Food Musings

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

The Best of Bridge Ladies

November19

Do you know how things in your life sometimes create a circle in a very serendipitous fashion? I am experiencing one of those “full circle” times right now. As a Sobey’s blogger I have prepared a post for their Better Food Lovers Blog site about last holiday season when we “faked” Christmas morning.  The two recipes that I made for our Christmas brunch were from The Best of Bridge series: Christmas Morning Wife-Saver which I have renamed “Domestic Partner-Saver” and Land of Nod Cinnamon buns.

I have to keep my beloved collection of the Best of Bridge Cookbooks in boxes made to hold periodic files because there are worn and torn.  Included in my collection are a couple of “Best Of” compilations that I pack when I am heading up to lake country for a month.  So I literally can’t live without them.

When I look back at the B of B recipes, I see how they evolved with my cooking and lifestyle (or perhaps it was the other way around).  As a newlywed and new Mom, I relished the opportunity to mix a half dozen ingredients from my pantry (often one of them was cream of mushroom soup) and “voila”, have the concoction come out absolutely delicious every time.  As the years went by and I wanted to lighten up our meals and use less processed ingredients, the B of B ladies seem to be focused on the same concerns and they began rewriting recipes and incorporating more and more ingredients from my refrigerator rather than my larder.

In the midst of this time, I noticed too, that on the front fly leaf where the Bridge ladies always had their group pictures, that one of their friends was missing.  This struck me more deeply than you can imagine; wondering about the circumstances surrounding what I had assumed was a passing but imagining how the ladies would have rallied round their friend, that family and each other with gifts of food= love.

My readers know about fanaticism about artichokes and that was first fostered by one of the early B of B recipes: Artichoke Nibblers.  Every year about this time, I will make up a huge batch and then wrap and freeze them for last minute guests, to take as hostess gifts and to serve every Christmas eve when we have friends over for a glass of wine after church.

Last week, I got a call from a publicist about a couple of food-styling assignments and sure enough, one was for the cookbook tour of a new Best of Bridge book.  The ladies have teamed up with Sally Vaughan-Johnston to create The Best of Bridge Slow Cooker Cookbook which includes a number of old favourites.  My little crock pot is as old as our marriage, (it is missing its only knob) and sits in our furnace room where excess appliances are stored if not in regular use.  But it has been pulled out many times recently, not only because I (and many other cooks) have busy lives, but because we realize that the slow cooking method (think pulled pork) is an exceptional way to use a “lesser” cut of meat and yet provide a delicious and nutritious meal.  And as I have just posted recently, even though I do not need the convenience of the slow-cooker to the same extent, because I work from an office in my home, I still love to have the aromas wafting through the house now that winter is upon us.

I received my advance copy of the cookbook and I see on the back cover that somehow I missed the publication of “Bravo” and “Fanfare” Bridge Titles.  Now I know what I will be asking for on my Christmas list.

I have not tried any of the slow cooker recipes first hand but that will occur in the days to come and I will share my successes.  In the mean time, I am off to purchase a couple of new slow cookers.  The $20. gift that I received 29 years ago deserves a quiet retirement and I plan on taking her out to the kitchen at the beach house.

Kath’s quote (my love of quotes originally came for the B of B, where every recipe has a quote on the bottom of the page):

All my life’s a circle

Sunrise and sundown.

Moon rolls through the night time

Til the daybreak comes around.

All my life’s a circle

But I can’t tell you why

Seasons spin around again

The years keep rollin by.

 

It seems like I’ve been here before

I can’t remember when.

But I’ve got this funny feelin

That we’ll be together again.

No straight lines make up my life

And all my roads have bends

There’s no clear cut beginnings

And so far no dead ends.- Harry Chapin

Love -that is all.

 

posted under Cookbooks | 7 Comments »

Santa Anna Pizzeria

November15

As I drove south on St. Mary’s Rd., I saw a number of restaurants that are either new (or new to me) and it occurred to me that we really do stay put in either our residential or workplace neighbourhoods.  I have been to Santa Anna Pizzeria & Bistro previously, but not because I was familiar with it, but as a result of being invited to lunch by a friend.

On this day, I arrived at about half past noon on a Tuesday and the place was hopping, with not an empty seat in the place.  As I surveyed the room, I saw mostly women and only one gentleman.  There was a large group of women in fact, and another assembling in the foyer.

I am ga-ga over seafood pizza, especially in countries where the seafood is freshly caught like Mexico and Italy.  The “Pacific” is topped with shrimp and fresh garlic which works very well together and then celery and sun-dried tomato are added.  The celery provides a fresh crispness and works hard to bring out the delicate flavour of the shrimp but the sun-dried tomatoes were a wee bit overpowering.  Next time I order it (and I will be), I will request that they go easy on the tomatoes.  I know that this will be easily accommodated because there is a list at the bottom of their pizza page with an abundance of fresh and somewhat exotic ingredients, to customize your personal pizza tastes.

The second choice was the “Tropicana” which was a unique twist on a ham and pineapple pizza with the inclusion of pulled pork, bacon, red onion, pineapple and hickory barbeque sauce.  I pulled off the jalapeños but I am sure many palates would enjoy the heat.

The pastas look stellar, even though I have not yet had a chance to sample them.  The black-walled dining room makes you forget that you are in a suburban strip mall.  The kitchen is open to the reception area which means that you can watch the fresh ingredients being assembled and can see the flames of the wood burning oven in the corner.  Service was very cordial and accommodating, in spite of how busy the restaurant was.

Santa Ana Pizzeria and Bistro on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Salt is the policeman of taste: it keeps the various flavors of a dish in order and restrains the stronger from tyrannizing over the weaker.”
Margaret Visser

Love-that is all.

Kid Friendly Dining in Winnipeg

November14

Here is an article that I was reminded of today.  I originally wrote it for Dish Magazine. 

What is your criteria for a child-friendly restaurant? The answer will be different depending upon the age of your child (or children).  My husband and I met in the restaurant business and we always knew that dining with our children would be a part of our lives

 Here are some guidelines that helped us over the years:

Since deep-fried options weren’t our first choice for our children, we became experts at scoping out the affordable places with grilled cheese sandwiches (Kay’s Deli, Star Grill), mac and cheese (Bistro 7 ¼, Saucer’s), falafels (Falafel Place-Caution: cash only) and spaghetti (Bellisimo, Old Spaghetti Factory).  Of course pizza was always a good option too (Mona Lisa, Santa Lucia).

Many kids, including our own, like to experiment and create food of their own and so ethnic restaurants where they can choose their own items to have grilled (Mongos Classic Grill, Palatal) or stuff into a fajita (Don Pedros, Los Chicos) are a great choice.  Vietnamese was often a favourite choice for our youngsters.  We taught them at home how to handle rice & lettuce wraps before we ventured out (Little Saigon, Viva).  Moo shi was another favourite and one order could feed three kids quite nicely (Spicy Noodle House).  Let your kids have messy fun.  Why not?  You don’t have to clean up after them for a change.

Dim sum always did the trick for us because the food could be delivered quickly (Dim Sum Garden, Kum Koon Garden).  We would often let the kid’s have a turn making a selection for all of us and the parade of carts circling around was fascinating to them. 

Buffets also empower kids when they can make their own decisions (East India Company, Buffet Square).  They are more likely to eat what you’ve paid for, if they decided to select it in the first place. 

Of course it is always a bonus, if a restaurant has crayons or an activity sheet (Kegs, Olive Garden).  We always considered it our responsibility though to engage our own kids so we would play games of 20 questions or eye spy.   

Milk, real fruit juices and smoothies (The Don, Smoothie Bar at the Forks) are always welcome items on a menu too.  If the restaurant is able to provide a top for a toddler’s glass, that is a bonus.  It is difficult for a child to grasp the concept of not “crying over spilt milk”.

High chairs and booster seats make sense as well as wide spaces in between tables where you can wheel in a stroller (Stella’s, The Grove).  The offer by a staff member to heat up a bottle is a nice gesture.  Disposable bibs and wet-naps are always a welcoming sight; as well as the knowledge that there is a change table or a family bathroom available.   

A bright, clean, cheerful, casual décor with easy to clean surfaces is always appreciated.  Lots of visual stimulation is a plus as well.  The Old Spaghetti Factory does a great job of providing this.  We used to take the kids for a stroll to see the fish in the huge fish tank that they once had.

If you haven’t done your research and you arrive at a place with low lights, a hushed atmosphere and worried looks on the hostess’s face, you’ve likely shown up at the wrong place.  A noisier atmosphere (Hermano’s), where you will not be stared down if your infant has a cry or your toddler a temper tantrum is a better choice.  Hey, even the best behaved child has a bad day.

One last point, it is always a good idea to choose a restaurant close to home (Jonnie’s Sticky Buns, Baraka Bakery).  Walking to and from will help work up an appetite.  A short drive time will ensure that you have not used up your child’s good behaviour on the car-ride over.  A spacious parking lot (Confusion Corner, Clay Oven) where you can load and unload the rinky-dinks safely, is a key point too.

Brooklyn’s Bistro named their restaurant after their daughter.  There are images of her on the wall and the food is excellent.  I would put them on my family friendly list, if I were you.  So too, Bistro 7 ¼ where they make whatever a child would like to eat.  One time, the staff even ran to Safeway for chicken to make chicken fingers). Kids love to watch Chef Alex cook and I have seen his son help out in the restaurant with his own pair of chef’s whites on. If you bring a baby around, Danielle will carry him/her while you eat.  They will also let kids draw on their chalkboard.  Now they know how to welcome a new generation of food lovers!

Kath’s quote: “Ask your child what he wants for dinner only if he’s buying.”-Fran Lebowitz

Love-that is all.

Seine River Cafe

November13

D and J1 traveled to Minneapolis for the weekend for a Vikings game and the Bruce Springsteen concert and so our mandatory Sunday supper was going to have a couple of chairs unfilled. Instead, I decided to treat the rest of us to Sunday Brunch so that I could spend a quiet Sunday evening at home.  At this moment it is snowing (again) but I am in my jammies watching football and blogging and I am content with the way the day turned out.

It has been snowing since the middle of Friday night and 8 inches have accumulted.  Even though the main roads are clear, the side roads are a mess and cars are getting stuck all over te place.  We could have all stayed put today but we are a family who love to eat and be together so a little bit of shovelling wasn’t going to stop us.

The cafe was going to close early in honour of Remembrance Day but we were able to catch one of their last tables.  The staff (all female on this day) are an absolutely a delight.  Their smiling faces and kind gestures made us feel right at home.  I wasn’t planning on eating again that day so I had  lunch item- the homemade chicken fingers and Caesar salad.  They were as good as the chicken fingers that we used to enjoy at The Keg and that is high praise.

J2 also chose a lunch item-the Beef Dip and everyone else decided on Breakfast.

Strawberry Waffles and Eggs Benedict were also selected.

Daughter #2 enjoyed the latter but thinks that her Dad’s version is superior.  Of course, eggs bennie are all about the hollandaise and this version lacked either lemon juice or Dijon because it didn’t have the oomph that we enjoy.

There was hollandaise on the Frenchman’s choice as well but with all of the other flavourful ingredients in his Old Country Skillet, he was very pleased.  Along with potato, veggies and scrambled eggs were pieces of  ham along with links of sausage served alongside.  He needed to recoup his energy as he was the shoveller and driver on this snowy day.

Seine River Cafe on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “The first fall of snow is not just an event, it is a magical event.  You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enhancement then where is it to be found?”-J.B. Priestley

Love-that is all.

Slow Cooker Island Inspired Beef Stew

November12

Daughter #2 and the Frenchman

When the weather is snowy and I want to get all cozied up, I think about beef stew.  I don’t just want something warm and slurpy, I want something warm and hearty-something that I am sure that I have eaten because I can feel its goodness in my tummy.  And even though I could easily make this recipe on the stove top, I like crock pot stews in the winter, so I can appreciate the aromas in my house all day long.  This recipe in particular is full of unusual spices (unusual for a stew at any rate) like cinnamon and ginger.

We have not seen the sun shine since the beginning of November in Winnipeg and so as I was searching for a new stew recipe to try, I came upon this one on the Canada Beef website.  If I can’t see and feel the sun right now, at least I can remember the feeling with “tropical” recipes.   I served this over a brown rice pilaf and it was a savoury and delicious one bowl supper.

 

Slow Cooker Island Inspired Beef Stew
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Smells delicious while it cooks in the slow cooker
Ingredients
  • 2 T canola vegetable oil
  • 2 lb Stewing Beef Cubes
  • ¼ c all-purpose flour
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, cut lengthwise into eighths
  • 1 t finely grated ginger root
  • 1 c beef broth
  • 1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes
  • 2 T EACH Worcestershire sauce and paprika
  • 1 t EACH dried sage, crushed & cinnamon
  • 1 bay leaf and cinnamon stick
  • ½ t EACH chili pepper flakes, salt and pepper
  • 1 coarsely chopped sweet red pepper
  • ½ c raisins
  • ½ c green olives with pimento, halved
Instructions
  1. Heat oil in wok over medium-high heat until sizzling hot.
  2. Brown meat in small batches.
  3. Set beef aside; sprinkle with flour.
  4. Add garlic, onion and ginger root; cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until just softened, adding more oil if necessary.
  5. Stir in broth, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan.
  6. Add beef, tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, sage, bay leaf, cinnamon, pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
  7. Bring to simmer.
  8. Transfer mixture to a 24-cup (6 L) slow-cooker insert.
  9. Stir in red pepper chunks and raisins.
  10. Cook, covered, on low for 8 hours, adding the olives in the final hour of cooking.

Kath’s quote:“Talk of joy: there may be things better than beef stew and baked potatoes and home-made bread — there may be.”
-David Grayson

Love that is all.

posted under Entrees | No Comments »
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