Saturday, April 26, 2014

Pre-made vs. Homemade - Hot Wings

Everyone loves chicken wings. What's funny is how we are willing to pay so much for such a small amount of meat. Originally they were scraps - only thrown in soups or stocks. Until a creative restaurant in - you can probably guess - Buffalo! Hense, the name Buffalo Wings. Nowadays in restaurants, we are willing to pay over ten dollars a pound! This comes out to more than one dollar per wing, which is absolutely outrageous for the amount of meat you get. Now in the grocery store they're more reasonable - instead of 12 dollars for 8 wings, its about 12 dollars for 24 wings. Don't get me wrong, even though their bang for buck is not the best, I still love them way more than a normal human being should. The other issue is that restaurants usually deep fry chicken wings and throw a big heavy breading on them (not the most healthy). So, here is an easy recipe with a few ingredients and no deep fryer or heavy batter that is so good you wont need to waste all your money at wing night ever again!

Simple Easy Hot Wings

24 pack of uncooked split wings
oil for frying
2 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 cup hot sauce (I use Franks Red Hot)
1/2 a lemon

Start by getting a nice big frying pan that will fit all your wings and cover the pan with a generous amount of oil and set on about medium high heat. Add the wings in and fry one side until crisp and golden brown, then flip and fry the other side. The whole process takes about a half hour. Once the wings are nice and crisp, take the wings out, drain the oil and then throw the butter in the pan. After the butter has melted add the crushed garlic and let it sizzle for a bit. Then add the hot sauce and give it a stir. Now throw in the wings and toss them with the sauce. Lastly drizzle them with the lemon juice and toss them one more time. Once they are well covered and sizzling, throw them on a plate and serve...or in my case, go caveman style and dig in!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Ren@41 - Review

This past Friday I decided to take some friends out to a nice dinner for a little taste of luxury in downtown Kitchener at The Ren@41.  It is an interesting looking little building with a cool modern city design. As we arrived, the hostess took our coats and brought us to our table. I liked the lengthy layout of the restaurant because although there were quite a few tables, it felt like a cozy little bistro. Shortly after we were sat, our waiter came to get us something to drink. I was pleasantly surprised with the drink menu, there were quite a few original and innovative cocktails to choose from which made my decision rather difficult. I decided to try the coconut mango margarita and could not have been happier. It was tangy, sweet, and refreshing - a great way to start my meal. The four of us decided to share two appetizers and we chose the fried risotto balls and the pistachio crusted brie. What I enjoyed most about the appetizers was how well everything on the plate mingled together. The risotto balls had a rich, creamy, smoky flavour and was well balanced with some peppery arugula and a bright tomato sauce with just a little kick. The brie was also a good choice, it was warm and gooey just like it should be and the port soaked cherries added a lovely sweet element to the dish. I enjoyed the classic combinations - crisp and creamy, salty and sweet. Overall the appetizers were wonderful and perfect for sharing,

Next was the main course, I was happy to see Cornish hen on the menu as it is slightly less common. The display of the dish on a long plate provided an elegant effect to the presentation. The use of symmetry on the plate kept the dish looking tidy and organized. The flavour of the Cornish hen was lovely, especially paired with a glass of Chardonnay. The hen was well seasoned, instead of covering up the natural flavour of the hen they accented the flavour and let the hen speak for itself. It was served on a bed of beet relish, which accompanied the hen quite nicely. The legs, stuffed with bacon, leeks and goats cheese, was delicious however the meat was just slightly rubbery - not under cooked but the texture was just not quite right. The flavours of the hen mixed well with the herb mashed potatoes, while they had a unique flavour they did not overpower the dish. 

Lastly was the dessert, although the server forgot to ask about coffee or tea when we asked about dessert our server brought us a plate with the a display of the desserts available, I chose to get the raspberry panna cotta and was pleasantly surprised. The presentation was nothing special but it tasted delicious, it was light, airy and not too sweet. It was a nice way to end the meal because it was not too heavy

Overall, the restaurant was a lovely experience, I really enjoyed the flavours and they mingled well together creating a real composition. The only complaint was that the dark meat was just slightly rubbery, however I would absolutely go back for another night out!

Ren@41 on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 3, 2014

Pre-made vs. Homemade - Lasagna

Frozen lasagna is one of many memories from my childhood dinners, usually when my mom was away and dad had to cook. Although frozen lasagna is easy and just needs to be thrown in the oven for about an hour, it is not all that difficult to make yourself and it is definitely worth it! If we are to look at Stouffer's frozen vegetable lasagna we can see that it is full of chemicals as well as 28% sodium and 29% fat.


Vegetable Lasagna
Tomato sauce - see below for recipe (if you want to cut corners use a jarred sauce)
9 lasagna noodles
1 Pack of dry pressed cottage cheese
1 (size) brick of mozzarella
portabella mushrooms, sliced
about 2 tbsp sherry
italian eggplant, sliced
baby spinach

Once you have your sauce ready, start off by sauteeing your mushrooms - first heat the pan, add a little oil and garlic and let it simmer for just a short amount of time. Then add the mushrooms and some sherry and stir. once the mushrooms are basically fully cooked take them off the heat and set aside. Then cook your noodles until al dente, strain and run cold water over them. Lastly shred your brick of mozzarella and set aside.

Now you are ready to start building your lasagna, start by spreading a little tomato sauce over the bottom of the pan. While you are building your lasagna, start preheating the oven to 350 degrees. Now add your layers accordingly:
cottage cheese

Do this three times, and make sure to save some extra mozzarella for the top layer so you have a nice thick layer of cheese on top! Now throw your lasagna in the oven and let it bake for about 45 minutes or until the top is golden and melty! 

Take the lasagna out of the oven and let it sit for about 5 minutes, then cut it into big hearty pieces and serve either on its own or with a nice little salad. Enjoy!

Now, if you are feeling ambitious and want to take this lasagna to the next level try making this homemade sauce:

Badass Tomato Sauce
This sauce is an absolute favourite of my family and friends and although it may take some time it is so very worth the wait!

olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small-medium onion, diced
1 beef short rib
1 can tomato paste
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 bay leaf (if you have it)
1 tsp oregano
2 tsp basil
big splash of red wine

Start by putting a big pot on medium heat with a good coating of olive oil on the bottom. Once the pan is hot add the garlic and onions and let them cook for a minute or two - before they brown. Now add the short rib and brown it on all sides, then add the tomato paste and stir it around for 1 minute. Now add both the crushed and diced tomatoes and give it a stir. Lastly add your herbs and wine and give it another good stir. Once the sauce starts bubbling turn the heat down to low and let simmer for about 1 1/2 - 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Once the sauce is done, feel free to eat the beef short rib as a pre-dinner snack. Now your sauce is ready for lasagna or even just some plain old spaghetti and meatballs!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Pre-made vs. Homemade - Caesar Salad

Nowadays you can buy all types of frozen or pre-made dinners. What some people don't seem to realize is how easy and rewarding it is to make these meals for themselves. You can get almost anything you want frozen, canned or pre-made. For example you can get bottled dressings, frozen dinners, pre-made salads, frozen appetizers and much much more. This week I am going to give you five different frozen foods - one for each workday - and show how to make it yourself. Monday's dish is Caesar Salad:

Day 1 - Caesar Salad

Now normally restaurants and bottled dressings usually use a creamy Caesar however this recipe is more of a Caesar vinaigrette, making the salad less rich and a bit healthier. I think the reason this dressing is not as common is because it has a raw egg yolk which is more finicky in that it can spoil easily. However this recipe is really lovely and worth the small amount of effort.

salt and pepper
1-2 Cloves of garlic
1/2 tbsp of Dijon mustard
1 egg yolk
juice of half a lemon
3 tbsp of olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
splash of balsamic vinegar

1 head or 2-3 hearts of romaine lettuce
a big handful of spinach (optional)
2 strips bacon
small handful grated parmesean cheese
PC lightly buttered croutons

To start slice the bacon into small strips and throw them into a pan to make bacon bits. Then wash the lettuce and set it to dry. Now for the salad dressing, make it in the bottom of the bowl, so to start throw in some salt and pepper, next peel and crush the garlic into the bowl - if you're a huge garlic person like me then use two cloves but if you don't like a strong garlic flavour just crush one clove into the bowl. Next add the dijon mustard, egg yolk, lemon juice, oil and vinegar.

Now mix the dressing together and give it a taste, if it needs something feel free to add it and if not then tear up your romaine lettuce and throw it in the bowl. Add your croutons, parmesean cheese and bacon bits on top. If you really want to take it to the next level garnish your salad with some bright colourful lemon zest and serve.

Enjoy this delicious fresh salad!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Butternut Squash - Winter Side Dish

Butter-nut squash is an under-rated gourd that is ideal for these cold winter months. It's not only low in fat but also provides a good amount of dietary fibre making it a heart-friendly choice. It also contains significant amounts of potassium and vitamin B6 which, in the winter months, is good because it is essential to keep your immune system functioning properly. Butter-nut squash is delicious and full of flavour and nutrients, but it also has a beautiful vibrant colour which can easily brighten up a dull plate. The easiest way to eat butter-nut squash is to thinly slice it into discs, toss it in some flour and then throw it in the frying pan but my favourite way is in a mash, this recipe is delicious and hearty and great on a cold night, plus there will be plenty of leftovers to last the week!

Butter-nut Squash, Apple and Cinnamon Mash

1 butter-nut squash
1 apple (my favourite is McIntosh)
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp butter

Preheat your oven to about 350F. Then cut the squash in half and take all the seeds and filling out, now all you are left with is the bright orange flesh. Put your squash in a baking pan and add some water - the water is important to keep the squash from burning to the bottom so be generous with the water, but do not completely submerge the squash. Next dice some apples and use them to fill the holes in the squash - I prefer McIntosh because they bake nicely and get good and mushy. Now throw about 1 tbsp of butter on each half of the squash and sprinkle your cinnamon on top.

Throw your squash in the oven and let it bake for about an hour or until the flesh is soft and mash-able.

Take the apples out of the squash and throw them in a bowl, then scoop the flesh out of the squash with a spoon and toss it in the same bowl. Add a little more butter and some salt and pepper to taste and then mash everything together.

Serve with your favourite main dish and enjoy the warm comfortable feeling on a cold winter night!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Nick and Nats Uptown 21, Review

This weekend, I decided to indulge a little bit and took a trip to Nick and Nats Uptown 21 with a friend. As we arrived the hostess took our coats and lead us to our table. Very soon after we were seated, our server came to welcome us, she filled our water and offered us a drink. I took a sip of my water and was pleasantly surprised by the crisp clear taste that does not normally accompany Waterloo city water. We then took a look at the menu and lo and behold they offered an a la carte menu as well as a choice to have a 3 or 4 course meal with a set price. I, of course, chose to get the 4 course meal. Each course had two options. For my first course I chose a whitefish ceviche. It was very fresh, light and the beet chips added a nice crisp texture. Overall it was a lovely dish to start with, however it was slightly too bitter. My next course was mussels in a tomato kalamata broth. The mussels were cooked perfectly, many restaurants overcook the mussels and they end up dense and chewy however these mussels were light and tasty. The broth used canned tomatoes which normally I would be opposed to but it gave a heavier more winter-ish composition. The mussels were also served with fries as opposed to garlic bread which was a nice change. Once again, it was heavier but still delicious.

 My main course was a boar chop with a Mediterranean couscous.

 The couscous had a deliciously strong full flavour, however the boar chop was too salty. I definitely preferred the boar to pork because it was beefier, and not quite as lean, however the seasoning seemed to be overdone, particularly salt. There was too much salt and unfortunately it took away from the entire plate.

 Lastly was the dessert, I chose the Mexican spice pudding and was pleasantly surprised. It was not too sweet compared to most desserts I have had in the past. It was bold, creamy and rich. I would absolutely order it again but after three courses it was a little large.

Overall Nick and Nat's had some very powerful flavours, most of which were great, however in some cases they used too much salt bringing the overall dish down.

Nick and Nat's Uptown 21 on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Fish, Get Into It!

As most of you probably know, fish is a very healthy meat, we all hear that it is full of omega 3 fatty acids blah blah blah. What does that even mean? According to the Washington State Department of Health, it is good for your heart, it is an anti-inflammatory, aids healthy brain function and can decrease the risk of some mental health disorders. It is also a high protein, low fat meat full of vitamins and minerals. Lastly, it can be super quick and easy! One of my favourite ways to eat fish is just pan fried in a little butter and salt with a squeeze of lemon like my dad always did. However, if you want something with a little more decoration and a more pleasant presentation, this recipe for rainbow trout is ridiculously easy and quick!

Quick and Simple Rainbow Trout

1 filet of rainbow trout
1 lemon
a few sprigs of dill

First, set your oven on broil at 450 then line a pan with tinfoil and set your filet on the pan.  Rub about a teaspoon of dill on the fish and salt and pepper to taste. Then slice the lemon horizontally and lay about three pieces across the fish. 

 squeeze a little more lemon juice on top then toss the fish in the oven on the middle rack for about 10 minutes or until the flesh of the trout is no longer translucent. Lastly use a spatula to pick up the fish and plate it (if you can, slide the spatula between the flesh and the skin - it should separate quite easily.) 

Lastly cut a couple lemon wedges, serve with whatever sides you desire and enjoy!