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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Best of the Brunch: French Toast Casserole

A couple years ago I was at a pot luck brunch. After filling my plate at the buffet table, I sat down to eat. Looking over the random mix of stuff on my plate, I decided to dig in to what I was told was French toast casserole and I instantly entered heaven. Turns out it was made by one of my best friends, Ainsley, who had the recipe passed on to her by a friend. I left brunch that day with a full stomach and the recipe that would become my brunch staple. Every time I make it I get nothing but compliments and an empty casserole dish. I recently made it for another pot luck brunch, and received the same response as always, as well as a list of emails to send the recipe too. This is the recipe that will never die, make it for your next brunch and I can guarantee that you will be passing it along at the end of the day.

French Toast Casserole
  • 7 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 loaf of Challah bread, unsliced
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. maple syrup
1. Cut the Challah into 1 inch cubes. (the recipe originally called to cut the crust off the bread first, I prefer to keep them on, either way will be delicious)
2. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, milk and vanilla. Stir in the bread cubes. Refrigerate overnight.
3. Pour the bread mixture into a greased casserole dish.
4. Combine the melted butter, brown sugar and maple syrup and pour over the bread mixture.
5. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40-45 minutes.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

"What's For Dinner?" Wednesday: Cheater Pad Thai

Pad Thai is a takeout favourite of mine, but to make traditional Pad Thai isn't always easy during the week. I adapted this recipe from one that was used at a cooking school I used to work at. I use ketchup as a cheater ingredient to mimic that sweet and sour flavour that tamarind gives to traditional Pad Thai. Because tamarind and other traditional Pad Thai ingredients aren't widely available, this recipe uses ingredients you can find at any grocery store to make a quick, and tasty Pad Thai dinner on a weeknight. I used chicken as my protein in this Pad Thai but you can substitute shrimp, tofu, or even just vegetables to adjust it to your liking.

My Cheater Pad Thai
Serves 4-6
  • 2 Tbsp. Oyster sauce
  • 2/3 cup ketchup
  • 1 Tbsp. Thai fish sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 package of pad thai noodles (454g/1 lb.)
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups bean sprouts
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
  • lime wedges for garnish
1. In a small mixing bowl combine oyster sauce, ketchup, fish sauce, water and brown sugar. Set aside.
2. Place the noodles in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit until noodles are slightly softened, drain and set aside.
3. Heat a wok or large sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the oil and garlic and fry until garlic starts to become golden.
4. Add the chicken and cook until cooked through, about 3 minutes.
5. Add the eggs and lightly scramble. Once the eggs are almost cooked through add the noodles and toss.
6. Pour in the ketchup mixture and continue to cook while tossing until heated through. Add the bean sprouts and green onions and cook for one minute longer.
7. Place onto a serving platter and sprinkle with the chopped peanuts and garnish with lime wedges.

photo courtesy of

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"What's For Dinner?" Wednesday: Chipotle Chicken Tostadas

For those of you who have never had tostadas, they are best described as an open faced taco, or a Mexican style pizza. Traditionally, a deep fried tortilla is used as the base but to make this meal more waist friendly, I am baking the tortillas in the oven instead. These tostadas are pretty filling so I serve them on their own, but feel free to serve them with some Mexican style rice on the side as well.

Chipotle Chicken Tostadas
Serves 4
  • 1/4 cup smooth style chipotle salsa ( I used Herdez brand)
  • 1/4 cup regular salsa
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. lime juice
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup refried beans
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 2 cups shredded lettuce
  • 1 small tomato, chopped
  • salsa, sour cream and guacamole for garnish
  • cooking spray
1. In a mixing bowl combine both the salsas, chili powder and lemon juice. Add the chicken breasts and let marinate for 30 minutes.
2. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Celsius. Place the chicken breasts on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake in the oven until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
3. Place the tortillas onto a cookie sheet and spray lightly with cooking spray. Place in the oven and bake until just starting to crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and turn the broiler on.
4. Once cooled, slice the chicken breasts into thin slices. Set aside.
5. Onto each tortilla, spread with a 1/4 of the refried beans, 1/4 of the chicken, and 1/4 of the cheese.
6. Place the tostadas under the broiler until cheese is melted, about 3 minutes. Remove from oven and top with some shredded lettuce, chopped red onions and chopped tomatoes. Garnish with salsa, sour cream and guacamole and serve.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

'What's For Dinner?" Wednesday: Spicy Tuna Sushi Salad

Anyone who knows me, can tell you that I am sushi obsessed. I can eat it breakfast, lunch and dinner. I never get sick of it. One of my favorite things to order is a spicy tuna roll, I'm drooling just thinking about it. As I am trying to keep my new year's resolution of eating healthy, tonight I am taking my beloved spicy tuna roll and turning it into a nice, fresh, healthy salad. Be sure you buy high quality, sushi grade tuna for this recipe, as you will be eating it raw. I know tuna steaks can get pricey, but since you are adding lots of greens and other delicious, healthy ingredients, a little will go a long way. I'm using store bought seaweed salad in the recipe, you can find it in the prepared sushi section of most grocery stores, if not, you can pick up an order from your favourite sushi restaurant, or leave it out. Serve on it's own or with a bowl of miso soup.

Spicy Tuna Sushi Salad
Serves 4
  • 3/4 lb (12 oz) fresh, sushi grade tuna steak
  • 1 medium sized, ripe, avocado
  • 1/4 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp. Sriracha chili sauce
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 (142 g) package mixed greens
  • 1 container (100g) prepared seaweed salad
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • pickled ginger and toasted sesame seeds for garnish
  • soy sauce and wasabi for dipping
1. Cut the tuna and avocado into bite sized cubes, trying to keep them the same size. Set aside.
2. In a small bowl combine the mayonnaise with the chili sauce and lemon juice, set aside.
3. In a large bowl, toss the mixed greens with the seaweed salad, green onions and cubed tuna and avocado.
4. Place the salad onto a large serving platter, or divide onto individual plates, then drizzle with the mayonnaise mixture.
5. Garnish with pickled ginger and sesame seeds and serve with soy sauce and wasabi on the side.


    Monday, January 4, 2010

    Who Cut the Cheese?

    Attention fellow cheese lovers of Toronto!!! If you haven't been there already, you MUST check out the Cheese Boutique. Located just south of Bloor West village, this store is full to the brim with yummy goodness. Besides their amazing variety of cheese, the store is also home to a fabulous selection of produce, meats, deli, baked goods and more gourmet condiments and products then one can imagine.

    images courtesy of

    The staff is friendly, knowledgeable and ready and willing to give you their cheese recommendations. I visited the store for my first time this past weekend. After admiring the store for almost an hour, my mother and I headed over to the cheese counter, where a very helpful staff member helped recommend some cheeses. After tasting many samples, we had to make some decisions. Here is what we ended up with:
    • Truffled Brie: Ontario brie, butterflied and filled with shaved, fresh Italian truffles and homemade truffle honey
    • Masterchoice Beemster: Limited edition cheese made from summer cow's milk and than aged in-house for 3 years.
    • Le Lingot Chevre: Soft, handmade, artisanal  goat cheese from the Quercy region of France.
    • Brezain: From the French Alps, a Hickory smoked, semi hard cheese made from cow's milk.
    With some more recommendations from the staff we also walked out with a loaf of their store made walnut, raisin loaf and some freshly sliced prosciutto to enjoy with our cheese. With our mouths salivating we headed home to enjoy a wonderful dinner of cheese and of course some wine.

    our delicious spread of cheese

    If you are planning on having a wine and cheese dinner of your own, definitely head over the Cheese Boutique, you wont be disappointed.
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