Thursday, 29 December 2011

Breakfast Club: The January Detox

A few months ago I stumbled upon an event called Breakfast Club, which was created by Helen over at Fuss Free FlavoursBeing a huge breakfast fan - of every way, shape, and form it comes in - I immediately wrote to her to ask how I could get involved. This happened during my flurry of event sign-ups last fall, so while I managed to score a slot as a host, I wasn't able to participate until now. Coincidentally, this is both my first time participating in and my first time hosting Breakfast Club.

"Breakfast Club: Because breakfast should be more interesting than
 tea & toast or coffee & cereal."

It's that time of year, friends. Yep - we all ate too much over the holidays and are now struggling to keep that top button closed, right? Feeling mighty over-indulged? Hmm? Perhaps even guilty? I know I am.

Thus, I present to you this month's theme: The January Detox.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Eggnog Muffins

We're almost at the end of the Muffin Monday holiday series, and Anuradha has saved one of the best for Boxing Day. Eggnog: you rich, velvety vixen of a drink! Where don't you belong in Christmasy, baked goods?

If you remember, I tried to incorporate Eggnog into my muffins a few months ago, and while the end result was delicious, the Eggnog flavour was disappointingly absent, the flavour having baked out in the end. It's for this reason that I was admittedly a little skeptical of this recipe.

Since I was leaving town for Christmas and wouldn't have much time in the kitchen while away, I decided to make three batches of these muffins for my new co-workers (which actually resulted in about 45 muffins), on one of my last days of work before the holidays. Wonderfully, from time to time, I'm allowed to use the giant kitchen I work in for such purposes (for baking for colleagues, that is, not necessarily for Muffin Monday. The timing just worked out to combine the two projects!)

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Food & Wine Magazine: December Cover Recipe

Merry Christmas Eve!

After missing out on November's Food & Wine cover recipe, I'm back to tackle December's Spiced Leg of Lamb with Olives, Apricots and Lemons with Jasmine of Cook That Book. And what a time to be back! I love (adore, crave, lust after) lamb. Truly.

If lamb is on the menu in a restaurant, I almost always order it, because it's a meat I never cook in my own kitchen and therefore seems rather elusive to me. A couple of years ago, while volunteering, I looked on as a fellow volunteer effortless threw together a leg of lamb for dinner guests that evening. She gave it a rub, stuck some garlic and rosemary into cuts in the meat, and slid it in the oven like she was a seasoned pro. I peppered her with questions for days afterward and took notes on her answers, which I'm fairly certain confused her, because there was nothing overly complicated about what she did. But she did it so confidently! I guess I've always been intimidated by cooking such a massive piece of meat, as surely there has to be a science to it. And, of course, there is, but thankfully (at a basic level) it's more about owning a good meat thermometer and having a good recipe.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Lions Winter Ale & Beer Cheese

I hate being cold. I actually can't even begin to put into words (though I suppose I'm trying) how much I hate it. Loathe! Despise! It makes me downright hateful! I actually learned a few years ago that I have a physical reaction and sensitivity to the cold - so if you ever hear me complaining, I have grounds ;)

I'm immediately intrigued, then, by any food or drink that conjures up notions of warming up in winter. Mulled wine, wintery spices and yes, even mulled beer. As odd as that may sound (warm beer? Really?). I once sampled several large glasses of the stuff in Poland and let me tell you, it will challenge all previously held grudges you have against warm beer! Delicious and so welcome after spending even 5 minutes in the frigid Polish winter air.

In that light, today I have something extra-special for you! 

A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by the lovely people at Jive Communications in Vancouver, asking me if I'd be interested in helping spread the word about a seasonal brew from Granville Island, British Columbia - Lions Winter Ale - that was hitting the shelves in Nova Scotia for the month of December only. Naturally, I said yes! Unfortunately the shipment arrived a little late, but it's still just in time to give you last-minute gift-buyers out there an idea for the beer lover in your life!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The New Girl

As I've mentioned a few times now, I've started a new job! It's the kind of place that has restrictions on social media (which I'm hoping will change soon; modern marketing and social media go hand in hand! But I digress.), but if you live in the Atlantic provinces you might be able to guess where it is.

I was hired as the Cooking School Coordinator for a major supermarket chain. It means I get to interact with chefs and help them in the kitchen, plan the classes for customers and general public, work on building the room into a business, and generate private bookings for the room (in general). The job has loads of autonomy and room for growth and creativity, and already I'm completely in love with the process. I'm still getting a handle on certain aspects of the job, as is to be expected with any new learning curve, but I have high hopes for where the Cooking School will go in 2012, when programming is in full swing. 

While I was in training, I got to visit several of the other Cooking Schools in the city to learn from other coordinators and see how they run things. On one particular morning, I got to watch (the oh-so charming) Chef Jess Pike in action for a special occasion: CTV Morning Live was there doing a promotional stint for Feed Nova Scotia who had begun their Christmas food drive. Chef Jess was helping promote products for customers to donate, while demonstrating the kinds of meals that can be made with those products. A few of us (who were lurking in the background) got our 2.5 seconds of fame when we were asked to introduce the segments after commercial breaks! Check out Chef Jess's gorgeous and tongue-in-cheek catering business called A Pear of Tarts.

Monday, 12 December 2011

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2011

Who doesn't love receiving good old-fashioned snail mail, especially when that snail mail contains COOKIES? No one, that's who! I was immediately sold when I saw a buzz going around about The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap of 2011, co-hosted by Love & Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen. And great it really was! Initially open to just US and Canadian residents, requests started pouring in from other countries, and if they had enough people to participate, they got to come out and play, too. According to the update we all received today, over 22,000 cookies were sent out as part of this event. Amazing!

Truth be told, while it was one of the things I made most as a child and teenager, I haven't made cookies in ages. I made one batch for F. shortly after we met, but that was the first and last time anything resembling cookies has come out of my oven since. Upon joining the exchange, I immediately researched which cookies would last best in the mail, both in texture and durability. An article surfaced from All Recipes with some great ideas. One of the suggestions was for Mexican Wedding Cakes.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Buttermilk-Blueberry Breakfast Cake for Nelly's Big Day (#NellysBigDay)

Saturday, December 10th, 2011 is a BIG day in the food blogging world this year, because Marnely Rodriguez - of Cooking With Books - is getting hitched!

I have mentioned my love for Nelly on more than one occasion, but she is hands-down the most supportive blogger and baker out there, not only to me, but to hundreds of others. If you ever read the comments on my posts, you'll see that Nelly has been a constant source of inspiration and encouragement from the very beginning... and that doesn't include the thousands of e-mails and direct Twitter messages that have been sent back and forth: 'if I add this to the batter, do I subtract more of that?' 'What should I do if this happens, and that blows up?' Yikes.

Nelly's sort of omnipresent - I once called her Blogger Santa (everywhere and anywhere all in one night!) - responding to my desperate questions, always in a matter of seconds. A CIA-trained baker, I really value her advice and opinions.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Chocolate Brownie Muffins with Cream Cheese Frosting & Pistachios

Happy Muffin Monday! Today is one of only THREE left before Christmas. Can you believe it? Has anyone seen November? I seem to have misplaced it...

After two weeks of being absent from Muffin Monday (sob!), I've rejoined the group with this most ridiculously luscious muffin. If the Gingerbread Muffins with Brown Butter Frosting of a few weeks ago teetered on the line between muffin and cupcake, then these Chocolate Brownie Muffins breezed right over it.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Panettone, Revisited

Life has been a little chaotic as of late, with a job change in the works and several events and fundraisers I've been involved in coming to a head. It's been a lot of fun, but it's been difficult to fit blogging into my new schedule! I'm hoping that'll change very soon, once I settle into the swing of things and find the time and space to make it all work.

Something I've been meaning to share with you for a few weeks now is the play-by-play and the aftermath of my day spent making Panettone. It was quite an event, after all, so I absolutely feel that it deserves two posts!

What do I mean by aftermath? Well, it's not so much that the recipe had a large yield, but Panettone is so dense and filling that a little goes a long way, especially in a household of two. And what else do you do with an abundance of left-over bread before it goes bad? Thanks to our friend Ron who initially gave me the idea, I found a great recipe for Panettone Bread Pudding on Food Network Canada.

From The International Collection, by the Canadian Living Test Kitchen.

Monday, 21 November 2011

For the Love of Soup!

Nothing says comfort like soup, and nothing says soup like a burst of cold weather. Don't you think?

I've been sick for over two weeks now, so I've been cooking and baking a little less (hence no Muffin Monday this week), but still indulging in more than my usual share of fall-flavoured soups. A creature of comfort on the best of days, I seek these kinds of foods out all the more often when feeling under the weather.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Spiced Cranberry & Buttermilk Bundt Cake

Did you know that Tuesday, Novermber 15th was International Bundt Day? I found out the day of, thanks to Twitter, and was beyond excited. 

I love Bundts. I love making Bundts. I love eating Bundts. I love saying the word 'Bundt'. I like trying to get both the 'd' and the 't' in my pronounciation, or, at least, I like knowing they're there; it rolls of the tongue differently, knowing it's a 'dt' and not just a 'd' or a 't'. I even like spelling the word 'Bundt'. How's that for nerdy?

Wonderfully, I was just gifted a pretty, new Bundt pan from my mom (who seems to always be passing along these little gems) and what greater excuse to break it in than on a day celebrating the Bundt itself? This officially brings my Bundt pan collection to three, and I have no intentions on stopping there.

Last - and perhaps best of all - I heard about this food blogger who celebrated International Bundt Day by posting 30 days of Bundt cakes in the lead up to November 15th. That's commitment! The name of her quest? I Like Big Bundts. Genius, right? This word nerd sincerely appreciated her clever play on words. Visit Mary's blog - The Food Librarian - for 30 fabulous Bundt cake recipes.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Gingerbread Muffins with Brown Butter Frosting

Christmas may seem a long way off for some of you, but with Baker Street's holiday series in full swing, it certainly smelled like Christmas around my kitchen this weekend!

Anuradha offered us a basic Gingerbread recipe, giving us plenty of room for creativity, so I'm excited to see what the other Muffin Monday bakers have devised this week.

Every week, MM participants tell funny stories about how the people in their households have begun to expect and anticipate the new week's muffin. Well, F. was asking me for Muffin Monday muffins by Wednesday of last week. When I told him I'd need Muffin ESP in order to do that, since we don't get the recipe until later in the week, he was pretty disappointed - in both the outcome and my inability to read An's thoughts. Poor boy had to wait.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Food, Wine, & Art for a Cause

I have no recipes or photos for you today. Instead, I'm helping to raise awareness around two very honourable and worthwhile events taking place this month: the first for Adsum House here in Halifax, and the second from Bloggers Unite for Africa, happening online. Both are doing wonderful things to help people in need, and both could use your support!

Monday, 7 November 2011

Apple Buttermilk Muffins with Coconut Crumble

This week's Muffin Monday assignment is bursting with all my favourite, seasonal flavours of autumn. Who could turn down a muffin recipe that calls for apple pie apples? Really?

Once again, I was dying to know how these tasted, so I didn't change much. I did add more of the pie spices to the crumble, and I used coconut oil instead of vegetable oil. Also, I wound up with a lot of extra batter, so I filled an extra 6-cup pan with the excess. I knew that little pan would come in handy some day! For those extra 6 muffins, I added a sprinkle of butterscotch chips to the top before adding the crumble, inspired by this recipe I made a few times last month.

I absolutely loved the combination of spiced apples and the crispy coconut on the top. I don't recall ever having this combination before, but it's definitely one I'll try again. The end result was a moist, crumbly muffin that was full of flavour.

Now I have 18 of these apple pie-inspired beauties on my hands. This Muffin Monday business is rough!

One of the nicest crumbles I've ever made! In sight, taste, texture. A great recipe.

Friday, 4 November 2011

On Panettone, for Paolo

Chapter 1: A Story

It was early November 2006 and I was just two months into my quarter life crisis. I had finished the course work for my Masters program a few months previous and was half-heartedly working on my thesis, as well as working full-time. I was twenty-five, alive, and itching to skip town. I remember listening to Breakdown by Jack Johnson on repeat in my car, feeling positively stuck on a path I couldn't see a way off of. It wasn't a bad path, but I was feeling antsy, bored, and uninspired.

I hope this old train breaks down
Then I could take a walk around
And see what there is to see...
All the people in the street
That I'll never get to meet
If these tracks don't bend somehow

Belle (yeah, that's right, from Beauty and the Beast) knew where I was coming from when she sang: "I want adventure in the great wide somewhere / I want it more than I can tell." Even as a kid watching Disney movies, words like these resonated and stuck in my bones. My heart and mind were completely elsewhere. I was tired of being a spectator; I wanted to start participating in life. 

Monday, 31 October 2011

Marble Streusel Muffins

Welcome to the first installment in Baker Street's Muffin Monday holiday series! I suppose this just means the muffins get more and more decadent from this point onward? An excellent start, then, with this Marble Streusel Muffin.

This week's recipe looked perfect just how it was. I didn't want to change anything. A batter made of two parts chocolate, one part cream cheese, all swirled together and then topped with a chocolate chip streusel? This  muffin sounded like a treat for the eyes as well as the tastebuds.

I really wanted to know what they tasted like, especially after learning that cream cheese was getting involved.  [Heavens part. Enter heavenly choir.]

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Pumpkin Flans with Chèvre & Walnuts

The internet has been flooded with pumpkin-themed recipes as of late, whether to use up leftover pumpkin from Canadian Thanksgiving, in preparation for American Thanksgiving, to welcome autumn, or in anticipation of Halloween. Whatever the reason, I have welcomed this flood with open arms and an open mind.

I've had an oversized can of pumpkin in my cupboard for weeks. I had intended to use it over Thanksgiving a few weeks back, but when that fine pumpkin pie swung into town courtesy of my mother, my tin of pumpkin got pushed to the back of the pantry.

Hidden it may have been, but certainly not forgotten. I eyed that can, day after day, foraging for lunch to take to work and imagining all it would become. I saved, printed, and scoured recipes every day, wondering what manifestation this can of goodness would take. Not that I couldn't just run out and buy a few more cans and experiment with other recipes - and still could - but this can of pumpkin was meant for greatness.

Or, maybe not. But it sounds nice, right? 

A delicious and silky smooth Friday evening dinner.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Citrus, Coconut & Kahlua Muffins

Happy Muffin Monday!

When I read the primary ingredients in this week's recipe - lemon zest, orange zest, and coconut - the first thing that came to mind was: "COCKTAIL, please!" So, in a departure from all my talk of autumn these days, here, my friends, is my swan song with summer.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

#Baketogether: Sour Cream & Apple Coffee Cake

These days, I feel like a decade-younger version of myself, in university, agreeing to join any and every committee, agreeing to go to any and every event, spreading myself much too thin, only to realize I had no time left for - uh - school. But that's how I used to excel, push, and challenge myself. There was no time to waste time, so I had to get it done. Even still, I'm grateful for the many gracious professors who always took my papers in late. I even had one paper in grad school that was an entire semester late! Thankfully that was the only time I ever let it get that bad. I always had good reason - as every student does - and it wasn't for lack of initiative. Quite the opposite, actually. Somehow, by the grace of the post-secondary gods, I still managed good grades and got all that committee work done.

Maybe I'm getting a fresh injection of ambition as I enter my new decade, but the 30-year-old version of me seems to be signing up for every food blogging event I can get my hands on, including trying to plan one of my own in the new year. Stay tuned! The odd thing this time around, remarkably, is that I'm very much on top of things. Who is this new me? I haven't handed a single thing in on time in my entire life. If it weren't for the last minute nothing would get done. I think it speaks volumes about how much I'm enjoying this blogging venture, because I can honestly say I no longer live by those words.

#Baketogether is another lovely event I've recently signed up for - on top of the Muffin Mondays, the Food & Wine covers, the cookbook reviews, the Random Bakes of Kindness, and a several other events in the works - and technically, I still have over a week and a half to submit my post. (Oh, if only those professors could see me now!) What is #Baketogether, then? It's a blogging and baking event run by the venerable Abby Dodge, and in her words, "#baketogether is all about sharing your take on this recipe with us – just as if we were all together in one (big) kitchen swapping ideas, inspirations and forkfuls." For October's #baketogether - or R'ock-tober, as Abby has named it - I have the great pleasure of joining them.

The recipe? A classic, sour cream coffee cake.

My twist? An apple-y one.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Orange Date Muffins

I knew I couldn't resist this week's Muffin Monday assignment when I found out what kind of muffin we'd be making, despite it coming in the midst of a very busy couple of days!

Orange zest, dried dates, cinnamon, and walnuts. The flavour! The texture! Swoon-worthy, right?

My dirty little secret with these muffins is that, while at the grocery store attempting to buy Buttermilk (for once, I usually just use yogurt), I spied those beautiful, red cartons. Those gleaming beacons of hope that cozy Christmas is coming soon. Yes! With Halloween not even out of the way, the grocery stores have already started selling Egg Nog.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Food & Wine Magazine: October Cover Recipe

It's soup season, friends!

As if I needed another excuse to love and celebrate autumn? I eat and love soup and stew all year round, truth be told, but I love the excuse of colder weather to put soup-making into overdrive.  

The theme for October's Food & Wine is New French Classics, and to exemplify it, the cover features a gorgeous White-Bean-and-Ham Stew. I am once again joining Jasmine of CookThatBook to test this recipe out and share my thoughts and impressions with you.  Don't forget to stop by her website to see how she fared with this recipe, as well as check out Kendall's latest wine pairing!

Friday, 14 October 2011

Spiced Cranberry Sauce & Canadian Thanksgiving

Is there any holiday more quintessentially 'foodie'-oriented than Thanksgiving? A time to celebrate harvest, to give thanks and count our blessings, and to gather with friends and family to enjoy the fruits of several hours of labour, until our top buttons are ready to pop...

I think not!

F. and I spent the holiday weekend in Montreal and Ottawa on yet another one of our whirlwind weekend trips. As such, we had a belated Tuesday-after-Thanksgiving dinner with my parents when we got home. I had gotten pretty used to being away from home for special holidays, but of all the comings and goings over the past few years, the one holiday I've consistently missed is Thanksgiving. It wasn't until my mother reminded me, however, that I realized just how long it had been since I'd been home in October: Four years!

Tell me those legs aren't sexy!

Friday, 7 October 2011

Treats in Threes

Before heading off into the beautiful sunset that is a holiday weekend, I wanted to show you three of my favourite treats I've been over-indulging in lately.

The first product is this Duck Rillette made by Frederic Tandy of Charcuterie Ratinaud. This little jar of sumptuous, beautifully prepared meat - similar to a paté - goes a surprisingly long way and is worth every, single penny. It's a perfect addition for an evening with company, on canapés, or just when you feel like indulging in something special. F. and I enjoyed some of it with this spread of cheese, crackers, and a glass of red wine. We had a nice sampling of it, too, and there is still 3/4 of the jar left! You can find Frederic's products at the Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market, Obladee Wine Bar, or by visiting his website:

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Canning, On a Personal Note

It was about this time last year that I started having incredible pangs of homesickness.

I have never been the homesick type, to be clear. Not that I don't love my home and family, but the urge to explore and the thirst for adventure has always trumped any feelings of homesickness in the past. I remember being a kid at summer camp and never understanding when, by the middle of the first week, my fellow campers were in tears and lining up at the only payphone on site to make their phone calls home. Weren't we having the time of our lives? Why would they feel sad?

It wasn't so much that I missed a particular place or city last year, it was that I had the overwhelming desire to put down roots. A place where I could create and flourish. I loved living in Korea, but for a variety of personal reasons, I knew it wasn't going to be my 'forever home'. My passion for food and all things home-cooked was getting stronger, and it was becoming increasingly frustrating not knowing how to read food labels or know which farms my food had come from. I had picked up some of the language, but I was nowhere near that level of understanding. There were just so many things I wanted to learn how to do that required the use of an oven, or at least the recipe book residing in my mother's head.

It was this time last year that I sent my mom a message saying, "If I come home, will you teach me how to put things in jars?"

One of the beautiful bowls I bought in Seoul last winter, holding my lemons for preserving this fall.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Alvaro's Zucchini Muffins

When I posted my latest Muffin Monday link on Facebook two weeks ago, a friend I met in South Korea left me an intriguing comment: 
"do you take requests? cause my momma made some bad ass zucchini muffins when i was a kid, i wanted to see your take on something like that. alas i don't have a recipe to share..."
I immediately wrote to Anuradha to see if we could include it in a Muffin Monday round-up, thinking it would be fun for Alvaro to see 10 or more versions of his childhood Zucchini Muffin, and not just mine. As it happens, An was already planning a Zucchini Muffin in the coming weeks, so she graciously agreed to circulate her recipe to the Muffin Monday crew.

So, Alvaro, these bad ass muffins are for you! 

Love the pop of colour from the zucchini!

Friday, 30 September 2011

Food & Wine Magazine: September Cover Recipe

Thai Chicken & Watermelon Salad
Rating: 5 out of 5

Despite being out of university and an academic environment for several years now, I still tend to run my life on an academic calendar. September, for me, is the time for turning over new leaves, for taking on extra projects, and for feeling rejuvenated and re-energized to tackle some personal goals. It's when fitness routines and devoting myself to personal betterment take precedence, forsaking more social activities in order to prepare of my all-time favourite winter activity: hibernation! By April, I've given it all up and am ready to embrace summer and all its terrible habits again.

Along these new, September lines, I'm once again teaming up with Jasmine of CookThatBook to create and rate the cover recipes from Food & Wine magazine every month. Jasmine has been doing this all year, but I'm joining in now anyway. Better late than never, right?

For now, here is my experience making the Food & Wine cover recipe for September 2011: Thai Chicken & Watermelon Salad.  Make sure you head on over to CookThatBook, as well, to see what Jasmine did with this recipe, as well as some great wine pairing advice from Kendall Harris.


Wednesday, 28 September 2011

High Tea, In Photos

It was a chilly, rainy day last Saturday and my mom was in town helping me with my first batch of canning. It was late afternoon once all the jars were filled and the lids had popped, so we headed over to Dartmouth for High Tea at Ma Belle's Cafe.  Interesting mix of French and English, non?

Being so close to Two if by Sea, I couldn't resist popping in there, too, for one of their signature croissants to go. I would have photographed it had it actually survived the car ride home. Provolone and prosciutto? You can't hang on to something that delicious.

An indulgent afternoon!

A sandwich board caught in the downpour.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Muffin Monday VI: Carrot Spice Muffins

When Anuradha circulated this 'healthy' muffin recipe last week, I, for once, didn't tremble with fear. I had ducked out of town for the last healthy muffin two weeks ago, and have been hearing rave reviews about it ever since. As a result, I figure An knows what she's doing in the healthy muffin department, and believe it or not, I didn't do anything to make this muffin unhealthy. I didn't even add cream cheese! (Though, trust me, that was a challenge.)

This healthy (or, perhaps, 'healthier') muffin had perfect timing, too, considering I just had one of those weeks where I decided that enough is enough: If I want to cover everything in cream cheese, I need to be hitting the treadmill a few more times a week.

I liked how this recipe left lots of room for interpretation with its variety of choices. (You can see my choices below in the recipe.) If you give this girl the option, however, I will probably choose what I consider to be the tastier (at times unhealthier) ingredient. Admittedly, it also helped me ease into the idea of a muffin that's not ridiculously fattening. Is that so wrong?

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Spilling Beans

Not to beat a dead birthday horse, but something very fun transpired the day of my birthday that I didn't want to blog about until it was official. I got an email that day from my fellow Muffin Monday blogger Jasmine, at Cook That Book, asking me if I'd be interested in contributing to her website as a cookbook reviewer.

Are you kidding me? Needless to say, I was thrilled.

Life got a little busy around my birthday, for obvious reasons, but it was also partly because I was testing the heck out of Foodista's Best of Food Blogs Cookbook: 100 Great Recipes, Photographs, and Voices, for my first review. 

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Muffin Monday & the Hunt for Jam

Life is finally calming down again after a very busy start to September. I was crushed to have missed last week's Granola Muffin, which got rave reviews from the Muffin Monday bakers, so I'm very happy to be back on the muffin-making horse this week with this simple, Jam-Filled Muffin.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Classic Blueberry Pie & Kitchen Notes on Feminism

Don't you love it when a friend goes berry picking and ends up with too many? And then when she invites you over to help her 'get rid' of them?

More importantly, don't you love it when you're supposed to go for a walk with said friend, only to have her invite you over to bake pies, instead?

Well worn and well used: Kate Aitken's Canadian Cook Book - first printed in the 1960s, but this copy was reprinted in 1971.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

My 30th Birthday (Mostly) In Photos

Ah, birthdays. It's no secret that I love them, but it has to be said that this one was pretty special. I'm going to try and stick to the food elements of my birthday, only a fraction of which I actually documented!

As I mentioned in my post on Cheesecake Muffins, my week of early-birthday celebrations began with breakfast with my big brother. I made my go-to Bacon Cups, which I've posted plenty about before, because I knew he'd love them. I can't quite put into words how pretty I think these little cups of glory are! I used rye bread this time, and they provided a nice, sturdy base and molded together well with the bacon.

Bacon Cups. My absolute favourite breakfast.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Lemon Bundt Cake & A Late Summer's Eve

I was feeling inspired after reading this beautifully nostalgic post from Jamie (Life's A Feast) a little while ago, about American versus French barbecues. Knowing I was going to spend a lovely weekend in the Annapolis Valley last week, at two separate barbecues, I really wanted to try making her Glazed Lemon Bundt Cake, which she wrote about in that post. 

I wound up making two of these beauties: one for the Saturday barbecue with my family and some friends from Halifax, and one for the Sunday soirée with our Valley-residing friends. For the first barbecue, I stayed true to the recipe, simply topping the cake with the lemon juice and sugar and letting it soak in. Both my mother and I agreed with Jamie's prognosis that this cake is deceptive: while seemingly plain, that sugary, lemony goodness is more than enough to complement the moist, delicate cake. However, having received some requests from both F. and my father for a 'topping' of some sort, I decided to appease the men in my life for round two. 

Thursday, 8 September 2011

A Random Bake of Kindness

A what?

Just yesterday I stumbled upon an event making ripples across the blogosphere, which had been live for a couple of weeks, but under my personal radar. Random Bakes of Kindness, spearheaded by Vanessa Kimbell, is an event whereby you surprise someone in your life with baked goods just to show how much you appreciate them. I have done this sort of thing before, but how fun to intentionally go about making peoples days brighter with a random gift of baked goodness? Who wouldn't want this kind of surprise?

My target? Lifelong friend Angie.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

On Cream Cheese & Birthdays

At the risk of romanticizing this ever-so-slightly, this week's Muffin Monday assignment was like a date with destiny! It's no secret that for the past two Muffin Mondays, I have either thought about, or have gone ahead and added, cream cheese to my muffins. How happy was I, then, with the discovery that this week's muffins needed no excuse? These Cheesecake Muffins were the perfect way to kick off not only the Labour Day weekend, but a weekend of my early birthday celebrations, too. There's just something about that velvety texture that really knocks my socks off.

On the topic of birthdays, I have always loved them. My love for birthdays has nothing to do with presents or attention, I just have always felt that I've earned my new age, and nine times out of ten, I feel fiercely proud of the things I've seen, done, and accomplished over the previous year. Birthdays are a time for reflection, a time to celebrate a year well spent, and to give an optimistic nod to the future and to all that the upcoming year holds.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

김치 볶음밥 (Kimchi Fried Rice)

I did it! 

Six months have passed since I left the fine Republic of Korea, and last night, for the very first time, I made a homemade Korean dish. As I alluded to in an earlier post, it's something I've been intentionally waiting to do, but ever since I discovered bottled kimchi at my local Asian grocer (Tian Phat), I've been dying to try making Korean food at home.

As it happens, the Korean cookbook I bought right before leaving Seoul doesn't have a recipe for one of my favourite dishes: Kimchi fried rice (otherwise known as kimchi bokkeumbap, or even more so as 김치 볶음밥). I suspect, now that I've made it, that the absence of this recipe can be attributed to the fact that it's so easy to make. Alas, the cookbook will have to wait for another night, and another cooking adventure.

So where does any new dish in the kitchen begin, if not from a cookbook or your imagination? On Google, of course, and subsequently, on Blogger. I found a very straightforward recipe on the blog of cookbook author Bee Yinn Low. The pictures and recipe looked and sounded exactly like the kimchi bokkeumbap I used to eat in Seoul, so I figured it was a good recipe to start with, even if it wasn't directly from a Korean website or source. Given that this recipe only serves one, however, and that I'm a fiend for kimchi, garlic, and sesame oil, I did end up adjusting the recipe to feed two, as well as to suit my individual taste buds.

Kimchi Bokkeumbap

Monday, 29 August 2011

Muffin Monday III

Confession: On the topic of raisins, I am fairly uninterested. I don't dislike them, I just don't get excited about them. The idea of a raisin, at least, makes me feel like taking a nap.

The reality is that I do quite like them, I just have this inexplicable, knee-jerk ambivalence whenever they come to mind. But because I have an out-of-control sweet tooth that leaves no stone unturned - thankfully or not? - I always wind up trying them in something anyway, and nine times out of ten, I love them.

When I received this week's assignment for Rum & Raisin Muffins, I went through the usual aforementioned motions and emotions. I shrugged my shoulders and got to baking.

What I was not expecting was to love these muffins. Inside and out. Unconditionally. Wholly. Truly. They are by far my favourites in the three weeks I've been participating in Muffin Monday. I am in mad, muffin love. And once again, these were so simple to make!

Amaretto and Raisin Muffins with Cream Cheese Glaze

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

A Saturday in Photos (on Wednesday)

Last Saturday F. and I had the great pleasure of trying out Chef Martin Ruiz Salvador's 7-course Tasting Menu at the esteemed Fleur De Sel in Lunenburg.

Our 7-courses turned into 10 with all the extras, and along with the wonderful company and atmosphere (the rain, thunder and lightening actually added a nice touch!), it was a satisfying and cozy way to spend a Saturday evening. We stayed (and breakfasted) at the Mariner King Inn again, since we enjoyed it so much during our last visit in May.

Here is our Tasting Menu in photos!

Chanterelle Mushrooms

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Snickers & Peanut Butter Muffins

It's Muffin Monday, friends!

Last week I was among bloggers baking from Canada, the Dominican Republic, India, Japan, Macedonia, and the United States. What a pleasure it was and is to interact with people around the world and across cultures who share similar passions, but who I might not have encountered any other way! Muffin Monday is now in its tenth week, though only the second I've participated in, and I look forward to seeing what Anuradha has in store for us in the coming weeks and months.

After reading some of the other Muffin Monday posts from last week, as well as a few other unrelated posts (I'm looking at you, Nelly, with your healthy Carrot Cake Muffins!), I was really envious of some people's ability to look at a recipe - that is by all accounts calorie-laden and unhealthy - and give it a healthier twist. I seem incapable of this. This week, for example, I wanted nothing more than to slather vanilla or chocolate icing on these, but I refrained in the interest of keeping with the muffin (and not cupcake) theme. In retrospect, I should have just gone for it! I also thought about adding cream cheese to them, to make them even more rich. What's wrong with me? I see an already unhealthy recipe and think of ways to make it worse. In the end, I simply stuck to the recipe, with only one small deviation that I've detailed below.

(But seriously, what do you think about the addition of cream cheese? And in what amount?)

Friday, 19 August 2011

How (Not) to Make Spaghetti Carbonara

It's a good thing I don't have any Italian ancestors, because if I did, they'd be rolling over in their graves at the sight of my homemade pasta! 

Given that I'm focused on chronicling my experimentation in the kitchen these days, I'm not afraid of posting about my failures here - for both your horror and amusement - and not just about my successes.

Thus, I present to you, my Homemade Spaghetti Carbonara. 

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Breakfast of Champions

Other titles I considered:

  • A Sunday in Photos (on Wednesday)
  • Attempting to Photograph Non-Food Objects
  • Wasting the Battery While Trying to Learn More About this Camera I'm Using
  • Making the Locals Uncomfortable with Excessive Photo-Taking

(Whichever you like, really.)

Dudes Food: On the side of the road in Three Fathom Harbour, Nova Scotia, and just minutes down the road from Lawrencetown Beach. A sunny afternoon drive well spent!

Monday, 15 August 2011


That's right: TGI... Monday! Thanks to this ingenious idea by Anuradha from Baker Street, we now have every reason to celebrate the ever-dreaded Monday. A little over two months ago, Anuradha created Muffin Monday: a weekly event where a group of food bloggers are given the same muffin recipe to adapt however they choose. On Monday, the muffins are revealed, eaten, and thus, our first day back at work becomes much easier to swallow... so to speak.

Given that I still feel like a newbie on the food blogging scene, I was really surprised when Anuradha asked me to join in for this week's Muffin Monday event. Some of my blogger friends have been involved in the past, but they are real, established cooks and bakers! Needless to say, I felt very honoured to be involved in this clever and tasty project.

Our muffin mission this week was to bake Doughnut Muffins. It just so happens that these were some of my favourite treats growing up, and I have vivid, wonderful memories of eating my mom's version of this recipe. Despite her penchant for baking, my mom always tried her best to put healthy food on the table when my brother and I were small, so when the smell of these these classic muffins came wafting through the house, it was always the most pleasant of surprises.  Because she and my dad didn't overload us with sugar, we always really appreciated the treats when they came. 

My Muffin Monday line-up.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Summer in a Shot Glass

Two little tricks up our sleeve at last week's Dinner Club were the melon shooters and the coffee granita: we served these in between courses as a sort of palate cleanser. They certainly were tasty interludes and they bought us the time we needed to plate the next course!

The first was adapted from an idea given to me by Chef Renée Lavallée, otherwise known as Halifax's Feisty Chef. I attended two of her cooking classes recently (great fun!), and in the midst of my chilled soup woes, she gave me some much needed advice and a fun idea. Rather than serving it as a soup, however, we wound up making it into this simple shooter.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Chilled Tomato Soup with Goat-Milk Yogurt

The first recipe from Dinner Club I want to share with you is this beautiful, colourful, and savoury chilled soup. I had my doubts about this one, I'll admit, because if I could pick a single vegetable I like the least, it's celery. I was immediately put off of this soup because of its addition, but later coaxed into trying it once I realized it was just the leaves that were needed.

Passing the seeds of 5 pounds of tomoatoes through a sieve was definitely a labour of love, but completely worth it in the end! Because this soup never gets to feel the heat of a pot, the flavours of the herbs were so fragrant and fresh. I would absolutely recommend trying this recipe out before the fall, and if you want to try something that's still savoury but different from the classic gazpacho.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

6 Courses Later

If we have been talking in person, on Twitter, or if you've read my latest blog posts, you know that I've been planning one, very special dinner party menu for over a month now. A month! That's a long time for this perfectionist's brain to stew over one event.

F. and six of his friends have been taking turns hosting Dinner Club for several years, but this past Saturday was the first opportunity everyone had to get together in quite a long time. It also happened to be F.'s turn to host, which meant that my first time attending dinner club and my first time hosting dinner club were one in the same. Moreover, while I've cooked for many a guest in the past, I had never had the space or resources to feed 8 people, especially not with such an extensive menu. Imagine my tiny apartments in both Bonn and Seoul, with a two-burner stove-top being my only kitchen appliance for years. While undoubtedly limiting, it certainly taught me to be creative!

It was an awesome challenge: one that made me feel equal parts nervous and excited.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

A Change in Focus

At least, a slight change in focus. I'm not sure this needs a dedicated blog post, but here it is anyway!

After giving this some thought over the past few weeks, I've decided to move away from some aspects of food writing, in order to become more focused on others. I'm not sure, for example, that review-style writing is really a good fit for me. There are many talented writers/refined palates in Halifax doing this, and I'm happy to leave them to their work.

What I really want to do is refine my own writing, cooking, and baking skills. From now on, I'll only be writing about my own journey in the kitchen, as well as sharing recipes and stories from those people whose lives, skills, and food impact me.

I had no idea how rewarding this blog would be when I first started it, nor the level and pace of personal growth I'd undergo in the process. I'm so grateful to everyone who stops by and shares their time and thoughts with me. I hope you continue to find something to feast your eyes on here!

Coming very, very soon: the results of Dinner Club!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Testing, Testing...

This past weekend was a holiday weekend in Nova Scotia (and much of Canada), so we had a whole, extra, glorious Monday off to do with it what we pleased. And what a productive weekend it was chez nous!

Over the course of Saturday, Sunday, and Monday I ended up testing out several dishes in preparation for a dinner party we're hosting this weekend with several of F.'s closest friends. Some were a big hit, others not, so which ones we use on Saturday remains to be seen. The theme of this dinner party is 'breakfast for dinner.' Or... Brinner?

This is a simple, chilled Avocado Soup. I loved it, but F. hated it. I had a feeling he would, just because it has certain ingredients I know he doesn't like. I did however agree with him on something: rather than calling it Avocado Soup, it should be called English Cucumber Soup, due to the overwhelming flavour of cucumber and complete lack of avocado flavour. I do plan on making this again, but will attempt to do its namesake more justice by adding much more avocado and much less cucumber. In any case, it was frothy, refreshing and lovely on a warm day. Find the recipe I used here.

The next chilled soup I tried was this sweet and savoury Peach Soup. The recipe, from Canadian Living, calls it Spiced Peach Soup, due to the inclusion of ingredients such as cardamom and cloves, but I find it a little misleading when the end result is extremely tart and sweet. This will also be tampered with, maybe by adding some heavy cream or more yogurt, to cut down on the sweetness. The original recipe is here

Next up is homemade Mac & Cheese. This was F's brainchild, and a brilliant one it was! We adapted this recipe to include Panko and a different variety of cheeses. I also finally got to put my new Dutch Oven to good use, found on mega sale about a month ago at Canadian Tire. The recipe this pot of delicious was based upon comes from an awesome (and funny) food blog called The Pioneer Woman Cooks!

Then - THEN - there were these little beauties. I got the recipe for Honey Vanilla Madeleines from Jamie Schler of Life's a Feast (not to be confused with the earlier Jamie I posted about, from My Baking Addiction). The gorgeous food Jamie Schler produces in her kitchen and oven can only be rivaled by her beautiful writing and storytelling. I'm completely hooked on her blog! If you haven't visited it yet, you should; it will change your foodie life. Her recipe for (mini) madeleines is here.

Last, but certainly not least, I experimented with Coffee Granita from the lovely Nelly Rodriguez's blog, called Cooking with Books. Sadly I don't have a photo of it, but it was such a fun way to get my morning dose of caffeine. It may or may not have been consumed in bed that morning, along with several of the madeleines. (Is that what heaven is like?) I'll definitely be making the granita again this weekend, so I'll post photos of it then. In the meantime, here is a link (to a link) of her recipe - a guest post on another blog.

Nelly - a fabulously talented CIA grad - is a new friend (albeit only through the internet - how deliciously nerdy!) who has been most generous with her time and advice on all things culinary. She is one of a small handful of food bloggers I've been getting to know a little, along with an old friend I've reconnected with, who are daily inspirations to keep trying and writing about new adventures in the kitchen. Here's looking at you Nelly, Jamie S., Alan, and Alessio. I really appreciate you guys!

As a final side note, I was lurking around Twitter in pajamas on Saturday evening, when F. suggested we pull ourselves together and check out the Summerlicious Menu at Onyx. It was an excellent last minute idea, and nothing perks me up or gets me moving like the promise of good food. It's an incredible deal: $25 for a 3 course meal, plus an extra (optional) $20 for wine pairings. We loved it! It was extremely quiet because half the city of Halifax was in Moncton to see U2, but it was just what a dreary, Saturday night should be.


Did you try any new recipes over the weekend? How did they turn out?