It’s safe to say that suburban dwellers really don’t have a lot of choice when it comes to nearby quality dining experiences. We can either have lackluster, mass produced dinners at large chain type restaurants, go for pizza, or fight traffic all the way up Macleod Trail while heading to a down town core restaurant. Often, by the time we’ve reached our destination, we’ve lost our appetites.
Starbelly shines like a beacon for hungry south-east Calgary suburbanites and it’s great to have this unique gem of a restaurant in our part of the city. There are plenty of gorgeous places to eat in Calgary but I fall in love with the space at Starbelly every time I walk in. I always have a difficult time choosing between a seat at the bar wrapped around the open kitchen or one of the cozy tables in the dining area. The level of service that I receive at Starbelly is always top notch and the dining experience, pleasant.
Starbelly has really come into its own under the direction of head chef Jonathan Sobol, who shares his love for elevated ‘home style’ cuisine with his customers The menu still features some perennial favourites, such as the Starbelly ‘Grilled Cheese’ and Roasted Beet Salad but the updates include some stunning dishes like the Lois Lake Steelhead Trout and Fire Roasted Broek Acres Pork Chop. Starbelly works with local farmers and producers to source the most exceptional local ingredients and it makes a huge difference in the quality of the final dish.
Hubby and I were thrilled to visit Starbelly again for a recent date night. I was so excited, that I left the house in a hurry, and forgot to bring my camera. The following photos do not do Chef Sobol’s food any justice and in no way do they reflect how delicious everything was.
I secretly think that Cosmopolitan cocktails are making a comeback…and so does Starbelly! I loved the ‘Seton Cosmo’ with its suburban twist on a stylish classic.
After reading the menu I insisted that we order the Grilled Octopus Wraps. Octopus is always a ‘must order’ item for me anytime I spy it on a menu. The server warned us ahead of time that it could be a little messy, so we were prepared when the slightly spicy Korean BBQ sauce started dripping down our arms. There was just the right amount of peanut-y slaw and butter lettuce for hubby and I to have two nice sized wraps each.I usually overlook the salad features when I’m out for dinner, but I had a craving for roasted beets and the Roasted Beet Salad seemed like the perfect solution. All the components of the salad; arugula, chevre, toasted walnuts, and roasted beets really come together with the addition of the smoked honey vinaigrette. The Grilled Octopus Wraps and Roasted Beet Salad were light enough that we could enjoy an entrée without feeling overly full. I had no problems eating the whole portion of Wild Boar Gnocchi when it was placed on the table before me. It was so good, I ordered another portion so that I could bring it home for my son to eat. We both loved the soft, pillowy gnocchi and wild boar ragu…we even loved the kale! There was a surprising sweet ‘n’ sour flavour to this dish, brought about by the addition of pickled apples. Both my son and I thought the apples went really well in this dish.
Hubby was still hungry enough to order the Driview Farms Leg of Lamb which came with local carrot and beans, pumpkin seeds, and a cassis jus. We both couldn’t get over how great those mashed potatoes were and, even though I was nearing the ‘overfull’ state of eating, I was able to sneak a couple of spoonfuls of mashed potatoes from his plate.
We were both way too full for dessert, but I was really happy to see that the famous Starbelly Rootbeer Doughnut with Bourbon Vanilla Gelato is still on the dessert menu.
I’m glad to see Starbelly doing well in Seton and really glad that they have brought back the lunch time service because it features my Starbelly favourite, house made Pastrami Sandwich. Huge thanks to Starbelly for hosting date night for hubby and I, we enjoyed our night out immensely.
Today I’m so excited to be featured as a Guest Post on The Spicy Eggplant. Here is the post that I wrote for Ginni.
I first met Ginni online through her meetup group. It was clear from the very beginning that we were like minded people, both bound by our love and curiosity for food. I’ve only met a few people that have astonished me with the heart of a true cook, ones that have the absolute need to feed others and Ginni is one of these people. Lucky for us because her food is so darn good!
Our friendship has continued for several years now, each coffee date always morphing into lunch and beyond because we always have so much to say. These ‘Heart to Heart’ Brownies remind me of Ginni and those great talks that I miss so much. Right before her big eastward move, we had our last lunch in her house overlooking the Okotoks golf course. As we were enjoying her Coronation Chicken, two golfers stopped play and stared at us through her kitchen window. It was an awkward moment, broken suddenly when Ginni said, “Okotoks is a small town and it seems significant that we are the only ‘Brownies’ that live here. Everyone knows which house is the ‘Brown’ house on the golf course!” She wasn’t mad or annoyed at the rudeness of it all, but just shrugged it off as part of living in a small town.
Heart to Heart Matcha Brownies
I never thought I’d say this but pressure cookers are an essential kitchen appliance. Up until two weeks ago I was blissfully unaware of how useful they can be, instead I chose to view them as dangerously loaded weapons loaded with hot ingredients, ready to explode at the slightest hint of human error. I had googled images of high pressure kitchen destruction and decided for myself that it just wasn’t worth the risk. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder if the ‘new generation’ of pressure cooker enthusiasts were on to something…
I began to hear tales of the magical wonders of the Instant Pot (or InstaPot as us ‘potheads’ like to call it). Tales of meals in minutes, tales of versatility like no other appliance, tales of turning low grade cuts of meat into fabulous meals. All three of these possibilities are a part of what drew me to search Amazon.ca on that fateful day in early January. The final push in the right direction came from fellow blogger and recent Instapot convert, Carol of The Yum Yum Factor. It was virtually impossible to ignore her enthusiastic Instapot related tweets and delicious recipes. Right after I tweeted her to ask what model of Instant Pot she was using, I ordered my very own.
It arrived on a Monday afternoon, exactly one week later. I think maybe the timing of its arrival was almost fortuitous as I had forgotten to soak a portion of dried beans overnight. I wasn’t sure what we would eat for dinner and there were only a couple of hours before I had to leave for my volunteer time at the YMCA . When the delivery man rang our doorbell, I pounced on that box like it was the last macaron on the face of the earth. Within minutes the InstaPot was unpacked and I was washing the cooking bits with warm soapy water (as directed). Since it was a chilly day I thought it was important to let the unit warm up to room temperature while I read the manual. Lo and behold…the manual claimed that it was possible to skip the overnight soaking of dried beans and pressure cook them in 15 minutes! By this time, the whole family was caught up in my excitement and together we set up the pressure cooker and cooked our very first batch of beans. We were instantly hooked, or should I say that we all instantly became ‘potheads’?
Pork Medallions with Mushrooms and Fresh Herbs
flour, salt, and pepper for dredging
I keep a large Pinterest board full of cake recipes that I save for special occasions. That’s not a surprise, I guess, since that is entirely the purpose of such a Pinterest recipe board. What is surprising is that I hadn’t yet found a special occasion to make this Lemon Meringue Cake until now. This last weekend marked three years of Dish ‘n’ the Kitchen.
I took some time this last week to think about how far this little blog has come in those three years; about all the delicious food I’ve created, eaten, and shared with you. This blog has taken me to places that I never, ever thought I’d visited both figuratively and literally. I feel like I’ve become part of something bigger than my own little space on the internet. Probably the best thing I ever did for myself and the blog was to join up with Food Bloggers of Canada. Through FBC I have met like minded, kind people who are always willing to answer any sort of technical question regarding cooking, blogging, photographing. Many have become mentors, friends, and inspirations.
Since most of what a blogger does takes place at home in the kitchen or in front of a computer, loneliness can often become a factor, especially for someone like me who is so often introverted. Yes, staying in where it’s cozy and warm is nice and safe, but the city of Calgary has so many great food events and people who share my passion for food. This blog has given me a reason to get out more often to enjoy the company of others.
There really are so many things this blog has given me over the last three years. It’s served as a creative outlet…which is important if you are nerdy and practical as I am. It’s helped me grow closer to my daughter (we’re now doing our second food project together…a sourdough starter named Pierre) and has helped us to deal with her eating disorder and explore vegan cooking. This blog has helped me remember where I’ve come from and an idea of where I am going in life.
a recipe adapted from Tessa Huff from the Cake Blog
Makes a three layer cake using 9 inch pans
The Lemon Curd
Place the juice, zest, yolks, and sugar in a medium saucepan. Stir to combine. While stirring, heat over medium. Continue to stir until mixture begins to thicken, about 6-8 minutes. Once thickened, remove from the heat and add in the butter. Stir to combine. Strain curd into a heat-safe container. Discard the zest. Cover curd by placing a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the surface of the curd. Refrigerate until cool and thick.
The Meringue Icing
A kitchen torch and fuel for toasting
Place the whites and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Whisk to combine. Fill a medium saucepan with a few inches of water and place over medium heat. Place the mixing bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double boiler. Whisking constantly, heat the egg white mixture until the sugar dissolves and it is warm to the touch. Transfer the bowl back to the mixer and whisk the egg whites on high until medium-stiff glossy peaks. Add in the salt and vanilla and mix until combined.
To assemble: Mix up a simple buttercream (1/2 cup unsalted soft butter, 2 cups icing sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, 2 tsp milk) and spread some in a very thin layer over the tops of the bottom two cake layers. Add the rest of the butter cream to a piping bag with medium tip attached and pipe a line of buttercream along the edges of each layer (except the top layer) so that it makes a ‘containment system’ for the curd. Spread half of the curd on one layer, and repeat with the other layer. Assemble layers, spread the meringue over the sides and top of the cake, and use a kitchen torch as you like.
Note: I made the cake and curd on day one, then made the meringue and assembled the cake on the following day.
There are so many recipes that I have cooked and served my family since, well…since I’ve had a family to serve. In the mid 90’s when I was a new mother, my meals were a mixture of convenience foods (Kraft Dinner and wieners…cough, cough) and interesting experiments (dijon crusted baked pork chops) which my son and husband ate with very few complaints. Most of our meals were made at the end of a long day of university, requiring them to be easy and quick to prepare. Most importantly, they were low budget meals. As a university student, I was luckier than most because my family was able to give me farm raised cuts of beef and chicken. We ate a lot of overcooked onion soup mix covered beef roasts but the farm chickens were our favourite.
Every fall, our farm neighbour who sold eggs would butcher her laying hens and give them to my mom. They were tough and not really any good for regular roasting or frying, but they were perfect to can in quart jars. I don’t think my mom ever followed any preserving guidelines, such as canning meat and other low acid ingredients using a pressure canner, but none of us ever died either. I did get a lot of funny comments from my room mates and their friends about how grotesque the meat, bones, and jellied juices looked all jammed into the quart jars.
These chickens-in-a-jar meals were a lifesaver for me. All I had to do was dump the chicken and juices from the jar into a large pot, add vegetables, chicken bouillon, water, and boil it. When everything was cooked I would add a bit of flour to some water and thicken the gravy. Then came the best part…making the dumplings. I suppose if I had to guess I would say these dumplings are Hungarian in origin because the recipe came from my Hungarian grandma. I am not entirely sure, however, because she loved to collect recipes from all over, including the daily paper. She was the first person to ever really make me think about cooking and exploring food. I miss her so. Every time I make this dish and her dumplings, I think of her.
Add diced onion and oil to a large pot and sauté until the onion becomes translucent. Add carrots, beans, chicken, potatoes, herbs, and gravy or bouillon. Add enough water to cover and boil on med – high heat until potatoes are slightly soft. Add peas then add more water if necessary, making sure there is enough liquid to cover the ingredients. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Bring back to a slow simmer and slightly thicken the gravy with a slurry. Be sure to give the stew a good stir, and add dumplings (recipe below), leaving space in between each dumpling. Cover and cook 10-12 minutes as directed below.
Mix dry ingredients and then add milk just before you are ready to drop them into the stew. Carefully drop into slightly simmering stew by round 1/2 cup portions. Cover and cook for 10-12 minutes. The secret to making these dumplings light and fluffy is not to peek!
Last week was the big kick off party to declare 2016 as the International Year of Pulses. The world has come together to celebrate pulses as an economic, sustainable, nutritious, and delicious food source for this entire year (IYP2016 as designated by the UN). There are so many food cultures around the world that utilize pulses as either the main source of protein or as a great supporting dish alongside a main. This makes me really excited, because there are literally a world of possibilities when it comes to cooking with pulses.
I was raised to eat a mainly meat based diet but through the years my diet has evolved, both by choice and circumstance. I love to eat a variety of proteins but meat is sometimes really expensive! It saves a lot of money if we can eat a pulse based meal once or twice a week, plus we can share in a meal with our daughter by making it completely vegan.
Yesterday I got my first (of 10) email newsletter regarding the pledge that I took to eat pulses at least once a week for the next ten weeks. I was excited to see that the pulse star of this first week are split green peas because they are one of the easiest pulses to cook.
Today I have a trio of recipe posts featuring green split peas. Two of them are for Split Pea and Ham soup; one using a stove top preparation and the other using a slow cooker. The last recipe is for Spinach and Split Pea Mash is as found in Vikram Vij’s Vij’s At Home Cookbook. All three are delicious in their own way but the Spinach and Split Pea Mash is my favourite because it is so different and unique.
This Ham and Pea Soup was made using a ham bone and juices, water, pepper, bay leaves, and green split peas. I put the ham and juices in a stock pot, covered it with water, added the bay leaves and brought it up to a slight boil. I let the stock simmer for a couple of hours, then removed the ham bone and bay leaves. I divided the stock into portions for freezing and immediate use. The directions on the split pea container were to use two cups of split green peas for about 7 cups of liquid and boil until they became soft. Pretty basic. After all the peas were soft, I blended the peas a bit using my immersion blender and added some left over ham and some fresh green peas. Easy peasy.
The slow cooker version of Ham and Split Pea Soup was part of a post I did outlining the importance of always having a ham in the freezer and the most economic way to use it to feed your family. I love the way you just layer the ingredients in the slow cooker and forget about it for 8 hours. This version was quite a bit chunkier than the previous version I made and my family enjoyed the large bits of ham that I left in. And finally, the delicious Spinach and Split Pea Mash from Vij’s At Home. This isn’t your regular mash…it’s kicked up with spinach, onion, garlic, jalepeno, and accented with dried mint and sumac.
Stay tuned for another split green pea recipe coming up soon!
You may have heard by now that 2016 has been designated as the International Year of Pulses (IYP2016) by the United Nations. Their intent is to help position pulses as a primary source of protein and other essential nutrients throughout the entire world. It’s really a big deal for Canada because our farmers grow approximately 32% of peas and 38.5% of lentils grown worldwide (and Saskatchewan grows 95% of all the lentils in Canada! [Lentils.ca]). The amount of pulses grown accounts for approximately 35% of global pulse trade each year, reaching a value of nearly $2.7 billion in 2011 [IYP2016.org].
So, what are pulses and why should they be an important part of everyone’s diet?
Are you excited about introducing or adding more pulses to your diet yet? Our family sure is! We eat quite a lot of beans, split peas, chickpeas, and lentils already but I’ve decided to add even more to our diet by taking the Pulse Pledge. I resolve to prepare a delicious pulse-based dish once a week for the next ten weeks, starting with this delicious Lentil and Roasted Sweet Potato Salad for week number one.
I was excited to find the recipe for this salad in my copy of Homegrown (by Mairlyn Smith) which celebrates the Canadian foods we grow, raise, and produce right here in our own country. What better way to kick off the International Year of Pulses by than by using a Canadian cookbook which highlights Canadian grown lentils and Edamame?
Lentil and Roasted Sweet Potato Salad (adapted from Homegrown by Mairlyn Smith; recipe by Rosemarie Superville, PHEc)
To find out more about the International Year of Pulses and to take the Pulse Pledge click here.
Instead of jumping out of bed and greeting the new year with a bang, I’ve been down and out with a nasty cold. In the mornings I just want to wrap myself in blankets human-burrito-style but the reality of it all is that there are things that need to be done. Still, even though I am sick I am pretty darn lucky to have help from the family. My daughter and hubby decided to spend a whole day cleaning out the large chest freezer in the basement and since it hadn’t been done in three years, it was one heck of a job that needed doing! They found a lot of frozen fruit that has come in handy for smoothies and more importantly, many containers of pre made stock.
Everyone is back to their regular routine of school (and work), and so far I’ve managed to keep up with the laundry and day to day chores. I’ve been making simple meals including a couple of home made soups in order to use up the stock unearthed during the freezer clean. I found a really great way to make a light, fluffy foccacia bread to eat with the homemade soups and I hadn’t left the house in three days until yesterday when I realized I was out of Tuscan herb infused olive oil. Does that sound like an emergency to you? In my feverish state, I thought it was and I left the house in my sweats and big winter boots (no socks) to grab some at Soffritto which is really only a 5 minute drive away. I tried to keep the visit short because I was coughing a lot and really wanted to get back into my couch burrito.
I stayed up long enough to make the foccacia and snap a few photos.
2 tsp regular yeast
1 cup warm water (slightly warmer than body temperature)
1 tsp honey
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup oil
Attach paddle to the mixer and add the flour, salt, and oil to the bowl. Mix on low until ingredients are combined, then scape dough off the paddle and turn the machine back on so that the dough is kneaded for about 5 minutes. Cover, let rise in a warm place for an hour until the dough is doubled in size.
Work the dough slightly to get rid of air bubbles, then spread to about 1 1/2 cm thickness on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Let the dough sit for 20 minutes while you pre heat your oven to 375 F. Poke the dough to make indentations with your fingertips, then drizzle olive oil over top. Scatter salt over the dough (I use sel gris) and top with sliced cherry tomatoes, fresh rosemary, grated Parmesan, or use which ever toppings you prefer.
Ah goodness. I’m going to start out 2016 by posting the pork loin (Porchetta Style) roast that I made for a dinner with my sister and brother in law. It wasn’t exactly how I would have liked it to turn out but I definitely believe in the potential of this recipe. If anyone still believes that one can ‘turn over a new leaf’ at the beginning of each new year, then that is what I am doing here. Not every recipe turns out exactly how I think it will and believe me, there’s always room for improvement.
First things first, the cooking method I used did not match the cut of meat. Plain and simple. I think this is something I may have caught on to sooner if I wasn’t so tired from already having a week of company. I mindlessly dumped this gloriously marinated pork loin roast into the slow cooker where I proceeded to cook the $hit out of it. Holy cow. I mean, pig.
Here was that marinade, by the way:I thought this roast was off to a really great start after I butterflied two pork loins and coated them in the marinade.Then I rolled them together (in opposition, like a yin yang) and tied them with cooking twine. Things were still looking pretty damn fine at this point. I actually did all the prep work for this roast before the holidays began. I froze the roast, marinade and all, then thawed it the day before I was going to use it. The marinade works it’s magic during the thawing process. Then here’s where it all fell apart…I put this very lean cut of meat in a slow cooker for 7 hours. I have actually had great success with doing a pork roast in the slow cooker but that was using a pork shoulder which has much more fat interlaced with the meat. What resulted after 7 hours, was some incredibly delicious, but bone dry tenderloin.
So…if I had really been paying attention, instead of cleaning the house and Netflix binge watching House of Cards, this is how I would have cooked it:
As you can imagine, I have no ‘after’ pictures of this monstrosity. We did eat it for dinner that night and the leftovers were lovely on sandwiches. I will give this recipe another try because I like the marinade so much.
Porchetta Style Pork Tenderloin Roast Marinade
Season the meat first with salt and pepper. Mix the herbs, orange zest, garlic, and 1 tbsp olive oil together (you can use more olive oil if you wish) and rub all over the tenderloins.
There’ s a bit of a lull in Christmas preparation in my home today. The solitude is nice but I can’t help but think that I am missing out on some really important detail and, with hubby’s family flying in from Winnipeg tomorrow, I really feel the pressure to get everything…’just so’. Since the teens are off of school and hubby is home from work I’ve delegated many of the jobs that would normally keep me busy for days. It’s been great seeing everyone pull together to get everything ready on time and I don’t think I could have done it without them!
Extra quiet time also means extra time to bake some last minute Christmas treats. I’ve never tried to make coconut macaroons before, but I know that my boy especially likes them and would appreciate having them on the goodie tray. I set out to make just regular macaroons, but when I realized that I had to choose between a can of light condensed milk and dulce de leche condensed milk, I knew right away these macaroons weren’t going to be ‘light macaroons’ at all. Since I had already deviated from my original recipe, I decided to bring out my little tray of extracts to see which one would work the best with dulce de leche. After passing up caramel (too similar) and lavender (yuck!), I settled on coffee extract. I found that some of the macaroons felt apart after baking so I made sure to form the next batch a bit more and they turned out just fine. No one complained about having to eat the ‘ugly’ macaroons that fell apart.