Thermomix kitchen robot can replace all your small appliances

If I said one device could replace nearly every kitchen appliance you own, you’d probably think I was starting a late-night infomercial. But an appliance I’ve discovered may actually be able to deliver on that promise. It’s called a Thermomix, and though it’s very popular in Australia and Europe, it’s virtually unknown in Canada and the US. Continue reading “Thermomix kitchen robot can replace all your small appliances”

Using technology to help your diet – Reviewing Harbour Foods Calgary’s meal delivery

With all the technology that can help you do just about anything these days, I thought it was time to try letting technology help me with food. I love to cook and generally eat healthy, but I’ve recently cut out foods like gluten, starch, grains and sugar to help me feel even better. It’s been a challenge to come up with nutritious meals that are filling and healthy. Continue reading “Using technology to help your diet – Reviewing Harbour Foods Calgary’s meal delivery”

Get these great food apps

Our food and our phones have become indelibly connected. It started with snapping photos of amazing meals, then devolved to Instagramming every meal no matter how mediocre. Now our phones can order food, search recipes and even show us video tutorials for the perfect risotto.

There are a number of great apps that can do all kinds of food-related tasks. Download these to make cooking, booking, or ordering food quicker and easier. Continue reading “Get these great food apps”

New pay-at-the-table app means never waiting for the cheque

SAMSUNG CSC

Paying the cheque at a restaurant can be… awkward. From first dates, to business lunches, who buys can sometimes be fraught with complexities.  A new app may change that for good.

JOEY Restaurants launched a new mobile payment app today called JOEY Pay, and while at first it may seem unnecessary (Why an app? Will EVERY restaurant need an app soon??), it does seem like a good idea for many situations.

Pay faster; no waiting

“JOEY PAY allows customers to “Dine and Dash” by paying their bill using their iPhone, ultimately saving time by paying faster. JOEY Restaurants created the JOEY PAY app in response to growing customer demand for speed of bill payment,” says the company’s news release.

Avoid awkward cheque grabs

The app not only lets you easily pick up the cheque without argument or fuss, it will also allow you to use multiple credit cards for bill splitting among larger groups, and also track receipts for business expense purposes. It’s actually a pretty smart idea when you’re dining and trying to get going to a movie, the theatre or just to get one with your night. It also lets you sneak the cheque away from that friend who never lets you pay, or from a pal who always wants to argue about whose turn it is. It’s kind of brilliant for first dates, since you can pay by phone and then make an impression when you usher your date to the door, saying, “it’s all taken care of”. JOEY 2

Here’s how it works:
·         The guest inputs a six digit code from the bottom of their bill, into the app
·         From the app guests have the ability to pay with multiple credit cards or JOEY gift cards within their profile
·         Guests receive a message letting them know payment was successful
·         The receipt is emailed to the guest instantly and stored in their profile for easy reference
It must also alert the server in some way, otherwise you’d get stopped at the door trying to leave. claiming, “I paid with the app,” and pleading techno dummy probably wouldn’t work.  There may also be questions in the future about whether people will cheap out on the tip because there’s no doe-eyed server standing next to them while the tab is being paid.

But that’s getting ahead of ourselves.

JOEY says the app is just as secure as any other credit card payment platform, and will be in use in their 26 locations across Western Canada, Ontario, Washington State and California. It also allows you to make reservations (it takes you to a website outside the app) and even add a gift card to apply that to your bill. You can even scan your credit card to avoid tedious typing.

JOEY is giving you $10 to try the app

Everyone that downloads the app and creates an account before April 21st, 2016 at midnight will receive a $10 gift card loaded into their profile. Feel free to spread the words with friends, family or on social as we want to give away as many gift cards as possible! The app is available on the App Store or Google Play.

Coffee Lust: Debating between the Rancillio Silvia and Jura Empressa E80

The debate raged a year ago; which espresso machine to choose?  And my narrowed-down choices couldn’t be more different; the Rancilio Silvia is a fully manual machine that relies heavily on the skill of the operator to make a great cup.  The Jura Impressa E80 is fully automatic, and there’s little you need to or can do to alter your espresso in this machine.

Both get very positive reviews online in their respective classes.  My decision was basically a simple one; did I want to work for my espresso each morning, or did I want is handed to me on a silver… shot glass?

Rancilio Silvia espresso machine_1

The Rancilio costs about $700 new.  It also, however, requires an expensive burr grinder to be able to finesse just the right coffee coarseness.  I went with the very well-rated Baratza Vario, which itself retails for about $400.   By comparison the Jura retails for about $1700 new (and up from there, and requires no special grinder, as it’s built right in.

VARIO-W-2

In the end I went manual.  Mainly because I want to learn how to make a great cup of coffee, and all the intricacies and factors that go into making it properly.  I’m no coffee expert; save for knowing what I like and what I don’t, and occasionally being known to import coffee from my favourite California coffee house, Urth Caffe.  Even being a novice, the Rancilio has been fantastic.  While it’s a wee bit on the noisy side when pulling a shot, they’re always piping hot, and with the right bean and the right grind, the shots are always delicious with just the right amount of creamy crema. The water tank hold plenty for my needs, and the machine is easy to clean. The only downside if it can be considered one is that the machine is fincky.  Many online reviews told me this and they’re correct.  Heat, humidity, beans (roast, grind), tamping pressure and even time of year make figuring out what grind setting to use to get the beans just right a challenge.  Once you’ve got it, you’re usually good; unless the weather changes drastically, then it’s back to the grinding board.

Now I didn’t mind this process so much because as I say I want to learn.  But I have gone through a good amount of (fine, pricey) beans to get things just right.

jura images

So when I was able to pick up a used Jura Impresa E80 for a song, I snapped it up, figuring now would be the time to see if I was missing anything.  If I elected not to keep it, I could always put it back on the block.

The Jura, as I say takes the human factor out of the espresso.  While some things (grind, shot size, auto-off) are all somewhat adjustable, the Jura leaves little for the operator to do.  At the push of a single button I get a fresh espresso, with beautiful crema.

The machine heats up quickly; within a minute it’s ready to go. With the hopper loaded with beans, there’s nothing to do but press a button for your mild/regular/strong espresso.  The shots are pulled in seconds.  This machine will be a major advantage when we’re having dinner parties.  My biggest complaint about the Jura is I feel the water is not as hot as the Rancilio.  With the Rancilio I’d need to leave the shot for a moment to cool before I could take that first sip.  With the Jura, it’s at a drinkable temperature right away.  This is where i find pre-heating the cups is very important or it cools off much too quickly.

On a bleary-eyed morning, there is some definite advantage to poking a button and ending up caffeinated quickly.  But I do miss the process and the love-labour of the Rancillio.  As a result, both are currently snuggling on my kitchen counter, much to my husband’s dismay.  I’m still deciding who stays and who goes.

if you have any insight.. please post below.  I could use some help!

Food & Drink: Campicurean

A campfire roast we dubbed The Mona Lisa
A campfire roast we dubbed The Mona Lisa

So it may soon be too cold to pound a tent stake through the topsoil, but I’m always thinking about camping season.

The best thing about it for me; the food.  I’m not talking hot dogs on a stick or popcorn, no.  Our camping trips are a gourmet showdown of the highest order.

Making really, really good food at a campsite (and I’m talking over a FIRE) isn’t hard.  If you can barbecue some dogs or smokies, you can cook a roast, a whole chicken, or chili.  If you’re careful, you can even bake.

When my pals and I head for the hills, we divide up the weekend’s meals; every couple signs up to prepare 2 meals .  We’ve had everything from campfire chili, to scrambled eggs and bacon, German Apple pancake, to a double-stuffed roast beef with all the fixins. Not to mention grilled pineapple on waffles.

It starts with the prep; throw some decent pots and pans into your kit.  We always have a car, and make sure a large cast iron frypan is in the mix.  it works wonders for keeping food from burning over the hot fire. It’s super-easy to fill it full of ground beef, kidney beans and tomatoes and spices, and whip up a delicious, spicy smokey campfire chili with whatever recipe you normally use.

That same pan can do wonders for pancakes, french toast, scrambled eggs. or even a favourite of mine; German Apple Pancake. (Recipe below)

Gourmet dinners can be simple too; beer-can chicken is easy, fast, and guarantees a moist and crispy bird pretty much every time. Just rub the bird with oil and your favourite spice combo, and bake. I also love stuffing whole garlic cloves or lemon wedges under the skin for added flavour and moistness.   (ProTip: bring some heavy duty rubber gloves or sturdy tongs to make moving the chicken around easier). You can also grab one of those new beercan holsters that keeps the bird and the beer from tipping into the inferno.  Handy.

Stews are also the Campicurean’s friend; jambalaya, cajun stew, beef or bison stew, and even paella all lend themselves to the campfire, or even the campstove.

The key to not setting your meal ablaze is to build a big fire first, then allow it to burn down to hot coals; and that means getting the fire going in advance.  Keep it going with small pieces of wood that don’t re-ignite a bonfire.  That helps give you an even heat, with a bit of smoke for flavour.

The other way to go campicurean is in your appetizers.  A small block of cedar, a wheel of brie cheese, some garlic paste, or chopped garlic and a splash of rum make a pretty mean warned cheese & crackers appy.  Just oil the plank, place the cheese on it, paste it over with the garlic, mixed with a wee bit of butter or oil, then leave it to warm through on an edge of the fire.  Warm up a shot of rum in a tine or a cup.  When it’s done, pur the rum over the cheese plank, and light it up, flambee-style.  When the flame goes out, voila!

Another favourite campitizer is rumaki, or bacon wrapped chicken livers. (Shopping list: bacon, chicken livers, sliced water chesnuts, maple syrup)  Buy the livers frozen, so they keep in the cooler. Chop them small, wrap them in bacon with a slice or two of water chesnut.  Cook them on the edge of the campfire grill to about halfway, drizzle with maple syrup, then finish the cooking process.  Dee-lish.  (And for my squeamish friends,  if I didn’t tell you there were livers inside you’d NEVER know it!)

The bottom line is, cooking gourmet meals at your campsite is easy, with just a little planning and creative thought!

Do you have a favourite camping recipe or cooking method?  Please share it on the comments.  I LOVE finding new gourmet ideas.

German Apple Pancake
recipe image
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 20 Minutes
Ready In: 45 Minutes
Servings: 4
“A wonderful country style baked pancake that’s filled with apples and spice.”
Ingredients:
4 eggs
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 pinch salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup white sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 large tart apple – peeled, cored and
sliced
Directions:
1. Try to bring a cast iron pan with a lid.  If not, pack some heavy duty foil.  In a large bowl, blend eggs, flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Gradually mix in milk, stirring constantly. Add vanilla, melted butter and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg. Let batter stand for 30 minutes or overnight.
2. Make sure the fire is ready, ie hot but not a raging inferno.
3. Melt butter in a 10 inch oven proof skillet, brushing butter up on the sides of the pan. In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup sugar, cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg. Sprinkle mixture over the butter. Line the pan with apple slices. Sprinkle remaining sugar over apples. Place pan over fire until the mixture bubbles, then gently pour the batter mixture over the apples.
4. Cover with tinfoil or a lid and let it “bake” for about 8-15 minutes. Check it.. you’ll notice it should be puffing up. Depending on your fire, it may need another  10 minutes. Slide pancake onto serving platter and cut into wedges. 

Food & Drink: Bachelorgood

One of my friends once asked me to marry him.

He wasn’t serious of course, but what prompted his question was the black bean soup I’d made for lunch and reheated in the office microwave.

He had bought lunch from some fish and chip joint, and all the greasy goodness had made him feel quite lethargic.  So rather than get back to work, he decided to corner me with questions about how much money it must be costing me to cook meals EVERY SINGLE DAY.

I explained that I can shop for a week’s worth of food, and three weeks worth of cooking staples for just over a hundred bucks.  That includes things like fruit or cereal for breakfast, leftovers for lunch, and full dinners.  I asked what he spent for a week’s worth of takeout.  He mumbled something in response.

What he did verbalize was a lament about only having the same limited choices when eating out: pizza, fried chicken, burgers, subs…you get the idea.

So I asked him what kind of stuff he LIKED to eat.  Meals he maybe hadn’t had in a while…pick anything.

Anything?

Anything.

He told me about a stew his mom used to make.  He really liked tacos.  I lent him a cookbook and he also picked out a pasta dish, a stir fry, and meatloaf.

I challenged him to make those five meals for himself.  And pledged to be there for moral support.

I copied the five recipes for him, and went over how they’re made.  Truth be told they’re all quite simple.  We made a list of all the ingredients he’d need, and  I took him to the grocery store for supplies.

The first night I got a call.  How thick is the stew supposed to be?  I explained that’s up to the chef.  If you like it thick, let it simmer.  If I gets too thick, add a little water.

“Really, I can do that?”

“You’re the chef, you can have it any way you like.”

“Cool.”

The leftovers appeared the next day.  And he was proud, showing off his creation to the ladies in the office.  They were proud too.

That night was taco night.  No phone call.

Pasta night sparked a semi-frantic ring.  He forgot to buy mushrooms.

“What else is in the fridge?”

“Uhh… carrots, celery, peppers…”

“Just chop some peppers and throw them in.”

“But the recipe says mushrooms.”

“It’s called improvising.  You could use canned mushrooms too.”

“Cool.”

After a week my friend was pretty impressed with himself.  He’d fended for himself for 7 days, hadn’t gone hungry, and had just realized his food options were not limited to the Yellow Pages.

I got him a cookbook for his birthday.  As he’s learning, there are definitely more pages to pick from than he thought.

Food & Drink: Just ONE Bite

Kids don’t like a lot of things. Knowing that, I don’t get why people allow their kids turn their noses up at whatever’s on their plate. I know parents who don’t even feed their kids vegetables AT ALL, since they figure if junior isn’t going to eat them, why bother?

A cup o' corn on the streets of Bangkok. Veggie-riffic!
A cup o’ corn on the streets of Bangkok. Veggie-riffic!

Here’s the problem with that. Besides bringing up kids who only want to eat McNuggets, or stuff that comes wrapped in paper, it’s unhealthy.

My mother had a rule about dinner. You had to eat at least one bite of whatever it is you THINK you don’t like. One bite. Chewed and swallowed. No spitting it into the napkin, or burying it under the mashed potatoes.

Growing up, I couldn’t stand tomatoes. Now, ketchup was fine, so was tomato sauce. But as soon as there was an identifiable bit of ACTUAL TOMATO!!! on the plate, I was done.

I also hated liver. I mean really. The taste, the texture…knowing I was eating internal organs. It didn’t matter how much I hated something, or for what reason. Under my mother’s law, I still had to cut off a fair sized bite and taste it. After that single bite, if I was still sure I hated whatever it was, I could leave the rest of the serving on the plate.

If I tried to protest, it didn’t matter. I could sit at the table for hours, not allowed to leave until I’d tried. A couple late nights, sitting in my chair long after the others went to watch The Dukes of Hazard (the original run) taught me it was better to take that bite, and get it over with. many people may think that’s horrible, but IT WORKED.

A strange concoction in Thailand.  Which tastes AMAZING.
A strange concoction in Thailand. Which tastes AMAZING.

This rule was adapted from a rule of my mom’s childhood. Dinosaur times when money was tight and you cooked what you had, cleaned your plate, and liked it. My grandfather would insist we ate stuff we didn’t like because that’s all that was being served. There was none of this frantic hand-wringing a lot of parents have over their child missing a meal, or two. The way my grandfather saw it, either you were grateful to eat what was served, or you saw it put in front of you for breakfast. And lunch. And dinner again. There’s a story in my family that famously makes the rounds every time a cousin, niece or nephew begins to turn up their nose. The time my aunt sat staring at a plate of cold baked beans, through 5 meals, or a day and a half, before she broke. My mom took a slightly less authoritarian spin on this. Thankfully.

Egyptian Cuisine
Egyptian Cuisine
My grandmother and her sister; likely dealt with much more authoritarian dinners than I did.
My grandmother and her sister; likely dealt with much more authoritarian dinners than I did.

As an adult now, there’s almost nothing I don’t like, or won’t eat.   I also try to try everything; and that’s led me to some amazing culinary treats on my travels of the world;  chicha morada in Peru, a purple corn-based drink the looks like Kool-Aid.  Tiny coconut crepes from a street vendor in Thailand (though I had no idea that’s what they were when I asked to try one!), Kushari, a traditional Egyptian chickpea stew that’s delicious. Or the vile-looking electric-green Calaloo soup that is creamed with coconut milk and greens that tastes amazing.

Caribbean Calaloo Soup (Photo: latinfood.com)
Caribbean Calaloo Soup (Photo: latinfood.com)

As it turns out, I like tomatoes now. Liver too, although I prefer it in an appetizer called rumaki; wrap the liver in bacon, throw a water chestnut in the centre, and broil until it’s crispy and golden.

This blog entry is not meant to preach to parents about how to raise your kids; no, you can find plenty of other places to get that.  This is simply about what worked in MY family, in hopes it may inspire you; after all, if you’ve come all the way here, you might be looking for some suggestions, non?  This post merely  goes to show you tastes change. If I’d been allowed to have my way, I probably would have a much less adventurous appetite. Hopefully it also shows you getting your kids to take chances is definitely not biting off more than you can chew.

Food &Drink: Cooking for Yourself

The other day I brought lunch to the office. It was leftover pasta–penne with tomato basil cream sauce and fresh parmesan from the dinner I made the night before.

After re-heating, I carried it to my desk, and opened the lid. The smell brought colleagues sniffing around wondering what I had ordered in that smelled so good.

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When I told them it wasn’t take out, they were shocked.

I’m young, enjoy going out, and have enough disposable income to dine out when I want. And most people assume that I do—all the time. The truth is, I feel like I’m somehow cheating myself if I *don’t* do most of the cooking.

I grew up in a family where restaurant dinners happened maybe once a month. It was just cheaper to eat at home. But as I got older, I realized it wasn’t just about the cost. It was about how empty a lot of fast food or even some restaurant food made me feel—and by empty, I don’t mean hungry.

So I started paying attention to what was going on in the kitchen.

My mom; one of the best and most creative cooks I know.
My mom; one of the best and most creative cooks I know.

And I learned young that people appreciate homemade. I also learned people appreciate dessert most of all. So for family gatherings, I put myself in charge of the last course. I tried cheesecakes, then pies, cakes and soufflés. I graduated to sweet-tart Cherries Jubilee, and the wonderful warm orange flavour of Crepes Suzette. I loved making people happy, and in truth it was easy. Both mother and grandmother were excellent cooks. And they were there to tell me if a batter was too runny, if meat was verging on overdone, or if the cake batter I’d prepared was supposed to be that colour.

My grandmother; chic, beautiful and skilled.
My grandmother; chic, beautiful and skilled.

I cannot think of one dish either my mother or grandmother made that we turned our noses up at. (Admittedly we snubbed certain vegetables…and liver of course.) Although sometimes we would complain about the evening’s dinner choice. Not because we didn’t like it, but because we wanted something else. So my mom responded in a way I now realize was the epitome of clever, “If you don’t like it, YOU cook what you want. For all of us.”

So I stepped up to the challenge.

If I felt like lasagna, instead of stew, the next day my mother would buy the ingredients for lasagna, and I became the chef.

A vacation to Mexico became the inspiration for another meal I’d prepare for my family; Chicken fajitas. I looked it up in a cookbook, and realized it wasn’t so hard; chicken, peppers, onion and some spice. On an exchange program, I learned the Spanish rice dish paella with it’s delicate saffron-seafood flavour. I started building my repertoire.

I realized I really liked seeing people enjoy my labours. But it never felt like work. It was pure praise.

When I moved out on my own it was a thrill to walk through the grocery store and select anything I wanted for my meals. It’s a joy that hasn’t worn off. I take my time preparing dinner after work, sipping a glass of wine and chopping vegetables, stirring sauces, shredding salads or just toying with ways I could tweak a recipe to make it my own. And the leftovers were always perfect for the next day.

One of my co-workers complained the other day about how her kids were snubbing what she prepared for them. I imparted my mom’s wisdom on her. Now she gets a couple nights a week off duty. And the some savoury leftovers for the rest of the office to envy.

Want to whip up something that will make perfect leftovers?  Try our Family Recipe Potato Salad; we’ve been makin’ it like this for over 40 years! 

 Family Potato Salad

4 c cold diced potatoes

1 ½ c diced celery

2tbsp finely chopped onion

2tbsp finely chopped parsley

Dressing: stir together:

¾ c mayo

1tbsp vinegar

1 tsp mustard

1tsp salt

Pepper

Toss the potatoes and vegetables with the dressing.  Add sliced hard boiled  egg on top, and sprinkle with paprika. Let sit, refrigerated, for 4 hours or overnight if you can.  It’s even better the next day!

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