- 10:28 am - Tue, Mar 4, 2014
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Today Christians around the world celebrate Shrove Tuesday, a day of celebration before Lent starts. It is also known as Pancake Tuesday, Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday. Taking place before Lent, it is a last chance to eat rich foods. Using up your supplies of sugar, fats and eggs means you have the perfect ingredients to make pancakes.
I added Greek yogurt and shredded apple to my pancakes and then topped them with apples, pecans, dried cranberries, cinnamon, all sauteed in a bit of butter, and sweetened with maple syrup.
Take a few minutes and your create a great topping for your pancakes.
- 2:28 pm - Sun, Mar 2, 2014
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Save With Jamie Oliver Chicken and Spinach Canneloni
Reducing food waste and saving money is an idea that everyone can benefit from. This point came through following Toronto’s ice storm where people lost power for days, and the food in their refrigerators and freezers spoiled. Food blogger Linda Matarosso really makes us think about what is in our refrigerator as she outlines her experience of losing the contents of her freshly filled refrigerator.
The premise of Jamie Oliver’s cookbook and television program, Save With Jamie is to take one meal component, and turn its leftovers into different meals, such as using leftover lamb roast to turn it into Moroccan Pastillas or to take leftover chicken and incorporate it into Cannelloni.
I made the Chicken and Spinach Cannelloni, which uses up leftover chicken and has a white sauce with spinach to fill up the pasta, instead of filling it with ricotta cheese.
It takes a bit of cooking and assembly time, but the results are worth it. I used a jar of passata instead of canned tomatoes. This recipe would also be a great vegetarian one, if you omit the chicken.
So next time you cook a meal, think about how creative you can be with the leftovers, and check out Save With Jamie for good ideas.
- 9:19 am - Thu, Feb 27, 2014
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Salt Sugar Fat
First Lady Michelle Obama recently appeared on late night show TV as part of her campaign to encourage Americans to eat healthy, and exercise more, just as the late Nancy Reagan exhorted Americans to “just say no to drugs.”
Did I just write a sentence that included both Democrat Michelle Obama and Republican Nancy Reagan? What could the two campaigns of the First Ladies have in common?
What connection is there between drugs and food? The fight against obesity and the war against drugs are more closely related than is obvious to the casual observer. It seems that people are hooked on processed foods in the same way that they can be hooked on drugs.
In his book, Sugar, Fat, Salt, author Michael Moss goes at great lengths to explain how North Americans are getting heavier and heavier.
After eating some meals with people in the food industry, and observing what they eat, Moss became interested in reporting on the food industry. It turns out that the people in charge of the food industry do not eat the processed foods that they sell.
What do they know that we don’t?
They know what ingredients their food contains, why and how it got into the food. Those ingredients are acting the same way that addictive drugs do on our brains, causing us to want more and more of it.
Our bodies are wired to like fat, sweet, salt for survival. Through very expensive and sophisticated research the food industry now knows exactly what levels of salt, sugar, and fat to include in food to create more cravings of the food.
Every aspect of the processed food you eat is designed to make you eat more and more of it, from its creation, to the marketing of the foods, and its placement in stores.
Fortunately there is hope and good news out there.
A study just released conducted by the American Centers for Disease Control shows that obesity in children aged 2 - 5 years old is down 43% in the last decade. It hasn’t changed in older children and adults but that is a good start.
For the first time in 100 years Americans are eating more lean chicken than beef. McDonald’s Corp. is committing to purchase verified sustainable beef.
Food companies can change to make their products healthier.
You of course, can try cooking more of your own food.
- 6:42 pm - Thu, Feb 20, 2014
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Winter Fruit Salad
What could be simpler than making a fruit salad? Pick some fruit, wash it, peel it, chop it up, put it in a bowl and you are done.
Well sort of. Like any “simple” food the quality of the product is what counts. A good fruit salad takes a bit of planning, buying your fruit a few days in advance, and if possible letting them ripen on the counter so they will have the right texture and taste.
I always squeeze some fresh orange and lemon juice into mine. For this winter salad you can use citrus fruits which are in season, apples are available year round, kiwis, tropical fruits, whatever you like.
I dressed my salad up with some plain organic yogurt on the bottom, then topped it with some of my home made trail mix.
Put it in a pretty glass and turn a simple dessert or snack into a fine dining experience. It’s worth the effort.
- 3:02 pm - Fri, Feb 14, 2014
Happy Valentine’s/Singles Awareness Day
Today is Valentine’s Day, or you can celebrate the ironic version, Singles Awareness Day. This is a great day if you have a loved one to share it with, but if you are alone, it can make you feel down.
Singles Awareness Day was invented to counteract all the Valentine’s Day hype and commercialism. The idea is that single people can get together without stigma.
But what if you don’t have single friends to party with?
Well, you can read a good book; you are never alone when you are reading. Since it is a holiday when lots of chocolate is eaten, how about a book where chocolate plays a leading role?
The book I am recommending is a light, fun, mystery called Theft by Chocolate by Luba Lesychyn, which combines two of my favorite things, chocolate and mystery books. And it takes place in the Royal Ontario Museum, a building where I spent many a happy hour when I was a student. It is not the deepest of novels, or very difficult to solve, but fun.
The book was recommended to me by Marian Misters, who along with J.D. Singh, own Sleuth of Baker Street, a book store in Toronto, dedicated to mystery novels.
Selling mystery novels written by authors from all around the world, there is very little that Marian and J.D. don’t know about mysteries. From the classic British detective novels, American spy thrillers, to Scandinavian; and of course Canadian authors. They happily share their copious knowledge with a monthly newsletter.
So if you are in Toronto, check out when they are open, pop-in and learn about the world of mysteries. And if you can’t make it to Toronto, look at their newsletters, they will mail books to you.
And BTW, Happy Valentine’s Day, Happy Singles Awareness Day!
- 3:34 pm - Mon, Feb 10, 2014
- 1 note
I went to Fabbrica for my second Winterlicious meal. Part of Chef Mark McEwan’s food empire, Fabricca is located in an upscale outdoor mall in suburban Toronto across from his European style food emporium, McEwan.
Any Foodie trip to Fabbrica has to include a visit to McEwan to check out the latest trends, most interesting and finest foods from across the world.
Fabricca’s open, modern Italian design lets you see its wood burning oven (imported from Milan) where fresh pizzas are made.
The $20 Winterlicious lunch is worth every penny. It was plentiful and had the little touches that make high end dining so special.
My husband and I shared our dishes. The Sicilian Garlic Soup, which proves that garlic can be a star in its own right, was garnished with a beautiful focaccia crouton and crisp sage leaves.
I had the Insalata di Fabbrica, similar to a Caesar Salad, but the dressing had a kicked up anchovy flavor. The croutons in the salad are what all croutons should be, just the perfect texture of crispiness and the good flavor of a well-made bread.
We shared two pastas for the main, the Strozzapreti, pasta with a tomato, lamb and bean sauce, and ricotta stuffed Ravioli, with roasted mushrooms, Reggiano and chives.
I liked the ravioli the best, they were so soft and creamy. You could also get a pizza for the main course.
My husband had the Pavlova for dessert. Again, the details added to the dish are what set it apart from ordinary food. The meringue sat on mixed fruits, including perfectly ripened passion fruit, had a dollop of lemon curd on it, and was topped with crystalized lemon peel. A lot of work went into producing the Pavlova.
I had gelato. So what if it was -10C, any day is a good day for gelato. Fabbrica’s gelato (vanilla and banana) were tasty, creamy and served at the right temperature.
Chef Mark McEwan explained, when I saw him at The Delicious Food Show that even though people are eating fewer desserts, he still has pastry chefs at all of his restaurants. It shows in the quality of the desserts.
This is the last week of Winterlicious, see if you can get a reservation at Fabbrica, or try going to other participating restaurants, and support them, especially during this cold, cold winter.
- 11:56 am - Sat, Feb 8, 2014
Giada de Laurentiis
A breath of warm fresh air blew in to frigid Toronto yesterday. Giada de Laurentiis, star of the Food Network came to host Chef’s Challenge: The Ultimate Battle For A Cure, a fundraiser for Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto, to support care and research in women’s cancers. It is being held today.
I, along with a group of mostly food bloggers, was invited to attend Giada’s press conference in the luxurious screening room at the Hazelton Hotel. A podium was set up for Giada to speak from, she approached it, took one look, then asked for a chair to be placed beside the podium and sat down. With that move she turned what could have been a stilted formal interview into a very intimate chat with us.
This busy author of seven cookbooks, Food Network star, NBC Today show correspondent, restaurant owner (currently under construction in Las Vegas) was asked why she came to Toronto to participate in this event.
Giada doesn’t come to Canada often, but knows that she has a lot of fans here, knows Toronto is a very food oriented city, and was happy to come. Her friends from the Food Network Guy Fieri and Bobby Flay had previously hosted the Chef’s Challenge. Bobby Flay gave her tips, but she wouldn’t divulge them.
This event has personal meaning for Giada, like so many others, her family has been struck by tragedy from cancer. Her brother died at the age of 30 from melanoma, and her mother had ovarian cancer. She wants to help and make a difference.
Explaining that as a young woman she was a “sugarholic” influencing why she became a pastry chef. As she hit her thirties, and had her daughter, her body changed, her tastes changed and she became more interested in leading a healthy lifestyle.
Her new cookbook Giada’s Feel Good Food is not just a cookbook, but contains tips about how she remains healthy while having such a grueling work schedule.
Her face lit up when she talked about her husband, her daughter, and how her family is so important to her, and how supportive they are of her.
Italian, with a California twist is how Giada describes her cooking style. Citrus is one of her favorite foods now, and one of her favorite pastas is her lemon spaghetti. She’ll make Chicken Parmesan by grilling the chicken and then quickly grilling the cheese on top, lightening up the traditional recipe.
The Chef’s Challenge fundraiser has 50 top fundraisers divided into five teams. In the afternoon, each team must prepare dishes that will be based on secret ingredients. The Chef’s Challenge reads like a dream list of some of Canada’s celebrity chefs. Celebrity Chef Team Leaders are Food Network Canada Stars: Bal Arneson, David Rocco, Mark McEwan, Vikram Vij, and Montreal Chef Derek Dammann, co-owner with Jamie Oliver of Maison Publique.
The food will then be judged, with Giada as one of the judges. The challenge will be followed by an Italian inspired meal. And after that there will be a VIP reception for the major donors.
This elaborate fundraiser is a fun and unique way to raise funds, support, and awareness of the important and ground breaking work being done at Mount Sinai Hospital.
We are lucky in Toronto to have the Mount Sinai volunteers who behind the scenes put in many hours of hard work. We are lucky that our Canadian food professionals are willing to help out, and that we have so much talent.
And we are lucky that such a talented woman, Giada de Laurentiis took time to come to Toronto, to help out.
- 4:23 pm - Thu, Feb 6, 2014
- 1 note
La Cascina, (Winterlicious)
Toronto holds a food event twice a year, Summerlicious and Winterlicious. Restaurants offer three course prix fixe menus for lunch and supper, ranging from $15 for lunch to a high of $45 for dinner. This year 210 restaurants are participating in Winterlicious, ending on February 13.
This ‘licious programs are to entice people into going to restaurants during slow periods, providing opportunities to try something new and affordable and access to high end restaurants.
This year my husband and I went Italian, first to La Cascina and then to Fabbrica.
La Cascina is a small Italian restaurant in a North Toronto neighborhood specializing in food from the Abruzzo region of Italy.
Chef Luca del Rosso came and talked to us, explaining how he moved here from Italy to bring the authentic cuisine of Abruzzo to Toronto. Chef Luca’s passion comes across clearly as he explains how he cooks from his family traditions.
My husband started with Chitarra ai Funghi Misti, Chiatarra pasta in a tomato sauce with mushrooms and sausages. The pasta was perfectly al dente and the sauce was impeccable. Chiatarra is one of the typical pastas from Abruzzo, Chiatarra means guitar, the pasta is rolled out, placed on a box and rolled over strings (resembling guitar strings) to cut it. The Affetiti Misti, salami, cheese and olive antipasto was perfectly done, the meats were tender, just the way they should be, served with Sicilian olives and a bean salad.
The mains were beef stew, soft and tender, and rainbow trout was topped with a delicate topping of bread soaked in white wine.
Desserts offered are panna cotta, Nutella cookies, and Tiramisu. The panna cotta was lovely and delicate, topped with figs. We knew the baked goods were super fresh - we saw them being delivered from the bakery Chocolate Brunette. This is one of the details that makes a good restaurant, if there is no pastry chef, then they are getting their goods fresh from an excellent source. No thawed out frozen cheese cakes here.
I had the Nutella cookies and went to cookie heaven. I have baked thousands of cookies over my years of teaching cooking to preschoolers, and these are some of the best cookies I have come across.
La Cascina has a loyal following of local residents, but their challenge is, how do you get a little restaurant featuring the food of a specific area better known? Chef Luca’s wife Sharifa has turned to social media trying to spread the word. I learnt about them from her feisty Twitter campaign, and good reviews are coming in.
If you can during Winterlicious, or any time after, share their passion for their restaurant and Abruzzo, and try out La Cascina.
- 1:20 pm - Wed, Feb 5, 2014
- 1 note
Tehina Nutella Balls - World Nutella Day
Sara Rosso loves Nutella and came up with the idea of World Nutella Day.
She went on social media with a blog, Twitter, Facebook and has many enthusiastic followers. She tapped into an international love of that sweet spread.
Last year the manufacturer of Nutella, Ferrero wasn’t very happy with her unauthorized use of the Nutella brand. Totally misunderstanding social media, their lawyers sent her a letter asking her to pull her site down.
An online uproar ensued and Ferrero understood that maybe fan based World Nutella Day is a good thing and withdrew their complaints. Sara is back at work celebrating Nutella and February 5 is the day.
To celebrate I have concocted some chocolaty Nutella balls with tehina, walnuts and dried fruit.
They are based on a recipe from Soom Foods, a new company making quality tehina in Philadelphia. Their website is under construction so I can’t send you the link to their recipe. This is what I did.
Tehina Nutella Balls
1/3 cup mixed dried fruits
1/3 cup walnuts
1/3 cup Nutella
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons tehina
cocoa powder for dusting
Chop up the mixed dried fruits in a food processor, or by hand. Chop up the walnuts. Put in a small bowl, add the nutella, cocoa powder and tehina.
Stir together and refrigerate for about an hour until firm. Roll into balls, using a teaspoon. Lightly dust with cocoa powder. Keeps refrigerated for about 4 days.
Makes about 10 balls.