Friday, December 31, 2010

Cookie Dough Truffles

The interesting thing about fantastic recipes found on the Internet is that most are viral so you really don't know where they originated, even though better blogs usually give credit where credit’s due.

Take this amazing (and amazingly egg-free) recipe for Cookie Dough Truffles as an example. Someone brought them into work as a treat, and said she got the recipe from one of her favourite blogs, The Girl Who Ate Everything, who in turn got if from Annie’s Eats, who adapted it from Mel’s Kitchen, who snatched it from Taste of Home, where this contest-winning recipe first appeared circa-2005 -- and with the inclusion of walnuts, no less.

Now it’s here, on the National Nosh.

Where will it show up next? Only Kevin Bacon knows for sure, but for the time being, here’s the scrumptious recipe.

Cookie Dough Truffles


8 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature

¾ cup light brown sugar, packed

2¼ cup all-purpose flour

1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

1½ lb. semisweet (or bittersweet) chocolate, coarsely chopped
Mini chocolate chips (for garnish)


1. Combine the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and cream on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the flour, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla until incorporated and smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the mixture has firmed up enough to form balls.

2. Shape the chilled cookie dough mixture into 1-1½ inch balls. Place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Cover loosely, transfer the pan to the freezer and chill for 1-2 hours.

3. When ready to dip the truffles, melt the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Dip each chilled truffle, one at a time, coating in chocolate and shaking gently to remove the excess. (If at any point during dipping, the cookie dough balls become too soft, return to the freezer to chill for 30 minutes.) Transfer to a wax-paper lined surface. If using mini chocolate chips for garnish, sprinkle on top quickly after dipping each truffle before the chocolate sets. Once all the truffles have been dipped, store them in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Source: Originally from Taste of Home

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Amy’s Awesome 2011 Food Trends Forecast

The end of the year can only mean one thing: Summary year-end lists and trends forecasting. Here’s mine, from the January issue of House & Home magazine. The list is the same, but the writing isn’t (trying not to plagiarize myself here), so enjoy, and try them out, and why not pass them along? Here they are, in no particular order. I, for one, think we have a lot of delicious things to look forward to in 2011. Let me know if you agree. (And go suck an egg if you don't.)

1. Pop-Tarts Redux: Nostalgia never goes out of style. Case in point, the reemergence of that childhood favourite, the Pop-Tart. The world’s first pop-up Pop-Tart restaurant recently launched in Times Square, where the iconic toasted confection is being spun into menu items like the Fluffer Butter, marshmallow spread sandwiched between two Pop-Tarts frosted fudge pastries; and Sticky Cinna Munchies -- cinnamon rolls topped with cream-cheese icing and chunks of Pop-Tarts cinnamon-roll variety. But we prefer the slightly healthier home-baked varieties using simple wholesome ingredients via internet-spawned viral recipes.

2. Greek-style Yogurt: Yogurt is one of the fastest growing segments in the supermarket, and Greek-style yogurt, specifically is in high demand. Why? It’s thick, rich-tasting and delicious. When topped with good quality honey, it also makes for a dessert-worthy dish of Greek decadence. What’s more, doctors and magazines such as Cooking Light agree that eating a snack with protein rather than just carbs can help curb hunger, which in turn keeps daily calories in check, and this is where this new generation of thick low-fat yogurt comes in extra handy. With our favourite brand, Fage, finally hitting Canadian stores, we’re eating more of it than ever. Added bonuses: It’s rich in B12 (perfect for fighting off those winter blues) and is full of good-for-your-belly live bacteria.

3. Friendly Butchers: Last year the culinary rock stars were organic farmers, but this year it’s the friendly butcher’s turn to shine. People are taking butchery courses, are raising their own animals (or buying a share in one), and befriending the hip baseball-capped meat purveyors behind the shiny counters at new organic spots such as Kensington Market’s Sanagan’s Meat Locker or the consistently smiley service at stalwarts like Cumbrae's and Armando’s on Granville Island. Our newly forged relationships mean our butchers know what we like and will go to the back to get us the grass-fed hormone free beef that we desire.

4. Coconut Water: We’re touting it as this year’s “it” food. From its pure, potassium-rich water to its virgin oil being spun into products ranging from skin care to nutritional supplements (helping in the realms of digestion and high blood pressure), the coconut’s benefits are attributed to lauric adicd, capric acid and capyrlic acid. But let’s not forget its toasted flakes topping our buttercream-iced cupcakes or its rich milk stirred into our favourite curries. We also wouldn’t say no to a pina colada right about now. Still, the slightly sweet water straight from the young green coconut is perhaps the purest form of our favourite new ingredient (though we also enjoy the Vita Coco and Zico brands when we can’t get it fresh from the nut.)

5. Smoked everything: We loved it in BarChef’s Smoked Manhattan, in our favourite new smoked finishing salt and in our smoked meats, be it a Montreal smoked meat sandwich at Caplansky’s or the perfect BBQ at Brooklyn’s Fatty ‘Cue. Smoke is everywhere this year, and we’re totally addicted to its earthy, warming appeal. How to get the taste at home? While chefs prize their Big Green Eggs, we’re secretly coveting the Kalamaoo Outdoor Gourmet K900HS hybrid freestanding grill (starting at a mere $15,895). Bottom line: From mesquite wood chips to BBQ sauce, smoke is hot.

6. Fried Chicken: Dished out from Harlem soul food kitchens to upmarket Jean-George’s restaurants, fried chicken is eaten down south, up north and throughout the belly of Canada. We’ve discovered that Korean chicken joints make some of the best stuff around – and Momofuku’s David Chang recently invented the superlative take on Korean fried chicken. Be it the Popeye’s chain or Thomas Keller’s crunchy dish at Ad Hoc, this is simple home cooking that’s also a finger licking guilty pleasure.

7. Young Chef Brigade: A new breed of chefs in their twenties and thirties aren’t waiting around to be given the chance to helm a kitchen – instead they’re making their own kitchens, and everything goes in them, in their largely bare-bones, nose-to-tail, field-to-table restaurants opened on a shoestring budget (in restaurant terms.) For instance, Toronto chef Nathan Iseberg opened The Atlantic with an initial budget of just $600!

8. Urban Bee Keeping: We’ve gone from growing herbs and heirloom vegetable gardens, to raising backyard chickens (for eggs) and now urban bee keeping. Some cities allow beekeeping, some ignore it and others have bylaws that restrict or ban the activity. Calgary has nothing on the books that doesn’t allow for keeping honeybees, providing they’re not a nuisance, while Ontario has a provincial regulation that does not allow bee hives within 100 ft of a property line. That said, from Manhattan rooftops to neighbourhood hives, we’re all abuzz about joining the ranks of these pollinating superstars, and we can’t wait to get our hands on the UK- designed urban bee hive called the Beehaus. Plus, it goes without saying that their sweet honey is the bee’s knees.

9. Kale Chips: A powerhouse of a vegetable married with a tasty crunchy snack? Who knew that eating our rich leafy greens could taste so sinful? Places like Live Food Bar and better health food stores have started packaging and selling them and Mark Bittman even showed us how to make them at the NYTimes web site: That’s what called hitting critical kale chip mass.

10. Fregola Sarda: This tiny toasted handmade Sardinian pasta has a unique nutty flavour and addictively tender bite. It’s also good for you; it has less carbs more dietary fibre and fewer calories than a typical pasta. Cooked in broth like rice, it’s a saucy side dish complimenting a simple fish dishes or rustic roasted meats, but cooked then cooled like Israeli couscous, it also makes for a great salad. It's popping up on rustic Italian restaurant menus from Noce in Toronto to Manhattan's hot new the Lambs Club.

That's all for now. Best wishes from the National Nosh, for a healthy, happy and delicious new year. And please, don’t forget to cook!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Snack of the day

They're not quite a chocolate bar and not really like M&M's -- though these new Hershey's Drops won't melt in your hands.
At first I was skeptical: They're a little too big for popping by the mittful, sort of waxy looking, and they don't even come wrapped in a candy shell. How was this chocolate experience going to go down?
I guess the idea here is portion control. You know; having a bite instead of a bar. (Does that ever really work?)
The press release that came with these soon-to-be-released treats (look for them in stores in January) explains how the drops feature "a milk chocolate recipe that was developed specifically for the Canadian palate and launched in 2009. Understanding that people in different countries have different taste and experience preferences, Hershey Canada has brought together the 'right amount of chocolate' with the 'right amount of creaminess' for Canadians in a new format!"
Apparently, we Canucks have grown accustomed to the sweeter and creamier British-style chocolate, so this chocolate is just for us.
And while I may not be in love with the new Hershey's Drops as a snack food, talk to me after I've finished my mug of "Hershey's Drops" hot chocolate this afternoon.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The most wonderful time of the year

Just because I don’t celebrate it, doesn’t mean I can’t love Christmas. Sure, there’s no tinselly tree in my home, no red stockings hung by the chimney with care, but oh holly, jolly, ‘tis the season for catching up with family and friends, drinking in both sparkling and creamy good cheer, but best of all, eating shortbread. Lots and lots of shortbread.

Some of it comes by way of the office, other times via cookie exchanges. Some shortbread is nibbled at parties, while more still is baked in my very own oven – but once a year, using one of my best-loved recipes.

But every so often, if you’re lucky enough, some of it, like this famous handmade, all butter Mary Macleod’s Shortbread, gets dropped off at your front door (Santa?)

Sold out of her Queen Street East shop in Toronto, but also at spots like Holt Renfrew (where only the best will do) there’s a real Mary behind the shortbread, a 70-something Scottish granny who has been baking up her biscuits out of her shop for clients near and far, for over 30 years.

Best bets: The traditional shortbread wedges, and signature chocolate crunch rounds. Even better bet? Seeing as they look homemade (because they are homemade), pile them into your own tins and Tupperware and claim them as your own.

I won't tell if you don't. Though, Santa may be watching...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Gratuitous banana shot

I've been travelling a little too much lately, so right off the bat I'm going to admit that this is going to be a pretty lame blog posting -- yet not as lame as you would think.
Why am I changing my mind mid-sentence?
First of all, this post is going to inform you that I've been in both Grenada and Montreal over the past week, and have eaten sublimely on each island. Some of my culinary findings will be showing up in future stories in House & Home magazine, on the Food & Wine blog, in the National Post, and yes, right here on the National Nosh.
There's the housekeeping bit out of the way.
So why else isn't this blog posting super lame? Because it includes a photo of a monkey eating a banana!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Eat here: The Tasting Room

The Tasting Room, on Seattle’s Post Alley, is a spot to sip the state’s finest wines and nibble plates of local Beecher’s cheese while improving your high score at Boggle. It’s practically the definition of a hidden gem. I had almost forgotten about my visit there last December, until I saw the list of Oprah’s Ultimate Favourite Things from her annual show this week, and Beecher’s Mac and Cheese made the grade (good cheese makes good mac and cheese, natch.)

In other breaking news, I’m off to Grenada for a week, where I’ll be cooking and hiking and snorkeling and visiting rum distilleries and waterfalls, a chocolate factory and a nutmeg processing station, I’ll be river tubing and … it would appear, not doing a lot of relaxing.

No biggy: That’s what places like the Tasting Room are for.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A bit of a pickle

I really wanted to blow your socks off today. I wanted to write the best blog post ever -- teach you something that you never knew was possible, that you never imagined could happen in our lifetime.

But then I sat here for a solid two minutes and couldn't think of a damn thing.

The tank was empty. The well was dry. (But the cliches were 'a flowing.)

I blamed it on the low pressure system, the fact that I woke up with the sniffles, that I didn't have my sweet tea this morning, that I was over-worked, that my jeans were too tight, that TV sucks now that True Blood and Mad Men are gone for the year (though I am buoyed by the return of Dexter). Yet I only had myself to blame. (As always.)

So I went to the kitchen to grab a snack. I was feeling peckish for a pickle. And that's when I noticed the empty jar.

In other words, the last straw.

And yet, friends, what happened next is the kind of thing that kitchen lore is made of.
I took that jar, void of pickles yet full of brine, and held it firmly in my hand as I raised it skyward to curse the gods.

And that's when inspiration struck.

No, I didn't pour myself a pickle back (which, by the by is mentioned as one of my Food News items in the latest issue of House & Home magazine.) Instead, I decided that I was going to make some more pickles. Right there, right then.

I don’t think that this is considered “food safe”, but this empty jar of amazing pickles had been gifted to me by the great chefs at Charcut Roast House in Calgary, and as previously mentioned, I was really, really sad that they were gone. But looking at the jar, still teaming with that delicious brine, I decided to slice up half a cucumber and make a batch of refrigerator pickles.

They won’t last long (especially since I’m going to finish them off today), but I thought it was a tasty way of extending some special pickle brine while also being terrific fodder for today's blog post.

I guess you could call me a “the pickle jar is half full” kind of gal.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Here’s a vegetarian fall soup that’s both sweet and savoury, just like me.

What’s that? Scratching your head at the thought of putting matzo balls into anything other than chicken soup? Get over yourself! My best friend has been a vegetarian since she was five-years old, and I got this idea from attending the odd Friday night dinner with her family. After all, matzo balls are vegetarian (unless you stir some schmaltz into them).

All they really are, are big fat dumplings made from matzo meal and egg.

In other words, a perfect lunch for days like these.

Butternut Squash & Golden Delicious Apple Soup with Sage Matzo Balls

(serves 4-6)

For Soup:

1 tbsp butter

3 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced

1 rib celery, thinly sliced

1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced

2 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and diced

1-2 tbsp dry vermouth

1 tbsp real maple syrup

salt and chili flakes to taste

4 cups vegetable or chicken stock

2 Bay leaves

For Matzo Balls:

2 tbsp vegetable oil

2 large eggs, beaten

½ cup matzo meal

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

pinch of granulated garlic

½ tsp dried sage

2 tbsp vegetable soup, or water

For soup:

Sautee shallots in butter over medium heat until soft. Add celery, squash and apples and sautee for five minutes more. Add vermouth and syrup, chili flakes and salt, give a stir then add vegetable stock and Bay leaves. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer for 30 minutes, or until squash is tender. Discard the Bay leaves then puree soup, taste for seasoning and serve hot. It’s a smooth, thinner soup, that goes great with some matzo balls or noodles.

For matzo balls:

In a small bowl, mix together eggs, oil, matzo meal, baking powder, seasonings and soup or water. Stir to combine, then put in the fridge for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, put a large pot half-filled with water (about 1.5 quarts) on to boil. Make sure the pot has a cover. After it comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and using wet hands, form the matzo ball dough into 1-inch balls, then drop them in the simmering water. Cover pot and cook for about 30 minutes. Serve one or two balls in each bowl of squash soup.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A devilish fruit

What’s your end game pomegranate? I buy you because you’re cheap and in season and because you look like a little piece of art in the palm of my hand. But then I get you home, put you in the fridge and curse you.

Why won’t you let me in, pomegranate?

No offence, but that gorgeous face of yours belies a pretty tough exterior. Let’s just say you’re more than a little work.

You cut with a knife – and then what? You play your cards a little too close to your chest, my friend. I dig through a catacomb of pulp and membrane only to find your juicy essence further encapsulated in wee ripe droplets.

Tough childhood, pomegranate?

But you know something? I learned how to get through to you on a trip to Israel a couple of years ago when a local showed me this no-mess method of deseeding you. And you know something else? You’re totally worth it.

So cheer up, pomegranate. The holidays aren’t far off, and you get super popular around then; sprucing up salads, cakes and celebratory cocktails, sprinkled over fruit and eaten dead plain as a sweet and healthy treat. Did you know that some people even use you in their centerpieces, Christmas wreaths and garlands? (It’s all true.)

I guess what I’m saying pomegranate, is that as standoffish as you may seem at first, you’re really worth getting to know.

Friday, October 29, 2010

And the winners are...

The year we launched enRoute magazine's Canada’s Best New Restaurants feature, I was nominated for a James Beard Award in the category of best restaurant critique (any time I can mention that award I do), and was up against Alan Richman at GQ, which is where I met him, which made the whole evening worthwhile even though we both lost to some bitch from Bon Appetit.

After two years of eating, my friend Chris Johns took over the reigns, criss-crossing the nation for five or six years, and he did a great job at it. Now comes Sarah Musgrave, and in some small way I’m glad there’s a woman at the table again. You know; a little more salad, a little less pork belly. Plus, she’s an awesome writer, and the author of the bestselling Montreal restaurant guide, Resto A Go-Go.

Between Sarah’s words and the photos by Virginia Macdonald, who shot our big turkey dinner in the current issue of House & Home, this year’s November food issue looks amazing.

I was a panelist again, meaning I handed in a mitt-full of restaurant picks that I had eaten at over the course of the year that I considered to be contenders for the top spots. I happened to mention to Sarah, while we dined on a so-so meal at Ame (during her summertime cross-Canada chowdown) that, having visited Haisai, I honestly couldn’t see anyone beating out chef Michael Stadtlander's dreamy new restaurant.

Fast-forward to this week.

Soon after the awards were announced, Sarah came clean: “Okay, Amy, you bit your tongue but I could see it in your eyes, and I do recall you said something like. "I mean, just the decor alone..." Still, you have to experience it to believe it.” I couldn't agree more. She says that Haisai is total woodlands fantasy, and that the food is so real, so grounded in place. “I found it incredibly intimate and masterful - that ham! That ham! – it's like being invited to take part in Stadtlander's creative process.” And that's what makes him Michael Stadtlander.

For the first time, enRoute is trying out a live chat about the Top 10 restaurants on Monday, Nov. 1 at 11 a.m. - fun stuff because the public can pose questions to two lovely ladies: Sarah Musgrave and enRoute’s editor-in-chief, Ilana Weitzman. Click on this link to sign up.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Wales of a Good Cheddar

This smiley face belongs to a Welsh cheddar cheese maker named Susan.

She makes her world famous Blaenafon Cheddar Company cheeses in South Wales, in a town that is also a World Heritage site.

“Everything we use in the cheese is Welsh,” Susan explains. “The cheeses tell a story and they’re all hand-made.”

One cheddar is oak-smoked, another is Welsh ale-and-chilli-spiked. There’s one spun with traditional mustard and leek, and a seasonal gem with bits of Christmas cake thrown into the mix.

But Susan and her small family-run Blaenafon Cheddar Company are best known for what she calls her “everyday” signature cheddar, Pwll Mawr, which is covered in black wax and aged 300-feet down in the local coal mine (the Big Pit, which is now a mining museum), the perfect use of the decommissioned mine’s constant, cool temps.

My favourite food souvenir from that UK trip was a good hunk of her Pwll Mawr coalmine cheddar, which sadly, is now long gone.

Uh oh: Cheddar depression!

Friday, October 15, 2010

This just in: Drake BBQ pop-up shop

Last week I had the opportunity to taste test some of executive chef Anthony Rose's BBQ offerings at the Drake hotel, even though the tender Texas chopped beef brisket and Carolina pulled pork sandwiches won't be served at the hotel. Instead, they'll be dishing out hot sandwiches to go in the very storefront that housed the season-specific Scoops + Tee's this summer. Drake BBQ, the hotel's latest pop-up shop, is set to launch October 22nd.

The menu is to the point: “Everything is cooked low and slow, smoked with local applewood, and we’re only serving three main sandwiches because our goal is to do a few things really, really well,” said chef Rose as I crunched away on one of the best pickles I've ever had -- a Tymek’s Old Sour Pickle.

After nibbling my way through some brisket, Ontario-grown Kernal red-skinned peanuts (bet you didn't know there were Carolina forests two-hours from Toronto), New Brunswick-based Covered Bridge Potato Chips and the most delicious cherry cola ever (Boylan's), I think you'll want to eat here because the food is great, the price is right, and they're open late (or, until the meat runs out). There will also be whoopie pies for dessert.

Plus, it's a pop-up shop, so it's terribly trendy, and, you never know when it's going to disappear, only to be replaced by something like Drake Panties + Ketchup.

Friday, October 8, 2010

This just in: Everybody loves ice cream

I think that one of the best things you can do for a person, besides maybe giving him one of your kidneys, is buying him an ice cream cone. And if it’s premium ice cream served in a fresh waffle cone, so much the better.

I guess what I’m saying is, I may just be the best person in the world for treating my brother and his lovely family to ice cream at the Marble Slab Creamery a couple of weekends ago.

Marble Slab Creamery introduced the primitive yet effective “frozen slab” ice cream technique/experience to Canadians when the first shop opened in Calgary in 2003. There are now 73 locations across the country.

And yet, none of us had ever tried it. Well, this was the day!

We joined the queue, fretted over ice cream choices, waffle cone options, then stressed over the “mix-ins” -- there were 35 choices that could be folded into our super premium (read: at least 14% butterfat) ice cream on the frigid marble slab, by the fast-moving staff.

With fresh cones in hand, we marched over to Yonge-Dundas Square as we all noted the creamy texture and the freshness of the ice cream. I had ordered a scoop of chocolate with Reese peanut butter cups (no-brainer), Madeline had a scoop of vanilla with walnuts and Oreos (yawn), Emily had eggnog ice cream with a whole bunch of crap stirred in there (weird but good), Judi had chocolate in a dipped cone (daring for Judi), and Marty’s choice was raspberries and peanuts in strawberry ice cream in a chocolate dipped waffle cup (he only had himself to blame.)

But the ice cream was great, we all gobbled it up, and I think their smiles say it all: Everyone loves ice cream. (Though from the look on Marty's face, I think he's having mixed emotions.)

Friday, October 1, 2010


I've been to Paris twice before, but for reasons beyond my control and for reasons beyond explaining, I've only spent a total of 16 hours in the city of lights.
Until now.
Here comes trouble!

Friday, September 24, 2010

You can do this

I’m heading out of town for a week so am down to the dregs in my refrigerator. But lucky for me the dregs include whole wheat English muffins, some whitefish spread and a fresh batch of my onion marmalade (or onion jam; six of one, half a dozen of the other.)

Here’s what I did to make this snack-sized sandwich: I tore the muffin in half, toasted it up, spread it with the smoked whitefish then topped it with the onion marmalade. Delicious! Total PMS delight.

And then I got to thinking that if people really wanted to, using the very helpful National Nosh they could feasibly create every component to this PMS Delight by hand (I just gave it that official name since the previous paragraph. Things move fast around here.)

After all, way back when I taught you how to make onion marmalade here.

And then I explained how to make that Jewish delicacy called whitefish spread here.

And let’s not forget about that time I whipped up homemade English muffins here.

Bottom line? Search engines are our friends.

Friday, September 17, 2010


This is a new favourite nibble of mine, green olives in brine. I know what you’re thinking: “Why didn’t she just say green olives? Does she think she’s better than us?”

I said green olives in brine because these are not the typical tangy, salty olives that most of us plop into our martinis or use as a topping on our pizzas.

Though they are brined – you cannot eat olives raw – it’s with the lightest touch so that what you taste is the newness, the almost greenness of these big fat olives – it’s a very subtle almost nondescript flavour, really -- a tap on the shoulder rather than the punch in the face that is a heavy salt and vinegar cure.

I know that I’ve eaten these green olives in brine before, somewhere, somehow, and Morocco, or the Mediterranean come to mind (don’t I sound all worldly?)

I happened to buy these beauties at my corner Italian grocery, not that that really says much.

After all, they sell Gryfe’s bagels and jars of matzo ball soup there, too.