Traditional Iced Gingerbread Cookies

>> Saturday, 18 December 2010


I bake late at night.
In quiet.
Peace and quiet from my pretty busy household of people in a constant state of coming & going.
I like this quiet and it makes it somehow a bit more like 'me' time.
I listen to what I want (I actually listened to Christmas music as I baked these) and the lights on the tree are on and the rest of the house is dark, save for the kitchen. 
I 'think' I may hum or sing to whatever I have playing.I definitely know when I am singing, but it's the humming that I tend to not realise I do.
I often have a cup of tea or glass of wine, Baileys or some other beverage just to make it all a little bit nicer.
And then it happens...

I get kind of bored of the entire process about half way through.
And it's usually at about 2 or 3 am.

So, if I need to ice anything, I am happy to cover up the goodies until the next day and go from there.
That is perhaps the best part...giving myself that break and then finishing it all later.

These cookies are deliciously gingery and the texture is a cross between a hard cookie and a soft one, which makes them simply perfect for dipping!  I like mine a little on the thicker side, but it's all about how much you want to roll them out and how hard you want them.

I definitely need a hand in the 'decorating' part of cookies...in which I also inevitably get bored about halfway through.*L*


Traditional Iced Gingerbread Cookies
 (unknown source) 

 
  • 1 cup of softened butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt

 
Frosting: 2 large egg whites & 3-4 cups of icing (confectioner's sugar)
  1. Cream butter, sugar, molasses and egg yolks together.
  2. Add rest of ingredients & mix well.
  3. Shape into ball, wrap in plastic and chill (for at least an hour)
  4. Remove from plastic wrap and roll out on a floured surface to a uniform thickness *keeping in mind that these cookies will not get any larger once placed in the oven*
  5. Cut into shapes.
  6. Bake at 350F (175C) for 10-15 minutes
  7. Remove from tray and let cool.
  8. Ice with frosting
TIP: When I lived in Scotland, I didn't have a rolling pin...and found that a wine bottle completely did the trick!


Frosting:
  1. Beat egg whites with spoon
  2. Add icing sugar as needed until it holds shape
  3. Add colouring, put it in a piping bag, etc.
  4. Cover with a damp tea towel is not using immediately

 
Eat! :)

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The Taste of Christmas :: Uber-Peppermint Marshmallows

>> Wednesday, 15 December 2010


Everyone and their brother are making homemade marshmallows these days!
And really, why not? 
They are easy, fun, affordable and taste WAY better than anything out there!
Trust me on this...we were the type of family to have marshmallows in our cupboards for years.
Years...from events we couldn't even remember having marshmallows!  Last winter? A bonfire in the summer?
Who knew?
My mother would pull them out and we'd see if they were any good.
Ummmmm..yeah, they never were.  They were inevitably stale and rock hard and didn't melt at all in hot chocolate.
Sketchy and gross, mom...just throw them out!

That is the fantastic thing about these marshmallows too...they won't last long in the house and they are completely customizable to your taste by using any sort of liquid or extract you'd like.
Coffee, no problem. Pineapple..how tropical! Lemon? Why the heck not? 
You know I am making Irish Cream ones next. :)
The possibilities really are endless.

I made super uber-pepperminty ones with swirly pink tops.
Think along the lines of Curiously Strong mints. 
My brother claims they'd be "borderline medicinal" without the icing sugar. Everyone's a critic.*rolls my eyes* 
True enough, they are really strong, but to make yours much less so, simply use less peppermint extract.  No harm, no foul! Making them really pepperminty only meant  I just need one *you know or 3* thick marshmallow to get that peppermint kick in my hot chocolate. 

I toasted one up for good measure too...pretty awesome.
I won't tell you that this toasting took place over a tealight...but it may have.
Minty, awesome with a crunchy burnt sugar exterior and melted goo inside.



Uber-Peppermint Marshmallows
(Adapted from AllRecipes.com)

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 packages of gelatin (approx 3 tbsps of gelatin)
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup (I used 1/3 cup golden corn syrup & 1/3 cup honey)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 tsps vanilla extract
  • 3 tsps peppermint extract (reduce for a less pepperminty marshmallow..I love them, but my brother claimed them to be "borderline medicinal".)
  • equal mix of cornstarch & icing (confectioners) sugar for dredging cut marshmallows in.
  1.  Line 9x11 pan with plastic wrap & rub with oil. (I used olive oil, but you could also use a spray)
  2. Put 1/2 cup water into a mixing bowl (either for a stand mixer, or one to use with a hand mixer) and sprinkle all 3 packages of gelatin on top and let sit until gelatin thickens completely (approx. 30 mins)
  3.  In a saucepan add corn syrup, 1/4 cup water and white sugar. Bring to a boil and allow to hard boil for a minute. (To test without a candy themometer, drop some of the mixture into a glass of cold water...if it hardens as it hits the water, it's ready)
  4. Pour sugar mixture into the gelatin and beat on high speed with stand mixer (I used a hand mixer and it worked just fine) for about 15 minutes until the mixture forms soft peaks and appears fluffy.
  5. Add extracts (you can use any sort of combination you'd like....3 tsps of peppermint made these pretty strong) and beat until combined.
  6.  Pour into lined pan using an oiled spatula.
  7.  Lightly oil another piece of plastic wrap and press on top of the mixture (oil down)
  8.  Let cool for at least 4 hours or overnight
  9. When ready to cut, remove top layer of plastic wrap and flip onto parchment paper that has been sprinkled with the cornstarch & icing sugar mixture. Marshmallow slab should come right out.
  10. Use a pizza cutter or cookie cutters to cut the marshmallow and dredge each piece into starch/icing sugar mix to avoid stickiness.
  11. Store in an airtight container

 

  *to make the pink swirls, simply make lines in red food colouring on top and drag a knife back and through the lines before placing on the final piece of plastic wrap to set.

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"Only the pure of heart can make good soup." ~ Beethoven

>> Wednesday, 1 December 2010

I don't think I've ever really made soup from scratch before. (Is that an embarrassing thing to admit?)
Don't get me wrong...I've eaten soup and reheated soup and added things to soup, but I've never quite "made" soup. (Quotes intentional)
It's also not like I don't like soup...in fact, it's pretty safe to say the opposite!
Although at one point in my childhood you'd be hard pressed to even get me near creamed soups of any sort.  

Looking back, I realise my dad (who often made us soup on weekends) never properly whisked those powdery packaged soups, so I would inevitably end up with little chunks that suspiciously looked like mushrooms, but were in fact globs of undissolved soup. Ummm...gross.

I am happy to report that I have perfected the creamed soup from a package technique (which likely was a result of my past employment at Tim Hortons for 6 years), but until today I had barely thought about making soup myself...like, from scratch and all.

All I knew this morning was that I had some cauliflower in the fridge that was starting to go off and needed to be used right away and the first thing that came to my mind was...awesome, soup.
Okay, that was more like the second thought that came to mind, right after the thought that if I didn't get on this, cauliflower will seriously start stinking things up in the fridge.

So I pulled out my Ken's Soup Krazy book by Ken Kostick (which I was given back in the days when I worked at an online book retailer) and set about making soup.

 Celery & Cauliflower Soup with White Wine
(adapted from Ken Kostick's 'Ken's Soup Krazy')
(serves 6)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 med. chopped onion
  • 2 cups cauliflower florets
  • 1.5 cups of chopped celery
  • 0.5 cups dry white wine
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 0.5 tsp each of dried oregano, basil and chili powder
  • 0.5 tsp sea salt(I used merlot salt to go with the wine theme)
  • 0.5 tsp black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf (whole)
  • 6 cups vegetable stock (I used chicken stock with garlic)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  1. In a soup pot, heat oil and add onion, cauliflower and celery. Cook until cauliflower is tender. 
  2. Add wine and simmer for 10 minutes. 
  3. Add all herbs (minus parsley),vinegar, salt & pepper, stock and bring to a boil.
  4. Let simmer for 10 minutes and remove bay leaf.
  5. Garnish soup with fresh parsley
  6. Eat!

(I ended up putting this into the crock pot and mixing with a hand blender so it was more a pureed soup..including the parsley (which I enjoyed better than the unpureed version seen above))

Go forth mes amies and make soup!
I doubt I'm pure of heart, but it was a pretty darn good soup.

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The Macallan Whisky Tasting

>> Sunday, 28 November 2010

Scotch? Whisky? Scotch? Whisky? *
What on earth is this amber coloured liquid that leaves a warm trail down your throat?

Well, my friend Heather and I were lucky to investigate this on November 23rd at the Macallan whisky tasting held at 99Sudbury in Toronto.  Macallan and Matchstick partnered up to host a fabulous 2 night, (4 round) event (we were in the first tasting on the first night) in which we had the opportunity to taste 5 of the Macallan's scotches.

The 10 year old, the 12, the 15, the 18 yr old Sherry oak and finally cask strength.
The whiskies were also paired with some fantastic cheeses, olives, nuts, meats and breads...it really was quite the spread.  The venue itself was quite swanky and fit the association one tends to make with what a scotch tasting should entail.  I have to say the entire evening was just a really well run and organised event.
Each sample was accompanied by an extremely informative powerpoint, including a very funny montage of what was happening during those specific years.


The Macallan Distillery has been around since 1824 (which likely means it was operating much longer before that, but not legally..which is why most scotch distilleries were ran up in the highlands of Scotland...to avoid the taxman we were told with a cheeky wink by the Canadian Macallan representative) and has quickly become not only a premium whisky, but a premium luxury whiskey with a 64 yr old whisky in a Lalique decanter recently auctioned at Sotheby's for $460,000 US (with proceeds going to charity:water too!).

As someone who lived in Scotland for two years, I definitely appreciated the variety of years presented & the flavours present in each whisky. The Canadian spokesperson for Macallan, Marc Laverdiere, was a great speaker and Heather and I had a chat with him after the presentation about female scotch drinkers.  He told us that 30% of scotch drinkers are women, which came as a surprise.

My favourite was the 18 yr old..smooth, clean and not a hard burn as I sipped it...the cool thing about the 18 yr old  is that it has been matured in sherry oak casks from Spain (most oak casks generally come from North America) and has hints of dried fruits, ginger, toffee and vanilla.  The terrific thing about Macallan whisky is that there is no artificial caramel colouring involved (most scotches colour their whiskies..which mean they must stay out of sunlight in order to keep well). Those lovely amber tones in the Macallans are completely natural and are a result of their unique casks and fabulous ingredients.

All in all, Heather and I had a fun night out in the city and some great scotch and treats!  The next time you are looking for a great gift for that single malt lover in your life, definitely pick up a bottle of the Macallan.

*only whisky made in Scotland can be called scotch ;)

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Hello?? Is This Thing On?

>> Tuesday, 16 November 2010

I am so sorry to have neglected you over the spring/summer/fall.
Ugh.
You know when life just gets in the way of doing the things you've been meaning or wanting to do?
Yeah, that's kinda what happened.  But, I'm back now and next week I have a whiskey tasting to go to with Macallen Whiskey courtesy of Matchstick.com...so that will be my first 'official' post back!

Until then....these are the things I meant to tell you about...
    I drank a lot of tea (David's Tea & ironically enough Gretzky's Green Tea (which I originally bought as a joke because of the ridiculous packaging and it actually turned out to be pretty good!))
    Soda bread with currants (which I hate, but made anyway thinking I might have some sort of revelation that I like currants. I still don't)
    Had a first date at the Black Bull in Toronto and consequent dates around the neighbourhood... 
    Drank coffees at the Dark Horse Cafe in Toronto
    Found a little chocolate shop and tried out some unique chocolate
    Drank nearly a gallon of apple cider
    Made hazelnut cupcakes for my *gasp* 36th birthday
Celebrated the World Cup by taste testing a bunch of Walker's World Cup flavoured crisps


Convinced my cousin Kim to eat Vietnamese food



Made curd (seriously people...I made curd!! Keylime curd to be exact and black raspberry curd..black raspberries that I had painstakingly collected myself)...the curd then became swirly tartlets.



Made tons of pasta with very simple toppings (lots of fresh tomatoes, garlic, basil, olive oil and feta..divine!)

  • Tried out a few new sushi places
  • Consumed Irish Stew made with Guinness out on a chilly, albeit summery patio at the Waterfront Pub
  • Drank various kinds of ciders and ales at C'est What
  • Planted spaghetti squash...fried up and ate some of the blossoms
  • Had drinks with friends and dates at various locales in the city..and they were great!
  • Planted heirloom tomatoes, basil, cilantro, lime basil, sugar snap peas
  • Drank lots of peach-basil sangria and still did not manage to photograph it
.....and managed to lose 30 pounds doing it all!

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Don't Mind the Crumbs...

>> Saturday, 22 May 2010

Hey all!
Don't mind the crumbs all over this place..I will get it sorted shortly. *ack*
In the meantime...if you have a blog...please please send it along and I can add you to the site.

Also, I actually have a lot to talk about! (I'm sorry, I went through a bit of a dryspell for a while)
So you'll be seeing cupcakes, asparagus, chocolate, 100 mile diet eating, tea, a couple of guest bloggers and so much more. *Whew* 

I'm working on some pretty cool features on the site...so you may get little dribs and drabs of updates here and there, but there will be progress! :)

xoxo

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Sushi Fail...but yet looked fabulous

Really, the sushi failed for one reason and one reason only.  Nope, I am lying. Two reasons...1.  I couldn't find everything I needed at the grocery store to make what I wanted to showcase the fanastic pieces I received from CSN Stores to review and 2. hunger.  I was hungry.  Hunger does not bode well when making sushi. I did pick up the nori and wasabi and some vinegar, but until I have everything else...it's gotta wait and instead picked up a packaged dealio from the supermarket...which I generally do not recommend.

I will be making sushi at some point on this blog, because I love it and I think I have learned some tricks and tips that I'm looking forward to sharing.  I think I will also my friend The Asian Pear to write a little something about sushi making as she's a genius in this area and can whip them up MUCH faster than I! (Not to mention, I'll be able to score some of her tips and tricks too!)
For now though, I'm going to talk a little bit about my experience with CSN Stores.
When I was contacted by CSN Stores about doing a review of items from their stores..and I chose a medium sized sushi plate made of bamboo and an Alessi Lily Bird soy sauce container. (Yep, that little gorgeous bird is a soy sauce container!!!  Awesomesauce, no?)

I was pretty skeptical about the items doe to their pretty affordable pricing, but after getting and using both of these, I am blown away.  The bamboo tray is absolutely gorgeous (and cleans like a dream!) and the soy sauce container definitely is a statement piece.
I do live in Canada, so shipping is often takes quite a while, but the pretty great service that CSN offers is that they have tracking numbers and update you via email along the way, so I knew at any given point in time (up until it reached the border) as to where my package was.  Pretty impressive.

Both parcels were extremely well packaged and even if it had been jostled around in transit, you would never know.  With over 200+ CSN Stores (the majority of them even shipping to Canada), I would certainly revisit and check out their items..everything from seasonal decor to shoes to La Cruset cookware.  Sweeet!

I am very happy with these items, their customer service system and their shipping and will definitely be checking them out again. :)  Thanks Jamie!

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Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

>> Friday, 16 April 2010




Maybe you are like me...I have a tendency to start doing things late at night. Not because I've procrastinated doing them (although that is often the case), but usually because I get these grandious ideas late at night. So when most people are debating what time to set their alarms for the next morning or flossing, I am scouring the cupboards for the makings of...whatever I might be able to make. 


Company was coming to visit in the form of relatives the following day and my mom had requested that I might  'make something'. Ever since I ate red velvet cupcakes in London from the Hummingbird Bakery and consequently bought the cookbook this past winter, I knew more of these were in my future...in some form, any form!


 Which is why when I was asked to 'make something', I knew what I needed/wanted to do and I set about making this cake....at around midnight.  The crumb of the cake is deliciously moist and the cake is not sweet at all (the icing is a bit sweet, but suits the cake perfectly)  I made the cakes the night before and made the icing the following morning.  It all came together rather well and I would definitely suggest taking this cake to any sort of party.  Very impressive and not all that hard to make!
Red Velvet Cake 
(Adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook)

  • 8 tbsp of unsalted, room temperature butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 tbsp red food colouring (yep, it'll take about 2 bottles!)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups (plus 4 tbsp) of all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp of white vinegar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  1. Preheat oven to 325deg F
  2. In one bowl, mix the food colouring, vanilla and cocoa powder in a bowl to make a thick paste.
  3. In a bigger bowl (you can use an electric mixer..although I didn't and it turned out fine) mix the butter and sugar together until fluffy.  Add the eggs and beat until well blended.
  4. Add the coloured paste to the butter mixture and combine..taking care to scrape the sides of the bowl so it mixes evenly.
  5. Slowly pour in half the amount of buttermilk and half the amount of flour.  Beat until well blended and then repeat the same process of adding the rest of the buttermilk and the flour and beat.
  6. Batter should be smooth and even...the add the salt, baking soda and vinegar.
  7. Beat again to combine.
  8. Meanwhile, grease and flour 3 8-inch pans
  9. Pour the batter into the 3 pans (1/2 way up the side of the pan) and bake for approximately 25 minutes (checking to see if a knife inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean)
  10. Let cakes cool and make the icing.
Cream Cheese Icing
  • 4 2/3rd cups of icing sugar (confectioner's sugar)
  • 6 tbsps of room temperature, unsalted butter
  • 8 oz (1 block) of cold cream cheese
  1. This time I did use a freehand mixer!  Beat the icing sugar and the butter together until it is well mixed.
  2. Add the cold cream cheese (I cut in cubes to make it faster and easier to mix) and beat until it is all mixed in,well blended and the icing is light and fluffy.
  3. Taking care not to overbeat as the icing will melt slightly with too much work.
11.  Ice between each layer and stack the layers.
12.  Then finish icing the sides of the cake.
13.  If you are making cupcakes, this recipe will make 24...otherwise, divide all ingredients (including icing) by half for 12 cupcakes.
Serve to family and know that when you sneak into the kitchen later that night to cut a tiny slice to have with tea...it will have already been devoured by someone else with the exact same idea.  :(

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South St. Burger Company

>> Thursday, 8 April 2010

I occassionally do reviews of items for BzzAgent.com...and my most recent assignment was to check out the South St. Burger company.

Now I know this franchise has been around for a while, but I've never actually been in! Crazy, I know. I don't know what preconceived notions I had or maybe it's because I was always under the impression that it was pretty expensive...but there is a great reason for that which I am about to explain.

BzzAgent sent me a bunch of buy one, get one free coupons which I dispersed among the families that come into my workplace which is great because there is a South St. Burget Company just down the street from my job.

They also sent me a $10 coupon so I could try it myself first hand.

I never knew before, but what puts South St. Burger apart from the other burger joints is that the patties are made fresh and contain absolutely no hormones, antibiotics, filler or preservatives from cows that are raised on small co-op farms that practice natural and conscientious farming.

Seriously, for someone who is trying to eat better (or at least more consciously) and really pay attention to businesses who are trying at least to save/protect the environment, South St. Burger is really doing a great job as they use local ingredients & support local farms, use LED bulbs in their stores, environmentally friendly cleaning products and recycled paper products and 100% Bullfrog power(green electricity). Pretty impressive.

Not only that...but they have 25 different types of toppings! Everything from wasabi mayo to guacamole. Not to mention that they are partnered up with New York Fries. Delicious!

All the great environmental friendliness aside, I really did enjoy the burger. Sure it was a little more expensive than the local burger place...but the quality definitely was of primary importance.

Simply put..I would certainly recommend South St. Burger for the healthier burger choice!

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Longo's 'The Loft' Cooking Demonstrations

>> Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Have you ever had the experience of signing up for a class/lessons/demonstration of anything and being slightly anxious albeit excited about going?

What to wear, what to bring, who will be there?
I think that's a pretty normal occurance for most people and I definitely get a bit nervous walking into a room full of people that I have never met before..which is certainly what was about to transpire as I climbed the stair's to 'The Loft'.

The Loft, based in Longo's grocery store is a self-contained kitchen set above the shop floor complete with a fully functioning demonstration kitchen (video screens for you to see what is happening on the counters and a giant mirror above the stovetop) and large seating area.

I opened the doors and entered the area and was welcomed by host (Nicol Mentis) for the evening, the chef (Chef Robert) and two other 'students'. So far, everyone was pleasantly chatting and I got myself settled to join in.

~Chef Robert & the view of the stove from the mirror above the table~

I was fortunate to sit next to Mac, who talked to me about the other Loft classes her & her husband had taken. She also mentioned that they were the host's inlaws! It definitely says something about your relationship with your inlaws when they come to support your classes...they clearly know a good thing when they taste it!

I enjoyed chatting with them immensely and they definitely made me feel more relaxed and welcome. I was very ready to enjoy the evening and some other people came in who also knew Nicol. It made for a very cozy and relaxed first time.


You may recall that I made
Canadian Maple Mousse a little while ago, well this recipe was featured in the same Longo's Experience magazine as the recipes that we enjoyed in the demonstration. (And with MUCH less ease than me cooking it up myself!)

Timing has always been my problem with preparing a meal, and Chef Robert made everything look so much easier and pretty freeform, which is always great! He spoke about timing and proper techniques of cooking and when to add certain ingredients, all the while, the kitchen filled up with delicious aromas that seriously made me wish I had remembered to eat lunch!

~Scallops & Shrimp in Pernod Cream Sauce~

Soon we were eating, and all the questions fell by the wayside as we devoured everything...it was all so delicious and fresh and so very unlike anything I would even attempt at home, but it was great to see how easy it would be to do!

~Rack of Lamb with Curry Sauce on a bed of Saffron Rice and Cumin Scented Chickpeas~


I have to say that my experience at the Longo's Loft was both fun and educational.I learned a lot of little tips and tricks and ate a fantastically gourmet meal that would cost you an arm and a leg in a fancy restaurant.

The host, Nicol was incredibly helpful and threw out questions and brought around the spices being used for everyone to smell and examine, helped tidy up and in general pull everything together so it was easy for both the Chef and us to gel. Chef Robert was great with answering any questions and spoke about everything from the restaurant industry in general to the best way to wash herbs, cook rice and french your rack of lamb..lots and lots of useful tips!
It seems to me that the Loft classes would be a terrific date night or get together with your foodie friends or a great gift to give!

~Dessert: Bread Pudding with dried cranberries in a Jack Daniel's sauce~

I am definitely signing up for a couple more in April, so if anyone wants to come along, please let me know!

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Raw Food Movement :: Desserts

>> Sunday, 21 March 2010

It's funny, but as I'm writing this, I'm partially watching a zombie movie called Dead Snow about Norwegian medical students that stumble upon Nazi zombies while on a ski vacation. I cannot make this stuff up! Also, definitely one of the goriest movies I've possibly ever seen. Now would be a good time to tell you about the raw vegan nanaimo bar I tried.

I'm doing this for you Heather.*LOL*
I made a joke about becoming a 'rawist' (a person who avoids any foods that have been cooked, heated or processed, preferring to consume only raw organic fruit, nuts and vegetables and grain.) after Heather told me she switched from vegetarian to vegan during our excursion at the St. Lawrence Market.

I'm impressed by the commitment this takes because I don't think there is ANY way I could do it personally. Especially because I love dairy, eggs, honey! I can imagine that it's equally hard to eat anything but a salad anywhere you go (but that is my limited exposure I'm sure) but I'll bug Heather about it to find more information.
Soooo...in order to try something out from the raw food movement, I decided to try a raw vegan nanaimo bar from our local health food grocery store.

Although I don't have the recipe for this exact, I do believe it is VERY similar to this recipe.
Definitely more expensive than making the regular version *ingredients would be crazy expensive* and 3" x 5" bar cost me $6.99 CDN.

Tastewise, it wasn't as sweet as I was expecting, nor was it as 'faux' as I thought it might be.
The texture though (in the middle layer) was definitely not as firm as I would have liked, but I did like the texture and consistency of the bottom layer which although was a little too moist and crumbly, did taste like the real deal.

All in all, I guess if you couldn't/wouldn't have the real thing, then this would be a great treat for your rawist, vegan friends and in terms of more conscious eating, then this is something to consider.


Not to worry, the next posting will be filled with fat and sugar and salt and much less zombie. *teasing grins*

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Eating More Naturally

>> Saturday, 13 March 2010

I've been trying to eat more 'naturally' lately. Using less processed foods and more 'whole foods'. Originally it was my goal to bake something for this blog using sprouted grains....and it still is, but I don't know when. Soooooo, instead I will tell you everything I've learned about sprouted grains.

It all started when I read the Essential Eating:
Sprouted Baking Cookbook by Janie Quinn.

I was intrigued because the tag line read: with whole grain flours that digest as vegetables.

WHAT??

How is that even possible I thought to myself (immediately set out on
finding answers on the internet) and OMG, what on earth would it taste like?? *remembering mine & Heather's experience at the St. Lawrence Market*

Flipping through the book, I saw a recipe for a cherry tart which looked right up my alley! Well, once into the book, I realised it was more or less a promo tool into buying THEIR flour. Which is fine...I can adapt and use other flour..well, it was due back to the library and I never wrote the recipe down. *doh* Which means, I need to take it out from the library again because I think I will attempt it this summer.

But I digress, we were talking about healthy eating you and I. Now I am not talking about special occassion eating (or "Hurray, it's Tuesday!" eating..of which I am quite susceptible) but about general choices throughout the week for overall better health.

I am making the start with swapping out my white bread (I detest whole wheat bread. No reason why except that I hate the taste and yet I ADORE anything with lots of seeds/nuts in it as long as there is more 'grain' than whole wheat) for sprouted grain bread.

So a little bit about sprouted grain bread..
here is what StoneMill Bakery has to say about sprouted grains.

I am in the process of trying out a bunch of different brands of sprouted grain breads. Last week I tried StoneMill's Sprouted Grains: 3 Grains & Oatmeal and it was delicious! However, when I looked for it at the store again, it wasn't available. So I headed to the freezer section for something made ONLY with sprouted grains and no flour and found Silver Hills brand.

Both companies are Canadian and are very 'green' thinking and use best environmental practices and are interested in sustainability.
StoneMill is Ontario-based and Silver Hills is located in British Columbia.

So this week I've been enjoying Silver Hill's 'The Big 16'..which is made up of 16 (!!) types of sprouted grains! In fact, here's the complete ingredient list:

Organic whole sprouted wheat*
water
organic evaporated cane juice*
vital wheat gluten
organic oat flake topping*
organic flax seeds*
yeast
sea salt
organic sunflower seeds*
organic millet*
organic whole sprouted triticale*
organic whole sprouted rye*
organic whole sprouted barley*
organic buckwheat*
organic whole corn*
citric acid
organic whole brown rice*
organic whole sprouted spelt*
organic whole sprouted kamut® khorasan wheat*
organic sesame seeds*
organic whole amaranth*
organic whole quinoa*


*Certified Organic
Pretty impressive...and pretty tasty! So far, this healthy living thing doesn't seem so dire.

Besides, I'll definitely still enjoy making sweet treats, I'll just have to give more of them away.
:)

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Canadian Maple Mousse

>> Monday, 8 March 2010

Can you believe I am unable to convince anyone to join me on a trip to the Sugar Bush for the annual 'sugaring off'?

It's true. My friends are weird.

Okay, it could be that this is something that reeks of elementary school trips, but I am still romanced with the idea of loving winter while it is still here, and maple syrup festivals are definitely one way to get out there and enjoy the season.

I'm going with the notion that my friends are weird. ;)

Regardless, I may just have to go by myself. I'm cool with that and in order to feel better about going by myself, I made this Canadian Maple Mousse before the Olympic gold medal men's hockey game. Yep...everything tastes a little sweeter with maple, even 14 gold medals! ;)

But whew, talk about exhausting!

But, I am back in the swing of things...trying new products (new to me anyway) that I hope to introduce on this blog and gathering up a variety of recipes that I hope to feed you all with!

Speaking of recipes, I scoured my local Value Village this past weekend and picked up the River Cafe Cookbook for only $2.99. I was pretty impressed with myself as the recipes in it look really seasonal for summer and very fresh..not to mention that the authors Rose Gray & Ruth Rogers were in fact one of Jamie Oliver's first employers!!!
Total score!

I digress...back to the sweet stuff.



Normally in our house, we would not even fathom the idea of using the maple syrup in cans (preferring a MUCH darker version that we buy from our 'syrup supplier' who bootlegs us syrup in old whiskey bottles), but this can was sooo pretty and we are on the verge of a syrup delivery..so I picked up this can.


Please note that this recipe is not to be made with faux maple syrup or maple flavoured syrups..only the real deal will do.

candied almonds

hot maple syrup & egg yolks

Canadian Maple Mousse
(adapted from Longo's Experience Magazine : spring 2010)

  • 1/2 cup nuts (pecan is recommended, but I used almonds and loved them!)
  • 1 cup pure maple syrup (IMPORTANT: No maple flavoured syrup)
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 pkg (7g) of unflavoured gelatin
  • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream
  1. Bring maple syrup & almonds to a boil.
  2. Strain nuts from the syrup and place on parchment lined baking sheet
  3. Put the baking sheet into the oven set at 350F for approx 8-10 minutes.
  4. When time is up, remove from oven and set aside to cool.
  5. While the nuts are in the oven, in a larger bowl whisk egg yolks and pour in the hot maple syrup until well mixed.
  6. Remove 1/4 cup of whipping cream and sprinkle it with gelatin. Heat this in a microwave for 45 seconds and stir to dissolve gelatin completely.
  7. Whisk this gelatin/whipping cream mixture into the maple syrup mixture and set aside.
  8. Whisk occasionally for approximately an hour until the mixture resembles consistency of egg whites.
  9. Whip the remaining cream and stir 1/4 of the whipped cream into the maple syrup mixture.
  10. Fold in the remaining cream and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  11. Remove from the fridge when ready to serve and put into parfait glasses and top with the mapled nuts.

Now get out there and enjoy the rest of whatever weather you may be having! :)


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Grapples

>> Wednesday, 3 March 2010


I'm the type of gal that marketing people love...because packaging jumps off the shelf at me.
So, it's no surprise that while I was out shopping, I came across this package in the fruit section.

Okay, so honestly, my first thought was 'Holy crap, what a waste of packaging material for APPLES! Ridiculous.'

Then I took a closer look...

It wasn't an Apple...it was a Grapple. (pronounced Grape -L)

Oh yeah...an apple that tastes like a grape! Sooooooo bizarre!
Anyway, they priced out at 4 for $4.99, but for something as unusual as this (not to mention the joke potential) it was worth it.

The texture is like an apple, but you can read the process here as to how they get that concord grape flavour in these Fuji or Washington Extra Fancy Gala apples.

I just wonder how much foods like this will confuse kids...I mean, they already have no recollections as to what vinyl records are!





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Daydreaming About Housewares & Sushi

>> Monday, 1 March 2010

Besides watching the Olympics this weekend, I spent a lot of substantial time daydreaming about owning the cutest, most fabulous house or cottage. I spent far too much time thinking about home bars and accent pillows, beautiful kitchen appliances, chandeliers and natural lighting.

The ironic thing is that I don't feel guilty about it at all!
I feel inspired, fresh and motivated!
Soooooo motivated that I've signed up for a cooking demonstration on how to make sushi!

Okay, so I've made sushi before...and trust me, it wasn't pretty.
It tasted pretty good, but the california rolls turned out to be almost as big as cookies and were trying very hard to break away from the nori wrappers and scatter themselves over the plate.
Not very pretty at all.

This time when I make sushi, things will be very different. Not only will my sushi taste great *fingers crossed*, but it's also going to look great on a plate!

CSN has graciously offered me a couple of items from their wide ranging variety of products & brands in their 200+ stores to review and due to my upcoming sushi class, I've decided that reviewing sushi items is definitely the most appropriate! CSN is quite the setup...they have literally everything from bar stools to chandeliers to awesome modern home accents. Pretty much everything I was daydreaming about all weekend!

Alongside all the info I'll be giving you about making sushi, the demonstration and the photos (of which there will be lots), I'll also be reviewing these two items in the upcoming month and letting you know what I thought about them and CSN.

Alessi LilyBird Soy Sauce Container by Stefano Giovannoni

The Alessi Lily Bird Soy Sauce container..how cute is this? (And will hopefully stop me from dripping soy sauce all over the counter) This container is actually part of a collaboration between the National Museum of Taiwan and Alessi designer & architect Giovannoni.


Totally Bamboo Sushi Plate

I'll also be reviewing the Totally Bamboo Sushi Plate which is totally awesome, ecologically responsible, fair trade friendly and both lightweight AND durable.

No doubt that CSN will be making my sushi making a lot prettier...at least on a plate!
Thanks!


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Tomato Thai Hummous? Humus? Humous? Delicious!

>> Friday, 19 February 2010


Awwww snap. Hummous, humus, hummus, humous, no matter how you spell it (and there are tons of various ways), this chick pea mashup is delicious!

Perfect for afternoons spent contemplating calling that guy you've really wanted to ask out, or watching the olympics (that ski-cross sport looks insane!) or just doing some catching up on your reading. Okay, well that's what I found it perfect for...but I know you'll find lots of other times to enjoy it too!

You heard it right, today it's all about the tomato thai hummous.

The simple and beautiful thing about hummous is that as long as you have some chick peas, you can make a really fast spread for sandwiches or as a dip for veggies or toasted pita bread. The perfect snack at any point during the day!
Traditionally hummous has tahini (a sesame seed paste) in it, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic... but this is the beauty of this recipe as you can add or omit as you like.

No really, you can add anything you'd like...from plain yogurt to make it creamier to other spices, make it saltier or spicer. The only reallyy key ingredients are the chick peas and the garlic. (It's a good thing I'm calling this guy and not meeting face to face!)
No harm, no foul. This is truly a foolproof recipe, I promise you, but everything is to taste, so in regards to spices add a little if you are unsure and gradually add more until you are comfortable with the taste.

Now go forth and blend...and try not to breathe on anyone who isn't sharing with you. ;)



Tomato Thai Hummous
  • 1 can drained chick peas (save some of the water in case the mix is too thick for your taste)
  • 6-7 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (I substituted the chick pea water for this)
  • 1 tbsp Thai seasoning blend (I used McCormicks)
  • fresh ground pepper
  • generous pinch of salt
  • (You can also add one small red chopped and seeded chili for some extra spice)

  1. Toss is all in a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth and creamy.
  2. Chill for a couple of hours to let all the flavours blend, but you can enjoy right away if you choose.
  3. Serve with cut up veggies or wedges of toasted pita bread.

Now go call that man...you know you wanna.

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Purple Carrots, Macarons & The St. Lawrence Market

>> Monday, 15 February 2010


Last weekend I hit the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto with my friend Heather. I was on a mission for a few items...namely macarons from
Lemon Tree Patisserie (which I had read about over at chowhound.com), some yummy bread and maybe keep an eye out for some fun coloured vegetables and some other random goodies that might find their way into my hungry hands!

It never disappoints and it's clearly a place I could spend a long time at! The next time I will certainly get some more goodies, but for now...we're talking about purple carrots and macarons!


According to
Carrot Museum.com, multi-coloured carrots were actually the norm until Dutch growers cultivated only the orange variety. I really enjoyed the golden yellow ones, they were a little bit sweeter than the orange ones and definitely not as woody as the purple ones.

Because I'm generally not a fan of cooked carrots, I still have one purple carrot left. I think it's too woody to eat raw...does anyone have any suggestions on what I can do with one purple carrot??

Heather in the last year has been a vegan and we found a little cafe with lots of vegan/raw goodies, including a muffin which was 'interesting' according to both Heather and myself. Essentially it was eating a warm little ball of grain and grated carrots.

Yep.
I could never be vegan.

I was all about the eggs and refined sugar as I tracked down Lemon Tree Patisserie for macarons.

Lots of food bloggers have been speaking about macarons lately (and over the past couple of years) and although I was won over by the elegant male servers in pinstripe suits and white gloves in Laduree while in Paris, I wasn't terribly impressed by the macarons (which I think was entirely my fault as I waited HOURS to eat them).


I think I had let my macarons get a little too warm and the centres actually soaked into the meringue part! Eeps. Not to mention that I did choose some of the more 'interesting' flavours (Muget ~ Lily of the Valley and Cassis Violet ~ Violet Blackcurrant) rather than go for the simple and more common flavours.

This past weekend, I had to purchase some macarons at the market and
Lemon Tree Patisserie's flavours were very interesting!



Mango, Chocolate Banana & Lavender.

Lavender was absolutely my favourite. The mango was pretty tasty too. However, I was a little disappointed at the lack of chocolate flavour of the chocolate banana. That said, Kelly uses all natural ingredients and that is impressive.

The meringues were crunchy on the outside and terrifically chewy on the inside and the fillings were deliciously thick and buttery. Mmmmmm..buttery. I know that Lemon Tree is at the market every Saturday morning, so be sure to check it out!


Read about making macarons and all the terrific flavours at these wonderful blogs!

Bakerella ~ Macarons!
Mad Baker ~
Macarons
David Lebovitz ~
Making French Macarons: Instructions & Recipes
Ms. Adventures in Italy ~
Laduree Macarons & Finding the Perfect Macaron Recipe

Other yummy things I purchased at the market were some creamy red beet humus from Uncle George's Sprouts and some artisanal garlic bread from StoneMill.

Next time, I'll take more money..and more photos! :)

Delicious.

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Restaurant Review:: Pizzeria Libretto (Toronto)

>> Tuesday, 9 February 2010


Pizzeria Libretto
221 Ossington Ave
Toronto, ON

Hours
Daily 12-11
Sundays 11-4

I was supposed to be there at 1:30pm to meet up with Toronto area bloggers Ginger & Asian Pear. My friend Heather and I arrived there at 2:10 pm. Pizzeria Libretto is one helluva walk/subway/streetcar ride away...from everything except Little Portugal.

Pizzeria Libretto's big draw is that they claim to the only Naples style pizza in Toronto. What this means is that it follows a strict set of guidelines set out by the Verace Pizza Napoletana Association as set out by the Italian Government and the European Union. Yes, the EU is working hard at preserving culinary heritage and that is pretty cool. (How do I get a job in that department?)

Admittedly, I had checked out their website the night before, so I knew quite a bit about their pizza and their wood burning oven that it's cooked in (90 seconds at 900 degrees!) and their environmental policies..which I have to say are pretty impressive. I like the fact that they try to use local ingredients (albeit a tougher thing to do in Canadian winters) whenever possible.

Immediately being greeted by a gorgeous man at the entrance was definitely a bonus, if not a little awkward as I was rather flustered at being so late and thrown off by his attentiveness and the fact that I was still adjusting to the darker interior. (Okay, it was his good looks...did I mention he was gorgeous?) He invited me to head into the restaurant and search for the rest of my party. I have never met the other girls face to face, but I knew them when I entered the small, but cozy seating area. It was pretty busy and I would have loved to head closer to the back to catch a view of the oven itself, I get a little intimidated by a. good looking men and b. looking lost to said handsome men. Everyone seemed to be busy chatting,watching tv, running in and out of the kitchen.

Being a bit of an amateur food photographer, I knew some things were going to be tough. I had on the wrong lens for the distance at which we were sitting and the lighting left a lot to be desired (although absolutely perfect for dates!)..but let's be honest, that's not a problem for most people..just for my camera :)

Heather and I ordered just after Ginger and Asian Pear, I felt a bit rushed looking over the menu, but that was entirely our fault for being late...so I just randomly picked something as the waiter hovered about saying if we ordered quickly, our food should come at the same time. Heather over the past year has switched it up from being vegetarian to vegan (So sorry Heather!!) so her order was a bit tougher, only garlic and tomatoes. I ordered the salami pizza ($16) which came with salami, mozzarella & tomato topping as well as roasted red peppers and very sparse basil leaves (ie. 3). Our pizzas came quickly...one would assume so as they only spend 90 seconds in the oven!

I was a little surprised at the VERY hard time I had cutting the pizza! So much so, that I abandonned the entire crust and only ate the inside. Even that was pretty rough and seemed to take me forever. It made the dining experience kind of frustrating actually, like I had been given the dullest knife in the place. The taste of the pizza was so-so and the ingredients were fresh although very sparse. I had forgotten there were roasted red peppers even on my pizza until I saw maybe 4 thinly sliced pieces at the direct centre of the pie.

To be brutally honest, the pizza I made the other week had more taste and flavour than Pizzeria Libretto's Salami pizza.

I really wanted to love this place, I did. Hot waiters, good looking foodie people chatting and eating fast pizza, environmentally friendly business operations and fresh ingredients. Seriously. What was not to love? While I appreciate that this is a different 'style and technique' of creating pizza in Toronto, I can't help but feel that they are missing something. Hey, at least the company was good! :)

I think maybe if I went back a second time (I probably won't), I'd have to check out their other menu offerings (Or at least convince one of the waiters to peruse the menu with me a bit longer!) as I've heard the bruschetta is pretty good.

Feel free to check out other diner's photos of Pizzeria Libretto on Flickr here.

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