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Its Friday It Must Be Soup! Jan 25 is Roasted Squash Soup

It's time for soup again but this mild weather is making it difficult to want to even want soups and stews. It would appear that winter is passing us by this year so even though I feel like should be bbqing and planting herbs in my shorts, it is January and a soup must be made.

I did a squash pear soup that nobody liked but me a while back so I thought I would try again with a more savoury version and this time I would add a bit of bacon because bacon makes everything more delicious. I am determined to get The Kid to eat squash soup if it kills me.

A Give Away From San Pellegrino and Almost Famous Chef - Dinner at Lee!

I have been invited to attend the S.Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef competition in Toronto taking place on January 30th at the Calphalon Culinary Centre. The winner of this contest will go on to compete against the  nine winners from all of the other regions in the final contest in Napa, California. Thanks to their generosity, I am also doing my first Give Away. I feel very official and respectable!

I went last year as a guest of Jen from Piccante Dolce, who generously offered to drag me along for one of my first event as a food blogger. I wrote about it in February and was just so thrilled to be there, tasting all of the great food and watching the competition. I got to tour the amazing Calphalon kitchen while the contestants raced to finish their dishes for the judging and tried not to get in anyone's way while I snapped away with trusty iPhone. I was kind of hoping that one of these shiny pans would fall into my purse by mistake, but it was not happening.

I must not have embarrassed myself too badly because this year  I have been invited back and I have also been given the opportunity to ask a few questions one of the Toronto contestants, Cole Nicholson, so keep your eyes out for that post when I get it put up. San Pellegrino has also generously offered up a gift certificate worth $150 for Lee that I can give away!

Now, onto the Give Away from San Pellegrino:

I guess it goes without saying that this contest is probably only of interest to Toronto area people or people who know they are going to be in Toronto at some point in the near future. My only regret is that I can't win my own prize because who wouldn't want to be treated to dinner at one of Susar Lee's restaurants?

The contest will close on Tuesday January 31 and I will announce the winner on Wednesday, Feb 1st when I tell you all about the contest, who won and share a couple of recipes with you from the event.

Okay, just tweet the following and come back here and let me know you tweeted and share your one dish that could make YOU an almost famous chef!

I entered to win the a $150 gift certificate for dinner at Lee  from @AFChefComp & @SMmamashack at The Yum Yum Factor

Its Friday It Must Be Soup! Jan 20 is Turkey Rice

There has been a big batch of turkey stock that came from my New Year's Day turkey sitting in my freezer, begging to be turned into something but I didn't want to make the same turkey barley soup I always make. I also didn't want to make sopa de lima again and was throwing around ideas like turkey fois gras lemon grass bisque or a nice turkey goulash with sea urchin croutons when realized that maybe I should just make a nice, simple soup like an old fashioned chicken noodle or chicken rice type of soup. I added a can of plum tomatoes, some red rice as well as basmati and ended up with something really hearty and homey. The tomatoes turned it into something that reminded me of the  soup my mom always made so how that be a bad thing? Actually, I will admit now that the beloved soup that my mom made was her "doctored up" Lipton's chicken noodle soup. In addition to broken up spaghetti and frozen corn, she always added a big squirt of ketchup

Sometimes we just try too hard, you know?

Turkey Rice Soup

6 cups  Turkey stock (or chicken stock for that matter)
glug olive oil
1 stalk celery, diced finely
1 carrot, diced finely
1 leek, sliced thinly
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 796 ml/28 oz can plum tomatoes, squished between your fingers
3 cups shredded cooked turkey (or chicken)
cooked rice (I used a mixture of asian red rice and basmati)
handful chopped fresh italian parsley
salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot and sauté the celery, carrot, leek and garlic until softened and just starting to colour a bit. Pour in the turkey stock and squish the plum tomatoes through your fingers and add those to the pot as well as any tomato juice left in the can. Bring that to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Add the turkey and the parsley and let the soup simmer away until the vegetables are tender. When the soup is finished, season with salt and pepper if needed and then you add some rice to each bowl individually before adding the soup to the rice.

Some people cook the rice right in the soup but I don't. The rice absorbs too much stock and gets all water logged so I prefer to cook the rice (or noodles if it's a noodle soup) separately and add a scoop to each bowl and then fill up the bowl with soup.

Another Nice Dinner out In Leslieville - Leslie Jones

I have been wanting to check out Leslie Jones for ages but we always seem to go elsewhere. I don't know why because I have only heard great things about it, it's small and looks lovely and I understand that there is a really fabulous patio out back. Regardless, we constantly overlook it when we are going out so I was exited when a friend suggested the restaurant for dinner. There is no website for the restaurant but I did find a link to their menu here, if you are curious. This is when I admit that I assumed that the restaurant was named after the chef, Leslie Jones because I am an idiot. It is named Leslie Jones because it sits at 1182 Queen St East, smack dab between Leslie St and Jones Ave.

It's really quite small with a nice open kitchen (and it appears that the chefs work their magic on a stove that looks exactly like the stove in my own tiny kitchen). Our waitress was attentive and suggested a nice bottle of wine that we all enjoyed. I would love to share that Italian red with you but I am ashamed to say that I wasn't paying attention although I certainly drank my share and enjoyed it profusely. She was also very patient with The Kid as he quizzed her on exactly WHAT market vegetables go on the market vegetable pizza, on the merits of adding the dreaded mushroom to their daily risotto and various other important dining issues.

We shared the very tasty beet salad and grilled calamari - the calamari was not what we were expecting but it was delicious, none the less. It was more of a salad with some tiny bits of calamari in it than a side of grilled calamari and my only complaint would be that I would have liked to have known that because I wouldn't have ordered two salads with greens.

For mains, Shack had the mushroom risotto that The Kid had poo poo'd, The Kid had his market vegetable pizza sans market vegetables apart from the artichokes, our friend had a delicious beef brisket and I was strong armed into ordering the pulled pork with apples because Shack wanted to taste it but wanted to order risotto for himself. I was expecting something tasty but greasy and heavy, the way pulled pork often is and was pleasantly surprised to find that this was not the case. It was not overly saucy but it was not at all dry, it was not greasy and it was accompanied by really nicely prepared roasted potato and vegetables. It also came with a spicy yogurt sauce that reminded me of the sauce I made the night before for my paprika chicken and that made it even better. I am still enjoying a love affair with that chicken and would not have been disappointed to be served that dish again so the yogurt sauce fulfilled that desire. I finished my dinner without feeling too full or too heavy and since i have already revealed that I have no self control around delicious food, I can admit that this is important to me.

 Everyone was very happy with their food, all plates were cleaned, we all tasted each other's dinners and  every one of us would have been happy with any of these entrees. It pained me to admit that I was happy with my pulled pork because I didn't want to reward Shack for talking me into something I didn't think I wanted just so HE could taste it. Foiled again.

Homemade carrot cake and flourless chocolate cake made by the chef's wife were offered up as dessert options and although I wanted to taste the carrot cake, both of my men ordered the chocolate cake. I think it was very unfair that I took one for the team by ordering the pulled pork and neither of them could return the favour by ordering the carrot cake. I paid them back by eating half of each of their desserts, so HA! It was a really rich, creamy, fudgey cake with whipped cream and a welcome drizzle of caramel.

Pretty much all of the mains are under $20 and the wine list is not long but has a decent selection. I don't know why it didn't totally knock my socks off because everything was very good and it's a great neighbourhood spot that seems to constantly fly under the radar. Don't get me wrong, we all liked it very much and would love to go back some time but it just fell short of making me jump up and down although none of us could pin point what was missing.

I couldn't find a proper review of the place at any of my regular publications but I am sure that the regulars who eat here all the time are very happy about that.  Leslieville has enough super trendy restaurants that get their share of the spotlight. With the great reviews and the throngs of people come long waits for tables and not enough elbow room to swing a cat and lets face it, every neighbourhood needs a few unsung little gems to call their very own, right?

Ascari Enoteca - first dinner out of 2012

We eat out a lot. In fact, we probably eat out far too much but I am going to try to share some of our favourite restaurants this year to try to justify it so here you have it - this is my first restaurant meal of 2012.

We live in The Beaches in Toronto (or The Beach which is what The Beaches has decided to change it's name to after a billion years of being called The Beaches - whatever). I live in The Beaches. I love it here. I love being by the water, I love walking the boardwalk, I love all the stinky wet dogs, I love all the kids and the chaos, I don't even hate the tourists who flood my neighbourhood all summer and I love feeling like I live in a little beach town tucked away inside the biggest city in the country. What I don't like is the lack of restaurant choices that don't involve chicken wings, chicken wings, sushi and more chicken wings. This means if we want to stay close to home but eat real, tasty food we have to venture to either The Danforth or Leslieville.

Most Popular Post of 2011

I did not give The Yum Yum Factor the attention that I would have liked to in 2011. I was so consumed with my year long no reEATS challenge that it got to the point that making sure that I made two things a week that were new, pretty enough to photograph and scheduling everything so I could photograph dinner while working, momming and taking care of everyone's life took over and there was little time for me to just cook stuff because I felt like cooking it.
Now that life will go back to normal - okay, our life is never normal but back to OUR normal- I can sit back and relax and just start cooking stuff that I want to cook.
I had a look back to see what post was the most popular of the year and my blueberry stripey popsicles won by a landslide. The next post that received the most views was my cauliflower soup with pecorino and truffle oil .

cauliflower soup with pecorino and truffle oil
It's kind of interesting that the two most popular posts are so incredibly different.
My most popular post on no reEATS was the creamy braised pork chops , followed closely by the greek frittata and the chorizo chili .

creamy braised pork chops

None of the most popular dishes were my favourite dishes, oddly enough. The things from my year that were new to me as far as cooking them that I love the most and will definitely be adding to our regular meal rotation are as follows:

Slow Cooker Asian Ribs
Nachos just because The Kid was so thrilled with them
Pad Thai
Greek Shrimp Tacos
Garides me feta
Sticky Rotisserie Chicken
Tandoori Sopes

Of course there were lots of other dishes that I loved but they were dishes that I have made before anyway.

I look forward to eating the same food for dinner over and over and over this year.

Rum and Eggnog Tres Leches Cake

Mexico is still very much on my mind so I am still looking to make the things that I was looking forward to eating but didn't get to eat while I was there. Although I have eaten my fair share,  I have never actually made a tres leches cake so I thought it would be a great choice of dessert for New Year's Day dinner. We were having our MVP friends over (Most Valuable Peruvians) and I know that they have their own version of this cake so I know it will be familiar enough but I want to christmas it up a bit. We are still all about the turkey dinner and so we are having one last turkey dinner on New Year's Day.There is a full thing of eggnog leftover (the rest of it is sitting comfortably on my ass and belly right now) and so it made sense to make an eggnog tres leche so we can mix the best of all worlds in one, damp, delicious little cake. Most importantly, it will also use up the last of the eggnog and get it out of my house until next year.

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