Thursday, 31 October 2013


Coconut Butter

Coconut butter, is not the same as coconut oil.  Coconut oil is just that, the oil removed from the meat of the coconut.  Coconut butter on the other hand, is a thick, smooth paste, made purely from the meat or flesh of the coconut.  You'll see it sold in jars in the health food stores, possibly with a few different flavour variations as well.  I haven't purchased the product in store before, but I decided to skip right into just making it at home.  Since you can buy shredded coconut at a pretty low price, this seemed like a much more economically friendly option.

Before I even get into it, I will say that this seems to be a bit of a temperamental process.  Coconuts may just be a little bit high maintenance.  I'm not judging, but still it's something to keep in mind.  A little light reading on the wonderful internet warned me of this.  I read that without a good strong blender or food processor, this isn't going to work.  I learned that coconut lovers in Texas have a much easier time making this stuff than those in a colder, drier climate.  I learned that this could be a slow process, and patience was key.  I also learned, that people are crazy about the stuff.

Coconut Butter

Since I'm absolutely crazed over anything coconut related, I had to give it a try.  I didn't get the perfect and easy results that some people have had, but I did okay.  If you have a Vitamix, I've read that is the best tool for this and will result in perfectly smooth butter.  I don't have a Vitamix, so I used my Cuisinart food processor which I read will work if you are patient.  Don't even try doing this with a Bullet.

All you need is a lot of unsweetened shredded, desiccated, or flaked coconut.  Again, I read that flaked was the easiest to work with, but I ended up using desiccated.  Ah, well.  The instructions are simple - just blend the coconut until it forms a smooth paste.  For me, it took about 10 or 15 minutes of blending to get to the general vicinity of "paste".  This was broken up by stopping every minute or two to scrape down the sides of the blender.  I also needed to cheat a little bit.  Or maybe I didn't need to cheat, but after about 5 minutes I was sure that I needed to cheat and so I did, although perhaps a little patience would have worked just the same.  If you as well are an impatient cheater, just stream a tablespoon or two of coconut oil into the mixture while it is blending.  That will help it move along.  Then blend some more.  And some more.  And, you guessed it, blend some more.

Coconut Butter

Finally, when you can't take it anymore, pour your coco butter into a jar for storage.  Do not, I repeat, do not, store this in the fridge.  It will get hard and dry.  I know because while I set my jar aside on the counter with full intentions to leave it there, my incessant tidying up soon found me absentmindedly popping it into the fridge where it staying for the next day and a half.  I'm the worst.  So just leave it on the counter, or in the cupboard at your house.

Wondering what to do with it?  Me too.  I found a great use for it right away - and that sweet recipe will be coming soon.  But really this stuff can be incorporated into any baking or dessert that you have.  It will lend a rich creamy coconut flavour to cookies, cakes, bars, and bakes.  Rhyming was totally intentional there.  Or mix it in with a little plain yogurt to sweeten it up, spread it on some cinnamon raisin toast, melt it and pour it over fruit for dessert, or serve alongside pancakes.  It's pretty versatile.  Just make sure you give it a little love and sing..."I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts...." while you work.  Or not.  Whatevs.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013


Black Rice and Bean Salad

I'm always on the lookout for a good hearty salad.  The kind of salad that is a full blown meal.  First of all, you know it's going to be good for you.  Second, it's super easy to pack and go for work, school, or whatever floats your boat on a day to day basis.

This salad is definitely hearty, with fibre and protein packed black beans and antioxidant filled black rice.  It's pretty obvious by now that in the food category brown is usually better than white, but black is even better than brown, at least when we're talking rice.  On top of all the benefits of brown rice, black rice contains antioxidants that are missing in the brown stuff.  It's the same antioxidants that you'll find in dark blue berries.  Black rice also has a bit of a deeper, richer, sweeter flavour.

Black Rice and Bean Salad

With all these good reasons to eat black rice, you'd think using it in this salad would be a no brainer, right?  In truth, the real reason I used black rice today was for looks.  That's right, it was for completely superficial reasons.  The rice isn't complaining.

The other component in this salad that's really working hard is the corn.  The corn is quickly roasted before being tossed into the salad, and that adds a ton of flavour.  Corn is naturally sweet, and roasting it is a great option to deepen that sweetness and add a smoky side to it as well.

Black Rice and Bean Salad

Finally, we've got to pay our dues to the dressing as well.  It's only three ingredients, but it is strong and sweet and spicy.  It brings the salad together and gets it ready for your tastebuds.  Don't go easy on the dressing for this meal.

If you are going to pack this salad for lunch, just layer it up in a mason jar with the dressing on the bottom and the mixture piled on top.  Then when you're ready to eat, just empty it all into a bowl and mix it up.  That way the dressing won't make everything soggy, and you don't have to worry about packing a separate container.

Black Rice and Bean Salad

Black Rice & Bean Salad with Roasted Red Pepper and Cilantro Yogurt Dressing
2 cups cooked black rice
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup black beans
1 tomato, diced
1 avocado, diced
1 cup diced cucumber

1/2 cup 0% greek yogurt
1/2 chopped jarred roasted red peppers
1/4 chopped fresh cilantro
Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Place the frozen corn in a colander and run under cold water, to get rid of the worst of the freeze on the kernels, and pat dry.  Don't worry about defrosting them completely.  Spread the corn in a single layer on a baking pan.  Spray lightly with oil, tossing to coat.  Roast in the oven for 10 minutes, toss the kernels, then roast again for 5 more minutes.  Remove and let cool.

Mix together all of the salad ingredients in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl combine the yogurt, roasted red peppers, cilantro and a pinch of salt.  Use a hand blender to puree together until smooth.

Toss the dressing with the rice salad immediately before serving and eat up.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013


Baked Eggs in Ricotta & Boursin

I've only seen baked eggs on a brunch menu once or twice, but I'm not sure why more people aren't taking advantage of this versatile dish.  Served up hot, straight from the oven, baked eggs are soft and tender, surrounded by flavourful sauce and lots of warm crusty bread on the side to scoop everything up with.  Very simple to make, and very easy to cater to specific flavours or tastes, this makes a great Sunday brunch dish or even a good weeknight dinner option.

The most common style of baked eggs is to cook them in a tomato based sauce with a few herbs.  In this case, you can also throw in chunks of cooked sausage to really beef things up if that's the way you like it.  Today, I actually wanted to make a creamy, fresh baked eggs dish.  I wanted something light, yet flavourful, that would melt together with the eggs creating a smooth, comforting, brunch dish.

Brunch itself is my all time, absolute favourite, uncontested meal, ever.  You get the best of everything at brunch.  You can have eggs, bacon, sliced tomatoes, pancakes, waffles, and all of the yummy breakfast dishes that exist out there.  But then, you can also have a plate of delectable cheeses, savoury sliced deli meats, crisp salads, and warm dips.  To top things off, it is perfectly acceptable to drink at brunch.  Caesars, or mimosas, a cold beer, or a glass of white wine, these things are all okay!  Finally, it is not frowned upon to have dessert at brunch.  Yes, after you have indulged in many of the above items, you can then follow it with dessert.  Brunch is the best.

In my family, we do brunch in style.  We lay out plates and plates of food, so that everyone can have their favorites, or simply just try a little bit of everything.  My style is to fill up my plate with a bite or two from everything that I can get my hands on, and then just to sit there nibbling away, while drinking and talking, for as long as it takes.  This is supreme food pleasure for me.  I love a great dinner, but due to these fantastic family brunches, I'm always holding out for the next morning.

This baked eggs dish doesn't need to be part of a big feast.  You can use a small ramekin to make a single serving, like I've done here, if it's just for you, or if you want to served individual plates to a small group.  Or you can make this in a large baking dish too and just scoop out the servings for everyone to enjoy.  I'll be experimenting with a few more baked eggs dishes over the coming months.  But first up, let's enjoy Baked Eggs in Ricotta and Boursin.

Baked Eggs in Ricotta & Boursin

Baked Eggs in Ricotta & Boursin 
*This is for a single serving in a small ramekin.  Simply double for each additional ramekin if you are serving a small group, or in a large baking dish if you are serving a large group.

2 eggs
1/2 cup ricotta
2-4 tablespoons herb and garlic boursin
salt and pepper to taste
Fresh herbs to garnish (I used chives, but basil or whatever your favourite is will work too)
Olive Oil

Spray the ramekin lightly with oil, and the cover the bottom of the dish in ricotta cheese, making two shallow indentations for your eggs.  Carefully break the eggs and gently pour them into the ricotta.  Scatter a few scoops of boursin over and around the eggs, being careful not to break the yolks or mix everything up too much.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 10 to 15 minutes.  You are looking for the whites to be set, and the yolks to be thickened, but not hard.  Serve immediately with a few pieces of warm or toasted bread.

Saturday, 26 October 2013


Pumpkin Smoothie

I've covered dessert, I've covered main course, and now I shall have pumpkin for breakfast.  You know what?  During all this pumpkin eating, I often forget it's a vegetable.  It's so versatile, a mix of sweet and savory, I've started using it as often as my favourite foods.  It's like yogurt to me now.

I can't tell you if the pumpkin recipes are going to continue all year.  They may.  Be prepared.  In the meantime, sip on one of these pumpkin smoothies.  'Cause no one said smoothies are only for summer.

Pumpkin Smoothie

Pumpkin Smoothie
1/3 pumpkin puree (make your own!)
1/3 cup 0% vanilla greek yogurt
1/2 cup soy milk (or any milk of your choosing)
1/2 a banana
1 tablespoon flax meal
1 tablespoon hemp hearts
Pinch of pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon
1 tablespoon Agave nectar or honey if desired
A few ice cubes

Blend together and drink up.

Friday, 25 October 2013


At the beginning of the month, Gwyneth Paltrow's blog, "The Goop", posted about gluten free pasta, amongst other things including how to extend your summer tan.  I was more interested in the pasta.  GP's point was that gluten free pasta can be a bit more difficult to cook with than typical wheat pasta, but that doesn't mean that those who are eating or cooking gluten free should have to suffer.  The Goop offered a quick rundown of your choices and how to maximize texture and flavour when cooking pasta gluten free.

The article is based on the idea of pairing certain types of pastas with certain types of sauces, like cheese, tomato, or herb.  They also tested a few recipes out to give the readers ones to try from each category, including quinoa pasta, brown rice pasta, and corn pasta.  The learning?  Quinoa pasta should be paired with a few light and flavourful ingredients, such as The Goop's fried rosemary and artichokes (holy yum sounding).  Brown rice pasta works well with a tomato sauce to completely coat the noodles and strong flavours like olives and capers that stand out.  Jumbo corn shells on the other hand are recommended to serve up a cheesy baked dish with a few sun dried tomatoes thrown in.

I personally have only cooked with brown rice pasta since going gluten free.  I avoid corn pasta, since I figure the last thing anyone needs in their diet is more corn.  I would love to start making quinoa pasta, but I can't find it anywhere.  Well, that's not exactly true.  They do carry it at my local cheese shop but it's almost ten bucks for a small two person serving package.  I just can't do it.  The hunt continues.

So, I don't know that I would stick to The Goop's GF pasta rules all the time, but hey it's nice to know that people are trying right?  And the more information and testing on GF foods, the better.

Check it out by clicking here.

Thursday, 24 October 2013


Pumpkin & Ricotta Pasta Sauce with Garlic Braised Artichokes

That's right, more pumpkin!  I was resisting posting this because the pictures do not do it justice, but it's so simple and so good, that I couldn't resist.  My approach to cooking has always been simple.  I believe that if you use a few really good quality ingredients that compliment each other, then that's all you need.  It doesn't have to be fancy, or complicated.  It just has to taste good.  And if it's easy for you to make, well then that's just all the better, right?

I know that the artichokes tend to dominate this dish in the look of this dish, but really this is all about the pumkiny pasta.  I made the artichokes because they are just so fantastic looking, both in their fresh prickly state in the store, and after you've stripped 'em down and fried 'em up.  But if the artichokes seem like a bit too much work, just leave them out.  The pasta is the star here.

Pumpkin & Ricotta Pasta Sauce with Garlic Braised Artichokes

As you know, I've been dreaming about pumpkin a lot lately, and I wanted to make sure I incorporated it into a more savory main dish.  We can't let the desserts have all the fun.  When I think of pumpkin, I think of the smooth, rich flavour and texture of the puree.  Mixed with the ricotta, the flavour deepens and it creates a very unique, very simple, but extremely perfect pasta sauce.  It's like grown up mac and cheese.  I could eat bowls of this all day long.

Pumpkin & Ricotta Pasta Sauce with Garlic Braised Artichokes

Pumpkin & Ricotta Pasta
Brown rice rigatoni pasta (2 servings worth)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (I recommend making this at home for the best flavour.  See this post to find out how.)
1/2 cup ricotta
Coarse sea salt
Chives as a garnish (optional)

Cook the pasta according to the instructions, until al dente.  While the pasta is cooking mix together the pumpkin and ricotta and throw in a generous pinch of sea salt.  Taste, and season more as desired.  Drain the pasta, and toss with the sauce immediately.  Serve hot with garnish if desired.

Garlic Braised Artichokes
6-8 baby artichokes
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt & pepper

First, wash the artichokes.  Then prepare a large bowl of cold water and lemon juice, to keep the artichokes from browning as you prep them.  Cut off just a little bit at the stem or bottom of the artichoke.  Baby artichokes don't usually have the hard prickly/fuzzy part at the bottom so this whole heart will be edible.  Cut off the tops with a knife, about a half inch down from the top, and then peel back all the outside layers until you are left with the soft and tender artichoke heart.  Halve or quarter the heart, so that they are in large bite sized chunks.  Once you have finished one, pop it into the water while you move on to the next.

When the hearts are all ready, fill a sauce pan with about a cup of water so that there is an inch or so in the pan.  Drain the artichokes from their lemon water, then add them to the pan and heat until boiling.  Cover and simmer for 3 minutes.  Drain the water completely, and return the pan to the heat.  Adjust to medium-high, and add the olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper to the artichokes.  Saute for roughly 5 minutes, until browned.

Serve the artichokes on top of the pasta on each dish, or mix together with the pasta and sauce so that it's all incorporated.  It's good both ways, I taste tested it.  A few times.

Eat, eat, eat!

Wednesday, 16 October 2013


Kale Chips

Ridiculously expensive to buy, kale chips are also ridiculously easy to make at home.  I cannot understand paying upwards of seven bucks for a handful of these snacks when you can make a huge tray at home with a bunch of your own fresh kale.  And they are seriously yummy!   Dress them plain and simple or super sophisticated, either way the premise is the same.  Tear up the leaves, coat with oil and toppings, and bake until crispy.  Pretty simple.

Kale is one of the best greens that you can eat.  Actually, it's one of the best foods that you can eat, period.  It's dark and leafy which is always a good sign in the wonderful world of produce, because that means it's chock full of the vitamins, minerals, and fibre that your body is craving.  Kale leaves specifically are extremely nutrient rich and full of powerful antioxidants.  Kale is also a superb detoxifier, so if you're all about cleansing make sure that you've got a fresh batch of kale going into those juices and smoothies.

Now, kale chips are truly amazing because they take all that goodness and pack it in to a crunchy, salty, chip.  You really are not going to be able to eat just one of these (sorry Lays, we're over you!).  Okay, I'll admit, eating kale chips is not the same as eating a bowl full of pure steamed kale.  But hey, we're only human.

Kale Chips

So here's the deal.  Take a head of fresh kale and rinse all the leaves thoroughly.  Then tear them into bite sized pieces (not too small as they will shrink a bit while baking) and place them in a large bowl.  Then add the seasonings, tossing to coat well.

Here's a trick to make the tastiest kale chips possible - get your hands in there and massage them!  This not only helps the leaves absorb all the tasty flavours that you've added, but it also tenderizes them too.  A basic recipe will use about two tablespoons olive oil, a healthy dose of sea salt and a pinch of pepper.  A few squeezes of lemon added to the mix is also a good option to try.

My latest flavour combination is a bit of an Asian spin, and definitely worth trying.  I used two tablespoons of sesame oil, two tablespoons of gluten free tamari (or soy sauce if you don't need gluten free), and two tablespoons of sesame seeds.

After you've given the kale all the tender loving care it deserves, spread it out on a foil lined baking sheet.  Try to keep everything in one layer without overlapping, doing two batches if necessary.  This will keep the chips from getting soggy.  Bake at 300 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes until crispy, flipping halfway through the cooking time.

Then pour yourself a glass of wine, turn on Netflix, and relax!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013


Spaghetti Squash

I am obsessed, obsessed I tell you, with spaghetti squash.  It is literally quite an amazing piece of produce.  The things it can do!  Amazing things.  I know, I know you're thinking to yourself, it's just a squash.  But it's a squash that has the ability to transform itself into noodles.  Hot noodles, cold noodles, delightful, delightful noodles.  It's so easy to do.  Just a little roast in the oven, and a plain ol' fork will turn this squash in crisp strings of veggie goodness.  Then it's up to you.

Top with a fresh spaghetti sauce, or toss with some pesto.  Treat it however you treat your favorite pasta, and you'll be in for a treat.  I know, it's not pasta.  But it is a great change to your regular dishes as it has a great texture and flavor of it's own. Besides, it's an amazing way to get your veggies in without going down the boring old side salad route.

Or, you can make this squash the star of the show, and really kick it up a notch.  This dish looks a lot like a salad, but it's really nothing like your typical greens and dressing mixture.  The unique ingredient combinations, combined with the layered serving style make this more of what I'm calling a squash and greens dish.  Yes, that's how creative my dish naming skills are.

Spaghetti Squash

I think I need to work on the styling of this dish.  It looks a bit like a large veggie taco.  But, who doesn't love tacos?  So maybe I was just channeling the taco deliciousness into the squash deliciousness.  However, I did not want to wait to get this posted. It's just so freaking good.

It's fresh and flavourful, such a great dinner that you can just throw together and still feel as though you've had a pretty awesome gourmet meal.  Every bite is a little bit different, with the creaminess of the avocado, the sharpness of the sun dried tomato vinaigrette, the peppery arugula, the smooth and mild ricotta, and the crunch of the walnuts, all working together perfectly.  I've eaten this for four days in a row.  Seriously, it's that good.

Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti Squash & Greens & Ricotta
*I didn't measure anything for this recipe (except the dressing).  I chose a serving plate that would be big enough to feed two people and then just loaded on the amounts that felt right.  So follow your instincts!

Spaghetti squash
Salt & Pepper

Sundried Tomato Vinaigrette
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes
8 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons water
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of pepper
Juice from half a lime

First, start on the magical transformation of turning the squash in spaghetti.  Cut the squash into half lengthwise, and scoop out all the inside bits and seeds.  Season with salt and pepper, and place face down on a baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes or until flesh is tender.  Let cool for about 10 minutes until easy to handle, then use a fork to scrape the flesh out.  It will come out in long thin pieces that look just like spaghetti.  Set aside in a bowl to cool.  I found this dish is best when the squash is room temperature or just a little bit warm.

Start on the dressing.  Blend the sun dried tomatoes, lime and vinegar in a food processor, smoothie maker, hand blender, or whatever floats your boat in your kitchen.  Drizzle in the oil and water, and continue to blend.  Add the salt and pepper to taste.

Decide if you will be serving this on individual plates or one large serving dish, and begin laying out the ingredients.  Start with the arugula and make a solid thick base for the dish with the greens.  Next, put on a very decent helping of the squash.  Don't be shy with these noodles!  Place slices of avocado in the centre and then a few healthy dollops of ricotta.  Top with walnut pieces, and drizzle the dressing all over the dish.  The dressing is quite thick and won't go everywhere, which helps to make every bite have a unique flavor.

Enjoy, and tell nature that you love it too.

Sunday, 13 October 2013


Gluten Free Pumpkin Cider Mini Cakes

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am obsessed with pumpkin.  Being thankful too, but really also a lot of pumpkin.  However, I am not attempting to make a gluten free pumpkin pie.  Not this year anyways.  Instead, I'm translating this pumpkin love into just about everything else.  You'll see.  Watch out pumpkins and blog readers.  I'm coming for you.

These Pumpkin Cider Mini Cakes are very moist, but also very light.  They could work as muffins too, but I have these great little mini cake tins that seemed just right for the job.  Since these little guys are not super rich, you can easily polish of one on your own but of course they are a nice size for sharing as well if you don't feel up to the task.

Gluten Free Pumpkin Cider Mini Cakes

Speaking of feeling up to the task, I got caught up in the moment and decided that instead of buying a can of ready made pumpkin puree, I was going to take home a beautiful little orange pum'kin instead.  The next morning of course when I was faced with all of the days activities and what seemed like a small amount of time, I have to be honest I regretted this decision. However, I realized that it really is super easy and simple to make your own pumpkin puree, and I felt much better about it then opening up a can.  Plus, I had lots leftover for many other pumpkin creations.  Besides, I always love a good excuse to buy a pumpkin.

Gluten Free Pumpkin Cider Mini Cakes

If you are going to make the pumpkin puree from scratch, start by cutting the pumpkin in half lengthwise, and scooping out all the insides.  Be sure to save the seeds for roasting later too.  Once the inside is clean, cut the halves in half again, so that you have four quarters in total.  These will cook faster, making your job easier.  Grab a rimmed baking sheet and place the pieces cut side down, and then add a cup of water to the pan.  Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.  When ready, the flesh will be tender and the skins will be a deep, dark orange colour.  Let these cool until easy to handle, then peel of the skins and blend the chunks of pumpkin.  You could throw these in a food processor to puree them, or if you want to reduce the amount of dirty dishes like I always do, just use a hand blender in a large measuring cup or bowl.  Then your pumpkin puree is ready to be baked into tasty little cakes!

Gluten Free Pumpkin Cider Mini Cakes

There is a local ice cream shop down the road from us that makes all their own ice creams by hand, and in the fall they create the most amazing pumpkin pie ice cream.  Delicately spiced and so very deliciously creamy, this ice cream would be the perfect accompaniment to these little cakes.  A nice vanilla bean flavour would work too, but come on, go big or go home people!

Gluten Free Pumpkin Cider Mini Cakes

2 cups all purpose gluten free flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon salt
15 ounces pureed pumpkin
2 large eggs
1/3 cup grapeseed oil
1/4 apple cider

For the topping:
Teensy tiny bit of melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg

Spray the cake tins with oil and set aside.  Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, spice and salt in a large bowl, whisking to make sure everything is mixed together.  In a separate bowl, stir together the pureed pumpkin, eggs, oil, and cider.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until combined.  Pour into cake tins and bake 350 for 30 minutes until the top springs back and toothpick comes out clean.  Cool the cakes on wire racks.

In a small dish, mix together the sugar and spices for the topping.  When the cakes are completely cool, brush the tops with the tiniest bit of butter, and dip them in the sugar mixture until the top is all covered in deliciously spiced sugary goodness.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013


Sweet Potato & Tomato Salad

Changing colours around us are one of the main ways we identify season changes, beyond simply colder and warmer.  In the spring we see greens in the trees and grasses, pinks and purples in the flower blossoms, and blue, blue, blue, in the sky.  In the winter, everything seems to turn shades of gray and brown.  And in the fall, vibrant autumn hues attack us from every corner. Orange is everywhere from pumpkins to leaves, accented by the reds and yellows in the trees and on the ground.  These are signs of winter coming, but it's hard not to live in the now when it's fall.

The coming of fall also has a lot of significance in the foods that we eat.  The bowls full of local berries are disappearing and in their place are root vegetables, potatoes, squash, pumpkins, and the last of the bright, colourful tomatoes.  We start eating heartier meals, working up towards a big Thanksgiving dinner perhaps?  Or maybe just enjoying the fact that you can turn on the oven without having to jack up the a/c.

Sweet Potato & Tomato Salad

Presentation of food isn't everything.  I would take taste over looks in my food any day.  But when you're eating fresh colourful produce that matches the view outside your kitchen window, well it just makes everything taste a little bit better.  The fall makes me just want to slow down a little, and enjoy every bite.

Before we lose all signs of the nice weather, I wanted to have a meal that brought together the fresh, crispness of the fall air with the warm, comforting texture of the changing season.  This dish does that for me.  It's hearty enough to be a light yet filling dinner, or it can act as a bright side dish if you are feasting your way through the night.  It's also very simple, using just a few ingredients and bringing out their individual flavours naturally.  Best of all, it's so very colourful.

Sweet Potato & Tomato Salad

Sweet Potato & Tomato Salad

4 sweet potatoes
6 tomatoes, in a variety of colours
Olive oil
Sea salt

Start by washing and roughly chopping the sweet potatoes.  I like to leave the skins on for texture and health benefits, but just run a knife over any big marks to remove those bits.  Line a baking sheet and spray or brush with olive oil, then spread the potatoes over it and lightly coat with oil again.  Sprinkle with sea salt, and roast in the oven at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, tossing halfway through the cooking time.

While that is cooking, roughly chop the tomatoes and add them to a large bowl.  Season generously with sea salt and toss.  Drizzle some olive oil over them and toss again.  Then let these little guys just sit and become more and more juicy and flavourful while the potatoes are cooking.

Let the potatoes cool on the pan, then spread them out on a serving dish or plate.  Add the tomatoes, letting them just sit on top of the sweet potatoes.  Drizzle with a little more olive oil, and sprinkle with a little more sea salt.  Throw a handful of basil leaves over the dish.  That's it.  Autumn on a plate.

Friday, 4 October 2013


Rosemary Parmesan Polenta Fries

There are so many different ways that you can make and eat polenta.  After you master the basic premise of this porridge, which at its simplest is water and cornmeal heated and stirred together, you can take it wherever you want.  Eat it as is for an easy side dish, top with stew or bolognese for a comforting winter meal, fry patties to serve with breakfast, or bake it up however you like.

In this case, I baked it up into fries.  I'll make anything into fries if I can.  I remember way back in the days of high school, if a girl was buying her lunch in the cafeteria that day, there was a darn good chance she was going to come out with a large serving of fries on her tray and not much else.  The boys on the other hand would get a burger with fries, or chicken fingers with fries, or a sandwich with fries.  But girls, we just wanted our fries.  As I'm writing this, I'm hoping in the back of my mind that the high school had revamped the menu a little bit to include a few more greens!

Rosemary Parmesan Polenta Fries

As we grew up and our tastes matured a little bit we have for the most part become at home with ordering real, healthy meals that include protein and vegetables.  But I'm sure that fries still hold a special place in the heart of many ladies out there.  Come on, what girl hasn't encouraged her partner to order fries with their meal so that they can sneak a few crispy bites from their plate once it's arrived?

Not to mention the fact that fries have really classed up their act in the past few years.  It started with sweet potato fries, which quickly became a staple at any restaurant that serves potato fries.  Then the seasonings and the dipping sauces started becoming a little more adventurous too.  If you read my last post, I mentioned that Jamie Kennedy had a whole stall at the Toronto Underground Market just dedicated to his herbed frites with sauce.

So this is my home version of fries, for all those ladies out there (boys welcome too!).  It's a bit of a different experience from the traditional potato, but with a few added goodies thrown in and some fun, healthy dips too.

Rosemary Parmesan Polenta Fries

Rosemary Parmesan Polenta Fries
2 cups water
2 cups milk (I used skim)
1 1/2 cups cornmeal.  Some prefer fine and some prefer coarse.  I usually use fine, but I only had enough coarse ground in my cupboard so I used that.  Either one will work fine.
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese  (I grated a little extra to top with before serving)
2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
Spray oil

Heat the water and milk in a large saucepan until almost boiling.  Then very slowly add in the cornmeal and salt with one hand, while stirring continuously with the other hand.  You don't want to stop stirring!  Otherwise you'll end up with lot's of lumps which is fine, but kind of annoying.  Cook the polenta until it's very thick.  This may take only five minutes, or it may take 15 minutes.  Just keep going until the polenta is thick enough to hold its shape.  You may need to reduce the level of heat while it's cooking so the bottom doesn't burn.

When it has thickened, remove the polenta from the heat and stir in the cheese and rosemary.  Line a baking sheet or pan with parchment paper, and spoon the polenta into the pan.  Using a spatula (or clean fingers) spread and shape the polenta over the pan into a flat square or rectangle, about 1/4 inch - 1/2 inch thick.  I found it was easier to spread after I had let it sitting for a few minutes to cool.

Rosemary Parmesan Polenta Fries

Let this sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour.  If you want to make it ahead you can leave it in there overnight.  Then slice into fries, or whatever shape your little heart desires and place on a clean paper lined baking sheet that has been sprayed with a little oil.  Do a quick spray over the tops of the fries as well.  Sprinkle with a little sea salt if desired.  Bake at 450 degrees for 20-30 minutes, flipping once halfway through.  Make sure you serve these babies hot!

Rosemary Parmesan Polenta Fries

Creamy Avocado Mint Dip
1/2 cup 0% greek yogurt (regular yogurt would work too)
Juice from one lime
Handful of mint leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

Creamy Sriracha DIp
1/2 cup 0% greek yogurt
Juice from  half a lemon
2 teaspoons sriracha sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Using a hand blender (or whatever type of blender you have on hand) mix together the ingredients of each dip, respectively, until thoroughly combined and smooth.  Serve alongside your fabulous fries!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013


I have been meaning to hit up a TUM event for about a year now.  For some reason it never worked out in my schedule, and I sadly watched the events pass me by over the summer.  But when I make something happen I really go for it, so of course the first TUM event that I attended was their two year anniversary party last Saturday.

TUM Food Event

TUM describes themselves on their website as "Canada's first and only social food market design to give budding food entrepreneurs, chefs and home cooks a platform to test new food ideas to an eager market".  What that means, is that you can attend a TUM event and eat lots of amazing foods.  The best part about it all, is that you can taste and try as many different flavours as you want, from as many different vendors as you want.  Items are served tapas style and sold per portion, so all you have to do is wander around and spend a few bucks on whatever snack looks tastiest to you.  Not to mention, wine, beer, and cocktails.  I'm telling you this is good!

La Carnita Pork Ribs

All you have to do is buy tickets in advance, and head over to the Evergreen Brickworks at the appointed time.  Okay, the tickets weren't cheap at about $25 per person, but I think it's worth it when you compare what you would spend on a typical dinner out in Toronto.

Evergreen Brickworks

The event that we attended was a night event so you could show up anything between 5 and 10pm.  The event space has the awesome vintage feel of the old brickworks, plus some colourful graffiti that seems to fit in with the vibe somehow.  There is a large hall of vendors covered with a roof and a few brick walls, but otherwise open to the cool night air.  Parallel to that is a courtyard set up with a few individual cafe tables as well as some large picnic tables.  Everyone is sharing space, behaving like the open and friendly individuals we all know we can be, but sometimes forget in the hustle and bustle of the city.

Evergreen Brickworks

Food vendors included everything from my resto favourite La Carnita, to previously unknown to me yummies like Babi & Co.  About thirty vendors in total, with maybe four or five of those selling beer, wine, or liquor meant that there was lot's of choice.  Even sticking to my gluten free diet I definitely filled up, although I was supremely jealous of my boyfriends deep fried, cheesy and meaty stuffed rice balls from ME.N.U.


But, no matter.  I had an excellent arepa stuffed with guac, chicken and cheese from Mango Pinton, a cone of crispy and flavourful frites from Jamie Kennedy's stall, pork skewers with pickled cucumbers from Babi & Co., and these amazing, fall off the bone pork ribs covered in crema from La Carnita.  I also indulged in a nice glass of red, and then a fancy tequila cocktail from the Tromba Tequila Bar that was sweetened with agave, and flavoured with a few different herbs (this was after the glass of wine and the food, so my memory is failing me on the details).

Babi & Co.

Tromba TEquila Bar

Biggest surprise of the night?  The skull shaped chocolates to die for from Laura Slack.  I tried one called "Letstat" which was black garlic infused caramel covered with dark chocolate.  I have no words.  Just, truly, perfect.  I knew I wanted to try the garlic flavour but I wasn't convinced it would be worth it...oh but it was.  It's a roasted garlic infusion so you have all the sweetness and flavour without the bite.  Paired with the caramel and chocolate, it was subtle perfection.  I am definitely going to find these chocolates and eat them again.

Laura Slack Chocolates

The best part was that everyone was just having such a great time.  That pesky entrance fee I mentioned?  That actually keeps it from becoming an overcrowded, dirty, unenjoyable mess that many of the typical street festivals have become.  The curated food list ensures not only that everything you eat tastes amazing, but also that the people there are appreciating it.  Lines were short, staff was clearly enjoying every moment of the cooking and serving of their food, and customers were eating, drinking, and laughing.  Overall, a really great Saturday night.