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Nutty Kale Salad Inspired by The Cutco Gals

I was invited to the Foodies Forever Blogger Launch put on by Cutco Cutlery this week and I dragged Shack out with me to act as my photographer, which he does for me on occasion. He happens to be a very good photographer and he also acts as my body guard, chauffeur and male escort. If I ask him to, he also cuts my meat. He is an awfully good guy to have around.

The event was held at the Liason College Campus in downtown Toronto. Little did I know that the lovely ladies of Cutco planned on dragging all of us into the kitchen (it is a cooking school) to get our hands dirty. Okay, we got our hands dirty AFTER we washed them thoroughly, of course, and then we washed them again because they did get dirty. I was in a group with the effervescent Linda Nusca, Cutco's top Canadian Sales Consultant. She basically guided us through what they call "the Cutco cooking experience". People can contact the company and set up what is almost like a little dinner party/knife demo and a consultant like Linda will come to your home and guide you and your guests through a dinner prep, giving you some hand's on, interactive experience using their knives and their cookware. Personally, I was a bit worried about a room full of bloggers with a glass or two of wine already under their belts wielding knives but nobody lost a limb, so cheers to wine drinking blogger's with great knife skills everywhere!

It became clear that it is kind of like a Mary Kay party but with sharp knives instead of lipstick. As a party host you get all sorts of perks and discounts if your guests purchase any products.  These guys have been selling their wares since 1948 so it's good quality stuff even if you are not familiar with them. They only sell through direct sales and I have to admit, I had never heard of their product myself before reading up on their company. I think that there are opportunities for people to sell the knives themselves as well, if that's your jam. Their stuff comes with what they call a Forever Guarantee which is basically a lifetime guarantee and they also will sharpen any of their knives with the Double D edge for free. This Double D knife looks serrated but you can run actually your finger along it and it won't cut you but it cuts through stuff like butter- it's like there are sharp little blades up inside there. I know this because I did run my finger along the blade with some pressure and nothing happened but then i sliced the rind off of a pineapple right afterward without any trouble at all. Remember, I had some wine.

shack ended up chopping instead of snapping
You get a chance to use a variety of the knives that they sell and we cooked a simple, nutritious quinoa dish using one of their pots. Judging by the laughter and squealing going on around me, everyone was having a good time so I think it could be a fun girl's night activity but I would recommend keeping the wine away from the kitchen until AFTER the food prep is finished. I can't say it enough- wine + knives = the final scene of Game Of Thrones, episode 3, season 3.
Jaime Lannister. Enough said.

I have to give a shout out to Chateau du Charmes, who provided the wine for the event. We spend quite a bit of time touring the Niagara Wine Region but we have never been to this winery. After tastining their 2011 ALIGOTÉ , a white burgundy grape that is unique to this winery. In fact, I believe they are one of the few makers of Aligote in North America. It will be my new summer crack.

So, on to food. At the event, we made a raw kale salad and I learned a trick to speed up the softening of the kale. We squeezed lemon, drizzled some olive oil and threw in a bit of salt and then massaged that into the kale for a good 2 or 3 minutes. I could actually feel the kale breaking down and softening under my fingers. If you don't want to do that, you can make it ahead of time and let it sit out but it's a nifty trick to have in your back pocket. As always, I took the basic idea and ran with it and made it my own, adding almonds, coarsely grated parmesan and carrot curls as well as a mustardy vinaigrette with some walnut oil. This is my new favourite way to eat kale, which I already eat a ton of and it's perfect for warm weather eating because I like to turn on my stove as little as humanly possible once summer gets here.

Raw Kale Salad

this serves at least 8 people as a side

1 and 1/2 bunches of a large bunch of kale (approx 10 packed cups of chiffonade)

1/2 cup toasted almond slices

1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan, coarsely grated

1 orange, peeled and sectioned, discarding the peel and pith

1 carrot

3 1/2 tbls canola oil

2 tbls walnut oil

3 tbls rice vinegar

pinch salt

1 tbls honey dijon

First thing to do is to prepare your carrot. I used 1/4 of three different carrots of different colours but you can just use one carrot. Quarter it lengthwise. Take a vegetable peeper and start peeling off thin strips of carrot so you have pretty carrot ribbons. Put the carrot ribbons into a bowl with cold water and a couple of ice cubes (the cold water encourages them to curl up) and set aside.To Chiffonade the kale: take a handful of your washed, stemmed (pull all of the leaves off of the tough stalks and discard the stalks) kale leaves and roll it up tight like a cigar. Then, with your very sharp chef's knife, you will slice the kale very finely so it's basically shredded into thin ribbons. Because raw kale isn't the tenderest green out there, you really want it sliced very into very fine ribbons. You want to chiffonade the kale. There, if you weren't always familiar with this word, you have learned a new, fancy pants cooking term and I encourage you to drop it into conversation as much as possible. Next to "spatchcock", chiffonade might be my next favourite. Now you can massage the kale. Put the thinly sliced kale in the big mixing bowl. MIx up your dressing by mixing the oils, vinegar, honey dijon and salt in the jar and dress the salad. Now, make sure your hands are clean and get in there and massage your kale. Rub that dressing into the kale for about 2 minutes.Drain the carrot ribbons and throw those in.Now you can add in the cheese, orange chunks and the nuts and toss it. Taste it to see if it needs more salt. If it's not as tart as you would like, feel free to sprinkle another tbls of rice vinegar over the salad or squeeze the juice of half a lemon over it and toss again.You should always just keep tasting and adjusting until it tastes perfect FOR YOU.

Cardamom Creme Brulee for My 14 Year Old Man Child

Today was The Kid's 14th birthday. If you are a mom with older kids, you understand how surreal this new era is and if you are a mom with little kids, you have no idea, but your time will come.  My adorable, chubby little baby now towers over me, wears his father's shoes on his hairy hobbit feet, has to shave his dirty stache and his mile long legs are covered with black man hair. He is still young enough to tell me he loves in his best Issac Hayes' voice every day but old enough that he has a job and does his own laundry.

Meatballs with Kale

I don't think I have ever met a meatball that I didn't like. In this house we are all about the lovely balls of meat. Whether it's swedish meatballs, spaghetti and meatballs, my vietnamese bbq pork meatballs, sticky meatballs, saucy meatballs, spicy korean meatballs or lamb and mint meatballs - any meat that can get jammed into my meat grinder ends up as a meatball at some point, so watch your step when you visit.

The First Ever Food Bloggers of Canada Conference Has Been Tucked Into Bed

photography and food styling workshop

This past weekend was the very first conference of the Food Bloggers of Canada. Three very ambitious Canadian bloggers came together under a year ago to start a community and that short time have managed to gather an impressive number of bloggers, an even more impressive group of corporate sponsors, an interactive web site full of resources, support and information. Oh, and they also managed to put together a weekend long conference at the beautiful Hockley Valley Resort completely packed with endless panels of experts on everything from book keeping to publishing a cookbook, delicious food, copious amounts of Ontario wines and so much swag that I had to empty out my suitcase leave all of my clothing at the hotel. After eating nonstop for three days it's not like any of them fit now anyway.

Java Flank Steak

It was 5C on the day that I made this steak. That's about 41F and here in the great white north, that is perfect BBQ weather. We can stand around outside with a beer and a pair of tongs in relative comfort. We don't even have to wear gloves when it's that balmy!  Okay, there is still some snow on the ground but it's spring and spring means we throw on a fleece and some shorts, stop wearing socks and fire up the old charcoal. We are a hearty folk here in Canada.

Braised Chicken with Mushrooms, Lemon and Chorizo In My New Nordic Ware Braiser

I love braising but I don't do it a ton because my very excellent braising pan is also massive and way too big to make dinner for the three of us. I bust it out a few times a year when we have people over but when it's just my wee bunch, it's just not small enough. Imagine my delight when I opened my box of Nordic Ware treats and found an enamelled aluminum 3qt braiser (along with a 3qt dutch oven and a contraption for cooking chicken drumsticks). I was lucky enough to win a full pass to the 1st ever Canadian Food Bloggers Association of Canada's Food Blogger Conference, courtesy of Canadian Beef and Nordic Ware is providing all of the participants with some nice swag. I may be in love with you, Nordic Ware people.

Wow, that's a lot of links but check them all out anyway people.

Brûlée Bread Pudding

Shack has been asking me to make him a bread pudding for about 18 years. Believe it or not, I am finally getting around to doing that now. I don't know why it has taken me two decades to make something I know would make him so happy but better late than never, right? Although I had dreams of making a pumpkin bread pudding with dark chocolate or some sort of exotic concoction,  I was shot down at every turn. He said I could add cinnamon and he liked the idea of dulce de leche or caramel but that was it. Oh, and raisins. He wanted raisins in it. Yeah, whatever, like that is ever going to happen. Pretty demanding for a guy who has been waiting his entire adult life for one of these desserts. Maybe I do know why it has taken me two decades to make him some bread pudding.

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