Red & White 2014


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.

apple rum-raisin spice cake


Isn’t this cake pretty?

Heck … I think it’s gorgeous.

It looks so simple and elegant … but it’s flavourful, moist and simply delicious.

It wasn’t always that way.

The first time I made it … I found it a little bit dry.  The taste deepened and the cake actually got better as it sat overnight, but it still wasn’t exactly what I had hoped.

That got me thinking … how can I tweak this recipe to make it moist straight out of the oven?

The second attempt included increased raisins (the original recipe called for ½ cup raisins).  It helped a bit.

The following week I decided to try it out in a larger rectangular pan rather than the original 9-inch round pan.  It was ok … but it certainly didn’t help with the dryness level.  I also decided to add my own baking powder and salt rather than using self-rising flour.  I liked the result in the texture of the cake more.

Since my goal was to add moistness to the cake … I thought why not add another apple?  Only rather than slicing it, I would dice it and incorporate it into the batter.  With that addition my problems were solved.

I got exactly what I was looking for in the recipe … an excellent cake that I will happily eat morning, noon and night (believe me, I had a lot of test cake to go through).

Now for the part of the blog post were I sell you on this recipe.

1.  It’s delicious

2.  It’s easy to make

3.  It looks gorgeous

4.  It would be a great thing to bring as a holiday hostess gift.  Especially since it gets better overnight.

5.  Did I mention that it’s gosh darn delicious and easy to make?  Plus it sure is pretty!


apple rum-raisin spice cake


1 c. butter, room temperature

1 c. brown sugar

4 eggs, lightly beaten

1 ½ c. flour

1 tbsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ginger

½ tsp ground nutmeg

½ tsp allspice

½ tsp cloves

1 c. rum-soaked raisins

1 apple, peeled, cored & diced

3 apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

2 tbsp brown sugar cinnamon sugar

Heat your oven to 350 F.  Grease a 9-inch round pan with non-stick spray.  Then line the base and sides with parchment paper (I know … it sounds like an unnecessary step – but it honestly does make a difference in your cake).  Spray the parchment paper with non-stick spray.  Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand-mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar, at medium-high speed, until light and fluffy – about 3 to 5 minutes.  Gradually add the beaten eggs to the mixture, lowering the speed of the mixer and then increasing it to fully incorporate the batter.  Remember to take the time to scrap the sides of the bowl with a spatula.  You want all of that butter, sugar, egg mixture well combined.

Bakers tip: to ensure that the rum-soaked raisins don’t sink to the bottom of your cake (and stay on the bottom of the pan), sprinkle them with about 2 tbsp of the flour (take it from the 1 ½ cup flour needed for this recipe) and coat them.  Sinking problem is resolved.

Meanwhile, in another bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves.

Using a large spatula, gently fold the dry ingredients into the batter.  Add the diced apple and raisins.  Gently combine them into the batter.


Spoon half the batter into the prepared pan and level the surface.

Place half the apple slices over the batter, layering them.

Add the remainder of the batter on top of the apple slices.

Place the left over apple slices on top.  Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Bake for 60 to 75 minutes – it depends on your oven and the thickness of your cake.  Allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Remove the cake from the pan (having it lined with parchment paper makes a huge difference – nothing sticks and the cake is easily removed!) and allow it to cool completely on the wire rack.

Don’t put this cake in the fridge.  It’ll dry out.   Keep it in a Tupperware container; air tight, for up to 5 days.  This is the cake that keeps on giving!


chefx This last week has been a revelation to me.


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.


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 ….