11 Days of Feastmas – Day 1 – Roasted Garlic is a Secret Weapon

A few days before the family arrives I will roast 3-4 whole bulbs of garlic (if not more).

Garlic is local, seasonal , healthy and I love it.

11 Days of Feastmas   Day 1   Roasted Garlic is a Secret Weapon Garlic December Cooking Recipes 11 Tastes of Feastmas 11 days of feastmas

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11 Days of Feastmas

The cold has swept across Toronto this week.  We have had our first snow, storm and tough driving.  What felt like an eternal fall has instantly turned a new leaf and is a bitter winter.  It must be Holiday season!

Christmas, Hanukkah, Chinese New Year, Ashura, the Julian New Year and more are all significant occasions marked in the next 6 weeks by many people.  Some are celebrations of faith and others are simply a time to celebrate with friends and family.  December means Christmas to me and it’s one of my most favourite times of year!

Between tomorrow and December 26th we will share some of our Holiday traditions (including some new ones) for you to consider.  Most will be small tips on little twists/ tricks that we do to make our Holiday meals extra special.  We’ll talk about food that can get the entire family involved as well as food that is for adults only.  We’ll share our tasty tricks and traditions that are (for the most part) easily adaptable into existing recipes and plans.

There will be raisins, cranberries, homemade duck Prosciutto, infused booze, an ingredient I keep on hand to bail out any last-minute holiday meal and, of course,  chestnuts.  Boxing Day will feature a special post dedicated to making better stocks with leftovers.

In the meantime, if you’re looking to get a start on Holiday tips, take a peak back at our post on how to make your own Turkey gravy from scratch.  Despite what the commercials say, it really is far better (and is more affordable) than the packaged stuff.  You could also give slow roasted cherry tomatoes a try – unbelievable tomato taste that can be prepped in advance and promotes packaged winter tomatoes from afar to a star on the table.

11 Days of Feastmas December 11 Tastes of Feastmas 11 days of feastmas

Cheap Tuesday Gourmet will continue on Tuesdays (we even have a special recipe planned for the 29th which could easily be made for New Years) and plans for a whole series of posts related to preserving for the first half of January.

Grand River Brewing – Highballer Pumpkin Ale

Does anyone else remember It`s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown? It was a favourite of mine and I know it`s one of Dana`s Mums faves too.

It was memories of this literary classic that came to my minds eye as I saw the label of Highballer Pumpkin Ale from Grand River Brewing (from Cambridge, Ontario).  It has been an exciting autumn for Ontario Craft Beer – there are more and more small breweries showing up through the LCBO and they are raising the bar with more and more interesting offerings.  I was excited to see 4 or 5 pumpkin beers show up to celebrate the regional flavors of fall.

Grand River Brewing   Highballer Pumpkin Ale December

Seasonal beers are commonplace in many small breweries around the world but it has been a tradition that has been sparse in Ontario Craft Beer.  Barley Days Brewery, McAsulan (from Quebec), Mill Street and a few others offered specialty flavors for limited times but it seemed (at least to me) that they were few and far between.  I imagine it is scary enough to try to establish a few quality beers and that creating diversion can seem like a counter-intuitive way to establish a brand.

Grand River is planning to bottle 4 seasonal brews timed around Thanksgiving, Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day and Canada day (details here).

The Pumpkin Ale contains the real deal – the fruit is donated by Stroms Farm in Guelph.  It is dark orange in color, fruity and spicy. It is very dry to taste and lightly carbonated.  The beer weighs in at 5.2% alcohol.  flavors of cinnamon and nutmeg and the heartiness of fall.  If you haven’t had a pumpkin ale this is a great place to start – it is one of the better examples of Ontario Pumpkin Ale I have had this year.

If you haven’t explored local beer (wherever you are), make sure to give it a try.  Look out for seasonal favourites like this.  If you’re in Ontario and can still find a bottle of this fine

Terra Madre Toronto

You may remember a post several weeks ago about this coming Thursday, December 10th.  Our introduction to it expanded on the theme which is to “bring together those players in the food chain who together support sustainable agriculture, fishing, and breeding with the goal of preserving taste and biodiversity.”

This post is a reminder to all that there may be great local food events near you this Thursday as well as information about a great sounding event coming to Toronto in honor of local food.

Terra Madre Toronto December

Our friend and farmer Mark Trealout (from Kawartha Ecological Growers) sent us information on a great sounding Terra Madre event in Toronto.  Dana or I are going to try to make it out, weather permitting – if anyone goes, let us know!

Slow Food Toronto Presents…
Terra Madre Day, Celebrating Local Food!
Thursday December 10th, 6-9pmHosted
By, FoodShare 90 Croatia Street, Toronto

Enter from Brock Street, just south of Bloor West


UofTTix, http://www.uofttix.ca/ or, (416) 978-8849

$10 at the door, no cost for kids under 12!


Meat and Fish

  1. YU Ranch, Bryan, Bryan Gilvesy, Naked YU Ranch All Beef Frankfurter bites Niagara Specialty Foods, Mario Pingue,  Serving Proscuitto on Grassin
  2. Akiwenzie Fish and More, Natasha and Andrew Akiwenzie,  Serving Smoked Trout and White Fish


  1. Warner Farms, Torrie Warner, Samplings of Apples, Pears and Cider
  2. Lincoln Line Orchards, Peter Bosman, Samplings of Apples


  1. Matchbox Gardens, Hanna Jacobs, Vegetables,  Serving Squash Bites with Amuse Bouche
  2. Pfenning’s, Jenn Pfenning, Vegetables, Serving Carrots and Roasted Vegetables
  3. The Cutting Veg, Daniel Hoffman, Vegetables, Varieties of Garlic and Red Potatoes
  4. Everdale Farms, Gavin Dandy, Serving Raw Carrots
  5. Cookstown Greens, David Cohlmeyer, Serving Baby Salad Greens with Dressing and Baby Roots
  6. The New Farm, Gillian Flies and Brent Preston, Serving Pickled Heirloom Beets
  7. KEG, Mark Trealout, Serving Heirloom Beans and Artisanal Hot Sauces on Corn Flour Tortillas
  8. FoodCycles, Ashlee Cooper, Serving Sprouts on Kale Leaves Smothered in Hummus.
  9. Toronto Sprouts, Alison, Sprout Tasting
  10. Plan B, Alvaro, Fresh Produce
  11. HOPE Eco Farms, Ira Stoll, Pork Sausages
  12. Karma Coop, Michelle Szabo

Cheese and Dairy

  1. Fifth Town, Petra Cooper, Varieties of Local Artisanal Cheeses
  2. Monforte Dairy, Ruth Klahsen, Varieties of Local Artisanal Cheeses
  3. Mapleton’s Organic Dairy, Arwa Root, Ice Cream, Frozen Yogurt, Yogurt, Pumpkin Ice Cream

Grains and Breads

  1. St.John’s Bakery, Jeff Connelly, Red Fife Wheat Breads, Artisanal Loaves and Brioche
  2. Evelyn’s Crackers, Dawn Woodward and Ed Rek, Crackers, Jam and Crackers
  3. CIPM Farm, Patricia Hastings, Red Fife Wheat

Preserves, Oils, Mustard and Other Foods

  1. August’s Harvest, Wareen Ham, Tastings of Garlic, Shallots, Saskatoon Berry Preserves
  2. Forbes Wild Foods, Jonathan Forbes Tastings of Wild and Foraged Preserved foods
  3. Persall Naturals, Jason Persall, Tastings of Vinegars and Cold Pressed Canola Oil
  4. Kozliks Mustard, Jeremy Kozlik, Samples of Mustards
  5. Culinarium,  Kathleen Macintosh, Samples of Kernal Popping Corn, Jams, Sauces, Chutneys, Pickles, Peanuts and other Ontario items!


  1. Chocosol, Michael Sacco, Chocolate and Fresh Tortillas
  2. SOMA, David Castellan, Chocolate

Prepared Food

  1. JK Kitchens, Jamie Kennedy and Sharon Bergey
  2. Haisai, Michael and Nobuyo Stadtlander, Porchetta
  3. The Healthy Butcher, Mario Fiorucci, Braised Beef with deliciousness
  4. Cumbrae’s, Stephen Alexander
  5. Provenace Cuisine, Alex Johnston


  1. 100 Km Foods, Grace Mandarano and Paul Sawtell

Community Groups

  1. Slow Food Toronto with Author Margaret Webb
  2. FoodShare, Paul DeCampo
  3. FarmStart, Sridharan  Sethuratnam
  4. Not Far From The Tree, Laura Reinsborough
  5. Local Food Plus, Laurie Stalbrand, Chris
  6. Evergreen, Seana Irvin
  7. West End Food-Coop, Ayal Dinner
  8. Toronto’s Youth Food Policy Council, Tracy Phillipp
  9. Sustain Ontario, Lauren Baker


  1. Edible Toronto

Cheap Tuesday Gourmet – Squash Soup in a Panic

We announced the start of a new series of posts last week with a promise to launch today.  The full details are here but the premise is simple – creating good, wholesome food at affordable pricing as a means to support and create a dialogue in which we can share how to eat wholesome food at a fraction of a price of fast food alternatives.  The terms gourmet and cheap are relative – the term Tuesday is not.

I had something else in mind until I discovered at 7pm last night that I didn’t have the ingredients that I thought I did.  It was time to scramble – I needed to eat, make something fast, healthy and affordable.  We also haven’t done groceries this week so pickings looked thin – imagination was going to be key.

I have been buying a lot of squash lately.  It is local, seasonal and  stores well.  You can find squash for as low as $0.50 a pound right now as well.  It’s an awesome staple to keep on hand for situations like this.  I had bought these weeks ago and they were still plenty good:

Cheap Tuesday Gourmet   Squash Soup in a Panic Stock Squash December Cooking Recipes Cheap Tuesday Gourmet [Read more...]

Jelly, Jam and Gelatin (Flickr group)

Flickr is a site that many are familiar with.  For those who are not, it is a website that allows people to share their photos with others.  If you click on any of the images on the right-had side of this screen (in the section labelled OUR PHOTOS), you will be transported to the photos we share in flickr (most of them having appeared here as well).

Although paid memberships to Flickr exist, many share photos with no charge at all.  You can view public photos without having an account.

Flickr also allows for groups – collections of people who share photos under a common theme.  There is a group dedicted to Jelly, Jam and Gelatin – stunning photos and great inspiration!  Definitely worth the time to check out.

Cookalong Live coming to Canada (and perhaps North America)

The concept is simple.  Download a shopping list and turn on your television and cookalong with Gordon Ramsay for 1-hour.

Here’s a promo that ran in the UK last year – it’s worth the watch (almost a hybrid of a commercial for a cooking show and You Think You Can Dance).  You will have to click the link to see it as the BBC has requested that YouTube restrict people from embedding it (just click the video below and a link will appear to take you there):

Most of the episodes are on YouTube and the  Internet but I’m hooked.  Perhaps all of that work travel I’m doing in Scotland is starting to affect me but I am actually quite excited.

Look for the Food Network and Global (CanWest) to be launching this series shortly (ads are already appearing as we write this).  Thanks to Terry S. for the tip – I’ll be jumping on board and maybe even cooking along.

Come and Jam with Us… Challenge Reminder and offer for Torontonians

We rarely post on the same subject twice – there’s always room for exceptions and this is well worth some extra attention.  For those of you familiar with the preserving challenge she is hosting there are a few offers that are new and may help motivate you to join in the fun.

There are more than 20 people signed up to join a 12-month preserving challenge hosted by our friend Tigress.  She is a monster supporter of WellPreserved and we try to return the favour – it’s easy to be a fan of her two blogs (Tigress in a Jam, Tigress in a Pickle) and it is her genius and hard work.  We posted the original details here and her full concept is best explained on her blog here.

For those who are interested, the deadline to sign-up (it’s a free commitment) expires on December 22nd.

Now it is time to sweeten the deal…

  1. Knowing that some may not be participating because they are new to preserving I want to encourage all to give it a try.  If one person emails us to ask us to create a series to walk through the basics of our first batch (a step-by-step how-to), we will do so before the end of the first month.  We have a generic walk-through linked on the preserving page above.
  2. If anyone is short a recipe we will gladly share.
  3. We will try to answer any questions we can to support the mission.
  4. For those of you in the Toronto area (close enough to meet face-to-face), we will literally sweeten the pot.  I am proposing a local swap at the end of the 12 months (we could meet at 6 month intervals of course) that would be very simple.  I will save an extra jar of each batch we make to trade with you at the end of the swap and will include recipes.  We can compare results and learn from each other.  If people want to try more than my goods I will offer to be a matchmaker and arrange a 2-way, 3-way or more.  Participants must be able to meet in T.O. for a swap.  If you are interested, leave us a comment or email us.

You can reach me at email: joel (a) elevenideas.ca

Come join the community and let’s get jamming!

Tips on buying holiday cheese

I must have been a mouse in a  previous life.  Cheese is one of my most favorite things in the world.  During the holidays I tend to load up for hosting friends and family and the Holidays typically finish with a glutenous macaroni and cheese made of the leftovers of  a month of feasting.

Tips on buying holiday cheese December

I have learned a few tips (most are straightforward) that have made a major difference in the quality (and sometimes price) for my fromage:

  1. Buy directly off a cheese specialty store when possible.  Even if other places sell “the same” thing, be weary.  Cheese is sensitive and storage, humidity, access to air (or not), age after cutting and general handling can change the taste considerably.
  2. Expensive cheese may not be.  Some flavors are so intense that small portions are better than big.
  3. Forge a relationship with your cheese dude or dame.  This is a bit too late for this year but go back to the same person behind the counter each time.  Pick someone you like and someone who knows their stuff.  I have 3 cheese dudes which I know by name who help me learn a great deal.  If they are with someone I will wait.  I have learned so much off these passionate people and love interacting with them.  I have also learned that there are cheeses that are so limited that they are not put on display or available to most dairy seekers.
  4. Find out when the Holiday shipment arrives.  My cheese shops ordered their Holiday cheese 6 months ago and most of the specialty items arrive on a single day.  Some of the best cheeses will be gone before most customers even see it.  One of my cheese guys is hiding a selection of cheeses away for me until I arrive so I don’t lose a chance.
  5. Although a busy day at the shop is not the time to challenge your cheese tutor, ask lots of questions when they appear to have some time (I ask if they do).  Ask what to pair with your cheese or, even better, tell them what you are eating or drinking and ask them for a recommendation.
  6. Have a budget.  Know if you are going for variety, quantity or quality.  It’s ok to share this – sometimes I am looking to buy cheap and plentiful and will ask for guidance.
  7. Learn the temperature your cheese tastes best at.  I leave most of our cheese on the counter for 3-4 hours before serving.  Some are better warmed in the oven (and in one case, covered in wine).
  8. Ask for tips on pairing jams, breads, crackers.
  9. Texture can change the flavor.  We slice some, shave others and crumble more.  A set of 3 cheese knives can be had for around $15 and learning what to use when can add to the enjoyment (and it’s not complex).
  10. Understand seasonality and find out if there are cheeses that are only available this time of year – Christmas is typical of this.  These tend to be the more expensive and sticker shock can be hefty so be comfortable enough to ask.
  11. Taste, taste, taste…and enjoy!

Try som

Thomas Keller…live

I had the distinct pleasure on Monday evening to attend a live interview with Thomas Keller.  If the name is a new one to you, Chef Keller is considered one of the top chefs in the world today.  Two of his restaurant (Per Se  in New York City and French Laundry in Yountville, California) are perennially listed on the world’s Top 10 restaurants and he is the only American born chef to have two restaurants with 3 Michelin stars.

Thomas Keller...live December

Chef Keller was focused, sweet, engaging, funny, uncompromising and delightful.  I found the interview to be inspiring with stories from his life.

I took detailed notes of the interview and the following are my highlights.  Quotations represent quotes to the best of my ability, the rest are stories or observations I had during his 90-minute interview:

  • “Good Food = Good Product (ingredients) + technique”
  • He went out of his way to thank people and singled out the young Chefs from a local college who volunteered at the event.
  • A pivotal moment in his life came when his brother (also a chef) taught him how to make hollandaise sauce from scratch.  From there, repetition was a critical.
  • “You only start to learn how to do something the second time you actually do it”
  • His first cook book was a gift from his Mom and she bought it because of the looks – A Treasury of Great Recipes by Mary and Vincent Price (yes, the same one from Michael Jackson’s Thriller)
  • His second cookbook was My Gastronomy by Nico Ladenis.  This was another big moment in his life and a turning point as it had a great narrative which helped with technique.  Keller adored the narrative so much that he tried to pitch his first cookbook as a book without recipes.
  • Cookbooks have regressed with the picture, recipe, picture, recipe format.  We are not building technique and you need to develop technique to make a recipe your own.
  • `Determination (desire) is the key to success.  Passion can ebb and flow; determination endures.`
  • `It`s always about teams.`
  • When he couldn`t get bread up to his standards for French Laundry he opened a Bakery down the street (Bouchon Bakery) because `that is just what you do`
  • Local, fresh and seasonal ingredients excite him and he loves the concept of seasons.  He shared a story about visiting a fancy grocery store in Toronto this week and asking a woman why she would buy peaches since what was being offered was essentially a memory of a peach.  He steered her to apples and pears and was pleased that she did.  Moments later she went for cherries and he gave up.
  • When pressed on local and seasonal and informed by the interviewer (Alison Fryer of the Cookbook Store) he was adamant.  When she commented `Sometimes I want blueberry muffins in November` he replied `Well therein lies a problem.`
  • He was open that the approach to cooking the best food in the world and insisting on local and fresh as possible is somewhat elitist.  He said this in a humble, self-aware way and not as a mean to gloat.  I found this comment refreshing.
  • `At the end of the day, what it`s all about if it`s not about the memories…`
  • Resource products which are better and better and ask your grocer for items which are better and better.
  • When asked if he eats toast he responded that he did when he was sick.
  • `Repetition is the liberation of creativity`
  • `Too many young Chefs want to move on to the next thing before mastering the current thing they are working on.  The thing about the next thing is that there will always be a next thing.`
  • A black iron skillet is the essential pan for the kitchen – if you only had one pot this would be his pick for you.
  • There are 2 teams working simultaneous in his kitchens so he can have 10 seatings a week and still have all staff members (including him) work 5 days a week.  When he learned his craft a 6-day week was the norm and he wanted to change that.  The days are still very long.
  • He`s had 2 knee surgeries that he attributes to being a chef.  It`s tough physical work and it`s vital you plan for your exit early.
  • He believes you must leave the industry in better shape than when you entered it.

There were 450 people in attendance and many, many chefs (the event was held on a Monday to accommodate the industry.  It was part of the launch of Ad Hoc at Home and was a great evening.

Thomas Keller...live December