April 28, 2014

Ottawa

House hunter, house hunter, find me a match, the perfect one for me, like on T.V...Finding the right place is hard, especially when you are moving about 700 km away to a new city. After living in London, Ontario for so long, it is finally time to move on to something--and somewhere--bigger and better. That place is Ottawa, Ontario. 

Last weekend I was able to answer one of those hypothetical questions you always ask yourself when watching house hunting shows: would you rather have a nice, big house with a yard that is far out of town or compact, downtown digs right in the middle of the action? I have to say, I surprised myself. After a jam-packed weekend of house hunting, we picked a nice townhouse in Centretown smack dab in the middle of downtown and I am ecstatic. When you're visiting a city to scope it out, you also have to scope out the neighbourhood food options. Seeing apartments, houses and everything in between works up an appetite. 

Union 613 Ottawa

On Friday night, we ate at the somewhat obscure, but cozy Oz Kafe that had some of the best service I have experienced in a long time. After a 6 hour drive, we enjoyed a nice late night bite of D.I.Y tofu mushroom lettuce wraps and edamame tossed in sea salt and butter. I could see myself sitting here for hours with the dim lights, trendy beats and sweet sangria--which is exactly what we did.  

The next night, the destination of choice was Union 613 where we feasted on a Southern-style meal in the hippest, and hipster-ist, place I have ever been to, and I have been to Portland. Picture a place where the menus are made of burlap, the drinks are served in mason jars and all of the tables are large and communal. It is the optimal place to sip on a craft beer, take an Instagram of your meal and chow down on delicacies such as hog jowl and pig ear salad. After a complimentary bowl of boiled peanuts (surprisingly tasty), I ordered the Louisana Catfish with roasted broccoli and garlic crumbs. Mike had the beef flank steak with a heavenly cornbread soaked in bourbon brown butter. The food was served on a tray with a piece of wax paper. It's like I should think this place is pretentious and overdone, yet I still loved everything about it. So far, I like what this city has to offer. 

Rustic wedding sign

I am making it sound like it was a relaxing weekend when nothing could be further from the truth. After looking at 5 possible future homes, we drove back to London and had enough time to finish some wedding projects and make Easter dinner. So what does all this have to do with Jamie Oliver? That man makes a mean roast potato. His Christmas special has been taped on my parent's PVR for years and I needed something to elevate the huge bag of mini potatoes I bought for Easter dinner. 



These potatoes are a mix between smashed, mashed and roasted. They are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside and will satisfy even the most devoted mashed potato lover such as myself. First, wash the potatoes in the cold water and then place them in a pot of salted water to boil. Boil for about 6-7 minutes, drain and let air dry for a few minutes. Tip them into a pan and place them in the oven at 375F with a touch of olive oil for about 20 minutes. I also like to keep the potato peels on for a bit of extra crunch.  

Jamie Oliver's perfect roast potato

In the video, Jamie says you can use olive oil, butter or goose fat for the main fat. I chose the "healthier" option with olive oil. Next time I might try butter for a richer flavour. I am glad I had some wonderful infused olive oil straight from Florida that I received as a gift. Having good ingredients also helps to make a solid side dish. The ingredients are self explanatory. The fun comes in mixing up which combinations of fat, herbs and seasonings.

Infused olive oil

With the olive oil, Jamie used rosemary and garlic; for the goose fat, he used thyme and garlic; and with the butter, he used sage and clementine zest. I added the olive oil, herbs, garlic and a dash of vinegar to a small bowl and mixed it together with my hands. 

Olive oil and garlic

The vital step is to take the potatoes out after about 20 minutes and slightly mash them with a potato masher. Just press down on the potatoes ever so gently and don't completely mash them. Then drizzle the seasonings and oil over the top and mix everything together. Put the potatoes back in the oven for about 40 minutes.


I loved the texture of these potatoes and the delicate mixture between crispy, light and fluffy. The garlic roasted perfectly well with no mushy pieces. Like Jamie says, you can never make too many potatoes; they will always get eaten. I think it would be neat to make three dishes with the three different flavours and have people choose their favourite. 

Roast Potato 
A hearty meal that reminds me of home always works to settle my stress. It's also nice to have a sense of normalcy before packing all of your things in boxes, moving to a strange place and settling into a new chapter.
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April 16, 2014

The last time I posted about gift items it was Christmas time. Now, Easter is approaching and the beginning of the "holiday every month" season. Think about it: Easter, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Civic Holiday and Labour Day. We might miss out on June, but by that time summer is already in full relaxing mode. Holidays mean a time to send gifts and if you're like me then most of your gifts--and pretty much my whole life--revolve around food.

I also like fashion and accessories. And if those accessories happen to be food-related or even smell like food then I am definitely interested. Yes, they smell like food. These necklaces from Tiny Hands are shaped like adorable desserts and they also smell like the dessert they resemble. Amy Poehler recently wore the Butter and Maple Syrup Waffle necklace on an episode of Parks and Recreation and she's someone I would like to emulate.

Scented Raspberry French Macaron necklace, $28

Cotton candy has never been my favourite treat; however, stick it in mini mason jars in gourmet flavours and I might give it a go. The candy is also vegan, gluten-free and all natural and comes in flavours such as lychee, caramel and mango. These are no tacky carnival treats. I would definitely consider Fluffpop as a viable, stylish wedding favour option.

Fluffpop gourmet cotton candy
Fluffpop mini mason box of 6, $24

I like to toot the Canuck horn once in awhile and this needs to be shared far and wide across the nation. Fiasco Gelato sells artisan gelato in mason jars and is available for delivery and pick-up in Toronto, Victoria, Edmonton and Vancouver. All of the gelato is made from fresh, local ingredients and the flavours are insane. The Easter collection includes Mini Egg, Lavender Vanilla Bean, Carrot Cake and Cream Cheese and Strawberry Lemonade flavours. These would be eaten in two seconds at my next picnic or camping trip.

Fiasco Gelato easter collection
Fiasco Gelato Easter Collection 4-pack, $32

For something on the lighter and more practical side, there is oatmeal. This is no ordinary oatmeal though; this is MY oatmeal. MyOatmeal.com lets you create a custom blend of oatmeal and then ships it to your door. You choose what kind of oats, flavours, fruits, nuts, seeds, sweeteners and whatever else you want. For less than $10 a month, you can also get oatmeal shipped monthly.

Myoatmeal.com
Myoatmeal.com, starts at $2.99 a bag

Don't say that I never gave you anything. Easter is a time for feasting, decorating and enjoying a much-needed long weekend. Now excuse me while I go eat all of my food out of mason jars...

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April 09, 2014

Mini Egg marshmallow squares

The strange thing about change is that it makes you so much more aware of your surroundings. For the last few months, I have slogged to work in the snow through my neighbourhood with the weight of a thousand groans. Now that the weather is nicer, things seem a little different and everyone's spirits are a little higher. And now that the big move is coming up soon, I am starting to think about what I will be missing. Just like things start to bloom in spring, it seems like everything is starting to come together.

The Bag Lady Variety Cafe

On the weekend, the weather was beautiful and it seemed like the whole city had forgotten that it had been cooped up inside for the past few months. We went for brunch at one of my favourite places in London: The Bag Lady. It is an adorable cafe full of vintage trinkets, coffee shop charm and homey food. It was so nice to sit and look out of a sunny window with a cappuccino and watch the world go by. Even though this place has existed for as long as I have been here, it seemed like one of those "why don't I do this more often?" feelings. There are things I won't miss at all and some things I will always treasure. When you have been somewhere for so long, you tend to get stuck in the everyday sights and routines that become somewhat ordinary. 

The Bag Lady Variety Cafe, London Ontario

Another thing about spring is that there is so much more colour. You can actually start to appreciate things, like wearing shoes instead of boots, walking outside instead of driving and having that little bit of extra light in the evenings. That burst of colour also shows up in springtime food. Last year for Easter, I made Peeps kebabs by putting Peeps and pieces of fruit on sticks in various patterns, as well as Peeps pavlovas. This year, I massacred some Peeps by melting them down to make Rice Krispies squares. Many Peeps were harmed in the making of these squares. They are a touch sweeter than normal Rice Krispies squares and end up turning a nice, pastel pink colour. 

Marshmallow Peeps

Melted Peeps

Peeps Rice Krispies Squares

2 1/2 cups Peeps Marshmallow candies (approximately 2 packages)
2 1/2 cups white marshmallows
6 cups Rice Krispies cereal
1/4 cup butter

Directions:

Lightly grease a 9x9 baking pan. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the Peeps and melt until some chunks of colour still remain. Add the mini marshmallows. Take the mixture off of the heat and add the Rice Krispies cereal. Press the mixture down with a spatula or your hands and let them cool before cutting into squares. 

Peeps Rice Krispies squares

The other squares I made are a combination of two recipes (Easter Chocolate Oat Squares and Confetti Bars) that I found and lie exactly in the middle between the two when it comes to their "healthy" status. This recipe is also fun because you get to smash the mini eggs into tiny bits. Place the Mini Eggs into a Ziploc bag and smash them with a rolling pin or hammer. It's almost as fun as melting down the Peeps. Yes, for some reason I enjoyed that--it's the little things. The squares are sticky, gooey and soft, so you may have to form them slightly into squares with your hands. I call them "upside down" squares because once you cut and take them out of the pan they actually look better presented upside down. 


Upside down Mini Egg marshmallow squares 

3/4 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup of Mini Eggs
2 cups marshmallows

Crushed Mini Eggs

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350F. In a stand mixer or bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, combine the oats, flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and then fold in the smashed Mini Eggs and marshmallows. Place the mixture into a greased baking pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the marshmallow has been slightly browned. Let cool in the fridge for about an hour before cutting into squares. 

Mini Egg Marshmallow Squares

To change also means to "transform" or "become something else." Maybe changing my surroundings will also change me or maybe I will be more appreciative of the things I have to now start over. I know at least that I grow with each passing season whether I'm standing still or constantly moving. Sometimes it feels like all of a sudden that everything is flipped upside down.
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