Red & White 2014

R&W2014

It’s that time of year again.

It’s time for one of my absolute FAVOURITE events.

The Red & White.

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014 is going to be an evening of great food, wonderful entertainment, some wine, locally brewed beer, and all for a good cause: Harmony House.

This year Chef Michael Blackie is back (two years ago he made this event one of my favourite food events of the year). Joined by Chef Norm Aitken (Juniper Kitchen & Wine Bar), I’m already anticipating what dishes they are going to have on offer.  Seriously – these men can cook.

And guess what?!

I’ll also be on hand with CUPCAKES.

That’s right!  This year I’ve been asked to make some cupcakes in support of a great cause.

Doesn’t that sound like the icing on the (cup)cake?

Ok.  Now for the important stuff.

This is what I need from you.  I need YOU to go to eventbrite and buy a ticket.

They’re $65 each.  You get food, alcohol AND entertainment.  Not bad eh?

Then I need YOU to get a friend to join you.

I mean … although there will already be loads of awesome people attending … you might want to have a partner in crime while you watch the cooking demos, eat your food and then wander over and snag a cupcake or two… right?

Come join me next Wednesday evening as we help raise some money for Harmony House.  With your help, countless staff and volunteers will be able to provide safe, affordable, transitional housing for women and children who are survivors of violence.

chefx

chefx This last week has been a revelation to me.

Seriously.

I discovered that I love to cook.  I know you must be wondering … what is she talking about?  Of course she loves to cook … doesn’t she write this blog and bake just about every night?

But that’s the thing.  I bake.  I’ve pretty much completely stopped cooking anything more difficult than a poached egg on vegetables.  I don’t know when I stopped loving pottering away in the kitchen … but at some point in the last 3 years, I have.

And no matter how much I love the look of a recipe … I just haven’t been able to get myself excited enough to want to get all the ingredients and start the process of cooking.

Ever feel that way?

And then … about 10 days ago, I got an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Jeff Heaton, the owner of ChefX sent me an email asking if I’d be interested in testing out the first official week of their program.  They would provide me with a free sample box: 2 chef inspired meals, recipe cards, all the ingredients (save the staples: oil, salt, pepper, eggs), enough food for 2 people … with leftovers.  In exchange, I’d blog about it.

I figured … it was kind of a win-win.  I mean, I’d have to cook again, but I was willing to do that in order to give it a shot.

Last week’s box featured both Marysol Foucault’s (Edgar) lemony leek lamb with sautéed zucchini and yoghurt, and The Urban Element‘s pan-seared chicken breast with tomato caper vinaigrette and celeriac mash.

Both sounded pretty darn delicious.  The question remained … would I be able to re-create these dishes?

The answer.  A simple yes.

The beauty of ChefX is that you not only have a large cooler delivered with all the necessary ingredients, you’re also provided with a recipe card – bright colours, clear instructions, pictures of mis-en-place and ingredients to demonstrate what you will need and what steps to follow when cooking.

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As you can see, the recipe cards are broken down into level of difficulty, estimated time, and kitchen tools required.

the ChefX box

I made the Urban Element’s pan-seared chicken breast dish after work on Monday.  A very relaxed 45 minutes after I started cooking, the man-friend and I sat down to probably the tastiest chicken I have ever cooked.  We both liked the celeriac mash, but it was the tomato caper vinaigrette that really brought the dish to another level.  It was the perfect level of acidity and sweetness and thickened perfectly.  It was a dish that the man-friend and I would happily make again.  Heck – I have some chicken breasts in the freezer I can’t wait to pan-sear.

pan-seared chicken breast

I waited until Wednesday to make Marysol’s lemony leek lamb with sautéed zucchini and yoghurt.  I will admit that it took me longer than the estimated 55 minutes to make this one – but within 65 minutes the man-friend and I tucked into rich meatballs (which according to the recipe should have yielded 8 – I got 13), perfectly sautéed zucchini, a spicy gremolata, and a lemony greek yoghurt.  I can honestly say this is probably a recipe I wouldn’t have made otherwise (lamb isn’t my to-go ingredient), but I’m glad I did.  It reminded me that I love the mixing of ingredients and flavours.  It also showed me a few new simple tricks to create something delicious without any stress.

lemony leek lamb

Now you might wonder … why should you consider ChefX.

1.  If you love to eat out, but don’t love what it does to your wallet (or your waistline).

2.  If you love to cook, but are stuck in a rut.

3.  If you like to watch what you eat, but still want to eat well.  .

4.  If you hate wasted food.  You get what you need.  Seriously – they packed me a small pack of sugar.

5.  It allows you to see what inspires some of the best chefs in our city.

6.  You love to cook, but are famished when you get home.  It’s quick and painless.

Oh … and in case you’re wondering … I enjoyed my experience so much I signed up for this week.  The Wellington Gastropub has created a salmon dish that sounds just about right … and The Urban Element‘s roasted squash soup is sure to warm me right up!

A little Q & A with Jeff … aka. additional information:

The cost per week for 2 meals in portions for 2 people is $59 (taxes and delivery costs included).  Bigger family?  No problem!  ChefX is still an option.  Cost for 4 people is $99, and the cost for 6 people is $139 per week.

Portion sizes are large enough that there should be leftovers.

Wondering how quickly you need to cook these meals right?  Generally you can count on a shelf life of 5 days for the vacuum packaged meats.  Cook the more perishable ingredients (eg. seafood) sooner to be safe.  Or you can freeze the meat if you’re worried. All that to say – you basically have until Thursday to cook your meals.  Not bad for delivery!

The boxes are delivered every Sunday between 1 pm and 9 pm.  Not home?  No problem.  I wasn’t home last Sunday and so they left my box in the entrance of my apartment building (note: make sure you can trust your neighbours before making those arrangements!) … I got there and everything was still chilled.  All I had to do was put it away and wait until Monday night to start cooking!

The service is subscription based. Once you sign up, you’ll automatically be charged week by week.  HOWEVER … if a menu doesn’t sound quite right, you’re going away, or you just don’t feel like it – you can pause or cancel your subscription.

You get a cooler every week.  Which means … you store it for the week (ice packs can be left inside it) and come the following Sunday, return it to your delivery spot.  They will swap in the new, filled cooler for the old empty one.

What chefs are participating?  Every week one of the following chefs will create a dish.  Steve Wall, Supply & Demand.  Chris Deraiche, Wellington Gastropub.  Marysol Foucault, Edgar.  Chloe Berlanga, Whalesbone Oyster House & Elmdale Tavern.  Marc Lepine, Atelier.  Steve Mitton, Murray Street.  Marc Dorion, Town.  Patricia Larkin, Black Cat Bistro. Chris Lord, Union Local 613.  Matthew Shepheard, Marisposa Farm.

The Urban Element will be creating the second dish.

ps.  Sign up before 11:59pm Monday night and you can get a ChefX cooler Sunday November 3rd.  It’s never too late to give it a try ….

ottawa cookie jam 2013

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Wouldn’t it be GREAT if there was an event in Ottawa that celebrated the cookie?

A place where you could find a plethora of cookies … some thin and crunchy, others thick and chewy. Chalk full of chocolate-chips or intensely spiced. Cookies of every shape, size, texture. Basically … wouldn’t it be amazing if you could go to one place and find just about every kind of cookie you could dream of?

Each and every one of them would obviously ALSO be home baked.

Thanks to the organizers of Ottawa Cookie Jam, we are about to have just that … an event where cookies are the star.

Actually … that’s a lie.

Ottawa Cookie Jam is all about eating cookies AND helping a great cause: In From the Cold, a programme run by the Parkdale United Church.

It doesn’t get much better than eating cookies for a good cause does it?

This isn’t just your run-of-the-mill basement of a church cookie sale though. There’s also a commpetition going on … there will be judges, there will be categories to enter … and proceeds go to a great cause.

Here’s the thing. Whether you decide to participate as a baker or simply as a taster and supporter of a good cause, you NEED TO REGISTER. The organizers need to know how many people are baking and attending.

In case you’re wondering, Ottawa Cookie Jam takes place Saturday, October 5th between 1 pm and 4 pm at the Parkdale United Church.

Will I see you there?????

Now … since this is a baking blog … and I’m promoting a cookie event … I wanted to do my part. I decided to take the classic oatmeal raisin cookie and … well turn it upside down. I opted for chocolate chips, oats and coconut. The result: A thick and chewy cookie with a kick of cinnamon. It’s pretty awesome.

It’s kind of the perfect cookie for this time of year. Hint hint … I think you should make a batch. Seriously.

*bakers note: you might find the measurements slightly strange … the original base of this recipe is from Thomas Keller. He prefers to weigh his ingredients, so this is my attempt at converting the measurements.

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oatmeal, coconut, chocolate-chip cookies
ingredients:

1 c. flour
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c. + 3 1/2 tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 c. + 1 1/2 tsp. sugar
3/4 c. butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1 1/4 tsp vanilla paste
2 c. oats
1/2 c. flaked coconut
1/2 c. chocolate-chips

In the bowl of your stand-mixer, using your paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium speed, until it is the consistency of mayonnaise (about 5 to 7 minutes). Add the sugars and mix for a further 3-4 minutes, until fluffy.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add the egg and vanilla paste, mixing on low until combined, about 15-30 seconds. The mixture might look a little curdled – no big deal. You would rather that than over-mixing.

Meanwhile, combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl, whisking together.

Add the dry ingredients to the butter, sugar, egg mixture in 2 additions; mixing on low speed for 15 to 30 seconds each time. Scrape the bottom of the bowl to incorporate.

Add the oats, and count to ten with the mixer on medium – low speed.

Add in the flaked coconut and chocolate-chips. Again count to 10 with the mixer on medium-low speed.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.

*bakers note: If you chill for 30 minutes, the result is a thin, crunchy cookie. If you chill for longer than 30 minutes – say overnight, then you end up with thicker, chewy cookies. It’s up to you.
Also – the original recipe actually makes 6 x 4-inch cookies (quite large). I actually opted to bake 16 2-inch cookies. Again, it’s up to you.

Heat the oven to 325 F. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.

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Whatever size of cookie you decide to bake, make sure you don’t allow the dough to touch while baking … especially if you are baking after only allowing the cookie dough to rest for 30 minutes – these spread.

If you are making the larger cookies, bake them fro 21 to 23 minutes, reversing the tray position halfway through the baking time.

If you opt for the smaller cookies, bake 18 minutes. Again … reversing the tray position halfway through the baking time.

Remove from the oven, allow to cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes and then remove from the cookie sheet and cool completely on a wire rack.

Or you know … grab a glass of milk and dunk right it. They are so good freshly out of the oven.

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