Battle of Ingredients #2: Maple Syrup

Welcome to Round 2 of Battle of Ingredients!
If you missed the first round, you can find it here. I will be putting something on the side or above so that it’ll be easier to track soon.

This month’s Battle of Ingredients is all about maple syrup! Why? Because here in our lovely province of Quebec, we have the cabane a sucre (aka sugar shack) tradition. Maple syrup is a big deal around this parts (and apparently also in Riverdale according to the new TV series). It was a no brainer for myself and Phoebe that it would be our choice ingredient as well as trying out a new formula of doing a collaborated full course meal. All our dishes had maple syrup so lets just say, we were in for a sugar rush.

Let’s check out our menu, along with the wines we used to pair with it (although one of them we didn’t end up drinking…yet).

Wine

Wine

We drank the Kung Fu Girl which is one of my favorite wines. Apparently, it has somewhat of a sour taste which I never really thought about but always found it smooth. Regardless, hopefully we’ll keep the Fetzer in our fridge till the next Battle.

Appetizer – Kim

Bourbon Maple Glazed Chicken Wings

Bourbon Maple Glazed Chicken Wings

Recipe via Pinterest: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/bourbon_maple_glazed_chicken_wings/

A very simple recipe to put together in general although you do need to simmer the sauce before putting it on the chicken wings and then have to simmer again to thicken it. I somehow managed to get it thicker the first time so that it wasn’t necessary to simmer again. I did have extra sauce however it was covered enough so I put it to the side in case anyone wanted anymore. This one was delicious and definitely a hit. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that I used our good bourbon without knowing it. Whatever the reason, these turned out much better than I expected and honestly, I kind of want to make another batch already.

From our friends: Not dry at all with the sauce, and it matched well. No extra sauce needed for me!

Main Meal + Side – Phoebe

Prosciutto Maple Salmon

Prosciutto Maple Salmon

Recipe via Pinterest: http://gardeninthekitchen.com/prosciutto-maple-salmon/

Phoebe chose this recipe off Pinterest. We don’t usually get the chance to use prosciutto frequently and never had thought to use to wrap around fish and yet, it came together really nicely. She hadn’t worked with dill before and I haven’t been a fan either, however we do have dill lovers at the table. This came together really nicely. Phoebe was a little nervous about the whole grilling part before baking it and we timed it all very nice to serve this and the sides, which we will talk about below.

From our friends: I personally find the dill to match well with the fish. Again, not dry the way it was made, the only slight annoyance was that the prociutto is hard to cut through, so putting any sort of pressure would crush the salmon under… But with patience of sliding your knife back and forth, it’s perfect.

Maple Syrup Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Maple Syrup Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Recipe via Pinterest: http://www.thewholesomedish.com/maple-syrup-roasted-brussels-sprouts/

Huge fan of brussel sprouts here, I found this recipe for Phoebe and she was totally into it, which is great. I’ve always wondered how maple syrup in Brussel Sprouts would work and actually it was the one the absorbed the maple syrup enough to actually taste it the most. It was much more subtle in the salmon for example. However, in the balance of the meal, it worked well.

Dessert

Chewy Maple Cookies

Chewy Maple Cookies

Recipe via Pinterest: http://www.cleverlysimple.com/chewy-maple-cookies/

I decided on making these cookies very last minute. Like an hour before our cooking meet-up. Fact is, I was going to make Maple Ice but that needed Maple Water and Ice Cream Maker, both things that I don’t have or haven’t figured out how to use yet. Then there was the idea of making little maple syrup tarts but that was really complex with heating the pizza stone plate in the oven beforehand and the worry that it would just fail because I was changing this complicated tart recipe from a pie pan to little tarts. Anyways, point is cookies are the safe bet and thankfully, it worked well to not hog up the oven and we were able to get everything we needed done and ready on track.

From our friends: Cookies were good! Wasn’t dry, but wasn’t butter fest either! Maybe it would be even better with some nut in it like cashew, but then again, might alter the taste… But it was great.

Maple Flavored Popcorn (Bad Monkey)

Bad Monkey Maple Flavored Popcorn

In addition, Phoebe brought this Bad Monkey brand Maple Syrup flavored popcorn to match with the theme. I don’t eat a lot of popcorn for health issues but I did try a few and it was pretty delicious. Phoebe did find it a little on the sweet side however our friends did like this one as well. they actually put the popcorn and the cookie together and apparently, it went well together particularly because of the contrast in textures.

That’s it for this Battle!
Maple Syrup was a fun adventure and on all fronts this was a win.
We learned some new recipes and had a great time with friends.
Next month’s Battle is still deciding what will be the star(s) of the show! 

Perhaps this will be the structure from now on as it is easier to get together an acceptable meal but we will shift the courses around to who is responsible next time.
We will see…like I said in the first round, a work in progress. If you have any suggestions, do share with us. 🙂

Battle of Ingredients #1: Carrots and Noodles

It is finally here!
A new segment with Phoebe from Starry Traveler’s Road!
Thanks so much for joining us!

Battle of Ingredients

INTRODUCTION – What is Battle of Ingredients?

Battle of Ingredients (name subject to future change maybe) is the brainchild of myself and Phoebe who really love to talk about tons of things but our families have somewhat become foodie buddies. We talk food a lot and go to restaurants even more but we each have our food restrictions and our habits and with this Battle of Ingredients, we have two goals.

One: we want to learn more about the Quebec foods through different seasons which will be a huge focus on how we pick our ingredients.
Two: To expand and explore new recipes and ways to cook as well as try out new ingredients.

However, we do also want to say that this is a battle of ingredients but we use the word ‘battle’ loosely because we aren’t actually battling each other. Our judges are family and close friends and they offer us suggestions on how to improve our recipes. Its more the challenge of figuring out a good way to incorporate the selected ingredients. There will be times, like the next one, where we will be working together to put together a meal with the next selected seasonal ingredients which will be announced at the end of this post.

Battle of Ingredients #1: Carrots & Noodles

The first challenge is a simple one. We wanted something that we could use readily, plus carrots are about the best looking vegetable available at our supermarkets now. The meat is free to our choosing and noodles is for a nice carbs base that everyone gets a good energy boost. Two noodle dishes are heavy so we served them in moderate portions.

PHOEBE’S MENU
Homey Osso Bucco with Udon

Osso Bucco

Homey Osso Bucco with Udon

I know Kim wanted to try osso bucco and it is freezing outside thanks to Canadian winter, so I decided to cook this dish as part of the cook-off. This is one of my mom’s thermal cooker recipes that I managed to replicate with some adaptations over the years.

Given I had to prepare more portions than usual, I had a hard time putting numbers on the quantities of ingredients.

  • Osso bucco
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Sweet onions (normal onions are okay, but I prefer sweet ones)
  • Bay leaves
  • Chicken stock (powder)
  • Water
  • Udon

Instructions:

1. Wash the osso bucco and put in the inner pot.
2. Wash and chop all the veggies to your desired size (please note if it is too little, veggies will disintegrate into the soup). Put in the inner pot on top of the meat (I usually cut carrots first because they are bulky when compared to celery and onions).
3. Wash the bay leaf and put into the inner pot (I always prefer 2-3 in my cooking).
4. Pour water into the inner pot and make sure it covers the meat and veggies.
5. Boil it until it starts bubbling and add chicken powder to taste (One thing that I noticed if you are cooking more portions than usual, you may need to reboil to ensure the osso bucco is thoroughly cooked).
6. Boil it a bit longer and put the inner pot into the vacuum insulated cooker.
7. Let it cook over night.

While my family usually eat this with rice, I prefer udon after doing a lot of testing in dorms. My mom used to vacuum seal some with veggies so I can enjoy it while doing my assignments. I remember trying rice vermicelli, egg noodles, pasta and udon. Rice vermicelli got soggy really quickly while egg noodles held themselves a little better. Pasta was okay, but udon stood out for remaining bouncy when it took me a little while to finish dinner.

That is pretty much it for my recipe. Hope you enjoy it! 😊

KIM’S MENU
Chicken Rice Noodles with Carrots and Cucumbers

Chicken Rice Noodles

Chicken Rice Noodles with Carrots and Cucumbers

Unlike Phoebe, my recipe is somewhat of a combination of a few things I like making. I did end up forgetting something in this one and our judges definitely did realize even if I don’t honestly mind that much.  Here are the ingredients I used:

  • Rice Noodles
  • Nantes Carrots
  • Cucumber
  • Eggs
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Chicken Thighs
  • Rice Vinegar
  • Green onions
  • Soy Sauce
  • Sesame Oil

How to make it:

1. In a bowl, mix together sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar and garlic. Set aside.
2. Prepare the chicken. Cut the chicken lengthwise and mix with the marinade above.
3. Boil water in a saucer. When it starts to boil, put in the rice noodles to cook. Place in for few minutes. Remove and put in strainer. Rinse with cold water. Rest strainer on a bowl to let water drain.
4. Peel the carrots and cucumbers and chop them lengthwise (or however you like them that makes it easier to cook). Mince the garlic and chop the ginger.
5. Heat up the wok on medium-high heat. Put in some oil (sesame, olive, whichever you use; I used avocado oil) and let it heat up.
6. Put in some garlic and ginger into the wok. Afterwards, add the carrots and cucumbers. Let them cook through and remove on plate.
7. If you need, add a little bit of oil to the wok and cook the scrambled eggs.
8. Next, cook the chicken with marinade as sauce.
9. Once its cooked through, add back the eggs, carrots and cucumbers. Let it cook a little more and add the noodles to heat everything back up.
10. Remove from heat and put in plate.

COMMENTS FROM FRIENDS (AKA TASTERS)

Phoebe’s Osso Bucco was cooked thoroughly and enough time. The only comment was on the choice of using the Udon noodles and that dials down to a personal preference.

Kim’s Chicken Rice Noodles was cooked well however it was on the more bland side. Something that Kim suspected out of her eating habits and the fact that she forgot to use broth. The suggestion was to use chicken broth to add some natural flavor instead of using salt and it would help infuse the meal overall.

This concludes our first BATTLE OF INGREDIENTS!
Hope you enjoyed it!

The next battle will be held next month as a collaborated full course meal featuring MAPLE SYRUP!
Right in time for cabane a sucre season!

MTL a Table: Café Griffintown (Montreal, Canada)

November is finally here and with that comes one of our favorite events in Montreal called MTL a Table. I’ve gone the last two years. If you don’t know what it is, MTL a Table is a gourmet event where selected restaurants offer a fixed menu for $21, $31 or $41 for dinner and some even offer brunch. It is the perfect opportunity to try out some new restaurants and not exactly destroy your wallet over it. This year, our group increased and we are doing a triple date. We have three scheduled over the next two weekends.

The first one this year is Griffintown Café. They had a $21 three course menu.

Griffontown Café

Drinks

Griffintown Cafe

Russian in July & Long Island Iced Tea

Griffintown Cafe

Ginger Beer Bourbon and Bourbon Sour

1st Service: Appetizers

Griffintown Cafe

Roasted Winter Vegetable Soup (lactose-free modification)

Griffintown Cafe

Roasted Winter Vegetable Soup

Griffintown Cafe

So Simple Salad with Mixed Greens and Roasted Vegetables

Appetizers was good. A lot of love to Griffintown Cafe for being able to modify the soup without the lactose. The roasted winter vegetable soup is very good. Only one person took the salad and I think it was pretty good. Everyone else had the normal unmodified version of the soup. Not sure how they felt. My husband enjoyed it and he isn’t exactly a soup person (or a vegetable person at that). The only difference we talked about was that it was heavily spiced with pepper and I mean like actual full pieces of peppercorn. That added a lot of kick to the soup. For the most part, it was delicious until I went screaming for water when I bit into a peppercorn. It was a funny experience and refreshing to say the least. However, the roasted winter vegetable soup is still a winner especially on a chilly day like when we went this weekend, some heat in the foods adds a little extra warmth and coziness to the meal.

2nd Service: Main Course

Griffintown Cafe

So British Fish ‘n Chips (Haddock filet, IPA Beer batter) served with fries and house tartare sauce

Griffintown Cafe

Espresso Burger (espresso and dark chocolate glazed Griffintown Burger, blue cheese dressing, tomato and maple braised bacon)

The menu has three choices. The third being a mushroom risotto which no one ended up taking. We were half and half with three taking the Fish n Chips and three with the Espresso Burger. I took the Fish ‘N Chips. The meal was a little salty to my taste however, the IPA beer batter was done really well because the crush kind of melted in my mouth as I ate it. Also, haddock is something I usually eat with fish ‘n chips but really would like to have more because I like the texture of the fish. The home fries are cooked pretty well. Yet again, a little too salty for my taste but I eat pretty bland food compared to most people that I know so perhaps its just my individual issue. I should start mentioning in my order to be a little lighter on salt as a personal preference.

As for the burger, the first hesitation most people had was how they’d make the taste of it all work out. It seems like there is a lot going on there. The burger was huge in height. However, the espresso and chocolate was not overpowering, nor was the cheese supposedly from what I gathered as my friends discussed it.

3rd service: Dessert

Griffintown Cafe

Oreo Tiramisu

Griffintown Cafe

Carrot Cake

The last course was one I was totally exempted from but I ordered the carrot cake for everyone to share and have a taste. The dessert was probably the underwhelming part of the meal according to my husband. He enjoyed the Oreo Tiramisu more than the carrot cake however, it wasn’t anything special.

Overall, Griffintown Cafe is pretty  nice. The restaurant itself is a little cozier in size. We also went on a night where they hosted the Paint Nite event and that minimized the amount of guests at the restaurant itself not a part of it. The service probably also was slower because of it. However, our waitress was very nice. She was a little short with the details but very accommodating in helping me with my allergy issues. It was a really nice place to hang out with friends. The food was pretty good. There are some small personal preference criticisms but its more a matter of individual tastes and habits than the shortcoming of how the food was cooked because it was done well.

If you are around town, perhaps it is a spot you’d like to check out! They even have brunch normally and that is something that has peaked my interest.

The Curious Café (Kelowna, Canada)

Nothing like a fantastic breakfast restaurant talk for a beautiful Saturday, right? I think so too!

Today’s is a breakfast place I visited with my cousins called The Curious Café in Kelowna. It was a cozy little spot with a lot of rustic decor. The menu was simple. So simple that I almost couldn’t find something to eat but rest assured, I did, of course!

The Curious Café

Menu 

Curious Café

Tea

Curious Cafe

The tea here is supposedly local. I can’t remember what brand it is anymore but it was amazing. On top of that, I was introduced to this cute contraption where its like a little bobble. You put the tea leaves in there and then you drop it in there to steep and it starts bubbling the first moment you put it in. It just stole my heart. So much that I ended up getting on at Teavana.

Our Meals (some of them)

Curious Cafe

This one was mine and it is called a Corn Beef Bowl. It has only a limited amount per day and guess what our table took the two available that morning. Sorry? But not really..but it was so delicious!

Curious Cafe

This one was my husband’s and it was the special meal of the day which is a quiche of some sort. I can’t remember exactly.

Curious Cafe

One of my cousin’s took this one. She sat across from me so I could take the picture easily. It was Avocado on Toast. I don’t remember the exact name of any of them. Her and her family are the locals from Kelowna so I’m guessing this is a pretty good pick.

I actually think the only meal that isn’t here is my nephews’ plate and they shared pancakes and bacon or something like that.

Overall, The Curious Café is really impressive. I enjoyed my meal quite a bit, plus it was great to sit together with my cousins and family and catch up! Great company almost always makes food better. Plus, I learned that Kelowna has some awesome free parking schedule. Coming from Montreal where parking is never free, not even on holidays or weekends, it really isn’t saying much. However, it did make us appreciate it a lot. The service was nice and the meals were presented lovely. It was all around a fun time and a perfect way to start our busy day ahead with tons of events for my cousin’s wedding! 🙂

Dinner: Sweet and Sour Pork Chops

Teamwork, my friends! Our dinners are starting to really bring out a nice little team going on here.  I do the whole marinating and making sauces thing and he cooks it.  I don’t even want to attempt for the fear that I’d probably get it all burnt. This past weekend, we wanted to eat pork chops. These sounded really good and we had most of the ingredients so we decided to give it a little twist in a much lazier way than the already easy recipe here.

Sweet and Sour Pork Chops

sweet and sour pork chops

Inspired by this pin: http://damndelicious.net/2015/01/31/easy-pork-chops-with-sweet-and-sour-glaze/

  • Ingredients are the same as the link, except the butter
  • Instead of baking in oven, we cooked it in a pan.  Sauce was pre-mixed and marinated the pork chops in it before cooking.

I really like sweet and sour dishes.  Usually, sour means like adding pineapple to give it an extra kick or lemon.  You get what I’m saying? This recipe is a little different.  It uses balsamic vinegar.  We don’t usually cook with it.  Its available in our house but we just never know what to do with it. So, this was a nice way to experiment.  I’m not going to lie…we should’ve marinated it a little more. Like overnight.  But I’m a spontaneous cook and I just bought the pork chops that day for groceries because we had raided our house of any meat.

Enough of this rambling, this dish is great.  I don’t even think it needs to be in the oven.  Its why I changed the title from the recipe that inspired since the sauce is not a glaze.  I do recommend this.  If you do try this out in the oven, do tell me how it turns out. I just don’t like doing a whole lot of steps for cooking.  Sauce, meat, cook, done.  That works for me especially when we have to cook vegetables or whatever side dishes.  Oh yeah, we also tried out a little fries recipe that Zoe had recommended except we used it on sweet potatoes 😉 And they were so good, even if they should’ve been in the oven for a little longer to get it crispier.

What do you think? Do you like sweet and sour sauces? How do you like to make pork chops?

Bacon Avocado Fries!

This past weekend’s experiment goes to having the mission of using up my four rapidly ripening avocados that I bought the weekend before.

A part of it went to making the Avocado basil pasta that me and my boyfriend love a lot. I talked about it HERE when I first made it for last year’s Thanksgiving.

Then the rest went to making two batches of Bacon Avocado Fries over Friday and Saturday. 🙂 These things are addictive!

wpid-20141205_211126.jpg

 

I found this awesome recipe on Pinterest and you can find it right HERE at The Examiner!

The recipe is relatively straight forward. However, there are a few differences.

  • Its supposed to make 20 but I only could get about 16-18.
  • I didn’t cook the bacon in advance and just baked the whole thing for 5-8 minutes more in the oven

The original plan was to try making the breaded avocado fries but bacon seemed like a nice time to eat something so not good but so delicious in celebration for the end of an extremely long week.

This was delicious.  The combination was really nice because the bacon was crispy and when you bit into it the avocado would just melt. I love those sorts of texture.  Just makes it feel so awesome and tasty! You just can’t go wrong with bacon 🙂

A short little recipe and very simple to make! Love it! I’m definitely going to be making this one again eventually!

Do you like avocado? Any neat recipes that you like? Any recipes you like to add bacon to?

Shepherd’s Pie

More cooking! I promised you that I’d be back on track with that! Some late night cooking for the boyfriend since I was going out for an advanced screening tonight 🙂  Not so sure about the movie but its okay, its free anyways.

I’ve only ever made Shepherd’s Pie months ago to help my friend’s family out.  I never actually tried how it turned out but apparently it was pretty good.  My boyfriend kind of wanted me to do it for us but I never got around to it until now. So here we go! Last weekend, I promised that I’d do it this week and after a late night cooking, its all done.

Shepherd's Pie

It looks a little weird but its partially because of the lighting and second, because I kind of messed up a part of the ingredients but I’ll elaborate after the recipe.

This one was inspired by Looneyspoons recipe.  The original one includes squash and sour cream for the potato topping but I did a traditional mashed potato with some milk and butter instead.

Here is the recipe:

Makes 6 servings

Meat and Vegetables

1 1/2 lbs extra-lean ground beef
1 cup chopped onions
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp paprika
*1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 cup frozen mixed peas and carrots
1 cup canned corn
1/3 cup reduced-sodium beef broth
*2 tbsp chili sauce
1 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp each salt and ground black pepper

Potato Topping

2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
*2 cups peeled and chopped butternut squash
*1/2 cup + 2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
*1/2 cup light (5%) sour cream
1/4 tsp salt
*Dash nutmeg
*Minced fresh parsley for garnish (optional)

Shepherd's pie

1. To make filling, cook beef, onions and garlic in a large pot or skillet over medium-high heat until meat is no longer pink and onions are tender.  Stir in paprika and thyme.  Cook 1 more minute. Add peas and carrots and corn.  Mix well.

2. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, whisk together broth, chili sauce, flour and Worcestershire sauce.  Add to meat mixture in pot, along with salt and pepper.  Reduce heat to medium-low.  Let simmer, uncovered for 5 minutes.  Mixture will thicken slightly.  Remove from heat, cover and keep warm while you prepare potato topping.

3. To make topping, place potatoes in a large pot and cover with water by 2 inches.  Bring to a boil.  Add squash.  Cook until both potatoes and squash are tender, about 12 to 14 minutes.  Drain potatoes and squash in a colander. Return to pot.  Sprinkle 1/4 cup Parmesan over vegetables.  Cover with lid and let stand 1 minute for cheese to melt.  Add sour cream, salt and dash nutmeg. Mash well using a potato masher. Try to get out as many lumps as possible.

4. To assemble casserole, spread meat mixture evenly over the bottom of a 2 quart casserole dish.  Top with potato-squash mixture.  Fluff with fork so small peaks are formed.  Sprinkle remaining 2 tbsp Parmesan over potatoes.  Bake at 375F for 25 minutes, until completely heated through.  Remove from oven. Sprinkle top with parsley, if desired.  Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

A lot of changes were made.

  • All the asterisks(*) show those that were omitted except for dried thyme
  • Dried thyme was replaced with half dried basil and half dried oregano
  • I used frozen peas but fresh chopped carrots
  • Flour was gluten-free
  • Potato topping was not at all like this one but mashed potato. I forgot to replace the squash that removed so I fell short for the topping. Instead of sour cream and everything, I used unsweetened almond milk and butter.

I have an issue with corn so my boyfriend was the only one who tasted it. Apparently, I need to work on making the potato topping.  Other than that, it was a tasty dish 🙂

I am curious about how squash potato mix would work for the potato topping.  Maybe I’ll try that next time! It doesn’t look too amazing in the first picture but the topping looks very appetizing. Plus, my kitchen had a wonderful delicious aroma from the cooking. Guess that helps when its 2am and I’m still waiting for this to come out of the oven 😉

Do you like Shepherd’s Pie? Any tips on making mashed potatoes? 

**Psst: I’m experimenting on cooking so another recipe going up very soon 🙂 This time, it’ll look awesome! Remember to check back.