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In Good Taste

Make some noise, Canada! And by “make some noise”, I really mean, eat some SunChips.

Photo Blog SunChips Go Green Snacks

What am I talking about? I’ll let the good folks at Frito Lay explain: “The new SunChips compostable bag has caused quite a lot of noise for being noisy,” says Tony Matta, Frito Lay Canada's vice president of marketing. “We’ve had a record number of calls and emails to our office since we launched in February 2010, and despite what you may have heard, SunChips is and always was keeping the bag here in Canada. We believe that trading off a little noise in order to help shrink our footprint on the planet is worth it.” 

The Americans didn’t feel the same and yanked the earth-friendly bags from store shelves due to complaints about the crinkle-crinkle noises.

So why are the new compostable bags so noisy? They get their loudness from a plant-based material called polylactic acid (PLA), a material that is more than 90-percent renewable. The sound is distinct from a traditional chips bag because the materials are not as soft at room temperature. That said, they will completely break down in a hot, active compost pile in about 14 weeks. And I think that’s a fair trade-off for a bit of tinny-sounding annoyance.

To get the word out, Frito Lay Canada sent some bags of tasty Harvest Cheddar whole grain SunChips to the House & Home office, along with earplugs (nice touch), so that we could judge the noisy bags for ourselves. The chips were as cheesy and satisfying as ever, but here’s our take on the infamous bags:

Photo Blog SunChips Go Green Snacks Leslie Williams

Photo editor Leslie Williams (above): “My roommate is the kind of crazy that storms out of the room and slams the door at the sound of people eating chips. That being said, the sound of the loudest, most metallic sounding chip bag in the universe, in combination with the crunch of tasty chips, did not go over well in our house. There was yelling.... the SunChips are now banned.”

Katie Gougeon, assistant editor: “Well, I certainly wouldn’t bring it to a movie theatre or a room full of newborns, but I think the eco benefits far outweigh the noise factor — more chip companies should do it!”

Deanna Wong, assistant editor: “Yes, the bags are loud, but who cares? Those chips are delicious and I’ll probably buy them more because of the bag! I still can’t believe they discontinued the bag in the U.S. due to complaints about the noise.”

As for my take on the compostable bags — are they really that loud? Actually, yes. The sound is not unlike crumpling extra-thin aluminum foil while wearing gloves made from steel wool. But you know what? Open the bag, pour them into a bowl and munch away. Problem solved.

Photo Blog SunChips Go Green Snacks

Photo credits:
1. Frito Lay Canada
2-3. Amy Rosen

Most European children have their first taste of alcohol while sitting on their parents’ laps at the dinner table while sipping wine. (That’s how I picture things over there, anyway.) This wasn’t the case growing up in my Toronto household.

My parents have never been big drinkers, so the basement bar of my childhood home (it was the late 1970s/early ’80s) was usually only visited during weekend parties. Listening in from the top of the staircase while dressed in my PJs, I remember my brothers and I hearing the happy buzz of cocktail guests and clinking glasses grow louder as the parties wore on.

At the time I was deathly afraid of adults, so I would hide in the shadows, wondering when I would be old enough to have that much fun after dark. But every now and then, to my horror, we’d be spotted from the landing and would be waved down by tipsy family friends. And that’s when I would get to have my favourite childhood treat: Baileys Irish Cream on the rocks. (Not my own glass, but the last sips of party-goers’.)

Photo Blog Homemade Baileys Drink Cocktail

Seriously, could this stuff be any more delicious? All creamy and sweet with hints of chocolate, vanilla and caramel, it was the intriguing back burn that my six-year-old self couldn’t quite pinpoint yet especially loved. (I now realize it was the whiskey talking.)

Today, in an era that has seen the rebirth of field-to-table, nose-to-tail, the home-curing and canning movements, it only goes to reason that a great little recipe has been circulating around the Internet for a homespun take on Baileys. I’ve given the famous Irish Cream a tiny twist by making it Canadian via local spirits (in lieu of Irish whiskey).

So here it is, the secret to making the most delicious holiday tipple known to man. This recipe serves four, but take my advice and double it. After all, you never know how many children will be hanging out at the top of the staircase.

Homemade Canadian Cream

(serves 4)

1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup 2% milk
1 14-oz. can sweetened, condensed milk
1-2/3 cups Canadian whiskey (such as Gibson’s Canadian Club, Crown Royal, Wiser’s)
1 tsp instant espresso granules (or instant coffee powder)
2 tbsp chocolate syrup
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract (sounds weird, but it works)

Step 1: Whisk everything together in a large mixing bowl until frothy, then pour into a sealable bottle and store in the refrigerator for up to two months.

Don’t feel like making your own? Stick with the original Baileys and try out this winter warm-up:

Photo Blog Homemade Baileys Drink Cocktail

Baileys Hot Chocolate

10 oz. of milk
25 g of dark chocolate
1-1/2 oz. of Baileys Irish Cream

Step 1: Boil milk.

Step 2: Pour half the milk into a jug with dark chocolate.

Step 3: Leave to soften and whisk until smooth.

Step 4: Add Baileys and the rest of the milk. Whisk again. Pour in to two heatproof glasses and top with whipped cream and chocolate curls (optional).

For another Baileys cocktail recipe, try a Baileys Espresso Martini.

Photo credits:
1. Baileys Over Ice, Baileys
2. Baileys Hot Chocolate, Baileys

I'm loving at-home soda machines like the Karim Rashid-designed, limited edition Genesis Machine SodaStream for stylish homemade sparkling beverages.

Photo Blog Making Soda Water Drink Lime

Sparkling water and “seltzer” can be used interchangeably. Originally seltzer was a German brand of sparkling water, but has now become a generic trademark to mean sparkling water, just like Kleenex is to tissue. Basically, all you really need to know is that both are bubbly.

Photo Blog Making Soda Water Drink Cola

The soda kits are fun and good-looking, too. And I like the idea of cutting down on plastic water bottles while turning boring old tap water into palate-pleasing fizzy water. I especially enjoy making my own soda pop when the feeling strikes, including old standbys like cola and ginger ale, plus new-fangled faves like diet pink grapefruit, green tea pomegranate peach and the Karim Mix of elderberry blueberry.

You can buy the kits and snappy water carafes online or at kitchen shops like Williams-Sonoma.

Photo Blog Making Soda Water Restaurant

It's on-trend, too. Restaurants like Le Café at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre, Victoria’s Spinnakers, Toronto’s Mildred’s Temple Kitchen and Charcut Roast House at the new Hôtel Le Germain Calgary (above) are all serving up environmentally friendly, reusable glass bottles of house-filtered bubbly water.

The bottom line: it’s tasty, chic and we love the make-your-own aspect of this refreshing new trend.

Speaking of which, the Grocery Innovations Canada trade show recently wrapped up in Toronto, and the following products won bragging rights as the 10 innovations for 2011, SodaStream being one of them. These products were judged on most unique, most buzzworthy and best consumer response.

1. P.U.C. Pretty Unique Cheese

2. The Bean Ladies’ Roasted Soy Beans

3. McNairn Packaging’s Cupcake and Muffin Baking Cups

4. Juan Valdez Premium Colombian Coffee

5. Cantrell Industries Inc.’s Power Soak System

6. Caledon Farms’ Liver Sprinkles

7. Deep Blue’s Fishcakes

8. In Cuisin’s Mashed Potatoes

9. Vins Culinaires Culinary Wines

10. SodaStream

Put your soda to the test in one of these delicious drink recipes — just in time for holiday entertaining!

Photo credits:
1. © Elwell
3. Charcut Roast House

Photo Recipe Blog Amy Rosen Seasonal Cauliflower

What’s in season now? Cauliflower! Snowy white, almost sculptural, in looks, I think cauliflower is one of the most overlooked vegetables in Canada.

To wit: Last week I attended an amazing feast at Toronto’s Beast restaurant, whereby a group of meat-loving Ontario chefs collaborated on a six-course all-vegetarian menu. One of my favourite courses, created by Geoff Hopgood, the chef at Toronto’s Hoof Café, was an incredibly creative take on cauliflower. He used the vegetable as he would an animal, taking advantage of every last part of it. He torched the outer leaves and ground them into sea salt to create a deliciously earthy finishing salt, wrapped the cauliflower cores in hay and roasted them, deep fried mini florets, made a silky creamy purée, a finely sliced raw salad, and more.

Inspired, I went home, and instead of roasting off my florets then tossing them in a lemony tahini dressing like I usually do, I tried something equally simple but new.

Cauliflower: Try it again for the first time.

Photo Recipe Blog Amy Rosen Seasonal Cauliflower

Cauliflower With Gorgonzola, Walnuts & Buttered Crumbs

(serves 4 to 6)

1 medium head cauliflower (about 5 cups worth)
4-5 oz. gorgonzola cheese
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp chopped walnuts
2 tbsp breadcrumbs

Step 1: Cut the core out of the cauliflower and discard green parts (or torch them and grind the ash with Maldon sea salt to make a smoky finishing salt à la chef Geoff Hopgood), then cut the cauliflower into medium florets.

Step 2: Steam in a large pot with about a cup of water for 10 minutes, or until tender. Drain water from pot.

Step 3: Mash cooked cauliflower in a pot with crumbled cheese, and season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Step 4: To a small frying pan, add butter, walnuts and breadcrumbs until it comes together as a toasty topping, about 1-2 minutes.

Step 5: Pour mashed cauliflower into a baking dish, scatter crumb topping on top, and broil in the oven until lightly browned.

Try more delicious cauliflower side dishes and curries.

Photo credits:
1. Shutterstock, from Photo Dictionary
2. Amy Rosen

Photo Blog Amy Rosen Sushi Japanese Temaki Vegetables

The next wave of communal dining has hit Toronto’s Drake Hotel like a fun, family-style tsunami. Large platters of food are set down to share, along with crisp nori (seaweed) sheets and sundry sauces for making your own hand rolls. From the fresh sashimi slices to the panko-fried shrimp and more (and more and even more), here are some temaki tips:

Photo Blog Amy Rosen Sushi Japanese Temaki Vegetables

1. It’s all about sharing, creating unique flavours with each roll, and bringing out your inner sushi chef.

2. While temaki is very popular at Japanese house parties and picnics, the concept is just popping up at the commercial level in this country. Served à la carte in virtually every Japanese restaurant in Canada, the make-your-own variety is new. Think of it as a modern take on Taco Tuesdays.

3. The Drake uses the choicest fish (in both raw and cooked forms), seasonal raw veggies, and even lobster on their pretty platters, but just about any food can be added to give temaki your own unique spin.

4. Use the highest grade nori for the wrappers. Delicately seasoned sushi rice is also a must for that perfect balance of sweetness, tanginess and texture.

5. Like they do it at The Drake, serve your temaki with at least three sauces: savoury (such as soy), spicy (wasabi mayo), and sweet (mirin-based or sweet mustard).

Photo Blog Amy Rosen Sushi Japanese Temaki Vegetables

At The Drake the temaki is meant to serve two to three people or be shared as an appetizer for groups. But if they had let me have my way, I would have eaten the whole damn thing by myself.

Click here for more Japanese recipes, including a Hot & Sour Soup, Sushi Rice Salad and Edamame Salad.

Photo credits:
1-3. Connie Tsang for The Drake Hotel

We’ve all heard their horrific tales:

The chef who loses part of his tongue — and taste — to cancer.
The brain surgeon who gets a tumor.
The TV film critic who loses his voice.

But while most of these stories don’t have altogether happy endings, they are uplifting nonetheless, as our protagonists fight back, emerging victorious and changed on the other side, having found new ways to live, communicate and cope.

Roger Ebert is one such man. America’s most famous thumb-wagging film critic hasn’t spoken a peep since 2006, when, following an operation for jaw cancer, complications led to a tracheotomy and a total loss of speech.

Photo Blog October 20 Roger Ebert

That didn’t stop the prolific writer from communicating. He took to Twitter and the Internet, where he blogs regularly on his wildly popular website. He’s still the Chicago Sun-Times film critic (has been since 1967!), but perhaps most impressive for someone who can no longer eat, he has just released his first cookbook, The Pot and How to Use It (2010 Andrews McMeel Publishing).

Photo Blog October 20 Roger Ebert Book

I’ll be frank; it’s not a great cookbook. It’s thin and wan with no photos and not a ton of recipes either. Plus, you need to cook everything in a rice cooker, Ebert’s favourite countertop appliance and the raison d’etre for the book, which is great if you have a rice cooker, but lousy if you don’t. 

That said, the book does have a lot of good stuff going for it, including the author’s inimitable voice. Also, Ebert was an enthusiastic follower of the Pritikin program; he got healthy and lost a lot of weight just before he got sick. So he passes along some healthy lessons learned; the importance of soup, cutting back on sodium, boosting foods with herbs and spices, and getting some protein in there, too.

Almost half of the book is composed of email correspondences Ebert has had with likewise rice cooker fanatics, and most of the recipes come from friends like them, including this easy rice pudding recipe. Give it a try.

Miss Ina’s Down-Home Rice Pudding

(serves 4 to 6)

By Ina New-Jones on November 15, 2008

2 cups rice
3 cups water
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 cup evaporated milk
3/4 cup brown or granulated sugar

Step 1: Combine all the ingredients in the rice cooker. The cooker will turn off when done.

Step 2: Heat the oven to 350°F.

Step 3: Pour the cooked rice into a greased baking dish; cook in the oven for 30 or 40 minutes.

Browse our website for more easy rice dishes, like Barley Leek Risotto and Moroccan Quinoa.

Photo credits:
2. The Pot and How to Use It (2010 Andrews McMeel Publishing)

Lately, one of my favourite pastimes is patting myself on the back for a job well done, and here I go again with the creation of the world’s healthiest (and tastiest) risotto.

This culinary discovery happened like most of my recipe innovations: an overindulgent weekend leads to a remorseful Monday, and I buy way too many vegetables. Then, terrified by the prospect of having them go bad before their time, I marry them together and cook them up in myriad ways.

This week’s victims? Sweet potatoes and broccoli.

Photo Blog October 13 Healthy Risotto Broccoli

What do to with them? A colourful, autumnal risotto.

Phew — dodged that bullet!

Here’s my recipe.

Photo Blog October 13 Healthy Risotto Broccoli

Sweet Potato & Roasted Broccoli Risotto

(serves 4)

1 bunch fresh broccoli, cleaned, dried; the stem cut into rounds, the florets cut bite-sized
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

1 medium sweet potato
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp olive oil
1 cooking onion, chopped
1-1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/4 cup vermouth or dry white wine
4 cups hot vegetable or chicken stock
1/4 cup grated or shaved Parmesan cheese

Step 1: Preheat oven to 400°F.

Step 2: On a cookie sheet, toss prepped broccoli in olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Step 3: Scrub the sweet potato clean, poke a few times with a fork, then microwave for about 5 minutes, or until fully cooked and soft. Remove from peel, mash innards in a small bowl and set aside.

Step 4: In a heavy pot, heat butter and oil together. Add chopped onion and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes, then stir in rice, coating with butter mixture. Deglaze with vermouth.

Step 5: Have stock simmering on the stove for easy access. Add a cup of warm stock to the rice, stir, bring to a boil and let it absorb. Stir in the sweet potato. Keep adding about a 1/2 cup of stock at a time, letting the liquid evaporate each time, until the four cups of stock have been used. Stir, stir, stir! From start to finish this process will take about 22-25 minutes.

Step 6: Keeping the risotto on low, stir in the cheese and the cooked stalk rounds of the broccoli. Dish it out and top with a few of the roasted florets. Season with pepper and maybe a little extra Parmesan.

Click here for more easy risotto recipes.

Photo credits:
1-2. Amy Rosen

Even though summer is now but a fading memory, I think we all still remember how awesome the weather was across most of Canada. Not only did that mean quality sorbet-licking time, but also that growing conditions for much of Canada’s bounty were ideal. In Niagara the vintners are toasting their good fortune, and in the Annapolis Valley the apple farmers are munching to theirs.

One thing that comes with ideal growing conditions is earlier-than-usual harvests. Remember how early we got corn this year? And the tomatoes? Really, everything.

Now October is here, and besides being the harvest season, to me, it means three things:

1. A repeat airing of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

2. Halloween!

3. Pumpkins! Carving them, looking at them, eating their seeds, and cooking and baking with them.

Photo Blog October 6 Pumpkin Season

Here’s the thing: Like everything else, pumpkins are in season earlier than usual this year, so get started now. No need to worry though — if a pumpkin is properly harvested and stored it can last up to four weeks, so Halloween will not be ruined. Not on my watch!

Here’s a recipe for my favourite part of the pumpkin, their seeds. When toasted, they have an addictive nutty flavour.

Photo Blog October 6 Pumpkin Season Granola

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Raw pumpkin seeds

Step 1: Rinse pumpkin seeds under cold water and pick out the pulp and strings. (This is easiest just after you’ve removed the seeds from the pumpkin, before the pulp has dried). Place clean pumpkin seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet and allow to dry for a few hours, stirring once or twice.

Step 2: Preheat oven to 350°F.

Step 3: Drizzle dried pumpkin seeds with oil, sprinkle with seasoning salt, then toss to coat and spread seeds out evenly on the baking sheet again. Roast on bottom rack of the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden, stirring every five minutes.

Try adding your roasted pumpkin seeds to this Best Raw Granola Recipe (photo above).

Photo credits:
1. House & Home October 2009 issue, photography by Michael Graydon
2. House & Home May 2008 issue, photography by Angus Fergusson

New Moon Kitchen, an all-natural bakery specializing in tastes-like-home cookies, was created (and is still owned and operated) by Toronto-based entrepreneur Eden Hertzog. Her healthy bakery has been supplying the GTA with hand-made cookies for over a decade.

Photo Blog September 29 Healthy Cookies New Moon

After years of hard work, Hertzog expanded her business to Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec. Now she's just cracked the U.S. market, where New Moon’s fresh-baked goodness launched September 11 in Whole Foods Colorado.

The cookies are made with 100% organic spelt flour and are tailored to numerous dietary restrictions. Made in a nut-free facility, these cookies are vegan, kosher, free of dairy and preservatives. There's even a gluten-free option.

Here at House & Home, we’re all for enjoying healthy snacks (ahem) with our afternoon lattes, but organic spelt and no cholesterol or preservatives mean nothing to us if the cookies don’t taste good. (We’re very serious about our snacks over here.)

Photo Blog September 29 Healthy Cookies New Moon

So we launched an impromptu taste test of two New Moon Kitchen offerings: The Goldies and the Lovebites. Here are our findings.

“The double chocolate cookies are the perfect balance between a cookie and a brownie, pairing crunchy cookie texture with rich fudgy flavour.”  
- Kimberley Brown, Senior Features Editor 

“My first thought was, ‘Are these really out of a box?’ Crispy oatmeal and chewy chocolate chips mean these cookies can definitely pass as home-baked!”
- Beth Edwards, Editorial Assistant

“These are healthy, right?” asks Jaimie Nathan, Assistant Editor, “Because they taste healthy.”  

“I found the texture of both to be really satisfying, nice and chewy! They didn't taste too healthy and they did kind of taste homemade. I really liked the spiciness of the chocolate one. If I were a huge cookie fan, I’d buy them as a “healthy” alternative. 
- Kendra Jackson, Associate Editor

“I like the Goldies (though they do taste like they have no butter in them). You’d want to have these with a drink (tea would be nice) because they are a tad drier than, say, my grandma’s oatmeal cookies, which were maybe 20% or 30% butter! The Goldies also have a teeny little sugary crunch in them, like she put large-grain sugar or something like that that didn’t blend in when cooking — and it’s nice! On second tasting, I’d also like to commend the baker of the Goldies for not over-cinnamoning them!
- Katie Hayden, Managing Editor

In the end, the Goldies, a traditional oatmeal cookie that tastes like a traditional oatmeal cookie — minus the buttery goodness — seems to be the fan favourite. Personally, I like spicy food, especially the addictive chili and chocolate combo, so I went in for a Lovebites dark double chocolate number first. It’s hit with spicy chipotle pepper and a hint of orange and vanilla. Again, looks homemade, tastes healthy, and man, is it ever spicy. You don’t want to accidentally drop one of these into little Timmy’s lunch box.

Bottom line: The House & Home editorial crew gives New Moon Kitchen cookies a buy!

Browse more of our favourite cookie recipes.

Photo credits:
1-2. New Moon Kitchen

Just as the experts at The Fall Home Show (who sponsored this blog and our fall home trends gallery) predicted, the Urban Farmhouse look will be big this autumn. They expect effortless country style to spill over into home entertaining, too, so the spirit of impromptu summer picnics and casual get-togethers should remain, even as the weather cools.

“I think the absolute key is simplicity — people really understand now that entertaining should not be a competitive sport,” says Vicky Sanderson, home product specialist and columnist for The Toronto Star. (She'll be talking about beautiful style that doesn't break the bank at the Fall Home Show.) “It’s not about impressing your friends and family with elaborate food and décor. It’s about spending time with people, laughing, relaxing, listening to great music.” The seasonal harvest table above embodies rustic chic with a casual tablecloth, simple wooden chairs and elegant glass hurricane candle holders.

“These days, people are eating in more than they’re going out, and, as a consequence, having family and friends over is the big buzz in contemporary design,” say designers Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan, best known for their HGTV show Colin and Justin’s Home Heist and weekly column in The Toronto Star. “Home users are spending their dollars on new kitchens and combining kitchen spaces with living rooms and dining zones to make one big casual sharing space.” (See Colin and Justin at The Fall Home Show on October 1 and 2.) This showhome great room from a few years back deftly illustrates their point — we're always ahead of the curve!

The menu has changed, too. Gone are the fussy, elabourate dishes in favour of locally produced food. “As a hostess, I want to focus on my guests,” says Vicky. “I don’t want to be in the kitchen slaving over a terrine de fois gras, where if I make one wrong step I’m basically left with a bowl of boiling fat, and nothing to serve my friends.” With the rise of the Slow Food movement and the 100-Mile Diet, a modern dinner party is about quality food with a local spin. Vicky’s idea of the perfect fall menu includes local cheese and spiced olives, cold poached salmon or trout, baby greens salad and artisanal bread, and, in warmer months, ends with seasonal fruits served with sour cream and brown sugar. It’s simple, it’s easy, and it’s delicious.

If simple just isn’t your style, cocktail parties are just as glam as ever. And better yet, you don’t have to wait for a reason to have one. “Parties are not just for special occasions or holidays anymore,” says Dee Brun Gow, aka The Cocktail Deeva. (Don't miss Dee, pictured above, at her seminars on creating personalised alcohol infusions for holiday parties at the Fall Home Show.) “People are having parties – or better yet, ‘events’ – for all kinds of reasons: movie premieres, television show premieres or finales. They are way more glam than ever, from hiring a photographer to capture the evening to rolling out the red carpet – literally.”

“As a society we are investing more in our homes, in design, decorating and making them fabulous,” says Dee. “We want to show them off and have people enjoy them with us.” Whether you choose to throw a country-style dinner party or roll out the bar cart for a cocktail party, entertaining at home is a smart, budget-friendly way to host friends and family for a meal this fall.

Get more great home decorating and entertaining ideas at The Fall Home Show! It's running from September 30 to October 3, 2010 at the Better Living Centre, Exhibition Place, Toronto. See our gallery of hot fall home trends from The Fall Home Show, plus get discounts on tickets!

Photo credits:
1. House & Home October 2007 issue, photography by Ted Yarwood
2. House & Home March 2009 issue, photography by Michael Graydon
3. House & Home July 2009 issue, photography by Michael Graydon
4. Cherie-Lynn Buchanan

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