Friday, September 28, 2012

baked chicken ziti

Most of the time, I cook new things by choosing a recipe and then going to the grocery store and picking up the required ingredients. But once in awhile, I do things a little backwards. There was a sale on ricotta cheese earlier this week so we stocked up. Seriously, who stocks up on ricotta cheese (besides us, I mean)? But that meant we had all this ricotta cheese and no plans for it.

So, last night I had a brainstorm. I pulled some of the ricotta out of the fridge and tried my hand at making a baked chicken ziti. The pasta bake came out creamy and cheesy and is definitely going to be going into our regular dinner rotation.  :)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

fresh fest 2012 at the ontario food terminal

Yesterday, Paul and I headed out to the Ontario Food Terminal to check out the first-ever Fresh Fest event.

This was the first time that the Ontario Food Terminal had opened to the public and the aim of the event was to:
  • raise funds for FoodShare Toronto, a non-profit community organization whose vision is Good Healthy Food for All. 
  • raise awareness of the importance of the Ontario Food Terminal in fresh fruit and vegetable distribution
  • promote the health benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables

Some Quick Facts about the Ontario Food Terminal

  • opened in 1954 and is 40 acres in size
  • is the only food terminal in Canada and is the third largest in North America
  • the Terminal has 22 warehouse tenants, 50 office tenants, 400 Farmers’ Market tenants and over 5,000 registered wholesale buyers making use of the facility
  • over 975,000 tons of produce was brought into the terminal last year which on average represents 5.3 million pounds of produce per day 
  • when compared to other food terminals around the world it is the only one with a wholesale Farmers’ Market on 10 acres on the same site as the traditional warehouse facilities 
  • the increasing demand for “ethnic produce” is met by either the local growers or by the importation of those vegetables

Friday, September 14, 2012

gelato for breakfast? it's ok, i'm an adult now

As a kid, I always thought that one of the coolest things about "growing up" would be that I could eat anything I wanted...whenever I wanted. Like ice cream. What kid doesn't dream about eating ice cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner?

Although I'm well into adulthood now, I don't think I've ever actually eaten frozen desserts instead of my daily meals, but on our recent trip to Rome, I did have gelato instead of a meal at least twice! My excuse was that it was so incredibly hot that I needed the frozen treat to cool me down and keep me hydrated! Haha! Wait, why did I need an excuse? I'm an adult! Bring on the gelato!

Before heading to Italy, I think I've had gelato a whopping total of three times in my life. I was too busy eating ice cream...or sherbet/sorbet, if I wanted something "different" from the frozen desserts menu. So, what makes gelato different? Check out this helpful infographic for more info on the differences between gelato and other frozen scoopables.

When I tell you that there are gelaterias everywhere in Rome, I'm not exaggerating. They're EVERYWHERE. So it was easy to indulge in gelato pretty much from the moment we stepped outside of our hotel until we turned in for the night. (Really, did I need another reason to love Rome?)

We always stuck to the medium size (not sure why) and generally, a medium gelato ran us between 2.50 to 4 Euros. I love that the price was relatively the same, but the quantity and quality definitely varied!

When ordering gelato, you can actually choose more than one flavour for your "scoop" (unlike the ice cream stores here in Canada), and some places will also dollop some nice fresh cream on top of your gelato.

The first gelato we had in Rome was from the Blue Ice chain of gelaterias. Not exactly what you would call "high-end" gelato...but we were walking by and they were very "not-intimidating". This is one of those places where they stick "examples" of the ingredient on top of the gelato so that you can visually see what flavour you may be getting. Since this was our first taste of Italian gelato, it tasted fine to our yet-uneducated taste buds. I had Limone (I had already decided before our trip that my first gelato would be lemon-flavoured) while Paul opted for the ever-popular Pistachio flavour.

After this first introduction to run-of-the-mill gelato, our second scoops were from I Caruso Gelateria. We walked quite far from our hotel for this, but as soon as we heard about this place we knew we had to visit it no matter what (I mean, Caruso)! What a difference! This is the real deal - ral artisan gelato. There's a guy in the shop window MAKING GELATO! And the flavours are listed up on a board. If you look down, there are no colourful flavours or ingredient clues - in fact, the gelato is all covered up with lids. Since the ingredient board was in Italian and the server didn't speak any English, we were on our own.

I opted for Caffe while Paul tried the Amaretto (two words we actually recognized). The gelato was sooooo good. We sat outside the gelateria and after we finished, we went back in for a second scoop. Mine was Ananas (Pineapple), while Paul had Fior de Panna (a vanilla cream). Out of the four, the pineapple really wowed us. In fact, I think it was our favourite gelato of the entire trip (although I did try a close second later on at San Crispino). The pineapple flavour was incredibly fresh and the gelato was smooth and creamy. We would have headed back here again during the trip if it wasn't so darn far from our hotel!

After reading some reviews online, we had two more gelato shops we wanted to check out - Giolitti (said to be the oldest gelateria in Rome) and San Crispino. Both of these are generally at the top of any "Best Gelato in Rome" lists we found, both online and in guidebooks.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012, a *giveaway* (mmm...steak knives)!

I love steak. Paul loves steak too, so it's always easy for one of us to convince the other that we should have steak for dinner. There's something so beautiful about a thick, juicy, perfectly marbled slab of meat sitting on our grill. We almost never dress it up with anything more than a coat of freshly ground salt and pepper.

Now, as you can probably tell, our favourite type of steak is a Grilling one, but did you know that steaks fall into three categories? Before becoming a Canadian Beef Brand Ambassador, I could never keep this straight! Basically, they're grouped according to how they should be prepared:
  • GRILLING - can be grilled without any extra prep or effort 
  • MARINATING - needs to be marinated before you cook it (no matter how you cook it)
  • SIMMERING - needs a slow simmer in a nice liquid to ensure tenderness (like a steak version of a pot roast!)
Since I'm not that familiar with the other steak groups besides Grilling, I wanted to learn more about how to cook them properly. Curious? Check out this very useful page that give you tips, cooking notes and timing on cooking all three types of steaks.

I definitely want to start cooking with Marinating and Simmering steaks more often - there's a whole bunch of recipes I've already bookmarked on the Canadian Beef site that I want to try. ( long do you think it would take me to try out every steak recipe here?)

Want to join me and other steak lovers in a fun Twitter chat all about STEAK? Canadian Beef and ShesConnected are having a #LoveCDNBeef Twitter Party on Thursday, September 13 at 8:30 pm EST. Follow @CanadianBeef and @shesconnected, and use the #LoveCDNBeef hashtag.

In anticipation of all the steak I'm going to be eating, CUTCO (in partnership with Canadian Beef) was kind enough to send me a set of their new steak knives. Although we already own several sets of steak knives, these ones are pretty darn nice. They have a thick, full tang, which Paul and I noticed right away, and both of us also loved how great the knives feel in our hands - they have an ergonomic design and a really good weight to them.
  • Exclusive Double-D® edge provides a clean, smooth cut every time and stays sharp longer than straight-edge knives. Can be factory sharpened. 
  • Ergonomic handle is a universal fit for large or small, left or right hands. Thumb and forefinger lock into place for safety and control. Fatigue-resistant design. 
  • With CUTCO's Forever Guarantee, we will sharpen, hone, buff, repair and if necessary replace your CUTCO knives and accessories for FREE. No receipt is required. 
  • Like all CUTCO products, the Steak Knife is guaranteed forever.
Are you envious of my new steak knives? Well, you don't have to be! The generous team at CUTCO is also giving a set of these steak knives to one lucky kitchen frolic reader! 

To enter:

  • Leave a comment, telling me how you like your steak (2 entries)

If you want extra entries (1 entre for each action):

  • Leave a comment, telling me what CUTCO product you'd like to try out most.
  • Follow me on Twitter (leave a comment letting me know you're following me)
  • Follow CUTCO on Twitter (leave a comment letting me know you're following them)
  • Tweet about this giveaway (please include my Twitter handle, @kitchenfrolic so I can see the tweet!)
Don't forget to leave an email so I can contact you if you win! Contest is open to residents of Canada and the USA. Contest ends Friday, September 28, 2012.

(If you had already entered using the Rafflecopter form I had up earlier, don't worry, I have those entries saved. I was having problems with their form, so I had to take it down, but don't worry - you're entered!)

Oh, and if you're wondering - I prefer my steaks Medium-Rare, and will sit sullenly glaring at you if I have to chew on anything more done than Medium.

Disclosure: I am a Canadian Beef Ambassador and have been compensated for this post. However, all opinions expressed are my own and have not been influenced in any way by my association with the program.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

pizza, pizza and more pizza


Who doesn't love a good slice of pizza? We sure as heck love it! Friday night is generally "pizza night" and although we vary where we get our pizza from each week, we generally stick to simple toppings, like pepperoni. Once in a while, instead of takeout, Paul will make his family-favourite pizza from scratch (lately he's been experimenting with different types of dough to try and get that elusive "perfect" crust).

So we knew we definitely had to eat some pizza when we went to Rome last month. Because some of the places we had wanted to try were closed for August holidays, and since we were spending most of our time sight-seeing in some intense heat, we didn't get to try as much pizza as we would have liked. However, every single slice of pizza we had while we were there was Amazing (yes, Amazing with a capital 'A').

Besides ordering whole pizzas and pizza by the slice, there's also get pizza al taglio (I love this concept). Pizza al taglio or pizza al trancio (Italian for pizza by the slice — literally "by the cut") is pizza baked in large rectangular trays. You tell the server how large a rectangular slice you want them to cut off and you pay for the slices by weight.

Over the course of our week-long trip, we had pizza six times, from four different places. I could write on and on about the pizza we had, but you just want to see the photos, don't you?  :)

Taverna del Corso

I noticed this little pizza restaurant as we were walking to one of the (many) churches we visited. Later that evening, when we were trying to find somewhere to eat (like I said, a few of the restaurants we had wanted to eat at were closed for the holidays), I mentioned this place to Paul and off we went. I think I remembered it only because it had that cheesy Italian decor - you know, the wooden chairs, red-and-white checked table cloths and a grumpy old Italian man standing in the doorway (who turned out to be pretty nice, actually).

They serve pizzas on a super-thin, crispy crust (very similar to the one Paul makes) made in a wood-fired oven. We went twice while we were there and tried a range of their pizzas, including a Pizza Margherita, Pizza Parmigiana and Pizza Diablo.