October 11, 2014.

After 7 and a half years of dating, GC and I tied the knot on October 11th, 2014. The weather was gorgeous: it was sunny, clear and crisp. It was the perfect fall day. Our ceremony took place in the gardens at the Columbus Center, an Italian community center close to our house that GC took various lessons and classes at as a child.

audrey&giancarlo0217I walked down the aisle with both of my parents to “We’re Going to Be Friends” by the White Stripes, a song that encapsulates our relationship as more than just boyfriend and girlfriend but as best friends and falling in love as kids in university.

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Autumn 2015

Autumn is my favourite season. There is so much to love about this season. The changing colour of the leaves and how the trees look when it rains and the bark turns a deep brown against the fiery leaves. The damp, thumb fresh and cold smell that comes with leaves. The soft, pills crunch with each step while walking through a park littered with fallen leaves. Taking hikes in cool weather with knitted scarves and toques. Walking through orchards, medicine wandering through rows and rows of trees, picking apples and other fresh fruits. Long crispy days spent outside followed by long evenings warming up by crackling fires.

7c5d86128f6cf83a60c562d86e18f32cPhoto Credit: From Up North

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With cooler weather comes hearty meals indoors. Meals indoors around harvest tables and surrounded by friends. Meals that start with beautiful charcuterie boards laden with cheese, olives and figs. Your belly warms up with fall soups full of roasted vegetables and then puréed into silky goodness. The prominent flavours of the season are pumpkin, roasted vegetables, flaky pie crusts, and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and star anise. Heavy, rich meals that are followed by hot drinks and cocktails. It is the perfect season to enjoy the outdoors and to enjoy all the bounty of the harvest.

fall-dinner-partyPhoto Credit: Camille Styles140829_Halloween_Lars_845Photo Credit: The House That Lars Built

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Squish Candies

When I moved into residence in my first year of university, the floor’s theme was Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. My mom turned to me and said, “I think you’ve moved into the right place.” And I had. It was the right place for a number of reasons (that are far more important and debatably life changing) but because, at the time, it captured my love of candy and that made me feel comfortable and like I was in the right place.

I absolutely love candy. Anyone who has met me for more than about 5 minutes knows how much I love candy. Here are just a few examples that illustrate my love of candy:

  1. I routinely walk down to Bulk Barn on my lunch to pick up a bag of mixed candies. This is a horrible habit, I fully acknowledge that.
  2. There is usually some sort of candy or sweet at my desk at work. Currently there is a small bag of Kraft Caramels, you know the kind that is typically given out at Halloween?
  3. Our wedding featured one of the best and most varied candy tables I have ever seen if I do say so myself. It had mini gummy cubs (which differ completely from gummy bears in texture and flavour and therefore are far superior), Whoppers, sour watermelon slices, Polish caramels, Rockets and sour gumballs. The candy table was in addition to our sweets tables, because *shockingly* I also love desserts.
  4. I group up in a town that randomly has two candy factories: Rockets and Mars Bars.
  5. I’m born in October, the month of Halloween – enough said.

So when I discovered that there was a new, high-end candy store open called Squish in the Hudson’s Bay at the Eaton’s Center, I obviously had to go and check it out.

IMG_4349 IMG_4350Squish is done by the same brilliant people behind David’s Tea. Everything is marketed and packaged in the most beautiful and simple way. They have an insane variety of candy, capturing every flavour and texture you could imagine. The flavours range from sweet to sour, to salty and they also have chocolate. They package their candy thematically and adorable containers, making it even more enticing to purchase.

This was one of the most difficult shopping decisions I have ever made. Yes, I am married and bought a wedding dress, but this shopping trip made me more anxious and was much more difficult to decide between all the options. I’m obviously exaggerating but it was a very overwhelming and daunting decision. On my first trip to Squish I bought 5 different types of candy.

  1. Cherry Watermelon Hearts1998-cherry_watermelon_heart_paint_can
  2. Strawberry Rhubarb Gummies1994-Staw_Rhu_paint_can
  3. Red Rose Gummies1995-red_roses_paint_can
  4. Pumpkin Pie Chocolates2161-Pumpkin_Pie_
  5. Tiramisu Chocolates2159-Tiramisu

These candies are what I imagine the candies and chocolates in Willy Wonka to taste like. They are the perfect balance of texture, colour and flavour. My favourite candy was the cherry watermelon gummies. They had such a fresh and summery flavour profile that I had never tasted before. The sugar coating added a bit more sweetness and a little grit to each bite. The red rose gummies had the best gummy texture I have ever eaten. They were chewy and moist, with a slight gush of juice at the center of each. They literally exploded with flavour. The strawberry rhubarb gummies are one of their most popular candies but you can skip them. There is no real rhubarb flavour or sourness and the candies taste completely like strawberries.

The chocolates are more like candy. They are silky and luscious and completely taste like the desserts they are emulating. Both were to die for but the pumpkin pie will be my go-to candy this fall. It tastes exactly like a little drop of pumpkin pie without the guilt of a slice a pie.

Now that I have discovered an amazing but expensive candy store, I need to change my approach to eating candy. No, I was not going to change my candy eating habits for health (yet) but I will for price. I have decided that from now on if I want candy, I will only buy it from Squish. The fact that it is at the Eaton’s Center will deter me from going too frequently as that mall is hell on earth. When I go, I will only buy one flavour at a time. This will restrict me from binging on this candy which will be both healthy and cost-efficient. Although they do have ordering online…

Happy munching!

Me & Mine

In the early days of Fall 2014, we visited Me & Mine for brunch. Me & Mine is a cute, small restaurant on College Street West. The interior is very simple and modern, with touches of mid-century modern art. There is plenty of natural light and the light wood of the tables and floors creates a warm and inviting atmosphere. We were seated at a small table at the back of the restaurant near the bar. Coffees and food were served on vintage camping dishes – another rustic, comfortable touch.

I ordered the Brussels Sprouts & Vintage Cheddar Pie.

IMG_1586The Brussels Sprouts & Vintage Cheddar Pie with pickled beet and sage salad.

The pie was fantastic. I love when brunch is actually a combination of breakfast and lunch foods. The crust was flaky, buttery and light. The filling was creamy and cheesy. The Brussels sprouts were roasted nicely – caramelized and slightly crispy on the outside and moist and juicy on the inside. This pie tasted like a Thanksgiving side dish at breakfast time.

As it was brunch it was necessary to order a poached egg on the side. Although the egg was poached nicely it was an awkward side to have ordered – I regretted this decision even though it only cost $2. The whole purpose of eating a poached egg is to have it explode over toast or eggs Benedict and sop up all the delicious lusciousness into your mouth. Not to have your yolk spill into your salad.

I have said it before and I will say it again: salad is not a side for brunch. This time it at least was a logical side, as having home fries accompany a pie would be a ridiculous carb-indulgence.

GC ordered The Breakfast.The Breakfast with house cured pork belly, pork sausage link two poached eggs, toast and compound butter, roasted potatoes and salad.

This is your standard big-breakfast on another level. All bacon should be house cured pork belly and all breakfast sausages should be this thick, meaty and juicy. If you are looking for something a little different in your brunch, but not too different or unconventional, check out Me & Mine.

My only criticism: while we were settling up our bill they asked if we wanted to take dessert to go. Of course we were tempted. The desserts available were peanut butter cookies (obviously not) and butter tarts. I asked if the butter tarts had nuts and I was told no so we ordered 2 to go. We get home and GC goes for the first bite and of course, there was walnuts in my butter tarts. This is incredibly irresponsible. Obviously, if you have a severe allergy, you should never take any chances and probably never even risk eating out but I also operate under the impression that restaurants are responsible and employee somewhat competent employees. WRONG. That’s ok. I’ll stick with the pies and breakfasts, GC said they were better anyway.

Happy munching!

Cream Cheese Swirl Pumpkin Bars

Another way to use pumpkin – make cream cheese swirl pumpkin bars!

Photo Credit: Kitchen Meets Girls

But don’t actually because I didn’t love these. They were extremely moist, like when you spill milk on your dessert plate. There was too much pumpkin in these bars. The cream cheese swirls added to the extreme moisture of the bars and made it that you had to put the bars in the fridge. I don’t like putting desserts in the fridge – it makes me forget about them and they inevitably end up with a “fridge” taste to them.

There was a nice blend of spices that made you feel warm and cosy, a little bite of fall. These spices highlighted the fruity, harvest taste of the pumpkin. Because of the sweetness from the pumpkin I don’t think the chocolate chips were necessary to make these bars complete. There is already a heavy, sweetness from the pumpkin; the chocolate puts that sweetness over the top.

Recipe is below the cut. Happy munching!

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Pumpkin Brown Butter Cupcakes

For my birthday, I baked myself Martha Stewart’s Pumpkin Brown-Butter cupcakes.  I don’t think it’s sad or depressing to bake for your own birthday for a number of reasons:

  1. On my actual birthday, GC mustarded up the courage to attempt his first apple pie (which was delicious and a success!)
  2. I love to bake. And I bake well.
  3. I tell people I am baking for my own birthday. It is more of a statement then a question or an offer and it has come to be the norm

IMG_4805Since we munched hard on these cupcakes at my birthday, you don’t get a photo of what I actually made – just a photo of my Martha Stewart Cupcakes book.

These cupcakes were delicious. The cake was light and airy, with the perfect bit of seasonal spice. The pumpkin flavouring wasn’t overwhelming to the point where you feel dejected to have another pumpkin treat on your October birthday.

But what really made these cupcakes was the icing. This is one of the best icings ever. It is extremely easy to make and has such a rich, powerful flavor the perfectly tops off your cupcake. The cupcakes dip beautifully into the icing and harden with a seamless coating that can make anyone like a pro. I am going to scour my cookbooks for more recipes that include this icing. There is a pumpkin cookie (also by Martha Stewart) topped with this icing that I am aching to try.

Although it is after Halloween, don’t feel like you can’t cook and bake with pumpkin! Recipe is below the cut, and happy munching!

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Applesauce Spice Cupcakes

Happy birthday to my friend, Rachel!

On October 21st, Rachel celebrated her birthday. I wasn’t able to go out for the delicious dinner that was planned for that evening so we met up with our boyfriends (who are best friends and this is how we met) on the following Tuesday for mini pizzas and cupcakes.

1. I will always make cupcakes for your birthday if a) I love you and/or b) if you ask. Keep that in mind, friends! You can always get baked goods from me. Also, if you don’t want cupcakes but I love you, you will also still get them. This seems like a win-win situation for everyone.

2. I decided to make these cupcakes because I had debated making them for my own birthday. I know that seems slightly selfish but when it was my birthday, I had run the possible cupcake flavours past Rachel and she was intrigued by both the pumpkin and the apple, so I am a good friend, I promise!

3. These cupcakes were sweet, moist and had a warm blend of spices. I would have liked a stronger apple flavour. The recipe used applesauce rather than real apples but still used butter. This is interesting because typically recipes use applesauce so they can be vegan, but this recipe just used it for the flavour. This is valid but I am always on the lookout for a good vegan recipe because I have yet to find one for cupcakes and it is just good to have in your baking arsenal.

4. My favourite part was the icing. It was cream cheese icing but it was made even better by the addition of brown sugar, rather than icing or white sugar. This icing was unbelievable, you don’t even know. With my new mixer I can whip cream cheese and butter into submission and make velvety smooth and light icing. The brown sugar added a spicy, sweetness and it worked perfectly with the cake base. I would never think of adding a sugar that wasn’t icing sugar to an icing but this worked amazing. It piped out perfectly and held its form nicely.

These were a hit and made the birthday girl happy, which in the end, is all the matters on someone’s birthday. Happy birthday, Rachel! Hope it was a great one and that the upcoming year is great!

Recipe is below the cut. Happy munching!

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Pumpkin Chili

Last Thursday I used my new crock pot for the first time to make Pumpkin Chili.

1. Does anyone see chili and think, “Yum, that looks appetizing?” Because I know I don’t. Topped with sour cream, cheese and some bacon, sure, that warrants that kind of response but not normally.  I also am not one to love chili but this recipe was so enticing I had to give it a try.

2. I got an ice cream maker last year for my birthday and still have yet to use it. And in August I finally put the bowl in the freezer so I can actually use it. The crock pot however, has already been used. I think this is an improvement and proves that useful is sometime better than fun.

3. When I was a kid, I hated the crock pot. I had a theory that everything that came out of the crock pot was terrible and disgusting. This was obviously not true as my mother is an amazing cook, I was just being a gremlin.

4. I actually didn’t have any of this chili, GC ate all of it (which is perfectly fine and he didn’t eat it all in one sitting so don’t judge him!). GC loved this chili – it was spicy, but not harmfully so. GC is a little bit of a wuss when it comes to spice but he was able to enjoy this, but he was sweating by the end. It had a subtle pumpkin flavour to it; notes of pumpkin rather than a slap to the face with a pie. The beans and ground beef added a heartiness to it, that was warm and comforting. The chili was filling but did not make him feel bloated or uncomfortable. It also kept him full for a long time. A perfect meal to be enjoyed on a cold, rainy day or a hard day at work.

Recipe below the cut and happy munching!

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Toronto Food Truck Lot – October 16

For lunch on my birthday I went to Toronto’s Food Truck Lot with my sister, Theresa.

The Toronto Food Truck lot is located at Yonge and Goulde, near Ryerson University. This is a convenient walk or subway ride away from my work and therefore could be trouble. The lot has room for 5 or 6 trucks that rotate on a daily basis and when we went on Tuesday the following trucks were there: Pretty Sweet Cupcakes, Food Cabbie, Per Se, Caplansky’s, Buster’s Sea Cove and Hula Girl Espresso.

Theresa and I probably should have been adventurous and tried something new but we couldn’t resist the lobster rolls from Buster’s Sea Cove. They were delicious as always and perfect with every bite. Next time, I promise, I will order the tacos…

I did, however, try Pretty Sweet Cupcakes.

I love the design on this truck. It is whimsical and playful. I love the combination of teal and pink, it is retro without being dated. I ordered the Pumpkin Spice cupcake – I wanted to compare it to my own recipe.

1. In a Toronto Life article I read, they claimed that each cupcake had its icing freshly piped on top of the cake and this did not happen. When I read that I thought it was an incredibly ambitious idea because piping bags can be finicky and if icing get slightly warm it can become unmanageable. I do not fault them for not piping to order. If I had a truck, I wouldn’t do it either.

2. Is it just me or does it look like there was something ripped off the top of my cupcake? Or that it was smushed into something? Either way I’m not happy about it. The icing was far too sweet. You didn’t get that rich cream cheese flavour but rather a faint, chalky taste. It was incredibly disappointing. Part of the reason one eats pumpkin, carrot or red velvet cake is for the cream cheese icing.

3. The cake was incredibly moist but it didn’t have a strong enough pumpkin or spice flavour. Part of the problem with seasonal flavours is that is is hard to perfect a recipe when you only get a few months a year and you might only get to make the recipe once. This was a decent cupcake and I would try other flavours from this truck and I would suggest you do too!

The food truck lot is amazing and I would suggest you visit. There wasn’t a ton of people there and we only had to wait a few minutes for our food. Our only complaint was that there was no seating options but this is a consistent complaint with food events.

Get out while the weather is still nice and support local food trucks! Happy munching!

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

My 24th birthday was on Tuesday and I made myself some pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. No, it’s not sad that I made myself cupcakes for my own birthday because I did have offers from my wonderful friends. I love baking so I wanted to make something for myself!

I was inspired by the pumpkins that I walk by every morning on my way to the subway. No, I do not live next to a magical pumpkin patch, just a grocery store.

Although these gorgeous little pumpkins were my inspiration, I did not buy a pumpkin pie pumpkin to make my cupcakes, i just used canned pumpkin. I find the idea of using a real pumpkin incredibly daunting and a lot of work. But maybe I shouldn’t let my laziness prevent me from using a real pumpkin in my baking and cooking.

My canned pumpkin resulted in these cupcakes:

1. These cupcakes had a well balanced medley of spices (ginger, cinnamon, ground cloves and nutmeg). It wasn’t overpowering but added the right amount of warmth to make you feel like you were cozy in a pair of sweatpants.

2. They were slightly dry which was surprising due to the amount of pumpkin. This was a complaint that no one shared with me though so maybe I would just being nit picky.

3. This cream cheese icing is amazing. It is incredibly smooth and creamy. It is not chalky or overly sugary. This icing would make everything better.

4. I used various Halloween sprinkles (orange and black, and shapes of ghosts, pumpkins and bats) and wrappers even though I don’t like combining my birthday with Halloween. That is one of the problems with an autumn birthday, it just naturally becomes associated with Halloween and the flavours and colours of Halloween.

Recipe (from Martha Stewart) below the cut. Happy munching and happy birthday to me!

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