Posts Tagged ‘Family’

Lasagna Dinner

July 23, 2009

002All the rain this summer (?) got Donna and I hungry for some comfort food.  One of our favourite comfort food is Lasagna. We are not Italian but have grown to love Italian food especially the classic casserole, lasagna. 

I have been making this for years and our older kids in Canada, Steve and Wendy,  always make me make it when we visit them during vacation. I think the key to most pastas is in the sauce. I start my sauce by browning some Hamburger and then setting it aside while I saute, in order, Onions, Garlic, Green Peppers and Mushrooms. I seasoned as I went with salt and pepper and once the veggies are done I season that mixture with Thyme, Basil, Oregano and some Hot Pepper Flakes. I then added the hamburger back to the veggies and seasoned again. I used store bought red sauce to complete my sauce.  The rest is pretty straight forward with alternating layers of sauce, noddles and cheese –Mozzarella, Ricotta & Parmesan. Into the oven covered with foil for 35 minutes, uncovered for an additonal 15 minutes and wait time for another 10 minutes then serve.

 Homemade LasagnaThe resulting dish was good, if I do say so myself and I just did. LOL.  I think it was good because of the different flavours and textures in the dish.  Although the dish is fork tender, there are different textures within the different layers, the creamy smooth ricotta versus the denser noodles versus the melted mozza and parm cheeses.  The tastes of the classic savory Italian spices, the sweet & heat of the red sauce, the tang of the ricotta cheese and the oregano flavoured mozza cheese. A great mixture of flavour and texture differences. A great homemade casserole.

Come on over the next time it rains we can do it again. Wait with all the rain this summer, I could be making this every night LOL. Come on over anyway.

BTW if you haven’t participate in the different Food Surveys, you can give us your opinion on a variety of topics.  Check here to see the different surveys.

Amish Desserts

July 20, 2009

Amish Chocolate CakeWe had supper Saturday night with Poker buddy Steve and his wife Joan at Villaggio and then went back to their house for dessert. This post is about the dessert and the fun we had at Steve and Joan’s house.

There are two Amish Markets within 10 miles of New Hope, one in Flemington and one in Newtown.  Both markets offer homemade meats, sauagages, cheese, breads and desserts – all homemade goodness. And in the this case, great Chocolate Cake that Joan picked up in Flemington.  It was a great cake and the Amish bakers took a great deal of care cooking and decorating the cake.

Top View Amish Chocolate Cake

It was a four layer cake with great frosting and elegant decorating on top. It was a great chocolate cake. Moist, Sweet from the chocolate frosting and a slight Bitterness from the chocolate flavour of the cake.  Steve and I had our cake with Red Wine. I love chocolate and Red Wine. I learned from my very proper English Admin Assistant Eleanor, from my last company, on a terrase in France that chocolate and red wine goes together and I thank her often for that lesson.

After dessert, we retired to their family room where Steve and Joan showed some of their daugher Jessica’s films that she created during college. Two of Jessica’s films; 60 Second Buzz and Paneye are on YouTube. I liked 60 Second Buzz because it was about our local Brewhouse Triumph and I recognized Facebook friend Daniel, in the film, who is now in Sales and Marketing for Trimumph. I couldn’t find her documentry-film about college life that we screened that night on YouTube  but we enjoyed it too. It was fun to see Jessica’s work and the pride her parents had in her work too. 

Great Cake and Films.  Fun with Steve and Joan.  Thanks again for having us.

Facebook Breakfast

July 18, 2009

It was Saturday morning and I was up before Donna. I was checking Facebook and I updated my status with “I am going to cook breakfast for Donna, what should I cook?”  Within what seemed seconds, Facebook friend and co-worker Stephanie suggested Baked Eggs and provided the link to the NY Times site. Thanks Stephanie. I clicked on the link and it provided a straight forward recipe on a version of Baked Eggs in a video.  Check it out for yourself.  I also got suggestions and encouragement from Nat (great Canadian Breakfast ideas) and my son Steve in Canada.


Naturally the NY Times recipe called for ingredients that I didn’t have but it was inspiring enough to try with some basic substitutions. To make the Baked Eggs, I buttered the ramekins, placed some Tomato slices on the bottom, some pre-cooked Bacon, dried Basil, cracked Egg, grated Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.  I placed the ramekins in the pre-heated oven for 12 minutes and started the hash browns.

Donna prefers the grated potato Hash Browns. I used a couple of Yukon Gold potatoes, grated them into a bowl, added some Thyme, salt and pepper and mix them together.  Just like potato pancakes I cooked the potato mixture is some hot oil, browning the outside while allowing the inside to cook and get creamy.

Baked Eggs and Hash BrownsWe turned the ramekins over after running a knife around the inside edge to release the Baked Egg goodness.  The bright red colour of the Tomato slices came to the top make the dish more appetizing.  I thought the dish was a success because of the mix of flavours and textures. The Baked Eggs were still hot from the oven as we bit into them releasing the soft sweet yolk over the tomato and slightly salty bacon. The Basil flakes and parm cheese flavours were there but mild. The addition of Hash Brown pieces into the egg mixture brought interesting textures to the bite.  The hash brown also soaked up the egg mixture changing the taste to include a creamy potato flavour with some crispy bits from the outside of the hash brown.

In her recommendation, Stephanie suggested that these could be a romantic dish as well with some spinach and ham substitutions. Maybe they could but we ate ours so quickly the mood didn’t strike. LOL (My kids read this from time to time LOL). What did strike us is how simple and elegant the dish was so thanks to Stephanie for the recommendation, we will be making this again.

Hard Rock Wings

June 27, 2009

Ryan and I got to spend Friday in New York City doing some touristy things. We started our visit out by getting a personal studio tour of the Howard Stern Show, then a tour of Times Square including a visit to the Hard Rock Cafe, a visit to BLT Prime (more on that later) and finally a comedy show at Ha! It was a great father-son day.  You can see the photos of the Stern Studio tour at my and Ryan’s Facebook pages.  

No visit to Times Square is not complete without a visit to the Hard Rock Cafe.  The Cafe is almost a museum that also serves food and sells T Shirts.  They have some great Rock ‘n Roll memorabilia all over the store if you haven’t been there before.  Ryan and I stopped in around 4:30 for a drink and some Chicken Wings. I knew they could not qualify for my Best of Bucks Co. Wings Top 5 list but I thought I should report on them in case you are in the neighbourhood. LOL.

Hard Rock Cafe Chicken WingsThe Chicken Wings were good but not great.  The Medium Sized wings arrived quickly from kitchen despite a large crowd on a Friday afternoon. The skin was not crispy but cooked thru.  A little more cooking time could have done the job here. The wings come spicy or BBQ but we stuck to trying the spicy and they were Spicy.  The first bite put the heat in you mouth and it stuck around even after you swallowed.  Not really a flavourful heat but just a burn. Once the burn died down, you did get a good chicken taste.  The celery was fresh and crisp but two different sizes that was a little weird for me.  The “White Blue Cheese” dressing had obviously made hours before because all the cheese pieces were at the bottom of the container.  Once I fished out a piece of cheese, it was pretty bland and missing of the tang that a good blue cheese has. The cheese did cool some of the heat from the sauce so it was OK. The wings were big enough that it made a enough of an appetizer for Ryan and me to share.

Read another review of the Hard Rock Cafe here.

Hard Rock Café, 1501 Broadway, New York, NY 10036,                   (212) 343-3355

Burger Buffet

June 23, 2009

For Father’s Day, we organized a Burger Buffet.  This allowed us to have a home-cooked meal with the family and to have some fun preparing the meal. 

Home-made BurgersWe started with a bunch of 3 oz 100% beef burgers.  We used smaller patties so that that the boys could double up on the patties while Donna and  I could go for one and all would be satisfied.  The rain stopped long enough for me to fire up the BBQ to cook and get some grill marks on the burgers.

Sauteed OnionsWhile I manned the BBQ, Donna sauteed some Onions in some olive oil. A slow saute got the onions nicely caramelized. That made the onions soft and sweet.

Burger Buffet Fix 'em I

To make it a buffet, we made lots of great burger Fix’ems.  The fix’ems included Lettuce, Jersey Tomatoes, Bacon, Cheese, Pickles and the Sauteed Onions.  We also put out Potato Chips to add some extra crunch to the meal.  We also provided Mayo, Yellow Mustard, Dijon Mustard, Relish and Ketchup to spread onto the Sesame Seed Buns.

Chips and Fix'emsI had full intentions to capture photos of the burgers but everyone was so hungry, the boys had theirs half eaten by the time I finished the second set of burgers off the grill.

For My Burger, I went with some Dijon mustard smeared on the bottom bun, then two pickle pieces, two bacon slices, the burger patty (just one) sauteed onions and then the cheese. Some ketchup on the top bun, a quick turn and taa daa – my custom made burger. It was very good, moist, flavourful and made just the way I like it. LOL

If you haven’t already, try the Burger Buffet for your family.  It takes a little extra time but it worth it to be able to have your family members customize their own burgers even if they eat too fast for you to take a photo. LOL.

Standing Ovation Supper

June 21, 2009

Standing Rib Roast, Roasted Potatoes and VegtablesIt was a rainy Saturday when we decided to have a roast for supper. The unseasonable cold and rainy weather made this June feel like March or April. We shopped at our local Giant and picked up a five pound Standing Rib Roast, red potatoes, carrots, parsnips and turnip. These all sounded like fall vegetables but the thought of a roasted dinner made sense with the weather.

I prepared the Standing Rib Roast by halving a head of garlic, chopping an onion, three carrots, and two ribs of celery and putting them into the Dutch Oven.  I added thyme, parsley, oregano and rosemary to the oven. I patted the sides of the roast with kosher salt and pepper. Then I added some Merlot and placed in a pre-heated 350 F oven for 90 minutes.

As the roast cooked, we center peeled the Red Potatoes to give a nice presentation to the roasted potato. We also diced Carrots, Parsnips and half a Turnip. Once the veggies were prepared I tossed them with Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper and Herbs. Thyme for the potatoes and oregano for the root vegetables. The potatoes took about 30 minutes and 15 minutes for the veggies as their dice  was relatively small.

Standing Rib Roast and Roasted Veggies and Potatoes IIThe Standing Rib Roast slices were amazingly tender, almost fork tender. The taste of the meat was amazing as well.  It had picked up the flavours of the wine, veggies and herbs while maintaining the core roasted meat flavour you know from a great roast.  The potatoes were perfectly roasted with a baked potato flavour inside and a nice potato skin taste when you bit into the roasted skin.  The small diced veggies were roasted enough to give them a nice canalization and a roasted taste. We added some A1 sauce to match with the medium to medium-rare meat slices.  The A1 Sauce matches well with roast, potatoes and veggie sweetness and roasted flavour.  A big success.

Standing Ovation DessertA great entrée, deserves a great dessert in my mind. So I created a Standing Ovation Sundae. To do that I cut up some Fresh Strawberries, mixed in some Splenda and some Grand Marnier.  While the strawberries marinaded, I cut up a Banana into thin disks. Into serving bowls, I placed scoops of Phillies Grand Slam Ice Cream and three Ladyfingers. The bananas slices were placed on the ice cream and ladyfingers and in turn the strawberries are place on the bananas.  The syrup from the berries and the Grand Marnier was poured over the ladyfingers.

The warm liqueur started to melt the ice cream almost immediately creating a wonderful sauce for the berries, bananas and ladyfingers.  The boys found the Grand Marnier a bit strong in alcohol (I wasn’t buying that story anymore LOL)  but it was perfect for Donna and I. The different textures in the dish made for a nice contrast as did the sweetness and strong orange liqueur.  It was a great home-made dessert and match the roasted entree as two great part of an overall great meal.

Net-net, a great home-made Saturday supper.

Yeehaa – Ota-ya

June 18, 2009

otaya.jpg image by rdamstraIt was a special treat for me tonight as Ryan, Robbie, Donna and I ended up at the same restaurant at the same time.  This time is was Ota-ya in Lambertville.  We have gone for there before for the teppanyaki but that was booked up already so we ate in the main dining room. Donna and Robbie ordered the chicken teriyaki, Ryan the beef teriyaki and I got mixed seafood teriyaki.

Soup & Salad at Ota-yaThe teriyaki dinners come with Miso Soup and a House Salad.  Since Ota-ya is a BYOB we purchased some Asahi beer at Welsh’s liquor store to go along with the meal.  The House Salad comes with Ginger Dressing. The aroma of the ginger is fairly pronounced but fairly mild to taste.  The fresh veggies in the salad crunched and contrasted nicely to ginger dressing. This is the one salad that Robbie and Ryan both gobble up.  The Miso Soup was very pleasant with small dice of tofu, scallions and seaweed.  The miso broth was light and slightly salty. The floating bits of tofu, kelp and scallion contrasted nicely in texture with each other making the miso soup a success.

Sushi Rolls - Eel and Spider

The Sushi at Ota-ya is very good so Robbie and I could resist ordering a couple of rolls.  Robbie went for the Eel Roll and I went for the Spider Roll. The eel roll was both smokey and sweet with a nice crunch from the scallion slices. The Spider Roll is my favourite because of the nice mix of textures and sweet-salt taste.  This roll lived up to previous spider rolls.  What was interesting to me about the two rolls was they were served over a thick sweet soya sauce. The sauce was sweet but was missing the usual salty taste you get with soya sauce. That worked out as we had soya on the side to dip. I also didn’t use as much wasabi as I usually do as the do as the rolls were complete without them.

Chicken TeriyakiDonna and Robbie’s Chicken Teriyaki came with large portions of chicken covered in a thick teriyaki sauce and some stir-fried veggies. All the dinners came with steamed fresh rice on the side.  Donna described her chicken as moist, flavourful and sweet. The veggies were crisp, well cooked and very tasty. I think well cooked veggies are a mark of a good restaurant so I was surprised they were good here.  We asked Robbie his opinion, he nodded and kept eating. Another good sign LOL.

Mixed Seafood Teriyaki at Ota-yaMy Mixed Seafood Teriyaki arrived last and it was a very fine presentation as you can see in the photo. Plentiful Shrimp, Scallops and Lobster along with the same stir-fried veggies and rice Donna, Ryan and Robbie got.  The seafood were gently grilled leaving some nice char marks and flavour. I prefer Atlantic Lobster to Caribbean Lobster, but these tasty southern morsels matched well with the teriyaki sauce. The dense bay Scallops had a nice mouth feel and a sweet taste that matched also with the sauce. The Shrimp were flashed grilled keeping that sweet shrimp and texture you want in shrimp.

I have no photo of Ryan’s Beef Teriyaki as he attacked it as soon as it arrived. The meat went first followed by a few veggies. The description was meaty, tender and sweet from the sauce.  Wish I would have gotten the photo for you but would sooner have supper with my son. I am sure you understand.

Net-net great meal with all the family in one place at the same time.

Ota-ya have restaurants in Lamberville, NJ,  Newtown PA and Warrington PA.  You can read other reviews as here, here and here.

Ota Ya Japanese on Urbanspoon

Ota-ya, 21 Ferry St., Lambertville, NJ 08530      609-397-9928

Memorial Day Family Picnic

May 27, 2009
Tom BBQing

Thom at the Grill

Ryan, Robbie, Donna and I got invited to our Thom and Reno’s for their Memorial Day Picnic.  It was a blast meeting their neighbours and family.  It was also great from a food point of view too.  There was tons to eat and a variety of items to make it interesting.  We got there on time and Thom was already cooking up some ribs on the grill. The Marinated Pork was moist and sweet a sTom BBQing burgers and Dogslight smokey taste from the grill.  Once the ribs were done Tom switched the classics;  Burgers and Dogs. Both were great but for some reason you weren’t suppose to put ketchup on the dogs, it was ok on the burgers but not the dogs.  The BBQ featured only Sabrett hot dogs which they felt were the best dogs in the USA.  I am a Nathan’s fan myself but the Sabrett Dogs were very good.  They had a nice snap when you bit into them and a pleasant spice mixture in the meat of the dog. Not sausage spicy but flavourful enough to be a great dog.

BBQ Fix'insA nice surprise was some Breaded Eggplant that one family member brought in from New York City.  Poker buddy Pete explained that this eggplant only grows in Italy and every year the relative brings it.  Pete suggest that I eat it without the red sauce to really taste the eggplant.  I did and sure enough it was good.  I normally steer away from eggplant regardless of preparation but when Pete said it was special I knew I had to try it.  Either way I would get something to write about.  It was a good recommendation.  Eggplant, to me, has almost a metallic taste and can be tough if you get a thick slice.  These slices we thin with a light breading.  The taste was sweet with almost a cold cut density to the flesh. It was good and I would have ate more but they disappeared by the time I got back the table.  I didn’t try the pull pork but it looked and smelled great.

Tomatoes and MozzaA classic Italian Salad is Tomatoes, Basil and Mozzarella.  The picnic’s version was really special because of the two varieties of heirloom tomatoes and some really fresh basil leaves.  The mozza was obviously fresh from their taste but aroma coming off the giant basil leaves and tomato.  You could smell this dish from across the room.

Deviled EggsAnother treat were the Deviled Eggs made by local Chef Gary from Dish Catering.  Gary catered my 50th Birthday Party so I knew these would be good.  They eggs were seasoned with mustard, cayenne and paprika giving them some heat.  Not to much but a good match to the mayo and egg yolk base to the egg filling.

Corn and Bean SalsaHaving just come off our Mexican Hold’em party the week before, I thought I was full of salsa until I spy-ed the Corn and Red Bean Salsa.  This colourful salsa was a good change up from the spicy mostly tomato salsas were served at our event. This salsa was also mild in spice making it a refreshing appetizer on a hot day.

Scilian PizzaReno now runs the family pizza business in Ringoes, NJ taking over from his father Frank.  Not that we didn’t have enough to eat already, Thom started to grill some  Sicilian Pizza that Reno had made earlier that day.  I am more of a thin crust pizza fan myself but I had to try it.  Glad I did. the grill had heated the crust nicely but the biggest impact was on the melting of the cheese, basil, garlic and homemade tomato sauce. I restrain myself in eating only one piece, cause my MD is reading the blog now so I gotta watch what I eat or at least what I right. LOL.

Spinach Salad with StrawberriesNew Facebook Friend and Poker Buddies Pete and Stella’s daughter Geri made Spinach and Strawberry Salad.  This was a refreshing break in the heat of the day.  The lightly dresses greens were a nice contrast to the sweetness of the berries.  I helped Geri pass the salad to her family and got to meet more of this great family. It was a lot of fun.

Finnish BowlingOf course a bunch of us player poker for part of the picnic but the most interesting game was a version of Lawn Bowling from Finland. The idea was to knock over the different wooden markers with wooden cylinder until you get 50 points exactly before the other players. Ryan and I tried it and it was a lot of fun.  Ryan later partnered with Poker buddy Tony and they almost won.  I can see why it was a popular game and great for picnics. 

Thanks again to Thom and Reno for inviting us.  We had a great time and hope we get to do this again next year.  Happy Memorial Day.

Donna’s Meatloaf

May 20, 2009

Donna's MeatloafTonight Donna cooked up one of my favourite comfort foods –  meatloaf.

Donna took about two pounds of ground beef and added bread crumbs, an egg, one small grated onion, two cloves of garlic and a cup of her special sauce. She made her special sauce starting with a cup of red sauce, 1/4 cup of BBQ sauce and tablespoon of prepared mustard. She saved the remaining 1/4 cup of her special sauce to pour on top of the meatloaf. She gently mixed the meat, egg, onion, garlic and sauce mixture, careful not to over mix and then formed a loaf. The loaf was placed in a shallow pan and topped with the remaining sauce. Into a 350 F degree oven for 60 minutes. Once it was cooked Donna let it rest for 10 minutes then served it.

In addition to the great meatloaf, she served garlic mashed potatoes and broccoli with cheese sauce. The garlic mashed potatoes are pretty straight forward. Potatoes are boiled with 6 cloves of garlic and once cooked, are mashed with some butter and milk.  If you have some green onions chop ’em up and add to the potato, garlic and dairy.

The steamed broccoli was dressed with a creamy cheese sauce.  She made the cheese sauce by starting with two tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of flour cooked in a sauce pan.  She whisked in two cups of milk, salt, pepper and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg and cooked until thickened. A cup of shredded sharp cheddar was added to the hot milk. She continued to whisk until the cheese melted and she was done.

I think all great comfort foods are simple foods. Simple to prepare but delicious to eat.  The meatloaf was moist and flavourful. The tang of the BBQ sauce comes thru in the final product along with meaty flavour of the well seasoned hamburger. The garlic mashed were creamy to the mouth and sweet with garlic and butter. The broccoli were tender and the cheese sauce matched well with the potatoes and meatloaf making the dish the almost perfect comfort food. I love this dish and Donna is good enough to make it often.

I have told you about one of my favourite food types- let us know your top three food types, if you haven’t already at the poll on this page.

Giant Steaks

May 14, 2009

As the weather improves and the nights get warmer, I tend to grill more and more.  We grill all year but the warmer weather just makes it a more enjoyable activity.  A couple of nights back, when it wasn’t raining, we decide to fire up the grill. But what to grill? Since it was late, we went to our local grocery store Giant, and picked up some steaks.  I like a nice one inch thick New York Strip with a nice marble of fat flowing thru the meat. (Tell us what cut of steak you like here.)  Sure enough they had some nice choice cuts in the display case and off I went home.  Sometimes you can actually get the prime cut at Giant but that wasn’t happening that day.

BBQ SteakOnce I got home, I prepared a marinade of garlic, teriyaki sauce and ground black pepper.  I let the steaks soak for about an hour in the frig and then brought them out to raise to room temp just before grilling time.  While the steaks were soaking, we took a package of those almost bit-sized potatoes and coated them in olive oil, salt, pepper, and crusted garlic.  In a double layer of foil we place the potatoes and half of a sliced onion.  The foil poach was placed in the hot grill (500 F) on the top rack.  About 20 minutes after the potatoes went in, we started grilling the steaks.  We like our steaks medium rare, which to me means pink in the middle with little or no blood, so I did my usual 12 minute grilling plan that I have been doing for years. It’s pretty simple;  grill 4 minutes, rotate the steak 90 degrees for 2 minutes, turn over grill 4 minutes, rotate 90 degrees for 2 minutes and rest the steak for 5 minutes.  The rotation give you those nice grill marks on the steak and a 1-inch steak at 500 F for 12 minutes should give you medium rare.  And sure enough it did.

We plated the steaks with the grilled potatoes with some tomato slices to garnish and we were very satisfied.  The marinade did the trick  flavouring the meat with the asian flavours of teriyaki and garlic, the sweetness of the onions and the little potatoes picking up the garlic and the olive oil from the coating.  Very simple but very nice.

I am sure we will revisit grilling again soon but in the meantime tell us favourite cut of steak (shameless plug for new poll) and let us know where you like to eat steak in Bucks County (second shameless plug this time for Best of Bucks- Steak comment opportunity).