Peanut Brittle with bacon

Bacon seems to be everywhere these days. Sought after and savored, everyone is trying to work it into new creations and tasty treats. Chocolate bacon has been done and all the rage so I wanted to try something more innovative and work it into my peanut brittle.

You start with the microwave peanut brittle recipe http://bit.ly/e8MQ0B and at the last step add 1 cup of crisp crumbled bacon just before you add the baking soda.

Bacon

Peanut brittle hardening

The result, although denser than a regular peanut brittle was a little spectacular. I guess everything really is better with bacon!

Finished Bacon peanut brittle

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Tried and true microwave peanut brittle

As I was saying in my earlier post, this Christmas season has been extremely busy. Speaking with friends and family I know am not alone life is moving at a frenetic pace for most people these days.

One of my most treasured Christmas treats that my mom makes is peanut brittle. I have been making this for years and years for gifts and the results have always been accolades.

What’s different about this recipe? It is actually made in the microwave! So those of you who have been apprehensive to try your hand at it for fear of the candy thermometer here is your chance. It is very very easy to make the only caution I will give is all microwaves are a little different and every baker has at least one batch that doesn’t quite turn out as you are trying to get your times right. I have included both the times for my microwave and the average times in case you have a lower watt microwave.

Try this recipe you won’t be disapointed! Want to make it different feel free to experiment. One of my current favorite variations is to add 1/2 cup crisp bacon to the recipe acheiving that perfect salty/sweet balance ’cause everything is better with bacon!

I am not sure where my mom originally got the recipe from but it has been a family favorite since 1977

Microwave peanut brittle

Peanut Brittle

1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup white or golden corn syrup (golden will be a slightly darker result. I have used golden in the accompanying pictures)
1 cup roasted salted peanuts (tip if you are making the bacon variation use unsalted as the bacon will add a nice smoky saltiness on it’s own)
1 tsp butter (plus more for greasing cookie sheet)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda

Lightly grease a cookie sheet with butter.

In a large glass bowl (that will fit in your microwave) combine sugar and corn syrup.

Mix the sugar and corn syrup

Microwave 1 minute

Remove from microwave and stir in peanuts

Stir in peanuts

Return to microwave and cook for another 3-5 minutes (My microwave which is standard takes 4 minutes)

Remove from microwave and Stir in butter and vanilla

Stir in the butter and vanilla

Return to microwave and cook for 1-2 minutes more ( I cook mine for the full two)

Remove from microwave

Your peanuts will look lightly browned and the whole mixture will be extremely hot and bubbling.

Here is where the magic happens, add the baking soda and stir and the mixture will rise and get light and foamy.

Stir in the baking soda

Carefully pour the mixture onto a greased cookie sheet and slightly tilt tray to spread out mixture.

Carefully pour onto greased cookie sheet

Let harden for 1/2 hour- 1 hour.

Crack and break into pieces and enjoy or give as gifts.

Finished Peanut Brittle

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Fashionable Fro-yo at Menchies

Menchie and Me

To be honest it was catching up with my friend Mary Luz Meija of Sizzling Communications that brought me out to the Grand Opening of the new Menchie’s location at 511 Bloor St W. in the annex.

Menchies 511 Bloor St W Store Front

When I arrived at the clean bright space I was very impressed by both the ambiance and the friendly owners and staff, and could see why my friend had been so excited about it. A fun and fashionable space to hang out with your girlfriends or bring your family.

The concept is self-serve, very smart from a marketing perspective as customers today are living in a world of companies bundling things up for them and almost assuming what they will like and not like. The clever slogan “What’s your mix” reinforces that their model is customer centric.

Menchie’s has a nice lay out where you choose your frozen yogurt from a number of rotating flavours. You can choose just one or try as many kinds as you like in your cup. With flavors like Tart Green Apple, Banana bread, Cake Batter, and Creamsicle there really is something for everyone. 90% of their yogurt selection is fat free and they also offer sugar free, low carb options for those of us who are seeking even more healthy choices. Best of all their yogurt is GMO-Free and is made from real Canadian milk with healthy active cultures.

Menchies 100 rotating flavors

Next you choose your toppings, it really feels like an endless selection and you can make healthy choices with nuts and fresh fruit or treat yourself with sweet candies, cheescake bits, and brownie bits. They do have some really unique toppings which set them apart two of my favorites were the Mochi balls which are made of Korean rice cakes and the spiced apples which were delicious red apples coated in cinnamon and nutmeg.

Menchies Toppings

More Menchies toppings

Finally you can choose to top your creation with a sauce. They have favorites like chocolate, strawberry, and caramel or you could choose a sugar free option like their sugar free chocolate sauce.

Prices are set by weight so you can choose as much or as little as you like.

The following weekend I was invited to a Blog-urt contest in which 15 food bloggers would compete for bragging rights and some nice prizes. Creations were judged on taste, creativity, attractive presentation, and marketing saavy of the creation’s name. The judges Adell Shneer senior food specialist at the Canadian Living test kitchen, Annabelle Waugh Food Director at Canadian Living Magazine, and Joanne Yolles the pastry chef who came up with Scaramouche’s coveted coconut cream pie. They had a tough job ahead of them with many very creative and tasty creations to taste.

I set out to make a caramel apple/apple tatin type creation using Tart Green Apple Fro-yo, skor bits, peanuts, spiced apple pieces, and caramel sauce. Struggling a little with the name I thought that I could change the tatin to tartin and add some fashionista flair by throwing the ista on the end. Tartin-ista was born.

Tartin-ista

I ended up placing third and winning a $50 Menchie’s card which I am looking forward to using by taking friends who were unable to attend the event to experience the joy of building your own frozen yogurt so they too can feel like a kid again.

Listed below are the winning entries. I have included links to the Menchie’s Facebook album so you can see their delicious creations, as well as to their blogs so you can follow their food musings and creativity.

First Place Tropical ThunderBeverly Ann D’Cruz
Second Place Banofee Pie by Irene Ngo
Third place Tartin-ista My creation

The best part of the day from my perspective was meeting such talented and nice people I encourage you to check out their blogs and hope you will be as inspired by them as I am.

Jennifer Hamilton-http://www.domesticgoddess.ca/
Carrie Brunet-http://www.kitchenvixen.ca
Bonita Mok –http://www.boneats.ca
Joel Solish-http://communityfoodist.com/
Christine Cooper-http://coopspeakeats.blogspot.com/
Rebecca Tucker-http://arts.nationalpost.com/author/retuckernp/
Stella Yu-http://www.foodjunkiechronicles.com/
Diana Mancuso-http://www.torontoteachermom.com/
Neil Faba and Jenny Tryansky-http://communaltable.wordpress.com/
Julia Suppa-http://juliasuppa.blogspot.com/
Miranda Keyes-http://www.littlepiggy.ca/
Stacey Fowler and Mark Rodas-http://www.tastingtoronto.ca/

Highly recommend visiting Menchie’s because an experience focused on the customer is always fashionable.

Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt
http://www.menchies.com
511 Bloor Street West
416-645-0222

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iYellow Wine Club a fresh and modern take on discovering the world of wine

I discovered iyellowwineclub quite by accident when a friend of mine joined their facebook group. Being a huge wine fan who knew very little beyond what I liked and didn’t like, I was very excited to find a wineclub that was local where I could both learn more and connect with a community of people who shared a similar passion.

What makes iyellowwineclub different?
Looking for a space to share the wine knowledge with her friends and family, Angela Aiello started iyellowwineclub back in 2006. She also recognized that there were few events and clubs catering to a younger demographic. She started her wine conversation as a blog and has been wildly successful with membership in wineclub growing to over 5,000. Membership is free and the events are priced very affordably offering excellent value for dollar.

Why I love iyellow
If you have ever watched wine tasting programs or been to some of the formal tastings it can seem very intimidating for those just starting out. What if I say that it tastes like this, has notes of this, has a wonderful nose etc and more experienced wine drinkers just stare at me like I am a crazy novice? What if I can’t get that wine swirl going on properly or hold my glass wrong? Joining a wine club who was started by someone who was so open with her journey inspired me that I could be open with mine. Everyone has to learn somewhere right?

The Events
44 wines was my first iyellow wine event back in the Spring of this year at the Toronto board of Trade. I had been eating primarily local food for some time but could find my way to the J. Lohr at the LCBO blindfolded. With a beautiful wine country under 100 miles away in Niagara, I was determined to find local wine that I would love. This event featured 44 different wines from 22 different wine makers in the Niagara on the Lake region. I made sure I went by myself so I would spend time talking to the wine makers and meet new people instead of just talking with my friends. When I arrived I was impressed by how organized everything was and by the ambiance. A fresh young vibe complete with a DJ, a tweet wall so people could share what they loved and delicious appetizers by Oliver and Bonacini. There were also naked wine tasting, and wine and food pairing sessions so attendees could learn about different wine subjects that interested them. I attended the food and wine pairing session led by Chef Jason Parsons and Peller Estates wine maker Lawrence Buhler and fell a little in love as the Chef had done a gorgeous appetizer of smoked salmon on asparagus fricasse with fiddlehead icecream. Yes I said fiddle head ice cream. Seriously good stuff! I digress, back to the wine. I truly discovered new wines and winemakers that I love that are passionate about their wines and dedicated to sustainable growing and producing. My two favorites from this event were Lailey Vineyards and Southbrook wines. I left inspired and excited and ready to challenge the next person who said they had never tried a good Ontario wine. This event inspired me to take on a 6 month journey to drink exclusively local wine and see what I had been missing because clearly I had been missing a lot! Watch for an upcoming post on all of the wines I discovered during my 6 months what I loved and what I didn’t. I am happy to report that I am still drinking local wine and ask for it constantly at restaurants to make sure they recognize that there is demand.

Chef Jason Parsons Smoked salmon with asparagus fricasse and fiddlehead ice cream

Chef Jason Parsons plating for the food and wine pairing session iYellow Wine Club

Be Guilty which was a launch party for Malivoire’s Guilty Men red and white was my second event. Held at the Angell Gallery on Ossington this event was seriously cool. Guests mingled around the art sampling Malivoire’s latest wines while listening to some very cool global chill and tasting beautiful cheeses and appetizers. I Love Love Love the Guilty Men red which is spicy and rich. It is one of the best Ontario blends that I have tried. 42% Merlot, 30% Pinot Noir, and 28% Cab it is delicious, you need to try this wine! The new wines and accompanying products like the Rosemary wine syrup which were in our SWAG bags are as sexy as they are delicious. I really enjoyed the feel of this event it was more like going out to a cocktail party with everyone dressed to the nines and wandering around enjoying themselves.

Malivoire's Guilty Men launch presented by iYellow Wine Club

Guilty Men launch presented by iYellow Wine Club

A Global Wine experience was the most recent event that I attended. Held at 99 Subury in an absolutely gorgeous space. This event partnered with Trialto Wine Group to bring wine club members 22 exciting wines from all over the world. Set up similiarly to the 44 wines event you could taste wine at all of the different booths and talk directly with the wine makers. There were some very pleasant discoveries including some great wines from Washington…who knew? My favorite discovery of the evening was a gorgeous Poetica from Southbrook. Inspired by poets the labels on this wine have beautifully scripted poetry from Canadian poets which express their deep love and commitment of the earth. Truly reflective of their core values, I didn’t think I could love their wines more than I already did until I tried the Poetica Cab Sauv. These are limited edition and I highly recommend that you pick some up.

Global tasting experience sip the world with iYellow Wine Club

Get schooled
Although I have not yet been iyellow wine offers different
wine classes! Learn about a variety of wine types, and themes in relaxed environments. I can’t wait to go.

Sweet endings and new beginningsI know this has been a long post, but I really wanted to do a piece which came close to doing iyellowwineclub justice. Angela has inspired me to get outside my comfort zone and more than that has enabled me to find wines and winemakers that I truly treasure and to engage in a wine community which is supportive and interactive. I found my wine voice. I found and fell in love with Ontario wines and for that I am truly indebted to her. Thank you Angela for doing what you do and for being the person with the big heart that you are. Both you and Talia really make your members feel special and I look forward to many more years of iyellow wine conversations.

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Spinach and pancetta strata a little piece of home

There is no time as special as sharing a simple breakfast with your family or a secret week night supper. A time where there are no blackberries and no work pressures, where sharing stories and sharing a meal are the only focus

As a kid I was always in a rush and wanted to go off and call my friends or bury my nose in a great book but now all these years later I cherish the memories of those meals. I live on my own in Toronto, my parents are in BC and my sister and her husband are in Witchita Kansas and everytime I feel a little homesick and want to feel like I have my family closer I make a nostaligic dish and instantly feel better. Coming from a family who loves to cook there was never any shortage of recipes and although I always make them my own there is always a special memory at the heart of it.

When I was little one of my very favorite weekend brunch dishes was what we know as strata but which we always used to call poof as kids because of the light and fluffy eggs and bubbly cheese that would puff up before your very eyes.

I first discovered Fred’s bread at the Healthy Butcher last year and was very impressed, it reminded me of the bread that my mom would make. It was that kind of experience, you know the one, when you are tasting something and the memory comes at you so vividly. Where you can almost smell the bread as you run in chilled from playing out in the yard and it is there waiting for you.

Having just started a new position at work, it had been almost a year since I had seen any of my family and I asked my Mom for the recipe. I picked up some Fred’s bread and it was so perfect! I have adapted the recipe adding pancetta and spinach and created the recipe below.

I am looking forward to entertaining my family in my hometown this Christmas for my 40th birthday and can not wait to share this dish and Fred’s bread with all of them.

They say home is where the heart is…for me I put my heart into my food and it is like I am home.

Spinach and Pancetta Strata

Spinach and Pancetta Strata

1 loaf Fred’s bread a sourdough based one works best in this recipe (The Toronto’s best cheese bread is very good also but you

may want to cut down on the grated cheese if you use that one)

2 cups. Sharp cheddar—grated

1 cup Asiago grated

2 cups milk

10 thin slices of pancetta 0r 6 slices of regular bacon crisp and crumbled

6 eggs beaten

1 bunch fresh spinach

1 shallot chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Butter a large souffle dish or a 9×11 glass baking pan

Layer half of the bread in the bottom of the pan

Lightly saute the shallots until soft and translucent (approx 5 minutes) remove from heat and set aside

Wash spinach well and in a large pot steam for approximately 7-10 minutes or until wilted but still vibrant green

Remove from heat and when spinach is cool enough to handle squeeze any excess liquid out

In a medium mixing bowl combine spinach, shallots and salt and pepper to taste

In a skillet fry pancetta or bacon until crisp

When cool enough to handle crumble and set aside

In the baking dish layer the spinach and shallot mixture on top of bread and spinkle the pancetta evenly distributing

Layer remaining bread on top of spinach and pancetta layer

In a medium bowl beat the eggs with the milk

Pour the egg mixture evenly over the top

Top with the grated cheddar and asiago cheeses

Let strata sit for at least 1/2 an hour before baking

Bake strata for 45-60 minutes or until a knife can be inserted into the center and come out clean.

Serve with mixed baby greens

Serves 6-8

Spinach and pancetta strata

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Strawberry sorbet with meringue kisses

And the Strawberry sorbet was the fairest of them all…It has been non stop ice cream making in my little kitchen since I bought my new Kitchen Aid attachment but the truth is I love more bold fruit flavours. Another steamy day in the city, and I had some very ripe strawberries and a whole lot of egg whites left after making all of the different icecreams, so I decided that a strawberry sorbet with meringue would be the perfect treat and the end to my frozen treat making for a little while anyway.

It was a perfect sweet ending to a truly picture perfect long weekend. Tart berry sorbet using Bees Universe organic honey from the local market to cut down on the sweetness of the sorbet. The sweet crunch and marshmallow center of the meringue melted on my tongue and left me thinking… well maybe just one more frozen treat was in my future before I put the attachment away for the summer.

Strawberry sorbet with meringue kisses

Strawberry sorbet with meringue kisses

3 cups ripe strawberries
1/2 cup organic honey
3 tbsp grand marnier
6 tbsp water

Make simple syrup from the honey water and grand marnier by cooking over medium heat for 10 minutes. (Most simple syrups call for 3/4 cup sugar to the 6 tbsp water but I wanted to cut down the sugars and let the berries shine, if you like it sweeter you can use the traditional recipe)

Remove from heat and let cool for 15 minutes

In a food processor or blender combine strawberries and simple syrup until very smooth

Pour berry mixture through a metal sieve pressing hard on solids

Refrigerate for 8 hours

Prepare according to ice cream manufacturers directions. For the kitchen aid churn on stir for 20 minutes and place in a freezer container in the freezer for 2-4 hours.

Strawberry sorbet

Meringue kisses

Meringue kisses


5 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 175 degrees

In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer beat egg whites and cream of tartar adding sugar a little at a time and continue to beat until stiff peaks form.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper

Spoon meringue mixture into a pastry bag or a ziploc bag with a cut corner and fitted with a star shaped piping tip.

Starting from the outside in make small spiral circles lifting up when you reach the middle to form the little kiss peak.

Bake for 2 hours. Meringues should be white and slightly tacky but not wet to the touch. They will harden during the drying process.

Turn oven off and cool in oven for 1 hour

Remove from oven and let cool completely on baking rack

To plate top sorbet with 2 meringue kisses and garnish with mint

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Cajeta Mexican caramel ice cream

It all started with a twitter discussion about who had the best donuts in Toronto. Frida restaurant joined in praising churros and cajeta icecream. I actually had never heard of it but was instantly intrigued and on learning it was a Mexican caramel sauce I was a little in love with the idea. I can not tell you how much I love caramel, especially homemade caramel.

Cajeta is a little different in that it is Goat’s milk and sugar simmered down to a rich caramel. The actual cajeta (which I have included the link to my pics for) process takes nearly two hours but I am telling you it is very worth taking the time to make. I used
Rick Bayless’ recipe and being a newbee who actually didn’t know what it was supposed to even taste like I followed that recipe to the letter and saved my signaturing of the dish to the ice cream stage.

The finished product was rich and velvety and heady with cinnamon. I let it cool and then refrigerated overnight. The next day I set about making my icecream.

Cajeta icecream

Cajeta ice cream

2 cups half and half
1 cup Goats milk (you could use regular whole milk here, I just had some left over from making the cajeta)
1 cup sugar
6 egg yolks
1 cup cajeta

In a medium bowl whisk the sugar and egg yolks together and set aside

In a medium saucepan heat the milk and cream until very hot but not boiling. Remove from heat.

Add a little at a time to the egg mixture, whisking constantly until throughly combined and frothy

Return entire mixture to saucepan and return to medium heat. Stir constantly until mixture thickens.

Remove from heat and cool overnight or for 8 hours in a glass bowl in the refrigerator.

Perpare icecream according to manufacturers instructions. Add the cajeta in the last 5 or 10 minutes of churning.

For the kitchen aid prepare freezer bowl and star on the stir speed before pouring ice cream batter in. Let churn for about 20 minutes. Add cajeta and churn another 5 minutes.

Kitchen aid makes softserve ice cream so transfer to freezer containers and freeze for 2-4 hours more.

To plate. Drizzle a little cajeta on the plate and scoop out icecream. You can garnish with whatever you like I chose a mexican cinnamon stick and coffee beans. I actually think the coffee flavour works so well with the cajeta that I may do a coffee icecream with cajeta next.

The cajeta recipe made about 3-4 cups so I plan on making some cajeta filled cupcakes with coffee buttercream next week….stay tuned.

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