30 November 2005

Pop Rock Truffles

Hi all

Received a message from Brian at
Candyaddict, asking about the Pop Rock truffles. I've emailed him back, but in case anyone else is wondering, here's the description:

The Godiva in question was the one on Bloor Street in Toronto. They had a sample plate of the bonbons out and, get this, they weren't for sale in the "pick and choose" case. IIRC, they were part of a box of preselected candies, and I think you only got *one* in the selection...quite unfair...I'm sorry, but I don't recall what *that* particular collection was called. I don't think it's part of Platinum, but I could be wrong.

The truffles they had out had a berry centre, into which the candies were mixed. I don't recall any distinguishable lumps, so I can only assume the candy was ground to a certain extent. They were enrobed in an ivory couverature with raspberry-red stripes. Similar fizzy truffles were also available in either milk or dark couverature (can't remember) with orange stripes. I didn't try the chocolate ones, so I don't know if they too were berry-flavoured, but The Fussy Eater had one. I just asked him if it was raspberry-flavoured or something different--he doesn't really remember but he thinks it could have been orange (which would make sense with the colours used).

Now...*I* call them Pop Rock truffles (because of the fizziness)...I'm sure if you ask the chocolatiers they'll have some swanky name for it...but all of us in the store agreed they were Pop Rocks. I quickly looked at Godiva's site when I originally posted, but couldn't find them...

I've emailed Jen to see if she can get me more info on them. If she can, I'll post it here.

as always,


27 November 2005

Revisiting our daily feed

This summer the Globe and Mail ran an article about Health Canada's latest Food Guide revision. Since then, I've been checking, from time to time, to see what's been added, what's been dropped, which lobbyists won and which ones lost.

So far it looks as if they are still working on it, and are now asking us commonfolk for our thoughts on the new guide--graphics, some bits on content, food groups, special needs etc. I took the longer survey, rather than the shorter one--not sure what will become of it, but if you are Canadian and want your say, you can visit this
link and take one of two surveys.

The first food guide, "the Official Food Rules," was introduced during WWII, 63 years ago. Its six foodgroups (Milk; Fruit; Vegetables; Cereals and Breads; Meat, Fish, etc.; and Eggs) acknowledged wartime food rationing, while while trying to to prevent nutritional deficiencies and improve Canadians's health . Since then the groups were downsized (rightsized? synergized? re-organized?...sounds like a corporate takeover/payroll shrinkening) to four and the types of foods recommend were changed (early versions mentiond offal), increased and decreased.

I'll probably write about it later, when the new guide is published, but until then, you can visit the Guide's History at:

Anway, if you've got the time and inclination, take the survey...

as always,


24 November 2005

This is what I need right now

I've been saving this one for a day like today...a really decadent ganache of a hot chocolate.

A snowstorm blew in and the roads are a mess--it usually takes me about 10 minutes to drive home from work, today it took almost 45. I desperately need new tires--slippy and slidey, wound up driving in low gear for the entire trip.

Need to get some work done on an assignment due on Monday. Enough procrastination.

And yes, this is my screensaver at work :)

To see the blog entry attached to the photo visit:

as always,


23 November 2005

Coffee with your Cap'n Crunch?

Brazil's Coffee Industry Association (Abic) is looking for 50 roasters to launch a pilot "Adopt-a-School" program, feeding breakfast to 1 million Brazilian school children aged six to 18.

The plan matches a roaster with a school of at least 500 students, providing the kids with a free breakfast of coffee, milk and bread; the estimated cost per school is 33,500 reais (US$15,000).

In Brazilian coffee-growing regions, children traditionally drink coffee from an early age.

Now *I'm* wondering if I can get Tim Horton's to adopt me :)

as always,



21 November 2005

Glamming it up

Ever since I discovered Pop Rock truffles at Godiva's the other week during my "I need to take a break otherwise I'm going to go mental" Toronto sojourn, I've been obsessed with the fizzy little candies.

This weekend I set aside for more destressing: playing in the kitchen, trying to come up with biscuit and bun recipes (which will be posted later). I was well armed with half a dozen packages of candy...to which The Fussy Eater immediately had visions of exploding cookies in the oven, biscuitty shrapnel embedded in walls and diners everywhere....

Even though I knew it wouldn't work if I mixed the Rocks into the dough, I tried it. To my surprise the wetness of the dough wasn't enough to set off the candy. At the half-way baking point, I opened the door (yes, I know, a no-no): everything looked normal..so far so good. At the 10-minute mark I took them out--the edges were a nice golden colour and the biscuits were cooked to the degree I like them (I don't care for the anemic-looking, raw-flour taste that seems to be all the rage in sugar cookie and shortbread baking).

But upon closer inspection what I thought would happen, did: the cookies' surface was pitted with traces of exploding candy. When they cooled a bit, I tried them. They tasted fine, but it seemed as if the "tropical punch" flavour had totally disappeared into the oven air...or somewhere...sigh. It would have been totally cool if I got it to work.

Oh well, back to Plan B (which was really Plan A, but curiosity got the better of me) and I baked a dozen plain biscuits and let them cool totally.

Given the candies I used were the bluey-green ones, I mixed them with blue, green and purple sugars. I mixed a bit of delphinium blue in with the icing, which turned the glaze a deep, pretty blue. When I did a full-cookie coverage of sparkles (as opposed to just the edges), they took on a sparkly, jewel-like quality (you can sort of see it in the photo, but they really looked phenomenal in real life--note use of past tense...all gone now!)

It worked...quite nicely. When you bite in to the cookie and let your mouth's moisture activate the candies, you get this really nice popping after a few seconds...explosive and sweet at the same time. Both Christine and Janet tried them the next day and candies popped when eaten, garnering two thumbs up.

For those of you who want to add a little glitz to your cookie jar, I've provided the recipe and instructions. Apart from allowing the cookies to totally cool before icing, the only other recommendations I have are to only open the candies when you are ready to use them (I opened them the day I made the dough (when I thought I'd be baking) and some of the poppyness was lost because of the humidity in the kitchen) and to lightly crush the candy so they go farther and don't stand out too much from the sugars.

When I found out that this month's SHF theme was the virtual cookie swap, I thought, simply for the fun-glitziness of this weekend's experiment, I would contribute them to the fray.

PopStar Cookies
Makes about four dozen, depending upon the size of the cookie cutters used

350g pastry flour
1tsp baking powder
200g granulated sugar
150g butter, at room temp
2 eggs
1tsp vanilla extract

icing sugar
food colouring
coloured, decorative sugars
4 packages Pop Rocks candy(9.5g each)

For the cookies
Cream together the butter and sugar; mix in the eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl, thoroughly combine the flour and baking powder and then add to the wet mixture. Mix well.

Divide mixture into four portions, forming them into discs. Pop them into the fridge for three or four hours (or overnight).

Preheat oven to 350F; prepare baking sheets. Take out the dough and let rest on the counter for about 15-20 minutes. Working one disc at a time, roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness and cut out the stars. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until done. Allow to thoroughly cool on a wire rack before decorating.

To decorate
Mix a thin icing using the icing sugar, water and food colouring. In a flat-bottomed dish, mix the candies with sugar--you can decide the proportions, but I liked the effect of roughly half sugar and half candy.

Brush the cooled cookies with the icing; when they're just tacky (not too wet, but dry enough to have the topping stick without too much popping) cover the cookies with the sprinkly topping and allow to set.

as always,

photocredit: The Fussy Eater


18 November 2005

Pitcher this

Normally news reports about beer have enough staying power in my brain as a whole pint in my bladder: not long.

But enough sound bites and newsprint about
Homer Simpson's bevvie of choice came my way...it was hard *not* to notice.

Sounds totally disgusting to me, but, ech, to each her own.
The New Scientist has an article on Nestec's (yes, part of Nestle) non-alcoholic, fermented drinks that smell and taste like coffee, but has the body of beer (complete with foam); the mothercorp is currently trying to patent the process...or the drink...or whatever. And then I read on Slashfood that there's a real coffee beer made by Meantime Brewery which is a blend of beer and coffee for those who don't want a namby-pamby fermented coffee drink, but want beer.

Incan beer
The Globe and Mail's "Ancient empire built on beer" reports of archaeologists believing that women had more status in Incan and pre-Incan society than previously believed. Why? Because they brewed beer. Apparently elite Wari women, a people who lived in the central Andes from 600-1000ADE had an industrial-sized brewery, palace and temple in their elaborate city on a remote summit in southern Peru. Copious amounts (the brewery could brew 1800L) of chichi (a beverage made of fermented corn and Peruvian pepper-tree berries) at a time. The brewery was eventually sacrificed to the gods...why do I have a vision of Homer running and screaming "Noooooooooooooooooo!"

Strike beer off the naughty list
And lastly, if an apple a day will keep the doctor away, then
a beer a day is pretty darned good as well. Xanthohumol, micronutrient that has cancer-fighting properties, the stuff that helps give beer aroma and flavour, may also prevent breast, colon, ovarian and prostate cancer cells. But the thing is, according to the radio report I heard, there really isn't much of the micronutrient in your average pint, so someone would have to drink an awful lot of the stuff to make it actually do something other than getting you drunk.

as always,


17 November 2005

Made it to the pub

The Fussy Eater was in tow.

Had the steak-and-Guinness pie and the chunky chips with gravy.

Had the sizzling mushrooms in a Thai-style sauce instead of the half-pint.

Skipped the whiskey bread pudding because the roads were bad (first snowfall of the year) and we didn't want to keep our friend waiting at the thee-a-tah.

Very happy now...life is better...

as always,


16 November 2005

File this under "common sense is no longer common"

This is depressing.

What you see, to the left, is "RipeSense" packaging. It's new to Canada (or Ontario...at the very least Toronto).

There's a sensor in the plastic that gauges the fruit's ethylene off-gassing (or according to the company "the flavour" (what's the plastic doing, licking the fruit to taste when it's ready to eat?...I don't want to eat pears covered in packaging slobber...who knows what else they've licked)) and then changes the dot's colour to match to the guide's "this colour means this is *this* ripe" colour swatch.

The added bonus to the plastic clamshell is that it protects fruit from bruising.

According to the company spokesperson, people can select the pear at the exact moment of ripeness and "eat it without fear" of biting into a hard or tasteless fruit.

I don't know about you, but I've never been afraid of biting into a hard fruit...because I know when I pick up a pear, I know whether it'll be to my preferred degree of ripeness. Yes, I have *that* special talent.

Okay, I'm being insensitive to all the underripenedfruitophobes in the world, I'm a horrible person and I should go find a therapist to help me be a more loving and tolerant person who's unquestioningly obedient to the whims of marketers...

This is so depressing in so many ways...overpackaging, further separation between foods and eaters...you name it. Has Marthaism really taken that strong a hold on us that we are afraid of imperfect fruit and veg?

Oh, and this extra assistance comes at a price: the pears in the moodring-like clamshell cost almost twice as much as those that you bag yourself.

Thanks, but no. I'll continue using my nose, hands and brains to let me know when that pear is ripe enough to eat.

as always,


15 November 2005


Gawd…all I could think of was heading to the pub, The Fussy Eater in tow, and getting a pint (okay, a half pint) of Guinness and tucking into a lovely steak-and-Guinness (and mushroom) pie with chunky chips and gravy and finishing it with a molten chocolate cake (which, unfortunately, is unavailable at my pub of choice so I must sacrifice myself to their absolutely wonderful whiskey bread pudding).

Comfort food.

That’s all I could think of for the past 11 days…11 days of work issues and school issues and home issues and not-home issues and well…stress. Food—the right food makes things good…Comfort food makes problems and stresses go away.

Which isn’t that surprising.

A couple of years ago,
UCSF researchers released a report stating that comfort food stops stress. Researchers figured out that after subjecting rats to chronic stress, there’s a “flood of hormonal signalling from the hypothalamus to the adrenal glands” which made the little furry things seek out things that made them happy…including gobbling high energy foods (sucrose and lard), which I’m inferring from the article, was the rat-equivalent of comfort food (and I suppose mine..and a lot of other people's). The additional abdominal fat gained helped negate the effects of chronic stress. And this, of course ties into binge eating during weight loss regimes (dieting *is* stressful).

Can anyone say “fat and happy?”

Various surveys and studies have tracked favourite comforting noshes. According to a
Psychology Today article, men preferred things like meat and pizza, while women wanted sweets like chocolate; both sexes shared a love of ice cream. The article itself tried to link foods to men liking “macho” food and women liking frilly-frou-frou foods (yeah, right… watch my MAC Diva-pink lips wrap themselves around the tines that spear a hunk of steak). Bah. BBC Two found Britons craving a whole host of foods including chocolate, tea, toast, ice cream, sausage and mash, soup and various puddings.

Me? What do I want when I’m stressed? Well, any combination of the above-mentioned meal, vanilla pudding, chocolate pudding, tea, mashed potatoes and kiwi cheesecake...luscious, velvety kiwi cheesecake…because well, kiwi cheesecake solves the world’s problems.

as always,


13 November 2005

A gal can't live on homework alone

...well, this one can't.

Decided to take a break from the latest assignment and headed into TO to meet fellow e-student Gayleen who's on a promo run out for Touch . We met up at Over Easy ...I love it there...all that eggy goodness: Eggs Benedict Florentine with the home fries and a side of fried mushrooms. Anyway, it was so nice to finally meet her--we've been in class together for about a year, but with the nature of distance ed, its kinda difficult to meet people face to face.

Spent the afternoon shopping--Bloor Street, of course: shoes and bags and books...too bad I couldn't find any shoes or bags I liked (I must have had a fever)...spent about an hour in the
Cook Book Store and bought Patricia Rain's Vanilla and an autographed copy of MarionKane's Dish. Am in a vanilla mood (no, not boring or staid, just can't get enough of the vanilla scent and taste) and also bought some oil at The Body Shop...wandered through a few other shops before ending up at Godiva's... POP ROCK TRUFFLES.

Dinner was with Jen (happy belated bday!) at
Allen's on the Danforth -- had their "famous" burger...quite nice: added blue cheese, grilled onions and grilled mushrooms and split a plate of sweet potato fries. We split the frozen chocolate eclair...happy happy happy....

It was a good day...anyway...back to the grind. Just finished the essay draft (due tomorrow...veddy dull) and found myself here:

...dedicated to all the chocoholics out there who are far too stressed and need a fix....

as always,


09 November 2005

You want a pinch of what? Herbs, spices & flavourings part two

The other day I posted about the basics of spices, herbs and flavourings—how to tell the difference between them, how to purchase them and how to store them. This article builds on that one, providing a set of guidelines of experiencing and using them.

More than a few words on flavour and taste

Unless you’ve been on a bland diet, devoid of even salt, pepper and sugar, you’ve tasted herbs and other flavourings your entire life. But do you know what qualities they, individually, bring to a meal?

Before we get to that, there are some realities to face when trying to broach the subjects of flavour and food.

“Flavour” shouldn’t be confused with “taste.” I suppose taste is to flavour as colour is to a painting: flavour is the effect of taste and aroma, just as a painting is the result colour and composition—yes, I know there’s more to a painting than that, but work with me on this one...

We rely upon what food writers call “a referential culinary language,” forcing comparisons that give ideas of taste. In most cases (I would argue all cases) the comparisons don't work well—think of the number of times crab is purported to “taste like chicken”…I don’t know about you, but I've tasted both. I know crab doesn’t taste like chicken, however crab, like chicken is rather mildly flavoured, hence the comparison.

This leads to another point--not everyone experiences taste and flavours in the same way—time may heal all wounds, but it also kills taste buds. Small children are notoriously picky eaters, which I think is because they have more taste buds than adults, allowing them to pick up on nuances that adults may miss…well that and asparagus is just gross.

If you want to experience an herb or spice’s true flavours, simply take a leaf or a small bit of spice and rub it between your fingers for a few moments and sniff. As home cooks, it’s important to remember heat unlocks exotic flavours and fragrances.

To experience their truest flavours, take a half-teaspoon of chopped herb or crushed spice and steep it in a half cup of water just off the boil for 20 to 30 minutes…then sip. Just be forewarned that what you taste when you try the tisane will be much stronger than when you add a little to your sauces, stews or marinades.

As suggested in Part One, I think it’s important for home cooks to buy whole spices in small quantities because once they’re ground, they quickly lose their flavours and aromas. Perhaps the best way to draw out their flavours, is to dry-roast them—it’s quick and simple and will help you create wonderful flavours in your cooking. All you need to do is put the spices in a small frypan over medium heat and stir them around for a couple of minutes, or until they begin to look toasted and jump or pop about in the pan. Then either grind them in a mortar and pestle or a grinder.

I think it’s important to state that I don’t follow the fashion of fresh herbs over dried since both can be used effectively. Dried herbs are excellent for adding deep tones and flavours at the beginning of the cooking process while fresh herbs add brightness at the end, just before serving.

Using herbs, spices and other flavourings is incredibly easy and I hope these pieces will help you to explore your store’s spice aisles and try out something new when you create your next culinary masterpiece.

As always,

(photocredit: Gernot Katzer/ peppercorns)


07 November 2005

You want a pinch of what? Herbs, spices & flavourings part one

It always amazes me how many people claim to dislike spicy foods. As usual, I have theories...maybe their parents only used s&p... perhaps they mixed up their teaspoon measure with their tablespoon and bad things happened...they were blindsided by a deadly capsicum in a dark alley......a really cruel/stupid roomate switched bottle labels and got them to down a bottle of something that shouldn't have been downed without a paramedic present.

But what I think it really is is simply a fear of the unknown…

Working with spices isn’t difficult, but it’s important to remember that spicy food doesn’t mean eye-wateringly, sinus-clearingly hot—spicy food is flavourful food.

If you’re rather shy about using herbs, spices and other flavourings, I’ve revisited my original primer from the ezine, tweaked it and broken it into two pieces. This part has a general overview; the next part focuses on working with them. It'll be posted in a few days.

I suppose Julie Andrews sung it best…”Let’s start at the very beginning/A very good place to start”

Simple but mostly useful definitions:
Spices: The dried, non-herbaceous parts of aromatic plants such as the rhizome, root, bark, flower, fruit or seed (highly unromantic, I know)

Herbs: The green parts (leaves and sometimes stalks) of aromatic plants.

Flavourings: My catch-all category of flavouring liquids such as honeys, vinegars and ketchups.

Pickiness is a virtue:
Luckily for most of us, we can find fresh and dried herbs, spices and specialized ingredients used in exotic-to-us cuisines in the average urban grocer’s. Just remember, whenever possible, avoid pre-ground and pre-powdered spices because they’ll lose their potency quickly; many spices such as peppercorns, saffron, nutmeg are available in whole form, so you can grind or toast exactly how much you need when you need it.

Since not all of us are blessed with green thumbs (mine are more attuned to shoes), growing our own herbs is out of the question. I have no problem declaring my dependency upon the kindness of those who can keep green things alive. When I’m shopping, I choose flakes are over powders and fresh herbs should look and smell healthy.

When choosing flavourings, natural ingredients are key since the real stuff tastes better than laboratory-developed synthetic (fake vanilla tastes like mothballed plastic wrap to my tastebuds), and are worth the higher price. Look for best-by dates and avoid stores with low turn-over (dusty caps are a giveaway).

And of course, if your local shop can’t or won’t carry what you want, you can order pretty much anything on-line.

Keeping your treasures:
Store dried herbs and spices in opaque containers or airtight glass bottles (or another material that won’t impart flavours to the contents) in someplace dark and away from humidity. Most dried herbs and spices generally go stale after three to six months, so buy them in quantities you'll use before their flavours go off.

Rinse and pat fresh herbs dry, then wrap them in paper towelling before placing them in a zippy storage bag; herbs kept like this in a refrigerator will stay fresh for about two weeks. If you want them to keep longer, chop them finely and keep them in a freezer-safe container in your freezer.

Unless the label advises otherwise, store flavourings in a dark cupboard; keep an eye on expiry dates.

Learning about how to use herbs and spices is something I think anyone can do. I’ve tried to outline some general tips and tricks about picking and storing them. The next part will review how to use them.

As always,

(photocredit: Gernot Katzer / Mint Leaves )


06 November 2005

Hmmm...Opposites attract?

Here's The Fussy Eater's ice cream personality...

You scored 55% SWEET, 48% CHUNKY, and 37% UNIQUE!
vanilla ice cream with gobs of chocolate chip cookie dough

You're an oldie, but goodie...the now-classic chocolate chip cookie dough. It's sweet, but not overwhelmingly so, and has just the right amount of chunks. You make a good friend and your wild streak shows itself every now and then...enough to make things interesting. You prefer to stick with what you know, but sometimes can't help getting a little crazy.

Please notice how I exercise great restraint about commenting on "oldie" and "prefer to stick with what you know"...nope no comments here...

I still want to know what the "chunky" rating is all about...

And yes, I expect to be glared at when he realizes I've posted this :)

as always,

04 November 2005

My ice cream personality


You scored 77% SWEET, 77% CHUNKY, and 77% UNIQUE!
banana ice cream with fudge chunks & walnuts

Frankly, you are nuts and you don't give a damn! You've got it all- you're a loving, caring person who enjoys getting wild & crazy and has a mind completely open to new experiences. You are a barrel of laughs and always up to something. You could probably stand to tone it down some and get your head out of the clouds, but there's nothing wrong with livin' it up now and then, and you certainly do!

My test tracked three variables. How you compared to other people your age and gender.

You tested higher than 62% on SWEET
You tested higher than 83% on CHUNKY
You tested higher than 87% on UNIQUE

The Ben & Jerry's Ice cream Flavour Test on OK! Cupid

as always,

02 November 2005

McSpin Part Two

McSpin script:

Perhaps as a weird sort of penance for what they've done for world cuisine, the McCorporation announced that their North East US outlets will serve fair trade coffee, according to a
story in the Boston Herald.

They're doing this for the benefit of caffeine-addicted commuters who want good-tasting (and cheapish) coffee.

It sounds as if they just realized that their regular coffee tastes pretty gross.

And if McD's becomes known for selling slurpable coffee, grown by farmers who can afford to feed their families, people will abandon pouring their own coffee or toasting their own Eggos.

And it sounds as if they're hoping that Newman's Own Organics Blend, will bolster positive public opinion...you know, if you hang out with the cool kids, you become cool...but in this case it's if you hang out with people who are trying to do some good, you are then seen as a do-gooder, regardless of all the other stuff you do.

Did I mention that this was printed three days after the McAnnouncement about printing nutritional facts on food wrappers and four days after announcing to the world that not being able to trace more than 80 per cent of their burger meat to the individual cow would make people feel better about feeding their kids stuff that they probably shouldn't be eating in any great quantity?

as always,


01 November 2005

More fast food fuferah

Not quite as good as McDonald's (ahem) well thought out PR campaign, but still egg on the face of a major fast food chain.

Wendy's teamed up with TSN for the Wendy's Kick For a Million promotion and Brian Diesbourg's entry was selected from the gajillions of ballots for a shot to successfully kick a field goal and win $1 million.

And good for Brian--he did it. No small feat whatsoever. And from what I was told, and read in various reports, it was a nailbiter: missing the first few kicks but he did it when it counted. Yea for him (really -- no sarcasm -- I know I couldn't do it). Twenty-five years old and a millionaire. BCE (the parental unit to TSN) even sent out a
media release about it.

This was meant to be a happy, make your insides as gooey as Wendy's Bacon Mushroom Melts on their trademark square patties.

But according to
contest rules and regulations, the purveyors of the Official Hamburger of the CFL isn't really giving Mr. Diesbourg $1 million. They are giving him annuity that pays out $25K/yr for four decades...should he live that long, he'll be 65ish when the final cheque is cashed.

People are all up in arms about this.

I don't know why. Really. I mean, it was clearly stated in the rules and online promo info that if the selected one were successful, he/she/it would wait an awfully long time before collecting the last payment. But, you know, when you keep saying "kick for a million" people expect the winner to get the money all at once...or at least within the next quarter-century. People were so upset they were actually staged a mini-boycott of the fast food chain last Friday.

Of course, Wendy's is currently looking like the Biggie-Sized heartless corporate giant because they aren't budging on contest rules.

Mr. Diesbourg is a very gracious winner--he doesn't seem to be bothered at all by this. He's just thrilled he did it and he's got a nice income supplement for the rest of his working days *and* a CFL team is interested in him.

It's obvious Wendy's never suspected anyone would successfully kick the fieldgoal, otherwise why would they choose such a lame way to do the payout? It's also obvious that they never figured out that people actually read and report info in media releases. Gee...no wonder Canadian Press has deemed it a
PR nightmare.

Maybe this will teach the Marketing and PR gang: assume the contest will be won; assume the fans care.

as always,