October 29, 2013

As cheesy as the word "foodie" is, I am not ashamed to say that I am one. Spending my weekend seeing the best in cooking, food and entertaining is my idea of a good time. The Delicious Food Show was presented by Food Network Canada at the Better Living Centre in Toronto, Ontario and my inner foodie was definitely satisfied. In fact, I think I am more of an outward foodie--hopefully not an obnoxious one. I will subtly suggest recipes or restaurants, but I won't jam my opinions down your throat. I like learning about different types of food, preparations and cuisines and listening to people talk about their creations.

I arrived on Sunday--the last day of the show--and followed the pink carpet along to the food. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend on Friday when Martha Stewart was presenting. Queen Martha opened the show with a cooking demonstration and book signing. Other celebrities in attendance throughout the weekend included Lynn Crawford, Chuck Hughes and Mark McEwan.

See that word on the poster? I like that word. If I'm going to a food show I will spend money on products I like and will inquire about how to buy them. I want to try a lot of things too. I especially like if these things are perhaps low cost or even better, free. President's Choice Black Label by far had one of the best freebies of the day:

They were dishing out a piece of pizza, mixed greens and a bottle of their Lambrusco Grape vinegar. The lamb Garam Masala pizza was almost like a naan flatbread pizza. It wasn't too spicy with curry taste or overpowering with the lamb. As a free sample, this was a refreshing start to the show. 

When someone asks you, "freshly shaved meat?" you stop everything and say yes. A quick note on free samples: there is enough for everyone. You paid to get into the food show. There is plenty to go around, so no need to be pushy. Enjoy the food, ask questions and savour those samples; it's not a race. 

There were great deals on products and even better deals because it was the last day of the show. As much as I like going to markets, I was happy to hear a lot of the products are available in major grocery stores. That means I think, that local small businesses, artisans and farmers are making their way successfully into more people's shopping carts. 

I took a few trips down the cheese line during my time at the show. The cheeses showcased were the 2013 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix Winners. My favourites were this smoked cheddar from Cow's Creamery in P.E.I, the 5 year aged cheddar from Black River Cheese Company and the firm cheese from Gunn's Hill Five Brothers, which I found out is made a few towns over from where I live. I only usually buy fancy cheeses at Christmas, so at least now I know which ones to buy. 

When you get a bad cheese sample--not saying any of the cheeses were bad--it is a little off-putting. Case in point, I'm not a fan of eating a spoonful of ricotta or marscapone cheese by itself. I would compare it to eating mayonnaise by itself out of the jar. A nice piece of brie, cheddar or gouda on a toothpick is perfection. Some of the others needed a baguette or cracker to accompany their sampling. Thankfully there were options for drinks to wash down the cheeses. There was beer, different samples of Sodastream creations and a mini tour of Ontario wine country with six different samples. 

When I asked someone before I arrived what I should try, they told me the kale chips. Be Nourished was a popular booth with their naturally flavoured kale chips, such as sour cream and onion. They are vegan, raw and preservative free. I need to buy a dehydrator and start making my own although I don't know how they make theirs taste so good. 

Green and Black's had samples of many of their flavours of organic, ethical chocolate and they weren't even selling actual chocolate bars at the show. They were purely giving out samples so people could try the chocolate and have as much as they wanted. The burnt toffee and crispy milk were my favourites and I enjoyed the delicate, not to strong flavours. 

We stopped for a quick coffee break from my fantasy food truck. I call it my fantasy food truck because I want a truck like that or maybe live under a cozy vintage metal roof someday. A nice espresso maker is a good trailer appliance too, I think. Nice cappuccino designs always warm my heart: 

The original Manual Labour Coffee truck that I saw in Niagara-on-the-Lake earlier this year was sold and is now being run by Detour Coffee. The vibe and the good coffee is still similar (the baristas maybe have a few more tattoos). 

Then I dreamed of all the fancy food products I would someday own, such as an outdoor pizza oven. Outdoor Pizza Ovens had all the setups and advice for building your own backyard masterpiece. If you're looking for something a little on the smaller side with a size best for an apartment or balcony, this is an Uuni. It uses wood pellets, which are more convenient and makes the pizza maker a somewhat portable size. Just think the next time you have a backyard party: "Hold on a second guys, I just have to get my pizza oven out." 

My eye is always drawn to macarons, especially macarons on mini decorative chairs. Petite and Sweet had a gorgeous dessert table with macarons, cupcakes, cake pops and their signature chic style. They are a Toronto-based event and lifestyle boutique specializing in sweet tables and they also have a gorgeous storefront. 

I was perusing the macarons and looked up and it was Elle from Food Network Canada's Sugar Stars! The staff at the boutique also have their own show about their day-to-day operations and the sometimes hilarious antics that occur planning high-end events. She gave me some great tips for designing and creating sweet tables, which will come in handy in a few weeks when I design a dessert table for my friend's wedding. Elle was so nice and knowledgable; I only wish I could have met Caspar and Antonella too! 

Some of my favourite food trucks were also set up inside. Buster's Sea Cove had their famous lobster rolls, fish tacks and shrimp po boys. I was so full from samples by the time it was late afternoon that I wasn't even hungry for an entire meal. I have heard from many sources that I need to try this lobster roll.

HotBunzz had "dinner in a bun" snacks that looked neat. They are a popular vendor at the regular Toronto Underground Market. You know how much I like mini things--and carbs. I would have been down for one of these if I hadn't eaten all that free cheese. I have nothing against eating a turkey dinner in bun form. 

I had to stop by Happy Planet to sample their feel-good soups. They graciously provided tickets to the show for me and a lucky reader, as well as coupons for some of their products. Happy Planet is based out of British Columbia and have packaged soups that are good-for-you in neat flavours, such as Mushroom and Marscapone, Moroccan Chickpea and Sweetcorn and Red Pepper.

Their flavours are inspired by local ingredients, as well as international flavours. At the show they were sampling Carrot and Ginger and Tuscan Tomato. Thank you Happy Planet and to Butter PR as well for the arrangements. 

The last event of the weekend was Abbey's Kitchen Stadium. Abbey is a Toronto food blogger and dietician who has organized Iron Chef type events for a good cause to showcase Toronto chefs, restaurants and drinks for her charity My Food My Way. Mattt Basile (Fidel Gastros), Dustin Gallagher (Acadia), Rodney Bowers (Hey Meatball) and Bruce woods (Woods Restaurant) were the finalists from previous events and were invited to compete at the food show for the final round.

The judges were from left, Food Network Host David Rocco, Global TV News Anchor Leslie Roberts, Cookbook Author Christine Cushing, Chef Susur Lee and a hungry Toronto Argonauts football player. The chefs were challenged to make dishes with the secret ingredient, Steamwhistle Beer, and then spectators could buy tickets to taste the dishes along with the judges. Then it was time to go home with my bag full of goodies and leave food lovers heaven and go back to real life. I had a great time at the show. In terms of food shows, this one had a lot of variety, samples and a lot happening. Just goes to show there is so much happening in the Ontario food scene right now and that is good to know.
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October 22, 2013

There are the things your friends won't let you live down. You know, those moments that always come up in reminiscing, like "remember the time you (not-appropriate-to-post-on-a-blog)? That was awesome!" Then there are the things your parents won't let you live down. You know those things... 

Pumpkin Custard Parfaits

A few Thanksgivings ago, I made a Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle for dinner with family and now my Mom won't let me live it down. Not that it was bad. Oh no, it was damn good, but now ever since then we have to have Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle for every holiday dessert. I can't make anything else. It really was so good that my parents won't let me live it down:

Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle

The base is a gingerbread cake crumbled into pieces. The pumpkin mixture is pumpkin, whipping cream, gelatin and brown sugar. Then the trifle is layered with gingerbread cake, pumpkin cream and whipping cream. We English know how to make good trifles. I'll let you in on an English secret though; it's called Bird's Custard Powder. The trifle above does not use custard and instead has a pumpkin mixture; however, the new recipe I tried last week to keep my pumpkin fix going is so much easier with a little Bird's.

Bird's Custard Powder

Pumpkin Custard Graham Cracker Parfaits (adapted from this recipe)
Pumpkin Custard:

2 cups milk
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
2 tbsp Bird's custard powder
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon, ginger, allspice

Pumpkin Custard Parfaits


Whip 1 cup whipping cream with 2 tbsp of sugar until it forms peaks or use canned whipped cream. You can also use crushed shortbread cookies instead of the graham cracker crumbs. Layer the graham cracker crumbs, pumpkin custard and cream into jars or a glass trifle bowl. I usually like custard warm, but these are best served cold so the cream and custard layer nicely and don't melt together.

Orange Cauliflower

We always get sent home with leftovers, including turkey and sometimes trifle. I discovered something at the grocery store that is apparently also a Canadian discovery: orange cauliflower. This was something interesting to have with leftover turkey instead of potatoes. This dish is also based on the Cauliflower Cheese that my Mom makes that I love. The orange variety is also known as "cheddar cauliflower" because of it's colour, so you pretty much have to have it with cheese. Also, the orange variety also has more vitamin A than regular cauliflower. 

Cauliflower Mushroom Casserole

Cauliflower Mushroom Casserole (adapted from this recipe):

1 cauliflower, trimmed and cored into flourets
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3-4 mushrooms
1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
3 tbsp greek yoghurt (I substituted 1 tbsp of cream cheese and 2 tbsp of milk)
Salt and pepper to taste and handful of panko bread crumbs to top

Cauliflower Mushroom Casserole


1. Steam the cauliflower in a small pot until soft. You can also roast the cauliflower in the oven on a baking sheet brushed with olive oil for a slightly more caramelized taste.
2. In a saucepan, add olive oil and add the onions, garlic and mushrooms. Add seasoning and cook until slightly browned.
3. In a small bowl, combine the greek yoghurt and 1/4 cup cheese.
4. In a baking dish, add the vegetables and cheese mixture. Top with the remaining cheese and sprinkle with panko breadcrumbs. Bake for 30 minutes at 350F. 

Cauliflower Mushroom Casserole

Speaking of vegetables and comfort food, Happy Planet just launched four new soups and a refreshed line of smoothies and they want to celebrate by sending two lucky people to the Delicious Food Show in Toronto this weekend. The show runs Oct. 25-27 2013 at the Better Living Centre.


Happy Planet is helping me give a lucky person two FREE tickets (value $40) for one day admission to the Delicious Food show, as well as $60 worth of Happy Planet coupons (a total $100 value for both). The tickets are good for admission on either Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Special guests Martha Stewart, Lynn Crawford, Michael Smith, Mark McEwan and more celebrties will be there and of course, there will be a lot of good food. I will randomly select a winner, announce the lucky person and contact them before this Thursday, October 24 at 11:59 pm.

How to enter: 
1. Leave a comment below telling me what dishes you enjoyed this past Thanksgiving.
2. Follow me on Twitter @LauraDFoodie and reply to me with the phrase ".@I want to win a pair of tickets to the @deliciousshow this weekend! http://tinyurl.com/o7jycv6 #DFS13" or just say that you would like to go to the show this weekend.
3. Comment on this post on Google+
Good luck and see you there!
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October 07, 2013

How many people does it take to preserve enough food for winter? In this case, it was three people and a heck of a lot of canning. On the weekend, my mother-in-law-to-be had us help with her fall canning. We got to the house and I asked what we were making and she said "about three or four recipes." Three or four recipes?! When I make preserves, I usually make a maximum of 12 jars of one recipe. It is usually a serious process and you have to be committed to spending the afternoon canning. The thing was though, it is much easier in numbers. When you have a group of people you can each have tasks and it makes the afternoon fly by in a flash. Plus, you end up with tons of jars of different recipes. This many jars:

We started with some ingredients from the local market and the garden, as well as leftover ingredients from the last CSA box of the year. We only have one stove, so we had to plan out what recipes would cook and process in the canner and at what time. The only problem with canning so many beets is there is so much beet juice, and it gets everywhere. You are best handling them with some gloves or a kitchen that does not have any white surfaces.

We began canning around 2 pm and finished around 6 or 7 pm. While the beets were processing, we started on the chutneys and made three different chutney recipes: mango, rhubarb ginger, and apple, mint and tomato. Most chutneys have similar base ingredients, including vinegar, sugar, onions, raisins and a mix of spices.

We were put to work chopping, dicing, mixing and measuring. I also learned that food processors can really cut down on the amount of prep work. Instead of chopping everything by hand, we pulsed the onions, apples and even the tomatoes just a little bit, so they were ready to add to the mixtures. It got slightly chaotic when all three chutneys were set up on the stove and all three people were adding different ingredients to each. Case in point, keep track of what you have done and what you still need to do and let everyone know. 

Dividing the work makes the process so much easier. It makes so much sense to spend an afternoon canning and make enough jars to give as all your holiday and hostess gifts than to do separate, short canning sessions by yourself. I think the idea of a canning party is in my near future if I find enough interested participants. You then get to take home half--or a third--of whatever you make!

A few tips on canning: do not substitute ingredients or guess with measurements. Just like baking, canning is an exact science and not abiding by the rules means you might not preserve something safely or properly. Make sure your recipe comes from a credible source and is safe in that you know it will preserve well with the right ratio of acid and sugar and not spoil.

I have made mango chutney before and it's always a hit. With canning your own food you also know exactly what goes into it, literally. You chop, mix and see everything that is going into that jar. The recipes require quite a lot of sugar and vinegar, so I'm not saying they are completely healthy; however, it's not like you're going to eat it out of the jar with a spoon. These are condiments to savour and enjoy in small doses. We used recipes from a few classic cookbooks: Fancy Pantry by Helen Witty, Elizabeth Baird's Favourites (150 Classic Canadian Recipes) and a Bernardin Guide to Home Preserving. In this case, we relied on the classics and they did not fail us. 

You need something to keep you going through all of that work. Also, with all of those ingredients from canning, there may be some leftover. In that case, make hearty fruit and vegetables muffins. Yes, they also have carrots in them, as well as apple, cranberries and walnuts. It's like Thanksgiving in muffin form and they make a great vitamin-packed mid-morning snack. 

Apple, Cranberry and Carrot Muffins (makes approx. 18 muffins)

2 cups peeled and diced apples
1 cup white sugar
1 cup cranberries (I used frozen)
1 cup shredded carrot
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup canola oil


1. Preheat oven to 375F. Grease or line a muffin pan.
2. In a large bowl, mix apples, cranberries, carrot, walnuts and sugar. Mix together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and then add to the wet mixture. Stir in eggs and oil.
3. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. 

Now I have a cupboard full of different chutneys, pickles, jams and salsas. I don't know if I could last the whole winter with my stash, but I can certainly last through the holiday party season and until the next afternoon of working, having fun and enjoying food with the family. 
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October 04, 2013

I used to get so embarrassed when my parents would also dress up in costume when they took me Trick or Treating. None of the other parents dressed up except mine. Now I realize it's because Halloween is so damn fun! Even when you're an adult, you can still have candy, costumes and much more. And I know years down the road I will also be the enthusiastic parent that gets excited about going out for Halloween. What's not exciting about Halloween?

It's not all tacky and spooky things. There is the possibility to add a little style to a Halloween celebration. Orange is the new black, after all. If the traditional spooky and gory scene is for you then go for it. There are other options though, like these garlands of polka dots within polka dots.
Polka Dot Garlands, Etsy

Then there is the other option for decorating pumpkins. I saw this idea last year in Chatelaine Magazine and the rest of the D.I.Y world caught on because painted pumpkins are everywhere now. Instead of a cheesy, toothy grin carved into your pumpkin, painting it or dipping it in paint could be fun.
Painted pumpkins by Cue the Confetti

I found out about these on a deals site because they are on super sale right now. They are only $5 for a decorated gourmet cookie greeting card with free shipping. This is way better than those old-school candygrams and it comes in a cute gift box.
Cookie Cards, Cheryl's Cookie Cards

So, you know all of that sugary Halloween candy you have lying around? Why not make more sugary treats and put the candy on top. I sometimes get sucked into the never-ending cycle of making baked goods to use up halloween candy and then needing more candy to decorate more baked goods.
Malted Pumpkin Sixlets Donuts, We are not Martha

You know there had to be something with a mason jar on here. Mix together colourful candy and snack food and label them in jars for each guest. I have already had a head start on candy snacking...
Spooky Snack Mix, My Own Ideas.com
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October 01, 2013

Remember the children's book Something from Nothing? In the book, Joseph's grandfather makes him a blanket. Then the blanket becomes too worn and his mother says it should be thrown away, but Joseph's grandfather says he has just enough material to make a jacket. Then as Joseph grows up, the jacket turns into a vest, a tie and then a handkerchief. Eventually, he thinks he has nothing; however, he ends up with a story to share with everyone. The book is actually based on a Jewish folk tale that shows you can always make "something out of nothing." 


Last weekend, I came across a headboard on the side of the road that did not look like much. I dragged it down the street and into my house and decided to add some new life to it. Actually, it didn't take too much effort at all. I bought some paint and didn't even have to sand or prime the board that much. 

After three or four coats of furniture paint, it looked brand new. The dated, crackled white and flower design was gone and replaced with a new headboard to match our teal, grey and yellow colour scheme. I had a discussion over the weekend that you're officially an adult when you have a real grownup headboard for your bed. You no longer have a single bed that is slightly uncomfortable with ugly flower sheets and thick wool blankets. You have a real bed with a headboard, bed skirt and even two sets of matching sheets. That real bed also has a bed frame and is not just a mattress on the floor. 

I didn't buy the headboard, but I did re-purpose it. Does that count? I took something that was nothing to someone and made it something for me. And all for less than $30, which was much less than what I was thinking of paying for a new wooden headboard.

I feel that way about home sometimes. You take little things or things that don't seem like much and make them into something meaningful. I have lived in some interesting places in my time (I'm talking about student accommodations) and you really have to stretch your imagination to make things cozy sometimes. There are things I bring with me to every place and there are the things from these places that grow on me. I haven't had the chance to grow my own garden yet. I think that's another milestone of adult life; that moment you have a garden and a place to grow. I have friends with gardens and received a gigantic zucchini awhile back. The neat thing about canning is you take one thing--or a few things--and make it into something you can keep for awhile. 

zucchini relish

This zucchini relish is colourful, tangy and a little bit spicy. You can make so many different things with this versatile green vegetable, including relish, pickles, salsa and when you have some leftover, zucchini bread.

Zucchini Relish (from "Canning: Better Homes and Gardens")
Makes 5 half-pints

5 cups chopped zucchini
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped green sweet pepper
3/4 cup chopped red sweet pepper
1/4 cup pickling salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp celery seeds
1 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp mustard seeds


1. In a large bowl or pot combine zucchini, onions and peppers. Sprinkle with the salt and toss to coat.
2. Add enough water to cover the vegetables and allow to stand at room temperature for 3 hours.
3. Transfer the vegetable mixture to a colander in the sink and rinse with cold water and then drain.
4. In an 8-10 quart pot, combine the sugar, vinegar, 1/4 cup of water and spices. Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar dissolves. Then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 3 minutes.
5. Add the vegetable mixture and return to boiling. Simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Zucchini relish brine
6. Ladle the hot relish into sterilized jars, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace.
7. Process filled jars in a canner for 10 minutes.
8. Remove jars from the canner and let cool. 
zucchini relish

Canning is also a great money saver and lets you preserve bounties of food for years. Plus, it's a piece of home, whether it's something you picked from your garden or something you found at your local market, you always know it means something. Joseph would not be disappointed. 
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