When my mother-in-law brought home foie gras paté from a trip to France, I was over the moon excited to eat it! I knew I had to do it justice, so I saved it for a special occasion and used it to attempt my first beef wellington. Luckily, it was a huge success and my sister- and brother-in-law both claimed that it was way better than the beef wellington they ate at one of Chef Ramsey’s restaurants. I really encourage you to try this at home, because 1. it’ll be just as delicious with affordable pate, 2. it’s very impressive and perfect for special occasions, and 3. it is surprisingly easy to make! Cooking shows led me to believe that only the most highly trained chefs are capable of pulling off beef wellington. Not true at all. Anyone can make this!
Archive for the ‘How-To’ Category
On July 5, 2016,the Flavour Your Life program, which is funded by the European Union and the Italian government, hosted an extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) tasting event in Toronto. The event was held at Buca Osteria & Enoteca on King Street West, where the food and drinks were incredible, by the way. It’s my new favourite Italian restaurant and I can’t wait to go back! I usually only purchase Greek EVOO, so I was very excited to learn more about Italian EVOO. A HUGE thank you to Gordon from Confessions of a Toronto Foodie who told me about this opportunity.
This is the first post in the series, Versatile Ingredients.
I’ve been working on using up old ingredients in my pantry. To do this efficiently, I choose a single ingredient and give myself up to one month to use all of it. In order to make this challenge enjoyable (i.e. not having to eat the same dish every day), I’ve been experimenting with new ways to use familiar ingredients. I’ve learned so much and discovered so many new favourite recipes that I decided to start a new series, Versatile Ingredients. Each post will feature a different ingredient. To start, I’ve shared my versatile grocery staples below. See also, creative uses for avocados here.
I very seldomly use cream of tartar, so one box has lasted me several years. Whenever I clean out my pantry, I’m tempted to throw it away, because storage space in my home is literally that precious. I recently made a batch of cookies that, surprisingly, required cream of tartar. I didn’t have any on hand and didn’t have time to buy more. Luckily, I found a website that provided a simple and effective substitute for cream of tartar. I also finally learned what it does. It turns out that cream of tartar is an acid that reacts with baking soda to create carbon dioxide gas, thus acting as a leavener. Cream of tartar can also stabilize whipped egg whites (by maintaining the air bubbles) and prevent crystals from forming in simple syrup.
I went to Burlington, Vermont in the fall of 2014 for a family road trip. We ate and drank our way through the city and Lake Champlain Chocolates was one of my favourite discoveries. I really like their dark chocolate, because it doesn’t contain milk products (I don’t like chocolate that has a lactic sour taste). Also, their white chocolate is the best I’ve ever had. The best part about Lake Champlain Chocolates is that they offer complimentary seminars on chocolate tasting. Their chocolate is available for sale at many Whole Foods locations. We really enjoyed their introduction to chocolate tasting and, although I’m a bit late in sharing this information, I hope it helps you enjoy, appreciate, and choose wisely from the abundance of chocolate that this coming Easter is sure to bring.
(On a side note, check out my Introduction to Coffee Tasting here.)
When John proposed to me this summer, he presented the engagement ring in this wooden ring box. I instantly loved the ring box and was even more blown away when I learned that he made it himself. So I asked him to share the DIY instructions on Cooking with Alison’s first guest post. Don’t worry if you don’t own any tools, because John doesn’t either. He shares below how he was able to get access to tools and woodworking help for very little money.
Although we have different tastes, my dad and I share a love for good coffee. Last summer, I took John and my dad to an informal coffee tasting session at Starbucks in Unionville, ON. It was very interesting, as I had no idea that drinking coffee could be so complex and sophisticated. Here is what we learned from that coffee tasting session.
I never understood why people like cabbage rolls until my friend Joana made Romanian cabbage rolls. This is the same friend that changed my mind about polenta, by the way (see my soft polenta recipes here). I am so so grateful that Joana introduced me to Romanian cabbage rolls, because I am in love with them! They are truly the best cabbage rolls that I have ever tasted. The main difference between Romanian cabbage rolls and other cabbage rolls is that the Romanian ones are made with pickled cabbage. You can find vacuum sealed whole heads of pickled cabbage in European grocery stores. Joana’s recipe is also great because she uses a blend of different types of meat. Although they are easy to make, I don’t make them often, because rolling all of those cabbage rolls can be time-consuming. I hope you won’t be discouraged, because this recipe makes a very large batch that happens to be freezer-friendly. With the colder weather moving in, I knew that I couldn’t put off making these any longer. These are great to make for pot lucks or when feeding a crowd, because they can be served warm or cold.
Sour cream is one of my favourite condiments, but I feel guilty buying it for two reasons: 1. it’s unhealthy and high in calories, and 2. I often end up wasting food, because I have trouble using up an entire container before the expiration date. So you can imagine my excitement when I watched chef Rocco DiSpirito share his healthy sour cream substitute on tv a few years ago. It only requires 2 ingredients: cottage cheese and white vinegar/lemon juice. I have to admit, I was very doubtful that anything could even come close to tasting like sour cream. When I first tried it, I was expecting to be as disappointed as the first time I ever tried vegan cheese, but it was amazingly similar to sour cream. You just need to have the equipment to get the texture completely smooth (I used a mini food processor). You can make as little or as much as you want and you don’t have to feel guilty eating it.
Iced tea has always been one of my favourite drinks, so I’m not sure why it took me so long to start making it from scratch. I should clarify that the drink, ‘iced tea’, means different things depending on where you go. In some places, if you order an iced tea, they will bring you a straight up cup of tea that is served chilled with ice. I learned that the hard way while traveling on a cruise, once. I was very disappointed. 😉 The iced tea that I’m in love with is sometimes referred to as sweet tea. Now that I know how easy it is to make iced tea, how much better it tastes when homemade, and how much fun it is to try different flavour variations, I will never buy canned or bottled iced tea again. In fact, from now on, John and I are going to start serving homemade iced tea instead of soda/pop when we have friends over. Also, if you’re like me, then you probably have boxes and boxes and boxes of different types of tea at home that you may never get through. This is a great way to enjoy them while cleaning out your cupboards.
Did you know that you can eat broccoli leaves? Until I started growing broccoli in my garden, I had no idea 1. what a broccoli plant looked like and 2. that the large leaves were edible and delicious. You can cook them the same way you would cook collard greens. Simply remove the stems and thick ribs, chop the leaves up as desired (I like to roll the leaves up and then slice them thinly crosswise), and then you can steam them, boil them, grill them, saute or stir fry them. You can add them to soup and you can even use them, in lieu of cabbage leaves, to make rolls. Young and tender broccoli leaves can also be eaten raw in salads. On a side note, if you are planning on growing your own organic broccoli, be warned that they become infested with hundreds of tiny gray bugs and spiders. We were too disgusted to eat any of the broccoli crowns, even though they had the most rich broccoli flavour I’ve ever tasted. We will never plant broccoli again!
My favourite way to cook collard greens and broccoli leaves is to saute them with bacon and garlic. Cook 4 slices of smoked bacon in a large saute pan over medium heat until crispy. Remove the pieces of bacon, break them up into small pieces and set aside. Add minced garlic and sliced broccoli leaves to the hot pan with bacon grease. Cook, stirring frequently until the broccoli leaves are tender and still a bit crisp. Add salt and pepper to taste and, if desired, add a small splash of vinegar. Continue to stir until all of the vinegar has evaporated (if using). Stir in the crispy bacon pieces and serve immediately.
Whenever I cook with ingredients that I don’t use regularly, I almost always end up with extra ingredients that I can’t find the time or purpose for. I hate to waste food. So, very early on, I learned how to make the freezer my best friend. Below I’ve shared a list of fresh and canned ingredients that freeze beautifully for months to a year, without a change in texture or taste. Let me know if you can think of anything else! I will add to this list as I discover new freezer friendly ingredients. Also, I’ve posted many many freezer friendly recipes throughout the years. Just look to the end of each recipe for freezing instructions, as applicable.