Thursday, November 27, 2008

Sweet/Salty Cake.....

Happy Thanksgiving!! Let's talk about dessert first. Today just happens to be my lovely spouse's 44th birthday, in addition to Thanksgiving. So, its a great reason to have a party. We had some friends/family over tonight to celebrate both occasions. I always like to make Robin a special cake for her birthday. When I read about this new cookbook just out, I went searching for this recipe( its over on This cake is called Salty/Sweet cake and it was amazing. But, OMG, it was over the top rich and fattening. You dont even want to know that the whipped caramel ganach contains 1 lb of butter and chocolate. Not to mention the heavy cream in the frosting and caramel. But, Omg, was it good. The sweet part is obvious, but the salty part is pretty cool. The caramel between the layers contains a full tsp of fleur de sel. The top of the cake is sprinkled with more salt. For that, I used some flower of the ocean salt that my friend from High School( omg, has it been almost 25yrs since I graduated?) sent me. Celtic Salt is a company in Asheville, NC. They have some amazing salts!! In addition to salts, they have herb blends and other cool products. Check them out for some great gift ideas. Let me tell you, The salt totally makes this cake. Its the perfect foil for the sweet caramel and ganache. Yummy!! I'm going to be dreaming about this cake, I swear.

I baked the 3 layers over the weekend and froze them. I made the caramel filling on Tuesday and the ganache frosting( ingenious method) today. I filled and frosted the entire cake while it was still frozen and that was a great idea. It was hot in the house because I was cooking the turkey, but the chill from the frozen cake, helped the ganache firm up. By the time I served it, it was totally defrosted. Just make sure you sprinkle the salt on right before serving.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Chicken and dumplings and Oatmeal Butterscotch bars( Cook's Country)

On November 20, 2001, I walked off the airplane in Toronto and met Robin for the first time in person. We'd been emailing/talking on the phone since the end of September. Yep, we met online : ). We met on a diary writing website, where we both kept journals. I'm so thankful for that website, because I probably would have NEVER met Robin in my lifetime.

We were married on June 19th, 03, but November 20th is always a special day for me. Its also my baby Harley's birthday : ). I made this chicken and dumpling dish from Cook's Country. It was really good and comforting, and as a plus, it uses white meat chicken. The recipe calls for fresh carrots and frozen peas. I used 1 leftover fresh carrot, but also threw in a bag of frozen mixed veggies( I'm working on clearing out the freezer in preparation for Holiday Baking).

I was busy yesterday, cooking for a client so I forgot all about making a dessert. Robin said " don't I get a special dessert?". I whipped up these butterscotch Oatmeal bars from Cook's Country as well. Very good and easy!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Smoke and Spice, Windsor, Ontario.

I love San Marzano tomatoes. I can't use any other kind of canned tomatoes since discovering these. I'm pretty lucky in that I've found a place to buy them for 1.50 a can( 28oz). To get that price, I have to buy a case of them, but thats ok since its all I use when a recipe calls for canned tomatoes. My stash was getting a bit low, so I suggested to Robin we take a trip down to Windsor, ON to visit the Italian supermarket and a favorite restaurant down there called Spago's.

After a quick bid on Priceline, we got the Raddison riverfront for 50.00(USD). Robin's mom joined us as Robin has family there and my MIL was going to visit them.

I did a search for a new place to eat in Windsor and I came across this BBQ place called Smoke and Spice on a Chowhound thread. They advertise themselves has having real " Southern" BBQ. Overall, it was a great lunch and a very good value for the money.

I had the 1/4 chicken( white meat) $8.95. This came with 2 sides. I had the mac and cheese which was really rich and creamy) and the waffle fries. The fries had a sort of BBQ spice on them that I didnt care for. The chicken was a tad on the dry side( I'd suggest brining) too. I had a really wonderful clam/corn chowder to start and I was seriously full after that so I didnt enjoy the lunch as much as I should have. I took the Mac and Cheese home and reheated it last night for dinner. It reheated very well. The cornbread was true southern style, not sweet and a bit dry. It costs 1.00 to add that to your meal.

My MIL had the bologne sandwich and mac and cheese. She thought the bolgne was very good too. She couldnt finish her lunch either!!

Robin had the pulled pork sandwich(9.95). She said it was really good. It was served on a bun w/ coleslaw. She also tried their BBQ rubbed wings which she proclaimed interesting. She said the cole fired wings I make her are better.

Overall, I was impressed( and thats saying a lot). The portions were huge, the food was tasty and the price was right. Its no surpise that the owners went down to TN to learn the craft of Southern BBQ from a BBQ restaurant owner. We all know the portions in America are huge!!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

2 more from NYC.....

I realized that I forgot to write about two places we visited in NYC. The picture you see about is from the Streits Matza factory. It wasn't listed on the self-led walking tour of The Lower East Side, but we just happened across it. As a very proud Jewish girl, I love me some good matza. I even eat it when I don't have to, sometimes I just feel like having Matza Brei, even if it isn't Passover.

It was pretty cool to see the Matza falling off the conveyer belt, but I was a bit disappointed that I didnt get to see it actually being made. I did get a piece to sample and was surprised because I've never had hot matza before. I took a bite to be nice, but I was sooooooooo FULL.

I had a nice chat with the Russian Jewish lady who was the cashier while watching some orthodox Jewish women coming in to buy Matza ball mix(????). I was a bit dismayed about that since I never use a mix, preferring to use matza meal instead.

Another bakery we went to that wasn't on my tour of the UWS was Crumbs. I was standing on the corner, waiting for Robin who was in an antique shop when a woman approached me and asked me if I knew where Crumbs was. I said " No, I dont live here". I asked her to address, but then a delivery man overheard and pointed it out. Robin and I ended up walking by so we went in. The cupcakes looked better than Magnolia's, but I was put off by the 3.75 price tag for 1 cupcake. Robin however, spotted a Peanut Butter cupcake, and wanted that. She asked me if I wanted one and I said no( I was full again!!). She knows I love coconut so she got me one anyway. I brought it back to Ontario and it was still pretty moist the next day. Definitely better than Magnolia, but not worth the price.

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Friday, November 07, 2008

New York City in Food( Day 3 and 4)...

Robin and I love to travel. Prior to going away, I do all the research on where to eat, what to see, what not to miss etc. I didn't think I had anything to learn, but I was wrong. Robin turned me on to Grey Line Tours. The second time Robin came to visit me in California, she brought her mom and aunt with her. They took a tour of LA and dragged me along for the ride. I can't say that I really enjoyed it all that much, because I fell asleep!! However, we've taken tours in San Francisco, Halifax and most recently NYC. The tour we took in NYC was a 2 day unlimited hop on/hop off tour. It worked out well because we never took a tax the entire time we were in the city. If we wanted to go somewhere, we figured out what part of the loop it was on and then just hopped off. The tour included uptown, downtown, Brooklyn, a night tour and a water cruise. We didn't have enough time to fit in everything so we missed the night tour and the water tour. On Wednesday, we hopped back on the downtown tour where we got out at the stop for the Brooklyn Tour. I was determined to eat pizza in Brooklyn. We enjoyed about 10 min of the Brooklyn tour until we got off at the stop for Grimaldi's( right under the Brooklyn bridge). The pizza was amazing..... and thankfully, we didn't have to wait for a table. The weather still wasn't fantastic, but it was better than Tuesday.

When I was growing up in S. Fl, my parents would bring in Pizza fairly frequently. We only ever got 1 topping on our pizza( Mushrooms). I still prefer my NY pizza with only mushrooms. Robin has come to see my way too. When we first started going to FL together, she wanted to load toppings on her slice, but she soon realized that in order to fold the slice in half, it can't be weighted down with toppings.

The seating in Grimaldi's is communal. The foursome next to us was from another country and they ordered their pizza with 5 toppings. It was so weighted down that I was sad for them. They could not enjoy the simplicity of the dough, sauce and cheese!! It was really hard for me to resist butting in, but I held my tongue and ate my heavenly slices. Ask me how much I want a brick oven in my backyard? The pizza only cooks for TWO minutes. Amazing.

After lunch, we went back to the bus stop to wait for the tour bus to get us. This time, we had a different tour guide than the one that dropped us off. This man brought the people off the bus to show them the bridge. As we were walking back to the bus, another tourist asked the guide where Grimaldi's was. He said( in a thick NY accent). That's garbage, I wouldn't feed it to my cat, total tourist trap. I kinda laughed and said " we just ate there and we loved it". He said " well, then you don't know good pizza". Hahahaha, I laughed at that.

I don't care what he said, it was great pizza and considering how expensive NYC is, a relatively cheap lunch at 22.00 a small pizza( 6 slices) with 1 topping and 2 diet cokes.

The driver took us to another bakery where I had the most amazing halavah ever. It was so fresh and tasty( another item Robin doesn't like).

Dinner was in Chinatown where we were accosted by little Chinese women whispering DVD, DVD, Prada, Gucci, Chanel in our ears as we walked by. We ate dinner at Joe's Shanghai( I forgot to take pics). We walked back to the World Trade Center Path station and took the train back to NJ.

On Thursday, we were left to our own devices for transportation. Robin quickly figured out the subway and we took it uptown to the Upper West Side for another self-led walking Foodie walking tour.

After checking out of the B and B, we took our luggage to Penn Station. If you have a ticket on Amtrak or the Long Island Railroad( to get to JFK) you can store your luggage for 4.50 a bag. This was a huge time saver as we originally thought we'd have to go back to the B & B to pick up our bags.

Our First stop was Jacques Torres. We shared a CCC. Honestly, I was expecting more. It was OK, but not worth the 2.50 price tag. Granted, I was still full from the amazing breakfast we had at Jersey City's Best Bed and Breakfast.

We had this amazing double choc. pb cookie at Levain. This was a great, very dense cookie. I could only eat 1 bite of my half( I brought it back to Canada and it was still good the next day).

We skipped Grandaisy bakery on 72nd and B'way because nothing there appealed to me. We also skipped Soutine Bakery on W 70th between Broadway and Columbus (closer to Columbus)and Silver Moon Bakery at Broadway and 105th. We went into those places, but I was so full that I couldn't not fathom getting anything.

We did hit Magnolia Bakery where I was sorely disappointed. I had the plain vanilla cupcake/w vanilla frosting( 2.50). It was sooo sweet and kinda dry. Call me a conceited, but I think I'm a much better baker than the majority of what I tasted.

We went to the much lauded H&H bagels where I was shocked at the 16.80 pricetag for a dozen bagels. I did buy 5 to bring home. We walked thru Fairway( amazing grocery store) and a few other shops.

Robin tried a Beard Papa. I'm not a big fan of Choux paste so I skipped that one. She enjoyed it.

I thoroughly enjoyed this gelato/sorbet I had at GROM. Omg, too die for. The lemon was so intense and the hazelnut gelato was amazing.

We had a late lunch at Viand. We both enjoy diners and this one did not dissapoint. Its hard to find good tuna salad in this area so I never order it when I eat out here. This tuna salad was good and a bargain at $6.25

Robin had a turkey burger that she enjoyed very much.

We headed over to Central Park to enjoy some much needed sun. Our last meal in NY was at JFK and it was so horrible, its not even worth mentioning.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

New York City In Food( Day 1 and 2)........

We arrived in NYC on Monday. We took the supper shuttle to Times Square where a friend from High School( she lives in New Jersey) was meeting us. We had originally planned to go for pizza, but she suggested the Junior's Deli across the street from the Marriot Marquis( where we met her). I quickly forgot about the pizza, because like another blogger friend I also own the Junior's Cookbook. I mentioned to Robin " Oh, I have this cookbook". She didnt recognize it at first( I have a lot of cookbooks), but after awhile, she said she remembered it.

The soup you see above is NOT from Juniors. I'll get to that soup in a moment. I didnt pull out my camera for Junior's, but I wish I did. I had half a turkey sandwich and matza ball soup. The matza ball was so fluffy. I much perfer my matza balls fluffy. I know others prefer sinkers!! The turkey was a tad dry, but the bread was fresh. I'm not a huge fan of Cheesecake( 1 bite will do me), so I had a black and white cookie. I absolutely love Black and Whites. Growing up in S. Florida( the 6th bourough) they were commonplace. The black and white from Juniors, was the freshest B&W I've ever had. Robin had a slice of the original cheesecake and she said it was really good.

The soup you see above was from Katz's. We went there on Tuesday. I find a self-led foodie walking tour of the Lower East Side( LES) of NYC. The one thing I most miss about living in S. Florida is the Jewish Community. There is none in my small town and very little in London, ON. Most of the kosher products the grocery store in London carries are brought in from Toronto. Anyway, I digress.

Since there was a lot to taste on this tour, we shared the soup and a turkey sandwich. I forgot to ask for the cold turkey, so it came warm. It was very good, but expensive turkey. This sandwich was $15.00. We also shared an order of fries. I was pretty full after this meal. The weather was so horrible last Tuesday. It was cold and rainy and Robin's umbrella broke so I gave her mine. I was stuck wearing a disposable rain poncho we got from the bus tour. It was not attractive!!

The next stop on the tour was Russ and Daughter's. I love, love, love me some good bagels and this didnt dissapoint. We shared one with Nova and cream cheese. They asked me if I wanted any onion, tomato or caper. I asked for a very teeny slice of onion and that added .25 to the bagel.

I was really, really full at this point.

The next stop was Yonah Schimmels for a knish. I knew Robin would not like these, so I ordered a kasha knish. She refused to even have a bite. LOL. It was good, but I really couldnt appreciate it because I was soooooo full. I took half with me. I later tried to give it to a homeless woman who refused it.

Are you full yet? Wait, cause there is more. The next stop was for an egg cream. The quintisential NYC drink. I grew up with them, so I enjoy them. I had a feeling Robin wouldnt. I ordered a small( 1.25) chocolate. There are tons of other flavors avaible, but chocolate( and maybe vanilla) are really in my opinion the only ones you should get. The other flavors are pretty artificial tasting. In fact, I've never seen other flavors sold at deli's, etc. The place that sells these egg creams also sells belgian fries. I think Robin was pretty full, but she couldnt resist a familar food. The order you see about is 1.00, a variatable bargin for NYC.

We waited awhile before we hit the Doughnut Plant. We shared 2 doughnuts, a chocolate(valhrona) glazed and my personal favorite a coconut filled, coconut glazed. Robin had a small coffee too. She said the coffee was very good. The doughnuts were good, but expensive( 2.50 and 2.75). The shop is so much smaller than I thought it was.

Next door to the doughnut plant is Kossars for bialys. A bialy is like a bagel, except its not boiled first and it has the same topping( onions and poppyseeds). I was way too full, so I took it to go and ate it for breakfast the next day.

Later that night, we ended up back in Times Square. I did NOT want to eat there, but the weather was still horrible and we had to get our bus back to NJ at Port Authority so since I wasnt that hungry, I just said " whatever". We found a pizza place that wasnt so great. Its not even worth mentioning, because we had amazing pizza the next day.

To be continued......


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Personal Chef dinner for 8....

After a whirlwind trip to NYC( which I'm going to write about soon, I swear) I returned on Friday. I had no time to relax, as I had a personal chef dinner for 8 on Sunday. Thankfully, the clients had picked a menu that I'd made a few times before. The salad was a new addition, but I made it last week before we left in order to test it. It's a wonderful really simple salad from Cook's Illustrated. Arugula w/ dried apricots, pears, goat cheese and almonds. The main dish was also from CI, but I made a couple changes. I added fresh rosemary and used a cherry jam from France instead of the orange marmalade the recipe calls for. If you have a CI membership, its called Pork tenderloin with a dried cherry port sauce. I mashed sweet potatoes to go with the meal. The client raved and raved about the sweet potatoes. I used 1 stick of butter, a few tbls of heavy cream, 2tsp of brown sugar and salt and pepper for 7 potatoes. They were very good!!

I used a nifty little tool to french cut fresh green beans. I blanched them and then sauteed them with pine nuts and butter. I used a garlic/cheese finishing butter I picked up at Wegman's in Buffalo. Dessert was chocolate fondue w/ assorted fruit and amazing shortbread cookies. I used the recipe from Ina Garten( half w/ pecans) and cut them with my maple leaf cutter. I also made a batch of Peanut butter rice krispie treats. There was NOT one of those left on the platter.

I was hired thru the Canadian Personal Chef Alliance. I was required to provide a 3 course bistro dinner, but I also threw in an appetizer( forgot to take a pic) of an artichoke and white bean dip. I also threw in my famous( actually Peter Reinharts) overnight foccacia. If you want an amazing bread w/ little effort, seriously make that bread!!