Soup Round Up II

Another cold day, tadalafil another round up of the soups I have made in the past few weeks. 4 recipes are from the Williams-Sonoma Soup of the Day cookbook, pilule the other is from Chef Michael Smith.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup – January 23 – why eat broccoli soup when you can eat soup with cheese in it? Exactly. This soup still had a strong garden flavour from the broccoli but had tons of creaminess from the cheese. This will likely not become a staple in our house but when I am craving broccoli I will turn to this recipe.

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Cauliflower Roasted Garlic Soup – January 3- this soup was delicious but looked like something out of a Charles Dickens novel, which is why I did not bother to take a picture of it. Coworkers thought I was eating oatmeal. It was gray and sludgy but you need to look past this and enjoy! The strong cauliflower flavour is accented by the rich roasted garlic flavour. The garlic is slightly caramelized and sweet. By roasting the garlic for 45 minutes in the oven, all of the deep-rooted flavours ooze out. My kitchen smelt amazing after this  and could ward off vampires for days to come.

Classic Chicken Noodle Soup – January 10 – why ever use canned chicken noodle soup again when this is so easy? I baked the chicken in the oven for about 20 minutes until it was juicy and cooked through. Then slightly brown the vegetables, toss in the chicken, broth and noodles and wait. It is that easy. The noodles will continue to absorb the broth so you will need to add more the longer the soup sits.photo 4(2)

photo 5French Onion Soup – January 2 – I finally used my 25th birthday gift from GC: French onion soup bowls from Crate & Barrel. This recipe also made me realize something I desperately need for my kitchen: a scale. This recipe calls for 2 ½ lbs of onion but I had to guess and use all the remaining onions I had. A scale would also be good for all the cookbooks I have bought over the years that turn out to be British and use weights as opposed to measurements.

photo 3(2)The most time consuming part of this soup is caramelizing the onions but it is worth it. The onions are sweet and tender delicately floating beneath a sturdy bed of crusty bed and mounds of stringy, Swiss cheese. This soup is my idea of comfort food: warm, flavourful and cheese.

Michael Smith’s Old Fashioned Beef Stew – I like this recipe better than any of the beef stews I have made from my trusty Williams-Sonoma cookbook. The stew is thicker and has a huge range of flavours from the combinations of vegetables (parsnips, carrots, celery, potatoes, onions and peas) seasonings (rosemary, and bay leaf) and of course, red wine. This stew is substantial and filling, the perfect lunch on a cold, February day.

Recipes for the first 4 soups are below the cut. Happy munching and slurping!

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Blog Crush – Brown Eyed Baker

I have a new blog crush and her name is Brown Eyed Baker. I came across BEB about a year ago when I first made her delicious and ridiculous St. Patrick’s Day cupcakes. Since then, order I have been following her religious, click salivating over her recipes and hoarding them. In the past month, help I have made three of her recipes. I think I can easily say that I am addicted.

First I made her Sesame Chicken.

Photo Credit: Brown Eyed Baker

This was a big milestone for me as a cook because it gave me the opportunity to deep fry for the first time. That’s right: I had never actually deep fried anything because I was absolutely terrified of vats of boiling oil, a valid fear in my opinion. With my trusty thermometer in hand and GC by my side I conquered this fear.

This dish was delicious and has led me to believe that I can make American-style Chinese food at home. The chicken was crispy but not greasy, moist and juicy and smothered in a tangy, sweet sauce that has a slight nuttiness from the sesame oil and seeds. One thing I do need to get better with is making rice. I know, I know. You are probably thinking, “Audrey, you have a food blog. How can you possibly not be able to make rice?” I get impatient and worry about it crusting to the bottom of my pans.

Then I made her Bourbon Slush.

Photo Credit: Brown Eyed Baker

I made this last week for a night in at our friends’ place. This was a citrus, sweet blend that added a nice frosty touch to your traditional cocktail. The bourbon flavor was subtle but present. On a cold winter day this was just the thing to keep us toasty and warm. If you are not a bourbon or hard liquor drinker, you will still enjoy this cocktail. If you have the time and the foresight to plan, you should give this recipe a try.

And lastly, I made her Black Forest Cheesecake.

Holy smokes. This cake is ridiculous, rich, and luscious and everything you could ever want in a cheesecake. I think a little part of me died it was so amazing. It is not a cheesecake for the faint of heart as it is decadent and may induce heart palpitations. This cake should probably only be enjoyed on special occasions and not random Thursday nights.

I loved all three of these recipes and they will definitely be making a regular appearance in my kitchen. I will admit that they are slightly time consuming and may result in your house smelling like the Food Pavilion of the Ex (an actual description of my kitchen by GC after making sesame chicken) but they are worth your time, effort, and calories.

Happy munching!

GC’s First Taste of Home of the Brave

A couple of weeks ago GC and I had a date night (first referenced here) in which we went to Home of the Brave for dinner.

We received the worst service I have possibly ever received at a restaurant. I would have love to chalked this up to it was a Friday night and busy but three tables were seated after us and received drinks and food before our cocktails even came. We were seated quickly but then it took 15 minutes before someone came over to give us water and take drink orders. Once our drink order was taken, it took 15 minutes to get our cocktails. It took 10 minutes from there to take our dinner order. It should never take close to 45 minutes to order food at a restaurant.

But enough negativity. Let’s talk about the food. We each started with a cocktail: GC with the Police Gazette and me with the Bourbon and Beer. The Polic Gazette is rye, maraschino, dry vermouth, and curacao. This is a good cocktail, but not worth the price given how little drink there actually is: two sips and you can drain the glass. The Bourbon and Beer is bourbon, vanilla, fernet and root beer. This drink is good for tasting the homemade root beer but you should just order the root beer. My cocktail was primarily ice cubes with slight hints of bourbon.

Once the food came, things got better. We started with the Buffalo Cauliflower.

IMG_9492Photo Credit: Food Junkie Chronicles

Buffalo Cauliflower: beer battered cauliflower, with Louisiana hot sauce, and Ranch Dressing.

These are amazing. They reminded me of an appetizer GC’s Ninni (grandmother) makes at Christmas. The batter is light and crunchy and the cauliflower is warm but cooked through. I loved the hot sauce that was used for dipping, it gave the cauliflower the perfect kick and the ranch sauced cooled your mouth off with the second dip. These are a great way to start a Friday night.

I ordered the Kentucky Fried Handshake Sandwich.

IMG_9469Photo Credit: Food Junkie Chronicles

Kentucky Fried Handsake Sandwich: Fried chicken, with mayo, iceberg lettuce, and Louisiana hot sauce.

This is a decent fried chicken sandwich. The chicken was a little too crispy and burnt but the inside was juicy and moist. The hot sauce is key as there isn’t enough of the toppings on the sandwich to make it feel cohesive.

The presentation is something onto itself but it is presentation without purpose. When they bring your the sandwich, they tell you to cut off the foot of the chicken and attack your sandwich. You could eat the crispiness off the foot but it will be more work then it’s worth. Presentation can add to the flavour and experience to a meal, but this did not successfully do so.

GC ordered the Ribwich.

photoThe Ribwich with beef short ribs, rib honey jus, pickles, and acidulated onion on a smoked milk bun.

This was a very juicy, beefy sandwich but there is absolutely no reason it needs to be so small! This was borderline slider size, that’s how small it was. If you are hungry for a dinner-sized portion, do not order this sandwich. GC enjoyed it but he was hungry a few hours later.

Overall, this was one of the worst dining experiences I have ever had. The service was completely terrible, the drinks were overpriced and the portions were too small. The price tag for the evening was far more than I would have liked to pay for the experience we got. Ultimately, Home of the Brave falls victim to the hipster curse – fancy on the outside without much substance or quality on the inside.

Happy munching!

Playa Cabana Cantina

Happy birthday to me! This year marked a milestone birthday for me – I turned 25. I am officially in a new age box on surveys: 25-34. My birthday didn’t send me spinning into a quarter life crisis. Instead, viagra I took the week off and celebrated. I kicked off my birthday celebrations with Thanksgiving and then eased into the week with a visits to Playa Cabana Cantina with GC and my sister Amelia.

Playa Cabana Cantina in the Junction has a much more chilled out, site hipster vibe then the original location on Dupont. The décor is a mixture of vintage, fluorescent lights and rustic textures and materials. It feels like a western Tex-Mex saloon circa 1967. I have plans of hitting up their late night taco special (after 10 pm Thursday-Sunday 3 for $12.00 tacos) with a few drinks sometime in the near future.

We started off with an order of chips and guacamole. The guacamole was good – it was a little too creamy for my personal taste but the chips were fried to crispy perfection and salted with just the right amount of salt.

Amelia and GC ordered the same tacos: the Pescado, Ancho-Braised Shortrib, and the Venera Frita .

IMG_4659 IMG_4660 IMG_4662I ordered the following tacos: the Pollo Tinga, the La Truck, and the Ahi-Tuna.

IMG_4661The pollo tinga was completely drenched in a sauce that was spicy but flavourful. The chicken was shredded and fell apart with each bite. The crispy tortilla held up against the weight of all the toppings. The guacamole was smooth and silky, a nice contrast to the texture of the chicken. The onion gave off a different kind of heat than the chicken offered and the cheese added another level of creaminess. This is the perfect chicken taco. It has inspired me to look up my own pulled chicken recipes to use this winter in my slow cooker. If you have any recommendations let me know!

IMG_4663The la truck taco was a steak taco. The steak was diced into perfectly bite-sized pieces. The steak was tender, juicy and had hints of barbecued smokiness to it. The slaw on top offset the richness and heaviness of the taco and had hints of citrus that were further brought out with the squeeze of fresh lime. This may be the best steak taco I have ever had.

IMG_4664The ahi tuna taco was good but not my favourite fish taco; that title still belongs to La Carnita’s  “In Cod We Trust”. I found the taco lacked any sort of further flavor besides the fish taste. The tortilla was too small and overloaded; it literally crumbled under the weight of the deliciousness of the taco. However, as there was a fork and knife at the table I was still able to munch all this goodness.

After our lunch at Playa Cantina, it was decided that we all prefer it to La Carnita – shocking, I know. La Carnita will continue to hold the title for my favourite fish taco and I will continue to visit it but Playa might turn out to be my go-to Mexican restaurant in the city.

Happy munching!

Meals in Minutes – Chicken Pot Pie

Meals in Minutes: Chicken Pot Pie. Photo from cookbook.

1. Chicken pot pie is yums. I don’t think I need to say anything further to convenience to make or eat it.

2. I love the filling of this pot pie. It is buttery, creamy and is spiced perfectly with thyme. The only thing it is missing is peas or some other vegetable. I like pot pie to be filled with veggies like peas, carrots and celery to give it an even heartier weight in my stomach.

3. Pot pie should be topped with actual pie crust, not puff pastry. Puff pastry is used in order to make this a quick, week night meal. The puff pastry does not hold up as well and becomes very gummy rather than staying crispy. I have another recipe for chicken pot pie that does use real pie crust so I will have to give that a try. I want to be one of those people who always has ready made pie crust in their freezer. There is currently a ball of sugar cookie dough in my fridge so I am on my way to becoming one of those people.

Recipe is below the cut and happy munching!

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Hong Kong Coconut Curry Chicken

This week found me using curry in everything. I started off the week by making Chatelain’s Hong Kong Coconut Curry Chicken.

1. Did I mention that I used to hate curry? I assumed curry was always hot and spicy. There are a number of different curries ranging in heat, colour and flavour. Curry powder, which can be found in most people’s homes is subtle in flavour but adds warm flavour and colour to any meal. I used your standard spice rack curry powder and in person this was much more golden and yellow.

2. This dish has so much flavour – from the curry, the cilantro, to the various vegetables (carrot, peas, onion, potato) and the chicken. The vegetables and chicken become moist and tender, filled with the rich, warmth of the curry. My new favourite thing is coconut milk – it makes such a thick and creamy sauce but isn’t nearly as fatty sauce (I am pretending that I care about these sorts of things when I clearly don’t).

3. I wasn’t paying attention when I bought my chicken thighs – I bought bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs rather than boneless, skinless chicken thighs. They obviously still had the deep, moist flavour from dark meat but took slightly longer to cook. Make sure the chicken thighs you select are thin in order to cook all the way through.

4. All of this deliciousness piled on top of rice. I’m in heaven.

5. When you refrigerate these leftovers, the sauce will slightly congeal because of the fat from the chicken in the sauce. The vegetables become slightly soggy and mushy from sitting in the sauce for too long. This is a dish best eaten in one sitting.

This dish is probably offensive for people who make and eat really Indian/Asian food but I thought it was pretty good. I don’t get to eat a lot of curry/Indian food in general because they slip nuts into their sauces as thickening agents. This was a good substitute for us at home and I would suggest you give it a try.

Recipe is below the cut and happy munching!

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Lucien

This week’s date night: Lucien on Wednesday night.

Located on Wellington Street, just east of Yonge Street, Lucien attracts the more sophisticated, financial crowd after work. Of all the restaurants located along Wellington, Lucien was the most empty right at 5 o’clock  on a Wednesday night (which is maybe why they had a Groupon promotion which we participated in) but as we were leaving around 6:30/7 o’clock it started to fill up.

The interior was sleek and modern, with rough, rustic touches like the chandelier. The white subway tile reflected everything in the restaurant. The bar housed an extensive collection of wine and other alcohols. There was one television in the restaurant, located behind the bar, which was tuned into the baseball game. Since it is the World Series, and the Yankees are playing, this is something I can forgive for the moment but it slightly ruined the atmosphere of sophistication and class.

The menu is a classic Italian and French cuisine, updated for a more modern palate. It is slightly pricey but it is not surprising given the location and crowd that would frequent the establishment.

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Mildred’s Temple Kitchen

Months ago, I had bought a Groupon for Mildred’s Temple Kitchen in Liberty Village and since it was set to expire on September 12th, we thought we should use it for a date night on last Wednesday night; our friends Nick and Rachel tagged along and it became a double date night!

Liberty Village is fantastic and it’s not as hard to get to as people pretend. It is a little bit of a trek but it is very accessible by public transit (the Dufferin bus *cringe* or the King Street streetcar) and is worth it. There are a ton of great restaurants, coffee shops and furniture stores to check out. It’s like the Distillery District – it takes some time and effort to get there but once you are there, there is a ton to do.

Mildred’s is slightly tucked away from the rest of Liberty Village which allows for a quiet, secluded patio. The patio has all the standard restaurant furniture like tables and chairs but it also has couches and arm chairs with outdoor pillows. This gives the patio the feeling of a friend’s backyard patio rather than a patio in the middle of the city. The only thing that will make you realize where you are is the occasional passing GO-train, which depending where you live, can happen in your backyard anyway. If this patio was closer to work or home, I would definitely visit frequently. We opted to eat outside as the days of summer and patio weather are numbered. The inside was modern and simple, a contrast with the antique logo and imagery of Mildred. The Mildred logo reminds me of flipping through a Victorian fashion catalogue. It is pure perfection.

We started with a few cocktails. GC ordered the Gimme Hendricks.

This cocktail was the gin equivalent of a Caesar. It was thick and had a rich, garden vegetable taste but from cucumber rather than tomato. A successful twist on the classic gin and tonic.

Rachel and I both ordered the Watermelon Splash.

This cocktail was like taking a bite out of a juicy piece of watermelon. There was a hint of lime and a vodka twist. Yums!

The drinks menu on the restaurant website are different from what we were given so I can’t tell you what exactly Nick drink and I don’t have a picture of it. Regardless of the specifics, it was a fruity cocktail that came with a little umbrella and was delicious.

Our Groupon included soup, a pasta course to share, an entrée to share and individual desserts for $49. The meal itself is valued at $110 allowing you to save more than 50% of the price. It was a great deal and more value than you would find during Summer or Winterlicious.

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Stockyards… Again

I went to Stockyards for dinner again but this time I introduced my mom and sister Theresa to the deliciousness.

Mom had The Butter Burger – bone marrow, blue cheese red wine butter, onion frites,and butter lettuce. She said there wasn’t enough blue cheese on the burger, which seems to be hard to do because blue cheese has such an intense and strong flavour that even a minimal amount goes a long way.

Theresa had The Classic Burger – butter lettuce, house mayo, ketchup, pickles,
tomato and onion. Theresa couldn’t get over how much she liked this burger. She liked it so much that she insisted we go to Stockyards again the next day. Now this is a big deal; Theresa does not like food and rarely makes a big deal about it. I love when I can introduce people to food that makes them have as strong a reaction and connection to it as I do.

This photo caused quite the controversy. When Theresa tweeted this picture, my MPP Mike Colle (don’t ask why she has a relationship with MPPs on Twitter) responded that this wasn’t the best burger in Toronto but rather, that can be found at Burger Shack. Probably a little biased as Burger Shack as in his riding but needless to say, another burger joint for me to try.

And I had the Stockyards Fried Chicken Dinner – 4 pieces of Buttermilk marinated chicken served with fries, coleslaw, and hot sauce.

Now to go back when Stockyards is serving up their ribs…

Burrito Boyz

Two weeks ago I went to Burrito Boyz.

1. There is literally no point in photographing a burrito – it will always look unappetizing. Yet, I will continue to do so and share with all you fine people.

2. Burrito Boyz doesn’t have a pulled pork  burrito- how is this possible? They have steak and chicken instead. I opted for the chicken and it was chewy and dry. The fact that the meat component of my burrito was rather lack luster made me even more disappointed that I wasn’t eating a pulled pork burrito. And there were no pinto beans which meant I had to have black beans.

3. I got all the toppings because I felt overwhelmed and awkward. I liked the addition of the jalapeno peppers and the special burrito sauce – they added a great heat. I didn’t mind the black beans as much as I thought I had in the past but I would have still preferred pinto beans; pinto beans add a nice smoky flavour.  I got too many toppings and there was too many competing flavours throughout the burrito.

4. They toast the burrito on the grill and smash it down to compress all the flavours and juiciness. This makes for an easier to eat burrito and if you want to eat and munch this would be perfect. However, out of personal preference, I don’t like the toasted, crunchy tortilla shell.

I think I will stick to my pulled pork burrito from Chipotle.