Friday, March 28, 2014

Hot Honey Garlic Wings

Today makes it officially one week since my last day at the soul-sucking, tired pub that I had been working at for almost two years. Although I feel great relief leaving a place that was bad for my self esteem and personal and professional development, there are still many things that I will miss, and in fact already miss. Firstly, a week without my lovely co-workers who had become part of family has felt like an eternity. I miss our stories, tricks, dancing, singing, silly voices, and hijinks and hope so deeply that we can hold onto that as we pursue new paths. Despite the stress it caused me at the time, I miss the crazy characters that stuck to the bar like fruit flies on a hot day, merely for the zany stories that I could share and act out once back in the comfort of my own home. And though I hate to say it, I can't help but miss the terrible-for-my-diet pub food that I would get to indulge in almost every shift. 
Perhaps it's because I miss all of what I've left behind, or maybe it's just as simple as I was craving wings, but digging into a big serving of hot and spicy wings may always remind me of the two years I spent playing the role of "waitress." No matter the reason, wings were a fantastic choice to make for myself and mom in the midst of a busy and productive week full of school assignments, presentations, and projects, and trying to wrap my head around finding a job that will allow me to get my foot in the door to start my career. My Hot Honey Garlic Wings may taste nothing like those from the pub (oh these babies are worlds better!), but they still give me that same feeling of escape that I would feel when I got those 5-10 minutes to myself to sit at the bar and ignore everyone around me for a break. Super quick, sticky, and sweet with a big hit of heat, these wings are a great escape for anybody to indulge in!
24 chicken wings
1/4 cup brown sugar
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1 cup water, separated, plus more if desired
3 tbsp honey
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup chilli sauce 
3 tbsp Sriracha Hot Sauce
5 dashes Franks Red Hot Sauce
2 tbsp corn starch
salt and pepper to season
cilantro, chopped, for garnish (optional)
toasted peanuts, chopped, for garnish (optional)
limes, sliced, for garnish (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 375º. Lightly spray a baking sheet (preferably nonstick) with oil. Arrange chicken wings in a single layer and lightly season with salt and pepper. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until crispy. 
  2. Towards the end of the chicken wings baking, begin the sauce. In a small saucepan set to medium heat, bring the brown sugar, garlic, ginger, 1/2 cup water, honey, soy sauce, chilli sauce, Sriracha Hot Sauce, and Franks Red Hot Sauce to a boil. 
  3. Add the remaining 1/2 cup water to a small bowl and stir in the corn starch. Stir into the sauce and continue cooking until thickened. You may add more water at this point if you so desire.
  4. Remove chicken wings from oven and place in a medium bowl. Add the sauce and toss to coat evenly. Arrange the coated chicken wings back on the baking sheet and place back in the oven. Set the oven to broil, and bake for another 8-10 minutes. Keep your eyes on the wings so they don't burn! Serve immediately with additional sauce (as needed) and cilantro, peanuts, and limes for garnish.
Listening To:

Thursday, March 27, 2014

In The Kitchen With Oma: A lesson on making German cabbage rolls

When people ask me what or who inspired me to start cooking, I always give the same answer 1) my mom, who would always let me stand on a stool in the kitchen with her, and let me get messy by helping her out in any way I could, and 2) my Oma, who always gave her grandkids a job to help her in the kitchen while making one of her delicious German dishes. I always loved those one-on-one moments in the kitchen with both my mom and my Oma, and only wish that I had time for more of that now. 

This month I was given the opportunity to go back in the kitchen with my Oma for a day of German cooking, thanks to my Food Theory class at George Brown Chef School requiring us to do a group presentation on a region of the world of our choice. With many of our group members having friends, family, and neighbors who are German, it was easy for us to pick the beer drinking, sausage eating country for our assignment. I always struggle with finding a unique and interesting way to grab the audiences attention when doing a school presentation, not wanting to give just another lame and tired Power Point that puts the class to sleep. I knew that with my Oma's vibrant personality, I had to find a way of incorporating her into my presentation. It didn't take long for me to decide to feature my lovely Oma in a short video about making one traditional German dish.

Although there are so many delicious German dishes that my Oma makes, she had her heart set on making her out-of-this-world cabbage rolls, something that I simply couldn't refuse because seriously, they are so damn good!  Although cabbage rolls were not first created in Germany, they are a dish that much of Europe has adopted, made their own, and consume on a regular basis, and Germany has become one of those places that has truly made the dish part of their diet. I hope you enjoy my video In The Kitchen With Oma: A lesson on making German cabbage rolls. It was an absolute pleasure to shoot and spend the day with her. Thank you so much, Oma! I love you! You are the best! 

Listening To:

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

I WON! {French Onion Mac & Cheese}

Just a wee bit overdue (in true Danielle fashion), I want to thank everyone who took the time to vote, support, and share my recipe for the Dairy Goodness Anyday Magic Comforting Mac & Cheese challenge. I am so very happy to report that my recipe for French Onion Mac & Cheese won the challenge with a whopping 1302 votes! I am so blown away by the amount of support that came my way during this challenge, and obviously could have gotten this far without it. Thank you so much for putting a smile on my face each and every morning of the challenge. It was a truly a pleasure coming up with my mac and cheese recipe, which combined two of my favourite cheesy dishes into one indulgent treat! Now that the challenge is over I am happy to be able to share my recipe with you right here and hope that you enjoy this recipe just as much my family and myself did! 

4 tbso butter, divided (plus more for buttering serving dishes)
1 1/2 red onions, sliced
4 tbsp dry red wine (or beef broth)
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups 10% cream
1/3 cup beef broth
3 slices white bread, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tbsp butter, melted
3 tbsp flour
2 1/2 cups Canadian cheddar cheese, shredded (reserve 1/4 cup for topping)
1 1/2 cups Canadian Gruyere, shredded (reserve 1/2 cup for topping)
1 tsp salt
generous pinch of white pepper
2 cups elbow macaroni, cooked al dente

  1. Preheat oven to 375º. Butter 4 individual oven-proof soup bowls and set aside.
  2. In a medium sauté pan, heat 1 tbsp butter at medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the red onion and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until very soft and caramelized (about 15 minutes). In the last five minutes of cooking, add the red wine and thyme and raise heat to medium. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. In a medium pot set to medium heat, add the milk, cream, and beef broth and heat until warm. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. In a small bowl, toss the diced white bread with the melted butter until evenly coated and set aside.
  5. In a large pot add the remaining 3 tbsp butter and melt at medium heat. When the butter begins to froth, add the flour and whisk to incorporate for 1 minute. Add the warm cream mixture (this mixture should warm not how. You want it below the temperature of the flour and butter mixture) a bit at a time, while stirring and thickening. Once all of the cream mixture has been added, continue cooking for about 3-5 minutes while mixture thickens slightly. Stir occasionally.
  6. Remove cream mixture from heat and stir in cheddar (reserving 1/4 cup for topping), Gruyere (reserving 1/2 cup for topping), and caramelized onion mixture. Taste and season additionally with salt and pepper, if needed. Stir in the elbow macaroni, and evenly scoop into buttered  soup bowls.
  7. Top the filled soup bowls evenly with the diced, buttered bread and then the reserved cheeses and place on a baking sheet. Place in oven for 30 minutes, or until topping becomes golden.
  8. Serve immediately.
Listening To:

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Castles, Wynds, Closes, Ghosts, & Scotch in Edinburgh

On a rainy, grey morning Chris, Melissa, myself, and Melissa's friend Kayla arrived in Edinburgh Scotland. Despite the rain, we couldn't help but already be charmed by this mysterious city, as our cab drove past streets lined with little cottages in the foreground of the lush green landscape. The rain began to dissipate just as our cab pulled up to Cumberland Street, where we had rented a cute, little, modern lower-level apartment on VRBO for the next two nights and three days. It's amazing how much you appreciate the little things when on vacation, like opening up the lockbox provided for us to find a skeleton key to unlock the apartment door. We squealed with glee at the sight of this simple skeleton key, already deciding in our minds that this skeleton key was a symbol of this mysterious old city, just waiting for us to explore! After dropping off our luggage, it was time to walk up the hill to take in all the extraordinary sights down the Royal Mile. 

The Royal Mile is known as being the heart of Scotland's historic capital, running straight through Edinburgh's Old Town, connecting the breathtaking Edinburgh Castle, which rests upon a base of volcanic rock, with the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Overwhelmed by the beautiful historic architecture surrounding us, we took those first few hours as an opportunity to take in some of the sights, and in true UK fashion, grab a couple pints and some grub at a pub on Rose Street. 
After some short exploring and stuffing our faces with sausage and mash, fish and chips, and pints of Guinness, we succumbed to our exhaustion and took the misty rain as an opportunity to grab a not-so-quick nap at our rental apartment, so we would have lots of energy to make it up to the castle later that afternoon. After our much-needed nap, we felt energized and ready to walk through the royal mile and up to Edinburgh Castle. Although the tours of the castle were already done for the day, the mere sight of the stunning, ancient Edinburgh Castle was enough to send us all into a tizzy! The castle alone was of course stunning, but I can't forget to mention the magnificent view that the large, volcanic hill affords you of both the New and Old town, allowing you to take everything in all at once. High off our castle photo shoot, we walked back down the Royal Mile to pop into a few shops and purchase some Celtic jewelry at an outdoor stand before the sun set. 

As darkness loomed, our thirst kicked in and we were once again ready for another pint! Our mighty navigator, Chris, led us to The Abbotsford Pub in New Town, Edinburgh, built in 1902. The Abbotsford Pub was absolutely beautiful, featuring exquisite Edwardian pub design, with a classic island bar carved from Spanish Mahogany and an intricate Jacobean ceiling.  Although their pub fare sounded above the ordinary, Chris had bigger plans for us, with a pin on his Google map at a restaurant called The Dogs

The Dogs was appealing for us because we love dogs! Just kidding! We do love dogs, but what really caught our attention was the mouthwatering menu filled with unique takes on Scottish classics at very reasonable prices. One of the things we noticed in Edinburgh was that the food tended to range from very low quality pub fare, to extremely high end dining with staggeringly high prices, and not a whole lot in between. So The Dogs, with its delicious sounding menu and fair prices was like finding treasure! With no reservation, we were very happy to be accommodated immediately, simply warned that we would have a short seating, as the table was reserved in a couple hours. 

The quiet and intimate atmosphere of the canine-themed restaurant was a welcome change from the bustling pub scene we were so familiar with throughout the UK. This change in mood required a change in beverage, switching from beer to wine that would pair with our meals. After promising all of my foodie friends in Toronto that I would try the Scottish favourite, Haggis while in Edinburgh, I had no choice but to order the Lamb Barnsley Chop with Haggis Hash, Braised Cabbage, & Tarragon Gravy as my entrée. Although I was a little uneasy about the idea of eating haggis (sheep's heart, liver, and lungs, minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and stock, encased in the animals stomach) I was so pleasantly surprised at the delicious, savory flavour the haggis added to the potato hash, not to mention my succulent, tender lamp chop, with the ever so slightly bitter braised cabbage playing the perfect accompaniment. There was a chorus of "mmm's" ringing through the quiet space as all of us cleaned off our plates, satisfied with this special Scottish fare. Stuffed to the brim, with a bit of a buzz from the wine and beer, it was off to bed for us sleepyheads, with lots of tours planned for the following day. 
With plans of hitting up The Scotch Whiskey Experience tour on our second morning in Edinburgh, there wasn't a chance we would be skipping breakfast that day! Just a short walk from our apartment was Eteaket, a bright and welcoming tea room that specializes in ethically-sourced, exceptional loose leaf teas. After cramming ourselves into a tight, corner seat by the window, we ordered a round of tea lattes, with myself ordering Eteaket's specialty, their Chai Latte, made with their secret recipe. I've had many Chai lattes before, and have always enjoyed them, but this was no ordinary Chai latte, with an intense flavour from the blend of spices and topped with a garnish of spices to give you a hint as to what you are sipping. To go along with my tea, I ordered simple poached eggs with toast. A lovely way to start another busy day in the UK! 
After breakfast we excitedly headed over to Castlehill to take part in The Scotch Whiskey Experience, AKA Chris' number one reason for coming to Scotland! The tour is designed to give you the full scotch whiskey experience by first taking you through their interactive swirling, bubbling barrel ride, allowing guests to become apart of the scotch whiskey making process, with narration by a friendly ghost. After you are taken through each step of the scotch whiskey making process, guests are guided up to a private room where a scotch whiskey expert leads an introduction to the aromas found in various types of whiskey. We were each given a little scratch-and-sniff card with the names of the various regions within Scotland, each one identified with a different colour. One at a time, we were taken through each region, beginning the lesson on each one with our guide asking us to scratch the designated area on our scratch-and-sniff cards of that particular region, and asking us what we smelt. Through this, we were taught all about the dominant flavours that are found in scotch whiskeys made in those different regions. Those flavours were:
Lowland - Grapefruit
Highland - Vanilla
Speyside - Banana
Islay - Peat
With this as a reference, we were each asked to pick which flavour we were drawn to most, and were then poured a glass (which we were later gifted!) of a whiskey from that region. Not much of a whiskey fan myself, after understanding how scotch whiskey gets made and learning about why certain flavours are present, I found a new appreciation for the punchy liquor...but this doesn't mean I was able to finish my glass! This next part of the experience was my favourite, as we were led into a room that was entirely lined with bottles upon bottles of scotch whiskey, which we soon learned was the largest scotch whiskey collection in the entire world! The look on Chris' face was absolutely priceless! The man was in his glory! Then came the part he was really looking forward to, the scotch tasting! Chris had purchased the Gold Experience Tour, which gave him a flight of four scotch whiskeys that ranged from light flavoured, to strong and peaty. What a treat for him! An extra special treat for Chris came when he purchased a rare and fairly reasonable bottle of Scotch to take home with him. My guy works so incredibly hard, he most certainly deserves a nice bottle!

After the scotch whiskey experience, we found a cheap restaurant nearby to satisfy our hunger. Plain "American" greasy fare, there isn't much to report on that restaurant other than, it was cheap and it filled our growling bellies! It was off to do some more exploring and shopping after that.

Thanks to a suggestion from an old friend who lives in Edinburgh, we had eagerly signed ourselves up for the Ghost & Torture Tour from Auld Reekie Tours, a decision that us ladies would later regret. My friend Lyle had promised us that the ghost tour would be a great way to learn about the history of Edinburgh in a fun and frightening way. I love me some history mixed with entertainment, so I figured this would be a cool and funny experience. Now after the fact, 'funny' is definitely not the word I would use to describe the tour, as our eerie guide took us through the dark underground vaults and torture rooms, while passionately telling us horrifying stories of the tortures that went on in Edinburgh back in the day, as well as ghost experiences that guests have had while on the tour. Shaking and white as...well, you guessed it, white as a ghost, we ended the tour, sure that we would never get a wink of sleep ever again! 

Thank goodness for fun bars with charming bartenders and wicked music, the Victoria Bar in Leith was just what we needed to take our minds off of our terrifying ghost tour experience. 
We awoke on Wednesday morning, sad that this was our final day in beautiful Edinburgh, but excited to take part in The Real Mary King's Close Tour. After grabbing a quick bite at our favourite Edinburgh breakfast spot Eteaket, we rushed back up to the Royal Mile to make it in time for our tour, which would take us through a network of hidden underground streets and spaces which were once inhabited by Mary King (a prominent businesswoman in the 1630's), and are now buried underground, shrouded in myths and mystery! Although this tour hinted at possibly being a repeat of the blood curdling ghost tour we had experienced the previous night, The Real Mary King's Close Tour was only similar to the prior tour in its historical base, as our costumed character tour guide shared with us the true tales of how families lived in this underground town many centuries ago. 

With a few hours to spare before our short flight back to London, we decided to take some time to relax with a good meal and chat about everything we had experienced on our little excursion. Back on Rose Street we stowed our luggage and quickly got a table at Jamie's Italian, Jamie Oliver's large Italian eatery known for their large cheese and charcuterie planks and fresh pastas. Exhausted from a very busy three days, it was so nice to slide into our seats and indulge in Jamie's Meat Plank which featured fennel salami, pistachio mortadella, prosciutto, schiacciata piccante, buffalo mozzarella with chili & mint, pecorino with chili jam, green chillies, green olives, Gaeta, caper berries & shaved carrot & beets with lemon and mint. Following the plank, we shared a plate of Crispy Tomato & Mozzarella Risotto Balls, doused in a spicy arrabbiata sauce, and I dived into my large plate of Tagliatelle Bolognese. Everything was so incredibly delicious and, believe it or not, so much lighter and easy on the stomach than all the greasy, heavy pub food we had been eating. The only thing that could have made our experience at Jamie's Italian better? Why, if Jamie Oliver himself showed up, of course! 

With full bellies and happy hearts, we sleepily boarded our EasyJet flight back to London to continue our UK adventure! 

Listening To:

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

London, England: Camden Market

After a great nights sleep in our cozy hotel bed and a light breakfast of custard pastries from the local Costa Coffee shop, Chris and I were ready to delve into day two of our London adventure! After having so much fun walking around Portobello Market the previous day, Melissa and her friends decided to take us to another well known market in London, Camden Market, known to be one of the busiest weekend markets in London, with Sunday's trading day being the most lively. This Sunday was certainly no exception with streams of people snaking through the many incense-filled lanes lined with stalls, selling everything from hot prepared food, fashions, jewelry, vintage goods, and crafts from all over the world.  With so many beautiful offerings, I found myself overwhelmed and unsure as to how I could possibly fit everything I loved into my luggage. Hand painted ceramic bowls, striking textiles, haunting paintings, and vintage bar trays were just a few of the treasures I had hopes of coveting, had I thought of packing less in my luggage to allow more London goodies to fill it to take home. I'll have to remember that for my next trip to London!

After popping into just about every little shop within the market with wide eyes, it was of course time to enjoy a pint. We found ourselves in The Cuban Bar right in the heart of the market, a bar that fit the bill for us, purely because we could get a table and fast service. The Cuban Bar was nothing particularly special during the day (when you have great company, that's all you really need!) but Melissa told us to try and come back at night when the restaurant turns into a lively lounge filled with Cuban music and lots of dancing.

Still getting over our jet lag, and with an early flight to Edinburgh in the morning, we decided to have a quiet night in at Melissa's flat, picking up some beer from the off-license a few doors down, enjoying the hockey game like the true Canadian's we are, and digging into a big plate of pasta made by one of Melissa's roommates. We had a big day ahead of us! Stay tuned for our experience in Edinburgh, Scotland!

Listening To:
Sorcha Richardson - Last Train