Pelee Island Winery and Birdie’s Perch

IMG_5325The long weekend gets even better – yesterday, Jonathan and I went for a tour of Pelee Island Winery.  We sampled a few new wines and learn a few things about how one of my favourite Ontario wines is made.  The tour started by tasting a few reds and whites of varying sweetness, flavours and age.  We even got to keep the wine glasses at the end as a fun keepsake.  Our favourite wine that we tasted was a new organic wine called Pelee Pure.  It was light, non acidic and perfect for a summer afternoon with some appetizers.

First in the tour they showed us the huge barrels that were used about forty years ago, imported from France made from French oak.  These barrels are fun to look at, but hard to keep clean.  Each time these wine barrels were emptied someone had to crawl into the barrel and scrape the insides clean so that the flavour would be perfect for the next batch of wine.  Currently, Pelee Island uses smaller oak barrels and giant stainless steel barrels to age, ferment and store its wine.  A fun fact that I learned about sparkling wine is the finer the bubbles the higher the quality of the sparkling wine.IMG_5306IMG_5307IMG_5313

IMG_5326At the side of the building there was a mini vineyard and pretty garden beds.  All of the grapes used in the wine are grown on the island.  Pelee Island was chosen to grow grapes primarily because it shares the same latitude as Northern California and Southern France.  Meaning a warm climate and longer growing season.  Pelee Island has 550 acres of vineyards and is Canada’s largest private estate.  You can also visit Pelee Island for wonderful bird watching, hiking and cycling.  There is a ferry that goes over to the island, but it only goes across twice per day.

IMG_5339After our wonderful tour Jonathan and I went for fish tacos at Birdie’s Perch.  Jonathan discovered this unique chip truck while writing for his weekly food column at CBC Radio Windsor.  He loved the food so much that he simply had to take me back to try the food.  The ingredients were fresh and delicious – the perch in the taco came from Lake Erie.  Jonathan also ordered a delicious Canadian treat – poutine!  Clearly because it’s delicious and to celebrate our Canada Day weekend.  On the top level of the bus there are tables, but since it was humid we opted for a shaded picnic table where there was a nice breeze.  It was a perfect ending for our day.  On the drive back we drove by many beautiful farms where farmers grow fresh produce.  Local produce always tastes better and can be a fun way to explore your surroundings.IMG_5340IMG_5337IMG_5346IMG_5344IMG_5342IMG_5323IMG_5303IMG_5300IMG_5297

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Around the Garden

I have been running around doing errands today, so I didn’t get a chance to bake anything.  I went out for lunch with my good friend Laura in the afternoon.  When I came home there was a mountain of blueberry jam jars that needed ribbons and stickers.  That has been completed now!  Such team work – they look beautiful.  Pictures will follow after the wedding, which is coming up quickly.

I did snap a few photos in the garden though, the peonies are beautiful!  IMG_5085IMG_5077IMG_5078

Shish Kabobs, Civic Holiday Weekend and Kayaking

Jonathan and I have been busy cooking, swimming and kayaking.  So I haven’t had time to bake any new delicious creations.  I promise to make time for a loaf cake, cupcake or muffin recipe soon.

Last weekend was a Civic holiday in Ontario, so it was a three day weekend.  My parents, Sarah, Jonathan and I were at the cottage enjoying wonderful weather.  Mom made delicious shish kabobs on the barbecue.  Kabobs are an easy meal to prepare and taste delicious.  All you need is: one sliced red onion, one red pepper, one yellow pepper, diced chicken breast, shish kabob sticks, salt, pepper, olive oil and balsalmic vinegar.  First, start by marinating the diced chicken breast in olive oil, balsalmic vinegar, salt and pepper.  Dice your red onion and red and yellow peppers.  Assemble on the shish kabob sticks alternating.  Place on barbecue until cooked fully.  Enjoy with either: rice, warmed pitas, naan, a green salad or combination of a few of those options.  Another important step is to soak the shish kabob sticks in water for about ten minutes so they don’t burn on the barbecue.

The Civic holiday weekend was the end of my parents week of vacation and they seemed a little sad that it was over.  However, they enjoyed the coming and going of cottage neighbours, neighbours from home and their lovely daughters.  Our neighbours from home came up to the cottage and Roger caught a 3.5 pound pickerel, which was fried up on the stove top.  It was a tasty and fresh treat.

I taught Jonathan how to kayak at the cottage.  He seemed to be a natural at it.  I tried to put both of us in the kayak at the same time, but that ended in disaster – resulting in us being tipped in the lake.  At the very least, Jonathan learned how to safely exit a kayak in open water.  Hopefully being tipped into the lake won’t discourage Jonathan from continuing to enjoy the kayak.  Two separate kayaks would have been a better idea.  I think Jonathan is warming up to the kayak, we aren’t ready for a week in Algonquin Park or anything, but maybe some day.

Beau is always on his best behavior at the cottage because he does not want to be left behind.  Here is a picture of him standing beside Jonathan’s new water shoes.  (Yes, Jonathan is starting quite the collection of cottage gear.)

Flowers from the Garden

Since I am going up to the cottage for a week I thought I would post a few pictures from the garden.  Hopefully the weather holds up this week for some swimming and relaxation.  With the lack of rain the black eyed susans did not come up as strong this summer, but there were still a few that attempted to show their flower.  The pink hydrangeas are also out in bloom right now and are absolutely gorgous.

Enjoy!

Apple Spice Bundt Cake – Craving Fall Flavours

Today, I found myself craving fall flavours, which to me means apples.  There is nothing better than the smell of cinnamon baking in an apple spice cake.  This recipe is comfort food that has a delightful combination of ginger, cinnamon and applesauce.  For the icing I have chosen to sprinkle icing sugar and make a simple icing sugar and milk drizzle.  It would also be a perfect flavour combination to go with a cup of coffee in the early morning on the dock at the cottage.

Here at home, everyone has been working hard during the summer months.  Next week Mom, Dad, Sarah and I will be going up north to the cottage for a week.  My Dad has moved his office to downtown Toronto from North York.  He enjoys the downtown office, but he is looking forward to the greenery of the cottage and doing some fishing.  Everyone is looking forward to some cottage recipes, which include: easy barbeque recipes, fresh salads and maybe even some ice cream.

Ingredients

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

4 large eggs

1 cup vanilla yogurt

1 ½ cups apple sauce

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

Nonstick cooking spray

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, whisk 2 1/2 cups flour with baking powder, salt, ground ginger and ground cinnamon; set aside.
  2. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars on high speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated.  Reduce speed to low; add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with one addition of yogurt and one addition of applesauce.
  3. Coat a 12-cup nonstick Bundt pan with cooking spray or grease the pan lightly with margarine. Spread batter in prepared pan.
  4. Bake cake on bottom rack of oven until a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 60 to 70 minutes.
  5. Cool in pan 20 minutes. Invert onto a rack; cool completely, topside up.  Tap the top of the bundt cake pan with a wooden spoon to make sure the bundt cake comes out evenly and does not break apart.

Icing Sugar Drizzle

1 cup icing sugar sifted, 3 teaspoons of milk stirred together and drizzled lightly on top of cake.

Cottage Week

I have been up at the cottage this past week.  So, I will get a new recipe out soon.  For now I will post some pictures of the wildlife, flowers and the lake.  Last week and continuing this week have been extremely humid, so I was lucky to be by the lake.

Jonathan managed to come up and sit by the lake last weekend.  On Monday he was back at CBC doing the traffic report on 99.1 fm Toronto.  I am very proud of him!

Turkey Burgers with Olive and Feta

For the Canada Day weekend we went to the family cottage up north.  The weather was perfect with bright blue skies and temperatures of about 30 degrees Celsius.  I went swimming in the cool and refreshing lake everyday.  There really is no feeling like gliding through the cool water on a humid day –  just you, the water and the sky above.  My Dad likes to swim across the lake, which is about one mile (1.6km) in length.  My Mom accompanies him in a kayak, towing an extra one behind her (for Dad on the way back).

For dinner yesterday, my Mom made her famous turkey burgers with kalamata olives and feta cheese.  With a ciabatta bun, fresh tomato and tzatziki sauce, it is a flavour combination that can’t be beat.  Barbequing at the cottage is great because it doesn’t heat up the inside on a humid day.  Dad loves barbequing and decided to show off his skills for a picture.

Our little dog Beau absolutely adores the cottage, roaming the property like he is the king of the castle.  He loves stopping to smell the flowers and blending in with the limestone rocks.  All the cottage activity keeps Beau happily running around all day.  In particular he loves playing with my cousin Steven’s dog, Sasha, a large Siberian Husky.  Despite their difference in size they play well together – most of the time.

For those who love gardening in difficult terrain, the begonias my Grandma plants every year are the heartiest plants I have ever seen!  In addition to their survival skills, they come in many vibrant cheery colours.  I am going to be up at the cottage for a week with my Grandma, so I am sure I will be helping with some more gardening and watering.

Mom’s Turkey Burgers with Kalamata Olives and Feta

Ingredients

1 pound ground turkey

¼ cup crumbled feta cheese

¼ cup kalamata olives

2 tablespoons diced onion

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon salt

Instructions

Mix all ingredients together.  Form hamburger patties and put on the barbeque until cooked thoroughly.  For the toppings, slice  fresh tomatoes, fresh lettuce and add tzatziki sauce.  When it comes to buns, ciabatta buns work wonderfully. When I was in France with my two best friends we had lovely hamburgers served on a French baguette, so those work quite nicely as well.

Midweek Snack – Blondies

Squares such as blondies are an easy midweek snack.  Except for the butterscotch chips, the ingredients are all pantry staples: butter, sugar, egg, salt and flour.  As for the recipe, I looked to Martha Stewart for guidance and inspiration.  If you don’t have severe allergies to nuts and dark chocolate you can add some of those ingredients.  However, butterscotch chips are delicious too!

At some point I hope to make more squares because they are a tasty treat.  I think I have perfected lemon squares and blondies.  So, the next big landmark will be buttertart squares.

I will need to do some more baking this week for the Canada Day weekend.  My family is going up north to the cottage to enjoy the (hopefully) sunny weather.  Baking up north is not a good idea (because the oven makes the cottage intensely warm), so it is best to do the baking at home.  Maybe the call of summer will inspire some delicious hummus dips and cool as a cucumber appetizers.

In Aurora and Peterborough the summer flowers are in full bloom.  On the weekend I was in Peterborough enjoying Jonathan’s Mom’s beautiful daisies.  When I got back to Aurora I was thrilled to see the gorgeous hydrangeas in bloom.  They say that surrounding yourself with plants and flowers can extend your lifespan by thirty years.  I am very lucky to have parents and a future Mother and Father in-law that love gardening and flowers.

So, enjoy some time outdoors with the flowers and a sweet simple blondie.

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush an 8-inch square baking pan with butter; line pan with a piece of parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two sides. Butter paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk butter and sugars until smooth. Whisk in egg and vanilla. Add flour and salt; mix just until moistened (do not overmix). Fold in 1 cup of butterscotch chips. Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top. Sprinkle with a few extra butterscotch chips.
  3. Bake until top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Set pan on a wire rack, and let cool completely. Using parchment overhang, lift cake from pan and transfer to a cutting board; cut into 16 squares.

Strawberry Shortcake

What to say about (one of) my favourite desserts?

Strawberry shortcake is a classic and needs no introduction or up-talk.  Although, I could offer a few adjectives in its praise: heavenly, scrumptious, creamy and all-around-wonderful.  My favourite version of strawberry shortcake is the individual short stacks.  The biscuit is pretty much a plain scone with some vanilla yogurt to give it flavour and moisture – and of course with delicious BUTTER!  What isn’t to love?

I had to make strawberry shortcake with the fresh berries Jonathan and I picked yesterday.  The strawberries are sweet little gems that were begging me to use them in another blog post.

Now, believe it or not, I am NOT trying to give Jonathan a heart attack with all these sweets.  I used 2% Greek yogurt for this version of strawberry shortcake – therefore avoiding the extra fat in whipping cream.  This version is equally delicious as its fat cousin!

The brand of Greek yogurt we chose was Oikos by Danone.  With the popularity of Greek yogurt, we had no problem choosing the top rated Greek yogurt (as recommended by the Globe and Mail).  There was no chalky taste that is sometimes present with Greek yogurt.

This is a delicious summer dessert that you should not miss out on!

Shortcake Biscuit Ingredients:

2 ¼ cups organic all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

¼ sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1/3 cup cold, unsalted butter

1 cup vanilla 2% Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons milk

¼ cup to ½ cup of water, add slowly, just enough to help dough combine.

Filling:

4 cups sliced strawberries (add a teaspoon of sugar if you desire.)

2 cups 2% Greek yogurt

6 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions for making the biscuits:

1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

2.  In the bottom of a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, sugar and salt together.  Add butter, either by cutting it in with two knives or a pastry blender.  Cut the butter into the flour mixture until the butter is pea sized and coated with flour.

3.  Stir in the yogurt, milk and water until the dough starts to come together.

4.  Once you have mixed it together with a wooden spoon, knead it once or twice in the bowl, to create one mass. Do not worry about getting the dough evenly mixed.  Be careful not to over knead the dough.

5.  Generously flour your counter. With as few movements as possible, transfer your dough to the counter, generously flour the top of it and with your hands or a rolling pin, gently roll or press the dough out to a 3/4-inch thickness. Cut into 2 1/2-inch circles with a floured biscuit cutter (or using a knife).

6.  Carefully transfer biscuits to prepared baking sheet, leaving a couple inches between each.

7.  Bake the scones for 12-14 minutes, until golden at the edges.  Cool for one minute on the pan and then transfer to a wire rack.  (Biscuits are best the day they are made.)

Assembling Shortcakes:

  1. Bake biscuits and let cool.
  2. Make filling by stirring filling ingredients together.  Chill filling for 1 hour.
  3. Take one cup or half the filling in a separate bowl and stir in 1 cup of sliced strawberries.
  4. Slice the biscuits in half.
  5. Add strawberry filling in the middle and place top back on.  Add a dollop of plain yogurt filling on top.
  6. Enjoy!

Apologies for the picture quality – I forgot to bring my camera to Jonathan’s apartment, so we used his BlackBerry for these shots.

Strawberry Fields Forever (Strawberry Picking!)

Yesterday, Jonathan and I went strawberry picking at Nauman’s Farm, approximately twenty minutes outside of Waterloo, Ontario.  We picked six litres of delicious, sweet, heavenly strawberries. Over half have since disappeared!  However, there was enough for breakfast this morning and tonight’s dessert.

Strawberry shortcake is one of my favourite types of cake, and will the subject of my next post.  It is best of course when strawberries are in season!  I prefer the short stacks version of strawberry shortcake – perfect little individual cakes loaded up with whipping cream and fresh juicy berries.

When I told Jonathan’s parents that I intended to take him strawberry picking, they warned me he would not go willingly. He agreed with their assessment, saying (light-heartedly) that he preferred to support farm workers instead of putting them out of a job.

Once we were there, however, he actually seemed to enjoy it! Though it was hot, there was a lovely breeze, and with only four of us in the entire field, there was a lot of room to find the best berries.

While six litres is a lot of berries, we didn’t pick enough to make jam. That will be next time, when raspberries come into season.  This was just a warm up, Jonathan!  Homemade raspberry jam is my absolute favourite.  I will need help from my Mom for that foodie endeavor.

Now, I have had a request from one of my sister’s dear friends, Hailey, to make fun food art.  Here is my first attempt.  I used fresh blueberries, strawberries and organic bananas to create this beautiful presentation on top of oatmeal.  Jonathan thinks that the blueberry smiley face was kind of creepy, so maybe I need a bit more practice.  Nonetheless, we enjoyed this fun, filling and delicious breakfast!