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Hearty winter soups are a staple when we are in Canada and I just love to serve soups with scones. This recipe is an old favourite but I had run out of fresh onions so I used my handy dehydrated onion flakes in this easy recipe. There is just a little time to rehydrate the onions and you’re good to go. 

Cheddar Cheese and Onion Kefir Scones

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 9 large scones

Ingredients:

  • 260 g AP flour
  • 15 g sugar
  • 15 g baking powder
  • 5 g salt
  • 2 g cream of tartar
  • 56 g cold butter
  • 155 g frozen, shredded sharp cheddar cheese, plus more for topping
  • 200 mL buttermilk, 15 mL for brushing the tops
  • 30 g dehydrated onion flakes

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Rehydrate the onions flakes in the buttermilk for 5 minutes.
  3. Combine the dry ingredients in the large bowl of your food processor with the blades and mix well.
  4. Cut in the cold butter until it resembles a coarse meal. Replace the blade with the plastic dough blade.
  5. Add the buttermilk onion mixture and cheese to the flour and pulse to combine into a ball (cheese should still be frozen or at the very least, extremely cold).
  6. If it’s really warm in your kitchen, it’s best to refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes. With very little flour to prevent sticking, roll the dough into 1 cm thickness and use your favourite cookie cutter to cut even shapes (I used 5 cm squares with scalloped edges.
  7. Place each shape onto the prepared baking sheet about a centimetre apart and brush the tops with the extra buttermilk. Add a pinch of frozen shredded cheese to each top, if desired.
  8. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until lightly golden.

So flakey and delicious!

Notes:

  • I buy my cooking/baking cheese on sale in 400 g logs and I grate them into zip-lock bags and freeze them. If you break up the shreds as they freeze, they won’t stick together in clumps.
  • The frozen cheese will help make these flakey.

These are the grey days that just kill me.

The last time I posted about this traditional Christmas dessert was in 2011 and I didn’t even bother to decorate it with the mushrooms and pinecones, this time I went all out! This show-stopper dessert is a fabulous end to a wonderful celebratory meal so, get it on the calendar for next Christmas. Fortunately, each item can be made in several days and assembled at the last moment so you needn’t spend all day in the kitchen.

The Cake

Makes one 23 cm x 33 cm (9″ x 13″) slab rolled into a log.

Ingredients:

  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 120 g sugar
  • 120 g AP flour
  • 5 mL vanilla
  • 5 g grated lemon zest
  • 30 g granulated sugar, for dusting the kitchen towel
  • 1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam, for spreading before you roll it.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 23 cm x 33 cm (9″ x 13″) cake pan or jelly roll pan with parchment paper, carefully folding the corners. Spray with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Separate the eggs into two medium bowls. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, but not dry. Set aside.
  3. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until pale and creamy and falls in a thick ribbon.
  4. Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the pale egg yolk mixture.
  5. Sift about 1/3 of the flour into the egg yolk mixture, then alternate folding in with the egg whites being careful not to deflate the batter.
  6. Once all of the egg whites and flour have been folded in, the mixture will be thick. Pour it carefully into your prepared baking pan and spread it out evenly. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until your cake tester comes out clean.
  7. Lift the cake out of the pan using the parchment edges and lay onto a clean white kitchen towel sprinkled with the granulated sugar, remove the parchment. Spread the jam evenly onto the cake to all edges (if the jam is too thick, heat it up for a minute or so or add some kirsch to it). Taking the short end, begin to roll the cake up tightly. Twist the cloth ends tightly and allow it to cool completely. Store in tightly wrapped plastic until needed

Rich Chocolate Butter Cream

Ingredients:

  • 76 g unsalted butter
  • 250 g sifted icing sugar
  • 5 mL vanilla
  • 30 g unsweetened, chocolate melted and cooled.

Directions:

  1. Cream the butter until light and fluffy. Slowly add the icing sugar with about 30 mL of cold water as needed to make a fluffy cream and beat until entirely incorporated and fluffy.
  2. Slowly drizzle in the cool melted chocolate and beat well.
  3. Store in the refrigerator, and bring it to room temperature when needed.

Rubbing cocoa powder on the meringue mushrooms makes them even more authentic looking.

Meringue Mushrooms

Makes about 10 mushrooms of various sizes.

Ingredients:

  • 65 g granulated sugar
  • 30 g egg whites
  • 5 g unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for rubbing into the finished meringues
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • 10 g dark chocolate, melted for assembly

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients, but the dark melted chocolate in a stand mixer bowl and beat until thick and shiny, the meringue should stand when a peak is pulled out.
  2. Bake at 200° F for approximately 2 hours (this will depend on how thick your mushroom pieces are.
  3. Allow to cool completely. When cool, rub the unsweetened cocoa powder into each cap and stem, the more varied the colour the better. Assemble the mushroom cap with the stems by ‘gluing’ the stem to the bottom of the cap with the melted, dark chocolate. Set aside in a cool, area that is not moist.

These pinecones are crunchy on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside with a good hit of real rum!

Rum Ball Pine Cones

Makes about 4 medium-sized pine cones.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pieces of fudge brownies (I used this recipe)
  • 15 g of peanut butter
  • 15 mL rum
  • 15 g cornflakes
  • 30 g dark chocolate, melted
  • 50 g almond slices, toasted

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients but the dark chocolate and almon slices in a food processor and process until it makes a nice thick dough that sticks together when shaped into a ball.
  2. Divide the dough into four equal portions and shape into a pinecone shape. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  3. Taking whole slices of the almonds, dipped into the dark chocolate at one end, stick each piece to the pinecone shape in a circular pattern, overlapping the last one, until the entire cone is covered. You may want to place the cones into the freezer to set each row of almonds. Store in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container.

Bûche de Noël Assembly:

  1. Spread about 1/3 of the buttercream over the jam-filled side of the rolled cake. Re-roll it tightly. Spread the remaining buttercream over the outside of the cake, it should not be smooth, but rough like bark.
  2. Place the mushrooms strategically on the edge of the log, inter-spersing the pinecones. Sprinkle with icing sugar lightly to emulate snow. Serve at room temperature with whipped cream if desired.

Wrapping the plated cake in cellophane really makes it festive.

Notes:

  • Roughly chopped pistachios or roasted pepitas make beautiful “moss” on the log.
  • Lightly dusted icing sugar replicates a light snow nicely.

 

 

For my birthday, JT gave me an Instant Pot® Duo Crisp with the Air Fryer lid. This was the second thing I made with it. The first thing was the roasted tomatoes (which are EXCELLENT, see notes for directions)! This is a guest-worthy meal, and don’t fret that it’s all in one pot, it’s super easy and much less to clean up.

Tuscan Chicken in the Instant Pot

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 30 g butter
  • 30 mL olive oil
  • 60 g onions, sliced thinly
  • 100 g mushrooms, sliced thickly
  • 200 g chicken breast, skinless, boneless
  • 30 g roasted garlic purée
  • 250 mL chicken stock
  • 1 g oregano
  • 1 g Aleppo pepper flakes
  • 120 g penne pasta, uncooked
  • 65 g spinach
  • 50 g roasted grape tomatoes (see notes)
  • 50 mL cream (I used 18%)
  • 50 g parmesan, grated (divided)
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter and heat the olive oil on the Sauté setting, cook the onions until translucent, add the mushrooms, and wilt.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add it to the pot to brown each side.
  2. Combine the chicken stock and roasted garlic purée with the oregano and pepper flakes and mix well. Pour into the Instant Pot and deglaze to remove any bits that have adhered to the stainless steel. Add the pasta and stir so that it is immersed in the cooking liquid.
  3. Put the lid on securely and make sure the vent is set to “Sealing”. Choose the “Pressure Cook” setting and set the cook-time for 5 minutes at high pressure (this means 6-7 minutes to come to temperature and pressure and 5 minutes cooking time). When the program is complete, release the pressure carefully. Make sure the internal chicken temperature is at 170° F and the pasta is al dente (there should be some liquid in the pot for the sauce).
  4. Remove the chicken breast and allow to rest covered. Set the Instant Pot to “Sauté” and add the spinach and roasted tomatoes, stirring to wilt the spinach. Add the cream and heat through. Stir in about 3/4 of the parmesan and reserve the rest for presentation. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Slice the breast and stir it back into the sauce to heat.
  6. Serve immediately with remaining parmesan for garnish.

    The pasta is perfectly cooked.

Notes:

  • You may substitute sun-dried tomatoes for roasted ones.
  • Roasted tomatoes: Slice 75 g of grape tomatoes in half, lengthwise. Squeeze the seeds and juice out (be careful because it can really pop hurling tomato guts everywhere). Toss the halves with 15 mL extra virgin olive oil. Lay the tomatoes in two layers on the bottom rack and top racks of the air fryer basket of your Instant Pot Duo. Cover with the air fryer lid and set the program to dehydrate. This program sets the temperature at 160° F for four hours. Depending on the size of your tomatoes, timing could be less; I found three hours, turning the tomatoes once at around one and a half hours was enough.
  • This recipe is pictured with 500 mL chicken stock, I felt it was too soupy so I reduced the stock to 250 mL, tested it but forgot to take a photo!

Just before we left for Spain, I bought the cutest little loaf pan with the sharpest corners but I didn’t have enough time to try it so it was tucked away until our return at the end of May. I was paging through the Early Summer Edition of the LCBO Food and Drink Magazine when I spotted this cornbread recipe. And the ingredients were easy to half plus I had just enough of the ingredients (like only one egg)!

I have visions of baking nutty crackers in this adorable pan.

Bacon and onions, are a delicious combination.

Bacon and Scallion Cornbread

Makes about 1 small loaf pan, 75 cm x 180 cm (3 inches x 7 inches)

Ingredients:

  • 105 g yellow cornmeal
  • 86 g All-purpose flour
  • 25 g granulated sugar
  • 10 mL baking powder
  • 2 mL baking soda
  • 5 mL fine sea salt
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 188 mL kefir, well shaken
  • 57 g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 15 g green onions, finely chopped
  • 30 g bacon, well cooked and coarsely chopped

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a small loaf pan with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, and sea salt and whisk well.
  3. In another bowl, combine the egg, kefir, melted butter, green onions, and bacon, and whisk to combine.
  4. Pour the wet into the dry ingredients and mix just to combine, it will be lumpy.
  5. Tap the pan to remove air bubbles and smooth out the top.
  6. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Best-ever Fudge Brownies

Let me begin this post by admitting that I have not had a serious Christmas baking-spree in quite a few years. People are watching their sugar intake, fat intake and intake in general and during the Christmas holidays, we tend to overeat so leaving sweets off the list seems to be a no-brainer. Plus there seems to be plenty of sweets around anyway. This year was going to be no different, I would bake a few things but not the 10-15 items I used to bake back in the day. 

When we were down in Arizona (don’t worry, it’ll all tie together in the end), we hosted quite a few dinner parties and I cooked a lot. But, in order not to have too many leftover pantry items, I decided that I wouldn’t bake sweets but these dinner parties still needed something for dessert. For one such occasion, I bought a Ghirardelli  Caramel Brownie Mix that turned out much better than I imagined, they actually tasted homemade! I can usually taste a chemical flavour in mixes but I have to admit, I haven’t purchased a mix in several decades so I had no idea how far they’ve come along. This mix was so yummy, I brought 2 packages back for a friend who isn’t a baker as a souvenir gift. Because I hadn’t done my marathon Christmas baking in so many years, I’d completely forgotten that my dear friend’s daughter i’s allergic to walnuts and…you guessed it, the mix had walnuts! What a bummer! I felt horrible that I’d forgotten her allergy; my usual Christmas baking had me focused on baking items without walnuts just for her! How could I have forgotten? I blame age, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. So fast forward to Christmas 2022, I baked my friend’s daughter these brownies to make up for my foolish mistake. They are a bit more finicky than my regular brownies, but they have the best texture that is worth the extra step. The changes I made to the recipe are listed in the notes below.

You might think this is an outdated photo, with the Christmas tree in the background, but I have the little tree out all year long!

Best-ever Fudge Brownies

For the original recipe, please click here.

Makes 1 23 cm x 23 cm (9″ x 9″) pan

Ingredients:

  • 165 g sifted all-purpose flour

  • 5 g salt

  • 113 g unsalted butter

  • 118 g semi-sweet Belgian chocolate, coarsely chopped

  • 62 g Belgian milk chocolate, coarsely chopped

  • 200 g sugar, divided

  • 5 mL pure vanilla extract

  • 4 large eggs, room temperature

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a 23 cm square pan with parchment.
  2. Sift together the flour and salt, set aside.
  3. Microwave the butter and two chocolates for 15-second spurts on hi, stirring and carefully watching it to make sure the chocolate doesn’t seize. Add 100 g of the sugar and stir to combine. Microwave for 1 minute on power 4, stir often, and then microwave for two 15-second spurts on high, stirring frequently. Mix in the vanilla and set aside.
  4. Combine the second 100 g of sugar with the eggs in the small bowl of your stand mixer and whisk well by hand. Add half of the egg mixture to the chocolate mixture slowly, making sure you don’t scramble the eggs with the heat of the chocolate. Set aside.
  5. Set the remaining egg mixture bowl onto your stand mixer and mix on high for 3 minutes or until doubled in volume and thickened. Gently fold this mixture into the chocolate mixture and when almost combined, add the sifted flour and salt and fold until combined.
  6. Pour into the prepared pan and bake in the centre of the oven for 23-27 minutes (the centre should just be set). Allow to cool completely and cut into squares.

Notes:

  • The recipe has been changed to metric and some steps have been converted to use the microwave instead of a bain-marie.
  • I used a metal 23 cm x 23 cm pan and my baking instructions have been adjusted to suit my pan and oven.
  • The original recipe used bittersweet chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate but I only had semi-sweet and milk chocolate and it turned out very well.

 

The week before Christmas in 2022, we were in full-entertaining mode, trying to see all of our friends before we started travelling again. We have been doing more and more brunches, particularly in the winter months when driving at night can be more treacherous. I was hoping to do a simple brunch dish so I could spend more time with friends but then I saw this interesting pancake called Dutch Baby and I had to try it. It’s actually a German invention (think Deutsch) that was translated to Dutch in the states, this simple popover-like batter makes a grand entrance with its golden puffy sides and a lovely custardy-base that is perfect for brunchy-style meals. You can make them either savoury or sweet. I chose to make individual Dutch Babies to hold eggs bennies for a bunch we had just before Christmas. There is a bit of strategy so that everything remains hot and ready for serving but fear not, I have documented my process for you, easy peasy.

Individual Dutch Baby Bennies for Brunch (logistics and all)

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

This recipe makes 1 serving, please multiply by the number of people you are serving for your ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large egg
  • 63 mL milk
  • 31 g flour
  • 7 g sugar
  • salt
  • A smidge of butter for the cast iron pan

Also required per person:

  • Hollandaise sauce
  • Poached egg
  • about 50 g Ham, shaved, room temperature
  • Half an Avocado

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425° F convection, with the cast iron pan in the oven (place cast onto a rimmed baking sheet). You need to put the pan on the centre rack in the oven.
  2. In a blender, combine the eggs, milk, flour, sugar and salt and blend until smooth. Set aside while the oven and cast iron preheat. When the pan and oven are heated to temperature, add a smidge of butter to the pan and melt coating the insides.
  3. Pour the egg mixture into the pan and bake for 15 minutes (keep checking from 12-15 so it doesn’t burn).
  4. While baking, make the hollandaise sauce (see notes for my recipe or use your own). Cover the finished sauce and set aside.
  5. During the last 6 minutes of baking the Dutch baby, poach the egg for a minute less than your normal poaching time, turn the heat off and remove the pan from heat source, keep the egg warm in the water they poached in. When you are ready to serve, remove the poached egg and drain it on a paper towel. Gently reheat the hollandaise over the warm poaching water whisking so it doesn’t separate.
  6. Assembly:
    When the Dutch baby is golden (~200° F on an instant read thermometer), remove it from the pan and place it onto a warm plate. Top with a few spoonfuls of mashed avocado, ham and finally the poached eggs. Drizzle the warmed hollandaise sauce over the eggs and serve immediately.

Notes:

  • My oven takes a good 15 minutes to pre-heat to 425° F so plan ahead.
  • I used Betty Crocker mini oval cast iron pans 16 cm x 11.5 cm that were perfect for each serving.
  • My hollandaise is very simple: 30 mL lemon juice, pinch of salt, 80 g butter, 1 egg. In a double boiler (I love Ikea’s KLOCKREN Doubleboiler insert), melt the butter and add the lemon juice and salt and mix well, heat until warm to the touch without boiling the water below. Whisk the egg and slowly temper with the warm butter mixture, whisking well. Return the tempered egg to the double boiler and whisk until thickened. Remove the hollandaise immediately from the heat and set aside. If your sauce has separated, you’ve heated it too fast and too hot; although not kosher, you can blitz the separated hollandaise with an emersion blender to achieve a smooth sauce and avoid having to start over.
  • To get the most professional-looking poached eggs, strain the raw egg through a fine sieve before poaching. Straining removes the excess white which usually just clouds the water and creates a messy, loosely-poached egg. I usually poach for 4 minutes, so for this recipe, poach for 3 minutes and allow the eggs to sit in the hot water, off the heat while you prepare the remainder of the meal.
  • If you are making this for a crowd, poach the eggs in advance for 1-2 minutes and immediately plunge them gently into an ice bath and hold them there until ready to serve. When ready to serve, bring a large enough pot of water to hold all the eggs to a light boil and reheat the eggs and finish poaching them! Serve immediately.

Onion Bhaji revisited

Happy New Year! Hope your holidays were lovely. We had Christmas Eve with my cousin’s family in their new home. It’s so exciting to have a new home and be able to decorate and start from scratch. The dinner was fabulous and it was a lot of fun opening presents with them.

Just before Christmas, we had another progressive dinner with our neighbours. This time, the theme was Indian and we were charged with the hors d’œuvres and appetizers. I (obviously), made onion bhaji to start and then we had a cup of Mulligatawny soup. These dinners always have too much food so I kept it small. These bhajis turned out so good, I decided I wanted to keep the recipe for the future. I served them with store-bought Date and Tamarind Chutney.

Onion Bhaji Revisited

Makes about 20 bhajis, depending on size. For the original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 2 sweet onions, finely sliced

  • 100 g gram flour (chickpea flour)

  • 5 g baking powder

  • 4 g Aleppo chilli flakes

  • 4 g turmeric

  • 100 mL water
  • 1 L vegetable oil for frying

Directions:

  1. Soak the sliced onions in cold water while you make the batter.
  2. Preheat the oil to 350° F.
  3. Add the gram flour, baking powder, Aleppo flakes and turmeric to a large bowl and whisk to combine. Slowly add 90 mL of the water to form a batter and mix well. Strain the onions and add them to the batter, adding about 10 mL of water, if necessary. Mix to coat the onions.
  4. When the oil is 350° F, scoop a generous tablespoon of the bhaji mixture into the hot oil and fry until golden and the internal temperature is 200° F. Remove the bhaji from the oil onto a paper-lined tray and allow to drain the oil. Continue until you’ve fried all of the bhaji batter.
  5. To serve, reheat the bhaji on a sheetpan in a 275° F oven for 12 minutes or until the internal temperature is 125° F.

These were gobbled up in nothing flat. I froze an additional batch I made and they are still fabulous reheated!

 

Shrimp Gyoza

It’s dinner party and cocktail party season so the team at Kitcheninspirations have been busy making and freezing party food so we are never caught empty handed. The filling for these tasty little bites comes together very quickly and if you don’t have time, store-bought wonton wrappers will do the trick.

Shrimp Gyoza

For original gyoza wrapper recipe, please click here.

Makes 20 gyoza

Ingredients:

  • 120 g AP unbleached flour
  • 65 g water, boiling
  • pinch of salt
  • cornstarch for dusting
  • 5 mL sesame oil
  • 75 g shrimp
  • 2 scallions, finely diced
  • 5 g ginger, finely grated
  • 10 g roasted garlic
  • 20 g carrot, finely grated
  • 10 mL soy sauce
  • 8 g cilantro leaves, finely chopped
  • Butter or grapeseed oil to brown gyoza
  • Sesame seeds and cilantro for garnish

Directions:

  1. Combine flour and salt in a bowl. Add boiling water to the flour and salt mixture slowly to make a dough, turn out to a surface and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. Heat the sesame oil in a pan and add the shrimp and stir fry. Stir in the scallions, ginger, roasted garlic, carrot, soy sauce and cook for a minute. Remove from heat and allow to cool thoroughly. When cool, add the cilantro and mix well.
  3. To make the wrappers, roll each sausage out to a manageable thickness and run it through the KitchenAid pasta roller from #1 to #4.
  4. Cut into 7.5 cm (3 inch) rounds. Wet the edges of each round, spoon 5 mL (1 tsp) of the filling into the centre and fold in half and seal the edges. I used a handy pleater like this one to get perfect pleats.
  5. Steam each one for 3-5 minutes. When cooked, melt butter or grapeseed oil in a cast iron pan. Pan-fry each one on one side only so it is golden and crispy. Serve with your choice of dipping sauce.
  6. Freeze uncooked gyoza on a piece of parchment and once frozen add to a ziplock bag for future use. Frozen gyoza will cook in 3-5 minutes!
  7. To serve, melt about 15 g of unsalted butter with 30 mL of grapeseed oil and fry one side of each gyoza. Serve sprinkled with sesame seeds and bits of cilantro.

Serve these tasty treats with a sweet and salty soy sauce.

Basque Cheesecake

Back in October, we were seeing friends more than usual as we were going to spend the month of November in Arizona; there is always a feeling of urgency to see our peeps just before we go away for a significant period of time. For one such get-together, I finally baked a Basque Cheesecake! I say finally because it’s been on my list for years! I chose the Serious Eats recipe because it was in grams and easy to half as I only needed about half of the size.

Basque Cheesecake

For the original recipe, please click here. This recipe makes one 23 cm (8 inch) cheese cake.

Ingredients:

  • 450 g full-fat cream cheese, brought to 21°C
  • 135 g and 15g sugar, divided
  • 137.5 g egg (~3 whole eggs)
  • 15 g egg yolk (~1 yolk)
  • 115 g heavy cream
  • 10 g all-purpose flour
  • 5 g vanilla extract
  • 1.5 g salt
  • 2 g lemon zest, finely grated

Directions:

  1. Prep the pan by lining it with 2 square sheets of parchment paper (see notes).
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the cream cheese and 135 g of sugar and beat with the paddle attachment, scraping the sides frequently, until there are no more lumps and the sugar has dissolved (3-4 minutes).
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for about 10 second on each addition, scraping the sides of the bowl between additions.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients and beat until smooth.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared parchment-lined pan and refrigerate for 30 minutes to one hour.
  6. Pre-heat the oven to 425° F with the oven rack in the middle.
  7. Remove the cake pan from the refrigerator and set on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle the remaining 15 g of sugar over the top of the pan and bake until the cheesecake is lightly browned on top.
  8. Increase the temperature to 450° and bake until the top is darker brown without burning (see notes). The cheesecake will be done when centre registers between 150° F and 155° F (65.5° C to 68° C). Or when the centre only jiggles a little bit.
  9. Allow the cheesecake to cool at room temperature for at least 4 hours. To remove from the pan, use the overhang of the parchment to pull the cheesecake straight out and set on an even surface, remove the parchment carefully, prying it away gently or with a small knife. Serve at room temperature or store in the fridge for no more than 3 days, covered to avoid it drying out.

This is a super-rich cheesecake that really doesn’t need any accompaniments.

Notes:

  • The easiest way to line a round pan with parchment is to thoroughly wet the parchment and wring it out. Now press it into the round pan, leaving the excess to overlap the rim of the pan. Set it in a warm oven to dry out (doesn’t have to be 100% dry, just dry enough so that the batter doesn’t stick to it). Cool completely. If you have two same-sized pans, you can insert the second one into the parchment-lined pan to push the parchment into the edges.
  • Your baking temperature may need to be reduced, on my first attempt, the timing in the original recipe was off because and I burnt the cheesecake. I reduced the temperatures to suit my oven.
  • You really don’t need a spring-form pan to make this cake, the parchment does all the work.

Cranberry Crumble Bars

Canadian Thanksgiving was October 10th, about a month earlier than American Thanksgiving. We do everything pretty much the same as Americans, except that we are not as much into American football. Thanksgiving to Canadians means family getting together and enjoying the company, the food, and the gorgeous fall colours, not so much sports. This year was a quiet Thanksgiving because we usually celebrate with my cousins’ family but my cousin and her hubby were in Europe so we only had the adult kiddos over for dinner. We love cranberry like the next guy but I always seem to have a tonne left over as I did this year. So I decided to reinvent them into Liz’s dreamy Crumble Bars. JT is in charge of making the cranberry sauce and he usually only adds about half the sugar on the package recipe but since the kids were coming over, I asked him to make it a bit sweeter so he used 3/4 of the recommended sugar. The sauce was still reasonably tart which made it a perfect topping for these sweet pastry bars. I dare say, one of my favourites. So if you have cranberry sauce left over, give these a try, you won’t be disappointed.

Cranberry Crumble Bars

Makes one 22 cm x 33 cm (9″ x 13″) pan

Ingredients:

  • 250 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 100 g sugar
  • 100 g powdered sugar
  • 5 mL vanilla
  • 2.5 mL almond extract
  • 280 g flour
  • 8 g salt
  • 150 mL homemade cranberry sauce

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Prepare a 23″ x 33″ cm (9″ x 13″) pan by lining with parchment.
  2. Cream the butter with the sugars until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and the almond extract.
  3. Beat in the flour and salt on low speed until entirely incorporated.
  4. Portion about 2/3 of the flour mixture into the bottom of the pan and press evenly to all sides. Bake for 20 minutes. Refrigerate the remaining pastry.
  5. After you have baked the base pastry, pour the cranberry jam onto the base and spread evenly with an offset spatula. Crumble the remaining pastry onto the top, being careful not to cover it entirely.
  6. Bake for an additional 25-30 minutes or until the topping is golden.
  7. Allow to cool completely and cut into squares or bars.

 

Notes:

  • Jellied canned cranberry sauce may be too runny to work in this recipe, you definitely want sauce with fruit in it.

Mussels Escabeche

In early October, JT and a friend went to Buffalo to see a hockey game (hockey is absurdly expensive in Toronto and it was a nice male bonding trip). I had a friend over for dinner and I served mussels. I had about 12 left over and thought I’d like to try this Spanish recipe to preserve mussels. They turned out quite delicious so next time I’m at the Fish Monger, I will get a bag to make a batch of these tasty treats.

While the cooked mussels have a soft and spongy texture, the preserved mussels are much meatier to the bite, which makes them a bit more filling and not unpleasant at all.

Interestingly enough, I did not see these on any menu while we were in Spain, or maybe I didn’t notice them. When we are in Spain again, I will definitely search them out because they are tasty.

I may have tasted one to be sure they were worth blogging about.

Mussels Escabeche

For the original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 50 g mussels, cooked (shells reserved)
  • 30 mL high-quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 g roasted garlic puree
  • pinch of rosemary
  • pinch of thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 cinnamon stick
  • 2 or 3 whole black peppercorns
  • Peeled zest of 1/4 a lemon, cut into thin strips
  • 1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 30 mL white wine vinegar
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Clean and dry the shells and set them aside.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the olive oil, garlic, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, cinnamon, black pepper, and lemon peel and heat gently to a very low boil for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the paprika, vinegar, and salt and stir well.
  3. Put the mussels into a clean glass jar and top with the warm liquid with all of the spices. Stir well. Put a lid on the jar and set it in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.
  4. To serve, remove the mussels from the marinade making sure there are no little bits sticking to them.
  5. Strain the marinade. Add one mussel to a half shell and drizzle with a little of the oil mixture. Serve cool.

Notes:

  • My summer herb garden finally gave into winter so I’m using dried herbs for this recipe. The slow cooking will bring their flavour out into the marinade but fresh is preferred.
  • I reduced this recipe to cover the few leftover mussels I had.
  • I garnished my mussels with sliced scallions and diced pickled hot peppers.

 

Stracciatella is one of my favourite soups. Oh, who am I kidding, I adore all soups! The broth is the real star of this simple dish, homemade is best and this recipe will give you a quick solution to a flavourful broth in 30 minutes. Yes, it’s another Instant Pot recipe. I usually have homemade chicken stock in the freezer but if I don’t, I definitely have a BBQ’d chicken carcass in the freezer! This easy stock comes together quickly and I dare you to find a difference from the long, slow-cooked stocks of the past. I based this recipe on Frank’s lovely dish. The soup is more filling than you’d think, so limit the servings to the smaller side.

This is the perfect soup for a chilly day.

Stracciatella (egg drop soup)

For the original recipe, please click here.

Makes 1 L of soup

Ingredients for the quick stock:

  • A barbecued chicken carcass with most of the meat stripped off.
  • 1 onion
  • 1 rib celery
  • parsley stems
  • 15 mL better than bouillon chicken broth

Directions for the quick stock:

  1. Combine the ingredients in the instant pot and cover with water. Put the pressure cooker lid on and lock it into place. Set the IP to Pressure on High for 30 minutes making sure the steam release valve is closed (up position).
  2. Strain the bones and vegetables from the stock and reserve about 1 liter of stock for this soup, reserve the remaining stock for another recipe.

Ingredients for the Stracciatella:

  • 1 L of homemade stock (see above)
  • 2 eggs
  • 45 g Parmesan, finely grated
  • few drops of lemon juice
  • pinch of nutmeg

Directions for the Stracciatella:

  1. Bring the stock to a slow boil. Combine the eggs and parmesan cheese until it is whisked smooth.
  2. Once the stock boils, slowly drizzle the egg mixture into the stock, whisk the stock around in the same direction so the egg doesn’t form one large blob.
  3. Allow the soup to continue cooking for a couple of minutes; the egg will turn into beautiful little curds and the broth will clear.
  4. Add a few drops of lemon juice and a pinch of nutmeg and serve warm.
  5. You may add some additional grated parmesan as garnish at the table.

The soup comes together quickly if you already have chicken broth on hand but it only takes about 40 minutes if you make the stock from scratch.

Quick Phố

We had a long late-summer with beautiful sunny days and warm temperatures. Then it stopped. It always surprises me when temperatures drop so quickly, it’s never a slow incremental decrease, it’s a fast dive to freezing! As soon as the boiler goes on, soups get onto my menu plan. I first saw this beauty on my long-time Chicago friend John’s delicious blog and I’ve been making my rendition ever since. It’s definitely one of my favourites. In our house, it has actually taken over from restaurant Phố as restaurant Phố is far too salty and we’re all trying to cut down.

I start the stock in the morning so the aromatics have time to infuse. You can do it in the Instant Pot pressure cooking function but I like to have the warm aromas wafting through the house as the broth infuses. I usually double the batch of stock and freeze it for an even quicker meal.

An aromatic soup, flavoured with fresh herbs from the garden.

Quick Phố

Serves 2 hearty bowls

Ingredients for the stock:

  • 2 g fresh ginger, finely minced with a microplane
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 250 mL beef broth
  • 250 mL chicken stock
  • 250 mL water
  • salt, to taste

Ingredients for the finished soup:

  • 150 g fettuccini rice noodles
  • 200 g very thinly sliced raw beef
  • fresh cilantro, Thai basil, spring onions for garnish, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Hoisin sauce, Sriracha sauce

Directions:

  1. Combine the ingredients for the stock in a stockpot and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 3-4 hours. Alternatively, you may add it to your Instant Pot and pressure cook it for 30 minutes.
  2. About 15 minutes before you are ready to serve, bring a pot of water to a boil and remove it from the heat. Add the rice noodles and allow to soak to soften 10-15 minutes.
  3. Strain the stock to remove the aromatics and return to the pot to keep warm.
  4. Strain the noodles and divide them into two large bowls, top with the thinly sliced beef and ladle the boiling soup over the beef. Garnish with fresh cilantro, Thai basil and spring onions. Serve the hoisin and sriracha sauce at the table to allow each person to garnish their own bowls.

We had some dear friends over for brunch in early October and I thought I’d make a “Biggy Breakfast” for us. You know the ones on the menu at your local greasy spoon: eggs, bacon, sausage, home fries, and pancakes! Overboard, indeed, but it’s the type of breakfast that is easy to share. These pancakes are my favourite, so light and fluffy. I normally make them with buttermilk but I had some unflavoured Keffir on hand so I thought, why not?

Super fluffy Keffir Pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 200 g all-purpose flour
  • 200 mL keffir
  • 100 mL water or milk
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 30 g sugar
  • 10 mL vanilla extract
  • 7 g baking powder
  • 7 g baking soda
  • pinch of cream of tartar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 nonstick cooking spray

Directions:

  1. In a bowl sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. Set aside.
  2. 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 keffir and the water or milk, 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 125 mL of batter on the pan for each pancake and spread out to about 15-20 cm 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 and the pancake is not too wobbly when you touch the centre with your fingers. 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!

They are the fluffiest!

In early October, we had my brother over for dinner, he was up visiting from the Cayman Islands. I wanted to make a special meal and since it was getting a little nippy, I thought soup would be a great starter. I made butternut squash soup but we didn’t have it all so had some leftovers. We haven’t had gnocchi for ages and when I saw the cutest pumpkin gnocchi come across my Facebook, I knew I had to make it with the leftover butternut squash soup. Unfortunately, I cannot find the video but it was never about the gnocchi recipe, but the cute way the gnocci are shaped…in little pumpkins! It is a bit fussy, but it’s totally worth it. 

Adorable little pumpkins floating in a sea of delicious blue cheese sauce.

Fall Butternut Squash “Pumpkin” Gnocchi

Makes about 60 “pumpkin” gnocchi about 10 g each

Ingredients:

  • 360 g leftover butternut squash soup (creamed and seasoned)
  • 350 g AP flour
  • 30 g butter

Directions

  • Put the soup and flour into the large bowl of your food processor and process until you achieve a soft but firm ,pliable dough. Allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  • Cut 10 g pieces from the dough. Roll between your palms to make a ball. Set each ball onto a parchment-lined tray. Continue until all of the dough has been shaped.
  • Using butcher’s string held tightly just slightly longer than the balls, push the string into the gnocchi ball four times (into fourths then into eigths) to form the pumpkin ribs. Using a toothpick, poke a small hole into the top of the gnocchi where the lines intersect for the greenery.
  • Cook gnocchi in boiling water until they float to the top. 
  • Heat the butter in a frying pan and fry each gnocchi bottom until lightly golden. Serve with your favourite sauce.

    This recipe has been in the family for years. My brother gave me the original cookbook in the 1970’s inscribed, “This is for me, in the long run.” It’s been made dozens and dozens of times, often around Christmas for our goody trays. This time I made them around thanksgiving because we were having my cousin’s adult kids for dinner because their parents were galavanting in Europe and they are not big pumpkin fans! Galavanting may not be right, I might be a tiny bit jealous!

    Chewy Peanut Butter Squares Revisited

    Makes one pan 33 cm x 23 cm x 5 cm (13″ x 9″ x 2″) baking pan

    Ingredients:

    • 140 g all-purpose flour

    • 6 g baking powder

    • 5 g salt

    • 148 g peanut butter, smooth or chunky

    • 113 g butter

    • 330 g firmly packed brown sugar

    • 2 eggs

    • 15 mL vanilla

    • 140 g lightly salted peanuts

    • 1 cup icing sugar with enough drops of cold water to make a liquidy icing (but one that will set well)

    • Directions:

      1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

      2. Line a 33 cm x 23 cm x 5 cm (13″ x 9″ x 2″) baking pan with parchment

      3. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

      4. Heat the peanut butter and butter together until melted.

      5. Stir in sugar, eggs and vanilla until well blended.

      6. Add the flour mixture and stir just until combined. Fold in the extra peanuts.

      7. Spread the batter into a prepared pan and bake 25 to 30 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

      8. Cool on a wire rack.

      9. When cool, drizzle the melted chocolate over the top. Working quickly, drizzle swirls of the white icing in a crazy pattern. Allow the topping to set. Cut into 1-2″ square inch squares or rectangles. 

      Chewy, peanutty deliciousness


    Our Thanksgiving was on the 10th of October. It was a mild day, so we began with drinks and appetizer’s out on our covered deck with the heat on. My cousin’s two adult children came for dinner because their parents were in Europe and we always spend Thanksgiving together. It was a wonderful evening. 

    This is the turkey on the Big Green Egg.

    I have taken to brining my turkey because it makes a wonderfully, juicy bird and it lessens that weird gamey flavour in leftovers. But because we were only four, I just got a breast this time around. I removed the skin and set it aside on a rack with a plate underneath in the fridge to ‘dry’ out. Then I butterflied the breast and pounded it to a relatively even thickness and then brined it for 5 hours. Then I layered the stuffing on it and then rolled it up to a nice little boule and wrapped it in Serrano ham.  JT barbequed it on indirect heat on the Big Green Egg. It was a great success.

    The turkey is resting. It’s best not to cover it so the skin stays crisp.

    Chestnut and Sausage stuffing

    A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

    Serves 6-8 people (we had a lot of leftovers)

    Ingredients:

    • 70 g celery
    • 65 g sweet onion
    • 35 g butter
    • 65 g chorizo sausage
    • 100 g chestnuts, peeled and roasted
    • 125 mL chicken stock
    • 1 egg, beaten
    • 55 g unseasoned croutons or dry bread

    Directions:

    1. One day before serving the breast, make the stuffing: Cook the celery and onion in the butter until softened. Add the chorizo and chestnuts and mix well. Allow to cool completely. Combine the stock and egg and mix well. Add the celery and onion mixture to the croutons and pour over the stock mixture and mix well so that all of the croutons have been saturated. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
    2. One day before serving the breast, make the brine: Make up the brining liquid and cool completely, store in the refrigerator until required.
    3. The morning of cooking the breast, carefully remove the skin and lay it on a rack with a plate underneath, do not cover. Refrigerate until ready to use. Butterfly the breast and pound it so it is even throughout. Immerse entirely in the brine and refrigerate 5-6 hours.
    4. Several hours before setting the breast on the grill, give the stuffing a good mix, breaking up some of the croutons but keeping the mixture tight.
    5. Dry off the brined breast and pound out a little more in case the meat retracted whilst brining. Add the stuffing evenly on the breast and roll from one end as tightly as you can. Wrap the breast in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-4 hours.
    6. Remove the plastic wrap and wrap the Serrano ham around it, then wrap the saved skin around the top stretching as much as you can. Wrap the entire roll in butcher’s twin to hold everything together. Hold until ready to bake in the refrigerator, uncovered.
    7. Bake for 2-2.5 hours or until the meat registers 165° F. Allow to rest, uncovered for 10 minutes. Remove the twine and slice the breast roll into 1 cm portions. Serve hot.

    Notes:

    • Wrapping the breast roll in plastic wrap allows the meat to remember the shape so wrapping in Serrano ham is significantly easier.
    • I like the skin stretched over the ham as tightly as possible so it’s nice and crispy when served.
    • Resting the roll uncovered after it is cooked doesn’t let the skin become soggy, I highly recommend it.
    • Because the breast is brined, seasoning is not required. The Serrano ham also provides a reasonable saltiness to the breast.
    • For the brine, I use 72 g salt and 50 g sugar with herbes en Provence with enough water to cover the entire breast.

    Lemon Curd Tart

    If you love the taste of lemon like we do, look no further…this is the lemon curd tart recipe you’ve been dreaming about! With a whole 160 mL (about 2/3 cup) freshly squeezed lemon juice, this tart will take your breath away (in a good way). Slightly sweet, tangy, crunchy, creamy and luxurious are all of the adjectives that will invade your mind as you dine on this beauty. If you love lemon, this is your tart.

    Lemon Curd Tart

    Makes one 23 cm (9 inch) tart

    For the original recipe please click here.

    Ingredients for the Pastry:

    • 200 g all-purpose flour
    • 113 g cold unsalted butter, cubed
    • 70 granulated sugar
    • 1 large egg
    • 5 mL pure vanilla extract
    • 0.125 g kosher salt

    Directions for the Pastry:

    1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
    2. Combine all of the ingredients for the pastry in the large container of your food processor. Pulse until a smooth dough has formed.
    3. Roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment paper until it exceeds the circumference of the tart pan. Carefully lay the dough over the pan and gently press it into the pan, evening out any thin areas. Roll the rolling pin over the top to remove excess dough (either pres this dough into thin parts or save for another use). Dock the pastry bottom and bake at 350° F for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven at 20 minutes and press any areas down which have swelled during baking.

    Ingredients for the Filling

    • 6 large eggs
    • 160 g granulated sugar
    • zest of 1 1/2 lemons
    • 160 mL freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • 5 mL pure vanilla extract
    • 45 g unsalted butter, cubed

    Directions for the Filling:

    1. In a large, heavy-bottom sauce pan, combine all of the ingredients but the vanilla and butter and whisk to mix well.
    2. On medium-low heat, continuously whisk until the mixture has thickened (about 7 minutes). Remove from the heat and add the vanilla and butter and mix until combined.
    3. Press the curd through a fine seive into the par-baked tart pastry. Smooth out the top with an offset spatula. Bake for 15 minutes or until the curd has set but still jiggles a little bit. Allow to cool and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature to serve.

    Cheese Sticks revisted

    During the final days of September, my brother came to visit, I hadn’t seen him for about a year. He was back for a month from his new home, abroad in the Caribbean. I thought I’d make the cheese sticks that we enjoyed so much during our early days of adulthood. I’ve updated the recipe below. They were very well received.

    Cheese Straws

    Ingredients:

    • 280 g all-purpose flour

    • 5 g salt

    • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (cold), cut into small cubes

    • 110g cheese

    • 1 egg, beaten

    • 1-2 tbsp water

    Directions:

    1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
    2. Whisk the egg and water together until homogeneous, set aside.
    3. Add the flour, salt, butter, and cheese to the large bowl of your food processor. Plus a few times to mix thoroughly and add the egg and water and whiz until a smooth ball of dough forms.
    4. Roll the dough to an even thickness of about 2 mm between two sheets of parchment paper. Cut into even sticks. Bake for 10-14 minutes until lightly golden. Cool on a wire rack and serve. Baked sticks may be frozen, thaw in the fridge overnight and allow to come to room temperature before serving.

    These are rather moreish, don’t let their unassuming look mislead you.

    Spaghetti Carbonara

    Spaghetti Carbonara is one of our absolute favourite quick dinner dishes. I saw a unique method of warming a thick paste of eggs, Pecorino and a little of the rendered Guanciale oil in a bain-marie on Bobby and Giada in Italy at Trattoria Santa Palato. They claim that the eggs won’t scramble as easily because you have more control over the heat with the bain-marie. I am not sure that is true, but it does make a super creamy and delicious sauce. 

    Spaghetti Carbonara

    Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a pasta course.

    Ingredients:

    • 100 g Guanciale, thinly sliced
    • 250 g spaghetti
    • 1 egg, room temperature
    • 100 g Pecorino, finely grated

    Directions:

    1. Cook the Guanciale until crispy, and reserve the fat.
    2. Heat a pot of water for the pasta. In a heat-proof bowl, combine the egg and Pecorino until you get a thick paste. Put the bowl of eggy cheese over the lightly boiling pasta water and whisk until smooth. Set aside, away from heat.
    3. Cook the spaghetti until al dente. Use tongs to move the pasta from the boiling water and add it to the warmed egg mixture and mix rigorously until you achieve a smooth sauce, adding pasta water as needed. 
    4. Serve sprinkled with the crispy Guanciale and more cheese if desired.

    Creamy, salty and absolutely delicious!

    Notes:

    • This recipe uses Pecorino exclusively, but I have seen Pecorino and Parmesan used in various ratios.
    • There are many versions of this recipe on line this is just one of them. The authentic Carbonara NEVER uses cream.

    The weather is still lovely in the big smoke so we continue entertaining on our back deck. I’m always looking for something a little different and these scallion pancakes truly fit the bill. I first saw the recipe on Mi Mi’s blog and was immediately intrigued. Mi Mi’s pancakes were more of a thicker bread and she admitted she had forgotten a final step, so I scoured the internet for “my” recipe. The one I posted below is a compilation of several recipes that I read through. The pancake itself is a very thin, but super flavourful. Crispy, chewy and full of flavour a veritable trifecta! We just had them with a simple dipping sauce and they were absolutely delicious. Thank you Mi Mi for drawing my attention to this tasty treat.

    These pancakes are crispy and chewy at the same time.

    “Chinese Scallion” Pancakes

    Makes 4 pancakes appetizer-sized portions. Don’t kid yourself, you’ll probable eat two.

    Ingredients:

    • 150 g AP flour
    • 3 g salt
    • 93 g cold water
    • 6 scallions, green parts only, finely sliced
    • Olive oil (enough to coat the pan about 0.5 cm deep)

    Directions:

    1. Combine the flour and the salt and mix well. Add the water into the centre of the flour mixture and mix until the water is absorbed into the flour. Knead the dough with your hands for 5-7 minutes or until quite elastic. Cover lightly with olive oil and allow to rest for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
    2. Divide the dough into two or four equal portions and roll out using the KitchenAid pasta maker to the finest thickness. The dough will be very sticky so flour or grease your surface to prevent sticking.
    3. Sprinkle the sliced scallions (and whatever additional spice, if using) over the rectangle and roll up from the long side. Then, roll the log onto itself like a scroll. Roll the scroll out to about 20 cm diameter. Cook on medium heat until the pancake is golden on both sides. Cut into wedges to serve. Serve with the dipping sauce below.

    Dipping sauce ingredients:

    • 15 mL soy sauce
    • 15 mL sesame oil
    • 15 mL Mirin or sweet rice wine
    • Sesame seeds

    Dipping sauce directions:

    1. Mix all of the ingredients together and serve with the cooked pancakes.

    Notes:

    • You can add a variety of other spices like Chinese Five-spice, Aleppo pepper flakes, or mint to name a few.
    • I used cold water because from what I’ve read, it will make the dough chewy, hot or boiling water will apparently make it crispier. I wanted chewy and figured it would be crispy from the pan frying and I was correct.
    • The green part of the scallion is apparently softer so it won’t poke through the dough but mine did anyway and it did not alter the flavour or texture.
    • Use either flour or oil to prevent this very sticky dough from sticking everywhere. I used flour on this one.
    • To make the rolled dough more manageable, you can roll two smaller lengths and stick them together because when they scroll and you roll them out, you won’t notice a difference.
    • Most recipes call to roll the dough into a circle at first but I wanted a very thin dough so I just made sheets using my KitchenAid pasta machine and it worked out fantastic.

    Instant Pot Greek Chicken

    One of the reasons I had wanted an Instant Pot was to get rid of a few of my small appliances like the slow cooker, air fryer, and rice maker! This recipe uses the instant pot for the rice as well as the chicken. To cook the rice, please see the notes below.

    A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

    Serves 2

    Ingredients:

    • 1 200 g chicken Breast, skinless, boneless
    • 30 g Greek yogurt, divided
    • 15 mL roasted garlic purée
    • 2 g oregano
    • 5 g flour
    • Zest of 1/2 a lemon
    • 15 mL olive oil
    • 15 g butter
    • 50 g sweet onion, finely diced
    • 125 mL water
    • 30 mL cooking Sherry
    • 1/2 a sun-dried tomato, cut into small pieces
    • 5 black olives, sliced
    • 1 artichoke heart, chopped
    • Parsley, for garnish
    • Rice for serving, see notes for IP cooking Rice

    Directions:

    1. Combine the yogurt, the roasted garlic, oregano and salt and mix well. Spread half of the marinade over the chicken reserving the extra and refrigerate while prepping.
    2. Heat the olive oil & butter on the “Sauté” setting and cook the onions until translucent. Brown the chicken on both sides. Turn off the “Sauté” setting and add the chicken stock with the cooking sherry and the sun-dried tomatoes to release the fond. Put on the Pressure Cooking lid and set the vent to sealing, set the time to 5 minutes. Mix the flour and the lemon zest, into the remaining yogurt mixture. After five minutes, de-pressurize the Instant Pot and add the remaining yogurt mixture with all of the ingredients and mix well.
    3. Secure the pressure lid and vent to sealing, set to Pressure Cook for 5 additional minutes. De-pressurize carefully.
    4. After allowing the chicken to rest, slice it and lay it on a plate over rice. Drizzle the sauce over the chicken serve.

    Notes:

    • Rinse 100 g (heaping 1/2 cup) of rice in cold water until it runs clear. Add to the Instant Pot. Add 100 g (about 1/2 cup) of cold water or broth to the Instant Pot, add salt and 15 g (1 tbsp) melted butter, and stir well. Secure the pressure cooker lid and turn the pressure knob to the sealing setting. Use the Pressure cook setting on high for 3 minutes, then allow the steam to release naturally (about 10 minutes). Open by pressing the knob to release any extra steam to allow the lid to easily come off. Remove from the IP and set it aside.
    • Adding the sun-dried tomatoes for the initial cook allows the tomatoes to totally soften into the sauce.

    Raspberry Crumble Squares

    A friend brought us his homemade raspberry jam a few weeks ago and because we don’t eat a lot of jam, I thought I’d make it into these gorgeous squares. The recipe originated from my friend Liz but I just swapped out the caramel for the jam and it worked out beautifully. I made this batch for some friends visiting from Arizona.

    Raspberry Crumble Squares

    Makes one 22 cm x 33 cm (9″ x 13″) pan

    Ingredients:

    • 250 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 100 g sugar
    • 100 g powdered sugar
    • 5 mL vanilla
    • 2.5 mL almond extract
    • 280 g flour
    • 8 g salt
    • 150 mL seedless raspberry jam

    Directions:

    1. Preheat the oven to 359° F. Prepare a 23″ x 33″ cm (9″ x 13″) pan by lining with parchment.
    2. Cream the butter with the sugars until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and the almond extract.
    3. Beat in the flour and salt on low speed until entirely incorporated.
    4. Portion about 2/3 of the flour mixture into the bottom of the pan and press evenly to all sides. Bake for 20 minutes. Refrigerate the remaining pastry.
    5. After you have baked the base pastry, pour the raspberry jam onto the base and spread evenly with an offset spatula. Crumble the remaining pastry onto the top, being careful not to cover it entirely.
    6. Bake for an additional 25-30 minutes or until the topping is golden.
    7. Allow to cool completely and cut into squares or bars.

    They look like jewels.

    Summer dinners are often a pain because I just don’t feel like turning the oven on and heating up the kitchen, this is where the Instant Pot really comes in handy. I have the one with the air-fryer lid and it can also act as a broiler, and it’s fast! Easy clean up too. I came up with this recipe for a quick dinner (less than 20 minutes, including the rice in the Instant Pot) and JT said, you should make this again. Always a nice compliment, particularly with fish.

    Asian Inspired Instant Pot broiled Cod

    Ingredients:

    • 15 mL honey
    • 10 mL rice vinegar
    • 5 mL sambal oelek
    • 8 g white miso paste
    • 3 mL soy sauce
    • 5 g puréed roasted garlic
    • 3 g grated ginger
    • 5 mL toasted sesame oil
    • 20 g Wild Alaskan Cod
    • Rice, mushrooms and peas to serve on

    Directions :

    1. Combine the first 8 ingredients to form a paste. Brush the paste lightly on the cod and allow to sit for an hour or so; when ready to cook, pour the remainding sauce on the top.
    2. Set the air-fryer basket into the Instant Pot, add the second shelf, and line with parchment. Set the glazed fish on top. Close with the air fryer lid and set to Air Fry for 5 minutes or until the internal temperature is 145° F.
    3. Serve on rice, mushrooms and peas.

     

    Notes:

    • Because the air-fryer lid isn’t secured like the pressure cooker lid, I was able to attach a thermometer to the fish and have it notify my phone when it reached the temperature so it doesn’t over cook.

     

    If it’s a really hot summer’s day and you don’t want to turn on the big oven, this is a great alternative method to roast cauliflower and it’s super easy to clean up. 

    Instant Pot Roasted Garlic, Cauliflower Mash

    Serves 2

    Ingredients:

    • 500 g Cauliflower florets, similar size
    • 15 mL Extra Virgin Olive oil
    • 2-4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
    • Sea salt
    • 250 mL water
    • Butter, cream or chicken stock

    Directions:

    1. Drizzle the oil onto the cauliflower so it covers overall. Lay the cauliflower into the air fryer basket, tuck the garlic cloves into the cauliflower. Set the air fryer lid on and choose ‘Roast’, 330° F for 15 minutes. Stir three times during the cooking process.
    2. Pour the cauliflower into the pressure cooking pot and add 1 cup of water. Set the pressure cooking lid on and setting to ‘Pressure Cooking’ for 5 minutes. Depressurize carefully or allow it naturally to depressurize.
    3. When complete, cauliflower should be very soft. Squeeze out the garlic and add to the cauliflower into a glass container. Blend with the immersion blender until smooth adding the remaining water from cooking or butter or cream or stock to achieve the desired consistency. Reheat in the microwave when ready to serve.

    A fantastic low-carb alternative to mashed potatoes.

    Pear Tart Tatin

    Although Tart Tatin recipes have been featured on this blog a few times (here, here and here), I figured, why not again with different fruit? This time we’re baking Pear Tart Tatin! Dreamy caramel, soft pears and crispy pastry, what more can you want? I borrowed this recipe from Martha Stewart with some minor adjustments. I usually worry that the fruit lets out too much liquid and it won’t be super caramel-y but I needn’t have worried on this one, the pears cook on the stove and finish in the oven. It’s a bit of standing around but you can make it in advance and just serve it at room temperature. 

    This tart was perfectly caramelized. What a wonderful dessert.

    Pear Tart Tatin

    Makes 1 tart about 30 cm (12 inches) in diameter

    Ingredients:

    • All-purpose flour, for rolling
    • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (from a 450 g package), thawed in the refrigerator
    • 100 g sugar
    • 8 mL cider vinegar
    • 30 mL water
    • 30 g unsalted butter
    • Pinch of salt
    • 4 firm, ripe pears, each peeled, halved, cored, and cut into 6 wedges
    • Pinch of cardamon

    Directions:

    1. Lightly dust your work surface with flour. Roll out the puff pastry to a 30 cm square and cut into a circle. Refrigerate until required.
    2. In a 30 cm cast iron skillet, combine the sugar, vinegar and water and heat on medium-low heat until golden (about 15 minutes). Stir in the butter and the salt. Add the pears in a decorative pattern and cook in the caramel uncovered for 30-40 minutes (until pears are firm but soft). Sprinkle the cardamon over the pears.
    3. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 375° F. When the pears are ready, add the prepared puff pastry, pushing down the edges to form a “fence”.
    4. Bake covered, for 15 minutes, then remove the lid and bake an additional 15 minutes until the pastry is golden and crispy.
    5. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then invert onto a decorative plate.

    Cooking the pears for an extended period of time made the caramelization absolutely perfect.

    Notes:

    • My pears were rather firm so I extended the stove-top-time about 15-20 minutes from Martha’s time. This also allowed the liquid to evaporate so that the sauce is pure, dreamy caramel.
    • I prefer to use all-butter puff pastry.

    Muhammara

    This roasted red pepper dip popped into my life via America’s Test Kitchen, a show we routinely watch to fall asleep to. I was incredibly intrigued when they mentioned that this is a Syrian version of our Spanish favourite, Romesco Sauce. This tasty dip uses Aleppo pepper flakes and sumac which I don’t use regularly in my cooking but had some at home. Like Romesco, it uses a nut to thicken the dip but Instead of almond flour, the recipe calls for toasted walnuts. Boy, what a difference, the walnuts lend a delicious earthy flavour. This dip is definitely going to be in our repertoire.

    Muhammara

    Makes about 250 mL (1 cup)

    Ingredients:

    • 2 red peppers, roasted and peeled
    • 60 mL EVOO, divided (additional may be required)
    • 113 g shelled, toasted walnuts
    • 15 g roasted garlic purée
    • 30 g tomato paste
    • 15 mL pomegranate molasses I used (see notes)
    • 5 g Aleppo pepper flaked
    • 5 g sumac
    • 2-3 g salt

    Directions:

    1. Toast the walnuts with a little of the olive oil until golden and you can smell them. Allow to cool.
    2. Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of your small food processor (I used a magic bullet because I wanted it smooth) and process until smooth. You may wish to add olive oil until the desired consistency is achieved.
    3. Garnish with a few chopped, toasted walnuts.

    Notes:

    • The recipe I used had quite a bit of breadcrumb which I have deleted from the recipe because I found it made the dip too thick and thickened it as the dip aged. I prefer a slightly runnier dip.
    • I substituted the balsamic vinegar for the pomegranate molasses because I didn’t have any and it was fine, to be honest, it’s just a building flavour and doesn’t depend on it entirely.
    • We used the dip as a topping for lamb burgers we had and it was OUTSTANDING!

     

    Asador La Chumbera

    During our final week in Spain, we came across this gem, not more than 30 minutes from San José. It is Michelin rated, not starred…yet. We had a wonderful plein air lunch in a shady and breezy spot on their terrace. I would definitely go back.

    Our table was the one on the far right

    The restaurant view

    The view from our table

    Unfortunately, I took a bite before I remembered to take a photo.

    I was on a roll because I totally forgot to take this photo so I just borrowed it from the website.

    Asador La Chumbera: Grilled Octopus

    The wine cooler

     

    Upon our return from Spain, I was missing being there so I made the Almond Tuiles of Sevilla (Tejas Dulces de Sevilla). They are delicious but it got me thinking about a savoury version. We had brought home some wonderful cheese called Old Amsterdam and I thought it would make a delicious snack. They are light and airy and crisp. They are strong enough for dip, but tasty on their own. I love how rustic they look from just breaking them apart.

    Savoury Cheese Tuiles

    Makes about 20 cm x 30 cm sheet

    Ingredients:

    • 1 egg
    • 30 g cheese (I used Old Amsterdam)
    • 1 g salt
    • 1 g smoked paprika 
    • 50 g flour 

    Directions:

    1. Beat the egg until it reaches the ribbon stage (about 5 minutes), add the salt and smoked paprika and mix well, then fold in the flour.
    2. Spread evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet and sprinkle the cheese over it evenly and bake at 275° F for 20-35 minutes or until it has totally dried out and developed a golden colour.
    3. Cool entirely and once cool break into shards. Serve at room temperature.

     

     

    One of our most memorable meals in Spain was at the beautiful One Star Michelin restaurant in Retama Restaurant within La Caminera Hotel. We should have stayed at the hotel, but we had already booked something in Valdepeñas, a short drive away. We chose The Traditional menu, without wine pairings (I react poorly to some heavier reds and whites aged in oak casks).

    As part of a course, we were served a wonderful little bite of Atascaburras, a typical dish of the La Mancha Region. The story goes that two shepherds and their donkeys were isolated after a big snowfall, with only salt cod, potatoes, garlic, and olive oil at hand, and in their desperation, they created this dish to feed themselves and their donkeys over several days until they were rescued. This dish is often eaten during a snowfall and it is said that the water to boil the potatoes and cod in should be freshly fallen snow. Obviously, there was no snow in sight but the story and delicious flavour of these little cod fritters were definitely calling to me. They called them fritters in the restaurant but they were not deep-fried, I suspect the chef used a Takoyaki pan to sear the small balls. We were served one each. Traditionally, this dish is usually served on a platter with bread or crackers. Since I don’t have a Takoyaki pan, I chose to serve it as a dip. In modern times, a boiled egg is used to garnish the dip but it was not traditional. I chose to use a hard-boiled egg yolk, grated on top of the dish as a garnish.

    The atascaburras was served as a round ‘fritter’

    Atascaburras

    Makes about 500 mL dip

    Ingredients:

    • 300 g potato (I used Yukon Gold)
    • 300 g salt cod, soaked and rinsed several times over 48 hours
    • 130 mL olive oil
    • 1/2 clove of garlic, finely minced
    • Salt to taste
    • 1 egg yolk, hard-boiled
    • Red pepper oil

    Directions:

    1. Cook the cleaned but unpeeled potato in water for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, add the prepared salt cod and cook an additional 10 minutes. Reserve the water.
    2. Add both the cod, potato and garlic to a blender (I used a magic bullet because it really emulsifies beautifully). Add the olive oil and emulsify, adding a little of the reserved water to make a smooth, creamy dip. Taste and salt if necessary.
    3. Place in an oven for 15-20 minutes on 250° F to just warm up. Serve in a low-sided dish with grated egg yolk as garnish and sprinkled with a little red pepper oil.

    No, that is not cheese, it’s grated hard-boiled egg yolk.

    Retama Restaurant: “Where each bite and each sip tells a story” (excerpt from the website)

    Our last days in Spain came quicker than we could have imagined. We were away for seven weeks and I would have thought that I would be looking forward to getting home but my feelings were mixed. Yes, I looked forward to the amenities we have in our home, but I was also very sad to leave such a beautiful country. The produce was delicious and I knew I would miss that, the prices were definitely cheaper than Toronto, even converting to Euros. Our favourite house wine was 3.95 Euros! Going out for a meal was usually less than 40 Euros, including a bottle of wine! But the temperatures were on the rise, often reaching 30° C (86° F) so I was looking forward to leaving that behind.

    One of our last and most memorable meals was at Retama Restaurant, a One-Star Michelin in La Caminera Hotel. We chose the Traditional Menu (mainly because they didn’t have rabbit on it) and it was delicious. Each course had a story relating back to the terroir of the region, La Mancha.

    The reception

    The inner courtyard

     

    The Lobby

    The Introduction

    This wonderful meal tells the story of the terroir of the La Mancha region. Olive, olive wood, garlic are prominent on the landscape and the first bites lead you into this narrative. We began with little savoury meringues, made with garlic and olive oil. They were very strongly flavoured with garlic and we worried that it would scar the rest of the meal, but the chef created a small vile of olive soup, made with the juice of actual olives, which totally negated the strong garlic flavour and there was no lingering garlic aftertaste.

    Amuse 1: Tomatoes are a huge part of the Spanish landscape and the La Mancha region is no different. This course of Amuses consisted of a tomato powder cookie (foreground), a spool of tomato spaghetti (left) and local eggplant with Manchegan Ratatouille. All delicious, wonderful textures with strong tomato flavours without being too acidic.

    House-made sourdough bread

    Bread course: Homemade sourdough bread with goat butter and a local, award winning olive oil. It was difficult not to scarf this down but we knew we had to save room in our bellies!

    Pickled Partridge

    The next main was a pickled partridge in a smoky tomato broth with edible flowers, tomato jelly (centre) and unknown foam (you know how I feel about foam!) Partridges run wild in fields around the restaurant.
    In the background is a almond crisp with a partridge foie gras mouse, absolutely delicious.

    Sous Vide Egg Yolk

    The next course was a sous vide egg yolk of a local black chicken with a red crest, it wasn’t liquid but it was definitely rich and creamy served on a bed of foie cream, roast corn and honey jelly. A super-rich dish but extremely moreish. I will try to replicate this one. (Note that apparently, the Spanish make foie gras without force-feeding the ducks)

    Cod with tomato, bread and garlic soup

    The second last protein was a sous vide cod with cilantro sauce served in a bed of Castilian soup (a local bread and garlic soup, not at all overwhelming, think bouillabaisse).
    This was also served with a La Mancha specialty called an Atascaburras ball (top left-ish) made with salted cod and potatoes. It is baked and not deep-fried. It was outstanding, I am trying to track down a recipe.

    Sous vide lamb

    The final meat course was sous vide lamb, it was seared and served with black garlic from Las Pedroñeras garnished with medium-dry tomatoes. The lamb was mildly gamey and extremely rich, I could only eat a couple of bites, at this point we were getting pretty full. I believe the glass-like garnish was a saffron tuille.

    Dessert #1

    There are almonds grown in this region as well, so it was expected as an ingredient. This was an almond praline base with cardamon chai tea ice cream, and it was outstanding!

    Dessert #2

    As lemons are also part of the La Mancha region landscape, they had to be part of a dessert. It was called Lemon Extravaganza! The base was a lemon sabayon with candied citrus peel, on top of almond “earth” and meringue shards. Best dessert, bar none! But we love lemon!

    The coffee course

    Unfortunately, we don’t drink coffee after twelve so they served this course as a third dessert. We are absolutely stuffed at this point but we managed to get it down, fortunately, they were small bites. They called them Petit fours, there were mini lavender macarons, anise beignets, chocolate hazelnut discs and a wonderful chocolate olive oil dome. A beautiful end to a memorable evening.

    La cuenta

    The accounting (la cuenta) is served up in this adorable little chest.

    I would definitely recommend this restaurant if you are passing through the region. It was extremely good value (it was 68 Euros if memory serves). I loved the stories linked to each dish and the beautiful way they were presented. Service was spot on and extremely professional as you would expect. Our server spoke fluent English and was extremely easy to understand.

     

    Lime Sugar Cookies

    As our time in Spain was dwindling in late May, I began to think more about using up pantry items. Here is another recipe that was created to use up pantry ingredients I purchased for our time in Spain. I wanted to use up the flour, sugar and a lime that I had sitting around. Unfortunately, I had only a little butter that I needed for the remainder of the week so I improvised and used reduced table cream. I figured if you could make cookies using olive oil, then you should be able to make cookies using cream, but I only had table cream which is generally about 18% fat so I reduced it about half in volume which I was hoping would give me about 36% fat or at least more than 18%. The cookies turned out delicate, not crumbly and slightly chewy. JT thought some coconut would be lovely in them so perhaps I’ll try that next time. I would have liked a little more lime flavour so I upped the zest in the recipe below because I only had one lime, two I think, would be perfect.

    A deliscious, chewy cookie.

    Lime Sugar Cookies

    A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

    Makes about 24 cookies about 5 cm in diameter

    Ingredients:

    • 270 g all-purpose flour
    • 5 g baking soda
    • 2.5 g kosher salt
    • 251 g granulated sugar, plus more for rolling
    • 78 g reduced table cream (see notes)
    • 2 large eggs
    • 2.5 mL vanilla extract
    • 15 mL lime juice 
    • Zest of 2 limes

    Directions:

    1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.
    2. Combine the sugar, table cream, eggs, vanilla, lime juice and zest and mix well.
    3. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and just fold in so that there is no visible flour. Set in the freezer for 30 minutes.
    4. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Drop about 15 mL cookies (about a tablespoon) onto a parchment-lined sheet bake for 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool completely.

    Notes:

    • For the table cream in this recipe, pour 250 mL table cream into a heavy bottom saucepan and reduce on high heat until about half (about 30 minutes), stirring occasionally so it doesn’t over boil. Cool completely.

    Sometimes it’s just the simplest things that are the best. While we were in Spain, we had a lot of tapas, they serve tapas every time you order a glass of vino. Sometimes it is as simple as delicious olives, or sometimes it’s a little ham sandwich. While we were in Granada, we slipped into this adorable little bar and ordered a couple of glasses of vino with some tapas. Before we even had our first sip, they brought out a good quantity of homemade potato chips and these little round sandwiches (about 7-10 cm in diameter). If we hadn’t already ordered a selection of cheeses and charcuterie, we would have been done! And they would not have been offended. This is Spain, where a glass of good quality wine is €3.50 (less than $5) AND it comes with food! And there is no expectation of tipping, most restaurants add a small service fee per person so you needn’t worry about it.

    We were sitting at home one evening when we decided to have a glass of vino and JT asks what we were having for hors d’œuvres! I had to scramble a bit because I hadn’t pre-made anything for the freezer but I did have some incredible peppers (did I mention how wonderful vegetables taste in Spain?) so I sliced them thinly and sautéed them and presented them with some toasted Spanish pine nuts. They were fantastic! So simple. If you’re serving a crowd, you might want to add a splash of red wine and some sliced chorizo, served with crusty bread of course. This is definitely going into my repertoire because I always have peppers at home.

    I haven’t stipulated quantities because it’s what you have on hand. I used about a half of pepper each of the red and yellow and about 1/4 of an onion.

    These are some of the sweetest peppers we’ve ever tasted.

    Sautéed Peppers with Pine Nuts

    A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

     Ingredients:

    • Red peppers, deveined and seeded, cut into strips
    • Yellow peppers, deveined and seeded, cut into strips
    • Onion, thinly sliced
    • Splash of olive oil
    • Pine Nuts, toasted
    • Salt and pepper to taste

     Ingredients:

    1. Sauté the onions and peppers in a splash of olive oil. Add the chorizo and red wine, if using
    2. Sprinkle with pine nuts, salt and pepper and serve with crusty bread.

    We’re coming up to our last few weeks in Spain and I’m thinking about how to use up all the groceries we bought. I probably shouldn’t have bought a pack of sugar (about 350 g) but it was only about €0.50 so I’m not going to kill myself but I will give an honest go of using some of it. Peanut butter is not a common ingredient in Spain (most likely all of Europe) and is therefore expensive (€6.00 for a 500 g jar) but JT loves the stuff, so we splurged. We’ll be away for about 9 days of the last 18 days in Spain so I wanted to start on my pantry cleanup sooner than later.

    I didn’t want to buy another package of butter so I needed a recipe that did not use it. Fortunately, this one is an old favourite, slightly modified to incorporate pantry ingredients. The 30 g portions make a decent size cookie but not large by any stretch of the imagination. The butter is not beaten into the peanut butter (mainly because I didn’t have a mixer) just mixed in well, without too much exertion which makes it an easy cookie recipe. I’ll be definitely keeping this one in my repertoire.

    Delicious cookies with just the right amount of chewiness.

    Pantry Clean Out Peanut Butter Cookies

    A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

    Makes 19 cookies about 30 g each

    Ingredients:

    • 250 g crunchy peanut butter (natural, no salt or sugar added)
    • 2 eggs
    • 80 g flour
    • 165 g sugar
    • 3 g salt
    • 50 dark chocolate with sea salt

    Directions:

    1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
    2. Combine the peanut butter and eggs and mix well.
    3. Combine the flour, sugar and salt and mix well.
    4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix well.
    5. Portion out 30 g balls and flatten slightly with your palm. Dot the chocolate pieces onto each one evenly.
    6. Bake for 8-12 minutes at 350° F.

    I always create a menu plan for every week and when we arrived in Spain, it was no different. I like to schedule meals out in a restaurant but if they don’t work out, I also like to have something easy to fix on hand, dried cheese tortellini was one of these things. We had been out for lunch at one of our favourite Italian places and the couple at the table next to us ordered the fried cheese tortellini and I was inspired, they looked so delicious. I have made fried pasta before but used North American dried pasta and it wasn’t good, they were too thick and ended up really hard and difficult to eat so I didn’t bother posting about them. These little gems are different, they are crispy, chewy little parcels filled with cheese! They are wonderful. I tested up a batch of 18 and found them quite successful so I fried up the entire package! I froze them for when we reunite with our dear friends Paul and T from Arizona, they came for a visit in early May. Just pop them onto a parchment-lined baking pan and bake at 350° F for about 10-12 minutes. Serve with salsa, romesco sauce or any one of your favourites. Make sure you make a bunch because they are addictive.

    They are crispy and chewy little parcels of deliciousness.

    Crispy Fried Cheese Tortellini

    A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

    Makes as many tortellini as your package has.

    Ingredients:

    • 1 package dry cheese-filled tortellini, cooked through
    • 500 mL high flash-point oil
    • dipping sauce, your choice

    Directions:

    1. Heat the oil to 350° F
    2. Fry only 5-6 at a time until golden, place on an absorbant cloth to soak up any excess oil.
    3. Serve warm with your favourite dipping sauce.

    Notes:

    • Cook your pasta to slightly overdone, this will provide the best crunch.
    • Cook your pasta in advance so that you can totally drain them and allow them to slightly dry out on a paper towel or parchment (this will prevent the oil from splashing when the water hits it).

    Retro Olive Balls

    You may have noticed from my other socials that we have escaped Toronto and finally headed to Spain. Our first trip in February was cancelled by you know what. We are here for 51 days. The sun and relative warmth have been life-altering. I wake up just to see the sunrise on the Mediterranean (it’s not that bad, 7:30-ish during our stay).

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    Our kitchen in the flat (my cousin’s flat) is challenging from a size point. I have fitted it with most of my favourite tools so I can do most things but finding a place to do them can be a challenge. Most people who rent do take away or go out to one of the many restaurants in this little village. The Spaniards like to eat late (9pm would be considered an early dinner) but I find it difficult to eat that late, so we end up going out for lunch and having a light dinner around 7pm. Although the first few attempts to lunch were failures as many places don’t open until at least 1:30 (we don’t eat breakfast) and they close between 2-5pm for Siesta. Don’t get me started on Siesta, it is a beloved ritual in the smaller centres. This little recipe was developed to take us through cocktails one evening. 

    Retro Olive Balls

    A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

    Makes 8 pastry-wrapped olives

    Ingredients:

    • 15 g unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 60 g cheese, we used manchego
    • 60 g flour
    • 15 g roasted garlic purée
    • Salt, pepper to taste
    • water to bind
    • 8 olives

    Directions:

    1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
    2. Combine everything but the olives in the small bowl of a food processor and process until combined. If the dough still doesn’t come together, add a few drops of water and pulse until it comes together.
    3. Divide the dough into eight equal portions. Roll each portion into a small circle and wrap around each olive, rolling in your hand until it is smooth. Repeat until all of the olives are wrapped.
    4. Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet until golden, serve warm.

    A delicious buttery pastry enveloping a Manzanilla Olive.

    Notes:

    • I used unpitted Spanish Manzanilla Olives because it is what I had at home, black olives or even pimento-stuffed olives would be lovely with this recipe. Make sure you mention to your guests that the olives are with pitts.
    • Double or triple this recipe for more tasty little balls.

     

    Sometimes we need a little more fibre in our diets. We’re in Spain! Woohoo! We have been here for about a month now, enjoying the sunshine and warmth. In fact, as I type this post (around the 19 of April), Toronto had some snow! Yes, my dear friends messaged me about it! But we have been watching the weather on our security cameras anyway. Snow. I haven’t worn socks in a month!

    I’ve been developing this recipe for a couple of years and I think this is it. It’s a lovely combination of sweet, salty and crunchy. 

    A lovely combination of sweet, salty, and crunchy.

    High Fibre Granola Bars

    A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

    Makes one 23 cm (9 inch) square pan

    Ingredients:

    • 100 g Rolled Oats
    • 100 g Wheat Bran
    • 100 g Sunflower seeds
    • 50 g pumpkin seeds
    • 100 g sliced almonds
    • 105 g honey
    • 105 g unsalted butter, melted
    • 4 g salt

    Directions:

    1. Toast everything but the honey, butter and salt at 250F for 30 minutes, stirring 3-4 times.
    2. Meanwhile, combine the honey, butter and salt and mix well.
    3. Increase the oven temperature to 350F. Transfer the oat mixture to a bowl and pour the honey mixture into it. Mix well to coat everything. Press the mixture firmly into a parchment-lined 9” x 9” baking pan and bake until golden 13-15 minutes. Cut into bars while warm. Cool on parchment. Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks or freeze for longer.

    Notes:

    • This recipe doubles very well.
    • If you don’t toast the mixture first, you’ll probably get a chewy bar instead, although I haven’t tried it yet.

    Deluxe Egg Salad

    Truth be told, I re-invented some leftover devilled eggs into this deluxe egg salad. The creamy egg yolks made perfectly rich and luscious creamy egg salad. I upped the ante by adding a small, ripe avocado. Winner, winner, egg salad!

    I think I’ll make egg salad this way all the time.

    Deluxe Egg Salad

    A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

    Makes enough for 2 large croissant sandwiches

    Ingredients:

    • 4 left over devilled egg halves (see notes on how I jazzed these up), roughly chopped
    • 2 additional hard-boiled egg, roughly chopped
    • 15 mL mayonnaise
    • 5-10 mL lemon juice
    • 2 scallions, finely chopped, plus more for garnish
    • ~10 cm of cucumber, finely diced
    • 1 small, ripe avocado, finely diced
    • Add salt and pepper to taste

    Directions:

    1. Combine the devilled egg filling with the additional hard-boiled egg yolk with the mayo and lemon juice, whisk well.
    2. Stir the scallions, cucumber and avocado together, mixing well. Spoon the egg yolk sauce over the eggs and fold in, completely mixing with the eggs.
    3. Serve in a croissant with additional finely chopped scallions as garnish.

    Delicious stuffed into a croissant.

    Notes:

    • When I made the devilled eggs, I whipped the yolks with mayonnaise, Dijon mustard and room temperature goats cheese and a little finely chopped scallions. Salt and pepper to taste.

    Salmon Wellington

    I came up with this recipe for some friends we were having over at the end of January. It was so successful, I’ve made it six times since. I’ve even changed it up with a Chicken Cordon-Bleu and it’s lovely. I find 50-60 grams of protein are plenty because there is a little topping and the pastry is very filling. Depending on what’s inside, you may or may not even need a sauce.

    The cracked pastry does not take anything away from the wow factor of this dish.

    Salmon Wellington

    A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

    Serves 2

    Ingredients:

    • 15 g onion
    • 50 g baby spinach
    • Splash of olive oil
    • 65 g goats cheese, room temperature
    • 5 g roasted puréed garlic
    • Salt, pepper and dill to taste
    • 120 g Wild Pacific Salmon, skin removed
    • 1/2 a sheet of puff pastry
    • 1/2 egg, whisked

    Directions:

    1. Preheat the oven to 425° F
    2. Sauté the onion and spinach in the olive oil until the onion is translucent and the spinach has wilted, set aside to cool.
    3. Combine the sautéed vegetables, goats cheese, roasted garlic and season with salt, pepper and dill.
    4. Layout the puff pastry and cut it into two rectangular pieces, roll out to be able to cover the entire fish.
    5. Divide the goat cheese mixture between the two puff pastry and spread out in about the same shape as the salmon. Lay the salmon on top and fold the puff pastry over so the side overlap and you can pinch them closed. Flip over and pinch the ends closed. Use a fork to create a strong seal on the ends and score the top. Brush tops with the egg wash and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the salmon is about 135° F.
    6. Serve immediately.

    We prefer wild caugh Pacific salmon because it is brightly coloured and has great salmon flavour.

    Turk-ish Eggs

    I saw this Nigella Lawson recipe on my friend Mimi’s socials and in reading Nigella Lawson’s description of it made me want to try it. I was able to source the Aleppo pepper flakes at my favourite spice store in Kensington Market, Carlos’ House of Spice. I called it Turk-ish because I altered the recipe somewhat but you can click on the original here.

    Creamy and tangy against the rich Aleppo butter sauce.

    The Aleppo pepper flakes are not burning hot, there is mild heat but even I can take it so it’s pretty mild. It has a lovely fruity taste that comes through in the nutty brown butter. The tangy yogurt is beautifully mellowed by the brown butter sauce. It’s a lovely dish that is totally guest-worthy.

    Turk-ish Eggs

    Please click here for the original recipe

    Serves 2

    Ingredients:

    • 200 mL Plain Greek yogurt
    • 10 g roasted garlic purée
    • 2-4 g Sea salt flakes or kosher salt
    • 30 g unsalted butter
    • 15 mL extra virgin olive oil
    • 2-5 g Aleppo pepper/Turkish red pepper flakes
    • 2 large eggs, cold
    • 10 mL lemon juice, divided
    • 1/2 avocado, mashed with a fork
    • Toasted bread

    Directions:

    1. Whisk the yogurt and roasted garlic in a bowl over a bain-marie and gently warm the yogurt, set aside.
    2. Warm two bistro bowls.
    3. Melt the butter and gently cook until the milk solids turn golden brown, remove from the heat and stir in the olive oil, Aleppo pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt. Set aside.
    4. Gently bring a low-sided pan, filled with water to a light boil and turn it down so there are no visible bubbles. Meanwhile, crack each egg into a fine-mesh sieve and allow the loose whites to drain away, slide into a ramekin. Add 5 mL lemon juice into each ramekin with the drained egg. Gently lower each egg into the simmering water and cook until desired consistency (we love runny yolks 3-5 minutes).
    5. To serve, divide the yogurt into the two bowls evenly spoon the mashed avocado into the centre. Place a poached egg on top and drizzle with the Aleppo butter sauce. Serve with lots of toast.

    Notes:

    • The addition of avocado is not authentic in this recipe, I had a half that needed using. It was a beautiful creamy texture against the yogurt.
    • If you think two slices of toast will do, make two more, you’ll need it to soak up the yogurt-butter-egg sauce!
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