Maple-Blueberry Chicken Stuffed with Canadian Brie and Basil Crème

Who doesn’t love serving up restaurant-quality dishes to their friends and fam for dinner? There’s nothing quite like the sparkle in their eyes when you place a plate of deliciousness in front of them, especially when it’s a flavor combo they’ve never tasted. But who has the time to dream up the recipes and spend countless hours preparing meals, right? Not me! So I was thrilled when the Dairy Farmers of Canada sent over an easy recipe (30 min prep, 25 min cooking time) that is bound to impress the socks off my loved ones. They had me at maple and brie…

What I love about this recipe: it doesn’t require too many ingredients (and most of them are things you probably already have in your kitchen), it doesn’t involve any advanced kitchen techniques (other than deboning the chicken breasts) and it’s healthy! Oh, and it smells soooo good: the aroma of fresh basil, lemon zest and the blueberry sauce permeated throughout my condo as I prepared our feast.

The best part? The flavour profile of this dish: the combination of fresh berries, basil and Real Cream is pure magic and elevates the much-loved chicken breast to a whole new level. A big thanks to chef Devan Rajkumar (the executive chef at Bosch, Thermador and Gaggenau) for rethinking the classic berries and cream combo and coming up with such a tasty recipe! Ok, now what you’ve all be waiting for: the recipe!

Maple-Blueberry Chicken Stuffed with Canadian Brie and Basil Crème

Ingredients

  • 4 bone-in skin on chicken breasts, (about 2 lbs/ 1 kg)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) diced chilled Canadian Brie cheese
  • 12 large basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) vegetable oil

Maple-Blueberry Sauce:

  • 2 tsp (10 mL) butter
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) chopped shallot
  • 1 cup (250 mL) blueberries
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tbsp (45 mL) maple syrup

Basil Crème:

  •  1/2 cup (125 mL) 35% cream
  •  8 basil leaves
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) each salt and white pepper
Preparation
  1. Using a sharp knife, debone chicken, leaving skin attached. Holding knife horizontally, insert into thick end of each chicken breast and cut to make a deep pocket (careful not to pierce through; remove and reserve fillet for another use).
  2. In small bowl, combine Brie and basil; carefully stuff into each chicken pocket. Cover and refrigerate.
  3. Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Maple-Blueberry Glaze: In a small saucepan, on medium heat melt butter. Add shallot and sauté until translucent, about 1 minute. Add vinegar and maple syrup and bring to a boil; add blueberries and cook until berries soften about 4 minutes. Set aside.
  4. In a large oven-proof skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Place chicken skin side down and cook until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes; turn over and place in preheated oven. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until juices run clear and a thermometer registers 165° F (74°C).
  5. Basil Crème: Meanwhile, in a small saucepan bring cream to a simmer on medium heat, stir in basil leaves and remove from heat. Puree with an immersion blender or in a blender. Stir in lemon zest, salt and pepper.
  6. To serve, spoon 2 tbsp (30 mL) of the basil crème sauce in the center of each plate; top with chicken breast and spoon maple-blueberry sauce over the chicken.

Hope you like this dish as much as we did! For more delicious recipes from chefs across Canada, head over to www.AnyDayMagic.ca. Happy cooking and feasting!

Special thanks to the folks at Dairy Farmers of Canada for sending over the ingredients and recipe for me to try out. As always, all reviews and opinions are entirely my own.

Shakespeare in High Park

Photo credit: Sik Photography.

Nestled in the heart of Toronto’s largest public park, you’ll find a magical place. A place where friends and families gather to feast on picnics and take in the fresh, summer air as they watch a group of talented actors bring Shakespeare’s plays to life. For some, Canadian Stage’s Shakespeare in High Park, is an annual tradition. For me, it was a first-time experience…

Photo credit: Sik Photography.

With a mini-picnic in hand, my friends and I headed to the opening night of Titus Andronicus. Having never been to a performance at the park, we were a bit worried that we’d get lost, but there were plenty of volunteers and signs to guide us along the way (side note: I love the signs). 

Photo credit: Sik Photography.

Photo credit: Sik Photography.

When we arrived around 7:30 pm, the amphitheatre was filled with families, couples and groups of friends. Some were seated on the tiered hill while others relaxed on their blankets in front of the stage. Fortunately, we were given cushions; I’m no longer a spring chicken and definitely benefitted from the padding under my tush!

Photo credit: Sik Photography.

The 90 min performance was action-packed and engaging; Beau Dixon (who portrays the villainous Aaron) even encouraged the audience to participate...

Photo credit: David Hou.

I thought the director, Keira Loughran, did a great job with her symbolic take on the play; however, there are some intense scenes that are not appropriate for kids. There’s cannibalism, murder, mutilation, rape – you get the idea. It is, after all, a Shakespearian tragedy

Photo credit: David Hou.

The 12-person cast put on a great performance, but in my opinion Beau Dixon and Shauna Black were the standouts. Oh yes, there are some risqué scenes as well…

Photo credit: David Hou.

But have no fear if you’ve got little ones; luckily, the pay-what-you-can summer series is a double-bill! The other play, As You Like It, is a Shakespearean comedy that is perfectly suitable for all. The performances run on alternate nights throughout the summer (from now until August 31) so just make sure you check the schedule before heading there. If you haven’t experienced Shakespeare in High Park, I highly recommend checking it out. It’s a great way to spend a summer night with friends or family!

Some tips and info before you go…

  • Pack a picnic, take a blanket or two (it gets chilly) and don’t forget your bug spray!! You’re in the middle of High Park so you’ll be surrounded by all kinds of nature – we even saw a few bats during the performance!
  • Titus Andronicus runs on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays and As You Like It runs on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
  • Entrance is free for kids 14 and under and pay-what-you-can for adults at the gate ($20 suggested minimum donation). 
  • You can also reserve your ticket online for $25 so you don’t have to show up at 6 pm to grab a spot (it’s a popular summertime activity). Oh, and this way you’re guaranteed entrance to the amphitheatre, even on a busy night. And you get a cushion! 

A New “Butcher” In Town: YamChops

Post written by: Ildiko.

Photo credit: Sik Photography.

I never thought I would hear the words vegetarian and butcher in the same sentence – until now! Growing up in an Eastern European family, our meals were all centred around meat and potatoes. Even to this day, when I go to my parents’ house for their regular feasts, they serve at least four or five meat courses (in addition to their ‘side’ dishes). So when I told my mom that I decided to become a vegetarian about a year ago, she genuinely worried that I wasn’t going to be able to eat anything. But once I showed her some meatless meat options, she became more comfortable with the idea: at least the food resembled what she was used to. So when I got invited to the YamChops opening, I was super excited to see and – more importantly – taste their vegetarian and vegan creations

Photo credit: Sik Photography.

When I walked into the College Street store, the first thing that caught my eye was the L-shaped counter where they display all of their meatless meat. It was filled with a variety of different food options, everything from beet burgers to ‘no crab’ crab cakes. YamChops also sells condiments, specialty drinks and juices and frozen foods for pretty much any diet. I had a chance to sample a few of their favourite recipes at the opening night event:

CARROT LOX BITES – Organic carrots marinated in smoky spice blend and baked to “lox’s” smooth texture. Served with cashew sour cream, capers and dill. Photo credit: Sik Photography.

RAW PAD THAI – Spiralized carrot, zucchini, beet and the house-made raw pad thai dressing. Topped with nut and seed blend. (My personal favourite!) Photo credit: Sik Photography.

TUNA-LESS TUNA SLIDERS – Free range chick peas, massaged to “tuna” like consistency, and dressed with vegan mayonnaise, dill pickle, red onion and nori. Photo credit: Sik Photography.

COCONUT BA-CON – Organic coconut flakes are marinated in slightly smoky, slightly, salty, slightly maple-y marinade and then baked off until golden and crisp. Photo credit: Sik Photography.

I’m always on the lookout for new vegetarian food options that are healthy, tasty and interesting (which is more difficult than you might think). Not only is YamChops’ food delicious, but all of their meatless meat options are filled with essential protein and vitamins great for any diet. I’m excited to try more of their vegetarian and vegan-friendly dishes; next on my list is their chick’n cutlet parmesan – yum!

Photo credit: Sik Photography.

A special thank you to YamChops for hosting me! All reviews and opinions are entirely my own.

Afternoon Tea At The Windsor Arms Hotel

Photo credit: Sik Photography.

I’ve always had a great fondness for tea. I still remember peering into our living room as a child and watching the grown-ups take part in what seemed to be a ceremonious occasion. With teacups in hand, they socialized and reminisced about the past as they slowly sipped on the warm brew. Once in a while, someone would notice me eyeing the ceramic pot and gently pour some tea into a saucer so I could partake in the festivities. I became obsessed. Not only did I love the taste, but I was particularly enchanted by the social gatherings; there was something really special about friends coming together to enjoy a pot of tea. So, as many little girls do, I began hosting my own tea parties (naturally, a select group of my stuffed animals were invited)! Flash-forward a couple of decades, and I’m still fascinated by tea culture. So when the Windsor Arms Hotel invited me to indulge in their Afternoon Tea service, I was beyond thrilled.

Photo credit: Sik Photography.

Nestled on the main floor of the Windsor Arms Hotel, The Tea Room has been serving elegant loose-leaf teas since 1927. The space is oozing with character and divided into three distinct rooms: the Purple Room, a French-style Lobby Tea Room and the Russian Red Tea Room.

French-style Lobby Tea Room. Photo credit: Sik Photography.

Photo credit: Sik Photography.

Russian Red Tea Room. Photo credit: Sik Photography.

Purple Room. Photo credit: Sik Photography.

When my photog and I arrived, we were warmly greeted by our server, Madison, who guided us into the Purple Room. The space was elegant, but not stuffy: long, wispy curtains adorned the windows, beautiful paintings lined the walls and plush, purple chairs dotted the room. We were seated by the fireplace (an original from the 20s) and given ample time to look over their extensive tea menu.

Photo credit: Sik Photography.

They have over 40 loose-leaf teas to choose from – everything from Earl Grey and White Tea to Masala Chai and Tisanes (herbal/fruity/floral teas that are naturally caffeine-free). After a long deliberation, I decided to go with the Earl Grey with Roses. It was a nice take on the classic tea; the rose petals rounded out the citrus notes of the bergamot and made for a creamy blend. My photog’s tea was quite different: with hints of vanilla, chocolate and mint, Once Upon A Tea was a rooibos blend that was soothing and mellow.

Photo credit: Sik Photography.

As we chatted over tea (Downton Abbey styles), our server brought over a tiered tray of goodies: fresh scones, tartlets, petit fours and delicate finger sandwiches (cucumber with sundried tomato paste and dill cream cheese, smoked salmon and wasabi sour cream with salmon caviar, and grilled chicken with granny smith apples, citrus mayonnaise, greek yogurt and chives)Although it didn’t look like a substantial amount of food at first glance, we quickly discovered that the petite treats were quite filling!

Photo credit: Sik Photography.

We were most impressed by the warm goat cheese and caramelized shallot tart and the scones. In fact, the blackberry and lemon scones were the best I’ve ever had! Served with devon cream and house-made preserves, they were light, fresh and buttery.

Photo credit: Sik Photography.

Whether you go for the delectable scones, wide range of loose-leaf teas or just to take in the charming ambiance, the Afternoon Tea service at the Windsor Arms Hotel is a luxurious indulgence that I highly recommend!

Some things to note…

  • Do yourself a favour and book a reservation before heading over for tea; they serve 700-1000 people a week and can get quite busy!
  • Afternoon tea is served daily at 12:30 pm, 1 pm, 3 pm and 3:30 pm. All seatings are a maximum of 2 hrs. Cost: Mon-Fri $38/person, Saturday and Sunday $45/person and holidays are $50/person.
  • They’re also the only tea room in the city that serves twilight tea daily at 5:30 pm and 6 pm. Cost: $45/person and $50/person on holidays.
  • Oh, and if you want to step up the fancy AND feel good about it, wear a fancy hat to tea and donate $5 to Look Good Feel Better (a charitable organization that supports women with cancer).

Special thanks to Windsor Arms Hotel for hosting us. As always, all reviews and opinions are entirely my own.