I come from a family where food plays a very important role in our lives -- I have many fond memories of sitting around the family table, enjoying good food and conversation.
Although my mother did not share my passion for entertaining, she certainly encouraged me to pursue a career in the food and hospitality industry.
I completed my undergraduate degree in hotel and food administration from the University of Guelph before attending chef's school a few years later at George Brown College in Toronto.
When still in primary school, I distinctly remember telling my mom, "When I'm a grown-up, I'm going to have a dinner party every night of the week!"
Well, I'm an adult now, and although I don't have the time to entertain as often as I'd like to, owning a specialty food store and catering business allows me to at least feel like I'm hosting fabulous parties every night.
Food is a way to connect -- to not only show love and to comfort but to bring people together -- whether it be a special dinner for two, a family supper for six or a blow-out bash for 50.
My goal in writing this column is not only to share fabulous recipes with you, but to inspire you to slow down and enjoy the simple pleasures that cooking for yourself and others (not to mention eating) can bring.
Because of my passion for entertaining, there will be an emphasis on party planning, presentation ideas and unique recipes to help you entertain with style, ease and confidence.
However, as a "foodie," I also plan on sharing the newest trends and ideas that I pick up at catering conferences, tips and techniques to make your life easier, as well as other interesting tidbits that relate to food.
To understand me a bit better, let me introduce my family.
My mother is a fabulous cook and baker and I'm so grateful to her for teaching me not only how to cook, but the importance of healthy, balanced meals and how to enjoy everything in moderation.
While I was growing up, my dad was the resident breakfast cook -- on Saturdays he would make a traditional "English" breakfast.
Sundays were even more delicious -- blueberry and banana pancakes served with bacon or sausage.
Dad doesn't prepare many breakfasts for the entire family anymore, but he can always be counted on to pair a fabulous wine with whatever we are eating (at dinner, not breakfast).
My brother loves food too. As a student away at university, when not attending class, much of his time was spent cooking. He made lasagna from scratch -- no pasta machine either -- he rolled the pasta by hand.
His roommate, a smoker, dubbed his marinated steaks "two smoke steaks" because they were so good that he had to have two cigarettes afterwards.
He still loves to be in the kitchen, is quite knowledgeable about wine and could easily cook for a living -- my sister-in-law is one lucky gal.
Although my husband, David, does not enjoy cooking, he does love to eat (and eat and eat -- he's Italian) and is by far my most critical recipe tester.
Lastly, the newest addition to our family -- our son John, who was born this past May. I am already counting down the days until his six-month "birthday" when he can eat solid food.
The first recipe that I'd like to share with you is my Aunt Julie's double chocolate brownie recipe, which evokes strong memories of my childhood.
When I was 10 years old, this recipe was my first "real" attempt at baking something from scratch. To make a long story "shortt," after the brownies came out of the oven, I placed the hot pan onto our kitchen table, which was made of glass.
I didn't realize that the hot pan would crack the glass, and would thus ruin the table.
I was very worried that I would be in a lot of trouble, but my mom didn't get too upset because she knew that it was an accident.
Now that I'm older, I really appreciate that I wasn't scolded for this mistake because if I had been, I may have stopped experimenting in the kitchen out of fear (and then perhaps never started a business built around my love of food).
Thanks mom, and thank you for teaching me that you can enjoy everything in moderation -- even brownies.
Decadent Double Chocolate Brownies
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup butter, unsalted
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 cups chocolate chips, divided
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 eggs
- In a small bowl, using a whisk, combine the flour, baking soda and salt.
- Set aside.
- In a small saucepan, combine the butter, sugar and water.
- Bring just to a boil. Remove from heat.
- Add one cup of chocolate chips and the vanilla.
- Let sit for a minute or two to help melt the chips.
- Stir until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth.
- Transfer chocolate mixture to a bowl and add the eggs, one at a time. Gently fold in the flour mixture.
- Add in the remaining one cup of chocolate chips.
- Bake in an eight-inch square tin pin at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 30-35 minutes.
When combining dry ingredients in recipes, use a whisk to stir instead of using a wooden spoon.
Whisking allows for a more even distribution of the dry ingredients.
Cut brownies into small squares or circles and insert lollipop sticks into one end of each piece.
Allow your guests to dip their brownie "lollipops" into melted caramel sauce, chocolate sauce or whipped cream.