Sunday, October 28, 2012

Recap of Recipes to Riches: Episode 1

Jason Keary and his delish bees' nests!

The first episode of the season was titled "Cakes, Puddings and Pies." The three contestants were Jason Keary and his Cheesy bee's nests, Jillianne Niver with her Butterscotch pots de creme and Cherilynn Balachander and her Classic Batternburg Cake. This episode got me so excited for the new season and it was just a great reminder about how excited I was last fall!

For those of you who don't remember the show, each episode three contestants are chosen to battle against a certain title (desserts, entrees, snacks etc). After a "batch-up" challenge where they make portions for up to 250 people, suddenly cooking or baking for that many doesn't seem easy anymore! After this challenge, one person must be eliminated. The remaining two contestants battle it out - this time they must create a unique name for their product and they must market it as well. The person with the most innovative and well-accepted (and not necessarily numbers, as we learn in this episode) wins the title of the challenge, along with $25,000 to pocket. Their product also becomes available for Canada to try the following weekend. They also get a chance to nab the grand finale prize of $250,000 and their product becoming a permanent President's Choice product in Loblaw stores. Not bad heh?

Now back to the episode - after an interesting battle as per usual, Jason Keary takes the title with his Cheesy bee's nests!  Although that was not originally the name of the product (honey cheese pastries was the original, I believe, and changed it to bees' nests but decided not to during the final challenge) the judges convinced him to stick to the previous name of bees' nests. And delicious are his bees' nests! It's basically a small nest/tart made out of phyllo pastry, filled with a honey cream cheese filing, topped with berry compote and sprinkled with mozzarella cheese. What an unusual combination but it totally works! You'll need to run to Superstore to get yours and tell me what you think!

To watch this episode, go here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Recipes to Riches Season 2

Is anyone getting as excited as me for the brand new season of Recipes to Riches season 2? The new season debuts tomorrow with the same host, Jesse Palmer, and same judging panel as the last -- Tony Chapman, Laura Calder, Dana McCauley and of course, guest judge none other than Galen Weston. 

This year's categories will be a bit different than the last, including: savoury snacks, hors d'oeuvres, candies and chocolates and dips and condiments. That all sounds like yumminess to me!

Being the huge Food Network and Superstore/President's Choice fan that I am (this is the perfect pair!), I will be blogging about the new episodes and sampling the food each week!

Recipes to Riches will air on Food Network Canada on Wednesdays at 9pm ET/8pm PT.  
You can go here for more information about the show.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Where have I been?

I sincerely apologize for those who read my blog (which probably aren't very many, if any :-P). Where have I been for the past few months, is probably what you're wondering. I'll be honest...I've been lazy. Just pure laziness. Terrible, isn't it!

Anyway, I've decided to come out of my lazy shell to share some foodie experiences I have experienced in the past couple months. Enjoy!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Recap: Around the World in 80 bites

For those of you who missed it, Around the World in 80 bites was a taste tour on May 16th put on by the North Edge Business Association. Thanks to Sharon (and apparently many other participants who found out about this through her blog), I was lucky enough to be a part of this event!

The taste tour included three restaurants: Pho Huong/Mama Pizza, African Safari and Fat Jakk's. The tour started at Pho Huong/Mama Pizza (10531-107 Avenue). I've been to this restaurant before with my sister as part of our 'pho' adventure, courtesy of the seemingly now defunct food review blog, Good Pho You. We both agreed that it was very good, but the beef was definitely on the fatty side. However, including it in the tour this time gave me a second chance to try this restaurant again. 

Amy Wilson, Executive Director of North Edge Business Association

Amy Wilson, the Executive Director of the NEBA, was busy greeting attendees and curious cameramen from CTV. She first welcomed everyone to the event and introduced our first restaurant of the tour. Beside her was the restaurant's owner's daughter (who's name I forgot). She briefly introduced the meals being that were going to be served and a little bit of the restaurant's history. Pho Huong/Mama Pizza have been open for about two years and are a family-owned business. They have two parts to the restaurant-Vietnamese Pho and Pizza! An unusual combination, these two prove to be quite popular (who doesn't like pho and pizza?)

A good sized crowd.

 We were first served with a popular appetizer found in most Oriental restaurants-fried green onion cakes. They were very generous with their portions. For a table of about 8-10 people, two large plates full of green onion cakes were piled on. Accompanied with Sambal Olek hot sauce, this tasty appetizer sure hits the spot! After eating more green onion cakes than I probably should have, we were all served with a full-sized bowl of pho. I was actually quite surprised that we were served such large portions. Initially, I had thought we were only going to be served with small plates as we were going to three different restaurants. With that being said, the house special beef pho was delicious! Aside from the beef still being a bit too fatty for my liking, the taste of the broth was perfect and piping hot. I would definitely come back here for it. If all that food wasn't enough--the waitress indicates that there is still dessert! Coffee roll cake -- it was moist and yummy, but my friend and I had to split it. The only problem now was to leave enough room in our stomachs for our next restaurant stop!

Pho Huong house special beef noodle soup.

Owner Lisa saying a few words.
It was quite interesting walking down 107 avenue; I have always driven down it and during my younger years, my family and I would come here a lot to Tau Bay when it was in it's old location (now Acajutla). 107 Avenue is part of the revitalization project for the City of Edmonton, to help sustain and develop local restaurants and businesses in less-fortunate neighbourhoods. En-route to our next restaurant, African Safari, we were able to catch a glimpse of the developing LRT route to NAIT. 

Inside African Skies.
Our next stop was African Safari-a Somalian restaurant (10610-105 Street). I have driven by this restaurant several times and never considered to stop by-until tonight! The owner of the restaurant made us wait for a few minutes as we arrived early, but were seated less than 5 minutes later. The set up for this particular restaurant was a buffet style. The owner (whose name I didn't catch) explained the different types of food that we were going to try tonight. He even passed around a take-out box  (stuffed full of food) where you can feed about two people for dinner at a bargain for $12!

The owner explaining the food.

A sample of a $12 plate for dinner or for take-out.
I wasn't sure what kind of food to expect from this restaurant. The only time I've tried African food was Ethiopian at Langano Skies just off of 99 Street and Whyte Avenue several years ago. I was quite surprised at how tasty it was. We first started with a spicy noodle soup. To me, it sort of looked like chicken noodle soup with spices, but when I tasted it, it had a pungent garlic taste with a slight taste of cumin. The soup was tasty! 

Next up was the buffet. There was tossed salad with Italian Dressing (to cater to us Westerners), beef and goat suqar, chicken drumsticks and camel. I was a bit hesitant to try the camel so my friend and I split a piece. To my surprise, the camel was probably the best tasting meat of them all! The beef and goat suqar reminded me of certain curries I have had in the past, but not as spicy. The camel was surprisingly tender and moist, it reminded me of beef stew. I will keep this place in mind whenever I need a cheap, last minute dinner solution!

My plate.

Our third and final stop was Fat Jakk's, a Filipino restaurant (10128-107 Avenue). By the time we arrived, my friend and I (and probably everyone else in the group) was so full from everything else, that we couldn't even think of eating more food! Surprisingly, I had a bit more room in my stomach for food. 

Inside Fat Jakk's.
 The owner was very generous with his portions; we first started off with spring rolls. Then we had pork kabobs marinated in what my friend and I described as "jerky" seasoning: a very sweet and savoury sticky sauce that made the pork almost jerky like. We then were served with a plate piled high with pansit (or pan-friend rice noodles with vegetables). Lastly, we were served with a cassava dessert and coconut pudding square. We were able to doggy bag some of the leftovers for lunch the next day!

The owner of Fat Jakk's.

Spring rolls as appetizers.

Overflowing plate of pansit.

My plate of food.


Names were drawn at the end of each dinner for prizes. This lucky winner won a fleece!
I can't wait for the next food tour organized by Amy Wilson of the NEBA. She mentioned that it wouldn't be until August that another food tour would happen, but could potentially happen a lot sooner as the demand seems to be increasing.

If you are interested in learning more about these food tours, head over to their website for updates.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Fall Flavours PEI

I know it may be too early to think about fall, but if you are planning a trip sometime in the fall, perhaps you should schedule this in to your itinerary. This is an annual event in Prince Edward Island and is a culinary paradise for all those foodies out there (I would love to go!). It is a 23-day celebration celebrating the best P.E.I. has to offer. From the freshest seafood to an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, this is the place to be. With a big Food Network Canada Celebrity line-up: Susur Lee, Anthony Sedlak, Mark MacEwan, Anna Olson, Bob Blumer, Corbin Tomaszeski and of course, Michael Smith, you don't want to be any where else! Head over here for more deets!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Taste Tripping Class: Macaron making!

My apologies once again for disappearing-it has been pretty hectic around here (my sister is getting married in two weeks!!) and before that, I got a pretty bad cold so I neglected this for some time. 

With that being said, I've been meaning to write about this for quite some time. As many of you have heard, A Canadian Foodie's Valerie Lugonja (a local Edmonton foodie) started a new business a while ago called Taste Tripping offering cooking/baking classes and culinary travel. I attended one of her classes in February and it was on macaron making. Not sure if many of you know, but I am sort of a macaron freak. Ever since I tried one at Duchess, I have fallen head over heals for them. What beautiful & delicious things they are...but so extremely difficult to make! I've been wondering for so long how to crack the secret behind the elusive macaron. Taking this class just did that.

My friend and I actually signed up for this class and we both admit that we are obsessed with macarons. For those of you who don't know what macarons are, they are small round-shaped chewy almond meringue cookies sandwiched between a filling. The filling can consist of buttercream, ganache or caramel. We both attempted to make macarons (on separate occasions) and both failed miserably. We were both so happy to learn that Valerie was offering this class! It was taught by Connie Nelson, the entrepreneur behind Mirabelle Macarons. 

The class started bright and early on a Saturday morning. Valerie was very gracious to offer us freshly baked scones with homemade preserves for breakfast. After eating breakfast, we started our class. 

Valerie (L) and Connie (R).

We first started by beating the egg whites. Connie had aged the egg whites prior in a glass loosely covered with plastic wrap, left on the counter to age for a few days. The egg whites are the most important ingredient when making macarons; it affects the amount of moisture in the macaron shells that help maintain moisture and give the macaron its characteristic chewiness. The reason for leaving the egg whites on the counter is to let some of the  moisture evaporate from the egg whites (or so I think anyway!) so the batter doesn't become too runny. While beating the egg whites, we gradually added the cream of tartar and icing sugar mixture until we reached a stiff consistency (you should be able to turn the bowl upside down without any of it falling out). We then added the ground almond and icing sugar mixture one cup at a time. We mixed this in by hand because you must slowly fold it in with the egg whites, being very careful not to deflate the whites (you can't over mix either). Connie mentioned that once we reach the consistency of magma, or, when you lift the batter and drop it back down, it should slowly fold back into the mixture. 

I can't remember if we coloured the egg whites first or added colouring while mixing in the ground almond mixture (I think it would be best if you added colouring in the latter), we coloured our macarons green and yellow for green tea and lemon. Yum!

We then piped our macarons on to sheets then rapped them (hitting them hard against a counter or table to let out air bubbles) and then let them sit out on the counter for about 30 minutes (or when the surface of the macaron is dry to touch). This enables the macaron to develop their 'pieds' or feet as the pastry chefs call them. Without this characteristic, they would not be considered a macaron (some chefs attribute this characteristic to leaving the macaron surface dry, or "macaronnage" with is the term used for folding the almond mixture with the egg whites). Once the surface was dry, we baked them in the oven for about 15 minutes with foil paper lightly covering the top (this avoids the macarons from burning). 

Me piping the macaron shells!

I couldn't believe how perfect (well, our yellow ones looked a bit wrinkled on top) they turned out!  We then made the filling for our macarons on a double boiler on the stove. 
Making the filling for our macarons.

While we were waiting for our filling to cool, Valerie was kind enough to share some of her preserved Evans cherries (sour cherries) she had made herself. The recipe was shared to her by Connie DeSousa, the famous Calgarian chef behind CHARCUT   (and if you were a Top Chef Canada buff, she made it to the top final 3 before being eliminated in last season's Top Chef Canada). It's quite a procedure--head here to find out the story and how they are made! The result is a delicious mouth-puckering combination of sweet and sour. Connie uses the leftover syrup from the cherries to sweeten drinks in her restaurant.
Valerie explaining her Evans cherry story.

Soooo good!

The syrup leftover.
Once our filling had cooled, we piped the filling on one macaron and sandwiched it with another macaron shell.

 This class was very informative and hands on. This is exactly what I needed for an amateur baker like myself. The secret of the elusive macaron started to slowly unfold. I knew all I had to do was practice, practice, practice. Since that class, I made about four batches. The first two were not too successful. I then readjusted my oven temperature and played around with it a bit and the last batches were more successful (I made those for my sister's bridal shower in her theme colours for her wedding-pink [strawberry] and gold [lemon]).

Group shot!
 I recommend taking one of these classes if you are a foodie, want to learn how to bake and/or cook and love traveling and food! If you are interested in taking a Taste Tripping class, head over to A Canadian Foodie's website.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Eat Alberta 2012

It's that time of the year again...Eat Alberta 2012 is April 14th this year and will be held at N.A.I.T this year. Just looking at the schedule sounds like it's going to be a jam packed day! Gnocchi making, sausage making, macaron making, and how to make preserves...the list goes on! Check out here to get the full deets and tickets!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Edmonton Downtown Dining Week: March 2-March 11

It's that time of the year again! The Downtown Business Association presents Downtown Dining Week from March 2-March 11 this year. Go here and check out the participating restaurants this year!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Baking and Pastry Classes at NAIT-very hands on!

I have always been fascinated with baking. I baked some things that turned out very well and some not so much. To perfect the art of baking, I figured it's time to take a class or two to help me with what baffles me the most: how to perfect the art of baking. 

NAIT has long been known for their hands-on classes, especially their culinary institute. To quench my curiosity, I decided to enroll in well, three classes. BAK 50: Advanced Cakes,Pastries & Chocolates, is the one I want to take. The class, however, requires two prerequisite courses be taken, BAK 17 and BAK 31. BAK 17 is Decadent Chocolates & Truffles and BAK 31 is Cakes, Pastries & Plated Desserts. Without much hesitation, I enrolled myself in the chocolate making class!

The class was spread over 3 classes, 4 hours-long each. In this class, you learn the different qualities of chocolate, the ingredients that go into chocolate, how to temper chocolate (reheat and cool down), how to mold it and the mystery that everyone is wondering do they get the filling into chocolate?! (Caramilk anyone? It's actually real simple. You pour melted chocolate into a mold, wait a few seconds, and dump the chocolate back out again. Wait a few minutes for the chocolate to settle in the mold. Fill the molds with your desired filling, pour melted chocolate on top of the mold and scrape the excess chocolate off the mold. Taaadaa! Not so secret anymore! Well, I still think it's cool.)

In this class, we learned how to make dark and milk chocolates with liquor fillings, truffles, almond rochers, buttercream caramels dipped in chocolate, chocolate dipped strawberries and applying design transfers on to chocolates. I had A LOT of chocolate to take home!

I only took two pictures from this class. I didn't bother bringing a camera, but now I wish I did. Next time!

I really enjoyed this class. It was very hands on. The only drawback I had to this class was that each class was too long.I would have preferred if each class was only 3 hours long, spread over 4 classes.  My next class starts beginning of March and I'll be learning how to make cakes, pastries and plated desserts.I am excited!

If you are interested in learning more about these classes or others, go to their website.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Recipes to Riches..SeasonTwo!

Do any of you have a special recipe that you would like to share with the rest of Canada? Recipes to Riches is back! Remember that awesome show with Food Network Canada and President's Choice? I sure do. The first season just ended back in December and boy was I ever excited about the show. There are 7 categories to be one including appetizers, entrees and desserts. For each category won, there are 3 contestants that can win $25,000. Whoever wins that category qualifies for the grand prize of $250,000. Their products are then made available at participating Loblaw (Superstore) Stores the following weekend for consumers to enjoy. Consumers can then vote for their favourite recipe. Their votes are tallied and the winner of the grand prize is announced on the final episode.

As pumped up as I was about this show and the upcoming season, I had no recipe to enter. What you say?! Being the foodie I am, whenever I cook, it is mostly from a cookbook. If not, it's usually a modified version of it or something that I've made up but obviously not good enough to win...sigh.Ah well, now I have time to come up with a recipe for the next season!

Go here to check out the official contest page!