Saturday, June 30, 2012

Fruity Cheesecake Bars

Hey everyone!!

It's the Canada Day long weekend here in the land of hockey and people who say "eh."

And with the 4th of July right around the corner for my American friends, I wanted to share an easy, portable dessert that is perfect for outdoor entertaining, picnics, or even camping. 

To Canada Day this one up, do a topping of strawberries and whipping cream, and to red White and Blue it, just add blueberries. The beauty of this recipe is that you can truly add whatever fruit you have on hand and it will always be delicious!













Click here for the printable recipe or enjoy today's step by step video.



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Friday, June 29, 2012

Next Food Network Star, Season 8, Episode 7, Emily Gets Sent Home

Today's episode began with an introduction to this week's challenge: the finalists would no longer be working as teams and would, instead, be competing on their own and judged as individuals.

And for today's Star Challenge, they would be meeting the press in the form of Jess Cagle, and Jill Bernstein from Entertainment Weekly, Christina Mclarty from Entertainment Tonight, and Ed Levine from Serious Eats.

The task: to serve one bite that would perfectly encapsulate who each contestant is as a cook along with a 90 second live EPK (electronic press kit) where they were expected to get personal and talk about who they are and why the media should take interest in them.

As the challenge got underway, Alton in his excellent manner worked hard to help his team understand the importance of sharing a story that would connect with an audience; and under his guidance, Marty decided to tell what Alton referred to as "a Genesis story" to explain how she became the party queen. Justin decided to focus on a point of view that featured memories of his father, and Emily, who the judges had begun to question in previous challenges - is Retro Rad Emily, or an act she created for the show - decided to put Thanksgiving into one bite.

And even though Emily was hesitant to share from a personal place, I was okay with that. One of my favourite food stars is Nadia G and somehow I doubt she walks around Montreal yelling "Yo!" to everyone she meets. From the get go I was excited about Emily's point of view and would absolutely watch a show that featured her updated retro rad classics.

Giada and Bobby gave their teams similar advice and as I watched, I was struck once again by how beautiful Martita is but in the challenge all of that great personality and energy just kind of fizzled. I know she can cook and I feel terrible that the pressure of the cameras seemed to be throwing her off for another week. 

Ippy was, once again, too laid back for the judges, and Nikki made me laugh out loud when she tried to tone down her original girl on grill on air persona, with her lighter, breezier "grill next door" version complete with lovely flowers adorning her plate.

To the good, Justin made this wildly rebellious bite featuring figs, peanut butter, duck, and nori, which, weird as it sounds, received rave reviews. Ditto for Yvan who really impressed me with his arepas and touched my heart with his story of searching in dumpsters for food as a child so his family would not to go hungry.

I often say this, but with so much money in the world it is unconscionable to me that anyone would go hungry. I am all for people being rich and having everything they could ever want but at some point, say after making 20 million dollars for a movie, does that not become enough?

I digress.

Michelle and Josh from Team Bobby were good, and I'm sure their food was amazing, but they are both going to have to rev it up a notch to really ignite some interest.

In the end, it pains me to say this, but Martie's story of being left out as a teenager completely connected with me and I understood her a little better and though I still haven't gotten over her stealing the spotlight from Emily an episode or two ago, I am willing to call a truce. No matter the outcome of the show, I doubt she will ever be my favourite but I do respect her for what she has done so far.

So with everything said and done, in the Producer's Challenge it came down to Nikki and her flowered plates and Emily who lost  her mojo during the EPK and, to my shock and surprise, Emily was sent home.

Frankly, I don't get it. As a self confessed Food Network Junkie, verily, I say Emily should have stayed. But I'm not a producer and this is how it played out so to Emily I would like to say: Hats off to ham! Most often our biggest disappointments pave the way to our brightest opportunities.


And that's the blog.

***

Now for the perfect bite... in honour of Emily, I'm putting Christmas in a bite with my Tourtiere Bundles. I love Christmas, I love traditional recipes, and, like Emily,  I love the magic of modernizing them! So, without further ado, here they are!

For the printable recipe click HERE.




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Your Chance to Win a $50,000 Dream Kitchen!

Hey everyone!

I got to dust off my hosting skills this week at The Real Women of Philadelphia Canada to remind people about our latest contest: One lucky home cook will win the $50,000.00 kitchen of his or her dreams!

How do you do this?

Exactly the same way I did, and won, last year! Get into your kitchens - and I'm talking any kind of kitchen - fire up your video cameras, and let us know why having an update would mean so much to you.

This contest is a foodie's dream come true and I will be rooting for you to bring home this incredible prize... after all, what have you got to lose?



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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sweet Potato Cornbread Muffins

In the spirit of the summer season here at The Kitchen Witch, I plan to sneak all kinds of nutrient rich ingredients into our meals - and why not? With summer's abundance, now is the perfect time!

Starting today with a tried and true favourite recipe for sweet potato cornmeal muffins - the perfect accompaniment to this week's featured recipe: Turkey Chili Con Carne


For the cornbread printable recipe, click HERE

Enjoy today's step by step video!



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Cherry Hill - Life Without Paul

July 15, 1947

Dear Mother,

Thank you so much for staying with us as you did for the funeral and the terrible aftermath of Paul's passing. I don't know how I would have gotten through it if you hadn't been here and, I have to tell you, I miss you and Father more than words can say.

I know you were hoping that I would pack up the children and return to Nova Scotia, but Cherry Hill is their home and losing their father is a big enough adjustment without moving them across the country. I will stick it out here for another winter and let them immerse in the normalcy of another school year in September. Come this time next year, I will decide if it will be better for all of us to come home.

I'm still in a state of shock about the accident and haven't quite come to accept that Paul is really gone - especially with so much mystery still surrounding the crash.

Val is still no help at all. She remains in a state of amnesia and has absolutely no recollection of anything that has taken place in her life in the past five years. Her last memory is of being in nursing school, and though I hadn't realized it, she and Jack knew each other rather well at that time so as she is convalescing the only people she seems to want to see are the Wilson's.

Fortunately, Mrs. Wilson seems to have developed her own case of amnesia regarding the hair in the green beans.

As for me, I am not into my own yet and spend most days when the children are at play wandering around the house - which seems so empty with Paul gone. Though he wasn't home a lot of the time, I always knew he would return and that he was the head of our family. Now that I'm left to make all the decisions I don't know if I'll be able to do it.

But I must, and I know that, no matter what, you and Father are always there for me if I need you.

And the people of Cherry Hill have been here for me too, most surprising has been Mrs. Wilson who continues to keep us in casseroles. Though I have no appetite for anything, she stops by every afternoon with another donated casserole from the auxiliary and insists I eat something. For me, it is a Godsend because I have no energy to cook and even tire from the most basic of household tasks.

The children are as well as can be expected and, though they are sad, I am happy anytime I see them playing with friends and sharing some laughter. I haven't felt much like laughing yet, but I hold onto the hope that eventually I am going to feel less numb.

I only wish I knew what Paul and Val were doing on that road the night of the accident and with her amnesia, I fear I may never find out.

Well, that's all for now. I see Jack coming up the walk. He has offered to cut the grass.

Perhaps I'll offer him a slice of a brand new Italian dish called lasagna that Mrs Denardi made for us.

Until next time, thank you for your thoughts and prayers.

Your loving daughter,

Amanda

***

If you would like to try "Mrs. Denardi's" lasagna, check out my easy how to recipe here. I'm biased, but I truly believe this is one of the best lasagnas you will ever have!

Click here for the printable recipe. 



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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Trapped in a Speedo with No Place to Go...

Well now.

It's definitely time to get back to fitness.

This because I did the dreaded deed of bathing suit shopping today and although I came away with a cute new Speedo, I had a wardrobe malfunction while trying on a variety of suits.

Or should I say, while trying this one:



Even though I suspected I might look like a bowling ball with legs, I had the nerve to take this little number into the fitting room - in a size smaller than I usually wear.

You know, because I'm insane and live a life filled with clouded delusion.

So I squeeze myself into the fitting room.

Bear in mind I was in the pool's tiny sport shop so there wasn't a lot of space to manouevre.

To make matters worse, an incredibly athletic, somewhat snotty clerk was seated at the cash desk not two feet away from where I was trying things on.

Bitch!

I started with a floral number that, although incredibly tropical, wasn't serious enough for an athlete such as myself.



The second suit was really cute, and very flattering - that is, until I looked at the tag and realized it was maternity.

Oh for the fabulosity.

I thought about it for a moment, but then remembered, I have my pride. Better to try on the smaller speedo in the hopes that it would suck it all in than put on something designed for a woman with child.

And so I began.

Shimmying the suit up past my hips and then slithering one arm and then... oof! ugh!... the other arm in, the finished product was... not very good.

People, I looked like a giant black drumstick.



And that wasn't the worst of it.

Getting into the suit may have been an olympic feat, but getting out of it was going to damn near require a miracle.

Further, I had to carry out the operation covertly as I didn't want the swimsuit model at the cash desk to know my plight.

I got my first arm out somehow, but every time I tried to twist or turn my other shoulder the seams would begin to tear.

I shimmied and twisted and worked up a sweat until I finally realized I was trapped.

Forty six years old and imprisoned by a Speedo.

I knew I only had two options:

1. To tear the suit off and pay for it.
2. To call Amy Van Dyken in and have her try to extricate it from my body.

Normally I would have gone with option number one - but the Speedo was $75.00 and the maternity suit was looking cuter and cuter.

So I pulled together my last ounce of self respect and "Yoo hoo'd" out the fitting room door...

"Excuse me miss, this is really embarrassing, but I seem to be stuck."

To which I am greeted by a huge sigh.

Apparently I was the third women in the last few weeks to suffer a similar fate.

The good news, though, is that between the two of us we managed to set me, and my captive fat, free.

In the meantime, I picked up this fabulous little number.



Oh, who am I kidding...

You know I bought the maternity suit!!

And that's the blog.

***

Stay tuned later today for our Weekday Wednesday meal - this time featuring *ahem* a lightened up version of chili con carne - you know, so I'll be ready for bikini season...


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Master Chef Season 3 Episode 8 - "Our Favourite Desserts"

Tonight featured my dream challenge on Master Chef because the home cooks were charged with cooking one of my all time favourite things - T Bone steaks.

And even though there were a variety of different dishes - including dessert from Becky - the judges chose the three top dishes that they wanted to taste: Frank's T Bone with Grilled Corn and Cabbage Slaw, Tanya's Tarragon T Bone Steak, and Becky with her Peaches and Cream Puree.

Of the three, the winner was Tanya and I couldn't have been happier as it's nice to see her beginning to come to her own in the Master Chef kitchen.

The theme for today's elimination challenge was "Our favourite dessert" and Tanya, who was exempt, got a huge advantage because she had the power to choose teams of four contestants each to prepare Tiramisu, Strawberry Shortcake, and British Trifle. The teams would then cook off against each other and one least favourite dish from each would be declared by the judges. From those three dishes, one home cook would be asked to go home.

This was an opportunity for Tanya to be strategic about who would be competing with who - and what dessert they would be given!

She chose Stacy, Becky, Monte, and Josh, to prepare the trifle; Scott, Mike, Christine, and Tali were on strawberry shortcake, while Frank, David, Felix and Anna prepared the tiramisu - which turned out to be the Waterloo for Felix who made hers free form and added macadamia nuts.

Ditto for Stacy on trifle who got a little show offy, adding all kinds of unusual seasonings to, what is supposed to be, a classic dish - people, you don't fool with the British.

That is, unless you're Becky - who has a little side feud on the go with Stacy, and as if to say, "Take that beeyotch!" - Becky Italianed up her trifle with a little Balsamic vinegar and was declared by Chef Ramsay as the challenge winner.

Not so much for Mike who was also on the bottom for some dry looking shortcakes and as the three cooks responsible for the judges least favourite desserts made their way to the front of the room, I felt badly for them. It's always hard to leave a competition, but the longer you are in it, the more invested you become. Both Monte and Stacy were visibly crushed and it seemed that either of the two was convinced she was going home.

In the end, this wasn't the case. Though we were led to believe that Monte would be going home, today was Mike's time to leave the kitchen and I thought he was amazingly gracious and wise in his "goodbye clip." He was able to see all of the good things he learned from the experience and is going to take this things forward as he continues his cooking journeys.

***

If today's challenge got you thinking about desserts, you HAVE to try this recipe from my friend Jeanine Friesen at The Beauties for Pina Colada Parfaits - it is one of my favourite summer desserts!



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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hell's Kitchen Season 10, Episode 8, The One Thing that Must be Removed from a Lobster

Tonight's episode began with a reward challenge that tested the chefs ability to adapt. They were each assigned with having to choose four mystery ingredients from underneath a variety of silver domed dishes in order to come up a perfectly balanced meal.

Once the dishes were composed they presented them to a panel of Michelin Star judges: Anita Lo from Annisa, Douglas Keane from Cyrus, and Michael Cimarusti from Providence - and unlike the fashionista judges from last week, these chefs were kind and provided constructive criticism.

But it wasn't enough for Robyn, who announced in her trademark Rocky Balboa style that she hated one of her chosen ingredients, beets, and received the lowest score of 1 star for her dish. Royce also didn't fare well and served a whole poached lobster to the Michelin Star judges with a side of long brown hair. Not to mention the mystery lobster ingredient the censors kept bleeping out that I am assuming is the sac which is located just behind the lobster's eyes. Many recipes say that the sac should be removed because it can be filled with shell particles, bones from bait, and digestive juices that are not very tasty.

The women won today's challenge and were sent for a luxurious day at the spa while the blue team (and Roshni) were tasked with cleaning out the dorms - a job that, quite frankly, I would need a Hasmat suit in order to perform.

And then it was onto the arena kitchen where the teams would once again face each other in battle!

You would hope by now they would have gotten into some kind of a groove - as did Gordon Ramsay who upped the ante by inviting celebrity guests Tito Ortese and Sugar Ray Leonard to sit at VIP chef tables in the kitchen.

The blue team was off to a rocky start with improperly cooked pasta from Clemenza, but the red team rocked it out right from the gate with Christina's risotta.

And I don't know what was more entertaining, Chef Ramsay's histrionics or Tito Ortese's enthusiasm over the state of insanity happening around him. As an aside, Sugar Ray Leonard spent the bulk of the evening looking shell shocked and sympathetic - especially while Robyn "conversated" with him and his wife. But not so much for Ortez who seemed to get happier and happier with each culinary transgression, even going so far as to snap pictures when Ramsay shut down the blue team's kitchen.

With the blue team gone, the red team took over and finished their dinner service.

As such, the men (and Roshni) lost once again and they were charged with having to put two more of their own up for elimination. As if taking a cue from the Hell's Bitches, the men decide to put Clemenza and Brian up - not because they were the weakest links but because they are the bigger threats. Of course, His Holy Omnipotence, Gordon Ramsay saw through the whole thing and put Roshni and Patrick up. Sadly, Roshni was sent home. (I thought it was going to be Patrick)

***

Want to try an amazing recipe for lobster or prawns? This one for twice baked potatoes is a real show stopper!



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Monday, June 25, 2012

Master Chef Season 3 Episode 7 Ryan Goes Home When the Lava Runs Out

Tonight's episode of Master Chef began with our home cooks being awakened at 3:30 am by the judges - and the reason? Today's challenge. It had the cooks battling it out in a busy hotel kitchen preparing 130 room service breakfasts.

The team captains, Christina and Josh chose from the contestants and each then selected one person to be expeditor: Monte, on the blue team, and Felix on the red. But while Monte was incredibly vocal in her approach to getting the blue team's food out, a stray cat apparently got hold of Felix's tongue and the red team was left in disarray.

It was nothing that Christina couldn't handle though, and once again - despite the fact that she is visually impaired - Christina rose to the top of the pack as team leader in this incredibly difficult challenge.

On Monte's side of the kitchen, despite her strong organizational skills, her eventual downfall began with a plate that was returned because a diner found a hair on the eggs, and a simmering power struggle began with Josh that eventually turned into a full on boil.

The red team didn't get all of their plates out but with 60% of the votes from the hotel diners, the red team won and the blue team had to face the pressure test.

Meanwhile, Monte said it best, these were home cooks who just took over breakfast service in a busy Los Angelas hotel - some of whom had never been in an industrial kitchen let alone worked in one during a slam - and as their food was going out I was amazed by how fantastic it all looked. 

Unlike their chef counterparts on Hell's Kitchen who get slammed everyday, though, it is interesting to note that none of our home cooks appear to be smokers - begging the question, is their something about working in professional kitchens that makes one crave nicotene?

As the cooks lined up for their elimination challenge they are told that three of them will not be competing in the pressure test: David Martinez, Frank, and Monte - and though she hasn't made friends of Ryan and Josh, I was THRILLED to see Monte's exemption because she has won a permanent place in my season 10 heart!

The rest of the competitors were tasked with creating the perfect molton lava cake and after much trial and error to come up with perfection, Anna and Josh were both declared safe and Joe Bastianich went on to say that Anna's cake was as good as any cake you could have in a restaurant and that it was an example of how to create baking perfection.

Ryan and Tali weren't as fortunate and after a failed attempt at a Molten Lava cake, it was Ryan's time to leave.

***
Hungry from watching all this cooking? In honour of today's breakfast, you've got to try my amazing Mushroom and Gruyere Omelet.



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Hell's Kitchen Season 10, Episode 7 Clemenza is Granted a Stay of Execution

Tonight's episode of Hell's Kitchen found the chefs in a scallop induced fervor, sauteing their hearts out for a first time ever fashion show in the dining room.

The red team, despite ongoing personality issues, managed to get their scallop appetizers out on time while the blue team floundered around like a group of beached mackerels; and with swordfish and pigeons as the entree course, I had to wonder which team was going to drown and which chefs were going to be ordered to fly the coop.

Meanwhile the men's team got itself into a tizzy when the bathing suit portion of the fashion show began and there was nothing quite like watching bug eyed Royce drool all over the meat station as the models pranced about.

While that went on, a covert mission began to unfold on the red team involving Robyn and some overcooked beef. She started strong on her station but after two steaks were over cooked, she tried to talk her team mates into crossing the line to the blue side to get more. Though the girls made several valiant attempts at channeling their inner meat Mata Hari's, in the end the omnipresence of Gordon Ramsay who, like God, sees all, cast aspersions on their efforts and soon enough all hell was breaking loose in the land of beef and pigeons.

Luckily for all, Kimmie was on her game tonight and kept things moving and on time at the pass. Royce, on the other hand, with all of his self congratulatory big talk, failed miserably and I thought he was going to get himself kicked out of the kitchen. Somehow, though, both teams completed service in time to watch the tail end of the fashion show. 

It wasn't good news for Clemenza, though.

After a mishap pre-cooking scallops prior to the fashion show he was already on thin ice with Ramsay and, apparently  missed the memo regarding our Kitchen God's culinary omnipotence leaving a stack of unused sword fish in the kitchen.

The result: A win for red team which meant none of the Hell's Bitches would be going home tonight. And the world can breathe a huge sigh of relief because, after all of their bickering, Robyn and Kimmie have made up.

The two chefs up for nomination were: Clemenza and Guy and though Clemenza messed up during dinner service his passion and ability to cook was validated by Chef Ramsay and Guy was sent home.

***
Are you hungry after watching all that cooking? How about a beautiful steak (perfectly cooked this time) in a sherried mushroom sauce?This one is guaranteed delicious!



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Roasted Beet and Chicken Salad

To kick off summer here at The Kitchen Witch I wanted to share my recipe for a delicious, healthy, and satisfying summertime salad featuring nutrient rich roasted beets, lean and flavourful roasted chicken breasts, assorted summer veggies, feta cheese, and a homemade salad dressing that will make you resolve never to go store bought again!

Happy Monday all, I hope you enjoy!

Please visit here for the printable recipe.

 

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

What's Happening this Week at The Kitchen Witch!

Hi everyone!

I'm super excited to be kicking off our summer season here at The Kitchen Witch because I have so many great new ideas, tips, and tricks for creating all kinds of warm weather magic!

With fresh foods in abundance, we're lightening things up, getting outdoors, and enjoying the vibrancy of sun kissed summer flavours.

Of course we're also going to continue to enjoy summer's guilty pleasures like Master Chef, Hell's Kitchen, and Next Food Network Star, along with intermittent commentary on Top Chef Masters and Around the World in 80 Plates!

So without further ado, this is what's what for this week...

Monday will begin with a kick off video for the summer season of CHARMED featuring amazing - and I do mean amazing - Summer fresh, light, and healthy ground turkey chili con carne and sweet potato corn bread muffins. The chili and muffins can be made ahead, frozen, and kept on hand for camping, or casual summer entertaining like Canada Day celebrations or Fourth of July!

And then stay tuned later Monday or early Tuesday for my Hell's Kitchen and Master Chef recaps.

Weekday Wednesday is all about a fresh new twist on a roasted beet salad and, because my humorous blog "Back Away from the Girdle" was so popular last week, expect another funny one to get us through Hump day!

Thursday we're back at Cherry Hill. With the summer season dawning at The Kitchen Witch, our heroine Amanda is about to embark on a whole new chapter in her own life after tragically losing her husband Paul in a mysterious car crash!

Foodie Friday features dessert - and with our goal being fresh and light, I'm excited to be bringing you a relatively guilt free fresh peach cheesecake.

Stay tuned as well for my next Food Network Star recaps and a brand new cocktail along with plenty of gossip on Saturday!

Onward to a great week ahead and Happy Summer everyone!!


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