Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Just for the Hack of it!

Just over six months ago I quit my job. I threw in the towel (er...should I say apron?) to focus on making my dreams and my goals a reality. I laid everything out on the table for all to see, which for me was incredibly scary knowing that if I failed, all within my social circle and beyond would know. I called out to friends, family, and acquaintances through various means of social media, emails, texts, and phone calls asking for their help and their guidance in making this crazy foodie dream of mine realized. Some people thought I was crazy, drawing my mind to a quote from one of my favourite songs:
"Quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock." Arcade Fire - Sprawl II
 But I refused to punch that metaphorical clock! I knew this was the path I had to go on (or at the very least try!) and I knew this was something that I was good at, which isn't always easy for someone as hard on themselves as myself to admit. Yes, there were absolutely a number of occasions where I had to stop and ask myself "what the hell was I thinking?!" wondering if this vision of how I wanted my future to play out was merely a fantasy that I had created in my head, but alas I persevered. 

And here I am today, about to share with you my very first blog post on the Kraft Canada Food Hacks website, fittingly posted on my birthday! It's weird, part of me had complete blind faith that I would get to this moment, yet the very practical part of my brain is still in complete disbelief that I actually made this happen, and so quickly at that. True, I've been writing Ginger Rose for over five years now, but I feel it wasn't until I put it all on the line and voiced my ambitions that the ball finally started rolling. Put that positive energy and goals out there, and you shall receive! 
So without further ado, I ecstatically introduce to you the Kraft Canada Food Hacks blog, written by yours truly! The first blog post is a fun little Q&A that I did with Kraft about my experience and history with food hacking, getting new readers and devoted Kraft fans to learn a little bit more about myself. 

The second post is where I get cookin', sharing with you one of my favourite food hacks that I've come across, the Grilled Chicken Caesar Wafflewich! I absolutely adore panini sandwiches, allowing sandwiches to have a great moist and soft filling, while giving a fantastic crunchy texture to the outside, not to mention cutting down on mess by making the dish more compact in size (but certainly not in flavour!). Without a panini press, it's difficult to get that same panini-pressed texture and flavour that I crave from some of my favourite sandwich shops and restaurants. Say hello to the good ol' family waffle-maker, here to save the day! Who knew that an appliance that I already had in my home could create the same results as a bulky panini press that I thought was absolutely crucial in achieving a delicious panini?! With comforting familiar flavours similar to a club sandwich (substituting the chicken for what is traditionally used, turkey) the Grilled Chicken Caesar Wafflewich is sure to become your new favourite lunch-time treat! 

Check out the recipe for my Grilled Chicken Caesar Wafflewich as well as my Q&A and tell me what you think! I will be taking over the @foodhacks Twitter page, where I will be sharing all of the many food hacks that I invent and come across. I encourage you to tweet me, comment on my posts, write me on my Ginger Rose Facebook page and email me to share your own food hacking experiences! Have a hack you think I'd like? I want to know! Let's get the food hack conversation started! 

Listening To:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

GLAD Fresh Food Challenge

Long before I had to begin worrying about money, budgeting, and bills I had the message "waste is bad" firmly engrained in my head. With my mom growing up with European parents who lived through the war, the 'waste not, want not' mentality was passed down through to my immediate family, meaning always finishing the food on your plate; spending an extra couple seconds getting every last drop out of the orange juice container or milk bag; and even such wild penny-pinching-practices like machine-washing J-cloths after being used. It always seemed like a bit of a nuisance for my very fortunate sister and I growing up, not being able to look at the big picture and see how all these little savings can actually add up to be quite significant in the end. 
Now, being in my late twenties, I have become painfully aware of each and every fruit or vegetable that goes mouldy in my fridge, leftovers that go uneaten, and dry goods that go rancid. Sure, having to pay for my own things absolutely brought my attention to food waste, but more than that, it was about those values that my parents had instilled in me growing up, finally making sense to me. As I grew up I started to place more value on the things that I had previously taken for granted in my life. I started to understand that not everyone has the privilege to eat healthy and fresh meals everyday, and how quickly my life could very well go in the same direction. 
Instead of looking at food waste as an irritant, forcing me to eat things before they go bad, whether I liked them or not, I started looking at potential food waste as an opportunity. I decided to be inspired by potential waste, rather than feel hindered by it. I started consciously making the effort to go through my kitchen regularly and come up with interesting and delicious dishes that would allow me to incorporate all of those almost-ready-for-the-trash ingredients that could have contributed to my weekly food waste. I now take pride in throwing out as little food as I do, knowing that the things that I have spent my hard-earned money on are helping to nourish me, and is not getting thrown in the trash. 
With my waste not, want not values seeping into just about every blog post I write, I jumped at the chance to get to take part in the GLAD Fresh Food Challenge! From October 1st to October 15th myself as well as a slew of other Canadians have committed to having zero food waste! Not a single leaf of lettuce, not a single slice of apple pie (but really, who would waste apple pie?!) could go to waste in that two week period. With such an emphasis on reducing food waste in my everyday life, I had figured that I would be a pro at the challenge, and would succeed with flying colours, but I gotta say it was certainly tougher than I had thought. This challenge made me very aware of everything I purchase each day, portion sizes, tricking myself into eating the same thing in different ways in order to use it up, and also taking the care and time to wrap and package any leftover food properly. After two weeks of next to zero food waste (I regretfully admit that a few strawberries and cherry tomatoes went bad) I have come up with a number of tips to share for you to help you to cut down on the food waste in your own home. 
  1. Wrap leftovers immediately - Wrap any leftover ingredients or meals as soon as possible, and in the most effective way possible. For instance, wrap blocks of cheese in a tightly-wrapped layer of GLAD Cling Wrap and then place in a small GLAD zipper bag and place in your cheese drawer. Wrap any leftover chicken, meat, or fish in GLAD Press 'n Seal to lock in all that freshness. Wrap any leftover candy and nuts in a GLAD zipper bag. 
  2. Label all leftovers - Right after you have wrapped up or packaged your leftovers, write directly on the bag or container, or on a piece of masking tape what the contents are as well as the date they were made/packaged. 
  3. Organize your fridge - Organize your fridge regularly to make sure you know exactly what is in there and what needs to be used up. Try and designate a specific area of your fridge solely for things that need to be eaten, so that family members and roommates are made aware of what they should be eating.
  4. Leave notes - Leave cute notes in your kitchen for family members and roommates to make them aware of what they should eat before it goes bad. For instance, my boyfriend got a note saying "Yum! There's delicious cherry tomatoes, basil, and Buffalo Mozzarella in the fridge! Maybe someone should have some caprese salad with dinner!" 
  5. Get creative with leftovers - Look for ways to reinvent your leftovers into something else so that you don't get sick of eating the same thing. For example, last week I made a delicious chilli with pork belly and brisket, and there were a ton of leftovers! With a great combination like pork belly and brisket, I knew that some of the leftover chilli would make a fantastic base for a Shepherds pie! Other examples could be making bread pudding or a Panzanella salad with leftover bread, or tossing almost-ready-for-the-trash berries into a cake or smoothie.
  6. Make smoothie bags - Toss any leftover pre-washed fruits and vegetables into GLAD zipper bags to freeze individual portion sizes for smoothies! Cut down on waste, and cut down on the time it takes to make your morning smoothie! 
How do you cut down on food waste?

Listening To:

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

I Am Food Hacks

Dear readers, I have to tell you that I have been holding in a secret. If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram you will have already heard the great reveal, but if not, now is the time for me to happily spill the beans that I had been holding in for weeks. Just over two weeks ago I received the incredible news that Kraft Canada has named me Canada's Ultimate Food Hacker!! From the moment I first heard about the Kraft competition to search for Canada's Ultimate Food Hacker, I knew it had to be mine, combining all of the things I love into one perfect year-long role. If you recall my blog post from August, as I progressed to the next round of the competition, you will remember just how incredibly hopeful I was to make it here. Right when I felt like throwing in the towel, and giving up on this crazy foodie dream of mine, the Food Hacks opportunity talked into my life, and here I am today being declared the winner! 

So what exactly does it mean to be Canada's Ultimate Food Hacker? As Kraft Canada's Ultimate Food Hacker, I will be taking over the Food Hacks social media pages to get to share with you my successes and failures, as I hunt down and experiment with just about every clever food hack that I can get my hands on! Basically, I want to give Canadians the tools to make life in the kitchen a little more interesting, fun, and efficient by providing clever food hacks that will allow you to elevate a meal, perfect a cooking method, or create an epic flavour infusion with ease! By engaging with you through Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Vine, as well as sharing weekly blog posts on the Kraft Canada What's Cooking blog on my trials and tribulations of food hacking, I hope to create a community of innovative Food Hackers that can learn and thrive from one another. I'm so madly excited to not only get to express my creativity with this role, but to also open up my audience to a whole new slew of smart and interesting foodies who I may not have had the chance to meet before. I can't wait to get the conversation going with all of you and hear about your own experiences with food hacks. Let's start sharing! I want to know what food hacks you've tried! What worked? What failed? What food hacks are you dying to try? Let's talk!  

Be sure to follow the @foodhacks Twitter page to stay up-to-date with all the latest food hacks and chat with me about your own food hack experiences! Also be sure to check out the Food Hacks webpage to see all of the amazing hacked recipes that Kraft has already created! I can't wait to go on this journey with you! 

Relive my Food Hacks video submission here for an awesome hack on how to peel multiple cloves of garlic all at once! 

Listening To:

Monday, October 6, 2014

Dairy Goodness Great Cream Challenge - Fall Harvest Veggie Challenge: Creamy Vegetable Gratin

Another year of the Dairy Goodness Great Cream Challenge has come to an end for me. Although I have been participating in the Great Cream Challenge for the past few years, this year was particularly special for me, getting to showcase not one, but three cream-filled recipes! Participating in the challenge is always a blast, but there's really nothing like getting to say you've WON a challenge! I felt so lucky to have won the Comforting Mac & Cheese Challenge with my Fresh Onion Mac & Cheese, and to have come so very close this time around in the Fall Harvest Veggie Challenge with my Creamy Vegetable Gratin (701 votes ain't too shabby!).
When coming up with my recipe for this past months challenge, I wanted to come up with something that utilized an assortment of different Fall harvest veggies, but was also incredibly comforting. With scalloped potatoes being one of my favourite Fall comfort foods (my mom makes it every Thanksgiving!), I wanted to make my own version of that, but kicked up using an array of different vegetables like sweet potatoes, zucchini, carrots, and even a layer of sautéed kale! I give you my Creamy Vegetable Gratin
I loved all of the different layers of flavour that goes into this dish, with the star ingredient, cream, along with gruyere and parmesan cheese acting as the creamy glue to hold the casserole all together. This dish would be a fantastic addition to your family's Thanksgiving meal coming up this weekend! Give it a try and let me know how it goes! 

Tip: Cut down on prep time by slicing all of the vegetables excluding the Yukon Gold potatoes in advance! 

Ingredients:
2 tbsp butter, divided (plus more for greasing the baking dish)
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced divided
10 large leaves of kale (curly or black), chopped small
salt and white pepper to season
2 cups 35% cream
1/2 onion, make sure the root is still intact
1 bay leaf
4 cloves
3 sprigs thyme, divided
1 large sweet potato, peeled and thinly sliced
2 large Yukon Gild potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup shredded Gruyere 
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 medium yellow zucchini (summer squash), thinly sliced lengthwise 
3 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced lengthwise
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs 

Directions:
  1. Heat a large sauté pan to medium heat. Add 1 tbsp butter. When butter is melted and begins to foam, add the shallot and sweat. Add 1 minced garlic clove and cook until fragrant (20-30 seconds). Add the kale and reduce to medium-low. Cook until kale until wilted, tossing occasionally. Season with salt and white pepper and set aside.
  2. While the kale is cooking, prepare the cream. Pour the cream into a small saucepan and set to medium heat. Cut a slit into the half piece of onion and stick a bay leaf inside. Poke the cloves into the onion and submerge in the cream along with 1 sprig of thyme. Right when steam begins to come off of the cream, remove from heat, remove onion  with spices and herbs, and set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 400º. Butter and 11x7-inch glass baking dish and add a spoonful of the flavoured cream mixture. Add 1 layer of sweet and yukon gold potatoes, making sure to lightly overlap the slices. Season lightly with salt and white pepper, and drizzle in some of the cream. Top with a light layer of Gruyere and Parmesan. Repeat process of layering in different slices of vegetables (a different vegetable on each layer), seasoning, and adding cream and cheese until vegetables reach the middle of the dish. Add the kale mixture to make the middle layer of the casserole, and repeat the vegetable, seasoning, cream, and cheese layering process until the vegetables reach the top of the baking dish.
  4. Melt the remaining butter in a small bowl in the microwave. Add in the remaining minced clove of garlic, the leaves from the remaining thyme sprigs, and panko breadcrumbs. Toss to coat. Sprinkle on top of the layered vegetables, along with any remaining cheese. Bake for about 60-minutes or until tender when pierced with a knife. Serve immediately.

Listening To:
Fleetwood Mac - Rhiannon Live 1976 (Stevie SLAYS this performance!)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

VOTE! The Great Cream Challenge: Fall Harvest Veggie Challenge - Creamy Vegetable Gratin

Hey foodie friends! If you don't follow me on Twitter and Facebook (what the heck? Follow me already!) you may not have heard that I am once again participating in the Dairy Goodness Great Cream Challenge this month! This month is all about embracing that chill in the air, with this rounds theme being The Fall Harvest Veggie Challenge. For this challenge, I wanted to create a recipe that utilized many different Fall harvest veggies, but was also incredibly comforting. With scalloped potatoes being one of my favourite Fall comfort foods (my mom makes it every Thanksgiving!), I wanted to make my own version of that, but kicked up using an array of different vegetables like sweet potatoes, zucchini, carrots, and even a layer of sautéed kale! I give you my Creamy Vegetable Gratin

I loved all of the different layers of flavour that goes into this dish, with the star ingredient, cream, along with gruyere and parmesan cheese acting as the creamy glue to hold the casserole all together. This dish would be a fantastic addition to any Thanksgiving meal! Please take a moment to VOTE for my recipe before the contest comes to an end on Tuesday September 30th (my birthday!). 

Click HERE to VOTE for my Creamy Vegetable Gratin in the Great Cream Challenge!

Listening To:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Recipe Testing with Roasted Golden Beet Soup

Ever since I was a little girl, my food hero has always been my Oma, my mothers German mother. My foodie admiration over my Oma had to have started with her sneaking me naughty treats that I wasn't supposed to have, behind my mothers back when I was just a wee little gingy. My foodie admiration for my hilarious Oma grew as I started helping her out in the kitchen, rolling and cutting cookie dough, beating eggs, dusting icing sugar on treats, and so much more. I adored my Oma's cooking as a child, but I didn't see her as the cooking and baking wizard that she truly is until I started really playing around in my own kitchen all by myself. It was only then that I realized how special her natural knack for creating the most satisfying of comfort foods really was. She had a way about making flavours explode in your mouth, seasoning and adding her secret little touches until the dish was just so. It was this natural knack for seasoning and flavouring that I always admired and aspired to have myself, and one that comes to mind almost each and every time I find myself in the kitchen.

It was last week after I unexpectedly had a free weekday to myself to play in the kitchen, that I was faced with three golden beets the size of my head, that I purchased from Pete's Fresh Organics at the sip & Savour Ontario Farm & Artisan Market, that my Oma's cooking once again popped into my head. One of my Oma's most beloved signature dishes is her out-of-this-world beet borscht. Made with beef shank and lots of love, her beet borscht is one of the most delicious and satisfying comfort foods to ever touch my tongue. So naturally, at the sight of those giant, golden beets, I could think of nothing else but trying to create a golden beet soup that maybe, just maybe, might compare to my Oma's infamous borscht. 

Having cooked mainly with red beets in the past, and after seeing lots and lots of golden beet salads and not a whole lot else in my research, I was a little weary at whether golden beets would work just well as red beets when made into soup. Some sources stated that golden beets are sweeter and more flavourful than red beets, while other sources stated the exact opposite! I had no idea if the golden beets would work at all, but the only way to find out was to try! 

With a cool chill in the air, I didn't feel like venturing out to get groceries, so I decided to make the soup using only what I had on hand. To mimic the meaty flavour of the beef shank in my Oma's soup, I sautéed some chopped bacon, cooked the onion in the bacon fat, and re-added the bacon back into my soup while it simmered, as well as adding a rich beef stock. I also chose to grate the beets after being roasted to create the same texture that my Oma's red beets had in her borscht. I added basic flavour enhancers like salt, white pepper, a bay leaf, and garlic before and while the soup was simmering, thinking that that would be everything I needed to achieve a flavourful soup. I was wrong. After simmering for a half hour, as I kept tasting and lightly adding salt and pepper, my soup still tasted very bland and lack-luster. It was here that I lost all chance at posting an exact recipe for the blog right away as well as replicating my Oma's borscht, as I began to transfer cups of the soup to various different pots, and play with different arrangements of seasonings and spices in each one, finding the perfect combination that could make soup worthy of serving to anyone but myself. 
A little lemon juice, grated ginger, cayenne pepper, cumin, a whirr of the immersion blender, and a quick strain through a sieve got my soup to a place that I can say was absolutely incredible! It was when I decided to follow my intuition and trust my taste buds, as opposed to trying to copy someone else's dish, that I was able to achieve greatness (yes, the soup was THAT great!) and something that I could be proud to say was uniquely my own. 

This soup was a great lesson in cooking inspiration. It showed me that although something may spark an idea in the kitchen, you have to trust yourself and your taste buds above all else, and be willing to take some chances every now and then in order to get the results you crave. My Oma's tried and true comforting German recipes will always inspire me in the kitchen, but it's her natural kitchen wizardry, and knack for going with the flow and trusting her instincts that has truly shaped me to be the cook I am today. No, my Roasted Golden Beet Soup didn't taste anything like my Oma's beet borsht, but it was just as delicious and may just spark some other passionate foodie to try and replicate in the kitchen!

* Note: Because I have only made this recipe once and there was so much seasoning play involved, the recipe is not exact yet. I am hoping to make it again soon so I can post an exact recipe for you to try, but until then, I welcome those familiar and confident with seasoning to have a try at making this. You're going to have to do a lot of tasting, have a lot of patience, and add your seasonings and spices little by little, but if you trust your intuition, I think you will too will be proud of your final product! 

** Beets may be roasted and grated in advance, and left in the fridge until ready to use.

*** Remember, when seasoning you can always add, but you can never take away! Use a very light hand when seasoning, and always taste before adding more!

Ingredients:
3 very large golden beets (or enough beets to equal 3 very large beets), greens cut off
olive oil
2 strips of bacon, diced small
1 tbsp butter
1 small yellow onion, diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced or pureed
4 cups beef stock
1 bay leaf
sour cream stirred with a little lemon juice to garnish
Seasoning to play with:*
salt and white pepper to season
approximately 2 tsp lemon juice
approximately 1 pinch cumin
approximately 1/2 - 1 tsp grated ginger
approximately 1 pinch cayenne pepper

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350º. Rub beets in olive oil and place in baking dish. Bake for 1 hour to 1.25 hours or until tender when pierced with a fork. Allow to cool. When cooled, rub with a dry paper towel to remove skins. Grate roasted beets into a bowl and set aside.**
  2. In a large soup pot, add the bacon and turn heat to medium - medium/low. Cooking, stirring occasionally until browned and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. 
  3. Drizzle about 1 tbsp of olive oil and the butter into the soup pot. When heated, add in the onion and sweat, stirring occasionally until soft and translucent. Add in the garlic in the 30-seconds of cooking.
  4. Add in one cup of the beef stock to deglaze the pan, and scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to release any browned bits. Add the remaining 3-cups of stock. Add bay leaf and grated beets. When warm, taste, and season with salt and white pepper. Reduce heat, and allow to simmer for 30-minutes.
  5. Remove bay leaf and puree using an immersion blender, or transfer to a blender or food processor to puree until smooth. Strain and press the soup mixture through a sieve, and re-heat, if needed, on the stove. Taste and season a little at a time with the lemon juice, cumin, ginger, cayenne pepper, and salt and white pepper. Continue tasting and seasoning until just right!***
  6. Ladle into serving bowls and top with a drizzle of the lemon sour cream. Serve hot. 


Listening To:
Michael Jackson - Beat It (or should I say "Beet It?" hah!)

Monday, September 1, 2014

Foodie.com: Collecting Perfect Pasta Dishes

While brushing my teeth in the bathroom a couple weeks ago my mom came up to me and rested herself on the doorframe, looking distraught. Worried, I asked her what was wrong. She shook her head, took a big sigh, looked off into the distance and proclaimed "I'm addicted to Pinterest." Well mama bear, you ain't the only one addicted to the image collecting site! I myself can safely say that I have also become addicted to Pinterest, so much so that I have now created a total of 36 boards, and that doesn't include the nine secret boards that I am also collecting. Yes, I am officially a Pinterest hoarder. 

Now, as much as Pinterest has helped me to organize inspiring images and ideas in a easy-to-navigate and clean way, with so many boards on my profile it's become really tricky to organize everything within each collection, particularly when it comes to my recipe collections. Because my Pinterest profile is about more than just recipe collecting (I collect everything from outfits, gift-wrapping, and DIY ideas to images of gorgeous typography and photography) I don't want to clutter up my profile with a ton of different recipe boards. So I simply have a few boards for recipes with very generic titles like "Recipes To Make" and "Sweet," which isn't entirely helpful to my at times OCD ways. 

Enter Foodie.com. Foodie.com is the answer to all of my recipe hoarding dreams. Foodie is another collecting site, but this time specifically for, you guessed it, all things food! Foodie has allowed me to begin breaking down those very broad categories like "Recipes To Make" and "Sweet" into more specific categories like "Perfect Pasta Dishes" and "Gluten Free Desserts," or even "Mom's Birthday Dinner." Although I have just started collecting on my Foodie account, I have already drooled all over myself (well, maybe just a bit of drool) collecting recipes to feature in what will likely become my favourite board, "Perfect Pasta Dishes." This collection of pasta recipes is full of mouth-watering comfort dishes featuring my favourite carb (pasta!) from an array of different recipe sites that I enjoy frequenting, some of which I have made in the past (such as Giada De Laurentiis' Short Ribs with Tagliatelle) and some I am itching to try my hand at. Check out my Perfect Pasta Dishes board for yourself to get inspired and ease your way into the Fall season, and make sure to follow my profile to see all the different recipe boards that I will be creating.

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Foodie.com. All opinions are my own.

Listening To:
Sia - Chandelier

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Toronto Beer Fest 2014

Just as July starts to wind down and August begins to peek its sunny head out, I can't help but begin ticking off my essential summer checklist. My essential summer checklist is a combination of nostalgia-inducing old favourites such as 'visit Centre Island' and "enjoy a picnic in a park," to new favourites like "ride my bike to Belwoods for beers and books" and "attend an outdoor concert." With 2014 being my third year attending the Toronto Festival of Beer, the massive beer-guzzling festival has officially made it onto my essential summer checklist. The festival, which is sponsored by The Beer Store, has become one of those events that is just so quintessentially summer to me. Running around outdoors, day drinking, making new friends, enjoying new experiences; the Toronto Festival of Beer ticks off all the right boxes for a spectacular summer day! 
(From top left) Left Field Brewing; The menu at Left Field Brewing; A festival favourite, Beau's Brewing Co.; The menu at Beau's Brewing Co.
It's crazy to look back on my past Beer Fest entries to see just how much my palate has grown since attending for the first time three years ago. I remember being intimidated by all the different types of beer that at the time I was so unfamiliar with. More than that, I was so overwhelmed by the fact that I hadn't a clue what type of beer I really liked, and was apprehensive about which beers to choose. Would I be judged if I chose a the "wrong" beer? As my taste has grown over the years and beer has played a more prominent role in my daily life (at times too much so), I've learned that the amazing thing about Beer Fest, is that there really isn't a "wrong" beer to choose. Everyone is at the festival to have fun, to learn, and to educate, without judgement. With that being said, although there are really no "wrong" beers to choose from at Beer Fest, there is definitely a right and wrong way of taking part in the Beer Fest experience. 
Me (Danielle Rose) catching major shade from this Bulls fan!
So, how does one do Beer Fest the "right" way? The first thing is to forget all about the beers you've already tried. You've tried them, you've formed an opinion about them, you know where to get them, now move on! Beer Fest is all about introducing yourself to new flavours, but that doesn't mean you should avoid the brewers that you've already tried. Just because you've only ever found one type of beer from a particular brewer at the Beer Store or LCBO doesn't mean that they don't have more to offer. For me, my favourite part about Beer Fest is getting to try all the wacky and unique beers that are hard to find at a liquor store or, even better, are in limited release, meaning that that may be your only chance to try that particular brew. This is particularly true when you venture into the Local Ontario tent, which is always my first stop at the festival (after the Media Tent of course), as I am guaranteed to start off sipping on a winner! 
(From top left) Flying Monkeys Orangemungus Radler; Flying Monkeys beer menu; Great Lakes Brewery; Hop City Brewing.
My favourite brewer for tasting limited released brews is always Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery, who's motto "normal is weird" is clearly represented in their extensive list of offerings at the festival. This year, their tap list was so large that they had to set up two pouring stations in order to feature all sixteen brews, which ranged from a boozy 9.3% ABV to a very light 4% ABV. With quirky names like "Strawberry Beers Forever" and "She Gives Good Hop," you can expect your taste buds to be enlightened with new tastes and big flavours that cater to both new and seasoned beer drinkers. For novice beer drinkers and those who prefer lighter and sweeter beers, Flying Monkeys offers a range of beers that feature fruits like lemons, strawberries, and oranges (orange creamsicle to be exact!) that are low in alcohol percentage. For those who prefer punchier beers with stronger flavours and unique undertones, Flying Monkeys delivers with brews that have notes of hops, fennel, and rye.
(From top left) Hop City Lawn Chair and Sommersby Cider being poured in the Media Tent; Me (Danielle Rose) with some strangers...don't remember this photo being taken; Collective Arts Brewing; Junction Brewery.
Another favourite that I am sure to check as soon as I catch a glimpse of their logo is Beau's All Natural Brewing Co. More than just hipster-looking signage and packaging, Beau's has become a festival favourite thanks to their commitment to quality and use of all-natural ingredients such as certified organic hops and malts and local spring water. Having gone for more heavy-sitting beers with strong hops flavours at last years fest, this year I tended to lean more towards crisp and refreshing beers, which meant I was always on the hunt for the word "saison" at each brew station. Saison is a type of pale ale that is highly carbonated that features fruity and spicy flavours, making it extremely refreshing for a hot summer day. With Kissmeyer Nordic Saison on the menu at Beau's, it wasn't hard for me to choose which of their fantastic options I would try. Brewed with a bouquet of organic sea buckthorn berries and rosehips, as well as an infusion of fresh local rhubarb, Beau's Kissmeyer Nordic Saison offers medium bitterness, along with spicy, floral, and fruity aromas, and finishes slightly fruity, tart, and crisp. 
Me (Danielle Rose) finishing off one of many brews.
Another brew that got points from me for being a great summer beer option, was Granville Island Brewing's Hefeweizen. With aromas of ripe banana, clove, and bready malt notes and flavours of clove, banana, and orange with a medium-body and a dry, crisp finish, Hefeweizen is a great wheat beer to enjoy with rich foods on a hot day. 
Me (Danielle Rose)...I think I've had a bit too much to drink...
When looking for a summer brew that featured more of a rich malt flavour, I turned to Left Field Brewery's Maris Pale Ale. Maris Pale Ale was inspired by Roger Maris, who made history when he beat Babe Ruth's home run record in 1961. With its crisp taste and familiar flavours, Left Field's Maris is reminscent of Roger Maris' straight, and to-the-point ball-playing, that was never flashy or boastful.
(From top left) Red Racer IPA; Red Racer IPA; Me (Danielle Rose) and a stranger...again only vaguely remember taking this photo; Red Racer.
It would be a shame to go to Beer Fest and only taste light and refreshing brews, so I got my hop fix in the form of Red Racer IPA from Central City Brewers and Distillers. Red Racer got my attention...or should I say my redheaded sister and I got their attention, thanks to their striking label featuring a pin-up inspired redhead on a bike, which they called out to us as we almost passed saying "Hey! You're on our label!" Maybe it's narcissism, but I just couldn't turn down a statement like that. I had to give it a try. I loved the intense aroma and long, lingering hops finish from their IPA. 
Me (Danielle Rose) excitedly approaching the Porchetta and Co. tent.
(From top left) Porchetta and Co.; Me (Danielle Rose) devouring my porchetta sandwich; Porchetta sandwich; Me, very pleased with my sandwich.
This is where things get fuzzy, fizzy, and hazy. With all that beer in your system, there are only so many postcards, coasters, and photos that will jog your memory into remembering what stood out at the festival. But of course, I always remember the food! With my sister Justine and I as a team, we love to try several food options throughout the day to allow us to have more tastes than our tummies can take all alone. We started our food journey with a sandwich from Porchetta and Co. Although I have had their delicious, classic porchetta sandwiches before, Justine had not, something I couldn't fathom and had to fix immediately. Just as I was after my first bite, Justine was positively smitten by the juicy layers of pork shoulder, pork belly, and prosciutto mixed in with crunchy crackling and served on an incredibly fresh bun. It was the perfect snack to begin soaking up all that liquor! 
(From top left) Fidel Gastro's Pork Belly Sandwich; Me (Danielle Rose) enjoying another summer brew; The crowd taking in Matthew Good Band; Side Launch Brewing.
Next stop on the food train was one of our festival favourites, Fidel Gastros. Last year we were blown away by Fidel Gastro's Alabama Tailgators, resulting in us each getting several servings to ourselves Although we were disappointed not to see the savoury bites of Alabama Tailgators on the menu this year at the festival, we were happy with getting another pork sandwich in our bellies. We opted to go with their Pork Belly Sandwich that was served on a soft bun with slaw and a drizzle of mayo. Greasy, crispy, and soft perfection. I'm pretty sure that sandwich saved me from abandoning my tickets and going home early. 
(From top left) Hot Bunzz; Me, holding my Hot Bunzz (innuendo unintended, but hilarious!); Lobster and Bison Short Rib Hot Bunzz; Me holding my Hot Bunzz (again, innuendo unintended, but hilarious!).
Our final taste of the day was at Hot Bunzz. I had tried Hot Bunzz last year at TUM and was impressed with their array of savoury fillings, freshly baked in a soft, warm bun. I was eager to try a different flavour this time around and selected a duo of a lobster and Bison short rib Hot Bunzz. The lobster Hot Bunzz was a much welcomed departure from red meat at the festival, and was just as buttery and delightful as I had imagined it would be. I could have easily had two lobster bunzz all to myself!
Me (Danielle Rose) looking like I've had just about enough beer for a century.
Another fantastic Toronto Festival of Beer complete! I can't wait to take on the fest next year with hopes of seeing many new local brewers!

Photography by Justine Rose.

Listening To:
Wild Nothing - Chinatown

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Market Inspired: Tomato & Cream Cheese Tart

Although it states right up there in the title that this a market-inspired dish, it is actually much more of a Food Hack-inspired dish. These past two weeks have felt like the part of my heart and my head where creativity lies have been hooked up to a defibrillator and have been shocked back into gear. It was only a few short weeks ago that I was crying on my boyfriend Chris' balcony, forlorn over what felt the apparent loss of my creativity and motivation. I was standing at a fork in the road with one direction pointing towards a sensible, steady office job, and the other up in the clouds towards this strange foggy dream that I've been chasing, and I was distraught over the fact that I was just about ready to give up the latter. It's a weird and unexplainable fact of life that Florence Welch so eloquently wrote into one of her hit songs: "It's always darkest before the dawn." No, this past month hasn't been my darkest of times, but it's certainly been confusing as hell, as I've tried with all my might to make sense of combining what I want out of my life (creative stimulation, passion, joy, success, freedom) with what I need out of my life (money and stability). 
Life is like opening that stubborn tight-fitting lid on a jar. Right when you're about to give it all up and quit or ask for help, the lid pops loose! And that's exactly what happened with me. Right when I felt so incredibly lost and unsure of myself, opportunity knocked in the form of a contest that had "this is your dream Danielle!" written all over it! The Kraft Food Hacks competition that I wrote a little bit about in my last entry, would be an absolute dream come true. More than a dream, I can see a reality in it. I can see my future in that role, and that alone was the push I needed to get myself back into gear, and feel that spark that I felt I had been missing as of late. 

On Monday night I participated in Round 2 of the competition, a Twitter party/Interview where finalists and other party guests were asked a series of eight food-hack-related questions to test our originality and creativity, engagement and personal presence, and relevancy of our answers to the questions asked. Although it was my very first Twitter party, and it was at first extremely overwhelming, I feel confident that I put my best face forward and maybe (just maybe!) I could be chosen as one of the three finalists to be judged in Round 3. 
With Food Hacks on the brain last night, I could think of nothing else but creating something hack-worthy and delicious with the leftover Homemade Fresh Garlic & Herb Kraft Philadelphia Cream Cheese that I made for my Peeling Lots of Garlic Hack that I demonstrated in my video submission. I also had beautiful, colourful tomatoes from the sip & Savour Ontario Farm & Artisan Market leftover, as well as some shallots, basil, and puff pastry that needed to go. A match made in heaven! The tart was quick-as-can-be to prepare and came out looking and tasting restaurant-worthy, thanks to the creamy addition of the flavourful cream cheese and the pop of the sweet juice of the market-fresh tomatoes. This food-hack is a definite winner in my books! 

Note: My puff pastry doesn't look quite as "puffed" as it should because the tart was a very last-minute idea, so I had to do a quickie thaw, which affects the rise of the dough.

Ingredients:
1 sheet puff pastry 
125 g Plain Kraft Philadelphia Cream Cheese (1/2 a package), softened
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp each basil, dill, flat-leaf parsley, green onions, finely chopped
2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
a drizzle of olive oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
2 tbsp dry white wine
4 leaves fresh basil, chiffonade 
salt and white pepper, to season

Directions:
  1. Stir together the softened cream cheese with the crushed garlic and chopped herbs. Set aside.
  2. Heat a medium-sized pan to medium-low heat. Coat the pan with a drizzle of olive oil. Add the shallots and cook until very soft and translucent. Increase heat to medium and add the white wine. Continue cooking until wine has evaporated. Remove from heat and set aside
  3. Preheat oven to 400º. Roll out the puff pastry to make slightly larger and thinner. Use your discretion.
  4.  Spread the cream cheese over the puff pastry, leaving a 1/2-inch - 3/4-inch border. Season with salt and white pepper. Top evenly with the cooked shallots. Top evenly with the cherry tomatoes and season lightly with salt and white pepper. Bake for 30-minutes or until pastry is puffed and golden. Top with fresh basil and serve immediately. 
Listening To:

Friday, August 8, 2014

Kraft Food Hacks

Hello friends! I have some very exciting news! This past week I participated in a contest that seriously could not have come at a better time, and yesterday I found out that I have been named a finalist! So what is this contest that I am oh so mysteriously alluding to? I am one of the contenders to become Kraft Canada's next Food Hacker! What is a Food Hacker, you ask? A Food Hacker is a savvy individual who knows their way around a kitchen and is able to elevate a meal, perfect a cooking method, or create an epic flavour infusion with ease! This person must also be fluent in the language of social media (*ahem* I already get paid to do that), comfortable and charming in front of the camera (*cough, cough* Theatre school grad right here), be naturally creative (ummm...I may be the only 26-year old I know who still has a craft closet that is the same size as my clothing closet), and have great kitchen skills (why yes, I am a George Brown culinary student).

This opportunity just sounds way too perfect for me, as I am known by my friends and family for being able to create inventive and interesting meal solutions with next to zero resources. I often refer to this as creating "something from nothing." I find myself creating something from nothing on a daily basis, thanks to my hatred of food waste and money-conscious mind, and am so excited to get a chance to show Canada just what I have to offer! Heck, I even food hack-ed my breakfast last weekend when my boyfriend Chris said that he had "absolutely nothing to make" in his kitchen. Let me tell you, "nothing" rarely means "nothing!" There's always something! After a quick rummage around his fridge and cupboards, I whipped up a quickie Hot Dog Bun French Toast topped with fresh peaches, maple syrup, and a dusting of icing sugar! It was delicious! Mission accomplished: Breakfast hacked.
The first round of the competition asked applicants to create a one-minute or less video that demonstrated one of our favourite food hacks, using at least one Kraft ingredient. One of my favourite food hacks was one that I learned from Chef Frank in culinary school, and that is how to peel multiple cloves of garlic all at once without getting sticky, smelly garlic fingers. This hack is effective and quite fun and was a riot to be able to film while making my homemade, fresh garlic and herb cream cheese using Kraft Philadelphia Cream Cheese. Of course Kraft Philadelphia Cream Cheese already makes a delicious Garlic & Herb variety that I often purchase myself, but I love being able to select my own choice of fresh herbs and spices, and really, you can't deny that fresh herbaceous flavour! Check out my video to learn how!

The second round of the competition takes place this Monday evening in the form of a Twitter party (AKA Twitter interview) between the finalists as well as lovely folks such as yourself! The Twitter party will take place between 8:00 - 9:00 PM EST and will require us finalists to answer seven questions within the hour period to demonstrate why we should be the face of Kraft Canada Food Hacks. I am really excited (but also incredibly nervous) for Monday and hope that my readers are able to join in on the fun as well! To be a guest at the Food Hacks Twitter party, click here to learn more and RSVP! Wish me luck!!

To see my own version of Food Hacks that I have been posting on my blog for years, check out my Cheaters Handbook recipes!

Listening To: