Chocolate Sunday – Chocolate Show in Toronto/Chocolate Fun in Niagara!

Toronto’s fourth annual Luxury Chocolate Show is coming up November 2, and I probably won’t get there. Sigh! I enjoyed it so much last year. It’s the final event of a larger chocolate festival, which includes chocolate high tea at the King Edward Hotel.

There are also coupons available if you click on “Chocolicious” (under events) on the chocolate festival page. One of the coupons in particular caught my eye – the one for Criveller, in Niagara Falls, Ontario – because it ties into what I wanted to write about in this post.

Last Sunday, my husband and I rented bikes in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and planned to cycle the wine route.

We added an extra stop to our route when we learned that there’s a chocolate factory in St. David’s, about a 12-km ride from where we started. It opened in 2005. How did I not know this before?

Much to my chagrin, my husband – who was leading the way – overshot the chocolate factory. Pretty much everyone I know cycles faster than I do.

chocolate f:x factory

If you don’t want to go right past Chocolate F/X like we did, this is what it looks like.

I caught up with him near the entrance to Ravine Winery, and we decided to check it out before heading back to Chocolate F/X.

We had a light lunch (soup and a sour cream/chive muffin), and after tasting a couple of wines, headed to Ravine’s “grocery” store to try an oversized, over icing-sugared doughnut.

chocolate mousse doughnut ravine winery

Ravine Winery’s chocolate mousse-filled doughnut – decadent!

I wasn’t particularly tempted by it until I found out that it was stuffed with… wait for it… chocolate mousse. Whoa! It wasn’t just a doughnut; it was an experience! Messy, fun to eat, and more than enough for two people. We got lucky with the chocolate mousse, because they rotate fillings.

While we were waiting in line, we spoke to a local woman, who recommended Criveller. We’ll have to check it out next time we’re in Niagara Falls.

At Chocolate F/X, we took a 20-minute tour. More fun, and a variety of samples. We bought some milk chocolate maple walnuts and two dark chocolate peanut butter cups. We were advised to hold the peanut butter cups upside-down to eat, because the chocolate top is thicker than the bottom. Delicious!







Farmer’s Market!

farmers' market cherriesI didn’t expect to feel the urge to post over the summer, now that I’ve taken a self-imposed hiatus from blogging. But I changed my mind when I checked out a new farmer’s market after hearing about it two weeks ago.

Time to blog about it now, before the summer’s over!

The Farm & Artisan Market at Avenue Road & Roe Avenue in Toronto supports the Alzheimer Society. It runs until the end of October, every Thursday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

I liked it right away. It’s small, non-intimidating, and easy to navigate. The vendors I spoke to were friendly, and I felt no pressure to buy when asking questions about the produce (organic and low-spray), and sampling soup, biscotti, and squares of sourdough bread studded with black olive pieces.

Among my purchases were a container of cremini mushrooms, an onion to saute with them, and fragrant artisanal soaps made with honey and other natural ingredients.

Some of the vendors are on site weekly; some every other week.

I felt as if I was on a treasure hunt, searching out whatever appealed to me. Lots of fun!

Fruity Fennel Salad

A couple of things happened this week that upped my motivation to include more fresh fruits and vegetables in my diet.

On Sunday, I spent most of the day at Toronto’s Luxury Chocolate Show (see related blog post here), sampling delicacies that should be consumed only in moderation. Among them was a hand crafted artisan chocolate bonbon with fennel seed filling from Succulent Chocolates and Sweets, an award-winning chocolatier. A few days later, I had a naturopath appointment, which keeps me on track when it comes to following a healthy lifestyle.

So, when I saw fennel at the grocery store a few days ago, it had instant appeal. I’m still kind of new to fennel – I never bought it until recently, even though I’d had my eye on the Orange and Fennel Salad in Anne Lindsay’s Lighthearted Everyday Cooking for years. It’s a great recipe, and I’ve made it several times.

But this week, I decided to play with the recipe, adding more fruit – blackberries and wintry pomegranate seeds – and eliminating the green onions from Lindsay’s recipe. I also made a simpler vinaigrette.

Fennel is not a vegetable I ate growing up, and it was helpful to me to watch this video on YouTube to learn how to cut it. I love fennel’s crispness and fresh licorice taste. A fennel salad is a treat for me! You can read about its anti-oxidant and other health benefits on holistic health guru Dr. Andrew Weil’s website.

Fruity Fennel Salad (inspired by Anne Lindsay’s Orange and Fennel Salad, as well as by the Fennel, Blackberries & Orange Salad on the Hungry Goddess blog)

1 bulb fennel, chopped

1 seedless orange

1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

1/4 cup dried cherries

1/2 container of blackberries

2 tbsp. pumpkin seeds

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. lemon juice

drizzle of honey

pinch of sea salt

1. Cut thick slices of fennel, then cut longer slices into chunks.

2. Use serrated knife to slice top and bottom off orange, and to remove skin from the orange. Remove sections from membrane with a knife, and cut each section in two or three pieces. (Or just slice, if you prefer.)

3. Use paper towel to pat orange pieces dry before adding to fennel, or just drain, and reserve juice for dressing instead of lemon juice.

4. Add pomegranate seeds, dried cherries, pumpkin seeds, and blackberries.

5. Whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, sea salt and honey.

6. Add to salad and mix gently, to avoid crushing the blackberries.



Blogging, four weeks in

For the past four weeks, posting my blog has been my priority on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday mornings.

Now, almost seven weeks since I stopped working, the blog has become central to my post-work life. In my first entry, I wrote that I was starting the blog as a way to keep writing, bring structure to my day, and figure out – or evolve into – what’s next in my life.

I think it’s done that, and more. Continuing to write on a regular basis is important to me. I didn’t set out to write every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, but that’s how it worked out the first week. The schedule suits me, and knowing that I’m not posting at whim reassures me that I won’t let too much time go by without writing.

The type of writing I’m doing for my blog also helps clarify my thoughts – an important part of figuring out what’s next in my life.

Another bonus – because Friday is “food” day on the blog – is that I’m more focused on cooking than I might be otherwise. It’s fun, and we’re eating well at my house.

Lastly, the blog has helped me feel connected to friends, family and others who read what I write and provide feedback.

I’m thinking of adding a fourth day.


Freshly minted

I think my new favourite recipe this summer is canteloupe soup, a refreshing start to a meal on a hot, humid day.

ImageLast week, my neighbourhood grocery store was out of mint, which I had planned to use as a garnish for the soup. By coincidence, I stopped at a nearby flower store, and spotted a few small spearmint plants for sale. Now that I’ve bought one, I’m looking for more ways to use it.

Yesterday, I tossed a generous helping of mint leaves into my food processor along with chunks of ripe canteloupe, a dollop of honey, the juice of half a lime, and – my “secret” ingredient – a pinch of lime-infused sea salt. I didn’t measure the canteloupe, but I processed four batches, enough for eight cups of soup.

I’ve seen similar recipes online – a couple call for adding orange juice – but I think the one I made last night is the best so far.

That’s how we’re starting dinner tonight – after the sparkling grape juice and challah.