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Turkey Pot Pie - Take a Walk on the LIght Side

I get it, I don't always feel like cooking some huge holiday meal either. I find, as my son gets older, we do less and less Christmasy stuff and spend the time off hanging out together. We go to movies, we play inappropriate games like Cards Against Humanity and visit friends because nobody has time to get together apart from Christmas.

Aguadito de Pollo with Crispy Chicken Skin- Peruvian Chicken Cilantro Soup in the Instant Pot

The Kingston Social and I are teaming up again for the new year and resurrecting our monthly Supper Clubs, starting in January. For my first menu, I will be doing a Yum style Peruvian dinner. My MVP pop up was one of my most popular of 2017 but, not one to rest of my laurels,  I really wanted to add something new to the meal and because it will be in January, soup just makes sense.

Sous Vide Crema Volteada - The Peruvian Style Flan You Have Been Waiting For

It's no secret that I am a lover of all things custard and caramel.

Creme brulee? I'm there
Creme caramel? Can't stop me.
Dulce de Leche? Hold my earrings

Sticky Instant Pot Asian Ribs

Holy crap, I have been so busy cooking for other people that I have not even had time to cook at home, apart from a grilled cheese here and there. I have a few down days before plunging back into the fire next week so, in an effort to practice what I preach, it's time to get into my own kitchen. I have some interesting recipes that are not quite ready for prime time that will be coming soon, but, in the meantime, I am still going through some of my favourite crock pot recipes and adapting them to the Instant Pot since it is supposedly almost mid November and should be feeling like winter by now.

I know that most of you think of ribs as a summer BBQ dish but for me, it's always been more of a winter thing so I have started eyeballing the pork ribs at the butcher.

I used to either do them slow and low for hours and hours, wrapped in foil in a low oven or all day in the crockpot for days when I am going to be out too long for that. The problem with the crockpot is that, although convenient, the ribs ALWAYS overcooked so that instead of just barely falling off the bone, I often ended up with a heap of boneless rib meat on a platter by the time I tried to transfer them from the pot to the baking sheet. 

Thanks to the pressure cooker, I can grab ribs at the store on the way home from work and have them on the table in an hour, from start to finish. For these ribs, a family favourite, the ribs benefit from a bit of a marinade with the paste so when I can actually get my act together, I coat them in the paste in the morning and leave them in the fridge all day but even if you just let them sit for ten minutes before popping them in the pot, you are still going to end up with a tasty, sticky finished rib.

Sticky Instant Pot Asian Ribs

serves 3-4

4lbs pork side ribs

3 tbls brown sugar
2 tsp grated ginger or ginger paste
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp sesame oil

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup mirin
3/4 cup water
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbls ginger paste
2 tbls soy sauce
1 tbls ketchup
1 tbls smoky bbq sauce like Bullseye
1 tbls cornstarch

If your ribs are in long racks, cut them into smaller sections because it's easier to fit them in the pot that way. Make the paste and coat the top sides of the ribs. If you can, let them sit for an hour or even more but if you can't, they will still be tasty - as always, if you can let them marinade a bit, the flavour is always intensified.
Put a cup of water, about 1 tsp liquid smoke in the bottom of your pot, and then put in the trivet. Arrange your ribs by wrapping them around the inside of the pot, on top of the trivet, standing on their sides with the meaty side to the walls of the pot adding a second layer until you have got them all in there.

Lock the lid in, make sure the valve is closed and program them for about 20 minutes on HP. I like my ribs very soft so I usually do between 20 and 25 minutes although other people cook them for as little as 15 minutes but if you want them to fall off the bone, start with 20 minutes - you can always add a couple of minutes if they are not quite soft enough for you after the time is up. Basically 20 minutes will give you very soft ribs and 25 should be leave you with ribs that are literally falling off the bone. 

While the ribs are cooking, put all of the sauce ingredients, except for the cornstarch, into a pot and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and let it just barely simmer while the ribs are cooking.
Right before you are going to brush it on the ribs, add the cornstarch and let it simmer for another minute. Remove from the heat.

When the timer goes off for your ribs, preheat the broiler and let the pressure on the Instant Pot release naturally (NPR)When the pressure has released, carefully remove the ribs to a parchment or foil lined pan very carefully so they remain intact. Brush the ribs with the sauce and broil them until the sauce starts to brown and bubble up - between 5 and 10 minutes, depending on your broiler and the distance between the meat and the element. Just keep a close eye on them as they will burn quickly.

Win Tickets to Taste Matters at the Liberty Grand

Did you know that every night, more than 2000 Toronto youth are living in the street?
Of those 2000, 79% of them site parental addiction, physical, psychological, sexual and emotional abuse as the reason they left home? 40% of homeless youth experience mental health issues but after 4 years of living on the street, that number grows to 705?

Thankfully, there are places like Eva's Place, Eva's Satellite and Eva's Phoenix who provide Toronto's homeless youth with a safe place, support and opportunity.

Their staff work directly with each and every young person who walks through their doors to come up with individual, personalized plans that will empower them to set and reach goals, both short and long term. It's a fresh start for the most vulnerable among us.

You can make cash donations that supply these young people with personal hygiene supplies, TTC passes, food, safe shelter or a day of education counselling. You can volunteer your time, give to their wish list or help with fundraising. Volunteers provide Eva's with administration and office assistance, graphic design, help with fund raising events both in planning and in the physical set up and hand's on running of the events.

So, I am here to share their annual fundraiser, Taste Matters that brings together Toronto's top culinary talent for a night of food, drink, music, live auctions, silent auctions and door prizes at the beautiful Liberty Grand on November 2, 2017.

Tickets are $125 and that includes all you can eat and drink and all ticket holders also get a copy of the Bite Me More cookbook by the Bite Me Sisters. All proceeds go to safe shelter, food and 24/7 support for homeless youth.

I encourage everyone to get a ticket and attend because not only is this a great cause, but it's a fantastic party but, in the meantime, if you want to try to win a pair of tickets, here is your chance. If you win free tickets, that frees up more money to spend on all of the amazing auction items, right??

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Peruvian Shrimp with Aji Verde Sauce

This Peruvian inspired shrimp is currently one of my most requested dishes and by most requested, I mean that people basically command me to make this for dinner when they come over.

The aji sauce is usually served with rotisserie chicken but I like with everything from french fries or roasted potatoes to fish. The herb marinated shrimp cooked in lots of butter puts this rich sauce right over the edge and the drizzle of crema de rocoto complements all that richness with a hit of acidic heat. 

The sauce is totally addictive,  the dish looks way harder to make than it was to make which is always a plus and it's a really great introduction to some fabulous Peruvian ingredients like aji amarillo paste, made from a yellow pepper only found in Peru (medium to slightly hot) and rocoto, another paste made from a hot, red chili pepper grown mainly in the Andes from Chile to Columbia.

Peruvian Shrimp with Aji Verde Sauce

4 servings

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
2 fresh poblano chilis, roasted, stemmed, seeded and peeled (0r you can use canned poblano chilis)
1 tsp fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp kosher salt

12 U-15 Shrimp
2 tbls butter

Combine all marinade ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree. Transfer to a non reactive bowl, add shrimp, cover and refrigerate overnight. If at all possible, try to make it in the morning and let it marinate all day if you can't do it the night before.

Aji Verde Sauce:
2 fresh jalapenos, including seeds and ribs if you like it spicy, chopped (remove seeds if not)
1 tbls aji amarillo paste
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbls grated cojitas cheese, parmesan or even a dry feta will work
1 medium clove garlic, minced or grated
1 tbls vegetable oil
1 tsp white vinegar
1/2 tsp juice from 1 lime
1/2 cup mayonnaise
koshers salt and black pepper to taste

Combine jalapenos, aji amarillo, cilantro, cheese, garlic, oil, vinegar and lime juice in a blender or small food processor. Blend on high speed until a smooth paste forms. Add mayo and blend until smooth and fully incorporated. Transfer to a bowl, taste and season with a bit of salt and pepper to taste.

Crema de Rocoto:
2 tbls white vinegar
2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
2/3 cup vegetable oil  oil
1 small stock of celery, chopped
1/4 of a red onion, chopped
1 tbls aji rocoto paste
juice of 2
salt and pepper to taste

Put everything in a blender or food processor and blend until completely pureed


Take your shrimp out of the marinade (don't remove any marinade that clings to the shrimp) and heat up the butter in a hot pan until it starts to froth and add in the shrimp and cook for about 4-5 minutes, turning often, until cooked through.

To plate, put a smear of the Aji Verde Sauce on a plate and place 3 cooked shrimp on top. Drizzle with about a tbls or two of the Crema de Rocoto

Supper Clubs, Drop in Dinners and Cooking Classes OR Why October Owns Me

Wow, October is a crazy month for me and if you live in the Toronto area, I hope you can join me for at least one of these great events!

I have been super busy working for the last month at my catering bootcamp and have barely had time to think and now, this month looks like it's not going to let up. Cooking workshops, a drop in dinner and a Beau's Supper Club at The Kingston Social will keep me busy so I apologize in advance for the lack of new recipes to share with you but I will be back online in November with lots of new recipes to share.

Drop in Dinner @ The Deppaneur

Next Friday, Oct 13 I will be offering my latest drop in dinner at The Dep featuring a trio of very different ceviches - Octopus Aguachile, Asian Citrus Shrimp Ceviche and Vegan Hearts of Palm Ceviche with guacamole on a tostada. If you can't decide, get a flight of all three!

Service starts at 6pm and we go until we sell out.

Grab a bowl of Mexican Street Corn Chowder and my popular Compost Cookie Bars- a delicious short bread base topped with Mexican Chocolate, Tortilla Chips, Chicharron and other sweet/salty surprises
*there sill be a non chicharron version as well

Go Go Gadget @ The Deppaneur

My Instant Pot classes at The Deppaneur have been really popular and I really love sharing my enthusiasm for electric pressure cooking with the world but the Instant Pot is not the only trick up my sleeve.

After lots of demand, I am doing a new cooking class featuring two of my favourite tools- the Instant Pot electric pressure cooker and the Anova Sous Vide immersion circulator. I will demonstrate a couple of easy recipes that really highlight the strength of both machines to get you started. I will also be bringing out a few of my other favourite gadgets but you won't know which ones unless you sign up!

So, after selling out the first class, we have added a second one on Sunday Oct 29

Get tickets here

The Kingston Social Beau's Oktoberfest Supper Club!

*menu may change slightly 
Ending the month with a bang, I will be partnering up with the Kingston Social House and Beau's Beer to host an Oktoberfest Supper Club featuring four of Beau's limited time only, seasonal beers.

Get your tickets here - Space is limited so don't dilly dally!

My World is a Better Place with Hearts of Palm Ceviche

Oh, I do love a challenge. An upcoming pop up was going to require a vegetarian option as a main to go alongside my Octopus Aguachile and Asian Shrimp with Spicy Ponzu and I was really hitting a wall. I wanted something just as fresh and summery and light but how in the hell do you make a dish that is synonymous with raw seafood without seafood in it?

I set out to make a vegan ceviche because it should really be a thing but it felt like I was fighting a losing battle for a while because nothing was going to be able to replace the shrimp/fish component. It just sounds impossible, right?


I tried a lot of different ingredients to sub in for the shrimp or fish and nothing was working. All of the bean alternatives tasted too beany. Tofu's texture was all wrong and I thought of doing jackfruit but that really works well for pulled pork and pulled pork ceviche is not something anyone wants to eat so I didn't even bother with that one.

I was about to throw in the towel, but I kept seeing that people were using hearts of palm so, after trying three grocery grocery stores without any luck and about to give up, I found can of them. I know, I know, the jarred hearts of palm are probably better but that is what I found so that is what I used. On my first try, I sliced them into thin slices because I thought they looked liked squid rings and were pretty but my tester said the texture felt wrong so, for the next batch, I chopped them up to replicate chopped shrimp or fish and that time, he could barely tell the difference. I did end up keeping about 1/4 of the hearts of palm in rings to pretty the place up a bit but I had to agree that once I diced it up and it had sat for a while, there was little difference between a fish ceviche and this one. There was no need to do anything different from my normal, Peruvianish ceviche although, if you don't have aji amarillo, you can skip it but if you do, add some finely diced jalapeños or something to add a bit of heat. I do urge to find some Aji Amarillo though because it's soooo good and I put it in everything.

You may be asking yourself, "self, what in the hell is a heart of palm?"

Well, I am glad you asked. It's a vegetable that is harvested from the inner core of specific varieties of palm trees, coming mainly from Costa Rica. It's kind of bland and full of fiber, potassium, iron, zinc, phosphorus, copper, B2, B6 and C so it's great because you can kind of make it taste like tons of things and it's quite nutritious. The texture was perfect for ceviche, minds were blown and I discovered that ceviche might be more about the limes, tomatoes, cilantro and garlic than it is about the seafood.

The next day, I made guacamole, spread that on a tostada and piled on some day old ceviche and it was even tastier - I almost never keep seafood ceviche in the fridge for more than a day but this stuff just kind of kept getting better and better, which is awesome.

No more worries about making it to take to a friends or leave it out on a buffet table because this dish is vegan and there is no worry about raw seafood spoiling and killing all of my guests! Winning!

Hearts of Palm Ceviche

serves 4-6
14 oz (398ml) can or jar of hearts of palm
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 medium tomatoes, small dice (i like to use different coloured tomatoes but you don't have to)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
handful cilantro, chopped
juice of 3 or 4 limes
1 tsp aji amarillo or to taste
1 or 2 cloves garlic, grated on a rasp
1 tbls olive oil

Give the hearts of palm a rinse and dry them and put them on a cutting board. Hearts of palm are tube shaped so you just need to sliced them thinly or dice them about the same size as the tomato. I diced almost all of them and leave a few slices but that is up to you. Put them in a glass or ceramic bowl - no plastic.
Add the tomatoes, the onion and the cilantro, salt and toss well. In a smaller bowl, mix the lime juice, the aji amarillo paste, garlic and olive oil and then scrape that over the hearts of palm mixture and toss well, mixing thoroughly.
Put it in the fridge and let it sit for at least one hour.

Serve with tortilla chips or plantain chips and more cilantro. It's also nice with a few slices of avocado. It's also nice heaped on a guacamole smeared tostada.

This keeps quite well in the fridge and we will eat it for up to four or five days, if it lasts that long.

Rome Notebook: Postcard from Roma

The greatest thing about European travel in the age of the EU is that you can get dirt cheap flights for these short haul jaunts and although you have to go through security, you no longer have to go through customs all the time. Its more like flying from state to state or province to province than it is from country to country. The only downside is that you no longer get stamps in your passport but we managed to get three return flights on Veuling (Spain's budget airline) from Paris to Rome for $100 CD each so I will live without the stamp at those prices.

Aji Risotto Cakes - A Peruvian, An Italian and an Instant Pot Walk Into A Bar......

You all know how I love a show stopper and this one is a spectacular dish to serve the next time you have your boss/mother in law/new paramour over for dinner. Crispy, spicy little rice cakes with a centre of melty cheese, nestled in an acidic tomato vinaigrette and topped with a dollop of spicy yellow pepper/cheese sauce with a smattering of pickled red pepper, this baby is not only really delicious, it is a beautiful dish to behold.

For my Toronto readers, I am back at The Kingston Social House, next Wednesday August 9 for another Pop Up! This time the menu was inspired by my friends, the  MVPs - Most Valuable Peruvians.

Flavour Your Life Event - Blending Olive Oil and Beyond

Earlier this month I was invited to the Toronto Flavour Your Live Blending Event hosted by Aria Restaurant, here in Toronto.  I LOVE extra virgin olive oil and was intrigued by the whole blending thing, I made my way down to the venue to check it out because I am not missing out on a chance to have some science fun.

Boxcars and Beer - From Stouffville to Uxbridge and Back Again

I am always looking for something fun to do during the summer. Look, as much as I love driving to Niagara to hit a few wineries and grab a bite, you can only do that so many times before you start to get bored of doing the same thing every weekend. On a beautiful summer weekend, heavy tourist traffic can turn a 45 minute drive into a 2 hour excursion and I just don't always want to taste wine, if you can imagine.

Double Stuffed Mushrooms - Smokey Stuffed Meatballs Baked in A Mushroom Cap

I made some really delicious Manchego Stuffed Meatballs with Romesco recently to serve as tapas style appetizer. In fact, they have been such a huge hit that when I found out that Mushrooms Canada was holding their annual mushroom appetizer contest for the members of the Food Bloggers of Canada, I looked no further, although it required a bit of tweaking.

Manchego Stuffed Smoky Meatballs with Romesco

I am on a mission to come up with a bunch of tapas style dishes that I can whip up for my summer entertaining because although I love to have guests over, I get in trouble for spending too much time in the kitchen while they are here. I have vowed to serve fewer items, served at room temperature or cold and that require very little last minute prep. Your guests want you to spend time with them, not leave them alone while you make magic happen in the kitchen, right?

Blend and Extend Tour with Mushrooms Canada and Ontario Beef

Taste of Toronto 2017

Hurry up, get off your butt and get down to Fort York for the annual Taste of Toronto festival, on until tomorrow, Sunday June 18. This is one of the first outdoor food extravaganza's in Toronto and it's always packed with vendors offering old favourites as well as the odd new discovery.

 The skinny:

general online admission tickets are $21/session for adults, $10 for 12-17 and under 12 is free but it's $26 at the gate so make sure to use this link to buy them online before you get there

There are premium VIP tickets that get you all kinds of extra stuff so you can see if those are sold out or not

In the past, they used a "crown" system where you had to keep reloading a card with crowns (worth a buck each) but this year, the only way you can pay is with a debit or credit card. To be honest, I think it's a good thing because it's easier to budget when you are spending actual dollars and it means no more lining up to refill your card with crowns, but it also means you HAVE to bring your credit/debit card or else you are out of luck.
 There is a mixology lab, a tasting room (both are $5 to participate in their mini workshops and tastings), the Toronto Life Chef's Table where you can join in on a round table talk with your favourite chefs, the Metro Master Class for chef demos as well as the Taste Theatre.

Use this link to check out all of the menus on offer so you can pre plan your snacking - hmmmm ginger scallion noodle from Momofuko or Spring Pea Arancini from The Drake? You have to go in with an idea of what you think you might want to try because by the weekend, there will always be line ups at the most popular booths. It's best to go with friends and divide and conquer, meeting back up with all of your treats and then everyone can share a bite and taste everything.

Because I went alone, I only had the beef rendang croquettes from Little Sister, Sichuan Noodles from Momofuko and delicious prosecco negroni from Bar Buca. This is much better experienced with friends but only if your friends are not uptight and are on board with sharing. Uptight friends who recoil at the sight of an incoming fork should be left at home.

For all you chef groupies, here is your stalking.... I mean these are the chefs that are participating so be on the lookout. It's a who's who of popular Toronto chefs and one of the events where these guys are actually there, cooking, pressing flesh and interacting with the hungry public.

How To Do Chicago on a Whim

There are two ways to travel. One way is to plan and book months in advance. This usually means that you can get reservations at at least a couple of really hot restaurants, get tickets to popular shows and show up knowing exactly what you are going to be doing for the next few days. I have a certain admiration for people who are this organized.

How to Make a Frittata Full of Fennel and Zucchini The Yum Way

I love a good frittata but, for some reason, I never make them. There are only so many meals in a day and when you cook for a living, you are always making something new and that can mean that tried and true old favourites are forgotten until you are forced to make one and then you remember how much you miss them.

Overnight Caramel Pear French Toast with Croissants

In today's admission of food snobbery,  I had convinced myself that I hated the idea of a make ahead breakfast casserole type dish. Monkey bread could go take a hike and if you thought I was going to eat soggy white bread french toast in a casserole dish, you had another thing coming but when it was time to whip up a few brunch dishes at the request of a friend's husband that I could drop off the night before, it kept creeping into my brain. I made a frittata, which is always good the next day but everything I thought I wanted to make that would be more on the sweet side of things worked best made on the day. I was pretty sure my friend would love a french toast bake though and since it was her birthday brunch, not mine, I set out to make one that would make me happy as well.

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