Vinnyssoise – Chilled leek & sweet potato soup bowls


“It’s the  great pumpkin bowl, Vinny Grette!” Isla tied on her apron furiously, then began pulling out pots and spoons and cream. “For Halloween, we’ll make some creamy soup and dish it up in bowls made from jack-o’lanterns.”

“Awesome!” said Vinny. “My granddad made a wonderful soup he called Vichyssoise.” Vinny’s voice became softer and rang with a little sadness. “But Grandpa used mainly potatoes. The starch in potatoes is a simple molecule that turns into sugar as soon as it hits our stomachs. I haven’t had  vichyssoise in ages.”

“I have an idea,” said Isla. “Let’s try the soup with sweet potatoes instead. Orange ones for Halloween. We can call it Vinnyssoise!”

Vinny beamed. “My favorite veggie!” And with that, the two of them got to work.

pumpkin bowls

Five tiny pie-pumpkins make 10 bowls fit for the Great Pumpkin’s dinner party. Slice off the stem to make a base for the bowls.

In spite of its French name, Wikipedia credits  America with inventing Vichyssoise. But still, it was a French chef  inspired at his mother’s knee who made it popular, just after the first world war. His name was Louis Diat, chef at the Ritz-Carlton in New York City. Diat told the  New Yorker in 1950 how it came about:

In the summer of 1917, when I had been at the Ritz seven years, I reflected upon the potato and leek soup of my childhood, which my mother and grandmother used to make. I recalled how during the summer my older brother and I used to cool it off by pouring in cold milk and how delicious it was. I resolved to make something of the sort for the patrons of the Ritz.

“I like your idea, Isla,” Vinny said. “I’m honored you’d name it after me. This soup is not only a dish fit for the Great Pumpkin, it’s also a fine remembrance of the men and women who fought for our freedom in the Great War.”

“My teacher said it’s been 100 years since the first world war was declared,” said Isla. “And Diat introduced his soup to the world while Canadians were winning in the battle of Vinny Ridge.”

“It’s Vimy Ridge, Isla,” Vinny corrected. ” That victory in France was credited with defining the moment Canada became a nation. Let’s get to work. Halloween and Remembrance Day are just around the corner!”


8-10 servings

  • 3 large leeks, the white parts only, well rinsed and chopped (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2  cups thinly sliced sweet potatoes (2 medium tubers, washed and peeled)
  • 4 cups chicken stock (I had some homemade in the freezer)
  • salt to taste
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  1. In a heavy soup pot on medium-low heat, gently cook the chopped leeks and onion in butter until soft, about 15 minutes. Do NOT let them brown.
  2. Add potatoes and stock to the saucepan. Salt and pepper to taste; do not overdo them! Bring to the boil, then simmer very gently for 30 minutes.
  3. Puree in a blender or food processor until very smooth. I used an immersion hand mixer right in the soup pot, then transferred the soup to a blender to puree in batches.
  4. I finished by putting the soup through a sieve, because it was a special occasion. It came out silky smooth.
  5. Cool in the fridge for several hours. This is one soup you could make a day ahead. Gently stir in the cream before serving. I garnished the bowls with a dab of skim-milk foam from our espresso maker. I got ten generous 1-cup servings.

Adapted from

How does this dish stack up, health-wise?

The good news is that the starchy carbs from the sweet potato are low glycemic, which is a good thing for your blood sugar levels. The bowl provides an excellent source of Vitamin A (50% of daily requirement) and other powerful antioxidants known to fight off chronic diseases. Leeks are also diuretic, removing excess water from your tissues, which helps to detox your body. The soup is also a good source of B vitamins, vitamin C and iron.

The bad news is the high amounts of saturated fats in the cream and butter, which are thought to contribute to heart problems. I use cream and butter only for special occasions, because they do taste so good:). But I also substitute skim milk and coconut oil for everyday use. The soup still tastes great with the low-fat substitutions, so go for it if cholesterol and saturated fats are a problem for you.

With the cream and butter, each 1-cup serving has 190 Calories, 12 grams fat (including more than half from the dangerous saturated kind and cholesterol), 3.5 grams protein from the broth and cream, and 17.5 grams carbohydrates of which 3 grams are fiber and 5 grams are sugar (from the cream and sweet potatoes).






Boo! Happy Halloween from the Great Pumpkin!

A cake cup for Krista

cake cups

The candles spluttered out in a blast of air, as 9-year-old Krista blew across her birthday cake and made a wish.

“What did you wish for?” asked Vinny. “A unicorn for the backyard shed? A chest of gold Lego?”

“No… and no,” said Krista. “I wished I was skinny!”

“What? No!” Vinny was aghast. More

Jack Spratt’s breakfast beets

beets and eggs for breakfast

“Oww. Yikes! Moan…” said Jack, clutching the source of his agony with greasy hands… his bloated belly.

“Hey, Man,” said a worried Vinny. “What in heck did you eat this time, to cause all this grief?”

“All I had was a bite of Mama’s fish and chips. You know I don’t usually eat fried stuff, Vinny. But Mama’s fish and chips? I just couldn’t turn that down, and…” Just then another cramp hit, sending Jack into spasms of pain.

Vinny suspected it was Jack’s gall bladder acting up. Normally, gall bladders just chug along doing what they do naturally… releasing bile into the intestine to help break down food, especially fat. But when gall stones come into the picture, look out. If one of those babies gets jammed in the tube leading from the gall bladder to the intestine, inflammation causes THE  worst pain a guy will ever experience. When bile can’t get to where it’s needed, in your gut, the fat just sits there… with no place to go. Excruciating!

The doc confirmed Vinny’s suspicions. “Jack Spratt can eat no fat,” he intoned, while kneading the right side of Jack’s sore tummy. The pain shot up Jack’s shoulder and pierced his back.

“Never again,” yelped Jack. “But if I can’t eat fat, what can I eat?”

“No saturated fats, whatsoever,” the doc began. “So no red meats, no butter, no cream, no sugary baked goods, no ice cream, no creamy cheeses. All those foods increase your cholesterol, from which those pesky gallstones are made. “

“Okay, okay,” muttered Jack. “I get it. No saturated fat. But what CAN I eat?”


Use the leaves, too

Beets,” announced the doc. “Lots and lots of beets. Including the leaves.”

“Yuck!” said Jack.

Vinny smiled. He loved beets. And Vinny had never suffered from gall stones.

“Beets contain something called betaine,” the doc said. “Betaine is a powerful tonic for the gall bladder. Learn to love beets and avoid saturated fats, and you may not need to have your gall bladder taken out surgically.”

Jack moaned again. The thought of a knife slicing through his stomach was decidedly unpleasant. “No operation!” he ordered. “I’ll do anything. I’ll even eat beets! What else should I know?”

“You do need a little fat, of the healthy variety,” the doc said. “I recommend fats like flax seed and avocado oil, as well as coconut oil and fish oil. You need omega-3s and medium-chain fatty acids from these foods to be in top health. Also, lots of fruits and veggies that add fiber. But beets. Beets are bile’s best friend. Beets can make a real difference.”

“I can help there,” said Vinny. “If you’re not allergic to eggs, here’s a great way to have beets for breakfast.”

beets and eggs for breakfast

Serve in a pretty bowl, or on a crispy leaf of lettuce or slice of toasted whole-grain bread, for breakfast or lunch.

Jack Spratt’s beety breakfast bowl
Serves one

  • 1 hard-boiled egg, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup cooked beets, chopped
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon honey mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh lemon juice, squeezed over, to taste (optional)

Mix all the chopped ingredients together in a bowl. Adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. I love honey mustard in this recipe, but if you use a nonsweetened mustard or some other flavoring like horseradish or salsa verde, or pureed jalapeno, you might want to add a little sweetener, too. I use stevia for this purpose, a no-calorie, all natural sweet food.

I usually cook up a whole batch of beets and hard-boiled eggs, and store left-overs in the fridge. The left-over eggs can be used in salads or simply as a snack when hunger strikes. The left-over beets can be warmed for a veggie side or used in soups, salads or hummus.

Of course, you don’t need to have suffered from gall stones to enjoy this meal. Having beets regularly will keep anybody’s gall bladder in top operating order.

And don’t throw out the leaves. They’re loaded with betaine. Besides, you need the leaves to make my favorite company dish of all time… ta-da… Beetniks.

Beetniks are ready to serve!

Beetniks are ready to serve!

This is beet season in Canada. Fresh, lovely beets are available by the bushel. Vinny has posted many times about beets’ magical, healing properties. His recipes should give you some ideas for serving beets in ways your family can learn to love. Why don’t you tell us all about your own beet-eating adventures?

  • Hummus: Pretty in pink – Try the Cinderella of the hummus crowd, a beet and garbanzo duo that knocks your slippers off!  The flavor and color of this dish come from the pickled beet. This versatile dish delivers fiber, antioxidants and betaine. A princely dish for your gall bladder!
  • Beetniks: A winning formula – Sonny and Cher show us how beets can give you the edge in your next race. Use the leaves of beets to make beetniks, a wildly popular party food on the prairies. Go Riders Go!
  • The Queen’s beets – Let them eat cake - Find out how the King of France made his wife, Marie Antoinette, a happy, healthy lady. Make a moist, delectable chocolate cake yourself, using beets and stevia to reduce the fat and sugar in every slice.

Carrots for dessert? Add grapes and go!


A duck walked up to a lemonade stand. And he said to the man
running the stand… “Hey…. Got any grapes?”

The man said, “No, we just sell lemonade.  It’s cold and it’s fresh and it’s all home made.  Can I get you a glass?” The duck said, “I’ll pass.” (waddle waddle waddle)

I feel just like that persistent little duckie in Bryant Oden’s wickedly humorous song who wouldn’t give up until he found some grapes.

Unlike the duck, when I find grapes I know just what I’ll do with them. More

It’s national macadamia-nut day today!

Macadamia nut tea cake

A tropical tea cake for your sweetie

Many months back I posted about how our Miss Macadamia, with her low omega-6 fatty acids,  offers a treasure chest of healthy, stable fats for your dining pleasure.

Today, in honor of Macadamia’s special day, I’m reposting a delicious recipe for you to try out, featuring macadamia nuts and their oil. More

How Olive Oyl and Popeye became an item

Olive Oyl is heart friendly

Olive Oyl is heart friendly

Olive Oyl, a popular comic strip character of the 1920s, is named after olive oil… a healthy choice for vinaigrettes. Early newspapers  also featured  Olive’s brother, Castor Oyl, and his wife, Cylinda Oyl… as well as my personal favorite, the intrepid explorer Lubry Kent Oyl.

Lubry Kent’s gift to Castor and Olive led them into the adventure where they met Popeye, the sailor man. As it turned out, Popeye was mad for spinach. And the perfect match for spinach is none other than the lovely Olive Oyl!

But why did Olive Oyl’s creators choose spinach as Popeye’s passion?  It all hinged on one little mistake, a mistake that launched the first modern super-food. More

Getting in the groceries that send cancer packing


The magic word is SALADS

According to Dr. Li, we can start today, keeping cancer at bay. Just eat more foods  that slow the growth of blood vessels.

While we’re stuffing our faces with these healthy foods, we’re starving cancer-cell invaders in their tracks.

The foods that do the job aren’t mysterious mumbo jumbo harvested at the ends of the earth. More

The little cream dressing that could. . . . . . . It even makes kale taste great!


Creamy Mediterranean-style dressing

Kale has a problem

The big problem with kale is it’s just too good-for-you to be truly loved, except by a few die-hard health nuts.

Some of you may think I’m one of those crazy people who will eat any vile substance as long as somebody says it will banish love handles… or wrinkles… or some life-threatening disease.

Well, yes and no. If there really was a magic potion that would do those things for me safely, I’d be at the head of the table. More

Building your salads in jars, Lego-style!

Lego salad!

Lego salad!

I used to find salads a chore, not worth the trouble. All that washing, peeling, chopping. All that, only to end up with tasteless, watery, rabbit food.

But then I discovered Lego. This fab toy taught me a trick or two about salads.

Remember Emmet, from the Lego Movie? It hit me when he sang, “Everything is awesome when you’re part of a team.” What is salad if not a well-oiled team??? More

Vinny Grette’s best vinaigrettes


Beet and apple vinaigrette. Full of fight-o-nutrients!

Will waved his grandpa’s cane in front of him, as if he were fending off a stampeding herd of dinosaurs. “Fight-O-nutrients!” he roared, charging across the room. “I need some for lunch, please, Vinny?”

I braced for a high five, as Will raced back toward me, his free hand raised, his sword hand busy. “Gotta keep my energy up!”

No problemo,” I said. “It’s summer time and the livin’-healthy thing is easy. Just eat lots of bright veggies and fruits, and phytonutrients are yours for the taking. These are salad days!”

“Salads are boring. And I hate veggies,” moaned Will. “Isn’t there something else?” More

Birthday cake for a country

Happy Birthday, Canada!

Happy Birthday, Canada!

Canada Day in Ottawa, our nation’s capital, is always a great party. The city closes down and the roads are open only to buses, people, and entertainers. The past few years, even our own street joined in the fun, with party food for the neighborhood, everybody bringing something special. Vinny brought his “Jubilation” – a cake made by the young Elizabeth during the war, before she was queen, when sugar was at a premium and food was hard to come by. Here’s the story of how “Jubilation” came to be, which I first published a few years back. More

Tommy Tucker’s brown bread… cheesy and barbecued

Baked cheesy bread

Little Tommy Tucker sings for his supper, What shall we give him? Brown bread and butter. How shall he cut it without a knife? How shall he marry without a wife?

Isla was entertaining us for the 17th time one morning with her latest ditty, as I took my sharp, serrated blade from the rack and a round, seedy loaf of whole-grain bread from the cupboard. She stopped and raised her shoulders, palms out.  “Hey, Vinny, why doesn’t Tommy have a knife?”

“I suspect the poor kid was on the streets,” I answered. “The poem was written… like 200 years ago. If you didn’t have a family to look after you then and you More

Jeremy’s take on kale

Boiled dressing = easy and delicious!

Kale with pears, pomegranate and boiled dressing = easy and delicious!

I’ve been busy with family in the midst of a big move and exotic holidays. So Vinny has been on sabbatical!

But I saw this cute cartoon on Kathy Man’s blog the other day and Jeremy made me laugh. Maybe you’ll like it too :).


kale cartoon849


Jeremy might even prompt you to have a look at Vinny’s earlier posts on kale. One (in the photo at the top) is an easy salad with a tasty boiled dressing.

Another combines kale with coconut oil… and chocolate! How can you go wrong? Just be sure to follow the technique, or the kale chips could end up looking and tasting like wet noodles, swimming in squid ink. Oh no!

coconut oil

Make chocolate chips from the notorious kale using some extra healthy coconut oil.

As Jeremy points out, Kale is often not the most popular kid on the block. But with a few tips, it can be delicious. Do Jeremy’s mom a favor. Forward this link on to her, so maybe she can learn how to make kale in ways even a teenager might like!

Crown the meal with savory pear taquitos



Here it is, folks… a fabulous dessert filled with protein, vitamins and minerals and topped off with great taste.. the finale of our Mediterranean small plates evening. It’s surprisingly easy, too.

I made the little rolls a couple of days ahead and froze them on a baking sheet. On party day, they went straight from the freezer into my preheated oven at dessert time, and in a few minutes they were ready to plate.

I bought the phyllo dough, so all I had to do was defrost it in the fridge overnight on the day of assembly. I made the lavender honey and spiced sugar in the morning so they had time to develop flavors.  The pear filling was easy to make, too.

Just read the whole recipe before you start. Prepare all your ingredients in the order I suggest. Make up your rolls a few days ahead. And plate your dessert after you take the little beauties from the oven on party day. Easy peasy!

Savory pear taquitos
Serves 8

Lavender Honey

•    1 cup mild honey
•    1 tablespoon dried lavender buds (or 2 tablespoons fresh buds)

1.     In small saucepan, combine honey and lavender. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
2.     Remove from heat and set aside to steep 30 minutes.
3.     Strain honey into heat-proof bowl. Discard lavender.

Spiced sugar
•    1/2 cup sugar
•    1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1.   Mix well and set aside to develop flavor

•    ½ teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
•    3 bosc or Bartlett pears, cored and sliced
•    1/4 cup butter
•    1 1/2 tablespoons spiced sugar (recipe above)
•    splash of cognac
•    1 teaspoon lemon juice
•    1 teaspoon water
•    1 teaspoon cornstarch

1.     In a small cup, mix the cornstarch with the water and lemon.
2.     In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, saute the pears in butter and rosemary, about 2 minutes until tender.
3.     Add 1½  tablespoons of the spiced sugar and a splash of cognac.
4.     Stir into pears.
5.     Add the cornstarch mix and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat.

Assemble taquitos
•    8 sheets phyllo dough
•    butter-flavored cooking spray
•    3 tablespoons spiced sugar (recipe above)
•    2 cups soft goat cheese
•    1/4 cup ground pistachios for garnish

1.     Set oven at 375F.
2.     Spray baking sheet with oil.
3.     Evenly stack sheets of phyllo.
4.     Slice stack in half lengthwise and cover the stack with a barely damp towel.
5.     Remove one piece of phyllo and spritz it with spray, especially at the edges.
6.     Sprinkle lightly with ½ teaspoon spiced sugar.
7.     Put 1 tablespoon of the pear filling at one end and roll up toward the other end. Press ends together. Place on baking sheet, loose side down. Freeze at this point until ready to use.
8.     Spray the tops with oil and sprinkle with a bit more sugar.
9.     Bake 15-20 minutes, until golden and crisp.
10.     Serve warm or at room temperature, each with 1/4 cup goat cheese, 2 tablespoons honey drizzle, and 1 tablespoon pistachios.

The verdict?

I ran this recipe through EaTracker and was pleasantly surprised.

The damage: 390 calories for two taquitos served with goat cheese, honey and pistachios. You get 30 grams of the demon sugar and 10 grams of saturated fat. This is a fairly modest count, compared with most desserts!

On the plus side: You get 10 grams unsaturated fat (the good kind), 10 grams of protein to slow the sugar absorption, and 15% of your daily fiber requirement (3 grams).

This dessert is an excellent source of iron, vitamin A, vitamin E, thiamine, niacin, vitamin B6, and riboflavin. It is also a good source of folate and calcium.

What a wonderfully delicious  way to crown a great dinner party with good health!


Vinny cooks up an internet dinner - For the full menu and other recipe links to this delicious meal

The main attraction: Ancho sauce and caramelized onions adorn Spanish pork loin

Spring gourmet main course

Pork with Sardinian fennel and mushroom risotto on the side

Now that you’re nicely warmed up with a pleasant cocktail and a savory appetizer, we’ll move right along to the star of the meal. Vinny rubs a large, lean pork tenderloin with a blend of dried ancho chili pepper and other spices. The meat rests in the fridge for up to a day ahead.

On the day of the party, we make the sides:

Then we caramelize the onions and make the ancho sauce.

We make all these things well ahead of the guests’ arrival.

We need 30 minutes to barbecue the pork and another 10 minutes to prepare the plates. Tip: Consider barbecuing the pork BEFORE you serve the appetizer, so your guests don’t have too long a wait between the courses (another lesson we learn the hard way).

As Vinny’s blog is more about what to cook rather than how to cook in detail, we  hope the info below is decent enough that you can make this pork dish for your own guests. I think they’ll thank you for it!

Spanish pork loin with ancho sauce and caramelized onions
serves 8

  • 2 pounds pork tenderloin
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2  tablespoons smoked or sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoons dried and powdered ancho chilies
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons  ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground fennel
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 red onions peeled and sliced thin
  • 2 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 8 dried ancho chilies, stemmed and steeped in hot water, then finely chopped
  • 2 cups maple syrup
  • 1 cup finely chopped cilantro, Italian parsley and rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons truffle oil to garnish

Prepare pork
1.     In a small bowl, combine paprika, ancho powder, mustard, coriander, cumin, fennel, pepper, and salt. Rub oil on pork, then pat with spice mixture to coat. Set in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

Caramelize onions
2.     In a hot skillet cook onions on low in oil with cover on until they lose their water. This takes at least half an hour. Then take off the cover and up the heat. When the onions are limp and browned, add 1 teaspoon maple syrup. Set aside and rewarm to serve.

Make ancho sauce
3.     In a small sauce pan, combine red wine, ancho chilies, and syrup. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a very slow bubble and allow to cook until you have  a sticky syrup. Set aside and reheat at serving time.

Grill pork
4. Preheat barbecue to medium high. Grill pork until browned on all sides, and a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of meat reads 155°, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let rest 10 minutes. Cut into slices to serve.

Serve the meal on warm, individual dinner plates
5.     Put fennel on one side
6.     Slice the pork thin and fan three or four slices beside the fennel, in the centre
7.     Add a spoonful of risotto on the other side
8.     Spoon ancho sauce on the meat and top with onions.
9.     Decorate the plate with drops of sauce.
10.    Drizzle truffle oil
11.     Garnish with chopped green herbs

About ancho chilies

When is chili pepper not an ancho? When it’s a poblano! As it turns out, the ancho is the sweetest of the dried chiles and is a staple in authentic Mexican cooking. It’s the mildest of all the hot peppers, with a sweet smokey warm flavor. But before it’s smoked and dried, it’s known as a poblano pepper.

I never liked chili much – all those dried beans and powdery flavorless spices… couldn’t see the point. Then I ran across two chefs who changed my mind about the whole scene: Bobby Flay who single-handedly popularized south western cuisine, and Richard McGary of REM Cooks, whose peppery dishes are easy to whip up and always delicious.

So I started experimenting. I’ve been amazed at the results and urge you to try too.

If you love peppers for their heat, you’ll be interested in this. All chile peppers (including ancho) contain a substance called capsaicin. The more capsaicin the hotter the chili. This substance has very real health benefits. It’s an inhibitor of something called Substance P,  which is triggers the inflammatory process. The simple explanation works something like this: capsaicin inhibits Substance P from causing inflammation…at least it slows it down. That means people who suffer from inflammation pain (like arthritis) will find relief with capsaicin.

Eating pepper or chile powder may also have cardiovascular benefits by protecting the fats in your blood from free-radicals. Chile peppers also give your immunity system a boost with their concentrated levels of beta-carotene and Vitamin A.

But watch out! The very substances that give chile peppers their health benefits can cause a lot of discomfort on your skin. Wash your hands after handling all chile peppers and chile pepper powder. And definitely don’t touch your face or eyes while handling this spice. It hurts!

- See more at:

If you love peppers for their heat, you’ll be interested in this. All chile peppers (including ancho) contain a substance called capsaicin. The more capsaicin the hotter the chili. This substance has very real health benefits. It’s an inhibitor of something called Substance P,  which is triggers the inflammatory process. The simple explanation works something like this: capsaicin inhibits Substance P from causing inflammation…at least it slows it down. That means people who suffer from inflammation pain (like arthritis) will find relief with capsaicin.

Eating pepper or chile powder may also have cardiovascular benefits by protecting the fats in your blood from free-radicals. Chile peppers also give your immunity system a boost with their concentrated levels of beta-carotene and Vitamin A.

But watch out! The very substances that give chile peppers their health benefits can cause a lot of discomfort on your skin. Wash your hands after handling all chile peppers and chile pepper powder. And definitely don’t touch your face or eyes while handling this spice. It hurts!

- See more at:

If you love peppers for their heat, you’ll be interested in this. All chile peppers (including ancho) contain a substance called capsaicin. The more capsaicin the hotter the chili. This substance has very real health benefits. It’s an inhibitor of something called Substance P,  which is triggers the inflammatory process. The simple explanation works something like this: capsaicin inhibits Substance P from causing inflammation…at least it slows it down. That means people who suffer from inflammation pain (like arthritis) will find relief with capsaicin.

Eating pepper or chile powder may also have cardiovascular benefits by protecting the fats in your blood from free-radicals. Chile peppers also give your immunity system a boost with their concentrated levels of beta-carotene and Vitamin A.

But watch out! The very substances that give chile peppers their health benefits can cause a lot of discomfort on your skin. Wash your hands after handling all chile peppers and chile pepper powder. And definitely don’t touch your face or eyes while handling this spice. It hurts!

- See more at:

Their heat is as good for you as it tastes. It’s delivered by a substance called capsaicin. The hotter the pepper, the more capsaicin. Capsaicin is an excellent anti-inflamatory agent. So if you suffer from arthritis or allergies or autoimmune problems or even difficulty losing weight, capsaicin can help relieve the problem.

Anchos are the mildest of the peppers, but that doesn’t mean bland. They impart a wonderful warm glow to your food that you won’t be able to resist. If you’re new to peppers, anchos are a great place to start. If you have some left over, use it in everything. I loved it in my omelets and in my veggie stir fries. I even used it in my salad dressings. Yum yum!


Vinny cooks up an internet dinner - For the full menu and other recipe links to this delicious meal, click here!

Look who’s on first: Avocado Crostini

Avocado crostini

Green is clean

Avocado crostini with goats cheese and chouriço, garnished with pistachios and red endive

The little bites at the start of a meal are often what we remember best. Here’s an easy appetizer that should hit a home-run for the crowd.

Choose an artisanal baguette baked fresh that day. If you must buy it ahead, wrap it well and freeze it for up to a week. A crusty-type loaf works better with this recipe than a chewy loaf. The chewy ones don’t toast as crisply and it’s harder to break off dainty bites. I learned this the hard way.

If you can find a loaf made from whole grain bread, take bonus points for good nutrition! Some more tips… More

Let’s party! Portuguese sangria, perhaps?

Spring gourmet - Portuguese sangria cup

Last week I posted a menu for a special dinner party. We started our Mediterranean evening off with a pretty wine cocktail hailing from Portugal. Choose a good quality wine, preferably from that country and preferably red (called Tinto in Portuguese). Pair it up with a dry Porto. Throw in a few swigs of  More

Vinny cooks up an Internet dinner

Gourmet dinner - red theme

Our annual dinner party

Vinny and I have made new friends since we’ve been blogging. Many of them are great cooks!

When it was our turn to host a dinner party this spring, Vinny thought it would be fun to showcase recipes he’s found on-line. It was such a hard choice seeing as there’s only so much food you can take in on any given evening… and there are so many wonderful dishes to choose from. Thank goodness for Pinterest, where a foodie can save and sort favorite recipes found on the Internet. For this particular evening, Vinny picked the following dishes, based on Mediterranean small plates. More

Popcorn magic at the Night Circus


The night circus has a brain and heart… almost human. How eerie!

Last week I raved about a novel by Erin Morgenstern, called The Night Circus. This story asks us to consider the untold power life holds!

One way the author looks at the nature of life is by imagining the opposite.

Morgenstern  thinks of death not as an end, but a change. If you break a bottle of ink in the ocean, the ink disperses because it has lost its container. The ink is still there… just diluted, its parts no longer connected.

When one of the wizards mysteriously vanishes in The Night Circus, his daughter tells everyone he’s died. But in fact he is in this state of dilution… not exactly dead, he’s just not here in one piece.

While you’re reading The Night Circus, I propose a tasty bowlful of black-and-white popcorn to help you hold yourself together. More

The Night Circus: Black-and-white torte with raspberries at centre ring

The clock chimes 4a.m. at the Night Circus and bonfire is burning strong, fed by Marco's book of charms.

The clock chimes 4 a.m. at the Night Circus. Her bonfire burns strong, fed by Marco’s book of charms.

“What’s black and white with red in the middle?” Vinny asks.  “Give up? It’s the cake I made for my book club, when Erin Morgenstern’s novel “The Night Circus” was up for discussion.

On the surface, Morgenstern gives us an enchanting love story about magic. The circus, open only at night, shimmers in black and white. It is the venue for a desperate competition, as two wizards older than time pit themselves against one another through their best students. The light and the dark signify their two opposing ways of manipulating reality. Which will win out, Vinny wonders. More

Tasty banana crepes for Little Boy Blue – just two ingredients!


This has to be the easiest peasiest recipe on the planet.

 No lie. There are only two ingredients in this gorgeous breakfast crepe.  No milk, no flour. Here’s how to make this tasty treat. Then read on to find out how it brightens your morning. More

Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia. Don’t eat your potted pet!

Chia pudding cup

Try this creamy chocolate chia pudding, instead.

Do you remember those cute little Chia pets that blew onto the scene about 30 years ago?  We’d water them and give them a little love, and they rewarded us by growing green hair and fur in all the right places. More

New indexes let you browse Vinny’s recipes like a cook book


Now where was that?

Now where was that?

Vinny had a problem

Recently, while trying to find a recipe I knew I’d posted somewhere, I realized how hard it is to search through posts on Cook Up A Story.


How to make sardines taste good! OR… Eat fish to fire up your memory

No added salt - just wild Canadian sardines and water.

No added salt – just wild Canadian sardines and water.

Omega-3 fats are vital to the workings of our brain, the most important organ of our body. They keep our memories sharp and our minds on target. Sadly, the average North American diet is not a welcoming place for these guys. More

When it’s hot, it hurts – Salmon baked with green chili sauce in banana leaves

Salmon in banana leaves

This recipe from Chef Mo captured my imagine. Then it seared into my soul!

When a reader from Texas told me where to find purple yams here in Canada, I figured it wouldn’t be that hard to find banana leaves, either. Sure enough, a small store just 10 minutes away sold them.

Giant leaves in hand (these things are humongous), I set about getting dinner ready for guests coming to a birthday party.

The night before the big day, disaster struck. More

Stefan’s fennel side-dish, Italian style

Braised fennel with chinese chicken

Fennel makes a great side for barbecued chicken.

Fennel’s a bit of an odd vegetable. Although he turns up in the produce departments of most super markets, he’s not really a regular guest at most people’s tables. Fennel’s best pals with Celery, another kind-of-blah veggie that is often left languishing. These two veggies have the same pale greenish-white crisp flesh. And Fennel’s stalks grow around one another like Celery’s stalks do. Both veggies can be served raw or cooked. And both have a fibrous, mind flavor.

But Fennel deserves a closer look. Once you get to know him, you’ll see he’s loaded with character. More

Walnuts stewed, are more quietly chewed: An earthy walnut and mushroom soup


This walnut soup idea grew from a recipe I had saved from a teenage chef in Texas, who says his friends loved it. He’s probably grown up by now and very smart indeed if he’s continued down the walnut-tree-lined road of healthy eating. I found the earthiness of the walnuts in this dish was nice. The original recipe might be something the kids in the family would take to. But for me,  I needed a little more oomph on my spoon. More

Walnuts raw, develop the jaw: Crunchy leafless party salad


Walnuts slash diabetic risk by a quarter. Click pic for more.

Raw walnuts not only provide a workout for your chin, they also strengthen bones and teeth.

Then too, walnuts help you remember things… like the leafless salad I promised to post in last week’s blog entry. That’s because of the huge amounts of the rarer fat component omega-3 that walnuts have. Remember?  More

Where’s Walnuts?

One walnut hiding among other tasty nuts

Can you spot the walnut hiding among all these other tasty tree nuts?

Walnuts, raw
Develop the jaw,
But walnuts, stewed,
Are more quietly chewed.
with a gentle nod to Ogden Nash

Crunchy or pureed, if we’re smart, walnuts will be found hiding on our plates in everything from soup to salads! I’m so impressed with walnuts’ healthy benefits, I hardly know where to begin. Have you heard of the quinone  juglone, the tannin tellimagrandin, or the flavonol morin? I hadn’t, until recently.

But we don’t have to remember their names. We just have to remember where they hang out… in walnuts! More

Round Vinny Grette’s kitchen in pictures – best recipes of 2013

Here Vinny presents his best efforts for 2013 –
easy, healthy, and kid friendly food.
For a glimpse into Vinny’s kitchen, click on any picture.

For recipes, copy and paste the link that appears below each caption. More

Macadamia treats us to her tea cake

Macadamia nut tea cake

A tea cake from a tropical paradise for your valentine.

Last week I posted about our Miss Hawaii, in particular, how Macadamia with her low omega-6 offers a treasure chest of healthy, stable  fats for your dining pleasure.

Now, as promised, here is a recipe for you to try out, featuring macadamia nuts and their oil. More

Miss Macadamia takes the crown!

Macadamia wears the crown

Macadamia is the sweetheart of Hawaii.

Verse 3

Whose dress is made of sweetgrass?
who wears a golden lei-a?
Who’s promised to be kind and true?

Okay… maybe this poetry thing is a little beyond my capabilities. But before I finish with my nutty soliloquy begun in my past two posts, I wanted to sing the praises of Macadamia. Difficulty with rhyming and pentameters isn’t going to hold me back. Because if I’m any judge, Macadamia wins the healthy nut contest hands down.  And it’s not just because of her pretty face and fine figure. More

My little nut tree’s almond cookies

Chewy almond butter cookies

Chewy almond-butter cookies

 Verse 2

My little granddaughter
Came to visit me,
And all for a taste
Of my almond cook-kie.

Last week, I talked about my almond tree, and all the benefits you get when you include almonds in your meal plan. I also gave you some ideas to do just that. This week brings some recipe ideas. More

I had a little nut tree… ode to almonds

Almond blossoms

Almond tree in bloom

The nut tree in the well-known nursery rhyme bore nothing… except silver and gold that is, which, as everyone knows, taste awful.

But those who have been reading along with Vinny know that nut trees in real life bear many wondrous things, more precious than money. More

Melting moments – A Christmas story tied up in bows


Pinecone cake – a labor of love

“I don’t care about Christmas.” Eddy kicks the kitchen stool. “It won’t be the same, without Gramma.” Eddy’s heart feels frozen—it’s been that way ever since Gramma died.

Darren sighs. “Yeah, it’s been tough, buddy.”  He kneels beside his brother so he can see right into Eddy’s eyes. “Remember Gramma’s Christmas cookies?” Darren asks. “Let’s make some Melting moments.”

Eddy thinks of Gramma’s laugh when he got flour on his nose. “OK… I guess,” he says and reaches for Gramma’s recipe box. More

Mood Foods

Christmas bread

Christmas bread smells like good times

Study Guide for Cook Up A Story


This is the last in my series on study guides for the print version of Cook Up A Story. Chapter 6 is about how our moods affect our food choices. We’re wired that way. The part of the brain that stores memory and feelings detects smells, too. That’s why when we’re blue, we crave foods that remind us of good times.

Christmas is one of those happy times. But sometimes life sends us a zinger and we’re just not in the mood.

The story in our final chapter, Melting Moments, shows how cheery memories are braided together with smells, sounds and tastes. When a small boy finds himself missing his grandmother, he takes comfort in his family and its holiday traditions. More

Don’t be shy… Milk’s got it!

Joe is quite the artist - More milk please

Study Guide to Cook Up A Story


The many faces of milk is what Chapter 5 of the print version of Cook Up A Story is all about. The story, More Milk Please, offers a time-honored recipe for getting along with people—especially people of the opposite gender. Her best friend Jill and a jug of milk is all it takes to help Izzie overcome her awkward shyness. More

Mmmm… I . love . turtles!

Apple turtle

Mother Turtle, made from apples, casts a powerful spell used in healing
among First Nations people.

In Native American stories, the turtle is a symbol for Mother Earth. This ancient animal commonly lives as long as 150 years. Its shell keeps her safe. And her slow even pace through life sets an example for people to keep going when the going gets tough. Turtle always makes time to enjoy every moment life has to offer.

To honor the turtle, I suggested to my friend Isla that we could make some for Christmas. “They’re so tasty!” I said. More

Guilt-free advent ideas for kids of all ages

Bearwood rear gardens

English mansion

News flash – Vinny celebrates his third anniversary on WordPress today!


It’s December! Many people start counting down the days to Christmas with an advent calendar. Each day comes with a thought, a scene, and/or a chocolate candy that brings us closer to the real meaning of the holiday. More

Creamy creamless triple chocolate pudding… loaded with omega-9

Avocado Mousse

Pot au chocolat à la avocado

Instead of the suspicious fats usually lurking in rich desserts from eggs and heavy cream and butter, this chocolate pudding hides a Secret Agent known far and wide for his success in fighting disease. His name? Detective Avocado. Once he was a little green. But in this recipe, he’s matured to a ripe, dark brown. More

Friendly fiber… When things go wrong, move on

Make magic with prunes

Make magic with prunes

Study Guide to Cook Up A Story


Chapter 4 of the print version of Cook Up A Story  is all about fiber… a sometimes distasteful subject. The story, Prune Puff,  doesn’t disappoint. It’s all about how ridiculously wrong things can go in the kitchen, when Clark tries to come up with a good science project. But you can do better than Clark. Follow Vinny’s simple recipe and concoct a delicious light luscious delectable cake… full of healthy fiber. Then, test your food science know-how. Take a quiz on fiber and do an experiment on the ingredient that puffs cakes up – baking powder.

The story underlines how important it is to label foods carefully. And not just in your own kitchen. All processed foods we buy have to be labeled. Vinny shows us how to understand the information on food labels.  Everybody can take a minute to refresh their know-how in this area – so important! More

Yes, we have no bananas…

Look what deliciousness you can make from those yucky over-ripe bananas.

Turn waste into want.

This is how I explained it to my friend Will, who turned up the other day wanting a banana… and nothing else would do.

“We DO have bananas,” I said, showing Will the goods. “But you won’t want to eat them as they are.” The black, squishy fruits resembled bananas only in shape. More

Dad’s efforts in the kitchen often go unsung. Let’s sing!

Dad in the kitchenLest we forget…

In honor of Remembrance Day, on what would have been my dad’s 93rd birthday, I’m reposting a feature from the spring. If it’s the second time around for you, a little refreshing of the memory wouldn’t hurt. It’s a wonderful dish. And it touches on times during the Second World War. More

Hey, Toronto!

Vinny-p03Please pass the word to your friends :)

Howdie! If any of my faithful readers are in downtown Toronto on Saturday, November 9, why don’t you drop by for a visit?

Sharon and I are in town for a child-development conference sponsored by Sick Kids, Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, talking about our book Cook Up A Story. We’re at the Novotel Toronto Centre, 46 The Esplanade, second floor, from 8:00 am to 3:30 pm. Come by for a chat. It will be so nice to meet you! More

How spun sugar takes the cake

Candied hazelnuts

Glittering threads of sugar crystallized from hazel nut centers.

Totally in awe is the only way to describe my state at 1:00 am on the eve of my sister’s birthday. À la Vinny, I don’t usually play around with sugar in my cooking. I see it as an ingredient to be swapped out rather than celebrated.

But it was a birthday party, and we needed a cake. Not just any cake… but a gluten-free confection, so the birthday girl could have some, too. More

Meal time is family time

Holiday  turkey

Study Guide to Cook Up A Story


Chapter 3 of the print version of Cook Up A Story  offers kids a family ghost to scare them silly. Little Miss Ellie and the princess’s pie makes for a tasty Halloween treat. Then bake two delicious dishes from Ellie’s past. Ellie’s mixed French and Native background helps us learn to appreciate foods from other cultures. Sit down for a cozy chat with your folks and unmask recipes that conjure up your own family’s skeletons. Vinny uses Ellie’s Native roots to discuss food labels we see at the store: natural, organic, local, large-scale producers… We soon see that no one size fits all. There’s a lot to learn and the choice is up to us. More

Ghost frogs…

Ghost frogs and pumpkin brule

And pumpkin crème brulé!

Of course, the frog part was an accident.

When my little meringue ghosts collapsed after their stint in the oven into weird brown froggies on lily pads, I put it down to the stevia I subbed for more than half the sugar. It seems that for meringues to hold their height, the sugar-to-eggwhite ratio is crucial. Live and learn. More

Pump it! Fuel up with good food


The outdoors and exercise go hand-in-hand

Study Guide to Cook Up A Story



In Chapter 2 of the print version of Cook Up A Story,  read Birthday bumps. It’s a hair-raising adventure about boys on the river, frogs, and wishes gone bad. Then make two delicious campfire treats: wings on a stick and birthday cupcakes baked in orange skins. Use a campfire, a barbecue, or your oven. Flip and Tigger introduce the idea of food as fuel. Vinny targets carbohydrates and suggests ways to gear up for active lives. Exercise is the chapter’s theme. More

Vinny’s first give-away garners bouquets from Singapore


Happiness often slips in through a door you never knew you left open. That’s my calendar’s message this morning, and it’s proving true in many ways. Here’s one example. Vinny’s pleased to announce that his first attempt at a give-away is all tidied up. His prize, a copy of his book, goes global! More

Chapter 1 of Vinny’s book: Body Basics

Wauna's ice krispies

Wauna’s ice krispies


Study Guide to Cook Up A Story


In the print version of Vinny’s book Cook Up A Story, read Vinny’s original fairy tale, Wauna’s Song. Then cook up some  Ice Krispies, mentioned in Wauna’s joke to the evil Snow-Woman. Wauna makes it easy to learn about your body, how it works, and how we need balanced  meals to make it run smoothly. More

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