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Relishing the fabulous weather

I can’t get over how unseasonably warm and gorgeous the weather has been this past week. 22 degrees in mid March!? Thank you Jesus! To celebrate the beautiful sun (and St. Patrick’s day) I indulged in a few green patio beers and a majorly delicious burger at Relish.

Who knew that little old London was home to one of Food Network’s ‘You Gotta Eat Here’ hotspots? Now, I’ve read mixed reviews about this place online, but some friends of mine can’t get enough, so I took their word for it. They were right. Sure, the food took a while (the menu has a disclaimer saying to allow 30 minutes for your patty to be hand-made), but I can’t complain about spending a few extra minutes basking in the late afternoon sun and sipping on green beer.

I had “Le Ooh-La-La” sirloin burger which is topped with bacon, béarnaise, mozzarella, and caramelized onions. It was fabulous. I often find that gourmet burger joints will load up their patties with mountains of toppings without using a sturdy, supportive bun to hold them. This is not the case at Relish. I may even go as far as to say that the bun was the best part. It was chewy, and dense and delicious.

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Britt had a “Grazing Hippy” chicken burger with roasted red peppers, pesto mayo, alfalfa sprouts, salsa, goat’s cheese and sautéed spinach. She said it was also a winner.

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If you’re ever in Southwestern Ontario, check it out. Just leave yourself enough time to thoroughly browse their massive menu. Cheers!

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Rural Routes: Old 99 Farm

I have always loved the idea of growing my own food. There is just something so nostalgic about that kind of self-sufficiency. Sigh. But while I adore the philosophy of it all, I am a little lost when it comes to the logistics. So I set off last Saturday on an adventure to Old 99 Farm in Dundas, Ontario.

Now, not to worry, I didn’t just show up on farmer Ian’s doorstep demanding to be educated. I went as part of Environment Hamilton’s Rural Routes project. They have paired up with the Hamilton Street Railway to show off some of the area’s most interesting farms.

We started out at Homegrown Hamilton, an awesome little cafe downtown that serves a mean hummus and tempeh sandwich. From there, an HSR bus picked us up and drove us out to the boonies.

Old 99 Farm operates using the permaculture theory that tries to mimic natural ecosystems in order to increase sustainability. It’s hard to convey just how much detail goes into planning a farm like this, so if you have an opportunity to visit one, I’d totally recommend it. Ian Graham started the farm in 2007 after leaving a long and successful career in business. He is a fountain of knowledge, and was more than happy to share. It’s hard to believe that he used to be, in his words, “a suit”.

The visit started out with a lecture on permaculture in the barn (we had a prime view up in the hayloft), and then we took a tour of the greenhouses and animals. Old 99 grows a huge variety of vegetables, and is in the process of cultivating an orchard. Ian also raises cows, sheep, chickens, geese, turkeys etc. etc. etc. In order to be successful at permaculture, Ian says your farm should be as diverse as possible. It sounds like soooooo much work! (But the fun kind of work, I guess). Check out Ian’s milking skills below….so jealous.

I don’t think I’m at a stage where I’ll be growing my own food, but backyard chickens seem pretty tempting (and easy) to raise. How idyllic would it be to wander outside every morning and collect your very own farm fresh eggs? Ahhhhh….I would look so cute! Now I just need to buy an adorable straw hat and overalls…

If you’re from the Hamilton area, Rural Routes will be back with more events for summer 2012. Hopefully by then I will have my own little flock of feathered friends. I’ll keep you updated 😉

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Larger than Life: Chocolate and Hotdogs

For family day weekend, my fam and I took a little outing to Chocolate: The Exhibition at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington. The exhibit takes you through the history of cacao harvest and chocolate making starting in the Mayan era. In all honesty, I don’t really think I got a whole lot out of it, but I would totally recommend it for families with kids. They had a few chocolate making demonstrations, and best of all, some epic-ly giant chocolate props for photo-ops. Nom nom nom.

Also, who knew that chocolate starts out with these massive, wonky looking pods? They extract the beans from inside these pods, dry them out, grind them up, and add sugar and milk fats to make choco. Sounds glamourous eh?

After taking a few too many photos with giant chocolate bars, we went across the street for a bite at Easterbrooks. If you’re from the Hammer, and have never been here, you are missing out. This place is an institution. They’ve been around since the stone age (1930s), and serve awesome footlong dogs, ice cream, and other standard greasy fare.

It’s certainly not gourmet, but definitely tasty. And an awesome throw back if you’re into that sort of thing.

If you’re looking to kill time with the kittens over March break, or just have a spare afternoon, these are both fun destinations. Chocolate: The Exhibition runs until April 15th, and good ole Easterbrooks is open year round. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go continue my hunt for gigantic imitation food items….

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Treat Yo Self to a very merry Christmas!

It is finally the 24th of December. PREZZZZZENTS!!!! Yay Yay Yay!

Now I’m sure you’re all busy cozying up with your families and what not, but I wanted to send off one more reminder before Christmas. As Tom Haverford would say, “Treat Yo Self”. To what, you may ask? To anything you please.

Christmas is a time for indulgence (and I guess family, and giving and all that nice stuff), so don’t forget to take some time for yourself over the next few days.

Nosh on a few too many cookies, guzzle a little more than your share of eggnog, and treat yourself to some seasonal pleasures.

I am all pedicured up, in honour of the Treat Yo Self philosophy, and I must say, it feels damn good. Trust me, this picture is not from the summer…I am wearing flip-flops in freezing weather. That’s just how I roll. I challenge you to do the same.

I’ll be enjoying some me time over the next few days, and I hope you will too. See you when I return.

Merry Christmas to you and yours from little ole me here at Luvcrumbs. LOL (my dad thinks that means ‘lots of love’),

Elise

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Panettone French Toast

In this recipe the flavours of Italy  and France collide (french toast is from France right?) for a delicious dainty breakfast. Whip up a batch for Christmas morning, or make use of some slightly stale panettone that you’ve received as a gift after the holidays. I’ve used mini panettone, but you can use a full sized loaf and cut it in quarters. Let’s get real though, miniature stuff is cuter. You’ll need:

  • 4 mini panettones or 1 full sized
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • maple syrup
  • powdered sugar and fruit garnish (optional)

Panettone comes in all sorts of flavours. I used a traditional one with dried fruit, but you can go crazy with chocolate if you wish.

Slice your panetonne crossways into circles that are about 1/2 inch thick. In a bowl, whisk together your eggs, milk and spices. Heat your butter on medium in a large skillet. Slice by slice, dip your bread into the egg mixture until it’s saturated, and gently place it in your skillet. If the pan gets dry, add a little more butter. Let it cook on each side for 1 or 2 minutes it’s nice and brown.

When all of your slices are cooked, cut them into wedges if you’re using a full sized panettone, and arrange them on a plate. Serve with ample amounts of SYRRRRRRRRRUP (I really relate to Buddy the Elf), and a dusting of sugar to garnish. Throw on a bit of fruit if you feel like pretending to be healthy.

Now chow down with some hot cocoa, or a faux pumpkin spice latte, and send yourself into a sugar induced coma. That’s really what Christmas is all about, isn’t it? Happy cooking!

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Melted Snowman Meringues

So, I realize that I missed yesterday in my 12 Days of Christmas series. Oops. Let me explain. Being the anti-mathlete that I am, I slipped up subtracting 12 from 24 and accidentally started a day early. My bad. Hopefully you can forgive me and read on.

You may notice that I have developed quite a liking for a)melted snowmen and b)meringues. This recipe combines both. YUM! It will make about 12 large meringues. You’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup egg whites (4 large eggs, or from a carton)
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup fine white sugar
  • 6 large dried apricots
  • 24 raisins
  • 24 pretzel sticks
  • 48 currants

Start by cutting each of your apricots into 2 large triangles (carrot noses, duh?).

Preheat your oven to 225 degrees celsius. In a large metal bowl, whip your eggwhites and cream of tartar on medium speed until soft peaks form. Add your vanilla, and slowly add your sugar one tablespoon at a time, whipping on high speed until very stiff peaks form.

On a parchment lined baking sheet (you’ll probably need 2), drop roughly half cup spoonfuls of meringue, and spread them a little so they look nice and melty. Drop in your dried fruit (one apricot nose, 2 raisin eyes, and four currant teeth) and stick in a pretzel stick on either side. You can arrange the pieces in a face, or just let them fall…depends on how melted you want your snowman to look.

Bake in the middle rack of your oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours (longer means crunchier meringues).

Now I know it may be hard to bite into their adorable little faces, but trust me, these guys are delish. Happy baking!

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Melted Snowman Medallions

Have you seen all of the adorable melted snowman cookies floating around food blogs these days? I think they are so darn cute, but it can be a lot of work to bake, ice, and decorate a large batch of cookies. That’s why I came up with this recipe.

My Melted Snowman Medallions are easy and delicious, and make absolutely beautiful gifts. The snowman homage is subtle, so they can even be served as an elegant accompaniment to coffee or tea. This batch makes 12 medallions, but can easily be doubled or tripled. You’ll need:

  • 200 grams of white chocolate chips
  • 6 large apricots
  • 12 pretzel rods
  • 24 raisins
  • 48 currants

To turn your apricots into carrot noses, cut triangle shapes into them lengthways. Each apricot should get you about 2 large noses. Snap each of your pretzel rods in half for arms.

Bring a small pot of water to a gentle boil, and place a large metal bowl on top. Make sure that the bowl doesn’t come in contact with the water, and that the water is just simmering. Pour your chips into the bowl, and stir gently until they are full melted. When you are taking your bowl off of the heat, make sure not to get any water into the chocolate. Water and chocolate are worst enemies.

Lay a large sheet of parchment or waxed paper on your counter and drop generous spoonfuls of melted chocolate onto the paper. If you want your medallions to be round, it may be helpful to trace circles onto the underside of your paper, but melted snowmen aren’t usually round so feel free to get messy. When you’ve dropped all of your chocolate, shimmy the paper back and forth a little to spread the chocolate into discs.

One snowman at a time, drop an apricot slice, two raisins, two pretzel halves and four currants into the chocolate. You can position the dried fruit so it looks like a snowman face, or just let things fall where they may.

The combination of the salty pretzel and sweet chocolate and fruit is delicious. You can package these up as gifts by stacking them in a cellophane bag.

I’m on a bit of a snowman kick, so later this week I’ll be sharing another frosty idea. Happy baking!

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