Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Just for the Hack of it!

Just over six months ago I quit my job. I threw in the towel (er...should I say apron?) to focus on making my dreams and my goals a reality. I laid everything out on the table for all to see, which for me was incredibly scary knowing that if I failed, all within my social circle and beyond would know. I called out to friends, family, and acquaintances through various means of social media, emails, texts, and phone calls asking for their help and their guidance in making this crazy foodie dream of mine realized. Some people thought I was crazy, drawing my mind to a quote from one of my favourite songs:
"Quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock." Arcade Fire - Sprawl II
 But I refused to punch that metaphorical clock! I knew this was the path I had to go on (or at the very least try!) and I knew this was something that I was good at, which isn't always easy for someone as hard on themselves as myself to admit. Yes, there were absolutely a number of occasions where I had to stop and ask myself "what the hell was I thinking?!" wondering if this vision of how I wanted my future to play out was merely a fantasy that I had created in my head, but alas I persevered. 

And here I am today, about to share with you my very first blog post on the Kraft Canada Food Hacks website, fittingly posted on my birthday! It's weird, part of me had complete blind faith that I would get to this moment, yet the very practical part of my brain is still in complete disbelief that I actually made this happen, and so quickly at that. True, I've been writing Ginger Rose for over five years now, but I feel it wasn't until I put it all on the line and voiced my ambitions that the ball finally started rolling. Put that positive energy and goals out there, and you shall receive! 
So without further ado, I ecstatically introduce to you the Kraft Canada Food Hacks blog, written by yours truly! The first blog post is a fun little Q&A that I did with Kraft about my experience and history with food hacking, getting new readers and devoted Kraft fans to learn a little bit more about myself. 

The second post is where I get cookin', sharing with you one of my favourite food hacks that I've come across, the Grilled Chicken Caesar Wafflewich! I absolutely adore panini sandwiches, allowing sandwiches to have a great moist and soft filling, while giving a fantastic crunchy texture to the outside, not to mention cutting down on mess by making the dish more compact in size (but certainly not in flavour!). Without a panini press, it's difficult to get that same panini-pressed texture and flavour that I crave from some of my favourite sandwich shops and restaurants. Say hello to the good ol' family waffle-maker, here to save the day! Who knew that an appliance that I already had in my home could create the same results as a bulky panini press that I thought was absolutely crucial in achieving a delicious panini?! With comforting familiar flavours similar to a club sandwich (substituting the chicken for what is traditionally used, turkey) the Grilled Chicken Caesar Wafflewich is sure to become your new favourite lunch-time treat! 

Check out the recipe for my Grilled Chicken Caesar Wafflewich as well as my Q&A and tell me what you think! I will be taking over the @foodhacks Twitter page, where I will be sharing all of the many food hacks that I invent and come across. I encourage you to tweet me, comment on my posts, write me on my Ginger Rose Facebook page and email me to share your own food hacking experiences! Have a hack you think I'd like? I want to know! Let's get the food hack conversation started! 

Listening To:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

GLAD Fresh Food Challenge

Long before I had to begin worrying about money, budgeting, and bills I had the message "waste is bad" firmly engrained in my head. With my mom growing up with European parents who lived through the war, the 'waste not, want not' mentality was passed down through to my immediate family, meaning always finishing the food on your plate; spending an extra couple seconds getting every last drop out of the orange juice container or milk bag; and even such wild penny-pinching-practices like machine-washing J-cloths after being used. It always seemed like a bit of a nuisance for my very fortunate sister and I growing up, not being able to look at the big picture and see how all these little savings can actually add up to be quite significant in the end. 
Now, being in my late twenties, I have become painfully aware of each and every fruit or vegetable that goes mouldy in my fridge, leftovers that go uneaten, and dry goods that go rancid. Sure, having to pay for my own things absolutely brought my attention to food waste, but more than that, it was about those values that my parents had instilled in me growing up, finally making sense to me. As I grew up I started to place more value on the things that I had previously taken for granted in my life. I started to understand that not everyone has the privilege to eat healthy and fresh meals everyday, and how quickly my life could very well go in the same direction. 
Instead of looking at food waste as an irritant, forcing me to eat things before they go bad, whether I liked them or not, I started looking at potential food waste as an opportunity. I decided to be inspired by potential waste, rather than feel hindered by it. I started consciously making the effort to go through my kitchen regularly and come up with interesting and delicious dishes that would allow me to incorporate all of those almost-ready-for-the-trash ingredients that could have contributed to my weekly food waste. I now take pride in throwing out as little food as I do, knowing that the things that I have spent my hard-earned money on are helping to nourish me, and is not getting thrown in the trash. 
With my waste not, want not values seeping into just about every blog post I write, I jumped at the chance to get to take part in the GLAD Fresh Food Challenge! From October 1st to October 15th myself as well as a slew of other Canadians have committed to having zero food waste! Not a single leaf of lettuce, not a single slice of apple pie (but really, who would waste apple pie?!) could go to waste in that two week period. With such an emphasis on reducing food waste in my everyday life, I had figured that I would be a pro at the challenge, and would succeed with flying colours, but I gotta say it was certainly tougher than I had thought. This challenge made me very aware of everything I purchase each day, portion sizes, tricking myself into eating the same thing in different ways in order to use it up, and also taking the care and time to wrap and package any leftover food properly. After two weeks of next to zero food waste (I regretfully admit that a few strawberries and cherry tomatoes went bad) I have come up with a number of tips to share for you to help you to cut down on the food waste in your own home. 
  1. Wrap leftovers immediately - Wrap any leftover ingredients or meals as soon as possible, and in the most effective way possible. For instance, wrap blocks of cheese in a tightly-wrapped layer of GLAD Cling Wrap and then place in a small GLAD zipper bag and place in your cheese drawer. Wrap any leftover chicken, meat, or fish in GLAD Press 'n Seal to lock in all that freshness. Wrap any leftover candy and nuts in a GLAD zipper bag. 
  2. Label all leftovers - Right after you have wrapped up or packaged your leftovers, write directly on the bag or container, or on a piece of masking tape what the contents are as well as the date they were made/packaged. 
  3. Organize your fridge - Organize your fridge regularly to make sure you know exactly what is in there and what needs to be used up. Try and designate a specific area of your fridge solely for things that need to be eaten, so that family members and roommates are made aware of what they should be eating.
  4. Leave notes - Leave cute notes in your kitchen for family members and roommates to make them aware of what they should eat before it goes bad. For instance, my boyfriend got a note saying "Yum! There's delicious cherry tomatoes, basil, and Buffalo Mozzarella in the fridge! Maybe someone should have some caprese salad with dinner!" 
  5. Get creative with leftovers - Look for ways to reinvent your leftovers into something else so that you don't get sick of eating the same thing. For example, last week I made a delicious chilli with pork belly and brisket, and there were a ton of leftovers! With a great combination like pork belly and brisket, I knew that some of the leftover chilli would make a fantastic base for a Shepherds pie! Other examples could be making bread pudding or a Panzanella salad with leftover bread, or tossing almost-ready-for-the-trash berries into a cake or smoothie.
  6. Make smoothie bags - Toss any leftover pre-washed fruits and vegetables into GLAD zipper bags to freeze individual portion sizes for smoothies! Cut down on waste, and cut down on the time it takes to make your morning smoothie! 
How do you cut down on food waste?

Listening To:

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

I Am Food Hacks

Dear readers, I have to tell you that I have been holding in a secret. If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram you will have already heard the great reveal, but if not, now is the time for me to happily spill the beans that I had been holding in for weeks. Just over two weeks ago I received the incredible news that Kraft Canada has named me Canada's Ultimate Food Hacker!! From the moment I first heard about the Kraft competition to search for Canada's Ultimate Food Hacker, I knew it had to be mine, combining all of the things I love into one perfect year-long role. If you recall my blog post from August, as I progressed to the next round of the competition, you will remember just how incredibly hopeful I was to make it here. Right when I felt like throwing in the towel, and giving up on this crazy foodie dream of mine, the Food Hacks opportunity walked into my life, and here I am today being declared the winner! 

So what exactly does it mean to be Canada's Ultimate Food Hacker? As Kraft Canada's Ultimate Food Hacker, I will be taking over the Food Hacks social media pages to get to share with you my successes and failures, as I hunt down and experiment with just about every clever food hack that I can get my hands on! Basically, I want to give Canadians the tools to make life in the kitchen a little more interesting, fun, and efficient by providing clever food hacks that will allow you to elevate a meal, perfect a cooking method, or create an epic flavour infusion with ease! By engaging with you through Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Vine, as well as sharing weekly blog posts on the Kraft Canada What's Cooking blog on my trials and tribulations of food hacking, I hope to create a community of innovative Food Hackers that can learn and thrive from one another. I'm so madly excited to not only get to express my creativity with this role, but to also open up my audience to a whole new slew of smart and interesting foodies who I may not have had the chance to meet before. I can't wait to get the conversation going with all of you and hear about your own experiences with food hacks. Let's start sharing! I want to know what food hacks you've tried! What worked? What failed? What food hacks are you dying to try? Let's talk!  

Be sure to follow the @foodhacks Twitter page to stay up-to-date with all the latest food hacks and chat with me about your own food hack experiences! Also be sure to check out the Food Hacks webpage to see all of the amazing hacked recipes that Kraft has already created! I can't wait to go on this journey with you! 

Relive my Food Hacks video submission here for an awesome hack on how to peel multiple cloves of garlic all at once! 

Listening To:

Monday, October 6, 2014

Dairy Goodness Great Cream Challenge - Fall Harvest Veggie Challenge: Creamy Vegetable Gratin

Another year of the Dairy Goodness Great Cream Challenge has come to an end for me. Although I have been participating in the Great Cream Challenge for the past few years, this year was particularly special for me, getting to showcase not one, but three cream-filled recipes! Participating in the challenge is always a blast, but there's really nothing like getting to say you've WON a challenge! I felt so lucky to have won the Comforting Mac & Cheese Challenge with my Fresh Onion Mac & Cheese, and to have come so very close this time around in the Fall Harvest Veggie Challenge with my Creamy Vegetable Gratin (701 votes ain't too shabby!).
When coming up with my recipe for this past months challenge, I wanted to come up with something that utilized an assortment of different Fall harvest veggies, but was also incredibly comforting. With scalloped potatoes being one of my favourite Fall comfort foods (my mom makes it every Thanksgiving!), I wanted to make my own version of that, but kicked up using an array of different vegetables like sweet potatoes, zucchini, carrots, and even a layer of sautéed kale! I give you my Creamy Vegetable Gratin
I loved all of the different layers of flavour that goes into this dish, with the star ingredient, cream, along with gruyere and parmesan cheese acting as the creamy glue to hold the casserole all together. This dish would be a fantastic addition to your family's Thanksgiving meal coming up this weekend! Give it a try and let me know how it goes! 

Tip: Cut down on prep time by slicing all of the vegetables excluding the Yukon Gold potatoes in advance! 

2 tbsp butter, divided (plus more for greasing the baking dish)
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced divided
10 large leaves of kale (curly or black), chopped small
salt and white pepper to season
2 cups 35% cream
1/2 onion, make sure the root is still intact
1 bay leaf
4 cloves
3 sprigs thyme, divided
1 large sweet potato, peeled and thinly sliced
2 large Yukon Gild potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup shredded Gruyere 
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 medium yellow zucchini (summer squash), thinly sliced lengthwise 
3 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced lengthwise
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs 

  1. Heat a large sauté pan to medium heat. Add 1 tbsp butter. When butter is melted and begins to foam, add the shallot and sweat. Add 1 minced garlic clove and cook until fragrant (20-30 seconds). Add the kale and reduce to medium-low. Cook until kale until wilted, tossing occasionally. Season with salt and white pepper and set aside.
  2. While the kale is cooking, prepare the cream. Pour the cream into a small saucepan and set to medium heat. Cut a slit into the half piece of onion and stick a bay leaf inside. Poke the cloves into the onion and submerge in the cream along with 1 sprig of thyme. Right when steam begins to come off of the cream, remove from heat, remove onion  with spices and herbs, and set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 400º. Butter and 11x7-inch glass baking dish and add a spoonful of the flavoured cream mixture. Add 1 layer of sweet and yukon gold potatoes, making sure to lightly overlap the slices. Season lightly with salt and white pepper, and drizzle in some of the cream. Top with a light layer of Gruyere and Parmesan. Repeat process of layering in different slices of vegetables (a different vegetable on each layer), seasoning, and adding cream and cheese until vegetables reach the middle of the dish. Add the kale mixture to make the middle layer of the casserole, and repeat the vegetable, seasoning, cream, and cheese layering process until the vegetables reach the top of the baking dish.
  4. Melt the remaining butter in a small bowl in the microwave. Add in the remaining minced clove of garlic, the leaves from the remaining thyme sprigs, and panko breadcrumbs. Toss to coat. Sprinkle on top of the layered vegetables, along with any remaining cheese. Bake for about 60-minutes or until tender when pierced with a knife. Serve immediately.

Listening To:
Fleetwood Mac - Rhiannon Live 1976 (Stevie SLAYS this performance!)