Spring Is Here!

gardening
(image courtesy of gardena.com)

Spring is here! Not only does that mean that I am back to work, but that gardening season has finally arrived! An easy transition into gardening that can be discovered early in the season is planting fresh herbs and spices. Growing herbs takes no special gardening talent, and can be done early enough in the season that you can have fresh, beautiful herbs before the frost even melts! The easiest way to do this is in small pots that can be convenienty accessable to you – like on the kitchen windowsill.

Early spring and late fall are the times in the year that you can start, and finish, to grow certain herbs and spices to make your growing season last even longer. But be careful – not all herbs react positively to indoor planting. Below is a small guide to the planting and transplanting of popular garden herbs.

-Basil-
Start Seeds Indoors: March – April
Start Seeds Outdoors: Anytime after last Spring frost
Height: 1ft. – 2ft.
Spread: 1ft.
Light: Full Sun
Soil Conditions: Rich, Moist
Growth Type: Annual

-Chives-
Start Seeds Indoors: February – March
Start Seeds Outdoors: 1 Month before last Spring Frost
Height: 1ft. – 1.5ft.
Spread: 1.5ft.
Light: Full Sun
Soil Conditions: Rich, Moist
Growth Type: Perennial

-Cilantro & Coriander-
Start Seeds Indoors: Not Recommended
Start Seeds Outdoors: Anytime after last Spring frost
Height: 1ft. – 3ft.
Spread: 4 inches
Light: Part Shade – Full Sun
Soil Conditions: Light
Growth Type: Annual

-Dill-
Start Seeds Indoors: Not Recommended
Start Seeds Outdoors: 1 Month before last Spring frost
Height: 3ft. – 4ft.
Spread: 1ft.
Light: Full Sun
Soil Conditions: Rich
Growth Type: Annual

-Fennel-
Start Seeds Indoors: Not Recommended
Start Seeds Outdoors: 1 month before last Spring frost
Height: 1ft. – 2ft.
Spread: 1ft.
Light: Full Sun
Soil Conditions: Rich, Moist
Growth Type: Annual

-English Lavender-
Start Seeds Indoors: March
Start Seeds Outdoors: Anytime after last Spring frost
Height: 4ft. – 6ft.
Spread: 1ft. – 1.5ft.
Light: Full Sun
Soil Conditions: Rich
Growth Type: Annual

-Lemon Balm-
Start Seeds Indoors: February – Early March
Start Seeds Outdoors: Mid March – Early April
Height: 1ft. – 2ft.
Spread: 1.5ft.
Light: Part Shade – Full Sun
Soil Conditions: Rich, Well-Drained
Growth Type: Perennial

-Parsley-
Start Seeds Indoors: March – April
Start Seeds Outdoors: Anytime after last Spring frost
Height: 1ft. – 2ft.
Spread: 1ft.
Light: Full Sun
Soil Conditions: Rich, Moist
Growth Type: Perennial / Biennial (requires 2 growing seasons to flourish)

Easter Chick Cookies

Image courtesy of Diamonds For Dessert

Image courtesy of Diamonds For Dessert

Happy Easter everyone! I found the most adorable Easter cookies while browsing Pinterest today, and I had to share this recipe, brought to you by Diamonds For Dessert! A perfect balance of lemon and honey, these little chick sugar cookies are bound to be a huge hit at your Easter festivities. These cute, bright chicks will put anyone in the holiday mood! Enjoy : )

Easter Chick Cookies
by Diamonds For Dessert

1/8 cup (2 tbsp) butter, room temperature
1/4 cup honey
1 egg, room temperature
the zest of 1 lemon
1 cup + 2 tbsp flour
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp lemon extract (optional)

1/2 cup shredded coconut, ground finer in the food processor
yellow gel food coloring
orange candy melts
black nonpareils

1. Preheat the oven to 300°F.
2. Add the food colouring into a little bit of water to dilute it. Slowly, and in increments, add the water to the shredded coconut to change the colour – the goal is to dye the coconut, but not to make it too wet. Set aside.

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(image courtesy of Diamonds For Dessert)

3. Melt some orange candy melts, and with toothpicks, draw 30 little chicks’ feet (seen above)! You’ll only be using 24 for 12 chicks, but extra ones for back-up never hurts. Set aside and let dry.
4. Mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in a bowl, then set aside. In another bowl, combine the butter and honey. Then, add the lemon zest, egg, and OPTIONAL lemon extract. Meanwhile, mix in the flour mixture with the egg/zest mixture until a dough forms.
5. wrap the dough, and chill overnight or until firm.

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(image courtesy of Diamonds For Dessert)

6. After chilled, divide the dough into 24 pieces.
7. With each piece, divide into two balls – one using 1/3 of the dough for the head, and the other 2/3 for the body. Essentially, one piece should be smaller than the other.
8. Next, with the bigger (body) ball, make a small indentation in the middle with your finger, and rest the smaller ball (head) on top of the body like seen above. This is to ensure that they are firmly attached. MAKE SURE you do this properly, or they will separate during baking and fall apart.
9. In each head, use the black nonpareils to make two small black eyes.
10. Next, roll each chick in the coloured coconut and bake on parchment paper for 16 minutes, or until slightly brown. Let cool.

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(image courtesy of Diamonds For Dessert)

11. Finally, you can put on the last decorating touches. Brush away any coconut from the eyes, and melt the rest of the orange candies. Using a toothpick, dab a small beak onto the heads.
12. Next, use two of the chick feet you made with the other candy melts and place them about 1cm apart on the bottom of the chick bodies. You can use melted candy to hold in place, or if you have any extra icing around, you can attach them with a dab of that.

A big thank-you to Diamonds For Dessert for this adorable Easter recipe! Click here to view more lovely desserts from her site!

PocketSquaresCo. by Alex Gayowsky

PSLogo

I am very proud to post my very first Behind The Scenes article on a local Windsor entrepreneur that embodies what a hard-working individual can be capable of creating. This twenty-five year old English Literature graduate has taken her love of typography and witty citations to a level of success and devotion only a select group have accomplished. In July of 2011, Alex Gayowsky of Tecumseh, Ontario created PocketSquaresCo, her literary-inspired company of handmade and eco-friendly planners, notebooks, calendars and mementos.

2013 Pocket Planners

2012 Pocket Planners

Unhappy with the local selection, Alex started off originally making planners for her and her friends, and expanded her talent to build a successful business that has generated more than 600 sales in only 21 months. Computer savy and a designer at heart, she took her growing products from a small home-based business to a more organized and profitable route of publication – the Internet. In August of 2011, PocketSquaresCo. opened on Etsy, a popular online marketplace to buy and sell handmade, vintage, and one-of-a-kind keepsakes. Within the first day of publication, PocketSquaresCo. was already receiving orders. In 2012, PocketSquaresCo. introduced new designs and products to keep up with a growing fanbase. Made with 100% recycled paper made in Montreal, Canada, her customizable books and stationary have been recognized all over the internet and in her hometown. In December of 2012, Made in Windsor, where local handmade goods are showcased, PocketSquaresCo. was given a main exhibit and attracted over 900 supporters.

100% Recycled Recipe Cards - $8.00/13

100% Recycled Recipe Cards – $8.00/13

Featuring popular literary quotes, PocketSquaresCo. has gone from producing cute, but practical, calendars and planners, to save-the-dates, bridal shower invitations, thank-you cards, specialty journals, recipe indexes, notebooks, PenPal notecards, and more. With future showcases already schedualed, Alex Gayowsky has taken her small, local business to a global scale where practicality and visually appealing keepsakes come hand-in-hand. Her favourite quote by Lewis Caroll, “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast” tells true to an individual who made such an impossible level of success at such a young age, possible by implementing ambition and dedication that brings her one step closer to her dream of opening her own stationary store.

For product information, visit PocketSquaresCo. on Facebook or Etsy.

Grilled Chicken and Broccoli Pesto Panini

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Today’s post comes from the inspiration of leftovers – whether you use grilled chicken, cured deli meats, shredded pork or leftover beef, leftover meat always makes a great sandwich when you throw in fresh and creative ingredients. In this panini, I used grilled skinless chicken, home-made broccoli and garlic pesto, sliced beefsteak tomato and mozzarella cheese on toasted rye bread.

Grilled Chicken and Broccoli Pesto Panini

1 whole boneless chicken breast, grilled and shredded
6 slices beefsteak tomato (or any larger tomato)
1 fresh broccoli stock
3 cloves garlic
4 slices fresh mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon chopped dill weed
salt and pepper to taste

Serves: 2

1. In a small saucepan, boil broccoli for 3 minutes – you want it slightly cooked, but still hard enough that the pesto won’t be mushy.
2. Drain, and in a food processor combine the broccoli, garlic, dill weed, and pinch of salt.
3. Blend on low, slowly adding in olive oil until all ingredients are combined into a spreadable texture.
4. On your rye bread, spread pesto on both sides and top each sandwich with 2 slices of mozzarella cheese, 3 slices of tomato, grilled chicken, and salt and pepper to your taste.
5. If you have a panini press, grilled for 3 minutes. If not, heat up sandwiches in a skillet on medium heat, and sit a large plate (or anything heavy) on top of the sandwich to weigh it down and give it some char.
6. Cut in half, and serve!

Happy Eating!

Peach Champagne Bellini

Peach_Bellini
(image courtesy of wikimedia.org)

Any woman, or man who loves frozen cocktails, knows that if there is one drink that makes us giggle a little, reminisce about hot vacations, and remind us of how fabulous it is to be a woman – it is a Bellini cocktail. Ohhhh those were the nights you would sit for hours with your girlfriends at some cozy corner table in a dimly lit bar, gossiping until your stomach hurt from laughing so hard. Or those were the nights that you couldn’t remember because you had so many frozen cocktails, you passed out on your beach towel. Either way, a perfect party drink for parties with your friends or just the cocktail you need when you want to relax and chit-chat with your closest partner-in-crime, this frozen Bellini will surely become of your favorite go-to drinks! Any sweet fruit will do, but here is my recipe for an all-time favorite: the Peach Bellini.

Peach Champagne Bellini

2 cans of peaches in juice
3 bottles of Champagne of your choice
1/2 cup of any berry liquor (I like the Raspberry Sourpuss)
3 teaspoons lemon juice

Serves: 10 – 12 champagne glasses

Now, there are two ways of doing this. If making ahead of time, follow the FIRST set of instructions. If making to serve immediately, follow SECOND set of instructions:

AHEAD OF TIME
1. Pureé peaches and lemon juice. A blender will work just fine.
2. Use a sifter, or fine strainer, and strain the mixture into a freezer-safe bowl. I like to have fine chunks of fruit in my drink, but if the liquid is all you really want, you can sieve it through a thin cloth into the bowl.
3. Freeze the mixture.
4. When ready to serve, fill half a glass with champagne, add a splash of liquor, scrap off desired amount of peach mix from the bowl and top off glass. Stir if desired.

MADE TO SERVE
1. Blend to a pureé the peaches, lemon juice and 1 1/2 cups of ice.
2. Fill half a glass of champagne, add a splash of liquor, and pour in desired amount of frozen peach mixture. Stir if desired.

Voilà!

Bacon, Broccoli and Shrimp Ricotta Stuffed Lasagna Rolls

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Do not let the title of this next recipe fool you..this is one of the easiest dishes I have ever made, and by far one of the most delicious! Perfect as an appetizer individually, or paired with a nice side of roasted vegetables, my Bacon, Broccoli and Shrimp Ricotta Stuffed Lasagna Rolls are just the perfect amount of cheesy goodness to satisfy your baked pasta craving…and who doesn’t love bacon? No one.

For the vegans and vegetarians, the great thing about baked and stuffed pasta is that the ingredients are always interchangeable! Instead of ricotta, shrimp, and bacon, a great alternative would be soy cheese and some delicious cooked vegetables that pair well with starch like butternut squash, sweet potato or asparagus. As for the pasta itself, most wheat pastas are actually vegan-friendly because they are made from Duram Semolina, which is essentially wheat flour. Only egg pasta noodles (like Gnocchi) contain dairy ingredients. So remember, any pasta that is made with Duram Semolina is vegan-friendly – just make sure to check the ingredients on the back of the box if your buying the noodles, just to be safe.

Bacon, Broccoli and Shrimp Ricotta Stuffed Lasagna Rolls

5 Lasagne Strips (As discussed in Pasta 101, lasagne is a singular noodle, lasagna is the dish when there are multiple noodles)
2×500 ml tubs Ricotta Cheese
1 bag of de-veined, de-shelled shrimp
10 – 15 strips uncooked bacon (depending on your bacon craving)
1 head of warm-blanched broccoli (slightly boiled for about 2-3 minutes)
4 cloves garlic, pressed and chopped finely
1/4 cup chopped parsley
3 tablespoons butter/margarine
3 cups of your choice of pasta sauce!
20 toothpicks

Serves: A meal for 3 – 5

1. Preheat oven to 375°F
2. In a large pot, bring unsalted water to a boil and place in lasagne noodles.
3. Meanwhile, in a separate skillet heat butter on low to a sizzle and toss in chopped garlic and shrimp.
4. With your lasagne noodles, you want to cook them until soft enough that they are flexible, but not to the point of mush. I usually leave them in about 4 minutes. I you still feel they are too al dente, don’t worry – the pasta sauce will soften them more. When the noddles are ready – take them out and lay them in casserole pan to dry and assemble, and then cut them in HALF – this means you will have TEN noodles.
5. Cook the shrimp until pink and no longer transparent. Adding more butter to the skillet for flavor is always an option : ) Once done, place shrimp in food processor.
6. Cutting off LARGE chunks, place the blanched broccoli in food processor as well.
7. Next, cook bacon in the same skillet as your buttered shrimp until well done. Once cooked, remove and immediately place strips in food processor.
8. Pulse the ingredients in the food processor JUST A LITTLE BIT – you want small chunks..not bacon, shrimp and broccoli dip.
9. In a separate bowl, fill with ricotta and parsley. Mix together.
10. Next, combine ricotta mixture and bacon, broccoli, and shrimp mixture.

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11. In the casserole pan where the noodles lay, roll each noodle into a small tube about 1 inch in diameter – secure and PIN with two toothpicks.
12. Using a small spoon, fill the pasta tubes with the filling mixture until slightly heaping, and then place each roll an inch apart in the pan.
13. Coat with sauce of your choice (I LOVE a good blush sauce), and bake for about 20 minutes or until mixture starts to bubble.
14. Serve, remove toothpicks, and Bon Appetit!

TIP: The reason why the seasoning is so minimal in this dish, is because I think there is so much flavor jam-packed into the filling with the shrimp, butter and bacon, that no extra herbs is necessary. It will only take away from the filling flavor. But, like all foodies, I have my preferences so feel free to add what YOU like!

Tea For Two! Or Three.. Or Four..

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(image courtesy of annabellestearoom.com)

This week, I visited the cutest little tea room in Kingsville, Ontario with my girlfriends and was amazed at just how quaint and authentic it really was! Located on beautiful Lake Erie, owner Susanne wanted to create a space fashioned with delicate antiques and Victorian charm; tea cups with intricate color and detail sit upon rustic shelves to create the most gracious atmosphere; and brass fixtures are fastened to old, refinished fireplaces situated at the back of each cozy room.

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But Annabelle’s old charm is not the only attribute that makes this place one of my favorite Eats. With a menu of over 95 different aromatic teas to chose from and an elegant dining menu fixed with scrumptious tea sandwiches, authentic quiches and soups, and delicate pastries served with the most delicious cream and fruit preserves, it was hard to choose what to try first! Sitting at the intimate table with my girlfriends gave me an authentic feel for the Victorian Era.

If you have a chance to visit the area, I would highly recommend Annabelle’s Tea House for a charming outing, baby shower, wedding shower, children’s birthday party, or just a lunch-date!

Visit the site here for more information and reservations!

How To: Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown-Butter Sauce

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In my quick learning of how to make Gnocchi, me and my mother were talking about what kind of potatoes to use, seasoning, etc. We then threw out the idea of Sweet Potatoes….genius?! So today I took on the task of incorporating Sweet Potatoes in place of my usual Russet Potato recipe. Let me tell you…amazing. Sweeter than I imagined, and definitely a meal fit more for dessert, but none the less, delicious. Whether your craving a sweet dessert or just want to mix up your dinner routine, this savory Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown-Butter will knock your socks off!

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown-Butter Sauce

3 Sweet Potatoes
1 teaspoon of salt
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 – 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
Handful of chopped parsley

Serves: 5 – 6

1. Boil the three Sweet Potatoes until ready to be mashed (15 – 30 minutes).
2. Drain potatoes, and let cool enough to handle.
3. Peel potatoes completely, put into glass dishware, and chop into large cubes.
4. MASH potatoes completely until the mixture is as lump-less as possible. The best way to do this is with a potato ricer, but a masher or fork will work just fine – just takes a little arm work!
5. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, mix flour and salt together.
6. Add the two egg yolks and teaspoon of olive oil to the potato mixture.
7. Next, add the flour and salt mixture to the potato/egg/oil mixture, and fold in well!
8. Knead into a ball until dough is firm and pliable, but not wet.

It should look like this:
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9. Next, pull off a lemon-size piece of dough, and roll into thin rope about an inch wide. It should look like this:
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10. Then, cut 1/2 inch – 1 inch pieces off of this rope (I like my gnocchi bigger, so I use 1 inch pieces).
11. Sprinkle down flour onto your working surface, gently roll your piece in some flour and grab your fork. Its time to indent! Most people making gnocchi on a more recurring basis use a Gnocchi roller, but you can use a fork just as easily. It just won’t look as clean and pretty. Your eating it anyways..
12. So, hold your Gnocchi in the palm of your hand, and gently roll your fork around the piece to make multiple ridges. If the dough is too wet, the fork will stick -but if there’s too much flour, the dough will be too dry for anything. Gnocchi is about a good balance. A quick look at what this will look like after:
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13. Next, put on your pot of boiling water and toss the gnocchi pieces in.
14. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat butter and brown sugar until mixed and starting to thicken.
15. Gnocchi is easy to tell when it’s done, because it will rise right to the top! Spoon out Gnocchi with a slotted spoon and toss into skillet.
16. Add parsley and toss Gnocchi until completely coated. I like to let the Gnocchi crisp a little on the outside. It gives it a little sugary crunch.
17. Serve!

Creamy Shrimp and Vegetable Salad

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(image courtesy of madeinkitchen.tv)

I will be the first to admit, no advocate, that I despise any type of cream-based salad. Potato salad, macaroni salad.. not my cup of tea. But when I came across a seafood salad at a local hotel, it completely changed my perspective on my controversial opinion. I still distaste potato and macaroni salad…but I LOVE this version of shrimp salad that I conjured up, and I hope you will to!

Shrimp and Vegetable Salad

1 bag frozen de-veined and de-shelled raw shrimp
Half of a lemon
1 cucumber, peeled and diced into cubes
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1/4 cup fresh dill (3 teaspoon dried dill works fine too)
4 tablespoon light mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sugar
1 small carton cherry red tomatoes
Pinch of cayenne pepper

1. In a small skillet, slowly cook the shrimp. No olive oil, no butter. Just water. It seems odd, but it leaves the shrimp light, crisp, and fresh.
2. As the shrimp is slowly cooking, squeeze all the lemon juice you can from the halve over the shrimp. Save the the skin for later, as you will need about 2 teaspoons of grated lemon zest.
3. As the shrimp loses its transparency, take off the heat – the shrimp is nearly done.
4. Meanwhile, in a small bowl mix the mayonnaise, sugar, and cayenne pepper until blended together.
5. In a separate bowl, add the diced cucumber, carrots, and cherry red tomatoes.
6. Combine shrimp with the vegetables, then add the creamy mayonnaise mixture and blend well. After blended, add the parsley, dill and the lemon zest.
7. After everything is combined, refrigerate for a couple hours and then serve! Best served chilled : )

Serves: 2

TIP: You can replace/add any shelled seafood you would like to this dish (cooked properly beforehand of course). Shredded crab meat is also delicious in this recipe! For some extra fill, sometimes I use this mixture in a grilled tortilla with some sliced avocado as well.

Superb!

Three-Cheese Risotto

three-cheese-risotto
(image courtesy of lifesambrosia.com)

Risotto is not for the faint of heart – it’s rich, heavy.. and HEAVENLY. I stumbled across this recipe when I tried to make baked risotto balls for the first time. I wound up eating all the filling and left very little left for my guests, but trust me, you would have done the same thing. Paired with a nice side garden salad, my Three-Cheese Risotto recipe is a quick and easy meal sure to please any cheese lover!

Three-Cheese Risotto

1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups Risotto rice
1/2 cup – 1 cup whipping cream (depending on your preference)
1/4 cup parmigiano cheese
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup asiago cheese
1/4 cup chives
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a medium skillet, bring chicken stock to a boil.
2. Mix Risotto rice into the boiling chicken stock, bring to a low heat.
3. Cook rice for about 10 minutes, or until most of chicken stock is absorbed.
4. Add in 1/2 cup whipping cream, mozzarella cheese, asiago cheese, and parmigiano cheese. Mix until all is combined and creamy.
5. Let simmer a couple minutes, and if you would like you Risotto a little creamier, add the rest of the whipping cream.
6. TASTE to make sure rice density is to your liking. Some people, like myself, like my rice a little al dente.
7. Add chives and salt/pepper to taste.

Enjoy!

TIP: Sometimes I like to add in some broccoli or zucchini for extra color and texture. YUM!!