Sunday, November 27, 2011

Who Gets the Kitchen Aid Food Processor??

Thanks again to all those who entered and promoted my (admittedly awesome) KitchenAid Food Processor giveaway - I'm floored at how many interesting and unique responses I got along the way!

Saturday, November 26, 2011


One hour left in my KitchenAid Food Processor giveaway and I have SO many amazing responses! There are currently 86 entries, and I've read each and every one - I have one heck of a shopping list now :-). Thanks again for humouring me and my littlebloggie giveaways!

Sorry, no recipe tonight, but stay tuned for the winner tomorrow!

Thursday, November 24, 2011


So now that everyone on both sides of the border has eaten their fill of Thanksgiving chow (and, if you're like us, stashed the rest in the freezer to disappear until March), the attention of the masses is free to turn to the next seasonal shindig on the docket. Whether you're celebrating Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Divali, Yule, Solstice or simply being alive, warm and fed for another year, the cold weather brings people together in a way not much else can.
The cold and sometimes stormy weather has another side effect too, triggering the tastes for heartier, warming and (admittedly) higher-calorie and -fat food. It's a natural impulse - after all, back in the paleolithic times, humans needed that extra nourishment to keep warm and make it through until the next spring's plants and animals returned. Today, it's not a necessary yen, but still a persistent one... and should be looked at not as a source of "dreaded weight gain" but as an opportunity to embrace new and varied sources of nourishment.

Healthful whole grains (think steel cut oats, kasha, barley and grainy breads), tubers and squashes, cruciferous veggies and nuts all play starring roles when the mercury starts dropping. For those of us who turn to the stove and oven for comfort this season, baking and sweet treats begin to crop up on our "to-do" lists, as much for the purpose of continuing tradition as for sharing the bounty and warmth with others. For many years, holiday goodies at our home (except Mom's filled brioche) were solely the nut-free variety - nuts were verboten at school, and neither my sister nor I particularly cared for them (why have nuts, we reasoned, when you could have chocolate, or better yet, Mom's shortbread?). Even the more traditional dried fruits of mincemeat, fruitcake and Christmas pudding were relegated to the "older set". Dad was (and is to this day) the Mincemeat King, his mother always broke out the brandy-laced plum pudding at the holiday party, and we could count on any of my grandparents or great-relatives to take a doorstop fruitcake crusted in marzipan granite off our hands. I didn't eschew fruit completely - but unless it was a chunk of apple in my mom's to-die-for pie, a raisin in a rich, gooey buttertart or a plethora of dates in a "Matrimonial Square", I could be counted on to pass it by.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Feeling Ballsy

I am such a sucker for chocolate. Not that mamby-pamby "flavoured" stuff you usually find in your corner store, though. For me, I'm a 70% minimum all the way, and bittersweet chocolate truffles (possibly with a hint of sea salt) were one of my major weaknesses at holiday parties as a kid. Don't get me wrong - I'm still of the mind that any chocolate (except white... that ain't chocolate, guys) is better than none, and if offered a Twix bar I wouldn't necessarily say no! But I was probably the only non-adult I knew that didn't go crazy over extra-creamy hot chocolate, preferring just the barest amount of sugar in a cupful of unsweetened cocoa powder and 1% milk. Usually the only times I would indulge in the "milkier" variety involved mass consumption of Ferrero Rocher balls at Christmas and the occasional square of Hershey's in a s'more.

You'd think that after this tower of  insane chocolateyness I baked, fought with, and won over a few weeks ago that I'd never want to see or touch the stuff again. Logically, that would make sense. But there are two factors working against me on that one: firstly, I'm female, and it has been pointed out to me on occasion that women are biologically irrational creatures (I on the other hand beg to counter that men just need to open a few more mental boxes at a time). Second, I have never known someone with a passion for anything to be rational about experiencing it. And I do love truffles.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tis the Season of Heart Health

Hey! Want a brand-spanking-new KitchenAid Food Processor just in time for holiday gift-giving? Enter my holiday giveaway here! Hurry, ends soon!

This time of year (pretty much from our (read: Canadian) Thanksgiving until the New Year's resolutions have worn off) is both a time of excess and a period of reflection and appreciation for those around you. For me and my family, we're thankful every day for my grandfather's continuing presence with us. After a triple-bypass surgery, working in a chemical paint production plant, smoking every day since his teens, bouts of cancer, high blood pressure and most recently Type II diabetes, it seems that every little roadblock that could have stepped into his path has. But he was still lucky enough to have the chance to choose to improve his lifestyle and diet along the way - and now at the ripe old age of 79, he can easily run circles around me (literally and figuratively!). His levels are beginning to normalize, as much as they possibly can given his other medications, and he still has the wit, humour and mobility of a man half his age.

Unfortunately, 27.4 million people in the US are still diagnosed with heart disease every year - shortening the years of holidays spent with whole families and changing lives forever - sometimes in the blink of an eye. Developing Type II diabetes, having high cholesterol, hypertension, or a history of smoking, and of course being part of the overweight and obesity epidemic in the Western world spike your risk of becoming one of these statistics. But this high number of heart patients doesn't have to exist. 80%, possibly more, of the cases of heart disease are fully preventable. Staying active, getting regular checkups and eating a healthy diet will loosen the grip this condition has on your life, even if you're genetically predisposed to it like me.

Friday, November 18, 2011

So about this KitchenAid...(GIVEAWAY!)

KitchenAid is known mainly, at least to me for their stand mixers (their professional 6-qt model being another goody of theirs I would kill to own, sorry ol' faithful HamBeach), but the KA folks have brought out this new model of food processor just in time for Christmas! Here's the description (from their website):
An externally adjustable sliding blade coupled with exceptional performance ensures controlled and precise slicing, chopping and pureeing to help create a meal experience that brings the whole family together.
  • New external adjustable, stainless steel slicing disc provides ultimate versatility
  • Dual shredding disc easily flips the disc from 2mm to 4mm to achieve ideal slicing thickness
  • Large 13-cup (2.75L) leak-proof work bowl, plus chef’s bowl and mini bowl to efficiently
  • Ultra Wide Mouth Feed Tube™ adjusts to 3 different sizes to accommodate foods of varying sizes, including whole potatoes and cucumbers
  • 17 precise food processing options for speed-controlled slice, shred, chop & puree functions plus three maximized slice, shred and puree/chop blades and bonus dough, egg whip & Julienne blades
  • 4 speed-controlled functions
  • Comfort design side handle allows easy viewing while the food processor is in use

Need I say wow? Probably the most useful element of this in my kitchen is the wide feed tube, but the processing options are quite intriguing! It's a bit out of my price range right now (at just under $400 CDN) but that doesn't mean YOU can't get one for FREE! That's right, it's giveaway time!

The wonderful people from KitchenAid have given me the opportunity to give one of you (Canadian only, sorry!) foodies out there the amazing Christmas gift of a brand new KitchenAid 13-Cup Food Processor. Free. No strings attached (though I'd love to know what you do with it if you win!).
So what do you have to do?
  1. Browse through my blog and tell me in the comments which recipe using a food processor (or conceivably using one like grating, fine chopping, or pureeing) would be your favourite one to try. You must do this one to qualify for any other entries for this one.
Additional entries (please leave a separate comment for each one):
  • Tweet about this giveaway with the line: "@jo_jo_ba is giving away a BRAND NEW KitchenAid Food Processor!" and the link to this post.
  • Tell me your favourite small kitchen appliance or gadget (not a food processor) is and why.
There you go! Three chances to get your hands on this gorgeous gift!

Giveaway ends on Saturday, November 26, 2011.
Note: I have not personally recieved any payment or other reimbursement for this promotion. Winners will recieve direct shipment from KitchenAid of a new 13-cup processor.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Put to Good Use

I have to say, that as much as I blast my poor off-label food processor for being a little, well, less than reliable these days, I would without doubt be lost in the proverbial weeds without one at my disposal. True, I have a few blenders (including a well-loved immersion model) around, but by far it is my full-size food-pro that is the workhorse of my small kitchen appliances.

I've used it for almost everything - vats of pureed soup (like our first batch of this taste-winning recipe), shredding carrots, apples, beets and the like for salads, cakes and stews, chopping ingredients for chutneys and compotes, blitzing hummus and nut butterspie fillings and cheesecakesvegan ice cream base and, of course, smoothing out sauces like this one into luxurious velvet. In fact, I've been working my model so hard that I keep wondering how much longer I can keep it going before I'm forced to retire it for one of the makes I've been coveting since becoming a foodie - a KitchenAid.

But for now, I'll make do with what I have - and share some killer tomato sauce I made for Christmas gifts while I'm at it!
There's more. Trust me. It's below the jump.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Salad for All Seasons

One of the things I struggle with the most in the Fall and Winter months is the dearth of lush, vibrant and (above all) flavourful produce. True, these days it's possible to buy bright red tomatoes in February, strawberries in December and apples in any month with a vowel, but unless you're a globetrotter and happen to be in the correct hemisphere at the time, out-of-season fruit and veggies are just... bleh. While you can partially escape the lack of flavour with judicious use of frozen goods, the fact remains that you need to then cook them to maintain any sort of passable texture - and (excepting peas and corn which never seem to "die") that's a crapshoot at best.

It was a craving for something fresh, flavourful and not out of the frozen food or canned good section that led to the creation of one of the most vibrant and rich dishes I've made to date. Having seen the description of a vegetable salad on a chi-chi restaurant menu a week or so ago, I made up my mind that I could take the same concept - a lettuce-less, all-veggie bowl of goodness - and tweak it not only to add a medley of texture and flavour, but also to make it a viable option year-round. What I wound up with was a veritable artist's palette of colours layered not only with an eye towards artistry but with attention to the details of balancing raw versus cooked elements, mouthfeels of shredded, chopped and sliced vegetables and maintaining the well-rounded body of a dish containing sweet, sour, salty and bitter flavours.

While this salad is simple enough for lunch when paired with a piece of grilled chicken, salmon or even simply a hunk of crusty whole-grain bread and cheese, it is also gourmet enough to readily serve as a plated appetizer at a dinner party (especially when garnished with toasted walnuts, as I did here). The nice thing about the ingredients usd in this particular bowl is that regardless of whether you make it for Christmas Eve, Easter, a July picnic or Thanksgiving, at least one of the ingredients will be at the peak of freshness - and if you're blessed enough to have a garden as diverse as ours, you can grow almost everything in your own yard!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Remembering to Remember

*UPDATE* The gala's dessert auction raised a total of $1650 (even with half the attendance of previous years)! Congrats!

I need not tell you that today marks one of the most pivotal points in world history. While it is inspiring that we continue to pause a moment on this day even when only 10% of the soldiers who served in World War II are still with us, I often wonder who we forget to remember, appreciate and thank for their work each and every day to better the lives of others. I'm of course speaking of those who do put their life and livelihood on the line physically everyday, the hard-working police, paramedics, firefighters, rescue workers and of course currently serving military personnel. But I feel that we often fail to think of and give thanks for our "everyday" heroes who work hard so that somebody's - even if it's one person's - life is just a little bit better, a bit easier, that day.

People like our transit workers who get us to work, our line cooks who help us out when we're too tired to cook, our janitors, garbagemen and street cleaners who clean up after us, our doctors and nurses who treat us, and our teachers who enlighten us. There are many others who line the streets, fulfilling vital roles that keep our world spinning smoothly. So I want to take the time to pause and say thank you to everyone who does something selflessly for others, which can be anybody, any day - those who hold the door for the baggage-laden traveller or gave the person on the street who met their glance a smile. And though they cannot read (but who knows!) I think of our ever-loyal service animals who help people see, hear, prevent injury or provide comfort to those in need.

It is in this spirit of remembering all those heroes in our society that I'm sharing with you this cake. I was fortunate enough to be asked by the wonderful people at the Simcoe chapter of Autism Ontario to donate a cake again this year for their charity gala's dessert auction. Though I have made this cake many, many, many times before (if you can't tell, this is year #4!), it's always a special event for me because it means that I can, in a small way, give back to those who help everyone affected by ASD. This time, the cake turned into five layers of dense, rich, moist dark chocolate cake with a hint of malt from barley flour, Ovaltine and (of course) a bottle of beer. The filling was laced with a hint of cocoa, and got a nice shot of Godiva liqueur along with the "beer caramel" syrup I cooked down from the remains of the bottle. Then, as per all the previous cakes, the finished stack got drenched with two coats of bittersweet ganache and whimsically decorated.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

We Have A Winner!

Thanks to everyone who participated in my Melody Bar Dinner Giveaway! I loved reading all of your responses and I have to say I totally agree with them - Toronto really is a world of vitality, variety and a perfect mosaic of people, food, culture and lifestyles. While I wish I could give the $40 prize to all of you, I had to pick one. Rather, Mr. Random Integer had to pick one. So, without further ado, this is what the Power That Be had to say...

Friday, November 4, 2011

Nutty, Fruity, or Just a Blonde?

When it comes to flavour combinations, I'm (on occasion) new and bold in my cooking. I like to think that adding sliced bananas to the bottom of my strawberry-rhubarb pie and using honey, dates, wheat germ and Grand Marnier in my blueberry pie were pretty original! Then there's the rest of the time - more or less standard bills of fare come out to play - regardless of their overall application process. Garlic and tomatoes almost always pair together, just like my penchant for adding a touch of nutmeg to cream sauces and cinnamon to apple pie.

Well, I'm certainly not original this time, in either my ingredient selections or their application! Like my well-recieved thumprint cookies, I went the route of recreating a sandwich favourite - but I opted to make jam-swirled, banana-laced almond butter blondies instead of drop cookies. The reason was twofold - one, it was something different (and therefore bloggable!) and I was purely and completely lazy. Bar cookies, brownies and blondies included, are generally faster to put together and get in the oven than drop cookies (and certainly rolled or slice n' bakes), and with only one bowl and pan to wash I got out of the dish duty faster too. Easy and fast as these are, they're still delicious in every sense: a delicate balance of cakey and dense, buttery but not overly rich, with a delicate fruity sweetness from the banana that's the perfect balance against the tart jam. I would not suggest making these with a standard, sugary jam or jelly - if you don't have homemade on hand, make sure you use a high-ratio fruit preserve (ideally 100%) like Polaner or St. Dalfour, or the lines called "Simply Fruit" (Smuckers) and "Just Fruit" (Crofters) in a naturally tart flavour like grape, blueberry or black currant. But really, next year when fruit's in season? Make your own. Easiest, cheapest, most delicious toast / oatmeal / yogurt / ice cream / cake / etc. topping around.

Meanwhile, bake up a batch of bars, tuck them into your lunch, and hide them from the kids - they'll polish off the pan!

You have only 1 hour left until the entry deadline to win a $40 dinner for two at the Gladstone! Hurry for a chance at this awesome prize! Enter here. Winner (by random draw) will be announced tomorrow night. Good luck!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

What I've Been Up To

This week marked quite possibly the busiest (yet most rewarding) period of my entire year. Like many, many years before this, I was again asked by the wonderful folks of the Autism Ontario chapter of Simcoe County to donate a cake for their gala's annual dessert auction. I not only agreed wholeheartedly (their cause is one I fully support) but I also offered to donate a second dessert - one that those with ASD who were on a gluten- and casein-free diet could enjoy without worrying. I don't have all the photos yet (to tell you the truth, even though they're due tomorrow I still need to put the final touches on the Stout Cake!) but this is what the last few days have been filled with - hence my absence from the virtual world:
GF/CF/nut free/vegan Orange Creme Cupcakes! Adapted from Gluten Free Goddess. Grand Marnier in the frosting FTW!

Sparkles. Lots of sparkles. And chocolate - in my hair, my skin, under my nails, you name it!

Filling with beer caramel, masking frosting (not shown) with Godiva liqueur. Drenched in bittersweet ganache and decorated with pretzel/gummi butterflies (dusted with sparkling sugar) trailing silver dragees around a sprinkle/sugar/chocolate rock meadow.

I'll fill you in on all the sweet (sweet!) details tomorrow, after I sleep off the sugar / caffeine / booze / chocolate high ;-).

However, I'm still shocked that so many people in the Greater Toronto Area (you know who you are!) are passing up one of the best Christmasy gift-type goodies out there. I mean, here I am with $40 of dinner for two at one of the swankiest artist-designed buildings in Toronto (which just so happens to be one of the coolest hotels I've seen) and there are only three entries! According to the know-it-all power that is Google, the T-dot's got 2 503 281 of us poor suckers living here... surely we could all use a free Gladstone meal?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

It's Gonna Be a Green (Tomato) Christmas

Wouldn't you love to have a nice dinner for two in downtown Toronto, without the price tag? Check out my Melody Bar giveaway, with it's $40 value! Hurry, the contest ends soon!

I guess that now Hallowe'en has come and gone for yet another year, the next holiday on our Canadian agenda is the dreaded Christmas. Not that the event it'self is bad - I mean, I'm all for spreading goodwill and seeing family on occasion, but the over-commercialization of it, like so many other holidays, is kind of jading me. I always get the feeling that I'm a total failure when it comes to giving gifts - without any income (not for lack of trying!) I have two options each season: not giving anything (and using the "I'm poor" excuse), or concocting a homemade something and hitting the dollar store for a cheap card. Given the vast amount of foodie nervous energy (not to mention free time) I have kicking around, can you guess what I tend to go for?

This year my mom got in on the decision-making action. Once the weather made it abundantly clear that the season of bright, ripe tomatoes was over (and my mincemeat for the year was made and frozen), I continued with my general cheapskate nature when I found Nigel Slater's article on "Green Tomato Recipes", which featured not the typical fried green application for the unripe fruit but a chutney. When my mom found out that green tomato chutney existed (she loves the fried greenies) she kept suggesting that she would love to have a good chutney to stir into rice and stir-fries. Apparently, that's her preferred use for the preserve!. So I paired Slater's recipe with fellow blogger Lara Ferroni's, adapted from a Sur la Table book. I used the glut of apples and tomatoes we had, and finished the last three Vidalia onions we had in our wine cellar from a mid-summer's (odd, to me) fundraiser at my stepdad's work. Home-grown habaneros replaced the jalapenos, and a mixture of Thompson raisins and prunes stood in for currants. Lots of sweet and savoury spices filled the pot as well.