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No Time to Cook? (June 25, 2014)

Scrambled Eggs Florentine
Peel-n-Eat Key Lime BBQ Shrimp
Lamb Kebabs with Harissa, Chickpeas and  Summer Squash
Veal Osso Buco
Double Lemon Cake

Ah, remember those immortal lines from the classic Alice in Wonderland film...

Alice: "Have a cup of tea" indeed! Well, I'M sorry, but I just HAVEN'T the time!
White Rabbit: N-n-n-no time, no time, no time! Hello, good bye, I'm late, I'm late, I'm late!

We've all felt this way, life is too rushed and often we just don't feel like there's time to make a decent meal for ourselves, much less a dinner party! Help is out there, and we've found some terrific cookbooks that will get you back in the groove, and the kitchen!

One of the most fun and utterly practical books in a long time just arrived, 250 Best Meals in a Mug by Camilla Saulsbury is hot off the press and we fell in love with this whole idea! Whether you're dining solo or you're pressed for time, meals in a mug are the perfect solution. And if you're living in a dorm, travelling in an RV or eating at the office, they offer a convenient and budget-friendly way to eat delicious and healthy meals. Saulsbury has stripped away all the time-consuming steps as well as all the artificial ingredients found in boxed meals, and made it possible to make a fresh, cooked-from-scratch weeknight meal for yourself and still have time to savor every bite.

Camilla Saulsbury is a writer, recipe developer, fitness trainer, endurance athlete and creator of the blog Power Hungry. Her PhD is in sociology with specializations in food studies, health and medicine. She's the real thing, and so is 250 Best Meals in a Mug. A must have!

Carla Snyder delivers more than 70 complete dinners in One Pan, Two Plates, a title that says it all. You might want to try Fettuccini with Scallops, Carrots and Ginger-Lime Butter Sauce, or perhaps Skirt Steak Fajitas with Pico de Gallo and Avocado, or even a Fluffy Spring Frittata with Asparagus; whichever you choose will give you the start-to-finish time as well as the actual hands-on time to prepare. Snyder, an experienced cooking school teacher and food writer, has also added an "Extra Hungry?" paragraph to each recipe, telling you what else to add if your appetite begs for more!

A Flash in the Pan gives us just that: fast and fabulous meals in a single skillet. This well-thumbed favourite of ours by Brooke Dojny and Melanie Barnard always has the answer to "What shall we fix?" especially when friends are dropping by! Chicken is transformed into a tropical feast with red curry paste and coconut milk; we love their Portobellos with Sherry-Scallion Gravy, and surprise, Skillet Spinach Pesto Lasagna, cooked on top of the stove! The authors know what they're talking about; they write the monthly column "Every-Night Cooking" for Bon Appetit magazine, and have authored more than eight cookbooks together!

No time and friends coming for dinner? Get out your slow cooker and your new copy of The Mediterranean Slow Cooker Cookbook and let this kitchen servant make it for you while you're at work. You'll come home to open the wine and greet your friends, as dinner is ready! Author Diane Phillips has pulled together loads of favorites from Portugal, Spain, France, Italy and North Africa that anyone with a slow cooker can do with ease. She's authored fifteen cookbooks, teaches cooking all over the world and works with the food and beverage industry developing product and menu items!

On today's menu:

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Scrambled Eggs Florentine

Scrambled Eggs Florentine

Bored out of your mind with cereal in the morning, but too rushed to do anything else? Not any more with 250 Best Meals in a Mug, which delivers with this gourmet start of the day. Practically in the time it takes to open that box, you can have a hot, fresh gourmet start to the day!

  • 12 to 16 oz (375 to 500 mL) mug
  • 1 cup (250 mL) frozen chopped spinach
  • 2 large eggs
  • Pinch ground nutmeg (optional)
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup drained canned Italian-seasoned diced tomatoes (see tips below)
  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) grated Parmesan cheese
  1. In the mug, microwave spinach on High for 1½ to 2 minutes or until thawed and warm. Using the tines of a fork, press down firmly on the spinach and drain off excess liquid.
  2. Using a fork, beat in eggs, nutmeg (if using), salt and pepper until well blended. Stir in tomatoes and Parmesan. Microwave on High for 30 seconds. Stir. Microwave on High for 30 to 45 seconds or until eggs are puffed and just barely set at the centre.

Variation: Greek Spinach Scramble: Omit the tomatoes. Replace the nutmeg with 1/3 tsp (1 mL) dried dill weed or 1/8 tsp dried oregano. Replace the Parmesan with 1 Tbsp (15 mL) crumbled feta cheese.


  • Opt for bags as opposed to boxes of frozen chopped spinach, as it is easier to remove small amounts at a time.
  • Freeze the remaining tomatoes in a small sealable freezer bag. You can freeze the entire amount in one bag, or portion out 1/4 cup (60 mL) per bag so that the tomatoes are recipe-ready. Be sure to label the bag with the contents. Store for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator or microwave before using.

Tony's wine recommendation:
dry sparkling wine – champagne if you can afford it or Cava or Prosecco



Peel-n-Eat Key Lime BBQ Shrimp

Peel 'n' Eat Key Lime BBQ Shrimp

We ate our way through New Orleans last year, and a favourite spot was Mr. B's Bistro in the French Quarter, where we swinishly wolfed down their signature barbecued shrimp. This recipe comes about as close as you can come to that divine dish, and best of all, it's quick and easy!

From A Flash in the Pan, where authors Dojny and Barnard suggest crusty Cuban bread and a spicy rice salad on the side. End this feast by hosing everyone down in the back yard!

Serves 4

  • 4 Key limes or 2 Persian limes
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1½ Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 pound extra-large shrimp in the shell
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp hot-pepper sauce, to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

Cut 4 thin slices from one of the limes, then grate 1 tsp of zest and squeeze 2 Tbsp of juice from the rest of the limes.

In a large skillet, heat the butter, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and lime zest and juice until bubbly. Add the shrimp. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the shrimp just begin to turn pink and are nearly cooked through, about 3 minutes. Stir in the hot sauce and cook 1 minute more. Stir in the parsley. Taste and additional hot sauce if desired.

Serve the shrimp with the sauce, garnish with the lime slices, and let everyone peel and eat them with their fingers.

Tony's wine recommendation:
dry Riesling (Kabinett), Viognier or Vermentino



Lamb Kebabs with Harissa, Chickpeas and  Summer Squash

Lamb Kebabs with Harissa, Chickpeas and Summer Squash

Ok, so this one takes a little longer. However, you can do the kebabs ahead and refrigerate until ready. The big plus is it's all done in one pan; no juggling other side dishes. Perfect for a delicious dinner at home with your honey! From One Pan, Two Plates.

Start to finish: 40 minutes
Hands on time: 30 minutes
Serves 2

  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 Tbsp harissa paste
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 12 oz (340 g) boneless lamb sirloin or loin roast, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 summer squash, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into slices about 1/2 inch (12 mm) thick
  • One 15 oz (430 g) can chickpeas, drained
  • 1/4 cup (55 g) sour cream
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tsp minced fresh cilantro
  1. Soak four 6-inch/15 cm wooden skewers in water for about 10 minutes. (H&R say: Pour a glass of wine...)
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the garlic, harissa and 1 Tbsp of the olive oil. Set aside about 1 Tbsp of the mixture. Add the lamb to the bowl and toss to coat it with the spice paste. Thread the lamb loosely onto the soaked skewers and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Let the lamb sit at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes. (H&R: top up the wine and relax.)

NOTE: We say you can do this ahead and refrigerate; bring to room temp before continuing.

  1. Preheat the broiler with the rack in the second position from the top.
  2. Heat a 12-inch (30.5 cm) ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat and add the remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil. When the oil shimmers, add the lamb skewers and brown them on one side, about 1 minute. Turn the lamb and brown the opposite side for another minute. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the kebabs to a plate. (They will not be cooked through at this point.)
  3. Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the onion, 1/4 tsp salt and a few grinds of pepper. Sauté the onion until it begins to soften, about 2 minutes, then add the squash. Continue to sauté until the squash begins to soften another 2 minutes or so, then add the chickpeas, another sprinkle of salt and pepper, and the reserved 1 Tbsp harissa blend. Toss the vegetables with the spices and cook until heated through and tender, about 3 minutes longer. Lay the kebabs on top of the veggies and slip the pan under the broiler for 3 minutes to cook the kebabs to medium-rare, or 4 minutes for medium. Meanwhile, in a bowl stir together the sour cream and lemon juice.
  4. Mound the chickpeas and vegetables onto two warmed plates and top them with the kababs, a drizzle of the lemon sour cream and a sprinkling of the cilantro. Serve hot.

Extra Hungry? Add 1 cup (140 g) thawed frozen green beans along with the chickpeas. They add a nice touch of green and are delicious with the flavors here as well!

Great tip: Harissa is a fiery Tunisian spice paste made from hot chiles, lemon, garlic and ground spices; it usually comes in a small metal can. Once opened, transfer the pate to an airtight container and pour a little olive oil over the top to help keep it from drying out. Tightly sealed, it will last for months and months in the fridge, but use it up by putting a dollop on your next frittata, ho-hum BBQ sauce, or anywhere you'd like a little "pow."

Tony's wine recommendation:
Zinfandel, Australian Shiraz



Veal Osso Buco

Veal Osso Buco

No time doesn't always mean you have to cook it in a hurry. Your slow cooker can do the job overnight or while you're at the office and you'll come home to this world-famous dish. It's often served at elegant table in Milan on a bed of risotto... ah, yes! Another helping, please! From The Mediterranean Slow Cooker Cookbook.

Serves 6

  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 large sweet yellow onion, such as Vidalia, finely chopped
  • 3 ribs celery, including the leaves, finely chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, finely chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
  • 1½ cups (360 mL) reconstituted veal demi-glace, or 1 cup (240 mL) chicken broth
  • One 14½ to 15 oz (415 to 430 g) can chopped tomatoes, with their juice
  • Six to eight 3/4 to 1 lb (340 to 455 g) veal shanks (about 6 lb/2. 7kg total)
  • 1/2 cup/65 g all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup (120 mL) dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc, or dry vermouth
  • Grated zest of 2 oranges
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup (60 g) finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat, and sauté the onion, celery, carrots, 2 garlic cloves, and sage for 3 minutes, or until the onion begins to soften. Transfer the contents of the skillet to the insert of a 5 to 7 quart (4.5 to 6.5 L) slow cooker. Stir in the demi-glace and tomatoes. Turn the slow cooker to high and cover while you sauté the veal.

Tie the veal shanks with butcher's twine or silicone loops at 1-inch (2.5 cm) intervals to keep the meat close to the bones. In a shallow dish mix together the flour, salt and pepper. Dredge the veal in the flour mixture. In the same skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, and brown the meat on all sides in batches, turning frequently. When the meat is browned, add it to the sauce in the slow cooker. Pour the white wine into the skillet and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Transfer to the slow cooker and stir the sauce. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours, or on low for 8 to 10 hours, until the veal is tender.

While the veal is cooking, in a small bowl, combine the remaining 3 garlic cloves, orange and lemon zest, and parsley. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until the veal is ready to serve.

Skim any excess fat from the sauce. To serve the osso buco, remove the twine and serve one shank per person with some of the sauce spooned over the top. Sprinkle with the gremolata. If you are serving the osso buco from the slow cooker as a buffet dish, stir the gremolata into the sauce before serving.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Chianti Classico, Amarone, Valpolicella Ripasso



Double Lemon Cake

Double Lemon Cake

Instant gratification is right here! Heaps of citrus zing, minimal ingredients, delicious, ready in minutes... what more could you want in any dessert? From 250 Best Meals in a Mug.

Serves one... want two, get another mug!

  • 16 oz (500 mL) mug, sprayed with nonstick cooking spray
  • 3 Tbsp (45 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp (0.5 mL) salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 Tbsp (45 mL) granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp (30 mL) vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) finely grated lemon zest
  • 1½ Tbsp (22 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup (75 mL) confectioners' sugar
  • 1½ tsp (7 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  1. Cake: In the mug, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Using a fork, beat in egg, sugar, oil, lemon zest and lemon juice until very well blended.
  2. Microwave on High for 1½ to 2 minutes (checking at 1½) or until risen and center is just set. Let cool slightly or entirely in mug. Eat directly from mug or gently remove to a small plate.
  3. Icing: in a small bowl or cup, use a fork to stir confectioners' sugar and lemon juice until smooth. Drizzle over cake.


Gluten-Free Lemon Cake: Replace the all-purpose flour with an all-purpose gluten-free flour blend. Make sure the baking powder and confectioners' sugar are gluten free.

Ginger Lime Cake: Add ¼ tsp (1 mL) ground ginger with the flour. Use lime zest and juice in place of the lemon zest and juice.

Fresh Orange Cake: use orange zest and juice in place of the lemon zest and juice.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Icewine, Select Late Harvest Riesling



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

Raincoast Books, Vancouver and Chronicle Books, San Francisco for A Flash in the Pan by Brooke Dojny and Melanie Barnard. Text © 2003 Brooke Dojny and Melanie Barnard. Photographs © 2003 Maren Caruso.


One Pan, Two Plates by Carla Snyder. Text © Carla Snyder. Photographs © Judy Horton.


The Mediterranean Slow Cooker Cookbook by Diane Phillips. Text copyright © 2012 by Diane Phillips. Photographs copyright © 2012 by Tara Donne.

Robert Rose Inc., publisher, Toronto, for 250 Best Meals in a Mug by Camilla V. Saulsbury. Text © 2014 Camilla V. Saulsbury. Photographs © 2014 Robert Rose Inc.


Download this article in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (172 KB)

Find more recipes with the recipe indexes by title and type

Happily enjoyed by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.

Helen Hatton and Ron Morris at Le Caveau des Gourmets in Gigondas




More Gourmet Recipes