Category Archives: Unique

Rice Paper Wraps

It can be a lot of fun getting outside of your comfort zone in the kitchen and trying new things. I made rice paper wraps for the first time years ago, it was a bit of a disaster to be honest, but once you get the hang of it rice paper wraps are a really easy and versatile ingredient. You can add meat or tofu and any veggies you like. (They’re also a great date night food to make together!)

If it’s your first time trying them, the two best bits of advice I can give you are:

– Use two sheets, one sheet is too thin

– DO NOT overfill your wrap, it will just be an absolute mess

Rice paper wraps are available at most Asian grocery stores (I live near Chinatown in Toronto and pick mine up at a store called The Lucky Moose). For veggies we used cilantro, red peppers, lettuce and green onion with a bit of satay chicken. First chop all your veggies and set aside.

Dice the chicken and brown in a pan. Add chili sauce (I used a prepared lemongrass satay sauce)

Wet two sheets of rice paper together in lukewarm water. They will start to soften, put them onto a plate and add your ingredients

Fold over the top and bottom to seal in the sides, then fold over the top to put the ingredients into a “pocket”.

Continue rolling the rice paper wrap tightly

Now, do this a bunch more times and you will end up with a plate full of delicious wraps!

You can experiment and fill these with anything, avocado tastes great. For a dip mix crushed garlic with chili sauce, soy sauce and minced ginger.

Enjoy! 🙂


Let him eat cake

Birthdays are a perfect time to get creative, and for people who love to bake making a homemade cake is the obvious way to go. Some people are great at decorating, some make balloon animals, me – I bake. So for Andrew’s birthday I took his favorite theme (next to horror movies or music – maybe I’ll try one of those next year) Space! I made him a space themed cake.

You can do one of two things, make cake batter from scratch or use boxed cake mix. I honestly don’t think it makes you a bad person or means you care any less if you use boxed mix when you’re pressed for time. Same with the icing, pick which side you want to be on; make your own or use premade. Either way, the cake assembly will be the same. You will need: cake batter (enough for two layers), icing, food coloring and any accessories or candies that you want to add.

Find a large piece of cardboard or a box, and cover it with foil. This will make a great base for your cake.

Bake your cake in square or round pans, you will need two full cake slabs to make a two tiered cake.

While your cake is baking, mix your icing. I used a combination of mainly blue colouring with a few drops red added slowly to make a very pale blue (almost grey). I used this as to cover the base I constructed the cake on and to make it look like a planet, with craters and an uneven texture by pushing it with a spoon (I was trying to make it look like the moon).

Next add your sheet of cake, I trimmed the top off to make it flat. Add a layer of icing to this layer, and top with the second layer of cake. From here, ice the entire cake top and sides (I used a much more vibrant shade of blue as “the sky”).

The fun part is decorating. I went to a toy store and found some great figurines, the entire solar system in miniature along with astronauts and space equipment. I placed the planets on the cake, dotted the entire cake with yellow icing as “stars” then placed the space explorers around the cake.

This is how it turned out:

Andrew was surprised, and I was so happy I was able to make his birthday special. (It’s really hard to surprise someone when you live together – a.k.a please leave for a few hours). We celebrated with great friends and food, and I look forward to making personal cakes a bit of a birthday tradition.

If you don’t have time or feel like making the cake yourself, why not buy a premade cake and decorate it with icing and personal touches? The fact that you took the time and wanted to make something unique is guaranteed to make anyone feel extra special.

Happy birthday Andrew!


Cheeseburger Pizza

Craving fast food but can’t choose between a burger or slice of pizza? Well it turns out you can have both! I’ve seen cheeseburger pizza as an option when ordering delivery, and even though I’ve never ordered it I was curious. So, I tried to recreate it at home and actually it was pretty amazing.

Brown ground beef (you can use vegetarian ground beef substitute if you are a vegetarian, or if you’re trying to cut back on the amount of meat in your diet) with diced onions, fresh cracked pepper, Worcestershire sauce and chili flakes.

Instead of using traditional pizza dough, we used leftover puff pastry rolled out with a bit of flour. Otherwise you can just as easily use a premade pizza base or even pita shells. Top with tomato sauce. (I added red peppers, not really a “cheeseburger topping” but I was trying to add a bit of veggies to make this slightly healthier.)

Add the browned beef to the pizza, then top with shredded cheese.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 F for 20 minutes, or until the dough is cooked through and the cheese melted.

I was curious, but not brave enough, to try this with sliced pickles. If anyone tries it let me know what it’s like!


Quick and easy wonton appetizers

I’m a big fan of appetizers, they give people something to nibble on while you finish making dinner. Our kitchen is a bit on the small side, and having anyone hovering around me while I cook drives me crazy. My solution is to open a bottle of wine and have a bunch of appetizers in the other room to distract people from “that woman who keeps shouting at us to get out of the kitchen”.

My mom taught me how to make appetizers by using wonton wrappers to create a shell for the ingredients. So far, everyone who has tried them loves them. This includes the pug, who is basically a vacum cleaner substitute.

 

What you need:

  • 500g sausage meat
  • 3 green onions
  • 2 large green peppers
  • 1 bottle of ranch dressing
  • 1 package of shredded cheese
  • 1 package of wonton wrappers

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. To create the “basket” you place two wonton wrappers so that they cover the sides of a muffin tin. If you use a mini-muffin tin you might only need one.

 

Bake the shell in the oven for 10 minutes or until browned at the edges.

 

While the shells are baking, sauté the sausage, green onion and peppers until cooked through.

 

Slowly add cheese and dressing until blended, but not to the point of being overly liquid. For me that was approximately half a package of shredded cheese and 1/3 bottle of ranch dressing.

 

Fill the shells with the mixture, and put back in the oven to bake for 5 minutes.

 

Ta-daaaa!

A lot of different combinations will work for the filling, but here are a few that I like;

  • Blue cheese, spinach and bacon
  • Mushrooms, red peppers and goat cheese
  • Cranberry, turkey and a slice of brie

I haven’t tried to fill them with a type of dessert yet, but I think they would work pretty well to serve up a scoop if ice cream or a bit of mixed fruit topped with whipped cream. You really can’t go wrong.

Enjoy!


Eating Other People’s Food – Vienna Edition

You know those people who always say “I don’t want to enter that draw, I never win anything.” I was one of those people. My advice to you, ENTER CONTESTS! ALWAYS ENTER THEM! Because sometimes you win, in my case, a trip for two to Vienna after celebrating the one year anniversary of In Toronto Magazine. So this post is not really about food and recipes as it is sharing a bit about my lovely trip to Austria.

First though we had to find care for this little guy while we were gone.

 

After a very extensive search to find what would make me most comfortable, Barks and Purrs in Toronto were wonderful. I would use them again in a heartbeat.

The food

So, a bit about the food. It was good, some better than others, but to be fair I’m not really a “meat and potatoes” kind of girl. I love starch and protein as much as the next person but in small doses. I’m also a big fan of spice, and found a few of the meals a bit bland. We ended up splitting a lot of foods to try as much local cuisine as we could. I really could have done with a bit more veggies but hey – we were on vacation.

 

My favorite meal was the hands down the Goulash, and I tried it at a few places. I’m going to try to make it again here in Canada and will post a recipe once I get it just right. It was delicious, slow cooked and topped with fresh herbs and sometimes a bit of sour cream.

 

 

The sights

Vienna is beautiful. Seriously postcard perfect, clean, and the architecture was breathtaking. In hindsight I’m sure it wasn’t hard to spot the tourists because we were walking around taking picture after picture of their homes. Their shops. Even their fruit stands.

 

My favorite thing about visiting other countries is trying the local food and drinks, it’s one of the main reasons I love to travel. And sometimes you see some pretty strange-looking things… (this sort of looks like a laughing package of cigarettes to me – anyone know what this is?)

Anyone love to travel to try new foods? If so, I would love to hear about any favorite meals that you’ve tried out of the country!


Only Three Ingredients = Delicious Dessert Bars

I’m not sure who invented this recipe, but my mom made it quite a few times when I was younger. Bake sales, bringing treats to school, these were always very popular and everyone loved them. When my mom taught me how to make them I could not believe three ingredients were all you needed to make one of the best dessert bars I’ve ever had.

What’s in them:

  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 bag of Skor bits/chips (or 6-7 Skor bars, broken into tiny bits)
  • 1 bag of regular Ritz crackers

What you do: 

If you have any pent-up aggression, this is the dessert for you. You take the bag of Ritz out of the box, keeping them in the sealed bag, and crunch them up into small pieces. Not large pieces but not a fine dust either, manageable little chunks.

I personally like using the packaged Skor bits/English Toffee better, but after going to 4 stores and not finding any we used regular Skor bars. The added chocolate was also nice so it worked out. Take about 6 Skor bars and break them into tiny “chip-sized” pieces. A meat tenderizer works pretty well.

 

In a bowl, mix together all of the ingredients until well blended.

 

Press into a greased pan (seriously, grease the pan. I can’t stress this enough)and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees

 

While still warm cut the bars. I found it easier to cut them in the pan while warm, cool them in the fridge and then remove them from the pan as they can be a bit crumbly while still hot.

 

These really are incredibly tasty, despite having so few ingredients. Give them a try and let me know what you think!


Very quick, very easy, very delicious lemon pasta

I haven’t blogged for a few weeks now, and I have a very good reason. I didn’t think the Chinese takeout containers or pizza delivery really counted as me preparing a quick and easy meal worth blogging about.

It really seems like it’s baby season right now, I have three people in my life currently expecting little wee ones. I could not be happier for them but it makes me wonder how working moms, new moms and all parents in general – how do they do it? I always feel so busy and the only dependants I have are a pug and a boyfriend. And the pug practically raises himself these days.

I came across a great blog, The Sweet Potato Chronicles, where a mom posts quick, easy and healthy recipes. I figured if she can manage, we can all manage. Last night I made a lemon pasta recipe she posted and was not disappointed – it was very refreshing with the citrus and fresh basil, perfect to welcome summer. Very few ingredients and so easy to make, I suggest you give it a try.

You will need:

  • 1 package of linguine or spaghetti pasta
  • 3  lemons juiced (1 zested)
  • 6 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • handful of basil, washed and sliced into strips
  • salt and pepper to taste

 What you do:

Cook pasta according to package instructions. Save 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.

 

While pasta is cooking: mix lemon juice, zest, oil, parmesan in a bowl. Set aside. (Yes, I added the basil right away. I break all the rules.)

Place drained pasta back into serving bowl. Pour the sauce over the pasta and toss well until well coated. If the sauce is too thick, add a bit of the cooking water. Add basil and toss again (unless you already added it like me). Serve immediately.

 

There you have it! And after a long hard day, feel free to have a glass of wine while you enjoy your dinner.

 

Before anyone even asks, no, I do not give my dog wine. He actually prefers scotch on the rocks.