Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Beginners Guide to Arancini AKA Fried Rice Balls

So you've mastered the art of making risotto, and despite it's delicious results, you've followed my advice and have left yourself some leftovers for the following day...Now what? There's not a chance that anyone could get you to revive the goopy, gluey mess you have in front of you by simply re-heating. Although some of the best leftovers are merely reheated to achieve the same level of flavour from when they were first served, reviving risotto requires completely transforming the rice into an entirely new dish, largely unrecognizable from the creamy risotto it once was. Yes friends, I am talking about the miraculous transformation of renovating risotto into arancini! 

Arancini are also known as fried rice balls (or 'little oranges', referring to their appearance), and are made by forming the sticky leftover risotto into a ball, stuffing with cheese or other fillings like meat, and rolling in a breadcrumb mixture, to be fried into crisp and creamy balls. I had previously made arancini once before last year using leftover risotto from my culinary class at George Brown. Although my results were tasty, they were nowhere near the crispy on the outside, and outrageously creamy on the inside arancini that I had gone gaga over at Italian restaurants and events. I knew a big issue was my not-so-successful attempt at deep frying over the stove for the first time (something that pretty much scared the pants off of me!), but I knew that there was more that could be tweaked. The cheese inside hadn't melted quite as much as I had hoped, and I found the arancini a little on the dry side. What was I doing wrong?

For my second attempt at making arancini just a few weeks ago, after enjoying a delicious asparagus and green pea risotto, I decided to take matters into my own hands and tuck into some arancini research online. The hands-down best resource I found was from Serious Eats, where the chef had gone through some serious recipe testing to perfect the little fried balls. Although this method for making arancini was not meant for using leftover risotto (this recipe skips the risotto all together and goes straight to perfecting arancini), I was still able to take my arancini to a whole new level and gain amazing results using this resource as a guide. 

Although one of the very first things I learned from that resource was the success of using sushi rice as opposed to the traditional Italian short-grain Arborio rice, I stuck with the arborio rice because, well, that's what I had made my risotto with the night before! The recipe also encouraged making a bechamel sauce from chicken stock and milk to stir into the sushi rice to achieve a molten, not dry, interior. Once again, because I was using leftover risotto, I omitted this step, though it did give me a great idea for next time! The next time I make arancini I would love to mimic the method of making croqueta filling, by making a thick roux-like bechamel, cooling it down so it's pliable, and rolling it into balls so it can be stuffed inside the leftover risotto rice, along with cheese. This would ensure that, once heated, the bechamel would become liquid once again, achieving that molten filling that is so desirable. 

Though there were a few steps that I had to stray from in the Serious Eats method, there was certainly lots that I did take away. The first thing was the breadcrumbs. Although the chef found the best results by using homemade breadcrumbs, he stated that crushed panko breadcrumbs were a close contender. I didn't have any homemade breadcrumbs (nor any bread to make them with) but I did have plenty of panko! I pulsed it in the food processor as recommended in order to make the crumbs finer, so that the final result would still have the appearance of looking like little oranges. 

More than just the breadcrumbs, the way in which you adhere the breadcrumbs to the rice will also aid in achieving the ultimate crisp exterior. This method recommended making a 'slurry' out of water and flour to result in a "shatteringly crisp" exterior. To get the creamy and gooey cheesy interior that was lacking on my last arancini attempt, I cut the mozzarella cheese into small cubes, adding several to each ball, so that they would melt at a faster rate. 

The final step to getting the arancini I had dreamt of was learning to control the oil. First off, I used far less oil than I had last time. There's no need to actually deep fry risotto, you can simply add a few inches of oil (about 4-inches) to your deep pot, allowing you to turn the balls as needed to evenly crisp. By adding less oil you will have so much more control over the heat. Have a thermometer handy to keep testing the temperature of the oil so that it stays around 375ºF, and adjust your stovetop as needed. Use a slotted spoon or spider to remove the balls, allowing any excess oil to drain off, and place on a paper towel-lined wire rack. While the arancini are still nice and hot, serve them with some good tomato sauce and you're good to tuck in and enjoy all that hard work! 

Yes, making arancini sounds a little complicated, especially when it takes me this long to accurately explain my process, but I promise you after that first attempt, it will all feel like play! It's actually so incredibly simple to make delicious arancini, it just takes a little research (which I've already done for you!) and a bit of practice. I was able to make my arancini in about 30-minutes on a weeknight, along with a main course, meaning it really can't be that difficult at all! If you're concerned about timing, form your arancini in advance, and pop them in the freezer until you're ready to fry. I love this idea for last-minute entertaining! 

Big thanks to Serious Eats for providing me with so much helpful information! I definitely encourage you all to check out the page and see what you can take away from it! Let me know how your attempt at making arancini went and share your results with me on Twitter: @thisgingerrose! 

Listening To:
Alt-J - The Gospel Of John Hurt

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Risotto Myth

Homemade Asparagus & Green Pea Risotto with Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus Garnish
It was only October of 2013 that I was nervously preparing for my evening class at George Brown Chef College, my stomach in knots over the thought of making risotto from scratch for the first time ever. I remember feeling sick with worry over making the notoriously difficult-to-prepare dish. I had heard how difficult it was to achieve the loose, yet not soupy, creamy, yet not mushy texture of the starchy rice, as well as the dedication involved to the preparation, leaving the cook handcuffed to the stove for the duration of the cooking process. Now look at me! Just over a year later, I feel like a risotto-making pro! It turns out that risottos reputation as being a difficult-to-prepare dish is actually nothing more than a myth! In fact, I even find making risotto relaxing, and simple enough to whip up mid-week when I feel like I have a fridge full of nothing! 

The trick to making risotto is patience and practice. Yes, it's true, you do need to man the stove for the duration of the cooking process, but that doesn't mean that you can't step away to begin setting the table, or prepare an accompanying dish. The trick is to allow yourself to control the product, as opposed to the product controlling you, which comes with practice. It takes practice to know when to add another ladle of broth and when to season, and when you start to trust your instincts and understand how your product and your equipment (pan, stove, etc.) works, everything becomes second nature. Of course much of what you learn about making risotto will come from physically making risotto, but I do have some helpful tips to offer you before you dive into your first successful risotto-making experience. 

Make Extra - First off before you even begin, ask yourself what you're having for dinner tomorrow. If you don't know the answer to that, or don't have a side dish, make extra risotto! Trust me, you will be thanking yourself the next day when you are turning that leftover gummy risotto into beautiful crispy on the outside, and creamy and cheesy on the inside arancini (AKA fried rice balls). 

Mince Your Onions - Whether you use onions or shallots, make sure that you mince your onion as finely as humanly possible. This will take a little extra time and effort, but the results will be worth it. Think of it this way, you want the pieces of onion to simply flavour the dish, but otherwise go unnoticed. You want them to melt right into the dish. This means cutting a very fine julienne, and then cutting a just-as-fine cross-section of that. 

Cook But Don't Colour - When cooking your onions you just want to soften them, and get them translucent. You do not want to colour your onions in any way. 

Season From Start To Finish - Just like any dish, risotto wants to be seasoned throughout the cooking process, allowing the flavours to marry and develop. I tend to season my risotto with salt and white pepper at every addition of broth. Every time I stir a new ladle of broth in, I immediately follow with a pinch of both salt and pepper.  

You Can Add But You Can't Take Away - As much as you want a well-seasoned dish, you must remember the golden rule "you can always add, but you can never take away." I find at the beginning of the cooking process I begin with very generous pinches of salt and white pepper. Because I've made risotto before and know how bland it is to start, I feel confident with a bit of a heavy hand at the start, knowing that I will not over-season. About ten or so minutes into the cooking process, begin tasting for seasoning. This will allow you to know if you should continue with generous pinches of salt and pepper, or whether you should transition to more delicate pinches. Continue tasting and seasoning, going lighter on the seasoning as the rice begins to soften.

It's near the end of the cooking process that you need to be careful. This is where you must remind yourself of that golden rule. It's always better to err on the side of caution and add too little salt and pepper (you can always add more!) than too much. You can look up every trick in the book for how to fix an over-salted or over-peppered dish, but you're pretty much stuck. Also remember that you will be adding grated parmigiano reggiano to your risotto as the final step, meaning that the natural saltiness of the parm will season your risotto as well. I like to leave my risotto slightly under-salted before adding the parm to ensure I don't over salt once the cheese is added. 

The Wooden Spoon Trick - One of the best tricks for knowing when to add another ladle of broth is the wooden spoon trick. The trick is to drag your wooden spoon (I use a flat-ended wooden spatula) down the centre of the pan and watch how the product reacts. If the spoon left an empty trail behind it and the risotto mixture isn't swimming to cover it, you are ready for another ladle. If the risotto mixture quickly pools to cover the trail, you may wait before adding the next ladle. The more you practice making risotto, the less you have to rely on this. 

Soupy Is Better Than Gluey - This is one of the most vital steps to making risotto. When you are removing your risotto from the stove to serve, you want it to be loose, but not soupy, BUT soupy is better than gluey. Am I confusing you yet? The optimal texture for risotto should be loose enough so that when you put your mound of risotto on a plate, and shake the plate side to side, the risotto should expand to the sides of the plate. If the risotto stays in the mound on the plate and doesn't expand, it needs another ladle of broth to become looser. I say that soupy is better than gluey because even soupy risotto will begin to congeal as it cools, which means that a soupy risotto may reach that perfect texture a few minutes after it is removed from the stove. An even slightly gluey risotto will begin to congeal as it cools as well, meaning that your initial gluey risotto, will become even gluier in a matter of minutes. Again, finding that optimal texture will take practice. 

Serve Immediately - As I stated above, risotto begins to congeal and become gluey the moment it is taken off the heat (this doesn't mean you can just leave the pan of risotto on the heat either, when it's done it's done!), so the moment that risotto hits the plate, it must be served immediately if you want all that patience while cooking to be worth it. 

I hope all those tips haven't scared you away from making risotto, and instead have you amped up to try your hand at making it yourself! Please give risotto a try in your own kitchen and let me know how it goes! If you should find yourself the middle of making your risotto and scared that you're doing something wrong, shoot me a tweet @thisgingerrose and I may be able to jump in and give your my two cents! 

Listening To:

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

True Grit: The Perfect White Corn Grits Recipe

Homemade Sausage 'n' Grits with Fried Eggs
I first learned what grits were years ago watching The Food Network, as Bobby Flay managed to put his ego aside on his show for an episode to allow his lovely wife to take over the screen to make her infamous cheesy grits. At the time I didn't have a clue what grits were, but what I did know is they were creamy, cheesy, comforting, and powerful enough to move Bobby Flay to declare them better than his own. I knew I would love them!

It wasn't until around two years ago that I finally got to taste grits for the very first time. Out for a special birthday meal for my boyfriend Chris' birthday, I took him to the now closed Southern-fusion restaurant Acadia to experience their highly praised Shrimp 'n' Grits. To simply list the flavours and textures going on in that bowl of southern heaven would do the dish no justice. The dish sounds far too simple when explained in the written word to live up to the complex dish that I was presented with. It was one of those perfect dishes that I will surely find myself alluding to for years to come, like some mythical tale, "the Legend of the Perfect Grits." Of course the perfection of the dish had much to do with the details; the little bits of shrimp speckling the creamy mixture, as well as oyster mushrooms, pimento cheese, and (as if it can't get any better) ham hock consommé; but those delicious details would be nothing if it didn't have the perfect base of silky, creamy, perfectly seasoned grits.

Being often thought of as a "poor-man's food," grits aren't always given the respect and attention they deserve. When carelessly prepared, grits can become dry, gluey, and bland, reminiscent of Oliver Twist's gruel, which in turn have given grits a bit of a bad rep. With such a basic preparation and so few ingredients, it's easy to get grits wrong. I can tell you first hand, that most of the grits recipes out there on the Internet will lead you astray, resulting in the mushy grits that one dreads.

Despite the sea of faulty grits recipes out in the world, there is one that I have come across that I have found to be far superior to any other grits recipe on the web. Although the recipe didn't seem to make much sense to me at first, Saveur's recipe for Old Fashioned Creamy Grits is perfection. Though it isn't much different from other grits recipes I have read, its the ratio of milk, to water, to grits that makes this recipe oh so creamy and delectable. More than just the initial milk/water/grits, this recipe ensures the creamiest results by finishing with not only a knob of butter (essential to all successful grits) but also an extra quarter-cup of cream, which gives this dish its silky, heavenly finish.

Whether prepared for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, grits are the perfect base for shrimp, sausage, eggs, and, let's face it, just about any protein or veg that needs a home! Forget about all those other grits recipes you've come across, and don't even bother reading the directions on the package of grits, because Saveur's Old Fashioned Creamy Grits is where it's at!

Find this recipe and more on my Pinterest board Recipes I Love!

Listening To:

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Jamie Oliver's Chicken in Milk & A Lesson In Adapting

Homemade Jamie Oliver's Chicken in Milk
Did you know that reading and interpreting recipes is actually a skill? In culinary school last year, one of the very first things our class was taught was how to analyze a recipe. We were told to never start cooking from a recipe without reading through each and every line and asking ourselves "does this make sense?" Since that class I have learned that about 50% of the time, at least one part of a recipe will not make sense...sometimes not even a little. This is precisely why reading a recipe before you begin cooking, is so very important, allowing you to adapt the recipe using your own knowledge on the theory of food and cooking to ensure a successful final product. Despite having this knowledge ingrained in my head, I can't help but want to trust certain recipes, no matter how much my brain is screaming at me "THIS DOESN'T MAKE ANY DAMN SENSE!" 

Last week my cooking instincts and knowledge of food theory was put to the test as I embarked on recreating three recipes from the lovely Jamie Oliver. I have to start by saying that I absolutely adore Jamie, I own several of his gorgeous cookbooks, and had previously felt that the man could do no wrong...that was until I tried making Jamie's Aubergine Daal with Handmade Chapatis
Aubergine Daal with Homemade Chapatis - Photo provided by jamieoliver.com
After catching a Sunday morning episode of Save With Jamie last week, come Monday all my boyfriend Chris and I could think of was recreating the savoury and seemingly simple and cheap vegetarian Indian daal dish. We collectively gathered all of the required ingredients (including the difficult to find curry leaves, which we picked up at House of Spice in Kensington Market) and began making our dinner. Everything was all hunky dory and as easy as can be...that is until it came to cooking the split yellow peas for the daal. 

When I read the recipe my brain kicked in and told me "you know better than to cook peas in that much water, not to mention with the lid on!!" and yes, I should have known better, but I trusted Jamie! Sure enough, the peas that Jamie told us would take an hour and 20 minutes absolutely did not. After the suggested time, our peas were still hard and the liquid was still at the same level in the pot. With our stomachs growling, and the eggplant getting cold, we had to adapt! 

Although we were worried about losing flavour, we removed about 2 cups of the liquid from the pot, removed the lid, and jacked the heat so the remaining liquid would begin to evaporate. After about 20-30 minutes we finally had a thick and delicious mixture of split peas, Rogan Josh curry, and roasted eggplant and onions. Despite our struggles with the recipe, the final dish turned out incredibly delicious and provided lunch for the next few days, not to mention was fantastic added to a chicken pot pie filling! With our revisions in mind, we will absolutely be making this recipe again! 
Jamie Oliver's Sunday Roast - Photo provided by leitesculinaria.com
The very next day I decided to give my dear Jamie another shot. With family coming over for dinner, I felt the need to impress, and chose to recreate Jamie's Sunday Roast. I read the recipe, and the alarm bells started going off...and just as I had done the previous night, I ignored them. The recipe called for searing the prime rib all over on the stove, and then placing it directly in a 475ºF oven to cook for 50-minutes, rest for another 30-minutes, and then carve and serve. Already this recipe didn't make any damn sense, but Chris told me to trust a Brit with making a roast, so I did. 

Of course, after the recommended 50-minutes of cooking at 475º, our roast was only at 60ºF, when it should have been 120ºF (for a medium-rare roast). I lowered the heat to 325º and continued roasting (while checking every 20-minutes or so) until the internal temperature reached the desired 120º. After an additional 50 minutes or so, the roast was finally at 120º, making it a perfect medium-rare 130º after a 30-minutes rest. 

On top of the wonky cooking method for the roast, the recipe also instructed cooks to boil cubed Russet potatoes (THAT DOESN'T MAKE ANY SENSE! Russet's want DRY heat!) for 10-minutes (that's too long!), and then roasting in the oven with the remaining roast juices. Sure enough the potatoes became far too tender after being boiled for 10-minutes, and could easily be crushed with my fingertips. Though the potatoes still tasted good in the end, the texture was off, making me regret not following my instincts and selecting Yukon Gold potatoes instead of the Russets. Although the recipe had me pulling out my hair like the previous night, the roast turned out fantastic in the end, and definitely impressed my family! 
Jamie Oliver's Chicken in Milk - Photo provided by jamieoliver.com
Believe it or not, two near-recipe fails did not deter me from giving Jamie one more shot! I adore the man, and refused to believe that all of his recipes would leave me in such despair. After reading rave reviews of Jamie's Chicken in Milk, with many declaring it to be "the best roast chicken recipe ever," I was sure that I had found a perfect Jamie recipe that wouldn't require any revisions. I embarked on what just may be the simplest roast chicken recipe ever, and despite my brain wondering how this recipe would work (seriously, chicken with milk!? Really?!) it went off without a hitch! With only one minor revision thanks to a bloggers suggestion (leaving the lid on for half the cooking time) the roast chicken turned out absolutely incredible! The chicken was wonderfully moist, so flavourful, and pulled away from the bones in the most gloriously beautiful way. It was, dare I say, near perfect! 

Although I had a couple of minor breakdowns last week due to my hangry temper, I was glad to have learned from these recipes. This lesson once again proved that I know more than I think I do, and I should always (always!) trust my instincts in the kitchen. Jamie, I still love you and think you're the bomb. I don't know how those method errors escaped your recipe testers, but I forgive you for giving me such delicious final products in the end. Let's chat more over dinner, this time, you're cooking! 

What recipe kept you on your toes and had you revising on the fly? Tweet me @thisgingerrose.

Listening To:

Friday, January 30, 2015

January Food Hacks Roundup

2-Ingredient Pizza Dough
2-Ingredient Pizza Dough: Two-ingredient pizza dough is a thing, and it's actually really good! Check out my hack for making fantastic pizza dough with only two basic ingredients! I topped my pizza with a sweet and savoury combo of pears, prosciutto, BBQ sauce, and fresh arugula.
30-Second Meatballs
30-Second Meatballs: Hate the repetition of mixing and forming meatballs by hand? Then I've got just the hack for you with my 30-Seconds meatballs! These babies take literally seconds to form and mere minutes to cook, perfect for busy weeknights! 
Asian Sesame Salad in Wonton Cups

Asian Sesame Salad In Wonton Cups: You CAN make friends with salad, and this is just the hack to do it! Wonton wrappers make the perfect serving dish for Asian Sesame Salad when formed into muffin tins and baked until crispy!

Grilled Cheese Dippers
Grilled Cheese Dippers: Do you love taking your grilled cheese for a dip in tomato soup? This awesome fusion food combines two cheesy comfort food favourites (grilled cheese and cheese sticks!) for the ultimate lunchtime treat! 

Stay up to date with all of my food hacking tips and tricks by following me on the @FoodHacks Twitter page! 

Listening To:

Friday, January 23, 2015

Ina Knows Best: The Ultimate Aglio E Olio

It's 6:00 pm on a Wednesday and there's nothing to make for dinner! This may sound alarming for some, or perhaps may just be a warning to the lacklustre meal that is surely ahead, but to me it means that I'm in store for a delicious and satisfying dinner that will take minimal effort, and leave me with a full belly, leftovers for lunch, a smile on my face, and olive oil running down my chin. I'm talking about the beauty in the simplicity of Aglio E Olio, which translates to "garlic and oil" referring to the Italian quickie-meal, pasta (generally spaghetti) with garlic and olive oil. 

For something so incredibly simple, it's amazing how much of an impression this dish can make. My boyfriend, Chris, and his friends for one, adore this dish with such passion that I don't think there has been a gathering where the suggestion of making it hasn't come up. I've lost count of the number of times they have disputed who makes the best aglio e olio, or what little detail makes their aglio e olio stand out, because with a dish this straightforward it really is all in the details! 

Despite everyone thinking that their aglio e olio is the best, I have to give the top award to my dear lovely Ina Garten, because well, Ina knows best! When Chris first came across this recipe we were skeptical whether the method made any sense. It seemed incredibly strange to firstly, begin the whole process by cooking the pasta, secondly, to cook the garlic in so much pasta water (1 1/2 cups!). We were imagining noodles drowning in bland garlic water. How dare I distrust my dear future-best-friend, Ina! I should have known that Ina always knows best! Of course Ina's take on aglio e olio was absolutely fantastic, and quickly became my boyfriend and I's go-to dinner! The addition of the pasta water, reduced to enhance the flavour of the garlic, prevented us from feeling like we had to douse our pasta in cups of olive oil to impart flavour, as well as helping the olive oil and garlic sauce to stick to the noodles, thanks to the starch in the cooking water. 

Although Ina's recipe is great on it's own, I would suggest rendering down some pancetta or better yet, sopressata, at the beginning of cooking. Set meat aside after cooking and toss it in again at the end of cooking to reheat. That spicy, salty bite does wonders for this dish! Another great tip is to make some homemade garlic breadcrumbs to garnish the pasta to give a little bit of crunch to each bite. 

Check out Ina's recipe for Aglio E Olio here!

Listening To:
Caribou - Dive

Friday, January 9, 2015

Empty-The-Freezer Banana Nut Muffins

Happy new year, dear readers! I hope you all had a wonderful and safe holiday season and have already kicked off 2015 to a great start! I have spent the majority of 2015 laying on my couch being a nasty mucous monster (apologies for giving you such a gross visual on a food blog, of all places) and coughing up a storm to my not-so-new roommates delight (that's right friends, I have updates!). I, like it seems most people in Toronto as of late, have been struck with a vicious two-week long cold, leaving me largely immobile, lazy, and indulging in lots of self pity for my very gross and stuffed-up state. 

Over the last few days, as my energy has begun to come back and I've started to feel like a real human again, I've had a lot of time to reflect on this past year, looking at what I've accomplished, what I had hoped to accomplish, and what I want out of this new year. Just like many new years of past, I once again have vowed to myself to focus more on my blog, putting as much of my creative energy into it as possible. I know, for the past while I have totally fallen off the grid in terms of Ginger Rose, focusing my time and energy on an exciting new project (hello Kraft Food Hacks!) as well as a wonderful new living situation, that has allowed me to fall asleep and wake up with a smile on my face just about every single day. 

In October I moved into a beautiful condo with the man I love, which has given me a much needed fresh start as I begin a new phase of my life. This is the first time in my life that I have not lived under my mothers (and best friends!) roof, which, let me tell you, feels so incredibly liberating! Don't get me wrong, living with my mom was so lovely in so many ways, but being able to have this new sense of freedom and responsibility, while living side-by-side with my incredible boyfriend, Chris, has been amazing! 

I could go on and on listing all of the things that I adore about living on my own, but they would come as no surprise. The real surprise for me was discovering just how much I enjoy taking care of my own space, my own home. I love being able to take pride in having a clean, tidy, and stylish home that I am always so thrilled to welcome guests into. I look forward to coming home and fluffing the pillows and wiping the kitchen counter, just to stand back and view my space with the same satisfaction as receiving an 'A' on a University paper. Thank goodness Chris shares this same value or I would surely come across as some sort of psycho killer. Just like myself, Chris views maintaining our space as a fun activity that we can take part in together, almost like a real life game of Tetris. 

Last week, as 2014 was coming to a close, both Chris and I were feeling the need to rearrange parts of our space, giving it the same fresh start we knew we both needed this year. The first step in our mission was to tackle the freezer, going through each and every nook and cranny to eliminate all of the nonsense and organize the remnants of what was left. What was left was a drawer full of over 10 frozen bananas (are we monkeys?!), 4 containers of pecans, 3 bags of coconut, 2 bags of chocolate chips, and oh so very much more. There was no doubt about it, banana muffins were in order! 

I quickly found a simple and delicious-sounding banana muffin recipe that would allow me to use up as much of the bananas, coconut, and nuts from the freezer as physically possible. The muffins turned out incredible, with a sweet crumble topping giving the muffins a wonderful crunch, and nuts and chocolate chips in every bite! 

What are you hoping to accomplish this year? 

* This will allow your muffins to be extra moist!

Recipe adapted from hiddenponies.com
Ingredients:
Muffins:
6 bananas, very ripe 
2 eggs
1 cup butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup pecans, chopped and lightly toasted 
3/4 cup chocolate chips
Crumble Topping:
4 tbsp butter, melted
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
2/3 cup quick-cooking oats
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup pecans, chopped

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin or line with paper liners.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the bananas and blend at medium-speed until mashed. 
  3. Add the eggs, melted butter, and vanilla and blend well to combine. 
  4. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. 
  5. With the mixer on low, add in the flour mixture in 4 increments, until just blended.  Stir in the pecans and chocolate chips by hand. 
  6. Fill the muffin cups 3/4 of the way up with the muffin batter. Fill any empty muffin cups half way with water.*
  7. In a small bowl mix together the crumble topping ingredients. Top each muffin evenly with the crumble topping and bake for 17-24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of a muffin comes out clean. Enjoy!

Listening To:
Caribou - Our Love

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Hack the Holidays

Festive Ice Cubes
The tree is up, the gifts are purchased, and there is a blanket of snow collecting on my balcony (not to mention a canopy of white continuing to sail down from above. There's no doubt about it, the holidays are fast approaching! 
Peanut Butter Holiday Pancakes
With Christmas only two weeks away (where did the time go?!) it's right about now that everyone begins to freak out over everything that must be checked off their 'to do' list in the coming weeks, in the midst of what is absolutely the busiest and most stressful time of year. With so much to accomplish, and so little time, I am surprisingly far calmer than I've been in previous years. No, I haven't just discovered online shopping (but yes, that is probably the #1 stress reducer to take advantage of during the holidays), but I have discovered a not-so-secret secret to calmly and happily getting through the holidays. The secret, my friends is none other than the oh so wonderful world of food and life hacks! 
Fruity Holiday Ice-n-Pipe
Working on the Kraft Food Hacks campaign has given me the opportunity to search high and low through the dense interweb to find all of the very best hacks to get myself through the holidays. Through my research and testing in the kitchen, I've been able to locate the most successful and helpful of hacks, as well as debunk those that unfortunately result in disappointing failures. I've come up with some really fun and clever ones that have stretched my imagination and am really excited to share with you. My first holiday food hack entry is up on the Kraft Food Hacks blog and is one that I absolutely adore! Head on over to the Food Hacks blog to check out my latest entry on creating Festive Ice Cubes, and be sure to come back over the coming weeks to see what other holiday hacks I have in store for you! Also be sure to follow me along on the Food Hacks Twitter page (@FoodHacks) for even more holiday hacks to make your life a little easier!

Do you have a great holiday hack you want to share? Tweet me: @FoodHacks and let's get hacking! 

Listening To:

Friday, November 14, 2014

Chilly Days = Chili Nights

Homemade Jamie Oliver Winter Nights Chili
Yesterday was the first real snowfall in Toronto, and this morning my window is decorated with frosty snowflakes. It's official, Winter is coming! 

Although I don't want that exclamation point mistaken for enthusiasm (as someone with a circulation problem, Winter is not my season!), I can't help but feel an odd sense of relief as I willingly give in to all of the indulgent comforts that this season begs for. Cozy sweaters, fuzzy slippers, fur-lined coats, spiked hot chocolate, and, most importantly, comfort food, make Winter in Toronto bearable, and sometimes even enjoyable. 

Pardon my obvious correlation, but chilly days have me thinking of nothing other than a big ol' bowl of comfort, AKA chili! I learned to make chili from my mom, who has a knack for making an incredibly tasty bowl of chili that tastes like it was cooking on the stove all day, when really, she can get the whole bowl on the table in under an hour! Although Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory informed me that chili containing beans, actually isn't the traditional way of making the rich and meaty stew, I love the addition of beans that my mom has in her chili, along with ground beef, mirepoix, canned tomatoes, and her special blend of herbs and spices. It warms me up and gives me fuzzy, nostalgic feelings about growing up in her love-filled home. 
My lovely Oma, the Chili Cook-Off First Place Winner!
My mom learned to make her chili from my Oma, who makes a very similar version, though sometimes adds the oh-so-controversial ingredient pasta noodles to hers to give it extra substance. I can only imagine the secrets my Oma keeps in her chili, always finding a way of sneaking mystery ingredients like bacon fat, and leftover roasts into her dishes to give them incredible depth. Her chili is so fantastic that this week she even won first place at her church's Chili competition, inspiring me to write this very post. Although my Oma was the grand winner of the day, my Opa got an honorable mention for being in the doghouse for being a judge who did not vote for his own wife's chili! It's funny, no matter how partial you are to the way a certain dish is made, having enjoyed it like that for most of your life, you can't help but be stricken with delight at the surprising taste of a dish made in a different way.

Having grown up eating my mom and my Oma's ground beef and beans chili, I couldn't help but be intrigued when reading Jamie Oliver's recipe for Winter Nights Chili in his new cookbook Comfort Food (see top photo). Jamie's chili was unlike anything I had ever heard of before, containing both beef brisket and pork belly, along with an array of vegetables including butternut squash and red and yellow bell peppers, as well as a crunchy apple and red onion salsa to top it all off. With so many great flavours and textures featured in one bowl, I had to give his recipe a try! 

Slow cooked throughout the day, the chili had a wonderful depth of flavour, reminiscent of dishes found in the best smokehouses. After giving the chili a taste while still on the stove, I realized that although I love big flavours, one of the beauties of chili is in its simplicity. With this in mind, I decided to omit the apple and red onion salsa, allowing the spicy chili to speak for itself. The final dish was fantastic, and one I was proud to serve to my boyfriends family, but although I couldn't get enough of the chili that first night, I found myself craving my mom and my Oma's chili the following day. There's something about a family favourite that will always have a hold on my taste buds and my soul.  Nostalgia has a hold on me, and it wont let go. 

What is your favourite way of preparing chili? How did your family make chili growing up? What is it about chili that evokes feeling of comfort and safety? Let's chat! 

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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! 

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