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Snack Foods

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Recently, I wound up at Pizza Hut with my sons for the famed Pizza Hut Buffet lunch. All it is, as many know, is pizza and a hot dish of pasta, salad and such. We got there at 12:30 and they were already out of pasta. The waiter gave me a withering look and said, Madame, you all eat too much. The pasta is gone. Over. No more. Considering I hadn’t even arrived when there was even rumor of pasta, I thought that was a bit biting - not to mention that waiter was not likely to win Hospitality Award of the Year with that remark. I mentioned the pasta famine to the restaurant manager and harried but accomodating, he assured us that, ‘more pasta would indeed make its way to the buffet table’. My eldest son sat and sat. We all nibbled on crust of pan pizza while waiting with him. I gently suggested that the pasta might not make a reappearance and we were waiting on air. Besides which, all it was just rotini and commercial sauce, baked with mozzarella. Hardly complex stuff. Chances are, as a cookbook author and chef, I could replicate it at home. No, said he. We come here for at least that and that we shall have. If not, more complaints were due. “And furthermore, when the pasta does come out, saunter over to the buffet, said my son, act as if it is nothing – as if we are not even hungry or waiting desperately for the pasta to make an appearance. Feign nonchalance, like, ‘Pasta? Who cares…?”. We all cracked up. The remark and the gesture that went with it (a fling of the hand over one shoulder and an indifferent toss of the head) were so out of left field. We also laughed because it was much ado over nothing and it shows you how het up you can be over really unexceptional (but good) pasta you think somehow you are entitled to and gotta have. The pasta did arrive (minutes before the buffet closed) and ever since then, it is a family joke. We named this dish Pasta-Who-Cares? in honor of Pizza Hut but mostly to rib my son Jonathan. You can make this pasta dish at home again and again and be assured, you will never run out.

Your own pie shell or store-bought, a bit of spice, cheese, tomatoes and cream and voila! Pizza flavor with French sophistication. This is a brown bag gourmet treat or a fall brunch, hospitality dish. The taste says pizza; the presentation says, you genius you. Feel free to toss in some finely diced pepperoni for a pepperoni and cheese version of this fabulous appetizer or main dish.

A secret recipe from a Portuguese restaurateur. These are so easy and so addictive they might replace your usual batch of BBQ sauced drenched wings or Buffalo Wings. They are best on the grill but work in a 400 F oven too. They are good hot and great...cold! Perfect picnic food. Psst! Don't share this recipe. It took forever to get the low-down from the restaurant that finally divulged the secret ingredient (it's in your pantry and is the key thing to these amazing wings) and the method.

There’s just a bit of spice in these unbelievably tender, crisp, light, simply amazing pancakes. If the beautiful golden hue doesn’t seduce you, the flavour will be your undoing. One of the best recipes to come out of my test kitchen in…..days.

This is  a heady confection of milk and white Belgium chocolate, along with some orange-tinted, pumpkin-pie flavoured chocolate that gest (melted and) marbled in. It’s pretty, intriguing, a fine gift and holiday perk, and as gourmet as you please. I use Callebault as well as white chocolate wafers, coloured with orangefood colouring. If you don’t have orange chocolate wafers (mine are from a local bulk food store), tint white chocolate, as it melts with orange food colouring. 

I worked for hours to make this recipe extra special and it is as fine as any bistro offering. Make as many ravioli as you want and then freeze them and pop them in simmering water when you want a special meal or a unique Thanksgiving offering. You can use fresh pasta sheets to make the ravioli (and cut with a paring knife into small squares or a round or square ravioli cutter) or handier still, won ton wrappers. Won ton wrappers are easier to work with unless you you’re your own fresh pasta or really supple, soft, fresh pasta from a gourmet shop. Store-bought fresh pasta (in our testing) was too tough to work with. Canned pumpkin is a noble shortcut but make sure you purchase plain pumpkin (not spiced pumpkin puree). For your own pumpkin filling, roast (not boil) the pumpkin.

This is easy if you make the filling ahead (it keeps for two days in the fridge) and assemble what you need for a meal and freeze the rest. Bakers tip: parchment paper to lay the ravioli out on, a pastry brush for the egg wash and make sure your pasta is very thin (whether it is store-bought or homemade) for a very tender ravioli.

Hot soup. Quick. Fast. Light. It is just the thing for post holiday recovery.You know what ramen is - those cello packet, sometimes cardboard containers, of instant, "oriental" style noodle soup. What can you do with something instant to give it a bit a flair and a heap more nutrition? A lot!

I am pretty partial to hummus and never, much like eggplant dishes, met a recipe I didn’t like. This one, I love. Probably because I love beets. I first had this served on cucumber slices – the combination of beet-red hummus atop crisp cucumber coins was incredibly refreshing. But pita bread works well too as the ‘side’.  If you were in a rush, canned beets would be acceptable.

Red Velvet Cake done up in a waffle dress – just in time for breakfast, brunch or as a fabulous dessert.  I serve this just as often with strawberries, ice-cream and fudge sauce as I do cream cheese drizzle. What’s nice about this recipe aside from it being high concept baking, is that it uses more chocolate flavor than the usual red velvet recipe to get a rich chocolate-y taste. These are also sublime as Red Velvet Pancakes.

I must have got this totally fabulous recipe more than a decade ago from the strangest source: Cosmopolitan Magazine. It is but four ingredients and makes the most amazing, crisp, flavorful chicken, good hot or cold you will ever taste.The coarse or rock salt, as well as the high oven temperature, crisps the chicken and seals in the flavor.  I serve this with wild rice.

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