Pizza Making with the buds

A a week without pizza is, quite frankly, a week wasted. This past week the treat was the chief chefs Wyatt and daughter Adanna, pizza pieing away in my kitchen, “using up” the last 6 doughs of a batch. 

In the coming weeks I’m going to start telling the story of my quest to start a pizza production business. It’s not all tasting and creating. It’s numbers, dreams, dashed hopes (namely cause the numbers don’t allow one to make quite the living one needs to). But, I’ve not given up hope. It may come to pass one day! 

Culinary Coaching Craziness – Vegetarian Style – “The Main” and Dessert

Whoa! This series of blog posts has gone on too long. Meaning, I have learned to never try to post an entire dinner party at one shot! Better to do individual dishes than to linger on and on and on and on and …. DOHHHH!

The main course here comes from a lingering obsession of mine to create a veggie burger that actually has decent flavor AND texture, that you can throw on the BBQ next to the steaks and not feel like the “98 lb weakling”. The obsession spawned this creation which can easily be turned into “meat-loaf”, burgers or as I did here, steaks (truly just meatloaf sliced and grilled…) It has gotten universal rave reviews by carnivores and herbivores alike. Enjoy!

Wild Rice and Portobello Mushroom “steak” with Basil Pesto and Kalamata Olive Tapenade

Wild Rice and Portobella mushroom "steak"

Wild Rice and Portobella mushroom “steak”

1 cup rice, seven grain
3 cups mushrooms, quartered
1 cup cheese, fruliano, grated
1 egg
1 cup bread crumbs (I like Panko)
1 garlic clove
1 small onion
olive oil, sea salt/pepper, basil pesto, “olive” oil to taste and to garnish

  • Cook rice according to directions
  • Saute or roast mushrooms, tossed in olive oil and sea salt/fresh pepper
  • Food process 1/2 cup of rice, 1/2 cup mushrooms and egg
  • Mix all the rest of the ingredients together with the processed mushroom and rice mixture
  • Press mixture into a parchment lined 9×9 pan (or make into burgers)
  • Bake until firm. Chill and slice into whatever shape you wish. Re-heat under broiler or on BBQ until hot and golden brown
  • Serve with basil pesto or oil and olives food processed with olive oil till smooth

Course 4 – dessert… FINALLY!

Wild Turkey Bourbon Creme Brulee
So this uses the remainder of the Wild Turkey that almost de-railed this cooking class right off the bat. And while this recipe is not a “tjthefooddude” original, it does come  from my days as a pastry chef at Savoir Fare, but is one of my favorite creme brulee recipe’s EVER! 

Wild Turkey Creme Brulee

Wild Turkey Creme Brulee

4 extra large egg yolks
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup half n half cream
1 1/2 oz bourbon
1/4 cup sugar

  • Place sugar, cream and half n half in a sauce pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat
  • Slowly add hot cream to the egg yolks, whisking constantly to temper yolks. Once it is all combined, add bourbon
  • Pour mixture into creme brulee ramekins set into a baking pan. Put warm water into pan (creating a water bath) and place into a 350 degree oven
  • begin to check after 18 minutes or so. Creme Brulee is done when the middle centimetre only still jiggles
  • Remove and chill
  • To serve, sprinkle sugar on top and caramelize under broiler or with a propane/butane torch
  • Serve with caramel sauce and a WICKED ESPRESSO!
Espresso time!

Espresso time!

Culinary Coaching Craziness – Vegetarian Style! The Appy Round

So it all started innocently enough at a Christmas open house…nice people, great food, delicious wine. Of course, very easy for the conversation to turn to all things food and drink. But who would have thought that 3 weeks later and a bottle of Wild Turkey bourbon (a couple ounces went into the creme brulee) split three ways and we would have one of the most fantastic vegetarian meals going? Especially after the third triple bourbon…at that point ordering out for the rest of the meal was looking pretty darn good!

But my compadres, Darren and Rohit, weathered through the haze and after bravely working through the bourbon induced fog, the meal which came out was awesome…and yielded at least 3 unique and new recipes which I am glad to share over a few separate posts.

First the appy course… One of the requests from the dudes was for some sort of pepper dish, maybe stuffed; some sort of eggplant dish and please use feta and cilantro in some way, shape or form. Well, I decided to tackle the peppers and eggplants in the appy section. Now, let me say, I have NEVER had a stuffed pepper I liked and Eggplant to me was filler when you had run out of everything else. Needless to say, I felt a bit challenged to come up with something I would eat AND that would be loved by all. Well, I did it, with a little inspiration from D and R… So, here it is, the appy of appies!

Coconut and Panko Crusted Sweet Pepper Rings, served with an Eggplant Thai Chili Oil “salsa”
This one started out as vegetarian “calamari”. And even though that was the inspiration, I have this issue with duplicating meat dishes with vegetables. But oh well, it tasted AWESOME! So it is what it is!

Sweet Bell Pepper Rings in Coconut Milk

Sweet Bell Pepper Rings in Coconut Milk

3-4 Sweet Bell Peppers, seeded, sliced into 1/4 inch rings
1 can unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup medium, unsweetened coconut
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
Oil for deep frying
Sea Salt to taste

  • Toss the pepper rings in the coconut milk and let soak for an hour or longer. Drain
  • Set-up a breading station, flour, egg with water for egg wash and panko/coconut mixture. Bread the pepper rings and place on a sheet pan
  • Heat oil to 375 in a sufficiently large pot or deep fryer and fry in batches till golden
  • Serve with Eggplant Thai Chili Oil “salsa”
Coconut & Panko crusted Sweet Pepper Rings with Thai Eggplant Dip

Coconut & Panko crusted Sweet Pepper Rings with Thai Eggplant Dip






EggPlant Thai Chili Oil “salsa”
A little side note – have have hated eggplant for most of my life. When discussing the dinner, one of the items on the “coaching” agenda was eggplant. Oh lord! Generally I have just not purchased it in the first place. Well, this recipe I created has made me an eggplant lover…well, I tolerate it anyways:)

1 small Eggplant, enough for 2 cups diced
1 medium white onion
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cognac
1/4 cup tomato sauce
Thai chili oil to taste
Sea Salt and Pepper to taste

  • Peel eggplant, cut into 1/4 inch slices and lightly sprinkle with sea salt. Place in a colander to drain for 1-3 hours
  • Dice eggplant into 1/4 inch cubes and sautee over medium high heat in olive oil until starting to caramelize
  • Slice onion into 1/8 inch slices and add to eggplant mixture. Once the onions begin to caramelize add sugar
  • Deglaze with cognac
  • Add tomato sauce and cook until thickened
  • Season with sea salt, pepper and Thai Chili oil. If desired, food process slightly to a consistency you like
  • Serve with pepper rings

Hope you enjoyed the appy round! See you on course 2 in a couple of days!

Culinary Coaching Craziness! Vegetarian Style – Soup and Salad Courses

Course 2

Butternut Squash Soup 
I first published this recipe at the beginning of January. You can link to it here… The addition of the feta cheese and cilantro was something I tasted at the Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co. in Canmore, Alberta. Wicked little restaurant and their garnish on this soup was fantastic. I loved it. And it just happened to include two of the items my buddies wanted in the menu, cilantro and feta.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

1 medium Butternut Squash, peeled, seeded, rough chopped
1 medium onion, rough chopped
1/4 cup oil or clarified butter
1/4 cup sugar, white or golden
1/2 cup dry white wine
6-8 cups chicken stock
1/4 – 1/2 cup unsalted butter
Sea salt and fresh black or white pepper and more sugar to taste
Garnish Choices – thai chili oil and coconut cream OR cilantro oil/pesto and feta cheese OR your choice?
  • Sauté Butternut Squash in oil or clarified butter in a minimum 8 litre, heavy bottomed stock pot on medium high heat until it begins to carmelize
  • Add the onions, lightly season with sea salt and continue to sauté until beginning to brown
  • Add sugar and continue to sauté until dissolved and beginning to get syrupy
  • Add 1/2 cup dry white wine to deglaze the pan
  • Add chicken stock, reduce heat and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the squash is tender
  • Blend/purèe soup in a blender or food processor in small batches, adding a bit of the butter with each addition. Pass through a fine mesh strainer back into a clean pot
  • Keep over low heat and season to taste
  • Serve with your garnish of choice
  • Serves 4-6 as an appetizer, 2-4 as a main course

Course 3

Grilled Romaine Salad with oven-dried tomatoes and roasted capers
This was a new one for me in that the dressing is something that was perfected by Rohit, one of the people who was in on the culinary coaching fun. The unique twist to this is that being vegetarian, the pungent tang in the dressing comes not from anchovies, but from roasted capers! AWESOME! I had never done this and was blown away by the flavor!


Grilled Romaine Salad


1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, or to taste
1 heaping tbs stoneground mustard or to taste
3 drops tabasco
2 tablespoons capers
1 clove of garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
  • Drain and roast capers on a parchment lined baking sheet at 350 degrees F until dry and crispy
  • Combine all of the ingredients and process with a hand-blender or food processor until to dressing consistency
  • Adjust seasonings to taste
Assembling the salad
3 Romaine Hearts, split in half lengthwise, loose bits trimmed
1/4 cup olive oil
sea salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Brush romaine hearts with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper
  • Grill over high heat till grill marks are formed and the outside of the romaine begins to wilt
  • Place on plate, drizzle with dressing and garnish with extra capers, croutons, lemon and anything else that strikes your fancy
  • EAT!

Speedy Guacamole – when un-motivation strikes, make this!

So the snow is flying, the kids are sick and I am starved…my urge to cook goes to hell in a handbasket when I am passing out cough syrup, wiping noses and trying to find time to shovel the white stuff so the mailman does not do an impromptu headr’.

While it does not happen very often, there are times when I just lose all motivation to cook ANYTHING. Much less anything that is nutritious, tasty or remotely interesting.

Enter stage left –  recipes that are fast, easy, taste awesome, require little to no prep, clean-up or energy AND are somewhat healthy – a few good fats, some protein, a bit of fibre.

Guacamole Makings

Guacamole Makings



Speedy Guacamole – ENJOY! in only 2 minutes!

1 avocado, halved, seeded, flesh scooped out
2 tablespoons of salsa – or to taste
2 tablespoons of lime or lemon juice – or to taste
2 tablespoons of mayonnaise – or to taste
salt and pepper – to taste

  • Put all the ingredients into a bowl and mash together with a fork. Taste for seasoning.
  • Enjoy with your favourite tortilla chips, on a burger or as a condiment for a breakfast burrito – pretty much great with anything!
Easy Guacamole

Easy Guacamole

And what do you know…the kids are sleeping, the guacamole is made and Guy’s Big Bite is on the telly!

I’m gonna eat alone…Cheers!

More Coffee – Press Pot techniques from


For those of you who are “in” to coffee and like to check out some of the cupping/brewing/tasting techniques, check out this latest from This is one of my favourite coffee websites (maybe not the easiest site to navigate but has lots a wicked content). Mark Prince does awesome reviews, entertaining technique videos and coffee articles that are always very thorough and informative. 

Have fun! 

YouTube – Advanced Press Pot Techniques for Coffee.

Black Cat Espresso – Review

So this is the first espresso review for tjthefooddude and other than my own ravings about what I think is a great or terrible cup of coffee, this is also my first “official” espresso review. Now, the qualifier – I am not “qualified” to do this in any official way. This review is only my opinion and it is probably going to be wild\ly inaccurate according to the laws/guidelines of coffee cupping But I love coffee, espresso and pretty much anything having to do with it from the machines to the recipes. So here we go…

I am reviewing the Black Cat Espresso by Intelligentsia Coffee. Coincidentally, Geoff Watts, a director for Intelligentsia, wrote the cupping guide I mention above.


When I opened the bag, the initial waft (“waft” is not an official cupping word) was acrid, like maybe it had been on the shelf too long. But the roasting date was December 23/08 so it was well within freshness range. The beans looked very dry and appeared to be a medium roast.

I ground the Black Cat on a re-calibrated Baratza Virtuoso Grinder at the smallest grind setting. I find for my Francis Francis X5 espresso machine, the less oily looking the beans, the more fine I need to grind for good espresso. I have no idea if that is typical of dry looking beans…it just seems to be a general rule for my system. I ran about 5 water shots through the machine to bring it to the temp I like for brewing and then did my first pull. On this first pull, the crema looked like burnt cinnamon, which for me indicates some over extraction. Interestingly enough, I expected, based on the crema, a “kick in the head” bitterness that usually goes along with said over extraction. But there was very little bitterness, slight acidity and not a bad flavor. It was thick, heavy on the tongue, syrupy, with a slight sweetness. As it cooled it got an interesting smokiness to it, almost like a freshly lit cigar…not unpleasant but perhaps not something I would want in an everyday espresso.

I adjusted my grind settings to 2 clicks coarser and did a second pull. The crema head color was much lighter but still very thick. This one was incredible! Discovered a beautiful citrus tone, almost like a tangelo orange (which just happen to be in season:) As well, as the shot cooled, a distinct chocolate taste came, reminiscent of a bitter Callebaut chocolate. This time there was hardly a hint of bitterness and the sweetness mixed with the bitter chocolate was fantastic.

I tried it out in a cappuccino to see how the Black Cat would hold up to the steamed milk.  The espresso transformed into something almost ultra sweet. By way of comparison, there was none of the extreme dark roasted bitterness most people associate with a Starbucks drink. What was interesting is that the espresso seemed to change the flavor characteristics of the milk. The espresso coaxed out the incredible sweetness you get from fresh milk right from the dairy. It was almost buttery. I don’t know if any of you have ever gone to an ice cream shop located right at a dairy farm, but the flavor in the ice cream is much different when it is that fresh. There is a buttery, creamy aftertaste that you don’t get from ice cream made from pasturized milks. The milk in this cappuccino had the same flavor and texture taste – pretty awesome in a standard cappuccino!

Final thoughts – an excellent espresso, a high quality coffee bean, perfect for those who like an “easier” very approachable espresso. For those who prefer the bitterness associated with a darker roast, definitely look elsewhere. But for me, this is the first espresso I have had in a long time that I truly enjoyed and will go out of my way to purchase again. You can get Intelligentsia coffee at deVille Luxury Coffee and Pastries, Art Central, 100 7th Avenue SW in Calgary.

Tis’ the season for Butternut Squash

Photo - squash halved

Earlier last week I Tweeted (is “tweeted” a word?) about it being a Butternut Squash week and I offered up a couple of recipes. Unfortunately, some Facebook fans took me up on this and so I had to actually write these recipes. It kind of made me curse linking my Facebook to my Twitter:)

Now, anyone who cooks knows that most cooking type recipes are written a bit loosely, as most of them only exist in the chef’s head. No different for me here. So, when making either of these, the Butternut Squash Risotto or the Butternut Squash Soup, remember, the amounts are kind of approximate. And be liberal about adding various herbs, garnishes, wine/beer or other flavoring! Enjoy!

And remember, never eat alone!