Thursday, September 29, 2011

Smoky Squash Soup - Food Network Laura Calder

Brown Bag ChallengeWatching Food Network which is a frequent activity for me and  this morning Laura Calder was cooking Smoky Squash Soup that looked very good. I do enjoy watching this show as most recipes look great on TV, but do they taste as good as the host leads us to believe. Well here was my chance to take Laura up on that task, I have her cook book and sure enough the recipe was there. I was pleased with the advice on the TV show to peel and cube the butternut squash before roasting as this was easier to remove the skin and give more roasting flavor. This a thick rich soup and small portions would be recommended as the flavor could become overwhelming than a thinner soup. However I did enjoy the Smoky Squash Soup and pared well with a candied walnut, fig, feta cheese salad topped with a balsamic dressing. I have left over from supper to us for my Brown Bag lunch tomorrow, Thank you Laura.


Low Budget Easy BBQ Chicken Sandwich

Brown Bag ChallengeWhen ever you have a busy day and need to make a meal that requires little effort that the whole family will love this meal for only $2.50 per plate you'll make it again. Buy boneless chicken thighs typically 9 or 10 piece pack for $9 place in crock pot with 1 bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce and let simmer for the day; Or place in your oven covered at 325F for 2 hours until chicken is cooked through and tender. Serve inside a toasted bun with steamed rice, and broccoli makes for easy Brown Bag Lunch the following day.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

DA Kitchen Cafe Maui

Da Kitchen Cafe on Urbanspoon

Loco Moco
DA Kitchen Cafe in Maui ask many locals and they will tell you this is a must eat location tucked in a small strip mall near Queen Kaahumanu. When you arrive there will most likely be guest sitting in patio chairs out front and the inside packed, go in give them your name and take your spot outside and engage in friendly conversation with the others waiting for a seat. The service is very friendly and prepare yourself for monster portions with a great price point, the first time I went here ordering the chicken katsu barely eating half I had to take it home for later.
My absolute favorite meal with first hesitation was the Loco Moco I couldn't wrap my head around the description of this meal. Ground beef patty topped with egg, brown gravy and onions on top of rice and a side salad. Not sure how this would taste all combined together I did see many other tables order and look good. Well I am now hooked on this meal and crave it frequently the combination of gravy, egg, ground beef and rice all works so good together. The portion size is incredibly huge and is very hard to finish at one sitting.
I would fully recommend DA Kitchen to anyone and everyone that visits Maui this is one must visit on your trip. Interior is basic but comfortable, staff are incredibly friendly and accommodating but the food will bring you back again and again.

Decor: 6 out of 10
Service: 8 out of 10
Food: 9 out of 10
Price: 9 out of 10
Overall experience : 8 out of 10

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Brown Bag Lunch - The Best Autumn Chili

Brown Bag ChallengeChili on a cool autumn day has to be a perfect match full of hearty ingredients and warmth to heat you through. I made this version of chili last night for supper and makes a perfect reheat Brown Bag lunch with a side of whole wheat flax buns. The 2ND day as anticipated the flavors continued to pull together over night in the fridge and made for a spectacular finish. This recipe was very simple took only 15 minutes to prepare than place on simmer for 3 hours so easily made in the morning for a crock pot dinner with plenty of leftovers for the next day. Low budget meal 16 servings at a cost of $1 per serving, healthy low fat full of fibre hard for any restaurant to beat this lunch.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Wendy's Chili - Cloned Recipe

Wendy's Chili is one of my favorite versions and I have always wanted to find a recipe that comes close, my youngest daughter is also a huge fan of this brand. I stumbled across this website that boasts a cloned version of our favorite. This recipe is so easy to make prep time was only 15 min and let simmer for 2 to 3 hours I would recommend you simmer for at least 3 hours for the flavors to combine and tomato to break down. I was very surprised as this tasted very close to the original, my entire family enjoyed it and said this was one of the best they have ever tasted! One of the key ingredients that makes the difference is the green chili, I have become a huge fan of green chili after visiting New Mexico over the years. This will taste great the 2ND day after flavors continue to blend over night in the fridge which will make a great lunch.

2 pounds ground beef
1 can 29oz tomato sauce
1 can 29oz Kidney beans (with liquid)
1 can 29oz Pinto beans (with liquid)
1 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced green chili
1/4 cup diced celery
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 teaspoons cumin powder
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups water

1. Brown ground beef in a skillet over medium heat and drain off fat.
2. Combine rest of ingredients to browned beef and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes.
3. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 - 3 hours until tomatoes have broken down.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Smitty's (Airdrie) & Legends Lounge on Urbanspoon
Stopped into Smitty's in Airdrie for breakfast on Sunday this location has been here for some time and I have always wanted to go. We went early before the breakfast buffet so there was lots of seating available, when ever I go past here on the weekends the parking is always full. This location seemed to have dated fast on the inside as the decor seemed to be a bit tired, or I just waited too long to visit. The price point sure has gone up for a breakfast place, I was shocked to see how much it cost for a simple bacon and egg, with hashbrown and toast. The menu selection was vast so lots to choose from and the service was friendly all the staff were energetic and smiled.
Service: 8 out of 10 (friendly)
Decor: 5 out of 10 (dated)
Prices: 6 out of 10 (mid to high price point)
Portion Size: 8 out of 10 (average)
Food: 8 out of 10
Overall Experience: 7 out of 10


Made this burger at home this evening a Korean-Style Burger with wasabi mayo, and pickled cabbage all went nicely with the soya/sesame beef patty. Very easy to make and the whole family enjoyed this infusion change to regular hamburgers.

Wasabi Mayo
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons wasabi paste

Combine mayonnaise and wasbi together in a bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Provides a nice creamy texture with a bit of heat.

Pickled Cabbage
2 Cups bagged shredded cabbage mix
1/4 Cup vinegar
1 tablespoon white sugar

 Combine vinegar and sugar together mix than pour over top of cabbage mixture.

Toast bun to desired browning, spread wasabi mayo on bottom bun, hamburger patty, than desired amount of pickled cabbage on top to Finnish it off. The balance between the heat of the wasabi mayo, saltiness of the soya/sesame patty, and sweet pickled cabbage makes this a mouth watering combination. Accompany with your favorite salad or sweet potato fries makes this a fast easy meal.

Brown Bag Challenge

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mosaic Mediterranean Grill - Brampton Ontario

Urbanspoon rates Mosaic Mediterranean Grill as the #1 pick for the area with very large following and positive reviews. Based in a strip mall the outside does not give the any indication of what the quality of food inside.
I was greeted right away and sat down in very comfortable interior with Chef Tony behind the counter working the grill. I asked what the recommendations that would be popular with customers and I was suggested the Shawarma chicken I was able to substitute the Grilled Vegetable Salad in place of the Greek Salad.
I watched customers come in while I waited for my food and everyone of them made the comment either "were back again" or "I had to bring my friend in". Surprisingly Chef Tony remembered every customer and what they ordered last. Chef Tony has a sense of pride about him he is very comfortable behind the grill as you see the open kitchen right out front. Chef is listening to everything that is going on in the front as the staff talk to customers Tony gives recommendations. It's amazing how involved he is cooking by himself and listening to all the customers.
I got my meal and it looked amazing good thing I ordered the small plate, I'm glad I substituted the Grilled Vegetable Salad with Feta  as flavors of balsamic dressing, soft feta cheese, grilled vegetables on lettuce was so good. Next time I come I will have to order just the Grilled Vegetable Salad alone as a meal. The Shawarma chicken with rice and warm grilled pita hit the spot, price was fantastic although I was full if I ordered the large plate I would have eaten it all.
I wish my photo's turned out as a picture would have shown how amazing this meal was, If your in the Brampton area its worth a stop. Amazing food, great service, fantastic value for the money you won't be disappointed.
Mosaic Mediterranean Grill on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Learn How to Roll Sushi

Quick video on rolling sushi

Rascals Teriyaki Grill - California
Rascals Teriyaki Grill on Urbanspoon

Close to Long Beach airport is a quick service place called Rascals Teriyaki Grill I checked this place out looking at Urban Spoons top recommended locations. The Teriyaki Chicken and Beef is a very large portion that is very difficult for one person to consume in a single sitting.

Charbroiled chicken is kissed with there signature teriyaki sauce, big slices of beef huge portion of rice and a chicken salad. All menu items seem to be large portions that will leave you satisfied, they offer asian influence stir Fry's, western fare sandwiches, chicken, hamburgers and hot dogs. Prices are very affordable and fast friendly service, highly recommended and seems to be enjoyed by many.

Crown Burger Salt Lake City

After watching this episode of Man V Food I had to make a stop over to Crown Burger in Down Town Salt Lake City. I wasn't quite sure how a burger topped with pastrami but OMG what a fantastic paring, full flavor salty, smokey its like a mountain of juicy bacon.
Stopping at this Salt Lake land mark was an incredible find and lives up to the hype, I've eaten at many Burger places across North America and this is in my top 10 must eat burgers.

Rounding out my meal I ordered the onion rings and strawberry shake, US milk shakes are very thick although you get a straw there's now way you can enjoy this unless you use a spoon. The onion rings are sweet onion with a light crispy coating. Highly recommended and talked about burger is a must visit location when visiting Salt Lake City.

Crown Burgers on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 12, 2011

Hockey Sushi - Guelph Ontario

After checking out Urban spoon's #1 rated pick by fans for Sushi in Guelph I stopped into Hockey Sushi this evening to see what the hype was about. Located not too far from the University I'm sure it has a small following from the school in this tucked away strip mall.

All you can eat Sushi is quite standard for most places now and you can find them all over the map if your looking to get a sushi fix. However not all sushi places are the same and you have to look around in order to find that gem of a place

The exterior is like most sushi places now sprouting up in obscure strip malls not much to look at from the outside but the interior is quite modern newer looking decor. My first impression of the staff laid back appearances jeans, t-shirts and one staff making sushi with his hat not fully on but slightly propped tilted to the side.

This should have been my first indication that I might not get the standard of sushi that I have come to enjoy. If the staff require professional attention the food quality might not be to standard, but off I go as some tend to surprise.

I first ordered the Tempura Sampler that came with Yam, Broccoli, 2 tempura shrimp and . The batter was quite oily that took on a lot of the oil taste and not light or crispy. The vegetables were cooked well and tasted good, but I wasn't a fan overall.

Tempura Sampler
Next I order the Dynamite Roll and Crispy Spicy Tuna Roll, I'm a huge fan of Spicy Tuna and couldn't wait to try the crispy version out. Like the Tempura the Crispy Tuna was a huge mound of deep fried panko crumbs soaked in oil that was cold. I could not distinguish much of the tuna or spicy sauce I was disappointed and kind of grossed out by the texture and flavor. The Dynamite Roll which is usually a bug hit in Sushi spots this one lacked flavor and oily tempura batter. The rice was overworked leaving a bad mouth feel and lacked flavor of a good seasoning.

Dynamite Roll and Crispy Spicy Tuna Roll
I had ordered the Japanese Fried rice which was a typical fried rice with beef, egg, frozen peas/corn, green onion and loaded with oil. Probably the most flavorful item of then night but again ladened with so much grease at this point I was done and couldn't take anymore. The service was friendly, quick with the food being just OK I will search out a few other Sushi places in the area this week.

Hockey Sushi on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Cheesecake Factory - Seattle

The Cheesecake Factory in South Seattle I always assumed this was just like the Cheesecake Cafe in Canada for some reason but quickly discovered to my surprise that both are completely different. On a recent shopping trip to Southcenter in Seattle this past weekend a stop into The Cheesecake factory was a must with multiple positive reviews on Urbanspoon.
Green Chili Burger with Fries
My first selection was the Green Chili Burger as I have become a huge fan of the famous New Mexico Green Chili Burgers. Although this was not quite a good as those but a very nice alternative to the originals nice bun and juicy burger. There were so many menu options here it was hard to decide what  I wanted and it took a long time to decide.

Thai Lettuce Wraps
 This was one of those dishes that you look across the table and think "maybe i should have ordered that!" This plate was huge comes with 3 dipping sauces and leaves you satisfied after not a bad choice I would recommend it was a hit at our table.

Kids Corn Dogs
We had ordered the kids Corn Dogs probably one of the best corn dogs I have ever tried, salty hot dog with a crisp sweet corn meal batter that compliments each other very well.

Red Velvet Cheesecake
Now this is the one item that will keep us coming back to The Cheesecake Factory, the cheesecake of course. I have had many cheesecakes at many different places before, but this is the Best so far, I had the Red Velvet Cheesecake and oh my goodness was it fantastic! The cream cheese frosting and the super moist Red Velvet cake amazing compliment to the cheesecake. The program on The Food Network "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" well this was the best cheesecake I have every had. I highly recommend The Cheesecake Factory for the cheesecake to anyone, you must go its fantastic!

Cheesecake Factory on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Brown Bag Challenge Weekend

After my first 2 days of the challenge I find myself smack in the middle of the weekend, question is do you continue with brown bag meal ideas? We travelled to Vancouver this weekend and about to head out for the beach, might as well picnic right. In the cooler we've got turkey sandwiches on rye bread only 70 cal per peice of bread, 1/2 fat Helmans mayo, spinach and tomato. Water melon, grapes, and pink grapefruit sparkling water.