Berries and Cream Tartlets

I have been slacking – I made these tartlets about a week ago for national pie day. Mini pies are more convenient for transport and sharing. This is from a Martha Stewart recipe.

1. Not as beautiful as Martha Stewart’s by any means. This is featured in the Martha Stewart Pies cookbook and in the book there are a variety of diagrams illustrating fruit placement and arrangement. I would love to be able to arrange these berries in tight, little circles or fanned out but frankly, I don’t have the time or the patience.

2. I need to invest in tart tins. I used a muffin pan instead of the suggested 3″-4″ tart tins. Smaller, tighter but more custard filling.

3. This is the first Martha recipe I have made that doesn’t result in more than suggested. The crust only made 22 tart shells and the custard only filled 20 of those. That’s ok but just something to keep in mind.

4. Next time, I would only use blueberries and raspberries. And I think it would be best to make these in August and use fresh berries which would be smaller and tastier.

Anything with custard and berries is going to be delicious.

Brie & Apple Tart

Round II – Cooking at home. I made Martha Stewart’s Brie & Apple Tart from her Pies & Tarts cookbook. This tart is easy to make and delicious too!

1. I bought three spring form pans from Kitchen Stuff Plus for $14.99 – amazing! I know this has very little to do with the recipe and the process of making it but I got very excited and I feel like I need to tell as many people as possible about this deal so they can take advantage of it.

2. This was the first pie crust I ever made! I think this is a major step for me in my baking career. The reason I have never made a proper pie is because my mom makes the best pies ever and I really can’t compete with them so I don’t bother. But I think that might change now. One issue I had with my crust was I didn’t make it high enough so there was a slight egg/cream explosion which luckily happened on a baking sheet.

3. This tart is creamy, fluffy and light but watch out. You will think you can eat more than you probably should and then your belly will be full of dairy goodness. Cream + brie +  milk = yes, please. It might have been particularly creamy because I put 1 cup of cream instead of a 1/2 cup – what can you do? Besides go to the gym… The crust is salty, and flaky and the perfect base for this tart. And the apple! Perfectly browned in the pan first and then placed in the tart. I think next time I might do a twist on this recipe and brown the apples in some brown sugar and cinnamon. How good would that be? Obviously you would omit the thyme.

4. The thyme perfectly complicated the egg, cheese and cream and gave it such a rich, French-inspired taste. I was happy to eat it in my fun, yellow kitchen.

I would make this again. And maybe try not to eat half of it in one sitting..

Recipe below.

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Greek Tacos

On Saturday, I made Greek tacos from Food Network’s Sandwich King for lunch. Just a little bit about this show – Sandwich King is a new show hosted by Jeff Mauro, who won Season 7 of “Food Network Star.” When I first saw this show, I wasn’t a fan. Mauro reminded me of a frat boy and everything he said seemed to resemble, “Dude, bro. Let me make you a sandwich.” (There is a voice that accompanies that sentence and some hand gestures as well). But the more episodes I watched, the more I liked it. The show is more than just sandwiches – he goes to restaurants, delis and bakeries in Chicago, teaches you about high quality ingredients, historic Chicago restos and the dishes that inspire his sandwiches.

I was watching an episode on Friday at lunch and he did his own take on traditional Greek gyros. Obviously we can’t have gyro spits in our kitchens but that shouldn’t stop us from having gyros at home.

Three simple steps to make a delicious sandwich/pita/gyro/taco.

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Pain Perdu

We decided to keep it low key this weekend and by low key I mean we weren’t going out for food constantly. We are trying to be fiscally responsible and healthy by cooking more at home and going out for food on special occasions. Next weekend we are going out for Winterlicious so this seemed like a good time to start all of this.

Now that being said, we went out for breakfast on Saturday. Fail. We had to go the grocery store to pick up stuff to make lunch (more on that later!) and this was quick – Pain Perdu for croissants.

Now this is actually a GC discovery/suggestion. He first took me here in the summer and we got croissants, lattes and a piece of quiche and had a charming picnic in a roundabout’s parkette. How very French of us.

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Nanaimo Bars

I had been craving Nanaimo bars since Christmas time – I baked all the cookies and my mom baked all the squares. The only squares she didn’t get to baking was Nanaimo bars. Boo.

If you haven’t had a Nanaimo bar then you clearly aren’t Canadian. If you are legitimately Canadian and by some chance you haven’t had a Nanaimo bar, I apologize for doubting your Canadian-ness. On the website for the city of Nanaimo, British Columbia there is even a button saying, “Looking for Nanaimo Bars?

I didn’t take any pictures of my bars because I cut them really badly and they didn’t look like the most appetizing things. Nanaimo bars are my favourite dessert and sometimes the store bought ones just don’t suffice. The main difference between homemade and store bought Nanaimo bars is the creamy custard layer. And the cookie chocolate layer. Those are two pretty big differences… Opt for the homemade thing. They are easy to make and they can be made on the stove – no need to turn on the oven! Which is perfect for making these bars for Canada Day!

See the official Nanaimo bar recipe below!

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Winterlicious 2012

Winterlicious reservations start today! To help you make your decisions, Toronto Life has compiled a list based on neighbourhoods of what they deem to be the best choices this licious-season. Winterlicious runs between January 27 to February 9 with lunch and dinner menus that offer a three course meal,  ranging in cost between $15-45. This is the perfect opportunity to visit some of the city’s best restaurants for a very minimal cost.

In past years, GC and I have gone to Canoe, North 44, Archeo and Prime. All delicious and I would recommend them all.

Good luck with your reservations and good eating!

Creamy Lemon Squares

I was staring at the the fridge the other day trying to find something to eat. Our fridge has been full of leftovers since Christmas and now there is a ham bone in a plastic bag, some cheese spreads and a carton of eggs. Ok, this is an exaggeration but when you are starving it feels like that sometimes. In my quest for a breakfast food, I was looking at the freezer door and saw the recipe for Anna Olson’s Creamy Lemon squares that I have seen every day for the past year or so and decided that I would make them when I got home from work that day. This was Monday.

1. These squares are traditional lemon squares meet cheesecake and the results are creamy, light and fluffy. I slightly overloaded these with icing sugar and just for future reference, only put the icing sugar on the squares right before eating.

2. I don’t have a food processor so I had to use my hand mixer to mix the rock hard butter, sugar and flour. Type: if you don’t have a food processor, don’t use hard butter, use room temperature butter.

3. I got anxious and excited and couldn’t wait the suggested 3 hours chill time and cut them after half an hour. That was too soon. It was hard to cut these because they were so tall and fluffy because they hadn’t firmed up. It might also help to use a larger pan – the recipe calls for an 8″ square pan to be used but I think if you used a larger pan there would be more squares (bonus!), they would be shorter and therefore easier to cut. Is there a pan between 8″ and 9″x13″? There must be.

I would suggest everyone makes and then eats them immediately. Or more accurately, wait the three hours the recipe tells you to.

See the recipe below the cut!

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The Ballroom Bowl

On January 8, GC and I went to The Ballroom Bowl – a bowling alley located in downtown Toronto at the corner Richmond and John St.

Now if you are wondering why we go to places that would clearly be more entertaining and lively in the evening it’s because GC works in the evenings on the weekends. The only time we have is weekend mornings/early afternoons. It’s hard but I think it encourages us to get out there and do things, rather then being complacent and boring at home.

Be warned – this place is hip and therefore, expensive. The cheapest you can get a half hour of bowling for is $17.50 and it only gets more expensive. Since you are paying for the lane and you go with a group of people (up to six per lane) at the peak hours it would be a little more than $10/person/hour which isn’t bad.

When you walk into The Ballroom it has a very dark feel, more like a lounge rather than a bowling alley. Dark hardwood floors, deep leather couches, long bars and big screens with all types of sports games projected on them. At each alley they have every size ball in the return which is great because I, like most people I am assuming, have no idea how to correctly pick out a bowling ball. I used a beautiful blue ball that was marked a six – is that the weight? Finger hole size? And my bowling shoes were brown and blue. I would legitimately wear them outside the bowling alley if I could. In the hour of time we bought, we played 3.5 games. There was two mechanical hiccups but they quickly moved us to an alternative lane.

Food. We ordered the Popcorn Chicken Poutine – crispy chicken bits, gravy and cheese curds. Delicious.We found out from the manager that everything is fried in canola oil and all the meat is butchered on site. This means they can guarantee the quality and freshness of the food but also, for those of us afflicted with allergies, that there is no cross contamination. Safe eating for the win! Back to the poutine. The chicken was nicely seasoned and crispy, the gravy wasn’t too fatty or greasy, just the perfect compliment to the crispy chicken and fries. And the cheese. Not squeaky cheese curds like you will find on true Quebecois poutine but stringy and cheesy so almost as good! The fries were really crispy which was great because they didn’t fall victim to the gravy. They have five different types of poutine, all around $10 and I would like to try them all. Now. Please.

The food is what would bring me back here. Although I enjoyed the hipster meets wall street feel of this place, I think I almost prefer the dirt of typical bowling alleys. It keeps the focus on the bowling rather than the drinking and eating which distracts from the bowling. When the bowling is by the hour it kind of makes me feel anxious and as if I am racing the clock to get a strike. The good thing is, there is a lounge on the second floor where you can order food, beer and watch the game. Next time I would like to try the signature Ballroom poutine or maybe the Nathan’s Famous mini corndogs.

Snakes & Lattes

On January 7 we went for coffee and sandwiches at Snakes & Lattes in Koreatown.

Snakes and Lattes is a pretty straight forward concept – a coffee house that has every board game you could ever imagine. You can go in for just a coffee or you can go in a play games. When you order your coffee, they start a tab for you to which they will add your game playing fee – $5/person for unlimited game play. This is a pretty great deal. $5 for unlimited time and unlimited game choices. If you go first thing in the morning, you can stay from 11AM until 2AM – 15 hours of game play!

The first time I tried to go to Snakes and Lattes was in the summer on a Friday or Saturday night and it was pack. Understandably so – this place is a hipster’s mecca. Booze, coffee and Settlers of Catan – what more can one ask for? GC and I decided that it would be best to go first thing in the morning in order to avoid hipsters – they are like gremlins, they avoid the sunlight. We ordered two lattes and a prosciutto and brie sandwich without the lettuce – GC was very offended that someone would dare put lettuce on prosciutto. The lattes were delicious and were decorated beautifully with latte art. The sandwich was on a crusty bun that was soft in the middle topped with good quality prosciutto – you can tell it is good quality when there is actual flavour besides salt and the prosciutto is not stringy.

We stayed for about an hour and a half and played two versions of Blokus: Blokus 3D and Blokus Trigon. I also just discovered that there is a Blokus app for the iPhone while on their website – so excited to have this game always in my pocket! It’s a $0.99 download and needs to be done over WiFi FYI. We opted to to play different versions of Blokus instead of learning how to play a new game for the sake of time. Next time, I want to try Cards Against Humanity. You can also buy games here which is great because it is hard to find obscure games any time other than the holidays. I will have to remember this if I ever plan my own board game night.

I am in love with this place and I am looking forward to going again with a larger group of people and playing something with strategy that will possibly lead to heated discussion and arguments – Risk? Monopoly? The real question is – whose house rules come into play?