Happy Halloween – have you ever worn a food-related costume?

October 30, 2009

coolest-california-roll-sushi-boy-costume-37615Photo credit: www.coolest-homemade-costumes.com

I’ve just today realized that I’ve never had a food-related Halloween costume. I once dressed my infant son as a pumpkin but I’ve always had scary costumes myself.

One year my brother was a marshmallow but it was a costume of convenience: he was five and just out of the hospital from having pneumonia so my mom dressed him in a fuzzy white ‘fun’ fur coat of hers and threw a white hat on him so that he could go out trick or treating without catching a chill. Most people thought he was a Russian czar but he didn’t mind; he was just glad to be allowed out of bed!

Some of the best food inspired costumes I’ve ever seen are here on thee Serious Eats blog.

How about you? Any good food inspired Halloween costumes in your past or present?


Double-duty packaging

October 23, 2009

bird house wine boxReduce, I support. Recycle, I support. But, reuse, I love!

Check out this great ‘green’ package. It’s a wine gift box that is also a hummingbird house! So clever.

As we proceed into the holiday dinner and cocktail party season, many people will pick up gifts, flowers or bottles of cheer to take to their hosts. What other smart double-duty packages can be used to carry a gift and then be used for something else? Gift bags don’t count – I want you to dig deeper today, dear readers.

PS: Here are instructions on how to make a wine bottle birdhouse.


Give thanks for Brussels sprouts

October 9, 2009

brussels sprouts

Raise your hand if you don’t like Brussels sprouts. Okay, now put your hand down so that you don’t reflexively hit me when I tell you that you can like this cruciferous veggie. In fact, you can make it this weekend for Thanksgiving dinner and get rave reviews. I speak the truth.

I know it’s hard to believe me when there are so many nasty Brussels sprout memories competing with my claim. But trust me: the reason you don’t like Brussels sprouts is because you’ve eaten them either 1. overcooked or 2. cooked when they were too old. Honest.

In fact, I didn’t think I liked Brussels sprouts either until I started buying them on the stalk and learned that they don’t need to be boiled to death.

Ready to take the plunge? The first step is to find fresh, young Brussels sprouts. You can hit a farmers’ market or a good grocery store that brings in fresh, local vegetables. While on the stalk, the sprouts should be firm and the outer leaves shouldn’t be yellowed or wilted in any way. The stalk should be pale green and heavy. To use the sprouts, simply cut them off the stalk and peel away any loose outer leaves. Easier than shucking corn!

Maple Mustard Glazed Brussels Sprouts

2 tsp (30 mL) olive or other vegetable oil
1 cup (250 mL) thinly sliced leeks
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 tsp (4 mL) dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp (2 mL) each salt and pepper (approx.)
4 cups (1 L) halved small or quartered large Brussels sprouts
3/4 cup (175 mL) water
1 tbsp (15 mL) each maple syrup and whole grain Dijon mustard

Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet set over medium heat. Add the leeks, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Increase the temperature to medium-high and add the sprouts.

Stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add the water and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes or until liquid is evaporated and the sprouts are almost fork tender.

Stir in the maple syrup and mustard. Cook, stirring often, for 2 to 3 minutes or until the sprouts are browned and fork tender. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Makes 6 servings.


To a good new year

September 16, 2009

New Year's Honey Cake

September always feels like the real beginning of the year for me. Oliver heads back to school, work gets busier after the lull of the summer and Martin jumps into action at Pangaea with the Toronto International Film Festival. In fact, the kinetic pace that doesn’t really stop until the last New Year’s Eve revelers leave Martin’s restaurant, catch a cab and head home.

That’s why I love the idea of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish celebration of their calendar’s new year. Although I’m not Jewish, I have many very close friends who do practice that faith and who will be observing Rosh Hashanah at the end of the week. So in their honour, I’m featuring a recipe from Marcy Goldman’s wonderful new book A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking. In her header notes, Marcy notes that this cake can be made several days ahead and just gets moister and more delicious as it sits, so why not make it tonight for the weekend?

Marcy Goldman’s Majestic & Moist New Year’s Honey Cake
(excerpted with permission)

3 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cloves
1⁄2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup honey
11⁄2 cups white sugar
1⁄2 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup warm coffee or strong tea
1⁄2 cup fresh orange juice
1⁄4 cup rye or whisky (see note below)
1⁄2 cup slivered or sliced almonds (optional)

I like this cake best baked in a 9-inch angel food cake pan, but you can also make it in a 10-inch tube or Bundt cake pan, a 9- by 13-inch sheet pan, or three 8-by 41⁄2-inch loaf pans.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease the pan(s). For tube and angel food pans, line the bottom with lightly greased parchment paper. For gift honey cakes, I use “cake collars” (available from Sweet Celebrations) designed to fit a specific loaf pan. These give the cakes an appealing, professional, look.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Make a well in the center and add the oil, honey, sugars, eggs, vanilla, coffee, orange juice, and rye or whisky.

Using a strong wire whisk or an electric mixer on slow speed, combine the ingredients well to make a thick batter, making sure that no ingredients are stuck to the bottom of the bowl.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan(s) and sprinkle the top of the
cake(s) evenly with the almonds. Place the cake pan(s) on 2 baking sheets stacked together and bake until the cake springs back when you touch it gently in the center. For angel and tube cake pans, bake for 60 to 70 minutes; loaf cakes, 45 to 55 minutes. For sheet-style cakes, the baking time is 40 to 45 minutes. This is a liquidy batter and, depending on your oven, it may need extra time. Cake should spring back when gently pressed. Let the cake stand for 15 minutes
before removing it from the pan. Then invert it onto a wire rack to cool completely.

NOTE: If you prefer not to use the whisky, replace it with orange juice or coffee.


Cocktail for Canada Day

July 1, 2009

Campari & SodaSince Italian bitters such as Campari and Cynar are bringing Milanese flare to fancy urban lounges and patios this summer, bitters seemed like the perfect place to start when I considered developing a Canada Day Cocktail.

I love the dry, quenching taste of a classic Campari and soda like the one pictured here (Thanks for another great photo, Tracy Cox!) but I wanted to make something even more summery for our country’s birthday. In the end I combined yummy, cold watermelon with campari to create this Campari Canadiana pitcher drink that you can share with friends. Cheers!

Campari Canadiana

1/3 cup (75 mL) campari
1/3 cup (75 mL) sweet vermouth
3 cups (750 mL) watermelon chunks
2 cups (500 mL) crushed ice

Combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until slushy and evenly combined. Serve in tall glasses with a straw and a stir stick. Makes 6 servings.

Classic Campari Cocktail

ice
1 oz (30 mL) campari
1 oz (30 mL) sweet vermouth
1 orange wedge
soda

Fill a double old-fashioned glass almost full with ice. Add the campari and vermouth and squeeze the orange wedge over the glass. Top with soda and garnish with the orange wedge.

Do you have a special Canada menu or drink that you serve every year?


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