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Verses from my Kitchen: February 2011

February 27, 2011


There are a few meals that immediately conjure up images of my adolescence and dinner around the family table. My mom wasn't a gourmet cook, but she was a mighty fine one and some of her recipes did more than just feed a growing boy. When I see or hear about a certain food or meal today, I think about the way my mom used to make it. I also think about those moments frozen in time when I first experienced them. And those memories will live with me forever, or until they're stolen by old age.

When I was a kid I would bolt from the school doors after the final bell rang and race home. I'd push through my front door with the weight of the world released from my shoulders and throw my backpack down, run upstairs to my room and tear through my drawers looking for some play clothes to wear. I'd run back down the stairs, two by two, and right into the kitchen. I used to always ask what was for dinner because I was an inquisitive boy; that and I was always hungry. I knew it would be good no matter what, but if it was something like lasagna the anticipation would kill me.
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February 25, 2011

Lunch Box Memories: Jam Muffins

I used to get a muffin in my lunch box as a kid. It was part savoury recess treat and part dessert. To be honest, I think I was more interested in the cool lunch boxes than the food back then. I remember my mom and I would head out minutes prior to Labour Day to pick up school supplies and grab a fancy lunch box and backpack. The boxes back then came with lithographed images and had all your favourite comic book heroes on them. They also should have come with a warning that the image on your box may get your ass beaten at school.

I used to love getting to school and at the first lull in the day reaching for my lunch box and rummaging through it. Peanut butter and jam. Check. Juice box. Check. And a cupcake. Sweet. Oh wait, it was a muffin. I never knew the difference. I did know that if it was a muffin stuffed with jam or chocolate or other sweet goodies, I could break it in half and use one half as a midday snack and the other half for dessert in the cafeteria. Seriously, how cool is that? A cupcake is what you think it is. Nothing more. A one-trick pony.
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February 23, 2011

Baked Chocolate Pudding

This is my 100th post. A moment to celebrate and recall some of my fondest memories since doing this. It's also a chance to share with you one of my favourite recipes, a baked chocolate pudding that I turn to when I'm in a pinch for time and want something delicious that oozes chocolate goodness for dessert. Serve it with berries or cream or creme fraiche. Either way, this is top shelf.

I love looking back on my first few posts. I like to think that in a short time I've come a long way. As a matter of fact, some of my earliest posts are cringe-worthy, like looking back on old school photos when you thought you could rock a certain outfit for picture day and live to regret it every time someone reaches for the photo album. That's what looking back on my first few images is like. I laugh. I squint and cringe.

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February 20, 2011

Buttermilk Scones

Sunday morning is one of my favourite times of the week. Everything moves in slow motion and starts to resemble an era I've only read about it books or seen on film. Things were simpler, quieter and less frantic. It's the one day of the week I never want to escape from. I'd rather soak it up and digest it.

Sunday morning, I never want to leave.
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February 18, 2011

Caramelized Onion & Goat Cheese Tartlet

If our moods are predicated on the weather, than today was a very good day. It's still winter and we're knee deep in February but somebody pulled back the curtain on spring and gave us a glimpse of what's to come. I love all that winter has to offer but after a day like today I remember how fond I am of new beginnings.

Just as I appreciate the changes that winter brings, from the routines we dig into and the foods available for a few months, spring gives us a chance to breathe in the lighter fare for a while. It brings renewed optimism, locally produced goods and recipes that are fresh and new again.

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February 16, 2011

Beef Ragu: My Favourite Bolognese Sauce

Comfort food. It usually evokes memories of a moment in our past when food brought us together and connected us. It's usually a flavour or ingredient that elicits those feelings and that binds us to a time when things seemed simpler, were simpler. It's the comfort in food that's been an anchor in my life and allows me to remember and never forget. It's able to reach inside us and pull out an emotion attached to it. I take comfort in that.

When we're in the midst of winter and hectic days in which we're pulled in so many different directions that we lose sight of ourselves, nothing slows us down and grounds us more than a bowl of pasta and time with our family. My wife and I will sit around the table with a glass of Merlot and a bowl of of pasta with our favourite bolognese and reconnect with each other and connect with the food in front of us. We can hear the tic of the clock slow down, the heart beat relaxes a bit and we exhale.
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February 14, 2011

Leek, Potato & Bacon Soup

It was early afternoon and the wind outside was cold and gaining momentum. I heard a loud noise that was quickly followed by another. Some of our chairs were toppled by the strength of the wind. The air was equally cold and quickly turned the remaining snow in our driveway into a hard patch of ice. It was a day meant for staying inside huddled by the fireplace. It was the perfect day for soup.

I told my wife that I was going downstairs to make a batch of soup to keep us warm. I opened up the kitchen curtains to shine some light in and quickly started peeling vegetables. Making soup takes time and can't be rushed. It's as much about the process for me as it is the food. Stripping and washing the vegetables and chopping in an almost rhythmic beat.
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February 12, 2011

Lemon Sponge Pudding

My wife and I love to entertain. It's a great excuse to have friends over and steal memories from one another. I used to believe it was the food that made the night but I now know differently, it's all about the people you surround yourself with. Great individuals from different backgrounds with equally important voices to be heard. All of us unique as much as we are similar.

Last night we had a couple of friends arriving from Germany and spending the night with us. For them it was just their first stop on a two week vacation, but for us it was more than that. It was an opportunity to establish new beginnings and set them up for a trip they'll never forget. Whenever we have friends staying with us we like to give them some love and hospitality.
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February 9, 2011

Frozen Banana Bombs

I used to spend a couple of weeks every summer outside the city and at my grandparents. Those hot days in July and August were like fresh flowers and freedom. It was an escape from poor air quality and congestion. It was an escape to a simpler way of life.

I would waste spend hours outside by myself throwing the ball against the fence. When you grow up an only child you find ways to keep yourself busy and happy. And when I visited with grandparents, I was just that. I would play in the gigantic backyard trees with roots big enough to dig under the neighbouring property. I would catch butterflies, or at least try. I would do anything to stay in the moment. The days there would turn into nights with a blink of an eye and I couldn't count sheep fast enough so I would awake to another bright day.

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February 7, 2011

My Ultimate Onion Dip

Onion dip. The name alone has always induced a feeling of discontent . I immediatelu conjuire up the image of the stuff served at house parties and get-togethers where you pull back the lid on a gerenic tasting, pre-packaged tub. I never understood the love for it and I always wondered why someone didn't just make it themselves. And better.

I love onions and have thought about making a version loaded with great taste and fresh ingredients for a while now. Something a bit more complicated than onion soup mix but still easy enough that anybody can do it. I wanted to make a dip that could be a staple at family functions and shared with friends while watching the game. So I started scribbling down notes in my food journal and experimenting with ingredients.
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February 5, 2011

Nutella Caramel Squares

I remember the moment. I was 10 years old. I was staying over at a friend's house and woke up to a different routine. Instead of squinting and rubbing my eyes and smelling bacon drifting from the kitchen, I smelled toast and chocolate. Did I sleep through the day? Did I wake up in parallel universe where dessert was served after every meal, including breakfast? 

We went downstairs and I saw the jar. And the plate with chocolate-covered toast. My world would never be the same again. The taste has stayed with me all those years. There was an alternative to bacon and eggs and I was a fan.

Up until that moment in time Nutella was a foreign word to me. I had never heard of it, never tasted it. I'm as big a chocolate fan as the next person but it didn't dawn on me that it worked on toast as well. In hindsight, how could it not? Chocolate rolls with everything. Waking up that day to a cup of juice with  chocolate and hazelnut on a crispy piece of bread changed the way I looked at food. It no longer was something resigned to the forms you grew up knowing. 

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February 3, 2011

Kahlua Chocolate Pots de Creme & Thyme Whipped Cream

This is my lunchbox revival. A chance to remember the moments that are hard to forget. I can flip through the written pages in my mind to a time when chocolate pudding was synonymous with cafeterias and school lunches and being a kid. I can even remember the sound made when you pulled back the plastic lid on your pudding like it was yesterday. I lived for lunchtime. Dessert time.

Growing up chocolate was my calling card. If Superman had kryptonite, I had that. It made me weak and foolish. If my mom needed something done around the house it would be followed with a threat of no dessert, no chocolate. I don't know if that's even legal. Certainly there's some unwritten parent code that you can't pull out the no-dessert comment to get something done. It doesn't even work.

Ok, it worked.

As the years have passed, the same bad good habits have followed me. I still need chocolate to pull me out of a funk and I can still be bribed with it. Sad. You would think I learned my lesson by now and be mentally strong enough to withstand it. I'm not. Luckily i'm the one making dinner and dessert now. I have a bit more say on the direction it takes.

I wanted to make something that satisfied my chocolate needs in a dessert that harks back to those younger, sometimes better days. This is my grown up version. A rich and thick pudding loaded with flavour that's like having a chocolate injection after dinner. 

This recipe is a traditional French custard. Although it often calls for dark chocolate,  I used milk-chocolate because it gives me a smooth and silky finish to the pudding. It's just a bit smoother which is the way I like it. It's the perfect dessert because the prep is quick and the presentation is easy. 

Enjoy this the next time you have guests coming over or surprise your partner with this on Valentine's Day (speaking of which, food and poetry is the best way to your partner's hear. See below). You can make it a couple days ahead of time serve them in countless different vessels. I used small coffee cups but the choice is yours.

From my kitchen to yours, happy eating!

Kahlua Chocolate Pots de Creme

The Goods:

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup Kahlua
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 6 oz. milk-chocolate, chopped
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • whipped cream mix with 2 tbsp. finely chopped thyme, for garnish
  • Shaved chocolate, for garnish


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Add the chopped chocolate to a large bowl and let sit. Meanwhile, heat the cream and a pinch of salt in a saucepan until it just comes to a bowl. Remove from the heat and pour the hot cream over the chocolate and whisk until smooth. Once it cools slightly, add in the Kahlua and vanilla and stir.
  3. In another mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar to blend. Slowly add in the warm chocolate mixture while stirring often. Strain the entire mixture through a sieve into another bowl and let cool for 10 minutes.
  4. Divide the mixture amongst 6 ramekins or cups 3/4 cup in size. Cover each with foil and place on a baking pan filled with hot water so the cups are half-immersed in water. 
  5. Bake for 30 minutes or until set but middle moves slightly when shaken. Remove from the water and remove foil. 
  6. Cover each with plastic wrap and chill until cold, about 3 hours.
  7. Serves 6.

**Valentine's Day is right around the corner now. I'd like to think I won my wife over with my food, but that wasn't entirely the case. I wrote stories and poems to her, and in honour of the most romantic day of the year I give you this: the first poem I ever wrote to her.

Listening to jazz--
punctuated by falling rain
as it hits each window pane--
my mind wanders in and out of you,
curious, yet

I make excuses
why you're not quite for me
when really
I've no right to say--
but everyone before you
has ended in just
so why should now be
any different?

Not that i'm looking for a
not just yet, but
when my heart finally decides
to fall for this mysterious woman
in the unwritten pages of my future,
when i'm no longer a fool for trying
because I don't have to try
I just have to be

And then I'll be there
and one
with you
and we'll embrace
listening to jazz
punctuated by falling rain
as it hits each window pane--
and we'll laugh at how incomplete
the music was before us
and we'll weep at the beautiful harmony
we create--
you and me.
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February 2, 2011

Orange & Mint Salad

Healthy. Refreshing. Flavourful. Did I mention healthy already? This is one of those salads that's incredibly easy and quick to make. Anybody can do this if they have five minutes. It's perfect as a starter on a warm spring day or can be served to cleanse the palate between courses. Either way, this salad is so simple to put together that I can see it making an appearance during the summer months when we want a quick snack. 

I've never been a massive fan of salads, much to my wife's chagrin. When it's colder out I choose soups to salads every day of the week. But when the thermostat starts to creep up, salads have a fighting chance. The options are endless, as can be seen with this variation, and they're usually refreshing and quick. Two terms of endearment in my kitchen. And, the flavours jump right off the plate.

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