Category Archives: pop culture

Carrot Cake TO GO: Version 2.0

Before we get to cooking, I need to get something off my chest. I have been watching this season of American Idol. *shame* And I like it. *double shame* And it’s making me like Jennifer Lopez. *weird* Whew. I’m glad we shared that moment. Now I can be my true, embarrassing self.

On to more important things. This past weekend I auditioned for Recipe To Riches with my Carrot Cake TO GO bars. I didn’t make the cut. Cray, I know. Tear. Sob. Whatever. But that means that I can share my perfected recipe with all of YOU!

You may remember a similar recipe that I made this past summer. Back then it was a portable trail mix with lots of carrot-y goodness packed inside. But I thought that the folks at PC might be looking for something a little more universal, so after about 15 versions, I ended up with this recipe. It’s basically a fusion between a granola bar and carrot cake. It’s incredibly moist, filling, and satisfies my sweet-tooth craving (which can be ferocious at times). It is also moderately health, so you don’t have to go run 5 k after eating a bar. Although if you do “run” they would be a perfect take along. Do people bring snacks on runs? I’m not all that familiar with “exercise”.

This recipe makes about 24 bars, depending on how large you’d like them. You’ll need:

  • 6 cups large rolled oats
  • 6 tbsp canola oil
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 9 cups grated carrot
  • 1/2 cup sultana raisins
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup oat flour
  • 1/2 cup flax meal
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 150 grams white chocolate discs

In a small pot over medium heat combine your oil and 6 tbsp honey and heat until gently boiling. Pour over the oats in a bowl, and toss until evenly coated. Spread oats onto a large parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 325 for 20 minutes, tossing every 5 minutes. Your oats should be golden brown.

Spread your carrot across 3 large parchment lined baking sheets, and bake at 300 for 15 minutes, tossing every 5 minutes. This will steam some of the extra moisture out of your carrots so your bars hold together.

Let both of those ingredients cool, while you soak your raisins in a bowl of warm water for 15 minutes.

In a LARGE bowl toss together your granola, carrot, raisins (drained), sugar, oat flour, flax, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together your remaining honey, corn syrup, melted butter and vanilla. Pour the wet mixture over the dry mixture and toss until everything is throughly coated.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment, and press your bar mixture into it to a height of about 1.75 cm. If your sheet is too large, you can just create an edge with your fingers instead of spreading the mixture all the way to the rim of the tray. If your tray is too small, you can bake the rest of your mixture in a small cake pan. Try to keep the height uniform across the bars.

Bake at 325 for about 35 minutes until the bars are firm with a bit of give to them. Let them cool completely before cutting them up. I like to use a bench cutter for this (It makes me feel manly. Why I want to feel manly, I do not know.), but you can use a kitchen knife if you don’t have one.

When you’ve cut your bars, put your chocolate in a zipper seal bag (If you are afraid of plastic leaching into your food, you can melt the chocolate in a double boiler. I’m a rebel) and melt it in the microwave at 30 second intervals. Squeedge the chocolate around before adding more time. Be careful not to overheat the chocolate, because there is no going back.

Snip a small bit from the corner of your baggie and drizzle chocolate back and forth on a diagonal across the bars. You don’t need much, the bars are pretty sweet on their own. You can even skip this step if you want.

Now since I have made so many versions of this recipe, I have a few tips for you. If you want to cut back on the processed sugar, you can sub your corn syrup for pureed dates. This will make the bars a little firmer (and in my opinion less delicious), but it is lower cal. You can also add more flax, and less oat flour if you like, but again, the bars will taste slightly different. Have fun experimenting, and happy baking!

12 Comments

Filed under cake, pop culture, relatively healthy, squares

Poor Man’s Pumpkin Spice Latte

For day 2 of my 12 Days of Christmas, I’m sharing my version of a fall favourite at the ‘Buck. It is super rich and festive tasting, for a fraction of the markup, and it’s topped with a deliciously frothy cream cheese whip. This recipe will make a cozy serving for two. You’ll need:
  • 2 cups of strong coffee
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 6 tbsp. of canned pumpkin pie filling
  • 4 tbsp. of sugar
  • 1 tsp. of cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. of nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup of whipping cream
  • 2 tbsp. of Philadelphia Whipped cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp. of sugar

Combine your milk, 4 tbsp sugar, pumpkin and spices in a small pot, and whisk them until hot and frothy, but not boiling.

Meanwhile, whip your cream until it is stiff, then add in the cream cheese and sugar.

When your milk mixture is nice and hot, divide the coffee between two large mugs, and pour the milk mixture over top.

Top each serving with a healthy dollop of cream, and garnish with a dusting of cinnamon if you like.

While sipping away on your budget latte, you can dream up all the lovely gifts you’ll buy with the money you’ve saved.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a fun do-it-yourself gift for friends and family who envy your chops in the kitchen.

3 Comments

Filed under holidays, pop culture, super simple

Tooting My Own Horn

On Wednesday morning, li’l ole me did a cooking segment on CH Morning Live in Hamilton. Their host, Brian, and I chatted about Real Women of Philadelphia and my cauliflower crème brûlée. The best part is when I call a spatula a whisk about half way through, hahahaha. I just wanted to share it with you, and give myself a pat on the back for managing to talk and cook simultaneously without chopping my fingers off. Here’s a link, for your viewing pleasure:

http://chch.com/index.php/morning-live-blog/item/4563-the-real-women-of-philadelphia

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Filed under pop culture, Real Women of Philadelphia, shameless self-promotion, useless information

How To: Coping With Harry Potter Withdrawal

Those of you that have been following the Harry Potter series since its release in 1997 may be in for some major withdrawal this week as the final installment of the on-screen version makes its North American debut. As a muggle who has personally experienced the lonesome feeling of closing the back cover of book 7, I sympathize with you and offer condolences in the form of a recipe.

“A recipe?” you ask. Well, not quite a recipe. Project is a more appropriate term, and though it may seem a strange way to fill the impending void in your heart, I firmly believe that candy is the best medicine. This is why I ask you to believe in magic one more time, as we make a chocolate frog together.  You’ll need:

  • A plastic frog candy mold (mine is from Bulk Barn)
  • 1 1/2 cups of chocolate chips
  • 12 gold foil wrappers (Bulk Barn again)
  • Royal blue bristol board
  • 12 chocolate frog cards, printed on cardstock
  • 12 gold labels
  • Gold pen
  • Glue gun

Slowly melt your chocolate in a double boiler, and pour a little bit into each frog mold until the chocolate is level with the top of the mold. Set these aside to chill (you can put them in your refrigerator to speed up the process). Repeat if necessary, until you have 12 frogs.

To print your chocolate frog cards, search online until you find a template that is to your liking, and print 12. If you are the fan that you say you are, you will already know that chocolate frog cards are pentagonal. No exceptions. Make sure that your print-outs are large enough to fit behind your chocolate frogs. This website has links to a few choices, of varying quality.

Trace the pentagon shape from your card onto the blue bristol board. Then trace triangles around your pentagon, so you have a star shape. Cut out 12 star shapes, and decorate the backside with gold pen. Decorate each of your gold stickers with a Honeyduke’s logo.

Wrap each of your chocolate frogs in a gold foil wrapper, and place it into a star package with a chocolate frog card underneath. Fold each of the first 4 triangles into the centre of the package, and squirt a dollop of hot glue on top, and squish down the 5th triangle. I realize that my terminology is quite complex, feel free to ask for clarification.

Stick a label onto each chocolate frog package to cover up the messy glue. Now, crawl into bed, and eat all 12 frogs as you watch Youtube montages of Ron and Hermione on your laptop.

If you are still experiencing withdrawal symptoms after this exercise, experiment with Cockroach Clusters tomorrow.

Side note: my use of terms coined by J.K. Rowling is in no way intended to violate copyright, and is meant solely as an expression of my admiration for her creativity. A chocolate frog by any other name simply would not smell as sweet.

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Filed under adorability, candy, pop culture

The Hosts With the Most

Just swimming in a sea of Philadelphia gift bags

As you may have heard by now, the hosts of Kraft’s Real Women of Philadelphia Canada have been announced, and I am one of the lucky four. Along with appetizer host, Angela Amati, entrée host, Lyndsay Wells, and dessert host, Laurie Pearson, I will be leading Real Women’s Canadian online community as side dish host. There is a bitter-sweetness to this transition as we leave behind our time in Toronto, but I’m looking forward to what’s in store. The four of us will be introducing the community’s next contest on July 25th, so keep your eye on www.realwomenofphiladelphia.ca.

I can’t express how honoured I feel to have participated in the cook-off with such an incredible and diverse group of women. Each of you inspires me to be a better person and a better cook. Candice, Miriam, Sue, Elisa, Mandy, Danielle, Lisa, Kristen, JoHanna, Andrea, Leanne, and Althea, getting to know you has been a privilege.

Here are a few snap shots of the gala. The evening was absolutely spectacular, and everyone was dressed to impress. The winning dishes were announced as they were served to guests in the ballroom of the Thompson hotel. It was incredible to see 180 portions of my winning dish come out of the kitchen. Needless to say, the dessert finalists didn’t have much appetite, as they had to wait until the end of the meal to find out who had won.

I wish I had documented the experience more thoroughly, but my euphoria kept me from my camera. The lovely people at Eqal have uploaded photos here http://www.realwomenofphiladelphia.ca/post/awards-dinner-snapshots so you can get a better picture of the evening.

After getting the news on Wednesday night, we were in store for an early morning. We headed off to the Kraft kitchens at 6:30am on Thursday for a long day of filming. Luckily, there were plenty of snacks on hand to keep us going. I have no idea how everyone at Kraft stays so slim with all of those tempting treats calling to them.

The entire filming process was unbelievable. Everyone on set was incredibly talented and made me feel so special. I learned so much from the experience, and it was amazing to see the amount of thought and planning that went into creating our cooking videos. I can’t wait for all of you to see them. Thanks so much to everyone involved!

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Filed under a party, pop culture, Real Women of Philadelphia

Ladies Who Lunch…with Anna Olson!

Here are a few more updates on the happenings at the RWoP gathering in Toronto. I spent the morning catching up on the forums at www.realwomenofphiladelphia.ca before heading off to a lovely lunch at Scarpetta. We were accompanied to a private dining room by Anna Olson herself, and sat down to a beautiful table lined with copies of Anna’s cookbook “Fresh” which she later signed for us to take home.

The Thompson hotel’s head chef,Robert Mills, prepared a sumptuous meal of seared tuna, tender lamb, and chocolate tarte. The tables were turned when he came into the dining room to introduce himself and his dishes, as he had judged our creations at the cook-off yesterday. Everything was delectable, and in true “foodie” style, we were all snapping away trying to capture each course on camera.

Lyndsay was in full form channeling Lurleen by popular demand.

Anna moved down to our end of the table half way through lunch, and we chatted about food, travel, and of course, RWoP. She is even lovelier in person than on camera, and she personally signed each of our beautiful new cookbooks. I can’t wait to try her Blueberry Corn Toss, one of her favourite recipes from “Fresh”.

Other highlights of the afternoon included a trip to the St. Lawrence market, and a walk through the distillery district. Anna suggested we visit Soma, a chocolate shop that transforms their product from bean to bar on site. It was well worth the trip.

We finished off an incredible day by treating ourselves to the epitome of Toronto dining at Canoe restaurant. Each course was spectacular, and Chef John Horne surprised us with a tour of the kitchen. To say that the day was memorable is a major understatement. Gourmet overload!

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Filed under new flavours, pop culture, Real Women of Philadelphia

Big News!

So, if you’ve been following my blog over the past couple of weeks, you’ll know that I have been competing in Kraft’s Real Women of Philadelphia casting competition. My last post will fill you in if you have no idea what I’m talking about. Yesterday, the second set of finalists was announced (for the side dish category) and guess what? I’M IN!!!

I am absolutely elated to have been selected. I’ll be competing in a cook-off in Toronto in July against 15 other finalists for four prizes of $20,000 and the honour of hosting Kraft’s Real Women of Philadelphia website. The recipe that won me a spot in the side dish category is called Cauliflower Creme Brulee, and you can find it here: http://luvcrumbs.org/2011/04/25/cauliflower-cr%D1%90me-brulee/.

Before being chosen as a finalist, I submitted two other recipes to the competition that I thought I would share with you. One is an entrée, the other is a dessert, and they are both totally decadent.

First off, here is my recipe for Fully Loaded Mac and Cheese. It combines creamy, gooey mac and cheese with your favourite baked potato toppings. Holy delicious! This recipe serves about 6 people and takes roughly 45 minutes from start to finish.

You’ll need:

  • 6 slices of bacon
  • 4 cup(s) of dry pasta
  • 1 tbsp. of flour
  • 2 cup(s) of milk
  • 8 ounce(s) of Herb and Garlic Philadelphia Cream Cheese
  • 3 cup(s) of shredded sharp cheddar
  • 1 cup(s) of sour cream
  • 1/2 cup(s) of chopped green onion
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 pinch of pepper
To prepare this dish, you can watch my instructional video below, or simply follow the written directions.
Steps:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place six slices of bacon in a large skillet, and cook on high heat for 5-10 minutes until crisp.
  2. While your bacon is cooking, place a large pot of salted water on the stove to boil, chop your green onion, and grate your cheese.
  3. When water boils, add dry pasta, and cook it
  4. When bacon is well cooked, remove it from the pan, and chop it into small bite sized pieces. Leave the bacon drippings in the skillet.
  5. Reduce the heat under your skillet, and to the drippings, add your flour and stir quickly. Once flour is incorporated, slowly add the milk and continue stirring. Now add your cream cheese, and raise heat to medium, until it is well melted.
  6. Cook your sauce mixture on medium heat for about 5 minutes, until it thickens. Add 1/3 of your grated cheese (about 1 cup), and stir until melted.
  7. In a large bowl, mix together cooked pasta, cheese sauce, and another cup of grated cheese. Add sour cream, bacon, green onion, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until pasta is evenly coated.
  8. Pour mixture into a casserole dish sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, and cover with remaining cup of cheese. Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees, then broil for 5 additional minutes, or until cheese is bubbly.
  9. Remove your mac and cheese from the oven, serve, and prepare to accept the accolades of your friends and family as they bite into your delectable concoction.
This second recipe is a dessert fondue that mimics the flavours of your favourite cheesecake. Feel free to experiment with dippers and toppings until you’ve mastered the perfect flavour combination. Depending on how much room you’ve left for dessert, this recipe will serve 4-8 people and takes about 25 minutes to make.
You’ll  need:
  • 1 cup(s) of fresh fruit per person
  • 2 cup(s) of various toppings (cookie crumbs, chocolate chips, coconut)
  • 1 cup(s) of chopped Philadelphia cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup(s) of milk
  • 1 tbsp. of lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. of vanilla extract
  • 12 ounce(s) of white chocolate
Again, you can follow along with my video for directions to this recipe, or just use the instructions below.
Steps:
  1. Cut fruit of your choice into bite sized pieces, roughly one cup per guest
  2. Select a variety of cheesecake inspired toppings that you think will pair nicely with your fruit. Choose as many of as few toppings as you like, and pour them into serving bowls. If you wish to make your own cookie crumbs for dipping, pulverize about eight cookies in a food processor to yield one half cup of crumbs. You should have a total of about 2 cups worth of different toppings. Arrange the table with your fruit and toppings so they are ready for your fondue when it’s nice and hot.
  3. Zap your cream cheese in the microwave for 30 seconds, and then place it in a medium pot over low heat.
  4. Whisk in milk, lemon juice, and vanilla, and continue stirring the mixture until the cream cheese is fully melted (3-5 minutes).
  5. Light the burner under your fondue pot so the pot is nice and warm when you pour in your fondue mixture.
  6. Add white chocolate to your cream cheese mixture, and whisk until it is all melted. Pour the mixture into your fondue pot and serve immediately.
  7. To eat, dip pieces of fruit into your cheesecake fondue, and then roll them in as many toppings as you like. And remember, don’t drop any fruit into the pot, or you’ll have to lay a wet one on your neighbour!

Both of these are major crowd pleasers, so give them a try at your next gathering! Thanks so much to everyone who has supported me up to this point in the competition, and good luck to all of my ladies at RWoP!
I’ll keep you guys updated along the road to the finals in Toronto. Can’t wait!

2 Comments

Filed under a party, food on a stick, new flavours, pop culture, savory