September Dinner – Fresh bagels and blackberries

The Ernest Bagel - with cold cuts and cheeseJonathan and I were looking for a simple dinner so we headed to the Earnest Bagel in Windsor for some fresh bagels.  The Earnest Bagel bakes fresh Montreal style bagels and they are an absolute delight.  They are great for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  We already had some cheeses and cold cuts at home.  I decided to do salami and cheddar, instead of the usual cream cheese – although that is one of my favourites too.The Ernest Bagel

Fresh blackberries from Blenheim were available at Remark grocery store.  Remark is a great grocery store in Windsor that we love to go to for a treat.  Their produce is amazing and the shopping experience is more personal since the store is smaller than the big box grocery stores.  In addition to the blackberries – I couldn’t resist making it a berry trio with blackberries, strawberries and raspberries.Ontario BlackberriesBlackberries and RaspberriesBlackberries, Raspberries, and Strawberries

For a real treat we found Coffee and Bailey’s gelatto.  It all made for a delightful dinner and a fun trip to the grocery store.  Yes, I enjoy going to the grocery store tremendously to find the freshest and best ingredients!Coffee and Bailey's Gelatto

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Portland and Seattle Honeymoon

IMG_5632Jonathan and I have settled back into married life – after an absolutely wonderful honeymoon.  Portland and Seattle were fun cities to visit and tour around.  Jonathan and I are both foodies so – some of our tourism was food tourism.  We stayed in amazing hotels with allergy friendly floors, which helped me sleep well.  With many farmers markets, art galleries, coffee shops, fine dining and beautiful weather – there was so much to explore.

One of our first dinners out was Grüner – Alpine inspired – and delicious.  I ordered duck schnitzel and it came with a delicious sauce.IMG_5608IMG_5595IMG_5604

Next, on our food adventure was donuts!  The donuts were the most delicious and creative flavours I have ever tasted.  At Blue Star Donuts we tried a rhubarb and berry glazed donut, sour cream glazed, and blueberry bourbon basil.  These donuts were top notch, way better than Tim Hortons – with a light flakey brioche donut and freshly made icings!

IMG_5577IMG_5659For the book lover in us both was Powell’s Books in Portland.  It is one of the largest book stores I have seen in a long time.  There was even a map to help you navigate the sections.  I bought the new Barbara Kingsolver novel “Flight Behavior” which I am enjoying tremendously so far.IMG_5586

Next Seattle!  An amazing city that felt a great deal like Toronto, but with amazing salmon.  I adored the Pike Place Market.  The market is lined with fresh bouquets of flowers, organic wine booths, fresh veggies, fresh fish, small restaurants, and tons of tourists.  We enjoyed walking around and absorbing the atmosphere.  Pike Place Market also happens to be the place where Starbucks opened its original location!  I love fair trade organic coffee, but every once in a while I have a craving for a Starbucks vanilla latte.IMG_5727IMG_5738IMG_5734IMG_5746IMG_5736IMG_5741

Poppy had a unique menu that is inspired by Indian ‘thali’.  Thali provides a small taste of many small dishes.  We both ordered the salmon, which came with sugar snap peas, naan, black eyed peas and carrot and ginger soup.  This restaurant was definitely a highlight, the salmon was fresh, the lemon drop martini was delicious and it set a great tone for our exploration of Seattle.  I definitely think this concept needs to be done in Ontario!IMG_5704IMG_5709IMG_5705

At Victorola Cafe we did a coffee tour.  We smelled a variety of coffee grounds, felt the beans, observed and smelled as hot water was added, then finally tasted the intricate tastes of the coffee.IMG_5715IMG_5716IMG_5719

Sushi – yum!  I think dinner at Shiro’s Sushi was Jonathan’s favourite restaurant in Seattle.  He had heard about Shiro’s because Shiro trained with a famous sushi master in Japan.  In fact there is a documentary about the sushi master he trained with: Jiro Dreams of Sushi.  The sushi was artfully made and presented beautifully.  The fish was so fresh and was a sushi lover’s dream come true.

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Seattle Public Library

The Seattle Public Library is an amazingly beautiful modernist building.  Jonathan worked at the Peterborough Public library for many years, so he loves visiting libraries in other cities.  Being a bookworm myself – I was delighted to see such a gorgeous home for so many books.  IMG_5944IMG_5946

Dinner at Spinasse

This meal was my absolute favourite.  It is not a secret that I love pasta – and this place was amazing.  So much care was taken with the pasta and it was beautifully presented.  I had a perfectly paired glass of red wine and the atmosphere was perfect.  Jonathan loves me so much that he eats a great deal of pasta.  Jonathan found some amazing restaurants, we explored great cuisine, and had some very romantic meals.IMG_5942IMG_5940

Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum

A wonderful art experience.  I can’t imagine the patience, genuine creativity and time it would take to create these pieces of art.  I loved the mixture of fine glass and the well manicured gardens.
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Panna Cotta

Panna CottaJonathan planned a dinner to celebrate our engagement two years ago.  One of my favourite parts was the dessert – a delicious panna cotta, which I have been meaning to make in my own kitchen for a long time!  Panna Cotta is a tasty dessert that is silky and creamy with a hint of vanilla.  Panna cotta in Italian translates to ‘cooked cream’ and that’s enough to make me fall in love with the dessert.  Jonathan chose it as a dessert for our engagement dinner because of its flavour, silky texture and the added bonus that it’s nut free.

I decided to make this dessert yesterday and it turned out wonderfully.  The little blue bowls I used were a bridal shower gift from my friends Emily and Allee and they were perfect for this scrumptious little dessert.  The recipe I used was from the Joy of Baking website.  I used the recipe because I wanted a video to show me how to make one of my favourite desserts.  I also didn’t want to waste whipping cream!  The recipe turned out perfectly and I will make this recipe again soon I am sure.  The panna cotta is garnished with homemade blueberry jam, but you can use fresh fruit.

Now that I have had success with this recipe I have many other ideas for little desserts.  A particular family favourite are parfaits!  My Dad used to make them for us when we were little and we loved them.  My Dad has a copy of the Jell-o cookbook, but I will make my own jelly using plain gelatin and fresh juice from the juicer.  I saw a recipe for half apple and half pomegranate layered jelly desserts and it looks irresistible!Panna Cotta

Makes 6 individual servings.

Ingredients:

1 package (1/4 ounce) (7 grams) unflavored powdered gelatin

1/4 cup (60 ml) cold milk

2 1/4 cups (540 ml) heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup (60 grams) confectioners’ sugar (icing sugar)

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Blueberry jam or fruit for garnish

Instructions:

For this recipe you will need 6 half-cup dessert cups (little bowls or wine glasses are my favourite).

  1. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold milk in a small bowl.  Let the mixture sit for about 5 – 10 minutes. The idea is that the gelatin needs time to soften, swell, and become spongy.
  2. In a medium saucepan mix the cream and sugar.  Bring it just to a boil (or very hot with lots of steam coming off the top).  Stir well to dissolve the icing sugar.
  3. When the cream and sugar is very hot or just at boiling remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the gelatin mixture.
  4. Stir well until the gelatin is dissolved. If necessary, return the saucepan to the stove and stir over low heat (make sure you no longer see gelatin crystals). Stir in the vanilla extract at this point.
  5. Pour the cream into the dessert little bowls or wine glasses and place in the refrigerator. The panna cotta must chill for two to four hours, or until set.  Panna cotta can be made one to two days before serving.

Mixed Berry Cupcakes

Raspberry, Blueberry, Blackberry CupcakesMy blog has been a place to store some wonderful memories.  So, leading up to my wedding to the wonderful Jonathan Pinto – I will document some more memories.  It’s funny how memories and food are so closely tied together.  There is a great deal of lead up time and excitement that a wedding brings.  I’m sure I will be busy with details and planning.  I will also make time to bake some cookies or scones and share a few stories.

Today marks my last day of volunteering with an amazing grade 2 class in Windsor, Ontario.  I have been volunteering since March, and I will miss them.  I will be volunteering again in September though, with a junior kindergarten class!  It should prove to be tons of fun and high energy.

I love cupcakes for celebrating – and I really want to celebrate all that I have learned from the grade 2 class.  As well, to thank them for sharing all of their stories, reading with me, and allowing me to teach them a math lesson tossed in there.  I have enjoyed watching them learn, grow and tell their stories.  I believe literacy is important because no matter what career you are in, it is important to be able to communicate your interests, what you are passionate about, and as an individual to tell your story, as you move throughout the world.

Countdown to the wedding: 15 days! (Not including today or the day of June 22)

Mixed Berry Cupcakes

with Vanilla Icing and Confetti Sprinkles

Ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature, beaten

½-1 cup pureed raspberries, blueberries and blackberries, strained

Instructions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Set out cupcake papers and set aside.

2.  In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

3.  In a food processor or blender puree 1-2 cups of mixed berries that will be reduced to about ½-1 cup.  With a strainer, strain the puree to get ride of the seeds.

4.  In your mixer combine the sugar, canola oil, vanilla extract and eggs.  Then add in the buttermilk and strawberry puree.  Add lemon zest.  Slowly add in the flour mixture.

5.  Spoon the batter into the cupcake pans and bake until the cupcakes spring back when touched lightly in the center (20minutes).

6.  Cool before icing.

Buttercream Icing – from Canadian Living Website

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 5 cups sifted icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Preparation

In large bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy. Alternately beat in sugar and cream, making 2 additions of sugar. Beat in vanilla. (Make-ahead: Refrigerate in airtight container for up to 24 hours; let come to room temperature, about 1 hour. Beat slightly before using.)

Bestellen, Kinton Ramen & Brunch at The County General

Last week Jonathan and I tried out a few new restaurants in Toronto.  For dinner we went to Bestellen, Chef Rob Rossi’s latest creation. It had a great atmosphere and friendly wait staff.  I ordered the strozzapreti with hen of the woods mushrooms, heirloom tomatoes, leeks, and basil.  The flavours were wonderful, perfectly combined and beautifully presented.  I don’t have a picture of my meal because the lighting in the restaurant was a little dark.  Jonathan ordered the butcher’s daily meal, which was an 8oz steak topped with chimichurri and served with beets and greens. I tried a few bites and it was perfectly cooked.  It is their selection of meats that the Bestellen is known for and it was delicious.  (The photo below is from the Bestellen website, and I just had to share it, since we had such a lovely meal there.)

For brunch the next morning, we went to the County General on Queen Street. It’s owned by the same people who run Splendido, where we’re having our wedding reception next June!  Jonathan ordered a chicken thigh sandwich which was very tasty.  I ordered the pig on a blanket and I don’t know why I ordered it.  It was a pigs cheek on a bed of zucchini and I did not like the texture.  The waiter at the restaurant said it was one of his favourites.  However, luckily for me, Jonathan switched his meal with mine.  (I found a picture on The County General website of the chicken thigh sandwich.  Also on the website is a picture of their unique interior.)

Now for the dessert I did take my own picture.  It was a delicious buttermilk cake with Ontario blueberry compote.One last restaurant should be included in our restaurant exploration from last week  is Kinton Ramen.  All of the ramen noodles are made on site.  Our seat was near the kitchen, so we could see it all being freshly prepared, and the large pots of pork broth bubbling.  The portions were far to large for me to finish, but Jonathan and his friend Ian were able to eat every last bite.  I ordered the miso ramen and Jonathan and Ian ordered the spicy garlic ramen.  I definitely want to go to Kinton Ramen again sometime soon.  I love noodles so really its a dream come true for me.  We went on a very humid day, so it may not have been the best day to go for a hot bowl of soup with ramen noodles.  There was a huge wait for this trendy new restaurant, about 30 minutes, so we knew it must be good, if people were waiting 30 minutes for a bowl of ramen.

Congratulations Laura and Chris!

I am so proud of my sister!  All of the details and planning that went into her wedding paid off.  Everything seemed like it was right out of a movie – from their vows that made me well up with emotion to their last dance of the evening.  Laura and Chris are a beautiful couple and I wish them every happiness in the world.

As for me, I had an amazing time being the Maid of Honour!  Jonathan was the Masters of Ceremonies for the evening and did a wonderful job keeping everyone on track and announcing all of the speeches.  Later in the evening Jonathan and I danced the night away.  The next morning my feet were still hurting from all of the dancing!

Laura and Chris picked beautiful songs for their first dance, Father-Daughter dance, Mother and Son dance and their last dance of the evening.  From the beginning to the end, the day could not have been any better.

For the morning of the wedding I baked two different kinds of scones.  I made blueberry and raspberry white chocolate chip.  They were a perfect start to a busy day.  We brought them with us to the hair salon so people could snack while all of our hair was being styled for the day.

All of the guests took home the scrumptious fudge wedding cakes that my Mom, family and friends had all helped to put together.  The bridal party looked stunning!  I can’t wait to see when the wedding photos come back (taken by the wonderful PhotoTerra).  The professional cameras make that wonderful shutter clicking sound.  I want one now, just for that amazing sound (well, and the high quality photographs).

The whole family was just glowing with happiness for Laura and Chris.  We are so happy to welcome Chris into the family!

Congratulations Laura and Chris!

Laura’s Bridal Shower

This past weekend my Auntie Andrea and Gran hosted a bridal shower for my sister Laura.  I was in charge of bringing desserts.  It was my biggest baking project yet, but it all turned out really well.  I made three-dozen cupcakes and three-dozen mini strawberry tarts.  The cupcakes I made in advance and then put them in the freezer, so the day before the shower all I had to do was make the buttercream icing, and fondant daisies.  The cheesecake tarts were also made the day before and were really easy to make.

 
Earlier in the week we decorated my Grandma’s house, so the day of the bridal shower everything was perfect.  Victoria, Sarah and I went to Michael’s Craft Store and Party Packagers to find the perfect decorations.  The two grandmothers were smiling ear to ear throughout the bridal shower.  Gran spent a great deal of time planning the party – we all told her that she throws the BEST parties.  I hope to be throwing parties still at age 83!

Many of Laura’s close friends from elementary school and the University of Guelph were in attendance.  It’s really a wonderful thing when you have kept up with friends from elementary school.  Two of my Mom’s best friends from high school came to the shower.  Weddings are such a wonderful time for close friends, family and celebration.

I am so happy for my sister Laura – and I’m thrilled to be her Maid of Honour. Chris and her will have such an amazing life together!

Red Velvet Cupcakes – from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon red gel-paste food color
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together cake flour, cocoa, and salt.
  2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, whisk together sugar and oil until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Mix in food color and vanilla.
  3. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk, and whisking well after each. Stir together the baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl (it will foam); add mixture to the batter, and mix on medium speed 10 seconds.
  4. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.

Note

Gel-paste food color is much more concentrated than the supermarket liquid variety; if you substitute the liquid, you may need to add an entire bottle (1.5 ounces) to achieve the desired shade.

Mini Strawberry Cheese cake – Mom’s Recipe

Ingredients

2 cups cream cheese

¾ cup sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

Crust

1 package Nilla (vanilla wafer cookies)

*These are a great instant crust, but if you can’t find them in the grocery store, you can make your own graham cracker crust.

Cheesecake filling

  1. In you Cuisinart food processor blend cream cheese and sugar.  Blend until the cream cheese begins to soften.
  2. Add in vanilla extract and eggs.
  3. Blend until nice creamy consistency.
  4. Fill the cupcake pan until ¾ full.
  5. Bake at 350 F for 11 minutes.  (Do not over bake or it will be dry.)
  6. Let cool and then garnish with fresh fruit or jams.  Place in the refrigerator until it is time to serve the cheesecakes.

Strawberry Puree Daisy Cupcakes

Ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature, beaten

1/2 cup pureed strawberries

1 teaspoon lemon zest

Instructions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Set out cupcake papers and set aside.

2.  In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

3.  In a food processor puree one cup of strawberries that will be reduced to about ½ a cup.  With a strainer, strain the puree to get ride of the seeds.

4.  In your mixer combine the sugar, canola oil, vanilla extract and eggs.  Then add in the buttermilk and strawberry puree.  Add lemon zest.  Slowly add in the flour mixture.

5.  Spoon the batter into the cupcake pans and bake until the cupcakes spring back when touched lightly in the center.

6.  Cool before icing.

Buttercream Icing – from Canadian Living Website

Preparation

In large bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy. Alternately beat in sugar and cream, making 2 additions of sugar. Beat in vanilla. (Make-ahead: Refrigerate in airtight container for up to 24 hours; let come to room temperature, about 1 hour. Beat slightly before using.)

Extreme Baking: Cupcakes, Meatloaf, and Bundt Cake

Leslie the Foodie has been very busy in the kitchen lately.  Yesterday I made four dozen cupcakes for my sister’s bridal shower on Sunday.  I made one batch of light and fluffy strawberry cupcakes and one batch of red velvet cupcakes.  The oven was on for a very long time!  I put the cupcakes in the freezer and I will ice them and decorate them with fondant flowers on Saturday.

Then, I made my blueberry yogurt bundt cake for my Dad to take into a meeting at work.  Dad wanted to have a snack for all of the hard working staff at the City of Toronto.  There will be more desserts to come for his co-workers who have been loyally following my blog!

Happy Birthday Dad!

In addition to these projects, I made dinner last night for Dad’s birthday.  I made one of our family’s favourite comfort foods – barbeque meatloaf.  Along with delicious baked potatoes and some peas, it was a perfect dinner.  There were a few extra cupcakes from the morning so I whipped up some icing and we had them for dessert.

Dad has been very supportive of my blog and likes to make lots of suggestions.  I’m sure this summer he will want me to do a post with a fish fresh from the lake.  He gets a kick out of fishing up at the cottage and I’m sure he will this summer as well.

I’m not sure what the best recipes for bass are, but I will start researching now.  There are some other fish in the lake, but fishing isn’t really my area of expertise. I will leave that to Dad.

Barbeque Meatloaf Recipe

Ingredients

-1 pound of lean ground beef

-1/2 cup to 1 cup of bread crumbs

-1/2 cup of finely chopped onion

-1 large egg

-1/2 cup Diana’s barbeque sauce or your favourite barbeque sauce

Instructions
Mix ground beef, egg, breadcrumbs, onion and half cup of barbeque sauce together in a bowl until thoroughly blended.  Pour some extra Diana barbeque sauce on top of the meatloaf.  Then form a loaf shape in a casserole dish.  Bake at 375 F for one hour.  You can put the baked potatoes in at the same time for an hour.

Wedding Fever

There are two weddings in two years in my family with Laura and I getting married a year apart.  Laura’s wedding is all planned and is going to be spectacular. The flowers, the dress, the first dance and of course my Maid of Honour speech – it is a very exciting time.  My Dad is very excited about the weddings.  We are all wondering if there will be a little tear in his eye during the father-daughter dance.

There are so many cute ideas on the web, so I thought I would share some of my favourite pictures and wedding ideas so far.  My wedding is a year away, but I can’t help collecting pictures and ideas.  These photos of course include lots of pictures from Martha Stewart and from Pinterest.  Let me know what you like and if you have any suggestions.

Here are my wedding bouquet favourites so far:

My favourite wedding cake inspirations so far:

Recently I saw the movie The Five Year Engagement in theatres.  It was hilarious, there were lots of moments where I thought, this has happened to us.  The one part I found particularly funny was the part where Jason Segel’s character says to Emily Blunt’s character, “I’d like to be alone.  Wait where are you going?  I want to be alone with ‘you’.”  Since Laura and I both getting married a year apart, we have been loving the wedding romantic comedies, The Five Year Engagement, Bridesmaids, and of course Bridewars.  There are also some classics out there like The Wedding Planner.  So in this blog post I would like to know what is your favourite wedding movie?

Laura’s fiancé is in the film industry and he is also doing movie reviews on Youtube, so check it out!