Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Honey-Roasted Apple & Brie Stuffed French Toast

Apples.  I bet if I peaked in most of your fridges I'd find some, right?  I know I find myself picking them up most shopping trips - they are good to have on hand for crisps and pies and general snacking.  I'm kind of weird (or a lot weird depending on who you ask) in that I only eat apples if I slice them - biting into a whole one is not my thing.  Same with pears.  Maybe in my old age I'm regressing back to kindergarten behavior.  What's next?  Velcro sneakers and drawing with markers that smell like fruit?  So be it.  Some days I wish I could scoot back 35 years and just be a kid, hanging out on the farm with my pet cow Susie and running around in rubber boots.  I'm sure Mom had apples in the fridge back then, too.  And I probably wanted them sliced.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Seize the Season: Grapefruit & Ginger Cream Pie

Another week, flown on by.  And it all began with that shocking season finale of Downton Abbey.  Spoiler Alert! Skip to the recipe if you haven't seen Sunday's episode!  It was all a bit reeling, wasn't it?  And I can't seem to get Mathew Crawley's dead blue eyes out of my mind.  And that little trickle of blood.  Eeep!  Just goes to show, one minute you're on top of the world with a brand new baby boy and a massive inheritance and the next your life comes to an untimely end via a milk truck.  I know, it's not real life, and yes the actor desperately wanted off the show.  But there are little truths here.  Tragedy strikes any time, any place.  So Carpe Diem friends.  You only live once, or until Julian Fellowes decides your time is up.  It's time to eat more pie. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Oh Oscar! Curried Crab Cakes with Mango Avocado Salsa

It's that time of year again friends - time to talk movies and appetizers and make predictions on who's going to win what and who's going to look amazing on the red carpet.  It's Oscar time - or my fourth favourite night of the whole year!  I love it all - the glitz and glam; the drama of the just-opened envelope; and the movies.  Oh I love the movies, and there were some really, really good ones this year.  A lot of the races are too close to call, and it's sure to be a night full of surprises - my favourite type of Oscar night!  From the first minute of the red carpet to the last little goodbye from Seth MacFarlane, I'll be glued to the television, and I know many of you will too.  But it's not a party unless there are snacks (obviously) and I've got you covered on that front too, with these fabulous little crab cakes.  So sit back, relax, let me get a little movie talk out of my system, and then we'll talk food.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

For the Brave: Chocolate & Blood Orange Pots de Crème

Often when you think you're at the end of something, 
you're at the beginning of something else. ~ Fred Rogers

I read something pretty cool in my Instagram feed a few weeks ago and it has stuck with me, so much so that it crosses my mind at least once a day.  Robinmay wrote the bravest thing we can do is get our hopes up.  And it's true, isn't it?  Because we all know what happens when those high hopes come crashing down.  Nothing short of devastation.  It's terribly tempting to hide under the covers and think no way in hell am I going to go through that romantic business ever. again. ever - the excruciating pain of heartbreak isn't worth it.  But the romantic in me knows this isn't true.  There is no better feeling than that of being in love.  I was just there not too long ago, and I rather liked it.  Yes, my last relationship did not work out, but that doesn't mean that I'm going to stay at home and take refuge with the cats and Coronation Street forever.  Eventually, once the heart heals its bruises, I will try again.  Hopes will get high.  I will be brave.  This post is for all of you out there in similar circumstances.  This one is for the brave.

Whether you are in (or out) of love this Valentine's Day, you deserve chocolate and I'm here to provide that service for you.  These chocolate pots de crème were in regular dessert rotation when I was chef at Rutherford House in Edmonton several years ago.  A hit amongst staff (hi Sonia!!!) and customers alike, I had a hard time keeping them in stock.  Good thing they only need about 20 minutes to prep and a day to chill so whipping them up was no biggie.  All you need is good chocolate, whipping cream, butter, eggs, vanilla, a bit of booze and an orange.  The fat content is out of this world, but this is the one day to indulge.  And if you are single, calories don't count.

Really, you can use the zest from any orange you have on hand.  I had blood oranges and it sounds so much more dramatic than Chocolate & Navel Orange Pots de Crème, right?  Hate the chocolate/orange combo?  Leave out the zest completely.  It will still be the awesomest chocolate pot around.  Gather ye some dark chocolate - and chop it up.  Heat whipping cream in a pot until it's almost boiling and add the chocolate, whisking until smooth, then whisk in the rest of the ingredients.  Pour into your favourite pretty tea cups.  I made six with the recipe, but could have easily gone eight.  They last in the fridge for seven days, so just think:  a chocolate pot for every day of the week! 

Chocolate pots de crème is luscious and oh-so-rich.  Thick and creamy with serious chocolate taste, it kind of reminds me of truffle filling.  And that's a good thing.  The longer they chill the better the flavour, so whip them up a day or two before you want to serve them.  It might sound bonkers, but you do need the whipping cream on top to balance out the hardcore chocolate indulgence.  The brandy is nicely waving in the background, and the orange is quietly pleasant, not all up in your face, which I like.  If you let them sit at room temp for 30 minutes before serving, they are softer and creamier.  Don't feel bad if you can't eat all of one pot de crème in a sitting - it's seriously taken me three days to finish one.  Like everything else in life, I'm just pacing myself.  Happy Valentines. xoxo Renée.

Chocolate & Blood Orange Pots de Crème

1 2/3 cups (400ml) whipping cream
275 grams good quality dark chocolate, chopped
zest of one blood orange (or any orange you have on hand)
3 large egg yolks
2 tbsp (30ml) brandy
3 tbsp butter
1/2 cup (125ml) whipping cream
2 tsp sugar
orange peel for garnish

Heat whipping cream in medium saucepan until bubbles form along the edges. Remove from heat and add chocolate.  Whisk until melted and smooth.  Whisk in the orange zest, egg yolks and brandy.  Whisk in the butter, one tbsp at a time, whisking well after each addition.  Divide mixture amongst 6 or 8 small ramekins or cups.  Cover and chill for at least 8 hours or overnight.  Before serving, let sit at room temp for 30 minutes.  Beat 1/2 cup of whipping cream with 2 tsp sugar until thick peaks form.   Put a dollop on each pot de crème, along with a sliver or two of orange peel.  Serves 6-8. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Meyer Lemon Honey Tart with Salted Shortbread Crust

When life hands a girl lemons, you know she is going to make lemon tart.  This girl, anyway.  And boy, have I had lemons handed to me.  But that's okay.  I like a good lemon tart.  It brightens the eyes and puckers the lips and revitalizes a weary soul.  I don't know about you but I could use a little revitalization.  Good thing it's citrus season to the rescue.  Meyer lemons are a tasty reminder to enjoy the precious present, as their season is all too short and one to be savoured.  I need that every once in a while; a gentle reminder to be in the moment.  Not lingering in the past or jumping ahead of myself to the future.  But here, now, in this beautiful mess of a life.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Good For Ya: Peanut Butter Date Cookies with Cacao Nibs

I had second thoughts on telling you about these cookies, mainly because I didn't think they were super photogenic.  Silly me.  While they don't necessarily rack up the food porn points, they score a ten out of ten for their delicious healthy goodness.  I first spied these cookies over on Sprouted Kitchen (naturally) and knew right away I must make them.  I'm a fan of the date, especially the fat and juicy Medjool variety, and any time I can sneak dates into baked goods, I'm there.  Plus all you need for these cookies is a food processor, your hands and a fork.  Gotta love a low maintenance cookie.  Save the oven for another baking experience because these babies are raw, as in unbaked.  Did I mention they're vegan and gluten free too?  Well now you know. You know what else?  There is no butter in the recipe, and I don't even miss it.  That's a fact.  These cookies are good for ya!  So let's jump to it!  

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