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.