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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Please watch this area for important information like updates, food recalls, polls, contests, coupons, and freebies.
  • [January 15, 2016] - It's National Soup Month so this month's posts will focus on soups. Yum!
  • [February 1, 2016] - An interesting report on why you should always choose organic tea verses non-organic: Toxic Tea (pdf format)
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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mackinac Straits Fish Company

Note: This is the last entry for our road trip foods. I hope you have enjoyed reading about some of the foods we ate on this road trip. Please continue reading as I move back into my normal blogging about home cooking. Cauliflower is next on the adgenda as I start restocking the freezers. And yes (heavy sigh) my countertops are not finished yet but we are getting closer. Oh the joys of DIY renovations!

We are not big into bringing home souvenirs from our many travels. The reason being is they add to every one's clutter. Not everyone appreciates that! What we are big into when traveling is bringing home foods from that region. Not only can we enjoy a nice meal we can reminisce about our travels. The Michigan Upper Peninsula is dotted with several places to buy whitefish and smoked fish. Both are a must bring some home so when visiting Michigan's Upper Peninsula be sure to bring a cooler.

Mackinac Straits Fish Company Store

The Mackinac Straits Fish Company store is conveniently located just after the first exit on M-75 after the Mackinac bridge, turn right onto Bus - 75 then right again onto Ferry Lane. The store is on the left hand side. The Mackinac Straits Fish Company process the fish as soon as they receive then. Quite often this is less than an hour from being taken from the nets. That means the fish is about as fresh as you can get unless you catch them yourself.

The store itself is quite small, basically the size under the "A" entrance. There likely isn't much more room than for about 5 customers at a time. Upon entering you face the fish counter. There is a fish freezer to the immediate left that holds not only fish but buffalo. They also sell wild fruit preserves, buffalo and beef jerky, smoked fish, fresh eggs and maple syrup.

Whitefish & Perch

We bought four packages of whitefish, two packages of perch and smoked salmon (see below). I really wanted to buy more but honestly with the cheese our cooler was stuffed! The total cost came to $46.89 which sounds high but consider this is enough fish for at least 6 meals so under the $5 per person meat cost and whitefish is not so easily found fresh where we are even though we live on the Great Lakes waterways. The perch really was just a whim. Given we catch perch ourselves and are often gifted with it from friends buying it seems a bit silly. You really can't have too much perch! It is so quick and easy to lightly coat and pan fry. Perch is a must have staple!

Whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) is a member of the trout/salmon family Salmonidae. It is the mainstay of the commercial fishing industry in the Great Lakes because of its exceptional yet delicate flavour, large size and schooling habits. Anglers have discovered it takes special techniques when fishing for whitefish because they swim in the cool, gloomy water of the Great Lakes at depths of 200 ft and deeper in warmer weather. Their mouth is small presenting another challenge for anglers.

A 3 - oz piece of whitefish has 146 calories, 20.8 gr protein and 65 mg cholesterol compared to a 3 oz piece of broiled sirloin that has 177 calories, 25.9 g protein and 76 mg of cholesterol. Broiling with a little butter will of course increase the calorie content but not by much. Consider though that each whitefish fillet is about a foot long so you will be over 3 oz but still it is a good value nutritionally. The flavour of the whitefish should shine through in the dish so keep it simple. Neither seasonings or sides should be overpowering.

Smoked Salmon

Smoking is an age old method of preserving meats and fish. The Mackinac Straits Fishing company smokes fish using wood from local forests, a blend of indigenous hardwoods, primarily sugar maple. Sugar maple adds a light, sweet flavour to the meat or fish. I only bought a small piece of smoked salmon. This was a impulse purchase. My husband's dad loved smoked fish and absolutely adored smoked salmon. He would simply eat it as is. I like the flavour as is as well. They kids enjoy smoked salmon too but then they will eat any fish. Unfortunately as far as I can tell my husband does not but perhaps he will try it again since a smoker is on my next to purchase list. I'm really not sure what I am going to do with this piece of smoked salmon. Off the top of my head I'm thinking of using some for a smoked salmon dip. I also have a couple of ideas for appetizers.

Bread & Maple Syrup

You know when you are traveling there are always neat food items to buy. Even though we have an abundance of Ontario maple syrup we bought a 32 oz (946 ml) jug of maple syrup from Wisconsin. Why? This jug cost $11.99, the same price we pay for a 500 ml bottle of Canada No. 1 maple syrup so almost half price. We love maple syrup and not just for pancakes!

I could not resist buying the Up North beer bread in a bottle. The bottle is larger than an actual beer bottle even though it resembles one. This is just a cute presentation and would make a cute gift. At $5.99 plus having to provide your own beer it is not going to be a very frugal loaf of bread! I'll report back on how it tastes :)


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Galley Restaurant & Bar

You simply cannot visit Michigan's Upper Peninsula without having a seafood dinner. Sorry but you just have to have one :) You also cannot leave the UP without bringing back some of that incredible fresh caught fish. By far the most recommended St. Ignace restaurant for white fish is The Galley Restaurant & Bar. The restaurant, owned and operated by the Gierlasynski family is located on on property that was formerly a fishery that provided fish to area residents. Their specialties are locally caught whitefish and lake trout.

The restaurant is mid-size, casual dress. We had a lovely table just back from overlooking the lake so next time we will request the table right by the window. The staff was extremely friendly and attentive. Children are definitely welcomed at this restaurant something that is nice to know if you are traveling with children or in our case grandchildren. They are open 7 days a week serving breakfast, lunch and dinner from May to mid October.

Soup or Salad

Meals came with either homemade soup or salad, potato, rice or vegetable and fresh baked rolls. The salad was a basic tossed salad but a bit heavy on the dressing. The salad vegetables were fresh and crisp but it really was a basic salad. I think if they had used mesclun salad greens it would have been a much more impressive salad. On the other hand my husband ordered the clam chowder. It had a nice flavour and creamy texture, definitely worth ordering!

Seafood Platter

My husband ordered the seafood platter ($15.75). It came with local whitefish, perch, shrimp and deep fried scallops. The perch and whitefish were very lightly breaded. Both are such delicate fish that you really don't want a heavy breading on either. The shrimp and scallops was a lightly breaded as well but a little more so making it a nice pairing for the perch and whtefish. The platter came with a baked potato, sour cream, butter, tartar sauce and seafood sauce.

This is a very easy to duplicate meal at home and it is especially good using fresh caught lake perch and whitefish. Perch is almost always pan fried with just a light flour coating. Whitefish when pan fried is done the same way. Both shrimp and scallops can be deep fried but scallops better boiled or baked.

Whitefish

The UP is the place to order whitefish. It is simply divine! I ordered the broiled lemon pepper whitefish ($13.00). I have to tell you this really is the way I would prepare whitefish at home. It came with tartar sauce, a lemon wedge and a baked potato.

Whitefish has a succulent, mild flavour and flaky texture. It is best not to overpower it with too heavy of a seasoning. Lemon pepper is a nice seasoning for broiled whitefish and broiling is my preferred method for cooking this fish. Although whitefish can be breaded or lightly coated as with most fish it really is better without either. A little butter when broiling as well as a dash of fresh lemon juice will enhance the flavour.

Method: Set oven to broil. Lightly butter a shallow pan with butter. Place the whitefish fillet(s) on the pan, skin side down. Brush on a little butter. Squeeze the juice of a quarter lemon on each fillet. Sprinkle on a little lemon pepper (Tone's, msg free). Place the pan about 5 - inches under the broiler. Broil 5 to 7 minutes without turning. Remove when the fillets are opaque and flaky.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bessie's Original Homemade Pasties

Bounded on the north by Lake Superior, on the east by St. Marys' River and on the south by Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, fresh fish is in abundance, especially whitefish in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The residents are referred to as Yoppers with many of them being of Finnish descent. Michigan's Upper Peninsula is also known for pasties (pronounced pass-tees). A pastie is a nutritious meal that was introduced to the Upper Peninsula in the mid 1800's by Cornish and Scandinavian immigrants who came to work in the iron ore and copper mines. The miners carried homemade pasties in a metal lunch pail. When the lid was removed and turned upside down a candle was used to heat the pasty. There is an annual pasty festival in Calumet in early July and pasties are so popular that many visitors to the Upper Peninsula take large amount of them home!

Bessie's

Ask anyone in St. Ignace where to go for the best pasties and the answer will be Bessie's. Bessie's "Original" Homemade Pasties in St. Ignace, Michigan has been at the same location for nearly 50 years. It was started by Bessie and Pee Wee Phelps in 1958. The business has been run by their son Pat and his wife for the past 27 years.

Pastie

Traditional ingredients for the filling are diced steak, fine sliced onion and potato. Rutabaga and parsley are sometimes added. Carrots although often included in American pasties are a sign of inferior quality in Cornwall. The pastie filling is tucked inside the folded crust which is then sealed with a distinctive fold originally used as a handle. Miners could eat the pastie holding the folded portion without getting the rest of the pasty dirty then discard the dirtied folded portion.

Bessie's makes their crust from 100% vegetable shortening and Gold Metal flour using a recipe that has been handed down for years. They have earned the title of Best in the UP! We ordered the Yopper Man Pastie Plate that came with gravy and a side of fresh coleslaw for $9.95 to share for lunch. The filling consisted of lean steak, potatoes, carrots and sweet onions bake in their flaky, melt in your mouth crust. Trust me on this one, pasties are very filling! They are down home frugal cooking made with inexpensive ingredients.

Although they say the crust is flaky, found it to be less so than the pie crust recipe I use and I do recall reading somewhere that a denser crust should be used. The filling was quite good but needed a bit more seasoning so when I make these at home I'm going to kick the filling up a notch likely with a bit of Montreal Steak seasoning. Even my husband said they were a bit bland. Now in perspective and knowing the history behind the pasties, originally there wouldn't have been much more for seasoning other than salt and pepper. This really isn't a dish to fancy up too much. Keep it simple!

Pasty Recipe

3 lb potatoes, diced
1 c carrots, diced
2 c onions, diced
2 c rutabaga, diced
2 lb steak, diced*
12 4oz pie crust dough balls

Mix filling together. Roll each of the dough balls into a 10 - inch circle. Put about 10 oz of (a generous heaping cup) of filling on the dough rough. Fold the dough over the filling. Crimp the edge. Bake for one hour at 350ºF.

* can substitute diced fish or ground beef


Monday, July 28, 2008

Breezy Point Bar & Grill

We were travelling up US-41 not really thinking of eating yet we had been on the road for a little over five hours. By then US-41 had turned into M-35 even though we were on the same road. Although we had stopped once to fill the car with gas and have a washroom break we still were not overly hungry likely because of the fruit and sunflower seeds I bought at the Piggly Wiggly (love that name) just after getting on the road. As we headed north the camera was in almost constant action. The total number of pictures taken for the 6 day trip was 829.

We have an uncanny knack of finding good food in out of the way places. As we were neared Escanaba, Michigan I needed a break so we pulled into the Breezy Point Bar & Grill. We met back at the car and my husband asked if I was hungry. He said the food looked pretty good and it would be another couple of hours before we reached St. Ignace. He also pointed out that after checking in to the motel then we would have to find somewhere to eat making it so we would be eating a large meal before retiring and we know that isn't good for you. Well it didn't take much to twist my rubber arm. Besides, I was getting tired of sitting in the car.

Breezy Point Bar & Grill is a small pub on M-35 at Escanaba, Michigan (301 N 19th St, Escanaba, MI). Sorry, but it does not appear they have a website. It would be easy to miss as the building is a small, wood log structure that blends into the surrounding trees. There is ample parking in front and to the side. The sign on the structure is rather small too so it would be easy to miss. Hidden behind those doors was good home cooked style food and friendly service. Children are welcomed during the dinner hours.


Chicken Special

Meals are served in plastic baskets lined with paper. Utensils are metal instead of plastic so that is a plus. The meal portions are generous so are a good value for your dollar. We spent just under $20 plus tip for the two meals with a drink each.

The Breezy Point Bar & Grill has daily specials and Sunday was the chicken dinner special so I ordered that. It came with a half of chicken, fries, coleslaw and a bun. The chicken was lightly seasoned then deep fried with no breading. I have to tell you this although I think I've mentioned it before is I am not a fan of anything breaded. The chicken was fried to a golden brown with a nice crispy skin yet succulent, moist meat. The fries were standard thin cut frozen fries. Ketchup was available for the fries but no malt or even plain white vinegar. I really need vinegar with my French fries although I will settle for mustard dip. The coleslaw was the standard mayonnaise variety. A dinner roll was included with the meal.

Swiss Mushroom Burger

My husband ordered the Swiss mushroom burger. The burger was ⅓ lb ground chuck topped with sautéed mushrooms and Swiss cheese on a toasted bun. It came with a side of French fries. This burger got a two thumbs up from my husband. Seriously that says a lot! Deep down I think he is looking for ways to perfect his homemade burgers ;)

Burgers are featured quite often on this blog because my husband loves them. He isn't into the standard fly-by-the-seat burgers either our generic term for fast food burgers. What he looks for in a burger is flavour and substance. He doesn't want a preformed pattie or plain generic buns. Forget that American cheese slices too. I think the only two things that he doesn't like on a burger are hot peppers and pickles. Trust me on this one, small out of the way bars and pubs have some of the best burgers around.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Wisconsin Breakfast

We planned on leaving Wisconsin early Sunday afternoon heading north where we were staying in St. Ignace, Michigan for a couple of days. So it was a rather lazy Sunday morning, sitting and visiting. Remember in a previous entry I mentioned we had cheese in some form daily? Before breakfast we had a cheese string with our coffee. Of course the topic came up as to how cheese strings were made and since I was online anyway I did a google. I came across a few theories including one where a mother thought that cheese strings should be banned because they are too much like a toy. Give me a break! Next she'll want to ban mashed potatoes and broccoli. My kids used to make hills with their mash potatoes and plant broccoli trees beside their gravy streams. Honestly, food should be fun. There's a lot worse things kids could be eating than a cheese string. Cheese strings are made simply by stretching and folding the cheese while it is warm to form strings much the same as pulling taffy. Mozzarella makes the best cheese strings because of it's natural elasticity.

Breakfast

The kids made a late breakfast so we wouldn't have to stop for lunch. We were looking at a 7 hour drive planning only to stop for a washroom break and possibly dinner. Our goal was to get as much travelling done during the daylight hours for sight seeing and picture taking. Unlike the route we took to Wisconsin the route to the Upper Penninsula was fairly straight forward so instead of being navigator I could be tourist.

It was a traditional bacon, eggs, hashbrowns and toast breakfast. The scrambled eggs were kicked up a notch with sauteed mushrooms and three cheeses (cream, mozzarella, cheddar). The hashbrowns were the shredded type something we don't see a lot of around our neck of the world. Usually the hashbrowns are diced or replaced with home fries that are larger chunks of potatoes. The shredded hashbrowns were browned in olive oil with a little butter. They were quite tasty. The bacon was peppered. Bacon can be purchased already peppered or you can pepper it yourself while frying using fresh ground pepper. Set the pepper mill to a larger grind.

One thing I've noticed is many people fail to experience the local cuisine when travelling. The two main reasons are familiarity is comforting when away from home and avoidance of stomach upsets. I'm of the school of try everything at least once and my stomach had just best keep up! When you try local cuisine you get to experience the food as it is meant to be. From there you can take that idea home and experiment either to duplicate the food or tweak it to the way you want it to be. That's what food is all about, having fun and experimenting.

We left their house just after 1 pm and made our way to US-41 that would take us to St. Ignace, Michigan. My mind was on the beautiful eye candy as well as all the wonderful food we had in Wisconsin. The cheese was tucked safely in the cooler. I hadn't seen how full the cooler was but I hoped there would be room for whitefish!

Note: The kids will be sending me pictures and recipes of some of their favourite dishes so I will be including them on this blog. Yes, food is a family affair. I look forward to checking my email because there are always wonderful pictures of the meals they have made.


Saturday, July 26, 2008

Brats on the Grill

Aside of cheese in Wisconsin, beer is next or perhaps they are about a tie in popularity. At any rate we could not go to Wisconsin without touring beer facilities. Our second stop for sight seeing on Saturday was the Pabst Mansion in Milwaukee, home of Captain Frederick Pabst, the world famous beer baron. This really is a must see stop when in Milwaukee. Following that we toured the Miller Brewing Co. in Milwaukee. It was an interesting, informative tour with free samples for those older than 21 at the end of the tour.

Bratwurst

Bratwurst aka brats are a German sausage made with beef and pork that naturally pair nicely with beer. The kids decided to grill burgers and brats for dinner. What was different about this meal was the prep as well as cooking on a charcoal grill.

One of the best things about food and cooking is there are always opportunities to learn. There are always new to you ways of preparing the food too. That's what makes food so much fun to experiment with. I cook with beer fairly often and I've grilled brats but this was a new method for me.

Method: Pour 3 cans of Miller or brand of choice beer into a large saucepan. Add raw brats and one sliced onion. Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer. Simmer until the brats are no longer pink.

Corn

Grilled corn can't be beat. It has just that little extra flavour mingled with a little smokiness to accent the flavour. The kernels remain tender and juicy, just begging for a little salt and butter :)

I've cooked many a cob of corn over an open fire an on the grill yet this method of prep was another new to me. After seeing it done and seeing the end results I will be using this method. The end result is the same but I think it is a much neater look. I'm going to give my method first followed by the kids' method. That way you can choose whatever method you want to grill the corn.

My method: Remove any long leaves. Soak in water about 20 minutes. Place on hot grill. Grill until outer husk is blackened. Remove from grill. Hold the cob on the uncut stem. Peel back the husk. Butter and salt.

The Kids method: Remove outer layer of husk. Break off the stem. Cut across the top of the cob with scissors to for a neat, squared end. Soak in water about 20 minutes. Place on hot grill. Grill until outer husk is blackened. Remove from grill. Peel off the remaining husk. Butter and salt.



Don't you just wish you had smell-o-vision? My husband took his hand at grilling on the charcoal grill. Now I just have to tell you a bit more about this. The grill after a bit of coaxing was fired up and if there is anything that my husband enjoys it is grilling. Their house backs onto a beautiful forest setting. It rained that day. See where I'm going here? Well, once the grill was going my husband said would you like me to grill them for you of which one of the kids said sure and left him out there with the dog happily grilling away EXCEPT for the gigantic mosquitoes! No amount of smoke was keeping them away! However, he is now 100% convinced he needs a charcoal grill in addition to our gas grill. I have to agree it would be a nice addition along with a little smoker [Time to go shopping!]

Plated

The meal consisted of grilled homemade burgers, bratswurst, steamed fresh green beans, onions and pasta salad. The brats came out lovely as did the homemade hamburg patties. There was shredded cheddar cheese in the patties too. I'm telling you every meal in Wisconsin has cheese in some form. It's no wonder since good quality cheese can add so much flavour to a dish. The beans were steamed to al dente just perfect. There were buns for both the burgers and brats but I really didn't feel like buns.

What I really liked about this meal was the added dimension of the brats in beer combined with the elements of the charcoal grill. It was a lovely combination!


Friday, July 25, 2008

Cedar Valley Cheese Store

Cheese is a staple in our home! Many of the grocery stores here store brand sell cheese in bricks and often but the 900 g bars on sale. While they are named (sharp, cheddar, colby, marble, mozzarella) they basically taste all the same for what little taste they have. A step up in flavour are those bars by Kraft and Cracker Barrel. I seldom buy either of the store brand or brand name cheese because I do find them lacking in flavour. Some stores in our area sell cheese from Pine River Cheese Factory located on Hwy 21, 6 kilometers south of Kincardin, Ontario. We always stop there when in the area. Pine River Cheese has an online store if you can't find it in your area. The cheese is shipped in special coolers packed with ice by ground so they do not deliver to PO boxes. Other cheeses like Emmental, Asiago, Havarti, Swiss, Gouda, Parmesan etc are available as well as specialty cheeses. While these are more expensive than the store brand or brand name they are considerably more flavourful and well worth the extra cost. This means that in some dishes you can reduce the amount of cheese without reducing the flavour of the dish. So spend that little bit extra for good quality cheese.

Cedar Valley Cheese Factory

I had been looking forward to our Wisconsin trip not only to share the milestone wedding but also to stock up on cheeses. I have heard so many good things about Wisconsin cheese so planned ahead by bringing a large cooler. We stayed at the kids from Thursday through early Sunday afternoon and enjoyed cheese each day. Talk about a cheese lover's mecca!

Saturday the kids took us sightseeing. One of our first stops was the Cedar Valley Cheese Store located in Belgium, Wisconsin just outside of Random Lake. Shown in the picture is the back of the massive factory. Midway up in the photo in front of the second white sign there is a road that the factory faces. Not visible in this photo as we are on Side Road 57 is the store which is tucked into the far left corner facing the road in front (Jay RD) of the factory.

Cedar Valley cheese can be ordered by calling them at 920-994-9500. A list of their products can be found on their website. They do not recommend having cheese shipped between May and August but next day service is available. Shipping is by UPS or USPS so they will ship to PO boxes by USPS.

Cedar Valley Cheese Store

Pictured is the store portion facing Jay Rd. of Cedar Valley Cheese, makers of fine Italian cheese. Not shown is the massive factory portion extending to the left of the store. The store in tucked into the far right corner of the factory with ample parking out front. There are plenty of signs so you won't miss it regardless of what road you take.

The store is bright, cheery and spacious yet small in comparison to the factory. There is a entrance before the doors entering the store. There you can find pamphlets for other area attractions as well as store notices. The main attraction here is of course the cheese!

Cheese!

The store portion is not all that large. As you enter the store to your left is a table with various cheese samples. The aroma of smoked cheese greets your senses. Samples that day included string cheese, fresh mozzarella ball, tomato bruschetta and Sesmark Savory thin sesame rice crackers. Lining the wall behind are gift shop items. To your right and running the length of that wall is various foods, jams, jellies, maple syrup, honey and anything else that goes nicely with cheese. A wide aisle separates this wall from the cheese coolers that run the same length. There's cheese, cheese and more cheese! Just before the coolers, closer to the doors is an open cooler with specialty cheese including some for taste testing. Above this cooler are cheesehead (the name for Green Bay Packer's fans) hats.

Our Purchases

I can't help but share the purchases we made. Immediately you will notice the focus was on cheddar cheese. There is a method to our madness! Cheddar is our most used cheese so we go through a lot of it. I want quality cheddar with lots of flavour. Our second most used cheese is mozzarella but really we use a lot of cheese. I have a cheese keeper in my fridge that is the size of a vegetable crisper, a nice selling feature for the fridge. It is usually stuffed with various cheeses spilling out onto the cheese shelf. As you can see a good portion of refrigerator space is dedicated to cheese.

Their cheese strings are award winning so I had to get two packages, one for snacking on there and one to bring home. They come in a plastic bag with a tie or vacuum sealed. There is no difference in quality only in packaging. I should also mention that their cheeses with the exception of cheese strings, curds and shredded cheese are vacuum sealed. Vacuum sealing extends the self life of the cheese. Cheese is one of your more expensive food items so vacuum sealing is a must. When I use cheese, I cut from the block the amount I want to use then immediately vacuum seal the remainder.

  • garlic cheddar (0.89 lb)
  • white cheddar mild (1.24 lb)
  • 2 year aged cheddar (1.13 lb)
  • garden monterey jack (0.84 lb)
  • mozzarella (1.34 lb)
  • mozzarella (1.29 lb)
  • red wax cheddar longhorn (1.15 lb)
  • string cheese (0.76 lb)
  • 1 year sharp cheddar (3.37 lb)
  • white cheddar curd (0.79 lb)
  • two tone cheddar curd (0.87 lb)
  • shredded mozzarella (1.72 lb)
Be sure to check back often to see some of the foods I make using cheese bought on this trip :)


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Wedding Cheesecake & Louise's Italian Cafe

As previously mentioned the primary purpose of our road trip was to share the joy of one of our kid's marriage. The kids had made all the arrangements for the wedding, the cake and the family get together after the wedding. The wedding was scheduled for 11 am Friday morning. It was very hot and humid yet despite threatening rain it remained dry.

Wedding Cheesecake

After the wedding and photo taking we went back to their house to change into casual attire for lunch. They had decided to leave the wedding cheesecake at the house to enjoy with a glass of wine later in lieu of dessert at the restaurant. The wedding cheesecake was made by Simma's Bakery of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They are well known for their specialty cheesecakes. The fluffy yet creamy filling tops a thin layer of cake then topped with a thin layer of raspberry and cream mousse followed by chocolate ganache. The cheese cake was decorated with pale blue Micky Mouse motifs.

The Micky Mouse motifs have a lot of meaning to the kids. They met online playing a Disney game. Their first vacation together was to Disney World. After long distance dating for a year they decided to tie the knot. That proved a lot easier said than done once US Immigration became involved since Canadians need a K1 Visa in order to enter the US with the intent to marry a US citizen. Waiting for the K1 took another long and stressful year where our kid was restricted from entering the US so communication for the couple was by phone or online. The final test for the K1 was an interview in Montreal. We were just so thrilled when the much coveted K1 Visa was finally approved and the wedding could go forward. They are going to Disney World in September for their honeymoon.

The Firepit

The kids chose Louise's Italian Cafe in Brookfield, Wisconsin for lunch. They had discovered this restaurant on a previous outing. It was a perfect choice for a family lunch. The restaurant opening daily at 11 am weekdays and 10 am Saturday and Sunday is conveniently located a short distance from I-94. Enticing smells greet you as you enter the restaurant but the first visual impression is the copper. It is everywhere, the warm copper tones contrast nicely against the sea blue walls. What is most impressive is the copper clad wood-fired oven. Specialty pizzas and foccacia are baked on site in the wood oven. Their pastas are made fresh including their lasagna using fresh made pasta then finished in the wood oven. Why am I impressed with wood fired ovens? The main reason is these ovens give a flavour to the food that can't be duplicated using an oven much the same as grills impart a certain flavour.

Foccacia

Meals come with a good size basket of herbed and garlic foccacia bread served with light extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping. The flavour was light yet had a nice depth. The bread itself was nicely seasoned with just the perfect amount of chewiness. This is a must make bread so I will be looking for a good recipe, doing a little tweaking and will report back on the results.

Chopped Insalata Louise

Salad does not come with the meals so we ordered an Insalta Louise to share. This salad is made using mixed lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers, mozzarella, mushrooms, bell peppers and Italian vinaigrette garnished with a hot pepper. What makes this salad stand out is the way it has been prepared. The lettuce is cut very fine and although it is said to be chopped it really is more the texture of shredded, something not often seen in lettuce based salads. The other vegetables were chopped somewhat finer than for other salads. The Italian vinaigrette was quite flavourful. I didn't get a chance to ask if it was a house dressing but suspect so. The hot pepper was a nice addition giving a bit of punch with out adding too much heat. This salad is priced at $6.95 for small and $8.95 for large.


Grilled Chicken Calzone

The groom ordered a grilled chicken calzone. I have to say this was a large calzone! The pizza dough was folded the stuffed with pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, Ricotta, Mozzarella and Parmigiano cheeses then baked in the wood fired oven (price $10.95).

The immediate comment on seeing the size of the calzone was "Oh my gosh!". The huge calzone came topped with shredded Parmigiano cheese and a side of marinara sauce. It was baked to a golden brown hiding the generous and tasty chicken and cheese filling. This meal got a two thumbs up from the groom. It was too large to finish so part went home.


Chicken alla Parmigiana

Pasta is fresh made daily in the style of Italy's Emilia Romagna region, using only fresh egg yolks and flour. My husband ordered the Chicken alla Parmigiana. The meal came with a breaded chicken breast with grilled fresh Mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce. It was served with Tagliolini pasta and Parmigiano cheese, garnished with a sprig of fresh basil (price $13.95).

My husband said he would rate this dish at 8.75 out of 10. It was very good with no complaints. According to him even though the pasta looked different there was no difference in taste. The chicken was nicely seasoned and cooked topped with a generous amount of Mozzarella cheese.

Three Citrus Grilled Chicken

I ordered the three citrus grilled chicken. Two nice sized piece of grilled chicken was served with fresh vegetables and angel hair pasta with fresh Roma tomatoes and basil (price $14.95).

The vegetables consisted of yellow and green zucchini, broccoli and cauliflower. They were cooked to al dente and lightly seasoned. A generous amount of Roma tomatoes and basil topped angel hair pasta. Slices of orange, lemon and lime were under the pasta that had a slight hint of citrus. The chicken was nicely grilled yet still moist. I would definitely recommend this meal. The only complaint I had was it was too much food which isn't a bad thing :)

This is one restaurant that I would highly recommend. Not only is the food excellent the service is fast and friendly. They are quite attentive to your needs. The atmosphere is most pleasant creating a lovely dining experience so if you are in the area do be sure to stop by. Just tell them the Garden Gnome recommended their restaurant :) No I do not have any affiliation with them other than really enjoying their great food and wonderful hospitality.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

And the Road Trip Begins

Road trips are always fun but this one was special because after considerable red tape and over a year of frustration, one of our kids was finally getting married in Wisconsin! We had planned on leaving here about 9 am with the first stop being an 11 am appointment to have the two front tires replaced. As with all plans sometimes life throws in a curve ball. My husband had been away on his annual boat cruise. Horrible storms came through the night they were coming through so he was only able to get our boat to a safe harbour. First thing Thursday morning we headed to the marina where our boat slip is. A friend met us there and drove us to where the boat was. We had to drive the boat across the lake then up the channel and back to the slip. This put us behind schedule but it was nice to get a boat ride in before leaving.

Raspberries

Raspberries are now available at the U-pick. They are expensive even if you pick your own. Picked is $8 per quart or $2.25 per half pint at the road side stand or $5 per quart if you pick your own. I love raspberry jam so will be doing a small batch. A quart is needed for each 500 ml jar of low sugar jam using Pomona's pectin so as jam goes this is expensive. However, it will be a premium gourmet style of jam. I will likely use 250 ml jars instead of the 500 ml jars.

Raspberries and blueberries are always expensive here. One of our favourite ways to enjoy them is fresh over homemade yogurt. We enjoyed a nice dish of berries and yogurt before we left for the official road trip.

Big Mac

We arrived at the tire place about 2 pm. It was a very hot, humid, stiffling day certainly not suitable weather to be walking anywhere. They said it would be about an hour wait. We walked the few feet next door to McDonald's. It was the only restaurant within walking distance. We figured if we had a bite to eat while waiting for the tires we wouldn't have to stop en route for more than a washroom break.

My husband said there was no way I would share this with my readers and found it quite amusing when I assured him I would. As you know I am not a huge fan of fast food restaurants even when travelling so why not share those very few times we do eat fast food? This was the only fast food restaurant stop of the entire trip.

I ordered the Big Mac meal. It came with the burger, fries and a drink (I got ice tea). The burger had two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun. It left me wondering where's the beef but that's just feeds into that other cute commercial. Seriously, I had to lift the top of the bun to see if there really were patties on the burger. The worst part of this fast food meal is the burger failed miserably on the taste test. I really wasn't sure if I was eating the burger itself or the box it came in. The anemic looking fries actually weren't all that bad with ketchup other than they were quite salty. Sadly I thought of the very first time I had a Big Mac when I was about 12 years old. I was amazed at the size and taste! We lived in a very small community and my Mom didn't drive so I did not grow up with fast food other than the occasional frozen pizza. I never acquired the taste for fast food restaurants which likely is a good thing.

Double Quarter Pounder

My husband ordered the Double Quarter Pounder meal that came with fries, burger and drink. It was apparent the burger patties were larger on this burger and there was less bun. His opinion of the burger was not anymore favourable than mine. The only thing good we could say about this meal other than it was fast is the ice tea was nice. It wasn't that pre-sweetened ice tea but rather simple actual tea.

As a whole McDonald's is quite disappointing but it is fast, inexpensive and you basically know what you are going to get. This one was decorated in a hockey theme that was quite cute. The meal for the two of us was about $13 but when you see some of the other food we ate on this road trip and see how it compares in terms of price and quality it just reinforces my idea that making a stop at a road side restaurant gives a better bang for your buck.

The next few entries centre on foods we ate on the road trip as well as foods I brought home. Trust me there really is no reason for a road trip unless you can enjoy good food and bring some of it back with you. Tomorrow I will share the ok so adorable wedding cheesecake and wedding restaurant meal.


Friday, July 18, 2008

Road Trip to Wisconsin

We arrived in Wisconsin late last night, the first stop on our road trip. I will have limited access to internet during our stay here and am not sure if I will have any at the next stop before heading home. I'll try to keep up with comments but it might be a little slow. I'll have lots of good foodie entries to make once we are back home side. Stay tuned because I am stocking up on cheeses and a few other culinary goodies!

cartoon courtesy of Jeff Bucchino, "The Wizard of Draws"


Monday, July 14, 2008

Fry Truck Fare & How to Make Home Made French Fries

A sure sign that summer has arrived are the fry trucks. They pop-up in small communities, tourist areas and parks near the water. Some of them are only open on the weekends. It a summer pleasant activity to take a drive to a fry truck then sit and watch the water sights. They tend to be quite popular not only for the food but the socializing. After Labour Day as the days begin cooling and tourism slows the fry truck begin to close for the winter leaving only pleasant memories of lazy summer days. My husband stopped at one of the many fry trucks on the way home last night.

The Meal

What makes the fry trucks so popular? My theory is the smell lures you in but it's really the fries. It's all about the fries! We sometimes stop en route to get a box of fries to share while driving.

The food is not exactly super healthy but it is good, unpretentious food. The prices are quite reasonable. The total cost for our meal was $17*. It's likely healthier than a lot of fast food restaurant foods. It's not always fast either. There's nothing special about the burgers other than they are all beef patties. Toppings include ketchup, mustard, relish and American sliced cheese. Most fry trucks serve hot dogs and some also serve sausages. Salt, white and malt vinegars are available for the fries. Onion rings are available but the fries are the main attraction. Some offer bags of potato chips but many do not. A limited variety of pop and bottled water is available usually for $1 each.

Most of the fry trucks still use the pressed cardboard trays for fries and onion rings or they use thin cardboard boxes similar to fast food restaurants except bigger. If you are eating on site the burger, hot dog or sausage come in a napkin but sometimes they serve them in the thin cardboard containers without lids. If taking the food off site some package the burgers in styrofoam take-out containers as this one did or simply wrap them in paper similar to fast food restaurants. Why am I mentioning packaging? Packaging is always a concern for me and I try very hard to avoid over packaging. What can't be recycled I try to find ways to re-use. In some communities styrofoam containers can go in the blue box but here they can't so I have to find other uses or not use it. Not using is easier. Rather than toss, I washed the containers, cut them into two and they are now serving as drip trays for four plants.

* Price breakdown: total cost was for 2 double pattie burgers - $7, onion rings - $3.00, 2 large fries $8.

Fresh Cut Fries

Ok, so what makes these fries so special? Well, just take one look at these mouthwatering fries. They aren't the pale, thin, anemic looking fries that the fast food restaurants sell. They come unsalted so the customer has a choice of whether or not they want to use the salt shaker. Most importantly these fries are fresh cut! They haven't been frozen. They are fried to a lovely golden brown, essentially the same way I would make French fries at home using fresh potatoes.

Make sure you are using clean oil. The trick when frying fresh cut potatoes is to not put them into cold oil as that will cause them to absorb the oil. To test the proper temperature of the oil, drop a fry into the oil. It should not sink and bubble should remain at the surface. If it sinks the oil is not hot enough.

Method: Wash, peel and hand cut potatoes**. Soak in cold water 10 minutes with a little citric acid to prevent darkening. Heat your oil to 350ºF. Pat the potatoes dry. Fry 3 minutes. Remove basket from fryer but leave the potatoes in the fryer. Raise the oil temperature to 365ºF. Place the basket back in the fryer and fry another 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown.

** Russet potatoes are the best for French fries.

Enjoy!

Garden Gnome
©2006-2008


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Steak Wraps

Grilled steaks are the year round family favourite here! I've made several posts with pictures showing how we like our steaks. They come from beef bought on the hoof (directly from the farmer) and are custom cut to our specifications. They are big steaks which means there are leftovers. Using the leftovers can be challenging sometimes since reheating results in the steak not being rare or medium rare. What we have been doing is cut the portion of the steak we want to eat from the steak then let the remaining steak cool and cut it from the bone if there is a bone. The bones are saved for making beef stock. Any remaining fat is cut away then the steak is either set aside for the following day to be used as an ingredient in another dish.

Sautéed Mushrooms

We eat a lot of mushrooms and I can them. I've mentioned sautéed mushrooms either as a side for grilled meats or simply by themselves times on this blog. Sautéing means the food is cooked for a relatively short period of time on high heat in a little oil with the goal of maintaining both the colour and moisture in the the food. One of my pet peeves when eating out is the mushrooms are not sautéed properly. They either come out seared almost crispy or undercooked or rubbery (overcooked) in many cases.

My Method: Brush the mushrooms with a mushroom brush. Do not wash them as they will absorb the water and not sautée properly. Hand slice using a sharp knife. Heat butter in a fry pan on medium high. Put the mushroom slices in a single layer in the pan. As they cook flip the mushrooms using the pan flip method or turn over using a flipper. Do not over cook!

Steak Filling

Last night we were a bit on the lazy side. It was just on the border of having to but the air conditioning on and we were planning on doing a little work on the kitchen in the evening. So I decided to make steak wraps using the leftover steak from the night before. Sautéing was the method of choice. It made for a quick, easy and tasty meal that used up leftovers.

Method: I sauteed mushrooms as above then added sliced red onions cooking until the onions were warmed but not translucent. Then I added in slices of sweet green and red peppers. The steak was already seasoned with Montreal Steak spice so I didn't add any further seasonings other than a splash of Worcestershire sauce.


Steak Wraps

Wraps just have to be one of the easiest meals available for summer time cooking. Not only that they are versatile. Any filling will do to make a quick and easy meal that doesn't heat up your kitchen. I keep slices of frozen meats in the freezer just for this purpose but those are simply thawed and used not reheated. Sometimes it is nice to use up leftovers on hand and so it was with the steak. No that isn't cheese on the wrap, it's MiracleWhip® but you could put cheese on it if you really wanted. I would recommend a nice sharp cheddar or Asiago to enhance the flavour of the beef.

My Method: I spread MiracleWhip® on each tortilla shell then but a spring mix of greens on the tortilla shell. I topped with the steak filling mixture and a little Catalina dressing and rolled the wraps then sliced in half on the diagonal.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Potatoes on the Grill

We have a natural gas grill which is similar to a propane grill or more commonly called a barbeque. It is used year round but more so in the summer and not just for grilling. The neat thing about this type of grill is it can essentially be used much the same as an oven because the temperature can be controlled easily. A charcoal grill can be used as an oven as well but takes a bit more tinkering.

Before & After

When the weather turns hot and muggy cooking outdoors is a wonderful way to keep the heat out of the house. Baked potatoes go nicely with so many grilled meats. There's no need to turn on the oven or resort to using a microwave oven. Potatoes prepared on the grill are oh so tasty and easy to make. Be sure to allow for the longer cooking time when pairing with meats that have shorter grilling times.

Method: Wash as many medium sized whole potatoes as desired. Place in a foil baking pan. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the potatoes. Sprinkle on Montreal Steak Seasoning. Lightly shake the pan to ensure the potatoes are well covered. Add one sliced onion on top. Cover tightly with tin foil. Place on indirect heat on the grill. Cooking time is about 40 minutes, medium hot.

Dinner

Spareribs cooked long and slow are a long time family favourite. Not only are the lip smacking tasty, they are a good summer budget stretcher. Pictured is spareribs served with potatoes baked on the grill, home canned Old Fashioned Vermont beans and sweet peas. The potatoes are topped with my favourite sour cream. A interesting thing about the sour cream is this has always been my favourite topping for baked potatoes usually with a bit of chives but recently I have been enjoying baked potatoes with just a little (about a tsp) butter and sea salt.

Potatoes baked on the grill are a wonderful side for spareribs. Cooked as above they come out with light and fluffy insides while the skins are lightly seasoned. In a lot of ways they are even tastier than actual baked potatoes even though the skin doesn't get slightly crispy. This is an ideal way to cook a large amount of potatoes as well.


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Sauerkraut

Kitchen Update: Yes I know the renovations are taking longer than anticipated but we've been slowed by weather, company and waiting for things like the sink and hinges ordered online that took a bit longer to get here than anticipated. Besides we are doing it ourselves which really means life gets in the way. Last night we tore off the old laminate from the wall and removed the back splash from the existing counter tops. We discovered a plug receptacle that had been covered over but it is in a good location so the electrician is coming out Friday morning to connect it properly. We would do it ourselves but we aren't sure were to connect it to. This morning we cut the breakfast island top to the shape we want it then after seeing it we are debating cutting it shorter and possibly narrower. So that is where we are at right now. I will be making a more detailed post on my homemaking blog later today.

Summer is in full swing here. The weather has been hot, muggy and stormy perfect for grilling to keep the heat out of the house. Salads and cold dishes are working nicely as well. Meals have been a bit simpler to prepare with the kitchen renovations. It seems like we are doing something daily on renovation except when I have to clean up for family, company or want to can something. The kitchen really needs to be fully functional during these times.

For all the grilling we do, hotdogs and sausages are not high up on the list. In order of preference for grilled meats are beef, chicken, pork and while hotdogs and sausages can be made from one or more of those meats, they just aren't our first choice. We tend to have these on hand mainly for company because some prefer a hotdog or sausage to a burger. We even have a friend and I kid you not prefers either a hamburger or hotdog to steak!

Honey Garlic Sausage

The local schools have moved away from selling chocolate bars as a fund raiser. Instead they are selling things like cookie dough and popcorn. The local soccer kids were selling boxes of meat so we supported them and bought a couple of boxes. What you get is a coupon saying you made that purchase then you go pick it up. It's rather a nice way to do fundraising yet giving those who donate something useful. Not that chocolate bars and popcorn aren't useful but meats are a better value in my book :)

We grilled honey garlic sausage on the weekend. It was nothing fancy but with the warm temperatures and kitchen it was a nice meal paired with a salad. To me sausages just beg for sauerkraut, a good mustard and lots of onions. On this occasion I used fresh chopped onions but sauteed onions are even better! I adjust the sauerkraut recipe to use 10 lb of cabbage that yields about 10 - 250 ml jars of sauerkraut. I know that isn't a lot but we don't go through a lot of sauerkraut. As always please see my additional notes.

Sauerkraut

50 lb cabbage
1 lb canning salt

Remove the outer leaves and bottom stem portion of the cabbage. Wash and drain. Cut into 2 - inch wedges. Shred 5 lb of cabbage using the food shredder/slicer attachment for the KitchenAid® stand mixer or use the shredding blade on your food processor. Place in a large bowl. Thoroughly mix 3 tbsp canning salt with the cabbage. Let stand several minutes to wilt. Pack salted cabbage firmly and evenly into a large, clean pickling crock*. Use a wooden spoon or tamper to press down firmly until the juice comes to the surface. Repeat shredding, salting and packing the cabbage in batches of 5 lb until the crock is filled to within 3 to 4 - inches of the top. If the juice does not cover the cabbage, add brine.** Cover the cabbage with cheesecloth and tuck edges down against the insides of the container. Weigh the cabbage under the brine. Allow to sit at room temperature until bubbles appear indicating fermentation has started. Remove and discard scum formation daily. Allow to ferment at room temperature (70º to 75º F) 3 to 6 weeks.

To can: Bring the sauerkraut to a simmer but do not boil. Pack the into hot, sterilized jars leaving ½ - inch headspace. Ladle hot liquid over the sauerkraut leaving ½ - inch. Wipe the rims. Adjust two piece lids. Process 15 minutes for pints, 20 minutes for quarts in boiling water bath canner.

* crock - I use a 5 gallon food grade pail
** Brine: 1½ tbsp canning salt to 1 quart of water; bring to a boil then cool and use as required.


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Boat Ride Food - Decker's Landing

The summer is in full swing so our lives revolve around water activities. After all our property backs onto the water, we have a boat and we live on the beautiful Great Lakes waterway. We boat on Lakes Huron, St. Clair and Erie as well as the connecting waterways and waterways flowing into these waters. Most times we pack a picnic lunch or snacks, eating out mainly when staying overnight but my husband. Quite often when boating you have to walk a block or more from the marina to find a good restaurant. We've discovered all the best stops for eating along these waterways and I have to tell you that Decker's Landing in Algonac, Michigan is one of the best! It is right at the marina so all we do is dock and find a seat!

Decker's is hosting a Margaritaville Weekend Memorial on July 18 and 19, 2008 in memory of Susan Bell, Joe Hamilton and Katy O'Neil who We went to Decker's last week. The one thing about boaters aside of being some of the friendliest folk you have ever met is they stick together and help each other. I saw where they are holding a Margaritaville tragically lost their lives in a boating accident on Lake St. Clair on May 24, 2008. Brian Lepp and Robert Diegel were seriously wounded with severe facial injuries. Trust funds have been set up for Austin and Lucas Bell as well as Lydia Hamilton. If you would like more information on this event, would like to book a boat slip or donate to the cause please call Deckers at 1-810-794-0581. Please support this cause if you can.

Decker's Landing can be reached by land or water. Outdoor seating overlooks the water where you can enjoy boat traffic while enjoying your favourite meal. Indoor seating is spacious with a good view of the water or you can sit around their pleasant bar. The wait staff is likely one of the friendliest you will ever meet! The food is wonderful especially their onion rings of which I will explain a bit further in this post. They have live entertainment on the weekends during the summer as well.

Great Lakes

We docked the boat then found an empty glider seat. That's one of the neat things about Decker's is most of the outdoor seating is covered gliders overlooking the water. You can watch the boats docking as well as other water traffic. It is just a real pleasant spot to while away a few summer hours!

My husband ordered a Great Lakes as a drink before dinner. The Great Lakes is a beautiful looking specialty drink, a deep turquoise frozen drink served in a frosted wine carafe. The colour reminded me of the colours of the wake behind the boat. It was a perfect The ingredients are light rum, dark rum, blue caraco and pineapple juice.


Please Note: Boating and drinking do not mix! We were there for a couple of hours so one drink was fine for the Captain of the Vessel aka my husband as he is a large man and it was with a meal. [I don't advocate drinking and boating as in drinking en route or stopping simply to drink without eating. I think you know what I mean.]
Onion Rings

We really aren't into fast food restaurants. Seriously for the price you pay at one of those restaurants you can get a much tastier meal at mom and pop type restaurants. For the most part the meals will be healthier for you as well.

Decker's has the most awesome onions rings aside from homemade. These are a must have appetizer whenever we stop there. The onion rings come in a paper lined plastic basket. They are fried to perfection with a crispy, golden crust covering sweet, tender onion slices. These onion rings are the perfect snack while watching the boats. Our boat was docked in a slip almost in front of us so we snacked on onion rings while talking about what we needed to do for the boat. The outside needs a cleaning and polishing. We need to hang a couple of new flags. All that will wait :)

Canadian Walleye

My husband ordered the Canadian Walleye entrée. The large walleye portion was beautifully done with light breading fried to golden perfection. It was presented pleasantly but not fussy. The light, fluffy and tasty fish was accompanied with a vegetable medley of broccoli, cauliflower and carrot coins, boiled red potato halves and a choice of soup or salad for $12.95. He ordered the French Onion soup instead of the optional salad. This is just a lovely meal right from the presentation to the quality of food. My husband gave it two thumbs up!

Decker Burger

I'm seriously not a huge burger fan. I love my husband's homemade burgers, burgers from one bar and grill we frequent and from Decker's. That's it! I'm rather picky that way. Seriously the meal choices were reversed! It was a beautiful, warm day so I ordered the Decker burger for $7.95 with cheese for an additional 50¢. It came with fries and coleslaw along with lettuce, dill pickle slices and onion slices. This is seriously a beautiful burger. The only complaint I have is they use processed cheese (American cheese) slices instead of actual cheese slices. Again, I'm being very picky here but I can tolerate actual cheese because the processed cheese slices really do a number on me being lactose intolerant. I just pre-treat because this burger is worth it :)

Decker's is the perfect boating spot to spend a few hours in the summer.

[Waving hi to my friends from Decker's. We'll see you soon and thanks for your wonderful hospitality!] - no affiliation just a boater who appreciates a good marina.]


Thursday, July 03, 2008

Yummy Dinner! White Pizza

One of the nicest things about the internet is we can easily keep in touch with our kids. Sharing pictures of what we made for dinner has become a favourite activity. They are all talented cooks! A couple of days ago I received pictures along with the recipes for a white pizza made by one of our kids. I immediately called to ask if I could blog about it. Even though I knew there wouldn't be a problem sharing this wonderful pizza with my readers, I still asked. (Thanks for sharing both, sweetie!)

My best pizza dough has both beer and sugar as ingredients something the kids are avoiding as much as possible with the grandbaby. We occasionally use alcohol as an ingredient when cooking however despite claims that the alcohol burns off during the cooking process, that is false! There is a handy alcohol burn off chart here. Even though there isn't a lot of alcohol left in the food there is still some and that needs to be considered when serving the dish to children or those who for whatever reason choose to abstain from alcohol. We have both family and friends that abstain so I make two versions of the same dish, one with alcohol. So do consider do the same if you cook with alcohol. Food like wine jelly or jams made with alcohol should be well labeled as they tend to have a fairly high alcohol content.

White Pizza

The kids have been raving about the following pizza dough that they accidentally stumbled upon. According to them "Hands-down, one of the best pizzas we have ever had! The dough is so fluffy and good that we are making calzones out of it tonight." The kids said that even though the dough contained cornmeal it was not gritty. Using chicken and broccoli is a lovely combination. The Alfredo sauce was homemade as well.

It looks so mouthwatering that I have this recipe on the top of my next to try recipes! The dough was made in a breadmachine but you can easily make it using the KitchenAid® stand mixer. Simply mix the dry ingredients together in the stand mixer bowl then stir the wet ingredients together in a separate bowl and slowly pour into the dry while mixing on speed 2. Adjust flour if needed so the dough leaves the side of the mixing bowl. Knead on speed 2 until smooth and elastic.

Cornmeal Pizza Dough

1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil
3 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup medium-grind yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons SAF yeast or 2 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast

Combine ingredients and follow your manufacturers directions for your bread machine.


White Pizza
- dough as prepared above
- slice mushrooms and broccoli and cook together (no seasoning)
- cook chicken with no seasoning
- spread Alfredo sauce on bottom
- add broccoli and mushroom mixture
- add chicken
- sprinkle garlic pepper on top
- top with shredded mozzarella cheese

Please Note: Photo and instructions are ©b1 (one of Garden Gnome's kids who is looking at the possibility of changing careers to become a professional chef in the next few years).


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A Burger With Attitude for Canada Day 2008


Happy Canada Day


Many people celebrate Canada Day by having get-togethers that include grilling hamburgers and hot dogs. In our neck of the woods we are hoping that the latest trend of raining almost daily will end. Today we woke to more rain and winds out of the north so the temperature had dropped quite a few degrees. We are planning to do a little boating tomorrow depending on the weather. Grilling will likely be part of our celebrations if we don't stop at one of our favourite haunts while boating. Later in the evening weather permitting we will sit on the dock to enjoy the fireworks. We don't set them off ourselves but don't mind enjoying seeing various displays. I do hope the rain holds off and it warms a bit!

Burger With Attitude

I've mentioned before that my husband makes the most fantastic homemade burger patties using fresh ground beef. However, there is no reason that a burger always has to be made using ground beef. Saturday he decided to make burgers but with a twist. Instead of using just ground beef he added ground pork and turkey to the beef. Then end result was a flavourful, juicy burger with a noticeable but pleasant difference in taste.

The following recipe is for a large batch of patties with about a third used to make meatballs. We were entertaining that evening so the meatballs were cooked then went into the slow cooker with sauce for later. The burger patties freeze nicely either raw or cooked as does the cooked meatballs. This is something we regularly do when cooking for stocking the freezer with homemade convenience foods. It is a frugal use of time and the energy source used to cook the food.

Toppings: iceburg lettuce, aged sharp cheddar cheese, tomatoes, dill pickles, onions, jalapeno peppers
Condiments: Miracle Whip®, ketchup, mustard, relish

Combination Burger Patties

5 lb lean ground beef
2 lb ground pork
2 lb ground turkey
2 ½ dry bread crumbs
6 eggs, slightly beaten
1½ tbsp garlic pepper
¼ c Heinz 57 steak sauce

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl using your hands. Form into large patties* about 5 - inch diameter and ¾ - inch thick or form into 2 - inch meatballs**.

Grilling: The most important thing when grilling burgers besides having your grill set to the correct temperature (medium) is to never press the patty to flatten. Flattening forces all those lovely juices out of the burger and increases flare-ups. The second most import thing when grilling is to only flip the burger once. Use a large barbeque flipper to flip the burger to prevent the patty breaking. Flip when the patty is nicely browned with defined grill marks. Grill on the other side until the burger is nicely browned with well defined grill marks and the interior registers at least 71ºC/160ºF*** on an instant read thermometer***.

Frying (meatballs): Heat 2 to 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil on medium in a fry pan. Place meatballs in a single layer on the bottom of the fry pan. Fry until browned. Turn and continue cooking until browned through. Remove from fry pan using a slotted spoon. Repeat until all meatballs are cooked. If freezing allow to cool then flash freeze in a single layer and package into freezer bags. If using the same day, place in slow cooker, add sauce then set on low until ready to use.

* The patties will shrink in diameter and thicken while grilling. Alternately you can use a burger patty press if desired.
** A meatballer can be used for this.
*** The old advice to cook until no longer pink is no longer recommended. The inside can still look pink depending on whether the ground beef was fresh or frozen and how it was thawed when cooked to the proper temperature however, depending on where the ground meat was purchased can look brown before it is safely cooked. Therefore it is best to use an instant read thermometer to ensure your burgers have been cooked to the proper temperature.