Robin Hood to the Sweet Rescue

We all love homemade sweets and we always try to make cakes, bars and breads from scratch every chance we get. But sometimes there are just not enough hours in the day or we find out last minute that there is company on their way expecting coffee and cake as part of the entertainment.

I assure you, even food bloggers must sometimes resort to a quick mix. The trick is finding one that is good enough to pass on as your own, or at least a product that does not compromise on quality or homemade taste. Thankfully there is a hero in this story, Robin Hood Quick Bread Mixes!

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Have you tried Robin Hood Quick Bread Mixes? They check all the boxes:

  • you get homemade taste in a hurry
  • you can find these mixes easily available in store
  • they are quick to prepare and bake, this product is box to oven in 5 minutes
  • they make a great baking project with kids, giving them an opportunity to experiment and learn
  • they simplify baking for the kitchen challenged people
  • clean up is a breeze and you only need to add three ingredients (water, eggs, oil)
  • even professional chefs, such as Leslie Steh, bake with Robin Hood Quick Bread Mixes

These mixes are offered in 5 flavours: Banana Flavoured, Chocolate Chip, Lemon Poppy Seed Flavoured, Cinnamon Swirl, and even a Gluten Free Banana mix. And don’t be afraid to play with them and get creative! You can add nuts, chocolate, or fruit to the mixes. Of how about baking them into muffins, pancakes, and even biscottis? The options are only limited by your imagination.

Here is a great video to learn more about Robin Hood Quick Bread Mixes. Give one a try, save time in the kitchen and spend more quality time with your family and friends.

Click these links for product information or recipe inspiration, and check out the Facebook page

This is a sponsored post.

Pick your own Squash in the Pumpkin Patch

This past weekend in Canada was Thanksgiving. Many families and friends gather around a wonderful meal, celebrating the bounty of the summer. In my family we throw in hard labor work: we close the cottage down for the winter. Thankfully we still find time to play.

The fall colors were at their peak and the scenery was absolutely breathtaking. On top of great food, the menu also included a gorgeous hike and a visit to a squash farm. Nothing says autumn like a stroll through the pumpkin patch at La Courgerie! No recipes today, just lots of great fall photos and a little squash crash course.

La Courgerie

Tasty reading ahead, KEEP GOING… →

Strolling and Eating our way through New Orleans and Louisiana

Finally my long promised post with clicks, stories and foods from my trip to New Orleans, Louisiana back in March 2014. Wow does life ever get in the way of goals. My friend Karen and I set off for on a 7-day vacation and a visit to our friend Raquel, who moved to New Orleans from Montreal this past summer.

This was my second time actually in the Big Easy but a good 10 years had elapsed since my first trip. I was really looking forward to my trip as the first one was a short blitz. I knew what foods I wanted to eat again…and try the ones I missed out the first time around. Still in 7 days on location I did not cover the whole list. So when is trip three going to be? Oh well not right away but let me reminisce a bit, this is but a sliver of all we did, ate, saw and experienced.

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Tasty reading ahead, KEEP GOING… →

Homemade Cat Treat for Mickey

As you may have noticed I have been absent from the food blogging world for over a week now. Blogging and cooking have not been a priority lately. I received some very bad news following a vet visit for one of my 2 cats, 10 year old Mickey. I have been planning to write this post for a few days but I was not able before now. I am holding back tears just writing this. But I really wanted to dedicate a post to him. And I could not resist baking a homemade little cat treat for him, you will find the recipe further down.

Mommy I am not feeling good

I could tell for a bit the Mickey was a little off and that he lost weight. He was very lethargic. I blamed it on the ongoing heat wave and major humidity. I went away for 5 days and had a friend come in to feed the cats. When I got back I was shocked at how thin he was and on the second day I realized he was not eating much. Mickey started having accidents on the floor instead of the liter box too. We went to the vet and did the necessary tests. They did not really find anything wrong except for the presence of bacteria so we assumed bladder infection. He weighted 7.5 pounds only, half what he weighted. I was in shock; it is not always hard to notice on a fur ball such a change. We went home with antibiotics and they hydrated him.

Then things went really bad: Mickey stopped urinating entirely. We went back to the vet and he was hospitalized for 3 nights. He was not leaving before they knew he could urinate. Then the big blow came: all 3 vets at the clinic felt 2 masses in his little body, in his abdomen and around the bladder. Mickey has the Big C, cancer. I was and still am crushed by the news.

Homemade Cat Treats

I never had a cat or dog as a child because of allergies at home. Five year ago I got 2 cats, my very first real pets of my life. One hears story of how overly emotionally attached people get to their pets and I always wondered how I felt about that. Well you really do not realize how attached you get to these little creatures until something tragic happens. I have shed so many tears. I feel as strongly as I would for a family member.

Another crushing aspect is choosing what you can or cannot afford at the vet, which brings on a lot of guilt. The little savings I had is mostly gone. I am so thankful that the vets are very understanding of financial situations and they have given me all the options (even some freebies). I am choosing the best I can but I cannot afford surgery, biopsies, radiation, etc. The vets were wonderful enough to go ahead and decide on a treatment without the ‘official’ diagnosis. He is on antibiotics, cortisone pills and once-a-week chemotherapy in pill form. There is no official prognosis…we will see in a month after some blood tests.

Yummy treats

Mickey is back home now and using the liter box. I have put on my kitty nurse outfit and tend as best I can. I feel like a mean nurse though most of the time. Most of my interactions with him are not pleasant; an example is he does not understand these pills shoved in his throat are a good thing. He is a little bit more alert and for the last 2 days I have started to feed him a bit more with a syringe (he does not like that either) since he is not consuming enough calories on his own.

Kitty Cat Homemade Treats

1 tbsp cat dry kibble, ground
1/4 cup oatmeal or wheat germ, ground
1/2 small jars strained chicken baby food
1/2 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a medium bowl, mix the oats or wheat germ, a bit of baby food at a time, and the water together. The measurements are approximations, you want to achieve a wet dough. Spoon small balls (a big sized pea) on aluminum foil on a cookie sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven.

A healthy Mickey, last year

Right now his quality of life is still good and he has not given up. He deserves a shot at treatment. He is exhausted and weak but not in pain. I pray he improves and I pray I do not have to make the big decision I the very near future. This morning he did give me a very good sign: his food dish was empty and he was clearly asking for food. I hope there will be an empty dish when I get home tonight. I love you Mickey.

Finally, I want to send a gigantic thank you to the wonderful people at the Cote Saint Luc Animal Hospital (7930 Baily, Montreal, QC H4W 3J8‎ – 514-489-6845). They offer amazing care for both the pet and the owner during treatment and they have been following up every other day with me in this first week back home.

Vinegar Tarts and Olive Oil Ice Cream with Clementine Emulsion and Nutella Powder

I hope you enjoyed my earlier post today where I reviewed the wonderful Clementine Olive Oil and O Zinfandel Vinegar from the Natural Box collection that I won. And as promised here is the my mysterious recipe I am submitting for the Olive Oil recipe contest. And speaking of fabulous contests, have you entered my contest  where you could win your very own gourmet Wine Vinegar?

So…drum roll please… I am submitting as my entry Vinegar Tarts and Olive Oil Ice Cream with Clementine Emulsion and Nutella Powder dessert.

Quite a mouthful, I know. And I bet the last thing you would have expected was a dessert too! As I was trying to come up with my entry my mind kept going back, or should I say struggle, between two ideas: desserts and molecular gastronomy. The dessert factor was my main focus! My regular readers know very well how I like to explore the exotic and unusual. So a dessert for my oil and vinegar was a must. The molecular gastronomy aspect was obvious, to me at least, with two such flavorful mediums. I could make liquid raviolis, gels, air, etc. After all I bought so many MG powders a while back and never use them. But I had issues coming up with a dish as such.

Finally the two ideas combined where the emulsion and Nutella powder play a supporting role to the tart and ice cream. The assembly is quite simple. Once the tarts complete I added a quarter of clementine standing up. On one side I spoon a little bit of the emulsion and sprinkled a dash of Nutella powder. Finally I shaped a small quenelle with the ice cream which I place standing up on the other side on the tart. Voilà!

Now for the taste test. The first word that comes to mind before tasting this unusual combo is skeptical. Even though I knew it would work I had a grain of doubt. I also served it for dessert to my brunch guests yesterday. They were very tentative on their first bite. Once a forkful entered our mouths all three of us had the same reaction: eyes jumping wide open and a very pleasant surprised look. The olive oil ice cream is just out of this world, just creamy and dreamy. I was taken aback by how pronounced the clementine flavor of the oil was. The vinegar tarts tasted like a bright shiny summer day: so zesty and punched up. Even if the vinegar is definitely present is is not to overpowering, but a perfect balance in the curd like filling.

This dessert will challenge your concepts of taste and just amaze you and your guests should you choose to serve it over the holidays.

This whole giveaway and contest is all made possible also by a wonderful site I have been a member of for a little while, eRecipeCards. The great thing about being a member (which is free by the way) is you can create your own virtual recipe box. When you find a recipe you like on the website all you have to do is click a button and it gets added to your eRecipeBox. Now since this recipe submission is a contest, part of the judging is based partly on popularity. So I am asking you to add this recipe to you eRecipeBox. Here is the Cheap Ethnic Eatz eRecipeBox with all the recipes I have submitted. After you register, which take 2 minutes, just click on that link, find my Vinegar Tarts and Olive Oil Ice Cream with Clementine Emulsion and Nutella Powder entry and put it in your eRecipeBox. This is how popularity will be measured.

If you are a foodie you need to be a member. Here is a great eRecipeCards tour page explaining the site in greater detail but basically the soul purpose is to share, add and bookmark recipes.

Now on to the recipes!

Ξ Olive Oil Ice Cream Ξ
from Serious Eats, taken from David Lebovitz

  • 1 1/3 cups (330 ml) whole milk
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) fruity olive oil

Warm the milk, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. Pour the cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Whisk the olive oil into the custard vigorously until it’s well blended, then stir until cool over an ice bath. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Ξ Vinegar Tarts Ξ
from Now thats Cookin’, taken from Emeril Lagasse

  • 24 pie pastry individual tart shells
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten until frothy
  • 6 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Limoncello, or other lemon-flavored liqueur, or lemon extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake 24 tart shells (you could do 1 9-inch pie pan) on a baking tray for about 10-12 min until golden. Let them cool.

In a heavy 2-quart saucepan, bring the water to a boil. In a small bowl, combine the flour and sugar, tossing with a fork to blend. Add the flour-sugar mixture to boiling water and cook, whisking often, until thickened, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat and slowly add the eggs, whisking vigorously. Return to medium-low heat and cook, whisking, until velvety smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the vinegar and lemon extract and whisk just to blend.

Pour into the cooled pastry shell and refrigerate until set, about 3 hours.

 

Ξ Clementine Emulsion Ξ
from the Passionfruit Emulsion at Pastry Kitchen

  • 4 clementines, peeled and quartered
  • 1¾ ounces sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lecithin

Puree clementines with a emulsion blender. In a small pot, bring ingredients to 120°F. Emulsify with a  hand blender. Keep in the fridge until ready to use. Emulsify with a hand blender again prior to use.

Ξ Nutella Powder Ξ
from Hungry in Hogtown

  • 120 g Nutella
  • 80 g tapioca maltodextrin

Combine ingredients in a food processor.  Process until the mixture has the texture of soil.

Pass mixture through a tamis or fine-meshed sieve to lighten its texture. Sprinkle liberally.

Note: I third the recipe. As long as you keep the ratio sixty percent fatty ingredient to forty percent maltodextrin, the process is simple. I just used a coffee grinder instead since it was such a small quantity.

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Don’t forget right now to go register (if you are not already a member)  and ADD my Vinegar Tarts and Olive Oil Ice Cream with Clementine Emulsion and Nutella Powder entry from the Cheap Ethnic Eatz eRecipeBox, I would be ever so thankful!

Review: O Clementine Olive Oil and O Zinfandel Vinegar plus a Contest

I know, I know I have been bad. I have been quiet, I have not been posting as much or catching up with commenting. I blame November. It’s such a blah month and my energies plummet. But also one of the reasons I have been more quiet is due to much research and experimenting. I have been working on a few very original recipes which would be a perfect fit to round off that fabulous menu for the holidays. Come back later today on the blog as I will be publishing one of these creations.

These recipes feature two products I was lucky enough to win recently on eRecipeCards: the O Clementine Olive Oil and O Zinfandel Vinegar from the Natural Box collection. Winning this prize also meant entering a contest. So I hope you come back and vote for me by putting this mysterious recipe (which will be posted later today) in you eRecipeBox. I’ll tell you all about that a bit later. Contest alert: YOU can be the winner of an absolutely divine vinegar too, details are at the bottom of the post!

This prize was awarded by my new favorite oil and vinegar company. If you follow my blog regularly you are well aware that I do the occasional product review and they are often interesting finds but not necessarily something that would knock my socks off. This time I was completely taken aback with my prize from O Olive Oil. I would even say pleasantly flabbergasted!  I know it sounds like a huge and ridiculous claim but it is 100% sincere. I LOVE my new oil and vinegar. So what makes O Olive Oil so special and unique to dazzle my exotic taste buds? The answer is surprisingly simple: keep things organic, keep things basic, take the time it needs and make it with love.

Let’s looks first at the Citrus Oils. This collection of oils are beautifully crafted by using the crush method. Fresh hand harvested California Mission olives are crushed directly with whole organic citrus within 48 hours of the harvests. It takes about 1½ lbs. of fresh, whole citrus to make each bottle of oil. As the extracts of both the olives and the fruit mingle in such a unique way the tastes bond, making for an intense marriage of flavors. This bit of info makes you realize quickly the poorer quality of many companies who mass produce by infusing or flavoring the already produced olive oil, sadly a common practice in the industry. There final product pales in comparison.

I received the O Clementine Olive Oil. I was already cooking up a storm in the kitchen before I really sat down to have a proper taste testing. I have a confessions to make: after pouring the amount required by my recipe of the Clementine oil I actually took a mini swig from the bottle. The beautiful coating of olive oil in my mouth was delicate and light in flavor but I did not taste a lot of the clementine at that moment. But once I sat down to take the pictures and properly savor it with a slice of white French bread, I had a completely different reaction to the taste. The clementine miraculously came to life and was now bursting with notes of zesty citrus all nicely layered in with a sweetness of the oil. The sumptuous yellow color coated the bread wonderfully. I was also really impressed by the results in my coming recipes.

The O Clementine Olive Oil is limited production. Keeping mind this is NOT an oil to fry foods is. A gentle warming in a pan will heighten the flavors, more will burn it.  I could see myself using this oil in a light salad mixed with a crisp and light vinegar. A light brushing over cooked seafood or chicken would be lovely too.

The second part of my prize from O Olive Oil was the Wine Vinegar collection. Again the company blasts the competition by nor rushing a good thing. The old world Orleans method is employed here by filling ventilated oak barrels with premium wine which naturally ages the wine turning it into vinegar over months or years.  The fact that the wines comes from near-by Napa Valley does not hurt either. Natural flavors are added slowly over time as the wine turns to vinegar.  The competition usually just mechanically ages using artificial flavors and ingredients.

I was thrilled to find the O Zinfandel Vinegar in my prize package. Before I even opened the bottle I was captivate by the magnificent ruby orange color. I dipped my bread in the aromatic liquid and took a bite. My taste buds where delighted with the wonderful sharp, smoky and tangy cherry notes the harsh vinegary taste. And as the taste lingers in your mouth you start wishing there really was a bottle of Zinfandel nearby.

Before I wrap things up I would like to send out a nice Thank You to eRecipeCards for hosting the give away and contest. If you are not familiar with this site you should. eRecipeCards is the home for food lovers, all of them. It is not a community based site like Facebook per say as you do not ‘make’ friends. The soul purpose is to share, add and bookmark recipes. Food bloggers love it as they can link and share their posts, and non writing foodies can discover fabulous recipes which they can keep in their eRecipeBox with one click. It is a new site that is growing rapidly. There are already thousands and thousands of recipes. It is free so why not join now and you will accumulate a collection of great new recipes to try. Go visit eRecipeCards.com

A drop of vinager in the oil - so colorful and pretty

O Olive Oil is more than just the two types of products mentioned above. They also offer products like the Citrus Oils and Wine Vinegars. Extra Virgin, Roasted Garlic, California Balsamic, Rice Vinegars, Citrus Tapenade, and more. You can find them in gourmet, natural food and specialty stores in the United States, Canada, Japan and Europe, and Latin America sell these products. Or you can simply order online. O Olive Oil is offering a 20% discount sale through the end of the year on ANY order. Just use the exclusive promo code e-recipecards when you check out. Plus if your order total is more than 60$ you will get free shipping.

CONTEST TIME! Win a bottle of O pomegranate champagne vinegar which is describe on the site as sweet, round, and subtle. A hint of raspberries and faraway Mediterranean lands. Ripe and scarlet. California pomegranate steeped in barrel-aged champagne. Splash on spinach, feta and pecan salad. Punch up late summer stews and soups. Brush on roasted rosemary lemon chicken. Yes, yes and yes please! O Olive Oil is not hosting this contest. I will personally send a bottle of this fine vinegar out of my own pocket because I really think their products are that good!

To enter all you have to do is go O Olive Oil on Facebook (I will be checking) and then come back leaving me a comment saying you did so. Open to everyone around the world! Deadline Dec 6th 2011 noon EST.

Food Court @ Foodlab, trying to get Street Food to Montreal

Staying on the theme of street food from my previous post, did you know street food in Montreal is illegal? Apparently there is a municipal by-law banning the sale of street food has been on the books since the 50s. I always enjoyed having my NYC hot dog or roasted peanuts when I went down to the Big Apple for a long weekend but I have to admit I was pretty happy Montreal was free of a hot dog cart on every corner. Back then street food was junk food.

But now street food is the new chic dinner outing amongst the big cities foodie world. Parks have dedicated weekends where the best street food vendors sell their tasty small sized treats in a group. Cities that allow street vendors have seen the quality of the dishes rise, it’s a dog eat dog cut throat competition now to impress your customers and have them come back.

But not in Montreal, or are the times a changing? Queue the entrance of Grumman ’78, a taco truck that can operate during events when hired by the event organizers. This suggested loop in the law was allowed by City Hall. So if you want to hire Grumman ’78 for an event and have them sell their tacos on the street…that is OK. I have enjoyed their tacos twice: once at a cookbook launch event and once at the Food Court @ Foodlab, an event that was organized by Grumman ’78 of course.

Setting up shop on the now deserted stretch of Saint-Laurent street between Sainte-Catherine and René-Lévesque (due to a business offices/condo political fiasco), at the Place de la Paix urban square,  the Food Court @ Foodlab took place on September 30th 2011. I went there with another wonderful foodie friend of mine, Johanne. Here is a sampling of what we enjoyed…

A Grumman ’78 taco of course! The menu changes all the time and today it was curried goat. It was so finger liking good. With this taco we ordered each a hibiscus juice and we shared a gooseberry cheese cake. Who else would think of gooseberry for a cake! I love the white picnic tables set up to eat our goods.

L’Expérience Kangourou is run by these 2 wacky dudes! I first hear about them about 3 years back when the dinner group went to the Mondial Gourmand. Back then allt hey served was exotic kangaroo meat. If you have not tried it I urge you to taste this succulent meat. They had kangaroo on the menu but we decided to try the other 2 meats….

muskox on the left - seal on the right

The first was seal, double verdict: gross! If you like liver you will adore it, if you hate liver don’t even try. It had a strong iron taste with a meat texture. But the second meat oh so made up for it, we had muskox which is also an Arctic animal. Now this was heavenly meat, a perfect marbling of fat and muscle nicely grilled up. I wanted a full steak after.

Next we shared a very nice pulled turkey sandwich from Pas d’cochon dans mon salon, which translates into No pigs in my Living Room, what an awesome name.

no comment!

We followed it up with delicious meatballs from Nora Gray. I just love to witness to what extent my friends will go to make a good pic for the blog when I make a request!

Still sometime a challenge for me when it comes to acquired tastes, Curtis Vargo did not disappoint with wonderful fresh oysters. Oh Curtis, LOVE the apron!

After all these small dishes I think a dessert is well deserved. From la Dinnette Nationale we tasted 3 shortbread cookies: white peaches and anise seeds, goat cheese and hazelnuts, and both our favorite chocolate and black olives. I know it sounds like a weird combo but I was quite a revelation…just make sure to use only dark chocolate.

And the finale of our foodlab experience were soft and addictive homemade caramels: one honey flavored the other fleur de sel. Fleur de sel was the winner but it was a close call!

Our mini street food event was declared a big success, Johanne and I had a blast exploring the various food here. I hope there is many more such event to come in Montreal. Do you have street vendors in your city?