Thursday, July 24, 2014

Gouda & Mushroom Beer Dip + The Niagara Craft Beer Festival

Have you ever noticed that as you get older your tastes and appreciation for food changes? I used to hate Brussels sprouts... now I love them. I wasn't a big beef eater... now I make burgers weekly. I could never understand why people drank craft beer... now I am slowly learning to appreciate the strong flavours.
In the past 7 months I have been exposed to more craft beer than I have in my entire (adult) life. And you know what? It's growing on me. As "J" would say, "it's about time you drink a real beer and get rid of that water you've been drinking." #TrueThat
This new found appreciation couldn't come at a better time. In one month I will be heading to the largest craft beer show in Ontario; the Niagara Craft Beer Festival at Montebello Park in St. Catharine's. A whole weekend filled with 20+ craft beers, great food, and talented entertainment (yup, The Trews and USS are going to be there!).
Of course there is still one thing I enjoy more than drinking beer - cooking with it. Inspired by the bold flavours of Mill St's Distillery Ale, I whipped up this delicious cheesy mushroom beer dip. Best served hot, this flavourful dip partners perfectly with a cold bottle of Distillery Ale.
Gouda & Mushroom Beer Dip
This dip is just the thing when entertaining a small or large crowd. Pairing perfectly with a frosty mug of beer and crispy tortilla chips, you'll have every guest at your party asking for the recipe!

1 head of garlic, roasted and cooled
1 cup chopped crimini mushrooms
8 oz cream cheese
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese + another 1/4 cup for top
1 cup freshly grated smoked Gouda
1/2 cup Mill St. Distillery Ale
1/2 tsp red Thai chili sauce
1/2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
1/2 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup chopped green onions

1. Roast garlic and set aside to cool.
2. Roughly chop mushrooms and saute until most of the moisture has evaporated, approximately 3-5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
3. Preheat oven to 350.
4. Add cream cheese, Parmesan, Gouda, beer, Thai chili sauce, pepper, corn starch and cooled garlic (try not to include the skin) to food processor. Process until combined.
5. Add mushrooms to food processor and process just until combined.
6. Pour cheese mixture into a baking dish. Top with Panko breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese.
7. Bake until top starts to crisp up and turn a golden brown, about 25-30 minutes.
8. Remove from oven and garnish with chopped green onions. Serve warm with tortilla chips or thinly sliced baguette.

What's your favourite way to cook with beer?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Blueberry Skillet Cake

I've been dreaming up this skillet cake for quite some time now. First I considered apples. Then raspberries, and then strawberries. But when I saw the first batch of Ontario blueberries at the St. Jacobs Farmer's market last weekend, I knew they were destined for this cake.
I had never baked a cake in a cast iron skillet before, so the idea of making something sweet in my new Cuisinart pan was exciting. Turns out, during the 1800's most cakes were baked in a cast iron skillet on a stovetop because they were more reliable than ovens. #WhoKnew!?
The texture of this cake is phenomenal. The light and fluffy cake is slightly crisp on the bottom and dotted full of colourful, sweet blueberries. I highly suggest enjoying at least one slice of this cake when it's fresh out of the oven; the warm blueberries burst with flavour against the moist cake. So good!
Blueberry Skillet Cake
This skillet cake comes together quickly with several pantry staples. Blueberries are the name of the game in this particular recipe, however any fruit, such as raspberries, blackberries or strawberries can be used. Heating the pan beforehand and melting some butter will yield a nice crisp bottom on your cake - I highly suggest trying it!

2 large eggs
8 tbsp butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 cup almond milk
2 cups all purpose flour
1½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups blueberries

1. Preheat oven (with cast iron skillet inside) to 350.
2. In a large bowl, beat eggs until frothy, then whisk in melted butter, sugar, and almond milk.
3. In a separate bowl mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
4. Slowly whisk flour mixture into egg mixture, just until combined.
5. Gently fold in blueberries; until all berries are coated.
6. Remove hot skillet from oven. Melt a tiny pat of butter in bottom of skillet. Pour batter in to skillet and spread until it's even.
7. Bake 45-50 minutes, or until top of cake is golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Friday, July 18, 2014

5 Casual Items to Wear Every Weekend

It has been quite the week. As of today I am 95% caught up after my week long vacation.... it only took me two weeks. That said, I am ready for the weekend. With no plans, other than a date night with "J" tonight, I am looking forward to relaxing and keep it causal.

Hope you all have a lovely (casual) weekend!

p.s. yes, birkenstocks are back!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Blended Mushroom Burger Topped with Brie, Bick's Relish & Deep Fried Sweet Pickles

There are two things I have been crazy about this summer; seafood (for obvious reasons) and homemade burgers. Since the warm weather hit I have been grilling up burgers every week. Chicken burgers, turkey burgers, blended mushroom beef burgers... and I'm talking get-your-hand-in-a-bowl-and-squish-away homemade burgers!
If you are serving burgers at home, homemade is the way to go! You can control the ingredients, the flavours, and the toppings. Personally, the toppings are my favorite part! Gourmet cheeses, caramelized onions & mushrooms, specialty sauces, and of course pickles are among my must-have toppings! So when Bick's Pickles approached me and asked me to share my favourite burger recipe to celebrate the launch of their new "Name a Burger Success Story" Contest, I jumped at the chance. 
I quickly found myself in my kitchen surrounded by pickles (what a lovely place to be in right?); dill pickles, sweet pickles, pickled beets, and onion relish. The ideas began swirling... finally it hit me. Deep fried sweet pickles. On top of the burger. Yes!
Blended Mushroom Burger Topped with Brie, Bick's Zesty Onion Relish & Deep Fried Sweet Pickles
Finely chopped mushrooms blend seamless with the lean beef & pork in this juicy burger. Smothered with creamy brie and Bick's Zesty Onion Relish, the deep fried sweet pickles are like the cherry-on-top of this great tasting Canadian burger!

1 lb. fresh crimini mushrooms, finely chopped and cooked
1/2 lb. lean ground beef
1/2 lb. lean ground pork
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
1 large egg
1/2 tsp dehydrated minced garlic
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp dehydrated minced onion
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp hot red pepper flakes
3 slices of brie
1 heaping spoonful of Bick's Zesty Onion Relish
3-5 slices of deep fried sweet pickles to top

1. In a food processor, finely chop mushrooms.
2. In a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat, cook chopped mushrooms until most of the moisture has been evaporated, approximately 6-8 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
3. In a large bowl combine cooled mushrooms, beef, pork, breadcrumbs, egg, and spices. Using your hand mix until incorporated.
4. Form into patties, and cook either on the barbecue or on the stove-top until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees fahrenheit.
5. Turn off BBQ and place brie on patties. Keep warm until brie starts to melt. Remove from grill.
6. Place burger patty on buns and top with relish. Place deep fried sweet pickles on top and using a skewer, secure them in place. Serve hot!

Deep Fried Pickles
Canola Oil
1 cup of Bick's Yum Yum Sweet Pickles

1. Heat oil in medium sized pot to 375°F.
2. In three shallow bowls place flour, beaten egg, and breadcrumbs.
3. Dip each sweet pickle into flour mixture, then into egg, then coat pickle with bread crumbs.
4. After all pickles have been breaded, begin to fry in batches. Fry in hot oil for 3-4 minutes, turning once, or until deep golden brown. Remove pickles and place on paper towel to drain.

// Name a Burger and WIN! \\
Do you love burgers as much as I do? One thing is for sure, Bick's pickles loves burgers! So much so in fact, they are running a new promotion where you can win a dream cottage vacation just by naming a burger success story!

Visit, click on the "Bick's Success Stories" icon, and enter the name of a burger - it's that simple! Just by naming a burger, you'll be entered to win 1 of 4 cottage vacations (awarded as a cheque) where you’ll be able to create your own burger success stories!

Whether you are enjoying a burger at a restaurant, sitting on your deck at home, at the cottage, or a lakeside picnic, that burger needs a pickle on it!

What's your favourite burger topping?

Disclosure: This was a paid post by Bick's Pickles, however all my opinions and recipe are my own. The contest is administered by Bick's, so please visit for the Official Rules, contest entry form and complete details.