Monday, July 30, 2012

ManyBerry Jam (Toast Topper #7!)

I'm the type of person who just suddenly stops in the middle of a task to pick up a new one. Call it a type of "shiny" or "Dory" complex, but at least that way the potential of getting several things done at once is there! Plus, if I can start a task and have it auto-pilot itself more or less to completion, I'm technically still working on it, right? That's probably why I like to bake so much - especially yeast breads - because after a few minutes of mixing and kneading I can just walk away for an hour or two and let it do it's thing, then work for a few more minutes and walk away again before finally getting around to the whole "baking" actuality (I actually read a funny translation of "letting bread rise" this morning - you have to "let the bread grow up"!). The summer is a bit of a slow one for me, "paying-job" wise, so I'm passing time by finally getting around to cooking from and reviewing the awesome stack of books Thomas Allen and Beth Cook PR have trusted me with. I have so many of the sweet and savoury delights I've found to share - if I can just stay focused long enough to write about them!

One of the books I recently reviewed was fellow Canadian Grace Massa Langlois' Grace's Sweet Life: Homemade Italian Desserts from Cannoli, Biscotti, and Tiramisu to Torte, Tartufi, and Struffoli. Full of rich and fairly complicated to pass off during the week recipes, I couldn't readily make a full-out dessert from the book. However, like I wrote in my review, because the fare is that complex, there's tons of easily achievable mini-recipes to try out! I have a couple of those to share with you too - the first one being this dead simple, yet so incredibly brilliant, method for making jam. Grace's method bakes the berries with the sugar and lemon juice instead of being cooked down on the stove - which may be an old trick to some but it was a complete novelty to me! Jam isn't all that difficult to make anyway, but since there's no pectin or boiling times to fuss with this version is essentially foolproof, not to mention easily scalable (I made a small batch that my mom can eat within a few weeks, since it isn't canned). Even the amount of sugar isn't set in stone, I reduced it with no effect whatsoever, and the zest of a lemon helps to "brighten up" the mixture too.We have a little countertop convection oven at home, so I used that to keep the house cool, and because I'm far too lazy to clean my food mill and my food processor I skipped the "de-seeding" part of the recipe.  Honest food with simple ingredients is like that - open to interpretation, substitution and modification because there is simply nothing fiddly in it to worry about!

Almost any "soft" fruit will work in this - berries, peaches, plums, groundcherries, fresh figs... even mango and papaya! Regardless of which fruit you choose to roast for this jam, keep in mind that it's flavour is getting concentrated through roasting and there isn't a ton of sugar to hide poor quality fruit behind. For us in the summer, that means we're going local and in season all the way - I used strawberries, blueberries and cherries from the farmer's market that were all grown nearby, and without a doubt they were the reason why this jam tastes so good!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Creamy Banana Tart with Vegan Strawberry Curd

As much as I try to keep my stashes of baking stuff and other grocery-like items under control, lately I've found myself overburdened with extra "bits and pieces" of things in the fridge and freezer. Not really enough on their own to serve as a main component of a dish, I still can't bear to throw them out since I might think of something someday. Finally, I got the proverbial "gavel drop" from Mom - use the bananas and homemade ricotta in the freezer and the vegan strawberry curd in the fridge or they were getting tossed. Humph.

Luckily, I had just finished reading and reviewing The Rosie's Bakery All-Butter, Cream-Filled, Sugar-Packed Baking Book and had a half-batch of it's amazing shortbread crust dough that I made with whole wheat also in my fridge (can you tell I'm like the culinary version of Hoarders?). I figured I'd make a small, "pied" cheesecake with the ricotta and bananas pureed into the luscious, creamy filling. Fruit generally goes with fruit, in my opinion, and ricotta cheese likes tangy-sweet strawberries in a bowl, so partway along I made an executive decision to bake that onto it too - almost like a sour cream topping on "normal" cheesecake. To keep the curd on top of the cheese custard, I only spread it on after the tart baked a bit. The whole thing came out beautifully - creamy and sweet but still relatively fresh tasting. I never added sweetner to the cheese mixture, figuring the crust and topping would be sufficient, and so when compared to your standard creamy pies or cheesecakes this dessert is incredibly low in sugar too.

What have you come up with out of random stock in your kitchen lately? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Roasted Cherry Brownies with Black Fudge Frosting

Brownies are almost a universally favourite dessert. Frosted or not, fudgy, cakey, chewy or somewhere in between, nut filled, packed with fruit or plain jane, raw, low sugar vegan or butter, eggs and chocolate packed, there are so many variations on the theme that everyone can find something about the bake sale staple to love. Even people who don't typically like chocolate, barring an actual allergy, can find a fondness for a brownie, or at the very least it's blondie cousin.

These days, adding roasted fruit such as cherries to these decadent bars is nothing new and innovative - a quick Google search provided me with no fewer than 2,990,000 results, and on the first two pages I found 10 different blogs with 10 different variations on the theme. But none of them quite matched what I had in mind for my brownie extraordinaire - a rich in flavour, moist textured crumb, but not weighed down with tons of eggs or melted chocolate that would impede the perfection of simply roasted local fruit. I had some of the seed butter I shared with you before sitting in the fridge, and I got it into my head that I'd try to make these bars using it, without any other fat at all.

Somewhere from the depths of my favourites folder I found this gem from VeganJoy and used it as my jumping off point. First, I added extra cherries and changed them from fresh, tart and juicy morsels into roasted, almost caramelized nuggets of fruity gold. Then, the oil became homemade seed spread, milk became cherry juice and the sugar morphed from white to brown, along the way losing 2/3 of it's former volume. A tweak to the flour made it 100% whole grain, a dash of espresso powder amped up the "adult" factor, and a bit of extra binding from ground cia tied everything together. The result was nothing short of delicious (as you can see by the carnage above!) but I had a second tier to add. A brownie version of the Say Yes to the Dress "jacking up the outfit" if you will. 

Oh yes, I added frosting. That in itself is a pretty big deal - I'm inherently lazy and frosting to me is one of those things that is just way too much fuss and bother to deal with. Unless its a birthday or special occasion cake, or a commissioned piece, I usually put effort into making the base portion flavourful and rich enough that it can stand out on its own, needing no accoutrement. And honestly, I was going to do that here too. But then, browsing the interwebs (really, I should be supervised when online - nothing ever gets done!) I found a brilliant idea for frosting from the blog Corrina, Darling! and it suddenly became no question: it was being made that day. What attracted me in the first place was how rich and creamy it was thanks to it's "super secret" base ingredient, and it only took a few tiny changes, switching it from vanilla to chocolate, to achieve the ideal crown for my beautiful brownies. Nobody who ate the finished brownies knew what was so special about them (except for the obvious cherry component) and when I revealed that not only were they vegan, but 100% whole grain, lower in fat and calories, and a source of super-healthy legumes I was told off for lying twice! But, just like George Washington and his cherry tree, I cannot tell a lie - one good sized square, with frosting, is less than 145 calories and has only 4 grams of fat (plus 4 grams of fibre and almost 3.5 grams of protein!) - and tastes so rich and sinful you are more than satisfied by the time you lick your lips! 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Butterscotch - Bacon Apple Cookies for #SundaySupper

The best part of being a food blogger is the sense of community and friendship that develops with other like minded writers. Thanks to things like Twitter and Facebook, the ability to connect with each other increases every day, and I'm at no loss for inspiration, a quick answer or even a shoulder to cry on most days. I've been part of Twitter chats, photo events, contests and competitions and of course blogging events over the years and I've even been lucky enough to have met a few fellow bloggers in person.

While I haven't met Carla (Chocolate Moosey), Jen (Juanita's Cucina) or Isabel (Family Foodie) in person, I consider them friends and am grateful that I can share stories with them and the rest of the #SundaySupper community every week. I've drooled (figuratively) over their recipes and often wished I had more people to cook for (and more money) so that I could make everything I've laid my eyes on! Clearly I've been stalking Carla's page these days, given my obsession with her strawberry curd (I still have one thing to show you how to use it for!) but the other day I re-read one of her #SundaySupper posts and knew I had to make a version of it.

I'm a fan of the daytime show The Chew, and when I started making the cookies I figured since there was already bacon, booze and butter in the mix (Michael Symon is proudly fond of bacon and butter), I could give a nod to Daphne Oz' tastes with home-dried fruit, tofu and her notorious psyllium husk. The butterscotch chips were for me, since in my opinion bacon needs something sweet with it (as a kid brunch staples were crisp bacon and homefries with maple syrup!). While Carla is not a fan of butterscotch, I hope she'll appreciate my rendition - I know my butterscotch adoring dad and the ladies at the salon I took the batch to did!
A Special #SundaySupper
This #SundaySupper is celebrated with Katie Workman, author of the Mom 100 Cookbook. Katie believes and promotes the fact that feeding our families doesn’t have to be stressful! Katie shares the one hundred recipes that she found as a working wife and mother of two that are great-tasting and that every mom can rely on, share and feel good about.
We are honored to have Katie as our guest during our #SundaySupper live chat at 7:00 pm est. Join us and chat with Katie about being a mom, kids and Spending time Around the Family Table.

The recipes made for this event were chosen from the ones made during the first Mom 100 Event. We could make the recipes verbatim or take our own tack, like I did.

We will be giving away 3 copies of the Mom 100 Cookbooks. This is an event you don’t want to miss!!

Here are some favorites we will be sharing with you during #SundaySupper this week:

Main Dish:
Wine pairing:

We will be sharing great family recipes all afternoon and want you to share yours with us! #SundaySupper starts every week at 3:00pm EST by showcasing fabulous recipes. Follow us on twitter by using hashtag #Sundaysupper or using Tweetchat. We love to feature your recipes on our #sundaysupper pinterest board and share them with all our followers.

The Mom 100 Cookbook

Connect with Katie Workman, Author of The Mom 100 Cookbook:

Buy The Mom 100 Cookbook

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Maple - Dijon Salmon Salad - #RecipeRedux

In the northern hemisphere, at least, there has been no denying that the past month or so has definitely fulfilled the requirements of being Summer. We've had a fair run of 30-degree-plus days around here, which while thoroughly enjoyed by people like me (who pretty much freeze year round) can be a bit oppressive when they're on the more muggy side of things. Some days even the thought of eating is too much, let alone firing up the stove, oven or grill to cook something. Smoothies, ice cream and freezies cool you off for a little while, but don't really give you sustenance to keep enjoying the weather. Sometimes, you need a no-cook meal.

This month for Recipe Redux, we're beating that heat with “no cook meals” with all the fresh goodness of in-season herbs and vegetables. Without cooking them, their pure characteristics shine through and their flavours are bright and strong! I chose to toss together a simple, crisp salad full of sweet and spicy elements and topped with one of my family's favourite fish - salmon.

I used a pouched variety of wild pink salmon so I didn't have to fire up the grill, although ideally a freshly cooked fillet would have graced the plate. While the texture changes with pre-packaged fish (some would say suffers), it still has the goodness of the fresh fish it's made from, and its hard to argue with convenience. Canned salmon's a great option too, especially sockeye with the bones for extra calcium! If you're worried about the mercury in canned fish, tests by the FDA tests found the mercury content in albacore (tuna) to be 35x greater than canned salmon's!

What is the Recipe ReDux?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Toast Topper #6 (Pumpkin - Sunflower Seed Butter)

We're a peanut butter family. Actually, I should say that most of my household is a peanut butter family. While I'm thankfully not allergic to peanuts or peanut butter, thanks to my body's fat intolerance issues my once beloved spread is no longer on my menu. My sister, while she'll eat PB from the jar off a spoon (oh, Heaven!) hates it in any other form, and if she could get away with it she would much rather eat Nutella by the jarful with a side of cinnamon raisin toast. For a while, my Mom was on the almond butter bandwagon, using it in a salad dressing from my cookbook Hungry for Health: Practical Recipes for Everyday Wellness. However, just like me in my youth with peanut butter, and my sister with Nutella today, stopping at one spoonful was easier said than done. A self-intervention of cold turkey avoidance ensued, and now we only have a jar of Nutella for Teaghan and a jar of Kraft Smooth peanut butter for my stepbrother and stepdad to share.
Needless to say, when it comes to using nut butters in baking and cooking, I try to avoid them unless they're extremely marked down at Bulk Barn or I know I can get away with using a few tablespoons out of the peanut butter stash and not catch royal pain for it. However, when I found myself with a few handfuls of sunflower and pumpkin seeds left over from making my mom's go to trail mix (also, FYI, in my cookbook), it just seemed natural to me to puree the suckers into a spread. Heck, I knew that even though it was unlikely that anyone in the house would be spreading it on their toast the next morning (it is, however, a wonderfully healthy Toast Topper option) the resulting mixture could make something baked and delicious down the road (to see what I did with it, stay tuned!).

There really isn't much else to the spread besides the seeds themselves. For consistency, a touch of oil and water "grease the wheel" so to speak, and to accent the toasted, rich flavour of the base ingredients a dab of this amber agave nectar and a dash of sea salt fit the bill nicely. The end product is a slightly off-putting greenish brown, but that's just because of the pepitas - no need to worry or grimace in disgust. If you're really turned off by it, just close your eyes and eat a spoonful. Your mouth's eye will convince you to take another taste.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Fruit Explosion Muffins

Being the good Canuck that I am, I've had my share of trips to Tim Hortons. If you don't know Tims, it's the Canadian answer to Dunkin Donuts or Krispy Kreme, but better. For one, their coffee beats out both of those US chains' (though in my opinion Second Cup here in Ontario is still far above them all) - and given our generally cooler climate we need our coffee year round! The other thing Timmies built their name on is their baked goods, especially their doughnuts, but their muffins were something special too. Now the chain is not so "always fresh" with their baking, but if you ask anyone in my family if they'd like something with their coffee or tea chances are you'll get a response in the affirmative.

For the longest time the Fruit Explosion muffin was the hit item with my family. It even beat out chocolate chip for me, which was a huge deal and even though it totally wasn't a nutritious Godsend, the fact that it had "fruit" in the name made it feel like a healthy choice! When I started to care about the food I was eating and what it was doing to my body, I just couldn't justify the regular intake of my beloved muffins, especially since the "fruit" is suspect (the blueberries in most blueberry bagels are actually either dried and rehydrated in apple juice or dyed, flavoured dried apple bits) and the pie-filling "explosion" is not overly fruitful. Couple that with essentially vanilla cake batter and the results are delicious dessert, but not breakfast or a coffee-break snack.

When I became aware that my Grandma wasn't eating regular or balanced meals after my grandfather passed, I knew that simply telling her to eat wasn't going to do the trick. Not having her driver's license, she couldn't go to the grocery store or even to get take out on her own, and she just wasn't in the mood to cook for one. Rather than recommend a meal replacement shake or protein powder for her instead, I wanted to bring back her joy of eating, and eventually, cooking, by giving her a familiar flavour combination secretly packed with the nutrients she needed.

First, I used real, unsweetened IQF blueberries and raspberries in Grandma's Fruit Explosions, and added tofu, applesauce, whey protein, and buttermilk powder. The dry mixture got a hefty dose of whole wheat pastry flour and oat bran, and a touch of sweet flavour was added with caramel flavoured stevia and a touch of nutmeg. A home-dried apple ring half crowned each jumbo muffin and, once cooled, I filled them with my vegan strawberry curd (again, any of my sweet "Toast Toppers" will work!). The batch was definitely well recieved and enjoyed, and while it's still not a dietitian's dream recipe, it's homemade and honest, not to mention even Grandma can pronounce the ingredient list!

I scaled the whole recipe by weight so that I could always stay consistent in my results, especially since I know I'll be making these again soon. If you don't have a scale, I'm sorry! You can use this conversion calculator, but really - pick up a $5 - $10 scale if you bake at all. It will change how you approach the craft!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Cool Coco - Limeade for #SundaySupper #BeattheHeat

Thanks to this week's rain and windier weather, it's been a bit of an easier-to-live-with climate than last week's 40° C+ temperatures. Believe me, I'm not complaining about the heat - God knows it will be back to the frigid ice-caked Winter all too soon. When it is nice and warm (some would say hot) out, I fling on a tank top, shorts, hat, sunglasses and my SPF 75 and get out into the garden, where my tomatoes and pineapple groundcherries are just relishing the favourable weather. Of course, I make sure to hydrate properly - both the plants and myself need extra fluid and nutrients in the heat!
While the plants get an organic green cocktail of kelp and veggie plant food mixed with their water, I was never a huge fan of the green juice myself.

I am a huge fan of just plain water, and recently have been experimenting with adding some healthy flavourings to create my own gourmet "spa water". Being the season that it is, frozen berries, cherries, peaches, melons and even pineapple make delectable ice cubes, and steeping a combination of fresh mint, lemon slices and cucumber in a pitcher of plain H2O overnight makes for an ideal water bottle filling. As a bonus, by using the real fruit rather than a syrup or juice means that you get it's nutrients both in your water and when you eat the leftovers! For example, pineapple is filled with micronutrients needed to kick start your metabolism, and there are a host of antioxidants in all types of in season fruit.

But if you really need something "more" than a cool glass of water, I "Beat the Heat" with this accompaniment to a no-cook or outdoor grilled #SundaySupper - a bright, tangy limeade made with coconut water. Instead of watering down the delicate balance of sweet and sour with ice, I add frozen Summer berries that release their own delectable nectars as they thaw. Whatever's left in the glasses or jugs afterwards makes for a lightly coconutty fruit salad that you can either scoop out with a spoon or dress up with coconut milk and other tropical fruit for dessert!

This week's #SundaySupper is being hosted this week by Jen from Juanita's Cocina and is all about cooling off with no-cook, chilled out foods. Check out the other participant's refreshing options below:

#BeatTheHeat Appetizers:

#BeatTheHeat Salads, Soups, & Sides:

#BeatTheHeat Main Dishes:

#BeatTheHeat Desserts:

#BeatTheHeat Drinks & Cocktails:

Wine Pairings Provided By: ENOFYLZ

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Strawberry - Kiwi Fingerprint Cookies

Remember a few weeks ago when I shared Carla's recipe for silky, vegan strawberry curd? Well, if you still have a part jar kicking around, or like me made several batches and have some on hand, I have a few recipes coming down the pipes in the near future that will work with not only that recipe but any of the fruit-based "Toast Toppers" I've given you so far. I still have a few of those recipes to share (they'll have to wait until after tomorrow's amazing #SundaySupper event though!) and they'll all work too. But if you're in a strawberry mood, these are for you.

One of my all time favourite pairings with strawberries is kiwi. There's something about the sweet nectar of the strawberries melting into the sharp tang of the bright green kiwi, and of course the colour contrast is amazng. I wanted to combine the two in a cookie for my aunt and uncle to take home with them after they visited from BC. I purchased a dehydrator a month or so ago and have been having fun drying all sorts of fruit, and kiwi was no exception (though I initially bought it for the tomato glut that I know I'll have this year). The only question was how to incorporate the strawberry - until I saw the little jar of curd and had my "aha" moment - thumbprints! I already had a few good recipes for the jammy cookies in my arsenal, plus a host of cookbooks to pull from, so I pulled from a few different sources and made essentially a very basic shortbread cookie.

By basic, of course, I mean flour, fat, sweetener basic - I just happened to use an organic, non-hydrigenated shortening (I would have used coconut oil but my allergies would not be playing nice and butter spreads too much), stevia and triticale flour instead of the usual ingredients! Of course, the home dried kiwi had no sulphites or other nasty bits in it, and I knew precisely what went into the curd too, so even though these are cookies, and are a treat, they're a touch more wholesome than standard and way better for you than anything off the store shelf! I call them "fingerprint" cookies instead of "thumbprint" cookies because my thumbs are just too ungainly to make decent depressions! I find a pointer finger works much better.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

We used to have a large zucchini garden in our backyard. One year when I was growing up, if we went up to our boat for the weekend (or God forbid a whole week) you could bet that by the time we got home those piddly little pinkie-finger squashes would be the size of my dad's forearm. My mom and dad ate a ton of it that year, even though my sister and I wouldn't touch the stuff. It's a good thing too - my grandparents all hated the vegetable (unless grated into a sauce, stew, muffin or bread - i.e. hidden without their knowing) and the rest of the neighbourhood had their own behemoth vegetables to contend with. I'm sure if we were all better organized we could have had a backyard swap going, but there you are. I do recall us giving a few to the owner of my parent's gym, since they were to her like ketchup is to my sister: worth its weight in gold.

I never quite understood the love of zucchini back then, even in moist, rich noshings from the bakery or mixed into my favourite tomato meat sauce. Now, I'll gladly eat it pan-seared, grilled, roasted or sliced paper-thin on my mandoline with salt and vinegar! Ratatouille went from being a running joke we made at my mom's expense (rat-a-TOOT-eee as we called it) to a delectable Summer meal I wait patiently to harvest produce for each year. And of course, you can't go wrong with the squash baked into something delectable.

I've discovered that while lemon and orange play just fine with zucchini, what really pairs well is a rich, dark chocolate. Come to think of it, there isn't much that a good dark chocolate flavour doesn't help! When I found myself with a little bit more vegetation than I could readily eat for meals, I knew there had to be something out there that could convert crisper rejects into a craveable treat. I was acually perusing this post on the blog The Hungry Artist when I came across her recipe for a dark chocolate loaf cake. Not only did this quickbread have a good amount of zucchini in it, it also used precisely the things we had lingering in the kitchen without any hope of being eaten as is. The single banana, applesauce, tofu (that replaced the eggs) and the "other" secret vegetable - spinach - joined forces to make this possibly the most dense, moist and decadent quickbread from my kitchen yet! As a bonus, I could do the whole thing in my food processor - no bowl washing required!

Being submitted to the VFAM: Zucchini event by Priya and Kalyani’s Only Vegan event.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Countdown to Toronto's Festival Of Beer - What Does Your Favourite Beer Say About You?

Only 18 days until the kickoff of Toronto's Festival of Beer! Personality tests are based off all sorts of things, from birthdates to moon phases to your favourite ice cream flavour. Why not give your favourite beer brew a whirl? Let me know how close you are to your "diagnosis" - I'm a stout fan and this was spot on!

Discover Your Beer Personality at Toronto’s Festival of Beer - What Your Favourite Beers Say About You!

Media Release | July, 2012 (TORONTO) – You might think that ordering a pint at your local watering hole is a simple task, but this not the case. Not only does your beer selection reflect your taste, the style of beer you prefer tells a great deal about your personality. The minds behind Toronto’s Festival of Beer have put together a list of some of the most popular styles and the traits associated with those who drink it. Read below to find out what your favourite beer says about you!

If you prefer: Ales
Then…You’ve got your pints in a row. You like to experiment, but you always go back to your old standby beers. You generally frequent a few favourite bars, but can be convinced to join your friends at new club from time to time. You’re most comfortable in jeans and a tshirt. You generally drink Cameron’s Cream Ale or Alexander Keith’s IPA.

If you prefer: Lagers
Then…The bartender knows your order off by heart. You don’t know a lot about beer but you know what you like and don’t usually veer from it. You prefer clubs over pubs and are the life of the party. You usually sport the latest style and add a splash of colour to make sure you stand out from the crowd…just a little. You can usually be found drinking Steam Whistle Pilsner or Moosehead Lager.

If you prefer: Fruits
Then…You’re a risk-taker. You’re willing to try the strangest sounding brews without a moment’s hesitation. You can usually be found whatever new clubs are opening. You’re on the cutting edge of fashion and are constantly pushing the envelope. You’ve tried Great Lakes Orange Peel Ale and Früli Strawberry and are always on the lookout for new beers to try.

If you prefer: Stouts
Then…You have your favourites and stick to them. Your local pub is a traditional, English-style pub. You have extensive knowledge of obscure facts and never cease to amaze your friends with trivia. You typically wear khakis and a dark sweater. Your brews of choice are likely Wellington Imperial Stout or St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout.

If you prefer: Wheats
Then…You like going again the grain. You prefer beers with a distinct flavour, and wheat beers bring what you’re looking for to the table. You prefer edgy, undiscovered bars that have yet to be overrun by the hipster crowd. You dress to suit your mood, and regularly break with convention. You typically drink Mill St. Belgian Wit Beer or Grasshopper Wheat Ale.

If you prefer: Honeys
Then…You enjoy the little things in life. You prefer beers with a hint of sweetness to them. You prefer to spend your time on a patio with a cold brew in hand surrounded by your closest friends. You wear a lot of bright colours which reflect your outlook on life. You can usually be found sipping a pint of Laker Honey or Sleeman’s Honey Brown.

Not sure which beer is for you? Toronto’s Festival of Beer has over 120 different brands from all over the globe available for you to experience. Find your beer personality at the Festival and join thousands of others performing their own soul searching.

Toronto’s Festival of Beer is a celebration of Canada’s rich brewing history, showcasing experts of the brewing craft from around the world. Featuring more than 200 brands, Toronto’s Festival of Beer is Canada’s premier celebration of the golden beverage. The festival takes place July 27-29 at Bandshell Park in Exhibition Place, Toronto.

Tickets for Toronto’s Festival of Beer sell out in advance every year — this year is no exception as July 28th is already sold out. Tickets for the Festival can be purchased online at Tickets for each day are $38.50 with the ability to Hoptimize your experience for an extra $10. Hoptimizing your ticket will gain you early access to the Festival and 5 extra sample tokens. This is a 19+ event.

For more information about this year’s Toronto’s Festival of Beer, please visit

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Buttermilk French Toast with Homemade Cinnamon - Raisin Bread for #SundaySupper

Sunday mornings were big breakfast "do's" at my house growing up. While the food wasn't overly extravagant and there were no multi-course brunches laid out by my mom like you read in storybooks, it was one day of the week where breakfast was hot, and a little richer than usual. Pancakes, crepes, waffles and the occasional omelette and buttermilk biscuit would come our way, provided that us kids helped by getting out and mixing ingredients while Mom and Dad dealt with the hot stuff.

One of the first things I remember my Mom teaching me how to do for myself involving the stove was a bona fide French toast breakfast. Other than scrambled eggs (which I was never fond of, unless packed with cheese and black pepper), the preparation of the eggy pan-fried bread was least likely to suffer with my exuberant stirring of batter or if I got too happy with the spatula playing "chef". French toast was always - always - on thick-cut cinnamon raisin bread from the grocery store, which for a storebought, mass processed loaf was (and is) surprisingly unlike typical "Wonder Bread". For one thing, the bread was not just "white with a hint of spice and occasional raisin" - no. This bread (which I would have linked to if it existed on the website!) was packed with raisins and the cinnamon was stong enough to be present without causing second-degree burns. Left out overnight, or the end crusts remaining in the freezer after the middle slices were gone, it was prime for soaking up egg and milk goodness.

These days we do still buy cinnamon raisin bread on occasion, but my sister (the #1 consumer) prefers whole wheat loaves so we pick a different brand. But the true favourite now is homemade. When I make raisin bread for Teaghan, French toast consumption in the mornings increases exponentially, and I've seen my mom grabbing a slice to two on the fly for a morning snack. Over time I've customized the bread recipe even more to pack in as much raisiny goodness as possible and maintain a "toaster friendly" crumb (and yes, a recipe is forthcoming), and is delicious enough on it's own with a dab of butter or peanut butter. Since my recipe is still more moist and tender than the packaged loaves, even after being frozen (we freeze all our bread), we found that we could achieve prime French toast-age by lightly toasting it first.

As for the buttermilk inclusion, the last time I made buttermilk biscuits, I added leftover buttermilk to the eggs instead of our standard 1% and was blown away by how well it worked. The tangy flavour was there, but not overpowering, and added a richness to the vanilla and cinnamon custard both soaked into the toast and as the "chef's treat" bits made from left overs (see the recipe below for more on that). It's important to mix the vanilla, cinnamon and brown sugar together first before adding the milk and eggs, since the alcohol in the vanilla keeps the fine particles of spice in suspension instead of floating up to the surface. In terms of the sugar, sis likes just plain old dark brown best, but if you love maple or the rich molasses flavour of Demerara, use that. Of course, for calorie / sugar hawks out there, you could use stevia, but this is so far removed from "diet food" I don't know why you'd bother. I just wouldn't suggest anything too coarse, since then it won't dissolve.

Even though it's not a breakfast for the calorie, carb and fat watchers, it's still a wholesome concoction. Firstly, it uses whole eggs - the lecithin in the yolk keeps the cholesterol from solidifying in your bloodstream and provides carotenoids, essential fatty acids, the vitamins A, E, D, K, thiamin, B6, folate, panthothenic acid and B12, calcium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc (amongst other things). The bread is both homemade and 100% wholegrain, without preservatives or "weird stuff", and the buttermilk has probiotics as well as that great flavour profile. For families with kids, it's a great way to celebrate #SundaySupper by getting the Kids in the Kitchen and teaching them a basic life skill. Who knows, the next Iron Chef might be right at your elbow!

Here are the rest of the delicious, kid-friendly #SundaySupper offerings from around the web (hosted this week by Brenda of Meal Planning Magic):

Start your day:
Healthy Snackers:
Main Squeeze:
Sweet Treats:

I'm also sending this to next week's edition of YeastSpotting at Wild Yeast and BYOB - Bake Your Own Bread (July '12).

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Caramelized Tomato and Courvoisier Canapes (Toast Topper #5 and a #CVCollective Competition Entry!)

After a long day (or week) at work, have you ever sat back in a favourite armchair, with the fireplace lit, dog at your feet, favourite book in one hand and snifter of cognac in the other? Me neither, but while that imagery is the stuff of stories (or at least long-ago life), the elegance of a well made, tawny amber glass of cognac is a living legend. Cognac itself is an elite drink: the A.O.C. name can only be given to brandy made from Colombard, Folle Blanche, Jurançon blanc, Meslier Saint-François, Montils, Sémillon, or Ugni Blanc grapes, which is then distilled twice in copper pots and aged at least two years in French oak.

Then, of course, you have the cognac of cognacs. The only one I know of (especially as a non-drinker) and definitely the most popular one on the shelf, Courvoisier has made itself known as Napoleon's choice of cognac:
The origin of our history goes back to the beginning of the 19th century with Emmanuel Courvoisier and his associate, Louis Gallois, running a wine and spirit merchant company, in the Parisian suburb of Bercy. In 1811 Napoleon visited their warehouses in Bercy and he was hosted by Louis Gallois, the Mayor, and Emmanuel Courvoisier. Legend has it that Napoleon I later took several barrels of cognac with him to St Helena, a treat much Courvoisier varieappreciated by the English officers on the ship who named it 'The Cognac of Napoleon'. 
It is this infamous, old-world producer of the spirit that is launching a competition to discover the top Courvoisier cooks in Ontario. Both culinary students and home cooks are being invited by the company to create and submit their best recipe with one of the ties. Until August 24, Ontario cooks can log on to the Courvoisier Collective website and share their creations.

The basic guidelines for the competition are as follows (official rules are at the bottom of this post and on the website):
  • Recipes must use Courvoisier
  • Recipes must be original, including ingredient list, cooking instructions and photograph
  • Recipes must be one of the following: soup, salad, hors d'oeuvres or entrees
  • Recipes must not contain more than 15 ingredients
  • Recipes must include a photo
  • Recipes must be submitted by an Ontario citizen age 19 or older

On September 7th, a panel of chefs will choose three finalists in each of the student and home cook categories to showcase their creations at a special event on October 17 in Toronto. The final winner will receive $1,000 and all entries will be eligible for the People's Choice Award (selected by online votes).
Even though I can't drink, I do cook with a good range of alcohol. Cognac, however, was not one of the ones on my repertoire until now! I devised a light, yet richly flavoured hors d'oeuvre recipe that showcased not only the cognac in "raw" and "baked" applications, but the beauty of the Summer's produce as well. Fresh herbs and tomatoes roast into a caramelly spread, lemon and green onion add a touch of brightness, ground almonds and breadcrumbs add thickness and body and a twist of Courvoisier VS roaked raisins adds a touch of sweetness and exoticism. Spread onto homemade, black pepper and sea salt crispbread, it's an elegant appetizer you can also keep all to yourself!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Toast Topper #4 (Spicy Italian Peppers in Sauce) for #SundaySupper

Even though this week's #SundaySupper theme is centred around the American Independence Day, my Canadian self isn't slacking on the job! Instead, I figured that I could bring a sandwich staple from my Italian-Canadian step-grandmother's kitchen that has really become  my stepdad's "go to" condiment for pretty much everything you can think of - toast, pasta, rice, tacos, even burgers and steamed veggies!

If you're not familiar with "real Italian" food as he calls it, it's a mosaic of simple flavours that always embrace the best the season has to offer. Where he's from (Puglia), olives, tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, eggplants, and fennel are  grown and eaten with gusto. However, you're not going to find eggplant parmigana on spaghetti anywhere in Italy - and historically the tomatoes and peppers that are so completely a part of the now traditional diet didn't exist. Those, along with the potatoes, zucchini and corn, came from the "New World" - right back in my backyard! I love how cuisine of any sort intertwines regions, cultures, tastes and hearts. We all eat, and as ingredients circle the globe so do celebrations and trends!

So, whether you are celebrating the Fourth of July with the US, June's Republic Day in Italy, the French Bastille Day on the 14th of July or Canada Day with me today, celebrate with your loved ones and don't forget to share a #SundaySupper or two!


Join us this week! We’ll share these fabulous recipes and want you to share yours with us! The fun starts at 3pm EST and lasts all afternoon. At 5:30 pm EST, we will be available to chat with you. All you have to do is follow the hashtag #sundaysupper on twitter or follow along on TweetChat. Our #SundaySupper Pinterest Board will be filled with fabulous family recipes. There is always room Around the Family Table for you.

Main Dishes:

Salads and Sides:


Fabulous Pairings by Martin from ENOFYLZ
My recipe after the jump!