It is audition season!

I cannot believe it is almost July.

I find myself becoming increasingly envious of my friends and family back home in Niagara who display their perfectly-manicured gardens, the luscious blooms splayed all over my facebook feed. I think here in Calgary I saw the tulips come up in June, and it snowed in the mountains just days ago.

The seasons have become a blur to me here, in this place I have called home. I have lost track of the amount of times I have had to move recently for work, or love, or both…and I long for the comforts of what home was to me.

You know…pancakes in the morning and pastas at night for the kids. Picking fresh herbs out of my garden and laying in the sun on my deck for a few hours while sipping wine from Niagara that I had just picked up on my last drive into the country.

I have been slacking with this blog lately, which does not mean for a minute I haven’t been cooking or baking, but I have just been incredibly busy with work, projects, auditions and craziness.

This leads me to this post-food that brings the comfort of home but elevates the dish just that little bit more into something that still makes your lips smack, your heart flutter, your mind wander into fond, delightful memories of that place that you used to call home.

I am still undecided which final one I am submitting for the Wall of Chefs audition-I did a veg burger but then made pasta so maybe I will go a vegetarian pasta route. Who knows… 🙂

Below is my veg version of this dish. I made the non-veg version for a friend last night but promise this version is equally as yummy. Remove the honey to make it vegan 🙂

Cherries Clafouti – elevated and vegetarian

CHERRIES CLAFOUTI

Ingredients

2.5 C pitted cherries (you can also leave in pits for more flavour) – DIVIDED

300g silken tofu-slightly whipped

100g almond flour

1 tblsp tapioca flour

4 tblsp raw coconut sugar

2 tsp honey

1 half tsp salt

5 tblsp almond milk

1 half tsp vanilla extract

For brandied cherries:

Remaining half C pitted cherries

6 tblps raw sugar

about a quarter C Brandy

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
  2. Grease a 9×9 baking dish with coconut oil
  3. Mix together your wet ingredients, slowly adding dry. Do not overmix.
  4. Spread a thin layer (about an inch) of mix onto pan. Place in oven for about 5-7 minutes, or until firms up slightly.
  5. Open oven and sprinkle about 2 cups of cherries on top and pour remaining batter over.
  6. Bake for about 40-45 minutes, or until golden but not too browned.
  7. Remove from oven to cool slightly and while that is cooling, on the stovetop, prepare your sugar and water mix and bring to rolling boil.
  8. Add brandy and cherries, reducing heat to simmer and cook for 5 minutes max.
  9. Remove immediately and cool in the freezer for a minute or so, so it doesn’t over cook.
  10. Using a large round glass, cut out a warm disc of the clafouti and place on your plate. decorate plate with the brandied, warm cherries and garnish with fresh lavender and mint.
  11. Dust top of clafouti with powdered sugar and add a dallop of your favourite vegan whipped cream, cocowhip or a zesting of lemon.

My MasterChef Canada Audition Experience

42919097_10160920406215574_4233420139770413056_nI have been dying to share what my experience was like auditioning for MasterChef Canada, and let me tell you, it is NOT for the faint of heart.

I mean, have you ever had two famous chefs, a professional food taster and other random foodies taste something you made? And then score it? And discuss it? Well neither had I, until I decided to audition for MasterChef Canada and, luckily, got in on the first application try.

I say lucky, because I met a few people who had auditioned before, but didn’t make it through. One guy put in his application two years ago, and just finally got the call.

Yeah, that’s right.

My morning started out at 4 am, and of course, the day before my creme brulee refused to cooperate, after dozens of perfect trials.

(I actually had to run out the day before and buy more blue cheese, it was that bad).

Running out the door with my cooler of dessert items, the empanadas and some apples, along with my daughter and her friend Allanah, we set out of the early trek to Toronto in my rented SUV.

Of course, the first corner I turn is too hard-nerves combined with the fact  I knew I HAD to be there by seven a.m. to line up, and we left a half hour later than planned. I hear a loud tumble from the back, and my heart drops into my gut and profanities spew out of my mouth.

Pulling over, I anxiously open my cooler which has tumbled over to see if everything has been destroyed.

Somehow (by some miracle I still do not fully understand but am not arguing) everything is intact and my existential meltdown is thwarted.

Once we arrive in Toronto, we line up, I am handed a bracelet, and we are told to wait. Police officers are there to keep the peace and keep MasterChef’ers from clogging up the sidewalk. The mood is anxious and tense, with periods of collegial conversation in between. There are about 150 or so of us, some with family members, some with signs, and all of us protecting our coolers like it was our first-born. I hear a roar come from the crowd, and to my surprise, Michael Bonacini and Claudio Aprile make their way through the crowd and cheerily greet everyone. The excitement is instantly elevated.

Suddenly, my wrist band and number is  called, and we are ushered down the stairs at the Intercontinental and are prompted to register, take a professional casting photo, and then sit and wait in a large banquet-style room. There are about forty of us altogether, and the wait was excruciating.

About two hours pass, and Meredith, the show producer, jumps in and welcomes the group. She explains the process, and tells us there are some surprise guests. The doors open and several finalists from Season Five come in to share their stories of how the application process went, and best tips to succeed. Everyone talks about the three minute plating and shaky hands. Apparently, even the coolest of cucumbers have cracked under the plating time limit. I am told if I remember to breathe, I will do just fine. I scoff at what the big deal is, I mean, I am plating a dish, something I have done a thousand times before, no biggie.

But then as our group gets ushered in, and the countdown begins, I have Claudio Aprile standing right in front of me, watching with curiosity as  I begin plating my dish. He is watching literally every. single. move.

I start shaking. I mean, it literally took me a full minute to get control of my hands to place the garnish on my dessert. I remember Claudio whispering to me to breathe.

I gulp.

                Pictured below: the recipe that made the cut

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A scorecard is placed on our table and we wait after the “hands up!” is called.

A professional taster goes around and tries the dishes. Then the MasterChef judges themselves stop to talk to each contestant hopeful and some pause to taste my dish.

Jenn from season five comes around and asks what I made.

I ramble off “I am from Niagara, so I wanted to do a play in a fruit and cheese plate. This is a blue cheese creme brulee, ice wine infused sugared grapes with a walnut and sugar crackle soil…” and before I could finish she grabs a fork, tastes it and says “OMG this is awesome” and then calls over to another former contestant to come by and try my dish.

I felt so incredibly validated, elated, scared, anxious…all these feelings at once. Did I actually have a shot?

Another hours passes and the room grows increasingly hot. All of us wait. Some sit on their coolers and others sit on chairs or perch in front of fans while the judges leave and discuss our scores and dishes. Meredith pops back in, and announces that while all were amazing, they are only calling a select amount of people to move forward.

Approximately ten table identification numbers are called. I was B5.

Mine was one of them.

The group of us are herded back into a room where a fresh group of 40 are waiting to move forward and try out. Everyone stands and applauds for us. The high I am feeling is better than any wine buzz I have ever had. Ever.

After this, some are selected to go and have an on-camera interview. I go up to the second floor and enter a room and begin spewing my guts out. I am not sure if I made sense looking back, I remember still feeling this crazy high and was giddy and emotional the whole time.

What happens next? Well, IF I make it, it will be up to six weeks of filming, and not much I can really say after this moment.

Good luck to all my fellow MasterChef hopefuls, and hope to see you all on the other side!