Double Zero Pizza

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For my second Big Taste meal I dined at Double Zero Pizza located underneath TD Sqaure at 751-4th Street SW with a really great client and friend. He had never been here before so I was excited to treat him to some good za and business chatter. I have found that a few of the restaurants really have taken "The Big Taste" to heart when it comes to portion size. We were sooo full by the end of this meal and couldn't really finish our pizza or dessert. Felt kinda gross after and it was just a bit too much food. All in all an okay meal but not the best I have had here. Here is what we dined on for $25 each:
For a starter you had a choice of mushroom soup or caesar salad. My date chose mushroom soup and said it was unique and delicious. It appeared to be a lot of pureed mushrooms and not as much cream based.
I was shocked to see my XL caesar salad... I have split this exact caesar salad with four people before so I was a bit overwhelmed... and hungry... so I ate the whole thing. Oops. It's damn good caesar salad though. The anchovy on top might throw some for a loop though ;)
My date chose the sausage and artichoke pizza which was quite good... Like I said: just a hell of a lot of food.... I always crave more cheese and maybe a dipping sauce with these pizza's too.
I chose the pepperoni pizza. It was hard to snag a photo of the pizza on the bottom of the two-tiered rack so I ended up getting a close up which did depict how greasy this particular pizza was. I found it really oily and I didn't feel so hot after consuming this one... I was only able to eat about half too.
I hate to do this to you 00 Pizza! But this dessert was...... pretty gross. It was panna cotta which is an Italian dessert made by simmering together cream, milk, and sugar and mixing this with gelatin. The problem with this is that there was so much raspberry coulee on top that it felt more like a raspberry soup which really turned us off. The best part was definitely the crunchy hazelnut and candy top. Just an all around too sweet, too soupy dessert after a rich, huge meal.
Love you Double Zero and I WILL be back.. Just not during The Big Taste ;)

Elegant Artichoke Cups

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Yummm.. These dainty finger foods are a great recipe for a party or gathering. They look really fancy but are super easy to make and taste great. This is actually a new consultant recipe from Pampered Chef meaning all of the tools used to make it are in the starter kit. We made these at a "cook n' look" last week for people who are interested in the business and everyone had fun playing with all of the tools. Here is the recipe!:
Ingredients:
1 Tbs. veggie oil
24 square wonton wrappers
1 can (397 g) artichoke hearts in water, drained & coarsely chopped
1/2 medium bell pepper
2 oz. (60 g) grated mozzarella cheese
1 oz. (30 g) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1 lemon
2 Tbs. fresh chopped parsley
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 garlic clove, pressed
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place veggie oil in a small bowl. Place six wonton wrappers on cutting board. Lightly brush one side of each wonton. Press one wonton wrapper into a mini-muffin pan. Repeat with remaining wonton wrappers. Bake 6 minutes or just until edges of wontons are light golden brown. Remove from oven to cooling rack, set aside leaving wontons in pan.
2. Meanwhile, coarsely chop artichokes, place in mixing bowl. Remove seeds from bell pepper and dice. Grate mozzarella cheese and Parmesan. Zest lemon to measure 1/2 tsp zest. Finely chop parsley. Add bell pepper, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, lemon zest, parsley, mayonnaise and pressed garlic to mixing bowl. Mix well.
3. Fill each wonton cup with about 1 Tbs. of artichoke mixture; sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese. Bake 8 minutes or until edges of wontons are golden brown and cheese begins to melt. Remove from oven to cooling rack. Remove wontons from pan; serve immediately.

Grilled chicken, ham and Swiss wraps!

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These are SO easy and best of all.. YUMMY!!!!
This is the recipe that I have been making at my Pampered Chef shows in March and oh man has it ever been a HIT! The recipe is super easy to make and using a grill pan/panini press will melt the cheese and give you those nice, crispy grill marks. Here is the recipe featuring the new Dijon Mustard Rub:
Ingredients:
3  boneless, skinless chicken breasts (5–6 oz/150–175 g each)
1  tbsp (15 mL) canola oil
2 1/2  tbsp (37 mL)  Dijon Mustard Rub, divided
2  medium whole dill pickles
4  oz (125 g) Swiss cheese
1/2  cup (125 mL) light mayonnaise
1  garlic clove, pressed
12  thin slices (6 oz/175 g) low-sodium deli ham
3  (11-in./28-cm)  flour tortillas (see Cook's Tip)
Directions:
1.  Brush chicken with oil; sprinkle with 2 tbsp (30 mL) of the rub. Cut chicken into cubes and grill until cooked thru. Remove chicken from pan to clean Cutting Board; cool 5 minutes
2.  Meanwhile, slice pickles lengthwise. Grate cheese. Combine mayonnaise, garlic pressed with Garlic Press and remaining 1/2 tbsp (7 mL) rub in mixing bowl; mix well. Add chicken to bowl; stir to coat.
3.  To assemble wraps, layer two slices of the ham widthwise over center of one tortilla, overlapping as necessary; top with one-third of the chicken mixture, one-third of the pickles, two additional slices of ham and one-third of the cheese. Fold in sides of tortilla and roll up tightly burrito style. Repeat two times for a total of three wraps.
4.  Preheat Grill Pan and Grill Press over medium-low heat 5 minutes. Place wraps in pan; top with Grill Press and cook 3–4 minutes per side or until grill marks appear. Remove wraps from pan; cut in half on a bias and serve immediately.
Cook's Tip: Warming the tortillas will make them easier to roll up. To warm tortillas, place them between paper towels and microwave them on HIGH 30-45 seconds or until warm.
Assembling the delicious wraps!
Grilling....
To perfection! You HAVE to try this easy recipe!

CHARCUT Roast House!

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Yay! The Big Taste started on March 2nd and goes until the 12th and it is 11-days of culinary BLISS! Once a year over 100 restaurants put together prix-fixe menus that range from lunch to dinner, gourmet to casual and lunches are normally either $15 for three courses or $25 and dinner is normally $35 but gourmet options are around $85 each. I started the week off with a great lunch at Charcut with my work wives which is located at 899 Center Street South, across from the Calgary Tower. If you haven't hit up Charcut yet, I highly recommend you get your keester down there... Co-owner Connie DeSousa is kind of a big deal around this city for making it so far on Top Chef Canada and the passion she has for food and cuisine is evident at her roast house. Here is what we had for our first Big Taste meal :)
Charcut gave you the choice of either the $15 or $25 lunch.. I chose the $25 (are you surprised? Pfft) which included brisket in the bottom right, grainy mustard on the left, a whole head of roasted garlic (YESSS), arugula salad with carrot and fried onions, and Charcut's amazing Parmesan fries.. and that is a warm bag of cookies in the top right! I love how they serve a lot of their lunch features on a large wooden board, even when it is not The Big Taste and include the warm bag of cookies. The brisket was much different than I expected but delicious in its own right. The flavor was incredible and it sort of had a smoked flavor.. I LOVE roasted garlic so I was pumped (more so than my husband) about an entire head all to myself- I roast garlic at home sometimes and spread it on crackers because it becomes so sweet. The fries were also REALLY good with homemade, sweet ketchup.
ARGH crap photo but this was the $15 meal with a Philly cheese steak sandwich complete with peppers, mushrooms and paired with a potato bacon soup, pickle (I was jealous of the pickle) and potato bacon soup... With a warm bag of cookies of course!
Half eaten but clearer...
I find Charcut really respectful of time at lunch- they offer a "45 minute speed lunch" which comes out piping hot and quick so you can squeeze a great lunch in one hour.. I really like the "cookies to go" idea as well so you are not scarfing your dessert down into an already full stomach. I ate mine at around 3 pm and they were a great treat.. I even warmed them up in the microwave in their little bag hehe
The $25 lunch option also included "coffee to go" for dessert. How smart is that?
LOVE CHARCUT! Even though they were my first blog post ever in a not-so-positive light, I have grown to love them and every restaurant needs at least two chances I think ;)

New Brownie pan and the BEST brownie recipe!

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It was our buddy Matt Cooper's birthday on Sunday and we all met up for some pub grub and I decided to make him some brownie treats for his birthday. I had some left over icing from the baby shower I hosted and they turned out awesome. I LOVE the Fry Cocoa brownie recipe. I think they are super "fudgy", flavorful and moist.
Pampered Chef just came out with this awesome new brownie pan for only $23! I forgot to grease the pan and they popped right out since it is so non-stick. This pan would also be great for appetizer pizzas, cornbread or lemon loaf.
Here is the recipe for Fry's Fudgy Brownies. I know you will love this one! Who needs icing with brownies this delicious?:
Ingredients:
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
1 cup cocoa, Fry's
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts
Directions:
1. Mix all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
2. Melt butter in microwave/saucepan. Remove from heat. Stir in Fry's Cocoa. Blend in sugar, eggs and vanilla.
3. Blend in dry ingredients and chopped nuts.
4. Pour batter into greased 13 x 9 x 2 inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.
Also found on the side of the cocoa ;)

Yummy pasta salad!

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I hosted a baby shower for my best friend Shannon this past Saturday.. See more photos HERE! I had an Easter theme because she is decorating the nursery for her little girl in bunnies so I thought it would be cute. I found this Easter pasta of all things at Winners actually and thought "aha! Pasta salad!":
Easter pasta?! So fun!
I found a really great recipe on Allrecipes.com for pasta salad and it was a huge hit. Here is the recipe:

Ingredients

  • 4 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 cup grated carrot (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pimento peppers (optional)

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni, and cook until tender, about 8 minutes. Rinse under cold water and drain.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, mustard, salt and pepper. Stir in the onion, celery, green pepper, carrot, pimentos and macaroni. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving, but preferably overnight.

Celebrity hors d'oeuvres

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This post is a little out of order but that's okay- I wanted to share with you some photos from a Celebrity hors d'oeuvre night that was our February Foreplay Friday event. What an incredible night! There were only four of us so it was truly a "four-play" Friday and we had a BLAST! We began the night at the best play I have ever seen in my life called "Ash Rising" which was a hip hop musical.. Each time the actors sang it felt like we were at a rap concert. The acting was incredible and I will NEVER forget this AMAZING piece of theater!!! After that we headed over to the Telus Convention Center for part two of the night (you could buy tickets for either or both). The Celebrity hors d'oeuvres was put on by 10 different Calgary restaurants for charity and each restaurant had a small bite served by a local celebrity. The only disappointing part is that the tickets to the second portion were $30 and then you had to buy tokens for the food samplings which were $20 for 10 tokens and a lot of the bites required 3-4 tokens.. Kind of a rip off but I suppose it was for charity... I would have had a sample of ALL of the offerings but we really had to pick and choose which was unfortunate. The celebrities were everyone from Craig Conroy to Dave Kelly to other local broadcasters. We had SO much fun and continued onto an after party later... Here are some highlights!:
Sadly this 4-token scallop served by Conroy was AWFUL! DAMMIT!
At least Craig was super cute ;)
Why oh why did my camera have to be blurry ??!!
Craig gave us complimentary "blue beef" when we told him about the scallop.. Ya I'm pretty much on a first name basis with Conroy, let's be honest. (PFFT)... We thought it was nice he gave us these for free because EVERYONE was being so strict on the amount of tokens and we were STARVING. By the end they were practically giving the samples away though which was good.
pork belly and julienne carrots from Anju
Chuck the auctioneer
FOUR - PLAY FRIDAYYYY!
Asking randoms to pose with us in the +15's. We're classy like that.
hahahaaaa oh man what a fun night!
"I need a boost"
Photo shoooot
Can't wait for this month's Foreplay Friday... Always a good time!

The edge of spring

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Since we last spoke we've moved away from bleakest midwinter to the verge of spring. I swear I can feel it in the air, those tight buds on the trees that will open soon, the sunny afternoons that send all Berliners outside for a walk in the park or a coffee on the terrace. But I also wish the time wasn't flying by so quickly; already into the third month of the year which leaves around just three months before I pack up and leave. I'm a hopelessly indecisive person; put me in a huge bookshop with everything I could possibly want and ask me to choose something and chances are I'll come out empty handed. When asked what I'd like for Christmas or my birthday, my mind goes blank. It's the same with Berlin; so many places to revisit, so many I've never done yet and trips further afield to make. There's the sadness which goes with knowing this will be my last spring here as a Berliner (for a while anyway) and sometimes it overwhelms me a little. One morning in the past couple of weeks we had the craziest weather with heavy snow turning the city white. This was not the day to go out with my camera so I stood at my window, looking at the passers-by with umbrellas make their way through the large, wet snowflakes. When I feel sad I listen to the shipping forecast because names like Viking, Dogger and German Bight make me dream of seastorms and the lighthouse in Berwick-upon-Tweed decorated with penguins.

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 Luckily though there were also brighter moments; a dinner party for friends last week when I cooked this soup, made this curry and served this New York cheesecake for dessert; meeting up with an old friend again on the first real spring day and catching the last rays of sun over the Lietzensee. Re-reading Wind in the Willows, which I found last week in a classic Penguin edition with its orange cover and the wonderful Mad World about Evelyn Waugh and Brideshead. Watching the Artist and Kauresmäki's Man Without a Past . Making these blueberry muffins is also something special; light but satisfying, sweet but with a sourness as the berry bursts inside your mouth. I think of the Finnish idiom while eating them: Oma maa mansikka, muu maa mustikka. Home is a strawberry but a foreign land is a blueberry (both berries are sweet but the strawberry is the sweeter of the two).I hope to find more sweetness as the year progresses.

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Blueberry muffins (from Meine Familie und ich, March 2012)


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200g fresh or frozen blueberries
24 muffin cases
300g plain flour
1 sachet of baking powder
a pinch of salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
125g caster sugar
60ml sunflower oil
2 medium eggs at room temperature
200ml buttermilk

 1. If using frozen blueberries, allow them to thaw and drain any liquid. Preheat the oven to 180°C or 160°C fan assisted. Grease or line a muffin tin with 24 paper cases.

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2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. In a large bowl beat the buttermilk, oil and eggs together. Gently fold in the dry mixture, stopping when everything is just blended, then add the blueberries.

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3. Divide the mixture equally between the 12 muffin cases and bake in the oven for around 25 minutes. When they're ready, leave to cool a little before transferring to a wire rack.

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