Saturday, March 31, 2012

Secret Weapon: Spectrum Naturals Asian Stir Fry Oil

I like to approach cooking and baking with the same curiosity and creativity that I used to approach art assignments in grade school and university. I was very fortunate growing up to have an artist as my father, which meant that our house was always chock-full of just about any art supply you could ever imagine! The possibilities for creativity were endless in our house, with inspiration lurking around every corner! I don't get to create as much art as I'd like nowadays, but with my passion for cooking and baking, I've found new ways to channel my creative energy. Just like my abundance of art supplies always inspired me in my art assignments, I find that having a well stocked kitchen and fridge, full of interesting ingredients and tools, can always inspire me to create something delicious! A new little feature that you're going to be seeing on my blog is Secret Weapon, where I fill you in on some of my favourite ingredients and tools that I find most helpful and inspiring for me in the kitchen.

Today I want to introduce you to one of my most recent Secret Weapons, Spectrum Naturals Asian Stir Fry Oil, an ingredient that seems to make it's way into my skillet almost every day! Best for stir-frying, sautéing, and drizzling, I find myself continuously reaching for Asian Stir Fry Oil whenever I'm looking to kick up the flavours in a dish. Combining organic soy, peanut, and toasted sesame oil all in one, I love that I can use this one bottle rather than cluttering up my counter with a number of different flavoured oils. Infused with ginger, garlic and green onions, I love to start off my dishes with the oil as a base to enhance the other flavours present in the dish. Even something as simple as quickly tossing steamed green beans in Asian Stir Fry Oil can totally transform a boring side dish in next to no time! More than just a fantastic flavour booster, Spectrum Naturals Asian Stir Fry Oil has no preservatives or additives, is trans-fat free, a good source of Vitamin E, a source of Vitamin K, and has comparative health benefits to the ever popular olive oil, which helps to lower cholesterol and risk of heart disease. Click here to find a store near you that carries my Secret Weapon, Spectrum Naturals Asian Stir Fry Oil and start kicking up the flavours in your meals today!

Listening To:
Young The Giant - Cough Syrup

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Cheese Blintzes

Just like music, food has this incredible ability to conjure up old memories. Some of my favourite foods today have made it onto the favourite list simply because of nostalgia. As a child I was very lucky to have two sets of grandparents who were always there to pick my sister and I up from school, babysit us, and keep our tempers at bay by keeping us well fed. Both of my grandmothers have now made it into numerous blog posts thanks to the many delicious food memories they have provided me with. Although my Baba, my Jewish grandmother, wasn't exactly a master chef, she definitely had a slew of dishes in her repertoire that my sister and I went wild for! Luchen Kugel, hamentashen, cottage cheese and noodles (so simple, but I loved it!), sponge cake, and of course, a specialty for all Jewish grandmothers, cheese blintzes. I have so many incredibly vivid memories of sitting around my Baba and Zhada's kitchen table with my sister, and my other girl cousins Tori and Leah, devouring cheese blintzes and discussing the best ways to top them (Leah, I'll never forget that you loved yours with maple syrup!). I loved my Baba's cheese blintzes so much, I would ask for them every single time I went to her house, and sometimes, when I would get in fights with my parents I would "run away" to Baba and Zhada's house, hoping for cheese blintzes to comfort me. Of course the blintzes were delicious, but what made them even more special was how Baba would often serve them.

When not at the kitchen table, you could find my sister, cousins, and I in the living room, sitting at the small portable table that we would lug up from the basement, dressed in ether rags or Baba's old dresses and négligée's, china tea cups in our hands, enjoying a very sophisticated tea time as we ate our blintzes. Baba, a true girly girl through and through, absolutely loved seeing us all dolled up in her gowns that we were practically swimming in, hearing us talk in our idea of "lady talk" and "lady voices", while we sipped on sometimes tea, sometimes apple juice, and ate our favourite blintzes. And my sister, cousins, and I all loved it even more!

As we got older, we saw less and less of tea time, but our love of Baba's blintzes never faded. Baba would continually go through the laborious task of preparing her blintzes for us whenever we asked for them, just to see our smiling faces (the best lesson Baba ever taught me was to always smile!). Just as we got too old for tea time, my Baba eventually got too frail to make us blintzes. Refusing to let go of tradition and one of our favourite Jewish dishes, my dad and I eventually took on the task of making cheese blintzes. We had the routine down pat, he would make most of the filling, with me measuring our ingredients for him here and there, one of us would make the crepe batter, and he would fry up the crepes, two at a time, while I quickly filled and rolled them with the creamy cheese filling, a routine that has now become a whole new tradition for my dad and I.

Time sure does fly, as a few weeks ago we were celebrating Baba's 91st birthday! On the day of her birthday my dad, sister, and I took Baba out for a nice birthday lunch, where she was the one all dolled up this time, looking like a glamazon movie star! I unfortunately couldn't make it to her little shin dig that her caregivers helped plan for her on the weekend after her birthday, so to make up for it, I took on the task of making a massive double batch of cheese blintzes that she could serve to her guests. Although the cheese blintzes aren't quite like the ones Baba used to make us, I'd say they're pretty darn good, stuffed with as much filling as I could possibly fit into each crepe, extra creamy from sour cream, with just enough sweetness, and a hint of freshness thanks to the addition of lemon juice and zest. Baba, I hope that my blintzes were able to put a smile on your face just like yours always did for me! Happy birthday Baba! I love you!

Note: This recipe yields about 12 to 16 blintzes. I doubled it for Baba's party.

Tip: Save any leftover cheese blintz filling to make Stuffed French Toast!

3/4 cup flour
1 cup milk
3 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar

1. Whisk or process (using a food processor) all ingredients until blended.

2. Refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.

3. In a lightly greased crepe pan or frying pan, fry crepes approximately 30-40 seconds on one side or just until no more moisture remains on the top of the pancake. Set aside to fill.

1 1/2 Ib. dry cottage cheese (sometimes called "bakers cheese")
1 egg yolk
2 - 3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
the zest of 1/2 a lemon
2 - 3 tbsp sour cream (add more or less depending on how creamy you like your filling)

1. Add all ingredients into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel knife attachment. Process until smooth. Place filling in fridge until ready to roll inside crêpes.

To Fill Crepes and Cook Blintzes:
1. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling on browned side of crêpe. Fold to seal like an envelope. Repeat with the remaining crêpes and filling. Place filled crêpes in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to cook. Save any remaining filling to make stuffed french toast!

2. To cook blintzes, melt butter in a skillet at medium heat. Place blintzes in skillet, starting with seam side down, and cook on each side until golden all over. Serve immediately with yogurt, sour cream, fruit, or maple syrup.

Listening To:
Frank Ocean - White

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Quinoa with Kale & Hot Italian Sausage

Cooking and baking with new and unfamiliar ingredients can feel really intimidating, so much so that it's easy to find yourself feeling limited with your options of what to make. I used to feel nervous about cooking with new and even newish ingredients, always choosing to look up recipes as opposed to creating my own. A few months ago I decided to change my perspective on how to look at these new ingredients. Instead of seeing my options as limited, I chose to look at it as an opportunity for experimentation! This new perspective was what helped me to create this awesome side, Quinoa with Kale and Hot Italian Sausage. Still familiarizing myself with both quinoa and kale, I had no recipe in my repertoire using the two together, nor could I think of anything similar where I could substitute in one of the two ingredients, in place of something else. It's at this moment that you can look at this as a dilemma or an opportunity. In this day and age, our answer to most dilemmas is the internet. Hit up Google, and do a quick search on "quinoa and kale" and I'm sure you'll find plenty of recipes that you can easily replicate in your own kitchen. But just like choosing to take the longer, but more scenic route home, choosing to do a quick search in your own fridge as opposed to the internet, will be more challenging, yet more rewarding in the end. And this quick search in my fridge was all I needed to find my quinoa with kale inspiration.

I immediately found one hot Italian sausage that had to be used up, which I knew would taste great with the quinoa and kale. Now all I really needed was something to "dress" the quinoa with, and a few more little flavour enhancers. With a jar of store-bought pesto sauce reaching its final days in the fridge, I knew I had my dressing. Following my instinct and tasting every single step of the way, I ended up with a side that I am so incredibly proud to call my own! Full of flavour, and packed with tons of health benefits, I was so excited that I had created this dish with not two, but three unfamiliar ingredients! Although I had never used Umami paste before, nor had I even tried tasting it before, I figured, what better time to give it a chance! Umami paste, which is made primarily of spiced tomatoes and anchovies puréed, is known as "the fifth taste" as it is distinct from the four other tastes of sweet, salty, sour and bitter. I didn't want the pesto to overwhelm the other flavours in the dish, so Umami paste was a great way to find the balance I was looking for. Umami paste isn't something that most people have on hand yet (although I would recommend picking some up!), so you can easily substitute that out, taste it and add more pesto sauce, lemon juice, or something else to your liking. Trusting both my instinct and my palette, as well as mustering up my confidence, was all I needed to create a successful dish in unfamiliar territory. The next time you're faced with a cooking challenge, forced or interested in trying out a new ingredient, take a chance on yourself! Take that risk and prove to yourself that you can find the answer to your kitchen dilemma on your own, no "googling" necessary. And hey, what's the worst that can happen if you don't succeed? You have three meals a day each and every day to make up for it, but this time around you have the advantage of applying your knowledge of what didn't work out the last time around. So now I want to know, what's an unfamiliar ingredient that you've taken a chance on in your kitchen? Was the experience as rewarding for you as it was for me? Let's share!

1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 cup water
1 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, puréed or minced
1 small onion, chopped
1 uncooked hot italian sausage
1 cup Cookin' Greens Frozen Kale
1 tsp umami paste (optional)
1 1/2 tbsp pesto
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp lemon zest
lemon juice, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp chopped parsley

1. In a small pot, pour in the quinoa and water. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to low heat, and cook for 15 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a medium skillet at medium-high heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions begins to soften. Cut one end of the casing of the sausage and squeeze out the insides straight into the skillet. Break up the pieces with a spatula or wooden spoon, and cook until sausage begins to colour and crisp slightly.

3. In a separate small skillet or saucepan, bring 1/2 cup water to a boil, reduce heat down to medium and add the kale. Cook for 5 minutes. Drain and squeeze out any remaining water.

4. Pour the sausage and onion mixture into the cooked quinoa. Stir in the cooked kale, umami paste, pesto, lemon juice and zest. Taste and season with salt and pepper, and additional lemon juice if needed. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve hot or warm.

Listening To:

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Swooning Over Campagnolo

416 364 4785
832 Dundas St. West

For months now I have been eagerly awaiting a special occasion to check out Campagnolo, one of Toronto's hot spots, located on trendy Dundas West. Specializing in rustic mostly Italian fare, Campagnolo is known for its "good honest come cooked food", with many comparing much of the menu to the type of food your "nonna" would make. Turning out a new menu each day based on what's fresh and in season, Chef Craig Harding certainly has his work cut out for him. With rave reviews left, right, and centre, it came as no surprise that in order to get a reasonably-timed reservation, we had to book our table about three weeks in advance. Although if you're looking for an get early or late dinner, you may get lucky with a walk-in. The special occasion I had been waiting for to finally check out Campagnolo was my moms birthday. With my mom, aunt, and sister in tow, we walked into Campagnolo with high expectations, and walked out with smiles on our faces, full bellies, and a wonderful experience.

Unpretentious, casual elegance.

Crisp on the outside, and warm and tender on the inside, succulent slow roasted short rib shredded and breaded in homemade breadcrumbs, with horseradish mustard adding moisture and giving the bitterballen a great little zip. This composed little dish is like your grandmothers beef roast reimagined.

Burrata is a treat that I don't get to indulge in very often due to this decadent cheese's high price tag. So when I am able to splurge a bit on one of my favourite cheeses, I want to make sure it's done right! For months now I've been hearing people rave about Campagnolo's sinfully delicious Fresh Burrata Cheese with Roasted Grapes and Toasted Bread, and this dish sure didn't disappoint. A warm, soft, and buttery pillow of fresh burrata cheese sits atop crisp toasted bread, drizzled with fruity olive oil, with the roasted red and green grapes adding a touch of sweetness. But it was the hint of saltiness that really brought this dish together, allowing the subtle flavours of the burrata to really sing.

Unfortunately, the only disappointment of the night. I loved the fennel in the tomato-based sauce, but with the fishy taste and slightly mushy texture, it wasn't my favourite. I was glad to have saved my final bite of "bitterballen" for last.

Walking into Campagnolo, I already knew that I wanted to order some sort of pasta, because, quite frankly, I just can't say no to house made pasta at a great Italian restaurant. This dish caught my attention firstly because pappardelle is my favourite of all fresh pastas, and because I wanted to go a little bit outside of my comfort zone. I have actually had a pappardelle and rabbit dish before at another restaurant, and as much as I loved the flavour, there was something about the texture of the big pieces of rabbit in the dish that made me a little squeamish. I decided to take a chance on a pappardelle and rabbit again at Campagnolo and boy am I ever glad I did! This was one of the best pasta dishes I think I have ever eaten, with the silky ribbons of fresh pappardelle enveloped in a salty broth, and delicious pieces of savory shredded rabbit and meaty black trumpet mushrooms making its way into each and every bite, all topped off with freshly grated parmesan cheese and chives. As full as I was after all those appetizers and a big plate of pasta, there was no way I could leave so much as one noodle behind. I savored every single bite, swooning over the delicious flavours and textures. I can imagine that from afar, it must have looked as though I was having a love affair with my plate of pasta.

Thoroughly satisfied and stuffed to the brim, it would have been easy for us to turn down dessert...that is, until we heard the dessert specials. My face lit up at the sound of Campagnolo's Tahitian vanilla ice cream coated with toasted shredded coconut, resting in a pool of coconut fluff, with sous vide pineapple, hot chillies, and fresh mint. With such a fantastic meal already, we were curious to see if the dessert would hold up to the rest of the meal. Once again, we found ourselves blown away by the unique flavours in this dish. My favourite part of this dessert was the hot chillies, which added an explosion of flavour to each bite, balancing out the sweet coconut fluff. Right on point with both flavours and textures, cross your fingers that this will be on the menu on your visit to Campagnolo.

Despite the disappointing mussels, my meal at Campagnolo was still one that I would consider extraordinary. The food was simple, unique, and absolutely delicious, the atmosphere welcoming, and the service exceptional. I would highly, highly recommend checking out Campagnolo for your next special dinner out, in fact, I'm pretty sure I've recommended it to every single person I've spoken to in the two days since dining there!

Listening To:
Jesus and Mary Chain - Just Like Honey

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Brussels Sprouts in a Bacon Vinaigrette

Brussels sprouts, the vegetable that comes with a reputation. The first time my tongue had ever touched a brussels sprout was no earlier than last winter, when it was served alongside a roasted cornish hen that just looked too delicious not to order at Parts and Labour. All my life I had heard about how "awful, bitter, and inky-tasting" brussels sprouts were, so I made a point of staying away from them. I saw countless TV shows and movies enact this "brussels sprout myth" as children and adults alike would grimly move their sprouts about their plate, never allowing them into their mouths. Just like that misunderstood kid in school who got the reputation for being "weird" (I may have been that kid...), brussels sprouts just need to be given a chance to express what makes them so special. My reaction to finally tasting my first brussels sprout at Parts and Labour was something along the lines of "Really? This is what people have been complaining about all this time? These are delicious!". So why is it that brussels sprouts have gained such a negative reputation? The trick to making brussels sprouts is to remember two steps: 1) Score the core. 2) Overcook and you overlook.

The first step is a quick little prep tip that will, in turn, help us with step two. Scoring an "X" into the centre of the core of each brussels sprout allows for more even and quick cooking. This is an incredibly helpful step because overcooking brussels sprouts leads to those awful, bitter, inky-tasting sprouts that they have gained their reputation off of. Overcooking brussels sprouts firstly affects the texture. Yes, you want the leaves tender, but you don't want them anywhere near mushy! Overcooked brussels sprouts also have a very different flavour. Brussels sprouts contain glucosinolates, which are actually really good for you, but release more and more sulfur the longer they are cooked, which significantly affects their taste. So we know brussels sprouts downfalls, but what is it that makes them so great? First and foremost, I love their appearance and texture, like little itty bitty cabbages, but with the most tender, buttery little layers of leaves. The many different types of preparation for brussels sprouts can utilize the texture and form of the sprouts to enhance their flavour. For instance, many people love their brussels sprouts leaves slightly crisp around the edges to add a touch more texture. I'm also a big fan of the health benefits of eating brussels sprouts, as they are packed with Vitamins C, K, and A, as well as manganese and folate. Just do a quick search on the health benefits of brussels sprouts to see the many ways they can provide antioxidant, cardiovascular, inflammatory/anti-inflammatory, detox, and digestive support, and even more! Their extensive health benefits make brussels sprouts another veggie that we can add to our growing superfood list!

As much as I do enjoy brussels sprouts, they're not exactly a mouth-watering food when you just hear "brussels sprouts". Now "Brussels Sprouts with Bacon" is definitely a title that can trigger some serious mouth watering action. I love this recipe because it is simple and really delicious with the contrast of textures with the crisp bacon and tender sprouts, and the sweet and tangy vinaigrette that lightly coats the sprouts. I not only enjoyed eating this because of the great flavour, I also felt really good about eating it because I knew how good it was for me! Do something good for both yourself and brussels sprouts reputation and whip up these tasty sprouts with your next meal!

Tip: To ensure even and quick cooking for your brussels sprouts, score your sprouts. Simply use the tip of a sharp knife to cut an "X" into the centre of each core.

Tip: Ever wonder why some recipes call for placing your vegetables in an ice bath after cooking? This quick and easy step is not to be skipped as it helps to stop the cooking process of the vegetables as well as reserve their colour, so you end up with crisp and vibrant veggies!

Adapted from Williams Sonoma
4 oz. bacon slices, cut widthwise into 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 onion, finely minced
2 tbsp cider vinegar (I didn't have any so I just added 1 tbsp apple juice and 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar, which worked great!)
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp grainy mustard
1/2 tsp dried thyme
5 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 lb. brussels sprouts, trimmed and scored with an "X" in the core

1. In a sauté pan over medium heat, cook the bacon until browned and crispy. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Pour all but 1 tbsp of the fat into a heatproof bowl or mug and reserve. Add the onion to the remaining fat in the pan and sauté over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, brown sugar, mustard, thyme, and onion. Slowly begin to pour in the olive oil in a slow and steady stream, while continuing to whisk. Set aside.

3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the brussels sprouts and cook until tender, 4-6 minutes. Drain, then transfer to a bowl of ice water. Drain well, then cut them in half lengthwise and place on a paper towel-lined baking sheet.

4. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, warm 2 tbsp of the reserved bacon fat. Place the brussels sprouts, cut side down, in the pan. Cook, without moving them, for 4 minutes, or until the cut side begins to get some golden colour and the edges are slightly crisp. Transfer to a bowl and add enough vinaigrette to lightly coat the brussels sprouts. Stir in the bacon and serve immediately.

Listening To:
Radical Face - Doorways

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Mott's Clamato: The Shamrock Caesar

Just in time for St. Patrick's Day, Mott's Clamato's newly appointed Caesar Mixing Officer, Clint Pattemore has created a festive and mouthwatering Shamrock Caesar to tantalize your taste buds this St. Patrick's Day weekend. What better way to ring in the Irish holiday that celebrates well...drinking, than to show your friends that you're the life of the party by mixing up a batch of Clint's Shamrock Caesars. Everyone expects beer at a St. Patrick's Day celebration, so why not stand out from the crowd and do something unique and unexpected by serving a cocktail with beer in it! Featuring Guinness Beer, Clover Infused Jameson Irish Whiskey, Mott's Clamato infused with Clover and Rosemary, and garnished with vibrant green cherry tomatoes and a lime wedge, this cocktail is St. Patrick's Day drinkified (yes, I just made up that personified...but for drinks). I like to think of this cocktail as Canada's unofficial St. Patrick's Day beverage. Here's wishing you a delicious, blurry, and safe St. Patrick's Day weekend! And remember, caesars make a great hangover beverage as well ;) Cheers!

Recipe by Mott's Clamato CMO Clint Pattemore
The Shamrock Caesar
2 oz. Guinness Beer
1.5 oz. Clover Infused Jameson Irish Whiskey
2 dash's Nag Jolokia Pepper Sauce
2 dash's Worcestershire
3 grinds fresh cracked salt and pepper
5 oz. Mott's Clamato infused with clover and rosemary
rim fresh cracked salt and pepper

Garnish: Lime wedge, green cherry tomatoes

1. Combine all ingredients (except Guinness) in a mixing glass full of ice. Roll three times and strain into a rimmed serving glass full of ice. Garnish by pouring the Guinness over ice, securing a lime wedge on the glass, and green cherry tomatoes on top.

Please Drink Responsibly.

Listening To:
Notorious BIG - Party And Bullshit

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Carrot Ginger Soup & Yummy Mummy Club Foodie of the Week

Hey everyone! How fantastic is this premature Spring we're getting in Toronto right now?! Seriously, there's nothing like Spring in Toronto to spark my creativity and productivity! More than just the weather, I'm also currently inspired by a fantastic book I just finished called The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari. This motivational book is one I've been working away at for over a month now, as I was dedicating each week to reading one of the short chapters, with each chapter highlighting a particular life lesson. I would try to apply the lesson that I had learned each week to my own life, and now having just finished the book two days ago, I feel like a whole new person! It feels amazing. It may sound crazy, but I feel as though my mind and body is buzzing with this newfound positivity! I really hope I can keep it up! I found a PDF of the book online, so it's easy and free to give the book a read and see how it will affect your own life.

I'm also feeling so incredibly positive thanks to the Yummy Mummy Club featuring me as their Foodie of the Week! No I'm no mummy, but I do love all things yummy, and I do love the Yummy Mummy Club for their great content on food, health, style, culture, home, and life! This is a site that I'm sure will become apart of your daily blog reads just like it has for me! I'm really proud of this feature, and was really glad to have an opportunity to share my love for my Oma, who makes an appearance in one of my answers. Check it out!!

I also wanted to share with you a soup that my mom and I made a few months ago that was so comforting, simple, and delicious you're going to want to make it right away! If I were a soup, this would be me: Carrot Ginger Soup. I would re-name it Carrot Top Ginger Soup if it weren't for the awful inevitable reference to the "comedian" (quotations because I do not find him funny) Carrot Top, who quite frankly scares me and makes me embarrassed to be a redhead. We found the recipe for this tasty soup on, but doubled the amount of carrots and ginger to give it a thicker and creamier consistency, as well as a hint of spiciness from the ginger. With its vibrant colour, this soup would look beautiful on the table at your next dinner party! Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Listening To:

Dairy Goodness Recipe Makeover

We all have our "go-to" recipes that we know inside and out and love, that always seem to find its way onto our table each week. As much as we love these convenient "go-to's" it's easy to become tired of them and crave a switch up. Thanks to Dairy Goodness Recipe Makeover, you can kiss those same old same olds goodbye! and submit your recipe for a chance to have it transformed! Each monthly round will feature a new recipe to be transformed by three Canadian food bloggers, which will then be voted on by YOU! I am very happy and proud to say that I am one of the lucky food bloggers who will be featured to transform your recipes in round three! They are taking submissions for routine recipes to be made over NOW, so start submitting your recipes and vote on your favourite recipe from round one!

Listening To:
Beach House - Real Love

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Friday, March 9, 2012

Savory Chicken & Vegetable Crêpes

When you're hitting your stride in kitchen you feel unstoppable, invincible, exhilarated, like you can take on any dish and rock it like a pro! It's a great feeling being that high and full of confidence, but on the other hand, when you're so high up, all it takes is one minor blunder to send you crashing back down. I know how discouraging it can be to take a chance and produce a failure in the kitchen. It's hard when you can visualize such a clear image of the end result, and plan everything so meticulously, just to see it falter. You want to give up and throw in the towel, proclaim to the world "I WILL NEVER EVER MAKE THIS AGAIN!" and it's easy to do just that. Put your failure behind you and never look back. But that, my friends, is a true sign of failure. I've changed more than I can believe in the past few years, and I hate to say that I used to be that person who would give up at the first sign of failure...but not before a big dramatic breakdown on the kitchen floor, tears streaming down my apron and splashing onto the tiles. As I've grown over the past few years, I've thankfully learned that giving into your emotions and allowing something so trivial to affect your pride will not help anyone or anything, especially yourself. You won't learn anything, you won't grow, and you certainly won't walk away with even an an ounce of pride. The real trick to overcoming failure, is to turn your failure into an opportunity.

One of the very first recipes that I ever made up on my own was also supposed to be one of the first recipes I would post on my blog, Savory Chicken Crêpes. Give a little look around Ginger Rose and these crêpes are nowhere to be found, that is until now. I remember making these crêpes about a year or so before I had even thought about starting a blog. I found a recipe on the web for chicken in a creamy sauce that I replicated and stuffed into warm crêpes and they were a wonderful success, leaving my family begging for them again throughout the rest of the year. Being a bit of a scatterbrain at the time, I had never copied down the recipe, figuring that I would remember one so simple, and of course I could not. Nor could I relocate the recipe. I was on my own armed with a pound of chicken and a carton of heavy cream...I swore that that and some butter and seasoning was all the recipe had called for...wrong again. The second time around, when I had made up the recipe from memory, I had one of those awful breakdowns on the kitchen floor. The sauce was flavorless and refused to thicken, the chicken dry and rubbery. I was devastated that I had failed at something I was so confident I could produce. I hated the words of encouragement that my parents were giving me, saying it was just as they had remembered...I knew it wasn't and felt like such a failure. I told them it was impossible and that I would never make them ever again, which upset my mom. For months and months my mom kept telling me and her friends about how her favourite thing that I make is Savory Chicken Crêpes. It made me so mad that she kept calling this failure her favourite, and I'm sure that I blew up at her more than once because of it. It was two years ago that I had a major wake up call in life. I didn't want to be scared of failure anymore, I wanted to feel confident in myself, and feel like I truly had worth. It took a lot of time and struggle to get to where I am now, and in so many ways I am stronger than ever. Thank goodness for my moms persistence and encouragement. Where before all I heard was nonsense from her when she spoke of my famous chicken crêpes, I now finally started to hear something different. I heard an opportunity. How much of a failure could something really be if it had stood out in my moms mind so clearly? I started listening as she told me that maybe the dish wasn't perfect, but she loved it and knew that if I kept working at it, I would end up with something that I would feel more proud of than if I had found instant success in it. She encouraged me to keep working at it, buying me all the ingredients needed, and stating that she would be happy to eat all the leftovers of my so called "failures" until I got it right. So this year I finally gave those Savory Chicken Crêpes another shot!

I looked at my last attempt at the crêpes with a new perspective, viewing each misstep as an opportunity. I now knew what did not work and exactly what was needed to make this recipe perfect. I plotted out the entire recipe and process, prepped everything in advance, and went to work. To my delight it was like the stars had aligned. Succulent, juicy chicken made the perfect base for the thick, velvety, and incredibly flavourful sauce. Crisp veggies added texture and colour that the previous crêpes were lacking. The crêpes were even more delicious than they were that first time around, and I have to tell you, it felt SO F***ING GOOD!...excuse the language, but there's really no other way to express it. I can't tell you how proud I felt to serve a beautiful dish that I had put so much thought, work and love into and see my family enjoy it so much. My mom was absolutely right. Knowing that I had failed in the past and really working at the dish, made me feel even better than if I had found that instant success. And you know what? I felt that good, and the crêpes were still not perfect! To be honest with you, in a lot of ways many would still consider the dish a failure, as everything but the sauce was cold. Nope, I refused to see that as failure! I simply adjusted the recipe with this new information, rolling the filled crepes and popping them into the oven to re-heat, a step that now allows me to proudly say that I have made the perfect Savory Chicken Crêpes! If it weren't for those "failures" in the past, I would have accepted the dish just as it was, not working to improve it to reach perfection. So what's the lesson I'm trying to teach here? It's by no means new, as we've all been hearing this same statement since preschool: Practice truly does make perfect!

Note: This recipe takes a bit of experience in the kitchen because of the roux. If you've never made a roux before, it generally takes a few times to really get the feel for it and find success, but don't let this discourage you! If your sauce refuses to thicken, cheat! Stir in some cornstarch this time around, and keep practicing that roux until you get it right!

Tip: Prepare crepes the day before or morning of to save on time!

3/4 cup flour
1 cup milk
3 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 tsp salt

1. Whisk or process (using a food processor) all ingredients until blended.

2. Refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.

3. In a lightly greased crepe pan or frying pan, fry crepes approximately 60 seconds on one side or until edges are brown, and approximately 30 seconds on the other side. Continue until all batter has been used. Set aside, or store in the fridge overnight wrapped in plastic wrap.

Filling & Sauce
1 Il boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed or cut into strips
1/4 tsp paprika
salt and pepper
1 chicken or vegetable Bouillion cube
1 cup boiling water
1 tbsp olive oil
1 Il asparagus, trimmed
3/4 cup mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups hot cream or whole milk
1 bay leaf
2 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp fresh thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup gruyere cheese, grated

1. Season chicken cubes or strips with salt and pepper and paprika. Dissolve the Bouillion cube in the boiling water and stir to dissolve. Set aside. Grease a shallow, medium casserole dish and set aside.

2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Cook the chicken, in batches, for about 2-3 minutes on each side, or until golden and cooked through. Set aside.

3. Turn the heat down to medium, add the mushrooms to the pan and cook for 3 minutes. Add the asparagus and continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes, or until mushrooms are softened and asparagus is cooked but still crisp. Set aside.

4. Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the butter to make the roux. When butter is hot, add the flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Begin adding in the cream, a little at a time, allowing the cream to thicken slightly with each addition. Add in the dissolved Bouillion cube and water, a little at a time, reserving 1/4 cup. If your sauce has not reached a thick consistency at this point, whisk in a little bit of corn starch, keeping in mind that a little goes a long way! Simmer on stove until ready to serve. If sauce gets too thick or you want more sauce, add in the reserved 1/4 cup Bouillion liquid.

5. Stir in the bay leaf, dijon mustard, thyme, oregano. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

6. Working one at a time, fill each crêpe with a bit of the chicken, vegetables, and a drizzle of sauce. Roll and place in the greased casserole dish, crêpes may be touching. Continue with the rest of the crêpes, reserving some sauce for serving. Sprinkle evenly with gruyere and bake in a 350º oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until cheese has melted. Serve each crêpe immediately in a bed of the remaining sauce.

Listening To:
Fleetwood Mac - Rhiannon

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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Leftover Lovin': Turkey Pot Pie

I am the queen of procrastination, as I'm sure you all know by now. I can turn any simple task into a trek up Mount Everest, making myself believe that something is much more difficult and grueling than it truly is. The mind is a funny thing, tricking me into believing that writing a blog post on how I used up my Christmas leftovers is a far more intimidating task than cleaning my bathroom, or in some cases even cutting my own hair.

"Nope, I can't write that blog post right now, I have to clean the bathroom! And what better time to see if I can give myself a haircut! And hey, while we're at it, why not walk all the way to the drugstore and buy an at home waxing kit!"

Some would call my justification and excuses for procrastination absolute insanity! The problem with procrastinating is that the longer you leave a task, the worse it gets, giving you more and more reasons to put it off even further. Which brings me to this very entry, my recipe for Turkey Pot Pie, or how I used up my Christmas leftovers...yup, you heard me! Christmas leftovers! UGH! What the heck is wrong with me?! In case you've been hibernating these past few months, we are now three days into March! March! Christmas has been over for more than two months! What the heck is wrong with me?! As ashamed as I am that I left a Christmas leftover recipe until March, I can see the bright side of this sad little situation I've gotten myself into. I'm hoping that this entry will become a reminder for me about why I should kick my procrastination habit in the bud, and in the future just suck it up and DO THE WORK!

As much as this recipe seems irrelevant at this point in time, it is absolutely a recipe that you can make all year round. No, most of us don't exactly have turkey leftovers kicking around our fridge very often, but luckily you can easily substitute cooked chicken into this recipe, making it the perfect weeknight fix all year! What I love about this recipe is that you are totally transforming your leftovers so that you don't feel like you've been eating the same thing all week long (really, how many turkey sandwiches can one have in a week?), while still achieving that same comfort factor that you originally had with a roasted turkey (or chicken) dinner. Because I was short on time, I wanted to simplify the pot pie even further. I thought back on some of the best pot pies I've had in my life and the one that stood out the most was made by my good friend Rita, who made Ina Garten's Individual Chicken Pot Pies at a dinner party once. The individual pot pies did not have a crust inside, only a thick, flaky crust on top. I initially thought that I would miss the crust on the bottom, but the filling was so delicious, and there was so much pastry on top that I didn't notice the missing pastry inside! Although I wasn't making individual pot pies as Rita had, I still only wanted to put the pastry on the top to save myself some time on a busy weeknight. I was a little concerned that the final dish wouldn't be successful because I was also not making my pastry from scratch, as Rita had also done (she's putting me to shame right now!). Thankfully the puff pastry topping turned out great! I still achieved that delicious flaky crust that I was craving, and had enough so that I could get a little bit of that yummy pastry in each bite, a great contrast in texture and flavour with the hot and bubbling savory filling. Turkey is a holiday menu staple for my family, and I have a feeling this Turkey Pot Pie will make its way onto our table as our holiday leftover staple after each and every one of those holidays!

2 tbsp butter
1 onion, chopped
2 cups carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1 bay leaf
2 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup cream, heat to hot
1 1/2 cups cooked turkey, shredded (may substitute with chicken)
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed

1. Preheat oven to 400º. Grease an 8-inch casserole dish with butter, set aside.

2. In a large skillet, melt the 2 tbsp butter over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, oregano and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft. Add the chicken stock and bay leaf and continue cooking over medium-low heat, until stock is hot.

3. In a medium saucepan, melt the 1/3 cup butter over medium-low heat. Add the flour and continue cooking, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the hot cream and continue cooking f while stirring until mixture thickens. Slowly begin adding in the chicken stock mixture a little at a time, while stirring. Remove the bay leaf. Add the shredded turkey, frozen peas, salt, and pepper.

4. Pour the mixture into the greased casserole dish. Roll out the puff pastry to cover the top of the casserole dish. Place puff pastry over dish trimming excess pastry. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until puff pastry is puffed up and golden. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes. Serve in shallow bowls.

Listening To:

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Grilled Chicken, Korean Style

Now that Kitchen Crashers is up on the blog I can finally resume my regular posts! Kitchen Crashers took a lot of my creative energy and, being a true Libra, that meant a whole lot of procrastination. Well procrastinator no more, because I'm motivated and energized to get back into action! I've got lots of great recipes that I've created over the past few months that I'm super excited to start posting, but I also want to start sharing more than just my own recipes with you (like I used to). I come across so many wonderful recipes that are perfect just as they are, that don't make it onto the blog because I haven't made any revisions and adjustments. They're great recipes, but I no longer feel comfortable posting the recipe for you on Ginger Rose when it's entirely not my own. I also want to begin posting more frequently, so sharing photos and links of recipes created by others is the perfect opportunity to make that happen. I've also got my Tumblr account back up and running, where I share both food and non-food related things that I find interesting, so definitely give that a look! I also want to take the opportunity to thank my readers who have still been checking out the blog throughout these inactive months. I appreciate your patience and loyalty more than I can express! I'd love to learn more about you, what you like to cook and eat, and what you'd like to see on Ginger Rose, so let's start getting the conversation going! The Ginger Rose fan page is the perfect place to interact with both myself and other Ginger Rose readers. So if you haven't already "liked" my page, what the heck are you waiting for?! Give it a "like" and say 'hi!' Why not post a link of the last great recipe that YOU made! I wanna hear all about it! What's the last great recipe that I came across? Williams Sonoma's recipe for Grilled Chicken, Korean Style was delicious, easy, and quite quick to prepare. I still can't work my grill, so I made it in a grill pan, which worked great. It was a big hit at my house and I think you'll love it too! I mean just look at that photo! Hungry yet? I even loved the leftover chicken the next day cut into a fajita. Give it a try the next time you're stumped on what to make for dinner! I hope you enjoy it!

Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band - Express Yourself

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