Monday, May 27, 2013

Weekly Roundup - Getting Fresh This Patio Season

Pork Tenderloin with Moroccan Couscous - There's nothing that makes me more happy and inspired than collaborating in the kitchen. One of my favourite kitchen collaborators happens to be my boyfriend Chris, and lucky for me Chris has a roommate, Adam, who also loves to cook! I absolutely adore coming up with a new recipe to make and heading to St. Lawrence Market, which is literally right next door to their condo, and get inspired by all of the fresh produce available. For our most recent kitchen collaboration, Adam decided to try his hand at a recipe for pork tenderloin that the chef at his office told him about, and Chris and I had found a delicious sounding recipe for Moroccan Couscous by Chef Michael Smith. Adam's pork tenderloin turned out divine, perfectly cooked by searing in a pan on each side for about 3-4 minutes, then placing in a very hot oven for only 8 minutes, perfection! We were also thrilled at how well the couscous had turned out! Filled with lots of exotic spices, dried fruits, nuts, and orange juice, the Moroccan couscous was so incredibly flavourful! I will most definitely be making that recipe again...and again! Get the recipe and make it yourself here!

Happy Mother's Day - Mother's Day is always a special holiday, reminding us to take a moment to recognize all of hard work and love that our mothers bring into our lives. Mother's Day means a lot to many people, but I feel it means even more to me, because my mom is one of my best friends. So incredibly warm and loving, with a wicked sense of humor, and so many interests that we both share, my mom is one of my favourite people to spend time with. Here's my mom back when she was probably around my age, looking like the absolute goddess that she is. What a woman. I only hope I can be even a fraction as incredible as she is when I become a mom one day.

Happy 85th Anniversary Chatelaine  - I have been reading Chatelaine magazine for as long as I can remember, sneaking copies from my mom, other family members, and doctors offices to indulge and drool over all of their incredible triple-tested recipes. I have always admired their commitment to relating to the average woman, providing them with an incredible resource for easy, accessible, and reasonably-priced recipes that they would feel proud to share with their own family. It blows me away to think that this year Chatelaine is celebrating their 85th anniversary! To celebrate their anniversary, I decided to make their 10-minute crepe recipe and shake it up a bit but making them into an old family favourite, cheese blintzes! Check out Chatelaine's recipe for 10-Minute Crepes and my recipe for Cheese Blintze Filling

A Coffee-Themed Wedding Shower - I have been to several wedding showers before, but never before had I been to one quite as big as my friend Elisa's. Held at a hall with a multi-course dinner, appetizers, and open bar, Elisa's shower was as big as her and her fiancé Chris' love for one another. Of course the food is always my favourite part of any party, but what really grabbed my attention was the theme. A big coffee addict, the theme to Elisa's shower was coffee! Each guest walked away with a package of espresso and also had the opportunity of walking away with all sorts of coffee accessories, thanks to the draw that had all the guests buzzing. And yes, perhaps I did match my outfit to the theme, wearing a coffee coloured dress. 
Shells in Arrabiata Sauce with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes & Ricotta - One of my all-time biggest pet peeves is using grocery-store-bought jarred tomato sauce. Sure there are some OK ones out there, but when you consider how quickly you can whip up a scratch-made tasting sauce from just a jar of passata, garlic, onions, and some basil, you just can't compare the two! To attempt to discourage my mom from ever buying stinkin' Prego ever again (which, let's be honest, tastes like tomato soup!) I decided to make an Arrabiata pasta sauce, using jarred passata as the base, and dressing it up with some oven-roasted cherry tomatoes and ricotta cheese. As you may know from reading my profile on the Dairy Farmers of Canada website, my trick to getting inspired in the kitchen is by seeing what needs to be used up in my fridge and pantry. With a package of starting-to-wrinkle cherry tomatoes and a bit of ricotta  cheese left, I couldn't help but toss the two into my pasta. Those two simple additions turned a very simple arrabiata pasta into something worthy of serving to guests! This tasty pasta definitely convinced my mom that passata is the way to go!

Terroni: Grilled Peach & Prosciutto Salad - There's nothing like a glorious, sunny long weekend...that is unless you're working almost every day of the weekend. Working at a pub, I had no way of getting out of my weekend shifts, turning me into one sour puss come my Sunday brunch and lunch shift. Thankfully I work in an area where everyone, with exception to myself, seems to have a cottage that they wisely escaped to for the beautiful long weekend. With hardly anyone on the patio, it was easy for me to hand over my one table to the bartender to serve, and sneak out to enjoy a little patio-lovin' of my own. I met up with my aunt Darlene and my mom to relax on one of the best patios in the city, the Terroni on Yonge upstairs patio! From the moment I walked in, as I watched a vibrant and fresh salad pass by my eyes to be served to another table, I knew exactly what I wanted in my belly! A special of the day, Terroni's Grilled Peach and Prosciutto Salad was just as incredible as it looked. To be honest, I find that Terroni can be a bit hit or miss. I've had dishes that were very "meh", and had me kicking myself for not ordering something else, but then again, I've had dishes that have absolutely blown me away! This salad was one of those dishes. I wish this was always on their menu!

Terroni: Pappardelle alla Iosa - Starved after working on my own patio all morning, my mom and I decided to split two dishes, so that we could indulge in some carbs as well as be healthy thanks to the grilled peach and prosciutto salad. I'm happy to report that Terroni's Pappardelle alla Iosa was just as mouth-watering delicious as their salad was. The delicate house-made pappardelle noodles were tossed in a savory house-made spicy sausage sauce, with button and oyster mushrooms, green peas, and parmigiano. So incredibly fantastic! I have always loved Terroni's Tagliatelle alla Bolognese, a traditional bolognese ragu, but their Pappardelle alla Iosa has won my heart as my new favourite! It's very similar to their ragu, but the addition of the mushrooms and peas makes it extraordinary! 

Caprese Salad - My favourite dishes always seem to be the most simple ones. Caprese salad is a perfect example of that. Last year, at the beginning of patio season, my friend Danielle and I spent a good three days out of the week patio hopping, wanting nothing more than fresh caprese salad and sangria. We had such a nice time basking in the sun and enjoying the simplicity of fresh, good-quality ingredients that one year to the date of our caprese and sangria marathon, we could think of nothing else but hanging out together and eating the classic Italian salad and patio-perfect beverage. Much chillier this year, not to mention or budgets dramatically shrinking, we decided to make our own caprese salad and sangria to enjoy in Danielle's cozy living room. It's amazing how quickly you can whip up such a delicious and satisfying lunch!

DON'T FORGET TO VOTE for my kick ass Creamy Clam & Vegetable Chowder recipe for the Dairy Farmers of Canada Creamy Seafood Challenge!

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Listening To:
Daft Punk - Lose Yourself To Dance (Feat. Pharrell Williams) [192]

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Cheaters Handbook: Baked "Fried" Chicken

Fried chicken, that perfect, greasy, crunchy, juicy, savory comfort food that can make anyone in their right mind go weak at the knees...that is probably from the sheer exertion of keeping your body upright after filling it with so much greasy goodness. Despite all of its lovely qualities that make me swoon, making fried chicken at home comes with a very messy (and sometimes dangerous) cost. We're talkin' grease splatters, dredging flours and crumbs everywhere from your counter to the bottoms of your feet, not to mention the constant threat of being severely burned at any moment by the blistering hot frying oil. The mess, the fear of getting burned, and the amount of time it takes to prepare fried chicken for the table has kept me from ever making the sinfully delicious vice. That is until I cheated. That's right, I cheated! I cheated and I'm proud to say it, shout it out to the world, because let me tell you, the results were so damn delicious!

Last months Food & Wine Magazine featured a recipe that sounded too good to be true: "Oven-Fried Chicken by the Bucket", a cleaner, safer, faster option for making fried chicken at home. I know what your thinking, "Hot damn! A healthy fried chicken recipe!"...but I'm afraid not. I am not reporting on my latest health kick this time around. Although the recipe sounds healthier, being baked as opposed to fried, it's an illusion, as the trick to getting that crunchy fried-tasting coating is by crumbling kettle-style potato chips. So if you're looking for a healthy fried chicken recipe, I'm afraid you've come to the wrong place. To attempt to make this recipe ever-so-slightly healthier, I decided to only use boneless, skinless chicken breasts, where the recipe called for breasts, thighs, and drumsticks, all with the skin on.   I am also a fan of a bit of heat in my fried chicken, so I added a touch of cayenne pepper to the crispy coating. Being one of the first beautiful days of the season, I had left dinner pretty late, not wanting to leave the sunny park I was relaxing in. I arrived back home slightly frantic, starving, and worried about how long the chicken would take. I was amazed at how fast I threw the whole thing together. In only 7 minutes tops, I had my chicken coated and in the oven, and was on the way to cleaning the few dishes I had from the prep. Twenty-minutes later I was in fried chicken heaven, drizzling the crispy, fresh-from-the-oven chicken with sriracha hot sauce and going to town! Considering how quickly it was to prepare, I had my doubts that it would actually resemble the flavour of fried chicken. I was surprised once again to find that the baked "fried" chicken tasted remarkably like the fried chicken I guiltily pickup for takeout. This is a no-brainer go-to weeknight meal that I am definitely keeping in my back pocket (similar to where I keep my fat). 

Recipe adapted from Food & Wine "Oven-Fried Chicken by the Bucket"
1 cup flour
3/4 cup milk
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 bag kettle-style potato chips, finely crushed
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
freshly ground salt and pepper to season
hot sauce, for serving

  1. Preheat oven to 400º. Spray a wire rack with canola or olive oil and set over a rimmed baking sheet.
  2. Place 3/4 cup of the flour in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper. In another bowl, whisk the milk with the dijon mustard and season with salt and pepper. In another bowl stir together the crushed potato chips with the remaining 1/4 cup flour and cayenne pepper. Season with pepper.
  3. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper and dust with flour, tapping off any excess. One at a time, dip the flour-dusted pieces in the milk mixture, then coat with the potato chip mixture, pressing to help them adhere. Transfer to prepared wire rack on baking sheet. Spray the chicken with canola oil on both sides.
  4. Bake the chicken breasts on the upper rack of the oven for about 20 minutes, or until golden and cooked through. Serve immediately with your favourite hot sauce.
Listening To:
All Daft Punk, all day long...right now is:
Daft Punk - Instant Crush (Feat. Julian Casablancas) [128]

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

How To Grow Green Onions Indoors

After moving into an apartment with my mom in November, with no balcony and zero green space, one of my biggest concerns (over and above how I'm going to eat my meals al fresco) is how I'm going to keep up my herb garden. As you may know from past posts, I was full-on obsessed with my herb garden. Now, when I say 'obsessed', I don't use the term lightly. I was so obsessed that I would use my herbs in every single meal and snack, I would wake up each morning to water and trim them, I would rub them in between my fingers and smell them every day, I would force guests to come over to the garden and sniff my herbs (this is not some subtle innuendo for something else...), I would try adding herbs to flower arrangements, heck, I even made a crazy diagram of all of my herbs, labeling all 25 of them! I was obsessed! Sure, I can grow herbs indoors, but certainly not 25 of them, and in the same abundance that I had previously grown them. Herbs don't seem to want to grow that successfully indoors. So you can imagine my excitement at finding an article on how to grow green onions indoors. I was skeptical, of course, but excited about the idea of having something to take my mind off my outdoor herb garden, and to have something that I could tend to and watch flourish (fingers crossed) right in my kitchen. 

Still not quite believing that they would grow to the extent that the article had promised, I kept putting off my green onion growing experiment, putting off, what I thought would be, inevitable disappointment. Last Monday, while cleaning out the fridge, I came across some green onions that were ready for the compost. Wilted and lacking in colour, you definitely wouldn't want to use these onions for cooking. Despite their sad appearance and texture, I figured I would give the green onion growing experiment a shot. I trimmed the onions down, cutting them just a little above where the green portion begins, and placed them in a small vase with a few inches of water to cover the roots and part of the white portion. With little hope I placed them in the kitchen windowsill and went on with my day. The next day I absolutely shocked to see how much my onions had already grown. Look at the first image on the left, you can see where I trimmed the onion and the few centimeters of growth after only one day! The image to the right is after only two days. 
Here are my beautiful little green babies after only one week! Can you believe how much they've grown? If I hadn't done the experiment myself, I wouldn't believe it! I've been so excited about their success that I don't even want to cut them! But after seeing how quickly they have grown, I know that I can trim some for a few meals, and they will be right back to where they are and ready for cooking in next to no time! Now I will never have to buy green onions again! 
  1. Trim the onions just a little above where the green portion begins
  2. Place trimmed onions in a small vase. Add a few inches of water.
  3. Place in sunlight. 
  4. Watch as your green onions grow like magic!
Listening To:
Family Of The Year - St. Croix

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Monday, May 6, 2013

Weekly Roundup - Inspired Tastes From Both Near & Afar

Stonemill Bakehouse Country Rye - Last week I had the opportunity to attend the launch of Stonemill Bakehouse's Country Rye Bread at Jamie Kennedy's Gilead Café. Having been a fan of Stonemill Bakehouse for years thanks to their participation with sip & Savour Ontario, and recently picking up a bread, croissant, or pastry from their bakery in St. Lawrence Market at least twice a week, I was really eager to not only taste their new product, but hear first hand from the president of Stonemill, Gottfried Boerhinger, about the company's commitment to sourcing local, sustainable, and GMO-free ingredients. I learned that last Summer and Fall, in collaboration with three Prince Edward County farmers, Stonemill was able to successfully grow a test crop of rye. This coming year they expect to harvest over 100-tonnes of rye. Their goal is to work collaboratively with local farmers to have over 2,000 acres under contract for sustainable, GMO-free, Ontario-grown grains by 2018.

To promote their new rye, Stonemill partnered with Chef Jamie Kennedy to create a number of delicious hors d'oeuvres featuring Stonemill's rye bread, these included: Hot Smoked Whitefish Canapé, Salmon Tartare on Crisp Rye, and Classic Beef Tartare on Crisp Rye. In addition to the hors d'oeuvres that were circulating throughout the event, Chef Jamie was on hand making fresh Stonemill rye flour crêpes with Ontario maple syrup throughout the event. After trying all of the hors d'oeuvres, the crêpes, and Stonemills rye bread dipped in olive oil, I can confidently say that they have a great product on their hands. Slightly different than the traditional rye bread, I loved how Stonemill's rye contains spelt flour, sunflower seeds, and oats. Keep your eyes open for Stonemill Bakehouse's  Country Rye Bread! It's definitely a must-try! To try Jamie's Stonemill Bakehouse Country Rye recipes, email me!

Jamie Kennedy's Gilead - It was very fitting to hold the Stonemill Bakehouse Country Rye launch at Jamie Kennedy's Gilead Café, as Jamie reflects Stonemill's same commitment to promoting local, sustainable, GMO-free products. That message was evident from the moment you step into Gilead, with almost every wall lined with a beautiful assortment of preserves. Filled with all different fruits and vegetables, of varying shapes and colours, the preserve walls looked absolutely striking when entering the café.

The County General - The County General has quickly become one of my go-to restaurants, knowing that each and every time I dine there I am sure to have a delicious experience. Having tried a few of their more unique menu items, this week on a beautiful sunny evening, I decided to see how the County General's classic burger fared in my burger books. Although I'm sure to devour most burgers you put in front of me, it takes a particular breed of deliciousness for me to give a burger the label of "great", usually finding most burgers to be "just alright". With their thick and tender medium-rare burger, doused in zingy horseradish mayo, I absolutely loved the County General's burger, easily giving it my "great burger" stamp of approval. Although their patio is small, and simply consists of a counter and some stools to sit at, I liked the casual feel of sitting on their patio, feeling the sun hit my face, and getting to people-watch along Queen West. 

Sukho Thai - Due for a date night dinner, my boyfriend Chris and I were interested to spice up our night by trying out one of the new Thai restaurants we have been hearing so much about lately. We decided to check out Sukho Thai on Wellington, grabbing the best seat in the house, right next to the big open window in the front, getting to enjoy the warm breeze on a beautiful Spring night. With so many delicious-sounding dishes, we ordered a couple of starters and mains, with a request for extra plates, so we could share and try more than just one dish each.

We started off with Shrimp Chips with Tamarind Dip and Mango Salad. The shrimp chips arrived in a massive heap, and were addictively tasty, with undertones of spice that lingered on the tongue. The mango salad was also very good (can you ever go wrong with mango salad?), with lots of fresh cilantro. For our mains we ordered Nua Gra Teaum: stir-fried garlic beef, served with a fried egg, cucumbers, and rice, reminiscent of Thailand street food, and Khao Soi: yellow noodles in curry gravy with green onions, coriander, chicken or beef (we chose chicken) and a light, crispy noodle topping. Although it looked incredibly appetizing with the soft-yolk fried egg on top, I have to say that we were a little disappointed with the Nua Gra Teaum. The Khao Soi made up for our disappointment with its complex curry, and interesting texture thanks to the both soft and crispy noodles. If you like spice but are nervous to go all out, just go for it, as the medium-spicy order was a little lacking in the heat department. I would also suggest ordering a side of steamed rice to sop up all of that delicious coconut curry. Both Chris and I are looking forward to going back to Sukho Thai, next time trying out some different spicy curries as well as some of their soups. 

DON'T FORGET TO VOTE for my kick ass Creamy Clam & Vegetable Chowder recipe for the Dairy Farmers of Canada Creamy Seafood Challenge!

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Listening To:
Daft Punk - Get Lucky (feat. Pharrell Williams)

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

VOTE! DFC Creamy Seafood Challenge: Creamy Clam & Vegetable Chowder

Last year I had the opportunity to work with the Dairy Farmers of Canada on their Anyday Magic Cream Challenge, submitting a recipe for a Fresh Mixed Mushroom Mac & Cheese that was absolutely delightful. Having such a great time collaborating with them last year, I jumped at the opportunity to participate in their 2013 cream challenge! Unlike last year where bloggers were asked to recreate classic dishes with a healthy twist, this year we were each given a theme in which we had the freedom to create anything we wanted! I was lucky enough to grab a spot in one of the most coveted themes this year, The Creamy Seafood Challenge. 

After having such an incredible time at the Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown this past November, getting to try over a dozen seafood chowders from some of the best chefs in Toronto, I was inspired to create a chowder of my own. I used the classic creamy New England clam chowder as my base, but amped it up with big flavours that inspired me from the Chowder Chowdown, and an abundance of vegetables for a hearty texture. I was so incredibly proud of how my Creamy Clam & Vegetable Chowder turned out, immediately downing a giant bowl after snapping some photos, and proceeding to brag about my awesome recipe to all my friends and family ever since! This is one recipe that you have got to try!

Check it out and please VOTE for my recipe for a chance to win the ultimate blender! 

Listening To:
T. Rex - Mambo Sun

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