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Stuffed Persimon® with Persimon® Black Pepper Gastrique

This post is sponsored by Persimon® 
It's November and that means it's Persimmon season which also means it's time for Persimon® 
persimmons (Rojo Brillante) all the way from Ribera del Xúquer in Spain. These particular fruit, known for their firm flesh and mild flavour, are ripe and ready to eat by the time they hit the grocery store, unlike other varieties like the Hachiya which have to soften and ripen before they can be consumed. By getting these, you are taking the guess work out of it. You will be able to find these in the store from now until February or until they run out of stock, so hurry up and grab a case or two while you can.

Last year, I made a Tarte Tartin with my haul so this year, Persimon® invited me to take part in their black box challenge, which is kind of like Chopped but I get to participate in my pjs in the comfort of my own kitchen. They send a bunch of bloggers a mystery box full of Spanish ingredients and each one, in turn, must come up with a recipe that shows off the fruit.

My box contained a case of Persimon® , Spanish wine, arroz, Spanish Chorizo, piquillo peppers, smoked paprika, Manchego Cheese, Spanish olive oil and white balsamic vinegar.

As soon as I thought "Spanish" I wanted a  stuffed fig and couldn't get the idea of stuffing the Persimon® out of my head. They stand up really well to roasting so I cooked the arroz with chorizo, piquillo peppers, red wine, smoked paprika and manchego and in my pressure cooker (you can make it on the stove top too but the pressure cooker makes it a breeze) and topped it all off with a Black Pepper Persimon®  Gastrique. 

Don't be intimidated by the gastrique - it's just a sweet/sour sauce made from equal parts of sugar and vinegar and reduced until it turns into a sticky sauce that looks kind of like syrup and is a perfect vehicle for persimmon and that hit of black pepper gives it some needed bite.

All three components can be made ahead of time so that you can just assemble, stuff and roast on the day, reheating the gastrique at the last minute. This is a total show stopper of a first course for your next dinner party and I plan to serve these over the holiday season to some lucky guests.

Stuffed Persimon® with Persimon® Black Pepper Gastrique

6-8 Persimon™ Persimmons
2 tbls olive oil
1/2 tsp smoked paprika

*Spanish Rice- recipe to follow
**Persimmon Black Pepper Gastrique - recipe to follow

Chopped parsley for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375F

cut the top off of each persimmon and cut a small slice off the bottom so that they will stand up. Use a small melon baller and scoop out at least half of the flesh and put them in a baking dish. Drizzle a bit of olive oil and sprinkle a bit of smoked paprika inside each one.
Roast them in the oven for 40 minutes.

When the time is up , take them out of the oven, fill each one with paella and top with a few slices of manchego, cover the dish with foil and return to the oven for another 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, take off the foil and bake, uncovered for 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let sit a few minutes while you reheat the gastrique. Put one in the centre of a small plate and pour a tablespoon or two of gastrique over the top, letting it drip onto the plate and finish with a good sized pinch of chopped parsley.

*Spanish Rice in a Pressure Cooker

2 tbls Spanish Olive Oil
100g of Spanish Chorizo, chopped
2 shallots, sliced thinly
1 clove garlic, sliced thinly
1 cup of Spanish rice
1/3 cup of Spanish red wine
2 3/4 cups of chicken stock
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
150 g Piquillo Peppers
100g Manchego Cheese - 80g finely grated and remaining 20, sliced in rough pieces

On your pressure cooker, hit "saute" and when it's hot, add the olive oil and the Chorizo. Cook the sausage until it starts to get a bit crispy and has released much of it's orange coloured fat. Add in the shallot and cook for a minute before adding the garlic and give it about 45 seconds before throwing in the rice. Stir the rice well to make sure it's completely coated in the orange fat from the Chorizo and continue to stir, toasting the rice for about 3 minutes.

Pour in the wine and continue to stir until it's mostly absorbed (2-3 minutes) and then add in the chicken stock and the smoked paprika, stir well, lock the lid on and program the cooker for 5 minutes at High Pressure.

When the time is up, release the pressure and when you open the pot up, it will look quite soupy. Hit cancel and then press the saute button again and let it come to a simmer. At this point, keep stirring it for another 3-5 minutes, until it has absorbed much of the liquid and is now just creamy.

Remove the pot from the machine and stir in the grated cheese and put aside until it's time to fill the persimmons. You will probably have a bit leftover but you can either save it to eat later on it's own or heat it up in a small dish along side your stuffed persimmons.


oven cooked rice 

2 tbls Spanish Olive Oil
100g of Spanish Chorizo, chopped
2 shallots, sliced thinly
1 clove garlic, sliced thinly
1 cup of Spanish rice
1/3 cup of Spanish red wine
2 1/4 cups of chicken stock
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
150 g Piquillo Peppers

Heat oven to 375F

In either an oven proof dutch oven or a deep pan, heat the olive oil and fry the chorizo  until it starts to look crispy and releases much of it's orange coloured fat. Add in the shallot and cook for a minute before adding the garlic. Cook the garlic for about 45 seconds before throwing in the rice, stir the rice and make sure it's completely coated in the fat and then pour in the wine and stir for 2-3 minutes, until most of the wine has been absorbed. Add in the chicken stock and smoked paprika and bring to a boil. If using an oven proof casserole or dutch oven, cover tightly and pop in the oven.

If using a pan, transfer the rice and all of the drippings etc from the pan into a casserole dish and cover with a tight fitting lid or foil.

Bake for about 25 minutes, remove from the oven and stir in the chopped peppers and grated cheese and set aside until ready to use.

If you have made the rice ahead of time, take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature before filling the persimmons.

** Persimon® Black Pepper Gastrique

1/2 cup sugar
2 tbls water
1/2 cup Spanish White Balsamic
1 tbls red wine
15 grinds of black pepper
1 cup chopped Persimon® (from the insides of the fruit that you hollowed out earlier)

Put the sugar and 2 tbls of water in a heavy pan over med high heat until the sugar has dissolved and continue to cook, swirling the pot, until it reaches an nice, dark golden colour - about 5-7 minutes. Swirl the pan as opposed to stirring it to prevent the sugar from crystallizing and to ensure it cooks evenly.

When it's a nice, dark amber add the vinegar in all at once and continue to swirl the pot until the sauce turns to liquid again which will take about 3 minutes. Add in the red wine, cook down for another 2 or 3 minutes before adding in the chopped fruit and the black pepper. Continue to cook for a few more minutes so that the fruit can soften and the finished sauce will be the consistency of maple syrup. 
Put aside, off the heat until needed and then you can just warm it up again.

Pressure Cooker Lahmajoun Beef Stew

First of all, I want to make it clear that this is NOT a magic, super fast pressure cooker stew recipe but it is still easier and quicker than doing it on the stove and the flavour is more intense so the extra steps are worth it.

One the issues faced with making beef or pork stews in my Instant Pot is the disparity in cooking time for the meat vs the vegetables. I find that most stews leave me with vegetables that are about to disintegrate by the time the meat is cooked to perfection. To avoid this, many recipes will tell you to keep the vegetables almost whole to avoid this but I also don't want a bowl of stew with giant chunks of carrot and potato either.

 When it doubt, I turn to Serious Eats to see how they deal with the dilemma. I like to call it WWKD (what would Kenji do?)

I adapted his method to my recipe and it works beautifully but if you really insist on making it even easier,  you don't have to brown the cut up vegetables. You can always just throw in the bowl of chopped parsnip, carrot, potato, sweet potato and pearl onion completely raw after the initial cooking period. Browning them first just adds another layer of flavour but it will still only be a tiny bit less delicious if you skip that step.

So, as I always assure you, I only share products with you that I either already use myself or that I try out and love.  I am not here to shill stuff I wouldn't use in my own kitchen and I have already been using Saha Jerk Marinade for the last year. I am very picky about what pre made pastes and marinades that I use and I look for products with little or no chemicals or preservatives as well as great flavour. If that product is also made locally, I am over the moon and Saha is a Toronto company so it's a win, for me, on all levels. When they offered up the chance to try some new products along with different wines to pair each one with and get my thoughts, I gave an enthusiastic YES. They want to encourage the pairing of New World wines with their international, "street food" flavours, which I always find intriguing.

So, this is the first pairing - Lahmajoun with Fleur Du Cap Cabernet Sauvignon from New Zealand.
If I am going to pair the wine with a stew, I am going to throw some IN the stew as well and we were all quite pleased with the results. I am not sure I would have thought to pair a Cabernet with lahmajoun  sauce but it works. The marinade gave my regular stew a nice, new boost with a slightly acidic flavour that I really liked.

Lahmajoun is a Turkish flatbread that's prepared with a highly seasoned tomato sauce, minced meat, some vegetables and baked - kind of like a Turkish pizza. I would normally drink a cold beer with these flavours but the wine was great, much to my surprise.

I have three more bottles of wine and three more sauces that I am going to try out over the next month or so and will report back as I go.

I was not paid for this post but I did receive a gift box of product to try out and, if I liked it, to share with my readers. My opinions are very much my own

Lahmajoun Beef Stew

serves 3-4

2-3 tbls olive oil
600g stewing beef
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup Saha Lahmajoun Marinade
2 parsnips ( 1 left whole, one chopped into large, bite sized chunks)
2 carrots ( 1 left whole, one chopped into large, bite sized chunks)
2 celery stalks ( 1 left whole, the other chopped roughly)
1 onion, peeled and cut in half
approx 125g of pearl onions, peeled and left whole
1 yukon gold potato, cut in large bite sized pieces
1 small sweet potato, peeled and cut in large bite sized pieces
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup red wine (Fleur Du Cap Cabernet Sauvignon 2014)
1.5 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
3 or 4 sprigs of fresh thyme

*optional: mix 1 tbls of flour into 2 or 3 tbls of water or chicken stock to make a slurry that you will add after it's done cooking to thicken the stew up if desired.

Hit the "saute" button on your pressure cooker and when it says "hot" add the oil. Hit the beef with a good size pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper and start to brown the meat, in batches, removing each batch to a bowl until it's all done. Don't crowd the pot or the meat steams instead of browns.

When all of the meat is seared, toss it with 1/4 cup of Lahmajoun Marinade and set aside.

Add another tbls of oil to the pot and saute the chopped carrot, parsnip, celery and pearl onion until they start to take on a bit of colour, season with a pinch of kosher salt and then remove to a bowl.

Pour the red wine into the pot and scrape up all the fond on the bottom and then let it simmer until it reduces by about a third, about 3 or 4 minutes. Now add in the chicken stock, the whole carrot, parsnip, celery, garlic and the two onion halves, the reserved stewing beef with any juices and the second 1/4 cup of Lahmajoun, lock in the lid and program for 20 minutes at HP or just hit the stew button if you like.

When the time is up, release the pressure, open the lid, remove the whole veg, thyme and bay leaves with tongs and discard. Add in the reserved, chopped vegetables, the potato and sweet potato, lock the lid on and program another 10 minutes at HP.

Give it about 5 minutes NPR, release the rest of the pressure.

*If you want it to be a bit thicker, add in the flour slurry, stir well, put the lid back on and let it sit for another 5 minutes before serving

Pressure Cooker Chicken Congee (Gai Jook) - Winter is Coming

So, what is congee, you might ask? It sounds exotic but it's really just a nice, soupy, savoury rice porridge that is the perfect remedy for frigid winter mornings. Even though we go for dim sum regularly, we don't usually order this because it's really filling and it cuts down on the amount of dumplings I can scarf so it's something I save for home, but, pre , I didn't make this as often as I would have liked. Since my wizard pot truly lets me set it and forget it, I plan to make a batch of this every weekend over the winter. I am NOT a sweet breakfast girl but any porridge that lets me garnish it with crispy pork, chilis and other savoury treats is the food of my cold, dark heart.

Sous Vide Duck BiBimBap

We all love a tasty rice bowl and I absolutely depend on it as a way to use leftovers without anyone suspecting they are eating leftovers, especially when I'm left with a little bit of this and that. It's the perfect way to stretch one leftover piece of protein,  a few tbls of leftover grilled vegetable or a small bowl of shrimp to that it can feed everyone.

Adventures in Croissant and Brioche Making at Bonnie Gordon College

Can you believe I made those with very own hands??/

I was invited to take a course, free of charge, at the Bonnie Gordon College and if I liked it, to share my experience and since I loved it, I am sharing. When it came time to pick a class, me being me, I immediately chose the one that terrified me the most - Croissants and Brioche

Yes, I was that mom. At least I was not actually in costume

I am an artistic gal and I am relatively sure I could crank out some decent sugar flowers - I was pretty much the reigning queen of over the top birthday theme cakes when The Kid was little. My giant castle cake that I fashioned for his Medieval themed Jousting Tournament party took me three days to finish and I had to leave the room when it was time to let the little heathens dig into it. I pretty much know how to make decent bread and The Kid has taken over the pie making duties so that left me staring the one class that made my stomach roll over.

I set off to find the school on a Saturday morning and found that, on the weekend, there was little traffic and the journey was much shorter than I anticipated. The school is housed in an Industrial area of north Toronto and it houses the actual College, where you can come and get a diploma in either Pastry Arts (39 week program) or Confectionary Arts (16 weeks)  or certificates in Designer Cakes (9weeks) and Bakery Essentials. (20 days). They take International students as well as Canadians but you don't have to make that kind of committment because they also offer weekend classes, like the one I took.

List of Weekend Classes

So, the down and dirty of my experience:
This class costs $225 and it runs from 9:30am to 5pm
You will make croissants, brioche and almond cream and Chef Michael Smith (no, not THAT Michael Smith) will demonstrate how to turn those basic doughs into a variety of pastries and styles of brioche.

 We were paired off and then after we watched him demonstrate the first step of croissant making, we were on our own to follow suite. Chef Smith is really an amazing teacher. He is clear, concise, managed to simplify the process sufficiently so that everyone appeared to be confident and comfortable with something that could be quite a daunting process. He continued to demonstrate every new step and talked us through everything, walking around and ready to jump in and answer questions and help us along the way.

I have to tell you, the process of kneading a pound of soft butter into the brioche starter dough was at once disgusting, amazing and therapeutic. Just when I thought that we were all being punked, the dough started to come together, the butter was truly being incorporated and we were left with a beautiful dough.

At the end of the class, Chef Smith bakes off all of our creations and we are sent home with a lovely box full of our very own pastries to thrill and amaze our family and friends.

Yes, I was given the opportunity to try this class out for free but I will tell you that I would absolutely pay to take it again and I will definitely go back to take some more classes in the future and you can take that to the bank.

Most importantly, I actually left with the confidence to do this again, at home, on my own.
First it was canning, then deep frying, pressure cooking and now, I have made my own pastry.
Go me!

To see what they have to offer in the way of weekend classes and register, go here

The Taste Canada Awards - Hug A Canadian Cookbook Writer

This week I attended the Taste Canada Awards  to witness a parade of Canadian talent in the world of cookbook writing (with a category for best food blog as well now!)

Pressure Cooker Leek and Potato Soup

For the last four days, I can't eat anything but soup after a difficult molar extraction. I know you feel me. There is only so much miso soup a gal can eat before she realizes that she is about to eat her own foot and when that happens, it's time to whip up something a little more hearty. My brain wants to eat steak and potato chips but my mouth has other ideas.

When I make anything with potatoes, I always like to throw in a sweet potato to make it a bit more nutritious, flavourful and to give it some beautiful colour while I'm at it. Making it in the pressure cooker makes an easy soup, even easier and we are always on board with that. When you factor in the time it takes for the soup to come to pressure, you probably are not saving a ton of time but what you can do is throw everything in the pot, set the timer and walk away, catch up on American Horror Story and not worry that the pot is boiling over or losing too much liquid.

Because there is no evaporation in the pressure cooker, I use less broth than I would to do this soup stovetop and once it's pureed, it is thick enough that there is no need to add cream. If you don't have one yet, it's time buy one and join the Instant Pot Cult. Resistance is futile.

Pressure Cooker Potato Leek Soup

serves 6

1/4 cup butter
2 large leeks, cleaned and sliced, white parts only
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2" cubes
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 2" cubes
1 tbls fresh thyme
5 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
salt and pepper

* opptional - sour cream or greek yogurt to serve

Hit sauté button and when it's hot, melt the butter in your pressure cooker pot and sauté the leeks until they soften down, stirring often. Add in the potatoes, sweet potatoes and thyme and stir well before adding the stock.

Close the lid, make sure the vent is sealed and program for 6 minutes on High Pressure. You can do a quick release if you like or leave it to release on it's own - with soup like this it doesn't really matter.
Once the pressure is released and you open the lid, use an immersion blender to blend the soup until you have a smooth puree (you can also let it cool down a bit and puree it in a blender if you like).
Taste and adjust salt if needed, give it a few grinds of black pepper.

The 2016 Taste Canada Awards Are Almost Here!

So, on Monday, November 14, 2016, I will be at the Taste Canada Awards as a Taste Ambassador to see which Canadians will win recognition for their work - cookbook writers, bloggers and culinary writers compete in the Oscars of the Canadian culinary world!

Out of all of these 55 incredible nominees, 22 will be awarded a Gold or Silver award in categories that span both English and French language publications.

You can join me there for lots of great food, wine and rub shoulders with the who's who's of the Canadian Food Scene!

If you can't join me, follow online on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook while I cover all of the excitement.

Spicy Stovetop Coconut Mac and Cheese with Coco Bacon Topping and a Giveaway from Grace

Fall is starting to get a bit long in the tooth, the wind is kicking up and the nights get progressively colder. As we sadly acknowledge that BBQ season is over, our tastes start to turn to heartier fare that sticks to the ribs and fills the belly.

Unlike most people I know, I didn't grow up eating mac and cheese so I was a little late to the party but I have become a bit of an expert this past year, making a number of different versions in my pressure cooker, but I know that not everyone has one so stovetop mac and cheese lets you whip up the ultimate comfort food with the ease and speed that a pressure cooker provides. One pot, baby. I am all about the one pot dinners and as we start to gear up for the hustle and bustle of the impending holiday season, we all need a few one pot show stoppers in our back pocket.

When Grace hired me to come up with a recipe using a couple of their Organic coconut products, I already had a bunch of them in my pantry so I jumped at the chance. I've been using Grace coconut chips to make vegetarian "bacon" for a crispy bread topping for mac and cheese with great results, so that cemented my decision to go with a coconut Mac. If you google, there are a million recipes out there for coconut "bacon" and they call for adding maple syrup to unsweetened coconut chips but because the Grace chips are already lightly sweetened, I found that I could just leave the syrup out of the process, altogether and I prefer the finished product. You can find these products in the International section of most grocery stores all over Canada and if there isn't an International aisle, they will all be in their respective areas.

The Kid devoured bowl after bowl of this stuff without realizing that it was not, in fact, actual bacon so if you have a vegetarian in your life, you can keep them happy right alongside your hungry carnivores without having to make two different toppings.

Rich, cheesy coconut milk sauce, a bit of bite from the Grace Scotch Bonnet Hot Pepper Sauce and a crispy topping full of Coconut "bacon" is all you need to make the transition into our Canadian winter just a little bit easier.

You can make the crispy Coco Bacon in advance and store it in an airtight container. If you have leftover coconut bacon, use it on salad, in a sandwich or anywhere that you used cripsy, crumbled bacon.

To find more creative ways to use Grace Coconut products, check out the hashtag #coconut4life and follow Grace Foods Canada on Twitter

**this post is sponsored by Grace

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Spicy Stovetop Mac and Cheese with Coconut "Bacon" Topping

serves 6-8 

454 g (1 lb) cavatappi
3 cups water
2 cups coconut milk + up to 3 tbls extra ( you will need to open two 400ml cans of Grace Organic Coconut Milk)
1 tbls butter
2 tsp of Scotch Bonnet Hot Pepper Sauce or to taste
1 tsp kosher salt
250g (9oz) sharp, white cheddar, grated

Put the water and pasta into a deep pot and bring to a simmer, stirring almost constantly so it doesn't stick. After a couple of minutes, add in the coconut milk, stirring constantly and bring back up to a simmer. As soon as it starts to simmer again, turn the heat to low and continue to cook your pasta, stirring almost constantly as you keep watch. It will take about ten minutes for your pasta to cook. If your pasta is not cooked yet but the liquid is absorbing too much, add a bit more coconut milk because you want some milk left in the pot when it's tender to make the cheese sauce.

Once the pasta is cooked to your liking, add in the butter, the scotch bonnet hot pepper sauce, the salt and the grated cheeses and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the cheese it totally melted and incorporated into the sauce. You can add a bit more coconut milk if you want it a bit creamier and when the consistency is perfect, taste and add more salt if needed.

Serve right away and top each bowl with some of the Coconut "Bacon" topping

To Make the Coconut Bacon Topping

*Coconut Chip Bacon

1 40 gram bag of Grace Coconut Chips (approx. 1 cup)
1 tbls soy sauce
1.5 tsp liquid smoke
1/4 tsp smoked paprika

Heat oven to 325F

Mix together the soy sauce, liquid smoke and smoked paprika.

Line a small baking sheet with some parchment and pour out the coconut chips on the parchment. Drizzle the soy sauce mixture and toss well until all of the coconut chips are coated. Spread them out in an even layer and put the sheet in the oven on the centre rack. Cook for about 10 minutes, keeping an eye on it to make sure it doesn't burn. After 10 minutes, check on it every 2 minutes until it's nicely browned but not burnt. It should take between 15 and 20 minutes in total, depending on your oven.

Remove the pan from the oven and let cool to room temperature. The chips will crisp up as they cool.
Set aside.

Coco Bacon Topping

1 cup panko or fresh bread crumbs
*40 g Coconut Chip Bacon
1 clove garlic, sliced thinly
1 tbsp butter

15g (0.5 oz) freshly grated parmesan 

Melt the butter in a small frying pan and throw in the garlic, cooking for just a minute before adding in the bread crumbs. Cook for three to five minutes until the bread crumbs are crispy, throw in the coconut bacon and then add in the grated parmesan, cook for another 30 minutes before you remove it from the heat and set aside.

The Week in Yum, Baron Samedi and World Vision #HungerFree

I had a bit of an odd week, media event wise. I attended two very different events at the same venue a few days apart from each other.


I am always interested in organizations that are working towards food security, ending hunger and making healthy, tasty food available to everyone so I looked forward to attending this one. The gathering at Berkeley Field House (attached to the Berkeley Church), here in Toronto, was to celebrate with World Vision, who teamed up with Dennis Prescott to share his experience working with them in Kenya. World Vision is inviting Canadians to celebrate food with them and help support food projects for a #HungerFree world and this dinner was the official launch party. The setting was lovely with long tables covered with flowers and persimmons at every setting where everyone shared in a three course meal prepared by Prescott.

To learn more about World Vision Canada, #HungerFree and find ways to get involved, click here


Later in the week, I returned to Berkeley Church for something completely different.

This time it was to celebrate the launch of Baron Samedi Spiced Rum. It was all skulls, purple lights and copious rum drinks with an appearance by the man himself, Baron Samedi.

Okay, he isn't actually a man because according to Haitian lore, Baron Samedi is a Voodoo loa who is Master of the Dead and a Giver of Life. Popularized in the Bond classic, Live and Let Die, he has also made appearances in the TV shows Supernatural, Heroes and Grimm among others. THIS Baron Samedi is the face of a brand new Spiced Rum that is finally available here in Canada.

Although I did try one of the two featured cocktails at the party, I preferred to sip my rum alone, on ice. It's more lightly spiced than some other popular brands and I liked that - most spiced rums are great for baking and nice in a rum and eggnog but this is the first one that I would considered drinking straight up. At $30 for a 750ml bottle, it won't break the bank either.

Best Loot Bag EVER. Full sized bottle of rum with themed treats 
The Berkley Church was transformed into a Voodoo gathering f

the airbrush "tattoo" parlour had line ups from the minute we got there 

It's Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend and, here in Toronto, the weather is beautiful, the sun will be out and I hope that there is a turkey in every oven and a table full of friends and family to celebrate with at all of your homes. Happy Thanksgiving!

Mairlyn Smith Hosts the I Heart Farmers Retreat with A Real, Live Canadian Canola Farmer

Photo: Jeffrey Chan courtesy of Eat Well Canola
*all activities and food were by Branding and Buzzing for this sponsored post, but, as always, all opinions expressed are my own

To celebrate I Heart Farmers, the fine people of Canola Eat Well invited a small group of city kids to join them for a day in the country for some apple picking, flower arranging and picnicking on delicious, heart healthy foods, all prepared for us using Canadian canola oil by cookbook author, nutritionist and living Canadian legend, Mairlyn Smith

The Week in Yum I Heart Farmers and Taste Matters

This week was a busy week with far too much work and not enough play but at least it ended with some fun.

I Heart Farmers, Canola Oil and a Farm Adventure

I took my good friend, Ivy Lam, into her very first corn maze at Applewood Farm. No one was harmed.
On Thursday, I was invited to grab a friend and tag along on the I Heart Farmers media tour sponsored by the Canadian Canola Growers. Along with our host and national treasure, Mairlyn Smith (who also prepared our amazing picnic lunch using heart healthy, Canadian canola oil in all of the recipes) and visiting guest farmer, Will Bergman, we went apple picking at Applewood Farm and Winery (maybe some apple booze tasting too) and then finished with a bit of flower arranging and picnicking at the ridiculously picturesque South Pond Farms. Stay tuned for some more photos from our adventure and a chat with Will about the future of Canadian farming.

Taste Matters 

Scallop Ceviche in Semolina Puffs from R&D

After a day of pretending to be a country girl, I had to do a quick change from my canola boots to silver slippers and made my way to a fancy pants fundraiser for Eva's Initiative called Taste Matters .

Eva's is much more than a youth shelter, helping troubled youth transition from homelessness to a life of living independantly by tending to not only their physical and emotional needs, but helping them aim high and to set and reach goals.

Eva's is named after Eva Smith, a Jamaican woman who came to Canada in 1956 at the age of 33 as a domestic worker.  Depsite her own hardships, Eva quickly became a community leader and, eventually,  a guidance counsellor at George Vanier Secondary school. She her life to preventing teenage homelessness and so it was in her honour that Eva's Place opened their first shelter in 1994.

I wrote about some of the great work that Eva's does here

The place was packed, wallets were open and people were bidding freely on the silent auctions while they noshed and sipped wine and beer from a variety of local vendors. A live auction capped the night off with items like a culinary week in a Tuscan Villa for 4 couples, a Toronto Indy VIP package, some very fancy pants wine and jewelry. Although the auction items were too rich for our blood, we were happy to make a cash donation to help cover the cost of feeding all of the youth that depend on their three shelters throughout the year.

If you missed out on the event this year but want to see how else you can help out, go look here

There was more than enough food and drink to keep everyone happy, watered and well fed

I'm Giving Away Two Tickets to Taste Matters!

Did you know that every night, in Toronto, more than 2000 youths are living in the street? Of those 2000, 70% of them site parental drug and alcohol issues, physical, psychological, sexual and emotional abuse as the reason for leaving home? 40% of homeless youth experience mental health issues but after 4 years of being on the street that number grows to 70%?

This is why our community depends on places like Eva's Place, an emergency shelter for homeless youth between the ages of 16 and 24 in downtown Toronto. Eva's place not only provides shelter, but they also provide much needed support to help these young people either return home or to transition into more appropriate housing, finish their schooling, receive medial care, counselling and basic life skills training that you and I might take for granted. As well as the 40 bed emergency shelter, they run a harm reduction shelter called Eva's Satellite  and Eva's Phoenix for more long term housing and support.

photo from Taste Matters 2015

Every year, Eva's hosts a wonderful fundraiser called Taste Matters, where people can come together and have some fun while raising much need funds. Taste Matters is a culinary feast that brings together the best Toronto has to offer in the way of food and drink to raise money for program to aid homeless and at risk youth. This year, they are hoping to raise $150, 000 dollars so why not win a couple of tickets, get all gussied up and use some of that money you saved on tickets to bid on item while you sip some great boozey drinks and nosh and delicious food.

There will be more than 30 vendors, silent and live auctions and a chance to see the host, David Rocco, Toronto's favourite Italian Celebrity Chef.

I am giving away two tickets to the event, valued at $125 each

Taste Matters

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How Pressure Cooker 3 Bean Chili Could Make Betty Draper a Better Mother

If Betty Draper had an Instant Pot, she probably would have drank less, cooked more and still would have been left with plenty of time and energy to keep her hair on point. Luckily, we can all get ourselves an electric pressure cooker and join the cult although my hair has never looked as good as Betty's.

The Week in Yum - A Trip to Buffalo, Coffee Tasting at Second Cup and My Upcoming Cooking Class

We finally made it to Buffalo for a trip to Trader Joe and Wegman's so I could stock up on some treats. Wegmans always means a flat of Rotel and my beloved Poland Springs Water (I KNOW IT'S JUST BOTTLED WATER BUT IT'S DELICIOUS WATER)

Despite our best intentions, we always eat at the same place in Buffalo so this time, Shack chose the Lake Effect Diner for a late lunch before we started for home. I guess he remembered it from an episode of Diners, Drive Ins and Dives aka Giant Portions of Really Unhealthy Foods That Will Guarantee The Gout.

The diner, reminiscent of a 50's Airstream, was adorable and spotless although absolutely empty when we showed up at about 3pm. I ordered a Greek Salad with some chicken that was the size of two heads with really fresh, crispy lettuce and tons of crumbled feta. I was assured, by our lovely waitress, that all dressings, jams, etc are made in house when I gave the little take out cup of dressing the side eye and she looked like an honest women so I took her word for it. Nothing earth shattering but it was fresh and tasty and could feed a family of ten, although I would love it if they switched out the canned olives for some whole, calamatas but it made up for that in sheer volume.

Shack's BBQ Meatloaf sandwich was also ginormous and tasty but make sure you get a knife and fork because it is impossible to eat the whole thing like a sandwich as it was spilling out all over the place, just oozing with homemade BBQ sauce.

Definitely worth a visit when you are in Buffalo for no nonsense, filling, tasty diner food.

A busy week of recipe testing resulted in a Creme Brulee with White Chocolate Cookie Butter Ganache - I used my Trader Joe Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter and took the PC version of Speculoos Cooke Butter out for a test drive with spectacular results. Recipe here

I also finally perfected a vegetarian three bean version of my pressure cooker chili so keep an eye out for that recipe. It will also be one of the dishes we cook at my Pressure Cooker Cooking Class at Loblaws on September 29 at the Musgrave Loblaws in the east end of Toronto. If you want to come out and join the fun, you can register online here

Tasty cheese and bacon burger at the Aberfoyle Antique Market 

Second Cup #BetterNotBitter

I finished up the work week with a coffee tasting to celebrate Second Cup's new #BetterNotBitter campaign at their swanky 289 King St West outlet. Chris Sonnen, Second Cup's coffee expert showed us how to properly taste black coffee by sniffing and slurping, much like wine tasting. Every adult LOVES to be encouraged to slurp. I am a fan of this new look with all kinds of on trend, fancy coffee preparations with high quality product and I LOVE that they are probably the only company left that is still 100% Canadian owned and operated. They have shifted to small batch roasting, working with an award winning Canadian Roaster and it shows, to me at least. This particular location has become a regular pitstop for me since it's right across from the TIFF Bell Lightbox and I can sit at the coffee bar and charge my phone with one of their complimentary phone chargers while I sip on some coffee, although I think I might start slurping it on the regular.

My Greeter was suitably dressed for the hot, muggy weather, codpiece and all

 Since it's almost fall, in retail world anyway, there was a bevy of freshly baked pumpkin flavoured treats with little pumpkin hand pies, muffins and scones to tempt us and since I much prefer my pumpkin in my food and not in my coffee, I was happy to sample the sweet treats and stick to delicious, rich flat white.

How Instant Pot Cookie Butter Creme Brulees are Bringing Sexy Back

Nothing is sexier than creme brulee. It's rich. It's thick. It's just sweet enough. It has a crust that only shatters when you tap it with a spoon to reveal the treasure that lays beneath it. Unfortunately, it is also a bit of an ordeal to make at home but not if you have a pressure cooker.

Creme brulee in my Instant Pot is a revelation. Long gone are the days of tempering the custard, trying my best not to curdle it but straining it before adding it to the ramekins just in case there were little bits of scrambled egg in there. Bye bye water bath that I always slosh all over the damned place when I am trying to get the cumbersome pan in and out of a hot oven. No more heating up the house for an hour which ensured that this was NOT a dessert I often made in the summertime. 

The most exciting thing about making our favourite dessert in the Instant Pot is that I if I don't want to have six pots of fatty goodness teasing me from the fridge, I can whip up a single serving with the odd spare egg I have lying around from time to time which allows me to stay firmly perched on top of my son's list of favourite mothers. It's a jungle out there.

 COME ON. This single serving dessert will kick that microwave brownie in a mug's ass.

Regarding cookie butter: I know that most of you think that this stuff is best consumed with spoon, straight from the jar, in the middle of the night when everyone else in the house is asleep and I do feel you. That said, save a little bit of this sugar crack to use in your dessert making adventures, like swirling it into a batch of brownies or cheesecake before you pop it into the oven. Or, better yet,  turn into white chocolate ganache - an unexpected little surprise you that greets you when your spoon scrapes the bottom of the ramekin.

Feel free to use any flavour of cookie butter that you like in this recipe. We have made it with our PC Cookie Butter, the Trader Joe Spekuloos Cookie Butter as well as their Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter ( a limited edition seasonal item that I hope comes back this year) but if you have any other flavour laying around, use that. If you have a jar of Octopus Cookie Butter in your cupboard, knock yourself out!  I do recommend that you stick to the white chocolate. It looks better and the mild flavour complements without overpowering.

Cookie Butter Creme Brulee  

makes 6 4oz ramekins

white chocolate cookie butter ganache:
36 grams chopped white chocolate or white chocolate chips
1/4 cup cookie butter
1/4 cup heavy cream

creme brulee:
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup heavy cream

6 tbls sugar

Make the ganache by heating the cream in a steel bowl set over a simmering pot of water. Mix the chopped white chocolate in with the cream and stir gently, until it starts to melt and then stir the cookie butter and whisk until all the chocolate is melted and the cookie butter is fully incorporated.

Divide the ganache evenly between 4 to 6 ramekins and put those in the freezer to harden (leave them at least 15 minutes or more)

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until the yolks are pale yellow and then whisk in the vanilla and the cream, making sure it's totally incorporated. Pour through a fine strainer into a bowl with a pouring spout. Take the ramekins out of the freezer and divide the custard evenly between them.

Pour 1 cup of water to the bottom of the pot to build steam and then place the trivet in.
Cover each ramekin with tin foil and put four down on top of the trivet in your cooking pot. Carefully stack the next two on top of the bottom four, cover and cook at high pressure for 8 minutes with a 2 min quick release
(it took about 6 minutes to come to pressure so that makes a total of 16 minutes from start to finish)

**You can cook this without the pressure cooker in a water bath in a 300F oven for 40-45 minutes if you like but using a pressure cooker is quicker and more efficient

Remove from the pot and let cool to room temperature before putting them in the fridge where they should remain for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Right before serving, remove them from the fridge, sprinkle each one with 1 tbls of sugar, fire up your blow torch and torch each one until the sugar bubbles, browns and turns into a nice sugary crust.

To make a single serving of creme brulee:

white chocolate cookie butter ganache:
1 tbls chopped white chocolate (or a heaping tbls of white chocolate chips works well)
1 tbls cookie butter
2 tsp heavy cream

creme brulee:
1 large egg yolk
2 tbls sugar (1 tbls for the custard and the other for the crust)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup heavy cream

put the white chocolate and the cookie butter in a small bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Give a vigorous stir with a small spatula until the chocolate is melted and incorporated with the soft cookie butter. Now add in the cream and stir again until smooth.

Put the cookie butter ganache into the bottom of the ramekin and let it sit in the freezer to harden for at least ten minutes.

When it's time to cook, beat 1 tbls of the sugar and egg yolk together with a small whisk until the yolk is pale yellow. Whisk in the cream and vanilla and pour into the 4 oz ramekin that you have removed from the freezer. Cover the ramekin with some tin foil.

Put 1 cup of water in the pot and set the ramekin on the trivet. Cook at HP for 9 minutes and let it NPR for 6 minutes before releasing the steam and removing the lid. Check to make sure that the custard is set and just a bit wiggly in the middle. If it looks too liquid, put the foil back on and cook it for one more minute at HP with another 4 or 5 minutes NPR. Take the ramekin out and let it cool on the counter til room temp and then chill it in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.

When it's time to eat, take the creme brulee out of the fridge, put the second tbls of sugar on the surface of the custard and get out your blow torch. Torch the sugar until it bubbles and browns and turns into a hard, caramel crust. Let it cool a bit and then dig in.

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