Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Fresh City Farms Ready-To-Eat Jars

Cooking is my thing. It's my stress reliever, my creative outlet, my pride, my joy, it's my world. While I love to cook as much as possible and share my creations with you all, it's not always a reality for me to get to cook every single meal. Short-cuts and quick-fixes are the only way I can get through a busy week without losing my mind sometimes. I'm often juggling a few different projects at once, which means a lot of running around, and bursting in the door well past dinner time, in a hangry stupor, searching for anything that can satiate me quickly! It's so easy to make poor choices when I'm caught in a hangry state like that, turning to my guilty pleasures (that always feel so good at first, and then inevitably leave me feeling disappointed) like a box of mac & cheese, a McDonalds meal, or just some good ol' peanut butter toast. Like I said, those options always seem like a good idea while I'm preparing them, but they always (and I mean always!) leave me feeling lousy and let down in the end. 

While I've been getting better at meal prep as of late, I still have those days where I need to have a meal on hand that's ready to go and will leave me feeling my best. With that in mind, an email from Fresh City Farms, inviting me to try out some of their new Ready-To-Eat meal jars came at the most opportune time!

Having visited Fresh City Farms two-acre Organic farm at Downsview Park (right in the city!) a few years ago, I knew first-hand the care and thought that they take in producing and sourcing some of the best produce you can find in Ontario. While they don't source all of their ingredients for their Ready-To-Eat jars from their own farm, they take great care to select almost exclusively certified organic ingredients, with exception of a few local producers who are not certified organic.
Beyond being impressed by the attention and importance that they place on having high-quality produce, I was also dazzled by the great selection of Ready-To-Eat jars that Fresh City Farms carries in their shop. With so many delicious sounding options (that fit a variety of different diets), the hardest part of the whole process was buckling down and getting decisive about my order. I wanted to try them all!! I ended up ordering the Butter Chicken Bowl (a total no-brainer!), Makhani Tofu Biryani, and Falafel Salad, with jars for Chris to try out as well for a second opinion. I also threw in some Tonica Kombucha, red beets, rutabaga, and Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups from Green Zebra Kitchen. What a haul!

With my order placed, I was a little concerned that I would run into problems with my delivery. Both myself and Chris were going to be out the day our order was to be delivered, and my condo clearly states that they will not accept any deliveries that include non-perishables. I left instructions for the delivery person to call our buzzer and leave the order outside of our unit door. Even still, I wasn't sure that either Chris or myself would even be available to answer the buzzer to let the delivery person in. I was stressed! Luckily my stress was completely unfounded, as the delivery process was as smooth as can be! I got a phone call from Fresh City Farms to confirm my order was being delivered, and they were able to get into my building without any issue. Chris came home to find a lovely Fresh City Farms cooler bag, expertly packed with temperature controlled lunch bags and ice packs. For someone who works in marketing, Chris was seriously impressed!

I came home from work that evening completely starved and ready to dive into my Butter Chicken Bowl! A quick trip to the microwave was all my bowl needed to be ready to eat. It was such a perfect meal to come home to. I loved the big, bold, and comforting flavours of the butter chicken sauce, and the chicken was perfectly cooked and tender. With the jars being quite large, I even had some leftover as a snack the next day!
While the Butter Chicken jar was definitely my favourite, the other two jars were really tasty as well. Though I have to admit, I did end up adding some extra ingredients to the Falafel jar to bump up the flavour a little bit. I added chopped cilantro, a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of tahini, and a little hit of cayenne pepper for heat. I dunno, maybe it's just me, but I wanted a little bit more brightness, creaminess, and heat. I LOVED it after that! I have also been totally obsessed with kombucha since trying Tonica Kombucha from my order, and have been drinking it like a maniac ever since! My favourite flavour is their peach kombucha. I was also shocked by how delicious the Peanut Butter Cups were from Green Zebra Kitchen. My goodness, they were sooooo good! Not only were they tasty, they're also healthy and provide a quick energy boost thanks to the hit of protein in them. 

I am so happy with how my experience with Fresh City Farms went! It was easy, convenient, delicious, and at a fairly reasonable price-point considering the quality, organic certification, and delivery right to your door! I would highly recommend looking into their delivery service if you're anything like me and are looking for tasty and convenient options that will leave you feeling great in the midst of a busy week. Thank you so much to the lovely people at Fresh City Farms for reaching out to me and allowing me the opportunity to try their products!

This post was written in partnership with Fresh City Farms. All opinions and photographs are my own. 

Listening To:
Kendrick Lamar - XXX

Monday, March 27, 2017

Peter & Pat's Bacon & Cheddar Cheese Pierogies with Bacon & Brussel Sprouts

Hangry, a perfect word for summing up the overwhelming feeling of anger in response to hunger, and an emotion that you never want to catch me in the midst of! It's unpleasant, to say the least. In order to prevent unnecessary hangry episodes in my home,  I have to keep my kitchen stocked with quick and easy midweek dinner options so that I can get food into my hangry mouth as quickly as possible on busy evenings. Of course we will always have our shameful boxes of mac and cheese and instant pancake mix, but it's important for me to keep more "legit" options in my freezer as well. This is where I keep my store-bought asian dumplings, trays of homemade lasagna, chilli, and soup, and, one of my favourite go-to's, frozen pierogies! 

Frozen pierogies have come to be one of my all-time favourite weeknight go-to meals thanks to how convenient they are to store, their simplicity, satiety, delicious taste, and versatility. The amazing thing about pierogies is just how versatile they are. They come in so many different flavours, but more than that, the options for serving and topping pierogies are endless! 

Recently Peter & Pat's Pierogies reached out to me to introduce me to their line of Bacon & Cheddar Cheese Pierogies made from a 60-year old family recipe, with 100% real potatoes, and 100% natural ingredients. Disappointed with the usual pierogies I was buying at the grocery store, I was eager to try out Peter & Pat's product, which are now available for purchase at Costco locations throughout Canada. Not only did Peter & Pat's Pierogies provide me with a sample of their product, they also sent along a few recipes for me to try out with their pierogies! 

While I have always loved serving my pierogies with sautéed bacon and onions, with a big ol' dollop of sour cream, the combination of the bacon and sour cream (plus all of the bacon, potato, and cheese inside the pierogies) made the dish a little heavy for a weeknight meal. I loved Peter & Pat's suggestion to try the pierogies with sautéed brussel sprouts, with bacon and onions. Though the suggestion was to serve the perogies with quartered brussel sprouts on the side, I thought it would be even more delicious to serve just the sautéed brussel sprout leaves tossed right into the pierogies. Though it was a bit of an odd combo that I had never thought to try before, the brussel sprout leaves tasted so delicious with the pierogies, especially when combined with the bacon and onions. The brussel sprout leaves were fantastic for cutting all of the richness in the dish, giving it a really nice balance. 

More than just the serving suggestion, I was really impressed with the flavour of Peter & Pat's Pierogies. That 100% potato flavour came through really strong, with the flavour of the bacon and cheddar cheese merely complimenting the potato filling, as opposed to overwhelming it. I love how the potato remained the star! The pierogies also had a great texture, and featured the signature crimped edges that you find with homemade pierogies. I will definitely continue to keep their pierogies stocked in my freezer from now on! 

Be sure to keep your eye out for Peter & Pat's Bacon & Cheddar Cheese Pierogies at your local Costco, and try out the recipe for Pierogies with Bacon & Brussel Sprouts below! You're gonna love it! 

* Cutting bacon into lardons means slicing it into paper clip-sized pieces.

Serves 2
Ingredients:
14-20 frozen Peter & Pat's Bacon & Cheddar Cheese Pierogies
about 12 brussel sprouts, leaves picked, core discarded
4 slices bacon, cut into lardons*
1/2 medium onion, fine dice 
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, separated 
salt and pepper

Directions:
  1. Boil pierogies as directed on package. Drain and set aside. While pierogies are cooking prepare topping. 
  2. In a large nonstick skillet, cook bacon at medium heat until fat has rendered. Remove with a slotted spoon, and set aside on a paper-towel lined dish. 
  3. Drain fat from pan, leaving 1-Tbsp. Add onion and cook for 1-2 minutes until softened. Remove to a bowl with a slotted spoon. 
  4. Add 1-Tbsp butter to pan and add brussel sprouts. Cook, stirring often, until leaves are slightly crisp and charred on the edges. Season with salt and pepper. 
  5. Add remaining 1-Tbsp butter along with pierogies, bacon, and onion to the brussel sprouts and toss to combine. Serve immediately. 
Listening To:

Thursday, March 23, 2017

What We Dig Checks Out Southern Accent

Tonight I'm off to shoot another episode of What We Dig, but before I get to try another type of cuisine, I wanted to share with you the last episode that I got to co-host, at the new location of Southern Accent

My sister has lived in the Annex area for years, so Southern Accent came to be one of our favourite go-to restaurants in the area. I was always a sucker for their fried calamari, brisket with grits and collards, and, of course, their famous bourbon sours, so it was really fantastic to get to visit their new location on College Street, and try a few dishes that were previously unfamiliar to me. 

I had such an amazing time filming this episode with the lovely Debbie Dear, and was completely blown away by the unbelievable southern hospitality that all of the staff welcomed us with. Big shoutout to Wendy from Southern Accent who went above and beyond to make our experience special. Wendy was a very familiar face from their previous location, and it was so nice to see her taking on that same role of "the host with the most" in their new home.

Have you ever eaten at Southern Accent before? What's your favourite dish? Tell me about it in the comments, or tweet me: @thisgingerrose

Listening To:
Passionfruit - Drake

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Recreating Israeli-Style Falafel & Hummus At Home

If you've ever traveled to Israel, you'll know just how drastically different our falafel and hummus is here in Toronto. It would be an understatement to say that Toronto falafel and hummus are "just not as good," because, my lord, it's like an entirely different animal! I often say that Israel ruined me for falafel and hummus, because now I don't want to eat it anywhere else. We're lucky being in such a multicultural "food" city to have a few good options here and there (hello, Dr. Laffa, Famous Laffa, and Fat Pasha!), but it's not always easy to get to Bathurst and Lawrence for fresh laffa bread and creamy hummus, and as much as I love Fat Pasha, it can be a little hard on the budget at times. 

Two weeks ago, after a week of daydreaming about perfect fresh falafel balls and creamy hummus, I got inspired to finally try my hand at making my own falafel and hummus at home. I did a little bit of research online and found a recipe for falafel that sounded great, as well as a recipe for hummus that appeared to be just as creamy as the dips I devoured all over Israel. Being a last-minute decision to make both dishes, I unfortunately didn't start out with dried chickpeas, and had to settle for canned, and hoped to the Israeli falafel Gods that it would all work out. 

The falafel recipe I found was from an excerpt from Joan Nathan's book The Foods Of Israel Today on Epicurious, and caught my attention thanks to Nathan's description of her favourite falafel in Israel. Though I can't recall the exact name of the place where I had the best falafel that has ever touched my lips, I do remember what made it so special and how it made me feel. Nathan's description of her favourite falafel reminded me of my experience biting into my very first Israeli falafel (which just so happened to be the best of the whole trip!), and made me trust that her recipe would be a winner! The great thing about preparing falafel at home, is that you can prepare almost everything in advance and just quickly fry-to-order and assemble when ready to serve. 
The hummus recipe that I landed on was from Chef Michael Solomonov from the Israeli restaurant Zahav in Philadelphia, featured in the New York Times. With an emphasis in the description and Zahav's reviews on their unbelievably silky and creamy hummus, I was confident that this recipe would be a good starting point. 

Because hummus is incredibly simple to prepare, it's the little details that make all the difference in terms of achieving those dreamy creamy results. One of the biggest tricks to achieving silky smooth hummus is to over-cook your chickpeas and remove all of the skins. Starting with canned chickpeas, they were already quite soft and I was able to skip the step of boiling them until soft to the touch. Unfortunately, I still had a lot of work ahead of me in terms of removing the skins. I knew that I could easily remove most of the skins by rubbing the rinsed chickpeas in a clean towel, but I suppose I wanted to make things difficult on myself, and decided to remove each one individually. This was a mistake.

I put all of my chickpeas in a bowl of water and rubbed them with my fingers, hoping that all of the skins would float to the top. When the surface of my water was covered in chickpea skins, I figured they must all be off. I was sadly mistaken. I proceeded to check every single individual chickpea by pinching it between my pointer-finger and thumb to remove any remaining skin. It was crazy to see how many chickpea skins still remained! It was tedious and boring as hell, but absolutely worth it! I was determined to make that same wildly creamy hummus that I had been dreaming of! 
The second trick to achieving the ultimate creamy hummus is to add ice water when blending. Truthfully, I don't know why. It just works, and I'm not going to question it! It's what Anthony Rose taught us to do at the Metro & Fat Pasha cooking demo that he held at Taste of Toronto this summer, and it is what I will continue to do. 

I have to admit, after removing all of those damn chickpea skins, I announced "I'm over it!" and wanted to just collapse on the couch. Once my falafel mixture and hummus were in the fridge, I was worried that I still had a lot of work ahead of me frying up the falafel balls. I was lazy, and wanted to just relax, but I knew that after all of my hard work, I had to finish the dish. Thank goodness these falafel balls were actually the easiest things I have ever fried in my life! It was so fast, clean, and simple, we were eating our falafel in no time! 

I always want my final dish to taste spectacular, but when it's the first time making it, I expect that there will always be something that wasn't quite right. Though I do want to work on the hummus recipe a little bit (it was great,  but needs a bit of tweaking), the final falafel in pita (with all of the fixings, of course) was out-of-this-world, ridiculously delicious! Oh my God, guys, Chris and I were losing our shit, it was so good! We stuffed our faces, and ended up having two giant falafels each, even though we were so full, because we wanted to taste more. This will likely go down as one of my favourite things I've ever made, and am so incredibly excited to make it again! The next time I make it, I will most definitely be making it for friends and/or family, because it's not only a show-stopper, it's also so convenient to be able to prepare so much so far in advance. 

Remember: You can't always sub dried chickpeas equally for canned. Remember that canned chickpeas are already cooked, meaning that their volume has increased from the cooking process. A general rule-of-thumb is that 1-cup of dried chickpeas should equal roughly 3-cups of cooked chickpeas. Read every recipe carefully to see if they are referring to the volume of cooked or uncooked chickpeas, and if something feels off, trust your gut! 

Check out the recipe for Joan Nathan's favourite falafel, featuring fresh parsley and cilantro here.

Check out Zahar's super-silky hummus recipe from The New York Times here.

Listening To

Monday, February 27, 2017

Jumping On The Buddha Bowl Bandwagon

Go on any health-focused food blog and you will find some version of a brightly coloured Buddha Bowl. Come to think of it, do a quick scroll through your Instagram on any given weekday, and you're bound to find an image of some sort of Buddha Bowl there as well. It's clear to see that everyone is doing the Buddha Bowl, and it was my time to jump on the mindful eating bandwagon!

I'm big on eating leftovers for lunch, but not every dinner leaves me with enough tasty leftovers that I can work into a full lunch, meaning that I often turn to unhealthy quick-fixes that generally leave me feeling guilty, lethargic, and not very satiated. With some time to spare one morning last week, I figured I would take the time to jump into some food prep to get my Buddha Bowl game on for the week! Though my fridge didn't feel stocked, it was easy to come up with enough ingredients to make a delicious and satisfying bowl that I would feel excited to eat a few days in a row. 
I started by cubing up some sweet potato, tossing it in some herbs and spices, and throwing it into the oven for 20-30 minutes to roast. While my sweet potato cubes were tenderizing in the oven, I whipped up a few servings of quinoa with some homemade vegetable stock that I had ready in the freezer, and tossed some canned chickpeas in some spices and heated them up on the stove. By the time I had some sugar snap peas and cilantro chopped, and a tahini dressing whirred in the blender, my sweet potatoes, chickpeas, and quinoa were all ready! It was just that easy and fast. Throw everything in a bowl, drizzle it with dressing, and sprinkle with cashews and you've got yourself healthy and satisfying lunches for days! This dish is so simple and easy, there's no need to include a recipe at all! I just listed the ingredients, and even that is up for you to play around with. Use whatever ingredients you have on hand to make your Buddha Bowl work for you! How do you Buddha Bowl? 

Ingredients:
cooked quinoa 
roasted sweet potato, cubed
spiced, warmed chickpeas
sugar snap peas, sliced on a bias
lightly salted cashews
cilantro, finely chopped

Directions:
  1. Place quinoa in a bowl and top with sweet potato, chickpeas, and sugar snap peas. Drizzle with dressing and sprinkle over cilantro and cashews. Serve. 
Listening To: