Friday, April 22, 2011

Revolution: Taste the New Australia

My favourite wine club is at it again! May 6th marks the iYellow Wine Club's next big event! With over over 100 Australian wines, incredible food that includes...wait for it...A PIG ROAST, and a DJ spinning all night, this is sure to be one killer event!
iYellow is known to sell out of their events (trust me they're that good!)

iYellow Wine Club & Wine Australia Present...

Spend a Friday night rediscovering the A+ wines from Australia and meeting the people behind them!
Taste 100+ Aussie Wines
Meet wine producers from all over Australia
Savour amazing food station from Oyster Boy, Pig Out and Belly Catering
Spend time in our sparkling social media lounge and meet new friends, facebook and tweet with #apluswines

Friday May 6th 7pm-10pm
99 Sudbury loft and lounge

$50 + hst

Listening To: TV On The Radio - Tonight

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Planning Your Easter Menu

I love celebrating any holiday that involves delicious food, but Easter holds a special place in my heart (and stomach) because it marks the beginning of Spring. Although Easter arrives late this year and Toronto hasn't seen many sunny days in 2011 yet, knowing that Easter is only a few days away reminds me that warm weather is just around the corner as well! When planning an Easter menu I keep those same cheery thoughts of Spring in my mind to find my inspiration. After a long, dark, and cold winter, Springs lively colour palette and fresh flavours couldnt be more warmly received. Bold vivid colours, bright flavours, and a selection of dishes as abundant as the many flowers who's buds we'll soon see sprouting from the trees and ground are what I think of when I think of an Easter menu. Whether you celebrate Easter with a large potluck or an intimate dinner, my Easter menu options are perfect for any Easter celebration! Not only do many of the recipes mimic the colour palette of spring, they are also simple, with many of them giving you the option of making the dish in advance.

I like to think light when coming up with my sides and starters for Easter. After months and months of indulging in comfort food, having a selection of light snacks, veggies, and salads is the only route I want to go come April. I like to have a well rounded selection of sides when entertaining so I try to choose at least one "starch" option to make sure my guests leave feeling satisfied, at least one vegetables side, and at least one salad. Below I have provided a few options from each section. All of these sides may be prepared the day before serving to keep you stress-free come Easter Sunday.

In my family we always look forward to eating my Oma's delicious Ginger Ale Glazed ham for Easter, but over the years we have happily introduced other protein options in addition to Oma's infamous ham. Pulled pork is a great option for those who like pork but may not be a fan of ham, this recipe also allows you to make the star of your dish up to a day in advance. For those that can't eat red meat, my Maple Glazed Salmon the perfect sweet and savory option. Don't forget to whip up some hot Cheddar Bacon and Chive Biscuits to serve alongside your entree!

What's Easter without a sweet finale? My squares, cakes, and biscotti are sure to please any sweet tooth, but are especially handy when transporting your desserts to a friend or family members home. If you're having a more intimate gathering my Lemon Ricotta Crepes with Berry Icewine Sauce are a guaranteed show stopper.

I like to freeze fresh herbs and edible flowers inside of ice cubes to add a special touch to punch, soda, and even plain ol' water. It's a super simple little touch that everyone will notice!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Passover Dishes

Tomorrow marks the first night of Passover, which means goodbye to leavened breads and hello to matzo meal. It can be stressful planning a meal with restrictions such as no leavened breads, no mixing milk and meat, and no pork, so I have provided some of my family's Passover friendly recipes to help you and your family celebrate in the most delicious way possible!

A must have at every Passover meal.
The Seder Plate is essential in carrying out a complete Passover service (and essential if you want to eat any dinner!)
This delicious side dish is a traditional Passover dish in my family.
These sweet and sticky carrots enveloped in a honey sauce are sure to get every kid at the table eating all of their vegetables.
What's a Passover dinner without potato latkes?
This is the most basic recipe for potato latkes you will find, allowing you to experiment with different types of flavours of applesauce. These taste great with my Blueberry-Applesauce.
With the addition of matzo meal and baking powder (acceptable in most kosher homes) these golden potato latkes hold together beautifully with their crispy exterior and warm and soft interior.
Potato latkes are the best part of any Passover Seder, but what really makes these golden little pancakes so special is their topping. Sweet with a hint of orange and cinnamon, this homemade applesauce is incredibly easy to whip up!
For a richer-flavoured applesauce try roasting the apples. The slow roasting process intensifies all of the flavours creating an extra special potato latke topper.
Try something new this Passover and toss some fresh blueberries into your regular applesauce mix. Their tangy flavour adds a real punch to my Basic Potato Latkes.
With so many other things on your mind during Passover, it's nice to have a simple salad recipe to turn to. This is a very basic, yet delicious green salad to serve as a side at your Seder.
A great option for passover, these crunchy and flavourful beens can easily be made kosher for passover when substituting olive oil instead of butter.
Soups are a fantastic option for Passover as you can easily make them in advance, and simply reheat when ready to serve to your guests. Substitute olive oil instead of butter to make this kosher for Passover.
This is a delicious salad that is incredibly simple and can easily be made a day in advance. How great that one of my favourite salad recipes is already kosher for Passover!
It's easy to add your own personality to a boxed Matzo Ball Soup mix. Check out my easy tips here!
A delicious and hearty entree that will be sure to wow all of your Seder guests.
My all-time favourite Passover dish.
These sweet and crispy treats are the perfect light finale to any Passover Seder. I promise you your family will be asking for these over and over again.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Tomato and Basil Goat Cheese Tartelettes

It truly borders on creepy how much I adore fresh herbs. All winter long I complain about how none of my dishes seem up to par without the addition of bright and fresh herbs from my garden. So you can imagine my sheer delight when my mom brought home a tiny basil plant for us to keep indoors before it's warm enough to plant in the garden. One of my favourite ways to conceptualize a fantastic dish is to draw inspiration from a single ingredient, and build the flavours from there. My new fresh basil was the perfect ingredient to get my creative wheels turning to come up with this delicious appetizer.

I knew immediately that I wanted to make something with tomatoes as basil and tomatoes are best friends (maybe even secret lovers), their flavours compliment one another perfectly! From there I came up with the idea of making little tomato and basil puff pastry tartelettes, incorporating leftover pressed cottage cheese (also known as bakers cheese) with tangy goat cheese to add a creamy layer atop the pastry that the tomato slices could rest on. With the addition of some seasonings and savory caramelized shallots my tartelettes were delicious! Crispy on the outside with a warm creamy centre, soft, sweet and tangy tomato slices and bright and fresh basil, these tartelettes are perfect served alongside a mixed green salad.

Note: I added pine nuts as an optional addition to the recipe. I always ask my diners what they would suggest to make the dish even better, and pine nuts was the winning suggestion! A nutty crunch would be the perfect touch for this appetizer.

olive oil, for frying and brushing on pastry
1 shallot, chopped
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
butter, for frying
1/4 cup goat cheese
1/4 cup pressed cottage cheese/bakers cheese (if you can't access any, you may substitute with ricotta or cream cheese)
1 tsp dried thyme
1 package of frozen puff pastry rounds (do not defrost)
1 tomato, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
about 1/4 cup gruyere, shredded
6 basil leaves
handful of pine nuts , lightly toasted (optional)
salt and pepper to season

1. In a small saute pan, add a small amount of butter and olive oil and warm at medium-low heat. Add the shallots and saute until softened and golden. Add balsamic vinegar and continue cooking until shallot is sticky and glazed with the balsamic vinegar, about 2-3 minutes. Set aside.

2. In a small bowl, mix together the goat cheese with the bakers cheese and thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

3. Lay out the puff pastry rounds on a baking sheet. Lightly brush the pastry with olive oil. Evenly distribute the caramelized shallots among the centre of the pastries. Top evenly with the goat cheese mixture. Top each pastry with a slice of tomato, and season the top of each tomato slice with freshly ground pepper. Sprinkle the top of each tomato with the gruyere cheese.

4. Bake tartelettes in a 400º oven for 18-20 minutes, or until puff pastry is golden. Season each tart with freshly ground salt and pepper. Top each tatelette with a basil leaf and a sprinkle of pine nuts (optional). Served best warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lemon Ricotta Souffles with Mixed Berry Sauce

With a week since my last post, I bet you thought I had already begun neglecting my mission at pushing myself in the kitchen. No way jose! Not this time! Despite a busy and extremely draining week, I forced myself into the kitchen yesterday morning, all the while rubbing my sleepy eyes, to challenge myself with my very first attempt at making souffles! All week long I had been wanting to make a recipe I had bookmarked by award-winning cookbook author Nick Malgieri to use up some leftover bakers cheese (a dense, pressed cottage cheese, that is similar to the texture of very crumbly feta). Malgieri's recipe for Sweet Cheese Souffle with Compote of Cherries sounded delicious and actually quite healthy, and although he had used ricotta, I knew my bakers cheese would work perfectly in this light and airy dessert. Because this dish is light and not too sweet, I thought it would make the perfect sweet breakfast to start off one of the first beautiful Spring days in Toronto.

I decided to slightly tweak the recipe to cater to my taste a bit more. Instead of having a mixed citrus flavour in the souffle, I decided to only use lemon to create a more pure flavour, while also adding some of the juice and increasing the amount used. I also added a touch of vanilla extract, to add another subtle layer of flavour. I turned to one of my go-to sweet sauce recipes to use instead of Malgieri's Cherry Compote. Because I wanted to place my attention primarily on the souffles (you can imagine my near-paralyzing fear that they would sink), I wanted to make a sauce that I was 100% confident with, so my quick and easy Mixed-Berry Sauce was the perfect choice.

After hearing horror story after horror story about the dreaded sinking souffle, I was almost positive that mine would do the same. To my utter amazement the souffles turned out incredible. The light and airy little cakes puffed up gloriously above the ramekins, their golden tops begging for a spoon to be dunked in! They were the perfect amount of sweetness, with a hit of zesty citrus flavour from the lemon. The warm berry sauce oozed in and around the souffle, dying the cakes a stunning deep red, and keeping each bite moist. This is definitely a dessert I will be making again. It was incredibly easy, very impressive looking, outstandingly delicious, and best and most surprising of all, its quite healthy! With only a small amount of sugar used, this gluten free dessert, is the perfect option for cheesecake lovers looking to lighten up their favourite dish! And lets not forget all those antioxidants hidden inside those juicy berries!

Lemon Ricotta Souffles
Adapted from Nick Malgieri at
1/3 cup ricotta or bakers cheese (pressed cottage cheese)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup sugar, divided
1/4 cup cornstarch
the zest of 2 lemons, finely grated
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs, separated
pinch of salt
boiled water (for baking)

1. Set the oven rack in the lower third of the oven, and preheat to 400º. Grease and lightly coat with sugar 4 8-ounce ramekins, and place inside a roasting pan. In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the ricotta (or bakers cheese) with the sour cream until well combined.

2. In a small bowl, stir together half of the sugar with the corn starch. Add to the cheese mixture, with the lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla extract, and egg yolks. Whisk together until combined.

3. In the bowl of a clean and dry mixer, whisk the egg white with the salt on high until they hold a soft peak. Add the sugar, a little bit at a time, making sure it still holds a soft peak. Fold in about 1/3 of a cup of the egg white mixture into the cheese mixture. Working quickly, but delicately, fold in the cheese mixture into the egg white mixture.

4. Pour the mixture into the ramekins, leaving about 1/4-inch rim at the top. Pour boiled water into the roasting dish that the ramekins are set in, to a depth of about 1/2-inch. Bake the souffles until they have risen and are lightly golden on top, about 16-20 minutes. While souffles are baking, make the mixed berry sauce (see below). Serve souffles immediately with warm mixed berry sauce drizzled overtop.

Mixed Berry Sauce
1 cup fresh or frozen berries (any kinds you like!)
2 tbsp orange juice
2 tbsp ice wine (optional)

1. Add the orange juice to a small sauce pan and set at medium heat. Add the berries and stir. Cook the berries, stirring occasionally, until they have softened.

2. Using a potato masher, mash the berries until the mixture is a pulp-like consistency. Pour the mixture into a fine sieve resting over a bowl, and push the juice through, straining out the seeds. Stir in the ice wine (optional) and pour overtop warm Lemon Ricotta Souffles.

Listening To:
Tommy James & The Shondells - Crimson and Clover

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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Chili Mango Chicken

Last year this weekend I remember exactly where I was. The sun was shining, birds chirping, neighbors biking, parents gardeninJustify Fullg, and I was attempting to soak in every little bit of sun I could. Spring was truly in the air and I could already begin to taste the fresh and bright flavours of summer. This year, I find myself inside, at the computer, cuddled up in my bathrobe, music drowning out the silence of the outside world. Perhaps Mother Nature hasn't looked at her calendar lately, because she seems to have forgotten that it's supposed to be Spring! It's been a pretty chilly Spring in Toronto so far, but despite the cool breeze and cloudy skies, I can't help but find myself craving those same bright and fresh Spring and Summer flavours. I guess my mom was on the same page as me when she ripped a recipe for Chili Mango Chicken out of last weeks Toronto Star. Full of those familiar warm-weather flavours this was exactly the type of meal I had been craving.

This recipe was extremely easy and fast to make (especially when working as a team!), making it the perfect weeknight supper. For something so fast and simple I could not believe how insanely delicious this dish turned out! The tender chicken was moist and full of flavour from being enveloped in the sweet and spicy Asian mango sauce. When resting on a bed of brown rice this meal is satisfying, but light allowing you to feel energized and invigorated, rather than ready for a nap like much of the comfort food you find during the Fall and Winter. The recipe sounded delicious as it was, but of course my mom and I wanted to add some more flavours of our own. We hit the dish up with some toasted sesame seeds for nuttiness, red pepper flakes for heat, and although we didn't have it this time, we would definitely get some extra veggie-action going on by adding some sliced red bell peppers next time. I cannot emphasize enough how awesome this dish is, you've just gotta try it for yourself!

Recipe adapted from The Toronto Star
1 tbsp corn starch
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 tbsp canola oil
1 small red onion, chopped
1 tbsp grated peeled ginger
2 cups sugar snap peas, trimmed, strings removed
1 1/2 ripe mangos, peeled, pitted, diced
1 1/2 tbsp asian chili garlic sauce
2 tbsp sesame seeds, lightly toasted
1 red bell pepper, cut into chunks
1/2 tbsp red pepper flakes
steamed brown rice for serving

1. In a bowl large enough to fit chicken pieces, stir together corn starch, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Add the chicken and mix until all the pieces of chicken are coated. Let stand 10 minutes.

2. In a wok or large skillet, heat canola oil over high heat. Add onion and ginger. Cook until onion is softened, about 2 minutes.

3. Add the sugar snap peas and red bell pepper, stir-fry 1 minute using a spatula, keeping vegetables in near constant motion. Add the chicken and any remaining marinade in the bowl, and stir fry until the chicken begins to brown, about 3 minutes.

4. Stir in the mango, chili garlic sauce, red pepper flakes, and toasted sesame seeds. Season with pepper. Stir fry until chicken is cooked through and mango has softened to almost sauce-like consistency, 2-3 minutes. Serve with steamed brown rice.

Listening To:
The Drums - The Future

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Friday, April 1, 2011

Kitchen Essentials: Stock Your Cupboards

Moving out on your own for the first time? Been living in your place for a while now, but still have a desolate kitchen? Check out my article Kitchen Essentials: Stock Your Cupboards where I lay out exactly what you need to have a pantry full of kitchen essentials.

Listening To:
Beach House - Silver Soul

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