Feeds:
Posts
Comments

This winter we ate a lot. I mean, we ate a lot of soup. Who am I kidding, we did eat a lot, but we also ate a lot of soup. I became quite proficient at some of our ethnic favourites, this Thai Lemongrass Shrimp soup being one of them. I reverted back to an old favourite recipe from an Australian cookbook a friend gave me years ago, Bay Books Cookery Collection, Thai Cooking Class, written by Somi Anuntra Miller and Patricia Lake. It is a well-illustrated cookbook with some great background, techniques and lists of ingredients for successful Thai cooking. In fact, it is my GoTo Thai cookbook. I have tweaked the recipe to resemble that of a favourite Thai restaurant.

Shrimp Lemongrass Soup (Tom Yam Goong)

Makes about 500 mL soup

Ingredients:

  • 500 mL chicken stock
  • 8 pieces fresh galangal
  • 8-12 Fresh Kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 pieces of 2 cm lemongrass, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 60 mL lime juice
  • 15 mL fish sauce
  • 2.5 mL chilli paste
  • 5-10 g of cane sugar
  • 8 fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined (skins reserved)
  • 10 fresh cremini mushrooms, cut into quarters
  • 80 g vermicelli rice noodles
  • 2 Campari tomatoes, cut into 6ths
  • Chiffonade of Cilantro leaves, Thai basil and thinly sliced green onions to garnish

Directions:

  1. Bring the chicken stock, galangal, Kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass along with the shrimp skin to a slow boil and then simmer for 30 to 60 minutes. Strain out the stock so that it is clear and without any bits.
  2. Add the lime juice, fish sauce, chilli paste and cane sugar and continue to simmer until sugar has completely dissolved. Taste for balance and add a bit of lime juice or sugar to balance if required.
  3. Boil water for the noodles, completely cover noodles in the hot water and allow to soak until al dente. Rinse in cold water to stop from cooking further.
  4. Bring the soup to a slow boil and add the mushrooms and shrimp and cook until the internal temperature of the shrimp is 120° F.
  5. Meanwhile, preheat the bowls (it’s winter and they cool down incredibly quickly). Reheat the noodles by running them under super hot water.
  6. Assemble the soup: add half of the heated noodles to each bowl, top with 4 shrimp in each bowl and spoon the hot liquid over the noodles and shrimp, dividing the mushrooms equally between the two. Add a cut tomato into each bowl and garnish with the chiffonade of cilantro and Thai basil and green onions.

Loaded Double Belgian Chocolate Cookies

Makes about 40 cookies using a 4.5 cm ice cream scoop

Ingredients:

  • 227 g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 200 g brown sugar
  • 100 g granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 10 mL pure vanilla extract
  • 360 g all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 150 g semi-sweet chocolate, chopped into chunks (chocolate chips work too)
  • 150 g milk chocolate chips
  • 50 g Skore bits
  • 100 g of dried, unsweetened cranberries or dried cherries

Directions:

  1. Cream the butter and the sugars together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time until well incorporated, add the vanilla.
  2. Sift the flour, baking soda and salt together and add to the butter mixture to form a batter.
  3. Fold in the inclusions (reserving a small amount to add after the cookies come out of the oven for presentation, if desired).
  4. Bake in a pre-heated 350° F oven for 12-15 minutes or until the cookies are slightly golden at the bottom.
  5. Add the remaining inclusions, if desired and allow to cool completely on a cooling rack.

Notes:

  • I used a 4.5 cm releasing ice cream scoop, if you use the slightly smaller one, you will likely get about 60 cookies.
  • To help with portion control, I generally freeze the raw batter in scoops on a cookie sheet and bake as needed, 1 to 2 at a time (it drives JT crazy but he is grateful for the portion control).

Pulled Pork Revisited

This recipe made its first appearance on the blog in 2012. I thought it was time for an update.

This is a surprising recipe that uses pork tenderloin instead of pork shoulder which is the traditional cut for pulled pork. The tenderloin is significantly less fatty than the shoulder so it makes a healthier dish. I’ve reduced the sugar considerably in the Barbeque sauce which is traditionally made with ketchup (about 90% sugar) and includes 110 g of brown sugar; I’ve used passata with a dash of balsamic and only 45 g of sugar. It’s still sweet but not sickly sweet. The baking soda helps reduce the acidity in the passata which in turn makes the tomato sauce taste sweeter. It was well balanced. JT couldn’t stop eating it. I’ve served this dish at parties and die-hard pulled pork aficionados couldn’t tell it was tenderloin!

This is the pork pulled after I removed it from the sauce. It moistens up considerably after it is re-entered into the sauce.

Ingredients for the Barbeque Sauce:

  • 250 mL San Marzano passata
  • 60 mL balsamic vinegar
  • 45 g erythritol or sugar
  • 125 g finely chopped onion
  • 15 mL soy sauce
  • 15 mL Worcestershire sauce
  • 15 mL prepared mustard
  • 15 mL roasted puréed garlic
  • 8 g espresso coffee powder
  • 2.5 mL baking soda

Pulled Pork Ingredients:

  • 600 g pork loin or tenderloin with silver skin and excess fat removed and cut into manageable chunks.
  • 1-2 tbsp canola oil (or an oil with a high flash point)
  • About 350 mL BBQ sauce from above
  • 1 cup water

Directions:

  1. Sear the pork on all sides in a heavy cast iron pan. Add the pork to the slow cooker set on high.
  2. In the same cast iron pan with a splash of oil, caramelize the onions. Add the remaining BBQ sauce ingredients with the exception of the baking soda and cook until the sugar has melted and everything is hot. Add the water and mix well, then add the baking soda and stir until the fizzing has subsided.
  3. Add the sauce and water to the slow cooker and set the timer for 1 hour, then reduce the temperature to low and cook, stirring occasionally for 6 hours or until pork can be pulled apart with a fork.
  4. Remove the pork from the sauce and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes. Pull the pork apart with a fork.
  5. Serve on slider buns, topped with your favourite coleslaw.

We had the pulled pork on homemade tangzhong brioche buns that were slightly toasted and topped with a lovely vinegary coleslaw. It was pretty good even though the lighting sucked.

Buns that are used as a vehicle for other food are a very important part of the equation. You don’t want a bun that is too heavy or dense otherwise it takes over the other food, you don’t want it too light and fluffy because then it falls apart and doesn’t accomplish its primary role of transporting the other food. These buns (originally seen here) are the perfect vehicle for burgers and pulled pork we had recently. They are sturdy enough for the juicy burger with oodles of toppings and saucy pulled pork and yet they don’t overwhelm the dish with bread-y-ness. The Tangzhong roux is supposed to help preserve the rolls for longer than those without, however, they never last that long in my house, so I cannot confirm this theory.

Tanzghong Brioche Slider Buns

For the recipe inspiration, please click here.

Makes 18 slider buns (for 65 g burgers)

Ingredients:

  • 60 mL warm water
  • 8 g dry yeast
  • 25 g sugar
  • 500 g unbleached, all-purpose flour, divided
  • 125 g milk (yes grams)
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 5 g sea salt
  • 125 g butter, softened
  • 1 egg for egg wash
  • 40 g Sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. Combine the yeast, sugar and warm water allow to proof for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Combine 50 g of the flour with the water and cook over low heat until a smooth paste is formed. Allow to cool for a bit. Beat in the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of your stand mixer with the dough hook attachment, combine the remaining 450 g flour, yeast mixture and salt. Pour in the flour paste/egg liquid and knead until the dough comes together. Add the softened butter a little at a time and knead on medium for 30 minutes or until the dough is no longer as sticky and comes away from the sides of the bowl.
  4. Grease a bowl and add the dough, cover and set in a warm, dark place for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  5. Shape into 18 buns (about 55 g each) and set on a baking sheet covered with a clean cloth for 1-2 hours or until doubled in size.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
  7. Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the internal temperature is about 185° F to 190° F.
  8. Allow to cool before serving.

Notes:

  • The original recipe called for instant yeast or bread machine yeast but I only had the regular kind so if you choose to substitute with instant yeast, you need not dissolve it in the 60 mL water, just add it to the flour along with the sugar.
  • These buns have excellent structure and would hold up for burgers, pulled pork or anything saucy.

A good friend received a Pullman loaf pan for Christmas, it had been on her list for many years. I had no idea what it was so I researched it and found that it was a loaf pan that makes a perfectly square slice of bread! Click here for a little history on the loaf. And of course, I fell down the rabbit hole on what this specific loaf can be utilized in and discovered that Croque-Monsieur can be one such recipe! I looked at a number of videos creating this delectable treat but landed on Binging with Babish’s Brooklyn Nine Nine recipe. Babish had made the leap and used a beautiful brioche for one of his renditions so I thought I’d pull two recipes together and made a Pullman Brioche loaf. Of course, I don’t have a Pullman loaf pan, but it’s easy to adapt your existing loaf pan (as Babish does in his video, however, I used a flat sheet sprayed with non-stick spray inverted onto the top of the loaf pan with a weight (small, cast iron frying pan) placed on the top). My loaf didn’t turn out quite square but I saved myself close to $50 in buying a pan for sandwich bread. The brioche recipe I chose wasn’t particularly good so I won’t list it here but the overall inspiration is exceptional. This is definitely not a calorie-reduced sandwich but if you feel like splurging, it’s totally worth it.

Here is the Brooklyn Nine Nine Croque Monsieur moment (the croque monsieur moment goes only to 49 seconds so you needn’t watch the entire clip).

A deliciously cheesy, hammy mess of a sandwich.

Croque-Monsieur taken up a notch!

Makes 2 Sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • 4 thickly sliced brioche bread
  • 120 mL béchamel sauce
  • 10 mL Dijon mustard
  • 2 slices of good quality, thinly sliced ham (I used an Italian ham)
  • Grated cheese (traditionally Gruyère)
  • Butter

Directions:

  1. Toast the brioche slices on one side. Butter the on untoasted side of each slice.
  2. Add about 30 mL of béchamel to each toasted side of the bread. Add some cheese to both sides of the béchamel and press down.
  3. Spread about 5 mL mustard on each piece of ham. Fold each piece of ham to fit onto the bread and place on top. Add the second piece of bread on top of the ham, cheese side down. Place into a pre-heated cast iron pan.
  4. Press down on the sandwiches to compress slightly. Cover and cook each side until golden and cheese has melted.
  5. Cut each sandwich into two and serve with a dill pickle.

As I previously mentioned, we had a lovely virtual Christmas Eve with my cousin and her family but I still wanted to see them during the holidays, socially distanced, of course. So we had my cousin and her hubby over for an afternoon lunch on the 27th (we just didn’t have enough room for 4 guests); we selected the warmest time of the day without wind or rain. It was a bit of a challenge keeping the outdoor area clear of snow and wet because it had snowed about 10 cm (4 inches) on Christmas Eve, fortunately we had covered the seating area in a tarp; we still had to shovel a lot of snow off the deck and shovel ice and snow off the awning. Everyone who comes over is well aware of the outdoor situation and most people are excited to experience it. The day was warm so the snow was melting around and above us but not enough to break up the party.

The snow fell Christmas Eve and then even more snow fell on Christmas Day and Boxing Day!

We all had heated throws on our laps but JT said he didn’t want one, so I got him a heated vest for Christmas.

I welcomed the family with a cup of hot Miso Broth that was well received. We started with a wonderful Warm Artichoke and Spinach Dip and then served JT’s famous Bœuff Bourguignon with a Creamy Polenta, Homemade Sourdough Bread with the grand finale of the Sticky Dulce de Leche Cakes.

Although the food was served family-style, I always provide separate serving utensils to each couple to help keep us safe. That hot plate, a gift from our wedding sure has come in handy during these outdoor meals.

In addition to having the food sit on a hotplate, we heated the cast iron pots in advance (the lids were not heated so they are easy to lift) and we had a heating disk under the bread to keep it warm on such a chilly day.

Sticky Dulce de Leches Cakes

Makes 4 servings about 80 mL each.

Please click here for the original recipe.

Ingredients

Filling

  • 70 mL store-bought Dulce de Leche
  • 15 g unsalted butter, room temperature

Cakes and Assembly

  • 80 g all-purpose flour
  • 3 g salt
  • 2 g baking powder
  • 90 g unsalted butter, plus more for ramekins, room temperature
  • 35 g sugar, plus more for ramekins
  • 70 mL store-bought Dulce de Leche
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2.5 mL vanilla extract
  • Additional Dulce de Leche to drizzle

Directions:

Filling

  1. The night before you make the cake, combine the Dulce de Leche and butter divide into 6 equal parts onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze for a minimum of 12 hours (the dulce de leche will prevent it from freezing solid).

Cakes and Assembly

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Sift the dry ingredients together and set aside.
  2. Prepare four 250 mL ramekins by coating with a thin, even layer of butter on bottom and sides. Dust with sugar and discard excess.
  3. In the small bowl of your stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat 35 g of sugar and 90 g of butter together until light and fluffy (approx. 4 minutes).
  4. Add dulce de leche and beat until entirely incorporated (about 1 minute). Beat in eggs one at a time (note that this might look like it’s separated) then reduce the speed and add the sifted dry ingredients and mix until smooth.
  5. Divide the batter between the four prepared ramekins, about 80 mL each. Create a small divot in the centre of each top and add the semi-frozen Dulce de Leche sauce (it will sink to the bottom during baking).
  6. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes until the tops are golden or until a wooden tester comes out clean (try to avoid the centre as the dulce de leche might be hot).
  7. Invert the cakes onto individual plates and decorate with a little extra dulce de leche sauce.

The sauce placed into the divot before baking actually melts into the cake so I added a bit extra, just because.

Notes:

  • This is an extremely sweet and rich little cakes, the smaller the better.
  • The original recipe was called molten Dulce de Leche cakes but because the Dulce de Leche melts into the cake, I found it to resemble a sticky toffee cake more than molten so I modified the name.
  • Of course, you can make your own Dulce de Leche sauce, but I needed a quick solution so I bought some. Homemade will taste much better.

Self-Saucing Gyoza

Several years ago, I replicated some French Onion Soup Pillows from a long-gone, favourite restaurant. They somehow managed to get the delicious French onion soup into a dumpling that exploded when you bit into it. It was unexpected and wonderful. I was thinking about making them again when I discovered some cooked beef gyoza filling in the freezer and I was inspired to make a Japanese version of our beloved French Onion Soup Pillows, and Self-Saucing Gyoza were born. They’re a little more fiddly than normal gyoza because you have to make the sauce and allow it to set overnight, but it’s totally worth it. Now I wish we could have friends over so I could serve them these delightfully explosive bites, damn you Covid.

Self-Saucing Gyoza

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes enough Sauce for about 25 gyoza

Ingredients for the Sauce:

  • 1 gelatine leaf (agar agar will not work)
  • 100 mL miso broth
  • 20 mL soy sauce
  • 5 mL Hoisin Sauce
  • 30 ml mirin
  • A batch of homemade gyoza, like these

Directions:

  1. Soak the gelatin leaf in cold water until soft. Wring out the water and add it to a small saucepan.
  2. In the same saucepan, combine the broth, soy sauce, hoisin Sauce and Mirin and whisk over low heat until the gelatine has melted. Cool and pour into a small rectangular plastic container (container should allow sauce to be a minimum of 70 mm deep). Refrigerate overnight until set. Cut into 25 cubes.
  3. Make up the gyoza as per recipe and add one gelatine cube per gyoza. Freeze gyoza on parchment paper individually, add to a ziplock bag for future use. Cook gyoza as per recipe.

The gelatin melts into a delicious sauce within the gyoza.

Notes:

  • You may wish to make your gyoza wraps a bit thicker than normal so the sauce doesn’t leak out while cooking.

After the holidays in mid-January, I was lamenting about my absolute favourite brunch dish, Oretta’s Uova Burrata e Tartufo, and how I missed going out and eating that exquisite dish. But we were in a second huge lockdown since last spring so eating out wasn’t going to be possible anytime soon, I just longingly gazed at my old photos of that delicious dish. Believe it or not, the very next day, my Facebook or Instagram feed has a special take-home meal kit advertised, you guessed it, my favourite dish at Oretta! What a coincidence (I think not)! Although most of the time these types of things really annoy me, I was overjoyed to see that particular meal kit. We placed an order for Sunday morning pickup.

 

Although the kit was beautiful, it lacked the detailed touches that Chotto Matte had, particularly the clearly labelled items and a recipe card indicating how to cook this wonderful dish. The ingredients were plentiful, particularly the truffle and the orange juice. The Bombolone was over-the-top and could have done without it.

JT knows how to cook the BEST scrambled eggs in the world. We actually got two focaccia but we decided to split one and freeze the second one.

The Nutella and pistachio Bombolone were absolutely over-the-top!

This is the dish as it was served in the restaurant in 2019, a lifetime ago!

Disclaimer: We purchased this meal kit for full-price and my opinion is just that, my opinion.

Sourdough Baguette

We have been trying to eat fewer carbs, but sometimes you just need a little carb therapy. These crusty baguettes sure did the trick. We paired them with some wonderful cheese we picked up from our favourite cheesemonger in the city.

I was searching for vital gluten for another recipe and came across a new product, “Fleischmann’s Bread Booster”, it boasts that it enhances the original yeast in the recipe, so I thought I’d try it. You add about 3 grams per 150 grams of flour.

Sourdough Baguettes

Makes 2 baguettes

Ingredients:

  • 350 g unbleached “00” flour, plus more for the starter
  • 215 g filtered, room temperature water, plus more for the starter
  • 80 g active sourdough starter
  • 9 g booster*
  • 8 g finely ground sea salt

Directions:

  1. The day before baking, allow your starter to come to room temperature and feed it with 50 g “00” flour and 50 g filtered room temperature water. Set aside for 3-5 hours.
  2. For the bread, combine the remaining flour, booster, room temperature water and starter and mix well until it comes together (about 3 minutes in my stand mixer). Cover and allow to hydrate 1.5 hours.
  3. Knead in the finely ground salt for a couple of minutes. Cover and set in the refrigerator overnight.
  4. Remove dough from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature. Divide it into two by weight and shape into baguettes. Rest on lightly floured parchment for 45 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 500° F. Add a large baking pan with sides to the hot oven. Set your baguette tray over the steamy water.
  6. Slash baguettes and bake immediately for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 450° F and continue to bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
  7. Cool before cutting.

Crusty on the outside and chewy on the inside, perfectly heavenly.

We had Friends over outside for dinner in early December and they brought this dip as contribution toward dinner, it was wonderful so I asked for the recipe; unfortunately I don’t know where it’s from.

Warm Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Makes about 200 mL

Ingredients:

  • 250 g of cream cheese softened
  • 30 mL mayo
  • 15 g each Parmesan and old cheddar shredded, mixed
  • 15 mL Roasted Garlic
  • 65 g artichoke hearts chopped
  • 60 g blanched spinach drained and chopped

Mix all above and place in lightly greased pan and top with shredded mozzarella. Bake at preheated 350° F for about half an hour.

Caramelized Onion and Lentil Soup

Serves 2 (about 400 mL)

Ingredients:

  • 150 g sweet onion, sliced thinly
  • 15 mL EVOO
  • 100 g dry red lentils
  • 500 mL beef or vegetable stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Gruyère crisp for garnish.
  • 2 g salt
  • Water

Directions:

  1. Caramelize the onions with olive oil with a little salt.
  2. Cook the lentils with the bay leaf in the stock until soft. Remove the bay leaf, discard.
  3. Combine the caramelized onions with the cooked lentils and purée until smooth, adding a little stock until desired consistency is achieved.
  4. Serve in French onion soup bows garnished with the cheese crisp.

Notes:

  • You can eat the crisp like a cracker, or you can crumble it into the soup for texture and flavour.

A creamy, hearty soup that will help keep you warm on these chilly winter days.

Chotto Matte Dinner Kit

For New Year’s Eve, we did something really special, we purchased a high-end restaurant dinner kit from Chotto Matte, Toronto. The difference between a dinner kit and takeout is that you cook the kit at home instead of bringing home pre-cooked food; the kit provides all of the ingredients and instruction! We loved this idea for two reasons, we love Chotto Matte (had dinner there two years ago in London, England) and two, what a great way to spread out dinner on New Year’s Eve! We usually have friends over but of course, this year we were not able to because of Covid so we made our own exciting evening. I set up a photo area and mounted my phone on a tripod; I had pre-selected the plates each dish would be served in.

We began the evening with some tasty Sautéd Shisito Peppers. Now if you’ve never had Shisito peppers you’re in for a treat, just a little word of warning that although 90% of the peppers are sweet, there is the odd one that is super hot.

Each course was cooked and served in about 30-40 minute intervals to help spread the evening out. The choclo corn was an interesting dish; it is almost five time larger than North American corn but is creamy on the inside. Choclo corn is also referred to as Peruvian Corn or Giant Corn, they are super large kernels with a similar texture to that of Lupini beans with the exception that you can eat the skin. We cooked the kernels for 3 minutes in a small amount of water and then added the rocoto butter and cilantro provided. To say this was a spicy hot dish is an understatement. But it was tasty. Next time I don’t think I’ll put all of the rocoto butter in so it’s not nearly as spicy hot.

The first main we had was the Pollo Picante. The chicken was perfectly done, with a beautiful texture served on green causa which seems to be some type of potato. It had a strange texture and I wasn’t keen on the flavour (very starchy) but the chicken was lovely.

We had the black cod next, which was my favourite dish. Unfortunately the presentation wasn’t the greatest because the instructions had us remove the bones (there were no bones) after cooking and the fish just fell apart. It was lovely.

The final course was the Asado de Tira, a slow-cooked barbeque beef which was reheated in its plastic pouch in simmering water. The beef was very tender and presented more like a pulled beef (unfortunately, I completely forgot to photograph it). The purple potato was very interesting in that it presented as dark purple, unfortunately, it didn’t contrast much to the beef so you can’t see it even in the professional photos.

I loved everything about this meal kit, it was beautifully boxed and labelled and I loved all the little sauces in the super cute containers. The meal was a complete success. I wish more restaurants would prepare these kits for takeaway as I find high-end food doesn’t travel well as takeout, plus I really like the cooking part.

Disclaimer: We purchased this meal kit for full-price and my opinion is just that, my opinion.

Sourdough Cheese Sticks

 

Over the holidays, I received some lovely sourdough starter and I made sourdough bread (as though we needed it!). I’m always a little distraught discarding some of it so I adapted an old recipe I brought back from Hungary to utilize the discard and a little of the fed starter, it worked out very well. I’ll definitely keep this in mind for future baking.

Sourdough Cheese Sticks

Makes 1 30 cm x 42 cm sheet, cut to whatever size you desire.

For the original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 300 g all-purpose flour
  • 150 g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 100 g discard sourdough starter plus 30 g fed starter
  • 125 g Greek Yogurt
  • 100 g shredded cheese (sharp cheddar works well, freshly grated Parmesan is best)
  • 5 g Salt
  • 20g shredded cheese

Directions:

  1. In the large mixing bowl of your stand mixer with the scraper attachment, blend flour, butter, starters, 100 g cheese and salt until incorporated, then switch to a dough hook and add the Greek yogurt and knead until smooth ball forms.
  2. Allow to rest in a warm dark place for 1 hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375° F
  4. On a piece of parchment paper, roll out dough to about 1/2 cm thickness.
  5. Cut into 7-10 cm x 2 cm sticks.
  6. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  7. Slide cheese sticks on the parchment paper onto a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes or until cheese is golden and melted.
  8. Re-cut sticks, if necessary, while still warm. Serve warm or at room temperature.

These are very tasty served warm.

Notes:

  • Use a flavourful, hard cheese (like cheddar, gruyere or Jarlsberg) is best for this treat.
  • I use a pizza cutter with a kitchen ruler to cut the sticks, it makes it very easy. If you cut the sticks after you sprinkle with cheese, your cutter will take up most of the cheese!
  • In the original recipe, there is an egg wash on the top, I omitted this time because I figured the cheese would stick regardless, but it does add a lovely sheen which I will not omit next time.
  • These cheese sticks freeze well. To reheat, spread in a single layer, cheese side up on a baking sheet and bake at a low 200° F for 10-15 minutes or until defrosted and slightly warm.

Winter means soup weather to me and I’m always trying to change it up from the regular repertoire. This soup was developed to use some excess cilantro before it bit the dust. Cilantro haters, please move along, nothing to see here!

The bright green colour is joyful, don’t you think?

Broccoli, Avocado and Cilantro Soup

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 300 g broccoli
  • 70 g sweet onion
  • 30 mL olive oil
  • 1 avocado
  • 15 g cilantro
  • 1 tbsp green curry paste (or to taste)
  • 250 mL coconut milk (not the cream)
  • 250-375 mL chicken stock
  • 15 mL roasted garlic purée
  • Splash of fresh lime juice
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Chop broccoli and onion into medium-small pieces and coat generously with olive oil. Roast at 375° F until tender.
  2. Combine the roasted broccoli, onions, avocado, cilantro, green curry past, coconut milk, about half of chicken stock and roasted garlic puree and blend until very smooth, adding more chicken stock at achieve the desired viscosity for the soup. Push the soup through a fine sieve into a medium-sized pot and re-heat on medium-low.
  3. Season to taste. Serve hot garnished with small roasted broccoli florets and cilantro.

Happy New Year! We, at Kitcheninspirations hope you and your family had a lovely Christmas and New Year. It’s been challenging to say the least, but we’ve made the best of it.

On Christmas Eve, we usually go to my brother’s for some Christmas Cheer and then we spend the evening with my Cousin and her family. This year, my brother escaped to the Cayman Islands because they have better control over the virus there (or maybe their citizens are better behaved) and we did virtual Christmas Eve, opening presents with my cousin’s family. It was absolutely lovely. I often find myself lost in the video and forget that we aren’t in the same room. Although, I do miss hugging them.

This is our virtual Christmas Eve 2020.

This year has pretty much sucked but in a stroke of luck, we awoke to a winter wonderland on Christmas Morning.

Needless to say, Christmas dinner was just JT and I but we still managed to make a decent spread and enjoy the evening. In recent years, I have taken to brining the turkey and it makes it incredibly moist and flavoursome, but the best part is that it seems to remove that gamey flavour that leftover turkey has. I know many of you love leftover turkey but sadly it’s never been JT nor my favourite; brining is a game changer! My dear friend Lorraine posted her recipe of Turkey Porchetta and Christmas dinner was immediately decided. I went a step further and brined the breast and then I stuffed it. This post is really just to remind me how good it was.

Stuffed Turkey Breast Porchetta Roll

Please click here for the original recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg turkey breast, skin and bones removed
  • cold water to cover
  • 72 g salt
  • 50 g sugar
  • Herbes de Provence
  • Stuffing
  • 6-8 slices of Proscuitto

Directions:

  1. Combine the water, salt and sugar in a blender and blend until sugar and salt have dissolved. Add the Herbes de Provence and pour over the breast to cover. Allow to sit in the refrigerator for 5-7 hours.
  2. Remove breast from brine and dry with paper towel. Set the breast on a cooling rack with a baking sheet below and refrigerate while you make your favourite stuffing. Cool the stuffing completely before adding to the breast.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Prepare a roasting pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  4. Butterfly the breast to an even layer, pounding to even out the thickness of the meat. Lay the stuffing in the centre and roll up, using a metal skewer to secure.
  5. Lay the Proscuitto overlapping the roll and secure with kitchen string (I used three rows). Remove the metal skewer.
  6. Bake the turkey roll covered for 1.5-2 hours (depending on how thick it is) or until the internal temperature of the meat is 165° F. I removed the lid at about 20 minutes left to allow the Proscuitto to crisp. Allow to rest for 10-15 minutes. Slice in 2 cm thick slices and serve with homemade gravy.

Low Carb Icy Squares

At the beginning of December, we had close friends come over for a lunch outside, it was still pretty warm with the heater and electric blankets plus we lucked into a super warm December afternoon. JT made his famous Bœuf Bourguignon and I made these Low Carb Icy Squares; they literally melt in your mouth. My friend recently lost 50 lbs on a keto diet and she wanted a little treat but didn’t want to overindulge and these fit the bill perfectly.

The paper cups are necessary because without them these little flavour bombs will melt all over your hands

Low Carb Icy Squares

For the original recipe, please click here.

Makes 36 little squares (each square is about 5 grams of net carbs)

Ingredients:

  • 480 ml heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 90 g butter
  • 1 tbsp espresso powder
  • 2 tbsp erythritol
  • 90 g dark chocolate with a minimum of 70% cocoa solids, chopped
  • 25 g milk chocolate, chopped
  • Gold sea salt

Directions:

  1. Boil the whipping cream and vanilla in a heavy-bottomed saucepan for one minute and then reduce the temperature to a simmer until the cream is reduced to about half of the amount (about 20-30 minutes). Stir occasionally.
  2. Reduce the heat even further and add the espresso powder, erythritol and butter and stir until smooth (make sure the erythritol melts completely).
  3. Place both chocolates into a bowl and pour the reduced cream over it and stir until melted.
  4. Pour the chocolate cream into a parchment-lined 20 cm square (8 inch square) baking pan (squared-off sides is preferred) and allow to cool in the refrigerator for a few hours. When ready to serve, sprinkle with gold sea salt and cut into 36 equal squares. Serve in tiny paper muffin cups.
  5. Store in the refrigerator in an air-tight container for 2-3 weeks.

Notes:

  • The original recipe did not call for the erythritol but because I added the espresso powder, it made it a bit bitter so I had to add it along with the milk chocolate, you could try omitting them both for a  2 g net carb dessert.
  • The better quality ingredients you use, the better the taste and in this recipe, it is worth it to splurge.

In mid-November, JT had surgery on his right hand to help correct carpal tunnel syndrome and I was worried we were going get dumped on with snow so we asked the teenaged boys across the way to help with the shovelling and they were very happy to oblige. They were out there in PJs,  jackets and boots at 7:30 most mornings it snowed, which is more than I was willing to do. Their mom wouldn’t let me negotiate payment for their troubles so I baked cookies for them instead. These were one set that made the rounds. JT has totally healed but they still insist on helping out, so I keep baking.

These are more complex than traditional ginger snaps.

Lauren’s Spice Cookies

Makes about 42 cookies

Ingredients

  • 180 mL vegetable oil
  • 60 mL dark molasses
  • 200 g sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 365 g all-purpose flour
  • 10 g baking soda
  • 12 g cinnamon
  • 10 g tablespoons ground ginger
  • 10 g ground cloves
  • 3 g ground mace
  • 150 g Skor bits
  • 1/3 cup sanding sugar

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer beat together the oil, molasses, sugar, and the eggs until the mixture is smooth.
  2. In another bowl sift together the flour, the baking soda, the cinnamon, the ginger, the cloves, and the mace and then add the mixture to the molasses mixture.
  3. Beat the mixture until it is well combined, fold in the Skor bits. Chill the dough, covered, overnight.
  4. Form the dough into 1 1/2-inch balls and roll the balls in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar to coat them well.
  5. Bake the balls 3 inches apart on buttered baking sheets in the middle of a preheated 350° F. oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the tops crack. Transfer the cookies to racks and let them cool.

If you don’t bake them too long, they remain chewy.

Mushroom Bolognese

I have been meaning to create a recipe for a vegetarian Bolognese sauce forever, not because we’re vegetarians but because it’s good to mix it up with a vegetarian meal every so often. JT always asks me what’s for dinner with bated breath so he could look forward to it; when he asked about that day, he looked slightly disappointed. He actually said he was lowering his expectations so he wouldn’t be disappointed because he adores Bolognese and couldn’t imagine a mushroom version would/could be better. Boy was he wrong! Dinner was pretty silent that night, mostly because he couldn’t shovel the food in fast enough! After he finished he said that it was significantly better than he thought it would be. That’s one for the good guys.

If you’re vegetarian or vegan and you’ve been missing the rich, flavourful meaty bolognese, this recipe is for you. The mouth-feel is similar, particularly if you don’t pulverize the mushrooms and walnuts too much. But it’s the slow and low cooking that brings out all of the flavours.

Mushroom Bolognese

Serves 2 generously

Ingredients:

  • 30 mL EVOO
  • 1/2 carrot, finely diced
  • 1/2 celery rib, finely diced
  • 1/2 shallot, finely diced
  • 1 large portobello mushroom cap, finely chopped
  • 2 white mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 50 g walnuts, chopped
  • 125 mL milk or cream
  • 125 mL white wine
  • 10 mL puréed roasted garlic
  • 250 mL passata of San Marzano tomatoes
  • 15 mL tomato paste
  • 15 mL Hungarian Sweet Paprika Paste
  • Pinch of baking soda (see notes)
  • Pinch of sweet smoked paprika
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • Parmigiana

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a small, enamel skillet. Add the carrots, celery and shallot and cook until semi-soft.
  2. Add the mushrooms and walnuts and cook until most of the mushroom liquid has evaporated. Add the milk or cream and cook until it has evaporated. Do the same with the wine.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Pour into a slow cooker or crockpot and set to high and cook for 2-3 hours.
  5. Serve on al dente (homemade) pasta of choice garnished with freshly grated parmigiana.

Notes:

  • I used portobello and white mushrooms because that is what I had on hand, a mixture of wild mushrooms would be delicious too.
  • Baking soda chemically changes the PH of things, tomatoes become much less acidic (I even throw a pinch into my coffee, it literally changes coffee from acidic to alkaline!), I prefer to use baking soda than to add sugar, which many do.
  • I used a slow cooker because our stove is gas and I prefer not to have an open flame on for a few hours. If you don’t care or have an electric stove, feel free to simmer in the same pot on the stove but do simmer.
  • I’m not sure how non-dairy milk will flavour the dish so if you’re vegan, omit the milk or cream.
  • I used walnuts because I like their meaty texture and earthy flavour, pecans would be a good alternative.
  • I whipped together the pasta using 1 egg and as much flour that it can absorb, then I ran it through the Kitchenaid pasta maker from 1 to 7. Then I hand cut the pasta into irregular widths and lengths. The fresh pasta is really worth the effort, it’s so much lighter than store-bought dry pasta.

It’s definitely going to be a very different holiday season this year. We usually escape the drudgery of November by renting a house in a friends’ community in Arizona but, not this year. I’m already dreading February when we usually escape to Spain, thank you COVID19, not this year.

I usually look forward to all the holiday parties, both throwing and going to them, but not this year.

Over the last few years, I’ve slowly stopped baking my Christmas goodies to give to friends, but not this year. We deserve a treat. So friends, drop the diet and enjoy!

We usually entertain friends and family this time of year around our wood-burning fireplace in our living room, but not this year. However, we’ve adapted our outdoor space to include a natural gas heater, and equipped the sectional and chairs with electric blankets, trying to extend our entertaining capacity during these trying times. It’s been very successful at 10° C (50° F) but who knows how cosy it will be when temperatures plummet to -10° C (14° F) in January and February. I’m taking full advantage while I can.

This recipe was developed for an evening when we socially-distance-entertained friends under the warm heat trapped under the awning and cosy electric blankets.

These crackers are like biscotti because they are twice-baked. Using an electric slicer gives you excellent control and wonderfully thin slices.

Fruit and Seed Crackers

Makes 75 thinly sliced crackers

For the original recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs, lightly whisked
  • 300 mL milk
  • 15 mL honey or agave syrup
  • 5 g salt
  • 125 g spelt or whole wheat flour
  • 200 g AP unbleached flour
  • 60 g dried cranberries
  • 70 g raw pumpkin seeds
  • 50 g sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. Prepare a small terrine pan (like this one) by lining it with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Combine the eggs, milk and honey and mix well.
  3. Sift the salt and flours together to combine. Stir in the fruit, nuts and seeds. Make a well in the centre and pour the egg mixture into the dried ingredients, stir to combine.

Notes:

  • I adapted this recipe from Chef Mimi’s blog. I used the seeds and fruit I had on hand, it’s quite versatile, so use what you have on hand.

 

Thai Basil Eggplant

Thai Basil Eggplant

Mid last month, I made a batch of Mulligatawny Soup and had some leftover eggplant, so I searched for a recipe for Thai Basil Eggplant that reminded me of a delicious dish served by a hole in the wall Ma and Pa shop when I worked in the corporate world. This one fits the bill.

Thai Basil Eggplant

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 250 g Japanese or Chinese eggplants
  • 45 mL toasted sesame oil, divided
  • 5 g roasted garlic puréed
  • 5 g toasted sesame seeds
  • Good handful of basil leaves, plus more for serving
  • 30 mL unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 10 mL soy sauce
  • 15 mL Sweet Thai Chili Sauce

Directions:

  1. Chop the eggplant into eighths. Heat 30 mL sesame oil in a large pan and cook the eggplant chunks until slightly golden and somewhat soft in the centre, about 6-8 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic purée and sesame seeds and toss to coat well. Add the basil leaves and cook until wilted.
  3. Stir the vinegar, remaining sesame oil and soy sauce into the sweet Thai chili sauce and mix well. Drizzle half of the sauce into the eggplant and cook stirring often until the eggplant has entirely softened.
  4. Serve hot with the remaining sauce drizzled over it and additional Thai Basil leaves as garnish.

I never said it was authentic Thai.

 

Who doesn’t love a lite, slightly sweet cookie with their coffee? We are not big sweet eaters but we do like a biscotti with our mid-morning coffee. I had a few extra pistachios left over from the ice cream I made in the summer so I combined them with the lovely tart cranberries to make a wonderful treat. They look rather festive, don’t they?

Pistachio and Cranberry Biscotti

Makes about 30 biscotti

Ingredients:

  • 60 g dried cranberries
  • 125 mL boiling water
  • 400 g all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 6 g baking powder
  • 4 g salt
  • 60 g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 100 g sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 3 large eggs, plus 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 10 mL pure vanilla extract
  • 48 g unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375° F.
  2. Combine the cranberries and boiling water and allow to stand for five minutes, strain.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt set aside.
  4. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time and incorporate well. Slowly beat in the flour, pistachios and cranberries.
  5. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, make two evenly-sized logs and bake for 25 minutes.
  6. Cool for 15 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 300F.
  7. Cut into 1cm slices and lay cut-side down on the baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping over at 15 minutes. Cool.

Magic Apple Cobbler

 

We first tasted this wonderful dessert at a friend’s place where we had lunch, outside on a particularly chilly early fall day. I asked our host to give JT a bit more so I could have a taste, and I almost couldn’t stop. It is THAT good. And it’s so easy to make, I can whip it up in a matter of minutes. I have significantly reduced (about half) the sugar and butter content, but don’t turn away, it is plenty rich and delicious! The dessert works well with fresh fruit but also works well with frozen fruit (defrost and drain first so it doesn’t wet the batter too much).

What is really amazing (and delicious) is the way the batter caramelizes in the butter, it becomes so moreish! You will abandon all other cobbler recipes!!! I kid you not.

The very dark bits are where I put too much of the cinnamon sugar, it’s not burnt.

Magic Apple Cobbler

Makes one 17 cm x 27 cm (6 3/4 inch x 10 3/4 inch) pan of fruit-filled, caramelized cobbler

Please click here for the original recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 90 g unsalted butter
  • 150 g AP flour
  • 150 g sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, divided
  • 175 mL whole milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp almond essence
  • 2 medium apples, peeled and cubed

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter in a 17 cm x 27 cm (6 3/4 inch x 10 3/4 inch) pan (same pan you will use for the cobbler) as the oven is pre-heating to 375F. Remove the pan from the oven when butter had melted.
  2. Combine the flour, sugar (less 2 tbsp), baking powder, 1 tsp cinnamon and salt. Combine the milk, vanilla and almond essence and stir well.
  3. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and whisk until smooth.
  4. Spoon the batter into the melted butter, don’t worry that it’s messy.
  5. Sprinkle the cubed apples onto the batter and press them into the batter.
  6. Combine the remaining 2 tbsp sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon and sprinkle over the apples and batter.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the batter comes out clean.
  8. Serve warm but not straight from the oven.

Way back in November, 2019, I made a version of this cake in Arizona. It seems a life-time ago. We don’t know when we will be able to travel again so it’s nice to have some food memories to be nostalgic about. I made this for an outdoor brunch last July for a gluten-intolerant friend.

Gluten-Free Reduced-Sugar Orange Olive Oil Cake

Makes one 23 cm (9 inch) cake

Please click here for the original recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 100 g coconut sugar, divided
  • 80 mL EVOO
  • 5 mL vanilla
  • Zest of 2 oranges
  • Juice of 2 oranges, divided
  • 150 g all-purpose gluten-free flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Icing sugar for dusting

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F
  2. Spray a 23 cm pan with non-stick spray and line bottom with parchment paper.
  3. Combine the eggs and 95 g coconut sugar and beat until light, fluffy and smooth.
  4. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and vanilla while beating.
  5. Add all of the zest and 45 mL of the freshly squeezed orange juice and beat until well combined.
  6. In a separate bowl combine the gluten free flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix well.
  7. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and beat only until combined.
  8. Pour into the prepared 23 cm pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick tests clean. Allow to cool.
  9. Meanwhile, combine the remaining juice and sugar and bring to a boil until the sugar has melted into the juice. Cool and add the Grand Marnier.
  10. Turn out the cooled cake onto a decorative plate and slowly spoon the orange juice mixture onto the cake allowing it to be absorbed.
  11. Decorate with sprinkled icing sugar just before serving.

The lovely syrup makes this cake lusciously moist.

I am not a huge pumpkin fan. There I said it. I was around 19 years old when I first tried pumpkin pie and I just never got into it. Don’t get me started on the pumpkin spice craze! So pumpkin type desserts are never high on my list during the holidays. We had our Thanksgiving on October 12 and I wanted a dessert I could make in smaller portions (because, let’s not kid ourselves, stretchy pants can only stretch so far!) so I made this spice cake in very shallow muffin cups. If someone was still hungry, they could have two, and believe it or not, they did!

Our awning and natural gas heater have had some good use as the temperatures become more fall-like. Unfortunately, the combination of the heat and sun has dried out the awning; at one point after a good rainfall, as we were pushing the water off the awning, a fist went through it. I was able to glue the small hole together with a glue gun, but now we were aware that the awning is precariously brittle. Too bad that fat raccoon never got the memo. Sometime during the night, an 18 kg (40 lb) beast was climbing across said awning and unfortunately fell through it, causing a 50 cm (20 inches) hole. Poor thing must have broken its neck on the fall because I, unfortunately, found him dead as a doornail the next morning. We’ve never had to dispose of any dead animals before so I called the information number of the city. After a 20 minute conversation, which resulted with NO HELP what-so-ever, we decided to discard him ourselves (the city was backlogged 20 days for pickup so they suggested we dispose of him in our next garbage collection which happened to be 2 weeks from the date!) I found a company online who came out and did the dirty deed for us. JT was perfectly willing to do it, but I didn’t want him to, plus we had nowhere to dump the guy. UGH! A good bleach washing of the deck and 24 hours drying time in the sun, and no one was the wiser.

We lucked out for weather that weekend, as the temperatures progressively became warmer and warmer and Saturday October 12 turned out to be around 25° C (77° F)! The evening cooled off a bit, but our natural gas heater did the trick to keep us warm. We had the dinner with two, socially distanced friends and the evening was wonderful. I was so relieved it was warm enough for an outdoor dinner because our COVID numbers are on the rise again and I’m just not comfortable entertaining indoors.

These cakes are a remake from a blog post from 2010.

Ginger Spice Cakes Revisted

Makes about 24 mini spice cakes (60 mL (1/4 cup) muffin pans or 12 standard muffin-sized spice cakes

For the original recipe, please click here

Ingredients:

  • 75 g unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 200 g all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 160 mL boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 85 g packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1 large egg (if halving the recipe, use a small egg)
  • 160 mL un-sulfured molasses
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger
  • Crystallized ginger, thinly sliced lengthwise, for garnish
  • Chocolate Ganache

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare a 60 mL (1/4 cup) muffin pan by generously buttering and flouring it*, tapping out excess flour, set aside.
  2. Carefully stir together the baking soda and boiling water (this will bubble up, so be careful), set aside to cool.
  3. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt, set aside.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg, and beat until combined. Add the molasses, fresh ginger, and reserved baking soda mixture; beat until combined. (The batter will look curdled but will come together once the flour is added.) Add the flour mixture, and beat until well combined.
  5. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups, filling each about halfway. Bake, rotating pan halfway through until a cake tester inserted in the centre of a cake comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Invert cakes onto rack to cool completely. Place a piece of parchment under the wire rack while cooling
  6. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of Chocolate Ganache over each cake, allowing some drip down the sides. Garnish with a small chunk of crystallized ginger. Cakes may refrigerated, in air-tight containers, for up to 3 days; we suggest you bring them to room temperature before serving.

Silicon Muffin Cups 60 mL or 1/4 cup size.

Notes:

  • You may wish to save time and just spray the muffin pans with non-stick spray but I warn you, half of your cakes will stick to the pan. Buttering and flouring is the only way to go.
  • These have a very rich molasses flavour, which we like but some will find it too strong.
  • I made a semi-sweet chocolate ganache for these cakes and it was just the right foil for the rich, sticky cake.
%d bloggers like this: