Monday, December 20, 2010

First Ever Contest: Tetley Colour Therapy Gift Basket

This is exciting! Miss.Adventure@Home's first ever contest!!

I was contacted by Tetley and was sent a sample of blueberry ginseng clarity tea to promote the new line of Tetley Colour Therapy product.

Tetley Colour Therapy Gift Basket

My thoughts
Since I am not a big tea drinker, I thought I would share it with co-workers and friends. One of my colleagues had already tried the blueberry ginseng tea and thought it was very "yummy". I thought the aroma of blueberries was so fragrant. I was actually surprised that I really enjoyed this tea. It's also the perfect time of year for tea as it's getting cold out there!

The product
Tetley Tea is on a mission to help Canadians get more "colourful" with their new line of herbal teas. As you know, colour influences our lives every day. In the home, a bedroom that's painted paled blue an have a calming affect. Wearing red can illicit a sense of energy and excitement. Our colour choices can have dramatic effects on our mood and well being. Now you can match or even influence your mood using colour with this new line of herbal teas for a little Tetley Colour Therapy. Find out more at Tetley Colour Therapy.

The prize
A Tetley Colour Therapy gift basket worth approximately $70 with 2 containers each of tea, a canister/tea pot and 50 mood influencing greeting cards.

Tetley Colour Therapy Gift Basket

The rules
* To participate, simply leave a comment with your e-mail address by January 3, 2010 at 5 pm EST.
* Shipping is limited to within Canada only (excluding Quebec) - sorry non-Canadian readers. (If you are from Quebec, maybe you know someone in another province who can hold the gift basket for you?)

Other than the canister of 20 tea bags, no fees were paid for this product review and is based on my own unbiased opinion.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Langdon Hall (Cambridge, Ontario)

1 Langdon Drive
Cambridge, Ontario

When my boyfriend A asked me whether I wanted to go somewhere specific for my birthday or be surprised, I tried to play coy. So I gave him a hint: "voted one of the top 100 restaurants in the world this year". I was really hoping that he would get my hint and surprise me. What can I say? A birthday girl wants her cake and eat it too! Well, not only did A make a reservation at Langdon Hall, we also got to stay the night. What a great boyfriend I have!

Langdon Hall

Langdon Hall made the press earlier this year for being ranked #77 on San Pellegrino's top 100 list. It was one of only two restaurants in Canada (the other, #60, is Rouge in Calgary). Unlike my pal The Gastronomer who has been to quite a few (to name a few:#4 El Celler de Can Roca, #7 Alinea, #9 Arzak, #26 Momofuku Ssam Bar, #32 The French Laundry where The Astronomer proposed), I don't have much experience with acclaimed restaurants. I was very excited to be able to check out a Canadian one for my birthday.

I have to say that I get a little nervous going to very fancy restaurants. I know it's silly but you worry about doing the wrong thing. I could definitely feel a nervous jitteriness but our server made us feel very comfortable.

Dining Room Dining Room
Dining Room.

Our overnight stay at Langdon Hall included a 3-course dinner, as well as breakfast the next morning. After settling in to our room, which was beautifully decorated in an English country décor and included a tall, feather bed, we headed out to dinner. We had 8:30 pm reservation, but there were still quite a few diners, and it thinned out at the end of our meal.

We each got a glass of wine and were served bread with their famously homemade butter. The very knowledgeable server explained that the homemade bread was made out of the same starter sourdough made when the restaurant first opened. I had heard about this done before and thought it was a very interesting tidbit!

Homemade Bread & Butter
Homemade Bread and Butter.

After ordering, we got complementary amuse-bouches. Unfortunately, it looked suspiciously non-vegetarian, so I interrupted the description of the amuse-bouches to mention that A was vegetarian. (I did feel bad and apologized to the server...) She finished describing the bass and calamari amuse-bouche and a vegetarian amuse-bouche was promptly brought out, made of braised radishes I believe (unlike the remaining dishes, these did not come with menu descriptions and my memory, not so good!).

Seafood amuse-bouche Vegetarian amuse-bouche
Amuse-bouche time!

Our package included an appetizer, entrée and dessert, but I have included the prices from the menu. For our appetizer, A ordered the parsnip root tortellini with brown butter vinaigrette ($16). The tortellini seemed to have been fried and topped with a fried parsnip. A really enjoyed the herb jus.

Parsnip root tortellini

I had the Digby scallop ceviche ($24) to start with, remembering that my sister raved about scallop in its raw state. I'm so used to eating seared scallops but the scallops still had a silky and creamy texture. I enjoyed pairing pieces of scallop with the very thin slices of turnip and some roe.

Digby scallop ceviche

After our starter dishes were cleared, our server brought new forks and knives which confused me. Just as I was leaning in and asking A why we needed the extra utensils (I know enough that you use the outer utensils first!), our server brought our intermezzo dishes, complimentary from the chef. Aha! Mystery solved! I'm still not sure why we were offered an extra course but we very much enjoyed them.

A was served the lobster mushroom fricassée ($20), on top of a slow egg. A had never had lobster mushroom (well, neither have I!) and commented that it had a very meaty texture.

Lobster mushroom fricassée

I got to enjoy the Perth County pork jowl ($21) with a root vegetable duxelle and savoury crumble. I feel that writing a food blog, I should have know this, but that's what the internet is for: a pork jowl refers to the cheeks. It was a fatty piece of pork that was amazingly seasoned, and just slightly crispy on the outside. It reminded me of Chinese BBQ pork. I would usually cut the fat off, but I decided to eat it and it was amazing! The fat just melted in my mouth. If I had a slight criticism, it was that it was a bit too salty. I love trying something that I'm not sure I will like and ending up loving it!

Perth County pork jowl Perth County pork jowl
Perth County pork jowl.

For our main, A ordered the pumpkin and barley risotto ($24) that he thoroughly enjoyed. He wouldn't answer me when I asked how it compared to my own risotto...! I will have to try my hand at making barley risotto after attempting quinoa risotto.

Pumpkin and barley risotto
Pumpkin and barley risotto.

I really thought I was going to order a seafood dish but the confit veal tenderloin ($48) really appealed to me. I was surprised to really love the celery root purée. I'm not the biggest fan of celery flavour, but I really thought it melded perfectly with the creamy purée. I really enjoyed a little dollop on each bite of the oh-so-tender veal. The veal just melted in my mouth. I also really liked the pine mushroom crumble that looked like ground coffee on my plate. It added a sweet nuttiness to the dish.

Confit veal tenderloin
Confit veal tenderloin.

By dessert, I was very full. While we did see other diners enjoying a variety of cheese from a cart, we picked sweets to share: the orchard apple ($16) and rouge pumpkin parfait ($16). When we were done, our server asked us what our favourite and the pumpkin won hands down. The apple bavaroise covered in an eerily bright green colour was good, but nothing exciting. We did really enjoy the accompanying sorbet and could really taste the pear and Pernod (licorice flavour). The pumpkin parfait just tasted like a cold pumpkin pie mousse. The pumpkin flavour really came through in a very creamy way. Yums! (Our server also told us that the fromage blanc delice was amazing).

Pumpkin parfait Apple bavaroise
Dessert time.

Finally, a last sweet bite was served. I cannot remember the name but it was a marshmallow topped with chocolate and nuts. I have to admit that A ate most of it since I couldn't eat much more!

Marshmallow bite

The menu is seasonal and ever-changing. Many of the produce is supplied by Langdon Hall's very own garden. Our menu highlighted fall flavours with root vegetables. I'd be very much interested in tasting a spring menu (maybe one day...) and I've even discussed going back for tea with girlfriends!

As expected, the service was immaculately attentive. All the dishes dishes were well paced, allowing A and I enjoy a 3+ hour dinner. I wish I had asked more questions about the food.

Included in our package was also breakfast the next day. A beautiful buffet awaited guests in the morning.

Breakfast Buffet

I couldn't wait and served myself food from the buffet. While I did enjoy everything, the goat cheese tart was such a tasty morning treat! A was more patient and ordered Red fife pancakes from the menu. Now that I'm looking at the breakfast menu, I should really have held off for lobster & sweet corn ragoût but I couldn't eat more...

Breakfast Buffet Fyfe pancakes
My and A's breakfast.

After breakfast, A and I went for a stroll. There wasn't much left in the garden, but we were still able to find some leeks, beets, fennel and even raspberries. I can imagine that a visit in the spring or summer when the garden is bountiful would be amazing to see!

Garden Leeks Garden Beets
Garden finds.

Langdon Hall is definitely a "special occasion" place and I was lucky to get to experience it! I also feel very proud that two Canadian restaurants made the top 100 restaurant list, and just for that reason I think a special occasion is warranted!

Langdon Hall on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Spinach & Mushroom Cannelloni

I enjoy the show Eat Shrink and Be Merry, where the two sisters and hosts Greta and Janet are challenged to make a healthy version of a high caloric dish. On the episode I saw, they were taking on full fat cannelloni. I followed their roasted vegetable sauce and improvised a bit more on the filling.

Spinach & Mushroom Cannelloni

Spinach & Mushroom Cannelloni
Adapted from Eat Shrink and Be Merry.

For the Roasted Vegetable Tomato Sauce
* 2 pounds small vine-ripened tomatoes
* 1 small fennel bulb, coarsely chopped
* 1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
* 1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
* 4 cloves garlic, halved
* 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 1 can crushed tomatoes (19oz/540 ml)
* 2 cups vegetable broth
* 1-½ tsp dried Italian seasoning
* ⅛ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
* 8 whole basil leaves (medium sized), chopped

Halve or quarter the tomatoes, depending on their size.
Place tomatoes, fennel, onions, red pepper, and garlic on a large rimmed baking sheet.
Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, then sprinkle with some salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Mix well using your hands.
Roast vegetables at 450 degrees F for 45 minutes on middle oven rack. (I think I may have turned the temperature down a bit.)
Remove vegetables from oven and let cool slightly.
Remove and discard any loose tomato skins.
Transfer vegetables to a large pot.
Add crushed tomatoes, vegetable broth, Italian seasoning, and crushed red pepper flakes.
Simmer sauce over low heat, covered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Purée sauce using immersion blender (or carefully transfer to a food processor or regular blender to purée).
Stir in basil leaves.
Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.

Tomatoes Veg Ready to Roast
Roasted Veg Cooking the roasted tomato sauce
Making the roasted tomato sauce.

For the Filling
This is where I improvised and added mushrooms! You could really add anything you want! I didn't have cottage cheese so skipped that. Also, I would have used the recommended ready-prepared lasagna sheets, but I couldn't find them so I just bought cannelloni shells

* oil
* ¼ onion, diced
* 2 handful mushrooms, chopped roughly
* ½ package frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed dry and finely chopped
* ¼ tsp dried oregano
* ¼ tsp dried basil
* ⅛ tsp salt, or to taste
* ⅛ tsp freshly ground black pepper
* pinch nutmeg
* 2 cups part-skim (5%) ricotta cheese
* 12 cannelloni shells
* mozzarella cheese, grated

Sauté the onions and mushroom in a bit of oil until mushrooms are cooked.
Season with oregano, basil, salt and pepper.
Mix in the spinach and ricotta.
Taste and adjust seasoning to taste.
Coat bottom of baking pan with sauce (about 1 cup should do it).
With a spoon, stuff uncooked cannelloni shells with stuffing. (It involved a bit of pushing.)
Reduce oven heat to 375 degrees F.
Cover cannelloni with sauce (you will not use all of the sauce; freeze the leftover sauce to use for a busy weeknight pasta dish!).
Sprinkle with mozzarella.
Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
and bake an additional 5 minutes.

Mushroom and Spinach Stuffing the cannoli
Cannoli in Sauce Top with cheese
Preparing the cannelloni's.

I really liked that the sauce had more vegetables than tomatoes. While I did enjoy the sauce (and have leftover sauce in the freezer), I'm not sure it was all the effort. I suspect it'd be just as good with a simpler, less demanding sauce. Otherwise, I really liked the addition of mushrooms; it really added another dimension!

For other vegetarian pasta recipes:
* Eggplant Parmesan
* Eggplant Rollatini
* Lentil-Ricotta "Meatballs"
* Mushroom Ravioli
* Pea Ravioli
* Pesto Goat Cheesy Pasta
* Pumpkin Ravioli
* Roasted Vegetable Lasagna Rolls
* Spinach Stuffed Pasta Shells
* Truffle Macaroni & Cheese

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Chinese Style Eggplant

I have a confession. As my blog roll indicates, I've been cheating on food blogs with fashion blogs. I guess I live vicariously through all the stylish bloggers out there (even my sister L has started one!). Sometimes I get lucky with a blog, and they also share recipes. This is what happened when Not Just Another Blonde in Beijing shared recipes from her cooking course in Beijing. I was very excited to try making fish flavored eggplant (no fish involved!) since I do love my eggplant!

Chinese Style Eggplant with Pork

I have to be honest. I love this recipe. Since I've made this dish for the first time over a month ago, I've probably made this another ten times! I even made a vegetarian version, replacing pork with tofu! This is reminiscent of my mom's stuffed eggplants that I love, but with less work!

Chinese Style Eggplant (鱼香茄子 - Fish Flavoured Eggplant)
Adapted from Not Just Another Blonde in Beijing.
While I closely followed the recipe the first time around, now I improvise slightly. I don't always add ginger because I'm lazy. I also really like the addition of lemongrass chili sauce which makes this dish extra spicy!

* oil
* 2-3 eggplants, sliced into 2-3" sections and quartered lengthwise
* ½ tsp salt, (or to taste)
* 2 Tbsp ground pork or firm tofu (cubed)
* 1 Tbsp ginger, minced
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* 1 tsp (or to taste) chili sauce, like sambal oelek or lemongrass chili sauce
* 2 Tbsp light soy sauce
* 1 Tbsp Chinese vinegar
* 1-2 Tbsp sugar
* 1 spring onion, sliced thinly
* 2 tsp sesame oil

In a work or frying pan, on medium-high heat, add a generous amount of oil (eggplants tend to stick).
When the oil is hot, add eggplant splices, until they becomes soft; set aside.
In the same pan, add a bit more oil.
Add the ground pork or tofu.
When the pork is cooked through (the tofu takes less time), add chili, ginger, garlic, and stir.
Add the soy sauce, vinegar and water if necessary.
Season with salt and sugar.
Add the eggplant pieces back into the sauce.
Taste and adjust seasoning with more salt and sugar if necessary.
Turn off heat, add sesame oil and green onion; mix in.

Eggplants Adding pork & chili sauce
Adding back eggplants and green onion
Eggplant slices and pork.

Chinese Style Eggplant with Pork
Chinese style eggplant with ground pork.

Every time I dig into a dish of these eggplants, I am happy. I love the soft pieces off eggplant that have absorbed the sauce. I also really enjoy the spicy pieces of meat or tofu. As well, I find the addition of Chinese vinegar really adds a distinctly Chinese flavour that I have never cooked with (I went out and bought the vinegar for this recipe). While my dad is Chinese, he was born and raised in Vietnam. I feel like I don't know authentic Chinese food that well and hope to learn more!

Stir Frying Tofu Making the tofu version
Chinese Style Eggplant with Tofu
Chinese style eggplant with tofu.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Nectarine and Plum Crisp

After dining on red & white quinoa mushroom risotto, my boyfriend A and I had a nectarine and plum crisp. To me, crisps, or crumbles (what is the difference?), are the perfect fall recipes. Fall fruit, spiced and baked in the oven. Mmmm! Lucky for me, I stumbled onto this recipe while leafing through the September issue of Food & Wine.

Nectarine and Plum Crisp

Nectarine and Plum Crisp
From Food & Wine, September 2010.
I think I halved the recipe to serve two and there were leftover for breakfast the next morning.

For the filling
* ½ cup golden raisins
* 1 cup hot water
* ¾ cup light brown sugar
* ¼ cup granulated sugar
* 2 Tbsp whole wheat flour
* ½ tsp ground cinnamon
* ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
* 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
* ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
* ¼ cup fresh orange juice
* 6 ripe nectarines, cut into 1" sections
* 6 ripe plums, cut into 1" sections

Preheat the oven to 350°.
In a bowl, soak the raisins in the hot water for 20 minutes; drain.
Stir in the sugars, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon zest, lemon juice and orange juice.
Fold in the nectarines and plums.
Scrape the fruit into a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish.

For the topping
* 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
* ½ cup whole wheat flour
* ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
* ⅔ cup light brown sugar
* 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
* ½ tsp ground cinnamon
* 6 Tbsp cold butter-oil blend

In a bowl, combine the oats, flours, sugar, lemon zest and cinnamon.
Work in the butter blend.
Press the streusel into clumps and sprinkle over the fruit.
Bake the crisp for 30 minutes, until the fruit is tender and the topping is golden.
Let cool for 20 minutes, then serve (I bet it's even better with ice cream!).

Nectarines and Plums Ingredients
Ingredients the filling.

This is the first time that I've made crisp without apples. I had fun getting A to guess what fruit were in the crisp. While I do enjoy apple crisps, this was very good too. I think I still have some leftover topping ingredients and should make myself another comforting crisp while the temperature continues on dipping down...

Nectarine and Plum Crisp