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FOOD + DRINK RECIPES + menus

How to Use Truffles in Your Kitchen

winter white truffles by macchi

winter white truffles by macchi

I’m happy that Hivron Turanli, a foodie and the Marketing Director at Macchi Inc. has accepted to be a guest blogger on At Home with Kim Vallee. Hivron agreed to talk to us about a special ingredient that she adores. She shared with us practical tips on how to use truffles in your kitchen. Hivron is also known as Mrs. Macchi on Twitter.

People associate truffles with refined and expensive food. Many may feel that it is too expensive to use at home. I will show you that there are many ways and price levels at which you cook with truffles.

What is a Truffle?

Truffles come from the ‘Fungi’ (Fungus) family, just like the mushroom. It has the consistency and the shape of a potato or a nugget. The common definition refers to the shape of a truffle.  What makes it so desirable is its incredible and unique aroma. Plus, their seasons only last for a couple of months at a time.

There are three types of truffles:

  • Winter White Truffle (Alba Truffle) retails at $8,500 CAD/kg
  • Winter Black Truffle (Black Norcia Truffle or Black Perigord Truffle) retails at $3,500 CAD/kg
  • Black Summer Truffle retails at $1000 CAD/kg

The aromatic level and the season duration explain the price difference. The summer truffle is the least expensive since it’s the least aromatic and it has the longer season period. It stretches from mid May to September.

How Much Truffles Do You Need for 4 Portions?

shaving fresh truffles at macchi

The most common way to serve fresh truffle is to shave it on your dishes, like a plate of pasta or pan-fried eggs!

The more aromatic is the truffle, the less you need to put in a dish. The rule of thumbs is to cut by half the quantity if you use the pricer winter white truffle compared to the least expensive option. From my experience, a generous serving for 4 people would be:

  • 20g of Winter White Truffle,
  • 30g of Winter Black truffle and
  • 40g of Black Summer Truffles.

Preserved Truffles and Truffle Oils

But you don’t need a deep wallet to enjoy the taste of truffles. Macchi carries a variety of preserved truffles and truffle oils under our own private label Il Tartufo d’Oro.

truffle carpaccio paste and oils :: products by macchi

  • Truffle Carpaccio is made from summer truffles, covered with sunflower oil in a jar. It’s great on a pizza or to elevate an egg sandwich. Serve no more than a slice per person. $50 CAD for a 120g jar
  • Truffle Paste is minced black summer truffle mixed with mushrooms, olives, and olive oil. The paste can add flavor to a white pasta sauce. You can spread a teaspoon over your BBQ steak, or make canapés for a chic cocktail party! $20$ CAD for a 180g jar
  • Truffle Oil Black or White has no real truffles in it! It is simply an extra virgin olive oil infused with truffle essence. I use it at least 3 times per week in my cooking. The white one is slightly sweeter in flavor and the black tastes earthier. I put a dash into my Bolognese sauce, drizzle some over a fried egg or a steamed artichoke. $25-$30 CAD for a 250 ml bottle.

As you can see there are a lot of options for enjoying truffle and adding it to the ingredients you use in your cooking.

Thank you, Hivron, for letting us discovered the wonderful world of truffles. Hivron writes a blog where you can learn more tips and recipes about the fine gourmet ingredients imported by Macchi. Here is everything she wrote about truffles.

SOURCING:
+ photos: Macchi Inc.

HOME + GARDEN KITCHEN design

How to Make the Open Kitchen an Enjoyable Inviting Space

open kitchen design

open kitchen design

I asked my friend Line Atallah if she would like to write a guest post about open kitchen living. Line lived with her husband and their two young boys. She recently made the switch to open kitchen and I wanted her to tell us how she made it works for her family. I am glad that she accepted my invitation.

A few month ago, I moved into a new house. Cooking being my biggest hobby, I was all excited about redesigning the kitchen.I was faced with the biggest dilemma, to go for an open kitchen or not.

After many weeks of thinking it over, I made up my mind. I was going for an open concept, no hesitation.
It has now been 3 months I am living the open kitchen concept, and I am loving it.

I love to cook. As a matter of fact, I cook almost everyday and it is my way of relaxing after a long day of work. The open kitchen concept allows me to be with my family, watching the kids while they’re doing their homework, chatting with my husband, and enjoying the view from the window in front of me. Also, it allows me to be with my guests when entertaining at home. I can join in the conversation, while doing what I have to do.

The kitchen was always the hub of our previous houses. By opening it up, it made it a more beautiful and inviting space to gather.

Here are a few tips I share with you today in order to make the open kitchen an enjoyable inviting space, avoiding the disadvantages.

1. Keep the same floor material as the rest of your house. This way the kitchen feel less like a kitchen, and more like an extension of the house.

2. If you’re thinking of building an island, try not to put the sink or cooktop on it. It gives you a nice big working space to plate your dishes, which is the most enjoyable, and cleanest thing to watch when entertaining.

3. Keep some walls or half walls bare, with no cabinets. It makes the kitchen feel breathy and less crowded

4. Opt for a counter-space wide fridge, the look is cleaner and slick, which makes the overall look less of a kitchen feel.

5. If you’re going for stainless steel appliances, and have kids, opt for the kind that doesn’t smudge. I picked the Fisher & Paykel fridge and oven, and it stays clean.

6. Pick a powerful hut that will eliminate smells fast and be sure to ask about the noise level. You don’t want to give your guests a headache! Even though many beautiful designs are out there, I personally picked a built-in hut as I wanted to have a minimalist look and as little clutter as possible.

7. Lighting is very important. Be sure to ask your contractor for dimmers, if you want to host an intimate seated dinner, the last thing you want is the focus on the kitchen mess. By adding dimmers, when you’re ready to sit at the table, you can dim the lights and even add some candles on your island to create a cozy mood.

8. When planning your kitchen’s cabinets, think of a place for your everyday appliances. The less appliances on your counter, the less mess and the easier it is to wipe the counters clean.

9. Pick the biggest and deepest size sink you can afford in the space you have available. I also recommend a sink with no separations. You will love hiding the dirty dishes in it when entertaining. It will keep your kitchen look spotless.

10. Last but not least shop for fun gadgets, like a nice soap dispenser, rag hook inside the lower sink cabinet, sponge holder inside the sink, etc…

I used IKEA to create a modern minimalist design for my cabinets by keeping my costs really low.

FAMILY LIVING with kids

5 Simple Ways to Get Kids Involved in the Kitchen

kids who give a hand in the kitchen

kids who give a hand in the kitchen

I am glad to introduce Aimée Wimbush-Bourque, a mother to two little chefs-in-training and editor at Simple Bites, a website dedicated to bringing whole food to real families, simply. When she is not planning her next menu, or eating her way around Montreal, Aimée can be usually found out enjoying nature and occasionally hugging a tree. She accepted to share tried and tested ways to get your kids involved in the kitchen.

Parents of young children will agree that kids like to be right where the action is when they’re trying to make dinner. That’s right, directly underfoot.

Why not invite them to pull up a chair and lend a hand the next time you trip over them? Yes, it requires the patience of a Saint, but the benefits far outweigh the challenges. Just think: during this worthwhile bonding time, your children can practice basic math skills, learn basic cooking techniques as well as valuable lessons in nutrition – all while fostering creativity.

kids learning how to cook

Here are five simple ways to get started; remember, patience is invaluable, as is plenty of praise for the little cooks.

  1. Invite All Hands on Deck. Get ready to get dirty and set your mind at ease by expecting a mess! Choose tasks that are safe for little hands and that will sharpen fine-motor coordination.
  2. Be a role model. Approach cooking with enthusiasm, and not as a chore, as your child will emulate your perspectives. Those picky eaters need you to set the example, so keep food likes and dislikes in check.
  3. Educate & Create. Learning doesn’t have to happen just in the classroom. In our kitchen we “Talk & Taste”: children are sponges for information, so we ‘Talk’ and learn about everything we do. As for ‘Taste’, well, that just happens on it’s own!
  4. Involve Your Child in Decision Making. This will help him to feel you are taking his tastes into consideration. Something as simple as choosing the add-in for these best muffins ever will give him some ownership and instill a sense of accomplishment.
  5. Teach in the Field. Visit local farms and teach kids where food comes from. This will help them make the connection between ingredients we buy and food we serve. In doing so you will encourage them to embrace foodreal food.

Attention, c’est chaud! Along the way, remember to teach your children the importance of kitchen safety and be sure to set boundaries early.

As parents, we have a responsibility to make eating about more than just putting food in our mouths.  Take the time to make the gathering and preparing of food, as well as the crucial sitting down together around the dinner table, central to eating.

Thank you, Aimee for your sound advice. I would add that cooking also teach kids about the need to clean after themselves. Any professional cook or chef will tell you that the first rule is to clean up spills the moment they happen and to clean up after each dish.

FAMILY KIDS party

Alternative Ideas to Requesting No Gifts and a Giveaway

no gifts please at kids parties

no gifts please at kids parties

I am glad to introduce the first guest blogger who gave me an hand during my trip in Japan.  The first one is Lisa Kothari of Dear Peppers and Pollywogs. Lisa is an author who runs a kids party planning business since 2005. Lisa provides practical solutions and good planning advices to parents.

Today, more and more parents are opting to request No Gifts on their kids’ party invitations.  It often doesn’t work out very well, as some people adhere to the guideline while others ignore it altogether and bring a gift.  The fact is people want to bring something to a child’s party, as a result, to get around embracing the concept of traditional gifts or no gifts at all; there are creative ideas that offer an in-between the two options:

  • Host a book exchange and organize it in a few different ways:
    • Guests bring a wrapped gift and everyone takes one home.
    • Some open the books on the spot; others wait until the kids have gone home.
  • Give your child an experience rather than a party. If you allow friends to be invited, let the experience be the celebration, not the stuff.
  • Hold an inexpensive gift exchange (under $10) so that every child receives a gift.
  • Request art supplies and donate them to a shelter.
  • Hobbit Practice – Better to Give than to Receive! Each child receives a gift, although they do not bring one.
  • Request a donation to a great organization like http://www.heifer.org/.
  • Contact a charity that is a favorite and ask for a Wish List, i.e. a list of stuff the organization really needs. As an example, the humane society may need leashes, collars, toys, etc. Request guests bring these items in lieu of birthday gifts to donate and make the wishes come true!

Whatever donations are brought to the party for a favorite charity, have the birthday child deliver the donations to his chosen charity.

This is a great round-up of ideas that are alternatives to traditional party gifts.  Also, keep in mind if you are concerned about the amount people will spend on a party gift for your child, it is appropriate to write in your invitation, Gifts under $__ would be appreciated.  Putting a price limit guideline on the invitation can help to keep gift-giving budget friendly.

Happy Gifting ─ or not!

Giveaway

dear peppers and pollywogs book written by lisa kothari

Lisa Kothari is giving away a copy of her book, Dear Peppers and Pollywogs…: What Parents Want to Know About Planning Their Kids’ Parties in which she answered non obvious questions that many parents will face. She sent me a copy two years ago and I found that it is an excellent resources for parents.

To enter this giveaway, simply share what is the best kids party theme you ever saw? Write your answer by commenting on this post. The winner will be determined by a random draw of all the answers received before noon ET on Wednesday, April 21st, 2010.

Update: The winner of the giveaway is #8 Kim – The TomKat Studio. Read more about the random draw.

ENTERTAINING HOLIDAY entertaining

Mother’s Day Breakfast Menu by Guest Blogger Jennifer Mitchell

mother's day breakfast in bed :: cards on etsy :: french toasts

My favorite Mother’s Day memory is the year my brother, sister and I (all in elementary school) pooled our money together and bought as much chocolate fudge as we could afford from our mother’s coveted chocolate emporium. As Mom is a chocoholic, she was thrilled. And so were we, since, for some reason, we bought way too much chocolate for just one person.

The memory inspired me to create a Mother’s Day menu designed with children in mind. Adult supervision is required, but the kids can do most of the work.

Breakfast in Bed for Mom

Breakfast is the easiest meal to prepare. And after all the tedious work that Moms do, they deserve a day to sleep in and enjoy a day off. Start the day off right with the most important meal of the day. And if there’s chocolate involved, prepared by loving hands, it’s sure to be an extra good day.

Breakfast Menu

  • French Toast au Chocolat
  • Sage seasoned sausage patties
  • Fresh strawberries
  • Coffee or tea
  • Freshly squeezed orange juice

Recipes by Jennifer Mitchell

French Toast au Chocolat Recipe
This is easy for children to help prepare, as it bakes in the oven instead of cooking on the stove.

  • 1 baguette – a day old
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/4  cup sugar
  • 1  teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4  teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • Chocolate sauce
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Lightly butter a 9 x 13-inch baking pan, slice the baguette into 1-inch slices, and place the slices into the pan.
  3. In a bowl beat the eggs, then whisk in the milk, sugar, vanilla and salt. Pour over the bread, and let it soak for 15 minutes.
  4. Bake the French toast for 30 to 40 minutes, until the egg mixture is set. Remove from the oven.
  5. Place the French toast on plates, dust with confectioner’s sugar. Finish by drizzling the chocolate syrup over the top.

Sage Sausage Patties Recipe
You can always buy the ready-made variety. But if you’re in the mood for a special treat, why not make your own?

  • 1 pound ground fresh pork, chilled
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh sage
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  1. In a bowl combine the ingredients, except for the oil, in a bowl and chill for an hour.
  2. Divide the mixture into 8 balls and flatten into patties.
  3. In a skillet heat the oil over moderate heat until it is hot but not smoking. Fry the patties for 3 minutes on each side and drain them on paper towels.

Presentation
Moms love a nice place setting. Start with a breakfast tray lined with a personalized placemat. This can be made from any kind of paper you have around the house. Have the kids make a special drawing or decorate it with stickers, glitter or whatever art supplies you have in the house.

A flower, cut from the garden, adds a nice touch. For extra fun, garnish Mom’s plate with photo cutouts of the kids taped or glued onto toothpicks.

>>> Sourcing:
Buy online: Mother’s Day Card by scarycarriecreates [etsy.com] – price: $3.75 USD
Buy online: Cooking Owl – Limited Edition Print by barkingbirdart [etsy.com] – price: $9 USD
Buy online: Joy Bed in a Bag [Target] – price: $71.99 – $109.99 USD
Photo credit: French Toasts covered with oatmeal, picture by Kim Vallee – rights reserved
Guest Blogger: Jennifer Mitchell [Design Hole]

ENTERTAINING PARTY ideas + decor

Amusing Painting Party by Guest Blogger Jennifer Mitchell

tag team paintng partyPerhaps you remember a TV show that’s become a bit of a cult classic. The Joy of Oil Painting was a How-To show hosted by hippy-dippy artist, Bob Ross.

On each half-hour episode he’d complete an oil painting – usually a landscape with lots of “happy trees”. He made it looks so easy! Suddenly I had a great idea for a party.

Tag Team Painting with Bob

Why not host a painting party? Fine art is so refined, right? Not in this case, because in order for this party to be truly fun, alcohol is a must. Best of all, no artistic talent is needed. I call this party Tag Team Painting With Bob (Drinks on the Side).

Basically, your guests are divided into groups of two or more. The show begins and painter number one paints along with Bob. After five minutes, the next person takes over while the first imbibes. And around they go until the show is over.

The team with the best painting is declared Master Pieces and wins a prize. Caution: your guests will want to paint another one, so have supplies ready.

Party Preparations

First, rent or buy a copy of The Joy of Oil Painting. All the TV seasons are available in DVD on Bob Ross’ Web site. Skim through the episodes until you find one or two you like. Then, make a list of the paint colors and brushes ‘ole Bob uses.

You don’t need to spend lots of money and you don’t have to use oil paints. Acrylic paints in large bottles and cheap brushes are perfect. The same thing goes for canvases. They can be expensive, so substitute with large sheets of watercolor paper or poster board. Michaels is a good place to shop. And they often have coupons. A good prize is a frame for the big winner.

You need easels. I borrowed mine from a private school via a friend. You can buy tabletop easels made of foam core. Or, have your guests pull double duty as both artist and easel.

Party Time

Be sure to serve the Pisco Sours, or your favorite adult beverages, as your guests arrive. The dip and other nibbles can be set out, too. I recommend serving the dinner in between painting sets. Don’t skip on the prizes! A frame for the winner is nice – you know they’ll want to hang it over their mantle. Or, have a trophy made up. They’re very inexpensive and lots of fun.
Peace, love and painting, dude!

Menu

Feel free to go wild with this menu. The idea is munchy food to go along with our mellow, hippy artist scene. Groovy.

Recipes by Jennifer Mitchell

Pisco Sours Recipe

  • 3 parts Pisco (a Chilean brandy that packs a punch)
  • 1 1/2 parts lemon juice
  • 1 -2 tablespoons fine sugar

Cheese and Bean Dip Recipe

  • One 8-ounce package cream cheese, sliced in thin slices
  • One can Hormel Chili – no beans
  • One package of shredded cheddar cheese
  • One bunch of green onions – chopped (just the green part)
  • Two bags of tortilla chips

Layer the ingredients in a baking dish in the order given – excluding the chips. Bake in a medium oven for about a half hour. Or, nuke in the microwave for about 5 minutes until melted. Serve with chips.

Sliders Recipe

Makes 12 mini hamburgers a la White Castle

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1/2 chopped onion
  • 1 package cheddar cheese slices
  • One package Parker House rolls, or other type of dinner roll.

Mix the hamburger with salt and pepper. Make 12 little meatballs and flatten to form patties. Sauté the onions and set them aside. Cook up the burgers and add cheese, if desired. Place burgers on rolls, along with the onion.

>>> Sourcing:
Buy in stores: The Bob Ross Travel Easel at Micheals
Find: Store Locator of Micheals
Recipe: Classic Fish And Chips by Man-Made Food on FoodTV.ca
Recipe: Kellogg Original Rice Krispies Treats
Photo credits: Omer de Serres – art supplies pictures except the easel
Photo credit: Pisco Sour en casa by Capienzzo on Flickr – Some rights reserved
Photo credit: Cupcakes photographed by Quentin Bacon – Rights reserved picture
Guest Blogger: Jennifer Mitchell [Design Hole]

ENTERTAINING EVERYDAY entertaining FOOD + DRINK PARTY ideas + decor RECIPES + menus

Book Club Party by Guest Blogger Jennifer Mitchell

to kill a mockingbird book club party :: the gift of southern cooking

I am thrilled to have my first guest blogger, Jennifer Mitchell of Design Hole.

I’m so happy to be guest blogging for Kim. I write about interior design and this gives me a chance to write about my second love – throwing dinner parties for friends. Did I mention that I love to cook? I do.

My favorite dinner party is the one I throw every January, when it’s my turn to play hostess for my book club. In our book club, the hostess chooses the book. And, while we all always enjoy the associated discussion, for us the evening is really all about the food.

I like to plan the menu around the location or theme of the book. Sometimes it presents a bit of a challenge, but it also makes it more fun. Here is one of my favorite book club ideas.

To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Most people read this book in high school. But it’s amazing how much more you take away from it as an adult. This Southern Gothic novel was drawn largely from Lee’s childhood memories. Her life-long friend, Truman Capote, makes an appearance as Dill.  I also recommend Mockingbird, an excellent biography of Lee written by Charles Shields.

A southern novel calls for southern food. My favorite cookbook for authentic recipes is The Gift of Southern Cooking, by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock. This is the real deal, with an excellent Lane cake recipe. I have my own recipe for fried chicken (which I have my southern born grandmother to thank for). The cake is a particularly good choice because it’s mentioned in the book as a secret recipe, and can be made several days in advance.

Menu

  • Toast cups with shrimp salad
  • Fried chicken
  • Steamed asparagus
  • Biscuits
  • Lane cake

Jennifer Mitchell’s Fried Chicken

Throw your diet out the door – at least for one night. This recipe takes time, but don’t skip steps. Trust me, it’s worth it. Thanks go to my grandmother, who grew up in Bessemer, Alabama.

Ingredients:

  • One 3-pound (1 1/2 Kilo) chicken, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1 quart/ liter buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 pounds (3/4 kilo) lard
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper

Step by step instructions

  1. Brine the chicken (this tenderizes the meat and is essential) by soaking the pieces in a large bowl of water (about 2 quarts or liters) mixed with kosher salt for eight hours, or overnight. Drain and rinse out the bow. Return the chicken to the bowl and cover it with the buttermilk for another eight hours. Drain the chicken.
  2. To prepare for frying, mix the flour with the salt and pepper in a bowl.  Heat the lard in a skillet (I use a well-seasoned cast iron one) to a temperature of 350 F (175 C). The temperature is really important.
  3. Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture and fry it for about 10 minutes on each side. Start with the skin side down, fry in batches – skimming the browned bit in between.
  4. Drain in a single layer on crumpled paper towels, or wire racks. Do not layer until you’re ready to serve, or the chicken will steam itself and lose its crispness.
  5. Keep it warm in a low oven, until ready to serve. It’s good at room temperature, too.

>>> Sourcing:
Buy online: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee at Amazon – price: $11.16 USD
Buy online: Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee by Charles J. Shields at Amazon- price: $10.50 USD
Buy online: The Gift of Southern Cooking: Recipes and Revelations from Two Great American Cooks by Edna Lewis at Amazon – price: $19.77 USD
Guest Blogger: Jennifer Mitchell [Design Hole]