“Cooking lessons” from Kevin of The Office

More insight (??) about food from NBC‘s The Office. This time, a cooking lesson from Kevin Malone.

Learn how to make pseudo quesadillas and creme brulee using food from the vending machine.

If you dare.

See also Funny Food Moments on The Office.

Easiest appetizers ever!

We hosted a couple parties this weekend and served finger food including these two easy, make-in-a-shake apps.

But there’s a qualifier for both recipes. You have to like strong flavours – blue cheese and beer (although they don’t come together in the same recipe!). If you do, entertaining doesn’t get much easier than these two appetizer recipes!

Blue cheese, grapes and mozzarella cheese on baguette slices. Bold flavour from just a few ingredients.

Blue cheese, grapes and mozzarella cheese on baguette slices. Bold flavour from just a few ingredients.

Blue Cheese Toasts

(Makes 20 to 30 depending on length of baguette)

1 loaf baguette bread, cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) slices
Olive oil
About 3/4 cup (175 mL) crumbled blue cheese
Red or green seedless grapes, cut in half (3 halves per slice of bread)
About 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) mozzarella cheese

Arrange baguette slices in a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet. Lightly brush tops with oil. Broil on centre rack in oven for 2 to 4 minutes until golden, watching carefully so as not to burn. Remove from oven and turn slices over.

Sprinkle blue cheese on each toast. Arrange 3 grape halves per slice over blue cheese. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over grapes.

Broil for 1 to 2 minutes until cheese is melted. Transfer to a serving plate. Serve.

Recipe Source: Adapted from Company’s Coming – Tonight! by Jean Pare, Company’s Coming Publishing, 2008

Tip: The baguette slices can be toasted ahead of time.

Like beer? You'll appreciate this spread for crackers or toasted pita chips.

Like beer? You'll appreciate this spread for crackers or toasted pita chips.

Beer Cheese Spread

(Makes 12 servings)

2 cups (500 mL) finely shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup (60 mL) beer
3 tablespoons (45 mL) tomato paste
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) garlic powder

Let Cheddar cheese stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine cheese, beer, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, and garlic powder. Stir well until combined. Cover and chill for 2 to 24 hours.

Serve with crackers, tortilla chips and/or toasted pita chips.

Recipe Source: Better Homes and Gardens Potluck Favorites magazine, Meredith Corporation, 2004

A simple supper salad made with fridge finds

Sassy salad greens with poached egg and balsamic vinaigrette-sauteed mushrooms and grape tomatoes

Salad greens with fried egg and balsamic vinaigrette-sauteed mushrooms and grape tomatoes

I get paid to say nice things about eggs. As the Food and Nutrition Specialist for Egg Farmers of Ontario, it’s my job to promote the nutritional goodness of eggs and the many different ways they can be prepared.

Before I signed on for this gig, I was already an egg lover, readily extolling the virtues of eggs. One of the reasons I was – and still am – a fan of this nutritious and economical food is that it’s quick to cook, so versatile and always available.

The other night I came home late from work, tired and hungry. There wasn’t much in the fridge except for some mushrooms, eggs and salad greens. Within minutes I had put together a simple supper salad and was sitting down to eat.

To make the salad I sauteed sliced mushrooms in a little balsamic salad dressing, tossing in a few halved grape tomatoes partway through cooking. Before the mushrooms and tomatoes were completely cooked, I cleared a space among them in the middle of the pan and cracked an egg into it. I covered the pan with a lid and within a few minutes had a steam-basted sunny side up egg that resembled a poached egg. (I cooked the yolk so that it was still runny but it could also be cooked thoroughly if desired. And, instead of “frying”, the egg could have been soft- or hard-poached in simmering water.) The mushroom/tomato mixture and egg were then spooned over a plate of salad greens, and dinner was served!

Easy, fast and very good!

Crepes Galore!


I’ve been eating a lot of crepes lately.

Last night we dined with friends at the Village Creperie on Belmont Avenue in Kitchener. I’d eaten at this lovely, intimate restaurant awhile ago and really should have been back sooner.

On the menu are a variety of appetizers, salads, and galettes (savoury crepes made with buckwheat). The restaurant uses only organic flours, fish, meat, vegetables, fruits and dairy.

I chose the galette special of the day – a fajita crepe with seasoned chicken, sauteed peppers, guacamole and sour cream. It was a winner as were the galettes enjoyed by my fellow diners (Very veggie – spinach, roasted red pepper, caramelized onion, portabello mushroom, goat cheese and pesto; Saumon et salsa – marinated salmon and salsa; and Le Complete – sunny side up or flat egg, aged white Cheddar, mozarella, green onion and ham).

Although everything on the dessert menu (including flambed crepes) sounded very tempting, we opted to share the dessert special of the day – a waffle crowned with strawberries, blueberries, syrup and creme fraiche.

I look forward to returning to the Village Creperie again soon, perhaps on a Saturday morning for a brunch crepe.

For a good assessment of the restaurant, read the review written by Andrew Coppolino, Restaurant Critic for the Waterloo Region Record.

A few weeks ago, work took me to the Upper Canada Mall in Newmarket where I happened upon Crepe Delicious, a kiosk-style restaurant that sells crepes and paninis. I enjoyed a Popeye crepe with its filling of spinach, cheese and tomato. I expected the crepe to be served to me either filled and folded or rolled over like an omelette. Instead, the large crepe was folded in half, filled, rolled into a cone shape, and tucked into a pointed cone cup. The whole thing was then wrapped in foil. The result? A crepe that could be eaten out of hand, on the go, with any juices falling into the cup instead of dripping through your fingers. Genius!

Crepe Delicious has locations throughout Toronto and according to its website, is looking for individuals interested in franchise opportunities.

Back to the crepe marathon…. One night last week we enjoyed crepes with maple syrup and sauteed bananas for dinner. Yes, probably more a dessert than dinner entree, but oh well! They were very good.

The picture above is of the crepes we made when I visited my sister Loreen on Long Island last summer. These crepes were made from a Bisquick recipe. (Stir together or process in a blender 1 cup Bisquick mix, 3/4 cup milk and 2 eggs. Use about 2 tablespoons batter per crepe.) We let the mixture stand for about 30 minutes so the dry ingedients had a chance to absorb the liquid ingredients. This makes the batter less lumpy.

Here’s the recipe for the crepes I made last week.

Basic Crepes

(Makes 16 crepes)

1-1/3 cups (325 mL) all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
4 eggs
1-1/2 cups (375 mL) milk
2 tbsp (30 mL) butter, melted
Additional butter for crepe pan

In a bowl, stir together flour and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and 2 tbsp (30 mL) of the butter; pour over dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour to let the flour expand.

Heat an 8-inch (20 cm) crepe pan or skillet over medium heat; brush lightly with butter. For each crepe, pour about 1/4 cup (60 mL) batter into the centre of the pan; immediately swirl pan to coat bottom with batter. Cook until top is no longer shiny and bottom is lightly browned, about 45 seconds to a minute. Flip crepe over and cook briefly on the other side, 25 to 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining batter, brushing pan with butter between crepes as needed.

* Buckwheat Crepes: Replace half of the flour with light buckwheat flour.
* Herbed Crepes: Just before cooking crepes, stir in 2 tbsp (30 mL) finely chopped fresh herbs (e.g. any combination of parsley, chives and tarragon)
* Chocolate Crepes: Replace 1/3 cup (75 mL) of the flour with 1/4 cup (60 mL) cocoa powder, sifted. Stir in 3 tbsp (45 mL) granulated sugar.

* Crepe batter can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 24 hours.
* Batter should be the thickness of whipping cream. If it is too thick, thin with a little milk.
* Crepes can be made ahead. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze in an airtight container for up to 1 month. Bring to room temperature before using.

Cinnamon Toast: sweet, cinnamon-y and simple!

The heady aroma of cinnamon greeted me a couple days ago when I entered the building where I work. It smelled as deliciously enticing as the aisle where the Cinnabon store is located in my local shopping mall.

Unfortunately I was not greeted with an oversized cinnamon bun oozing with a buttery cinnamon-sugar filling and dripping with icing. No, a co-worker had simply made cinnamon toast to start her day, permeating the office with the sweet smell of the familiar spice.

It was a fragrant reminder that sometimes the simple things are truly the best.

Savour the aroma and taste of Cinnamon Toast!

Savour the aroma and taste of Cinnamon Toast!

To make Cinnamon Toast, you can either toast or broil the bread. Either way, it’s is a deliciously simple treat!

Cinnamon Toast

(Makes 4 slices)

2 tablespoons (30 mL) granulated or brown sugar
1/2  teaspoon (2 mL) ground cinnamon
4 slices bread
Butter or margarine, at room temperature

Combine sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.

Method 1: Toast bread. Spread with butter. Sprinkle sugar-cinnamon mixture over top.

Method 2: Place slices of bread on a baking sheet. Spread each slice with butter. Sprinkle sugar-cinnamon mixture over top. Broil bread 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) from grill until cinnamon-sugar topping is bubbly, about a minute or two. Watch closely so bread doesn’t burn.


* Use the bread of your choice (whole wheat, white, Challah, French, etc.) or English muffins or bagels.
* Vary the proportion of sugar and cinnamon as you like.
* Make up extra topping mixture and fill a small spice bottle, container or sugar shaker so you can readily make cinnamon toast whenever the craving hits.
* If you’re a chocolate lover, add a little cocoa powder or some finely grated chocolate to the sugar-cinnamon mixture.

What to eat or drink or do during cold and flu season

Have you been hit by the cold bug that seems to be making the rounds?  Or caught a nasty flu bug?

If you haven’t been afflicted yet, count your blessings, and pray your turn won’t come! Then read on so you’ll know what to eat or drink to prevent getting your turn, or what to do if your temperature begins to soar or you find yourself reaching for the box of tissues.

If you have caught one or both bugs, you should read on too. Some of the suggestions below may help lessen the severity of your illness, and prevent additional bouts of cold or flu this winter.

When it comes to curing what ails them, some people turn to herbal remedies, others to pills. There are those who have their tried-and-true, often home-spun remedies handed down through the generations. Some of these “cures” may seem a little bizarre, although their proponents will swear by them.

I suffered from a nasty cold over Christmas while visiting my family in Winnipeg. My mom suggested I try something from my childhood – a mustard plaster, minus the mustard! I was a bit apprehensive, but felt miserable enough to give it a try.

First I placed a warm wet towel on my chest. That was followed by a piece of plastic, then a dry towel that had been warmed in the microwave. (Tossing it in the dryer briefly would work too.) I put on my pajama top over the layers, and then pinned everything together with safety pins so the layers would stay in place. Logically, you should be lying in your bed at this point so you can just pull the covers up around you, stay toasty warm, rest and get better. But I decided to wander around the house for a few minutes, then crawl into bed. By this point the warm towels had cooled off considerably.

I believe the theory here is that the heat of the layered towels will sweat out the virus/germs or whatever is causing the chest congestion/aches/pains/cough and you will feel much better the next day.

So, did it help?

Let’s just say it didn’t make things worse! To be fair, the towels had probably cooled off too quickly to be really effective.

I recall mustard being involved somehow in this treatment of my youth. I think a paste was made with dry mustard, flour and water and that concoction was applied directly to the chest. The towels and plastic were then layered over top. You had to be careful you didn’t leave the mustard plaster on too long or you could burn or blister your skin. Guess the layers generated a fair amount of heat that warmed the chest and and cleared out the congestion. Probably if you’d chowed down on a hot dog at the same time, you’d have been healed in minutes! LOL!

Here are a few other supposed “cures” for the common cold and influenza.  (Please Note: I haven’t tried any of them. I’m not endorsing any of them. I’m just reporting what I’ve read or heard because I find some of these suggestions rather entertaining. If you’re intrigued or brave enough to give the more interesting ideas a whirl, please proceed with caution! Following this list is a link to the Mayo Clinic’s remedies for colds and flu. Let me know if you have any remedies you swear by.)

Continue reading

Asian pears and caramelized walnuts top simple salad


Spring Mix Salad with Asian Pears and Caramelized Walnuts

This salad would make a tasty starter for any meal. Its great taste belies its simplicity.

You can vary some of the ingredients to suit your personal preference:

  • instead of Asian pears, try pears or apples
  • substitute blue cheese, chevre or Parmesan cheese for smoked Gouda
  • Honey-Dijon dressing can replace Raspberry Vinaigrette

I use Kraft Raspberry Vinaigrette as the dressing, but you can prepare your own from scratch, if you like. The caramelized walnuts will need to be made in advance.

Spring Mix Salad with Asian Pears and Caramelized Walnuts
(Makes 6 servings)

6 cups (1.5 L) spring mix lettuce
2 unpeeled Asian pears*, thinly sliced
Grated smoked Gouda cheese
Caramelized walnuts (see recipe below)
Raspberry Vinaigrette

Divide lettuce on 6 salad plates. Arrange Asian pear slices over top. Sprinkle cheese and walnuts over Asian pears. Drizzle Raspberry Vinaigrette lightly over top.

To make Caramelized Walnuts: In a small saucepan, combine 2 teaspoons (10 mL) butter or hard margarine, 2 tablespoons (30 mL) honey, and 1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) ground allspice. Heat over medium heat, stirring until butter is melted. Add 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) walnut pieces. Stir until bubbling and golden. Transfer to a greased baking sheet. Let stand until cool, about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Makes enough for about 12 individual salads.

* Asian pears (also known as Chinese pears, Japanese pears, Ya pears, and apple pears) can be round or pear-shaped in appearance, and yellow to yellow-green in colour. They are firm and ready to eat when purchased. No ripening period necessary! Asian pears have a crisp texture and are juicy, with a sweet-tart, apple-pear flavour. They will keep well in the refrigerator for a couple months.

Christmas Countdown: Chocolate fondue an entertaining option


Mandarin orange segments make great dippers for chocolate fondue, as do pineapple chunks, apple wedges, banana slices, strawberries, pound cake cubes, pretzels....

Dippidity do dah!

Get out the fondue pot and forks. It’s time to gather ’round the glow of burning embers (make that a tealight) and dip yummy things into a vat (or just a small bowl!) of melted chocolate!

The nature of fondue makes it a special way to entertain, especially during the holiday season. This social, communal eating adventure allows participants to enjoy food and each other in a relaxed, leisurely way.

Chocolate is a favorite fondue choice. It’s fun! It tastes exceptionally good, especially if you use a fine quality chocolate. It’s easy. And a minimal number of ingredients (two!) are required – chocolate and cream (whipping cream or half and half both work). Liqueur can be added for flavour.

A good quality chocolate is essential and will definitely give the best flavour.

For easy melting, chop the chocolate into small pieces. You can use your microwave instead of a double boiler on the stove top to melt the chocolate, but do so carefully, at Medium (50%) power. Melt the chocolate partially, then remove it from the microwave and stir until the remaining chocolate melts.

A chocolate fondue should be served in a small earthenware or ceramic bowl instead of the larger stainless steel or ceramic pots reserved for cheese, oil or broth fondues. A small votive candle or tealight will provide enough heat to keep the chocolate warm without burning it.

Dark Chocolate Fondue
(Makes 4 servings)

3/4 cup (175 mL) whipping cream (35% M.F.)
12 oz (375 g) dark chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp liqueur (e.g. Kahlua, Amaretto, Grand Marnier, kirsch), optional
Fondue dippers (e.g. slices or pieces of fruit, angel food or pound cake cubes, marshmallows, cookies, pretzels, potato chips)

In the top of a double boiler, heat cream over hot (not boiling) water until warm. Add chocolate; stir constantly until melted and smooth. Remove from heat.

If desired, stir in liqueur. If chocolate mixture is too thick, stir in a little more cream. Transfer mixture to a dessert fondue bowl and place over a lit tealight.

Enjoy by spearing fruit or cake and dunking dippers in chocolate mixture.

Christmas Countdown: Party’s in the kitchen, but what if you don’t want it there?

How often do you invite guests over and everyone ends up hanging out in the kitchen?

To be honest, it doesn’t happen too often at our house because our kitchen is soooo small. There’s just not much room for much partying if guests are wedged in between the fridge and the stove!

If your kitchen is a lovely large space, perhaps even open to the family room or great room, kitchen parties may be quite the norm when you’re entertaining, and you may be perfectly fine with this. But, occasionally you might secretly wish the guests would make themselves comfortable in other rooms of the house (logically, the living room or dining room!) – say, when you’re putting the finishing touches on dinner or if the kitchen is a mess from putting the finishing touches on dinner! Interior designer Loreen Epp has posted a few suggestions for getting the party out of the kitchen on her hot new blog – What’s New At Home (www.whatsnewathome.wordpress.com).

If you will be doing some entertaining this Christmas and would prefer that guests gather around the Christmas tree in the living room or the pool table in the family room, or in places beyond just the kitchen, check out Loreen’s suggestions.

Roasted Almonds

Roasted Almonds

One of them is to spread party nibbles throughout the house, or at least in the rooms you want the guests to be in! People tend to congregate where there is food, hence the natural inclination to gather in the kitchen.

Speaking of party nibbles, here’s a great one to serve at your next holiday soiree! Making it shouldn’t create too much mess in your kitchen – just in case you find a few guests still hanging out between the fridge and the stove!

Roasted Almonds

(Makes about 3-1/2 cups (875 mL)

3-1/2 cups (875 mL) blanched or unblanched almonds
1 tbsp (15 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp (10 mL) coarse sea salt
1-1/2 tsp (7 mL) smoked milk or hot paprika

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment (baking) paper or foil; set aside.

In a large bowl, toss almonds with oil, salt and paprika. Spread evenly on the prepared baking sheet.

Roast in a preheated 325 F (160 C) oven until fragrant and lightly toasted and unblanched almond skins have just begun to split, about 20 minutes. Let cool.

* Sweet or hot paprika, ground cumin or curry powder can be substituted for the smoked paprika.
* Roasted Almonds can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.

Recipe Source: Canadian Living magazine, December 2005

Hallowe’en Fun with Food

Happy Hallowe'en!

Happy Hallowe'en

Hallowe’en is the perfect holiday to go over the top with decorations and party food. It’s probably the only time of year when poor taste and “grossness” are preferred, or at least tolerated.

If you’re planning a Hallowe’en menu, you can go all out and spend lots of time, money and energy on creating a “terrorific” atmosphere at the dinner table. Or you can unleash your imagination and stir up little home-brewed ambiance by simply renaming favorite foods.

Need some inspiration?

Why not serve worms and eyeballs and dried bones (spaghetti and meatballs and biscuits) for supper? Or how about witch’s fingers and slime sauce (chicken strips and ranch dressing or plum sauce dyed green) or barbequed bat wings (chicken wings) or witches’ brew and dracula diggers (chili and tortilla chips)?

Wild and whacky side dishes might include grass and weeds with sliced toadstools and witch’s teeth (salad greens with mushrooms and sunflower seeds), maggots (rice), rotting teeth (corn) or lizard tongues (sautéed red pepper strips or carrot sticks).

Pond scum (jello with gummi worms) or bones (meringue cookies) make delicious desserts, and swamp water (frozen lemonade concentrate, lemon-lime pop and lime sherbet) will wash the meal down.

Sounds tasty, doesn’t it?

Here are a couple recipes for dried bones. Bon Appetit!

Breadstick Bones
(Makes 6 breadsticks)

1 can refrigerated breadsticks
Melted butter or margarine
Italian seasoning, Tex Mex seasoning or grated Parmesan cheese

Open can and unroll dough; separate into 6 strips. Carefully stretch each strip until about 12 inches (30 cm) long. Loosely tie a knot in both ends of each breadstick. Place breadsticks on an ungreased baking sheet.

Brush melted butter over breadsticks. Sprinkle seasoning or cheese over top.

Bake in a preheated 375F (190C) oven until golden brown, about 13 to 15 minutes. Serve warm.


Meringue Bones
(Makes about 2 dozen cookies)

5 egg whites
1/4 tsp (1 mL) cream of tartar
1-1/4 cups (300 mL) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla, orange or lemon extract

Line 1 or 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Prepare a piping bag with a round tip (about 3/8 inch/1 cm diameter).

With an electric mixer, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, a couple tablespoons (about 30 mL) at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat until stiff peaks form and meringue is shiny and smooth. Add extract and beat just until combined.

Fill piping bag with meringue. Pipe a log about 3 inches (8 cm) long. Pipe two balls on both sides of the ends of the log. Repeat with remaining meringue. You can smooth any peaks that occur with a wet finger.

Bake in a preheated 220F (105C) oven for 30 minutes. Turn off heat. Leave cookies in oven for 8 hours or overnight. Store in an airtight container.

* Let egg whites stand at room temperature for 20 minutes after separating; they will beat to a greater volume if they aren’t cold.

* Stirring a drop or two of yellow food colouring into the meringue mixture before baking will give the bones an aged look.

* If you don’t have a piping bag, use a sturdy ziplock bag. Cut off the tip once you have filled the bag with meringue mixture.