Food Musings

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

Mandatory Sunday Supper on Superbowl Day


Event though we do not allow our family a lot of wiggle room with our mandatory supper date on Sunday evenings, D and I take the liberty of rescheduling every once in a while.  For example, when we get invited out to watch the Super Bowl.  We often host Superbowl, so it is just lovely to get an invite out.  On this Sunday, J1 and J2 were out of town, so there were less arrangements to mess with.

I prepared a really light meal, as I knew two things: we would eating rich food while watching the football game and a friend of mine in the catering business had asked us to give him some feedback on cupcakes that the bakery division of his catering company was starting to offer.  Our family  loves the opportunity to test and provide feedback on food.  They take the responsibility very seriously.

I prepare shrimp very simply and cook them very quickly.  These were tossed in Ted Reader’s Bone Dust and then quickly sauteed in a bit of canola oil.  Did you know that olive oil has a lower smoking point and can become bitter when used on a high heat?  This is why we use canola for all of our sautes and add a drizzle of  oil for flavour (and nutrition) just before serving.

The Frenchman cut and peeled sweet potato fries for me while I was at church.  We had three seasonings to taste/test on theses as well: honey/rosemary, smoky barbecue and citrus/cinnamon.  The latter is my personal favourite which I also sprinkle on sweet potato soup.

You can understand why we had a hard time determining the most “delicious” looking cake, can’t you?

I will be sending some more specific feedback to our catering friend but in the mean time, our favourite tasting cupcake from an enormous variety was the Carrot.  We couldn’t decide what was the “most delicious looking” because we all choose a different one reflecting our personal tastes and preferences.

The highest compliment that was paid was from D who exclaimed, while nibbling on a chocolate cupcake with chocolate icing “This is exactly what my Mom’s chocolate cake tastes like.”  That is high praise indeed, as Grandma Jean’s cake holds the ‘perfect’ chocolate cake mark on his yardstick.

My gang loves that we are a “foodie” family and that we all accumulate around one table.

Kath’s quote: “Being set at the table, scratch not thyself, and take thou heed as much as thou canst not to spit, cough and blow at thy nose; but if it be needful, do it dexterously, without much noise, turning thy face sidelong.”-Francis Hawkins

Love-that is all.

Julia’s Ukranian Kitchen


Polish women are amazing people and cooks.  I know this because I am the proud Granddaughter of a little Polish lady who lived until she was 94.  I hope that I follow in her footsteps because she was so robust that she actually picked peas from her garden just days before she passed away. I am quite sure that my haphazard style in the kitchen has been passed down from her, with “a handful of this” and “a pinch of that”.

Even though one might expect that a restaurant named Julia’s Ukrainian Kitchen would be owned and operated by a Ukrainian woman named Julia, such is not the case.  The proprietor is a personable Pole by the name of Joanna and she has owned this location at 768 Nairn Ave in Elmwood for over 22 years.

The familiarity with the neighbourhood was apparent with the arrival of three well-bundled girlfriends who came in with embraces and kisses for the only server.  In addition to friends meeting for coffee, the place is frequented by many laborers and this makes perfect sense because the fare of Eastern Europe is carbohydrate based and these guys need their calories for energy and warmth during a Winnipeg winter.

My lunch date (my big brother) started with a delicious chicken noodle soup which was included with his lunch.

He then sampled a combination platter which held cole slaw, sweet and sour meatballs, two cabbage rolls, five potato and cheese perogies AND garlic toast (just for good measure).

The perogies were particularly delightful with great taste and texture.  The dough casing was soft and tender and I could have eaten a dozen of them.  A sign in the window declares “Winnipeg’s Best Perogies”-they were very good but you’ll have to decide for yourself.

I do know that the just cut French fries were perfect

and the kubasa sandwich on rye bread as good as you would find at any Winnipeg social.  I actually prefer the coarse grind of kubasa but this comes from the “small points department”.

Next time I go, I intend to sample the Polish meat perogies which are called “pyzy”.  My Grandma never made theses. D has dubbed me his “Polish Princess” and the”Carb Queen” with good reason, all inherent from Grandma “Saskatchewan” (as Daughter #1 would call her).  Her specialties were potato soup, prune dumplings with melted butter and cinnamon sugar, thimble cookies filled with a dollop of raspberry jam and poppy seed roll.  And I can taste her fried chicken right now even though she has tended the geraniums in heaven for 25 years now.

Julia's Ukrainian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Throughout history, the Poles have defended Europe. They would fight, and – between battles – they would eat and drink.”-E. de Pomiand

Love-that is all.


Thom Bargen Coffee and Tea


The handsome man in the middle is my son- J1.  Since last summer, he has kept us apprised of a special project that two of his best buds (the other two handsome men in this picture) have been working on.  They have inhabited the space at 64 Sherbrooke Street and lovingly transformed it into a warm and sleek coffee parlor.  I got a call from J1 early this morning that although Thom Bargen Coffee and Tea is not officially open until this weekend, I could get a sneak peek, if I made my way down there.

I ordered a latte that was perfectly prepared, right down to the milk foam art.  I also indulged in a chocolate croissant that rivaled the ones that I’ve tasted in France. People around me were commenting on the deliciousness of the blueberry roi bois, the double shots of espresso and the cinnamon buns.

Not only has the creation of the space been a labour of love, but everything that this little place serves, is equally so.  As is often the case, it starts with the best of ingredients.

The pastries are all from Jonnies Sticky Buns, a fabulous bakery in the same neighbourhood.  You must also give them a try -every single thing I have tasted there is absolutely sublime.

The coffee which is slowly coaxed into bloom by constantly swirling boiled water through the grounds in a cone filter is from Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters.  I have done just a wee bit of research about these fellows and their company.  This is what I know:

We care about the green coffee that we purchase and the people who grow it.  We care about how it’s roasted,  We care about how it’s brewed.  But most importantly, we care that you find the time to slow down and enjoy a great cup of coffee.

Seems to me that the handsome men pictured above-TJ (Thom Jon) and Graham share this philosophy- welcoming every person who walked in the door and not minding a bit (or apparently not minding, at any rate), when I accidentally spilled the “to go” coffee that they went to all the trouble of making for me. (I said that I was blessing the new building for them).  If you see a darker area of hardwood floor, right by the front door-that is where I left my mark.

With the passion that these guys have for their space, their product and their customers, this place is going to do very, very well indeed.

Thom Bargen Coffee and Tea on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Without my morning coffee I’m just like a dried up piece of roast goat.”-Johann Sebastian Bach

Love-that is all.

Be Informed this Valentine’s Day


I met a lovely gal by the name of Kristian at a Blogger’s conference in Toronto this fall.  Since I am proud to say that D and I are new World Vision foster parents to one year old Ankita, I have been especially concerned about the global circumstances surrounding the welfare of children. I hate admitting my ignorance, but have only become aware that chocolate harvesting is a huge issue.   Here is the info that I received from Kristian:

Don’t let chocolate hurt children

An estimated two million children are doing 3D jobs – dirty, dangerous and degrading work in the cocoa industry, mainly in West Africa. They get hurt swinging machetes to cut down cacao pods. They get sick from pesticides and work in extreme heat with little pay, poor nutrition and no health care. They’re often separated from their families and can even be abused by employers. It’s happening mainly in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, and many of these children are trafficked from Mali or Burkina Faso.

The bitter truth is approximately 95 percent of chocolate sold globally is still not certified to be free of child labour.

But let’s not put the kibosh on Cupid this Valentine’s Day! Here are a couple ways that Moms and kids can find “ethical options” when shopping for chocolate:

  1. World Vision’s new Good Chocolate Guide lists ethically-certified products sold in Canada by larger manufacturers.
  2. A cool, new ChocoFinder app helps locate smaller stores that sell ethical chocolate. (The app will launch first in Toronto and will expand city by city across Canada. It will be available for free on the iTunes store beginning February 5.)  

World Vision is currently working on a “Chocolate Report Card” that will grade Canadian manufacturers such as Laura Secord and Purdy’s on their commitment to selling products made from ethically-sourced cocoa.

If you are concerned about this issue, I would add this advice:  shop at an artisan shop like Constance Popp Chocolatier and specifically ask what country of origin the chocolate in your potential selection is from.  If you have ever met Constance, you know that she is passionate about everything concerning chocolate making but especially the individual ingredients that are used in each recipe.  In fact, I think that this is sound advice for everything that we consume and I am fortunate as a writer to have access to many persons responsible for producing the food that I eat.  Constance is so accessible.  Visit her at one of her two shops.  I usually find her at 1853 Portage Ave. Find out more about the sometime mysterious world of chocolate.

So this Valentine’s day, give the true gift of love.  Not just in the chocolate gift that expresses your affection, but in loving and protecting the child harvesters  of your gift.

Kath’s quote: “Carefully prepared chocolate is as healthful a food as it is pleasant; that it is nourishing and easily digested; that it does not cause the same harmful effects to feminine beauty which are blamed on coffee, but is on the contrary a remedy for them.”-Jean-Antheleme Brillat-Savarin

Love-that is all.



Plethora of Pasta


I have been reading non-fiction about Italy (A Vineyard in Tuscany, Halfway to Each Other and Mediterranean Summer), for the last couple of weeks and I cannot get enough pasta. This past “Mandatory Sunday Supper”, I just could not stop myself and made a bazillion varieties.

I was originally inspired by dropping in at 21st Century Pizza to pick up a couple of pies before a Jets game on TV.  Owner Vlado also makes fresh pasta that he keeps in the fridge and freezer in the front of the shop.  In addition, whenever I am zipping through “the outer” ring of the grocery store (where all the whole foods that inspire my cooking are located), I pick up whatever fresh items are marked with a fluorescent sticker and then throw them in the freezer as soon as I get home.  This way I always have a variety of dips to serve while watching a movie or a game and lots of sauces for pizzas and flatbreads.  But sometimes my freezer needs a purging and this is a great opportunity for a Italian Feast.

I started with a spaghetti alla puttanesca which was a snap to assemble as both the fresh pasta and the authentic sauce of anchovies, capers and olives were prepared by Vlado.  I put together a Jamie Oliver recipe of Mushroom & Cream sauce  to toss with Vlado’s hand-made gnocchi.  I tried to cut the fat back a bit by using a thickened milk rather than cream and I was a bit disappointed with the results.  Next time, cream it is…..  Vlado also has a noodle made from beets which I simply tossed  with a browned butter and topped with mizithra cheese.  This proved to be Daughter #1’s favourite.

A clear box of discounted fresh spinach was sauteed with pancetta (Italian bacon), pine nuts and combined with spinach ravioli.

I tossed another of Vlado’s fresh pastas, this time beet ravioli with Alfredo sauce.  I rolled asparagus spears with a Rosemary Tuscan roasted ham (also being cleared). And just in case there were not enough carbs on the table, I toasted crostini to mop up olive oil from this fall’s harvest and pressing, from our Sicilian friends.

As  a special indulgence for three (me, myself and I) I  made a crispy, low fat eggplant parmigiana.  Before I left for church in the morning, I sliced the eggplant and placed it on a tray with course salt, adding another sprinkle of salt over top.  By the time I arrived home, the salt had pulled the excess moisture and any bitterness out of the veggie.

Before dusting the eggplant discs in flour, egg-wash and homemade breadcrumbs (which I always have on hand in the freezer), I blotted the flesh of the veggie with paper towels.  In hindsight, I should have rinsed them first as they were a tad on the salty side but oh so good.  In order to reduce the fat, instead of frying them before baking them, I prepared a heavy cookie sheet with a generous drizzle of canola oil and placed the discs over top in a single layer.  Have way through the baking time at 10 minutes or so (in a 375 degree oven), I turned them an added a bit more canola oil.

Just before serving,  I prepared a casserole dish with a layer of marinara sauce and placed the crispy eggplant on top, and then a layer of shredded mozzarella over all.  I intended to add a second layer of Parmesan when they came out of the oven but was glad that I did not, as the dish was salty enough.

So why did I spend an afternoon in the kitchen, preparing a half dozen dishes when one would certainly have sufficed?  What can I say?  I did it for love.

Kath’s quote (from Mediterranean Summer): “David, I didn’t invite you here to chop vegetables and season lamb.  Cooking, you know is not about recipes.  It comes from my heart.  You have never asked me why-why I do things, why I want it done this way and not that.  What’s in your heart David?”-David Shalleck

Love-that is all.

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