Oscar night is here and I’m about to start my afternoon cooking marathon in prep for the big night.  Solid nominations this year and great inspiration for some awesome Oscar party dishes!

What will you be making tonight?

My menu (photos to come!)

American Hustle – mini caesars inspired by the spicy clam conversation, and did you know? The Bloody Mary was invented in NYC!

Captain Phillips – chicken samosas or “sambuusas” as they’re called in Somalia – with mango chutney

Dallas Buyers Club – 7 layer Tex-Mex dip with blue corn chips

Gravity – astronaut ice cream

Her – heart shaped English muffin cheese pizzas inspired by the pizza Theodore has on his first date with Samantha

Nebraska – beer nut flavoured popcorn balls – did you know Nebraska is one of the top producers of popcorn in the country?

Philomena – Guinness braised onion and aged white cheddar quiche – inspired by the scene at breakfast when Philomena learns about her son

12 Years a Slave – PC Cotton Candy ice cream inspired by the important of cotton picking throughout the film

The Wolf of Wall Street – chocolate coins on a black platter lined with icing sugar.  Crap movie, crap food.  That is all.

And the rules of the night are as follows:

  1. Shot if you lose a category
  2. Shot if someone hears you ask who won
  3. Everyone has a shot if the person on stage either thanks god, says “I never expected this” or “I’m running out of time”
  4. Bonus: everyone takes a shot if we see Rob Ford in the audience

The specialty shots of the night:

Frozen blue jello shooters

Non alcoholic underage shooters aka “The Woody Allen”

Happy Oscar Party!  And may the odds be ever in your favour….

Last summer I went to visit my friends who recently moved to Wellington in Prince Edward County.  The weekend away from the smoggy city was spent enjoying fresh county food, local wine, good company and the picturesque countryside.  The county was a much needed breath of fresh air for the soul.  As much as I love city life, I can really see myself living in the country one day.  While I can embrace and take full advantage of all a busy city has to offer, I can also shed the constant stimulation and materialism and feel just as satisfied with simplicity and quiet.  I think it is a balance that will be important to be restored, but in the meantime I’m grateful to have such lovely friends as hosts.

If you’re looking for a venue to host an event in PEC please check out their space:

http://www.studiohousepec.com/

Martha Stewart's Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Martha Stewart’s Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

The quest continues with another Martha Stewart cookie recipe, because she is the queen of baking after all.  I thought that I would like these chewy cookies the best but I think her crispy ones are still the most addictive.  I’ll let you be the judge!

Makes about 3 dozen

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (about 12 ounces) semisweet and/or milk chocolate chips

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter with both sugars; beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low; add the salt, vanilla, and eggs. Beat until well mixed, about 1 minute. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  • Drop heaping tablespoon-size balls of dough about 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
  • Bake until cookies are golden around the edges, but still soft in the center, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool on baking sheet 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool completely. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.

QUEST COOKIE RATING – 8.5 – [10 = perfect — 1 = would not make again]

“If cookies be the food of love…munch on.”
-Dame Judi Dench

Gluten Free Chick Pea Banana Bread

Gluten Free Chick Pea Banana Bread

I have been on a mission for awhile now to perfect a gluten free banana bread.  I wanted a loaf that wouldn’t crumble, firm but not too gooey, and sweet enough without using processed sugar. I discovered the joys of chick pea flour – great texture, flavour and added protein.  I experimented with this flour and I think that coupled with the maple syrup, it really brings out a balanced sweetness to the loaf. With the added nut protein, this makes a great recovery snack after a workout.

Ingredients:
3/4 cup chick pea flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup milled flax seed
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon xantham gum
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

2 very ripe bananas
1/2 cup frozen/defrosted berries or dried blueberries
1/2 cup real maple syrup
1/4 cup organic soy milk
1 egg
2 tablespoons almond butter
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350, adjust rack to middle of oven.
Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
Mash bananas and defrosted berries in a large bowl. Add the rest of the wet ingredients and mix well.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Sprinkle dry blueberries at this stage if using and mix until combined.
Pour batter into lightly greased loaf baking dish.
Bake in oven for 1 hour rotating dish halfway through. Check with toothpick and bake an additional five minutes if the toothpick does not come out clean.
Cool on wire rack before serving. Keep covered in the fridge for up to a week.

Servings: 12
Calories per slice: 178

Martha Stewart's Thin & Crisp Chocolate Chip Cookies

Martha Stewart’s Thin & Crisp Chocolate Chip Cookies

During this quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie, one must ask themselves a very important question: Chewy or Crispy?  I always thought without a doubt that chewy was the only way to go but after I tried Martha’s Thin and Crispy cookies I feel a little torn between the two options.  Her cookies are perfectly light and buttery, making them very addictive!  The cookies in this photo turned out a little square because I didn’t have time to bake a third batch.  But I actually quite like the shape, and the result was a larger cookie so whose to complain?

  • yield Makes about 3 dozen

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (about 12 ounces) semisweet and/or milk chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter with both sugars; beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low; add the salt, 1/4 cup water, vanilla, and eggs. Beat until well mixed, about 1 minute. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  2. Drop heaping tablespoon-size balls of dough about 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
  3. Bake until cookies are golden brown 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool on baking sheet 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool completely. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.

QUEST COOKIE RATING – 8.5 – [10 =  perfect — 1 = would not make again]

Runner's Dr. Pepper

Runner’s Dr. Pepper

I started drinking Club Soda (President’s Choice brand) during detoxes in place of alcohol, and have actually grown to like it.  Now I always have a case at home and a case at work, and I like to add a splash of lemon or lime juice for some flavour.  Last year I also started drinking coconut water, and I have to admit that it’s not my favourite.  I’m still getting used to the flavour and I really only drink it after a long run when I’m dehydrated.  I also discovered tart cherry juice after reading about how beneficial it is for your health.  Along with being an antioxidant it aids with cancer prevention and lowers your cholesterol, but most importantly for athletes, cherries are anti-inflammatory agents and help protect against muscle damage.  At first I was diluting a half cup of cherry juice with water, buy soon started mixing the cherry juice with club soda.  Then one day I added a half cup of coconut water and ta-da!  The perfect post workout recovery drink.  The bite of the club soda is so refreshing after a long run, while the coconut water helps to rehydrate and the cherry juice aids in recovery.

Combine:

half a can of President’s Choice Club Soda

half a cup 100% pure coconut water

half a cup organic tart cherry juice

Food Photos_Runner's Dr. Pepper2

Runner’s Dr. Pepper

janelevy1

The blood flows freely in the remake of the Evil Dead, so much so that in comparison the preceding trailer for Carrie looks a bit dry.  When word of a remake was first announced, there was an outpouring of protest from hard core Deadites, myself included, who were convinced that touching such an accidental masterpiece was sacrilege of the highest kind.  But after Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell jumped on board there was nothing but positive press and eager anticipation and I found myself quite excited for opening weekend.

The premise remains the same, a group of friends head up to a hilariously rundown cabin and become entrenched in a demon rising possessed slaughter. Bruce Campbell’s character, now named David (not sure how I feel about these name changes – how can there be an Evil Dead without Ash?) meets up with his sister Mia (previously known as Cheryl), as she goes cold turkey in a form of cabin fever rehab.  With the support of her two friends, Eric (or Scotty) and Olivia (Shelly) along with David’s girlfriend Natalie (Linda), she buckles down for the week.  Diehard fans will also nod happily at the sight of Sam Raimi’s beloved car in the first couple of scenes.

The group stumbles upon the infamous Book of the Dead, more bound and bloodied than ever before.  Despite the utter creepiness of the cabin, Mia’s good friends decide they must stick it out and keep her under lock down, for her own good.  Using demon-possession as an allegory for addiction was a smart update, grounding Mia’s battle against her demons in a relatable psychological reality.  Good enough of an excuse for me, for then the fun can begin.  When it does, there’s more then enough bodily fluids splattering about to keep the whole theatre engrossed.  The tree rape scene is toned down a bit but still effective, the possessions are more brutal and in-your-face and there are all kinds of fun tools to play with, saving the best for last: the chainsaw in all its gory glory.

Shiloh Fernandez (United States of Tara, Jericho) plays David, and channels more Orlando Bloom than Bruce Campbell, a wise choice to stay clear of the brilliant campiness that was Ash.  While not the most intriguing character of the bunch, he holds his own, fighting a good fight to the end.  Heroism is divided instead with Mia who is played by the pretty Jane Levy (Suburgatory) and is the stronger of the two. Similarly to the successful remake I Spit On Your Grave, she is given a strong female character who endures tremendous turmoil, only to return as a stronger heroine who will stop at nothing to enact revenge on the evil that violated her.  While the film holds back on the campiness of the original, there are still moments where enough humour is injected to allow an appreciative breath, inviting the audience to engage and cheer on the reels of blood.

Real praise should be given to the composer, whose classic haunting horror score is mixed with enough modern themes to keep it relevant and bytes of cheekiness to remind us of the original, bringing the scenes to life and keeping us on the edge of our seats.

Evil Dead hits enough of the old marks to satisfy fans, but infuses enough new personality to really becomes it’s own wonderful, laughing demon.

Directed by Fede Alvarez

RECOMMENDED FOOD:

You’re going to need a comforting, filling snack with a hint of sinful sweetness as you indulge in all this evil fun.  How about some almond peanut blondies?

Homemade Granola w/Peanuts & Quinoa.  Bowl by Clayshapes on etsy.

Homemade Granola w/Peanuts & Quinoa. Bowl by Clayshapes on etsy.

I’ve come to realize that I always end up baking at midnight.  There must be something about the witching hour that awakens my inner creative beast and unleashes the baker and writer within.  Some people take a bath or read before bedtime, I bake cookies or reach for a notepad.  This would also explain why I cannot for the life of me wake up before 8am in the morning!  In any case, here is the first in a series of recipes by yours truly: The Midnight Baker.

I always knew that homemade granola was easy and yummy, but I just never gotten around to making it, until last night.  When the clock struck midnight I felt the time was right to whip up a healthy batch.  I’m obsessed with peanuts, so I threw those in and and I added quinoa for a similar crunch to Jillian Michaels’ Quinoa Crunch.  I’m hooked on this stuff now though, so I ‘m sure there will be many more late night variations to come!

Total Time:
1 hr 25 min
Yield: 10 servings (1/2 cup each)
Calories: 328
Ingredients:
2 cups wheat free rolled oats
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup raw unsalted peanuts, finely chopped
1/2 cup shredded sweet coconut
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons maple syrup
3 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons raw honey, just melted (2o seconds in the microwave)
2 tablespoons apple butter
1 tablespoon maple extract
1/4 cup dry organic quinoa
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 apple, dehydrated and finely cubed
Directions:
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, coconut, brown sugar and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, combine maple syrup, coconut oil, honey, apple butter, maple extract, quinoa and salt. Combine both mixtures and pour onto two stick free baking sheets. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to achieve an even color.  Check at 1 hour mark.

Remove from oven and transfer into a large bowl. Add dried apple and mix until evenly distributed. Cool and serve over Greek Yogurt with a swirl of raw honey or with unsweetened almond milk. Store in an air tight container at room temperature for up to a month.
Banana Almond Chocolate Chip Cookie

Banana Almond Chocolate Chip Cookie

I have decided to commence the quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie.  Noble as it sounds, it is for purely selfish, glutinous reasons that really only benefit one person: me.  A quest must always be completed, and I swear to prevail against all odds!  I believe I was inspired to do this series somewhere between Martha Stewart’s White Chocolate Almond cookie that I baked at Christmas and a deliciously buttery double chocolate chip cookie that I had recently from Pusateri’s.  In any case, let the baking begin!

I officially began my baking quest today, after a bit of an off day at work.  Sad stories left me with a weird feeling, that could only be cured by the sweet comfort of a freshly baked cookie.  Unfortunately, I realized that a couple of key ingredients were missing from my neglected fridge and pantry: eggs and sugar.  Unwilling to give up, I decided to use substitute ingredients such as apples, bananas and threw in all the leftover baking chocolates I had for good measure.  Hopefully, it would turn out like a cookie.

I based the recipe on Martha Stewart’s White Chocolate Almond cookie recipe, replacing 2 eggs with one banana, half a cup of sugar with apple sauce and 2 ounces of white chocolate with dark chocolate and semi sweet chocolate.  The cookies came out tasting like chocolate banana bread, with the white chocolate and almonds naturally working well together.  The dark chocolate however, tasted a little out of place, a bit too flat alongside the banana flavour.  In any case, the cookie was still tasty and a bit healthier than the original.  For 28 cookies the calorie count was at 180 cal/cookie.  This cookie would actually be a good pre-workout snack with the potassium from the banana and sugar from the chocolate giving a bit of an energy kick, and enough protein and carbs to sustain a good burn for a quick run.  I would also try replacing some of the flour with protein powder for a real power cookie treat.

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)

1 cup granulated sugar

half cup unsweetened apple sauce

1 ripe banana

1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract

1 cup shaved almonds

4 ounces of white chocolate chips

2 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Whisk dry ingredients together.  In an electric mixer, beat sugar and butter on medium speed until fluffy, slowly add apple sauce.  Add the banana and almond extract and beat until creamy, about one minute.

Gradually  add the flour mix to the wet ingredients until well combined.

Remove from mixer stand and stir in almonds and chocolate.

Drop heaping tablespoon fulls of dough 1 inch apart onto three stick free cookie sheets.  Bake in oven for 10 minutes, rotating halfway and keeping a close eye on the cookies in the last minute.

Cookies should be lightly browned on top and golden around the edges.

Remove immediately using a cookie spatula and transfer to wire sheets to cool.

Store at room temperature in Tupperware containers for up to 5 days.

QUEST COOKIE RATING – 7 – [10 =  perfect — 1 = would not make again]

Ah the Oscars, how I love to be part of the Hollywood pretentious craze!  And the best part is always brainstorming up my thematic menu for the big night.

Here’s what I came up with.  Probably should have taken the photos before I broke open the wine.  Oh well,  one of the best Oscar parties to date I say!

Oscar Night 2013!

Oscar Night 2013!

Amour: "Austrian Linzer Hearts"

Amour: “Austrian Linzer Hearts”

Silver Linings Playbook: "Runner's Food - Dehydrated Banana & Apple Chips w/Cinnamon Honey Yogurt Dip"

Silver Linings Playbook: “Runner’s Food – Dehydrated Banana & Apple Chips w/Cinnamon Honey Yogurt Dip”

Life Of Pie: "Spiced Pumpkin Pecan Crusted Cheesecake w/Bourbon Tiger Sauce"

Life Of Pie: “Spiced Pumpkin Pecan Crusted Cheesecake w/Bourbon Tiger Sauce”

Beasts of Southern Wild: Cornbread & Red Pepper JellyLincoln: Red Bull

Beasts of Southern Wild: Cornbread & Red Pepper Jelly
Lincoln: Red Bull

Django Unchained: "Chained Mac & Cheese"

Django Unchained: “Chained Mac & Cheese”

Argo: "Canadian Maple Syrup Carmelized Peameal Bacon Iranian Date Bites"

Argo: “Canadian Maple Syrup Carmelized Peameal Bacon Iranian Date Bites”

Les Miserables: "Stolen Baguette & Moldy Brie"Zero Dark Thirty: "Canned Salmon Cream Cheese Dip"

Les Miserables: “Stolen Baguette & Moldy Brie”
Zero Dark Thirty: “Canned Salmon Cream Cheese Dip”