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GarlicCheeseRopeBread_First

I was about 33 when JT and I first vacationed in Florida. JT and I rented a friend’s house in Daytona Beach and used it as a base to travel around, taking a couple of days to visit friends in Sarasota and to explore that side of the state. While travelling, there were several roadside eateries that would come up that were rather new to us Canadians: Cracker Barrel, Denny’s and Waffle House to name a few. As you know by now, I am not so fond of fast food, so we avoided them but one morning we got up early to explore and decided that waffles were in order and we thought, what better place than Waffle House? Boy were we wrong, what a joke (I apologise to those who love the place), the waffles were thin and dry and they didn’t even have real maple syrup or even real butter! Maybe I’m a waffle snob, but real maple syrup and butter are necessities for a good waffle experience. Our waitress was surly and unapproachable, great qualities for a waitress. We begrudgingly ate the sad excuse for waffles and left. In the car, I couldn’t stop thinking about how bad an experience it was and immediately renamed the place Awful House! Needless to say, we did not stop at Awful House ever again!

When you’re looking for a delicious bread recipe, you need not look further than this recipe for Cheddar Garlic Rope Bread, plus there is nothing like it on the menu at Awful House! It’s not that difficult to make and it bakes up beautifully. I made this loaf for my Cousin Lucy’s Easter Dinner.

GarlicCheeseRopeBread

The bread is laced with delicious cheddar and garlic butter. Make sure you serve this warm.

Cheddar Garlic Rope Bread

This recipe makes one 40 cm x 15 cm (15″ x 6″) rope.

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp powdered milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 1 tbsp yeast
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 3/4 cup warm water (it should feel slightly warm to the touch not hot)
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/4 tsp white vinegar

Ingredients for the cheddar, garlic butter spread:

  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (or to taste)
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Combine the yeast, sugar and warm water, stir gently and allow to proof.
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer add the flour, salt, powdered milk, eggs and vinegar. Using the KitchenAid® Flex Edge Beater attachment, mix until the eggs have totally become incorporated into the flour. Change to the dough hook.
  3. Add the yeast water mixture and knead the dough for 10 minutes until you get a smooth slightly sticky dough.
  4. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover it and allow it to rise in a warm place till it doubles in size (this only takes about 45 minutes).
  5. Pre-heat your oven to 400°F (I used the fan setting).
  6. In the bowl of a small food processor, combine the cheese, butter, garlic and salt and pulse until completely combined, set aside.
  7. Once the dough has doubled in size, roll out the dough into a 0.5 cm (1/4 inch) thick rectangle (mine worked out to 40 cm x 30 cm (16″ x 12″). Spread all of the cheese butter mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 1 cm (1/2 inch) border on three sides (spread right to the long side that you will begin to roll). Starting at the long end, roll up the dough tightly to form a roll. Seal all of the edges well by pinching them closed (wet fingers with water if necessary). Slice the roll in half lengthwise, leaving the last 5 cm (2 inches) connected.
  8. Turn each half cut-side up and carefully wrap the halves together like a rope, maintaining the cut-sides up to expose the filling. Carefully place on a baking tray with sides, lined with parchment paper and allow to rest, covered in a warm location for 1 hour. Check out Angie’s blog for detailed photos on how-to roll, cut and form into a rope.
  9. Coat with the vinegar, egg wash.
  10. Bake for 5-7 minutes on the high heat, then reduce to 350°F and bake for another 7-10 minutes or until the bottom is golden and it sounds hollow when tapped.
  11. Serve warm.

SrirachaSauce_First

Recently, I was given a small basket of a variety of chili peppers. I don’t know about you, but these days I don’t like to tempt fate with overly hot things so incorporating them into a dish was out of the question. In the bunch were scotch bonnets, serranos, poblanos, jalopeños and Thai chilies so it was a basket of epic heat! Since I’ve already made Sweet Chili Sauce with Dried Apricots and Hot Sauce I decided to make a version of the very popular Sriracha Sauce because it is a staple in my pantry.

I love hot sauce, but sadly my innards, not so much so I wanted to  tame the heat without compromising flavour. The solution was grilling the peppers to a blistery/blackened stage, peeling and cleaning the seeds and veins out to temper the heat, the smoke flavour was a bonus! This recipe is roughly based on the link below.

Hot sauce.

Hot sauce.

Homemade Sriracha Sauce

Makes roughly 225 mL sauce.

Adapted from Leite’s Culinaria

Ingredients:

  • 400 g variety of hot peppers
  • 10 g garlic, minced
  • 25 g granulated sugar
  • 5 g sea salt
  • 125 mL white vinegar or to taste

Directions:

  1. Grill the hot peppers until their skin is blistered and black. Set hot chili peppers into a glass bowl and top with a plate to further steam the peppers (this makes peeling much easier, but if you have issues, just microwave them on high for 10-20 seconds). Peel, remove seeds and veins (the sauce will be hot enough even with this step) using gloves to protect your fingers (these are extremely hot peppers).
  2. Combine all ingredients except the white vinegar in a food processor and pulse until you have a paste. Scrape into a glass jar and tightly seal. Allow to sit on the kitchen counter (bench) for 1 week, stirring once daily. The mixture will ferment so if you see bubbling action, it is par for the course.
  3. After one week, transfer the chili mixture to a saucepan over medium heat and add the vinegar and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer 5 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool slightly and then purée it again using an immersion blender. Push through a fine sieve, taste and season with sugar, salt and vinegar as desired.
  4. Store in the refrigerator in a glass jar with a tight lid. The original recipe indicates that this sauce is good for six months.
SrirachaSauce_8696

Perfect timing because I’m going to need a small bottle for the cottage!

WholeWheatSpeltCinnamonBread_1

Recently my sister-in-law and her husband stayed at our place as they had an early morning appointment downtown because they live in another city that is 2 hours away. My brother-in-law cannot eat sugar or white flour and I wanted to create a special breakfast bread that he could eat so I searched and searched the world-wide cookbooks. My general GOTO blog for speciality flour creations is Angie’s Recipes because Angie creates or modifies existing recipes using anything BUT white flour and most of her recipes use natural sugars so it didn’t surprise me when I landed on her version of the Cinnamon Spelt Ring. I loved this recipe because I could experiment with the dough slicing techniques that another friend, Maria at A_boleyn mastered with her Swedish Cinnamon Star Bread. In fact, this beautiful technique has been demonstrated on many blogs and it was about time for me to give it a go. I doubt my family minded being guinea pigs!

This was my first attempt, I made a star bread as well as a rope ring but they were too thin and not bready enough.

This was my first attempt, I made a star bread as well as a rope ring but they were too thin and not bready enough so I revised the recipe and made it again!

I modified the recipe to include whole wheat flour instead of the two types of spelt flour that Angie’s recipe had. As well, I have replaced white sugar with dates for the filling. My first test, although tasted OK, was not up to my expectations, it was just too thin and not bready like a cinnamon bun, so I made it again with a lot more success.

This is the unbaked bread. In hindsight, this dough was bready enough to make two loaves!

This is the revised recipe below of the unbaked bread. In hindsight, this dough was bready enough to make two loaves!

Whole Wheat, Spelt Cinnamon Bread

Original recipe from Angie’s Recipes Blog, please click here.

This recipe makes one 40 cm x 15 cm (15″ x 6″) rope.

Ingredients:

  • 165 mL Milk, lukewarm
  • 3 Egg yolks, large, divided
  • 30 g flavourless vegetable oil (I used canola)
  • 20 g Maple syrup
  • 8 g Instant dried yeast
  • 250 g Whole Wheat Flour (may want to reduce this to 225 for a shaggier dough).
  • 100 g Spelt Flour
  • 5 g salt

Directions:

  1. Combine warm milk, 2 egg yolks, vegetable oil, instant dried yeast and maple syrup and whisk well. Allow to proof until bubbling.
  2. Sift the flours together into the bowl of your stand mixer. Make a well in the centre and add the wet ingredients and mix until well combined. Knead for 10 minutes.
  3. Allow to rise in a warm place for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until doubled in size.

Ingredients for filling:

  • 75 g unsalted butter
  • 100 g dates
  • 6 g ground cinnamon
  • 2 g salt

Directions:

  1. Add all of the filling ingredients into the bowl of a small food processor and process until completely smooth and combined.
  2. Roll out the dough into a 0.5 cm (1/4 inch) thick rectangle (mine worked out to 38 cm x 25 cm (15″ x 10″). Spread all of the cinnamon butter mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 1 cm (1/2 inch) border on three sides (spread right to the long side that you will begin to roll). Starting at the long end, roll up the dough tightly to form a roll. Seal all of the edges well by pinching them closed. Slice the roll in half lengthwise, leaving the last 5 cm (2 inches) connected.
  3. Turn each half cut-side up and carefully wrap the halves together like a rope, maintaining the cut-sides up to expose the filling. Carefully place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and allow to rest, covered in a warm location for 1 hour. Check out Angie’s blog for detailed photos on how-to roll, cut and form into a rope. Or check out Maria’s blog on how to make the star version of this gorgeous bread.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375° F (190 °C).
  5. Mix a teaspoon of water into the remaining egg yolk and brush over dough. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and internal temperature is around 200 °F (93°C). You may wish to cover with some foil so it doesn’t brown too quickly.
  6. Serve with home-made jam and butter.
WholeWheatSpeltCinnamonBread2

This is the baked loaf, it’s a beauty!

CheeseEggBraid2

I also wanted to make the rope bread as a savoury cheese version and used my Sesame Bread Recipe; I divided the dough into two equal portions, spread a few handfuls of sharp cheddar on one rectangle instead of the cinnamon butter, and also made a plain cut wheat sheaf version of the other. Both turned out excellent.

The cheese melted in the roll and was a lovely flavour in the egg bread.

The cheese melted in the roll and was a lovely flavour in the egg bread.

ChocolateCherryBrownies_1

As I was recently cleaning out my freezer, I discovered I had some cherry pie filling likely left over from a shoot or test because frankly, I would not buy the stuff myself! Being one who does not like to discard food I came up with this chocolate cherry brownie recipe. It’s moist, very chocolatey and surprises you with the odd cherry. I cut them into 2.5 cm (1 inch) cubes so you could have more of them, but you may cut them into the larger, traditional brownie shapes and have fewer or more, who am I to judge.

ChocolateCherryBrownies

Chocolate Cherry Brownies

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 1 pan 23 cm X 23 cm (9″ x 9″) about 2.5 cm (1″) thick.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 5 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 45 g semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup cherry pie filling
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 egg whites, lightly beaten

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 °F.
  2. Sift flour, icing sugar, cocoa powder and baking powder.
  3. Combine the brown sugar and chocolate chips and slowly melt the chocolate, add vanilla and mix well.
  4. Beat in the egg whites (if the liquid is still hot, temper them so you don’t get scrambled eggs!)
  5. Add dry ingredients and stir well.
  6. Pour into a prepared 23 cm X 23 cm (9″ x 9″) pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 30-35 minutes until firm and tester comes out clean.
ChocCherryBrowniesNutrition

Per single 2.5 cm cube brownie.

OK, I lied. Full disclosure: I really came up with this recipe so that I could use my adorable, new petite sweet stand (using up the cherry pie filling was just a bonus!). Isn’t it gorgeous? Cue JT’s famous Eye Roll.

In my Kitchen (IMK)

I have finally gotten my act together to participate in the In My Kitchen series again, which is now hosted by the wonderful and talented Maureen over at The Orgasmic Chef, down under in Oz. I have wanted to participate again for some time, but when I have stuff to talk about, I haven’t the time and when I have time, I haven’t had stuff to talk about! Go figure.

So here goes, In My Kitchen this month:

My dear friend Barb (Profiteroles and Ponytails, who is presently taking a little break from blogging) always gives me a plethora of wonderful and unique things for Christmas and this past year was no exception. I have to admit, I was waiting for just the right recipe to showcase one of the treasures and what better than a post of In My Kitchen: It’s Gold Sea Salt.

GoldSeaSalt copy

Pink Himalayan Sea Salt with gold colour from my dear friend Barb. Pretty, isn’t it?

PB Bark

I used the gold sea salt on this unique bark. It does sparkle, doesn’t it?😉

In My Kitchen I also have an authentic Falafel maker, a zucchini corer and Lee’s Ghee also from my dear friend Barb. I had no idea real falafels looked like mini doughnuts, did you know?

FelafelMaker

Cute little falafel maker

LeesGhee

I’m sure this is delicious!

I've been so busy making zucchini noodles, I'd completely forgotten about coring and stuffing this lovely veggy

I’ve been so busy making zucchini noodles, I’d completely forgotten about coring and stuffing this lovely veggy

Now rewind to August of last year when my dear friend Lorraine Elliot of Not Quite Nigella made a special point to meet me during her working visit to Canada. Lorraine brought me so many lovely things, but the thing that stands out the most In My Kitchen is the Beet Root Marmalade (to heck with relish, this is the BOMB on burgers!) and oven roasted macadamias with bush pepper spice and sea salt (I’m saving it for a special progressive dinner where I’ll use it to encrust a firm white fish) to name a few.

The beetroot marmalade is absolutely delicious!

The beetroot marmalade is absolutely delicious!

In My Kitchen is the lovely memory book of our recent trip to Arizona to visit our dear friends Paul & T. They were generous enough to invite us for a week (and we stayed 8 days!) to experience their “resort-style” community. News Flash: we LOVED it. We hope to spend a month down there next year, we’ll rent our own space, of course. If you’d like to see the whole book, please click here.

I always like to make a memory book of our vacations so that when I'm old and senile I'll remember what a great life I had!

I always like to make a memory book of our vacations so that when I’m old and senile I’ll remember what a great life I had!

And last but not least, In My Kitchen (well, it’s sort in my Living Room but only because it’s better light there) is Oscar, Oscar is my very first Meyer Lemon tree. I got Oscar late last summer and he produced several lemons but to my dismay, the wildlife ate them before I even had a chance. Last fall, when I brought Oscar inside, he continued to flower and around Christmas two of these flowers turned into fruit. Oscar sits by the glass doors facing East but I also have a grow light with a timer in case the yellow ball isn’t enough. I’m hoping to turn these two organic, Meyer lemons in Limoncello!

Oscar has grown his two lemons even larger since I took this photo!

Good ol’ Oscar has grown his two lemons even larger since I took this photo!

And that concludes my first installment of In My Kitchen. If you wish to participate, you must send Maureen and email of your intentions and make your post live by the 10th of the month.

 

 

Last May I decided I wanted to see Kinky Boots for our wedding anniversary, I knew it would be a treat but I honestly was not prepared for the sticker shock! The price equaled a nice weekend away in our own wine country at a four-star hotel (all be it, during off season)! So I passed. Then, last month I received an email from a local radio station that they were offering a discount to see the show (I don’t know why, because they seem to sell out) but I wanted to see it and so I checked out the deal.  We ended up getting two seats in the first level balcony for $90, all in (and by all in, there is 13% tax as well as ‘convenience’ fees, whatever they may be). It was a matinée on a Wednesday afternoon (freelancing allows that freedom) so we decided to check out Chef Rob Feenie’s Cactus Club before the show.

CC_Front

Rob Feenie is a celebrated Vancouver Chef who presides over 18 Cactus Club restaurants in Canada and the Toronto restaurant is the only one east of Calgary! Located in First Canadian Place in the heart of the financial district, the place is poised for high-end business deals over delicious luncheons and the suit crowd for after work drinks.

The Cactus Club Toronto is on three levels, each level boasting a unique style but serving the same menu; I’ve heard that this location is their flagship. We dined on street level which has a casual bar-like décor and ambiance, sadly with a few TVs.

CactusClub

The patio was still decorated with beautifully lit Christmas trees and propane heaters, a little excessive to say the least, but beautiful!

They don’t take reservations, they do have a few tables set aside for reservations, but their preference is for walk-ins, whether it’s for lunch or dinner. The front of the restaurant is set back into the building allowing a large hall to accommodate stanchions with velvet ropes for the large queues that, no doubt form. Most of you who have known me for some time, know that I do not wait in line for a restaurant so, this set-up did not bode well for me. However, it was a Wednesday, noonish and we were shown directly to our table. Whew! But as a side note, we have tried to make reservations for dinner a few times and have been turned down which is too bad because I would have liked to return.

CC_Interiior

Bar Interior from our booth. Too bad about the TVs.

The decor for this part of the restaurant is contemporary but warm. The perimeter is lined with large booths (but mostly sat only two people) around an enormous bar with stools all around. The window side had some little tables as well. What’s really interesting is the original art collection! On the upper levels you can enjoy your dish sitting alongside an original Warhol, Basquiat, or Mr.Brainwash!

Although we dined during the lunch hour, it wasn’t overly busy and they seemed to have a reasonable number of staff to ensure service was good. The kitchen is on the second or third floor which means the bus-boy is running up a flight of stairs with a basket of dirty dishes every 5 minutes or so, it also means that the food must be carted down the stairs alongside patrons walking up to the ladies or men’s rooms, which I found a little strange. Our server was attentive, friendly and considerate (asked if we were on a schedule).

We started with Szechuan Chicken Lettuce Wraps ($16.50) which turned out to be an extremely generous serving, in fact, JT and I said we could have been satisfied with just this course! It’s sweet and spicy Szechuan glazed chicken garnished with peanuts and crispy fried wontons with Korean chili sauce and spicy yogurt on the side. It was DELICIOUS! I would definitely order this dish again.

The serving was extremely generous and very tasty.

The serving was extremely generous and very tasty.

My main course was the Tuna Stack ($16.00) made with raw ocean wise™ albacore tuna and avocado tossed in a citrus tamari vinaigrette (ceviche-style) garnished with crispy tempura, nori, sesame and micro cilantro with a large stack of deep fried wonton chips on the side. This too was a very generous serve and could have easily fed two people for a light lunch.

CC_TunaStack

Again, the Tuna Stack was a very generous serving size.

JT ordered the Short Rib Sandwich ($17.50) with sweet potato fries (which were extra, but I can’t recall how much), this dish was the least impressive by sight, flavour and size of the three we had — it was still delicious but not “WOW!” The sandwich is two halves of toasted sourdough bread with caramelized onions and Emmental cheese on tender short rib meat served with beef jus and a mayo that was a little like tartare sauce! It was fine, but not memorable.

CC_ShortRibSandwich

Although visually the Short rib sandwich was the least exciting, it was very tasty.

CactusSelfie

The Ladies Room had this mirror with the hashtag #cactusselfie which I thought was cute.

We loved the Cactus Club and based on the food, service and ambiance would love to return but the potential queues at 7:30 in the evening for a table does not grab me…frankly there are too many really good restaurants in Toronto to waste time standing in line for another one!

Overall rating of Cactus Club (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 4/5, food 4.5/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 4/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

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

Cactus Club

2279 Bloor St W
Toronto, ON
M6S 1P1

Tel: 647-347-6826

Sunday – Wednesday 11am – 1am
Thursday – Saturday 11am – 1:30am

End Note:

In case you are wondering what we thought of Kinky Boots: It was very entertaining and the music was catchy (not much sing-talking either, which I find annoying). The acting was captivating and the story played out very nicely.

The Royal Alexandra Theatre is an early-20th-century, Beaux-Arts-style theatre owned by Mirvish Productions. The theatre is gorgeous on the inside but the seats are incredibly small (the upholstery on the seats doesn’t look that old) so I will warn the ladies to wear slacks and taller patrons should only sit in the aisles seats.

RoyalAlex

That’s JT on the left and me on the right and I’m only 163 cm (5′ 4″) tall! 

PB ChocolateBark

This is a perfect recipe to show case the gorgeous gold sea salt that Barb (Profiteroles and Ponytales) so generously gave me at Christmas. Admittedly, this recipe is more appropriate for Christmas but what the hay…you get it now. On the plus side, it’ll give you enough time to source gold sea salt! Now this sea salt isn’t just brown made to look like gold, it actually looks like the real McCoy (probably not real gold, though but it’s just as pretty)! I would have liked to pry the top off and get the actual larger chunks but it seems it was glued on so I was out of luck. I can see this gorgeous sea salt on so much more so you’ll likely be reading about it again.

GoldSeaSalt copy

This is the gold sea salt that I sprinkled on the bark

Peanut Butter Chocolate Bark with Gold Sea Salt

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 285 g semisweet chocolate
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup chunky peanut butter (just peanuts, no salt, no sugar)
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • gold sea salt

Directions:

  1. Slowly melt the chocolate in a double boiler or bain marie, stir in the cinnamon and mix well. Meanwhile, mix the chunky peanut butter and icing sugar well.
  2. Spread the melted chocolate onto a silicon lined baking sheet to about 3-5 mm (just less than 1/4″). Dot the peanut butter onto the melted chocolate and swirl with the blade of a very thin knife. Sprinkle with gold sea salt. Refrigerate until hard and then break into bite-sized portions.
PB Bark

Mmmmm PB and chocolate, a match made in heaven!

Notes:

  • Melting chocolate should always be done very slowly and never over boiling water.
  • I used a natural peanut butter because that is what we have, if you use peanut butter with added sugar and salt, you will need to modify the recipe.
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