Sunday, March 23, 2014

Let's Go Crazy! - Part 2 - Pizza

Hey there!

Ok, we all love pizza, don't we? I mean it's pretty much on everyone's top 10 list of favourite foods. What's not to love? There's cheese, there's delicious tomato sauce, there's the crust (which, when done right, can be the best part of the pie) and there are all those wonderful toppings (especially when bacon's involved). One of the things that makes pizza pizza is its reliability. As a very lousy actor said in a very bad film (albeit with a memorable line): "Sex is like pizza: even when it's bad, it's still pretty good."

But what about when you want to break away from reliability? What about when you decide you need to top your pizza with MADNESS?!?!? For me, it started with my darling wife buying a smoked duck breast. We bandied about ideas for how to serve this dish for a while, but nothing seemed to come together. We then remembered that we'd used smoked duck breast once before for an appetizer we'd served at Christmas, which was basically crackers topped with a fig compote, slices of smoked duck and baby arugula. So, DING! it came together from there: We'd make the compote instead of using tomato sauce, then add the duck, mushrooms, tomatoes and cheese. See? It's a meal fit for this guy:


One of the best parts of this descent into Arkhamian levels of culinary depravity is that the pizza dough is actually quite easy to make and only takes about 30 minutes to put together. And yet, it's quite tasty and turns out with a light and crispy texture at the bottom, but still a nice chewy texture throughout the "body" of the crust.

Quick Pizza Crust


- 1 package dry yeast (.25 oz package)
- 1 tsp white sugar
- 1 cup warm water
- 2 1/2 flour (unbleached or whole wheat)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt


- Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit
- In medium bowl, dissolve sugar and yeast in warm water. Let stand for 10 minutes until creamy/foamy.
- Stir in flour, salt and oil; mix well, forming a solid, but somewhat fluffy ball of dough. Try not to overwork dough or it will be tough.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, roll in flour then pat into a round or square pizza shape, or use a rolling pin, but try not to make the crust too thin, unless you want a thin-crust pizza!
- Spread Pizza Sauce (see later) on crust, smoked duck breast, mushroom slices, tomato slices and blue cheese. We also topped it with rind pieces of Parmesan cheese, but that didn't turn out super-well. If you really need to have Parmesan on there, I suggest grating some once the pizza is cooked.
- Cook pizza for 15-20 minutes until crust is golden.

Ready for oven lovin' 

Fig, Plum and Port "Pizza Sauce"


- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp fresh ginger, minced or 1/2 tsp dried ginger
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 small or 1 large plum, pitted and chopped
- 3 dried figs, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup port (use the cheap stuff for cooking)
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- salt and pepper to taste


- Heat oil on medium-high and saute garlic, ginger and shallot for 2-3 minutes.
- Stir in plum and figs and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
- Stir in port and seasonings, bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to low and reduce sauce for 20 minutes, until it's the same consistency as pizza sauce. Allow to cool slightly and use like you would pizza sauce!

Pizza Sauce's fruity sister

All in all, using a fruit compote of sorts as the base for this dish was something of a stroke of genius. It gave a nice sweet undertone to compliment the smoky saltiness of the duck and the pungency of the blue cheese, while the mushrooms and tomatoes rounded out the pie with more traditional pizza flavours. To be honest, it was one of the most awesome pizzas I've ever had, but smoked duck is pretty hard to beat as far as toppings go, so there's a bit of single-ingredient bias going on...  

Not your mama's pizza pie!

So there you are, pizza madness like nobody's business! 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

On the move! - Part 2


Back again with the second part of recapping the first week in our new house and demonstrating how to make great meals while having half your stuff in boxes. As I look at Part 1, I realize I might have been a bit wordy. Well, it's been two months since we *actually* moved, so maybe I need to get off my arse and finish writing about this! Here goes!

- Saturday: Stuffed Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

On Saturday, there was a craving for Italian goodness borne of a craving for meatballs. But being us, mere meatballs would not suffice; they had to be STUFFED meatballs. That idea led a visit to Parma Ravioli where we acquired a loaf of foccacia and bocconcini balls. Now, having never made meatballs before and still scrambling to unbox the kitchen in full, this might have been a daunting task. Luckily, after a few searches around the Internet, I happily discovered that this stuffed meatball idea isn't too difficult to set in motion, as long as you keep it stripped down (a lot of the recipes I saw were a bit overdone, and coming from me, that's saying something)



- 1 lb. ground beef (medium or lean)
- 2 tbsp chopped parsley
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 egg
- 12 bocconcini balls, patted dry


- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
- Mix all ingredients but the bocconcini balls together in large bowl.
- Take a portion of the meatball mix, about 4 cm diameter, and form around a bocconcini ball. Make sure you seal the meatball well, otherwise, the cheese will leak all over the place when you cook them.
- Place meatballs in a large ovenproof dish, such as a lasagna pan and bake in oven for 20-30 minutes until cooked through and cheese is melted.


... and balling!

While the Meatballs are cooking, whip together the Tomato Sauce!

Tomato Sauce


- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 large tomatoes, finely diced
- 1 small onion, minced
- 2 ribs celery, chopped
- 1 medium-large carrot, peeled and chopped
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp dried basil or 1 tbsp minced fresh basil
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- salt and pepper to taste
- liquid as needed: either chicken stock, veggie stock, red wine or white wine. Try to avoid using water since it usually drains flavour.

- Heat olive oil on medium-high and sauté tomato, onion, celery, carrot and garlic for about 4-5 minutes.
- Add seasoning and liquid, stir thoroughly and reduce heat to medium-low.
- Simmer sauce for about 20 minutes, till it thickens.

To Serve

- Arrange 4-5 meatballs on plate. Top with tomato sauce.
- Using a vegetable peeler, peel Parmesan cheese shavings onto meatballs (or use grated Parmesan). Garnish with fresh basil or Italian parsley.
- Serve with green salad and bread. For this instance, we used a lovely foccacia, sliced into long, dipping-sized pieces and served alongside a mix of olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping.

Not a bad way to spend the first Saturday in your new home

Verdict? I make pretty kickass meatballs! The key to this one is in its simplicity; the flavours were clean and basic - it tasted like meat, cheese, tomatoes, herbs and garlic. What else can you ask for? Seriously, I think I'm a convert to the mono-meat meatball. All too often, meatballs ask for a mix of pork, beef and veal, but I found that using just beef made for one tasty ball. Having melty cheese inside didn't hurt either...

- Sunday: Pizza

Alright, alright, after this many days of cobbling meals together, it was time to seek out the bountiful goodness of the neighbourhood pizza joint. Luckily for us, there's one right on the corner! Anthony's Pizza at Hinton and Wellington is a spiffy place serving up some very rustic and delicious pizzas and calzones. 

- Monday: Pot Roast

By Monday, we had the kitchen fairly organized, but we still managed to find a recipe for pot roast that uses one dish (a dutch oven) and that's all. Our good Greg (aka Lefty McRighty) put this up on facebook and raved about it. As a result, I had to give it a try, especially after finding a lovely Angus roast on sale at Saslove's. Look it up here, drool and love it! It was AMAZING!

MEAT BUTTER (topped with veggies)!
Well, that's another look back at "Moving n' Cooking". Hopefully, I don't have to do this again for a while. 


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Let's Go Crazy! - Part 1 - Dessert

Hi there!

While I probably need to lose 20 pounds to feel like I'm not gigantic these days, it doesn't stop me from going a little overboard in the kitchen every so often. I can't help myself, I'm a loonie sometimes. To be fair to myself, when you look at cooking as an art form, and I do, well, sometimes you want to write the Great Canadian Novel with your spatula. Unfortunately, it's hard to do that without being a little calorie-indulgent because, let's face it, the tastiest things are usually *not* the lightest. So with that, I'll be taking a few posts to look at some of the crazier recipes I've made recently.

Being a grown-up, I'm starting with dessert, so there, neener-neener-boo-boo. It was one of those quiet Mondays at home: baby Olivia was asleep, WWE Raw was on the tube (I'm a wrestling nerd, deal with it) and Kari and I had just enjoyed a lovely dinner of Jambalaya. But dammit, I wanted something dessert-y. I'm not sure *how*  brownies came to the table, but once they'd been suggested, that was that, I was making brownies! I've made brownies once before, I think, but it had been a while, mainly due to my aversion to baking - there's something about the precision and inflexibility of it that scares the bejeezus out of a free-form culinary thinker like myself. That being said, there are forms of baking that are a little more forgiving than others and brownies are one of them; you can botch a recipe slightly and still have pretty tasty brownies. Do that with a loaf of bread and you're screwed.

As for the brownies, I was inspired to shake things up a bit by the beer I was drinking which had a fantastic richness and depth and wanted to add some grown-up flavour to dessert. So BOOM! Let's get to 'er!

Beer and Bourbon Brownies

Oatmeal Stout Brownie

Basically, I made this recipe, except I added walnut pieces and Smoked Oatmeal Stout from Trafalgar Ales and Meads. But I'll reproduce it anyway:

Makes 12 brownies, or 2 servings of ridiculous gluttonous decadence...


- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder (best quality you can find; I used the PC Black Label Cocoa Powder)
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp baking powder

Added bonuses:

- 1/4 cup walnut pieces
- 1/2 cup Smoked Oatmeal Stout beer (or some other inferior dark beer)


- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour an 8-inch square pan.
- In a large saucepan, melt 1/2 cup butter. Remove from heat, and stir in sugar, eggs, beer and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat in 1/3 cup cocoa, 1/2 cup flour, salt, walnuts and baking powder. Spread batter into prepared pan.
- Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Do not overcook. NOTE: using the beer made the brownies a little bit moister than brownies are, traditionally. They were a little bit more like a cake/brownie fusion. If you want a "drier", more traditional brownie, bake an additional 5 minutes.

Hey look, I baked something!

Now, as you may have noticed if you checked the link, the original recipe calls for a simple chocolate frosting. I, however, made a Bourbon Caramel to top it, because I'm insane and want all the sugar and booze. Also, while baking might be an exact science, caramel's a little more loosey-goosey. Basically you cook up sugar and butter with a few other flavours and it usually turns out pretty damn tasty.

Bourbon Caramel


- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/4 cup bourbon
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract

Next stop, a shot glass... (kidding... not kidding)


- In a saucepan, melt butter on medium-high heat.
- Stir in sugar and bourbon and bring to a boil. Add vanilla.
- Turn heat down to medium and keep stirring until caramel thickens.
- Remove from heat and let cool for about 10 minutes.
- Spread caramel over brownies.

The finished product and a reminder that I need a new camera, because the phonecam isn't doing the trick.

Now, if you're smart, you'll wait for the brownies to cool for a half hour before digging in. If you're me, you have one right out of the pan...

... and then, whilst the sugar demons of boozy-chocolate-caramel-awesome-ohgodthatssofrakinggood are having an orgy of blissful flavour-sex in your mouth, decide to grab the pan and a fork and eat two-thirds of it with your wife before anything has a chance to cool down... Oops.

Needless to say, these are some tasty, tasty brownies, but the real star was the Bourbon Caramel. I'm going to start putting that on my toast. And in my coffee... and maybe bring a jar to take spoonfuls from during the day... Now excuse me while I go buy a muumuu...

And there you have it! Just one way you can lose your mind in the kitchen! Don't worry, this is series is by no means over yet. Just. You. Wait. *insert ominous evil genius music* Mwa-ha-ha-ha-haaaaaaa!!!!!!