Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween 2009

My Dad's Amazing Pumpkin
My Pumpkin

My friends (Chloe, Rommi, and Robin) and Me (Danielle Rose)
Happy Halloween Everyone!
Hope you had a fun and safe evening! What did you dress as?  

Ontario Wine Awards Winery Tour 2009

On Saturday October 17th I was lucky enough to be able to attend the 2009 Ontario Wine Awards Winery Tour.  The tour was held as a 'thank you' for all of the sponsors that helped to make this years Ontario Wine Awards so successful.  I can't imagine a better way to thank all of the people involved with the awards than to allow them to see first-hand where some of the award winning wines are produced, and what better time than harvest season!  I have been to a few Niagara winery tours in the past, but being able to see it during the exciting harvest season was a whole other experience!  You could feel the excitement being emitted from each winery as they prepared their grapes for what may be the coming years awards winning wines.

The itinerary for the day was as follows:

11:30 am Arrival at Jackson-Triggs Winery

11:30 am Sparkling Wine Welcome Reception
(in the Great Hall)

12:00 pm to 12:45 pm Private Tour of Jackson-Triggs

12:45 pm to 2:15 Lunch at Jackson-Triggs
(A fabulous 3-course meal was served in Jackson-Triggs traditional underground barrel cellar)

2:15 pm to 4:00 pm Private Tour of Chateau des Charmes

4:30 pm to 5:30 pm Closing Reception at Inniskillin
(During the reception we enjoyed a specially prepared dessert and was treated to an icewine tasting of both Inniskillin and Jackson-Triggs icewines)

5:30 pm Return to Jackson-Triggs

The Sparkling Wine Reception in Jackson-Triggs Great Hall allowed guests to get settled in while drinking a glass of 2008 award winning sparkling wine 2006 Maleta Estate Winery VIEW Old Vines Brut Sparkling Riesling.  We were then led out and into the vineyard to get a look and taste of the grapes at harvest time.  After that, we were taken through the facilities to get to see the various steps that the grapes go through in order to produce the wine.  Because it was harvest season, we were able to see the the machines pouring the freshly picked grapes to be prepped for crushing.  The tour was much more than just a way to provide everyone with extensive knowledge on Jackson-Triggs' harvesting process, it was really something special as the entire Jackson-Triggs facilities was designed with the consumer and winery tours in mind.  It was truly a gorgeous site.  

After the tour we were lead into the Jackson-Triggs traditional barrel cellar where we were treated to a delicious lunch prepared by Great Estate of Niagara Chef David Penny and Sous Chef Tim Mackiddie.

Vidal French Onion Soup
Niagara Gold Crouton
2006 Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Pinot Noir

Pan Seared Capon
Truffled Arugula
Quinoa, Confit Cherry Tomato
2005 Le Clos Jordanne Le Clos Jordanne Estate Vineyard Chardonnay

The atmosphere in which our lunch was served was beautiful.  The barrel cellar provided for an exquisite setting (it would make for one hell of a romantic dinner!) and it felt pretty awesome drinking such fabulous wine while surrounded by barrel upon barrel of finely aged wine.  Because he was unable to attend the award ceremony in May, winemaker for Le Clos Jordanne, Thomas Bachelder joined us for lunch to tell us about the wine being served, about the passion of winemaking, and to receive his award for the OWA 2009 Winemaker of the Year.  At the time of the awards, Bachelder had just stepped into of one of the most exciting moments in his career.  At the 2009 Judgement of Montreal, an 'outsider' wine (a wine submitted unbeknownst to the panel) was submitted into the mix, this wine was Le Clos Jordanne's 2005 Claystone Terrace Chardonnay.  Le Clos Jordanne shocked the judges when their Chardonnay beat out all of the wines from France and the United States.  To read more about this great achievement, see the press release: Canada's Le Clos Jordanne Mimics the Movie 'Bottle Shock'.  Wine writer, Order of Canada recipient, and founder of the Ontario Wine Awards, Tony Aspler presented Bachelder with the award and the traditional Winemaker of the Year gift, a beautiful watch.  

After lunch was finished, we proceeded to our bright red double decker bus, which took us to the next winery, Chateau des Charmes.  Once again, we were given a private tour of the winery, and learned all about the history of the Bosc family and their passion for wine, as well as a tasting session in one of the Chateau's tasting rooms.  Chateau des Charmes looks like a fabulous chateau, as it was one of the first wineries in Niagara (and possibly even Canada...I can't recall) to design their winery with visitors in mind.

After that, we hopped back on the bus and were taken to the newly renovated Inniskillin Winery where we enjoyed a magnificent candlelit tasting in the barrel cellar.  We tasted four different types of icewine, all served in Riedel Glassware.  Each icewine was delicious, which says a lot coming from someone who isn't a fan of icewine.  We tasted:

2007 Inniskillin Sparkling Vidal Icewine

2007 Inniskillin Riesling Icewine

2006 Jackson-Triggs Gewurztraminer Icewine

2007 Inniskillin Cabernet Franc Icewine

It was difficult for me to pick a favourite, because I enjoyed all of them so much.  But if I had to pick, I would say that the 2007 Inniskillin Sparkling Vidal Icewine was truly something special.  Our tour guide mentioned that many families have replaced champagne with this sparkling icewine to toast to at special occasions like Christmas or New Years.  I think it may have to become apart of the Rose family Christmas this year! The icewines were paired with the final course of our lunch, a light and delicious Lemon Mousse with Almond Praline and Vidal Caramel, a dessert I must try to replicate on my own.  

After a long and delightful day of wine tasting, touring, and eating, it was time to say goodbye to all the fellow guests, who might I add were all lovely, and head back on the road back to Toronto...well most people I guess.  I met up with some friends and continued my fabulous day in Niagara Falls where we hit the casino for an evening of celebration!  

To read my article on the 2009 Ontario Wine Awards, click here.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Cooking with my Oma: Ginger Ale Glazed Ham

I remember the first time I tried my Oma's Ginger Ale Glazed Ham. I must have been in about grade 5 or 6, and we were having one of our last Thanksgivings celebrated at our cottage (we sold the cottage soon after). I never liked Thanksgiving. I thought the food always looked really gross, so my sister and I would beg our parents to stop at a McDonalds or Wendy's on the way up North. Well this particular Thanksgiving I felt daring and wanted give the food a try. I made myself a little sampling of everything, just enough for a very small taste of each item, sat down with my plate, took a deep breath and tucked in. It was like I was experiencing an epiphany! So THIS is what all that Thanksgiving fuss is about! This food is incredible!! I couldn't believe that I had wasted so many years without this amazing meal!

The food item that was on the top of my list was my Oma's Ginger Ale Glazed Ham. The ham was good and fine, but that sweet ginger ale and onion sauce, wow! Now that made it! I think I had at least 4 large pieces of ham that year, each with huge heaping spoonfuls of the ginger ale and onion sauce. This is one of my all-time favourite recipes. It tastes out of this world, and is very simple to prepare. I promise you, you will love it! Thanks to my Oma for sharing her special recipe with me...and for having the guts to add 5 teaspoons of sugar!

half of a "fully cooked, ready to serve" honey & maple smoked boneless ham
1/4 cup ginger ale
5 heaping tsp sugar
3 tsp mustard
1 small onion, sliced

1. Place roasting dish (large enough to fit the ham) on the stove set to medium heat. Preheat oven to 325º.

2. Coat bottom of dish with olive oil. When oil is hot, add the onions and cook, while stirring, until onions become soft and translucent. If onions are browning too quickly, turn down heat. Add the ginger ale, sugar, and mustard and continue to cook a few minutes longer until mixture thickens slightly.

3. Add ham to roasting dish and, using a knife, poke several holes throughout the top and sides of the ham.

4. Using a baster or spoon, pour the mixture from the bottom of the dish over the ham.

5. Place in oven and bake for about 20 minutes (just to reheat the ham through).

6. Remove the ham from roasting dish and cut into slices. The onions sauce should have darkened, and be very sticky and thick like a syrup. If the mixture is not at this stage yet, scoop out the onions, leaving the sauce in the dish, and transfer them to a small saucepan. Continue cooking the onions at medium heat until they become even softer, stickier, and darker. Once they have reached this stage, continue to add the sauce remaining in the dish, a little at a time, until mixture reaches desired consistency. It's really all in the colour and texture. You're looking for extremely soft and sticky onions and a deep golden colour.

7. Spoon the onion sauce into a serving dish. Eat the ham topped with onion sauce.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cooking with My Oma: Apricot and Mandarin Orange Kuchen

As you may know from my entry on Plum Kuchen, there is a very special history between my Oma and I with eating various types of Kuchen (or cake in English).  Because of this long and special history with Kuchen, I have come to love the cake!  The German cake is not one of those cakes that is necessarily served for celebratory purposes.  Kuchen is the type of cake that can be eaten throughout the day with a mug of coffee.  Kuchen is very easy and fast to prepare and does not require additional shopping.  This is the type of cake that can easily be whipped up at the last minute, using nothing more than the items in your pantry.  

When my Oma and I made it on Tuesday, she wanted to make an Apricot Kuchen.  We did not have any fresh apricots, so she had planned on using canned apricots.  I normally don't like using canned fruits, but for this recipe it actually works to your advantage.  Firstly, as I stated before, this is the type of cake that is meant to use items from your pantry, ie. canned goods as well.  Also, because canned fruits are kept in a syrup, they soak up a lot of that moisture, which in turn, results in a much more moist cake.  Unfortunately, we only had one can of apricots, so Oma took out a can of mandarin oranges.  I immediately cringed!  Ew mandarin oranges in an apricot cake!  I didn't see how this could taste very good.  

Oma put me in charge of mixing the dough, pressing the dough into the pan, and topping the cake with the fruit and streusel.  Although I had trouble taking my mind of the fact that I was making a mandarin orange cake, I was able to pick up on some great tips to help make the perfect Kuchen.  Firstly, Oma says you must mix everything with your clean bare hands.  No machines here!  This allows you to feel exactly when the dough is ready, and she's convinced it adds more love as well.  Secondly, the last time I made my Plum Kuchen, I thought that the dough was too thin in the large pan that I was pressing it into.  So I scraped all the dough out of the pan and transferred it to a smaller one, which resulted in a denser cake that my family wasn't too fond of.  The dough is meant to be very thin when pressed into the pan.  This allows for each bite to be filled with the sweet flavour of fruit rather than the denseness of the cake.  

Next came the part I was dreading, adding the fruit.  I happily placed each apricot halve onto the dough and then stalled, hoping that we could put it in the oven without the mandarins.  Nope, Oma caught me.  She kept telling me to put more and more mandarins until I had used up the entire can!  When it came time to serving the cake to the rest f the family after dinner, I warned them all that it may not taste good because "Oma made me put mandarin oranges."  I cut the cake and reluctantly tasted my first bite.  Mmmm, it was delicious! Perhaps I had just tasted an apricot.  I ate the whole piece and it was all delicious! Who would have thought that mandarin oranges on a cake would taste so good! I absolutely loved the cake! It was so moist and flavourful, I took home a piece to save for later!  So I guess the moral of this story is, Oma is always right...unless we are talking about my mom's childhood crushes, Elvis not Ricky Nelson! Oma you owe me 5 bucks!
Note:  You can use whatever fruit you like in this cake, fresh or canned.  Apricots, mandarin oranges, strawberries, plums, blueberries, peaches, ANYTHING!  Use what you have!

3 egg yolks
1 cup butter, softened
about 2 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
2 cans fruit or about 1 1/2 cups fresh fruit, sliced (I used one 398 ml can pitted and sliced apricots, and one 284 ml can mandarine oranges.  Both cans with syrup drained)

Streusel Topping
about 1/4 cup flour
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla 

1. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine all cake ingredients and mix with clean hands until well combined.  The Dough should come together into a ball and feel smooth when pinched, so that you no longer feel the grains of sugar.  

2.  Grease and flour a round cake pan (about 14 inches in diameter), and press dough evenly into pan.  Top evenly with fruit.

3.  In the same bowl as used before, combine all streusel ingredients with clean hands until crumbs are formed.  If needed, add more flour.  Sprinkle evenly on top of cake.

4.  Bake in 350º oven for about 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.  

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cooking with My Oma: Potato Kugel

Potato Kugel (or Kugelis as my family calls it) is a type of firm potato pudding that is one of my Oma's signature dishes.  It is warm and comforting and can be served alongside almost any type of meat.  Kugelis is sort of like a giant potato latke, but with a smoother texture and bits of bacon, and just like potato latkes, Kugelis tastes incredible served with sour cream or my Oma's homemade apple sauce.  I have been eating Kugelis all my life, but it was only this week, when I learned how to make Kugelis with my Oma, that I truly understood why.

Kugelis is one of those dishes that makes me very thankful for my fast metabolism.  What you are about to hear may be quite shocking, but trust me, once you have tried Kugelis for yourself, you will forget all about the amount of carbs and fat you are consuming when eating the delicious side dish.  What you should also remember is that this recipe can serve a table of 10 people, plus leftovers.  So when you do the math, it really isn't as bad as it may seem at first.  And if you peeled all 6 pounds of the potatoes with an old fashioned potato peeler (as I did) you must have worked off at least half of what you gained...right?
Tip: The cream of wheat gives this dish a lighter texture without eliminating any flavour.
Note: You can easily cut all the ingredients in half to make a smaller portion.

about 6 pounds potatoes, peeled
about 1 pound bacon, cut in 1 inch pieces, plus rendered fat
1 large onion, chopped
10 eggs, beaten
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp cream of wheat
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp pepper
1 dash cinnamon 

1.  Fry bacon and onions until cooked (onions should be transparent).  Set aside along with rendered fat.

2.  Using a food processor with the fine grater or shredder disk attached, push potatoes through the feed tube, one at a time.  Once potatoes are all grated or shredded, attach steel knife into food processor and blend until the potatoes reach a pureed state.  

3.  Transfer pureed potatoes to a large bowl.  Add the reserved bacon, onions, and bacon fat to pureed potatoes, reserving some pieces (about 2 pieces of bacon, chopped) and a few tablespoons fat for later.  

4.  Add the eggs and stir until well combined.  Add the flour, cream of wheat, sugar, salt, pepper, and cinnamon and combine once again.

5.  Preheat the oven to 350º.  Grease a very large casserole or roasting dish with reserved bacon fat.  Pour the potato mixture into the dish and top with reserved pieces of bacon.  Bake for 1 hour.

6.  After 1 hour, reduce heat to 250º and bake for another 3 hours.  Serve on a serving platter with sour cream and apple sauce.  

Cooking with My Oma

People often ask me where I learned how to cook or what brought on my love of cooking and baking.  I have never been to culinary school or taken more than one cooking class in my life.  My love of food, cooking, and baking has come out of years of helping my mom and grandmother (my Oma) in the kitchen.  Both my mom and Oma are incredible cooks, and growing up, I was always encouraged to help them out in the kitchen.  Whether it was stirring a dough, cutting cookies, or filling flinzen (a rolled pancake or thick crepe filled with blueberries or sweet cheese), I was always on board to help!   I'm convinced that it was through cooking with my mom and Oma as a child that I have become so enthusiastic about cooking today.  

Although I can cook some delicious dishes, you really can't compare my food to that of my mom or Oma's, the Queen and Princess of comfort food.  There is just something about their cooking that I haven't been able to achieve as of yet.  So I decided to take action! I asked my Oma if she would spend the afternoon with me, cooking and sharing some of her recipes, so I could learn them for myself and be able to carry them on for future generations.  Our afternoon of cooking and baking turned out incredible! I had so much fun spending the day with my Oma, and am now confident that I can recreate her signature dishes on my own.   In the next upcoming entries I will share with you my Oma's recipes for Potato Kugel (or Kugelis as we call it), Apricot and Mandarin Orange Kuchen (or cake in Englsih), and Ginger Ale Glazed Ham.  

Monday, October 19, 2009

Maple Glazed Salmon

Maple Glazed Salmon is one of those super simple, fast, and delicious dishes that is the perfect mid-week dish. It contains simple ingredients that are on hand in most kitchens, and does not require any rigorous preparation. It is light and tasty and makes for a well rounded meal when served with vegetables and a type of grain. This time I made the salmon with sticky rice, asian slaw, and steamed asparagus with parmesan shavings. This dish can also easily be adjusted for more or less servings.

1/4 cup maple syrup
4 tsp grainy mustard
4 tsp soy sauce
2 Il salmon fillet
pepper to season

1. In a bowl, whisk the maple syrup, grainy mustard, and soy sauce until combined.

2. Season salmon fillets with pepper and lay in one layer in a baking dish.

3. Spoon the glaze over the fish reserving a few tablespoons.

4. Bake fish in a 400º oven for about 10 minutes, or until fish flakes easily.

5. Serve with reserved glaze drizzled on top.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Maple Pecan Squares

Last weekend I celebrated Thanksgiving with my family, which, for people who don't know me, is quite the occasion. Our Thanksgiving consists of my whole family coming together (we're talking aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, boyfriends, etc.) for an evening filled with appreciation for having each other and, of course, appreciation for wonderful food! The one thing that every member of my family can agree on, is that every holiday should be centered around delicious food! So for every holiday that we celebrate, we all come together, with each of us contributing to the meal in some way, to feast!

This year I offered to make a dessert. I wanted to make something with familiar Thanksgiving flavours, with a bit of a twist, that was easy to transport. This lead me to discovering William Sonoma's recipe for Maple Pecan Squares. Maple Pecan Squares are the perfect Thanksgiving treat filled with sweet and sticky maple syrup and brown sugar, a flaky crust, and crunchy pecans. The individual squares are like little handheld bites of pecan pie, making them less messy and easy to transport to your Thanksgiving festivities.

1 1/4 cups flour
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
8 tbsp (1 stick) cold butter
2 cups pecans, coarsely chopped

6 tbsp butter
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream

1. Preheat oven to 350º. Carefully line a 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, letting the foil extend up the sides and over the edges of the pan. Grease the foil liner.

2. In a food processor (or by hand), combine the fry crust ingredients: flour, brown sugar, and salt and pulse 2-3 times to blend. Add the butter and pulse until large, coarse crumbs form.

3. Evening press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the prepares pan.

4. Bake the crust for 12 - 17 minutes or until edges are lightly browned and firm to the touch. Set aside.

5. To make filling, in a saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, maple syrup, and brown sugar and stir together until the butter melts and the brown sugar has dissolved.

6. Bring mixture to a boil for 1 minute and remove from heat. Immediately stir in the cream and pecans.

7. Pour the hot filling over the partially baked crust, spreading evenly.

8. Bake for 22-25 minutes, or until filling has set. Allow to cool for about 1 1/2 hours.

9. Using the ends of the foil liner, carefully lift the large square out of the pan. Remove foil from edges and cut the large square into desired sized individual squares. Store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Grapes for Humanity: A Chocolate & Wine Fantasy

With an opening line like "they say chocolate is an aphrodisiac," you know it's bound to be an exciting evening.  Thursday October 8th marked Grapes for Humanity's epic evening, A Chocolate and Wine Fantasy, dedicated to superb wine and cuisine all in the name of a good cause.  The event took place at the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto where guests were invited to enjoy a five-course banquet prepared with Lindt chocolate, by Four Seasons Hotels executive chefs Ashley James (Los Angeles) and Claudio Rossi (Toronto), with matching wines.  The event is held to combine passion for wine with an important cause to raise funds and awareness to benefit humanitarian causes around the world, in particular providing a better quality of life for victims and survivors of disasters.   

The evening began with a Champagne and Chocolate Martini Reception, to allow guests to mingle and get their taste buds warmed up for the meal to come.  Although juggling a champagne flute and an hors d'oeuvre while attempting to gracefully shake hands with fellow guests can be quite the challenge, it was well worth it to have the opportunity to try as many of the succulent hors d'oeuvres as possible.  Champagne Veuve Clicquot Brut & Belevedere Vodka as well as Chocolate Martinis (Bottega Gianduia & Belvedere Vodka) were paired with the following selection of hors d'oeuvres:

Northern Thai chicken salad with lemongrass and mint in cucumber cups
Mini skewers of Concord grape and house smoked salmon rolls
Thunder Oak Gouda frico
Baked Petit phyllo tartlets with chanterelle fricassee
Crispy Arancini filled with goat cheese
Balinese chicken satays on sugar cane

Although I did not try every hors d'oeuvre (four out of six is impressive, I'd say) my favourite was the Crispy Arancini filled with goat cheese.  The little balls of risotto were perfectly crisp on the outside, with a warm and creamy interior, and a delightful surprise of mouthwatering melted goat cheese in the middle.  The Crispy Arancini were bursting with flavour, resulting in me still daydreaming about them today! 

As guests were ushered inside the elegant function room, they were encouraged to walk around to view the various items up for silent auction.  The large selection of silent auction items were all finely aged coveted wines from California and France donated by some of the world's most respected and renowned winemakers.  

Once everyone had taken their seats, Tony Aspler, President and CEO for Grapes of Humanity Canada, took the stage to welcome the attendees and introduce special guests Jean-Charles Boisset (Boisset family Estates), winner of this years Humanitarian Award and Ken Shaw (National Editor and Anchor, CTV News Toronto), the Master of Ceremonies for the evening.  All speakers emphasized the extreme challenge of preparing a five-course meal, with each dish incorporating Lindt chocolate, while still pairing the courses with appropriate wines.  I felt like I just stepped into the Iron Chef America studio, with the secret ingredient 'Chocolate," AKA every foodie and chocolate lovers dream come true!  A challenge like that could easily mean disaster, but extremely talented chefs Ashley James and Claudio Rossi rose to the occasion, creating, hands down, the best meal of my life!  The exquisite banquet went as follows:

Banana, Lemongrass and Coconut Soup, White Chocolate and Coconut Shrimp Skewer
(prepared with Lindt Excellence White Coconut Chocolate)
DeLoach Vineyards O.F.S Chardonnay 2007

Foie Gras and Vanilla-Scented Apricots 'au torchon,' a Peppered Milk Chocolate Paint and Brioche a tete
(prepared with Lindt Excellence Extra Creamy Milk Chocolate)
Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Blanc 2006
Domaine de la Vougeraie Vougeot 1er Cru 'Le Clos Blanc de Vougeot' Monople 2006

Licorice-Roasted Halibut Fillet, Sauteed Wild Mushrooms, Celery Root Puree, Pinot Noir Roasted Shallots, Fleur de Sel Chocolate Crisp
(prepared with Lindt Excellence Fleur de Sel Dark Chocolate)
DeLoach Vineyards Green Valley Pinot Noir 2006
Jean-Claude Boisset Gevrey-Chambertin 2006

Zinfandel Braised Prime Short Rib, Chili Chocolate Mole, Sweet Potato Puree, Crispy Plantain Chip
(prepared with Lindt Excellence Chili Dark Chocolate)
Domaine de la Vougeraie Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru 2006
De Loach Vineyards Forgotten Vines Zinfandel 2007

The whole meal was outstanding, incorporating the chocolate with just enough subtly to merely heighten the flavours of each course, while allowing each dish to exude layer upon layer of complex flavours.  The two stand-out dishes for myself were the Banana, Lemongrass & Coconut Soup, as well as the Licorice-roasted Halibut Fillet.  

The soup was impeccable and unlike anything I have ever had.  I have to admit, I was a little worried reading that the first course was a banana soup, but once again, each ingredient was incorporated into the soup to add various dimensions of character, ultimately creating a flavour sensation in a bowl.  The smooth soup was sweet and savory, with a hint of spice, all tied together with a single shrimp.  The Halibut was clearly a stand-out dish for not only myself, but the entire room, as you could very audibly hear a chorus of "mmm' throughout the room as everyone took their first bite.  The perfectly cooked and seasoned halibut was complimented by the sweet Pinot Noir roasted shallots (something I must try making at home), and savory sauteed wild mushrooms.  The creamy celery root puree added a smooth and comforting base for the halibut to rest on, with the fleur de sel chocolate crisp adding texture and a hint of sweetness. 

In between the dinner and dessert came time for the live auction.  Although Ken Shaw may not have the speed of a professional auctioneer, he sure knew how to get the room going as he enthusiastically announced each item up for grabs.  The thrill of the auction had everyone in the room "oohing," "ahhing," and cheering away as the the final bidders claimed their items.  This year, items included:
  • Domaine de la Vougeraie: Tour of the winery and lunch for two
  • The Ultimate Swiss Retreat Package
  • Dine with Rock Superstars Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson of Rush
It was clear to see that the excitement of the auction meant much more than the thrill of the bid.  What people were truly excited about was contributing to something so profound.  Unlike many other organizations, 95% of the proceeds from Grapes for Humanity go directly to those in immediate need.  Additionally, for the second year in a row, the Julia Burke Foundation has generously offered to match funds raised from A Chocolate and Wine Fantasy, dollar for dollar.  The list of projects that Grapes for Humanity has accomplished is far too long to list here, but to learn more, please visit the Grapes for Humanity site.

After the live auction, it was time for dessert.  You can imagine my excitement for the arrival of dessert with an event centered around chocolate.  I was so excited in fact, that I forgot to even take a photo of the final and striking dessert.  I dove right in!  The highly anticipated dessert was:

Warm Butterscotch Fondant, Caramel-Roasted Mini Apple, Gelato Fresco Chocolate Ice Cream
(prepared with Lindt Excellence Crunchy Caramel Milk Chocolate)
Neige Apple Ice Cider

The Warm Butterscotch Fondant was a mini decadent chocolate cake, oozing with warm butterscotch and chocolate.  The Caramel-Roasted Mini Apple was like the most superior baked apple in existence.  Both desserts were brought together with Gelato Fresco Chocolate ice cream, with its smooth milk chocolate taste and a touch of texture from the caramel crunch.

Needless to say, after a meal like that, you would surely regret wearing a form-fitting dress (boy, did I ever regret that!).  I walked out of the Four Seasons with my arm wrapped around my very full stomach, with my head feeling light as a feather from glass upon glass of wine, and my body ready to fall into a very deep chocolate coma.  Grapes for Humanity: A Chocolate Wine Fantasy was a fabulous success, bringing people together through their passion for wine and cuisine to support a very important cause.  

To learn more about Grapes for Humanity, visit their site

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cheaters Handbook: Country Kegger Caramel Apples

My friend Robin is incredible. We have known each other for a few years now, but it was only until this year that we grew really close. She is one of those friends that you can always count on, whether it's offering advice, sharing a huge portion of poutine, or cracking you up till you're crying laughing, she is just the best! But, I recently learned something a little....unsavory about my dear Robin, the girl....gosh, I can hardly say it...the girl loves Country music! I know, it should be a crime! But she just can't get enough of it. Because she plays it so much, it has gotten to the point where I wake up every morning to songs like Honky Tonk Badonkadonk, or She Thinks My Tractors Sexy stuck in my head! I kid you not, those are real songs! So for Robin's 22nd birthday this past Friday, she wanted nothing more than to host a Country Kegger at her house to celebrate the occasion.

Clearly I had to chip in to the food department for her birthday! Nothing gets me more inspired to cook or bake than a theme! I had thought about making a giant cowboy hat-shaped cake, but figured it would end up look like a big blob in the end. So that's when I thought of Caramel Apples. The first time I ever even ate a Caramel Apple was sitting on top of a hay stack at a farm, so I figured this treat would be perfect! There are several recipes out there for making Caramel Apples from scratch, but seriously, why bother when it is so super simple to make them the cheating way? Simply melt down some purchased Creamy Caramels, add some cream and you're good to go! Dressing up your Caramel Apples also adds a great personal touch to the individual treats. Nuts, candies, sprinkles, and other toppings are great to dress up the dessert. I personally love my Caramel Apples rolled in chopped nuts, but due to nut allergies in Robin's family, I refrained from it.

Despite the Country music, the party ended up being a wild success! A well deserved good time for one of the most beautiful people (inside and out) that I know! I love you Robin and wish you all the best for your 22nd year! xo

12 apples (approximately)
12 popsicle sticks or pieces of dowel
700 g Creamy Caramels (approx. 100 pieces)
6 tbsp cream

Additional Toppings:
chopped nuts
melted chocolate
chocolate chips
spun sugar
toffee chips

1. Remove stem from each apple. Insert popsicle sticks or dowel into the top of each apple. Set aside.

2. Melt Creamy Caramels with cream in the top pot or bowl of a double boiler on medium-high heat . Stirring occasionally.

3. While the caramels are melting, prepare a baking sheet large enough to fit all apples lined with a Silpat mat or wax paper. If using additional toppings, prep them in separate bowls.

4. Once caramel is smooth, dip each apple into the melted caramel, making sure to coat all of the apple. You may use a spoon to help to cover. Lift the apple out of the caramel and let the excess caramel drip off.

4. If using additional toppings, immediately top the caramel covered into your choice of additional topping or spoon the topping onto the apple.

5. Set the apples on the lined baking sheet to set, making sure the apples are not touching.

6. Let chill in fridge for about 2 hours. Eat within 2 days.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Preparing and Storing Fresh Herbs for the Cold

I think by now everyone knows just how obsessed I am with my herb garden.  It truly thrived this year, allowing me to create some incredible dishes, so you can imagine my fear at not having my herb garden until next Spring.  This year I want to prepare myself before the frost takes the life of my beautiful herbs.  There are many different ways to keep fresh herbs throughout the cold seasons, it just depends on which method works best for you.

Growing Herbs Indoors:
Although it can be quite difficult, it is possible to grow herbs indoors.  You just have to be sure to carefully select where you place each herb.  Each herb has particular growing conditions that allow them to remain the healthiest, so it important to learn about your herbs before bringing them inside.  Here are 2 lists of the top 5 and top 10 herbs for growing indoors, along with their preferred growing conditions.  Here is also some handy growing tips for keeping your herbs indoors provided by Eat Right Ontario .

There are also products available for purchase to help aid in the growth of your indoor herbs, such as the AeroGarden.  I have personally never used any indoor herb growing products (the price is a little high for me), but would love to hear any feedback from anyone who has used them!

Storing Herbs in the Fridge:
Before freezing all of my fresh herbs, I like to set aside some of my herbs to keep on hand in the fridge.  It is very simple to do this and your herbs will last for at least a week.  Simply wash and dry your herbs, wrap them in a slightly damp paper towel, and keep them wrapped in the paper towel inside of a ziplock bag in the vegetable drawer of your fridge.

Freezing Herbs:
Freezing herbs is a great way to keep your fresh herbs during the cold seasons, but the freezing process varies depending on the type of herb.  Soft and hard herbs are very different, and therefore must be frozen using different processes.  Kalyn's Kitchen has some great entries on freezing herbs that I followed for freezing my herbs this year.

If you have any other tips or tricks for keeping your fresh herbs throughout the cold seasons, please share them here!

Cheaters Handbook: Matzo Ball Soup

It seems everyone has a cold these days.  I've given up trying to prevent myself from getting it, because I think it's inevitable that we're all going to get it no matter what.  This past week my mum was sick with a cold, and of all weeks for her to be sick, this was certainly not a good one!  On Wednesday evening we attended (well, I worked the event, she attended) the Chilean Wine Festival in the Historic Distillery District's Fermenting Cellar, and on Thursday evening we attended Grapes for Humanity's A Chocolate and Wine Fantasy at the Four Seasons Hotel.  Two spectacular events that she could not be sick for!  How awful to have the opportunity to attend such incredible events, and not even be able to taste what is being served!  So to get my mum back into top form, I whipped up some Matzo Ball Soup for her. 

Matzo Ball Soup is very easy to make no matter which way you make it.  Matzo Ball Soup from scratch is delicious, but it is just as tasty when made from a package, you just need to know the right tricks and cheats to step it up a notch.  Let's face it, who really wants to slave over a hot stove making broth from scratch when you can easily spice up a bought broth in a matter of minutes.

Making matzo balls is insanely easy using a packaged mix (Manischewitz is one of the best brands), and they taste great.  Although packaged mixes only tell you the very basic way to make matzo balls, it is important to take the recipe a tiny step further by seasoning up your matzo balls with salt and pepper, and even go beyond that by adding some fresh parsley.  You may also add some texture and nutty flavour to your matzo balls by adding some chopped toasted walnuts.  If you would prefer to make your matzo balls from scratch, here is a a recipe from Cooking On the Side  that has been adapted from an episode of Bobby Flay's Matzo Ball Throwdown.  Also note that when you are forming your matzo balls, make them about half the size you want them to be once cooked.  The matzo balls puff up to double their size once cooked in the broth.

Additional Matzo Ball Add-Ins:
chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper
chopped walnuts

After you have made your matzo balls, (it is at this point that the matzo ball batter should be chilling in the fridge), it is time to kick up your broth.  When using any type of packaged broth, it is important to build on the basic flavour that they have provided you with.  Make the broth your own by chopping up some additional vegetables and fresh herbs.  Add the additional ingredients to the simmering broth 10 minutes prior to adding the matzo balls.  The additional ingredients add flavour, texture, and nutrients to your soup.  This time, I chose to add an extra hit of ginger, as ginger acts a fabulous natural cold remedy.   Below are some suggested additional ingredients to use as a guide:

Additional Broth Add-Ins:
chopped carrots (and/or heirloom carrots)
chopped green onions
chopped dill
chopped parsley
grated ginger
chopped leeks
chopped turnips
shredded cooked chicken

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Participate in Localicious!

Eat your way to a greener planet by participating in Localicious , a campaign aimed at drawing awareness to the significance in utilizing local and sustainable produce.  "From now until October 18th, WWF is making it fun to eat local through Localicious , WWF-Canada's first annual local and sustainable restaurant event.  Participating restaurants offer mouth watering local and sustainable dishes with partial proceeds going to WWF-Canada's vital conservation work.  You get to enjoy delicious local and sustainable dishes and help the planet!" (

To find a participating Localicious  restaurant near you, search here .
Download free homegrown recipes by some of Canada's top chefs!

MTV's Sharlene Chiu's Muttar Paneer with Mango Avocado Salad and Mint Raita

Canada's news reporter and segment producer Sharlene Chiu has brought music television in Canada back to the early days of Much Music's The New Music and Going Coastal, shows that revealed music beyond overexposed Top 40, allowing quality music to take the forefront.  Smart, passionate, trendy, and beautiful, while still having the ability to remain relatable to the general MTV audience, Chiu has become a strong female figure in the substantial sea of the MTV Canada cast.  It is clear that an extensive amount of research goes into each and every interview for Chiu, showing her true passion for music.  She has covered high profile artists such as U2, Coldplay, and the Killers, while still exposing the up and coming and/or under the radar artists like Cat Power, Beirut, and Vampire Weekend.  Chiu puts her research to good use by daring to go beyond generic and stereotypical questions, letting viewers really get to know their favourite artists.

At this point you must be wondering what a music reporter is doing on a food blog?  Well friends, Chiu's talent extends beyond the music stage, extending into the kitchen.  Yes, the woman can cook! While scrolling through Twitter updates, I came across Chiu's photo post on her Sunday night dinner.  " - cookin' up some muttar paneer, mango-avocado salad, and cucumber-mint raita!"  After seeing just how delicious the meal looked, I immediately asker her for recipes, to which she kindly replied back.  So enjoy, Sharlene Chiu's Muttar Paneer and Mango-Avocado Salad:

Mango-Avocado Salad
mango, peeled, pitted, and diced
avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced
red onion, sliced
tomatoes, seeded and diced
fresh parsley, chopped
olive oil
chipotle sauce
dash of paprika
salt and pepper

1.  In a bowl, toss together fruit and vegetables with parsley.

2.  Add enough olive oil to coat, as well as desired amount of chipotle sauce and combine.

3.  Season with paprika, salt and pepper.

Muttar Paneer (to use as a guideline) (source: )
16 oz. bag of frozen green peas
3 medium sized tomatoes
1/2 ib paneer, cubed into 1/2 inch pieces
3 tbsp oil + additional oil for deep-frying
pinch of asafetida
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 bay leaves
1/2 inch cinnamon stick
1 tbsp chopped ginger
1 tbsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Deep-fry paneer on medium high heat until they become a light golden colour.  Place on paper towel so oil is absorbed.

2.  Mix cornstarch with 3 tbsp water and set aside.

3.  Blend tomatoes and ginger to make a paste.

4.  Heat the oil in a saucepan.  Test the heat by adding one cumin seed to the oil.  If the Cumin seed cracks right away, the oil is ready.

5.  Add the asafetida, cumin seeds, bay leaves, and cinnamon and stir-fry for a few seconds.

6.  Add the tomato and ginger paste, coriander, turmeric, chili powder, and paprika.  Cook under it reduces to half.

7.  Add the green peas and 1/4 cup water.  Cook covered on medium heat.  When peas are tender, add the paneer, and season with salt and pepper.

8.  Thicken gravy with reserved corn starch mix, and continue to cook for several more minutes.

Follow Sharlene Chiu @sharlenechiu.
Follow me, Danielle Rose @thisgingerrose.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Packed Lunch Guide

I am a big advocate for homemade lunches.  Being a student, I would much rather take the extra 5 minutes out of my morning to make a healthy, and affordable lunch that I can bring with me to class or work.  I truly don't understand how students can complain about their financial woes, while at the same time, wasting a large chunk of money each day on costly, and, quite often, unhealthy meals.  I don't know about you, but I would much rather make a delicious meal from home to transport with me, and save my money to buy something special for the future!

I understand that many people feel as though they can't make a tasty lunch from home, that will still taste as good hours later, upon eating it.  But a simple search in your favourite food website will end that problem.  I did just that with some my favourite food sites and came up with an abundance of delectable options! Here is Martha Stewart 's take on brown bag lunches.  Epicurious  also has a wonderful Back-To-School lunch guide, which includes nutritional info, college student tips, and taste tests.  What are your favourite websites for packed lunch tips?

Just to prove my point on how much money you are truly saving, has created a handy little Sandwich Price Calculator , which allows you to calculate the exact amount you are spending on a homemade sandwich.  My multigrain sandwich with mayo, dijon mustard, salami, tomato, lettuce, swiss cheese, and processed turkey came out to a mere $1.40 using the Sandwich Calculator !  Sure the costs would be slightly off (we aren't all buying Kirkland brand bread), but you get the idea.

Image courtesy of

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Cheaters Handbook: Popeyes Biscuits

It's funny, I have never been inside a Popeyes in my life, nor have I ever even tasted a bite of their chicken, but I sure can't get enough of their warm and buttery biscuits. I have only had them a few times, because I refuse to walk into a Popeyes , purely for the intoxicating smell of friend chicken that makes me feel sick. So I knew that in order to fulfill my love of their biscuits, I would have to make them myself. I had thought that it would be difficult to find a recipe replicating the famous Popeyes Biscuits, but a simple google search led me instantly to several Popeyes Biscuit recipes. And what do you know, the recipe was as simple as can be!

This recipe for Popeyes Biscuits, from, is another Cheaters Handbook recipe. With the help of Bisquick mix, making your own Popeyes Biscuits is as simple as can be! In my google search, I found two variations on the recipe, one with 7-Up, and the other with Club Soda. I didn't have any 7-Up in the house, so I used Club Soda. I was very worried once I had combined the ingredients together, as the dough was incredibly wet. I could barely get it out of the mixing bowl, not to mention cut them into biscuits. After two failed attempts at cutting the sticky, wet dough with my biscuit cutters, I ended up just scooping them onto my baking sheet and trying to form them from there with a spoon and my hands (which, at this point, were covered with well as my sleeves and hair!).

Thank goodness the biscuits turned out wonderful! They were warm, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, with a delicious buttery taste. With a swipe of salted butter, my homemade Popeyes Biscuits were near perfection! I think that they would have been able to reach the point of perfection had I used 7-Up. I can see how the citrus flavour of the soft drink would give the biscuits a little extra flavour that I thought it was lacking, although I can see the recipe succeeding with the Club Soda with the addition of some salt. These biscuits are the perfect accompaniment to any fact, I think there is one left over that I am going to have right now!
Tip: Instead of using a biscuit cutter, scoop and form your biscuits with a trigger ice cream scoop.
Tip: Make this for your Thanksgiving dinner!!

2 cups Bisquick mix
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup 7-Up or Club Soda
1 tsp salt (if using Club Soda)
about 1/4 cup butter, melted

1. Cut sour cream into biscuit mix.

2. Add the 7-Up or Club Soda and stir to combine. If using Club Soda, add the salt at this point as well.

3. Pour half of the melted butter onto baking sheet.

4. Using a trigger ice cream scoop, scoop the dough, and release onto baking sheet. Do not allow the individual biscuits to touch, as they will spread once baked.

5. Pour the remaining melted butter on top of the biscuits.

6. Bake at 450º for 15-20 minutes.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

22nd Birthday Festivities

This past Wednesday was my 22nd Birthday (as you know from my little self-indulgent Birthday post on the day), and unlike previous years of failed attempts to make my birthday a drinking filled shit-show, with more acquaintances than friends, I chose to make this years birthday more low-key.  I would much rather surround myself with family and good friends, and have an intimate evening filled with good food, than try to live up to some stereotypical model of what a 22 year old birthday "should" be like. Yes, I did start some early celebrations prior to my birthday, going to the Kings of Leon concert and taking a road trip to Montreal, but for the actual day of my birthday, I wasn't looking for anything extravagant.  This turned out to be quite a success.  I invited my family and best friends over to my home for wine, appetizers, coffee and cake, which ended up making for a much more joyful celebration than I have had in a long time.  

I want to give a big thanks to my mum, who generously took the time to prepare a beautiful table filled with amazing food, drinks, and desserts, as well as my dad who filled the house with roses and balloons.  My mum, knowing that food would be my favourite part of my birthday celebration, prepared a TON of delicious food, which included:
  • Chilean Wine
  • Cocktail Shrimp with Dip
  • A Cheese Platter (with aged cheddar, triple-cream brie, creamy cambazola, and purple grapes)
  • An Assortment of Crackers
  • Kicking Horse Coffee
  • Apple Cheese Tort (my favourite!)
  • Raspberry Trifle
  • Lemon Coconut Squares
  • A Gluten-Free Chocolate Tart (purchased from Ikea for my grandfather and friend, who are both actually tasted really good!)
  • Macaroon Madness Bars (from M&M Meat Shops)
  • A Fruit Platter (with strawberries, pineapple, mango, and cantaloupe)
Thanks to my amazing family and friends for making my 22nd Birthday so special!  Here's to another great year!