August 27, 2010

I have been on a butternut squash roll lately. Even though it's more of a winter vegetable, I have found it so versatile and delicious. Whether it's roasted, mashed, pureed or chunky, I can't seem to get enough. They are also kind of odd looking, which adds to their charm. 


First, I made Butternut Squash soup from this Food Network recipe (minus the truffle oil). This was the first time I had made Butternut Squash soup. The soup cooked for quite awhile, but once it was done, it was creamy, comforting and lovely.


It was perfect with some rye bread and Parmesan cheese on top. Then, I made a Butternut squash and red lentil dal. This recipe makes a substantial meal paired with naan bread. The topping, called "tarka," is a mix of caramelized onions, chilies and garlic. Check out the recipe here.



Awhile back, I invented my own curry recipe using Butternut squash and mango. I adapted the recipe from a few "Mango Coconut Curry" recipes I found.



Butternut squash and mango curry with raisins:Ingredients:

1/2 of a butternut squash
1 yellow onion
1 mango
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup mango coconut curry sauce
1 clove of garlic
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 tbsp curry paste

Directions:

1. Dice, peel and core the Butternut Squash and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes.
2. Make a curry base by cooking the onions, garlic, ginger and curry paste in a pot until the onions start to brown about 10 minutes.
3. Add the roasted butternut squash and let simmer for about 20 minutes.
4. For the sauce, add the "Mango Coconut Curry sauce" (cheating a little bit, I know) and the tomato sauce.
5. Add the mango and raisins closer to serving time. They just need to be warmed and not cooked.
6. Serve with rice and naan bread.
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August 26, 2010

We took a mini-vacation last week to New York City.

I had dreamed of seeing New York for ages, ever since my musical theatre obsession began (I know pretty much every Broadway song ever written). So I was beyond excited to finally see the "city that never sleeps." We tried to see everything in 4 days, but of course, that task was impossible. However, we did see two Broadway shows while we were there. We lined up for rush tickets and got half-price tickets to "Billy Elliot" and "Promises, Promises." Both were amazing shows and I am still humming the songs from them.

Another thing I loved about New York City was the food! Thanks to our Lonely Planet guidebook, we found some great restaurants. Here are a few awesome places that we visited:


Across the street from the Chrysler Building, 99 cent Pizza fuels the business lunch crowd looking for a cheap bite. I literally handed the cashier a crisp dollar bill and got a slice of pizza in return. The pizza itself was quite simple, nothing extravagant, but a solid meal for one dollar!



The next place was the famous Magnolia Bakery. If you watch Sex and the City then you'll about this cupcake lover's heaven. For $3.25, you get a delicious moist cupcake with a mound of creamy buttercream icing on top. I got two cupcakes and I could barely finish the second one.




The red velvet flavour was my favourite. It was so light and fluffy with a dollop of vanilla icing. 


(Me in front of the bakery)

Apparently, all of New York knows about these great deals, because the next place we went to was the busiest restaurant I had ever seen. Katz's Deli is famous for their mile-high pastrami and Reuben sandwiches and is also "famous" for this scene in "When Harry met Sally:"



Well, we did have what she had. The sandwich, I mean. Mike fought his way to the counter amidst a huge crowd while I staked out two seats amongst a sea of dishes and fellow sandwich lovers. We decided to share one classic Pastrami sandwich and that was satisfying enough for me. This is only place I ever pay $15 for a sandwich because it was so worth it.




We found some other gems near our hotel on the Upper West Side too, but alas no pictures. On our first night, we ate at an amazing --and very affordable-- Thai place called Land Restaurant on 82nd and Amsterdam.

The next night before the show, we ate at Sara Beth's. I had a wonderful three-course lobster special for only $29. Zabars was also a great lunch place for a satisfying deli sandwich and gourmet snacks.

New York was a vibrant place with so much history and culture. I officially heart N.Y.


(taken from the "Top of the Rock" observation deck)
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August 25, 2010

A few weekends ago, Mike and I ventured to the lovely town of Stratford, Ontario to see “Kiss me Kate.” The Stratford Shakespeare Festival produces world-renowned theatre, but what I didn’t know was that Stratford is also an ideal destination for chocolate lovers. When I heard about the “Stratford Chocolate Trail”, I thought it sounded like heaven, and like Halloween for big kids! The trail consists of 16 stops, including three chocolate shops and various restaurants and shops with chocolate specialities. The “Choco-Pass” costs $20 and entitles you to visit 8 of the 16 stops for a chocolate tasting. 

With only an hour to spare before the show, we got a pass (to share), a map and a big bag for the goodies and set off down the trail. Lucky for us, most of the stops were close to each other on the main street of Stratford (Ontario St.). 

Our first stop was Chocolate Barr's Candies where we picked two chic truffles: a Lavender and an Ice wine truffle. Both of the truffles had quite strong flavourings, but the chocolate itself still tasted smooth and rich. 


Then, at Macleod's Scottish Shop, we received an adorable package of British treats, including a Cadbury Flake bar, a Curly Wurly bar and a Penguin Chocolate Biscuit. As someone with British heritage, I was ecstatic to see Cadbury Flake, as the bars were a treat my British Grandparents used to give me. The Flake bars are delicious by themselves, but are also perfect crumbled up on top of ice cream. 


The next stop on the street was Bradshaw's -- a lovely kitchen accessories store-- where we received a plastic wine tumbler with Brix dark chocolate. The chocolate was supposed to be paired with wine at another stop on the trail, but alas, we had no time to relax with a glass of wine. We were on a chocolate sampling mission, after all! 

We continued on our hurried pace and stopped at  Kitchen Connaisseur where we received a small jar of chocolate mocha cooking sauce. The shop had a beautiful variety of cooking sauces, spices and specialty foods. Hopefully I will make it back there sometime to grab a jar of their famous Curry and Cream sauce. 


With little time to spare before the show, we headed to the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. I had visited their stores before, so I knew to expect wonderful homemade fudge. I picked a half pound piece of chocolate nut flavoured fudge out of the many flavours, such as Grand Marnier, Oreo, Maple Walnut and Mint Chocolate. By this point, my bag was getting heavy with chocolate goods, so we decided to save the last few tickets for after the show.

After the show, we went for dinner at Simple Fish and Chips (no chocolate specialities here, but just classic fish and chips). The owners pride themselves on their sustainable fish and unique batter flavours, such as lemon pepper, lime chilli, whole wheat and Cajun. I ordered Mussels in a tomato wine broth with a side of popcorn shrimp. 


For dessert, we used one of the last tickets for a huge slice of chocolate mousse cheesecake at Let them Eat Cake. We had to take the cake to-go because of its enormous size, but it made a great midnight snack. Unfortunately, because of time restrictions, we only visited 6 out of 8 stops, but I still came away with more chocolate than I will need for awhile. Check out our stash of chocolate goodies:


To purchase a Chocolate Trail pass, visit http://www.welcometostratford.com/chocolatetrail/index.html or a Stratford Tourism Alliance office

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