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Big and Easy Eating (November 10, 2005)

Oh, what a day; a quick fresh dinner would be so perfect... yet the mind is blank. Aha, just in time come three new cookbooks perfect for solving the everyday eating question! We want healthy, we still like low-carb and it goes without saying it's got to taste terrific... Veteran cookbook author Maryana Vollstedt sent us The Big Book of Easy Suppers: 270 Recipes and Ideas for Relaxed Everyday Cooking. Don't be fooled, every one of these dishes is perfect for an informal dinner party as well. Volstedt, author of the best-selling Big Book series, lives in Oregon, where she also writes a bimonthly food column called "What's for Dinner?" Who better than this professional home economist to answer that question!

Two more, The Big Book of Low-Carb Recipes: 365 Fast and Fabulous Dishes for Sensible Low-Carb Eating and its companion The Big Book of Quick and Healthy Recipes: Delicious and Nutritious Meals in Under 30 Minutes, arrived together; each contain 365 recipes to keep you cooking easy for quite a while. "Low-Carb Recipes" award winning author Nicola Graimes is an experienced food editor and writer and a former editor of Vegetarian Living Magazine. Graimes's book is chock full of great ideas and juicy pictures, as is Quick and Healthy Recipes by Kirsten Hartvig. Hartvig is a registered naturopath and medicinal herbalist whose main interest lies in helping people to take charge of their own health by using easily available foods and simple naturopathic techniques.

We're not just talking recipes here, either; all these books contain excellent information on shopping and stocking your pantry, hot cooking tips plus food facts on vitamins and minerals and healthy eating. Oh my, staying healthy and eating well is now a lot easier... and faster! Enjoy!

On today's menu:

Download these recipes in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (75 KB)


Pizza Broil

Oh, what a great idea for a quick lunch when friends drop by, or a light supper with a glass of wine and fresh fruit to finish. This delicious combo from The Big Book of Quick and Healthy Recipes is also good for you! Kirsten Hartvig tells us that this dish weighs in with good antioxidants, calcium, iron and B vitamins.

We add that we didn't even care, as it was so good!

Serves 2

  • French baguette (halved lengthwise or 2 bagels or 2 pitas)
  • 2 Tbsp tomato sauce
  • 1 cup mozzarella or soy cheese, grated
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 1 small red onion, sliced
  • ½ red pepper, sliced
  • 1 small fresh hot chili, slice
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp basil, chopped

Preheat the broiler and broil the underside of the bread. Turn and spread the tomato sauce over the uncooked side. Cover with the grated cheese and the remaining topping ingredients, and season. Broil for 4–5 minutes, or until the cheese has melted. Garnish with basil and serve.

Tony's wine recommendation:
A medium-bodied, dry red – Chianti, Valpolicella, Beaujolais.


Chicken Dijon

One look at the cover of The Big Book of Easy Suppers had us searching out the featured dish; Chicken Dijon rewarded us with an easy, delicious perfect casual….yet perfect for company…supper! Chicken is everyone's fave; they'll really rave when topped with this Tangy Red Dressing and a perfect designer salad on the side.

Serves 4

1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 chicken (3 ½ to 4 pounds) cut into serving pieces (use drumsticks, thighs, and breasts), excess fat and skin trimmed
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Dijon Cheese Sauce (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350F. In a 9-by13 inch glass baking dish, melt butter with oil in the oven. Add chicken and turn to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Bake 30 minutes. Turn chicken over and pour cheese sauce over. Bake, uncovered, until bubbly, about 30 minutes longer.

Dijon Cheese Sauce

Makes 1½ cups

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 3 Tbsp dry white wine
  • ¼ cup grated Cheddar cheese
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp dried tarragon
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add flour and stir until bubbly. Add broth and stir until thickened, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and stir in wine, cheese, mustard, tarragon, salt and parsley. Simmer until cheese melts and flours are blended.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Tavel rosé, Pinot Noir, Red Burgundy.


Mixed Greens, Avocado and Mushroom Salad with Tangy Red Dressing

This will become one of our favorite year-round salads to accompany meats or poultry. The tangy dressing is absolutely outstanding and can be used on other green salads... or almost anywhere!

Serves 4 to 6

  • 6 to 8 cups torn mixed salad greens
  • 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced
  • 3 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 or 4 green onions, including some tender green tops, sliced

Tangy Red Dressing

Makes about 1¼ cups

½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup ketchup
¼ cup cider vinegar
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp honey
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/8 tsp paprika
½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients. Whisk again before serving.


Chocolate Orange Cream

Serves 2 (12 g carbohydrate per serving)

Oh, this can't be true. Dessert to enjoy while on the diet... and it's so delectable that you'll serve it happily at the next dinner party. We found it's a good do-ahead dessert; just cover the tops with plastic wrap and chill. Better hide these behind the broccoli, though...

  • 1 heaped cup of ricotta cheese
  • 2 Tbsp brandy
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 4 Tbsp fresh orange juice
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • ¾ square good-quality plain chocolate (70% cocoa solids), finely grated
  • Fine strips of orange zest, to decorate
  1. Beat together the ricotta, brandy, sugar, orange juice and zest in a bowl.
  2. Spoon a quarter of the ricotta mixture into 2 glasses, and top with half the chocolate. Spoon the remaining ricotta mixture into the glasses, and chill for 1 hour.
  3. Before serving, sprinkle the remaining chocolate on top, then decorate with the orange strips.

Tony's wine recommendation:
10-Year-Old Tawny Port; sparkling Icewine; Asti Spumante.

We wish to thank Raincoast Books, Chronicle Books and Blue Heron Books for permission to publish material from The Big Book of Easy Suppers, by Maryana Vollstedt.
Text © 2005 by Maryana Vollstedt.
Photograph © 2005 by Sheri Giblin.

The Big Book of Quick and Healthy Recipes, by Kirsten Hartvig.
© Duncan Baird Publishers 2005.
Text © Kirsten Hartvig 2005.
Commissioned photography © Duncan Baird Publishers 2005.
Commissioned Photography: William Lingwood

The Big Book of Low-Carb Recipes, by Nicola Graimes.
© Duncan Baird Publishers 2005.
Text © Nicola Graimes 2005.
Photography © Duncan Baird Publishers 2005.
Studio photography: William Lingwood


Happily tested by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.

Download these recipes in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (75 KB)




More Gourmet Recipes