Sunday, August 30, 2009

Chocolate Banana Loaf - Lower Fat


While looking through Allrecipes I found a low fat version of Banana Bread. Of course...I had to try it.




1/3 cup skim milk
1 tsp lemon juice
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup white sugar
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C). Lightly spray a 9x5 inch loaf pan or 16 muffin cups with cooking spray. Stir the skim milk and lemon juice together in a glass measuring cup; let stand until curdled, about 30 minutes. Whisk together the whole wheat flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt; set aside.

Beat the eggs and sugar together with an electric mixer until smooth. Mix in the mashed bananas, the milk mixture, canola oil and vanilla extract. Stir in the flour mixture just until all ingredients are moistened. Pour the batter into the prepared pan or muffin cups.

Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour for a loaf, or 30 minutes for muffins. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.

I found that by the 40 minute mark it was ready to come out of the oven.

Verdict: Low fat - yup. Flavour - not nearly as great as regular banana bread - it definitely needed some fat added to it to give it some moisture. I found it on the dry side although not so dry that it was inedible. I don't think it would be something I'd ever take to a pot luck .

I know it defeats the whole purpose but I just had to add butter to it and then it was pretty ok.
StumbleUpon

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Checkerboard Cake


Go ahead - take a shot at me. I probably deserve it. I'm the world's biggest sucker for things that look "interesting" in my subjective opinion. While shopping at my local mega grocer, I happened upon this cake pan set.



Looks rather interesting doesn't it? Inside are 3 - 9" cake pans and a plastic divider ring (if you're handy you can make it yourself). Actor Boy is on his way to New York for a couple of months and he and the new girlfriend were coming over for brunch. By the way, the new girlfriend is very sweet and gets the mother's seal of approval (like it really matters what I think). She even helps in the clean up department and is totally not intimidated by our insane family. Baba even asked for her phone number in NYC..just in case we needed to reach Actor Boy. Poor dear - has no concept of email and facebook let alone cell phones.

I decided to follow the recipe on the Wilton box for this cake and went through each step to the letter.

Ingredients:

1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
2 2/3 cups granulated sugar (I cut this back by 2/3 cup)
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 cups milk
4 squares (4 oz) semi-sweet chocolate, melted
Chocolate buttercream icing

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Pray pans with vegetable pan spray (I used the Wilton's cake release)

In large bowl, cream butter and sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and vanilla; mix well after each addition. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture alteratively with milk; mix well after each addition. Cocontinue beating 1 minute. Divide batter in half. Stir melted chocolate into half the batter and mix well.

Place batter dividing ring (you need to have this) into one prepared pan. The pans are 9"x1". Pour darker coloured batter in outer and center sections and lighter batter in the middle section. Fill sections half way.

Remove the ring from pan by carefully lifting straight up on handles. Rinse and completely dry the ring.

Place ring in second prepared pan and repeat what you did for the first pan. These two pans form your top and bottom layer of your checkerboard cake. Clean and dry your ring again and put into prepared pan. This time reverse - white layer on the outside, darker layer on the inside. Bake the 3 pans at 350 for 30 - 35 minutes.



Although the directions said 30-35 minutes, I took the cakes out before the 30 minute mark and they seemed a little overbaked to me.

Assembly

Position layer with chocolate cake on outside onto serving plate; spread top with chocolate icing. Position layer with yellow cake on the outside on top of this layer spreading top with icing. Position third cake on the top and ice the rest of the cake.



I don't know - kinda sorta resembles the box but not really. The icing - another story and a bottle of wine.

Verdict: I found the cake rather boring and indeed, it was a little overbaked. It wasn't really dry - but on the dry side and quite dense in texture. Would I make it again. I think so, but I'd have to find another recipe. I also don't think I was entirely exact in my 1/2 way measurement in each pan. Next time, I'll tweak it a little.

I suspect that Psychgrad will become the recipient of this cake pan set but not until she finds a house. StumbleUpon

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Georgia Peach Upside Down Cake


Can I just say how much I don't like multiple offer situations?

Yesterday, we entered into our first bidding war and lost. We weren't outbidded...we were outkidded. After waiting outside of the seller's house for what seemed like FOREVER, it came down to us and another couple. Our bids were exactly the same and the sellers were going to just make their decision. I knew at that point that we had lost. The other buyers had two kids with them, the same age as the sellers' kids. I quickly looked around for things I could shove under my shirt to make a case for being pregnant with triplets (the only thing that may have helped at that point).

So...the search continues. I'm not sure what's more disappointing -- losing a house I really liked or having to continue searching for a new home.

****************************************************

On to something happier...Random Acts of Kindness!

Watch the video below to see how I picked the 3 recipients of random acts of kindness!



Amelie


Princess of the Universe


Kelly Blechertas


I'll get in touch with you guys to get your addresses!

*****************************************************

Now - for some food.

I think I have a "thing" for upside down cakes. You can check out the Strawberry & Blueberry Upside Down Cake I posted here and the Upside Down Apple Cake I posted here. There's something so satisfying about not knowing what your dish will look like, but then seeing a beautiful creation after flipping it over. There's risk, intrigue and reward.

This time, I made a Peach Upside Down Cake. Being that this is peach season, this is a great time to make this pie. But, I actually used the peaches I froze last summer, thinking that I should start cleaning out my freezer in case I ever manage to find a house.

I'll admit, I didn't really read the recipe in full when I first started making it. So, I was surprised to see that the cake is made in a pan. Thankfully, the pan I was using for the first step of the recipe was the right size and could go in the oven.

Georgia Peach Upside Down Cake
CD Kitchen



Ingredients:
2 pounds peaches
13 tablespoons of butter (divided)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup sour cream


Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Peel and halve peaches.

Cook brown sugar in 5 tablespoons butter in 10 inch ovenproof frying pan until dissolved. Off the heat, arrange peach halves, cut sides up, in pan.

Combine flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Beat 8 tablespoons butter with granulated sugar. Beat in egg and vanilla. Stir in flour mixture by thirds, alternating with sour cream.

Spread over peaches and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 50-55 minutes.


A person that had reviewed the cake recipe said, "the cake will get quite brown before it is ready, but if you pull it before the toothpick comes out clean you'll end up with a gooey cake in the middle. Let it sit 10 min before you flip it out on to a serving dish, and be careful with that step, maybe use a dish with a high lip to catch the brown sugar/peach juices so they go into the cake and not all over your kitchen counter and floor. I had some mopping to do as part of the clean up".

I thought this was good advice. My oven is fast, so I set my timer for 45 minutes and it was ready, but quite dark around the bottom edges.


Verdict: R quite likes this cake and has been taking a slice for lunch every day. Personally, I find it to be denser than I would like. The two previous upside down cakes were lighter and I prefered them. But, I was quite impressed with how well the cake stuck together using the frying pan cooking method (not sure if there's a more technical name for that). I also like the flavour of the cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg in the cake. StumbleUpon

Monday, August 17, 2009

Onion Soup


When my sister (aka Auntie Takeout) offered to bring French Onion Soup to a family dinner, the first reaction was "oh oh...now what do we do". Not exactly a culinary genious (to put it mildly), AT is known for her skills at warming things up while she reads the side of the box. To her credit, we all agree that when you want something fixed, she's the go to person. Plumbing, painting, carpentry - you name it, she's always the first one there with a viable solution....cooking - not so much.

Well - I will never sell her short again. It's really not that she doesn't know how, but rather she has absolutely no interest in cooking. She was pretty impressive actually - scanned the internet, visited some food blogs and found "The Best Onion Soup (evah" at Cookography





The Best French Onion Soup

Serves 6

Notes:

For the best flavour, make the soup a day or 2 in advance. Alternatively, the onions can be prepared through step 1, cooled in the pot, and refrigerated for up to 3 days before proceeding with the recipe.
Ingredients:

Soup

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 3 pieces
  • 6 large yellow onions (about 4 pounds), halved and cut pole to pole into 1/4-inch-thick slices (Make sure you get Yellow)
  • Table salt
  • 2 cups water, plus extra for deglazing
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (They recommend Swanson Certified Organic Free Range Chicken Broth )
  • 2 cups beef broth (They recommend Pacific Beef Broth)
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme , tied with kitchen twine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Ground black pepper

Cheese Croutons

  • 1 small baguette , cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 8 ounces shredded Gruyère cheese (about 2 1/2 cups)

Directions:

For the soup:

  1. Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Generously spray the inside of a heavy-bottomed large (at least 7-quart) Dutch oven with a nonstick cooking spray. Place the butter in the pot and add the onions and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, covered, for 1 hour (the onions will be moist and slightly reduced in volume). Remove the pot from the oven and stir the onions, scraping the bottom and sides of the pot. Return the pot to the oven with the lid slightly ajar and continue to cook until the onions are very soft and golden brown, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours longer, stirring the onions and scraping bottom and sides of pot after 1 hour.
  3. Carefully remove pot from oven and place over medium-high heat. Using oven mitts to handle pot, cook onions, stirring frequently and scraping bottom and sides of pot, until the liquid evaporates and the onions brown, 15 to 20 minutes, reducing the heat to medium if the onions are browning too quickly. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the pot bottom is coated with a dark crust, roughly 6 to 8 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary. (Scrape any fond that collects on spoon back into onions.)
  4. Stir in 1/4 cup water, scraping the pot bottom to loosen crust, and cook until water evaporates and pot bottom has formed another dark crust, 6 to 8 minutes. Repeat process of deglazing 2 or 3 more times, until onions are very dark brown. Stir in the sherry and cook, stirring frequently, until the sherry evaporates, about 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in the broths, 2 cups of water, thyme, bay leaf, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, scraping up any final bits of browned crust on bottom and sides of pot.
  6. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove and discard herbs, then season with salt and pepper.

For the croutons:

  1. While the soup simmers, arrange the baguette slices in single layer on baking sheet and bake in a 400-degree oven until the bread is dry, crisp, and golden at edges, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

To serve:

  1. Adjust oven rack 6 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Set individual broiler-safe crocks on baking sheet and fill each with about 1 3/4 cups soup. Top each bowl with 1 or 2 baguette slices (do not overlap slices) and sprinkle evenly with Gruyère. Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly around edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.
Verdict: Really really flavourful and when served in a ramekin doesn't take away from the meal (we all know that onion soup can be a full meal all on its own)
StumbleUpon

Friday, August 14, 2009

Roundup: Presto Pasta Nights # 126



One hundred and twenty six weeks in and still going strong! It is my pleasure to host Presto Pasta Nights for a second time. To see my first PPN round up, click here. This week is chock full of more great pasta recipes. Let me tell you about them...

Johanna from Green Gourmet Giraffe shares a recipe for Creamy Spinach Walnut Pasta. Johanna uses her tried and true combination of walnut and cottage cheese. When combined with spinach, it makes for a creamy pesto-like sauce. Sounds delicious.


Mikky from My Finds shares Tocini with Malunggay Marinara Pasta. Interestingly, tocino is a cured meat native to the Phillipines and malunggay is eaten like spinach and contains Vitamin C and other minerals. Some flavours I'd definitely like to try.


Amelie shares her Homemade Rice-a-Roni, one of her signature dishes. I was lucky enough to actually taste this dish as R and I went over to Amelie's for dinner tonight! This versatile dish is a total crowd-pleaser and the toasted almonds give it a nice little crunch.


Kevin from Closet Cooking makes a strong case for combining shrimp, feta and tomato sauce. His Baked Shrimp and Feta Pasta is inspired by the Taste of the Danforth, a Greek festival held annually in Toronto.


Chaya from Sweet and Savoury Says it All serves up her Triple Cheese Pasta Bake. This dish combines white cheddar, parmesan and yogurt cheese for a delightful cheese-filled dish that is sure to get you salivating.


Rita from Mochachocolata-Rita shares her recipe for Baked Pasta with Fish, Bacon and Cheddar. Although she is still perfecting this dish, it looks delicious to me.


Here's a dish brought to you by my mom, Giz, who co-blogs with me at Equal Opportunity Kitchen. Surpassing her own expectations with this Fettucini Pescatora, Giz is probably still dancing around the kitchen with excitement for this dish. I'm impressed mom -- put this on the menu for my next visit.


Gilli from So So Simple Food shares The Best Lasagne Yet. With its three sauces, Basic Meat and Tomato sauce, Mushroom Sauce and Béchamel with Grated Cheese, I'm really starting to crave some lasagne.


Debbie from Dining with Debbie shares a Spaghetti Salad. This recipe comes from a cookbook fundraiser for a project called “Safety Zone", which provides an immediate safe house for abused children when they have been removed from their homes. A great cause, indeed.


Ruth, the creator of Presto Pasta Nights, shares Curried Spaghetti Sauce on her blog, Once Upon a Feast. At first glance, this looks like a traditional marinara sauce, but this dish also incorporates flavours like curry leaves, cumin and coriander. This is a combination I'd like to try with pasta.


Pam, the creator of one of my favourite blogs, Sidewalk Shoes, submits Fusilli with Eggplant, Pine Nuts, Currants, and Capers. Understandably, this dish has turned around Pam's original dislike for eggplant.


Val from More than Burnt Toasy always makes enticing dishes and this one is no exception. This Pesto Pasta Salad is perfect for the summer season. Val explains that "...although it is basic, it is packed with flavour. It is also a "light" dish because it uses yogurt instead of mayo".


Libby from The Allergic Kid features recipes and tips for certain allergies. This week, she shares her Alphabet Soup. This dish combines nutritious ingredients with fun alphabet pasta.


Sarah from What Smell So Good shares a vegan version of Macaroni & Cheese. Although it's still being perfected, it is a good reminder that I need to get out of my typical omnivorous box.


Mangocheeks (I love the name) from Allotment 2 Kitchen made her Spicy Broccoli Pasta Frittata that not only looks delicious but features fresh veggies from her garden. Go check out her blog to see more pictures of her garden -- they're beautiful!


Daphne from More Than Words shares not one but TWO pasta dishes with us. The first is her Garlic Chili Aglio Olio Spaghetti. It only contains four ingredients, but much like Daphne says, "Sometimes the best comfort food is the simplest".


Daphne's second dish is Cheesy Baked Pasta with Bacon, Mushrooms and Peas. Since it's winter time in Australia, Daphne has been craving baked pasta. She uses a reduced calorie cream sauce option that sounds delicious.


Here's my contribution to this week's roundup, Spaghetti with Cajun Chicken. This dish is quite simple, but the cajun seasoning packs a punch and pairs well with the tomato base and feta cheese. Can't wait for leftovers tomorrow!


Joanne from Eats Well With Others submits her my Pistachio Pesto Pasta with Butternut Squash to this week's PPN. Joanne and I share a proclivity for green sauces and tries out a pistachio pesto, which sounds very interesting.


Bergamot from Cooking Escapes and Delights shares her Tiranga Pasta. With India's Independence Day (August 15th) right around the corner, this patriot dish celebrates the orange, white and green colours of the Indian flag.



I think/hope I got everyone's entries! Thank you to everyone for participating in this week's roundup!

Kudos to Ruth for initiating and continuing to organize such a great weekly event. To view all of the previous 125 roundups, check out this link. Next week's host with be Katie from One Little Corner of the World. StumbleUpon

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Fettucini Pescatora





I'm not Italian so whenever I hear of a pasta pescatora it always has this allure of a Shirley Valentine scene with me sitting at an ocean side table, a candle, a glass of white wine and a wonderful plate of pescatora. Then I open my eyes and find myself in my own Toronto kitchen making tomato and seafood pasta and somehow it just isn't the same. UNTIL.... you taste it. It's not that often that I do a hip hip hurray routine for a dish but this one ... it's really something else.

Motivated by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast and this week's charming, witty, efficient, kind and generous host Psychgrad of Equal Opportunity Kitchen I wanted to submit this dish for Presto Pasta Nights.






Ingredients


8 oz pkg of rice fettucini (you could use a different pasta)
1/2 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, sliced
6-8 manilla clams **
6 sea scallops
8-10 raw shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1 1/2 cup diced tomatoes (or tomato sauce if you want the sauce thicker)
1/2 -3/4 cup dry white wine (the 3/4 is if you want a runnier sauce)
1 tsp dried oregano (you could use fresh)
1/4 tsp dried chili flakes
coarse black pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

Method


1. If you're using rice pasta, immerse into boiling water, let boil 2 minutes and then cover for 15 minutes until done.
2. In a large skillet, add the 1/2 cup olive oil (if you use too much less the garlic will burn) and add the garlic until golden brown (but not burned)
3. Add the clam for about 1 minute.
4. Add tomatoes, wine, oregano, pepper flakes and pepper. Stir occasionally and reduce til it becomes a little thicker. If you're using tomato sauce instead of diced tomatoes, your sauce will be thicker and ok to add some more liquid if too thick. When the clams begin to open...
5. Add the shrimp and scallops and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Don't let the shrimp or the scallops overcook.
6. Drain pasta and add it to your seafood/sauce combination. Top with parsley and voila...heaven.

This is really a great company dish and a total no brainer to prepare.

** Although I love clams, it doesn't seem to matter how much I clean them, I can't seem to escape some of the grit.

Note to Psychgrad: Although you didn't solicit all the compliments, I figure there should be some compensation somehow (other than the fact that you're my daughter) :) StumbleUpon

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Spaghetti with Cajun Chicken


One more day to get your pasta recipes in for this week's Presto Pasta Nights roundup! Check out this post for more details.



I picked up some colourful pasta this weekend at La Bottega, with Presto Pasta Nights in mind.


Not as cool as Zebra Pasta, but a step above the usual whole wheat stuff.


Spaghetti with Cajun Chicken
Free Online Recipes


Ingredients:
3/4lb angel hair pasta (cooked) (I used spaghetti)
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (cut into strips) (I used 2 breast halves)
2 tablespoons fresh garlic (chopped)
2 tablespoons dried basil
2 tablespoons Cajun-style blackened seasoning (I used this cajun spice)
salt and pepper (to taste)
10 roma tomatoes (diced) (I used a large can of diced tomatoes)
2/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

Step 1: Heat olive oil in a large skillet, to medium-high heat. Add chicken pieces and fry until brown on the outside. Stir in basil, garlic, blackened seasoning, salt and pepper. Mix in tomatoes. Cook until tomatoes are semi soft and the chicken is fully cooked.
Step 2: Toss with noodles and top with crumbled feta cheese.
(Makes 5 Servings)


Overall, a good dish. Makes for a quick and simple meal. StumbleUpon

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Random Acts of Kindness


Ok Psychgrad... Step away from MLS (the main real estate site in Canada). My agent's husband calls it "porn for women". Luckily, Giz is a former real estate agent, so she willingly (or with very little complaint) humours my addiction.

Suffice to say, we haven't found a home. There isn't much on the market that looks interesting. It's really tough to find the right balance of new home, with a decent size yard (i.e., larger that the little square you get in most townhomes), that is in move-in condition and relatively central. Added to that, we'd like a place that is energy efficient and in walking distance to nearby stores.

Enough about the crappy market (for buyers).

Let me tell you about something more positive.

RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS!

Many of you likely know Julia from Grow. Cook. Eat.. She is a blogger from Cambridge, MA who is a professionally trained chef, leads interactive cooking parties, is a consultant, an entrepreneur and an all-around nice person.

A while back, Julia and I co-posted about our cinnamon bun recipes. You can view mine here and Julia's are here. We got to talking about vanilla beans and next thing I know, she sent me my very own Tahitian vanilla beans.

Just when I thought I had exhausted my random acts of kindness allotment from one person, I found out that I was going to receive another random act of kindness after commenting on one of her posts.

About a week later, I received something in the mail....


Julia had recalled me mentioning wanting to steal this book from Giz (a book I had sent her for Mother's Day...yes, I'm a terrible daughter for wanting to steal my mom's Mother's Day present) and she sent it to me! A big thank you to Julia!

The idea of these random acts is to pass on the kindness. So here's how it works:

1. Leave a comment on this post no later than 8 pm EST Monday, August 17th. I’ll pick 3 comments randomly, on whose authors I’ll bestow an act of kindness. I’ll announce the winners shortly after.

2. My kindness can be anything of my choosing. It might be handmade and it might be purchased, but it will be selected just for you. I make no guarantees that you’ll love it (or not find it odd or quirky), but I guarantee that it will be heartfelt on my part.

3. Having some experience with shipping blogging prizes overseas, I'm going to have to limit my kindness to bloggers from North America.

All you have to do, dear readers, is have a blog and be willing to pass on the kindness by creating a similar post. If you don’t blog, play the game the old-fashioned way: find a neighbour, stranger or friend in need and fill it.
StumbleUpon

Sunday, August 9, 2009

O Noir


I have been pretty absent the past few weeks. Things have been extraordinarily busy this past month. We took a trip out West, to visit family and have been actively searching for a house and dealing with a difficult landlord.

At the same time, we're still trying to take in the good things summer has to offer. I have several posts coming up.

Let me tell you about a recent dining experience, while it's fresh in my memory....

******************************************************

This past week, I went to a restaurant called, O Noir, which is a homonymn of "au noir", French for "in the dark" or, more specifically, "in the black".


The idea is to eliminate one of your senses (sight) in order to heighten the remaining ones.

It's exactly what it sounds like. You eat in the dark. Complete darkness -- like the kind of darkness you would experience in an underground tunnel when you turn off the last headlamp. Check out the video about it here:



When I found out about an opportunity to go to this restaurant, I had many questions about the logistics of going to and eating in a restaurant where everything is completely dark.

Before walking into the place, I understood the concept. But in my head, I equated it to eating in a dark room (e.g., like eating in the dark on Earth Day). When I walked into the restaurant and saw the anti-chamber or reception room/bar area, which was VERY dimly lit, I knew the eating area would be darker than I had really internalized.

I was with a group. We were instructed to order our food and remember our waiter's name. Our waiter came out and was told that he has a group of 8, who speak English (we were in Montreal). We lined up, put our left hand on the shoulder of the person in front of us (the waiter led the way). I should mention that the waiters are all blind. I really can't imagine a seeing person competently doing that job.

The waiter led us into the main eating area. As we walked past a black velvet curtain that drowned out any of the light in the reception area, I could hear the girl who was 2 people behind me (in our marching group of 8) gasp with panic. I thought she is going to be too anxious to stay in the room.

We were led to our table and told to put out our right hand to feel our chairs. For a moment, it felt like the anticipation before a theatrical performance when the lights go out and you wait for the show to start with a bang. Except the show was the darkness. I, myself, started feeling a bit anxious too.

Thankfully my wine came quickly and I downed half the glass to take the edge off. Since you order before coming in, the food is brought out relatively quickly.

I ordered a portobello mushroom appetizer that came with with shaved parmesean on a bed of lettuce. Obviously, there are no pictures of the food. We weren't allowed to even keep watches on that glowed in the dark.

Attempting to eat in pitch black was...interesting. I kept bringing my fork to my mouth to discover that I had not successfully skewered anything with it. I finally gave up that venture, took my cloth napkin, tucked it into my shirt and ate with my hands. Yes -- completely barbaric. But, it worked. The problem with eating the food when you can't see it (aside from the lack of visual stimuli), is that 1. it's harder to tell how large a piece you are attempting to put in your mouth without touching it and 2. it's impossible to get a little bit of each component of the dish onto your fork at one time. Eating with my hands solved both of these problems.

One of my main questions about the restauant, prior to coming, was how people would go to the bathroom, if needed. What we had to do was ask our waiter to take us to the bathroom, using the same chain link technique we used to get to our table. The bathroom is dimly lit (like the reception area). Once you're done in there, you stand outside of the bathroom and continually say your waiter's name. Or, he will say his name and you can acknowledge that you're there.

A slight collision happened when another waiter brought some of his group to the bathroom while I was waiting outside of it. As they were about to walk into me, I yelped "there's someone here". The waiter stopped and said, "Someone is there? How many of you?" I explained that there were two of us on the left side of the waiting area. They walked around us and our waiter came and walked us back to our table. I had to laugh when I realized I was grasping on to my waiter's shoulder pretty tightly -- he asked me twice to not squeeze his shoulder so tightly. Oops...

The one thing I was most surprised about the experience was how seeing people act when they can't see. One main thing you'll notice is how loud the room becomes. It's a fairly large space (I gathered this when someone cheated and opened their cell phone for light). It was a large square room with wide aisles. Without being able to see people at your table, people started speaking very loudly (almost yelling). It seems that when you can't see the people you are talking to, you have no frame of reference for how loudly you need to speak in order for them to hear you. You also don't have the benefit of reading people's lips to figure out the words that are not spoken clearly.

Adding to the noise, the waiters walk around saying something that sounded like "au ciel" every step or two to notify other waiters of their location.

A separate thing that happens when you're in the dark is that you end up saying things that likely would never say when you can see the people around you. There's something about not having that immediate visual feedback that allows you to go out on a limb with some of what you say. I guess a similar effect can be found online too.

For the main course, I ordered steak. It wasn't bad, but it was smothered in gravy. I don't tend to put gravy on my food. I also feel that a good steak shouldn't require anything more than some mild seasoning. It also made for a messy meal to eat with you hands (I tried to use my knife and fork but kept choking on the steak not knowing how big the piece was).

Here's a video of the experience that I found online. There is an intro for the video that is unrelated. I would also note that the videotaping within the restaurant seems to show shadows. That level of visibility was not my experience. For me, if was pitch black.



Overally, an interesting experience. Glad I went -- just to try it. But, I didn't find the food to be great and didn't feel that my taste or smell were heightened -- particularly since my hearing was so affected by the loud noise level. All in all, I think I just like to see my food. I'd recommend giving it a try -- because it's a different experience.

O.Noir on Urbanspoon StumbleUpon

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Presto Pasta Nights!


Guess who is hosting PRESTO PASTA NIGHTS this week?!?


If you're making a pasta dish, consider submitting it to be part of this great weekly event, initiated by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast. Presto Pasta Nights is currently in its 126th week.

If you're interested in participating, send me your post at bloggingwagon (at) hotmail (dot) com and cc ruth (at) 4everykitchen (dot) com. If you're not familiar with the event, check out this link for more details.

Hope you can participate! StumbleUpon

Friday, August 7, 2009

BBQ Sweet Potato and Feta Cheese Salad


The weekend is almost here - try a new salad - put sweet potatoes and feta cheese on your grocery list.

When I came upon this recipe while browsing through Recipe Zaar
I had a feeling it would be a winner. It was. Colourful, texturally interesting and a snap to make. The sweet potatoes added some interest to salad making on our table.


1 2/2 lbs orange sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into slices
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 pinch salt and peper
4 oz baby spinach
4 Tbs pine nuts, toasted
1 red onion cut into thin slices (1 used about 1/2)
7 oz crumbled feta cheese
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp clear honey
1 Tbsp coarse grain mustard (I used dijon)

Directions

Simmer the sweet potato slices in salted water for about 5 minutes until only just turning tender (they cook quicker than ordinary potatoes). Drain, cool, then toss with 2 tbs olive oil and season.

Heat the barbecue and cook the sweet potato slices for a few minutes each side, carefully turning only once, until completely tender and very chargrilled.

Toss the spinach, pine nuts and red onion together and scatter over a large serving platter. Top with the feta.

Whisk the balsamic, 1 tbsp olive oil, honey and mustard together and season well.

Pile the sweet potato on top of the salad and drizzle with the dressing. StumbleUpon

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Peach Blueberry Crisp


As a member of BloggerAid...Changing the Face of Famine, one of the fun initiatives I'm happy to be part of is the BBFF - a getting to know you exchange between bloggers from different countries. As a member of BACFF you can read about the exchange here . More than just virtual comments on each others' blogs, we've chosen to get to know another person with whom we already know we share interests. What I've learned through this exchange is that as much as we're all different, in many ways we're all very similar. For me this is a link to why BloggerAid...Changing the Face of Famine is so important - it's about humanity and doing something to help contribute to a better world.



My good fortune has been meeting Kim of The UnGourmet" , an Oregonian with unlimited patience. I mean, how many people do you know that could build a business doing cupcake parties for kids while still working part time and taking care of her own two children? Two pretty amazing children!. Her daughter at 12 is already a budding artist and her 8 yr old son - well, who can resist an 8 yr old who likes listening to Frank Sinatra?

Folks...she works part time at an upscale day spa - hmmmm...my wheels are spinning already. She bakes, she cooks, she works at a spa - the ultimate pamper blogger (and I don't mean diapers).

The other similarity we have is that we both love dogs. Kim has a female black lab named Sophie who is a hurricane rescue dog. I told my male Shih Tzu - Casey about Sophie and he asked me to set up a play date. Her love for animals continues - with 2 cats and a blue and white parakeet named Sky.



Sophie - he even put on his best ribbon for you.

Kim started blogging in February 2009 and found that it didn't take long to become a passion. No surprise, right? But it's not just about the food - it's also about the many wonderful people you meet in this community and the amount you learn to step outside your comfort zone. Being able to add new foods to your repetoire and share them with the people you care about has and continues to be an incredible experience for Kim.

Kim and I decided, after several exchanges of emails, to comb each other's blogs and find a recipe to try and share.

My choice was a


Peach Blueberry Crisp - very tough choice and you'll see why when you visit Kim's blog . She has a wide array of recipes and why she calls herself the UnGourmet is beyond me. It was that hard picking one recipe to showcase.







Ingredients
  • 6 cups of peaches
  • 1 cup of blueberries (I also added raspberries - great choice)
  • 2-3 tbsp of honey
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla

For topping

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened

In a large bowl toss fruit with honey, vanilla and cinnamon.




In another bowl combine the oats, flour, and brown sugar. Cut in the butter.



Place the fruit in a greased baking pan. Top with oat mixture. Bake on 375 for 30-35 minutes until fruit is nice and bubbly and oats are golden brown.



Serve with vanilla bean ice cream or top with a little whip. That would have been great had it lasted long enough.



I took this as one of two desserts to a "meet Actor Boy's new girlfriend" dinner. It was out of control delicious and of the two desserts, the feedback was that this was the clear winner. Kim suggested adding cornstarch to the fruit to avoid having a runny crisp. I added a heaping tablespoon and it was a great tip. The crisp was not runny at all. You can actually use any combination of fruit - I simply don't see how this recipe can fail. StumbleUpon
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