Monday, October 28, 2013

Trip 2013: IFBC Recap - The Food


So I've already posted a bit about my IFBC experience, but I literally needed to set aside an entire post just to dedicate to the food.  The food was, simply put... incredible.  The entire weekend I was completely spoiled with a vast array of flavours.  To start, let's begin with the breakfasts.

The breakfasts were absolutely gorgeous - everything you could ever ask as far as cold breakfasts go.


The first morning I was there, Pastry Smart made breakfast for us, and as you can see they did not disappoint! 


 After travelling and eating continental breakfasts all week (so, fruit and yogurt really) it was SO nice to see a wide variety of delicious goodness at the tables.

They of course had fresh fruit and yogurt but even that was beautifully presented. 


This was one of my absolute favourites - pastry wrapped brie with pecans, figs, and black currants - yum! 


Along with breakfast, Pastry Smart gave an informative presentation on humane husbandry - their company is the first and only pastry, bread, and confectionary producer to be American Humane Certified - very cool!

In addition to eating a lot of great food, I also learned quite a bit!  From the keynote speech by author Dorie Greenspan, to the very last session I was absorbing knowledge like a sponge.  I attended live cooking sessions with Chef John Mitzewich of Food Wishes (he is seriously hilarious, and had me laughing multiple times throughout his demonstration) and Blue C Sushi's president of culinary Jeffrey Lunak (who you might remember from Iron Chef).  I also had the privilege of attending a couple of really informative Food Photography Sessions with Andrew Scrivani, Food Photographer for The New York Times.


While a lot of the food was great, some of it required me to step outside my comfort zone.  I consider myself an experimental eater, but even still there are a few foods I absolutely can't stand.  I ended up arriving a few minutes late for one of the last sessions (wine and food tasting, of course I signed up for that!), so I quickly grabbed a seat next to some friendly looking bloggers.  I had no idea what was on my plate, so it was an adventure to say the least.  Nearly everything was raw (salmon tartar, smoked salmon... you get the idea), but even still I decided to try everything.


It turns out I still really, really hate liver, even when it's all fancy in pate (see Mom, it wasn't one of those things I just had to try, I truly knew I hated it just by looking at it).  Good thing there was lots of wine to wash it down with. 


In between the sessions we participated in several different tasting sessions (because by this point, we were accustomed to eating every few minutes). 

During one of the tasting sessions we were escorted to a room filled with yummy treats.  After recently acquiring a heavy duty mandolin (thank-you Marc!) I have been making nearly everything I can into chips, so I was really happy when I walked by this table and found ORANGE chips.  They were surprisingly good, though the rind and pith tasted bitter as expected.  In the middle of the chips were cubes of old white cheddar, presumably to cleanse our pallet for the next chip variety (pear chips were also a delight). 


These peppers were also another favourite of mine.  I expected them to be spicy but they were sweet, smoky, and bursting with flavour. 


If the wine tasting was any indication, raw fish seemed to be a bit of a theme for the weekend (it was to be expected considering we were in Seattle, could see the ocean from where we were, and were literally a few blocks away from the famed Pike Place Market).  There were several different types of sushi to choose from:


Including Baked  Potato  "Sushi" - these were seriously awesome!  In addition to to usual cheese, chives, sour cream, and bacon that usually accompany baked potatoes, they were also topped with smoky Canadian caviar.  Being a Canuck myself, and having just tried caviar for the first time at a nearby table, I figured I might as well give these a whirl!  I was pleasantly surprised at just how good they were. 

My favourite flavour of the evening - "Sea Salted Sipping Caramel" from Hot Cakes.  I would seriously visit Seattle again just for this!  I'm currently trying to figure out how I can turn my own homemade caramel into this delicious treat! 


Deep Fried Olives - these were SO good.  Having just recently wrapped my head around deep fried battered pickles, I knew I had to try these.   They did not disappoint - the breadcrumb coating was nice and crisp and sprinkled with sea salt which paired perfectly with the green olives inside - I will be making these at home for sure. 


The live blogging with Amazon was also kind of neat -  I got to try a ton of new products while their respective Brands pitched to us.  It had a very "Dragon's Den/Shark Tank" feel to it.


I also got to take home a ton of swag that I have been sharing via random giveaways on my Facebook page for the past couple of weeks. 
As you can see there was an incredibly array of tasty delicious treats throughout the entire weekend.  Honestly, what's pictured barely even begins to scratch the surface!  There was also the secret dinner with Urbanspoon, which I'll have to tell you about next time! 
Until then...
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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Vanilla Honey Pear Sauce


A few weeks back, Marc and I were visiting my Grandparents on Vancouver Island.  Gramps is pretty big on FreeCycle and through one of these websites he saw a posting for a pear u-pick not too far from his house.  The family who posted had a bosc pear tree in their backyard that was producing like crazy - far too much for them to eat themselves!  Marc and I went there and picked enough pears for both Gramma and I to can for the winter.  


We brought the pears home, and before I knew it, 2 weeks had passed and the pears had all ripened and were ready to be made into something.  Since I've been working a lot I wanted to make something quick and easy that didn't require too much effort.  Thinking back to my adventures with Apple Butter last summer, I pulled out and my slow cooker and spent about 10 minutes slicing the pears and combining the ingredients.  The rest of the day I went about working and didn't have to think about the sauce again until it was nearly finished.   

Our house smelled so incredible throughout this entire process, and the homemade pear sauce was absolutely delicious. We have been using it stirred into oatmeal, yogurt, or just on it's own!   I even made a batch into pear butter (instructions at the end of this post), which is one of my all-time favourite types of spreads. 

Ingredients
- 2 dozen ripe pears (or as many will fill in your crockpot! 
- 2 vanilla beans, scraped (or 4 tsp extract)
- 2 tbsp honey (more or less to taste)
Directions

Peel and slice pears being sure to discard the core, then add them to pot. 

Scrape vanilla beans and add both the scrapings and pod to pot.  If you are using vanilla extract, omit until the very last step so it doesn't evaporate. 

Stir in honey, then place lid on crock pot. 

Cook on low for 8-12 hours or high for 6-8 hours.

When pears are as soft as you would like them to be, then blend the entire mixture (an emersion blender would be good for this step). I like to blend my sauce until completely smooth, but by all means leave it chunky if that's what you prefer.   Once you are finished blending the sauce, return it to the crockpot to warm back up (about 20-30 minutes on high), then transfer to mason jars. 

* To make pear butter, return pear sauce to slow cooker and cook on high, without lid for and additional 2-4 hours, until sauce has turned a deep caramel colour. 


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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Trip 2013: IFBC in Seattle, WA


It's been a few weeks now since I attended IFBC (International Food Blogger Conference) in Seattle.  Since neither Marc nor I had really visited the States since we were kids, we decided to plan a 2 week vacation around the conference.  The first week we travelled through Jasper and Banff to get to MontanaIdaho, and Oregon before arriving in Washington.  The following week we spent some time on Vancouver Island, visiting with family and going to Salt Spring Island (such a wonderful experience). 

As soon as we arrived home from our vacation we dived right back into work.  It's taken me nearly all that time to digest the oodles of information and knowledge I gained from the conference! From start to finish it was packed with things to do - information sessions, meet and greets with brands, advertisers, other bloggers, and enough food tastings to feed all of Seattle (so much in fact, I had to devote an entire post just to that). 

The conference was held at the "W Hotel" in downtown Seattle.  Here's a shot of the completely decked out lobby.  Right around the corner was a bar where Marc and I ended up having a few drinks here and there throughout the weekend. 


Upon walking into our room, the bathroom vanity was the first thing that caught my eye - it was pretty swank to say the least.  It didn't hurt that it also came with some really great freebie bathroom products (Bliss). It's not often you actually enjoy the mini shampoos and soaps you get in hotels. 


Everywhere I went in the hotel, whether it be a seminar, food tasting, or even the lobby, I was greeted with a refreshing carafe of ice cold water infused with fresh strawberries, lemons, and mint leaves.   That alone scored big points in my books! 


One of my favourite things to do in any new place is to explore.  Throughout the weekend anytime I got a break from the conference I would be on the streets of Seattle taking it all in.  I wanted to soak up as much experience as I could handle in the short time I was there.  

Here's something really cool I found - a stone that was part of the pavement with this excellent quote on it - "I have always known that at last I would take this road, but yesterday I did not know it would be today." I absolutely love this kind of stuff so it was very neat to see. 


Just down the street from our hotel was a dress shop - I simply had to take a picture of this gorgeous dress!  


... and around the corner from that was an area full of blue trees.  Upon arriving home I learned that a local artist painted the trees blue with a mixture of blue rock and water in hopes to raise awareness about deforestation.  You can read more about the project by clicking here


I had so many awesome experiences on this trip - I can't wait to share more details about the conference in my next post!  
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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Yorkshire Pudding



This was my post that appeared in the October 3rd edition of The Hinton Voice. I also had the privilege of proof reading this week's paper along with the rest of the crew at their office.  What a cool experience that was! 

[If you’ve been following Cooking With Jax either online (www.CookingWithJax.com) or on Facebook (www.Facebook.com/CookingWithJax) you will know that I have been travelling for the past couple of weeks.   I had a conference in Seattle, so my husband and I thought we would plan this year’s holidays around it.  We spent the first part of the week touring the US (Montana, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington) and finished off our trip with a visit to my grandparents who live on Vancouver Island. 

Whenever we visit my grandparents we eat extremely well - my Grampa has a garden that would rival even the most experienced gardeners and my Gramma is an amazing cook who makes everything from scratch.  Nearly everything I know about gardening or cooking has came from them.

Gramma is from England so one of her specialties is a traditional English feast – roast beef with all the fixings, which includes her very own homemade Yorkshire pudding.  The only way to describe her Yorkshire pudding would be absolute perfection.  They are crisp on the outside and soft on the inside – paired with her beef gravy, there really is nothing better.  My entire family raves about them, so I thought that I would share the recipe so your family can enjoy them as much as we do!]  

Recipe makes 12 individual Yorkshire pudding

Ingredients
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup flour
- ¼ tsp salt
- approx. 1/8  cup oil (or for even more flavour, use beef drippings).  You will need about ½-1 tsp per muffin tin. 

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a blender, whip the eggs until frothy.  Add milk, and continue to whip until combined.  Add flour and salt until well blended.   You can make this mixture ahead of time (1/2 hour to an hour ahead of baking), just be sure to whip it again before filling muffin tins.

Pour oil into muffin tins to cover the bottom – if you use too little oil, the individual Yorkshire pudding will stick.  If you use too much oil, the grease will bubble over the muffin tins and make a mess of your oven. Tip – Gramma likes to use a sheet of tin foil on the bottom rack of her oven to catch any spills. 

Now here is the most important step of all – place muffin tins filled with oil in pre-heated oven until oil is smoking hot.

Give batter a final whip, then fill the preheated muffin tins approximately half full (Gramma pulls out the oven rack slightly and pours the batter directly into the tins while they are still in the oven).  If you have any extra batter, you can add it to a shallow cake pan (this is Grampa’s favourite).


Bake for 25 minutes, or until muffins have risen out of tin (pictured above) and are golden brown.

Also on the menu were green beans from Gramp's Garden.


He had just picked them that morning.


Gramma also made these incredibly bomb roasted potatoes.


...and of course her delicious homemade gravy. 


... we also had some chutney that's older than I am.  Seriously, I ate this with my roast and it was awesome.  


Here's my Gramma, the creator of all these delicious items and my favourite cook in the whole world. 


Here's a shot of Gramps, the officially meat carver. 


Probably because he does such a darn good job! 


The carving set Grampa uses to cut the roast has been passed down in our family for a few generations.  They belonged to my Grampa's Grampa!  So this is my Great, Great Grandfather's carving set.


... and finally, the whole masterpiece.  


 - Nutritional Info (1 Yorkshire pudding) -

Calories - 74   Fat - 3    Carbs – 9     Protein - 3   Fibre – 0

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes



Nothing quite says fall to me like Pumpkin Spice Lattes.  I'm a huge fan of pumpkin spiced anything so you can imagine how excited I get when coffee shops start serving my favourite fall treat. It's like fall in a cup, and the second that first taste touches your lips, you know the season is upon us. 
This recipe incorporates everything I love about pumpkin lattes.  The rich flavour of pumpkin, paired with a creamy whipped icing and finished off with a sprinkle of the spice that brings it all together.  
These are the perfect cupcake to make for the pumpkin/coffee lover in your life.  My husband, who's not a huge fan of icing (I know, right?!) loves taking a few un-iced cupcakes (so muffins, really) in his lunch kit for work.  I on the other hand like have mine fully iced with a steaming hot cup of coffee and indulge in it's sugary, pure pumpkin goodness. 
Ingredients
- 2 2/3 cup flour
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 pkg (2 tsp) Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte Via (or your favourite instant coffee)
- 2 tbsp boiling water
- 1 (15oz) can pumpkin puree
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup light olive oil
- 4 large eggs
- 1 batch of whipped buttercream icing
Directions
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. 
In a large bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice and salt. 
In a small mug, dissolve instant coffee in boiling water.
In a separate bowl add coffee, pumpkin puree, sugars, and olive oil, stirring to combine.  Beat in eggs one at a time until well incorporated. 
Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients being careful not to over mix. 
Refrigerate for 30 minutes (this helps relax the gluten in the dough). 
Spoon mixture into 2 muffin tins lined with baking cups (I add about 2 heaping tablespoons to each cup).  
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the cupcakes spring back quickly when lightly pressed or a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Allow to cool, then pipe icing onto them and sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice.
Recipe makes 24 cupcakes. 
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