Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Alice Fazooli's Finalist Dinner
 

November 24, 2012 Inspired Chef 2nd Finalist LCBO Contest
 
 Inspired Chef 2nd Finalist
LCBO Contest 2012
 

Wow what a great night my family and I had from being the 2nd Finalist with the Inspired Chef LCBO contest at the relaxing ambiance of Alice Fazooli's in Vaughan.

I was personally greeted by a congratulatory manager and enthusiastic staff members at the Vaughan location which, is where we live.

Chef Steve Silvestro came to introduce himself and he was full of warm praise.  After we were settled, he went through his meal plan with me, which truthfully I was not expecting and I was quite impressed that he took the time to consider what to serve us.  

When he told me he was preparing my winning dish Prosciutto & Eggplant Rolatini I was quite astonished and so was my family. My youngest son immediately informed me that no way was he eating eggplant! But managed to clean his plate!!

We started the meal with an array of cheeses, prosciutto, artisan breads, a rosemary white bean dip and white balsamic dressed mushrooms, served on footed wood blocks. Which mirrored the warm atmosphere. What a great start as everyone could choose what they like.
My Parents on the left of me
My husband on the top right and my youngest Christian bottom right
 
 
The expert "Bar Man" Christian Anderson served us a Proseco to toast an exciting evening. This is a dry sparkling Italian wine similar in nature to Champagne and perfect for the occasion as this is my Birthday weekend!

Our wait person Fernando had no problem what so ever learning our names and remembering each and everyone of us and we were 7!
Impressive indeed. 
Alyse & Wait Staff Fernando
 
 
Finalist Recipe
 
 
We enjoyed a medium bodied wine that Christian suggested with my winning recipe and they were a perfect match for the  start of our meal.  Chef Steve made my "side dish" magnificently  and everyone including my sons, who are the first to complain about having to eat vegetables, which is why I added prosciutto to this dish, polished off their portion!

We took pictures between our courses and continued to have a glorious time on my Birthday Weekend. How wonderful to be pampered!

Chef Steve served our party with 2 pizzas for a 3rd appetiser, one with bacon, no surprise there with my sons! and a Margherita pizza for my daughter as she doesn't eat many meats. See the smile on Alyse's face?

 

Chef Steve then bid us a good evening and I was further astonished to find out that he came to that location just to cook for me!!! Queen for the Day 

We then ordered our main meal from the menu.  Choice cuts of steak with a choice of sauces, which we all picked a wine & porcini sauce. This sauce was to die for! I can never quite cook this mushroom as it always remains a bit chewy from being imported dry.  The steaks were accompanied by perfectly cooked broccoli rabe which I can never find in stores and fingerling potatoes, that the boys had never heard of and loved their preparation.

The cook staff prepared this perfectly and everyone's steak was cooked to perfection!  Alyse who always orders just a salad was very pleased with her salad topped with chicken.

We were becoming increasingly immobile from the delicious dishes. Yet, we all ordered dessert. How could we not?
It is my Birthday Weekend after all!

My children all ordered a spectacular Mascapone Cheesecake with strawberry sauce..This could have literally fed two people..there was nothing left on their plates!
This is far bigger than the picture portrays. In fact I couldn't believe it's size.  Two people could have eaten this!
 
My husband and mother ordered their apricot torte which looked and tasted like frangipane, which is a mixture of eggs and almonds poured ontop of a dried or fresh fruit with a crumbly base.

I had their Ciambelle which are tiny perfect circularly shaped donut like bites with an espresso cup full of ganache! Heaven!!!!! I could not finish the ganache!       NO PICTURES!
Too much wine! :D
 

My father who has simple tastes opted for refreshing ice cream.  Most of us followed our dessert with cappuccino's or espressos with my extra ganache poured over these coffee's...ahh decadence, which we will definitely be paying for with many extra visits to the gym. BUT well worth it!.

I felt like a Queen and the service and staff were friendly, personable and professional. Many of the wait staff personally congratulated me. It was so nice for me and my children to be pampered with excellent service and fine food as they are the ones always complaining when I am constantly photographing their foods! So they got to reap the rewards of my labour!

I hope they will not complain for a while!
Christian stuffed to the gills & Robert my oldest
 
Christian went to a Birthday party and still had a pulled pork bun 1/2hr later!
 
It was nice for my parents to be entertained and they were quite honoured to be there watching and enjoying the fruits of  their daughters success as we have had a rough few months with my health problems.

I am honoured and so thrilled to have been picked as the 2nd Finalist for this fabulous contest, in truth I feel as I have won already! Thank you to the companies involved, their subsidiaries and to the LCBO for running this grand contest.

CHEERS!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Mediterranean Mussels
Mediterranean Mussels

 An elegant appetiser or meal for any day of the week!
Easy and on the dinner table in less than 30min!
High in protein and very low in fat!

3 lb fresh mussels
1/3 cup oatmeal
1tbsp EVOO
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 red onion, sliced
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 tsp red chili flakes
1/2 tomato, minced
1 lemon, juiced
salt & pepper to taste
 

Remove mussels from the container they come in and place in a large bowl, sprinkle oatmeal over them and fill the bowl with cold water.  Let sit for 10min  while you prepare everything else. *This oatmeal  causes the mussels to spit out any sand they have inside them.

With the water running lightly scrub the mussels vigorously to remove any dirt clinging to the shell and cut or pull off the beards, if any.

Place in a clean bowl, large enough to hold them.

In a large sauce pot or wok heat oil on med. high and add garlic, onion and chili flakes.

Stir and sauté to cook for 1 min. Add the mussels and stir allowing the bottom to distribute up to the top.   Sprinkle 3/4 of the parsley over the mussels and continue cooking another minute or two.

Add the lemon juice and continue cooking another 2-3 min. until all of the mussels open, taste for seasoning.

Discard any unopened mussels and sprinkle remaining parsley and tomatoes for garnish.

Serve with toasted garlic bread to soak up the broth.

Enjoy with love!

 

Tuesday, 20 November 2012


 
Beef Bundle

Sometimes making sandwiches at the end of your tired working day can be daunting but with a few leftovers and some savvy ideas you can create meals that are delish and easy!
This dish allows you to re-purpose extras and making them fabulous with homemade BBQ Sauce that can be stored in the refrigerator and Korean coleslaw Kimchi that gets better with age!
This is thinly sliced Prime Rib Roast with my fixings:

Tequila Lime Chipotle BBQ Sauce

1/4 cup tequila
1 Ltr. ketchup
1/2 cup water
3 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce,chopped
1 lime zested and juiced
1 tbsp each garlic powder, lemon pepper mix, natural liquid hickory smoke
1/4 cup dark cocoa powder

Place all ingredients into a medium saucepot and cook on med high heat until mixture come to a boil, stir frequently. Reduce to a simmer and continue to cook for another 15min.  If the mixture becomes too thick add a little more water for desired consistency.  Puree using a hand blender or blender. 
Place into sterilized glass sealed jars cool to room temperature. To seal jars place into a large enough pot to hold them and fill to the tops with water.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a strong simmer. 
Cooking to seal tops 5-10 min. You will know that a jar is properly sealed when pressing on the tops does not spring back. Store in a cool place, like a cold cellar until ready to use. 

Refrigerate when opened.

Kimchee
1/3 green cabbage, outer leaves removed
1 carrot, cleaned and peeled
1 small onion, peeled
1 cup butternut squash (opt)
4 tbsp fish sauce (found in Asian isle)
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar (Asian isle)
1 tbsp tamari or (soy sauce + 1tsp sugar)

Using the shredding blade of a food processor, or using the box grater,  shred cabbage, carrot, onion and squash. Leave in processor until ready to use.

In a large food safe container with a lid, mix fish sauce, vinegar and tamari together.  Toss in shredded vegetables, seal container with the lid and shake to incorporate all the dressings. 

Refrigerate and every day shake the contents to distribute dressing. 

This can be used the next day but gets better with age! The vinegar and salts ferment the coleslaw allowing for longer storing and flavouring.

Can be stored in refrigerator for 1 week if it lasts that long!

 
 


Sunday, 18 November 2012

Orange Mocha Biscotti
Don't these look SINFUL?
Chocolate and coffee mixed together in a crunchy cookie.
Chocolate covered orange bits inside! 
Drizzled with Orange flavoured White Chocolate make a fabulous flavour match
With the addition of Canola oil instead of butter these are guilt free!
They are low in sugar and fat!


3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 tbsp instant coffee granules or instant espresso
3 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
3 lg eggs
1/2 cup chocolate milk or strong coffee
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup  dark chocolate covered orange peel or dark chocolate chips
Drizzle: 3 oz orange flavoured white chocolate
              1 tsp butter or shortening
In a large bowl whisk together eggs, oil, vanilla, sugar, cocoa, salt, instant coffee and milk until completely incorporated.  Sprinkle flour and baking powder over wet mixture and stir with a spatula until almost combined.  Tip in chocolate bits and continue stirring until no white shows.
On a floured counter knead dough to adhere ingredients together thoroughly. Cut in half and roll each piece into a log approx. 2 1/2"wide - 12" long. Try to get the log as smooth as possible.
Carefully lift and place on silpat/parchment lined baking sheet.  Using your hands reshape the roll and press on top gently to flatten dough. Brush off any excess flour.
Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 30-35min until firm and dry to the touch.  Remove and cool for 5 min.  Turn oven off.
Place each log on a cutting board and using a serrated knife cut diagonal 3/4" slices.
Yields approx. 24 cookies per log.
Place back on the same baking sheet right side up and put in oven. The remaining heat will crisp and dry the biscotti.  Leave in for approx. 20min
Remove and place on rack, allow to completely cool. 
Place white chocolate and shortening in a ramekin and heat on high in microwave for 1 min. Remove and stir to melt.  If it needs more time use only 30 second increments.
Drizzle over cooled cookies and allow to dry at room temperature.
Can be stored in covered containers separated by wax paper and frozen for up to 3months.



Thursday, 15 November 2012

Cooking Greens
Athlete's Mix
Cooking Greens
Athlete's Mix
 
 
I love veggies and I hear complaints from many moms it is difficult to get the family to eat their greens!
This blend of veggies covers many tastes.
I first saw Cooking Greens at the Woman's show in Toronto last year and I loved their variety of mixtures.  I especially liked that they took the guessing of how to clean and cook collard greens, kale and rapini. If you are not familiar with these vegetables you would most likely not try them.
 
Many don't know what to do with the stems of these particular veggies! Kale a ruffled green vegetable and collards greens, a smoother large leaf, need to be pulled off of the stem, then cut, blanched and cooked to soften the vegetable. I use the stems when making broth.
 Rapini's stems need to have the outer thin layer of stem pulled off then cut, boiled and sauteed. It is more bitter than the other 2 but, my favourite being Italian. I have been eating it all my life.
 
Cooking Greens has taken the guessing out so you can try a new vegetable without the fuss!
 
Cooking Greens gave me the opportunity to try their product and cook it at home, so I chose the athlete's mix a blend of kale, collards, spinach, red pepper and white bean
 
What a great blend and already cut, blanched and frozen!
I sauteed  an onion and added some cooked rice for a great side dish and any leftovers will be for lunch!
 
1 red onion, chopped coarse
1 500g Cooking Greens Athlete's Mix
2 tbsp EVOO
2 cups cooked rice (I used brown and red)
1/2 cup green asparagus
salt & pepper to taste
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
 
In a large preheated skillet add oil and onion and asparagus. Saute and stir until onion softens.  Add the package of frozen mix, season to taste and stir to mix.  Cook for 5min. then add rice, mixing.  Drizzle balsamic vinegar over mixture and stir to mix.  Check for seasonings and enjoy!


My oldest son (22) who I have to convince to eat his veggies, even commented how he actually enjoyed the mixture and "how did you come up with this mixture mom?" was his comment!

Monday, 12 November 2012

Lemon Cloud Delights
 
 
Lemon Cloud Delights
 
Tender crumb with a Tangy Lemony Bite!
This cookie has been brought to every special occasion that I have been too. It is an Italian specialty that looks so simple on the outside until you cut it into slices and a delicate lemony yellow colour is revealed. Although it looks like only an experienced pastry chef can achieve this hidden filling it is simple to make, yet it adds sophistication to any Tea Party!

Canola Oil adds to the delect fluffyness of this cookie and this cookie is dedicated to:
Food Bloggers of Canada (www.foodbloggersofcanada.com).
 
2 1/4 c flour + extra for rolling
 
3 eggs
6 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
 
1 lemon zest and juice, juice separated + extra for glaze if using juice for extra tanginess
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp lemon extract (vanilla or orange can be substituted)
1 jar lemon curd/spread in jar is best quality
Glaze: 1/2 cup icing sugar, 2 tbsp lemon juice, milk or orange juice
FILLING: stir the remaining juice into curd to loosen mixture, set aside.
 
Dough:
In a large mixing bowl whisk eggs, 1/2 of lemon juice, zest, sugar and oil together.  Sift in flour, baking powder and vanilla sugar.  Stir ingredients together using a wooden spoon.  Mixture will be sticky.
Drop dough onto a floured surface and knead gently until you are able to handle dough and it comes together.  Cut into 2 pieces. 
Roll out each piece into a log approx. 2" x 12" gently adding flour if needed, but do not over flour.
Place one roll onto a greased or silpat lined baking sheet.  Using a rolling pin widen dough to 6" in width.
Generously spoon filling on lower 1/3 of dough, leaving 1" edge facing you.  Carefully fold over the other end and gently pinch and press edges together shaping the log into a rectangle (see picture below).
Repeat on other side of baking sheet with the other log, being careful to leave space for your rolling pin. Logs should be approx. 4" apart. They rise and spread quite alot.
 
Brush off any excess flour with a pastry brush.
Bake in  a preheated 350F oven for 15-20 until slightly golden.  Do not over bake or filling will escape.
Allow to cool completely.
Glaze:  Mix sugar and liquid, stirring to combine.  If it is lumpy allow glaze to sit and the lumps will dissolve.
Spoon or brush glaze over each log, add sprinkles, coarse sugar or any garnish desired and allow to dry completely at room temp on baking racks to allow for dripping.  Then using a large serated knife gently saw crosswise into 3/4" - 1" slices
*These can be wrapped individually, unglazed and placed in plastic wrap then foil and placed in a freezer bag and stored up to 3 months. *
Enjoy with love!


Saturday, 10 November 2012

Gorilla Fudge Cookies
Gorilla Cookies

Who doesn't love chocolate?
I think it's the most beloved flavour world wide! Chocolate brings a smile to everyone's face big or small. These huge "Gorilla" cookies will definately bring alot of oohs and aahs from everyone. These cookies were developed from me trying to clean out my pantry and so I incorporated lots of bits and bites along with the kids favourite chocolate hazelnut spread. Decadent and Sinful these cookies are not for the faint of heart.
The canola oil allows this cookie to spread beautifully.
Using an ice cream scoop gives me perfect cookies each time!
 This recipe is developed for the Food Bloggers of Canada (www.foodbloggersofcanada.com) 

 
1/2 cup canola oil

1 cup each white and brown sugar (not packed)

2 lg. eggs

1 13 oz. jar of chocolate-hazelnut spread

1oz 90% cocoa chocolate, melted and cooled slightly

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups flour

1/2cup wheat flour

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp each baking powder and baking soda

pinch of salt

1/2 cup each chocolate chips, miniature marshmallows, chopped nuts and raisins (any other bits you may want to add)
In a large bowl whisk oil, sugars, vanilla and eggs together.  Using a spatula, scoop out hazelnut spread and stir into egg mixture along with the melted chocolate until completely blended. 

Using a wooden spoon stir in all dry ingredients.  Blend until almost no white shows then toss in nuts, chips, raisins and marshmallows and continue mixing until all incorporated.  Mixture should be firm.

Scoop out large dollops using a 4tbsp size ice cream scoop for even cookies, sliding the scoop firmly against the inside of the mixing bowl to get an even amount. Place on a silpat/parchment paper or sprayed cookie sheet 2"-3" apart for even spreading, 12- 15 cookies per sheet. Press down on the cookie slightly.  The oil allows the cookie to spread nicely into colossal sizes.

Bake in a preheated 350F for 12-16min.  The shorter time allows for a fudgy soft cookie and the longer baking time is a crisper cookie when cooled

Makes approx. 24 large cookies

*For smaller cookies use a 1 tbsp size ice cream scoop and bake 8 min.  Cookies will be soft when removed from oven and will harden as they cool.  Makes approx. 5-6 dozen bite size cookies*

Enjoy with love!


Friday, 9 November 2012

Jalapeno Garlic Hummus
 
Jalapeno Garlic Hummus

2 cup  dried chick peas (canned can be substituted but fresh is very different)
2 cloves garlic, peeled chopped
1tsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp canned Jalapenos,
1/3 cup olive oil
2-3 tbsp water
2 tbsp each chopped parsley and mint
3 tbsp sesame paste (Tahini)
Cover and soak the chick peas in a large non reactive bowl in water overnight.
Drain water and rinse off any skins that have floated to the top
Place into a med size pot and fill 3/4 full with water.  Bring to a boil and then immediately reduce heat and add 1 tsp salt.  Cook until softened and al dente (to the bite)
Drain and place chick peas along with the rest of the ingredients (except oil) into a food processor and begin to puree.  Drizzle oil through the narrow funnel of the top of the processor.  If it is too thick for your taste add more water until it is a thick spreadable paste.
Can be eaten immediately and store any left overs in the refrigerator up to 3-4 days.
 
Serving Suggestions:  cut a pita bread in 1/2. Place one side on top of another and cut into triangles.   Lightly drizzle with olive oil, salt and smoked paprika. Bake in a 350 F oven for 10min to crisp up.
Kids: cut up celery, cucumber, colourful peppers, broccoli or cauliflower and see them dig in!
          This is a great party dish or after school snack when kids come home famished!
 
* I like to use Hummus instead of mayonnaise as it is a protein source with good fats*
 Enjoy with love!
 


Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Velvety Leek Fennel & Potato
Soup
 
Velvety Leek Potato & Fennel
Soup
 
1 leek, sliced vertically rinsed and chopped up to the light green stalk (use the dark green for stocks)
1 onion, peeled, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled chopped
5 medium yellow potatoes, peeled & chopped
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped fennel (stems can be used) (celery can be substituted)
6 cup vegetable or chicken stock (preferably homemade)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, vegetable or grape seed oil
parsley  or fennel frond for garnish
 
In a preheated medium size pot add oil, onion, garlic, leek and fennel saute for 5-8 min to soften vegetables. Sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Add diced potatoes and continue stirring and cooking on medium heat for another 5min.
Add broth and bring pot up to boil.  Immediately turn down the heat to a simmer and cook until vegetables are fork tender.  Approx. 20-30min. Taste for seasoning.
Using a slotted spoon transfer the larger chunks of vegetables to a blender add some stock just to blend and puree. 
I like leaving a few chunks to add texture so everyone can see the ingredients.
 
Enjoy with love!
 
 
 


Thursday, 1 November 2012

TexMex Salmon
with
 Oyster Mushrooms
TexMex Salmon w Oyster Mushrooms
 
Most of my dishes are either really quick and nutritious or low and slow.
I try to get fish into the diet once a week and this is one of those quick and satisfying dishes
READY IN 15 MINUTES!
 

4 salmon steaks or any firm fish
2 cup oyster mushrooms, woody center removed pulled apart  (cremini, portobello or button can be substituted)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 tsp chili powder
1 pinch chili flakes
1/4 cup white wine + extra
salt & pepper to taste
2 tbsp chopped parsley or cilantro
extra virgin olive oil

In a preheated large skillet add oil place steaks in skillet and allow to brown. Sprinkle with both chillies, salt and pepper.  Using a spatula carefully flip fish over, being careful not to break steaks.  Sprinkle with seasonings on the other side.  Sprinkle with herb and drizzle with wine.  Cover with a piece a loose piece of foil and continue to cook for 5-8 min approx until cooked through.

Meanwhile when you turn the steak over the first time, begin to saute in a smaller skillet on med high heat 1 tbsp oil, garlic and mushrooms.  Season to taste.  Add 2-3 tbsp of wine, continue stirring and mixing.  When the juices begin to evaporate the mushrooms will be ready to top the salmon.
Suggested Serving:  my side of vegetables are corn, carrot, peas and green beans
 
Enjoy with love!