Playing Chicken

Gayle’s Version Chicken Soup with Dumplings (click the link for the recipe).

Home comforts but cooked up much faster than your mama’s version.  I love homemade soup, but I rarely have the time to make broth.  However, homemade dumplings, low sodium organic broth, and skinless boneless chicken breasts and thighs make this quick and easy dinner (less than 45 minutes all in) a Dish it! again, and again.  This recipe is a mix of inspiration from Michael Symon, Paula Deen, and the idea to use a biscuit recipe for the dumplings is compliments of my upbringing. 

Valerie’s Tip: It warms up great in the microwave - but store and warm up the dumplings separate from the soup so they don’t end up soaking up all the soup.  We haven’t tried freezing them, because let’s be honest, we ate them all up too quickly!

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Should you make a burger from expensive high grade tuna?

It does seem counterintuitive to take the highest form of Tuna and turn it into a burger, but in this case the answer is yes because it is delicious, healthy, and quick to make! Thank you Tyler Florence and the Food Network magazine.  This was my pick for dinner night but it was a team effort in the making. Depending on the price of Ahi Tuna where you shop it can cost as much as 10$ per person for this meal. But it is worth every penny. I’m giving it a “Quick and Easy” and a “Dish it!”

Recipe: Tuna Burgers with Carrot Ginger Sauce (click link for recipe)


  • Freeze dried cilantro, because that was all we could find in cow town that day. Of course you should try and use fresh if you can!
  • Cut the recipe in half to make it for two.

Notes: Consider cutting out the water from the ginger carrot mixture, it just made it runny, it wasn’t necessary. To mix things up a bit you could probably replace the ginger carrot mixture with any type of salsa on top of the burgers (the one that comes to mind for me is mango salsa).

At Ouisie’s Table I was welcomed home.

Ouisie’s Table
3939 San Felipe Drive Houston, Texas


Sitting on Lucy’s porch last weekend I was reminded of the spirit of my great grandmother, Nana, who owned and operated a tea house in a small lakeside community in the mid 1900’s. And in reading more about Elouise Adams Jones, the proprietress & Executive Chef, I understood why. Her establishment is clearly a labour of love and each room and menu item is thoughtfully arranged and prepared. While I love my life and work, Ouisie’s (pronounced We’ – zee’s) made me dream of a life of afternoon lunches in sundresses and heels with my girlfriends. And sitting there with two of the most beautiful women I know it didn’t take too much imagination. We started with The Original Taster Plate that included amazing egg salad, pimento cheese, and saltine crackers. My main course was Sautéed Belly of the Salmon & Deviled Eggs. I haven’t seen devilled eggs on a menu before, but they were great, and what is more the salmon belly was amazing. I’d eat at Ouisie’s Table again and again, so it gets a Great. And if I lived in Houston I host showers and birthdays here.

Special thanks and congratulations to V.A.J. and S.O.J.B. 

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Great company, good times, so so food…

4148 Main Street


This past Friday evening I ventured out with a friend for my first Dine-out diner of 2009 to Nyala. While the experience was humorous, the food itself left a little to be desired. The small restaurant had decided that with the crowds from Dine-out that they couldn’t keep up with their al a carte menu, so unfortunately the selection was limited. They had seemingly misplaced our reservation, but managed to seat us anyway. To their credit, despite being so busy, we weren’t rushed at all, and were allowed to have a leisurely dinner while chatting away the week’s events, new books we’re reading, and the adventures of single life in the city. While the service staff was kind and helpful Nyala unfortunately does not stand out among other Ethiopian restaurants I have been too. If you decide to go, definitely wait until after Dine-out has finished and if you’ve been and had a better experience please share.


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‘It’s a hard day’s night…been working like a dog…But when I get home to you…’

Max’s Wine Dive
4720 Washington Ave, Houston, Texas


If you remember the 80’s and you like kraft mac and cheese but you’ve replaced your juice boxes with fine wines and champagnes then try out Max’s Wine Dive. They shake up your classic comfort food and serve it with a cosmopolitan twist. Kosher hotdogs with venison chili, macaroni and cheese with truffles, and organic southern fried chicken. Steroid free chicken – now there’s something that isn’t in your mama’s fried chicken recipe. I had the grilled cheese with tomatoes, which was served on the yummiest texas toast. A bit too much cheese for me (is that possible?), but all over quite good. The sides are creative, some things come in half orders, but the one thing Max doesn’t seem to care a stitch about is calories, so don’t come here if you’re counting ‘em. Prices are moderate with mains from about $14-$25 and the atmosphere is great, but on a busy night you might need to wait a bit or settle for a seat at the bar. I’m going to give Max’s a Very Good.


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Chopping Iron Chef Style

A couple of weekends ago Alyssa (whose hands are featured in the photo to the left) and I braved Vancouver’s pouring rain (and snow!) to improve our knife skills at the Cookshop. Under the guidance of Chef Eric we chopped, paysanne‘d, julienne‘d, and laughed. Alyssa has the best picks, that’s why I even have a tag for her suggestions ‘Alyssa’s Picks’, and this was no exception. I have always wanted to learn how to properly use knives. Knife skills are like golf skills, any idiot can pick up a set of clubs (or knives), but until you’re taught to do it properly your just a hack, getting by. And in this case not just hacking around a golf course, but with a dangerous weapon in hand. The things we learned were not intuitive, and will definitely require practice, so I am already seeing the benefits. Neither of us drew any blood, we enjoyed some very good food (that we did all the chopping for), and received a booklet of terms and recipes. Chef Eric makes cooking fun and shares valuable nuggets of information along the way. I’ve tried to sign-up for the Cookshop classes before and been disappointed because they fill up quickly, so keep your eye out and see if there is something that interests you. But Cookshop isn’t the only place you can gain ‘mad cooking skills’ check in your neighbourhood for cooking stores or schools that might offer similar courses. For example I know there is this one in Calgary, because I recently signed up for a course there. And if you find any you’d like to suggest make sure to post them in the comments box here!

Margaritas and Mexican Martinis and a Trunk Full of Free Nachos

2706 Westheimer Rd, Houston 713.524.1700


I’m in Texas for the first time, trying to take it all in and within three hours of landing in Houston I was sipping back a Mexican Martini eating free nachos from a nacho bar. The décor of Chuy’s will either give you the confidence you are in the right place, or the fear you’ve made the wrong turn. A dog/Elvis themed eatery?! Yes that’s right, pictures of dogs and Elvis everywhere, and ambiguous bathroom signs to boot (a pet peeve of mine).  They have a trunk that they fill with nacho chips, queso and an assortment of nacho topping so that during happy hour you can enjoy free eats. But the standard free nachos are nothing compared to the kind you order from the appetizer menu. These nachos are like nothing I’ve never seen before. Giant individual freshly fried chips topped with beans, cheese, fresh salsa, and jalapenos. If I knew they had food like this in Houston, I would have dropped by a lot sooner. While Chuy’s is definitely not a four star restaurant, for casual yummy eats, and drinks with friends this place gets a Very Good, and the nachos and Mexican Martinis get a Great! The price is right, with 5$ margaritas that dropped down to 3$ at happy hour, so you don’t have to watch your priceline as much as your waistline here!

If you have been to Chuy’s share your rating using the stars below Not OKJust OKVery OKVery GoodGreat (3 votes, average: 4.33 out of 5)
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Roasting and toasting at home in 2009

I first read about cocooning for 2009 on my friend Alyssa’s blog, but since then I’m seeing it everywhere. Popular media has been telling us we are going to spend 2009 indoors making crockpot foods, knitting, and playing scrabble. And while it may be true now, I’m not sure how much of it is because they told us that is what we are going to do, or because it is actually what we had in mind? As part of my new year’s resolutions I have decided to eat meals at ‘home’ a bit more (even if home means a corporate apartment), and saving those nights I eat out for special restaurants and experiences. This is primarily in pursuit of healthier food choices, but an added benefit is the financial savings. So perhaps the trend is a result of the economic conditions and not the seed that CNBC or The Globe and Mail  planted in our minds.

Recipes: Spicy Tuna Melts and Roasted-Tomato Soup

And so in the spirit of my new resolution I was the sous chef the other night to a great meal, and I’d like to share the recipes with you. Spicy Tuna Melts and Roasted-tomato-soup (click on the links for recipes). The Spicy Tuna Melts recipe is compliments of Rachel Ray (who despite having some good home Cook recipes, usually drives me a little nuts, and I’m not the only one). We didn’t use the chipotle chilies, because we couldn’t find them in the store we shopped in, but they were as she would say ‘yummo’. They make a great quick meal. The Roasted-Tomato Soup is a recipe by the former executive chef of West, David Hawksworth featured in this month’s Shape magazine.  It takes an hour and half to make it because you roast the tomatoes, but it is very simple to make, and devine to eat. Your biggest challenge will be finding tomatoes ripe enough in winter, but it is worth the effort. We warmed it up for our lunches later this week to mixed results and we haven’t tried to freeze it yet, but I’m not sure it would stand up well in those conditions. The soup gets a Must Try, and the the Tuna Melts get a Yummy Quick Eats.

Dine Out Vancouver 2009

Just when I’ve set a New Year’s resolution to eat in more often, I’ll give you the reminder to make your Dine Out Vancouver reservations by visiting their website. Dine Out, which runs from January 14th – February 1st is a great way to try a new restaurant and get over the winter blues. Yes it is a fixed menu and the service will be rushed to free up your table for the next set of guests, but if there are places you might never go to otherwise it is worth the effort. I have Dine Out to thank for my first visit to Chambar, which I now frequent and often share as a restaurant tip with my friends. Unfortunately they are no longer participating in Dine Out, but interestingly they sent an email suggesting folks go to Chambar’s “No Dine Out” in order to have a pleasant dining experience. I quickly skimmed the Dine Out list and suggest you try some favourites like Coast, West, and Raincity Grill etc. But personally I’d skip the standards like The Old Spaghetti Factory and Milestones.  Make sure to come back and dish on good finds or bad choices you’ve made throughout Dine Out by commenting on this post!

‘To be or not to be, [Kosher] that is the question’ Part 2

So it has been a couple of weeks since this new life change about not keeping kosher to the same extent (To read my first post on this subject please click here), and I wanted to provide some updates. The first is that in making this change, I’ve had to read up on kashrut, more than I have in years. When I was eating only kosher meat, I didn’t have to be as thoughtful about what was kosher, and what wasn’t. Kosher butchers only sell kosher meat, so while you know vaguely what meat is kosher, on the more exotic there may be questions. So last week when I was asked whether or not I was going to eat Bison, I had to say, I don’t know and hit the books and the internet to find out.

 This choice is an exploration for me, and I’m not sure where I will end up on it. But the way things are starting is that I’m going to eat meat from animals that are kosher (essentially no shellfish and no pork, with a few others in the mix as well), but I will eat meat that hasn’t been raised or killed as per kosher standards. I will still buy kosher meat when I can, and organic if possible. And I will not overtly mix meat and dairy, although in some cases I am aware that a little butter in a frying pan that beef was cooked in at a restaurant is unavoidable. This was true of my old eating habits as well, because I know when I ate at diners for breakfast that my eggs were probably cooked on the same skillet as that bacon that my buddy’s were eating.

One observation in buying non-kosher meat is that the variance in quality is quite significant. This was a big surprise for me. With kosher meat the quality standards are quite universal. Whether I bought ground beef in Montreal, Ottawa, or Toronto, no matter the butcher it was flavourful, had a good texture, and of high quality. This is not the case with non-kosher meat, so encourage those of you who are buying out there to expect more of your meat. You deserve it!

One question I have received a lot is whether or not I’ve made this choice so that I can enjoy better foods. The answer is – No! I encourage y’all to be thoughtful about this as well, because in my experience so far I will say the food I have enjoyed is no better, and perhaps even worse overall than when I was eating a limited vegetarian/fish diet out at restaurants. I may decide to talk about this more in a later post…but I believe this to be true.



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