An intimate evening at Blacktree

Saturday evening I went to Blacktree with my parents and JZ to celebrate my mom’s birthday.

Blacktree is the perfect setting for enjoying food with others. It’s upscale, but not pretentious and its atmosphere is moody, but fun. Maybe it’s the food, maybe it’s the wine, maybe it’s the ambiance – or maybe it’s all three – but an evening at Blacktree is always an intimate experience.

We started off the evening with Blacktree’s amazing bread and au jus butter, with some light conversation about JZ’s work.

Then our appetizers came out. I had the goat cheese panna cotta with pear, pink peppercorn, and some crispy kale. It was a nice creative twist on the classic goat cheese and pear pairing. We chatted about my mom’s pumpkin pie and JZ’s favourite dessert of cheesecake while enjoying this course. I don’t know why, but somehow my family always ends up talking about food while we’re eating food. We’re pretty strange that way.

Blacktree goat cheese panna cotta

By the time our entrees came out, my parents were telling JZ all about my childhood and the time my dad accidentally swung a saw into my nose (true story!). My dish was the game special for the night: red deer with a parsnip spring roll. Matteo’s red meat dishes never disappoint – it was cooked to perfection!

Black tree red deer

For dessert JZ and I split the soft chocolate cake with white yam ice cream while we laughed over stories my parents were telling us about their pasts. I won’t share their stories on here, but I’ll say they involved taking B52 shots, and I’ll leave it at that.

Black tree chocolate cake with yam ice cream

We left the restaurant that night feeling stuffed with food and with contentment (and possibly with a little too much wine!).

When is the last time you shared a good meal with others?

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Zucchini salad with Parmesan and basil

It’s funny how September seems to mark the beginning of fall. It’s not even officially fall, not to mention the weather is often still hot and sunny throughout this month. Yet the second September 1st hits, everyone starts going gaga for fall. Pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin baked goods, shopping for fall boots and sweaters… it’s all over social media!

Zucchini salad with Parmesan and basil

Meanwhile I’m the weirdo still wearing summer dresses and hanging onto summer produce for dear life. I love pumpkin as much as the next person, but I’ve got all fall and winter to enjoy it. For now I’m still buying late summer produce like tomatoes, eggplant, and zucchini until the crops are done!

Zucchini salad with Parmesan and basil

This zucchini salad with Parmesan and basil is a recreation of a dish I had at a restaurant in London and could not get out of my mind. It was the best zucchini dish I’ve ever had, yet it was surprisingly simple. Which is a good thing because it was easy for me to make at home, and therefore share with you!

Zucchini salad with Parmesan and basil

Zucchini salad with Parmesan and basil

Gluten free and vegetarian | Serves 3-4 as a side dish

1 medium zucchini
1.5 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt + more to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/3 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
Handful of rocket

Thinly slice the zucchini with a mandoline. Toss with olive oil and salt, then combine with the basil, Parmesan cheese, and rocket. Add more salt to taste if necessary.

This salad is best if it’s left to sit for 15 minutes before serving to let the flavours combine; however it doesn’t keep well for more than 4-5 hours because the zucchini goes soggy if left for this long!

Zucchini salad with Parmesan and basil 2

Have you jumped into fall yet, or are you still hanging onto summer?

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Heart & Stroke Foundation’s new sugar guidelines

Let me preface this post by saying it’s no secret that I love sugar and I would be the last person to advocate a completely sugar-free diet. I’m a proponent of the “sugar in moderation” approach: some maple syrup in homemade granola bars, peach crisp at a family gathering, splitting dessert with your significant other on date night are all fine and dandy!

Heart and Stroke Foundation's new sugar guidelines

But all the sugar in processed foods these days is an entirely different ball game. From kids’ breakfast cereals to fruit “beverages” to super-sized soft drinks at movie theatres to yogurt with more sugar per serving than a chocolate bar… sugar is everywhere! And this is a problem for our waistlines and our health.

Luckily Canada’s Heart and Stroke Foundation thinks so too, as they just recently released a new position statement on “Sugar, Heart Disease and Stroke”. This statement urges people, the government, and food industries alike to make some big changes, and I think it has the potential to be a giant leap forward in the battle on sugar .

Heart and Stroke Foundation's new sugar guidelines
Photo credit: heartandstroke.com

To save you the trouble of reading it (although it’s a good read if you have time), I’ve broken out the parts that are important for you to know:

1. It uses the term “free sugars” instead of “added sugars”

  • “Free sugars” = any sugars added to a food, including sugars naturally found in fruit juice
  • “Added sugars” = any sugars added to a food, not including fruit juice

I think this is an important distinction because adding fruit juice to a product is still adding sugar. I mean, should we really be saying gummy fruit snacks are a healthy choice just because they’re made with added fruit juice? No!!! So kudos to the Heart and Stroke Foundation for going with the stricter definition that includes added fruit juice as something that should be limited.

Heart and Stroke Foundation's new sugar guidelines

2. It recommends limiting free sugars to less than 10% and ideally less than 5% of total calories

This is consistent with the World Health Organization’s recommendations from earlier this year. However, both these recommendations are a huge difference from the Institute of Medicine’s dated recommendation to keep added sugars less than 25% of total calories. Let’s think about that for a minute. If you eat 2000 calories per day, that means 500 calories (or 119 g – about 30 tsp!) can come from added sugar… which is the equivalent of more than 3 cans of Coke. I think that’s a bit excessive for a healthy upper limit, don’t you?

Keeping sugar less to than 10% of calories (or 48 g – about 12 tsp) is a much better recommendation to help prevent some of the health issues associated with excess sugar, such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. But it might not be easy to stick to. You’d be surprised how quickly your sugar intake can add up to 48 g without even drinking pop or eating dessert!

For example you would be getting more than 48 g of free sugar if you ate a cup of Kashi Go Lean Crunch cereal, a serving of vanilla Greek yogurt, chicken with barbecue sauce, a tablespoon of regular peanut butter, a salad with bottled dressing, and a granola bar over the course of  a day, amongst other foods. That doesn’t sound like a crazy sugar-filled day does it? Yet it would be over your recommended free sugar intake of 10% of calories for a 2000 calorie diet.

So getting sugar intake down to this intake level is going to take more than recommendations and individual effort… it means the government and food industry is going to need to get involved too. Luckily the HSF considered this in their position statement:

3. It makes hefty recommendations to the government and food industry

  • It recommends restricting marketing of all food and drinks to children
  • It smacks down on sugary drinks by recommending a tax on sugary drinks as well as limiting their portion sizes at food service outlets to 500 mL
  • It recommends the government create targets for the food industry to reduce free sugars in its products

Heart and Stroke Foundation's new sugar guidelines Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons

So that’s the gist of Heart and Stroke Foundation’s new position statement. I wholeheartedly agree with it and I’m glad to see such an influential organization making such a big statement against sugar. I hope it will be a stepping stone towards a healthier, less sugary future!

What do you think about these recommendations? Do you agree/disagree? Do you think these recommendations will spur government and food industry action?

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5 tasty late summer vegetable recipes

5 tasty late summer vegetable recipes

Being unemployed has its disadvantages: occasional boredom, lack of money, and living at home with my parents to name a few. But it also has a few perks. Namely, having plenty of time to cook!

5 tasty late summer vegetable recipes

Recently I’ve gotten busy (in the kitchen – get your minds out of the gutter) whipping up tons of food using the best of the late summer produce. Sure you could make these recipes any time of the year, but now is the best time to do it because the produce is local, meaning it is cheaper, more flavourful, and likely higher in nutrients since it takes less time to get to your plate. Plus the late summer vegetable recipes in this post are all tried and true, so you can be assured they are delicious!

1. Pan-roasted corn risotto from Food and Wine

5 tasty late summer vegetable recipes Photo credit (for left photo): Food and Wine

I made this one day last week when we had about 10 cobs of leftover corn to use up (my parents like to really overbuy when they’re cooking for company). I found this recipe and then got a fierce craving for risotto, so I knew it had to be made. I cut down on the fat because 5 tablespoons of butter plus 2 tablespoons of olive oil is a bit excessive for everyday cooking. I found that 1.5 tablespoons of each butter and olive oil was perfectly sufficient without sacrificing any flavour!

2. Classic tomato soup from Fine Cooking

5 tasty late summer vegetable recipes Photo credit: Fine Cooking

Funny enough right before I made this soup I considered ordering take out sushi. But I tend to spend a lot of money out at restaurants, and I prefer to not spend it on takeout. So I decided on grilled cheese instead, and whipped up this easy homemade tomato soup to go with it. It calls for canned tomatoes but I used fresh and just removed their skins. It turned out great!

3. Sweet corn, zucchini, and fresh mozzarella pizza from How Sweet It Is

5 tasty late summer vegetable recipes Photo credit: How Sweet It Is

With all of my free time to cook, I’ve been playing around with making breads and pizza dough. So when my aunt invited us to a BBQ, I decided to bring this pizza to contribute as an appetizer. I used both fresh and hard mozzarella to make it extra cheesy!

4. Balsamic roasted beet, sweet orange, and chevre salad from The Flourishing Foodie

5 tasty late summer vegetable recipes Photo credit: The Flourishing Foodie

What I love about beets is that they have such a long growing season: they’re grown almost all summer long and into the fall. In the summers they’re perfect for salads like this one. Can you ever go wrong with beets paired with goat cheese? (Psst, the answer is no)

5. Open faced eggplant sandwich with olive-walnut relish from Fine Cooking

5 tasty late summer vegetable recipes Photo credit: Fine Cooking

I’m not always an eggplant lover. When it’s not cooked properly or paired with the right flavours, it can be pretty bad. But this recipe is the perfect way to serve eggplant to bring out and complement its best flavours. I used pine nuts instead of walnuts to make it nut free, but otherwise followed the recipe and it turned out fantastic.

What late summer vegetable recipes are you cooking right now?

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Veg Food Fest 2014

I’m not a vegetarian or vegan. But you don’t need to eat an entirely plant based diet to have a good time at Toronto’s Veg Food Fest (website). This is my second year going (check out last year’s recap) and I had a blast again! Connecting with passionate companies, discovering new products, and sampling delicious plant based food – who doesn’t love that?

These were some of this year’s highlights for me:

Disclaimer: I was not compensated and did not receive any benefit from my review of these companies. All opinions are my own.

nud fud

I’ve been a fan of nud fud‘s vegan, gluten free, nut free dehydrated snacks for a few years now. But at Veg Food Fest I was excited to see that she was debuting some new savoury flavours: plain, cheesy, and barbecue. She also shared some exciting news that she’s going to be expanding into the US market soon!

Veg Food Fest 2014 - nud fud

Yoga Soda

It seems like the kombucha craze is exploding lately! Yoga Soda is a new company – so new that Veg Food Fest was actually their debut as a brand. They had some unique flavours to set them apart from other brands, like apple and white rose. Also their kombucha tastes like the real deal: yeasty, tangy, and not masked by heaps of sugar!

Veg Food Fest 2014 - Yoga Soda

So Delicious

I’ve always avoided So Delicious products because they make flavours with nuts, so I assumed they would not be safe for my nut allergies. But I was wrong: the sales representative showed me that their package clearly says that the company uses “strict quality control methods… to prevent contamination”. So I happily dug my spoon into a sample of their no sugar added chocolate coconut ice cream, which was… well, so delicious!

Veg Food Fest 2014 - So Delicious

Bunner’s

Bunner’s is a vegan and gluten free bakery in Toronto that I’ve been wanting to try ever since I heard that they are nut free as well! The person who helped me said their cinnamon bun is their best seller, so I grabbed one to split with JZ later that evening. The flavours were delicious, although it was slightly dry (maybe the buns sold directly from their bakery would be softer?). I didn’t mind too much though considering this was the first cinnamon bun I’ve been able to eat in years!

Veg Food Fest 2014 - Bunner's

Beanfields

Beanfields is a new-to-me company that makes rice and bean chips. 4 g of fibre and 4 g of protein in a 1 ounce serving? Yes please! The ranch and pico de gallo flavours were amazing.

Veg Food Fest 2014 - Beanfields

Sunflower kitchen

Sunflower Kitchen is one of my favourite brands of hummus. I always intend to make my own hummus, but it probably only happens 50% of the time. The other half of the time I resort to store bought. I almost always get Sunflower Kitchen’s classic kind, but after trying out their artichoke and dill flavour, I think I have a new favourite!

Veg Food Fest 2014 - Sunflower Kitchen

This is just a small sample of all the great companies that were at Veg Food Fest. There were many others there that I have written about before, such as Giddy Yoyo, Chocosol Traders, and Truly Organic Foods. It’s a great event and one that I plan on going back to year after year!

Have you ever been to Veg Food Fest in Toronto? Do you have any big veg food fests where you live?

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Things you should consider when reading my blog

I’ve been having a bit of an identity crisis ever since I officially became a Registered Dietitian earlier this summer.

See, as a dietitian, I feel like I need to uphold a certain image on my blog. A certain image of healthy eating. I’m in no way saying that dietitians are 100% healthy eaters, but people might expect to see healthy eating inspiration on the blog of a dietitian.

But if you look at some of my recent posts and Instagram, you’ll see sticky toffee pudding, ribs, pizza, etc.

ribs-toffee-pudding-pizza

… perhaps not the best healthy eating inspiration.

But that’s not necessarily what the focus of my blog is. If you want healthy eating inspiration and nutrition advice, there are plenty of dietitian bloggers out there who can provide that for you. But my blog is about enjoying the pleasure of eating, and how healthy food can fit into it (okay, and I like to throw in some nutrition advice here and there too).

And I think when reading my blog, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

1. Chelsea’s Healthy Kitchen only shows a fraction of my food that I choose to show you. It is not necessarily representative of my average diet! I eat plenty of kale and tofu that doesn’t always get shown on here.

21Feb9

2. I am also not perfect at practicing moderation. I’ve had a sweet dessert for the past 4-5 days in a row, which is definitely not a good example of moderation. Just because I’m a dietitian, it doesn’t mean I’m an expert at practicing what I preach!

3. You may have different goals than me. My blood lipids are where they should be, I don’t struggle with any digestive issues, I aim to maintain my weight, etc. However, if you are currently seeing a health professional for any health issues, you may need to eat differently than me.

4. On that note, I also want to say that comparison is fruitless. We are different people with different genetics, body types, metabolisms, lifestyles… I could go on and on. Eating should be about making your own choices based on your own preferences, cravings, hunger, and health goals.

Kelly's Bake Shoppe donut

5. No matter what your goals or eating preferences are, I think balance is a big part of healthy living, which is what I try to show on my blog. There is no reason that pizza and dessert cannot fit into a healthy lifestyle. In fact, I think they are an essential aspect!

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Beast restaurant

Wednesday night I met up with Davida and Sam for an evening in Toronto and dinner at Beast restaurant.

I know it’s been said before by many, but I will say it again: bloggers are amazing.

We all just get it. We share the same frustrations – with technology, with social media, with blogging itself sometimes. We share the same aspirations to achieve something by blogging, whether that be helping others, spreading nutrition advice, or sharing delicious recipes. We share the same sense of community and desire to help each other (even if blogging guru Davida is usually the one helping us!). And of course we share the same infatuation with food.

So naturally after chatting over iced tea at Teavana and a glass of wine at Davida’s place, we headed out for an amazing meal at Beast restaurant.

Beast restaurant Toronto

We got there before 7 pm, so we were able to take advantage of their $5 drinks and snacks menu. $5 glasses of wine? Give me seven! Just kidding, I only had one. We also ordered 3 items from the snacks menu to try:

green onion pancake + black bean aioli
caprese salad + togarashi duck skin + ginger vinaigrette
duck lettuce wraps

Beast restaurant Toronto

The pancake was a bit tough, but that black bean aioli was heavenly. The other two items were delicious as well!

The restaurant is a small plates style restaurant, so we ordered 5 dishes from the main menu to share:

grilled broccolini, spiced buttermilk aioli, pine nut crumble
pickerel, mushroom, garlic scape, smoked onion sauce, bacon shortbread
togarashi rubbed zucchini, yuzu, sunflower seed gremolata
grilled prawns, peaches, watercress, kaffir + ginger dressing
pork hocks, kecap, kimchi

Beast restaurant Toronto

That broccolini was one of the best vegetables I’ve ever eaten – I think I could even get JZ to eat it! The shrimp dish was also fantastic, as well as the pickerel. I really loved the crispy bits of the pork hocks too, but I just cannot get over the texture of the big chunks of fat. It’s like swallowing snot! Sorry, TMI.

Dessert was a must for us three sweet-toothed bloggers, and we went for the sticky toffee pudding in a bowl of toffee sauce with crème fraîche. Hello delicious! Sam and I both admitted to each other on the drive home that we strongly considered drinking the leftover toffee sauce at the end.

Beast restaurant Toronto

Great meal, great friends, great times.

What is the last meal you enjoyed with friends?

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10 ways to keep fruits and vegetables fresh for longer

It’s no secret that I love farmers markets. But I think I might love them a little too much – I have such a hard time limiting what I buy! Sometimes I’ll come home with enough food to feed a family of 6 for two weeks (FYI, I live at home with just my mom and my dad right now… and my dad doesn’t really eat vegetables)!

And sadly fruits and vegetables don’t last forever. But thanks to my food science class in university, I have a couple tricks up my sleeve to keep fruits and vegetables fresh for longer:

10 ways to keep fruits and vegetables fresh for longer

1. Don’t store beets in a closed bag – they will go mouldy because of the trapped moisture (trust me – I just did this recently by accident!). Store them in the fridge in a bag with holes poked into it to let the moisture escape. If you want to get really intense like Alton Brown, you can store beets and other root vegetables in a bucket of clean sand in a cool place, which keeps them good for months.

10 ways to keep fruits and vegetables fresh for longer

2. Store asparagus standing up in water to keep it crisp. I’ve never tried this because I don’t like asparagus (I know, I’m a horrible RD), but I hear it works!

3. Store potatoes between 60-65°F (16-18°C) in a dark area like in your basement, which tends to be cooler than the rest of the house. Storing them in the fridge makes starch to turn to sugar, which changes their flavour and browning properties when cooked. But the fridge can prolong their shelf life, so if you decide to keep them in the fridge, simply take them out a few days before you use them and their sugars will convert back to starches.

4. Don’t keep tomatoes in the fridge – when they are stored below 50°F (10°C) a flavour compound is switched off, so they become less flavourful. And that would be a shame since local tomatoes are so delicious right now!

10 ways to keep fruits and vegetables fresh for longer

5. Only wash your berries right before use. Pre-washing them will cause them to develop mould much quicker! Also store them in as large of a container as possible so they can be spread out.

6. If your peaches, nectarines, or plums aren’t fully ripened, wait to put them in the fridge until they have ripened. Putting them in the fridge when they are unripe can give them sub par flavour  and turn their flesh brown.

7. Store pumpkin and winter squash (i.e. butternut, spaghetti, acorn, delicata, buttercup, hubbard, and kabocha) slightly below room temperature between 60-65°F (16-18°C) and avoid storing them in the humidity if you want them to last a long time.

10 ways to keep fruits and vegetables fresh for longer

8. Store onions in a dark place between 60-65°F (16-18°C) and keep other fruits and vegetables away from them so that they don’t absorb the odour of onions. Carrots in particular like to absorb other odours. I actually once had a carrot that tasted like ham… I really don’t want to know why!

9. Store root vegetables like carrots, beets, parsnips, and turnips separately from their tops – this is because when the tops are attached, they can leach moisture from the root vegetables.

10. Don’t keep avocados and bananas in the fridge before they are ripe – this can damage them and prevent them from ripening. But once ripened, avocados actually keep best in the fridge.

What are your tips and tricks to keep fruits and vegetables fresh for longer?

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Breakfast tofu scramble

I think I’ve been bitten by the travel bug. Now that I’ve gone overseas for the first time, I’m just dying to get away again! France is at the top of my travel bucket list (is it sad that French food is 90% of the reason I want to go there? … don’t answer that), along with Italy and California.

I think I’ve been wanting to visit California ever since the Parent Trap remake with Lindsay Lohan came out and I fell in love with the scenery of the wine country and hiking trails. These days I follow lots of California bloggers and instagrammers who never fail to make me jealous of their amazing farmers markets, beaches, and fresh food cafes.

Breakfast tofu scramble -- vegan and gluten free

This sunny breakfast tofu scramble is inspired by California. I imagine if I lived there I would eat it while sitting in a little breakfast nook overlooking the beach with a freshly squeezed orange juice from the farmers market… instead I ate it on an unseasonably cold summer day and while staring at my computer screen. Oh well, a girl can dream!

Breakfast tofu scramble -- vegan and gluten free

Breakfast tofu scramble | Gluten free, nut free, vegan

Serves 3-4

2 tsp olive oil
1.5 green onions, sliced
1/2 red pepper, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 block of tofu (350 g)
1.5 tsp turmeric
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
Salt and pepper

Heat up the olive oil in a pan, and saute the onions, red pepper, and garlic over low medium heat, taking care not to burn the garlic. When the pepper has softened (about 3 minutes), use your hands to crumble the tofu into the pan. Add the turmeric, nutritional yeast, and a few good shakes of salt and pepper, and stir well to combine. Cook for another couple of minutes, then remove from heat and serve.

Breakfast tofu scramble -- vegan and gluten free

Where do you want to travel to next?

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5 tips for starting a supper club with friends

Do you guys ever get in cooking ruts?

I do. All the time. I’ll go to the farmers market and buy the same vegetables as always, and then make the same boring stir fry (ok, it’s not boring, it’s actually really good – but isn’t there a saying that “variety is the spice of life”?) three times in a week. There are tons of new foods to try at the farmers markets, and tons of recipes at my finger tips on Pinterest, but yet I don’t take advantage of them because I feel too busy or overwhelmed to plan to try a new recipe.

But recently I’ve found a solution: a starting a supper club with my friend Tracey (who just so happens to have recently started a blog – check it out!).

She loves cooking and trying out new recipes as much as I do, so it’s the perfect set up. We’ve done our supper club twice so far (check out our first dinner here) and I think we’re aiming to do it monthly because there are so many perks, like:

  • Splitting the effort of cooking labour intensive recipes
  • Sharing ingredients so that you don’t have to spend as much
  • Lots of leftovers to ease the burden of cooking for the rest of the week
  • Getting to enjoy a delicious meal with friend(s)!

Last week we got together for our second supper club:

We started with a cabbage hemp salad from Kris Carr’s cookbook Crazy Sexy Kitchen. It had avocado, cilantro, and lime in it, which is always a great flavour combination.

Supper club

For our main course we made these lentil beanball subs with sauteed kale marinara from Veggies Don’t Bite. They were pretty time consuming since we had to make both the beanballs and the marinara (thank goodness we precooked the lentils, or else it would have taken us even longer!), but the effort turned out to be well worth it because they were really good!

Supper club

We finished off with Oh She Glowssummer stone fruit crisp, which we both really enjoyed but felt could have used a pinch more salt in the topping to bring out the flavour of the coconut. That would just be a small improvement on an already delicious dessert though!

Supper club

Are you interested in starting your own supper club? Here are my tips based on my experience so far:

5 tips for starting a supper club with friends

1. Before starting a supper club: Choose a person or group of people who are on the same page as you. Are you an adventurous eater? Make sure they are too. Do you want to try lots of ethnic dishes? Make sure that’s what they want to do too. Do you want to make budget dishes that won’t break the bank? Make sure they’re on board with that too. It’s also a good idea to make sure all dietary preferences and allergies are known.

2. Create a Pinterest board for your supper club: This is a great way to share recipe ideas for menu planning. And also a great excuse to waste way too much time browsing Pinterest.

3. Make a shareable grocery list: Write up a grocery list with all the ingredients and amounts needed, then send it to all members of the supper club (or share it on Google Docs) so that everyone can fill in what ingredients they already have at home or volunteer to buy ingredients that need to be bought. This also acts as a good resource in case someone forgets one of the cookbooks you need to cook from, which I totally didn’t do (except, I did – luckily this list allowed us to make the recipe without it though!).

4. Read the recipes first: To make sure that the recipes are doable within a few hours and to find out what cooking equipment and appliances are needed. We write all the cooking equipment and appliances that will be needed directly on the grocery list so that the host can make sure that he/she has them in their kitchen. Because grating carrots is pretty hard without a grater! This happened to me once at a friend’s house… let’s just say we ended up with a very crunchy carrot cake.

5. Cook a double or triple batch of the recipes: If you’ve got the capacity to do this, it’s definitely worth it so that everyone can have some leftovers for the week!

Have you ever done a supper club with friends? Any other tips?

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