Thursday, May 29, 2014

Introducing The sip & Savour Ontario Farm & Artisan Market

For years I have been working for an annual event that I have always been very proud to say that I am apart of. In its ten years since launching, sip & Savour Ontario has grown to become one of the most well respected events in Toronto thanks to its commitment to bringing education, support, and accessibility of Ontario's local wine, culinary, and agricultural industries to the public. 

With this year marking sip & Savour Ontario's ten year anniversary, we wanted to do something a little different. In response to the publics growing interest in having regular access to locally farmed and produced, ethically sound products in Toronto, sip & Savour Ontario has launched its first urban farm and artisan market at Avenue Road and Roe Avenue in North York. Each Thursday commencing June 5th until October 30th, from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm, the sip & Savour Ontario Farm & Artisan Market invites the community to sip and savour the best of Ontario's enviable bounty and show their support for local Ontario food growers and producers. 

The urban market philosophy will reflect the same ideology behind the sip & Savour Ontario annual fair, while raising consumer awareness about how farmers markets support the local economy. The sip & Savour Ontario Farm & Artisan Market will give the community an opportunity to put a face to their food through interaction with local farmers, as well as educational information on where their food comes from and the benefits of supporting local industries. 
The sip & Savour Ontario Farm & Artisan Market

 The Roe Loop
Avenue Road & Roe Avenue

Thursdays 3:00 pm - 7:00 pm
June 5 - October 30

 100-Acre Bakery
Albion Hills Farm
Allison's at the Best
Alzheimer Society of Toronto
Bizjak Farms
Carter Farms
Cookstown Greens Inc.
Harvest Goodies
 Highmark Farms
Localista Food Truck
Mad Gringo Hot Sauce
Millcreek Flower Farm
Monforte Dairy
Pablo the Dog
Pioneer Brand Honey
Skinlicious Soaps Ltd.
SoupHerb Soups
The Backyard Urban Farm Company (BUFCO)
Waymac Farms

I hope that my readers will have an opportunity to come out and support this very exciting endeavor! If you do, look for the little red-headed gal and come say "hi!" Cheers, to going local!

Listening To:

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Perfect Weekends Begin & End With Pisco Sours

It's that time Toronto! It's time for shorts and skirts, patios and pitchers, frolicking with friends, bikes and baseball games, and sweet, sweet spontaneity! The warm weather has finally arrived and with it comes those perfect fun and sun packed weekends that seem to go on forever, yet still end far too soon. To kick off what has officially been the first five-star weather weekend of Spring 2014 in Toronto, my boyfriend Chris was able to track down a bottle of Chilean Pisco, a boozy fruit liquor that is the main component to one of my favourite Summer cocktails, Pisco Sours. 

I had my first Pisco Sour experience less than two hours after landing in Chile for an adventure-filled vacation with my dad seven years ago (SEVEN YEARS AGO?! Where did the time go?). I was jet lagged but dying to hit the lounge chair by the pool of our hotel, desperate to feel the sun on my Vitamin D-deprived skin after escaping Toronto's cruel February chill. The moment my tush hit the chair I was presented with my very first Pisco Sour. So delighted to be in such a beautiful foreign country relaxing by the pool, I downed my drink, not realizing that the citrusy, easy-drinking cocktail actually contains a whopping three shots of the 41% spirit. I was a goner. I spent the remainder of the afternoon passed out and drooling in my lounge chair, while the sun burnt my fair, milk-coloured skin. That damn delicious cocktail took the wind right out of me, but that certainly didn't stop me from having at least one Pisco Sour every day for the remainder of my trip. 

It probably would have been a good idea to fill Chris in on that story, before we started drinking our Pisco Sours, as the poor guy didn't have a clue what he was getting himself into. He read "fruit liquor" and thought "oh like a Campari! Like an aperitivo!" It wasn't until we had drained our glasses and Chris went to pour more of what remained in the cocktail shaker, that he got a real whiff of the Pisco and realized how similar it smells to Tequila. A quick peek at the alcohol percentage on the bottle and it was back to chugging water! Just like after my first boozy Pisco experience, Chris had become hooked on the South American cocktail, declaring it to be our drink of the Summer! I sure didn't oppose! Recipes for Pisco Sours differ slightly, but here is one that my dad and I made a few years ago.
With the sun blazing and not a cloud in the sky on Saturday morning, Chris and I had our sights set on bikes! We headed over to Queen West to check out the selection at the Giant store. Thanks to my guy doing some initial bike research for me, we quickly found a reasonably-priced dream bike that had great value, was light and speedy, had good design features, and was cute and sporty looking. We took her out for a test ride and I fell in love! It had to be mine! I purchased my first good bike with a skip in my step and a smile plastered on my face. 
After all that excitement and test riding, we had worked up an appetite and decided to go around the corner to check out North Of Brooklyn Pizzeria, a gourmet pizza shop we have been meaning to try since opening. The small and dark largely-takeout shop features wood and metal accents with four tables for two and bar seating. We each picked up a slice of their Pepperoni and Margherita pizza and a can of, Howe Sound Lager and tucked in. The perfectly thin hand-stretched crust was very tasty and topped with an absolutely delicious hand-crushed tomato sauce, with wonderful concentrated tomato flavour and just enough Buffalo Mozzarella, pepperoni, and basil. I particularly liked the extra touch of sesame seeds that lined the crust of the pepperoni pizza, giving it a nutty bite. It's rare to find such great gourmet pizza sold by-the-slice in the Toronto, and with North Of Brooklyn taking such great care in producing a high-quality product, there's no doubt that their slices take the lead!
There's no better way to end one of those perfect Spring weekends than at a packed Jays game, with the dome open, beers, and good friends! To celebrate another Jays sweep we all headed back to Chris' condo to send the weekend off in the only way we knew how, more Pisco Sours! Cheers to a Spring and Summer filled with gorgeous weekends just like this!

Listening To:

Friday, May 23, 2014

Quinoa-Stuffed Butternut Squash: Celebrating Celiac Awareness Month with Campbell's

I was probably in grade five or six when I first learned what Celiac disease was. My Zhada was diagnosed with it, which at the time didn't mean much to me other than less challah at our Shabbat dinners. It wasn't until a few months after that when one of my best friends at the time, Nikki, was also diagnosed with the disease that I realized how much it can affect ones life. I witnessed Nikki's frustration at not being able to eat pizza at parties with all of her friends, or eat her moms amazing Israeli couscous salads that drove everyone wild at BBQ's, as well as watching her give in to temptation, and be faced with horrible, debilitating stomach pains for the remainder of her day. I thought it was so unusual that all of a sudden I knew two people who had this strange disease that was previously foreign to me. Being such a big food lover myself, with my favourite foods at the time being pasta, pizza, baguette, breaded chicken fingers, and pie (I swear I wasn't a fat kid) I couldn't understand how my Zhada and Nikki would be able to happily go about their days excluding these wonderful treats that I had taken for granted my whole life. 

Now it seems you can't go through one day without hearing the words "gluten-free," with a huge spike in the Celiac population in Canada, and much greater access to gluten-free products. Although many people claim to be gluten intolerant (which recent research has shown is actually a fallacy), those actually struggling with Celiac disease have much more serious repercussions to going against a gluten-free diet such as the inability of your body to absorb important nutrients (such as protein, fat, carbohydrates, and minerals) as well as symptoms such as anemia, chronic diarrhea, weight loss, fatigue, cramps, bloating, and irritability. Not fun. 
For the month of May the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness has declared it to be Celiac Awareness Month to spread information, tips, recipes, and more all about the disease that now affects 1 in 133 persons in Canada. To take part in this health-focused month, Campbell's Canada challenged select Canadian food bloggers to help raise awareness for Celiac disease, by creating a unique, gluten-free recipe featuring their newly launched No Salt Added Ready To Use Vegetable Broth (that is of course, gluten-free!). Campbell's generously sent myself and the rest of the bloggers participating their brand new broth for us to play around with, and create something we would be proud to share and serve to our Celiac friends and family. After much thought and research I finally came up with a recipe for Quinoa-Stuffed Butternut Squash with sauteed spinach, onions, sage, ricotta, and Parmesan cheese that I knew anyone (Celiac or not!) would go wild for! This is a great side dish to serve at parties thanks to its large portions and striking presentation, and is a cinch to prepare! 

To encourage readers and at-home cooks to play around with their own gluten-free recipes, Campbell's has been kind enough to provide me with coupons for FREE cartons of their No Salt Added Ready To Use Vegetable Broth for me to give out to my readers! Want to get your hands on some free Campbell's broth? The first 25 readers to comment on this post will have a coupon sent directly to them*!  #CampbellsGlutenFree #promo
*Coupons will only be sent within Ontario.

1 medium/large butternut squash
olive oil for roasting & frying
1 cup quinoa
2 cups Campbell's No Salt Added Ready To Use Vegetable Broth
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 handfuls baby spinach
4 heaping tbsp ricotta cheese
2 sage leaves, very finely chopped
salt & white pepper to season
about 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 350º. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut vertically down the centre of the butternut squash. Rub exposed flesh with olive oil and place, cut side down on a baking sheet. Bake for 40-60 minutes, or until fork tender. Cool until ready to handle.
  2. In the last half hour of the squash baking, prepare the filling. Add quinoa to a medium pot and add the Campbell's vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, reduce to low, cover and cook for 15-minutes. Turn off heat and let stand for 5-minutes. Fluff with a fork.
  3. In a medium sauté pan, heat about 1 tbsp of olive oil. Add the onion and cook until translucent and softened. Add the garlic and spinach and stir. Cover with a lid and steam for 1-2 minutes, or until spinach has wilted. Remove from heat.
  4. Carefully cut a 1/2-inch border around the inside of the butternut squash flesh, and scoop out flesh inside (leaving just enough to allow the squash to stand up and act as a carrier for the quinoa filling). Add the scooped out flesh to the cooked quinoa and combine with a fork while mashing the squash.
  5. Add the onion and spinach mixture, ricotta, and sage to the quinoa mixture. Stir to combine. Taste and season with salt and white pepper as needed. Taste again and season once more if needed. Fill hallowed out squash shells evenly with quinoa mixture and top with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. 
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until re-heated. Serve immediately. 

Listening To:
Misun - Eli Eli

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Sip & Shuck with Stoneleigh

The idea of a wine tasting for a novice wine drinker often conjures up the image of cold dispositions, upturned noses, pretension, and comments on legs and notes (are we talking about stockings and music sheets here?), not to mention the fear of humiliation at the thought of making an improper judgement or comment on a particular wine. Years ago I would have said that that description is absolutely accurate, having had my share of experiences at wine tastings that left me feeling awkward and out of place. That was until I was introduced to the iYellow Wine Club
Back then Toronto's hottest wine club was just finding their footing in this competitive industry of food and wine, making a statement at each event with their eye-catching "I♥Ontario Wine" T-shirts. Today founder Angela Aiello has truly made a name for herself in the industry, known for shattering the myth of wine tasting snobbery, and instead creating a welcoming environment that both experienced and amateur wine tasters can feel at home and comfortable in. That welcoming and comfortable environment was surely put to the test last week when I, a confidence-lacking wine drinker and often socially awkward klutz, was invited to the newly launched iYellow Wine Cave to Sip & Shuck with Stoneleigh Wines. 
So excited to spend an evening in the Queen West wine cave that I had heard so much buzz about, sipping wine and slurping back my favourite mollusks, I had skimmed through my invite, not noticing that I was indeed given a +1. Let the awkwardness ensue! It was apparent from the moment I entered the graffiti-splashed alleyway door of the cave that I was the only solo wine taster in attendance. Lucky for me, this was not any old wine tasting, it was an iYellow one! Phew! I spent the first few minutes of my arrival walking around the cozy and stylish cave, taking in all of the eclectic little details from the mismatched lighting fixtures, chalkboard walls, vintage bookshelves, and old paintings in antique frames. I was wowed by the attention to detail and care in which the cave was decorated, giving attendees the feeling of walking into your parents basement...that had been taken over by their fixie-riding, craft beer-drinking, plaid-donning grown-up children. It was that laid-back atmosphere that put me at ease, and made me feel comfortable striking up a conversation with friendly-faced strangers...and I'm sure that first glass of Stoneleigh white didn't hurt either. 
I had the pleasure of sharing my first glass of wine with the lovely Erin from the blog College Street Closet and her friend Katie from the new blog Torontoholic. We sipped the bright and fresh tasting Stoneleigh white label Sauvignon Blanc while we chatted about our love of oysters and cheese. Although Erin is an East Coast gal, her and Katie had never shucked oysters before, a sin that had to be corrected immediately. We made our way over to the oyster sucking station, that encouraged attendees to slip on a pair of protective gloves and try their hand at shucking oysters themselves. Having shucked many an oyster myself, I took on the role of photographer as Erin and Katie shucked their very first oysters with ease! That called for another glass of wine!
We headed over to the red wine station where Ange just happened to be pouring and sharing her knowledge on the two pinot noirs being featured. The first was Stoneleigh's white label pinot, which Ange told us was a great intro-to-pinot wine with approachable soft and supple tannins and flavours of ripe, dark berry fruit and cherry with lingering fruit sweetness. I enjoyed the white label, but it was the grey label pinot that stood out for me, with a rich and fleshy palate of black doris plum, dark chocolate, and berry fruit. 
With liquid confidence surging through my veins, I turned into little miss social butterfly and found another two drinking and oyster-slurping buddies in the sweet and hilarious Sarah from the blog Metamorphocity (which I highly recommend reading!) and her friend and analogue photographer Emma. We shared restaurant horrors and recommendations while laughing and sipping on the black label Sauvignon Blanc, which featured a palate of honeydew melon and grapefruit with nuances of zesty citrus (my kinda white!). It was then that my regret over not bringing a +1 subsided, so pleased to have gotten the opportunity to have met such wonderful, like-minded individuals. This is precisely what makes iYellow wine events so unique. I walked into the event nervous and tense, unsure of whether I would feel comfortable flying solo at a wine tasting, and walked out with a skip in my step, feeling confident and inspired, after having such a wonderful time with complete strangers, who in that short amount of time I had learned so much from. I predict that I will become very familiar with the iYellow Wine Cave, eager to attend many more events and tastings in the future! 

Listening To:

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Kitchen Waltz & Thai Chicken Skewers

I used to be one of those people who hated cooking in the kitchen with anybody else. I was that dreaded person who would lose her mind over improperly cut avocados, over-mixed pancake batter, over-cooked chicken, and others getting in my way or invading my space. This possessive kitchen behavior would turn what should have been a pleasant dining experience into the oh-so-sassy "I'm not even hungry anymore." I was a real hoot to cook with, can you tell? 

I remember seeing my parents cook wonderful and far too lavish meals together in the kitchen, gliding between each other, and sharing what little counter space they had with ease as though it was a dance. Had we had a surveillance camera in my kitchen (because everyone has one in their kitchen, right?) I have no doubt that their seamless kitchen waltz would have made quite the performance. A two-step over to the oven. The hustle to get to the sink. The foxtrot to the fridge. I always envied their kitchen dance, so sure that I would never get to tango in my kitchen with a lover, due to my controlling kitchen ways.

It was on a quiet, weeknight evening last winter that I finally got to partake in the kitchen boogie, jive, and jig. It was that night that I knew I had found my kitchen dancing partner in my boyfriend Chris, while undertaking the large job of preparing a slow-cooked, multi-step pulled pork with coleslaw and beans. We swayed, frolic'd, pranced, and twisted our way around Chris' little kitchen, as we carefully prepared what would turn out to be the best pulled pork I've ever had. We haven't stopped our kitchen waltz since! 

Now my concerns in the kitchen are no longer cooperating with others and finding my kitchen dancing buddy, but finding quick and simple meals that Chris and I can prepare together on a whim. We are always talking about interesting food experiences and tastes that we have had, yet when it comes to thinking up meal ideas in a hurry (and sometimes not even in a hurry) we always seem to draw a blank. Just last week we wandered around the grocery store together, wracking our hungry brains for an uncomplicated dinner idea that would utilize the chicken breasts that were on sale that evening. Our struggle to think of a meal idea based around something as simple as chicken made me realize that I need to start arming myself with a repertoire of easy, weeknight meals that require little shopping and can be prepared in a short period of time. Pinterest beware! 

Wanting to build my file of easy, weeknight chicken recipes this week, I came across Williams & Sonoma's recipe for Thai Chicken Satays, which required little preparation, zero grocery shopping (I already had the chicken breasts in the fridge), and took all of 6-8-min to cook! The marinade was a cinch to assemble, merely throwing some of my favourite ingredients (hello ginger, peanut butter, sesame oil, and cilantro!) into a bowl and whisking until combined. What I appreciated about this recipe was that although they suggested marinating the chicken in the fridge for two hours, which I often find unreasonable on a busy weeknight, they also gave the option of marinating outside of the fridge for as little as 10-minutes, perfect for my Tuesday night! I also liked that this recipe is meant to be prepared on the BBQ (oh how I wish I had a BBQ), but they also provided directions for cooking the chicken under the broiler. With my lack of grill, I had to turn to my trusty broiler to cook the chicken, being careful not to overcook. Although the chicken didn't have that wonderful browned appearance that I find so appealing from meats cooked on the grill, it had a big hit of flavour thanks to the marinade and reserved sauce for dipping. The Thai Chicken Skewers were a standout hit, and undoubtably made it into my weeknight meal idea file, as well as a text to Chris declaring "I have found our next delicious and easy chicken recipe!" So Chris, you ready to dance?

On My Mind:
Have you voted for my Butternut Squash Cannelloni recipe for the Great Cream Challenge yet?

Help save our bees and join the March Against Monsanto tomorrow!

Listening To:

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Rose's Roundup - The Dish That Keeps On Giving

Breakfast Crepes - I love when a recipe keeps on giving. Those recipes that keep on giving remind me of the children's book Something From Nothing, where the cherished blanket of a young boy keeps being reconstructed into an assortment of different keepsakes by his mother, so that he could keep fragments of his beloved blanket throughout wear and tear. It was the blanket that kept on giving. My Butternut Squash Cannelloni that I developed for the Dairy Farmers of Canada Great Cream Challenge was the type of dish that kept on giving. After making it I was left with a fridge full of goodies like ricotta cheese, fresh sage, cream, and dry pressed cottage cheese. The leftover ingredient that stood out most for me was the dry pressed cottage cheese, as it was something I don't often have on hand in my fridge, and it always reminds me of making cheese blintzes with my dad. 

With just enough pressed cottage cheese for three little bundles of cheese blintzes, I had lots of leftover crepe batter to do with as I pleased. Yet again the dish kept on giving. For the following few days I had so much fun playing around with different ways to prepare my leftover crepe batter. The standout?  Hands down, my favourite crepe dish was my button-busting breakfast crepes, that allowed me to use up just about every breakfast appropriate item found in my fridge. Filled with scrambled eggs, basil, bacon, sauteed mushrooms and onions, blistered cherry tomatoes, spinach, and a prosciutto crisp for garnish, these crepes were packed with so much flavour and substance, it could have kept me full all day! 
Homemade Pizza Party - When a friend needs help perfecting a recipe, they can always count on me to come to the rescue...or at least try! When my friend David got hold of an old family recipe for a pizza that his grandmothers friend would serve at every family event, he roped me into helping him recreate the untraditional pizza that he had loved so much growing up. With little experience making pizza myself, other than the purchased dough that I sometimes turn to for convenience, this was a bit of a crapshoot for me, but I felt I was ready to take on the challenge! 

It was in the very first step that our first issue arose. Once again I am confronted with an example of "trust your instincts, Danielle." As soon as I read the packet of the instant yeast we had purchased, I thought to myself that that didn't sound quite right. Unlike the yeast that I was familiar with that you add to warm water with a bit of sugar to let sit and develop, these instructions told me to mix the yeast into 1/3 of the flour and add the warm milk to that. Despite my instincts yelling at me to do as I had always done in the past, I followed the packets instructions and continued with the recipe, allowing the dough to rest for an hour to double in size. Nope. That didn't happen. After an hour of letting the dough rest while we prepared the toppings, our dough was the exact same size. Ah well, we thought, it'll still taste good. We pressed out the dough into a square baking sheet, as Davids grandmothers friend had always done, and topped it with all of the toppings we had prepared. 

Despite the fact that the dough didn't look exactly as we thought it should, the pizza looked so damn delicious by the time we pulled it out of the oven. Bubbling and hot, we eagerly dove into our slices. Despite our crust rising issues, the texture of the dough was great, but something was wrong. There was so much flavour in each bite that I had to keep reaching for my beer...too much flavour in fact. How can you have too much flavour in a pizza? When you add more than double the amount of salt you were supposed to add you do! With almost two tablespoons of salt in our dough, it came out inanely salty. Overwhelming saltiness couldn't keep me from finishing my piece, I still enjoyed every bite! Certainly not perfect as a first attempt, but not disastrous either! I still call it a success...with room for improvement!
Hot Honey Garlic Wings - My boyfriend Chris and I love each other very much, but we have both come to terms with the fact that there will always be another love in both of our lives. For me, my second love will always be cheese, and Chris will always have a large place in his heart for hockey. Despite my initial disinterest in hockey, Chris' enthusiasm for the sport can be infectious, and although I hate to admit it, I find myself getting sucked in every now and then. With the Leafs out of the playoffs I had to find a new team to cheer for, and with Chris' hockey team, The Heisenberg's, still going strong with a 17-game winning streak and securing the title of Facility Champions for 2014, I turned into their little puck bunny cheerleader. 

I watched them destroy their opposing team in game-16 in the midst of a division tournament, and jumped up and cheered when I got the message that they had once again killed it with game-17 the following day. They had two more games to win in order to be crowned with the title of division champions, and I was sure they had it in the bag. It was when I became surrounded by a huge group of loud Quebecers up in the stands that I started to get nervous for them. The opposing team drove all the way from Quebec to play in the tournament, along with a massive squad of cheerleaders composed of family and friends. I knew these guys had to be good. Sure enough those fiesty Frenchies did the unthinkable and beat my dear Heisenberg's. 

Although we had good fun sipping beers and watching the rest of the Raptors game on a cell phone in the sun after the game, Chris was mighty bummed at his teams loss. This called for chicken wings! Lots and lots of chicken wings to drown Chris' sorrows in. Not having tried my Hot Honey Garlic Wings yet, I let my sad guy have a nap on the couch while I prepared him a huge bowl of sweet and spicy wings topped with lots of fresh cilantro and lime wedges. No, tasty wings couldn't bring the Heisenberg's back into the running, but it sure could sooth the sting of their loss. Next year the cup is yours, boys! You're gonna kill it!
Sweet Pepper Potato Salad - A few months ago my sister Justine and her boyfriend moved into a lovely little apartment on the main floor of a house that features big rooms, high ceilings, a large shared backyard, and their very own porch. There were so many positive changes to them swapping digs in their favourite neighborhood, but the place was definitely a "fixer upper." After myself, my family, and Justine and her boyfriends friends and family had spent many hours helping them out with sanding, painting, packing, moving, and so on and so forth, their place is finally the beautiful, livable apartment that we promised Justine it would be (she was definitely skeptical for a while there). The one downfall to their apartment? They have a stove, which the safety inspector feels is more appropriately called "a firetrap". From the moment I set eyes on the decrepit gas stove, I knew it was going to be trouble, something that their landlord has failed to agree with, in defiance of the warning that was issued by the inspector. So my poor sister and her boyfriend have had to indulge in restaurants and takeout for months now, which has certainly taken a tole on their wallets. 

Justine's 24th bithday at the end of April produced a bit of a savior for their current predicament. Finally being able to have outdoor space to themselves, my mom and I knew that Justine would love nothing more than a BBQ for her birthday. Thank goodness for that BBQ! Now Justine and her hubby have been able to prepare all of their meals on the grill until their stove issue gets sorted out. To celebrate the warmer weather and BBQ addition, my family and I got together at Justine's place for a good ol' fashioned BBQ of hamburgers and sausages with all the fixings. It was requested that my contribution to the BBQ be a potato salad, and with lots of potato salads in the Ginger Rose archive, I knew I would be set. I found a recipe for one of my favourite potato salads that I have posted, a Sweet Pepper Potato Salad, that is bright, colourful, and has great flavours and a texture that keeps you coming back for more! Crispy, sweet, tangy, and creamy this potato salad could win over anyone! 
Poached Egg On Toast With Asparagus - The dish that kept on giving, kept on giving to help to create this lip smacking good take on breakfast for dinner. The leftover ricotta from my Butternut Squash Cannelloni was utilized to add a punch of creaminess to this kicked-up egg and toast dish, complimenting the crispy multigrain toast and crunchy roasted asparagus. Buttered multigrain toast is topped with a poached egg, roasted prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, blistered cherry tomatoes, and fresh ricotta for a quick, easy, and satisfying breakfast for dinner...that still leaves a bit of room for dessert!
Arugula Prosciutto & Goat Cheese Crostini - There's not a whole lot that I miss after leaving the gross bar I was working at a few months ago, but the one thing that I do painfully miss are the friends who still work there that I left behind. So when I was invited by my friend Krysten, who I had the pleasure of working at the bar with, to come up to her cottage for the weekend with my best friend Robin (who I also worked at the bar with) and a number of other girls, (including two more who had also worked at the bar for a period of time) I jumped at the chance to spend the whole weekend with the ladies that I miss so dearly. 

It was so nice to spend one of the first warm weekends up north relaxing, drinking, playing games, and eating everything in sight with such a great group of women. So much of our fun was thanks to the two hostesses with the mostesses Krysten and her sister Cass, who took care of all us with delicious meals and snacks all weekend. One of my favourite tastes of the weekend was the lunchtime snack that Krysten so beautifully prepared: Garlic Crostini Topped with Arugula, Prosciutto, & Goat Cheese. Although this dish is very simple to prepare, it is so deliciously flavourful and full of pleasant textural contrasts that you could literally eat an entire plate to yourself! Thanks for giving me a spectacular weekend, ladies! Let's do it again soon!

On My Mind:
I've found myself a new summer band and they're located right in in Toronto! Listen to the Joonbugs to be transported into their dreamy, nostalgic, folk music world.

This made me laugh out loud! Support the artist with a very small fee to watch the whole short film, it's worth it!

Momofuku Milk Bar in Toronto is now serving cereal milk flavoured soft serve! I repeat, CEREAL MILK FLAVOURED SOFT SERVE! I must try this!

Poor lil' squirrel. Can I take you home?

I hope this can live up the un-freaking-believable experience at had at London's Punchdrunk production of The Drowned Man.

Love it or hate it? Make your vote count for the Toronto Architecture Awards, The Pug Awards!

Only about 20ish years late, but I'm not complaining! Skin-a-marink-e-dink-e-dink-skin-a-marink-e-do! I love you!

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Listening To:
The Joonbugs - Red And Blue

Monday, May 12, 2014

{WINNER} Summer Fresh Mother's Day Prize Pack

CONGRATULATIONS to Jamie who's name was randomly selected out of all the applicants to win the fantastic Summer Fresh Mother's Day Prize Pack! I hope you and your mama are able to share the FREE Summer Fresh products in each others company. Jamie, I will be reaching out to you shortly for your home address to send your Prize directly to you.

Thank you to Summer Fresh for allowing me to partake in this fun little giveaway! Make sure to follow Summer Fresh on Twitter and Facebook to see what delicious products they will be coming out with this summer!
Listening To:
Wildcat! Wildcat! - Garden Grays

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Cheaters Handbook: Roasted Asparagus & Blistered Cherry Tomato Couscous

Cheater, cheater, couscous eater! Here's an easy little cheat that comes in handy in the midst of those manic, weeknight rushes to get a well balanced meal on the table. Sometimes it can be a challenge to prepare a well rounded meal complete with a protein, a good serving of vegetables, and a carb when you're rushing home from work and the only thing on your mind is "I AM HANGRY!" The trick is to try and prepare yourself in advance. It's a great idea to take a bit of time out of your Sunday evening to prepare a healthy and flavourful side that will carry you through to mid-week, but let's face it, as simple as that sounds, sometimes planning ahead just isn't a reality. For those times when your hunger and lack of time forces you to think on your feet and come up with something ASAP before your hangry temper gets the best of you, here is a little trick to make a satisfying, tasty, and healthy side dish that provides you with both your serving of vegetables and carbs all in one! 

Couscous is insanely simple and fast to prepare when armed with a cheat. When time doesn't allow me to stir up a dressing, sauce, or flavouring of my own to season my couscous with, I like to go to the convenience section of my fridge which features an array of salad dressings for moments just like this. A few tablespoons of salad dressing can add a big hit of flavour to your couscous or even quinoa and takes all of 2 seconds! When matching your salad dressing to your couscous or quinoa dish, think of complimenting flavours. What vegetables are you putting into your couscous? What dressing will compliment those flavours as opposed to overpower them? Putting a bit of thought into the dish doesn't require much time, and will make a world of a difference in the final dish. 

Tip: Keep in mind that as your couscous sits, some flavour will dissipate, so make sure to over season just a touch so your leftovers will still have all those big bright flavours. 

olive oil for cooking
1 cup cherry tomatoes
a handful of asparagus
4-5 tbsp Italian, Greek or other salad dressing of your choice
zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
salt and fresh ground pepper
about 6 fresh basil leaves, chopped fine
1 cup couscous
1 cup vegetable broth (may substitute with chicken broth)

  1. In a small saucepan bring the vegetable broth to a boil. Place the couscous in a tupperware container large enough to fit both the couscous and water. When the broth comes to a boil add to the couscous-filled tupperware container, stir, and close tightly with a lid. Let sit for 5-minutes, fluff with a fork and set aside.
  2. In a small skillet set to medium heat, warm about 1 tbsp olive oil. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook until blistered. Don't worry if some skins start to burst.
  3. Set a grill-pan on the stove at medium heat, drizzle with olive oil and lay out the asparagus in one layer. Season generously with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook until tender but still has a bit of a bite. Remove from pan and set aside. When asparagus is cool enough to handle, cut into 1/2-inch pieces. 
  4. Stir 4 tbsp salad dressing into the couscous along with the cherry tomatoes, asparagus, lemon juice and zest, and basil. Taste and season with salt and pepper and additional salad dressing, if needed. Taste again and season one more time, if needed. Can stay in fridge for 1-week. 
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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

{CONTEST} Summer Fresh Mother's Day Prize Pack

Mother's Day is just around the corner, and along with the panic of what to get or do for the most important woman in your life comes a flood of memories (for myself at least!) of many joyous Mother's Days of years past. My family always does something special for Mother's Day, but the Mother's Day memory that definitely stands out the most was from when I was probably in grade 5, right in the midst of my Spice Girls craze. My mom had invited over both of my grandmothers (my Oma and Baba) for a relaxing, home cooked meal, and my sister and I decided to contribute to the occasion by blaring Spice Girls "Mama" and forcing our mom, Oma, and Baba to dance around our living room with the song on repeat. Although this sounds like some cruel form of torture now, it was actually one of the most cherished memories I have of my two grandmothers, dancing and posing around my living room like the total glamazons that they are, while my sister, my mom, and I danced along with them, giggling up a storm. It was a moment that I will never forget.

This year Summer Fresh wants to celebrate all the lovely mama's out there with a special giveaway that will extend the day that brings attention to all the hard working mothers out there. Summer Fresh has gifted a lovely prize pack valued at $50 featuring $10 worth of coupons for free Summer Fresh products, a "Let's Get Fresh" apron, a professional spatula, and a $25 gift card to Terra Greenhouses to keep the Mother's Day love going after the big day on Sunday. So how can you win the Mother's Day prize pack? This contest is open to all GTA mama's and anyone who has a mama they would like to share the prize pack with! All you have to do is comment on this post telling me about your most memorable Mother's Day experience. The names of those who commented will go into a blind draw to select the winner and your prize pack will be delivered right to your front door! So what are you waiting for? Take a moment and share your favourite Mother's Day experience with me, and this awesome prize pack could be yours! 

Follow Summer Fresh on Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date with all the latest seasonal products!

Contest ends Monday May 12 at 12:00AM. No purchase necessary. No cash equivalent. Greenhouse gift card is for Terra Greenhouses. Gift card can not be substituted. Must be a resident of Toronto/GTA to enter. 

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Friday, May 2, 2014

Borough Market AKA That Time I Fell In Love With A Market In London, England

Borough Market signage; An assortment of gorgeous wild mushrooms; Beautiful green produce everywhere; Huge vats of freshly prepared curries.
When I came home from my incredible trip to the UK almost two months ago all I wanted to talk about was my last few days in London, England, which were filled with some of the most mind-shifting, sensory overloaded experiences of my life. I was so eager to share these unique experiences that my words would turn into a jumble of chaotic nonsense that only my boyfriend Chris, with whom I got to experience my UK adventure with, could understand. I was sure that writing would be the avenue that would allow me to properly articulate the feelings, sights, smells, tastes, and sounds that so pleasantly overwhelmed me in those last few days, but to my dismay, each time I sat in front of my computer, fingers poised at the keyboard, the words refused to come. Instead I would slip into a foggy, dreamy state, full of nostalgia as I took myself back into the vibrant Borough Market, with a cone full of cured meats in my hand; through the dark and eery rooms of Temple Studios, with my heart racing; squeezed into a corner in the incredibly packed Maple Leaf Bar, watching our Canadian women's hockey team take home the gold; perched on a couch sipping a bone marrow bloody mary at Lounge Bohemia; and surrounded by brute Brits, shouting inaudible chants at the Arsenal game. 
Artichokes, and green onions, and parsnips OH MY; Mustard heaven; Olive heaven; Lord London cheese.
With back-to-reality-induced writers block, I kept putting off writing the entry I had previously been so fired up to write, to the point where I sit here now, over two months later, wondering where all that time went, and how I could possibly find the words to write anything of value about it now. So rather than wrack my brain to attempt to piece together all these memories, I give you a simple photo diary of my experience at the absurdly wonderful Borough Market, AKA where I publicly foodgasm'd for two hours. Despite National Geographic donning my familiar St. Lawrence Market with the crown of "top food market in the world", there is no doubt that London's Borough Market takes the cake...and the doughnut...and the spelt almond croissant...and the cheese...and the meat...and the fresh shucked oysters...and the hand-made gnocchi...and the fresh-pressed juice...and the-ok, you get the point. 
Chicken, duck, and quail eggs; Fresh oysters; Cheese, glorious cheese; Olive heaven.
Incredible dried meats; 4 pounds for meat cones? You had me at meat cones!; So much cheese; Meat cones, best idea! 
Fantastic selection of unbelievably delicious and pillowy freshly-made stuffed pastas; Olive oil for days; Hope you're not a vegetarian; Fresh and light as a feather potato gnocchi in tomato sauce.
Everything is better with burrata; Fresh-squeezed juice in every flavour imaginable; Melted cheese! MELTED CHEESE!; Look at the buffalo mozzarella oozing out of those sandwiches! JUST LOOK AT IT!
The best doughnut in existence! Why oh whyyy did the three of us split only one?! WHYYY?!?!

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Thursday, May 1, 2014

VOTE! Dairy Goodness Stuffed Pasta Challenge: Butternut Squash Cannelloni

Heeere we go again! I've enjoyed taking part in the Dairy Goodness Cream Challenge so much over the past few years, I decided to go out on a limb and compete in three challenges this year! For my second challenge I had to create a stuffed pasta recipe featuring the key ingredient, cream! From the moment I was confirmed to take part in the stuffed pasta challenge I knew exactly what I wanted to make, Butternut Squash Cannelloni! 

A few years ago I came up with a super quick version of a butternut squash cannelloni inspired by a whole bunch of leftovers in the fridge that needed to be used up, including roasted butternut squash, lasagna sheets, tomato sauce, and cottage cheese. That quick butternut squash cannelloni recipe was so simple and delicious, it's stayed with me all these years. As much as that quickie cannelloni was tasty, I wanted to take it up a notch with the addition of fresh cream, which I knew would transform this dish, giving it an even creamier flavour and texture. Although cannelloni seems like it would be very time consuming and requires many steps, this cannelloni recipe is actually very simple thanks to a no-cook cream sauce and a little day-prior prep. To save time the day of serving, I like to roast and puree my butternut squash and whirr up my cream sauce the day before, so all I have to do is assemble and bake for a comforting and delicious homemade stuffed pasta dinner that I would be proud to serve my friends and family. 

Please take a moment to check out my recipe and VOTE for a chance to win an 11-piece stainless steel Paderno cookware set! I was fortunate enough to win the Comforting Mac & Cheese Challenge this year with my French Onion Mac & Cheese recipe and received the gorgeous Paderno set, so I can vouch for how incredible the cookware set really is! Thanks to my new Paderno set I feel like I have so much more control over cooking my product, making the time I spend in my kitchen all the more enjoyable. 

Click here to VOTE for my Butternut Squash Cannelloni! 

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