Friday, December 23, 2016

Mulled Cranberry Baked Brie with Spicy Candied Pecans

Holiday entertaining is all about ease of preparation, allowing you to spend less time in the kitchen, and more time with your friends and family. My Mulled Cranberry Brie with Spicy Pecans is as easy as can be and is a total showstopper, featuring the festive flavours of the holiday season. Sweet, spicy, warm, and comforting, you may want to prepare two of these, because your guests are sure to gobble it all up! Prepare the nuts and sauce in advance to have everything ready to go when your guests arrive.

Ingredients:
For The Pecans
3 Tbsp. golden corn syrup
1 1/2 Tbsp white sugar
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp (heaping) ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 cups whole pecans
cooking spray
For The Mulled Cranberry Sauce
2 cups fresh or frozen whole cranberries
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. orange juice
2 Tbsp. red wine
1/4 tsp orange zest
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp allspice 
1 whole star anise
2 thin slices fresh ginger
1 wheel of brie (200g)

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 325ºF.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together corn syrup, white sugar, salt, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and ginger. Stir in pecans.
  3. Spray medium baking sheet with cooking spray. Spread out coated pecans in one even layer and bake for 5-minutes. Stir to combine, and place back in the oven for an additional 10-minutes.
  4. While pecans are baking, prepare a medium baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Right as the pecans come out of the oven, use two forks to begin transferring, separating, and spreading the pecans on the prepared baking sheet to cool. Store in an airtight container for about 1-month. 
Listening To:

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Holiday Entertaining with Metro Ontario & How To Be The Host with The Most

WOW your guests with a striking dessert board filled frozen desserts that you can always keep on hand
I come from a family of hosts. I grew up thinking of my Oma and Opa (my mom's parents) as being the most sociable people I knew. Their home was always filled with friends, family, food, drinks, love, and lots of German drinking songs. The lives of the party, their home was constantly abuzz with a rotation of visitors, and somehow always a steady flow of fresh and delicious dishes that my Oma seemingly magically prepared. 

My mom and dad carried on this same tradition when they renovated our family home when I was seven. Suddenly our home became the hub for activity, as they regularly hosted dinner parties, family gatherings, friend hangouts, pool parties, and so much more. As our family adapted to life changes, we began to take on hosting our families holiday events as well. Christmas became our domain, and my goodness, did my parents ever knock it out of the park every year! With a beautiful home meant for entertaining, and parents with an uncanny knack for being the "hosts with the most," we started to host Thanksgiving, Chanukah and Passover (for my dad's side of the family), Mother's Day, Father's Day, birthdays, and I think once even Easter as well. 

"being a great host is truly about being a great juggler."

Now that I've grown up and have started hosting gatherings and parties in my own home with my boyfriend, I've started to realize just how lucky I am to have been given such great training for the role of "host" throughout my life. It's easy to take for granted, but I've come to appreciate and understand the delicate art of putting your guests at ease from the moment they arrive, setting the mood with music and decor, creating a well-balanced menu, and keeping everyone happy and comfortable throughout their time with you. It sounds simple enough, but being a great host is truly about being a great juggler. You have to be able to have your eye on all three balls in the air, and keep them from falling. 

"These women truly did it all, but that doesn't mean they weren't without their shortcuts."

Without a doubt the most difficult ball to keep control of is the food. While creating a menu and keeping guests well fed is a challenge in itself, during the holidays that challenge goes turbo, with unexpected guests and gatherings happening every few days. It seems impossible to be able to stay ahead of the game, and be ready with food and drink, should a surprise gathering arise, but somehow my Oma and my mom were always prepared. Though on the outside it appeared that they were embodying the trope of the "women who can do it all," making everything from scratch, while juggling jobs, family's, and other commitments, and don't get me wrong, they were. These women truly did it all, but that doesn't mean they weren't without their shortcuts. What my Oma and my mom taught me is that the true trick to being the host with the most, is knowing when to let someone else do the work. 

Though it's tempting to want to be able to say "I made everything!" let's face it, it's also exhausting! For the times when I just don't have the time or the energy to do everything myself, I turn to my tried and true shortcuts. This holiday season my favourite shortcut is keeping frozen desserts on hand. 
"My favourite type of frozen desserts are the ones that I can add my own personal touch to."

Since ti's the season for indulging in your sweet tooth, desserts are always an easy win for guests both unexpected and planned. My favourite type of frozen desserts are the ones that I can add my own personal touch to. The Irresistibles line from Metro Ontario carries a fantastic collection of frozen profiteroles (in both chocolate and plain) and eclairs, that have come to be my go-to holiday entertaining desserts. I love this line of desserts because 1) it allows me to have a dessert on the table in 30-minutes with very minimal effort, 2) it allows me to cater the dessert easily to the amount of guests I have, and 3) I can dress up the desserts in whichever way I please! 

My personal favourite way of serving the Irresistibles profiteroles and eclairs is by presenting them as apart of a striking dessert board. The profiteroles and eclairs look delicious on their own, but are made all the more striking and dramatic when paired with a selection of fresh fruit, dried fruit (dried cranberries, figs, and apricots are great!), other baked goods (think brownies, squares, and cookies), candied nuts, and so much more! Use your imagination and have fun with it! Your guests are going to love the beautiful presentation you've put together, as well as the delicious spread before them, and most of all, you'll have more time to spend with the people you care about, and less time stressing in the kitchen. I think I would make my Oma and my mom proud!

Tip: Because they travel so well, these are also great desserts for bringing to potluck parties! 

Listening To:

* This post was brought to you in collaboration with Metro Ontario. All words, opinions, and photographs are, as always, entirely my own and reflect my own personal views. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

April Bloomfield's Ricotta Gnudi


Here I am, almost a month into the new job, and I'm still breathing, still employed! I say it as a joke, but after my recent disastrous shift (which you can read about here) I was a little concerned that I was about to get the boot. Thankfully I followed my nightmare shift with two weeks of work that I can be proud of. I feel relatively good about walking into my shift tomorrow evening, though I know it's going to have a whole new string of challenges. 

So what is this mysterious new job that I keep alluding to? While I like to keep some things private on here, I will say that my new gig has me acting as an assistant teacher in the cooking classes at a fantastic food studio in downtown Toronto. What makes these classes so exciting is that they are very hands-on, which means getting my very own group of students to myself (which can be anywhere from 2-12 people!) for an hour, while we work through our assigned dish. It sounds simple enough, but there is so much work that goes into the preparation for each class (washing, chopping, making stocks, blanching, preparing appetizers and charcuterie boards, pre-baking, and so much more!) all within a strict time limit. Not to mention the stress of guiding a group of strangers of varying degrees of expertise and experience through a recipe that they are unfamiliar with, while working within our hour of cook-time, and all the while worrying about people burning and cutting themselves...oh and the dish has to actually taste good too, because guess what? Our students get to sit down at the end of the class, and enjoy the beautiful meal that we have all prepared together. Us assistants and teachers, plate and style each individual dish so the students can also get a little lesson in restaurant plating. Pretty cool, right?
The scariest, but also probably the most exciting part of the job, is that almost every class I will be given a new recipe to work on, oftentimes that I have just received the previous day, and may have never made in my life! That's what happened last week when I was responsible for teaching my group how to make the appetizer in our Rustic Italian-themed meal. I was in charge of guiding the group through making Spinach & Ricotta Gnudi with Sage & Walnut Pesto, something I had never made nor even eaten before! If you're unfamiliar with gnudi, think of them like naked ravioli. They are like the ricotta filling of ravioli, but without the pasta shell. Or another way of thinking of them is like gnocchi, but instead of potato, you're using ricotta. Having never made nor eaten gnudi before, I made sure to give myself enough time prior to class to do as much gnudi research as possible. This led me to learning about what is often considered to be one of the top 50 dishes to eat in New York, April Bloomfield of The Spotted Pig's Ricotta Gnudi.

The moment I first saw an image of Chef Bloomfield's gnudi, I could think of nothing else. It looked like pure heaven. Fluffy little balls of ricotta, resting in a bath of buttery, cheesy, thickened pasta water, with a few crispy fried sage leaves, and a light drizzle of browned butter...sigh...perfection. You would think that getting to make the delicious Spinach & Ricotta Gnudi with my class would have satisfied my craving to make and eat them, but no. I was so wildly intrigued by Chef Bloomfield's bizarre method for forming gnudi, that I would literally lie awake each night until I finally got my butt outside to the market to buy some good quality fresh ricotta, to replicate her infamous dish at home. 

What I found so alluring about Chef Bloomfield's gnudi was that it only contained ricotta, parmesan, and salt. That's it. To prevent the gnudi from breaking apart when boiling, Chef Bloomfield has created an unusual method that requires lightly tossing the gnudi in semolina, and then allowing it to rest in what I like to call a "semolina sandbox" for three days. This semolina sandbox step encourages the ricotta dumplings to form a natural shell around them, keeping the soft and fresh ricotta contained within. 
I have to say, though the final dish looks incredibly labour-intensive, Chef Bloomfield's gnudi are actually very simple to prepare. The trick was following Serious Eats slightly adapted method, which kept my hands relatively clean, and got all of my gnudi rolled out in just a few minutes. While Chef Bloomfield used a piping bag to pipe her gnudi mixture into the semolina, and then cut them to size using scissors, Serious Eats recommended spreading out the gnudi mixture in a shallow dish, and setting it aside to chill in the freezer for 15 minutes. This quick chill in the freezer allowed the mixture to firm up just enough so it was easy to handle and form into balls. The other tip they gave was to use a small quick-release cookie scoop to scoop the mixture into the semolina. Genius! This method made making April Bloomfield's gnudi so wonderfully easy to prepare!

After hanging out in their "semolina sandbox" for three days, my gnudi were finally ready to be served! Following Bloomfield's recipe (as shown in this video from Mind of A Chef), I boiled the gnudi for about a minute, and then quickly tossed them in a mixture of pasta water, butter, and parmesan cheese. By gently shaking the pan, the remaining semolina clinging to the gnudi will break off and naturally thicken the pasta water and butter sauce. After only about a minute the gnudi are ready to be plated! Served with a light drizzle of browned butter, crispy fried sage leaves, and a dusting of parmesan, April Bloomfield's Ricotta Gnudi were just as heavenly as expected. Melt in your mouth, fluffy, little balls of heaven! De-lish! The only thing I would change for next time would be to add more fried sage, and perhaps add some sage to the brown butter to infuse its flavour into the sauce, as well as garnishing the dish with toasted pine nuts for crunch.

I encourage you to check out Serious Eats method for making April Bloomfield's Gnudi and give them a try in your own kitchen! Remember to let me know how it went and tweet me on Twitter: @thisgingerrose.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Only Roasted Pumpkin Seed Recipe You Will Ever Need

Last week I started a new part-time job. It's exactly the type of malleable job that I was hoping to get, that would allow me the flexibility to work on my creative pursuits, while still learning and growing in the food industry. I was so happy when I was offered the position, feeling like my steel-toe-shoe-covered-foot was finally in the door! That feeling lasted...hmmm...all of maybe three days before my self-doubts began to set in. It's so hard to get excited about starting a new experience when you're a natural self-doubter, never trusting yourself and your abilities. 
"What the hell am I doing here?"
I have to be honest, I feel totally out of my element. It feels just like the first few weeks of culinary school, where I kept asking myself "what the hell am I doing here?" telling myself that I didn't belong and I was going to fail. Culinary school was definitely a humbling experience for me, but also an incredibly rewarding one. When I look at how much I grew in just the several select courses that I attended, and more than that, how much my confidence blossomed, I can't help but feel proud of myself. 
As much as I know there will be a light at the end of the tunnel, and that it's going to take time to find my groove and get comfortable, this beginning stage is absolutely excruciating to get through. I'm clumsy, I'm slow, I'm messy, I second guess myself, I can be forgetful, and my anxiety can get the best of me and I can slip into panic mode. 

It was the same when I first started serving - clumsy, slow, messy, second guessing myself, being forgetful, and I most definitely slipped into panic mode more times than I care to recall. I remember the look on my managers face when I would mess up an order. The nicest guy would suddenly look terrifying. That look would be burned into my soul as I saw it again and again as I helplessly tried to find my feet. 
"It's so easy to be comfortable and stay in a safe space where you know you can't fail, but if you can't fail then you can't grow."
I saw that same look on our head chefs face at my new job when we thought I almost used up all the chives that were meant for another recipe...and then again when we thought I almost broke the $1000 Vitamix, because I forgot to tell my group to remove the sachet before blending the soup...and oh, so much more. So, so, so much more! It's so horrible, and challenging, and stressful right now, and I want to cry just thinking about it, but it's always the most difficult and challenging experiences that end up being the most rewarding for me. Though I was a horrible, spastic server at first, I eventually became one of our most reliable and respected in the restaurant, a place I never thought I would get to. It's so easy to be comfortable and stay in a safe space where you know you can't fail, but if you can't fail then you can't grow. 
I'm so damn scared of embarking on this new endeavour, but I'm also so insanely eager to meet the Danielle that comes out of this experience. I know she will come out stronger, tougher, wiser, faster, and so much more confident than the Danielle that walked in. 
"The spicy makes the sweet all the sweeter, and so is the same in life."
Without the spicy and bitter life experiences, we would never have the sweet, which brings me to one of my favourite autumn recipes, my take on Martha Stewart's Sweet & Spicy Pumpkin Seeds (recipe here!). As I mentioned in the title, this will be the only roasted pumpkin seed recipe you will ever need, because no other recipe will ever come close to being this delicious! This will be the fourth or fifth mention of this recipe on my blog, because it's just that good! I can't get away from it! What makes these seeds so addictive is the contrast between the sweet and spicy seasonings. The sweetness of the sugar is brought to life thanks to the addition of fragrant sesame oil, and spicy cinnamon, ginger, and cayenne pepper. If these were only seasoned with sweet flavours, they would fall flat. The sweet needs the spicy to keep everything in balance. The spicy makes the sweet all the sweeter, and so is the same in life. 

Check out my slightly adapted version of Martha's Sweet & Spicy Pumpkin Seeds here! And if you haven't started watching Martha & Snoop's Potluck Dinner Party, you need to start RIGHT NOW because it is amazing!!! 

Listening To:

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Thanksgiving Leftover Lovin': Turkey & Dumplings

Leftovers, you love 'em, or you hate 'em. While I most definitely used to hate leftovers, I've found over the years, and after living on my own, eating leftovers is an essential part of reducing food waste and staying on budget. More than that, I've learned that I can actually have the power to become a leftover lover if the leftovers are transformed into something that doesn't resemble the original dish. It was this discovery that inspired my blog series Leftover Lovin', which has been terribly neglected over the past few years, but must be brought back thanks to my most recent outrageously delicious leftover transformation, inspired by my Thanksgiving dinner and a delicious birthday dinner out!

While going wild and partying has never really been my thing for celebrating my birthday, what I do look forward to the most, come my annual day of birth on September 30th, is going out for delicious meals with my loved ones. Lucky for me, this included three fantastic meals spread across my birthday weekend. 

The first dinner out was on the night of my birthday with my boyfriend Chris, where we checked out Omaw, Chef Matt Blondin's latest restaurant, doing Carolina classics with a gourmet twist. Having been to and enjoyed Blondin's previous restaurant Acadia, we were eager to see how his most recent menu would stack up. Though I have to say, the service definitely left something to be desired, the menu was thankfully lovely. Though the Shrimp & Grits (an Acadia favourite that Blondin reintroduced for Omaw) was spot on, the standout dish of the night had to be Blondin's aromatic bowl of Turkey & Dumplings with onion likkar and black truffle - SWOON! With a rich and complex turkey broth, big chunks of tender and moist roast turkey, gnocchi-like pillows of handmade dumplings, black truffle oil, and fried onion matchsticks for crunch (this would be the onion likkar), this dish blew both Chris and I away! So comforting, so well-balanced, and so not enough in one bowl to satisfy us both. It was so delicious, we should have each ordered a bowl to ourselves! 

With Canadian Thanksgiving only one week away from my birthday, all I could think about the week following my birthday was how I could recreate that incredible Turkey & Dumpling dish with my Thanksgiving leftovers. While, no, I don't have a clear recipe for you this time, with so much experimenting during the process to get just the right flavour and mouthfeel, I still wanted to share my photos of the final dish, and a little bit about my process. The response to the photo of my bowl of homemade Turkey & Dumplings that I posted on my various social media accounts was so overwhelmingly positive, that I think it's only fair to share as much as I can with you, and hopefully I can refine it soon enough so you can have the real thing!
The great thing about a recipe like this is that it is so forgiving, allowing you to forget about measuring your ingredients (it's all about eye-balling it here!), and play around with what you happen to have on hand. For this dish, I started out with a basic mirepoix of onion, carrot, and celery (diced small), and to that added in some minced garlic, fresh Ontario corn niblets leftover from Thanksgiving, dried bay leaves, and fresh thyme. I then stirred in a roux, and slowly poured in homemade turkey stock (thank you to Chris' mom Tracey for the tasty stock!) and some leftover ham from Thanksgiving (diced small). At this point, I brought the soup to a boil and allowed it to simmer for about 20-30 minutes to let the flavours develop and the broth to thicken.

After tasting I felt the soup still needed more flavour and more of a creamy and rich mouthfeel. Now this is where things get a little hazy, as I began to scour my kitchen for anything I could possibly find to turn my soup into something incredible. I then added a pinch of cayenne pepper, a few pinches of ancho chilli powder, a large Parmesan rind (I always save them in the freezer for soups and sauces!), grated parmesan cheese, a few tablespoons of sour cream, and lots of salt and pepper to season. To aid with the mouthfeel issue, I dropped in a beurre manié, which is like a roux, but kneaded, and added after you have added in liquid. So basically, if you messed up your roux at the start of your process and your soup or sauce isn't thickening, a beurre manié can save the day! Check out Saveur's guide on how to prepare a beurre manié to learn about your new favourite hero in the kitchen.

Once my soup was at the right consistency and flavour, I quickly whipped together Tyler Florence's recipe for dumplings, and spooned them in. Once my dumplings were lovely, plump, and cooked through, I stirred in my leftover shredded cooked turkey from Thanksgiving (dark meat will taste best here!), which was added at this point so it wouldn't dry out. After a short simmer to allow the turkey to reheat my turkey and dumplings were ready to devour! And oh did we ever devour it! Chris and I went nuts over this dish. It was, to put it simply, outrageously delicious. A true winner and a recipe I look forward to refining and sharing with you soon! Is it safe to admit that I'm now counting down the days to Christmas dinner leftovers? 

Listening To:
Happier Podcast

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween 2016 - Another Owl Pumpkin Carving

Happy Halloween from me and my owl pumpkin to you and your family! I eagerly wait all year to be able to carve my Halloween pumpkin, and after having so much fun carving  my owl pumpkin last year, well I just had to do it all over again with a new wild-eyed owl. This is one of my favourite traditions all year! What's your favourite Halloween tradition that you've kept up?

Listening To:

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Habanero Peach Hot Sauce & Overcoming Fear

Years ago I was crazy about a boy, a boy who was crazy about someone else. Let's call this "someone else" The Girl with the Habanero Peach Hot Sauce. I call her this because, for whatever reason, one of the things that stands out in my mind the most after all these years was this little bottle of Habanero Peach Hot Sauce that she had given the boy from her travels. He loved the hot sauce just as he had the girl. Just like the hot sauce, the girl had a spicy and sweet personality, was somewhat exotic, and was not easy to obtain. In my eyes I was Franks Red Hot Sauce...or maybe even a generic, no-name brand pretending to be Franks. I was one note. I was boring, generic, and was always there. 

I was mad at myself. Mad for allowing myself to become this generic cookie-cutter of a human, because of what? Fear? Yup, that's exactly what it was - fear. Too afraid of the outcome or to be in the thick of the scary moment, I would push aside opportunities, wants, desires, needs, and so much more all in the name of fear. Too afraid to be rejected, I didn't fight for the guy, I didn't go after the job, I didn't make the tough decisions, I didn't do...well, much of anything. That summer I said "fuck it!" to fear. "Fuck you, fear!" I yelled in the ravine that connected to my backyard! "Fuck you for ruling my life!" I wasn't going to let that happen anymore. 
That summer I lived without fear. I put myself in positions I had never before been in. I had a summer fling with a stranger I thought was out of my league. I went to concerts with friends and acquaintances I rarely saw and some I hardly knew. I stayed up until the sun came up more than I can count. I spontaneously hopped a plane with a friend for a week of daiquiris and dancing. Hell, I even went skydiving! I kicked fear in the ass! 

I was so proud of myself at the end of that summer. Proud of all that I had accomplished. Proud of the stories I had to tell. Proud of the chances I took and the strength with which I approached them. It wasn't about the boy at all. It wasn't about proving to him that I too could be Habanero Peach Hot Sauce. It was about proving to myself that I was those things. They were always there, all I had to do was lift the heavy weight of fear to unearth them. 
It's been years and years now since that summer of saying "fuck you" to fear. I'm a different person now, in both good ways and bad. The good is that I've finally started to come into my own. I know who I am and what I'm not, and I'm not willing to sacrifice that for anything or anyone. I have a strong sense of self, that I wouldn't have been able to possess unless I had found myself in the gutter of fear. The bad? While I've changed in so many positive ways, there's always things to work on, and boy, have I got a lot of that. And that, in itself, is the bad. 

After going through a summer of transformation like that, it's easy to be overly critical of yourself when you find yourself falling into old habits. That's where I was at the beginning of this Spring, hating myself. Mad at myself for once again allowing fear to control my life. I was unhappy with where I was and felt stuck. I took a big scary leap and quit my job to allow myself to face the fears that I had been building up in my head. I forced myself to practice my craft every day. I forced myself to reach out to the people I admire and ask for assistance. I forced myself to talk to the people that intimidate me. With the lens of self-doubt, it would be easy to look at this summer as a waste. I could have done more, I could have said more, I could have been more, but look at all the things I did do! 
While I didn't make quite as much progress with my career as I had hoped (though I have to remember to still honour the development that I did make), I'm proud to say that I've come such a long way in terms of tackling my personal demons. I forced myself to own up to and work on the things that I didn't like about myself. I've started opening up to people about the anxiety that has plagued me since childhood. I've started seeing a therapist that will allow me to work through the things that I am so very ready to overcome. I forced myself to say "no more" to the people in my life who have continued to hurt me. I started exercising every day for my mind more than my body. I've looked deep within myself to understand what makes me happy and what fuels me, and also, what does the opposite. Though I know overcoming my fears will be a battle that I may have to work on for my entire life, each time I find myself in this cycle it feels a little easier. Because I've gone through this before it's so much easier to remember that yes, I do have Habanero Peach Hot Sauce within me, and it doesn't have to be so scary to let it out. 

Check out Fo Reals Life's recipe for Habanero Peach Hot Sauce here

Listening To:

Monday, August 29, 2016

Dîner en Blanc 2016

The guests wore all-white and danced under the light of the full moon. 
It sounds part of a fairytale, does it not? Fairytales are associated with beauty, mystery, romance, and happiness, all of which were present on the eve of August 18th, as myself and 2,600 guests made our way through chartered busses and organized public transportation, to arrive at our mystery destination to celebrate in the annual spectacle, Dîner en Blanc. 
Dîner en Blanc is a tradition that began in Paris in 1988 with only a handful of participants. It first began as simply an elegant dinner under the stars, amongst friends, with one rule - everyone must dress in all white. Over the past 28 years, Diner en Blanc has become a worldwide sensation, and is now celebrated in over 70 cities across the globe. 
As a leader in both the food and fashion industries, it's no surprise that Toronto has made Dîner en Blanc a celebrated summer ritual amongst foodies and fashionistas alike. Having always wanted to attend the coveted event, I was over-the-(full)-moon excited to be invited by Dîner en Blanc sponsor Metro Ontario to attend this years event as their guest. 
Dressed in our newly-purchased all-white outfits (no cream or off-white here!), my friend Amanda and I arrived at our pickup location to be transported to the top-secret destination (which was revealed to be the Canary District, formerly the Pan Am Games Athletes Village) with the rest of our table. The idea is to arrive "flash-mob style" to the freshly announced public venue, with white tables, chairs, and picnic baskets filled with gourmet delights in tow, to enjoy an elegant evening amongst friends new and old, and, come the nights end, leave without a trace left behind. 
As a Metro guest, I was lucky to be given the VIP treatment with our beautifully decorated table already set up. Each guest was given their own white picnic basket, filled to the brim with a selection of Metro goodies. True to the picnic theme, my basket featured an assortment of sandwiches; cheese, charcuterie, and crackers; quinoa and pasta salads; pizza; and sushi. Between the gorgeous floral arrangements were bottles of red, white, and sparkling wine that were constantly in flow. With a dessert tent presenting all-white cakes and cupcakes from Metro, it's needless to say, we were very well fed! 
Creativity played a large role in the success of the evening, as the all-white-everything theme inspired guests to think outside the colour wheel when selecting their outfits, table decor, and menus. It was truly a feast for the eyes getting to see all of the imaginative ways that the guests approached their wardrobe and table decor. Hats and headpieces were particularly striking, with lots of feathers, bows, and flowers present. As a creative myself, I almost got whiplash from constantly turning my head as each new stunning sight caught my eye. More than just the outfits, decor, and food, the venue itself is a challenge in resourcefulness. As the location changes every year to a new public space, Dîner en Blanc allows guests to experience some of Toronto's most stunning public spaces in a dazzling new way. 
Dîner en Blanc was such a fantastic way to bring like-minded individuals together to celebrate food, fashion, and our beautiful city in a unique, elegant, and classy way. I'd like to extend a big "thank you" to Metro Ontario for giving me the opportunity to experience this magical evening as their guest. It was a privilege to not only get to attend the event, but also get to engage with so many other creative industry leaders who I admire and respect. I can honestly say that I have never in my life experienced anything like Dîner en Blanc. Thank you for a night to remember!

Moment of Note:
When my mom emailed me after the event saying she saw my photo on Flare Was There! Pretty cool moment! 

Listening To:

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Kitchn's Crunchy Peanut Slaw

Oh hey, just me over here, still on the no-heat-in-my-kitchen-train! As you'll know from some of my previous posts and definitely from my Instagram account, I have been on a heat strike in my kitchen for months now. This has surely been one of Toronto's hottest summers in years, with hardly a day or even an afternoon of relief, meaning all the recent Google searches on my computer read "no-cook meal ideas" and "how to grill everything" as I begin to run out of ideas on what the hell to make for dinner each night. When you're exhausted from the heat, with little to no energy to cook much of anything, it's not the easiest task to go scouring through the internet to attempt to find a good recipe that's simple enough to throw together last minute and will allow you to keep your kitchen cool. 
With my boyfriend Chris working from home as much as possible thanks to a torn achilles (ouch!), it was so great to have another meal brainstormer on hand to help me come up with some different dishes that could help to shake up what was quickly becoming a boring dinner routine. One of my favourite recipes that Chris suggested I make a couple weeks ago was a refreshing, no-cook Crunchy Peanut Slaw from The Kitchn. Chris knew it would be a great recipe for me because...well, I was lazy as hell, hot AF, and this recipe allowed me to get food on the table fast, without any grocery shopping, and very little mess. I was in! 
The slaw was thrown together in less than 10 minutes (insane!), was the perfect accompaniment to grilled chicken and a humid day, and even though I only made a half batch, I was still left with some leftovers for both mine and Chris' lunch the following day! I love the fantastic crunch from both the peanuts and the crisp cabbage and that bright hit of cilantro that shines through each bite. Best of all, I loved the simple dressing that highlighted the nutty flavour of Asian sesame oil, giving this slaw a bit of an exotic twist. This recipe is definitely going onto my "Recipes I Love" Pinterest board! This baby is a keeper and perfect for your next BBQ with friends and family! 

Check out The Kitchn's recipe for Crunchy Peanut Slaw here!

Have another awesome no-cook or grilled weeknight dinner idea that you think I'll love? Tell me about it in the comments, or Tweet me: @thisgingerrose
Listening To:
Frank Ocean build something...waiting on that album, Frankie!!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Herbaceous Yogourt-Marinated Chicken Tenders

Oh hey, remember that time I went around making recipes featuring yogourt like a mad woman, in an attempt to win $10,000 and be featured in Chatelaine? No, this isn't a big reveal that I've won. I haven't won...or at least I don't know yet (still keeping those fingers and toes crossed!), but I'm still working my way through some of the recipes I submitted to feature them for you here. 

The great thing about doing a contest like that was getting to put my creative hat on and find new ways of reinventing some of my favourite recipes to feature the key ingredient, yogourt. While it's pretty obvious that yogourt goes fantastic with sweet dishes such as the Strawberry Cheese Blintzes and Mango Strawberry Layered Lassi that I made, I wanted to challenge myself and think outside the box (or should I say yogourt container...ba-dum-ch!) to find ways of featuring yogourt in unexpected ways in some savoury dishes. 
With chicken breasts on sale at the grocery store and an extra container of panko breadcrumbs that I wanted to clear out of my cupboard, it was natural for me to gravitate towards a reinvented chicken tender recipe. Traditionally chicken tenders go through an assembly line of flour, beaten egg, and breadcrumbs before being baked or fried. In this recipe a mixture of yogourt, herbs, and spices allowed me to coat my chicken in simply the yogourt mixture, and then the panko breadcrumbs, eliminating an extra step and granting the yogourt to act as a marinade and glue for the breadcrumbs. 

I love that the yogourt acts as the glue in this recipe, but more than that, the yogourt coating allowed me to tenderize the meat by marinating the chicken and infusing more flavour into it thanks to the addition of fresh herbs like dill, parsley, and chives, as well as garlic powder and lemon juice. As if that's not enough, I chose to make a little bit extra of the yogourt mixture so that I could set some aside to save as a dipping sauce once my tenders were cooked! Brilliant, right? This recipe turned out so insanely easy to prepare, and was a delicious weeknight meal that also left me with some chicken tender leftovers for lunch the following day. Even if I don't win the Astro and Chatelaine contest, I'm still a winner in my books for having a new simple and delicious weeknight dinner option to add to my repertoire! 
Tip: Toasting your panko before breading helps to give your tenders that fantastic golden colour and give them an additional crunch!

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups Astro Original Balkan Style Plain Yogourt 6%
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh dill, finely chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp. parsley, finely chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp. chives, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch strips
1 1/2 - 2 cups panko breadcrumbs, lightly toasted
cooking spray
salt and pepper to season

Directions:
  1. In a small bowl stir together yogourt with garlic powder, dill, parsley, chives, and lemon juice. Taste and season as needed with salt and pepper. 
  2. Add chicken to a large, zipper, freezer bag and add 1-cup of the yogourt mixture. Coat chicken evenly in the yogourt mixture and place in fridge for 1-hour. Set the remaining 1/2-cup yogourt mixture aside in the fridge.
  3. Preheat oven to 375ºF. 
  4. Place toasted panko in a wide, shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper. Set a large baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray next to it.
  5. Keeping one hand clean, working one at a time, dip each chicken strip into the panko, pressing to coat evenly, and place on the prepared baking sheet. 
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until panko is golden and chicken is cooked through. 
  7. Serve immediately with the remaining yogourt mixture as a dipping sauce. 
Listening To:

Friday, July 15, 2016

Mango & Strawberry Layered Lassi

UberEats is taking all of my money. Ok sure, it's not like they're holding a gun to my head, telling me "you must order takeout," but each time I open my phone and see their little UberEats icon, the temptation is real, and it is strong! As you'll know from all of my recent blog and social media posts, Toronto has been experiencing one hell of a heatwave these past few weeks, making it all the easier to forgo cooking for the convenience of takeout. Though I sure love me some delicious takeout, it can get real expensive, real fast, leading me to try and get clever with reducing my takeout bill as much as possible. 

One of the regions of cuisine that my boyfriend Chris and I like to order delivery from is Indian, simply because it's a type of cuisine we didn't really grow up with, and aren't as familiar with cooking. Ordering a couple orders of roti is fairly inexpensive, but it's easy for our bill to climb once we start adding appetizers and drinks. For any other type of delivery/takeout I never bother to order a drink (I have cheap drinks at home, after-all!), but a burn-your-face-off spicy roti simply demands one! 
Forget cans of pop, ice tea, and juice; The only drink that can cool the intense heat from a fiery roti is a cool and creamy mango lassi. If you're unfamiliar with lassi's (we're not talking collie's here!), they are an Indian yogourt-based drink that is designed to cool the body down, whether from the heat of the weather or from the spices from your meal. The relief from a lassi strikes immediately, as it coats the tongue with its creamy and rich texture. While sure, it's easier to order a lassi from the restaurant that I'm getting my takeout from, it also comes with a cost. Bills add up fast, and with a drink as simple as this to prepare, I really have no excuse not to think a little bit ahead, and make my own homemade lassi in advance to have once my delivery arrives. 

Another advantage to making your own lassis at home is having the freedom of playing around with different flavour combinations. Though a mango flavoured lassi is more traditional (yet a true, authentic lassi is actually savoury), there are so many different fruits that would lend themselves perfectly blended into a lassi. With Ontario strawberries still in season for a little longer, they were on the top of my list to try making into a lassi. I love the combination of the sweet mango lassi layered with the slightly tangy strawberry lassi, delivering that refreshing hit of relief that my tastebuds were begging for. This layered lassi was not only delicious and cooling, it was also awfully pretty, with the vibrant yellow from the mangoes contrasted by the blushing pink from the strawberries. I highly recommend giving this recipe a try this weekend, whether paired with Indian food or not, to leave you feeling cool as a cucumber...er...or lassi! 

*Note: When making the lassi in advance, simply omit the ice and set aside each flavour on its own in the fridge. When ready to serve, blend in the ice and layer away! 

Ingredients:
1 cup Astro Original Balkan Style Plain Yogourt 6%
2 ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted, and puréed
1 1/2 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced
3 tsp liquid honey
ice

Directions:
  1. In a powerful blender or food processor add mango purée, 1/2-cup yogourt, and 1-tsp honey. Add a large handful of ice and blend until smooth. Pour into a container and set aside in fridge. Rise blender/processor.
  2. Add strawberries to the cleaned blender. Add 1/2-cup yogourt and 2-tsp honey. Add a large handful of ice and blend until smooth.
  3. Fill four small serving glasses halfway with the mango lassi. Carefully spoon in strawberry lassi so it sits atop the mango lassi. Serve immediately. 
Listening To:

Thursday, July 14, 2016

No-Cook Tropical Kiwifruit Chia Pudding

Toronto is hot right now. Too hot. Disgustingly hot, in fact. Toronto is emitting the kind of heat that has me seriously considering buying a kiddie splash pool to set on my balcony, one I know I would have to fill using buckets from the kitchen sink (hello, condo life and zero access to a hose) just to fill it...but oh, it would be so worth it! With a permanently sweating scalp (so attractive, I know) and an overall sluggish demeanour, cooking (ie. heating my apartment) is one of the last things on my mind these days. Despite my lack of enthusiasm towards cooking with heat as of late, the timing couldn't be better with so much fresh and delicious produce lining the grocery store shelves throughout the summer months.

It's pretty easy to come up with plenty of no-cook, healthy snacks to nibble on throughout the day when working from home, but the trick is to get creative with it! As much as a bowl of sliced fruit is delicious when it's in peak season, let's face it, it can get a little boring after a while. One of my favourite new ways of kicking up a bowl of fruit into something that I can look forward to as a midday treat is making different variations of chia seed puddings. For months now I've been making all different types of chia seed puddings using every berry that I can could get my hands on, and just like my bowls of sliced fruit that got a little tired after a while, I started to itch for a different flavour combination. With a vision of a tropical-themed chia pudding in my mind, a partnership with Zespri SunGold Kiwifruits could come at no better time!
Though green kiwifruits have always been one of my favourite fruits, thanks to their big, bright flavour, awesome health benefits, and ease of eating, I had never heard of a SunGold kiwifruit before now! Curious to try the fruit that was described as a "cross between a mango and a strawberry," and dying to bring my idea of a tropical chia pudding to life, I was happy to get a beautiful basket full of Zespri SunGold Kiwifruits sent right to my door!

As I just mentioned, golden kiwifruits are described as a cross between a mango and a strawberry, making them slightly sweeter and more tropical-tasting than its green sibling. SunGold kiwifruits can be found in grocery stores from May through October, and look almost identical to green kiwifruits from the outside. The difference between the two upon first sight is in the skin, with green kiwifruits having a more fuzzy texture to their outer layer. The difference is clear once cut, as the SunGold kiwifruits possess a striking and unexpected golden-yellow colour.
Before I started playing around with my Tropical Chia Pudding recipe, I had to try the SunGold kiwifruits as is. As I mentioned earlier, one of the awesome things about kiwifruits is how easy and mess-free they are to eat! A simple cut off the top, and a scoop along the skin is all it takes to remove the sweet flesh. The flavour of the SunGold kiwifruits was familiar, yet surprising, and definitely reflected the tropical taste that was first described to me. I knew a base of coconut milk would compliment that tropical flavour perfectly, and would be enhanced all the more with the addition of juicy fresh pineapple. Though chia seeds pack a big punch of health benefits on their own (hello fibre, Omegas, and protein!), the kiwifruit added even more! Thriving with Vitamin C, potassium, and fibre, SunGold kiwifruits may taste like candy, but are so incredibly good for you.

With SunGold kiwifruits reflected in both the pudding and the garnish, nutty coconut, and sweet pineapple, my No-Cook Tropical Kiwifruit Chia Pudding was exactly the refreshing treat I was craving in the midst of this humidity. Not only was the pudding delicious, it left me feeling invigorated and ready to attack the heat and take on the rest of my day! 
Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
1/3 cup whole chia seeds
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut, lightly toasted, plus more for garnish
1/2 tsp liquid honey
2 Zespri SunGold kiwifruit, peeled and puréed
1 Zespri SunGold kiwifruit, peeled and sliced
3/4 cup fresh pineapple, chopped small

Directions
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together coconut milk, chia seeds, sea salt, vanilla, shredded coconut, and honey. Pour into a container and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Remove from fridge, stir, and refrigerate for at least 3 more hours, or overnight. 
  2. Remove 2-Tbsp. of the chia pudding mixture and blend together with the puréed Zespri SunGold kiwifruit and refrigerate for at least 1-hour. 
  3. Distribute 1/4 cup of the fresh pineapple between four serving dishes. Top each evenly with chia pudding. Evenly top each with the blended kiwifruit mixture. Garnish with Zespri SunGold kiwifruit slices, remaining pineapple, and a sprinkle of coconut. Refrigerate until ready to serve or serve immediately.

* This post is brought to you in collaboration with Zespri SunGold Kiwifruit. All words, opinions, and photographs, as always, are entirely my own and reflect my own personal views. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Taste Of Toronto - Getting Hands-On In The Metro Master Class Kitchen

Fomo: Fear of missing out. For the past two summers those fears came true for me, as I desperately scrolled through my various social media feeds in an attempt to live vicariously through the lens of all of the lucky attendees at Taste of Toronto. There's no doubt about it, since Taste's inception in Toronto two years ago, it has been the food event of the year with the likes of David Chang, Mark McEwan, Massimo Capra, Carl Heinrich, Christina Tosi, Anthony Rose, Chuck Hughes and more having participated in what is often considered to be one of the best restaurant festivals in the world. Summer in Toronto can get very busy, so it's easy to miss out on at least a few of the food-focused events that take place throughout those few warm months, but this year there wasn't a chance I was going to miss out on Taste of Toronto again. 
With an invitation from Metro Ontario this year to attend the festival as their guest, I was able to gain access to the exclusive Metro Master Class kitchen to watch and participate in an interactive cooking demo hosted by Chef Anthony Rose (no relation to me) of the Anthony Rose empire (ie. Rose & Son's, Fat Pasha, Shmaltz Appetizing, Big Crow, Big Crow But Little, Rose & Son's Swan, and Bar Begonia...wow that's a mouth-full!). Representing his Middle Eastern influenced restaurant Fat Pasha at Taste, Chef Rose taught myself, along with a group of other food bloggers and Taste attendees how to make Msabbaha, a vegetarian dish featuring creamy hummus, whole chickpeas, roasted cauliflower, pomegranate seeds, halloumi, and Schug, a spicy and herbaceous green sauce with cilantro, parsley, hot peppers, and spices. All of the fresh and local ingredients were provided by Metro Ontario, making the recipe very accessible for participants like myself to be able to recreate at home.
As I was guided to my cooking station, I was happy to find a familiar face as my cooking partner for the demo, the lovely Isabelle Boucher of Crumb Blog. We were given a quick overview of our station, learning how to use the Elextrolux induction cooktop, and the Braun immersion blender that were provided for us, and we were on our way to get cookin'! As Chef Rose began the demo, he told us a little bit about Fat Pasha and Israeli cuisine, teaching us how to pronounce some Yiddish and Middle Eastern dishes with that classic "chhh" sound that comes from throat. Ironically enough, Isabelle and I happened to be the only participants who had ever traveled to Israel and tried authentic Israeli cuisine. If you've ever traveled to Israel yourself, you will know just how extraordinary Israeli hummus is. The flavour and insane creaminess is unlike anything you can find in Toronto, though you can get awfully close at Fat Pasha, which was why I was so eager to learn Chef Rose's secret. 
Though Isabelle's research had taught her that that creamy consistency in Israeli hummus is thanks to taking the extra step of removing the chickpea skins, Chef Rose gave us another great tip, which was to add ice water to the mix when blending with the immersion blender. It was so amazing to be able to be so hands-on with the cooking demo, as well as have someone so well respected like Chef Rose on hand to come around and look at all of our dishes, and guide us to the result he would be proud to serve in his own restaurant. How often do you have a renowned chef looking over your shoulder to guide you, as you learn to cook one of their signature dishes? To a food nerd like myself, that was so cool! With his classic laid-back charm, Chef Rose made the experience of participating in the demo not only incredibly informative, but also a lot of fun. 
When the demo was over, it was time to head back into the hot sun and check out some of the restaurants that were stationed around the Fort York grounds, serving some of their signature dishes. We began our tour at Little Sister Indonesian & Noorden Food Bar's stand, one of our favourite restaurants that's known for serving up big-flavoured dishes, that are meant to be shared. We opted to share a plate of their Satay Ayam, which are chicken satays with peanut sauce, pickles, and shrimp chips. As always, they were an overwhelmingly-wonderful flavour explosion and were a great way to start our circuit around the grounds. 
With a pint of Mill Street in my boyfriend Chris' hand, and a Walter's Caesar in mine, we were ready to grab our next bite. Mamakas Taverna's stand was directly next to Little Sister's, tempting us with the smoke and smells of their roasted Ontario lamb, churning on a hot spit. There wasn't a chance we were passing that up! Their vibrant stand full of multi-coloured vegetables, beautifully displayed on wooden crates, was just as eye-catching as the lamb spit, and was most definitely the most aesthetically-pleasing restaurant stand of the day. 
Though the lamb served with bulgar salad and Tzatziki was an absolute must, we also couldn't resist getting an order of their Baklava Soft Serve, garnished with a Baklava crumble and Ontario strawberries. Though we felt slightly guilty over the fact that we were ordering two dishes from the same restaurant, when we should probably be expanding our choices over the breadth of restaurants that were featured at the festival, we had zero regrets! The succulent lamb was incredible, though quite difficult to eat with plastic cutlery, but that didn't stop us from demolishing our plate. The Baklava soft serve was one of our favourite tastes of the day, partly due to the insane humidity we were faced with at the festival, but largely because it was just so damn delicious.  
After scoping out the rest of the grounds, we headed over to Anthony Rose's Fat Pasha stand to get more of our hummus fix satisfied. We ordered a plate of Falafel Hummus with tahini, lemon, pickled cucumbers and peppers, olives, pita, and a drizzle of that incredible Schug. We found a shady spot under a tree and dove right into our falafel plate. If I didn't know any better, I would have thought that it all came straight from Israel, it was so delicious! The vegetarian plate was a great way to finish off our savoury tastes of the festival, as the humidity began to affect our appetite. 
With $5 left on our American Express Crown Card (the official currency of the festival) and sweat on our brows, we could think of no better way of sending off the festival than with a cool and refreshing popsicle from Chill Pops, a local company churning out all-natural pressed juice ice pops, hand-crafted in small batches in Toronto. Though all of the flavours sounded enticing, we chose the Pineapple Kiwi flavour. We annihilated the tasty ice pop in what felt like seconds and said our farewell to Taste of Toronto 2016. 
After years of envy, watching others enjoy the flavours and sights of Taste of Toronto, it was such a pleasure to be able to attend and participate in this years festival. Though we got to try so many wonderful tastes, my favourite part was definitely being able to take part in the Metro Master Class cooking demo. While dishes come to an end, the knowledge that I gained from the cooking demo is something that I can carry with me each time I approach a Middle Eastern dish in my own kitchen. I'm looking forward to making Chef Rose's Msabbaha at home and sharing the recipe with you. There's a new Rose in the kitchen now! 

Listening To:

Friday, July 1, 2016

Happy Canada Day 2016!

Happy Canada Day to this beautiful country that I am so grateful to call my home! Happy 149th, you don't look a day over 100!

Listening To:
The Tragically Hip - Fireworks

Thursday, June 30, 2016

A Fresh Experience With FRESH Wines

I am a total sucker for beautiful design. This should come as no surprise considering my emphasis on aesthetics in my food photos, as well as my extensive and, what some may consider obsessive, pinning on Pinterest. I believe that good design can be an effective tool in helping brands deliver their message and tell their story, which was why I was so intrigued to attend A Fresh Experience, an event celebrating the launch of the FRESH Wines rebrand put together by my friends at the iYellow Wine Club. The event, which was held at CB2 on Queen West, showcased five new FRESH VQA wines, with each wine reflected in a corresponding food pairing installation. The installations, which were designed and executed by event and design agency Love By Lynzie, were thoughtfully created to reflect each of the wines with which they were paired. 
I was happy to have my friend Alex Orlando by my side to stroll through each of the installations with me and take in all of the sights, sounds, and tastes of the night. As we entered the buzzing CB2 space, we were immediately greeted by the smiling iYellow team and were handed a glass of FRESH Wines Sparkling Rosé, with notes of raspberry, cherry, apple, and pink grapefruit. What may have been the most striking of all the installations, the food pairing for the Sparkling Rosé featured a backdrop of vibrantly-coloured balloons, to reflect the bubbles in the sparkling wine, as well as freshly-spun cotton candy "clouds," and big, fluffy peonies. 
My favourite wine of the evening, the Sparkling Riesling, came next as we made our way to the white peg board, studded with citrus slices and paper bags of citrus and Granny Smith-flavoured candy corn. The peg board was created to allow the fragrance of the citrus to waft through the area, reflecting the notes of tangerine, green apple, mineral citrus, and lemon-lime zest that the Sparkling Riesling featured.

Before making our way up the grand staircase to the second level of the space, we took in the stunning fruit salad station, which illustrated the tasting notes of fruit salad, citrus, peach, floral, and pear in the FRESH Moscato that was being poured. Though I'm not normally a fan of moscato, finding it a little too sweet for my palate, I actually really enjoyed this one as it was more on the off-dry side. 
The feminine and vibrant theme from the first level of the food installations took on a more seductive and romantic vibe with the final two wines of the event. The FRESH Satin Red (with notes of red berries, mild oak, and light pepper) installation emulated the tone of evening passion, with a dramatic bed dressed in sequinned black sheets, and dangling, lip-stained wine glasses.

The final installation for the FRESH Crisp White, showcased the lively "adventure" quality that the wine embodied, with mouth-watering cheese boards resting atop vintage suitcases. The Crisp White exhibited bright notes of honeysuckle, green apple, and pear.

Both Alex and I had a great time at the event, and felt so inspired by all of the installations. You'll be glad to know that FRESH Wines is available at the LCBO, with each bottle sold at a very approachable price, particularly for VQA wines! I hope to grab a bottle of that delicious Sparkling Riesling to ring in this long weekend! Cheers to Ontario VQA wine!

To learn more about FRESH Wines and to check out each of the gorgeous new labels, be sure to visit the FRESH Wines website