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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.

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