Strawberry Banana Smoothie

H. and I enjoy making homemade smoothies.  Our favorites are blueberry, strawberry/banana, raspberry and mango.  We buy large quantities of fruit in season, wash, dry, cut, and then freeze in single layers, before storing in lock and lock containers in our freezer for later in the year.  We prefer to use frozen fruit as it gives a thick and slushy consistency (ice tends to water down a smoothie).

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

Makes 2 generous servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups milk (skim, 1% or your choice, such as almond, soy …)
  • 2 – 1/2 cups frozen strawberries (or fresh, placed in freezer until slightly frozen)
  • 1 banana
  • ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp chia, ground flax or hemp seeds (or a combination of all)
  • 1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder (optional – if using, omit honey)

Blend all ingredients on high speed until smooth.

Cheers!

Bannock – Summerlicious Review

Summerlicious (July 4 – 20, 2014) is an annual event in Toronto that highlights the city’s top restaurants over the course of 2 weeks.

You can choose a prix fixe menu from over 200 restaurants. Lunch prices are $15, $20 or $25 per person. Dinner varies from $25, $35 or $45 per person.

This was our first visit to Bannock.  We were intrigued as the restaurant, which is part of the Oliver & Bonacini group is described as offering Canadian comfort food in a casual fine dining atmosphere. Bannock is located in downtown Toronto, across the street from the infamous Eaton Center.

Bannock

I actually had a craving to make bannock bread just from the name alone.

Bannock has a nice ambience; dark lighting, simple, clean lines with Canadian décor throughout. I always like an open concept kitchen.

Bannock   Bannock

One of their popular menu items is the roast duck poutine pizza. It certainly is decadent from what I read in terms of nutrition. The Toronto Star lists the pizza at over 2,000 calories, more than 100 grams of fat and 4000 + grams of sodium! Perhaps a good idea would be to share this with a group.

We decided to order from the Summerlicious menu so we could review it as such. Our server Marcel was very gracious and attentive, explaining the menu items in detail.

THREE-COURSE DINNER

25.00

excludes taxes + gratuity

APPETIZERS

iced bloody caesar soup
MONTREAL STEAK SPICE, CLAMS, CELERY

smashed cucumber and head cabbage salad
PICKLED WATERMELON, RUTABAGA, MINT, GREEN CURRY

smoked salmon + salt-baked beets
SPLIT AND SWEET PEA HUMMUS, GRAPEFRUIT, GRENADINE

MAINS

dredgeman’s fish pie
PACIFIC COD, SCALLOPS, SHRIMP, CRÈME FRAÎCHE, TARRAGON

roast beef bulgogi hawaiian pizza
PINEAPPLE, GOCHUJANG, GREEN ONION

mama kyle’s meatloaf
GROUND BRISKET, BACON, CHICHARRÓNES, BIRCH TOMATO CATSUP

buckwheat soba noodle bowl
MUSHROOM FAUXLOGNESE, GARLIC MUSTARD GREENS, CHILI PONZU

DESSERTS

cortland apple fritter
MAPLE AND CIDER DULCE DE LECHE

o&b artisan croissant bread pudding
SPICED CHOCOLATE, PEANUT BUTTER, KAFFIR LIME

bannock ices

For our appetizers, we ordered the smoked salmon with salt-baked beets and the smashed cucumber and head cabbage salad. We love beets and these were deliciously prepared with a blend of unique ingredients.

Smoked Salmon and Salt-Baked Beets

The cucumber/cabbage salad had a refreshing crunch, but I found it too salty. I tasted more Asian flavors such as soya sauce and sesame oil than I did of green curry.

Smashed Cucumber and Head Cabbage Salad

For our entrees, we tried Mama Kyle’s Meatloaf and the Dredgeman’s Fish Pie. The meatloaf plate had 3 kinds of pork: within the meatloaf as well as bacon wrapped and topped with fried pork rinds. Again, salt was at the forefront of the seasonings. A kick of spice was added to the meatloaf which was very moist, but the bacon could have been crispier. The pork rind was chewy and stale, quite disappointing.

Mama Kyle’s Meatloaf

The crust on the Dredgeman’s Fish Pie was flaky and rich.  The filling was merely a heavy cream sauce with very little seafood to be found. I did bite into “1” lonely bay scallop.  It would have been satisfying to have chunks of seafood, even small chunks, rather than flakes, which were very difficult to find!

Dredgeman’s Fish Pie

The Oliver & Bonnacini Artisan Croissant Bread Pudding was good, but nothing out of the ordinary. The chocolate peanut butter sauce was a nice change from a regular Crème Anglaise.

O&B Artisan Croissant Bread Pudding
I almost cried when I saw the Cortland Apple Fritters.  Okay, that’s a bit dramatic … but 2 of the tiniest bite-sized fritters were placed in front of me. I simply stared at them. I concur with most reviews I read; they were indeed, dense, chewy and dry :( :( :(

Cortland Apple Fritters

As this was Bannock’s Summerlicious menu, perhaps the regular items would fare better. We may give Bannock another try at a later date.

After our dinner, we walked across the street to the food court at Eaton Center!

On to our next craving …

Pan on the Danforth – Summerlicious Review

Summerlicious (July 4 – 20, 2014) is an annual event in Toronto that highlights the city’s top restaurants over the course of 2 weeks. You can choose a prix fixe menu from over 200 restaurants. Lunch prices are $15, $20 or $25 per person. Dinner varies from $25, $35 or $45 per person.

Pan on the Danforth

This was our first visit to Pan on the Danforth. We were the first to arrive for lunch so we had our pick of tables! The restaurant is very cozy and dark, with a nice shaded patio. We sat at a table just on the border of the restaurant and patio with a great view!

Pan on the Danforth   Pan on the Danforth   Pan on the Danforth   Pan on the Danforth   Pan on the Danforth

Our server was Agapios, and he was super efficient and very friendly. Did I mention he was funny?

We started with the Trilogy of Spreads: Taramosalata (made with fish roe), Humus and Tirokafteri (feta cheese).  A plate of grilled pita bread while simply prepared, was addictive!

Trilogy of Spreads
We also shared an order of Kolokithokeftedes, which are zucchini croquettes with Feta, Kefalograviera cheese and fresh herbs.  The croquettes were unique and lightly fried to perfection.

Kolokithokeftedes   Kolokithokeftedes

We both ordered the Pan Chicken Souvlaki as our entrées.  Tender cuts of grilled and marinated chicken breast served with new mini potatoes, rice, and salad. I was a bit hesitant as we’ve experienced rubbery chicken most every time we’ve had souvlaki! Imagine my surprise when I bit into moist and tender chicken! I have no doubt the chicken was marinated in yogurt. I’ve tried this method at home many times and the results have been amazing. The portions were generous – but we managed to finish every bit.

Pan Chicken Souvlaki

We decided to try the Karidopita for dessert. It’s a honey walnut cake served with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. The cake was dense with a course crumb and studded with tons of walnuts, soaked in syrup. Very decadent.

Karidopita
The Danforth, also known as Greektown, is a vibrant community and a great place to take a walk after an enjoyable lunch.

~ ~ ~

We were happy to return to Pan on the Danforth a few days later to try their Summerlicious dinner menu!

What a nice surprise to have Agapios as our server again. He was just as funny and sincere as our first visit. A really nice guy!

We sat out on the patio this time and enjoyed the cool breeze, despite the dark clouds and pending rain!

Here’s that delicious grilled pita bread again!  It’s brushed with garlic olive oil!

Grilled Pita Bread
For appetizers, we ordered lightly fried  Calamari with Tzatziki sauce. Delicious!

Calamari can be quite hit and miss in terms of chewiness. The Pan’s version is tender. I’ve never seen rings so large, they looked like onion rings!

Calamari
The Spinach Pie without phyllo was interesting. I was intrigued. Bites of melt in your mouth Feta cheese, spinach and dill …. mmm.

Spinach Pie
There was no debate on our entrees. We both love braised lamb shanks and ordered their version, Arni with Monastiri Orzo Pasta.

Arni with Monastiri Orzo Pasta
This is one of H.’s favorite dishes and I’ve made it many times at home. I normally braise the lamb shanks for several hours and was happy to hear that Pan on the Danforth does the same. The shanks were fall-off-the-bone tender in a thick tomato sauce. The orzo was perfectly cooked. I could tell that H. was thoroughly enjoying his meal!

For dessert (my favorite part), we tried the Strawberry Vanilla Passion Sponge Cake with a custard cream filling, and the Milk Chocolate Sponge Cake with Chocolate Syrup.

Strawberry Vanilla Passion Sponge Cake   Milk Chocolate Sponge Cake with Chocolate Syrup
Agapios was kind enough to bring us Baklava to try!

Baklava
Another excellent meal and we had barely enough time to make it to our car with the pelting rain!

Pan on the Danforth has a live Greek band and belly dancers on Friday and Saturdays nights.


Disclaimer:

This is not a paid advertisement.

Quick and Easy No-Bake Macaroni and Cheese

Quick and Easy No-Bake Macaroni and Cheese

We love mac n cheese, but we don’t crave oodles of cheese. You know the kind …. when you dig in and come up with strings of never-ending cheese! While tasty, I wanted to keep it somewhat light, and I’m sure you know where I’m going – saving room for dessert!

I came across this stove top recipe which is super easy. I liked how it has enough cheese sauce to satisfy our cravings, but not to the point where the cheese is all we taste. It reminded me of a grown up version of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, but made from scratch!

I increased the shredded cheese to 2 cups as 1 ½ cups was definitely not enough, even if you’re counting calories!  Mac n Cheese is not a diet food so go ahead and splurge once in a while!  Don’t worry about how much cheese sauce the recipe makes.  It will absorb into the pasta and be simply delicious!

Quick and Easy No-Bake Macaroni and Cheese

Adapted from dairygoodness.ca

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 2 cups uncooked macaroni
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1-½ cups milk (skim, 1%, 2% or 3%)
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ tsp dried oregano or 1 tbsp fresh oregano
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 cups mild, medium or old Cheddar cheese, grated (we used old Cheddar)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions (or however you like your pasta – we prefer a bit longer than al dente)
  2. Drain in a colander and keep about 1/4 cup of the pasta water
  3. In a  large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat and brown garlic and onion for 5 minutes, or until tender
  4. Mix milk and flour together in a small bowl and pour into saucepan. Stir using a whisk and let simmer until mixture thickens
  5. Add Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, oregano and parsley, whisk to combine
  6. Gradually incorporate grated Cheddar cheese and whisk until smooth,  bringing to a quick simmer
  7. Season with salt and pepper (to your taste)
  8. Add pasta, stir quickly with a large spoon until heated through.  Add the pasta water a bit at a time (as the sauce will thicken and become gluey).  You may not need all of it
  9. Serve immediately

Kitchen note:

  • Ziti is the type of pasta that is similar to Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, it’s a bit hard to find though :(

Ziti

Key Lime Pie With a Coconut Macaroon Crust

Key Lime Pie With a Coconut Macaroon Crust

Key lime pie …. mmm!  But Key lime pie with a coconut macaroon crust is over the top delicious!  Try it and let me know if you prefer it over a regular graham cracker crust!

Coconut Macaroon Crust

Adapted from marthastewart.com

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 2 large egg whites
  • ¼ cup sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Grease an 8 or 9” pie plate or tart pan with removable bottom with unsalted butter at room temperature (do not use melted butter). I also placed parchment paper on the bottom (cut to fit) of the greased pan as the coconut crust was hard to slice into once baked
  3. In a large bowl, whisk egg whites until foamy. Add sugar and whisk to incorporate. Gently fold in coconut until mixture holds together well
  4. Press mixture evenly onto prepared pan or plate. You may only have enough to fill the bottom and not the sides (I used a tart pan with removable bottom)
  5. Bake until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes or more. Check often as oven temperatures vary
  6. Set crusts aside to cool while making your Key lime pie filling

Kitchen notes:

  • The crust may puff up while baking. It will flatten out once cooled. If not, you can gently press it down with the back of a spoon
  • The first time I made this crust, it wasn’t baked enough. It tasted great, but we prefer a darker crust. The crust may also become softer as it absorbs the pie filling, so it’s best to bake it longer
  • I didn’t have unsweetened coconut on hand. I used sweetened flaked coconut and omitted the sugar