Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Best Gifts: Kuraidori Knife Set

Jingle jingle! It's time to kick off the giveaways!
Yesterday I shared my Best Gifts for the Home Cook list for 2015 (go here to take a look at the full list). It represents some of my favourite items to wrap up for friends and family who love to spend time in the kitchen.
The best part about this annual campaign on Family Feedbag is that I give away every item on the list! Yes, because you come here and indulge my recipe writing habit all year long (seriously, thank you for that), this is my chance to show my appreciation and toss a little sparkly magic dust into the air to help get us all into the holiday spirit.
The first item I'm giving away is a 7-piece Kuraidori knife set and block, exclusively from Home Hardware. If you're like me, knives are at the heart of almost everything you create in the kitchen. The right knife makes the job easier, quicker and safer. And just like any kitchen tool, knives need to be replaced over time when they become damaged or just aren't doing the job like they used to.
This incredible set comes with all your standard knife sizes, plus a sharpening steel to keep them slicing smoothly. The blades are made with high quality German steel, giving the perfect amount of heft to each knife, and the handles offer a secure grip to make chopping and slicing a breeze.
These are amazing knives. I cut a large watermelon the other day and it sliced it like a hot knife through butter. I love a great knife, and now you can have a whole set of them.
Scroll down below to enter the giveaway. It's really simple to enter. And make sure you come back for more giveaways in the coming days. Magic dust to all!

To enter the giveaway of a 7-piece Kuraidori knife set with block, available exclusively from Home Hardware, leave a comment on this blog post telling me what food you find to be the most difficult to cut up. PLEASE LEAVE AN EMAIL ADDRESS SO I CAN CONTACT YOU IF YOU WIN.
One entry per person. Canadian residents only. A winner will be selected randomly on Tuesday, December 8th, 2015 at 9 p.m. Eastern/6 p.m. Pacific. The winner will be contacted directly and announced on Family Feedbag and its associated social media channels.
Good luck!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Best Gifts for the Home Cook 2015

It's that time again! I'm sharing my 2015 list of the Best Gifts for the Home Cook and giving it all away.

As a passionate home cook, I think cooking-related gifts are just the best. They're fun to get and fun to give, and so practical at the same time because we all need to feed ourselves and our families. Whether it's kitchen tools to help get the job done, something edible like a new-to-you ingredient, or a gift certificate to get out and indulge in your love of cooking away from your own kitchen, cooks everywhere will love the items on this year's list.

The Best Gifts for the Home Cook list is my chance to say thank you for reading along all year and supporting my recipe writing habit. I know on the surface it's a bit self-indulgent to sit here sipping tea and writing about what I cook. I mean, I am but one home cook and I know there are home cooks out there working just as hard at it as I do, and even harder. But I really enjoy telling my stories and sharing my recipes and you seem to like reading it. So cheers! Here's to you and the time we spend together here. I hope your holiday season is delicious and full of magic.

Meet this year's Best Gifts list! All of these make great gift ideas for the home cooks in your life, or maybe even as a gift for yourself. I will be giving away all these items over the next several days, so check back to enter each giveaway.

Here is the list of this year's Best Gifts for the Home Cook:

A 7-piece Kuraidori knife set and block, available exclusively from Home Hardware.

A 3-pack gift set of handmade preserves from Saltspring Kitchen Co.

A gift crate of haskap berry products from Nova Scotia-based berry company haskapa.

A selection of baking tools to help you make classic patisserie favourites such as macarons and madeleines from Trudeau Corporation.

A cooking class gift certificate for The London Chef cooking school in Victoria, B.C.

Come back soon for your chance to win something from the Best Gifts for the Home Cook list. I can't wait to tell you more about them. In the meantime, browse each item and see if there's something to add to your Christmas wish list.

I love to hear from you! What catches your eye on this year's Best Gifts for the Home Cook list? Is there something here you'd just LOVE to find under the tree?

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Red, White & Green Cocktail (watermelon shrub)

Cocktail season is coming! Ahem, I mean the holiday season is coming, but it's kind of the same thing in my book. This is the time of year when I start to move away from beer when I'm out and go for a festive cocktail instead. I like it fruity and I like festive colours, so this watermelon cocktail - or the Red, White & Green I'm calling it - totally hits the mark for me. The 'white' comes from white rum and white vinegar the 'green' comes from the fresh garnishes, and the 'red' is represented by an easy-to-make watermelon shrub.

Also called drinking vinegar, a shrub is a simple and old-fashioned way of preserving fruit. It's a simple syrup with added vinegar, essentially, and when mixed into a cocktail it brightens and heightens the flavours. It doesn't taste like you're drinking vinegar. It tastes like your fruity drink just got an extra layer of tartness.

Shrubs are really hot right now in bars and restaurants. I've seen everything from ginger, mint, basil, rhubarb, rosemary and plum going into shrubs and they're actually quite simple to make at home. Healthy and versatile watermelon makes a gorgeous melon-flavoured shrub.

You don't have to enjoy cocktails to enjoy a shrub. Even my kids, who are pretty picky eaters and drinkers by the way, like this shrub mixed with sparkling water.

To make things extra festive this holiday season, try a lime peel ribbon on your drinks instead of a wedge. To make one, peel a thin strip from around half a lime. A tool like this one will help you do the job (use the notch bit). Then wrap around a straw or chopstick and squeeze. The ribbon will hold its shape and dress up your cocktails like a gift!

Watermelon isn't traditionally a holiday fruit in Canada, but that's because it hasn't always been available this time of year. Now, thanks to imports from the U.S., watermelon can be on the cocktail menu any time of year. And the colour is undeniably festive.

Get my simple recipe below for watermelon shrub to make your very own Red, White & Green!

A Red, White & Green Cocktail
2 cups (500 mL) cubed watermelon
1 cup (250 mL) white vinegar
1 3/4 cups (425 mL) granulated sugar
2 to 3 cubes of ice
2 tbsp (30 mL) of granulated sugar for rim
Green garnishes such as lime, cucumber, mint or basil
1 to 2 shots watermelon shrub, depending on size of glass
1 shot white rum
Tonic water to top up
Watermelon wedge
Add the cubed watermelon to a large mason jar. Bring the vinegar almost to the boil in a small saucepan. Pour over the watermelon. Cover with a lid. Once at room temperature (about an hour), transfer to the refrigerator. Every now and then when you open the refrigerator, give the mixture a good shake.
The next day, strain the contents of the jar through a fine mesh sieve to remove and discard the solid pieces. Return the liquid to the jar. Pour in the sugar. Put the lid back on and shake occasionally until the sugar is dissolved (about 10 minutes). Use right away or refrigerate up to 2 weeks. Makes enough for at least a dozen cocktails.
Pour a little of the shrub onto a small side plate. Pour the sugar onto another side plate. Rim the cocktail glass by dipping it into the shrub and then the sugar. Add ice cubes to the glass. Add chosen green garnishes to the glass. Pour in the shrub measures and rum measure. Top up with tonic. Stir gently. Garnish with watermelon wedge. Serve immediately.
What cocktails will you be enjoying over the holidays? Do you have a favourite cocktail? Leave a comment and share your holiday cocktail ideas.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Watermelon.org. I am being paid to develop and photograph this recipe.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

All-Bran Greek Yogurt Mocha Mousse & GIVEAWAY

I love a good giveaway post, and today I'm sharing the last of my three All-Bran recipes and giving away a fantastic All-Bran prize pack. Not only do you have a chance to win boxes of All-Bran cereal to start your day off right, but you could also get your hands on some gorgeous and useful kitchen tools (see picture below).

This blog campaign was all about giving some classic recipes a nutritional fibre boost. I started things off with a Bacon Cheddar Cheese Ball, then moved on to a main course with Turkey Corn Tacos, and now I'm ready to share what might be my favourite of the three recipes - this no-cook Greek Yogurt Mocha Mousse. It's delicious, sinfully smooth, and so easy to make it can put together in 10 minutes or less. Plus, it's actually pretty healthy!

For the first time, I'm also sharing a video of me in my very own kitchen making something. For a gal who used to anchor the morning news on television, I just have never really gotten into video with my blog. Anyhow, there you have it - me on camera making mocha mousse. I'll go hide under a rock somewhere while you watch it.

Scroll down to get this tasty and easy recipe, and enter to WIN this incredible All-Bran prize pack!

All-Bran Greek Yogurt Mocha Mousse
Makes four 1 cup (250 mL) servings

1/4 cup (60 mL) butter
3 tbsp (50 mL) cocoa powder, divided
1 1/4 cups (300 mL) All-Bran Buds cereal
1/4 cup (60 mL) strong brewed coffee
1 3/4 cups (425 mL) plain Greek yogurt
2 tbsp (30 mL) honey
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract
6 squares from a dark chocolate bar
4 mint leaves as garnish (optional)

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from the heat and stir in 2 tbsp (30 mL) of cocoa powder until dissolved. Stir in the All-Bran Buds. Spoon into four 1 cup (250 mL) mason jars or dessert bowls and set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together the coffee and the remaining 1 tbsp (15 mL) of cocoa powder until dissolved. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the Greek yogurt, coffee/cocoa mixture, honey and vanilla until well combined. Spoon over crunchy All-Bran base. Chill in the refrigerator until set (at least 1 hour).

Roughly chop the squares of chocolate. Sprinkle evenly over the mousse. Garnish with mint leaves if desired.

CONTEST CLOSED: The randomly-selected winner is Asiya Baig, who also happens to be a food blogger! Find her over at Chocolate & Chillies.

Thanks for entering!


Monday, November 9, 2015

Spicy Peanut Dressing (and sauce)

Other than peanut butter, peanuts themselves haven't really had a home in my kitchen. Not because I didn't like them, but I guess because, in my mind anyway, they were the more boring of all the nuts. With almonds and pecans and walnuts to choose from, the humble peanut looked a little dull.

But that all changed recently. My neighbour Alison celebrated a special birthday at The London Chef cooking school here in Victoria, and I joined her and many of her friends and family in a Thai cooking class. Chef Dan Hayes made the most incredible peanut dressing that, to me, was the best flavour of the night. It was tossed in a salad of thinly sliced cabbage and cucumber. I do love a cabbage salad, me, and this one had mega flavour and satisfying crunch.

While Dan's dressing had all the authentic ingredients, I set out to make my own version at home using everyday ingredients that most of us have in our kitchen. Enjoy it in a shaved vegetable salad, or try it hot tossed with crispy chicken, vegetables and rice noodles. Make some spicy peanut dressing at the start of the week and enjoy it for days.

Time to put peanuts on my regular shopping list!

Get the recipe below.

Spicy Peanut Dressing
Makes 2 1/3 cups (allow approx. 1/3 cup per serving)

2 garlic cloves
3 tbsp (50 mL) fresh ginger root (or 3 rounds sliced 1/4-inch thick)
2 green onions, roots removed
1 bird's eye chili, seeds removed
2 cups (500 mL) fresh cilantro or parsley, packed
1 cup (250 mL) blanched unsalted peanuts
juice of 2 limes
1/2 cup (125 mL) coconut milk
1/3 cup (75 mL) canola oil or other lightly-flavoured oil
3 tbsp (50 mL) soy sauce
1 tsp (5 mL) sesame oil
1 tbsp (15 mL) granulated or raw cane sugar (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Process on HIGH until well blended. Use immediately or pour into a sealed container and refrigerate up to 5 days.

NOTE: If making coleslaw, toss the dressing with the veggies and allow to sit at room temperature for half an hour before serving to soften the veggies.

Do you use peanuts in your cooking? What's your favourite way to enjoy them? Leave a comment and share your ideas!