Friendly Food Snobs

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Canola Eat Well Holiday Baking Party

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Who doesn’t love baking up a storm, hanging with your girlfriends, learning about food, and sipping some wine? I got to do all this and more last week attending a farm-to-table holiday baking party hosted by Canola Eat Well. The event took place at Luxe Appliance Studio, a stunning cooking space on King St East here in Toronto, and was hosted by cookbook author and chef Emily Richards.

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A neutral oil, canola oil can be used for frying as well as in sweet or savory recipes. Emily explained its versatility and how well it lets other flavours shine. A great versatile healthy oil to have in your pantry, I often use it in baking and for making popcorn the old fashioned way on the stove top using a pot and kernels.

My dad’s family has run a successful family dairy operation for generations. At the event I especially loved getting to chat with a Canadian canola farmer from Alberta about how the farm-to-table dining craze supports Canadian farmers and their local communities. Just another reason to reach for canola oil!

To kick off the evening and get our hands dirty we crushed some canola seeds. A practice canola farmers still do today to grade the quality of their canola seed. We were even able to expel some canola oil.
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A highlight of the night for me was connecting with Emily, a successful cookbook author and mom of three. She shared some tips on weeknight family dinners and the beauty of cooking and eating as a family. Emily talked about watching her grandmother use canola oil this time of year in holiday baking and shared some of her favourite recipes. I have included her aranaci rice ball recipe below.  If arancini is on the menu at a restaurant I always order it to share as a starter. Crispy and cheesy, a perfect small bite with some wine. It’s featured, along many other delicious Southern Italian recipes in her latest cookbook Per La Famiglia. A great Christmas gift for a foodie!

Arancini (Cheese-filled Rice Balls)

Ingredients for filling:
2 1/2 cups water
1 tsp saffron threads
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup grated romano cheese
2 tbsp butter
1 egg

Ingredients for Coating:
6 oz mozzarella, provolone, asiago or havarti cheese
2 eggs
1/4 cup flour
1 cup dry seasoned bread crumbs
4-6 cups canola oil (for frying)
good quality sea salt (to sprinkle after frying)

Filling: Boil water and saffron in large pot. Add rice and reduce heat to low stiring frequently for about 20 minutes or until tender but firm. Add romano cheese and butter. Set aside and let cool. Coating: Cut cheese into 16-18 small cubes and set aside. In a shallow dish whisk eggs. Divide rice filling into 16-18 small balls. Make an indentation in each ball and place cheese cube, then seal indentation. Roll balls in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs. In a large saucepan heat oil to 375 degrees. Fry balls in small batches 2-3 minutes until golden. Drain on a paper towel lined dish. I added a sprinkle of coarse sea salt to these as they cooled as well.

I served these at home with a little tomato sauce for dipping and topping and they were a huge hit.

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Photo credit: photography by Josh Tenn-Yuk courtesy of Canola Eat Well. This event and post was sponsored by Canola Eat Well. All opinions and comments are my own.

balsamic chicken salad

balsamic chicken salad

It’s almost Christmas! The house abounds with cookies, chocolate, wine and treats. Time for a mini detox and lots of salads and greens leading up to Christmas Day and New Year’s. Whipped up this salad today and the chicken and roasted peppers are really the stars. The recipe for the roasted peppers can be found on my blog here. The balsamic glaze at the end really makes the dish. You can find it at any grocery store or specialty food shop. I add it to salads or over cheese on a cheese board. If you have time on your hands here is a great recipe for how to make it at home from the Pioneer Woman. I have also added toasted pine nuts and asiago or parmesean cheese to this salad to fancy it up for guests too. Recipe below serves two.

balsamic chicken salad

2 big handfuls salad greens
2 roasted peppers (hint: recipe here)
2 chicken breasts
salt and pepper to taste
herbamare (can be found here)
olive oil
half of a lemon
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
balsamic glaze for drizzling on plate

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Coat chicken breasts with a little olive oil and season each side with salt, pepper and herbamare. Roast in oven (I use my cast iron pan) 10 to 15 minutes a side until browned. Pour the balsamic vinegar over the chicken when you flip it halfway during cooking. Remove chicken from oven to cutting board and let cool. Divide greens onto two plates. Dress the greens with a tiny drizzle of olive oil and the juice of half a lemon. Top with roasted pepper pieces. Slice the chicken and add to salad plates. Drizzle balsamic glaze over the chicken and dig in!

caramelized onion + date chutney grilled cheese

IMG_3198 IMG_3183 IMG_3222IMG_3257Can you tell I am embracing the end of winter and comfort food? Just a bit. I love how the addition of chutney and some regular cooking onions slowly caramelized takes this grilled cheese to a new level. It was a perfect easy Saturday night dinner. A few weeks ago the folks at McEwan’s approached me to have some fun with one of their date and raisin chutneys. I bopped up to the Don Mills location to have a grocery shop, one of my favourite past times. A fabulous store where I found the cheese, meat and fruit and veg to be outstanding. Since then this date and raisin chutney has proven itself a bit of a staple. Delicious on seared pork tenderloin as well as dipping samosas and Indian food. Back to the recipe, hope you like it as much as I did. Serves two.

caramelized onion + date chutney grilled cheese

Ingredients for caramelized onions:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 cooking onions cut into half moons
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
fresh black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
Heat oil to low-medium in a heavy bottom skillet. Saute onions 25 mins stirring occasionally. Low and slow. Can’t rush these guys. After about 10 mins add the black pepper. At 25 minutes stir in the small amount of brown sugar and take off the heat. Taste for salt and pepper.

Ingredients for the grilled cheeses:
4 slices light rye or sourdough bread
1 tablespoon butter
3/4 cup grated aged white cheddar
2 heaping teaspoons McEwan’s date and raisin chutney
2 heaping teaspoons of the caramelized onions (use the leftover chutney and onions in an omelette, stuffed in a chicken breast, crostini or on a cheese board)

Heat a cast iron or heavy bottom pan. Butter the outside of the bread. Top each slice of bread with a heaping teaspoon of chutney, cheese and then onions. Press together both pieces and cook for 5 minutes a side or until golden brown. You can visit McEwan’s at Shops at Don Mills, 38 Karl Fraser Rd, Toronto, ON (647) 557-4853.

apple cider vinegar salad dressing

apple cider vinegar salad dressingI’ve been making salad dressing from scratch for years and finally started adding apple cider vinegar a few weeks ago. We suddenly started eating more salads. Maybe because it’s March and spring’s around the corner? But I think it’s this dressing. The perfect tangy and sweet dressing for massaging into kale or drizzling over romaine. It lends itself to almost anything like dressing a lentil or quinoa salad. Serves four hungry salad eaters.

apple cider vinegar salad dressing

Ingredients:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 and 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 finely chopped shallot or 1 clove garlic minced
salt and pepper to taste
Whisk all ingredients. Let sit for a few minutes before eating. Keeps for three days in a sealed glass container in the fridge.

refried bean and cheese quesadillas

 
IMG_3009Who knew refried beans are so easy to make at home? Just grab a can of pinto beans and off you go. Packed with protein, I love these quesadillas for a weeknight meatless meal. Make more than you think. We fought over the last one. Serves two with leftovers.

refried bean and cheese quesadillas

Ingredients:
1 can pinto beans
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup water
salt and pepper
pinch cumin and chili powder
juice of half a lime
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
4-6 corn or flour tortillas
1 cup grated monterey jack cheese
hot sauce, chopped cilantro, salsa, plain yogurt for garnish

Drain and rinse the beans. Chop the garlic and combine beans, spices and water in small pot. Simmer on low for 10 mins stirring often. Remove from the heat and mash. Stir in sugar and lime, and more salt and pepper if needed. Heat a cast iron skillet on medium heat. Assemble quesadillas by layering beans and then cheese on tortillas. Heat each side until warm and brown. Keep warm in a 200 degree oven until serving and slice into quarters with a pizza cutter. Great warm or cold for lunch the next day.

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