas in about 10 minutes flat.  Everyone agreed it was delicious, as were the drinks (caesars, red wine, sangria, beer and limoncello lemonade).

The restaurant itself was very nice and the people working there were super friendly, easy-going and kind.  Definitely the sort of place you can go for a yummy meal and then stay for another drink and visit the night away.

If you're in a pizza mood, you should definitely try this restaurant!

The Capriocciosa: italian ham, roasted mushrooms, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, and extra virgin olive oil.  A popular Italian standard and my absolute favourite!

The Cavoletti: Bianca sauce, fresh mozzarella, oven-roasted Brussels sprouts, prosciutto crisps, gorgonzola cheese, dates, walnuts, and a drizzle of honey.  Very yummy.  More of a sweet pizza but it was very good.

The Abruzzo: Oven-roasted Italian sausage, slivered red onions, roasted mushrooms, fennel seeds, and smoked mozzarella.  Mouth wateringly good.

Some darn good Sangria!
The missing dessert picture: Limoncello Lemonade.  Yummy goodness.

Vancouver Urban Winery

Just over a month ago I was invited to an event at Vancouver Urban Winery.  I wasn't able to go, but the name intrigued me, so I googled it.  In my opinion it is one of the greatest concepts ever!  It is literally a winery in the heart of Railtown. 

The building it's in is absolutely gorgeous.  From the outside it looks like a warehouse, but as soon as you get to the gorgeous, massive wood doors with vintage handles, you know the inside is going to be something special.  Think Gastown with brick and exposed beams, but instead of a tiny, corridor restaurant you have 40 foot ceilings and a space big enough to hold a wedding in.  At one end is the storage space for the wine with rows of wine barrels, at the other end is the wine bar and gift shop, and in between you have gorgeous wooden long tables, couches, and chairs.  Word on the street is that the building used to be an old Ironworks and my favourite part was that they'd taken this old piece of machinery that was on 3 foot wide iron beams which spanned the width of the building and turned it into a light fixture.  One day I'm going to have one of those!

Okay, now on to the fun part, the wine!  They must have had at least 30 different wines on tap.  They're brought in by the barrel and then hooked up to a keg system that is similar to what you would see for beers on tap.  The neat thing about this system is it doesn't let any air get in.  That way each and every glass is like it's coming straight from a fresh bottle.  Brilliance!  All of the wines are BC wines, including Vancouver Urban Winery's own label, the Roaring Twenties.  They sourced the grapes from South America but make and bottle the wine right in the Dunlevy location.

Now, here comes the interesting part.  As the winery has a winery license and not a liquor license, they can only serve one ounce tastings and cannot serve wine by the glass or the bottle.  So, the whole premise is that you go and have wine tastings!  You can choose from one of their five pre-set tastings of five wines for $12-15, or you can do individual tastings for $2.50 each.  Also, on Thursdays and Fridays you can get a tasting board that is designed to go with the Sommelier's wine tasting for an additional $10.  You can also order the boards separately even if you don't order the Sommelier's wine tasting.

Both the wine and the boards were scrumptious!  I was surprisingly impressed with the Roaring Twenties label.  My only warning is that I don't think they aerate the reds as they pour them.  So, if you don't give them a very liberal swirl, your first taste will taste like it came straight out of the bottle.  As for the boards, the food on them was amazing!  Ours had Island brie cheese from Little Qualicum cheeseworks, Alpindon cheese from the Kootenay Alpine Cheese Co, Triple Fennel salami and Sour Tuscan salami from Two Rivers Meats, and Sea Salted Caramello Chocolate from Urge Chocolates.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.  My only disappointment was how little of each there was.  We were forewarned about this, but it would be nice if they designed a larger sharing platter that you could nibble on while enjoying your wine.

Before we get to the pictures, I really have to rave about the Urge chocolates.  They are the type of chocolates that make you stop what you're doing and focus on the flavours in your mouth as soon as you pop one in.  We were lucky enough to be offered a sample of the chocolate-covered seafoam in addition to the chocolate that came on our was out of this world!  My explanations won't do it justice, so I suggest just trying it.  Rumour has it that they can be found it the Gourmet Warehouse, Urban Fare and the wine shop in Sutton Place.  And keep your fingers crossed that you happen to bump into the fellow who makes the chocolates.  He's as nice on the eyes as the chocolate is to your mouth!

Needless to say, I highly recommend getting your butt down to Vancouver Urban Winery!

Now that's my kind of table!

My view from our table.  Look at all those taps!  And, the view behind the bar wasn't too shabby either.

 The tasting menu.

My Seeing Red flight!  My favourites were the Roaring Twenties Malbec and the Sperling Market Red.  Interesting fact: Sperling vineyards is connected to Pioneer Country Market in Kelowna where I had my delicious Spudnut in September.

All gone!


The Kaboom Box 2

Ladies and gents, today marks the return of my food truck adventures!  I figured if the food trucks were willing to sit out in the rain, it was time for me and my sturdy umbrella to brave the weather as well.

I'd been wanting to try the Kaboom Box for a while and it didn't disappoint.  I went to their second location on Georgia between Burrard and Thurlow and ordered the Crab Cake Po' Boy with a side salad.  The sandwich consisted of a crab cake made of Canadian rock crab, deep fried and served with organic greens and house-made lemon-garlic aoili on a bun.  It was extremely fresh, tasty and didn't taste like it had been deep fried.  I'd highly recommend it.  I was also impressed with the side salad.  It was a healthy portion, came with dried cranberries, toasted slivered almonds and a yummy vinaigrette dressing.  Definitely a more hearty salad than I was expecting.   

Things to note: (i) They take credit cards.  (ii) For what you get, the prices are decent.  My lunch came to $11.50, tax in.  More than I normally like to spend for lunch, but, considering that I got a decent-sized crab cake, I thought it was reasonable.  (iii) The portions were good, but if you're starving you may need a bit more than what I got.  I was very hungry and I had to add a little something extra in order to completely fill up.



Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Sweet Corn Chowder - The Earthbound Farm Organic Cookbook

Last night I tried another new recipe from The Earthbound Farm Organic Cookbook: Food To Live By.  You're probably thinking, two soups in one week?  What can I say, I was in a soup kind of mood when I went to the grocery store this weekend!

I quite enjoyed this soup.  Not as flavourful as the Tuscan White Bean Stew, but it is hearty and the crisp corn almost makes it refreshing.  It could also be that it was lacking a bit of flavour because I used dried Thyme instead of fresh, and I forgot to season with salt and pepper at the end.  Regardless, if you're in a corn chowder mood, I'd recommend trying this recipe.

The recipe I used is very similar to this one:  However, trade a sprig of fresh thyme for the dried thyme, exclude the chili pepper, swap the cream for 1.5 cups of half and half, and add a bay leaf.  In terms of directions, when you add the stock, also add the thyme and bay leaf.  After the soup has simmered, turn the heat off and let the flavours of the soup mellow until it's stopped simmering.  Remove the bay leaf and thyme sprig and add the bacon, corn kernels and half and half.  Warm the chowder over low heat until it's your desired temperature.  Lastly, season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Something interesting I learned while making this soup is that it's a lot easier to cut the corn kernels off the cob if you put the corn on a 45 degree angle with one end of the corn in the bottom of a mixing bowl.  Instead of the kernels popping all over the counter, they fall right into your bowl.  I'd also highly recomment the Kitchen Basics stock.  It's one of the first sodium-free stocks I've found with really good flavour.


Sunday, 21 October 2012

Tuscan White Bean Stew with Rosemary

Dinner tonight was Tuscan White Bean Stew with Rosemary, whole grain sourdough bread, baked buttercup squash (from my sister's garden!) with butter, brown sugar and cinnamon, and a glass of the Howe Sound Pumpkin Ale.  Now that's what I call a Fall meal!

It was my first time trying the Tuscan Stew recipe from The Earthbound Farm Organic Cookbook "Food to Live By" and it was darn good, if I do say so myself.  The stew had olive oil, yellow onion, carrot, celery, bacon (bizarre but amazing!), roma tomatoes, cannellini beans, rosemary, chicken stock, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper.  It was hearty and oh so flavourful!  Definitely warmed me from the inside out.  I would post the recipe but I'm not sure of the ins and outs of whether that's okay, since it came from a published cookbook. What I will say, is that it starts like pretty much every other soup recipe, you chop everything in 1/4 inch dice, the beans are dried so it simmers for 2-3 hours, and you just add a dash of balsamic vinegar at the end for flavour.  However, if you're looking for more specifics, I'd highly recommend this cookbook.  It's one of my favourites and I haven't tried a bad recipe from it yet!

The buttercup squash was easy.  Baked it for about 30-40 minutes and added a bit of butter and sprinkled brown sugar and cinnamon over the top in the last five minutes.

Normally when I cook squash, I ignore the seeds.  Tonight I wondered if I roasted them if they'd taste like pumpkin seeds...they sure do!  These will definitely be a nice treat or addition to salads over the next couple of days.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Notturno Paninoteca

I'd bought a groupon for Notturno Paninoteca a couple of months ago and I've been dying to try the restaurant out ever since, so I organized a girls night and off we went!

It was a very cute wine bar/restaurant.  Long and narrow with seating for 25.  A very intimate setting.  We all thoroughly enjoyed the evening, but we agreed that we would describe Notturno as having potential.  Some of the food was very yummy (see below), and the wine was scrumptious (note - the Layer Cake can be ordered by the glass and I would highly recommend it), but the service left something to be desired. 

First of all, they had a reservation for 16, even though they don't normally take reservations.  I knew about this because I'd phoned ahead, what they'd failed to tell me was that all of the tables were reserved for the 16, so we had to sit at the bar to begin with.  I'm not opposed to sitting at the bar, but when there's four of you, it's more difficult to chat.  Second of all, our server was not very attentive.  One of the girls never got a glass of wine that she ordered, I had to catch the server's eye three times before she came over at one point, and they kept opening the front door to the point that the restaurant got cold but when we asked if they could close it they never did.  Plus, they must have a menu shortage because they kept trying to take our menu away every time we ordered something and each time we'd ask to keep it and they didn't seem to like that.  They're just paper...print more!

The night was still fun and I thoroughly enjoy the company, wine and majority of the food, but overall I wouldn't be jumping to go back again.  That being said, I also wouldn't be opposed to going back. 

The Charcuterie plate with cheese: prosciutto, spicy capicollo, salami, spicy sopresseta, speck, caramelized fig, walnuts, pecorino, brie, gorgonzola.  Hands down the best thing we ate all night!

Prosciutto bruschette.  Very yummy.  Nothing out of this world, but good.

The Tartufo panini: proscuitto, artichoke, caper, black truffle aoli, pecorino.  This was delicious and rivaled the meat platter for me.  Definitely not a traditional panini, but delicious nonetheless.

Albacore tuna bruschette.  Word on the street is that the Proscuitto bruschette was by far the best and these two were just okay.

The duck bruschette.

The house stuffed olives.  I would be lying if I said these weren't a disappointment.  Myself and two of the other ladies at the table love olives and when I say love, we may have a minor addiction.  I think we were all expecting an Italian restaurant to have darn good olives but the stuffing was only so so, and they were cold, not warm.  Definitely not what we were expecting.

The banana bread with chocolate mascarpone and vanilla gelato.  Good, but nothing out of this world.  It was almost like eating chocolate waffles.

Fable for Brunch

Today I went to Fable for brunch with a good friend who was in from out of town, her husband and her adorable baby girl.  The line-ups at Sophie's and Joe's Grill were quite long so we walked down the street to Fable. 
I'd never had brunch at Fable and I was curious to try it out.  When we first walked in, the lady at the front came up and said for 3 and a half?  Not an abnormal question to ask, but the way she said the half made me wonder if they didn't allow kids.  Seeing as though the restaurant was only half full, and brunch is normally an informal meal, I figured it wouldn't be a big deal.
When we got seated I remembered how much I love this restaurant.  In the daylight it felt like a modern, eclectic barn.  I loved it!  The menu was simple but mouth watering and the food was delicious as always.  However, the lady at the front ended up being our server and I'm pretty sure she's not a fan of babies.  We'd literally just finished eating our scrumptious food when my friend's little girl started to fuss a bit, my friend stood up to bounce her and she quieted down right away.  My friend hadn't been standing for more than 10 seconds when our server came up and said "Oh, time to go?"  We hadn't planned on leaving that quickly, but it was pretty clear she felt we should.  In fairness, just about every other employee in the restaurant was smitten with the baby at our table and made a point of coming up and saying hello to her, but I still didn't appreciate the way our server had acted.
Moral of the story?  Fable's brunch is just as delicious as its dinner (pictures below).  It's important to note that the portions are good but not massive.  So, if you're looking for a big, greasy breakfast after a night out, probably not the place for you.  And, in hindsight, if you have adorable kids with you, it's probably a better idea to go to Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company that welcomes children and babies with welcome arms.

3 egg bacon, mushroom and cheddar omelette with salad, rosti, rustic bread and a freshly squeezed orange juice.

Ham benedicts with olive oil hollandaise, salad and rosti.

The yummy white chocolate chip cookies that came with our meal.  Such a great touch!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

My day of eating: Victoria, Joe Fortes and Don Francesco

Today was literally a day of eating.  How I managed to fit in a full day of work as well is beyond me.

It all started off with a birthday dim sum lunch at Victoria.  It consisted of the gorgeous (inside and out) birthday girl, two of my other closest girlfriends, and one of the cutest baby girls known to mankind!  Getting to share lunch with three of the loveliest ladies I could ever be lucky enough to call friends was a real treat.  I'll let the photos do the talking with regards to the food.  Thanks for the fabulous lunch ladies!

Steamed shrimp cannelloni.  If you look very closely, you may also see the birthday girl's stunning dress.  It's a favourite of mine!

Pan-fried squid.

Gai lan, spring rolls and shrimp dumplings.

Chicken chow mein.

One lonely steamed pork dumpling.  Have no fear, he was reunited with the rest of his dim sum friends in the birthday girl's belly shortly after this photo was taken!
My photo regret?  Not taking a photo of the baby girl's outfit.  She had ruffles on her bum!

After work, my day got even better.  My Dad happened to be in town so I was able to spend the evening visiting with him!  We started off with a drink at Joe Fortes and discovered they have happy hour!  Who knew?  As far as I could figure out, their cocktails and appies are 50% off, and they have $1 oysters until 6pm.  We most definitely couldn't resist some appies, so I had a few scrumptious oysters and we split a prawn cocktail.  The best part?  The teeny tiny tabasco they gave me for my oysters.  Now I can carry it around in my purse and will never be without hot sauce!
Who doesn't love a couple of oysters every once in a while?

 When they said prawns, they meant prawns.  There was nothing shrimpy about these shellfish.

The teeny tiny tobasco!
Our next order of business was dinner.  My Dad was in town for business which meant I had to share him with the fellow he works with over dinner.  However, since my Dad has worked with the same fellow since I was 7, it goes without saying that I've known this fellow for quite some time and it was really nice to see him and hear how he and his family are doing.  The fellow my Dad works with is Italian and his favourite restaurant in Vancouver is Don Francesco's so we headed there.
I'd never been to Don Francesco's before.  It's quite a bit more fancy than the restaurants I normally frequent, so when I first walked in in my black and white polka dot rain boots I started to think maybe I should have left my work shoes on and braved the rain.  However, it didn't take me long to realize that the people who work there were spectacular and the atmosphere was more about enjoying your fabulous food and drink than caring about what you were wearing.  And when I say fabulous, I mean fabulous.  It was hands down the best italian food I've ever had in Vancouver.  Hopefully the photos will convey the yumminess.
To start, my Dad and I split the Caprese Salad Con Fogliolini Verdi (Small bite size pieces of fresh mozzarella bocconcini with sliced tomato, fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil and garnished with small seasoned mesculin greens) and the entertaining Italian man at our table had the West Coast of Mexico Crab, Lobster and Avocado Salad Ensalada De Cangrejo, Langosta Y Aguacate (Avocado, crab, lobster meat, chopped shallots, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, touch of fresh mayonnaise).  Both were amazing and full of flavour.  I would warn you that if you're looking for a traditional crunchy salad, the crab and avocado salad may not be the one for you.  It is more of a melt in your mouth salad but the flavours are amazing.  Apologies for the lack of photos, I forgot to take them.
My out of this world Squash Agnolotti (Dumpling style pasta filled with squash, cheese, herbs, with a sauce of fresh tomato, onion, white wine, black truffle puree).  The flavours were unbelievable.  I really don't know how to describe it other than delicious!
My Dad's Gnocchi Al Pomodoro e Basilico (Tomato sauce, fresh basil, herbs). He absolutely loved this dish.  I managed to wrangle a taste from him and I would have to agree that it was scrumptious.  It literally melted in your mouth.  
The Italian man's Rack of Lamb with mushroom risotto and fresh vegetables.  From the moment we sat down, the Italian man couldn't say enough about the mushroom risotto and really wanted us to try it.  I enjoy risotto but, to be honest, I've never found it mind-blowing.  That was until I tried this mushroom risotto.  It was perfectly mouth wateringly good.  I'd highly recommend it.
For dessert, my Dad and the Italian man each had Tiramisu.  I'm not a huge fan of Tiramisu because I don't like coffee.  I did try a piece of my Dad's and it tasted good for Tiramisu.  On the other hand, my Dad loves Tiramisu and he gave this Tiramisu the highest compliment I've ever heard him give: "This tiramisu is the best Tiramisu I've ever had at a restaurant.  It's almost as good as your Mom's homemade Tiramisu."  Holy toledo!
Despite the fact that I hadn't been able to finish my meal, I knew that this was one of those restaurants that you just had to have dessert because you'd regret it if you didn't.  So, I took one for the team and ordered the Limoncello Parfait with fresh berries.  It was light, refreshing, and scrumdidliumptious!  The two triangles were almost like a cross between lemon cheesecake and lemon ice cream pie.  The flavours were heavenly and it was just what the doctor ordered because somehow I managed to polish the entire thing off!
As delicious as the food was, though, the best part of the dinner was getting to spend time with my Dad.  Thanks for the visit Dad! 
Things to note: After my day of marathon eating, I anticipate that my posts in the near future will be more related to recipes than to restaurants.  Stay tuned!