Monday, April 29, 2013

Say Cheese to Canada's Best!

Coast to coast Canada's 182 cheese makers produce over 700 different varieties of cheese.  Now ask the average Canadian what their favourite cheese is and you'll  likely get the same 6 answers over and over again. Typical favourites include cheddar, mozzarella,  Havarti, Swiss, Feta and Brie.

While these top six cheeses are all worthy of our adoration, the Dairy Farmers of Canada,  in an effort to support Canadian cheese makers, started the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix. Now in it's 8th edition the nation wide competition honour's all Canadian made cheeses that use 100% Canadian Cow's milk.

This year there were 20 categories that were judged by various criteria such as flavour, body, texture, finish and colour among others.  The judges tasted their way through 225 different cheese or 6.5lbs of cheese each!  Lucky me,  I was invited to a lovely brunch at the TIFF Blue Room to taste this years winners.

While all the winners were  delicious my favourites included...

  • Bleu d'Elizabeth (Fromagerie du Presbytere) -  made from organic farmhouse milk this blue has a natural rind and a delicious creamy texture.
  • Le Mamirolle (Fromagerie Eco-Delices)  - a semi-soft, washed rind cheese with a smooth texture and flavour notes of hazelnut and fruit.
  • Applewood Smoked Cheddar (Cow's Creamery) - a two-year old cheddar infused with natural applewood smoke.
  • Ricotta (Quality Cheese Inc.) - a fresh soft cheese that is semi-sweet and mild in flavour.
Of the top 20 cheeses,  the overall Grand Champion was the Ricotta from Quality Cheese Inc!   I like to enjoy Ricotta for breakfast,  topped with blueberry preserves and black pepper.   Creamy Ricotta also makes a great base to any sweet or savoury bruschetta.  Check out this link for more recipes using ricotta!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Pizza Crust with a Twist!

Thin and crispy or thick and chewy, pizza crust can take on many forms and frankly I love them all. As a family we love to make pizza at home, each rolling our dough to our desired thickness and topping it with whatever our heart desires. The other evening I found myself craving pizza with a different kind of crust. I've been seeing many recipes using vegetables  instead of dough (eggplant and cauliflower) and was curious to see how that would taste!

Now I am not going to tell you that this crust will replace your favourite dough - that it will not.  Pizza dough and cauliflower taste nothing alike and definitely have very different textures.  What I will tell you is that this veggie laden alternative is super tasty and my kids loved it.  Seriously??? A Pizza alternative with a cruciferous cancer deterring, fibre filled vegetable!  The three main ingredients in this crust are cauliflower, eggs and cheese (that covers a variety of food groups) after that you can decide what seasonings to add.  Personally I kept it simple adding a dash of pepper, garlic powder and oregano. When my crust was baked, I topped it with chicken, hot peppers, red onions and mushrooms. The cheese in the crust was enough for me and so I didn't add extra on top.

Crust - This size will do 2 people
4 cups grated cauliflower (you can also put it through your food processor)
2 eggs
1 cup grated mozzarella
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp oregano
1 Tbsp coconut oil

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  2. Steam the grated cauliflower for 6 minutes and allow to cool. Squeeze any excess water out of the steamed cauliflower.
  3. When cooled, combine cauliflower, eggs, cheese and seasoning in a bowl and mix well.
  4. Place a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet.
  5. Transfer cauliflower mixture to the parchment lined cookie sheet and form into a rectangle about 1/4" thick.
  6. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes then remove.
  7. Top your crust with desired toppings.
  8. Place pizza back under a low broiler until cooked (about 15 minutes)
We served it with a Tomato and Avocado Salad dressed
with Rice Vinegar, Olive oil sat and pepper.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Cold Spring Rolls

I recently posted a picture of all the ingredients that were going into cold spring rolls for my kids after school snack.  It was amazing  how many people were inspired to make them and how many requests I got for the recipe.  If you have made cold spring rolls, you know that is really just an assembly job, and the ingredients can be altered depending on what you have on hand.  The best part is that these healthy rolls can be made to suit the pickiest eater. They can be vegetarian and are gluten free.

Rice Paper 
The trickiest part (not really tricky at all) to making these rolls is rehydrating the rice paper. Don't be discouraged if you need to discard  a few pieces of rice paper at the beginning. It can be a bit like plastic wrap and stick to itself, but it's much more forgiving so stick with it.

  1. Boil water and place about 1-2 inches of water in a baking dish or pan that will accommodate the size of the rice paper round.  
  2. If the water is  too hot for your fingers to grab the rice paper, wait for the water to cool slightly or add tepid water.
  3. The hotter the water, the less time the rice paper will take to re hydrate; the cooler the water the longer it will take.
  4. If the paper is left in the water for too long, it will become water logged and the rolls won't stick together properly.
The filling

Any combination you like.  I prefer fresh veggies that are nice and crunchy paired with a soft avocado and some sweet mango.  Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Cucumber, peppers, shredded carrot or coleslaw mix, avocado, mango and lettuce leaves.
  • Shredded chicken/beef, tofu/tempeh or sliced plain omelette. 
  • Basil, cilantro, mint or parsley.
Place re-hydrated rice paper on a clean work surface and begin placing your selected fillings at one edge of the rice paper.

Stack the fillings (cucumber, peppers, chicken etc...) on top of each other then begin rolling away from you,  tucking the edge into the filling.

Once the filling is tucked inside the roll, fold in the two outer edges in, and continue to roll.
Place seam side down and serve whole or cut in half! Serve with your favourite dipping sauce.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

White Christmas - Food Extravaganza!

This year I have decided that regardless of what the weather man says, I am going to have a white christmas.  Christmas is one of my favourite holiday's and I love the time spent with family and friends and of course, all the amazing food!

Whether you are having an intimate dinner for two, an open house or holiday buffet, incorperating a white theme can add a festive and elegant feel to your celebrations.  This theme also works well for a new years party.  Here are a few ideas to get you started!
Flatbread 2 ways
Pears, goats cheese and pecans.
Yukon Gold potatoes, white asparagus, thyme and pecarino!
White Crudite Platter
Endive, fennel, white asparagus, cauliflower, mushrooms, daikon
and a herbed buttermilk dip!
Gingerbread Cake dusted with powdered sugar, white meringues,
yogurt covered star pretzels, boozy bites!

Thai Winter Rolls with Rice Noodles, jicama,
cucumber and cilantro.
Scallop Ceviche with hearts of palm, cucumber, lime and parsley,
lime juice and olive oil.
Everyone loves popcorn!  Who can resist this rosemary and parmesan bowl!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Easy & Festive Pomegranate

As a child, I remember carefully, almost artistically, picking out pomegranate seeds one by one, and savouring the tangy sweetness each little jewel offered up.  Now, as a mother, nothing scares me more than letting my boys loose on half a pomegranate.  While there are many "tricks" to getting the seeds out, I have found a pomegranate gadget that I love.  I am not a fan of kitchen gadgets based on the fact that single purpose gadgets just  aren't worth the space they take up in my kitchen; but, the Pomegranate ART is a quick and useful gadget for removing the seeds.  One that my son Stowe loves to use! You can find them in most grocery stores in the produce sections.  I  bought mine at Loblaws for 7.99.
Pomegranate ART $7.99 at Loblaws

Quick Facts:

  • Pomegranates are among the world's oldest cultivated fruits.
  • In a season where foods are heavy and over indulgent, their crimson jewel-like arils (seeds), which are rich in anti-oxidants, can be an outstanding and festive addition to many side dishes or eaten alone as a snack.
  • The anti-oxidant levels in pomegranates far exceed those of both red wine and green tea.
  • Pomegranates are a good source of soluble and insoluble fibre.


 Chunky Pomegranate and Avocado Salsa

2 Avocados, peeled and cubed
1 cup pomegranate arils
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. coarsely chopped cilantro
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 Tbsp lime juice
2 Tbsp grapeseed oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and serve with tortilla chips or crackers.
Also great as a topping for grilled/baked fish or chicken.

Top your favourite Hummus with pomegranates and green onions!

Other fun ways to use pomegranates!

Once you have a bowl full of these juicy morsels you will want to eat them by the spoonful.  However they can also add a wow factor to dishes that need a little pick me up!
  • Top your favourite hummus with plenty of pomegranate seeds and green onions!
  • Top baked brie with pomegranate and nuts.
  • Stir into a warm or cold grain side dish (rice, quinoa, freekeh, bulger)
  • Mix a spoonful into your favourite Greek Yogurt.
  • Use to garnish hearty curries or stews.

Greek Yogurt with Pomegranates Walnuts and Honey

Friday, October 26, 2012

Halloween Food Fun!

Left to Right and Front to Back
Puking Pumpkin, Bones and Blood, Witches Fingers,
Black Pasta with Roasted Squash and Garlic Oil, Shrimp with Black Garlic Salsa
 Black Rice Pudding with Mango
Carrot and Black Bean Soup Shooters, Black and Orange Cheese Platter
The HEAD waiter and Bloody cocktails!
If you are hosting a kids Halloween party, limiting the menu to horrendously sweet dessert items and junk food makes sense, but, if you are looking to amuse a more sophisticated Hallowe'en reveller, I've developed a bunch of delicious Halloween food ideas that incorporate the classic holiday colours - Black and Orange.  Along with the colour theme, I chose some fun kid recipes that impart a gory Halloween feel without the gory-post junk food marathon stomach ache!

Black and Orange Soup
Make it from scratch or choose a quality brand from the grocery store.  Obvious choices are Carrot, Squash and Black Bean.  For appetizer style,  you can heat up the soup and serve in shooter glasses.  If you want to serve sit down style,   pour each soup slowly (at the same time) into either sides of a bowl.

Shrimp with Black Garlic Salsa
In a food processor combine 2 heads black garlic, 1 Jalapeno, 1 green onion, 3 Roma tomatoes, juice of 1 lime, 2 Tbsp Grapeseed oil, 1/2 tsp sea salt.
Place cooked shrimp on a platter and top with black sesame seeds.

Black Bow-Tie Pasta with Roasted Sweet 
Potato and Garlic Oil

Boil two cups of bow tie pasta as per package instructions.  Peel and cube 1 Sweet Potato. Toss with 1 tsp olive oil and roast in a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.  Combine pasta and sweet potato in bowl, top with a garlic oil and goats cheese!

Black Rice Pudding with Mango

Cook 1 cup of purple Thai rice as per package instructions.  Once cooked add 1/2 cup coconut milk and 1/2 cup brown sugar. Cook over low heat for another 5 minutes. Add 1 Tbsp of vanilla then cool.  Place rice pudding on small spoons and top with mango!

Black an Orange Cheese Platter
There are so many different varieties of cheese you can use for this.  My favourite shown here are Cinderellon, Rouy, Aged Cheddar and a Guinness Cheddar.  Add some dried figs, apricots and pecans for good measure.

Bones and Blood

To make the bones use fresh store bought pizza dough.  Cut dough into  strips (vary the length and thickness for variety). Flour your work surface and use your hands to roll each strip with the palms of your hands to create a rope.  Use a sharp knife to cut (lengthwise) a small slit into both ends of each rope.  Roll the two pieces (on each end) into themselves to create the knobby part of the bones. Place on a baking sheet and cook at 400 degrees for 15 - 20 minutes, depending on how large your bones are. Serve with tomato sauce!

The Puking Pumpkin
 Carve out a small pumpkin and use your favourite guacamole to simulate the puke!  Fun for the kids and super tasty!

Witches Fingers
Use any sugar cookie recipe for this ghoulish treat! Once you make the cookie dough store in fridge for 20 minutes.  Slice into thick pieces the size of a finger.  Roll into a log, pinch the cookie in two places (to make knuckles) and use the back of a knife to embellish each knuckle. Bake as per cookie instructions.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Oatmeal Switch Up

When you think about oatmeal, what are the toppings that automatically pop into your head? Probably maple syrup, brown sugar, apples, berries, nuts and milk. Right?

What if I asked you to think of oatmeal as a vehicle for savoury toppings? Sounds interesting, right?!

Oats are simply a blank canvass which lend themselves to sweet AND savoury flavours, equally. They are a healthy whole grain, similar to rice, quinoa or polenta - all grains that easily work as a sweet or savoury dish!

Now I understand if you prefer a sweet breakfast, so many of us do! However, I'm a sucker for a good warm savoury breakfast, so I asked myself: 'Why not switch up my oatmeal'? 

I think it's time that we shine the spotlight on oatmeal as a versatile nutrition power house.  So go ahead, adorn your bowl of oatmeal with a creative savoury option.  My latest thrill is topped with leftover roasted sweet potatoes and a soft poached egg.  Great for breakfast, lunch, light dinner or pick me up snack!

Ideas for Savoury Oatmeal
  • Cook your oatmeal in stock or lightly salted water instead of plain water.
  • Use leftover vegetables, legumes and protein to top plain oatmeal.
  • Add dry spices (cumin, curry, Italian seasoning,) while cooking.
  • Garnish with fresh herbs, cold pressed olive oil or balsamic vinegar.

Steel cut oats, roasted sweet potatoes, poached egg and porcini balsamic glaze!