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Tex-Mex Seasoning

As you may well know, I am not a fan of buying ready-made seasonings. I always try to make my own and that way I can customize it to my own taste. This one is a perfect example. It’s wonderful on fish or chicken and it’s salted to my taste instead of the ridiculous amounts of salt in store-bought versions. The sugar is optional, I have used erythritol as well, works similarly and the taste is still good due to the flavours of the other ingredients.

This seasoning is particularly good on grilled meats, we’ve been grilling on the Big Green Egg all winter and loving it. The intense smoke infuses into everything we grill and it is awesome.

Tex-Mex Seasoning

Ingredients:

  • 10 g dehydrated onion flakes
  • 5 g granulated garlic
  • pinch of smoked sweet paprika
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 3 g cumin
  • 10 g brown sugar
  • salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in your spice grinder and grind until onion and garlic are pulverized and the blend is a fine powder.
  2. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry spot.

I’m always trying to find ways to eat healthier and desserts are always a good place to start, particularly after the holidays when we may have overindulged (wink, wink). This is an old recipe from my friend Charles who isn’t blogging as much these days, it’s a lovely Swedish almond cake that is packed with almond flavour and texture. It’s almost like eating a marzipan cake!

There is that darn winter light.

 

Sugar-Free, Gluten-Free Almond Cake

Ingredients:

  • 225 g Erythritol, ground finely
  • 150g Almond Flour (ground finer than meal)
  • 50 g Coconut Flour
  • 60 g Butter
  • 2 Eggs
  • 125 mL water
  • 1 tsp almond flavouring
  • zest of one lemon
  • 30g Flaked Almonds

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Prepare your spring-form tart pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Add the Erythrital, almond flour and coconut flour to the large bowl of your food processor and process to combine well.
  3. Melt the butter and allow to cool to room temperature.
  4. Combine the eggs, cooled butter, water, almond flavouring and lemon zest and mix well.
  5. While processing the flours, slowly drizzle in the wet ingredients until well combined (it will be more like marzipan than batter). Press into the prepared cooking pan and sprinkle the flaked almonds evenly all over the top of the mixture.
  6. Place carefully into the oven and bake for about 30-35 minutes. Take it out of the oven and set aside to cool before removing from the pan to slice up.

Notes:

  • Erythritol (or monkfruit) is not new, it’s been around since the 1800’s. Sadly it has an unfortunate name because it sounds like a horrible chemical. In fact, it is a sugar alcohol that occurs naturally in fermented fruit and is 60-70% as sweet as sugar, but will not cause tooth decay or spike blood sugar levels and is only partly absorbed by the body but mostly discarded in the obvious ways. A Scottish chemist named John Stenhouse discovered it in 1848. The down-side is that it’s ridiculously expensive! It’s nearly $10 per kilo! (About $5 a pound!) Here in Toronto (traditionally more expensive than the burbs and smaller cities) sugar is $1.25 per kilo, $0.63 per pound so I can see why this might not catch on.
  • Erythritol is sold in crystal format, I prefer to grind it super finely in my coffee/spice grinder to avoid a crunchy texture. The strange thing about it is that although it does melt, it eventually goes back to the crystal structure. Your baked goods will be a little grainier than with normal sugar.
  • Some people don’t find erythritol sweet enough, so often it is paired with stevia but stevia has been known to have an aftertaste. 
  • You can use Erythritol 1:1 for sugar.

Late last summer, I did some prop shopping for a prop-stylist colleague who was swamped and needed a hand. It’s a lot of work, don’t get me wrong, the shopping bit is fun but there is a lot of schlepping! And you have to be extremely organized to be able to return some of the props that weren’t used! That being said, it’s a job I don’t envy, they earn every penny and then some. While I was waiting for a store to open, I stopped into an Italian cafe for a coffee and biscotti. The coffee was fine but the biscotti was atrocious, it was soggy! Imagine that. Such an unsatisfying treat. The worst. So I had to make my own! These definitely hit the spot!

Cranberry and Almond Biscotti Revisted

Makes about 30 biscotti

Ingredients:

  • 320 g AP unbleached flour
  • 4 g baking powder
  • 3 g salt
  • 340 g sugar
  • 125 g butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 7 mL almond extract
  • 150 g frozen cranberries, defrosted
  • 70 g almonds, toasted

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt and mix well. Fold in the cranberries and almonds (I used whole)
  3. In the large bowl of your stand mixer, combine the sugar, butter, eggs and almond extract and mix for about 4 minutes.
  4. Fold in the dry ingredients until entirely combined (I did this using my whisk attachment so I didn’t break up the cranberries.
  5. Divide the batter in half and shape into relatively skinny logs on the parchment, leaving sufficient space between the two as they will spread during baking.
  6. Bake for 35 minutes or until golden.
  7. Remove logs from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, slice each log into 1.5 cm slices. Place cut-side down on the baking sheet (reuse the original parchment) and bake for 10 minutes, flip and continue to bake for 5 more minutes or until lightly golden. Cool completely.
  8. Store in an air-tight container or freeze. Serve with coffee or tea.

You’ll need to bake these a little longer because the cranberries are moist.

Happy New Year! These shrimp cakes are chuck-full of shrimp, in fact, they are more shrimp than cake! And they are packed with the fresh flavours of ginger, cilantro and green onions which work incredibly well with the sweet succulent shrimp! I had intended on freezing them, but they disappeared too quickly so unfortunately I have no idea how they would perform after being frozen. They really don’t take long to put together and they pan fry so quickly, you could make them up in the morning and hold them in the refrigerator until needed, then reheat them at 250F for about 30 minutes. These luscious babies are definitely going on my New Years Eve tapas menu.

Gluten-Free Vietnamese Shrimp Cakes

For the original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 100-125 mL water
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 30 g coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 10 g fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 30 g green onions, finely sliced
  • 100 g celeriac, finely grated
  • 454 g Raw Shrimp, chopped roughly
  • Grape seed oil for frying

Directions:

  1. Whisk eggs with water and ginger.
  2. In another bowl, combine baking powder, coconut flour and sea salt and mix well. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix into a paste.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients (cilantro, green onions, celeriac and chopped shrimp and mix well.
  4. Heat grape seed oil in pan (about 1 cm deep). Using a 4 cm cookie scoop, scoop spoonfuls into the hot oil and press down to flatten a bit. Fry each side until golden.
  5. Serve warm with a spicy mayo dipping sauce (125 mL (1/2 cup) mayo with 15 mL (1 tbsp) sriracha sauce).

Notes:

  • You may use a blended gluten-free flour mix instead of just plain coconut flour, but I found the coconut flour flavour works really well here.
  • Don’t like frying? Try baking them in a 350F

No Knead Spelt Boule

You may have noticed that I’ve been radio silent for much of December and I apologize, we were in Arizona for about a month. Although not quite as warm as our last month in Arizona, it was a far cry warmer than home. I’m so glad I had lined up my blog posts because I literally had no time! I hope you understand. I’m back on schedule notwithstanding the holidays which are going to be busy. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas or whatever you celebrate and a happy and healthy new year.

I have long wanted to experiment with alternative flours in bread making and a few months ago, the opportunity arose, we were having my BFF from University for brunch and she is gluten intolerant but can tolerate spelt! I did a little research and discovered that spelt was a great bread flour and also discovered that WE LOVE IT! It has a light nutty flavour and a great bread texture. I would say it is more like a Ciabatta than a French stick. I slice it thicker for dinner, but for toast, I use my handy electric slicer for even 6 mm slices.

This is one sticky dough, but I experimented with varying quantities of spelt flour and always came back to the original. You may not want to proof it in your Banneton (proofing basket) unless it is very heavily floured, even so, one experiment stuck so badly, it took me nearly an hour to clean it out!

I used a proofing basket for this boule.

No Knead Spelt Boule

Makes one 981 g boule.

Please click here for the original recipe.

Please click here to print this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 565 g spelt flour
  • 450 g water
  • 56 g honey
  • 10 g salt
  • 4 g instant yeast (1/2 packet)
  • good pinch of cornmeal

Directions:

  1. Combine the ingredients with the exception of the cornmeal (not corn starch), in a large bowl and mix well. The dough will be a bit stickier than regular bread dough and a little firmer (you may need to put a little elbow grease into it to combine the flour entirely). Set aside covered for about 12 hours (this step is best done overnight or if you wish to start earlier, allow it to rest covered in the refrigerator).
  2. If the dough rested in the refrigerator, bring to room temperature. Prepare your proofing bowl with a little spelt flour.
  3. Shape the dough into a nice boule by pulling up the sides into the centre using a spatula and gather them tightly to form the bottom of the boule. Flip the boule so that the pulled area is now at the bottom and roll it into the proofing bowl so the pulled area is now at the top (this will make it easy to flip the boule into the hot pan so that the smooth area is on top). Sprinkle a little spelt flour on top and allow to rest, covered for 60 to 90 minutes.
  4. About 30 minutes into the proofing of the boule, pre-heat the oven with your 23 cm (9 inch) oven-safe cast iron dutch oven to 450° F (the original recipe suggests that you place the pot on a baking sheet to insulate it a bit more so that the base of the boule doesn’t burn).
  5. When the boule has risen, about double in size and the pan has been pre-heating for about 30 minutes, add a parchment circle to the bottom of the pan and sprinkle a little cornmeal over it. Gently roll the proofed boule into the pan. You may make some tension slices into the top so it breaks artistically, or you may let it break on its own. Bake for 35 minutes with the lid on, then remove the lid and bake for additional 10 minutes. The internal temperature should be 195° F to 200° F. Allow to cool and serve sliced with your favourite stew or just with butter.

There were several versions baked up until I got the best version.

Notes:

  • This is a very sticky dough. I added the parchment because no matter how much cornmeal I put in the hot pan, it stuck quite badly.
  • I tested this recipe with more flour and it made it too dense, so even though it is a sticky dough, it is the right amount of water and flour.
  • A larger dutch oven will yield a wider and flatter boule, like the first photo.

Spelt flour can become over-worked quite easily which will make a heavier, denser loaf. The no-knead recipe is a perfect way to get a light texture.

We are knee deep in cocktail party season and I’m going to post a recipe that will keep you on budget! Do you love Boursin? Are you appalled at the price? In Toronto, a little 150 g (a touch more than 1/2 cup) pot could cost $6.00+++!!! So I improvised and created this herb-infused cream cheese spread, it’s equally as good and costs a lot less! Make this a couple of days in advance so the flavours have time to meld, you won’t be sorry.

Herbed Cream Cheese Spread

Makes about 250 mL or 1 cup.

Ingredients:

  • 30 mL olive oil
  • dry or fresh herbs, to taste
  • garlic, minced finely
  • 70 g butter, softened
  • 100 g cream cheese, softened
  • 100 g ricotta
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • Chives or green onions, finely chopped

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil over low heat with the fresh herbs and garlic, simmer for 10 minutes to infuse. Allow the infused oil to cool completely.
  2. Pour infused oil through a fine sieve and reserve, discard herbs and garlic.
  3. In a small processor, pulse the cheeses and butter together until light and fluffy. Slowly pour in the cooled olive oil and continue to pulse until it has been entirely incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Serve at room temperature and watch it disappear.

Notes:

  • The first time, I used a combo of fresh lemon thyme, rosemary, tarragon and Greek oregano. This time, I used finely grated Herbes de Provence.
  • I had homemade ricotta, but if you do not, just double the cream cheese, it’s still delicious!
  • Use whipped cream cheese for a similar texture to the actual Boursin.
  • I like to serve this spread in a small glass pot but any container will do. To serve similar to the actual Boursin, line a ramekin with plastic wrap and pack the spread into the plastic wrap and freeze. To serve, Remove from the freezer and invert on a platter and remove plastic wrap. Allow the dome to come to room temperature.
  • Serve with bread, crackers or crudité.

Way back in later September, JT and I rented our neighbours’ cottage in Muskoka. Its vista reminds me of our beloved cabin that we no longer visit. But that’s a whole other story for some other time. Right now, I’d like to focus on the cottage we rented, and its beautiful views. Click on the images below to view the gallery.

We invited some dear vegetarian friends up for a couple of days and one of the days we had a grazing dinner of tapas and cheeses. One dish that was very successful was the mushroom and chestnut paté with cognac. You would be hardpressed to guess this does not have any meat. The texture is creamy and smooth with great depth of flavour.

Mushroom and Chestnut Paté with Cognac

Makes 125 mL Paté

Ingredients:

    • 100 g roasted chestnuts, roughly chopped (I used this one)
    • Handful of raw cremini mushrooms
    • 1 shallot, roughly chopped
    • 2-3 cloves roasted garlic
    • 80 g butter, room temperature
    • 15 mL EVOO
    • 30 mL cognac
    • pinch of nutmeg
    • pinch of allspice
    • pinch of salt and black pepper
    • ~20 g butter, to top off paté

Directions:

  1. Melt 20 g butter with the olive oil in a pan. Sauté the shallots until caramelized, add the mushrooms and cook until softened. Add the chestnuts and sauté lightly until softened. Deglaze the pan with the cognac.
  2. Set aside to cool.
  3. When cool, add the cooked ingredients to a food processor or jar of the immersion blender. Add remaining softened butter (not the melted butter at the end of the list), roasted garlic and spices and pulse until very smooth.
  4. Add the paté to a plastic-lined pan and press into the corners or into a shallow mason jar, as pictured, and smooth the top over. Pour melted butter over the top and allow to harden.
  5. Allow this paté to come to room temperature before serving.

Notes:

  • You may substitute the butter with vegan butter should you desire, however I am unsure of the impact it would have on the overall flavour.
  • You may use any type of mushroom, I love cremini’s earthy sweetness.
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