Friday, September 6, 2013

Cheers to that!

How do you earn your beer? 

Maybe you didn’t hit snooze and went for your workout this morning. Maybe you spent the day watching the kids… or sat in a cubicle for 8 hours. However you do it, you’ll be thrilled to know there is now a Thunder Bay beer worth earning.
Sleeping Giant Brewery Co. has finally opened its doors, much to the delight of Thunder Bay’s beer lovers. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that is a pretty substantial piece of the population.
There are 4 owners of the company, Kerry, Drea, Rob and Kyle. Each of the owners plays a different role in the business. With a Bachelor in Chemistry, Kyle, who according to Kerry is “very smart,” has been working with different beer recipes for some time, and has taken his time perfecting the beer. ( And perfect it he did- the 360 is now my new favourite beer!)

The 2 current beers are the 360 and the Sleeping Giant Elevator Wheat, the offerings will change seasonally, but as something of a flagship beer, the 360 will stick around all year long. 

The 4 base ingredients in beer are water, malt, hops and yeast, 3 of these ingredients are locally sourced. Luckily, the water we get here is perfect for making beer! There are lots of other local ingredients that can be included in the seasonal specialty beers- Just think of all the possibilities!

Sleeping Giant Beer is sold in a growler; which is just under 2 liters- so about 5 bottles. You pay for a deposit on the growler and for  your choice of beer- then bring the growler back and get a brand new one full of delicious beer!
The brewery itself is very cool- the front area is packed with fun beer ephemerae and paraphernalia. It is as refreshing as the beer itself, as the place feels welcoming and  friendly;  you can tell that the folks there are fun loving….well of course they are, they opened a brewery for goodness sake.

Last night Sleeping Giant Brewery hosted a beer and cheese tasting event led by Mirella Amato. Ms. Amato is a beer Cicerone, which is the equivalent of a sommelier, but for beer. She is one of only 9 in Canada, and the only female beerologist of the bunch. She is a beer sensory evaluation specialist, so she knows about storage, service and most importantly food pairing.
She led us through a series of beer and cheese pairings, reminding us that we all do often pair beer and cheese with nachos, pizza and so on. The tastings were conducted in the style of the ploughman’s lunch, a cup of beer and a hunk of cheese.
She based the pairings on the same basic principle that is followed with wine and food pairing.  Match the intensity of the beer with the intensity of the cheese or one with over power the other, the goal is to create harmony between the flavors, and harmonize we did… 5 times. 

A couple cool new things I learned. Always pour your beer out into a glass. I know a lot of people like to drink from cans, but there is a reason for pouring into a glass. Two reasons actually. The first is that in a glass, you can smell your beer. Out of a can, you just get a noseful of aluminum. Think about when you have a cold and how everything tastes blah. When you drink from a can you are basically impeding the aromas from reaching your olfactory receptors and therefore not experiencing the full potential of the beer. Reason number 2 is the carbonation. Brewers over carbonate by a bit because some of the effervescence will be lost when you pour, which they are expecting you to do.  So, this excess carbonation causes bloating and therefore gross beer belches.  If you’ve ever walked through a cloud of that, I’m sure you can appreciate this pro pouring argument.

Another important element of beer is temperature. “Different beers shine at different temperatures.”  Says Mirella. While it may sound counterintuitive, beers such as complex ales should be served slightly warmer. Still chilled, but not ice cold.

Now, when I taste beer, I generally taste just that…beer. I like it or I don’t.  I seldom think to myself, “My oh my, do I detect a hint of sour cherry?” No. I cannot say that I do that.

However, when someone points a flavour out, it is different.  When Mirella began pointing out flavours, I could taste them, and even begin to detect some flavours of my own. The 2 cheeses she paired with the Sleeping Giant beers were awesome.
The Sleeping Giant Elevator Wheat beer was tasted with a Quebec triple crème brie. The beer itself is exceptionally crisp with just a hint of honey, and a slight bread flavour. When paired with this creamy cheese the citrus notes in the beer really came forward, and the buttery taste of that cheese- omg – it was amazing.  That was the theory behind this pairing- bread and butter.

The Sleeping Giant 360 was paired with a sage derby. The ale has the faintest herbal flavour and with the finish lingered a hint of grapefruit flavour, though I equated it more to a citrus rind flavour. Paired with the herbed cheese it really brought out the caramel notes in the beer with a finish that tasted of fresh creamery butter.

If you are interested in doing your very own tasting, stop in to the Sleeping Giant Brewery. They are now open, and have beer for you to taste. If you want to do your own tasting, all of the cheeses were picked up at Maltese. Try out these pairings for yourself, and see what flavours you can discover. I kid you not, this will be enlightening.

(I’ll write about all of the tasting notes later in the week over at Relatively Gourmand- Hello, Abbot’s Gold!)

Thunder Bay is hungry (well thirsty) for this and it could have come at a better time. With the promise of a long summer ahead of us, a cold beer is just the thing to make it even better. So, stop on over to the Sleeping Giant Brewery, and pick yourself up a growler of ale…you’ve earned it! 

Rhubarb Tart

Every year at this time, I feel a sense of renewed jubilation and excitement about cooking using fresh and local ingredients.
Traipsing through the market this past weekend there were lots of great items that I saw for the first time of the year. Orange tomatoes, mixed greens, and eggs.
(By the way, these were awesome eggs! I put an egg on everything this weekend. I even made mayo from scratch for my market burgers on Saturday! Also, someone obviously has WAY too much free time on their hands…ahem, me)
But, what we’re going to talk about today is a tart. A rhubarb tart to be exact. I wanted to take advantage of those gorgeous ruby stalks growing in the backyard, so I decided a tart was in order. Plus, the weather was crummy, so a little baking didn’t seem completely out of the question. I did a bit of research online, and couldn’t really find a fun tart recipe with rhubarb. I had an idea in my head of what I wanted it to look and taste like, so I decided to wing it. That of course left me open to the possibility of complete failure, but hey, I live on the edge.
So, went out and cut some rhubarb, much to the chagrin of at least one spider who seemed quite content with his rhubarby home, and came up with this. It isn’t really anything crazy, quite simple actually and it really lets the tart flavour of the rhubarb shine!

Wash your rhubarb and cut into ½ inch pieces. Place into a saucepan and cover with water. Bring it to a boil and let the rhubarb simmer. When the rhubarb is falling apart, add a cup of sugar. Let it cook for about 10 minutes or until it is syrupy and thick. Set aside, and let cool.
Prepare a tart or pie shell. I made a short crust pastry using Brule Creek flour.  I had to tweak my regular recipe a bit to accommodate the different texture of the flour, but it all worked out and the taste was divine!
Next, mix 2 tablespoons of corn starch with ½ cup of water and pour into the slightly cooled rhubarb mixture. Stir and pour into the prepared shell. Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes (or about that, keep on eye on it!)
Remove from the oven and let cool.
For the topping, put ½ cup of heavy cream into the mixer. Add a teaspoon of maple syrup. Whip until thick. It might sound weird, but I put basil in the whipped cream as well, and it was great. So do a little basil chiffonade, and toss it in!
Serve the tart with a wee dollop of cream.  That is what I had for breakfast today; it’s ok there is fruit in it so that is allowed.
What is your favourite way to eat rhubarb?

Originally Published 5/28/2012 on TBNewswatch, by yours truly 

Vanderwees Farms

You go to the grocery store and look at the giant display of eggs in the cooler.  There are so many different kinds there, does it even matter which you choose?
Of course it does!  Especially if you care about choosing the freshest foods for your family and supporting the local economy!
I had the chance to visit Vanderwees Farms over on Townline road last week. Owner, Bruce VanderWees took me for a walk through of the facility and let me have a look at what goes on in our very own locally owned and operated egg farm!
Vanderwees began as a mixed farming operation in the 50’s and by the 1960’s had put their eggs all on one basket, so to speak, to focus on poultry farming. 

The farm is home to over 30,000 chickens that live in a constant 72 degree climate controlled environment.  The rules and regulations under which the chickens and eggs are handled are extremely stringent and rigorous.  Everything is accounted for and they do extensive testing on everything.  These practices help ensure that the animals stay happy and healthy, and that they produce the best possible product for us.

Amazingly enough, throughout their life on the farm, most of the eggs are never even touched by human hands.  They are brought in on long rollers. Washed, candled, sorted and packaged without so much as a fingerprint.  They are cooled and then sent off to local restaurants and grocery stores. About 80 percent of the eggs produced at Vanderwees stay right here in Thunder Bay! 

You will be exceptionally happy to know that the chickens are also doing their part and eating local. They dine primarily on corn, local wheat and local barley.   Weights of the birds are constantly monitored to assess how much food they need to make sure they are not over or underfed.

See? One of the best things about local food producers is that you can actually go there and ask questions! They are part of our community and want to provide us with a quality product and fantastic service.  It is so important to know where your food comes from, and I am glad to know that much of mine comes from that Vanderwees egg truck that we’ve all seen driving around. 

And the question you’ve all been waiting for. What is Bruce VanderWees’ favourite way to enjoy an egg? Why, a ham and cheese omelet of course! 

In my household we go through a lot of eggs. 
My kids love ‘em.  Every morning the boys get them scrambled, hard boiled or over easy.  I recently bought a new egg slicer so we had been doing lots of hard boiled. But, there has recently been an egg revelation in my household. My friend Stacy was over visiting one day, and asked if I ever steamed my eggs.

No. I had never done this.

As it so happened in an odd twist of fate, I ended up with a steamer basket a few days later. Coincidence? Who cares!
Anyhow I took this method of cooking out for a test-drive, and I will never go back. That’s right. Steaming is AWESOME!  The eggs peel like a dream, and there is no off coloured yolk- Just a fantastic yellow orb.

To steam your eggs put an inch of water in your pot, put in the steamer and then the eggs. Turn on the heat, and when you start to see a little steam, put on the lid and set your timer for 16 minutes… tick, tick, tick, ding!  Remove the eggs from the steamer with a spoon and put them into an ice bath for a few minutes, et voila!

I picked up a few (and by a few I mean 8 dozen) eggs when I visited Vanderwees. We had an Easter egg hunt, made eggs Benedict for Easter breakfast, and a lot more. Most people love eggs, and with so many ways to enjoy them it makes sense to buy this staple from a local farmer.

A St. Paddy's Day Story.

With the excitement of St. Patrick’s Day looming ahead, Kelly was downright giddy for the weekend. It had been years since she had a chance to go out with friends and celebrate the holiday in style!  But, still, deep down, there was a part of her that was torn. As much fun as a night out on the town promised to be, there was a part of her that longed to stay at home and concoct a festive and fantastic  St. Patrick’s Day Feast. 

“Aha!” She cried aloud, “I’ve got it. I will cook a St. Patrick’s Day spread on Sunday instead! 

She hadn’t intended for the exclamation to rhyme, but as you know, sometimes these things simply happen. All of the different possibilities swam throughout her head; colcannon, potatoes, corned beef… Ooh, I’ll make my own corned beef she thought.
After work, she happily drove over to Maltese and asked the woman behind the counter for a piece of a brisket.

“Is this ok?” asked the woman, holding up an absolutely giant hunk of meat.
Kelly smiled and nodded. 2.5 kilos of brisket was hers.

As she drove home, she started to wonder whether this was a good idea.  Thinking about the brisket it almost seemed a shame to brine and boil it. A cut like that should be smoked slowly and slathered with barbecue sauce. Mmmm…Barbecue.

Kelly had been perusing recipes and decided on one from Fine Cooking. An awesome website and even better Magazine. Boy did she have fun making the brine. Juniper berries, salt, brown sugar, and more; it was like 7th year potions at Hogwarts.
She had made the brine, trimmed the fat off of the meat and put it to refrigerate for the week in the brine.

But.. now what? She thought.
As much as she loved cooking, she did not like to just leave things alone! She liked to stir, poke, prod taste and generally monkey with the food and recipe as it was being prepared. A whole week just letting it sit there! How excruciating! Well, she did get to flip the brisket once a day. But that is practically nothing!

After what seemed a double long work week, the weekend had finally arrived! An exciting night out with the girls... And it was going to be fun. She donned a new dress and did her hair. She probably spent at least an extra half hour longer than she usually did to get ready. So about 36 minutes.

The night was exciting. Great friends.  People wearing giant Guinness hats at the Madhouse. Irish drinking songs at the Sovereign Room (and of course some fantastic food.) A brief stop at Crocks and then home before midnight- How responsible of her!

After about 4 hours of sleep, she woke with a start suddenly terrified about the corned beef.  She could sleep through a thunder storm no problem, but failure was far more terrifying What if it didn’t turn out? There were 12 people coming over for dinner. What if it is too salty...or not salty enough? What if all of that juniper makes it taste weird?

She hopped out of bed, tripping over the dog. She yelled a mild expletive and went out to the deep freeze in the garage, digging down through the icy depths for something that she could cook as a backup. Beef roast. Perfect.  She cradled her culinary savior as she walked back in the house and popped it into the microwave to defrost. Five minutes. Still frozen. Ten minutes. The plastic wrap was still frosty and the meat hardly yielded as she poked it repeatedly with her finger. Defrost already!

As it defrosted, Kelly once again began to question her judgment, wondering if all people were this indecisive in the morning. She logged into facebook and asked the best way to cook corned beef. Everyone gave a different answer than what she was planning.
About 15 minutes later the microwave beeped to alert her that the roast was good to go. She placed it into the Crockpot with a half a jar of Carolina mustard BBQ sauce and set it on low.

She ambled back up the stairs, her terror of failure quenched; knowing as she had a backup if some reason something went wrong.
Back out of bed. Kelly smiled and thought how lovely it was that her parents offered to take the kids over March break. They would be back that evening, but a 10am lie in was quite a luxury!

After a day of doing not all that much other than enjoying a quiet house, it was time to get to work.

With much trepidation she rinsed off the brisket and submerged it into clean, cold water, placed it on the stove and turned on the heat, cringing all the while. 

After a few moments the first bubbles started to rise lazily from the bottom of the pot, and the exterior of the meat started to look grey. What had she done! She picked up a fork and gently prodded the meat. Just as she suspected- It was like shoe leather! Resigning the potentially awesome cut to its fate she returned the lid and let it cook, turning her attention to the pot roast, the potatoes and the menu items that would hopefully not suck.

After an hour she dared take another peek..and poke.

It had softened up considerably. She wondered if she dare take a taste. Redundant question.  Of course she was going to take a taste. She sliced a little piece off of the end, slowly brought the fork to her lips, and with eyes closed, placed the piece of boiled meat into her mouth. “Oh My Stars!” she said, oblivious to the fact that she was talking with her mouth full.  Absolutely fantastic! She stole another piece from the pot and turned the heat down even lower- excited to share the dish with her pals.

Elated and relieved, she popped the cork out of a bottle of sparkling wine and made herself a Kir royale, sat on the deck enjoying sunlight and small victories.

As Gouda as it Gets

OK. So you love mozzarella sticks, cheese curds and saganaki; that fried cheese is just so darn good!  It is a fantastic treat to have on occasion, but I usually have a hankering for it a little more than occasionally. What if I told you that you can make a healthier version of traditional mozzarella stick? Keep in mind, I am using the term healthier very loosely, because I’m still going to fry them.
This recipe will work with sweet potatoes, yams or squash.
I picked up 2 adorable sweet dumpling squash from Belluz at the Market over the weekend. They were just so cute I had to have them! 

Squash and Gouda Croquettes
Thunder Oak Gouda cheese of your choice
Oil for frying
Marinara sauce

Cook the squash according to the directions on the package (and by that I mean roast them in the oven 'til a knife easily pierces the flesh).  When they are cool enough to handle, scoop the orangey innards into a bowl and mash. Add a little bit of flour just to firm the mixture up a bit.
Cut your gouda into small cubes, and mix in with the squash. Season with some salt and pepper.
Set up your flour/egg/crumb station.
With your hand scoop up some of the squash mixture and form it into a finger shape, tater tot, little ball or whatever tickles your fancy.
Dredge in the flour, dip into the egg, and then coat in bread crumbs and set aside.
(note: I got the eggs from Vanderwees at the market. I usually buy their brand at the grocery store, but this was a whole new ball game, er… egg game.  He said it was their first week there- they were glorious! I used the yolks for carbonara and couldn’t believe how round and yellow they were- you’ve gotta try ‘em! Plus, I got 3 double yolks when I was making scrambled eggs and that just made my day! )
Anywho.  Heat about an inch of oil in a pan and turn on medium high heat. When your oil is hot (test with the handle of a wooden spoon- if bubbles appear, it is hot enough) gently place a few of the croquettes into the pan- being careful not to crowd them. When they are nice and browned, remove them from the pan with tongs or a wire scoop, and place on a cooling rack to drain. ( I usually put the oven at 170, and put the cooling rack on a cookie sheet, and use that to simultaneously drain and keep warm.)
I simmered some of the tomato sauce that my Father-in-law made over the summer and added a lot of garlic. A perfect sauce for dunking, complementing both the cheese and the squash.
When you bite into one of these croquettes you’ll get the sweet flavour of the squash, but also the fantastic strings of hot melted cheese.  A perfect way to appreciate your love of cheese!

The other day my son said to me, “Mom, it is sad that we kill animals and eat them... But, not birds, because Dinosaurs were their ancestors, so it is ok if we eat them.”  While I don’t quite understand the logic behind the whole Dinosaur thing, it did get me to thinking. At 5 years old, he is already conscious about what he is eating, and the impact that has on the animals in the world around him. I took this as an opportunity to tell him why if we choose to eat meat, it is important that we choose wisely.
In the past few years, there has been a lot of attention brought to CAFO’s, or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation.  In a CAFO and animal is treated as a product instead of a living breathing animal. Our locally raised animals are not treated this way, yet another reason to buy local! This weekend I picked up a Wild Boar tenderloin, from Northern Unique at the Farmers Market- This richly coloured and flavorful meat is incredibly lean. This is not “the other white meat.”
I made a dish with this that was inspired by Barbara Lynch’s Prune Stuffed Gnocchi, which I cooked last weekend. It is time consuming, but not difficult.  The dish features a number of local items, and Madeira which is definitely not Local. Madeira is a product of Portugal- This sweet wine is heated as it ages from a few months in artificial heat to over 20 years in a sun warmed room. The quality of Maderia can vary greatly.  Generally a dessert or aperitif wine, it really compliments the flavours of this dish. 

Cheese Stuffed Gnocchi with Wild Boar Ragout
1 Northern Unique wild boar tenderloin.
1 onion- diced
2 cups tomato sauce
2 cups tomato (peeled, seeded and chopped)
6 cloves of garlic
1 cup of Madeira wine
Salt and pepper to taste
4 potatoes
Thunder oak gouda, sundried tomato 
When you get your tenderloin from the market, it will be frozen, which is actually perfect. For this dish, the boar needs to be cut into very small pieces. Frozen meat makes it easier to cut uniform pieces, but be careful- it is also slippery- Use proper knife skills and keep your fingers curled under, and away from the blade.  Cut the tenderloin this slices about ½ a cm thick. Cut each of those slices into ½ cm cubes. This seems daunting, but it really only takes a few minutes.
Heat some olive oil in a large pan or Dutch oven, when it is hot, add the boar cubes. Stir until they are browned. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon.
Add a bit more oil to the pan and put the onions in. Cook until they are translucent. Add the garlic- cook 2 minutes more.
Deglaze the pan with the cup of Madeira wine. Scraping the bottom of the pan to get all those flavorful bits. Let the wine reduce a minute or two, then add the tomatoes, sauce and return the boar to the pan. Simmer over low heat for a few hours (or put it in the slow cooker!)
To make the gnocchi, boil the potatoes until tender.   When they are cool enough to handle, peel and mash (or rice them if you have a ricer).
Knead in about a cup of flour. Add an egg, and incorporate that. Knead in more flour until the dough is still a bit sticky, but easy to handle.
On a floured surface, roll the potato dough out thin. Cut out circles with an overturned cup. Put a few pieces of gouda inside, and seal the gnocchi like a pierogi.
A tip I learned from the prune gnocchi, is to freeze the gnocchi after they are formed. This way, they won’t completely disintegrate by the time the cheese is warmed.
To serve.  Boil the gnocchi until they float to the surface, and remove with a slotted spoon.  Top with the ragout, and a little dusting of cheese.
Serve immediately and enjoy immensely. 

Originally Published 3/5/2012 on by..ME! 

Smörgåstårta takes the cake!

What do you think when you read the word Smorgastarta? I imagine that most people wouldn’t really know what to expect.  I first learned about Smorgastarta when they were featured on The Kitchn, a cooking blog I enjoy. I saw photos of a few of them and fell completely in love with the idea- and I knew that my husband, whose B day was on the horizon, would love it even more. I was planning to throw him a surprise party and knew this would be a fantastic addition to the spread.  A Smorgastarta is a sandwich cake!  Popular in Sweden and throughout Scandinavia- called Voileipakakku in Finland.   I don’t know how I never knew about this before! Constructed identically to a layer cake, a Smorgastarta is layers of sandwich filling layered inside pieces of bread.

I seem to encounter a lot of people that really just aren’t that into sweets, making this an ideal substitute. In photos, I often see lots of seafood based fillings and toppings, but because I was serving this at a party where I wasn’t sure about allergies, I thought I would play it safe.
I baked loaves of bread in a spring form pan…..after that epic fail I just went out and bought the bread. I picked up 3 large round flat loaves. I sliced off the bottom crust, leveled the top and then using a spring form pan as a guide, and trimmed a nice circle.
I placed the first circle down and topped it with egg salad.

Egg Salad
8 hard boiled eggs- Peeled and chopped.
1 tablespoon dill (2 if using fresh)
¼ cup mayo
2 Teaspoons mustard
Salt and pepper
¼ cup chopped onion
Mix it all up, adding more mayo or mustard, depending on your taste.

Top that with the second piece of bread, and on top of that curried chicken salad.

Curried Chicken Salad
2 chicken breasts- cooked and chopped.
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup green onions, sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
½ cup mayo
1T Curry Powder.
Mix all together and put as the second layer.

Now we get to make frosting. If you have a stand mixer- I would recommend using that for this.

8oz package of cream cheese, softened
1 small tub of chive flavour Philly whipped
1 cup of sour cream
Mix until everything is nice and creamy (and delicious).
Frost your cake, and then it is time for the toppings.
You can top with things like sliced cucumbers, peppers, hard boiled eggs, shrimp, smoked salmon, bacon. Anything you can imagine to put on a sandwich.  Perhaps peanut butter, banana and bacon for you Elvis fans out there.
I made mine too tall and it was lopsided- I swear, I cannot for the life of me make a decent layer cake. Lucky the deliciousness makes up for any structural deformities. In my opinion this is an awesome replacement for a normal cake. Because, when it comes to celebration you might as well go with what you love. I even had a cousin who served Rice Krispie bars at her wedding in lieu of cake.
I am thinking that I might need to make myself one of these for my birthday as well- it is after all a big one coming up!
Would you try a Smorgastarta?

(Originally Published 2/23/2012 on

A Thin Slice of Heaven

I look outside my window and it is hard to tell where the sky ends and the earth begins.  I could be talking about a postcard perfect view of a tropical sunset; the brilliant hues of sky the seeming to melt into the ocean, a palm tree breaking up the symmetry.

But no, it is just sort of grey out.

The post Christmas “Blahs” have me itching to see some green, feel some sunshine and sample the light fare that summer promises. When the weather is cold and the Holiday cooking frenzy is so fresh in my mind, I kind of want to alter my definition of eating local to include my local Arby’s. That counts... right?

The past month the food has been heavy, alcoholic or chocolate coated/filled. It feels like forever since I have had a good tomato. But this last weekend was just the thing I needed to combat the winter foodie blues.

Fresh produce.

From local farms.

I went to the farmers market and the folks from Belluz had fresh greens, and tomatoes!  Yep, I snapped those right up along with some squash, potatoes and garlic. The gears were beginning to turn, and I started to plan the fantastic meal my family and I were going to enjoy that evening.

But to make this plan come together there was one more thing needed. Elk. Elk tenderloin to be exact.

A few weeks ago I put in an order for 2 elk tenderloins,  from the Rainy River Elk Company, and they came in on Christmas Eve. I have been waiting for the right time to take them out of the freezer, and by golly, I found the perfect time.

For those of you who have been with me from the beginning, you may recall that my first ever column last summer was about elk burgers. Elk is a year round food, and is interchangeable with most other meats.  But get this, according to the USDA Agricultural Handbook, Elk is lower in fat, and higher in protein that chicken beef AND pork .

Elk is so lean that you really have to be careful not to overcook it.

For my kids I pan seared some medallions, threw in a spoonful of H and P’sBlackberry jam, and topped with a few frozen berries we picked at Belluz last summer.

The grownups are a little more adventurous and wanted to enjoy this exceptionally tender meat at its finest. So, I made Carpaccio.
Carpaccio is thinly sliced meat that is uncooked or lightly seared, depending on ones tastes.

The first time I had it, I was kinda grossed out.

Not because it was bad, but because it takes time to get used to eating meat raw, but lots of folks also used to think that sushi was weird, and now that is now has a huge following in the city.

I was really apprehensive to make this at home when I first did it. It seemed like something best to just get when you go out, leave it to the professionals.

But, if your meat is stored properly, and you take care to keep your work surfaces clean then it is something you might like.

Elk Carpaccio
1 elk tenderloin
½ cup of salt
¼ cup of Brown Sugar
Olive oil
Baby mixed greens or arugula
Parmesan Cheese

The first think that I like to do, the morning before it is served, is to make a salt crust.
Remove all the silver skin from the tenderloin, and place in a shallow dish with the salt and sugar. Rub the mixture into the meat. Cover with saran wrap and then put it in the fridge or if the weather is right, out in the garage.
Fast forward 8 hours.

Heat a pan on the stove with a bit of olive oil.
Rinse the salt and sugar off of the loin, and pat dry.
Quickly sear the tenderloin, turning so that all sides are browned. Remove from pan and set aside to rest a few minutes.
Slice the meat very thinly, and arrange in a circle on the plate. Place some of the mixed greens in the center.  Top with freshly grated parmesan and about a tablespoon of capers. You can also add a drizzle of olive oil and some cracked pepper if desired.
I enjoyed this with a Stags Leap 2006 Cabernet (a total splurge!) the meal was light, and certainly unforgettable.

Unconventional Christmas

Christmas is a time of tradition.
From choosing the perfect tree to leaving cookies and milk for Santa; stockings hung by the fireplace and wrapping gifts.
Of course one of the biggest pieces of the holiday tradition is the meal- The turkey, the stuffing… and of course an absolutely mammoth bowl of Mashed Potatoes (my favorite)!  Yesterday, I went around asking my co-workers what was so important about the traditional Turkey spread, and most people ended up giving me the same answer. It all has to do with childhood. For some, it was the fact that their mothers had cooked this same meal. Some want to make sure their children know their family traditions, and some have children who expect it, so will not deviate from the traditional.
It is so interesting that we have such a concrete idea of what a Christmas dinner needs to be.
This year, I have decided that I am going to change it up. We are doing our big family dinner on Christmas Eve. There will be about 12 of us, and I will likely be cooking for 3 days (I wouldn’t have it any other way.)
I don’t see my deviation of the traditional feast as a bad thing. Cooking for family is an act of love. I want to present my family with something that I put a lot of time, effort and creativity into. It is so seldom that we all get together; I want to treat them to something new and exciting.
I have put a lot of thought into the colour and texture, and of course flavours that tie nicely into the season.  I have managed to keep the menu a little bit of a secret from everyone. I am not sure how they are going to react, so I’ve tried to avoid the topic as best I can.
To nibble on as the final preparations are being made, Pissaladiere Nicoise. A crust filled with caramelized onions, olives and anchovies. I realize that anchovies are not really a beloved food item, but the salty little fillets pack a serious flavour punch. Why do you think Caesar Salad dressing is so delicious!  The rich flavourful onions in this savoury dish are just amazing. It could probably be a meal in itself.
Instead of the turkey, I will be cooking a fresh ham. Which is what a ham is before it is cured, smoked and what have you- so basically plain pork.  When cooked slowly with fresh herbs, the meat becomes tender, juicy and flavourful.  I cooked this last year, and it was absolutely fantastic!!
Instead of typical mashed spuds, we will have sweet potatoes, topped with a lovely crust of pecans, maple syrup and bourbon!
A roasted beet salad. Beets roasted and tossed in a light apple cider vinaigrette and topped with crumbled goat cheese.
Cauliflower sage risotto. I am SO into herbed risotto right now. I was always apprehensive to try it because risotto seems like it should be subtly flavoured and delicate. But the fresh flavours of rosemary and sage really shine in this dish! 
And for dessert, French Canadian sugar pie with mascarpone whipped cream!
This is definitely not a traditional Christmas feast. We will see how it goes over. We can go back to the turkey next year if it is not well received. Maybe I’ll even let someone else in the kitchen ?

Originally Published 12/22/2011 on

Wine Braised Short Ribs

This is a very special and exciting time of the year. Well… sometimes. It’s the time of the year when the windows and grass are covered with frost, and the car doors start to get iced shut; requiring some grunting, expletives and finally relief when the door opens with a satisfying little crunch.
This also means that we can start cooking things where the oven is on for a long time, and the extra heat is actually welcomed. I was downright giddy this weekend when I got to prepare one of my all time favourite dishes for family and friends.
Braised Short Ribs!
Short ribs are not what you imagine when you usually think of ribs. First, and most importantly, they are beef not pork. When you get them at the store they will look like little rectangles of beef with a bone running through them. The ones that I had were purchased from Tarrymore Farms- their short ribs and brisket are a staple in my household!
When you get your ribs, you might have to separate them. Simply cut between each rib, and we’re ready to rock and roll. You can get them at Maltese, just go to the meat counter and ask the fine folks there to get you some.. and they're even cut to order!
I have purchased these at Quality Market on Oliver as well- so you might just have to call around to get your hands on some.

Braised Short Ribs
5 pounds of short ribs
1 onion, diced
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
2 stalks of celery, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 T tomato Paste
¼ cup or red wine
2-4 cups of braising liquid (wine, beer or beef stock)
Olive oil
Thyme, rosemary, bay leaf
Salt and pepper
Heat oven to 325 degrees.
Heat up 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a dutch oven. Salt and pepper your ribs while you are waiting. When it is hot add a layer of short ribs, searing the outsides and flipping with tongs to brown all sides. Remove from pan and set aside, and repeat with remaining ribs. (I place the ribs in the overturned lid of the Dutch oven, so I can just slide them and all of the accumulating juices back into the pan.) So, all ribs should now be seared and removed from the pot.
Add the onions, carrots and celery to the pot, and cook until the onions begin to soften. Add the garlic as well and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste, and stir to break up the thick paste.
Now we are going to deglaze. Deglazing is the process of adding liquid to help remove all of the browned bits from the bottom of the pan; it helps amp up the flavor of a dish.  Add ¼ cup of red wine to the pot and the liquid will begin to bubble immediately. Using a wooden spoon scrape the bottom of the pot until it is cleaned.
Now you are going to add the braising liquid. This is what is going to make the ribs, oh so tender. I like to use red wine for this as well, but if you don’t like the taste you can use beer or beef stock. Pour it in and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, and add your short ribs, and herbs.
Make sure the liquid covers at least 1 layer of ribs. If not, add a bit more liquid.
Put on the lid and place in the oven for about 2.5 hours. Check on the ribs every 45 minutes and flip them, so everything gets evenly cooked.

Ribs are done.
Now. Some folks prefer to plate the ribs, strain the sauce and then serve. But, after 3 hours of cooking I tend to get lazy. So I serve the ribs right from the pot. These are great with pasta, gnocchi, potatoes or risotto, but I am pretty certain that polenta takes the cake on this one.
Cook your polenta according to the directions, and place about ½ cup of it on the plate. Lay a rib or 2 over the polenta. Spoon some of the juice over the top, and finish with a grating of parmesan or pecorino.
Serve with a salad, veggies, or on its own if you’re just having one of those days.
What is your favourite cold weather dish?

Sticky Business

It is the epitome of sweet. In fact, you often hear the somewhat clichéd phrase “As sweet as honey.” 
But, one thing not generally associated with the amber liquid is scandal.
Honey, scandalous? Please.
 On Nov. 7 a report was published by the Food Safety News, a law firm run publication devoted to reporting the latest on food safety concerns, entitled “Tests Show Most Store Honey Isn’t Honey.”

How is that even possible? I have owned a few plastic squeezable bears in my lifetime, and it was most certainly honey in there. So, what were they talking about?

The difference is in the pollen. According to the report, observing the pollen in honey is the only sure way to track its origins. 
Match the pollen to the plant, and there you go.  But many brands filter the pollen out of the honey.
Why would they do that?
Removing the pollen from honey is not up to snuff for most of the world’s safety standards, but apparently OK for North America?  We have established that pollen allows us to identify the origins of the honey. Why would someone want to hide where the honey is from? Aren’t bees all alike?
Apparently not. 
Food Safety News claims honey from India is banned across Europe because of “Contamination with antibiotics, heavy metals and a total lack of pollen which prevented tracking its origin.” 
The other popular origin for honey is from China, and the problem here is that this heavily subsidized honey is dirt cheap, and putting North American bee keepers out of business, just so the shelves can be stocked with honey for less. 
But, once again safety is a concern. A shipment of Chinese honey was sent to Canada in 2001 and then to Texas. According to the Food Safety Newsreport, the honey was contaminated with “chloramphenicol and other illegal animal antibiotics which are dangerous, even fatal, to a very small percentage of the population.”
They didn’t find out until after it was produced, and shipped off and consumed. Whoops.

So, while there is nothing wrong with cheap, when we have to worry about contamination … cheap simply will not do.

So back to the pollen. Why should you care about something so small, something microscopic, and whether it is in your honey? Ever heard of anti-oxidants?  Honey also has anti- allergic benefits, vitamins and enzymes. Plus, you just don’t want people messing with your food like that.
Here in Thunder Bay we have a surprising number of Beekeepers.
I spoke to Barry Tabor, president of the Thunder Bay Beekeepers Association about our locally produced honey.  In Thunder Bay there are as many, if not more than 100 amateur beekeepers.
That means there is a good chance that you actually know someone who keeps bees, and in addition to that, there are about five or six farms and families that produce honey for commercial production, and it is not hard to find.

Local producers spin the honey in a centrifuge and filter it through cheesecloth, but that leaves the pollen, antioxidants and vitamins intact, only removing large pieces of bees and wax. 
When commercial honey is cooked and filtered it will stay liquid for a very long time. But raw, unprocessed honey will crystallize.
Don’t worry, this is normal and you can still use it. Store your honey covered and out of the sunlight. If it is exposed to water it can start to ferment and go bad, but if you store it properly, it can last a long time.
Mr. Tabor even told me about some honey found in Egypt that was a couple thousand years old and still edible. Amazing!
I also spoke with beekeeper Rene Larson, and I learned that Thunder Bay carries an important distinction in the bee community, as this is an area free of varroa mites.
These mites latch onto and feed from the bees causing viruses, suppressing their immunity, weakening the bees and shortening the lifespan. The mites are also thought to be responsible for deformities in developing broods of bees.
Thunder Bay is also free of Acarine, or Tracheal mites. A parasite that occupies the bees trachea, essentially choking them. The bee community in our area is working hard to keeping our area free of these parasites that are extremely common in the world. When you consider that mail order is a common way to acquire bees, this is no mean feat.

A scandal behind honey, who would have thought!
This is why it is so important to know where your food comes from. In Thunder Bay we have a number of beekeepers that sell their honey; you can actually go and see the bees, and talk to the people who make it. Who wants to worry about antibiotics and heavy metals in their honey!
Honey is a sweet and delicious, reminiscent of sunny summer days, childhoods savouring a warm biscuit drizzled with honey.
This is a feel good food!  So instead of buying one of those cute little squeezy bears, or hive looking containers from the grocery store, buzz on down to buy from one of our local suppliers and get some. Talk to the beekeeper, and truly know and understand where your food comes from.  People are getting up in arms about hiring out of town artists to create art for the waterfront instead of local people, It is the same with food. I realize that you can’t buy everything locally- it would be ridiculous of me to ask that, but the little bit that you can, certainly helps.

Originally Published 11/9/2011 on
Photo from


There isn’t much time left before the ghosts, ghouls and goblins descend on our city with the long awaited arrival of Halloween.  Children and adults alike will don costumes and roam the town in search of candy, or perhaps some witches brew, the phone number of a cute little vampire or maybe even a kiss from a werewolf.  Whatever your poison, Halloween is a time of fun and festivity- a night full of magic!
In addition to trick-or-treating, I have developed other Halloween traditions throughout the years.  I always have to read some Edgar Allan Poe (if Victorian Gothic can’t get you in the mood for Halloween, nothing will).  I will watch as Linus waits in the pumpkin patch, and likely a Tim Burton flick or 2, and I will most certainly make an obscene amount of pumpkin cookies.
I came up with this recipe about 5 years ago and I have been making them every Halloween since. They don’t last very long though. Especially if you have little monsters tall enough the help themselves from the plate.
I call these cookies, but they are more like a half cookie, half scone. They are fluffy and not too sweet, but there is a lovely vanilla cinnamon glaze that gives them just a touch of sweetness, if that is what you desire.

Oatmeal Pumpkin Cookies
½ cup of butter, softened
1 cup of brown sugar
1 egg
A dash of nutmeg
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
1 ¼ cups of flour
1 ½ cup of quick oats
1 cup of pumpkin puree
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Cream the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl- Add the egg and continue to mix.
In a small bowl mix together the flour, salt, nutmeg and baking soda- gradually add to the butter mixture.
Once all of your flour is incorporated, stir in the oats, and then the pumpkin.
(Feel free to add white choc. chips, nuts or dried cranberries as well.)
Drop spoonfuls of the dough onto a cookie sheet, flattening the mound a bit.
Bake for 10-12 minutes
Let cool on a rack.
While your cookies are cooling, you can mix up the glaze. It isn’t necessary to glaze them, but it is pretty darn good!
1 cup of powdered sugar, sifted.
A capful of vanilla extract
½ teaspoon of cinnamon
Mix the first three ingredients together.  Add milk, teaspoon by teaspoon until all of the sugar is dissolved, and the mixture is smooth.
Drizzle over the cooled cookies and let the glaze set, an hour or 2.
Then it is time to enjoy! Have one (or 4) with a cup of warm cider, or tea. Don’t forget to bring a plate across the street to the neighbors!  I brought a plate of these and some biscotti for a housewarming gift- I am looking forward to hearing what she thought! 
I wish you a safe and fantastic Halloween!
Don’t forget to take pictures of your cool costumes!

* Originally Published 10/25/2011 on

Pumpkin White Chocolate Creme Brulee

When I think back over all of the Thanksgivings I have celebrated, the menu hasn’t changed much. Turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy. As a kid with the fragrant smell of roasting turkey wafting through the house, I loved to sneak French fried onions off the top of the casserole, and stick black olives on my fingers popping them one by one into my mouth.
As much as I love tradition, I also like to break the rules. I think that it is completely acceptable to make something fun and new. It’s a holiday, celebrate! Why not!
This is a recipe that I had been monkeying around with for a few years and I am certain it would be a really amazing end to a wonderful Thanksgiving meal, and maybe even a good way to even impress your mother-in-law! 
Pumpkin White Chocolate Crème Brulee
2 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup 2% milk
2/3 cup brown sugar
7 egg yolks
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
nutmeg- pinch

Heat your oven to 300 degrees F

Heat  the cream, milk and spices in a saucepan over medium heat.

Meanwhile in a large bowl, mix the yolks and the sugar.

When the cream starts making tiny little bubbles around the edges of the pan, remove from the heat and stir in the white chocolate chips. When they are melted pour 1/3 cup of the cream mixture into the eggs and quickly stir to temper the eggs. Then add the rest of the cream and mix well. Add the pumpkin and stir until incorporated.
Pour your mixture into ramekins. Depending on the size of your ramekins this could be anything from 1/2 cup to over a cup. Fill them up and put them in a cake pan. Pour boiling water into the pan until it reaches 1/2 way up the sides of the dishes. Note- your ramekins are in the water, you are NOT putting water into the ramekins.
Put it in the oven for 45 to 60 minutes, until they are mostly set, just a little wobbly in the middle.

Remove from the oven and chill for a few hours.  
To serve, put 1 teaspoon of sugar on the top of each dessert.  Put the crème brulee under the broiler and let the top start to harden and turn a golden brown colour. You must watch them very closely, because burning happens very quickly under the broiler. Alternately- it you have a cooking torch; you can use that to caramelize the sugar.
Serve with a shaving of white chocolate on top.
Have a lovely holiday and enjoy the long weekend!

The Great Pumpkin

Fall is here at long last. I don’t know of anyone who is immune to the charms of autumn. The crisp cool air, the riot of colour in the trees, and the embrace of a cozy sweater.
With the onset of fall also comes many traditions. Going back to school of course, but also a trip to the pumpkin patch. Even though it is not yet October, the feeling in the air is ripe for pumpkin picking.

On Saturday I took my 2 boys to Pumpkinfest at Gammondale Farm.  They frolicked in the hay, enjoyed a pumpkin shaped cookie, and watched in amazement as gourds flew through the air at the Pumpkin catapult, culminating with a satisfying splat as each airborne pumpkin eventually met its messy fate.
After decorating a mini pumpkin with festive ribbons and feathers, we set out to find our lovely Halloween pumpkins. The boys each picked one to bring home and eventually carve and I chose a few of the edible squashes.
First- I picked  up a blue Hubbard Squash- I actually picked it because it was so ugly I felt bad for it. Leave it to me to get emotional about a gourd.  It looks like a pachyderm squash.
Secondly- I chose the festively whimsical Rouge vif d’Etampes, also known as the Cinderella pumpkin, due to its resemblance to the pumpkin which ferried Cinderella to the ball. This heirloom variety of pumpkin was allegedly served at the second American thanksgiving- so the variety has been around for a while. It is this beauty that I decided to cook first.  My one pumpkin yielded a ton of flesh and I had not only enough to make a monster batch of Pumpkin gnocchi, but also a huge pot of delectable pumpkin soup.  This soup is truly the taste of fall. It is warm, satisfying, and even good for you!  Ready to go?
Pumpkin Soup
1 pumpkin
2 apples or pears
1 cup apple juice
S and P
Maple syrup
 Heat your oven to 400 degrees. While it is heating prepare your pumpkin.
VERY CAREFULLY Cut the pumpkin into quarters. Scoop out the seeds and discard or save for toasting.
Place the pumpkin pieces on a cookie sheet and coat with a tablespoon of olive oil- use your hands to rub it in. Put the apples or pears on the sheet as well, and put into the preheated oven.
Roast 30 minutes to an hour. You will know that the pumpkin is cooked through when a knife slides easily through the hard outer shell and through the flesh. When this happens remove from the oven and let cool.
Once cooled- spoon the soft squash away from the shell and into a large pot. Cut the apples into quarters, and remove the skin and seeds.  Put that into the pot as well. 
Add your apple juice, and then enough water to cover the pumpkin.
Bring to a simmer and let the pieces of squash really fall apart.
Remove from heat and process with an immersion blender, or in batches in a regular blender.
Return to heat, and begin to add seasonings. Add some salt and pepper, a few pinches of cinnamon or clove, and a few sage leaves.
Let the soup simmer until it is at the desired consistency.
Check your seasonings, and adjust if needed.
To serve, ladle the soup into a bowl and add a drizzle of maple syrup and splash of cream if desired. Find a really sexy sage leaf, and add as a garnish.
Such a lovely way to celebrate the season!

(originally published 9/26/2011 on


It was the keg tap that was heard all over the world. This past weekend was the official opening of Germanys’s most famous festival- Oktoberfest; Held in the beautiful Bavarian city of Munich, or München.

I had some folks over this weekend for a little Oktoberfest celebration. I put a bouquet of flowers into my 1L Hofbräuhaus Bierstein and got to cooking. We had Schnitzel, spätzle and rotkohl (try saying that3 times fast or even once for that matter).
Before we proceed, I must let you in on a little secret.
Schnitzel is Austrian- the delicious word “Wienerschnitzel,” comes from the word Wien, or as we say, Vienna.
But, Hey- it’s my party and I’ll make schnitzel if I want to.

1 pork tenderloin
1 cup flour, in a shallow bowl
2 eggs, beaten in a shallow bowl
1 cup of bread crumbs in a shallow bowl
Oil for frying

Get rid of the fat and stringy bits on the outside of the tenderloin.
Cut the tenderloin into slices, about an inch thick at an angle.
This is the fun part.  Get a meat mallet and pound the pieces of pork- you want them about ¼ inch thick.  Repeat with each slice of meat. If you don’t have a mallet you can put the meat between plastic wrap and use a rolling pin, or the bottom of a heavy pot to flatten.
Heat ½ inch of oil in a pan.
Take a piece of pork, and dredge it in the flour, dip into the egg and then press into the breadcrumbs.
Repeat with all.
Check if your oil is hot. To do this- take a wooden spoon and gently stick the handle into the oil- if little bubbles come out of the spoon, it is hot enough.

With tongs gently place the pork into the pan- making sure not to crowd.  They will cook quickly since they are so thin. When the bottoms are browned, flip and cook the other side.
Drain them on a cooking rack, placed over a cookie sheet- don’t drain on paper towels- that makes your food mushy!
Keep the cooked schnitzel warming in the oven at 170 or so, while you cook the other batch/batches.
Serve with a wedge of lemon, and some parsley and a side of Rotkohl . Rotkohl is braised red cabbage. I know that might not sound good, but it is ridiculous how delicious it is! The first ingredient is even bacon!

3 slices of bacon, chopped
½ onion, diced
Head of red cabbage, thinly sliced
1 cup of red wine
1 cup of apple juice
5 cloves
¼ cup of cider vinegar

On a giant pot, cook the bacon for about 3 minutes.
 Add the onions, cook until the onions are softened.
Add the cabbage and stir.
Deglaze the pan with the red wine
Add the rest of the ingredients.
Cook over low heat for 3-4 hours- stirring occasionally.
There you go!
You have a wonderful and festive German meal!
Guten Appetit!

The first time I had German food, I was 16 years old and taking part on an exchange program.  (I had never had beer before either, so the trip was quite enlightening!)

My host mom worked at a bakery, and she would bring me amazing little brötchen, studded with sunflower seeds; I would bring them to school for lunch. After school we would walk through the town, and usually stop for an ice cream.  I just couldn’t get enough of the Himbeerbecher (raspberry ice cream bowl .) There was even ice cream that looked like spaghetti- Spaghettieis!
When school was out for the summer, we ventured out to explore the country. We dined on pork medallions and wurst in outdoor biergartens under fairy lights. I was also introduced to a brand new love- schnitzel …more specifically jaegerschnitzel.   We toured the famous Schloß Neuschwanstein (the big Sleeping Beauty looking castle) and afterwards we stopped at a rustic little restaurant, where I ordered venison medallions and spätzle. It was a revelation- I still remember it all these years later. As we travelled out of Germany and to Austria and Switzerland I tried many more foods.  I was blown away by Raclette in Switzerland, it was a plate full of melted cheese. How wonderful! Though, I will be happy if I never have to eat Leberkase again. Translated, it means liver cheese- it looked like a 1cm thick slab of hot dog on the plate, and it was as BIG as the plate.
After my exchange and touring, the rest of my classmates returned home, but, I had extended my visit so that I could go visit German relatives- It was here that I really saw what excellent German cooking could be.  My Tante Christa is one of the best cooks I have ever met- hands down. In my eyes, she is one of the best cooks in the world.  There is the passion that goes into her food, but you can tell that she has the innate skill to create meals that are works of art, and create flavours that you remember your whole life.  She would make these amazing lunches every day for us , and I don’t know if she knew how much I appreciated her cooking, but watching her cook and enjoying her meals was a revelation.
I have always loved to cook, but my first (and subsequent) trips to Germany really opened my eyes to the possibilities.  I don’t know if I feel such affection for the food because German is a heritage that I feel very proud of or if I just fell in love with the place- regardless- German food is awesome- and to make some delicious dishes all you need is a little time, and some great folks to share it with.


( Originally Posted 9/20.2011 on TB

Fruit Pizza

This past weekend I was walking through the market buying my favourites and looking at all of the amazing produce, wondering what I was going to write about this week. The beginning of the potatoes or the end of the zucchini, those sweet little cherry tomatoes that my kids can’t seem to get enough of, or perhaps the most enormous golden beet that I have ever seen. I was having a really hard time figuring it out though, because there was something else on my mind.
It is completely nuts.
This week there are five birthdays in my family. Yes, five.
That is a whole lot of parties, presents and cake.  It sort of feels like Mardi Gras. Now- Birthday cake is awesome, right? I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that most people really enjoy it. A thick slab loaded with sweet frosting. It’s a nice thing to have every once in a while, but what do you do when there are 5 parties? Can you actually get bored of birthday cake? The solution- change it up!  There is no rule that says a birthday cake has to be this or that. A cousin of mine actually served Rice Krispie squares at her wedding- how cool is that!
Yesterday was the first of the parties; it was my nieces 2nd B-day Bash. A pizza party- So, for the party I made a fruit pizza!
This is something of a go-to recipe for me- It is easy, delicious, and a very pretty dessert. Usually I’ll buy the dough in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, but finding a roll of plain cookie dough is becoming increasingly difficult- all I could find were the little trays of dough with bats and pumpkins, so I made my own. If you can find a roll of it great. If not, just use your favourite sugar cookie recipe (a recipe for about 5-6 dozen cookies is the perfect size.)

Fruit Pizza
Sugar cookie dough, 1 roll or 1 batch.
1 package of cream cheese, room temperature.
½ cup of powdered sugar
Assorted fruit

Preheat the oven to 375
Press the dough into a pizza pan, or a jelly roll pan- building it up a little at the edges.
Bake in the oven until it is cooked through and the edges have started to brown. About 8-12 minutes- set aside and let cool.
Mix the cream cheese and the powdered sugar together, and spread over the cooled cookie crust.

Decorate your pizza with the cut fruit- making festive patterns and designs!
The Birthday Girl seemed to like it! 

Sweet on Corn

The end of summer is bittersweet.  The days are getting shorter, and a sweater is no longer optional.  But in these last warm days we are treated to a delicious and delectable harbinger of Autumn- Sweet Corn.  It is a vegetable that straddles the seasons. Both a summertime barbeque staple and a symbol of the harvest.

Regardless of thoughts sweet corn might evoke, there is one thing that most of us can agree on. It is delicious…And guess what- It is in season right now!

The other day I was in the supermarket (Yes- I do shop places other than the farmers market,) to grab some bananas for the kids. I happened to take a peek at the corn. I actually made an audible “ugh” sound. It looked so sad.

The husks were discolored and limp- the kernels peeking out from the sorry wrapping were over ripe. I didn’t buy it- despite actually feeling sorry for it.

Lucky for us, the gardens and fields are yielding ripe corn…the money corn so to speak.

If you are a cornstalk owner or a resident of Thunder Bay in the vicinity of a farm or a farmers market- you are fortunate to have access to it.  The taste of fresh corn in unmatched by anything frozen, in a can or a sad display at the store! I remember driving out to a market with my mom when I was young, just to get corn.

I hated driving “All the way out there” just to get corn. Well- it was actually only a 5 minute drive, but it felt to me like a waste a time just to get “dumb ol’ corn.”  The thing is- it is not a waste of time- that delicious, sweet taste is worth driving a lot more than 5 minutes for!

Now, as a kid we only had corn prepared husked and boiled until the colour brightened, served with a pat of butter, and a sprinkle of salt. Definitely one of the best ways to eat it - But, I am going to share a few of my other favorites with you as well. Grilled!

…but there are 2 schools of thought when it comes to this- Husks on or off?

The first way to cook corn on the grill is to carefully pull back the husk- remove the corn silk, fold the husk back over the corn, and soak it for 20 minutes in water- then remove a long thin strip of husk and tie the end  to keep it closed. Put this on the grill and let the corn steam inside of the husk.

Lately, I have been removing the husks- applying the thinnest layer of olive oil and throwing them directly over high heat- this way you get those beautiful grill marks, and the nice smoky flavour from the grill. The high heat really works some magic on the sugar in the corn- It will start to caramelize, and add amazing depth to the flavor of the corn.

Now, if you are looking to do something different than eating corn off of the cob, this is a wonderful recipe to try out.


I have made them with yams in the mix, and even pickerel for half corn/half fish cakes. They are quick, easy and most everyone will love them- they’re fried for goodness sake!

Corn Cakes

2 ears of corn/ de-eared
1 small yam peeled, grated, and cooked.
2 eggs
1/3 cup of milk
1/2 cup of flour
1/2 cup of shredded cheddar
S and P

Mix it all up in a bowl!

Heat 2/3 cup of olive oil in a pan.

When the oil is hot, drop 1/4 cup of the batter into the oil.  Do a few of these, depending on your pan size, but don’t overcrowd.

When they are nice and browned on the bottom, flip and cook the other side until cooked through- Put the fritters on a cooling rack on a cooking sheet to drain, and then into a warm oven, while you cook the rest of the cakes.

You can add some cooked fish to the mix for lovely fish/corn cakes- you imagination is the limit- You can serve these as a side dish, with dipping sauce as an appetizer, or on their own. I like to make them with a saffron sauce.

What is your favourite way to eat corn?

(originally published 9/2/2011 on TB Newswatch)