Saturday, December 31, 2011

CBC Daytime Holiday Set Tour

Time never flies like it does in December. I can't believe today is already December 31st and in just a few short hours I will be ringing in 2012 with my friends! With so many fun activities taking place in December, it's no wonder time can slip through your fingers so easily and leave you scrambling at months end to catch up on your responsibilities. This is where I'm at now, with a list of 10 blog posts yet to be written in front of me, I seem to be in catch-up mode, scrambling to recount all of the great experiences and recipes I have come across this month! One of those great experiences that I have wanted to share with you, was being invited to CBC Daytime's Holiday Set Tour and Lunch.

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be able to head downtown to the CBC to partake in their Holiday-themed tour, which not only allowed guests to view the sets of three CBC Daytime shows, Best Recipes Ever, In The Kitchen With Stefano Faita, and Steven and Chris, but actually meet the hosts and producers of the shows, and have an opportunity to learn about how each episode gets put together. I knew it would be an enjoyable day, but I had no idea how eye-opening and inspiring the experience would be, this was largely due to the amazing people I got to meet that day, from the other writers taking part in the tour with me who were so friendly and eager to learn about each others work, to the hosts and producers who so kindly and thoughtfully answered our questions and welcomed us into their sets, to every single other person who made the day possible (with an extra special thank you to Erin Richards for making the day such a smooth success). I had a wonderful time that day and on top of all the fun and laughter I got to walk away with some great recipes, tips, and DIY's that I can now share with you!

The first set we visited was the Best Recipes Ever Set, where we got to meet our first host of the day, Kary Osmond, as well as the shows producers. After watching a few episodes of the show at home, my first thought was how incredibly expansive the set was, in fact I might even say massive. The perfect kitchen in my opinion, allowing the chef a kitchen space and a dance floor all in one! The lunch we were promised was set out in a number of courses, presented in parts to us at each set. I almost felt like I was walking into Kary's very own kitchen as she served us the vibrant Sparkling Tangerine Punch that left me wanting more and more, and the cute and petit appetizers Walnut, Brie and Grape Salsa Tartlets. I have to admit, I was a bit in awe of Kary as she told us all about what led to her be in the position she is today hosting Best Recipes Ever. I saw so much of myself in her as she told us about her passion for cooking and how she had dreamt of hosting a cooking show, putting aside her other job to try and concentrate on making her dream a reality. I was riveted by her every word, and felt my own drive and passion coming to the surface again (where I want it to stay!) bringing that crystal clear image of my own goals firmly back into my head and heart.

By The Canadian Living Test Kitchen

As questions were answered, we learned that Best Recipes Ever is in partnership with the incredibly well respected Canadian Living, meaning that all of the Best Recipes Ever recipes come straight from Canadian Living's massive database of recipes, that have been tested to perfection by The Canadian Living Test Kitchen. This allows Kary the luxury of pulling from Canadian Living's repertoire as she pleases to come up with each episode. Hearing this, I couldn't help but think that Kary's got it pretty easy, simply pulling from Canadian Living's recipes...that is until I heard that they film three episodes each day, with three recipes in each episode, equaling nine recipes that Kary must memorize and be 100% comfortable with each day! Woah, now that's pressure! And the woman pulls it all off looking adorable with that fantastic welcoming and warm smile! Click the link above to get the recipe for the delicious Sparkling Tangerine Punch By The Canadian Living Test Kitchen that I will definitely be making soon!

Next up was In The Kitchen With Stefano Faita, a live audience show hosted by Montreal-based cookbook author and cooking show host Stefano Faita. I loved the rustic look this set had with exposed brick, chalkboard walls, old family photos and unfinished wood, totally up my alley! The set reflects Stefano and the show itself, allowing his own personal life to shine through, with the family photos coming straight from Stefano himself, and his family members names scribbled across the chalkboard. Once again, I felt as though I was stepping into Stefano's actual home kitchen as he eagerly served us sparkling beverages, appetizers, and a knockout dessert, his Layered Blueberry Pie (see recipe below). He told us all about how personal the show really is to him, featuring his own family recipes, some of which have been brought down through many generations, and all of which he serves up to his wife and daughter. With wild energy and a dangerously charming smile, Stefano reflected back on his life in Montreal, his family's kitchenware shop, and his grandmothers cooking. Being a live audience show, Stefano also emphasized the important role the audience plays in his show, encouraging audience members to come right up on stage with him to actually take part in the cooking themselves as well as helping to build on his fantastic energy. To get tickets to In The Kitchen With Stefano Faita and become an audience member yourself, click here!

Layered Blueberry Pie
By Stefano Faita

2 cups flour
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2/4 cup butter, room temperature cut into small cubes
1/4 cup milk, room temperature
1 egg yolk
Layered Filling
8 cups fresh blueberries
2 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup cream cheese
2 cups whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
lemon zest, for garnish (optional)

1. In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour, sugar, and salt. Cut the butter into the flour mixture with your finger tips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal.

2. Combine the milk and egg yolk. Stir it into the flour and butter mixture until pastry dough comes together. Form dough into a ball and flatten into a round disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour

3. Preheat oven to 375ยบ. Lightly flour your work surface. Roll the dough 1/4-inch thick. Transfer the pastry to a 9-inch tart pan and trim off the excess around the edges. Dock the bottom of the pastry all over with a fork. Line with parchment paper or foil. Fill pie with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove weights and parchment and continue to bake until pastry is cooked through, lightly golden and crisp, about 5-10 minutes.

Layered Filling
1. Add 7 cups blueberries and 2 cups sugar to a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until mixture reaches a jam-like consistency, stirring occasionally, about 20-25 minutes. Set aside to cool. Once the blueberry mixture has cooled, combine the remaining 1 cup of fresh blueberries. Set aside.

2. Soften the cream cheese at room temperature or heat in microwave until soft peaks form.

3. To later the filling into the pie: Spread cream cheese over the pastry. Then spread blueberry filling mixture on top of the cream cheese later. Finish pie with whipped cream. Let set in refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving. Garnish with lemon zest, if desired.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Last but certainly not least was the Steven and Chris Set, all decked out in different shades of purple and silver for their big holiday special. The entire set sparkled and looked absolutely magical covered in garlands, presents, ornaments, trees, and, of course, lots of spectacular food! Right as you walked in there was a large table set up with Steven and Chris' own brand of wine, as well as lots of liquor and mixers to make your own cocktails. As you continued into the space, your eye is immediately drawn to the stunning centerpiece of the whole room, the dining room and buffet tables, which featured many of the DIY holiday projects that Steven and Chris had put together for the show. They had so many wonderful ideas that they were so excited to share with us about how they made this extraordinary holiday set come together, such as putting the centerpiece, which was numerous gifts wrapped up beautifully, on a tray so you can easily remove it to place the turkey, and putting guests name tags on their chairs as opposed to the table to allow for more space. I almost hurt my neck from looking around everywhere to see all of the many DIY projects that they had created, which was literally everywhere you looked! My favourite of all of the DIY's was the
DIY Charcuterie and Cheese Platter that looked so amazingly striking on the long buffet table. Playing with different levels, colours, and textures all along the table, the spread looked positively seductive, leaving me super excited to recreate for myself at home! See below to learn how to make your own successful Charcuterie and Cheese platter using Steven and Chris' easy guide.

An extra special treat for myself and some of the other ladies I was chatting with at the set, was talking with Joanne Lusted, Steven and Chris' Food Producer, who I can happily say I have had the pleasure of meeting before. Joanne is one of those people that leaves you with your cheeks hurting from smiling so much. As I stated before, her energy is infectious, making you feel immediately welcome like you've been best friends for years, and making you say to yourself "now there's a woman who is doing what she loves!". Joanne heartily told us all about the food that was prepared that day such as a super easy, tender and delicious Beef Wellington and Coconut Shortbread and
Sugar Plums (email me if you'd like all of the recipes from the tour!), and when we began asking about the process in which the recipes are created, she lit up and led us straight into their exclusive test kitchen, an absolute privilege! It was so cool to be right in the midst of the action, as they worked on creating their next recipe a savory lobster mashed potato dish!

DIY Charcuterie and Cheese Platter
This is the perfect appetizer when you're pressed for time! No cooking allows you to relax while your guests arrive at their leisure. Let them graze and nibble happily while you sip a festive beverage and mingle.

The more kinds of meat and cheese you have, the more people will eat. So, for a cocktail party, if you set out only one choice of meat, an ounce per person will suffice. With two or three different meats, two ounces total per person. More than three, three ounces. For a party that goes on longer than a couple of hours, or for a dinner party, double these amounts.

Pick 3 Cheeses:
A Soft Cheese
A Blue Cheese
A Hard/Sharp Cheese

Pick 3 Meats:
A Dry-Cured Meat
A Cooked Sausage
A Dry-Cured Sausage

Add Complimentary Items
When laying out your meat and cheese selection, you can intermingle the meat and cheese, or arrange them on two separate platters...It's up to you!

When adding garnishes, try and place sweet items such as dried pineapple, apricots, and honey next to the salty cheeses. Acidic items such as pickles, cornichons, or olives should be placed next to the meats. Nuts are especially good with the cheeses as well, and can be drizzled with honey to make them a perfect pairing to salty cheeses especially.

Garnish Ideas
Fresh or dried figs, dried apricots, almonds or pecans candied or original, dried cranberries, honey, fig jam, aged balsamic, grapes, cornichons, olives, walnuts, honeycomb, dried pineapple.

For all the recipes from the tour, email me at!

Listening To:

Thursday, December 15, 2011


One of the things that I love about having a food blog is getting to hear about and try new products that I've never had the opportunity to experience before. I get a lot of offers these days to sample and review new products, so I've had to become a little selective in which one's I choose to try. But the ones that always seem to grab my attention are innovative health and wellness products. If you've been reading my blog for the past year, you'll know that for years now I have been battling with skin and stomach problems, both of which I can now say are because of my diet. I have eaten very healthy my whole life, always following the philosophy of "everything in moderation", but every body is different and mine requires a little extra that I often neglect merely because I'm not familiar with other options or, let's be honest, the other options just aren't that tasty. So each time I hear about a new product that may help me to improve my diet, I jump right on it!

The most recent health and wellness product that I was given the opportunity to try was Cavena, the rice of the Prairies. Cavena sparked my interest for numerous reasons, it is:
  • Naturally high in protein
  • Wheat free
  • Low in saturated fatty acids and sodium
  • Free of cholesterol and trans fatty acids
  • High source of fibre
  • Good source of iron
  • Grown in the Prairies, Cavena is proudly Canadian!
With so many positive benefits to this new grain, I couldn't imagine not giving Cavena a try! I decided to try out Cavena rather than using my usual brown rice in a stir fry. Cavena was very simple to cook and the 40-minute cooking time allowed me plenty of time to chop up all of my vegetables and chicken. Before tossing the Cavena in with the stir fry I had to do a taste test. Right off the bat I loved Cavena's standout nutty flavour and thought that flavour would be a great addition to my stir fry. What also caught my attention was Cavena's wonderful chewy texture. I absolutely loved the texture, although I didn't think that Cavena on its own would be right for the stir fry. I quickly made up some brown minute rice to mix in with the Cavena in the stir fry with the ratio of Cavena to rice 3:1. This turned out to be the perfect solution! The stir fry was delicious with that awesome nutty flavour from Cavena shining through in each bite, as well as the wonderful chewy texture (not too chewy thanks to the addition of brown rice!). It was so simple for me to substitute Cavena into my meal and it really took the dish to a whole other level in terms of flavour. I loved how Cavena worked out in my stir fry but I can see Cavena also tasting fantastic in salads especially grain salads with wild rice or quinoa! If you're looking for a healthy new grain to add to your diet, I would definitely recommend giving Cavena a try! Let me know what you think!

Listening To:
Joy Divison - Love Will Tear Us Apart

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Pusateri's 25th Anniversary

Last Tuesday on a windy night in Toronto, I headed out to Pusateri's Avenue and Lawrence location to celebrate their big 25th Anniversary! After their recent infestation scandal only two months ago, all eyes were on the gourmet food store to see how they would rise above the unfortunate turn of events. With their reputation at stake, Pusateri's truly had no other choice but to go all out for the occasion of their quarter-of-a-century anniversary, so my expectations walking into the event were already quite high.

As my mom and I drove up to the store to park, a wave of disappointment came over me as I saw the sea of cars and people attempting to find their own way into the free-of-charge event. I couldn't help but imagine the swarms of greedy people that must be inside, vying for whatever food was available. Luckily we quickly found a parking space close by and found ourselves in a short line outside the store, blocked off with curtains, with guests kept toasty warm thanks to space heaters and servers handing out piping hot cider. In next to no time at all, we were inside the event, thrust into the busy crowd weaving their way around the aisles. Despite the bumper-to-bumper crowd of people with slow-moving, shuffling footsteps, there was no obstacles in getting to the food. Everywhere I looked I would find a server or two carrying trays of warm and delicious food samplings, in addition to food stations often preparing fresh samples right in front of you!

With a glass of Prosecco in one hand and a food sample in the other at all times, the ear-to-ear smile I was donning literally never left my face! I was in foodie glory tasting everything from angus sliders, avocado and lobster grilled cheese, prosciutto, lobster tempura, smoked salmon, mini pizzas, fine cheeses, pasta, sushi...oh my goodness, this list could go on FOREVER! I couldn't believe how much food there was! There was almost as much food as there was plastic surgery, and if you know Pusateri's, that's a hell of a lot! But out of all the food I tasted, my hands-down favourites were the creamy wild mushroom risotto scooped fresh out of a giant wheel of parmigiano reggiano, and the oh-so-decadent mini chocolate-filled icing sugar-dusted doughnuts and mini cannoli's. I savored each and every bite of the extremely generous serving of the risotto and couldn't help but go back for seconds of both the doughnuts and cannoli's.

Before the crowd even began to thin, both my mom and I were stuffed to the brim, (with myself a little tipsy) and ready to get into our pj's and hit the hay. I have to say that I was truly blown away by the wonderful hospitality and generosity from Pusateri's by throwing such an incredible event. They 110% exceeded my already-high expectations and certainly succeeded in maintaining their reputation for quality and excellence!
Nice move Pusateri's!

Listening To:
Notorious BIG - Party And Bullshit

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Buttermilk Cornbread

If you work with me you'll know that not a day has gone by in months that I haven't talked about cornbread. The obsession started a few months ago when a friend suggested I check out Memphis Smokehouse, raving about their delicious barbeque. I definitely enjoyed their flavourful, fall-off-the-bone ribs, and their other barbeque was alright, but what I really couldn't get enough of was their cornbread! Before trying out Memphis' cornbread my only other cornbread experience that I could recall was tasting a jalapeno cornbread that a friend, who is also a fantastic cook had made a few years ago that I can unfortunately remember like it was yesterday. I swear I can still taste that dry and crumbly cornbread that I had to immediately and as gracefully as possible deposit into the nearest napkin. It was at that moment that I decided that I was no fan of cornbread. I turned my nose up at cornbread ever since, assuming that that must be what cornbread always tastes like because my friend is such an incredible cook and baker. It was only when I went to Memphis Smokehouse, where cornbread is served with their mains that I thankfully gave cornbread another chance. Hot out of the oven, soft, and moist, their cornbread was absolutely delicious! Of course my first thought after tasting something so yummy is always "Ok, so how can I make this at home?" The recipe research began!

I found a very basic recipe that I thought would be a good start, and adjusted a few ingredients along the way to suit my own taste. I was serving up pulled pork that same night and wanted my cornbread to act as a dipper to sop up all that delicious slow-cooked sauce that the pork was enveloped in, so I knew that I absolutely did not want to make a sweet cornbread. Because I had never made cornbread before, I ended up following the recipe pretty closely, choosing to only adjust the sugar this time around. I cut the sugar down to 1/3 cup, (as opposed to the suggested 3/4 cups EEK!) which resulted in a just-sweet-enough cornbread rather than what would have been more of a sweet breakfast cornbread. With my sugar adjustment, I ended up with a great basic cornbread. More dense in texture than the one at Memphis, this cornbread could definitely handle the dipping duties that I had hoped it would, keeping it's form and not crumbling everywhere when topped with the very saucy pork. As I stated in my entry on Pumpkin Spice Cookies, I don't feel comfortable writing out recipes that I have found online, and playing them off as though they are my own. Despite my adjustment on this Buttermilk Cornbread recipe, I would certainly not consider this recipe my own, but that doesn't mean that I don't want to share a simple and successful recipe with you! So follow the link below and adjust the sugar amount to achieve what I believe to be a great basic cornbread recipe to serve up as a side with your next dinner! I can't wait to start playing around with more cornbread recipes to come up with one that I can truly call my own!

Listening To:
I saw Lana Del Rey perform at the MOD Club a few weeks ago and man, that voice is awesome live!