Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Very Hot Sauce

What smells so good in my kitchen right now. We are making our own hot sauce. This sauce is very hot. There are a lot of ingredients but its actually very easy to make.
This sauce keeps in the fridge for about 2 weeks or you can freeze it. Most of the ingredients we use we purchase at the Asian Market. Tonight we are using Coconut Vinegar but we have also done this recipe with Rice Vinegar. If after eating some sauce your mouth feels like its burning eat bread to help reduce the burn. Water just intensifies it. This sauce is super hot, to reduce the heat in it you could cut down on the peppers.

1 oz. Soy Sauce
12 Habanero Peppers
Approx 25 Thai Chilli Peppers
Coconut Vinegar
4 oz. Olive Oil
3 oz. Oyster Sauce
Small piece of Gangala
Small piece of Ginger
4 oz. Cilantro
1 Small Onion
4 Tomatoes
4 oz. Sweet Basil
Juice from one lime
12 gloves garlic
5 fingers of krachai
2 tbsp fish sauce

Heat your 2 Qt pot with oil and sweat the garlic and onions
Pick all your stems off the peppers
Rough chop all your ingredients except the peppers
Add all ingredients to the pot
Bring to a boil and then turn down to simmer. Let simmer for about an hour. Make sure that it has reduced to the desired consistency
Cool down and put through blender.

What is Galangal?

Galangal is related to Ginger. You can usually buy it in Asian stores. It is a popular seasoning ingredient in Thai food. Most cooks like to cut the Galangal in thin match-like strips. Because Galangal is denser and harder than Ginger it needs a longer cooking time.

It is used to flavour curries, soups, chicken, beef and vegetable dishes. When you purchase this product try and find a smaller and more tender one as it will be much easier to work with rather than the large harder one. It is noted for helping stomach upsets, gas and cramping.

What is Krachai?

Krachai is used in Thai cooking. It is a fingerroot also known as Chinese Ginger. Its flavour is milder than ginger. It looks like long fingers on a hand. They are full of vitamin B12. This food is great for aiding in digestion and helping with colic and gas.

It is usually used with Fish, soups, Curry, Beef and Rice. It is generally used grated or sliced thinly. If I am making an Asian soup I will toss in a finger or two for flavour. You can find this in Asian grocery stores.

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Tuesday, 28 February 2012

What is Quinoa?

It occurred to me that a lot of people may not be familiar with Quinoa after I posted my salad with Quinoa. This is known as the superfood, a protien that contains 9 amino acids. Also an important point to know is that it is gluten free. When it is cooked it is creamy, a little crunchy and has an almost nutty flavour. They range in colour, including black and red.

It is usually considered a grain but it is a relative of the leafy green vegetables, such as chard and spinach. I would really suggest if you are interested in the health benefits you should take a look online. A site I would suggest for this is

Personally I like Quinoa in soups, salads or cooked as it is. You can buy Quinoa at the Bulk Barn, Goodness Me or most health food stores. I have included a picture of cooked Quinoa and prior to cooking.

Warm Quinoa and Mushroom Salad - Vegan


1 Cup Quinoa

2 oz. Diced Green Onion

1 Tbsp. Tumeric

8 oz. Olive Oil

1 Onion Diced

1 Clove Crushed Garlic

3 Cups Water or Vegetable Stock

3 oz. Shitake Mushrooms

3 oz. Button Mushrooms

3 oz. Enoki Mushrooms

4 oz. Oyster Mushrooms

2 oz. Almonds (whole or slivered as desired)

1 small piece Grated Ginger

1 ½ tsp. Caraway seeds

½ Lemon

2 oz. Soy Sauce

2 oz. Rice Vinegar


In a saucepan heat 2 oz. olive oil and add diced garlic, turmeric and onions. Sweat the vegetables to release the oil, add Quinoa and stir to coat the Quinoa with oil.

Add water or stock. Turn to high till it reaches a boil and then down to simmer. Simmer about ten minutes. Remove from Stove and allow to cool, once cooled to room temperature add green onions.

In a frying pan add 2 oz. Olive Oil heat and add sliced mushrooms and ginger. Fry mushrooms for a couple of minutes till tender.


Juice from ½ Lemon, squeezed

Caraway Seeds

4 oz. Olive Oil

2 oz. Rice Vinegar

Mix dressing ingredients thoroughly and add to hot mushrooms. Pour mushroom mixture over Quinoa and serve either warm or cold. Garnish with Almonds.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

We would like to thank Elycia from for the pictures and for being our guinea pig along with Ivan in tasting the vegan coconut soup. Elycia also posts vegan recipes on her site as well as many other interesting bits. We visit her site everyday, take a look for yourself you will enjoy it.

Vegan Coconut Soup

1 Quart Water
1 Cup Coconut Milk
1 Cup Diced Celery
1 Sprig Thai Basil
5 Diced Onions
2 Oz. Grated Coconut
6 Small Sheets of Seaweed
2 Oz. Cilantro
Bring above ingredients to a Boil.
Then add 3 Lime Leaves, 2 pcs of Krachai, 1 can of Coconut Cream and 1 Tbsp of Miso Paste.
Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 mins then cool down, puree and strain.
(Strain if you desire, personally I prefer it unstrained)

pictures by

Restaurant Review - Brasa

Last night Trevor and I had dinner at Brasa in Niagara Falls at the Hilton Hotel. Brasa has a salad bar which is buffet style and for the meat servings they have Gaucho's walking around with skewers of fire roasted meats carved at your table.

You really have to be careful not to fill up at the salad bar, pace yourself. The buffet is so appetizing it's easy to do this. The meats were very good, a couple of the selections were a bit dry but I had end pieces since they were a bit more well done. If you want your meat well done though they have no problem taking a portion to the grill again and doing that for you. The meats we chose were beef short rib, parmesan pork loin, lamb leg and beef rib eye.

They have many more to choose from. It sounds like a lot of meat but they give you small portions so that you can taste all the different offerings. This was our second time to Brasa, the food is delicious and the service is excellent. The price during the week for this buffet is 39.95 per person.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

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District Society of Chefs & Cooks

Tim Humble is bringing the District Society of Chefs and Cooks back to life. We are pleased to be members as this provides local networking with others in the industry and educational opportunities. It also helps support those new to the industry. For more information on this check out the website at

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Los Olivos

Jan. 15, 2012
Dinner at Los Olivos
Occidental Grand
Neuvo Vallarta, Mexico
Well tonight was our a la carte Italian dinner. First let me say that I really feel this is a bit of an unfair review as they just opened and are using a pre-existing menu. Chef Andre told us that they are in the process of creating a new menu and with his talent I am sure it will be amazing.
What a disappointment. Considering this was a very elegant looking restaurant and there is a dress code we expected that this would be our best meal here. Boy did we miss the buffet tonight.
For my appetizer I ordered a mixed salad, it was basically 2 kinds of lettuce in huge pieces with oil and a dash of vinegar. I believe it was balsamic but there was so little it was hard to be sure. Trevor ordered a torta which was basically a pizza type dough with cold bacon and spinach in it. Not off to a very good start.
For our soup I ordered a Minestrone. Can’t go too wrong with that. It was ok, not outstanding. Trevor ordered an onion cream soup. Nevermind where is the beef, how about where is the onion. It just tasted like a thick watered down carnation milk. It was terrible.
My main course was lasagna. The sauce itself was not too bad but the lasagna filling had some kind of off taste. A lasagna is supposed to be layers of pasta. There was one layer of pasta on the bottem then a lot of filling and topped with cheese and sauce. I could barely eat it.
Trevor ordered a surf and turf that was to be served with pasta. We did not even recognize this as a surf and turf when it came. We said to the guy “this is supposed to be surf and turf” he said “yes that is it”. It was more like a pasta dish with pieces of beef mixed in and one shrimp. The beef was very tough, again the sauce was not too bad.

Le Buffet - Mexico

Jan. 13/12 to Jan 20/12
Le Buffet
Neuvo Vallarta, Mexico
Occidental Grand
This week we are soaking up the sun in Mexico and loving every minute of it. Our package is all inclusive and the majority of our meals are at Le Buffet. Not the usual Buffet you see when on vacation. We are both quite impressed with this one. The menu changes everyday and the food is very good for a buffet. We talked to the Assistant food and Beverage Manager and he told us that they turn their menu around every two weeks. Trevor also had an opportunity to talk to the Executive Chef and he told him that he is from Montreal and has been in Mexico for 20 years.
The service at this Hotel is wonderful. The servers in the dining room cannot do enough for you. The only thing that we found that we actually disliked on the menu was the Miso soup. It was just like water with a very small bit of miso flavour to it. The food is not hot in terms of spicy and that to me is satisfactory although unexpected being in Mexico but I guess since the guests are not natives they know that the majority probably would not appreciate that. Trevor asked if they had any hot sauce and they did not.
My favourite thing on the buffet was the Guacomole. I have never tasted such a good guacamole. The way they do the omelets is also something I found unique. They have all the choices for the omelet out and you take a little bowl and place all the ingredients you would like in your omelet and hand it to the girl and she prepares it with those ingredients.
The choices are more than you need and the presentation is very nice. We had very little to complain about the Buffet.
Every evening they have snacks, I have to say they are probably not the best part of the menu. They tend to dry out quickly. The first one we had was smoked salmon on a little bun and breaded chicken slices. Last night the offering was hamburger, fries or pizza. We chose a slice of pizza. Unfortunately it was not cooked properly and the crust was burned while the rest of the dough was not cooked enough.

La Hacienda

Jan. 14, 2012
Neuvo Vallarta, Mexico
Occidental Grand Neuvo Hotel
La Hacienda
This week we are on vacation in Mexico. Wonderful place to be at this time of year.
We had dinner last night at the La Hacienda at our hotel. Our package includes two a la carte meals, one Italian and one Mexican. Tonight was the Mexican. For my appetizer I had a grilled vegetable and cheese plate. The presentation was lovely. I can`t say the vegetables were grilled very well but the cheese was nice and fresh and topped with something that made it quite flavourful. I did find the wait very long though before we got the appetizers. Trevor had burritos for his appetizer. It was a little much for an appetizer and not presented as nicely as mine. He said the burritos were nice but nothing special.

Trevor also had a seafood soup with tomato broth including tomatoe , carrot and pepper. It was mostly shrimp but it was very nice and he did enjoy it.
My main course was rack of lamb with pureed sweet potatoes. They called it a rack of lamb although it was only two small slices but for me the serving size was perfect and the meat was tender and juicy and the potatoes were nice. It`s more just a matter of improper wording on the menu. Some chefs are a bit sticky about wording when they are out eating.
The main course Trevor had was Beef tenderloin. It was slivers of beef but a good size portion. It was accompanied by fried peppers and onions with a Serrano pepper sauce. We found that his beef was a little bit tough. We believe that the reason for that is because they do not actually prepare the beef right there and when they carry it from the main kitchen in a container sealed the steam that produces causes the beef to be tough. The sauce on the beef was very tasty and the vegetables were satisfactory, however not overly memorable.
For desert we chose a mille feuilles. It didn`t look like what we expected it to look like. But this was the Mexican version. It however was very tasty.
Overall the experience was positive other than the long waits between courses. I definitely cannot complain about the servers though. They are very attentive and aim to please.

Review - Peurto Vallarta, Mexico

Jan. 18/12
Trevor and I are in Mexico this week, at Neuvo Vallarta. We are staying at the lovely Occidental Grand Neuvo Vallarta. This hotel has been re-modeled and it really does look, feel and act like a 5 star hotel, which it is rated. We found the staff to be fantastic, they were always eager to please their guests in any way they could, right from the Bell boys to the Chef.
Speaking of the Chef we were honoured to meet Occidental’s Executive Chef Andre several times during the week. Chef Andre has a brigade of about 32 and his days easily run 12 hours. He told us that he is originally from Montreal, Canada and has been in Mexico for over 10 years. Just from talking to him you can hear the dedication to his craft in his voice.
His staff work very hard, coming in at 5am to get the breakfast started and the restaurant does not close until approximately 9:30 at night. Today Trevor had the opportunity to check out the kitchen with Chef Andre, considering it was during the lunch service and they were fairly busy Trevor said the kitchen looked like it is kept very clean and they have all the updated conveniences.
Just slipping away from the kitchen for a minute we would also like to say how pleased we were with Luis, the Sunquest representative. He booked some great day trips for us. Monday we had the tour of the City, which included a trip to see how Tequila is made the old fashioned way. Mmm smooth. Tues we went whale watching and wed aft a canal riverboat ride to see crocs, reptiles and birds in their natural habitat. Tomorrow we will be going on a pirate ship, which includes dinner and a show.
On the next several inserts I have talked about some of the meals we have had and included some pics.
Please read on and if you are looking for a wonderful winter getaway this is definitely the place to go. This is nowhere near where there is any danger and we felt comfortable to leave our bags anywhere and know they were totally safe. The natives of Mexico living down here are spectacular people, they treat everyone like a special guest, even away from the hotel.