Tuesday, December 11, 2012

wannafoodie in Metro Edmonton!

I'm thrilled to be included, alongside the esteemed and amazing Kitchen Magpie Karlynn and Phil the Baconhound, in a 12 Days of Christmas feature in Metro Edmonton. The 4th day of Christmas featured favourite holiday recipes from the three of us as well as many other local Edmontonians. 

Check out the full article and recipes here!

You can also find the full, step-by-step version of the Peppermint Hot Chocolate Cookies here. These are fussy babies since homemade marshmallows do not withstand heat in the same way that store-bought marshmallows do... so you have to chill chill chill your dough (and even your assembled cookies), cook these at a low temperature, and I highly recommend a test cookie to make sure that your oven isn't too hot! (Or... maybe give these a shot with store-bought marshmallows with a slight drop of peppermint extract on it.)

Thanks again to Metro Edmonton and Heather for including me in this Christmas countdown! And to all of you for reading!


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cheesepalooza: Mozzarella

In this month's mozzarella challenge, I was pulled into several different directions. I had made a quick mozzarella at this year's Eat Alberta conference and thought it was just a fantastic, quick little food trick to have in my repertoire. I thought the same might be said about the traditional or junket mozzarella recipes, as described in Mary Karlin's book. While not exactly quick and easy cheeses to pull out without planning, I was really excited to jump into this Intermediate Cheesemaking section and continue to build my skills. So, rolling up my sleeves, I thought it might be *fun* to make the traditional, junket, and quick mozzarellas all in one month and compare the results.

While I was excited, I was also quite nervous about this next step. Cheesemaking was about to get a whole lot more complicated... and will get a whole lot more complicated in the new year. The challenge of mozzarella was going to teach us about stretched curd cheeses. It's about learning to create the right amount of elasticity, stretch, and texture in the cheese.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Chicken and Waffles

I'm not a big fan of leftovers. I can manage eating a copy of a meal once before I need to really repurpose it or risk it going sideways in the fridge while I avoid it. To minimize this, I seem to try cooking less or inviting guests to reduce the potential amount of leftovers that I need to deal with. This time, however, I felt particularly inspired and wanted to reinvent the leftovers into a dish of its own merit and tastiness.

Enter, chicken and waffles, leftovers extraordinaire from a spectacular roasted chicken and cheese souffle dinner. I have had a few incarnations of fried chicken and waffles in restaurants. Definitely tasty. Definitely a biiiiiiig meal. Barring the fried chicken, why couldn't I make a roasted chicken and waffles dinner? (Or, for those of you facing pounds of leftover turkey, make roasted turkey and waffles??) Cheesy, herbacious waffles... warm fragrant chicken... smothered in gravy... dabbed with maple syrup. What's not to like??

Roasted Chicken with Cheese Souffle

I started my day with a few welcome lattes and laziness before moving on to attempt cultured butter for Cheesepalooza (which I will write about another day). Of course, though, I wasn't entirely focussed on the cheese between making my next latte and reading my book... and what happens?? I scald the cream. It was well well well beyond the required temperature for the butter. Instead of waiting for it to cool down (and even chancing that it could work after being burned like that), I stopped. What does one do with a pot full of scalded cream? Well, make creme brulee, of course! (Yeah, I can see your eyes rolling at that "of course." haha)

So, then I decide to give Julia Child's creme brulee recipe another try... I don't always have success with it setting up without a requisite water-bath but I continue to try. If it doesn't set, brulee it anyway! It's still a success, it's just not creme brulee... it's creme anglaise bruleed! (Whip the eggs, add the sugar, temper the eggs, then incorporate the required cream. Ladle into ramekins, then set in the fridge to cool.)

Now I have six little creme brulees cooling. What is the next logical step? Well, the next logical step would be to invite people for dinner, right? I certainly cannot eat (or rather allow myself to eat) six creme brulees on my own, so I need to invite people to join in the eating.

There was still a bit of scalded cream left, so it seemed only reasonable to melt chocolate into it, add two egg yolk, add a splash of cointreau, then ladle into little ramekins as well for little pot au cremes. Yep. 

Well, the byproduct of making creme brulee other than using up that scalded cream is that now I have a bowl full of egg whites. Six to be exact. What to do when faced with egg whites and a dinner party? Time to make souffle!

To recap, I went from cultured butter to scalded cream to creme brulees to dinner party to pot au creme to souffle. Even my eyes are rolling now...

Roasted Chicken with Thyme, Sage, Parsley and Rosemary
Aged Cheddar Souffle
Green Beans with Butter and Smoked Salt
Mixed Greens with Cherry Tomatoes and Homemade Feta
Creme Brulee and Chocolate Pots with Berries

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Cheesepalooza: Crescenza

I know that there is much more to the world of cooking (and eating) than cheese. Despite the recent overwhelmingly cheesy content of my blog, I really do know this. But what you don't know is that making cheese is so completely and amazingly addictive that I can hardly stand it. 

I'd say that I would be a few cheese-ploits away from requiring an intervention. In the midst of this cheese-making, I actually woke in the middle of the night and decided to capitalize on that moment by flipping my cheese before returning to bed. Then, I brought my cheese to work, so that I could take it out of the brine on time. Yes, that is crazy. Trust me, even I thought so. But every time I have a new cheese in the cave or fridge and get to present it proudly to my friends and family... I can't help but think of what I can make next. 

In this instance, I was making crescenza, an Italian cow's milk cheese that is very soft and creamy without any real rind. It's another one of these cheeses that requires little time from start to consumption, which is always nice.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Emma's Elmo Birthday!

What is about to follow is absolutely shameless posting of an adorable little gal... our little Emma-bean, niece-extraordinaire, who is growing up to be a wonderful little person because of her great parents (Alan and Kate) and the village that they have supporting them. 

H A P P Y   B I R T H D A Y,   E M M A! !

Momma Kate has the market cornered in terms of family birthday cakes and prepares a special creation for the birthday celebrations in the family. This time, for Emma's birthday, she invited me over to help create the oh-so-loved Elmo birthday cake and Cookie Monster cupcakes for Emma's 2nd birthday.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Roasted Chicken with Maple Butternut Squash Risotto

Two of my absolute favourite things to cook are the jumping off point for this fantastic Sunday (or any other night) dinner... roast chicken and risotto. I see both as blank canvases where you can add seasonal flavours or elements to make a crowd-pleasing meal at any point during the year. A roast chicken and risotto in spring might feature loads of lemon, mint, and young new green peas. A roast chicken and risotto in the winter might feature root vegetables from the cold room, rosemary, and lots of red wine. 

On the cusp of a short fall and a clawing winter, I felt like this sort of comforting, transformative meal was exactly what our household needed after a long overdue weekend of relaxation and home time.

We visited our favourite Bridgeland Market on the weekend to gather some ingredients and also get our pumpkin for the annual market pumpkin giveaway... the jumping off point for the meal came as I walked down one of the aisles and spotted a can of Farmer's Market organic butternut squash (check out their products and the great recipes on their website.. I have bookmarked a few already). It seemed like the perfect starting place for this meal.

Roasted Chicken with Garlic and Herbes de Provence
Maple Butternut Squash Risotto
Maple Gravy

Monday, October 29, 2012

Cheesepalooza: Feta

Feta, feta, bo-beta.. banana fana pho feta.. fe fi fo... FETA. Yep, that was dorky. I couldn't resist. Or, more so, I couldn't get it out of my head... I'm sorry.

When our October challenge was issued, I had trouble deciding whether I would make the feta or the halloumi. Time was quite limited in October, so I knew that I wouldn't be able to make both in this month, though I had every intention of making the other cheese at some point down the line. 

I ended up choosing the feta. I had been having so much success and enjoying the low-and-slow goat cheeses and, thus, wanted to continue on with that roll. Plus, feta is one of those cheeses that I would buy but never considered making (obviously, until this challenge was issued). The aggressive salt, interesting texture, and sharp brine... it just seemed like too much to mess with at home. And, just like the chevre and cabecou and many other cheeses that I have been enjoying making, it really wasn't worth stressing over. I could manage it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Cheesepalooza: Cabecou... maybe?

After so many pretty pictures of cabecou or "little goat" turned up on blogs and the Cheesepalooza facebook page, I had to try my hand at it. Take one look and I think you'll agree!

Cabecou is a classic French goat cheese that is formed into little rounds then aged or ripened for 10 to 15 days, according to our guide. It can be ripened into a soft spreadable cheese or left longer to reach a texture and firmness that you are able to grate. The one that caught my eye the most was the marinated version, which yielded both a supple and flavourful cheese as well as a fragrant oil that could be used for dipping or finishing. Though, after the success and rave reviews of the ricotta salata, I think I'm going to make not only the marinated version but also the dry salted versions again very soon.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Cheesepalooza: Ricotta Salata

Oh, ricotta salata... this is a cheese within a cheese. First, you need to make yourself some ricotta. You could opt for the whole milk ricotta or, as I did, you can build on flavour by utilizing whey ricotta. Then you salt and cure the ricotta to create a whole new cheese experience.

I made my whey ricotta using goat's whey and cow's milk, which made for a more complex yet still mild flavour profile. Since most commented that the ricotta salata was a fairly mild and innocuous cheese, I thought I would give it a bit more umph by using my combo whey ricotta.

So, once you've made your ricotta (in whatever form), you need to press it into a cheese mould, then salt it over the course of a week, then age it until it has reached whatever your ideal texture or density is, then eat it!

Cheesepalooza: DIY Cheese Moulds

Don't get me wrong, I love to throw myself into a project. I like to have all of the fancy supplies and gadgets. I try to not cut corners... mostly. :P I want to make an earnest effort and work hard to achieve the best result possible. All of that said, I had spent a few pennies purchasing the rennets and cultures and cloths required for the Cheesepalooza project but wasn't quite ready to purchase cheese moulds. Storage is at a premium in my small kitchen and I also wanted to be sure that, when I did purchase moulds, they would be moulds for cheeses that I would make again and again and again. Why buy a mould for a cheese that I didn't end up making or maybe didn't end up even liking?

So, I decided to DIY. Ian at Much Ado About Cheese has DIYed many of his cheesemaking supplies, so have Valerie, Addie, and Deb. I am reasonably handy... I can change light bulbs, assemble some Ikea furniture, and own a power drill. Ok, I'm not that handy and certainly a far cry from being a DIY Network star but I can get by. It was worth a few bucks and an attempt anyway...

I went off to the dollar store and found myself a few plastic BPA-free, food safe containers that I thought could function as reasonable moulds for my cheeses.

Cheesepalooza: Whey Ricotta

In making all of these cheeses, I have been left with an exorbitant amount of whey. Charlie the puppy absolutely loves this, as a bit of this on his kibble like cereal is enough to have him doing flips. The plants have loved it... though that season is coming to a close. I'm using it in bread. I can't quite get around to drinking it... just a mental block, I think. Maybe if I blend it into a smoothie?

One thing that I had to try in using up this whey was to make a whey ricotta. I thought I'd mix it up a little bit and make a whey ricotta using goat's milk whey and whole cow's milk.

I couldn't quite get the double-boiler bit coordinated... it's tough to find a pot big enough to fit a pot that fits two gallons of liquid! Instead, I opted for the single pot but warmed it extra slowly to compensate (it was more than 45 minutes to get to temperature).

The whole process was quite simple - heat, curdle, drain, cheese!

(It probably could have drained a weeeeee bit longer based on this photo...
but it was still soooooo good.)

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cheesepalooza: Basic Chevre

While August and its ricotta zipped on by, September welcomed us with another Cheesepalooza challenge... a basic chevre. A basic chevre or goat cheese is another cheese that I enjoy (well... I can't really think of any cheeses that I don't enjoy) and was excited to give it a shot at home. Goat cheese is extremely flavourful, high in nutrients, reasonable in terms of fat and calories, and easier on the tummy for those individuals that have trouble with dairy (here are some interesting nutritional facts on goat cheese). All good things!

The directions for this cheese in Mary Karlin's book seemed simple enough - C20G, rennet, and your milk. Yep, simple enough until you realize that you neglected to order the C20G (a culture that is a combination of the bacterial cultures and rennet required to produce a goat cheese). Oh Christine. You'll laugh though, I had packed up my other cultures, thermometers, and cheese cloth on my September holiday (that's on your packing list too, right?). We were off to Ontario cottage country and I figured it would be a perfect time to rest, relax, and make cheese. But, when the closest town in 20 minutes away and the nearest goat's milk supply about 45 minutes away and you lack the correct cultures, the whole idea of zen-like cheese making whilst on holidays seems a bit silly. Just a bit... or a whole lot of silly?? 

Thankfully, our intrepid Cheesepalooza leaders reflected multiple methods in their individual chevre posts. Ian's post described a method using Aroma B and rennet. Deb's post followed the recipe precisely, while Valerie and Addie's posts highlighted buttermilk methods. (Plus, here is some good chevre reading on cheesemaking.com.) I was determined to figure something out too. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Homemade Ricotta: Two Tastes

This whole escapade into homemade cheese has made me dream and concoct different combinations of flavours to create the perfect cheesy bite. When you put all of this effort into making your own cheese, you certainly don't want to see an iota of it go to waste. That said, there is only so much fresh plain ricotta that one can consume. I don't mean that to sound blasphemous, if you think it does! The 4.25 litres of milk and cream that I used to make my homemade ricotta yielded approximately 1.25 litres of cheese... and that's a lot of cheese!

So, I sat down with my new dedicated cheese journal and started jotting down potential flavour combinations. Then I grabbed my trusty Flavor Bible (if you aren't familiar with this reference book, I would highly recommend it) and went into flavour combination overdrive. What did I have in the house? What herbs were ample in the garden? Since it is such a subtle and mellow cheese, what would complement the ricotta without overpowering it?

These are the two bites that I landed on...
Fresh tarragon and lemon zest.
Cracked black pepper, fresh strawberry, and honey.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Cheesepalooza: Homemade Whole Milk Ricotta

I set some foodie goals back at the beginning of this year. It was a great way to focus my culinary efforts, learn some new things, and explore more of the food that I love. Well... one of those goals was to bake more bread and to learn to make cheese. 

Could the invitation to participate in Cheesepalooza have come at a better time!?!?

Well, Valerie of A Canadian Foodie, Deb the Locavore, Ian of Much Ado About Cheese, and Addie of The Big Cheese Project concepted and launched Cheesepalooza, a cheesy journey into the world of homemade cheese making. They invited and put an open call out to food bloggers from anywhere and everywhere to embark upon this cheesy journey together. With monthly challenges, optional extra creations and -of course- encouraged camaraderie and community learning, many signed up for Cheesepalooza. 

Our "curriculum" would follow through our guide book, Artisan Cheesemaking at Home by Mary Karlin - a beautiful book that seems to make the world of cheese-making infinitely more accessible than it was before I found this sort of structure for learning. Our first challenge for Cheesepalooza was issued at the beginning of August - to make a whole milk ricotta (check out the other challenges here). 

Saturday, June 23, 2012


A few weekends ago (and ambitiously early in terms of my tolerance for outdoorsy activities), we packed up our world and trekked it out to Spray Lakes. For someone with a near-complete disinterest in the discomfort of the outdoors, I needed a beautiful setting, good company, and really good food in order to get to the point of suspended disbelief and settle into enjoying the escape. 

Our first trip to Spray Lakes was last year and while there was a general state of preparedness, there was one tremendous misstep, which led to one tremendous meltdown. We each thought that the other had put the bag full of blankets in the car..... it was cold..... there was one sleeping bag between the two of us..... there was ugly crying..... need I say more?

Well, we made it through (without driving back home in the middle of the night) and in true Christine fashion, we laid everything out upon arriving home and now have itemized Excel packing lists, prepacked tubs of gear, and dedicated camping blankets whose sole purpose is to get us through the camping cold snaps. 

So, obviously, the first thing that made it to the car this year was a tub full of blankets (haha!) and we got on the road and out to our little hideout in Spray Lakes. We even managed to procure our same campsite, which just made everything so familiar and lovely. It really is the perfect site. And because I was packed up and felt prepared (basically since last summer), I had the time and energy to focus on the part that I really love... the food!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Duck Fat Roasted Potatoes

Today's post is brought to you by duck fat. Need I say more??

Duck fat is amazing. And tasty. And amazing. And a healthy fat. And amazing. And inexpensive. And amazing. Another thing on my top 2359235273 list. hahah.

In planning our Easter dinner, we decided to go completely different from our usual turkey or ham proteins and opted to concoct an entirely different menu featuring duck. In preparation for Easter dinner, I sourced some beautiful duck breasts through the wonder of twitter. To the rescue was Ocean Odyssey Inland (Edmonton), Jessie Radies of the Blue Pear (Edmonton), and Kingsland Farmers Market (Calgary) all enthusiastically recommending Greens Eggs and Ham. The funny part is that they would have been my go-to stop for duck (amongst other fantastic sustainable grown produce and protein) in Edmonton but I had no idea that I could find them in Calgary. Enter: The corner booth in the Kingsland Farmers Market... at 5 minutes to close... Mary Ellen of Green Eggs and Ham.

Mary Ellen was a happy market-goer's dream. She was welcoming and enthusiastic, despite it being moments to closing. She stopped closing up shop for the day to not only help us purchase our duck breast but provide us many product recommendations, cooking tips, and overwhelming enthusiasm for her product. While we came for duck breast, we also left with duck fat (why not?) and some pretty little white almond potatoes. We probably could have bought up half the store but restrained ourselves with plans of returning on Thursday or Friday for a few more Easter dinner party items... and maybe some more cooking tips.

Kendall at City and Dale (a great Edmonton... I want to say blog but it really has become so much more than that... site that promotes all things in and about the city that she and several other contributing writers love so much) seemed to get a similar recommendation on these potato gems (see her post on City and Dale here).

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Eat Alberta 2012: Sourdough 101

This was another HUGE Eat Alberta win for me.

I have been making bread at home for a few years now but have never managed to be entirely consistent in this front. A few loaves and doughs became second nature, including the extra large batch of dough that we would make and portion into balls for pizza or bread. They would live happily in our freezer, until being thawed overnight and baked the next day. Still... I wanted more in my carb-filled world.

Sourdough was one bread that I always wanted to make but was never able to. I tried to make my own sourdough starter by following the directions in Peter Reinhardt's book, Artisan Breads Every Day, but somehow couldn't get it quite right. (If you care to give it a try, the NY Times printed it here. There are also companies that sell sourdough starters, such as Sourdoughs International.) I thought about trying to make a starter again, until I registered for the Sourdough 101 class at Eat Alberta this year.

Time for some real learning...

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Kale Chips

So, I went to donate blood a few weekends ago. This is not something that I particularly look forward to. I don't like needles. I typically want to sleep and be lazy afterwards to recover from the donation, so the rest of my day is done. Despite that, I like going in a different way... It is one small thing that I can do to help another person, a person who would clearly be in great need, if they require a transfusion. There was a day in my life where I required a transfusion. Where would I have been without that donation? I  just think it is something good to do. Don't feel guilty. But if you can donate, consider going to a Canadian Blood Services donation clinic sometime and giving. If wussy me can do it, so can you. :)

Thus ends the public service message portion of this post. 

Anyway, I said I went to donate blood. Unfortunately though, I was not able to donate this time. In order to donate, your blood is tested to ensure that you have adequate iron levels to be able to recover from the donation. Well....... ummmm.... my iron levels didn't measure up. *tear* Whether it was stress and life or poor eating or forgetting vitamins or whatever else, I wasn't donating that day.

As I waited to discuss this with the RN, I was trying to think about why my iron/hemoglobin levels weren't up to snuff (we're not talking far off here... I was 2 points off!! I needed 125 to donate and I registered a 123.). 

Normal hemoglobin levels are different in women and in men. In non-pregnant women, normal hemoglobin ranges from 120 g/L to 160 g/L (12.0 g/dL to 16.0 g/dL). In men, normal hemoglobin levels range from 140 g/L to 180 g/L (14.0 g/dL to 18.0 g/dL).
(Source: Canadian Blood Services website)

What I figure is... I sometimes let work and life and other things get in the way of being intentional about what I eat. Sometimes laziness will show me the way to a slice of pizza (albeit good pizza) from a local shop rather than to the leafy greens on the verge of going bad in my fridge. 

Iron comes in two forms:
1. Heme iron, which is easily absorbed by your body.
Foods with heme iron include beef, lamb, pork, liver, veal,
chicken, turkey (the dark meat has more iron), fish and seafood. 

2. Non-heme iron, which is absorbed less readily.
Foods with non-heme iron include breakfast cereals (fortified with iron),
breads and pasta (whole grain and enriched), lentils, dried peas and beans, tofu,
seeds and nuts (pumpkin, sesame or peanut), dried fruit (raisins or apricots),
dark green, leafy vegetables, and eggs.
(Source: Canadian Blood Services website)

At the end of the day, I decided this... I would really try to put my mind to eating a colourful and well-rounded diet that will give my body the nutrients and vitamins that it needs to do and be its best. If my iron stores weren't sufficient after that a concerted effort was made, then it may just be that I need to donate less frequently than the 56 days allowed. 

As such, I went grocery shopping and filled up that cart with all sorts of fantastic foods... then went home and whipped up a batch of kale chips to help me on my way.  If you haven't gotten on the kale chip bandwagon yet, now is the time.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


How does your garden grow? I doubt it is as it is for little Mary. 

As my previous neighbours and family-friends can attest, gardening has never been my strong suit. I have bad allergies and 30 minutes of weeding can, in the worst cases, lead to massive hives and an afternoon spent on the couch, snacking on benedryl. Despite growing up with an extremely avid gardener, Momma R, I never really took up the spade but spent my weekends on whatever volunteer commitment or working or doing just about anything else other than the dreaded weeding.

This year, I really wanted to be intentional about gardening and learning and growing whatever I possibly could. My foray into preserving and canning last year led to a 2012 goal of wanting to preserve more and more. And what better item to preserve than one that you grew yourself! The wonderful farmers at the market would still get their support from me, as there are many things that I would not attempt or could not grow here.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

My Roasted Chicken

Every person... well, every meat eating person... NEEDS to have a go-to roast chicken under their belt. It really is a necessity in my mind.

It is the crowd-pleasing dinner party item. It is the feels-like-home meal. It is comfort. It's leftovers can become soup when you need the warmth or a cure. A pot pie, if you're so inclined. Sandwich filler. Or warmed with the veg and gravy of its first meal, to make leftovers something to be celebrated. I could and really want to go completely over the top on this one (if I haven't already). Any day when I need a meal that is going to warm me, bring me comfort, make me feel like home, and break bread with people... I think of a beautiful roast chicken. 

It is the simplest thing to add to your culinary repetoire and you'll never regret it. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Eat Alberta 2012: Your Real Food Survival Guide

Eat Alberta 2012: Your Real Food Survival Guide was a conference that already had big shoes to fill. The inaugural Eat Alberta in 2011, A Celebration of Our Local Food Heroes, was a resounding success and left attendees just buzzing and eager for more. Albertan foodies bookmarked the website, diarized reminders, and were poised and ready to jump at the first word of the sequel. It was like Harry Potter meets the saute pan. 

While we waited impatiently, I can only imagine the fervour and frenzy behind the scenes as the organizers pieced together this next event and satiate the foodie masses.

Well, a few short weeks ago, the email announcement for Eat Alberta 2012 went out. In a panic, I got online and secured my spot in my sessions of choice (though I struggled immensely in deciding on just four). Then... I waited... April 14th received a big red circle on the calendar and the kids counted down to foodie Christmas. 

I was enrolled in... Mushroom Foraging, Macaron Basics, Artisan Cheese Making, and Sourdough 101. And I was ecstatic. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Family Dinner

I love family dinners. When everyone has such busy and hectic lives, it is nice to slow things down every now and again with a nice meal, some nice vino, and share some stories. Obviously, the holidays lend themselves to family time and, as such, family dinners. I was already looking forward to that bit. But we tried to take things a bit further this time and we collaborated to create a family dinner that really became a family feast, with everyone taking on a bit of the responsibility for the menu and creating something that was truly special.

After a brainstorming session, we shirked the traditional ham or turkey. While we all loved the thought of either, we wanted to push ourselves outside of tradition and really challenge ourselves... thus landing on duck as our protein. Needing some sort of unifying flavour or attribute, we thought to link our various courses and components through the orange, as it would lend well to sweet or savoury application. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Gnocchi is one of those things that I have wanted to attempt for a very long time but never ever have... for some unknown reason. I certainly try my hand at a great many other complicated things and, despite many failings, try again... (read: macarons). And I wouldn't even think to put gnocchi in the same category as the oh-so-challenging macaron. Yet... I have not made gnocchi.

Well. I have now! And I've even made it again. It's so easy. Like making a big batch of pizza dough, portioning, and freezing it. Once you freeze these little potato presents, you can have a great dinner at the ready in a few effortless minutes.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Nutella Swirl Cornmeal Cookie

I haven't made happenstance cookies in ages. Sure, I made Christmas cookies but I haven't just had a random idea and stared into the pantry, hoping I had the ingredients, in ages.

I had been sitting on the couch, wanting some sort of sweetie treatie, and knowing that our mainstay treat (an ice cream) wasn't going to cut it. I wanted texture, definitely. I also wanted something sweet but not overly sweet. Those two things, I was sure of. The rest... subject to the addition or subtraction of my pantry.

No peanut butter cookie here. No chocolate chips either. It's a very sophisticated cookie with its cornmeal crunch, swirl of nutella, and heady spiciness of nutmeg. Feel free to tone down the nutmeg... but I rather liked it at this level. Nutmeg doesn't often get the chance to be a star. It's usually a small grating or small pinch or its the supporting cast member to a cinnamon star. No supporting role here. It is front, centre, and bold.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Flavoured Salts

Lately it seems that a significant number of my dining out experiences have involved an addition of beautiful and intentionally paired flavoured salts. As an accompaniment, they have taken whatever I was eating to another level, further emphasizing a particular flavour or element, and enhancing the dish wonderfully. On a purely aesthetic level, they add something unique to the plating or presentation of elements, whether artfully scattered on the plate beside your food or in tiny little dishes set on the table.

Why just add salt when you can add a citrus salt? Or a curried salt? Togarashi? Chili pepper?

The basic principle is to combine salt and seasoning in your food processor or blender. Blitz to combine. I used a ratio of one cup of kosher salt to about two teaspoons of flavour (be that the zest or paprika).

I combined salt with the zest of one lemon for a beautiful citrus salt. (If you haven't let the zest dry, then you'll want to let the combination air dry before sealing it away.) Good on chicken or fish, all sorts of veg, your favourite salad... Momma R wants to try it on fruit, like a beautiful ripe tomato.

The combination of kosher salt and two teaspoons of smoked paprika yielded an incredible flavour addition to meat or vegetables (or as I raved before... with pretty hard boiled eggs).

The combinations are endless... but such a little thing can add so much to your dish.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Eats & Smiles: Easter Eggs

After seeing the rash of egg-related articles in this last month's Bon Appetit and released throughout the month on their website, I was obsessed and could think of little else other than dyeing eggs. While Easter was a welcome excuse to dye some eggs, I really just wanted pretty coloured eggs for my regular ol' non-Easter life. Taking a hard boiled a egg for a snack (especially with my batch of flavoured salts) was infinitely more entertaining in it being a dark purple or vibrant yellow... rather than plain white. 

Plus! It labelled my eggs in a sense. The hard boiled ones were coloured yellow and the raw ones were dark purple-blue. Now I could store them in the same container without mixing them up or having to spin-test them to figure out which were boiled (you know about the spin test, right??). 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Brunch with Friends: Menu Four

So much Brunch with Friends! Technically, Brunch with Friends: Menu Three happened in February but after the big holiday and some serious photo review with guest photographer Dean, the post didn't see the light of the online world until March... which was only days before Brunch with Friends: Menu Four.

I've said before how much I enjoy having brunch with people. Dinners are great but there is something even better about a great brunch - which can lean more to the sweet or to the savoury, depending on your particular inspiration at that moment - where you can spend great time with friends, justify alcohol before the PMs, and say goodbye while still having your entire day ahead of you.

This particular brunch seemed to require a great deal of negotiation. Not with the menu but with disparate and conflicting schedules of the invitees, we booked this brunch in - no lie - January and then had to further tweak the date come March. Finalizing a date and time in the last three days before the proposed date felt like a battle won... then to the quick planning, purchasing, prepping, and prodding... then Brunch.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Eats & Smiles: Mate

One of my favourite things in travel is the opportunity that it affords in exposing me to new and interesting food items or rituals.

Olive oil in Italy, herbs de provence in France, dulce de leche in Argentina... those tastes and smells can instantly transport you back to your memories of those places, reminding you of your adventures, and urging you to plan your next.

One such bit of food tourism of my latest adventure was my introduction to mate in Argentina.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Brunch with Friends: Menu Three

Brunch with Friends has gone international with this instalment!

We were staying in Dean's home while in Buenos Aires (thus having a full kitchen at our disposal) and he had a great many friends both in town and also visiting... It seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up. Dean was game. And what friend is going to pass up a brunch invitation??

This was also the largest group that has ever sat down to a BWF meal... numbering nine guests. And we were up to the challenge!

Dean and I batted around ideas for brunch but were waiting to see what was in season and looked good at the market before setting the menu. I knew that I wanted to see some typical Argentine products on the menu - like Argentine chorizo and dulce de leche - but in what form was to be determined. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Returning to Roots: Sugar Cubes

While this isn't necessarily about returning to roots in terms of those basic food skills that we forget as we are further removed from the production of certain food items, this is about returning to roots in the sense of taking a moment to enjoy the little things... like pretty little sugar cubes accompanying an afternoon tea or a morning's coffee.

Food colouring and flavouring are certainly optional and infinitely customizable. You can mix white, brown or cane sugar with water... add flavour extracts... add colours. You can mix and match... you can opt for simple precision. I'm already dreaming up my next combinations.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Eats & Smiles: Argentina

Our recent trip to Argentina was abundant with wine and some pretty spectacular meals. While I typically do not offer up restaurant reviews per se, I thought that this collage would be a great way to share some great menus and some places that you should definitely consider visiting should you venture so far south. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Orange and Blackberry Marmalade

I've been trying to be better about making sure that I use up all of the odds and ends in the fridge lately, rather than finding myself pitching formerly useable food after I left it to spoil in the far corners of the crisper. Oh, the shame. It has certainly never been intentional but sometimes you lose sight of a lemon or bit of herbs or that last few baby zucchini. It takes a slightly concerted effort to adequately survey the fridge and plan accordingly but it's the right sort of effort that reminds you that food is not disposable and that sometimes the best bits of creativity stem from using what is at the ready, as opposed to running off to the shops.

This Orange and Blackberry Marmalade was just one of those bits of creativity. Nothing was yet spoiled but it was one of those situations where I didn't get through as much fruit as I had planned that week and was faced with a slew of oranges and berries on the edge. In avoiding a killer kanker sore, I opted to do something else with the oranges rather than set a bowl before myself and start peeling.

Now, this is not a very sweet marmalade. It gives you just a hint of sweetness but really leaves it to the sweetness of the fruit. It's more about the fruit in general. (Though I am convinced that, thinned out, this could be a decent glaze on meat.... thoughts?) Far be it from me to dictate how sweet your fruity concoctions should be. We eat more than enough sugar around here, so it feels good to me to reduce it here and the low sugar pectin allows for that. But tweak away! Add some honey or agave nectar for a more complex sweetness. Add some more sugar or brown sugar. Up to you.

The best thing to do is to taste your marmalade after it stews together a bit (maybe at the 40 minute mark or so) and decide if it suits your taste, keeping in mind that the orange rind may be a bit tough still. Just remember you're tasting for sweetness not doneness!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Paprika Candied Almonds

A few weeks ago, while enjoying a great dinner as part of a girls night, I ate the most wonderful paprika almonds. They were wonderfully salty, rich in a smoky paprika, and coloured the most perfect red. We devoured them. Then we went to a movie. Then I went home.

And then I dreamed of smoky paprika almonds. 

I adapted my recipe from Smitten Kitchen who adapted it from another source as well. While I kept the sugar ratios similar, I increased the spices significantly... even sprinkling a bit of extra paprika on some of the cooling nuts afterwards.

These were ridiculously addictive. I don't know how often I can make them and have them in my house. I don't have overwhelming needs to eat all of the chocolate in the house or finish the bag of chips or spoon or spoon and spoon until I reach the bottom of the ice cream tub. I like a treat, then can typically put it away and carry on. These nuts ruined me for that. I would eat one, then two, then another five, then another handful... I. Could. Not. Stop.

And I'm okay with that. I think you'll be okay with that as well. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Candied Ginger and Lemon Cornmeal Scones

Between the lemon curd and the marmalade, I had visions of a Sunday tea with scones and crustless sandwiches and pinky fingers in the air as we sip from our china tea cups.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Pate a Choux

The other night, I was thinking about my foodie goal of spending more time in the world of French cooking. Aside from watching Julie and Julia and enjoying my Mastering the Art of French Cooking (mostly for the mother sauces), I really haven't spend much time experimenting with French cooking. As I pondered, I got up from the couch (that seemed to require a great deal of effort yesterday after the lengthy dog walking trek that we had in the mid afternoon) and grabbed that tome of Julia's expertise, returned to the couch and started flipping through.

After going back and forth, I decided on something that I had been intimidated by previously and was so completely French that there was no doubt that it was one more step towards my foodie goal. 

Pate a Choux!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Meyer Lemon Marmalade

I love these meyer lemons... the warm yellow peel, orange perfume, underlying sweetness, then resounding tartness just leaves your senses debating... Orange? Lemon? Orange? Lemon?

All love aside, I had now made a beautiful lemon curd and still had another ten or twelve lemons to go! I figured a nice and easy way to use up at least 4 or 5 lemons would be to make a marmalade (not to mention, you could do this with just about any fruit and use up any super ripe bits in your fridge). Very little prep involved and a lovely return on investment.

You could easily preserve this through water bath canning but it's a small recipe yielding about two cups of marmalade. We're making fast work of it here, so you may as well...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Meyer Lemon Curd

When faced with a veritable vat (yep... a "veritable vat") of meyer lemons, I did what any person, who did not want to see them go to waste, would do... I made all things lemon. And I mean all things lemon. Doug probably doesn't want to see another lemon cross our threshold for quite some time.

So, one of the first things that I wanted to make on this lemon journey was lemon curd. Momma R made some lemon curd at Christmas and it was heavenly, so I figured I would give it a shot myself.

Apparently it freezes nicely, so you can portion some out for use (refrigerated for about a week) then freeze the remainder in an ice cube tray (then transfer the frozen cubes into a plastic bag) to thaw as needed to serve as that perfect accompaniment to a scone or yogurt or fruit or whatever else suits your fancy!

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