Thursday, September 8, 2016

Habanero Peach Hot Sauce & Overcoming Fear

Years ago I was crazy about a boy, a boy who was crazy about someone else. Let's call this "someone else" The Girl with the Habanero Peach Hot Sauce. I call her this because, for whatever reason, one of the things that stands out in my mind the most after all these years was this little bottle of Habanero Peach Hot Sauce that she had given the boy from her travels. He loved the hot sauce just as he had the girl. Just like the hot sauce, the girl had a spicy and sweet personality, was somewhat exotic, and was not easy to obtain. In my eyes I was Franks Red Hot Sauce...or maybe even a generic, no-name brand pretending to be Franks. I was one note. I was boring, generic, and was always there. 

I was mad at myself. Mad for allowing myself to become this generic cookie-cutter of a human, because of what? Fear? Yup, that's exactly what it was - fear. Too afraid of the outcome or to be in the thick of the scary moment, I would push aside opportunities, wants, desires, needs, and so much more all in the name of fear. Too afraid to be rejected, I didn't fight for the guy, I didn't go after the job, I didn't make the tough decisions, I didn't do...well, much of anything. That summer I said "fuck it!" to fear. "Fuck you, fear!" I yelled in the ravine that connected to my backyard! "Fuck you for ruling my life!" I wasn't going to let that happen anymore. 
That summer I lived without fear. I put myself in positions I had never before been in. I had a summer fling with a stranger I thought was out of my league. I went to concerts with friends and acquaintances I rarely saw and some I hardly knew. I stayed up until the sun came up more than I can count. I spontaneously hopped a plane with a friend for a week of daiquiris and dancing. Hell, I even went skydiving! I kicked fear in the ass! 

I was so proud of myself at the end of that summer. Proud of all that I had accomplished. Proud of the stories I had to tell. Proud of the chances I took and the strength with which I approached them. It wasn't about the boy at all. It wasn't about proving to him that I too could be Habanero Peach Hot Sauce. It was about proving to myself that I was those things. They were always there, all I had to do was lift the heavy weight of fear to unearth them. 
It's been years and years now since that summer of saying "fuck you" to fear. I'm a different person now, in both good ways and bad. The good is that I've finally started to come into my own. I know who I am and what I'm not, and I'm not willing to sacrifice that for anything or anyone. I have a strong sense of self, that I wouldn't have been able to possess unless I had found myself in the gutter of fear. The bad? While I've changed in so many positive ways, there's always things to work on, and boy, have I got a lot of that. And that, in itself, is the bad. 

After going through a summer of transformation like that, it's easy to be overly critical of yourself when you find yourself falling into old habits. That's where I was at the beginning of this Spring, hating myself. Mad at myself for once again allowing fear to control my life. I was unhappy with where I was and felt stuck. I took a big scary leap and quit my job to allow myself to face the fears that I had been building up in my head. I forced myself to practice my craft every day. I forced myself to reach out to the people I admire and ask for assistance. I forced myself to talk to the people that intimidate me. With the lens of self-doubt, it would be easy to look at this summer as a waste. I could have done more, I could have said more, I could have been more, but look at all the things I did do! 
While I didn't make quite as much progress with my career as I had hoped (though I have to remember to still honour the development that I did make), I'm proud to say that I've come such a long way in terms of tackling my personal demons. I forced myself to own up to and work on the things that I didn't like about myself. I've started opening up to people about the anxiety that has plagued me since childhood. I've started seeing a therapist that will allow me to work through the things that I am so very ready to overcome. I forced myself to say "no more" to the people in my life who have continued to hurt me. I started exercising every day for my mind more than my body. I've looked deep within myself to understand what makes me happy and what fuels me, and also, what does the opposite. Though I know overcoming my fears will be a battle that I may have to work on for my entire life, each time I find myself in this cycle it feels a little easier. Because I've gone through this before it's so much easier to remember that yes, I do have Habanero Peach Hot Sauce within me, and it doesn't have to be so scary to let it out. 

Check out Fo Reals Life's recipe for Habanero Peach Hot Sauce here

Listening To:

Monday, August 29, 2016

Dîner en Blanc 2016

The guests wore all-white and danced under the light of the full moon. 
It sounds part of a fairytale, does it not? Fairytales are associated with beauty, mystery, romance, and happiness, all of which were present on the eve of August 18th, as myself and 2,600 guests made our way through chartered busses and organized public transportation, to arrive at our mystery destination to celebrate in the annual spectacle, Dîner en Blanc. 
Dîner en Blanc is a tradition that began in Paris in 1988 with only a handful of participants. It first began as simply an elegant dinner under the stars, amongst friends, with one rule - everyone must dress in all white. Over the past 28 years, Diner en Blanc has become a worldwide sensation, and is now celebrated in over 70 cities across the globe. 
As a leader in both the food and fashion industries, it's no surprise that Toronto has made Dîner en Blanc a celebrated summer ritual amongst foodies and fashionistas alike. Having always wanted to attend the coveted event, I was over-the-(full)-moon excited to be invited by Dîner en Blanc sponsor Metro Ontario to attend this years event as their guest. 
Dressed in our newly-purchased all-white outfits (no cream or off-white here!), my friend Amanda and I arrived at our pickup location to be transported to the top-secret destination (which was revealed to be the Canary District, formerly the Pan Am Games Athletes Village) with the rest of our table. The idea is to arrive "flash-mob style" to the freshly announced public venue, with white tables, chairs, and picnic baskets filled with gourmet delights in tow, to enjoy an elegant evening amongst friends new and old, and, come the nights end, leave without a trace left behind. 
As a Metro guest, I was lucky to be given the VIP treatment with our beautifully decorated table already set up. Each guest was given their own white picnic basket, filled to the brim with a selection of Metro goodies. True to the picnic theme, my basket featured an assortment of sandwiches; cheese, charcuterie, and crackers; quinoa and pasta salads; pizza; and sushi. Between the gorgeous floral arrangements were bottles of red, white, and sparkling wine that were constantly in flow. With a dessert tent presenting all-white cakes and cupcakes from Metro, it's needless to say, we were very well fed! 
Creativity played a large role in the success of the evening, as the all-white-everything theme inspired guests to think outside the colour wheel when selecting their outfits, table decor, and menus. It was truly a feast for the eyes getting to see all of the imaginative ways that the guests approached their wardrobe and table decor. Hats and headpieces were particularly striking, with lots of feathers, bows, and flowers present. As a creative myself, I almost got whiplash from constantly turning my head as each new stunning sight caught my eye. More than just the outfits, decor, and food, the venue itself is a challenge in resourcefulness. As the location changes every year to a new public space, Dîner en Blanc allows guests to experience some of Toronto's most stunning public spaces in a dazzling new way. 
Dîner en Blanc was such a fantastic way to bring like-minded individuals together to celebrate food, fashion, and our beautiful city in a unique, elegant, and classy way. I'd like to extend a big "thank you" to Metro Ontario for giving me the opportunity to experience this magical evening as their guest. It was a privilege to not only get to attend the event, but also get to engage with so many other creative industry leaders who I admire and respect. I can honestly say that I have never in my life experienced anything like Dîner en Blanc. Thank you for a night to remember!

Moment of Note:
When my mom emailed me after the event saying she saw my photo on Flare Was There! Pretty cool moment! 

Listening To:

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Kitchn's Crunchy Peanut Slaw

Oh hey, just me over here, still on the no-heat-in-my-kitchen-train! As you'll know from some of my previous posts and definitely from my Instagram account, I have been on a heat strike in my kitchen for months now. This has surely been one of Toronto's hottest summers in years, with hardly a day or even an afternoon of relief, meaning all the recent Google searches on my computer read "no-cook meal ideas" and "how to grill everything" as I begin to run out of ideas on what the hell to make for dinner each night. When you're exhausted from the heat, with little to no energy to cook much of anything, it's not the easiest task to go scouring through the internet to attempt to find a good recipe that's simple enough to throw together last minute and will allow you to keep your kitchen cool. 
With my boyfriend Chris working from home as much as possible thanks to a torn achilles (ouch!), it was so great to have another meal brainstormer on hand to help me come up with some different dishes that could help to shake up what was quickly becoming a boring dinner routine. One of my favourite recipes that Chris suggested I make a couple weeks ago was a refreshing, no-cook Crunchy Peanut Slaw from The Kitchn. Chris knew it would be a great recipe for me because...well, I was lazy as hell, hot AF, and this recipe allowed me to get food on the table fast, without any grocery shopping, and very little mess. I was in! 
The slaw was thrown together in less than 10 minutes (insane!), was the perfect accompaniment to grilled chicken and a humid day, and even though I only made a half batch, I was still left with some leftovers for both mine and Chris' lunch the following day! I love the fantastic crunch from both the peanuts and the crisp cabbage and that bright hit of cilantro that shines through each bite. Best of all, I loved the simple dressing that highlighted the nutty flavour of Asian sesame oil, giving this slaw a bit of an exotic twist. This recipe is definitely going onto my "Recipes I Love" Pinterest board! This baby is a keeper and perfect for your next BBQ with friends and family! 

Check out The Kitchn's recipe for Crunchy Peanut Slaw here!

Have another awesome no-cook or grilled weeknight dinner idea that you think I'll love? Tell me about it in the comments, or Tweet me: @thisgingerrose
Listening To:
Frank Ocean build something...waiting on that album, Frankie!!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Herbaceous Yogourt-Marinated Chicken Tenders

Oh hey, remember that time I went around making recipes featuring yogourt like a mad woman, in an attempt to win $10,000 and be featured in Chatelaine? No, this isn't a big reveal that I've won. I haven't won...or at least I don't know yet (still keeping those fingers and toes crossed!), but I'm still working my way through some of the recipes I submitted to feature them for you here. 

The great thing about doing a contest like that was getting to put my creative hat on and find new ways of reinventing some of my favourite recipes to feature the key ingredient, yogourt. While it's pretty obvious that yogourt goes fantastic with sweet dishes such as the Strawberry Cheese Blintzes and Mango Strawberry Layered Lassi that I made, I wanted to challenge myself and think outside the box (or should I say yogourt!) to find ways of featuring yogourt in unexpected ways in some savoury dishes. 
With chicken breasts on sale at the grocery store and an extra container of panko breadcrumbs that I wanted to clear out of my cupboard, it was natural for me to gravitate towards a reinvented chicken tender recipe. Traditionally chicken tenders go through an assembly line of flour, beaten egg, and breadcrumbs before being baked or fried. In this recipe a mixture of yogourt, herbs, and spices allowed me to coat my chicken in simply the yogourt mixture, and then the panko breadcrumbs, eliminating an extra step and granting the yogourt to act as a marinade and glue for the breadcrumbs. 

I love that the yogourt acts as the glue in this recipe, but more than that, the yogourt coating allowed me to tenderize the meat by marinating the chicken and infusing more flavour into it thanks to the addition of fresh herbs like dill, parsley, and chives, as well as garlic powder and lemon juice. As if that's not enough, I chose to make a little bit extra of the yogourt mixture so that I could set some aside to save as a dipping sauce once my tenders were cooked! Brilliant, right? This recipe turned out so insanely easy to prepare, and was a delicious weeknight meal that also left me with some chicken tender leftovers for lunch the following day. Even if I don't win the Astro and Chatelaine contest, I'm still a winner in my books for having a new simple and delicious weeknight dinner option to add to my repertoire! 
Tip: Toasting your panko before breading helps to give your tenders that fantastic golden colour and give them an additional crunch!

1 1/2 cups Astro Original Balkan Style Plain Yogourt 6%
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh dill, finely chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp. parsley, finely chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp. chives, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch strips
1 1/2 - 2 cups panko breadcrumbs, lightly toasted
cooking spray
salt and pepper to season

  1. In a small bowl stir together yogourt with garlic powder, dill, parsley, chives, and lemon juice. Taste and season as needed with salt and pepper. 
  2. Add chicken to a large, zipper, freezer bag and add 1-cup of the yogourt mixture. Coat chicken evenly in the yogourt mixture and place in fridge for 1-hour. Set the remaining 1/2-cup yogourt mixture aside in the fridge.
  3. Preheat oven to 375ºF. 
  4. Place toasted panko in a wide, shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper. Set a large baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray next to it.
  5. Keeping one hand clean, working one at a time, dip each chicken strip into the panko, pressing to coat evenly, and place on the prepared baking sheet. 
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until panko is golden and chicken is cooked through. 
  7. Serve immediately with the remaining yogourt mixture as a dipping sauce. 
Listening To:

Friday, July 15, 2016

Mango & Strawberry Layered Lassi

UberEats is taking all of my money. Ok sure, it's not like they're holding a gun to my head, telling me "you must order takeout," but each time I open my phone and see their little UberEats icon, the temptation is real, and it is strong! As you'll know from all of my recent blog and social media posts, Toronto has been experiencing one hell of a heatwave these past few weeks, making it all the easier to forgo cooking for the convenience of takeout. Though I sure love me some delicious takeout, it can get real expensive, real fast, leading me to try and get clever with reducing my takeout bill as much as possible. 

One of the regions of cuisine that my boyfriend Chris and I like to order delivery from is Indian, simply because it's a type of cuisine we didn't really grow up with, and aren't as familiar with cooking. Ordering a couple orders of roti is fairly inexpensive, but it's easy for our bill to climb once we start adding appetizers and drinks. For any other type of delivery/takeout I never bother to order a drink (I have cheap drinks at home, after-all!), but a burn-your-face-off spicy roti simply demands one! 
Forget cans of pop, ice tea, and juice; The only drink that can cool the intense heat from a fiery roti is a cool and creamy mango lassi. If you're unfamiliar with lassi's (we're not talking collie's here!), they are an Indian yogourt-based drink that is designed to cool the body down, whether from the heat of the weather or from the spices from your meal. The relief from a lassi strikes immediately, as it coats the tongue with its creamy and rich texture. While sure, it's easier to order a lassi from the restaurant that I'm getting my takeout from, it also comes with a cost. Bills add up fast, and with a drink as simple as this to prepare, I really have no excuse not to think a little bit ahead, and make my own homemade lassi in advance to have once my delivery arrives. 

Another advantage to making your own lassis at home is having the freedom of playing around with different flavour combinations. Though a mango flavoured lassi is more traditional (yet a true, authentic lassi is actually savoury), there are so many different fruits that would lend themselves perfectly blended into a lassi. With Ontario strawberries still in season for a little longer, they were on the top of my list to try making into a lassi. I love the combination of the sweet mango lassi layered with the slightly tangy strawberry lassi, delivering that refreshing hit of relief that my tastebuds were begging for. This layered lassi was not only delicious and cooling, it was also awfully pretty, with the vibrant yellow from the mangoes contrasted by the blushing pink from the strawberries. I highly recommend giving this recipe a try this weekend, whether paired with Indian food or not, to leave you feeling cool as a lassi! 

*Note: When making the lassi in advance, simply omit the ice and set aside each flavour on its own in the fridge. When ready to serve, blend in the ice and layer away! 

1 cup Astro Original Balkan Style Plain Yogourt 6%
2 ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted, and puréed
1 1/2 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced
3 tsp liquid honey

  1. In a powerful blender or food processor add mango purée, 1/2-cup yogourt, and 1-tsp honey. Add a large handful of ice and blend until smooth. Pour into a container and set aside in fridge. Rise blender/processor.
  2. Add strawberries to the cleaned blender. Add 1/2-cup yogourt and 2-tsp honey. Add a large handful of ice and blend until smooth.
  3. Fill four small serving glasses halfway with the mango lassi. Carefully spoon in strawberry lassi so it sits atop the mango lassi. Serve immediately. 
Listening To: