The County Grapevine reveals charms of Prince Edward County

I’m a food magazine junkie, always on the lookout for the latest issues of my favourites, or the arrival of brand new publications.

A quick perusal of the magazine shelves at a Kitchener grocery store tonight rewarded me with a newbie – The County Grapevine. This newcomer focuses on the food, wine, art and culture of Prince Edward County (PEC) in southern Ontario.

It seems I’m a little late getting to the party on this one; the issue I picked up is for Fall/Winter 2009/2010 (it’s a biannual publication). The magazine has been around for a while. How did I miss it??

So where exactly is Prince Edward County? PEC is an island at the eastern end of Lake Ontario. It is surrounded on the north and east by the Bay of Quinte, and is west of the St. Lawrence River. Its mild climate (by Canadian standards, that is!) has made it home to numerous vineyards and wineries.

What initially attracted me to The County Grapevine as I leafed through it in the store was the article Steeped in Tradition by tea expert Melody Wren. As a tea lover always looking for new places to enjoy a good cuppa’, I was interested to read her review of tea rooms in PEC.

Since bringing the magazine home, I’ve read and enjoyed a couple light-hearted pieces – “I was a teenage waitress” by comedian Deborah Kimmett and “Table Manners: The Lost Art of Dinner Parties” by sommelier Natalie MacLean.

I also noticed that food stylist and blogger Ruth Gangbar was credited for food styling in the magazine.

Tomorrow I’ll have to take some time to savour the food and wine articles!

The County Grapevine is available free in Prince Edward County and surrounding areas and can be purchased at Chapters, Indigo, Metro, and stores within the Loblaws chain.

Chocolate Fashions in Paris

Fashions for chocolate lovers? Oh yeah!

Okay, I’m not sure I’d wear an outfit made out of chocolate, but the chocolate fashions created for the Salon du Chocolat (Chocolate Show) and modelled in Paris on Oct. 13 are pretty amazing.

On second thought, if you were wearing one of these, you’d always be able to satisfy your chocolate cravings!

Colour me hungry

I’m trying to choose paint colours for a home reno project, but I seem to have worked up an appetite and it’s proving rather difficult to focus on the subtle differences between french vanilla and vichyssoise……mayonnaise and pale celery……mixed fruit and perky peach……hot spice and tangy orange tangerine…….and summer harvest and butter rum. (And if you liked those Benjamin Moore paint colour names, believe me, I could go on citing lots more colours named after food! Whoever is in charge of naming paints over there must like to eat!)

Now really. Who wouldn’t be hungry looking at colour chips like these?

Colour chips

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go make dinner……

Julie and Julia mania

I suspect Julia Child has a few new fans since Meryl Streep brought her to life in the big screen production Julie & Julia.

From what I’ve been hearing and reading since the movie’s debut on Aug. 7, copies of Child’s My Life in France are being snapped up along with Mastering the Art of French Cooking, the cookbook she wrote with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle.

Julie Powell‘s book, Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously, and her blog (The Julie/Julia Project), on which the movie was based, are also proving to be popular reads.

Whether this translates into more meals being served in kitchens around the country that don’t come straight from a package, a can or the drive thru remains to be seen, but if the movie serves to generate interest in all things culinary, I say thanks, Julie and Julia!

Some Julia Child and Julie Powell links –

Recipe pranks for April Fool’s Day


Is it a fried egg?

Be on guard tomorrow. It’s April Fool’s Day.

All may not be what it appears. Even at the breakfast or dinner table.

Nope! It's a Chocolate Egg Pop!

Nope! It's a chocolate fried egg on a stick!

With the following “recipes”, you”ll be the one planning the surprises, serving “cake” for dinner and “spaghetti and meatballs” for dessert. Don’t be fooled into thinking these ideas are difficult. Read on to see how easy it will be to play food pranks on your fellow diners tomorrow, or any day of the year.

If you want more wacky food ideas and recipe pranks, there are additional suggestions and videos at Family Fun magazine’s website.

  • Fried Egg and Toast? – Serve breakfast for dessert. Create a faux fried egg by spooning vanilla yogurt or sweetened whipped cream on a plate in the shape of the white of a fried egg. Add the yolk by placing a well-drained canned apricot or peach half, round side up, on top of the yogurt or cream, a little to one end. Toast a slice of pound cake. Spread with a thin layer of jam. Serve with the fried egg.
  • Drink Up! – Prepare fruit-flavored gelatin according to package directions. Pour into drinking glasses. Place a straw in each glass. Chill until set. At serving time, garnish rim of glasses with fruit. Serve and see how long it takes for someone to request a spoon to eat the “drink”.
  • An Antsy Cake – Turn a layer cake, ice cream cake or cheesecake into an anthill with this easy treatment. On top of the cake, carefully pour crushed vanilla wafers or nuts in a small mound to resemble an anthill. Arrange ants parading around the top of the cake and climbing up or down the side of the cake and/or the anthill using a chocolate-covered almond for each ant body and a chocolate-covered raisin or caramel (e.g. Skor Bites) for each  ant head. Pipe on eyes and legs using a tube of black gel icing.

Meat Loaf Cake

(Makes 8 to 10 servings)

Favourite meatloaf recipe (use 2 to 3 lbs/1 to 1.5 kg) ground beef
Hot mashed potatoes (about 4 cups/1 L)
Cherry tomatoes

Prepare meatloaf mixture as usual but before cooking, divide mixture in two and place into two 8-inch (20 cm) cake pans. Bake as usual, allowing a shorter time since meatloaf will likely cook faster as the mixture will be thinner than usual.

Meanwhile, prepare mashed potatoes using boiled or instant potatoes. The mashed potatoes should be fluffy and spreadable. Keep mashed potatoes warm until meat loaves are cooked.

Once cooked, drain fat from meat loaves. Invert one loaf onto a round pizza pan or heatproof plate. Cover with a thick even layer of mashed potatoes. Place second loaf on top and “frost” the top and sides of cake with remaining mashed potatoes.

If desired, some of the mashed potatoes can be spooned into a piping bag fitted with a decorative tip and piped around top or bottom edge of cake.

Place cake in a preheated 350F (180C) oven for 10 minutes to warm through. Remove from oven and decorate with halved cherry tomatoes. If desired, write a message on top of cake with ketchup. (If the opening of the ketchup bottle is too large to write a message easily, spoon some ketchup into a clean piping bag or a squeeze bottle with a small top to write your message.)

Spaghetti and Meat Ball Dessert

(Makes 1 serving)

Small slice of pound cake or half of a cupcake
Homemade or prepared icing
Yellow food coloring (if desired)
Strawberry sauce
2 of 3 chocolate malt balls or small truffles
Ground almonds or grated white chocolate
Chopped white chocolate or chocolate chips or candy melts
Lady fingers or biscotti
Toasted coconut
Green sprinkles

Place pound cake in the centre of a plate.

If desired, tint icing with food colouring to resemble the colour of cooked spaghetti. Spoon icing into a decorating tube fitted with a large circular tip; pipe icing in a looping fashion around the sides of the pound cake (don’t frost the top) to resemble spaghetti.

Spoon strawberry sauce (meat sauce) on top of the cake to cover it. Drizzle a little over portions of the spaghetti.

Using the dull side of a knife or a grater, rough up the surface of the malt balls (meatballs). Place them on top of the sauce.

Sprinkle ground almonds (parmesan cheese) over sauce and meatballs.
Carefully melt white chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave oven; stir until smooth. Spread chocolate over lady fingers (garlic bread). Sprinkle coconut (garlic) and green sprinkles (parsley) over top. Serve with spaghetti and meatballs.

Christmas Countdown: Whet your appetite with these tree ornaments

I collect food-themed Christmas ornaments like this mini tree with ceramic S’mores. (Edible S’mores are a combo of melted marshmallow and chocolate atop a graham wafer or sandwiched between two wafers.)


Twelve inches high, this Christmas tree is adorned with tiny S'mores. It sits on my desk at work.


A close up of the ceramic S'mores (marshmallow snowmen atop a piece of chocolate and graham cracker).

My friends Yvonne and Pat are also food ornament collectors. Yvonne is a food consultant, food stylist, and author of two cookbooks (Prizewinning Preserves and Thyme in the Kitchen). Pat is a baker extraordinaire and a food consultant for Kraft Kitchens. They are both excellent cooks, and two of the most organized women I know!

Since the three of us work in food-related jobs  – and we love to cook and eat – for years we have enjoyed the tradition of giving each other food-themed ornaments at Christmas. Every year the hunt is on to find something special to exchange…..something we haven’t already given each other! We’ve been doing this for long enough to amassed quite a collection of food-related ornaments.

Next Friday night we’re getting together for our annual Christmas dinner and gift exchange. I’ll post images of the new food ornaments we exchange but in the meantime, here’s a small “taste” of what’s in my collection. (Photos are courtesy of Yvonne.)




Hallowe’en Fun with Food

Happy Hallowe'en!

Happy Hallowe'en

Hallowe’en is the perfect holiday to go over the top with decorations and party food. It’s probably the only time of year when poor taste and “grossness” are preferred, or at least tolerated.

If you’re planning a Hallowe’en menu, you can go all out and spend lots of time, money and energy on creating a “terrorific” atmosphere at the dinner table. Or you can unleash your imagination and stir up little home-brewed ambiance by simply renaming favorite foods.

Need some inspiration?

Why not serve worms and eyeballs and dried bones (spaghetti and meatballs and biscuits) for supper? Or how about witch’s fingers and slime sauce (chicken strips and ranch dressing or plum sauce dyed green) or barbequed bat wings (chicken wings) or witches’ brew and dracula diggers (chili and tortilla chips)?

Wild and whacky side dishes might include grass and weeds with sliced toadstools and witch’s teeth (salad greens with mushrooms and sunflower seeds), maggots (rice), rotting teeth (corn) or lizard tongues (sautéed red pepper strips or carrot sticks).

Pond scum (jello with gummi worms) or bones (meringue cookies) make delicious desserts, and swamp water (frozen lemonade concentrate, lemon-lime pop and lime sherbet) will wash the meal down.

Sounds tasty, doesn’t it?

Here are a couple recipes for dried bones. Bon Appetit!

Breadstick Bones
(Makes 6 breadsticks)

1 can refrigerated breadsticks
Melted butter or margarine
Italian seasoning, Tex Mex seasoning or grated Parmesan cheese

Open can and unroll dough; separate into 6 strips. Carefully stretch each strip until about 12 inches (30 cm) long. Loosely tie a knot in both ends of each breadstick. Place breadsticks on an ungreased baking sheet.

Brush melted butter over breadsticks. Sprinkle seasoning or cheese over top.

Bake in a preheated 375F (190C) oven until golden brown, about 13 to 15 minutes. Serve warm.


Meringue Bones
(Makes about 2 dozen cookies)

5 egg whites
1/4 tsp (1 mL) cream of tartar
1-1/4 cups (300 mL) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla, orange or lemon extract

Line 1 or 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Prepare a piping bag with a round tip (about 3/8 inch/1 cm diameter).

With an electric mixer, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, a couple tablespoons (about 30 mL) at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat until stiff peaks form and meringue is shiny and smooth. Add extract and beat just until combined.

Fill piping bag with meringue. Pipe a log about 3 inches (8 cm) long. Pipe two balls on both sides of the ends of the log. Repeat with remaining meringue. You can smooth any peaks that occur with a wet finger.

Bake in a preheated 220F (105C) oven for 30 minutes. Turn off heat. Leave cookies in oven for 8 hours or overnight. Store in an airtight container.

* Let egg whites stand at room temperature for 20 minutes after separating; they will beat to a greater volume if they aren’t cold.

* Stirring a drop or two of yellow food colouring into the meringue mixture before baking will give the bones an aged look.

* If you don’t have a piping bag, use a sturdy ziplock bag. Cut off the tip once you have filled the bag with meringue mixture.

Foodscapes – for staring at, not snacking on!

Food is not meant just for our dining pleasure or the nourishment of our bodies.

It’s also an artist’s tool, as evidenced by the “creations” on British photographer Carl Warner’s website. Using foods like fruit, vegetables, herbs, pasta, cheeses, breads, and dried peas and beans, Warner creates and then photographs inventive landscape scenes. His work amazes me!

Heads of cauliflower are used as clouds, mushrooms turn into stones, loaves of bread stand in for mountains, broccoli become trees, stacked pine nuts make fences, blocks of cheese are used as buildings…and so on. I’ll bet you’ll be astonished and impressed too!

I could stare at each image for a long time, awed by the creative way he has re-imagined foods to create landscapes. He calls the scenes ‘foodscapes’. Apparently, he creates and photographs the images in stages so the foods don’t wilt or dry out by time the scene is completed.

But enough chatter from me! Have a look and see what you think. Once on Warner’s site, click on the orange box labelled ‘fotographics’. The first set of images that will pop up are the ‘foodscapes’. To view each one in closer detail, click on the image.

Don’t be surprised if after viewing this amazing art, you feel like heading to the fridge – for a snack! Or maybe to work on your own piece of creative foodscaping!

Pucker up, biscuit lovers!

Biscuit Lips
Biscuit Lips

No lip liner, botox injections or other enhancements needed to make these puffed and pouty babies! These hot lips are meant to be devoured as a fun, if not somewhat unusual, accompaniment (in appearance, that is!) to soups, stews or salads. Given a sensual slathering of strawberry or raspberry jam (or whatever flavour you prefer – red just seemed appropriate!), you could also serve them for dessert or tea.

These biscuits are slightly on the sweet side. I’d knock back the sugar to 1 tablespoon (15 mL) or eliminate it altogether if you don’t plan to serve the biscuits alongside a savoury dish.

To create the lip look, roll out the biscuit dough and cut out rounds. Score (cut a line across the diameter) each circle without cutting all the way through. Butter the surface (the next time I make this recipe, I’m going to spread the circle with a generous amount of jam), then fold one half over to form a half circle. As they bake, the lip shape will form.

Biscuit Lips
(Makes about 20)

2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons (20 mL) baking powder
2 tablespoons (30 mL) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt
1/3 cup (75 mL) cold butter or margarine
3/4 cup (225 mL) milk
Butter or margarine, for spreading (optional)

Mix flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut in or work in butter with a pastry blender or a couple knives until mixture is crumbly. Add milk; stir with a fork until mixture begins to adhere together. Gather into a ball and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead gently 10 times.

With a rolling pin, roll out until 1/4-inch (1.5 cm) thick. Cut into approximately 2-3/4-inch (7 cm) circles. Cut through centre of each circle with a sharp knife just to barely score the surface. Spread with butter, if desired. Fold over, butter side in, and press edges together gently. Arrange on a lightly greased baking sheet.

Bake in a preheated 425F (220C) oven until biscuits are risen and lightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Recipe Source: Soups and Sandwiches by Jean Pare, Company’s Coming Publishing Limited, 1987