A Fresh Tradition

Posted on Oct 8, 2010

A Fresh Tradition

Okay, I admit it: I hate going grocery shopping. Don’t get me wrong, given the right circumstances and absolutely no company, I can be compelled to wander aisles and read labels and get lost in shelves of various types of hot sauce or roasted red peppers. I can spend eons comparing breads and trying to decide just what kind of cheese to purchase. But I don’t like to grocery shop.

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Posted on Oct 4, 2010

I love muffins. Breakfast, lunch or dinner I could eat one and be full and content. They come in all different flavours too: chocolate chip, raisin bran, lemon-cranberry, banana-nut, blueberry-buttermilk or apple-oatmeal or just about any combination of all of the above. When I’m grabbing my coffee in the late-morning after a super busy meeting or mid-afternoon after an intense morning I am often swayed in the direction of a muffin to go along with that coffee. After eating one though, I often tend to regret the rash decision…

It is really quite difficult to find a good muffin out there. You can, quite easily, procure great coffee, the perfect loaf of bread, amazing pastries and delicious cakes. Marvelous muffins however seem to be, for reasons unknown, a lot more difficult. Mainly because muffins have gone from being relatively healthy, light-ish breakfast fare to being heavy, super-sweet, full-of-sugar, cake-like delicacies. They are no longer the stuff of quick snacks, rather they are desserts…and quite filling ones at that.

While it’s not difficult to dutifully google "low fat muffin recipes" and be rewarded with page upon page of choices, not one recipe I found was actually appealing to me. I could easily have made any one of them, but knew I wouldn’t really want to eat the muffins after baking them. Most of the recipes unfortunately thought that "low-fat" should be synonymous with "low-taste" and in my books that does not a good muffin make. I mean, who wants to eat something that tastes like cardboard, and sometimes not even that good…?

After a few trials and errors, a few mishaps in my kitchen and a few curses at my own in disability as a muffin chef I almost gave up. Then last week I came across a fairly yummy-sounding recipe that I thought I could switch around just a bit and make it into some really worth-while, healthy — but still tasty and filling — muffins.

I do believe I succeeded in this endeavor this time with these meal replacement kitchen sink muffins. In fact, I took one to a co-worker and after scarfing the whole thing down quite quickly she turned to me and said "Well, Jennifer, that was probably the best muffin I have ever had".

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It Was a Dark and Stormy Day

Posted on Sep 28, 2010

Fall is such a peculiar season. One day it is sun-dappled and picturesque; you prance around, feeling as though it might be summer returned. The next it’s chilly and damp – verging on dismal. Unlike in the spring, when a string of rainy days can be balmy and bright, a welcome relief from snow and sleet; a wet autumn day can leach into your bones and chill you from the inside.

Unfortunately every one of my aches and pains come shining through on bitter fall days. My knees ache, my elbows hurt and my spine sends a migraine running up my neck to my head that just won’t go away. It’s days like this that I am in desperate need of warmth and coziness – and food has always been the most readily available source of comfort for me (let’s not get started on what that might possibly mean).

I love creating meals that make me smile when I eat them. Foods that remind me of my childhood are the usual fare that will cheer me up on a gloomy day. Cuisine that is rich and flavourful, slow-cooked and filled with love will do the same. Dishes that are colourful in presentation and robust in taste brighten up my evening, just when I need it most – and these last ones, I find, are the simplest dishes to prepare.

First, choose a vegetable that is cheerful in disposition, something with a nice sunny colour. Peppers, tomatoes, asparagus, squash…you get the general idea. Take your veggie of choice and roast it or quickly pan fry it with the tiniest bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Select another vegetable that you can�t live without (my own personal choice would be onion) and roast it as well. Add your two vegetables to something supple and scrumptious and hot, such as risotto, soup or pasta and voil�: the perfect meal to warm you on a cold, dark and stormy day.

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Posted on Aug 27, 2010

Sun-kissed and sweet, straight from the celebrity capital of the world, California Strawberries are the official strawberry of the Toronto International Film Festival, 2010.

This "celebrity berry" will be on the red carpet at the festival, and now you can be there (or at least kind of close to it), too!

If you love film, you’ll love the Toronto International Film Festival.

The Toronto International Film Festival has become the launching pad for the best of international, Hollywood and Canadian cinema, and is recognized as the most important film festival after Cannes.

And now you (yes, you!) could win two non-gala Screening tickets to the festival.

Please send me an email telling me about your favourite strawberry dessert recipe. Entries will be accepted as of now (August 27) until next Friday, September 3 at 5pm (Eastern Standard time). One winner will be chosen randomly.

Some of my personal favourite strawberry recipes are:
Fresh Strawberry Cake, Strawberry Clafouti, Strawberry Cornmeal Bread and (to die for!) a White Balsamic Custard and Strawberry Tart.

These non-gala tickets do not include a red carpet and the recipient must be 18 years or older. Obviously it would be best if you live in Toronto, but if you are willing to travel here to see a movie then by all means, enter the contest!

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Relax and Enjoy

Posted on Aug 17, 2010

The winners of the Relax and Enjoy contest (chosen randomly from over 400 entrants) are Victoria Hyde (who declared her love of Carmel is due to it’s various forms and textures) and Masa Soliman (who claimed that caramel is "gooey and delicious and tastes good in everything — chocolate, ice cream, creme caramel, cookies, YOU NAME IT).

Thank you to everyone who entered. My email inbox is very tired and grateful that this contest is now closed.

There are few sweet combinations that I like more than caramel and chocolate. Actually, to be completely honest, chocolate does go with just about anything. But caramel, with it’s slow, subtle flavour and it’s deliberate texture, it is probably the ideal companion. The chocolate stains your fingers and the caramel lingers right alongside for serious licking enjoyment, long after the actual confection is gone. Dessert doesn’t get much better than that.

Caramel is one of those concoctions that make you slow down and take your time. Chocolate is dreamy and delicious and studies show that it actually does make you happier and more content. And now, thanks to Milky Way we can have our chocolate and our caramel too – with their new "Simply Caramel" bars.

And, thanks to the good people of the Milky Way brand, I have an amazing prize pack for two lucky winners. The "Simply Caramel Relax and Enjoy" gift packs each contain the a $75 gift certificate to SpaFinder.com (for a yoga class or a massage) and enough Simply Caramel Bars to indulge in for a month (that’s five, according to the chocolate bar professionals). I know my ideal prize is getting a massage WHILE eating all five of the chocolate bars in one afternoon though, and you are welcome to do that if you wish (just don’t tell anyone!).

So, if you’d like to win one of these prize packs, all you have to do is email me with why you love caramel. All entries must be received by 12 noon on Friday August 20th. The winner (randomly selected) will be announced here before 4pm that same day.

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I Can Smell Happiness

Posted on Aug 15, 2010

I Can Smell Happiness

I adore blueberry season. Blueberry sauce for ice cream, blueberry pancakes, blueberry smoothies, blueberry bars, blueberry jam, blueberry pie, blueberry muffins and blueberry loaf. I can’t get enough of those brilliant little indigo spherical bursts of tender sweetness. They are also very good for you, containing vitamins A, B1, B2, C, as well as niacin, potassium, calcium, phosphorous and iron. Yummy AND healthy hasn’t come along very often in my lifetime.

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Back in My Kitchen

Posted on Aug 11, 2010

Back in My Kitchen

Lately there have been days that I don’t even make it into the kitchen…which for me is extremely difficult. Many days I’ll grab a coffee while on my way to work after dropping Leith at school, to drink along with a yogurt for breakfast. Lunch these days is almost non-existent and is, more often than not, eaten while submitting payroll or editing reports at my desk. By dinner I’m famished and craving something hearty and delicious – that also takes little or no effort on my part.

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