Monday, January 28, 2013

Weekly Roundup - Banh Mi, Kimchi, Rosti, & Chili

Banh Mi Boys Kimchi Fries - I have been dying to go to Banh Mi Boys ever since I first began hearing all the buzz about their savory vietnamese sandwiches, but what always seemed to overshadow their namesake sandwich was their intriguing sounding kimchi fries. After some shopping along Queen West with my mom last weekend, we popped into Banh Mi Boys to thaw out from the cold, and satisfy our craving for an exotic sub. I insisted that although we weren't sure if we could even finish the large sub, we absolutely had to place an order for their kimchi fries as well. The delicious house-made fries are generously slathered with pulled pork, kimchi, house mayo, and green onions, delivering a salty, messy flavour combo that both my mom and I went crazy over! This is one dish you have got to try! Forget poutine, it's all about kimchi fries for 2013!

Banh Mi Boys Grilled Pork Banh Mi - Although Banh Mi Boys kimchi fries took centre stage for my mom and I, I was still very impressed with their grilled pork banh mi sandwich. Tender and flavourful strips of grilled pork are topped with assorted crisp julienned vegetables, cucumber, and fresh cilantro, embraced in a hug of a soft and fresh-baked baguette. I really enjoyed this exotic sandwich, but for next time, I have my eye on their short rib steamed bao...of course, served alongside my new favourite fast food dish, kimchi fries!

The Federal - About once a season I trek down to Dundas and Ossington (usually in terrible weather) to meet up with my aunt Darlene for a one-on-one catchup lunch. Not only do I enjoy having the luxury of having my aunt's attention all to myself for an hour, catching up on what's new and exciting in both of our lives, I also love that she is right in the heart of so many great restaurants! It's always such a pleasure to be able to spend an hour with one of my closest family members, enjoying a delicious lunch at a new restaurant! For our winter lunch session this week, we ended up at The Federal, a new restaurant that opened this year, serving up charcuterie, sandwiches, omelette's, and more, with an ever changing daily menu. I couldn't resist trying The Federal's take on a Cubano sandwich, with theirs featuring creamy avocado along with the classic pulled pork, ham, cheese, and pickles and served on fresh St. John's Bakery bread. Although it was a tad salty for my palette, it was still incredibly delicious and comforting on a cold, windy, snowy day. The filling sandwich was served alongside a simple mixed greens salad and potato rosti with house-made ketchup (big bonus points for the house-made ketchup!). The service was top-notch, with a very attentive and friendly waitress, lacking the usual Ossington pretension, and the atmosphere was cute and cozy. I'm looking forward to going back soon to try out their dinner menu! 

Introduction To Cooking: Chili - One of the most inspiring things for me, as of late, is cooking for others or with others. So nothing got me more excited to get in the kitchen than hearing that my best friends cousin Josh has pretty much never cooked in his life (other than some barbecuing) and was looking to learn! The first dish he had his eye on? A spicy chili! As I began researching various chili's and reviewing my moms go-to recipe for a quick chili, I realized how perfect a basic chili is for a newbie cook. Filled with basic ingredients (most of which are already in the pantry), with only one pot to clean, very little labour, and room for experimentation, a chili is a newbie cooks dream! I had such a great time feeling like an expert showing Josh the ropes to make a comforting, satisfying, and delicious chili, but more than anything, I loved seeing how excited he got about creating such a simple and delicious chili that he would feel proud to serve his friends. It seems like making this chili lit the spark to get Josh's creative juices going in the kitchen. I'm looking forward to seeing what other creations he begins to whip up in the next little while! Check out the recipe for my moms basic chili here, but note that the spices should be altered to 1 tbsp red chili flakes, 1 tbsp chili powder, 2 chipotles (in adobo sauce, chopped), and 1 tbsp adobo sauce.

Honorable Mention: Too cold and hungry to remember to take a photo, I missed out on capturing my meal at A-OK Foods this weekend. The ramen and snack shop comes from the same masterminds at Yours Truly, allowing the public to enjoy some of their most loved dishes in a more easily accessible way (Yours Truly is a prix fixe tasting menu). After being absolutely blown away by our experience at Yours Truly recently, my boyfriend and I had pretty high expectations for A-OK Foods. We began our meal by sharing two dishes off of their 'Hot' menu, Chino Wings and Pork Ssam. The wings were reminiscent of a KFC batter, with significantly less grease and more flavour, served with a tasty dipping sauce and spicy chillies. The pork ssam was very tasty topped with a generous amount of cilantro (my weakness!). We followed our snacks with bowls of their classic Shoyu Ramen, which was so incredibly comforting on such a cold night. The piping hot and flavourful milky broth is seasoned with soya sauce and a hint of yuzu, ladled over nicely textured house-made noodles, sous vide pork belly, a soft boiled egg, lots of green onions, goji berries, and a crisp fried seaweed chip. The meal was tasty, and certainly comforting, but not blow-me-away incredible. I would definitely go back if I happen to be in the area and am looking for some comfort food...and can't get a table at The County General next door.

Follow me on Twitter!
Like me on Facebook!
Follow me on Instagram!

Listening To:
Junip - Line of Fire

Powered by

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Peanut Butter Cranberry Almond Granola

Nothing drives me more crazy than watching food go to waste. I can't help but feel overwhelmed with that same sort of guilt you feel after say accidentally hurting someone's feelings, lying to a loved one, or handing in an assignment you know you rushed through. It's something that most people don't even think about, but for me, can eat through my conscience and keep me up at night. Despite people poking fun at my strange, neurotic food wasting guilt, I take pride in the fact that my parents raised me to value being fortunate enough to have access to three well-balanced meals a day, not to mention snacks and desserts. Whenever I let food go to waste as a child and teenager or made a snotty comment about certain foods that were served to me being "gross", my parents would always remind my sister and I how "gross" those comments truly were, and how ungrateful we were to be saying those things when there are so many children in the world that hardly have access to food at all. At the time, it drove me crazy when my parents would lecture me like that, but today I'm so thankful for the values that they've instilled in me. 

When I first began feeling that food wasting guilt, I remember reluctantly eating through past-their-prime leftovers and overripe fruit and vegetables with a frown on my face, forcing myself to finish it so that it wouldn't get thrown out. It was around the time that I first began writing my blog that I changed my perspective and started looking at those almost-ready-for-the-compost foods as an opportunity as opposed to a struggle. I began to feel inspired to challenge myself to create new and exciting dishes with those almost-compost-ready foods as the star. I even started a series on my blog, Leftover Lovin', where I transform leftovers into new and delicious dishes that you would be excited and proud to serve. I came up with some of my favourite dishes, such as my Pulled Pork Shepherds Pie, Stuffed French Toast, and Butternut Squash Cannelloni, thanks to my food wasting guilt! 

I was hit with my food saving instinct once again last week. For Christmas this year, my sister overwhelmed me with an assortment of gifts, some of which were on my list, with a few surprise items here and there that definitely caught my attention. One of the surprise items was meant to give me a bit of a laugh and embarrass me in front of my family, a quirky SexCereal, complete with a cute pinup girl package, and full of grains and seeds to "fuel your fire". Although I appreciated the cute idea, unfortunately I wasn't too fond of the taste of the uber-healthy cereal. Refusing to let the unappetizing cereal go to waste, I decided to take the cereal into my own hands and transform it into a treat I would look forward to indulging in! I originally approached the cereal with the goal of creating granola bars, but in the end I actually ended up preferring to crumble the bars over yogurt to act as a very indulgent granola. I loved how simple this granola was to prepare, how inexpensive it was (why the heck is pre-made granola so expensive anyway?), and being able to control exactly what was going into my granola. I was so pleasantly surprised how the cereal could go from something that I had to fight through the pain to eat, to a treat so addictive I couldn't stop eating! 

*Rather than buy a brand new cereal to use in this recipe, use a cereal that is beginning to go stale. The baking process and other ingredients will mask the staleness, extending its life! 
*When looking for a "healthy" cereal, look at the sugar content and words you can't pronounce. You want as little sugar as possible and none of those unpronounceable words!
**For a healthier granola, simply stir in the dried cranberries here and serve! 

3/4 cup honey, divided
2 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more to grease baking dish
1 cup rolled oats
2 cups healthy cereal* (you may sub with more rolled oats)
1 cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted
1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, lightly toasted
pinch of salt
1 cup unsweetened dried cranberries
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup brown sugar (optional)

  1. In a small saucepan, heat 1/4 honey on low with butter, stirring occasionally, until melted. 
  2. In a large bowl, stir together rolled oats, cereal, almonds, coconut, and salt. Drizzle over honey and butter mixture and stir to combine. 
  3. Spread mixture evenly in one layer on a large, rimmed baking sheet (you may need two baking sheets). Bake at 325º until golden, about 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let cool.**
  4. Lightly butter an 8-inch square baking dish. In a small saucepan at medium heat, combine 1/2 cup honey, peanut butter, and brown sugar (optional). Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a boil.
  5. Pour oat mixture into a large mixing bowl, and stir in dried cranberries. Drizzle over honey and peanut butter mixture and stir to combine. Pour evenly into prepared baking dish, pressing down firmly with a spatula. Chill for 2 hours. Remove from fridge. Loosen sides with a knife and remove from baking dish, crumbling mixture as you go. Store in an air-tight container. Eat on its own or over yogurt. 

Listening To:
Hot Chip - Flutes

Powered by

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Weekly Roundup - A Delicious Start to the New Year

Make The New Year Sweet - How do you ensure a sweet start to the new year? With the most indulgent of cookies of course! Despite the fact that I had to work at the pub on New Years Eve, I was determined to start the year off sweet! Before the dreaded New Years shift began, I quickly whipped up one of my favourite holiday cookies, Chocolate Crackle Cookies, to take along with me when I was able to make my escape from the pub and join up with some friends. Meeting a slew of people for the very first time that night, I knew my Chocolate Crackle Cookies was a surefire way to impress and get them feeling sweet on me as well! A cross between a cookie and a brownie, these cookies are sure to please any sweet tooth!

Homemade Granola - For Christmas this year, my sister overwhelmed me with an assortment of gifts, some of which were on my list, with a few surprise items here and there that definitely caught my attention. One of the surprise items was meant to give me a bit of a laugh and embarrass me in front of my family, a quirky SexCereal, complete with a cute pinup girl package, and full of grains and seeds to "fuel your fire". Although I appreciated the cute idea, unfortunately I wasn't too fond of the taste of the uber-healthy cereal. Not one to let food go to waste, I decided to take the cereal into my own hands and transform it into a treat I would look forward to indulging in! Although the goal was to create granola bars, I ended up preferring to crumble the bars over yogurt to act as a very indulgent granola. Keep your eyes peeled for the recipe coming up on the blog soon! 

Holy Chuck Burger - My love affair with Holy Chuck Burger continues this week as I try what they consider to be their best burger, The Big Chuck, Holy Chuck's take on the classic McDonalds Big Mac. I can't imagine ever truly enjoying a McDonalds Big Mac after trying Holy Chuck's sinfully delicious version of the classic. With every visit, Holy Chuck continues to wow my taste buds. I can't wait to pay them another visit again soon and try out some of their new menu items, such as The Jerky Cow (a double cheeseburger with bacon fried in a spicy and salty jerk sauce, and topped with a fresh slice of seared pineapple) and their truffle fries, which I've heard are to die for! Omg....I'm salivating and could totally go again riiiight about NOW!

Le Dolci: Parisian Macaron Class - I have said so many times on my blog that my favourite gift to receive is always the gift of experience. Yeah, 'stuff' is great, but a memory can last a lifetime! So it's no surprise that one of my favourite Christmas gifts that I received this year was a gift certificate to a Parisian Macaron making class at Le Dolci! To be completely honest, although I absolutely loved eating every flavour of macaron imaginable (having worked at La Bamboche, maker of Toronto's best macarons, tasting was certainly a luxury I took advantage of!), I had never actually taken an interest in making the tricky French cookie myself. Le Dolci completely changed that for me. The class, which was lead by the very patient Madalina Paul, was so incredibly informative, breaking down each and every complicated step for the group, and allowing us to take part in the production. The hands-on aspect of the class was so amazingly beneficial for me. I walked out of the class confident that I can successfully master making macarons by myself in my own kitchen, and, more importantly, walked away feeling inspired! What am I doing today? Shopping for a kitchen scale, gel or powder food colouring, and almond flour so I can set up my own macaron making workshop at home ASAP! Thanks Chris for getting me the perfect gift that was not only an enjoyable experience, but also gave me that push that I needed to feel inspired in my kitchen again!

Follow me on Twitter!
Like me on Facebook!
Follow me on Instagram!

Listening To:
Kisses - People Can Do The Most Amazing Things

Powered by

Monday, January 7, 2013

Creamy Polenta with Sautéed Mushrooms & Dark Leafy Greens

It wouldn't be considered a proper start to the new year without the obligatory post-New Years healthy(ish) recipe post! Every year as the holidays wind down and life begrudgingly slips back into reality, I always seem to find myself in a very self reflective mood. I think about the year we just toasted to leaving behind, the mistakes that were made, the leaps of faith that were taken, the accomplishments I can feel proud of, and the year that is just beginning, what I want to gain out of the year, how I can make that happen, and where I want to be at this time next year. There's a lot of writing involved, in more than just my blog, with journal pages covered in my my-brain-is-moving-too-fast-for-my-hand-to-keep-up scribble writing, not to mention torn envelops and paper scraps with thoughts and inspiring words scrawled across them. I write to find the root of my problems, trying to understand why exactly I'm feeling the way I'm feeling, digging to try and reach that moment of epiphany, that "aha!" moment, where it seems to all make sense. 

This is the first year in a long time where I'm not beating myself up over finding those answers, analyzing each and every mistake I have made over the course of the year, and every flaw I must conquer over the coming year. This is the first year where it all just seems to make sense. Although I still don't exactly know where I'm going in terms of my career path, I have found a new sense of trust in both myself and my life, finally seeing with my own eyes the clichéd truth that everything truly happens for a reason. I now trust that as long as I'm true to myself and my values, I'm headed in the right direction. I have come to accept my imperfections, embrace the qualities that make me who I am, and have a newfound confidence in the person that I have become. This New Years isn't about jotting down a list of resolutions, things that I will inevitably neglect and abandon within a few weeks, it's about looking at each day and each action I make as a means to become that person I've always wanted to be, that best version of myself that I can be proud of, that person that I would want to be around. 

In classic Danielle-fashion, I seem to be going off topic, but I assure you I have a point! I look at this recent recipe as a sort of metaphor to where I'm at right now.  I wanted to make a healthy dish to kick start the new year, working with ingredients previously foreign to me, forcing me out of my comfort zone. Not exactly "healthy" in most peoples books, my idea of healthy still contains bacon and comforting carbs. As much as I've tried doing the complete 180º, saying I am going to only eat healthy from now on, I know that's just not me and that's not going to stick. I love food way too much, and believe life is way too short to compromise on flavour. Yes, I'm sure you could make this dish quite tasty by omitting the crispy, fatty bacon and creamy, buttery polenta, but really why would you, when it adds so much to the final dish in terms of adding a whole other layer of flavour and textures. That's just not me, and I'm not going to try and force myself in a direction that I know isn't right for me. I'd say that a healthy portion of mushrooms with their high level of Vitamin D (a must in gloomy January!) and dark leafy greens with their alkalinizing effect is a pretty good compromise. I took a chance by trying my hand at polenta for the first time, and, quite frankly, it didn't go so well. My "creamy" polenta was more gummy in consistency, but I wouldn't have understood how to achieve that silky texture if I had not taken a bit of a risk by trying something I had never done before, and really, knew next to nothing about. I showed confidence in my food photography by plating the dish in an old, ugly, scratched up bowl, that no one in their right mind would serve to guests. The final dish was imperfect, flawed, but still very tasty and enjoyable, with complimenting flavours and textures, and full of potential once the tricky technique of creating a silky smooth polenta is achieved. 

Maybe I never did get my point across, and maybe I did stray a little too far off topic. But this new year has me thinking that maybe I should embrace the fact that I feel compelled to share these strange, confusing, and almost entirely self-indulgent musings about myself. Maybe it's obnoxious to some (and for those of you who feel that way, feel free to skip right on to the recipe!) but maybe, just maybe, there's a few of you out there who will connect with what I'm feeling, and find comfort in the fact that there's someone out there who feels exactly like you. 

Note: Cookin' Greens Athletes Mix is a frozen blend of chopped collards, spinach, kale, sweet red pepper, and white beans. You can find it in the frozen health section at your local grocery store.
*If subbing in another dark leafy green for Cookin' Greens Athletes Mix, add 1/4 red pepper, chopped to step #3.

Tip: After failing achieve the creamy polenta I has hoping for, I realized a few things that I did wrong. The first was that I was cooking my polenta on too low of a heat. You want your polenta to be on low heat, but not so low so that the mixture doesn't bubble. Secondly, I was much more concerned about timing my polenta rather than feeling when it was done. Have a rough timeline in your head, but don't rely on that. Turn your polenta down to low (low enough so that it does not bubble) or remove from heat when the polenta begins to pull away from the sides of the saucepan, that's when it is done. 

Serves 2
2 cups milk
1 3/4 cups water
1/4 tsp salt
pinch of black pepper
1 cup polenta 
3 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
olive oil, for frying
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cups cremini mushrooms
1 cup Cookin' Greens Athletes Mix, thawed (may sub with any other frozen dark leafy green*)
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp fresh thyme
2 tsp grated lemon zest
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar 
2 tbsp unsalted butter
generous amount of parmesan cheese, grated, to taste

  1. Bring milk and water to a boil in a large saucepan. When mixture is boiled, whisk in salt and pepper. While continuing to whisk, slowing pour in the polenta in an even steady stream. Reduce heat to low enough that the polenta mixture bubbles ever so slightly, and whisk constantly for the next 5 minutes straight. After the 5-minutes of constant whisking, continue cooking over low, whisking often until mixture thickens and begins to pull away from the sides of the saucepan. This can take anywhere from 15-25 minutes. At that point keep heated on very low until ready to serve.
  2. Meanwhile, cook bacon in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat, until golden brown. Using a slotted spoon remove bacon transfer to a paper towel to drain. Pour out bacon fat  leaving 1 tbsp remaining in the skillet. 
  3. Add 1 tbsp olive oil to skillet and garlic, and cook for 1 minute. Add the onions and cook until just beginning to soften. Add the mushrooms and sauté until tender and begin to colour. Stir in Cookin' Greens Athletes Mix and cooked bacon. 
  4. Stir in the chicken broth, reduce heat to medium-low until slightly reduced. Add the thyme and lemon zest. Turn heat to medium-high and stir in the balsamic vinegar, cooking for 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Whisk butter and parmesan into polenta and divide among plate. Top with mushroom and greens mixture. Serve immediately.

Listening To:
Odd Future - Oldie

Powered by