QUICK APPLE & STRAWBERRY STRUDEL

Whenever I go past the delectable pastry shop I just cannot resist the apple strudels that are sitting in front of the window tempting each passerby. I really wanted to replicate the same flavours at home but do in a more healthy way. Since by now you all know that I am, for the most part, all about quick cooking I really wanted to create a dessert that would take no time at all to make. Quite literally I made this strudel recipe within the same hour that I made dinner. A homemade dinner and dessert made in one go, on a weekday now...that is pretty good I say. I should mention here that this tastes just like an apple strawberry pie, so you may want to make more just in case you run out fast!

Makes 4

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Baking time: 25-30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 8 sheets of Phyllo dough (2 sheets per strudel)
  • 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 golden delicious apples, peeled, cored and diced small
  • 3/4 cup strawberry slices
  • 1/4 granulated sugar (plus 2 tbsp to sprinkle on top before baking)
  • 1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1-1/2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 egg (with 1 tbsp of water)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Take the 8 large sheets of phyllo dough and using a sharp paring knife, slice in half. Cover the phyllo with a damp clean kitchen towel until ready to use. Have the oil ready to use in a bowl, along with a pastry brush.

2. In a medium bowl, add in the diced golden delicious apples, strawberry slices, sugar, cinnamon and flour. Mix it altogether. Taking one sheet of halved phyllo dough at a time, brush it lightly with the oil, until you have four halved sheets on top of each other. Mound a large spoonful of the apple strawberry mixture onto the middle of the greased phyllo and fold it like a book. Gently start to curl up the edges until it starts to look like a pizza pocket. Continue to do this with the other phyllo sheets until you make 4 strudels.

3. Place each strudel onto the baking sheet gently. In a small bowl, mix together the egg and 1 tbsp of water to create an eggwash. Liberally brush the strudels with the egg wash, then place the strudels into the oven to bake for a good 25-30 minutes or until crispy and golden brown. Serve warm immediately.

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CHICKEN SAUSAGE, PESTO AND CHERRY TOMATO RIGATONI

If you need a pasta recipe in your repertoire that impress guests and tastes like a gourmet style restaurant meal this one is a must-have! I created this recipe originally just to really cheer myself up and my husband after a long hard day at work - you all know what I am talking about. I went to our local grocery store and picked up some yummy spinach and feta chicken sausages and knew I had to do something creative with them. This was just what I needed to get my cooking juices flowing. Add a little basil pesto and you have a gourmet style pasta dish that will surely pick up your spirits too after a long hard day at work.

Serves 2 generously

Ingredients:

  • 450g dry rigatoni or penne (roughly half a box of pasta)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • pinch of chili flakes (optional)
  • 2 spinach and feta chicken sausages, out of the casings
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1-1/2 cups cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup pasta cooking water of white wine
  • 1/2 cup pre-made basil pesto (or measure according to your taste)
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas

1. Put on a large pot of boiling water, salt the water and then cook the rigatoni until al dente. Heat oil into a deep large skillet, on medium high heat, add in the minced garlic, chili flakes and the chicken sausage. Break up the sausage using your wooden spoon. Brown the meat for about 3-4 minutes.

2. Turn the heat down to medium, and add in the diced onion and cremini mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. Saute the onion and mushrooms until the onion becomes translucent and the mushrooms start to breakdown. Pour in 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water or dry white wine to deglaze the pan. Picking up all of the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add in the cherry tomatoes at this point and cook for only a minute or two at most.

3. When the pasta is done cooking, drain and quickly add it into the chicken and veggie mixture. Stir all of the ingredients together, turn the heat to low and spoon in the basil pesto and the frozen peas. Coat all of the pasta with the pesto and then take it off the heat. Serve immediately.

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TOMATO & BREAD CHEESE BAKE

Recently I watched the Barefoot Contessa show on the Food Network and saw Ina Garten make this easy delicious bake that could be served at breakfast, brunch or even as a side dish at dinner time. I tweeked the recipe slightly so it would fit my needs and tastes and it turned out to be a great easy side dish for during the week. Adults and kids alike will love this one.

Adapted and inspired by Ina Garten from the Barefoot Contessa Show on the Food Network

Serves 3-4

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Baking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 French Baguette, cut into cubes
  • coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 4 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • large handful of fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup fresh mozzarella cheese, grated

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F and line a casserole baking dish with parchment paper or lightly spray with cooking oil. Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet, on medium high heat, and place in the cubed baguette pieces. Coat each cubed baguette with the oil and let it brown on all sides, season with salt and pepper.

2. Stir in the diced roma tomatoes and the minced garlic. Let the tomatoes cook down for a good 3 minutes or so. Quickly add in the handful of roughly chopped fresh basil and stir in the freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Take the tomato and bread mixture off the heat and pour it into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the fresh mozzarella cheese and bake it in the oven for a good 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately.

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MATT'S WINE NOT! ROSEMOUNT GRENACHE SHIRAZ 2008 AUSTRALIAN RED WINE

Some wines have hidden messages, dear reader, or so I've found, in the very way they package or label their wines. These need a little bit of intuition or logic, or hell, even some research, if one really wants to see the inner meaning of what they're getting at in how they present their wines.

Or, you can just read the back of the bottle's label, and often the truth there will set one free.

OR, you can just guess and be lucky! Anyway, the shape of the wine bottle intrigued me whilst I walked through my local LCBO, as it has a square (!) bottle bottom (see pic for an ever so brief glance). Why so? This goes back to the aforementioned mysteries and hidden meaning; apparently this wine is also named Diamond Cellars - perhaps accounting for the diamond/square bottom!

Was that really worth reading? I doubt it. Let's get down to bidness.

Coming with a screw top cap, this wine pours a purplish red hue, and the wine lingers a bit on the sides when sloshed about in a sophisticated manner (or even in the boorish manner with which I do it).

Sticking my schnoz into the glass, I picked up a cherry nose, light to medium in strength, with a fresh and tasty smell coming through.

It tasted sweety, a little dry, and not awfully bitter (yay for that; I don't particularly like wines with strong tannins); it definitely has some zing, and is grapey with some other flavours of plum and cherry. (Needless to say, I could be completely wrong - the LCBO website has their own tasting notes, and as always, I advise you check them out always too!)

The aftertaste was quite pleasing too, which is always nice (since this is usually one of the weaker factors in any wine). The flavours of the wine lingered about a little longer than perhaps usual, and gave off a little blueberry, and I concur with the wine bottle, when it notes spice.

This was a winning wine with good fruit flavours and a good degree of balance between dryness and taste, and wasn't bitter or any of those are wine nasties we all turn our collective noses up to. Those Aussies happen to mine diamonds, and I guess this one turned up out of the rough to be a jewel!

Work with me here people.

***1/4 out of 4

Purchased from a Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) store for C$12.85 (US$12.86). (That's right people...the Canadian dollar is worth more than a US dollar! BOOYAH!)

From LCBO.com:

ROSEMOUNT DIAMOND GREN SHIRAZ, 750 mL bottle
LCBO #476838
Wine, Red Wine
13.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content: 1
Made in: Australia
By: Rosemount Estate Pty
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MATT'S BEER WE GO! FRULI STRAWBERRY BEER

Here in Canada, dear reader, we have to put up with a lot of weather related crap when it comes to the Spring. One day it's 24 Celsius (look it up Americans!) the next day, it's 7. Then, back up to 15; then back down to 8. I mean...WTF (what the fudge...yes...).

SO! What better way to say "eff you" to the up and down weather than to buy a beer that SCREAMS: shorts; fine hot weather; and, MMM tasty tasty beer!

While it may seem contradictory to put "strawberry" and "beer" in the same sentence, trust me when I say it's not at all, and this beer is one of the most fragrant and tastiest you can acquire to enjoy on a fine Summer or Spring (if the bloody weather cooperates) day.

Get a bottle opener for this one (and you'll need several bottles, as you don't get much of it at one go...two make a pint!), and you'll pour to see a reddish, cloudy colour that's orangy-red, with a slight milkiness on the edges of the glass. The light can't even penetrate this one, so don't even try! (Not that you would, I'm just saying.)

Upon taking a whiff, one gets a slightly beery nose, but it is overwhelmingly strawberry, which is just intense. It truly is rich, fruitful, flavourful, and fresh, and this carries over to the taste department very well!

One is greeted by a ZIPPINESS! and carbonation. It is indeed fruitful, almost like strawberry jam. Fruli is full and rich, tasty, and just damn wonderful.

The aftertaste does bring up the wheatiness (it is a wheat beer), which comes to the forefront; the berry does hang around, and there is some dryness to it; I still can't complain though!

This beer is indeed a tour de force in the realm of strawberriness. And that is perhaps why I am withdrawing my advice of getting several bottles: it is so rich and full, that chugging back bottle after bottle of strawberry beer might make one too full, or cause one to change their surname to "Smucker." It is delicious though, find yourself one and join me in saying EFF you to variable temperature changes, and sit back, drink, and enjoy!

***1/2 out of 4

Purchased from a Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) store for C$2.35 (US$2.31).

From LCBO.com:

FRULI STRAWBERRY, 250 mL bottle
LCBO #698548
Beer, Wheat
4.1% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content: 6
Made in: Belgium
By: Van Diest Beer Company
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What caught my eye about this particular bottle was its beautiful art work on the label. I'm a sucker for good looking bottles, and damn, this one worked pretty well, the museumish artish kinda person that I am.

It features a family perhaps...debating? Squabbling? Check out the dame (that's right, dame!) on the far right with arms in the air, and the other fellow gesturing to the right...something's up! Oh well, hopefully they're just arguing about what to eat for dinner.

What they weren't debating was what wine to have...THIS ONE THIS ONE THIS ONE!!!

I've dubbed this one, "the perfect medium." Everything about this wine was just superb, and was a delight in almost every way imagineable: the art work, nose, taste, aftertaste.

Let's to it right away. Frankly I can't even recall if this was corked or not, but upon opening and pouring, it is a dark reddish/blackberry, almost a dark purple when held up to the light.

The nose is fragrant and offers notes of cherry and plum, and almost has a "wild" sense to it. It is lightish and not too strong, but is very inviting! Drink you, you say!? By George, I shall!!!!

Ah now prepare to transport yourself to Bliss! This Italian vino has a nice bite of flavour, is lightish to medium bodied, dark-fruit forward, and very flavourful. Fairly smooth, it is easy to drink with a slight dryness, and was even a little sweet (methinks the fruit was at work in this supposed "little sweet" bit). Words can't aptly describe but DAMN it was just SO VERY good!!!

The aftertaste retains its fruit (to an extent, it is the aftertaste after all!), but does not offend with any bitterness or other...nasty...aftertasting...type...deals.

SIGH! To be honest, I'm a little disappointed about the notes I took for this wine; the tasting notes don't mention any particular fruit flavours, and the aftertaste note is one sentence long!!! I suppose this goes to show how much I enjoyed this: I was more interested in drinking it than writing about it!!!

Honestly though, this was one of the most enjoyable wine's I've ever had, and that's saying a lot!! It had the perfect mix of acidity, taste, and dryness, and was balanced to perfection. A truly vibrant red, this one almost didn't get the following rating, but after reflecting, I thought, "Why shouldn't it get this rating." Buy it, you'll love it.

**** out of 4

Purchased at a Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) store for C$13.95 (US$13.77).

From LCBO.com:

GIORDANO MAESTRI ITALIANI BARBERA D'ASTI 2007, 750 mL bottle
LCBO/Vintages #159491
Wine, Red Wine
13.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content: XD
Made in: Italy
By: F. Giordano S.P.A.
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SMOKEY BBQ BEEF STEW

Now I know that the Spring season is upon us and it's really not the time for a warm bowl of beef stew but to be honest, I just don't care! Although I love making seasonal dishes I also like to make sure not to forget about my other seasonal favourites like this yummy beef stew. I like to change up my beef stew recipe now and then and add a little different flavour base to make people go wide eyed when they eat it. This time around it was smokey flavoured BBQ sauce. Now I have to admit a little bit of this stew goes a long way since it is packed full of flavour. I highly recommend eating this with tons of crusty bread. Just mop up all of that stewy goodness with the bread and you have a very filling meal that is sure to bring tons of smiles around the dinner table.

Serves 3

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb stewed beef, cubed
  • coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 3 tbsps olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 3 carrots, sliced thick
  • 3 celery stalks, sliced
  • 1-1/2 cup beef stock (or red wine)
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup smokey barbeque sauce
  • 3/4 cup diced tomatoes
  • crusty bread, sliced (when serving)

1. Take the beef and pat it dry with a paper towel, then season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large pot, on medium high heat, and sear the meat on both sides for 5 minutes. Add in the onion slices, garlic and fresh rosemary. Saute for 2 minutes.

2. Add in the sliced carrots, and celery slices, cook for 2 minutes for colour. Then pour in the beef stock, ketchup, smokey BBQ sauce and the diced tomatoes. Give the mixture a good stir, drop the heat down to a gentle simmer and place the lid on. Cook for a good 1-1/2 hrs, giving the stew a stir every 20 or so minutes. You will know when the stew is finished cooking once the meat starts to easily fall apart. Serve immediately with slices of crusty bread.

Cook's tip: If you find the sauce is thickening much too quickly for you before the meat is really tender, add in a little more water or stock. I recommend doing this 1/2 cup at a time.

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Well dear reader, it seems we're on quite the angel tangent as of late, with yet another angelically inspired red wine, this time from our French friends (or, "amis!").

Louis Jadot celebrated their 150th anniversary recently in 2009 (how can he put up with her for so long!) of making fine vino's (hence the "150 years" inscribed around the bottle neck, which yes, I know you cannot see!).

This wine comes from the famed Beaujolais-Villages region of Burgundy, France, where many a fine tipple have been made over the centuries, and under the microscope today that is my taste buds (PSH) is the aforementioned Louis Jadot vineyard's.

One of my favourite wines of all time comes from this region, but as you well know, not all wines are made equally!! So let's to it.

Naturally corked with a VERY corky cork (yup, I mean that), it has a nice lighter red colour, like a purplish-red, with some lightness, and was translucent around the edges of the glass as the light dances about like Kate Gosselin on DWTS. (And no, I do NOT watch that tripe.)

The nose is fresh, light and vibrant, fruity, as I noted raspberry and perhaps light plum; very smooth, smells delightful and fragrant! Naturally, my friends over at the LCBO have their own smelly/tasty notes, so feel free to check them out; odds are they're more right than I am, but to each their own, dammit!!

Taste time, and one is greeted by dryness and some fruit, such as light berries, and is light to medium bodied. The fruity goodness is definitely not as noticeable as in the initial smell; that's usually the case!

It is dry on the finish, with definite tannins (bitterness), and a "grapey/seediness." It even felt a little, how shall I say, "watery" in its close, perhaps just the tastes fading off.

Monsieur Jadot produces quite a nice wine, but it's no archangel, at least to these taste buds. Still, it's pretty good and it tasted even better the next day! I know it's supposed to be wronggg to drink wine after having left it open for a day, but hey, I'm not going to down a whole bottle of wine by myself at dinner time! That'd be fun mind you...but I'm still not going to do it!!

**3/4 out of 4

Purchased at a Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) store for C$15.95 (US$15.86).

From LCBO.com:

LOUIS JADOT BEAUJOLAIS-VILLAGES, 750 mL bottle
LCBO/Vintages #365924
Wine, Red Wine
12.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content: D
Made in: Burgundy, France
By: Maison Louis Jadot
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MATT'S BEER WE GO! STELLA ARTOIS LAGER

One of the brightest stars in the Firmament of Beers has to be Belgium's (now Anheuser-Busch InBev's, but still made in Belgium, and elsewhere ...yeah!) Stella Artois, which stars in this edition of Matt's Beer We Go!

"Stella," meaning "star" in Latin, has been brewed since 1926 and was put on the market, so says our friends at Wikipedia, for the Christmas holiday season. Its success lead to its continued brewing, where it now stands as one of InBev's keystone global brands. Such humble beginnings to such stardom!! Okay, enough "star" jokes, I promise.

I used to drink a lot of Stella, but it's fallen out of my repertoire somewhat; it is indeed a unique flavoured beer, something I liken to Heineken somewhat (although don't tell the makers that, they'd want my head no doubt!).

On we go! This one definitely requires a bottle opener or a hard pair of teeth, and when poured, displays a nice golden yellow colour, akin to apple juice. You will note there's not too much of it displayed in my pic - I had drank nearly 3/4 of the bottle before I remembered to snap the pic!!

The nose (not that beer drinkers spend too much time sniffing around for flavours) was fresh and lightish, and flavourful, chiefly a little sweet and hoppy.

The real money is in the taste however! It is quite grainy, and has a certain depth and edge to it, a certain hoppy bite (if that makes any sense, which it damn well might not). I wouldn't go calling this a "refreshing" beer, but it isn't completely dry either.

A slight bitterness does take over with accompanying dryness and even a little apple, and continued grainy goodness.

Soo! This beer isn't clean, crisp or refreshing particularly, but it has a soul, a depth of flavour, a certain...roundddddddness to it that keeps me coming back on occasion when I want something different. And hey, most of a pack disappeared when I hosted WrestleMania; what proof more is needed!

*** out of 4

Purchased at a Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) store for C$2.25 (US$2.24).

From LCBO.com:

STELLA AROIS LAGER, 330 mL bottle
LCBO #898593
Beer, Lager
5% Alcohol/Vol.
Made in: Belgium
By: Anheuser-Busch InBev
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QUICK MACARONI AND CHEESE BAKE

Macaroni and cheese is a staple at many households and I am not ashamed to admit that I still love eating the mac and cheese from the box. It brings back many fond memories of childhood and even my University years. Although I like to treat myself with a true homemade "like Grandma used to make" version of mac and cheese; I like using this super quick recipe that really helps get the dinner on the table fast. My husband says that the breadcrumbs on top taste almost like you're eating homemade stuffing. Needless to say it brought out the kid in both of us and I hope it does in yours too.

Adapted and modified from the "Easy Macaroni & Cheese" recipe from Campbells

Serves 3

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Baking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/4 cup uncooked whole wheat elbow macaroni
  • 1 can Condensed Cheddar Cheese Soup
  • half a soup can of half and half cream or whole milk
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 tbsp yellow mustard
  • tabasco sauce (optional)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
1. Preheat the oven to 400 F and lightly spray a medium sized casserole dish with cooking spray. Cook the whole wheat macaroni until al dente - follow the package instructions, drain and set aside for now.

2. In a saucepan, pour in the condensed cheddar cheese soup, and add in half a can of cream or whole milk. Whisk it altogether and let the sauce come up to a gentle bubble. Slowly whisk in the shredded cheddar, yellow mustard, a few dashes of tabasco sauce, chopped onion and freshly cracked black pepper. Once the sauce comes together and heated through add in the cooked macaroni and the diced tomatoes. Turn the heat off and coat the macaroni with the sauce.

3. Pour the macaroni and sauce into the prepared casserole dish. In a small bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs and the chopped parsley, then sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over top of the macaroni and cheese. Take the small pieces of butter and dab it all around on top of the casserole. Place the mac and cheese into the oven and let it bake for a good 20 minutes. Serve immediately and enjoy!
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I would say one of my favourite helpers in the kitchen in terms of kitchen tools is most definitely the oven. It is a no fuss way of cooking and it helps create easy weeknight meals. You just pop whatever it is you're cooking and let the oven do the work. I came up with this recipe when I just didn't feel like putting too much effort into dinner but I still wanted to put out a delicious product in the end. The baked salmon turned out to be really juicy and really flavourful because of the nice layer of dijon mustard on top. Have a little piece of warm baguette on the side and you have an easy weeknight meal. This is a good one.

Serves 2

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Baking time: 20-23 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 bundle of asparagus, trimmed
  • 2 fresh salmon fillets
  • 1-2 tbsp of dijon mustard or grainy dijon mustard
  • coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (use more if needed)
  • 1/2 cup of fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup of chopped fresh parsley
  • warm baguette slices (optional when serving)

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper to prevent any sticking. Take the trimmed asparagus and place them on the baking sheet, place the fresh salmon fillets on top of the asparagus.

2. Brush the salmon with the dijon mustard. Use grainy mustard if you like a more mild mustard flavour. Season with a pinch of salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Squeeze a juice of half a lemon on top of the fish, then drizzle 2-3 tbsp of olive oil over the fish and the asparagus. Make sure to season the asparagus as well.

3. In a small bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs and the fresh chopped parsley, then sprinkle it over the fish, and lightly pat it on top to make sure it sticks. Place it into the oven and bake it for a good 20-25 minutes, making sure not to over cook the salmon. The fish should just start to flake when you're finished. Serve it warm with slices of baguette.

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LEMON RICOTTA PANCAKES

Pancakes are always a hit at breakfast time or any other time of the day for that matter. My husband and I even have pancakes for dinner on the occasion along with some beautiful turkey sausage on the side, and tons of fruit and pure maple syrup. I was reading the Metro one day at work and found this recipe featured on the back of the paper. Although I've read about ricotta pancakes I never really bothered to try making it because simply I had a standard go-to pancake recipe already. I gave this one a go and immediately noticed a huge difference. The lemon zest really added a nice zing to the flavour and the ricotta just added that extra fluffy pillow like texture to the pancakes. This is definitely a real treat at breakfast. I highly recommend these pancakes!

Adapted from the "Lemon Ricotta Pancakes" recipe featured in the Metro newspaper. Submitted by: Paula Bowman. (April 1-4/10)

Yields about 8-10 pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • zest of one lemon
  • olive oil cooking spray
  • sliced strawberries, sauteed apples, or sliced bananas
  • gently heated pure maple syrup

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and the salt. Place it aside for now. Then in another bowl, whisk together the ricotta, milk, egg yolks and lemon zest. Add the wet mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients, and stir until just combined.

In another bowl, beat together the egg whites until you see soft peaks form. You can do this by hand or you can use an electric mixture, which is definitely much faster. Fold the beaten egg whites into the ricotta mixture until just blended. You want to make sure that the batter is still fluffy.

Preheat a non-stick skillet or a griddle on medium heat, and lightly spray the olive oil cooking spray over top. Drop down a small ladle full of the batter to the griddle. One per pancake and make sure not to overcrowd the space. Cook the pancakes until golden brown, which should take about 1 minutes per side. Serve immediately with tons of sliced fruit and warm maple syrup.

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MATT'S WINE NOT! MONTES ALPHA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007 CHILEAN RED WINE

One of the most often read reviews here on Matt's Wine Not! has been the Casilero del Diablo Cab Sauv, made in Chile, which sports an image of the Devil. To counteract the evil wiles of Satan, I bring you this Angelically inspired (just check out the label art!) Cab Sauv, also from Chile, entitled Montes Alpha.

Estate bottled (meaning, bottled on their estate, using my brilliant deduction) and having been aged in French oak (tres bien!), this real corked wine was damn well near impossible to open, at least this bottle was. That's the one thing with real corked wines...you don't position the screw correctly, and it just doesn't go in or come out properly!! (That didn't sound right, but moving on!)

Once opened and poured, it was a very deep red crimson when held up to the light.

The nose is very deep, and bears hints of dark fruits, such as blackberry, and is full, rich, and one definitely picks up the robust 14.5% alcohol content.

The true WOW factor (and that's not necessarily a good thing!!) in this wine, as with any wine, was in the taste; let's face it, nobody comes away saying, "WOW, what a great smelling wine!"

Prepare yourself for impact. This extremely dry wine is very full bodied, weighty, strong, and had some definite bitter tannins. Notes of chocolate and more dark fruits protruded noticeably.

The aftertaste continued with more chocolate, with a grapey/seedy taste in the very close. Wow indeed.

Notes on the LCBO website mention tastes of blackcurrant, espresso and oak (likely from the barrelling) amongst other flavours, and that it would likely age well with time.

That's the thing: I'm tasting these wines now, I, the self-confessed non-expert, have no idea what these wines will taste like four years from now; perhaps it'd be better than what I had, but I frankly was overwhelmed by this drink. I almost needed another drink to get over it!

Well dear reader, what can I say, but this wine wasn't for me. It was too dry, and its potency in both alcohol content and strength did not make this a sipping wine. Don't drink it alone, but perhaps find something really strong to counterbalance it: perhaps some bold red meats or game, but nothing wimpy like fish!

Montes Alpha wasn't as angelic as I had hoped, but I won't damn it to hell either; as I said, it just wasn't for me!

**1/4 out of 4

Purchased at a Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) store for C$19.95 (US$19.95) (Note: look at that exchange rate!! Parity baby!)

From LCBO.com:

MONTES ALPHA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007, 750 mL bottle
LCBO/Vintages #322586
Wine, Red Wine
14.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Made in: Chile
By: Montes S.A.
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MATT'S WINE NOT! DEINHARD GREEN LABEL RIESLING 2008 GERMAN WHITE WINE

Well dear reader, there's nothing like a fresh, tasty white wine to ring in and celebrate the re-incarnation of Spring! Riesling wines thankfully fall into this category, and this wine from Deutschland (i.e. Germany) falls smack dab into said category.

The good people at Deinhard work hard (nyuk nyuk) to bring you this fine bottle of booze, and have been making wines since 1794...makes for one long work day!

And there's nothing like a good drinky after a long work day, so let's not delay any longer...

Coming with a synthetic cork sporting some nice writing and print (I forget what it says...), it possesses ein gut pale yellow hue.

Taking a sniff, it greets the sniffer with a fresh, light and flavourful uh, sniff; flavours in the nose I picked up included apples, some citrus, peach and perhaps even a little pineapple; it's awfully sweet whatever it actually smells of, but that's up to you to decipher!

The joy of course, is in the tasting, never mind this sniffing about like Scooby-Doo for tasty clues. Brace yourself for some damn tasty wine! Crisp and flavourful, not dry, with an almost carbonated feel (this I discovered is the much vaulted "minerality" that the back of the bottle notes), it featured a matching appley, peachy taste to the nose.

There was a definite and noticeable sourness to the fruitiness, which takes over in the aftertaste, creating a little dryness and thus making one a little thirsty (for more wine, of course). A very distinct taste of dried apricots lingered in the aftertaste, which in itself was quite nice.

So! If you're ever in the mood for a light, aromatic (big words!) and fruit-filled wine that won't saturate you with booze (it's just over 10%), then look no further, and at under $12 for the bottle, won't break the bank either. Oh, and it won some German wine Silver medal in 2007. Yay!

***1/4 out of 4

Purchased at a Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) store for C$11.95 (US$11.86).

From LCBO.com:

DEINHARD GREEN LABEL RIESLING, 750 mL bottle
LCBO #8094
Wine, White Wine
10.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content: 3 (The wine grades itself a 5 out of 9 on its own scale.)
Made in: Germany
By: Deinhard & Co.
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I've been on a real pork kick as of late and this recipe certainly shows how inspired I've been using pork as my meat of choice at dinnertime. I love pairing pork with fragrant herbs and yellow mustard. It's always been something I've used in combination to help heighten the pork flavour and to help create a zingy and flavourful sauce. Put delicious roasted baby potatoes on the side and you've got a filling and satisfying dinner any night of the week.

Serves 2

Ingredients:
  • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp yellow mustard (plus 2 tsp extra later on)
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 big pork chops, bone-in
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock

Roasted rosemary baby potatoes

  • 1 small pkg of baby potatoes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
  • coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1. In a medium sized bowl, whisk in the rosemary, olive oil, salt, pepper, honey, yellow mustard, and red wine vinegar. Place the pork chops into the marinade and let it sit for 20 minutes in the fridge. In a cast iron skillet, on medium high heat, add in olive oil and 1 tbsp of butter. Take the pork chops out of the marinade and sear the chops on both sides. The chops should cook for a good 8 minutes per side or until cooked through.

2. When the chops are just browned on the other side, add in the remaining marinade and the 1/2 cup of chicken stock. Let the sauce reduce by half. The pork chops should be cooked through and super moist by this point. Take it off the heat and serve immediately with a drizzle of the sauce.

3. Roasted potatoes: On a large baking sheet, place all of the baby potatoes on top. Drizzle 2 tbsp of olive oil, sprinkle the fresh rosemary, salt and pepper; and then using clean hands mix all of the ingredients together to coat each potato. Place it in a 425 F oven and let it roast for a good 25-30 minutes. Make sure to check it halfway through cooking and toss gently using tongs. Once it is finished cooking, drizzle 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar and lightly toss together. Serve along side the pork chops.

Cook's recommendation: I highly recommend serving something fresh like a light tomato and cucumber salad along side this meal. Since the meal is heavy with meat and potatoes a fresh crisp salad will really complete this dish.
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RAVIOLI WITH CREAMY BROCCOLI, ZUCCHINI & WALNUTS

Here is a tasty energy boosting kind of meal that is sure to please everyone at the table. I wanted to make a ravioli dish that was not covered in tomato sauce. Although I absolutely love a traditional tomato sauce I wanted to eat something a bit different that night. I added broccoli, zucchini, garlic, and onions to the dish, and then to complete the dish I sprinkled a small handful of chopped walnuts right on top. The combination turned out to be a definite winner in my books. What's great about this dish is that you can change up whatever ravioli you would like to use. I used beef ravioli that night but really you could use butternut squash ravioli, or even spinach and cheese ravioli.

Serves 2 generously

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • pinch of chili flakes
  • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 head broccoli florets
  • 1 zucchini, sliced thin
  • coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup low fat sour cream
  • 3 tbsp low fat ricotta cheese
  • handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 pkg of fresh ravioli (your choice)
  • 1/2 cup of roasted walnuts, chopped

1. Put on a medium pot full of boiling water to cook the ravioli. Then heat the oil and butter in a large deep skillet, on medium high heat, and saute the onions, garlic, chili flakes and fresh rosemary for one minute. Add in the broccoli florets and the sliced zucchini; season to taste. Saute the vegetables for 2 minutes until lightly cooked through.

2. Turn the head down to medium-low. Add in the white wine vinegar, low fat sour cream and the low fat ricotta cheese. Bring the sauce slowly together. Put the fresh ravioli in the boiling water for only a minute or until the ravioli rises to the top of the pot. Drain the ravioli and place them into the cream sauce immediately, add in the fresh parsley and mix it altogether for another minute. Serve immediately with chopped walnuts sprinkled on top.

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MATT'S BEER WE GO! RED STRIPE JAMAICAN STYLE LAGER

In my last post, dear reader, I pined away for the historically rich cities of France; oh what bliss it'd be to get away, just for a while! But hey, Jamaica sounds pretty damn good too, so I bring you Red Stripe Jamaican Style Lager!

Hmm...that word style throws me for a loop...clearly this stuff isn't made in Jamaica...it's actually made in New Brunswick mon! Ah haaa...although, it did originate back in Jamaica some 70 odd years ago - so, it does have some credentials!

I didn't know what to expect per se, especially given that it said "Jamaican style"; what would be different about it, I pondered and queried internally? Cue the pot jokes...but seriously!! I have tried my share of lagers, and enjoy many, so I hoped this would be no exception; and it wasn't! Being a pretty general lager though, there isn't too much to elaborate on...so beer we go indeed!!

Colour
It is a light to medium yellow hue, perhaps just a shade or so lighter than ginger ale. Check.

Smell
Fresh and hoppy and grainy, it is clean, and presented a refreshing nose. Check.

Taste
A definite hoppy taste, it is fresh and crisp with a medium body, not too dry (I LOATH dry beers), and had some dryness in the aftertaste, but with a clean, grainy-freshy satisfaction. Check.

Conclusion
So, I don't know what makes this a "Jamaican style" lager, but damn if I care, I enjoyed it!! A clean, crisp beer, worth breaking out for Spring and Summer BBQ's or nights on a patio or balcony. Beer appetite! ...mon.

***1/4 out of 4

Purchased from a Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) store for C$2.25 (US$2.22).

From LCBO.com:

RED STRIPE LAGER, 473mL can
LCBO #149815
Beer, Lager
4.7% Alcohol/Vol.
Made in: New Brunswick, Canada
By: Moosehead Breweries Limited for Diageo Canada Inc.
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MATT'S WINE NOT! LATOUR DE FRANCE CHATEAU TRINIAC 2007 FRENCH RED WINE

I've often thought I'd love to undertake a tour of France someday. Paris, obviously, steeped in history (much like the rest of France!) with its cafes and bistros, Versailles being the court of Louis XIV, and well...so on and so forth.

Well that's not going to happen anytime soon, so the best that I can do, for now, instead of having a tour of France is having Latour de France Red Wine.

Pretty clever eh?

Now for a little background information! Latour de France is actually a geographical area in the very very south of France near Spain, and is also called "Triniac" (or three views), hence the Chateau of its name. The date 1659 seems to have some significance to this area, as it is emblazoned on the little round circly bit above the stylized "L" in "Latour." What this means...well, you gotta do some of the work!

I will do some of the work and read the back of the bottle however, informing you that it is a tri-blend (nicely matching the "three" theme) of Carignan (an old, black coloured grape originating from Spain), black Grenache, and Syrah. This mish mashing of these particular grapes is apparently quite common. So. There you have it. Oh, and it also recommends serving at 18 Celsius, and that you decant the wine. Pshh, whatever!

Synthetically corked with the "Jean Jean" printed upon it (not for Jean Luc Picard I'm guessing), it poured a very deep ruby red, and was quite syrupy upon the sides of the glass.

It smells very fresh, like concord grapes, or grape jelly jam (mmm!), and is fruit-forward, and even gave a whiff of strawberry; a full, delicious nose! Yum yum!!

The taste continued the fruity nose, as one picks up a strawberry taste, especially in the aftertaste, and is medium to full bodied, with a little alcohol zing, and a definite dryness in one's mouth appearing. Overall though, it is definitely fruity, with a nice freshness and depth of taste, and while kinda smooth, had no lacking in weight. There was no great noticeable bitterness or sourness.

The aftertaste as noted continues the berry serious goodness, and carried a little florality, although the dryness was really apparent.

Of course, my friends at the LCBO offer completely different tasting notes: plum, mocha, spice, chocolate, cherry. Yup *nod.* I know nothing (and proud to admit it)!! It did though win a Silver Medal at the Decanter World Wine Awards, 2009 - cheers to that!!

Whatever the hell it tastes like, it was a very tasty, enjoyable drink, with delicious fruit flavours. And, if you're like me, and can't get to France anytime soon, pick up a bottle, and we can all imagine together. A definite winner!

***1/2 out of 4

Purchased at a Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) store for C$14.95 (US$14.78).

From LCBO.com:

CHATEAU TRINIAC 2007, 750 mL bottle
LCBO/Vintages #148676
Wine, Red Wine
14.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content: D
Made in: Roussillon, France
By: Cazes
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