Saturday, May 31, 2008

Etsy Kitchen Finds

Etsy, the site for all things handmade, is one of my newest vices. So far I've bought a necklace (for myself) a tutu (for my niece), and I've also received some bath goodies there as part of Tara's Bloggy Giveaway. Did I mention that I only started shopping at Etsy two months ago? I'm a bit obsessed. In order to save my own bank account, I'm offering you some reasons to do some damage to your own -- sorry.

I wanted to share with you some Etsy kitchen items that caught my eye today. Some are cheap, some are pricy -- but they're all handmade, and all, I think, eye-catching. Click on the images to read more about them.

It's vintage, and it's only $5. And aren't high-waisted skirts all the rage right now?

There's something about this apron's colourful, summery pattern. Bonus: it's reversible.

Full disclosure: it's $75. But it's also probably the cutest cake plate I've ever seen. A girl can dream, can't she?

11 of these brightly coloured recipe cards for $3.

This stamp would be perfect for anyone who makes a lot of edible gifts.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Getting the Kinks Out

When it comes to recipes, culinary powerhouse Leite's Culinaria just wants to weed out the riff-raff. And so, every month, they rely on a team of volunteer recipe testers to sort out the good, the bad, and the mediocre. From these, the best-reviewed recipes get posted on the website -- and the best of the best (those scored, on average, 8 or higher out of 10) are deemed "Tester's Choice". These are the ones that, according to testers, you've just got to make -- like the colourful-sounding Apricot-Pistachio-Lemon Coffee Cake.

So, how does it work for testers? Every month, each tester selects at least one recipe from those given. To give you a clearer idea, this month there were two different authors and six different recipes, ranging from easy-to-prepare meals to the more advanced. Picking a recipe (I chose one from quick-fix maven Robin Miller) was simple, and, I must geekily admit, kind of exciting.

The commitment? Testers have to really, truly promise that they will test at least one recipe a month during their time as a recipe tester. They must also agree to prepare the recipes exactly as specified in the directions, so if you're the spontaneous type, this might not be the thing for you. With that said, Linda Avery, the site's Food Editor, is no robot -- if you're going on vacation and won't be home to cook, you can always send her an email and let her know.

And the perks? Well, if you do follow through on your commitment to cook at least one recipe a month for six consecutive months, you can put the experience on your resume and Linda or one of her colleagues will vouch for the accuracy of your claim. Maybe not the most useful thing for those of us not pursuing a culinary career, but perhaps that "Additional Interests" section on your resume could use some added colour. It also ensures that at least one meal (or dessert) a month is already figured out.

If nothing else, it's just fun to be able to call yourself a "Recipe Tester."

If you're interested in becoming a recipe tester for Leite's Culinara, you can visit the registration site here. They won't be accepting new testers until Canada Day (July 1) -- so get ready to Ctrl + D.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Big Changes Taking Place

There are a bunch of changes taking place around here -- huge changes.

I've got a new name.
This is no longer "The Food Chick" -- too unoriginal, especially when it comes to registering it as a domain. This blog is now "Kait's Plate."

I've also got a new colour scheme, a real logo, and some fun gadgets that should make your stay a little more enjoyable -- a blogroll, a google search tool that'll help you find specific topics on this blog, and I finally updated my personal profile.

I'm excited about all of these changes, and I hope you enjoy them. Feel free to send me your feedback at

And if you're new to Kait's Plate and you didn't know what the blog looked like before? Well, I'm glad you found me -- and please keep reading!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Not-so Minty Fresh

Oh, the days of growing my own fresh herbs on my sunny bay windowsill. I yearn for them.

Since I got back from the Wineries of Niagara on the Lake's Wine and Herb Festival, I've been itching to grow my own fresh herbs -- again.

See, I made my first foray herb gardening last summer. I grew mint (pictured), cilantro, and basil. The plants yielded plenty of mojitos (I even bought a muddler), pesto, and lots of disgusted looks from my boyfriend, who just hates cilantro. I loved being able to walk into my garden (or over to my windowsill) and have fresh herbs at the ready.

And then I moved into a basement apartment.

Almost a month ago, I relocated to Markham (near Toronto) to begin a 16-month internship at IBM. The move has its perks: better cashflow, great job, new adventures. But it has its drawbacks, too: I'm now in a long distance relationship (bummer), I'm a 5+ hour drive away from my family, and since basement apartments are the most economical option, I'm sacrificing a nice windowsill herb garden for some extra cash. Yes, not being able to grow my own herbs is that big of a concern for me.

So I have a few options: try to grow herbs anyway on the five-inch deep windowsill in my bedroom and likely fail miserably with the low sunlight, beg dear sweet boyfriend to let me grow herbs on his windowsill--and beg him to take care of them--or suck it up and buy fresh herbs. So far, I've been buying herbs, but with enough begging and a little flirting, I think I can convince him to do me the favour.

How about you? Are you growing your own herbs this year? If you haven't, what's stopping you? If you're considering growing them, it really is easy--especially if you buy plants, not seeds.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Perfect Pairings

What do you get when you match wines from 18 different wineries with 18 herb-infused culinary pairings? I set out to find the answer last weekend when my family and I took part in the Wineries of Niagara on the Lake's Wine and Herb Festival.

While I do enjoy a nice glass of wine, I have to admit that before I visited the wineries (we visited 17 out of the total 18 in a two-day period), I mostly bought my wine for cooking. Sure, I bought the odd rosé and last year I even bought a bottle of some tawny Port after sampling some at my wino brother's house. But before last weekend, I just wasn't able to taste much of a difference between wines. Not so, now.

We began our journey at Jackson-Triggs, who paired a sage-infused savoury cheesecake with their 2005 Proprietors' Reserve Meritage. Since it was my first pairing, I didn't form much of an opinion, although I did learn the ritual: sniff, swirl, sip, bite, sip.

The magic really started a few tastings in. The first "wow" moment I had was at Peller Estates, who paired their Ice Cuvée with gazpacho with chervil. Once I sipped the Cuvée with the taste of the gazpacho in my mouth, I was sold on the experience: a perfect pairing can, apparently, make all the difference.

Peller Estates

The best pairing of the festival, in my opinion, was offered by Reif Estate winery. It was a savoury-sweet pizza made by The Pie Plate bakery in Virgil, a nearby small-town. Pear and goat cheese pizza glazed with a lavender-Rosé Gamay jelly, paired with -- you guessed it -- Rosé Gamay. It was so fantastic that almost everyone in my family picked up the wine, the jelly, or both. I was in the latter category. I can't wait to try to recreate it! I'm hoping my clone will be perfect.

Pear and Goat Cheese Pizza with Lavender-Rosé Glaze

I also appreciated wineries that made pairings with warm food. It was cold, windy, and rainy outside, and although the wine was definitely speeding up the warm-up process, some nice warm food helped, too. Lailey Vineyard -- who ushered us into the dark wine cellar filled with enormous casks -- made warm rosemary sausage with some sort of red wine sauce; Inniskillin made dill Coq au Vin; Coyote's Run cooked made-to-order lemon basil shrimp skewers. Yummy.

Threatening Weather

I also paid $2 for an enormous sample of Cattail Creek's Barrel Fermented Vidal Icewine (whose goat cheese, honey, truffle oil and savoury crostini was amazing!), and I'm on the brink of salivating just thinking about it. It's definitely the best ice wine I've ever tasted -- but since that doesn't mean much coming from a wine novice -- my family, who go on these tours once or twice every year, loved it too. It was amazing -- creamy, almost, thick like honey. As far as samples go, it was priced incredibly well, too. A bottle cost $50, so my sample was probably worth closer to $7 or $8.

Often, though, I was just impressed by how gorgeous the wineries were, not to mention the little towns in the Niagara Region. Some of the estates were
massive and they all had their own charm, big or small. Take these two, for example:

Hillebrand's Gorgeous Estate

Reif Estate Winery

Overall, it was a packed schedule with a stellar line-up. I can't wait to go again next year... and next time, I'm giving myself a big enough budget to buy that $50 icewine.

While in the Niagara Region we also visited Anna Olson's bakery, so stay tuned for that!

(For more information about the Wineries of Niagara Wine and Herb Festival, or for a full listing of the wine and herb pairings, please click here.)

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