Friday, October 30, 2015

To the lovely couple I served last Friday...

For those of you who don't know, blogging is not my full time job. In order to support myself and the passion projects that fuel my heart and my soul I am a server at an Italian restaurant. Although I work with some unbelievable people who often have me looking forward to my shifts (even if it means missing a dinner in the comfort of my home with the person I love) I can't help but beat myself up over the fact that I am still serving. It's hard to resist comparing yourself to old school mates and friends as updates continue to pop up on social media boasting their many career highs. Despite the fact that serving allows me to do what I love right now, and discover where I want to take my career, I often feel like a failure and get down on myself, feeling like I'm not contributing to anything. 

It's a rough job not having any security, control, or benefits, having to miss out on many social engagements and holidays (goodbye New Years Eve!), feeling like your schedule is opposite most of your friends and family, having people generally treat you like you're beneath them, not to mention feeling both emotionally and physically exhausted at the end of every shift. On bad days I come home on the verge of tears asking myself "why am I still doing this?" 

In the midst of an exhausting and very busy week of serving last Friday I had the pleasure of serving a couple who reminded me exactly why I do what I do. The couple, who are from a small town outside of Toronto, make a point of scheduling all of their appointments in the city on the same day so they can get them all over with and then treat themselves to a special dinner out. They told me that they hadn't yet found an Italian restaurant that they loved and could call their go-to in the city. With their obvious passion for one another and their magnetic positivity, my general manager and I set out to give them a special evening at our restaurant. I felt comfortable engaging with them as though we were old friends. They allowed me to dance around the menu, sharing with them some of my favourite tastes and smells, all the while listening eagerly and giving me their trust to take the reigns and order for them. It elated me to see such joy and enthusiasm from them as their faces lit up at each bite of a new dish or sip of wine. Their love was infectious as they affectionately looked into each others eyes, shared their food with one another, and took adorable selfies (this is coming from a non-selfie taker too!). I recognized the type of night they were having, as I've been lucky enough to have gotten a few of those special nights out at a restaurant with my boyfriend, and it felt pretty damn good to know that I was apart of making that happen.

To this couple I want to say "thank you." Thank you for making my night, and quite frankly my entire week. I haven't been able to get you off my mind. You were so lovely and generous in allowing me to take part in your your special evening. It was such a pleasure to be able to share my passion for food and hospitality with you and have you be so incredibly gracious and thankful in return. Just having the pleasure of serving such truly wonderful people put me in the greatest mood, but then you took things a step further. Your generosity extended beyond words in the form of the gratuity you left me. You could have left me anything and I would have gone home happy knowing that I got to take part in your night, but you took the opportunity to give me more than I have ever received on a bill. I wish I had expressed to you more how much that meant to me. More than just money in my pocket, you made me feel like I was contributing to something. You made me feel like what I do is worthwhile and important, and that is something I could never put a price on. I don't know if this letter will ever get back to you, but I just wanted to put my thanks out there in the world. With you both in mind I choose to continue the pattern of paying-it-forward and hope that I can have the same impact that you two did with me. Wishing you all the very best and hope to have the opportunity of serving you again in the future!



Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Guilt-Reduced Apple Pie Muffins - Part Two

Maybe I'm basic, maybe I'm a typical "white girl," or maybe there's just something incredibly infectious about indulging in the beauty of an apple orchard and pumpkin patch on a sunny fall day. 
There's no question about it, the number of photo ops at a pumpkin patch are abundant, but more than just finding the perfect Instagram shot to smack a filter onto before anxiously awaiting "likes" from the masses, I love my family's annual tradition of going to St. Andrews Scenic Acres for apple and pumpkin picking because it's just that, a tradition. My mom and I have been visiting the Milton farm for as long as I can remember, and each year as the first Fall chill permeates the air, I feel that same familiar stir to escape the bustle of the busy city and head into the country to appreciate the most striking season that our beautiful province has to offer. 
With a large bounty of Cortland apples in our bags, and a successful day of farm-photo-ops behind us, inspiration for Fall apple recipes was running high. For weeks those farm-fresh apples found their way into pies, salads, tarts, and what has been my favourite, Guilt-Reduced Apple Pie Muffins. 
You may recall in July of 2012 when I first made my Guilt-Reduced Apple Pie Muffins as a compromise to making apple pie, something I had never had much success with. I adapted a recipe for dessert-worthy muffins, giving it a healthier twist with the addition of whole wheat flour and apple sauce and reducing the amount of sugar. Though these muffins are still reminiscent of a moist apple cake, with their doughy interior and crispy crumble topping, their healthy spin make these babies perfect for a quick breakfast or snack on the go!
Side Note:
With a new fancy camera slung around my neck, I couldn't help but want to capture a new shot of the muffins to show how much I've learned and grown as a photographer in these past few years. I still have so much to learn and lots of practice to take part in, but I'm so incredibly proud of how far I've come, so much so that I couldn't help but take it personally when I recently brought my new camera out with me as I joined a group of girls for an afternoon get together. The moment I pulled out my camera (that still feels like a foreign object in my hand as I continue to learn its many intricacies) I heard a chorus of "oh so that's how she get's such good photos." Ouch. After nearly a year of working hard (yes, working) on perfecting my food photos, immersing myself in research, experimentation, note taking, and lots and lots of practice, I found it pretty offensive to have people credit my art to being a result of having an expensive piece of technology in my hand. Yes, my new camera has done wonders for my photography already, but guess what, for all these years I have been using a point and shoot and have gotten nearly the same results. I'm sure it wasn't meant as a dig, for all I know that could have been their way of complimenting me, but it felt pretty crappy. 
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup + 2 Tbsp loosely-packed brown sugar
2/3 cup apple sauce
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
3 cups shredded firm and tart apples

  1. Preheat oven to 350º.
  2. Make the muffin topping by stirring together brown sugar with flour, rolled oats, melted butter, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl whisk together brown sugar, apple sauce, egg, and vanilla until smooth.
  4. In a separate large bowl whisk together all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Some of the whole grains may get caught in the sifter so just toss the remnants in with the rest of the flour after. 
  5. Stir wet mixture into dry mixture, alternating with buttermilk. Fold in shredded apples, until just combined.
  6. Evenly scoop batter into a prepared muffin tin (greased or lined with paper muffin liners) so that the batter reaches 3/4 of the way up the cup. Sprinkle topping evenly over muffins and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. 
Listening To:

Friday, October 16, 2015

Grilled Peach & Ricotta Crepes with Bourbon Whipped Cream for fredi magazine

The day after I arrived home from my incredible trip to Italy I got right back in the kitchen and tackled my recipe for the Fall issue of fredi Magazine. With my still head swimming with all of the memories of the fantastic smells, sights, and tastes of Italy, it came as no surprise that inspiration for my latest recipe would come so easily.

With the last couple weeks of summer seemingly slipping through my freckled fingers, I wanted to create a dish that featured flavours present in both late summer and fall but presented in way to evoke the feeling of comfort that one associates with those first crisp and cool autumn days. With all of that in mind, I created a recipe and photo that I am really proud to share with you! My Grilled Peach & Ricotta Crepes with Bourbon Whipped Cream turned out wonderful, with fresh and juicy peaches as the star, nestled in a bed of creamy ricotta, and folded into a warm crepe to be topped with bourbon enhanced whipped cream. A true show stopper if I ever saw one! I highly recommend taking advantage of those last fresh Ontario peaches by creating my crepes in your own home. 

Check out my recipe on the fredi Magazine webpage and let me know what you think by tweeting me: @thisgingerrose.

Listening To:

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

How To Be A Food Hero - Make Vanilla Sugar

Working in the service industry you can't help but to see a lot of waste. With every table I clear I find myself wincing as I scrape unfinished steak, risotto, pasta, pizza and more into the garbage from customers not wanting to bother taking it home (despite my constant encouragement!). Don't get me wrong, the food at the restaurant I work at is absolutely fantastic and certainly not worthy of ending up in the trash, it's simply thoughtlessness on the part of the paying customers that results in such horrific waste. 

Seeing so much waste each time I come into work kills me, so I'm always trying to find ways of rescuing the high quality food at work so that I can sleep a little more soundly at night. Sometimes that means drinking a latte that was made by mistake (despite my minor lactose intolerance), eating the remainder of the chocolate pudding that's stuck to the inside of the piping bag, or taking home the half of baguette that was never sliced up for any diners, it all adds up in my mind! 
Last week while clearing some dishes in the kitchen at work, I saw one of our chefs scraping vanilla beans for our Tiramisu filling. Intrigued, I asked her if she does anything with the pod after scraping out the insides. After learning that they just end up in the trash, I eagerly asked her if she would mind if I took the empty pods home. Being the second most expensive spice next to saffron, I couldn't imagine tossing away those pricey beans, even without their aromatic filling. I immediately thought to make vanilla sugar with the leftover beans. By simply scraping whatever remained from the inside of the beans into some sugar, tossing in the empty pod, sealing in an airtight container, and allowing to sit for a week or two, you have successfully made vanilla sugar, perfect for adding to coffee, topping creme brûlée, or adding to other subtly-flavoured desserts!

Other Ideas:
Toss the pod into hot chocolate, dessert sauces, pastry creams, or simple syrup.

1 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean 

  1. Place sugar in a small mason jar. If using a fresh vanilla bean, slice down the centre of the bean using a pairing knife, being careful not to cut through. Using the tip of the dull end of the knife, scrape your knife along the bean to remove the aromatic filling. Add the filling to the sugar. If using an empty pot, scrape your pairing knife along the inside of the pod to remove any remaining filling and add to sugar.
  2. Add the empty vanilla bean to the sugar and seal. Shake to disperse the sugar. Allow to sit for 1-2 weeks until fragrant and ready to use. 
Listening To:

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The How To Be A Food Hero Series

Did you know that an average of 13% of all groceries purchased by Canadians ends up being thrown out, resulting in an average of $725 worth of food items ending up in the garbage each year? Being someone who has made food a significant part of my daily life, as well as someone who gets sick at the thought of food waste, those figures are staggering! 

As you may already know, I recently declared September to be a month of having zero food waste in my home. I created a system of tricks on How to Be A Food Hero that I was sure would enable me to make it all the way to October 1st without throwing out a single food item. Though I was determined to literally have zero food waste at all, inevitably I did end up having to toss some food here and there, which trust me, was not easy for me to do! It was hard not to beat myself up about not being able to fulfill my challenge, but I have to give myself credit for doing so well! I get an odd sense of pride when I think of the clever food combinations and dishes that I created in order to rescue certain food items from the trash. What I learned from my month of attempting to be a food hero is that the key to finding success is all about creating good habits and a daily routine. You have to get in the habit of looking through your fridge and cupboards each day to take inventory of what you have, and you have to take those few extra minutes each day to attempt to do some food rescuing, which can often be as simple as wrapping something up for the freezer. 

Even though I didn't achieve my goal of having zero food waste, I was so ecstatic over the incredible response I received from readers for taking on the challenge! It was so great to know that others are struggling with the same issues as I am and to know that I was actually able to provide helpful advice to aid people in reducing the amount of food waste in their own homes. With so much love for this challenge from both myself and my readers and with such a fantastic outcome to look forward to, I've decided to continue to battle with food waste and start a series on my blog entitled How To Be A Food Hero, featuring tips, tricks, and advice on how to reduce food waste in your own home. I hope that you benefit from these posts as much as myself and my wallet will! 

Listening To: