Yum, Yum: ABSOLUT cocktails

In the spirit of the holiday season (and as a result of our recent education at BYOB), we’re mixing up some cocktails to service at our upcoming holiday fiestas. Will you be hosting a few of your girlfriends or close family members this winter? Here are three recipes that are so simple, but are sure to wow and refresh your mom, dad AND your besties.

White Cranberry Cocktail
Mix one ounce of ABSOLUT Vodka with white cranberry juice, top with fresh lemonade to taste and garnish with cranberries and a black straw. The amount of white cranberry juice and lemonade added will depend on your glass size, and how strongly you like to mix your drinks. The simple, not-too-sweet flavour of this cocktail makes it perfect for a family holiday party. Great to prepare a half hour in advance and hand guests a drink as they come in the door. Classy and festive.

Photo credit: JJ Thompson.

Sparking Pink Grapefruit
Mix one ounce of ABSOLUT vodka with sparkling pink grapefruit juice (of your choice) and garnish with a sprig of fresh thyme and fresh raspberries. The combination of the grapefruit with thyme will keep your taste buds guessing, while the fresh raspberries offer a pinch of sweetness. This is a crowd pleaser, especially if you are hosting a girl’s night.

Photo credit: JJ Thompson.
Apple Slice
Mix one ounce of ABSOLUT vodka and soda and garnish with a red apple slice. You can also infuse the apple slices in the soda for about a half hour and let them float in the cocktail. This one goes out to the boys in our life. Served in a short glass, this cocktail reminds us of something Don Draper might sip on at a holiday party. Yummy x2.

Photo credit: JJ Thompson

Yum Yum: Gwyneth Paltrow’s "My Father’s Daughter"

We’re always on the lookout for cookbooks that offer healthy fare that don’t skimp on flavour – not always an easy task. When we heard Gwyneth Paltrow was releasing a cookbook we were a bit skeptical. Actors aren’t necessarily known for their chops in the kitchen, after all.

After hearing some great buzz about GOOPy’s book, we decided to give it a whirl and oh boy – are we glad we did. Recipes run the culinary gamut, from salad dressings to fried oyster po’boys to vegetarian paellas, and most have a “make vegetarian/vegan” suggestion. If you’re looking for red meat or pork, you’re in the wrong book. If you’re a seafood or poultry lover then we highly suggest picking My Father’s Daughter up.  

Here are two of the recipes we tried the other night. Gwyneth suggested serving these together, so we did. Enjoy.

Best Stir-Fried Chicken
serves four

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into small cubes
2 tbsp cornstarch
Coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup peeled and minced garlic
1/4 cup peeled and minced ginger
1/2 cup minced green scallions (white & green parts)
Pinch red chili flakes (optional)
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

Toss the chicken with cornstarch, a large pinch of salt and quite a bit of pepper.  

Heat oil in large, non-stick wok over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, ginger, scallions and chile flakes (if using) and cook, stirring, for one minute.  

Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, for five minutes. 

Add the vinegar, sugar, and five or six grinds of black pepper. 

Boil on high for three minutes, or until the sugar has caramelized and the whole mixture is dark brown and sticky and lovely. 

Add the soy sauce, and cook for another 30 seconds. Serve immediately over fried rice (recipe below), sprinkled with cilantro. 

Photo via GOOP herself.

Fried Rice with Kale and Scallions
serves four

1/2 pound kale, stems discarded
1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
3 large scallions, cut into 1/8-inch diagonal slices
2 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp soy sauce

Cut the kale leaves in half lengthwise and then cut crosswise into very thin ribbons (chiffonade). Steam the kale for 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. 

Add the garlic and cook for two minutes, stirring constantly, being careful not to brown the garlic. 

Raise the heat to medium and add the steamed kale and scallions. 

Cook for two minutes and then add the rice and cook for another two minutes, stirring. 

Add the soy sauce and cook for 30 seconds more.

Health in a bowl.
Photo via Milk & Mode

Yum, yum: Matt’s Mom’s Recipes: Go-To Cookies!

As the name says, this is my “go-to” cookie that is great for impressing guests, and is super easy to make. I always use natural peanut butter – smooth or crunchy. I found this recipe in The Toronto Star about five years ago.

These are great! Sometimes if we’re lucky, we’ll get a care package of these brought up to the fourth floor. They’re such a good mid-afternoon snack when we need a break and a bit of a sugar hit.

Go-To Cookie
1/2 cup each white and brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup each flour and oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 ounces chocolate chips
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut

1. Beat sugars and butter until fluffy.
2. Add peanut butter, egg and vanilla.
3. In a separate bowl, mix together all dry ingredients
4. Add mixed dry ingredients to butter and sugar mixture.
5. On a lightly greased cookie sheet (or lined with parchment paper), drop tablespoon-full balls of cookie dough, three inches apart from one another.
6. Bake at 375 degrees Celsius for eight to 10 minutes.

Photo credit: dietdessertndogs.com

Yum, yum: Matt’s Mom’s Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

Tomatoes and basil are in high-season right now, and there are a thousand ways to enjoy them. Take some of your spare time this holiday Monday and whip up a batch of this delicious soup.

Here’s the back story from Matt’s Mom:

“My friend Maureen and I work out together, and when we test out a recipe that is great, we share it with each other. She passed this one on to me. This is a super recipe, since tomatoes are in season right now.”

Thanks, Mom!

Maureen’s Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

3 lbs. ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise

¼ cup olive oil, plus 2 tbsp. reserved
1 tbsp. kosher salt
1½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 cups yellow onions, chopped (about 2 medium)
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp. unsalted butter or margarine
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1 (28 oz.) can plum tomatoes, with juice
4 cups fresh basil leaves (packed)
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
4 cups chicken stock (can substitute vegetable stock or water)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
2. Toss together tomatoes, ¼ cup olive oil, salt and pepper.
3. Spread tomatoes in one layer on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.
4. In a large stockpot over medium heat, saute onions and garlic with remaining olive oil, butter and red pepper flakes, until onions start to brown (about 10 minutes).
5. Add canned tomatoes, basil, thyme and stock or water.
6. Add oven-roasted tomatoes, including any liquid on the baking sheet.
7. Bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes.
8. Pour soup into a blender, or use a hand-blender or food mill to coarsely puree.
9. Adjust seasonings to taste, serve garnished with goat cheese and croutons. Can also serve cold.

Happy Labour Day!

Yum, yum: Our favourite ways to drink beer

Admittedly, most of us weren’t the biggest beer fans until we became well acquainted with various university beer promos: Toonie-Tuesdays at the campus bar, beer pong tournaments and $25-four-litre pitchers at an infamous Toronto pub. Beer used to be a means to an end, but years of enjoying this beverage have led to true love of that refreshing combination of hops, barley and bubbles.

Here are some of our favourite ways to consume brewskis, with a summer spin:

The Beergarita
A lovely combination of lime, tequila and Mexican beer that is delightful when enjoyed on a patio.

1 can frozen limeade
1 pint tequila
3 to 4 Corona (or other similar beers)

Combine one cup of tequila with three to four beer in a large pitcher. Stir in limeade and serve over ice with a slice of lime and dash of salt. Mmmmm. 

The Beer Float
Josh Rubin of The Toronto Star opened our eyes to the possibility of beer as a dessert beverage. It’s a tasty, sweet snack that’s perfect for a warm evening. 

Vanilla ice cream
Dash of maple syrup
1 bottle Rickard’s Dark (or other flavoured beer – we are keen to try the Nickel Brook Apple Pilsner with a scoop of vanilla and dash of cinnamon, and Mill St. Coffee Porter with a scoop of chocolate).

Toss a scoop (or two) of ice cream in a tall glass. Slowly pour in beer and add maple syrup to taste. Best enjoyed with a spoon. Whipped cream optional.

The Ice Cold Pint

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Head to your favourite pub, patio or bar, grab some pals and down a frothy glass of your favourite brew. Top picks: Alexander Keith‘s, Mill St. Lemon Tea, Steam Whistle and Stella Artois.

Photo courtesy of http://www.guardian.co.uk 

Bonus points for appropriately branded glassware and a smooth pour.

Bottoms up!

Yum, yum: Matt’s Mom’s Zucchini Quiche

We loved Matt’s mom’s banana bread so much that we wanted to share another recipe from her. She immediately responded “yes!” and sent us this lip-smacking quiche. We made it that night, and it turned out very well. Mom’s recipes always do.

She told us, “I love this recipe because it’s fast, and a nice, light meal served with a salad. Enjoy.”

Thanks, Mom!

Matt’s Mom’s Crustless Zucchini Quiche

3 cups (approx.) zucchini cooked, chopped and well drained*
3 eggs (well beaten)
½ cup oil
1 cup Bisquick or pancake mix
¼ cup diced onion
1 clove garlic, finely chopped (optional)
Salt, pepper, chopped fresh parsley and basil to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Celsius.

2. Grease and flour bottom of baking dish (round or square, close to 8×8” size).

3. Sprinkle zucchini, onion and garlic on bottom of dish.

4. Mix all other ingredients together in a bowl. Pour over vegetables.

5. Bake for approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until firm.

6. Cool for a few minutes before cutting and serving.

*You can also use cooked mushrooms, leeks, chopped spinach or cauliflower, instead of zucchini.

Photo courtesy of  thelocalcook.com

Yum, yum: a vacation beverage for your enjoyment

Like most Canadians, we are off relaxing for the Civic Holiday today. A long weekend in the summer isn’t complete without a tasty drink, so here’s a recipe to mix up and enjoy in the sun.

This margarita comes courtesy of Quinn’s Steakhouse and Irish Bar. It doesn’t seem likely that an authentic Irish pub should be able to produce a great margarita, but Quinn’s Margarita hits the mark. Many joints in town use a processed, sugary mix instead of freshly squeezed juice. Don’t settle for the alternative. Once you go Quinn’s, you never go back — aside from great cocktails, they boast an amazing menu from chef Paul Pisa. Visit their site for more details and location.

Pssst — Follow the brand new @ilovequinns on Twitter for special offers and news from all Quinns Hospitality Group venues including Irish Embassy Pub and Grill, Shopsy’s, PJ O’Brien and Quinn’s Steakhouse and Irish Bar.

Happy Simcoe Day!

Quinn’s Margarita (makes one serving)
1 ½ oz. tequila
½ oz. Irish Mist whiskey
1 ½ oz. each fresh lime and orange juice
lime zest
Irish sea salt and sugar (for rimmer)
1. Pour tequila, Irish Mist and juices into a martini shaker. Add several ice cubes and lime zest.
3. Rim a martini glass with equal parts sea salt and sugar.
4. Pour drink into glass and sprinkle lime zest on top as garnish.
5. Enjoy!

Yum, yum: Matt’s Mom’s Banana Bread

For as long as I can remember, before I meet up with my parents for a birthday, Father’s Day – whatever, my mother always asks me if she can make me something. I always answer the same thing: “If you must, I’d love your banana bread.”

This banana bread is epic. Moist and delicious. Wherever I go, if it’s on the menu, I try it. Nothing has stacked up to my mom’s. And now, I share it with you. 

Never knowing the recipe, and being pretty savvy in the kitchen myself, I was a little taken aback when I saw how simple it was to make. I thought there may have been some mystery spice or secret ingredient. To the naked eye, it doesn’t look too special. Obviously, Mom puts a lot of love in it, and isn’t that the best tasting ingredient? (Insert ooohhhs and awwws.)

Matt’s Mom’s Banana Bread

½ cup margarine or butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ cups ripe mashed bananas
1 tsp vanilla
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour. Half whole wheat or spelt can be used
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1 cup oatmeal
½ chopped walnuts or pecans or 1 cup mini chocolate chips or mixture of both

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Celsius. Grease a 9-cup Bundt pan or two small loaf pans.
2. Cream together margarine or butter with sugar. Blend well.
3. Add eggs one at a time, and continue beating.
4. Add vanilla and mashed bananas.
5. Sift dry ingredients together.
6. Gradually mix in sifted dry ingredients, alternating with sour cream.
7. Stir in nuts, chocolate chips and oatmeal. Do not over-mix.
8. Pour into well-greased pan.
9. Bake for 50 minutes or until loaf tests done. You can use a tooth pick by inserting in bread. If it comes out dry, your loaf is done.

Ta da!

PR Tip: In our industry, saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ is utterly important. Nothing shows appreciation better than a freshly baked loaf of banana bread. If you aren’t a baker, send the recipe along with a thank you note next time!