review

Blueberry and Hazelnut Crostata 

Crostata evokes many memories of a summer semester I spent in Bologna, Italy when I was backpacking in Europe as a university student. I spent most of my hard-earned money on eating and sightseeing and I fondly remember all the bakeries serving many variations of this infamous Italian Tart. Plums, berries, apples, grapes all made their way into these traditional crostatas bursting with homemade jams, flaky and buttery crusts liberally dusted with icing sugar.

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I used to walk through the streets sightseeing and eating my crostata with icing sugar dusting my face, a happy memory! I had a sweet tooth and couldn’t resist trying all the delicacies in the dozens of pastry shops that lined the streets.

When E.D.SMITH contacted me to collaborate on their fall campaign to celebrate their 135th birthday, I was delighted as it brought back memories of baking as a child with my mum. We used to love using their pie fillings and their jams were a staple in our house.

E.D.SMITH is an iconic Canadian food brand with roots dating back to 1882 and is currently the #1 pie filling in Canada and the largest Canadian manufacturer of jams and fruit spreads.

For their fall campaign, E.D.SMITH is inspiring the newest generation of Canadian home cooks to look past traditional jam on toast and plain pies to get creative with E.D.SMITH’s products.

My mission is to inspire you to explore the versatility of their products and show you how E.D.SMITH’s pie fillings and Triple Fruits spreads can fit within your lifestyle and today’s food trends.

I love a good challenge and what better way than to recreate one of my favourite desserts, a fruit filled crostata! A traditional crostata is an open-faced fruit tart, often with a decorative lattice top and made with a homemade jam.

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I particularly enjoy E.D.SMITH’s Blueberry Pie Filling and thought it would be a great swap out for a traditional blueberry jam. As we head into the fall season, I made this crostata with the addition of ground hazelnuts as it gives the crust a gently nutty bite and it complements the Blueberry Pie Filling nicely. If hazelnuts are not to your liking, they can easily be replaced with ground almonds.

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The addition of nuts in the pastry dough, coupled with the yolks creates a well rounded, rich crust that pairs nicely with the pie filling making you want to savour each bite.

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This Blueberry and Hazelnut Crostata is sure to become your favourite too. It’s a delicious twist on a traditional, familiar dessert with a delicate lattice topping. I hope you enjoy making it as much as I do.

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Blueberry and Hazelnut Crostata Recipe

Pastry Crust Ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour

1/4 cup ground hazelnuts (or almonds)

3 Tbsp. sugar

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp citrus zest (lemon, orange or grapefruit)

1/4 tsp ground vanilla bean (or extract)

Pinch of ground cinnamon

3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, chopped

1 large egg + 1 yolk

3/4 can of E.D.SMITH Blueberry Pie Filling

Egg wash (1 egg + 2 tsp water)

9″ Fluted round tart pan with a removal bottom

Directions:

  1. In a stand up mixer bowl with the paddle attachment, add the flour, ground hazelnuts, sugar, salt, zest, vanilla and cinnamon. Mix on low until combined.
  2. Add the chopped butter and egg yolk, and mix until combined. Do not overmix as you still want to see bits of butter throughout.
  3. On a clean surface roll out 2 sheets of cling wrap and place the dough in the centre and gently form a disk. Flatten, cover in cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350F
  5. Roll out the pastry dough on a floured surface to approximately 14-16″ in diameter and l/2” thickness. Gently transfer it to the tart pan and press into the pan, bringing the dough up to the sides.
  6. With a sharp knife, cut off the excess dough and reserve to make a lattice top.
  7. Add the E.D.SMITH Blueberry Pie Filling into the base.
  8. Roll out the excess dough and using a fluted pastry wheel cut strips to place over top the filled pastry.
  9. In a crisscross pattern overlap the strips and crimp the edges.
  10. *Alternate method; on a flour dusted parchment sheet you can create your lattice top pattern and chill it for 15 minutes. Gently flip it over-top the tart, sealing the edges and discarding any excess dough.
  11. Brush with the egg wash and bake at 350°F for 40-45 minutes or until golden.
  12. Remove and place on a baking rack to completely cool.
  13. Remove the tart ring and dust generously with icing sugar and cut into slices. Enjoy!

*The Crostata will keep for 4-5 days in an airtight container, refrigerated.

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Spicy Eggs with Peperoncini Piccanti

(This post is sponsored by President’s Choice.  I used their PC Black Label Peperoncini Piccanti to make these Spicy Eggs)

If you know me, spicy eggs are my favourite!  I can eat them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I love eggs! But this post isn’t about my love of eggs but of a recipe I created just for you using this amazing #PCBlackLabel Peperoncini Picante. The heat in these chili’s is unbelievably hot and complements this egg dish superbly.

When #PresidentsChoice asked me to partner with them for their #PCBlackLabel products, I knew it would be a good fit as I love to try new products and incorporate them into new recipes.  It allows me to be CREATIVE and it’s always fun to #PlayWithYourFood!

As I opened the PC Black Label black box, I was delighted to see Caponata Eggplant Antipasto and Peperoncini Chopped Hot Chili Peppers.  I was immediately drawn to the Peperoncicni Piccanti as I love chili peppers.

Spicy Eggs with Peperoncini Piccanti

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large potato, diced
  • 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tblsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp raw sugar
  • 1 small shallot, diced
  • 1 cup spinach, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tblsp PC Black Label Peperoncini Piccanti Chopped Chili Peppers in Oil
  •  1 tblsp heavy cream
  • 2-3 large eggs, organic or farm fresh, if possible
  • salt and pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a large skillet add the olive oil, cumin seeds and diced potatoes and cook for 10 minutes on medium heat or until cooked through.
  2. Add the raw sugar and shallots and cook 5 more minutes.
  3. Lower the heat and add the spinach, crushed garlic clove,  PC Black Label Peperoncini Piccanti Chopped Chili Peppers in Oil and heavy cream. Cook for 2 minutes and mix thoroughly.
  4. Lower the heat to the minimum setting and spread the mixture evenly in the pan, creating 2-3 wells or indents for the eggs.
  5. Crack the eggs into the indents and cover the pan with the lid. Poach the eggs on low heat for 3-4 minutes until the eggs are cooked though but the yolks are still runny. Transfer to a plate and enjoy!


Austin, Texas 

Recently, I had the amazing opportunity to visit Austin, Texas in partnership with Visit The USA, Official USA Travel Guide to American Holidays.

I had heard and researched great things about Austin’s food and music scene snd was really excited to visit as it would be my first time visiting Texas. I had little or no idea what to expect.

I flew into Austin on the first of September, expecting a cool, summer-is-almost over feel, but boy was I wrong! Upon leaving the airport, I was welcomed with a hot breeze, cowboy boots, and sweet southern music! The people were so friendly and helpful in directing me to my hotel downtown.

We checked into the Hilton Austin on 4th Street, close to the hustle and bustle of downtown Austin.

We enjoyed some drinks whilst admiring the city views from the 25th floor lounge before heading out for the night.

We had dinner reservations at the highly acclaimed Uchiko,  which serves upscale Japanese farmhouse cuisine. We had tried various menu items and the desserts were out of this world!

As a pastry chef, I enjoyed them immensely and appreciated the various techniques that were showcased. Overall, the service and food were excellent and the ambiance was lovely.

The following day, we had brunch at the Magnolia Cafe, a classic 24 hour eatery which serves Southwestern/Mexican food.  My particular favourites were the migas, huevos rancheros, sweet hibiscus ice teas and the yummy grapefruit mimosas. This place was full of locals and definitely a classic Austin eatery with good eats!

After brunch, we headed out to do some shopping on South Congress Avenue, a favourite spot among tourists. We visited some interesting eclectic shops filled with a wide vaiety from vintage props to old fashioned candies to Mexican dolls.

After purchasing some cool souvenirs and candy, we headed out in search of tacos for lunch.

I had heard about the infamous Torchy’s Tacos and couldn’t wait to try them.  My favorites included the Baja Shrimp and the Democrat!  What a fun place!

We continued shopping along the South Congress strip after brunch stopping in some very nice retail clothing shops when all of a sudden, it started to storm like crazy.  That’s Austin weather for you, sunny one minute and hailing rain the next!

We ran for cover and ducked into a cute coffee shop called Mañana, a great little shop with a cozy atmosphere and very chic vibe. I tried some silky cortados with strawberry Macarons. Yum! I’m so happy that we stumbled upon it!

After a full day of walking under the Texan sun, we headed back to the hotel to relax and enjoy some snacks and cocktails in the Hilton hotel’s lounge.

Dinner was at the infamous Barley Swine headed by Chef Bryce (he was named Food & Wine’s best chef in 2010.) We were seated at the Chef’s table with a great view of the kitchen. It was a delight to watch the magic of the kitchen happen right before our eyes. Beautiful plates of food being served one course after the other.

Some of my favourites included the Hatch chile cheese pretzel, Akaushi Ribeye with corn pudding and bone marrow marrow hash as well as dessert; the lime mallow sorbet with cucamelon and olive oil cake and the Mango Koji rice pudding. A not to be missed restaurant!

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel and crossed through the infamous 6th Street in downtown Austin.  The hustle and bustle of the bars, clubs and loud music keeps this street alive until the wee hours of the morning. Popular amongst the students from University of Texas and tourists alike.

We reached our destination Voodoo Doughnuts, a 24 hour bakeshop. I finally had the chance to try these colourful, creative and quirky doughnuts and they did not disappoint!

The next day we walked our way around the city and explored Lady Bird Lake where we walked along the trail to the boardwalk. The lake is beautiful and it’s a great place where locals go to workout, kayak or stroll.

After a lovely walk through the city and visiting the Texas State Capitol, we ventured over to Second Bar & Kitchen for some amazing cocktails paired with a burger, fried chicken and biscuits for lunch. One of my favourite spots.

After lunch, we stopped into Con’ Olio Oils & Vinegars,  a lovely local foodie shop in downtown Austin selling a wide range of high quality olive oils and balsamic vinegars. We learned about how they are made and had an opportunity to do a tasting. We puchased a few lovely flavours such as Grapefruit balsamic and South African Chili oil. Can’t wait to pair them with my meals.

A great place to relax and grab a drink is the historical Moonshine Patio Bar serving classic American food and drinks. With an equally delicious cocktail menu, it’s hard not to find a favourite. I’m still dreaming and missing this Bourbon Renewal!🍹❤ The Bourbon Renewal quickly became my favourite drink which is made with Rye, créme de cassis, lemon and Angostura! Yum!😋

Moonshine Patio Bar also serve a tasty buffet style brunch on Sundays worth checking out, but get there early as the line ups can be very long (mostly filled with locals, they know good food!)

Another dinner restaurant worth mentioning is Emmer & Rye by Chef Kevin Fink on the ever popular Rainey St. We chose this restaurant as Chef Fink was named Best Chef of 2016 by Food & Wine.

Dishes are served small plate and dimsum style. Truly farm to table cuisine worth sharing that showcases up to 15 different kinds of grains milled in their kitchen, which demonstrates Chef Fink’s  passion for incorporating local ingredients into his cuisine.

For dessert, I tried the cocoa bean ice cream with red fife cookies. A great twist on a classic with this hearty grain, a nice highlight dessert on my trip.

Further down Rainey Street there are more bars and food trucks that are worth checking out for quick fare ranging from Grilled Cheese to Indian to Greek. It’s a really lively street lined with bars and lounges, similar to 6th Street but with a slightly older vibe (post graduate crowd).

Another cafe that is hip and upcoming is Launderette, which is a converted gas station serving gourmet new American fare such as Fried chicken and Asparagus eggs Benny.  The food was hearty and delicious with another great cocktail list, including the Rose Grapefruit cocktail which was the perfect accompaniment to the hot weather.

Not to be missed and truly Texan is the BBQ scene! While there are plenty of places to choose from,  I had the pleasure of trying La Barbecue and it did not disappoint but be prepared to wait as there are long wait times, but it’s worth it!

Be sure to try the Valrhona 70% chocolate gelato from Gelateria Gemelli next door. It’s the perfect afternoon treat!

Austin was a great experience for a city girl like me. The food scene is amazing and the city is really up and coming. There is new construction everywhere and you can feel the tech boom moving in.

It has a great vibe and I highly recommend visiting it, especially if you’re into the music scene. There are many amazing music festivals that I would love to catch on my next trip, until next time!

A special thank you to Visit The USA and Visit Austin for this opportunity and the hospitable staff at the Hilton Austin for a great stay.

Tips for Hosting a Successful Dinner Party

I recently held a backyard bbq dinner party to celebrate the changing of the seasons in partnership with Cascade Platinum #sparklingclean.

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I had the opportunity to put the product to the test and I must say, I’m impressed! Not only did it remove the hard, cooked on food residue, it left all of my dishes sparking clean!

In order to host a successful dinner party, there are a few rules that are important to follow in my repertoire.  I’ve hosted numerous parties, whether they’re fancy affairs or simple gatherings, it all boils down to a few essential steps and making sure you’re always prepared.  I share my views with fellow Chef, Michael Smith who offers a few essential entertaining tips below:

1. Spend Time To Save Time:
Prep as much as you can in advance, from setting the table to prepping food. This allows you      to spend more time with your guests entertaining, instead of being in the kitchen.

2. Make Your Guests Feel Special:
It’s important to go the extra mile in making your guests feel special.  I love to decorate the house with fresh flowers, music, lovely table setting and sparkling dishes.

3. Clean As You Go:
While cooking, load the dishwasher so that you don’t have to do all the clean up after. This saves time and with Cascade Platinum, you don’t need to worry about pre-rinsing.

4. Share The Work:
Lighten the load and enlist the help of your guests if possible, this will help ensure the party runs smoothly between courses.

5. Grand Finale:
End the evening with a bang! Perhaps with a spectacular dessert, sparkling Champagne or a little gift for your guests, making the night memorable.

Here are a few highlights from our delicious backyard bbq dinner party. I’m so happy that my cleanup was made easy with the help of Cascade!

Rhubarb Lemonade:
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Marinated Garlic and Rosemary Lamb:
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Roasted Potatoes:
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Papaya Chicken with Roasted Cashews:
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Roasted Vegetables:
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Mexican Corn:
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Fire Grilled Jumbo Shrimps with Cilantro and Chipotle:
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Fresh Feta Salad:
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Mint and Cilantro Gremolata:
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*This post was sponsored by Cascade. All opinions are my own.