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!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Yorkshire Valley #ChicknDip

Yorkshire Valley Farm is a company that is filling a void in large grocery chains,  providing fresh chicken that is not only organic but local.  Until recently,  buying both organic and local chicken that was fresh, meant an extra trip to my friendly butcher shop or farmers market.  So I was ecstatic when I started seeing my Loblaws carrying this line of chicken.  I had been a customer for a few months when I received an invitation to check out the new line of chicken nuggets that Yorkshire Valley Farms was launching.  Now chicken nuggets are not an item I regularly buy, I can probably count on one hand how many times I've bought chicken nuggets for my boys who are 10 and 14.  That's not to say they don't like such kid food, but I have always made mine from scratch.   So curious about the new product,   I went to the event!

So let's talk nuggets.   A self professed label reader I quickly noticed that soy was used in conjunction to the chicken, to make the nugget.  So if you or your children have a sensitivity/allergy to soy this product is not for you.  The saving grace is that the soy is also organic and therefore not genetically modified.    Nuggets of any variety aren't for me  (I find the texture unappealing),  but as a mom of two boys who are capbable of feeding themselves, having a box of these in my freezer would mean that they could heat up a treat for themselves in a pinch. 

The #chickndip event was held at the SubZero-Wolf show room which was stunning and modern with its red and white decor!  The tasting of nuggets was made more delicious when paired with the 10 sauces, jams and dips that accompanied them.  Two companies that debuted some tasty sauces were Neal Brothers with their Toasted Sesame and Honey Dijon, along with DA Foods and their Southern Blues BBQ sauce!  Wash it all down with a cold Magners Pear cider and the night was complete.

Above and beyond the nuggets I believe in what Yorkshire Valley farms is doing. Growing organic chickens locally means I have the opportunity to support local farmers and in turn support the health of my family.  The fact that I can buy the delicious chickens at most major grocery stores,  makes me even happier. 
Swag from the event included some of my favourite condiments also locally made!
Bacon Jam - Mcewan Foods
Green Tomato and Garlic Jam - Bumpercrop
Khaldin - Eudora's Fine Foods

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Hockey Mom on the Run - Weeknight Meal!

This post goes out to my hockey mom friends - you know who you are.  The ones that are always in awe of what I'm making on a weeknight for dinner.  As a food professional I cook a lot, which means I have the skill set to whip up what seems like a complicated dinner, especially to those who don't enjoy the process of cooking a meal.  Cooking a weeknight meal doesn't have to take long for it to be delicious, satisfying and nourishing.  This meal  took me about 35 minutes to make and has a total of 6 main ingredients (Chicken breast, goat cheese, roasted red peppers, rice, broccoli, green onions).  If you think your kids won't eat goat cheese switch it up for mozzarella, feta or cheddar - make it your own!

One of my pantry staple favourites is Roasted red peppers.  They are nothing but peppers that have been roasted and stored in water.  They are an amazing flavour addition to pastas, sandwiches, wraps and salads.  The sweet taste of the red pepper is a flavour that  kids love.

The Meal
Goat Cheese & Roasted Red Pepper Chicken Breast
Steamed Broccoli

You will need: 4 chicken breasts, 1 small log (150 grams)plain goat cheese, PC jarred roasted red pepper strips, 1 head broccoli, 1 1/2 cups rice, 1 green onion.

  • Preheat the Oven to 425 degrees.

  • Get the rice on the stove.  Follow package directions, I used PC Scented Rice and it takes about 15 minutes for it to cook. Once you turn the heat off, it will stay warm on the stove until the rest of the dinner is ready.

  • Cut the broccoli into medium to large florets, place in a pot with 1/4 cup water, cover.

  • In a bowl mix together 150 grams goat cheese (1 small log) and about 1/4 cup of the roasted red pepper strips.

  • Use a sharp knife to (butterfly) cut the chicken breast  length wise

  • Stuff each chicken breast, fold in half and place in a glass baking dish.  If you have more stuffing than you need, save it to spread on a sandwich or cracker later.  If your like me you'll just eat it straight off the spoon.

  • Place chicken in oven and cook for approximately 15 minutes, uncovered.
  • Meanwhile, place broccoli on burner and bring water in bottom of pot to a boil, allow to cook covered for 6 minutes.  Turn heat off and keep covered until ready to serve.
  • When the chicken is cooked, top with green onions and your done.
  • Serve the Chicken, broccoli and rice on a plate and call it a day!

5 Ways to add some fancy to this meal!
  1. Add 1/2 cup white wine to the baking dish before cooking chicken.
  2. Stir  2 Tbsp store bought pesto into the cooked rice.
  3. Wrap each chicken breast in bacon or prosciutto.
  4. Mix together 1/2 cup bread crumbs and 2 Tbsp butter, divide evenly on top of each chicken breast before baking.
  5. Sprinkle the Broccoli with Parmesan and toasted walnuts.

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.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Q and A Excerpt from Jo Lee Magazine

Q:  I always seem to get sick when the seasons change and I’m curious to know: what is your top immune boosting food?  Fredrick – St. John’s, Canada 

Use a crock pot to make stock over night
AB:  There are many foods that have immune boosting compounds, but my all time favorite, Fredrick, has to be homemade chicken stock.  Chicken stock has immune boosting and anti-inflammatory compounds that help to prevent and mitigate infectious diseases.  Adding fresh garlic, ginger and chilies to a robust stock takes the immune fighting properties to the next level by enhancing anti-microbial activity and increasing circulation.  Throw in a lot of fresh vegetables for good measure and you have a meal that keeps colds and flus at bay.

Q:  Have you heard of a new grain “Freekeh?”  Stewart – Livepool, UK

AB:  While freekeh may be new to the North American diet, it is a traditional grain that has been used in Arab and Egyptian cooking forever.  Stewart, Freekeh is green wheat that is picked when the wheat is still soft, stacked in the sun to dry and then burnt to remove the chaff and straw.  This gives the freekeh or “green bulgur” a unique nutty flavour.  From a nutritional standpoint freekeh has good amounts of both fibre and protein.   

Q:     Every time I hard boil eggs the yolk goes grey around the edges.  What am I doing wrong?

A:   The grey colour is commonly seen when you over cook eggs.  Although the eggs are still safe to eat the discolouration can turn some people off. To cook the perfect hard boiled eggs: Place eggs in a pot, covered with ½” of water, bring to a boil and let boil for 1minute, remove from heat and let sit for 12 minutes, run under cold water and store!  Hard boil a dozen eggs at the beginning of the week and you have many quick and nutritious snack options; slice into a salad or sandwich, make devilled eggs or eat whole with a little salt and pepper.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Easy Valentine's Eats

Valentine's day is synonomous with indulging in some delicious food.  However, I've never been one for braving the overpriced and hectic restaurant scene. As a mother of two boys, valentines is celebrated with the family.  We don't go for heart shaped, pink coated treats, instead I opt for delicious whole food, easy to prepare with a history steeped in romance.  Even if your not the most experienced cook, these valentine eats are sure to make your loved ones feel special and get you out of the kitchen in a flash.

Asparagus with Cocoa and Balsamic Reduction
  • 1 lb asparagus, trimmed
  • 1/4 cup balsamic
  • 1 ounce dark chocolate
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add asparagus and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Remove and shock in ice water (or very cold water).
Place balsamic vinegar in a small pot, on the stove and simmer for about 15 minutes - until consistency is thick and luscious.  Whisk in chocolate.
Place asparagus on plate and drizzle with balsamic reduction.

Figs with Goat cheese and Honey
  • 6 ripe figs, cut in half lengthwise
  • 2 ounces goat cheese
  • 2 Tbsp honey
Lay cut figs on a platter, top each with some goat cheese then top with honey!

Vanilla and Cinnamon Poached Pears

  • 4 firm Bosc pears, peeled
  • 2 cups cranberry juice
  • 2 cups water
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 cinnamon stick broke in half
  • 1/2 vanilla pod
Place cranberry juice, water, lemon juice, honey, cinnamon and vanilla in a pot large enough to accommodate the pears. Bring to a boil then add the pears.  Turn heat down so the liquid is only simmering.  Cook pears for approximately 15 minutes. Remove from liquid and set aside.  Continue to cook the liquid until it is reduced by half and is syrupy.
Serve pears on a plate, drizzled with reduced poaching liquid.

Pumpkin Ravioli with Chillies 
While making ravioli from scratch in not that difficult, I opt to use an excellent store bought brand here.

  • PC Black Label Pumpkin Ravioli
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes
  • 2 sage leaves, 
Cook ravioli as per package instructions
Melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Once melted add chili flakes and sage, cook for about 3 minutes.  Drain ravioli and toss with butter.  Serve

Steamed Artichokes with Lemon Mayo
  • 2 artichokes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic
To prepare the artichoke:  Use a sharp knife to cut the top 1" off of the artichoke.  Trim the stem end.
Use scissors to trim the thorny tops off every artichoke leaf.  

Place a large pot over medium heat and add about 2" water, bay leaf, lemon juice and garlic clove. Bring to a simmer. Add a steaming basket, followed by the artichokes.
Steam for approximately 20-25 minutes.  Leaves should pull of easily.
Serve with 1/2 cup mayo mixed with 1 Tbsp lemon juice and 1 tsp lemon zest.

Almond Butter Cups

Find the recipe here

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.