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Slow Cooker Cheesecake

22 Oct

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Cheesecake is one of my favourite desserts in the whole world. A cold, smooth and creamy cheesecake with a tasty graham cracker crust…top that with chocolate, caramel, fruit…I’ll take it all. I enjoy baking my own cheesecake but it takes a lot of time to make it. Prep time, an hour in the oven, cooling time, you get the picture. I could buy one but where’s the fun in that!

I’ve been using my slow cooker a lot more lately, it’s great to be able to just “set it and forget it” especially since I can hide the slow cooker away from my toddler son. One of my new favourite recipes is a Slow Cooker Cheesecake recipe from Ricardo Cuisine. I love to try recipes where I can make my favourites in a new way and this recipe was a perfect example of that. The recipe was very easy to put together, it cooked fairly quickly and the portion sizes were perfect – two cheesecakes each for me and my husband! (Three for me if he only eats one, yeah!). It’s a great recipe and I hope you’ll give it a try. I’m planning on making it again very soon. Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Cheesecake

I’ve included the original recipe below and I’ve added my own notes throughout. The link to the original recipe on the Ricardo site is given here (this recipe was shared with permission): http://www.ricardocuisine.com/recipes/5562-slow-cooker-cheesecake-2-

Ingredients – Cheesecake

Cheesecake

1 package 8 oz (250 g) cream cheese, softened

1/3 cup (75 ml) sugar (Note: Next time I’ll reduce the sugar a little, I found it a bit too sweet)

1 egg

1/4 cup (60 ml) 35% cream

1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract

Ingredients – Graham Crumble Topping

1/2 cup (125 ml) graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup (60 ml) all­ purpose flour

2 tablespoons (30 ml) brown sugar

1/4 cup (60 ml) unsalted butter, softened

Ingredients – Strawberry Topping

1 cup (250 ml) diced strawberries

1 tablespoon (15 ml) sugar

Preparation:

Cheesecake

  1. Line the bottom of the slow cooker with a clean cloth (Note: I used a clean, folded dish cloth) to prevent the ramekins from vibrating.
  2. In a blender, purée all the ingredients until smooth. (Note: If you don’t have a blender handy, do what I did and use a hand mixer. Start off by beating the ingredients on low speed until combined and then switch to high speed to get a smooth texture). Divide the mixture among four 125 ml (1/2 cup) ramekins. Place the ramekins in the slow cooker (on top of the clean cloth) and pour hot water into the container halfway up the ramekins. (Note: I prepped a kettle of boiling water before I put the ingredients together. By the time everything was ready, the water was hot and at the right temperature).
  3. Cover and cook on low temperature for 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes or until they are firm and slightly puffy. Remove the ramekins from the slow cooker and let cool. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or until completely chilled.

Graham Crumble Topping

  1. With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 180 °C (350 °F). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and add the butter. Combine until the mixture is crumbly. With your fingers, drop the dough into small pieces on the baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown, stirring twice during baking. Let cool. (Note: I loved the crumble but found the quantity was too much for just 4 ramekins. Next time I will make half the amount).

Strawberry Topping

  1. Combine the strawberries and sugar. Let rest for 5 minutes.
  2. When ready to serve, top each ramekin with graham crumble and strawberries.

Overall, I LOVED the end result and I’ll definitely make it again. Per my notes, next time I would reduce the amount of sugar slightly (there was nothing wrong with the amount of sugar but it was a bit too sweet for me). I would also cut back on the quantity of crumble as I had quite a bit leftover. This makes for a great homemade dessert for a small group and can easily be done with ingredients you have on hand. If you don’t have strawberries at home, you can top the cheesecake with blueberries or any other fruit.

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CONTEST!

You could win a signed copy of Ricardo’s Slow Cooker Favourites cookbook, filled with more than 65 great slow cooker recipes, including vegetarian ones!

Earn entries by doing the following (you can enter using any or all of these methods):

Additional Info:

The contest begins on Thursday October 22, 2015 and will end on Thursday November 5, 2015 at 12 pm EST. The winner will be announced later that day.

You can enter via each method once per day until the end of the contest.

The contest is only open to Canadians with a Canadian shipping address. Ricardo will ship the cookbook directly to the winner’s home.

Good luck!

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Turning Frozen Fruit Into Healthy Desserts with Yonanas

1 Sep

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Disclosure: I was given a Yonanas machine to try out and I thought it was pretty cool, so I thought I would tell you all about it. All opinions are my own.

I’m more than a little obsessed with kitchen appliances. If it does something new and different, I must have it, much to the dismay of my hubby who is trying to declutter our home while I clutter it up. One of the machines I’ve had my eyes on for some time is Yonanas, a frozen fruit dessert machine that lets you take any frozen fruit you have and turn it into a creamy, non-dairy soft serve dessert. I was already having high hopes for this machine…

The box arrived and I couldn’t wait to tear into it. The instructions were great and it was very easy to assemble, I had the machine up and running within minutes. I had some frozen banana and frozen blueberries that I wanted to try mixing first as this is one of my favourite fruit smoothie combinations. Per the instructions, I allowed the fruit to thaw for a few minutes before starting up the machine. I started with two frozen bananas and one cup of frozen blueberries. I read that banana needs to be placed into the machine first before adding any other fruit and sure enough, it was a good tip as the banana kicked things off and acted as a base. It was pretty amazing to see how quickly it turned my boring old fruit into a creamy looking frozen dessert. After tasting it, I was really happy….there was no added sugar and no additives, just the pure flavor of my own frozen fruit.

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Since that first trial run, I mostly throw in whatever frozen fruit I have on hand along with frozen bananas, which we always have in the house. This machine is the perfect place to use up spotty bananas that are a bit past their prime to eat fresh. I find that I get the best texture when I use a mix of old and new bananas (ones that have been frozen recently) along with a few handfuls of my favourite fruits. If you’re not a fan of bananas, you can use any other frozen fruits that you have on hand, just remember to let them sit out and thaw for about 5 minutes for best results.

To me this is a great machine for families to have as it can please everyone…ice cream lovers, people who are lactose intolerant, vegans and anyone who wants to make their own healthy, frozen desserts. I’ve used it to introduce my son to different fruits and as an added bonus, the cold helps to relieve his teething discomfort. His favourite combo…mangoes and strawberries…yum! The possibilities are endless, I have only tried a handful of the recipes on the Yonanas site…there are still so many others I have to check out.

To learn more, visit http://yonanas.com/ for info about their products and tips and recipes for frozen fruit desserts made both with bananas and without them.

Here are a few of my favourite “no bananas” Yonanas recipes, taken from their website. Enjoy!

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Strawberry Pineapple Sorbet

Ingredients: 1/2 cup frozen strawberries and 1/2 cup frozen pineapple

Directions: 1. Slightly thaw your frozen fruit prior to putting through your yonanas maker. 2. Insert 1/4 cup frozen strawberries. 3. Insert 1/4 cup frozen pineapple. 4. Alternate remaining ingredients

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Peach and Cherry Sorbet

Ingredients: 1/2 cup frozen peach slices and 1/2 cup frozen pitted cherries

Directions: 1. Slightly thaw your frozen fruit prior to putting through your yonanas maker. 2. Insert 1/4 cup frozen peach slices. 3. Insert 1/4 cup frozen pitted cherries. 4. Alternate remaining ingredients

Biting Into Summer with Fruttare + a contest!

24 Jul

Disclaimer: I received a free coupon to try a box of Fruttare Fruit & Milk Bars. I did not receive any compensation from Unilever Canada for this post. All opinions expressed are my own.  

It was a hot, sticky night last Wednesday when two of my favourite performers, Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake, were in town for their Legends of Summer tour. Between the heat, the crowds of people and the excitement, we left the concert desperately needing something cold and refreshing. All of a sudden, there they were….little Fruttare carts! After hearing so much about Fruttare Bars, I was looking forward to trying the Fruttare Fruit & Milk Bar in Banana & Milk and luckily, the cart I went to had the exact flavour I was looking for. I tore into the wrapper, took a bite and I was instantly happy. The flavour was exactly what I was looking for, in that it tasted like a cross between a ripe banana and banana pudding. It was cold, creamy and rich-tasting, which was perfectly fine because the bar was just the right size for me.

Fruttare_BananaI had a coupon for Fruttare at home that I hadn’t used, so the following day I decided to pick up a box of Fruttare Fruit & Juice Bars in the Mango flavour. Coming from an East Indian household, the word mango automatically equals awesome/must have, so I knew that my family would be interested in trying them. As soon as I bit into the bar, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the bar did have a true mango flavour and wasn’t too sweet. How did they do that?! My husband thought it had just the right amount of sweetness as well. Overall, I considered our Fruttare taste test to be a success! I still need to try the Peach & Milk and Coconut & Milk flavours…so many flavours, so little of summer left…le sigh.

According to their Canadian website, Fruttare Bars come in two types:

Fruttare Fruit & Milk Bars

Flavours:

• Strawberry & Milk: Luscious pieces of strawberries blended with milk

• Banana & Milk: Bursting with the flavour of sweet bananas and milk

• Peach & Milk: The delicious taste of real peaches blended with milk

• Coconut & Milk: Transport yourself to the tropics with the taste of coconut and real milk

Fruttare Fruit & Juice Bars

Flavours:

• Strawberry: Made with real strawberries that you can see and taste

• Mango: Bursting with real fruit taste of delicious mango

You can find Fruttare bars in major Canadian grocery stores. Let me know if you have any flavour recommendations for me! If you haven’t tried Fruttare Bars and want to, I have a little contest for you….

CONTEST:

The fine folks at Fruttare want to give one reader of Milk & Eggs a set of four Fruttare coupons, to help keep your freezer stocked with tasty frozen treats!

TO ENTER:

Visit http://www.fruttare.ca/ to learn about all of the delicious flavours of Fruttare Bars. Then, leave a comment on this blog post and tell me which Fruttare flavor you want to try the most. It’s that easy!

P.S. Don’t forget to include your Twitter handle or Facebook/blog site address so I know how to reach you! You can enter once per day. Contest closes on Wednesday July 31 at 5 pm. Winner will be announced later that evening.

Note: You must be a resident of Canada to win. Coupons will only be mailed to a Canadian address. Good luck!

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This contest is now closed. Congrats to @kateplummer for winning!

 

Whole Lemon Bars and enter to WIN a copy of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook!

21 Apr

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I love lemons. I love how they look and I love how I feel when I smell or taste a fresh lemon. I love the song by U2. Oh and I also love Eduoard Manet’s painting, Le Citron.

Life has handed me a lot of lemons lately, both the delicious, yellow kind and those not so good lemons that disrupt your life. As they say though, it’s all about what you do with those lemons and on a recent weekend I decided to put some of my lovely lemons to good use. I cracked open one of my newest cookbooks, The Smitten Kitchen cookbook, written by one of my favourite food bloggers, Deb Perelman.

I’ve been following her fabulous blog, The Smitten Kitchen, for some time now and I’ve made quite a few of her recipes over the years. What I love about her recipes is that they are perfect for the average home cook. It’s not just about the recipes though, it’s her writing that keeps me coming back over and over again. So when I received an invitation from Random House Canada to attend a blogger brunch in celebration of the launch of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, I accepted it immediately. As expected, Deb was warm, friendly and willing to share her stories with the bloggers in attendance. We were all hanging on to every word, as she described her kitchen and what it was like to write, test and photograph all of her recipes. She is one of the inspirations behind my blog and I’m sure she has given countless others the push they needed too.

After munching on delicious treats cooked up by the amazing Random House staff, we had some one-on-one time with Deb. I was telling her how obsessed my family was with all things lemon and she immediately grabbed her cookbook, flipped to the Whole Lemon Bars recipe and said, “You HAVE to try this, they are so delicious.” Of course, she was absolutely right! This is now my favourite lemon bar recipe as it has the perfect balance sweetness and tartness. I love that I get to use a whole lemon, skin and all (minus the seeds of course!).

Are you a fan of The Smitten Kitchen blog? Well, I’m happy to share that I have one copy of the The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook to give away! Scroll down below the Whole Lemon Bars recipe for details on how to enter. By the way, you HAVE to make these lemon bars. Like right now. Go.

Deb Perelman’s Whole Lemon Bars

Recipe reprinted with permission from The Smitten Kitchen cookbook by Deb Perelman. Copyright 2012 by Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.

Ingredients:

For the crust:

1 cup/125 g all purpose flour

1/3 cup/65 g sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons/115 g or 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into chunks, plus extra for greasing pan

For the filling:

1 small-to-medium lemon (about 4 1/2 ounces or 130 g, or about 3 inches long)

1 1/3 cup/265 g sugar

8 tablespoons/115 g or 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into chunks

4 large eggs

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

1. Place a rack in middle of the oven and preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Cut two 12- inch lengths of parchment paper, and trim each to fit the bottom of an 8- inch square baking pan. Press the first sheet into the bottom and up the sides of your pan in one direction, then use the second sheet to line the rest of the pan, running it perpendicular to the first sheet. Lightly butter exposed parts of parchment or coat them with a nonstick cooking spray. Set the pan aside.

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2. Make the crust: Blend the flour, sugar, and salt together in the work bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is powdery, but if firmly pinched, will hold the pinched shape. Turn the dough crumbs into the prepared baking pan and press the dough evenly across the bottom and about ½ inch up the sides. Prick the dough all over with a fork and bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Should any parts bubble up, gently prick them again with a fork. Leave the oven on.

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3. Make your filling: Cut your lemon in half, and here’s where I need us all to be, briefly, quite fussy.

Is the white part of the skin especially thick?

If the widest part of the white is ¼ inch thick or less, continue on to the next step; your lemon is good to go. If any part of it is thicker than ¼ inch, however, I find it safest to remove the skin from half the lemon or the bitterness of the pith can overwhelm the bars. To remove the skin, place half the lemon cut-side-down on the cutting board, and remove the skin and pith from the entire half in downward cuts and discard it. The second half, even if just as thick, can be used as is.

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4. Cut your lemon halves into thin rings and discard any seeds. Toss the lemon rounds – lemon flesh and peel – in the bowl of your food processor, add the sugar, and run the machine until the lemon is thoroughly puréed, about 2 minutes. Add the butter and again run the machine until the mixture is smooth, scraping down the sides of the work bowl as needed. Add the eggs, cornstarch, and salt and pulse the machine in short bursts until the mixture is evenly combined.

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5. Pour the lemon mixture over the crust and bake it for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the filling is set. You can test this by bumping the pan a little; it should only jiggle slightly. In my oven, I find that the point at which the filling is set is also when the lemon bars start to get very light brown on top.

6. Let the pan cool completely on rack or in the fridge. Gently cut around the outside of the parchment paper to make sure no sides have stuck, then gently use the parchment “sling” to transfer bars from pan to cutting board. Cut into 16 squares.

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Sandy’s notes: I dusted them with icing sugar, to make them look fancier. I wish I had better photos of the lemon bars but my family ate them all up so quickly! I thought these were THE best lemon bars I’ve ever had. The balance of lemony goodness, salt and sugar was perfect. I wouldn’t change a thing about this recipe. Enjoy!

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CONTEST: Win a copy of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

I’m giving away a copy of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman! You must be a resident of Canada to win. If you win, the cookbook will be shipped directly to your home.

TO ENTER:

Option 1: Leave a comment on this blog post and tell me what your favourite recipe is from the Smitten Kitchen blog (http://smittenkitchen.com/) P.S. Don’t forget to include your Twitter, Facebook or blog site address so I know how to reach you!

OR

Option 2: Follow me on Twitter @savvari and tweet the following:

I want to win a copy of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook from @savvari #cookbook #contest

You can enter once a day using each option! Canadian residents only.

Hurry! Contest closes on Tuesday April 30 at 5 pm EST. Good luck!

And the winner is…. Leora Heilbronn @leoraheilbronn – congrats!!

 

 

Smitten Kitchen

Macaron Day TO 2013 in support of Red Door Family Shelter

12 Mar

Macaron Day Logo

The first macaron I ever ate was a chocolate passion fruit one (called Macaron Mogador) from Pierre Herme’s famous patisserie in Paris. I took my first bite and the flavours travelled all the way to my toes… my knees buckled and I ended up having to sit down on the sidewalk in front of the shop! I’ve been a macaron addict ever since and I try them wherever I go. Luckily, I’ve been able to find some great macarons in Toronto, as we certainly have some incredible patisseries in this city.

As an official Macaron Day TO ambassador, I hope you’ll be available on Wednesday March 20, 2013 to celebrate Macaron Day TO in Toronto! The Toronto event coincides with similar events that will take place in Paris, New York and other cities around the world.

Macaron Day 2013 Poster

On Wednesday March 20, participating patisseries in Toronto will offer a complimentary macaron to customers. To receive your macaron, simply mention that you’re celebrating Macaron Day TO. Participating locations will provide one macaron per customer at no cost, with quantities limited by location. Now, we all know that just one macaron is not enough! The great news is that 25% of all additional macaron sales from this day will be donated to the Red Door Family Shelter. Visit their website at www.reddoorshelter.ca to learn more about this amazing cause. Last year, nearly $6500 was raised for the Red Door Family Shelter and this year, the goal is to raise $8000.

For almost 30 years, the Red Door Family Shelter has been on the front lines of delivering support services to homeless families, abused women and their children throughout Toronto and the GTA. This non-profit organization has helped thousands of families in their time of need.

So please take some time out of your schedule to satisfy your cravings for macarons on Wednesday March 20 and help support a great cause at the same time. If you’ve never had a macaron, March 20 is the perfect day to find out what the fuss is all about. If you’re lucky, maybe your knees will buckle too : )

Learn more at http://www.macarondayto.com

Be sure to “Like” Macaron Day TO on Facebook here – http://on.fb.me/12NGwCS

Follow @macarondayTO on Twitter and if you tweet, use the event hashtag #MacaronDayTO

Martha Stewart’s Coconut-Buttermilk Pound Cake

27 Jan
Martha Stewart's Coconut-Buttermilk Pound Cake

Martha Stewart’s Coconut-Buttermilk Pound Cake

My mother and father always cooked the Indian dishes in my house and in my teens, I started to experiment with pastas, soups, casseroles and baked goods, basically all non-Indian cuisine. Between my mother, father and I, we seemed to have things covered in the kitchen right? Well, after I got married, I realized that I had zero cooking skills when it came to Indian food, at least the South Indian food I grew up with. I was so embarrassed (I still am really), that I was a “foodie” who had no idea how to make dishes from my own culture. The funny part was that my mom and mother-in-law responded to my embarrassment with “Oh, that’s okay. So listen, next time you come over, can you make your spinach cannelloni? Can you bring a cake over too?” I then realized that my family actually relies on my non-Indian cooking skills!

I love to bake but given that it’s just the two of us in our home, it’s not wise for me to bake all the time. I tend to bake when there is a family gathering, since it’s easier to finish a whole cake or a dozen cupcakes with more than 10 people around. The challenge however is that my parents and in-laws tend to enjoy plain baked goods such as pound cake, while my nephews love chocolate and caramel.

I’m on a quest to find cakes that make (the majority of) my family happy, so here’s my latest find. This one is from Martha Stewart, via @nympsam from Twitter. Funny thing, she tweeted to ask how to prevent the top of this cake from browning too much while the inside was still cooking. I suggested that she should cover the top with foil and then (naturally) I asked for the recipe. She took a picture of the recipe, I Googled it and BOOM, there it was! Once again, hats off to Twitter!

Martha Stewart’s Coconut-Buttermilk Pound Cake 

(This glorious recipe is from Martha Stewart’s website, you can find it here – http://bit.ly/WDCVQv. The recipe remains unchanged, however I’ve added my notes in BOLD throughout.)

Prep Time

30 minutes

Total Time

1 1/2 hours + cooling

Ingredients:

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan

2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon fine salt

1 cup granulated sugar (Sandy’s Notes: You can use slightly less than 1 cup if you would like to. I even made it with 3/4 cup of sugar once and I still enjoyed it).

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 large eggs

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk, divided (Sandy’s Notes: I used store-bought buttermilk, I’ve never tried to use a homemade version for this recipe.)

1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut, toasted, divided (Sandy’s Notes: See below for instructions on how to toast the sweetened shredded coconut)

1 cup confectioners’ sugar (Sandy’s Notes: This is for the icing. I used half the amount of sugar and ended up with more of a glaze on the cake, which was still tasty.)

Directions:

Sandy’s Notes:

How to toast sweetened shredded coconut: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, then spread the 1 ½ cups of sweetened shredded coconut on a cookie sheet or in a baking pan and put it on the middle rack. It can take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes to toast and you’ll have to keep stirring the coconut on a regular basis. Toast the coconut until a few pieces start to turn light brown. Any longer and you might end up burning it!  Remove the cookie sheet/pan from the oven and transfer the coconut into a bowl. If you leave it in a hot pan, it will continue to cook!

Toasted sweetened shredded coconut

Toasted sweetened shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 4 1/2-by-8 1/2-inch loaf pan. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, using a mixer, beat butter and granulated sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy, 8 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Add vanilla, then eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping down bowl. With mixer on low, add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with two 1/2-cup additions buttermilk, and beat until combined. With a rubber spatula, fold in 1 1/4 cups coconut. (Sandy’s Notes: You’ll have some toasted coconut left, you’ll need it for the topping at the end.)

Adding the toasted coconut to the batter

Adding the toasted coconut to the batter

Transfer batter to pan and bake until a skewer inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 60 minutes.

Sandy’s Notes: I found this cake has a tendency to take a LONG time to bake. You may find that the top has browned nicely but when your toothpick or skewer is inserted into the center it still comes out wet after 60 minutes. If that’s the case, cover the top of your cake LOOSELY with a piece of foil and put it back in the oven for a few minutes. This will help the inside cook but keep the top from burning.)

Let cool in pan on a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet, 1 hour. Remove cake from pan and let cool completely on rack. (Store at room temperature, wrapped in plastic, up to 4 days.)

The finished product, cooling down. Wait, there's one more step!

The finished product, cooling down. Wait, there’s one more step!

Whisk together confectioners’ sugar and remaining 2 tablespoons buttermilk. Drizzle over cake and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup coconut.

Sandy’s Notes: You could skip this step if you don’t want to add anything to the cake, but it really looks and tastes great with the icing and toasted coconut. I used half the amount of icing sugar and created a lighter glaze, which worked out just fine. 

Put a plate or baking sheet under the cake when you're icing and topping it with toasted coconut, otherwise you'll have a bit of a mess on your hands

Put a plate or baking sheet under the cake when you’re icing and topping it with toasted coconut, otherwise you’ll have a bit of a mess on your hands

The verdict: This was one of the most delicious cakes I’ve ever made and it was a huge hit with my family! The buttermilk keeps it really moist and the bits of toasted coconut are delicious. A slice of this cake is perfect with a cup of coffee, tea or even better, some chai (spiced Indian-style tea). Enjoy!

The Coconut-Buttermilk Pound Cake getting devoured mmmm

The Coconut-Buttermilk Pound Cake getting devoured mmmm

Holiday Party Planning: Tips for Festive Fun!

30 Dec

Holiday party season is coming to an end but there’s still one more big party to go and it’s the one most people go all out for…New Year’s Eve!

If you’re hosting, you’re either reading this and thinking:

a)      Holiday Party Planning Tips? I have this down pat.

b)      I better get cracking…yikes!

If you’re in the second group, I have a few holiday party planning tips to share from Metro (one of my “go to” grocery stores). Since my side of the family is vegetarian and my husband’s side eats everything, we try to have a little something for everyone at our parties. Some of our veggie-friendly favourites include the Irresistibles Vegetable Spring Rolls and Irresistibles Spanakopita. They are easy to store in the freezer and pop into the oven if you need a quick appetizer. If you have a sweet tooth, the Irresistibles Dark Chocolate Covered Caramels With Sea Salt and the Irresistibles Maple Butter are both faves of my bro-in-law (these are a surprise for him…shhh!).

Irresistibles Dark Chocolate Covered Caramels With Sea Salt and Irresistibles Maple Butter

Irresistibles Dark Chocolate Covered Caramels With Sea Salt and Irresistibles Maple Butter

As promised, here are some great tips for your next party : )

Holiday Party Planning: 10 Tips for Festive Fun!

Creative serving

Instead of communal bowls of nuts, try a more eye catching and hygienic presentation by putting snacks in clear glass, narrow-necked decanters. Guests can pour nut and trail mixes themselves, and it looks great, too!

Stagger serving times

If all food is served at the start of the night, guests are likely to gorge and go home early. Keep your party hopping by serving your tasty hors d’oeuvres all night long.

Impress with a signature cocktail

Channel your inner mixologist and offer guests a unique signature cocktail for your holiday party. Be sure to have other non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages to offer alongside this cocktail.

Prep in advance

The “day of’’ for the party planner is always hectic! Between set up, last minute errands, and wrangling the kids – stress is high. Try prepping what you can a few days before. Things like fruit trays, cheese and cracker platters and Swedish meatballs can all be put together a day or two in advance.

Presentation is everything

When preparing food trays and hors d’oeuvres platters, have fun! Use the Canadian winter landscape as inspiration by placing pinecones and frosted pine needles in your tray display.

Fast and fancy

Limited time? Solicit the help of the frozen food aisle! Metro’s private label line, Irresistibles, offers delicious appetizers (quite a few vegetarian options too!) which are perfect for party planners, with selection and creativity covered.

Tidy as you go

No one likes waking up to a mess, by tidying bit by bit during your party, the house will be kept clean for your guests, too!

Set the ambiance

A beautiful candle display can never go wrong at a holiday party.

Provide plenty of options

Be sure to provide an assortment of appetizer options at your holiday bash to keep all types of appetites full and happy!

Enjoy yourself

This is your party, too! You’ve worked hard and it’s important to enjoy the environment, interact with your guests and taste your delicious treats!

Do you have any special party tips to share?

Disclaimer: I received a holiday basket of Irresistibles products from Metro. All opinions expressed are my own.

Honey-Glazed Grilled Fruit + WIN a Harvest From Home basket from Metro!

16 Jul

Summer time is (finally!) here and farmers are busy harvesting their crops! If you’re looking for fresh fruits and vegetables to quench your healthy appetite, look no further, as from June through October, Metro has Ontarians covered with their annual Harvest from Home program.  During Harvest from Home, Metro purchases food from more than 100 farms across Ontario, providing its customers with a wide variety of the freshest most delicious produce.  They are proudly supporting local farmers and the economy, which is something we should all do. Local tastes better!

The lovely folks at Metro recently provided me with a great summer grilling recipe and a basket including the local ingredients from Ontario needed to make their special June/July recipe. How could I say no to a basket filled with delicious goodies?!?!

Honey-Glazed Grilled Fruit

The original recipe can be found on the Metro website here: http://www.metro.ca/recette/6239/honey-glazed-grilled-fruit.en.html. I’ve modified it slightly to suit the tastes of my family.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (125 mL) Irresistibles Orange Juice

1/2 cup (125 mL) Selection Unsalted Butter

1/2 cup (125 mL) Selection Liquid Honey

1 Selection Cinnamon Stick

1 quart fresh Ontario grown strawberries, hulled and washed

4 fresh Ontario grown pears, washed, cored and cut into large chunks

2 ripe but firm bananas, peeled and cut into large chunks

2 ripe but firm Ontario grown peaches, washed, pitted and cut into large chunks

Kabob skewers, wooden or metal

Directions:

Heat Irresistibles Orange Juice, Selection Unsalted Butter, Selection Liquid Honey and 1 Selection Cinnamon Stick in a small saucepan over medium heat until bubbly and melted. Simmer for 10 minutes until slightly syrupy.

Thread fresh fruit pieces onto kabob skewers. Grill over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, turning often and drizzling with the orange juice mixture, until tender and browned.

My tips: Drizzle the orange juice mixture over the fruit every time you turn the skewers on the grill. You should turn them every few minutes to promote even cooking. The drizzle helps the fruit to caramelize a little and sends flames up to char the fruit, giving the kabobs a great smoky flavour. We had them at the end of a big barbecue, so I simply served the fruit kabobs on their own to keep things light. I think they would be great served alongside vanilla ice cream too…yum!

My favourite parts of the kabob were the grilled peaches and bananas and I think I might just focus on my favourite fruits next time. Overall, my family loved the kabobs and I’m happy to say that the serving plate was empty a few minutes later! I can’t wait to try the kabobs with other fruit combinations and perhaps add a little grated ginger to the sauce for an added kick next time.

CONTEST: Do you want to try this tasty recipe at home? Metro wants me to give away a Harvest From Home basket, including a Metro gift card, to one of my readers! Please note that you must be a resident of Ontario to win, given that Metro’s stores can only be found here in Ontario. If you win, Metro will deliver the basket directly to your home, so that you and your family can enjoy the Ontario grown Harvest From Home goodies immediately.

TO ENTER: 

Leave a comment on this blog post and tell me what your favourite Ontario grown fruits and/or vegetables are and what you use them for. P.S. Don’t forget to include your Twitter, Facebook or blog site address so I know how to reach you!

Again, you must be a resident of Ontario to enter!

Hurry! Contest closes on Sunday July 22 at 5 pm EST. The winner will be announced on Monday July 23. Good luck!

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WINNER!!! 

Congrats to Pauline Grant (@PaulineGrantTO ) for winning the Metro gift basket! Your basket will be delivered straight to your home by the great folks at Metro : )

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Monsieur Félix & Mr. Norton in Markham + a CONTEST!

10 Mar

My husband and I were on our way to brunch in Markham and we were in charge of bringing dessert. I knew this crowd would be into bite-sized treats and I immediately thought of the delicious, gooey goodness of fresh cookies from Monsieur Félix & Mr. Norton in Markham.

Monsieur Félix & Mr. Norton

This company has been a part of my life for years and I’ve been buying their scrumptious cookies since I was in my teens. A few years ago, I was looking for something fun and cute to give my fiancé (now husband) at our engagement party. I immediately thought of Monsieur Félix & Mr. Norton`s popular Cookie Bouquet® and I knew it would be perfect. They made up a 24 stem Cookie Bouquet® of his favourite cookies and they were a hit!

Monsieur Félix & Mr. Norton

We walked into the shop at about 11 am on a Saturday and the amazing aroma of fresh cookies was in the air. I don’t know about you, but the smell of baked goods makes me weak in the knees and I let out a sigh of happiness every time!  We noticed that quite a few things had changed since our last visit. In addition to fresh cookies and fudge, they were now selling…wait for it…CUPCAKES!

Monsieur Félix & Mr. Norton

When we visited, they had Belgian Chocolate, Vanilla Bean, Baileys Mocha, Caramel Crunch, Lemon Coconut, Peanut Butter Chocolate, Red Velvet and Double Chocolate. It was so hard to choose which flavours we wanted to try. I was excited to hear that they change their flavours seasonally, so I’m looking forward to trying their spring and summer cupcakes too.

Monsieur Félix & Mr. Norton

I was so distracted by the cupcakes that I almost forgot about the cookies, their signature product. My favourite flavour is Ménage à Trois®, which contains a yummy blend of milk, white and dark chocolate chunks. My hubby’s favourite is Lemon Delight which is a delicious lemon cookie with white chocolate chunks and candied lemon.

Monsieur Félix & Mr. Norton

Since my last visit, they’ve expanded their cookie gift packaging selection and they are now selling wedding favours – beautiful little boxes filled with cookies (to my friends who are getting married soon, THIS is THE takeaway gift that guests want!).

Monsieur Félix & Mr. Norton

Thank you Dan, Michele and Amanda for sharing your passion for all things sweet – we came in for cookies but we left with cupcakes too! P.S. Monsieur Félix & Mr. Norton is proudly Canadian and the staff wear beautiful Canadian flags on their chef coats too. They only use fresh, high quality ingredients in all of their products and it shows.

Monsieur Félix & Mr. Norton

I’ve almost filled up my Monsieur Félix & Mr. Norton V.I.P card (you get a stamp for every $10 you spend in the store and after 12 stamps, you get 1lb of cookies for free!) and I’m already thinking of what I’m going to get next time I visit…mmmmmm : )

Monsieur Félix & Mr. Norton

Info:

Monsieur Félix & Mr. Norton
Markham Town Square
8601 Warden Ave, Unit #16
Markham,ON L3R 0B5

North-East Corner of Warden Ave & Hwy 7

Phone: (905) 479-2172
Website: http://www.cookiesandfudge.com
Facebook: Monsieur Félix & Mr. Norton Markham
Twitter: @felixnorton_gta

 Here comes the fun part… 

CONTEST – Win a Magnummm of Cookies® (I have 2 to give away!)

The lovely folks at Monsieur Félix & Mr. Norton are giving away a Magnummm of Cookies®  to two readers of Milk & Eggs.

What`s a Magnummm of Cookies® you ask? It`s a beautiful champagne bottle filled with 25 freshly-baked cookies, presented in a handsome black gift box – valued at $34.99

Monsieur Félix & Mr. Norton

To enter:

STEP 1 – Visit the Monsieur Félix & Mr. Norton website at http://www.cookiesandfudge.com/ to learn about their yummy products

STEP 2 – If you`re on Twitter, follow @savvari and @FelixNorton_GTA and tweet the name of any of their cookie or cupcake flavours that you would like to try. Example:

@savvari I want to try the ___________ from @FelixNorton_GTA #FelixNorton

OR

If you`re on Facebook, “Like” Monsieur Félix & Mr. Norton Markham

Then, leave a comment on this blog post with the name of any Monsieur Félix & Mr. Norton cookie or cupcake flavours you would like to try.

Are you on Twitter and Facebook? Follow all steps above to receive more entries into the contest!

Contest closes on Friday March 23 at 12 pm EST, so get your entries in soon!

IMPORTANT!

-You may enter once per day.

-If you are one of the two winners, you MUST pick up your prize from Monsieur Félix & Mr. Norton in Markham, Ontario. Therefore, you must live in the GTA (Greater Toronto area) or be willing to drive to Markham.

Good luck!!

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WINNERS! 

Congrats to @_Lenito from Twitter and Fiona Thom from Facebook for winning the #FelixNorton contest! You’ve each won a Magnummm of Cookies® from Monsieur Félix & Mr. Norton!

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Mary Luz’s Pastel Tres Leches

25 Feb

Those of you who know me personally know that I’m a huge fan and active user of Twitter. The information I’ve received and the experiences I have gained in the past 4 years have all been due to this magical 140-character messaging system. Through Twitter, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a number of great people, many of whom are professionals in food and one such woman is the lovely Mary Luz Mejia@maryluzonfood on Twitter (Note:  follow her on Twitter and you will learn a lot about food!).  I was on the hunt for a great Pastel Tres Leches recipe and she was more than happy to share hers.

Pastel Tres Leches (from Spanish, “three milk cake”) is a sponge cake soaked in three kinds of milk: evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream. Yes, I know that that sounds extremely decadent but if you consider the fact that you will only eat a small piece of it (or at least attempt to!), it doesn’t sound so bad right?  : ) I first tried this incredible cake at a restaurant a few years ago and I was hooked. I will refrain from sharing the name of the restaurant because sadly, they stopped making this cake the way they originally did (serious mistake on their part!).

This cake has a wet texture which is similar to a few East Indian desserts such as Ras Malai and Rasgulla. Based on this, I thought my family would enjoy it and I was right…they ate the whole cake!

Mary Luz recommends serving it with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream and mango slices. I served it with whipped cream and Bon Maman’s Caramel Spread (Dulce de Leche), to add more decadence : )

Mary Luz Mejia’s Pastel Tres Leches

(The original link for Mary Luz’s recipe is located here on the Edible Toronto site at http://bit.ly/w7Gc5D )

Makes 10 servings

Cake

5 large eggs, separated

1 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup whole (3.25%) milk

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

For the milk syrup

1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk

1 cup sweetened condensed milk

1 cup whipping (35%) cream

1 tbsp dark Cuban rum (Note:  I didn’t have any at home so I used Captain Morgan Dark Rum)

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

My garnish

Fresh lightly sweetened whipped cream

Bon Maman’s Caramel Spread (Dulce de Leche)

To make the cake:  Generously butter a 13- x 9-inch baking dish; set aside. In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks and ¾ cup of the sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the milk and vanilla. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Add the liquid ingredients to the flour mixture. Using a rubber spatula, mix until just combined.

In the bowl of an electric mixer (or in a large bowl using a handheld mixer), beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks, then add the cream of tartar. With the machine running, gradually add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar and continue beating until the egg whites are glossy and firm but not dry. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter. Spread the batter evenly into the baking dish.

Bake in a preheated 350º F oven until the cake feels firm when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 30-40 minutes. Let the cake cool completely in the baking dish. Pierce the cake all over with a fork, taking care to not tear it.

To make the milk syrup:  In a large bowl, whisk together the evaporated milk, condensed milk, cream, rum and vanilla. Pour half of the syrup evenly over the cake, waiting until the syrup is absorbed before spooning more on top. Continue to add syrup to the cake until all of the syrup has been absorbed. Cover the cake with plastic wrap and allow to chill in the refrigerator at least 4 hours or overnight.

Garnish: When ready to serve, cut a slice of cake and plate it. I spread some fresh whipped cream onto the piece and drizzled it (ok, so I loaded it!) with Bon Maman’s Caramel Spread (Dulce de Leche). It was delicious!

Muchas gracias Mary Luz for sharing this recipe, I don’t think I will ever order it in a restaurant again!

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