Monday, May 28, 2012

getting organized

Last weekend I finally got around to organizing my spice jars. Ever since Paul and I started cooking regularly, we've been slowly accumulating all those lovely herbs and spices that most kitchens already have - things like baking powder, mustard powder, marjarom, etc. Some have come conveniently in plastic containers, but others have been cheaper to get at our local bulk store - and we're all about saving money these days!

The only problem with buying our herbs and spices in bulk is that we've ended up with dozens of little plastic bags with tags identifying what's inside. Which is fine...except that it's really not.

Luckily, we spied these adorable little jars in a dollar store (and yes - they were $1.00 each!) so we grabbed a dozen and I went to work trying to bring a little order to our chaos!

These Avery labels from the Martha Stewart Collection were absolutely PERFECT for the lids (and the labels are freezer proof, if you need them to be!). Plus blue is my favourite colour, so that was just a bonus (they also come in red).

Easy peasy.

And voila! All organized and sitting pretty. I love the way these look and am going to grab a few more, plus some larger sizes for the things we use more often (ie. cocoa powder, shredded coconut, kosher salt, etc).

Actually, to be completely honest, right now I have more of the small jars than I have spices, so I'm actually going through my pantry and cookbooks to find more spices that I *need* to add to our collection! Such is the life of an aspiring home cook.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Flickr Frolic Fridays

Has a week already passed? Time for another Flickr Frolic Friday!

Easter just isn't the same without my usual stash of Cadbury Creme Eggs, but when I was at the store this past year, picking up several of those chocolatey treats, I spotted these ones. Orange Creme? Yes please!

Ever since I started my food blog, I've noticed that a lot of the gifts I receive now are more food-related than ever. Not that I'm complaining - I love some of the really good food finds my family and friends come up with.

But nothing, beats this hilariously cute card that my sister got me. Man, I love bacon and eggs.

Paul is a HUGE fan of Belgian beer. Especially the blue-label Chimay - which is very tough to find here in Toronto.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Flickr Frolic Fridays

I was so excited for the long weekend that I completely forgot to post my Flickr Frolic Friday post!

So, even though it's Monday, here are my three random Flickr photos.

Paul and I have just recently started doing stir-fry at home and it's been turning out pretty great. 

While we were at the grocery store shopping for ingredients for Paul's first attempt at doing stir-fry, I asked my Twitter friends what the best noodle to use in stir-fry was and the amazing Eleanor (aka wokstar) recommended using soba noodles. 

I've had soba noodles in restaurants before but had never made them at home. They're extremely easy to make and work really well in stir-fry dishes. We now keep an extra package of these noodles in our pantry in case we ever want to make a quick noodle dish for lunch or dinner.

I have quite a sweet tooth and am inordinately fond of chocolate, but I can generally keep my chocoholic obsession to a minimum. 

However, last Christmas, I saw Purdy's Chocolate tweet about their Eggnog Truffles, I knew I had to try them. 

These chocolates are definitely going to be something I look forward to every holiday season (along with the Starbuck's Eggnog Latte and McDonald's Eggnog Milkshake). The chocolate isn't too sweet, but acts as a nice background to the creamy centre. The eggnog cream is rich, has an intense eggnog taste and is very indulgent.

Bouchon Bakery. This one is located right outside the elevator banks in the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas where Paul and I stayed during our first trip to Vegas and we had breakfast here every day.

Everything at this bakery is amazing. The huge macarons actually made me squeal in happiness (they're the size of my palm!) I tried to order a new pastry each day, but it's so hard not to stick to their pain au chocolat (chocolate croissants), macarons and cheese danishes (heavenly!)

We tell everyone about this place and most of our friends and family go at least once whenever they're in Vegas now because of us! LOL. During our last trip we didn't even stay at the Venetian but still ended up walking over to grab a quick treat.

Friday, May 18, 2012

mint-filled brownie cupcakes

Paul is a huge fan of chocolate-mint flavoured anything, so when I saw this recipe for mint-filled brownie cupcakes in Martha Stewart's Cupcakes cookbook,  I knew I had to give them a try.

The ingredients list is nice and short and the recipe is very easy to follow - perfect for a beginner baker. The hardest part was keeping Paul from eating all the mini peppermint patties!

I even tried piping for the first time ever! What do you think? I had planned on piping names and words on all of them using melted white chocolate but some of the cupcakes didn't turn out completely flat. So for the uneven ones, I covered the little mounds with vanilla frosting. I'm not so happy with the vanilla ones - definitely need more practice, but I'm really proud of the ones with writing on them!

Oh, the reason some of them didn't come out of the oven "completely even"? Apparently, if you don't really bury that peppemint patty - this happens! Haha!

My only recommendation? Make a few batches - these moist, fudgy cupcakes go pretty quickly!

Monday, May 14, 2012

food gadgets i never knew i had to have

I love having a food blog. It's only been a couple of months since I started blogging, but I've already learned so much, cooked so many new things, met so many great people and read so much about food that I know that I'm going to be blogging for a long time to come. I really wish I had started sooner!

The one problem with immersing myself so much into food? I'm now exposed to so many more cool foods, gadgets and events that my mind is just bursting with things I want to try.

Oh, the gadgets...I've always been a bit of a food gadget girl, even when I wasn't cooking regularly. And I know that more gadgets do not make me a better cook, but you have to admit - some of these things are pretty darn cool.

Here are just a few of the fun food-related items that I'm hoping to (realistically) buy in the next few months. I added "realistically" in there because if my budget was unlimited, this list would definitely be very different! I'm sure this is going to be the first of many posts featuring kitchen gadgets, so if you have any to share, I'd love to hear about them!

Nordic Ware Egg Waffle Pan

Nordic Ware Egg Waffle Pan from Williams-Sonoma, $49.95 USD

If you've ever been to Hong Kong (or Pacific Mall in Toronto) then you'll have no problem identifying what this gadget is for. Paul and I LOVE these sweet, doughy egg-balls - we always get a bag whenever we hit Pacific Mall (fresh off the griddle and nice and warm). The idea that I could be making these at home is just too tempting! Thank goodness that I haven't seen this machine in-person yet or I would already own one.

Matcha Whisk

Bamboo Match Whisk from Teaopia, $20 CAD
I'm a huge fan of green tea - I have at least one cup a day. And although I usually steep loose green tea leaves, I did pick up a package of matcha green tea during my trip to Tokyo back in 2010 and recently bought a tin of it. I love the smooth taste of the powder, and am hoping to use it to make some other things, like smoothies and ice cream. But in the meantime, I want to make matcha green tea the proper way - and this whisk would definitely help me get my green tea nice and frothy.

Absinthe Spoons

(image from Wikipedia)

I have no use for this. I've never even tried a sip of absinthe in my life. But, these spoons are just so beautiful!

Cotton Candy Maker

Retro Series Hard & Sugar-Free Cotton Candy Maker from Nostalgia Electrics
I. So. Want. This. Who wouldn't want to make cotton candy anytime they want? Yes, I know it's pure sugar, but it's cotton candy! At home! Anytime I want!

p.s. I actually want everything on this Nostalgia Electrics page.

Bodum Knife Block

Bistro Knife Block by Bodum, $49.95 CAD

This knife storage system is really cool. Whenever I see it in the store, I can't help moving the plastic sticks around. Not only is this a nice-looking knife "block", I love that you can store any sized knife in it.

What about you? Are there any food gadgets/tools that you're looking forward to adding to your kitchen?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Flickr Frolic Fridays

In an attempt to kick-start a habit of regular blog posting, I'm introducing "Flickr Frolic Fridays" (try saying THAT three times fast). Every Friday I'm going to randomly pick 3 photos from my Flickr Stream and share them here with a quick discussion about what's going on with the photo.

I know that there's LOTS of improvement needed in my food photography skills but that's what this blog is all about - a journey into becoming a better cook and a more educated foodie.

So I hope you enjoy my random shots as much as I enjoyed taking them.  :)

I have A LOT of books about food. Not just cookbooks (at last count, I was somewhere just past 100) but also books ABOUT food. I read about food way too much for someone who doesn't work in the industry. Actually, I also think I own too many cookbooks for someone who can barely cook.

Which is part of the reason for this blog. I really want to become a better cook (and baker). I want to get more use out of my cookbooks. I want to eat all those amazing foods that I've been reading about. I also want to stop boring my friends and family with irrelevant food facts, but hey - not promising anything on that one!

I'm sure if you're even remotely interested in this little food blog then you are a foodie as well and have a solid food book collection of your own. So...any titles that I must add to my library?

I love this place. The one we go to is in Bobcaygeon, which is a little out of the way from Toronto, but we spend quite a few weekends in the area, so if it's nice, we always make the trip into town and head straight for this dairy.

Found in 1937, Kawartha Dairy is family-owned and now sells in retail outlets as well (my brother-in-law saw a few flavours in Costco recently), but there's something about going to their original location that makes the ice cream taste extra special.

Paul almost always gets a chocolate milkshake (you actually see them scoop chocolate ice cream to make the shakes - yum!) and I tend to stick to one or two ice cream flavours after spending minutes reading their entire menu. But this summer it's going to be different. I'm going to try and taste every single flavour on their menu! Obviously, not all at the same time, but over the course of the summer...after all - a girl's gotta have goals, right?

I'm not sure if we'll even make it to Bobcaygeon enough times this season for me to accomplish this - there are FORTY-SIX flavours at last count (although Paul has gamely stepped up and offered to also order a scoop of ice cream each time we go so I can "try" some of his), but I've already printed up a list of flavours and will be doing my best to cross them all off.

Don't worry - there will be lots of photos of each delicious scoop along the way!

This was my favourite candy growing up. My parents didn't buy it very often, but it was always a treat when they did.

My family always refers to it as White Rabbit candy (in English and in Cantonese), but really, it's a basic milk candy. It's perfect. It's chewy and creamy and not too sweet, which means I can eat tons of this without feeling sick (believe me, I tried this often as a child!). I think what also fascinated me as a kit was the fact that each piece of candy (after you opened up the waxy wrapper) was also wrapped in a very thin layer of rice paper. This was too cool to a five year old. Paper? That I could eat? No way! I still have a habit now of peeling off the rice paper and eating it separately (well, letting it melt on my tongue since there's no real way to "eat" rice paper).

Now that I'm an "adult" my mom almost never buys this anymore, but whenever I visit a Chinese supermarket, I always walk down the candy aisle and get a little excited and nostalgic whenever I see these familiar wrappers.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

linguine with shrimp for two

Paul and I love pasta - it's affordable and can be made in so many ways, but we almost always stick to the basic pasta and tomato sauce combination, which is fine (especially since Paul makes a great classic tomato sauce) but once in a while we like to try something new.

I saw this recipe on Kraft Canada but I didn't have some of the ingredients they called for so I adapted it to use the things I did have ready in my fridge instead of making a trip to the grocery store.

It turned out really well and is definitely something we'll be doing more often. This recipe is super easy and quick and perfect for beginner cooks (like me) who want to do something a little more fancy than the usual pasta and tomato sauce.

Plus, this recipe is perfect for two people. One of my pet peeves is that almost all the recipes I find and want to try serve a huge amount of people, which is such a waste. I know that I can adapt any recipe down to two servings, but once in a while, it's just nice to see something that's made with a couple in mind.  :)

Monday, May 7, 2012

red velvet cake balls

Paul had mentioned seeing  a cool contraption (I can't remember the name now) on TV a few weeks ago that made it easy to create little round balls of cake, making cake pops super easy to make. Of course, cake pops are all the rage these days, even Starbucks carries some of them. I couldn't justify buying something from an infomercial but a couple of weeks ago this babycakes gadget, the babycakes cake pop maker, went on sale at Canadian Tire for $23.99 (regularly it's $39.99). It promised to create a dozen cake pops in minutes! Minutes!!! I couldn't resist and dragged Paul to three different stores to find one (apparently, they sold out pretty quickly - I guess every wants to make cake pops).

It works on the same principal as common waffle irons and George Foreman grill, so it didn't seem that difficult to use and it even comes with a few basic recipes to get you started. It creates mini cake balls and once you glaze and stick lollipop sticks into them you get cake pops! Easy peasy.

I flipped through the instruction booklet and decided to try making the red velvet cake pops. The recipe was easy to follow and I actually had all the ingredients handy, except for buttermilk (but they included a substitute for that).

The only thing I always forget is how messy red food colouring can be. My kitchen looked like a crime scene by the time I was halfway through preparing the batter. Apparently, me alone in the kitchen can be just as messy as Paul and me in the kitchen together....(shhh, don't tell Paul I admitted to that!)

There was enough batter to make about three and half dozen cake balls and since the cake pop maker makes a dozen balls at time, I had roughly three chances to get it right.

My first batch was, um, a little underwhelming. The instructions kept warning to be careful not to overfill the cake ball well and that you only needed a tablespoon of batter. So I piped in about a tablespoon of batter and ended up with little mushroom caps of cake. Haha. They tasted great, but obviously, wasn't as round as I would have liked.

So, for my second batch, I filled the well completely with batter and voila - red velvet cake balls!  :)

Since they were just for us, I didn't bother with the lollipop sticks. I glazed some of them, but wasn't happy with the results. So I coated the rest with icing sugar and they turned out really nice. I love that I could turn out dozens of these in a really short amount of time - even without the sticks, I had adorable cake balls that were really yummy and would be a hit at my next pot luck or family getogether.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

welcome to kitchen frolic!


My name is Stephanie - welcome to my food blog, kitchen frolic!

My day job is in corporate communications and marketing (in an industry that's as unrelated to food as you can possibly get), but I'm pretty obsessed with food the rest of the time (and sometimes while I'm at work too).

I was born, raised and reside in Toronto, Canada. Growing up, most of my friends lived on hamburgers and french fries, but my parents were very traditionally Chinese, so I grew up eating with chopsticks at home and having lots of Chinese dishes. Now I'm all grown up (mostly) and married to an amazing guy, Paul, who's half-Italian and half-Irish and who uses chopsticks better than I do. We'll pretty much try anything food-wise (although I'll probably squeal and run away if you hand me anything remotely related to an insect).

I was hesitant to start a food blog because there are already so many great (and not so great) food-related blogs out there, plus I am a real amateur in the world of food. On the other hand, I definitely needed an outlet for my food fixation and I really wanted to get back into writing. In the end, I gave in and decided to start this blog with the hope that I'm semi-interesting enough that some of you may check it out regularly and enjoy what I have to say!

Thanks so much for stopping by!