Manitoba Pork Loin Roast & Root Vegetables

Manitoba Pork Loin Roast & Root Vegetables
Manitoba Pork Loin Roast & Root Vegetables

There is nothing better than coming into the kitchen at the end of a long work day and smelling dinner ready in the crock-pot! This Fall I’m endeavouring to use my crock-pot more to save time and effort in my already busy days. I love the simplicity of this recipe, and how quickly you can pop everything into the crock-pot and walk away. Perfect for these busy (and chilly) October days.

The following pork loin roast recipe was something I concocted about a month ago, and it’s been such a big hit that I’ve already made it a second time. I hope you and your family will enjoy it too!

Our local Food Fare butcher carries Manitoba-raised pork products that they source from Country Meats in Blumnort, Manitoba (SE of Winnipeg). The jalapeños used were from my own garden, and the apples for this recipe came from my neighbour’s tree. So this is a truly Made in Manitoba recipe!

The first time around this recipe was actually a “fridge-cleaner” for us. The tomato juice was leftover from some canned diced tomatoes that I drained and used a couple days before to make my Super Easy Salsa. In the past, I would drain the juice off the tomatoes, and just let it flow down the drain. Now I save it, and freeze it, for future uses like this crock-pot delight. The tomato juice is an easy, and very flavourful addition to any stew or crock-pot recipe where you would otherwise use a broth.

Also use those wrinkled, old apples in your fridge for this recipe, as well as any other vegetable that you have in your crisper that are passed their prime — the liquid and steam in the crock-pot will rehydrate them nicely.

The tradition of enjoying pork roasts goes back a long ways in my family. It’s probably one of our top choices for creating a great family meal to sit down and share. Recently, when my Dad was visiting, I remade this recipe as I knew he’d love it too. It was a big hit with the boys after they finished a busy day around the yard doing chores.

I have never been a big fan of using my crock-pot until I learned the ultimate secret of how to produce great meat via the crock-pot…

Brown your roast off before putting it in the crock-pot, and don't forget the ends too.You simply need to sear the protein first for a few minutes on your cooktop/ grill and then add it to the mix in the crock-pot, but don’t submerse it. Then the meat is guaranteed to come out nice and brown, as if you cooked it in the oven. Plus it tends to hold together better as the seared edges protect the meat by keeping it moist, and it keeps your roast from falling apart into pulling pork.

Prep - Sear - and walk away - Crock-pot Pork Loin RoastAs we are only a family of two, I used only two of each of the ingredients below, but if you’re a larger family, or have a larger than average crock-pot, then simply scale up as required on all ingredients.

ANNA’S TIP: The leftovers (excluding the pork roast) in their liquid also make a great soup for Day Two. Puree and strain the leftover veg and liquid, and add a ½ cup of cream while warming the mixture over the stove. If you’re going to make the Day Two Soup, I highly recommend pureeing the leftovers right after you eat dinner while your leftovers are still slightly warm — it just works better.

Ingredients

One 3lb. pork loin roast
2 tbsp. Greek seasoning mix
2 tbsp. Olive oil
2 to 4 sweet potatoes, peeled and chunky cut
2 to 4 apples, any variety, cored and quartered (not peeled)
1 to 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and sliced (optional)
2 to 4 cups of tomato juice

1. Liberally coat your roast with olive oil, or whatever oil you have on hand.

2. Season all sides of your pork roast with the Greek seasoning mix — I used the Club House brand, but any spice blend would do in a pinch.

3. Pre-heat your skillet or cast-iron frying pan on a high setting with 2 tablespoons of olive oil until squiggles appear.

A great way to test the oil’s readiness is to put the handle end of a wooden spoon into the oil. If the oil bubbles on the edges of the handle, then it’s ready for the roast.

4. Sear each side of the pork roast for 2 minutes (top, bottom, right and left sides) or until golden brown – don’t forget to do the ends too because those will be worth fighting over!

5. Place the sweet potatoes, apples and jalapeños into the crock-pot, pour in your tomato juice and place the seared pork roast on top of the veggies.

6. Cook in the crock-pot on the high setting for 2.5 to 3 hours.

7. Check the pork’s temperature with a good quality meat thermometer — it should be 145*F when done.

8. Remove the roast from the crock-pot, and let the roast rest for 3 to 5 minutes before slicing.

9. Spoon the veggies into a shallow individual bowl like you use for pasta, and top with sliced meat. A thick slice of buttered bread or a biscuit is a nice touch too!

LunchFor1 Manitoba Pork Roast and Root Vegetables from the Crock Pot

If you try this recipe at home, please come back to the blog and let me know what you thought of my version of Manitoba Pork Roast and Root Vegetables.

Presto Pesto!

Presto Pesto!
Presto Pesto!

Extend the flavours of Summer by adding some pesto to your plates this month! I am a bit ashamed as a “foodie” to admit that I have never made my own pesto from scratch. I guess I’ve always been too lazy to do it and have always opted to buy my pesto in very expensive little jars.

Earlier this Summer I planted myself a nice, big patch (2×2 feet) of Basil and today was harvest day! I am really hoping that I can get a second harvest off this patch this Fall, because making pesto is so super easy. I wish I’d listened to my good friend Stephanie a decade ago and tried making my own homemade pesto.

Proper preparation of your Basil ensures you'll end up with great pestoIf you’re using fresh Basil from your garden, make sure that you wash it carefully by soaking it for a few minutes in a sink of cold water. Then dry it really well in a salad spinner —  that’s step one.

Step two is pinching all the Basil leaves off the stems – tedious, but necessary. Unlike it’s popular cousin, Cilantro, basil stems do not impart any flavour, and mine were quite fibrous. You definitely want to avoid adding the stems.

Next dig out your dusty food processor, you may also try this in a blender, but I think the wider and flatter bottom of a food processor is best for making pesto.

Here's all you're going to need to get started making your own pesto!

Here’s all you’re going to need to get started making your own pesto!

5 cups packed fresh Basil leaves, cleaned

1 cup Pine Nuts

1 cup real Parmesan Cheese, finely shaved

3/4 teaspoon Sea Salt

6 cloves fresh Garlic, whole

1 cup Olive Oil

  1. Combine 1/3 cup of olive oil and all the other ingredients in your food processor.
  2. Using the knife blade, blend everything together while drizzling in the leftover olive oil until it comes together in a bright green sauce. NOTE: You may not need all the oil.
  3. Let sit for up to an hour before using to let the flavours gel together.
  4. Makes about 3 cups. Refrigerate in an airtight container for use up to one month.

You can also divide the recipe in thirds to make a smaller batch.

Pesto in your food processor can be made quickly

Here are some of my favourite uses for pesto!

  • Mix 1 to 2 tablespoons over hot freshly boiled baby potatoes, or into a pot of mashed potatoes for a yummy, extra tasty side dish that goes perfect with any meal.
  • For a great pizza idea that’s a little bit different knock-off Earl’s Prawn and Pesto Pizza by using sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil and just a bit of mozzarella and parmesan cheese on a thin crust.
  • Dress up your store bought spaghetti sauce with a dollop of pesto on top of each dish.
  • Class up the normal pesto sauce on your next pasta dish and add a bit of half-and-half cream to create a Creamy Pesto sauce.
  • We love pesto on our BBQ shrimp, especially when we mix in a minced jalapeño pepper to spice it up.
  • Marinade a thick-cut pork chop overnight with a bit of diluted pesto by adding extra olive oil and a bit of white balsamic vinegar.
  • Pesto over soft cream cheese makes a great last-minute appetizer when served with crackers.

This recipe makes about 3 cupsI’m excited to try all of these again this week! Beware vampires of my garlic overload.

How do you use pesto in your meals?
Please feel free to share your comments below.

 

 

Summer-Summer-Summertime

Summer-Summer-Summertime
Summer-Summer-Summertime

In the words of Will Smith, and in the tradition of my fellow Winnipeggers… I have been on hiatus for most of the summer — as you can tell.

Year-to-date I’ve probably written more than 80,000 words, and my fingers just needed the break. But not to fret! I will return with more great recipes, suggestions, tips and restaurant reviews next month (or sooner if inspiration strikes next week at the Madden’s Food & Wine Weekend in Brainerd, Minnesota, USA).

I’ve been working on two, great, new projects this Summer though! Check out Uniquely Manitoba’s 120+ local artists, as well as my newest venture… I’m so excited to finally be getting back to adult education roots – visit the GoodToGreat Public Speaking Training. blog to view quick tips to help you gain confidence while presenting.

Winnipeg's 1st Annual Chocoholics Buffet is tomorrow April 20 2013Of course, work continues for Winnipeg’s 2nd Annual Chocoholics’ Buffet too! There are few dull moments in my summertime schedule.

If you want to follow along my foodie adventures you can check out my Instagram or Twitter feeds for pics.

Hi from the Toby at the beach — we’ll be back soon!

Anna

Easy Empanadas

Easy Empanadas
Easy Empanadas

Whenever I consider making pastry dough… I cringe, as that is one thing that I just don’t get. But, I have conquering this culinary skill on my bucket list and will eventually “get it” — one day. A few years ago I signed up for a one-day pastry making class, though for pie pastry the chef who was teaching said that “most chefs just buy the pre-made Tenderflake pie/ tart shells”. I always thought that that was a cop-out, personally. So I’m still pursuing my goal of making the perfect pie dough pastry – your suggestions, tips and recipes are welcome!

However in that one-day session… I did learn how to make this awesome, and super-easy empanada dough.

The class I took was more than four years ago, but I’ve only made empanadas once since then — for my sister’s 50th birthday, but that was about four years ago – sorry, Debra. But Monday afternoon I decided that my nacho and margarita party with some galpals just NEEDED to have homemade empanadas!

Pork filled empanadas

My first attempt at yummy empanadas in four years. Not to shabby, I think! Though these were a tad overstuffed.

At the grocery store, I picked up ground pork before checking for some online recipe information for the filling suggestions. Oops! I found that the most traditional fillings are beef or cheese — no pork. So improvise I did!

The dough for empanadas couldn’t been any simpler. Trust me, if you can make pancakes you can make this dough.

Dough:
(makes 3 dozen small empanadas)

1 tub Spreadable Cream Cheese
1 cup Flour
Dash of Sea Salt

1. Place all ingredients in your food processor (or mixer), and beat until combined.

2. Turn out your dough onto a floured counter, and knead a few times, shaping the dough into a ball.

3. Cut your dough into quarters, and roll each quarter out one at a time to a thickness of about 1/8″.

NOTE: I didn’t refrigerate my dough before rolling it out, but you could if you wanted. I think it may make the dough a bit too stiff to roll out nicely though. If it does, just allow the dough to warm up a bit, and try rolling it again. I froze a bit of the leftover dough and filling (separately) to use for a yummy, impromptu lunch in the future.

You should aim for a fine consistency for your empanada filling.

Aim for a fine consistency for your empanada filling.

Now let me try to remember what I used in my hodge-podge pork filling four days ago, as it was pretty yummy…

Feel free to experiment with flavours of your own and to do a bit of “fridge-clearing” when you make these. One Facebook friend made a vegetarian version, and I’m still awaiting the filling recipe she used. Every culture has a perogy, empanada, dumpling, gyoza, ravioli, etc. so feel free to experiment with your favourite meats, veggies, seasonings, herbs, and sauces. But here’s mine…

Filling:

1 White Onion, minced

1 pound Ground Pork

1 tsp. Sea Salt

1/2 tsp. Black Pepper

1 tbsp. Epicure Selections Herb & Garlic Dip Mix

1 tbsp. Epicure Selections Guacamole Dip Mix

1 tsp. Smoked Paprika

1/2 cup Tomato Juice

1 cup Green Olives, with pimentos

1/4 cup Green Onions, chopped

3 tbsp. Cilantro, fresh

1. Saute half of the onions with the ground pork for two minutes.

2. Add all of the dry spices, and cook meat until well cooked.

3. Run your olives through your food processor or chop them finely. Add to the fry pan with the tomato juice and leftover onions.

4. Cook for two minutes just to warm the olives slightly and allow the juice to soak up.

5. Remove your fry pan from the burner and add the green onions and cilantro and stir in.

6. Place filling in your food processor and pulse until it becomes a fine mixture.

7. Allow mixture to cool in the fridge while you make and ready the dough.

Perogy maker gets alternative use to make empanadas

Perogy maker gets alternative use to make empanadas

Now I received this nifty gift (vintage, but new) from a very good, foodie friend (another Deborah – thanks babe!). But you can buy a similar pan online called the Hunky Bills Little Perogie Maker for about $16. I have the Hunky Bill larger-sized perogy maker, but that seemed a bit too large for appetizer-sized empanadas, I thought. The advantage of the perogy maker is that I could make 72 empanadas (6 dozen) in less than an hour from start to finish on this recipe.

Though I did double the dough ingredients – FYI because I couldn’t remember how many one tub of cream cheese would make.

However, all is not lost if you want to make individual empanadas one at a time. Though I would suggest that you make the meal-sized versions (think Pizza Pop sizes) to save time in the kitchen.

Alternate Creation: Simply choose a glass, cup, open can, or something round about the size that you wish, and cut out individual circles. Place your filling in the middle and fold over the dough in half, and crimp the edges with a fork. IT is a bit of extra work, I know, because that is how I made all my empanadas for the birthday party last time.

They don't raise or expand too much, so you can fit even more than two dozen on a cookie sheet.

They don’t raise or expand too much, so you can fit even more than two dozen on a cookie sheet.

I laid two dozen empanadas out on a cookie sheet covered with a Silpat mat and baked them at 350*F on the highest rack for 10-12 minutes until they were just slightly golden brown. I served mine with a Thai Salad Dressing “dip” that I picked up at Safeway, and they tasted great. Though a friend served hers with salsa, and they were eaten right up. Empanadas pretty much go with anything. I guess salsa would have been the better choice for a nachos and margaritas party, but oh well, I love my Thai dressing!

If you didn’t need the empanadas right away, you could also freeze them on the cookie sheet. Once frozen you could store them together in a Ziploc bag and defrost slightly on a cookie sheet before baking. I did that as well for an impromptu get together a few nights later. They were once again a bit hit. I defrosted the empanadas in advance for an hour before the guests arrived so that the filling had a chance to warm up too. Otherwise you might get chilly empanada innards.

Are you going to make, or have you made, empanadas? If you do…
please let me know if you experiment with the filling in the comments section below.

Playing Tourist in my Old Hometown of Vancouver

Playing Tourist in my Old Hometown of Vancouver
Playing Tourist in my Old Hometown of Vancouver

My husband is attending a conference this week in Downtown Vancouver, and his business trip opened up a great opportunity for me to go with him! So here I am returned to Canada’s West coast and exploring the city’s changed landscape and atmosphere. I’ve managed to sneak in a few foodie adventures too, and wanted to share everything with my readers who many be planning a trip to Vancouver in the next year.

It’s been almost five years since we last visited Vancouver, so I was really looking forward to this trip in order to reconnect with old friends, and to see family members. For 13 years I lived throughout Greater Vancouver (1991-2004), and I very much enjoyed my west coast lifestyle. It’s been awesome to revisit my past life and to do a little trendspotting along the way.

Vancouver from Westjet flight 451

On a clear day you can see… Vancouver upon my arrival was stellar from my Westjet window seat

This Playing Tourist post begins a multi-part series on my 8-day Adventures in YVR — hope you enjoy it! Here are some of the blog posts that I am working on to share with you over the coming weeks…

The World’s Best Chocoholic Buffet?

Tourist Trapping on Granville Island

Exploring Kitsilano – Beaching and Blogging

Escaping to Newport Village in Port Moody

An Afternoon at Spanish Banks

Great Treks and Secret Places

…and much much more as I continue on my adventurous
path in Downtown Vancouver over the coming days.

Up until now we’ve been staying in the Dunbar area of southwest Vancouver, which is just east of the University of British Columbia. It’s a very beautiful bit of country in the city and well worth exploring, but more on that later.

First, let me tell you my impressions thus far of Vancouver to see if you agree… It’s a very expensive place to visit and/or live – this from a former YVR-native. I honestly don’t know how I managed to live here for 13 years – most of those years living alone and single.

I believe the post-Olympics money-grab is mostly to blame for higher rates everywhere. But I know this was a very expensive city even back in 1985 when I first visited and fell in love with Vancouver and had the dream of moving here, like many Canadians. And everything has definitely gone up since 2004 when I departed the west coast.

The number one question that my husband and I have been asked over the past nine years was “why ever would you move from Vancouver to Winnipeg?” The simple answer is “to buy a house that we could actually pay off in our lifetime”, and that statement pretty much sums up what Vancouver is all about. There seems to be a house for sale on every block out here right now.

One frustrating thing is that everywhere you turn someone seems to have their hand out asking you to spend above and beyond a reasonable rate on just about everything. I have to say this trip is making me re-appreciate living in Winnipeg which is called The Wholesale City.

Though I must say that the weather here has been absolutely blissful and I’m totally enjoying all floral and fauna and greenness of the city. My view of the garden is amazing right now as I sit in a t-shirt, capris and sandals and write this blog post.

I’m weighing the good with the bad in this series and pulling no punches, and the scales are definitely not tipped in Vancouver’s favour and you’ll see why in the upcoming posts. Please feel free to share your west coast experiences in the comments section below as I’d love to hear from you too.

This is my first of many travel-inspired series to come over the next 36 months, so sign up and stay tuned for my next foray into the unknown! The adventure continues later this Summer when Jeff and I will take our 10-year anniversary trip (location to be determined/ finalized) but many great foodie endeavours will definitely be undertaken. If we make it to Italy, we really hope to participate in a weeklong epiTOURean’s cooking vacation! One of my new Vanouver-based food blogger friends just returned and had an amazing time at the EpiTOURean villa. I cannot wait to check it out!

Tomorrow’s my Big Day!

Tomorrow’s my Big Day!
Tomorrow’s my Big Day!

No, I’m not getting married (again), but the last 108 days have felt like I was planning some sort of shotgun wedding!

Actually I think planning my wedding at a distance for 100 people may have been easier than planning this fundraiser for 300 guests — but it’s sure felt the same. It also sort of feels like something will be birthed tomorrow when Winnipeg’s 1st Annual Chocoholics’ Buffet launches.

This has definitely been a labour of love and has consumed much more of my time than I expected. Next year I will definitely appreciate the assistance of an organizing committee to enhance and build on this year. It’s been very heartening to see how well received the event has been in the pastry community, by our guests, in the media and especially by United Way of Winnipeg, who have been a HUGE support these last three and half months.

Less than 37 hours from now we will be sitting down to the biggest feast of chocolate desserts in the history of Winnipeg. Wow, perhaps I should’ve checked what the Guinness Book of World Records says about that. We will be featuring more than 3,000 pieces of dessert, that’s 10 desserts per person. How many could you eat?

By the way… we declare the Chocoholics’ Buffet to be a Calorie-Free Zone! 😉

So if you’re on the fence about attending, tickets are still available online right up until 5pm on Saturday. Please come and celebrate chocolate with us, and please consider bringing your best chocoholic friend as you will not want to miss this experience! The vast majority of the funds raised through ticket sales are going straight to United Way as all of our desserts have been donated to this fundraising event.

Can’t make the event but still want to support us?
If you wish, you can make a donation before 5pm tomorrow here.

Next year we will move the event to what appears to be World Chocolate Weekend, so you might want to pen us in for Saturday, March 22nd, 2014 — and start making your plans to visit Winnipeg if you don’t already live here. Tickets will go on sale December 1st on Eventbrite.ca!

Here’s a peek at our 2013 menu just to get you salivating… we’ve already started confirming our 2014 chocolate artists too! So exciting. (click on the company names to learn more about each of our chocolate artists)

All About Cakes
Almond Nougat Cookies – A gourmet thin-layer sandwich of melt in your mouth buttery cookie filled with a thick layer of authentic chocolate nougat
Cookie Monster Chocolate Cake – Just for a little bit of childish fun… this chocolate layer cake was a must have as Cookie Monster is the original chocoholic!

All Seasons Catering
Brownies – Gluten free chocolate brownie with nutella powder, hazelnut brittle and edible gold
Chocolate Salted Caramel Bars

Benjamin’s Gourmet Foods
Chocolate French Pastries – Moist flour-less chocolate cake layered with chocolate Callebaut indulgence filling, giving you a delightful richness both in taste and texture

Café ce Soir French Pastry Café
Chocolate Chili Crème Brûlée – Rich dark Callebaut chocolate and spicy Thai-chili infused creamy goodness that will add just the right zing to your evening
Gateau Basque
Passion Fruit Chocolate Tarte

Cake-ology
Cakettes – Little morsels of our rich chocolate cake, mixed with house-made butter cream, then rolled into little balls and dipped into chocolate

Chocolate Zen Bakery Signature TorteChocolate Zen Bakery
Sacrapantina Truffle Balls – Espresso buttercream surrounded by our decadent chocolate truffle torte, covered in amaretti cookie and chocolate drizzle.  And it’s gluten free!
Chocolate Zen Torte – A layer of chocolate cake topped with a baked creamy chocolate filling.  Then topped with chocolate ganache icing, white chocolate curls and fresh strawberries

Cocoabeans Bakeshop
Chocolate Walnut Torte – Rich & moist chocolate cake layered with silky smooth “buttercream” frosting, crunchy caramelized walnut pieces and coconut ganache that melts in your mouth.  Your taste buds will beg for more!
Cake Truffles

The Cupcake Corner
Mini Chocolate Cupcakes – Scratch made chocolate cake with signature Belgian chocolate buttercream – a delicious classic

Desserts Plus
Chocolate Log

Dolce Bake Shop
Chocolate Dulce de Leche Rum Cake – Dark rich moist chocolate cake layered with creamy milk based caramel drizzled with syrup and Cuban golden rum, and topped with chocolate ganache

Double D’s Cheesecake
Chocolate Supreme Cheesecake Bites – An experience your lips will lavish.  Light and creamy cheesecake, made with a rich dark cocoa powder, chunks of homemade brownie cookies and milk chocolate chips. Topped with a white and dark chocolate ganache

Fairmont Hotel Winnipeg Manitoba Honey Milk Chocolate Mousse CakeFairmont Hotel Winnipeg
Manitoba Honey and Milk Chocolate Mousse Cake – Once you’ve been stung by this rich n’ creamy treat you’ll be buzzing around all night begging for another dose

Frenchway Café
Chocolate French Macarons – Chocolatey almond shell blends wonderfully with the smoothness of the ganache filling
5-layer Chocolate Cake – Let the tantalizing combination of salted caramel and chocolate ganache tempt your senses in this sky-high creation

High Tea Bakery
Chocolate Crinkle Cookies – Soft brownie-like cookies with a bit of crackle to the outside, but nice and chewy on the inside

Joe Black Coffee Bar
Complimentary Hot Beverage Bar – Rich and creamy hot chocolate and café mocha.  Made with our finest Italian espresso, spiked with triple sec or one of our other yummy flavors

Jonnie’s Sticky Buns
Mini Cocoa Nymph Sticky Bun – Chocolate cocoa dough rolled with deliciously dark chocolate, topped with house made English toffee, sea salt, and Jonnie’s chocolate coffee icing

LIlac Bakery Classic BrownieLilac Bakery
Classic Brownie – Crisp walnuts enveloped in a mouth-watering rich fudge and topped with our decadent dark cocoa icing

Mordens’ of Winnipeg
Russian Mints for everyone!

Pilates Manitoba
“Pie-Lattes” – White chocolate, mascarpone & raspberry “Pie-Lattes” mini pies with chocolate filling served with a cold latte shot on the side

Red River College School of Hospitality & Culinary Arts
Chocolate BonBons – Passion fruit and honey enrobed bonbons in Cacao Barry 66% Mexique single origin chocolate created by the talented students and their instructor

Roll Cake Bakery & Dessert
Chocolate Banana Roll Cake – Chocolate sponge cake with chocolate banana mousse filling and top with mash marrow and chocolate décor
Black Forest Roll Cake – Chocolate sponge cake with chocolate chip mousse and cherry and rum jelly filling, top with chocolate ganache and fruit
Chocolate Coconut Twist Fruit Tarts – Chocolate and Coconut mousse with chocolate sponge cake and top with chocolate décor
Cherry Blossom Fruit Tart – White chocolate mousse with cherry source and top with chocolate décor

Sam’s Place
Red Wine Chocolate Cake – Vanilla scented ricotta cream mellows this silky fair trade chocolate cake infused with the scent of spiced red wine

Sugar Blooms & Cakes
Mango Bravo Cake – Layers of orange cake infused with mango syrup, nestled on chocolate mousse cake and covered with mango Italian buttercream

And if all that wasn’t enough…

We will also be featuring The Gates on Roblin‘s signature chocolate fountain and fresh fruit topiaries.

As well, Lindt Canada has graciously provided us with three of their chocolatiers and a selection of Lindor balls at the Interactive Chocoholics’ Tasting Station to celebrate their one year anniversary in Winnipeg. Do check out their anniversary festivities and huge sale at the store starting Thursday – here are all the details!

Kelly Cattani and her staff from Elements Restaurant and Diversity Catering from the University of Winnipeg will be providing our guests with Chocolate Textures Cuboids, which are chocolate and flavour combos of assorted dipped, filled, and constructed chocolate bites.

I cannot wait to see the whole she-bang of goodies laid out on the Chocoholics’ Buffet for a wonderful evening of all things chocolate. It will be a delight for the senses!

Can’t you just smell all the delicious chocolate aromas now? Hoping you can join us, if not this year… then next! Visit our website later next week to view our Photo Gallery. You can also subscribe to our Chocoholics’ Blog here.

Yours in Chocolate,

Anna

 

Nothing blue about Gunmetal Blues

Nothing blue about Gunmetal Blues
Nothing blue about Gunmetal Blues

Prairie Theatre Exchange (PTE) was red-hot Thursday night with laughs, music and some great light-hearted entertainment as the last installment of their 2012/13 season was showcased at opening night for Gunmetal Blues. This play brings the theater’s 40th season to a conclusion with a bang and runs until April 21st.

If you’re a fan of the vintage detective genre you will have a leg up on your fellow audience members as Gunmetal Blues possesses many undercurrents of famous movie, television and literary detectives. Though I’m a huge fan of murder mysteries in all their forms. I suspect I was missing some of the references that had others laughing along.

As I tend to avoid reading the online synopsis of the play before I see it, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself attending a musical. I do so love musicals! It’s actually described as a “film noir musical”, a two-fer for all those film noir fans out there.

This highly entertaining play featured three characters in a classic whodunit plot with many twists and turns. My favourite was the multifaceted, triple threat Piano Player, Buddy Toupee played by Gordon Roberts who also played a few other very interesting characters as well. I hope Gordon was paid quadruple for all his various roles last night… we were definitely kept in stitches by his antics. Picture Nathan Lane in any of his quirky roles and you’ll have a great idea of Buddy Toupee’s character.

And of course you couldn’t have a private detective play without a gumshoe. Andrew Wheeler played his part to perfection. Though I feel Galahad got the short end of the stick with most of the singing and funny parts going to the other two characters. I suppose someone had to be cast as the serious one.

The female lead Meghan Gardiner – “The Blonde” – can really belt out a great tune. My favourite song of her’s was The Blonde Song, give it a listen on iTunes. Contrary to Buddy Toupee’s sales pitch… you can get the album online at iTunes at a $10 savings! This statement will make more sense once you see the play. I think I may need to buy it as a reminder of a very special night!

And for all your romantics out there you can purchase Dinner & A Show… here’s a great Date Night idea at Rudy’s for under $70 per person.

Best Brothers, Social Studies, Chelsea Hotel, The Valley, Harvest at PTE

Prairie Theatre Exchange 2013/2014 Season

I simple love what PTE does with their small cast of characters. Having lived in Vancouver and attended the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre out there (which is no more) I felt an extra special connection to this production which originated at the Playhouse.

I fully concur with PTE’s Artistic Director’s message. “The closure of the Playhouse was a devastating event and serves as a cautionary tale for everyone who understands the importance of the arts and its institutions. None of our cultural institutions should be taken for granted.”

PTE has just released its’ line-up for their 2013/14 season – check it out.

To be able to see FIVE live productions for just $189 is a steal of a deal. Or if you’re on a tighter budget, come on Preview Wednesdays and you can see all five plays for just $99 per person! Buy your subscription today and you’ll receive many other benefits of membership too.

Read more about the new productions coming to PTE Winnipeg:
Best Brothers | Social Studies | Chelsea Hotel | The Valley | Harvest

SOCIAL MEDIA CONNECTION: Follow PTE on Facebook and Twitter to receive their latest news.

Eating Kangaroo-My Down Under Adventures in Winnipeg

Eating Kangaroo-My Down Under Adventures in Winnipeg
Eating Kangaroo-My Down Under Adventures in Winnipeg

At the beginning of March I had the pleasure of filming some segments for CityTV’s Breakfast Television with one of the chocolate artists who is participating in our upcoming Chocoholics’ Buffet.

We got to talking about neat culinary experiences for local Winnipeg diners and Chef Cam Tran of Café ce Soir informed me that he holds Wild Tuesdays where he features interesting wild game choices. Having never been a fan of wild meat, I thought the combination of Cam’s extensive culinary experience and my foodie bucket list may be a great way to expand my palate.

I then began closely watching Café ce Soir’s Facebook and Twitter posts, and saw that Cam was creating a special entrée using kangaroo, and I just knew I had to be there. So I grabbed my dear hubby, made a reservation and went down to experience Café ce Soir’s Slow Food movement.

Our Kangaroo entree, so pretty and yet so very simple and so very tasty!

Our Kangaroo entree, so pretty and yet so very simple and so very tasty!

Now you’re probably already wondering why I chose kangaroo, or more importantly why the chef would chose such an exotic protein… Well the answer is simple, because he could. Many people, including myself, have discounted the extreme culinary talent that Winnipeg possesses simply because they don’t know better. Are we too modest about our great eats here? Or are we just keeping the country’s best-kept foodie secrets to ourselves?

Nine years ago this week when I first moved to Winnipeg from Vancouver I had no idea how rich the foodie scene was in Winnipeg, but over the years I’ve learned and now I’m proud to showcase some of the secret talents hidden in our fair city.

But back to kangaroo…

Kangaroo before it hits the grill in the open kitchen at Cafe ce Soir Winnipeg

Raw Kangaroo – could be beef tenderloin if you didn’t know better

As far as looks and smell you probably couldn’t tell the difference between kangaroo and beef tenderloin in its raw state. Kangaroo is also very similar to beef as far as taste goes, at least initially, but there was an indescribable after taste that was very pleasant. Cam enhanced the meat’s flavour profile with a chocolate chili rub and topped it with a pat of compounded blueberry butter.

Cam was quick to point out that kangaroo should be cooked like beef tenderloin to a light medium rare as kangaroo toughens up quickly just like beef. As well, because kangaroo is so lean, he recommended that it be soaked in oil prior to cooking to add a bit of fat to protect the meat’s moisture.

Kangaroo at Cafe ce Soir Winnipeg

It’s a strange picture, but you can see the compound butter on top and the rareness of the meat as well as those great potato chips

Our sliced kangaroo filet was sitting on top of the funniest potatoes I’ve ever eaten. Our server described them to us as “potato skins”, but what they were in actuality were thin potato peelings that were deep fried to crispy goodness. The crunchiness was an exciting enhancement to the meal, and the side salad was refreshing and light.

The best gnocchi in Winnipeg in my opinion at Cafe ce Soir

If you could but taste these little glorious clouds of deliciousness

Our other equally mouth-pleasing entrée was Cam’s lighter than clouds homemade gnocchi in an almond pesto cream sauce. I’ve been on a quest to find the city’s most amazing gnocchi and I have to say… these were pretty impressive – probably the best I’ve had in my life. The sauce was a bit heavier than I would’ve liked, but it was tasty nonetheless. If you’re a gnocchi fan then you’ve definitely got to put Cam’s creations on your foodie bucket list this Spring.

It was almost like starting with dessert

It was almost like starting with dessert

To back up a bit… we started with brie and strawberry onion compote in puff pastry, which were tasty and light. If you’ve ever melted brie though you know that it disappears. My husband and I agreed that we would’ve liked more brie in our puffs, but they were still very delicious. They made a nice light appetizer to share and a great beginning to our langsam meal (langsam in German means slow).

Cam is a big supporter of Slow Food Canada, and he advocates allowing sufficient time to savour your meal and paces the service so that his diners can enjoy each course at leisure. Café ce Soir also offers take-away service for those that wish to eat at home or who don’t have time to linger over their meal and we saw many take out containers being readied for local residents of Wolseley. Café ce Soir is definitely a major asset to that neighbourhood.

Our cute little amuse bouche

Our cute little amuse bouche

Cam kept our appetites whetted by providing a neat little amuse bouche treat of smoked salmon and avocado on a crostini with a red pepper puree which was served between the appetizer and entrée courses. Plus we followed European tradition and ordered our salad as our final course prior to dessert. The salad course was just the right size to share, and consisted of romaine lettuce, granny smith apples and blue cheese served with pomegranate vinaigrette. This salad would also be exceptional as a stand-alone lunch selection with a chicken accompaniment.

But of course at Café ce Soir I think it’s the very best choice is to eat dessert first! Cam trained in France for his pastry knowledge, and his desserts really are exceptional. He’s getting a reputation for his six-layer Death by Chocolate torte which takes 3 days to make and sells out fast to all his chocoholic customers. I had the pleasure of trying the Death by Chocolate on a previous dessert-only visit, and I can attest to the reason why it will make an addict out of you too.

We had to ensure that we saved room for our final course – dessert. My husband is a huge crème brulee fan and we’ve popped in a few times in March to satisfy Jeff’s craving because Cam creates a new crème brulee each week. This week he was featuring a lavender lemon crème brulee, which was a great finish to an awesome experience. I myself had the passion fruit pannacotta, which was light and creamy too. The smaller serving sizes were just the right size and weight to finish off this great meal.

Creme Brulee - doesn't this make you crave it?

Creme Brulee – doesn’t this make you crave it?

If you’d like to escape the every day and the noisy busy restaurants you’ve tried before, then I highly recommend making the trip up to Café ce Soir which is located across from DeLuca’s on Portage Avenue. You will be treated to a true Parisian atmosphere and be allowed to sit, visit and enjoy your meal.

Next week Cam is serving Python, but unfortunately he has pre-sold this culinary adventure, so you need to get on his social media list so that you can reserve a spot for his next Wild Tuesday adventure.

Write–Read–Edit–Repeat my merry-go-round life of writing this year

Write–Read–Edit–Repeat my merry-go-round life of writing this year
Write–Read–Edit–Repeat my merry-go-round life of writing this year

Write-Read-Edit-Repeat has been my mantra for the past 90 days. As I stand at the end of March, I know that April will probably be no different, so I’m looking forward to May for many reasons. Or more specifically April 21st which is when my life can return to normal – maybe – at least until I begin my next project.

Are you like me, do you feel like 2013 has been your year to check off a bunch of items from your bucket list? I don’t know why my “switch” has been flipped to full speed ahead this winter… but I like it! After three years of being able to do very little, I suppose I’m just making up for lost time.

Unfortunately over these past few months something had to give. Well actually two somethings had to give… My regular food blogging posts and my mall walking, and I miss them both dearly. So my goal for post-Easter is to bring back some work-life balance and to get more active again as I head into Spring. Are you feeling the same?

Over the past 90 days I’ve been organizing a fundraiser for 300 people that you may have heard of it… Winnipeg’s 1st Annual Chocoholics’ Buffet benefiting United Way of Winnipeg. At first I thought it’s be a piece of cake (haha) but it has come with some unique “fun” points and a lot of exciting news along with various ups and downs, as well as a whole other food blog to write. In hindsight, perhaps I could have started a little smaller with achieving this bucket list goal, but then I’ve never been one who needed to read The Magic of Thinking Big.

In addition to writing a regular blog about chocolate desserts and the event’s news, I’ve also spent time creating all the written material for the Chocoholics’ Buffet. It’s truly been a labour of love, and I cannot wait to watch it all come together over the next 19 days.

On the other hand I think I need to become an octopus with the ability to write on multiple computers with multiple hands! For this year I also decided to write my first book, well textbook. This book on public speaking has been banging around inside my head for the past 10+ years, and this year (with incredibly bad timing) it wanted to come out – right now. For six years, in my past life, I was a public speaking instructor in Vancouver at the British Columbia Institute of Technology’s (BCIT) marketing program, and in Fall 2013 I will return to doing what I love and offering my course through the Winnipeg School Division’s adult education program – LifeLongLearning.

I uncovered a ton of material, including a 72-page workbook, that had been sitting in a Rubbermaid blue bin in my basement storage room. It seemed like the perfect time to combine the workbook material with everything that was stuck in my head from my teaching days. I wanted to be able to provide my students with my perspective on how to conquer their fears of speaking in public, and I’m happy to report that this project is coming along nicely.

For the month of February I took my mornings and wrote my book using the www.NaNoWriMo.org 30-day book creation principles. Fascinating stuff! If you have a book on your to-do list… I highly recommend you read Chris Baty’s No Plot No Problem which was recommended to me by local author Barbara Kellyn. I never thought I could do it, but I did. And I cannot wait to try it again in November with a non-fiction story that’s been plaguing for a few years. Please consider joining me for National Novel Writing Month. I understand that there is a very active local support group of NaNoWriMo writers in Winnipeg, I cannot wait to join their ranks later this year to write our individual novels together.

A great BIG thank you to everyone who supported me along the way, and to my very special advisory team members who propped me up in February by keeping me accountable to my goal. I’m happy to report that on March 18th the first full edit of my textbook was completed by my husband Jeff. A week later my long-time good friend Cori Brownlee, completed the second edit. Now it’s time for a few re-writes while I await my third editor friend, Hadass Eviatar to finish

up her review of the last three parts of my textbook. And then I think it may be time to test this course out again this Spring – somewhere – somehow. Who would like to improve their on-stage presence? Drop me a line.

Now I can finally get caught up on a few food blogging checklist items. I apologize for being away – I know you’ve missed me. Haha

  • Check back for my next blog post on My Down Under Adventures in Winnipeg – eating Kangaroo at Cafe ce Soir’s Wild Game Tuesday nights!
  • Then I’ll be taking on a trip to Vietnam with a fundraising event that I organized with Saigon Jon’s help on March 18th as a mini-fundraiser for ShareOurStrength – No Kid Hungry.
  • And then I’ll go back through my camera to uncover all the other stuff that is lurking in the shadows of my memory in regards to my rushed meal planning over the past while.
  • Plus I’m trying to make another batch of homemade feta, and I really would like to share that with you too.
  • And of course there is also my review this week of Prairie Theatre Exchange‘s latest Opening Night for Gunmetal Blues… so stay tuned.

Happy Easter Sunday everyone! Eat Chocolate and Be Merry! Let me know what the Easter Bunny brought you.

No pics today, but Same Old Shannon writes about Easter treats and the bad chocolate bunny

No pics today, but Same Old Shannon writes about Easter treats and the bad chocolate bunny

Eat your fill of chocolate for United Way

Eat your fill of chocolate for United Way
Eat your fill of chocolate for United Way

I am so excited to host Winnipeg’s 1st Annual Chocoholics’ Buffet! If you’ve picked up a copy of today’s Metro News and read our cover story, you may be having challenges with the website address that Metro News printed due to a “widowing” problem that caused an extra hyphen in our URL.

Not to worry, here is the correct link to where you can purchase tickets to our fabulous event on Eventbrite.

We can’t wait to share all our chocolate goodies with you on Saturday, April 20th, 2013 at the Gates on Roblin Ballroom. Learn all about the details of this event on our website www.ChocoholicsBuffet.com.

You can also follow us on Twitter @ChocBuffetWPG and on Facebook.

Metro News Cover Story March 15, 2013

Metro News Cover Story March 15, 2013

90 Minutes in Afghanistan for my review of This is War at PTE

90 Minutes in Afghanistan for my review of This is War at PTE
90 Minutes in Afghanistan for my review of This is War at PTE

I was completely moved by this play — so much so that it’s taken me this long to formulate how to put my feelings about This is War into words after seeing it at Prairie Theatre Exchange on Opening Night. It’s only running until March 10th, so buy your tickets now as you’ll not want to miss this experience!

But it’s not like I have been doing nothing… I apologize for my absence from my blog. Did you see the newly redesigned website for Winnipeg’s 1st Annual Chocoholics’ Buffet, which LunchFor1 is proud to host? A big thank you to Lynne Robson of CrazyChameleon.ca for all her assistance.

Before I dive into my review of play, I must first talk about food. My husband and I were able to grab some pre-show appetizers at Rudy’s Food & Drink in the Manitoba Hydro Building across the street prior to the performance. However, we were just in for a couple of appies and a quick drink, and to hang out with all the cowboy boot wearing folks heading to the Eric Church concert at MTS Centre. To read more about my first Rudy’s experience click here.

ThisIsWarProgram

My Review of This is War

Upon entering the theatre I felt transported to Afghanistan. I hate to spoil the effect for you, however, I also want to express the intensity of such an amazingly simple, yet effect, set design, which was created by Camille Kennedy. The stage setting caused me to pause at the entryway, and to back up a step to snap a picture.

My first impressions of This is War - transported to the other side of the world.

My first impressions of This is War. You’re immediately transported to the other side of the world.

As the lights dimmed, I could feel my heart begin to race in anticipation of what I expected to be an intense 90 minutes. I knew this was not going to be a light affair like my experience reviewing The Dishwashers, PTE’s previous play. And I was NOT disappointed.

Right from the opening scene, the audience had an immediate sense that they were really there with our Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan. The play allowed me to learn about a day in the life of a soldier at war, and it left me feeling like I’d been to a battlefield too. I left realizing that I’ve lived a very sheltered life. For all of my 41 years, I’ve restricted my news watching, and consciously avoided war coverage on television. This is War has shown me that it’s perhaps time that I give deeper consideration to the issues of our returning soldiers, given that I live just blocks from the 17Wing Military Base and know so many military families.

With only four actors in the play, you immediately develop an emotional attachment to them as their characters develop. I was quickly drawn to Master Corporal Tanya Young’s character played by Lisa Berry because I sit on the fence about a woman’s role in warfare. I appreciated how both the writing and acting showed me how powerful the human and personal strains of combat can be, especially for a female soldier. I’m now interested in learning more about Canada’s female soldiers, and I thank the cast and Hannah Moscovitch, the playwright, for opening my eyes.

The script is written and delivered aggressively, but not distastefully.  It showcases what a day in the life of a solider can be like. But this play is not for the “faint of ear” as it does come with a strong “Audience Advisory:  This is War contains violence, sexuality and explicit language” as stated on PTE’s website. But this extremely factual portrayal only heightens the validity of the playwright’s message.

The highlight of the play, in my books, was the last scene with Captain Stephen Hughes, played by John Cleland. I also teach public speaking, and I tell my students that in giving a passion or motivational speech, you want to the audience to feel like they are “in the palm of your hand”. I felt this exact same feeling while John delivered the closing lines of this great play.

Overall This is War was a sensitive treatment of a variety of very serious subjects. I really cannot say much more as I don’t want to spoil the plot. Please support PTE by buying tickets to this illuminating experience so that they can continue to bring brilliant actors and amazing plays to Winnipeg. This is War is only running for one more week, visit PTE’s Box Office to secure your seats. I highly recommend sitting in the centre section.

Did you see This is War too?
What did you think?

 

Drinks and Appies at Rudy’s before our PTE Play

Drinks and Appies at Rudy’s before our PTE Play

I finally got downtown to visit both the new Manitoba Hydro Place, and Rudy’s Eat & Drink, prior to going to Prairie Theatre Exchange’s opening of This is War. I’d been dying to check out Rudy’s “Mad Men” vibe, and had been jealous of my husband and other friend’s visits.

It’s true that Rudy’s has a kitschy-vibe! I loved the decor so much that I had to snap a few pictures of the see-through wall, and the origami-like pendant lamps with my iPhone and shoot them off to an interior designer friend of mine. And a trip to the ladies washroom to see how beautiful they were was a “must” in my husband’s opinion. But you’ll have to get yourself down to Rudy’s to check all that out for yourself, because I’ll not spoil the surprise!

We had to compete with the MTS Centre crowd who was duded-up in their country finery to go next door to see Eric Church’s concert. But the restaurant was hopping and packed to the rafters with people beginning their Thursday night out on the town. I love trying Caesars wherever I go, so it was a no-brainer to fall in love with Rudy’s Signature Caesar – YUM! (sorry no pictures)

Rudys Collage

Jeff selected Rudy’s Mini Ruebens, and I had their Tempura Tuna Roll from the Tasty Eats lounge menu. I had a couple bites of Jeff’s mini sandwiches, but I’m not a big pastrami fan. There were more than enough sammies for sharing, and Jeff gave them two, tasty thumbs up.

I don’t normally order sushi anywhere but at a sushi restaurant, but I thought it’d be a fast selection as we only had an hour. I was a little bit shocked that Rudy’s didn’t serve soy sauce on the side. However, after flagging down Jonny, the restaurant manager, he reassured me that those brown, round balls on top was soy sauce doing its new-age thing using molecular gastronomy. Well… I couldn’t wait to eat them! Very cool!

My soy sauce was in-cognito - a must try for a unique sushi experience!

My soy sauce was incognito – a must try for a unique sushi experience!

Overall our brief experience was good. I’ll be seeing you next time for steak and s’mores, Jonny!

Have you been to Rudy’s?
What did you think?

Cruising Right Along – down 12lbs so far in 2013

Cruising Right Along – down 12lbs so far in 2013

Now before you think that losing 2 pounds a week is a bad thing, remember that I am using the Move More-Eat Less principle of weight release, and not any sort of diet or magic pill/ shake program. And though I’m about to reference Weight Watchers, note that I used the program over three years ago to lose 60+ pounds, but… like with most diets the weigh came back as soon as I stopped the program. This time my Weight Release pathway is all about a change in lifestyle. And so far I’m pretty happy to be back down to my pre-surgery weight from last Summer, having released a total of 12 pounds so far in 2013.

Here are a few more of my weight release secrets, and a couple of updates on previous posts.

WEIGHTS & MEASURES: One thing I’ve changed on my Weight Release journey this time is that I only weigh-in every two weeks, and I take my measurements every four weeks. This shift in thinking and in how I watch the scale has contributed to my success. Plus, I’m always so keen to see how I am doing every couple weeks instead of making it a daily or weekly chore to check the scale.

MALL-WALKING: So far in 2013 I’ve logged a total of 117.5 kilometers (73 miles for my American readers) – all at the mall, before it opens. In February I cut my morning walks back to just 3 times a week to allow me more time to write a new textbook for the public speaking course I’ll be teaching this Fall.

On average, I’m still walking about 10kms per week. I’m still happy with that number, plus I’ve also started to strap-on 2-pound ankle weights, which provide a bit more resistance to my “marches”. I also began to nourish my mind by listening to Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People at least one morning a week.

SMOOTHIES: I decided to try Bolthouse’s Chocolate Protein Shake, which you can pick up in your local supermarket’s produce section, but I caution you to avoid it if possible. I knew I was in trouble with the first sip, as it tasted waaaaaay too good to be healthy for you. And sure enough… have a look at the nutritional information.

It's fine in a pinch, but not a smart choice for a daily smoothie regime.

It’s fine in a pinch, but not a smart choice for a daily smoothie regime.

After drinking half of the smoothie, I quickly popped online to check how may points Weight Watchers (WW) would allocate this meal replacement. Anyone can access their Points Calculator for free online by the way. If you’re familiar with the WW program, you’ll know that most women are allocated about 27-30 points per day.

That smoothie weighed in at TEN points – OMG! That is way too much for one meal let alone a smoothie. And don’t get me started on what McDonalds, Tim Horton’s and all the other commercial smoothie makers are weighing in at! Though I’m considering conducting a little comparison exercise on smoothies in a future post, so stay tuned. In the meantime I’ll stick to my favourite recipe for homemade smoothies – LeanFit Protein Smoothies.

This world just isn't worth living in without Bacon! Do you agree?

This world just isn’t worth living in without Bacon! Do you agree?

LEAN PROTEIN SNACK: One thing we are known for in Canada is our Back Bacon, or Canadian Bacon as our neighbours to the South like to call it. My favourite quick (and fairly healthy snack) is 3 to 6 pieces of Freybe’s Back Bacon which I pick up at Costco. In regards to Weight Watchers points 3 pieces is just TWO points, plus it’s quick and easy to brown up in a non-stick frying pan for an easy snack between meals.

DETOX TEA: Now I’ve never been a fan of any Detox products. I recently bought Mighty Leaf Tea’s Organic Detox Infusion as an alternative to my other Mighty Leaf faves – Citrus Chamomile and Mint Medley. There is nothing like a great cup of tea.

What I have been doing lately with this Detox tea is steeping it for 5-10 minutes in a whole kettle-full of boiling water, and then cooling it for an alternate cold drink. I love sipping this cup of iced tea while I write in the mornings as it has a nice flavour. I simply pour 4 glasses of tea, cover each with plastic wrap, and store them in the fridge for my morning writing marathons.

What lifestyle habits have you changed so far this year?
Are you moving more? Eating less?
What is working for you?

Please feel free to share your experience with me as I’d love to hear about your own personal journey.

Did you miss out on Mardi Gras? Then try my Shrimp Creole recipe at home tonight!

Did you miss out on Mardi Gras? Then try my Shrimp Creole recipe at home tonight!
Did you miss out on Mardi Gras? Then try my Shrimp Creole recipe at home tonight!

Last month I had the opportunity to attend the pre-screening of Winnipeg’s annual Mardi Gras event. My favourite dish was the Shrimp Creole, which I had only ever made once before. By funny coincidence, I had defrosted some shrimp and my leftover creole sauce for my husband’s dinner that very same night. This recipe is a super big hit in our household, AND quite figure friendly too. Shrimp is one of the best low-cal proteins you can eat if you’re looking for quantity.

My Dad came for his annual visit last Spring and brought along a cookbook from his old company, Ipsco. Those of you from Regina know this steel manufacturer well, though they are now called Evraz. For their 50th Anniversary in 2006 they produced this amazing cookbook featuring great recipes contributed by their staff.

Going upscale with this easy Shrimp Creole stew and dressing it up in Mom's china

Going upscale with this easy Shrimp Creole stew and dressing it up in Mom’s china

I’m sure that my old high school buddy’s dad, and Ipsco’s former vice-president and CFO wouldn’t mind me sharing a variation of his Shrimp Creole recipe with you. Sorry Ed, but I like it a bit spicier than the Tiefenbach clan.

This Shrimp Creole recipe was the first one that I tried in the cookbook, but it will not be the last. If you can get your hands on a copy of Ipsco’s What’s Cooking? cookbook I highly recommend checking out its’ 266 pages of amazing family-style recipes!

Shrimp Creole

1 tbsp Canola Oil
2 cups Bell Peppers, diced
2 cups Yellow Onions, diced
3/4 cup Celery, diced
4 cloves Garlic, minced
2 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
1 tsp Paprika
1 tsp Dried Red Chili Peppers
1 can Tomatoes, diced (28oz/ 796mL)
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 lbs shrimp, cleaned and cooked

To cook shrimp, remove shells (and save to make my DIY Shrimp Broth) and saute in a Pam-sprayed non-stick pan for about 1 minute (or less) on each side depending on size of your shrimp. They should be translucent when cooked just right, so watch them carefully so that you don’t over cook them.

Almost done - you can even aim to under-cook the shrimp slightly as they will keep cooking a bit

Almost done – you can even aim to under-cook the shrimp slightly as they will keep cooking a bit

  1. Melt butter in frying pan and add vegetables and seasonings.
  2. Saute over medium heat until vegetables soften.
  3. Add tomatoes and water, and simmer uncovered for 1 hour.

    If you want to make this sauce quicker, drain your tomatoes and leave out the water, and it should be ready to serve in about 15-20 minutes.

  4. Wait until your sauce has reduced to 2/3 of its original volume.
  5. Add cooked shrimp, stir and serve over rice.
Toss together and it's ready to go

Toss together and it’s ready to go

This sauce freezes beautifully, so if you like spicy food, you may want to double this recipe and make a big batch! And the leftover sauce is also good on burgers as a replaced for ketchup.

Straight out of the freezer with some fresh shrimp and you're got a quick, healthy dinner

Straight out of the freezer with some fresh shrimp and you’re got a quick, healthy dinner

What is your favourite Mardi Gras food?
Are you fan of “Da Spice”?

 

MyPaleoAdventures at UnBurger

MyPaleoAdventures at UnBurger
MyPaleoAdventures at UnBurger

I must admit, I’m not much a “fad” follower when it comes to dieting, or healthy eating trends. I prefer a lifestyle change that I can maintain 365 days a year and for years to come. That being said… I’ve been on the edges of learning about Paleo this past year, courtesy of some of my galpals. Are you also Paleo-curious?

If you haven’t yet heard about the Paleo Diet (paleolithic), it’s the Caveman or Hunter-Gatherer way of eating. You can read tons more about it on Wikipedia, and there are zillions of books available on Amazon, but here’s a quick overview…

Centered on commonly available modern foods, the contemporary Paleolithic diet consists mainly of fish, grass-fed pasture raised meats, eggs, vegetables, fruit, fungi, roots, and nuts, and excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, potatoes, refined salt, refined sugar, and processed oils.

If you’re Paleo-curious, and living in Winnipeg, then you may want to check out and join the Paleo Winnipeg Supper Club, which is how my husband and I found ourselves at Winnipeg’s hottest burger bar – UnBurger on Friday night.

This Meetup.com group is the brainchild of Laura Allard of Plain Jane Ink Coaching, who also runs Winnipeg’s Fit, Fierce & Fabulous MeetUp group for women over 40. She’s a very inspiring woman ,and a ton of fun too! So there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to join her for their first of many suppers, and experience Paleo firsthand.

It was extra-special to learn directly from long-time Paleo-ite, and new Winnipeg resident, Dr. Kristen Mitteness – chiropractor and cross-fit trainer, and founder of the 6 for 60 Challenge to eat Paleo 6 days a week for six weeks. Want more information or get involved? Email Kristen at dr.kmitteness@gmail.com – she’ll be happy to add you to the Facebook Event.

But back to the food… If you’re an “UnBurger Virgin” like I was, you can find this restaurant at Stradbrook and Osborne right next to The Happy Cooker kitchen shop – a Winnipeg landmark. They have a great story about their beliefs in regards to all things burger, and their service is super friendly, even on a busy Friday night in the Village.

UnBurger’s menu is exceptionally diverse, so do check it out online, and then get yourself down there to try out their amazing eats! You can also read more about UnBurger at PegCityGrub’s local food scene blog post: UnBurger: Burger & Fries Redefined. And yes, they do take reservations for more than 5 people! We were a group of 12, and it worked like a charm.

Opah! was 100% correct. What a huge, flavourful taste adventure for my mouth. C U again soon UnBurger!

Opah! was 100% correct. What a huge, flavourful taste adventure for my mouth. C U again soon, UnBurger!

I opted for the Opah Bison Burger, which consisted of Olive Tapenade, Creamy Feta, Cucumber, Tomato, and Lemon Oregano Yogurt. Now I know I was bending the Paleo rules, but I just had to satisfy my Greek craving this week.

However, I did do away with the bun, for at UnBurger you can ask for a lettuce wrap! After 41 years of eating burgers, last Friday I finally discovered why I don’t like them… I am not really a bun fan! How about you? Plus… I do prefer a more “exotic” flavour profile for my burger like the Opah.

Unfortunately, I forgot to snap a picture of my dear hubby’s Drunken Aussie Bison Burger, which we were sharing. I was totally possessed about getting the fried Omega-3 Egg taken off of the top of the burger so that I could try a piece – I’m no egg fan! But the Drunken Aussie was another super choice with Golden Pineapple, Sunny Side Up Egg, Beets, Double Smoked Bacon, Bothwell Cheddar Cheese & Herb Mayo. Oh well… we will just have to try it again on our return visit!

Again the Drunken Aussie wasn’t keeping within strict Paleo guidelines, but it was our first adventure in dining Paleo, so hopefully as 2013 progresses we will get better at this by educating ourselves at future Paleo Winnipeg Supper Club events and through Dr. Kristen’s 6 for 60 Challenge which starts March 10th.

Our next Paleo-foodie adventure will be at Kum Koon Gardens on Friday, March 15th, where we will learn how to eat Paleo Chinese-Style. You can join the conversation on Facebook at Paleo Winnipeg Supper Club. Hope you can join us soon!

Have you eaten at UnBurger? What’s your Fave?
Do you eat Paleo? Got any suggestions? Please share!

 

Quick and Easy Beef Stew and Dumplings

Quick and Easy Beef Stew and Dumplings
Quick and Easy Beef Stew and Dumplings

Sorry for not posting for the last couple of weeks, but I’ve been torn away from my blog writing to begin writing a new textbook for my public speaking class using the NaNoWriMo.org 30-Day Method. I’ve been busy typing a minimum of 1,700 words per day, and I’m currently at just under 34,000 words month-to-date.

Do you have a book lurking inside of you too? Then this is an awesome way to bring it to life! Try reading Chris Baty’s No Plot No Problem to get you started – he’s the founder of this organization.

One recipe that has helped me through this busy time is my Quick & Easy Beef Stew, and I wanted to share my trick with you for ensuring that you can have beef stew any day of the week – quickly and easily.

My husband and I like to do a big meat shop at Costco every couple of months. We both love beef stew, but those “family size” packs are just too big for the two of us, and as you may have found out… freezing pre-made beef stew doesn’t taste so great.

Last year I discovered this time-saving, quick meal trick – Cook It All! Yup, even if there’s just the two of you, braise all of your beef stew meat at once, and then simply freeze it in ready-to-go supper packs.

Now you can have quick and easy stew any night of the week by pre-braising and freezing hand-sized packages

Now you can have quick and easy stew any night of the week by pre-braising and freezing handy-sized pre-cooked packages

One of my favourite spice combinations is Epicure Selections’ Pot Herbs, which I’ve been using for 8 years. However I was shocked to find that you can no longer buy that spice blend from Epicure. Hopefully it will return one day…

BUT in the meantime… you can make yourself up a batch of Beef Stew Seasoning from this post by Budget101.com. I think I’m going to give this spice blend a try soon!

Saute your onions and brown your beef before adding your braising liquid - it's as easy as 1-2-3.

Saute your onions and brown your beef before adding your braising liquid – it’s as easy as 1-2-3.

Quick & Easy Beef Stew

  1. Cut 1 large Onion into chunky bits as shown, and saute for 5 minutes in a large stock pot using 1 tablespoon of your favourite cooking oil – I like to use Canola Oil.
  2. Add your stewing meat and chosen seasonings. Brown your beef by tossing the meat throughout the cooking process of about 15-20 minutes.

    You can also brown off the meat in a large frying pan, which is the proper way. Don’t forget to pat-dry your meat before browning – just like Julia Child taught us! But my way is just as effective, and quicker for those who are rushed.

  3. Pour either hot water or beef broth over your browned meat so that the meat is covered in liquid.

    I added 2 tablespoons of liquid Beef Bouillon for flavour to my hot water. This is a great, money-saving alternative to using store-bought beef stock.

  4. Bring to a boil and then allow the mixture to simmer for up to 2 hours, or until the meat is tender. Taste Test Time! You can adjust your seasonings (especially salt) at this point too.
  5. Cool the mixture for about an hour in its pot.
  6. Portion the meat into individual containers, and cover with broth so that no meat is exposed. Place into your freezer until you’re ready for a simple, hearty supper.

The night before you wish to have Beef Stew, simply defrost a container in your fridge and use it as a base for a variety of recipes by adding an assortment of fresh veggies like celery, carrots, potatoes, green beans, etc. Or if you forgot to take it out, you can easily defrost it in your microwave. Using this method you can have Beef Stew in about 30 minutes after a long day at work.

My favourite flavour combinations include:

– Green Curry Stew: add 1tbsp green curry paste and coconut milk with an assortment of fresh veggies

– Beef Stroganoff: add mushrooms and celery, plus 1 can of Cream of Mushroom Soup (ready to serve variety)

– Beef Stew & Dumplings: add root vegetables, and give this awesome dumpling recipe a try…

Dumplings
1 1/3 cup flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
2/3 cup Milk
2 tbsp Oil

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until just combined, but do not over-mix.
  2. Drop heaping tablespoons of the mixture into your pot over top of your finished beef stew.
  3. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes.
  4. Cook 10 more minutes covered.
  5. Serve over top of your beef stew.

Makes about 6 dumplings.

How do you make your favourite stew recipe?
Are you a dumplings fan too?

 

 

MoMondays Review-Never trust a skinny chef, nor a thin food blogger

MoMondays Review-Never trust a skinny chef, nor a thin food blogger

You’re probably wondering why I chose that title for my latest blog post… Well this is going to be the subject of a speech that I will be giving for Winnipeg’s Motivational Mondays event on Monday, March 11th.

Last Monday, I was invited to attend Winnipeg’s second MoMondays event. They are held every six weeks here in Winnipeg, but you can also find MoMondays happening in Toronto, Calgary, Buffalo, Montreal, and Burlington/Oakville. “You meet the nicest people at MoMondays” and it’s true! What is MoMonday you might ask?

momonday.logo

From their website:
“MoMondays™ is like a cross between open mic comedy and TED Talks, but with professional speakers and other great people like you with a story to share. Each event, you see six to eight speakers tell a few personal stories. Some are funny, some are thought-provoking, all are motivating. What’s more, you get to socialize with all kinds of wonderful people in a fun, positive environment. Grab some friends and come hear some of the best, (as well as some of the newest), motivational speakers in the city. You’ll wish every day were MoMonday!”

The local organizer of Winnipeg’s MoMondays is the amazing Stephanie Staples of YourLifeUnlimited – radio host, author, coach and motivational speaker. Stephanie and her family are keeping a 2013 Best/Funny/Amazing Thing that Happened this Year Jar. This concept I believe inspired many in the crowd to try the same activity in their household. I know that I’m going to start my own jar today!

How will you retain your great memories of 2013?

How will you retain your great memories of 2013?

At this very well organized event I had the pleasure of listening to…

Sheena Grobb: amazing songstress, recording artist, and a beautiful soul – do check her out on iTunes!

Wendy Erlanger: educator, founder of More Than Shoes, and author of More than Soup

Richard Lannon: the “Setability Expert” who is into strategic facilitation, executive coaching, training and speaking

Kathryn Lee: who shared a very courageous story with us, but I believe that is her story to share

Jenny Gates: Self proclaimed “Responsibility-Collector”, and trumpeter of “Sorry, that’s not my area.”

And to wrap up the night was the incomparable, and totally hilarious Laurie Mustard. I’d never met Laurie before, but I enjoy following his retirement from newspaper writing by reading his Facebook feed. I had tears in my eyes throughout his presentation, tears of joy I should add. Laurie captured the essence of what I try to teach my public speaking students… The #1 goal of any speech is to be remembered. Those were six great life lessons, Laurie!

I will never forget this evening, and I will not ever forget all the great messages that everyone shared with me.

Left to Right: Wendy, Stephanie, Sheena, Richard, Laurie, Kathryn, Jenny

MoMondays Jan 2013 Speakers (left to right): Wendy, Stephanie, Sheena, Richard, Laurie, Kathryn, Jenny

With two sold-out, awesome MoMondays events behind them, get ready for the next MoMonday in Winnipeg on Monday, March 11th!

From their website:
“Come to Sam’s Place on Henderson Highway at 6 pm (or earlier) for homemade, socially and environmentally conscious, locally sourced food at a fair price. That will give you time to eat, drink, schmooze and peruse their selection of thousands of donated books. (Hmmm, maybe even bring some books that you are ready to part with!) Speakers start at 7 pm.

Cover charge is $10. But buy your advance tickets online before Friday, March 8th,
or it’s $15 cash at the door. But don’t count on it as the event keeps being sold-out!!!!!!!!!!

For the past events, people who tried to buy tickets at the door were disappointed – there was not a single seat left. Don’t let this happen to you! Buy online now to guarantee a seat (and save a few bucks too).”

And if you want to hear what I have to say about my own WeightReleaseUpdates you can read some of them here, but if you’re in town on March 11th, I highly recommend that you come listen to all of us at what will be yet another great event – MoMonday-March!

Homemade Ricotta it’s much easier than you think

Homemade Ricotta it’s much easier than you think
All you need to make homemade ricotta are 4 handy ingredients

All you need to make homemade ricotta are 4 handy ingredients that you probably have on hand right now

Years ago I was listening to a local radio program when I heard a 10-year-old boy speaking about his love of making homemade mozzarella cheese. Well, I was hooked, and I quickly added “Learn to Make Homemade Cheese” to my foodie bucket list.

My dream finally came true last Fall when I took a cheese making course here in Winnipeg at our local cooking school, The Food Studio. It was a fascinating evening where I got to hang out with two other food blogging friends, and many other foodies. We learned how to make not only mozzarella, but also chevre, feta, and ricotta.

Louise May of Aurora Farm really knows her stuff, and was a fantastic teacher! Here is a link to her website, and her cheese-making recipes. BUT I highly recommend you take her class if you live in Winnipeg as she provides so many tips and tricks to insure your success.

Or visit The New England Cheesemaking Supply Company, and/or purchase Ricki Carroll’s book Home Cheese Making to get yourself started. That website also sells all the supplies that you will need, or you can purchase one of their cheese making kits to get yourself started.

Making homemade cheese is really quite easy, and surprisingly fun and rewarding. Immediately following class I created homemade chevre using organic goat’s milk. Then I took a few runs at making homemade feta using whole cow’s milk. I’ve not yet attempted homemade mozzarella, but hopefully I will soon. It’s fairly tricky to make if you do not have access to raw milk, which is illegal to buy in Canada. :-(

This past week I decided to try my hand at making ricotta as I wanted to remake my Crock Pot Lasagna Stew recipe. To make homemade ricotta you do not need to purchase cultures, nor rennet, so you can easily make this at home today!

I love the texture, and the taste was awesome in my lasagna

I love the texture. The taste was awesome in my lasagna

The ricotta worked like a charm, and here’s how you can make ricotta at home in about an hour.

Louise’s Homemade Ricotta
(makes about 3 cups)

4L Whole Fresh Milk
(I used 3.25% cow’s milk from the grocery store)
1/4+ cup Bragg’s Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
3 tbsp. Butter, melted but cooled slightly
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
Sea Salt

1. Heat your milk on the stove top in a large pot to 195*F. I like to use a digital thermometer.

Carefully watch the pot, and do NOT let the milk boil.

2. Remove the pot from the heat once you’ve achieved the correct temperature,
and slowly pour in the vinegar while stirring.

Use only enough vinegar until the milk curdles.

I had to invest in a much larger and finer sieve for my cheese making exploits

I had to invest in a much larger and finer sieve for my cheese making exploits

3. Strain through in a large fine sieve.

Catch the whey which drains off as it’s full of protein and great for smoothies!

4. Once the curds have drained, add the butter and baking soda, folding it gently into the curds. Salt to desired taste.

Allow to cool at room temperature before storing

Allow to cool at room temperature before storing

5. Transfer from strainer to a shallow pan. Let sit and cool for about an hour.

If you live in Manitoba, please join the Manitoba Cheese Makers on Facebook, and share your adventures with our group.

Did you make it? How did it turn out?
Do you make homemade cheese?

What is your #1 favourite recipe using Ricotta?

Saving Time & Losing Weight While Still Eating Carbs

Saving Time & Losing Weight While Still Eating Carbs
Saving Time & Losing Weight While Still Eating Carbs

I never thought that I would say that I preferred brown rice to standard white rice, but I am quite pleased to say that I do. It’s all because I found this Fool-Proof Oven-Baked Brown Rice recipe a few years ago and adapted it to our two-person household.

As you have already read, I prefer baking my Basmati Rice in the oven, but here is my secret to a little it healthier way to get both a whole grain and a starch / carb into your supper rotation of meals – AND how to lose weight eating it!

I don’t know about you, but I love saving time in the kitchen for supper. This is a super way to have a healthy and easy side dish ready in 90 seconds. I had been buying the Uncle Ben’s 90-second brown rice packets, but then I started to wonder how it was possible for those packets to sit on the shelf for months and months… yup, preservatives.

So that was when I started looking for a way to replicate that 90-second rice trick, and I came up with this. Now I take a container of rice out of the freezer the night before when I pluck my chosen protein from the freezer.

I spend a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon every once in a while, like today, prepping brown rice for a couple of months of use. By the way, I will also do this for Basmati Rice and Mashed Potatoes (especially my Garlic and Leek Smashed Potatoes).

My time-saving secret… make tons more than you need.
With just the two of us – a little goes a long way, especially IF we use portion-control.

Do you know that the recommended serving size for rice is 1/4 cup per person (uncooked), or about 1/2 cup cooked. Using this Organic Brown Rice brand the packaging states that 1/4 cup (uncooked) is the equivalent of 5 points on the Weight Watchers Points Plus Program, or about 1/6th to 1/8th of your daily allowance of points (depending on your body type) – just to put the importance of portion control into perspective.

Do you measure your rice portion on your plate? Or do you just heap it on by the large serving spoon? Yup, you may be eating 4 to six to EIGHT times more rice that you should.

As we all know, rice is a carb, and even brown rice isn’t that much more healthy for you – so do try to control your carb portions. I’m not an advocate of eliminating carbs totally from your diet though… I’d DIE without my pastas, potato and rice dishes!

So I simply take a couple of hours and make a ton of rice at once because this way it always turns out light and fluffy, not under-done and crunchy, or mushy.

The majority of the 90 minutes that doing all this takes is the hour that it spends in the oven, and the 10 minutes that it is sits cooling on the counter. This really is a fool-proof recipe, even if you don’t consider yourself to be a good cook.

Try different flavour combinations with your rice for quick side-dishes in the future

Try different flavour combinations with your rice for quick side-dishes in the future

I divide up my double batch to allow me to keep a wider variety of flavours in my freezer.
Today, I made two 9×13 pans full of brown rice, or about 17 cups.
From that I kept four servings for dinner tonight and lunch tomorrow in the fridge and froze the rest of the batch.

5 x 1 cup servings with 1/8 cup Super Easy Salsa and 1/4 cup Canned Green Giant Corn Kernels

4 x 1 cup servings with 1/2 cup Frozen Peas

2 x 1 cup servings plain to spruce up with sautéed mushrooms or sautéed celery

2 x 2 cup servings plain for Rice Pilaf future dinner parties

Mix it right in the pan, and recycle the foil for your next attempt to save on needing to buy more

Mix it right in the pan, and recycle the foil for your next attempt to save on needing to buy more

Fool-Proof Oven-Baked Brown Rice
Makes about 6-8 cups
or one 9×13 pan

3 cups Brown Rice (long, medium, or short-grain)
4 2/3 cups Hot Tap Water or Broth
4 tsp. Canola Oil
1 tsp. Sea Salt
Aluminum Foil

________________________

1. Adjust your oven rack to middle position, and heat your oven to 375 degrees

2. Measure your brown rice into a 9×13 pan. Add water (or broth of your choice), canola oil and sea salt. Stir together

3. Cover your baking dish tightly with a double layer of aluminum foil

This is the most important step! You want to ensure you have a good seal over the rice,
so take a few minutes to make sure the foil is super tight over your pan

4. Bake your rice for 1 hour

5. Remove baking dish(es) from oven and uncover

6. Fluff your rice with dinner fork. I like to run my fork through it from top to bottom and then from left to right

7. Cover your dish with clean kitchen towel; let rice stand 5 minutes

8. Uncover the pan, and allow your rice to stand for 5 minutes longer before serving or processing it into your containers

What do you add to your brown rice to make it special?
I’d love to hear about how you prefer to eat your rice!

Winnipeg’s Mardi Gras Feb 15/16, 2013: Embrace the Experience, Let Yourself Go!

Winnipeg’s Mardi Gras Feb 15/16, 2013: Embrace the Experience, Let Yourself Go!
Winnipeg’s Mardi Gras Feb 15/16, 2013: Embrace the Experience, Let Yourself Go!

A couple weeks ago the local food bloggers and members of mainstream media were invited to the Convention Centre to taste-test the Southern creations of Executive Chef Quentin Harty and his team. This year the Mardi Gras proceeds will benefit JDRF, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Winnipeg Convention Centre's Executive Chef Quentin Hardy and myself

Winnipeg Convention Centre’s Executive Chef Quentin Hardy and myself set for a southern feast!

I have to admit that after living in Winnipeg for nine years, that I didn’t know much about our local Mardi Gras event. For example, did you know that it was a fundraiser?

My husband and I had been once to the Mardi Gras celebration, but it was many years ago. We’d attended as a couple – by ourselves – and I’d always thought that if would have been much more fun had we gone with a large group.

Mardi Gras Ticket Giveaway Collage

So here I am doing my first contest giveaway! I’m offering FOUR tickets so that you and your friends to attend Winnipeg’s Mardi Gras 2013 ($64 value), and you can select either Friday or Saturday night. To win you need to either follow me on Twitter and/or Like my Facebook Page over the next 48 hours, *AND* tell me your best spicy food recipe. I’ll pick the winner from all the entries, so lay your hottest dish on me! I’ll draw for the winners at Noon CST on Tuesday, January 29th, and mail your tickets out to you. And if you don’t win… tickets are $16 each and available through Ticketmaster.

And here are some details about all the great eats that you can expect to find at Winnipeg’s Mardi Gras event…

My Mardi Gras Experience 2013

One thing I love is trying new food! At the Mardi Gras preview it was all about the food for me. You can read about all the entertainment details about this upcoming event on their website.

Have you ever tried deep-fried dill pickles before?

Have you ever tried deep-fried dill pickles before?

I was super happy to get to knock one thing off my 2013 Foodie Bucket List – Fried Dill Pickles – it was an experience let me tell you. These dill pickle spears were breaded and fried right before our eyes in a flotilla of deep fryers – just like you have at home.

Wpg Mardi Gras Fryers

I, of course, found this fascinating as I’m in love with my Tefal Deep Fryer at home. They were served with a Cajun Cheesy Dipping Sauce on the side. The Sweet Potato Fries that I had I think needed to ‘bathe’ for a little longer in the deep fryer in my opinion as they were not crispy enough for my liking.

All of my favourite things, plus it was fun interacting with the cooks as the food was made before our eyes. My #1 Fav!

It was fun interacting with the cooks as the food was made before our eyes. My #1 Fave!

But my favourite selection, and the spiciest dish in my books, was the Shrimp Creole. By funny coincidence my husband was having the same thing at home that night, so watch for my post on February 17th for the recipe – just in case you don’t make it down to Mardi Gras. And if there is one recipe that I’d love to nail down, it’s the secret to making New Orleans’ Dirty Rice – I do love my rice! And the crostini on the side was a nice companion to mop up the last drips of goodness in the bowl.

Winnipeg's version of Dirty Rice was made with plump, chewy black-eyed peas. YUM!

Winnipeg’s version of Dirty Rice was made with plump, chewy black-eyed peas. YUM!

The most popular table of the night belonged to the Po’ Boy Fried Oyster Sandwiches. Now, I’m not an oyster fan, but peer pressure dictated that I attempt to cram just one more thing into my stomach at the end of the night. Not a favourite of mine as it definitely needed a shot of extra-spicy hot sauce, but it was #1 in some of my fellow foodie’s books.

French Baguette garnished with shredded lettuce, tomato slices, dill pickle and Mardi Gras dressing (secret sauce).

French Baguette garnished with shredded lettuce, tomato slices, dill pickle and Mardi Gras dressing (secret sauce).

My other favourite dish of the evening was the Cajun Carbonara, but then I’m also a sucker for anything pasta. I would love to attempt making this dish at home, so watch for a future post about my test-run. I found it to be very flavourful.

A very tasty combo of Cajun-rubbed chicken, smoked bacon, mushrooms, onions, crushed red peppers over penne pasta in a parmesan cream sauce. My #2 Fav!

A very tasty combo of Cajun-rubbed chicken, smoked bacon, mushrooms, onions, crushed red peppers over penne pasta in a parmesan cream sauce. My #2 Fave!

The Louisiana Crab Cakes were also quite tasty. I loved the finger-food aspect of this dish. Though I would have liked to dial-up the heat on their dipping sauce as I find the typical blandness of crab cakes is enhanced with a spicy accompaniment. I completely understand that the Convention Centre has to play to the lowest common denominator of spice-intolerant revelers, but this gal does love a little “Bam!” in her food.

These croquettes were the perfect size for a couple bites of southern goodness

These croquettes were the perfect size for a couple bites of southern goodness

One Southern classic that I’ve had before from a Southern friend was Etoufee (said: ay-too-FAY), and this Crawfish version did not disappoint. I’ve actually caught crawfish on Lake of the Woods using a weiner on a string… hmm, maybe I should be eating them? This recipe is also on my Bucket List to make again in 2013, though I’m going to wait to find fresh okra in the Summer, or try growing it myself.

In hindsight I would've wiped this plate, but this wasn't my plate... MY etouffee got gobbled up in my excitement.

In hindsight I would’ve wiped this plate rim, but this wasn’t my plate… I forgot to take a photo first as MY etouffee got gobbled up in my excitement to eat it!

Overall I would suggest B.Y.O.HS – Bring Your Own Hot Sauce. If you’re a huge fan of spicy food, or one of those OTT (Over The Top) Spice Fiends, like my brother-in-law, then you’ll want to tuck a little bit of heat in your pocket for this event to enhance your culinary experience.

Not the 100% traditional Hurricane recipe here in Winnipeg, but it was very tasty nonetheless!

We weren’t served the traditional Hurricane recipe here in Winnipeg, but it was very tasty nonetheless!

And the evening would not have been complete without sampling the drink that Mardi Gras is most famous for… In my research I’ve found that a traditional Hurricane cocktail has some very interesting ingredients. Here’s the authentic recipe from Pat O’Brien’s in New Orleans – The Hurricane. Though in hindsight you’d think that they would rename this drink something a bit more positive post-Katrina. :-)

So if you’re looking for some post-Valentine’s Day / Mid-Winter Fun (or a gift idea for that hard to buy for foodie for Vday), do check out what’s happening at the Convention Centre on Feb 15th & 16th. AND if you want to get in for FREE with three friends – Follow me on Twitter and/or Facebook to win a 4-pack of tickets. Tell me how hot you like it, and what your spiciest favourite dish is and/or recipe. I’d love to see what turns your crank – food-wise!

Have you ever been to Winnipeg’s Mardi Gras event?
What was your impression of it?
Click Leave A Comment below and share your personal experience.