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RosemaryThymeCrackers_3407

A cracker that’s flavoured delicately with olive oil, rosemary and lemon thyme.

Inspiration to bake comes from so many different places, at least it does for me. Case in point: I was on the streetcar returning home from my weekly status meeting with the marketing company when I pulled out my phone to check up on what’s going on in the world of Facebook. The very first story I see is a recipe for crackers from one of our favourite Food Network Canada’s celebrity chefs, Laura Calder (French food at home). You already know how I love to bake my own crackers so this post hit all the right buttons and I knew right away I wanted to make it. The recipe uses fennel seeds and JT is not a huge fan of fennel, so I improvised and replaced the fennel seeds with chopped rosemary. What can I say? They are light, crispy, delicate crackers that (wait for it) taste as if they were deep fried but they are NOT! The recipe came together so easily (I used my food processor to make the pastry-like dough) and they baked up rather quickly. I made mine long triangles but you can really do any old shape; I rather liked that they weren’t uniform and quite rustic. I changed the name of the crackers because mine had a distinct Olive Oil flavour. Definitely making these again.

Olive Oil, Rosemary and Lemon Thyme Crackers

(Please click here to see Laura’s original recipe)
Makes about 24 crackers, but it depends on what size you cut them.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (125 g) flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • A good grinding of mixed pepper corns
  • 2 tbsp cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tbsp EVOO
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) non-fat yoghurt
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon thyme leaves
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
  2. Using the metal blades in your food processor, add all the ingredients and pulse until entirely combined and the dough resembles small pea-like chunks. Don’t over mix because we don’t want the butter to melt.
  3. Turn out onto a piece of lightly floured parchment and roll out to about 1 mm (1/8″) thick. You will need to flour both sides as this dough is rather sticky.
  4. Cut into shapes using a pizza wheel and a kitchen ruler. (I cut triangles that were around 13cm x 5cm  (5″ x 2″)
  5. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until they begin to get a golden tone. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
  6. Store in an air tight container.
  7. Serve with your favourite dip or cheese.
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They are strong enough to hold dip.

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I used a lovely peppery Olive Oil (the one that our neighbour Tom’s father bottles from Greece).

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A crispy unfried chip

Did I just hear you loudly gasp an incredulous “WHAT?” Yes indeed dear reader, that post title is correct and the unthinkable has happened: potato chips (or crisps, depending on which side of the pond you reside) that are not deep fried. And they are delicious!

I first saw vegetable chips on my friend Kelly’s blog over at Inspired Edibles, she’s a Dietician who posts incredible and tasty recipes. Kelly’s chips were gorgeous but sadly mine did not work out, perhaps they were just too thick and they shrunk so much I hardly had a chip left, so we didn’t pursue them. And then almost rubbing salt in the wound, Charles over at Five Euro Foods made a wonderful batch here. I thought all had been lost but recently I was at  a Winners (TJ-Max for our American brothers and sisters) and spotted this cool gizmo for less than $10, so I got it thinking it would make great chips…

The first batch turned out OK but the chips stuck together (couldn’t be helped because of the size of the device); then it got a bit worse which only made it a challenge to figure out how I could get perfectly unfried chips just like the photos on the package. And after about an hour of experimentation it got a lot worse: my microwave shut down…for good. Yup, I killed it! In all fairness it was older than most of my lovely readers so it owed me nothing, but my $6.99 potato chip maker now ended up costing a whopping $145! Don’t you hate it when that happens? Lesson learned. Or maybe not.

Fast forward a week later we purchased our third microwave of our lives and I’m back at it making chips to take to the cottage (no mw up there). This time I let the microwave sit between ‘bakings’ to cool down. The result? Perfectly unfried potato chips.

Note about the Joie Healthy-Microwave Potato Chip Cooker: I purchased this product after reading a few reviews I instantly googled on my iPhone. Even though it was only $6.99 I hate throwing money away and the google reviews were not bad, in fact they were more good than bad so I decided to purchase it. I should have realized that I was simply trying to justify the purchase and we all know that you can literally justify any purchase you want to make (logical or not) and so my new found wisdom I must tell you it’s just not worth it!

Here is my complete review: It comes in 4 pieces, a bowl, a mandolin top, a hand protector and a cooking rack; it’s plastic but reasonably well made. You remove the cooking rack and replace the mandolin top to make the cutter. The mandolin does cut thinner slices than my regular mandolin (you really need less than 0.5 mm or 1/16″ thick) but there is a design flaw in that the blade is too close to the edge and the slices end up cramming at one end (solution: open and remove potato slices frequently). All in all you really don’t need this gizmo, just a super thin slicer and some paper towel!

PotatoChips_3282

Deliciously thin and crispy. They even look like they’ve been deep fried. But they haven’t!

 

Unfried Potato Chips (Crisps)

5-6 people, allowing about  1/2 potato per serving

Ingredients:

  • 3 good size white or red skin potatoes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • very cold water for rinsing

Directions:

  1. Wash potatoes skins well. Set aside a bowl of very cold water. Working on 1 potato at a time, cut 1 potato in half and using a wafer thin mandolin slicer, slice from the cut end of each potato tossing the cut slices into the cold water bath.
  2. Rinse the potato slices until the water runs clean. Dry in a salad spinner or on a one in a single layer on a clean linen cloth (allow to sit for 15 minutes if you have time).
  3. You may spray with some good quality EVOO or leave them plain like I did. Sprinkle with sea salt.
  4. Lay two layers of clean, unprinted paper towel in the microwave and layer potato slices on the paper towel so they do not touch each other. Microwave on 100% for 3 minutes or until some get a bit of colour. Open the microwave door and allow the hot humid air at escape for 1-2 minutes (and the machine to cool down). Then cook for an additional minute on high, watching carefully as they burn quite easily. I found the slices I placed in the centre of the turntable cooked faster than the outside slices so I moved my larger slices into the centre. The slices will continue to cook a little after you finish cooking them so don’t worry if they are a wee bit wobbly, but they shouldn’t be overly wobbly.
  5. Remove from paper towel and cool completely before putting into an air-tight container. Repeat slicing, rinsing, drying and cooking until all slices are used up.
  6. When totally cool, store chips in a air tight container.
  7. Serve with your favourite home made dip.
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Chip tower

 

 

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Chip tower down. Mayday. Mayday.

 

Notes:

  • We bought the Panasonic NNST652W Mid-Size Inverter® Microwave Oven from Walmart for $119 (white because it sits in a cupboard so I didn’t care if it was stainless ($179)).
  • Microwave ovens cook food by exciting water and sugar molecules within the food with high frequency electromagnetic waves. The only power setting on a microwave is high, therefore to achieve lower settings the microwave pulses these waves intermittently. That’s why the power setting is described as a percentage and not a temperature; 50% means it’s pulsing 50% of the full pulse rate! An Inverter Modulates the power so it delivers a steady stream of power at the percentage required, thereby being able to cook food more evenly. If you want to read a good article on our microwave, click here

Recently we were invited to a “slider” party. The invitation pictured one of those garden slides that you soak with the garden hose and take a running leap onto it and slide all the way down. But it wasn’t a party like that. We’re talking food sliders! You know, the tiny little sandwiches or burgers that you generally have a few of. The BBQ was hosted by that Titanic, Black and White and Bond party couple and it was the same five couples. Each couple was charged with bringing their own favourite slider for dinner. Yep, that meant we all ate five (FIVE) mini burgers! But it was great fun.

I figured there would be a good selection of burgers (chicken, turkey and beef) so I wanted something a wee bit different; I made our Whiskey BBQ Pulled Pork (previously posted here) with a celeriac, fennel and cabbage slaw. I was inspired by my friend Sissi over at With a Glass when she presented us with her own version of a fennel slaw with an ouzo mayonnaise, but sadly I happened to mention my intentions to JT and he gave me that look; you see, he likes fennel and he likes ouzo but felt that the two together might be a little too strong. I begged to differ but some things are not worth arguing about, so I kept the fennel and made a new dressing for it. It was a tasty slaw and it went very well with the pulled pork. I omitted the mayonnaise from this slaw as we were dining al fresco and I wasn’t sure how long the food would sit outdoors in the heat and sun. The lemon juice and zest were added to mimic the tangy flavour of mayo.

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It was creamy without being heavy.

Celeriac, Fennel, Carrot and Nappa Cabbage Slaw

Makes about 10 cups of slaw but it depends on how large your vegetables are.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sized celeriac
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 medium sized fennel
  • 1 small head Nappa cabbage
  • 3/4 cup greek yogurt
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 2-4 tbsp honey
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Reserve 6-8 large cabbage leaves for presentation.
  2. Grate the celeriac, carrot, fennel and cabbage using a fine grater, mix well. Set aside.
  3. Combine the yogurt, lemon juice, zest and honey and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Mix the dressing with the slaw and serve chilled on a flat plate with the leaves spread around to hold the slaw.
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Such a cute little slider, don’t you think?

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I made tiny little pretzel buns for the pulled pork sliders.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of recipe testing lately. It’s a lot of fun because many of the recipes are ones I wouldn’t normally try, so it pushes me to try and taste new things. One of the recipes needed baking potatoes but of a specific size so when I had some left over, I figured why not make soup (plus I had lots of stock left over too!)? I knew from past experience that if I called this Vichyssoise I would be lambasted because I didn’t use leeks nor did I use cream so, to nip it in the butt, I just called it Chilled Baked Potato Soup! :-P

I made this for lunch and I didn’t have anything else with it so I wanted it hearty. Add more stock if you don’t want it as thick.

ChilledBakedPotatoSoup_3123

JT: “It really does taste like a baked potato!”

A Room Temperature Baked Potato Soup

Makes about four servings 375 mL each (1 1/2 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 1 large baking potato, scrubbed clean
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock (or vegetable stock for vegetarians)
  • 1/4 strip of bacon, cooked until crispy, per serving (substitute with feta or crumbled vegan feta (recipe to come))
  • 1 tsp of sour cream or crême fraiche or Greek yogurt, per serving (or vegan sour cream)
  • 1 chopped green onion
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Pierce the baking potato with a fork (so it doesn’t explode) and wrap with parchment and then foil. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until a cake tester inserts easily.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small ramekin, add the garlic cloves (with skin on), the chopped onion and cover with 1/2 cup of chicken broth. Season with a little salt and cover the ramekin with foil. Bake along side the potato for 30-45 minutes or until the garlic is very soft.
  3. When the potato is done, cut in half and scoop out all of the flesh with a spoon into a glass bowl. Squeeze out the garlic cloves from their skin and add to the potatoes, pour in the chicken stock with the onions and salt into the potato mix. With your stick blender, purée adding stock until you achieve the consistency you want. Press through a fine sieve to ensure it’s silky smooth.
  4. Serve at room temperature (or reheat), garnished with 1 tsp sour cream, crumbled bacon and chopped green onion.
It really does taste like a baked potato!

A creamy, dreamy room temperature soup. No that’s not a fish bowl back there!

Notes:

  • I’m in the process of creating a recipe for vegan feta (a brined cheese) so stay tuned!
  • The soup definitely tastes better at room temperature rather than chilled, you get more of the potato flavour at room temperature.
  • If you heat the soup, add some grated cheddar on top, I didn’t because I thought it might be weird because it wouldn’t melt.
  • You may replace the stock for roasting the garlic with olive oil, I did not because I wanted it a bit healthier.
Based on 4 servings

Based on 4 servings

Using non-vegetarian ingredients

Using non-vegetarian ingredients

At the cottage we like to sit back and relax, put up our feet, read a good novel, scan some trashy magazines and on occasion have been known to enjoy a cocktail or two ;-). Simple is usually what I lean toward because of the effort one needs to make to bring everything up for the weekend. I know I’ve posted a guacamole recipe before (here and here) and even got flak for calling this one mocamole, but I thought I’d share a super simple rustic version made with the ripest avocado for a light snack at the cottage. This recipe has only 5 ingredients and you need only one bowl, a fork and a knife to make it. See, I told you it was simple.

Guacamole2

This dip comes together very quickly; I disappeared for less than five minutes to make it, our guests were surprised I made it from scratch so quickly!

Super Simple Guacamole

Makes about 3/4 to 1 cup of dip but it depends entirely how big your avocado is

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1-2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 5 small grape tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro and a sprig or two for garnish

Directions:

  1. Scoop out the flesh from the avocado, no need to be gentle as you will mash it with a fork.
  2. Mash the avocado with a fork (I told you so).
  3. Add the garlic and the lime juice and mix well.
  4. Fold in the chopped tomatoes and cilantro.
  5. Garnish with cilantro.
  6. Serve with celery sticks, cucumber rings, or crackers.
Guacamole

I love that mashing with a fork still leaves you with some lovely, creamy chunks of avocado.

It was someone’s birthday recently and a very specific request for cake was made: Black Forest Kirschtorte! I haven’t made this cake in quite some time and had forgotten which was my GOTO recipe. So I sat down with my favourite pastry cookbook, Barbara Maher’s Traditional Cakes and Pastries, published by Burlington Books in 1984. Coincidentally, this book was a gift from one of my dearest friends, University Kim (I have two Kim’s so I’ve differentiated this way for years!) she signed it “a friend forever” and she sure is!

I’ve made many successful recipes from this cookbook from the Normandy Apple Tart to Profiteroles (and some that I haven’t even blogged about) and for the most part the recipes were detailed and correct. Not this one.

I usually read through the ingredients to make sure I have everything I need and I skim the directions to make sure I know what I’m doing, which I also did. But when I actually got down to the nitty gritty to make the cake (well into it, to be exact), I noticed that they completely forgot to include the flour in the instructions (actually, in this case it was the almond mix). So I had to improvise and it seems to have worked. The cake is a genoise-style with strong chocolate flavouring from both melted good quality chocolate (I used this one) and cocoa powder. It’s light enough that you don’t squeeze out all the whipped cream when you cut it, but it’s got enough body to hold the drunken cherries. All in all, quite a tasty recipe and it’s Gluten Free! I stabilized the whipped cream so that it lasts a few days, otherwise it will just make the cake soggy.

I cut the recipe down to 1/3 size because we didn’t want a large cake and I added the cocoa powder because we like chocolate and removed flour and bread crumbs ingredients, you can definitely check the original recipe on page 93 in her cookbook. The recipe is a bit different that what you might be used to in North America as the cinnamon really flavours the chocolate beautifully, if you’re not a fan, leave it out!

BlackForestCake_3147

A deliciously boozy cake

Black Forest Kirschtorte

Original recipe by Barbara Maher’s Traditional Cakes and Pastries, published by Burlington Books in 1984.

Makes one small cake, about 2 cups of batter. Serves 4-7 people.

Ingredients for the cake:

  • 42 g ground almonds (not blanched, coarsely ground)
  • 1/3 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/3 tsp ground cloves
  • 10 mL kirsch
  • 47 g caster sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 tsp orange extract
  • 2 tbsp crême fraiche or sour cream
  • 33 g good quality chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 tbsp good quality cocoa powder
  • 2 egg whites

Directions for the cake:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 350° F (180° C).
  2. Prepare your pan by coating all over with butter and dredge with sugar.
  3. Combine the almonds, cinnamon, cloves and moisten with kirsch.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Set aside.
  5. In another bowl, combine the sugar and egg yolks and beat until thick, creamy and pale in colour. Add the orange extract, melted chocolate, crême fraiche and lastly the cocoa powder and mix well.
  6. Fold in the beaten egg whites.
  7. Pour evenly into your prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes until a tester comes out clean and the cake has shrunken for the sides a little bit.
  8. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out to a cooling rack.

Ingredients for the cherry syrup and whipped cream:

  • about 20 fresh cherries with stems and pits (around 330 g or 3/4 lb). Reserve 7 cherries for decoration, set aside.
  • 33 g (1 oz) granulated sugar
  • 85 mL (3 oz) red wine
  • 85 mL (3 oz) water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 30 mL (5 oz) kirsch
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream (35%)
  • 1 tsp gelatin

Directions the cherry syrup and whipped cream:

  1. While the cake is baking wash, pit and stem the cherries; cut them in half.
  2. In a small sauce pan add the sugar, red wine, water, cinnamon stick. Simmer for 20 minutes, add the halved cherries and poach lightly for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the cherries and allow to drain into a dish. To thicken the syrup, bring to a boil and cook down for about 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. Remove the cinnamon stick and add the kirsch, stir well.
  4. Soften the gelatin in a very little bit of water (2 tbsp) set aside while you whip cream.
  5. In a very cold bowl, whip the cream until stiff peaks form, add the softened gelatin and whip to combine evenly.

Directions to decorate the cake:

  1. Cut the cooled cake in half. Drizzle the cherry syrup onto the bottom and top layers and allow to absorb. Spread an even layer of whipped cream and dot with poached cherries. Add a bit more whipped cream on top.
  2. Place the top layer down on the bottom layer and drizzle with the cherry syrup (reserve some syrup and poached cherries for serving). Spread the remaining whipped cream on top and decorate with the seven cherries that were reserved at the onset.
  3. Serve with cherry syrup drizzled on the plate and some of the reserved cherries.
Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday!

I’ve been busy :-). You already know that I’m writing social media content for a marketing company’s food related client(s) and now they’ve up’d the ante and put me on contract to write for them, every month until September! Plus last week they’ve scored yet another food related client! YAY! I’m totally loving it, but it means even less time for blogging, boo. These days my mind is filled with possible posts and brand related photography for their posts and not mine…and then last week my recipe testing gig also started up again and I’ve been working hard at testing recipes for my recipe developer client. But I’m not complaining, just letting you know that I may not be by to comment on every post you make but I do read them (in the middle of the night) so know that I’m out there thinking of you ;-).

And my food styling is still going on, last week I actually styled (not assisted) for a shoot for my old (boss, friend, neighbour, Kim) and it was fantastic! Here’s a photo of the photographer and Kim as we wait for an approval for the shot from the client (not at the shoot).

Waiting for approval.

Waiting for approval.

Temperatures in Toronto and the cottage have been on the cooler side but it’s been incredibly humid; for example one day last week we had 98% humidity! That’s what we call close, one would comment that “it feels very close today.” I’m still not complaining because it’s not -25C and it’s not snowing…yet. But it does feel close!

We had a friend over for dinner and I wanted a refreshing starter for our dinner so I came up with this tasty soup. I know I’ve already posted about a chilled melon, kiwi and prosciutto soupbefore but this one is different. For vegetarians, I suggest you use feta instead of prosciutto for the saltiness.

HoneydewSoup_3058

Chilled Honeydew Melon Soup with Crême Fraiche and Prosciutto and frozen melon balls

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 800 g honeydew melon
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 75 g cucumber
  • Mint to taste
  • 1 large basil leaf
  • 3 tsp Crême fraiche
  • Frozen melon balls
  • 1 slice prosciutto, crispy fried

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients except the crême fraiche, frozen melon balls and prosciutto into your blender or immersion blender container and process until smooth.
  2. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  3. Make tiny little melon balls with a very small melon baller like this. Place on a piece of parchment and freeze for several hours.
  4. Garnish with frozen melon balls and crumbled crispy fried prosciutto or crumbled feta.

Notes:

  • Our melon was very sweet so we didn’t need to sweeten it further, but you may use honey to taste.
  • Vegetarians should replace the prosciutto with a very salty feta to get a similar profile.
  • Vegans could get a similar profile replacing the prosciutto with chopped sun-dried olives.
  • The frozen Mellon balls were made with this tiny melon baller

HoneydewSoup_3054

 

Hello lovely readers! I hope you enjoyed last month, I’m finding it a little difficult to believe the month of May sped by so quickly. I don’t even want to think about June yet but here we are. My dear friend Genie, over at Bunny, Eats, Design created a monthly event called Our Growing Edge  to help showcase some out of the box recipes or recipes we’ve always wanted to try but never did. Suffice it to say that participation last month was excellent and we had 19 entries and some people even posted twice! Now that puts me to even more shame because I missed the deadline so this post is strictly a hosting of this event! Congratulations to you for trying something new and different and sharing it with us in Our Growing Edge.

Allow me to introduce our lovely contributors to May’s Growing Edge. (May I remind you to add the Our Growing Edge logo to your post and link back to my blog, your host this month, please  see Rules here).

 

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First off, my name is Eva and I’m a Canadian woman who started blogging shortly after we began a 100 square feet (9.3 metres squared) addition/renovation to our craftsman-style kitchen in Toronto, Ontario because I wanted to document the proceedings. As it turned out, the blog was more of a venting place because, like any major renovation, we had some issues. At the end of the project I enjoyed blogging so much that I continued to blog with the perfect segway into Kitchen Inspirations. That was over seven years ago, 700+ posts in 58 categories and a gazillion photos. These days I’m working in the food industry as a Food Stylist (assistant) and creating social media content for food related clients! It’s all good as they say.

Starting off our May roundup is our Growing Edge’s esteemed creator, Genie who  is “a graphic designer obsessed with food and bunnies”! Bunny, Eats, Design contains some extraordinarily adorable photos of her bunny, Tofu,  some really cool bunny designs and of course, delicious food. For this edition of Our Growing Edge Genie tackles Tzatziki Sauce which made me change my dinner plans and make souvlaki when I saw the post. Thanks Genie.

Next up we have Pang from Circa Happy; Pang grew up in Thailand but is now living in San Francisco with her husband. Pang began blogging because she was fascinated with some lovely blogs and thought it might be a wonderful place to document her experience of learning new things in the kitchen. Pang brings to us a beautifully photographed Raspberry Jam recipe that made me lick my lips when I scrolled through her gorgeous post. Thank you Pang.

Dana at I’ve got Cake brings her blog to us because she “truly believe<s> that like Cake & Ice-cream, good Food & great Style should go hand in hand”, the blog is where we join Dana in her journey to learn as much as she can and enjoy at the same time. Shellfish Ragout on a Bed of Spinach is Dana’s entry to this month’s edition and boy does it look delicious. Thanks Dana for the detailed step by step, it sure makes this recipe very approachable.

Vegan Coconut Ice Cream and Avocado Rice are two of Sudha’s posts for us this month. Sudha is a scientist by day and culinary explorer by night on her delicious blog called Spicy, Quirky and Serendipitous. Sudha’s exploring cooking with “ingredients break barriers and come together in a synchronized serendipitous scrumptious manner” Thanks so much Sudha for your two submissions!

Who doesn’t take notice when you see a heading like Chocolate Dinner Party? Audrey knew what she was doing with that headline that’s for sure — afterall, she is an English teacher by day! Born in Malaysia and now living in New Zealand, Audrey writes about recipes, food ideas and places to eat, all while managing her ‘bubs’ on her lovely blog called Rice and Kai. You can certainly tell this lady likes her chocolate, thank you Audrey.

After all that chocolate, I had to inject a little healthy into it with some Sprouted Buckwheat Muesli from the lovely Ashley (Ash) on Organic Ash. Ash’s blog is her ‘soap box’ on which she shares and hopes to start discussions that are important to her. Thank you for the lovely, health conscious recipe.

Jing, over at Daily EZ Cooking also generously submitted not one, but TWO posts for this edition, thank you Jing. The Pot stewed beef liver is something I’ve always wanted to cook at home, only ever having similar dishes in restaurants. And the Steamed Eggs look like they could well be a staple for a quick yet satisfying meal. Your step by step recipes will certainly make that easy.

Eggs Florentine from My Utensil Crock is a full-time attorney’s blog documenting healthy foods that don’t taste like health food; her blog is a beautiful collection of nicely lit photos that look very delicious. The Eggs Florentine would make a fabulous brunch for the coming weekend, don’t you think? Thank you MUC for your submission.

Nom Nom Panda made Homemade Eggettes which look suspiciously similar to Ebelskivers! Nom Nom takes us through the history and the process while she experiments and kindly shows us what it’s not supposed to look like too. Thanks Nom Nom Panda for the photos of the pans too, it’s very helpful for those who want to find it in their country.

Maddy over at Nourish Full is an inspiring young person on a journey back to health through healthy living and eating. For this month’s installment of Our Growing Edge Maddy made an irresistible Forbidden Rice Butternut Squash Risotto that just looks so good you have to pinch yourself that it’s still so healthy!

Bashful Bao‘s Anna whipped up a luxuriously creamy vanilla bean pudding with her Netherland Dwarf rabbit Isadora (Izzy) (not sure if Izzy was involved but anytime you can insert a bunny into a blog is a good thing!) Though bashful, Anna posts delicious recipes regularly so it’s not surprising this pudding sounds and looks so good!

I knew I would instantly like Chandler at the International Poor Chef School because her blog url is The Chef with Red Shoes! How cute is that? Chandler, you’ll notice that some of my followers are really into shoes (like me) so you’ll feel right at home here. I love her Kitchen Hacks section where she shares her tried and true tips and tricks in the kitchen. Chandler’s submission is a delicious Malfati recipe which she garnishes with a gorgeous (and simple) crimini (or cremini) mushroom sauce, a perfect accompaniment.

Then off we go to Auckland to visit Carine at Sweet as Honey, a French wife and mother of two who recently had to reinvent herself with less sugar! We’ll just say she was already sweet enough! Carine made beautiful Sugar-Free Apricot Pistachio Bars that look so yummy, you’d never guess that there is no sugar in them!

I’m sure you’ll be as surprised as I was when you read Lindsey’s recipe in Sneaks and Sweets, yes indeed, that’s avocado in a mint-chocolate cookie! I’m sure it won’t surprise you to learn that Lindsey will always choose a dessert over a vegetable and apparently is a ‘bottomless pit’ when it comes to her favourite eats! We can all relate to that. Check out Lindsey’s gorgeous and healthy recipe here.

Meet D from D’s Bistro; Di considers herself a traveling food lover, who has no intentions to teach us how to cook, she just wants to share her delicious recipes! Speaking of which, check out this incredible Arugula Salad with Drunken Poached  Pears and Goats Cheese, Arugula, goats cheese and what? Drunken Poached Pears? Wow.

Oven & Apron‘s Amanda dishes up a beautiful Almond Pavlova for this month’s Our Growing Edge. Amanda documents recipes that are both sweet and savoury with a “comfortable home-y feel” but this Pavlova definitely screams celebration! Amanda is embarking on a new beginning so please join me in wishing Amanda all the best in finding her dream job that “embraces her creative side”! Good luck Amanda.

And last but not least please check out Carissa’s Pretty/Hungry Blog where she made a gorgeous and delicious Vegan Alfredo! Carissa makes healthy, delicious and beautiful food on her pretty blog. Her alfredo sauce is silky and creamy and uses almonds which is genius!

Thanks again to you all for these gorgeous and delicious entries to May’s Our Growing Edge. I hope you discover someone or something new and give it a try.

Our host next month is Phuong from My Kitchen of Love please click on over here to post your entry and don’t forget to include the Our Growing Edge logo and a link to the host’s blog. Thanks again.

 

 

 

 

These days life goes like this
Wake up, check that off of some list
Gotta be a little something more than this
The bottom of my coffee cup.**lyrics from Bon Jovi’s Summertime

We’ve talked about lists before (here and here), it’s nothing new and as I was compiling yet another list I started to wonder how many lists I’ve made over the years. I usually start a templated list if I find myself creating the same list more than twice, or if I do the same stupid thing twice, or …

At the risk if sounding a little crazy (ok, maybe a bit more than a little!) I thought I’d share a few more lists I keep (don’t worry, it’ll just be the titles, not the entire list!)

Books that I’ve read (title and author): I started this list about 27 years ago after a couple of times I had purchased the same book twice because they had changed the cover graphic and I thought it was a new novel from that author (soooo annoying)! I wish I had done the same for movies (I tend to block out the ones that sucked and for some reason we keep wanting to watch them).

Menus for dinner parties: again, this list goes back 20 years, started it so I wouldn’t duplicate meals for the same guests. I used to keep this list in a notebook but about five years ago have switched over to electronic lists in my Notes/Reminders on my iPhone.

Preferences or allergies of my friends and family: This is really a no-brainer because it keeps things simple and you won’t poison one of your friends.

Work outfits: I started this list for my very first full-time job so I wouldn’t wear the same thing twice in a week; the list took a hiatus for about fifteen years (read, I got bored) but I’ve recently started it again because my memory isn’t as good as it used to be.

General household measurements, like table sizes for table cloths, window sizes etc.

General shopping lists for standard items, for example  I keep a list of everything I buy at Costco and then I need only to check off the things I need on that trip.

Wish lists, we always seem to come up blank when we ask each other what we’d like for Christmas, but I know darn well we had a bunch of things in mind over the year.

My favourite restaurants: from time to time I am asked where to eat out in TO so instead of reinventing the wheel, I keep a running list that I review every so often and that way I just copy and paste that list into an email.

My shopping routes in NYC, Chicago and Paris: I know that sounds pretentious but we don’t go that often that I sometimes forget about that little tucked away place (kitchen gadget store), plus it’s handy if I get asked.

Travel wardrobes: This is a list of outfits I put together for various holidays, it’s handy if we go to the same place at the same time of year, I start with that list and amend as necessary. This list also helps me remember all the accessories needed for specific outfits (I’ve forgotten a belt or scarf before and that just makes me annoyed because I refuse to buy something I already have a perfectly good one at home). It also helps me maximize the clothes by coordinating pieces to make more than one outfit. Somehow I always end up tossing in a few extra things just in case (never can have too many shoes, Kristy!)

General ideas: in the old days I’d keep a pad and paper beside my bedside just in case I come up with something great in the middle of the night, now it’s in my iPhone.

Christmas Baking: I like to change it up a bit year to year and a year is a year!

Christmas cards: to whom I sent and from whom I received.

Cottage menus: but you already know that: I found a Meal a Plan app that I’m trying out, it stores recipes and pantry items (including inventory), you create a meal plan calendar and it pulls your shopping list for you. Once I’ve used it a few more times, I’ll do a review.

Blog post ideas: self explanatory.

So you see, I’ve designed my list keeping in a way that will save me time and headaches for things I do often! And there is one more list for this post: the ingredient list for this tasty recipe. This recipe just happened one morning at the cottage when I didn’t just feel like a plain poached egg on toast. Combining the rich avocado and setting it off with the sweet watermelon really worked; I also added a drizzle of balsamic just to make things interesting.

Do you make lists to help keep you organized or because you have a bad memory? Share what you make a lists of in the comments, it may help someone organize a bit better.

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A surprisingly tasty combination of flavours!

Watermelon, Avocado, Tomatoes and a Perfectly Poached Egg on Arugula

Makes enough for lunch for two

Ingredients:

  • handful or two of arugula, washed and dried
  • 2 slices watermelon, cubed
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced
  • 4 compari tomatoes, cut into quartered
  • 2 eggs, poached perfectly
  • 4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp EVOO
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. On each of two plates, place a handful of arugula, casually top with cubed watermelon, sliced avocado, quartered tomatoes and one perfectly poached egg.
  2. Combine balsamic, EVOO, Dijon and salt and pepper (be careful though, the Dijon has a lot of salt in it already) and whisk. Drizzle over each salad evenly.

The runny yolk adds to the richness of the dressing, that’s why the dressing is just drizzled and not tossed!

 

Hello loyal readers, I do hope you are all well and adjusting to climate changes you are  experiencing (spring-ish for us Northern Hemispherers, fall-ish for those down under!). Cottage season has begun for Canadians, starting with what we call the May 2-4 (two-four) weekend which happened to be last weekend, even though it wasn’t May 24rth! Therefore list season has begun. Since last Saturday, I have made no less than 5 lists believe it or not. Once it goes on the list, I can safely delete it from my memory, so don’t bother asking me about it, check the list! Why 5? We needed a menu plan for last weekend: List 1, then there is the shopping list for said menu plan, List 2. Then we get to the cottage and almost as soon as the front door is opened for the first time of the season, a third list has begun: List 3, things we need to bring/buy for the next time. And then there is the next time, List 4 is the new menu plan and then List 5 the new shopping list and of course, list 6 (to come) is the list of things we need to bring/buy for the next time around! Such fun.

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Being the suck that I am, this was taken in the screened in porch because the bugs were BRUTAL. Believe it or not, even JT put on a bug shirt for the first time EVER.

You also may have realized that I failed to post on Thursday, and sadly for the time being I’ve decided to reduce my blog posts to once per week, I hope you don’t mind. It’s still a joy for me and I want to keep it that way; plus my marketing freelance gig writing for social media has upped the anti and I’ve been contracted until September, god forbid I run out of words. Good news is that it’s steady, bad news is that I’m using up my Data plan like it was going out of style. But I’m not complaining, I’m loving the projects and the people I’m working with so all is good in the new reality!

Now you have probably been wondering why there hasn’t been an Ebelskiver post in a while. I know, I asked myself the same question…and if you’re interested in the other posts, please click here, and here and here. Remember that I have my dear friend Barb (from Profiteroles and Ponytails — she’s on a bit of a break, so busy!) to thank for that gorgeous cast iron Ebelskiver pan, so I can’t let it go unused.

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I’m getting much better at making perfectly spherical Ebelskivers.

Bacon, Feta, Kale and Onion Ebelskivers with a Yogurt a Dill Sauce

Makes about 17 Ebelskivers (I used 5 Ebelskivers for breakfast and froze the remainder for another time — guess who had 3)

Filling Ingredients:

  • 140 g onions
  • 60 g bacon (should have been 80!)
  • 60 g feta
  • 100 g kale (or mixed spinach and kale)
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp EVOO

Filling Directions:

  1. Heat the EVOO and cook the bacon until crispy. Set aside. If there is more than one teaspoon of bacon grease left in the pan, remove excess (or not, it’s your arteries!). Cook the onions until soft and translucent, add the greens and wilt. Set aside to cool completely. In the meantime make the batter.

Basic Ebelskiver Batter Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt, set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, lightly whisk the egg yolk until thick and pale, then whisk in the milk and melted butter. Add the yolk mixture to the flour mixture and, using a wooden spoon, stir until well blended. The batter will be lumpy.
  3. In a clean bowl, using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the egg whites until stiff, but not dry, peaks form. Using a spatula, fold about one-third of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it, then fold in the rest just until no white streaks remain.
  4. Fold the cooled wilted greens, onions, bacon and crumbled feta and mix thoroughly.

Ebelskiver cooking directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Spray the ebelskiver pan with a good squirt of non-stick spray and place over medium heat. Add about 1/4 cup batter to each round as soon as the pan is quite hot. Maintain the heat at medium, you don’t want to burn the ebelskiver edges before the insides get a chance to cook.
  3. Cook until the bottoms of the pancakes are lightly browned and crisp, 3-5 minutes. Using a fork, gently push the ebelskiver until it entirely turns around in the pan and the uncooked portion is now facing the bottom.
  4. Transfer the finished spheres to a platter and finish baking in the oven while you repeat to finish the batter (about 15-20 minutes).

Yogurt Dill Sauce

Enough for two servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup non-fat yogurt, well stirred
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp dill

Directions:

  1. In a small sauce pan melt the butter and add the flour. Cook the flour but don’t brown it. Add the yogurt and stir.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in the dill.
  3. Serve warm over the Ebelskivers.
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I was surprised and thrilled that the feta stayed whole and did not melt into the batter, it was so tasty.

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The tart lime custard is a lovely contrast to the sweet blueberries.

It’s our 28th wedding anniversary. Yes, I was a child bride! We celebrated at the cottage, hence the slight delay in this post. We actually married on the Holiday Monday of the Victoria Day long weekend (today) because we didn’t want to wait a year for the reception hall. One place I called had a 3-year waiting list! Can you imagine waiting 3-years for a reception hall? How long did you have to wait? We also didn’t want to pay a king’s ransom for our wedding and the holiday Monday was less expensive than a Friday or Saturday; it meant that we had funds to put a down payment on our first home. What’s the most expensive wedding you attended? About 20 years ago we went to a wedding that was over $40,000!

We didn’t have a traditional wedding cake for our wedding either because neither JT nor I like fruitcake, so we had Black Forest cake but I definitely could have enjoyed these shaker lime tarts instead. The tarts are a cross between a curd and a custard and they are plenty tart, which both JT and I adore. I made these last week when a friend dropped by to deliver his FILs pickled herring so I naturally invited him for dinner. I was inspired by fellow Torontonian blogger Ilan’s Iron Whisk recipe here but I didn’t make his recipe because I thought the Sweetened Evaporated Milk would make it way too sweet for our taste, so I adapted my old favourite Martha Stewart recipe that I first posted here. Both the filling and pastry components come together very quickly and it sure was tasty with the fresh blueberries on top.

Shaker Lime Tarts with Blueberries

Makes 4 small tarts (about 10 cm or 4 inches in diametre)

Ingredients:

  • 3 limes (I used ordinary limes but you can use Key Limes instead, you’ll need about 8)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 batch of Viennese Pastry (recipe below)

Directions:

  1. Zest the limes entirely into a non reactive bowl (glass works) and reserve about 1 tsp for the pastry. Cut limes crosswise into paper-thin rounds using a mandoline or a very sharp knife; discard ends and seeds.
  2. Place lime slices and any juice that you can collect into non reactive bowl with the zest and cover with sugar; toss to coat evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to stand at room temperature overnight.
  3. Divide the pastry into four equal balls. With the heel of your hand, flatten out the balls into a small disk. Place the disks into the centre of a spring form tart pan and press out to the edges with your fingers. Roll the top to get a nice scalloped edge.
  4. Place the tart pans on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 450° F (232° C) with rack in lower third.
  6. Pour the sugar and lime mixture through a fine sieve, pressing the lime slices to get every drop.
  7. Add the lightly beaten eggs to lime mixture and stir well to combine.
  8. Divide the lime liquid among the refrigerated tart shells.
  9. Bake tarts on parchment covered baking sheet for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350° F (177° C) and bake until filling is set and beginning to look golden, about 15 minutes.
  10. Allow to cool on sheet on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Remove tarts from pans, and allow to cool completely on wire racks.
  11. Top in a even pattern of blueberries.

Viennese Pastry

Originally from the Five Roses Flour Cookbook

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg yolk at room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp reserved lime zest

Directions:

  1. In a food processor, add all of the ingredients except the egg yolk and vanilla, process until the butter is incorporated and it resembles coarse corn meal.
  2. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and process until it becomes a ball. If it is very soft, you may want to refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes.
  3. Follow directions above for use in the lime tarts.

Notes:

  • You may coat this with a neutral glaze but I didn’t.
  • You may also garnish the plate with a simple blueberry coulis. Purée fresh or frozen blueberries and pressing through a fine sieve. Add a bit of water or your favourite booze to loosen to make a rich paste.
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Very tasty.

I thought I would begin this post with a little spring. I know I’ve been complaining a lot about the weather. A lot. So, in light that this past weekend we finally got some spring-like temperatures and it seemed that everything just burst into bloom, I wanted to share my joy. Yes, spring has sprung in Toronto (about damn time). Here are a few lovely blooms from my morning 8 km or almost 5 mile power walk through High Park.

This is our little Japanese Cherry Tree.

This is our little Japanese Cherry Tree.

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These are Japanese Cherry Blossoms in High Park.

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There are several places that these beautiful trees are planted so each one has a slightly different time-table depending on how much sun and if they are in the valley like these, they aren’t quite in full bloom yet.

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The Forsythia bloomed at the same time as every thing else.

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The Saucer Magnolia, almost there.

Karma. It gets you every time. Case in point: last week I assisted on a national brand motion shoot (video for commercial), two action packed days of sorting through frozen product looking for the ‘perfect’ specimens and then deep frying said specimens. Yes, indeed my friends, deep frying! Now those of you who’ve followed Kitchen Inspirations over 7+ years know that I am not a fan of deep fried foods (yes, I know, it’s blasphemous) so deep frying two days straight was an experience, to say the least. And yes, I did smell like Eau de Frire!

This little recipe can be deep fried but it needn’t be, pan frying does the trick too. I made these for a special celebration coming up this weekend, my father in law turns 90! We’ll be springing him from the long term care facility to bring him to our house to party on. We’ll be breaking out the good china to celebrate! Happy Birthday Dad!

MiniRostiPotatoes_2632

A crisp potato ‘cracker’ with crême fraiche and smoked salmon with a little dill and chives.

Mini Rösti Appetizers

Makes about 60 x 3 cm (~1.25 inch) diametre rounds

Ingredients:

  • 600-800 g (1.3-1.8 lb) Yukon Gold Potatoes (actually, you can use any potato you would use as mashed potatoes)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Peel and chop potatoes in half (you want a chunk large enough to grate without grating your knuckles).
  2. Put the potatoes into a pot with cold water and salt (this step was prevalent in many recipes, something to do with cooking evenly) and bring to a boil. Keep on the boil until there is still some resistance when you poke the pieces with a fork or cake tester — you definitely DO NOT want to cook them 100%.
  3. Remove potatoes from the pot and allow to cool completely.
  4. On a large grater, grate the potatoes entirely. Using a 3 cm (~1.25 inch) cookie cutter, sprayed with non-stick cooking oil, press a good tablespoon of grated potato into it and compress slightly. Lift cookie cutter off and repeat until all the potato is used up. Heat a large cast iron skillet with a few tablespoons of oil (err on more than less). Add the little rounds of potatoes and cook until they are crispy and golden on each side. Drain on paper towel, cool and then freeze on a cookie sheet. Once frozen, pack them into a zip lock bag. Use as required.
  5. To reheat: pre heat the oven to 300F and bake frozen potato rounds until warmed through, about 12 minutes.
MiniRostiPotatoes_2621

Using a smallish ice cream scoop, I was able to keep each one about the same size.

MiniRostiPotatoes_2620

Yes indeed, that is a honey wand that was repurposed as a plunger to flatten each disk out.

MiniRostiPotatoes_2622

They made quite a few!

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They’ll crisp up again when you reheat them.

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Just a bite-sized nibble.

We’ve been to The Good Fork a few times now and I thought it was time to do a Kitchen Inspirations review. The folks at The Good Fork were incredibly generous around the Christmas holidays when Toronto experienced wide-spread blackouts and JT and I were without charging power for our phones for a couple of days — they let us plug in! The Good Fork is located just on the cusp of the Western edge of Bloor West Village and because it’s on the cusp, sadly it’s pretty easy to forget about it; I’m glad that on that cold December day we didn’t!

It’s about 1.6 km from our house which makes a good walk but there is street parking usually close by. I would recommend reservations if you’re going with a group because it does fill up quickly and there isn’t a bar to wait at. If you’re going for brunch, like we did, make sure you arrive before 10am because you’ll have to wait for a table if you arrive later!

The folks are very nice at The Good Fork and we have found the food to be very good quality. I like that their menu is not huge but what they do is very tasty and the prices are not bad. The portions are a good size and if you’re not starving you may even find it enough to share with an extra salad. The Good Fork is fully licensed and serves VQA wines and beers from Canadian micro breweries. The decor is modern and simple and there are many spacious booths. Their second floor can be rented for events. 

JT and I visited The Good Fork for brunch; I ordered the Nova Scotia Benny ($13.00) which came with two poached eggs, a generous serve of smoked salmon, cream cheese, preserved lemon and fresh dill on Gordy’s gorgeous house-made bun (it was so good that even I found it difficult to resist eating the top!). I chose a side salad instead of home fries and although the salad was very tasty, it was over dressed for my taste which is a mistake I find many restaurants make (note to self, ask for dressing on the side next time).

A delicious combination of flavours.

A delicious combination of flavours.

JT ordered a slightly more decadent dish: The Pulled Pork Benny ($13.60) topped with crispy fried shallots and a delicious slaw on the same house-made bun. The pulled pork had fantastic flavour and the crispy fried shallots added the much needed textural contrast to the sweet and tangy pulled pork. JT also ordered the salad as the side and it too was over dressed. Overall, I would say that both dishes were winners and we will order them again (perhaps to share next time).

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Succulent pulled pork and a very tasty house-made bun.

 

Overall rating of The Good Fork: Decor 2.5/5, service 3/5, food 4/5, Value 3/5, Noise: 5/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

 

The Good Fork

2432 Bloor St. West
Toronto, ON M6S 1P9

 

Hours:

Monday and Tuesday 9:00 am-4:00 pm
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 9:00 am-10:00 pm
Saturday 9:00 am-4:00 pm and 5:30 pm-10:00 pm
Sunday 9:00 am-5:00 pm

 

Contact

647.352.5955
ALI@goodfork.ca
TOLGA@goodfork.ca

I developed this recipe in the mid 2000’s and for a brief second I thought I would take it to market, but I blinked and lost my window of opportunity when I noticed other gourmet flatbread/crackers selling for $9.00 a box! Damn. Anyway, I’m going to share it with you again because I’ve modified it over the years. It’s really so easy to make and takes such little time and effort that I basically throw it together on the day that I need it. You can leave them flat and break the crisp flatbread by hand to give it more of an artisan look; for this photo I cut them with a pizza cutter, just eye-balling and cutting directly on my cookie sheets before baking (don’t cut on non-stick cookie sheets, you don’t want to damage the surface).

Whole Wheat Oat Crackers with Flax

Makes enough for 4 people for cocktails

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup oatmeal
  • 1/4 cup ground and whole flax seeds (a mix 2/3-1/3 is nice)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup black and white sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup warm water (plus)

Flavourings: add as desired (not all of them)(pictured recipe has no flavourings other than sesame seeds)

  • 2 tbsp paprika (smoked is good), or
  • 2 tbsp cumin, or
  • 2 tbsp curry, or
  • 1/4 cup dehydrated onion flakes ground finely (not onion salt), or
  • 1/4 cup dehydrated garlic flakes ground finely (not garlic powder or garlic salt).

Directions:

  1. Pre heat oven to 177° C or 350° F.
  2. Sift all dry ingredients (including flavorings of your choice) together into heavy duty mixer with a dough hook.
  3. Add the oatmeal and mix. Slowly add the water with the mixer on low and mix until the result is a nice smooth ball of dough
  4. Generously dust your rolling surface with flour. Cut about 1 cm (1/2 inch) thick chunks of dough and roll out with a wooden rolling pin until the dough is thin enough to go through the largest gap in your pasta maker. Run this dough through gently until your desired thickness is achieved (I go to #4, it makes a very nice thin but not too delicate cracker).
  5. Cut into triangles (like I did on this batch) or simply bake in the sheets that come out of the pasta maker and roughly break into smaller pieces when done.
  6. Bake for about 10 minutes until golden brown and crispy. Cool and enjoy!
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These thin crackers can hold a lot of dip without breaking.

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Tasty treats.

Notes:

  • I use my Kitchenaid Pasta roller attachment because it makes all the crackers the same even thickness and I am able to whip up a batch in less than 30 minutes baking included!
  • Make sure you run the dough through a couple of times on each thickness so that the larger seeds get gently flattened so they don’t clog the machine and tear the dough.

Happy Cinco de Mayo!
We were invited to my cousin Lucy’s for a Hungarian Easter dinner way back and she had asked me to make Korozot so I thought I’d revisit this old favourite recipe from my October 2011 post. Here are some of the photos from that lovely evening.

TheGrub

Photographing the table just runs in the family. Photography credit: Cousin Lucy

JusvetDecor

The Easter Decor. Photography credit: Cousin Lucy

TheGirls

The Ladies. From left to right: Miss I, me, Cousin Lucy and Cousin Lucy’s MIL. Photography credit: Cousin Larry.

TheBoys

The Gentlemen. From left to right, Mr. V, JT, Cousin Larry and Cousin Lucy’s FIL. Photography credit: Cousin Lucy.

I’ve been making Korozot, a Hungarian soft cheese dip for more years than I can recall. It’s always been my ‘goto’ quick dip because I always have all the ingredients at home (I keep goats cheese in the freezer all the time). Although my version is smooth, many recipes on-line use Quark or cottage cheese as the base, but I prefer the smooth texture and sharp tang of goats cheese. My recipe has slowly changed over the years becoming a wee bit healthier each time; I believe my dear Mom used cream cheese in place of goats cheese and she may have even added some room temperature unsalted butter for flavour and richness. I usually serve this tasty dip with my very own home-made whole wheat crackers (recipe coming soon).

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A silky, tangy dip

Hungarian Korozot

Makes about 1/2 cup dip

Ingredients:

  • 113 g (4 oz) Goats Cheese (at room temperature).
  • 2-4 tbsp non fat yogurt (for desired consistency)
  • 2 tbsp Piros Arany Csemege Paprika (or csipos, your choice) OR 1 tbsp paprika powder – try with smoked paprika for a totally different flavour
  • 1 tsp tomato paste (I usually use tomato paste in a tube for this)
  • 1 Green onion, very finely chopped
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Blend the goats cheese, the paprika paste (or powder) and tomato paste with a little yogurt in a food processor until well mixed, adding the yogurt a tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is achieved. Taste and add salt now, but be careful because the paprika and tomato paste are both extremely salty.
  2. Remove from processor and fold in the finely chopped green onion.
  3. Serve at room temperature with crackers.

Note:

  • This dip is much better the next day when the flavours have had time to blend and mature.
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Why don’t you grab a cocktail and eat some dip.

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It’s delicious, particularly on my home-made crackers.

Drat! I did it again! Two posts live on the same day, hour and same minute! And you guys are so fast with the comments (thank you by the way) I couldn’t take it down. I wish I could have given more space to highlight the horse radish, so easy and frankly WAY better than store bought. Hope you enjoyed it anyway.

Happy May! It’s been raining for the last couple of days. You know the kind of rain that is consistent all day and all night? I braved it on Tuesday and walked through the wet, muddy park for my walk, but today I’ll head to the gym. Brrrrrrrr! Do you think spring will ever arrive?

Creating recipes for two isn’t always the easiest thing, there are usually oodles of left overs. Not that left overs are a bad thing, some things just don’t keep well or taste good after freezing and defrosting. And then there’s the issue that the recipe just didn’t make enough for four (two meals, one now and one frozen for later). I find that pancakes are such a recipe. My old favourite super fluffy buttermilk pancake recipe makes 6 good size pancakes even when I cut the recipe in half (easy to do since it uses 2 eggs). But we usually only have 4 pancakes (2 each), so you can see my dilemma? Squirrels usually get the leftovers! I think I’ve figured it out! By using 1 small egg I was able to yield 4 decent sized pancakes! And I win on reducing the calories by a bit too which helps in the long run. I didn’t retake the photos this time, but I did want to publish the recipe for my records and thought that those of you who are a family of two like JT and I might appreciate it too.

They are really fluffy and not stuffy

Super Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes

Makes 4 pancakes about 13 cm wide and 2cm thick! (5″ wide, 3/4″ thick)

Original recipe can be found here.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup skim milk with 1/2 tbsp white vinegar or lemon juice)
  • 1 small egg
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of cream of tartar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 nonstick cooking spray

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. Set aside.
  2. Separate the egg yolk from egg white. Beat egg white and cream of tartar on high speed until stiff peaks form but not dry.
  3. Beat the egg yolk with the sugar until creamy, pale yellow and thick; add the buttermilk, vanilla and beat until smooth on a slow speed.
  4. Fold in the sifted flour mixture gently (don’t over mix as we don’t want the glutens activated).
  5. Fold the beaten egg white into the batter and mix together gently, do not over mix!
  6. Spray your skillet with non-stick spray set to medium temperature (or 350°F).
  7. Drop about 1/3 cup of batter on pan for each pancake and spread out to about 4-5″ and cook until you see a few bubbles on the surface of the batter. Flip the pancakes and cook for about another 1-2 minutes. Repeat until you have used up all the batter.
  8. Keep warm until you have made all the pancakes and serve warm with butter, maple syrup, fruit and whipped cream!

Pass the cakes of pan, as they are known in our house

Notes:

  • Add sliced bananas and chocolate chips for a change.
  • Add blueberries or your favourite berry or even a mix of berries.
SuperFluffyButtermilkPancakes

Portion size is 2 pancakes

SuperFluffyButtermilkPancakesWW

Portion size is 2 pancakes

Home-made Horseradish

Our Easter menu included a traditional ham and I’m always looking for ways to jazz up the same-old, same old so when I discovered I had a good nub of fresh horse radish in the refrigerator, I knew it was destined for glory on the Easter Table! I found this recipe from Food Network Canada and it really was as easy as it reads! I just eyeballed the vinegar, added a pinch of sugar and pulsed until I got a nice consistency for the horse radish. This is not a sauce, it is your typical grated horse radish.

Horseradish_2495

Don’t let being home made deceive you, this is one powerful condiment!

Home-made Horseradish

Ingredients:

  • 1 nub of fresh horse radish root (mine was about 10 cm around 4 inches), peeled and chopped into smallish cubes
  • 3-5 tbsp Cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp Sugar

Directions:

  1. Add the chopped horse radish to your mini food processor and pulse to get a coarse grate.
  2. Add Cider vinegar and white sugar and pulse further, adding a bit more cider vinegar until you achieve a nice fine grate for the horse radish.
  3. Serve immediately or store in the fridge.

Greetings fellow bloggers and readers. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for following my blog, it has been an enormous enjoyment. As you may recall, my life has taken a bit of a turn and I’ve been working hard to get into the food styling arena but it’s a long process so I’ve been considering other opportunities along the way. You may not know but I have been sewing for many years and have even sewed a girlfriends wedding dress once! I have opened an Etsy store called Cozy Casuals and hope that you will be able to drop by and take a look. I’m sewing hand made, comfortable tunics for women and I will be expanding my line to include girl’s tunics as well as bathing suit cover ups! I will continue to to follow my dream of becoming a food stylist, but I’ll be sewing in my down times!

Fruit pies have always been JT’s family’s favourite so, I usually make a fruit pie for them. When we had this group over in January for our Re-Do Christmas dinner I had made a lovely apple pie and JTs 90-year old father loved it so much he asked for seconds, so I decided to make the same pie again. The original recipe is from my trusty Five Roses Cookbook.

ApplePie_2490

A delicious, flaky crust.

Traditional Deep Dish Apple Pie

Makes 1 double crust, deep dish pie.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups AP Flour 
  • 1/2 tsp salt 
  • 1/4 baking powder
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, very cold
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening, very cold
  • 8-9 tbsp ice cold water
  • 8 apples, washed, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 6 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup AP flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp all spice (omit if you prefer)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves (omit if you prefer)
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Directions:

  1. Add the flour, salt and baking powder to a large food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse a few seconds to mix well.
  2. Cut the butter and shortening into small cubes and add to the flour mixture, pulse until you achieve a coarse texture. Add the ice cold water little by little until the pastry forms a ball.
  3. If your home is warm you may wish to refrigerate the pastry for 30 minutes, if not then divide it into two portions and roll out the top and bottom of the pie.  If desired, cut shapes out of the top crust with a decorative cookie cutter, I used flowers for spring!
  4. Preheat the oven to 180°C or 350°F.
  5. In a large bowl add the apple cubes and toss with the lemon juice.
  6. In another bowl, add the brown sugar, flour and spices and mix well (I do this in my mini food processor). Sprinkle over the apples and toss to coat evenly.
  7. Add the apples to the bottom of the pie crust and spread out. Top with the top pastry and trim off excess edges. Use these trimmings to make your decorative edging on the pie, or not.
  8. Bake for 60-70 minutes or until apples are skewer soft. You may need to cover the crust edges with foil if it’s getting too brown as it bakes.
  9. Serve warm.

ApplePie_2488

Notes:

  • Cut a small triangle of parchment paper that you will slide under the bottom crust (between the pan and the crust), making sure a little is sticking out at the edge. This parchment will be your first piece of pie. When you cut your first piece of pie, make sure you cut where you put the parchment triangle is and use the parchment triangle to help lift the first piece out. Works like a charm!
  • Always bake your pie on a parchment lined cookie sheet so when it bubbles over, it won’t make a mess of your oven or your cookie sheet.
  • You may need to cover the pie edges with foil to prevent burning.
  • You can add raisins or currants to make this even more festive.
  • This pastry is very rich so I have intentionally omitted putting little pats of butter under the top crust, but be my guest and add it if you prefer.
  • We love to serve this pie with some extra old Balderson Cheddar Cheese.

 

We had JTs family for Easter brunch again this year and I wanted to change it up a bit and serve some different sides. I recently started following John over at Kitchen Riffs and he posted a fantastic update to the traditional scalloped potato dish…he added celery root! Can you believe it? This change was very appealing to me because although scalloped potatoes are not considered healthy, this version is slightly healthier than the traditional version. While potatoes have almost 1 calorie per gram, and a glycemic load of 29, celery root has 0.4 calories per gram with a glycemic load of 6! While it may not make this a healthy dish, it does help mitigate some of the other not-quite-so-healthy ingredients in this dish.

EasterTable_2506

Our Easter Table

I was also inspired to add some thyme to this dish as I was preparing the béchamel sauce and it was fantastic; the thyme really played into the celeriac flavours beautifully. The celeriac also made this dish a lot less starchy than one made exclusively with potatoes. I’m definitely keeping this version for future family dinners.

A warm, bubbly crispy crust scalloped potato and celeriac

A warm, bubbly cheese crusted scalloped potato and celeriac

The original recipe came from my trusty Five Roses Cookbook which is now falling apart at the seams, but that’s OK, it looks well-loved!

ScallopedPotatoes_2504

The thyme flavour with the celeriac is a pleasant surprise.

Scalloped Potatoes with Cereriac

Serves 10-12 small servings

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium sized potatoes (Yukon Gold work very well), peeled and sliced very thinly
  • 1 small celeriac (celery root), peeled and sliced very thinly
  • 1/2 Vialia onion, sliced very thinly
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 1/4 cup AP flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme, plus one sprig for garnish
  • 1/2 cup grated yellow cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Prepare an oven-proof baking dish with non-stick cooking spray (I like to use one pretty enough to serve from and that way I’m not messing around plating the dish). Preheat the oven to 190°C (350°F).
  2. Melt the butter in a sauce pan over low heat, increase the heat a little and add the flour, mixing well to combine. Cook this mixture for a few minutes making sure not to burn it. Slowly add the milk into the cooked flour and whisk to combine and remove all lumps. Add the chopped thyme and salt and whisk well; cook the béchamel until thick (should still be pourable).
  3. Beginning with the potatoes, layer a single layer on the bottom of the prepared baking dish and cover the bottom fully. Next layer the onions over the potatoes and then the celery root. Cover these three layers with the thyme béchamel sauce. Repeat the layering process with the béchamel sauce until you have used up all of the vegetables, leaving a small amount of béchamel to pour over the very top of the layers.
  4. Place the baking dish onto a cookie sheet (you’ll thank me later) and sprinkle the cheddar over the béchamel. Bake uncovered for 1 hour 30 minutes or until a cake tester flows into the potato, celery root easily. Serve hot.

 Notes:

  • Béchamel thickens as it bakes so don’t worry if you feel your béchamel is runny, it will be fine made with the proportions in this recipe.
  • This dish may be made in advance, cooled and refrigerated. Reheat with additional cheese (broiling may be necessary).
  • When you reheat, make sure the béchamel bubbles up.
ScallopedPotatoes_2497

A traditional dish with a new angle!

This is using the celeriac.

This is using Potato and Celeriac.

Screen Shot 2014-04-21 at 11.44.40 AM

Potato and Celeriac, yielded about 12 portions for the dish I used.

Happy Easter everyone! Hope you all had a lovely weekend. In Canada we have Good Friday as a holiday. Some things like the LCBO are closed on Sunday as well. Saturday will be a busy day, so better get there early to stock up for the family dinner!

My earliest memory of eating Hungarian Lecsó was when I was about 8 or 9 years old and my father made it for us. We were a typical Eastern European family in that the father virtually never cooked, that was ‘woman’s work’ but my Dad did step up on the occasion that my dear Mom had to go into the hospital and have an operation. I don’t remember much else about this time except that Dad cooked lecsó. One other thing, my 6 or 7 year old brother was beside himself with worry when our parents told us that Mom was going to be away in the hospital for a few days, and through tears a great degree of anxiety he asked, “Who will cook for us?” Our obsession with food runs deep.

160-1974b_IMG

Circa 1974 Edward’s Gardens in Toronto. Dad, my little brother and I. Mom was taking the photo. What the heck is going on with my hair????

My experience has been that Lecsó is to Hungarians what Lasagna is to Americans or Bangers and Mash are to the English, it’s a fairly common staple. It’s easy enough to put together and it’s comforting and satisfying without being overly filling. The Hungarians generally use a Hungarian green pepper which is more like a Cubanelle, longer and lighter in colour with a more subtle flavour than the green peppers we are accustomed to in North America. I switched up this dish by using colourful red, yellow and orange peppers (capsicums) and Vidalia Onions which are much sweeter.

The traditional protein accompaniment in our household was Debreceni Kolbász which is like a thick hot dog, named after the city in which it was made. Most Hungarian sausages are coarsely ground pork seasoned heavily with paprika and garlic where as a Debreceni is subtly seasoned very finely ground pork that has the texture that resembles what you would know as a hot dog. The only difference from North American hot dogs and Hungarian Debreceni is that Debreceni has a very distinct ‘pop’ as you bite through the casing. I haven’t had a Debreceni in many years for the same reasons I haven’t had a hot dog — they are just too unhealthy to be worth it for me. I made poached Cod to eat with this dish and it was exceptional.

Lecso_2296

A delicious and warming brothy sauce with cooked peppers, onions and tomatoes.

Hungarian Lecsó

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 red peppers, sliced
  • 2 orange peppers, sliced
  • 2 yellow peppers, sliced
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped (peeled and seeds removed)
  • 1 medium sized Vidalia onion, finely sliced
  • 200 mL home made tomato sauce
  • 1/2 tsp paprika (sweet or hot)
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika (sweet or hot)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • parsley for garnish

Directions:

  • In a light spray of olive oil, cook the onions until translucent.
  • Add the sliced peppers and tomatoes and cook until very slightly softened.
  • Add the tomato sauce and seasonings and cook for about 10 minutes on a medium temperature.
Lecso_2293

Spice it up a notch by adding some hot peppers to the mix.

Notes:

  • Hungarians traditionally use lard as the fat which adds flavour but is extremely unhealthy so I add a pinch of smoked paprika which also adds to the depth of flavour that the debreceni would bring.
  • Traditionally the peppers are cooked until limp but I prefer a little texture to my lecsó so I don’t cook them as much.
  • Like most stewy dishes this is a lot better the second day.
  • Consider adding a poached egg to this dish (Hungarians might eat this with scrambled eggs).
  • Sour cream or yogurt are also used as a garnish to this dish.
  • Cubanelle peppers come in both hot and sweet varieties and look virtually identical. You will want to make sure you buy the right one and not make the same mistake we did for a meal we served at the cottage several years ago — that was a rude awakening!

AsianPorkSalad_2379

It’s tangy, crunchy and quite delicious.

I always knew that my blogging would someday parlay into something more but did I ever hope it would be two-fold? Never in a million years! First it was food styling (which I’m still doing) and as luck would have it, I recently reconnected with a colleague and a new opportunity was born: I’ve been social media content! How cool is that? I’ve been very fortunate to have been given this opportunity and I thank my lucky stars every minute! And I thought I was just lucky in love! So if you need food related social media content, I’m your gal! Email me at evataylor at bell dot net  and we’ll ‘talk’!

I know you’re scrolling ahead to see these photos so let me take the suspense out: they were taken on the morning of April 15, 2014 — I kid you NOT! I was hoping to be yearning for light, salad-ie dishes by now but sadly the weather is STILL not cooperating. Yes, we did have a couple of exceptionally warmish days last weekend but for the most part it’s still soup and stew weather. And like my rebellious feet I am holding out and silently switching gears to a more summery palate!

Snow_2420

I took this photo in High Park on my morning walk. Yes indeed it’s pretty…if it were December! Not April 15 for sure.

Snow_2424

It was cold enough that the snow stayed all day.

Snow_2425

It really is rather beautiful.

As I’m sure most of you operate with similar intentions, I cruise blogs particularly when inspiration evades me and this recipe was no different; it was inspired by the lovely Sawsan’s beautiful Sushi Salad. I must confess that I didn’t record or photograph the first attempt of this creation which was a huge mistake (or was it?) so we actually had this tasty dish two nights in a row! And if it were up to me, it would have been three or four!
The volumes are ball-park, use what you like, omit what you don’t! Easy. If you have celery add it, if you don’t, no worries. The beauty of this dish is the crunch and variety of each and every bite.

Sawsan used ‘cauliflower’ rice but the cauliflower was not nice the day I wanted to make this dish so I substituted Napa cabbage. Since we were having this as a dinner course, I added a marinated BBQ’d pork tenderloin as our protein but chicken or fish would be an excellent substitution.

AsianPorkSalad_2378

The avocado adds a certain je ne said quo is, but may be omitted if you’re watching calories.

Asian Inspired Crunchy Spring Salad

Serves 2 as a dinner portion. Please click here for the original recipe.

Ingredients for the pork and marinade:

  • 200 g pork tenderloin
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1/4 cup mirin
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce

Directions for the pork and marinade:

  1. Remove all fat and silver skin from the tenderloin. Stab it a few times with a fork, all the way around.
  2. Combine the ingredients for the marinade and roll the prepared tenderloin in it to cover. Let rest in the fridge for a minimum of 20 minutes or overnight.

Ingredients for the dressing:

  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

Directions for the dressing:

  1. Combine all ingredients and mix well. Set aside. (may be prepared the day before)

Ingredients for the salad:

(as suggestions, if you dislike something omit it and if you love something, by all means add more!)

  • 5-6 cups of finely sliced Napa cabbage
  • 1 cup cucumber, cubed
  • 1/2 avocado, cubed
  • 1/2 red pepper, cubed
  • 1/2 medium sized red beet (raw, peeled and julienned)
  • 2 green onions finely chopped
  • a good bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Directions for the salad:

  1. BBQ the tenderloin until the internal temperature reads 71° C or 160°F at its thickest part. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
  2. Lay a generous bed of the finely sliced Napa cabbage on each plate.
  3. Sprinkle the cubed cucumber, avocado and red pepper along the outer edge of the base. Add the julienned beets to the centre so it just peeks outside the ring (the beets discolour the Napa so I didn’t want it to bleed all over it).
  4. Garnish with the green onions and cilantro.
  5. After the pork rests for 10 minutes, slice into thin slices. Lay 100 g sliced pork onto each plate and garnish with the dressing and the toasted sesame seeds.
AsianPorkSalad_2380

The abundance of colour was no mistake…perfect for a dreary, wet spring day.

The ice is melting. Thank God! We are so over winter. This past weekend was warm enough to walk outside in a light jacket and no hat (ok, I did start out wearing gloves, but took them off). The ground is defrosting and the air smelled like my childhood spring; do you remember that wet mud, musty smell? I don’t know about other ladies in our hemisphere but I’ve stopped wearing socks! There I said it. My poor dogs are so sick of being all locked up and claustrophobic in socks and boots that they needed to be liberated! Yes, they may still get a bit chilled at times, but I don’t care! I’m done. And sadly the start of this week is back down to 2C (xxF) so this soup post is not entirely outside of expectation even though it was made about a month ago.
This soup was a last minute St. Paddy’s Day effort to make something green for dinner and I dare say it turned out even better than expected, so here it is on the blog for posterity and for me so I remember to make it again (it was that good)! It’s so creamy and smooth you’d never guess there is no cream in it!

BroccoliSpinachSoup_2286

The smooth creamy texture makes you think it’s much more sinful than it is!

It’s a nice thick vegetable soup without cream or any type of starch in it. The beautiful green colour comes from purée-ing raw baby spinach leaves into the warm broccoli soup and blitzing it for about two to three minutes to get the creamy consistency you see, I didn’t even push it through a fine sieve. There is no butter nor cream but you can add a pinch if you’d like.

The garnish is oven dried baby spinach leaves which I was hoping to make into a post on their own, but alas they were far too delicate and did not make the test! But they do make a gorgeous garnish, n’est pas?

Broccoli and Spinach Soup

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch broccoli florets, including stems
  • 1 Vidalia onion, roughly chopped
  • 6-8 medium cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 3-4 cups water or stock
  • salt and white pepper to taste
  • 2 handfuls of baby spinach leaves, raw

Directions:

  1. Sauté the onion and garlic in a quick spray of non-stock or olive oil, adding water as needed until they are translucent. Add the broccoli florets and stems and cook stirring often until they are very tender. Add a couple of cups of water or stock and simmer for about 15 minutes.
  2. Pour contents into a heat proof beaker and purée using your immersion blender (or you may do this step in a regular glass blender). Purée for a minute or so and then  add the raw baby spinach and purée for another 2-3 minutes until very smooth. Salt and pepper to taste. Add more water or stock if you feel it’s too thick.
  3. Serve warm garnished with dried spinach leaves*.

Notes:

  • To oven dry spinach leaves: Pre-heat the oven to the lowest temperature, mine is 170°F. Take the largest leaves from the package of baby spinach and lay over a dry cooling rack making sure they do not overlap. Place in the warm oven and watch for 15-20 minutes until they are completely dry and crispy. This would also work wonderfully with basil leaves. This is a great alternative to deep frying them.
BroccoliSpinachSoup_2291

The bright green colour is attributed to the raw spinach that’s been puréed into the cooked broccoli soup. Do you think I have a thing for green?

Spring has been slowly emerging, taking its dear sweet time, but today, it’s finally going to be 17°C (62.6°F). Even on Tuesday, the sun was shining and it was actually warm enough to sit outside in the sun with a cup of hot coffee. We’re cautiously hopeful for spring, although there is still some ice in our backyard believe it or not. Stubborn ice that just won’t give up. One of our radio stations has a repeating ad that goes something like this: “April, you have just one job: melt the GD ice so spring can finally show up.” Seriously, just one job! Can it be THAT hard? Yes, we are frustrated! But at least it’s starting…

I’m beginning to think about summer foods, lighter fare and this is a quick and delicious recipe I came up with for lunch about a month ago; I think it may have even been snowing at the time (a month ago). The bright, fresh flavours contrasted against the peppery arugula will make a sensational meal on a super hot, humid day (soon, please be soon). Definitely making this lovely dish for the cottage, it’ll be perfect for eating on the dock, wearing shorts and a light T!

CevicheWW_2269

A delightful combination of shrimps and scallops cooked in lime juice

Shrimp and Scallop Ceviche

Makes 1 small serving (to make a meal of it, increase the weight of shrimp and scallop to 100 g in total).

Ingredients:

  • 30 g shrimp*, cubed rather small
  • 20 g scallop*, cubed rather small (similar size to shrimp)
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp non-calorie sweetener of your choice
  • 1 tbsp cilantro, minced
  • 1 green onion, minced
  • 1 stalk celery, cubed
  • 5 cm (2 inches) English cucumber, cubed
  • 1/4 apple (or Jicama)
  • 5 cm (2 inches) English cucumber, cubed
  • 100 g Arugula

Directions:

  1. Combine the lime juice and the non-calorie sweetener of your choice and mix well.
  2. Make sure you cube your seafood into equal sized cubes so that they ‘cook’ at the same rate. Combine the cubed shrimp, scallop, cilantro and green onion with lime dressing and toss well. Set aside in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to one hour.
  3. When the seafood has become opaque, add the celery, cucumber and apple and toss well. Serve over arugula or lettuce of choice
CevicheWW_2270

The apple adds the sweetness that the jicama would have.

*’cooking’ seafood in citrus does not kill off any parasites, so you should be very careful with the choice of seafood — it should be fresh, or boil in water until done and prepare the salad just prior to serving.

Ceviche Nut

Based on 1 small serving

CevicheWW

Based on 1 small serving.

I found this clever idea in the latest LCBO magazine. My vases were a little smaller than the idea in the magazine so some of my tulips had to stick out at the top.

I found this clever idea in the latest LCBO magazine. My vases were a little smaller than the idea in the magazine so some of my tulips had to stick out at the top.

Recently, we hosted a dinner party for guests who were doing Weight Watchers and because I don’t like to sabotage anyone’s journey to a healthy weight I decided to make the entire meal WW friendly and that meant putting my thinking cap on.  Now I don’t know about you, but I adore guacamole, it’s so creamy, fresh and tangy and it really enhances a few dishes as a condiment but may also be used as a wonderful dip with fresh vegetables!

Now I know what many of you will say, “but wait, avocados are a good fat” and while that is very true, it’s all about balance and budget so if you can save a little here you can spend it there (perhaps on an extra glass of vino?), is all I’m saying!

Before I even searched on line, I had the idea of creating a mockamole from spinach. Why spinach? I chose spinach because #1 it’s a gorgeous green and you can purée it smooth uncooked and #2 it fits well into the WW point system.  Once I determined what my basic ingredients would be, I started to search “mockamole” on the net and found that the majority of them are made with green peas. Now green peas are quite healthy but when I did the nutritional calculation using peas, my 1 tablespoon mockamole resulted in 1 WW point whereas my spinach mockamole resulted in 0 points for 1 tablespoon. So that was it.

Guacamole is a simple yet flavourful combination of ingredients and other than subbing out the avocado, I kept it pretty true to form. I used 4 tablespoons of cooked puréed navy beans as my ‘creamy’ ingredient and it worked out great. I loved the bright green colour as well as the bright flavours in this recipe. JT said it was an excellent substitute for real guacamole! It’s quite garlic-y so if it’s date night, you may wish to tone it down a notch or make sure your partner has some too ;-)!

Mockamole_2308

May I interest you in a little dip?

Mockamole (Spinach ‘guacamole’)

Makes about 3/4 cup.

Ingredients:

  • 100 g fresh spinach (may be frozen)
  • 4 tbsp navy bean paste (see notes)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) lime juice
  • 1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tbsp green onion, finely chopped
  • Cilantro or parsley for garnish
  • Chopped tomatoes (optional)

Directions:

  1. If using frozen spinach, wring out well. If using fresh spinach, wash and dry well.
  2. Combine the spinach, navy bean paste, garlic, lime juice and cilantro in a small food processor and process until very smooth (I found my immersion blender did this beautifully). Fold in chopped tomatoes if you are adding them.
  3. Add chopped green onion and garnish with a sprig of cilantro. Serve with cucumber slices, celery sticks or cauliflower florets or use in a meal that requires guacamole as a condiment.
Mockamole_2310

Choose vegetables that hold onto the dip like a spoon!

Mockamole_2303

The cooked puréed beans give this dip its creamy texture.

Mockamole_2306

Who are you calling “dip”?

Per 1 tbsp serving

1 tbsp serving

Per 1 tbsp per serving.

1 tbsp serving.

Notes:

  • Navy bean purée: I usually make up a batch of plain navy beans for thickening soups, sauces and gravies and then freeze for later use. Cook navy beans in water without salt. Purée and press through a fine sieve. Allow to cool completely and put 1 tbsp portions into an ice cube tray (specifically for savoury things) and freeze. Once frozen, take each cube and put it into a larger ziplock bag and that way you have a creamy gluten-free thickening agent for future recipes.
  • If you add too much liquid to the puréed spinach mix, strain for a couple of hours in a coffee filter reserved for savoury things before serving.
  • To blanch spinach quickly, add spinach to a heat proof bowl with about 1/2 cup water and nuke for about 2-4 minutes until soft. Rince with cold water and wring out well.

This winter we had a lot of snow. And by a lot, I’m talking over a metre (yard) high piled up on our front yard. It’s been really crazy. I’ve talked about our wonderful neighbours before and I just have to say something again. It snowed about 10cm (4 inches) overnight and by the time we had gotten up the next morning, our wonderful neighbour John had shoveled our sidewalk, all 59 feet of it and even some of our other neighbour’s sidewalk too! Isn’t that nice? As a thank you I made a batch of biscotti, a little different than this version I made last year to give them after all, I wouldn’t want to discourage such neighborly behavior!

Almond, Cranberry and Orange Biscotti

Makes about 4 dozen little cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups unbleached AP Flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup toasted almonds
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 2 tbsp orange zest
  • 1 lightly beaten egg white
  • Plus a small amount of dark chocolate, melted with a little butter (just enough to drizzle).

    Directions:

    1. Preheat the oven to 350°F or 180°C.
    2. Toast the whole almonds on a baking sheet for 10-12 minutes. Cool completely.
    3. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, orange zest and nuts in a medium-sized bowl.
    4. In another bowl, whisk the eggs together with the sugar, melted butter, vanilla extract and almond extract ; stir the wet ingredients into the flour/nut mixture and combine until a sticky dough forms.
    5. Transfer to a floured surface and form the dough into two narrow logs about 30 cm or 12 inches long.
    6. Place the logs onto an ungreased baking sheet and brush with the beaten egg whites.
    7. Bake for about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for about 6 minutes and then slice into 1 cm or 0.5 inch thick diagonal slices. Return slices to the cookie sheet and bake again for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool.

    My best friend from University recently had an operation so I made two different kinds of soups and some gluten free cheese scones for her and her family so she needn’t bother with cooking during the first few days of recovery. The scones were a success and even JT couldn’t tell that they were gluten free. The first batch I made to give to my friend, they were true to this recipe and I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Flour which is mainly Chick Pea flour. I don’t particularly care for chick pea flour because it’s dense and has a particular smell, so I flavoured the first recipe strongly with a little sugar and some orange rind (orange and cheese go very well together!). The second time I made the recipe below and I didn’t need to add sugar nor the orange rind because I used a gluten free flour mix that I blended myself and I increased the gluten free baking powder because I wanted a flakier and a bigger rise out of them — it worked. I’ve put them in the freezer for the next time I see her because she has decided to recover in Florida, lucky duck.

    GFCheeseScones_2193

    These scones rose nicely and had a very flaky texture.

    Gluten Free Flour Mix

    Ingredients:

    • 6 parts brown rice flour
    • 3 parts yellow corn flour (not meal)
    • 1 part tapioca flour

    Directions:

    1. Combine all of the ingredients above and mix well.
    2. Use as required in gluten free recipes.
    GFCheeseScones_2192

    I challenge you to taste that they are indeed gluten free.

    Gluten Free Cheese Scones

    Makes 12 scones about 5.5 cm (2 inches diameter)

    Ingredients:

    • 1 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour, plus more for sprinkling (for this recipe, I used 1 tbsp and 1 tsp in the ratios above to yield 1+ cups of gluten free flour)
    • 1 tsp xanthan gum
    • 3 tbsp nonfat dry milk powder
    • 1  tbsp gluten free baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp yellow mustard powder
    • 20 g unsalted butter, frozen and grated (please see tip)
    • 85 g + 2 tbsps sharp cheddar cheese, grated, frozen (please see tip)
    • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
    • 75 mL milk, chilled (plus 2 tbsp more for brushing) 

    Directions:

    1. Combine the dry ingredients and whisk until well mixed.
    2. Sprinkle the frozen cheese into the flour and mix. Sprinkle the frozen grated butter and cut into the flour using a pastry blender.
    3. Combine the milk and the dijon mustard and mix well.
    4. Create a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the milk and mix until it’s combined.
    5. Sprinkle a bit of gluten free flour on your work surface and roll out the dough to about 1 cm or 1/2 inch thick. Fold the dough over as you would fold a letter to go into a #10 envelope. I did this twice. You don’t want to over work the dough because then the butter will begin to melt and it won’t be as flaky. Using a bit more gluten free flour, roll out the dough to 2 cm or 3/4 inch thick. Cut with your desired cookie cutter (I used a 5.5 cm (around 2 inches) fluted round).
    6. Brush tops with the additional milk and sprinkle a pinch more of grated cheese on each top.
    7. Bake on a Silpat sheet or parchment for 16 minutes or until cheese not the tops is melted and a little browned (you may wish to broil for a minute).
    8. Serve warm with butter.
    GFCheeseScones_2189

    The butter just melts into the layers of deliciousness.

    Tips:

    • I always buy my butter on sale and cut it into 1/2 cup portions and freeze. Grating frozen butter for pastries is the best way to keep the pastry flaky and light.
    • I also buy my baking cheddar on sale and grate it into a zip lock bag and freeze. If you take it out and separate the gratings as it freezes, you will have frozen cheddar flakes that are easily measured for baking and cooking.
    JalopenoCornbread_2215

    This is the best Jalopeño Cornbread EVER.

    Everyone has a favourite corn bread recipe, this one is mine. It came from an 80’s trendy restaurant called Fred’s Not Here in the theatre district in Toronto. I qualify that it was trendy in the 80’s because although it is still around, I haven’t been to it since the 80’s so I’m not certain it’s ‘trendy’ any more. I do know that the particular strip that this and many other restaurants reside on are fighting for their lives from being re-zoned and torn down to be made into condos. Like Toronto needs more condos; apparently we have the most condos under construction in all of North America, more than New York, Chicago and Boston, believe it or not. Even if you don’t believe that, surely you must believe that this is absolutely the best corn bread recipe EVER! It’s got great texture (thank you cheddar cheese), a slight sweetness and heat. What more can you want?

    Originally posted on this blog in 2009 here, I found this recipe in the Toronto Star in the section that people wrote in and asked the Star to print a recipe from a specific restaurant. It wasn’t me who wrote in, obviously someone else also thought it was the best cornbread ever, so you needn’t take my word for it. I still have the original printed recipe. But I’ve immortalized it for you here and reposted it below because the original photo sucked. These are better.

    Fred’s Not Here Jalapeño Corn Bread

    Makes about 26 small corn-shaped corn breads. I have altered the original recipe, so if you’d prefer the actual Fred’s Not Here version, please click to my original post here.

    JalopenoCornbread_2211

    OK, you caught me, I didn’t have jalopeños, I only had hot Thai Chilies!

    Ingredients:

    • 1  1/4 cups finely ground corn meal (not corn flour)
    • 1  1/4 cups all purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 1  1/4 tsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
    • 1  1/2 cups milk
    • 2 tbsp finely diced jalapeños or hot chili peppers (or more if you really like it hot!)
    • 2 finely sliced green onions
    • 1  1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

    Directions:

    1. Pre heat oven to 400° F.
    2. Sift cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Stir in the shredded cheese.
    3. Blend eggs, milk and oil in another bowl. Add the finely diced jalapeños and green onion.
    4. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients and stir well to combine.
    5. Spray your cast iron corn shaped pan with non-stick spray and pre-heat until smoking.
    6. Spoon batter into smoking hot moulds and bake for 25 minutes or until firm and golden.
    7. Serve warm or at room temperature with fresh butter.

    Notes:

    • In a pinch I’ve used dried chili flakes, it works very well.
    • You can substitute honey for the granulated sugar, but I haven’t tried it.
    • Keep your eye on the baking after the first couple of pans because the pan gets hotter; I had to reduce my baking time by a minute or so by the end.
    • Fill the cavity only to the top, this batter has a lot of leavening and will fill out very nicely.
    • I served it with this Sopa Azteca and it was very successful.
    FredsNotHereCornbreadNut

    Based on 1 cornbread.

    FredsNotHereCornbreadWW

    Based on 1 cornbread.

    Sunday was my dear Dad’s birthday, he would have been 91, Happy Birthday Dad!

    Mom and Dad 1959

    Mom and Dad 1959

    What does your grocery shopping map look like? Ours is called the Golden Horseshoe which means we shop the outer edge. Here in Canada it usually means that we enter the store in the vegetable section, round over through the deli/specialty cheese then bakery then fish/meats and finish off in dairy.
    We don’t do a whole lot in the aisles. Recently I did a couple of assisting jobs that took me deep into un chartered territory: the middle aisles! I had to pick up groceries for a Canadian lifestyle TV show for two segments and I have to admit that it was an eye opener! What I found enormously frustrating was that a number of items that could be in more than one spot. Even the staff didn’t know for sure. Gluten free is a great example because a number of GF products are also organic, so now you’ve hot two completely opposite locations for the same product. Or if it’s flour and it’s a national brand, it could be in the normal baking section on the same shelf as the regular glutenated versions! Yes, it’s frustrating. What does your grocery store layout look like and do you shop the aisles?

    I was making polenta the other day and as I was stirring the polenta and it began to thicken I was suddenly reminded of Pâte à Choux  just after you add the flour to the butter and water mixture, and the idea came to me so I spent the following day developing a gluten free Pâte à Choux that you could not tell was Gluten Free. I must tell you, this is it. Many Gluten Free recipes just don’t cut it for me, it’s either the weird flour smell (garbonzo bean flour), taste or the crumbly texture, so you know this recipe must have checked positive on all of these points.

    My first attempt used superfine corn meal (I blitzed it in a coffee grinder a few times) and even though it puffed up as well as the glutenated version it was just too corn mealy (think corn muffin texture even though the corn meal was superfine) the texture wasn’t right at all and so the experimentation began. Perhaps if I had used corn flour instead of meal, it would have been a different story, but I’ll leave that for another time.

    GF ChouxPastry_2158

    This is the 100% cornmeal version, it’s just too corny, if you’ll pardon the pun.

    After some research I decided a pastry made only with cornmeal was not the answer so I went searching for home made gluten free flour recipes so I didn’t have to waste time hunting down a GF flour in the grocery store. Many of them had similar ingredients but I was limited to what I had at home and the volume of each ingredient I had on hand which determined my home-made GF flour recipe; a combination of 6 parts superfine corn meal, 3 parts potato starch and 1 part tapioca flour was the result and I’m rather pleased how it worked out in this recipe. The texture and mouth feel of these choux resemble the texture and mouth feel of the glutenated choux cheese pastries that we know and love! I was so happy because my BFF is gluten intolerant and my brother has chosen to omit gluten from his diet to manage an illness. The last time I asked him if he wanted me to make a gluten free item for him he said it’s just not worth it. He’ll surely change his mind with these.

    I tried making these the quick and easy way that my normal food processor choux is made (like this) but did not have as good luck with them, they were not as elastic as a good choux should be, so I reverted to the old fashioned way with the hand mixer and it worked out perfectly.

    Gluten Free Cheese Choux Pastry

    Makes 25, 4 cm or 1.5 inch puffs

    GF ChouxPastry_2162

    As the three bears put it, “this one is just right”

    Ingredients:

    • 65 mL soda water
    • 30 g unsalted butter
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 40 g gluten free flour*
    • 1/4 tsp zanthan gum (see notes)
    • 1/4 tsp gluten free baking powder
    • 1 egg
    • 30 g grated sharp cheddar cheese

    Directions:

    1. Preheat the oven to 200° C/400° F.
    2. Combine the gluten free flour, zanthan gum and gluten free baking powder and stir well.
    3. In a saucepan with high sides, melt the butter into the water with the salt over medium heat. Add the flour mix all at once and cook this mixture until it clears away from the sides of the pan.
    4. Remove from heat. Using a hand held mixer, whip this mixture for about a minute. Add the egg and beat for about 2 minutes, add the cheese and beat the pastry until it is elastic and smooth.
    5. Prepare a baking sheet by measuring a piece of parchment to cover it, soak the parchment in running water and squeeze out excess water. Smooth the wet parchment over the baking sheet. (see notes)
    6. Using a pastry bag with a 2 cm (3/4 inch) nozzle, pipe very small rounds (see note) onto a the prepared baking sheet.
    7. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned.
    8. Serve warm or freeze once cooled and reheat in a warm oven at 177° C/350° F for 12-15 minutes from frozen.

    *Gluten Free Flour Recipe

    Makes about 120 g of flour, enough for 3 batches if these puffs

    Ingredients:

    • 6 tbsp superfine corn meal
    • 3 tbsp potato starch
    • 1 tbsp tapioca starch

    Directions:

    1. Mix well until combined. Store in an air tight container until required.

    Notes:

    • Zanthan Gum is used as a binder in gluten free baking, if you omit it your baking may end up crumbly. It is also used as a thickener but I’ve never tried it that way. It has no perceivable smell or taste. The general consensus is that you add 1 tsp Zanthan Gum to 1 cup GF Flour so that is how I determined how much to add in my recipe.
    • I found that piping about 2 cm or 3/4 inch balls onto the damp parchment and slicing it from the piping tip made the task very quick and quite neat. It also regulated the size of the rounds so that they were more or less equal.
    • I used soda water because I thought it might make an airier pastry, not sure if it helped or not but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
    • Years ago I had read a recipe for choux that the author lightly wets the baking sheet in order to create a humid environment which helped the choux puff up even more. It was so long ago, I don’t know where I read it but my wetting and wringing the parchment is different enough.
    GF ChouxPastry_2164

    The outside is crisp while the inside is soft and airy like it is supposed to be.

    Based on 2 per serving

    Based on 2 per serving

    My good friend Barb (Profiteroles and Ponytails) and I recently took a Sushi making workshop at Wabora Sushi in the Thompson Hotel on Wellington Street in Toronto, we got the deal on Groupon for $40 ($100 regular price) so I thought I would share my experience with you.

    Wabora offers a blend of Japanese and Korean foods with some of the well-known North American Asian dishes (From the About page on their website). The restaurant is dimly lit and decorated in a contemporary Asian style. It’s reasonably comfortable and offers enough soft surfaces which help absorb the lively conversations. Because this was a sushi making workshop we all sat at the back of the restaurant nearest to the sushi kitchen. When the workshop began, the lights at the back of the restaurant were made brighter so we could see what we were doing (a little too bright, perhaps!)

    The $40 Canadian did not include $5.20 tax so we had to pay that when we arrived. Beverages need to be purchased and if you are hungry enough you may even wish to purchase additional things off the menu (I had a glass of wine for $15). We were taught to make two decent-sized rolls which worked out to about 8 pieces each. It was reasonably filling which gave me the opportunity to take four of the pieces home with me so JT could try it too.

    My first impression was that there were a lot of people, in fact so many people that there were not enough work stations for the entire group to prepare the sushi at once, so we had to do it in two groups, Group A and Group B. The tables were nicely laid out with all of the required materials and food and the surfaces were clean. We were provided with disposable plastic gloves to wear during the preparation which were cumbersome and far too large which made some of the steps a little more difficult than they had to be. There were two sushi chefs who demonstrated at each end of the long tables before groups were called up to execute. The restaurant manager provided commentary for the demonstrations and it was easy to understand. My only complaint for the demonstration component was that there were too many people gathered around and it was difficult to see exactly what the chefs were doing (there were taller people standing in front of me). The commentary was helpful even if it was difficult to see.

    The chefs remained available to help where they saw necessary and answer some questions. One thing that surprised me was that the standard size sushi sheets are cut in half so that they are rectangles and not squares. We were instructed to put the rice on the rough side so that it sticks better.

    TeriyakiChickenRoll_2177

    This is a chicken teriyaki roll with Grilled chicken breast, cucumber, Japanese pickled carrot (gobo), avocado, omelette pieces and seaweed garnished with blonde miso sauce and teriyaki sauce.

    The Chicken Teriyaki roll was certainly a new twist on the California Rolls that use surimi (imitation crab). We started with the seaweed, rough side up with the longest side facing us. We added the sushi rice (which was cooked and cooled Japanese rice with the addition of rice vinegar and sugar) and were told to spread it out evenly on the sheet to three sides, leaving one long side without rice for about 1 cm (0.5 inch). Then we added the chicken, avocado, cucumber, pickled carrot and omelette horizontally onto the long end, being careful not to over stuff. The chicken I had was a little dry and if I were to make this at home, I would definitely leave the chicken slightly thicker to avoid drying out. We rolled the seaweed up from the long end and finished it off by shaping it with a plastic covered sushi bamboo mat, tapping the ends in. We then cut the roll into eight even slices and plated them. We drizzled white miso and teriyaki sauces over the plate. The garnish of the white miso and the teriyaki sauces complimented each other well, but I would definitely not call this sushi. Roll #1 was disappointing.

    Roll #2 was called a Spicy Salmon roll and it was made ‘inside out’ meaning that the rice was on the outside of the roll. For this roll, we began with the seaweed rough side up with the shortest side facing us. We added the rice and spread it out evenly to every side, then we flipped the sea weed over so that the rice was facing down on the table. We added shredded surimi (imitation crab), avocado and cucumber to the short end and rolled it up tight. Then we covered the roll with a piece of plastic wrap and we shaped the roll using an uncovered bamboo sushi mat, tapping the ends in. Then we removed the plastic wrap and added the mixture of the ‘secret recipe’ of spicy raw salmon to the top. Then another sheet of plastic wrap was draped over the roll and we shaped it again using the bamboo matt. Leaving the plastic on the roll, we cut cut the roll into 8 even slices using a dipped sushi knife. Then we removed the plastic, plated the rolls and drizzled a spicy mayo on the top and then crispy-fried potato strings. The spicy salmon had a wonderful taste and texture but I was disappointed that the recipe for it was secret, I thought it was a workshop on how to make sushi?

    SpicySalmonRoll_2179

    Spicy Salmon Roll with crispy fried potato strings

    SpicySalmonRoll_2180

    This one was definitely more flavourful and full of texture.

    I had a really good time with Barb and it was lovely to catch up. The sushi making workshop was OK value for $40 and had I paid $100 I would have been enormously disappointed — it’s definitely not worth $100 to make two rolls, particularly since neither used that expensive ingredients. I would definitely like to come back to Wabora and sample more of their dishes in the future and leave the sushi making to the experts.

    Overall rating of Sushi Making Workshop in Wabora (in my opinion): Decor 3/5, service 3/5, food 3/5, Value 2/5, Noise: 2.5/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

    Disclaimer: We purchased the workshop and wine ourselves and my opinions just that, my opinions.

    Wabora Toronto

    550 Wellington St. W
    Toronto, ON M5V 1H5
    (416) 777-9901

    Hours

    Sunday – Wednesday 11am-11pm
    Thursday – Saturday 11am-12pm

    Happy St. Paddy’s Day all!

    I’m sure you’ve heard that the North East has been experiencing one of the worst winters ever and the yoyo temperatures Toronto has been experiencing for example, last Thursday it was -15°C (5°F) with a wind chill that made it feel more like -27°C (-16.6°F)  and to make matters worse, last Wednesday we received about 20 cm (8 inches) of snow; you know the really heavy, wet kind? Made it really fun to shovel…NOT!

    One of our elite political comedy hosts Rick Mercer had this skit on his show last Monday, I found it very funny so I thought I’d share it with you.

    You could say I’m really late for Valentine’s day, or really early. I prefer the later. And as I said before, don’t limit yourself to one day to serve heart-shaped foods!

    I’ve posted about these delightful cheese puffs previously (please click here and here) but when I saw Lorraine’s  (Not Quite Nigella)  heart shaped Pâte à Choux post here I knew I had to try to make them as small bite-sized hors d’œuvres! They were rather easy to make and even though they were a very tiny bit fussy to shape, it wasn’t as bad as I had thought it might be. Of course, you get fewer from one batch of pastry but it’s absolutely worth the extra effort with the ooooh’s and ahhhh’s! I took these to a lovely girls night in but you can make them in advance and freeze them in an air tight container and then pull them out one at a time as needed! I stuffed mine with a slightly modified version of this Hungarian Korozot recipe, but you needn’t stuff them at all because they are rather tasty on their own too!

    ChouxHeart_2120

    It’s never too late to say I love you with heart shaped cheese puffs

    Heart Shaped Cheese Choux Pastry

    Makes about 18 heart shaped puffs about 4 cm or 1.5 inches in diameter.

    Ingredients:

    • 1 cup water
    • 1/4 cup butter
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1 cup all purpose flour
    • 3 eggs
    • 1 cup grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese

    Directions:

    1. Preheat oven to 200° C 400° F. Take a piece of parchment the size of your baking pan and saturate it with water, wring out so it’s still wet but not dripping wet. Flatten on the baking sheet. Set aside until you are ready to pipe the pastry.
    2. Place water, butter and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
    3. Remove from heat and add flour, and stir until combined.
    4. Return to heat and stir cooking the flour mixture until it comes away from the sides of the pan and is a shiny ball. I find the heat of the pan is enough, I generally don’t put the flame back on.
    5. Place in a food processor with plastic blades and process for 15 seconds (give or take).
    6. Add eggs and process for 40 seconds (err on the longer side of give or take).
    7. Add cheese and process for another 5-10 seconds until smooth.
    8. Take a piece of parchment the size of the baking pan and wet it thoroughly under the running tap. Scrunch it up and wring out the excess water. Flatten it out onto your ready baking sheet.
    9. Transfer the pastry to a pastry bag fitted with a thick nozzle about 1 cm or 0.5 inches in diameter. Begin on the left bump of the heart and pipe one side, then without lifting the tip, pipe the right side of the heart. You may wish to smooth out the top with a slightly wet knife. To get the heart shapes defined enough, exaggerate the top bumps of the heart, other wise it will fill in as it bakes. Or you could use a heart shaped mould sprayed a bit with non-stick spray like Brooks did in this post on his lovely blog Cakewalkr. I just came across Brooks’ blog quite by accident but I am so glad I did, can’t wait to try this method!
    10. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.
    11. Serve warm or room temperature. Fill with your choice of delicious fillings!
    ChouxHeart_2119

    Surprisingly easy to make.

    ChouxHeart_2118

    These tasty Pâte à Choux are tasty even without any fillings

    Based on 2 Korozot stuffed hearts per serving

    Based on 2 Korozot stuffed hearts per serving

    Based on two heart cheese puffs, not stuffed per serving.

    Based on two heart-shaped cheese puffs, not stuffed per serving.

    Smoked Salmon Hearts

    I made these beautiful, heart shaped hors d’œuvres for Valentines day and I thought I’d share the simple recipe with you because making heart shaped hors d’œuvres shouldn’t be reserved for one day of the year! The fussiest thing about this recipe is cutting out the heart shapes from the smoked salmon. But you needn’t fuss at all, just piece the smoked salmon on the rice and cut out easy rectangles using a sharp knife! I ended up using a knife along the outer edge of a heart-shaped cookie cutter and assembling the salmon on top of the cut rice. Want to make it even easier? You can also purchase ready-made wasabi mayo.

    SmokeSalmonHearts_2108

    Choose a heart-shaped cookie cutter that is one bite.

    Smoked Salmon Sushi Hearts

    Makes about 16 bite-sized hearts, but it will depend on size of your hearts

    Ingredients:

    • 1 cup sushi rice, cooked to package directions
    • 1 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
    • 100 g smoked salmon
    • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
    • 1 tsp wasabi paste, or to taste

    Directions:

    1. Mix the rice vinegar into the hot rice and set aside to cool completely.
    2. Line a 25 cm or 10 inch square cake pan with plastic wrap overhanging two opposing sides. Press the cooled cooked rice evenly into the pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to set in shape.
    3. In the meantime, combine the mayonnaise and wasabi paste and mix throughly. Refrigerate.
    4. Take the plastic wrap overhanging sides and lift the rice out of the pan onto a cutting board. Remove plastic wrap.
    5. On another cutting board, take a slice of smoked salmon and press your heart shaped cookie cutter into it, if it doesn’t cut through completely, use a sharp knife to cleanly cut the heart shape using the cookie cutter as your guide. Repeat as many times as you have smoked salmon. Remember that you can piece together a large enough block of smoked salmon to cut more hearts out.
    6. Once you have exhausted the smoked salmon, cut as many hearts out from the rice as you have salmon hearts; you can also reuse the left over rice bits to make additional rice hearts. Assemble by placing the smoked salmon heart directly on top of the rice heart, lining up as best you can.
    7. Dot a single dot of the wasabi mayo in the centre of the heart. Serve immediately, or refrigerate covered with plastic wrap so that the rice doesn’t dry out.
    SmokeSalmonHearts_2115

    The wasabi mayo is a lovely bit of heat

    Directions for Rectangles:

    1. Mix the rice vinegar into the hot rice and set aside to cool completely.
    2. Line a 25 cm or 10 inch square cake pan with plastic wrap overhanging two opposing sides. Press the cooled cooked rice evenly into the pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to set in shape.
    3. In the meantime, combine the mayonnaise and wasabi paste and mix throughly.
    4. Take individual sheets of smoked salmon and piece it on top of the rice while still in the pan, overlapping slightly so that there aren’t any holes. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
    5. Take the plastic wrap overhanging sides and lift the rice out of the pan onto a cutting board. Remove plastic wrap.
    6. Using a ruler or straight edge, cut even rectangles and dot each one with the wasabi mayo (you may need additional wasabi mayo for this)
    Or take the easy route and cut out little rectangles instead of hearts!

    My friend Susan made these for a pot luck dinner we had in November last year. I liked them so much I knew I had to make them sometime!

    SmokeSalmonHearts_2109

    The little hearts are very festive, but you needn’t reserve them for Valentine’s Day.

    The nutrition is based on 2 hearts per serving.

    The nutrition is based on 2 hearts per serving.

    I always like to serve a salad, particularly when we have a reasonably heavy meal so I came up with this easy Caribbean inspired slaw recipe that hit the spot perfectly when I served it with the Trinidadian Chicken Curry Roti; the coconut cream helped subdue the slight heat from the curry and it was very fresh and delicious. I based the recipe on this slaw that was inspired by Toronto Chef and Food Network Canada celebrity, Susur Lee. Keep the wet and dry ingredients separate until just before serving so that the slaw doesn’t get too sloppy and wet; wet ingredients would be the cucumber and the mango which may be stored together. The beauty of this slaw is the uniformity of each component, so take your time in grating, slicing and chopping.

    CaribbeanSlaw_2089

    The coconut milk in the dressing helped subdue the heat from the curry.

    Caribbean Inspired Slaw

    Makes about 8 cups of slaw

    Ingredients:

    • 2 (about 2 cups) carrots, grated
    • 1/2 (give or take 3 cups) savoy cabbage, shredded
    • 1 green onion, finely sliced
    • 1/2 (about 1 cup) English cucumber, grated
    • 1 mango, grated
    • 1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
    • 1/2 cup grated unsweetened coconut
    • 1/4 cup coconut cream
    • 1/2 tsp tamarind concentrate
    • 2 tbsp lime juice
    • 1 tbsp honey

    Directions:

    1. Combine the shredded cabbage with the green onion, grated carrots, cilantro and grated coconut, toss well to combine. Refrigerate until serving.
    2. Combine the grated cucumber and mango and toss well to combine. Refrigerate until serving.
    3. For the dressing, combine the coconut cream, tamarind, lime juice and honey and mix well. Refrigerate until serving.
    4. When ready to serve, combine the cabbage mixture with the cucumber mixture and toss well to combine. Add the dressing and toss well to combine. Garnish with additional grated coconut and cilantro. Serve immediately.
    CaribbeanSlaw_2083

    A wonderful combination of crunch and soft sweet fruits and vegetables.

    CaribbeanSlaw_2086

    The slaw really packs a lot of flavour.

    Screen Shot 2014-02-15 at 3.17.41 PM

    Did you have pancakes on Tuesday? Pancakes are traditionally served on shrove Tuesday, not sure why but because we love the ‘cakes of pan’ we had these beauties for dinner Tuesday night. Thank you Sissi.

    In early February, mid-February, late-February and now early March, we have been going through a bit of a deep chill which always makes us crave hearty, spicy foods. We invited my nephew, niece and her beau to dinner last month and I wanted to serve something new, for them and for me (I’ve never made this before!) so I turned to the hearty West Indian Rôti, always comforting with it’s warm flavours and great textures.

    I chose Chef Marcus Samuelson’s Trinidadian Chicken Roti recipe, with some very minor alterations. I also used this recipe* for my Jamaican Curry powder; I actually liked the second one because I was able to make as much or as little as needed — I used 1 teaspoon as my single measure for the ratios which made more than enough for 4 tablespoons! You may also buy Jamaican Curry Spice ready made from the store.

    There is absolutely nothing stopping you from omitting the chicken and using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth to make this entirely vegetarian, you can even add tofu but the chickpeas are likely filling enough.

    Below is the calorie count for one of the Rôti’s served at our favourite takeout place.  After the success of this recipe, I suspect that rôti will not be bought take out ever again! For the record, I always cut my rôti in half and shared it with someone else!

    Calories: 1,013 YIKES!
    Fat: 43 grams DOUBLE YIKES!
    Sodium: 1,617 milligrams OMG!
    Carbohydrates: 106 grams
    Protein: 51 grams

    Chicken Roti_2099

    A perfectly seasoned and slightly spicy Chicken, chickpea and kale roti

    Trinidadian Chicken Rôti

    Makes 8 servings. Please see Chef Marcus Samuelson’s original recipe here. Make the curry a day in advance because it will taste better!

    Ingredients:

    • 1 cup dried sprouted chickpeas**, rehydrated over night (or low sodium can of cooked chickpeas)
    • 3+ cups chicken stock
    • Quick spray of non-stick spray
    • 1 large red onion, finely sliced
    • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
    • 1 medium Chinese egg plant, cubed
    • 2 generous cups kale, chopped
    • 1 tbsp vinegar
    • 4 tbsp Jamaican curry powder*
    • 1/2 tsp cumin
    • salt, to taste
    • 800 g chicken breasts, no bone, no skin, cut into even chunks
    • 1/4 cup white wine

    Directions:

    1. Add the sprouted chickpeas and stock to a slow cooker and set on high for 4 hours.
    2. Spray a large dutch oven with non-stick spray and sweat the onions until translucent on medium heat.
    3. Add the garlic, eggplant and kale and sauté for about 3 minutes. Add the Jamaican curry powder, cumin and salt and pepper and stir until fragrant. Add the vinegar and give it a good stir. Using a silicon spatula, scrap this mixture into the slow cooker and give it a good stir. Cook on high for 4-6 hours.
    4. About 1 hour before serving, reheat the dutch oven and sear the chicken pieces in the spice laden dutch oven. Add the chicken to the curry in the Dutch oven. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and add to the curry.
    5. Give the curry a good stir and reset the timer and heat to Low for 1 additional hour.
    6. You may need to add a bit more more stock if the curry is too thick because you want a lot of gravy.
    7. Serve with Roti bread.
    Chicken Roti_2097

    Delicious!

    ** I tried sprouting my chickpeas for the first time on my friend Norma’s suggestion, not sure it made much of a difference the taste but it was fun to do.

    Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 3.00.46 PM

    Nutrional Facts for the Curry

    Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 2.26.11 PM

    Nutrional Facts for the Roti Bread

    Do you love West Indian food? We do, particularly West Indian Rôti and fortunately there are a couple of really great places to get takeout near our home, but I’ve always wondered how to make them at home. Believe it or not, it was surprisingly easy and not very time consuming at all. In fact, I probably spent more time searching techniques to make the Rôti than actually making the roti! And the curry was just popped into the slow cooker and cooked all day with little to no attention! Can you believe it?

    The following few posts are of West Indian Curried Chicken Rôti, I hope you give it a try, it was incredibly tasty!

    Roti_2092

    It’s not that difficult to make, it’s more about technique than anything else.

    I finally settled on Chef Marcus Samuelson’s Trinidadian Chicken Rôti and I even made his roti bread, but to be honest I wasn’t entirely happy with it. My rôti from Chef Samuelson’s recipe did not turn out soft and pliable nor did it have the layers that our local rôti joint makes so I went back to the drawing board and found this recipe and very good video tutorial and my first attempt worked out perfectly! It’s definitely not as calorie conscious as I would normally like, but then again we won’t be indulging too often and I bet it’s a bit healthier than the takeout version!

    As it turns out, the rôti is more or less a laminated dough, which means you add some kind of grease and fold the rolled dough to create the layers. The recipe I used was made with white flour but I altered it a bit with whole wheat and it really didn’t change the mouth feel or texture, I also reduced the oil for laminating quite a bit. I’m definitely going to incorporate this wonderful dish into our Cottage Repertoire!

    Roti_2095

    It’s kind of a cross between a Naan and a Crêpe

    West Indian Rôti Bread

    Makes 2 30 cm (12 inch) rôti breads. Please click here for original recipe.

    Ingredients:

    • 1 cup AP flour
    • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
    • 1/2 tsp vegetable shortening
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 1/8 cup vegetable oil
    • 1 tbsp unsalted butter

    Directions:

    1. Combine the flours, shortening and baking powder in a large bowl. Rub the shortening into the flours well.
    2. Add 1/2 cup water a little at a time until the dough comes together (it should be relatively soft and shaggy but not sticky).
    3. Cover with a damp cloth and allow to rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
    4. Combine the vegetable oil and butter and melt in a microwave. It’s OK to use this if it is warm, but not boiling.
    5. Divide the rested dough into two evenly sized balls. With a little flour on the work surface, roll out each dough to about 30 cm or 12 inches in diameter (it will be very thin).
    6. Using a pastry brush, brush the vegetable oil and butter combo on the circle (I used a relatively light touch and it still worked out beautifully!).
    7. Using the technique described in this video, slice a single cut into the circle from the edge to the centre. Begin folding a triangle, going all the way around the circle.
    8. Then flip the cone up so the point is downward. From the wider end on top, pull the outer sides into the roll to seal it. Then flip it again so the pointy end is up, and using your forefinger and middle finger press the point down into the roll. Repeat for the second circle. The video is excellent, so if you have time, please watch it.
    9. Cover these laminated balls with a damp paper towel and allow to rest 30 minutes to 1 hour.
    10. Once rested, lightly flour your work surface and roll out the laminated dough to about 30 cm or 12 inches in diameter. In the meantime, using a large flat cast iron pan, heat to medium heat.
    11. Cook the first side for about 2 minutes, and then flip. Brush the top side with some of the remaining oil butter mixture, then flip and brush the second side. The instructions were quite explicit not to brush the bread first, you must cook the first side before brushing.
    12. Repeat cooking for the second roti.
    13. Store in an airtight container or zip lock bag so it doesn’t dry out.

    Laminating

    Laminating2

    Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 2.26.11 PM

    This is the roti with Chef Samuelson’s slightly modified Chicken Curry.

    Chicken Roti_2097

    An authentic West Indian Roti

    Recently I had a couple of encounters, not the alien kind but the kind of encounters that you don’t expect after 30 plus years! We were meeting a friend up on Bloor at our local pub for dinner one night and this gentleman stops me on the street and calls me by name. He was so happy to see me but I had no idea who he was; it turns out that he was in my grade school way back before dinosaurs and he recognized me! I didn’t recognize him because he was a very skinny and short kid with a crazy ‘fro and he became quite a tall and portly adult with close cropped hair.

    Later that same week we ventured to our local Home Show to walk around and day-dream about our next renovation when this woman approaches and asks if I had gone to U of T (University of Toronto) and as soon as I looked at her I recognized her from way back in the mid 80’s! Two totally unexpected encounters in one week. Has this ever happened to you? I’d love to hear about it.

    I was trying to find a way to use the wasabi pearls without being too predictable and this salad was the perfect solution! The lightly dressed salad plays up the subtle sweet and sour Asian flavours in the cucumber pickle combined with the luxuriously creamy soft poached egg yolk. The cucumber pickle was so tasty, I would have it on its own too!

    I’m still at odds about the use of the other two pearls, so if you have any ideas, I’d love to hear about them.

    CucumberPicklePoachedEggSalad_2046

    A refreshing Asian flavoured salad

    Cucumber Ribbon Pickle and Poached Egg Salad with Wasabi Pearls

    Serves 2 as a light meal or 4 as a starter

    Ingredients for the salad:

    • 4 handfuls of mixed greens (I used spinach and arugula)
    • 20 grape tomatoes cut in half
    • 1 tbsp cilantro, roughly chopped
    • 1 tbsp green onion, roughly chopped
    • 1 heaped tbsp wasabi pearls (click here for recipe)
    • 1 cup English cucumbers, sliced into very thin ribbons (see note)
    • 1 soft boiled egg per serving

    Ingredients for the dressing:

    • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
    • 1/4 cup water
    • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
    • 1/2 tsp soy sauce

    Directions for the cucumber pickle:

    1. Combine all of the ingredients for the dressing and heat either in the microwave or stove top until just about boiling. Pour over the cucumber ribbons in a non-reactive container and allow to sit for 15 to 30 minutes.

    Directions for the salad:

    1. Put equal amounts of the mixed greens into each of two or four bowls, top with equal amounts of the cucumber pickle (reserve the dressing) and tomatoes.
    2. Add one poached egg per bowl and garnish with the chopped green onion and cilantro.
    3. Distribute even amounts of the wasabi pearls into each bowl and drizzle with a tablespoon or two of the dressing into each bowl.
    4. Serve immediately.
    CucumberPicklePoachedEggSalad_2048

    The pale green wasabi pearls are a burst of flavour

    CucumberPicklePoachedEggSalad_2051

    Breaking into the yolk to make a delicious, creamy dressing

    CucumberPicklePoachedEggSalad_2049

    No, they are not some weird green fish eggs, they are wasabi pearls!

    CucumberPicklePoachedEggSalad_2052

    I just needed a bit of colour on a dreary winter’s day

    Tips:

    • Use your vegetable peeler to make paper thin cucumber ribbons.
    • Don’t peel the cucumber to give it some substance.

    Today is my dear Mother’s birthday; were she alive, she would have been 78 years young!

    Happy Birthday Mom, I miss you.

    Happy Birthday Mom (21 in this photo), I miss you.

    Several years ago we dined at Diego, a lovely Mexican restaurant in the MGM Hotel in Las Vegas and I had a wonderful Ceviche that I have not been able to forget. It was an unusual combination of coconut milk and lime juice that just hit my taste buds perfectly. I adore ceviche and order it whenever I see it on a good restaurant’s menu and have not had the pleasure of these flavours together in one since. So, I thought I’d take a stab at it and create an opportunity to use one of my pearls in the process! Clever, don’t you think?

    I’ve made ceviche before, the non-cheater kind but I wanted to put this together quickly for an hors d’œuvres recently and I didn’t feel like waiting for the acid to ‘cook’ the shrimp so I came up with this ‘cheater’ version. You can make the ceviche the old fashioned way, but this really worked out well!

    I would have liked to add cubed avocado to this dish but sadly forgot to put it on my shopping list! I’ll remember next time, this is a very quick and tasty recipe.

    It’s also rather coincidental in this cyber world how we all post about similar things so I can’t go without mentioning my dear Australian Blogging friend Lorraine who just last week posted this gorgeous recipe about real ceviche. Great minds think alike…please don’t finish the last part of this saying, it kinda bursts my bubble!

    CheaterCevicheSpoons_2007

    It’s just as tasty and doesn’t take long to make.

    Cheater Shrimp Ceviche

    Makes ~200 mL Ceviche (slightly more than 3/4 cup), or 8 single serve Chinese Spoons

    Ingredients:

    • 1 tbsp coconut milk powder
    • 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated finely
    • 1 tbsp rosa’s lime cordial
    • 2 tbsp lime juice
    • 80 g cooked cocktail shrimp, chopped
    • 3-4  slices of English Cucumber (0.5 cm or 1/4″ thick) cubed
    • 1 celery rib, cubed
    • 1/4 cup avocado, cubed
    • 1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
    • 1 tbsp green onion, chopped
    • 1 tsp smoked paprika pearls

    Directions:

    1. Combine the coconut milk powder, finely grated ginger, lime cordial and lime juice in a measuring cup and blend until smooth with a stick blender.
    2. Combine the chopped shrimp, cubed English cucumber, avocado (if I had some) and celery with the cilantro and green onion, toss with the coconut milk dressing to coat evenly.
    3. Serve immediately garnished with the smoked paprika pearls.
    CheaterCeviche_2004

    A refreshing combination of flavours.

    BalsamicPearls_1867

    Perfectly formed balsamic spheres

    Are you an experimental cook? What I mean by that is, do you instinctively gravitate toward unusual recipes, perhaps ones that push you out of your comfort zone? Using ingredients and techniques that are new to you and perhaps don’t always work out the first, second or even third time you try it? You may have guessed that I am, to a fault. Like a dog with a bone. I won’t stop until I get it right and even then, I may likely never make that recipe ever again! You will wonder why and to that I say, why not? I simple check it off my list and move on. This might be such a recipe.

    I cannot recall where or when was the first time I saw Balsamic Pearls or caviar but I do recall being instantly smitten, my only problem was that I was not able to find the jelling ingredient Agar Agar, until recently! And I found it in the most unlikely place, my local health food store! It was an arm and leg to purchase, but fortunately it’s a big enough bag that I can make several batches.

    What reminded me of these little gems was one of my shopping trips for Food Styling Assisting at a very fancy (read expensive) organic food store in north Toronto called Harvest Wagon; they temptingly have the most gorgeous display of vinegars and oils directly beside the cash desk…no time to even give it a second thought, unless you look at the prices! I suspect people who shop there really don’t look at the prices anyway! It is there that I spotted the balsamic pearls and it was there and then I decided that I HAD to make them!

    My dear friend and Inspiration of All Asian foods, Sissy from With a Glass has used Agar Agar for many desserts she allures us with over the years. It is a seaweed based jelling agent that does not liquify when heated up (unless it’s boiled); unlike gelatine which melts (like in my French Onion Soup Pillows).

    Pre-directions for all flavours:

    1. At least 30 minutes (but not overnight) before you wish to start making your pearls, fill a tall, thin glass with vegetable oil and put into the freezer to cool. It’s best to have a tall glass so that when you drop the pearls into it, the pearls have a long way to fall through the super cooled oil before they hit the bottom. This is very important because if the pearls don’t have sufficient time to cool down, they will fall to a puddle at the bottom of the glass. Trust me. You can strain the oil and reuse it, so don’t worry about tossing it.
    Slightly larger than caviar, these tiny pearls pack a to of flavour.

    Slightly larger than caviar, these tiny Balsamic pearls pack a lot of flavour.

    Balsamic Pearls

    Makes a generous table spoon or more of tangy balsamic pearls.

    Ingredients:

    • 2 tbsp water
    • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar (not glaze)
    • 1 tsp agar agar
    • 1-2 cups of vegetable oil in a tall glass

    Directions for balsamic pearls:

    1. In a small saucepan mix the water with the balsamic vinegar then add the agar agar and place on medium to medium low heat, stirring constantly until it comes to a boil.
    2. Cook this mixture on a very gentle boil for 4 minutes, stirring often.
    3. When the 4 minutes are up, remove the pan from heat and allow the liquid to cool to about  50° C (122° F), but try not to let it fall below 41° C (105°F), if it does, you can reheat, stirring constantly until it melts again.
    4. Remove the chilling oil from the freezer and place in a comfortable working area. Using the culinary syringe, draw up the balsamic liquid (try to get most of it), and drop by single droplets into the chilled oil. They will sit slightly suspended on the surface and then fall gently through the chilled oil to the bottom. If the pearls are cooled enough, they will have set and be beautiful little pearly jewels, if they did not set you will have a puddle at the bottom of the glass; strain the puddle out, put the oil back in the freezer and re-melt the puddle in the saucepan.
    5. When you have used up the liquid, strain the pearls out of the oil into a fine sieve and rinse with cold water. It’s best to store the pearls in the liquid that they were originally made from, so top off the storage jar with balsamic vinegar.

    These Wasabi pearls are not as green as I had hoped.

    Wasabi Pearls

    Makes a generous table spoon or more of wasabi pearls.

    Ingredients:

    • 1/4 cup water
    • 1 tsp agar agar
    • 1 tsp wasabi paste (the powder does not work well in this case)
    • 1-2 cups of vegetable oil in a tall glass

    Directions for wasabi pearls:

    1. In a small saucepan mix the water with the agar agar and place on medium to medium low heat, stirring constantly until it comes to a boil.
    2. Add the wasabi paste and mix well (try not to breath too close, it’s a very strong and stinging smell).
    3. Cook this mixture on a very gentle boil for 4 minutes, stirring often.
    4. When the 4 minutes are up, remove the pan from heat and allow the liquid to cool to about  50° C (122° F), but try not to let it fall below 41° C (105°F), if it does, you can reheat, stirring constantly until it melts again.
    5. Remove the chilling oil from the freezer and place in a comfortable working area. Using the culinary syringe, draw up the wasabi liquid (try to get most of it), and drop by single droplets into the chilled oil. They will sit slightly suspended on the surface and then fall gently through the chilled oil to the bottom. If the pearls are cooled enough, they will have set and be beautiful little pearly jewels, if they did not set, you will have a puddle at the bottom of the glass; strain the puddle out, put the oil back in the freezer and re-melt the puddle in the saucepan.
    6. When you have used up the liquid, strain the pearls out of the oil into a fine sieve and rinse with cold water. It’s best to store the pearls in the liquid that they were originally made so mix a scant teaspoon of the wasabi paste with water and store the pearls in it.
    A lovely sweet flavoured pearl.

    A lovely sweet flavoured pearl.

    Pomegranate Pearls

    Makes a generous table spoon or more of pomegranate pearls.

    Ingredients:

    • 1/4 cup pure pomegranate juice (don’t use syrup here)
    • 1 tsp agar agar
    • 1-2 cups of vegetable oil in a tall glass

    Directions for pomegranate pearls:

    1. In a small saucepan mix the pomegranate juice with the agar agar and place on medium to medium low heat, stirring constantly until it comes to a boil.
    2. Cook this mixture on a very gentle boil for 4 minutes, stirring often.
    3. When the 4 minutes are up, remove the pan from heat and allow the liquid to cool to about  50° C (122° F), but try not to let it fall below 41° C (105°F), if it does, you can reheat, stirring constantly until it melts again.
    4. Remove the chilling oil from the freezer and place in a comfortable working area. Using the culinary syringe, draw up the pomegranate liquid (try to get most of it), and drop by single droplets into the chilled oil. They will sit slightly suspended on the surface and then fall gently through the chilled oil to the bottom. If the pearls are cooled enough, they will have set and be beautiful little pearly jewels, if they did not set you will have a puddle at the bottom of the glass; strain the puddle out, put the oil back in the freezer and re-melt the puddle in the saucepan.
    5. When you have used up the liquid, strain the pearls out of the oil into a fine sieve and rinse with cold water. It’s best to store the pearls in the liquid that they were originally made from, so use pomegranate juice.
    These are very smoky indeed. I wish I had given them a bit of heat with sriachi

    These smoked paprika pearls are very smoky indeed.
    I wish I had given them a bit of heat.

    Smoked Paprika Pearls

    Makes 2 table spoons or more of smoked paprika pearls.

    Ingredients:

    • 1/4 cup water
    • 1 tbsp red pepper paste (I used sweet)
    • 3/4 tsp liquid mesquite smoke
    • 1 tsp agar agar
    • 1-2 cups of vegetable oil in a tall glass

    Directions for smoked paprika pearls:

    1. In a small saucepan mix the water with red pepper paste and smoke, then add the agar agar and place on medium to medium low heat, stirring constantly until it comes to a boil.
    2. Cook this mixture on a very gentle boil for 4 minutes, stirring often.
    3. When the 4 minutes are up, remove the pan from heat and allow the liquid to cool to about  50° C (122° F), but try not to let it fall below 41° C (105°F), if it does, you can reheat, stirring constantly until it melts again.
    4. Remove the chilling oil from the freezer and place in a comfortable working area. Using the culinary syringe, draw up the red pepper liquid (try to get most of it), and drop by single droplets into the chilled oil. They will sit slightly suspended on the surface and then fall gently through the chilled oil to the bottom. If the pearls are cooled enough, they will have set and be beautiful little pearly jewels, if they did not set you will have a puddle at the bottom of the glass; strain the puddle out, put the oil back in the freezer and re-melt the puddle in the saucepan.
    5. When you have used up the liquid, strain the pearls out of the oil into a fine sieve and rinse with cold water. It’s best to store the pearls in the liquid that they were originally made from, so mix a small amount of water and smoke (2 tbsp water and splash of liquid smoke).

    Tips:

    • I used Mitoku, Kanten Flakes (Agar); the package instructions indicate that 1 tablespoon will set 1 cup of liquid. As fyi, I also tried 2 tsp of Agar Agar into 1/4 cup liquid and found the pearls way too stiff, reducing the Agar Agar to 1 tsp worked out perfectly.
    • The Agar Agar binds with your liquid only when it is added to a boiling liquid and for the pearls to cool sufficiently you must wait until the temperature falls to  50° C (122° F) and then you must act quickly because it starts to set at 41° C (105°F) so there isn’t much time to drop the little droplets (it sets at room temperature, refrigeration is not required). Work in small batches so that your liquid doesn’t set before you have time to use it up to make the pearls.
    • I used a culinary syringe, but an icing bag fitted with a very small end could work too, although I did not try it.
    • Not every liquid can be turned into pearls because there are other things to consider which are far beyond my chemical knowledge so if you are interested in turning something not listed here into pearls, I would do some research.
    • It’s important to follow the directions closely otherwise your experiment will fail, I tested each one to make sure it works. This was my third attempt with Balsamic, second attempt with wasabi and on from there with the other flavours.
    • Don’t drop too large pearls because they won’t have time to set in the oil. My best pearls were about 2 mm (1/8 inch) in diametre, ones that ended up being about 5 mm (1/4 inch) became deformed because they didn’t have time to set as a pearl.
    • My glass was was 12 cm (4.5 inches) high with about 10 cm (4 inches) of oil, so if you have a taller glass with more oil, your pearls can be larger.
    Aren't you curious about how I plan to use these little pearls?

    Aren’t you curious about how I plan to use these little pearls?

    our-growing-edge-badge

    My friend and fellow bunny lover Genie from over at Bunny, Eats, Design suggested I post this in Our Growing Edge, a monthly blogging event to encourage us to try new food related things. Kindra from California Cavegirl Kindra is the host for this month’s event. If you have a blog and you are eating or cooking something new this month, click here to join.

    JT and I were sipping wine in the living room by a roaring fire, we were discussing the Christmas “Do-Over” dinner that we decided to host in January. I had just done all the shopping for the menu and then JT mentions that his family are not much stuffing lovers. THAT in itself is blasphemous, but what made it worse is that I had just done all the shopping. Did I mention that I had just done all the shopping? I had bought a lot of mushrooms. A LOT. And they weren’t cheap so they were not going to be omitted from the dinner!

    So instead of making a stuffing of mushrooms and chestnuts I created a pilaff! And what a success it was; the earthy mushroom flavours with the slightly chewy texture of the wild rice and the sweet chestnuts and brown rice complimented each other so well, I decided to blog about it so I don’t forget to make it next time. This recipe is really just a combination of suggestions, so if you don’t like something, omit it and add a bit of something else. Even the volumes of everything are a suggestion, so put on your recipe developer hat and make this pilaff your own!

    Another great thing is that you can make it the day before so you’re not in a panic the day that  6 people descend on you!

    WildMushroomRicePilaf_1946

    Even my Nephew who is not fond of mushrooms had a generous helping!

    Wild Mushroom Rice Pilaff with Chestnuts and Cognac

    Serves 8-10 as part of two other side dishes.

    Ingredients:

    • 500 g – 1 kg wild mushrooms (I used 1 Portobello, ~5 cremini, ~12 shitaki, ~1 large bunch oyster), chopped roughly
    • 300 g (3.5 oz) roasted chestnuts, peeled and chopped roughly
    • 1/4 cup pancetta, diced rather small
    • 1/2 sweet onion (about 1 cup), chopped finely
    • 1 clove garlic
    • 1/3 cup wild rice (cooked, as per directions)
    • 1/4 cup sweet brown rice (cooked, as per directions)
    • 1/4 cup cognac or brandy
    • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
    • 1/4 tsp thyme

    Directions:

    1. In a very hot Dutch oven, cook pancetta until crispy, remove and drain on paper towel and set aside. You may use the pancetta grease to cook in, but it you’d rather be a touch healthier, wipe out the pan and spray with a little non-stick cooking spray.
    2. Cook onions until translucent. Add garlic and continue to cook until fragrant. Deglaze the pan with the cognac. Add the butter to the hot pan and once melted add the chopped mushrooms. Cook with the top off until the mushrooms are no longer chewy.
    3. Stir in the pancetta, chestnuts and cooked rice until well blended. Spray non-stock cooking spray in a decorative casserole dish which can be put into the oven and pour the mushrooms and rice into it. Don’t pack it down.
    4. If you are making this the day before, allow to cool completely and refrigerate. When you are ready to serve, remove the pilaff from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature.
    5. Pre-heat the oven to 150°C (300°F) and reheat for 20-30 minutes. Serve hot.
    WildMushroomRicePilaf_1945

    The chestnuts are such a sweet and creamy surprise!

    Tips:

    • You may ‘chop’ the mushrooms in a food processor to save time, but be careful not to chop too finely. I did not use this method because I wanted larger, identifiable mushroom pieces.
    • You may also use barley, wheat berries or any other sturdy grain instead of wild rice.
    • Cooking sherry may be substituted for the cognac or brandy, but I prefer cognac with mushrooms.
    • I like to buy already peeled and roasted chestnuts like these, but you can roast and peel your own.
    • To add another layer of texture and flavour, add 1/2 cup of chopped roasted pecans.
    Screen Shot 2014-02-03 at 11.55.51 AM

    Based on 10 servings

    Are you tired of the same old vegetables served at holiday gatherings? I know I am. This recipe is a perfect new take on the traditional Brussels Sprouts and best of all, they are so easy to prepare! My lovely SIL Wendy makes a version of this tasty treat every year at Thanksgiving (it may be because I always ask her to), but I’ve never made it at home! So for our Christmas “Do-Over” last month I decided to give it a go. Make it vegetarian by using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and omit the pancetta, but you may need to add a bit extra salt.

    We had a Christmas “Do-Over” because JT’s 90 year old father wasn’t well enough to travel to Peterborough where JT’s sister kindly hosted the dinner since we weren’t sure we would have power. This tasty side dish is easy to eat and fast to prepare, what more could you want? Oh, yes, it’s tasty too.

    ShreadedBrusselsSprouts_1941

    Aren’t Brussels Sprouts just very tiny cabbages?

    Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and White Balsamic Vinegar

    Serves 8-10 as part of two other side dishes.

    Ingredients:

    • 500 g (about 14 cups) washed Brussels sprouts, shredded
    • 50 g (about 1/2 cup) pancetta, finely chopped
    • 1/2 (about 1 cup) sweet onion, finely sliced
    • 1 clove garlic, minced finely
    • 50 mL (about 1/4 cup) white balsamic vinegar, or to taste
    • 100 mL (about 1/2 cup) chicken stock

    Directions:

    1. In a large dutch oven, crisp the pancetta to golden. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel, set aside.
    2. Add the onion and cook until translucent, then add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Deglaze the pan with the white balsamic and chicken stock. Add the shredded Brussels sprouts and sauté until slightly wilted. Stir in the pancetta. Serve hot.
    ShreadedBrusselsSprouts_1942

    You’ll never think the same way about Brussels sprouts.

    Screen Shot 2014-02-03 at 11.47.32 AM

    ChillyTemps_1842

    -22°C is -7.6°F (wind chill: -38°C is -38.4°F)

    We had some very cold weather in December and I know some of my dear readers are experiencing some very hot weather — I can’t say which I prefer more, but at least one can put a few more layers on in the cold, not much you can take off after you’ve taken it all off in the heat (or maybe that was a vision we didn’t need!). To help combat the chill over the holidays, I made a big batch of beef barley soup which we had for a lunch and then froze the remainder for quickie servings in the future; it’s always easier to eat healthful if you are armed with healthy food.

    BeefBarleySoup_1846

    A thick soup flavoured with lots of mushrooms and chunks of beef

    Slow Cooker Beef Barley Soup

    Serves 4-6

    Ingredients:

    • 1/2 cup sweet onions, finely chopped
    • 1 cup or 3 stalks celery, cubed
    • 3 cloves garlic finely minced
    • 1 cup pearl barley
    • 1 L Low Sodium beef stock
    • 5-7 dried  “fa goo” Chinese mushrooms, sliced (hydrated but save the liquid and strain it through a fine sieve)
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1 tsp thyme
    • 1 1″ sprig of rosemary, finely chopped
    • 400 g cubed beef (relatively small)
    • 1 1/4 cup sherry
    • 1-2 tsp canola oil
    • Salt and Pepper to taste.
    • water, if necessary

    Directions:

    1. Allow the beef cubes to come to room temperature. Preheat the slow cooker on high.
    2. Add 1-2 tsp canola oil to a hot cast iron dutch oven and brown the beef on all sides. Add to the slow cooker pot.
    3. In the same dutch oven, cook the onions until translucent, then add the garlic until fragrant. Stir in the pearl barley and toast for a few moments. Pour into the slow cooker with the beef. Add the beef stock to the slow cooker and give it a good stir.
    4. Deglaze the dutch oven with the sherry and add it to the slow cooker and add the bay leaf, thyme and finely chopped rosemary. Cook for 4-6 hours on low temperature or 3-4 hours on high.
    5. For the final hour, add the sliced hydrated mushrooms and the strained mushroom stock and give it a good stir.
    6. After the final hour, test the barley for doneness and soup for thickness, should you want a slightly less thick soup, add more water.
    7. Remove the bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper and serve with a dollop of fat free Greek Yogurt and a sprig of rosemary.
    8. Cool leftovers completely and pour into plastic containers for freezing.
    BeefBarleySoup_1843

    A nice dollop of fat free Greek Yogurt is always a nice addition. Of course the crostini with brie never hurts either!

    Although December and January were very cold, in late January and early February we were bombarded with snow. A lot of snow, all at once. I know other parts of the world get snow, but this is a lot for us, particularly those of us living in the city with smaller lots which means we have a really hard time finding the space to shovel the snow off the sidewalks and driveways! Enjoy the photos below and just be grateful you didn’t have to shovel it.

    Feb5Snow_2041

    This snow mound is just about 1 metre high (39″)

    Feb5Snow_2040

    You can see how high the snow is piled from our gorgeous little tree!

    Feb5Snow_2042

    These are our Rose of Sharon ‘trees’. They are about 3 metres (10 feet) tall, but they just look like shrubs with the snow piled up to their canopy!

     

    Chai Crème Brûlée

    Flash back to November 2013, please recall our Indian extravaganza thank you dinner I made for our very generous neighbours. As you know, I’m not a huge fan of Indian desserts (remember this one?) so when I planned the dinner party I knew right away that I wanted to make a version of Chai Crème Brûlée. Sadly it’s winter in these parts which means it gets dark anywhere from 4:30, so I wasn’t able to take a decent photo until I was able to remake this tasty dessert and shoot it in daylight!

    Chai flavours really come out in this creamy crème brûlée

    I served with two spoons so you can have a taste too!

    Chai Crème Brûlé

    Serves 1 (slightly more than 1/2 cup serving); just multiply by the number of people you need to feed to get your amounts

    Ingredients:

    • 1/2 cup of whole milk or cream per person
    • 1.5-2 tsp sugar per person
    • 1 black tea bag
    • 1 cinnamon stick
    • 2 star anise
    • 3 green cardamon pods, smashed gently.
    • 1 egg yolk per person
    • 1-2 tbsp per person of sugar to brûlée

    Directions:

    1. Preheat oven to 135°C or 275°F.
    2. Infuse the milk with the Chai spices: combine milk or cream, sugar, black tea bag, cinnamon stick, star anise and cardamon in a small pot and heat until just under boiling, simmer for 15 minutes. Set aside to cool with a lid on the pot (or refrigerate overnight, which is what I did). Strain to remove all the bits, discard strained pieces.
    3. Once cooled, whisk the infused milk, egg yolks in a vessel with a pouring spout.
    4. Pour this mixture into ramekins. My ramekins were about 2/3 of a cup each. Place ramekins into a roasting pan with 5cm sides, put the pan into the pre-heated oven. Pour enough water around the ramekins to reach up just over half way on the side of the ramekins (it’s much easier to do this once the pan is in the oven so you’re not balancing the custard and the water on your way to the oven).
    5. Bake for 30-45 minutes to an hour or so. You’ll know they’re done when you can stick a knife in one and it comes out clean. Remove the ramekins from the baking pan, set them on the counter allow them cool. (The deeper your custard is the longer it will need to bake).
    6. Sprinkle a thin layer of  sugar on the top of each. Make sure it’s a THIN layer, but also make sure it completely covers the custard. Now torch it! Garnish with Whipped cream if you’d like (for the dinner party, I infused the whipping cream with a hot cinnamon stick which I heated for 1 minute on high in the microwave. I refrigerated the whipping cream and hot cinnamon stick until serving and then I removed the stick and whipped the cream).

    Tips:

    • To save some time, just use a prepared Chai teabag.
    • Don’t squeeze the tea bag, it will be bitter.
    ChaiCremeBrulee_1923

    I know you want to dig in!

    ChaiCremeBrulee_1925

    The chai flavours really go well with the creamy crème brûlée

    Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 12.29.17 PM

    My nephew Brian came for dinner in late January and it was a bitterly cold day so I thought starting out with a soup would be welcome. I’ve always enjoyed Italian Wedding Soup but recently had a very bad version while shopping in Buffalo which has jaundiced me from ordering it again at a restaurant, surprisingly it was in an Italian restaurant, but it was a chain, so I should have known better.

    I have updated the traditional recipe using some unusual ingredients, I hope you’ll give it a try and let me know what you think. I ground my own beef and pork but you can easily buy already ground meat (extra lean of course). You’ll be surprised that I used puffed quinoa in the meatballs because I didn’t want to use bread crumbs or panko! Pretty clever don’t you think? I also used kale instead of the traditional spinach because I like the way kale holds up in a soup. Israeli couscous was my clever substitution for the pasta, it’s still pasta but I really liked the look of the balls in the soup.

    ItalianWeddingSoup_1882

    A flavourful broth with a variety of textures make this soup a welcome addition to my soup repertoire.

    Italian Wedding Soup, my way

    Serves 6-8

    Ingredients:

    • 1/4 cup sweet onions, finely chopped
    • 1.5 g each of lean beef and pork
    • 1/3 cup puffed quinoa
    • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
    • 1/4 tsp freshly chopped oregano
    • 1/4 tsp each nutmeg, salt and freshly ground pepper (I use a mix of mainly white, s little black and a little red)
    • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
    • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
    • 1 cup Israeli Couscous
    • 1 1/2 L (about 1 1/2 qt) Home-made or Low Sodium Chicken stock
    • 1/2  (about 1 1/2 cups) large sweet onion, finely chopped
    • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
    • 1/2 bunch kale (about 4 cups) finely chopped
    • 2 medium carrots (about 2-2 1/2 cups), cubed
    • 2 celery ribs (about 1 cup), cubed
    • 3 tsp canola oil
    • Salt and Pepper to taste
    • water, if necessary
    • 1 good size Parmesan rind

    Directions:

    1. In a large, chilled metal bowl, combine the onion, beef and pork, puffed quinoa, parmesan cheese, oregano, nutmeg, salt and pepper and the lightly beaten egg. Shape into smallish meatballs and set on a cookie sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour.
    2. Pre heat the oven to 177° C 350°F. Heat a skillet with 1 tsp canola oil and fry each meatball to brown all sides in two batches. Use the second tsp of canola oil for the second batch. Replace on cookie sheet lined with clean parchment and bake the meatballs until done (about 30 minutes).
    3. Cook the Israeli Couscous as per package directions to al dente. Set aside.
    4. Pre heat a large soup pot with 1 tsp canola oil, sauté the sweet onion until translucent, add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add the chopped kale, carrots and celery and stir for about 4 minutes.
    5. Cover with chicken stock and top off with additional water if desired. Salt and pepper to taste. Add the Parmesan rind.
    6. Bring to a boil and cook until vegetables have reached their desired consistency, I like a very slight crunch so that they are not mushy in the soup. Add the couscous and baked meatballs just before serving to heat through.
    7. Remove theParmesan rind and eat.
    8. Serve garnished with shaved Parmesan cheese.
    ItalianWeddingSoup_1887

    The shaved Parmesan adds a delicate saltiness to this delicious soup.

    Tips:

    • If you are making this soup to freeze, I would recommend freezing the meatballs and the Israeli couscous in separate bags to the soup and adding to heat just at serving. I kept a batch in the fridge with the couscous and meatballs and they got mushy in two days.

    Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 12.29.17 PM

    Several years ago we dined in a lovely bistro in the heart of the financial district downtown Toronto called Forte Bistro and Lounge. JT had read about Chef Greg Argent in one of our foodie magazines and he knew right away we had to experience his cooking! Sadly, the restaurant is no longer around but the delicious memories of Chef Argent’s cuisine still lingers on.

    A delightful combination of rich broth and caramelized onions in a perfectly bite-sized pillow.

    A delightful combination of rich broth and caramelized onions in a perfectly bite-sized pillow.

    One such dish was the unique French Onion Soup Dumplings ($11): a tender pasta dumpling filled with braised veal broth and gruyère cheese; what made this tasty dumpling so unusual was the surprise of the explosion of veal glacé that would fill you mouth with flavour after biting into the tender pasta, immediately reminding you of French Onion Soup! I have tried many times to recreate this wonderful dish without success and then Chef Argent revealed his ‘secret’ when I asked how he does it. Today I will share with you the secret of the tasty, unassuming little dumpling, but you must swear never to speak of it again! Although the recipe is laborious, I urge you to make a batch to serve as an amuse bouche or little hors d’œuvres at your next Super Bowl party (you may freeze uncooked dumplings on a parchment lined sheet lightly dusted with flour and then put them into a zip-lock bag), you will not only thank me for the wonderful compliments your lucky guests bestow upon you, you may even wish to send me gifts! ;-)

    Did you figure out the 'secret'?

    Did you figure out the ‘secret’?

    French Onion Soup Pillows

    makes 60 single bite pillows

    Ingredients for the broth:

    • 0.5 kg (about 1 pound) Beef bones or oxtail bones
    • 130 g (about 4.5 oz) sweet onion, thinly sliced
    • 1 tsp merlot salt (from my friend Kristy at Eat, play, love; our family food adventures)
    • 600 mL water, divided
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1 tbsp cooking sherry
    • 3 g (a scant teaspoon) powdered gelatine (agar agar will not work here)
    • 1 cup caramelized onions (please click here for a great recipe)
    • Home made pasta dough or 60 square won ton wrappers (for a great pasta dough recipe, please check out Chicago John’s kitchen)
    • Gruyère cheese to garnish

    Directions for the broth:

    1. Preheat oven to 350°F 177°C. Put a 11.5 cm x 21.5 cm (4 1/2″ x 8 1/2″) metal loaf pan into the freezer.
    2. Sear the beef bones well on high heat. Remove from pan and set aside. Deglaze the pan with 1 tbsp cooking sherry or port. Add the onions to the pan and sauté for a minute or so on the residual heat from searing. Spread the onions out evenly on the bottom of the pan. Return the beef bones to the pan and nestle into the onions, add the merlot salt, bay leaf and 300 mL water. Cover with tin foil and roast in the oven for about 1 hour, checking occasionally to make sure the water hasn’t evaporated, top up as needed.
    3. Remove pan from oven and remove tin foil. Add an additional 200 mL water and boil on the stove top until liquid is reduced to about 150 mL (about 5 oz). Strain through a fine sieve and press as much liquid out of the cooked onions as possible.
    4. Set aside about 60 mL (1/4 cup) of the stock and cool. Keep the remainder stock on a soft boil.
    5. Stir the gelatine into the cooled stock until melted. Add the boiling stock and stir well. Allow to cool to room temperature and pour into the super cooled loaf pan. Refrigerate until set.
    FrenchOnionSoupPillows_1960

    You can develop a little assembly line to speed up the process!

    An unexpected, rich, delicious soup explodes in your mouth when you bite into each pillow.

    An unexpected, rich, delicious broth explodes in your mouth when you bite into each pillow.

    Directions for assembling the pillows:

    1. Roll out the pasta dough to #4 thickness on the Kitchenaid Pasta roller (less than 1 mm or 0.125 inch). Using a 6-7cm (2.5″ -2.75″) oval cookie cutter, cut out the ovals to make both sides of the pillows.
    2. Remove the jelled broth from the fridge and cut into 0.5-1cm (0.25″-0.5″) rectangles.
    3. Onto each oval, more or less centred, add one jelled broth rectangle and about 1/4 tsp caramelized onion. Wet your finger and run a wet bead along the outer edge of the pasta oval. Turn up both sides of the oval and squeeze the edges together to bind — you don’t want these pillows to burst open when boiling.
    4. Lightly flour a parchment lined baking sheet and add each finished pillow to it so as not to touch each other. Freeze and bag frozen pillows into a zip lock bag or container. Use as many as needed.
    5. Bring an appropriate  amount of salted water to a boil. Add frozen pillows and boil until they float to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon onto a clean dish cloth to drain off water. Present on a Chinese soup spoon and garnish with a small amount of finely grated gruyère cheese. Brûlée the cheese until it is golden and crispy. Serve immediately.
    FrenchOnionSoupPillows_1950

    The Brûléed Gruyère cheese taste just like the burnt bits on a French Onion soup bowl.

    Lemon Lentil Soup

    I have three Indian cookbooks from which I can usually find something I want to make, perhaps with some additional guidance from a cooking site or blog. The one cookbook I bought because every single recipe had a lovely photograph! It’s relatively small 12 cm x 15 cm (5″ x 6″) which makes it even more adorable! It came with a ribbon book mark attached to the spine so you can mark the recipe you are making or the next one since it has lay-flat binding. With all these things going for it, you would think I would love this cookbook, but sadly I don’t. In fact, I have not enjoyed one of the recipes I’ve made from this book without significant changes! I should just chuck the thing but I can’t because I really like the way it looks. I know it’s silly but it is what it is.

    This is a recipe I altered after having acquired a Meyer Lemon from a shoot in November and I wanted to make something with it. I puréed the soup to a smooth velvety consistency and I dressed it with a cumin yogurt drizzle with green onion slices, you could also drizzle with a flavour olive oil. The Papadams are from our trip to Chicago when Chgo John took us to his favourite ethnic stores.

    Lemon Lentil Soup_1334

    The earthy lentils burst with fresh, lively flavour with the lemon

    Lemon Lentil Soup

    Serves 2 generously (1 cup portions or 250 mL each)

    Ingredients:

    • 100 g dahl or yellow lentils
    • 1 tsp fresh ginger, peel and finely chopped
    • 1 tsp fresh garlic, finely chopped
    • 1 tsp chili powder
    • 1/2 tsp turmeric
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 2-4 cups water (depending on how thick you prefer your soup)
    • 3 tbsp lemon juice
    • grated rind of one lemon
    • 1/4 cup yogurt
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • Shopped green onions as garnish
    • papadums

    Directions:

    1. Rinse the lentils and cook with the ginger, garlic, chill and turmeric and 2 cups water until soft.
    2. Add the salt, lemon juice and rind and blend with an immersion blender until smooth, adding water to achieve the consistency you prefer.
    3. Press through a fine sieve and set aside.
    4. In a small frying pan add the cumin and toast until fragrant. Cool. Once cool add to the yogurt and mix well. Salt to taste. Transfer to a small plastic squeeze bottle.
    5. Reheat soup and pour into rimmed soup bowls. Begin piping the yogurt from 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock, then 2 to 7 and finally from 9 to 3. Then using a sharp knife beginning in the centre of the bowl, draw a spiral circle culminating at the outer ring (this will make the pattern). Garnish with the chopped green onions and papadums.

    Print

    Lemon Lentil Soup_1337

    It’s super creamy and super filling

    In our neighbourhood, Bloor West Village we have an abundance (some might even say too many) of specific retailers and services in about 1 km (0.62 mile) length:

    • 36 dentists
    • 11 optometrists/eye glass dispensaries
    • 42 hair/nail salons
    • 6 green grocers
    • 8 Pubs/Gastro Pubs/Sports Bars
    • 5 Japanese/Thai restaurants!

    So when Sushi 2Go opened a restaurant in the Village we were surprised! Sushi 2Go is a relatively small chain of Japanese Restaurants all over the GTA, in fact there is another one about a kilometre (0.62 miles) away. There are a few high-end Japanese restaurants in the GTA but most are quick, luncheon-type places and Sushi 2Go is no different. I’m not saying you can’t have a nice dinner there, it’s just pretty simple with typical ambiance. We had lunch there a few weeks before Christmas and even though we’ve been back again, I found it a little expensive for what it was.

    The restaurant is contemporarily decorated with a few Japanese touches. The sushi kitchen is toward the back and there are about 10-15 tables, not huge by any stretch. Both times we’ve been there, there were only 2 other people dining in, although there were takeout orders being fulfilled and picked up.

    I ordered the Tempura Udon Noodle in hot soup with tempura ($14.95). It was quite flavourful and the tempura was plentiful, I even took most of the tempura home for another meal.

    Sushi2GoTempura_1279

    Sushi2Go NoodleSoup_1278

    JT ordered the Sushi & Tempura Bento Box ($17.95) which was comprised of 7 pieces of nigiri, 3 california roll & tempura. It was also very tasty but $18 for lunch doesn’t sit well with me. Next time we’re going to share the Tempura Udon Soup (JT will have the tempura and I’ll have the Udon!)

    Sushi2GoBentoBox_1280

    Overall rating of Sushi 2Go (in my opinion): Decor 3/5, service 3.5/5, food 4/5, Value 2/5, Noise: 5/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

    Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

    Sushi 2 Go Bloor West Village

    Sushi2Go
    2370 Bloor St. West
    Tel 416-762-0505

    Monday to Thursday 11:30 am – 10:00 pm
    Friday and Saturday 11:30 am – 11:00 pm
    Sunday 12:00 pm – 9:00 pm
    Monday Closed

    Chocolate Brioche

    My parent’s home was always filled with the wonderful and delicious aromas of baked goods. My Mom always made bread and these were the days before bread machines! She would start the process shortly after dinner, making the bread for the following days. Mostly she would bake it when we kids had already gone to bed teasing our senses as we drifted off to sleep, but on occasion it would be in the oven while we were still up, the gorgeous aroma of home made-bread wafting throughout the house. Sometimes we could have a warm slice slathered with butter, but most often not. During the holidays my Mom made the most special bread, chocolate brioche! I can’t even begin to describe the incredible aroma that it made throughout the house. Now that bread was always cut into the night it was baked! I’ve not had this type of bread outside our home before but years ago at a Club Med in Mexico — I think the chef must have been French. It was such a delicious surprise when they served the chocolate brioche for breakfast most days.

    I baked these brioche braids for New Year’s Day breakfast, it was to be a feast of delicacies, but plans changed and we had it toasted with butter. And now I have a loaf in the freezer taunting me. Against better judgement, it will likely be defrosted and eaten toasted or lightly warmed with sweet butter dripping from its crispy edges…slice after slice until there is no more. But the memory will remain.

    Please excuse the winter evening photos, no matter what I do in Photoshop, they just cannot be helped.

    ChocolateBread_1766

    Baked and now cooling.

    it's irresistible, like me ;-)!

    it’s irresistible, like me ;-)!

    Chocolate Brioche

    Makes 3 relatively good sized braids. Original recipe was modified from Baking with Julia.

    Ingredients for the dough:

    • 1 1/2 tbsp dry yeast
    • 1/2 cup tepid water (80°F to 90°F)
    • 1/3 cup granulated sugar + a pinch, divided
    • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into smallish cubes
    • 1 cup whole milk
    • 2 1/2 tsp salt
    • 4 large eggs, room temperature
    • 6 – 6 1/2 cups all purpose, unbleached flour
    • 2 tbsp skim milk powder
    • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1/4 cup icing sugar
    • non-stick cooking spray or 2 tbsp melted butter

    Ingredients for the glaze:

    • 1 large egg
    • 1 tbsp cold water or heavy cream

    Directions:

    1. Spray two large mixing bowls with non-stick cooking spray, or rub with butter and set aside.
    2. Whisk the yeast into the water with a pinch of sugar in a measuring cup and allow to bubble up, about 5 minutes.
    3. Heat the milk with 1/3 cup granulated sugar and the cubed butter until warm to touch and the butter has entirely melted. Stir in the salt until melted. Allow this mixture to cool to 110°F.
    4. Pour the milk mixture into the large stand mixer bowl attached with a whisk and add the eggs one at a time, add the milk powder, mixing well to combine. You should have about 4 cups of liquid. Divide into two portions of about 2 cups each and set one portion aside.
    5. Add 2 1/2 cups of flour to the portion at hand and beat on low with your cookie dough paddle for about 3 minutes or until it comes together. Now switch to the bread dough paddle and add as much flour as needed (I was able to add another cup), kneading on medium low speed to make a soft dough that is clean off the sides of the bowl. Now knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Transfer to one of the bowls that has been spray with non-stick cooking spray or rubbed with melted butter. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm dark place to double in size (1 or 1 1/2 hours).
    6. Sift 2 cups of flour with the unsweetened cocoa and icing sugar. Retrieve the second portion of the liquid and add the sifted flour, cocoa and icing sugar and beat on low for about 3 minutes or until it comes together. Add as much flour as needed (I was able to add another cup), kneading on medium low speed to make a soft dough that is clean off the sides of the bowl. Now knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Transfer to the other bowl that has been spray with non-stick cooking spray or rubbed with melted butter. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm dark place to double in size (1 or 1 1/2 hours).
    7. When dough has doubled in size (both the chocolate and the plain versions) punch down and deflate them. Cover again and allow to rise until doubled in size (about 45 minutes to 1 hour).
    8. Line a large baking sheet with parchment. Divide the plain, white dough in 4 equal portions (I find a scale very helpful) and roll into approximately 16″ lengths. Divide the chocolate dough into 5 equal portions. For 2 of the 3 loaves, take two chocolate portions and one plain portion, for one of the braids take 2 plain portions and one chocolate portion. Braid from the centre to each end, fixing each end well beneath the braid to make a nice neat end. Place on lined baking sheet and allow to rest for 40 minutes.
    9. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Combine the egg and cold water or heavy cream and mix well. Brush each braid with the glaze and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush the expansion joints of the braid and return to bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes. If they brown too quickly, cover browning parts with a little piece of foil.
    10. Cool before slicing. This can be frozen in an air tight plastic bag for about 1 month. Stale slices of this bread makes excellent French toast or Bread Pudding!

    ChocolateBread_1763

    Pretzel Bread

    I’ve noticed lately that most of our grocery stores are now carrying a variety of extraordinary breads, from focaccia made from an authentic Italian recipe that uses an enormous volume of olive oil to various egg, grain and nut breads; recently I’ve also noticed something I hadn’t seen before, a very beautiful Pretzel Bread! Now pretzel bread has a chewy texture and a salty finish on its chewy crust. It’s a lovely dense bread (if you love egg bread than you will love pretzel bread) that works well as hamburger buns and sandwiches! We’re going to use it for a cheese fondu! I’ve also seen this type of boule used as a soup bowl…perhaps another time!

    I scanned the internet for a recipe and came across one from Fleischmann’s yeast that I rather liked, so I made it the first time verbatim and then the second time I made a few adjustments because I wasn’t entirely happy with the first result. There just wasn’t enough liquid to soak up the flour they claimed to need no matter how much I kneaded! My first dough was a little stiff. With some minor adjustments I present to you the slightly modified recipe but please pop on over to the original recipe here.

    PretzelBread_1825

    This is the first batch I made, the bread was not soft enough to open too much. The finished texture was OK though.

    Originally, pretzel bread is boiled in a water and Food Grade Lye solution, but that just seemed a little too dangerous for my taste so I opted to use baking soda instead. Many recipes range for a few tablespoons to 3/4 cup of baking soda which is the most I’ve seen on-line. I’ve even seen some recipes bake the baking soda, but that seemed like too much work! The baking soda or lye creates Maillard reaction which causes the proteins and the sugars react in a certain way that allows the bread to brown at high temperatures much more easily than by just baking; boiling it first gives this bread its signature chewy crust. This bread turned a most beautiful reddish brown colour that normal baking would not have resulted! I was very pleased indeed! The dough comes together very easily and doesn’t take an exorbitant amount of time. Proofing is just 1 hour! Baking is even less! The results are worth the effort. I must warn you though, it’s a good workout if you don’t have a stand mixer, the recipe says to knead for 8-10 minutes and they are not kidding!

    PretzelBread_1830

    Second attempt: The boules are not huge, so plan on having two on hand for a dinner party.

    Prep Time: 20 minutes
    Proofing Time: 60 minutes
    Boiling Time: per loaf, 2 minutes
    Baking Time: 25 to 27 minutes

    Pretzel Bread 

    Original recipe from Fleischmann’s yeast

    PretzelBread_1831

    This one opened up nicely.

    Makes: 2 (18 cm or 7-inch) loaves or 8 rolls (I will make the rolls for soup bowls another time)

    Ingredients for Dough:

    • 1 1/2 to 3/4 cups milk (I increased the milk because the original dough was too tough and not soft as indicated in the instructions, but it will change depending on how humid the day is)
    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
    • 1 tbsp bread machine yeast (I prefer to use this because it dissolves faster)
    • 2 teaspoons salt
    • 3 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I found 3 cups in the winter months was enough to produce a soft, sticky dough)

    Ingredients for the Boiling Solution:

    • 2.8 L or 3 quarts water
    • 3/4 cup baking soda

    Ingredients for the Egg Wash:

    • 1 egg
    • 1 teaspoon water

    Directions:

    1. Warm the milk and butter to 37.7°C – 43°C (100°F-110°F); the butter will not completely melt.
    2. In the large mixing bowl of your stand mixer, combine the warm milk with room temperature yeast and brown sugar. Stir in the salt and 2 cups flour and beat for 3 minutes (I used my cookie dough blade on my stand mixer, the first time I tried the whisk attachment and it was too sticky).
    3. Gradually add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough (I added 1 additional cup, 3 cups in total).
    4. Knead for 8-10 minutes in your stand mixer using the dough hook until smooth and elastic.
    5. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
    6. Preheat oven to 204°C (400°F)
    7. Combine boiling solution and bring to a boil.
    8. Punch the dough down and divide into 2 equal portions.
    9. Form each portion into a tight, smooth ball (this will be the shape of your final bread, so if you want more of an oval roll, shape accordingly).
    10. Boil each portion in the solution for a total of 2 minutes; start with the top side down and then flipping it over after 1 minute, top side up.
    11. Remove the dough portions from the pot using a slotted spoon and place on a greased baking sheet (I lined my sheet with parchment). Allow to dry off for a bit (a minute or so).
    12. Brush with the egg wash and cut a cross in the top, make sure you insert blade about 2 mm (1/8″) into the dough.
    13. Bake for 15 minutes at 204°C (400°F), then reduce the temperature to 177°C (350°F) and bake an additional 8-10 minutes until the loaves are evenly browned, you want a nice dark reddish-brown colour and the bread sounds hollow when tapped.
    14. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack.
    PretzelBread_1832

    May I cut you a slice or two?

    PretzelBread_1828

    A delightful chewy texture.

    I posted this in January’s Growing Edge group post. Please check it out here.

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    2013 a year in review

    Happy Monday everyone! I don’t know about you, but despite all of the weather related issues we had at the beginning of the holidays, they turned out to be lovely. And with temperatures plummeting to the high minus teens, it’s rather wonderful to have power back! I believe that now power has been restored to everyone in Toronto, thank goodness!

    2013 was a year of change in a good way. I celebrated a benchmark birthday (I still can’t believe I’m THAT old!). My almost ten years of working with my dear friend came to an end and I decided to embark on a new career path in food! Little did I know that way back in 2007 when I began blogging it would eventually redirect my career path! I’m really pumped about 2014 and all of the opportunities it will bring! Happy New Year indeed!

    As you WordPress users are already aware, WP sends us a synopsis of the stats at the end of every year. Even though i see my stats day to day, this synopsis still surprises me! My humble little blog was viewed 51,000 times in 2013, can you believe it! And for whatever reason December 24th garnered a healthy 728 views (I still can’t figure out why!). Here’s a quick review.

    The five most popular posts were:

    1. Titanic Peaches in Chartreuse Jelly
    2. Quinoa Energy Bars
    3. Best Beef Tenderloin Ever
    4. Super Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes
    5. Titanic Dinner Party Invitations

    The lovely ladies and gentlemen who were my top five commenters:

    1. Maria at A_Boleyn
    2. Sissi at With a Glass
    3. Norma at Garden to Wok
    4. Lorraine at Not Quite Nigella
    5. Charles at Five Euro Food

     

    I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support and kind words, without you this blog would be a meaningless collection of recipes floating about in cyberspace. Thank you for you support and encouragement, I can’t express how much it means to me.

    May 2014 bring you all joy, health and all the best wishes!

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