Cinque Terre cocktail

Cinque terre cocktail - chartreuse

Cinque terre cocktail – chartreuse

Vinny is taking an extended break, now that summer is nearly upon us :). To celebrate, he’s sharing a drink with you from the World Heritage site Cinque Terre in Italy, which he hopes to visit some day soon.

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Fire cracker day!

Fire-Cracker Day!

Fire-Cracker Day!

The 24th of May is the Queen’s birthday.
If we don’t get a holiday, we’ll all run away!

It turns out we do get a holiday, but which queen, exactly, would that be, here in Canada?

Why it’s Queen Victoria, of course, the reigning monarch in 1867 when Canada became a country. Victoria was also key in choosing Ottawa over Kingston, Toronto or Montreal as Canada’s capital. So we Ottawans think she deserves a little fireworks on her birthday.

The weather is always a bit iffy on the Victoria Day long weekend in Ottawa, though. So fireworks are not always a possibility. But we can always whip up something special for the birthday table to honor the old queen, regardless of the weather! More

Lazy-boy’s basic risotto

Easy no-stir risotto

Easy no-stir risotto

This risotto’s easy!

Or is it? What’s easy for me may be hard for you. You might not have the equipment to make quick work of the tasks. Your kitchen may require too much walking, lifting, and reaching. Or you may not have had enough practice…  the first time around is always hard. Finally, you may not realize that dirt and food are never best friends. In fact, the combo is darn-right dangerous. So you can’t ignore the sink and shun the dish cloth. Accept cleaning up as a basic part of the art, or you’ll never enjoy cooking. And there’s more… More

Ms. Manners makes easy work of cheaters’ lemony cheese cake

Cheat on your diet with this lo-sugar lemony cheese cake!

Cheat on your diet with this lo-sugar lemony cheese cake!

“That Mr. Crank is such a witch,” complained Vinny, about his neighbor. “He spends his days dreaming up ways to make my life miserable.” More

Stop, Thief! Leafless Mango Salad with Ginger Dressing

Mango salad

“I love mangoes,” Isla said one day. “Can we grow some?”

Vinny sighed. “Not here in Canada, kiddo. Mango trees thrive in India, where people call mangoes the Food of the Gods. Mango trees live long and prosper there. Some specimens are over 300 years old and still going strong.”

Isla put on her sad face.

“But don’t worry, Chick Pea.” Vinny got out two lovely reddish green fruits and a sharp knife. “We can get mangoes in the grocery store. They’re especially good in the spring. Help me chop up these two beauties for a salad and I’ll tell you a story.”

Isla smiled and got to work.

Mango

Vinny told this tale
abridged, from Ramu and the mangoes

A rich man in Delhi brought home two  juicy mangoes. He gave them to his servant and said, “Here Ramu, take these to the kitchen and cut them up. A friend of mine will be coming soon and I want to share with him.”

To make sure the mangoes were not sour, Ramu put one piece in his mouth. Ah, how sweet! “If I eat just one more piece, the master will never know,” he thought. But before long, the plate was empty!

Poor Ramu. What was he to do? The mangoes were gone. He was afraid he would lose his job!

“The knife is blunt, Master,” Ramu called. “I can’t cut the mangoes with it!”

“Bring the knife here,” the master shouted. “I’ll sharpen it for you.”

While the master was sharpening the knife, Ramu ran to meet his master’s friend. “Have you had a fight with my master?” he asked the friend. “He says that he will cut off both your ears!”

The friend stared in surprise. “We haven’t fought. But yesterday when he came to my house, I put on his sandals by mistake. Why would he want to cut off my ears for a little thing like that?”

“See for  yourself,” Ramu said. “But don’t let him catch you!”

The friend crept up to an open window and saw the master of the house sharpening a big knife. He wasted no time running back the way he had come.

Ramu shouted to his master, “Your friend has taken the mangoes. He’s running away!”

The master rushed out after his friend. “Stop! ” he called. “Keep one of them if you like, but let me have the other one!” The friend screamed in terror and vanished in the distance.

Back at his house, the master said, “I never knew that man was such a thief!” He then went out and came home with two more lovely mangoes. “Here Ramu,” he said. “You eat one. And cut the other one for me.”

Mango salad made with papaya

Leafless Mango Salad with Ginger Dressing
Two to four servings

For salad

  •     1 large ripe greeny-red mango (about 2 cups, peeled and diced)
  •     2 cups sugar snap peas, tips removed and julienned
  •     1 green onion, thinly sliced
  •     1 red pepper (about 1 cup), seeded and diced (optional)
  •     one carrot, sliced on a grater into thin coins (optional)
  •     1 cup Brussels sprouts, chopped (optional)
  •     1/4 cup unsalted walnuts, roughly chopped

For ginger dressing
about 1/2 cup

  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seed oil
  • 1/2 to 1 small jalapeno, seeded
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, finely grated
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 7 drops liquid stevia, or sweetener of choice to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Blend all dressing ingredients well in a blender or food processor, scraping down sides to incorporate. Pour into a salad dressing bottle and enjoy. This dressing will keep for up to 3 days.
  2. Combine all the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Only the first three ingredients are vital. Add in whatever others are in your fridge, for nice color and crunch
  3. Pour the ginger dressing to your taste over the salad and toss to coat. Enjoy immediately!

Mangoes are delicious this time of year – ripe, big, juicy and creamy in texture (not hard or stringy). This fabulous salad tastes great without any leafy greens distracting from mangoes’  deliciousness. If you want greens, though, serve this salad on a bed of them. But your salad will no longer be leafless :).

Mango

What’s so special about mangoes?

Mangoes are a super fruit, rich in these nutrients:

  • pre-biotic fiber – for better digestion and for healthy gut bacteria that benefit every part of your body, including your brain
  • vitamins A, C, and B6 – for good eyesight and skin and to protect against oral and lung cancers
  • copper – for healthy blood and enzymes that control body chemistry
  • polyphenolic flavonoid antioxidants – to protect against colon, breast, and prostate cancer.

Mangoes are one of the most popular, nutritionally rich fruits going, with unique flavor, fragrance, taste, and heath-promoting qualities. Isla agrees!

Then she added: Ramu is clever, Vinny. But just who was the thief, here? Ramu wasn’t fair!

Making sweet potato fries in the oven – perfect every time

sweet potato plant

Let it sprout for a pretty & unusual centerpiece

Sweet Patooty’s back! I raved about the fab qualities of sweet potatoes in an earlier post. But I’ve never posted a recipe for my favorite of all ways of having them… oven-baked fries. That’s because I never felt I’d gotten it quite right. But now, I think I can confidently tell you how to make these beauties come out delicious every time… crispy, not soggy, and definitely not burnt! More

Black magic: Chocolate syrup on ice

Black ice - chocolate magic

Just two ingredients…

Awesome! This idea came my way courtesy of the Paddington Foodie, chef extraordinaire. It’s ridiculously easy. Combining just two super-foods, this simple syrup zaps any dessert you like with goodness that is sure to grant you the superpowers of your dreams. More

Flash sale today, on-line at Blurb Books!

Healthy eating as a question of balance

Healthy eating is all about balance

If you have ever been tempted to buy a copy of Sharon Rudnitski’s book Cook Up A Story: Good Food Sets the Mood… now is the time.

For the next 3 days (until April 13), you can get it on-line for 35% off… the largest discount I’ve ever seen. Use the promo code APRILFLASH35 at checkout.

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Goats-Gruff cheese cake and cranberry snow

Goat's milk makes great cheese!

Goat’s milk makes great cheese!

Why goat cheese?

Goat cheese is my go-to cheese on a daily basis. I love it because of its creamy texture and crisp, tart taste. It’s perfect in my omelets and on top of my leafy greens at lunch.

But it’s also packed with great nutrition. When it comes to fat and calories, goat cheese has the advantage over cheese made from cow’s milk. More

Roasted cipollini onions – Sweep!

 

cipolini

The side dishes

Pierogis and cipollini onions won the draw to complement the main course of our Frozen in Ottawa dinner theme. But why this pair? More

Hasenpfeffer! A rich rabbity stew from Germany

Prepping for hasenpfeffer

Prepping sausage for hasenpfeffer

My regular readers will know that our Frozen in Ottawa dinner is well in hand. This, my fourth post on the subject, answers the question, “What should we serve for the main course?”

The man of the house wanted to feature his winter stew-making skills, well-honed in our climate. He suggested “Hasenpfeffer,” a dish he had recently cooked for the family with success. In fact, I thought it was the best stew he had ever made for us. But… what kind of meat is that, you might wonder. More

My mandolin’s iceberg salad, starring kohlrabi…

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Mystery veggie

Kohlrabi – Huh? My picky eater surprised me the other day. Will’s vegetarian school buddy had given him a taste of this odd veggie and it turned out to be a hit! I had to look it up. More

Repeat Mondays: Madcap Irish Tea Party

Tiger and Firefox turn two!

Tiger and Firefox come to the party!

Once in a while, I thought I’d throw in a repeat, for those readers who are new to Vinny’s blog or who may have missed something he thought was worth reading again. Madcap Irish Tea Party is one of those. It’s full of great ideas for celebrating Saint Paddy’s day tomorrow. Links take you to recipe ideas, songs, stories and crafts celebrating everything Ireland. So whip something up in the kitchen or just sing along and enjoy all that’s green. The luck ‘o the Irish to you! More

BeaverTails deconstructed

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BeaverTails on ice

 

Anyone who’s skated Ottawa’s Rideau Canal knows all about our iconic BeaverTails. Nobody ever leaves the ice without a bite of these sugary deep-fried pastries decorated with cinnamon, chocolate, or lemon, or some other delightful combination of sweet and sour.

As I was focusing on Ottawa’s winter wonderland for my gourmet dinner party, Frozen in Ottawa, I  thought tiny BeaverTails would make a perfect hors d’oeuvre. They would go well with the sweetly tart cocktail we served, Frozen Blues.

BeaverTails are served hot on the Canal. But as my theme was “frozen,” I served mine cold. More

Frozen Blues: cocktail of the hour

Blue Hawaians

Bols Blue Curaçao

We just got back from a heavenly warm trip to the Caribbean, to find ourselves in the depths of our cold Canadian winter… and just in time to host our annual gourmet dinner. So we built a meal around the theme, ” Frozen in Ottawa.” More

Readers Earl Grey teabag cookies

earl grey tea(bag) cookies

Event…

Our book club was meeting at my house this month. What to serve? Looking in my tea box, I discovered a couple of packets of loose-leaf tea labelled Readers Earl Grey Tea. What could be more perfect for this special group of readers, I thought. More

Cherry clafouti solves one omnivore’s dilemma

Omnivore's dilemma - Pollan

What’s for dinner?

Once upon a time some friends formed a neighborhood reading salon. One night they slogged through the snow to sit by a fire together and discuss a book Michael Pollan wrote nearly 10 years ago — The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Pollan’s story lifts the blinders to show where our food comes from, just as deftly as if he wrote it, well, yesterday.

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Frozen! Easy home-baked bread for random holidays

Christmas bread

Fill your Valentine’s bread with cinnamon and sugar. Or  serve it with raspberry or sour cherry jam.

Braided bread

I always make braided bread at Christmas… because what would a Ukrainian Xmas Eve be, without a steaming warm loaf decorated with ancient baubles handed down from our great grandmother?

But if you’re looking for directions on making bread from scratch, read no further. For this project, I have always bought frozen bread dough at our local grocery store. I usually have to ask at the cake counter, and someone disappears behind humungous stainless steel doors and emerges with the five stone-hard loaves I need. Easy!

This post is all about the presentation. Your results will look as mouth-wateringly delicious as the warm, fresh bread tastes. More

How to cook eggs for raw-egg recipes

Dovecote sees the light

Dali’s hen house

 

Raw eggs

In my previous post, I talked about making eggnog from scratch using fresh clean unbroken eggs, cracking them carefully, and allowing them to cure in sugar and alcohol. Raw eggs are generally safe for healthy people.

If you are cooking for young children, pregnant mamas, the elderly, or people with weak immune systems, though, you won’t want to risk serving them raw eggs. But hey, you don’t have to ditch your favorite recipes. More

Eggnog Grog

Cup of good cheer comes at a price

Cup of good cheer comes at a price

Raising chickens

I’ve just read Mike Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma. Eye-roll.  Will I ever eat again?

Eggs and chicken are mainstays of my diet. But Pollan has lifted the curtain for me on the often shocking truths behind industrially raised chickens. They’re jammed into spaces so small, the poor animals try to peck each other to death. The answer, according to chicken producers? Off with their beaks. More

Adela’s Bird of Paradise

Remembering Adela - the hostess with the mostest!

Remembering Adela – the hostess with the mostest! 1963

Vinny’s Grandma Adela loved a dramatic presentation. She had inherited her own dad’s artistic temperament. Great granddad William Enge was a master woodworker, making violins as well as decorative furniture. He played the violin so beautifully, his music made a woman 20 years his junior fall in love with him.

Adela too had musical ability, singing in the choir at church, as well as for the Ottawa Opera Company.  Like him, she had an eye for color and fashion, designing and sewing her own clothes and much of the clothing for her family. She also built or refinished many pieces of furniture for her home, following in her dad’s footsteps. Knitting, sewing, carpentry, painting—nothing was too difficult for her to try her hand at.

But Adela was at her best in the kitchen. She kept an extensive recipe collection. And, like an early Martha Stewart, Adela was known to set an elegant table. More

Borscht with Zoë

borscht

Borscht at Christmas

I’ve posted many times about my favorite veggie. “Do you know what it is, Zoë?” I asked.

It’s usually red but sometimes yellow, and some people swear it tastes like DIRT. Ha! To me it tastes like the salt of the earth. Our favorite time of year to cook with this veggie is Christmas… partly because it’s red, and partly because at Christmas time, like all root veggies, it is available locally.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m talking about that fabulous storehouse of antioxidants, minerals, and vitaminz (no, Zoë, you can’t help me type)… BEETS. Yay!

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Cranberry troll cream and the three gruff goats

Cranberry troll cream

A Norwegian tradition

A Tale of Three Goats

Once upon a time, three little Billy goats were feeling a bit gruff. They hadn’t eaten since they left the barn in the morning, because during the night, their meadow had been grazed to the ground by a herd of reindeer, one of whom had a red nose!

The goats trotted and trotted, looking for fresh grass under the snow. But they had no luck. At last, they came upon a raging river. On the opposite bank, rows of cranberry bushes poked their heads up through the drifts. Lunch called!

The water looked deep and cold. But they soon spotted a stone bridge. The littlest and liveliest goat boy danced ahead. When he jumped onto the bridge, a troll leaped at him, all smelly and ugly.

“I eats goats for lunch,” the troll roared, “and you looks mighty tasty!” More

15 steps to making red and green pierogis

Use parchment paper if you line your pans. Wax paper sticks.

Use parchment paper if you line your pans. Wax paper sticks.

Last week I posted some tips for up-dating your techniques when making pierogis from scratch. I also posted many reasons for undertaking this task, in spite of the effort involved. But isn’t that true of most Christmas preparations? Good things take time to develop.

Without further ado, here is the recipe, which I share mainly so my family can carry on this tradition without further meddling on my part. I’m sure over the years they will institute improvements of their own. The world turns.

If there are readers out there who also are inspired to try these little tasties, please let me know. It will make my Christmas to hear of your success! FYI, Ukrainian Christmas is still to come. Celebrate with us on January 6 :). More

Santa’s elves update Christmas pierogis

pirogis

New kitchen tools make it easier to cook pierogis from scratch.

How perfect is this for Christmas! I make green and red pierogis every year, but my natural food colors have been disappointingly dull. I’m trying a new technique this year, inspired by Stefan’s Gourmet Blog, to see if I can make some improvements. More

Gut wars! Arm yourself with yogurt and prosper

Grilled pineapple, sweetened greek yogurt, cinnamon & almonds

Yogurt, yogurt everywhere!

 En garde!

Trillions of bacteria live happily in our gut. The goodies among them help us digest our food and absorb its nutrients. They also help our body make vitamins, absorb minerals, and get rid of  toxins. They make our immune system strong. And best of all, they work on our brain cells to help them battle anxiety, stress, and depression. Friendly bugs in our gut make up the army that protects us from disease, including mental illness.

Good bacteria, called probiotics, come to us in fermented foods. Buttermilk, pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, sour dough bread, raw-milk cheeses and kefir all harbor the good guys. For many, though, probiotics march forth  into our gut in yogurt. More

Vinny celebrates an anniversary with a Christmas market

market 459611754_10

Yesterday marked four years to the day since Vinny launched himself into the cybersphere. The time has flashed by. It’s been so much fun watching Vinny and the kids experiment with new foods. And I have had just as much fun figuring out how to tell you about our adventures into healthy eating, with stories and recipes that get your juices flowing. But the most fun comes from reading your comments, especially when you tell me about your own journey to the land of good health. More

No stove? Cook dinner with your iron!

iron out the wrinkles on your next grilled cheese

Iron out the wrinkles on your next grilled cheese

I’m not sure we should let the little dears in our lives in on this trick… But if you’re ever stuck in a hotel room with no cooking facilities and limited cash for eating out, you can get by with an iron!

I’m not kidding. It’s simple! More

Vinny’s brownie malfunction 😲

cocoa brownies

Sugary cocoa brownies are my favorite!

The good

Kids love brownies. And I have the perfect recipe that kids and their families can make from scratch.

It’s easy to bake with chocolate when you use cocoa! More

Vinnyssoise – Chilled leek & sweet potato soup bowls

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“It’s called ‘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!”
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A cake cup for Krista – Chocolate rules!

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.

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Carrots for dessert? Add grapes and go!

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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

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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!

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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

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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. More

Crown the meal with savory pear taquitos

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Sweet!

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. More

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. More

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

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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!

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This has to be the easiest peasiest pancake 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

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