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French Apple Cake

Several of our friends have July birthdays, as do I. We were invited to brunch (outdoors, of course) in early July and I offered to bake the birthday cake. This particular friend is not a traditional cake lover, no super-sweet icing or frosting for this guy, so I decided to find a nice European cake recipe with fruit, because they are always a hit!

This French Apple cake is made with rum and butter and is so delectable and moist, even though it has only 1 apple! I will definitely make this cake again for the non-cake lovers!

Super moist cake with little bits of apple and the lovely flavour of buttered rum.

French Apple Cake

For the original recipe, please click here. Note that I converted the recipe to metric measures and modified it a bit.

Makes 1 23 cm (9-inch) cake

Ingredients:

  • 114 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 130 g granulated sugar
  • 5 mL vanilla extract
  • 45 mL dark rum
  • 15 mL milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 140 g AP flour
  • 3 g baking powder
  • 3 g salt
  • 150 g baking apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1 cm cubes
  • Sanding sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Prepare a 23 cm (9 inch) round pan by lining the bottom with parchment and buttering the sides.
  2. Cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add vanilla, rum and milk and mix well. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well.
  4. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together. Add to the butter batter and mix until combined.
  5. Fold in the apples.
  6. Pour into the prepared pan and dust with the sanding sugar. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Cool the cake on a wire rack. When cool, run a thin knife along the sides to loosen and turn onto a plate. Flip right side up (sugar-side up).
  8. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature sprinkled with powdered sugar with whipped cream or Crême Fraiche.

Chicken Waldorf Salad

When I was first dating JT, back in the eighties, his dear Mom would make a version of this salad for lunch. She wasn’t into cooking so this type of dish was perfect, few ingredients and easy to assemble. She would poach the chicken where I prefer to use leftover BBQ’d chicken because of the additional flavours the smoke of a charcoal BBQ adds, but leftover rotisserie chicken works wonderfully as well. The original recipe was heavy in mayonnaise, I like to lighten it up with a little yoghurt and a splash of lemon juice. The flavours and textures really hit the spot.

Waldorf Salad was created by Oscar Tschirky, in the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City in 1896. The original Waldorf was made with only apples, celery, and mayonnaise, it did not contain a protein or nuts. The latter two were additions made in the 20th century. I like to make this salad with chicken or canned tuna, both are equally satisfying.

Chicken Waldorf Salad

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes 2 portions for lunch or a light dinner

Ingredients:

  • 100 g BBQ’d or rotisserie chicken, cubed or 1 tin albacore chunk tuna in water or stock 
  • 1/2 cup diced celery (dice all items similar size)
  • 1/2 green onion finely chopped
  • 1/2 apple, diced 
  • 2 tbsp walnuts pieces, toasted
  • squirt of lemon juice, more for taste 
  • 15 mL mayo (I used full strength)
  • 15 mL yoghurt (I used an Icelandic style)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Drain the tuna and set aside, if using.
  2. Add the apple to a small bowl and squirt a bit of lemon juice on it to prevent it from oxidizing.
  3. Add the celery, green onion, walnuts and apple to a bowl and combine well.
  4. Combine the mayo and yogurt with a squirt of lemon juice, salt and pepper and stir well. Add it to the vegetable fruit mix and coat evenly.
  5. Add the cubed chicken or chunk tuna and stir until equally distributed.
  6. Serve on a bed of salad greens, butter lettuce is particularly nice.

 

We are always looking for ways to eat healthier, reduce the amount of sugar and carbs in our diet. I cook a lot of Asian flavours, particularly in the summertime, but unfortunately many of the store-bought sauces have a lot of sugar. Case in point, a popular brand begins its ingredient listing with, wait for it, SUGAR! So in an effort to be healthier, I came up with this recipe.

Low Carb Hoisin Sauce

Makes about 125 mL sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 30 mL Low Sodium Soy Sauce
  • 9 g almond flour (see notes)
  • 10 g erythritol (see notes)
  • 2.5 mL rice vinegar
  • 2.5 mL toasted sesame oil
  • 2 g white soybean paste
  • 2 g garlic
  • 15-30 mL water

Directions:

  1. Combine everything but the water in an immersion blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Transfer to a small saucepan and cook over low heat until it has thickened and darkened. Whisk in the water to the desired consistency.

Notes:

  • Instead of almond flour, you may use tahini (reduce or omit sesame oil) or smooth peanut butter.
  • Erythritol is a sugar substitute that apparently does not spike blood sugar levels. See this article.

Ikea Gravy

We don’t eat much fast food, if any. I can honestly say that the last time I ate a Mickey D burger was when I was 12 years old! I just don’t like them. But I do like Ikea meatballs. Once or twice a year, we treat ourselves to lunch at Ikea and I almost always have the meatballs. Now that things are slowly opening up, we took a trip to Ikea but unfortunately, the restaurant wasn’t open so we treated ourselves with a package of their meatballs. Yes, I can make my own meatballs, but sometimes, even I need an easy, mindless meal. I’ve made this gravy before and it was really good so I thought I’d post about it. Who knew the ingredients were so simple?

Ikea Gravy Copycat

Makes 250 mL gravy

Ingredients:

  • 15 g unsalted butter
  • 15 g flour
  • 250 mL beef stock, warmed
  • 15 mL soy sauce
  • 15 g cream cheese

Directions:

  1. Melt butter and add the flour to make a smooth roux. Cook for about a minute.
  2. Slowly add the warmed beef stock and soy sauce, whisking to make a smooth sauce. Add the cream cheese and whisk to melt and incorporate. Serve hot over your favourite meatballs.

My friend David of Fine Dining at Home (blog on hiatus) put me onto this recipe on his instagram; it looked absolutely delicious, so, then and there, I decided I wanted to make it. I renamed the recipe mille-feuille lasagna because the number of layers reminded me of one of my favourite pastries. I won’t lie, this is a labour-intensive recipe, but then again, what lasagna recipe isn’t? I will say that it is well worth the effort. The homemade pasta is so delicious, light and somewhat crispy. The spinach and basil layers against the creamy béchamel and the stringy mozzarella are divine! Don’t skip the resting and searing step, it really makes the recipe.

Mille-Feuille Lasagna

For the original recipe, please click here.

Makes one 21.6 cm x 11.4 cm (4″ x 7″) loaf pan, about 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 300 g Spinach, blanched
  • ~50 g basil, blanched
  • 125 mL passata
  • 15 mL tomato paste
  • 15 mL roasted garlic, puréed (fresh is fine too)
  • 300 g mozzarella, ground

Directions:

  1. Combine the spinach and basil and wring out the water well. Set aside.
  2. Combine the passata, tomato paste and garlic and mix well. Set aside.

Ingredients for the Béchamel:

  • 30 g butter
  • 40 g flour
  • 500 mL milk, warmed

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter in a medium, heavy-bottom pan. Whisk in the flour and mix well. Cook on medium-heat for 2 minutes.
  2. Slowly add the warm milk and whisk. Whisk the sauce until smooth and creamy. Cool completely.

Ingredients for the Pasta:

  • 1 large egg
  • 125 g Flour (“00”)
  • Salt

Directions:

  1. Add the egg to the small bowl of a food processor and whisk. Add the flour and salt and pulse until it forms into a soft dough.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, knead gently a few times until it comes together into a smooth ball. Cover in plastic wrap and allow to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  3. Using a pasta maker, create 12 sheets that are #8 thickness on the kitchenaid pasta maker. Cook the sheets in salted boiling water for 1 minute or less. Cool in an ice bath, remove and dry off.

Ingredients for the Spinach Pesto Sauce:

  • 150 g spinach and arugula
  • 30 g ricotta or cream cheese
  • 30 g pesto
  • 200 mL milk or cream
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Blanch the spinach and arugula, immerse in ice water to stop the cooking. Wring out as much water as possible.
  2. Place spinach, arugula, cheese, pesto and milk into a bullet and purée until smooth. Season to taste.
  3. Press through a fine sieve into a heatproof container, set aside.

Final Assembly:

1. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper, it will make it easier to pull out.

2. Add one pasta sheet to the base, follow with

    • A thin layer of spinach,
    • Another pasta sheet
    • A layer of passata
    • Another pasta sheet
    • A layer of béchamel
    • Another pasta sheet
    • A layer of cheese
    • Another pasta sheet

3. Repeat until all the ingredients have been exhausted ending with a pasta sheet and cheese on the top.

4. Bake in a 350° F preheated oven for 50 minutes or until cheese has entirely melted and béchamel is bubbling.

5. Allow to cool completely. When cool, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate 24 hours.

6. To serve, cut into 5-6 slices and reheat in the oven. Then sear one side on a non-stick frying pan.

7. Serve on a bed of warmed spinach pesto sauce (recipe above) with a little crème fraiche.

The pasta crisps up on the seared side to give you a wonderful crunch against the creamy textures of the cheese and spinach and basil layers. 

During the lockdown, a dear friend and neighbour made this awesome banana bread and brought us a slice! We toasted it and added a wee dollop of butter and OMG! It was so good!

It’s difficult to believe that there is no flour in this quick bread.

Low Carb Banana Bread

Makes one 21.6 cm x 11.4 cm (4″ x 7″) loaf pan, about 12 servings

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray for the pan
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 large very ripe bananas, well mashed (375 mL)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp erythritol
  • 230 g blanched finely ground almond flour (see notes)
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a small loaf pan with parchment paper.
  2. Add all the ingredients to a food processor and pulse to blend.
  3. Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean, carefully lift out of the pan and cool on a rack.

Notes:

  • I use Kirkland blanched finely ground almond flour

This fresh, tasty bowl was a staple a few years ago and then I completely forgot about it. What I love about this dish is the versatility, it has a lot of fresh taste but if you don’t have something, don’t fret, just substitute it with something you have.

Presentation is always colour blocked but to eat, simply mix it all up. The dressing is super easy too, just mix and taste. The only downside is that there is a bit of prep but you can do it in advance and just assemble the dish. Below is a rough recipe for one person, just multiply it for as many as you need!

Avocado, Mango and Shrimp Bowl

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes one bowl

Ingredients for the bowl:

  • 80 g cooked salad shrimp
  • 50 g sticky rice (uncooked weight)
  • 15 mL rice vinegar
  • 1/2 an Avocado
  • 1/2 an Mango
  • 10 cm Cucumber
  • small handful Corn
  • 1 rib of Celery
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • Green onions

Directions:

  1. Cook the rice and sprinkle with the rice vinegar and mix well. Allow to cool.
  2. Chop the vegetables into similarly sized cubes.
  3. Layer the rice on the bottom of the bowl, then add each of the vegetables in groups. Add the shrimp and garnish with the green onions and toasted sesame seeds.

Ingredients for the dressing:

  • 15 mL rice vinegar
  • 15 mL hoisin sauce
  • 30 mL fresh lime juice
  • 2.5 mL toasted sesame oil

Directions:

  1. Combine the dressing ingredients and whisk until emulsified completely.
  2. Pour evenly over the bowl, making sure you get it into the crevices so that the rice is evenly coated.

Notes:

  • Add finely chopped shallots if you can tolerate raw onion.
  • Change the flavour profile completely and add chopped black olives, marinated artichokes and roasted red peppers for a Greek bowl. Make a tzatziki dressing, or a simple white wine vinegar vinaigrette and olive oil with lemon juice and chopped oregano.
  • Use defrosted frozen corn or grilled corn if you have it.

This recipe has become a staple that we have once every two weeks. The pastry comes together easily (use any favourite pastry recipe you like), great texture and has a nice depth of flavour with the sesame seeds. The custard with spinach, shallots and goats cheese are a delight in every bite. 

Low Carb Spinach and Goats Cheese Tart

Makes one 20 cm tart

Ingredients for the pastry:

  • 100 g almond flour
  • 8 g psyllium husk powder
  • 30 g unsalted butter
  • 30 mL egg whites
  • pinch of salt
  • 20 g toasted sesame seeds

Directions for the pastry:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients with the exception of the sesame seeds in a small food processor and process until smooth and totally combined. Gently knead in the sesame seeds. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Roll out the dough between two pieces of parchment, so that it is a bit larger than the pan. Gently peel off the parchment and roll onto the pan, pressing into the sides. Fold-down excess and press into the sides making the thickness even all around. Dock.
  3. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool slightly.

Ingredients for the filling:

  • 40 g shallots, finely sliced
  • 15 mL EVOO
  • 100 g baby spinach
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 mL roasted puréed garlic
  • 2 tbsp milk or cream
  • Salt
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 15 g Beamster, finely shredded, divided
  • 50 g soft unripened goats cheese, sliced into 6 rounds
  • Directions:

  1. Sauté the shallots in the olive oil until soft. Add the baby spinach and wilt completely. Cool on a piece of parchment.
  2. Combine the eggs, roasted garlic purée, cream, salt, nutmeg and about half of the Beamster and whisk until smooth.
  3. When the spinach cools, evenly spread it into the baked tart shell and pour the egg mixture evenly over it. Sprinkle with remaining Beamster.
  4. Top with the sliced goats cheese and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the egg has set. You may wish to protect the side crust if it gets too dark.
  5. Serve with a green salad.

Season 20 of America’s Test Kitchen seems to be reinventing the wheel for the sake of reinventing the wheel. Case in point is this simple, yet flavourful recipe for steamed fish; ATK goes through some gyrations creating a foil sling to hold the fish and then wrapping the pan in even more foil. This presents two problems for me, it uses too much foil and the foil actually creates a barrier to the steaming ingredients. I created this dish the old fashioned way, en papillote, a tried and true envelope made of parchment paper and it worked perfectly. Although steamed fish can be boring, this one really brings it on so I would definitely recommend this as a dinner party main. It’s definitely a keeper.

The foil sling is a bit overkill, in my opinion.

Asian Inspired Steamed Whitefish

Please click here for the original recipe.

Serves 2 as a main.

Ingredients:

  • 15 mL black vinegar
  • 45 mL soy sauce
  • 10 mL Chinese rice wine
  • 7.5 mL toasted sesame oil
  • 7.5 mL sugar
  • 10 mL roasted garlic purée
  • .5 mL ground white pepper
  • 4 scallions
  • 10 cm ginger, divided
  • 200 g firm whitefish (see notes)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • a handful of fresh cilantro leaves

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450° F.
  2. Combine the black vinegar, soy sauce, rice wine, toasted sesame oil, roasted garlic purée, sugar and white pepper and mix well. Set aside.
  3. Cut two scallions in about 2 cm pieces. Finely slice the other two scallions and set aside. Peel and cut 3/4 of the ginger into about 2 cm pieces and add to the cut scallions. Slice the remaining ginger into matchsticks, set aside.
  4. Line a baking pan large enough to hold the fish in a single layer with parchment (making sure there is enough parchment to enclose the fish). Add the scallions and the roughly chopped ginger to the centre of the parchment paper.
  5. Add the Fish on top of the scallion and ginger base, pour the sauce over the fish, allowing to pool below the fish.
  6. Bring up the sides of the parchment, to form a tent and fold and twist to seal and hold in place.
  7. Place the pan on the middle baking rack and steam until the fish reaches 125° F to 130° F.
  8. Meanwhile, heat 30 mL of vegetable oil in a small saucepan and fry the matchstick ginger until crispy.
  9. Serve on sticky rice garnished with the finely cut scallions and crispy ginger drizzled with the steaming broth.

Notes:

  • Firm whitefish options are haddock, cod, tilapia, monkfish. We used cod in this recipe. It is important to use similarly thick pieces of fish so they steam evenly.
  • I use this awesome wireless thermometer.
  • This recipe would be beautiful sous vide.

We have been watching America’s Test Kitchen to help us fall asleep, taking our minds off the news and the ugly reality of late. This recipe was on Season 20 and I was taken right away. We love lemon and this one definitely ticks a lot of boxes, it’s not sickly sweet and it IS sooooo lemony. If you like lemon, I urge you to make this tasty treat. Note that I did not love their pastry recipe so I substituted my tried and true Viennese Pastry recipe.

I decided to brulée the top just as my favourite French Bistro does with their Tarte au Citron (which incidentally takes two days to make!)

Lemon Olive Oil Tart

Please click here for the original recipe from America’s Test Kitchen.

Makes about six 8 cm pastry shells with a total of 300 mL lemon curd filling

Ingredients for the pastry:

  • 145 g all-purpose flour
  • 60 g sugar
  • 2 g salt
  • 114 g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla
  • 1 tsp finely grated lemon rind

Pastry Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Put all ingredients into a food processor and process JUST until the dough sticks together (over-processing will cause tough pastry). Divide into six even discs and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  3. Lightly flour your board and roll out the pastry to fit your preferred pan (I used 8 cm round pans). Dock the bottom with a fork several times.
  4. Blind bake the crust 30 minutes or until golden. You may need to reshape the pastry, mine got all puffy and misshapen because I didn’t refrigerate long enough and it was a super hot day.

Ingredients for the curd:

  • 70 g sugar
  • 10 g AP flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 large eggs plus 1 large yolk
  • lemon zest of one lemon
  • 130 mL lemon juice
  • 40 mL extra-virgin olive oil

Directions for the curd:

  1. Add all of the ingredients to a small, heavy-bottom pan and cook on low heat until it is 160F, and just slightly thickened.
  2. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve for a velvety finish. Refrigerate with an oiled parchment placed on top to prevent a skin.
  3. Pour into the prepared, hot shells and bake for 8-12 minutes until the centre jiggles a bit.
  4. Allow to cool completely before serving.
  5. Sprinkle with sugar and brulée the top, just as you would with crème brulée.

A tangy, tasty, lemon treat.

Notes:

  • Fresh lemon juice is essential for a clean, lemony flavour.
  • ATK felt that the olive oil helps the lemony flavour shine better than butter.
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