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Cottage Cooking (July 27, 2011)

Everyone is calling to book for a few days at your cottage; aging hippie Uncle Manny is coming from California, your in-laws want the long weekend, two of the three kids are bringing home their current heartthrobs, and your sister announced she's arriving with her new husband's pre-teens.

Once upon a time it wasn't a problem to feed a crowd; stock the fridge with burgers and sausages, an iced pile of soda and beer on the porch and all was just fine. Ha ha ha... we all know too well those days are long gone. Uncle Manny became a vegetarian, while two of the others love steaks, your in-laws are on low fat and salt, your sister's crowd all seem to be picky eaters, and who knows what your kids' new friends want...

And most importantly, you don't want to spend your summer in the kitchen slaving away.

You might have guessed that we have the answer! Three wonderful new cookbooks that beautifully cover this vast array of likes and dislikes are now available, and the best part is that no matter what regime you follow, the recipes are terrific, and will most likely be enjoyed by everyone!

In Everyday Flexitarian, authors Nettie Cronish and Pat Crocker have created yummy recipes that will satisfy everyone at the table. The dishes can be tailored to both vegetarians and meat eaters, with clear instructions on when to separate the vegetarian portions, when to add the meat or fish, and what to add instead of meat to retain healthy protein levels.

What you'll find in this book: A detailed pantry guide to everyday ingredients for the Flexitarian diet, clearly colour-coded recipes that will please both the carnivore and vegetarian, plus readable information that will clear up any confusion on the subject!

Oh thank you! Dinner with family or friends is no longer a tedious chore. Uncle Manny won't have to snort while fishing the shrimp out of the brown rice risotto, no audible eye rolling from those pre-teens or whining from the in-laws.

We've known Nettie and Pat for years; Nettie has been on the forefront of everything vegetarian here in Canada, she has worked as a natural-foods culinary instructor and recipe developer, run her own vegetarian frozen food company and written bestselling cookbooks including The Complete Idiot's Guide to Being Vegetarian in Canada, Nettie's Vegetarian Kitchen, and New Vegetarian Basics. Nettie founded and is the chair of the Women's Culinary Network and is on the board of Fairtrade Canada and Cuisine Canada.

Co-author Pat Crocker contributes to popular magazines and is a bestselling author of The Vegan Cook's Bible, The Juicing Bible, The Healing Herbs Cookbook and the Yogurt Bible. There's much more; Pat is the former owner of Crocker International Communications Inc., a public relations company operating in Toronto and specializing in food and consumer promotion. Past president of the Ontario Herbalists' Association and both the Toronto and the Ontario Home Economics Association, Pat actively participates in the Herb Society of America, the International Herb Association, the International Association of Culinary Professionals, Cuisine Canada, and the Toronto Culinary Guild. 

Icing on this impressive cake is Cynthia Beretta, whose comments appear throughout Everyday Flexitarian. She and her family own and operate Beretta Organics, a farm outside of Toronto producing top quality organic meats. She also operates a catering service and teaches cooking classes.

This talented trio has produced a book that will move to your A list shelf and stay there. Gone are the headaches of getting healthy, delicious meals out to your picky and varied eaters. Summer is fun again; invite everyone as the answers and great food ideas are in Everyday Flexitarian!

Help is also at hand with Healthy Starts Here, by Mairlyn Smith, the only Professional Home Economist in the world who is also an alumna of the Second City comedy troupe! We promise you'll laugh your way to a healthier you with Mairlyn; she's the real thing on both counts! Who doesn't love someone whose wish list includes throwing the first pitch at a Blue Jays home game, having her kitchen renovated by a home improvement TV show and having Olympic gold medalist and former captain of Canada's national women's hockey team Cassie Campbell's legs! But seriously, folks...

Mairlyn Smith is author of two other best sellers, The Ultimate Healthy Eating Plan and Ultimate foods for Ultimate Health; in all three she imparts health advice seasoned with laughter along with delicious recipes for the whole family. We appreciate that her recipes are heart healthy and diabetes friendly – something we all need to watch – and that each one lists nutritional information. Following Mairlyn's advice, we've become master hunter-gatherers for healthy food in the grocery store and, thanks to her tips and recipes, retrained our salt-addled taste buds!

In Healthy Starts Here you'll find 140 recipes that will make you feel great; there are loads of gorgeous photographs in this excellent, page-turning, book. Honestly, who could ask for anything more!

But wait, there's more... just in from the ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen is their delightful 2011 version of Everyday Delicious. ATCO is a regulated, Alberta-wide natural gas distribution company whose Blue Flame Kitchens and new Learning Centre are staffed with a dedicated team of professional home economists and Red Seal Chefs. Besides creating excellent cookbooks and helping consumers via their telephone hot line, these food professionals offer a one-of-a-kind destination offering professional instruction in a fun and supportive atmosphere. If you find yourself in Calgary, drop in for one of the lunchtime demonstrations, or catch an evening or weekend class.

Not getting to the Canadian West? Not to worry; you can enjoy a copy of Everyday Delicious; ordering information is listed below. You'll want several; this handy little spiral-bound book is the perfect gift for anyone who loves food, novice or seasoned cook alike!

Everyday Delicious is full of juicy photographs of food you want right now! Best of all, this family-friendly collection of recipes covers everything from brunch to baking, and they're all as easy to prepare as they are flavourful.

Want to start the day with coconut jam, lunch on gazpacho with panko crumble, and end the day with a five-spice steak with hoisin garlic sauce followed by a margarita bar? Or 100 other great ideas? Get your copy of Everyday Delicious today!

On today's menu:

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Black Bean Tortilla Chip Soup

Oh Mairlyn Smith, we love you and your recipes! From Healthy Starts Here we've got a heart-healthy version of the traditional Mexican tortilla soup which usually contains chicken plus all the bells and whistles!

Mairlyn decided to replace the chicken with antioxidant-rich black beans to up the nutrient level and still retain that unique tortilla soup flavor that we all crave. She goes on to say "If you're an organized cook and prep the green onions, cilantro, avocado and lime while the soup is simmering, you can have this on the table in 15 minutes." Is this perfect for a quick lunch or what!

Makes 8 cups (2 L). One serving = 2 cups (500 mL)

  • 3 cups (750 mL) lower-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • One 19 oz (540 mL) can diced tomatoes
  • One 19 oz (540 mL) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup (250 mL) frozen corn kernels (no need to thaw)
  • ¼ cup (60 mL) mild, medium or hot fresh salsa
  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) hot sauce (or to taste)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) thinly sliced green onions (about 5)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and thinly sliced
  • 1 lime scrubbed well and cut into quarters
  • 40 unsalted whole-grain corn chips
  1.  Heat the broth in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. When it comes to a boil, add the tomatoes, black beans, corn, salsa and hot sauce. Bring the broth back to a boil Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook covered for 5 minutes. Stir and remove from the heat.
  2. Ladle the soup into 4 deep bowls. Sprinkle each portion with the green onion, cilantro and avocado dividing evenly. Squeeze a lime quarter over each bowl. Crumble 10 tortilla chips into each bowl and stir gently.

Note: Mairlyn suggests, "If you make this in the summer during local corn season, cook fresh ears of corn... on the BBQ... and cut the kernels from the ears. Two medium ears of corn yield about 1 cup kernels."

Tony's wine recommendation:
Chilled Dry Oloroso Sherry or Palo Cortado


Asian Barley Salad

This is the perfect summer recipe; it's do-ahead from simple, on-hand ingredients, it's fast, and best... healthy and delicious. From Healthy Starts Here, Professional Home Economist Mairlyn Smith says "Cholesterol lowering barley, combined with two folate stars-peas and peanuts-makes this another heart-healthy dish. This is one of my all-time favourites for a summer dinner. Plan ahead and cook the barley the night before, then in the heat of the day all you have to do is chop a couple of green onions, throw in some peas and peanuts and toss it all with a great salad dressing."

Oh yum, call them in from the lake, lunch is served!

Makes 4 cups (1 litre). (1 serving = 1 cup/250 mL).

    Asian Barley Salad
  • 1 cup (250 mL) pot barley
  • 1 cup (250 mL) cooked fresh or thawed frozen peas
  • 2 large green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup (250 mL) red-skinned peanuts (see below)
    Peanut Dressing
  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) natural peanut butter
  • 2 Tbsp (15 mL) rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp (30 mL) lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) wasabi paste
  1.  For the salad, the night before you want to serve it, place the barley in a wire-mesh colander and rinse it under cold running water. Put the barley in a medium saucepan. Add 3 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook, covered until the barley is tender but chewy, 45 to 55 minutes. Stir one or twice to evenly distribute any remaining liquid. Remove the saucepan from the heat, fluff the barley with a fork to separate the grains, and let sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Fluff the barley again, then let cool for 30 minutes. (Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.)
  2. The next day, toss together the barley, peas, and green onions in a salad bowl.
  3. For the peanut dressing, whisk together the peanut butter, vinegar, soy sauce and wasabi paste in a small bowl. Pour the dressing over the barley mixture and toss well.
  4. Spoon the salad into bowls. Sprinkle each serving with 1/4 cup peanuts. Serve right away. (Any leftover salad can be covered and refrigerated overnight, but the barley absorbs the dressing, so you may need to add a little more before serving.)

Why red-skinned peanuts? Mairlyn tells us that there are loads more antioxidants to be had if you eat the skins, and every little bit helps.

Tony's wine recommendation:
New Zealand or Ontario Sauvignon Blanc or Alsace Pinot Blanc


Summer Pea and Mint Salad

The Farmer's Market in town was open this morning, and we picked up fresh peas just off the vine! Try not to eat them all before you get home – as Mairlyn Smith confesses to – because this recipe from her book Healthy Starts Here makes a good thing even more wonderful with the addition of mint and a tangy orange dressing!

Makes 2½ cups (623 mL). One serving = ½ cup (125mL).

  • 1½ cups (375 mL) cooked, chilled fresh peas or thawed  frozen baby peas
  • 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cups (185 mL) fine chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup (60mL) finely chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup (60mL) snipped fresh chives
    Orange-Dijon Dressing
  • 1 Tbsp (15mL) Canola oil
  • 1 Tbsp (15mL) frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
  • 1 Tbsp (15mL) apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp (5mL) Dijon mustard
  1. For the salad, toss together the peas, celery, parsley, mint and chives in a large salad bowl.
  2. For the dressing, whisk together the oil, orange juice concentrate, vinegar and Dijon in a small bowl.
  3. Pour the dressing over the salad, and toss well. Serve right away. (It still tastes great the next day but the vinegar turns the peas a terrible-looking grey-green. Just warning you!)

Tony's wine recommendation:
Soave or Arneis or Vinho Verde


Ricotta and Asiago Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
Lamb and Cheese Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

This one stops the whining. No matter what they're eating or not, this dish will disappear off the grill in seconds! Talk about something for everyone...

Everyday Flexitarian authors describe this twin recipe perfectly: Nettie Cronish reminds us that stuffed mushrooms can be served in a bun, open faced or between slices of crusty bread. Their meaty, earthy flavor combines so well with classic Italian ingredients that this dish may remind you of lasagna, with large grilled mushroom caps in place of the noodles!

Co-author Pat Crocker takes it one step further, saying that ground lamb and mushrooms are a perfect flavor combination, and with the fresh basil and Asiago cheese this is a truly Mediterranean experience.

Helen and Ron say "Another mushroom, please..."

Serves 8: 6 veggie + 2 meat servings (if using lamb)

  • 8 large Portobello mushroom caps
  • 3 Tbsp (45 mL) + 2 tsp (10 mL) olive oil
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) salt
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) freshly ground pepper
  • 6 oz (175 g) ground lamb
  • 1 cup (250 mL) ricotta or cottage cheese
  • 3/4 cup (185 mL) finely grated Asiago cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) diced pitted green olives
  • 2 Tbsp (30 mL) chiffonade of fresh basil (see below)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) tomato sauce or marinara sauce
  • Rimmed baking sheet

Preheat the grill to medium-high.

Lightly brush both sides of mushrooms with 3 Tbsp (45 mL) oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place mushrooms, gill side up, on the grill. Cook for 8 minutes, or until softened, turning once. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet, gill side up.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tsp (10 mL) oil in a skillet over medium-high heat, and then add ground lamb, stirring and breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon. Cook lamb for 4 to 6 minutes, or until browned through and there is no trace of pink remaining. Drain off the fat and let meat cool.

Combine ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup (125 mL) Asiago cheese, olives, and basil. Reserve 1/4 cup (60 mL) of cheese mixture in a separate bowl and combine with lamb once cooled.

Heat tomato sauce in a small pot over the grill, or on the stovetop, over medium-high heat for 3 minutes or until bubbling.

Spoon 1 to 2 Tbsp (15 to 30 mL) tomato sauce into each mushroom cap. Spoon vegetarian ricotta mixture evenly over top, stopping after topping 6 mushrooms. Divide meat ricotta mixture into 2 equal portions and top remaining 2 mushrooms.

Sprinkle remaining Asiago cheese evenly over all mushrooms. Transfer the entire baking sheet onto the grill, and grill the stuffed mushrooms for 5 minutes, or until Asiago cheese has melted and filling is hot and bubbling.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Red Burgundy or New Zealand or Oregon Pinot Noir


Lentil and Artichoke Grilled Pizza
Grilled Lentil Pizza with Seafood and Asparagus

And here's another! Pizza is really the perfect food; pile anything tasty on top of a crisp crust, melt a topping and enjoy. From Everyday Flexitarian comes this unusual version, and you don't have to tell them how healthy it is until they're asking for seconds!

Nettie Cronish suggests: "Use any canned bean. I really like the size and colour of red lentils and adzuki beans. Serve with salsa, sour cream, and/or extra grated cheese. Grilling melts the cheese evenly."

Pat Crocker weighs in with her version:

"I love this lentil pizza as it is, but sometimes if I have the ingredients and the desire for a bit of a change, I add shrimp or scallops and fresh or canned asparagus to one half of the pizza. Scallops are cooked when they turn opaque and shrimp are cooked when they turn bright pink; for both, the flesh should be firm, not hard or rubbery. I recommend using the very small scallops or shrimp for this pizza."

Makes: one 14-inch (35 cm) pizza
2 veggie + 2 meat servings (if using seafood)

  • 1⅓ cups (330 mL) canned red or green lentils or adzuki beans, drained and rinsed, divided
  • One 14 oz (398 mL) can artichoke hearts, drained, divided
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 to 2 tsp (2 to 10 mL) chile powder
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) yellow cornmeal
  • 1 lb (500 g) pizza dough (page 120, or store-bought)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1¼ cups (310 mL) shredded white cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) pitted black olives, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp (30 mL) chopped fresh basil
  • 1 cup (250 mL) fresh small scallops or peeled and deveined shrimp (about 3 oz/90 g)
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) fresh or canned asparagus pieces (drained if canned)
  • 2 Tbsp (30 mL) olive oil

Preheat the grill to low.

Combine 1 cup (250 mL) lentils, 2 artichoke hearts, garlic, chile powder, and salt in a food processor. Process for 3 seconds and with motor running; add sesame oil through opening in the lid. Process until mixture reaches desired consistency – chunky or smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in remaining lentils.

Sprinkle cornmeal onto a large baking sheet. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough into a 14-inch (35 cm) round. Press rolled dough round into the cornmeal to coat one side. Transfer round to the grill with cornmeal-coated side down.

Slide crust directly onto grill rack – do not cook on grill using stone or baking sheet – and pierce dough using a fork. Close lid. Cook for 4 minutes, or until underside is lightly browned. Using tongs or a large spatula, flip crust and slide back onto the grill. Close the lid of the grill to keep it hot until ready to dress.

Dress the pizza: Slice remaining artichoke pieces and assemble all other vegetarian pizza toppings. Combine scallops, asparagus pieces, and 1 Tbsp (15 mL) of the olive oil in a bowl and toss to coat. Heat remaining 1 Tbsp (15 mL) oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the scallops and asparagus and cook, tossing and stirring constantly, for 3 to 5 minutes or until scallops have turned opaque and asparagus is tender-crisp.

Spread lentil-artichoke mixture over crust, leaving a 1-inch (2.5 cm) border around outside rim. Spread grape tomatoes skin side down over entire pizza and sprinkle 1/4 cup (60 mL) cheddar cheese over top. Spread onions over cheese and tomatoes, and then olives over onions.

Sprinkle 1/2 cup (125 mL) cheddar cheese over olives.

Spread artichoke pieces evenly over one half of the pizza. Spread grilled scallops and artichoke pieces evenly over the other half of the pizza. Sprinkle remaining cheddar cheese evenly over top.

Return pizza to grill rack and cook with lid closed for 8 minutes, or until cheese is melted and underside of crust is browned.

Tip: To cook pizza in the oven, preheat the oven to broil (500°F/260°C). Broil for 8 minutes, or until cheese is melted and underside of crust is browned.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Sauvignon Blanc from anywhere


French Toast

Uncle Manny finally got the idea, and offered to make breakfast for the crowd! Tell him to get cracking on the best French toast ever, this almost sinful version from the ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen Everyday Delicious; you've got the ingredients on hand, so stay in bed this morning while he makes magic in the kitchen!

Oh, and he's invited back next year!

Makes 8 slices

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup (125mL) whipping cream
  • 2 Tbsp (25ml) thawed frozen orange juice concentrate
  • 1 tsp (5mL) vanilla
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) butter
  • 8 slices French or challah bread, 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick
  • Maple or pancake syrup

Whisk eggs in a large shallow bowl or pie plate. Whisk in cream, orange juice concentrate, vanilla and nutmeg until blended.

Melt butter in a large nonstick fry pan over medium heat. Working in batches, dip bread slices in egg mixture, turning to coat both sides. Cook bread slices, turning once, until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Serve with syrup.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Extra Dry Prosecco or Cava


Berry Oatmeal Squares

They've all gone to the pick-your-own farm, and come back with baskets full. Turn the bounty into this anytime, eat-out-of-hand crowd-pleasing snack. From Everyday Delicious, it's an easy do-ahead recipe that stores well for a few days, and is delicious at any hour! We bet the box will be empty in minutes, not days!

Makes 36 squares

  • 2 cups (500 mL) quick-cooking or old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup (175mL) flour
  • 3/4 cup (175mL) packed golden brown sugar
  • 1 tsp (5mL) grated orange peel
  • 1/4 tsp (1mL) baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp (1mL) salt
  • 1/2 cup (125mL) butter, melted
  • Berry filling (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a 9-inch (23 cm) square baking pan with nonstick foil, leaving a 2-inch (5 cm) overhang.

Combine first 6 ingredients (oats though salt) in a bowl. Add melted butter and stir just until combined. Mixture will be crumbly. Reserve 3/4 cup (175 mL) of oats mixture for topping. Press remaining oats mixture into prepared pan.

Bake for 10–15 minutes or until light golden. Meanwhile, prepare Berry Filling. Remove pan from oven. Gently spread hot filling over hot base, leaving a 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) border around edges. Sprinkle reserved oats mixture over filling.

Return pan to oven and continue baking for 30–35 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Cool in a pan on a rack. Using foil as an aid, lift square from pan and cut into squares. Remove squares from foil. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to 4 days.

    Berry Filling
  • 3 cups (750mL) fresh raspberries or blueberries
  • 1/3 cup (75mL) sugar
  • 2 Tbsp (25mL) fresh orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp (15mL) cornstarch

Combine all ingredients in a small nonreactive saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook, stirring constantly until thickened.

Tony's wine recommendation:
forget the wine unless it's Moscato d'Asti


We wish to thank the following for permission to publish material and photographs:

ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen
Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta Canada
For more information and to purchase cookbooks, go to

Whitecap Books, North Vancouver, BC, for

Healthy Starts Here by Mairlyn Smith. © 2011 Mairlyn Smith, Photography by Mick McColl/General Chefery.


Everyday Flexitarian by Nettie Cronish and Pat Crocker. © 2011 Nettie Cronish and Pat Crocker. Photos © 2011 Pat Crocker.


Happily enjoyed by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.

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