Monday, February 28, 2011

trader joe's

Last Sunday, a few of us from the shop drove to Ann Arbor, Michigan for a mini "foodie" getaway. Ann Arbor is one of my favourite food towns because that's where Zingerman's is located (more on Zingermans in an upcoming post!) as well as Trader Joe's, a mid-size specialty grocery store with great finds and reasonable prices. Trader Joe's is a privately held company located in 9 states, with the mission to sell "innovative, hard-to-find, great tasting foods" to it's customers.
Even in the midst of a snowstorm (on a Sunday! and at 2 p.m.!) the store was packed. TJ's is jammed with interesting (and delicious) items - specialty produce, sushi, great cheeses, meats, frozen prepared meals, snacks, tons of sweets, baking, chocolate and wine. I've never tried any of their prepared fresh or frozen foods or meats before (I don't want to bother with the hassle of trying to take those items over the border, plus, I've noticed that there are preservatives and artificial ingredients in their prepared food). However - there are many other items that make it into my shopping cart every time I visit, such as:
-flattened banana (dried, flattened bananas, John loves these)
-dried strawberries, blueberries, cherries....(great for baking and tiny fingers - John!)
-marcona almonds (an awesome sweet and salty snack)
-gorgonzola crackers...yum
-mini cookies - almond thins + crispy oatmeal chocolate chip are my fav's
-microwave-ready brown rice and lime coconut rice (for emergency situations!)
-all kinds of sea salts - such as alaea hawaiian sea salt for $3
-great snack foods like kettle corn, fried and dried snap peas, roasted seaweed snacks...
-old moon zinfandel from California...great wine for $6!

Here's a recipe from their website that sounds delish! (
Pear And Brie Fancy Flatbread 1 Lavosh Bread (Regular or Whole Wheat)
1 Pear, thinly sliced
8 ounces (or so) Brie, cubed or torn into small pieces
2-3 slices Prosciutto, sliced thin
2-3 tablespoons Organic Brown Sugar
1 cup Wild Arugula

Preheat the Oven to 375°. Layer the lavosh with the pear slices, pieces of Brie, prosciutto and sugar, in that order. Bake for 5-6 minutes until the Lavosh is golden brown and the sugar has caramelized.
Top with Baby Arugula and serve.

Serves: 4 to 6 as an appetizer
Cooking Time: 5-10 minutes

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

recipe: pan seared scallops with leek and tarragon creme

It’s official, February is my least favourite month.  I know it’s ridiculous for me to be mad at the snow – but I am.  My husband has been less than enthusiastic as well, but at least he has an excuse – we have a corner lot complete with sidewalks, and he does all the shoveling. 

However, I am trying quite hard to be grateful on the days when the sun shines, and to remember that February must have a least a few positive qualities.  Well, we’re now 12 days into February, and I can only think of two:

Valentine’s Day.  I cherish the homemade cards that David makes for me and let’s not forget that Valentine’s Day means that we can eat chocolate for breakfast, lunch and dinner guilt-free.

The Academy Awards.  I love the Oscars!  Apparently I’m not alone, as an estimated 40 million viewers tune in to watch.  I’m not sure what I like better – the actual awards or seeing what everyone is wearing on the red carpet.  At my house, Oscar night always involves a bottle of bubbly, and of course, plenty of delicious, rich food (because when there’s this much snow on the ground, it’s hard to believe that swimsuit season will ever return).  Oh, and there are also the snide remarks from my husband who instead of watching the show, invariably chooses to work in his office just within earshot of the tv.

This year, I’ll be making these delicious scallops in a leek and tarragon cream sauce.  The credit goes to Trish Magwood.  I learned to make these while working at her cooking school/café/retail shop/catering business in Toronto called Dish Cooking Studio.  I haven’t decided yet how I’m going to serve them – they’re wonderful with frisée greens (as per the recipe) but they’re also delicious tossed with fresh pasta or on a baguette as a bruschetta.  If you’re hosting an Academy Awards party, you can serve individual scallops with a dollop of sauce on porcelain, Asian spoons, or endive leaves.

pan seared scallops with leek & tarragon crème (serves 6)


§         3 (three) large or 5 (five) small scallops per person
§         2 (two) tablespoons vegetable oil
§         1 (one) tablespoon butter
§         1 (one) tablespoon olive oil
§         4 (four) shallots, sliced
§         2 (two) leeks, white part only, sliced
§         3 (three) cloves garlic, minced
§         1 (one) cup white wine
§         1/2 (one-half) cup 35% cream
§         2 (two) tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
§         1 (one) bunch fresh tarragon
§         frisée greens for garnish
§         1 (one) baguette
§         1/4 (one-quarter) cup olive oil
§         salt and pepper


1.       In a large heavy skillet, heat vegetable oil until almost smoking.  Pat scallops dry with paper towel, then season scallops with salt and freshly cracked pepper.  Pan sear on each side for 2-3 minutes or until golden.  Remove scallops. (note: do not crowd the pan with too many scallops – you will need to sear in batches).
2.       To the pan, add butter and a dash of olive oil.  Sauté shallots and leeks until fragrant, about 6 minutes.  Add minced garlic and sauté for another 2-3 minutes.
3.       Add white wine, scraping up any stuck bits.  Add cream and cook, reducing liquid to about half.  Finish with parmesan and freshly chopped tarragon leaves.  Season again with salt and pepper.
4.       Lightly toss frisée with a pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil.
5.       Place greens in center of plate, top with cooked scallops.  Drizzle with tarragon crème and garnish with 2 crostini per person.
Note – if you like a lot of sauce (or plan to serve the scallops with pasta) then double the sauce component.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Healthy Breakfast Shake

Since the new year, I've been trying to start the day with a healthy breakfast. Truthfully, I'd love to start everyday with poundcake (like yesterday, but it was a Sunday so it doesn't count, right?) but this shake is far healthier and more filling. My husband finds it hard to eat a meal in the morning but he has no problem downing one of these protein-packed shakes. I started making shakes after reading Dr. Joey Shulman's "Healthy Sin Foods" book. The protein powder is filling and adding the ground flaxseed is a great way to boost your intake of omega-3 fats. Great for digestion, too. You can buy the flaxseeds whole (and grind them yourself in a coffee maker) but I prefer to buy pre-ground flaxseed which I keep in the fridge. Don't add whole flaxseed because it's hard to crack and may pass through the body intact.
Healthy Breakfast Shake - serves 2
2 cups low fat milk (note: can use almond or soya milk instead, if desired)
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
2 scoops vanilla protein powder (I like the brand Proteins +, which you can find at Zehrs in the natural food section, with the protein bars)
1 medium (peeled) banana,
frozen 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Add all ingredients into a blender and blend for about 10 seconds.

Pour into 2 glasses and serve.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

tina’s mushroom-topped brie - recipe: mushroom-topped brie

Do you think you have the recipe for a product worthy of lining national supermarket shelves, fridges and freezers? I recently read about a new Canadian competitive reality TV show called Recipes to Riches.
According to their website (, “the new original series gives ordinary Canadians with extraordinary recipes a once-in-a-lifetime shot to exhibit their talent on TV with the possibility of their recipe making it onto the shelves of select Loblaw Companies Limited grocery stores across the country”.
There are seven different food categories, including appetizers, sweet and savoury snacks, cakes, pies, savoury pies, freezable entrees and frozen treats. The winner of each category will receive a $25,000 cash prize and each category winner will go head-to-head to compete for the grand prize of $250,000. That will be the largest cash prize in Canadian reality TV history.
I’d love to enter the contest myself, but its strictly open to “home” chefs... which got me thinking about one of the best home chefs I know — my friend Tina Roberts. I’ve written about her before, and I’m sure I’ll write about her again.
Immediately after I sent Tina the press release, she e-mailed me back and wrote, “Your subject line definitely got my attention. I think I will enter — for sure the brie.” Tina is famous for her to-die-for marinated brie and blueberry drizzle salad (recipes can be found online at but her latest creation is this delectable mushroom-topped brie, also award-worthy. Tina surprised me and the rest of the Dana Shortt Gourment team in December by bringing us this brie and a crusty baguette as a special holiday treat.
Good luck, Tina!
Tina’s mushroom-topped brie
ingredients for brie
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 pound fresh-sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup minced sweet onion
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 200 gram brie, top rind removed.
    (Tina suggests that you use a cheese slicer to remove the top of the brie as it works well and doesn’t remove too much of the brie.)

ingredients for garnish
  • 1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Heat oil in a medium sized frying pan over medium heat.
  • Add the mushrooms, onion, garlic, rosemary and thyme.
  • Sauté for four to six minutes, stirring occasionally and until mushroom liquid has evaporated.
  • Add balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and cook until liquid has evaporated.
  • Cool slightly and then top brie with mushroom mixture.
  • Place brie in brie baker, oven proof sauté pan or dish.
  • Bake brie for eight to 10 minutes or until hot.
  • Sprinkle brie with walnuts and parsley.
  • Serve warm brie with fresh baguette, crackers or flatbreads.

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