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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

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

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.

Portuguese Tomato RIce in the Instant Pot or Arroz de Tomate de Pot Instantânea?

tomato rice

the arroz de tomate of my dreams
A few years ago we spent a couple of weeks in Northern Portugal and there were a few dishes that we ate constantly. We ate the garlicky clams with butter, vihno verde and cilantro every single day, the kid ate grilled sardines at least three times a day and at every meal, there was a bowl of tomato rice. Sometimes it was really soupy, like that one down there from Ponto Final  (I wrote about it here ). It came in an earthenware cauldron and it continued to bubble and roil for most of the meal. That one was soupy and full of sausage but other times we were served a thicker version, usually with nothing else added in. I had forgotten about tomato rice until I attended a supper club that featured a multi course Portugese feast, prepared by my friend Paula Costa, of the blog, My Portuguese Kitchen  . Her rice was thick and creamy and full of seafood and since that night, I keep thinking about making it but it's been hot, I have been cranky and was just being lazy. 

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