Food Musings

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

Sonya’s

November26

As soon as Steve Vodrazka, the owner of the Sonya’son Henderson Hwy. in Elmwood spoke, my sister and I recognized the accent.  He was from the same country that our Dad had immigrated from many years before-Czechoslovakia.  The posters of the picturesque Eastern European country confirmed that part of him must still yearn for his homeland.

Wall at Sonya's

Steve took care of every single table himself as well as the till and yet he was very patient when we had a hard time deciding what to order.  He asked if we wanted to try his minestrone which was his soup of the day.  He added that it was free “unless we didn’t finish it all and then it was $2”, so priced as his way of ensuring that food was not wasted.

Hearty Bowl at Soya's

As we ordered the perogies, he wondered if we wanted them boiled or fried.  We assumed that this meant pan-fried and indicated our preference.  When they arrived and we saw that they had been deep fried, we were originally disappointed as deep frying can sometimes toughen the delicate dough.  There were no worries with these: the dumplings had only been kissed by the oil and they were soft and absolutely as delicious as our own family recipe.  The sautéed bacon and chopped onions certainly enhanced the flavour.  The bacon itself was not overly salty but had a rich and smoky taste.

Bacon Covered Perogies at Sonya's

Next up was a boneless pork loin chop in a crispy coating which reminded us of the bread crumb mixture that my Grandma used to cover her fried chicken with.  The meat inside was moist and succulent.  Also on the plate was a tangy cole slaw and boiled potato cubes.

Sonya's Pork Cutlet

I opted instead for the little plate of French fries that I indulged in (for the sake of research….).  Oh my goodness!  I imagined the order going into the kitchen at which time the cook took a potato, sliced and cooked it.  That is how fresh tasting the fries were.  They were lightly fried, exactly the way I love them (contrary to the other members of my family) resulting in a soft and wobbly fry.  This may not be everyone’s description of choice, but it certainly is mine.  What do you know, a French fry that still tastes like a potato!

Sonya's Fries

Recently, I saw in the Winnipeg Free Press that the Burger Club had declared that Sonya’s served Winnipeg’s best burger.  I wish I had known this previous to our lunch date as now I bet there will not be a seat to be had in the snug little place.

Warning: Sonya’s only takes cash and I don’t want you to be disappointed.

Sonya's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.”-Doug Larson

Love-that is all.

posted under Restaurant Features | Comments Off on Sonya’s

(The rest of) 10 Foods that will Rock Your Socks Off

November23

The answer to yesterday’s query is the Barley Risotto also contained these three items from Mairlyn Smith’s list: canola, dark green leafy veggies and onions & garlic.  Here are the rest of recommended foods from our wonderful evening at Be Well Connect.

4. Canola Oil is high in two “good” fats that are essential in your diet because your body can’t make them. One protects against heart attacks and strokes by helping to lower bad cholesterol. The other is important for the brain and for the growth and development of infants.  Compared to all other vegetable oils on the market, canola oil has the lowest levels of the fats that are “bad” for human health.  One serving of canola oil each day will deliver about a quarter of all the vitamin E you need. Vitamin E is an antioxidant, and is known to protect against cancer and memory loss.

5. Onions & Garlic (and Scallions) act as powerful antioxidants, stimulate the immune system and reduce inflammation. Mairlyn also added that they are anti-fungal so maybe I can clear up the mossy stuff that is growing between my toes (JK wanted to see if you were still awake).  These are so easy to add to so many dishes.  Tonight as an example, we enjoyed left over prime rib in sandwiches on dark pumpernickel rye bread.  I sauteed up a mess of onions and garlic (in canola oil) to top the meat.  Oh, yum.

6. Dark Green Leafy Vegetables have the most concentrated source of nutrition of any food. They are a rich source of minerals (including iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium) and vitamins, including vitamins K, C, E, and many of the B vitamins. (I didn’t even know that there was a vitamin K).  I particularly like arugula for its peppery taste but you can also include more kale, spinach and bok choy into your meals.  Mairlyn suggests that you build your evening meal around a leafy green vegetable which will be a mind shift for me, as I typically create my meals around a protein and a carb.

7. Nuts! Well I wouldn’t call Mairlyn nuts but she is pretty kookie…   Mairlyn is very petite and she scopped up a small handful of almonds (she prefers walnuts) to illustrate that even though nuts are a very important inclusion in your diet, you should limit them to a small amount.  I imagined the quantity would be just right to top a salad or my morning yogurt.

8. Berries are the easiest of the list for me to get really excited about.  Mairlyn adds that she only eats locally harvest fruits which are now out of season so she substitutes frozen berries at this time of year.  I too always have a wide selection of frozen berries to choose from.  Some bags are the flash frozen strawberries from u-picks in our area and other are the wild blueberries that are now available in the freezer section.  Not only do I always have something available to whip up a quick dessert like Platz but we love berry sauces with pork tenderloin, or mixed with garlic and balsamic vinegar as a salad dressing. 

9. Orange fruits and veggies hold an abundance of antioxidants, vitamins and  fiber and are good for your skin, eyes and heart, and they may also decrease your risk of cancer. The best-known nutrient in orange foods is beta carotene, a powerful antioxidant which gives sunny fruits and vegetables their brilliant color. Experts say beta carotene is not only good for eye health it can also delay cognitive aging and protect skin from sun damage. Orange foods are chock full of vitamin C, an antioxidant which boosts the immune system, protects against cardiovascular disease and helps rebuild collagen in the skin.  Mairlyn even referred to the benefits of using orange zest, which may explain why I am often compelled to eat the skin of my oranges.  Perhaps I should listen to my body more often.

10.  I can’t for the life of me remember Mairlyn refering to salmon but I understand that it is on her list.  So here is a good illustration that I need to eat more foods that a) will help with my hearing or b) inrease my memory capacity. Perhaps it was because we were also sipping on a rich deep red wine at the time or that we were tucking into our barley risotto, so I was admittedly distracted.

So, there you have it.  Focus on eating more of these and you will find that you are eating less of the empty calories! Be well.

Kath’s quote: “The onion and its satin wrappings is among the most beautiful of vegetables and is the only one that represents the essence of things. It can be said to have a soul.”-Charles Dudley Warner

Love-that is all.

(First Three of) Ten Foods That Will Rock Your Socks Off

November22

Someone once said to me: “For ultimate good health, instead of focusing on what you should be eliminating from your daily diet, focus instead on consuming the foods that will increase your wellness”.  Darn it, who was it who said this to me?  I am going to have to search out some “menopause-brain” restoration foods, so that I can remember.

This concept has always been of interest to me, but it seemed so very complicated to put into practice, until I met Mairlyn Smith, that is.  Mairlyn is the most accessible best-selling cookbook author I have encountered. She speaks plain language in a first hand manner and you instantly trust her knowledge and her advice.

Recently, D and I got a “speed-dating” style opportunity to hear what she has to say about including 10 particular foods that will  “rock your socks off”.

1. Barley (and other insoluable fibres).  These are considered gut-healthy fibers because they add bulk to the diet but do not dissolve in water, so they pass through the gastrointestinal tract relatively intact, and speed up the passage of food and waste through your tummy. Other natural sources are whole wheat, whole grains, wheat bran, corn bran, seeds, nuts, couscous, brown rice, bulgur, zucchini, celery, broccoli, cabbage, onions, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, green beans, dark leafy vegetables, raisins, grapes, fruit, and root vegetable skins.

2. Oats suck up “bad” blood cholesterol and major toxins like mercury.  I know from other reading, that these foods include oatmeal, oat cereal, lentils, apples, oranges, pears, oat bran, strawberries, nuts, flaxseeds, beans, dried peas, blueberries, cucumbers, celery, and carrots.

3. Mushrooms and other vitamin D rich foods (salmon, tuna, soy, fortified foods like oj, low fat milk, and cereal) protect your lungs and up your immune system.  And because I am the age that I am, I need vitamin D to help my body absorb the calcium rich diet that will ensure my bone health, as I further “blossom” and mature.

While Mairlyn was chatting with us in her unique style (she is also an alumnus of the Second City Comedy Troupe) we got to sample a barley risotto.  Since I have never cooked with barley (except for a couple of soups), I started some recipe book browsing (I don’t happen to have copies of Mairlyn’s, but I am putting those on my Christmas list) and rediscovered  a cookbook that my friend Laura had gifted to me entitled Eat Well-healthy ways to enjoy the foods you love from Williams-Sonoma. 

I plan on making this delicious looking barley risotto soon.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Barley Risotto with Mushrooms and Greens
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Barley has a pleasantly chewy texture and a sweet, nutty flavour.
Ingredients
  • 6 c chicken broth
  • 1½ T canola oil
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 c sliced mushrooms
  • ea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ½ c dry white wine
  • 1 c barley
  • 3 c arugula
  • ½ c Parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. In a medium sauce pan, over medium high heat, bring broth to a simmer.
  2. Turn off heat, cover and keep warm.
  3. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat.
  4. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is soft, about 5 mins.
  5. Add mushrooms, salt, pepper.
  6. Cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms release their juices and start to brown, 4-5 mins.
  7. Add wine and bring to a boil for 1 minute.
  8. Add 5 c of hot broth and the barley.
  9. Cove and simmer over medium low heat, stirring occasionally and adding more broth ¼ c at a time if barley becomes dry, until barley is tender, about 45 mins.
  10. Stir in arugula and more broth, if necessary.
  11. Cooked, uncovered until greens are wilted, about 2 mins.
  12. Stir in Parmesan and season to taste with additional s & p.
  13. Serve at once.

And the recipe incorporates more than just barley from the food list.  Check back soon to see what they are.

Oh yea, it was Sister #3!  Perhaps I remembered because I had a orange with my Greek yogurt and bran (and vitamin C is good for the brain)!

Kath’s quote: “Among the liveliest of my memories are those of eating and drinking; and I would sooner give up some of my delightful remembered walks, green trees, cool skies, and all, than to lose my images of suppers eaten on Sabbath evenings at the end of those walks.”-Mary Antin

Love-that is all.

Happy Hour Business

November21

Baked Wonton Appetizers
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Filled with your choice of several favourite fillings and flavours, these super easy to make wonton cups, make almost instant and delicious appetizers. So handy for holiday entertaining.
Ingredients
  • 3¼ inch square wonton wrappers
Instructions
  1. Gently push the individual wonton sheets into a mini muffin tin to form little cups (they look like flowers).
  2. Bake at 350 degrees for 6-8 minutes until crisp and lightly golden brown.
  3. Cool.
  4. Stuff with your favourite filling options (below).
  5. Bake again for 6-8 minutes.
  6. Eat and enjoy.
  7. Or freeze in an airtight container to enjoy later. Thaw for a few minutes before following the same heating instructions.
  8. Spicy Italian: Saute hot or mild Italian sausage (casings removed) and break into bits. Combine with finely diced green onion, garlic, green and/or red peppers, mushrooms, celery, oregano and basil. Add shredded mozzarella and/or Parmesan cheese. Mix and stuff. Another variation is to mix in a bit of tomato sauce.
  9. Lobster and Avocado: Combine 1 finely diced avocado with ¼ c sour cream or cream cheese, a squirt of lemon juice, pinch of s & p, ¼ t cumin and chilli powder, ¼ lb. lobster meat (or cooked shrimp or crab), 1 t grated lemon zest and fresh cilantro for garnish. Mix all ingredients together well. Stuff cups and serve cold. Fills about 24 cups.
  10. Teriyaki Chicken: Dice up leftover chicken or turkey. Mix with freshly chopped ginger, green onion, jalapeno, snap peas, finely diced celery and/or carrots or bean sprouts and some cream cheese. Kick it up with hoisin, spicy teriyaki and/or peanut or Asian chili sauce.
  11. Empanadas: Saute lean or extra lean ground beef with garlic, onion, diced peppers. Mix with salsa, chili powder, cumin or taco seasoning, and sliced green olives. Allow to cool. Stuff and heat.
  12. Crab Rangoon: Mix together 8 oz. cooked crab meat or canned crab meat (drained and flaked), about 6 oz. cream cheese, 1 t finely diced red or green onion, ½ t Worcestershire sauce, ½ t soy sauce or Tiger Sauce, s & p and 1 clove of garlic finely diced. Stuff and heat.
  13. Korean Beef or Pork: Saute garlic, diced peppers, fresh ginger root with ground beef or pork until cooked, about 8-10 minutes. Add a shot of soy sauce, hoisin sauce, Dragon sauce, and/or Asian chili sauce and 1 t toasted sesame oil. You can also add/mix with chopped green onion, shredded carrot or cucumber, cilantro or mint.
  14. Salmon: using left over baked or grilled salmon, break it up and mix with finely diced celery, green onions, green or red peppers, fresh cilantro or parsley, a shot of Miracle Whip or Wasabi mayo and cream cheese. Mix well and stuff. You can reheat or serve cold.
  15. Pure Pork: Thaw tube of frozen sausage meat. Saute. Drain. Mix with chopped green onion, peppers, seasonings, ½ c peppercorn ranch dressing and shredded cheddar cheese. Stuff and bake for about 8 minutes.

One of my business associates lives on what my family has always called the Lockport Road-north Henderson Hwy.  I recently had an evening event in Selkirk, so stopping in at his home on the way was a perfect opportunity.  As opposed to meeting in what he jokingly calls “the world headquarters”, that is to say the office in his basement, we met at his dining room table because it was “Happy Hour”.  He poured us both a cocktail and then he briefed me on a new client.  But true to form, he also had a delectable treat warming in the oven (he even had the recipe printed out for me to take with me).

Kath’s quote: “Too much work, and no vacation,
Deserves at least a small libation.
So hail! my friends, and raise your glasses;
Work’s the curse of the drinking classes.”

-Oscar Wilde

Love-that is all.

posted under Appetizers | 1 Comment »

Chef Mary Jane Feeke of Benjamin’s

November20

The first time that I met Chef Mary Jane was a couple of years ago when I was fortunate to be invited to an Olympic Culinary Team Dinner.  At that meeting she was up to her eye balls in plates and trays in the vast kitchen.  I assessed in moments that MJ was a “behind the scenes” style of chef who ensures that every detail was taken care of.  So too, when D and I arrived at Benjamin’s in Selkirk last evening, she was at the door to greet us and ensure that we knew that the path through the courtyard might have some slippery spots.

Inside, and down a flight of stairs, I was instantly in love with their new space.  110 year old stone and brick walls of Selkirk’s former bank have been exposed and brought back to luster.  Every nook of the wide open area has a special charm but we were particularly enthralled with a glass room where Mary Jane envisages Chef’s Tables and Dinner Clubs.  The space is still “a work in progress” and we had been invited for a special preview.

We started with nibbles of a mushroom tart kissed with the sweetness of birch syrup; a soft turnover of brie that was accompanied by Manitoba apples but not just any local apples, they were her own Grandpa’s apples and a Saskatoon topped chicken brioche.

Other small plates were served over the course of the evening including a barley risotto

and a Lefsa (potato pancake) that was wrapped around smoked salmon, cream cheese, and asparagus and placed upon pumpkin puree.  This struck a special cord for D and I as Lefsa is a Scandinavian dish that his Mom prepares every year for Christmas dinner.  D’s family enjoys them buttered and rolled with sugar instead of bread, but now that Chef Feeke has demonstrated other options, we are excited to experiment.

Thin slices of succulent roast pork came next with a red and green pepper couscous and stuffed white baby turnips.

We got to participate in the making of our salads with a demonstration in molecular gastronome.  We observed that when a thick dressing concocted of pureed rhubarb and cherries was plunged into an agar solution, a ball of dressing was formed.  We also dropped a balsamic reduction by eye-droppers into a cold canola oil which produced tiny little balls of dressing.  When both these items were placed on top of mixed greens the tastes were a surprizing delight.

Our final tastes of the evening were a variety of cheeses, petite fours

and luscious cupcakes contributed by another guest-Constance Popp.

The conversation while courses were served was absolutely enlightening but I will save that chapter for another day.

Benjamins gourmet foods on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Anybody can make you enjoy the first bite of a dish, but only a real chef can make you enjoy the last.”-Francois Minot

Love-that is all.

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