Blending and Extending at The Royal Winter Fair


Llamas, goats and cows oh my!

It was a plethora of barnyard critters this past weekend as I attend for the first time the The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.

A cowboys and cowgirls dream. Saddles, and mucking things and farming doodads, the Royal has been educating, promoting and celebrating all things agricultural and equestrian since 1922. Despite being the largest fair of its kind in the world I had yet to pay it a visit. You would think as a food aficionado I could appreciate all those yummy looking roast beefs with legs however I always thought it was a little too country for this city girl. I quickly learned I was missing out on tons of deliciousness.

While you will be knee deep in all things hoofed, snouted or feathered there are lots of great food related activities to enjoy. For one the food court it not your average chicken fingers and french fries kind of affair.  Tacos, bison burgers, mac and cheese, and falafels are just a few items that can tantalize your tastebuds.  For something a bit sweeter you can always buy a slab ‘O’ fudge or even better this amazing hot apple dumpling with rich vanilla ice cream and butterscotch sauce.

The Royal Winter Fair (1 of 8)

You don’t just eat the food here either. Swing by one of the many stages to learn about eggs, cheese, local produce and more. I will be totally biased when I say my favorite show of the day came from my peeps over at Mushrooms Canada. As you already know my developed taste for mushrooms was an acquired thing. Yet since then I can’t seem to get enough of them.  And while my friends always gasp when I say I don’t like cucumbers, I equally gape when their sentiments to mushrooms lean towards the negative. This is why I love their Blend and Extend campaign. I’ve preached about its virtues before.  I have proudly converted coworkers and family member to the way of B & E (not the criminal kind) and love to see the reaction of newcomers to this brilliant way to make healthier meals, extend your grocery bills and sway disbelievers to the fun-gi side. Watching the audience this past weekend absorb the simplicity of this technique I just want to grab someone and say ” I know right?!? Hidden vegetables!!”

Blend and Extend

It’s simple folks; swap out up to half your ground beef in any recipe with mushrooms. Still unsure. Get yourself to the internet and visit their site for simple and delicious recipes like this taco salad. There are mushrooms in this people!!!! But you would never know. And it tastes amazing!!

The Royal Winter Fair (5 of 8)

That’s what makes events like the Royal Fair so wonderful.  It’s a vast space with a ton of knowledge waiting to be shared.  Out of all the visitors that day, how many went home and thought “hey I can blend and extend that.” That’s how I got started and trust me it’s worth it.

Mushrooms and More.

Mushroom Coconut Curry with Leeks and Paneer (2 of 5)

Where have I been lately you ask? Did I drop off the face of the earth? Did I win a trip around the world?

Actually nothing that dramatic happened.  I just got busy.  With life, with work.  I actually have been cooking lots as my Instagram can show but I have also been spending time paying some attention to my much neglected In the Garden side of my blog.  Watch for some planting guides in the near future. And I’ve been taking time to enjoy life.  Not every drink or every meal needed to be documented.  And sometimes when I went to events I left my camera at home (gasp!).  And when I have picked it up lately it’s been to shoot some really awesome new bands I’ve fallen in love with and enjoy watching live. You see my life is gloriously full. Lot’s of friends and family who love me and my company, not just the food I bring 🙂 I’m doing stuff for myself and when I have something of real quality to say here I will.

Mushroom Wonton Soup (1 of 1)

Like I said though I haven’t stopped cooking.  I’ve just been fortunate enough to have some great companies I create for.  Like Mushrooms Canada where I created this killer Wonton Soup and this Mushroom Coconut Curry I have dreams about at night.  You can click the links to get the recipes. Trust me you want to make these dishes.

Mushroom Coconut Curry with Leeks and Paneer (3 of 5)

My visits here may be sporatic, there may even be changes but just remember I love what I do here.  That will never stop.

The Magic of Mushrooms


I’d like to introduce you to Brittany’s hands.  These hands belong to the a fun and talented gal; conveniently named Brittany.  Not shown are Shannon and Shannons’ hands.  These two awesome ladies are my friends from Mushrooms Canada who travel all over the country speaking the gospel of all things edible and “fun”gus.


You may find them at trade shows, conferences, food demos and I like I did at a cooking class helping to convert anyone willing to the ways of the mushroom.


On a dime they can tell you everything they know about the nutritional value, health benefits, growing conditions and availability of our little capped friends.


Blown Away!!!

But most importantly they can tell you all the delicious ways to cook them.   And they can show you too.


Lately conversation has taken on a great new twist with the Blend and Extend campaign. As someone who grew up hating mushrooms (thanks mom) I really wished I had thought of this first.  Its brilliant idea of combining beef and mushrooms to make your meals go further, adding vegetables to the plate of maybe some super picky eaters and bringing up the wow factor of your dishes.  Here Brittany’s hands showing us how it’s done with these Asian Lettuce Wraps.

Asian Lettuce Wraps

It’s so simple to do.  If your recipe calls for 2 lbs of beef replace up to half of it with chopped mushrooms.  You can do a 75/25 split, or a 60/40 split or a 58.2/41.8 split. Well you get my drift.  If you are mushroom shy then start with the common little white button mushroom. Mildy flavoured and just as nearly nutritious as more stronger tasty mushrooms like the oyster or shiitake.  And even those “stronger” flavoured ones?  Not really that strong.  When combined with beef  all the varieties pick up the flavour of the meat, spices and sauces you are going to add to the dish. Beside once cooked mushrooms look just like cooked ground beef. We are so sneaky. They add bulk and a punch of nutritional power. Just throw them in a food processor to chop them nice and fine. Don’t have a food processor? A lot of varieties come to grocery markets pre-sliced so you are half way there.


Sloppy Joes are a great way to try this method with children.  They won’t notice the addition at all but will still love the messy yumminess that these dripping sandwiches provide.

Sloppy Joe

I can go on and on about the benefits of Blend and Extend and all the different ways you can use it in your cooking.  I would rather direct you right to the source on the Mushrooms Canada website where there are pretty pictures of mouthwatering dishes.  I don’t think it will take much to convert you.

I could also go on about the awesome enthusiasm  that Brittany and Shannon’s hands bring to all the events they attend promoting this wonderful vegetable.  But you are just going to have to find them yourself at the next mushrooms event. Like maybe the Gourmet Wine and Food Show.

SPOILER ALERT:  There will be mushrooms.  And a lucky spoon.




Secret Recipe Club: Mushroom and Cheese Stuffed Shells

Mushroom and Cheese Stuffed Shells (4 of 4)

Amanda over at Dancing Veggies is an octo-lacto-vegetarian and could not be anymore opposite then I am when it comes to food.  I’m more of meato-bacono-moremeatarian kind of eater.  So when I was assigned her blog for this months Secret Recipe Club I may of pouted a little then huffed and puffed, but in all honesty I do enjoy a challenge.  We can always use for vegetables in our house but finding a recipe in her extensive collection was a little harder than I thought given that I would be cooking this for DH (the pickier one).  Lucky me (and him) I hit a home run when I decided to make her Stuffed Shells with Mushrooms.

Mushroom and Cheese Stuffed Shells (1 of 4)

It looked like such a complete recipe that I chose to change very little.  I added some onion to the tomato sauce and changed my cooking method just a little.  Her cheesy stuffing and basic rich and refreshing sauce were a perfect pair.  I even made extra to freeze for another meal.  Success!

Mushroom and Cheese Stuffed Shells (2 of 4)

Yields 4

Mushroom and Cheese Stuffed Shells
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  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 basil leaves, finely diced
  • 28 oz can chopped tomatoes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • For the Shells
  • 1/2 lb large shells, pre-cooked and cooled
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 1/2 lb mixed mushrooms, chopped
  • 3 basil leaves, finely minced
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup Mozzarella cheese, separated in half


  1. In a large pot heat the 2 tbsp olive over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook until translucent.
  2. Add the can of tomatoes, basil and salt and pepper.
  3. Reduce the heat to low and simmer while making the shells.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  5. In a skillet over medium-high, heat the oil.
  6. Add the garlic and onion and cook until fragrant 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute until soft. Remove from heat, stir in the basil and let cool.
  7. In another bowl mix together the cheeses (1/2 cup of the mozzarella) and cooled mushroom mix.
  8. In a 9" square or oval casserole dish spoon just enough tomato sauce to coat the bottom.
  9. Stuff each precooked pasta shell with the filling and place on top of the sauce. Top each shell with a spoonful of sauce and set the rest of the sauce for serving with cooked dish.
  10. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese over the shells and bake in preheated oven 35-40 minutes or until bubbling and cheese has melted.
  11. Serve with more sauce is needed
Recipe Type: Pasta

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Beef and Mushrooms Kofta

Beef Kofta (1)


Growing up, I actually had an aversion to mushrooms which my mom tried with no success to change. Every Friday night she would do a “take-out at home” meal with chicken fried rice being one of the dishes which she would fill with mushrooms. Every week following fried rice day she would be vacuuming behind the couch and could never figure out why it sounded like little pebbles being sucked through the hose. It wasn’t until she caught me red handed picking each and every mushroom from the dish and dropping them behind the couch that the mystery was solved. Lucky for me my taste buds evolved in my teens and now mushrooms top as one of my favorite vegetables of all time.

I decided to make this dish less meaty then an original kofta recipe.  By using chopped mushrooms in place of half of the ground beef you create a healthier version without losing any of the flavour.  In fact the mushrooms give it’s own woodsy flavour, a perfect complement to the variety of spices and adds a boast of nutrition to each kabob.  For the full recipe check out my guest post at Mushrooms Canada.

I served my kofta with this quick dip of greek yogurt, dill and cucumber.  It’s cool and refreshing along side the spicy meat.

Beef Kofta (2)


Hummus Stuffed Mushroom Caps

Hummus Stuffed Mushrooms

One of my favorite appetizers around are stuffed mushrooms. You can change up the ingredients any which way and 9 times out of ten they will be phenomenal. A lot of recipes call for cream cheese as the base of the stuffing but here I decided to use a much healthier hummus and add a small dollop of cream based dip to garnish. I didn’t sacrifice the cheese though.

Did you know there is an actual National Cheese Sacrifice Purchase Day. Some crazy idea that on July 29th you sacrifice your cheese by placing it in mouse traps to help eliminate vermin. Random I know. But no vermin here so I’m sacrificing it to my belly.

Anyways back to the mushrooms. What’s great about this recipe is that you can totally make it way ahead of time. Cram pack your cookie sheets and once your guests have arrived throw it in the oven for 20-25 minutes and viola! Guarnteed hit with the neighbors. They might not ever leave. Just saying.

Try this! Seriously!

Yields 40-50

Carmelized Onion Hummus Stuffed Mushroom Caps
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  • 40-50 mushroom caps, 1 to 1½" in diameter, stems removed reserving ½ cup finely chopped mushroom stems
  • 1 container Summer Fresh Carmelized Onion Hummus
  • ? cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 cup smoked gouda cheese, shredded
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 container Summer Greek Yogurt Dip with Crumbled Feta


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place mushroom caps on parchment lined baking sheet.
  2. In a medium bowl stir together mushroom stems, hummus, bread crumbs, cheese, salt and pepper.
  3. Fill each cap with cheese stuffing.
  4. Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes until top is browned and mushrooms are softening.
  5. Top with a small dollop of Greek yogurt dip.
Recipe Type: Appetiser

Check out mine and other great recipes using Summer Fresh ingredients participating in their Food Blogger Appy Contest

Green Bean and Roasted Mushroom Salad with Sesame Dressing

If you love mushrooms like I do then you will have a similar problem when roasting them for this salad; eating them all before they even make it in to the salad.  MAybe make double the mushrooms. Who am I kidding we would just eat twice as many 🙂

Green Beans and Roasted Mushroom Salad from the Tasty Gardener


Yields 8

Green Bean and Roasted Mushroom Salad with Sesame Dressing
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  • 1lb green beans, cooked and cooled
  • 1 lb mushrooms
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup toasted almonds


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place mushrooms in a shallow baking dish and toss with olive oil.
  3. Roast for 30-40 minutes. Let cool reserving oil.
  4. Place mushrooms, green beans and reserved oil in bowl.
  5. Combine remaining ingredients and toss to coat.
  6. Refrigerate for a couple hours befoer serving.
Recipe Type: Soups, Salads and Sandwiches

Green Beans and Roasted Mushroom Salad from the Tasty Gardener

Chicken and Mushrooms in Dijon White Wine Cream Sauce

This decadent pasta dish has a wonderful nutty and woodsy flavour thanks to the wild mushrooms and toasted almonds.

Serves 1/2

Chicken and Mushrooms in Dijon White Wine Cream Sauce
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  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced
  • 1 cup mixed mushrooms, sliced (i used brown, white, portobello and shiitake)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 oz white wine
  • 1 cups whipping cream
  • 2 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 2 cups cooked pasta
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup toasted almonds


  1. In a large skillet over medium heat cook chicken with garlic in oil until cooked.
  2. Add the mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and add the wine. Cook until reduced by half about 3 minutes.
  4. Stir in the cream.
  5. Stir in the dijon mustard.
  6. Return the chicken and mushrooms to the pan and simmer for 2 minutes.
  7. Stir in the pasta and cook until everything is heated through.
  8. Serve sprinkled with toasted almonds.
Recipe Type: Pasta

In a large skillet over medium heat cook chicken with garlic in oil until cooked.

Add the mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and add the wine. Cook until reduced by half about 3 minutes.

Stir in the cream.

Stir in the Dijon mustard.

Return the chicken and mushrooms to the pan and simmer for 2 minutes.

Stir in the pasta and cook until everything is heated through.

Serve sprinkled with toasted almonds.

Types of Mushrooms




-has a firm texture and woodsy flavour.
-can be eaten raw, or cooked in soups, salads, appetizers and entrees.
-store in the fridge 5 days in paper bag.





-has a meaty and earthy flavour.
-can be eaten raw or cooked in salads, soups and entrees.
-store in the fridge for 5 days in paper bag.





-has a mild flavour and crunchy texture.
-can be eaten raw or cooked in salads, sandwiches, soups and stir-fries.
-store in the fridge for 8 days in paper bag.

King Oyster

-has a woodsy and sweet flavour, crunchy stem
-can be eaten cooked in stir-fries, sauteed or grilled.
-store in the fridge for 8 days in paper bag.




-has a mild flavour and velvety texture.
-great eaten with chicken, seafood and pork.
-store in the fridge for 5 days in paper bag.





-has a full meaty flavour and texture.
-great grilled or baked as an appetizer, side dish or entree.
-store in the fridge for 7 days in paper bag.






-has a woodsy and meaty flavour and a spongy texture.
-can be stir-fried and sauteed with poultry, meat and pasta.
-store in the fridge for 8 days in paper bag.

Mushrooms are a great source of antioxidants, fibre, potassium, riboflavin, copper, selenium, niacin and natural vitamin D. One 100 gram serving contains 25 calories, little fat, low sodium and no cholesterol.