Monday, August 31, 2009

Green Goddess Dip

With my herb garden thriving, I secretly consider myself to be a bit of a Green Goddess. So when I found this recipe on the Williams Sonoma website, I knew I was destined to love it! It was the arrival of a big bag of farmers market heirloom carrots that inspired me to finally make this heavenly dip. This dip is jam packed with many of my favourite flavours: chives, parsley, basil, mint, and lemon. How could you possibly go wrong with a combination like that? And with merely a few pulses in the food processor, this recipe is super simple! The bright and fresh flavours in this dip went perfectly with the gorgeous heirloom carrots (just look at those colours!) as well as crunchy vegetable chips purchased from the supermarket. My family and I loved this dip so much, we devoured the entire bowl in one sitting! So if you are considering serving this to a crowd, I would suggest doubling the recipe so no one is left disappointed.
Note: The original recipe calls for 1 tsp tarragon. I am not a fan of tarragon, so I omitted it, but feel free to add it in if you like. I also added a bit of garlic, because, honestly, what's a great dip without at least a bit of garlic?!

2 tbsp roughly chopped fresh chives
2 tbsp roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp roughly chopped fresh basil
1 tbsp roughly chopped fresh mint
2 or 3 anchovy fillets (I used anchovy paste)
2 tsp pureed garlic
1 shallot, roughly chopped
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup sour cream

1. In a blender or food processor, combine the chives, parsley, basil, mint, anchovies, garlic, shallot, lemon juice, and mayonnaise. Blend or process until smooth.

2. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the sour cream. Cpver with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

3. Serve with crudites or chips.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Dreaming of Pizzeria Libretto

Since it's opening last year, Pizzeria Libretto seems to be the name on everyones lips!  The Pizzeria, which proudly states its authenticity as true Neapolitan pizza, has been getting rave reviews from many media outlets as well as from the many foodies in Toronto.  It is even often referred to as "the best pizza in Toronto."  After a year of hype and salivating taste buds, I finally got the chance to check out Pizzeria Libretto for myself.  I must say, I have not been so impressed with a restaurant in a long time.  The food was outstanding and of the highest quality, the staff unbelievable, and the atmosphere thriving, making it well worth the 1 hour wait for a table for 2!  I ordered the locally inspired prix fixe menu, which is an absolute steal at only $25 and included:
  • Mixed Bruschetta (chefs choice of seasonally available ingredients)
The bruschetta being served last night was a Buffalo Mozzarella and Prosciutto Bruschetta, with amazingly creamy and flavourful fresh mozzarella, and paper thin salty prosciutto; a Spicy Eggplant Bruschetta, that was extremely flavourful with the spiciness merely accenting the eggplant and not overwhelming it; and a Tuna Bruschetta, perfectly juicy and creamy against the crispy grilled bread.  The bruschetta was garnished with olives, and sweet caramelized red onions.
  • A choice of 3 different salads
I had the Caprese Salad with the same creamy and flavourful mozzarella used in the bruschetta, bright, juicy, and sweet tomatoes, ribbons of fresh basil, all sitting in a pool of fruity olive oil.
  • A choice of any 1 of Librettos 12 different pizzas 
I ordered the Pingue Prosciutto Pizza with ultra-thin soft crust, sweet tomato sauce, creamy Ontario Fiore Di Latte Mozzarella, thin and salty prosciutto, and fresh basil leaves.  As much as I loved my pizza, I couldn't take my eye off of the pizza the gentleman sitting next me to me was eating, the Wild Mushroom pizza.  The Wild Mushroom pizza is topped with Tallegio, Ontario Fiore Di Latte Mozzarella, and fresh herbs, a combination no food lover could resist!
  • A choice of 2 desserts (Panna Cotta al Limone with Ontario blueberry coulis, and Ontario Strawberry Parfait with Pine Nut Brittle)
I ordered the Panna Cotta al Limone with Ontario blueberry coulis, which was the perfect finish to the meal, leaving me feeling refreshed rather than uncomfortably full.  The lemony dessert was light as a feather, smooth and creamy, and had me cleaning every last bit off my plate with my tiny spoon long after I had finished it!

As I stated, the staff were unbelievable, making my experience at Pizzeria Libretto a memorable one.  Although the restaurant was packed with customers, the service was super fast and the staff extremely friendly, taking the time to get to know each one of the their costumers.  Just the staff alone are enough of a reason to come back, as they created such a positive atmosphere in the bright and buzzing space.  The restaurant is situated in the new Ossington "it" area, making my counter window seat the prime spot for Ossington hipster people watching.  With groups of people constantly flooding into the restaurant, their is never a dull moment.  It is restaurants like this that make me truly inspired and excited about what the Toronto food community has to offer.  Pizzeria Libretto is not only conscious of great quality food and service, but environmental causes as well.  See their Ideology section of their website to see how Pizzeria Libretto is taking action to make their restaurant as "green" as possible.  

As I sit here eating my leftover pizza, I am mentally scheduling when I can visit my new favourite restaurant again!...Hmm, how about tonight?

Image courtesy of DineTO.

Get Your Tickets Now to Get Knotty!

As many of my followers will know, I am a big supporter of the iYellow Wine Club.  Their expansive wine knowledge, educational and fun tours, and hip and exciting events make their club stand out as Toronto's Hottest Social Wine Club! I am encouraging you to go out and experience the iYellow Wine Club for yourself!  On August 10th, the iYellow Wine Club and Lifford Wine Agency will be hosting Get Knotty, an event showcasing a number of Australian wines from Red Knot Winery.  The event will allow you to taste 4 fabulous Red Knot wines, as well as meet Red Knots winemaker John Davey, and mingle about the trendy Thrush Holmes Empire gallery space with other fun wine lovers!  At only $25 a ticket, I'd say it's quite a steal! Go buy your ticket now before it sells out!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Peach and Nutella Croissant

This breakfast treat is perfect for satisfying that sweet tooth and giving you the energy you need to start your day. The buttery croissant goes sinfully well with the creamy Nutella spread, juicy peach slices, and crunchy coconut shreds. How can your day go wrong with a breakfast like this?

1 fresh croissant, cut in half lengthwise
about 2 tbsp Nutella or other chocolate hazelnut spread
1 fresh peach, pitted and sliced
1 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted

1. Spread the Nutella on one half of the croissant.

2. Add a layer of sliced peaches on top.

3. Sprinkle with coconut and top with other half of croissant.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Backyard Marshmallow Roast

Me (Danielle Rose) and Rommi staying warm by the chimenea

It's that time of year.  There's beginning to be a bit of a chill in the air, back to school supplies are bombarding the stores, and people are taking their last visits to the cottage.  Well, I don't know about you, but I don't want my summer to end! Who's to say that some of my favourite summertime activities can't continue into the Fall?  

One of my all-time favourite summer activities is roasting marshmallows.  Sure setting up a bonfire is great up North, but it can get pretty dangerous attempting to set up a fire pit in your own backyard.  So my family's solution is to invest in a chimenea.  Chimenea's are little outdoor fireplaces, usually made out of clay, that act as an outdoor heater, and, better yet, can take the place of the traditional cottage bonfire.  It is the perfect place for a backyard social gathering, which was exactly what my friends and I used it for just a few days ago.  After a lovely dinner out, we came back to my house to hangout, talk, roast some marshmallows, and make s'mores gathered around the chinenea.  I say we forget about the Winter snow and carry Summer straight through to next year!! 

Wines of Chile Premium Tasting

A few weeks ago I got to work at the 2009 Wines of Chile Specialty Wine Tasting.  The Event featured 30 different wineries, pouring over 100 new and exciting premium Chilean wines, never before brought to the Ontario market.  The specialty tasting was held by Ignacio Recart, the Trade Commissioner of Chile, and was held at the beautiful Hart House, on the University of Toronto campus.  Although I was working the event, I was still able to experience some of the world-class wines, and delicious food.  

The wines that stood out as my favourites were Vina Emiliana Novas Sauvignon Blanc 2008, from Casablanca Valley; Vina Maquis Lien 2006, from Colchagua Valley; and Vina Mayu Sauvignon Blanc Reserve, from Elqui Valley.  Of course being the foodie that I am, I couldn't resist trying out all of the incredible food that was presented so beautifully.  Out of the large selection of delicacies, my favourites were the cold, creamy, and tangy Avocado Soup with Zesty Salsa; the spicy and chunky Mashed Potatoes; the Vegetarian Chili (which, to be honest, I know is not chili, because I remember from my travels in Chile that they did not like being associated with the food chili.  But it tasted just like it, so I can't imagine what else it could be); and of course all of the amazing cheeses.  The event was a success, allowing me to savour more of what Chile has to offer, and get me excited for the upcoming Chilean Wine Festival being held at the Historical Distillery District on October 7.  Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Magic Squares

Me (Danielle Rose), Robin, and Rommi canoeing at Robin's cottage (yes, safety first!)

This past weekend I went back up to a friends cottage.  I had so much fun the last time, I couldn't wait to go back!  All week I was waiting on my friend Robin to get the 'ok' from her family, allowing us to go up.  But when she told me that everything was set and I should start packing to head up there, she also had a little request for me that would be the key to me getting into the cottage.  On our last cottage weekend, I not only brought a bowl of my homemade guacamole, I also brought up a tray of Magic Squares that my mum had made.  My friends went so crazy over them that they insisted I bring them on the next cottage weekend, and that we wouldn't be allowed to go up otherwise.  Robin acted like she was just joking around, but really, I think the girl meant business!  So the evening before our trip, I baked a big tray of Magic Squares, because honestly, I wanted them just as bad as my friends did as well!

I guess by now you're wondering why they are called Magic Squares.  The truth is, they are really Hello Dolly Squares, but me and my mum have found that people go so crazy over them that they are like little squares of magic! I was even convinced for quite some time, that they had the magic ability to make the guys I crushed on, like me back...unfortunately, like all magic, it would eventually wear off.  But I dare you to try it yourself.  Have a special someone that you've had your eye on?  Going on a weekend getaway and want to make it extra special?  Dealing with a bad situation and need to get your spirits up?  Turn to Magic Squares!  But be warned, the magic in the squares is so powerful, that no one will be able to forget the intoxicating feelings of joy that they produce when eating them! 

1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped

1.  Place butter in a 9" x 13" baking pan and melt in a 350º oven.

2.  Once melted, remove and mix in graham cracker crumbs.  Using your fingertips or the back of a large spoon, smooth and press down on the crumbs, creating one even layer on the bottom of the pan.

3.  Drizzle over an even layer of sweetened condensed milk and top with chocolate chips.

4.  Evenly sprinkle over the shredded coconut and nuts.

5.  Bake at 350º for 25 to 30 minutes, or until coconut becomes a golden brown colour.  Let cool and cut into squares.  

6.  Let the magic begin!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cheaters Handbook: Crumble or Crisp in a Pinch

Don't you hate those nights when you have a major craving for dessert, yet there is nothing in the house to satisfy your craving? Well say goodbye to those nasty unfulfilled cravings because I have got just the trick for you!  Fruit crumbles and crisps are one of my favourite desserts, as you may know from my previous post on my Strawberry Blueberry Apple Crumble.  So when I get a craving for dessert, a delicious crumble or crisp does just the trick!  After a particularly unfortunate unfulfilled craving night, (I may have attacked a pint of freezer burned chocolate ice cream) I decided to be proactive about things.  The next time a dessert craving came along I wanted to be armed and ready! This lead me to make up a batch of crumble and crisp topping that I could keep on hand in the fridge.  The topping keeps in an airtight container for 4 weeks, allowing you to be prepared for a whole month!  So when that craving comes along, you simply chop up some fruit (or use frozen fruit), top with your readymade topping, and bake!  Only you in the house and you don't want to make an entire crumble or crisp for just yourself?  This is also perfect for individual desserts!  Just place fruit and topping in a ramekin or small dish to bake and place the remaining topping back in the fridge for another time. 

Tip: If you don't have a food processor to pulse topping ingredients, you may use a bowl and 2 knives to combine.  

Crumble Topping
1/2 cup cold  butter, cut in chunks
1 cup flour
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp cinnamon

Crisp Topping
1/2 cup cold butter, cut in chunks
1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup oatmeal or graham wafer crumbs
1 tsp cinnamon

Additional Optional Add-Ins
shredded or flaked coconut
chopped toasted nuts (such as almonds, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts)
other dried fruit (such as dried cranberries, apricots, dates, prunes, cherries)

any fruit you like to fit your dish (in the one pictured above, I used peaches, raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries)
several shakes of cinnamon 

Crumble Topping
1.  In a food processor, pulse topping ingredients of your choice until crumbly.  

Fruit Crumble or Crisp
1.  Grease a baking dish of whichever size you like (no bigger than 10 inches large).  

2.  Peel, pit, and slice fruit (if needed).  Combine fruit in a bowl and mix in cinnamon. Empty fruit into baking dish, making sure to spread fruit evenly. 

3.  Bake at 375 º for 40 minutes. Serve hot or cold (I prefer hot with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!).  If using an individual dish, bake for 20-25 minutes.

Vines Magazine: sip & Savour Ontario

Check out the September/October issue of VINES Magazine for an advertisement on the success of sip & Savour Ontario.  You may recognize a familiar little redheaded girl in the top picture, back row...Just sayin'. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Rogers Cup: Tennis Food

On Monday night I attended the Rogers Cup to watch a match between Maria Sharapova and Nadia Petrova.  I had a great time and left feeling inspired to begin playing tennis on my own...although in this heat I don't think I'll be playing anytime soon.  Going to the tennis match also got me thinking about tennis-themed foods.  It's not like a baseball game where peanuts, cracker jacks, and beer are staples.  I suppose you could make up some cute tennis ball-looking cupcakes, but I wouldn't consider that real "tennis food."  So I did some research and I found out that there are indeed tennis-themed foods! 

Firstly, it is traditional to have strawberries and cream at Wimbledon.  This tradition first began in 1953 "when the Queen issued a decree stating that anyone who didn't buy any when watching tennis would lose their kneecaps" (  I wouldn't have thought that quite a threat was needed for such a mouthwatering dessert! 

I also learned that tennis players are known for eating lots of bananas before and during the game, and that they are always provided with bananas before any professional tennis match.  This is because of the large amount of potassium in the fruit that will keep the players energy going throughout the game, as well as protect their muscles from cramping.

Sodium is another important thing for tennis players to keep in their system to help prevent muscle cramps.  Muscle cramps are often caused by sodium deficiencies.  The USTA suggests consuming salted pretzels, Gatorade, Endurance Gatorade, and V8 Juice, as they have a "higher sodium content, absorb quickly, and leave your stomach feeling light" (  Low fat crackers, salted nuts, and trail mix are also great snacks to have to keep sodium in your system.  
Can you think of any other tennis-themed foods?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Cheaters Handbook: Tortilla Pizzas

Alright cheaters, get on your reading glasses and get ready to save this little baby to your favourites, because you are not going to want to miss this one! This cheat is one of my absolute all time favourite cheats! It is insanely simple, comes out amazingly delicious, looks out of this world yummy, you can cater it to your own personal taste, aaand it is perfect for entertaining. I am talking about the Tortilla Pizza. Just like a great thin crust pizza, the Tortilla Pizza sure does hit the spot. My Tortilla Pizza is inspired by my favourite pizza restaurant (Torroni anyone?), that always uses fresh ingredients to pull out high quality, authentic Italian pizzas. No, a pizza with a tortilla crust isn't exactly authentic. But I promise you, once you have added your favourite ingredients to your tortilla, you will be convinced that you should open your very own pizza parlor. This week I made two Tortilla Pizzas for myself, putting on the following ingredients for the first pizza:
  • olive oil
  • tomato sauce
  • mozzarella cheese
  • fresh Ontario tomato slices
  • dried oregano
  • red pepper flakes
  • nicoise olives
  • ribbons of fresh basil
For the second pizza, I simply added some prosciutto slices to the above ingredients. Creating this delicious pizza only took about 5 minutes in total! Think about how great your next party or get together would be serving up your very own Tortilla Pizzas! Simply make a pizza topping bar, allowing your guests to add whatever they want to their tortilla. Pop them into the oven for a few minutes, and your you're good to go!
Tip: Use whole wheat tortillas to bump up the health factor.
Tip: Try adding a little tomato paste for a little concentrated sweet tomato flavour.
Tip: To add extra flavour, grill your pizzas on the barbeque.

flour tortillas
olive oil
tomato sauce, pesto, or other spread
cheese of choice
vegetables of choice
meat of choice
dried oregano
red pepper flakes
fresh herb of choice

1. Lightly brush olive oil onto tortillas. Spread sauce or spread of choice onto tortillas. Layer cheese on top of sauce.

2. Sprinkle with dried oregano and red pepper flakes. Add vegetables and meat.

3. Bake in oven or toaster oven at 300º until cheese is melted and beginning to bubble.

4. Remove from oven and sprinkle with fresh herbs.

5. Consider opening your own pizza parlor because your pizza tastes that damn good!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Crispy Baked Halibut

Through this website, I have now become the go-to recipe gal in my house.  Whenever anyone in my family needs a recipe, or wants to know what to do with a particular ingredient, it is up to me to fill them in.  So last week when I got a call from my mum at the grocery saying that halibut was on sale, it was my job to find a quick and easy halibut recipe for that night.  One of the first places I went to was  I often go to just to get a general idea of what to do, and play around on my own, but today I found a recipe that suited me just fine! It was super quick and easy, and sounded delicious!  I only adjusted it a little by adding my homemade Citrus Aioli to use as a dip.  If you don't want to make your own Citrus Aioli, feel free to use tartar sauce.  The halibut turned out great.  It was moist inside, with a lovely crispy topping, and went perfectly with the zesty and creamy Citrus Aioli.  This dish is perfect for a busy weeknight.  
Tip: I made a smaller portion of the dish listed and adjusted the amounts of ingredients accordingly.  My fish was small enough to fit into my toaster oven (so I didn't have to heat up the whole kitchen), while still being able to fill 2 people.  

2 1L halibut (or other white fish)
Mayonnaise (enough to coat each piece of fish)
1 small onion, chopped
3 tbsp butter
bread crumbs, enough to coat the top of the fish
1 tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste

Citrus Aioli
1 tbsp garlic, finely minced
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tbsp lime juice
1/2 tbsp lemon zest
1/2 tbsp lime zest
1 cup mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Melt butter in a baking dish large enough to fit fish in one layer.  Lay onions at bottom of dish. 

2.  Cut halibut into 1/4 inch strips.  Lightly salt and pepper strips.  In a shallow dish, add several large dollops of mayonnaise, and coat each strip of fish.

3.  Lay fish in baking dish snugly next to each other.  Sprinkle the top with bread crumbs, paprika, salt and pepper.

4.  Bake at 450º for 10-15 minutes

Citrus Aioli
1.  In a food processor, combine garlic, lemon zest, lime zest, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and lime juice.  Process until well blended.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Roasted Beet Salad

A few weeks ago I stumbled across one of my new favourite blogs called Sunday Suppers. Sunday Suppers is a site dedicated to documenting the collaborative effort between Casey Solomon and Karen Mordechai. Solomon and Mordechai are passionate about food and have combined their talents in developing cooking classes with the goal of "pairing friends and food" and creating "seasonal and fresh meals together." The Sunday Suppers blog showcases all of their fabulous recipes as well as gorgeous photos from their classes. Sunday Suppers is a very inspiring blog that shares a lot of the same goals and values that I have in my own cooking, in particular, the significance of a collaborative creation! Here I have made Sunday Suppers Roasted Beet Salad. The salad is fresh and delicious, and a perfect healthy accompaniment to any meal, not to mention gorgeous with its beautiful bold colours.
Note: I made a smaller serving of this salad (for 4 people) and just estimated the amounts for the vinaigrette and it worked out great, so feel free to play around. Don't feel restricted by your measuring cups and spoons!
Note: If you don't have shallots, you may use another type of sweet onion. I didn't have shallots on hand so I finely chopped some Vidalia onions and the flavour was great.
Tip: Wear rubber gloves when handling the beets. Once you have gotten beet juice on your shirt you'll understand!

24 baby beets, scrubbed with stems cut
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 bunch of mint

1. Toss beets with olive oil and salt, wrap in a double layer of foil and roast in a 375º oven for 45 minutes.

2. While beets are roasting, make the vinaigrette. Mix together shallots, sugar, salt, and vinegar. Slowly stream in olive oil while whisking constantly.

3. Remove beets from oven and let stand for 10 minutes, still wrapped in foil. Peel if desired.

4. Cut beets in halves or quarters and toss with vinaigrette. Tear mint leaves over beets and fold in gently. Serve warm or chilled.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Holy Moly Guacamole

Rommi, Robin, & me (Danielle Rose) in the lake at the cottage

This past weekend I went up to a friends cottage. What's a successful cottage weekend without great snacks? Sure there are smores for around the campfire. But savoury snacks are a must for hangouts by the lake and any pre-drinking preparations. I have wanted to make guacamole for a long time now, so I figured this cottage weekend was the perfect occasion to give it a try! It turned out awesome! The dip was delicious, perfectly spicy, with a hint of cilantro to brighten it up, and the powerful flavour of freshly squeezed lime. I also added some cherry tomatoes for sweetness. The only problem was transporting the guacamole up north to the cottage.

Despite keeping the dip in a cooler with ice packs, the colour of the dip was affected. Just as I had feared, the guacamole was no longer the beautiful green colour that it was when it was first made. In fact, in the picture above, the dip had already begun to turn muddy looking in colour. Just before I had left for the cottage, I sent out a call for tips on how to keep guacamole green, so when I arrived back home I was overcome with all the many different tips I had received. Although I didn't know of these tips at the time, they are great to remember for next time, because, let me tell you, I am for sure making this dip again soon! To keep your guacamole green, try keeping the avocado seed nestled in the dip; add a layer of plastic wrap touching the dip on top; add a layer of oil on top of the dip in a jar, and remove oil before serving. Thanks to the many foodies who offered me their tips! and to my friends for a great weekend at the cottage!
Tip: Click here to learn how to properly seed and cut up an avocado.

2 ripe avocados, seeded and cut into medium size chunks
juice from 1/2 a lime
1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
1 tsp garlic
5 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/2 tbsp chopped chives
1 tbsp jalapeno peppers, chopped (I use jarred jalapeno peppers in brine)
salt and pepper to taste

1. Place chunks of avocado in a medium bowl. Immediately pour lime juice over avocado.

2. Add cilantro, garlic, tomatoes, chives, and jalapenos and gently mix to combine. Be careful not to mash up the avocado too much. It is meant to remain in medium chunks. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve with tortilla chips.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hangover Helper Breakfast Sandwich

Last week I went out for a friends birthday (who also happens to be a fellow foodie and made beautiful cupcakes for the occasion!), and as much as I had fun during the birthday celebration, the next morning I wasn't feeling too hot.  Why is it that no matter how much I try to take care of myself during the evening, and as little as I may drink, I still wake up feeling like I just got run over by a truck?! I think it has something to do with the craving of comfort.  What a great excuse to sleep in, eat a big and comforting breakfast, and spend the day watching old movies!  My Hangover Helper Breakfast Sandwich is the perfect dish for indulging yourself in comfort, and, along with an advil, can help to get rid of that nasty hangover, and have you thinking about all the fun you had the previous evening! 

There are many different ways for making a breakfast sandwich, so I encourage you to experiment.  For instance, I normally top my sandwich with slices of bacon, but this time I decided to switch things up and try slices of prosciutto.  What a delicious experiment that was! You may also want to try out different types of cheese.  For example, swiss cheese, goat cheese, brie, boursin, jarlsberg, the options are endless!  You could also try adding different combinations to your egg, or flavour up your mayonnaise.  I also use a little trick when making my sandwich that some may frown upon, but to most will love!  I like to cook my eggs for a sandwich in the microwave so that I can form it to fit my bun perfectly.  I cook the egg in a microwaveable container the same size as my bun or bread so that it will not spill over the sides and will be easier to eat.  This tip is also great for a hangover because it means less work, mess, and stress.  The egg comes out perfectly cooked, while still remaining moist.  To anyone who is skeptical of the microwaved egg, just give it a try, I used to be skeptical myself. 
Tip: To make garlic mayonnaise, simply add a little pureed garlic to your mayonnaise and stir to combine.

1 bun or 2 slices of bread of choice (I used a challah bun)
1 tbsp garlic mayonnaise
1 egg
about 1 tbsp fresh herbs of choice, chopped (I used basil, parsley, and chives)
1 pinch red pepper flakes
1 tsp milk
2 slices cheddar cheese 
2 slices prosciutto
several leaves of fresh spinach
2 slices tomato, or several sliced cherry tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Prep and chop all ingredients.  Place cheese slices on bun or bread and toast in toaster oven until cheese is melted and bread is lightly browned.

2.  While bun is toasting, break egg into a bowl and whisk with fresh herbs, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, and milk.  Place in a microwaveable dish the size of your bun and cook for 1 minute.

3.  Once bun is toasted, spread the naked slice with mayonnaise.  Top the bread with the cooked egg, followed by the tomatoes, prosciutto, and spinach, and season with salt and pepper.  Hangover be gone!

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Food Network Drinking Game

I was checking out some blogs today when I came across a blog that I frequently go to Behold the Metatron.  Today she posted a hilariously amazing blog post about how to make your own Food Network Drinking Game.  I thought this was amazing because whenever I watch the Food Network (which, if you know me at all, is a hell of a lot!) I always joke about creating a drinking game based on the Food Network.  It is very clever, and funny if you are at all familiar with the Food Network and the little quirks from Food Network hosts. Click here to check it out.

Sweet Pepper Potato Salad

You can never have too many potato salad recipes. I love my Potato Salad with Fresh Dill, but this time I wanted to add some more texture and zestiness to the salad. This lead me to creating this Sweet Pepper Potato Salad. This salad has that same fresh taste from the garden fresh dill, but is given more flavour and a bit of crunch from the addition of the sweet red and yellow bell peppers. There is also a bit of a bite from the mild onion flavour from the green onions/scallions.

1.5 Il. mini red potatoes
1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup yellow bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced or pureed
2-3 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
1 green onion (scallions), finely chopped
about 3/4 cup mayonnaise
2-3 tsp red wine vinegar
freshly ground salt and pepper to taste

1. Place potatoes in water and allow to boil. Once water has boiled, reduce heat to medium and cook for about 20-25 minutes, or until tender when inserted with a fork. Cut into quarters and let sit for about 5 minutes.

2. While potatoes are still warm in temperature, stir in red and yellow peppers. Add the garlic, dill, green onion, and vinegar. Add the mayonnaise in small amounts at a time, making sure not to overdress. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Herb Garden 2009

This year is the first year that I have felt really proud of my herb garden.  Sure the last few years have seen some thriving basil and parsley, but I didn't really have much more than that.  I wanted to give myself a really full herb garden so that I could begin familiarizing myself with different flavours, and, in turn, be able to experiment with those new flavours.  Utilizing the fresh herbs from my garden has taken my cooking to a whole new level.  So I took some pictures of my garden and labelled each herb so that, hopefully, you will be inspired to expand your herb garden and begin experimenting with new fresh herbs just as I have.  What herb do you use most from your garden?
  1. Leeks
  2. Stevia
  3. Chamomile
  4. Lemon Balm
  5. Rue
  6. Sage
  7. Hyssop
  8. Sweet Basil
  9. Winter Savory
  10. Golden Marjoram
  11. Marjoram
  12. Peppermint
  13. Cilantro
  14. Chives
  15. Flat Leaf Parsley
  16. Tarragon
  17. Garden Sage
  18. Genovese Basil
  19. Rosemary
  20. Marjoram
  21. Camomile
  22. Curly Parsley
  23. Thyme
  24. Spearmint
  25. Oregano

Friday, August 7, 2009

Gnocchi in a Gorgonzola Cream Sauce

A few years ago, on a cold winter night, I went out to an Italian restaurant to feast away my winter blues. I ordered Gnocchi in a Gorgonzola Cream Sauce, a dish that I believe should be in the top 10 list of the most comforting foods in the world. That sure did hit the spot. The dish was so delicious that, years later, I am still searching for a recipe that replicates those incredible little potato dumplings smothered in that rich and creamy gorgonzola sauce. So, here I am today, confidently saying that I have found a recipe that comes pretty darn close, and, better yet, it is as simple as can be! I think the only thing that this recipe is missing to replicate the one that I devoured at that Italian restaurant is homemade gnocchi. Due to time constraints (and my stomach grumbling that it was hungry now), I just made the gorgonzola cream sauce and tossed it with packaged gnocchi. If you're up to the challenge, I would suggest making your own gnocchi by hand, allowing you to add more flavour to the dumplings themselves, and, therefore, perfecting this ultra-comforting dish!

1 package potato gnocchi
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup gorgonzola cheese
1 1/2 tbsp combined parsley & chives, chopped
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to season

1. In a saucepan on low heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour, making a roux. Continue whisking for about 3-4 minutes, making sure not to brown the roux.

2. Add room temperature or hot milk (so that the ingredients will be more easily incorporated). Add the bay leaf and continue to stir until mixture begins to thicken.

3. While mixture thickens, boil gnocchi following the package instructions.

4. Stir in the gorgonzola cheese until it has melted. Add the parsley and chives. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Remove bay leaf and serve sauce over potato gnocchi.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Buy Local: Peaches

Just a friendly reminder to support your local farmers and buy local! August is my favourite month of the summer because peaches are in season! Make sure you are buying local Ontario produce (or local produce from wherever you may live) in the market, or, better yet, visit a farm and pick the fruit yourself! To locate an Ontario farm to visit, go to the Ontario Farm Fresh website. Also be sure to check out the OMAFRA website to learn more about Ontario produce.

Cheaters Handbook: Fresh Herb Ice Cubes

My backyard is full of beautiful fresh herbs, so they have become a constant source of inspiration for me.  Recently, they have even found their way into my ice cubes! This little trick is a great way to add a hint of flavour to water, iced tea, or any other cold and refreshing drink, as well as a touch of sophistication.  It makes all the difference in terms of appearance when serving your guests a glass or pitcher of water at the table.  I put lemon balm leaves and mint leaves in my ice cubes because I find their flavour the most versatile for summer drinks, but you can experiment with whatever you have!  Simply fill your ice cube tray with water and add an herb leaf to each ice cube pocket.  Ta da! That is one stylin' ice cube tray!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Peaches with Ricotta Cream

Peaches are one of my favourite fruits to eat.  So when August (peach season) comes along, I start brainstorming all the different ways to prepare and eat fresh peaches.  Peaches with Ricotta Cream is a light and simple dish that allows for the natural sweetness and juicy texture of the fresh peaches to shine through, while giving it more substance and a creamy texture with the layer of ricotta cream.  Serve this dessert for a light and fresh finish to a heavy meal.
Note: I used lady finger cookies for this recipe this time around which had a great texture and sweetness, but the taste of amaretti cookies is spot on with this dish.  Why not try a combination of the two? 
Tip: Try preparing your dessert like an individual trifle.  Simply layer pieces of lady fingers in the dish before topping with peach slices and ricotta cream.

2 peaches, sliced and peeled
1/2 - 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp Grand Marnier
1/2 tsp orange or lemon zest
2-4 tsp sugar (preferably superfine sugar)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
slivered almonds,toasted for garnish
lady finger cookies or amaretti cookies (amount depends on how you serve the dish)

1.  Stir together ricotta, vanilla extract, lemon zest, Grand Marnier, sugar, and cinnamon, adjusting the amount of sugar depending on your taste.

2.  Place peaches in 2 martini glasses or glass dishes.  Spoon ricotta cream over the peaches, letting it drape down the sides.  Crumble lady finger cookies or amaretti cookies over ricotta cream. Top with almonds and garnish with a lady finger cookie or amaretti cookie. 

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Citrus and Fresh Herb Salmon

When watching an episode of The Next Food Network Star last week, I got inspired watching one chef dress up a salmon with bought salmon marinade with lots of fresh lemon and lime juice. I have no idea what was in the marinade, but just watching her squeeze the fresh lime juice over the salmon before serving it made me crave some sort of citrus baked salmon all week long! So I decided to make a baked salmon with lots of fresh lemon and lime juice while, once again, taking advantage of my abundance of fresh herbs to brighten up the flavours even more. This salmon is very simple and fast to prepare making it a perfect weeknight dinner.
Tip: Remove your fish just before it is perfectly cooked. The fish will continue cooking in the foil after it is removed from the oven. This allows the fish to remain moist and perfectly cooked.
Tip: Make this fish in your toaster oven to save energy and keep your home cool.

2 salmon steaks or fillets
3 lemon slices + about 1 tbsp more
3 lime slices + about 1 tbsp more
3 thyme sprigs
3 oregano sprigs
6 lemon balm leaves (if you don't have lemon balm, simply grate some lemon zest)
8 fresh chives
salt and pepper to season

1. Preheat oven to 400º. Season both sides of salmon steaks or fillets with salt and pepper.

2. Lay salmon onto a piece of aluminum foil, large enough to securely fold salmon up with.

3. Arrange herbs evenly on top of salmon and top with lemon and lime slices.

4. Fold in aluminum foil to completely cover and seal salmon.

5. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until salmon flakes easily when tested with a fork. Let sit in foil for an additional 2 minutes. Remove, squeeze about 1 tbsp each of fresh lemon and lime juice over, and serve.

Max's Market

Because of the Toronto city workers strike that, thankfully, has finally come to an end, I was able to spend a lot of time with my mum this summer, who works for Toronto Parks and Rec.  See, the strike wasn't only negative, because through our time together over the summer, we were able to have lots of bonding time, try some delicious food...well....more like lots, and we were able to explore through all different areas of Toronto, several of which I have never even been to in all my 21 years living in Toronto!  It seemed that each time we made a plan to have a mother daughter day, we would venture to a whole new area of Toronto! This time we decided to venture to Bloor West Village.  

Bloor West Village is full of lots of little shops and restaurants, and was lovely to walk through on a warm summer day.  My mum had told me all about this amazing market that she knew I would go crazy over, and boy was she right! Max's Market truly is something special!  Max's is less like a market, and more like a specialty gourmet food store.  The store is filled with tons of luxurious food brands (all with gorgeous packaging), and a mass amount of prepared foods that go way beyond what you would normally find in your local supermarkets prepared section.  Max's takes prepared food to the next level, having the courage to try unique ingredients and interesting flavour combinations, all spectacularly presented.  After much deliberation, my mum and I decided to share a Brisket Sandwich and Beet and Apple Salad for lunch, and pick up one of Max's stunning Galettes, we decided on their Crab and Brie Galette, for dinner. 

The Brisket Sandwich was packed with tender and flavourful beef, with a ribbon of mustard, stuffed inside a fresh kaiser bun.  The Beet and Apple Salad was bright and fresh tasting with strings of bright red beets, sweet apples, and zesty onions, tied together with a flavourful vinaigrette and fresh parsley.  The Crab and Brie Galette was my favourite out of our selections.  Firstly, the galette was massive allowing it to fill four very hungry people.  It was filled with decadent crab, brie, potatoes, red peppers, and fresh herbs, all resting in a flaky cheddar cheese crust and topped with lemon slices.  This large and delicious galette, packed with such luxurious ingredients such as crab and brie, was purchased for only $13.99!  What a steal!  My only issues with Max's Market is that I couldn't try everything, and they didn't allow me to take pictures of inside the store to show you all their beautiful creations! 

Max's Market is located at 2299 Bloor Street West.