Food Musings

A Winnipeg blog about the joy of preparing food for loved ones and the shared joy that travel & dining brings to life.

On Rue Tatin


I just recently finished a wonderful non-fiction book entitled On Rue Tatin by Susan Herrmann Loomis about a young family who takes on the dream of renovating a historic home on an ancient little street in Louviers, France.

I loved her writing style and her honest recounting of their wonderful and sometimes trying adventure.  Most of all, I appreciated her relationship with food.  This is an excerpt from earlier in her journey:

That year and all through college I cooked whenever I had free time.  When I wasn’t cooking I was reading about it, planning my next meal, designing my next dinner party.  After earning a degree in communications and working at newspapers and in public relations, it dawned on me I could incorporate food into my professional life, which is what lead me to La Varenne.  I wanted to be a food writer, but first I had to learn how to cook.

So here I was in 1980 in a two-hundred-year-old building in Paris, near the Place de Invalides, basking in the world`s best butter; the fattest, most pungent pink garlic; spinach whose leaves were so firm and meaty that they stood up on the table instead of lying flat; brown eggs whose yellow yolks tasted as rich as they looked.

I thought that I knew good apples, fragrant strawberries, juicy pears.  But never had I tasted the likes of the fraises des bois I had on a tart at la Varenne, and the pears I sniffed made me want to fold them into cakes, slather them with chocolate, poach them in fragrant herbs and spices.

The food was so whole.  Chickens came with the head, feet and pinfeather, and so did the pigeons and quail; the fish looked at me with big, dreamy eyes as I took them from the cooler; the lettuce still had soil clinging to it.

Once my onerous receptionist stint was finished I moved to washing dishes at food demonstrations, a job I much preferred.  At least I was in contact with food.  I lived in a blessed cloud of ecstasy about food, the flavours, the techniques I was learning.  I jumped at the chance to run errands at the market, the cheese shop, the bakery.  When I wasn’t at La Varenne I took jobs cooking for embassy families, catering bar mitzvahs, making canapes for special occasions.  Anything to be with food.  Whenever I could I went to spend the day at a bakery or patisserie, often getting up at 1 am and arriving when the baker did, so I missed nothing and could still get to work on time.

Kath’s quote: “France has found a unique way of controlling its unwanted critter population. They have done this by giving unwanted animals like snails, pigeons, and frogs fancy names, thus transforming common backyard pests into expensive delicacies. These are then served to gullible tourists, who will eat anything they can’t pronounce.”-Chris Harris

Copyright (c) <a href=’’>123RF Stock Photos<

Star Grill Portage Ave.


D and I are not spontaneous people.  Family circumstances have just dictated that this is the case.  So lately, we have really taken advantage of being almost empty nesters and we get a giggle out of making a last minute decision (especially when it comes to dining-no surprize, I guess).

Yesterday, D suggested that we treat ourselves to breakfast with no clear idea where we wanted to end up.  We headed west on Portage Ave. and found ourselves at The Star Grill.  Unfortunately, I did not have my camera with me, so this is a photoless blog entry.  I had been once before for lunch and a couple of times to the Star Grill in the conservatory in Assiniboine Park as well, but D had never been to either.

The decor of this little spot is very cozy with booths along one wall and tables for two and four along the other.  There are a couple of gorgeous tables right in the south facing window with views of the park.  I particularly like the wispy curtains that hung over the booths and separated  the deuces.  I also recognized that many of the aluminum mirrors and decorative pieces were from Indonesia as I have a favourite store in Grand Beach that imports them for sale.

But to the food….

Ds eye was drawn to the Breakfast Pizza which was a crumbled bacon pizza with two eggs on top.  A clever idea and pretty tasty, except that there was a lot of char on the bottom of the crust.  I too was a little bit disappointed when my Grecian Benedict was so ensconced with too many thick slices of undercooked red onions and peppers.  I did appreciate the taste combination of hollandaise, black olives and feta though.

We weren’t surprized by the kitchens shortcomings because we could very clearly hear the the manager lamenting to the owner sitting in the last booth about: who hadn’t shown up and how there were struggles that morning in the kitchen.  It was almost as if these disappointments were pre-destined.

Just before our brunch dishes arrived, we got a call from J1 and J2.  We told them what we were up to and in ten minutes, they were sitting at the table next to us.  Our server very kindly lifted the curtain mentioned above and voila-a table for two becomes a table for four.

J2 also had the breakfast pizza (sans eggs) and hers too had too much char on the underside.  J1 though, was quite pleased with his choice.  He ordered a Cheddar Burger and said that the patty was really, very tasty.  The hand cut fries were a combination of white potatoes and sweet potatoes and J2 couldn’t resist, as the latter are her favourite.  Later that evening, I coaxed her into trying a roasted parsnip which I described as a cross between a potato and a carrot.

We lingered on the sidewalk out front of the cafe as the sun was shining gloriously and we made plans for the rest of our day.

Star Grill on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “The discovery of a new dish does more for human happiness than the discovery of a new star.”– Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Three Sisters Lentil Chili


Last night was our monthly young families’ night and I was stumped.  I’ve been travelling a lot lately and between trying to get caught up on my “real” work and tidying the house for guests, I didn’t have a lot of time for supper preparations.  Sister #3 came to my rescue with an enormous pot of what we call “Three Sisters Lentil Chili”.

She says that it is a snap to make but it actually tastes very complex-between the sweetness of the carrot, the tartness from the salsa, the slightly spicy taste of the chili powder.  The texture is varied too, between the variety of beans and lentils.

She has a very good friend who is vegan and this is the dish that she makes for her when her gf is visiting from Toronto.  We served it with a sprinkling of cheese but that is an after thought.  This is truly a vegan dish.

Here is the recipe:

Three Sisters Lentil Chili

2 tbsp + 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 red pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic
1 19 oz can lentils, drained and rinsed
1 19 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 19 oz mixed beans (kidney, pinto and chick peas), drained & rinsed
1 28 oz can plum tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup medium salsa
2 tbsp + 1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1 12 oz (340 g) package Yves Veggie Ground Round
  • Heat a large pot. Add the oil and onion. Sauté until the onion is translucent, approximately 3 minutes
  • Add the carrots, red pepper, and the garlic. Sauté for 2 minutes
  • Add the can of lentils, kidney beans, plum tomatoes, tomato paste, salsa, chili powder, cumin, oregano, and basil
  • Bring to the boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the carrots are tender
  • Add the package of Yves Veggie ground round and heat through.

Serves 8

I had roasted some leeks the day before and made this swirled bread.  Sister #3 also provided some left over corn bread.  If we had not been entertaining such little ones, I might have served the dish with taco chips too.  Those delicious but pesky chips can get caught in toddlers’ throats.

For dessert we had strawberries and bananas dipped in sour cream and brown sugar AND a surprize birthday cake: brown flour and carrot cake with a light and delicious cream cheese icing.  I was so busy trying to facilitate the kids getting their supper, that I forgot to get a picture of the beautiful cake!

Kath’s quote:  “Lentils are friendly—the Miss Congeniality of the bean world.”
-Laurie Colwin

posted under Entrees | 91 Comments »

Le Grand Pestos-Part 3


The Frenchman and Daughter #2 made up the team that drew the side dishes.  They decided to work independently on two separate little plates.

Both dishes included Le Grand Garden pesto.  D #2 assembled a silky cream of potato and butter nut squash soup.  She creatively initialed each bowl for every member of the family.

The Frenchman opted to use the same gorgeous green Garden pesto and blended it with chopped poached shrimp and feta and stuffed it into a mushroom cap.  Parmesan shards were melted on top.  He also grilled marinated artichokes to accompany the caps.

Both members of this team are very proficient in the kitchen and very confident in their skills.  This can create high drama just like the reality shows that we were recreating.

The third team made up of the Son and his wife (J1 & J2) drew the entree and the Le Grand Sundried Tomato pesto.  They worked somewhat independently as well but more harmoniously (they’ve known each other since they were 12, after all).

J2 fired up the barbie and stood in the snow flipping her grilled zucchini and eggplant disks.  She crumbled feta upon the circles when they had finished grilling.  She then stacked them Inukshuk style to accompany the chicken.

J1took a family favourite and modified it to incorporate the “hero” product.  First he pasted the inside of the breast with the bright, colourful and tasty pesto, then added cheese and fresh spinach that J2 had steamed for him.  After the ingredients were sealed inside he bathed it in a mixture of Dijon mustard and white wine.  This provided adherence for fresh bread crumb coating.  While these were baking, they created a spicy cream sauce from the pesto that was kicked up with some chili powder and tabasco.

Once the chicken was cooked and sliced, smudges of the sauce were placed atop in addition to dollops which graced the plate.  J1 loves hot sauces while he is aware that others in the family prefer more subtle tastes.

Before the end of the evening, we were declaring that we would all be anxious to purchase the Le Grand pestos on a regular basis because of the ease of handling, gorgeous bright colours and startlingly fresh tastes.    We also knew that these family cooking challenges would be a regular occurrence perhaps even involving extended family up at the cottage.

As I provided the live tweets and was the videographer and photographer, I did not do any of the cooking.  The rule in our family therefore, is that I did the dishes.  This was accomplished in two dishwasher loads that evening as well as (I’m guessing) 4 sink fulls of pots.  Hmm, next time, which cooking team, shall I try to get on?

Kath’s quote: “Life is too short to stuff a mushroom.”-Shirley Conran

Le Grand Pestos-Part 2


The stage was set.  Teams were formed, courses were drawn, the three Le Grand Pestos were revealed as the secret ingredients, and oh yea, the wine was poured.

D had made a bread dough in the afternoon to bake a loaf to have with supper.  But when he and Daughter #1 picked the appetizer course, they quickly modified their plans to use the dough for pizza.

We were calling it pizza because they used our round pizza screens to bake it but it really tasted more like a flatbread.  No matter how you describe it-call it absolutely delicious.

The team made a couple of very strategic decisions.  At one time, they were contemplating the inclusion of corn meal crusted back bacon but decided instead to make the flatbread a true vegetarian recipe.

They started with huge smears of the gorgeous green pesto and then began layering on the roasted vegetables: yellow and red peppers, eggplant, mushrooms and butternut squash.

They went very easy on the cheese so that the complex and varied tastes of the roasted vegetables would shine through.  There was mozzarella, Parmesan and a light sprinkling of Bothwell’s red wine and sharp cheddar as well.

In addition, in order to offset the nuttiness of the pesto, they included roasted pine nuts to add some crunch.

The resulting appetizer course could have been our entire meal, but we kept warning each other to stop eating so we would have room for the other dishes that were still ahead.

I was looking for a flat bread quotation, when I came across this one regarding flatulence (with apologies to my vegetarian readers and friends).  Kath’s quote: “Vegetarianism is harmless enough, though it is apt to fill a man with wind and self-righteousness.”-Sir Robert Hutchinson


« Older EntriesNewer Entries »