St. Patrick’s Day – 2013

St. Patrick’s Day is not my favourite holiday. I have nothing against the Irish, I am just not a fan of holidays centered around drinking (re: New Year’s Eve) despite the fact that I do like going out for a drink.  Confusing I know, I just find that these holidays tend to bring out people who are full of drama and can’t handle a drink. However, a few of my close friends have Irish backgrounds and they are all a good time so why not go out and celebrate with a few beers, and more importantly, a few themed cupcakes?

IMG_3439IMG_3446Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes: Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Whiskey Ganache Filling and Bailey’s Irish Cream Icing.

This recipe is courtesy of Brown Eyed Baker (BEB) and is from St. Patrick’s Day 2011. Here are some of my favourite things about this recipe:

1. The chocolate stout cake base is amazingly moist. It is moist, decedent and there is a subtle molasses taste from the stout. If you dislike stout, don’t let that deter you from making/tasting this cupcakes, you cannot taste the stout! I used Guinness, obviously. You only need one can of Guinness which is a plus if you don’t like Guinness.

2. BEB had this brilliant idea (I am crediting her with it, I don’t know if it is her original creation) to use a large piping tip to hollow out the cupcake. HOW HAD I NEVER THOUGH ABOUT THIS BEFORE?! This is easy but so ingenious! You need to hollow out the cupcake, remove the cake from the tip, and then hollow out the cupcake again to get a deep pot to pipe delicious ganache into. I only did this hollowing out step once which unfortunately resulted in not enough ganache.

IMG_34413. The ganache. Ganache is ridiculous, decadent and a heart attack in chocolate. The ganache piped into these cupcakes has a touch of whiskey in it. Again, if you don’t like whiskey don’t let that deter you from making/trying these cupcakes! There is only 2 teaspoons of whiskey so it just brings out the richness of the chocolate rather than adding any booziness.

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4. Now don’t worry, your booziness is coming from the Bailey’s icing. I don’t know why, but I had never really enjoyed Bailey’s until this St. Patrick’s Day and now I love it. In hot chocolate, over ice or in icing, I will take it. This icing is sweet but not in the way that hurts your teeth. It is creamy, rich, sweet and filled with that great Irish cream taste. BEB also has a recipe for homemade Irish cream and I’m incredibly tempted to make it – it uses condensed milk, how can I not make it?!

These cupcakes were a hit. I gave one to the bartender, a woman legitimately from Ireland, and some of her friends, also  from Ireland, as well as the owner of the pub. The fact that these made people legitimately from Ireland happy on St. Patrick’s Day is reason enough to try this recipe. This recipe is so good that my friend Cynthia has requested these cupcakes for her birthday in June. If you want to try these, you have about 2 months to become friends with Cynthia!

Recipe from Brown Eyed Baker below the cut and happy munching!

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Meals in Minutes – Easy Pizza Dough

Everyone should have a homemade pizza dough in their arsenal. The problem with that is, pizza dough typically takes too long to make. Who has time to wait for yeast to rise? Or more accurately, the foresight to predict tonight’s dinner cravings while eating breakfast? I like the idea of a recipe that at the spur of the moment I can make when the craving for pizza hits me. Luckily, Jamie Oliver has a recipe for that:

1 1/2 cups of self rising flour
1/2 cup of water
A lug of olive oil

Put the above ingredients in a bowl and mix until it comes together into a ball. Stretch the dough out onto a prepared baking sheet and top how you like your pizza.

Happy munching!

Meals in Minutes – Spinach & Feta Pie

IMG_3427Meals in Minutes – Spinach and Filo Pie

1. I would consider this more of a breakfast/brunch type pie but hey, breakfast for dinner is also a thing. It is the use of egg that makes this more of a brunch item than a dinner food. Next time I make this dish, I would serve it for brunch.

2. This is rich, dense and has a slight decadence to it, even though it is simple, fresh ingredients of eggs, spinach and cheese. It is the buttery quality of the filo pastry that elevates this from the blandness of an simple quiche to pillowy deliciousness fit for brunch. The use of lemon with the spinach brought back vivid memories of my visit to the southern coast of Italy in March 2006 and even though it was chilly, the scent of fresh lemons still filled the air in Sorrento.

3. I did not enjoy the use of cayenne pepper between the sheets of filo pastry. It add another level that created tastebud chaos rather than cohesion. The use of nutmeg (I used ground nutmeg rather than whole, it works just as well) added the little something extra that made the use of cayenne completely unnecessary and excessive.

4. I didn’t use pine nuts (obviously) and the dish was not remotely lacking! If you have a nut allergy or you just don’t like them, don’t worry! It will still be delicious!

A hint of spice, a hint of freshness, the perfect brunch pie for a March weekend just on the cusp of spring.

Recipe below the cut and happy munching!

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Meals in Minutes – Oozy Mushroom Risotto

IMG_3416Meals in Minutes – Oozy Mushroom Risotto

1. Risotto is one of those things I had resigned myself to only eating in restaurants. I was under the impression it was too complicated and time consuming for the average cook to make at home. When I saw it in this cookbook, I was overwhelmed and nervous but I thought to myself, “This is a new challenge and I should give it a shot. If It tastes terribly then I will never make it again.” Not even remotely the case.

2. Risotto, as it turns out, isn’t hard to make, it just takes patience and a lot of stirring. It is a fairly easy recipe to follow that will lead people to believe that you are more talented then you actually are! Sounds like the perfect recipe to me.

3. I love the rich, earthiness of this dish. From the various mushrooms, the broth and the thyme and rosemary it is extremely aromatic. The flavour is so deep and consuming, it just fills you with a warmth that spreads throughout your body. The mushrooms add a fleshy and meaty quality to the dish that replaces the need for actual meat.

4. This is the dish that caused GC’s grandmother, an 83 year old Italian woman to exclaim, “Fuck, where did you learn to cook like this?” If that’s not a good enough reason for you to try it, I won’t be able to find a reason for you.

Recipe is below the cut and happy munching!

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Meals in Minutes – Puttanesca

IMG_3418Meals in Minutes – Puttanesca

1. In Italian, Puttanesca literally means “whore’s style.’ Italian has an amazing way of making something dirty and crass sound exotic and beautiful. The pasta is called as such because it used a mixture of cheap, pantry items that anyone would have lying in their home.

2. I love how fishy (think whore’s style pasta…) this pasta is. The tuna and the anchovies are salty, but lean with subtle flavours that are highlighted by the fruitiness of the tomato and the olives.

3. This is a quick and easy pasta that if you love tuna you should give it a try.

Recipe below the cut, happy munching!

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Bent

A few weeks ago I went to Bent. I have been debating whether or not I should write about it because unfortunately, I got food poisoning for the first time. Food poisoning is terrible and I only had a very mild form which still left me in bed the next day. I didn’t want to talk about it because I don’t want to ruin Bent’s reputation because of the negative experience I had – not that I think I have the clout to do that. The servers were professional and the food was tasty but unfortunately, they did not deliver that night.

Outside of the food poisoning I had a few issues with Bent:

1. Bent is incredibly overpriced. It is a tapas-style restaurant which will always run a bit steep but unfortunately the portions were unsatisfying and small. Our server suggested that we only needed 2 plates each and this was an understatement. Ordering 4 tapas plates our bill, before tip, was almost $90.  I understand it was seafood but you are paying for the name (Susur Lee) and unfortunately it is not worth it.

2. The service was incredibly slow. Our server was knowledgable and friendly but it took forever to get our food. Tapas plates come out staggered but it should not take over 2 hours to eat a meal of this size, especially when the majority of the food is raw.

3. We ordered the Nigiri Tasting Plate, the Tuna & Watermelon ceviche, the Lobster tacos and the Duck Salad. My favourite was the nigiri tasting plate. The ceviche would have been good in theory but the chunks of tuna and watermelon were too large and did not interact with each other in every bite. I am convinced it is the ceviche that got me sick – I think the watermelon improperly cured the tuna and messed my system up..

At the end of the day, this was your typical Toronto pretentious dining experience – overpriced, low quality, and ultimately not worth it. If you choose to go, don’t get sick!

Sad munching…

Meals in Minutes – Summer Veg Lasagna

Meals in Minutes - Summer Veg Lasagna

Jamie Oliver’s Summer Veg Lasagna.

1. As a rule, I don’t trust vegetarian lasagna. Lasagna is supposed to have meat in it and anything without is a waste of time. But in order to be true and say I cooked my way through this cookbook (without sides and somewhat in order) I had to make this lasagna. And thank goodness I did – it was delicious! This veggie lasagna will change your mind about veggies lasagna.

2. I loved the combination of veggies – peas, asparagus and edamame. Make sure your edamame is shelled – he claims that you can put them in whole but that’s a blatant lie. The vegetables are so sweet, fresh, crisp and green – a total bite of summer. Lasagna is one of those heavy meals you often associate with a cold winter’s day, but this is a fun, summer spin on a classic.

3. The cottage cheese and cream make this lasagna ridiculously creamy and luscious. It adds the fatty content that is missing from the meat. Next time I would add mozzarella to the top of the lasagna, well, because, why not?

4. I used dry lasagna noodles, cooked them first and them assembled my casserole. The dry noodles worked just as well (I can imagine) as fresh pasta would and it’s slightly cheaper!

A lighter, fresher lasagna that is worth checking out. The recipe is below the cut and happy munching!

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Meals in Minutes – Trapani-Style Rigatoni

1. This is a simple and fresh pasta. The sauce tastes like a summer garden and is tossed and lightly coats the pasta. I didn’t use the almonds in my sauce which caused the sauce to be slightly lighter and not as thick. I loved the pesto quality of this sauce and how quickly it came together. I made the sauce using my immersion blender, rather than a food processor (no, I still do not have one!) and it worked perfectly. I love that the sauce is completely infused with the flavours of garlic, tomato and basil and then the pasta is dotted with chunks of these veggies.

2. Rigatoni is not my favourite pasta. It is too thick and bulky to eat in this way. Next time I make this pasta I will use penne instead. Shells or rotini would work great as well.

3. This pasta is going to become a staple in the summer – using fresh basil and tomatoes from the garden. Quick, easy, and fresh – a great recipe for summer. I think this pasta would even taste great served cold as a side for a barbecue.

Recipe below the cut – happy munching!

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