Contests

3rd Anniversary! Where has the time gone!

What a busy year (or 2) it’s been for me! I’ll spare you all the details (2 big falls, a few broken bones, 2 big surgeries… and healing!) But, last summer we spent some time in Prince Edward Island again. I met my favourite Chef! I did! Chef Michael Smith!! What a highlight for me! My poor husband was there to make sure I didn’t go all ‘teenage girl’ on him with giddy squeals of delight.

Anyway…. for our 3rd anniversary giveaway, what better thing could I give than a copy of Chef’s latest cookbook “Family Meals”  As soon as we got home from PEI I cracked open this book and started with… yes… brownies!  The most decadent brownies I’ve had!  So yummy!

Family Meals, Chef Michael Smith
Family Meals

Well, now YOU can make those brownies too! Not to mention the host of other amazing yummies in here!  I’ve made several of the recipes and we have been able to sit down, quickly, to a wonderful tasting dinner that certainly doesn’t look like it only took a little bit of time to prepare!  The recipes are so yummy, and full of flavour – and EASY PEASY!!   Well, I have a second copy of this book, autographed by Chef Michael, and ready to give away!

Just leave me comment below and tell me what you like/don’t like about cooking for your family!  Enter through the Rafflecopter link right here:  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!  Happy 3rd Anniversary to us!!

*contest open to residents of Canada & USA only. Sorry!!

on the road

Travelling the red dirt roads of PEI

Two weeks ago my husband Scott and I traveled back to PEI (for you non-Canadians…. it’s Prince Edward Island) Canada’s smallest province, for a fantastic vacation.   The smell of sea air. The red dirt roads.  The gorgeous beaches.  The amazing FOOD! It was all so good!  PEI is my most favourite place in Canada to vacation.  So much so, I tried convincing Scott that we need to move there!

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There were two very distinct highlights for me on this trip.  The first was our trip to Annie’s Table Culinary Studio.

Under the direction of Chef Norman, we learned how to grill fish properly.  Our first fish was a beautiful salmon.  We candied it, and grilled it to perfection.  The fish was tender and flaky and oh so good.

The second fish was Atlantic Halibut.  This time we cooked it over a cedar plank.  The flavour of that halibut was second to none! DSC_0035

 
Annie’s Table is a culinary gem in rural PEI, new London to be specific. The premise is that you sign up for a short class, learn some cool new things to cook, taste, love, and then take the recipes home to try in your own kitchen. The experience is unique and well worth the time.

The second highlight for me was meeting my favourite Canadian Chef, Michael Smith. Nt sure what to expect, I wasn’t disappointed. Chef Michael is about as down to earth as they come. He graciously spent some time with me and Scott, showed us his home kitchen (it’s spectacular) and even got a map of the island and sent us on a planned route to see some amazing things, such as where his Food Network Canada series, Chef at Home, was taped.

Not only that, but he sent us to see some great places to eat. Feeling like we were in an episode of “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” or the Canadian counterpart “You’ve Gotta Eat Here” we headed out to Rick’s – best fish ‘n chips on the Island, and then to the Shipwreck Cafe, best fried clams on the island!

My love for all things PEI was firmly carved on my heart. So much so that I tried to convince Scott we need to move. So far no luck, but I’m working on it.

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Contests

Still time to enter!

There’s still time to enter the Nosh With Nash 2nd Anniversary Giveaway!  Win a copy of Chef Michael Smith’s “FAST FLAVOURS” right here!!   Just follow the link below!

Don’t forget, when it says “leave a comment on the blog” it means here, not on facebook!  You can also earn additional entries every day by tweeting about the giveaway – be sure to follow instructions and post the link to your tweet in the right spot!

Enter here!

Good luck!

WIN ME!
WIN ME!

 

 

Contests, on the road

Nosh with Nash turns 2!!

I can’t believe it’s been 2 years since I began this journey!  So hard to believe.  Well, officially it will be 2 years on February 2nd.  Ground Hog Day!  Hmmm, I wonder if I’m supposed to live that day over and over again?  Snap out of it!!

Well, this weekend I’m in Niagara Falls participating in a FAM tour (FAM = familiarization).  I’ve had more ice wine to drink today than I’ve had in the last 2 years! Ice wine, if you are unfamiliar, is like liquid gold!  The grapes are left on the vines after the harvest and protected with netting. When the temperature dips below -10 for a few days/nights consistently then the grapes are harvested by hand, picked lovingly one grape at a time. They are then pressed, again while still frozen, and what results is one precious drop of nectar! This is then turned into the sweetest wine you’ve ever had.  Also the most expensive!  I love it!

Today we participated in the Journey Behind The Falls. This is a lovely thing to do…. in SUMMER!  It was pretty cold! You can imagine how much ice was present, with our current Polar Vortex. Usually you can see the water flowing in front of you, but not today! There was so much ice! I could hear the water, I just couldn’t see it!  The entrance to the tunnels was completely encased in ice.

Following our trip behind the falls we were treated to a spectacular lunch at Elements, operated by the Niagara Parks Commission.  Fabulous!  No other words!

Stunning ice under the Falls
Stunning ice under the Falls

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But now that I’ve shared where I am, I’d like to share something else that’s almost as exciting as seeing Niagara Falls FROZEN!  Okay are you ready?  Nosh with Nash is turning 2!   True!  So frozen Niagara Falls aside, I’d like to share a fantastic giveaway with you to celebrate! If you know nothing else about me, you know that I am a huge [massively huge] fan of Chef Michael Smith.

Here’s the deal!  Enter to win a copy of Chef Michael Smith’s cookbook “Fast Flavours” right here!  Simply follow the rules on the Rafflecopter link on our Facebook Page.  The contest is open to residents of Canada and the U.S. only.  One winner will be drawn randomly by Rafflecopter on February 2nd!  Get the word out!  Enter today!!!!

WIN ME!
WIN ME!

You can enter on our Facebook page, but all comments must be left here on the blog!! just click on “GIVEAWAY”   https://www.facebook.com/NoshWithNash

Good luck!

And happy noshing!

Christmas

My Favourite Things – again

I thought I’d get a bit of a head start on my… ahem, your… wish list for Christmas 2013.  I know, it’s early December… but hey, you want to be sure that you get “the list” into the right Santa hands! Am I right?

Let’s do a year rewind for a bit first.  This year, I had a nasty accident. I fell down a flight of stairs while on a business trip to Holland. First, I must say the Dutch health care system is exceptional! We here in Canada could learn a thing or two about Emergency Room wait times.  (I’ll get off my soap box now.) I really have no memory of the fall other than I tripped on the first step. So, down a full flight – knocked unconscious – badly broke my right wrist.  It left me with a nasty concussion that for at least six months I was feeling the repercussions of.  Not nice.  The wrist – yikes. That’s another story.  After a long consultation with the medical staff in Holland, and with my boss/former boss also attending the same conference, I decided to return home to have surgery rather than having surgery in Holland.  Good move.  Long story short, I shattered the right distal radius and had to have a plate and screws inserted to patch it back up.  Six months later and I’m still not at full capacity.  The prospect of further surgery looms large in my future.  You had read a bit more on the post “Girl, Interrupted

So, why did I tell you all this?  Well, what I thought were simple, easy tasks in the past became major undertakings for me.  Holding a pen was excruciating for me. Using it was worse!  I’m right-handed so imagine….  *shudder*

I came across a unique product at Canada’s Baking & Sweets Show (CBSS) in 2012. I hemmed and hawed about it for so long, and then forgot about it as the frenzy of excitement over new baking pans kicked in. Yes. I get excited about great quality baking pans!  Thinking this “item” was good but not a real essential to my kitchen, I wasn’t heartbroken over not getting it.  BOY what a mistake!  This year, at CBSS 2013 I bought one!  It has become a much used and loved product in my kitchen!  What is it?  Simple, it’s called a Staybowlizer!  Check out the video here:  Staybowlizer .  Use it a your second (or third) hand in the kitchen! I sure am! This unique and wonderful product let’s you free up a hand while you’re whisking, stirring, double boiler-ing (is that even a word?) and serving, without any spills!  My hand is doing my better now, but this great item (it comes in a set of two; a larger and smaller one) is my new kitchen bff.

staybowlizer

Okay, next.  From last year I had listed Anna Olson’s “Back to Baking” book as one of my “I sure hope someone in my family is reading this and will buy it for me” items. I’m happy to report – Adam (my new favourite son, sorry Jay) did buy it for me and I’ve used it so many times.  This amazing cookbook by one of Canada’s premier pastry chefs has become indispensable in my kitchen.  Everything from making perfect pastry to more advanced desserts, everything that I make comes out perfect!  Thank you Anna Olson!  If you didn’t get it last year, be sure to pick it up this year!

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Again making my “most favourite things” list is a good chef’s knife.  I started at George Brown in January of this year, and learned that (a) you don’t need a complete set of knives when you’re starting out, and (b) invest in top quality!  So, I got myself a 10″ Chef’s Knife (and cover) that is amazing.  I also learned how to properly sharpen the knife and how to hone the knife.  It was the ONE class I thought I would really do bad in. But, I actually did very well!  Surprise!  (Well, I was surprised!).  So other than a good 10″ chef’s knife, get a boning knife and a good paring knife.  That’s probably all you will need.

Zwilling J.A. Henckel 10" Chefs Knife
Zwilling  J.A. Henckel 10″ Chefs Knife

Much to my delight, Chef Michael Smith came out with a new Cookbook this year. It’s on MY list!  His recipes are simple, classic, and very very yummy!  Cooking anything from his other books (yes I have more than 1) results in lots of compliments from our guests.  So I am eagerly anticipating that this new cookbook will be a favourite in my kitchen!

available at any bookstore, or on line (amazon.ca or chaptersindigo.ca)
available at any bookstore, or on line (amazon.ca or chaptersindigo.ca)

I invested in a citrus press this year.  Best investment!  I wasn’t sure if I would like it or not, and I must admit that after my surgery I couldn’t even hold it, let alone use it! But, it’s really an indispensable tool now in my kitchen!  You can squeeze your lemons/limes all you want by hand you won’t get the juice out of them that you need!  And, forget about those old fashioned types, this is by far the best!  I cannot get over how much juice I get out of my citrus fruits now.  Don’t be fooled by the design, it looks like you need to put the lemon half into the press in the direction of the “curve”, but resist that urge!  Put it in upside down, i.e. against the curve. as you squeeze together you will find that you get so much juice without seeds!  Best ever!  Okay, so the one I purchased was from The Pampered Chef through my friend Karen Hoover.

Citrus Press
Citrus Press

Hmm, what else?  Commercial grade cookie sheets are a must in your kitchen!  I don’t know about you, but I get tired of those cookie sheets that “pop” in the oven. Oh, you know what I mean!  You have something on them, and you hear that pop… they’ve warped!! Of course they go back into their shape, but they are brutal!  Use those old cookie sheets you have for something else…. but seriously get yourself some commercial grade sheets.  Two reasons; they are reinforced around the edges so that you don’t have warping, and they are bigger than the standard sheets, but still fit nicely into your oven!  Last year (2012) at Canada’s Baking  & Sweets Show in Toronto I bought two different ones to test them.  I love them both!  The USA Pan has small ridges which allows air to flow under what you are baking, like cookies, giving a nice even cook to the bottoms.

Image on the left is the USA Pan (yes, that’s the brand name) and the one on the right is Chicago Metallic.  Both are wonderful!

USAPan

Chicago Metallic
Chicago Metallic

Well, I could go on and on and on…. but you get the idea.  If that special person in your life is looking for a perfect culinary gift for you, have that person send me an email and I’ll help with THE perfect purchase for you!

For me, I’m off to the kitchen, going to get my traditional French Canadian Tourtiere started. Must get it done and in the freezer so that on Christmas Eve, we will have that delicious treat!  Stay tuned, that’s my next post!!

Until then, Happy noshing!

Main

Pizza Pasta – A perfect marriage of taste!

About a week or so ago, we had a farewell party at our home for my daughter and her husband.  Steve is doing some military training and will be off to Gagetown, NB on Saturday.  😦  Kirstie is pregnant.  She’s having our first grandchild. The thought of having her a thousand or so miles away was tough but I’m ok, I can deal!  We wanted to give them as well as family and friends an opportunity to say goodbye.  We invited lots of people, and as usual, some didn’t rsvp but showed up. No problem… just a “food” issue!  How many do you prepare for?  Yikes.  Well, everyone got fed so that’s a good thing.

The menu revolved around finger foods and small appetizers; meatballs in a sweet & spicy sauce, bacon wrapped jalapeno meatballs (’nuff said… yum!), fruit with Kirstie’s favourite fruit dip, veggies & dip, cheese, individual quiches, etc., and the one dish that was devoured as quickly as it went out…. and as my husband kindly pointed it “it’s not a finger food”… Pizza Pasta!

Imagine combining two of your favourite foods into ONE dish!  Can you say “party in your mouth”?  I found the recipe on Chef Michael Smith’s website so full credit goes to him.  Of course, anything that comes out of Chef Michael’s kitchen is always yummy good and simple to make.  By the way, Congratulations to Chef Michael on being awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal!  You make Canada proud Chef!  [of course, my son Jason also received one!!!… he makes his MOM proud… as well as Canada!]

Okay, back to the party!  ….

Pizza Pasta is the perfect marriage of two wonderful dishes into one!  Speaking biblically “the two shall become one” and in this dish, that is exactly what you get!  What makes it so unique is the roasting of the ‘pizza’ ingredients in the oven before adding the pasta.  This isn’t a dish that you can whip up in ten minutes, so if you make it, plan for some roasting time, about an hour for those tomatoes and onions to reach their delicious roasted best!  Up for the challenge? It’s really quite simple!

The recipe has a copyright on it, so I can’t just reprint it here… sadly…. but I am happy to provide you with the link: what I can do is run through the list without being “specific”… I hope that bypasses copyright?  If not, Chef Michael, forgive me, but it was AWESOME!

Now, before you click away on the link above and leave me (sniff sniff) – let me continue…..

The best part, as I said was the roasting.  Below is a beautiful picture (natch!) of the roasted tomato sauce before I added the pasta.  The aroma that wafted through the house was UNBELIEVABLE!  It took so much willpower not to just get a fork and dig in as it was!

Look at these yummy oven roasted ingredients!
Look at these yummy oven roasted ingredients!

So, here’s what I did:

Start by preheating the oven to 400 F.

I took about a pound of spicy pepperoni and chopped it up.  Michael says 1″ pieces but that’s a bit big, so i did it a bit smaller than that.   Then I cut up two relatively large onions – don’t go nuts here looking for the two biggest onions you can find. Just cut two onions. If you have small ones, use 3.  You get the idea.  You should cut the onions in half, then quarters, then eighths.  Okie dokie? Following me?  Good… let’s continue….  Michael suggests 4 pints of cherry tomatoes.  I used grape tomatoes and used about 3 pints.  Suggestion – go with Chef Michael’s 4 pints of Cherry tomatoes – juicier!  You’ll need that later.  Then he tell us to peel a whole head of garlic and slice it all in half. Check.  Did that one!  LOVE LOVE LOVE my garlic!  When it’s roasted it loses a lot of its pungency so don’t be afraid of it, use it!  Toss all of these ingredients in a large bowl with 3 tbsp of dried oregano and about 1/4 cup of olive oil.  I didn’t measure.  I just tossed and coated.  My bad?

Turn these ingredients from your bowl into a 9×13 ovenproof baking dish.  This is where I used my most fave – my Pampered Chef dish.  It’s big, it’s deep, and it’s pretty enough to put on my table afterwards! What would I do without Karen? My fave PC Consultant who keeps me well stocked!  Okay, once in your own fave dish, pop it into your preheated oven and bake!  After about 30 minutes, stir it up and return it to the oven for another 30 minutes.  About 1 hour or so in total.  Your tomatoes, onions, and garlic will be beautifully roasted and the pepperoni will be darker and aromatic!  Oh I can smell it all over again.. Getting hungry?  Yuuuup!

While this is in the oven roasting away, you can get started on the pasta!  Now, again, Chef Michael says use 1/2 a package of penne. I wanted to feed lots of people so I used a whole package.  What I learned was Chef Michael is the professional and I am not!  Use 1/2!  Unless you want to cook the whole thing and save 1/2 for another time?  Go ahead.  Remember – you need to cook pasta in salted water – pasta has very little flavour, so seasoning the water with salt is a good thing!  When it’s tender, drain it but don’t rinse it!   You want that starchiness!! Reason? Helps the sauce stick to the pasta!  Oh Chef, you are so smart!!

So, recap… roasting is done.  Pasta is done.   Turn your oven to broil now.

Stir the hot pasta into the hot ‘sauce’.  Now… HERE’S where it gets even yummier!  Take about 4 oz of cream cheese. I used light.. after all I AM watching my waist! (no I’m not) Cube the cream cheese and stir it into the pasta/base mixture.  Is the smell driving you wild  yet?  If it’s not… you are not a true pizza/pasta fan!  😉

Top the whole thing with shredded mozzarella – As much as you want!  You-know-who says 3 cups, I think I used about 3 cups too.

Ready to go under the broiler now!
Ready to go under the broiler now!

Pop it back in the oven under the broiler until it’s bubbly and looks a little golden on top.   Keep an eye on it – it won’t take long – about 5 minutes or so.

What you are left with is a creamy, yummy, pasta dish that tastes like PIZZA!  I wish I had a picture of the finished dish, but the second it came out I was too overcome by its beauty and aroma, but the second it came out it went on the table and was eaten pretty quickly!

So really, the “time” is in the oven roasting.  Cutting those little tomatoes in half didn’t take long.  Chopping up the pepperoni didn’t take long.  Peeling the garlic… ugh… thankfully I do have a garlic peeler so it didn’t take long either.  The beauty part of the larger pieces of garlic is that if someone really doesn’t want to eat it, the pieces are large enough that they can be picked out and set aside by your guests.  Serve this with some fresh garlic bread (if you aren’t in garlic overload yet) and maybe a nice green side salad and you’ve got a fabulous dish.

For us, we just gobbled it up on its own!  Like pizza! Only on a plate… and with a fork.

Well, that’s it. I hope you try it, and that you enjoy it.

Oh… final parting words….  Turns out that my daughter is NOT moving to New Brunswick with her husband – crazy military – he’s still going, but should be back about a week before her due date!  Yikes… hope she’s not early!

Coming up next on the blog: a Valentine Day giveaway that involves – you got it, CHOCOLATE!  Make sure you tell your friends to start following so they can get in on the chocolate action!!

Until then,

Happy noshing!

Christmas

5 Days before Christmas… and all through the house!

HO HO HO… just 5 days to go!  Okay, that rhymes, but it was totally unintentional!   With less than a week before Christmas, my baking panic has set in!  I really haven’t done much this year – too busy playing with cookies!  🙂  Thank you Marian – for birthing a new obsession!

This year, my cooking list includes (I hope you are sitting down….) dinner with friends on Saturday night. Menu in progress.  Christmas Eve (menu in progress).  Christmas Day – at first I thought there would be 3 of us so I wasn’t going to cook, turns out my daughter and her hubby will be here so now there are 5 of us… yep, menu in progress.  Boxing Day – my side of the family is coming (approx 17-20 people), menu in progress.  December 27 – I AM NOT COOKING. We have tickets to The Nutcracker so that means Scott will take me out for dinner… (if you’re reading this Scott… that’s the plan!) December 28 – recovery day. December 29 Scott’s side of the family is here (menu in progress).  December 31 we will have a quiet night at home… I need it!  January 1 – Brunch with friends (menu in progress.)  So, with all that cooking to plan for (and really, what was I thinking????) I haven’t had much time for making my ‘list’.  I’m feeling the pressure now.  REALLY feeling the pressure.  Juggling a few too many menus – hope I keep them all straight!  Wonder if I could make the same thing for each meal?  Who would know?  I’m looking forward to January 2!  ha ha.

On another note:
My daughter-in-law sent me a cartoon last night.  It made me smile….  for anyone who is busy baking and cooking away for Christmas, I’m sure you can relate. (Not sure who owns the copyright on this, but I beg your forgiveness for no mention!)

stirring

Today, I’m working at home, but taking a few minutes here and there to get a few ‘stirring’ essentials done!  Last night I threw together another batch of sugar cookie dough and got it rolled out, and back in the fridge.  Yes… ALL THOSE COOKIES I made are pretty much gone!  Okay, we did give some away to friends, but seriously, the rest…. my jeans are getting tight!

With five days to go before Christmas, I thought I’d just blog about a few of my favourite sites and products out there and let you check it out yourself!  I have a few bloggers that I follow faithfully and I have a few brands that i can’t live without.  So the five day countdown to Christmas – here we go… These are a few of my favourite things:

  1. For decorating cookies – most talented decorator Marian Poirier of Sweetopia has to be my number one pick!  Not only is this sweet lady (see what I did there… sweet… sweetopia.. get it?.. ok, lame!) anyway, this sweet lady is not only talented but so down to earth and approachable.  If you have questions, she’s right there to answer for you.  Simply send her a question through her blog and she’ll respond.  She’s a big advocate for teaching you how to do the job right – she doesn’t sell her cookies so don’t even try to ask her about ordering, but she does walk you through the steps to awesome cookie decorating with ease.  Her site has many tutorials so you can actually watch step by step!
  2. For eating clean – hands down Tosca Reno of The Eat Clean Diet wins my vote.  This 50+ year old woman inspires beyond belief. Overweight at 40 Tosca turned her life around and became a New York Times best selling author of The Eat Clean Diet series, a fitness model, and most importantly an advocate for eating clean – eating for health but with a delicious twist!  The recipes are fabulous and you have to admit – she looks amazing at 50+ years old!
  3. Paula from Bell’alimento.  Her food looks so yummy, and her directions are clear and concise.  I stumbled upon this blog about a year ago – and it’s probably where I first read about “Mixed” but I’m not sure now.  Regardless, I love reading Paula’s blog – If you love Italian food – this is your blog!
  4. Chez Us.  Love this couple!  I met them at Mixed and was inspired to create ‘outside the box’.  Denise is the cook, Lenny is the devourer!  Together they make up “Chez Us”. Of course, now I have a wish list for other equipment including lighting!  Oh Lenny, what have you started???

Now I’ll get into the top things that would be on my ‘list’ had I actually made a list and told anyone about the list.  Hmmm, I should have listened to Santa – made a list, checked it twice… and then passed it along to my hubs!  Oh well.  Next year!  Here we go, my favourite things:

StandMixerKitchenAid Stand Mixer.  Yes, I have one.  I got it just over a year ago now (November 2011) and it has been THE most used appliance in my kitchen!  Definitely the most loved.  I have the 6 QT Pro Model and it gets quite a workout in my kitchen! The motor on this model is powerful and can handle up to 13 cups of flour without getting sluggish.  You know what that means?  TONS of cookies at one time!  Baking in bulk! Lots of Bread!!!

There are smaller models on the market, and of course the larger 7 QT model (sigh) so know what you want, why you want it, what you will use it for.  Check out the specs. Talk to people who own them.  Be informed before you purchase.  For me, the 6 QT is awesome. For a newbie baker maybe the smaller 4 QT would suffice.  Then there is the space issue – where will you put it?  Mine sits proudly on my kitchen counter and because it is out all the time, it gets used all the time!  A Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer ( or any other stand mixer) is an investment, be sure it’s in a place that makes it easy for you, so that you will use it all the time.  I guarantee, once you start using one, you will not know how you ever managed without it!    My number 1 overall pick of “must haves.”

BacktoBaking.hr

Anna Olson’s “Back to Baking” is a wonderful cookbook for any level of baker.  It’s on my wish list for 2012. Not sure if “Santa” will see this before Christmas or not, but I remain hopeful.

Anna Olson has a fantastic story.  She has a degree in Political Science from Queen’s University (my alma mater) and worked in the banking world for a time.  However, her passion for cooking was strong and so she left banking to pursue a culinary career enrolling in Johnson & Wales University in Vail Colorado.  Seriously, I guess if you are going to go back to school you should do it in a place with a beautiful view!  Anna lives in Ontario and has a show on the Food Network called “Bake with Anna Olson”   I have one of her earlier  cookbooks “Fresh” and have made several yummy creations out of this… it’s also personally autographed by Anna… ’nuff said!

What I love about “Bake” is that Anna starts with a basic recipe and then takes it up a notch into something more  elaborate, then does that again.  By the end of the show you have learned how to take a simple recipe and tweak it to get something else, related but more extravagant.  Love it!  I have looked through “Back to Baking” and can really appreciate the “before you bake” section for each recipe.  This walks you through what you need, the tools, the measurements, etc. and why it’s important to have these ready before you start.  Anna inspires me – I think because she had another career and then decided to follow her real passion!  For these reasons, Back To Baking get my ‘nod’ as a must have!

fastflavors  If you haven’t learned by now, I’m a HUGE Chef  Michael Smith fan! Chef  Michael is a resident of PEI (for you non-Canadians… that’s Prince Edward Island) Canada.  This small island is packed with such rich produce, fish and seafood.  My husband and I had the pleasure of visiting the island for 10 days this past summer.  I was hooked!  I’ve been there before, but only in and around the Cavendish area.  I had no idea how truly beautiful the entire island is!

When we hit the eastern side of the island, Souris and surrounding areas, I knew we were in Chef Michael territory.  I set out to find him.  I did… but he wasn’t home!  😦  I digress… the cookbook!

I purchased my first Chef Michael cookbook “Chef Michael Smith’s Kitchen” while on PEI and couldn’t wait to get cooking.  Anything else I had tried before had been from watching his show on the Food Network!  Now I was armed with the  secret!  Cooking without a recipe! That’s sort of the way I cook anyway!  I have a vague idea of how I want something to taste, and then go ahead and make it work!

In his newest cookbook, Fast Flavours, Chef Michael takes you through 110 recipes that are easy, very quick, and taste A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!  I think I got this book within a week or two of returning to Ontario.  Nobody needs to know how quick these were – just whip them up and tell your friends and family you were slaving away in the kitchen all day! Definitely part of my “must have” list – he’s pretty cute (at 6′ 7″) and VERY talented!

LeCrusetLeCruset has been on my wish list for some time now.  I am still without a single piece!  Known for their cast iron enameled cookware, LeCruset is “the” standard by which all other cast iron cookware is measured.  If you saw the movie “Julie & Julia” both J’s use it to make Julia’s iconic Boeuf Bourgonnoin.  While I had dreamed of one day owning a piece… it became an obsession after the movie!  Seriously!  I’ve entered contest after contest, and still not a single piece of LeCruset!  What am I supposed to do without it?  I did buy another brand of cast iron cookware, and to be honest it’s just fine!  No issues. But… it’s THE NAME that I want so that I can say I have a piece! sigh…    Ok, so the pros to enameled cast iron cookware – you can cook on your stove top and then transfer directly to your oven, and back to your stove top. Julia’s Boeuf Bourgonnoin is made in this.  You start the recipe on the stove, and transfer to the oven.  When I made this the first time, I didn’t own any cast iron cookware and so I started on the stove top, transferred the stew to an oven proof baking dish, then transferred back to another dish afterwards… ugh.  I seriously needed to get me some!  I did.  But not a LeCruset.  ONE DAY!  Oh, yes, I dare to dream!

5speedImersionAlso on my list for this year (or soon I hope) is the KitchenAid 5-speed immersion blender – or any immersion blender with power!

Quoting the KitchenAid.ca  site this blender has the industry’s first “Interchangeable Stainless Steel Bell Blade Assemblies and FIRST EVER Removable Pan Guards.”  I don’t even know what that means, but it excites me!  🙂  Basically I think that it means I can change the blades with ease and that it will allow me to  blend, puree (my main reason for wanting one – soup!), chop, shred, mince, froth, etc.  Imagine making smoothies with this much ease!

parchmentA must have on my list of favourite things for every kitchen is Parchment Paper.  Pictured here is the Pampered Chef brand but really any good quality brand will do. I have a gigantic roll from Costco! It’s lasted me almost a year now and I use it all the time!  I was recently asked if I preferred parchment or a silpat mat.  I have to be honest, I haven’t used silpat before but my niece (Modern Day Martha) swears by it.  I’ll have to try it.  For now, this is my “must have” in my kitchen.  It makes clean up a snap! Also, you can reuse it!! Did you know that?  If you are baking cookies or biscuits, or scones… just fold it in between uses and store (it needs to be dry first) and you can use it a second time!  I love that nothing sticks to it! Right now, I have cookie dough rolled out in between sheets of parchment in my fridge waiting for me to cut it into cute little shapes and bake!  Parchment is not very expensive. Pick up a roll and put it in your favourite baker’s stocking!

commercial

A good commercial grade cookie sheet is almost a must!  Pictured here is the Chicago Metallic Commercial II sheet. I purchased this at the Baking & Sweets show in Toronto, at the Golda’s Kitchen booth.  I bought two.  Larger than the normal sized cookie sheets that you generally see at department type stores (WalMart, Canadian Tire, etc.) the Chicago Metallic one is sturdy and heavier than the typical baking sheet.  However, it is also guaranteed not to warp!  Have you ever put something in your oven on a cookie sheet and heard that ‘pop’ – looked through the glass oven door to see your cookie sheet has warped in baking?  That is SO annoying and frustrating.  I have thrown out so many cookie sheets in my day. I am very happy with this cookie sheet – and plan to get more… hoping my husband is reading this so that he can pick me up a few more!…. it makes baking a breeze – holds more cookies or whatever you want to use it for.  On my list – need more!  Trust me, once you try a commercial grade cookie sheet, you just can’t go back to the ones you’ve been using now!  Put it on your list!

21Km8KJXiPL._AA160_A Chef’s Knife.  ABSOLUTELY an essential! I have one.  I have a (useless) knife set and block.  When I got it I thought it was great.  It’s not. The first time I used a real Chef’s knife – I was floored!  The weighted blade, the handle grip, the sharpness!  I started to LOVE cooking all over again.  I always “liked” to cook, but with a good knife it really did making everything so much easier. Can’t stress this enough!  Canadian Living magazine recently ran a feature on choosing the right Chef Knife.  The opening line in this on-line article states “A good knife can elevate dinner prep from a chore to a pleasure. It’s an investment and treasure that should – with the right care – last a lifetime.” I couldn’t agree more!  Pictured here is the Wusthof 8″ Chef’s knife.  A dream of a tool!

scoopAgain, from Pampered Chef is the scoop. Great for measuring out muffin batter! or Pancakes!  Or….  you name it!  Use the smaller one for cookies.  You will get a consistent size of muffin/cookie each time!  Inexpensive and well worth investing in.

It will make your time baking just a little bit shorter!  Dishwasher safe.

hero_slide1Finally, (and I say that only because I could go on and on and on…) an iPad would be nice!  I often work with my laptop on the kitchen counter –  you know what that means!   Yep, the potential for a horrific laptop accident!  I use it to refer to tutorials, to recipes, to watch movies while I cook (yes I do! It passes the time, don’t judge!)I could use it in my recipe book stand. Watch tutorials from Sweetopia or movies, and bake/cook away!  Life would be so sweet!  Okay, that’s definitely NOT an essential in my kitchen, but just a nice “if I didn’t need anything else, this is what I would like” type of thing! And I could use it to take much better pictures of my foodie creations!  Justified the expense?  Oh, I think so! Now the task of convincing you-know-who that this is an absolute kitchen essential for me!

I could go on and on… but I need to get back to work.  I have cookies to be cut out!  Menus to finish up.  Grocery shopping to plan.

And oops – still need to do some Christmas Shopping!

T’was the night before Christmas, and all through the house…. everyone was sleeping except for me – I’ll be the one up late wrapping gifts and prepping food!

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas, celebrating with the ones you love!  May God bless you in 2013!

Happy noshing,

Heather