Monthly Archives: January 2012

Mrs. Neumann’s Chocolate Chip Cookies (they’re the cat’s ass)

Do they look right Mrs. Neumann?

It’s taken me quite a few tries and some misses (I tried substituting butter for shortening) to get the technique of these cookies just right.  For as we all know, a recipe is just ingredients and the magic is in the hands that make it.  Or in the oven you’re using, or the type of fat (as I discovered).  Or just the fact that you don’t have to make it yourself.

my little angels

When I think of chocolate chip cookies I think of 33 Snowshoe Crescent and Mrs. Neumann’s chocolate chippers.  Some crumble but a chewy centre and the sweet balanced with a perfect hit of saltiness.

And if you’re thinking, “of course you can substitute butter crazy lady”, well, here’s the problem.  In a pinch you can but  you have to adjust the oven temperature. Butter melts faster than shortening and so at 350 °F the cookies just deflate into thin patties, becoming crispy and to brown.  So the last time I had to use butter I rolled the cookies and put them in the fridge to chill while the oven preheated.  I took the temperature up to 375 °F rather than 350° F to speed up baking and not allow them to spread so much.   And I baked them for 9-10 minutes.  They turned out better, did taste buttery, but I couldn’t get the same chewiness.

(One tray I baked for 15-17 minutes as I was checking email and finally the “DING DING DING” of the timer made it through my consiousness and I ran into the kitchen to find sadness in the oven.)

So embrace the shortening cookie lovers.  At least this one time.

(courtesy of Mrs. Neumann though now that I think of it I never really asked if I could use it.  Please still make me cookies for my birthday!!)

Mrs. Neumann’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup shortening

1/2 cup white sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup all purpose flour

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 cup chocolate chips


1. Preheat the oven to 350 ° F.

2. Combine the shortening, white and brown sugar, egg and vanilla and cream with a hand blender until light and fluffy.  (do not just combine it–you want light and fluffy!)

3.  In another bowl add the flour, salt and baking soda and stir well to combine.

4. Add the dry to the wet and blend well with a spatula.

5. Add the chocolate chips.  (Resist the temptation of adding a zillion extra chips or the consistency of the cookie will be off.  DO EAT a zillion extra chips).

6. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment.  Roll the dough into about 24 little balls (they’ll be about 1 1/2 inches diameter) and divide them between the trays.  They will look small, resist making them super-size.

7. Press down lightly on each cookie with a fork until you leave an indent.  (I wet the fork in water between cookie so it doesn’t stick.)

8. Bake on middle rack  (do each sheet individually if you can’t fit both).  The recipe says 9 minutes (which is pretty right on)  but in my oven sometimes I go up to 11 minutes.  You want them browning on the edges but they will still be pale-ish on top.

9. Remove from oven, cool and eat them! Eat them all!

Then imagine if you made them with THESE.


Filed under All Recipes, Blogs with cooking tips, Ruminations on the Edible

Is Life worth more than Crisco?

I'd post a real picture but...

I want to make chocolate chip cookies.  Lois’s Chocolate Chip cookies but I have no shortening.  And they don’t turn out the same with butter.  They just don’t.

But the weather is dicey. Slippery.  Don’t drive if you don’t have too.   So I am torn–how badly do I want the cookies?

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Filed under Ruminations on the Edible, Strange but Tasty

Foodie meet Library

Momofuko has been well worn

I would rather tell you how many shoes I have in my closet than how many cookbooks I own.  And actually, it’s not about how many I own, but how many I use regularly.

And when I say use, I obviously mean for recipes (my current 4-5 favourites rotate in and out of the kitchen) but also the books that I love to look at, that remind me of somewhere I travelled or just tell a good story or the books that I WILL use when I finally get around to doing some pit cooking in my backyard.

Pit Cooking (

But, if you love and use cookbooks you also know that, like an uncomfortable shoe, there are disappointments.  Recipes that never work or are too vague, purchases that were spontaneous “yes! I WILL be an expert confectioner!” and the trendy stuff  (how many Jamie Oliver cookbooks does one house need?).

I also do not mean to imply you have to cook out of a cookbook to enjoy it.  Not at all.  But, at least for myself, now that I know what I like I have a better idea what is a worthwhile investment of money and shelf space. And it forces me to look and flip through and appreciate the book right away as I will have to return it sooner or later.


I myself forgot about the library for many years.  With amazon and ebooks downloading in a flash, it seemed troublesome to go somewhere to physically check out a book.  In fact, it did not even occur to me that the library had modernized since I was 12 and is now (gasp) on-line.

I got myself a card and now I just log on, put a hold on the cookbooks or books I want and I am sent an alert when it arrives at the branch of my choice.

Sometimes it takes a day or two and sometimes a few weeks (but how exciting when the email arrives saying Happy Day! The Art of Living According to Joe Beef is mine!! ).

Test Drive Potential Cookbooks

Now with cookbooks I borrow them.  I read them and maybe try a recipe or two.  And generally have a clear sense of whether I need this particular book at my fingertips at a moment’s notice.

And I feel a little more satisfied when finally making a purchase.  Yes, I took the book for a test drive.  It performed as I’d hoped.

And while you’re at the great place called The Library you can also get books such as this:

Or, something beautiful and simple such as this:

And all in all, the place just smells like books and pages and everything is organized and you can hide in a corner where no one knows you reading the latest issue of The New Yorker.

Or just looking in fashion magazines for shoes to buy.


Filed under Blogs with cooking tips, Cookbooks, Magazines (+recipes from), Ruminations on the Edible

Toast Post: Fromage Fort

Today I wrote a piece in the Globe about a spread called Fromage Fort.  Without repeating myself (as you can simply read the actual piece), I thought I would expand a little on the recipe that is in the Globe and tell you the specific cheeses that I blended to make two versions of the spread as I was testing it.

This makes such a fabulous grilled cheese or quick meal just broiled on baguette that I almost had to stop myself from eating it twice a day (I didn’t stop myself though, that would be wrong).

And my cheese drawer is suddenly SO spacious.  I feel some cheese shopping coming on….

Yep, 5 or 6 of these and contentment is yours.


The first trial was made of actual leftover cheese in my fridge.  I used:

2 oz Stilton (blue)

3 oz Pierre Robert (soft, triple creme)

2 oz Garottxa (hard)

2 oz asiago (firm)

handful parsley

1 clove garlic

1/4 cup white wine

lots of fresh ground pepper

So, just about an even ratio of everything though I threw is some extra Pierre Robert that was leftover on the cutting board.  (Why  did I not just eat it?  Oh the willpower I possess.)

Then I just buzzed it for 30-60 seconds in the food processor til completely combined and it was done.


Same wine, pepper, herbs and garlic, I went out and bought specific bits of cheese for this one:

2 oz Abondance (firm)

2 oz old cheddar (firm)

2 oz Munster (soft, washed rind)

3 oz Brie (soft)

This version was quite strong (though the blue in the first batch really spoke out) but it was a little more pungent due to the Munster.

But again–I find when melted the flavours mellow out a bit (not if you ask my husband about the Munster version though!)


I know I am going on about this, but it is truly some of the easiest and most rewarding “cooking” I have done.   And it all has to do with cleaning out the fridge.  Two birds…lots of cheese bits.


Filed under All Recipes, Cheese/Cheese Related, Toast Posts

Beef Brisket Meets Prunes, Beer and Lipton Onion Soup (not gonna lie)

Oh Yum.

Sunday Dinner.  What to make to keep myself out of the kitchen but have the place smelling so good everyone would just know I was cooking ALL DAY?

Brisket was my solution and I had two good recipes.  One from my friend Lisa and one a family recipe from my mom.  Since we were having guests I decided to go with the Brisket I Know.  Our family (I use the term loosely) recipe involves braising in beer and the addition of prunes in the last half of the cooking to sweeten and thicken the sauce as the prunes disintegrate.

In hindsight I wish I took more time with the head.

What is brisket?  The brisket comes from the breast section of the cow and is a boneless piece of beef.  It is a tough cut as there are a lot of connective muscle tissues in the meat.  This makes it ideal for long slow cooking.  Brisket is also the cut of meat that is brined to becomes corned beef.  Brisket is further categorized into two cuts– the flat cut and the point cut.

Let me lead you to a great article I found about cooking brisket by Janet Fletcher where she explains all this and more in mouth-watering detail:

“The point cut is the smaller of the two…… Some butchers refer to it as the second cut or deckle point, as it contains the deckle, a hard pocket of fat. Others erroneously call this whole piece the deckle. The flat cut is larger, thicker, more uniform in shape and leaner. It is often referred to as the first cut and is what most people probably consider the traditional brisket cut.

Because this (whole brisket) is still a pretty sizable piece of meat — about 7 pounds — many retail butchers cut it in two. One piece, which is more square and uniform in shape, is typically called the flat half. The other piece, roughly triangular, may be labeled as the point half.

Confused yet?

Many butchers consider the fatty point cut, or second cut, virtually unsalable as brisket, so they treat it as trim and grind it. Their customers prefer the beauty, uniformity and lean appearance of the flat cut, or first cut.

They don’t know what they’re missing.”

Image from the Canadian Beef Marketing website

My “recipe” which, as many recipes which come from my mom (a great cook),  was a little bit random and a little bit written by someone who’s made something a zillion times.  So, when I went to the brisket recipe to make my shopping list I saw that it called for 7-8 pds of brisket.  Wow–that seemed a lot for 4 people.  I called my mom and asked her and she told me that the brisket will shrink–“You won’t believe how much it will shrink!” she said.   Alright, so I bought a lot of brisket.  I had to pull out my large roasting pan to make it fit.  And I doubled the sauce part of the recipe as there can never be too much sauce.

Top Secret.

OK, so what else do you need to know about the recipe?  Well, full disclosure, it involves Lipton’s onion soup mix.  And like the margarine it Marion’s 75 year old fudge, I just go with it.  Who am I to change years of “traditional” recipes based around soup mixes?

(And I do remember loving onion soup mix in a chip dip.  Which I totally forgot about til this moment…only three ingredients needed to make it…the soup mix, sour cream and a babysitter. )

Moving beyond the fake food, here’s what else you’ll need.

CARROTS. Grated and roughly chopped into bite-size rounds.

Onion and garlic of course (I so need those onion goggles.  I cry from the second my knife sees the onion.)

Brown sugar and tomato paste and some BEER.

First you sear the meat and put it into your roasting dish with the sautéed onion and garlic and your braising liquid which is combo of the beer, brown sugar, onion soup mix and tomato paste.

You also throw in the carrots.  Then cover and put into the oven at 300 C°.  For three hours according to my mom’s recipe.

Hmmm, I started to become very happy to have 7 pds of brisket.

So at three hours (which was 9pm) the brisket was nowhere near fork tender.  My husband starts informing me that I’ve overcooked it just like his childhood Sunday roasts were overcooked and tough.  He’s having serious flashbacks even though I try to explain the point of  braising.  He is worried I will force him to relive the horror of his childhood Sunday dinners at our Sunday dinner.

I focus away from the looming danger of ridiculous married-couple argument and turn the oven up to 325 °C.

I am also yawning and wondering how long this is going to go on.  It’s Saturday night and I had not planned on this brisket date to last so long.   I add the prunes and go to see what’s on the PVR.

The brisket stayed in til closing time–or almost–1 am.  But boy, it was delicious at that point.  I must have eaten at least a pound just picking at it.  To make sure it was done.

The effort (watching TV while the brisket cooked) was worth it.  On Sunday  all I had to do was make mashed potatoes and roast some veggies.  I heated the brisket up slowly in the oven til the house smelled better than a Cherry Cola Smelly Marker.

Our friends brought wine and an appetizer (sardines, cold pat butter, toasted baguette, lemon, parsley) and Tad had a bacon wrapped scallop craving, so he made those.   It was an eat-talk-eat-talk kind of evening.  And at the end-I had a whole lotta brisket left over.   But you know what?  If I had to do it all again, I wouldn’t change a thing.

I guess I like my brisket the size of a newborn baby.  Though I wish it wouldn’t keep me up til the wee hours.

And btw: 7 pds of brisket was enough for 10 people.  My mom later realized she had doubled the recipe for a family gathering.  Though she did try to give me the “your brisket must have been OLD– it should have shrunk much more”  excuse.

FOR THE regular sized recipe see THIS SAVOURY LINK.   (coming shortly)


Filed under All Recipes

Mornings Just Got Better (and some great coffee reading while you sip)

Sigh. So cozy.

Red Rocket on the Danforth is open.  There is excitement about the foam on the lattes and the crema on the espresso.

Chairs were still being tucked under tables and the kitchen is not running yet but it was a warm welcome–on both ends.

And if you love coffee you must read Chris Nuttall-Smith’s “How to Make the Best Coffee of Your Life” piece from yesterday’s Globe.  Even if you dislike coffee, it’s a great read and offers much fodder for scowling and taunting the coffee obsessed.

And as a coffee amateur I also really appreciated this piece from Coffeestork  (which Chris tweeted later)  about the importance of fresh coffee beans.

And for the tea lovers, Red Rocket makes a London Fog –earl grey, vanilla and steamed milk.

And now I am going to SHUT UP about this place.

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Filed under Blogs with cooking tips, Restaurants and Products

Red Rocket Coffee Danforth: Only a few more sleepy days to wait

Watch out Tim Horton's. You've just been a feeble fallback.

 Red Rocket Coffee is opening SOON minutes from my house, just a quick walk to the Danforth.  Red Rocket, whose original location was at Greenwood and Queen (across from the TTC yard, hence the name) had to close its Leslieville location due to a major rent increase.  I am probably one of many who live in the Danforth that want to offer heartfelt condolences to Red Rocket’s Queen East regulars but instead are clicking our heels together with glee.

The new location at 1364 Danforth is still sealed up with Kraft Paper, a present we all want to open.

Not open yet. No matter how many times I walked by in one day.

Red Rocket will be taking over the Three’s Company Too location on the Danforth.  The original Three’s Company is now at Danforth and Pape (the loss of their weekend brunch still saddens me when I pass what is now a French Toast-less  Naturopathic Clinic at the corner of Lamb/Greenwood)   If you’re from the west end I’ll stick with locating the new Red Rocket “between Greenwood and Coxwell” but if you’re from the hood you’ll want to know that it’s just west of Linnsmore Cres. (minutes from the Greenwood Subway exit) and across the Danforth from Lamb and Gillard St.   Conveniently close to Jerry’s Supermarket (grocer/butcher) and the new fitness place  BOMB Wellness.

The Future:

Coffee- workout-coffee.

Coffee-pork chops-coffee.

Coffee-forgot the bacon-PU coffee for spouse at home.

If the damn place would just open I could live out all the above fair trade and organic fantasies.  Well, maybe only the first and last part of the first one.

Word on the Red Rocket Blog as posted Saturday is that they’ll be opening in a few days.  Word on the street (as I lingered outside today and peeked through the window at a space full of boxes and “stuff”) is that there will be a soft open (coffee only–Red Rocket also makes their own food and pastries) mid-January.

I will keep lingering even if the Red Rocket people start to fear that what they appreciated as loyalty in their Queen St E clientele could potentially turn to stalking on the Danforth.   Just enthusiasm, I swear.

(There is also a Wellesley location)


Filed under Restaurants and Products, Ruminations on the Edible

Chantecler: Kitchen Party coming to Brock and Queen

Chantecler partners Jonathan Poon and Jacob Wharton-Shukster outside the new digs

Happy 2012!  Time to discover a new place to get fed in Toronto.  Racing to open in February, Chantecler can only be called a labour of love (with emphasis on the labour part).  Chef Jonathan Poon and partner Jacob Wharton-Shukster (who will run front of house) spend every moment –between full-time jobs– doing renos on their new place. When Jonathan  brings me by for a sneak peek Jacob is slightly sawdusty and torn between a dozen stain options for the long bar which will run down one side of the room.

Chantecler in the works

Chantecler in the works (Dec 2011)

This 26 seat modern bistro will have small tables opposite the bar seating and tables in the front window that can accomodate a larger group (up to 8).  Cozy with high ceilings, the 450 ft dining room is attached to a dream 250 ft prep kitchen in the back.

Moffat Stoves: A nod to the classics at Chantecler

Your first nod of appreciation will come when seeing the stove tops.  Poon and crew will be cooking not on gas burners but on electric.  Vintage electric.  Jonathan shows me where the two stoves will go.  A 1952 cream-coloured Moffat stove will be in the back kitchen and the other, a butter-yellow 1935 model will be used during service in the restaurant. When I say “in the restaurant” yes,  I mean the concept is open kitchen but even more kitchen party.  The prep area in the back will be visible but if you’re sitting at the bar you might be beside the pass, privvy to dishes being plated or sipping wine while the cook at garde manger is dressing a salad inches from your elbow.  Similar experiences can be found in the city but in this intimate space the idea is that the chef can step into the role of attentive host, even saucing your plate tableside.

Chantecler: A French Canadian Heritage Chicken

The name Chantecler comes from a heritage chicken breed from Quebec.   Most obvious is the tie in to Canada and local ingredients.  But the two partners also wanted a name that had a classic feel and longevity.  A restaurant whose cooking would be creative and dynamic enough to impress the critics and foodies while also implying a warmth of service, good food and a sense of comraderie.

As for the menu– Jacob and JP have termed their food Progressive Canadian Cuisine.   “Inspired by global influence, using modern techniques and  local ingredients,” says Jonathan– following with, “so pretty much whatever I want.”  As for the booze?  “We’re focusing on natural wines and sourcing from small scale producers local and abroad. We’ll also be doing some good old fashion cocktails.”

I met Jonathan while working in the kitchen at Colborne Lane.  It was the first place I worked in Toronto after returning from cooking school in London.  In my first week JP simply asked if I could prepare a large bowl of tomato concassé to help with his prep.  I was so paranoid of the perfection of every small cube I culled any rejects enthusiastically with the resulting concassé  having to be redone as there was barely enough flesh left to rebuild one full tomato.  Often we would ride the subway home together after service and he would tell me about his early love of cooking and baking (he’s equally talented at both).  At 16 he was preparing bread and baked goods out of his home (in the wee hours) and selling it fresh-baked to local bakeries- 170 pieces a day . (Meanwhile  I once spent a satisfying evening as a teenager putting chocolate icing on my face. I later learned to make cake.)

Jonathan Poon in the kitchen on Boxing Day at the Monday Night Dinner Series. (Courtesy of photographer: Nick Merzetti)

JP has gone on to cook in many kitchens in the city such as C5, Delux and is currently at Woodlot.  In between 15 hour shifts he and  Jacob (who currently works as a server at Origin) started organizing The Monday Night Dinner series, a bi-weekly event which gives upcoming new chefs a chance to get creative and serve their own menu.  Organizing the Monday Night Dinners is no easy task–Poon’s  found himself skinning rabbits at 2 am after a regular shift at Woodlot or riding down the street on a bike with 17 ducks on his back. (Take that Cirque de Soleil craft service).

1320 Queen Street West (at Brock)

Currently you’ll only be able to recognize Chantecler by the distinctive artwork covering the front window.  It’s courtesy of Jonathan and Jacob’s friend Allister Lee who’ll also be doing the sign design (in between helping with the reno.)  When Chantecler opens reservations will be taken for about half the space, but for myself, I’m going to offer to sand some drywall and see if it gets me onto the VIP list.

You can follow Chantecler’s progress on twitter @chanteclerto


Filed under Restaurants and Products, Ruminations on the Edible