Easter 2016

It is Easter Monday and seemingly everyone else is off from work except me. The subway was empty this morning; I didn’t have to do my typical wait on the train for 10 minutes in the tunnel north of St. Clair West while empty trains are sent through for more important people. The offices at work are empty and it is a slow, rainy day.

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Easter weekend was relaxing, spent outside with beautiful weather and with amazing people. On Friday we made our traditional Italian pasta appetizers, calascioni. This is something that Ninni remembers making as a young girl in Italy, when these types of expensive meats and cheese could only be bought at Easter. This tradition has been passed on to me and Giancarlo and we now share this tradition with his best friend Nick and his wife, Rachel. The day is spent rolling out homemade pasta dough, cutting out perfect circles, filling each ravioli-like pocket with the meat and cheese mixture and baking in the oven until they are golden and oozing cheese. After a few hours of hard work, we enjoyed dinner, wine and Yahtzee.

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Mother’s Day 2015

What day is today? Today is Mother’s Day! For Mother’s Day this year I hosted GC’s parents and Ninni for an afternoon tea in the backyard.

IMG_3754 IMG_3758I made five different sandwiches and savoury scones:

1. Cucumber & Chive Butter
2. Goat Cheese, Prosciutto and Basil
3. Tomato Pesto Tea Sandwiches
4. Radish-Chive Tea Sandwiches
5. Nordic Open Faced Smoked Salmon Sandwiches
6. Cream Biscuits with Prosciutto and Parmesan Cheese

Dessert was leftover cake from Amelia’s birthday. To celebrate my amazing sister I had made a Chocolate Raspberry Cake.

IMG_3749Don’t worry – my Mama didn’t get left out. My mom, in all her typical intensity and amazingness, brought over a barbeque feast with all the fixings: steak, pasta salad, potato salad, greek salad and fruit salad. All I had to do in return was provide another cake, a Lemon Blueberry Layer Cake with a light cream cheese frosting.

IMG_3769I got it from my Mama – and by “it” I mean my baking and cooking skills. My mom has cooked and baked for our family for over 30 years and has always done it with grace, elegance and skill. It is never a big deal for my mom to host a family dinner or bring food to a potluck. She created the home that I hope to create for my family: I always want people to come over to our house and know that there will be food and drink, that it is not an imposition and that everything will be cooked with skill and love.

Happy munching!

Summer 2014

We are officially into summer 2014. The days are longer, hotter and spent outside. With the intense humidity, warm air and stickiness I try to keep it simple and basic. Here are my top three inspirations for summer 2014.

Summer Inspiration1. Picnics – Photo Credit: Your Intrinstic Beauty – when in doubt, eat outside. This is going to be my mantra this summer. I will be taking to parks, backyards and curbs munching on foods thoughtfully prepared at home. A picnic doesn’t require a basket or a gingham blanket, just some good food shared with even better company. Hiking, beaching, and parking (meaning to sit in a park not to sit in a stationary car) are just some of the places you will find me this summer with good food. What picnics am I most looking forward to? I still owe a friend a birthday picnic and I plan to indulge in some appetizers and cocktails at one of Toronto’s many outdoor films this summer.

2. Barbeques – Photo Credit: Abu Dhabi Confidential – Why turn on your stove, let alone your oven to cook in the summer? Whether it is propane, charcoal or gas, food just tastes better from the barbeque. Hot dogs, burgers and steaks are the favourites of my grill but this year, I have more ambitious plans. I want to use my barbeque as a smoker, an oven to bake something sweet, a grill for sweet pineapple and peaches and of course, the way to cook epic amounts of August sweet corn. Yummms.

3. Popsicles and Iced Treats – Photo Credit: Endless Simmer – There is no better way to cool down on a hot, sticky summer day than enjoying a cold, iced treat. Ok, maybe a beer is the best way to cool down but I don’t plan to get in brewing. Yet. I plan to keep my freezer stocked with homemade popsicles and to venture into the land of sinful booze pops. If that wasn’t enough to cool me off, I want to FINALLY (yes, I’ve said that before) use my ice cream maker and this might just be the recipe to try. And if I have homemade ice cream in the house why not making my own cookies and have ice cream sandwiches?

What are you inspirations for summer 2014? Happy munching!

Chili Con Carne with Garlic Cheddar Biscuits

Every great cook has their own chili recipe. Growing up chili was a staple in our house. Everyone loves chili. Except for me. I don’t like kidney beans. I don’t like their fleshy, grainy textures, their hard exterior or their slightly woody flavour. Because of this, I rarely eat chili. But, unfortunately, I live with someone who loves with chili.

In flipping through the pages of my trusty Williams-Sonoma Soup of the Day I discovered a recipe for Chili Con Carne which, to my delight, does not have kidney beans!!! I know this is something I should have probably known as I claim to love food but I didn’t.

photo 2This is the best chili ever! Huge chunks of tender, juicy meat, spicy and sweet peppers and a mix of amazing spices: chili powder, cumin, coriander and cilantro. It has a great Tex-Mex flavour to it. This chili has a rich, deep flavour and gives off an amazing aroma. It had such an intense smell that a vegetarian coworker admitted how good it smelt! I think if a meat-based meal can make a vegetarian admit that it smells and looks good, then you have a classic, make-again recipe.

And of course, what is chili without biscuits?

photo 1(2)photo 5(1)I made these biscuits as a Sunday morning, stay-in brunch, served with my fluffy scrambled eggs and prosciutto. They are best eaten day of, warm and flaky from the oven. The combination of cheddar, butter and green onion cannot be matched. This is another classic, make-again recipe.

I stumbled across two recipes that are easy and work perfectly together. Both are below the cut – happy munching!

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S’mores Cookie Bars

Happy birthday Le Faz!!! Today is officially her birthday and for her birthday I baked her s’mores cookie bars.

photo 5The only problem with s’mores is that they are impossible to make when you are not near a bonfire which is a constant problem of mine. However, these solve that problem. AND they are much tidier and easier to eat. You will not have to worry about melty marshmallow strings all over your face.

photo 3(1)They are the perfect combination of cookie and square. The graham cracker crust bottom is buttery and crumbly, creating a light, delicate base for the heaviness of the cookie to rest on. The cookie is buttery and rich, dotted with marshmallows and chocolate chips. The top has less melted marshmallows and whole chunks of chocolate bar. The chocolate bar is broken up into chunks and then frozen, ensuring that they don’t completely melt into the square; genius.

I love these and will definitely make them again and again. Recipe is below the cut and happy munching!

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St. Patrick’s Day 2014

St. Patrick’s Day is not my favourite holiday but it is one I seem to celebrate every year. I wear green, I paint my nails green and gold and of course, I bake and cook.

This year, I busted out Brown Eyed Baker’s Irish Car Bomb recipe again because it is perfect and totally lovely. Between juggling my purse, lunch and a massive container of cupcakes, trying to hold on to the subway pole and not making eye contact with people so they don’t ask for treats, I narrowly made it to work without a smushed or dented cupcake. Phew. I think it was worth it as all the cupcakes were munched and not a trace remained.

For lunch I made Irish Lamb Stew (from Williams-Sonoma Soup of the Day – March 17). Giancarlo and I made this stew together and it was the first thing we truly made together – cue your awwwws.

IMG_5587This stew was amazing. It has a huge depth of flavour and texture. Because the ingredients are layered, the bottom layer of potatoes and onion complete dissolve and create a thick, flavourful base for the stew. The top layer of potatoes and onion maintain their shape and texture creating distinguishable chunks of deliciousness. The lamb is chewy, moist and tender.The thyme permeates the entire soup and gives it this rich, intense flavour. Yummmm.

This stew will become a staple for St. Patrick’s Day in our house. It is a few days late but you should make it anyway!

Recipe is below the cut and happy munching!

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Raspberry Cream Sandwich Cookies

0206_msl_raspcream_hdMore cookies! I made these cookies the same weekend I made the snickerdoodles and they were equally as delicious. These cookies are slightly time consumming because you have to make the cookies and then the filling, salve but trust, shop it is worth it.

The cookies have a very subtle but rich vanilla flavour owed to the real vanilla beans that are used. The cookies are soft and chewy. The filling is a combination of raspberry and white chocolate – creamy, rich and decadent. These cookies are the perfect cookie for spring – they are fruity, light and fresh. The perfect thing after a long, cold winter.

Recipe is below the cut – happy munching!

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Snickerdoodles

Names of food can be misleading: sweetbreads are not actually a loaf of sweet, delicious bread that can be topped with butter but rather various glands of a calf. Head cheese is not actually a cheese but rather a terrine made of the meat from the head of an animal. And snickerdoodles are not actually cookies filled with chunks of a Snickers bar but rather a buttery, cinnamon-sugar cookie.

3113075933_3c50948e13_oThe confusion that can come from the name snickerdoodles is not nearly as confusing as sweetbreads or head cheese but it is confusion nonetheless. I was first corrected about snickerdoodles when a coworker brought in these delicious treats a few months ago.

I made my own version a few weeks ago for a Family Day brunch my parents hosted (yes, we are one of those families who actually get together on Family Day). I used Martha Stewart’s recipe and of course, they turned out brilliantly. They are buttery, soft, and moist and dusted with the perfect combination of cinnamon and sugar. They are also super easy to make!  The only thing you have to be aware of when making these is to not crowd your baking tray. You need to get over the fact that you want to make 12 cookies/tray and quickly be done. I spaced my cookies out 8 per tray and they turned out beautifully.

Recipe is below the cut. Happy munching!

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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!

Cookie Roundup

January has come and gone and I am proud to say, my New Year’s resolutions have not fallen by the wayside. More accurately, most have not fallen by the wayside.  I am slowly working my way through Martha Stewart’s Cookies, satisfying two resolutions (using cookbooks and baking more). Below are three recipes from her book that I have made so far.

Cookies1. Oatmeal raisin cookies – these cookies were chewy, moist and the perfect snack for work. The batter takes a little work to get used to: my first dozen pancaked out and were not the desired texture. I rolled the batter into tighter balls and lightly pressed them flatter which resulted in soft, moist pillows of oat-filled yums. I am going use this recipe again and again using various dried fruits.
2. Dark chocolate cherry cookies – stop what you are doing and make these cookies now. They are slightly expensive to make as dried cherries are ridiculously priced (at Bulk Barn they are $16/lb!) but they are so worth it. They are super chocolatey, with chunks of soft chocolate embedded in the already chocolate cookie and hints of sweet, souriness from the cherries. I brought most of the cookies to work and they were gone instantly. I made the rookie mistake of bringing the container into the lunch room where I was then forced to share with random coworkers I don’t know. Everyone at work is now pushing for more homemade baked goods.
3. Truffle brownies – these were extremely rich, dense and chocolate filled. I would recommend making them for an extreme chocolate lover and cut them into smaller pieces. The recipe says serves 12 (I cut them into 8 because I have an inability to slice anything round into any amount other than 8) but I would say you could cut the slices even smaller.

Any of these cookies were make the perfect work day snack or a special treat of Valentine’s Day. Happy munching!