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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.

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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.
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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.
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A refreshing combination of flavours.

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Allow me to digress dear readers; it was the late 1980’s and we were all newlyweds, excited to begin our lives in our new homes. Part of this excitement was the possibility of entertaining, and yes I do mean all grown up, playing house! I moved directly from my parents home into our marriage home so the thought of entertaining in our new house was exhilerating! We routinely rotated dinner parties so each of the new home-makers could enjoy the entertaining aspect of our new lives.

This dip has the perfect combination of flavours

This dip has the perfect combination of flavours

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, I assisted for a Christmas magazine shoot (for 2014) and there was a seafood dip recipe that I had to make. It contained copious amounts of expensive seafood (to be honest, I don’t know anyone who would be willing to spend that kind of money on a dip! $20 lobster, $45 canned lump crab and $10 shrimp, granted you only needed 3oz of each to make that dip) but it reminded me of a delicious warm crab that one of our friends made in the late 80’s! I remember asking her for a copy of the recipe which she clipped out of the Toronto Star (our local newspaper).

We were absolutely smitten the first time we tried the original warm crab dip. The dip has crab meat, cream cheese, onion, dill and horseradish, the combination is fantastic! So when I brought home some leftover crab meat I knew I wanted to make it for the 2013 entertaining season. Imagine my HORROR when I looked for the photocopied recipe and all I could find is this corner:

This is the only part of the recipe I could find!

This is the only part of the recipe I could find!

In total panic, I posted a plea on Facebook to all my friends to see if someone else had this wonderful recipe, but sadly I was out of luck. Thank you, by the way for your wonderful suggestions — you definitely had my mouth watering but I was on a mission for my particular recipe. So I put on my recipe developer hat and got to work trying to replicate this recipe from two decades ago and by George, I think I got it! I’ve used the decadent Jumbo Lump Crab meat because it’s what I had, but plain ordinary canned crabmeat works equally well, you just don’t get the giant lumps but the flavour is the same. I’m posting the recipe in the measurements I developed but you can half it easily. I like to freeze these types of baked dips in plastic lined smallish ramekins so that if I have unexpected company I can easily unwrap the plastic and pop it frozen into the specific ramekin and bake. If you bake the dip frozen, make sure to allow extra time to defrost while baking.

Warm Crab Dip

The almonds give it extra texture

The almonds give it extra texture

Makes about 1 1/2 cups dip

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 c Extra Smooth Ricotta Cheese
  • 1/2 cup Cream Cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tsp dill (dried is fine)
  • 2 tsp horseradish (the original recipe called for horseradish cream, but I never had horseradish cream on hand)
  • 2 tbsp red onion or shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 150 g crab meat (canned is perfectly fine here). It’s about 1/2 cup, or one can give or take. 
  • 1/4 c sliced almonds

Directions:

  1. Combine the ricotta, cream cheese, dill, horseradish, red onion and milk and mix well.
  2. Fold in the crab meat; if using lump make sure you leave some chunks but it’s not entirely necessary, I just prefer the way it looks.
  3. Season with salt.
  4. If you are making this for the future, line three half-cup ramekins with plastic wrap (like this).
  5. Divide the mixed dip into the three ramekins pressing into the ramekin so it will retain the shape. Try not to have too many folds so that the plastic comes off easily. Carefully twist the plastic wrap to seal. Place the ramekins in the freezer. Once the dip has frozen to the ramekin shape, remove the frozen dip and  label it and return the shaped dip to the freezer until needed. Put your ramekins away.
  6. About 30-40 minutes before serving, pre-heat the oven to 375° F. Remove plastic wrap from the frozen dip and pop the shaped dip into the original ramekin you used to freeze it. Place on a cookie sheet (it may boil over depending on how full your ramekin was) and bake for 30-40 minutes or until dip is bubbling in the centre.
  7. Remove the baked dip and sprinkle with almonds. Return to the oven and broil for a couple of minutes until the almonds are toasted. Serve with crostini, crackers or even sliced cucumbers.

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I’ve been busy! And the next couple of weeks will be even busier! I’m so excited to tell you about an amazing opportunity that’s come up, I have been actually assisting with real food styling jobs. One of the recent jobs was for Food & Drink magazine assisting a prominent stylist; the next one will be on location somewhere up north for three days! The Food & Drink magazine is a gorgeous magazine produced by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (the single largest purchaser of alcohol in the world). They have a lofty budget to produce this gorgeous, glossy magazine; I’m also booked for about 4 additional days in December with a couple of other equally talented stylists so my life has become rather exciting. But because I’m away from my computer and not able to access my phone while on set I’m sorry if I miss a comment on your blog in the next while but I hope you’ll understand.

Let me tell you about my experience so far in assisting. Sometimes it means grocery shopping; I was fortunate enough to shadow a food stylist assistant as she shopped Toronto grocery stores for some rather unique ingredients. It starts with an email list and a call with the food stylist to chat about what is needed that day. Often the groceries are perishable so we buy only for what will be used that very day. After we clearly understand what each ingredient is for, we make lists and action plans. Remember my cottage lists? Let me say that my list-making abilities will come in very handy. We began our grocery journey at around 10am at the Maple Leaf Gardens Loblaw and were on the go until 3pm non-stop, visiting no less than 8 stores to pick up about $300 of various ingredients for recipe development. You may wonder what the most unique ingredient we sourced was? It was a mediterranean salt-cured fish which is also dried called Botargo (John – From the Bartolini Kitchens, please comment on what this might be used in). It was very expensive, clocking in at $79.99 for a piece that looked no more than 150 g or 5.5 oz! We also visited a very cool Asian grocer on Cherry Street called T&T where we bought fresh Galangal (Thai Ginger) and Chinese Chives (which are long, flat leaved, grass-like greens), but they had so much more. You just know I’ll be visiting that store again in the very near future. At the St. Lawrence Market we bought soft-shelled crabs, rabbit (did you know they leave the head on so you can be sure it’s not a cat?), Chorizo (raw and cured), farro and La Bomba rice (this is the same Paela rice I recently used here)! My imagination is going wild with the possibilities for these lovely ingredients. Our job is to buy the food ONLY. There is someone else called a Prop Stylist who is responsible to source all the cool props you may see included in a recipe photo.

But shopping is only half of it, the other half of assisting is advance preparation (which I haven’t done as yet) and on-site cooking where we are actually cooking the food for the camera. On my first shoot for F&D I had figured that I would be relegated to clean-up and general prep but I actually had the opportunity to cook for the actual shots — I made pesto, browned chicken, made savoury waffles to name a few! It was more than I dreamed it would be. The job is not for everyone, but I love being in the kitchen and I found it interesting and very satisfying. Working with the photographers, their assistants, the food stylist and prop stylist on-site is an amazing experience and I am excited and very grateful to be part of it. I think I’ve unexpectedly stumbled upon my dream job :-), which is pretty incredible because I thought I LOVED what I did before!

It’s definitely fall in Toronto, and while there are barely leaves clinging to the trees, while the colour of the sky has morphed into shades of grey (not fifty, let’s not go there), while the colour of the lake is more black than blue, our slow cookers are chugging away in our cozy kitchens up in Canada, brewing secret and not so secret recipes to fend away cold and flu season with the nutrition and comfort of soup. Take a look at any website, blog or even magazine and it’s about soup. I definitely have my favourites but I also like to switch it up a bit and so I’ve developed this tasty, all be it green, Broccoli Soup, without a spot of cream in it! Of course, you can add cream if you wish to your taste, but I’ll pass thank you very much.

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The polenta fries were a nice touch and a perfect colour contrast

Creamed Broccoli Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 good-sized head of local organic broccoli, cut into even florets, woody stems removed.
  • 1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 1-2 medium-sized parsnips, cut into cubes
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • Water or stock to cover
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Sauté the onion until translucent, add the garlic and parsnip and sauté 5 minutes longer.
  2. Add the broccoli and cover with water. Cook until all vegetables are fork tender.
  3. Using an emersion blender, blend until smooth adding water or stock to desired consistency, salt and pepper to taste. Press through a fine sieve. Serve hot with Cheddar Polenta ‘Fries’
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There isn’t a spot of cream in this delightful soup

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At the Delicious Food Show, JT and I happened upon a lovely vendor who makes the most beautiful savoury Shortbread Cookies. You know that I’m definitely more of a savoury person (no pun intended!) so I was excited to make these delicate little cookies as soon as I got home. I didn’t want the rosemary to be too overwhelming so there isn’t that much of it, feel free to add more. You could also brush the tops with a beaten egg and sprinkle a little flavoured sea salt on each one, but I didn’t want to fuss that much. I served these for cocktails with one of our neighbours as part of an antipasto platter. They were very much appreciated!

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We bought three types of cheese, three types of meat and served it with grapes, grilled tomatoes on the vine, roasted almonds, bacon jam and the Ice Wine Syrup

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The light is beginning to fade to winter.

Cheddar Rosemary Shortbread Cookies

Makes about 72 little single bite cookies. Original recipe can be found here.

Ingredients:

  • 227 g Old Cheddar Cheese (or any other sharp cheese that would pair well with rosemary)
  • 1 tsp salt (or less if using a saltier cheese)
  • 2 1/2 cup Flour (cake and pastry)
  • 227 g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary

Directions:

  1. Sift together salt and flour; set aside. Using electric mixer with cookie dough hook, cream together cheese and butter until well blended.
  2. Gradually add dry ingredients: if dough becomes too thick, use a wooden spoon to stir but don’t work it too much, this is shortbread so you don’t want to activate the glutens too much. Divide dough in half and shape into rounds; wrap well in plastic and chill for at least 1 hour or freeze for another time.
  3. Preheat oven to 350° F (177° C). Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll the dough quickly into 2mm or 1/4″ thick sheet and cut with a small cookie cutter (I used 4 cm or 1 3/4″ round for these, they do shrink a bit). Put dough into refrigerator while waiting to bake batches.
  4. Bake just until slightly golden, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from baking sheets and cool on a wire. Store in an air tight container or freeze, as I do. To serve, thaw desired amount at room temperature and serve.
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The rosemary is very subtle in this tender savoury shortbread cookie.

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Bircher Muesli

Muesli was invented by a Swiss physician to help his patients recover from surgery. It originally was a wet version (unlike the dry ones you buy at the grocery store) with raw oats, a grated apple and nuts and dairy such as milk or yogurt but it can be made using whatever you prefer. I love making a large batch to have over the weekend when we go to the cottage, it’s a delicious and nutritious breakfast particularly when you have projects to finish up like we did. I served it with a half a grapefruit and it satisfied us even working hard!
The first time I had this lovely breakfast was in Zurich in the late 80’s; JT had a business meeting with a wonderful Swiss gentleman (with whom we are still friends) and his wife was kind enough to take me around. I couldn’t wait to introduce JT to it. Years later, I’m still making it even though I confuse the name quite often!

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The variety of textures is a pleasant way to start the day.

Bircher Muesli

(makes about 4 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 1 apple, grated
  • 2 cups Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 mixed in salted nuts (I used the Turkish honey and nuts my friend Barb of Profiteroles and Ponytails gave me)
  • 16 grapes cut into halves
  • 1 cup raw rolled oats

Directions:

  1. The night before you wish to eat this breakfast, mix everything together and refrigerate.
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The honey nuts make a lovely addition to this old favourite.

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You could add a piece of toast, but I find the oats filling enough.

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Today I celebrate another benchmark birthday. All I could think of is, I can’t really be THAT age! But what the heck, like wine, we only get better with age, right? — that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

JT organized a beautiful little cocktail party of our closest friends and family yesterday and it was lovely. Of course, I prepared a lot of the food and I’ll be posting about a few new things soon. In the meantime, here are a few great recipes from the Canada Day long weekend. Cheers!

An early morning paddle shows the sparkly lake.

An early morning paddle shows off the sparkly lake.

The old boathouse built by JTs grandfather in the late 1800's

The old boathouse built by JTs grandfather in the late 1800’s

I’ve mentioned before that our cottage is rather remote and we don’t have very good grocery stores close by, in fact the closest is about 45 minutes away and it takes about 20 minutes just to get out to the main highway to get there so planning is essential. Recently we had our lovely friends Rae and Monica up for the weekend and so I put together a great menu plan that allowed for reinventing left overs. One such left over was a combination of several of the meals that resulted in 4 fantastic flat breads that we used as hors d’œuvres on Sunday night. Each of these flatbreads are fantastic on their own, but the variety is also quite lovely. Plus, all of the ingredients are available ready made if you aren’t as fortunate to have left overs.

Quick and Easy Flat Bread Hors D’œuvres

Italian Delight: Gorgonzola, Parmesan and Parsley with Walnuts

The sharp Gorgonzola was a lovely contrast to the candied walnuts

The sharp Gorgonzola was a lovely contrast to the candied walnuts

Ingredients:

  • 1 naan
  • 1 oz gorgonzola
  • 1 oz grated parmesan
  • 2 tbsp chopped walnuts candied with balsamic
  • 1 tbsp chopped flat leaf Italian Parsley
  • 1 clove garlic

Directions:

  1. Peel the garlic and cut it in half. Rub one side of the naan with the cut side until it leaves the naan fragrant.
  2. Add cumbled gorgonzola and grated parmesan. Sprinkle with the candied walnuts. (To candy the walnuts, simply add the walnuts to a saucepan with about 2-4 tbsp of balsamic and boil until the balsamic has thickened, cool on parchment and break apart to use)
  3. BBQ until cheese has melted and then add the parsley. Cut into portions.
  4. Serve warm.

Mediterranean: Caramelized Onion, Roasted Red Peppers and Goats Cheese with Pine Nuts

Sweet and tangy Onion against the creamy goats cheese was a lovely foil for the sweet red peppers

Sweet and tangy Onion against the creamy goats cheese was a lovely foil for the sweet red peppers

Ingredients:

  • 1 naan
  • 1/2 a large caramelized onion
  • 1/2 roasted red pepper, skin off, sliced reasonably thinly
  • 3 tbsp crumbled goats cheese
  • 1 tbsp toasted pine nuts

Directions:

  1. Evenly distribute the roasted red peppers on the top of the naan.
  2. Add the crumbled goats cheese and sprinkle with the pine nuts.
  3. BBQ until cheese has melted. Cut into portions.
  4. Serve warm.

Mexican: Salsa and Cilantro

The sassy flavours of Mexican  saturated the Naan well

The sassy flavours of Mexican saturated the Naan well

Ingredients:

  • 1 naan
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 2-4 tbsp chopped cilantro

Directions:

  1. Evenly distribute the salsa on the Naan.
  2. BBQ until warmed through. Cut into portions.
  3. Serve warm.

Greek: Red and Yellow Peppers, Green and Yellow Zuchinni, Kalamata olives and feta

Tangy flavours and lots of texture

Tangy flavours and lots of texture

Ingredients:

  • 1 naan
  • 1/4 cup greek yogurt with 1 garlic chopped into it
  • 1/4 red pepper, sliced
  • 1/4 yellow pepper, sliced
  • Green and Yellow zucchini sliced
  • 2 tbsp Kalamata olives, sliced
  • 3 tbsp crumbled feta
  • pinch of dry oregano

Directions:

  1. Spread the greek yogurt and garlic on the Naan.
  2. Lightly sauté the red, yellow peppers with the green and yellow zuchinni strips (not too soft)
  3. Evenly distribute the peppers and zuchinni on the top of the Naan, dot with the feta and Kalamata olives.
  4. Sprinkle the oregano evenly.
  5. BBQ until warmed through. Cut into portions.
  6. Serve warm.

I’ll leave you with two amazing shots of the sunset from two different nights. This is what makes the drive worth it!

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The sunset on Friday night; red sky at night, sailors delight!

SunSet

Sunset on Sunday night, very surreal

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