dadscookgoodfood

Two dads who enjoy cooking for their families

Archive for the category “Foodie Story”

A Happy Christmas potluck!

 

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Cheese and fruit platter

At the end of every year, our family get together would not be complete without  our traditional Christmas dinner. Most of us were raised by parents and grandparents who loved to cook so our palates have been used to eating good food. Our Christmas dinners then meant Chinese ham coated in sugar, Marca Pina Quezo de Bola, lechon, pancit, fruit salad, and fruit cake.

However, as we got older and having moved to other parts of the world, our concept of Christmas dinners have also evolved.

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Ham macaroni salad

 

Although my cousin still prepares Pinoy macaroni salad and ham, living in North America also meant adapting to some of the dishes that are usually served during special occasions. Similarly, our family has evolved from being mostly Pinoys to a multicultural clan so perhaps, the safest way to satisfying our discriminating palates is to go potluck.

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Our Christmas potluck!

 

Potluck appears to have originated in North America, where bringing food for communal meals go back to the practices of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest of Canada and the United States (also referred to as potlatch, a gift giving feast which has an interesting kinship multicultural origin) or the Irish  where anyone who comes to dinner brings food that is meant to be shared.

This practice works well for our family since we all have different needs when it comes to food (halal, vegetarian, vegan) not to mention diet restrictions (e.g., peanut and dairy allergies, no red meat and pork). Despite the seeming complicated food preparation and considerations, the variety of food allows us to learn more about the new members of our family and our new home; let alone enjoy the meals that we share.

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Roasted Leg of Lamb

 

For example, my niece’s roasted leg of lamb which she prepared for her husband who prefers only halal food was so delicious! Or my nephew’s soy chicken was so tasty that a lot of us were begging for some more.

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Apple and Mild Italian Sausage Salad with Honey Dijon Vinaigrette

 

For those who were more health conscious, I prepared Pepper Maple Salmon and Sauce while my wife made Apple and Mild Italian Sausage Salad with Honey Dijon Vinaigrette.

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Filo Pastry with Brie Cheese, Caramelized Onions and Fig Jam

 

For appetizer, my niece prepared charcuterie, a Filo Greek Pastry filled with Brie cheese, caramelized onions and fig jam and mushroom pate, which was too die for!

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Porchetta stuffed with Wild Boar Sausage

 

Of course, my chef nephew did not disappoint the red meat eaters when he cooked his version of Porchetta stuffed with Wild Boar Sausage. The crispy skin reminded me of the lechon of time past, when my cousins and I would then get bits of crispy lechon skin and dip it in liver sauce.

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My cousin, Jeanne, explaining the dishes prepared by each member of the family while my other cousin, Beng, films her.

 

Like most of our recent Christmas dinners, this was truly a feast! We all capped the night with a choice of coffee or tea and traditional Pinoy panghimagas (dessert) such as pitsi-pitsi, leche flan, buko pandan or ginataang halo-halo or  North American pastries such as cranberry pie, caramel cake and gingerbread cookies.

Have a Merry Christmas, everyone!

Let’s eat what we reaped!

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Time does fly when you’re having sun…er, fun! We’re moving towards the end of summer and for us, the end of summer means that my daughter’s small garden is now teeming with nature’s bounty. Since she was five, she has looked forward to this time of the year when she would usually harvest her vegetables. I can only guess that  she gets a kick out of pulling the carrots, picking the cherry tomatoes or plucking the basil leaves.

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But more than the excitement, it is the annual ritual of sowing the seeds during spring and harvesting the fruits of her labour during summer that has taught her so many virtues. For example, she had this realization that the food that she eats entails a lot of hard work. She appeared to have gained some sense of responsibility by consciously watering her plants daily and occasionally checking for weeds. She learned to be more patient and caring (she read stories to them almost every day!); realizing that growing food takes time.

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And when I cooked our beef stew, she also knew that the delicious stew had her share when we added her fresh basil, tomatoes and carrots! Indeed, food preparation and cooking can sometimes be a family affair and teach our kids life’s important lessons!

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Harvest Beef Stew
(Adapted from Crock-pot: The Original Slow Cooker)

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ½ pounds of beef for stew
Fresh cherry and roma tomatoes (or 32 ounces of canned or stewed tomatoes)
10 pcs of baby carrots
3 medium potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 stalks of celery, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
1 cup apple juice
2 tablespoons parsley flakes
8-10 pieces of fresh basil, chopped (or 1 tablespoon dried basil)
2 teaspoon salt
3 cloves of garlic, minced
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 bay leaves
¼ cup all-purpose flour (optional)
½ warm water (optional)
Directions:

1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-low heat. Brown stew meat on all sides. Drain excess fat.

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2. Placed brown meat and remaining ingredients in CROCK-POT slow cooker. Mix well. Cover, cook on HIGH 6 to 7 hours.

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3. Before serving, thicken gravy, if desired. Combine flour and warm water in small bowl stirring well until lumps are gone. Add mixture to liquid in CROCK-POT slow cooker; mix well. Cook 10 to 20 minutes or until sauce thickens. Remove and discard bay leaves before serving.

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*I usually serve the stew without the gravy but my wife cooks her own gravy and adds this to the cooked stew. Her ingredients include 2 tablespoons of melted butter then add 1 tablespoon of flour. Whisk and add some of the broth from the stew. Season with Lea-Perrins Worcestershire sauce then add these to the rest of the stew and mix.

Fishin’ for a Simple yet Delicious Lenten Dish

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For Christians around the world, Lent means more time to pray, reflect and do penance or some acts of charity and sacrifices, including abstaining from meat on all Fridays and fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and eating fish instead. This practice goes back to the early days of the Church when the observation of Lent began in AD 313.

The word, Lent, refers to the spring season and that the 40 days of Lent usually falls mostly during the end of the winter season and the beginning of spring. Coincidentally, the Spring Festival (or otherwise known as the Lunar New Year) is sometimes celebrated at the start of Lent and is considered a very important celebration among the Chinese. Curiously, exceptions from celebrating the beginning of the Lunar Year are sometimes even sought from the Catholic Church. Spring is usually associated with a gradual increase in temperature, including the warming of waters where life is renewed: plants begin to grow and schools of fish come out in abundance to feed and spawn. Incidentally, eating fish during the Lunar New Year is considered a surplus of money and good luck.

Similarly, because of the fish’s abundance during spring time in many places, the practice of eating fish (or seafood) among Christians during Lent was a satisfactory alternative to eating meat, except for Eastern Christians who are known to abstain from fish. With the advent of trade liberalization, places where fish used to be scarce and expensive have become easily available. This is why Pompano (Pomfret), which tastes good and is easy to cook, can even be found in Ontario! And because presumably, eating fish is healthier than eating meat, giving up meat for Lent reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases; in effect making you healthier. It’s interesting that this simple sacrifice can make a whole lot of difference to one’s life!

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BAKED POMPANO
(adapted from Kulinarya’s Fried Fish Packets, 2008)

Preparation time: 1 hour
Cooking time: 40 minutes

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Ingredients:

1 pompano (150 to 200 grams each)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 head of yellow onion, chopped finely
1 medium sized tomato, diced
1 thumb sized ginger, cut into thin strips
2 celery stalks, chopped finely
1 lemon, juiced
2 stalks of green onion, chopped
1 tbsp. lemon zest
½ tsp. dried parsley
Pepper and salt to taste
1 tbsp. canola oil

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375’F.
2. Clean the fish in cold water, ensuring that entrails from the cavity are removed. Score both sides of the fish with a sharp knife then rub the fish with salt, pepper and juice from 1/2 of the lemon including its cavity. Set aside and marinade for 30 minutes.
1. Preheat oven to 375’F.

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3. Prepare stuffing by mixing all ingredients in a bowl: garlic, onions, tomato, ginger, celery, dried parsley, green onion, and lemon zest. Add juice from the other ½ of the lemon and add salt and pepper to taste.

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4. Stuff the fish’s cavity and belly with the mixture then lay it on a greased aluminum foil.

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5. Add some of the stuffing on top of the fish then wrap with the foil and crumple both ends.

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6. Lay the wrapped fish on a baking pan and bake the fish for 40 minutes.

7. Remove the fish from the foil and serve on a platter. This is best served with a dipping sauce of soy sauce and lemon juice and steamed rice.

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Curiosity in the Kitchen

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When I was a kid, I recall my parents reminding me often that kitchen was off limits to children. The warning came with a threat that if I don’t watch out, I’ll end up getting burnt by the hot stove (mapaso ), scalded by hot vegetable oil (matalsikan ng mantika) or boiling water from the tea kettle (mabanlian ng tubig sa takore). Those constant reminders did not stop me from getting curious. My siblings and I still ended up going to the kitchen but mindful enough not to touch the stove or the oven. We continued to open the refrigerator (it’s cold anyway!) and gobbled up whatever we found edible. Eventually, as older kids, we were exposed to cooking food ourselves; from boiling eggs and saba in a palayok to frying tuyo (dried fish).

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Things have changed since then. Our kids are still off limits because of the limited space we have at the kitchen. But this doesn’t mean they cannot be involved in preparing our food. Last week, for instance, one of our kids harvested some carrots and lettuce from our small vegetable garden while my older daughter baked blueberry muffins. Tyler Florence and Emeril Lagasse came out with recipe books for kids that my kids use whenever they cook. They have helpful reminders for kids how to be safe while preparing, baking, or cooking food in the kitchen.

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Supervision is still a key since five-year-olds, for instance, are still beginning to master their fine motor skills so mashing dough and putting toppings encourages them to be involved in food preparation but with fun.

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Similarly, encouraging kids to grow vegetables teaches them to be patient, persistent and mindful of where food come. Gradually, as they get older and acquire more skills, they can be taught to be in charge of other matters in the kitchen. For example, when my older kid was four, she started with washing vegetables, mixing and sifting flour, and bringing out ingredients from the counter.Then as she grew older, she learned to be more independent in preparing food that involved more complex skills, such as using the mixer for beating eggs and heating food using the microwave, properly and carefully using a knife to cut vegetables, and eventually preparing a simple dinner.

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Sure, there were still some accidents along the way (e.g. she scalded herself when frying fish once) but apart from reminding her to more careful and mindful, we cheered her on and encouraged her to take those experiences as moments that can make her a better cook!

Yummy Blueberry and Lemon Zest Jam!

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Eons ago, whenever my family and I would go up to Baguio City, we make it a point to buy strawberry and blueberry jam from the Baguio City Public Market or the Good Shepherd Sisters. Strawberry jams are cheaper then, probably because more locals are successful in growing them while the blueberry variety is twice the price. In fact, I checked several websites recently and did not find blueberry jam among the fruit preserves sold by the Good Shepherd Sisters.

Apart from other fruits jams such as rhubarb, mango, and santol, the sisters have ventured into selling other food products too such as baked goodies but strawberry and ube jams (purple yam) remain their best sellers. Incidentally, because of its demand, the quantity and time of purchase of ube jam is regulated.

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This summer, we thought of splurging a bit on fruits and it was by chance that a friend of ours said that blueberries were already ripe for the picking for $1.00 a pound!

blueberry bucketWe ended up with 8 lbs of blueberries; some of these we had to leave, regrettably, with our friend. The rest of the fruits were eaten along the way, some found their way into my daughter’s recipe of blueberry muffins, some are still waiting to be topped on my wife’s cheesecake and the rest were cooked into jams! Fellow dad, Robert, thinks that we can start selling blueberry jams for business!

Anyway, the jam recipe below was based on two recipes my wife found while surfing the internet. We have tweaked them a bit to suit our kids’ palate. Enjoy!

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Blueberry-Lemon Zest Jam
Ingredients:
3 ½ cups of fresh blueberries
3 ½ cups of granulated white sugar
1 tbsp. lemon zest
3 tbsp. lemon juice
1 pack of 57 gms. Certo Pectin Crystals

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1. Spread out the blueberries in a cookie tray and remove any over ripe berries, stems, leaves, et cetera.

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2. Place the fresh blueberries in a colander and gently wash them in cold running water. Pat dry with paper towels.

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3. Using a potato masher, gently mash the blueberries but ensuring that the crushed berries retains a certain texture.

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4. Meanwhile, put the white sugar in a mixing bowl and add the pectin crystals, mixing it slowly. My wife said that this prevents the pectin from forming lumps when cooked.

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5. Pour the crushed berries in a pot then add the lemon juice, lemon zest, white sugar/pectin mixture, gradually stirring with a wooden spoon until dissolved. Cook the mixture in medium heat by continuously stirring it until bubbles form. Remove and discard the bubbles if this starts to foam.

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6. To check the mixture if it has gelled properly, put one teaspoon of the mixture on a cold saucer. After 20 seconds, run your finger through the mixture. If the juice does not run back, then your jam is ready. This method can be found by clicking this website.

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7. Using a ladle, scoop the jam and slowly pour it into sterilized Mason jars. Ensure there is a ¼ inch headspace.

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8. Cover the jars with the lid and tighten it a bit. Once this is done, place the jars in a water canner for 15 minutes. Since I did not have a water canner, I used an ordinary pot and immersed the jars and allowed it to boil for a good 15 minutes then let them sit for 5-8 minutes.

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9. Lift the jars using a jar lifter and let it rest for 24 hours, ensuring the jams are not moved during this time. Enjoy!

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References:

http://www.tasteofsouthern.com/blueberry-jam-recipe/

http://www.food.com/recipe/blueberry-lemon-jam-118236

http://www.bernardin.ca/pages/recipe_page/51.php?pid=35

 

Nowie’s Yogieberry Delight!

 

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“Noelle is a magician in the kitchen!” So goes my other kid who discovered her sibling concocting a delicious snack for herself.

My wife and I were not surprised with our daughter’s recent kitchen adventure since our kids have always seen us prepare food at home. In fact, as soon as they are able to help us at the kitchen, we encouraged them to assist us in planning the menu as well as in preparing our meals. Sometimes, they find food preparation or cooking as a chore to avoid; but often times see it as an opportunity to think of dishes they would love to eat. This includes eating snacks even after dinner, which can be a bit challenging because like most kids, ours would occasionally ask for salty or sugary snacks such as chips, cookies, and soda pop.

However, despite the threat of TV commercials that constantly egg us to buy these products; our kids’ school is doing a good job in promoting healthy eating! As a matter of fact, Noelle commits only to ‘healthy food only’ like a mantra.

Recently, my wife discovered that Noelle prepared a simple healthy snack at the kitchen which she thought of herself. Using only ingredients she found at home, she prepared this snack (or dessert) over the weekend, much to our delight. I thought of featuring her recipe for this week’s blog as a way of encouraging you, dear readers, to allow your child to explore and prepare food that she can enjoy for herself!

Nowie’s Yogieberry Delight

Ingredients:
5 pcs. of medium strawberries
1 100 gm. of yogurt
1 tbsp. of honey

Directions:

1. Prepare all ingredients. Wash strawberries gently in a bowl of cold water and pat dry with paper towels.

2. On a cutting board, gently remove the stems and the hull of the strawberries.

3. Slice them into thin slices from the centre.

4. Put the sliced strawberries in a small bowl and add yogurt.

5. Drizzle the strawberry and yogurt with a teaspoon of honey.

6. Serve immediately and enjoy! 😀

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From the Farm to the Dinner Table…

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Harvest time! In this part of the world, when the trees turn into bright hues of orange, yellow, red, brown and purple, fruits and vegetables are all ripe for the picking. Families enjoy a weekend trip to a nearby farm to pick nature’s bounty.
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Over the summer, we also had a chance to harvest some of our backyard produce such as spinach, carrots, and peppers. It’s a good way of instilling in your kids perseverance, responsibility, care, patience, and taking care of the earth.

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Last week, my daughter had a field trip to the farm where they harvested vegetables and went into the process of preparing and cooking it into their own vegetable soup. Up to now, she muses about their unforgettable harvest: “We got corn, we got cauliflower, and we pulled carrots from the ground…”

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My wife also brought home some organic vegetables from a farm and used the veggies to prepare soup in time for the cold weather that has been gripping the Eastern seaboard. She cooked Spanish Chorizo with Beans and Kale Soup, which was adapted from Rachael Ray’s recipe. Although some of the veggies looked unusual (like I’ve never seen a purple carrot before!), it made the soup extra special because they were fresh and picked from the farm! I even had a chance to cook Chow Mein using some of the veggies. Man, it was good!

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Finally, we still had some leftover red cabbage so my wife asked me to try out another Rachael Ray recipe, Sauteed Red Cabbage. Because I usually prepare dishes that I’m more or less sure, I did not trust my cooking and I just followed the recipe to the letter. Surprisingly, my wife and kids loved it. The dish complimented the baked pork riblets in chipotle and orange sauce. There must be something good about the veggies; especially if they come fresh from the farm!
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SAUTEED RED CABBAGE (adapted from the same recipe by Rachael Ray)

Ingredients:
½ red cabbage, chopped
1 white onion, chopped
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. white sugar
1 tsp. mustard seeds
2 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Prepare the ingredients and preheat a pan over medium high heat.

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2. Sauté onions in olive oil. Add the red cabbage until wilted and cook for about 3 minutes.

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3. Add apple cider vinegar and let simmer for a minute then continue sautéing.

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4. Add sugar and sauté again.

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5. Let the mixture simmer for 3 minutes then season with mustard seed, salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer for about 10 minutes then serve warm.

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When a Famous Chef Cooks Up a Children’s Storybook…

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Whoa…a delicious and healthy pancake recipe in a children’s storybook? Yup, that’s what “Tyler Makes Pancakes” by famous chef Tyler Florence is all about. Inspired by his own early experiences of cooking as a kid and being a dad himself, Tyler, came up with a bright idea of writing a children’s book, teaching his young readers how to cook home-made blueberry buttermilk pancakes the easy way. I happen to discover this book at our local library by accident, and thought that my children who loves to read and eat good food, would appreciate reading this unique storybook.

I wasn’t surprised that my wife was all praises for the book, adding that children would understand exactly where the ingredients come from. This reminded me of my young daughter who thought that honey comes from beehives found at our local supermarket! 🙂 Incidentally, the book’s artwork by Craig Frazier was very much appreciated by my kids!

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The artwork, in fact, was one of the reasons why my kids egged me to try out the recipe. It was a step-by-step easy process complimented by drawings that reminded me of “Peep and the Big Wide World,” one of my kid’s favorite cartoon. So with their help, we tried to make the pancakes and since then, we were all hooked to making pancakes the Tyler way!

The pancakes are healthier, too since Tyler advocates the use of whole wheat flour, which also gives it an extra texture making it more delicious and buttermilk, which gives it a ‘lemony’ or tangy taste. The addition of blueberries on the batter adds a zing and a surprise. My kids watched in amazement as the warmed blueberries burst and mixed with the Canadian (of course…although Tyler makes mention of maple syrup from Vermont!) golden maple syrup turning their pancakes into hues of blue, violet, green and yellow! 😀 In addition, Tyler gives this great tip of keeping the pancakes warm by putting them in a warmed oven while finishing off the rest of the batter.

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It seems that there’s no turning back for Tyler’s pancakes. My kids are used to having it during weekends that one of them asked me last Friday evening what we were having for breakfast the next day. “Tyler’s pancakes?” she guessed.

Uh, oh…I wouldn’t be surprised if the instant pancake mix left at the cupboard would be forgotten.

PS Check out Tyler Florence’s demo here. For a complete recipe of his blueberry buttermilk pancakes, click here. Apologies for the cropped photo of the book.Incidentally, Tyler Florence came out with a new book “Tyler Makes Spaghetti,” just this year. We already have a copy of this one so you can guess that my kids and I will be cooking Tyler’s spaghetti next. 😀

“Life is too short! Eat dessert first!”

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I happen to read this blurb at a local flea market one summer weekend at Bracebridge, Ontario. It does captures what summer this year has been like. The warm days seem to be dissipating by so quickly, with only a few weeks away before Mother Nature cues the green leaves to change its colour. Evenings and early mornings have been a bit cold but the noontime and late afternoon sun can still be hot. So because summer it “short,” we thought we should have our dessert first by having fun.

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And that’s exactly what we did! My family and I went out on a road trip with friends to enjoy what Mother Nature has to offer.

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A quick stop at Bracebridge gave us a chance to look around at a local flea market where they sold anything, including smoked meat and trout!
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We even had time to enjoy a farmer’s breakfast at a quaint old restaurant (read: eggs cooked over easy, French toast, pea meal bacon, Vienna sausage, and refillable brewed coffee) before heading further northeast en route to our first stop: Lake Temagami .

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Temagami is a sight to behold. A lake surrounded by islands, bays, peninsulas and rivers, Lake Temagami is located in Nipissing District, which is about 80 kms from North Bay. Even if the trip was long, our patience was rewarded by the sight of the endless evergreen forests, the serene bodies of water snaking through the route and the stillness of nature.

Because we hardly brought provisions, we were able to buy some at the town’s local grocer: ribs for barbecue, greens for salad, and hotdogs and marshmallows for the kids.

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On our way to the cottage, this float plane caught my attention reminding me how isolated and far we were from the city.

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My friend marinated the ribs with her home-made dry seasoning. Other than salt and pepper, she did add some spices which made the ribs taste really good.grilling

Incidentally, it was also the first time I used a gas grill, which confirmed my hunch that charcoal, by far is still the best.

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Because of the apparent lack of butane, it took more than an hour (!) to cook the ribs medium well. The good news was everyone liked it! 😀

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Of course, no camping is complete without the traditional bonfire and roasting marshmallows. It made us all remember our service scout days where gathering by the fire meant eating our snacks, singing songs and listening to ghost stories! But what was best was seeing our kids having the time of their lives roasting marshmallows!

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Our last stop was McKellar, a township in Parry Sound, Ontario. The place was more rustic and quiet; giving us more time to get away from the humdrum of city life.breakfast2

 

We did have a chance to have breakfast of bread, jam and coffee by the lake and a lunch of grilled pork chop, barbecue and veggies.

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What a rewarding summer break! Nothing beats communing with nature and enjoying good food with family and friends.

A sampling of Quebec City at Le Cochon Dingue

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Call this one an exemption. The Dads latest mantra was to redefine what good food means but admittedly, once in a while, we allow ourselves to be distracted and try out something…uh, novel. 😀

This was certainly true when we went on a trip to Quebec City where my wife treated us to one of the city’s most popular restaurants, Le Cochon Dingue (The Crazy Pig).It was our chance to learn more of the province’s culture through a sampling of their food. Other than discovering a bit of the city’s character through the city’s cobbled stone streets, churches and small villages famous for their classic French artisan designs (a word I just learned from my wife), we believed that the best way to discovering more of Quebec was through their food. This is why my family and I didn’t mind losing our way a bit just to eat at a local family restaurant.

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However, looking for Le Cochon Dingue was not as easy as we thought. Other than an unexpected downpour, the winding, steep and sometimes, slippery streets of the city made it more challenging to find our way.

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But through sheer persistence, a fair grasp of la langue français, and hungry tummies, we found an easier way to go to Champlain Avenue via a funiculaire at one of the highest points in the city which finally brought us down to a street parallel to Champlain, where Le Cochon Dingue was located.

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At one point, I thought we could dine a la Champs Elysees in Paris; where dining al fresco was the norm but the rains gave us no choice but to dine inside.

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I learned that the restaurant has been there since 1979. You would understand why Le Cochon Dingue withstood the test of time as soon as you enter the place. You are greeted with “Bonjour!” by servers who appear to have been there since Day One and a warm, homey ambience.

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Most of its customers also appear to be regular and local patrons , with a number of visitors like us; discovering Quebec for the first time. Despite being tagged as a family restaurant, Le Cochon Dingue, however, can cater to even the most sophisticated palate. Quebec, after all, is not just poutine! Check out their menu which lists not only French such as a la mer (from the sea-seafood), steak frites et autres grillades (slow-cooked steak and fries),  and  ‘le cochon at its best’ but European sandwiches, Italian pate, and even American food!

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My wife ordered their “famous sea food pot pie,” which was absolutely delicious. The pastry pie was not too buttery but baked just right and filled with lobster, crab, shrimps, scallops, salmon with diced potatoes cooked in light cream and herbs. It is, to the French, magnifique! It was so good that our kids could not stop asking for “more pot pie…”even when we were having lunch in a Japanese restaurant the next day!

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I ordered grilled AAA Angus beef flank steak, which I savored it to the last piece. The smoky flavor and texture of the steak was complemented by the lightly salted buttered gravy. What a treat! In fact, I wouldn’t mind going back to this place but next time, I might just check out their fish and salad. No more excuses. ;-D

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