Sunday, 13 April 2014

Recipe: Chocolate Chip Cookie Skillet

A couple of my closest friends went through difficult break-ups in the span of about a week. My default when someone has a broken heart is lots of chocolate and ice cream. And it's always better when that chocolate is actually warm gooey chocolate chip cookie dough served warm from the oven with ice cream. Add in some extra chocolate syrup for good measure and, if nothing else, they'll be in a sugar coma and able to sleep.

I may sound like a broken record, but I love anything that I can make in my cast iron skillet. The only problem with making this cookie skillet for dessert is that it means I can't make my one hour skillet focaccia bread to go with the main course. Cookie skillet vs buttery focaccia. Life is rough in our household! 

The real solution to that dilemma would just be to get another cast iron skillet.

If you have never had a cookie skillet (or pizzookie as some places call it), you have no idea what you are missing. This is something you need to experience immediately. There is almost nothing greater than warm cookie dough with cold ice cream. 

Speaking of which, make sure you buy a good quality, creamy vanilla ice cream. Simple is always best; we love this Breyer's creamery style natural vanilla. When we're not making it ourselves, we like to look for products that use just a few natural ingredients.

Anyway: this cookie recipe. Of course, you could use it to make normal cookies, too. I have certainly used this recipe for that purpose as well. Just adjust your baking time to 11-12 minutes for 1.5 tbsp scoops of cookie dough. This cookie recipe is super easy. It may not be the NY Times "best ever" recipe, but it also doesn't involve browning your butter or refrigerating your cookie dough for 48 hours.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Skillet

  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup room temp butter
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 2 large eggs 
  • 3 cups flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips


Preheat your oven to 350 F.

In your stand mixer, cream the butter and white and brown sugar together. You could also do this using a hand mixer or, if you really wanted to, by hand.

Add the vanilla and eggs, one at a time, and mix until combined. I always crack my eggs into a small bowl before adding them to my stand mixer. 

In a separate bowl, combine your dry ingredients and fluff with a fork. Slowly add the dry ingredients to your wet ingredients, mixing on slow speed. Once the dry ingredients are incorporated, add the chocolate chips and stir until just mixed. 

If you're making a cookie skillet, press the dough into your cast iron skillet. You do not need to grease the skillet. 

Put the skillet in your preheated oven and bake for approximately 22-25 minutes. You want the edges of the cookie dough to be browned and starting to crisp but the centre should still be a bit gooey. 

Allow the skillet to cool for a couple minutes before serving. 

Serve wedges of warm cookie skillet in a bowl with ice cream and some chocolate syrup! 

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

All you can eat meat at Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse

With friends visiting from Calgary, we decided to head to Pampa to finally try the "Rodizio" dining experience. It's hard to believe that we haven't actually tried this place before, it is literally the boyfriend's perfect meal: unlimited grilled meat brought to your table on swords and sliced off with machetes. What could be better? 

Unfortunately, we were all extremely disappointed with our meals, given the cost. For a significantly reduced price point we would have a lot less to complain about. But at $50 per person plus drinks, dessert, tax, and tip, this was a huge let down. Of course, I can never eat my money's worth at these places anyway. But the boyfriend usually makes up for that in eating both his and my money's worth. 

That was simply not the case here. Sure, there were redeeming parts about our meal. The restaurant's interior is beautiful, the wine display is very impressive, our server was attentive. And it's certainly a unique dining experience, if you're willing to shell out the ridiculously high cost. 

The salad bar (fortunately, included in the $50 price tag) is excellent. For me, this was the highlight of the meal. There were so many options to supplement all the meat, including a giant wheel of grand padano. Yum! The ceviche was so refreshing and balanced and I loved the variety of cheeses and fresh veggies. 

Once you're ready for the meat, flip your little disc from red to green. Once you give the green light, the waiters will literally swarm your table with meat sword after meat sword. This is definitely the coolest part of the meal. However, it would be nice if they were a little bit better at pacing - it was very overwhelming.

We were told there were 10 different meat options that evening: chicken drumstick, chicken thigh wrapped in bacon, pork sausage, pork loin with parmesan cheese, leg of lam, beef rumpsteak, garlic beef rumpsteak, top sirloin, bottom sirloin, and rib eye. We found that the meats were really hit and miss. Some were absolutely delicious; I could not get enough of the top sirloin! Unfortunately, that particular waiter was also very difficult to track down and rarely came to our table, unlike the pork sausage or beef rumpsteak waiters. The chicken drumstick was also excellent, as was the parmesan pork. The bacon wrapped chicken thigh, on the other hand, was not appetizing. The restaurant does not provide steak knives to diners, presumably because the meat is supposed to be tender enough on its own. There were a few cuts that were a bit too fatty and tough to cut without a steak knife. 

If you can believe it, after all that meat, we decided to order desserts. The desserts are not included in the price of the meal and, unfortunately, were extremely disappointed. I was persuaded to try a coconut pudding with stewed mangos, which I was told was like a light, tropical creme brulee. I am not one to send food back, but I sent this dessert back. The pudding tasted like something that would be served in a hospital and, worse yet, the mangos on top were crunchy chunks and definitely not fresh mangos. My friend had the chocolate angel food cake which she said was fine, but really not worth the $12 price tag.

All things considered, we had an enjoyable meal and it was neat to experience something new and interactive. We were all provided $20 vouchers, to be used on a monday-wednesday for dinner, with our bill at the end of the meal. Given the high prices and inconsistency, I don't think it is likely that we will return here, even with the $20 off. 


Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse

9929 - 109 St. N.W.
Edmonton, AB   T5K 1H6
(p) 780-756-7030
(f)  780-756-7033

Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Convenience at Chinese Szechuan Stir Fry

Sometimes there is nothing better than a Saturday night spent curled up on the couch with Chinese take-out. There was a time when I was happy to go out every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. Now I really look forward to these quiet nights at home. I guess that's what happens when you grow up from being 18 years old to having a job and other priorities.

We usually order our Chinese food from Chinese Szechuan Stir Fry. The main reason we tried it in the first place is the convenience; it's literally minutes away from where we live. You seriously cannot beat that kind of convenience. They also have a super easy online ordering system. Meaning I can waver back and forth about what I want, adding and deleting items until we are satisfied with our order. And they have a 10% off coupon if you opt for pick-up. Since it is so close by, it's no trouble at all to just pop over. It's located pretty much right next door to the delicious Blue Chair Cafe (definitely check it out if you haven't been, their brunch and dinner are awesome!)

Is it the best Chinese food in Edmonton? Probably not. But it's decent and reasonably priced. The quality of the food is usually pretty good and the portion sizes are consistent. It's definitely what you would consider to be Canadian-ized (is that a word?) Chinese food, but whatever.

Like I said, on a quiet Saturday night, for us it's all about the convenience! The food is already ready within 30 minutes and is always piping hot.

They also always throw in a free order of some sort of deep fried, battered meat. The boyfriend thinks they are pork and they're salty and delicious and for some strange reason, he prefers to eat them cold the next day. In an effort to maintain some semblance of health (who am I kidding, we all know how much I love hollandaise sauce) I don't eat them. 

We have a few staples that we pretty much always order: for me, it's the wor wonton soup. Loaded with tons of veggies, chicken, pork, shrimp, and of course lots of wontons! The boyfriend loves the sweet and sour chicken balls. Don't ask me why, but it's his favourite. The shanghai noodles are always delicious and you can't go wrong with the chicken fried rice.

This particular Saturday night, with my sister joining us, we also ordered the cashew chicken, beef and broccoli, and Szechwan spring rolls. All of them met our expectations and left us satisfied and with tons of leftovers! 

Chinese Szechuan Stir Fry on Urbanspoon 

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Recipe: Cheesy Potato Nachos

When it comes to food, the boyfriend will eat just about anything as long as there is lots of it. Restaurants that serve tapas or "small plates" don't really work for him, but he certainly gets his money's worth (and mine!) when we go for all you can eat. Which is why we are frequent Costco shoppers, and we buy our potatoes in 20 lb bags.

As you can imagine, I am often left scrambling to find potato recipes to use up the remainder of the 20 lb bag before the potatoes begin to sprout. 

This recipe has become an instant favourite in our house, and I'm sure you can imagine why. Anything covered in melted cheese and bacon is hard not to love, especially when that anything happens to be french fries. The sour cream ranch sauce is also key - don't skip it! The recipe comes from oh so Delicioso and has been adapted to suit our family's tastes. 

Of course, we like to load ours up with hot sauce and cilantro. Some people aren't big on spicy, and others are adamantly opposed to cilantro. This recipe is really more of a guideline; it can be modified to whatever you have in your fridge and whatever your family likes. One night I chopped up tomatoes to sprinkle over the top, another night I added salsa. This recipe falls somewhere in the realm between nachos and poutine. It's actually lot like irish potato nachos. If you've never had irish potato nachos, our favourites are from Limericks in Calgary. But I digress; on to the recipe!

We've made a few different variations of this winning dish

Cheesy Potato Nachos

(adapted from oh so Delicioso)


  • 6 large russet potatoes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and peper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded cheese blend
  • 1/2 cup real bacon bits
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup ranch 
  • 2 tbsp milk
These are what I would call the "mandatory" ingredients. Anything else is totally optional and should depend on your family's particular tastes (and whatever is in your fridge!). See my list at the end of the directions for other topping ideas.


Preheat your oven to 400 F. 

Slice the potatoes into wedges. The thickness will dictate how long you have to cook the potatoes. I like them on the thinner side so that they get nice and crispy. I always leave the skin on my potatoes (extra fibre!) so make sure you give them a really good scrub. Or you can always peel them - again, this is up to you.

Crispy Potato Wedges

Toss the potato wedges in a bowl with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder, until evenly coated. It's important to make sure your potatoes are well-seasoned, otherwise you will have delicious toppings on bland chunks of potato.

Spread the potato wedges out on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake for 30-40 mins, depending on thickness. After about 20 mins, take the potatoes out and flip them over so that they get nice and brown on both sides.

Meanwhile, mix your sour cream, ranch, and milk together. Depending on the fat content of your sour cream, you may need more or less milk. You want to have a smooth mixture that you can drizzle over your potatoes.

Spread about 2/3 of your sour cream on an oven safe dish (I just use another cookie sheet, we're not fancy). Once your potatoes are out of the oven, place them on top of the sour cream mixture and turn on your broiler. Sprinkle the cheese over top of the potato wedges. You can use any cheese blend, just make sure it's one that will get nice and melty. 

That's the melty goodness you're looking for!

Place the potatoes under the broiler for about 60 - 90 seconds to melt the cheese. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with your choice of toppings and drizzle with remaining sour cream ranch sauce. And don't forget the *real* bacon bits!

Other topping ideas:

  • Diced tomatoes
  • Fresh herbs: parsley, cilantro, chives
  • Green or red onions
  • Salsa
  • Hot sauce
  • Pickled jalapeƱos
  • Olives
  • Diced chicken
  • Guacamole
  • Fresh peppers

The possibilities are really endless! I think anything that could go on top of nachos could be added here and would be delicious.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

MKT Fresh Food & Beer Market: Stay for the Beer

We were out running errands on a recent Sunday afternoon. At some point some of us (okay, one of us... ) started to get a little cranky and the hanger was setting in. We were shocked to realize that it was already 3pm and we hadn't eaten lunch yet! Low blood sugar was definitely a problem. Since we were near Whyte Ave and in the mood for burgers or pub food, we stopped into MKT Fresh Food & Beer Market.

MKT has been open for over a year now and is a favourite of ours in the summer. It's an easy walk from our place, and they have a fantastic patio and beer selection. However, it seems that we have never actually ordered a meal there. Sure, we've had the nachos (delicious and large serving size) and other appetizers, but never a full meal.

On a side note, MKT should not be confused with MRKT (downtown on Jasper). MKT is owned by the Century Hospitality Group (100, Lux, etc.). Why they chose a name so similar to another restaurant is beyond me. 

Anyway, it was relatively quiet for a Sunday afternoon, though there were definitely groups seated at the bar and in some of the booths. Given our mood, we were happy for the quiet environment.

The boyfriend is a huge fan of MKT for their massive beer selection. They have 60 beers on tap and another 60 bottled varieties. While I am definitely a wine girl through and through, I quite enjoy MKT since they have lots of beers that I like. 

These days, Blanche de Chambly seems to be my favourite! It was a nice and refreshing choice on this Sunday afternoon.

Pretzel's n' Dips
We started with an order of the pretzels to share (Pretzels n’ Dips: Artistic Bakery’s soft & warm pretzels, Stiegl cheese sauce, German mustard, $10). The pretzels arrived warm and were delicious all on their own. They were soft and fluffy on the inside with just the right amount of chewiness on the outside, and perfectly salted. The mustard dip tasted a lot more like a very spicy horseradish, just yellow in colour. It was very tasty but man, was it spicy! The cheese sauce was unfortunately bland and thin in comparison.

Prime Beef Dip
I was in the mood for a beef dip and the description sounded like it was going to hit the spot perfectly (Prime Beef Dip: Slow roasted beef, shaved thin, caramelized onions, roasted garlic jus, French roll, $16). The beef itself was tender and flavourful and you really can't go wrong with caramelized onions. The French roll, on the other hand, was extremely dry and lacked any discernable flavour. A garlic aioli and a nice toast would have been much appreciated. I left a lot of the very dry roll on the plate. 

The boyfriend went with the burger (MKT Brgr’: 7 oz. Spirit View Ranch Heritage Angus beef burger, double smoked bacon, aged cheddar, roasted tomatoes, arugula, spicy mayo, fresh baked bun, $15). He was extremely satisfied with his burger. The patty was thick and cooked through without being dry. Plus he's really a sucker for anything with bacon on it. I tried a bite and thought the arugala was a nice touch, as opposed to the standard lettuce.

MKT Brgr'
We both got french fries with our meals; clearly we are not really salad people and wouldn't do well on a low-carb diet. The fries were crispy and well-seasoned, which is exactly how I like them! There were plenty of fries left over to take home, which were delicious with our favourite steamed mussels a few nights later.

Finally, my sister was craving some comfort food. She went with the macaroni and cheese (MAC N’ CHEESE:  Corkscrew macaroni, Sleeman’s Honey Brown & Applewood cheddar cheese sauce, baked golden crispy, $15). The mac and cheese was actually topped with potato chips, which was a bit odd and didn't really add anything. I'm also not sure there was any noticeable flavour from the Sleeman's honey brown as advertised. The noodles were al dente to the point where they almost had too much bite to them. Chewiness of the noodles aside, she enjoyed her meal and had plenty leftover to take home for lunch on Monday. 

All things considered, our meal really hit the spot. There were a few little things that could be improved with each dish, but overall it was tasty and satisfying. This is definitely a place that is worth frequenting for the beer list alone! And the food is pretty good as well. They have a large food menu and I would definitely be willing to try some of their other dishes next time we are there. 


8101 Gateway Blvd 
Edmonton, AB T6E 3X8
(780) 439-2337

MKT Fresh Food & Beer Market on Urbanspoon

Friday, 21 March 2014

Recipe: One Hour Skillet Focaccia

Today's blog post is a short one folks - because that captures exactly what this recipe is: quick and easy.

This is the perfect side to serve with just about any meal. The first time I made this recipe, I could not have predicted the reaction. The boyfriend and my sister very quickly became addicts, polishing off the entire skillet in one sitting and asking for it almost every week. It's pretty much like crack in bread form. Butter, cheese, a little garlic, covering bread fresh from the oven. What could be better?

And more importantly, who would have thought that you could make homemade focaccia bread in just one hour? With yeast including rising time?! Well, Crunchy Creamy Sweet knew you could, and that's where that recipe comes from today! I've adapted the recipe to suit our tastes, but it is a perfect focaccia bread recipe all on its own.

The one thing you absolutely must have to make this focaccia bread is a cast iron skillet. It gives the focaccia bread the nice crispy bottom. And if you're a regular reader of my blog (hi mom!) or you frequent my little kitchen, you know I'm obsessed with my le cresuet cast iron skillet.

We've had this foaccia bread with various pastas, soups, and stews so far. This is such a simple recipe and goes perfectly with almost anything you can imagine. 

One Hour Focaccia Bread
(recipe adapted from Crunch Creamy Sweet)


  • 3/4 cup very warm water
  • 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp quick rise yeast
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and divided
  • 3 Tbsp shredded asiago or parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/3 tsp garlic powder (not garlic salt!)
  • 3 turns fresh ground black pepper

Start by preheating your oven to 220 F and greasing your cast iron skillet. I do this with about 1 tbsp of olive oil (I just eyeball it) and use a piece of paper towel to grease the entire skillet, including the sides. When your oven reaches 220 F, turn it off and keep the door closed. This is going to be your warm environment to speed up the rising time for your dough.

Make sure your water is very warm, as I have found this makes a huge difference to how the yeast reacts. I bring my water up to 175 F in my kettle. If you're a tea addict like I am, I strongly recommend one of these awesome kettles with different temperature settings. The 175 F is for green teas.  But back to the recipe!

Get your stand mixer ready with the paddle attachment - you're going to switch to the dough hook eventually so have that on hand. Add in the hot water and stir in the sugar until it dissolves. This just takes a couple seconds, you don't want your water to cool down too much.

Sprinkle the yeast over the water and stir a couple times. Allow the mixture to sit until the yeast starts to foam (takes about 5 minutes). You'll be able to tell when it's nice and foamy and it starts to give off that yeast-y smell.

Turn your mixer onto a low speed and slowly add one cup of the flour and the salt, mixing until combined. Add in the oil and mix well. 

Once the oil is mixed in, continue adding the rest of the flour slowly. After I've added about 1/3 of the remaining flour I switch to the dough hook. Continue adding flour until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl. Hang onto the remaining flour.

Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and place it on a lightly floured surface. Using the remaining flour, fold it into the dough and knead it a few times until it is smooth and elasticy but not sticky. Shape into a ball and roll it out to a size approximately the same as your skillet. Again, this is something I just eyeball. There's no magic measurement to it. 

Place your dough in the skillet and stretch it up the sides. Cover the skillet and dough completely with a *clean* kitchen towel and place it in the warm oven for 20 minutes. Your oven is turned off at this point after reaching 220 F. 

When your timer goes off, remove the skillet from the oven and preheat it to 400 F. Melt your butter in a small bowl in the microwave and mix in the dried oregano and garlic powder.

Now for the fun part! Your dough will have roughly doubled in size. Using your fingers, poke indentations all over the dough. These little holes will collect all of the delicious butter mixture.

Brush the dough with about half the butter and sprinkle all of the shredded cheese over top. Bake for 20 minutes in your 400 F oven or until it looks golden brown and delicious.

When you take the skillet out of the oven, brush it with the remaining butter mixture. Your focaccia bread will literally slide right out of the skillet. Slice and serve warm. Make sure you put a slice or two aside for yourself or it may disappear before you have a chance to even try it!

Monday, 17 March 2014

Recipe: Lobster Ravioli

(instagram photo of my lunch  in the courthouse cafeteria)
It's been a while since my last blog post.. One month to be exact To all of my loyal readers (hi mom!), I'm sorry for being MIA! I can assure you I have still been eating lots of delicious food and doing *some* cooking, though not nearly as much as I would like. To say it has been a busy few weeks would be putting it mildly. Most of my meals lately have looked a little something like this:

Or, on particularly bad days in the office, this has definitely happened:

But I've been dying to share this recipe with you for a while now! It must have been back in early February that we made this delicious meal and it's all part of my addiction to making homemade pasta. When I got my wonderful pasta making set for my kitchenaid, I also ordered this handy little ravioli press since it was only an extra $3.99 on amazon! Obviously this meant that we needed to make some ravioli asap. 

My mom was in town and we were all in the mood for something decadent for dinner so we settled on a lobster ravioli in a tomato cream sauce.

I'll be totally honest with you guys, the $3.99 raviloli maker was a bit of a disappointment. I had expected that it would cut through the pasta dough a bit better and form a solid seal around the filling. You really had to put some muscle into it to cut the dough and at least half of our raviolis burst while cooking. Fortunately it just meant that some of the ricotta and lobster filling ended up in the creamy sauce. It wasn't as pretty to look at, but still delicious nonetheless.

Oh, and we made some homemade bread and our favorite steamed mussels on the side, along with some lovely wine. So all things considered, definitely a successful meal.

Apparently I only took a photo of the french side
Before I get to the recipe, I want to talk to you guys about this frozen lobster meat. We all know how expensive lobster can be, especially living in the landlocked prairies, as well as how much work dealing with whole, live lobsters are. This frozen lobster meat was a perfect short cut and it was full of delicious, tender, succulent lobster chunks. It was about $18.99 and gave us more than enough for this recipe, plus a few bites to sneak on the side!

The pasta dough recipe is the same one we used in our pork ragu with homemade pasta and we rolled it out to a thickness setting of 5. 

The pasta-making process in our messy kitchen

Lobster Ravioli with Tomato Cream Sauce

For the ravioli:

  • Homemade pasta dough
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 can frozen lobster meat, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp fresh lemon zest
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp fresh parsley, finely chopped

Mix all ingredients and season to taste. We always have asiago cheese on hand in our house but you could also use parmesan or even romano cheese here. Set aside while you roll out your pasta dough.

When you're ready, scoop 1 tsp of filling onto your pasta sheets. I used a cookie dough scooper (these are awesome!) Space each scoop about 1.5 inches apart. Brush a little bit of water around each scoop and place a second sheet of dough over top of the first. Cut out each ravioli and press down to seal. 

I sprinkled my raviolis with a little bit of flour so that they didn't stick together while I continued making the rest and placed them off to the side on a baking sheet in a single layer.

When you're ready, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add your raviolis. Cook for about 3 minutes until they float to the top. Gently remove with a slotted spoon.

Now it's time to gently stir them into your tomato cream sauce (or any other sauce)!

For the tomato cream sauce:

  • 1 large can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 8 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 1 cup half and half or heavy cream**
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded asiago cheese
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Heat up your skillet over medium heat with the olive oil and add the onions, season with salt and pepper. Saute until translucent and add your garlic, cooking for about 1 minute. Add in your can of diced tomatoes and allow it to cook down for about 3-4 minutes, breaking up the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon.

Add in your half and half (or heavy cream) and again, allow it to reduce down a bit and thicken. Remove from heat and stir in the shredded cheese and fresh herbs. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.

This is a simple and easy sauce that pairs beautifully with the lobster ravioli without overpowering it! Serve with fresh bread and a glass of wine.

**If you want to make a lighter version, you can substitute 1/2 cup fat-free sour cream and 1/2 cup reduced fat evaporated milk