Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Crispy Prosciutto

For Valentine’s Day I had the ambitious plan to make GC bacon roses. I couldn’t find the right stems for my roses and the whole idea fell apart. Instead, I bought him an array of deli meats and specialty cheeses. This is how I say “I love you”: with deli meats. With a fridge full of prosciutto I decided to make a soup topped with this deliciousness: creamy cauliflower soup with crispy prosciutto.

IMG_5483This soup is creamy and has a rich, earthy cauliflower taste which is accented by the more subtle flavours of the celery and onion. The dash of nutmeg gives this soup a nutty, earthy flavour. This soup is seasoned with salt and ground white pepper.. Ground white pepper is something that I had never bothered to buy before but decided to as a lot of the recipes I make call for this spice. And I’m glad I did! The white ground pepper has a more subtle flavour than black ground pepper and has an almost smoky flavour. I would suggest not putting a lot of salt in as there will be plenty of salt from the crispy, almost bacon like prosciutto.

Recipe is below the cut and happy munching!

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Jalapeño Popper Grilled Cheese

Another day, another grilled cheese sandwich. Last weekend I made the Jalapeño Popper Grilled Cheese by Simply Scratch featured on BuzzFeed’s list, 31 Grilled Cheeses That Are Better Than a Boyfriend.

IMG_5475 IMG_5476I love this grilled cheese! The bread is smothered with a cream cheese-green onion mixture. I could eat this cheese blend by itself. It is creamy and fresh and should be spread on everything. Do not overload your bread with this spread because it will cause your sandwich to slide all over your grill and create an oozy mess on your grill and not in your mouth!

I am impressed with myself because although this recipe uses jalapeño peppers, I was not afraid to make it. I did not wear gloves but I was very conscious of where my hands were at all times. No burning seeds in my eyes! This recipe has inspired me to make more things with jalapeño peppers, maybe even actual jalapeño poppers! The jalapeño peppers are tender and keep that crispy and smoky flavour. I grilled the peppers in the oven and I can only imagine the intensity of flavour that would come from grilling these peppers on the barbecue.

The cheddar cheese adds another level of cheesy ridiculousness that is indulgent and a bit extreme. I would love to try this recipe with colby jack (the other cheese Simply Scratch recommends).The buttery, crispy bread simulated the flavour and texture of deep fried batter. Yums.

If you are craving bar food and can’t make it to a bar, make this grilled cheese. If you are craving a grilled cheese sandwich, make this grilled cheese.

Happy munching!

Baked Potato Grilled Cheese

I have a love-hate relationship with grilled cheese. Ok. love-hate is a bit strong; it is more like love-like. I love it because it is buttered-toasted bread and melty, stringy cheese. I only like it because to make a specialty grilled cheese at home involves as much effort as cooking a full-fledge meal but you are only making a sandwich. And to order a specialty grilled cheese at a restaurant is more money then I want to spend and seems silly because they are telling me everything that is in the sandwich and therefore I could make it myself.

Despite these conflicting feelings, it is a trend I can’t and don’t want to ignore. It seems every other day BuzzFeed is releasing some list about grilled cheese sandwiches (here, here, here and oh, over here too) and there is always another restaurant opening or event happening featuring grilled cheese.

This past week, Cynthia came over for cocktails and dinner and we decided to make the Baked Potato Grilled Cheese.

The photo and recipe are from BS in the Kitchen. This grilled cheese is one of the more decadent, ridiculous things I have eaten lately. The Cheddar melts into the sour cream, making a cheesy, gooey sauce. The potato is crispy on the outside, but soft and fluffy on the inside. The bacon adds crunch to the inside of the sandwich which compliments the crispy, buttery outside of the sandwich. The green onions add freshness that momentarily trick you into thinking that you won’t have a heart attack. And of course, we dipped our sandwiches in more grilled because we are ridiculous like that. This is a great sandwich that gives you all the best parts of a baked potato but without the leathery, dry skin.

I am slowly going to work me through this BuzzFeed grilled cheese list – stay tuned!

Happy munching!

Toronto Life’s Best Burgers

New challenge: to eat all of the burgers off of Toronto Life’s Best Burgers list. This list was first compiled in May 2012 and can be found here. The list is below and no, although I have dined at many of these restaurants (6 to be exact) I have not yet eaten any of these burgers. Here is a picture of Holy Chuck’s double cheeseburger to get your excited!

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  1. Naturally Raised Beef Burger – The Harbord Room
  2. John’s Burger – Marben
  3. Classic Burger – The Stockyards
  4. Jennifer’s Stilton Brisket Burger – Nota Bene
  5. Cowlorie – Holy Chuck
  6. Double Cheeseburger – The Burger’s Priest
  7. Grass- Fed Burger – Bymark
  8. Simple Hamburger – Allen’s
  9. County Burger – The County General
  10. Homemade All Star – Golden Star
  11. Maple Bacon – E11even
  12. Elk Slider – Union
  13. Origin Burger – Origin
  14. Lamb Burger – Blue Plate
  15. Cheeseburger – Parts and Labour
  16. Sirloin Burger – The Gabardine
  17. MTK Burger – Mildred’s Temple Kitchen
  18. Pljeskavica – Hrvati
  19. Striploin Burger – Crush
  20. Canadian Burger – The Drake
  21. Dry-Aged Burger – Bestellen
  22. Double Burger – Apache Burgers
  23. Hand-Chopped Burger – The Queen and Beaver
  24. Brioche Burger – Drift
  25. Mini Kobe Burgers – Trevor Kitchen and Bar

Happy munching!

Our Wedding Cake

Whenever I thought about my wedding day I didn’t picture my dress or imagine getting married in the church I grew up in, I thought about the food. I daydreamed about the various courses and the flow of the meal, what types of sauces would be drizzled over the entrees and what desserts would sweeten the whole event. Desserts turned from a simple plate to finish the meal to an entire dessert table featuring cookies, tarts and candy all centered around The Cake. I used to naively think that I would make my own wedding cake. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to show my friends and family all the skills and efforts that I possessed, someone who started baking as a hobby but had become skilled enough to tackle a feat like this.

After we got engaged I realized this was a ridiculous undertaking. I never fully realized how much went into planning a wedding and how much of it has to be done closer to the day. I have never made a multi-tiered cake before and it would be crazy to think of doing this for the first time the week of my wedding. If I failed, where would we get a cake of that size and beauty that would be substantial enough for our wedding?

Although this was a sad realization it meant that we could do cake tastings. Is there anything better than eating cake for free? I don’t think so. I went to a bridal show at the start of January with my entire family (that started as a nightmare and is a whole other story) and was able to sample three bakeries. I then researched Toronto bakeries (this list by BlogTO is a good starting point but it is out of date – Bakerbots is currently not taking orders and Cake Opera no longer exists) and started setting up appointments.

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The White Brick Kitchen

Another Sunday, sale another brunch. This past weekend we checked out The White Brick Kitchen on Bloor Street West.

It was Sunday and late in the morning, story so like any other Toronto hipster brunch spot, it was packed. The wait wasn’t too long:  we were only in line for about 20 minutes.  The restaurant is small, able to seat around 30 people and has a small-Prairie town diner feel about it. There is country kitsch lining the shelves and vintage ads for products on the walls. We were seated at a table for two located near the back of the restaurant with a print of 2 maps of Canada, both pre-confederation.

I started out with the Lindt hot chocolate.

IMG_5434This was easily the most decadent and divine hot chocolate I have ever had. It was a bit excessive first thing in the morning for breakfast, but I reclassified my meal as brunch and this seemed to justify my decision.

I ordered The Benny.

IMG_5439House-made English muffin, sage sausage, two poached eggs, brown butter hollandaise and potatoes.

When this plate arrived, I was a little disappointed. The actual benny was tiny; the sausages did not cover the entire surface of the English muffin, making them look insignificant, like they were drowning in a sea of bread. The poached eggs looked as if they were just the yolk; somehow the fluffy cloud that held my egg together as it was being poached disappeared. The amount of hash browns was pitiful; they didn’t even give the illusion of filler as they barely occupied half the plate.

The taste of the food was more impressive than its appearance. The English muffin was soft, pillowy and the second best English muffin I have ever had (first goes to the English muffin at Gordon Ramsay’s York and Albany). The hollandaise was not your traditional subtle, lemony flavor but rather had hints of rich, caramel from the brown butter. Brown butter takes hollandaise to a whole other level. The eggs were poached to perfect runniness. The sausage had subtle herb flavours and added freshness to the benny. They also had a peppery taste to them.

GC ordered The Classic.

IMG_5436Two eggs, toast, choice of hickory bacon, sage sausage or beef bacon, and potatoes – GC choose hickory bacon with a side of sage sausage.

I have now eaten at 10 of 50 of BlogTO’s brunch spots – let’s see if I can get through the remaining 40 in 2014. There are 46 weeks remaining in 2014, making this incredibly doable.

Happy munching!

Soup Round Up II

Another cold day, tadalafil another round up of the soups I have made in the past few weeks. 4 recipes are from the Williams-Sonoma Soup of the Day cookbook, pilule the other is from Chef Michael Smith.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup – January 23 – why eat broccoli soup when you can eat soup with cheese in it? Exactly. This soup still had a strong garden flavour from the broccoli but had tons of creaminess from the cheese. This will likely not become a staple in our house but when I am craving broccoli I will turn to this recipe.

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Cauliflower Roasted Garlic Soup – January 3- this soup was delicious but looked like something out of a Charles Dickens novel, which is why I did not bother to take a picture of it. Coworkers thought I was eating oatmeal. It was gray and sludgy but you need to look past this and enjoy! The strong cauliflower flavour is accented by the rich roasted garlic flavour. The garlic is slightly caramelized and sweet. By roasting the garlic for 45 minutes in the oven, all of the deep-rooted flavours ooze out. My kitchen smelt amazing after this  and could ward off vampires for days to come.

Classic Chicken Noodle Soup – January 10 – why ever use canned chicken noodle soup again when this is so easy? I baked the chicken in the oven for about 20 minutes until it was juicy and cooked through. Then slightly brown the vegetables, toss in the chicken, broth and noodles and wait. It is that easy. The noodles will continue to absorb the broth so you will need to add more the longer the soup sits.photo 4(2)

photo 5French Onion Soup – January 2 – I finally used my 25th birthday gift from GC: French onion soup bowls from Crate & Barrel. This recipe also made me realize something I desperately need for my kitchen: a scale. This recipe calls for 2 ½ lbs of onion but I had to guess and use all the remaining onions I had. A scale would also be good for all the cookbooks I have bought over the years that turn out to be British and use weights as opposed to measurements.

photo 3(2)The most time consuming part of this soup is caramelizing the onions but it is worth it. The onions are sweet and tender delicately floating beneath a sturdy bed of crusty bed and mounds of stringy, Swiss cheese. This soup is my idea of comfort food: warm, flavourful and cheese.

Michael Smith’s Old Fashioned Beef Stew – I like this recipe better than any of the beef stews I have made from my trusty Williams-Sonoma cookbook. The stew is thicker and has a huge range of flavours from the combinations of vegetables (parsnips, carrots, celery, potatoes, onions and peas) seasonings (rosemary, and bay leaf) and of course, red wine. This stew is substantial and filling, the perfect lunch on a cold, February day.

Recipes for the first 4 soups are below the cut. Happy munching and slurping!

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Happy New Year!

Food brings people together. It can create an atmosphere of comfort, viagra nostalgia and family. Food is an essential part of any occasion, look celebration or holiday. This year, for the first time in a long time, I celebrated Chinese New Year.

As a kid, Chinese New Year was always spent ordering take-out from my family’s favourite Chinese restaurant in Newmarket, 4 Seasons. It was not traditional Chinese food by any means but it was as authentic and ethnic as Newmarket used to be back then. 4 Seasons is still some of my favourite comfort food. This food, although greasy and absolutely terrible for us, always brought my family together and is still a staple when someone is returning home after a long time away.

Chinese New Year this year was spent with part of my Toronto family – GC and Cynthia. Cynthia suggested we try to ring in the New Year at Mother’s Dumplings. Unsurprisingly, much of the city had the same idea and the restaurant was packed. Although it is disappointing to arrive at a restaurant and be denied because they are full, there is something that makes me smile to think of a room of people all enjoying and sharing in delicious food.

We wandered down Spadina and found our way into Pho Hung. Yes, we do realize that pho is Vietnamese and not Chinese but it is commonly referred to as Asian New Year and one of Cynthia’s requirements for properly celebrating is having noodles. IMG_5364I had never had pho before. I had avoided Vietnamese food due to their need to sprinkle, dip and fry everything in peanuts (in some form or another). If you have the unfortunate luck like me to have a severe peanut allergy, Pho Hung is a place that you can try Vietnamese food. The menu is clear and explicit about what items feature peanuts and in what capacity. The staff speaks very good, clear English and your allergies and limitations can easily be conveyed. Of course, like all restaurants, there is always the possibility of cross-contamination and traces but as a food lover, this is a risk I take. Note: I am fairly diligent and careful about my allergies but I could definitely but better about it. Unfortunately, I can be cavalier and let my love of food cloud my judgment.

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Mother’s Dumplings

A few weeks ago I introduced GC to Mother’s Dumplings and of course, he fell in love.

page1. Pork and chives dumplings
2. Potato pancake
3. Wonton soup; Beef and celery dumplings.

We tried a bit of everything but I would have to say my favourite were the pan fried beef and celery dumplings.The dumplings are slightly crispy on the outside, without being greasy and they retain the soft, fleshiness of the wrapper. The beef was delicate with hints of spice that was mellowed by the tart, fresh taste of the celery. This is not a combination I would have thought of, but it works nicely together.

We tried to go again on Chinese New Year last Friday with Cynthia but of course, they were rammed. For future reference, they do take reservations but only for groups of six or more. We will just have to find three more people to join us next year!

Happy munching!

Blog Crush – Brown Eyed Baker

I have a new blog crush and her name is Brown Eyed Baker. I came across BEB about a year ago when I first made her delicious and ridiculous St. Patrick’s Day cupcakes. Since then, order I have been following her religious, click salivating over her recipes and hoarding them. In the past month, help I have made three of her recipes. I think I can easily say that I am addicted.

First I made her Sesame Chicken.

Photo Credit: Brown Eyed Baker

This was a big milestone for me as a cook because it gave me the opportunity to deep fry for the first time. That’s right: I had never actually deep fried anything because I was absolutely terrified of vats of boiling oil, a valid fear in my opinion. With my trusty thermometer in hand and GC by my side I conquered this fear.

This dish was delicious and has led me to believe that I can make American-style Chinese food at home. The chicken was crispy but not greasy, moist and juicy and smothered in a tangy, sweet sauce that has a slight nuttiness from the sesame oil and seeds. One thing I do need to get better with is making rice. I know, I know. You are probably thinking, “Audrey, you have a food blog. How can you possibly not be able to make rice?” I get impatient and worry about it crusting to the bottom of my pans.

Then I made her Bourbon Slush.

Photo Credit: Brown Eyed Baker

I made this last week for a night in at our friends’ place. This was a citrus, sweet blend that added a nice frosty touch to your traditional cocktail. The bourbon flavor was subtle but present. On a cold winter day this was just the thing to keep us toasty and warm. If you are not a bourbon or hard liquor drinker, you will still enjoy this cocktail. If you have the time and the foresight to plan, you should give this recipe a try.

And lastly, I made her Black Forest Cheesecake.

Holy smokes. This cake is ridiculous, rich, and luscious and everything you could ever want in a cheesecake. I think a little part of me died it was so amazing. It is not a cheesecake for the faint of heart as it is decadent and may induce heart palpitations. This cake should probably only be enjoyed on special occasions and not random Thursday nights.

I loved all three of these recipes and they will definitely be making a regular appearance in my kitchen. I will admit that they are slightly time consuming and may result in your house smelling like the Food Pavilion of the Ex (an actual description of my kitchen by GC after making sesame chicken) but they are worth your time, effort, and calories.

Happy munching!