Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ginger Molasses Cookies

When I was checking out the daily Top 9 on Foodbuzz for November 26th,I happened to see a recipe for Ginger Molasses cookies from Gingerbread Bagels". Lindsey calls these her favourite cookies and I can so understand why. They're so rich in flavour with a great consistency; I knew I would love them as soon as I read the name. Ginger! Molasses! Oh yeahhhh!!!!

Lindsey finished her cookies off with icing sugar. I opted to leave them without the extra topping. The trick to the punch of these cookies is to make sure you have the freshest of the freshest cinnamon, ginger and cloves.

Ginger Molasses Cookies aka Lindsey’s Favorite Cookie
(adapted from allrecipes)

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
2 Tablespoons sugar
powdered sugar for dipping tops of cookies in

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.

Sift together 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl with the paddle attachment (a handheld mixer works fine) mix together 3/4 cup of softened unsalted butter and 1 cup sugar.

Add 1 large egg and mix it up!

Now add in 1/4 cup unsulfured molasses and 1 Tablespoon of freshly squeezed orange juice. Mix to combine.

Slowly add in the dry ingredients and mix until almost combined. Using a spatula/mixing spoon, fold the ingredients together in order to incorporate them.

Pour about 2 Tablespoons of sugar on a plate. The sugar will be used to roll the cookie dough balls in.

Scoop balls of cookie dough using a cookie dough scooper or a Tablespoon. Roll the balls of cookie dough in the sugar.

Place the cookie dough balls on the baking pan and using the palm of your hand, press the cookies to flatten them a bit.

Bake the cookies at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool for a couple of minutes on the baking sheet. Tranfer the cookies to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Pour some powdered sugar on a plate. Dip the tops of the cooled cookies in the powdered sugar. Shake off the excess powdered sugar. StumbleUpon

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Banana Oat Muffins

R claims that he's not a foodie. In fact, he tries to convince me that he's just as happy with kraft dinner as a gourmet supper. I think it's all just a big front to avoid doing the dishes or encourage the use of fewer dishes (note to self: never buy a house without a dishwasher ever again).

What non-foodie goes to La Bottega or Nicastro's on a weekly basis to buy ingredients for his lunch? He meticulously crafts these sandwiches as part of his night time ritual. First, slice the bread in half (either rosemary buns or small baguettes...I think they're called saroli).

Then, a layer of genoa salami...next capocollo. The meat is topped with havarti cheese with caraway seeds. All of this is topped by pickled eggplant and mustard.

Here is R's sandwich mid-way through:

Sounds pretty extravagant? Personally, I think he's trying to recreate Dirienzo's sandwiches. For those you who aren't from the Ottawa area, Dirienzo's is the name of an Italian corner store that serves amazing sandwiches (think lineups outside of the door at lunch time) for a very reasonable price. Here are some pictures from Dirienzo's:

It doesn't stop there. What "I'm not a foodie" lunch is complete without its very own homemade baked good? Yes. That's right. We have a stash of home baked good for R to choose from for lunch. When the supply of muffins (frozen after being baked) gets low, R scours the internet for recipes.

Last time the freezer stash was low, we had a bunch of carrots to use up after my friend the rabbit found a way to eat through the fencing around my garden (next year, metal fencing).

So, he went with Martha Stewart's Carrot Cupcakes (minus the icing). Sorry -- no pictures of the finished product. They were good, though I'd cut back on the sugar next time.

This time, we have an abundance of overripe bananas (I regularly throw overripe bananas straight into the freezer -- good tip to avoid fruit flies). R spent a good 30 minutes comparing recipes for banana, oatmeal and raisin muffins, and decided to go with this one.

Banana Oat Muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup mashed bananas

Combine flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, soda, and salt.
In a large bowl, beat the egg lightly. Stir in the milk, oil, and vanilla. Add the mashed banana, and combine thoroughly. Stir the flour mixture into the banana mixture until just combined. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper bake cups, and divide the batter among them.

Bake at 400 degrees F (205 degrees C) for 18 to 20 minutes.

Verdict: Easy to make, but just okay in the flavour department. StumbleUpon

Friday, November 26, 2010

President's Choice Holidays - Part III

Let's Talk

Our American peeps have now watched the parade and enjoyed Thanksgiving Dinner. I hope it was a great one for all. Today there are two groups of people; those who are brave enough to hit the stores for Black Friday for the greatest shopping extravaganza in the U.S. and those who are busy making turkey soup and figuring out what to do with the leftovers from yesterday's dinner. Maybe some are doing both. Thoughts and plans now take a shift to THE holiday season. In the EOK household, the planning is in full swing. President's Choice , for me has been the helper to a "friend in need" when it comes to the planning. The next gift that I opened was a package of these oh so practical baking pans. I'm loving them and relinquished half my stash to Psychgrad who apparently loves them too. They're a perfect 9x9 size, silicone lined and reusable and in a pinch I would use them in a recipe that calls for an 8x8 pan.

The next day along came a Canadian classic; Butter Tart square mix. Butter tart anything (squares, tarts) has always been a big favourite in our family. Of course, the mix was talking to me ..... "make me, make me". I poured myself some of the PC Cranberry and Ginger Ale (it's incredible alone or even mixed with alcohol) and started to put it together.

.... so I did. I didn't exactly time it but it sure didn't take long for them to disappear. I used the 9x9 pan here even though it called for an 8x8 and they turned out just fine.

The price I saw them at my local Loblaws store was $3.00 and I knew that having these in my cupboard was a necessity. Beyond my own pantry, I began thinking about how many gifts could be sent from Canada to expats and non Canadians to give them the flavour of Canada. They're cheap, light weight and would travel well. My Australian family would love these as much as I love receiving Lamingtons from them.

The next day along came Belgian Chocolate Cake Mix. Hmmmm...squares, petit fours, a quick dessert with ice cream - so many possibilities and they can be done within an hour start to finish.

.... and - if you just want to have them on hand, the next day's sampling is a box of freezer bags to put them in and have them ready when company drops by. I like the size of these bags and plan to also use them to package a Nuts n' Bolts recipe I do every year. If you're doing home made, you can create your cookie mixes for gifting and keep them in the freezer ready to package when needed.

These mini peanut butter chips (if I don't snack them all before I bake) are creating combinations with white and dark chocolate. I'll throw some in with my nut mixes as well for an interesting variation.

I've been away for a few days and have just received the second President's Choice package. Stay tuned - you won't believe what's coming in my next post!!! This is the time of year that the best of the best is found in our grocery stores. The freshest products, the newest releases - Enjoy!!! StumbleUpon

Thursday, November 18, 2010

President's Choice Holidays 2010 - Part II

In keeping with the format of the holiday opening sequence, the item marked November 17th is a container of jumbo cashews. Hand picked, roasted and lightly salted, the cashews are an import from Northeastern Brazil. Just as a point of interest, cashews are highly regarded in Brazil and have been grown there since the Portugese sailors brought them in the 1500's. My guess is they've got it perfected. I'm going to use some of these to make nut bark with.

Last night was the President's Choice Holiday Insider's Report Event. It was held in the cooking school facility of one of the largest Loblaw stores I've seen. I had to take some pictures of the mere size of the store. Taking an energy drink helps you get through the whole thing.

I was looking forward to seeing what's new, thinking about what makes sense and tasting the new things the various product development teams had brought to market this year. Also, I was most intrigued by the letter that came with promo box #1 talking about gift baking as this year's latest trend. This philosophy is totally in line with my thinking. Gifts made from home spell love more than anything someone could give me (unless of course it's a new car). The new products were PC Home Baker's Gift sets that you bake and give your treats in a reusable pan. I like that idea, however, this theme did not come through at the event. The evening really focused on the boxed/packaged/frozen appetizers, meals and desserts. Now I'm more than curious about the pans.

The format of the event was well done - product developers had an opportunity to say a few words about their areas and well coordinated with servers coming through the group to bring samples of the discussion from the product developer. The flow moved as a dinner party in your home would. Let's start with drinks. The choices were 100% Sparkling Fruit Juice - Kiwi Berry, Cranberry Ginger Ale and Pressed Sweet Apple Cider. My favourite was the Cranberry Ginger Ale.

Next we moved along to the appetizers

There were 2 samplings of the puff pastry collection and a sample each of the Vodka Beet Smoked Atlantic Salmon and the Smoked Wild Albacore Tuna. I enjoyed the puff pastry appetizers but wondered about the salmon. The beet and vodka combination gave the salmon a very red colour but not huge on flavour.

More of the Phyllo Pastry Hors D'oevre collection. I don't think I could say there's one I wouldn't serve. The filling choices are vast - from sausage to seafood. They're easy to prepare (warm up for 18 minutes), they look and taste good and you're not fussing to be impressive.

While the product developer and the demo chef talked about their cheese station, we all received a presentation to sample together with a Quince Paste that was outstanding. The paste is well paired particularly with the Camembert and Brie. New (to me) for this year are two toppers that scream out for brie cheese; the Apple Pecan Gourmet Topper and the Mission Fig and Pecan Gourment Topper. (both really delicious)

The transition came at this point where we moved into Entrees. A creamy seafood chowder topped with a mussel(s)in this picture is one of the many ways to use the chowder. The dishes are perfect for a tasting evening. I so need to have these dishes and can see myself serving a seafood dip with one giant shrimp. As the executive chef for the President's Choice Cooking Schools, Chef Tom Fillippou remarked - one doesn't have to give people a whole load of food. Tasting, although it might be a bit of work, has great appeal.

A new line of entrees branded Dine-In Tonight is pretty promising for the person who just really doesn't feel like cooking tonight.

Do you feel like having Beef Bourguignon?

Without a doubt this was my very favourite of everything I sampled. The last time I made Beef Bourguignon, I remember it being quite a process. I almost never say this about packaged food but really, it's better than what I made. Not that I'm the ultimate kitchen diva but nobody would guess this isn't home made.

Souffle for 2 made with Emmental Cheese or Creamy Seafood Chowder (that was used with the mussel dish)

Red Velvet Cheesecake and the Candy Cane Cheesecake. The kids will probably be at the candy cane cheesecake but the red velvet rates #1 in desserts.

Are you noticing the macarons??? Macarons at a supermarket?? These little French delicacies are truly a work of art and not so easy to make for the beginner baker. I have no immediate plans of making these treats - I'll buy them!!! These were served with PC's new Hawaiian coffee. When I think Hawaiian coffee I usually think Kona coffee which is a full bodied coffee guaranteed to keep you awake for 3 days. When I tried the PC coffee, I found it to be far more mellow and more pleasing to my pallet.

Baking is my most relaxing hobby. I love having curds around to use as fillings but usually don't feel like making them. I've also been wanting to create a recipe with passion fruit filling and have found it pretty difficult to find this curd readily available. See, it really doesn't take much to make me happy. I'm already thinking about passion fruit ice cream, danish - lots of danish especially lemon curd danish.

On leaving, we received this beautiful swag bag

and inside, the Hawaiian coffee, jellies, Belgian chocolate and jumbo cashews. Thank you President's Choice!!!

If you've seen yesterday's post, you know about "the rules" for opening the gifts in box #1. Today is the 3rd gift day. This is what I was looking for!!! I'm thrilled AND they're reusable. Remember to tell the recipient of a gift loaf that it's the gift that just keeps on giving. You could even ask for them to gift you back something of their creation and keep the pan going back and forth.

Stay tuned for the next holiday prezzie set to be opened tomorrow. So far I'm excited about the newest product developments and can't wait to see what's coming next.

Besides the success of the tasting event, the learning was not to be discounted. I now have a new found respect for the people who are product developers and work in the test kitchens to bring new and inovative foods to market.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

President's Choice Holidays 2010

President's Choice has officially kicked off the holiday season. The first thing that came out was the Insider's Report giving Canadians a view into what's new in taste and decor for the holidays. Warning: Do NOT look at this report on an empty stomach; could be very detrimental to your waist line.

The second offering was a prezzie box; number 1 of 3 filled with many gift wrapped items. All the items are meant to be enjoyed complete with tips on how you can entertain smarter - not harder. Aren't we all guilty of the latter. But - there's a twist. There are rules of engagement.

1. Each goodie for week one and during week three corresponds to a date; week 2 is a free-for-all for both eyes and tastebuds. The first gift to be appreciated is a fresh wreath. Lovely, no?

2. The gifts must be opened on the date noted on the wrapping paper. Early opening is a direct fax to Santa putting you on the bad list. Doesn't that just drive you nuts?

3. Two more packages will arrive on November 24 and December 1.

4. A USB key was included with week #1 that fully explains what you're receiving and when.

Tonight is the Insider's tasting event in Toronto and I'm charging my camera as I type. The event promises to be a tasting extravaganza. I'm stoked and will take you on the journey with me.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

I Survived the Ottawa Foodie Challenge

Yesterday I took part in the Ottawa Foodie Challenge (OFC).

This challenge featured many of Ottawa's best restaurants, stores and food-related hangouts. The challenge was to visit the places on the challenge list and perform certain tasks for points. Combining two of my favourite things (games and food), I was beyond excited to participate. Here is the list of challenges (originally posted on the OFC Blog):
  1. Picture of you hugging the Sailor Jerry’s statue at the Whalesbone (5pts, + 5pts) holding a bottle of Sailor Jerry’s

  2. Picture of you and any blogger on this list (5pts, max 2 bloggers, please note if you are participating and you are ON this list a picture of yourself doesn’t count :))

  3. You and the "master blast" coffee listing from the menu at Planet Coffee (5pts)

  4. You in an apron in front of the Cordon Bleu 5pts, +1pts for each chef knife in your hand (max 5 knives)

  5. You and the hoof card holder located on the bar at Murray Street Kitchen (10pts)

  6. You and ANY of Ottawa Magazine's 101 Tastes Before You Die (10pts) (max 2 items)

  7. Outside of Absinthe Cafe 5pts, holding a bottle of Absinthe (5pts)

  8. You and any kind of latte art (5pts)

  9. You and the device that holds the "Tower-O-Rings" from The Works (5pts)

  10. Making a fish face: Outside of the Whalesbone (5 pts), Outside of Lapointes (5 pts), Outside of Big Easy's (5 pts), Outside Pelican Fishery(5pts)

  11. You and a lamb shank from Sasloves (10pts)

  12. You and a side of fresh salmon from Pelican Fishery

  13. You and a Challah from Rideau Bakery (5pts)

  14. You opening your mouth to the enomatic wine machine at Divino Wine Studio (10pts)

  15. You wearing a red apron from the Red Apron (10pts)

  16. You and some Buffalo mozzarella from Ontario from Nicastro’s or La Bottega(10pts)

  17. You and Yellow beets from Herb & Spice (5pts)

  18. You and a Paella pan from Domus Housewares (10pts)

  19. You and a croissant from Moulin de Provence (5pts)

  20. You and the martini list at the Moonroom (15pts)

  21. You rubbbing a Buddha belly at Pho’licious (5pts)

  22. You gettin’ wild at the Wild Oat (be as creative as you like :) ) 10pts

  23. You Shucking an oyster (anywhere but at home!) (10pts)

  24. You and a sausage link from the Sausage Kitchen (5pts)

  25. You and a Gold Medal Plates Chef (20pts- past winner OR competing this Tuesday!)

  26. You and a Really Lebanese placemat 5pts +10pts You and the Garlic King

  27. You and the dessert list at Elgin Street Diner (5pts)

  28. Highfiving an employee at Epicuria (5 pts, +5pts Highfiving whilst holding a food related magazine)

  29. Follow the yellow brick road to the Wizard of _____ Kafe, (5pts, +5pts for red shoes)

  30. Impersonate Town’s logo in front of Town (5pts)

  31. Someone making a naan at Shafali Bazaar (5pts)

  32. You and the fresh pasta case from Parma Ravioli (5pts)

  33. You barefoot in the LCBO with a bottle of Barefoot Wine & Bubbly (15pts)

  34. Piggy back in front of the chicken rotisserie at the Piggy Market (10pts)

  35. Doing a “cheers” at Social (5pts)

  36. You and a Beau’s Brewery Tap Lever (at any location) (5pts)

  37. You and a picture of a smiling veggie/fruit vendor from the Byward Market 5pts

  38. **Movember Clue** You at Bridgehead on Caroline & Wellington with a foodie couple wearing mustaches (Hint: between 1-3pm is IDEAL) 10pts, +5pts if YOU have a mustache too

  39. Riding the "Beemster Cow" at Serious Cheese

  40. Infront of Market Organics with a sign saying "Kiss me I'm organic" (5 pts, +10 pts for someone actually kissing you, and that person CAN'T be your partner)
(Thanks to the organizers for sending me the html for this list!)

The list of challenges was posted at 1:00am, the day of the event. My foodie challenge partner and I gathered together early the morning of the challenge. We grouped the locations by part of town (e.g., Market, Wellington/Westboro, Elgin, etc.) and head out for a food-filled day.

I was really happy to see that the registration fees went to a great cause, The Ottawa Food Bank.

Not only that, the idea snowballed and led others to donate (read about it at foodiePrints).

The event gave me the opportunity to visit some of my favourite food sites in Ottawa and discover a few new ones. Showing up to many of the restaurants before opening time as a non-patron also gave me a chance to talk to some of the owners and feel more connected to the establishments.

Most of the attention was devoted to the challenges, but I did manage to take a few shots throughout the day:

The wall of wine at Divino Wine Studio. I wouldn't mind getting locked in to their studio for the night week.

Free shots at Whalesbone (thanks Charlotte!)

The beauty that is Domus Housewares

It was a full day indeed. By the time we submitted our photos for the day, we were exhausted.

Having gone through the day, here are some suggestions for next year (if the event continues *crossing fingers*):

- Market the heck out of the event. More buzz, more participation. I found out about the event on Twitter (they also had a Facebook site). But, a search of #OFC or @Foodiechallenge a week prior to the event only revealed a few mentions. Things picked up the week of the event.

- Give owners lots of notice about the event (many of the locations we went to were not aware of the challenge -- thankfully, they were all either neutral or supportive). I think the challenge locations should be encouraged to get involved in the event (sponsor, hand out marketing materials, samples, etc.). They have an audience of locals who love food -- sounds like a perfect target audience to me.

- I loved the locations on the challenges. I think it would be neat to add in more clues like:
#8 You and any kind of latte art
#24 You shucking an oyster (anywhere but at home!)
#29 Follow the yellow brick road to the Wizard of _____ Kafe

These are clues that require you to flex your foodie muscles a little bit and, for example, solve a clue or find an item that requires knowledge of where to find certain products in Ottawa.

A BIG thank you and congratulations to the event organizers!
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