Wednesday, August 18, 2010

off the beaten path - recipe: shrimp burgers

David, John and I just got back from a family vacation to Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio. Explaining that we were vacationing in Ohio elicited a few raised eyebrows from friends and family, to say the least.

What can I say — David lets me plan our vacations and I like checking out places that are a bit off the beaten path. I wanted to go somewhere new, I wanted it to be on the water, and I didn’t want too long of a drive — those of you with children under five will understand why.

Geneva-on-the-Lake is dubbed “Ohio’s first summer resort”, an old fashioned lakefront getaway that has something for everyone. We loved it.

The condo that we rented was perfect — comfortable and tastefully decorated, with amazing views and amenities, including a hot tub, outdoor play area, beautiful flower gardens and a heated pool with an incredible view of the expansive lake.

On top of all of this, we were within walking distance to a state park, paved trails, two miniature golf courses, arcades, a waterslide park, wineries and of course, restaurants.

The condo owners were kind enough to leave us a handful of menus from their favourite local restaurants.

Not to be missed was Alessandro’s, an authentic Italian trattoria; Lakeside Winery, known for their local perch dinner; Madsen Donuts, nothing fancy, but by far, the best donuts I have ever eaten; and Eddie’s Grill, an authentic old fashioned hamburger joint that hasn’t changed much since opening in the 1950’s.

Eddie’s was a hoot — it offered a nostalgic atmosphere with an open kitchen and served yummy food to boot. David and I came up with three main reasons why their burgers tasted so good:

  • the ultra soft sesame seed buns
  • the finely diced onions
  • and their house made sweet pepper tapenade (ok, relish).

We ate there three times in one week. No kidding. As you can tell, we loved it!

Vacations are certainly the time to indulge, but can be a strain on the waistline. Now that we’re back to reality, these delicious shrimp burgers fill the craving with far less fat and calories.

shrimp burgers - (makes 6 burgers)


  • 2 litres water
  • 2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and de-veined
  • 1/2 cup cooked corn niblets
  • 3 tablespoons celery, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped scallions
  • 2 tablespoons chopped
  • fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 3-4 tablespoons mayo
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs, prefer ably fresh (from about 2 slices bread)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs canola oil, for pan frying


  • In a large saucepan, bring the water and Old Bay seasoning just to a boil over high heat. Turn off the heat, add the shrimp, and let stand until the shrimp are pink, about 2 or 3 minutes. Drain, then chop coarsely.
  • In a large bowl, mix the shrimp, corn, celery, scallions, parsley, and lemon zest. Stir in the mayonnaise and breadcrumbs, and season with salt and pepper. Gently fold the egg into the mixture.
  • Shape the mixture into six patties. Coat the burgers in bread crumbs. Place them in the fridge to cool before frying.
  • Heat canola oil (about two tablespoons) in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Remove the burgers from the refrigerator and gently lay them in the pan. Cook until both sides are browned, about three minutes per side. Drain on a plate lined with a paper towel.
  • Serve on buns with your favourite condiments, such as lettuce, tomato, avocado, caramelized onions or tartar sauce.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

easy hazelnut cake can be made gluten-free - recipe: hazelnut cake (aka the easiest cake ever)

My Mom, son John and I were recently invited to spend a day at the lake with our lifelong family friends Mae & Clair Rogers as well as their daughter and son-in-law, Karen and Joseph Stemmler.

My grandmother and Mae were good friends, as were their mothers. Mae is like a ‘special aunt’ to my mom, and she is certainly special to my brother Adam and me, as she was our much beloved part-time caregiver for a number of years.

The Rogers’ and Stemmler’s are the most calm and kind people I know. When we pulled into the driveway of their Habermehl Lake cottage, they were waiting for us, waving and smiling. You’d be rather hard-pressed to find them harried or stressed.

They treated us to a delicious lunch consisting of creamy Italian chicken, steamed rice, a delicious tossed salad with balsamic vinaigrette, Mae’s jellied pineapple, carrot & nut salad, and marinated vegetables.

As we were 'oohing' and 'aahing' over the food, Karen explained that she wanted to serve an easy, make-ahead meal so that she could spend her time catching up, not cooking. The chicken was made in a slow cooker while the rice did its thing in a rice cooker. Everything else was prepared in advance.

It is my opinion that your guests can sense your mood upon arrival, and if you’re stressed, rushing around and/or exhausted, they’ll be bound to feel at least a little bit guilty. This is just one of the many reasons why I’m a firm believer of preparing make-ahead menus when you’re entertaining at home. The whole point is to relax, have fun and enjoy the company of your guests. As the “Barefoot Contessa” Ina Garten frequently states; “your guests aren’t going to have more fun if you spend a week making the food!”

After a relaxing boat ride (but also very exciting, as this was Johnny’s first time in a motor boat!) we sat at a cozy outdoor table to enjoy dessert. The dessert was a delicious hazelnut cake with ice cream and fresh berries. I sheepishly asked for the recipe (not everyone likes to share!) and Karen promptly made a photocopy for me.

This cake is called “the easiest cake ever” because it contains only 5 ingredients and it’s prepared in a blender! It can also be prepared gluten-free. (it calls for only 2 tablespoons of ANY flour – and when I tested the recipe, I used rice flour with great results).

It was a memorable day – full of reminiscing and laughter all at a relaxed pace; in part made possible by simply prepping the meal the day before.

hazelnut cake (a.k.a. the easiest cake ever)


  • 1 (one) cup hazelnuts (skins left on)
  • 2 (two) tablespoons flour (any kind – use rice flour for gluten-free)
  • 2½ (two-and-one-half) teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ (three-quarters) cup sugar or honey
  • 4 (four) eggs


  • Preheat oven to 350º F.
  • Place nuts in a blender and blend on high speed until they are finely ground.
  • Add all other ingredients to the blender and blend until everything is incorporated.
  • Pour batter into a parchment lined 9” by 9” square cake pan.
  • Bake at 350º F for 20 – 30 minutes. Test with toothpick.
  • Serve with ice cream or Devon cream or whipped cream and berries

catering, gourmet food shop, gift baskets