Thursday, December 29, 2011

not cool

i. am. sick.

i figure that with a couple of ear infections, maybe i should just hang out & rest instead of struggling to get ready for the market. i won't be at the market at all this weekend. i'm sorta bummed, it's a lot of work but it's also really fun & a bit of a social outing to go to the market. alas, not this week.


hopefully your cravings will build & the following week will be extra awesome. i have rappi pie planned for next week with some delicious chickens from maple & ewe farm in the valley. i'm pretty excited - my mum is too, she's already ordered a roasting pan worth.

so i hope everyone can get through the weekend without their usual cupcake fix & i plan to be back soon - after these antibiotics do the trick.

happy new year.

ps: if by chance i make a miraculous recovery, i'll be there, promise.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


dear customers,
     i am currently slacking off. it's been awhile since i've been this lazy but i have adopted a sloth-like existence over the past week. i had planned to go to the seaport market this friday & saturday, however i've changed my mind & will only be heading in on saturday from 7am-1pm. i'm sorry but merry christmas to me, this year i give myself the gift of rest (& new rain boots of course).

    this is currently my view & i'm quite all right with it.

i've been a year at this now & it's time for a smidgen of a rest.

    i'd also like to thank everyone for their support during my first year of business. it's sort of amazing how far i've come in the past 365 days. i now know so many more people & have made some great friends along the way. some customers (you know who you are) even gave me christmas gifts & cards - so thoughtful & touching. it's pretty rad, i feel special!

   as repayment, i've decided to not cook a new main course this week - womp, womp, womp sorry folks. i have tons of awesome stuff in the freezer so there'll still be plenty of food but i'm giving myself a bit of a break. i'm still going to make some fresh salads & all of my baked goods of course, but no new mains - sorry.

here's what's in the freezer:

asparagus strata with caramelized onions & foxhill cheese             $15
chicken, leek, broccoli & bacon pies                                                         small $10 large $20
creamy british seafood pies                                                                         small $11 large $22
braised brisket with blue cheese polenta                                                $23
mac & cheese (plain or broccoli)                                                                small $8 large $16
vegan lasagna                                                                                                $16
smoked salmon quiches                                                                               5 smalls $15 large $17.50
braised pork & sweet potato pie                                                                  $20
fishcakes & baked beans                                                                              $15
shepherd's pies                                                                                                small $9 large $18
sausage & cheese curd penne                                                                      $7.50

see there's tons of stuff.

    hope everyone has been having an awesome holiday & been able to take a breather, chill out & have fun. see you this saturday, aka new year's eve... aka party/dancing/noshing night. may the remainder of your holiday season be grand & your new year's resolutions be to eat more little red kitsch'n food!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

countdown is on

christmas is so close, yet so far away - still so much to be done.
but, yesterday was an insanely productive day. there are fresh batches of maple bourbon, chipotle lime and honey mustard bbq sauces all jarred up. there are plenty of the regular sized jars and this week there are half sized jars as well - excellent stocking stuffers. i'm also putting together jars of dry rubs to accompany the sauces and they will be sold together for $10.

this week also sees the return of the braised pork & sweet potato pies that i did post-thanksgiving. it's braised pork shoulder from getaway farms with onions, ginger & cranberries and then layered with spiced sweet potatoes and pecans - super festive!  $20

the asparagus stratas i did sold out really quickly so i made a fresh batch this week with caramelized onions, foxhill parmesan and fresh herbs. they're great for breakfast, lunch or dinner. $15

and i also made more smoked salmon quiches with goat's cheese & dill. $17.50
last week i sold out of the large ones but don't forget, there are still lots of the minis in the freezer to have on hand for parties - 5 for $15

the salads this week will be:
wild rice - butternut squash, cranberries, red onion, pumpkin seeds, pecans, maple
quinoa - artichokes, asparagus, green beans, garlic, lemon, dill
veggie - broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, celery, red pepper, oregano, dijon

today is baking day, so lots & lots of cupcakes (red velvet, chocolate, vanilla, carrot, gingerbread), tarts (lemon & pecan), brownies, squares, oatmeal cookies and hopefully some cookies for santa if i have time...

i'll be at the market tomorrow & saturday so adjust your schedules and i'll see you there.

Friday, December 16, 2011

weekend menu

it's getting awfully close to christmas & i feel totally unprepared. at least the tree is up.

new mains this week are plain mac & cheese, broccoli mac & cheese (smalls and larges of both) and smoked salmon & dill quiches.
i have mini quiches as well for cocktail party purposes.

there are three salads too.

wild rice: roasted squash, cranberries, seeds, nuts, red onion and maple vinaigrette.
quinoa: asparagus, green beans, artichokes, lemon, garlic and mustard.
sweet potato: bell peppers, cubanelles, cumin, chipotle, cilantro and lime.

i have loads of baking to do today and i'm waaaayyyy behind schedule. cupcakes, brownies, tarts and cookies, oh my! i'm hoping for a bit of a christmas miracle.

a demain.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

cupcake vs muffin

time to tackle the age old question, cupcake or muffin?
i've been ruminating on the subject for awhile now and noted many similarities between the two. both terms refer to delicious baked goods, both can be used as terms of endearment, and conversely, both can be used as insults when belittling people (i personally prefer the term 'muffin' for said purpose)...

i can still remember the day i was stuck in a restaurant basement, toiling away on the baked goods for that night's dinner service & listening to 'the debaters' on cbc radio. the topic up for discussion that day was pie vs. cake. the debaters made such eloquent & entertaining points that is really struck a chord, particularly when they became so impassioned by such a ridiculous, hilarious & frivolous topic. i feel the same approach should be applied to muffin vs. cupcake.

 they are so similar yet perceived so differently. clearly my allegiances lie on one side of this argument, but thought i should broach the subject in an objective manner nonetheless.

according to wikipedia, 'a muffin is a type of quick bread that is baked in small portions,' whereas a cupcake is 'a small cake designed to serve one person.' however, there is not much that can classified as bread-like about most north american muffins. wikipedia goes on to say that during the 20th century 'the sugar and fat content [...] increased to the point where the 'muffins' were almost indistinguishable from cupcakes.' i could not agree more.

people often refer to my cupcakes as muffins or ask where they can find a healthy muffin while shopping at the seaport market. this really irks me. the entire notion of a muffin is baffling to me. perhaps it's just the modern, north american interpretation of a 'muffin' that baffles me. english muffins & corn muffins are fine, but the b*****dization of a muffin that's on north american shelves drives me bananas - laden with sugar, fat & very little nutritional value, just a small cake... a cupcake if you will.

so i put on my investigative journalist hat and went looking for some hard-hitting facts, she said while dripping with sarcasm. the first place i looked was the tim horton's website. those folks are pretty insane. first of all, how can you even invent a muffin that has 410 calories, 15 g of fat & 37 g of sugar, and secondly how can you market that as a healthy breakfast option? to put that in perspective, a greasy bacon & egg mcmuffin from mcdonald's has 320 calories & 14 g of fat...

sure if made well, muffins taste delicious. i'm not about to argue that point, but don't fool yourself, muffins are not healthy. muffins do not make a meal. nor do cupcakes. i can appreciate cupcakes though because they do not masquerade as health food. a cupcake is a treat - a cute, delectable treat. as far as i'm concerned a muffin is just a cupcake without frosting and a false, misconstrued sense of identity.

i have one regular saturday customer who religiously buys 2 un-iced carrot cupcakes. we both acknowledge the fact that they are still cupcakes and she considers them a special treat. there are some websites debating what constitutes a muffin, there is even a formula and a heated debate over the addition of fruit. my carrot cupcakes have fruit & vegetables and oil instead of butter but they are still cupcakes even without the frosting.

if you were to buy a muffin from a place like come to fruition (formerly known as super snacks) or gali's healthy kitchen i'm sure that it would be packed with lots of healthy things - fibre, nutrients, antioxidants... however, from most other places it's pretty much super-refined sugar, super-refined flour and butter - not exactly health food.

i have no problem with muffins, i do however, have a problem with pretending to be something that you're not. a muffin is essentially a wolf in sheep's clothing - a secret lair of calories, fat & sugar. whereas a cupcake embraces its lot in life, makes no bones about it and owns up to it's lack of nutritional value.

in conclusion, if you want dessert, buy a cupcake or muffin and if you want something healthy, buy an apple. if you're going to have a muffin you may as well put some frosting on top - it'll make you smile & that's better for your mental health ;) just please don't call my cupcakes muffins.

Friday, December 9, 2011

workin' for the weekend

i. can. not. believe. it's. friday. again.
how the heck did this week fly by so quickly?
i've been super busy with cupcake special orders, 308 south dessert deliveries and two caterings yesterday. needless to say, i'm way behind schedule & have my work cut out for me today.

so far, i've finished a huge batch of seafood chowder. this batch has smoked haddock, sea trout, tilapia (one of the most sustainable fish around) & mussels all purchased at the fish shop. the veggies are celery root from hutten farm, leeks from selwood green & pei potatoes. $7 

i also made up a new vegetarian concoction - asparagus, foxhill parmesran & caramelized onion strata. it's a savoury bread pudding that would be great for either breakfast, lunch or dinner. with a side salad & a poached egg on top it would make a great meal - i sort of want one for myself today... $15

i'm currently in the midst of making british seafood pies. it's been awhile since i've had these on the menu, but they've been very well-received thus far. it's a thick & creamy bechamel sauce with leeks, celery & peas mixed with seafood (the same combination as the chowder) and then layered with lemon-dill mashed potatoes on top. 
small $11 large $22

the quinoa salad will be exactly the same as last week with blanched green beans, artichoke hearts, mustard, lemon & dill. the wild rice salad will have balsamic roasted beets, tomatoes, garlic & lots of fresh herbs.

i also hope to have enough time to whip up some smoked salmon/ dill/ goat cheese & mushroom/ swiss/ caramelized onion quiches, but that remains to be seen, it all depends on how fast i can bake.

i've settled on a permanent rotation of 5 flavours of cupcakes: red velvet, chocolate, vanilla, carrot & banana chocolate chip - maybe now i can experiment with new flavours of frostings... i'll also have snickers brownies, lemon tarts, mint oreo cheesecakes, macaroons, oatmeal cookies and maybe something festive...

in other news, i made the best pie of my life this week.

it's a classic pecan pie but made a bit more festive with dark callebault chocolate, dried cranberries, raisins & the zest of a clementine. maybe i'll make some miniature versions for the market. 

plus i made a signature cupcake for a friend's father's birthday party. the order came in all the way from california & it was super flattering to be thought of for the event.

it's a combination all of his favourite flavours, so they're a sweet potato (what ?!?!) cake with lots of fresh ginger, then the tops are soaked with a spiced maple syrup & finished with maple cream cheese frosting. it was a brand new concoction, slightly nerve-wracking & a fun way to spice things up.

ok. time. to. bake.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

the spice man

on saturday morning a good samaritan covered my table at the seaport market and i was able to sneak away for a few minutes. i headed over to the brewery market to explore. i had two main destinations: hutten family farm & the spice man - purveyor of epices de cru shipped in from montreal.

the spice man is officially costas halavresos, former cbc host, and a great guy to chat with. i'm no spice guru but i do have have a decent knowledge of all things spicy, however i was completely blown away by the selection he had and his knowledge of each of his wares. 

i could have spent a good couple of hours hanging out and chatting - talking about food is one of my favourite things to do... can ya tell? anyway, what i really enjoyed were the samples of each of the spices & blends to smell and taste before purchasing. i had never even heard of a few of them & i'm a bit of a food nerd so it was nice to chat and learn about new treasures from the far reaches of the world. 

after careful consideration, i made my purchases & i'm pretty pleased with my decisions.

from left to right: a tonka bean, zaatar spice blend, andaliman wild pepper, ethiopian berbere spices & pasilla peppers.

first up is the tonka bean.

i had often heard of them but never actually seen or smelled one. the spice man keeps them in a little jar & encouraged me to open it up and smell the 'bouquet'. it sort of felt a bit like a wine tasting. when asked what i smelled, the answer was 'i can't put my finger on it, but it smells warm & fuzzy.' he laughed and explained that the notes of vanilla, almond, cinnamon & cloves make it well-suited for any application where nutmeg would also do the trick - spice cakes, custards, an extra special holiday eggnog... 

just like nutmeg, it's best just lightly grated using a microplane.

and given the price, i'm going to make sure this bad boy lasts.

then there's the zataar. i haven't seen too much zaatar around nova scotia, but no trip to the middle east store in ottawa was complete without some freshly baked flatbread with olive oil & zaatar.

 it's sort of an odd combination of middle eastern herbs (unique varieties of oregano, thyme, basil & savoury), sumac, sesame & salt. it has a very citrusy & herbaceous flavour that is great for bread and would work nicely with pork, chicken or a firm-fleshed white fish. it's very distinct and adds a certain 'je ne sais quoi' to dishes, just an interesting flavour that's hard to pinpoint. 

then there's the andaliman wild pepper. i had never heard of this & i'm so glad to have found it. it is the most amazing spice i've ever smelled. it's not a hot pepper but more citrusy & fresh.

it's grown in sumatra, indonesia on the shores of lake toba - the largest volcanic lake in the world. what's funny, is that the scent is very reminiscent of something that grows here - i'm not sure exactly what is is but it's a familiar smell from when i'm out hiking... weird, because sumatra could not be farther away. needless to say, this new discovery with be making it's way into most of my cooking from here on out.

ethiopian berbere spices are all the rage these days & the bestseller at epices de cru. 

it's sort of a kicked up version of paprika with lots of spices, cardamom, ginger, fenugreek, allspice & pepper. the scent is incredibly aromatic & the uses are wide ranging - beef, pork, chicken, and i plan on adding some to upcoming curries & chillies.

another 'it' product these days are pasilla peppers. they are dried chilaca peppers and have a wonderful, smokey flavour. they will definitely be making an appearance in my bbq sauces & will add a great southwestern flare to so many dishes.

they can either be ground in a mortar & pestle, stirred whole into a soup, broth or sauce (remove before serving) or rehydrated, minced & stirred into recipes. i feel that rehydration increases the bang for your buck - not only can you use the pepper itself, but the liquid used to rehydrate will be full of rich chilli flavour that can be used as well.

all of the information may seem a little overwhelming but the spice man includes some info & recipes for suggested uses for each purchase. the selection itself can also be overwhelming but there are lots of kits with complimentary flavours or a theme (great gift ideas... nudge, nudge, wink, wink) and can help demystify the expansive world of spices. 

time to go play...

Friday, December 2, 2011

busy, busy

yesterday i started cooking & then i just didn't stop. 

one bbq sauce jarred, one big batch of soup, baked beans, two main courses & two salads later, i went to sleep. i didn't officially have to do it all, but i was just in one of those moods & it's important to strike while the iron is hot. this morning i will be greeted with a massive pile of dishes - i just couldn't bring myself to do them at 1 in the morning - but it's ok because i'll be well stocked up heading into december.

on the menu this week, there is a fresh batch of chicken, leek, broccoli & bacon pies. the gravy is made from a rich chicken stock using shani's farm chicken. the leeks are organic & from selwood green, then there's loads of broccoli, bacon, herbs & a puff pastry lid.
small $10 large $20

mmmmm.... bacon.

while i was making these, i realized that i haven't done a vegetarian main in a little while so i decided to whip up a veggie version. it turned into a vegetable pot pie - leeks & broccoli with the addition of carrots, celery, mushrooms & green peas. these aren't gluten or dairy-free but they certainly are some hearty, comfort food for vegetarians.
small $9 large $18
ps: i didn't make many & they probably won't make it onto the blackboard (sort of a secret stash) so just ask, thanks.

from the freezer i have:

fishcakes & baked beans (for two)    $15
lobster mac & cheese      small $12.5 large $25
braised brisket over blue cheese polenta     $23
curried chicken & veggies with basmati rice    small $10 large $20
shani's farm pork tourtiere    $20
getaway farm beef shepherd's pie    small $9 large $18
vegan lasagna    small $8 large $16

the salads also got some major makeovers this week. i hope no one is too alarmed but i was getting a little tired of making the same ones every week - but i did keep them vegan & gluten-free.
the quinoa salad is loaded with blanched green beans, artichoke hearts, garlic, lemon, oregano, dill & whole grain mustard. and the wild rice has turned technicolour! it's filled with roasted beets, sweet potatoes & celery root, pumpkin seeds, toasted pecans, red onion, sage and maple.

this week also sees the return of thai chicken & rice soup. it uses the same chicken stock as the pies, basmati rice, nappa cabbage, celery, carrots, red peppers, green onions, ginger, garlic, lime, cilantro & chillies. if you're feeling a little under the weather, then this one's for you.

and i wasn't really planning on it, but i decided to make a new batch of baked beans. next week is looking a little insane so i wanted to get as much done as possible this week.

other soups in the freezer are:

cream of cauliflower
potato, leek & parsnip
beef stew
seafood chowder
curried butternut squash
pumpkin, ginger, cardamom
beet, parsnip & pear
vegan stew
vegan chilli
miso mushroom
tomato, roasted pepper, sweet potato

today will be baking day. i have a feeling that mini cupcakes are going to be quite popular this week...(they were mentioned in the chronicle herald)... red velvet in particular. the other flavours with be vanilla with blueberry frosting, carrot with maple cream cheese, banana chocolate chip with chocolate buttercream, chocolate with mint frosting & some double chocolate for good measure. i'll also have cookies, squares, brownies, rolls, tarts & macaroons and if time permits, sponge toffee & peppermint meringues.

this week i also had lots of fun: the wooden monkey, trivia night, PRINCE & i decorated my nook at the market. the overall theme of the market is 'family christmas' and as a child of the 80s, i decided to deck mine out in all the tacky, 'gawdiness' of that decade - it's hilarious & not even finished yet... today the lights & ornaments go up!

best get to work - hope to see you tomorrow.